“NO! Don’t! Don’t touch me!”
Patrick Sheppard jerked awake in an instant, decades of military training making him reach for his gun without hesitation. He was in the hall way seconds later, facing a few of security personnel and his son, David. They were all grim faced and standing in front of the suite of rooms that belonged to Sebastian.
“What the hell?” he demanded.
“Frost did a sweep of the rooms and then let Jennifer in,” David murmured and then lifted away from the wall where he was leaning, a 9mm still grasped in his hand as the door opened.
Declan Frost slipped out of the room and shut the door. “Nightmare.” He leaned back against it briefly. “Night terrors, sir. Dr. Keller is with him.”
Patrick shared a glanced with his son David and then took a deep breath. “He hasn’t… John didn’t mention this.”
“This is the time he’s been without them since… well since he found them,” David murmured. “And he slips into their rooms a lot—sleeps curled up between them.”
“I heard him like he was in the room with me,” Patrick snapped.
“There is a monitoring system in his room—it responded to something he was screaming and activated the house wide intercom.”
Patrick stared at him for a few seconds. “Excuse me?”
“McKay had him say words like ‘no’ and ‘stop’ in different tones when he installed the internal security. Sebastian also has a safe word he can call out to activate the system if he gets into trouble,” Sean said finally. “The night terrors aren’t a new thing. It’s documented in the files we received from Foster Care in California. It was listed among the various other things they used to justify putting him in a group home for troubled children. If he’s had nightmares since he came home—he’s kept them to himself so far.”
The door opened and Jennifer came out, her eyes hard and her mouth pressed into a tight line. “I forget—and I shouldn’t. I saw the bruises on him when he came to the hotel that first night and I still forget that he isn’t—that he hasn’t always been with us.” She tightened the belt on her robe with exaggerated care and took another breath. “Admiral, he requested you.”
Patrick’s hand flexed around the weapon in his hand. “Yeah, okay, reset the security and do me a favor—Declan—do a property sweep.”
“Already in the works,” Declan promised. “Rico and Marks will stay inside for the rest of the night. Let me know if you need anything.”
Patrick slid into the room and glanced around the large room that made up the ‘play area’ of Sebastian’s suite. He had this room, a bedroom, and a full bath. The light in the bathroom was on but only a very small bit of light was coming out of the bedroom. He walked in and found his grandchild huddled up in the middle of a queen sized sleigh bed, Quark lying like a vengeful lion in front of him.
He put his gun down on the nightstand after thumbing on the safety and took a deep breath. “Hey kiddo.”
“I don’t mean to be…” Sebastian blew out air between his lips and then bit down hard as if the pain was something he deserved. “I don’t mean to be this way. I know I’m supposed to be strong, a fighter.”
“Hey.” Patrick reached out and touched his shoulder. “Not yet you aren’t. If I were to be at all honest I’d prefer that day never happen.”
Sebastian’s hands curled into Quark’s fur and the cat purred loudly. “I don’t want to be weak. I can’t… all of you are so much more than me and I don’t want to be a disappointment.”
“Sebastian.” Patrick closed his eyes briefly and then with a sigh moved completely on the bed and took the kid, who was trembling, into his arms. “Tell me what’s going on and no bullshit, young man.”
“I lied,” he whispered, his voice broken. “I lied to him and I don’t know how to take it back.”
“About what?” He didn’t ask who—because it was obvious Sebastian was confessing to have lied to John.
“It was more like half the truth,” Sebastian rubbed his face against Patrick’s t-shirt and sighed. “It was like I wasn’t a person to him.”
“Ah, Christ, Sebastian.” Patrick took a deep breath and held him tightly.
“At first, he would just touch my shoulder, and dig his fingers in if I tried to get away from him. Then he started to touch me—but never any place that I could say was wrong. He would rub my back and slap my butt when I walked past him. After about a week he started telling me how pretty I was and how he wanted to…” He took a deep breath. “How much he wanted to fuck me.”
Patrick hadn’t pulled the trigger on another human being in years but he was ready to commit murder. Sebastian’s foster care situation hadn’t been discussed at the length it should have been discussed and he couldn’t blame that entirely on John. There had been a brief conversation early on about a teenager in the foster home who had taken a sexual interest in Sebastian. Since Sebastian had said nothing really happened they hadn’t discussed that situation in the detail it deserved.
“Did he try?”
“Yes, but the foster mom came home early and… he left me alone.”
“What did he do?”
“He caught me in the bathroom and wouldn’t let me out. He tried to act like he was being helpful… like he was doing me a favor by insisting that he help me dry off and dress me.” Sebastian shook a little as he took deep breath. “The last time he grabbed my penis and got mad that I wasn’t hard. He put his finger inside me. It hurt but I didn’t bleed or anything.”
“But your foster mother came home before anything else could happen?”
“Yes, and that night I was so fed up and angry that I just hit him. I went into his room and picked up one of his school books and just started swinging it at his head. I think I would have kept hitting him in the head until I couldn’t lift that book any more if someone hadn’t stopped me. I thought they’d put me in jail for it—they talked about filing charges against me until I told them why. I don’t think they wanted to believe me but other kids in the house admitted he’d done it to them, too. There was proof—he’d been raping one of the younger kids.”
Patrick was still and silent until Sebastian relaxed against him and then he took a deep breath. “Do you want me to tell your Dad?”
