Title: I Walk the Line
Author: Keira Marcos
Series: What Might Have Been
Series Order: 2
Banner Art: FanArts Series
Rating: R (off screen violence, sex)
Word Count: 15,700
Summary: When Dr. Rodney McKay disappears on an average Monday morning for no particular reason—Colonel John Sheppard and the SGC find themselves in a race against time to get him back and to discover the real reason he was taken.
* * * *
John swung a staff in his hands easily, and watched his opponent on the other side of the sparring ring. The man, Major Evan Lorne, was relatively new to the SGC and new to their training methods. What he lacked in experience he made up for in pure stubbornness and a fresh viciousness that John liked a lot. His handling of the staff was improving and he figured the Major was training off hours.
“You ready for a break, Major?”
Lorne shook his head. “No, Sir.”
John grinned and tossed his dog tags over his shoulder to get them out of the way. “Let’s go then.”
John jerked and turned to the sound of his name. It was rare for anyone to interrupt a sparring session. He flashed the frazzled scientist in the doorway of the gym a grin. “Dr. Z, did the mess run out of coffee? I’ll personally go down there and kick all their asses for you if they did.”
Radek Zelenka shook his head, his eyes wide. “No. Please. Come with me. Please.”
John tossed his staff to Lorne. “Looks like Dr. Z spared you an asskicking, Major.”
Evan grinned. “And here I was bitching about all the civilians around here.”
John grabbed his shirt off a bench next to the door and pulled it over his head as Radek Zelenka hovered near him. Out in the hall, he realized how truly upset the scientist was. “Radek, what is going on?”
“Rodney has not shown up for work. I called his house. I text messaged four times in the last hour. I called the bar and Teyla has not seen him. His car GPS is deactivated and I had Dr. Brant on the Daedalus do a search for his locator transmitter and it’s not…” Radek took a deep breath. “He’s not here.”
“What the fuck do you mean he’s not here?” John demanded.
“His signal is gone. Period. Gone. There are only three explanations for that, Colonel Sheppard. He’s not on the planet, it’s been purposefully deactivated, or it’s being shielded.”
“It would still broadcast if he was dead?” John asked softly, his own stomach so tight he figured he might not keep his breakfast.
“Yes, it would still broadcast. It’ll broadcast for probably five hundred years after…” Radek swallowed. “He’s gone. Someone has taken him.”
Taken. Someone had taken his Rodney. It was enough to make his world snap off it’s axis. He walked away from the flustered doctor and didn’t say anything as he quickly made his way upstairs to the administrative offices. Jack O’Neill was in the main conference room, along with Lt. Colonel Steven Caldwell.
“John.” Jack smiled. “Steven was telling me about some retrofitting we’re having done on the Daedalus. I’d have called you up but I know you prefer to beat up Marines….” He frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“Radek,” John growled.
“Rodney is missing.”
John said nothing while Radek explained what he’d already done; even choosing to ignore the fact that the Czech scientist seemed to know a lot about his lover’s schedule, his normal routes to work, and the fact that Rodney had never been late for anything.
“McKay probably turned off his transmitter himself.” Caldwell brushed Radek off with a hand gesture. “You know he didn’t want it implanted anyway.”
“Don’t dismiss Dr. Zelenka, Lt. Colonel Caldwell—the man is four times smarter than you,” John snapped, his eyes dark with temper. “He says Dr. McKay is missing so Dr. McKay is fucking missing. Which means this facility is Situation Red and your place is on the bridge of the Daedalus.”
Caldwell’s mouth dropped open. It was no secret he hated taking orders from John, who was ten years younger, or that he’d been one of the ones who had believed Sheppard unsuited for the SGC. He turned to look at Jack O’Neill who raised an eyebrow. Caldwell activated his ear piece, stood from the chair, and ordered the Daedalus to retrieve him without another word. A flash of light marked his departure.
“Radek, gather a team and start trying to figure out how we can find him with the transmitter. If it’s being jammed or shielded– find a way around it. If it’s been deactivated, find a way to turn it back on.” John said nothing until the scientist left. “I’d like to send Teal’c off-world to gather intel. If someone out there has taken McKay… the news will spread fast.”
“Agreed, have Ronon go with him.” Jack stood. “In the meantime, I’ll contact Washington and put out the word that we believe one of the foremost experts on the gate program and Ancient technology has been kidnapped.”
“And secure your wife, Sir,” John murmured. “I’ll have a headcount on all the scientists and account for each one and then we’ll run through the military personnel assigned to the base. It feels like an inside job – the location transmitters aren’t exactly public knowledge.”
John shook his head. “I can’t go there, Sir.”
“Do what you need to keep your head,” Jack said after staring for a few minutes.
“Thank you—and if I start to lose it?”
“It won’t happen. You do your job, I’ll pull the strings, and get what we need. And if you become a detriment to the situation I’ll pull you back. We’ll work this by the numbers—just like we always do.”
“Understood and thank you.”
Jack nodded and left the room.
John sucked in a breath and forced himself to activate his radio for a base wide announcement. “This is Colonel John Sheppard, the SGC is now in Situation Red. I repeat we are in the RED. All personnel please report to your designated stations and wait for further instructions.” He paused. “Major Lorne, Major Stackhouse, Master Chief Dex, Teal’c, Lt. Ford, and Dr. Keller please report to the main conference room.”
He went to the large window and stared at the empty gateroom for a few minutes. Ronon Dex was the first to arrive. He’d figured he would be. John glanced at the former runner—he rarely used any of the honorary titles that had been draped across the one person he’d brought back to Earth from the Atlantis mission that wasn’t exactly human. However, Ronon liked the title the Navy granted him after he’d busted every single record and had come out SEAL training without a scratch. It was a good rank, the highest an enlisted man could get in the Navy but Ronon liked it because his favorite video game was HALO, so being called Master Chief by the grunts amused the hell out of him.
“Rodney McKay is missing.” Taken. The word echoed in his mind but he pushed it back. “Take a seat, and I’ll brief you all at once.”
“Sure thing,” Ronon touched his shoulder. “We’ll find him, John and we’ll make whoever did it regret it—A LOT.”
“Yes, we will,” John promised himself.
By the time they were all in the room, Jack O’Neill had returned with his wife. John was staring at the dormant gate while dread swirled around in his gut. Because he’d been off-world until late last night he hadn’t even seen Rodney in four days. They’d spoken briefly earlier in the morning; but it hadn’t been enough. Nothing important had been said. He hadn’t apologized for not being around. He’d joked with the man about making out in his office and the scientist had laughed – clearly amused and somewhat intrigued about the idea of sitting on John’s lap in the middle of the SGC.
He’d been looking forward to Rodney being in the observation deck during sparring and then… maybe that dinner that they still hadn’t managed to get. They’d been “dating” for nearly a month—which was more like one date, three nights of desperate/hard sex, and rushed mornings after. They both had a lot of work to drag them down and it didn’t help that he’d been off-world fifteen days total since they’d taken a walk on Mars.
“Dr. Zelenka believes that Dr. McKay has been taken by force. He’s not at home or at the bar, not answering his cell phone or responding to text messages, his transmitter is not currently functioning and the GPS on his vehicle has been turned off. He has been missing for four hours.” He turned and looked at the people assembled and for a moment honed in on Dr. Samantha Carter’s pale features. She was sitting beside her husband, both of her hands clutched around one of his. “Teal’c, Ronon – I want you through the gate as soon as possible to see if there is any off-world chatter about him. If someone has taken him from the planet, I have to believe someone will be talking about it. Use any means necessary to get the information required.”
The two men stood and left the room without a word.
“Dr. Keller, you recently performed a full physical on McKay. Are there any health concerns we should worry about at this point?”
“His heart, and in fact all of his major organs are in perfect condition. He’s healthier than most of the men on this base. He does have a fatal allergy to citrus – inhalation, skin contact, or consumption would be mortal within minutes.” Keller fidgeted with her tablet PC. “The biggest concern is the fact that several of his organs are….” She flushed. “When Thor repaired him, he regenerated organs in such a way that they weren’t actually replacement organs—but like Rodney grew new ones. They are, in fact, years younger than the rest of his body as a result. While he didn’t literally grow new ones—the data, the regeneration, and the success of the procedure is stunning. I filed a report ten days ago with both you and General O’Neill.”
John nodded, clearly impatient. He hadn’t bothered to read past the first page and didn’t understand where the Doctor was going but he saw the horror dawn on several faces around the table including Carter’s. So he stopped glaring at the young doctor and motioned her to continue.
“We need to find out how many people have accessed that report. I marked it confidential and I shared it with the two of you only with Dr. McKay’s consent. But, if the contents of this report have left the facility…” She paled. “We can’t rule out that he wasn’t taken for medical experimentation.”
“On it, right now,” John ground out through clenched teeth. He swallowed back bile as the doctor jumped up from the table and left the room at a near run. Not her fault, he knew, he’d been the one to force McKay into an examination in the first place. “Dr. Carter, what projects are you and McKay currently working on?”
