Title: And the Stars Burn
Author: Keira Marcos
Series: Ring of Fire
Series Order: 1
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Pairing: Sheppard/McKay (plus many secondary pairings)
Beta(s): Chris King & Ladyholder
Word Count: 32,017
Author’s Note: This is the second series in the Alternate Universe that began with What Might Have Been
Contents: Violence, dark themes, angst, explicit sex, political plots, hurt/comfort, mean-spirited people, shock & awe, clichés, an extremely smart-assed kid, bad Humans, interesting Aliens, habitual abuse of canon events and characterizations—all written by a cruel author who has a general lack of respect for expectations and delusions of grandeur.
Categories: Slash, Established Relationship, Alternate Universe, Kid!fic, Surreal Fantasy
Summary: The unexpected arrival of someone from Pegasus forces the SGC to ramp up their plans to charge ZPMs and prepare for the Atlantis mission. On the home front, Patrick Sheppard makes a mistake that will nearly cost him everything he’s worked so hard to regain.
– – – –
Jack O’Neill used an ink pen to tap the report on his desk. John Sheppard had waged a very private war against the Trust and won. Jack wasn’t inclined to quibble about being kept in the dark considering just how dark the situation had looked only two months ago for his family and especially his children. “You think I give him too much leeway.”
“We’ve always been of the same mind on these things, Jack.”
Jack nodded. “Any Trust activity go your way this time?”
Jimmy Martinson shook his head. “No, but living on the base has probably helped. My records haven’t been accessed by anyone who didn’t have a need—not since the name/face change. Miko did a good job with the whole identity.”
Jack snorted. “It helps that you look like a super model. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive Thor for that.”
Jimmy sighed. “I miss the little grey guy. Any sign at all?”
“No, nothing since the end of the replicator war and Sam says we can’t get near their home solar system due to what looks like a time dilation field. No telling what the little guys are up to.” Jack rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I think we should tell him before the Atlantis mission but it’s your call—your secret.”
Jimmy shook his head. “It’s a hard thing—I mean he sees me as this kid that he’s practically adopted into his family and I’ll have to tell Ian at the same time.”
“You don’t think he can take it?”
“What? That I’m a twenty-three year old clone of his superior officer and the only reason I didn’t go insane is because an alien stripped the emotions out of half of the life that I remembered? You think Ian would understand if I told him it took me years to get me back? I still don’t know if the emotions I have are genuine. I look at Sam and your kids and… I remember being in love with her but there is nothing else there. Memories without emotions.”
Jack flushed. “It’s what you wanted. It’s what you said you could live with.”
“It’s the only thing I could’ve lived with. The moment I realized I was a clone—I just wanted Thor to let me die. I don’t know why I allowed him to fix me. I was just so attached to life, to Sam that I couldn’t imagine letting go. But three years spent growing up after forty-five years of living was no picnic either.” Jimmy rubbed his face with one hand. “And then I go fall for some guy who thinks I’m a whore.”
“Well, in his defense, you were a whore before he came along. I don’t know how you managed to get through school and basic training with all the fucking you were doing.”
Jimmy grinned. “Well, the equipment turned out great. Being eighteen again was nice.”
Jack glared briefly and then sighed. “We always agreed that your past was your secret to tell. You’re on record as a gene carrier but you’ve never had any real chance to interact with Ancient technology. We don’t know what the cloning process did to your gene and Lam’s investigation of my genome hasn’t gotten as much as attention recently as it has in the past.”
He nodded. “Sheppard is going to be pissed.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” John murmured dryly from the doorway. “He might have been if he hadn’t figured it out a long time ago, Martinson.” He tilted his head and looked the Marine over. “You don’t think I just blindly decided to trust a man I didn’t know with McKay, did you?”
“Well, hell.” Jimmy slouched down his chair. “Really? Because I worked hard to get rid of all of his mannerisms.”
“You can’t change the way you move—years of training you couldn’t possibly have had gives you that. Besides, you have the same hands. Thor wasn’t as thorough as he should have been on the physical changes front,” John explained.
“He didn’t alter bone structure all that much,” Jimmy murmured. “He was worried that he would damage my bones. Though he did offer just to make me a new body entirely.”
John grimaced and then walked fully into the office. He pulled the door shut behind him and then sat down in a chair next to Martinson. “Why the Marine Corps?”
“It let me come back to the SGC as a pilot and it limited how much exposure I would have to officers I might have served with in the past outside of the SGC.”
“I read all of the SGC mission reports when I was on Atlantis. I didn’t have a lot of time to bone up on what the SGC mission was before we left so I made sure I had copies of the files so I could educate myself. That became invaluable after Sumner was killed. I’d also heard the rumor that the clone had gone through some cosmetic changes. I didn’t know they were so extensive until I actually met you.” John focused on the floor in front of him after he finished speaking leaving the others in the room to wonder what he was thinking.
“Is this a problem, John?” Jack asked with a neutral tone.
“No, sir, not for me. I’ve suspected all along. I haven’t told McKay and I think it would be wise if he was told. He’ll be an asshole about it but he’ll get over it.” John crossed his legs at the ankle and shook his head. “Of course, there is the matter of Ian Wilkes.”
Jimmy sighed. “It isn’t something that just comes up in normal conversations, you know.”
“I get that but he has the right to know.”
“We have a mission tomorrow,” Jimmy murmured. “I’ll talk to him afterwards. We’ve got a week of down time coming before the Phoenix mission for the ZPM charging thing.” Jimmy raised an eyebrow. “Unless you think I should stick around here for that mission?”
“I’ll trust you both to solve this between you,” John grimaced. “You haven’t told him any outright lies, right?”
“I’ve lied to everyone in my life for six years, General. Ian was no exception. He couldn’t be but with most of the Trust dead or in jail things are a looking a little better for me on that front.”
– – – –
The stunned Wraith struggled in his grasp as he dragged him bodily through the gate and right into the heart of Stargate Command. Ian didn’t even pause in his quest; his fist twisted in the creature’s hair as he jerked him along and then shoved him to the floor despite the protests of the gate personnel and the team that had brought Jimmy Martinson back through the gate as an old man. The three medics and Dr. Jennifer Keller were jerked back from Jimmy’s body.
“Give it back to him!” He shoved his gun against the Wraith’s head. “Right now.”
The Wraith hissed and struggled against him. “So you can kill me?”
“Give it back to him, you fucking bastard, or I swear to whatever god you worship I’ll spend weeks killing you. You won’t sleep, you won’t feed, and you won’t hibernate. We’ll keep you alive just to hurt you.” He pressed his knee in the Wraith’s back. “Give it all back to him!”
“And if I do it?” The Wraith’s voice was like gravel grinding against concrete and people in the gate room shuddered at the sound.
“You won’t suffer,” Ian snapped his voice icy and hard.
The Wraith hesitated but Ian shoved it closer and he put his hand on Jimmy’s chest and it growled as the energy he’d stolen was given back. The intake of breaths all over the gate room as Jimmy Martinson grew young again right before their eyes were audible even in the control room.
John watched, his heart in his throat – his own grief and fury banking as Jimmy was returned to them alive and young. He moved through the crowd of Marines, stood just feet away from the Wraith, and when it was over he didn’t even blink when Ian jerked the creature away from Martinson and shoved him away. He pulled a ZAT from his leg holster and stunned his prisoner wordlessly. He held out a hand for Jimmy. “You okay?”
Jimmy took a deep breath and laughed a little as he was pulled off the floor. “Yeah, Christ, I’m just fine.” He cupped the back of Ian’s neck and pressed their foreheads together. “You?”
“Yeah. I’m good.” Ian’s knuckles whitened as he clutched at the back of Jimmy’s TAC vest. “Now I’m good.”
John cleared his throat and all the Marines around scrambled away and formed a line behind them. “Gentlemen, where exactly did you find a Wraith?”
“Small craft on the planet, sir. It was giving off a signal and we then came across the pilot just before we were due for our first report in.” Ian’s fingers curled around Jimmy’s wrist as they separated. “The ship didn’t look Wraith but since the signal it was giving off was we felt we had no choice but to destroy it.”
John took a deep breath and glanced up into the control room. O’Neill and his father were both there, obviously concerned and a little winded. It had been less than four minutes since Ian Wilkes had come back through the gate with a real live fucking Wraith. He understood why Ian had done what he’d done—he would have done no differently. Of course, he would have preferred that it hadn’t happened in the gate room. “Why wasn’t this done on the planet?”
“Sergeant Kane disobeyed orders and evac’d through the gate before I could return with my prisoner.” Ian frowned and looked at Jimmy. “Your pulse is racing, James.”
“It’s the enzyme. We need to get him to the infirmary. He’s going to have a very shitty day.” John shot Kane a hard look and then started snapping out orders for medical evaluations and cleared out the gate room in a matter of seconds.
Then he walked over and shoved the Wraith onto his back with one combat boot. “Well, fuck.”
Patrick Sheppard took a deep, harsh breath. “John isn’t that the Wraith…”
“Todd,” John confirmed grimly. He clicked his radio with a steady hand. “Ronon, I need you in the gate room.”
– – – –
“Did Lt. Wilkes order you to remain at the gate and wait one hour for his return or not, Sergeant?” O’Neill demanded.
“He did.” Kane’s gaze was focused on the wall above O’Neill’s head. “We were of the opinion, sir, that he would not be successful in his mission and it was best to return Lt. Martinson to the SGC for treatment.”
“Instead of securing the gate, as ordered, you abandoned a superior officer on an alien planet with an unknown number of Wraith combatants? Is that what you’re telling me?”
“We waited thirty minutes, sir.”
“Was Lt. Martinson in danger of dying during that time?”
“His vitals were steady, and he was talking,” Kane admitted.
“Is it not true that Lt. Martinson ordered you to stop dialing the gate and that you carried him back to the SGC against his orders as well?”
“I have fifteen years of combat experience, General O’Neill. Both Wilkes and Martinson were being influenced by their personal relationship—evidence by the fact that he brought a live Wraith right into the gate room.”
“Something he wouldn’t have had to do if you’d followed orders. He was only minutes behind you, Sergeant; the medical personnel hadn’t even taken Martinson from the gate room when he dialed in.”
“Because Martinson was fighting them off, sir.”
“You disobeyed orders from two superior officers, Sergeant Kane. If it were not for the fact that you’ve been with the SGC for nearly ten years I would see you court martialed for that.” O’Neill watched the color drain from his face. “As it stands, you’re failure to follow orders today makes it impossible for me to keep you. There isn’t an officer on this base that would go through the gate with you—not after you nearly doomed one of our own to live out the rest of his life as a very elderly man.” Jack tilted his head. “And they don’t even know that you refused to help Ian Wilkes capture that Wraith and all of your men followed your example.”
Kane’s jaw tightened. “He told you that?”
“No, Lance Corporal O’Reilly, however, was in my office five minutes ago sick with guilt because he followed your orders not to help Wilkes capture the Wraith and to abandon him on that planet because and I quote ‘It isn’t like he’s one of us’.” Jack looked the man over. “Roger, I’ve known you for a very long time. You’ve been on my six more times than I can count—and I’ve trusted you with everything. Hell, you’ve been an active member of my wife’s security escort when she travels for seven years—that’s how much I’ve always trusted you. Did you abandon Ian Wilkes on that planet because he’s Air Force or because he’s gay?”
“It’s not normal, sir.”
“You have thirty minutes to collect your gear. Transport will be ready for you top side.” Jack tossed an envelope across his desk. “Your new orders—if you’re lucky, Sergeant Kane, I’ll never set eyes on you again.” He tilted his head. “And I’d be careful to avoid Sheppard—you know Ian Wilkes is a son to him.”
– – – –
Ian took a shuddering breath and didn’t protest at all when he was prodded into an office just outside of the infirmary by strong hands. His fingers curled into Rodney McKay’s shirt as the other man pulled him close and hugged him tight. “Fuck.”
“I know.” Rodney ran his hand over Ian’s head and held him tight. “I know better than anyone else.”
Ian nodded abruptly and buried his face against McKay’s neck and blinked back tears. “Sons of bitches. They wouldn’t help me.”
“We know that, too. One of them confessed.” Rodney rocked him carefully. “The upside of this is that there probably isn’t a person on this base that will ever fuck with you again.”
Ian laughed sadly. “Yeah?”
“You dragged a Wraith back to the SGC by the hair… trust me… those grunts won’t even look at you cross eyed from now on… especially since you did it for one of their own.”
“Not theirs,” Ian muttered as the door opened and John Sheppard slipped fully into the office and shut the door. “He’s not theirs. He’s mine.”
John laughed sadly. “Pretty obvious.” He rubbed a circle against Ian’s back. “You okay, kid?”
“Done cuddling with my astrophysicist?”
John laughed and pulled them both close. “Well, okay, then.” He waited until Ian relaxed and then sighed. “You scared the shit out of me, kid.”
– – – –
“Okay, from the data they gathered before they blew the craft; I can be fairly certain that it was Ancient in design but not anything we’ve ever had any experience with before.” Rodney motioned towards the large viewing screen in the meeting room. “It’s about the length of a jumper but somewhat more narrow. It could have easily fit through a gate.”
“Why send it instead of a Dart?” John asked with a frown. “Why didn’t we find an entire battalion on the ground on that planet instead of a scouting team?”
“I don’t know,” Rodney admitted roughly. “I can’t even be sure it did come through a gate and can’t figure that out because they blew it the fuck up.” He shot Ian a glare who just shrugged it off. “The signal itself has the coordinates of the planet on repeat. I don’t know how long it has been broadcasting but it is fairly obvious they were calling home. That’s it.”
Daniel Jackson hurried into the conference room with a large coffee cup balanced on a laptop and a tablet PC. “Okay, sorry I’m late. I was just running through the Ancient database which we all know is a pain in the ass without Atlantis.” He blew out a breath and spread out all of his stuff. “This is what I know about the craft. It’s one of a kind, an experimental design of Janus’,” he paused as everyone in the room groaned at the mention of their favorite Ancient, “and it, from all reports, had an experimental wormhole drive.”
Rodney’s mouth dropped open and he turned to Ian with a look of despair mixed with betrayal. “And you blew it up? Ian, how could you?”
“Mer,” John laughed. “Give the man a break. We’ll go pick up all the pieces for you and you know he did the right thing.”
Ian flushed. “Why were they still on the planet? It seems they could have dialed another gate address…”
“Not without prior knowledge of the gate system in the Milky Way,” Sam Carter murmured. “You have to understand we tried dialing for years before Daniel translated the cover stone from Egypt. Our dialing computer comes from Abydos, a directory that Ra himself created. In Pegasus, Atlantis provided the expedition with a database of Stargates. The Janus ship must have been disabled after the initial trip—they crash-landed and waited for reinforcements.”
“How powerful was the signal?”
“Standard Wraith which is far better than our own communication signals.” Rodney frowned as he spoke. “Unless it hits a subspace relay it would take five years for it to reach Pegasus.”
“How did Todd get here in an experimental Ancient ship?” John frowned and focused on Jennifer who had cleared her throat.
“Todd has the ATA gene.”
“What?” John frowned at her. “My gene?”
“No.” She shook her head. “That’s just it. Not yours—Carson Beckett’s.”
“Beckett is dead,” John murmured. “You know that, Jennifer.”
“Look.” Jennifer stood with her tablet PC and walked to the main viewing screen. “This is Carson Beckett’s gene. And it was delivered via the same inert virus that Carson used when he designed the ATA gene therapy for us. I can’t explain it but the results don’t lie. Todd has had the ATA gene therapy.” She cleared her throat. “There is more.”
John took a deep breath. “Okay.”
“He’d been exposed to the retrovirus.” Jennifer winced when John glared at her. “I know. John. I know, but it’s true. Todd was never on that ship with Michael so we have to acknowledge that… Michael has been experimenting on his own kind and that Todd fell victim to that.”
Fury and denial pooled in John’s gut. The biggest failure on the Atlantis mission—outside of waking up the Wraith—spilled out in front of them. The retrovirus and the Michael experiment. “So, the question is—what does Todd want? It’s not that I don’t doubt how badass or how furious Ian was but Todd couldn’t have put up any kind of fight on the planet.”
“Do we think he’s working with Michael?”
John frowned and shook his head. “They don’t have the same goals. What we did to Michael made him insane on a level that probably makes other Wraith uncomfortable and that’s saying something. After what he did to the Athosians… and the Genii, I don’t even want to think about what he might be doing to other Wraith.”
“If Michael is involved…” Jennifer sat down and poured herself a glass of water with shaking hands. “He’ll come for me, John. We both know that.”
“Explain,” David demanded. “John?”
“Michael was, hell, is a Wraith. We captured him and experimented on him. Jennifer and Carson Beckett used the retrovirus to make him human. The retrovirus suppressed all the Wraith DNA in him—made him human but it also wiped his mind of memories. Well, not completely but on the surface he had no memories of himself before the retrovirus was administered. Jennifer befriended him, pretended to be very close with him as we worked through the test phase to make sure the experiment would work long term. We discovered quickly enough that it wouldn’t—he started to have nightmares about being a Wraith and eventually he discovered that he was part of an experiment.”
John cleared his throat. “To say that he was not pleased would be an understatement. We found out too late that he’d figured out what he was and escaped. But not before he stole all of the work Carson and Jennifer had done on the experiment.”
“And then?” David prodded.
“He was on board the Wraith ship that almost made it here a few years back and we used the retrovirus on him and the rest of the occupants of the ship. It worked and we suddenly had a colony of humans on our hands and Elizabeth Weir tried the experiment again. Jennifer and Carson worked with them on the planet we picked for the group. No Stargate so we figured it was relatively safe. They were harmless at first, almost defenseless. It was weeks before the Wraith in them started to surface again and no matter how often Carson dosed them…” John shook his head. “You can imagine how furious Michael was when he fully woke. He tried to take Jennifer from the planet when the Wraith arrived but failed—Carson Beckett fought him off and eventually died of the injuries he sustained during that fight.”
“Why does he want Jennifer?” Rodney finally asked with a frown. “Revenge?”
“Breeding,” John murmured his voice a harsh whisper. “He wants her for breeding. We found one of his labs about two months before we left Pegasus. He was trying to breed Wraith-Human hybrids. Michael had successfully altered his own DNA enough that he no longer needs to feed like a Wraith—he made himself half-human. Jennifer has a strong ATA gene and she was labeled as the strongest female ATA carrier on the city. Michael has the records and he made extensive plans for the use of her if he caught her. He’ll see Earth is a source for other women like her as well. Women he can use for his experiments.”
Patrick took a deep breath. “In that case, we need to replace Dr. Keller on the Phoenix mission.”
