* * * *
“You know the beauty of showering with you is that all of the enlisted men make like the wind when we come into the locker room.”
John watched him turn under the shower spray. “Mer, there isn’t a man on this base that would stay in the shower area with you at this point. Trust me on that. If you were alone you’d probably have a couple of self-appointed guards on the door.”
“Speaking of self-appointed guards, I had a talk with one of my mine last night.” His gaze flicked towards the security camera and he sighed. “I think I’ve got that situation under control.”
“Oh yeah?” John scrubbed shampoo into his hair and ducked under the spray. “He okay?”
“Yeah. I’m going to help him hook up with someone in Geology.” He sighed. “It’s not exactly a soft science, but it’s not anything great either. Also, he’s looking into getting into Officer Candidate School.”
“Good for him. Going enlisted first is smart; experience wins out.” He glanced towards Rodney when he heard him hiss in pain. “You okay.”
“Yeah, just lifting my arms pulls at my ribs a little.” He finished washing his hair quickly and rinsed. “I need to go by the infirmary and get them re-taped I guess.”
They were getting dressed in the locker room area when two teams came all of them talking and laughing. They came to a stop and hovered near the front of the locker rooms when they caught sight of the Colonel.
John waved them off when they made moves to leave and wait. “Carry on, gentlemen.” He dropped his dog tags over his head and pulled on a t-shirt. “I see the lot of you are back from Planet Mudball.”
“Yes, sir.” Lt. Gerald Harris grinned. “I tried to convince Cadman and Sorensen that mud wrestling was a cultural requirement. They didn’t buy it.”
John laughed. “Be careful, Harris, either one of those women could make you eat your P-90.”
Harris glanced towards Rodney and frowned. “Hey, Doc, what the hell happened to you?”
John glanced McKay’s way. He’d pulled the tape off his ribs and bruising covered most of his chest area in vivid detail. He hadn’t allowed himself to really dwell on that part of the things during his shower. “McKay took a Wraith weapon set to kill in the chest yesterday.” He quickly laced his boots and stood. “Need help with the shirt, Mer?”
Rodney nodded. “Yeah. It’s not happening by myself.” He let John take the shirt and glanced around the room at the soldiers who had all stopped to stare. “I’m sure you’ll hear the story soon enough. We had a misfire in the lab. No one else was injured. It’s fine.”
“The Wraith gun isn’t a pulse weapon—it has an electrical charge.” Harris frowned. “Where did the bruises…”
John pulled the shirt over Rodney’s head and helped him get his arms in silence and then he sighed. “Dr. Carter and Dr. Zelenka had to perform CPR. They cracked his ribs trying to get his heart to start. If you make it down to the mess for dinner you can get the whole story.” He shot them all a look and they immediately turned and went about their business.
“Curiosity is not a crime.” Rodney pointed out.
John snorted and cupped his elbow. “Come on, it’s past time to see Jennifer.”
* * * *
“So, when does Jeannie get back from visiting her in-laws?”
“Next week.” Rodney spread out on the bed. “Great pills, ya know.”
“I can tell,” John leaned down and kissed him. “Sleep, Mer, and I’ll have my radio on if you need me.”
“Yeah.” He touched John’s neck and then curled into the covers to sleep.
John watched him for a long minute and then forced himself to leave their quarters. The last month had basically been two kinds of hell, and twice something in this mountain had been a threat to him – and John hadn’t been there to protect him from either. It was a hard thing to get his head around. He wandered into the gym and wasn’t surprised to find Ronon and Teal’c there. The two men had bonded over the last year and a half – when they were on the base, they were practically inseparable. Of course, they practically lived together off base as well but he didn’t invest a whole lot of thought into that.
“You need a work out?” Ronon asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh yeah.” John swallowed hard. “But I think I might hurt you so we’ll hold off.”
Ronon snorted. “If you hurt me I deserve it. Get changed.”
* * * *
Matt leaned back in his chair and watched his brother as he moved through a sparring session with the two aliens. It blew his mind when he let himself think about it. Teal’c the one hundred year old Jaffa hadn’t even broken a sweat. Ronon, in his twenties and quick tempered, had and his impatience often got the better of him. He figured that either man could kill him with their pinky toe.
“Well hello, Matthew.”
He glanced up and swallowed hard. “Jesus, Cameron.” Matt shot up. “Huh, I didn’t realize you were here.”
“I didn’t realize you were my CO’s little brother,” Cameron returned dryly. “Of course, at the time I hadn’t even met John.” He took the hand Matt offered and grinned. “Don’t worry I won’t say anything.”
Matt figured he wouldn’t have to. He’d never been good at keeping secrets from his brothers. Cam sat down in a chair next to the one he’d been in and Matt reluctantly followed suit. “So, huh, what happened to your posting in California?”
Cam grinned. “Sorry, I lied. I wasn’t exactly at liberty to tell you where I was really going. I heard you flew an X-302 yesterday—busted records left and right on speed, maneuvering, and targeting. You had Generals coming in their pants from here to Area 51.”
Matt flushed. “It’s a good ship.”
“Yes. I love the X-302. Wait until you get one into space. That’s a ride.” He winced when he looked out into the gym. “So, hey, you should know I slept with your brother.”
Matt glared. “You fucker, he’s in a relationship!”
“It was way before the relationship.” Cam defended. “Hell, I should also confess to getting with Rodney, too—also before the relationship. I wouldn’t interfere with what they have.”
