John slouched down in a chair beside Rodney and stared at Evan Lorne who was currently sleeping. Ronon had sat with Rodney first and had called on John when he’d decided that Jennifer needed a little prodding in the rest department so John had taken his place beside his favorite officer and his favorite scientist.
“A few months now.” Rodney sat back from the bed and carefully tucked Evan’s hand back under the covers. “You’re one of my best friends, John, and I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you. If it makes you feel better Ronon hasn’t known long at all—just since this recent injury. Neither one of us wanted to put you in a position that could damage your career.”
John smirked. He figured the amount of time he spent balls deep in Laura Cadman would do far more to damage his career than not reporting Major Evan Lorne for being gay. “I really do have broken gaydar.”
“We’ll work on your problem later.” Rodney patted him. “I can’t believe even you missed Woolsey and Radek—they practically make out in staff meetings. Radek doesn’t even yell at him Czech or glare at him with KGB assassin eyes.”
John laughed despite himself. “Dr. Zelenka was not in the KGB.” Granted, he’d repeated the rumor once himself because it amused him to say it. He sobered as he watched Evan shift in his sleep. “You’re in love with him.”
“What makes you say that?”
“You let him call you Mer. Hell, you bitch at your sister for calling you that and your family has always called you that. Yet, you didn’t even offer a token response when he did it. I know you wouldn’t let me call you Mer.”
“If you try it I’ll kick your ass,” Evan muttered from the bed. “Water, please.”
John watched Rodney fuss and get water and rearrange blankets. He’d often seen the man intense like this—but normally it involved copious amounts of Ancient tech or the possibility of a ZPM. “Should I get Dr. Keller?”
Evan shook his head as he got Rodney to raise the bed a little. “No, let her sleep. She doesn’t get enough as is. At least she doesn’t wander the halls at night any more—not since her and Ronon got married.”
John nodded. “I imagine he finds a way to keep her busy when she can’t sleep.”
They both smirked and Rodney sighed. “God save us all from Air Force pilots.”
“Could be worse.” Evan snagged Rodney’s hand as the scientist sat back down. “We could be Navy pilots.”
“I don’t know – the dress whites might be worth the extra hassle.”
“Agreed.” Laura Cadman said from the doorway. She came in with a tray of food. “All that dress whites goodness would be worth the extra attitude, entitlement, and potential whoring around.”
“Oh my God.” Rodney reached out for the large cup on the tray. “Is this coffee? Real coffee?”
“Only the best for you, Rodney,” Laura said with some affection. “And don’t brag about it—else the person I stole it from is going to find out. I made a whole pot for you in Jennifer’s office.” She pointed towards the food. “And you have to eat, too. Doctor’s orders.” She sat the tray down on a small table near John and then walked to the other side of the bed so she could talk to Evan. “How is our favorite pin cushion?”
“If I see one more needle I might request an emergency evac.”
“I’m sure she isn’t taking more than she absolutely needs.” She sat down on the edge of the bed and swung one foot. “Gave us a scare though which is not very cool, flyboy.”
“Where is the doc?”
“In her office, asleep on her husband. She looks amazingly comfortable and since she refuses to leave the infirmary… that was the solution that they reached.” Laura pulled a hair clip from her pants pocket and started pulling her hair up in it. When she was done all three men were staring. “What?”
“I just don’t get what you do with all that hair,” Evan admitted. “Even watching—I still don’t quite understand the laws of gravity you just defied with a single piece of plastic.” His free hand moved to his chest and he rubbed against the material of his hospital gown. “Maybe you should get her.”
Laura hopped up and was gone without a backward glance.
“What?” Rodney demanded.
“It’s either acid reflux because of my empty stomach or my heart is about to be pissy with me again.” He sucked in a breath and tried to sit up. “Fuck.”
Rodney and John both reacted, but were obviously torn as to whether they should help him sit or force him to lay back down. Rodney ended up making the choice by sliding his arm around Evan and pulling him upright. “Get the bed, John.”
“Hey.” Jennifer rushed into the room, prodded John aside with one hip, and put on her stethoscope to listen to his heart. Evan flinched at the cold metal against his chest. She ran her fingers down the side of his neck, pressing as she moved. “You aren’t getting the sinus infections that normally accompany the Hoffan illness, and your heart beat is fine. I’m going to set up another round of antibiotics and get you a Prevacid. John would get him some ice?” She didn’t look to see if the Colonel did as she instructed. “I’d like to avoid giving you food for the time being.” She glanced towards the untouched tray. “But, you’ll have to encourage Rodney to eat – else I’ll have to find him a bed.”