Carter pulled on hand from her husband’s and wiped at tears. “Sorry. Damn it.” She rubbed her face again. “It’s just that Rodney is so…”
“I know.” John swallowed hard. Rodney was too smart, too arrogant, and in more ways than he could count amazingly fragile.
“Okay, we’re working on an experimental aircraft and he’s put out some amazing calculations on our own ZPM. I know he was asked to consult on like fifteen different private projects in the past week – some of which they wanted us both on but we rarely take projects together or at all really. The SGC sort of eats up all of our time on that front. I’ll get you a list of them—in case one of them decided not to take no for an answer.” She sucked a breath in. “The aircraft design is revolutionary but no one has seen the plans but me and Zelenka.”
John had seen them—scrawled gracelessly across several white boards in abstract drawings in Rodney’s home office but that was neither near nor there. He clicked his ear piece. “Sergeant Cole, Captain Kent report to the main conference room.” No one in the room questioned why he’d just requested two military cops and nothing was said until they arrived. They ground to a halt in front of him and saluted. He reached into the front pocket of his BDU’s and took out his keys, pulling a key off the ring with a shaking hand. “Dr. McKay is missing, presumed kidnapped.” Taken. He paused to take a deep breath. “Report to his private residence and check it for signs of foul play. His office is normally the only room in the entire place that is a disaster area. Contact the locals and put out a BOLO for his personal vehicle.”
Kent took the key without blinking an eye. “Is there an alarm code?”
“MRMJSS1879A42.” John put his key ring away. “Quickly, gentlemen. Report any findings to the General and myself only.”
“Stackhouse, do a head count on all military personnel assigned to this base. I want to know where everyone is and where they were between the hours of 06:00 and 10:00. Ford, you’ll do the same with all civilians. If anyone is missing or cannot account for their time – report to myself or the General only. Lorne I want you to prep SG’s 3, 6, and 10 for strike, recon, and rescue to be ready the very second I need you. Stop by the gateroom and send SG1 a message to haul ass home. Close the door behind you.”
Sam spread her hands out on the table. “His intials, your intials, the year Albert Einstein was born and his initial and the ultimate answer.”
John offered a small smile. “It was either that or a list of ten obscure prime numbers.”
Sam nodded. “Yeah. He’s not going to do well in this. He gets frustrated when he has to wait in line at Starbucks. He’ll refuse to do whatever is being asked of him – they’ll have to put a gun to his head and that’s going to make him shut down. He does well under pressure, so well, but that kind of violence. I just don’t know. I want to think he could handle it…”
“Yeah.” John shoved his hands into his pockets to hide the fact that they were shaking with absolute fury. He was pretty sure he was only an inch or two from positively medieval behavior. “Get me the list, Doc, and also – can we check phone and email records on the base for unusual activity?”
“Yes, of course.” Sam stood. “I’ll handle all of that personally.”
John rubbed his face roughly as Sam left the room. “This is…”
“There are too many reasons someone would want McKay, John and all of them would require him to be alive and basically healthy. He’s the smartest man on the planet – and run can circles around practically everyone on the base. There are only two scientists in this place that can even compete with him.”
“Radek and Sam.”
“Yes and right now they are putting everything they have into finding him.”
“I’m going to check on Radek.”
* * * *
Five hours missing. It was dark. Rodney really hated the dark. His head was killing him and the last thing he remembered was being in his car. The car had jerked as if he’d been hit from behind which made no sense since he’d been parked in his own driveway. Then nothing. Nothing. He stood, pleased that he could do it and held out one hand—he found a wall that way and then another—and when it became clear that he was in some kind of cement room with no door.
The smell of fresh dirt did nothing to sooth him. He stood in the small space – probably no less than four feet by four feet for more than five minutes before he allowed himself to even think the words. Buried alive. Bile rose up into his throat and he surrendered to the darkness his mind so desperately wanted to give him.
* * * *
“Talk to me,” John came to a stop in front of Radek’s work station. The man had four laptops open in front of him and his gaze was darting from one to another. “What are you doing?”
“I’m using satellite data and sensor records from the Daedalus to determine Rodney’s last known location. His GPS was disabled in his own drive way but satellite footage shows that the car is missing.” Radek pushed his stool to a station behind him where two other laptops sat. “Rodney didn’t take home any data with him—and nothing top secret, nothing that isn’t his own personal work. In fact, he keeps most of his personal work here once it gets past a certain stage just for security purposes.”
“Okay.” John motioned him to hurry up.
“What I’m saying is that whoever took him—I don’t think they took him for work. At least, not SGC work. I know that Dr. Carter is working on the private sector angle and I’ve forwarded her all of the offers I’ve received as well – just in case we can find some common link. Rodney is the most popular target for private headhunters. Carter’s status as the wife of a Air Force general insolates her somewhat and I shout at them in Czech until they give up. Most don’t call back because they fall for the non-English speaking thing. Rodney likes to play games with them and he enjoys the money. He won’t work for just anyone… but he does take outside jobs for other government projects if the money is right and he’s courted like genius he is. If he’s been taken for something like this… Colonel… they’ll kill him when he finishes the work. They won’t be able to keep him alive.” Radek hurried back to the computers near John when one of screens started flashing a result. “His transmitter was disabled forty five minutes after his GPS signal ceased to function; roughly sixteen miles from his house. I’m getting you a location.”
“Send the coordinates to the Daedalus—I’m going to join the strike team.”
John paused. “Thank you.”
“For what?” Radek demanded.
“For noticing that he was missing when I didn’t. For the twenty-five things you’re doing at once to find him. For loving him as much as I do.”
“He’s my best friend,” Radek said softly. “My very best friend and our world won’t be the same without him, John. So, I’m trusting you to bring him home to us both.”
* * * *
“No life signs in the building,” Lorne passed an Ancient life sign detector to John as he joined him near the door. “So they’ve come and gone but maybe they left something behind.”
Like a bomb, John thought. “Be careful on the door, this could be a trap.”
His team moved in by the numbers, every inch the professional badasses he expected them to be and the abandoned warehouse was just as empty as they knew it would be. Tire tracks on the dusty floor spoke of a vehicle having been there it but long gone. There foot prints as well – a pair of civilian shoes and several sets of combat boots. That particular bit of news made his blood boil.
“Hired mercs or our own,” Evan Lorne squatted down and looked at the prints. “If they are ours, they are very new to the SGC.”
“Take a step back and look at your boot prints, Sir.”
John frowned but did as instructed. “A wear pattern.”
“A unique wear pattern. All the men and women who have been on the base for an extended period of time have gone up and down the gate ramp that there is a similar wear pattern from the iron grid work. I’ve only been here three months and I’ve already got the impressions. These prints—the lack of the pattern and they are sloppy on parade rest. You can see where they’ve stood—here and here and there…” Evan shook his head. “Messy and they walked around too much. One tour grunts or never military at all.” Evan Lorne cleared his throat, and motioned two of his men to search the offices in the back of the warehouse. The rest of the team spread out away from them giving him in the privacy he’d made evident he wanted. “McKay is a high profile target for all the reasons that were stated in the debriefing this morning but he’s also a high profile target because of you.”
John jerked as if he’d been struck and leveled hard green eyes as at the Major. “Excuse me?”
“Sir.” Evan tilted his head. “You’re the XO of one of the most secret, important missions on the planet. You have access to levels of government, technology, and assets that most people can only dream about. We can’t overlook the fact that your… significant other might have been taken in an effort to gain some leverage over you.”
John nodded, a muscle jerking in his jaw. “Do any of the men have a problem with my relationship with McKay?”
“Beyond the fact that they all think they should get half-priced beer at his place?” Evan shook his head. “I haven’t been here long but I pay attention – none of them have a problem with him, you, or your relationship that I’m aware of. If that situation changes you might notice me kicking someone’s ass in the gym.”
* * * *
Seven hours missing. He woke up again and he was in a small cabin, a gaping hole a few feet in front of him was the only reminder he needed of his situation. Two men, who looked and almost moved like soldiers but were obviously not, were on the door and a man he barely knew was sitting in front of him. How many times had he turned down the offer to work for Philippe Evers? Evers R & D had been trying to move him into the private sector since before he’d finished his first PhD.
“Are you fucking insane?” Rodney demanded with a frown. “I mean, seriously, are you insane? You kidnapped me?”
Philippe lit a cigarette and regarded McKay with sullen brown eyes. “We have a problem, you and I.”
“Beyond the fact that you stole me from the United States government?” Rodney swallowed hard. “You won’t get away with this.”
“Your locator is disabled. By the time they realize it was me—this will all be over. You’ll either be free or a dead man.”
“I’m dead already.”
Philippe inclined his head. “True enough. But, you’ll do what I want and build me what I want or I’ll find a few more people to kill.” He reached out and opened two folders. “We’ll start with your ex-body guard. The pretty lady running your bar? Then, we’ll take out your lover. If you do what I want; I’ll just leave them both to bury you. You’ll likely get a state funeral… after all you’ve saved the planet a few times. It’s the least they can do for you.”
