Summary: John and Rodney come back from a little down time to a conspiracy and a Larry King interview. John decides to make the most of his situation and show the entire world exactly how much McKay means to him. It’s very sappy.
Spoilers: Common Ground
Warnings: Emotional angst, very bad language, explicit sex, Larry King, surprises and sappiness galore
Categories:Slash, Established Relationship, Alternate Universe, Contemporary
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended, seriously. I don’t own them. I don’t pretend to. This is just for fun. Don’t sue me—it would be a waste of your money. But, hey, these words are mine so don’t steal them and say they are yours.
* * * *
John ran his hand down Rodney’s back and took a deep breath. “Go to sleep.”
“Sleep is for pansies.”
He laughed in spite of himself and relaxed when McKay laughed with him. “Mer.”
Rodney sat up and then slid astride John’s hips. “You know,” he started with a little smile. “When I look at you – I don’t know how I could want for anything else on Earth.”
“Oh yeah?” John ran his hands gently over his lover’s thighs and grinned at the sharp in take of breath it caused. “So, you’re saying you’d be content to just look at me the rest of your life?”
“Well,” Rodney inclined his head. “No. I’m never content with one thing when I can have it all.” He sighed.
John lifted his hips a little and grinned at the shock that filtered over Rodney’s face. “If you didn’t want it to come out and play—you shouldn’t have sat on it.”
McKay laughed and wiggled just a little against John’s rapidly filling cock. “You’re insatiable. Men our age shouldn’t be able to get it up like this you know.”
“Your recovery time is no different,” John noted smugly and traced one finger down the length of Rodney’s dick where it rested, thick and very hard against his stomach.
“Well, the Asgard fixed me,” Rodney muttered. “I have the heart of an eighteen year old.”
“And the libido of one?” John asked.
“Yeah, something like that.” Rodney hissed in a breath when John’s thumb brushed across the head of his cock. “I’m trying to have a conversation with you.”
“You can’t sit on a man’s cock, rub your ass against his balls, and expect conversation.”
“Interesting theory,” Rodney murmured. “Shall we test it?” He lifted and used one hand to deftly align John’s cock with his own. “Now, where was I?”
John sucked in a breath as McKay wrapped one large hand around them. “I have no fucking clue.”
Rodney chuckled. “Ah, yes I was telling you all that I needed on this planet was you.”
“Yeah, something like that.” John bit down on his lip. “Flattering, really.”
“I bet.” He rubbed his thumb across the heads of their cocks and spread the pre cum they were both leaking together. “The first time I saw you, I wanted you.”
“What?” John rocked against his hand. “When? You were bitching about my gene and telling Weir to stop making over me like I was the second fucking coming the whole two hours there before you just disappeared.”
“Yeah, that whole time,” McKay admitted. “I’m probably the only man on the planet who ever took a walk to a helicopter in Antarctica with an erection – sub zero temperatures didn’t even put a dent in it.”
John licked his bottom lip. “I was so pissed when I found out where you gone. I seriously intended to pull you into a closet and nail you before I left this fucking planet.” He lifted briefly and groaned when Rodney stopped stroking. “You bastard.”
“Patience is a virtue, Colonel.”
“I can be patient. I can be very patient.” John relaxed on the bed and curled his fingers into the sheet beneath them. “This is me being patient.”
Rodney nodded, his expression serious. “Yes, I can tell. That’s your patient face.” He twisted his hand on the next stroke and watched John’s eyes roll into the back of his head. “Don’t you dare come.”
“You’re an evil… they based that character off you, right? You’re Dr. Evil?”
“Well,” Rodney started with a chuckle. “I happen to agree that there is nothing unreasonable about expecting to get sharks with laser beams on their heads when you specifically ask for sharks with laser beams on their heads. A minion would be fired for disappointing me in such a fashion.”
John was half way between a groan and a laugh—his body flexing and shifting under Rodney no matter how much he tried to stay still. “Mer.”
“Relax, John, I’ve got this. I’ll get you there.”
“Yes.” John swallowed hard. “I know.”
“So, would you have really pushed me into a closet at the Ancient out post and fucked me?”
“Are you picturing it?” Rodney asked softly. “My pants around my ankles and your cock buried in my ass.”
“Ah, fuck.” John groaned when McKay pressed against the base of his cock. “I fucking hate you.”
“I hate you back with equal intensity.” Rodney leaned down and brushed their mouths together. “The laws of physics demand it.”
“Shhh, tell me about it, John. Tell me what you thought it would be like to be with me in that closet.”
John bit down on his lip and then took a deep breath. “I thought about it a lot on Atlantis. I fantasized about it in the shower with my hand on my cock.”
“You were always demanding and vicious – so demanding that I would fuck you long and hard until you could barely speak anything but my name. It’s what I thought I wanted from you.”
“And now?” he asked in a soft whisper against his lips. “What do you want from me now, John?”
“Everything. I want everything.”
John groaned and released the sheets. His hands drifted from hips to the long lines of Rodney’s back in an instant. “I love you.”
“Then come for me,” Rodney whispered. “Come right now, John.”
* * * *
He found him dressed in a pair thin sleep pants standing on the deck. “Hey, you.”
Rodney turned and smiled. “Hey, you’re supposed to be sleeping. Major Lorne will be here with a jumper in a few hours to collect us. Jack didn’t want to wait for me to have the helicopter come get us—and there are no ships in orbit.” He frowned. “The Apollo was supposed to be here all week. I checked the mission schedule before we left.”
John just smiled. The Apollo was running a personal errand for him but he wasn’t going to admit that—it would lead to too many questions. “Did Jack say what for?”
“Diplomatic crap.” Rodney waved his hand. “I stopped listening. Something about Teal’c and warrior nations and bah. Who cares?”
John nuzzled his neck as he slid up behind him and wrapped one arm around his waist. “I was asleep but I woke up and my bed was empty.”
“I couldn’t sleep and I figured since we have this four million dollar view—I might as well enjoy it.”
John laughed and let his chin rest on Rodney’s shoulder. The sun was almost up and he had to admit it looked pretty amazing. “When we’re out here I can almost forget how badly we’ve screwed up our planet.”
“As soon as we kill all of the Wraith I’ll work on the environment,” Rodney murmured. “I have a few environmental scientists on a project already—Asgard atmospheric control.”
“Yeah.” Rodney nodded. “I figure if we’re going to stay on this planet and have kids and stuff, it should be livable.”
“Kids and stuff,” John repeated softly. “Yeah, I’d like that. One or two with your eyes.”
“Jennifer is a talented geneticist. She could probably get rid of the rest of the bug chromosomes in your DNA if you wanted to…”
“No.” John shook his head. “Too risky. I’ve already dealt with the fact that I’m stuck with it, Mer. That door is closed.”
“Okay.” Rodney turned and looked at him. “So, we’ll buy some eggs and find a surrogate. There is a company that harvests ovum from women in various scientific fields. The prices are a little stupid but I can afford that.”
“Good.” John leaned in and kissed him. “That’s a plan.”
“I started to tell Jack no when he asked if we were ready to come back.” Rodney admitted. “I know it’s been two weeks, and everyone on the fucking planet is starting to speculate that we faked your return.”
John snorted. “Christ.”
“Yeah, so we have to go back.” Rodney pulled him close. “I’m just not ready to share, yet.”
“No choice, your lecture tour starts in three days.”
“Yeah.” Rodney frowned. “The fuckers.” He sighed. “Can I ask a favor?”
“I know that you didn’t pick Ian and Jimmy for the trip, but I want them.”
“I just…” Rodney sighed. “I trust them to watch out for me they way you do. I know Major Lorne and your brother are going and that’s a relief. I just don’t want anyone on this trip I don’t know. Stackhouse and Markum – I know them. The other two you have picked out. I couldn’t pick them out of a line up.”