“So, huh, something of a slut?”
Cameron laughed. “Well, not exactly but I do have a type.” He looked at Matt. “You and John are cut from the same cloth you know.”
“Brilliant bastard.” Cameron sighed. “It’s like orbiting the sun to be honest—eventually the gravity of the man just sucks you right in.” He frowned. “John’s in a mood. I thought McKay was okay?”
“He is.” Matt shrugged. “But hell, he watched him die right there on the floor. It wasn’t exactly a good day for either of them.” He stretched his legs out in front of him. “Should I apologize for bailing before you woke up?”
“Nah, I figured you might. It was obviously a very new experience for you.”
“That bad, huh?” Matt laughed.
“Actually, no.” Cameron turned and looked at him. “It was kind of amazing. I certainly wished I hadn’t let you get away with giving me just your first name. Do you know how many Navy pilots have the first name of Matthew?”
“Quite a few?”
“Quite a few hundred and none of them were stationed where you said you were going. Also, I figured you might have lied about your name, too.” He raised one eyebrow.
“Yeah, well, I was going into combat. Couldn’t really say where.” Matt looked out into the gym. “He’s been going strong for nearly two hours.”
“They aren’t really doing anything heavy. This is more like head discipline than anything else.” Cameron leaned forward and took a deep breath. “I should go. Wouldn’t do for the Colonel to get the idea that I’m hitting on his baby brother.”
Matt watched him stand and walk away with a frown. “I’m a grown man, Cameron.”
“Well in that case, Commander Sheppard, I’m on level ten, room 213. I’ll leave the door unlocked for an hour.”
* * * *
John paused in the doorway of the observation deck. “So, what’s up?”
Matt flushed. “You’re a little scary you know.”
John laughed. “I use all of my powers for good or at least my version of what is good. But that’s not why you are up here staring a hole in the floor. Fess up.” He slouched down in a chair beside him. “How long have you been watching?”
“About two hours. You just missed Colonel Mitchell.”
“Saw him in the hallway.” John rubbed his head with a towel and then sighed. “Did he hit on you? I can talk to him if it made you uncomfortable… I know you’re probably just about a wet dream for the man. You’re so his type.”
Matt laughed. “It’s only fair I suppose. The last two years I spent having some seriously wet dreams about him.”
“Fuck me.” John rubbed his face.
“Yeah, apparently he did.” Matt made a face.
“Oh.” John sucked in a breath. “Well, not exactly. I don’t do that with just anyone, you know and far as I know neither does he. A hand job here and there—yeah—but anal sex is a big step, a really big step for some men. He may be something of a player… but he has his limits.”
“Okay, I had no clue.” Matt focused on the floor in front of him.
“So Cameron Mitchell was your one night stand?” John asked just to get the question out and into the room.
“Yes. We crossed paths in an airport in Washington. Both of us on commercial flights because military transport was going to take too long. I was heading to Iraq and he apparently was heading back here.” Matt rubbed his face. “Is this going to be a problem, John?”
“What? No. I like Cam. He’s a good guy. I don’t know how I feel about him being your big gay experiment—well you know what—I do know how I feel about that. I’m actually relieved.”
“Relieved?” Matt asked, suddenly amused.
“Yeah, I know him and I know he didn’t hurt you. I worried about that but didn’t want to ask in front of David. He’s also…” John laughed. “A really good lay.”
“Yeah.” Matt took a deep breath. “So the anal sex thing—what you’re saying is—what exactly?”
“It’s intimate.” John fiddled with the towel in his lap and sighed. “Really intimate. It’s a vulnerable state to be in actually and if you’re with someone you can’t trust not to hurt you… well it could even be a dangerous position to be in.” He glanced at Matt and laughed softly at the blush crossing his brother’s face. “Wow, that must have been one awesome one-night stand.”
Matt pinched the bridge of his nose. “John—I.” He sucked in a deep breath. “Have you ever taken one look at someone and just fell to pieces on the inside?”
John stood and walked to the window and considered how to answer that question. The simple answer was—yes. The hard answer was ‘yes and I don’t know how I could ever live without him’. He turned and looked at Matt—saw the confusion that no man at thirty-one should have to live with and sighed. “Yeah. I figure one day soon I’m going to ask the asshole to marry me if he doesn’t get himself killed in a lab accident or something.”
“Oh. Wow.” Matt slumped down in the chair. “Dad will be… fascinated. You know he joined some support group for parents with gay kids.”
“Shut the fuck up!” John’s mouth dropped open.
“I shit you not.” Matt chuckled at John’s shock. “He said he needed a peer group to discuss his situation with. Granted, he’s apparently a celebrity among them since the two of you were on national TV and stuff. And – huh—last week he came home with brochures on surrogacy and gay adoption. So, don’t think you and Rodney are getting out of the grandkids lecture.”
“Oh, Jesus Christ.” John shook his head. “And I thought the Prime Minister of Canada was…” He blew air between his lips and then laughed softly. “So, huh, Cameron really rocked your world, huh? I mean when you talked about it before—you didn’t go into details but to look at you now—you look wrecked.”
“It was honest, perfect.” Matt let his head fall back against the seat. “It didn’t even matter that it was a guy. I’d never even considered having sex with another man before, not even an odd masturbation fantasy with a threesome – just never. Then he was there looking me over with those eyes and offering me his hand and asking me to have dinner since we’re both stuck over night. You know how women act like you should feel honored that they let you touch them?”