Rodney stared first at the picture of Teyla—it was an older picture of her when she was still in the Secret Service. The picture of John was recent, in dress uniform, coming out of a building in what he figured was somewhere in Washington. “You think these two rent-a-soldiers could put a dent in him? He’ll take you all three apart; and if you know half of what you pretend to know you know I’m right.”
“I’ve any number of men on my payroll that can make a head shot at a thousand yards. He’ll never know what hit him.”
“It isn’t like I can trust you,” Rodney snapped.
“It isn’t like you can afford not to.” Evers dropped another folder on top of the picture of John. “You owe me twenty years of work, McKay. I suggest you get started.”
“Twenty years?” Rodney demanded.
“That’s how many fucking years you’ve been telling me no and I’m really tired of hearing no come out of your smart mouth. I have a client with a unique demand and you’re going to help me meet it.” Evers stood up and glanced around the cabin. “In the next room, you’ll find an office and all the equipment you need to get started. No Internet access, of course, you know we can’t trust you with that.”
He glared at the two goons as Evers swept out of the cabin in his expensive suit and stupid upper society Bostonian accent. One of the rent-a-soldiers picked him up and frog marched him to the new room. Once in the fresh hell Rodney understood all to well what they wanted. “No. You tell that prick I won’t do it! I’m not building him a goddamned weapon.”
The man shoved the folder Evers left against McKay’s chest. “Work or die. Your choice.”
* * * *
“Three people have accessed Dr. McKay’s confidential medical report besides myself and Dr. Lam. Dr. Lam is currently off world with SG1 and has been since the day before yesterday.” Jennifer pushed a piece of paper across the table to John and General O’Neill. “The two of you and Dr. Calvin Kavanagh. He’s anti-military to the extreme, resented not being on the Atlantis mission, and Dr. Zelenka has mentioned to me more than once that McKay and Kavanagh barely tolerate one another.”
“Kavanagh spent the night on the base in one of the civilian barracks and hasn’t actually left the base in over a week.” Aidan Ford pushed a report their way. “I’ve accounted for all of the scientists and government contractors and none of them stick out. Most expressed concern over the situation and it’s pretty common knowledge that Dr. McKay hasn’t reported for work. There is some speculation and many of them volunteered to help.”
John nodded. “You’ve got Kavanagh outside?”
“You’re both dismissed and send him in.” He figured it was petty scientist bullshit but he also figured it was high time that Kavanagh understood how things worked.” John didn’t even smile when two Marines shoved the bitching doctor into the conference room and shut the door. He pointed to the chair in front of him. “Sit, and shut up. One more foul word of your mouth in front of the General and you’ll be lucky if we only send you as far Siberia.”
Jack smirked but sat back in his chair. “An officer and a gentleman,” he regarded the scientist. “It’s a rare thing around these parts.”
“You invaded the privacy of a peer, breached the security of our server for what I can only assume is a personal reason, and now you’re wasting time we could be using to find Dr. McKay.” Jack tilted his head. “So, really, shut up and wait for the Colonel to ask questions. I don’t need or want your excuses at this point.”
“Why did you break into the infirmary’s server and review the confidential medical records of Dr. McKay.”
“I was curious to see what the Asgard had done to him. When I heard he’d consented to a full work-up… I was just curious. One of my degrees is in genetics.”
It was irritating and he pretty much hated the guy. “I’m sure Dr. McKay would not appreciate your curiosity about a situation that nearly saw him dead.” John leaned forward. “And when I get him back we’ll let him decide where you’re talents would be best served.”
Kavanagh cleared his throat. “If he’s able he’ll find a way to talk to us.”
“What do you mean?”
“The man is like MacGyver. If he has access to even a basic cell phone…” Kavanagh shrugged. “One of the team is already monitoring the all the channels he might hit, we’ve got people on every signal possible…short-wave and satellite. Dr. Kusanagi hacked into the statewide power grid a few minutes ago and the Interstate Emergency System.”
“For what purpose?”
“To monitor it spikes in power usage and Morse code respectively. Whoever has McKay didn’t take him because of his excellent bottle rocket building skills; we figured no matter what he might be asked to build it will be a power hog.”
John’s mouth tightened into a thin line. “You’re dismissed. Stop being curious or I’ll kick your ass.”
“And don’t you fucking dare say a word to anyone about what you read in his file. I can’t tell you how much you’ll regret it if you do.”
* * * *
Ten hours missing. John was in Lab One pacing. He’d been there for more than hour; listening to the comforting bickering of his scientists working the problem. It wasn’t like when Rodney was there… there was a definite edge missing to the bickering but it was better the tomb quiet of his office. He barely acknowledged when Cameron Mitchell appeared in the door way.
“Colonel.” John glanced his way. “I’m not good at waiting in my office.”
“No.” Cameron agreed. “Waiting in offices suck. The General wanted me to let you know that Sam has narrowed down a list of potential civilian problems. We’re working to locate the key people for each organization and then we’ll shake trees to see what comes loose. Vala and Daniel are in Washington—we beamed them into a meeting with the NID to make sure they are playing nice. I let Vala take her big pulse rifle and she’s in that leather outfit the President likes so much.”
John almost laughed but all that emerged was a weak smile. “McKay would be so pleased you have her out threatening the NID for him. You know he hates those suits.”
Cameron nodded and then met John’s gaze with his own—serious. “I’m going to join the team and be ready to move when we know.” John started to protest but Cameron held up a hand. “Look, I’m on your six with Lorne and all of those big mean bastards he gathered for the party. Deal with it.”
“That’s pushing into insubordination.”
“Keeping up with McKay was my job long before it was yours,” Cam returned evenly, his mouth pulled into a grim line. “And that asshole, in spite of us both, is a good friend. I’m on your six until he’s recovered.”
John nodded and looked back towards the scientists when Cam left. “Zelenka, talk to me.”
Zelenka glared at him. “Go away, Colonel. You distract me. I call you when I need your gun.”
John glared right back. “Just because I let McKay talk to me like that does not mean…”
“Shhh… shhhh.” Zelenka hurried to a computer that had started to make noise. “Oh. Oh. Here, Banks get your ass over here. What is this?”
Dr. Carl Banks glared at the Czech but slid up onto a stool. “It’s the Interstate Emergency System. Hold…okay… okay… it’s a number and a letter repeated every five seconds.”
Both scientists frowned but John felt relief settle deep in his bones. “Can you trace it?”
“Yes, but this can’t be McKay… what the hell does it mean?” Zelenka looked at John. “Does it mean something to you?”
“It’s my favorite song on the jukebox in his bar.”
Zelenka smacked Banks’ arm. “Find it!”
* * * *
Fifteen hours missing. Rodney glanced up from his work on the circuit board when Evers and his two idiots entered. “Go away. You know I can’t work with you standing here glaring at me. You wanted a laser? I’m building you a laser.” He was actually building a really outstanding strobe light but that was beside the point. It would be weeks before Evers even realized it and he damn well hoped to be out of this mess before then. “What? I said go the fuck away!”
“You’re an asshole, McKay. Jenkins here thinks you’re up to something.”
“Yeah, because Jenkins knows everything there is to know about physics. I tell you what… why don’t we let him build you a laser cannon? Oh wait… he’s a fucking idiot. He probably washed out of basic training in the fucking National Guard and has spent most of his adult life mourning the fact that he couldn’t pass the Armed Forces exam and couldn’t even cut in the pretend army.” Rodney waved towards the man with a soldering iron. “I tell you what… we’ll let him try. Maybe he’s an idiot savant. You never can tell these days. Let’s start by sitting him down in front of the computer and seeing if he can even turn it on without assistance.”
Jenkins growled and his partner in idiocy glared. Evers just stared at him with something between fury and what Rodney was pretty sure was lust which freaked him the fuck out.
“All of you get the fuck out of here or I swear to God I’ll blow up this whole goddamned mountain.”
And then room was filled with a light that Rodney knew so well and John Sheppard stepped out of it— P-90 raised, firing before the rest of his team had even materialized around him. Rodney winced when all three men dropped on the floor and sprawled like broken dolls on the floor in front of John.
“Mitchell, secure the package.” John snapped out as he left the room with one brief glance over his shoulder at Rodney.
Rodney glanced at Cam who was walking his way and talking on a radio. “I’m the package?”
“You’re most definitely the package.” Cam grabbed a fist full of his shirt and pulled him close. “Close your eyes, McKay, we’re going for a little ride.”
“Lorne, bring my strobe light.” Rodney pointed towards the device. “I’ve got plans for it.”
“Sure thing, Doc,” Evan promised as he followed his CO out of the room.
* * * *
John pulled off his tac vest and divested himself of all of his weapons but the 9mm in his leg holster. Jack O’Neill was leaning in the doorway between their offices. “Seventeen. Two inside, some asshole named Philippe Evers, and fourteen barely trained thugs on the exterior.”