John bit down on his bottom lip. “Want to know why I chose Vincent and Dallas?”
“No, because then I’ll have to agree with your reasoning,” Rodney admitted roughly.
“After Chicago—when every thing was said and done.” John sighed. “Cameron sort of had a little melt down on me and said some things that I’m sure half the men on the base think. He said that I didn’t trust him and the others like I do the men that I brought home from Atlantis with me. He implied that Ian and Jimmy got preferential treatment because you like them both and that I intentionally isolated you from the rest of the men in SGC because I don’t trust them the same.”
“I do like Jimmy and Ian. Ian is better at prime not prime—but Jimmy gets all of my sci-fi jokes.” Rodney sighed. “Okay, fine—Vincent and Dallas it is.”
“We’ll take Jimmy and Ian, too.” John leaned in and kissed him again. “Make sure Sean knows. The men can double up on sleeping arrangements, but you know he can’t deal with change if he isn’t prepared as soon as possible.”
“He’s right. Cameron was right. You don’t trust them all the same.”
“No…” John shook his head. “I don’t. I want to, but it’s different with the others. We shared the same victories and losses. We bled together, and survived together despite the odds. That’s hard to get past. I will say that I don’t do it on purpose and that I’m working on it.”
“That’s all anyone can ask.”
* * * *
“Oh, come on! I don’t want to do another interview,” John whined.
“What? Are you five?” Rodney demanded and O’Neill laughed.
John shot him a look that had made lesser men run for cover but Rodney just laughed at him. “Fine, General, you can tell them that Dr. McKay and I would be happy to appear on national television in a live interview on Larry King.”
Rodney’s mouth dropped open. “They just asked for you.”
“Oh, somehow I doubt they’ll have a problem with both of us showing up,” John smiled then—the thin, feral one he reserved for people he was about to beat the shit out of.
McKay glared for a second. “No head for you for a month.”
“I don’t know why you always use that as a threat when it’s practically your favorite thing to do. I know I could go longer without asking for it than you could. You’d be on your knees in a week, your pretty blue eyes all bright and pleading for my cock.”
Jack O’Neill lost it. He stood up and walked out of his own office—laughing the entire way.
“That was…” Rodney sputtered. “It’s obvious you need to go to the infirmary and maybe we should see Kate—I think you have PTSD.”
“Oh, McKay, I assure you I’m fine.”
“Well, one of us needs the fucking psychologist!”
“You started it,” John responded, stood, and strolled out of the room. “Don’t start none, won’t be none.”
“Yeah, because that proves you’re an adult! I’ve never begged for cock in my life, you jackass!”
* * * *
It had been two and a half weeks since John had been recovered from Langara. Rodney had barely allowed himself to really even look at Jonas Quinn since John had brought him on board the Apollo. Rodney stood in the doorway of Jonas’s room. It was a little disconcerting to see him in such a state, and after such a long time. Love. Love really sucked. It had caused him more pain and worry in his life than anything else ever had… even dying a couple of times.
Rodney offered a smile. “Hey. Dr. Lam says you’re doing great.” He came fully into the room and sat down in a visitor’s chair. “I wanted to offer you private care—my house and a nurse. If you don’t want to stay in the mountain; I can make that happen for you.”
Jonas shook his head. “No, but thank you. Sheppard strikes me as a good and even patient man but let’s not push that too far. I owe him too much to make him uncomfortable in his own home.”
“Well, we won’t actually be there. I’m going on a lecture tour—and it starts in three days. I tried to cancel it but the Pentagon feels that we should carry on so people will stop worrying about John and his kidnapping. So, you’d have a nurse, five security personnel on duty, and my majordomo on hand to feed you better than you’ve eaten in years. She’s the best cook in the state—maybe the country. We’ll be gone for three weeks.”
“Sheppard wouldn’t mind?”
“He suggested it,” Rodney admitted. “Neither one of us like recovery in the mountain—it’s restricting and seeing the sun daily is pretty cool.”
“Lam is cool with it?”
“She’d visit a couple of times a day to check on you. You have to stay here another four days, I’ll be on the road by then. I’d really feel better if you were laying around in style in my house.”
“It’s odd being in the infirmary and not having Janet or Carson here.”
“Carson died on Atlantis and Janet was killed by a Jaffa on a rescue mission.” Rodney looked away briefly. “Jennifer and Carrie are great—but life sucks. It sucks that you have to lose good people to meet new ones.”
“Agreed.” Jonas paused. “Rodney, I swear on my life I had nothing to do with John being taken.”
“I believe you.”
Rodney leaned over and looked Jonas in the eye. “If I thought differently you would be dead. John Sheppard is my everything, Jonas and there is absolutely nothing I would not do for him.”
“I know that.” Jonas touched his cheek gently. “You’ve never loved half-way.”
Rodney grinned and kissed his forehead. “Still love you, too. But it’s different.”
“Yeah, it is.” Jonas admitted. “How did that happen?”
Rodney chuckled. “I have no clue.” He lifted away. “I’ll go make arrangements with Dr. Lam and she’ll find a nurse for you. John is at the house supervising the rearrangement of a guest room for you.”
* * * *
“I don’t like it.”
John shot Matt a look and leaned back against the kitchen counter. “We won’t even be here, Matt. The man risked his life for me and nearly died trying to help me. That he wasn’t successful is beside the point. I owe him and Rodney loves him.”
“Exactly. You’re letting a man that used to sleep with Rodney live in your house.”
John pinned him with a glare. “Rodney and I both slept with Cameron.”
Cameron groaned. “Oh come on, don’t bring me into this.”
John laughed. “It’s a point of fact. Look, I’m not worried about Rodney cheating on me. In fact, if there is a man in this house that would tempt him—it wouldn’t be a man barely alive and recovering from major surgery.” He shot Sean, McKay’s personal business manager, a look and the younger man flushed. “Hell, Sean even tempts the straight guys on security.”
“You suck,” Sean muttered and started to gather up his computer from the table. “I mean, really.”
“I still don’t like it,” Matt held up both hands when John started to say something else. “Your house, your man. I just visit.”
“Don’t worry so much.” Cameron pulled him onto the couch and dropped a bowl of popcorn in his lap. “Rodney looks at John like he’s a fucking god. There isn’t a man on the planet that could compete with that.”
* * * *
“This is such a bad idea.”
David Sheppard laughed softly and followed Dr. Jennifer Keller into the supply closet. “Yet, here we are.” He locked the door and helped her up onto a crate of medical supplies. “And if I’m not mistaken—this idea was yours.”
“Yeah.” Jennifer nodded and took a deep breath. “Totally my idea. I have the best ideas.” She promised as his hands slid along the outside of her thighs. His mouth drifted over hers—a soft brushing of lips that was more tease than kiss. “I’m a genius you know.”
“Really?” David ran his hands down her back and pulled her closer.
“Yeah, I finished medical school at sixteen.” She shuddered as his mouth trailed down the side of her neck. “I shouldn’t… this is so bad… we work here.”
“Then we’d best make the most of it,” David murmured. “This is going to be the best bad idea you’ve ever had.”
“Oh my god.”
* * * *
“He’s twenty minutes late.” Patrick Sheppard put down his phone. “It’s not like him.”
“I’m sure he’s fine. He probably just got caught up in a post-mission debrief or something. He came back from the extraction without a scratch.” John opened a bottle of wine just as the front gate sounded. “See, that’s his code coming through. He’s here.”
“Son, five weeks missing does not give you leeway to patronize me.”
John grinned. “What would?”
Rodney snorted and motioned John to keep pouring the wine when he stopped. “Adoption or surrogacy?”
“I’m not picky,” Patrick assured as he David slipped in the door from the garage and took off his jacket.