“Done,” Evan promised. He put a hand over hers when she stared to lift away. “This is not your fault.”
“Yes…” She glared at him.
“It isn’t. I did my job. Doing my job that day happened to mean getting between you and sword – no matter how Conan the Barbarian that sounds. It’s the job I agree to do every single time I go through the gate. Our job here is to keep the civilians safe, Doc, and the success of our mission depends on people like you and Rodney. So, like him, you’re going to have to get used to people getting in the way of you and death. Just accept it for what it is.”
“And what is it?” she asked tightly.
“It is my honor to serve my country. It is my honor to protect you and the rest of this expedition with my life if necessary. So you’re going to have to suck it up and be a big girl about it.”
“If you still weren’t very sick I’d shove a giant needle in your ass just on general principal.” Jennifer pulled her hand free from his and it shook slightly as she did so.
“Good thing I’m on death’s door.” And then winced when Rodney’s coffee cup rattled against the table next to the bed. “Fuck, Mer, I’m sorry. That was a poor joke.”
“You’re a bastard. It’s just one of things I’ve had to suck it up and be big boy about.” Rodney glared.
“Yeah.” Evan focused on John then. “I’d like to speak with Colonel Sheppard alone, please.”
John ignored the looks that both doctors sent his way as they left and glanced only briefly at Laura who had been hovering in the doorway since she’d retrieved Jennifer. Ronon stood just behind her. “Lt. if you would stand sentry at the door. I believe this is a conversation the Major and I should have in private.”
Laura nodded abruptly.
John sat down in the chair Rodney had abandoned. “Of all the people you had to get involved with on this base, did it have to be my scientist?”
Evan stiffened. “Yeah, it did. He was reason number one that I sat foot on this city. There were opportunities in the past – and I missed them. When I had a chance to serve with him, get close I did it. And for the record, he’s my scientist.”
John’s eyes widened a little and he sat back in his chair. “I see.”
“I told you yesterday—or hell whatever day you basically accused me of being involved with Cadman—my days are all mixed up. I told you I was involved and that my commitment was serious.”
“Reason number two?”
“You. You’re the second reason – for vastly different reasons. When the first data burst from Atlantis came and we realized the world of hurt you were all in out here. I read through every mission report and I saw something some people rather stupidly chose to overlook – you were the reason this expedition hadn’t fallen to pieces when Sumner was killed in action.”
“Was a fantastic person and it was a gift to know her—but she would have never maintained control over the military on this base without you and we both know it. When General O’Neill asked me if I wanted to come to this city and be your second in command – that was the second reason I said yes. You were a man I could follow.”
“Was there a third?” John asked.
“Puddle Jumpers.” Evan said with a sigh. “I had to see one. I had to fly one. I would have let Beckett experiment on me with that gene therapy until the end of time to be able to do it.”
“You’re better than all of the men who have the natural gene,” John admitted ruefully. “Especially these new ones who apparently learned to fly with remote control airplanes they bought out of MAD magazine. So, Rodney, me and Puddle Jumpers.” John sat back in his chair. “I guess I can live with that. For the record, no one has reported or expressed any sort of concern about your relationship with McKay so there are no rumors on that front. If it comes up, we’ll deal with it the best we can – just don’t provide anyone with anything to talk about or evidence. I’m sure there some asshole on this base that would go over my head just out of spite if they had evidence of anything remotely like this.”
“It’s crossed my mind. You would not believe the black ops training Rodney has gotten as a result of our relationship. He can sneak around this city like a SEAL when motivated.” Evan laughed at the thought and then groaned. “Fuck.”
“Here.” John grabbed the cup of ice he’d retrieved. “You’re throat must be raw from the lack of fluids and the acid.”
Evan accepted it gratefully. “For the record, I didn’t know about Woolsey and Radek until Rodney told me. He’s very indiscreet when he’s…” Evan grinned and John laughed. “And I pride myself on having excellent gaydar. It’s gotten me through more than one tour of duty.”
“Rodney is the only man you’ve…” John crossed his arms over his chest. “Fuck, I really don’t want to know names but is there an ex-lover on this base I need to worry about?”
