Reading Time: 43 Minutes
Title: The Looking Glass
Series: Hold My Coffee
Series Order: 8
Author: Keira Marcos
Betas: Ladyholder & Jilly James
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Relationship: Meredith McKay/John Sheppard
Genre: Romance, Rule 63, Alternate Universe
Word Count: 10,830
Warnings: Alternate timeline character death, explicit language & junk science that I half-assed from information on forums and Wikipedia articles.
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.
Special thanks to Jilly James for helping with the banner for this episode ;-).
Summary: Things in Pegasus take a sharp, unexpected turn shortly after their arrival.
* * * *
“Weir has interrogated ten different people under me regarding my relationship with you,” Meredith said as soon as she entered John’s office. “Hi, Anne.”
“She tried to interrogate me, but I told her that I considered it very inappropriate to gossip about a superior officer,” Anne offered as she looked up from her laptop. “Then she threatened me.”
“She what?” John questioned as he waffled between irritation and disbelief.
Anne shrugged. “She said that I should pray that nothing happens to you in Pegasus because she wouldn’t tolerate my insubordination for a single second if it weren’t for you. So I pointed out to her that if you were incapacitated in Pegasus that I would immediately become the leader of the military half of the expedition, and I’d have all the authority you currently have. Moreover, I pointed out her that there isn’t a single military asset on the expedition that would act against either one of us on her orders. I thought she was going to stroke out. That pretty boy she has working as her administrative assistant told Wilkes that she has been holed up in her office most of the afternoon reading the expedition charter and drafting changes to send to the IOA.”
“That document was approved weeks ago, and everyone has already signed it,” Meredith said and slouched down in her chair. “You know, I’ve encountered my share of control freaks—I have some issues on that front myself—but I try to contain my personal brand crazy to my own stuff.
“Frankly, she’s underqualified to have the authority she currently has, and despite what she’s said in the past, she’s made no effort to educate herself regarding the various departments on the expedition. Sometimes I think her focus is so narrow that the rest of the world doesn’t even exist, but then there is this whole,” she waved a hand, “thing with the military part of the expedition. She’s refused to even qualify with a handgun, and I can’t imagine her making sound military decisions regardless of the circumstances.”
“She’s in for a harsh lesson, actually,” Anne said thoughtfully. “A civilian like her has no idea what it’s like to live with career military—enlisted or officer.”
John watched the two women exchange a look that said about a hundred things he probably didn’t understand merely for the fact that he had a dick. The phone on his desk started to ring, so he picked it up. “Sheppard.”
“Colonel Sheppard, this is Richard Woolsey. Dr. Weir has sent several emails questioning the amount of authority the military will have over the expedition and has indicated she feels it will undermine her leadership.”
“I see.” John rocked in his chair and considered that. “Mr. Woolsey, the only way I could see myself undermining Dr. Weir’s authority would be if she interfered with mission security or endangered the expedition with an inappropriate decision. She has no field experience to speak of in any arena—she’s never been in a combat zone unless there are parts of her file I wasn’t allowed to read. She simply doesn’t have the experience to make the right choices when it comes to actionable situations. Despite her work experience, she has a very narrow focus and doesn’t appear to get the big picture. Moreover, she doesn’t appear to be interested in even seeing the whole of the situation as long as her immediate needs are met.
“I’m not a politician, and I won’t pretend to be. I’m not going to coddle her or give her an inappropriate amount of authority in situations that would get people killed. I think you and I both know how dangerous Pegasus is going to be, but she doesn’t appear to…for the love of God, she didn’t think we’d need survival gear and she just spent six months in Antarctica.”
Woolsey snorted. “Yes, I took note of that. I don’t disagree with your position on this issue, and I trust you will honor the expedition charter to the letter. Do you think there is anything I can do to mitigate the hostility between the two of you?”
“I’m not hostile with her,” John protested.
“Dr. Weir indicated that you’ve instigated some kind of campaign to turn Dr. McKay against her.”
John exhaled sharply and sighed. “Is that how she worded it? Mr. Woolsey, Dr. McKay and I are engaged in a personal relationship that has absolutely nothing to do with Dr. Weir. And I think you know Dr. McKay well enough to know that she wouldn’t allow anyone to make decisions for her.” He glanced at Meredith and found her frowning. “But if you’d like to meet with us both to discuss how we’re adults and perfectly capable of doing our jobs despite our romantic relationship…”
“No, no, that won’t be necessary,” Woolsey said hurriedly. “Such a meeting would be a violation of your privacy.”
“Funnily enough, Dr. Weir had no problem calling Dr. McKay into her office to berate her for dating me.”
“I see. Well, I’ll speak with Dr. Weir and remind her that such conversations are completely inappropriate,” Woolsey said stiffly. “Dr. McKay may feel free to file a complaint.”
“I’ll let her know,” John said with a grin and said goodbye when the older man ended the conversation abruptly. He put the phone on the base. “He’s going to speak to Weir about her inappropriate behavior.”
Meredith laughed. “Oh, to be a fly on the wall of that room.” She sighed and checked her watch. “I can’t believe we’re twenty hours from dial out and she’s still trying to…” She waved a hand in frustration. “Fuck if I know what her end game is. Is it rude to hope she figures out how to ascend really soon?”
“Mr. Woolsey said you could file a complaint about that whole slut-shaming thing,” John said. He laughed when Meredith immediately hopped up and left his office at a trot. The door slowly swung shut behind her.
“Weir really did that?” Teldy questioned with a frown.
“Yeah, apparently it was pretty ugly,” John admitted. “I didn’t press for all of the details.” He paused. “Should I have? I mean…” He huffed. “Never mind. You know my last XO was a man, and I never tried to involve him in my personal life, so I apologize for doing it to you.”
“I’m pretty sure I started it with the whole first date thing,” Anne said with a laugh. “And besides, you might not have involved him, but he was all up in your business. How do you think I knew what kind of creamer to stock in the office?” She shrugged when he raised an eyebrow. “It’s my job. Hazelnut, 80s metal, classic cars, bisexual, boxers, and I knew about your big ole crush on McKay before you asked her out. Oh, speaking of,” she began and opened up a drawer. “I had something made for you.” She tossed him a little black pouch. “For your iPod.”
“Is this Kevlar?” John asked in amusement as he fiddled with the Velcro strap. “I can wrap this around my arm under my uniform.”
