Title: Coping Strategies
Series: Hold My Coffee
Series Order: 5
Author: Keira Marcos
Betas: Ladyholder & Jilly James
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Relationship: Meredith McKay/John Sheppard
Genre: Romance, Rule 63, Alternate Universe
Word Count: 11,723
Warnings: Explicit Language, discussion of domestic violence and child abuse
Author’s Note: DADT never existed in this world, and LGBT people can serve openly in the military with no real issues to be had. I just didn’t feel like dealing with that utter bullshit.
Summary: Meredith’s trip to Canada solidifies her relationship with John Sheppard and brings up old ghosts.
* * * *
Even if she ignored the aliens and the spaceships, her life was just weird. She’d had a live-in boyfriend during her second Ph.D. for about six months, and that was the sum total of her experience in dealing with a man in intimate circumstances outside of sex. After Owen, she’d never even allowed herself to spend the night with a man. They were too much trouble, and it was all a big mess. Yet, here she was having slept beside John Sheppard all night long and she still hadn’t gotten laid. They’d both been exhausted from stress and the flight that they’d crawled into the bed and passed out as soon as they’d reached the hotel.
“I know you’re awake.”
John shifted slightly and turned his head before opening his eyes. “I was trying to figure out if your staring at me while I was asleep was crazy or not.”
“It’s pretty crazy,” he said with a grin. “But since it isn’t even the craziest thing I’ve seen you do—I can work with it. Sleep well?”
“More passed out, I think, but I feel better.” She glanced at the clock on the nightstand. “We have about two hours before Jeannie and everyone are due to arrive for breakfast. Did you want the first shower?”
“You go ahead. I’ll sleep some more.” He paused. “But don’t leave the room without me.”
“I wouldn’t,” Meredith said. “I have no interest in being kidnapped again. Once was more than enough to last me a lifetime.”
She slipped out of the bed as he curled back up under the covers and closed his eyes. Once she was up, she was up, and there was no getting around that, so it was kind of annoying that he could apparently go back to sleep. She pulled out an outfit and grabbed her makeup bag and bathroom supplies from their luggage before going to the bathroom.
Meredith hurried through a shower and dried her hair. She briefly considered no makeup but knew if she did, Jeannie would comment on it. So she put on enough to get by and opened the door. John was seated on the bed, stretching his legs out in front of him. She watched for a few seconds, a little curious by the activity.
“When I was…” He frowned at the floor. “Well, when I was being held hostage I didn’t have a lot of space to move around. My cell was pretty small, and I was only allowed out once a week to shower.” John flexed his feet and shifted around on the bed so he could look at her. “So I had to figure out exercises to keep my muscles in good condition. I still do a few of them. The psychologist I saw in Nevada didn’t think it was a problem that I kept a few them though she did think it was just a left-over coping mechanism.”
“Did they help then?”
“Do they help now?” She leaned on the doorway as he paused to consider his answer.
“I don’t need it physically, obviously, but yeah it’s sort of meditative in a way.”
“But?” Meredith prodded.
“It made Nancy uncomfortable,” John admitted roughly. “And it made my father furious—to be reminded what I went through and to know that there are probably a few psychological quirks I’ll carry the rest of my life as a result.”
“I don’t get it,” Meredith said. “They had the worst-case scenario shoved in their faces. It seems like they’d just all be grateful that you’re alive instead of pushing and prodding you into being something they can be comfortable with.”
“They love me,” John murmured. “But sometimes I think that maybe they’re all still sort of mentally stuck at my memorial service. I can’t do anything about that, you know, unless I give up everything that I want and do what would make them happy.”
She walked across the space and sat down beside him on the bed. “Show me.”
“Show you what?”
“What you were doing with your legs.” She stretched her jean clad legs out in front of her and curled her toes a little.
“Miko picked it out. I was just going to get clear for my pedicure,” Meredith admitted and frowned at the dark pink polish on her toenails. “It has some silly name.”
John laughed. “Right.” He turned around to face the wall beside the bed and stretched his legs back out. “I just hold my legs off the floor slightly and flex all the muscles one by one. I start with my feet.”
She watched his feet and copied the movement. “It feels kind of like what I do when I take off a pair of heels. Though I don’t wear them often because I’m tall for a woman and I’ve found that some men can be more aggressive with me when I’m taller than them.”
“Point your toes and then draw your foot back toward your body slowly then tense the muscles in your lower leg. Count to ten and relax,” John murmured.
Meredith put her hands on the bed to steady herself and let the fingers on her left hand drift over his where he was bracing and did as instructed. “You do this under your desk sometimes.”
“Yeah, sometimes. It helps me think.”
She glanced at him and found his cheeks flushed. “You can tell me anything, you know. I’m not going to judge you for this or any other thing you do keep your mind settled. I can’t and never would compare any experience I’ve had to yours, but I do know what it’s like to have a mind that won’t be quiet. I know what it’s like to have emotional triggers that no one understands and coping strategies that make people around me uncomfortable.”
John shifted his hand slightly and hooked his pinky finger around hers. “I know. I think I’ve known that about you since the beginning, and maybe that’s another reason why I didn’t let myself get too comfortable around you in Nevada.”
“Because you depended on Nancy and she let you down.”
“That’s not fair to her,” John said.
“Perhaps not, but it’s valid,” Meredith said. “While I’m not saying she did it on purpose—she wasn’t who or what you needed her to be when you came home. A part of you trusted her to be exactly the same, no matter how unrealistic it was, and she wasn’t.”
“Yeah.” He took a deep breath. “When I realized that she was in love with someone else, I felt incredibly selfish. I felt like I’d abused our friendship to create a romantic relationship that shouldn’t have ever existed. There was a small part of me that never wanted to hear her admit it, and I was so angry when they came to me together and confessed.”
Meredith exhaled sharply. “I think that’s perfectly normal.”
“Maybe, but even that anger felt destructive and selfish. I wasn’t in a great place when I landed in Nevada, but I’m going to tell you something that I’d never tell anyone else.”
“I think you might have saved my life the day you picked me for that assignment,” John said roughly. “I had plans to request time at the Army War College, but I doubt I would’ve stayed longer than six months, then I would’ve been in a war zone far before I was ready for that kind of action. I’d still be angry and feeling trapped by their grief and expectations.”
She put her feet down when he lowered his own to the floor. “The truth is that I sort of had a big stupid crush on your brain before you even arrived. Your doctoral thesis is practically math porn.”
John laughed. “Mer.”
“No seriously, it is crazy good, and I’ve never read anything like it—you make math look and sound like art. I was utterly fascinated by you before I ever saw you.” She paused. “The fact that you look like a male model was startling and frankly a little annoying.”
“I get it,” John admitted. “There were a few months there in Nevada when I was pretty certain Rampart was punishing me.” He paused. “That was around the time you decided it was too hot to wear anything but tank tops and shorts to work. Then you’d have that stupid lab coat on, which made it look like were naked underneath even if I knew you had on clothes.”