“Yeah,” John nodded. “I know exactly.”
“Well, it was pretty damn amazing to be with someone who didn’t have that attitude going on. And Christ, his mouth.”
“I know.” John smirked a little. “Sorry.”
Matt laughed. “Christ—I should leave him alone, right? He’s obviously a slut.”
“Not so much,” John admitted. “As far as I know there hasn’t been anyone in a while. I know the scuttlebutt around the place is that he’s dating Carolyn Lam but he’s just providing her a buffer so the men won’t hit on her. She doesn’t handle that kind of attention well. And if he’s honestly making a move on you—Matt—he’s serious about it. He really wouldn’t fuck around with my kid brother and risk hurting you. I so wouldn’t handle that with the grace a full grown man should.”
“I already had a gay freak out on him once,” Matt admitted. “What if I hurt him?”
“I’ll have to kick your ass. He’s a good man—one of the best in my command and that would suck. Dad would surely ground us if I kicked your ass.”
* * * *
Matt let himself into room 213 and pulled the door shut behind him. Cameron Mitchell was sprawled in his big bed dressed in a pair of sweats and a t-shirt, a laptop beside him. “So, huh, I’m probably going to freak out again. Just so you know.”
Cameron smiled. “At least I’ll know how to find your ass this time.” He inclined his head. “Lock the door and come here.”
Matt locked the door and walked to the stand at the end of the bed. “I don’t share well; you should know that up front.”
Closing his laptop, Cameron chuckled softly. “I think that’s a family trait actually.” He put the laptop on his nightstand and slipped off the bed. “For the record, I wouldn’t have invited you here for something casual. I’m not a stupid man and fucking over my CO’s little brother would be career suicide.”
Matt sucked in a breath as Cameron reached out and cupped the back of his neck and pulled him close. “He told me if I hurt you he’d kick my ass.”
“See, that’s a man with priorities.” Cam brushed his lips over Matt’s and sighed when he shifted closer. “I should have seen the family resemblance. I feel like an idiot for not realizing…”
“My first name is Patrick by the way.” Matt ran his hands up Cameron’s side. “Patrick Matthew Sheppard, Jr.”
“Cameron Scott Mitchell.” Cam curled his fingers into the front of Matt’s BDUs. “We should probably be discreet… your father?”
“Dad is already in Gay Parent group therapy. He’ll recover.”
Cameron laughed softly. “Christ, he’s going to kill me for debauching his baby boy.”
“Then you’d better make it worth it.” Matt pulled his t-shirt from his pants and over his head. Dog tags snagged briefly and then swung back into place over his chest.
“It’s already worth it,” Cam promised and covered his mouth in the next second with his own.
They groaned together, breath mingled as tongues licked into explore and taste. By the time, they reached the bed they’d managed to strip, only tangling up briefly in Matt’s boots.
* * * *
“So, hey, we should talk.” John leaned against the doorway of his father’s quarters. How his dad had gotten base quarters at the SGC was something of a mystery as most of that stuff crossed his desk, but that was unimportant. He came in and shut the door. “It might be a little much for you so I brought some beer.”
Patrick laughed. “Christ, John.”
He resolutely handed his father a beer and sprawled in a chair across from him with one of his own. “Since surprises fuck with your head—I’m just going to get this out so you can spew whatever the fuck you need to before you hear it from Matt. It’s not my business, obviously, but I don’t want him hurt the way I was.”
“This is about Cameron Mitchell, right?”
John barely managed to swallow the mouth full of beer. “Yeah, okay, what do you have us bugged or something?”
“No.” Patrick shook his head. “About two and a half years ago, I get a call from Matt’s CO. One of the men in his unit reported seeing him on what looked like a date with another man—a date that ended in a hotel room under the name of Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell, United States Air Force. I buried the accusation and had the kid that reported him over for a chat. He got his choice of assignments in the Navy if he kept his mouth shut. He took it and ran.”
“I bet he did—the little rat bastard.” John glared at the floor between them. “So, you knew Cameron was here?”
“I followed his career. He’s an outstanding pilot, has a spotless record, and I know he looked for Matt. Matt apparently didn’t make it easy on the man to find him so I let it go. I figured Matt was a little freaked out by the whole thing and the last thing I wanted was to bring it up. Hell, I can’t imagine how that conversation would have gone considering the circumstances. He never brought it up and I didn’t feel the need to either. When I realized Mitchell was posted here – I figured they’d find each other eventually.” Patrick shrugged. “They’d either ignore each other like a lot of men do when they come across a one night stand they regret or they’d find some dark room and make the most of it.” He sighed. “I take it they’re behind a locked door making the most of it?”
“Most certainly,” John admitted. “You know—there is some talk among the scientists that everyone with the ATA gene is less concerned about gender when it comes to their sex partners. So…”
“Yeah. I read that report. What nearly 90% of the gene carriers have admitted to being attracted to both men and women?”
“Just about.” John took a long drink of his beer. “Why didn’t you freak out when you found out that Matt hooked up with another man?”
“Because I’d already lost one son because I was an idiot and I’d just spent a week trying to find you – only to be told I didn’t have the clearance to even know where you were stationed much less call you.”
John winced. “Well, huh, now that you’ve read my full file how do you feel about that?”
