Title: Finding Atlantis
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Genre: Kid Fic, First Time, Romance
Warnings: Explicit sex, discussion of murder, discussion of parental loss, and grief
Author Note: Sequel to The Bridge
Summary: John adjust to fatherhood on the city of the Ancients while his son, Sebastian, develops a connection the city that leaves everyone scrambling to keep up.
His skin was tingling. It was the weirdest sensation he’d ever experienced. Sebastian shifted under his covers and took a deep breath. “I’m supposed to be asleep.”
His walls started to glow. Sebastian sighed and slid out of bed. The city was clearly not interested in being ignored. He walked across the hall to his Dad’s bedroom but found the bed empty.
“Daddy?” He walked toward the living room and found his dad pacing. “Something’s wrong.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I know.”
“My skin is tingling,” Sebastian confessed.
John nodded. “Mine, too.”
The walls in the living room started to glow. A sense of urgency settled on his mind, and he rushed forward to grab his dad’s hand. “Oh, we have to go.”
“Do you know where?”
“I…” Sebastian shook his head as they left the apartment. Briefly, he considered going back for shoes but the city wasn’t really cold, and socks would have to be good enough. “No, I don’t think so.”
He watched his dad reach out and touch the wall. His fingers trailed along the smooth surface as they walked. Then he lifted his hand away and activated his radio. “McKay, get up. We have a problem.”
Sebastian looked ahead, and the transporter door opened. “I think she wants us to use the transporter.”
“Yeah,” John said wearily. “Don’t touch anything, okay, buddy?”
“I won’t, Daddy.” He bit down on his lip as they entered the transporter. The control panel lit up, and the transporter activated.
Sebastian hesitated as the doors opened and his dad stepped out first then pulled gently. “Where are we?”
“The control chair,” John said. He turned his radio again. “McKay, we’re about to enter the chair room. Is there some kind of problem with the ZPM?”
Sebastian took a deep breath as they entered the room. He’d read about the control chair and had asked to see it, but Dr. McKay had made it clear that was absolutely not going to happen because of his supergene. His dad released his hand and went to the chair.
“Should we wait for Dr. McKay?”
“I don’t think I can,” he said. “Stay close, okay? Don’t leave this room.”
“All right, Daddy,” Sebastian stepped back and rested against the wall.
John slid into the chair, and his gaze flicked toward his son as the chair started to shift and turn. McKay was in his ear, rambling about power surges and the ZPM. The gist of the rambling was that the ZPM wasn’t responsible for the power surges. He pressed his fingers into the gel pads of the chair and closed his eyes as his mind sank into the city’s digital interface. Information rushed around him—urgent, fast, and incomprehensible.
“I think…” Sebastian trailed off, and John felt his son’s fingers glance over the top of his hand then slip down to thread between his own fingers to touch the gel. “You need more access.”
John started to protest, but the interface bloomed brightly in front of him, and the superstructure appeared in his mind’s eye. He’d never had such a broad reach before but he still wanted to tell his son to back away from the chair, but he was beyond speech. Sinking down into the city’s interface within the control chair wasn’t unlike being in virtual reality. She was guiding him toward something—something significant and potentially dangerous. The city’s touch was gentle as ever but intense.
“John? Can you hear me?”
Rodney had arrived. Finally, it felt like an age since he’d woken up from a dead sleep filled with dread. He tried to open his eyes, but his lids were so heavy that he couldn’t. A crackle of light caught his attention, and he started to move toward it. It turned into a line, and he followed the path it made until he was in a place in the city he’d never been. The stardrive. The broken stardrive. The projected image of the stardrive darkened and started to flicker. John reached out and touched it. It lit up briefly then lifted up out of the cradle it was sitting in. It moved all the way up into the now opened ceiling.
Repair, he thought.
“John? Can you hear me?”
“Yeah,” he said roughly. “Rodney.”
“I’m going to pull Sebastian’s hand away from yours. Is that okay?”
“I think so, yes.” The small warmth of his son’s hand disappeared then a weight he hadn’t recognized lifted off his chest. Sebastian must have been in his lap. His connection with the interface remained vivid and open. “The stardrive is damaged—it’s causing power fluctuations.”
“Yeah, once we repaired the energy drain on the ZPM we realized it also restored power to several parts of the city that were previously without power including the stardrive. But there haven’t been any surges until now.” Rodney explained. “What have you done?”
“The city guided me to the stardrive, and I touched it.” John opened his eyes and focused on McKay. “It’s been removed for repair.”
“Repair?” Rodney questioned. “The city wants us to repair the stardrive?”
“No, she’ll do the repair,” John said and cleared his throat and closed his eyes. “Give me a minute.” He drifted back to the where the stardrive had been housed then went up to look at its new location. The stardrive was in sitting in the middle of a white room, and a black mass was swarming all over it. “Oh.”
“Oh?” Rodney prodded.
“How many nanites would have to be in a single place to be a visible mass like swarming bees?”
“Trillions upon trillions. Perhaps as many as a googolplex,” McKay said dully. “John? Do you see a nanite swarm?”
“I…maybe? They’re labeled as repair nanobots in the system. They’re all being directed by the city’s central computer program. They don’t appear to have any sort of autonomy.” The city reassured him in her own way that the repair lab was isolated and they wouldn’t be in danger of the bots. “She says it’s safe.”
“Okay, I need you out of that chair right now.”
John opened his eyes. “Why?”
“Because you’ve been in it for five hours,” McKay explained.
John looked around. “Where’s Sebastian?”
“He fell asleep in your lap after about an hour,” Rodney said. “I was afraid to remove him without your okay since I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on. He’s asleep on a gurney in the hall.”
John shifted forward, and the chair lifted up then spun around so he could leave it. He went weak in the knees, and McKay caught him. “The stardrive almost exploded.”
“I took note of that,” Rodney said grimly. “Congratulations, you saved the city. You’re both going to the infirmary.”
“Okay, but I want Biro to take care of us,” John murmured.
“I’ll make sure,” Rodney said.
“Don’t let them take any of his blood and no injections,” John continued. “Unless you’re there to verify what he’s being given.”
* * * *
John woke to the sound of his son laughing. He turned his head and found Sebastian sitting up in an infirmary bed playing some sort of game with Teyla on a tray table. They were in an isolation room.
“Having another argument with Dr. Beckett,” Sebastian said and shrugged. “How do you feel, Daddy?”
“Tired, thirsty.” John pressed the button on the side of the bed to raise up the head. “You?”
“Fine,” Sebastian shrugged. “You did all the work. Dr. Beckett wants to take blood samples from me and tried to get around Dr. McKay to do it. He tried to argue and say that Dr. McKay didn’t have the authority to prevent it. And he tried to ask me if I would give him blood. I told him no. Dr. Weir said that Dr. McKay is our next of kin.”
“Yeah, in case I’m not capable of making decisions for whatever reason,” John admitted as Teyla put a glass of water on his own tray table. “Where’s Ronon?”
“Standing next to Rodney so he can glare more efficiently at Carson,” Teyla reported. “He was very put out by the fact that Biro is your family doctor of record. Apparently, he didn’t notice you’d made that change shortly after Sebastian’s arrival.”
John frowned. “Beckett wanted to use Sebastian’s gene for more ATA gene research. I declined, and I wanted to make sure he wouldn’t have any sort of legitimate access to him.”
The door opened, and McKay entered. “Good, you’re awake. You can argue with the witch doctor.”
“I’m not arguing with anyone,” John said flatly and just raised an eyebrow when Beckett entered. “I already told you that you aren’t allowed to take my kid’s blood for any single reason. I don’t appreciate you using this situation to circumvent my parental authority.”
“You’re being unreasonable and considering what happened last night, we need to know more about his gene.”
“No,” John said flatly. “End of discussion. You can go.”
Rodney just shrugged when Beckett glanced his way then left the room with a glare toward John.
“I’m 100% done with him.” John focused on Elizabeth, who was standing in the doorway. “I mean it.”
She nodded. “I’ll take care of it.” The door shut as she walked away, and John slouched back against his pillow.
“Put your scary face away,” Rodney said. “You’re freaking the kid out.”
“I’m fine,” Sebastian said with a laugh.
“Fine, you’re freaking me out,” McKay corrected.
“Can we get out of here?” John asked.
“Dr. Biro said you were both just sleeping normally and could go back to your quarters once you woke on your own,” Teyla said.
* * * *
John threw his feet up on the coffee table and used his spoon to move his Fruit Loops around in the bowl.
“Dr. Beckett isn’t a very good scientist,” Sebastian said as he stared at his own cereal. “I mean, he’s got some terrible ethics. I’m not legally allowed to make any sort of decisions about being involved in a medical experiment, and he just didn’t care at all. Plus, he tried to ignore Dr. McKay. He does that a lot I think, which is rude and terrible since Dr. McKay is in charge of all the research on the city so he shouldn’t be ignoring him on that kind of thing.”
“From now on, when it comes to the city and our connection with it—you’re not to talk to anyone but Dr. McKay about it, okay?”
“Not even Dr. Kusanagi?”
“I…no. Just McKay,” John said, and his stomach knotted slightly. “It’s not that I don’t trust Miko—it’s just that I trust Rodney the most, okay?”
“What happened when we were in the chair?”
“The city guided me to the stardrive so I could unlock it and have it repaired,” John explained. “After you found that panel you found was repaired, it restored power to various parts of the city including the stardrive.”
“Is…” Sebastian trailed off and frowned. “I think she’s alive, Daddy.”
“I think so, too,” John murmured.
“We shouldn’t talk about that, though.” He shoved a spoonful of cereal into his mouth.
“No, let’s keep that to ourselves for a while.” John cleared his throat. “Let’s get dressed, and we’ll go see if your emotional support penguin is around.”
“Awesome,” Sebastian said. “Are you off today?”
“Dr. Weir gave me two days off and suggested I give you a break as well,” John said. “How about some rollerblading? We can check out the city park and start making a list of things we need.”
Sebastian hurriedly finished the last of his cereal and hopped up. “Yes, all of that!” He trotted into the kitchen then made a beeline for his room.
John left the sofa to take care of his own bowl then went to rummage in his closet for his skates. He hadn’t worn them in ages but had purchased the kid a pair before they’d returned to the city when he’d found that he could skate but didn’t have his own. A few minutes later they were racing down pier six.
“She feels new,” Sebastian said as he caught his dad’s hand. “Renewed, maybe.”
“Fresh,” John supplied. “Like she’s shaking loose the cobwebs and…” He looked back over the towers. “Waking up.”
“Yeah,” Sebastian agreed. “Is that a good thing?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted honestly. “I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, but some people wouldn’t be thrilled with such a development. Many on Earth are more interested in controlling the city as a resource than anything else. To find out that she’s capable of independent thinking would make them uncomfortable.”
Sebastian frowned. “You won’t let them hurt her, right?”
“I’ll do everything I can to keep the city safe,” John said. “But I’m not superhuman here.”
“But neither of us are all human either,” Sebastian said. “You have a little extra going on now because of the Iratus thing.” He flushed when John focused on him. “I overheard Dr. Kavanagh telling someone in the mess that you should’ve been removed from the city and sequestered at Area 51 for study. He said you’re a monster on the inside, even now, because of the Iratus and because Beckett did a hack job of getting all of the genetic manipulations out of your body.”