“I should do it. I lied to him. I should make that right.”
“There is nothing…” Patrick swallowed. “He’ll understand, Sebastian, and even if he’s very angry it won’t be at you. You know that, right?”
“You’re pretty angry.”
“I’m… yes… I’m very angry but not at you.”
“Daddy told me I didn’t have to lie to him but I did it anyway. He’ll be upset that I didn’t trust him.”
“That was the night you met, right? It’s… perfectly understandable that things were difficult for you.” He took another deep breath. “How long had it been… how long were you in the next foster home before you left and searched for your Dad?”
“Three days. I was there three days. It was probably the best situation I’d been in since the whole thing started. It was my sixth home, and my foster care worker said that the couple took only a few kids at a time—damaged ones. She said that like it was my fault that Corey couldn’t keep his hands to himself. The woman was okay, sort of overworked but not too bad. The man—he told me I was too pretty to be a boy.” Sebastian took a deep breath. “And I left. I wouldn’t have cared if I had to sleep on the street. I couldn’t stay in that house. I couldn’t risk it.”
“You have to know that the boy who touched you—he wasn’t normal. I mean, even if he was gay he wasn’t normal.”
“No, he wasn’t gay. He just likes to hurt little kids. He messed with the little girls in the house, too.” Sebastian sighed. “I woke up the whole house tonight. That’s embarrassing.”
“Yes, well, it’s okay. We’re all here for you, you know.”
“That’s very embarrassing, too,” Sebastian admitted. “I mean, all those security guys call me the ‘package’ when they are talking about my location in the house.”
“Yeah, but they don’t mean it to be insulting. It’s about keeping information secure when they are on an open channel that outsiders might pick up. Rodney is often called ‘the package’ when he’s being moved around by security or military personnel. It isn’t meant to make you feel like a thing. Far from it.”
“Yeah,” Sebastian frowned as he said that. “It’s okay. I mean, I knew what I was getting into when I invaded their lives. Being them might look like a picnic to some people but I understood it sort of sucked. I mean, they can’t even get married without the whole planet wanting to watch. They are either waxing poetic about them or talking about them like they are monsters for being gay.”
“They don’t catch much of a break with the press that’s for certain.”
“You got mad at Dad because he was gay.”
“You know sometimes I think McKay must have found some way to contribute to your genetics because you can turn a conversation on a dime…” He laughed when Sebastian did. “Okay, I was angry with John—for a long time actually. I was furious that he was going to ruin his career by getting caught with another man, I didn’t understand how he could make that choice, I’ll be honest and say I still don’t understand his attraction to men, but I do understand his love for Rodney. I get that. It’s hard to look at them and not see how much they love one another.”
“Yeah, that’s why it was so easy to go to them. I knew—I just knew I’d be safe with them.” Sebastian sighed and curled his fingers into his grandfather’s t-shirt. “I kissed a boy last year. Well, he kissed me at the school Halloween party.”
Patrick snorted. “Oh yeah?”
“Yeah,” Sebastian said with a sigh. “It was almost as disgusting when Susie Dylan kissed me in the third grade before Mom let me skip to the seventh.”
“When you get older you won’t think that way.”
“Maybe,” Sebastian murmured. “I don’t think about that boy who hurt me—not much. I talked to Dr. Kate about it and she said I should tell my Dads. I just—it’s so hard because I started it out with a lie. I just didn’t want him to know the whole truth. I didn’t even tell the foster care people that he touched me like that.”
“I was afraid Dad wouldn’t want to keep me if he knew how damaged I am.”
Patrick flinched at that and took a deep breath. “I found your grandmother on the floor of our kitchen. She’d had a brain aneurysm. I was so relieved when I realized she was still breathing—I didn’t realize it was already too late. I didn’t understand until much later what had happened and what it meant. I carried my grief for her for a long time—maybe even as long as last year if I’m going to be honest about it because the loss of her was tied up in the loss of John.”
“Dad showed me her picture. She was beautiful.”
“Yeah.” Patrick nodded. “Very and she was so angry with me for what had happened with John. I don’t think our marriage would have survived much longer because those last few weeks before she died—all we did was fight. Her death damaged me and a part of me will never recover from the fact that when she died she was furious with me. But that damage isn’t… it doesn’t mean I’m not…shit. Everyone is damaged, Sebastian, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t worthy of having a family, being loved.”
“My mom was laughing and telling this horrible joke about dolphins when she died,” Sebastian murmured. “One minute she is making this dolphin squeal noise and we’re all laughing like crazy and the next there is this car slamming into us – and she was screaming. It felt like it lasted for hours but it was all over in under a minute.”
“You weren’t injured?”
“No, not a single scratch. The cops said I was a miracle. I didn’t feel like a miracle.” Sebastian rubbed at his face. “At the time I was confused that something so horrible hadn’t put a scratch on my body but it had ripped me to pieces on the inside.” He moved closer to Patrick. “Sometimes I think it’s still tearing me up.”
“You’re the very center of our family, Sebastian. We didn’t know about you, certainly couldn’t have planned for you—but you’re here and you’re everything to us. I need you to understand that.”
“They love each other a lot.”
“Yes, they do and they love you a lot, too.”
“Yeah, I was really surprised when they mentioned me in their vows. That was cool.” Sebastian sighed.
