Title: More Than Words
Author: Keira Marcos
Banner Art: FanArts Series
Series: What Might Have Been
Series Order: 10
Summary: How far will John and Rodney go to protect their son?
Pairing: Sheppard/McKay (multiple background pairings)
Rating: NC-17 (dark themes, sexual situations)
Warnings: Violence, snark, mean-spirited people, assholes, reporters, talk show hosts, a sneak appearance by a sexy FBI agent with great hair, and conspiracy theory for beginners.
Categories: Slash, Established Relationship, Alternate Universe, Contemporary, Kid fic
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended, seriously. I don’t own them. I don’t pretend to. This is just for fun. Don’t sue me—it would be a waste of your money and time because I don’t have much beyond a few pounds of Kona, a bad attitude, and two very spoiled rotten dogs.
* * * *
“The child lives in the McKay-Sheppard compound under 24/7 guard, is home schooled by an army of teachers with PhDs in subjects like engineering, theoretical mathematics, and quantum mechanics. I hardly see how you can make a case for him being in danger emotionally or questioning the ability of Dr. McKay or General Sheppard to keep their child safe.”
“The fact remains that no one has seen the child in several months outside of his family and a select few people that work with his parents. Of course, people are concerned. The rumors of a shooting at the SGC that involved the child, a full investigation into the NID that apparently involved someone within the agency trying to kidnap Sebastian Sheppard.” Phillipa Casey flicked blond hair over one shoulder and every Sheppard in the living room snorted and glared at the reporter. The Moral Report was one of those conservative programs they all loved to hate.
Rodney sighed as John turned the television station. “The Pentagon is pressuring us to go on TV with him. With the publication of his proof coming up next month and the awards ceremony at Cambridge in the fall…”
“McKay, we agreed.”
“Yeah, we did.” Rodney held up one hand when John started to speak. “But, the Pentagon wasn’t in on that conversation. Sean has had to push off them six times in the past week. It’s only a matter of time before you are ordered to make an appearance with Sebastian and when that happens we won’t get to make a choice on who we get to sit down with.”
“I vote Ellen,” Sebastian said from his place at the kitchen island. His toes curled against the bracing bar of the stool he was perched on. Everyone turned to look at him and he shrugged. “She’s the only day time TV show host on television who won’t ask stupid leading questions about my moral fiber being corrupted because the two of you are gay. She married a girl, ya know. A very pretty girl.”
“Huh.” Rodney nodded. “Yeah, okay.” Then he glared at Sean. “Are you letting him watch day time talk shows?”
“Yes.” Sean nodded and then grinned when Rodney sputtered. “It’s good for his social education. We don’t want him to grow up and be socially retarded like you, now do we? I make him watch Dr. Phil, too. That way he won’t grow up and be an asshole who has no regards for the feelings of others—or at least if he does he’ll have the common sense to keep it to himself.”
“Speaking of my social education,” Sebastian raised an eyebrow. “I saw on one of the local stations that are going to do tryouts for the little league hockey.”
John sighed and Rodney grinned. “Oh come on, John.”
“Aren’t you afraid you’ll lose some teeth or something?” John asked with a frown. “Those are your permanent teeth, right?”
That earned him the Sheppard Death Glare. “Of course, they are. That’s not even funny, Dad. Besides, it isn’t like you guys couldn’t afford to replace them with implants.” He inclined his head and then frowned. “It wouldn’t be safe, would it?”
“I… I don’t know,” John admitted. “You certainly couldn’t go without security and if you made the team there would be security issues for games and when you traveled…”
“Of course I would make the team,” Sebastian rolled his eyes. “I started all the games on my last team for the last two years. But, the other parents might freak out, right?”
“Maybe. We’d have to ask and then take their concerns very seriously.” John inclined his head and smiled sadly. “Still think you have the best gig on the planet?”
Sebastian smiled back. “Yeah, can I at least go watch some games?”
“We can swing that.” John relaxed on the couch. “Did you still want to go the island for your birthday?”
“Yep, with everyone who can come. Did Tommy’s parents get back to you? I bet his Dad said no, right?”