“We’re so not talking about this any more, Mer.” John smiled then. “Besides, we’d have to be married before we adopt children.”
Rodney sputtered and then immediately picked up his wine. “Christ, you just suck the fun right out of life don’t you?”
“Where were you?” John frowned at David. “You were late enough that grandchildren came up. Again.”
David dropped into a chair in between his father and Sean. “I… huh… you know. I was just held up a little with post mission medical.”
“Sure.” Matthew inspected him and then shared a look with Cameron who looked very amused and sort of concerned. “What?”
“Do you all have that same drowsy, satisfied look after sex?”
“Yes.” Patrick confirmed. “I can tell you to the day when every single one of them lost their virginity—because they call came home looking like that.” He shot John a glanced. “Had no idea that John was banging the guy across the street, mind you. But I did know he got laid.”
John chuckled and then looked at Sean who was studiously working with his mobile PC. “No work at the table.”
“Oh, not work.” Sean set the device aside with a smile. “I’m waiting on a personal email.”
Rodney raised an eyebrow. “When do you plan on sharing this personal thing you’ve been waiting for all day?”
Sean grabbed his own wine and took a deep swallow. “It’s nothing really, just personal.” He turned to David. “So, who did you climb on top of at the SGC?”
“I see how you are.” David frowned at him. “Just throw me to the wolves.”
“All’s fair in this house.” John grinned and cut into his pot roast with real interest. “I love Maggie. I’d marry her if I were straight.”
“We’d all marry her,” Rodney responded dryly but his gaze remained on David. “Huh, so a woman—a single woman. Not a soldier because you don’t seem the type to dip into that pool and you outrank most of the women on base. There are a few who are probably on an equal pay scale… but no, not a soldier. So, one of my scientists or a contractor.”
“It’s rude to discuss women like this.” David left the table for a bottle of water.
“Oh come on.” Matt grabbed a roll from the basket in the middle of the table. “You’ve told me about every one you’ve ever slept with—including the ones that you don’t remember their names.”
“Yeah, well, this is different.” David twisted off the cap of water bottle and drank deeply. “Very different. All of you leave it alone.”
“Oh.” Rodney grinned then. “It’s different.” He lifted his glass slightly. “Looks like you might get grandkids sooner rather than later, Admiral.”
Patrick chuckled. “Maybe.”
David took a deep breath. “So, when do we leave?”
“We’re wheels up Thursday morning. We have an interview in Los Angeles that night and then he has an engagement on Friday morning at a conference center. Then we’ll leave Friday for Vegas.” John inclined his head. “Still want to go?”
“Yeah.” David nodded. “I’m still cleared right?”
“Yeah. You, Keller, Lorne, Wilkes, Martinson, Vincent, Dallas, Markum, and Stackhouse from the SGC. Then Sean, Declan, Rico and Jacobs from our private staff.”
“Keller?” David asked.
“Dr. Jennifer Keller.” John raised an eyebrow, an amused smile slipping across his lips. “You’ve met her right?”
“Yeah, you could… yeah. I’ve met her.” David flushed and sighed. He should have known. Nothing gets past John on his own base.
“Oh.” Rodney grinned. “Wow.”
“You know, maybe I’m not hungry.” David groaned and sat back in his chair.
“We’re going to leave that alone, Rodney,” John murmured. “She was with me on Atlantis, David.”
John nodded. “Good. As for Keller—yes, O’Neill is insisting she travel with us for medical emergencies and to monitor to me for problems related to the drugs and stuff I was exposed to on Langara.”
“Jennifer Keller is the pretty blonde doctor, right?” Patrick Sheppard raised an eyebrow. “The child prodigy who went to college at eleven?”
“Yes.” Rodney nodded. “We got her shortly after she finished her surgical residency in inner city Chicago. She’s the best trauma surgeon in the field and ended up being the Chief Medical Officer of the Atlantis expedition when Carson Beckett was killed off-world.”
“She actually ended up being the ranking civilian on Atlantis and saved my life,” John murmured. “She facilitated my return from the Donar home world with theatre tactical missiles. Took out half their settlement before they took her seriously.”
“She organized a surgical strike on an alien planet with tactical missiles?” Matt asked wide-eyed.
“Yes, and she commanded forty Marines through the gate for my retrieval. On the ground, gun strapped to her thigh like GI Jane Barbie, and then when they finally reached me she put a gun to the head of the leader of the Donar and told him exactly what he was going to do—and he did it while he pissed his pants.” John grinned. “Christ, that woman rocks.” He glared at David. “Don’t fuck her over.”
“You don’t fuck over women who can lead forty marines through a Stargate to an alien world and kick all of their asses,” David responded with a small smile. “Besides, she has me thinking about stupid things like churches and rings.”
“Oh.” Sean said. “Let me know—I’ve got a cousin who is a jewelry designer. She works with platinum and diamonds—it’s art and function. Since she’s a doctor…” He frowned as his mobile PC dinged and then sighed. “Oh.” He picked it up and shook a little. “Huh.” He put it down.
“You didn’t open the email,” John pointed out dryly.
“Yeah, I think I’m going to worry about it for a little while longer before I read it.” He went back to eating.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” Rodney grabbed the device and flipped through the email screen. “Really?”
“Seriously.” Sean glared. “Is it bad news?”
“Depends. Did you really want to be published by Harvard Business Press?”
“Don’t tease me, Rodney. It’s not kind.” Sean bit down on his bottom lip.
“They love you. They want to have your babies and apparently publish your book on ‘modern personal business dynamics’.” Rodney put down the device. “And three more books besides that one.”
“Oh.” Sean picked it up and totally abandoned his food. “How awesome is this?”
“Pretty damn awesome. You need an agent. Don’t sign a contract without one.”
“I already have an agent,” Sean waved him off. “I’ve had one for a year.”
“Yeah, because oddly enough I existed before I met you.” Sean shot him a look and grinned when Rodney laughed. “This is made of win.”
“So, this calls for more wine.” John left the table. “Four books—is that great or scary?”
“Both.” Sean grinned but accepted the refill on his wine and sighed when Rodney took the mobile PC again. “I’ve finished three of the ones I proposed already and the fourth is almost done. I had this proposal in with my agent for six months and now I have to break it to the publisher that I work for McKay. I used a pen name for the new proposal because I didn’t want to get it because of who I work for.”
“The advance isn’t much,” Rodney frowned.
“The advance is fine.” Sean took his mobile PC back. “I seriously don’t need money anyway. I have no bills and you pay me a stupid amount of money. I’ll be donating the proceeds from the books to a business scholarship fund I set up at Northwestern. I already give ten percent my income to it – but this will be a nice boost. I’ll be able to support two more students a semester.” He put the PC down and went back to his food.
“I didn’t know you went to Northwestern.” John leaned back in his chair and pushed his empty plate aside.
“It’s one of the best business schools in the country. I couldn’t afford Harvard or Yale, it was the best that I could afford. I still had loans and scholarships. My first job out was a very good one, and I paid off my loans in less than two years. A lot of kids aren’t that lucky—so this is what I can do.”
John looked at Rodney. “How many people did you interview that graduated from your alma mater?”
“All of them.” Rodney frowned at him. “Seriously? Either their graduate work or their undergraduate work was at Northwestern. In Sean’s case—both.”
“So, how long on the you and the Keller thing?” John asked David.
“Since day one I guess. She briefed Matt and me on Atlantis and the Wraith while we waited for you and Dad that first day.”
“Huh.” John frowned and then looked at Rodney. “You’re a bad influence on me, just so you know.”
Rodney laughed. “Yeah, I noticed.”