John felt the blood drain from his face. “I…”
Sebastian smiled and squeezed his hand. “It’s okay, Daddy.” He pulled him toward a small docking platform. “I’m not afraid of you or anything. Let’s sit—Avery will come when he realizes I’m here.”
John sat down beside his son and clunked his skates gently against the side of the pier. “I think we can lower the platform on this.” He ran his hand along the front, and a control panel flicked open. He pressed the button and the docking platform slide out from the side of the pier and lowered until they were almost at sea level.
“Cool.” Sebastian patted the water. “Hmmm, what about the shark things from the other side of the city?”
“Part of the reason your penguin is on this side of the city is that there is an emitter underneath that sends out a pulse that aggravates the sharks. They won’t come within three miles of this area as a result. McKay thinks the Ancients probably used this area for recreation and kept predators out of the water.” John cleared his throat. “About the bug thing…have you seen what I turned in to?”
“No, all those files are locked in the infirmary,” Sebastian’s cheeks pinkened. “And since I avoid that place as much as possible because of Dr. Beckett, I don’t have any lessons there. Dr. Biro offered to be my tutor on human anatomy, which is on my schedule for next quarter, but we’ll meet in the mess in the mornings on her days off.”
John figured he owed half the city a lot of various chocolate and caffeine products. “I didn’t turn into a bug, but I did…take on a lot of characteristics of the Iratus because of the retrovirus I was exposed to. And Kavanagh was right about there being a lot left in me but I…”
“You think Beckett did it on purpose to see what the results would be?” Sebastian suggested.
“I wish you weren’t so smart sometimes,” John said roughly and grinned when the kid laughed. “I’d never hurt you. I promise.”
“I know,” Sebastian said and smiled. “I did read about the Iratus. They’re actually very protective of their nests and offspring. The Wraith is also pretty militant about their nest world and their breeding queens, so I have to think on some instinctual level that you regard me as your offspring. Which is why you’re so aggressive with Dr. Beckett and his interest in my gene. When really giving him access to my ATA gene wouldn’t be all that different than giving him access to yours. I think we have the same gene I’m just younger, and my mind is more open to Ancient technology because…well…adults are kind of jaded.”
John blew out a surprised breath then laughed. “Right.”
Sebastian patted the water again, and Avery popped up. The penguin made an excited little trilling sound and hopped right up on the platform then into Sebastian’s lap where he rubbed himself all over the kid’s chest. “Ugh, you’re getting me wet!”
John laughed. “You’re the one that thought he wanted an alien waterfowl for a pet. He’s cute.” He leaned back on his hands and watched Avery sprawl across Sebastian’s legs. Apparently, the kid wasn’t the only one eager for companionship. “Biology says he doesn’t have a family group.”
“I don’t think…” Sebastian glanced down briefly. “Hmmm, he’s about half the size of the others, but he’s clearly an adult so I think he might have some form of dwarfism. I meant to ask Dr. Taylor about it, but I got distracted. He looks like a little penguin from Earth, and they’re small like this, but the others are probably twice his size—which still isn’t all that big by Earth standards. They don’t pick on him though, and I’ve seen some of the older penguins helping him get food when biology feeds them the fish scraps from the mess.”
“I emailed Dr. Taylor asking about his needs. If we have to fish for him—you’re gonna have to get tips from O’Neill ‘cause I’ve never fished in my life.”
Sebastian laughed. “Maybe I’ll ask him to come to visit us and teach me.”
John figured the general would be more than willing to take a fishing trip to Pegasus. The idea was amusing, so he was going to encourage it.
“I really get to keep him?”
“As long as he doesn’t…listen, if he doesn’t thrive and it becomes a problem you have to be willing to let him go so he lives the best life he can. He clearly wants to be with you, but there may come a time when he wants to return to the wild.”
“Don’t worry, Daddy, I wouldn’t keep him against his will. My mom would be really disappointed in me if I did something like that.”
The sound of skates on the pier caught his attention, and he looked up to see Rodney rolling their way.
“Caught him?” McKay asked as he sat down on the top part of the pier and dropped down to their level with more grace that John would’ve thought him capable of.
“He came right over and crawled in my lap,” Sebastian said proudly. “I didn’t know you could skate.”
Rodney frowned at him. “I’m Canadian. I grew up on skates of all kinds but mostly ice skates. Rollerblades are just a less dangerous version of those.” He sat down beside John and raised an eyebrow at the penguin. “I guess we’ll need to build him some kind of bed or something. Maybe a little miniature version of the tents the Athosians prefer.”
“Maybe,” Sebastian said as he rubbed Avery’s head. “Can you fish?”
Rodney made a face. “No, but you could probably talk Chief Cooper into giving you a small allotment from the city nets or from the scraps before the rest is given to the big colony.”
“I’ll ask,” Sebastian said. “I heard in the infirmary that you and Dr. Brown broke up. Do you need emotional support?”
John laughed a little when the kid gamely offered Avery to McKay.
McKay sighed, but he took the penguin, who made a little nooting noise and rubbed his beak on Rodney’s chin. “Weird.”
“I thought he’d smell fishy,” McKay admitted and laughed when Avery flapped his little wings. “He just smells like salt water.”
“I’m not mad about that,” John said wryly. The whole city pretty much smelled like salt water, so they’d grown very accustomed to that smell.
“He’s a little lighter than I thought,” Rodney said.
“Yeah, I was thinking about three pounds, but he’s less than that. I’ll ask Dr. Taylor to weigh him when we have our check-up,” Sebastian explained.
“Probably a little under two,” McKay said and set Avery down.
The penguin nudged under John’s knee, so he lifted his leg, and the animal wiggled under and flopped across his thigh with a chuff. John snorted and patted his back.
* * * *
John leaned on the doorframe of his son’s room and sighed. They’d made a temporary nest for Avery, but the penguin was currently snuggled under the covers with Sebastian, using his kid for a pillow. Taylor in biology had ruled him healthy, disease free, and certainly a dwarf of his species. Lifespan unknown, 1.9 pounds officially, and he’d suggested they take him to hunt for his food as often as possible to keep his skills in the water up.
John inclined his head toward Sebastian. “Avery skipped the nest and is using my kid as a pillow.”
Rodney sighed. “Here’s hoping the animal instinctually knows better than to foul its own nest.”
John grimaced. “Ugh.” He was entirely sure he hadn’t signed up for penguin shit.
They left the doorway and went back into the living room.
“Thanks for letting me hang out today,” McKay said.
John frowned at him. “You’re always welcome.”
“Katie said…well, she said a few weeks back that I should let the two of you be a family and that I spend too much time with the both of you.”
“Back that co-parenting thing, right?” John said and dropped down on the couch. “Look, McKay, Katie Brown doesn’t know me at all. She’s probably said less than thirty words to me ever. She’s nice enough, I suppose, but her relationship skills aren’t great at all. And I have to say her inability to reason out why Sebastian is uncomfortable with her certainly doesn’t add points to her social IQ as far as I’m concerned. You’re my best friend, and I know we had a few rocky months before the kid came along, but nothing is going to change that.” He patted the couch. “Sit before you start to pace.”
Rodney frowned at him but sat. “I don’t want to intrude. I know you’re still working on building a relationship with him, and that’s going to take time.”
“Yeah, we’re still building something but he kind of latched onto me like a duck the moment he set eyes on me. So I’m not jealous or whatever about how much he truly loves to be around you. McKay Day is his single favorite thing ever, and I include the emotional support penguin in that. You give him the kind of mental challenge I’d be hard-pressed to do on my own.”
“You’re smart,” Rodney said. “Smarter than you let on.”
“Yeah, but not smart like you or him, and I don’t have a problem with that. He needs the kind of stimulation you provide just in everyday conversation.” John turned so he could face McKay. “What’s on your brain besides Brown’s bullshit advice? You ready to talk about your feelings?”
“No, and how dare you ask,” Rodney muttered peevishly. “Fatherhood has been good for you, but it’s also made you weirdly nurturing. I don’t need nurturing.”
John laughed and let his arm fall along the back of the couch then he rested his chin there. “I don’t buy that for a minute.”
Rodney glanced his way, then huffed. “It’s not like I’m having some kind of emotional crisis. Didn’t you just ever realize you had some feelings that you hadn’t accounted for?”
John hummed under his breath. “I developed an unexpected crush on one of my instructors at OTS. I was married so, of course, I’d have never acted on it. He was actually a real bastard, and I’d never been all that interested in that sort before that. We crossed paths at McMurdo. I was surprised to see him in the field, but he said he’d gotten bored with teaching which I guess I get, but there was no explaining his interest in serving way the hell out there. With his time in rank and experience, it had to be because he requested it. Regardless, it was kind of a relief to realize I’d gotten over my crush.”
John grinned. “I still climbed him like a tree because he was gorgeous, and I was single. It was the best ride I’d had in years. When O’Neill transferred me out, General Collins offered to interfere to keep me on the base and, frankly, in his bed.”
“You really should be ashamed for banging your superior officer,” Rodney muttered.
“Not even on a bet,” John said with a laugh. “He retired last year. He sent me his address and let me know I was welcome to visit whenever I was available.”
Rodney glared at him. “From now on, you should engage in proper relationships to set an example for your kid.”
John sighed. “That reminds me, I’m going to have to talk to him about the whole gay thing.” He scratched his wrist. “At least thanks to Kavanagh I don’t have to come out of the bug closet. Apparently, he heard all about the Iratus incident already thanks to him.”
“I’m going to transfer that asshole to the Icarus Base,” Rodney said darkly. “Carter says it’s the worst assignment in the whole program because Rush is running it. Was Sebastian upset?”
“If he was, he processed it before he talked to me about it,” John said roughly. “We’re good on that front at least. I don’t think he’ll have a problem with the gay thing, but I really don’t know how he’s going to approach his whole matchmaking thing with that in play.”
Rodney snorted. “Well, he’s really fond of David Parrish. Fortunately for you, he’s in a relationship, or you’d be getting a lot of set-ups thrown that way.”
“I’m really curious about your feelings.”
“Shut up,” Rodney said crossly. “I never should’ve said anything at all. I was blindsided by stress and the trauma of being covered in your blood. You’re always getting your blood everywhere! Ronon was decent enough to keep his blood to himself.”
“He still had the arrow in his leg when we came through the gate,” John protested and laughed when Rodney just huffed dramatically. “Sorry, I got blood all over you.”
“You should be,” Rodney said and sighed. “I want…”
“What?” John questioned quietly. “Come on, buddy, talk to me. You’re being weird, even for you.”
McKay rubbed his face with both hands briskly then shifted slightly so he could face John full on. “You said I was your best friend and nothing would change that. Did you mean it?”
“Yeah, of course, I did. We got past blowing up a solar system, right?”
“Three-fourths,” Rodney corrected out of habit and took a deep breath. “I thought I had that under control. I’d never risk your life on purpose.”
“I know that, Rodney. Everyone agreed it was worth it,” John murmured. “Plus Carter said it wasn’t your fault, remember?”