John laughed. “His Dad said yes before I got the whole question out, kid. Did you know he was retired Army?”
“Yeah. Tommy was a ‘surprise’ kid so he’s sort of spoiled rotten. He said they didn’t think they could have kids and then bam there he was.”
John could totally relate to that on several levels. “So, yeah, Tommy can spend the whole week with us. His parents will be there for the birthday party but they can’t stay the whole time. All in all we’ll have about fifty people there for the party—fifteen kids from the SGC who were totally enthralled with the idea of hanging out on an island for a week.”
Sebastian grinned. “I bet.” He checked his watch. “It’s almost time, right?”
“And since when did our house become a compound?” Rodney suddenly demanded.
“When you put a shield around the whole property.” Sebastian answered. He raised one eyebrow. “Seriously, Dad, you put up a shield. I live in an invisible energy bubble powered by naquadah generators. In fact, if you were to seriously consider my home life—energy shield, lots of ex-military and current military types with lots of guns, guard dogs trained by the United States Army… it’s a little… isolationist. I’m not saying that I live at Ruby Ridge or anything—but you know comparisons could be drawn.”
* * * *
Ian Wilkes carefully arranged his ribbons on his dress uniform and shook his head. It was crazy really but that was neither here nor there. It was the first time he’d ever worn the Bronze Star and honestly he was a little embarrassed about it. Getting a medal for doing his job seemed a little crazy but he understood the sentiment and the reasoning behind it. He doubted he would ever forget the slight tremor in General Sheppard’s hands when he’d awarded it to him personally in front of everyone at the SGC.
“Jesus, Wilkes, is that…” His roommate swallowed hard and leaned in. “A Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and the Air Force Cross. How does an enlisted man your age end up with seven ribbons?”
“I can’t talk about them, Jake.” Ian finished clipping the rest to his jacket and ran one hand over the three rows. He’d earned the Air Force Cross defending the mountain during an incursion the fifth day he was there. The Bronze Star he’d earned because he’d put himself between a bullet and Sebastian Sheppard. The rest of them were distinguished service awards – awards that practically everyone in the mountain earned just by doing what they were told to do. Going through the Stargate was no picnic.
“So, huh, you really did come out of Cheyenne Mountain? That’s the rumor but no one knows for sure.”
Ian looked at him, finally. “I can’t talk about it.”
Jake stared and then sighed. “Certainly explains why you busted your ass around here and beat everyone to the top spot. Can’t wait to get back, can you?”
“I trust the Air Force will give me the assignment that best suits my abilities.”
“Yeah.” Jake chuckled and walked away to finish dressing. “Will your family be here today?”
“No. My parents haven’t spoken to me in months.” Ian checked his reflection to make sure he hadn’t missed any spots when he was shaving. “They didn’t take my preferences well.”
“Sorry.” Jake grimaced. “They suck.”
“Yeah, they mostly do. I keep hoping that they’ll change their mind and remember that I’m their kid but it might be a long time coming.”
“Are you the only kid?”
“No, I have a younger brother.” Ian slipped his feet into his shoes and then finished buttoning his jacket.
“Your jacket is a bit big through the shoulders. Lose weight?”
“No, it’s cut so I can wear my service piece in a shoulder holster.” Ian glanced over at him. “Curious much?”
Jake just grinned. “I can’t help it. I just found out my freaking roommate has the Bronze Star and never bothered to tell me. Do you know how crazy awesome that is?”
Ian looked away. “Earning it was no picnic.”
“Same time as the Purple Heart?”
“I heard through the grapevine that you’re going to be commissioned as a First Lieutenant.” Jake pulled on his jacket and walked to stand in front of the mirror beside Ian. “You want to tell me what Colonel Norris has against you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Come on, Ian, he rode your ass the last thirteen weeks. No matter how well you did… he seemed to take it personally every single time you came out on top.”
“Norris didn’t want me here. It wasn’t his decision. We both made the best of our circumstances.”