John could only grin and grabbed his cell phone when it started to ring. “This is Sheppard.” He felt the blood rush out of his face. “Yes, sir. I’m here. I… fuck… the whole thing? No. No, goddamn it, none of them have seen it.” He stood up from the table. “I thought… we agreed that it wouldn’t end up in the briefings. How the hell did it get leaked to the press?” He rubbed his face. “Well, of course I’m fucking pissed!” He paused. “Sir.” John laughed weakly and started to pace. “No, my father is here. I don’t imagine he’s checked his voice mail in the past hour.”
He stopped pacing and leaned against one counter. “Why would he do this? You know he leaked it. I thought… I thought it was encrypted and that… Jesus fucking Christ, Jack, you promised me…” He closed his eyes, ashamed of the way his voice had just broken. “No, I’m sorry. Please don’t apologize to me when I’m being a disrespectful asshole to you, sir. I don’t think I can take it.”
John looked across the room and focused on McKay. “No, but I think you should beam Keller over here so that she’ll be on hand for afterward. I imagine one of us is going to need a fucking sedative. Tell her to bring it—I’ll show them the whole thing so there won’t be any surprises.” He ended the phone call and carefully put the phone down on the counter.
“John?” Cameron asked. “Is it…”
“Yeah.” John nodded. “Yeah, it is. Goddamn it.”
“We kept that mission file at the SGC. It wasn’t even sent to the IOA. As far as I know only a hand full of people even had access to it.”
“Maybourne had access,” John snapped tightly. He glanced briefly at his father. “And now my father is sitting in Maybourne’s chair. That had to eat at him. You know that bastard never liked me, Cam.”
“Will the two of you stop talking around what is going on and tell us!” Rodney snapped. “Right now, John.”
John flinched at the tone but nodded. “Eight months into the Atlantis mission I was captured off-world by the Genii. They were a human race—they pretended to be interested in an alliance. They pretended to be pre-industrial when they were really trying to build nuclear weapons in underground bunkers.” He sucked in a breath. “Anyway, I was captured by a man named Koyla. They wanted Atlantis. Elizabeth Weir was still the civilian leader of the mission at this point and of course she wasn’t going to negotiate with them. I figured they would end up killing me and I was okay with that. Better that, than let the Genii have the city.”
“You had plenty of missions where you were held hostage and even tortured, John. Why is this one a secret?” Rodney asked softly. “What happened?”
“They had a Wraith prisoner as well. In order to persuade Elizabeth to give them what they wanted—they sent a live video feed of me being fed on by a Wraith—repeatedly. He probably took fifty years off my life in a matter of hours, but they made sure he didn’t kill me. Then they made him give it all back to me—and started over again and again. This went on for thirty-six hours before I convinced the Wraith to escape with me. He gave me back everything he’d taken and then some as he’d fed on several guards during our escape. I actually went home over five years younger on a cellular level. Got captured with gray hair, went home without it and a feeding scar.”
John touched the scar on the center of his chest. It had faded in the three years since the incident. “Between me and the Wraith we killed everyone inside the compound. Maybe eighty people? I was high for fucking days on the enzyme he pumped into my body, but it made me practically invincible at the time. I let the Wraith feed on so many – to punish them for what they’d did to me. Then I let him escape through the gate.”
“Christ,” David scooted back from the table. “This is… the press has the video footage of you being fed on by a Wraith?”
“Yes.” John whispered as a small flash of light appeared in the living room and Jennifer Keller appeared. She was dressed in a pair of jeans and an Air Force t-shirt. He thought she looked impossibly young. “Hey, kid.”
“Hey.” She smiled. “So, we have show and tell, huh?”
“Yeah. I bet you were always good at that in school.”
“Not so much.” Jennifer grinned. “I always had a lot to tell and teachers got very frustrated with me—who wants a seven year old who can explain in detail how and why Santa Clause was an utter falsehood?”
John tilted his head. “Are you a member of Mensa?”
“Of course.” Jennifer frowned as if she was insulted. “How can you ask that?”
He laughed and motioned towards the TV. “Okay, folks let’s take a seat and let Dr. Keller explain the how and why of a Wraith feeding.” John led Rodney over to the couch and sat down beside him. “Don’t be nice about it Jennifer—there is no way to soften the blow.”
“Understood.” Jennifer opened her bag and pulled out a DVD case. “Since we all have various levels of understanding when it comes to the Wraith—I’m going to break it down quickly and questions are welcome.” She grabbed the remote for the DVD player and put in the disc. “This is one time when I think we all wish you didn’t have a 68 inch HD TV.” She flipped through the files on the DVD and picked one. It was a series of still-images all of different Wraith—male and female.
“The Wraith are a humanoid species we believe to have been created by the Ancients themselves. Genetically they are closer to an insect called the Iratus bug than us, but we can’t ignore the fact that their species probably started out very much like you and I. All of you are aware that Colonel Sheppard was attacked by Iratus bug early on in the Atlantis expedition, but we were able to remove it. It was that initial exposure that led to his conversion into…” She sighed. “A bug. Sorry.”
“No, that seriously sums the whole thing up. A bug.”
She smiled sadly. “Okay, so the Wraith feed on humans but can also feed on other Wraith. As far as we know they are unable to feed on animals.” She paused the DVD on a picture of a Wraith hand. “This is their feeding apparatus. They place their hand on the chest above the heart and draw from the body what they call the ‘life-force’. What this is exactly—is one of the many things we are still studying. What we do know is that the first instant of feeding should be fatal, but it isn’t. They pump an enzyme into their victim during feeding to keep the heart functioning as long as possible. The result being that they can feed until there is nothing left in the body to retrieve. While they can eat and drink as adults—they get nothing from the process.”
“They are insect like in their social structure; each ship acts as a hive with a breeding Queen. A hive without a Queen doesn’t function well within their society but it’s still a tremendous threat to humans—sometimes more, as hives without leadership can be very unpredictable.” She turned back to the DVD and flipped back to the menu. “What I’m about to show you was sent to us from the Genii home world during Colonel Sheppard’s capture. I have to warn you that grown men broke down and sobbed in the gateroom while this was being sent to us. I had to sedate over half the civilians on the base during the incident and a substantial portion of the marines. We were fairly sure we were watching our leader being murdered right before our eyes and Elizabeth Weir would not let us do a damn thing to stop it.” Her hand shook a little. “If it makes you feel better—we eventually blew the Genii all to hell.”
She started it. “They sent us twenty messages over a thirty-six hour period. Each was roughly two minutes long.” Jennifer put the remote down, walked into the kitchen, found herself a glass and grabbed wine bottle.
John was silent and unmoving through the whole thing. Rodney flinched and took deep breaths throughout entire thing—his hands clenching and unclenching into fists as each feeding got worse. She figured she would have sedate him. He was already showing signs of psychological shock. Screams, and a litany of foul language in several languages poured out of John’s mouth during the feedings. He spoke to the people on Atlantis, told them it wasn’t their fault, begged them not to come after him, told them tell his father that he died like a man. Which Patrick Sheppard took like a fist in the face.
Jennifer watched the pain move over all of them, her gaze lingered on David more often than not, and she really resented being the one to bring this horrible thing into Rodney’s home but John trusted her with this. John trusted her to get them through this because they both knew he couldn’t do it on his own. Finally, it was over and she quickly moved around the couch and ejected the disc.
“We did not witness the final reverse feeding but we do know that when we found Colonel Sheppard he was fit, whole, high on Wraith enzyme, and he appeared to be at least five years younger. With testing we discovered that the Wraith had actually given him close to five additional years.” She put the DVD away and sat down in a chair in front of them all. “We were able to retrieve the Colonel because…”
“Oh, go ahead. Tell them.”
Jennifer blushed. “John, you suck a little right now.”
“We had agreement, Dr. Barbie, we suffer together.”