“He won’t even know we’re there,” Jennifer protested and looked to John for support. She slumped when she realized he wasn’t going to take her side. Jennifer glanced in David’s direction, took in his stony ‘I’m a Navy SEAL and I know three hundred ways to kill a man’ look and frowned at him. “Okay, fine. But for the record this sucks and I protest on the grounds that I’m…” She trailed off and waved a hand in defeat.
“About to die of testosterone poisoning?” Sam cheerfully supplied. “Noted. We’ll bring it up at the WFWD meeting next week.”
“I can take care of myself,” Jennifer groused.
“Men don’t make war on women the way they do other men,” David snapped. “Do you honestly think this half-Wraith freak is going to…” He trailed off and looked away from her, his jaw tight with fury. “It isn’t like he’d have a reproduction lab set up, Jennifer.”
She paled at the implication and closed her laptop abruptly. “It never… the Wraith don’t… the Queens lay eggs. I’m not even sure if a Wraith male could copulate with a human female.”
John cleared his throat. “Not all of the humans that get culled are food, Doctor.” He rubbed his head with one shaking head. “There were rumors—that some are kept as pets. You know what they did to Ronon, hunted him for sport. I imagine the strongest males were used that way—I can’t even imagine what kind of sport they used for the females they didn’t take for food.” Taking a deep breath, he continued and glanced briefly at Ronon. “Besides, Michael is half-human now. There is no telling what he is capable of and surely if he were going to create a hybrid child he would use his own genetic material for the process.”
“He wanted you when he was human,” Ronon muttered from his place near the back of the conference room. He hadn’t said much since he’d returned from his staring contest with a now conscious Todd. Teal’c had been his silent shadow—intimidating and exuding a protective air that had made everyone give them a lot of room. “It isn’t like he forgot anything when he went back to being a Wraith. He might not understand human desire now—but he certainly experienced it and surely he remembers it.”
“I never encouraged that,” Jennifer protested. “I tried to be his friend.”
Patrick Sheppard snorted and then frowned when she glared at him. “It isn’t like you’d have to.”
“You can’t be friends with a monster, Jennifer,” Ronon murmured. “I told you that before and none of you listened to me.”
John winced. It had been the one time in all the time that Ronon had been on Atlantis had he’d so vehemently disagreed and often times violently protested what they were doing when it had come to the Michael experiment. He’d been right, though. “Ronon.”
“It doesn’t matter how many times we tell her, Sheppard. She’ll still have this big…” He waved one hand in defeat. “Bleeding heart where her common sense should be.”
“Enough,” John glared at him and put a hand firmly on his brother’s shoulder when David started to stand up. “Don’t even, Dave, fighting amongst ourselves solves nothing. He’s right—Jennifer has more heart than all of us put together. I like to think that’s the reason we brought home as many people as we did on the mission.” He looked at her then, took in her soft, too beautiful face and didn’t wonder why his brother loved her so much. He didn’t wonder at all. “I think we’d have all gone insane out there and by the time the SGC pulled us out there wouldn’t have been enough left of any of us to bury if she hadn’t been there to be our heart.”
“You’re really going to leave me behind?” Jennifer frowned at him.
“Yeah, I think it’s for the best. The last thing we need to is to give him what he thinks he needs from you. This mission should go by the numbers—in and out before anyone is the wiser but it might not. Frankly, my luck in the Pegasus galaxy has never been all that stellar.”
The silence that followed that statement wasn’t deafening but it was a near thing. O’Neill dismissed everyone but John and Rodney after a few minutes passed and practically everyone darted from the room. David paused in the doorway and then frowned. “What the hell is a WFWD meeting?”
Rodney glanced up from his computer, considered the question for a few seconds. “Women For World Domination?”
O’Neill laughed and rubbed his face as David nodded and with a chuckle of his own closed the door behind him. “Okay, options.”
“We charge the ZPMs, retrieve Atlantis and prepare ourselves for a full on invasion of this galaxy within the next eighteen months,” John offered.
“And if we can’t charge ZPMs?” Jack asked, focused entirely on Rodney.
“We work on the planetary shield, focus all of our energies on weapons and ship construction making it as much of a world effort as is possible and prepare this galaxy for an invasion within the next eighteen months.” Rodney closed his laptop. “But first we need to destroy the planet that ship was on.”
“Because it’ll be the first place they go when they reach this galaxy and it isn’t like they are going to have detailed maps of the place to work on. The last thing we need to do is give them a functioning Stargate.”
“So why not just harvest the gate and leave the planet there?” John asked.
“Because the signal included that planet’s location. If they can’t find the planet it might slow them down.” Rodney frowned. “This Michael guy has a real hard on for us, right?”
“Yes, revenge, ambition, and megalomania all mixed together.” John left the table and went to stand in the window. “It’ll slow him down but it won’t stop him. We also have no way of knowing if he’s shared what he’s learned about the location of this galaxy with other Wraith. He doesn’t need to feed, so he isn’t coming here because of that. He’s interested in coming here for a different reason.”
– – – –
John looked Todd over and frowned. “General actually, I was promoted.”
“Your people promoted you after you failed in Pegasus?” Todd offered John a sly, toothy grin. “How interesting.”
“What do you want, Todd?”
“In any given moment? To feed.” Todd leaned forward but relaxed in his chair when P-90’s around the room were primed. “You left us with a big problem, Sheppard. Food is in short supply and that creature you made is wrecking havoc.”
“So, kill him.”
“He has many followers these days—Wraith and human alike who have been turned into something different. Wraith who no longer need to feed.” Todd’s feeding hand curled on the table between them and the cuffs clinked together. “It is unnatural what they have become and they guard their savior closely. It’s an obscenity that your people forced on us and my Queen would have you pay for it.”
“Where did you get the ship you used to get here?”
“I found it but was forced to infiltrate the creature you call Michael’s organization to gain the genetics I needed to fly it. The taint of what I allowed to be done in order to undertake this mission will never leave me but I serve my Queen in every way she would wish as long as she wishes.”
John grimaced. “Are there more ships? Is your Queen coming here?”
“Do you think I’d tell you that?”
“I think your Queen sent you here for a purpose and I doubt you’re the forerunner of a Wraith invasion.” John slouched back in his chair. “You’re also not the kind of guy to run off half-cocked. You’ve got a plan.”
“The Ancient gene you have… did you see the person who created it for Michael?”
Todd smiled then, sharp toothed and weird. “Yes, I did. I was at once alarmed and deeply disturbed that when you left Pegasus—you abandoned one of your own people in his less than stellar care.”
– – – –
Jennifer was pale and her fingers were trembling. “No, John, I didn’t… we didn’t take samples from Carson’s body before he was returned to Earth for burial. It didn’t seem necessary.”
“His family didn’t cremate him?”
She shook her head. “No, his mother insisted on a very traditional wake.” Jennifer turned her back on them. “What do you think… John?”
“I don’t know what to think. All I know is that Todd says he saw Carson Beckett in Pegasus as little as three months ago.” He winced at the choked sound that came from Jennifer and shook his head when David started to move towards her. “Jen.”
“He died, John. I was there. I…” Keller took another deep shuddering breath. “I brought home his body and I told his mother how he died saving me. He can’t possibly be alive in Pegasus. That’s just… Todd… how can Michael have him when I sat beside him in the infirmary and held his hand until he was just… gone?”
“I can’t answer that question, yet. But I will answer it and if somehow he has Carson, I’ll get him back.” John closed his eyes. “To that end, we need to take samples from the Carson we buried.”
“Because if there are two Carson Becketts, one of them has to be a clone. The question, Jennifer, is which one of them died and which one of them is Michael’s prisoner?”
Jennifer twisted her engagement ring nervously and took a deep breath. “I’ll take care of it.”
John said nothing else because she turned and stalked from the room without another word.
David cleared his throat. “Is he… was he special to her?”
John winced and glanced towards his father and then Matt. “Yeah, you could say that. They must have gotten married half a dozen times off-world while we were in Pegasus. People were always insisting they participate in marriage rites in order to treat them medically.”
“Lovers,” David said.
“Do any of those marriage rites off-world constitute a legal marriage on Earth?” He asked his eyes dark and concerned. “Because I’d like to know if I just put an engagement ring on another man’s wife.”
John shook his head. “No, the SGC policy regarding off-world marriages is very strict—they don’t count, not even if they are consummated. Hell, I married ten different people in Pegasus from the expedition including Jennifer and Ronon.” He held up a hand when David glared. “Unconsummated unions with all ten. I didn’t touch a single person on our mission. It just didn’t seem like a good idea.”
“Right.” David exhaled and swallowed hard. “What the fuck am I supposed to say?”
“I don’t have the first clue,” John admitted and looked towards his father for help but Patrick looked just as confused as the two of them. “Maybe let her do the talking?”
“Right. That usually works best,” Patrick muttered. “I could ask Carrie to talk to her?”
– – – –
Jennifer ended the phone call reluctantly. Carson Beckett’s mother had passed away last year. It meant there was no one left to ask questions about the return of Carson or the removal of the body from Scotland. The SGC had contacts in the UK so getting permission to retrieve the body hadn’t taken much effort at all. She looked up as David entered her office and blushed furiously.
“Okay, so I figure I don’t have to tell you that he was important to me.”
“John told me.” David slouched down in the chair. “I’m not…” He sighed. “I don’t have the first clue what to say here, Jennifer. I suppose I should just let you do the talking but I feel like I might explode or something.”
“Carson was a good man. A talented doctor. A patient and thoughtful lover. We had a close friendship and that friendship included sex.” Jennifer blushed and averted her gaze. “But I wasn’t in love with him, David. I loved him. He was my best friend and losing him was overwhelming but we both knew that what we had physically wasn’t what either one of us wanted long term.”
“Okay.” David nodded and stared at the floor between her desk and the chair he was in. “So, you were friends with benefits.”
Jennifer laughed abruptly and then rubbed her face. “Yes, friends with benefits. He was… is a good man.”
“And if this Carson Beckett that Wraith claims to have seen is a clone?”
“We’ll have to do what we can for him because he probably doesn’t even realize he’s a clone,” Jennifer murmured. “They are removing the body within the next hour and then he will beamed here for me to examine. A few tests should be all that it takes for me to know for certain.”
“Could they have made the switch on you?” David questioned. “The circumstances seem odd…”
“Michael could have cloned Carson anytime within the eight months between the first experiment and when we used the anti-virus on the entire hive that almost made it Earth. Michael was on that ship—but we would later find out that he’d been a prisoner on the ship. After we experimented on him, the other Wraith could tell he wasn’t quite right and they treated him like an enemy.”
“You actively participated in this research?”
Jennifer flinched. “When we found out that the Wraith had evolved from humans… it seemed like we could fix the problem with the Wraith by turning back their evolutionary clock. Near the end of the project, before we even caught Michael for the experiment we were all starting to wonder if it was the right thing to do. The IOA was pretty insistent that we try and they sent out a team of scientists to augment the research on the city—across the board. That’s how Zelenka and several others eventually came to the city to work and that’s how we figured we’d get Rodney as well but it didn’t work out that way.”
– – – –
Sebastian paused in the doorway of his parents’ bedroom. They were moving silently, both packing quickly. “When?”
John paused and then carefully tucked a t-shirt into his duffle. “We leave in sixteen hours for the ZPM lab. If we can charge the ZPM, we’ll leave for Atlantis within the week.”
“If you can’t charge a ZPM?”
“I leave on a scouting mission in the Apollo to see how far the Wraith have advanced, if they’ve moved at all in our direction while McKay devotes himself to finding another power source for the Phoenix.” John sat down on the bed. “I know this is quicker…”
“Hey,” Sebastian frowned. “I’m cool. I know what I signed on for. It isn’t like it’s some big mystery what the two of you do for a living.” He walked into the room and hopped up onto the bed between their bags. “Okay, so, worst case scenario?”
Rodney cleared his throat. “I blow up another solar system trying to charge a ZPM?”
Sebastian laughed. “Seriously. Maybe a planet or two but a whole solar system?”
Rodney waved a hand off in agreement. “Yeah, that would take some work and the lab is pretty far from the star in the solar system we chose to use. So, worst case is that we fail to charge a ZPM.”
“What if they weren’t meant to be recharged?” Sebastian asked.
“It’s a concern. Still, I think if they weren’t meant to be recharged then we would have found a manufacturing facility by now. The fact that we haven’t—and not even a whisper of it is telling.”
“It says that making one was a special endeavor and not something that could be mass produced,” Sebastian murmured. “That it is the work of an artist versus a factory.”
“Yeah,” Rodney smiled. “Exactly that.”
“Okay, so you charge some ZPMs and you take the Phoenix to Atlantis.”
“That’s the plan,” John murmured. “A week to reach the planet, I figure it will take us seven hours in a Jumper to reach her. We took her as deep as we could on the planet. Her shields will accept one of her own Jumpers so we’ve made sure to put four of the Jumpers we took from Atlantis on the Phoenix.”
“We have three days allotted for pulling her out of mothballs,” Rodney continued. “Our singular goal will be to get her shields up to maximum, install a cloaking device, test and ready her hyperdrive for travel. Currently, we believe that only your father will be able to fly her but he can’t spend the entire trip back to Earth in the chair. This means we’ll have to do the trip in hops. If we can put any of the other gene carriers we are taking with us in the chair—that will cut our trip home down. If only your father does the flying, we’ve got three weeks of travel ahead of us.”
“Plenty of time for you to do an analysis of the city and see where the 911 repairs are,” Sebastian said with a raised eyebrow. “And at full capacity, the city should be able to start building drones, correct?”
“That’s the theory. We’ve picked several places to stop along the way to replenish her supply of materials. She hasn’t built weapons in a long time so I don’t know how that is going to go for her.” John took a deep breath. “So, best case scenario. We go for Atlantis and we’re gone forty-five days.”
“Worse case,” Sebastian looked up. “You don’t come home.”
“Yeah.” John squatted down in front of him. “You know if one of us could stay behind…”
“I know.” Sebastian nodded, his hands clenched into small fists. “I know.”
– – – –
Cameron zipped his duffle and dropped it at the end of the bed. Matthew was silently packing his own bag, his face a study in what Cam liked to call ‘stoic Sheppard’. The whole family had the ability to hide everything behind a stony mask of what looked like indifference to the outside world.
“Do you think they can charge a ZPM?”
“I think if anyone alive in this universe can do it—it’s Rodney and his team. They’ve worked hard for this and this is one of those times when we have to put our faith and our trust in the science.”
“Not my usual,” Matt admitted. “I don’t know how all of you manage it here—I’ve read enough mission reports to know how often the geeks in the place have saved the day while everyone else just stayed out of the way.” He dropped down on the bed beside him. “I’m not good at staying out of the way.”
“You do okay,” Cameron murmured and the bumped him. “Coming with me on the Apollo to blow up a planet or with your brother on the Phoenix to charge a ZPM?”
“With you.” Matt curled his fingers against Cameron’s and took a deep breath. “With you until I have no other choice. I know why you’re not going on the Atlantis mission. I understand.”
“I hope so.” Cameron turned their hands over and joined them completely. “I’d do just about anything to stand beside you, Matthew but O’Neill needs a XO he can trust to hang tough and John is taking most of our most trusted military assets with him. The Atlantis mission could be our most important to date but we can’t leave the planet under-defended.”
Matt glanced around the room they often shared at the SGC. He didn’t officially have quarters in the Mountain—his official residence was Rodney’s house as far as the Navy was concerned. He stood up and nudged between Cameron’s legs so he could stand in front of him. Matt sighed when Mitchell tilted his head and scooted closer.
“I love you so much,” Matt whispered. “Sometimes I’m just stupid with it. I remember the first night—before I got scared and ran for my heterosexuality.”
Cameron snorted softly and casually unfastened Matt’s jeans. “God, I could hardly believe my luck when I talked you into my bed that night.”
Matt pulled off his t-shirt and tossed it aside. “You were all I thought about for months afterwards. I felt like such a prick for running out on you.”
“You have a very pretty prick,” Cameron murmured. “Not as pretty as your ass though.”
Matt blushed and pulled on Cameron’s hair playfully. “You let me have you that night—let me inside you. I didn’t even know how important that was until John told me how intimate he considered it. I just thought that was what guys did.”
Cameron took a deep breath. “I figured I might only have you once and I wanted to remember what it was like to have you in me. I get hard just thinking about how you looked when you fucked me that night.” He pulled Matt’s belt through the loops of his jeans and tossed it aside. “The sounds you made when I was sucking your cock fueled my masturbation fantasies for a few weeks.”
Matt groaned. “Jesus—my toes curl just thinking about it. You seriously rocked my world.”
“Let’s see if we can rock each other’s world, right now.”
“I’m all about that,” Matt promised sincerely. “I want you to fuck me.”
“You’re evil,” Cameron said with a groan as he stood up from the bed. They both quickly stripped out of their clothes and Matt crawled up into the middle of the bed. “Jesus, I don’t know what I did to get you Sheppard but somebody up there really loves me.”
Matt spread his legs. “I really love you. I want you in me, Cam.”
Cameron sucked in a deep breath and pulled their lube from underneath one of the pillows. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah,” Matt said and ran one hand down his stomach to palm his cock. He jacked himself a few times as he watched Cameron open the lube and slick up his fingers. “I love to have you in me.”
They didn’t do it that way often as Cameron preferred to be on bottom and Matt was more than willing to fuck him as often as he liked. He teased at Matt’s hole with gentle, experienced fingers until he relaxed and sighed. “Yeah, Cam, that is so good.” He lifted off the bed briefly when Cameron pushed inside with one finger. “Suck me.”
“So bossy,” Cameron murmured as he leaned down and flicked his tongue over the head of Matt’s cock. He hummed softly when Matt wrapped his hand around his own cock and offered it up for his mouth. Mitchell wrapped his lips around the head and sucked him in with a groan.
“Jesus. Fuck,” Matt ground out through clenched teeth as Cameron added another finger. “Put your cock in me.”
Cam pulled his mouth off Matt’s cock with a little sigh of regret and sat back on his knees as he twisted three fingers into his lover. “You make me a little crazy. I’d probably have to beat people off with a stick if they knew you were like this—so hot and perfect.”
Matt wrapped his hands around bars in the headboard and just grinned when Cameron pushed his legs back out of his way. “Fuck me. Right now.”
Cameron closed his eyes briefly as he lubed his cock and then carefully rubbed the swollen head of his cock back and forth across Matt’s loosened asshole. “Relax, baby, I don’t want to hurt you.”
Matt lifted his hips up off of the bed as Cameron pressed into him with one penetrating stroke. “Ah, God.” He tightened his grip on the headboard and rocked on Mitchell’s cock with a loud groan. “Yes, yes.”
Cameron cupped his ass and increased his pace as Matthew’s body flexed under him. “That’s it, Matt, take it. You look so amazing when you take my cock.”
“Yes, Cam, give it to me. Make me come.”