“Yes, well, I got myself one, so it seemed fair to get you one as well. Most of the expedition has got a pouch of some sort they’re securing under their uniform for USB drives or whatever. Though Dr. McKay’s project with those drives your father gave us has been really well received.” She paused. “And no, not really. I’m sure she gave you all the details she wanted you to have. McKay doesn’t keep anything that truly ticks her off to herself—it’s one of the first things I was told about her.”
“What else did you hear?”
“She’s the smartest person I’ll ever meet, she’s stronger than she looks, and despite her attitude problem, she’s heroic as hell. Apparently, she’s also stubborn and completely unimpressed with authority. She cursed O’Neill out in the middle of the gate room about four years ago because he ignored the advice of a scientist on a mission.”
John winced. “How’d that work out?”
“O’Neill apologized to Dr. Jackson,” Teldy said wryly. “And O’Neill spent two months in a cast because of the broken leg he received because he ignored Jackson.”
“She berated the man in the gate room while he had a broken leg?”
“Well, it started there. She followed him into the infirmary and apparently the CMO at the time just let her continue.” Teldy shrugged. “Regardless, I’ve heard enough about her, good and bad, to know what to expect from her in most situations.”
Teldy’s expression grew serious. “I have no clue, seriously, how she’d react if you were to suffer a major injury, sir. She’s invested, obviously, in a very emotional way, and I don’t know how that would translate for McKay. She could shut down or go nuclear. I guess I’ll cross that bridge if it comes.”
“For the record, I’d go nuclear in such circumstances.”
“Oh, that I already knew,” Anne acknowledged.
* * * *
John watched Meredith moving around her quarters, picking up little things to put in her pack. Her trunk had already been taken by the logistics staff. “Do you want some time alone?”
She looked up from the little bag she was cramming full of hair clips and ponytail holders. “What? No…I mean, unless you’re looking for an excuse to leave. You don’t have to do that, you know?”
“I know,” John said and relaxed against the headboard of the bed. “And no I don’t want to leave, but I would be cool if you needed space. I don’t want to crowd you.”
“I don’t keep that kind of thing to myself—it’s why my relationships don’t last. Even Owen couldn’t handle the fact that there were parts of my life that I didn’t want him involved in.” She glanced at John before opening up a drawer next to the bed and picking up a fistful of little elastic bands which she pressed into her bag. “I feel like I’m forgetting something.”
John considered what he’d seen her put in her bag. “The supply mandate covered birth control and menstruation supplies.”
“I don’t have a period right now,” Meredith said absently as she pressed the bag closed and worked the zipper shut. “I have a birth control implant, alien in design, but we’re working with the FDA through our public front to put it on the market as a funding source. Much like the injury crème we received from the Tollan.”
“How does it work? IUD?”
“Not an IUD. It’s a small device inserted under the skin that uses a customized blend of hormones to prevent ovulation. Some women like to have a period, I don’t know why, but I didn’t want one, so I said no to that particular option. The medical staff takes blood, does a complete analysis, and there is a survey that the patient fills out to help with personalization. Mine was placed six months ago, and the device lasts forty-eight months.” She pursed her lips. “But that doesn’t mean…well…condoms.”
“We aren’t ready for that conversation,” John agreed. “I’m cool with condoms.”
“Well, some men see a relationship as an opportunity to stop using them.”
He shrugged. “I’ve never gone without, so I don’t have a problem with them.”
“You were married.”
“Yeah, and? Nancy has issues taking oral contraceptives, so I handled birth control.”
Meredith smirked then. “Yeah, apparently you handled it better than your brother.”
John laughed then groaned. “I do not want to think about them having sex at all, thank you very much.”
She took the little bag to her pack and dropped it into the main section. “Are they really going to weigh my pack?”
“Yes,” John confirmed. “You have physical limitations that we need to adhere to for safety and maneuverability in the field. I can’t have you weighed down by a hundred pounds of crap, and I need you to be willing to drop that thing if it gets dangerous. Nothing in it is worth your life.”
“I get it,” Meredith promised. “That’s why I’m sticking my personal USB drives in my bra.” She grinned when he laughed, and then she zipped up the pack. “Did you need me to carry anything for you?”
“Nah, I’m good. Anne had a little pouch made for me that I can wrap around my arm. I can put a drive and my iPod in it.” He inclined his head. “Have you called your sister?”
Meredith paused and turned to him with a frown. “Why would I?”
“Because you’re leaving the planet in two hours and the US government has your father in custody for espionage?” John asked and raised an eyebrow.
“I can’t tell her about that part,” Meredith muttered. “But I guess I should call her—just to touch base. Have you made your calls?”
“Yeah, I called and talked to everyone. Nancy agreed to marry David despite the little scandal it’s caused in the society pages at home. I’m really glad I’m not around to be interviewed about that crap because I’d be rude, and they’d end up writing all kinds of things about how poorly I’m taking the whole thing.”
Meredith laughed. “Right.”
John rolled off the bed and stretched. “I’ll go make sure my people are ready and lining up. I want you in the gate room with me—we go through that gate together.”
“If it opens.”
“It’ll open,” he said and snagged her hand as she came to him.
“I’ll start herding my people shortly. I’ve placed them in line based on a mission-essential basis.”
“So all the soft sciences are right before the three crates of luxury items,” John guessed with a laugh.
“Yes, well, we think we can hold the gate for 32 minutes based on the power left in the ZPM.”
“I know,” John said and brushed her hair from her forehead. “I’ve had my people practice and plan for a thirty-minute window just in case.” He pulled her in and kissed her. “Don’t be late—we have a date with a new galaxy.”
* * * *
The gate opened with a familiar swoosh, and, beside him, Elizabeth Weir took a ragged breath. Meredith’s fingers clenched against his, and he exchanged a look with her as the MALP went through. The expedition listened as data came back through regarding air quality and the environment. O’Neill gave them a go, and John inclined his head toward Weir who’d insisted on going first through the gate despite how foolish that was from a security perspective.
He waited a few seconds before stepping forward, taking McKay with him with a gentle tug. The room was bright, sunlight was filtering in through large windows behind the gate. Weir was next to the MALP. John reluctantly released McKay as they stepped away from the gate. He activated his radio. “Sheppard to O’Neill, we’re in an abandoned building of some sort. No sign of recent occupation. Send them through.”
John watched McKay go up a small set of steps to what looked like a control deck. “McKay?”
She activated her radio so the SGC could hear her report. “We’re in an Ancient facility, various systems are online. Congratulations, Daniel, you found the lost city of Atlantis.”