“Quite a body count for the day,” Jack was silent for a minute. “He has a mild concussion, was a little dehydrated, is still a lot irritated, and his attitude could probably achieve orbit all by itself. He’s also insisting on going home. I’ve had Dr. Keller hold him until you’re ready to take him.”
“Thank you.” He cleared his throat. “Any word from Teal’c or Ronon?”
“Not yet. I’ll recall them.”
“Actually, I’d like to keep them on mission. When they check in, we should update them on his recovery to see if that changes what they hear out there. There is something about all of this that doesn’t… something is off here and I’d really like to have a good feel of what our allies and our enemies are up to off world.”
Jack frowned but nodded. “We’ll go with your gut for the time being.”
* * * *
He showered first. Forced himself to get his mind and body in a better place because coming down off a fire fight was never easy and it was compounded with the fact he was still a nervous wreck on the inside. The locker room was empty as he dressed, pulled on a shoulder holster, and reloaded his gun carefully. He rarely took a weapon off base but today was no ordinary day and a part of him knew it was far from over.
John made his way to the infirmary and heard McKay before he actually saw him.
“Well, if you’re going to keep me here the least you could do is give me back my laptop,” Rodney was sitting on a bed, dressed and glaring at Jennifer Keller. “Seriously, give that back. It’s my favorite.”
“Apologize for calling me a witch doctor.”
“You can’t help it you’re in a soft science,” Rodney smiled. “You’re blond and pretty so we all forgive you for it.”
It was so horrible and patronizing that John laughed out loud. “Doc, give him back his laptop.”
Jennifer tossed the laptop on the end of the bed and walked away with a glare. “Call me if your headache comes back. I mean it, McKay.”
John walked to the bed and watched Rodney slide the laptop into a small computer bag. “You probably have a few things to say about today and what happened during your rescue—but it would be great if you could keep it to yourself until we’re off base.”
“Of course,” McKay murmured, his eyes bright with something that looked like hurt and his mouth pressed into a thin line.
They made the trip out of the base in silence, and once in John’s truck the silence that had been a blessing inside felt like a curse. Rodney sat in his seat, his laptop case balanced on his knees, his breathing a little labored. After a minute, the scientist put laptop on the floor between his feet and relaxed in the seat.
“They put me in that hole.”
John’s stomach tightened. He’d seen the hole – eight feet deep and so narrow he couldn’t have spread his arms out fully. “How long?”
“I woke up in it and when I realized where I was… I think I might have passed out. I tried really hard not to freak out.”
“Zelenka went through all of the stuff in the room. They wanted you to build a laser cannon?”
“Yes, one that would punch through shield technology. Our shield technology. Not Go’uld, Ori, or even the Wraith… ours. He wanted me to build a weapon someone could use against us. He said he had a client.” Rodney shuddered. “When I said no he threatened to kill you so I started building something… just to keep them busy until you could find me. I knew you’d find me.”
John nodded. “Of all the things… the Interstate Emergency system?”
“The broadcast nodes are spaced close together and they are everywhere. One of the ways we’ve unknowingly prepped the American public for a Wraith culling. We know they are coming, John, it’s just a matter of time really before they find us. With Atlantis sitting on the bottom of an ocean in another galaxy—we are limited when it comes to defense. Which is why we’re working so hard on ZPM technology and why there are four Aurora class ships in production at Area 51 right this minute.” Rodney took a breath. “At any rate, we set up the emergency system so that we could evacuate people to safe locations as quickly as possible. I sent a data burst to one of the nodes using the targeting system Evers so stupidly gave me.”
“Why a message to me instead of to Zelenka?”
Rodney swallowed hard. “I thought they might kill me once they realized that I was building a very advanced but pretty strobe light instead of the laser they wanted… so I sent you a message so that you would know that I love you. I’ve never said it – and I’ve loved you practically from the moment I set eyes on you which is the most insane thing ever but there it is. I love you and that pisses me off because it’s the most dangerous thing I’ve done to my heart since the Asgard fixed it. So, that song… that stupid, depressing song said it all.”
John pulled the truck into the driveway, and parked it beside a Humvee from the SGC. He rested his head on the steering wheel briefly and then turned to look at McKay obviously stunned, his eyes dark with emotion. “I walk the line for you too, Mer. Everyday.”
Rodney cleared his throat. “I never should have let you talk to my sister on the phone. I really hate it when she uses my first name… even just that small part. My parents hated me … there is no other reason to name a boy Meredith.”
“But you don’t hate it when I use it,” John murmured. “Let’s get you inside.”
Rodney nodded. “My car?”
“The locals are still looking.” He cleared his throat. “I had two MP’s search your house and when we located you I had them return here and secure the place. We’re doing a search for surveillance equipment at this point and we’ll need to change your security code.”
* * * *
He’d had a shower at the SGC under the shrewd eye of a male orderly which hadn’t been necessarily unpleasant as Rodney really had no shame. But it was nice to be in his big shower with three shower heads beating down on him at once and John somewhere in the house doing whatever military men did after shooting upwards of ten people. The MP’s had left finally with a report to Sheppard on the house, their general dismay at his lack of real security, and the promise to return in the morning to “correct the problem”.
He turned as he shut off the water and found John leaning against the bathroom counter. “Hey, you.”
“Hey.” John tossed him a towel, his gaze drifting over his body was far more clinical than lustful. “I shouldn’t have killed him so fast.”
“You killed him just fine—his expression when you just appeared in the room was quite priceless while it lasted. The bruises are probably from being carted around while I was unconscious. They never actually hit me that I’m aware of.”
“The result of my airbag deploying in my car I suppose. I wasn’t wearing my seat belt when they hit me.”
John nodded. “Your little, but certainly feisty, bar manager is downstairs and since she’s threatened to rip out my heart if I don’t produce you immediately… you should get dressed and go see her.”
Rodney nodded. “Teyla… is unique and her recent condition hasn’t improved on that.”
“She’s pregnant. It’s why she retired from Secret Service.”
“Bailed hard and fast.” Rodney frowned. “The fucker. I’d get him fired from his job in the FBI but then she wouldn’t be able to sue his ass for child support. It takes two to get pregnant, you know.”
“You realize you haven’t touched me since I was rescued.”
John jerked and nodded. “Once I do I won’t stop until one or both of us are unconscious—maybe not even then. I’m trying to remember that you’ve had a very physical ordeal and a concussion.”
“A minor one. My head doesn’t even hurt anymore. If it was serious—Keller would have kept me. She might be a witch doctor, but she’s a brilliant one.” He cleared his throat. “If you would let Teyla know I’ll be down momentarily that would be great.”
John hesitated and then walked away.
* * * *
Teyla was sitting on the edge of a kitchen chair staring at John Sheppard like he was the devil when Rodney entered the kitchen. “Teyla.”
“Rodney.” She jumped up and grabbed both of his hands. “You never pay attention.” Teyla hugged him close and then shook him a little. “You just go about in your own little world and get yourself kidnapped by a man like Evers? Him of all people?” She grabbed his chin. “That idiot?”
“I know,” Rodney patted her. “It was very stupid. Very. More stupid was that he wanted me to build him a laser cannon.”
“McKay.” John frowned at him.
“Her government clearance is as high as mine,” Rodney said as he stepped back from Teyla. “Had to be when she worked so closely with me because I talk in my sleep and mutter a lot when I’m working.”
Teyla laughed. “Not that I ever understood half of what he said…” She stopped laughing when she noticed John glaring. “I was his body guard, Colonel, we often shared hotel rooms in a very platonic way.”
“Of course platonic… I’ve only ever slept with one woman.” Rodney frowned at John until he stopped glaring. “Seriously, I kissed one girl in high school, had sex with a woman in grad school, and never went there again.”
“Never. Women are beautiful and I enjoy looking at them… but…” Rodney shrugged. “They just don’t interest me that way.” He touched Teyla’s face. “Not even one as stunningly beautiful as this one. I’m sorry I worried you today, it can’t be good for the baby.”
“We’re fine,” Teyla promised, leaned in and kissed his cheek. “Now, you’ve been kissed by three girls.”
Rodney laughed. “Are you alright to go home? John could drive you…”
“No.” Teyla glanced at John, her expression serious. “I’d prefer he stay here with you. I’ll be fine. Promise.”
John said nothing until Rodney had escorted Teyla out and then he spoke. “You’ll have an escort any time you leave this house and I’m not with you until we’ve determined that this current threat is completely neutralized. O’Neill has already approved it. You’re getting one of the new location transmitters implanted as soon as humanly possible and you’re going to qualify with a handgun.”
Rodney’s mouth dropped open. “I will not and don’t order me around like I’m one of your soldiers, John.”
John’s jaw tightened. “I know you aren’t one my soldiers. I know exactly what you are to me and all of that is happening. Period.”
“I’ll take an escort, I hate to drive anyway– hell send me two big strapping Marines. I’ll get the new locator thing that Zelenka just finished but I’m absolutely not going to learn how to use a gun.” Rodney took a step back when John moved, but only one. “I’d just end up shooting myself in the foot or something.”