Cameron prodded Matt’s legs up onto his shoulders and powered into him with deep measured strokes until Matt arched up into him and came all over himself with a shudder. Cam thrust deep into him one last time and came hard.
– – – –
John dropped his duffle on a small metal crate that McKay had packed full of computer equipment to be beamed up to the Phoenix. The trip the ZPM lab was going to be the shakedown cruise for the ship. The main lab at the SGC was packed full of scientists—more than was originally planned but after having a Wraith in the gate room it had been difficult to hide what their plans were. Everyone at the SGC was geared up to charge a ZPM and to take their collective asses to Pegasus if only in spirit.
Sebastian was sitting one of the counters with a laptop. Rodney had set it up for him. It was connected to a special Asgard satellite in orbit and it would allow him to monitor the Phoenix through the Asgard’s now rarely used subspace monitoring system. Rodney had put a transponder on the Phoenix just for Sebastian. As far as they knew—the Ori hadn’t been able to crack the Asgard’s network. If they had—they would already be on Earth’s doorstep.
“I’ll take care of him.”
John turned and looked at his father. “I know. I don’t doubt it for a minute.”
“I hurt you, John. I don’t know that we’ll ever fix that particular wound between us but I’ll never hurt him that way.” Patrick looked at Sebastian. “Not ever.”
“I hurt you, too,” John finally said. “I know that and I ignored every attempt you made over the years to correct it until you got in my face and I couldn’t ignore you anymore. And I know you’ll keep him safe. I don’t know that I could do this mission at all if I didn’t know that.” He cleared his throat. “I never expected to love anyone the way I love my son. It makes me feel like a complete bastard for ignoring you.”
“He’s trying very hard to save face so I figured I’d let him. Don’t let him skip his appointments with Kate—they’re important and if you think he needs to see her more often than once a week—tell her. He hasn’t been sleeping with us but he’s been having a few nightmares.” John paused. “I’ve gotten him to the point that he’ll come to us if he has a nightmare. I hope he’ll come to you if he does. He doesn’t always talk about it but when he does—he’s pretty pragmatic and blunt. The more upset he gets—the nastier his language gets.”
“Understood,” Patrick said softly, his gaze intent on his grandson. “Sometimes I really regret not letting you kill that bastard.”
“I know, but you were right—Sebastian would’ve known and it would’ve been bad.” John took a deep breath. “Okay. We have to go. The Apollo is on standby. Matt beamed up a few minutes ago. They’ll make for the planet that Ian’s team was on and destroy it.”
“I had words with him and Cameron.” Patrick put his hand on John’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “Go say goodbye to your son, John. I’ll get the geeks corralled and beamed up for you.”
John could hardly believe it but in a matter of minutes—people and equipment were gone leaving him and McKay alone with Sebastian.
Sebastian closed the small laptop that McKay had set up for him and turned to look at them. “Okay, so, there are a few rules. 1: You absolutely do not play with the Ori or the Wraith. 2: We’re going work with a buddy system—you guys are buddies and you never go anywhere without your buddy.” He held up a third finger. “3: Grandpa sucks at the PS3 and only does marginally better at Xbox 360—so you’re required to bring Uncle Matt, Cameron, Ian, and Jimmy back with you. I’ve already informed them of the buddy system.”
John grinned. He could readily imagine those conversations. “Understood.”
“Good.” Sebastian picked at the hem of his jeans and sighed. “For my part, I won’t get online and bitch about being left at home while you’re both off being space cowboys. I’ll be excessively honest to Grandpa about my stupid feelings. I won’t try to skip out on my therapy sessions. And I solemnly swear that even when I’m up to no good I won’t leave any evidence behind.”
“Good to know,” John murmured. He touched Sebastian’s cheek and waited until he lifted his head so he could look him in the eyes. “We’ll come home, Sebastian. Consider this a test run for Pegasus. Watch us on your laptop and keep your Granddad out of trouble.”
“Not a problem.”
John pulled him close and hugged him tightly. “I love you, you know that.”
“I do,” Sebastian whispered and curled his fingers into his father’s shirt. “I’m pretty great.”
“You are,” John agreed and released him reluctantly.
Rodney tapped the laptop gently. “Remember to plug it in often—the program for the Asgard sensors is going to eat the battery. If we blink out—don’t be alarmed because there are gaps in the sensor net. It hasn’t been maintained like it should be. I hope I can fix it later. You’ll get a signal every three minutes from the SGC with new data.”
Sebastian nodded. “I’ll keep a log of any blackouts.”
“Excellent idea,” Rodney agreed and then prodded him close for a hug. “I won’t let anything happen to anyone—we’ll all come home and I’ll bring you some ZPMs to stare at briefly.” He pressed a kiss against his forehead. “I love you so much it makes me a little stupid.”
“That’s okay,” Sebastian whispered. “We have IQ points to spare.” He rubbed his face against Rodney’s shirt to hide tears he obviously didn’t want mentioned.
Patrick re-entered the lab. “The President has given you a go, John.”
John stepped back and clicked his radio. “Phoenix, Dr. McKay and I are ready to come aboard.”
Sebastian offered them a small wave but deflated the moment they disappeared. He glanced briefly at his Grandfather and then hopped down off the counter. “I should get my stuff.”
“I’ve got an SUV waiting on us topside,” Patrick leaned in the doorway. “You know, this is a cake walk mission.”
“I know,” Sebastian murmured as he stored his laptop in a protective hard case and slid it into a pouch in his backpack. “I’m ready to go.”
– – – –
“I have to admit Commander Bradley—we were surprised to hear you were receptive to our offer.”
Robert Bradley flushed and averted his gaze. “Yes, well, financially times have been difficult for me lately. I owe some money to the wrong people.”
“We took note of that,” Colonel Frank Simmons replied coolly. “You understand, Commander Bradley, that we are asking you to commit acts that may be considered treasonous by those currently in power. If you are caught, you’ll be on your own.”
“I won’t get caught,” Bradley returned. “I’m good at my job. He won’t expect a thing.”
Simmons smirked. “I can’t imagine you’ll live if he does figure it out but that’s between you and the Admiral.” He pushed a cell phone across the table. “This is as secure as we can make it but your best defense is to make sure no one suspects you of anything.”
“Understood, sir.” He dropped the cell phone in an interior pocket of his jacket. “You’ll see my reports daily as agreed.”
“And your money will be deposited weekly in the account you’ve established. I caution you against heavy spending to avoid getting a hit from the security checks.”
Bradley stood. “I run those checks for the Admiral, sir.”
Frank Simmons chuckled. “Then you be a good fellow and mind your own business if you run across any problems.”
“The Navy doesn’t pay enough to spy for them, sir.”
– – – –
Patrick shrugged out of his uniform jacket as he got settled at his desk. He glanced briefly at Sebastian who had agreed to be flown via Jumper to DC with him. “I have just a few things and one meeting and then we can do go do whatever you want.”
“Sounds good.” Sebastian dropped down in his chair and opened up his backpack. “Hey, Rico, I brought my DS—we could play co-op.”
Rico glanced at the Admiral and then shook his head. “Nah, I should stand here and look mean.”
Sebastian grinned and pulled out his laptop for a quick check. Once he was satisfied with the data he was receiving—he locked it with his pass code and dropped it back in his backpack. “I guess I can take on the Sith Lord all by myself.”
Patrick relaxed behind his desk and glanced up when the door opened. His XO entered with a pile of folders and a laptop. “Rob, did we get everything squared away with the construction site in Nevada?”
“Yes, sir, I was able to convince the locals if they would stop pointing out the ship construction facility as an alien crash site—that it might be possible for us to give them another three hundred yards closer to the fence at Area 51.” Robert Bradley fell into parade rest in front of his desk after he handed over the laptop and set the files in Patrick’s in box.
Patrick snorted. “You’d think after seeing pictures of Asgard that they would actually lay off that crap.”
“You’ve met my grandson, Sebastian?”
Robert Bradley glanced briefly at Sebastian who waved. “Yes, sir, at the SGC. Did you need me to order a meal?”
“No, won’t be necessary. We won’t be here long. I’ve updated my schedule for the next two weeks. I’ll be taking some time off to hang out with Sebastian and we might go to McKay’s private island. I have the choice of letting someone borrow you or giving you some leave.” Patrick quirked an eyebrow. “I suppose you have some sunny beautiful place you could go?”
Bradley paused and considered that. “Actually, sir, we still have that report for the Senate Arms Committee to finish preparing and I could take your two site visits to Nevada next week.”
Patrick nodded. “Very well. Set up your travel plans and get the paperwork I need to approve it. Put in some leave time as well.”
“Thank you, sir.” Bradley saluted smartly and exited the room.
Sebastian frowned at the closed door. “He seems stressed. He was much friendlier when I saw him last.”
“Working in DC turns people into assholes,” Patrick confided. “That’s why I spend as little time as possible here.”
“Good idea—you already have genetics to battle no need to add environmental factors as well.” Sebastian just grinned at the mild glare that earned him.
– – – –
Ian’s life sort of sucked. He surveyed the room he was sharing with Jimmy Martinson and did his best not to groan out loud. It wasn’t small but it wasn’t all that big either.
“At least it isn’t bunk beds like the barracks the enlisted have to put up with.” Jimmy said as he dropped down on the bed where his duffle had been left.
They’d both gone on duty the moment they beamed aboard so ten hours into the trip they were seeing their quarters for the first time. Ian walked to the narrow but tall window that was on the exterior wall and watched for a few seconds. It made him a little sick to his stomach to watch for longer than that.
“Hyperspace is so weird.”
Jimmy laughed. “Yeah, it is.” He sighed suddenly. “Look, your friend Jake is down the hall bunking with Goeings. Did you want me to trade with him so you can bunk with him instead?”
Ian shot Jimmy a hard look. “Why would you ask that? You’re my best friend.”
“We had a pretty intense few days there,” Jimmy murmured. “And you look very uncomfortable.”
Ian sat down on his own bed and after a moment met Jimmy’s gaze. “When that Wraith had you—it was like he had me, too. It was like he was sucking the life out of my body, too. I’ve never hurt like that in my life and I was so desperate to get you back. I think I would’ve taken out our entire team if they’d tried to stop me. I lo…”
Jimmy’s jaw clenched. “Stop.”
“No… I want to say this!”
“Stop,” Jimmy said and reached out for him. “Just stop—for a second. Before you say anything else I have to tell you something so intensely fucked up that it defies comprehension.” He put his fingers on Ian’s mouth when he started to speak. “Please, Ian.”
Ian relaxed in his hold and nodded abruptly. “Okay, blow my mind.”
Jimmy laughed sadly. “Christ, Ian.” He let him go reluctantly and sat back on the bed. “You’ve read all of the mission reports for the SGC?”
“Except for the four that are classified above my pay grade but I’ve heard rumors about them,” Ian admitted. “One is probably an incident where SG1 travelled back in time. The second one is about an Ancient who had a crush on the General’s wife. The third is about a civilian who turned out to be an alien hiding on Earth. The fourth one…” Ian trailed off. “The fourth is this wild ass story about the Asgard cloning General O’Neill.”
“Right.” Jimmy nodded. “All pretty good rumors actually. So let’s talk about the one about the Asgard cloning O’Neill.”
Ian’s mouth dropped open. “That’s true? Why would they… I thought they were our allies?”
“They were and maybe one day if they come out of that time dilation field in our life times they will be again.” Jimmy rubbed the back of his neck. “So, this wacko Asgard named Loki cloned O’Neill in an effort to find a cure for their own cloning problems. It wasn’t successful on any level because the clone turned out around fifteen years old and he was born dying.”
Ian paled. “Dying?”
“Right. After it was all said and done—Thor fixed the dying problem and the clone was saved. O’Neill really didn’t know what to do with him so the Air Force set up him with a bank account and pretty much set him free like on an episode of Wild Kingdom.”
Ian exhaled sharply. “Must’ve been hard on him. Fifteen and alone?”
“Forty-five years old in a fifteen year’s old body,” Jimmy corrected with a little grin. “He went a little crazy for a while but then the NID caught wind of him and took him hostage. Thankfully, O’Neill found out about it and rescued him but it was obvious that the clone had a serious problem. Beyond the kidnapping by the NID thing—he was also depressed, angry, and practically suicidal because his life had been taken from him.”
“He was in love with the General’s wife?” Ian questioned.
“As far as he was concerned, she was his wife. His wife, career, and everything he’d ever remembered doing actually belonged to someone else and it was driving him nuts. So, O’Neill called the Asgard back and after some tinkering—they fixed a few things.”
“Like what?” Ian asked his tone soft and neutral. “What did they fix?”
“They stripped the emotions out of his memories—select memories. He remembered meeting Sam Carter but he stopped loving her. He remembered his career and all of the advancements he made but they stopped being his.” Jimmy cleared his throat. “And then they changed his face, his body, altered his DNA enough so that if anyone ever saw his DNA he would look like Jack O’Neill’s bastard son rather than his clone.”
“He was eighteen at that point,” Jimmy admitted. “O’Neill had a scientist at the SGC create an ID for him so detailed and complete that no one would ever question it. There are people convinced they went to high school with this man that had never even set eyes on him.”
“And then he joined the Marines,” Ian murmured, his eyes a little wide with shock.
“Yeah,” Jimmy cleared his throat. “He joined the Marines and eventually found his way back to the SGC. O’Neill keeps him pretty close to prevent anyone from getting any ideas about where he came from. He has to keep up this front all the time because if he ever lets his guard down…”
“Someone might try to take him again.”
Ian reached out and touched his hand. “Okay, yeah, that’s intensely fucked up.”
“He’s living this lie,” Jimmy murmured. “And sometimes it feels like it’s eating him alive.”
“No. Not a lie,” Ian moved to sit beside Jimmy on the bed. “Not a lie at all. He has this new name and face, true, but all of things he’s done since he woke up and was fifteen years old again are all his. Granted, it looks like he’s spent most of his time fucking his way through all of Colorado but he should really stop the pity party and give himself a break.”
Jimmy laughed but it turned into a half-sob. He rubbed his face with both hands roughly and dropped back on the bed to stare at the ceiling. “My father’s name was Martin—that’s why I chose the last name of Martinson. My mother’s name was Gina.” Jimmy turned and looked at Ian only to find him staring at him. “What?”
“I’m just trying to figure out if I can see O’Neill in your face and I can’t—not even when you got old right before my eyes. That Asgard did a great job.”
“Jack is still pissed because I turned out so much better looking,” Jimmy smirked. “I think he figured that Thor didn’t understand the human preoccupation for physical attractiveness.”
“Well, Thor rocks in the face making department.” Ian rolled onto his side and propped his head up on one hand. With his free hand he trailed a finger tip along Jimmy’s jaw and over his full mouth. “Just beautiful really. It’s sort of a sin for a man to have such a pretty face.”
“Shut up,” Jimmy muttered with a blush. “I thought you’d be really pissed.”
“I don’t know what I am,” Ian admitted honestly. “Pissed is probably in there somewhere but… I won’t… my Dad hits my mom when he loses his temper. I don’t want to be that man—a man that would hit the person he loves most when he’s angry.”
Jimmy rolled onto his side to face him. “Is that I what I am? The person you love most?”
Ian sighed. “Yeah, you are. Are you… I don’t even know what to ask you.”
Jimmy laughed and curled his fingers around Ian’s wrist when Ian started to drop his hand away from his face. “I’m not the General, you know. He wasn’t even a General when I was made.”
“Yeah,” Jimmy admitted and looked down at their hands. Ian’s fingers drifted over his gently as even that small contact might suddenly be too much. “But I’m not that man. I can’t ever be that man again—I stopped feeling like him a long time ago, Ian. I was lost for a while—even after the Asgard helped me get settled mentally. I used people, sex, and just about everything else I could think of to avoid dealing with my shit but I don’t want to be that guy. I don’t want to use you. I’ve done my very best since the moment I met you—not to use you. You’re my best friend and you’re the person I love most, too.”
Ian leaned in and let his forehead rest against Jimmy’s briefly and moved back so he could meet his gaze. “You’ve got to stop fucking everything that moves.”
“I haven’t laid a hand on anyone since you got shot, kid.”
Ian raised an eyebrow in disbelief. “Shut up.”
“I’m totally serious. I tried and hell I—I had equipment problems I haven’t had since I woke up fifteen.” Jimmy grinned when Ian snorted. “A lot of that fucking was just for appearances—I have this reputation and that was just part of my cover. I’m really a one person kind of guy.”
“What about your cover now?”
“Well, being gay certainly doesn’t fit with the image most people have of the General’s clone but that’s because they don’t know that he’s bi. He had a crush on Daniel Jackson early on when the SGC first got started but they didn’t want to risk that kind of connection. Then Jackson fell in love with some alien woman and didn’t even come home from that first mission.”
“Then O’Neill met Dr. Carter?”
“Yeah,” Jimmy said with a grin. “It was a good day for him—it was like getting punched in the gut meeting that beautiful, smart woman. She rocked his world.”
“You love her?”
“No. Not at all actually. It was weird at first because I remember her—meeting her, going to bed with her, marrying her. I remember it all but it’s distant like it really didn’t happen to me.”
Ian frowned but nodded. “She’s gorgeous naked, right?”
“Yeah, like a work of art and she loves him so much. I remember that—what it was like to be loved like that.”
“What about their kids?”
“What a mindfuck,” Jimmy admitted. “I mean, the Asgard messed with my DNA so while I’m probably genetically related to Jacob and Meredith—it’s weird seeing them and knowing their Jack’s kids but not mine. I like them though—they seem to dig me.”
“Is that weird for you?”
“Sam had a few problems early on but it really helped when I stopped having her husband’s very young face,” Jimmy admitted. “She’s protective of me—has spent years lecturing me about my manwhore ways. It’s more like I’m her brother than the clone of her lover and husband. And that’s definitely for the best.” He touched Ian’s face with hesitant fingers and sighed. “I’d really like to kiss you.”
Ian took a deep breath and blushed. “It’s… I’ve never let a guy do that.”
Jimmy hummed a little under his breath. “What have you let a guy do?”
“Not much, actually.” Ian looked away. “Handjobs and blowjobs mostly. I’ve never let a man inside me.” His gaze jerked up when Jimmy shivered a little. “What?”
“You’re a virgin?” Jimmy questioned and then fell back on the bunk with a sigh. “Christ, that’s the hottest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“I’m not a virgin!” Ian felt his face heat even further and he shoved a little at Martinson. “I haven’t been a virgin since I was sixteen.”
“Sleeping with a girl doesn’t count in this instance,” Jimmy told their ceiling firmly. “Do you think you’d like it… being on bottom, I mean?”
Ian blew out an impatient breath. “I think so… I like fingers and stuff. I have a toy… McKay is always sending me links to gay porn and sex toys. I bought a vibrator.” He blushed further when Jimmy turned to stare at him incredulous. “What?”