Meredith laughed. “It was hot. I spent three months complaining before they fixed the environmental controls in that place.” She bumped him lightly with her shoulder. “Go shower because Jeannie will be here in about an hour and we’ll have to endure whatever thing she has planned.”
She stayed on the bed and curled her toes into the carpet as he gathered up his own stuff and disappeared into the bathroom. Had she handled that right? She really wasn’t used to dealing with that sort of thing, and more than one person in her life had told her that she was basically incapable of properly expressing empathy. Granted, all of those people were assholes so she’d long ago resolved to ignore their opinions.
Meredith stood from the bed, picked up her computer bag, and pulled out a tablet, which she carried into the small living area of the executive suite she’d booked and sat down on the couch. She’d done a lot of reading on the plane, but there was more. Granted, she couldn’t respond to anything at present since she’d need a secure internet connection to send email responses. No one expected to hear from her over the next few days due to the traveling, but she had a cell phone so was more than ready to call someone to berate them for being an idiot if they were being an idiot, which was entirely likely.
Fortunately, Miko was in the Mountain to herd the morons, and Radek was due to arrive on Monday, which meant she’d have help keeping them all from blowing up the place. Sam was a brilliant scientist but she often ignored others working in the Mountain until they became a problem. Maybe it was a byproduct of how often she was in the field and the fact that she largely worked alone when it came to scientific experimentation. Also, until Ancient technology became a priority for the IOA, Meredith had handled most of the day-to-day management of scientific resources at the SGC. She’d have to advocate to Sam that she pick another second in command for the science teams.
There was a brisk knock on the door, and she frowned before setting aside her tablet. She checked the peephole and swallowed a groan of frustration. A glance at her watch confirmed that Jeannie was nearly forty minutes early. Meredith deeply regretted telling her sister the room number during the brief conversation they’d had after the two of them checked in. She unlocked the door and opened it.
“Mer.” Jeannie’s gaze narrowed. “You look tired. Is that a bruise on your face?”
“I am not all that tired, though traveling wore me out yesterday, and yes it’s a bruise, it’s mostly healed. I fell down a flight of stairs at work. It’s fine. I was barely hurt.”
Jeannie frowned at her but allowed Meredith to draw her into the room and shut the door. “You fell down the stairs. Seriously?”
“I was distracted, and you know I’m clumsy when I’m distracted.” She motioned toward the couch. “Take a seat. John’s in the shower, but he’ll be out soon enough. Where are Kaleb and the kids?”
“Downstairs,” Jeannie said and crossed her arms without sitting as instructed “Why did you bring a stranger with you, Mer? You’re going to be gone for a year and…” She sighed in frustration.
“John’s not a stranger,” Meredith said pointedly and jerked her head toward the end of the couch opposite her. “He was actually someone I considered a friend before we started dating, and I expect you to be nice to him.”
“I’m always nice,” Jeannie protested. “You’re the terrible one.” She dropped down on the couch. “Seriously, why did you bring him?”
“I might need a timely extraction from your clutches, and John’s Special Forces.” Meredith smiled brightly when her sister’s mouth dropped open. She picked up her tablet, logged out of it, then powered the machine down. The device itself wasn’t commercially available, but Jeannie had seen one similar to it in the past, but she’d been curious enough about it to pick it up more than once during the last visit so it was best to turn it off to prevent snooping.
“You should tell her the truth,” John said.
Meredith focused on him and found him standing in the entrance of the bedroom area towel drying his hair. He was dressed in jeans and polo shirt but hadn’t bothered to put on his shoes. “John.”
“She brought her kids, Mer. Tell her the truth.” John raised an eyebrow when she huffed at him then left the doorway.
“Wow,” Jeannie muttered. “That man is hot. And what truth?”
Meredith ran both of her hands through her hair in frustration because John was right, and that was annoying. “Shortly before I was supposed to visit you two years ago, I was kidnapped.” She winced when Jeannie gasped in obvious horror. Meredith focused on her sister and found her bright blue eyes wide with shock. “I can’t give you specifics on why, so please don’t ask. But it is why I canceled the trip, and it’s why I haven’t been to visit you since. Due to the nature of my work and my current threat profile, I can’t travel without security.
“John offered to come with me on this trip so I wouldn’t have to bring a couple of genuine strangers to be my bodyguards. We do have a personal relationship, so don’t think I lied about that to hide the fact that he’s also acting as my security.”
“How long were you…kidnapped?” Jeannie asked in a low voice. “Did they hurt you?”
“No, I wasn’t hurt, and I was held for a couple of days while they tried to get me out of the country, but the people I work for found and rescued me. I haven’t had any attempts or problems since then, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I’ll understand if it makes you scared and you’d prefer that we leave.”
“No, I don’t want you to leave,” Jeannie snapped. “Mer, someone kidnapped you, and you didn’t tell me?”
“You were pregnant with Max at the time,” Meredith pointed out. “I didn’t want to risk upsetting you too much, and I wasn’t hurt, as I already said. It was scary, and I’d rather not have the experience again, but I’m not traumatized by it or anything.”
“You’ve told me time and time again that your work was classified,” Jeannie whispered. “I just never thought that also meant dangerous.”
“There are people all over the world that would do practically anything to get information on some of the top-tier scientific projects going on in the U.S., Jeannie, and I think you know that.”
She nodded. “Yeah, I mean, I’m sure that’s true I just never equated that with you being hurt or killed for that information.” Her mouth trembled. “Mer.”
“No crying, Jeannie. I didn’t get hurt. I just got tossed in a van and gagged because I was annoyed with being kidnapped and couldn’t stop bitching at them about it.”
Jeannie snorted. “Mer.”
“No, really, they were really terrible at it, and they were caught on multiple security cameras. I was really pissed at having been snatched in front of my favorite coffee shop by what I’d deemed to be incompetent amateurs, and I let them know it. They eventually gagged me when they realized that yelling at me to shut up was just making me more irritated with them and their unprofessional handling of the whole thing.”
“Only you,” Jeannie said in fond frustration, “would be upset because your kidnappers weren’t professional.”
Meredith huffed. “One of them was wearing bespoke shoes. How dumb is that?”
Jeannie frowned. “That was…I bet they were really easy to trace from the video footage.”
“Exactly!” Meredith huffed and dropped back on the couch. “That’s how I was rescued actually. They traced the shoes, then his passport, and the fact that he’d rented a house in his own name. Dumb bastard.”
“I admit that it would be pretty insulting and infuriating to be kidnapped by a moron,” Jeannie said and shook her head. “You should have told me.”
“I had no intention of ever telling you,” Meredith admitted. “But John’s a really reasonable person.”
“I bet that’s frustrating.” Jeannie smiled. “You hate it when people are reasonable with you.”
“It’s utterly unnatural,” Meredith pointed out. “And I’m pretty sure it’s a sign of a sociopath.”
“That’s ugly,” John said as he left the bedroom, pulling on a fleece jacket. “Didn’t one of your scientists write an essay detailing all of your sociopathic tendencies?”
“She might have.” Meredith frowned. “Colonel John Sheppard, meet my sister Jean McKay Miller.”