“I’m still pissed about all the phone calls you ignored but I don’t blame you, John. I know how bad I fucked up things between you and me. That being said—I’ve known that for going on ten years. There was no way in hell I was going to make that same mistake with Matthew.” He sighed. “David left on a mission a couple of hours ago. Recon in Iraq. I tried to get it cancelled but I was overruled by the fucking President.”
John smirked. “I’ve got a subcutaneous transmitter in him. It was put in during his physical last week. If he gets into trouble—I’ll get a ship to come home, find him, and beam him back here.”
Patrick laughed. “Nice.”
* * * *
John leaned against the kitchen counter, a glass of apple juice in his hand watching Rodney and his brother Matt argue good-naturedly over the best way to cook pancakes. The front gate signaled and he went over to the control panel with sigh. “Yeah?”
John grinned. “Thought you couldn’t make it.”
“Yeah, well, Daniel tripped over his own zealous desire for discovery and broke his arm. We came back early. Let me in and tell that asshole you live with that I expect lots of meat on the table.”
John released the gate and shot a glance at Rodney who only smirked, and went back to the refrigerator. He smiled then… that meant they’d get steak for breakfast, which was about the coolest part of life as far as John was concerned. He left the kitchen and went to the front door to let Cameron Mitchell in. Cameron was joking with the on-duty security when he got there.
“Stop being nosey, Cam.”
Cameron grinned at the Marine and offered John a sloppy salute. “Yes, Sir.” He jogged up to the porch. “So, huh, your father is here?”
“Yeah, relax; he’s totally not going to freak out.” John jerked his head towards the kitchen. “Matt and Rodney are cooking. Something to drink?”
“Yeah, whatever you’ve got. Not picky.” Cameron shed his lightweight jacket, dropped it over the back of a chair, and followed John into the kitchen.
Matt bumped him with a shoulder. “So are we getting that casserole thing you make? Cause that’s made of awesome.”
Rodney sighed and glanced towards Cameron who had slid into a chair at the table. “You look tired.”
“Long boring mission. We had a rough time getting back to the gate with Daniel complaining like a big girl the whole way there.” Cameron glanced Matt over and Rodney chuckled. “So, Matt, I heard this morning from O’Neill that you’ll be with the SGC full time in a few weeks.”
“Yeah, John got me into the X-302 squadron for the mountain. I’m going to get to test the launch platform through the gate.” Matt grinned. “I can’t really stand how excited I am about it. It’ll just be through the space gate… but ya know.”
“Yep.” Cameron grinned. “I got into the first test phase, too. I figured the General wouldn’t let me play so I was surprised.”
“You saved the man’s life,” Rodney shoved Matt away from the stove. “Sit down before you irritate me. And for the record, I don’t make that casserole thing—my service makes it for me. I’ll get one out of the freezer though.”
Matt slid into a seat near Cameron. “So, you saved the General’s life?”
“He pretty much saved the planet in an X-302 about four years ago,” Rodney corrected. “He foolishly took on two dozen of Anubis’ Jaffa in Antarctica in a dog fight and gave SG1 enough time to get down to the Ancient outpost and blast them all out of the sky.”
Cameron flushed. “Your hero worship is overwhelming, Rodney.”
McKay chuckled and glanced towards the French doors. “He’d better not undercook my steak.”
“We all know you like your steak two steps away from leather, McKay.” Cameron stretched and then rubbed the back of his neck. “But, yeah, I eventually got shot down and spent about ten hours on the ground before they found me and I was rescued. After that, I got my choice of postings and took over the lead of SG1. It’s been a pretty slick ride since.”
“I bet.” Matt looked over at Rodney. “Need me to set the table?”
“Yeah, your dad should be down soon and you know he hates to wait. Find his favorite cup.” Rodney pointed towards a cabinet. “The big one.”
“You know that’s odd, right? It’s really odd that Dad is here so much he has own coffee cup.”
Rodney snorted. “So do you.”
“I do not.”
Rodney looked at the cup that Matt had abandoned on the table. “You always grab that one. Always. In fact, I’ve seen you pull it out of the dishwasher and wash if isn’t clean when you want coffee. All four of you are creatures of habit… it’s a profoundly obvious Sheppard trait.”
Matt found his father’s coffee cup and sat it down near the coffee pot. “Do you think John needs any help?”
“No, the Colonel is very familiar with the gas grill. He spent weeks searching for the perfect one and they bonded immediately upon purchase. It practically does all the work for him.” Rodney punched a cook time into the convection over and closed it. “So, fifteen minutes on that hash brown casserole thing. Ten minutes on the quiche and the steaks should be done by then. Still want pancakes, Matt?”
“Yep.” Matt smiled sweetly. “The blueberry kind.”
Rodney snorted. “You’re lucky I love your brother, Commander, or I’d never put up with you and your silly little smile.”
“You love me too.” Matt wiggled his eyebrows. “I heard you reamed Colonel Marks at Area 51 for an hour because he let me test the X-309.”
Rodney glared. “That sonofabitch! I told him no test flights at all and what’s he do? He puts you in it thinking that I wouldn’t get mad… the stupid fucker. He’ll be lucky if he gets to push paper in Washington until he retires. I think I’m going to let the Brits borrow his ass. Let’s see how he likes twiddling his thumbs in the UK for the next two years. They are just now getting their X-302 program off the ground.”
“It was fine, Rodney. The test flight went perfectly. It’s a great craft. I can see it replacing the space shuttle.”