“Are you sure, McKay?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. The city computer just introduced herself on a screen—Atlantis, Primitus Civitas.” McKay’s gaze widened in shock. “She says—hello, Daniel Jackson, I’ve heard much about you.”
“Oh my god, I’m coming through,” Daniel declared. “Let me get my bags.”
“Jackson.” O’Neill sighed, and there was a long silence before O’Neill came back on the radio. “Atlantis, you’re getting another damn soft scientist.”
John laughed and wasn’t all that surprised to look over at the gate just in time to watch Daniel Jackson stumble through with two duffels and an overstuffed backpack. “He really did pack.”
“He had them hidden in a closet outside of the gate room,” Jack said sourly. “Sheppard, you better not let anything untoward happen to my Space Monkey. I mean it.”
“I’ll do my best to keep him in one piece and on this plane of existence, sir,” John said and shook his head as Jackson tossed aside his bags and ran toward Meredith. “For the love of…” He glanced toward Elizabeth Weir whose mouth was hanging open in shock. “Right.”
His gaze drifted around the room and he focused on Teldy who was organizing people and supplies away from the gate. Since she had that in hand, he walked over to what appeared to be the central staircase and took a step up. The stairs glowed a little brighter as he started up them. “McKay? Power levels?”
“Still working on it,” Meredith responded. “The wormhole is remaining stable. The city is shoring up the integrity—we have plenty of room for the luxury items.”
“Understood, McKay,” O’Neill said. “Good luck out there.”
John turned and watched the steady stream of Marines as they came through the gate with their supplies and the other three MALPs that had been built for the expedition. They’d practiced the migration through the gate a few times, so everything ran as smoothly as possible. Weir had joined McKay and Jackson at the set of consoles. All three were hovering over a single console, staring at it in rapt attention. He wondered what else the city had to tell them.
Curious, Sheppard started toward the set of stairs to go back down.
“Hey there, Marine.”
He turned in shock—he heard shouts and the priming of weapons below him. An elderly woman was standing in the entrance of a hallway just beyond the stairs. A small smile drifted over a mouth he knew well, and his stomach lurched.
Her brown eyes brightened, and she took a step toward him. “John…I…”
“Sir?” Teldy demanded. “Is this an Ancient?”
John motioned his second-in-command back when he realized she was half way up the stairs. “No.”
The woman took another step toward him, but it required that she let go of the doorframe. She went weak in the knees. John jerked forward and caught her to keep her from falling. “Grant!”
Sheppard sank to his knees with the woman. “Mer, what…” He brushed silver hair from her forehead. “Anne, where’s…”
“John?” McKay started up the stairs. “You found an Ancient?”
“No,” John said hoarsely. “I found you.” He looked up just in time to watch the color drain from her face.
In the background, he heard Weir tell the SGC goodbye, and the wormhole winked out.
He focused on the elderly version of his girlfriend even as the younger of the two women dropped to her knees beside them. “What did you do, sweetheart?”
She held out a hand to McKay. “Here—our work. I had a bit of time on my hands.”
Meredith took a small bright blue crystal from the older version of herself as Weir arrived. She tucked the crystal into her front pocket with a small frown. She sat back on her heels and motioned Weir back with a huff. “Give her some room. I hate to be crowded.”
“How did she get here?” Weir demanded. “Who is she?”
“She’s me—old-me,” Meredith snapped.
John unclipped his P90 and passed it to Teldy as Grant prodded almost everyone else back. He watched the doctor grasp one pale wrist and focus on the watch he was wearing.
“You can’t help me, Thomas.”
Grant looked up and met her gaze. “Let me be the judge of that, Dr. McKay.”
“I’ve spent the better part of ten thousand years in stasis—trust me, you can’t help me.” She focused on John. “I just wanted to see you, and I wasn’t sure if you’d all find me in time to get me out of the pod before I died of old age.”
Shock and fury twisted in his gut—mixing with a strange, horrific kind of grief that he’d never expected to experience. She trembled against him then, and his grip tightened on her. “Where’s the pod? We’ll put you back in it.”
She shook her head. “No, John, I did what I set out to do.” She pulled her hand free from Grant’s grasp and touched John’s cheek with trembling fingers. “I saved you.”
She coughed and took a deep, shuddery breath. “The city power failed shortly after we arrived. Only ten of us made it through the gate and all but three drowned because the city was underwater when the shield failed. The three of us made it to a ship—an Ancient ship left by Janus on the city. You flew it—saved Elizabeth and me—but the ship wasn’t a normal ship. It’d been built for time travel. We ended up back…back in the time with the Ancients, and you died.” Tears welled in her eyes. “You died, John, and I couldn’t let it happen again so I stayed with the city so that she’d be here when you arrived, and I made sure no one drowned.” Her gaze left John, and she glanced around briefly before her attention returned to him.
“Are you sure we can’t help you?” John demanded.
She smiled, quick and fierce. “The universe doesn’t need two of me.”
John didn’t know what to do with himself suddenly. His fingers curled into the material of the dress she was wearing. “What…” He took a deep breath. “What do you want?”
“Take me outside? The city has only been on the surface for an hour—it took me a bit of time to get up here. I haven’t seen the sun…in a very long time.”
John looked up and focused on the younger version of McKay. Her face was ashen, and her eyes were bright with tears. He couldn’t comfort them both at the same damn time, and it must have shown on his face because McKay jerked her head toward a pair of doors that led outside to a balcony of some sorts.
“Wait…” Grant started in protest.
“The Ancient stasis pod wasn’t made for humans,” Jackson interjected. “She aged profoundly slowly over a period of ten thousand years, so I’d expect her actual age to be around a hundred and fifty.” Daniel smiled as John lifted her up into his arms and stood with her. “Still looking good, McKay.”
“Your math is still for shit, Daniel,” Meredith said. “It’s probably closer two hundred. Go keep young-me busy. This is fucking her up.”
Teldy was ahead of him and opened the doors. She pulled them shut behind him with a decisive click. He glanced over his shoulder and found his XO standing sentry with her back to the door.
There was a white bench with curved corners in the middle of the balcony, and John sat down on it with a deep breath. She was lighter—thinner. “You’ve lost weight.”
“I stayed awake on the city for a few years after the Ancients left,” Mer murmured. “They left a lot of food in storage, and Janus gave me the ATA gene. I was able to visit a couple of planets he deemed safe, at least at first.” Her fingers curled around his. “John, I missed you so much.”