“What the hell kind of problem could he have with you? You make the rest of us look like we don’t even belong in the Air Force at all.” Jake sighed. “I’ve been good about not asking, you know. It’s our last day…”
“I lost a kidney,” Ian finally said quietly. “I took a bullet in the stomach. One of my kidneys didn’t survive it. Norris and some others felt it should have earned me a medical discharge. It didn’t because of reasons that I can’t really talk about Jake. Please, I’m not trying to be mysterious. I really can’t tell you. Let it go.” He shot him a look. “So, what’s your choice of assignments?”
“Are you kidding?” Jake laughed. “I didn’t bust my ass for second placement in class order for anything less than the SGC. I put in my request, but I know they have a big waiting list. I aced my testing for navigation on the X-302 but I’d heard that no one from this class was going to get it because they weren’t accepting new officers. You have to be a lot of combat experience to get in the door these days.”
“I’d heard the same thing,” Ian admitted. He hadn’t mentioned that to Sebastian in their near daily emails because he felt like that should come from the General. He wondered what Sheppard will tell him when he realized he wasn’t coming back to the mountain any time soon.
“Come on, it’s time to show off. I can’t even believe you didn’t tell anyone about the chest candy. Eyes are going to cross from here to McMurdo.” He paused. “Fuck, you don’t think I’ll get stationed there do you?”
Ian chuckled. “Can’t be a bad posting. General Sheppard spent a couple of years himself when he pissed off someone.”
“I know that story. I thought he was the man long before he got famous.” Jake cleared his throat. “My brother was one of the men he went back for. It’s one of the reasons I want to serve under him. He… my brother came home because of him and my parents had his body to bury instead of not really ever knowing. You can’t even measure that kind of closure.”
“I had no idea.”
Jake Holland just smiled. “I didn’t mean to be mysterious.”
Ian sputtered and then laughed. “Fuck you.”
Twenty minutes later they were at the rank ceremony and he watched in silence as his classmates lined up in alphabetical order. The crowd wasn’t overly large; he’d heard they rarely were as it wasn’t exactly a big deal to graduate from Officers Training School. The Academy was a different thing all together. He blinked as a team of ten SGC Marines suddenly beamed into the back of the room. His eyes connected with Jimmy’s almost immediately as he watched his best friend spread the men out, secure the doors, and then signal with his radio. Ian glanced briefly at Colonel Norris who looked dumbfounded.
He turned back just in time to watch General Sheppard beam in with Dr. McKay and Sebastian. The entire room stuttered to a stop and the snapping of bodies to attention was almost noisy. Sheppard returned the salute and nodded his head. “Pardon our abrupt entrance, Colonel Norris, due to security procedures we never announce when our son will be appearing in public.”
“Understood, sir.” He swallowed. “How can we be of assistance?”
John prodded McKay and Sebastian towards an empty set of chairs. “This is mostly family stuff but when I leave I’ll be taking a few of these guys off your hands.” He turned and looked right at Ian. “Ian, the Admiral sends his apologies; he’s off-world this afternoon.” Then turned to look at Norris. “Please continue, Colonel.”
Ian redirected his attention to Colonel Norris and tried to ignore how every single one of his classmates were looking at him. They’d all been a little shocked when he’d left his room with Jake and now this. He wasn’t embarrassed, he was just insanely overwhelmed.
“Holy shit,” Jake muttered.
“Shhh.” Ian nudged him.
How he made it through the ceremony would be a fucking mystery to him the rest of his life. But the moment they were dismissed, Sebastian Sheppard made a beeline for him. He caught the kid with a laugh. “Hey, kiddo.”
“Lt. Wilkes.” He looped his arms around his neck. “Daddy says we have thirty minutes to collect your shit.”
“Language,” Ian admonished and tried to overlook the fact that the kid had a bullet proof vest on.
“Yeah, yeah.” Sebastian grinned. “They let me hang out with ex-Marines all day and expect me not to curse? It’s worse than Catholic school.” He turned and looked at Jake who was lingering. “My dad wants to see you as well, Lt. Holland. I was instructed to tell you to haul ass; he hates to wait.”
Ian sat Sebastian down on his feet. “New suit?”