John reached out for him, cupped the back of his head with one hand, and brought him close. “Think about the gun, maybe a small stun weapon? The guys in R&D have a small revolver based on Ronon’s big gun in the works that has a couple of different settings…. stun, stun hard, kill, and kill really hard.”
Rodney laughed and wrapped his arms around John. “Maybe.”
John lowered his head to McKay’s shoulder and took a deep breath. “I’ll tell Lorne to find two of the ugliest, straightest Marine’s he can to drive you around town.”
“Oh come on.” Rodney frowned. “Straight, sure—but can’t they be pretty?”
“I’d hate to have to kill some fresh faced kid from Iowa because he developed a crush on you.” John nuzzled his neck and pulled him closer.
“I’ve always had a thing for corn-fed farm boys. I had two or four in college and a few more in grad school.” He laughed when John growled. “Well, I really didn’t have to hide my preferences like you did.”
“Right. It’s time for sleep; you must be exhausted.”
“Yeah, sleep. You need it.”
Rodney turned and brushed his hip against John’s already hard cock, and sought his mouth for a kiss. John inhaled as their lips met, his hands tightening on McKay’s back and pulling him closer. Tongues met, scraped against each other as they moved by mutual consent out of the kitchen and towards the stairs.
“You really need sleep,” John muttered as they broke apart to move upstairs.
“That’s not what your dick is saying to me.” Rodney slid his fingers between John’s and pulled.
“My dick is an idiot. You can’t listen to it and I’ve tried my whole life to ignore it,” John argued but he let Rodney pull him upstairs without physical resistance.
“I think your dick could be a genius.”
John laughed. “Mer, seriously, you need sleep. You must be exhausted.”
“I need you.” Rodney curled his fingers into the front of John’s jeans. “Just you – on me, in me, until you’re the only thing I can think about and then maybe… maybe then I can sleep.”
“Okay.” He sighed. “Then let’s get out of these clothes and we’ll see if I can blow up your genius.”
McKay laughed and stepped back. “So goal oriented.”
“Goals are important,” John admonished as he pulled his gun from it’s holster and laid it on the night stand. He shrugged out of the leather harness, tossed it in the chair near the bed, and then pulled his shirt over his head. “They keep a soldier disciplined.”
Rodney slid up onto his bed naked, his sweat pants and t-shirt quickly tossed aside, and watched John push off his shoes. “And you’re into discipline?”
John raised an eyebrow as he dropped his jeans and boxers into the chair with his shirt. “Are you about to reveal some new kink for me, baby?” He pulled his dog tags over his head and tucked them into the front pocket of his jeans. “Because after our day, I doubt seriously I could get into that kind of mood.”
“No, I’ve never been into physical punishment. Not even to watch it in porn and I have a huge porn collection.” He spread his legs as John slid up onto the bed and on top of him with ease. “You pretty much do it for me just by breathing, you know.”
“I noticed,” John lowered his head and took his mouth in a hard kiss thrusting his tongue in with familiarity and ease, he explored, conquered, and soothed in the same kiss – sliding one arm underneath his lover he started to rock against him, their cocks trapped between their bodies and rubbing against each other with each move they made.
When he lifted his head, Rodney took a gasping breath. “You don’t want… fuck John I’m not going to last like this.”
John laughed softly, brushed several kisses over his mouth while he lifted slightly and wrapped one large hand around their cocks. “That’s the idea, Mer.”
“It’s good,” he whispered with a shudder. “I love having you with me like this. Love it.”
“Keep your eyes open, baby.” John shuddered when Rodney lifted his hips and started to meet him for each thrust. “Yes, that’s it. I love watching you come; nothing is better.”
Rodney shuddered beneath him and clutched at John with needy hands, his legs snaking around slim hips and he found himself torn between it lasting forever and it ending soon because he felt as if he might die if something didn’t give. “John.”
“It’s okay,” John soothed, he kissed Rodney’s lips softly. “I’ve got you… it’s just you and me. Don’t hold back. Come for me, baby.”
Gasping, Rodney gave into his lover’s demand and hissed with utter amazement as John came with him. John collapsed on top of him, buried his face in the side of his neck, and took a deep breath that seemed to shatter something in him because it ended in a small sound that was filled with desperation and relief. Rodney buried his fingers in his lover’s hair and held him close as they both relaxed, trying vainly to ignore the way his soldier shook in his arms and the wetness that gathered against his neck where John’s face was pressed.
“I love you,” Rodney whispered. “I love you and I’m so sorry I didn’t pay attention this morning. So very sorry that I worried you.”
John shuddered and pressed closer.
* * * *
“I always told him no when he asked me to work for him.”
John raised up one arm and looked at Rodney in the early morning light. He’d listened to Rodney toss and turn most of the night. He’d begun to think they would never get to this part of the conversation. “Okay.”
“He offered me all kinds of obscene money no less than quarterly—and has since I earned my first PhD. He was nosing around me before I even finished my first dissertation.”
“This bothered you?”
“I hadn’t proved myself. I hadn’t even made my first real discovery yet—all of theories were still just that. I was years from getting any kind of notice internationally and hell and gone from a Nobel Prize but he was treating me like I’d already earned one. Then, despite the fact that I have the social intelligence of a rock, I realized he wanted me on his staff for a personal reason.”
“He wanted you.”
“Yes. So odd, really, and so not my type. He never was and after the last time I agreed to a physical meeting with him… I stopped taking his phone calls all together.”
John frowned. “What did he do?”
“We met in a hotel suite in Boston. I was there with several other scientists— in fact, that’s how I met Zelenka and Samantha Carter. Zelenka was escaping the politics of his homeland and Carter had just finished up her second PhD, both were being headhunted by practically everyone. Philippe Evers was doing his best to charm us all and a few of other scientists seemed to fall for his bullshit—government contracts, important save the world type thing.” Rodney shot him a look. “He slipped something in one of my drinks, I never knew what it was. But, suddenly Zelenka was there prodding me out of the hotel room and reminding me that I’d made plans with him for after the meeting. He checked us into a room and kept me safe until it wore off.” He glanced towards John and jerked a little at the stone-cold fury he saw there. “Relax, John, you already killed him.”
“I’d like a do-over on that,” John muttered. “I clearly didn’t realize how badly he needed it.”
Rodney almost laughed. “Well, at any rate—there was some of that in the background today but he wasn’t so charming and wasn’t so focused on my eventual seduction. What I’m getting at –is he did a very desperate thing and he made it clear I wasn’t going to survive it. I think it’s important that we figure out who could force a man as wealthy and as powerful as Philippe Evers to kidnap me and why he was involved personally. Men like him can afford to hire people to do shit like that for him.”
“We’re on it already and I even invited the NID to come play with us.”
“Well, Vala has them playing nice for the moment. They are torn between being horrified of her and wanting to keep her for their own nefarious purposes.” John fell back on the bed and rubbed his face. “How would you feel about actually using your quarters at the SGC for the time being?”
“I like my house.” Rodney frowned. “I like my house and my bar. I used to live entirely on the base you know—had no escape. I can’t go back to that, not even short term. I’m sorry, John.”
“No, it’s okay. I didn’t expect anything else which is why I already arranged for the military escort. Look, our relationship is pretty much common knowledge at this point and I might have a few soldiers under my command that have a problem with it. We’ve done well over the past year to push out any personnel that have a serious problem with the new regulations because we can’t afford those kinds of risks when we send men and women through a fucking Stargate to another planet. That being said, if you catch attitude from a single one I expect you to report it.”
“Run tell my boyfriend that someone is picking on me?” Rodney asked, his gaze glued to the ceiling above them.
“Tell your Commanding Officer that you’re being treated poorly due to personal feelings that have no business interfering with our mission. Whether you like it or not, Rodney, I am technically your CO.”
Rodney grinned then. “Actually, I like that part quite a lot. It’s really hot to get a man so strong and powerful as you so worked up that he comes all over himself and can’t even speak.”
John laughed. “You would. Christ, you really would.” He was silent for a minute and then cleared his throat. “Who have you slept with on the base?”
“Oh, God, John. We are not going there.”
“Don’t.” Rodney frowned. “Seriously. Why on Earth would you want to go and have that conversation?”
“Your last serious relationship was Jonas Quinn?”
Rodney jerked up from the bed. “I’m not…” He flushed. “This is… Jesus… John.” He took a deep breath. “Yes, he was the last serious relationship. He had to choose between his planet and me—and we made the mutual decision that his home world should come first. I certainly wouldn’t have made a different choice. He asked me repeatedly to go home with him but I couldn’t leave.” He slid out of the bed and jerked on a pair of loose cotton pants that he tied off at his waist with shaking hands. “I was in love with him and it nearly killed me to part with him but we both did what was necessary.”
“I didn’t mean to upset you.”
“Sure you did,” Rodney snapped. “What about you?”