“I’m sorry I died when you obviously needed me more than I ever thought you would,” John said roughly. “I would’ve done this for you, Mer. I can’t…” He cleared his throat. “I’ve always known you were one of the best people I’d ever know, no matter what sort of attitude you threw at the world, but what you’ve done here is beyond what anyone would expect from another human being.”
“In the notes I left behind, I said I did it for the expedition, but I did it for you and me. I did it for us. I did it because I didn’t want to suffer the loss of you again, and right now she thinks she’ll probably be okay when you dump her for someone better, but I know she won’t be.”
“I’m not going to dump you for someone better,” John snapped in exasperation. “Her. You. Fuck, this is messing me up.” He sighed when she laughed quietly against his neck.
Sheppard turned his head and pressed against her temple and whispered, “I’m in love with you.”
“For the love of astrophysics, don’t tell young-me that any time soon. She’ll flip her shit,” Mer said and grinned. Her eyes were bright with life at that moment, and John’s stomach tightened because the grip she had on his fingers was weakening. “I thought I was going to die when they told me you were dead. I started plotting their murders when they told me they wouldn’t help me save the city. They didn’t care what would happen to the future expedition. Janus was the only one who was willing to help me.”
“What about Weir?”
“She was so excited to meet the Ancients that she barely spoke to me after the meeting they had declaring they wouldn’t help me. Janus helped me stay behind and figure out a plan to save Atlantis.” Her eyes fluttered shut briefly, and she took a deep breath. “I was supposed to stay in the pod almost all the time but I couldn’t. I was awake for nearly five years before I finally went and got in the pod to start the plan. I had work to do, and I needed time to do it. McKay has all of my work, and she can finish what I’ve left for her. Don’t let Weir interfere.”
“What happened to Weir in the past?”
Meredith huffed. “She went through the gate with the Ancients—returned to Earth. I really hope that bitch never managed to ascend.”
“I guess we’ll never know. If she did, she’s in the Milky Way. I doubt she’d return to Pegasus.”
She took a deep breath. “I buried you on the mainland after the others left. The location is written down in one of the files I gave young-me. I’d like to be buried there with him. Don’t let Weir talk anyone into experimenting on me because I have the ATA gene. I left detailed instructions for Dr. Grant on how to retrieve that data from the medical database.”
“They’ve probably set up a place for you to rest. Let me take you inside now,” John said.
She smiled briefly and brushed her thumb over his bottom lip. “I love you, too, you know? I never got to tell you before you…died.” Her body relaxed against his, and her breathing shallowed.
“He knew,” John soothed. “Does it hurt?”
“No, I’m just sleepy,” she murmured. “But I don’t want to leave you. I waited so long to see you again.” Her eyes drifted shut then snapped open. “I don’t believe in heaven but do you think he’s waiting for me? Wherever I go next?”
“I think he’s always been waiting for you, Mer,” John said.
“Good—good.” Her fingers tightened on his briefly. “Don’t ever let Jeannie find out about this.”
“I promise,” he whispered rashly.
She turned her face against his neck and took a deep breath then everything around him stilled. For several moments, he stayed where he was, overwhelmed by the shock of what had just unfolded around him.
Then he stood and carried her to the doors. “Anne.”
Teldy turned immediately, her face utterly neutral, and opened the doors. He stepped inside and found his Meredith waiting. Her eyes were a little wild.
“The computer gave us a city map, so we have an infirmary space already designated.” She looked at her elderly counterpart. “She’s done a lot of work for us. Dr. Grant is waiting to show you to the place…there’s a place.” She crossed her arms. “Walk with me.”
The way was clear, and Teldy stayed on his left and slightly behind as they walked toward whatever infirmary space had already been chosen. There were two large doors that opened even as he approached. Thomas Grant was standing just inside the suite of rooms. John allowed himself to be guided to a bed, and he carefully put her down. His Meredith was there almost immediately, smoothing down the skirt of the older woman’s dress.
“Sir?” The doctor looked up even as he snapped out a crisp white sheet.
“I think we can all agree that there is no need for an autopsy. Don’t take any sort of samples from her—she said she didn’t want to be experimented on.” John looked at Meredith who was staring intently at the older version of herself. “Mer?”
“I have a stringent clause in my contract regarding experimentation on my body should I become incapacitated or killed. Did she speak of burial?”
“She buried him on the mainland. She said she left you a map. She’d like to be buried next to her Sheppard.” John glanced up as the doors opened again and Weir entered.
“What did she say to you?” Weir demanded. “Tell me everything.”
“You left her on the city to fend for herself,” John said evenly. “Trotted back to Earth with the Ancients rather than stay here and help her with the plan to save the city. You apparently didn’t even spare her a conversation before you left.”
Weir glared. “Well, she obviously didn’t need me.”
“Right,” John said and averted his gaze. “She told me she wanted to be buried on the mainland and that she left a map for the location.”
“We’re not burying her,” Weir protested. “Her remains will be turned over to the genetics department for research. It’s obvious she has the ATA gene, and we need it.”
John barely caught McKay before she rounded on the leader of the expedition. He pulled her to his side, and Weir took a step back.
“Enough,” Grant said firmly. “The elder Dr. McKay’s remains will not be turned over to anyone for experimentation. I will not have her body desecrated, nor will I allow anyone to circumvent her wishes regarding burial.”
“How do we know Colonel Sheppard is telling the truth about what she said?” Weir demanded.
“Because she left me a note sitting on the desk in that office,” Grant said evenly and waved at a smaller room. “It was addressed to me, and her wishes are very clear. There will be absolutely no human experimentation on this mission, Dr. Weir. It’s an international crime.”
“We’re not on Earth,” Weir snapped. “Those rules don’t apply.”
John blinked in surprise, and McKay let out a strangled scream.
“Did you revoke your bloody citizenship when I wasn’t looking?” McKay demanded. “And did you even bother to read the whole the charter or were you too busy trying to undermine Colonel Sheppard? There are fifty-two paragraphs explaining that the expedition is bound by the federal laws of the United States of America. We all agreed to it when we signed the charter! You don’t get to just strip out the rules and ethical concerns that are in your way because we’re in another goddamned galaxy!” She jabbed a finger in Weir’s direction, and the woman took several steps back. “Why don’t you grow a goddamned conscience? I think that would be the most productive use of your time!” She turned to Grant. “If she buried him on land then there is a way to get there from the city. Please wrap her in a sheet—not a body bag—and find some place proper to store the remains until we can figure it out.”
“There’s a small morgue,” Grant said roughly. “I’ll take great care with her, Dr. McKay.” He paused. “And I’m sorry for the distress this situation has obviously caused you both.”