“Yep, I’ve grown a whole inch since Vegas and the pants didn’t fit on the other two. I even got some fun ties this time because Dad didn’t go.” He pulled out his tie to show off the tiny Stargates printed on the black silk.
Ian snickered. “Nice.”
“I got you one, too.” Sebastian wiggled his eyebrows. “I got everybody one. Dad refuses to wear his on the grounds that the Stargate isn’t accurate. General O’Neill loves his. Good news, you totally outrank Jimmy.”
Ian glanced towards Jimmy Martinson he was directing a few enlisted men around so that they spanned out and kept Sebastian within their reach. “We should join your dad.”
“Yeah. He looks like he hates the conversation he’s in right now.”
He really did, Ian thought. Sheppard was standing, his posture appeared casual but the tension was obvious. Colonel Norris obviously wasn’t saying something that Sheppard wanted to hear. He wondered if Norris had a death wish. “Come on, Jake. Looks like you get to meet the General.”
“Yeah,” Jake said faintly. “Still can’t talk about it?”
“We’ll see,” Ian responded and let Sebastian curl his hand around two of his fingers and pull him through the crowd of new officers and parents.
“Dad, mission accomplished.” Sebastian motioned to Ian and Jake. “They came along willingly. I didn’t even have to break out a weapon.”
John chuckled. “Good to hear, you’re a natural born hostage taker.” He inclined his head. “Colonel Jefferson Norris, meet my son, John Sebastian Sheppard, Jr.”
“Sir.” Sebastian offered him a reserved ‘don’t pat my head’ look that made Ian want to laugh.
“It’s a pleasure, Sebastian.”
“For now,” Sebastian said with a little smile. “I have it on very good authority that I’m a wretched little smart ass.”
“Family trait,” Rodney assured. “You can’t help it.”
“Who called you a wretched little smart ass?” Ian asked with a frown.
“The President,” John murmured dryly. “He called him a perfectly wretched little smart ass, invited him to his regular monthly golf game.” John checked his watch. “So, as I was saying Colonel Norris, I’ll be taking four officers off your hands today. Wilkes, Holland, Riley, and Peterson.”
“They were all four stationed at McMurdo,” Norris responded neutrally.
“Yes, all the men and women who will be stationed on the Phoenix for the Atlantis mission are being routed through McMurdo for training. You didn’t honestly think we’d stick the top one percent of the class in a dead end posting like McMurdo, did you?” He turned to Jimmy. “Martinson, go collect the rest of my baby officers and have them get their stuff. We’ll meet you in the barracks lobby in twenty.”
“Sir, you do realize that Wilkes isn’t exactly up for space travel. He’s functioning on one kidney.”
John raised an eyebrow. “It was my understanding that he busted records for physical endurance left and right while he was here training. Including a few I used to hold.” He shot Ian a look at that.
“Yes, well, that aside. To get stationed on the Phoenix for the Atlantis mission is…”
“Is what?” Rodney demanded.
“Mer.” John looked at McKay. “Why don’t you take Sebastian outside and let him look at the memorabilia in the auditorium. I think you’ll find some pictures of me out there somewhere.”
McKay glared. “Sure, come on Sebastian. The little soldiers are about to have a conversation to low brow for geniuses to hear.”
Sebastian snickered. “Can we steal the pictures we find of Dad?”
“No, but we can ask for copies.”
John waited until they left and then glanced briefly at Ian who looked strung tight with anger and some strange fear that he hated to see on the younger man’s face. His gaze flicked to Jake Holland and John almost smiled. “Your brother would be very pleased with you. You did well here. I’ll admit until I saw your scores I was going to deny your request for the SGC because frankly we are overflowing with personnel these days. If Ian hadn’t been here—I know you would have been on at the top of the class.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“If I hadn’t trained with you, he would have been at the top of the class,” Ian murmured.
John grinned. “Oh, you were a pretty tough bastard the first time I kicked your ass. Granted, you were just pure badass the last time I kicked it. Go get your gear, gentlemen, and meet up with Lt. Martinson.” He turned back to Norris as both young men left in a real hurry. “Ian Wilkes earned his place at the SGC with blood. He earned his place in OTS with the near sacrifice of his life. He’s on the Phoenix crew because there are few people on this planet I’d rather take with me to another galaxy. I trust him, Colonel Norris.”