Jeannie stood and offered her hand. “Colonel.”
“Call me John, Mrs. Miller. I’d apologize for keeping you waiting but you’re early.” John smiled as he took her hand and Meredith sighed when her sister blushed prettily.
“Don’t smile at her like that, John. Her children are already destroying her brain. You don’t need to add to it.”
Jeannie laughed. “That’s actually true. Kids will ruin you, and please call me Jean.”
“Jean,” John repeated and focused on Meredith. “Is eating part of the plan? Because I’m starving.”
“Eating better be a part of the plan,” Meredith said and shot her sister a narrow-eyed look.
* * * *
It took him about five minutes to decide that Kaleb Miller wasn’t particularly fond of Meredith. The two barely spoke, and it was certainly civil, but something about it put John on edge. The man was polite enough, but there was an air of disapproval about him that reminded John of a few men he’d gone to school with and hated. Men, he thought, that had often given Nancy a hard time for being in the engineering program merely because she was a woman.
Meredith ordered first, and John leaned back slightly as the waiter focused on him next.
“I’ll have the blueberry pancakes with bacon. Also, if your manager is here, I’d like him to be made personally aware of the severity of Dr. McKay’s food allergies and how careful I expect the kitchen staff to be with every single plate they bring to this table.”
The waiter flushed and glanced briefly at Meredith. “Yes, of course. I’ve made a note, and I will speak with the manager and the chef. No citrus of any kind.”
John nodded and closed his own menu. Mer shifted closer to him briefly and put her hand on his thigh before focusing on her coffee. Kaleb Miller looked irritated and Jean uncomfortable.
“We could eat at another table if the limitations are too much for you,” John said dryly and stared pointedly at Kaleb as he spoke.
Miller flushed and shook his head. “No, of course not.”
John pulled out his phone, checked his messages briefly, then tucked the phone away while the Millers ordered.
“You’re really pretty.”
John focused on Madison Miller and found her staring at him pointedly. “So are you.”
Madison blushed. “Are you a doctor like Aunt Mer?”
“I have a doctorate in theoretical math, but no, I’m not like your Aunt Mer. She’s one of the smartest people on the whole planet.”
“She’s smarter than you.”
“She’s smarter than anyone I’ve ever met,” John said.
“So you like smart girls?” Madison asked. “Tommy at school said girls shouldn’t be smart—that it makes them ugly.”
John glanced at Jean. “Well, Tommy’s wrong, obviously. And, between you and me, I only date smart girls.”
“We spoke to the school,” Kaleb said as Madison smiled brightly at John. “The boy is a bit of a bully. They’ve separated him from several children already, and he was moved away from Madison last week.”
“Maybe he should just be removed from the school,” Meredith said. “I know you hate to cause a scene, Jeannie, but…”
“Kaleb handled it,” Jean said stiffly, and Meredith’s fingers curled into a fist against John’s thigh.
Meredith frowned and focused on the baby who was chewing his fist and staring at her. “He’s not talking yet?”
“He is,” Jeannie said with a little huff. “Just…only when he wants to.”
Meredith laughed. “You were the same. It frustrated Mom to no end.”
The whole family dynamic was weird, and John was a little irritated that he hadn’t asked Meredith more questions about her relationship with her sister and Kaleb Miller. The man had all the earmarks of a controlling asshole which was putting John seriously off his stride. He’d stupidly assumed that Meredith and Jean were very similar in personality and it was the root of their problems, but that was clearly not the case. Fortunately, Madison Miller chattered the entire meal, most especially about the doll that Meredith had sent her recently as she loved getting mail with her name on it.
John’s own family had a lot of conflicts, but they were all pretty comfortable with just arguing it out. He knew that practically every argument he’d had with his father and brothers over the years was essentially founded on love and fear for his safety. He got it, even if he hated it.
“If you’re really smart, why are you in the military?”
John blinked and focused on Madison who was staring at him again; gaze fairly intense for an eight-year-old. “Well, plenty of smart people are in the military, so it’s not uncommon at all. In fact, your Aunt Meredith works with a brilliant woman who is in the Air Force.”
Madison nodded. “But why did you join the Marines?”
“My family has a history of serving our country—dating all the way back to the Revolutionary War. It was always my intention to follow that tradition, though it probably wouldn’t have been a career choice. But my mother was killed overseas while she was working as a reporter, and I came to believe it was my duty to help make the world a safer and better place so no one else would lose their mom the way I did.”
Madison nodded, her mouth tight. “I’m sorry about your mom.”
“Thank you, but it was many years ago.”
“Still, having no mom sucks,” Madison declared. “Who makes sure your socks match?”
“No one,” John told her gravely. “So I have to buy all the same socks. My socks are so boring.”
Madison laughed, reached out, and stole a piece of his bacon off the small plate it had come on.
“Madison,” Jean scolded.
“Ha!” Madison held up a hand and chomped down on the bacon. “Humans are omnivores. I require meat to live.”
“I swear on my unification theory I didn’t teach her that,” Meredith declared.
Kaleb sighed. “No, her school biology teacher recently taught her that. It’s difficult to combat since it’s…accurate in a way. Humans are omnivores.” He focused on his daughter. “But you can get the protein you need from plants, Madison.”
She frowned. “Yes, Daddy, but it doesn’t taste as good as bacon.”
John pushed the little plate her way and just smiled as innocently as he could when both adult Millers frowned at him.
Madison claimed the bacon. “John’s my new favorite!”
* * * *
Meredith offered him a grin as soon as they closed the door to their room. “You’re my favorite, too.”
John pulled her close and brushed his mouth against hers briefly before frowning. “What the hell is up with your sister and her husband?”
Meredith made a face. “Jeannie has an Electra complex, and Kaleb indulges it. I told him years ago that the whole thing was an unhealthy mess, and he hasn’t liked me since. They have this creepy thing going on that I can’t even pretend to approve of. I’m pretty sure she calls him Daddy in private, and maybe some people think that’s sexy, but I don’t.”
“Oh.” John blew out a surprised breath. “When did your father leave?”
“I was eight, and she was five.” Meredith shifted in his embrace. “She doesn’t remember much about him, which is for the best since he beat our mother on a regular basis, and she didn’t get the…strength to kick him out until he hit me for the first time. He punched me in the face, and Mom came unglued. He barely made it out of the house alive, to be honest. It was a terrible night, and Jeannie slept through the whole thing because she’d been sick. For her, one day he was just gone, and deep down inside, she probably still blames Mom, even though she died of breast cancer over a decade ago.”
“Breast cancer,” John repeated, his stomach lurching a little. “You’ve been…you get checked, right? I know you’re young but…”
“Yeah, I get checked.” She offered him a smile. “And I’ve had genetic testing. I don’t have the markers for it, but the SGC is super careful with cancer screenings due to the things we’ve been exposed to over the years.” She patted his chest. “Wait until your yearly physical with our people—you’ll probably need counseling afterward.”
John laughed and pulled her toward the couch. They sat down together, and she curled up against him. “He’s much older than her.”