John pulled Meredith further away from Weir and toward the door. “Come on.” She huffed a little but didn’t fight him. Teldy was just outside the doors. “Anne, we need a few minutes. Could you just…”
“I got all this,” Teldy assured and passed him the P90.
John thought open at the first door he encountered, and it worked. He pulled McKay into the room, put his weapon down on the floor and thought lock wildly at the door. “Mer.” She pulled him close, and John’s hands clenched on her hips. He lifted her, and she snaked her long legs around his waist. He buried his face against her neck. “Fuck.”
“I have no idea what to do with this whole thing,” McKay whispered. “What the actual fuck, John?”
“I know.” His voice was hoarse, and he took a deep breath to steady himself. “If this is how shit is going to go in this galaxy, I’m a hundred percent done already.”
“I’m sorry she asked that of you,” Meredith whispered fiercely against his temple as she stroked her fingers through short black hair. “But it was honestly the most comfort she could’ve gotten. Somewhere along the line, you became my safe place, and I don’t think I realized it until we were getting ready to step through the gate. I’m a badass, John. I shouldn’t need a man.”
“I…” He was honestly on board with being needed by her, which was probably not a good thing for him to admit. “I’ll never let you down.”
“That couldn’t be more clear,” Meredith said after a moment. “You just held me while I died.”
“She died,” John corrected sharply. “You’re right here, and you’re alive, and you’d better fucking stay that way, McKay, I mean it.” He met her gaze. “And for the record, I’m not going to dump you for someone better.”
“I can’t believe old-me told you that,” Meredith muttered with a frown. “And why wouldn’t you?”
“Because there is no one better,” John told her. “I can’t imagine how there ever would be.” He put her down reluctantly. “Let’s go rescue our people from Weir.”
“Mutiny is starting to appeal to me,” Meredith said darkly.
“It hasn’t even been an hour,” John muttered and picked up his weapon. He clipped it to his vest with a huff.
She poked his arm. “The next time I want to take a swing at Weir, let me.”
“No, I’d have to arrest you, and that’s ridiculous.”
He opened the door, and they exited the empty room. It wasn’t much of a shock to return to the gate and find Daniel Jackson in the control center holding court at the same console that Meredith had interacted with first.
“Meredith! Alt-McKay did awesome stuff! Come look.”
“Alt-McKay?” Meredith repeated with a frown.
“Well, did you want us to run around calling her Old-McKay?”
“No, no, Alt-McKay is better.” She made a face as she left the staircase and went to the command area.
John didn’t know if she meant that, but he found it less jarring than old-anything. He joined Teldy with the rest of the officers. She was going over assignments and setting up teams for exploration. They had a full company which equaled twenty-three four-man units, but not all of them would end up in the field. Teldy had only declared ten official gate teams but had left room for more. Cadman, Granger, and Bouchard were platoon leaders, and Anne exceled at trickle-down micromanagement.
The civilians were huddled in a group near the gate. Well, except for the ones on the command deck.
“For fuck’s sake,” John muttered and leaned against a crate. “She didn’t… Teldy, does Weir have a plan of action for the civilians? What’s their first task?”
Teldy made a face and pressed her lips together. “I apologize, sir, I didn’t ask.”
“It’s not your job to manage her resources, so you don’t owe anyone a damn apology,” John snapped. “McKay!”
Meredith’s head jerked up, and she raised a dark eyebrow at him.
He waved a hand toward the huddle of scientists. He watched her process the scene, and the look that bloomed on her face almost instantly told him all he needed to know. Part of him wanted to wade into the situation and solve it for her, but he knew it was the wrong call and would just alienate Weir. Around him, Teldy was organizing their people and had tasked Wilkes with finding office space for the officers. He was first on the list and appreciated that. He needed some space and a few minutes of quiet to deal with what had happened.
McKay whistled sharply which got everyone’s attention in the gate room. “Zelenka, Simpson, Porter—you’re on structural integrity. We need one large room or two semi-large rooms for a base of operations until we can determine if the city is safe for occupation.”
“Me?” Allison Porter asked. “Ma’am, I’m an orthopedic surgeon.”
“She means me,” another civilian interjected and waved. “Dr. Kevin Parker, biomechanical engineering.”
Meredith frowned. “Parker? Seriously?”
“Yes, Dr. McKay, it’s Parker.” The man blushed. “I made the mistake of hitting on you shortly after I was hired. You’ve been calling me Porter ever since.”
“Oh, right, you. Do what I said.” Meredith huffed. “Well, Girl-Porter, you and the rest of the medical staff can report to Dr. Grant in the infirmary. Surely at this point he’s finished taking care of my remains and is in need of you.” She waved a hand to her left. “Follow that hall all the way to a set of double glass doors. Can’t miss it.”
“Miko, come up here and join Dr. Jackson—he’s talking to the city computer. He’ll need you to review the data she gives him regarding the city. Thompson, I’ve asked the computer for information on setting up our intranet. Come over here and wait for it. Then your job is to set up our servers and get everything online. Based on what we’ve already been told, we’ll be able to meld with current Ancient systems with the work that Alt-McKay did. You’re all welcome.
“The rest of you will be assigned to exploration teams, so see Lt. Simmons about those assignments. He knows your strengths and will provide that input to Major Teldy. If you are worried about exploration and would prefer to wait until safety is assured—go to the infirmary and help Dr. Grant set up his space.” She paused. “Mr. Nelson, there is an office space on the second floor.” She pointed to it. “It’s your job to prepare that space for Dr. Weir.”
Weir frowned at Meredith but followed Nelson up the stairs.
“Wonder what she’s going to do while we do all the physical labor?” Cadman asked in a tone just short of snide.
“McKay told Weir to go grow a conscience so maybe she’ll work on that first.” John grinned at the looks Teldy and Bouchard sent him.
Cadman snorted. “Sir.” She frowned. “This is going to be a complete disaster.”
“Document everything,” John said in a low tone and looked at each of them in turn. They all nodded their understanding. “Bouchard, take the people that McKay wants out of the way and put them to use. Simmons will tell you the best way to keep them from killing themselves.”
* * * *
Hours later, they were essentially camped out in the large room that the Ancients had used for community gatherings and formal dinners. They’d taken down almost all of the tables and stacked the chairs out of the way easily enough. Despite the fact that they were sharing the room, the expedition had segregated itself. Funnily enough, all of the enlisted and officers had placed themselves between him and the civilians. As far as he knew, Teldy hadn’t ordered it.