“His file is light on details of his past assignments.”
“The details are classified.” John looked over the man’s face and sighed. “He took a bullet meant for someone else, Norris. A wound that by all rights should have been fatal and he did it thinking that it would kill him. He also didn’t ask for any favors. Didn’t even ask for us to fight for him when the DOD wanted to discharge him. Ian Wilkes is a good, ridiculously modest kid who I owe a debt I can never repay. He’s a son to me. Don’t make waves on this issue—you’ll have people with stars on their collars from here to the mountain very irritated with you.”
“Good.” John nodded and looked away. “And, good job. I knew you were being a bastard to him. I didn’t interfere, by the way, because he needed it. He needed to come out of OTS at the top of his game and top dog on the pile. If he hadn’t, I would have had to fight to keep him at the SGC. So, I owe you one.”
“It was frankly difficult to believe that he’d had major surgery three months before he arrived. He blew men with twice his experience out of the water in every single way.” Norris admitted grudgingly.
“You’ll probably receive more men like him… all out of the SGC. If they don’t impress you the same way I’m going to be very pissed.” John offered a smile then. “So, you’ll keep me informed?”
“I will.” Norris nodded.
* * * *
Sebastian bounced on Ian’s bed and looked around the room. “Wow, is this like a prison or something?”
Jake laughed and Ian shook his head. “It’s actually not bad. I shared a room with forty guys in basic training.”
“Sucks.” Sebastian frowned. “I’d definitely go to the Academy. I don’t know that I could sleep in the same room with that many people… not after foster care.”
Ian winced and glanced towards Jake who raised one eyebrow. He shook his head abruptly. “So, tell me the news that you didn’t put in the email.”
“The Dads are planning this gianormous birthday party for me on the island. You’re invited.” He grinned. “A whole week of surfing, skiing, parasailing, jet skis, and chocolate cake.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
“Yep, Dad sent out a construction crew—they built me a half-pipe. A big one! It’s like my personal amusement park. I can’t wait.”
“Pays to have a billionaire Daddy.” Ian grinned when Sebastian laughed. “I thought he said no the half-pipe because it would spoil his view.”
“We had to put it on the opposite side of the house from his office and it had to be a constructed in an artistic manner. So it…” He sighed. “It’s like built of that stuff they used to make the windows for the Phoenix. Nearly transparent and really tough. Which totally rocks.”
“It sure does.” Ian zipped up the garment bag that held his dress uniform and glanced up as the door opened. “Hey.”
Jimmy Martinson offered a small smile. “The Apollo had an emergency mission and nothing else is in orbit. The Phoenix is on the ground for some fine tuning. McKay and the General are discussing transportation options—private plane or a Jumper.”
Sebastian jumped up. “That’s totally a team decision. I should go join in.”
Jimmy let him out of the room and signaled to a Marine in the hallway to follow. He came fully in and put a bag on the bed and unzipped it. He pulled out four guns, lined them on the bed and then dropped two tac vests on top. “The General didn’t want you to leave the building unarmed—especially since some asshole broke the news that McKay and the kid are here.”
Ian grimaced. “One of the parents?”
“Is a reporter.” Jimmy grimaced. “The officer in question is mortified but the damage is done. I doubt her parents will ever get into a military function again.”
“Is she going to be punished?” Jake asked.
“No. The General isn’t like that.” Jimmy eyed the Air Force officer critically. “Can you handle a P-90?”
“Good.” He focused on Ian. “I cleaned and sighted these personally.”
“Thanks.” Ian pulled on a tac vest, shoved the 9mm in a leg holster and clipped a P-90 to his vest. “Extra ammo?”
Jimmy chuckled and reached into the bag. “As if I would travel without enough ammo to take over a small country.” He handed him two extra clips for both weapons and set two more out for Jake. “No matter their decision they’ll be ready to roll in twenty.”
Jimmy nodded. “See you in a few. I have check on the other baby officers and get them suited up.”