Rodney nodded then leaned forward and very carefully brushed his mouth against John’s. It was so startling that for a very brief moment, John’s brain kind of went blank on him then he moved into the kiss because McKay was shaking and the desire to reassure him was almost as strong as the sexual want that was snaking down John’s back. He curled one hand around the back of McKay’s neck and stroked his tongue gently into the other man’s mouth. Rodney groaned softly into his mouth.
“Daddy! I think Avery needs to go to the bathroom….Woah.”
They sprung apart like they’d been struck and John stood abruptly from the couch. “Hey, buddy, hmmm.”
Sebastian blew out a surprised breath then raised an eyebrow. “I don’t think kissing is in the approved methods of emotional support, Daddy.”
John flushed and laughed.
“I’ll just be going,” Rodney announced loudly and practically darted out of their quarters before either Sheppard could say anything.
“I…” John took a deep breath.
Avery waddled down the hall at that point and nooted at them indignantly then walked into the bathroom.
John hurried in that direction because he had no idea what the penguin thought it was doing. Sebastian followed along. They both arrived just in time to watch a little bowl form in the floor. Avery waddled right into it to do his business. John stared in shock and glanced toward Sebastian, who was looking as perplexed as he felt.
“How old did biology say he was, again?” John asked.
“They just said he was a young adult,” Sebastian said. “But…how’d he know to do that?”
The bowl closed as Avery left it and they watched him waddle right out of the bathroom and back into Sebastian’s room.
“The more important question is, why did the city meet his need?” John said.
“Do you think he has the ATA gene?” Sebastian blew out a breath. “Man, Ancients are weird.” He rocked a little on his feet. “So…hmmm…bisexual?”
“Gay,” John muttered.
“But you got married, and there was mom…” Sebastian frowned. “Gah, Dad, how long were you in the closet?”
“I still technically am because of DADT,” John pointed out. “But I tried to play it straight for a long time. Longer than was healthy at least. Your mom was the last woman I was involved with in that way.”
Sebastian nodded. “And Dr. McKay?”
“Buddy…” John exhaled sharply. “I got no idea. That came out of nowhere.”
“So he dumped Dr. Brown for you,” Sebastian summed up then shook his head. “You homewrecker.”
John snorted. “They weren’t even living together.”
“At least Avery didn’t see it—he’s probably too young for those kinds of shenanigans.” Sebastian flicked a hand. “Thanks for the assist, Atlantis.”
John watched his son go back into his room, help the penguin back onto the bed and snuggle down his covers. “You’re okay with the…gay thing?”
Sebastian sent him a dirty look. “Of course, Daddy, I’m not some maladjusted homophobic moron.”
John laughed. “Go to sleep.”
He walked back into the living room to gather up the dishes they’d used and left behind earlier in the evening and went into the kitchen. He activated his radio and switched to the private channel with McKay.
John laughed. “The kid’s assured me he’s not a maladjusted homophobic moron.”
“The city made Avery a potty in the bathroom floor,” John said. “Then closed it when he was done.”
Rodney sputtered, and John laughed.
“You cool?” Rodney questioned.
John hated how uncertain McKay sounded in that moment. “We’re both cool. I promise. You didn’t have to run off.”
“Yes, well, I didn’t want to be in the way if he had…a strong reaction. Kids can be unpredictable, even smart ones. Probably, honestly, most especially smart ones.” Rodney paused. “I liked it.”
John leaned against the counter with a smile. “I did, too.”
Elizabeth hadn’t been thrilled with how sparse his report regarding the chair incident had been but also hadn’t pointed out the fact that he never mentioned Sebastian’s participation in the incident at all. For a full week following the event, they met every day to discuss the nanite repair lab. The science department was monitoring it twenty-four/seven which John appreciated but really didn’t think was totally necessary. Still, they couldn’t have an actual conversation with the city’s computer due to the corruption the Ancient’s had left behind. The database wasn’t the only thing they’d fucked up for whoever might come after them.
He turned in his chair and focused on Weir. “Pardon me, my mind wandered.”
She raised an eyebrow at him but nodded. “Do you really believe the city has a native intelligence?”
“There’s something there,” John admitted reluctantly. “I’m not sure what it is—probably not organic but alive in a way I can’t articulate. When we first arrived, there was a…feeling.” He left the table in favor of getting more coffee and so he could say what he had to say with his back to the room. “Relief. The city felt relieved when we arrived, but I pushed it aside because there was so much going on, then Sumner…and the Athosians. I just kept pushing her aside because one thing after another happened.”
“But?” Rodney prodded.
“The Genii and the storm.” John sighed and went back to the table. He set his cup down and slid into the chair. “She was afraid that night—worried that the Genii’s interference would lead to her destruction. Her fear ramped up my adrenalin response to the invasion to an insane degree. I felt like I could do anything, and she pushed me to fight them. To defend her. So I did. When it was over, she felt satisfied, and the relief returned as well. After the invasion, she was calmer as if she realized she could trust me to protect her, and that was enough.”
“Jesus,” Elizabeth said under her breath. “Why haven’t you ever…don’t you trust me, John?”
“It’s not about trust,” he said. “My connection to the city is visceral and, in some cases, practically effortless. I don’t always recognize her emotions for what they are in the moment. In fact, I really didn’t think about them much at all until Sebastian came and she started to reach out to him. I realized that I’d pushed her away so often in the past that she stopped trying to ask more of me. She allowed herself to be satisfied with my protection. Sebastian told me that he thought that adult gene carriers aren’t as open to communicating with her because we’re jaded, and maybe that’s truer than I want it to be.” He stared at his coffee. “So over the last week, I’ve been reflecting on my interactions with the city, and I’ve forced myself to separate my own emotions from hers. We’re discussing this now, Elizabeth, because I do trust you. I trust you enough to tell you that the city is alive. I’m not sure how she lives, but I know she does. It’s not just some sort of artificial intelligence.”
Elizabeth wet her lips and sat back in her chair. “Did you ever watch the pilot episode of Star Trek: Next Generation?”
“Encounter at Farpoint,” Rodney said.
“Yeah, I watched it,” John murmured. “I don’t think those are our exact circumstances, but comparisons could be drawn. Whatever the city is—the Ancients shaped her to their purposes.”
“On Earth,” Rodney interjected. “They shaped her on Earth then brought her here to Pegasus to only to eventually abandon her. The assholes.”
“For a lot of reasons,” Elizabeth said wryly. “You were right to think we can’t share this willy-nilly on Earth. There are members of the IOA committee who’d like to see the city gutted for useful tech and parts then destroyed. If they realized that their control over her is largely illusionary, they’d be even more determined to take what they could from her and raze the rest.”
John was pretty sure he’d go to war over such a thing, but he kept that thought to himself.
“Well, with the repaired stardrive they’d have a hard time finding us to accomplish that shit,” Rodney said darkly.
“We don’t have the power to run,” Elizabeth said with a laugh.
Rodney raised an eyebrow. “I have a feeling if we needed the power to leave, the city would make sure we had it one way or another.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened briefly, and she took a deep breath. She shifted her tablet around in front of her. “Right. I…don’t know what to do with that information, Rodney.”
“I suggest we not repeat that to anyone who would report it back to the IOA,” Rodney said dryly.
“Then we should keep it between the three of us for now,” Elizabeth said. “The Daedalus will be here tomorrow unless they’ve had a delay.” She turned to John. “Let’s try to keep Sebastian occupied in such a way that the city doesn’t get a chance to prod him into doing something we can’t explain while the ship’s in orbit. I don’t know what Caldwell’s full orders are or honestly what he’s like as a person since he was snaked before any of us ever met him. I understand that he remembers very little of the last two years but was cleared for duty by a psychologist at the SGC.”
“Well, the Goa’uld was kind of a dick who apparently tried to get me court-martialed for being gay,” John said. “Carter told me O’Neill had to interfere with the complaint.”
“His main goal was gaining control of the city, so that makes sense,” Elizabeth said. “If he brings it up; I’ll remind him of the SGC policy on DADT and let him know that President Hayes is working to repeal all of that nonsense by the end of the year.” She checked her watch. “Rodney, how long do you think we’ll have on the repair of the stardrive?”
“The monitoring station says another twenty-four hours on the repair. It doesn’t have anything on the schedule so I figured we could put John in the chair and let the city make a decision about what else she needs.”
“It’s better to let her direct that,” John agreed and shrugged when Elizabeth glanced his way. “If she can feel relief and fear, Elizabeth, then she’s certainly capable of other emotions like—anger and betrayal. We need to keep that mind as we move forward with the city and treat her as we would like to be treated.”
* * * *
Writing this email turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would be, so I’ve been putting it off for over a month. Things were pretty hostile with us the last time we were in the same room, and I regret that. I didn’t understand your perspective, really, and found your worry insulting. I was so wrapped up in proving myself as a pilot and honestly, probably, as a man after I divorced Nancy that I was mostly blind to everything else.
A month and a half ago, I found out I have a son. He’s ten, and his mother was killed in a car accident. She left me custody in her will. Finding out I have a kid because his mother is dead was stressful as hell. There were moments during those first few days that I almost reached out to you, but I couldn’t take the risk. Everything was already traumatic enough, and I wasn’t sure I had it in me to work through our estrangement on top of getting to know my son.
His name is John Sebastian, but his mom called him Sebastian. I had to adopt him since I wasn’t listed as his father on his birth certificate, but I have confirmed paternity if that’s a concern for you. I’ve attached a picture of him, and I hope…well, I hope we can work past our differences because my son needs a family. His mother was the only child of only children, so he has no living maternal relatives.
Let Matt and David know that they can email me? I mean, they always could, but maybe they thought they shouldn’t? I have leave in about six months, and I’d like you to meet my son. I’m not sure we’ll be able to fly to Virginia due to my assignment and the security around it, but perhaps we can meet somewhere?
Due to my location, it’ll take about a week for me to get any response from you so please don’t assume I’m ignoring you.
He hit send on the email before he could change his mind. The data burst to the SGC was due to go out in the afternoon, and he wouldn’t have to worry about a response for at least a week. Part of him feared that his dad wouldn’t respond at all, or his email would be rejected outright and never be read. Irritated, he sat that aside and slouched back in his chair.
His office door chime activated and he prodded it open with a thought.
“Hi Daddy, Mr. Dex made me a little pack for Avery.”
The kid was wearing the penguin in some kind of leather backpack thing. John sighed as Avery peeked over Sebastian’s shoulder. He’d also switched to carrying the messenger bag they’d also purchased on Earth. “Is he comfortable in it?”
“He climbed right in,” Sebastian reported as he carefully pulled off the pack and let loose the leather straps.
Avery nooted as he was freed and waddled around the desk. John gamely picked him up and endured what amounted to penguin kisses on his chin. “Your beak is a bit sharp, you know.”
Avery flapped his wings at him.
“Right, sorry, you’re perfect.” He put the penguin down on his desk, and he immediately waddled around the laptop toward Sebastian. “Did you get anything done today?”