John leaned against the wall his sleeping bag had been placed beside and watched as everyone settled down. It wasn’t all that surprising when Meredith left the discussion still going on at one of the tables, grabbed her pack, and picked her way through the company to get him. She put her pack beside his and sat down beside him. He wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close.
“Leave your boots on,” John murmured when she reached down to unlace them.
She huffed a little and pulled her own sleeping bag free from her pack. John took it from her when she made a frustrated sound and pulled the elastic strips free so he could shake it out and drop it on her.
“Just when I think Weir couldn’t disappoint me more—she surprises me,” McKay whispered against his jaw then settled down to rest on his chest.
“Using me like a teddy bear is going to make your geeks think you’ve got a soft side,” John said with some amusement.
“Take that back,” Meredith demanded. “I’m vicious.”
“You’re a real beast,” John murmured and grinned when Teldy laughed from her place in front of him.
Her fingers curled into his T-shirt. “I saw my own dead body today, John.” She took a deep, shuddery breath. “I met another version of me once—did you know?”
“I read the report. She was a member of SG1 on her world because Sam Carter was killed,” John said.
“She was nothing like me,” Meredith said. “She’d actually joined the Canadian Air Force, and she wore her hair short. I haven’t had hair that short since I was ten years old. Plus, she let people call her Merry, which is ridiculous. I also met a male version of me—his name was Rodney. He was terrible, of course, so we got along great. He was bizarrely okay with meeting a female version of himself. I wanted to keep him. O’Neill wouldn’t let me. The only thing he asked me was what my degrees were in, then we worked until his people retrieved him.”
John laughed softly. “Straight to the important stuff.”
“Yes, well,” Mer said and yawned.
“Go to sleep. You have an entire horde of geeks to run roughshod over tomorrow.”
“You’re not sleeping.”
“I’m on watch—I’ll sleep when it’s my turn,” John murmured and ran his fingers through her hair.
He looked up, and his gaze landed briefly on the two men on the door. They both nodded, and he inclined his head before moving on. Elizabeth Weir was standing near a pair of closed doors. The balcony hadn’t been checked for structural issues, so it was off-limits. Weir looked uncomfortable and perhaps even scared with the way she had her arms crossed and held tight to her body. She turned and briefly glared at him before averting her gaze.
William Bouchard sighed from his place near John and dropped down on his back. “I’m going to write a novel to my government about Weir and the clusterfuck the IOA stuck us with out here.”
“I’ll be happy to read it,” Cadman said and yawned. “And provide feedback, examples, and supplemental video testimonials.”
Bouchard laughed and offered her his fist. She bumped it, turned on her side, and pulled her jacket over her head. The Canadian focused on John. “She asleep?”
“Yeah.” John cleared his throat. “I won’t tell you to keep it from him but for the love of God, William, be careful as hell when you tell Owen Tremblay about the alternate version of her and what happened.”
Bouchard nodded and took a deep breath. “I don’t look forward to that conversation, but I’d certainly like to speak with him before he reads any reports that are generated ont the situation.” He glanced at Meredith. “She lived ten thousand years on this city for you. I’m not sure anyone or anything could compete with that. I can’t say he doesn’t harbor hopes that she’ll one day go back to him.”
“He respects her choices, Colonel.” Bouchard grimaced a little and shifted on his back. “I didn’t miss this shit.” He paused. “Sir.”
Sheppard couldn’t help but laugh. He didn’t feel remotely guilty about insisting that Bouchard’s enlistment in the Canadian Army be reactivated which had put him at the rank of Captain and above Cadman in the chain of command for the mission. “We’ll see about getting you a real bed tomorrow.”
* * * *
“That’s a ridiculous name,” McKay protested.
“Puddle Jumper.” John leaned against the cylindrical ship and quirked an eyebrow. “You said I could name them.”
“I’ve changed my mind,” she exclaimed and waved both hands in ire.
“Ha, no take backs. Right, Wilkes?”
“Right, sir.” Ian Wilkes nodded then flushed when McKay glared at him. “I mean, he got to fly it around first, ma’am, so yeah…Puddle Jumper.”
Meredith huffed dramatically, and Wilkes took a step back from her which made John laugh.
The two-hour flight around the city had ensured he was comfortable with the little ship. Since he knew a version of himself had died in one, he hadn’t been exactly thrilled to get in it. Meredith had spent the two hours he’d been gone going through the various files that her counterpart had left her. It hadn’t taken her long to figure out how to access the data crystal—not a surprise since Alt-McKay had made it. The first thing Meredith had revealed to him over the radio was that the ship that had been used to go back in time was no longer on the city.
There was an on-going conversation on the city about time-loops, paradoxes, and alternate timelines that John was doing his best to ignore. His life was sci-fi enough without time travel debates. Though he was very relieved that the ship that had taken the alternate version of himself back in time wasn’t available for any sort of study.
“Come here, McKay.” He took her hand and pulled her across the landing bay while she complained under her breath. He released her as soon they were far enough away to have a semi-private conversation. “Is this helping you? This thing you’re doing?”
She flushed. “Sorry.” She bit down on her lip. “I went to the infirmary to see her again. Grant had her in a drawer, John. I couldn’t…” Meredith looked away from him. “Weir tried to talk me into allowing samples to be taken from her—more than just the blood that I told Grant he could take. She wants tissue samples.”
“You know Grant isn’t going to allow that,” John said quietly. “But we can take her to the place she picked out if you want—we can do it right now.”
“Yes, please,” Mer said immediately. “I can’t…I can’t think while her body is on the city.”
He caught her when she paced past him and pulled her close. She relaxed against him, and he pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Relax. I won’t let anyone disrespect her remains. She sacrificed everything for the expedition and risked even her sanity to stay here alone in this galaxy to save us. Weir might not respect that, but everyone else does. Do you think any of your people would participate in that kind of research? Everyone knows you said no.”
She nodded but her hands clenched in his shirt. “She said that I should be mature about this because it isn’t my body—it’s just another version of me and that I shouldn’t have any say in what happens to it.”
“Get everyone ready, and I’ll go…handle everything with Dr. Grant.”
* * * *
John forced himself to watch the body transferred out of the morgue drawer and onto the gurney. She was wrapped in a white sheet, and another sheet was draped over her in short order.
“Did Weir approach you about unauthorized samples?”