“No.” Evan shook his head. “Not for either of us. We both had ‘friends’ back on Earth but the city is really too small to fuck around that much. Especially in my case and Rodney is standoffish and works at cruelty to avoid personal entanglements. Is this going to bother you? I mean, I’ll admit when I first came here I spent the first six months wanting to punch you in the face because I thought the two of you were involved or at least pretty close to being involved.”
John’s mouth dropped open and then he shut it with an audible snap of teeth. “One, you’re preference doesn’t bother me. Two, Rodney is like a brother to me and my only concern for the future is beating you stupid if you hurt him. He’s not like us, you know. Even after all the time he’s been on Atlantis, the shit we’ve all seen, all the times we’ve almost died – he’s amazingly fragile when it comes to friendship and relationships.”
“I know, John.”
“Right.” John sat back in his chair, irritated that all of that had come out of his mouth. “I’m the CO around here—that makes him my scientist.”
Evan laughed. “We’ll have to agree to share.”
“Sure, on a purely mental level.” John tilted his head. “Does he babble about quantum physics and fusion dynamics during sex?”
“Only when he’s really excited.”
* * * *
“He’s right you know.”
Jennifer glanced up from the tablet PC she had in her lap and met her husband’s gaze. “It’s bullshit.”
“Little one.” Ronon plucked her up from her chair with a sigh. “Listen to me – the soldiers on this base are not like you any more than I am. I think it’s important for you to understand how much their duty means to them.”
“It means they die on distant planets that the majority of our world doesn’t know about.”
“Or they die in battlefields on your world – fighting for freedom, protecting the weak, pushing back enemies that mean their country harm. You are a brilliant woman with an amazing gift to care for others – please don’t let this situation or all the ones that follow break you.”
She buried her face against his neck. “That sounded so much better than ‘be a big girl about it’.”
Ronon laughed. “I kind of figured he was risking bodily injury with that, but he wasn’t just talking to you. He was making a point for Rodney as well.”
“I noticed and so did Rodney. I imagine McKay will have ten thousands things to say about that later.”
“Is he going to make it?”
“If we get through the night without another heart issue and he doesn’t develop a fever – I’m hopeful.”
* * * *
John was standing in Woolsey’s office staring out over the empty gate room when the man walked in with his morning coffee.
“Is the Major all right?”
“Dr. Keller believes so. The drug has run it’s course and his body is flushing it out naturally. No heart or lung damage, no infections or fevers. Just a scary moment for us all and a few moments of personal revelation.”
“Ah.” Richard sat down at his desk and opened his laptop. “Sit, Colonel.”
John sighed and slid into a chair in front of the desk. He did not want to have this conversation with anyone, much less Richard Woolsey but that was neither here nor there. The man and he had reached an agreement some time ago and Richard had proven to be an asset to the expedition despite everyone’s disbelief that he’d been placed with them.
“I’d like to discuss a policy with you.” Richard sat back in his chair. “A policy with limited perimeters that will make things easier for you and I.”
“Personal relationships that do not effect the running of our mission are permanently off the table for discussion or review – and nothing goes back to Earth related to it. I don’t care who you sleep with John. I don’t care who Major Lorne sleeps with. As long as it does not damage our mission I’m of the opinion that what happens on Atlantis stays on Atlantis. I expect you to be as discreet as possible because we can’t control what anyone else might report back to the SGC.”
“Vegas of the Pegasus Galaxy. Understood.” John sat back in his chair. “I didn’t expect this, you know.”
“One in two hundred.”
“Those are the odds that you won’t come back when you go out on a mission or if you do you’ll be so permanently damaged you’ll never be an active member of this mission again. One and two hundred. The body count for this scientific expedition is obscene but none of the countries within the IOA want to call this what it really is—a war. So with those kinds of odds I would expect everyone here to find and hoard all the comfort they can get.”
“You’re not the man I thought you were.”
“You’re exactly the man I thought you were and I thank God for it pretty much every day,” Richard returned evenly. “Our request for a weapons development team has fallen into committee. It boils down to the fact that they don’t want us out here building and designing super weapons with Ancient tech that the United States will have the most direct access to. Our political climate is not great back home; but we’re hoping for change soon.”
“Cadman wants to play with some special drones.”
“Have her file a report and I’ll get her the materials she wants.”
John nodded and stood. “Exactly when is it going to occur to the IOA that a vast majority of the scientists on this base are capable of building an atom bomb in a few hours and that when you put upwards of seventy-five of such people in one place the amount of destruction they are capable of is… no pun intended… astronomical.”
Richard stared at him. “If it doesn’t get put in a report, it never really occurs to them at all.”