“Yeah, what the fuck ever.” Rodney poured several pancakes onto the griddle in front of him. “He could have gotten you killed and then frankly there wouldn’t have been a place on Earth he could have hidden. And it was designed to take the place of the space shuttle.”
“I see you’re in rare form, Rodney.” Patrick Sheppard walked into the room rubbing his head and going straight for the coffee pot. “What did you fix this morning?”
“Kona. It’s one of those days.” Rodney answered and shot Matt a look. “Admiral Patrick Sheppard have you met Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell?”
Patrick glanced Cameron’s way and offered a small smile. “No, we keep missing each other.” Cam started to shift out of his chair to salute but Patrick waved him off. “No man gets to salute me while I’m in my pajamas. It’s a rule.”
“Yes, sir.” Cam relaxed in his chair. “I didn’t know they made Superman PJ’s in grown up sizes.”
Patrick shot him a look. “I’ll have you know, young man, that I had to search for a week online for these pants.”
“They look great, sir.” Cameron promised, his blue eyes bright with laughter.
Patrick smirked and leaned against the counter. “John tells me you’re one of the best pilots he’s ever had the pleasure to see in flight.”
Cameron’s mouth dropped open. “Huh, well, I’m not sure you’re supposed to tell me stuff like that. I’ll be terrible to work with from now on. Everyone will hate me.”
The older Sheppard shrugged. “That’s any man’s lot in life, son. People want you, want to be you, or they hate you for how good you are.” He walked to the table and sat down. “I’d heard you were dating that pretty girl, Caroline Lam, but John says that’s not true?”
“Not dating. I was her buffer.” Cam forced himself to relax in his chair and glanced briefly at Matthew. “She’s actually seeing a lawyer but he’s out of state. I kept the rest of the men on base out of her face. I’m third in command so rank has the privilege most of the time of offering some protection against excessive or annoying flirting by the enlisted personnel.”
Rodney snorted. “I don’t know why any man would hit on that woman anyway. I mean, she’s beautiful but she has the biggest needles known to man and really, what straight man wants to date a woman that has given him a prostate exam?”
John sighed from the doorway, a platter full of steaks in his hand. “I can’t believe you just said that.”
“I can’t believe you’re surprised,” Patrick muttered into his coffee. “And really, I totally agree. Prostate exams don’t even approach sexy.”
“Right.” Rodney pointed a finger at him. “At least not the ones you get in the doctor’s office.”
“Mer, seriously.” John pointed back at him. “I thought we agreed…”
“Oh, please, if your father hasn’t been introduced to his prostate by one of those women he dates that are literally half his age… I’ll eat one of my PhDs.”
“Casey is not half my age,” Patrick protested.
“Right, she’s less than half your age. You could have fathered her for fuck’s sake.” Rodney motioned towards the oven. “Get that, John. I mean, really, can that woman even drink legally?”
“McKay, I don’t care how good breakfast is at your house… I’m really regretting spending the night. I could be in Maui with my twenty-two year old girlfriend being reintroduced to my prostate right this minute but instead I’m here—taking time out of my life to help you get your stuff organized in your new house.”
John sputtered. “I swear to fucking God, the next man at this table that says the word prostate is getting their ass kicked. I mean it.”
Cameron chuckled. “Who knew he was such a prude?”
“Mitchell, I think you need to take platoons six and eight off-world for training. Six weeks.” John helped with the rest of the food. “Maybe Master Youin could beat the smart ass out of you.”
“I doubt it; he wasn’t very successful with you.” Rodney patted him and slid into a chair. “Speaking of Master Youin, I was hoping that I could go on the next off-world training session.”
John paused and sat back in his chair. “Excuse me?”
“Well, I’m curious and Teal’c said that I could learn a lot from Master Youin that I’m not learning at the classes Lt. Garland teaches.”
John’s jaw tightened at the mention of the classes. Martial arts classes had been a bone of contention between him and Rodney since it all started. They’d fought over it briefly but John had finally relented because he was being an idiot. It made perfect sense that McKay should be able to defend himself… especially after what happened.
“I see. So, you want to go off world and train for six weeks with a two-hundred year old Jaffa master?”
“I did, I actually spent four months with him off and on.” John rubbed the back of his neck. “How about I bring him here?”
“You have to let me off world eventually, John.” Rodney frowned. “Seriously, it isn’t like I’m going to stay here during the ZPM project or the Atlantis mission. You promised I could go for both.”
“And you will. That doesn’t mean I have six weeks to spend off world.”
“I’ll be with Cameron and the others.”
“No.” John shook his head. “You don’t go off world without me. That’s the rule. It’s always been the rule and the only way it changes is if I’m dead—and even then I’d prefer that you just stay your ass home.”
Rodney shot him a bird. “Don’t you ever talk about dying again. That sucked.”
“For fuck’s sake, Mer, twenty-two different planets have tried to buy you in the past four years!” John left the table for more juice. “And as tempting as that last offer was…”
“Oh fuck you. I’m worth more than an Ori ship… if they even actually had an Ori ship anyways. They didn’t offer any proof. If you want one of those things—I’ll build you one but I’m telling you right now they aren’t the most attractive things I’ve ever seen—they look like a soup bowl for fuck’s sake.”
John chuckled and came back to the table with a pitcher of juice. “Anyone want a glass?”
“I’ll take one,” Patrick said as he filled up his plate. “How are your classes going, Rodney?”