“Yep, we worked in hydroponics with Dr. Parrish for a while, and Avery even helped.” Sebastian grinned. “We’re growing seaweed for sushi for Chief Cooper and that tank is fed directly from the ocean. Well, there was a bunch of krill-like creatures in there that happen to be Avery’s main food staple so we let him loose in the tank and he ate a bunch of them. Dr. Parrish says he can come back regularly to snack because it’s easier than netting those things and tossing them off the pier.”
John raised an eyebrow. “Or they could just increase the filtration to keep the krill out altogether.”
“To be honest, I think Dr. Parrish likes to feed Avery,” Sebastian admitted. “What have you done today?”
“I met with Dr. Weir and Rodney about the nanite lab, and I wrote your granddad an email.”
“The surprise-grandkid email?” Sebastian questioned. “You’ve been stressing that for a while.”
“True,” John admitted. “I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to say to him. We didn’t part well.”
“You said,” Sebastian murmured as he picked Avery up off the desk and settled down in his lap. “You said it was mostly about the divorce and your career choices. Did the gay thing play a part, too?”
“My dad doesn’t know I’m gay,” John admitted. “I haven’t come out to any of them, and I’m not sure…” He sighed. “At one time, I didn’t feel I could trust my father with it as he was very determined that I not remain in the military. He said he didn’t want his son dying for oil.”
“You were in Iraq?” Sebastian asked.
John cleared his throat. “I can’t really talk about that stuff. Some of it’s classified, and a lot of it is just…too adult for you, okay? I was in a war, and I was also a POW at one point, but let’s just table that until you’re older.”
Sebastian frowned and started to pet Avery. John wondered how much of that emotional support animal stuff was actually a joke.
“What about the black mark on your record? Can you talk about that at all?”
“Where did you hear about that?” John asked in surprise. He figured he’d more than earned the respect of the men and women under his command and didn’t think they would talk about that with his kid or even in front of his kid.
“Kavanagh, who else? He hates you and Dr. McKay a lot, you know. I don’t know why he was allowed to come back out here beyond the fact that the DOD uses him to poach research.”
“I disobeyed orders,” John said. “I was ordered to abandon part of my team in the field and return to base. I couldn’t do it. The only thing that kept me from being court-martialed was the fact that one of the men I did manage to rescue had a very politically connected relative who went to bat for me.
“My superior officer was forced to retire, however, and that did more damage to my career than anything else. He had a lot of friends who blamed me for his bad decisions. It was his position that rescue was impossible. I proved him wrong. I brought back two of them alive and one…died en route to base, but at least I was able to give his family a body to bury.”
“Would you do it again?”
“Yes, even if it had cost me my career or earned me a prison term,” John said. “When you’re part of a team, you have a greater duty to them. They depended on me, and I couldn’t turn my back on them. I wouldn’t turn my back on a single person on this city if they needed help—not even Peter Kavanagh.”
“He needs a lot of help,” Sebastian confided. “But it’d probably be better to direct him Dr. Heightmeyer’s way. His inferiority complex alone would keep her busy for years. Avery thinks he’s a butthole.”
“Avery thinks that?” John asked wryly.
“Yeah, he wouldn’t let Dr. Kavanagh anywhere near him and kind of made this angry little screeching noise until he left Dr. McKay’s lab. Dr. McKay says that Avery is to consider his lab his second home as a result. I think Dr. Kavanagh…well. Honestly, Daddy, I kind of feel sorry for him.”
John blinked in surprise. “Pardon me?”
“He’s kind of dumb,” Sebastian said earnestly. “He’s really not qualified to work out here and is entirely out of his depth nearly all of the time. He only gets simple jobs and assignments as a result because Dr. McKay literally can’t trust him to do anything significant. He’s never bothered to learn to read Ancient or Wraith. I mean, I’ve been here just over a month, and I already have a working understanding of both. Also, how did he get to be his age without learning a single bit of Latin? Latin is one of the fundamental languages for working with the SGC since it’s an off-shoot of Ancient and lot of languages that you could encounter off-world at least in the Milky Way.
“So he’s not really capable of doing the sciences on the city, he’s not field-ready here or in the Milky Way. He’s argumentative, asocial and prone to temper tantrums. I honestly don’t know how he has a security clearance considering his inability to keep his mouth shut. There’s no telling how many times he’s violated the NDA for the SGC by talking about things in front of me that he shouldn’t. All the other scientists are cautious about that kind of thing. Dr. McKay passed out guidelines and everything for it.”
John stared for a moment in wonder. “I adore you, kid. Truly.”
Sebastian grinned. “Why?”
“Because you just gave me the perfect reason to kick that butthole off the city.” He opened up a blank email and titled it NDA Violations & Peter Kavanagh, Ph.D.
Avery nooted excitedly, and John eyed the penguin. He made a mental note to have a long talk with Dr. Taylor about it. Avery was a little too smart for his piece of mind. But honestly, that applied to practically everyone in John’s life.
* * * *
“Brush your teeth?”
“Yep,” Sebastian said and yawned. “Avery pottied, and I cleaned his feathers since he had some pollen on him from the greenhouses. We had to pollinate by hand, ya know. Dr. Parrish wants to explore the mainland for some native bees so we can keep bees in that greenhouse. It’s where we grow a lot of medicinal plants and some of them flower. The main crop is the poppies—for opiate pain killers. There’s not a whole lot of them, so they’re easy enough to pollinate by hand but if the needs of the city grow on par with an increased population we’d certainly want to have enough on hand to properly medicate someone if they were to take a severe injury that couldn’t be treated with a healing wand.” He yawned again.
John shifted the duvet over both the kid and the penguin and Avery wiggled in close as he processed his son’s run-on sentence. Something he tended to do when he was tired. “I should probably have a talk with them about letting you grow drugs.”
Sebastian laughed. “We’re growing cannabis, too. CBD oils are good for stress relief, ya know. Also, they’re good for PTSD and joint pain.”
John flicked his nose. “I know, Dr. Biro gives it to me for my knee. Works wonders. Go to sleep.”
John lowered the lights as he stepped back from the bed. “I’m going to go visit Dr. McKay for a bit before sleep. I have my radio on if you need me.”
Sebastian waved, turned over, and cuddled his penguin. John really hoped Avery had a very long life span. Just outside his door, he paused and activated the security he rarely engaged. There was no reason to believe anyone would enter his apartment without his permission, but it wasn’t like he knew everyone on the city and could trust them with his son. As a rule, he didn’t like to linger outside anyone’s quarters, not even members of his team, so he prodded McKay’s door before he reached it, so it was opening as he arrived.
Rodney looked up from his laptop as he entered. “Hey.”
“Did you get dinner at all?”
“Yeah, the mess sent everyone doing the repair some bagged sandwiches.” He set aside his laptop. “Anything stupid happen while I was knee deep questionable water in the desalination tanks?”
“I wrote my dad an email.”
Rodney raised an eyebrow. “That’s stupid? I can pull it out of the database if you’re freaked out.”
“No, I mean, that’s what I did this afternoon while you were knee deep in questionable water. Sebastian was in hydroponics most of the afternoon, Avery now has a job cleaning krill out of the seaweed tank, and the kid gave me a perfect excuse to get rid of Kavanagh.” John slouched down on the couch beside McKay. “Also, Avery thinks Kavanagh is a butthole.”
“Well, the penguin’s not wrong. How are we getting rid of Peter, again?”
“Did you know that he’s repeatedly discussed classified missions and situations in front of my kid?”
McKay’s eyes lit up with glee. “Oh. That’s wonderful. That whole bug thing is super classified, right?”
“Yeah, it sure is,” John said grimly. “After a bit of questioning, I found sixteen different incidents since the kid’s arrival where Kavanagh has discussed classified situations and issues within the SGC in front of Sebastian and other junior members of the science department whose security clearance is far below his own. He doesn’t pay the least bit of attention to that kind of thing apparently.”
“Who got the email?”
“I sent it directly to O’Neill,” John said. “I didn’t want Landry to bury it, and I’m under direct orders to report threats to the security of the program to O’Neill and in some cases the President of the United States.”
“O’Neill has a problem with Landry then.”
“He didn’t at the start but I think maybe he’s starting to regret going to Washington, but there was no telling who’d have replaced Hammond if O’Neill hadn’t gone.” John focused entirely on McKay. “Beckett’s been curiously quiet.”
“I think he’s expecting to get some good news in the data burst or from the Daedalus regarding his experiment. He believes you’ll be ordered to help him secure a subject for his experiment.”
“I’m tempted to agree and just spend the next year not-catching a Wraith on purpose.”
Rodney snorted. “While that sounds amusing, it would just make us look incompetent, and he would complain a lot!” He wet his lips. “We…hmmm…haven’t had a chance to talk about…”
“You kissing me,” John supplied when Rodney trailed off with a frown. “Then spending an entire week being too busy with the whole city to avoid me.”
“I haven’t been avoiding you,” Rodney protested then blushed when John raised an eyebrow at him. “Well, we can’t go out in the field with Ronon recovering from the giant arrow in his leg, and I’ve been able to complete a bunch of projects that were on hold due to the team schedule.”
McKay huffed. “It was great, and you kissed back, and I wasn’t prepared for that, I guess. I just thought the best case scenario was that you’d very carefully brush me off, and things would be awkward for a week or two, then it would go back to normal.”
“Except you’ve got those unexpected feelings,” John reminded. “So, listen, I can’t say I haven’t thought about going to bed with you off and on since we met. I figured out you were bi pretty quickly, but I also realized that it would be complicated and stressful to have a sexual relationship with a teammate. I wasn’t willing to risk messing up our dynamic out in the field to get laid. But if there’s more on the table than sex, then I want to explore that with you, Rodney.”
“Really? I mean…you could probably have your pick of most of the single people on this city and fatherhood has added a whole new layer of sex appeal on the whole thing that I didn’t even think was possible.” He huffed and crossed his arms.
John laughed. “Rodney, god, don’t you know you’re my type all the way down to your toes?”
“I do have nice feet.”
“You do,” John agreed. “And a fantastic ass—per the yearly survey conducted by the entire SGC.”
Rodney frowned. “I don’t even know who thought Carter’s ass could compete with mine. She’s got a great set of tits, mind you, but I have a much better ass.”
“We’re all going to end up in sensitivity training if the Pentagon catches wind of that survey,” John said wryly. “If you changed your mind I won’t hold it against you. What with the kid and the penguin—I’m a daunting package deal.”
“The penguin could be a deal breaker for most people,” Rodney theorized. “But I think I can handle him. He’s okay with it?”
“Avery likes you,” John assured and grinned when McKay huffed dramatically. “You’re Sebastian’s favorite person, McKay. Though he did call me a homewrecker because he figures you dumped Katie Brown for me.”
“Well, he’s not wrong,” Rodney admitted. “I mean you were bleeding all over me, and just that morning you’d asked me to be your next of kin. And I thought I was going to have a panic attack while we were getting you back to the city for treatment and Ronon had that arrow in his leg and…” He trailed off. “It was a very stressful afternoon actually, and I had to send Teyla to get Sebastian because I looked like a crazy person what with the blood and everything. I didn’t want to completely freak him out. Plus you’d tried to insert some theoretical wife into my forty-year plan, and I was trying to see how that would work, and I realized it wouldn’t. My forty-year plan is you, and I felt like an idiot because I’m obviously in love with you.”
John wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about McKay on a romantic level, but it didn’t scare him. “I…”
“I know you’re not there,” Rodney said.
“I want to be,” John murmured and rubbed his thumb across McKay’s bottom lip. “I trust you with everything which is rare for me. I do love you.”
“Like you love Teyla and Ronon—like team.”
“Not quite the same,” he admitted. “Because I’ve never been inclined to jerk off thinking about either one of them.”
McKay laughed. “John. Seriously? Ronon is gorgeous.”
“He is,” John agreed. “But he’s young and hurt. There is no shortage of people on this city who are attracted him because they want to heal him—soothe his grief, but I’m not one of them. Moreover, that’s the last thing he needs from me. He needs a leader he can depend on and trust not some bastard who’s trying to get in his pants.”
“I really want to take you to bed,” Rodney said. “Is that…okay?”
“That is more than okay.” John stood and offered him a hand.
“Is it too soon?” Rodney questioned. “We haven’t even had…any awkward dates or anything.” He took John’s hand as he left the sofa. “I mean we’ve known each for two years so that should count for something…”
John laughed. “Let’s skip the awkward dating and move right onto fucking often and arguing over shoddy science in movies.” He pulled the McKay into his space and brushed their mouths together. “Unless you want to go on awkward dates…with me, a ten-year-old and a penguin.”
Rodney grinned. “Avery would probably have an attitude problem the whole time. He’s an impatient little thing.”
“I’m surrounded by impatience,” John murmured as he leaned in for another kiss. “It’s been a while for me, since the last time I had leave on Earth actually, so I kind of want something pretty specific, but if you’re not up for it, it’ll be fine.”
McKay raised an eyebrow as they stopped near the side of his full-size bed and John dropped his hand. “Hmmm, what? I mean I’ve had some…well, experience…with a few less mainstream practices. I’m not particularly turned on by BDSM, but if you want to be tied up or something, I’m game.”
“No,” John said with a laugh. “Bondage is definitely not my thing.” He pulled his T-shirt over his head and dropped it on the floor. “I want you inside me.”
McKay’s mouth dropped open. “Oh…wow. Okay.”
“Yeah, I mean, I’m…I just took you for an exclusive top, that’s all.”
John ignored the way his cheeks were getting hotter and lowered his gaze a little as he shook his head. “I’m certainly game to top, but it’s not my preference. I’ve got a pretty big dick, and a lot of my partners got off on that. It’s more of an emotional need than a physical one. I have no issues getting off either way.”
Rodney’s fingers curled into his belt and loosened the buckle. “Then, let’s get your needs met.”
“What about yours?” John questioned as McKay dropped the belt on the floor. Nimble fingers made quick work of the buttons of his cargo pants. “What do you need?”
“You,” Rodney said hoarsely. “Just you and I couldn’t care less what gets stuck where.”
John laughed and pulled him closer. “I really do adore you.”
He toed off his shoes and shucked his pants and boxers together. Rodney wrapped one hand around his half-hard cock. “I can see why your previous partners wanted you to fuck them.”
John let his head rest against McKay’s as he watched the scientist stroke his cock. “It’s yours whenever you want it.”
After a few moments, he turned his head slightly and captured Rodney’s mouth in another kiss as he tackled the scientist’s belt. He slid a hand inside McKay’s pants as soon as he could, and they both groaned as he wrapped his fingers around Rodney’s thick cock.
“God,” John whispered as Rodney kissed his jaw and nuzzled his neck. “Condom?”
“Yeah, in the drawer.” McKay stepped back a little as John released him to rummage through the nightstand for supplies.
John crawled onto the bed with the condom and lube then sprawled on his back to watch McKay undress quickly. “Come here, Rodney.”
McKay hesitated but then joined him on the bed. “Did you want me to open you up with my fingers?”
“No.” John opened the condom and deftly rolled it into place on Rodney’s cock then he opened up the lube and squeezed some into his hand before tossing it aside. “I just want your cock.”
“I’ll have to go slow,” Rodney murmured as John smeared on the lube. “Since it’s been so long.”
“Yeah,” John agreed. “Nice and slow.” That was exactly how he wanted it.
“On your back?” Rodney questioned.
“I want to see you,” John murmured and pulled McKay over him.
Rodney braced himself with one hand against the headboard and used the other to position his dick. John spread his legs and lifted them high to press against Rodney’s sides. The sweet, intense, but brief pressure took his breath, and he let his head fall back as Rodney slowly rubbed his cock back and forth over his asshole.
“Yeah,” John whispered. “God, Rodney.”
“The next time I get you naked I’m going to eat your ass until you scream,” Rodney threatened as he pushed in briefly then started to rub the fat head of his cock all over the rim of John’s hole. “You’d like that—on your hands and knees with your pretty ass in the air.”
“Hell yes,” John admitted. “You have to…stop teasing me.”
“I got this,” Rodney assured him.
John took a shuddery breath as McKay slid into him with long, slow stroke. “Fuck.” His hands tightened on Rodney’s arms briefly, and he wrapped his legs around the scientist’s waist with a groan. “Come on, yeah, Rodney.”
He got lost in the pleasure as Rodney started to move. Each thrust was one long, slow glide into the hottest kind of pleasure that it almost hurt. John didn’t think he’d ever get enough. Rodney pressed him down on the bed, slid one hand under them and cupped John’s ass as he moved. He changed the angle suddenly and nailed John’s prostate so expertly that John came hard.
Rodney hummed under his breath and flexed his hips. “Do I need to pull out?”
“Hell, no.” John tightened his legs around McKay’s waist. “More.”
McKay shifted slightly and started to move again—with just a languid roll of his hips as he sought John’s mouth for a kiss. John curled one hand against the back of Rodney’s head and groaned into McKay’s mouth.
“I’m going to start doing those stretching classes with Teyla,” Rodney said as he lifted his head. “So I can pound your ass and suck your cock at the same time.”
John grinned. “Please don’t explain your sudden interest to her.”
“You’re gonna get hard again,” Rodney said.
John didn’t know if that was an order or an assumption, but the answer was yes either way. His cock was pressed between their bellies, slick with his own come and sweat. The friction was delicious and filthy, which was a turn-on he’d never seen coming. The soft, hairless skin of McKay’s belly was perfect to rub against. It made John want to turn them over so he could get off repeatedly on that pale skin.
Rodney increased his pace and shifted John so that his hips started to slap against the cheeks of John’s ass. It was startling and sexy as fuck. He’d never really paid attention to the physical strength of his partners before, but McKay’s strong and thick body working against his was intoxicating.
Rodney’s hips stuttered a little, and he groaned against John’s mouth.
John ran his hands down the man’s back and cupped his ass. “Yeah, come for me.”
His own cock was leaking steadily between them so he just relaxed and let orgasm overtake him again at Rodney pushed deep and stilled.
John cupped the back of Rodney’s head with a laugh. “Yeah.”
“Physical chemistry-check,” Rodney said wryly and kissed John again.
“I think we both knew that was a check long before we got here,” John murmured as he rubbed McKay’s back.
“Yeah,” Rodney said as he pulled free of John’s body. “Let me get a wet cloth. You want to shower here or in your own quarters?”
“I should go back in case he needs me,” John said. “I mean…”
“Hey.” Rodney poked John in the stomach. “Relax, let’s both agree it would be cool if you could spend the night, but you shouldn’t for several reasons, and your son is the most important.” He slipped from the bed. “But a little clean up before I kick you out is definitely needed.”
John sighed and stayed where he was at least for the moment.
Caldwell landed the Daedalus on pier four which was closest landing location to the city’s primary storage facility. John spent most of the afternoon coordinating the removal of supplies from the ship. Some of the crates were large, and they’d had to get out several pieces of loading equipment to make moving them easier. As a result, he’d forbidden Sebastian from being out on the pier entirely. He’d gotten to watch the landing then McKay had taken him and Avery back to the central science tower to work.
Six hours after the landing, John was sitting the meeting room waiting for Caldwell and Weir to arrive. They’d spent the entire morning in her office and had lunch delivered. Rodney entered just ahead of Weir and Caldwell. He was wearing Avery.
“Why do you have Avery?”
“Sebastian is with Miko for programming lessons.” Rodney unstrapped the backpack and passed John the penguin situation. “I picked Avery up from hydroponics where he’d gone for lunch. I didn’t want to leave him in my lab, unattended.”
John sighed and let Avery out of the backpack. The penguin slouched against his chest and chuffed a little like he was dejected. “Sorry, buddy. Why didn’t you just take him to Sebastian?”
“Miko is allergic to him,” McKay said as Caldwell and Weir entered the room. “She’s devastated because she adores him so she’s trying different medications to see if she can find one that will solve the problem.”
Caldwell raised an eyebrow at John as he sat. “Colonel.”
“Colonel,” John said neutrally.
“Cute penguin,” Caldwell said with a small grin.
“This is Avery, my son’s emotional support penguin,” John said, and he turned to Rodney. “When did we sign up for penguin sitting? Should I be trying to, you know, enforce responsibility and all that stuff?”
Rodney laughed. “Sebastian’s actually very responsible, and you know it. It’s not his fault Miko is allergic to alien penguins.”
John sighed and put Avery on the table. The penguin nooted and immediately waddled right to Elizabeth, who picked him up with no hesitation. He focused on Caldwell.
“I’m was relieved to hear about your complete recovery, Colonel.”
Caldwell inclined his head. “This is where I offer an apology for whatever the snake might have done with my body in your presence.”
“He was kind of a dick,” Rodney interjected. “But he’d been clearly prepared to play an Air Force officer because he never seemed off in that regard.”
“Agreed,” John admitted. “Very by the book. Perhaps, in retrospect, too rigid. Most men of your rank learn to leverage regulations to as needed to make things work, and he didn’t.”
Caldwell nodded. “I’ve heard similar from the men and women on the Daedalus.” He opened up the laptop he’d brought with him. “I’ve talked extensively with Elizabeth regarding Beckett’s Wraith experiment. Unless we hear differently in the next data burst, the IOA has declined his proposal with prejudice. All research regarding the Wraith, the retrovirus, and a so-called cure for the species is to be suspended indefinitely. I’ll pass all these directives to you now, Colonel Sheppard. O’Neill wanted me to deliver this message personally because he’s come to realize Beckett doesn’t recognize your authority on the city. If that doesn’t change, then he will be replaced. Further, I’m to distribute a clarification to every single person on the city—military and civilian—that when it comes to the use of military personnel on the city that you have the final say on every single action they take. No one, not even Elizabeth, can make changes to duty schedules, team assignments, or field procedures.”
“Do you have Beckett’s replacement already on hand?” John questioned. “Because he’s not going to respond well to being told no.”
“I do, actually. I’ve brought a surgeon and a new CMO for the expedition. Per Elizabeth, Dr. Biro has no interest in running the infirmary for the whole city as it would interfere with her own research. We knew that going into the search as she was O’Neill’s first choice to replace Beckett.”
John nodded. Alyssa Biro had been part of the first expedition, so he was glad that the people on Earth appreciated the fact that she deserved to be considered first. “The new CMO?”