“You’re taking advice on being gay from McKay?”
Ian grinned and shrugged. “He assured me he was the gayest man in the Mountain and the foremost authority on anal sex.”
Jimmy laughed softly. “Jesus.” He rolled back on his side and leaned forward a little. “Just a kiss.”
Ian bit down on his bottom lip. “How many times have you said that in your life?”
“I don’t even know but I mean it this time.” He cupped Ian’s jaw with a careful hand and inched closer. “You’re perfect, you know. Just perfect.”
It was Ian who closed the distance between them and brushed their lips together in an unspeakably soft kiss. He shuddered against the pressure of Jim’s mouth and parted his lips at the sweep of his tongue. The kiss was lazy and sweet and everything he’d thought it would be. They parted carefully and Ian’s eyes flickered open slowly.
“I’ll be everything you ever need,” Jimmy murmured. “I promise I’ll never give you a single reason to doubt me, Ian.”
“Just you and me.”
“Yeah,” Jimmy whispered his voice hoarse with emotion. “Just you and me.”
“I can handle that,” Ian responded.
“We should get some sleep. We’re back on duty in ten hours.”
“Yeah, okay.” Ian nodded and rolled away so he could leave the bed.
Jimmy touched his arm. “Stay with me over here. Just to sleep.”
“Just sleep,” Ian agreed and let Martinson pull him into the bed. They curled up together under a blanket.
“And maybe some ambitious groping when we wake up,” Jimmy muttered against his neck and Ian laughed softly.
– – – –
“What do you know about O’Neill’s clone?”
“Beyond that he’s genetically identical to O’Neill but significantly younger?” Rodney questioned as he closed his laptop and turned to look at his husband. “I have no idea where he currently is. O’Neill had Miko make the kid a new identity and then after she was done I was tasked with trying to find him. I gave up after three weeks of solid searching. She did an outstanding job of hiding him.” He inclined his head. “What do you know about O’Neill’s mini-me?”
John smirked at the nickname and sighed. “Quite a lot actually. He’s a great shot, an excellent Marine, and is easily one of the best officers under my command. It’s difficult not to promote him fast but the kid is trying to stay under the radar and requested from the General that he not be promoted until it was required for a few more years.”
Rodney’s gaze darkened and then he frowned. “Are we playing a guessing game, General?”
John laughed. “No.”
“I’ve seen pictures of O’Neill in his twenties—I’d know is clone if I saw him.”
“Not if the Asgard gave him a new face,” John murmured and raised an eyebrow. “Because they did give him a new face.”
Rodney considered that for a moment. “Well, that changes everything doesn’t it? It’s not Ian—the kid is too fresh faced and naïve for that to be an act. You don’t involve yourself with many of the junior officers on the base so that really only leaves Martinson.” He sighed. “That rat bastard.”
John chuckled. “I thought… well frankly, Mer, I’m surprised you didn’t know.”
“I should’ve known!” Rodney snapped. “I can’t believe he pulled one over on me. He’s going to pay.”
“Well, in his defense, putting on a good front was and remains the only thing between him and some pretty crappy alternatives. There are apparently people at Area 51 who still submit quarterly requests to examine O’Neill’s clone, like he isn’t even a person.”
“I know.” Rodney waved a hand in defeat. “I read them. I try to make sure none cross Sam’s desk because the last time she saw one she took a helicopter to Nevada and punched someone in the face. Granted, it’s hot when she’s mad like that but I don’t think it’s good for the babies. Who knows what that might do to breast milk?”
John grimaced. “Mer, I didn’t need to know that about the General’s wife.”
“Well, don’t make the mistake of going in her office unannounced because I’ve borne witness to a feeding more than once in the past several months.” Rodney shuddered. “I know it’s natural and beautiful and all that jazz but really? I think it might have ruined breasts for me.”
“So? I still like breasts.” He frowned. “Or I did and now I just see them as feeding apparatus and that’s no fun.”
“Stop talking about it, Mer. I don’t want to start picturing it in my head.” He picked up his laptop which he’d abandoned on the bed and closed it. “Do you think we’re awful parents?”
“No, but we’re certainly not perfect. I’m not sure anyone can be perfect on that front. We can only hope that we don’t add to his therapeutic burden.” He grinned when John laughed abruptly. “We just have to… live, that’s all.”
“That’s all,” John murmured. “And if we don’t? What kind of parent leaves their kid and goes to another galaxy?”
“Parents with no choices,” Rodney snapped. “Do you think I’m not feeling a metric fuckton of guilt over it? Because he might be yours biologically but in every way that matters he’s mine. I know that every choice we make from here on out is going to have a significant impact on him. Good and bad. He says he understands that we both have to go to Pegasus.”
“He’s ten years old,” John griped. “What the hell does he understand about…” He trailed off and closed his eyes tightly.
“He understands, John. He understands death and loss and the Wraith and what it means to be our son. He gets it and I really wish he didn’t but he does. Sebastian, as much as it pains me to admit it, isn’t a normal kid. Maybe he never was but his mother isn’t here for us to ask.”
“He’s not…” John frowned at him. “What do you mean?”
“He’s brilliant. I mean he makes intuitive leaps in math and in engineering that blow people’s mind. He’s reduced Zelenka to muttering in a corner more than once without even trying. I mean that he’s turned modern mathematics on its ear and made some brilliant people all over the planet feel like idiots. He makes math beautiful, John. He does it in ways that I can’t come close to. When I was twelve years old, I realized that I didn’t see the world the way everyone else did. It scared the hell out of me.” Rodney paused. “Sebastian has an intuition about the world around him that far exceeds what I would expect from a ten year old. Even a ten year old genius and I don’t know what to make of it.”
“We’ve exposed him to a lot of technology,” John murmured. “Could that be…”
“In New York, when I bought his violin and he played it for us,” Rodney began. “He put so much emotion and power into playing that it was damn near overwhelming.”
“I remember,” John admitted quietly. The fact was that he didn’t like to think about it too much and as much as he enjoyed listening to his son play—the music he produced was almost painful. “You said that it made you believe that whatever happened to him hadn’t damaged him the way your childhood had damaged you.”
“And I meant it. I still believe it. He never shut himself off from his emotions. He didn’t turn off the grief when his mother died—he processed it and accepted it. He did that far better than most adults would have been capable of.”
“Is that bad?”
“It’s surprising isn’t it?” Rodney asked. “He watched his mother die—she bled to death, John. I watched mine die—she just stopped breathing and I had nightmares about her for months. Sometimes, after I’ve been in the infirmary or hospital—I still have nightmares about her.”
“Maybe he just doesn’t have the room to deal with her death and what happened to him in foster care,” John murmured. “How much can anyone deal with it at one time without just losing their mind?”
“Right.” Rodney nodded. “I just… I do worry about adding to his burden. I feel guilty as hell about leaving him on Earth while we go to Pegasus but I don’t see a way around it. I just don’t think we can ever die. I mean, I’ll have to work on it or something but immortality can’t be all that difficult after designing a space ship.”
John grinned then. “Well, just as long as you don’t fuck up the way the Asgard did. I’m rather fond of my dick.”
Rodney sputtered and then sighed. “I’m rather fond of it, too.”
– – – –
“School starts in a few weeks.”
Sebastian frowned and nodded. “I put it on my schedule.”
Patrick snorted. “I just bet you did.” He set aside his magazine and pulled two bottles of water out of the mini-fridge. He handed one to Sebastian. “Did you want to go harass the pilots?”
He shook his head. “It’s not much fun if Dad isn’t here to freak out about me dividing their attention.”
“Very few people are as entertaining as Rodney when he’s freaking out over nothing,” Patrick conceded. “We’ll land in about an hour and then we’ll take a helicopter to the island. Colonel Lorne will pick us up in three days in a Jumper.”
“Why didn’t we take a Jumper to the island?”
“They’re all slotted for use on missions today and I didn’t want to rearrange O’Neill’s mission schedule for personal reasons. I made sure to get on the schedule for pick-up though so nothing will have to be postponed for us.”
“Cool.” Sebastian set aside his laptop and pulled his feet up into his chair. Quark stirred in the seat beside him and stretched his big body leisurely before swiping casually at the kid’s shoe with his paw. He snagged a dangling shoelace and turned over on his back to hit it again. “Hey, Alien-Cat Thing.” He reached out and hauled the cat over into his lap. “I think he misses them. He was all weird when I was packing.”
Patrick nodded. He figured the cat did miss McKay but that also that his grandson was assigning emotions to the cat that were his own. “It’s okay to miss them.”
“I told him that,” Sebastian murmured and Quark sprawled out in his lap with a loud purr as he started to rub his belly. “I’m worried.”
“Pretty normal, too.”
“Right.” Sebastian nodded. “I overheard one of the scientists in the Mountain talking about a Wraith prisoner.”
Patrick cursed under his breath. “Oh yeah?”
Sebastian grinned then and glanced his way. “They really don’t pay much attention to me when I’m working unless I make the Mountain shake with the pure awesomeness of my brain.” He paused when Patrick laughed and then he sobered. “I heard it’s the Wraith that fed on Daddy. Is that true? Is it the same Wraith?”
Patrick exhaled sharply and pinched the bridge of his nose. “You know your Uncle Matt is thirty-one years old.”
“I figured I was finished answering difficult questions when he stopped being a kid.” Patrick grinned when Sebastian laughed and then he sighed. “Yeah, it’s him. Your Dad has a strange sort of relationship with it and calls it ‘Todd’. I’m not sure the creature appreciates it but he hasn’t tried to feed on anyone since he was brought back through the gate. There are some things going on with him and intel he brought with him from Pegasus that have us all a little concerned.”
“Which is why the ZPM mission suddenly went from planning to execution?” Sebastian questioned. “I really hate not knowing, Granddad.”
“I know.” Patrick sighed. “But you’re ten years old. Don’t you think it would be cool if you just, you know, tried to be a ten year old for a few days until your Dads come back and then you can ask them all kinds of uncomfortable, horrible questions? Maybe, just for fun, you could throw in some sex questions. It’s their job, you know. I’m supposed to spoil you rotten and tell you embarrassing stories about your Dad when he was little.”
Sebastian laughed. “Right. Sorry.” He sighed and sat back in his chair. “I guess you’d have preferred someone a little more normal, huh?”
Patrick stilled and then frowned. “What the hell does that mean?”
“I mean…” Sebastian flushed and concentrated on Quark who was vibrating with pleasure and satisfaction at all the attention he was getting. “Well, I’m not like other kids. I never really was except I didn’t know it until I started school. Mom kept me pretty isolated until I was six years old, I think because she must have known how much it was going to hurt when I couldn’t fit in.”
Patrick left his chair and went to seat in a seat across from Sebastian. He studied him for a few seconds before he began. “When your Dad was seven years old he came home and told his mother that he wanted to quit going to school because all of the other kids were stupid.”
Sebastian’s eyes widened fractionally. “What?”
“He was reading before he started school. His mother was so proud of him but by the time he was in the fourth grade he was quite accomplished at hiding how smart he was. He excelled academically but tried very hard to fit in with the rest of the kids. He eventually did skip the eighth grade and entered high school at fourteen. It was difficult for him but he didn’t look his age—most thought he was their age until he admitted otherwise. He took several IQ tests while he was in school but I always had the feeling that he manipulated them to give him results he considered manageable.” Patrick paused and let the kid adjust to that. “I have to say that I doubt there is much that happens at the SGC scientifically that your Dad doesn’t understand.”
“He’s ABD in Theoretical Math,” Sebastian murmured. “I haven’t asked why he hasn’t written his dissertation.”
“I think he has written it,” Patrick admitted. “The Academy offered to set up his committee last year but he dismissed it because he said he was too busy.”
“Having a PhD wouldn’t hurt him one way or another so why put it off?” Sebastian questioned with a frown.
“You’d have to ask him,” Patrick explained gently. “As for you, young man, you’re exactly what I always expected I would get if John had children. There is nothing wrong with you…” he paused briefly. “That an appointment with a barber wouldn’t fix.”
Sebastian grinned and then laughed softly. He ran his fingers through his hair. “I only do it to mess with…”
“McKay,” Patrick supplied. “I know. I think that’s why John let’s you get away with it.” He sobered and exhaled sharply. “You don’t disappoint me. You couldn’t ever disappointment me. I won’t have you think otherwise.”
“You and Daddy… well there seems to be something hard between you. I see it. You both hesitate—like you’re afraid of each other.” Sebastian blushed when Patrick raised an eyebrow at him. “I talked to Kate about it. She said I should ask you. Is it about him and Dad? I mean, I thought you guys handled your big gay freak out.”
“I hurt him a lot, Sebastian and I hurt him in a way that I don’t think I can ever make right. We’ve talked about it and we both work on it. But sometimes apologies aren’t enough. I won’t play the victim here, Sebastian. What happened between us was my fault. I judged him and I was vicious to him. I didn’t even tell him his mother died.”
Sebastian winced. “You know that’s messed up.”
“Which is why when I finally told him six months after the fact, I didn’t get too mad when he punched me in the face,” Patrick muttered. “His CO had to pull us a part.”
“Wow.” Sebastian swallowed hard. “I didn’t see that in his…” He trailed off and firmed up his mouth in an attempt to hide the guilt blooming all over his face.
“Service record,” Patrick supplied with a sigh. “When did you see his service record?”
Sebastian flushed brightly and averted his gaze. “I… I’d rather not say.”
Patrick cleared his throat and glared.
“Dr. Kusanagi’s security protocols in the Mountain are pretty tight,” Sebastian offered neutrally. “Unless, of course, you’re sitting in front of her laptop.” He shrugged. “She likes to give me math problems to play with. Sometimes Dad drops me off in her lab so I can hang out with her when he’s doing things he doesn’t want me to see in the labs.”
“Right.” Patrick sighed. “You do realize…”
“She’d get into trouble if anyone knew what I’ve done with her computer,” Sebastian murmured. “I wouldn’t want that. She’s a great person. When I realized that… that I was endangering her career because I was curious—I stopped. I haven’t done it in a long time, I promise.”
Patrick sighed. “You’re grounded.”
“For how long?”
“Until you confess to your Dads and they decide how to punish you properly. And you owe her an apology. A big one—that may or may not involve a serious amount of imported chocolate and groveling. Betraying a woman’s trust is just a stupid thing to do—I don’t think you understand how evil they can be.” Patrick shook his head. “It’s just a bad idea.”
“Right.” Sebastian frowned, seriously. “Well, I can… get Sean to order some of those truffles she likes so much. The last time she had some in her office she shivered every time she opened the box.” Quark yowled loudly from his lap and Sebastian hastily resumed the petting regimen. “It happened when I first… just, you know.” He sighed. “I didn’t know a lot about him and I was worried that’s all. Worried that one of them would decide I was too much trouble to keep. I asked him a few questions about what he did in the Air Force but he would always get this tight look around his eyes like he didn’t want to answer me. I hated making him look that way.”
“So you looked at his service record instead,” Patrick surmised. “Did you find what you needed?”
“A lot of it was marked classified and I didn’t learn a whole lot. I didn’t read through his psyche evaluations because I figured that would have been a real invasion of his privacy and I know he doesn’t ask Kate about me like that.” Sebastian transferred Quark to the seat beside him despite the animal’s vehement protests. “And no. I didn’t… it wasn’t what I wanted to know. It didn’t make me feel safe like I thought it would. I already knew he was a soldier. I already knew he was a survivor. I already knew he was stronger… than most anyone. I watched the Wraith feeding on TV just like everyone else. Sometimes I still have nightmares about it. Dad thinks my nightmares are always about what happened in foster care.”
“Why haven’t you told him otherwise?”
Sebastian snorted and twisted the cap off his water bottle. “Like he needs one more thing to feel guilty about?”
Patrick couldn’t help but agree with that assessment but he knew John wouldn’t feel that way. “He’d want to know.”
“Maybe I’ll tell him one day,” Sebastian allowed. “When it won’t be such a blow.”
“Again, I’d like to remind you that you’re ten years old.”
Sebastian grinned. “But, not really, right? My mom said I was born a little old man in a tiny body. She said I had an old soul.” He pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around his legs. “I knew this kid in LA. He had rich parents and didn’t want for a thing. I hesitate to say he was spoiled considering my own rather resplendent circumstances but he never asked for anything he didn’t get. I was jealous of him because my mom rarely gave into me unless it was something academic. Money wasn’t a problem with us—she never seemed to worry about paying the bills or anything but I didn’t get everything I wanted. It was pretty normal I guess, but I was jealous of Bradley until I met his mom.”
“His mom was a bad person?” Patrick questioned as he settled back in the seat and tried to relax. He wondered if John or Rodney always felt this emotionally exhausted when the kid got serious with them.
“Not by any reasonable standard, I suppose. She just wasn’t anything like mine. Mom treated me like… well… she treated me like I was important and central to her life. Bradley was like an accessory to his mother. He might as well been one of those little lap dogs women carry around in their purses.”
Patrick grimaced. “Did you worry that’s what life would be like for you? Because of McKay’s money?”
“Well, we did start out on a publicity tour for the SGC,” Sebastian murmured. “Maybe I should have waited or picked a better time—but he’d never been that close to me before when I was aware of it. I couldn’t believe it when I saw him on TV and they were talking about what hotel they were staying in and where McKay was going to be lecturing before they left for the next city on the news channel. I tried the hotel first but I figured if I couldn’t get past security there that I could at least get someone’s attention during the lecture and maybe meet him while they tried to figure out what to do with me.” He sighed. “I just wanted to… I wanted him to see me. I wanted him to know I existed. Even if he didn’t believe me, just having him see me might have been enough at the time.”
“I understand that,” Patrick said and worried the inseam of his slacks with his thumb as he considered his next words. “My father was career military—he went into the service when he was sixteen. His father just signed him over to the Navy and wished him luck. I don’t think he ever saw him again after that. His name was John. John Patrick Sheppard. He was a tough son of a bitch and being his only son wasn’t exactly an easy time of it. I never felt like I met his expectations. I went to college first—earned a degree in engineering before joining the Navy at twenty-one. My dad was enlisted, retired as a Master Chief, and didn’t think much of me joining as an officer. He never said it, but I think he always thought I wasn’t tough enough for his Navy.”
“Was he… well… did he hit you?”
“No, he wasn’t that kind of man. Discipline was corporal in his home but he never got out of hand with me—never broke skin or bones. Sometimes I might have a bruise or two. I imagine in today’s society it might be viewed in less than favorable circumstances but I was never physically punished without cause. He demanded obedience and respect. I did my best to give him what he wanted until the day he died.”
“When did he die?”