“But they didn’t plan me—it’s like I’m an accident.”
“More like a really amazing gift,” Patrick corrected. “I can’t speak for your Dads, kiddo, but I have to tell you that you filled up a place in my life that I didn’t even know was empty and I would do anything for you.”
“Including keeping this conversation to yourself until they get back?” Sebastian asked. “I don’t want them to come home early because I scream like a little girl in my sleep.”
“I’m serious, Granddad. I don’t…they’ll be home in two days anyway.” He sucked in a deep breath and closed his eyes. “They deserve this time away from everything and after they get back things are going to start moving really fast. They’ll be going for Atlantis sooner than anyone thinks. I know Dad’s finished and has been putting off charging a ZPM until he has a planetary shield in place.”
Patrick nodded. “Okay, kid, but you can’t keep this inside forever. I’m willing to give you a little time on telling them but not much. John isn’t going to be angry with you.”
“I really don’t like seeing him pissed off—even if it isn’t with me.”
“He’d never hurt you, Sebastian. Not ever. I want you to believe that.”
“I do.” Sebastian frowned. “I really do. I just wish life was easier for them both. When he jumped in front of that gun in Chicago and went down—I thought he was dead for a few seconds. I mean the news guy had said he was fine before they ever showed the video but I just didn’t expect him to take two bullets in the chest like that. It was like he was dead and I was never going to get to meet him.”
Patrick could relate to that on so many levels. “The first time I saw it—I saw only the shooting part. My XO had rushed into my office and switched on my TV just in time for me to see a replay of John getting shot and hitting the floor.”
“Yeah, really. I should have demoted that bastard on the spot because until McKay pulled off that bullet proof vest I thought for sure I’d just watched my oldest son die.”
“Is that when you stopped being mad at him for being gay?”
“I’d stopped being mad at him long before that,” Patrick murmured. “And I don’t know that mad really defines how I felt. I was disappointed and confused and furious that he would risk his career for what I considered a choice. He’d been married to a woman so it wasn’t like he couldn’t…” Patrick trailed off. “It was stupid for me to think that way. Really stupid and I eventually came to realize that. I’m just glad that John accepted me back into his life the way he did.”
“Yeah, me, too. It would have sucked if he hadn’t.”
“But I wouldn’t have blamed him. I hurt him very badly.” Patrick cleared his throat. “I don’t think I knew how brave he was until that day. It must have taken everything he had to come out to me and his mom right there in front of his soon to be ex-wife.”
“She called a couple of weeks back.”
Patrick stiffened. “What?”
“Sean took the call. I don’t know what she wanted but Dad said he didn’t want to talk to her. She’s called a couple of times since but Sean keeps telling her to basically fuck off.”
“Language,” Patrick tapped the back of his head gently. “You’re worse than a Marine.”
“That’s my fondest wish,” Sebastian confided.
Patrick laughed despite his good intentions. “How many times has she called?”
“Four so far that I know of and nothing since the wedding was announced. I know that Sean did a background check on her through the Pentagon to try to figure out what she was up to but she came back relatively clean. I saw the report. She hasn’t married since Daddy divorced her and she has a low end job with the Defense Department.”
“You’d make a pretty good spy,” Patrick muttered.
“They don’t really censor themselves around me—which is nice because I’d get really fed up with being treated like a stupid kid if they did. I mean, I could build a nuclear weapon in the basement—I figure I can handle most anything.”
“Well, Dad gave me his plans from his old science project and I made some improvements on the design as part of my engineering homework a few weeks back. It’s really not all that difficult.” Sebastian yawned around the words and snuggled closer. “Would you stay?”
“I’m not going anywhere, kid.” Patrick rubbed his back carefully. “You sleep and I’ll stand guard.”
* * * * –
“You want to talk about it?” David asked as he watched his father hammer into a punching bag with the kind of strength he’d honestly forgotten his father had. Patrick Sheppard had been riding a desk for ten years so David was more than a little surprised by his physical fitness. He shouldn’t have been but he was.
“You sure? Because you’re scaring the Marines. Four different squads have come in here and turned right around at the sight of you.” David propped up against the wall. “The last time I saw you this furious you had sixteen different people brought up on charges, reassigned half the command crew of the USS Ronald Regan, and cancelled shore leave for five thousand sailors.”
Patrick bounced back a little from the punching bag and flexed his tapped knuckles. “This is therapeutic. I feel three times better than when I started. Where’s Sebastian?”
“With the women, all of them. Even yours got in on the act.”
Patrick frowned. “Pardon me?”
David laughed. “You can fool some of these people around here but not me. I know you’re seeing Dr. Lam. Anyways, they are all trying out cake samples so they can figure out which one they want for the party at McKay’s tomorrow. Sean brought in fifty different samples.”
“Great, he’ll be bouncing off the ceiling for the rest of the day.” Patrick accepted the towel his son offered and rubbed the sweat off his face and then absently rubbed his chest. “You came down here for a reason?”
“Yeah, the Secretary of the Navy wants to beam in for a conversation. O’Neill asked me to come down and get you since you’d taken off your radio and he didn’t want to call you over the base wide intercom.”
“I have to shower and then I’ll be up.”