“By fifteen years,” Meredith agreed. “She met him her freshman year of college—she changed her major from environmental physics to English literature just to get into one of the classes he was teaching. I was horrified, but she was technically an adult, and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it. Granted, I controlled her trust fund until she turned twenty-one per mom’s will, but control of the money didn’t give me the right to determine her academic studies.”
“How old were you when your mom died?”
“Nineteen. I’d finished one of my doctorates and was preparing for another when she stopped treatment and let go. Mom made sure I was given guardianship of Jeannie just in case our father came around trying to get access the money, but he never bothered. Jeannie resented it, a lot, me being her guardian. We didn’t have any other immediate family, and she felt like I lorded the power over her, but I tried really hard to give her the freedom she needed while keeping her safe at the same time. Money was a big issue because she felt like she should be able to spend it any way she wanted, and I didn’t allow it. I knew she’d need that money to…I just knew better, and I think a part of her still resents me for it.”
“She’s smart like you, right?” John asked quietly. “So smart you don’t even see the universe the way the rest of us do.”
Meredith flushed and bit down on her lip. “Yes. For fuck’s sake, John, she’s brilliant, and she’s wasting away. I don’t consider motherhood a waste of time, believe me, but Jeannie could change the world. She could be on the forefront of environmental research, and I think if there is a single person on this planet that could help turn the tide on global warming it’s her. All of that potential is just being squandered in the hands of that asshole who’s perfectly content to let one of the brightest women of our generation…” She trailed off with a huff. “And the last time I voiced half of that in his presence, he told me I wasn’t welcome to return to his home. That’s why we’re here in a hotel instead of their house which has two guest rooms. The worst part, of course, is that Jeannie knows deep down inside that I’m right and she probably even agrees, but she doesn’t want to give up the emotional security he gives her.”
“I’m on board with kidnapping her and the kids,” John whispered against her temple. “We could hide them away and get her therapy, and Madison could eat bacon every day.”
Meredith laughed. “John.”
“Lots of therapy.”
“I told him if he ever hit her that I’d kill him,” she admitted. “So one day, I might need help hiding his body.”
“I’m your man,” John declared.
“If Jeannie weren’t already on her way back up, I’d make you prove that,” Meredith said and shifted around so she could throw one leg across his lap. She settled down on his thighs.
John let his hands drift to her hips as he stared at her face. “I’m on board with proving it most of the night.”
She grinned and sighed when there was a little knock on the door. “Great.”
“We’ll throw your new panties on the floor after she leaves,” John declared.
“Plan accepted,” Meredith said and slid off his lap.
Madison bolted in as soon as Meredith opened the door. “John! I’m spending the afternoon with you. We can watch tv!”
He laughed as she crawled up onto the couch. “Is that so?”
“Yes, Daddy took Max home, which is good because he’s so boring right now. Mom says he’ll be more fun later, but I don’t think so. I wanted a puppy, but I got a baby brother instead. It’s not fair.”
“Welcome to my world,” John told her dryly. He picked up the remote. “You can be in charge since I don’t know the channels in Canada. No adult stuff.”
“I know better,” Madison declared and decisively turned on the tv.
Meredith watched for a few moments then motioned Jeannie to follow her into the bedroom area of the suite. “I thought Madison was going to go with Kaleb.”
“She decided her new favorite person might be bored with our girl talk,” Jeannie said as she toed off her shoes and got comfortable on the bed. She looked around and frowned. “So, a Marine, huh?”
Meredith shut the door leading out into the rest of the suite before responding. “Yeah. Is that a problem?”
“No, I mean, he seems a little laid back for you actually. You tend to go for the really intense intellectual type.”
“Try to correct the man’s math, and you’ll get a full-on example of an intense John Sheppard,” Meredith informed her sister wryly. “We argued for two hours over a decimal point about six months ago.”
“Who was right?”
“We were both wrong, as one of my team was pretty gleeful about pointing out,” Meredith pulled off her shoes and dropped down on the corner of the bed to stare at her sister. “You look exhausted.”
Jeannie shrugged. “I have Max and Madison’s school year ended last week plus my night classes.”
“Yeah, I’ve been taking some classes.” Jeannie ran a hand through curly light blonde hair. “I was bored, and Kaleb watches the kids when I go which is why I have to do it at night. He has a full teaching schedule now that he has tenure, and even with three TAs he’s pretty much run ragged during the week.” She frowned. “Did you really fall down the stairs?”
“I really did fall down a set of concrete steps,” Meredith said and offered her pinky which Jeannie hooked her own around. “I swear.”
“Right.” Jeannie released her finger. “I’m obviously not your next of kin if you get hurt at work because I didn’t get a phone call.”
“No, Sam Carter is my next of kin right now. You met her in New York, remember?”
“The hot blonde I thought you were gay for?” Jeannie questioned. “Yeah, I remember her.”
“If I were to be gay it would certainly be for Sam Carter,” Meredith said and settled down on her side. “When I move to the new assignment, I’ll probably make Miko my next of kin unless things go really well with John.”
“He’s certainly turned Maddie’s head, and she’s a pretty good judge of character,” Jeannie said and pulled her knees up to her chest. “If I asked you not to take this new mission and come back to Canada, would you do it?”
“If I asked you to leave Kaleb, get your doctorate in physics, and come to America would you do it?” Meredith asked.
Jeannie flushed brightly. “It’s not the same.”
“It’s about your preferences, isn’t it?” Meredith questioned. “It’s about me living a life you’re comfortable with, working in some lab here in Vancouver. I’d be bored out of my mind, especially when I know what kind of work I would be leaving behind. I’m just not cut out to live the small life you want for me any more than you really have the ability to live the life I’d prefer for you. We’ve always demanded too much from each other.”
“Right.” Jeannie frowned and looked down at her hands. “Dad emailed me.”
“He emailed me about six weeks ago. He’s working for some engineering firm in Ottawa. I don’t know which because I haven’t looked, but I figure you can find out. He asked a whole bunch of questions about you, and I didn’t answer them, Mer, I swear. I know how you feel about him and I understand why.”
Meredith left the bed, hands shaking. “Yes, well, most of the time I’m really glad you don’t remember what a monster he was. You should’ve forwarded that email to me, you know.”
“I…” Jeannie flushed. “I guess I was jealous at first because he barely even asked a single thing about my family or me. It was only recently that I realized he was probably trying to find out about your work rather than you personally. I don’t remember much about him, but I feel like you were his favorite.”
Meredith frowned. “He preferred me, yes, but just because you weren’t old enough to be entertaining. I can’t say he loved me at all. We were both just extensions of him and his own intellect. He was proud of how smart I was until the school administered an IQ test and it proved to be higher than his own. Scott McKay also found a great deal of fault with the fact that I wasn’t a boy. To be perfectly honest, you were born because he demanded mom try again to give him the son he deserved to have.”
“Isn’t that why you had Max?” Meredith prodded.
“No.” Jeannie picked up a pillow and threw it at her. “What a bitchy thing to say and think, Mer!” She blushed. “Max was an accident. You can’t ever tell him.”