Rodney flushed. “Lt. Garland says I’m a natural and it helped that I was already in great shape anyways. We discovered that I have really good reflexes… Dr. Lam thinks it’s one of the things that the Asgard gifted me with when Thor fixed my heart.”
“Good.” Patrick nodded. “So, next, we’re going to find you a gun, right?”
“No.” Rodney shook his head. “Really. I can’t handle guns. Not even the pulse thing that it’s in R&D. I’m a disaster.”
“You’re the smartest man on this planet, Mer. You can build nuclear weapons in your sleep; you can handle a gun.” John sat back in his chair. “But I won’t push you.” He shot his father a look. “We agreed.”
“I’m the smartest man in this galaxy, by the way. Probably the smartest man in several galaxies.” Rodney concentrated on cutting his steak. “I’m claiming Pegasus when I make Atlantis fly and I’m claiming the Ori galaxy when I kick their ass. Then I’ll be the smartest man in three galaxies. Radek and I did the math you know—I have proof.”
John chuckled. “I believe you.”
* * * *
“McKay, you do realize that this is a grand piano.” Cameron groused.
Rodney looked him over. “You sleep with my… well with my Matt so you have to help. It’s the rule.”
“Who ever sleeps with Matt has to help you move furniture in your new stupid big house?” Cameron asked. “We should make a list of all the women he’s done for the past fifteen years and call them over. They could have this whole house in order by mid-afternoon.”
“Shut up.” Matt threw a piece of packing material at him. “And Rodney—I think brother in law would work just fine. You guys exchanged papers and shit, you have a house together, and you have dogs on the way—so you’re practically married.”
“Huh.” Rodney walked away patting his cat. “Two inches to the right, Cameron. I don’t want the sun to shine directly on the finish.”
“Two inches?” Cam questioned incredulous.
“Two inches. That’s a hundred thousand dollar grand piano after all.” He set Quark down as he entered the open kitchen area.
He’d given the construction team six weeks to do everything he wanted – and they’d worked day and night on it to accomplish that insane goal. John was outside with some guys from Department of Justice and the Army Corp of Engineers installing the security system he’d designed and built with Radek. Patrick Sheppard was supervising from a lawn chair.
His cell phone rang and he picked it up with a disgruntled sigh. “This is Dr. McKay.” Rodney frowned. “What? No, I won’t answer questions about my… how fucking dare you call me and ask… ” He hung up the phone abruptly and threw it against the wall. Plastic shattered and the cat went running.
“Rodney?” Matt demanded. “What is… Jesus… breathe.” He hurried to him. “Christ, do you have inhaler? Here sit; take a deep breath for me. Cam get John.”
Rodney clutched at his chest. “Fuck. Fuck.” He let Matt press him forward and tried to breathe. “Sons of bitches. The stupid vicious sons of bitches. Just give me a minute.”
“Mer?” John entered the house at run. “What the fuck?” He shot a glance towards the remains of the cell phone and gently shoved his brother out of the way. “Hey, calm down. You need to talk to me.”
“Turn on the fucking TV. CNN.” Rodney buried his face against John’s neck with a shudder. “Fuck. Fuck.”
Patrick Sheppard turned on the TV that dominated most of one wall near a wrap around leather sofa and sound filled the room. He quickly found the news channel.
“While reports on the actual altercation between father and son are sketchy—what we do know is that Dr. McKay has a permanent restraining order against his father, pays him a yearly stipend to stay in a home in France, and that Scott McKay served five years for the attempted manslaughter of his son over fifteen years ago. Calls to Scott McKay’s resident went unreturned and all attempts to contact Dr. McKay have met with failure. Details of the court proceedings were sealed by the family court system in Ottawa, Canada where the incident occurred.” The reporter turned to a woman on the stage. “Dr. Kellsey, what can you infer from the events laid before you?”
“Many parents react to the coming out of a gay child with violence. It’s not difficult to make the leap that Scott McKay tried to kill his son because he found out he was homosexual.”
“We know that Dr. McKay was removed from the care of both his parents at the tender age of thirteen and was actually emancipated by the highest court in Canada. While he had a series of legal representatives until he reached the age of eighteen—he’s clearly been on his own nearly all of his life.”
The presumed psychologist smiled. “He’s a brilliant man and it’s obvious that he’s not alone now. The Sheppard family has proven to be very protective of their genius.”
“Dr. McKay has a sister but little is known about her and apparently she was left in the care of the birth mother.”
John flinched when Rodney did. “Turn it off.”
“No.” Rodney shook his head. “I need to know what they are…” He took a deep breath. “I need to know.”
“The court proceedings are sealed so it’s difficult to understand why a mother would be able to keep one child and not another. We do know that a child of Rodney McKay’s mental abilities would have been difficult to manage for even the most progressive of parents. Top that brilliance with the emergence of homosexual tendencies and a husband that clearly abused everyone in the family… the mother could have been unable to care for both children.” The reporter paused. “We were able to find records of Julia Deacon-McKay suffering horrific abuse at the hands of her husband before she escaped.”
“Yes. I reviewed that information. The shattering of the family can be solely laid at the feet of Scott McKay. It’s obvious from Dr. McKay’s charity work both with his own cancer research facility, that he began in honor of his sister’s successful fight with breast cancer, and the money he recently donated in the name of his mother—that he reclaimed what family he could.”
“Can we ignore that he pays his father to stay away?”
The psychologist smirked. “If I had a vicious bigot like that for a father I’d pay him to stay away, too.”