* * * * –
“So, as you can see it’s imperative that we determine chain of command in reference to Atlantis once it lands on Earth,” Vice Admiral Bale said as he motioned everyone to sit down with him.
“And you think that it should fall under Navy control?” Patrick asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Yes, sir, it’s going to be a Navy base after all.”
“Actually, we’re still trying to determine if we’re going to land Atlantis on the surface of the planet. It’s not going to be an easy trip and landing her on a body of water near a populated area of land could be very tricky. The water displacement due to an improper impact could cause tidal waves up half a mile high.” Sam Carter smiled serenely at the hard looks that earned her from the Secretary of the Navy and the two Admirals he’d brought with him. “Additionally, the UN has made a serious argument for having Atlantis land in International waters as a sign that the US government doesn’t intend to use the city has a weapon against the rest of the planet. Even with the implosion of the IOA, gentlemen, we have to keep in mind that neither the Stargate nor Atlantis herself is the sole property of the United States.”
“We’re using our resources to retrieve her. That makes the city our asset.”
“The work gone into the Atlantis project has been international. We have scientists from all over the world in the SGC right now working hard on behalf of the planet,” Jack O’Neill murmured. “Just because the military contingent in the SGC are predominantly from the US that doesn’t mean the scientists who do the real work around here are. In fact, our Chief Scientist is Canadian.”
“He’s also an American citizen and he recently married an American citizen.”
“Yes, in a Canadian civil ceremony,” Patrick replied dryly. “Canada bent over backwards to make my son and Dr. McKay feel comfortable in their decision to get married there. The ceremony on Mars was symbolic. As it stands, gentlemen, it’s impossible to place the control of Atlantis under the control of the United States Navy. How many ATA gene carriers have you identified?”
“We have ten confirmed natural carriers and nearly twenty that accepted the gene therapy successfully so far. We’re still testing.”
Patrick shared a glance with O’Neill and then sighed. “Gentlemen, there is no easy way to say this so I’m just going to be blunt. There are two people on this planet we’ve found that have a gene strong enough to operate the control chair for Atlantis. Jack O’Neill and my son John. That’s it. The gene carriers we do have can operate technology on a basic level and some can even fly the Jumpers but that’s all. John is the natural choice to lead Atlantis once it’s retrieved. I find it troubling that you’d pick a day you know he isn’t here to come here and have this discussion.”
“Some would say your son has too much power over this situation. His relationship with McKay, his position in the SGC, his standing as the only gene carrier who has ever even operated the city,” Secretary Marks said, interrupting the flow of the conversation between the two Navy men and reminding them of his presence.
“Are you implying my son can’t be trusted?”
“How well do you even know him, Admiral? It isn’t like your estrangement is a secret. Do you think the last few months have given you all of that back? He spent two years in another galaxy, has been kidnapped and tortured more than once—how can we trust him with anything?” Bale demanded.
“Enough.” Jack O’Neill’s hand came down hard on the table. “Bale, I warned you two years ago to leave John Sheppard alone. If you think my position has changed in the slightest on this subject you’ve got another fucking think coming. He is the second in command of the SGC. He will be offered the leadership of the Atlantis base once it’s returned to Earth. John has done nothing but sacrifice and suffer for this project and this planet since the day he joined the SGC. I will not allow you to sit here and speak of him like he’s an enemy.”
“He came home with less than half the men he left with, O’Neill. You can’t tell me that sits well with you. You can’t tell me you don’t wonder what the hell happened out there!”
“I know what happened,” Jack snapped. “I know we didn’t give them the support they needed. I know we sent him green and inexperienced Marines who didn’t have a single chance against the Wraith no matter how hard he trained them or how much he sacrificed to protect them. I know you sent your son out there thinking he would get field experience and a few medals that would advance his career and he came home in a box. I also know that John risked his own life to bring your son home to you and you’ve done nothing but try to undermine him since he came back to Earth.”
Patrick stood up abruptly forcing half the men in the room to stand up with him since he outranked them. “This discussion is over. I’m sorry your son died, Roger but I won’t let your personal issues cause conflict with this mission. Secretary Marks, I suggest you take a long hard look at who you’ve allied yourself with in this situation and make a better choice. The President is very fond of John.”
Marks sat back in his chair. “You lied just then.”
“Excuse me?” Patrick demanded.
“You said there were two gene carriers on the planet with a gene strong enough to control Atlantis. That’s a lie. We all know you’re grandson’s gene is just as strong as his father’s.”
“My grandson is a child.”
“For now, but that won’t always be the case and maybe it’s time that you encourage John to have more children. It’s unfortunate he married a man but there are ways that can be accomplished.”
“John isn’t going to breed for the United States government, Secretary Marks,” Patrick snapped. “And if you come near my grandson, you won’t live long to regret it. We’ve made it very clear to you people that he’s off-limits. That situation hasn’t changed.”
“Situations change all the time, Admiral Sheppard. Presidents come and go, policies change, military bases get new leaders, things happen.”
“You’re right,” Jack O’Neill said with a little smile. “Things happen. Sometimes really bad things happen to people who don’t know how to play nice.”
“Are you threatening me?” Marks demanded.
“No, of course, not. I’d never do that in front of my wife, she’s delicate like a little flower.” Jack grinned when his wife kicked him really hard under the table. “I’ve been in command of this base through two different presidents, Secretary Marks. You might want to figure out why before you start tilting at windmills.”