“Air Force doctor, ten years in with a rank of captain,” Caldwell murmured as he worked. “Dr. Chase Harris. We pulled him out of a combat posting in a classified location. He was apparently quite put out until he was fully briefed on the program. He immediately volunteered to come to Atlantis after finding out you were in charge of the military, Sheppard.”
“We’ve served together previously,” John admitted. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders—but he’s not a researcher.”
“That’s why he was chosen,” Caldwell said. “The city needs a CMO whose focus isn’t split by personal research and even more personal agendas. He also has the ATA gene, so you aren’t losing anything on that front in the infirmary. The new surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Keller, received the gene therapy with no issues. Word is she has a terrible bedside manner, but she’s an excellent surgeon. Keller has a masters in genetics so she can work in areas that Beckett did as needed. Harris already knows that Wraith research is permanently off the table and will keep a tight rein on all research in his department.”
It all seemed too good to be true. The small chime on the conference room door dinged.
“That’s probably Sebastian. I told him to come get Avery after his lesson,” McKay said as he looked up from his tablet. “I didn’t want to have to carry him with me to the Jumper Bay since I have a maintenance rotation next.”
John prodded the door open after Elizabeth gave a brief nod. Sebastian peeked in. “Come on in.”
“Hi Colonel Caldwell, still snake free?”
John’s eyes went wide, but Caldwell burst out laughing.
“I am, thanks for asking,” Caldwell grinned. “Cute penguin.”
Sebastian smiled as he retrieved the backpack and Avery waddled to him from across the table. The penguin snuggled right into the pack without a complaint, and the kid strapped him in. “Thanks—can I bring him when I meet Hermiod or would that be risky? Dr. Kusanagi is allergic to him, so I wouldn’t want to make Hermiod sick.”
“The Asgard don’t appear to have any sort of allergies that we’ve been able to discover,” Caldwell said. “But I’ll ask him before your visit.” He pulled a USB drive from his pocket and slid it across the table. “General O’Neill sent you some eBooks.”
Sebastian snagged the drive. “Awesome, the new Percy Jackson book should be out. He said he would send it when it got published.” He tucked the drive in his pocket and shouldered Avery. “Daddy, I’m going back to hydroponics to see what we received in our allotment from Earth.”
“I’ll pick you up for dinner,” John said and just shook his head as Avery nooted his own goodbyes as they left the conference room. He prodded the doors shut.
“How’s instant fatherhood treating you?” Caldwell questioned.
“He’s gonna spend years in therapy complaining about me I’m sure,” John said wryly. “Is Hermiod okay with meeting him?”
“He’s thrilled to meet his first human child,” Caldwell said. “Well, actually the first child ever since they clone adults and haven’t made children themselves in millions of years.”
* * * *
John bitterly regretted the fact that he hadn’t taken a camera on board the Daedalus because Sebastian’s face when he finally got to meet an Asgard was the pure definition of gobsmacked. Hermiod had been thrilled to speak with him and had even petted Avery much to the amusement of everyone watching. Currently, the kid was in the shower muttering to himself about Roswell greys, conspiracies, and alien abductions. Though John could barely hear that over Avery’s excited nooting. The penguin absolutely loved the shower. Thankfully the stall was huge and entirely enclosed so there wouldn’t be a huge mess to clean up.
John put towels for both of them on the counter and meandered back into the living room where Rodney was sitting with a laptop. They were all preparing for what was probably going to be a very ugly meeting with Beckett first thing in the morning.
“Did you get a chance to meet the two doctors that Caldwell brought out?” John questioned.
“Yes, while you and Sebastian were hanging out with Hermiod in engineering,” Rodney murmured. “It’s like Ken and Barbie came to live on the city. She’s disturbingly cheerful and a good decade younger than I thought she would be. Turns out she’s a prodigy—we’re just overrun with disillusioned former child prodigies. Harris has a very outgoing personality, so I liked him the best of the two of them.” He paused. “Also, they presented me with ten pounds of Kona coffee, so I owe Daniel Jackson a thank-you email since he suggested it.”
“The Apollo has been assigned the construction mission for the Midway Station,” John said. “I got that from Caldwell in our private meeting. Apparently, Caldwell requested that the Daedalus remain the supply ship for Atlantis because he needs some space from Earth and the whole Trust issue. He hasn’t beamed back down to Earth since he was put back in command.”
“I don’t blame him,” Rodney admitted. “I’ve told Carter for years that they need to do a better job of checking for symbiotes and not just on people coming and going through the gate. I hope this situation with Caldwell and the Trust ensures better procedures going forward. On our end, I’ve been tweaking the city sensors. The next time a Goa’uld comes to Atlantis, we’ll know immediately.”
“Well, we can’t let those assholes near the kid,” Rodney pointed out reasonably. “Also, Elizabeth has signed off on Kavanagh’s removal from the city. He’s going back to Earth on the Daedalus, but Caldwell isn’t entirely thrilled considering the NDA violations. He’ll be confined to quarters on the ship. We’re having that meeting after we meet with Beckett.”
“So Steven gets both of our problem children,” John said wryly and sat down on the sofa. “He apologized to me for the DADT violation report the snake tried.”
“Good,” Rodney murmured and set aside his laptop. “The kid still bent about Roswell?”
“Infinitely,” John admitted with a laugh. “O’Neill will be very amused by the email he’s currently writing.”
“Sebastian doesn’t even know about the clone, yet,” Rodney said dryly.
“Well, he will because Nathan will join the expedition in the next six months. He’s scheduled to graduate from Annapolis in May with a degree in combat engineering. O’Neill’s already plucked his nephew for assignment to program.”
“So weird,” Rodney admitted. “How do you feel about that?”
“Well, I’m actually pretty relieved because I need a lieutenant, but I wasn’t looking forward to some green newbie making a mess. Lt. O’Neill shouldn’t be a problem at all, and it keeps him out of the way of the Trust and the NID. Maybe I’ll have a difficult time adjusting to the eighteen-year-old version of my CO, but I’ll probably manage better than Landry who made it clear that it would be too weird for him.”
“Landry just doesn’t want either O’Neill in his business,” Rodney speculated. “How’d he manage Annapolis in just three years?”
“He lasted in high school for about a day,” John said. “Because he realized that while he might look fifteen, he had zero in common with those kids and felt like a pervert every time some little girl giggled at him. They considered the Air Force Academy briefly, but he decided to go in a different direction. One GED test later and a letter from POTUS and he was in Annapolis where he took classes year-round to graduate a year early. He’ll work on his masters as he can on the city.”
“I hadn’t really considered what it would be like to be surrounded by a bunch of fifteen-year-old kids at his mental age.”
John made a face. “I hated being a teenager the first time.” He slouched a little and leaned into McKay. “Brown was glaring at me when we were delivering supplies to botany.”
“She blames you for my dumping her,” Rodney said. “Not because she suspects we have a relationship or anything but because of the kid. She said I’m trying to play family with you. She said you shouldn’t encourage it.”
“She’s weird,” Sebastian announced as he came into the room clutching Avery in a fluffy yellow towel. “I mean not in an insulting way, but…she’s just kind of odd.” He sat down on the opposite side of the coffee table in front of the TV so he could dry Avery. “And not odd like how some smart people are but more like…” He pursed his lips as Avery wiggled under the towel. “It’s not some kind of OCD issue, but it’s close. She likes things to go exactly her way, and when they don’t, she’s off-kilter. Fortunately, she’s not a psycho about it. Dr. Parrish thinks she’s going to request to go back to Earth because she asked him last week he how’d feel about being made the head of the whole department.”
John raised an eyebrow at McKay. “Is that going to come back on you?”
“No, I mean.” He huffed. “Katie isn’t the sort to mix professional and personal issues. One of the reasons she agreed to go out with me is that she thought we were on the same page regarding kids. She likes them, but she can’t have them. She figured I was childfree and that I wouldn’t be disappointed in her inability to have them.” He glanced toward Sebastian. “This isn’t your fault.”
“I know,” Sebastian said simply. “I’m not interested in being her pseudo-kid, and I’m not responsible for how she feels about it. It’s sad that she can’t have kids, but that’s not my problem. But I guess that explains why she was so put out with how much time you spend with us. Maybe you should suggest she go back to Earth and foster kids. There are tons of kids in foster care who’d love to have a good home. She’s made a lot of money in the program. She could buy some land, grow things, and foster kids.”
John stared at him. “Were you worried about going into foster care?”
“No,” Sebastian said. “Mr. Blake promised me that if you didn’t…want me that I could stay with him and that he’d take care of me until I was a grown up. General O’Neill said the same. It’s just not every kid is as lucky as I am.” He released Avery. The penguin waddled around and shook himself repeatedly. “Don’t act put out—you know you have to get dried off if you get wet. You can’t sleep in the bed if you’re wet.”
Avery nooted at him and started off toward the balcony.
With a snort, John stood and crossed the room to close the balcony doors before the animal could reach them. They hadn’t penguin-proofed the balcony as yet. He added it to his mental list and headed toward the kitchen to check the snack options.
* * * *
Two minutes into Beckett’s tirade, John sort of wished he’d come to the meeting armed. Rodney looked bored, and Elizabeth was making the appearance of appalled. Caldwell was, to John’s amusement, clearly baffled by the doctor’s increasingly difficult to understand accent.
Finally, Rodney set aside his tablet and slapped his hand on the table. “Enough.”
“Rodney, you know this research is important. It could save many thousands of lives if we can treat the Wraith,” Beckett said in exasperation.
“Treat?” Rodney repeated. “You mean mutilate.”
“Treat,” Carson corrected. “I want to treat them.”
“You want to destroy them as a species and turn them into something you find pleasing,” Rodney said bluntly, and Beckett paled. “Your end goal is obviously some sort of plague-like contagion that will spread throughout their entire population. The only reason you can get away with not calling it genocide is that the current definition on Earth only applies to humans.”
“The military wants to kill them all,” Beckett said hotly. “I want to fix them.”
“To suit yourself,” Rodney said. “And not a single one of them would thank you, Carson.”
“The peoples of Pegasus would!”
“The Wraith that don’t mutate would consider you no better than Josef Mengele if they knew who he was.”
Carson glared. “Is that really what you think of me, Rodney?”
“It’s the only comparison I can draw at this point,” Rodney said evenly. “Your fixation on this experiment coupled with your apparent inability to see all the things that could wrong with it frankly scares the shit out of me. I say this with great regret, Carson, but I no longer trust you to be the Chief Medical Officer for Atlantis.” He turned to Elizabeth. “It’s my recommendation that Dr. Carson Beckett be relieved of duty and returned to Earth for reassignment within the SGC. His work should be heavily monitored by an ethics panel, and from this point forward, he should be allowed no living test subjects of any kind. Not even mice.”
“You son of a bitch,” Beckett said in a low tone. “After all I’ve done for this city? For the expedition? You wouldn’t even have an ATA gene therapy if it weren’t for me.”
“Yes, well, thanks for experimenting on me in another galaxy because it was illegal to do it on Earth,” Rodney said sarcastically. “I don’t know where your ethics went, Carson, but I’m done worrying about whether or not you’re making orcs in your lab when I’m not fucking looking!” He stood up and grabbed his tablet. “I’m finished with this conversation. Elizabeth, call me when it’s time to fire the next reckless asshole on our list!”