Meredith laughed and picked up the pillow from the floor. Her sister had terrible aim. “Jeannie.”
“We already had the puppy picked out,” Jeannie confided and laughed. “We were perfectly okay with one kid but Max is great, and I wouldn’t trade him for the best puppy even if Madison would.”
Meredith tossed the pillow near the headboard as she sat down. “Did you respond?”
“No,” Jeannie said and shrugged. “It just felt wrong to respond without talking to you first, and I didn’t want to cause a big argument over the phone. The last time we talked about him—you went completely nuclear.”
“You blamed Mom for him never visiting you,” Meredith said flatly. “Like the two of us were supposed to be okay in the presence of a man who hit us to make you happy.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Jeannie protested. “I just…” She shook her head. “Don’t you have any good memories of him?”
“The first time I had an allergic reaction to citrus and ended up in the hospital, he stayed by my bedside the whole night,” Meredith said. “I remember being so happy that he cared enough about me to sit in that hard chair all night.”
“But?” Jeannie asked wearily.
“But nothing. That’s a good memory I have of him,” Meredith said. “He’s a drunk, Jeannie, and when he drinks, he’s violent. He would come home most days, go straight to the bar, and start drinking. By the time dinner was on the table, he was wasted, and he was often so casual about hitting our mother that I don’t even think I knew it was wrong until the first time I saw this thing on television about domestic violence. That’s when I knew that Mom was living in a nightmare, and I stopped seeing anything good in him because I came to think one day that he would kill her.”
“You see him in Kaleb.”
“I can’t say I don’t,” Meredith admitted. “And your husband can find that as offensive as he wants. I don’t care.”
“He doesn’t drink, Mer. He doesn’t and never would hit me.”
“So you both say,” Meredith said. “And that’d better be true because…well. I meant what I said. I buried our mother when I was nineteen, Jeannie, and I have no interest in burying you.”
“I think you need more therapy than I do.”
“Ha, I so seriously doubt that,” Meredith rolled her eyes. “I’m not the one calling a man Daddy in bed.”
“Shut up!” Jeannie laughed and blushed. “That’s none of your business.”
“Oh, that reminds me, Sam wanted to know if a vegan’s cum tastes different?”
Jeanie exhaled sharply and looked upward like she was seeking guidance. “I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference. And he ate meat when we first married.”
“It seems like it would matter,” Meredith pointed out skeptically.
“Fine, tell me lies,” she declared and rolled her eyes.
* * * *
They were in the slowest elevator known to man, John decided. He leaned against the wall. “I’d rather have taken Madison and Max out to dinner and left Jean and Kaleb with the babysitter.”
Meredith grinned at him. “I know, right?”
As soon as the doors opened, she tugged him out, and they turned to go toward their room. John paused and pulled her behind as they turned the corner in the hall. There were a pair of men standing in front of her door. They both turned, and John noted the cut of their suits and the weapons they were barely bothering to conceal.
“Mounties,” Meredith murmured. “Plainclothes usually indicate a security detail.”
“So the Prime Minister of Canada is sitting in our hotel room?”
“It is entirely possible,” Meredith said with a sigh. “I never thought I’d have to defect completely to America because of cockblocking.”
John snorted then sighed. They walked closer to the two Mounties, and the two men immediately displayed identification.
“Colonel Sheppard.” One stepped forward. “Inspector William Bouchard. Prime Minister Tremblay would like to speak with Dr. McKay.” He motioned to the door across from theirs. “The matter is quite important.”
Meredith frowned but gave John a nod.
At least they hadn’t invaded his space, John thought. “I’m armed.”
“I would hope so, sir,” Bouchard said coolly. “Dr. McKay’s safety should be your priority.”
Meredith moved closer and shook back her hair. “Tremblay can come to me if he wants to speak with me.” She pulled the keycard out of her pocket and motioned them out of her way.
Bouchard started to speak, but Meredith put up a hand.
“Ma’am,” he said in frustration.
“I am not, nor will I ever be, at the beck and call of anyone, no matter the title they have. Now go tell him he has exactly forty-five minutes to explain his visit and get out of my hair.”
“He’s the Prime Minister,” Bouchard snapped even as he moved out of her way.
“I’m a dual citizen,” Meredith said. “The last time the President of the United States wanted to speak to me I made him fly to Nevada. Tremblay just has to cross the hall at this point.” She put the card in the door and offered Bouchard a bright smile. “Or you can tell him to take his ass back to Ottawa. I don’t care either way.”
John followed her into the room shaking his head at Bouchard. He shut the door behind him and found Meredith sitting on the couch pulling off her boots. “Mer?”
“He wants to talk about my fucking father,” Meredith hissed. “I just know it. The asshole emailed Jeannie and asked a bunch of questions about me, but she didn’t tell me until a few hours ago.”
She huffed when there was a sharp knock on the door and slouched back on the couch with a furious glare.
John opened the door and just inclined his head as Prime Minister Tremblay offered him a smile. “Good evening, sir.”
“Colonel Sheppard, I’ve heard great things about you. May I come in?”
“Yes, but if you’re here to discuss Meredith’s work, your security will have to wait outside unless they’ve been read in.”
“Unfortunately, it’s not directly related to her work,” Tremblay side. “But Inspector Bouchard has been read in due to his position as my primary bodyguard. He’s traveled with me several times to Colorado.”
John nodded and stepped back to let the two of them enter.
Meredith had moved to the chair by the couch by the time John turned around. A way to isolate herself, he thought, but he said nothing as he walked across the room and settled against the wall directly to the left of her chair.
“Owen.” She frowned at him. “You could’ve called.”
“You hang up on me when I say things you find disagreeable,” Tremblay pointed out and smiled.
“You’re a disagreeable person,” Meredith said. “What do you want?” She held up a hand. “Let me rephrase that—what do you want that you have a hope in hell of me agreeing to?”
“Your father has taken a job with an engineering firm which is bidding on several contracts for the United States and us. One of those is directly associated with the Stargate Program. I was prepared to ignore the company outright in the bidding process, and so is President Hayes, out of respect for you and the work you’ve done in defense of the planet.”
Meredith’s left hand was curled into a fist. “But?”
“There’s this.” Tremblay pulled a USB drive from his suit pocket and offered it. John stepped forward and took the drive then gave it to Meredith.
Meredith picked up her tablet from the coffee table, powered it up, and went through the six security screens currently enabled on the device before she plugged in the drive. “My father is a very good mechanical engineer.”
“He is good,” Tremblay said. “And I’d have fallen for it if I hadn’t seen it a decade ago scribbled across about six blackboards.”
John watched her review the single document on the drive, fury drifting over her face in waves.
“If you recognize this, then you also know that it eventually worked,” Meredith said. “I had several conceptual designs like this when I was pursuing my second doctorate but this one.” She bit down on her lip. “It would become the foundation on which we built the engines for the X-303. I mean, I was at least eight years away at this point, and I didn’t make the right conceptual decisions until after I’d been on board an Asgard ship.”