“It’s been twenty years,” Patrick admitted. “He had a stroke and died in his sleep. I don’t think he ever saw me for who I am. He didn’t outright scorn my career in the Navy but he never once made me feel like he was proud of me for it. He saw your dad for the first time when he was six months old. He held him for a few minutes and then passed him back to your grandmother. That was it. He didn’t see David or Matthew until they were walking. I had to wonder if he’d ever held me as a baby.”
“Maybe he didn’t know what to do with babies. They look complicated to me,” Sebastian said. “Look at Meredith and Jacob—they’re a hot mess. I can’t see that situation improving until after potty training.”
Patrick grinned as he considered the O’Neill twins. He couldn’t go into the Mountain without getting an arm full of infant. He adored the apple cheeked little monsters but they were a mess. “I agree.” Then he sobered. “So, is that why you kept your proof a secret? Did you think your Dads couldn’t handle it?”
“I kept that a secret from everyone for a long time,” Sebastian admitted. “I solved it before my mother died. I’d been studying various subjects related to the theory and then one night—I was fiddling with it and I had this—I guess you’d say I had an epiphany. It was just suddenly there in my head and I understood exactly where I had to go with the math and how I would get there. I carried the notebook around for weeks, writing it down and working through the equations.” He paused and shrugged. “I didn’t tell my mom because she was already pretty overwhelmed at the time. The Stargate program had just been declassified and there is my Dad on TV pretty much on a daily basis.”
“That upset her?”
“It upset her because before that he was a picture—a memory. Then suddenly he was on TV looking real and solid and as she said—stupid in love with another man. It must have been difficult for her—sitting there with a national hero’s illegitimate son. She was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. People would assume the worst either way and they did. A lot of the news stories about my mom paint her as this woman that stole John Sheppard’s child—kept him a secret out of spite because he was gay. I’ve read them. Dad likes to go through the stories and then casually ruin people’s credit when he thinks Daddy isn’t looking.”
Patrick snorted. “Seriously?”
“Seriously. He’s horrible but incredibly fun. We have what you might call a hit list of reporters but our intentions aren’t exactly violent.” Sebastian bit down on his lip as the plane banked suddenly. “Looks like we’re getting ready to land.”
“Right.” Patrick sighed. “Seatbelt.” He stood up and plucked the cat from the seat. “Come on, Alien-Cat Thing, it’s time for you to get back in your crate.” Quark hissed at him but hung limp and lazy in his hands as he was transferred back into a crate that had been belted into a seat near the back of the plane. He regained his seat just as the light flashed above the cockpit door and fastened his seat belt.
“I don’t worry about that stuff anymore, you know.” Sebastian leaned forward so he could look out the window. “I know I’m safe with them. I know how much they love me and I don’t have to worry about it. Now, I just have to worry about one or both of them doing something stupidly heroic and dying.”
“We’re in that same boat,” Patrick replied dryly. “I tried grounding them. It didn’t work.”
“Well, perhaps next time you can put your back into it,” Sebastian replied sternly and then grinned when his granddad laughed.
– – – –
John paused in the entry way of the lab Rodney was ruling over and watched his spouse bitching good naturedly with Zelenka and Miko Kusanagi. How the little Japanese scientist survived between the two of them was something of a mystery to John. Maybe she had blackmail material on them both. The very idea made John laugh a little and all three geeks turned to stare at him. Rodney gave him in the same slightly wide-eyed look he’d given him at the SGC when he’d first seen John in the standard olive green flight suit.
He figured it was the least sexy thing among all of his uniforms but it made Rodney go a little sideways and that was always a good thing. “It’s time for a break, McKay. We’re twelve hours out and the entire away team is required to get at least eight hours of sleep before we achieve orbit.”
“Then I have four more hours to do stuff,” Rodney said, frowned, and crossed his arms stubbornly.
“Yeah,” John stared at him incredulous. “You have four hours to do me.”
Radek snorted and Miko snickered as McKay’s mouth slowly formed a perfect ‘o’.
John smirked. “I’ll just be in our quarters—if you hurry along, Mer, you can watch me take off this flight suit.”
Rodney was still sputtering as the door closed. McKay caught up with him as he was opening the doors to their quarters. “You said ‘away team’.”
John laughed. “I heard your geeks calling it that—I’m just playing along.”
“Sure, sure.” Rodney leaned against the empty desk and watched John sit down on the bed and pull off his boots before continuing. “Now you can put on that show you so callously promised me in front of Radek and Miko. I’m sure they’re both worthless right now trying to imagine it.”
John lifted an eyebrow. “You’re the one with a degree in porn.”
“Perhaps, but you’re the one that looks like a porn star.” Rodney raised an eyebrow when John laughed softly in surprise and unbuckled the thigh holster he was wearing. He set the weapon on the nightstand, holster and all. “Sexist Man Alive and all of that.”
John quirked an eyebrow and grabbed the zipper tab with nimble fingers. “I thought you said that was stupid.”
“It was stupid but you’re still beautiful,” Rodney murmured. “And you’re mine. I hated the way they put you on display like somehow you belonged to all of them instead of just me.”
John nodded his agreement and slowly pulled the zipper down. “I’m all yours.”
Rodney’s gaze narrowed as John shrugged out of the top of the flight suit, revealing a tight black t-shirt. He let a hang loose on his hips briefly before finishing with the zipper and letting it fall in a pile at his feet. The black thermals clung to his body like a second skin—felt warm and sexy under McKay’s gaze.
“You paying attention, Mer?”
“Yeah,” Rodney murmured and cleared his throat roughly. “I’m paying attention.”
“Good.” John ran his hand down his hip and rubbed his fingers over his erection. “I’d hate to think I didn’t have your undivided attention.” He offered his spouse a sly grin when Rodney groaned and then pulled off his t-shirt. His dog tags thumped against his chest as he tossed the shirt aside. He hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his thermals and paused when Rodney made a negative sound.
McKay left the desk went to John—he caught the Air Force man by his hips. Sheppard took a deep breath as Rodney’s thumbs brushed over his hip bones. “I really fucking love you.”
John chuckled. “I really fucking love you, too.” He pulled him close, caught his mouth in a generous open-mouthed kiss that left them both shaking.
Rodney nodded as John’s hands fell to his pants and tackled his belt with deft movements. McKay pulled his shirt over his head and let it drop to the floor beside them. “I can’t believe you implied to two of my minions that we’re going to have sex for four hours.”
John grinned. “What makes you think we’re not going to?”
“I’m not sure I’m up for freaky tantric sex tonight,” Rodney admitted ruefully and then he slid carefully to his knees. He slid his blunt fingers into the waist band of John’s thermals and pulled them at them. He worked them around John’s cock with care and then pushed roughly at the material until he could prod him out of the garment.
He rubbed his mouth against the top of John’s thigh and leaned in further to nuzzle at his balls. Sheppard’s fingers drifted through his hair and over the back of his head as Rodney’s mouth drifted over the length of his cock. “Christ, McKay.”
“Get on the bed, General,” Rodney murmured.
John nodded and spread out on the bed without an ounce of shame. He opened his legs and rubbed his stomach thoughtfully as he watched McKay strip—quick and efficient as always. “What are you up to?”
“Four hours isn’t along time when you think about it,” Rodney murmured as he crawled onto the bed and knelt between John’s legs. “But I’ve been always been good in working within tight deadlines.” He hooked his hands under Sheppard’s knees and spread him wide. “I believe you’ll find me diligent in the tasks that are assigned to me.”
John sucked in a little surprised breath as Rodney lowered his head and placed an unspeakably soft kiss against his inner thigh. “I’ve always found you to be a dedicated kind of guy.”
“What do you want?” Rodney questioned. “Tell me what you want, John.”
John groaned and shivered as Rodney pressed on his stomach. His thumb brushed over the shallow indent of his belly button. “I’m spoiled for choice. You decide. I’ve made enough decisions around here today.”
Rodney shifted to the side of the bed and casually stroked his own cock as he surveyed his husband. “Turn over.”
John smiled and rolled over gamely. He let his head fall forward on the mattress and sucked in a breath as Rodney ran his hands down his back and over his ass. His breath caught in his throat as fingers delved confidently into his crevice and brushed over his asshole. “Oh.”
“I want to eat you,” Rodney whispered as he pressed a series of kisses against the small of John’s back. “I want to open you with my mouth, fuck you with my tongue and then my cock.”
John groaned and shifted, pulling one leg up a little to expose his hole. A shiver ran uncontrollable down his back as McKay gripped him firmly and used his thumbs to spread him open. “You’re filthy, Mer.”
Rodney laughed. “That’s not a complaint, General.”
“No, not at all,” John murmured and rubbed his forehead against his forearm as hot air drifted over the small of his back. Teeth clench against the skin of his ass and fingers spread him further before a tongue swiped—wide and wet over his entrance. “Ah, fuck, Rodney.”
McKay hummed under his breath and started to lap at John’s hole, dipping his tongue in briefly several times before Sheppard started to squirm under the attention. “Easy there.”
“Mer,” John whispered fiercely. He groaned softly when Rodney’s hands clamped down on his hips to keep him still. “Fuck.”
It was intimate—the kind of intimacy he’d rarely allowed anyone in his past. He’d known pleasure with other men—he was no stranger to the hot, unbearably good bite of penetration. He loved to fuck—loved to push his cock into the man he’d married and very few of his lovers had enjoyed taking a cock the way McKay did. The man wallowed in the pleasure of being fucked and John was always willing to get him into that mental place where nothing but the cock fucking his ass mattered.
Yet, it was times like this—when John gave his pleasure over to his spouse that he truly understood and reveled in the intimacy of their physical relationship. He shuddered as McKay slid one single, spit-slicked finger into his ass. Rodney prodded his legs under him and John gratefully shifted to his knees. He kept that position—his back arched, his ass in the air, and his face pressed against his crossed arms.
“You’re so hot like this,” Rodney whispered against his skin as he pressed another open mouth kiss against his hole. His tongue pressed in—a pale imitation of the penetration he could offer his husband. “Don’t get me wrong,” Rodney began as he pulled their lube from under a pillow at the top of the bed. “I love when you fuck me—you’re so gorgeous when you’re pounding my ass.”
John laughed, a little helpless as Rodney pressed two fingers into his asshole. “Mer.”
“But I do enjoy getting you all worked up and making you come all over yourself.” Rodney pulled his fingers out and shifted behind him as he wiped his hand on the sheets. “I love you.”
John sucked in a deep breath as Rodney pushed into him with one thrust. “Yes.”
“Yeah, you feel good.” Rodney put one hand on John’s back, spread his fingers wide, and pressed gently to keep him in place.
John curled his hands into sheets and thrust back against Rodney eagerly. “Christ, McKay, stop talking and fuck me before I…”
Rodney laughed softly and started to move. The thrusts were powerful—penetrating in just the right way to push against John’s prostate every time. John pressed his hands on the mattress and pushed himself up until he could rock into McKay’s body. The result was a hot, sweet burn of pleasure and pain.
“John.” Rodney stroked his back, one hand clenched on John’s hip as they moved together—skin slapping together ruthlessly as they fucked. “Christ.”
John sighed as he settled onto McKay’s lap. He sat up and pressed his back against his husband’s chest. “I love you, too, Mer. I love having you in me—love when I’m in you.” He shuddered as Rodney wrapped his arms around him and took his dick into his hand. “Yeah, Mer, jack my cock.”
“You’re so beautiful,” Rodney whispered against his neck. “I love it when you come for me.”
They rocked together, in a tangle of limbs and need as Rodney stroked his cock in a tight, sure grip until John was shivering, moaning, and coming all over his fingers. “Yes, fuck, Mer, don’t stop. Don’t stop.”
“I won’t,” Rodney murmured roughly. He pushed John back onto the bed, flat on the bed—and went with him, his cock still buried deep in his ass.
McKay curled his fingers around John’s wrists as they sprawled onto the bed and started to rock in deep with strong thrusts that quickly robbed him of his own control.
“That’s it, Mer, take what you want—come in my ass.”
Rodney shuddered and buried his face against John’s shoulder as fucked into him again and again. When orgasm finally came—it was so shocking that he bit down on John’s shoulder. John trembled and groaned beneath him.
They were silent in the aftermath, both shaking with pleasure and the loss of physical restraint. Finally, Rodney pulled out of him carefully and rolled onto his back beside him on the mattress.
“Jesus fuck,” McKay muttered under his breath.
John laughed softly and sighed. “Yeah.” He shifted to his side and propped his head up on one hand. “You’re such a great fuck, McKay. You know that right?”
Rodney shot his husband a look and then blushed. “Well, I’m a genius.”
– – – –
Patrick Sheppard didn’t like to make mistakes. Mistakes were a weakness and admitting to a mistake was even worse. Coming to Rodney’s private island without security hadn’t seemed like a big deal. It was a secure, unknown location to most of the world. Only ten people on the planet were supposed to know about it. And one of those ten fuckers was going to pay for his current circumstances and they were going to pay dearly.
His grip tightened on the half-empty 9mm in his hand while he kept the other on his grandson. Sebastian was silent but trembling against his side—his arms full of Rodney’s psychotic cat. He’d wanted to tell him to leave the animal behind but hadn’t had the heart to say it. Patrick figured that the cat was with them to begin with because it made Sebastian feel like he was close to his Dads. The last thing he needed to do was take the kid’s only source of comfort from him in a fire fight.
The belt he’d tightened around his leg wasn’t doing as much as he’d hoped to stop the bleeding. The bullet had gone straight through. He wasn’t sure if that was a mercy or not.
“I can hide,” Sebastian whispered against his ribs. “There are a few places.”
“They probably have a LSD,” Patrick responded in return, his fingers brushed through the kid’s hair. “They haven’t had any problem tracking us since we left the house.”
He hadn’t stopped, really, to consider his options. The alarm had gone off, he’d spotted at least six intruders on the security monitor in the master suite of the house and he’d gone to ground with his grandson. It had been that simple. He didn’t have the luxury of engaging them the way he wanted. Though, he had managed to take out four in the two hours since. He’d taken the bullet fifteen minutes before but the man who’d done it lay dead six meters away from them. As bait went, the dead guy wasn’t half bad.
Patrick shifted, pressed Sebastian’s face against the thin material of his t-shirt, raised his weapon and fired. The kid jerked against him and shuddered as the body thumped to the ground. From his position he could see several pieces of equipment including a life signs detector. “Stay here.”
“I can move faster than you,” Sebastian whispered as he released Quark. The animal thumped to the ground with a heavy thud. “They probably want to take me alive.”
“That is a stupid…” Patrick hissed because Sebastian had already broken away from him. He reached out to grab him but the kid was like smoke—he returned thirty seconds later with an LSD, a P-90, and a backpack full of electronics. “I’m kicking your ass when you turn sixteen.” He pulled the weapon from his hands with a growl.
“That’s old enough to take a punch in a face from an old geezer like me,” Patrick muttered and growled again when Sebastian offered him two ammunition clips from the backpack. “Don’t suppose you have a radio in there?”
“No, but I got a satellite phone.” Sebastian offered it up and then started to work with the LSD. “Looks like three more.”
He’d already kill five. An eight man team. Patrick grimaced and started dialing. Without a ship in orbit, they were going to have to wait for a Jumper. He dialed Jack O’Neill’s private number and he waited all of ten seconds before it connected.
“This is O’Neill.”
“This is Sheppard. Authorization Bravo-Delta-27-Omega-Delta-Gamma-32. My situation is tenuous. My location is compromised. My package is endangered. I require immediate assistance and medical evac.”
Sebastian’s fingers pressed into his good leg. “Six meters to your left.”
Patrick turned, raised the P-90 with his free hand and fired. “I have two remaining unfriendlies on the ground.”
“Understood,” O’Neill said tersely.
– – – –
David Sheppard wasn’t the kind of man who panicked. It wasn’t in his genes to go wacko. He’d had more than one CO in his life tell him he had ice water for blood. Four Jumpers had been dispatched from the SGC and he’d personally scrambled a SEAL team off a ship that was already in the Mediterranean. They were en route in a helicopter but he figured that Lorne would have him on the ground in around the same time frame.
O’Neill was in the front of the Jumper, relaying orders and trying to get a satellite picture of the island because they’d lost their phone connection shortly after his Dad had reported how many targets he had left. That had been twenty minutes ago. They’d launched from the SGC, gone straight up into the atmosphere, and hit sublight briefly before re-entering six miles short of the island.
“I’ve got two human life signs on the island,” Lorne reported. “One is… we have a serious injury, sirs.”
David’s stomach dropped into his feet. “How serious? Can you tell?”
“Enough that his life sign is wavering,” Lorne said, his eyes dark with worry.
– – – –
“It’s okay,” Patrick whispered. “Look at me, Sebastian, it’s okay.”
“It’s not,” Sebastian responded, his blood slick fingers pressed hard against the wound in Patrick’s chest. “I can’t stop the bleeding. I can’t stop it.” He choked on the last word. “Where are they? Why aren’t they here?”
Patrick put his hand on top of Sebastian’s and forced himself to keep his eyes opening. He’d taken out the last of the team but had caught a bullet in the chest in the process. He knew it was fatal and he hated what it was going to do the only grandchild he’d ever get to know. “I love you. You know that.”
“Yeah, I know.” Sebastian blinked rapidly but tears were streaming down his face. “I love you, too. This isn’t fair. You can’t… you can’t die for me.”
“I can’t think of any better way for an old sailor to go than in the defense of who he loves most on this Earth,” Patrick admitted and took a ragged breath. His vision was getting blurry and that pissed him off. “It’s going to be fine. They are on the way. They’ll be here soon and you won’t be alone.”
“Please,” Sebastian whispered. “Please just hold on. Don’t die for me. Please.” He pressed harder on the wound. “Daddy needs you. He’s a mess. We’ll all be fucking hopeless without you.”
“Language,” Patrick chided gently and tried to hold on harder to Sebastian’s fingers but his grip was slipping and weak. “You tell them—tell my boys I love them even if I never said it as often as I should have.”
“I will,” Sebastian promised. “I will.” Patrick’s fingers slipped from his just as the hum of a Jumper caught Sebastian’s hearing. “No. No this isn’t fair!” He fell forward and buried his face against the side of his grandfather’s neck. “No!” The air around them heated and started to glow with a soft, ethereal light. “Someone help me!”
– – – –
Jack O’Neill almost fell to his knees as they broke through the jungle and into the small clearing where they were reading the two life signs. There were two men—dead a few feet from Patrick and Sebastian Sheppard. The kid—the kid was glowing. He held out a hand to stop David Sheppard from approaching. “Hold on.”
“General!” David pushed at his hand.
“Let him finish what he’s doing,” Jack snapped and they both shifted fully into the clearing to allow Daniel Jackson and Evan Lorne to join them. He touched his radio and gave orders to secure the rest of the island—pushing the rest of the personnel as far from what was going on as possible.