* * * * –
“You know that if the government made a move on Sebastian that John would tear this whole planet apart.”
“I’m aware,” Jack admitted. “Since I’d be helping him I’m probably not the best one to ask about a plan to stop him.”
Patrick rubbed his face and sighed. “Did you know the geneticist, who leaked his profile to the NID, disappeared?”
“Did you have anything to do with it?” Patrick asked dryly.
“Nope,” Jack shrugged when Patrick looked his way. “Honest.”
Patrick laughed a little despite his good intentions. “Any thoughts?”
“He proved useless to his former employers and they offed him. I don’t think McKay or John laid a finger on him despite their threats to the contrary. I figure the NID have him locked up some place or he’s in a hole.”
* * * *
John leaned against the railing of the deck and watched Sebastian race Zuri to the pool. Both child and dog made a running leap and splashed into the deep end. He laughed as they surfaced and both turned towards the sound. Sebastian struck out towards a ladder but Zuri had to cross the pool until she could reach the stairs.
“Dad!” Sebastian grabbed his towel and did a haphazard job of drying himself off as he hurried to the deck stairs and up them. “You’re back. All done with the warrior bonding?”
John laughed and caught him up in a hug. “Yep, how’d things go with your granddad?”
“He doesn’t steal my food so that’s one point in his favor.” Sebastian leaned into him. “Where is Dad?”
“He’s inside getting a status report from Sean. I was instructed to come out here and get you.” John grabbed him gently by the chin and tilted his face up with a frown. He took in the dark circles under his son’s eyes with a frown. “Your granddad didn’t mention you were having trouble sleeping.”
Sebastian flushed. “Everything is cool, Dad.”
“Don’t lie to me, Sebastian.” John’s frown deepened when Sebastian paled. “Hey, whoa, what the hell?”
“Nothing.” Sebastian pulled free of him. “I should go change.”
John’s mouth dropped open as Sebastian slipped into the house. He followed and found Rodney frowning in the kitchen, a coffee cup in hand. “Sean, what the hell is going on?”
Sean traced a circle on the counter with one finger tip and shared a look with Declan that clearly said something big and horrible had happened while they were gone. “Three nights ago he woke up the entire house screaming his head off. I don’t know what he dreamt about but he’s been sullen and a little standoffish since. He tolerates your father and that’s about it. The Admiral told me that he would take care of it and that he promised Sebastian that we would let the two of you finish off your week together.”
“I see.” John’s jaw clenched. “Where is my father?”
“At the mountain. He’d planned to be here when you returned but got called into a meeting an hour ago,” Declan answered. “Sir, he was obviously conflicted about not calling you with the problem but considering Sebastian’s past—the Admiral didn’t feel comfortable breaking faith with him.”
John clicked his radio. “Apollo, this is Sheppard, beam me to my office in the mountain ASAP.” He shot Rodney a look as his request was confirmed. “Go up and see if you can’t get him to talk to you.”
Rodney nodded and then sighed when John disappeared in a flash of light.
* * * * –
He didn’t wait long—John paced the length of his office four times before the door opened and his father walked in. He shot him a glare that made the older man grimace and shut the door firmly behind him. “Talk.”
“How many nights a week does Sebastian end up sleeping between you and Rodney, John?”
John paused and took a deep breath. “When we first brought him home? He’d show up after midnight nearly every night but recently it hasn’t been all that often. I took that to mean he felt safe with us—comfortable in our home.”
“I don’t think he slept much this week but the problem came up on Thursday night. He woke up screaming and set off the security screaming ‘no’ and ‘stop’.”
“A pretty bad one but he didn’t share the details of it with me,” Patrick sighed. “But, he did… John… he wanted to tell you himself but I don’t think he can. The last two days he’s gotten so angry at himself that I don’t think he can stand to think about it. This morning he asked me to do it.”
John took a deep breath. “Okay.”
“He lied to you, John.”
He wanted to pretend he didn’t understand but John Sheppard was not a coward. “Lied.”
“Yeah,” Patrick took a deep breath.
“How bad was it?”
“That Corey kid would rub his back, smack his ass when he walked by him, tell him how ‘pretty’ he was, and then he would tell him how much he wanted to fuck him. He used to force Sebastian to shower in front of him and he would dry him off and dress him. Eventually he handled his penis and penetrated him with a finger but that was the night Sebastian attacked him while he was asleep and bashed his face in.” Patrick pulled a USB drive out of his pocket and offered it to his son. “His full name is Corey James Stephenson. He’s serving a fifteen year sentence for the aggravated rape of a child under the age of ten. There was a little girl in that foster home that faired far worse than Sebastian did. The court proceedings are officially sealed due to the children involved in the case.”
“Do you know what brought on his nightmare?” John asked in subdued voice, his stomach was rebelling actively and it was all he could do to keep from throwing up.
“I have a pretty good guess. Sebastian came into a meeting I was having with a General from the Pentagon—an old friend who enjoys picking at me about my too attractive family. In making a joke to me he inferred that Sebastian wasn’t just a ‘pretty face’. Sebastian glared at him and told him he wasn’t a girl. Later that night he woke up screaming and he confessed to me that he’d lied to you. He’s very afraid you’ll be angry with him.”
“Why did he lie?” John asked in a near whisper. “I told him he didn’t have to.”