John rolled out of the bed and accepted the pants that Rodney tossed him from a drawer. “Look, I’m just fucking curious. We skipped over all of this and with what happened yesterday—I’d really like to know pretty much all there is to know about you. For instance, I’ve pretty much spent the last three months figuring you’d had a previous intimate relationship with Radek.”
Rodney frowned. “Radek? Really? Well, he’s smart and I find that sexy, sure. But Radek… is very straight. If you looked up ‘straight’ on Wikipedia… his picture would be there. Not even remotely metrosexual like most of the men on the base. You know that saying? A man is as straight as his options? Well, Radek would never fuck again if he stuck on an island with another man.”
John didn’t mean to laugh but Rodney’s expression was priceless. “Okay.”
“After Jonas left there were a few different men—just hand jobs and maybe an occasional blow job. You’re the first man since him that I’ve actually let penetrate me or even had frottage with because God that’s intimate and personal.”
“A blow job isn’t personal?”
“It doesn’t have to be.” Rodney left the bedroom and John was forced to follow him down the stairs and into the kitchen. “Is this some kind of jealousy thing?”
“No. I don’t think so. I’m here now and that’s all that matters to me.” John watched him set up the coffee maker, he’d obviously made him nervous and that was irritating and telling. “So who is it?”
“We haven’t touched each other in six months and it’s not a big deal.”
“Cameron Mitchell,” John said softly. “You were exchanging hand jobs and occasional blow jobs with Cameron Mitchell.”
Rodney shot him a look. “Like you wouldn’t have if that sexy bastard had put his hand down your pants?”
John walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of water. He drank half of it before he responded. “Hell, I did.”
“What?” Rodney demanded.
“When I first got back from Atlantis…” John flushed. “I was pretty fucked up—miserable, angry, vicious to anyone that crossed my path. Mitchell showed up in my quarters on the fourth night and informed me that I was being a bastard and proceeded to blow my mind… literally… pretty much all night long.”
“Just that one time and no one else?”
“Yes, the next day my orders came down and I was officially the XO of the SGC and I don’t ‘dance’ with men under my command like that. You don’t understand how grateful I was that you were a civilian because I probably would have had to leave the Air Force. And as I said before, it had been a year since I’d had anything but my hand until you.” He downed the rest of the water. “So not for six months?”
“Yeah, he came around the bar one night and we had a talk in my office. He said he’d realized something that made continuing our arrangement problematic. I don’t think I realized what it was until a few months later.”
“What was it?”
“It was you, John. I guess he didn’t want to be in the way.” He frowned. “So, you figured it was a soldier, huh?”
“You have a kink for the dog tags and I’m pretty sure last week when you saw me in my dress blues you came a little… so yeah I think you might like soldiers more than the average man.”
Rodney laughed and pulled out eggs. “I did. I really did. It was really unfair that you left for a mission that same day because… damn you would have gotten so much action that night if you hadn’t. Lucky for us both you never wore your dress clothes to the bar or you would have found yourself bent over my desk.”
“So that’s what it would take to get you to fuck me?” John slid up behind him and nuzzled his neck. “I think about it a lot… having your cock in my ass.”
“We have an hour for breakfast before I’m due in the office.”
“I think, Dr. McKay, under the circumstances that it would be fine if you took the day off.”
“No way.” Rodney broke several eggs into a bowl and started to mix them together with a fork. “What if I was kidnapped so I couldn’t work on something at the SGC? Something we’re going to need really soon? Can’t risk it. I’m going in and I’m going to reorganize all of my projects so I can figure out what is really important and what is just sort of important.”
“There is something I need to tell you.” John sighed. “Kavanagh broke into your medical files and reviewed your entire medical history because he was curious about what the Asgard had done to you.”
Rodney snorted. “I figured the little bastard would.”
“You’re not upset?”
“Upset? Not so much—annoyed and pleased that I was right about what a little jerk he is – yes.” He motioned towards the toaster. “Put on some toast.”
“Jack is prepared to censure him heavily for it.”
“It’ll just give him one more thing to bitch about. I’ll just transfer him to the Ancient Outpost for a while. He likes it down there; and most of the assholes there certainly deserve to put up with his self-important ass.”
“You do realize that most of the upper brass believes that you’ll come back to the SGC on a full time basis at any time now, right?”
“They can think all they want. I know they let me keep my Chief Scientist title because they figured it would help keep me entrenched in the entire thing. The thing is that – maybe they are right about that. I do miss the rush of it, and I even miss the madness. But I’m not sure…” Rodney swallowed. “Thor isn’t here to save me again.”
“Dr. Lam and Dr. Keller both say your heart is perfect.”
“Yes, but I damaged it once before.” Rodney pulled out some plates and then grabbed some bacon from the refrigerator.
“So you and Zelenka have been good friends since he rescued you from Evers?”
“No. Actually. We met up again about fifteen years ago when the Star Gate program started to get hairy. I remembered him, looked up him and Sam and I convinced the government to bring him into the mix. It took some work—after all they barely trusted me because I wasn’t an American. Then Sam met O’Neill. He was Colonel back then and he’d been back from Abydos about a year. Well, they pretty much clicked at first glance and I was standing witness at a rushed wedding ceremony six months later with a flustered Daniel Jackson who couldn’t believe Jack was getting married. Hell I couldn’t believe it either.”
“Her marriage smoothed things out?”
“By that time Jack had saved the planet once or twice and the government started to trust his instincts on things like the star gate and the people who should be working on it.” Rodney inclined his head. “You don’t remember when we met in Antartica do you?”
“I do.” John pursed his lips carefully. “Though it was only a few hours right—long enough for you to get pissed because I had the gene and you didn’t. Then you just disappeared from the site altogether; which I admit irritated me because I figured I was going on a suicide mission and it would have been nice to get some of you before I did.”
“You wanted me then? Even when all I did was yell about you?” Rodney laughed. “Okay, yeah I was furious. It just seemed so very unfair and on top of that you were going to go Atlantis and I knew I wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t going to happen for me.”
“I almost didn’t go myself but O’Neill convinced me I’d be an idiot not to do it. So, I stepped through the gate and went to another galaxy. I was freaked the fuck out before I even woke up the Wraith.”
“So not your fault.”
“Yeah, everyone says that. Just cosmic bad luck I suppose. I used to think that if Sumner had lived that we might have found a way to keep Atlantis but it came down to the fact that no matter what we did on a military stand point we could not fight back the years of neglect and the lack of power. Such a waste.” He poured them both coffee and finished setting the table. “This is… domestic.”
“Yes.” Rodney laughed. “Much better than rushing through Starbucks and we need this—I think—after yesterday.”
“Agreed.” John settled at the table and sighed when Rodney slid a plate in front of him. “And, yes, I pretty much wanted you from the moment I set eyes on you. And I was really hoping you’d stick around and at least be excited about me having the gene.”
“My sister needed me, that’s why I left that day. She’d been diagnosed with cancer and was getting ready to go into chemotherapy for the first time. Madison was an infant, her husband had been killed six months before, and they both needed me. The SGC took it in stride but I knew they were pretty upset that I didn’t go. But all of the animosity went away when Jack took over completely and the contact with the expedition was made. I wanted so badly to go.” Rodney sighed. “I still want to see it.”
“She was beautiful. Majestic, reaching, full of hope and the passion of the race that spawned us all.” John glanced down at his meal. “You make this part of life seem easy… you know. I’m not saying it’s magic or anything but you seem manipulate the world around so things are just as they should be.”
Rodney flushed. “It’s eggs and bacon.”
John laughed. “Not what I mean exactly. I guess what I’m saying is that my world is pretty damned perfect with you in it and I never thought I’d have that again after Atlantis was lost.” He reached out and took one of Rodney’s hands. “And I thought for a better part of a day that I was going to lose you. I just got you, Mer, that would be very unfair.”
“Eat. Colonel. I’m sure you have a long day ahead of you.” He tightened his fingers in John’s. “I’ll do my very best not to die on you.”
* * * *
“Philippe Evers fell off the grid six months ago. His company folded very abruptly and he defaulted on two major contracts… one of which was for us. Evers R & D had been contracted to work on a small part on the weapons platform we have in production for the Moon. We only recently found a replacement company for the components.”
John watched Samantha Carter move through the debriefing like a pro. She could work a crowd and the two NID agents were looking at her with something close to worship in their eyes. Considering the treatment they’d received from Vala since their arrival—he guessed a soft beautiful woman like Sam was a welcome change. Not that Vala wasn’t beautiful. He glanced her way—she was in fact pretty damn fine—but she was calculating and a little on the mean side.
“We’d like to ask Dr. McKay some questions.”
“As it’s already been explained to you, Agent Brant, Dr. McKay has declined an invitation to be interviewed by you.” Sam’s eyes hardened a little. “And considering you are here by our request only; that will simply have to be good enough.”
“We can’t know that he wasn’t compromised while he was held hostage. Has he even had a physical? We want access to his medical records.”