He dropped down on his knees opposite Sebastian and stared at the kid who had both of his hands pressed on his grandfather’s chest—he was so white with strain and the light flowing around him was painfully familiar. Patrick stirred under his hands and groaned in pain. Sebastian relaxed and when he lifted his hands—the flesh was pink and scarred but healed.
“I can go now.”
“No.” Jack reached out and grabbed the kid’s hand firmly. “No, you can’t.”
“It’s okay, it doesn’t hurt,” Sebastian whispered. “I did it once before, you know. I remember now. When my mom died. The lady came for me. She made it stop hurting. It was good.”
“Then remember why you came back,” Jack snapped. “Why didn’t you stay the first time?”
“I wanted…” Sebastian trailed off and inclined his head. “I wanted to meet my Daddy. I’ve done that. I can go.”
“You’ll break his heart,” Jack whispered fiercely. “It’ll kill him. A man can’t ever recover the loss of his child—do you understand that? Sebastian? Don’t go with her. I know it feels safe and perfect but please—please don’t go.”
“I could learn so much there,” Sebastian protested.
“Ascension should be the last act of a vigorous and fulfilling life– not something you seek in your youth,” Jack whispered. “You said that, Sebastian, don’t you believe it?”
“She helped me,” Sebastian explained, dull eyed and distracted. “I promised to go with her if she helped.”
“Goddamn you, Oma Desala!” Jack shouted. “Let me see you!”
A woman appeared just behind Sebastian but it wasn’t who Jack expected. “Oma Desala is in no position to show herself to you. She still fights with the being you know as Anubis.” She touched Sebastian, running her fingers through his hair as she knelt beside him. “I am called Chaya—it is my honor to watch over the child of John Sheppard as I once watched over my former home world.”
“You’re from Pegasus,” Jack whispered and watched horrified as Sebastian shifted closer to the woman, relinquishing his physical contact with his unconscious grandfather completely. “You can’t think that John would thank you for taking his son from him like this.”
“I have no intention of taking his child,” Chaya smiled then—beautiful and angelic. “It is his choice to come with me—to be with us. One day John will join us as well, it is his destiny. Perhaps he will join us sooner rather than later now that his son will be with us.”
Sebastian stirred against her and shifted away, light fled from his skin. “You can’t have my Daddy,” he hissed fiercely. “That’s not what we agreed.”
She touched his face and smiled. “It’ll be fine, Sebastian, we’ll be a family. Just the three of us.”
“No!” Sebastian shouted. “No. That’s not what we agreed!” His eyes rolled into the back of his head and he fell unconscious.
David Sheppard moved then, plucking him from the ground and backing away from the woman. “You need to leave, lady. He’s not going with you.”
“He promised if I helped him.” Chaya looked down at Patrick Sheppard. “I woke in him gifts that lay dormant in your people—gifts that came from those you call the Ancients. I’ve saved the life of your father, David Sheppard, is that not enough? The child will be safer with me.”
“You are not taking him with you,” David snapped. “It’s not happening.” He tried to ignore that the kid was dead weight in his arms.
Chaya’s eyes darkened. “He came with me once before—he will do so again. If not this day, then another. I will have him. I will have his father as well.” She started to say more but Daniel Jackson moved suddenly between her and David. “Daniel Jackson, I’ve heard much about you.”
“You’re interfering. It’s against the rules. Why haven’t the others retrieved you?” He cocked his head to the side. “Ah, you haven’t interfered, yet. That’s why.” He glanced towards Patrick Sheppard. “Sebastian did that on his own, didn’t he? You just told him he could—you didn’t really help him or wake anything in him. It’s something left over from the first time he ascended.”
She glared at him. “This is none of your concern, Daniel Jackson.”
Daniel calmly pulled his weapon and shot her point blank in the chest. She stumbled in shock and started to glow. She raised her hand toward him and he smirked. “That should get someone’s attention.”
Immediately, light started to pull at her and then she blurred as if the light was pulling her apart and she disappeared.
– – – –
No radio contact with the Phoenix during the mission had been part of the security protocols. Jack had agreed and now he was worried and furious and upset and several other emotions that he couldn’t readily identify. David Sheppard was the kind of tense that made for violent reactions so the medical staff they were allowing in the room with him were being pretty damned careful. Neither Patrick nor Sebastian had regained consciousness in the time since they’d been transferred to the SGC from the island.
Jack leaned in the doorway and watched David, sitting between the two beds—his whole body coiled liked a spring. “Any change?”
David shook his head. “Any intel on how this happened, Sir?”
“None,” Jack admitted roughly. “The Daedalus is due to return within the next twelve hours and the Apollo ten hours after that but we don’t expect to have any contact with the Phoenix for a week or more. They are supposed are running silent unless there is a serious problem on board the ship.”
David nodded. “As soon as I can, I’m taking them back to McKay’s. I have his security team standing by for a pick-up. They’ll both stay behind the shield there until you figure this out. No one is getting another shot at them unless they intend to come through me.”
Jack wanted to protest, wanted to keep John’s son in the Mountain where he could do the protecting but it wasn’t his right. He knew he had a snowballs chance in hell of getting his way on that front. “Will you take some medical personnel?”
David glanced at him and shook his head. “Carrie won’t let me take them home if they are in any danger and she’ll come with us when we leave. You’ll need to arrange a replacement for her because she won’t be leaving McKay’s place either once I get her behind the shield.” He checked his watch. “I had Madison Miller picked up from her grandparents and put on McKay’s jet. She’ll be here within the next four hours.” He glanced towards O’Neill. “Did you want me to take your wife and kids so you can concentrate on finding out how big our problem is?”
Jack started to say no but then he nodded his head. “Yes, actually, I do. I will insist on a few Marines to add to your personnel detail.”
“As long as they were stationed on Atlantis with John.”
“Stackhouse and Markham are on base—they were John’s NCO’s on Atlantis. It’s a good idea, the men and women on Atlantis didn’t have an opportunity to be recruited by the Trust and they are rabidly loyal to your brother.”
“Survival creates bonds,” David murmured. He leaned forward and touched his nephew’s hand. “He almost ascended, right? That’s what was happening when we found them?”
“I think he was on the cusp of it—he’d already started to detach emotionally from the situation. Maybe because it was too painful. Daniel Jackson did that when he ascended the first time.”
“Can we do anything to keep the ascended out? Shields? Anything?”
“We have technology we’re developing to deal with the Ori and their Priors. I’m not sure it will work on the Ancients because the conditions are different. They are a self-policing population. She can’t take Sebastian against his will and force him to ascend. The Others would stop her.”
“But she could entice him into doing it—like she apparently did before when his mother died.” David cleared his throat. “Jesus. John has no idea.”
“None of us did but it explains a few things about him—things that were familiar but that didn’t make sense to me. He and Daniel Jackson have a lot of the same personality quirks now that I think about it.”
“What do you think he’ll remember when he wakes up?”
“I have no clue. Daniel remembers very little from his time being ascended. He remembers choosing to do it, but that memory didn’t come back to him immediately. In fact, when they sent him back he didn’t remember his own name. It’s amazing that they didn’t do that with the kid.” Jack moved into the room and sat down in a chair beside David. “You’re wound pretty tight, Commander. How can I help you?”
“Find out who did this and get them on ice before I find them and murder them,” David admitted. “That’s what you can do because I have to tell you—that I’m pretty damn close to losing it. At this point, I could probably make John look like the most civilized person in our family.”
Jack nodded. “I understand.”
– – – –
The planet was pretty small but in the middle of the life zone in the small solar system. There were no stargates in the system, which in itself was theoretically rare. They hadn’t charted their entire galaxy but the map they’d found on Abydos had done a great deal to help them investigate the stargates the Ancients left behind in the Milky Way galaxy. They’d encountered very few solar systems that could support life without a stargate.
The planet, labeled PY8-X91 had been untouched by intelligent life when they found it as far as they could tell. Animal life was abundant but mostly benign. There were predators, of course, but nothing seriously fucked up or huge. It was a normal sort of place with mammals and insects and nothing bizarre.
It frankly made John nervous as hell. Planets that look nice and friendly usually had nothing but bad to give them. They’d been building on the planet for months because it was just fifteen hours of hyperspace travel from Earth which made it somewhat convenient and the lack of a stargate created a safety net of sorts. The Ori weren’t capable of tracking them currently but everyone knew that was subject to change at any moment.
The research station had been manned for three months and was under a strong Ancient shield but it was defenseless otherwise. They didn’t have the resources to build an orbital defense platform for another planet when they were still building them for Earth.
There was an emergency communication array on the planet that would allow for short data bursts to Earth in the event that something happened to the research station. A single Jumper was assigned to the station with a pilot on duty at all times to evac the science team if things got dicey. They were four days from a planet with a Stargate by Jumper. It wasn’t exactly ideal but it served. It kept the place secure, or as secure as they could make it under the circumstances.
John glanced up from the report he was reading and nodded. “Get everything beamed down?”
“Yes, and I’ve evacuated non-essential personnel from the station so we can work on our own. Radek is already down with Miko and Jeannie.” Rodney shoved his hands into his pockets. “We’re just waiting for you.”
“I’d like to run something by you.”
Rodney inclined his head. “Okay.”
“I’d like to put a stargate in Cargo Six.” John set aside the tablet PC he’d been holding and watched his husband adjust to that news. “If we’re in a stationary position—the stargate will automatically connect with the network, correct?”
“Yes, in theory. I know the Goa’uld had them on their ships but I never had the opportunity to investigate one personally.” Rodney nodded. “We’d need a DHD and a shield for it but if that’s what you want—we can do it.”
John grinned briefly and then nodded. “I think it’s necessary for safety purposes. I’ve been reviewing planets in the Milky Way that we could take a gate and DHD from. I have six possibilities; also there is a planet on the edge of the Pegasus galaxy we could take a gate from if you’d prefer one of the newer versions of the gate instead. The Apollo could retrieve it in about ten days while we’re prepping for the Atlantis mission.”
“Would it be safe to do that?”
“We could always take a Milky Way gate with us and then grab a few in Pegasus on our way out,” John admitted. “The thing is, Mer, I’m not going to leave Pegasus without Carson Beckett. Clone or no clone, Michael is not keeping one of my people.”
“It hurt a lot when I found out that he’d been killed,” Rodney murmured. “We were good friends before he went on that mission. I really regretted not responding to his emails—I mean I didn’t ignore him but I distanced myself from him because he was out there and I wasn’t and it was irritating as fuck.”
John nodded. “Right, I think he probably understood that about you. He always had nice things to say about you which at the time struck me as odd since everyone else thought you were the devil or at the very least his spawn.”
Rodney laughed. “Let’s go charge a ZPM, General.”
– – – –
Patrick Sheppard woke in a dimly lit room, his fingers tangled with those of his youngest son. Matthew was asleep, head on the mattress of the hospital bed. He slipped his fingers free and ran his hand through short dark blonde hair. The only thing he’d gotten from his mother, Patrick thought. Matt jerked awake.
“Dad.” Matt caught his hand again in his and huffed. “Christ, you scared the fuck out of us.”
“Sorry.” Patrick shifted on the bed and frowned. “I know I took two bullets—why doesn’t it hurt?”
Matt’s gaze flicked to the other bed in the room where Sebastian lay, still sleeping. David was using the end of the kid’s mattress to rest—sitting in a chair. “David said that something happened with Sebastian. He fell asleep before he could tell me all about it. He looks so worn out, so I just let him sleep over there. I think Cam is getting debriefed by O’Neill.” Matt cleared his throat. “I know you were shot in the leg and that you took one in the chest. Also, both wounds were healed before you ever came to the SGC. They brought you both here unconscious. That was about thirty-six hours ago. O’Neill sent the Daedalus out to support John and hopefully get them home sooner rather than later.”
“Get O’Neill in here,” Patrick ordered and took a deep breath as Matt stood to do what he wanted. “Get Carrie, too. I want to know what’s wrong with Sebastian.”
– – – –
“He…” Patrick trailed off. “He ascended?”
“That’s the impression we were given, yes. That he ascended in the car accident that killed his mother but chose to return because he wanted to meet his Dad.” Jack rubbed his face with both hands. “He came very close to ascending again. He’ll probably be on the cusp of ascension his entire life. Daniel has ascended several times—he knows he’ll do it again if his physical condition becomes fatal. It is the nature of people who have done it and come back.”
Patrick touched the scar on his chest. It was the kind of scar that would fade to almost nothing within a year or so. He knew he had another on his back where the bullet had exited. “Is he going to be okay? Why isn’t he awake?”
“Healing you took a lot out of him,” Carrie murmured. “I’ve given you four pints of blood since you’re arrival—I think you did die at least briefly and he…” She trailed off and looked away. Her hands were shaking as she brushed tears off her face. “He brought you back.”
“Fuck,” Patrick muttered. “This is… who knows?”
“Very few people know exactly what happened. Most know you took a bullet in the leg and Carrie made a show of taking care of the wound in here. We’ve put out a story about Sebastian being in psychological shock which no one thinks is out of the norm for the situation. No nursing staff was allowed in the room during the healing that Vala supposedly did.” Jack took a deep breath. “We isolated you both in a Jumper on the way back to the mountain. Only Colonel Lorne saw you on the island besides me, David, and Daniel.”
“And this woman? This ascended woman, what do you know about her?”
“There was a mission in Pegasus. John and a team of Marines explored a planet where the woman he met and come to know as Chaya was pretending to be a goddess. She was an ascended Ancient. John detailed in his mission brief that she was being punished by the other Ancients for breaking their non-interference rules. She was bound to the protection of her home world,” Jack explained. “I’ve been reading through the report and while John glossed over some of the more personal details—it appears as though the woman developed an attachment to him that the other members of the expedition became concerned about.”
“Can she… can she take either of them from us?”
“I’d hope that the others would interfere,” Daniel murmured. “They certainly wouldn’t stop someone from willingly ascending but if Chaya tried to force John or Sebastian—I want to believe they would interfere. The only one who ever communicated with us was one named Oma and she’s no longer available to us.”
“She isn’t the problem at any rate,” David said. “At least not one we can even manage at this point. Can you tell us what happened on the island?”
Patrick exhaled and glanced towards Sebastian who hadn’t stirred at all in the conversation. “Where is Quark?”
They all exchanged looks and David’s mouth dropped open. “Oh, shit. He was with you?”
“Yeah,” Patrick rubbed the back of his neck. “Fuck. Someone go find him before the kid wakes up. He’ll be inconsolable if something has happened to that horrible creature.”
“Him and McKay both,” David muttered.
O’Neill clicked his radio and sighed. “Colonel Lorne.” He paused and then continued when he was answered. “We accidently left McKay’s cat defenseless and alone on that island.” Jack grinned briefly. “Right, great idea. Don’t come back without him.” He closed the radio connection and waved his hand at Patrick. “Lorne’s got it under control.”
“I hope so,” Patrick muttered. He rubbed the back of his neck and frowned. “I woke up. I’m not certain exactly why—the alarm didn’t go off. I counted five on the security monitors. I secured the single weapon I found in the nightstand and retrieved Sebastian from his room. They came in a helicopter and had the one that I flew to the island under guard. I killed two in the house before I could get out and realized pretty quickly they were using a LSD to track us so I couldn’t hide him.”
“We found eight bodies.”
“I killed the rest while they searched for us,” Patrick admitted. “I took a bullet in the leg before I called you on that phone we pilfered off one the bodies. Then things get hazy for me—I know I killed two more and somewhere in it that I was shot in the chest. I remember talking to Sebastian. Then nothing. I remember nothing.”
“When we arrived he was… holding his hands over the wound in your chest and he was glowing,” David explained. “O’Neill had to talk him out of ascending.”
“Any names on the bodies?”
“Just one,” David explained. “We’re still doing research on the others.”
“Who is the one?”
“One of the last ones you killed—he was probably the pilot for the helicopter they used to get to the island and their inside man.” David leaned forward. “Robert Bradley.”
“Robert.” Patrick frowned and closed his eyes. “That son of a bitch.”
“We’re pretty sure he shot you since the other man on the scene was armed with a ZAT gun. We assume they intended to stun Sebastian for transport. He had a hand gun but it was holstered. Bradley took about sixteen rounds from a P-90.”
“Yeah, he was the one that shot me,” Patrick frowned. “Both times. He shot me both times that son of a bitch.”
“Well, you killed him very hard,” Carrie offered consolingly as she checked his pulse and then made a notation on his chart. “Biro spent a half hour pulling bullets out of him.”
“Good,” Patrick muttered. “That fucker.” He huffed when she pulled out a blood pressure cuff. “Don’t you have some little alien gadget you could use to do all of this?”
“Shut up, Patrick, or you’ll sleep on the couch for the next six months.”
“You liar,” Patrick accused. “There hasn’t been a Sheppard relegated to a couch for six months in all of recorded history and I know I won’t be the first.”
O’Neill laughed softly and shook his head. “Sure about that are you?”
“Very.” Patrick endured the rest of the check in silence, only hazarding a glance at his girlfriend’s face once or twice during the entire procedure. “I thought you couldn’t be my doctor.”
“I fail to see how you made Admiral when you can’t even follow the most basic of instructions,” Carolyn snapped and then frowned at him intensely. “Your blood pressure is elevated.”
“I’m pissed. That happens when I’m pissed.”
“Well, be pissed later. Your heart has suffered enough strain over the last three days.” She stalked out of the room with one final glare in his direction.
“Why is it…” Patrick started and focused entirely on Jack. “That when something fucked up happens that is in no way your fault that a woman can make you feel so guilty that you want to apologize for the fucked up thing you didn’t even do?”
“I have a theory about that,” Jack confided. “But I’m not allowed to share it anymore because Sam says it’s misogynistic to discuss the vagina as if it is somehow more important than the rest of the woman.”
David Sheppard choked on the coffee he was drinking. “You’re going to hell for that, Sir.”
– – – –
The arrival of the Daedalus was enough to drag even Rodney out of the simulation lab. They were five hours and counting from their first attempt to charge one of the ZPMs when John notified him that Colonel Ellis has arrived. They beamed on board with no information and from the looks the bridge crew had on their faces; John figured he might come to hate Abraham Ellis just by association.
Ellis motioned them both to follow him. They left the silent bridge and he prodded them into the room that probably served as his office on board the ship. “I’m going to say this fast because there is no easy way to do it.” He took a deep breath. “General, your father and son were on McKay’s island when it was discovered and invaded by a team of eight operatives. Your father took a bullet in the leg and another in the chest. Your son and the Admiral were brought to the SGC unconscious but alive. Neither had awoken before I left. General O’Neill has classified the entire incident to the highest levels but I was told to inform you that neither of them are in critical condition and should recover fully physically from the ordeal.”
John’s knees buckled briefly and he barely acknowledged Rodney catching him and pushing him into a chair in front of Ellis’ desk. “Who… what about our security people?”