The reporter appeared stunned for a few seconds as if the answer wasn’t what she expected and then collected herself. “So, you consider it a healthy response by Dr. McKay?”
“It’s keeping him alive.” The psychologist frowned. “Anger like that doesn’t just disappear. I’d say that his father is much a threat to him today as he was all those years ago. The only difference is, of course, John Sheppard.”
The reported smiled then. “Yes, Colonel Sheppard.”
“Oh Christ.” Rodney sat up. “They are going to turn into the John Sheppard Fan Club, you watch.”
Patrick laughed softly.
“Of course, his father and brothers are….” The psychologist paused. “Delicious.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Patrick scrambled for the controller but Cameron had it and waved it gently. “Colonel Mitchell.”
“Admiral.” Cameron smiled. “We really need all the intel we can get on Rodney’s situation so we can plan accordingly. And really—you’re all quite attractive. Nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“Then you won’t have a problem with me dropping your name the next time a reporter confronts me with family questions. They always ask who David and Matthew are dating.”
“Sir, that’s below the belt.” Cameron frowned. “I hardly said a word about your Superman pajamas this morning and we’re supposed to be at that stage where we’re cautiously nice to each other. Matt still hasn’t had his second gay freak out… no need to add to his stress.”
Patrick snorted. “Whatever.”
“Shhh.” Matt waved towards the TV.
Images of John in dress uniform, in civilian dress, and then images of John on the floor at the conference where he took two bullets in a bulletproof vest for Rodney flicked across the screen. “There is a lot of speculation about their relationship… do you think that kind of pressure could damage them as a couple?”
The psychologist laughed. “Did you watch that interview? They are so enamored with each other it’s like the rest of the world doesn’t even exist and we should all be that lucky.”
“She bought her degree online,” Patrick Sheppard muttered. “Probably from Cosmo.com.”
“Agreed.” Rodney called out. “Totally agreed!”
“Do you believe that Dr. McKay has any need to be concerned about his father?”
“Beyond the fact that he’s guarded like the President when he appears in public; he lives and sleeps with a man who kills for a living. I believe that Scott McKay would be one stupid individual to try to put himself in Colonel Sheppard’s way.”
“You bitch.” Rodney glared at the TV. “I’m going to find out where she got her PhD and have her investigated for misconduct.”
John laughed weakly. “Mer, I’m sure Cosmo.com doesn’t care.”
Rodney laughed reluctantly. “The stupid twit. They could have at least got someone entertaining on like—I don’t know—Dr. Phil.”
“Oh please, Dr. Phil has spent too much time talking about the two of you already.” Matt dropped down on the couch. “He had a week of shows on gay children, family dynamics, and all that shit. He dedicated a whole hour to John and Dad.”
They all meandered over to the couch and sat down to glare.
“Dr. Kellsey, would you consider John Sheppard a dangerous man?”
“Yes. You’d have to be an idiot not to think so. Do I trust him to do the right thing? Absolutely. Is he dangerous? Of course. Is he a hero? Yes, without question. Beyond his role in the Air Force and the Stargate Program – he’s a man who puts himself in between anything dangerous and those that he loves. Even if you overlook the attempt on Dr. McKay’s life—if you watch them in public—you’ll find that Colonel Sheppard often places himself directly between Dr. McKay and practically everything and everyone. Cameras rarely get a good angle on him, reporters and photographers learned quickly to not even try to reach out to him or touch him. I understand one of your own reporters got a face full of gun over such an incident.”
The reporter laughed and even blushed a little. “Actually, that was Captain David Sheppard. As you said—the Sheppards are very protective of their genius.”
“Ah, the Navy SEAL. I understand he was recently put on the 50 Most Beautiful People Alive list.”
“All of the Sheppards made the top 10,” the reporter said with a smile.
“Are you kidding me?” Matt groaned. “Oh, that is too fucking much.”
“You can take it—I’m in my fifties—I have no business being on a list like that. I’ll never live it down. I should just retire. There is no way I can go back to the Pentagon now.”
“Fifty-six.” Rodney corrected gently. “And still very pretty actually.” And that earned him the finger. “You know that’s hardly the kind of behavior I would expect from a four-star Admiral.”
“I wonder how they found out about his dad,” Cameron questioned with a frown.
“The FBI talked to him about it,” Patrick muttered. “Maybe one of them leaked it.”
“They’d better hope I don’t find out who,” Rodney snapped. “This is… fuck.”
Then the reporter asked a question that had even the psychologist’s mouth dropping open in shock. “Do you think that a person that is as smart as Dr. McKay should be allowed to work in situations where he could literally kill thousands of people? Genius at that level is very fragile, right?”
“What?” John demanded. “You bitch!”
“Dr. McKay has proven himself to be a resilient and strong man dedicated to the safety our planet.” Kellsey frowned as she said it. “He has been credited with the saving our planet no less than six times in the past ten years by Stargate Command. Yes, of course, that level of intelligence can foster a fragile personality but it’s obvious to anyone that Dr. McKay is anything but fragile. From your reports, he was beaten through most of his childhood and was nearly killed before most would even consider him an adult. He survived it, prevailed despite it, earned three PhDs before age of twenty-two, and remains a highly functional person.” Kellsey paused and then smiled. “And for the record, if you’d read the material coming out of the SGC – a person as smart as Dr. McKay or Dr. Samantha Carter could kill us all. After all, they were both instrumental in the destruction of an entire solar system five years ago during a battle with a Go’uld.”