“How did he get it?”
“Let me think,” Meredith murmured. “I mean, I was a pure academic at that point, and while I’d been approached several times to work for the Air Force, I didn’t agree to do it until Jeannie was almost finished with college and living with the man she would eventually marry. I wrote several papers, of course, but at that point in my life, I’d never been anywhere near a confidentiality agreement, so I shared my theories and work pretty freely with other students.
“As you know, the office in my apartment wasn’t secured or anything.” She shrugged but returned her attention to the tablet. “Frankly, most of my genuine peers would know this was my work, Owen. He’d have never gotten away with putting this out as his work on the scale required to build any sort of theoretical model.”
“I had him questioned. He said he’d had that theory in progress for twenty years,” Owen said. “And as I said, I’d have believed him if I hadn’t been there when you wrote most of it.”
“I’m surprised you remember it.”
John watched her save the document and pull out the USB drive which she tossed to Tremblay. The man caught easily and dropped it in his pocket.
“It’s not every day a man gets to watch a beautiful woman create a theoretical hyperspace engine dressed only in his t-shirt,” Tremblay said wryly. “I don’t think I understood how out of my league you were until that night.”
John manfully refrained from agreeing.
“This work eventually caught Sam Carter’s attention and led to my invitation to join the SGC shortly after they began regular off-world missions,” Meredith admitted. “I don’t know for certain how he got it, but this particular version isn’t classified. Why did this hit your desk at all, Owen? Since you have access to the full, successful plans for the X-303, you could start construction on your own if Canada wants to do that.”
“We don’t want to do that,” Tremblay said dryly. “I’m perfectly content to let the Americans spend their money building spaceships, Meredith. Your father used this work, your work, to get his foot in the door to a major defense contractor and they dangled it like a carrot in front of me not realizing he’d stolen it from his own daughter. Now the question remains, where did he get it and how much of your work has he gotten access to?”
Her mouth tightened suddenly as it clicked into place for her and she set aside the tablet. “For fuck’s sake, Owen, it’s obvious. The bastard is part of the Trust! They’ve given him something that technically isn’t classified to avoid any sort of legal entanglements.” She huffed and stood. “That’s why he emailed Jeannie and asked a bunch of questions about me. He was trying to find out where I was but he’s too arrogant to realize they’re using him for bait.” She ran her fingers through her hair in frustration.
“They want unfettered access to you before you become unavailable for an indefinite period of time,” Tremblay said. “Coming here was a mistake; I’ve surely put a spotlight on your travel for some very bad people.”
“Yes, you have,” John said. He focused on Bouchard. “I’m going to need a secure method of getting her to the airport in the morning. I’d also like you to deploy a full team here at the hotel to provide additional security until we leave. She’ll contact her sister and tell her we had to leave unexpectedly.” He paused when the man started to speak. “Unless you’d like me to leave a trail of dead bodies across Vancouver? Because I’m in no way above such behavior.”
“Do as Colonel Sheppard wants,” Tremblay said and stood. “And make sure you only assign men you trust to protect her until she’s on the plane.”
Bouchard nodded. “Yes, sir.”
“And you’ll stay.”
Bouchard’s eyes widened. “Sir.”
Tremblay frowned at his head of security. “You stay in this hotel and coordinate her departure from the country, William. Consider yourself under Colonel Sheppard’s command until which time Meredith is safely on a plane.”
“Yes, sir,” Bouchard said and cleared his throat.
“Step outside and make the calls.”
“Of course, sir.” The Mountie stepped out.
Meredith frowned and glanced briefly at John. He saw the request coming, and he really wanted to say no, but the last thing he wanted to look was insecure.
He pulled out his cell. “I need to call SGC and get the plane prepped.”
“Sit down, Owen, you know I hate it when you loom,” Meredith said pointedly as John went into the bedroom and shut the door.
Tremblay returned to his place on the couch and rubbed a hand down his face. “I have to admit I was thrilled to use this as an excuse to see you. You didn’t answer my last email.”
“The one where you offered me a job?” Meredith questioned. “Owen, I’m happy where I am, and Atlantis is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
“It’s dangerous, and maybe you don’t ever come back from Pegasus,” Tremblay said flatly. “Don’t you…miss what we had?”
She winced because she didn’t miss him or their relationship at all. “You can’t possibly think that I’m the proper sort to be the wife of the Prime Minister of Canada.”
He laughed. “Well, perhaps not that part but I miss you. Where did I go wrong?”
“You didn’t,” Meredith said shortly. “We just had different goals, and it was never more complicated than that. Those goals haven’t changed for either of us, obviously, since you’re already campaigning for another term. Go back to Natalie—she loves you, and she fits the life you want.”
“I…” Owen sighed. “I do love her but not the way I love you. The way I’ll always love you.”
Her gaze narrowed slightly. “Don’t get creepy, Owen, you know I hate that.”
“I’m not creepy,” Tremblay denied. “But you’ll always be the one for me. I can’t change that, but I’ve accepted, mostly, that you won’t come back to me.”
“I shouldn’t have slept with you the last time I was here,” Meredith said and glared at him. “Honestly, Natalie Thibeaux is the best you’ll ever do, and you should stop dicking around before she gets tired of waiting for you to settle down. I’m sure her biological clock is starting to do a little dance, and you aren’t so amazing that she’ll stick around forever.”
He smiled at her. “I miss you more than I can say.”
Maybe it would be easier if she could say the same but her on/off again relationship with Owen Tremblay had always been a source of frustration. His motives were never clear, even when he appeared to be as forthright as possible. Moreover, she’d never once considered him her partner in life, and that was because their future goals had always been so divergent. Or maybe it was because he’d never really challenged her professionally and personally.
Tremblay stood. “Be careful.” He glanced toward the bedroom. “I’ve seen Sheppard’s file—or at least the one that was submitted to the IOA. He seems like a good man.”
“He is a good man,” Meredith said.
“Then I guess I’ll just have to trust that he’ll keep you alive in Pegasus,” Owen murmured and cleared his throat. “Good luck, Meredith.”
“Buy Natalie a huge diamond,” Meredith ordered. “The next time I see you I expect to see a married man.”
“I can’t say I miss you bossing me around,” Owen said wryly and shook his head before opening the door and leaving.
Meredith walked to the door, turned the deadbolt, then notched the swing bar into place. The bedroom door opened behind her and she glanced over her shoulder. John had a security bar in his hand which he was adjusting. “Hey.”
He frowned at her. “You slept with the Prime Minister of Canada?”
“Jealous?” Meredith asked.
John scoffed as he hooked the bar under the door handle and locked it into place. “No, I’m concerned for your mental health. He’s a politician.”
“When we met, he was pursuing his MBA,” Meredith pointed out. “Though, I admit, I continued to sleep with him off and on even after he started seeking political offices because he’s great in bed.”
“He’s hot,” John said but frowned. “How great in bed? Also, O’Neill has started an investigation, and we’ll figure out what your father is involved in.”