“As far as I know, the Admiral and your son were on the island alone at the time of the incident. I’ve been ordered, General Sheppard, to take your place here on the mission. The Daedalus will take you to the nearest stargate for travel back to the SGC and your second in command will take command of the Phoenix. I’ll come back and help the Phoenix keep an eye on the project.” Ellis hesitantly touched his shoulder. “Sir, I saw them—both of them briefly before I left orbit. They appeared to be in very good condition.”
“Right.” John nodded. “My Dad is in great shape for his age but a bullet in the chest… do you know how close it came to his heart?”
“No, Sir, General O’Neill isn’t releasing any information about any of that to anyone outside family. I heard a rumor he even told the President next to nothing.” Ellis took a deep breath. “There are rumors all over the Mountain but none of them imply that he isn’t going to make it. In fact, if anything it’s the exact opposite.”
“Mer.” John turned to look at McKay and found him pale. “Colonel Ellis, could you excuse Dr. McKay and me for a few minutes?”
“Of course, Sir.”
“We… neutralized everyone that might be a problem in the Trust,” Rodney whispered. “I made sure, John. I made sure.”
“We took out civilian targets,” John murmured. “There have been problems with military personnel in the past at the SGC. I’ve read a few reports on it—maybe they didn’t solve all of those problems the first time. Or the CIA didn’t give us everything they had on Trust operations.”
“If I find out that’s true,” Rodney began. “I’ll tear them apart. I’m going to have Miko start looking at money and government spending trends and see if we can’t find anything that way. She’s good at that kind of thing.” His hands tightened into fists and he exhaled sharply. “I have to stay here and finish the first charge at the very least. I can’t just leave it…”
“I know.” John nodded. “I can go back. I just don’t like leaving you in the field like this without me.”
“Sebastian needs one of us there,” Rodney took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “It is times like this where I just want to pack up our entire family and take them from Earth. How can those mother fuckers expect us to defend them if we can’t even trust them with our kid?”
– – – –
The silence in the room broke with a sob and Sebastian came up swinging. He managed to punch David several times in the chest before the Navy man could subdue him without hurting him. “Hey, kid, easy there.”
Sebastian stopped struggling, but his breath was coming in harsh, uneven gasps. “Those fuckers shot him.”
“And he shot them right back,” David murmured fiercely against Sebastian’s hair as the kid curled into him. “It’s okay. I promise it’s okay. He’s upstairs getting some tests done.”
“He…” Sebastian shuddered. “I thought he died.”
David reviewed the story they’d concocted in an effort to protect his nephew and took a deep breath. “It was a close thing. They used one of those Goa’uld hand devices on him. It’s a good thing that Vala was with us on the rescue op.”
Sebastian stiffened against him and pushed back with both hands to stare at his Uncle’s face. “Goa’uld? That thing the General’s wife can use?”
“Yeah, Vala was a host once, too. She can use it to heal.” David brushed hair from Sebastian’s forehead with a sigh. “You fainted.”
“Oh, I did not.” Sebastian glared. “Sheppards don’t faint.”
“Passed out,” David corrected with a small smile. “I had Sean bring you some stuff from the house—thought you might like to shower when you woke up.” He paused and raised an eyebrow. “Unless you want a nurse to help you out with that?”
Sebastian blushed furiously and his eyes widened. “No. No. A shower would be good.” He looked down at his hands. “I couldn’t stop it… he was bleeding so much.”
“I know, Kid.” David cleared his throat. “Don’t think about it too much. Let me call Carrie in here and she’ll take that IV out of your arm.”
Sebastian frowned at the IV in his hand and touched the tape. “How long… how long was I unconscious?”
David pressed his lips together briefly. “Nearly three days. There was some talk about psychological shock—so we decided to let you sleep for a while. Your Dad should be home soon.”
“He has an important mission. He shouldn’t come home for me.”
“Yes, well, his Daddy got shot in the chest,” David reminded gently. “Trust me when I say that wasn’t a good time for any of us.”
“He… the last thing I remember him saying was how much he loved you guys. Told me to tell you,” Sebastian blinked rapidly and rubbed at his face with both hands. “That’s the last time I go on vacation with him without back up.”
– – – –
Matt relaxed slightly as John strode through the gate and down the iron ramp. “Hey.”
John shrugged unclipped the weapon on his chest and passed it to a Marine without a word. “Where are they?”
“Two floors down in an isolation room,” Matt took the TAC vest that John shrugged out of and passed it to the same Marine that had taken the weapon. “Dad’s okay—they’ve done every test known to man on him since he was healed. I know you want to see them both immediately but I think it’s best if you debrief first.” He prodded his brother towards O’Neill’s office. “They are both awake—Sebastian woke up about an hour ago and was alert enough to shower by himself. David hasn’t left his side since he went to the island to get them. Cameron is with Dad.”
John took a deep breath. “Okay. Debrief. Are you sure it can’t wait?”
“It really can’t wait, John.” Matt opened the door to O’Neill’s office and motioned John in. “I wouldn’t insist if it wasn’t extremely important.”
Jack O’Neill was standing at the window in his office that gave him a view of the gate room and the operations area when John saw him. He turned and looked at them. “Your Dad just finished up the last scan that Dr. Lam can think of and he’s getting ready to go back down to the isolation room. I have Stackhouse and Markham on guard duty on the room. Ronon is following your father and Cameron around.”
John took a deep breath. “Sir, I’d rather you not beat around the bush about whatever it is you need to say.”
O’Neill pointed to a chair. “Sit.” He waited until John did as instructed. “Your father took two rounds—one in the leg and one in the chest during an assault on McKay’s island. He killed eight men—in front of your ten year old son. We picked up sensory data on them both shortly before we landed on the island and have the records to prove that your father died. When we found Sebastian—he was beside your father’s body glowing.”
“Glowing,” John repeated faintly. “Glowing like…”
“An Ancient,” Jack clarified. “He healed both wounds your father took and came within seconds of ascending thanks to the encouragement of an ascended woman who called herself Chaya.”
“Chaya,” John’s face tightened in anger. “She tried to get my son to ascend?”
“For what would’ve been the second time apparently,” Jack murmured. “Sebastian remembered ascending when his mother died, John. David has already reported to me that he doesn’t appear to remember anything about what happened on the island after his grandfather died. And he doesn’t seem to remember the ascension anymore either. We told him he passed out due to psychological shock but he’s a smart kid. Frankly, we can only hope the trauma of the event makes him not question it too much. I don’t know how to explain the other stuff to him.”
John leaned forward and took a deep breath. “He ascended when his mother died? He wasn’t even injured in that accident.”
“He said…” Jack paused and cleared his throat. “He said that the lady came to him and made it stop hurting—that he went with her because she made it stop hurting. She helped him ascend the first time, too, John. She tried to manipulate him into doing it again and said the three of you could be a family when you joined them.”
John paled and closed his eyes. “Do you know… did he say why he didn’t stay ascended?”
“He wanted to meet you,” Jack responded. “He came back to meet you—the others took Chaya away when Daniel shot her. Up until that point she hadn’t actually interfered but when she started to respond to the attack, we can assume it caught the attention of the others. We don’t have anyone up there to talk to at this point. Oma is busy with Anubis.”
John pressed the heels of his hands against his eyes and tried to calm down but he could feel the fury—the rage building in him in a way it hadn’t in years. Deep in his mind—it lingered, the thing that he’d become—instincts and drives that Keller and Beckett had forced dormant lingered there just beyond his conscious mind. Somehow, though he’d never admitted, he knew he could reach out and touch what the Iratus had left behind in him.
Matt touched him then, his hand curling firmly over his shoulder. “John.”
“I…” John took a deep breath. “I’m okay.”
“Are you?” Matt questioned. “You’re going to have to push this down pretty deep because I’m not going to let you near Sebastian this angry. He needs… he needs his Daddy to be in control, John, and right now you look like you might shatter under this.”
“I know. I know.” John took a deep breath. “It’s… I know, okay.” He sat back in the chair and let his head fall so he could stare at the ceiling. He felt selfish and as destructive as he’d ever felt in his life. John closed his eyes and exhaled sharply. “If they are on schedule, McKay has already charged the first ZPM.”
Jack nodded. “Right.”
“You said my Dad and Sebastian are in the same room?”
John nodded. “Instant fatherhood sneaks up on you in stupid ways—I don’t think I’ve grown up enough to deal with this level of fucked up myself.”
“It doesn’t get any easier—no matter how much experience you think you have with it,” Jack admitted roughly.
“What did you tell Sebastian? He must have asked questions about why his grandfather isn’t in critical condition or dead.”
Jack shared a look with Matthew. “We had to make a decision on that front quickly, John. I realize that none of us had the right to do it but Patrick though it best, and the rest of us agreed, that he shouldn’t be told what he did or about the ascension stuff. We lied to him—said that Vala healed your father with a Goa’uld healing device. As I said, he’s a smart kid. I don’t know how long that story will hold or how upset he’ll be when he finds out we all lied to him.”
John nodded. He didn’t like it and knew that McKay would be absolutely furious. They’d both decided at the beginning to be as honest as they could be with the kid. On the other hand, he didn’t think he wanted Sebastian to know what had really happened on the island—maybe not ever—but certainly not now. “You were able to keep it contained?”
“Myself, Daniel Jackson, Vala, Dr. Lam, your brothers and Major Lorne are the only ones aware of what happened on the island. We read Vala into the situation as part of the cover. Very few people know how hurt Patrick was or the fact that he died briefly.”
– – – –
Seeing them both was like a punch in the gut. Sebastian was sitting on the end of his grandfather’s bed—holding too many cards to really fit in his hands snottily telling Patrick that he did so know the rules of gin and he was pretty sure the Admiral was cheating.
“Sheppards don’t cheat,” John murmured from the doorway.
“Daddy.” The stark relief on Sebastian’s face was so startling that John moved into the room without even realizing it.
He sat down on the bed and pulled his son into his lap with a small sigh. The kid was shaking as he buried his face against John’s neck, his small hands curling into fists into his t-shirt.
John inhaled sharply—taking in the baby shampoo that McKay insisted the kid needed because of his eyes were too sensitive for adult stuff and the soap they all used. The small gut-wrenching sob against his throat caught him so off guard that he jerked physically. His gaze connected with his father’s in that moment.
The door clicked shut and he glanced in that direction—Matt was leaning against it, pale and looking just as shaken as he felt. David was sitting in the chair by the bed, his hand curled around their father’s wrist as if he was physically anchoring him to life. Maybe he was—Patrick looked pale, exhausted, and the open devastation on his father’s face was almost as heartbreaking as his son crying.
“It’s okay,” John whispered against his hair. “I’m here. I’m so sorry I wasn’t here before.” He rocked him gently, his fingers catching in the soft material of Sebastian’s shirt. He wanted to promise revenge—dire consequences for whoever had been at the heart of the attempt to take him from them but he knew that wasn’t appropriate. He pressed a kiss against his hair. “I have it on good authority that the Keeper of the Needles around here sedates people when they get really upset.”
Sebastian relaxed against him, his fingers still clutched in his t-shirt. “I have a theory about why she gets away with it.”
“Oh yeah?” John laughed softly. “Let’s hear it.”
“It’s because she’s hot.”
“Could be,” John admitted, patting his back. “Beautiful people get away with a lot. It’s the way of the world.”
“Did Dad charge a ZPM?”
“He should have already unless something happened with his schedule,” John admitted. “I left the planet as soon as Colonel Ellis arrived basically—they dropped me off at a stargate so I could come back to Earth and he stayed on the planet to run the experiment.”
Sebastian sat back, slid off his father’s lap, and onto the bed with a frown. “You left him on a planet with just his minions and a bunch of Marines who are afraid of him?” Sebastian frowned at him. “What happened to the Buddy System? You do realize how dangerous he is unsupervised?”
John’s mouth dropped open and then he grinned. “We had to make a parenting decision, ya know.”
“I wonder if the Universe knows it’s got a gun pointed at its head,” Patrick muttered under his breath and grinned when John lifted any eyebrow at him. “Theoretically, of course.”
Sebastian sighed and rubbed at the wet spot he’d left on his father’s t-shirt. “Sorry.”
“If I didn’t think it would totally obliterate my badassness for the rest of eternity—I’d crawl in my dad’s lap and have a good cry myself,” John admitted and grinned when Sebastian laughed reluctantly.
“It’s about the gene, right? You said—the day we met that ATA genes as strong as ours is so rare… and they can’t force you to have more kids and they can’t clone you. That leaves me.”
John flinched and then nodded. “Yeah, that leaves you. To be frank, you’re too young to be a source for reproductive material—so the next best thing they could do is harvest DNA from you for cloning.” He paused and shared a look with his father before continuing. “I want you to know that the only cloning research that the SGC has going on involves the Asgard and their problem. Absolutely no one has approval from the President to do tests in human cloning.”
“But the other countries that were in the IOA, the ones that have been protesting in front of the UN regarding gate access and access to Atlantis if she is retrieved—those people don’t answer to our President.” Sebastian picked up his cards and started to reorganize them. “There are other gene carriers—other kids out there that have the ATA gene. How many of them have gone missing since the program was declassified?”
John paled at the thought but shook his head. “None that we’re aware of—there are plenty of gene carriers in the Mountain and some of them have children. As far as we know the threat level against them is zero.”
“Tell me why.”
“When I…” John paused and sighed. “We never went to the Ancient Outpost. I kept putting you off because I was worried about how the chair down there would react to you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It hasn’t worked for anyone since I sat in it, Sebastian. Absolutely no one else on this planet can use it to defend us… except for perhaps you. McKay doesn’t want you in the chair because he doesn’t think you’re physically mature enough to handle the biofeedback. Your ATA genome is identical to mine and your ability to use Ancient technology quite frankly puts me to shame and before you—I was the most gifted with it.”
“Okay, so they want me for Ancient technology.” His mouth firmed up. “Except the biggest cache of Ancient technology is Antarctica and the SGC has control over that.” He rearranged a few more cards. “Unless that isn’t the biggest cache of Ancient technology. There is quite a bit at Area 51 but again that is under the control of the SGC.” He discarded a card. “Unless some rogue faction within the government has taken something from Area 51 that they need you or me for. Of the two of us, I’m obviously the easiest one to control physically. I’d be easier to manipulate as well.” He drew again after Patrick discarded and then with a small quirk of his lips spread out his hand on the mattress between them. “Gin.”
“I don’t think you’d be all that easy to manipulate,” Patrick muttered.
“They think so—whoever it is think they could control me, use me for whatever they have planned.” He pulled his knees up to his chest and watched Patrick shuffle the cards. “So, if we assume they took something from Area 51—we should have one of Dad’s minions figure out what it is. If it’s a weapon, and let’s face it—it probably is—we can probably use the sensors on the Daedalus to find it. Ancient tech isn’t exactly easy to hide—it has a distinct energy signature.”
Patrick nodded and started to deal the cards. “Remember that conversation we had on the plane?”
“Which part? The part where I should try to act like a ten year old sometimes and let other people worry about stuff or the part where we theorized on why Daddy hasn’t defended his dissertation?”
Patrick had the grace to flush as he glanced at John who looked shocked. “The ten year old thing.”
“Right.” Sebastian nodded. “I did make a list of potentially horrifying sex questions but I’d rather ask them together—because I think I’ll get the best reactions from Dad. He’ll probably get up and pace around the room and blame Daddy for my curiosity and maybe if I’m really lucky—I’ll hear that whole Kirk theory again and it’s entirely possible I might also get to watch Daddy get a lecture about his manwhore phase.”
“I did not have a manwhore phase,” John protested weakly.
“I fully intend to have one,” Sebastian announced. “I can’t be as hot as some people seem to think I will be and not have one—the press would be so disappointed.”
It was Matt who started laughing first and John found himself relaxing, his hands unclenching.
– – – –
Forty-eight hours after John locked his father and son down at home under a full security force and two units of Marines, Rodney stepped through the gate with a back pack and one of the large silver cases they were using to store the empty ZPMs. He handed it to Sam Carter without a word and nodded—his eyes bright with success and determination.
Sam grinned in return. “You’re a rock star, McKay.”
Rodney laughed and let John lead him out of the gate room. He drove them home personally, driving slower than normal as he debriefed McKay fully on their home situation. Then half-way home, pulled over on the side of the road and let his husband throw a conniption of epic proportions on a narrow mountain side road leading up to their property.
He leaned against the front of the SUV and watched McKay pace back and forth on the road—venting his spleen on a level that he’d never seen. John had kind of always thought McKay’s melt downs were more urban legend than anything else. It was true that McKay had a temper and often yelled at practically everyone. But under that normal temper was snark, good humor, and even a fair amount of respect. That was completely missing.
“And I can’t fucking believe they lied to him!” Rodney shouted. “Where the fuck do any of them get off lying to our kid about something so goddamned important? Did anyone stop to consider how fucking pissed off he’s going to be when he does find out? I assure you—it will come up again and he’ll find out.” He turned and glared at John. “After the mistakes your father made with you—you’d fucking think he’d know better than to…”
“Mer.” John rubbed his face with both hands. “He’s ten years old. He has no fucking childhood to speak of, okay? I realize how important honesty is to you. I get it! I really do but he’s ten goddamned years old! I don’t know that I would have made the same decision but Dad and O’Neill were just trying to protect him. You haven’t seen… you don’t know how messed up he is over what he does remember, okay. He crawled in my lap and cried like—like the little kid he is when I first got here. He was shaking with it, he was so upset.”
“Yeah, he is.” John nodded. “I don’t doubt his ability to cope with fucked up things or his intelligence or his strength. Because Christ, he’s already gone through things that left me curled up in a fetal position when it happened to me. I still can’t think about my mother without feeling like I’m about to shatter. And I’m pretty sure he knows something else happened on the island is humoring us on the situation.”
“Well, I know he doesn’t buy that they saved Patrick with the Goa’uld healing device,” Rodney muttered. “I had him playing with one a few weeks back—he knows it doesn’t have the power in the hands of a non-host to do what they are claiming it did. Those things need a mental connection with a Goa’uld to work at their full potential.”
John winced. “Right and he knows that.”
“Yes,” Rodney snapped shortly. “I don’t agree with this bullshit, John. I don’t but I also don’t want to see him hurt anymore than he already is, okay? I love him so much it aches and I never expected that. I don’t think I even understood what a kid could do to you until I realized how important he was to me.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t know how O’Neill didn’t eat his own gun when his son was killed. I really don’t.”
John didn’t know either. He knew the grief man carried around in him, anyone could see it. The way he looked at Sebastian when they’d first met, the indulgent way he treated kids in general, and the haunted but determined look on his face whenever he held one of the twins.
“It’s not too late to tell him the truth.”