“So not a baby,” Ian muttered. He relaxed when Jimmy left the room at a quick pace. “Shit.”
“Distance just made the heart grow fonder, huh?” Jake grinned when Ian glared at him. “Come on.”
“Yeah, it sucks actually. So, can we not talk about it?”
“Sure.” Jake folded his arms. “Tell me how you got injured. I’d rather hear it from you than some half-assed rumor at the SGC.”
Ian grimaced. He knew he would, too. The mountain was one big soap opera that way. “I took a bullet for the kid.”
Jake nodded, suddenly pale. “Christ, Ian.”
“Yeah.” Ian nodded. “Let’s go. I don’t want to keep the General waiting.”
* * * *
Sebastian peeked between two Marines so he could look out the window and jerked back with a sigh. “I hate reporters.”
“How many?” John glared at him and snapped his fingers. He pointed to the side of the room where McKay was sitting.
Sebastian dragged himself over to McKay with a sigh. “All of them. Every reporter on Earth is out there. I think I even saw that wack-ass tabloid reporter from the Moral Report.” He dropped down on the bench beside his Dad and studiously ignored the snickers his comment had earned from several of the Marines.
John schooled his mouth to keep from laughing. “Language.”
Rodney lifted his gaze from his laptop. “She’s totally wack-ass. No other term could ever fit. Unless you want to add frigid to the front and bitch to the end. Because really—‘frigid wack-ass bitch’ really sums it up. If she got laid every once a while maybe she wouldn’t spend so much time on TV speculating about all the gay sex we have.”
John laughed in spite of himself and shook his head. “I don’t know why I put up with either one of you.”
“Because I made you a space ship and you made him. So, ya know, you’re sort of stuck with us.”
“Hmmm, not a bad gig for me I guess.” John sighed. “Tell Sean to set up the Ellen thing.”
“Sure thing. Before or after the party?”
“That’s just ten days, John.”
John sent him a look. “If she can’t make room for us—find someone who will. Maybe those snarky women on the View? They’d love to get the three of us squished up between them.”
Sebastian made a face. “I don’t like them at all since Rosie is gone. I mean Whoopi is great… but that Hasselbeck woman is just… ugly on a cellular level.”
“You like lesbians a lot.” Rodney pointed out.
Sebastian looked at him. “What guy doesn’t? Those women on the L Word are hot.”
“Oh Christ, I’m putting a parental lock on your TV.” John glared at him. “I can’t believe…”
“Oh come on, Dad. I’ll be ten in a matter of days—I should be allowed to watch pretty girls make out and stuff. It isn’t like I’m buying Girls Gone Wild videos.”
That sent every Marine in the room into a fit of laughter that even a glare from John didn’t suppress.
“Stop before you give your father a stroke,” Rodney closed his laptop. “They should be here soon.”
“Yeah.” John glared at Sebastian. “Seriously, we are having a very long talk in the Jumper.”
“Jennifer Beals is my favorite.”
John paused. “Okay, granted, that woman… is beautiful. That does not mean you’re allowed to watch her parade on television naked.”
“She’s one of the ones that never gets naked,” Sebastian admitted. “It’s… a disappointment. You see more of her in Flash Dance than on a cable show where she sleeps with other women. It’s frankly disturbing.”
“For what?” Sebastian demanded.
“Puberty,” John snapped back. “I’m so not ready for that.”
“I heard that ninety percent of the gene carriers are bi-sexual. Should I be scoping out guys so I can pick out my “type” in guys, too? Queer as Folk was cancelled but I bet I could get it on NetFlix.”
John’s mouth dropped open and he turned the Sheppard Death Glare on Rodney who lost it and joined the Marines in the giggles. He was sincerely starting to regret all the therapy they’d been in lately. It was great for Sebastian but it was fast becoming a personal hell for him. “All of you in the fucking Jumpers, right now.”
The appearance of two Jumpers over their heads had the reporters scrambling out of the way—and they landed as close to the steps of the building as they could. John paused at the door and looked around the room. “Sebastian, give your backpack off to Sergeant Grant. Wilkes, Martinson—you’re on McKay. Phelps, I’ll need your shirt.”