She blushed. “I hate you. Really.” She stood up and started to pace. “Okay, so I took over the city. There. I said it. I staged a mutiny and threw anyone that didn’t agree me with in a cell.” She crossed her arms and glared at him. “So I put most of the administrative staff in cells including Elizabeth Weir, declared that the Genii were at the top of our shit list, and sent every marine in the city to get the Colonel’s body back because I thought he was dead. Then I nuked them. Four Mark III ICBMs. I figured since I was going to jail when I came back to Earth I might as well not have any regrets.”
“Instead of going to jail, the SGC put her in charge of the expedition while we waited for rescue.” John smiled. “Not that I would have let them put my tiny doctor in jail.”
“They did make me attend counseling sessions for the first eight months were home,” Jennifer reminded with a blush.
“We all had eight months of counseling.”
“Where is Elizabeth Weir now?” Patrick asked softly.
“She requested permission to stay in Pegasus with a group of humans trying to ascend in a shielded Ancient sanctuary.” John grimaced. “We left her. The sanctuary was very well hidden and protected. It was also in a time dilation field—so she’s either very old, dead, or ascended at this point. I spent roughly ten hours in the place and six months passed for me on the inside.”
“She let that happen to you and got away with it?” Patrick demanded. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
John looked at him and pulled Rodney a little closer. He was shaking and silent – and had been since the feeding had started. “I appreciate what Jennifer did for me, really because after we got out we had roughly a hundred guys between us and the gate. I’m really grateful she came. The fact is that if I’d been Weir’s place I wouldn’t have negotiated with the Genii either, no matter who was sitting in that chair getting fed on by a Wraith.”
“What did they want?” Rodney asked softly. “Atlantis was useless to them, right? What could they have done with it without gene carriers?”
“They wanted nuclear power so they could subjugate and rule over every human population they encountered.” Jennifer lifted her chin slightly. “I gave it to them. If any of them survived it, which I doubt, maybe they’ll be more specific in their demands next time.” She walked across the room and squatted down in front of Rodney. “Okay, you, you think you’re doing a good job of hiding this—but you aren’t. You’re shaking so hard, John is shaking with you.” She reached out and took his hands. Her fingers went to his pulse point. “Just a little elevated.” She rubbed his hand between hers. “But you’re cold to the touch.”
“No.” She shook her head. “You’re not. The last few weeks have been a fresh hell for you—something I understand. I did you a disservice by letting you hide in this house, Rodney, and while Sean kept me updated—I should have forced my way in regardless of what you said a lot sooner.” She stood. “Come on, upstairs and in the shower. Then you’re taking a sedative and sleeping.”
“You’re so not the boss of me.”
She laughed. “Actually, for the next few weeks—I am the boss of you and the Colonel. Haul ass, Dr. McKay or I’ll be forced to take measures.”
* * * *
When she came back downstairs the DVD was back in the player and they were watching it again with no sound. She sighed as she rounded the couch and sat down on the coffee table in front of the five of them.
“I’ve watched it sixty-seven times,” Jennifer started without preamble. “Most of the people who survived the Atlantis mission have watched it at least a dozen times. At first, I think we were trying to make it seem normal so the memory of it wouldn’t be horrible. After all, we’d all managed to desensitize ourselves to death and war –and all the things that go with it.”
“I didn’t realize.” Cameron took a deep breath. “I never watched it, you know. I knew it happened but I left it alone because I figured he deserved privacy. Now, it’s playing on every news network on the planet. They are picking the worse parts—the parts where he gives Atlantis instructions… where he talks about…”
“I know. I’ve seen the reports already. The SGC is like a tomb and every room has a TV on. General O’Neill has made the entire mission report available to personnel so they can get the full picture.”
“How is he?” Patrick finally asked.
“Rodney is sleeping and John is watching. He’s more angry than hurt. Rodney is… devastated. He just spent five weeks mentally burying John everyday and now he had to watch him murdered by a Wraith. It hardly matters that he wasn’t really dead in the end—it certainly looked like he had the life sucked out of him.”
“You made a habit out of saving my son’s life.”
She smiled then. “He made a habit of saving me. There isn’t a single member of the expedition that wouldn’t walk through fire for John Sheppard and not just because he’s stupidly brave. He’s loyal and he fought for every one of us. He lived for us, so we lived for him. No matter what else happened out there, we had each other.” She checked her watch. “I’m going to leave the DVD with you. Everything I said to you is in a video report I made and put on the DVD. I think you’ll probably want to show it to his security team. They shouldn’t get a half story from the TV.”
“How is Quinn?” David asked.
“Good. He’ll have a couple more weeks of recovery and Dr. Jackson is already discussing a place for him in the SGC. He worked with them for years before his people begged him to come back. He has a photographic memory—I’m very jealous. If I had a photographic memory…” She sighed. “It’s the stuff of dreams really. I could have several more degrees. I always wanted to get one in biomechanical engineering.”
“How many do you have?” Matt asked with a frown.
“Well.” She had the grace to blush. “Seven. I have undergrad degrees in biology, medicine, and chemistry. Then of course I have an MD, a Masters in physiology and two PhDs… genetics and biochemistry.”
“Why?” Patrick asked, clearly amused.
“I couldn’t get an insurance company to insure me for malpractice until I was eighteen so I had no recourse but to continue school.” She frowned. “You know—I’m actually sort of under-degreed for the SGC. Rodney has nine.”
“Nine,” Patrick repeated.
“Yeah—he has undergrad degrees in mechanical engineering, astrophysics, and chemistry. Then he has Masters Degrees in astrophysics, theoretical math, and engineering. Then PhDs in astrophysics, theoretical mathematics, and aeronautical engineering.” She blushed under the scrutiny. “Dr. Carter has ten and Dr. Zelenka has eight. He’d have more but he had an unfortunate disagreement with his former country’s government and had to leave before he could defend his last PhD.”
She frowned at the Admiral and glanced towards David who only shrugged. “210.”
“Smart and beautiful grandchildren,” Cameron told her with a little grin.
“Oh.” She laughed and glanced briefly at David with a blush. “Yeah. Dr. Kusanagi has this program where you can mix people together and get a statistical analysis on what your kids would look like.” She stood. “I had super model kids with all four of you.” She grinned when they laughed and shot David a look. “Of course, I had the best looking kids with Major Lorne—I wonder what that means?”
“It means you can’t ever talk to him again,” David responded. “Ever.”
“Ha.” She sat down on the couch by Sean who hadn’t said anything. He was fiddling with his mobile PC. “So, hey, this is a lot to take in.”
“Yeah.” Sean nodded. “I’m fielding questions from McKay’s website and I’ve thrown all their phones to voice mail. Declan pulled four guys back in for extra guard duty. There are reporters on the front gate.”
“That’s not exactly what I mean.”
He nodded again. “You bombed the shit out of them right?”
“I totally celebrated my independence day on the Genii.”
“Good.” Sean swallowed. “What the fuck is wrong with those people that they would feed another human being to one of those things? Christ, is that what we have to look forward to when they get here? Are they going to turn the humans in this galaxy into—that?”
“We’ll work hard to educate and prepare everyone for what is coming with the Wraith. Beyond what we are doing with our own people—we are trying to reach out to everyone we can to make sure primitive populations in the galaxy don’t fall prey to Wraith worship and/or situations like the Genii. Frankly the Genii weren’t unique in the Pegasus galaxy. The difference is that most of this people in the Milky Way have faced the Go’uld and most recently the Ori. If we don’t defeat the Ori before the Wraith show up—I don’t know what will happen.”
“Why don’t we just show the Wraith where the Ori are instead? Let them fight each other and leave us out of it.”
“We can’t risk the Ori turning one Wraith into a Pryor. It would be… it would be like Hitler and the Devil having a love child.”