“No.” Carolyn Lam turned in her chair to look at the Brant. “In fact, hell no and don’t bother trying to hack the server to get access to them. His full medical records have been removed from the system and now available only on disk in the General’s office. Dr. McKay is in good physical condition, was not drugged or misused during his ordeal. If you think you’re going to use this as an excuse to get access to his records you can leave now. Without drugs or technological invasion—there are few things on this Earth that would get Rodney McKay to do or say something unless he wanted to so he was not compromised while he was being held hostage. Besides, all the men who had direct contact with him while he was conscious are dead.”
Brant’s gaze flipped to John as he knew it would. “Yes, that’s a problem actually. Didn’t the Air Force teach you to play nice with others. It would be nice to have them around to ask a few questions.”
John’s gaze hardened. “The Air Force taught me to fly, Agent Brant and someone else taught me to kill. I set an example yesterday and I’m sure you can understand the value of that.”
“Yes. The next person who tries to lay hands on a member of this mission would do good to remember that I don’t take kindly to anyone making off with the people under my command.”
“All the people under your command or just the ones you sleep with?”
It should have made him furious; really but the snotty question was so out of the blue and really misplaced coming out of the man in front of him that he nearly laughed. “It’s the difference between a bullet in the head and a blood bath actually. If I’d gone into that room as anything other than a soldier doing my job; they’d still be scrubbing the blood off the walls.”
Brant paled and Jack O’Neill who had sat silent during the meeting cleared his throat. “Nonsense, John, we would have just burned the thing to the ground… no need to waste personnel on that kind of clean up.”
John flashed him a grin and relaxed in his chair. “Agent Brant are you so informed about everyone’s love life around here or are you just especially interested in who I fuck? I had no idea you liked me that way. I’m flattered really… but I’m already taken.”
Brant flushed blood red. “You’re an asshole, Sheppard. I guess that makes you perfect for that arrogant bastard, McKay.”
John twisted in his chair briefly as if bored and then looked at Brant, his green eyes glittering with temper. “If you ever speak of Dr. McKay like that again I’ll break you into a couple hundred pieces and spend the better part of a week tossing your parts around the solar system. Are we clear?”
John stared another thirty seconds and then looked to Samantha who was torn between horror and something close to fascination. He could practically see the wheels turning in her head and in that way she reminded him a great deal of Rodney. “Jupiter. I’d start with Jupiter.”
She grinned then and went back to her presentation screen. “What we do know is that shortly before Evers closed his company he received a great deal of money to work on a private sector project that the government had never heard of and it was not reported as required.”
“Required?” Vala asked, she slid into a chair next to Brant and the man actually sat up straighter in his chair as if he’d just remembered the woman was with them.
“All private sector weapons development is supposed to be reported to the government for oversight. We can’t have just anyone building weapons of mass destruction.” Sam inclined her head and looked pointedly at Brant who was staring at Sheppard with thinly disguised anger. “Agent Brant, since you are here it would be great if you could check with your counterparts in DC to see if anything has been reported to your agency concerning Evers and his company in the past year.”
“I already did. His file was virtually empty. We had a thin jacket on him and that was only because of his rabid interest in Dr. McKay. We like to keep an eye on assets like McKay and anyone who spends that much time trying to get him to work for them will catch our eye. We have about sixteen companies on a watchlist because of their interest in you or Dr. McKay. Your husband scares off most of them pretty early on—and they also realize that you would never give them more than what you give the military. It makes you a soft target and McKay a hard target. Even more so now that he’s not with the SGC in a full time capacity.” He gaze darted once to Sheppard. “We expect that Colonel Sheppard’s presence in Dr. McKay’s life will start to scare off all but the military contractors eventually.”
* * * *
“You’ll break him into a couple of hundred pieces and spend the better part of a week spreading his parts around the solar system.”
John sat back and glared at Rodney who was standing in front of his desk. “Dr. Carter has a big mouth.”
“It was Lam,” Rodney corrected. “Or at least Carrie beat Sam to it. I’m sure she would have eventually told me, too.”
“He went too far and he’s lucky there were witnesses or he’d have gotten more than that promise.” John sighed. “Did you come up here to berate me for threatening a Fed?”
“Not at all. Later on you might tell me how you’d divide the body into that many pieces.”
“There are 206 bones in the human body.” John raised one eyebrow when Rodney’s mouth dropped open. “What disturbs you most? That I knew that or the implication as to what I could do with that information?”
“It makes you a better killer I suppose?”
“I’m very aware of human atonomy if that’s what you’re asking. Wouldn’t have been very good at my job if I hadn’t been. I didn’t always fly helicopters around the bottom of the world, Rodney. There was nearly nineteen years of service behind all of that… behind the one time I couldn’t follow orders.”
“I’ve read your full jacket, John, uncensored.” Rodney started pacing in front of his desk. “What does the NID want to ask me?”
“They want to treat you like an enemy combatant and do everything possible to file a report saying that you were compromised by the enemy. Then, they’ll be able to get you into custody and do a thorough examination of your pretty little ass. There are scientists all over Washington and Area 51 that would kill for a sample of your blood apparently.”
“You think my ass is pretty?”
“Everyone thinks your ass is pretty,” Jack O’Neill said from the adjoining office. He rolled over into the door way in his office chair and stared at them both. “There was a poll and you were voted second best ass on the base.”
“Who got first place?” Rodney demanded.
“Dr. Keller.” Jack sighed. “I just hope she doesn’t find out.”
“Well, okay, her ass is very nice.” Rodney started pacing again. “She’s pretty much gorgeous all over; I can’t believe she’s stayed single since she got here. I mean there was thing with Ronon but she really wasn’t dating him… she was just teaching him to ‘date’.”
Rodney laughed. “Well, the last six months Ronon has had the women on the base teaching him to ‘date’. Keller apparently got dining out, menus, and wine ordering. Katie Brown in Botany got dancing. Major Cadman got pop culture—movies, conversation that doesn’t involve weapons, miniature golf, etc. He’s doing well, I think.”
“Dr. Brown from Botany taught Ronon to dance.”
“Yeah. He’s very good actually – but the man is naturally graceful and good with his body. It’s good to see him assimulating to his environment – better for his recovery.”
“Recovery?” John frowned.
“The man lost everything,” Rodney cleared his throat. “It would have killed most of the people I know outright to lose so much. He’s young – he was barely twenty years old when the Wraith killed his world. At that age myself… hell I would have crawled into a hole and died.”
Jack shook his head. “No, you would have crawled into a hole and come out with a nuclear weapon and then they would have regretted it.” He pushed his chair away obviously finished with them. “Shut the door, I don’t need to listen to lover’s spats in my own office.”
Rodney walked to the door and closed it with a sigh. “Really not mad.”
“Good because it amused the hell out of me,” Jack shouted through the door. “Brant’s face was priceless. Like Master Card commercial priceless.”
“I bet,” Rodney muttered as he locked the door. Then he went to the other door in the office and locked it, too. Then he started pacing again. “I can’t work because I keep thinking about Evers.”
“I know. Radek reported to me a few minutes ago and suggested that you go home.”
“Yeah, well, I wouldn’t do much good there either so it doesn’t really matter where I pace.” He paused. “Unless you don’t want me in your office pacing?”
“You can pace a hole in the floor of my office if you want.”
Rodney nodded and started pacing again. “The one time you didn’t follow orders… at least the one time that it got you in serious trouble. I’ve been thinking about it and I’ve come to the conclusion that you couldn’t leave that man behind because you were in love with him.” He turned and watched the color drain out of John’s face. “Were you lovers? Captain Jared Holland. I mean is that the real reason you don’t get involved with soldiers under your command anymore?”
“Damn it, Rodney.” The pencil John had been twirling between his fingers snapped in two. “I deserve this right? For making you talk about Quinn you obviously didn’t want to.”
“This isn’t about punishment, John. I’m not angry about this morning. You were right, in a way, if we’re going to do this we need to be honest with each other. Jared Holland?”
“It must have been difficult yesterday then… to have another lover in harm’s way and you not there.”
It had been like a knife in his chest but he’d pushed through. “I brought him home. It wasn’t enough; not nearly enough and I spent a long time blaming myself for not getting there sooner. I didn’t act fast enough and he’s dead.”
“You nearly got yourself killed trying,” Rodney said finally. “I wouldn’t want you to do that for me.”
“What?” John glared but forced himself to stay seated; it wasn’t his intention to ever physically intimidate McKay. That was not an edge he wanted in their relationship at all.
“When Jonas walked through that gate downstairs without me it was painful. Painful to lose him. Painful to know that I wasn’t enough to keep him here despite the fact that I really understood why and even agreed with it on an intellectual level. That being said, he left me behind. If you died and I survived – it would be like you were leaving me behind and I don’t think I could take that John. I really don’t.”
“Life is about risk.”
“Yes, but there is no need to be stupid about the risk.”