Phelps came out of his tac-vest and stripped off the black shirt without a word and handed it over. He rebuckled his vest over his t-shirt quickly, retrieved his P-90 from the fellow Marine he’d handed it off to and reclipped.
“Sebastian.” John held out his hands and Sebastian gamely came along. “No faces, kid. You know the drill.”
“Yeah.” Sebastian nodded and let his father pick him up. He didn’t complain as McKay covered his head with shirt and settled his face against his father’s neck.
“Is that enough?” Jake asked softly.
“He’s wearing a vest,” Ian responded. “This is just to keep the reporters from getting a good angle on him. They have no sense of boundaries when it comes to Sebastian.”
“Let’s travel people.”
It took a full minute to get to the Jumpers, even with the line of twenty MPs between them and the reporters. John sat Sebastian down in one of the chairs and slid into the pilot seat. “Thanks for the lift, Colonel.”
Lt. Colonel Evan Lorne smiled. “We’re loaded for bear, sir. But I suggest we go straight up and not travel over land.”
“Agreed.” John connected his radio with the Jumper. “Jumper 2, are you ready?”
“Flight ready, sir. All passengers accounted for.”
Sebastian buckled his harness and used his foot to swivel his chair around so he could stare into the cargo bay. His expression stone cold serious. “Good afternoon, and welcome aboard Jumper One. Our flight today will take us out of the Earth’s atmosphere for a little trip through our solar system. We will use the space gate to return to Cheyenne Mountain. For those of you new to Stargate travel, I must warn you that it is horrifically painful. Please don’t scream or cry. There is no crying in General’s presence. If I can handle it—so can you.” The three new officers who were seated all in a row gaped at him and then looked across the Jumper for confirmation. The Marines nodded sagely and Ian shrugged. He turned back around in his chair and shared a little grin with McKay that made John suck in a breath to keep from laughing.
God, he had one twisted kid. It was great.
* * * *
“My son is not a goddamned government asset,” John ground at through clenched teeth.
“I’m under strict orders to release your schedule to the public whenever you make an appearance with your family, General. You attended the graduation ceremony of a class of Air Force officers. It was news.” Timothy Barnes was a civilian contractor and it was probably the only reason he was still breathing. “Since you’ve made no effort to follow the Pentagon’s press plan for your family, General Sheppard… we are forced to make decisions on the fly.”
“If you ever leak the location of my child to the press again I will find you and kill you,” John returned evenly.
Barnes paled. “It’s my job.”
“It’s my job to protect my family and I consider you an imminent threat.” John responded. “You could have gotten McKay and our child killed today because we weren’t prepared for the crowd. That the reporters were allowed on the base at all tells me everything I want to know about how far up this order went. So, let me give you some information to pass on to your boss and anyone else that might be interested. IF this ever fucking happens again—I will retire my commission and we’ll disappear. I’ll take my whole fucking family with me. If you think I’m not capable of it—think again. My astrophysicist could build a spaceship in our backyard for fuck’s sake.”
* * * *
He wasn’t exactly surprised when he had a four star General standing in his office three hours later. John offered the man a precise salute. “General Hammond, it’s a pleasure to see you, sir.”
“John, at ease” Hammond shot O’Neill a look. “You’ve got a quite a few panties in a twist in Washington.”
John nodded as he flowed into parade rest. “Yes, I figured I might.”
“The President is too busy reaming asses all over the Pentagon to come himself and the Secretary of the Air Force is one of the people currently bent over taking it dry and hard. President Hayes has taken your promise to disappear very seriously.”
“As well he should,” John responded carefully. “Because I was deadly serious about all of it. They are using my kid for press relations and I will not stand for it.” His gaze flicked to O’Neill. “Was the mission for Apollo legitimate or were you ordered to make sure it wasn’t available for a beam home?”
Jack’s mouth dropped open and he glared. “John, Christ, you know me better than that. I almost recalled you before I let them leave. I didn’t even know what had happened with the press until the Jumpers were on the ground.”