Meredith laughed as he caught her hand and pulled her into the bedroom. There was another security bar sitting on the luggage rack. “You packed two security bars?”
“I requested them from the front desk when we checked in. You don’t remember?” John questioned.
“Eh, not really but the whole arrival is a blur. I was so tired.”
He put the second bar into place and turned to face her. “How great in bed?”
She grinned. “He’s utterly straight, sorry.”
“It’s a shame since he’s so hot,” John said and pulled her close. “Worried?”
“No, I have you.” She let her hands rest on his shoulders.
“So, you could’ve been the wife of the Prime Minister of Canada.”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t have,” Meredith denied with a laugh. “Honestly, John, I’d have ruined any chance he ever had a political career before it ever even got started. My dual citizenship would’ve been a mark against him for a lot of people here even in the liberal party. Plus, I don’t know how to keep my opinions to myself and have no interest in learning. Regardless, I don’t doubt he loves me, but it was just sex for me, you see?”
“Oh.” John sighed. “Now I feel sorry for the slick bastard.”
“Don’t feel too bad for him—he has a genuine beauty queen pining after him in Ottawa who probably has a whole wedding already planned. She adores his foolish ass and doesn’t even care that he’s a politician. I ordered him to marry her.”
John laughed. “Mer.”
She glanced toward the security bar. “Why two?”
“So I have time to prepare a response if someone comes through the outer door,” John murmured as his hands settled on her hips. “You should get some sleep.”
“Are you being serious right now?” Meredith asked and pressed her lips together to keep from pouting. “Because I was promised sex in Canada. We’re in Canada, and there has been no sex.”
“If I have to engage an intruder bareassed, I’m going to blame you in my report,” John told her.
She slid her fingers into his belt, unbuckled it, and pulled it off. “Deal.”
“You know, I’m not going to be another Tremblay,” John murmured. “I’ve never let anyone use me for sex when I wanted…more. And I want more than that from you.”
“I get it. Maybe I don’t understand it completely, but I know you’re looking for a relationship, a real one.” She shook back her hair and focused on his face. “And I probably don’t even get what that really is, but I want to try. I’ve never let a man get that close to me, and that’s probably related to my father.”
John snagged the bottom of her t-shirt and pulled it over her head then tossed it aside. His hands slid upward over ribs, warm and sure. She couldn’t hold back a shiver when his thumbs brushed under the edge of her bra. “You can’t call me daddy, but I’m more than willing to spank you.”
She grinned. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
He unbuttoned her jeans with nimble fingers and eased the zipper down. “I’ve never understood the whole matching underwear thing. You know most men don’t care, right?”
Meredith laughed. “I care.”
“Then it was money well spent,” John murmured and eased her pants down her hips. He slid his hands around and pulled her close as he cupped her ass. “Come here.”
She hitched her legs up as he lifted her and wrapped them around his waist. Their mouths met in a rush, and she couldn’t help but groan against his lips. John carried her to the bed and sat down. He settled her on his lap and moved his hands up her back. She flinched and sighed when he immediately moved his hands to her waist.
“Still sore?” John asked.
“Just my back,” she admitted. “I can’t reach it to put the cream on it.”
“You should’ve told me, and I’d have put some more on for you,” John murmured. “How do you get this pretty little thing off?” His fingers drifted over the teal lace.
“It opens in the front,” Meredith murmured and unhooked it then shrugged off the thin, lacy shoulder straps.
He cupped her left breast and rubbed her nipple with his thumb. Meredith took a deep breath as she let the bra drop to the floor behind her.
“Sensitive?” John questioned.
He hummed under his breath and pinched her nipple gently. “Do you like them to be sucked?”
“Yes.” She shivered as he cupped her other breast. “John.”
“We’ll just have to be careful with your back.”
“Yes, that sounds good.”
Meredith shifted on his lap as his hands left her breasts and moved back down to her hips. He lifted her slightly and latched onto one nipple with a greedy suck. His mouth was warm, and the slick pressure of his tongue was delicious. She curled her hands around the back of his head and arched up into his mouth. After a few moments, he shifted his attention to her other breast and let his hands move down to her ass.
“So you’re an ass man,” Meredith said with a small laugh.
He released her nipple and grinned. “Yeah, I am, and yours has been driving me crazy for months.”
Meredith moved off his lap and just grinned when he immediately pulled her jeans completely down. She slipped her shoes off then the jeans. “You like to keep your clothes on? It’s kind of weird as kinks go, but I can work with it.”
John shook his head at her. “No, I don’t like to keep my clothes on, but I do appreciate your willingness to indulge me.” He pulled his shirt over his head, tossed it near where hers landed, then reached down to unlace his hiking boots. He pulled off the boots and socks quickly.
She started to take off her panties but he reached out and cupped her hips. “What?”
“Let me,” John murmured as he slid his fingers into the sides and pulled the little bit of lace and silk she was wearing down to her thighs. He groaned. “You’re going to be the death of me.” He let the material drop to the floor then stood. “Sit.”
She poked him in the chest with one finger and quirked an eyebrow at him. “I’m not one of your Marines, Colonel.”
“Dr. McKay, please sit on the bed, I want to eat you out.”
“Oh, you should’ve said.” She immediately sat, and he grinned at her as he slid to his knees.
Meredith hooked one leg over his shoulder as he rubbed his mouth against her bare labia. “Fuck.”
He pushed his hands under ass and slipped his tongue into her hole. She couldn’t help but rock into the shallow penetration and shivered through the pleasure of it until he moved his attention to her clit which he sucked gently. It felt so good, and it had been months since she’d more than her own hand or a vibrator.
“Oh, yes, just like…god, John.” She rocked into his mouth with a shudder and came far faster than she wanted to.
He groaned and released her clit then licked her hole several times before lifting his head. John stood and unfastened his jeans then shucked them. He worked his cock free from his boxers then let them fall to the floor as well.
“I put condoms in the nightstand.” Meredith motioned toward it and crawled up the bed.
John pulled the strip of condoms from the drawer and pulled one off. He tossed the rest of them on top as he joined her then pulled her into his arms. “Are your hands hurting at all?”
“No, Sam made sure they were healed completely,” Meredith said and let her head fall back as he nuzzled her neck. She curled her hand around the back of his head as he shifted downward to suck her breast.
She shivered as one warm, large hand settled briefly on her hip before sliding to the small of her back. Meredith couldn’t help but wrap one leg around his thigh and pull him closer. She arched against him as his teeth clenched briefly on her nipple. “Fuck.”
“Yeah,” he agreed softly as he lifted his mouth and covered her pussy with his free hand then he dipped his fingers into her. “Tell me what you want.”
She shifted and wrapped her hand around his cock, which was long and thick, then stroked him gently. “I want you inside me.”
John picked up the condom he’d dropped on the bed, but Meredith plucked it from his fingers. She tore it open and discarded the wrapper. “Later, I want to blow you.”
“I never say no to a blow job,” John said with a husky laugh as she rolled the condom on him. “I kind of hate how well you just did that.”