“Right. That would suck.” He glanced towards the upstairs. “Does Declan need to bring someone in to sleep in the armory?”
“No. He’s down for the count and John isn’t going to sleep.” Jennifer sighed. “Look, McKay isn’t suicidal.”
“You didn’t see him sitting there with that gun in his lap. Declan and I did.”
“He said he’d sat there for hours with it,” Jennifer reminded him. “If Rodney wanted to kill himself there is nothing that would stop him. You’ve spent a lot of time with him—you do understand that with mental abilities like his—with it comes a unique vulnerability, and at times he can appear quite fragile. He’s not fragile, though. You don’t go through what he did and come out fragile. Trust me—even if his father hadn’t been a monster, going to college at thirteen years old doesn’t not make for a weak man—mentally or emotionally. Could he kill himself? Absolutely. Will he think about it again? Probably. Would he? Frankly, no. He’s just too arrogant for it. He isn’t one of those people that will ever think the world is better off without him. He’s pretty convinced and rightly so that we’d be FUBAR without him.”
“This stuff is going to make the trip harder.”
“Yes.” Jennifer admitted. “But we’ll be there to keep them fed and off the ledge. Make sure to keep their hotel arrangements are as private as possible and take the whole floor whenever you can.”
“Done. I did that when I first set it up. We have a pretty large crowd traveling with us anyway. Two pilots, six soldiers, two security guards, you, me, Declan, David and then of course the Colonel and Rodney. So it was easy to rent out a whole floor. Most of the hotels bent over backwards to make arrangements as soon as I dropped his name. Sometimes I forget that he’s a billionaire.” Sean stood. “We have an empty guest room?”
She grinned. “I think I’ll find somewhere to sleep without any problem.”
He laughed. “Right. Okay. Just let me know if you need anything. All the rooms have an intercom that connects to me.”
“Get some sleep.”
* * * *
“So, I thought we were a secret.” She dropped on the bed and then stared at David as he prowled around his room in Rodney’s house. All of the Sheppards had space there, at the SGC, and there was probably some discreet apartment shopping happening as well.
“Yeah, until I came home looking like I’d had hot sex in a supply closet.” He sighed and crawled onto the bed beside her. “Just once in a while I’d like a family that wasn’t so observant and smart.”
Jennifer laughed. “No, it’s not a bad thing. I’m not worried. You were the one that thought John would blow a gasket cause I’m like the little sister he never had.”
“He implied that he’d hurt me if I fucked you over,” David admitted. “Since I’ve sparred with the man—it’s a threat I have to take seriously.” He propped his head up on one hand. “Besides, it isn’t the real reason you know. We live in each other’s pockets pretty much all the time. I don’t see that changing any time soon because we spent so much time apart due to our careers and John’s estrangement from Dad. Now that we’re all together in the same place and all of those bridges are repaired no one seems willing to take a step back or loosen the ties.”
“You were for me. I didn’t have to share you with any of them.” He sighed. “That sounds horrible.”
“No.” She touched his face. “Not at all. I really get it, but the upside is now you don’t have to fake injury to get to see me while we’re at work.”
He laughed. “Yeah, there is that. The marines were starting to look at me like I was a bit of a jinx until they figured out that I just have the hots for you. Fortunately, John is so protective of you that none of them talk about you at all. They just know better.”
* * * *
Rodney trailed his fingers over the keys of his piano and offered a small smile when Jennifer slipped onto the bench beside him. She was wearing a pair of sleep pants that probably belonged to Sean and a Navy Academy t-shirt that had seen better days and hung to mid-thigh.
“Sucked into the Sheppard vortex.”
She blushed. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Not a bad place to be,” Cameron said from the breakfast bar.
“No, not at all,” Rodney admitted. “I wrote a song – but I think it would be better with a woman’s voice. Wanna give it a try?”
She nodded. “Sure.” She arranged music out in front of her. “Okay. Give me a few minutes.”
By the time she felt comfortable everyone had come down for breakfast, but they were both caught up in the music. They moved through the song together, Rodney joining in her in the chorus like they’d sang the song a hundred times before. Then when they finished they giggled a little.
“That’s awesome.” She bumped his shoulder. “You really should think about finding someone to sell this stuff for you.”
Rodney snorted. “I don’t need the money. Sean likes to put them up as podcasts on my website.”
“The last one I put up has had five hundred thousand hits in the past month alone.” Sean responded ruefully. “Of course it’s also the one that Colonel Sheppard said was his favorite in that People Magazine interview. I had to label it so people would stop emailing and asking. The forum is full of people asking for a vid-cast of that with you playing at the piano.”
“So not happening,” Rodney muttered.
“It’ll be good for your image,” Sean grinned over his coffee. “I see Maggie hit and run with this morning with breakfast.”
“Yeah,” Cameron confirmed. “She wanted to get off the property before the reporters got bad so she could shop for Jonas. Lam sent over a special diet for him because they had to operate on his stomach.”
“You should do the video thing. It would be fun,” John said as he found a seat at the bar.
Rodney rolled his eyes. “Sean, tell him what the second most popular section on the forum is.”
Sean laughed. “They scour the Internet and find pictures of both of you. One of them even managed to find a few high school year books… so we’ve got pictures from like ninth grade up on the forum.”
John frowned. “Seriously?”
“And the third?” Rodney prodded.
Sean sighed. “I hesitate to tell him.”
Rodney chuckled. “Apparently there is a very active community of writers on the forum as well who like to make up stories about us and our sex lives.”
“Like slash fiction—like Star Trek slash fan fiction?” John demanded. “Are you fucking serious?”
“Oh yeah.” Sean chuckled. “There are entire Live Journal communities dedicated to it. A newsletter that gets posted on the forum.”
“Isn’t that illegal or something?”
“Well, they always carefully mark it as fictional and claim it’s for entertainment or whatever.” Rodney waved it off. “Can’t really do much about it. We’d look like assholes if we sued them.”
“Besides, some of it is really hot.” Sean laughed when Sheppard glared. “Seriously hot.”
John pressed his lips together but failed to keep a smile at bay. “Asshole.”
“Come on, how many people have personalized porn?”
John stared for a minute. “You’re a scary person, Sean.”
“Hey you know I do have rules.” Sean promised. “I don’t let them post links to anything derogatory, no D/s, really kinky stuff, cheating, or unhealthy stuff. Most tend to obey the rules because I let them play there.” He laughed then. “The fourth most popular section of the forum is full of scientists who take turns baiting him into arguments. Those threads get thousands of hits a day.”
“I’m thinking about writing in the fan fiction section and telling the other scientists to kiss my ass.” Rodney stood up from the piano and laughed when John glared. “We have way much hotter sex than they write about.”
John snagged his hand and pulled him close. “Dad, you are not allowed to go to the forum.”
“Understood,” Patrick said from behind the newspaper. “And appreciated.”
* * * *
The drive from the airport to the television studio was mostly done in silence. Three SUVs took them, and he kept Rodney in the car until security had swept the area and deemed in safe for them to enter the building. He’d put the entire security situation in Major Lorne’s hands willingly because he could admit that it was really far beyond it at this point. John had never felt so emotionally and mentally exhausted.
The trip through the lobby was done in silence. People stopped and stared, some with wonder and others with the kind of sadness he hadn’t seen since he’d left the Pegasus galaxy. He hadn’t ever wanted that for the people of Earth and damn Maybourne for giving it to them. If John had his way—the Wraith would have been faceless enemies and while the people might understand how they fed –they never would have witnessed it.
Declan stuck close to them both as they moved through the ridiculous hair and make-up process and were then mic’d. By the time they’d gotten to the stage and had met with Larry briefly it was time to start.
Seconds from live TV, Rodney turned to him. “This is fucked, just so you know.”