“He said he was afraid you and Rodney wouldn’t want him if you knew how damaged he was.”
John’s vision tunneled and he stumbled from his office and into the small bathroom nestled between his and O’Neill’s office. He barely made it before he started throwing up. His knees buckled as his father reached him and they both sank to the floor.
“Jesus. Just Jesus.”
“I know.” Patrick pulled his son back against his chest and braced him as he threw up again. “You need to calm down, John.”
“I need to kill someone,” John ground out through clenched teeth. He accepted the damp cloth that was waved in front of his face and then groaned when he saw O’Neill leaning against the sink. “Sir.”
“John,” O’Neill shoved his hands into his pockets. “Do I need to get Lam or Keller up here?”
“No, neither.” John shook his head as he father pulled him up off the floor and leaned him back against the wall. “This is… I have to tell McKay before Sebastian caves and tells him.” He clicked his radio that by some twist of fate had remained in his ear until he reached the private family channel. “McKay, I need you in the mountain, ASAP.”
“John…” Rodney took a deep breath. “I can’t, you’ll have to come to me.”
“And bring Kate Heightmeyer with you.”
John closed his eyes. “Understood.”
* * * * –
They beamed into Rodney’s office because it was familiar territory for the psychologist. Rodney was at the minibar pouring himself a very generous scotch and Sebastian was curled up on one end of the leather sofa, his face pressed against his knees.
Patrick Sheppard sat down beside him and patted his back gently. “Hey, kid.”
“You told him?” Sebastian whispered.
“Yeah, it’s okay.”
It wasn’t okay, John thought. None of this was okay and he couldn’t figure out how it ever could be. He was hurt and furious—and there was no outlet for it because he wasn’t going to show any of that to Sebastian.
John grabbed a footstool and pulled it over so he could sit in front of Sebastian. He shared a glance with Kate who nodded her encouragement. They’d agreed she’d be on hand to soothe things if events got out of hand.
“Sebastian, I need you to look at me.” John waited until he lifted his head and propped his chin up on his knees. “The very moment I set eyes on you—I knew you were mine. I didn’t need any tests to prove it to me. I would have loved to have been there when you were born but I wasn’t and we can’t change that. For a while, I was angry with your mother because she didn’t tell me about you but that wasn’t fair to her. I know she made the best decision she could and it isn’t like I’m perfect.”
“She felt guilty.”
“I regret that for her,” John returned. “I’ve been shot, stabbed, nearly beaten to death, tortured in various locales on this planet and off, fed on by a Wraith, fed on by a leech bigger than my head, and electrocuted. To say that I know what pain is would be an understatement so I need you to understand this—the most painful event of my life was the moment my father turned his back on me.” He ignored his father’s intake of breath. “I would never, under any circumstances, do that to you. Not ever. There is nothing you can tell us, nothing you could do that would make us turn away from you.”
Sebastian took a deep breath. “Yeah, okay.”
“I’m going to know where Corey Stephenson is for the rest of his life, Sebastian. He’ll never get near you again.”
“He’s in jail. I kept up with his trial and made sure. They had the court records sealed but I saw that he was convicted.”
“If he ever gets out of jail—I’ll be notified. It doesn’t matter what he threatened or said to you, Sebastian, he’s never getting near you again.”
“Corey said no one would want a kid as fucked up as I was. He said I would be in foster care until I was eighteen if I even survived that long.”
“People like him—they get their power from inflicting pain and creating fear,” Rodney murmured. He leaned against the window frame and stared out it, his fingers clenched around a full glass of scotch. “I think my father started out that way and he got worse as his need for that power increased.” He sat the glass aside and turned to look at Sebastian. “I know trust is something we have to earn, Sebastian, and maybe we all took for granted that this situation of ours would be easy. We all fell into this holding pattern and no one took into account, except for perhaps Kate, that we’re all more than a little fucked up.”
Sebastian glanced towards Kate Heightmeyer who settled in a chair on the other side of the room. “I don’t think ‘fucked up’ is an official diagnosis.”
Kate laughed. “No, but it works.”
Sebastian dug his fingers into his legs and took a deep breath. “I really don’t want to talk about Corey anymore.”
“I don’t want to take your choices away from you,” John said. “But, I believe that we’re going to have to all work really hard on this and that means we have to discuss it.”
“He just sucks, Dad. I really…” Sebastian sighed. “And I hate him. I hate him a lot and sometimes I wish I’d killed him which probably isn’t healthy but I don’t care. He’s a horrible person and I really hate him for making me think that way. My mom said life was precious—she taught me that and I’ve spent the last six months wishing he was dead and I think I’d really be okay if I’d killed him that night when I smashed his face with that book.”
John stared for a few seconds. “Never let anyone tell you that you have a hard time expressing yourself.”
“Yeah, okay.” Sebastian leaned against his grandfather and snuggled in closer when Patrick Sheppard wrapped one arm around his shoulders. “Don’t be mad at Granddad for waiting until you got home. I didn’t want to ruin your warrior bonding thing.”