“I’ll do my best not to die on you, Rodney and I won’t ever leave you behind. Not ever.” He watched the man relax and he felt himself do the same. “What I felt for Jared was complicated – hard, sort of mean. Neither one of us were particularly gentle with each other when it came to love or sex. I loved him; would have spent my whole life sneaking around and hiding what we both were to keep him. And then he was gone; and I was shoved to the bottom of the world. I never really thought I’d love again. I didn’t plan on loving you but when I returned from Atlantis I made it my business to find the snarky scientist from Antarctica in the orange fleece and the attitude of volcanic proportions because I had to know more about you.”
Rodney huffed. “It was cold there, damn it. Everyone mentions that thing—it was cold!”
John laughed. “It looked good on you; that’s why people comment on it. God, I sat in that chair showing you the solar system and half-hard just from watching you.” He sat up a little. “So when I came home… finding you was priority one. I was relieved that you didn’t appear to be in a relationship and when I realized it wasn’t just sex that I wanted I’ll admit it freaked me out a little.”
“Do you wish I was more like him?”
“No, not even for a second. I wasn’t lying when I told you that I love the man you are and what I feel for you is like… it fucks me up sometimes. Because if Jared was like a solar flare in my life you’re a fucking supernova and that means there is very little that I won’t go through to keep you safe.”
* * * *
Jennifer Keller was one of those serene people. John had rarely seen her upset or flustered—not even as she’d removed bullets from a man’s chest as if maybe she were playing checkers instead. She was cool, methodical. Even when she’d taken away Rodney’s laptop and demanded an apology from him… she hadn’t really looked angry or upset.
So when he walked into Rodney’s office three hours since they’d parted ways and found her curled up in his lover’s lap crying like a child it was stunning. One, that they apparently had such a relationship and two, that anything could upset her so. It wasn’t intimate… not sexual at all… McKay’s hold on her. It was like he was taking care of a sibling or some wayward child he’d found on the street.
Their gazes met over her head and Rodney shook his head. John took that as his cue to leave. He carefully pulled the door shut and made sure to lock the knob as he did so. He went to find Dr. Carolyn Lam. She was in her office in the infirmary and Cameron Mitchell was sprawled in a chair in front of her. They were both munching on sandwiches and talking. It looked like a date—which really didn’t jive with what John knew about the man but maybe he liked women, too. Carrie Lam was certainly worth a third or fourth look; she was beautiful, graceful, and smart.
“Dr. Lam, what is wrong with Dr. Keller?”
Carrie straightened up in her chair and shared a glance with Cameron who had shot up out of his chair at attention. “She did a rotation at the VA today. The Daedalus returned her about two hours ago. I told her to go home but she insisted on staying to do some paperwork. I haven’t seen her in about an hour so I hoped she’d at least gone to her quarters to relax a little before she did anything else.”
John’s jaw tightened, he waved a hand at Cameron. “The VA?”
“Jennifer is a gifted surgeon, John. Beyond gifted really… brilliant. I’ve seen her do things that quite frankly seem like magic. The men coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan often need surgeries to correct problems that were created by our doctors in the field due to lack of facilities or just the sheer magnitude of the injuries. She does two days a month there—and they schedule her pretty heavily. She can spend ten to fifteen hours on her feet in the operating theater on any given day there.” Carrie’s mouth tightened into a thin line. “I called when she got back because I’ve never seen her so… damaged by it before. She had to amputate a man’s leg today because it was too far gone to save. She spent six hours cutting out infection and gangrene only to have to cut it off when she realized his bone was infected too because the hospital didn’t give him the antibiotics she’d ordered before the surgery. But it was too late. The infection spread hard and fast and hit his heart while he was still on the table. She lost him.”
“Yeah, well she had a meltdown worthy of the old McKay and immediately upon her return she filed a formal grievance with the President and demanding charges be filed against the soldier’s attending doctor for malpractice and gross negligence.”
“So she made enemies today.”
“She had enemies before today. A woman of her age and her ability doesn’t get where she has without making some people pretty damned mad.” Carrie glanced towards Cameron who had returned to his seat to finish his lunch. “I’ve had to send more than one doctor packing, military and civilian since Keller returned from Atlantis with you and joined our staff. She’s not arrogant or difficult to work with – far from it—but she really is perfection in motion in the operating theater.”
“I’ve watched her.” John admitted. “She kept men alive on Atlantis I thought for certain we would lose and mourned the loss of those she couldn’t save. But, I’ve never seen her so upset she cried before.”
“She knew the soldier, Sir. He was one of the Marines that came back with you from Atlantis that was transferred out of the SGC six months ago. Lt. Jake Nelson.” Cameron cleaned up his lunch mess then and stood. “The General is on the phone with the administrator of the hospital making his displeasure very known.”
And that hurt. John felt the pain of it move down his spine and slam into his feet with such force that he almost staggered. Bright-eyed, eager even in the face of certain death—Jake Nelson had been a fun spot on Atlantis no matter their circumstances. And he understood, then, when Jennifer Keller was crying so hard she couldn’t speak. “Every single man and woman we managed to bring home from the mission was a gift.”
“What?” Carrie asked.
“The night before we were left Atlantis—Jennifer was preparing several injured men for travel and we were pushing crate after crate of tech through the wormhole. God it was a nightmare. I found her in the infirmary—she was getting all of her patient records for travel and making sure she hadn’t left anything behind that she meant to return to any fallen man’s family. She told me that for all the ones we lost that the men and women we were taking home were a gift and it was the gift of those lives that we should focus on.” John rubbed his face. “And because someone was an incompetent or a lazy idiot—one of those gifts was taken away right in front of her.”
* * * *
“I got her to take a sedative.”
John lifted his head from the glass and turned away from the star gate. He was in the main conference room and staring at the star gate was the only hobby the room was really good for. “I miss the beauty of Atlantis at times like this. Nothing is more soothing than a warm ocean breeze and blue as far as the eye can see.”
“I can imagine.”
“He was a good kid. Funny, bright, always ready with a joke or a smart ass remark to relieve the tension. One night, after about six months of being there—we’d all gotten pretty wasted on this wine we’d bartered for from this planet that seemed to do nothing more than drink, make wine, and fuck. Well, he stands up in the middle of the cafeteria and is so drunk he can barely stand. He tells us allthat he is in fact a virgin and it would be great if someone would help him out with that problem.”
Rodney laughed. “And did someone?”
“Yeah- that kid got so much play after that.” John looked at him. “So, how did Jennifer wind up in your office crying on you?”
“It isn’t the first time. At first she sought me out because I’m blunt and would tell her to stop being an idiot and then it just morphed into what it is. She doesn’t have any siblings and both of her parents are dead. So, I guess I’m sort of like her older brother but she treats me better than my real sister does most of the time even if she does practice voodoo.”
“I think Cam is hooking up with Dr. Lam.”
“Not surprised he’s always liked exotic looking women.” Rodney walked to stand beside him and stared at the gate with him. “It’s so odd really, that something so amazing can look so deceptively simple.”
“The gate on Atlantis didn’t move and dial. The chevrons just lit up. Did you know that?”
“I’ve seen footage of it,” Rodney cleared his throat. “John, what if I could get Atlantis back for you?”
“We’re damn near close to finishing the calculations on a ZPM. We’ll have to do testing off site of course because we can’t risk blowing up the planet if we get it wrong—but if we can recharge one of the ZPM’s we’ve got laying around in storage we could go back to Atlantis in a Jumper and lift her right out of the water.”
“We would need two,” John finally said. “Fully charged. Because we would have to move her within in days of arrival. Once she goes operational the Wraith will know. We might have three to get the city functional enough for space travel.”
“Would you want it?”
“It remains our best weapon against the Wraith invasion of our galaxy. They’ve all but wiped out the Pegasus galaxy—between them, the Replicator war, and the Hoffan drug humans are nearly extinct there. So, yes I would want it.” John turned and looked at him. “But not without you.”
“You would be okay with me going?”
“I promised I’d never leave you behind, Mer. If I were to try to retrieve Atlantis; I’d never want to do it without you. It would be dangerous and I would be stupidly worried the entire time but we’re a team now—you and me. How long?”
“Perhaps six months.”
“Have you discussed this with anyone?”
“No, just you. I haven’t even shared my recent work with Carter because I wanted to know how you felt about it first.” He sighed. “So, if we’re done staring at the gate I’d like to go home. We can have some steaks and too much beer for dinner.”
“Sounds like a plan.” John touched his face. “Home. You know I was on Earth for a full month before it felt like home.”
“It was you, really. I walked into your bar for the first time and saw you—and I was home.” John pulled him close, choosing to ignore where they were and took a deep breath. He’d find out who had really had Rodney taken, how they’d known to disable his locator, and then that someone was going to catch absolute hell.
Read the Next Story in this series:
When You Say You Love Me
* * * *
I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line
I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for you
Because you’re mine, I walk the line
As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right
Because you’re mine, I walk the line
You’ve got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can’t hide
For you I know I’d even try to turn the tide
Because you’re mine, I walk the line
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line