“Yeah.” John laughed and shot a very surprised Larry King an apologetic smile.
Larry just grinned back and turned to the camera. “Tonight I am honored to have on my stage Colonel John Sheppard and Dr. Rodney McKay. As many of you know, Colonel Sheppard was only recently returned to us after being taken off-world by a planet we had once believed to be an ally in our galactic community.” He turned to them. “Gentlemen, it’s been a very hard year for the two of you both. I don’t even know where to start with questions so I would just like to say thank you instead. Thank you both for your service to our country and to our planet.”
John almost frowned. “I… do you know that is the first time someone besides the President has done that?”
Larry smiled then. “You can be assured it won’t be the last.”
John nodded. “And you’re welcome.”
“Colonel, it’s been several months since the Stargate Program was revealed to the public. It’s been met with disbelief, shock, and even some outrage by the world at large. What would you say to the people who are angry about the secrecy?”
John considered the ‘canned’ response the Pentagon had given him. The one he normally parroted in every interview and dismissed it. “When I first found out about the program I was shocked, overwhelmed, exited, and just a little bit pissed off. It’s hard not to be when you find out that people have fighting and dying for you for years and you never knew it. It was hard to get my head around the idea that so many had already sacrificed themselves for our world. That large scale battles with enemies so advanced I could barely understand them had happened in the space above our planet and I knew nothing about it. That our planet had nearly been overrun by the replicators – little bug robots—which is about the most Star Trek thing I’d heard during the entire debriefing.”
Larry laughed and John offered him a wicked little smile.
“That being said, if we had known about the constant threat of invasion we’ve faced for the past fifteen years—our world will be far different than it is now. I’ve been to worlds that live in the constant shadow of annihilation. I’ve seen entire populations wiped out in a blink of an eye by the Wraith. When a society faces that kind of threat on a daily basis for years – it changes them, weakens their spirit, alters their values, and makes life about survival and nothing else. Loyalties, love, friendship, and all the things that make life worth living fall away. I for one am content with the knowledge that because of the Stargate Program and the people who have given themselves selflessly to the program that the people of our world did not have to live with the threat of the Go’uld system lords. Because if we had—if our world had lived with that threat on a global scale—I don’t believe we would have the strength left to fight the greatest enemy we’ll ever face.”
“Yes, the Wraith.”
“You fought the Wraith for a year before you were forced to abandon Atlantis.”
“The Ancients fought them for many years before they abandoned Atlantis and their entire galaxy to return here to Earth. What chance do we actually stand, Colonel?”
“We aren’t the Ancients. We aren’t going to hide behind technology until we can’t hide anymore and then run. We won against the Go’uld, who ruled over the entire galaxy for thousands of years. We’ve pushed back the Ori who outgunned us at every turn. We will defeat the Ori and kick them completely out of our galaxy. The Wraith can’t compete with us on a technological level. They beat the Ancients in the past with sheer numbers. It won’t happen this time.”
“There probably isn’t a person in our audience tonight who hasn’t seen the footage of you being fed on by a Wraith. The SGC released a statement clarifying the events that lead to it and explained why you are here today. But there are some conspiracy theorists who believe that this attack happened recently and the government doesn’t want to admit the Wraith were already here. What are your thoughts on that?”
John took a deep breath and glanced at Rodney who had covered his hand carefully to stop the visible shaking. “I’ll be honest. I was furious when I realized the footage of that had been released. I’d been promised at the highest level of government that it would never be public knowledge.”
“It is clearly a very painful event in your life and it must be difficult to relive it.”
John shook his head. “I don’t need to see the video footage of it to relive it. I didn’t want it released to the public because no one else on this planet deserved to have that kind of horror thrown into their mind. You’ll never get it out – it’ll linger in your head and in your dreams for the rest of your life and I regret that for everyone who has seen it. I never wanted my family to see it. No one should watch their son, their brother, their lover—murdered by a monster. Yet—I had to sit in my house last night and show my family the entire video because I didn’t want them to see it all cut up later—so they wouldn’t be surprised by it in the future.”
John looked down at Rodney’s hand on his. “There are children all over this planet who email me. They tell me about their day at school, sometimes in a language I don’t speak so I have to get it translated. They tell me what they want to be when they grow up. It kills me to think about a single one of them watching me being fed on. Watching me die and then revived only to have it done again.”
“You would protect the whole planet from the reality of the Wraith?”
“Yes. I would have. Knowing they suck the life out of us is a lot different than literally seeing them suck the life out of someone.” John paused. “And for the record, that recording is nearly three years old. I can’t make anyone believe that if they don’t want to—but the fact is that if the Wraith were in this galaxy I wouldn’t be here. I would be out there kicking their asses.”
Larry blinked briefly and then nodded with a small smile. “Dr. McKay, you shut down the power to six states, reprogrammed thousands of stargates to find Colonel Sheppard, and then actually traveled on the ship that retrieved Colonel Sheppard four days ago… these last few weeks must have been difficult for you.”
“Difficult yes, of course. But by the time we reached the planet where he was being held we were all just really pissed off.” He offered a small smile when Larry laughed. “I can assure you—no one in this galaxy will consider taking someone from this planet without thinking about Langara first and if they are smart they will leave Earth alone.”
“A colleague—a Dr. Cole Fellson from Columbia—told a newspaper reporter recently that he considered you one of the most dangerous men on the planet. How do you feel about that?”
“Huh, you know, Dr. Fellson isn’t as stupid as I thought. Maybe I’ll call him and see if he needs a job.” Rodney shrugged. “It would be idiotic to assume that someone that can build a nuclear weapon before his first cup coffee isn’t dangerous. But don’t worry, Larry, I use all of my powers for good. Almost always.”
Larry laughed, genuine amusement bright in his eyes. “Good to know.” He leaned forward a little. “There has been a lot of interest in your personal relationship.”
“Yes, yes.” Rodney waved him off. “What is left to discuss? I think marriage is an outdated and archaic concept. We have a cat, five obscenely pampered dogs, and we’ll adopt children after we kill all the Wraith.”
“Well, there’s the sex,” John put in. “No one has ever actually asked us about the sex. They just ask questions around the sex.”
“Hmmm.” Rodney chuckled. “Maybe they can just tell we have fantastic sex.”
“It is amazing.” John leaned back in his chair. “Archaic, huh? So, you’re saying you really wouldn’t marry me?”
Rodney turned and looked at him. “Are you doing this on live national television?”
“Yeah, I think I am.”
“You, the least spontaneous man I know is on national TV talking about marriage?” Rodney raised an eyebrow.
“You’re right. I’m not remotely spontaneous.” John pulled a radio out of his pocket and slid into his ear. “Apollo, I’m ready for the package.”
Even the people behind the camera stopped moving as a small flash of white light left a hand carved wooden box on the counter in front of Sheppard.
“I do think marriage is an archaic and terribly mundane,” Rodney admitted.
“I know that about you.”
Rodney inclined his head. “I’m not hyphenating my name. I think that’s stupid.”
“I can live with that,” John promised, clearly very amused.
“What’s in the box?”
“Oh, the box.” John grinned and picked it up carefully and opened it. “Funny thing about the box.”
Larry King laughed, obviously stunned by the turn of events.
“Yeah, it’s a funny little wooden box. What’s in the box, John?” Rodney leaned forward and his eyes widened. “Oh.”
John smirked. “For the home audience, these are warrior-bonding rings from a planet called Baneara. They fought the Go’uld for thousands of years—never yielding or surrendering even in the face of annihilation. Men within their culture often mate with women for procreation but they chose another warrior—another soldier among their brethren for pair-bonding.”