John nodded, but he was still so fucking angry that he could barely see straight. “I want Barnes out of the mountain, Sir.”
“Oh.” Jack laughed softly. “He ran about five seconds after you left his office. If he has his way he’ll never even be in the same state with you again.”
“I’ve never asked for anything,” John started. “I’ve done my job. I let the Pentagon make my relationship with McKay front page news so that it could further their agenda to secretly recruit potential gene carriers. I smiled for the cameras, I proposed on Larry King when I would have preferred to do it in private, I did stupid interviews about my personal life, let reporters into my home with cameras, went on lecture tours with McKay when all I really want to do is keep him at home, we attend stupid parties in Washington, and I’ve allowed McKay’s assistant to set up an interview for the entire family on daytime talk show, for fuck’s sake.”
“I’m not finished, sir.” John stared at O’Neill for a few seconds and took a deep breath. “I’ve deliberately set out to sacrifice my life for my planet more than once. I’ve nearly died seven times, did, in fact, die twice. I sacrifice my home life, time with my family, and a multitude of other things I probably won’t even recognize until it’s too late to get it back – but I will not allow anyone to compromise the safety of my family. If it happens again—we’re gone. Period.” He closed his eyes. “So, I’m asking you, no I’m begging you, both to make sure I never have to chose between my family and my duty—because you won’t like the results.”
Hammond stood. “It won’t happen again. The Pentagon will never be responsible for leaking such information about your family again.”
“There was a reporter at the ceremony. Was he a plant?”
“Fortuitous is the word the Press Secretary used. They found out this morning that one of the officers had a father that works freelance for the New York Times. He wasn’t even slated to attend his daughter’s graduation.”
* * * *
Jake Holland dropped his duffle on the narrow bed that was his for next three weeks and shot a glance at Ian. “So, how did we get to be roommates again?”
“There were two rooms open. Sheppard wasn’t exaggerating when he said the SGC is overflowing with personnel. Two guys, two girls. So Riley and Peterson are two floors up in a tiny room just like this.”
“He called you family in front of our entire graduating class.”
Ian looked away. “Yeah, well, that was a pretty overwhelming experience. I didn’t think anything could beat the first time he said it. The day he told me I couldn’t be more his family if he’d fathered me.” He blew air out his lips. “I don’t know that I can live up to that.”
“The guys on this base talk about you like you’ve already lived up to it. The Marines… I sort of figured that Marines would treat us like we should be honored to even be in the same room with them.”
“Maybe on other bases. But the two top dogs in this mountain are Air Force. The highest ranking Marine on the base is a Major. Not that she isn’t totally bad ass, but she doesn’t stand a chance against Sheppard.” Ian sighed. “So, we’re confined for three days and then we’ll get a twenty-four hour pass. I’m probably going to spend a few hours with Sebastian. I promised him some serious Halo time. After that we’ll be rotated in and out of training classes on Ancient technology. Some of them Dr. McKay is teaching—so that’s going to be interesting.”
“He seemed nice today.”
“McKay is a hardass. Just like the General—but different. Trust me; I wouldn’t cross my eyes at either one of them.”
“I heard about what he did earlier when I was getting dressed after my shower.”
“They aren’t supposed to talk about that,” Ian murmured. “Which thing?”
“The X-302 with O’Neill, three hours in Atlantic with a single floatation device between them and the General had a concussion. The volcano thing on that planet that took Sheppard. Shooting two rogue NID agents in the head.”
“Blowing up a solar system?” Ian asked amused. “Cause he did that, too. That is far more fucking scary to me. Any asshole could shoot two people in the head.”
“Granted.” Jake sprawled out on his bed. “So, I think your friend is jealous of me.”
Ian snorted. “It’s because he assumes everyone has the same morals that he does and the same ‘any hole in a storm’ attitude. It always surprises him when he comes across a truly straight guy.”
Jake laughed. “Yeah.”
“He’ll probably hit on you.”
“Somehow I doubt it.” Jake chuckled. “He seemed pretty intent on you, actually.”
Ian shook his head. “He’s just too much of a player to really settle into a relationship with anyone.”
* * * *