“Oh that’s not fair!” Rodney glared. “Apophis totally had that coming!”
“So you aren’t concerned?”
“I’d be more concerned if he wasn’t here. I’d be afraid to sleep at night if people at Stargate Command weren’t there to do their jobs. Dr. Carter, Dr. McKay, and Dr. Radek Zelenka have kept us alive for the last eleven years while we literally teetered on brink of enslavement or annihilation.”
“She’s a government plant,” John finally said. “The reporter was set up.”
“Yeah.” Rodney sighed. “I agree. Still doesn’t explain who fed her the original information.”
“Oh, we’ll find out.” Patrick promised. “And won’t that be a fun field trip for us to take.”
“Do I get to take my gun?” Matt asked.
“I think we all get to take our guns,” Patrick answered as he glared at the TV. “P-90s have appeal at this point.”
The reporter, however, wasn’t exactly done. “I have my hands on a report that indicates Dr. McKay was involved in some kind of altercation that left a Navy officer nearly dead and in line for a court martial. Considering the changes over the past year with the UCMJ and the government allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military… do you think something of a gay bashing nature happened within the SGC?”
Kellsey paled and her eyes widened fractionally. John figured he should invite her over for a poker game. “The people that work within the SGC are vibrant, intelligent, and forward thinking people. I doubt seriously a bigot would last long in such an environment. Since I’m not privy to the incident reports and obviously can’t talk with Dr. McKay personally—I would be hesitant to speculate on what started the altercation and why it has the results it has. That being said—I really, honestly pity anyone that would think it a good idea to lay a hand on Dr. Rodney McKay. Beyond the fact that the governments of several nations consider him a priceless defense asset – his family is a small army all on their own. It would be an act of madness to pick a fight with them.”
Rodney reached out, grabbed the remote from Cameron’s limp fingers, and shut it off decisively. “John, I need your cell phone.”
John pulled his Blackberry loose from its holder and then paused. “Do not throw this against a wall.”
He handed it over and watched curiously, as Rodney made the first phone call.
“Wilson, yes, of course I saw it. I’ve already had one reporter find my private cell phone number and give me a call. Listen, I need an appearance—preferably with someone big like Iris March. I know I’ve turned her down twenty times in the past six months—but at this point the need for damage control is pretty obvious. She’ll jump at the chance to interview the battered genius.”
He stood from the couch and walked away from them. Then turned and looked at John with a raised eyebrow. John only nodded. “Yes, the Colonel would be willing to appear as well but do make it clear that if he’s appearing that all of her questions for him have to be approved and she isn’t allowed any surprises. Nothing live and the Pentagon will probably want to put their finger in it.”
He started to pace. “Also, I need you to get an injunction against my father in every jurisdiction that might matter, preventing him from selling the rights to my childhood story. I mean it, Wilson; give him nowhere to go with it. He signed a contract with me and unless he wants to repay nearly four million dollars for violating that agreement—he’ll keep his fucking mouth shut. Keep an eye out for any publisher who expresses undue interest in him and be prepared to buy them.”
He started pacing faster, his cat strolling along beside him. “Yes, yes—I agree. Go ahead and set up some interviews. I’ve prepared an apartment in the house for the position. I don’t care if it looks bad but I would seriously prefer a woman or a gay man. I don’t need some asshole in my house that looks at me like I’m a deviant for how I prefer to get off.” He shot John a glance when most of the room laughed softly. “Young, good with computers and the Internet. Hardy personality because you know I’m a bastard to work for. MBA would be nice. The benefits packages for my employees is up to date, there will be a vehicle at his or her disposal, and I’d prefer they be able to handle being around the military since apparently my family is a small, very beautiful army.” Rodney chuckled at the snorts and out right glares that earned him. “No, really?” He paused and looked right at John. “Apparently, you’re the Sexiest Man Alive this year.”
“Shut up.” John glared. “Are you serious?”
“Oh yes. You should get an interview request forwarded from the Pentagon any day now.”
John kicked his brother Matt when he started laughing and slouched deeper into the couch. “Why don’t you and Cam go check on the assholes installing the fence defense system?”
Rodney was silent for a while and then sighed. “Yes, Wilson, I know. Look, I can’t help any of that. Just make sure my father knows that if he participates in any of this mess his free ride is over and I doubt I’ll be able to prevent the Colonel from visiting him personally.” He turned off the phone, walked to John and gave it back. “I need…” He sighed. “I’m hiring a manager of sorts—a life manager. It’ll be a live in position.”
“I know. We discussed this already.”
“Yeah, for a year down the road.” Rodney frowned. “Now, it’s not. Now I’ve got interviews and background checks being conducted even as I stand here, and there is going to be a stranger living in my house.”
“There are going to be ten strangers living on your property inside the next two weeks, Mer. I’ve already set up security interviews. The construction on the guard house is almost complete and the architect did a good job of creating separate bedrooms for each position.”
Rodney nodded. “I saw.” He glanced towards the mess of his phone. Quark was batting the pieces around. With a sigh he went, shooed the cat away, and picked up all the pieces he could. He dropped them on the counter and started sorting through the components. “Can you call the Apple Store and have them set me up a new phone?”
“Yeah.” John kissed his forehead and snagged the SIM card from the counter. “I’ll send Jimmy out to do it personally.”
“I want a new phone number.”