John paused briefly as if he was considering his words. “The origin of the rings is rooted in the belief that they would be a slave to nothing—not a person nor a belief. They represent the choice to fight and to pick a partner to fight with. The Banearan believe that sharing the burden of battle is the key to victory. The rings themselves are made of an inert but exotic metal that allow the rings to physically bond with the wearer. Once they are put on, they never come off. The rings are always made in sets of two because once they are put on they link the men that wear them mentally and physically for life. It takes two months for the rings to be crafted and they can only be earned when one of the men within the potential pair-bond presents himself before their entire nation and accepts the challenge of their best warriors. The challenge lasts three days. To date, I’m the only human to have survived the ritual and earned the rings. I received the news I could retrieve the rings the day before I was taken.”
Several mouths around the room dropped open including Larry’s.
Rodney looked at the rings for a long minute and then turned towards John. “So are you going to ask for real or do I just get that half-assed question? Not to sound like a girl—because I’m clearly not.”
John grinned. “No, definitely not a girl. That’s one of the things I like best about you actually.” He leaned forward and after a few seconds took up one of Rodney’s hands, turned him so they were face to face. “When I came home from the first Atlantis mission, I thought my world would never be right again. I was wrong. You filled up all of my empty and lost places practically from the very beginning. I don’t know what I did to deserve you, Mer. I’m not even sure I have what it takes to be the man you need but I do know that I love you. I know that I never want to know a single day without you. I’m asking you to share all of my battles with me and I am promising that every fight that is yours will be mine. Will you marry me?”
“No more questions or conditions?” John asked amused. “No rant about this being on live TV and everyone on the planet being in our business?”
“Oh, trust me, you are so getting it when we get in the car.” He turned and put the lid back on the box. “We are not getting married in Ottawa or Vegas.”
“You sure? Because we’ll be in Vegas in two days.”
“Positive. We’re getting married on Mars.” He tucked the box into his suit pocket and turned to Larry. “I’d invite you, Larry, but I’m pretty sure space is going to be limited.”
Larry grinned. “Gentlemen, I am honored and humbled to be in here in this moment with you. My sincere congratulations.” He turned to the camera. “We’ll see you after the commercial break.”
* * * *
Rodney’s phone was ringing immediately after they got into the SUV. He answered it with obvious reluctance and then held back from his ear for a few seconds. “Do you mind not screaming in my ear, seriously?” He handed John the phone. “My sister thinks you’re insane but she loves you anyway.”
John took the phone with a small laugh and shared a glance with his brother who was in the front seat of the SUV. “Jeannie. Hi, yes, well you know. I’m a glutton for punishment.” He laughed. “I felt bad for the cat—not having a stable home is bad for his disposition.”
Rodney rolled his eyes and poked David. “You knew, right?”
David looked back at him. “Yeah, he talked with Ellis on the way back to Earth about a trip to get the rings because the Banearan have their gate set up to kill anyone that tries to come to their planet through it. Some kind of DNA thing. If you aren’t Banearan by birth—you don’t ever come out the other end of the gate. Their first defense against the Ori.”
The moment John ended the phone call, Rodney turned. “How many men have died in that ritual?”
“Hundreds are maimed for life or die every year. Getting the rings is a tremendous achievement on Baneara. On average only five pair are awarded a year to off-worlders. All Jaffa. I was invited to participate in the challenge while I was training with Master Youin. He is from Baneara. I had to fight fifty men in three days.”
“Did you kick all their asses?” Rodney demanded.
“Of course.” John glared. “How could you even ask that question? I don’t ask you if your bombs are going to explode, do I?”
* * * *
Jennifer had a scanner and Rodney had his tablet PC. They were both staring at the rings in the box being very careful not touch them.
“You can hold them,” John said with a grin. “I didn’t tell the whole story on TV.”
Jennifer frowned. “What’s the whole story?”
“The rings bond to the wearers only after the union is physically consummated. Body fluid exchange. I didn’t think it would be a good idea to say that on Larry King.”
“I’m taking you don’t mean a kiss?” Jennifer went back to the scanner. “Penetration by both parties?”
David Sheppard sputtered.
Jennifer glanced at him. “This is for science! We’ve never even gotten close to a pair of these rings before. They are the stuff of legends among the Jaffa. Is Teal’c jealous?”
“No.” John shook his head. “Teal’c earned a pair as well…” He frowned as he said it. “Well, shit.”
Rodney started laughing. “You didn’t ask why he was getting them?”
“No. I mean the entire ritual is done in silence. The only thing you hear is the sound of bones breaking and the occasional moan of manly agony.” John pulled both rings out of the box and they projected a very small amount of ambient light. “They aren’t Ancient if that’s what you’re thinking. They are keyed to my DNA. After the… well you know. They’ll be keyed to Rodney as well.”
“So,” Jennifer started again. “Penetration by both parties.”
John laughed. “Yes. Repeated penetration actually. It takes a full week for the bonding to complete. We’ll be wasted and useless for anything by day four.”
“Daily exposure then?”
“Yes. You know you’re sucking all of the fun out of this,” John informed her.
She raised one eyebrow. “Does oral sex count as a fluid exchange?”
“Jennifer!” David groaned from behind a pillow. “Seriously, stop.”
“It’s a perfectly valid question,” Rodney muttered as he finished another scan. He carefully picked up one of the rings. “They are a little big.”
“They will shrink and expand to fit as needed.”
“Does it hurt when they bond?”
“Master Youin said no. It’s a chemical bond, not a physical one. You’ll be incapable of taking it off yourself.” John frowned as if he wasn’t sure if the old Jaffa would lie to him or not. “But they are the people that have solid gold poured into their foreheads.”
“There is Ancient writing carved into these.” Rodney lifted his head and smiled. “Oh.”
“You read Ancient, right?”
“Of course,” Rodney sighed and then sent him the newly developed ‘how dare you ask’ glare.
“So we can just, you know, not talk about that part.”
“Yes.” Rodney smiled as he gave the ring back. “But I agree. I totally agree.”
John leaned in and kissed his mouth. “Good, because I’m done talking about my stupid feelings for the near future.” The dark grey rings brightened in his hand and then darkened when he lifted completely away.
“Will they light up like that when you wear them?” Jennifer asked.
“Yes, a very weak ambient light when we touch. It’s more like the metal warms slightly.” John put them back in the box. “I need to check with Declan. Check out the room service menu—I’m starving.”
Rodney nodded as he put the cover back on the box.
Jennifer waited until he left and turned. “Well?”
He flushed. “It says ‘You’re where I belong’.”
“That’s so sweet.” Jennifer went back to her scanner. “They put off a different kind of energy when he holds them but the metal isn’t putting off any radiation. I can’t wait to take blood after the bonding takes place.” She grinned. “I’m your first stop after the honeymoon, McKay, or I’m going to be pissed.”
* * * *
“I’m not a warrior.”
John turned on his side. “Really?”
“Yeah, really.” Rodney frowned at him.
“I have news for you, Mer, there isn’t a man or woman in the SGC that would agree with you on that subject. What you did to Langara is no secret among them and the actions you’ve taken the past – how you took a hit from the Wraith weapon to protect Sam, how you flew in an X-302 with O’Neill so that you could control the hyperspace program that helped get rid of a Stargate that was about to explode, and then spent three hours in the water with O’Neill waiting for rescue. He’ll tell anyone that you kept him alive and he means that.”
“I couldn’t come back without him. Sam would have never… you know I used to be jealous of what they have. Not because I wanted either one of them but because they love each so much. I didn’t think I’d ever have that.” Rodney leaned in and kissed him. “You’re crazy.”
“It’s a good thing I like crazy.” Rodney moved closer. “Come here and show me how much you love me.”
“That could take all night.”
“Good…keep me awake… I don’t want to lose another minute.”
Read the Next story in this series:
A Wild and Wicked Wind