“You wouldn’t have ruined anything,” Rodney said. “I don’t want you to think you’re—somehow separate from us, Sebastian. I spent a great deal of my life alone so I understand what it’s like to not have a family. I was estranged from my mother and in turn my sister when I wasn’t much older than you. My father was and remains an utter bastard—my mother died of cancer when I was still a very young man. My sister and I had a major falling out when she got married right out of graduate school and got pregnant instead of doing her doctorate. I completely alienated her and she told me to fuck off. I sincerely hope I learned a valuable lesson with that. You aren’t a burden or whatever might be going through your head.”
“It’s not like you planned me,” Sebastian muttered.
“No, we certainly didn’t,” Rodney agreed. “I didn’t plan on your father either and as amazing as I am—I’m fairly certain he didn’t plan on me. Life happens, son, and we have the choice of letting it run us down or embracing it.”
“But nothing,” Rodney snapped. “If we didn’t want you, Sebastian, we would have shipped your smart little ass off to some exclusive boarding school in Switzerland. That’s what rich people do with kids they don’t want.”
“McKay!” John stared at him, shocked.
“It’s true,” Rodney muttered. “Trust me, my father sent me off to school the first chance he got and was even more pleased when he realized he didn’t have to pay for it.”
Sebastian grimaced. “No offense, Dad, but your sperm donor sucks.”
“Yeah, he does,” Rodney agreed. “Look, kiddo, your Dad and I—we’re going to make mistakes with you. We’re going to be over protective assholes. I’ll spend too much money on you, demand too much from you, and your father will expect too much from you. We’ll pull at you from opposite directions with things like flying lessons and advanced engineering projects. It isn’t like we’ll be able to help ourselves. There will be cajoling and bribing and shameless maneuvering on both our parts to get you to do what we want with your life. But no matter what you do—we’ll be there. I’ll be bitching and your Dad will be stoic. That’s who we are. We didn’t plan on you, but you were on the radar.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means that we discussed kids. Granted that was a few years down the road, but we fully intended to have several. I didn’t buy this stupidly large mansion just to house employees and your Uncles. I bought this monstrosity so we’d have a place to start a family. Granted, I didn’t tell your Dad that but he certainly didn’t protest the purchase.”
John laughed. “We’re always on the same page, McKay, even when we don’t talk about it.”
“So more kids?” Sebastian frowned. “Adoption or surrogacy?”
“Which would you prefer?” Rodney asked neutrally.
“Well, both actually. I mean—I don’t want you two to turn into Angelina Jolie or anything but it would be nice to adopt a kid who wouldn’t have a chance for a good home otherwise. I’d like a little sister and there aren’t enough Mckays in the world.”
“So you’d be okay with that? A surrogate having my biological child?” Rodney asked.
“I think it would be cool.”
Kate cleared her throat and smiled when they all four looked in her direction. “We’ve gone a little off topic. If we could refocus on what John said—I believe it would be helpful.”
“Okay,” Sebastian nodded. “Which part?”
“Admiral, I’d like to know what you think about John’s confession.”
Patrick took a deep breath. “I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for it. Just when I think I can put it behind me… and live the life we have now I get slapped in the face with some part of it that I didn’t understand before. I’ve been sitting here trying to put myself in John’s shoes and if my father had done to me what I did to him… I think I would have died a little.”
“Dad, I’m sor—“
“NO!” Patrick snapped. “Christ, don’t apologize to me for how you feel. You’re entitled to it, John. I can’t take anything else away from you and survive it.” He waved a hand. “This isn’t supposed to be about me.”
“I think it all plays into the situation, Admiral,” Kate responded neutrally. “John and Rodney both are products of their upbringing. Rodney was shaped by his father’s fist and John was shaped by your rejection. Before his falling out with you—his military records are clean but nothing extraordinary. His evaluations was standard, his promotions were as regular as clockwork but based more on time in rank and general advancement than actual merit. He’d had a few brushes with disciplinary action but no more than any other officer in his position. Most of his commanding officers considered him a strong but unremarkable officer who was more at home in the air than on the ground.”
She raised an eyebrow when John sighed. “After his divorce and the argument that lead to his estrangement from you—he went from average to anything but. He requested a combat posting, flew twice as many missions as most of the men in his squadron, did his damnedest on more than one occasion to get himself killed until someone took notice of his suicidal behavior and shipped him off to McMurdo to cool down. Then he willingly stepped through the Stargate on what everyone assumed was a one-way mission. I imagine no one was more surprised than him that he survived it.”
“You suck,” John muttered and stood up from the stool. “I don’t have a death wish.”
“No, you don’t but you never backed away from death and it was that initial disconnect from your family that gave you that edge. Your relationship with Rodney dulled that—within weeks it was obvious you felt an obligation to him to keep yourself alive. What’s more interesting is in those same few weeks Rodney stopped hiding from life.”
Sebastian frowned. “So we’re all pretty messed up, huh?”
“Life is one big ‘fuck you’ courtesy of the universe,” Rodney muttered.
“Okay,” Kate said with a small smile. “Let’s all do an exercise. I want each of you to finish this sentence… ‘I don’t like…’ and add whatever it is you don’t like. Sebastian, you start.”
“I don’t like,” he frowned a little. “I don’t like being called pretty.”
“I don’t like hurting the people I love,” Patrick murmured.
“I don’t like being wrong.” Rodney picked up his scotch and took a big drink of it.
“I don’t like being lied to,” John responded honestly. He held up a hand when Sebastian started to respond. “It’s okay and don’t promise you’ll never do it again. Because you aren’t even a teenager yet—and those are prime lying years all stretched out ahead of you.”