“Yes,” Grant admitted roughly. “I denied her, so she tried to order Alyssa Biro to do it—she refused as well. Dr. Waltman, the head of research for the ATA gene project, made a formal complaint to me because Weir tried to get him to obtain samples from the body early this morning. We’ve all told her that it isn’t necessary based on the research that the alternate version of Dr. McKay provided. The ATA gene is entirely artificial, and the Ancients made it. Janus left all the research and made sure Dr. McKay could access it.”
“Then why the push?” John asked as he stepped forward to help Grant maneuver the gurney. He frowned because he’d expected a bit of an odor—nothing about death was pleasant. “She’s not…”
“The Ancients’ morgue is actually a series of stasis drawers,” Grant explained. “Nothing like the cold storage we have on Earth.”
John nodded and relaxed. “Good. I mean…just good.”
“This can’t be easy for you, Colonel,” Grant murmured as he pulled the gurney into the transporter—the second best thing they’d pulled from Alt-McKay’s data.
Sheppard waited until the doors closed and took a deep breath. “I really don’t have time to have the meltdown I’m due, Doc.”
“I get it,” Grant said.
John picked their destination, and they traveled with a stomach-lurching flash of light. He honestly hadn’t realized how intellectually uncomfortable it would be to be transported. It was kind of ruining Star Trek for him, but he was making every effort not to complain about it since everyone else seemed thrilled with the technology. He briefly hesitated to leave the transporter because the hall leading to the landing bay was lined on either side with Marines. Until that moment, it really hadn’t occurred to him how his people viewed the sacrifice the alternate version of McKay had made.
The Marines came to attention as he and Grant brought the gurney out of the transporter. The civilians were in the actual landing bay, standing on either side of the doorway. They stopped the gurney at the end of the open jumper. John understood their desire to say goodbye, but he really didn’t think that Meredith could handle watching her own memorial service. Zelenka stepped forward, and Grant stepped aside with a nod.
“I would go with you, Colonel,” Radek said then cleared his throat. “I’m the oldest friend she had on the expedition.”
“I’m not going to argue with you, Radek,” John said quietly, and the scientist adjusted his glasses with a nod.
Cadman, Bouchard, and Teldy were off to the side of the jumper. John looked inside and found that McKay was sitting in the co-pilot seat, and Miko was squatted down beside her. “Right.”
Teldy stepped forward then. “Bouchard will be handling the exploration teams on the city while we’re gone, sir.”
Not asking at all, he thought. He was really glad, suddenly, that he’d stuck to his guns about Teldy’s placement on the expedition. He released the gurney and stepped into the jumper. He wasn’t all that surprised to find that Levi Graves had gotten himself sorted onto the team. John kind of figured the kid would worm his way onto any team that has McKay leaving the city. John understood that kind of loyalty and appreciated it. Having someone save your life changed you, and it created an incredible bond. Stackhouse, Markham, and Granger made up the rest of the group.
John sat down in the pilot seat, and Miko slipped into one of the passenger seats behind the cockpit with Teldy. McKay had a box on her lap. “What’s that?”
“It’s a mining tool—it’s the one she used to dig his grave. She left it for us to use when we buried her. She buried him in the floor of a cave—to keep him safe.” McKay took a deep breath. “And she prepared a spot for herself beside him, but we’ll need this to create the coffin-vault she wanted. Well, you’ll need to do it because it requires the gene.”
She picked up the tablet and handed it to him. “The coordinates and instructions for the jumper.” Meredith took a deep breath. “There’s also a plaque in the box to act as a marker. She made it before she went into stasis.”
“Right.” John engaged with the jumper and fed it the coordinates. “Can the city monitor us once we leave the city?”
Meredith nodded. “Yeah. We’re covered on that front, though I don’t know if any of the other gene carriers will take to flying these things like you have.”
The jumper was fast but the trip took almost 30 minutes. Very little was said beyond Miko answering questions Teldy had about the little ship.
John barely remembered his mother’s funeral—mostly he remembered the priest and the kneeling. The mass had been agonizingly long. He wondered when would be a good time to tell McKay he’d been raised Catholic. A glance her way made that thought fall out of his head because tears were streaming down her face. He shut the doors leading to the back of the jumper with a thought.
She used the back of her hand to wipe her face and took a deep breath. “When we buried mom, I bought the plots on either side of her for Jeannie and me. We promised each other that we’d never make any other arrangements.”
“She told me to make sure never Jeannie found out about her,” John said quietly and took a deep breath when Meredith nodded rapidly.
“For what?” John asked.
“He wasn’t buried in consecrated ground,” she whispered. “You’re Catholic, right? It must bother you.”
“It would bother the hell out of my father,” John said and winced. “It will bother the hell out of my father because he’s eventually going to find out about this, but I’m agnostic at best. My religion is listed in my jacket, but that’s mostly for my family. I haven’t attended church in 15 years and, honestly, have no plans to start.”
McKay nodded and focused her attention outside of the jumper. “We’re here, then?”
“Yeah,” John agreed and lowered the ship down in a small meadow near the foot of what looked like moderate-size mountain. “We’ll do a sweep of the area and return for you.”
She nodded and her hands clenched on the tool case she was still holding in her lap. “We’ll wait.”
* * * *
Radek cleared his throat. “Are you okay?”
“No.” She turned and focused on Miko and Radek who had moved up the front of the jumper when John had taken his people out to scout the area. “I’m precariously close to losing my shit.”
Radek nodded. “I would be the same.”
“You and Miko were seventh and eighth in line,” Meredith said flatly. “Which means the two of you died.” She huffed and focused on the view screen in front of her. “It’s…galling to know that I put the two of you in the first group to ensure you’d be here with me only to get you both killed in that other timeline.”
“Yes, but then you sacrificed yourself for us,” Miko said quietly. “To save the expedition, Meredith, you sacrificed everything. You could’ve gone back to Earth with the Ancients and lived a long life with one of the most technologically advanced species in our galaxy, but you didn’t. You stayed here and gave up all of that potential knowledge to save the city and the expedition.”
“I never thought I was that brave,” McKay confessed in a low tone. “I mean—I’ve done things in the heat of the moment that later seemed almost alien to me but I never once considered myself heroic. But what she did…” She glanced back to the place where the alternate version of her lay. “She was alone for years before she went into stasis. I don’t know how she didn’t go insane.”
“It seems like she might have built herself a friend,” Radek said quietly and shared a glance with Miko. “We’ve been looking at the code for the AI that is running the city.”
“What did you find?” Meredith asked.
“It’s your work,” Miko said. “Entirely—every single line of programming is yours.”