John sucked air in between his teeth as McKay stormed out of the conference room. He focused on Beckett, who was red-faced and breathing heavily. “Colonel Caldwell, I believe Dr. Beckett should be removed from the city immediately. I’ll have his personal effects collected both in his office and assigned quarters packed and transferred to the Daedalus.”
“What…” Beckett trailed off.
“I don’t trust you,” John said flatly. “And in case you missed it, Carson, McKay is mission essential around here, and you look like you want to kill him, so you’re done. I will not allow you to be a threat to the success of this mission.”
“I can cure the Wraith.” Beckett’s chin hitched up. “Like I cured you.”
“If you’d done your job when I was first bitten by an Iratus the retrovirus would’ve had nothing in my body to latch onto, and I wouldn’t have turned into…whatever the hell I was!” John shouted and took a deep breath when Caldwell stood and shifted, so he was closer. “You had a nurse clean the wound, Carson. You never even bothered to check to see if it left anything behind! I’ve checked my records—reviewed every single blood test that was done before and after I was exposed to the retrovirus. The only thing you ever consistently checked was for changes to my ATA gene. That’s it. Hell, I don’t even have a proper record of my nutrient levels before or after the bug incident. I’m nothing more than an experiment to you. A half-assed experiment at that.
“I have to wonder if you’d have cured me at all if we were still out here alone with no contact with Earth,” he said quietly and watched the color drain from Beckett’s cheeks. “If we’d still be stranded out here with no resources no one would’ve ever been able to disagree with you about my condition. No one would’ve been able to prove you were lying about being able to remove most of the retrovirus from my body. It must have really pissed you off that you couldn’t keep me on hand—to study and explore. After all, whatever I turned into was probably pretty damn close to the what the Wraith came from. Half-human and half-Iratus, with a little Ancient DNA tossed in the mix.”
“You owe me,” Beckett said evenly. “Because I did save you. What would your son have today if it weren’t for me?”
John glared at him. “I already paid you back what I owed you, Beckett.”
“How do you figure?”
“I didn’t fucking rip you limb from limb when I realized how much Iratus you left in me on purpose!”
Caldwell was suddenly in space, grabbing his arm. “Easy, Colonel.”
John took deep breaths as Caldwell manhandled him all the way to the back of the conference room and pressed him against a wall. “I…”
“John, your eyes are solid black,” Caldwell murmured. “You need to calm down—if not for your own sake, for your son’s.”
John lowered his head but didn’t struggle against Caldwell’s hold as he listened to the man order that Beckett be beamed to the Daedalus. Carson’s protest was cut off abruptly. He closed his eyes and took another shuddery breath as he caught the scent of Weir’s perfume. Her small hand settled on his shoulder.
“Elizabeth, please don’t pet me.”
“Should I get Rodney?” Elizabeth questioned. “Or Teyla? Ronon is still supposed to be confined to his quarters in recovery but…”
“No, I’m fine. I don’t want them to see me like this. It’s bad enough the two of you are…” He rubbed his chest. “Is my skin turning blue again?”
“No,” Elizabeth said gently. “Does it ever?”
“Not yet, but I keep waiting for it. So far it’s just the eyes…and my instincts are ramped up pretty high. I’m a stronger, too. I haven’t reported any of it.”
“And I don’t blame you at all,” Caldwell said. “I’ll talk with O’Neill in person about the Beckett situation, and we’ll come up with the best solution we can to protect your privacy. In the meantime, it’s probably time you let another geneticist look at what’s been left in you to see if we can get it out.”
* * * *
“Seriously, though, do you know the guys that crash-landed in Roswell?”
Hermiod pursed his little lips. “One of them was a distant relative, but I don’t wish to discuss his incompetence.”
“I don’t blame you,” Sebastian said. “I’d be super embarrassed about the whole thing. I mean he exposed your species, gave Earth tech we obviously didn’t need, and maligned your entire race on Earth. Thousands of people all over the world have been making up stories about abductions…” He trailed off. “You guys haven’t been stealing humans to experiment on them, right?”
Hermiod’s face flushed dull grey. “Not all of us.”
“Oh my god,” Sebastian said and stared at the Asgard in horror. “Are you serious? Who? Are you guys still letting him do it?”
“His name is Loki, and we’ve confined him and his experiments to our homeworld after we discovered that he was…seeking a solution to our cloning problem amongst humans.”
“I’m appalled,” Sebastian said and shook his head. “Declassification of the Stargate Program is going to lead a class action lawsuit against your whole planet for emotional trauma and inappropriate anal probing.”
“Oh god,” Lindsey Novak said suddenly. “I can’t.” She waved a hand and walked off the bridge of the Daedalus laughing.
Sebastian huffed. “It’s not funny, Lt. Novak! There was inappropriate anal probing! This guy Loki owes a lot of people apologies!”
* * * *
Rodney strolled back into the conference laughing much to John’s confusion. He raised an eyebrow as McKay turned off his radio. “Your kid.”
“Oh, god, what’s he done?” John asked.
“Per Novak, he’s put the Asgard on notice regarding a pending class action lawsuit on behalf of alien abductees from Earth regarding the emotional trauma of inappropriate anal probing.”
Caldwell spit water all over the table.
“For the love of…” John stood up to get some napkins from the refreshment table. “Should I send someone to get him from the ship?”
“Oh, no, Hermiod invited him and said he would return Sebastian to where he got him from when he was no longer amused by the human child.”
John tossed napkins in several directions as Caldwell moped at his uniform with a sigh. “Is he still talking about Roswell?”
“Hermiod has confirmed that one of his relatives was there,” Caldwell said. “In the past, I mean. I don’t know what he’s told the kid. Though most of the conspiracy theorist got it wrong—the reason the government retracted that newspaper story and started calling it a weather balloon is because Thor came here and retrieved everyone and everything from the crash. O’Neill loves to tell that story when he’s torturing someone with fishing in his empty pond.”
“That pond is empty?” Elizabeth demanded with a frown. “We spent an hour out there fishing. That…” She huffed and crossed her arms just as Kavanagh entered the room. “Sit, Dr. Kavanagh.”
Kavanagh frowned at her but sat. “What’s this about?”
Elizabeth tossed a stapled stack of paper across the table, and it slid to a stop right in front of Kavanagh. “That’s a list of all the times I can verify that you’ve violated the SGC’s non-disclosure agreement since you returned to the city.”
He frowned. “What are you talking about?” He picked up the list and started to read. His cheeks flushed a dull red. “That kid shouldn’t even be in the labs! I shouldn’t have to censor myself doing my job because of Sheppard’s love child.”
“Turn the page,” Elizabeth said dryly.
Kavanagh flipped the page and paled as he started to read. “But…”
“It’s your job, Dr. Kavanagh, to know what level of security everyone around you has,” McKay said. “I send an email out on a monthly rotation reminding everyone of the operational security perimeters and listing everyone’s individual security clearances. I’d like to draw your attention specifically to an incident on page six of that document where you discussed the classified details regarding the Icarus Project in the mess hall, surrounded by junior scientists and enlisted Marines—none of whom had been cleared to have those operational details.
“Congratulations, in your desire to impress a biologist with your so-called experience in the program, you violated national security and may have aided and abetted the Trust. We know, for a fact, that the Trust has infiltrated the SGC more than once, which is exactly why projects like the Iratus incident are classified. You’re going back to Earth where you will face a peer-review regarding your behavior and the decision as to whether or not you’ll face criminal charges will be made at that time.”
“This is…” Peter’s nostrils flared. “Insane. No one pays that close attention on the city. All of you are probably guilty of violating these security protocols.”
“I take such things very seriously,” McKay said in a snotty tone. “But this isn’t about any of us, Peter, it’s about you. You’re done here and there’s nothing you can say or do that will change it. You have two hours to pack your things and report to the Daedalus. Your access to everything on the city has already been restricted, and there is a Marine outside the door waiting to escort you.”
“Fuck you,” Kavanagh snapped, snatched the list off the table and stormed out.
Rodney sat back in his chair and blew air between his lips. “I’m starving. I hope we have some kind of pasta for dinner.”
“Not upset about getting cursed at?” Caldwell questioned.
“Bah, I hear much worse every single day from people who actually like to work for me.” Rodney waved a hand and picked up his tablet.
Caldwell turned to John. “You should probably give some thought into letting the civilians tutor your son.”
John sighed. “I’m currently more worried about the fact that Ronon and Teyla have decided to teach him self-defense.”
Caldwell winced. “You’re in way over your head, Sheppard.”
“Yes, Colonel, I am.”
John braced himself against the shower stall and bit down on his lip to keep from making too much noise. He really should’ve considered the noise factor when he’d invited McKay into his shower. Granted, he’d closed his bedroom door and the bathroom door, so there were a couple of barriers between them and the kid, but he wasn’t sure if it was enough. He let his forehead rest against the tile and groaned softly as McKay pushed into him.
“Fuck,” Rodney muttered against his shoulder. “I’m going to investigate the soundproofing options ASAP.”
John shuddered as McKay wrapped a hand around his dick. “Yeah, god, all the soundproofing.”
“You’re so gorgeous,” Rodney murmured as he clamped a possessive hand on John’s hip. “Knowing you like this is going to ruin me.”
“Rodney.” He closed his eyes and exhaled sharply as Rodney fucked his ass with long, sure strokes. “I kind of hate how good you are at this.”
Rodney laughed against his skin. “Jealous.”
“Immensely,” John admitted roughly as he tilted his hips just so and the stimulation against his prostate went from sweet to raw. “Harder.”
The sound of skin slapping against skin was obnoxiously loud and obscene in the tile bathroom. John really hoped that sound wasn’t traveling, but orgasm slammed into him, and he lost track of that worry altogether. McKay jerked John’s cock through the orgasm then moved his cum covered hand up Sheppard’s shoulder to hold him in place for his own pleasure.
“Jesus.” John shivered through the over stimulation. He hated it and loved it at the same time, and his knees went a little weak when Rodney ground into him one final time. “I think I’m addicted to that.”
Rodney laughed abruptly, and he pulled free. “Well, no twelve-step program for you.” He turned John around, and Sheppard pulled McKay into a kiss.
“None desired,” John murmured as against McKay’s crooked mouth. “Seriously, all the soundproofing.”
“He wouldn’t be the first kid to hear a parent having sex,” McKay pointed out, clearly amused. “I regularly heard my parents as a kid. My room was next door to theirs.”
“I never heard my parents,” John said. “I mean, obviously they had sex since I’m the oldest of three, but I never heard it.” He let McKay go when the other man moved to leave the shower.
“The data burst should be through the decompression program by now,” Rodney said as he returned to the shower.
There was a little hum of the city’s recycling receptacle working. “What do you think the city does with latex?”
“I have no idea,” Rodney admitted. “There is zero waste in recycling, so she’s definitely doing something with all the condoms she must receive on a regular basis.”
“The only bigger line item on personal health items is toilet paper,” John admitted. “Most people really aren’t on board with letting the facilities handle that cleaning for them.”
“I just don’t trust that sanitization stream around my junk,” Rodney protested.