Rodney shook his head. “I just don’t think either of us should repeat the lies to him—if he comes to us and asks what we know about it—I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”
“And this woman…Chaya… she’s the one you had the ‘glowy touching’ with, right?”
John flushed and sighed. “Yeah.”
“Leave it to you,” Rodney snorted and leaned against the SUV beside him. “I have a few options on that front—though we’ve never tried them on ascended beings. Sam and I have been working on weapons to use against the Priors in the field. Some have been very effective and we have to believe the others would interfere if she tried to force him to ascend.”
“I could…” John took a deep breath. “Rodney, I can do it. You know I spent six months in a time dilation field with a group of people doing their damnedest to commit ritual mass suicide. I came damn close to actually ascending before I was rescued. I know I can do it and if she takes him from us… I won’t let her keep him. I won’t let her tear us apart.”
Rodney pressed his shoulder against John’s and sighed. “You’ve never said that out loud before, have you?”
“No,” John admitted roughly. “Not once.”
Rodney closed his eyes. “He cried?”
“It wasn’t unlike getting stabbed in the gut,” John admitted. “He’s going to write the most scathing expose about his fucked up childhood when he grows up.”
Rodney laughed softly, a little bitter. “Couldn’t we all? Has he spoken with Kate?”
“He refused to talk to her about it,” John admitted. “I tried to get him to talk to her before I took him home and he said he wasn’t ready. I didn’t push.”
“No, it’s probably best not to.” Rodney crossed his arms and stared at the road ahead of them. “I wonder how many of our security people are watching us.”
“Four,” John answered. “I’d point them out but it would totally ruin their self-esteem.” He pulled McKay close and ran his fingers through the scientist’s short hair. “I don’t know how I can leave him on the planet and go to Atlantis—not after this. He’s at so much risk and I don’t want to send him to school either.”
“I don’t either. I never did. I don’t think any traditional school environment has a chance in hell of actually stimulating him and he’s too young to be in high school. Even with security… he’ll be the smallest kid there and teenagers are cruel.”
“I considered requesting and even offering to pay for Jeremy to transfer into the school so he’d have… some kind of interaction he could depend on.”
Rodney sighed. “Not all that fair to Jeremy though, removing him from his high school his senior year. He’s already been on lock down all summer and the NID is still following him around. Even if he is lucky not to be in prison.”
John nodded. “Right. It’s kind of hard to see anyone else’s perspective when it comes to Sebastian—maybe even his own. I don’t even really know how he feels about going to school.”
“Well, it didn’t seem like we had a choice but I’m more than willing to sue the state to keep him at home. The only other way we can keep him out of a school environment is to have him take the GED. There is no doubt in my mind that he could pass it. That being said, that would put college offers on the table tomorrow and he’s so not ready for that emotionally no matter what he might think.” Rodney frowned. “I also can’t believe those fuckers left my cat on that island for almost two days to fend for himself.”
John snorted. “He probably destroyed the ecosystem and made babies with some wild cat out there. We’ll go back and the island will be overrun with his alien cat-thing spawn.”
– – – –
If anyone was surprised when Rodney carefully placed a backpack in Sebastian’s lap and inclined his head meaningfully they didn’t let on.
Sebastian unzipped it just as carefully and took a deep breath as he pulled out an object wrapped up in an Air Force sweat shirt. He tossed the backpack aside and laid in it his lap with fingers that trembled. “A smaller than you’d think entirely improbable energy source.”
Rodney snorted. He’d said those exact words when someone had asked him what a ZPM was during the declassification press conference.
Sebastian grinned. “I watched you—during the declassification debriefings. Every word out of your mouth was so exciting that I could barely stand to sit still for it. It was like magic and science and the future—all coming together at the same time to make something so fascinating that I couldn’t even breathe. Even if… even if I hadn’t already had a reason to meet both of you—I would have done something so extremely awesome and sexy on the science front eventually that you’d have shown up at my school looking for me.”
“The proof would’ve been enough, you know,” Rodney admitted roughly.
Sebastian nodded. “It was plan C.”
“C,” John repeated.
“Crash the hotel was plan A. I was going to try to get to his lecture the next day for plan B and plan C would’ve been sending my proof to the SGC,” Sebastian admitted. “It’s best to approach a situation with multiple options.” He unwrapped the ZPM and grinned. “You were able to charge it completely?”
“Yes. One hundred percent,” Rodney admitted. “I wish you could have seen it—the energy flowed into it like water.”
“Like magic,” Sebastian murmured, his fingers drifted over the grooves of the ZPM. “We should go install it.”
“Install it?” Patrick questioned and frowned at McKay. “What did you do?”
“Took eleven empty ZPMs to charge instead of the ten everyone assume I had ready. We have several more that have some damage but we’re hoping we can fix that with the Asgard equipment we have to grow crystals.” Rodney crossed his arms. “As for what else I might have done, if I’m talking to my father in law, I devised a way to protect my son to the best of my ability while I’m not on Earth. If I’m talking to the Director of Homeworld Security—I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.”
Patrick glared at him. “For the record, McKay, I’m never the Director of Homeworld Security as far as you’re concerned unless you want me to bully someone into submission. We clear?”
“Yes, sir, I believe we are.” He motioned towards the ZPM. “I’m going to use to power the shield over the property. It’ll make this place as secure as I can make it—your refuge in case things get seriously fucked up while we’re on the Atlantis mission.”
“So you’ve been planning this for a while,” Patrick said, his voice dry and slightly irritated.
“The interface is in my safe room,” Rodney admitted. “We currently have the property shield on a generator—it would fall under constant bombardment within a few weeks. With the ZPM, nothing on Earth can get through it—not even the weapons I installed on the Phoenix.” He frowned down at the ZPM that Sebastian still had cradled in his hands. “I thought it was extreme a week ago—now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t install some more lethal-type security measures.” Every Sheppard in the room nodded their head in agreement and Rodney grinned. There was something especially awesome about being with people who both got and supported him in his endeavors.
– – – –
“Failure is a tricky business.”
Frank Simmons nodded. “I agree, sir.”
“What’s the word from the Pentagon?”
“Everyone believes we were after the kid,” Simmons admitted. “I think that’s best under the circumstances. They’ll focus on him—increase his protection.”
“Good. Good. It’ll make getting rid of the Admiral all the easier.”
Frank grimaced. “Are you sure it’ll be wise to go after Patrick Sheppard again?”
“He’s in the way and it’ll only get worse—between him and O’Neill, we have absolutely no sway over the SGC and the use of the stargate. If he isn’t out of the way by the time Atlantis is returned to Earth…” Hank Landry trailed off meaningfully. “It’s a game ender for us, Colonel. The last thing we need is for a man like Patrick Sheppard to end up in the White House and that’s where this is heading. His popularity is huge and thanks to McKay’s money and SGC publicity—his entire damn family is practically royalty in this country right now.”
Simmons nodded. He was a patriot and he understood duty better than most thought he was capable of. “It’s the best for the country that someone less attached to O’Neill ends up in the hot seat.”
“Someone on our side,” Frank continued. “Sheppard and McKay put a dent in our private endeavors—it’s best if we leave their kid alone for now.”
“He’s not much use to us at his age anyway,” Landry agreed. “That will change in time but only if we can keep his grandfather out of our business and out of politics. That family already has too much power. We need to do everything we can to eliminate their ability to increase their power.”
“Your daughter is involved with Admiral Sheppard—have you considered bringing her in on this?”
Hank snorted and rolled his eyes. “Carolyn is too much like her mother and her infatuation with the man has made her unreasonable. She’s ignored me both times I suggested she end the relationship and keeps trying to invite me to Colorado to have dinner with them. Even if I didn’t want the man six foot under, I wouldn’t be able to approve. He could have fathered her for fuck’s sake.”
“How is the current project going?” Frank questioned. “Did you get everything you need, sir? I can probably get my hands on some more naquadah for generators.”
Hank waved him off. “Everything is going as planned—the Ancient equipment was difficult to meld with what we’d gathered from the Goa’uld but my team is making progress in leaps and bounds. It’s just too bad we couldn’t pull Keller out of the SGC before she got herself all wrapped up in the Sheppard family. We could have used her on the project—no one alive knows more about Iratus genetics. Her research is helpful, of course, but some on the team think it’s incomplete.”
“It makes sense that O’Neill might have held some of it back. Have you even seen the footage of Sheppard when he was turned into a bug?”
Landry shook his head. “No. As far as I know, that footage was destroyed by O’Neill shortly after Patrick Sheppard became the Director of Homeworld Security. It’s too bad we couldn’t keep Maybourne in that position a little bit longer—implanting him with a symbiote was beneficial to our research but it fucked us on the politics. We’ll have no luck getting another operative in that close with the SGC and what Maybourne has done with the NID since he was freed hasn’t done us any favors. The place is like Fort Knox.”
“It might have been a mistake to underestimate how much of an enemy he would become if he was freed from the symbiote,” Frank admitted. “At the time, it was a good decision.”
Hank snorted and went to his wet bar to pour himself a drink. “We’ll need to eliminate him sooner rather than later. Perhaps even before we try for the Admiral again. Of course, we could feed information to his sons that Maybourne was responsible for the attack and let John Sheppard take care of our dirty work for us.”
Simmons shook his head. “No. Baiting John Sheppard is a serious mistake. McKay has too many people under him that could figure out where fake information came from. I can’t imagine how we could plant information in a safe way that would even be believable. We’d just better hope we’ve covered our tracks completely.”
“What about Robert Bradley?”
“He didn’t survive.”
“Did he leave anything behind that might come back to you?” Landry questioned.
“He wasn’t stupid and we didn’t communicate by phone or by computer in any way. I approached him on the street for our first meeting.”
“What about the money transfer?”
“It shouldn’t be a problem, sir.” Simmons lifted an eyebrow at Landry’s surprise. “I’m not stupid enough to leave something for McKay to find.”
– – – –
Evan Lorne wasn’t the kind of man who left anything to chance and the third time he’d returned to McKay’s private island on the other side of the planet from the SGC was no exception. He’d beamed down an entire platoon of Marines for the party and they spread out over the island. He’d already heard that McKay planned to sell it and that wasn’t a surprise. He couldn’t imagine that the kid would ever want to come back to the place. The house was quiet and oppressive in a way he figured it never had been before. Though he’d been invited to General Sheppard’s house a few times for meals and the like, he’d never wrangled an invite to the island. He couldn’t imagine the place ever being all that fun again for anyone in the family.
They’d removed shortly after the Apollo had returned to Earth. He ordered a few Marines to do clean up duty on the two areas of the house that had seen serious action—getting up blood was a bitch. He went through the bedrooms personally, picking up framed pictures and various electronics that the kid must have left behind that night. It was in the kid’s bedroom that he found something surprising. There was a folder on the bed—the dark brown kind he occasionally saw come out in serious ‘eyes-only’ debriefs at the SGC.
He picked it up and hesitantly opened it. What he saw made the blood drain from his face. He clicked his radio and hoarsely demanded to be returned to the SGC immediately.
– – – –
Patrick wordlessly passed the letter to his son, John and took the drink O’Neill had offered him.
I’ve taken something from you tonight that I can never return. The decisions that I made—that brought me to this island and that lead to the death of your grandfather had absolutely nothing to do with you. I know you’re scared and confused. I don’t expect you thought you’d be left alone on the island. The SGC is slotted, mission wise, to retrieve you and your grandfather in just two days. The house is adequately supplied to feed and shelter you in that time.
It’s a stupid thing to write you this letter—but I have a little brother your age and I can’t imagine how he would react to what has happened tonight. You’ll be safe and I promise we won’t come back for you. You don’t have any reason to believe that but I hope that you will and that you’ll feel relatively secure until O’Neill has you retrieved.
I’m sorry about your grandfather. He was a good man and a true patriot. I’ve never known a better man or officer. It makes what I’ve done all the more insane. A man can make decisions and mistakes that are so far reaching that he might not even understand how far he has gone until it’s too late. I won’t make excuses for what I’ve done. Frankly, you don’t deserve that and I certainly can’t find a single reason to defend myself.
Tell your father to search through my apartment carefully—he’ll find some of what he needs to end this situation before it gets any worse.
Commander Robert Bradley
John let his hand fall and he rubbed his face with his free hand in a show of frustration. “It was… they wanted to kill you. It had nothing to do with Sebastian?”
“The island was probably the first chance they’ve gotten at me since I became the Director of Homeworld Security. I always have a military security team or I’m at your house,” Patrick murmured. “Until I dumped them all… Christ, John, I could have gotten him killed with my arrogance.”
“Don’t go there,” John murmured. “I’d have dumped the security team, too. I always have on the island—it’s a private place and the most unknown location we had. It was a place for just our family and…” He tossed the letter aside and took a deep breath. “What do you have on your plate that could have someone’s panties in a knot?”
“Beyond being courted to run for the Democratic nomination?” Patrick questioned dryly and watched the blood drain out of all three of his son’s faces. “Right. I should have mentioned that sooner. It’s not a surprise, exactly, Hayes has two years left in office and I’m… well…”
“The father of the man who saved the planet,” Jack said dryly.
“You don’t look surprised, sir.” John frowned at his CO.
Jack shrugged. “It was me or him and I don’t wanna be President right now. Sam refuses to be a political wife with two infants and the twins will be two by the time the next president is sworn in. Can you imagine? Terrible Twin Twos in the White House. The place would never survive.”
John snorted and glared at his father. “You might have mentioned that sooner.”
“I’m not sure I’m going to take it,” Patrick admitted. “I don’t think our family needs any help increasing its threat profile.”
David Sheppard frowned at that. “Do you want it because if you want it… I think you should do it.”
“I’m not saying it wouldn’t be interesting,” Patrick admitted roughly. “Not many men of my ambition would turn down the chance to be the leader of the free world but it seems a little selfish considering the circumstances.”
“I think it’s a good opportunity to position yourself to defend and protect the most vulnerable member of your family,” Jack responded before John or Matt could say anything. “You give it eight years and then maybe I’ll take a turn.”
Patrick sighed. “You think being the grandson of the President of the United States would be somehow less dangerous for Sebastian?”
“I think it would give us the chance to shift the focus of the government, prepare our planet for future exploration of this galaxy through the stargate, and institute legislation that would provide him and any children that demonstrate his abilities in the future with some protection. You could shape the vision of our country, Patrick.”
“Or get myself killed.”
“You could do that on the drive home,” Jack returned dryly. “The rest of the planet is going to watch us carefully. Eventually use of the stargate will become the biggest hot button issue on the planet—so far the threat of the Ori and the Wraith and all the other enemies we’ve revealed during declassification has made people leery of exploration but that will change.”
“I don’t doubt that,” Patrick admitted. “Hayes is already developing policies regarding the future of the stargate and he’s in talks with the UN about reclassifying the project under international law. If the SGC falls under the control of the UN—it will take some of the political power from the US, even if we don’t actually move it to a new location.”
“Atlantis will become the center of the program if we land the city on the planet,” John murmured. “Her stargate will automatically override the one we have here in the Mountain because of the DHD.”
“Do you think she’ll want to land on the surface?” Jack questioned.
“Briefly perhaps but I don’t know—I’ll be frank, I’m not certain she’ll even want to return to this galaxy. At the power levels we had, I was never able to communicate with her beyond exchanging mental images when I was seated in the control chair. McKay is hoping her attachment to me will be enough to encourage her to return Earth with us.”
“Right.” Jack sighed. “Okay. I sent Lorne to Robert Bradley’s apartment in DC. You’ll be unsurprised to know that it was completely empty—whoever cleared it out even took the light bulbs.”
“Do you have information on how they got to Robert?” Patrick questioned. “He’s… he was with me for ten years, Jack. When I took a land based command, he requested to transfer.”
“About four years ago, Robert Bradley developed himself a gambling habit.” Jack picked up a folder in front of him and offered it to Patrick. “It was under some control until the last year—when he found himself nearly a million dollars in debt. That debt was paid off completely roughly thirty-six hours before you were shot.”
“He didn’t even know my plans until I saw him…” Patrick sighed. “Maybe he didn’t expect it to go down so quickly. Just… Jesus… why the fuck didn’t he come to me? I could’ve helped him.”
“Pride,” Matt muttered. “He obviously didn’t expect to survive that night—if they’d bought him off to kill you; he could have done it at any time. You were alone with him often over the past few months.”
“He thought they were buying information,” David surmised. “And realized later what they were going to do.”
“Maybe.” John took a deep breath. “I should go look at his apartment—he said I should check it over carefully.”
“Lorne has had the ATA gene therapy—he didn’t report anything like that on the premises either,” Jack pointed out but held out a hand when John started to protest. “That wasn’t a no, John. I have the Daedalus in orbit on standby. It’s going nowhere until we have reliable transporting from at least one of the weapon platforms.”
John nodded. He shoved his hands into his pockets and frowned at the floor. “I spoke to him shortly before I was set to leave for Atlantis.”
“What?” Patrick demanded.
John sighed and flushed. “I called your office—he was pretty apologetic about your brush off.”
Patrick’s eyes darkened. “When I accused you of leaving without…”
“Seemed like you had enough to feel guilty about already, Dad.” John shrugged and frowned at his father when Patrick snorted. “What?”
“You and your son, John, couldn’t be more alike if one of you actually tried,” Patrick said with a sigh. “What did you and Robert talk about when you called my office that day?”
“Shades of gray,” John murmured. “He told me how you were doing—basic stuff I guess about your health and how you’d gotten a Presidential commendation for something hush hush you’d done in the Gulf. He told me about Matt and David—what was going on with them and how you had him keep a file on me so you’d know what I was up to and that you spoke to my CO after that mess in Afghanistan. I was lead to believe that you’re probably the only reason I didn’t get discharged.”
Patrick grimaced. “It was a dishonorable order—that asshat was lucky I didn’t pull strings and get him brought up on charges. I just told him the truth.”
John nodded. “He was an asshat. He sent me a vaguely insulting email after I was promoted but I ignored the insulting parts. Though I did put my new rank in bold at the end—just to make sure he understood that I outrank him now.” He grinned when O’Neill laughed and then he sobered up. “I’ll pull together a team for my visit—I’ll make sure to take Lorne along so he won’t think I didn’t trust him with it.”
– – – –
Sebastian set aside the comb he’d used to tame Quark’s hair and picked up a hand towel. That the cat had allowed the bath was something of a miracle and also, perhaps, spoke to his desire to get nature off of him.
“I see you had a fight with something.” Quark yowled as Sebastian touched the cut on his belly. “Sorry. I shouldn’t have taken you—it wasn’t safe.”
He closed his eyes briefly and then a gentle heat rushed over his fingers and the cut on the cat’s stomach slowly sealed. “There. Better?” Quark purred loudly and snuggled his big head against Sebastian’s belly. “I hope I can trust you to keep a secret.”