“That sort of programming really isn’t my strong suit,” McKay said, but it wasn’t in protest. “When I was younger I made a little program—a chat bot of sorts before the Internet is even half what it is today. The computer my parents bought me could barely handle it. I was a lonely kid, and my sister was a pain in the ass, so I made someone I could depend on to be nice to me. Eventually, I wanted to give her a little robot body.” She flushed when both of her friends looked at her with a mixture of understanding and sadness. “I haven’t thought about her in years.”
“What happened to that program?” Miko asked.
“She grew too fast and the system I had her on crashed. I couldn’t recover her. I never tried to build another.” Meredith flushed. “To be honest, the program’s rapid growth scared me, and I was worried that she might achieve…”
“Sentience,” Radek supplied. “Meredith, how old were you when you did this?”
She shrugged. “It was before college. Ten?” McKay ran a hand through her hair. “After that, I stayed away from programming unless I had no choice which really wasn’t a problem until I got the SGC.” Her mouth quirked a little. “At least until I was thrown ten thousand years into the past.”
The back door of the jumper opened.
“We’re ready,” John said. “I found…the place.”
A few minutes later, they entered a cavern which was filled with gently glowing crystals.
“Yeah,” John murmured. “She picked quite a place.” He cleared his throat and pulled her gently to the center of the chamber where a rock cairn had been built. There was a three foot deep impression in the stone.
“Oh.” It was like getting punched in the chest. She took a breath then exhaled sharply. “He’s here.”
Teldy was standing at the head of the cairn, her jaw tight with some emotion that Meredith couldn’t readily identify. The woman was normally very stoic, especially on duty.
“She even gathered her own damned rocks,” Teldy said and jerked her head toward a neat pile of stones not far the prepared hole.
“Yes, well, I’ve always been a planner,” Meredith whispered and took a deep breath when everyone looked her way in shock. “Let’s just get this over with, please?”
John left her then, and she watched, feeling helpless, as Radek stepped forward to help move the body into the grave. It was surreal to be attending her own funeral on an alien world in another galaxy.
“You okay, Doc?”
She tried to smile for Eli. “Remember that time on MXY-453 when that local man decided I was going to be his wife, and when I refused to participate in the ceremony, he had a woman from his planet stand-in for me then told me I was his wife?”
Graves grimaced. “Yeah, I killed that guy extra hard just for you.”
“It’s kind of like that,” she admitted.
“Right,” Graves said and, with a nod, joined the others in placing the rocks on the body.
She knew she should probably help, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Feeling weak and foolish, Meredith went to the now-empty gurney and put down the case she still carried. It was closed with a simple clasp which was great since anything else would’ve required the gene. She opened it and touched the plaque briefly. It had been etched by a machine. She figured that she’d find it eventually—the machine her counterpart had used to create the grave marker. It had their names and her favorite quote engraved on it. It was a burnt orange in color—like the decorative windows in the gate room.
Colonel John Patrick Sheppard, USMC & Meredith Regina McKay, Ph.D., Ph.D
“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.”
“Henry van Dyke,” Meredith murmured. “It’s my favorite.” She looked up and focused on John. “This is fucking you up, too. I’m sorry.”
“Let’s just agree that it fucked them both more than it ever will us,” John said gently. “What do I do with the device?”
“She programmed it to complete the process. All you have to do is activate it and point it towards…” Meredith waved a hand. “Half way through, it’ll stop, and we can place the plaque. She wanted it imbedded into the cover stone. She apparently practiced a few times on the city with the device until she was sure it would do exactly what she wanted.”
“Then let’s finish this for her.”
“For them,” Meredith corrected.
He nodded and picked up the tool.
Ancient technology was alarmingly powerful—even simple tools like the one that had been designed to mine naquadah. She watched it alter the surface of the two cairns until they formed a single large stone box. It was horrifying, really, to think about being inside the box so she put it aside as much as he could. When he paused, she stepped forward and placed the plaque on top near the foot and in the middle.
It took another ten minutes to seal the entire thing, and then they all stood there in silence until Meredith couldn’t take it another second. She turned and left when Radek stepped forward and put a hand on the cover stone. Watching one of her oldest friends say goodbye to even a version of her was appalling, and she felt selfish for the sudden, intense anger that was burning in her.
She noted that Granger had followed her back to the jumper. Neither one of them had the gene, so she leaned against it and looked up at the bright blue sky. There were a few scattered clouds, but she could see the planet’s second moon clearly.
“It’s odd, right? Zelenka says there are four moons.”
“Not exactly abnormal for a planet this size.”
“I’m just used to one moon.”
“Earth has two,” she said and grinned when he turned to look at her. “Well, the second one is a quasi-satellite. The SGC found it about three years ago, but it’s not public knowledge. We’re waiting for NASA to identify it for the public. We’ve had a few asteroids, they’re called Earth Trojans, over the centuries that travel with Earth for a bit. But yeah, Earth technically has two orbiting bodies. Of course, there’s also Cruithne which orbits the Sun but is often Earth’s Hill sphere.”
Granger frowned. “What’s a Hill sphere?”
“Basically—the gravity influence around an astronomical body. The larger the body, the larger the gravity influence which is how planets capture moons.”
“So if that asteroid is Earth’s Hill sphere—why doesn’t it count as a satellite for us?”
“Because it orbits the sun which has a much greater gravitational pull than Earth.” She took a deep breath. “I always thought I’d join NASA. At least, until Sam Carter strolled into my lecture hall and told me half the things I thought about the universe were wrong. I was furious, of course, because she was right. I spent the first six months with the SGC re-educating myself across several disciplines.”
“So you wanted to be an astronaut?” Granger asked. “And now you’re a space cowboy.”
“Boy?” Meredith questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“Girl.” He paused when she frowned at him and flushed. “Woman.”
“You’re digging yourself a real deep hole there, Lieutenant,” John said dryly as he approached. The jumper door opened.
“Let’s go with space badass,” Graves said cheerfully.
Meredith offered the younger man her fist, and he bumped it. “That’s right.”
A few moments later she settled in the co-pilot seat and took a deep breath.
“You cool?” John questioned.
“You’re cool. I’m fine,” she said and grinned when he laughed. “Take me back to the city. I’ve got a fuckton of science to do.”
“How much is that exactly?” John asked as they lifted off the ground.
“1.9,” John repeated.
“Are you questioning my math, John Sheppard?” McKay demanded.
“Never again,” he protested with a laugh.