“Should I apologize for not being a virgin?” Meredith questioned tartly. She cupped his balls, and he shuddered. “I could pretend.”
“No to the apology and hell no to the pretense,” John said. He worked his fingers back into her and curled them. “I wouldn’t change a thing about you not even the fact that you slept with the Prime Minister of Canada.”
“You just want me to tell you about it,” Meredith guessed and laughed when he grinned. “Come here and be my man.”
He hummed under his breath as she pulled him closer and spread her legs. “I don’t want to hurt your back.”
“It’ll be fine,” she promised as he slid between her legs. “Just don’t give me all of your weight.”
“Yeah,” John agreed as he braced himself above her with one hand and positioned himself with the other.
Meredith spread her legs wider as he pressed the head of his cock into her. She shuddered against the penetration—the sweet burn of it felt so good that she couldn’t help but lift her hips up to get more of him.
“Easy,” John murmured. “You’ll put pressure on your bruise. Let me do the work.”
She huffed, because he was right, and relaxed on the bed. He sank into her slowly, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. “Feels good.”
He rolled his hips as he started to thrust into her with long, even strokes. Meredith curled her hands around his shoulders and rocked impatiently. John curled one hand around her left hip and stilled her then quickened his pace—pushing into her with one deep, full-bodied thrust after another. His strength was intoxicating, and the pleasure of having him inside her was shockingly intense.
John shifted his hand. “Lift up a little.”
She eagerly did as instructed, and he slid his arm under her carefully then moved to his knees and lifted her off the bed.
“Oh, fuck,” Meredith whispered as he settled down on his knees fully.
He cupped her ass. “There now, you can move all you want.”
“You’re brilliant,” she declared as she started to grind down on his cock.
John shifted, leaned forward and wrapped a hand around the top of the headboard. He spread his other hand over her ass to hold her.
“Yes, yes, fuck me,” Meredith encouraged as he started to move with her.
Pleasure crashed over her in waves as he pressed his mouth against hers. She opened to the thrust of his tongue and clenched around him as he worked her closer and closer to another orgasm.
“That’s it, baby,” John urged as he thrust upward into her. “Come for me.”
“John.” She clenched down on his cock and tightened her grip on his shoulders as she shuddered. “Harder, please.”
He met her demand, and his grip tightened on her as they moved together.
The pleasure burned through her and she shuddered through an orgasm so intense that it took her breath. John bowed against her and groaned against her neck as he came.
“Hell,” he said hoarsely.
She laughed a little as he lowered her to the bed and pulled from her body. “What?”
“I’m not saying I wanted you to be terrible in bed, but I was kind of hoping it would be sort of ordinary.” He dropped down on the bed beside her. “I already think about you too much, and now I’m going to be thinking about fucking you all the time.”
She huffed. “I’m actually offended that you weren’t already thinking about fucking me.”
He grinned and rolled out of bed.
Meredith stayed where she was as he disappeared into the bathroom. She focused on the ceiling and rubbed her thighs together. Her clit was still throbbing, and her thighs were trembling a little from exertion.
John returned to the bed and lay down beside her. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” she said and turned toward him. “I’m good, and I was really kind of hoping you’d be a great fuck. It would honestly be a downer if you were lousy in bed because I like you a lot.”
He grinned and pulled her into his arms. “I like you a lot, too.” He kissed her mouth gently. “What would you have done if I’d been lousy?”
“Teach you, of course.” She prodded him onto his back and slid astride his hips. “I’m an excellent mentor.”
“I bet you are,” John said and rubbed her thighs. “You can teach me anything you’d like.”
“I’ll have to quiz you first—to see where there could be gaps in your education.” Meredith wiggled her eyebrows and poked him gently in the chest when he laughed. She slid off of him and left the bed in favor of the bathroom.
She turned and looked at him. “What?”
“You really do have an outstanding ass.”
She smirked. “Yeah, I know.”
* * * *
The drive to the airport was uneventful, and the Mounties said nothing about the fact that Owen was still in Ontario or that he was waiting in the small private hangar their plane was in. Owen was leaning on a black SUV with a cell phone in hand as John opened her door and offered her his hand. Meredith frowned at Tremblay.
“Don’t frown at me,” Tremblay said. “You didn’t honestly think that I was going to leave entirely, right? Besides, my people found your father lingering outside of your hotel this morning.” He waved two fingers toward a man hovering near the back of his vehicle.
Meredith shifted closer to John as Tremblay’s guard opened the door of the SUV, reached inside and dragged her father out. She swallowed hard, her stomach almost instantly rebelling at the sight of him. Blinking back unexpected tears, she turned to Owen. “How could you bring him here?” She shuddered and took a step back then stumbled.
John caught her. “Easy,” he murmured. “Get on the plane.” He turned her and prodded her toward the stairs.
“John.” She glanced at her father who was glaring at her silently.
Sheppard turned her, caught her face with his hand, and their gazes connected. “Get on the plane, Mer.”
She nodded and went up the stairs without looking at her father again.
John glared openly at Tremblay and took a deep breath. “I’d kick your ass if you weren’t who you are.” He frowned. “It’s also occurred to me that you have no idea how badly you just fucked up with her.”
“I knew they were estranged,” Tremblay said. “She never…”
“The last time she saw him was when he punched her in the face—she was eight,” John said tightly then focused on Bouchard. “Arrange for another plane. I want this asshole put on it with an escort of your choice. He’s wanted for questioning by the SGC.”
“There are extradition issues…” Bouchard trailed off when Tremblay cleared his throat. “Sir?”
“I’ve already agreed to turn Scott McKay over to the U.S. as such matters are clearly outlined in our agreement to be part of the IOA.” Tremblay turned to look at John. “We’ll put him on the plane, and tell her…tell her I’m sorry. I had no idea.”
“She prefers apologies to be made in coffee and chocolate as I’m sure you know,” John said evenly. “She’ll calm down and realize she never told you enough for you to understand what a terrible decision you made here.”
John glanced briefly at Scott McKay who just glared at him. He shook his head and headed up the stairs. He found Meredith curled up in one of the seats with a cup of coffee. He slid into the chair beside her as the crew pulled the stairs up and closed the door.
“I.” Meredith closed her eyes. “I forgot how much I looked like him.”
John hadn’t seen any sort of resemblance at all, but he didn’t think that mattered because her perceptions were the most important part of the conversation they were about to have.
“I don’t know how to fix this,” John admitted and took her hand then laced their fingers together. “Tell me what you need.”
“Just…” She frowned and put her coffee in the little holder near the window. “I was sitting here thinking about how much I trust you and how much I’ve never trusted any other man in my life, and it’s because of him, because of my father. I spent all this time judging my sister for her choices and for how she clings to Kaleb Miller like he’s a lifeline and…I’ve been doing the exact opposite. I never let a man get close enough to hurt me like he did.” She huffed and lifted the armrest between their seats and scooted up against him. “Just hold me while I pout about how fucked up I am.”
John settled back into the seat and wrapped an arm around her as she settled against his chest. “I can do that.” He pressed a kiss against her hair. “As long as you want.”