Patrick laughed. “You could just not ask him any questions he would be compelled to lie about.”
“Which means we’d have nothing to discuss from fourteen to twenty,” Rodney said from behind his glass. “I don’t like this room.”
“I don’t like when McKay drinks scotch like it’s water,” Patrick said. “Especially in this room.”
“I don’t like Dr. Carrow because he said I was a freak of nature for being smarter than him,” Sebastian added and then shrugged when all four adults turned to look at him. “He didn’t know I overheard of him.”
“You are not a freak of nature,” John snapped. “Rodney?”
“I’ll transfer him to Area 51,” McKay promised. “If he talks that way about a child I can’t imagine he’d be a great asset off world.”
“I don’t like being different,” Sebastian said. “I used to fail IQ tests on purpose—I did so badly that the examiners would look at me like I was crazy or maybe like I wasn’t even sentient. My mother had to bribe me to get me to stop messing them up on purpose.”
Rodney snorted. “I did wonder how you talked her into buying you that violin to begin with.” He sighed. “I don’t like the Prime Minister of Canada.”
“I don’t like Secretary of the Navy,” Patrick muttered.
“I think I liked Colonel Caldwell better when he was a Goa’uld,” John admitted and then grinned when they all laughed.
“I really like chocolate cake,” Sebastian admitted.
“I like the ocean and a good surf board.”
Rodney glanced at John. “We should get some custom made for you.”
“Yeah, we should.” John took his half empty glass of scotch and down the contents. He blinked once and shook his head as the smooth, warm liquid made itself at home in his still upset stomach. “Jesus, McKay.”
“You don’t have a name like McKay and buy bad scotch,” Rodney returned evenly. He focused on Sebastian. “You’ve been cutting off the audio sensor in your room, haven’t you? That’s why we haven’t heard your nightmares before.”
“Yeah,” Sebastian admitted and flushed a dark red at the glare it earned him. “Sorry.”
“You damn well should be,” Rodney snapped at him. “Every security measure in this house is here to protect you, Sebastian, and we can’t do that if you if you undermine the system. After this meeting is over you’re going to go pack up all three of your games systems and put them in the security office. They’ll remain there for the next month.”
“That’s harsh,” Sebastian protested.
“I’m letting you keep your computer which is more than you deserve.”
Sebastian looked toward John.
John shook his head. “Don’t even think about playing that game with us, Sebastian. I’d have taken your computer, too. But since he let you keep it—you can spend the next week debugging the new security protocols. Declan says they’re hinky. I want a report by next Friday and the programming fix within fourteen days.”
“That’s child labor,” Sebastian fought back a grin as he said it. “But, I guess it’ll keep me busy.”
“Good.” John crossed his arms and jerked his head towards the door. “Dismissed.” Sebastian hopped up and left the room at a near run, the door banging shut behind him. “Kate?”
“You did well, all of you did.” She sighed. “This isn’t an easy road, John, but all of you did your part to make him feel comfortable with what he’d revealed. He’s guarded his privacy as zealously as some adults but that’s not surprising for a child who went from living with a single parent to living in a large group situation. It must have been very difficult for him to adjust and on top of that he suffered mental, physical, and sexual abuse.”
“Are there any more secrets?” John asked. “Did it get worse than what he’s said?”
“No, I think he’s cleared the air on that front but there are some issues that he hasn’t brought up yet that will be difficult for you and Rodney.”
“A male child suffering abuse at the hands of another male is going to question his sexuality eventually. He’s going to begin to wonder if he asked for it or if something about him caused it. His sensitivity to being referred to as attractive or pretty is going to get worse. Sebastian’s confidence in his mental abilities did help shelter him a little from the self-esteem problems that often arise for victims of sexual abuse.”
“He’s a natural ATA gene carrier, Kate. The likelihood that he’s not at the very least bisexual is practically non-existent.”
“Fortunately he’s exposed to healthy homosexual and heterosexual relationships every day and that means he’ll learn by example what sort of behaviors are acceptable and what aren’t. Neither you nor Rodney exhibit any over dominant behaviors so he isn’t going to…” Kate flushed and glanced towards Patrick. “Admiral, would you like to leave?”
Patrick laughed. “No, unless John and Rodney are uncomfortable… I’d like to stay. Sebastian is going to stay with me during the Atlantis mission and I want to be there for him.”
Kate continued after it was clear neither John nor Rodney minded the turn of the conversation. “There is a lot of give and take in your relationship on the surface and conclusions could be drawn that it extends to the bedroom. You’re both strong, capable people and you’re well respected by those around you. He’s already dealt with a lot of the shame that comes with being the victim of sexual abuse and he doesn’t equate what was done to him with sex. It helps that he’s young and interactions with both sexes are sort of gross to him.”
“He did say a boy kissed him last year,” Patrick murmured. “And apparently it wasn’t as gross as when a girl kissed him in the third grade.”
John laughed softly. “Oh, I’m so not ready for kissing or anything like that.” He rubbed his face. “So, we all need to just be ourselves and let him see that there is no shame in either kind of relationship.”
“We’re not ashamed of who we are, Kate, we certainly wouldn’t have gotten married for the entire world to watch if we were,” Rodney murmured.