“You’re preaching to the choir, buddy,” John said dryly. “You should’ve seen the kid’s face when I was explaining it. The obvious relief when I pointed out that he could just use toilet paper if he preferred was funny as fuck.”
“At least we know he comes by his trolling abilities naturally,” Rodney muttered as he soaped a cloth. “He’s going to finish his battery design this week unless he runs into a problem and I’m going to have to approve a theoretical model. I have no reason not to.”
“Don’t hold him back,” John said. “Unless it serves him. I’m worried about the IOA, but he doesn’t deserve to be stifled by that. I don’t know how his mother handled him on this front, but it’s clear she let him explore whatever he wanted educationally. He’s very comfortable creating his own schedule and outlining his educational needs on various subjects. I’ve requested his homeschooling records from her lawyer through O’Neill, so I hope to see them in the data burst.”
“I’ll process and distribute it when we get out of the shower then.”
“It can wait until morning.”
“I’m curious, too,” Rodney pointed out and rolled his eyes when John laughed. “Besides, I’m working with Carter to establish an email address for Sebastian for the databurst. He needs the ability to communicate on that level with people Earth. The internal system really won’t be enough long term.”
John blew out a breath. “Yeah, okay.”
“Should I have asked?”
“No, I mean…can you make sure I get a copy of all of his incoming and outgoing email?” John questioned. “I’ll tell him that’s the stipulation to him having an account, so it doesn’t have to be a secret.”
“Yeah, he already knows emails aren’t private around here due to the security of the program. He even asked about the censorship protocols for email going out of the SGC because he wanted to send that lawyer guy an email letting him know he’s okay and stuff.”
“Mason Blake,” John said. “That’s the lawyer’s name. He was actually in the Air Force and worked as a JAG for fifteen years before he retired and started a private practice.”
“Huh,” Rodney murmured. “I actually know him. I mean, not well, but I met him at the Pentagon when I first started working for SGC. I had to do a deposition regarding a case he was working on, but I don’t remember much about him beyond that. Good looking, though.”
“Yeah, I noticed. O’Neill gave me a file on him, so I’d feel more comfortable leaving him in charge of Sebastian’s finances.”
“Is there a lot?” Rodney asked curiously. “You said his mother donated her inheritance.”
“From one grandfather, yes, she didn’t like how he made his money,” John said. “But she kept everything she received from her maternal grandparents. The kid has millions in trust, Rodney. I mean…well…honestly so do I but…” He flushed and turned to rinse off.
Rodney chuckled. “At least I know you’re not looking for a sugar daddy.”
John rolled his eyes. “Jackass, I know you have ten times what me and the kid have together. I’d be appalled by how much money the SGC has given you if you hadn’t nearly died multiple times.”
“Yes, well, I’m a genius,” Rodney announced. “Speaking of, there should be a contract for the kid in this data burst. Carter agreed that he needed one—not with the US government but with the IOA She made sure it was heavily in his favor, but all of his money will have to be filtered into his trust fund.”
“Good. I’ll read it over.” He paused. “Let’s get Elizabeth to look at it as well.”
“She does have a master’s in contract law,” Rodney conceded. “Plus she’ll be the witness to you signing on his behalf.”
“I’ll share it with him first and let him get used to the idea before we go to Elizabeth.”
They left the shower at the same time, dried off, and dressed in night clothes. McKay had actually come over to their apartment in his pajamas, so there was that. They’d both been very ready to get out of uniform after the Daedalus had departed. A week with the ship hadn’t been nearly as stressful as it had been in the past because a desnaked Caldwell was actually a pretty great person. John kind of resented all the bullshit the snake had done twice as much now than he did before.
Rodney distributed the data burst quickly, and John sat beside him on the couch with his own laptop. He watched his inbox fill up with a little bit of dread. The email he’d been waiting on from his father came in with a priority status flagged by the SGC. There was also a priority email from O’Neill. He opened O’Neill’s first.
A little warning that you were going to reach out to your father would’ve been appreciated. When he couldn’t get the information on your assignment that he wanted from his own contacts, he reached out to the Secretary of Defense. I met with him to prevent things from escalating. He’s not been briefed on the program as he doesn’t have the security clearance necessary to be read into the project despite the contracts his company has with the government.
That being said, the president has agreed to have his security clearance evaluated for the SGC if it would make things easier on you. Your call. I told him to back off, but he’s pretty determined to reconnect with you and meet his grandson. He cursed me out when he found out I’d had custody of Sebastian for a month and never contacted him.
John sighed. “My dad cursed O’Neill out.”
“Not surprised,” Rodney said without looking up from his tablet. “I can’t imagine your apple fell far from his tree considering your own offspring. I sent you a copy of the draft contract Carter had written. She’s already made a bunch of notes on it for changes that she would require if she were a private contractor. I’ll be including many of them in my next contract.”
“Sounds good,” John said and frowned as he stared at his father’s reply. A part of him wanted to close his laptop and deal with it later, but he figured the stress of it would just keep him up. “I really need a beer for this.” He opened it as Rodney left the sofa. The crack of two cans opening was a relief, so he just held out his hand as he started reading and Rodney gave him the beer.
I don’t know where to start so I guess we’ll go with the confession first. I spent the last twenty-two hours trying to find out where you are. Every single military contact I have run into a wall—it was disconcerting, and I eventually made an appointment to speak with the Secretary of Defense who took me to meet a general named O’Neill who heads a black-ops project for Homeland. I got a lecture about operational security and how I didn’t have the right to know where you are. You might say I didn’t respond well. Regardless, I backed off.
So I’m at home now with no answers for your brothers, both of whom are quite ashamed of the fact that they haven’t contacted you in the past. They assumed they weren’t welcome any more than I was. I guess I’m to blame for that as well since I didn’t tell them otherwise. I also never gave them the contact details I had for you in the past. I don’t have any particular reason for that—it wasn’t a conscious choice on my part. Maybe I was trying to protect them from the rejection I felt every single time you ignored an email I sent you. I’m sorry about that.
I never handled your ambitions well. I tried to shape you into something you were clearly not meant to be. O’Neill told me that you’re one of the best officers in his command and that you earned yourself a third Purple Heart last year. When I asked about the circumstances, he just told me that you’d be injured in hand to hand combat but made a full recovery. He also told me that you were a POW in the Middle East during your previous assignment. It hurt a lot to realize that you don’t have me or one of your brothers listed as your next of kin.
I am relieved to know that despite all of my mistakes and hurt feelings in our relationship that you chose to reach out to me now. Thank you for the picture of Sebastian—he reminds me so much of you that it’s stunning. Since you’re in a combat posting, I’m slightly confused about where your son is but O’Neill said that both yours and his location are classified due to your assignment.
I’ve attached some recent pictures of your brothers, David’s wife Claire and their two daughters—Daphne (4) and Isabella (10 months). Matt remains single though he was dating a lawyer a few months back that we all found appalling. He was a Cowboy’s fan, for fuck’s sake. Before that guy, there was this silly young model who looked like a Barbie. We were all pleased to see the back of her as well. Even Daphne could hardly tolerate her, and she likes practically everyone (including the Cowboy’s fan). Mattie honestly has terrible taste. I don’t know where he gets that from—you and David always managed to find exceptional partners.
Speaking of partners, I see Nancy quite regularly as she works in contracts with the DOD. I was tempted last year to offer her a job at SI, but I didn’t know how you’d feel about that considering the divorce. She kept the name, by the way. She said her maiden name was an atrocity. She asked me how I felt about that, and I said you’d given it to her in good faith and with love and it was hers to keep. I hope that was the right answer?
I’m rambling, I guess. There’s no telling how much of this email the Air Force will even allow you to read. O’Neill warned me that the content might be censored if your circumstances were less than ideal.
“You’ve got your war face on.”
“My Dad,” John said. “He…” He just passed McKay the laptop.
Rodney read in silence for a few moments then snorted. “He didn’t respond well. I’m going to use that the next time, I have to confess to cursing someone out.”
John laughed. “Rodney.”
“He doesn’t seem like an asshole,” Rodney said as he read. “Oh, look, your brother’s bisexual. Maybe your dad won’t totally flip his shit to find out you’re gay.”
“Apparently not,” John murmured. “I’m glad Matt already broke him in on the subject, to be honest.” He stood. “Did you get Sebastian’s email details?”
“I’ll get his laptop so you can set it up. I’ll have the talk with him about confidentiality and lack of privacy when I give it back to him in the morning.”
“Did you get that email from Blake with his records?”
“No, he might be having to go through Karen’s personal papers in storage or something,” John said. “I’ll wait. I don’t want to push the man on that front. Sebastian confirmed that he was head over heels for Karen. He might have even hoped that she’d leave him custody of her son. Sebastian hasn’t come out and said it, but I have a feeling the guy was definitely playing the part of father figure in his life.”
* * * *
Sebastian took the whole contract thing in stride except for the part about all the money going into trust. He requested an allowance and his own space on the Daedalus so he could get stuff as needed from Earth. John agreed to an allowance but still put all of the kid’s money in trust. Elizabeth approved the space on the Daedalus as everyone else on the city had their own allotment and it was only fair that Sebastian had one as well.
The kid was also of the opinion that if the government or IOA ever stole his work, he’d just never, ever work for them again. In fact, he asked that it be included in the contract that if they appropriated his work, they would never ever bother him again about anything as long as he lived. It amused Elizabeth to write the clause into the contract.
He provided a list of emails of people he’d like to contact to John after he was presented with a personal laptop and John wasn’t all that surprised to see the lawyer’s name on the list along with O’Neill’s. He added the email addresses he had for his father and brothers and gave the list back to him. After a chat about the utter lack of privacy and how he’d get a copy of all of his correspondence, he dropped Sebastian and Avery off in engineering for the day. Then went to visit Ronon who was lounging around like a sex symbol in gym four insulting the Marines that Teyla was beating the shit out of with bantos rods.
“How’s the leg?”
“Better,” Ronon said. “They used the healing wand today now that muscle is mended. “Where’s the kid?”
“It’s McKay Day.”
“Sounds boring,” Ronon said and leaned against the wall behind the bench. “Unless McKay spends it yelling at people.”
“Sometimes he does,” John admitted and grinned when Ronon laughed. “But Sebastian loves science and engineering.”
“You prefer math.”
“Yeah, his mother was a marine biologist—she loved the water and everything about it. I figured after your leg healed, we could go the mainland and do some surfing.”
“Sounds good,” Ronon said. “I got a new board from Earth. Miko helped me get a custom one.”
“I saw it come in,” John said and stretched his legs. “McKay and I are a…well. We’re trying a thing.”
Ronon snorted. “I thought you two always were a thing until Teyla told me differently.” He shrugged when John looked his way. “I’m not the only one. The whole Brown thing was a bit shocking for some people.”
“I’m surprised she lasted as long as she did,” John confessed. “She’s pissed at me though since she thinks Rodney broke up with her because of me and Sebastian.”
“Well, certainly for you,” Ronon said. “He already got to play Science-Dad without hooking up with you.”
That was true enough, so John just shrugged. “Sebastian is making something in engineering that will cause a bit of a fuss.”
“What kind of a fuss?”
“The kind that will get the IOA’s attention,” John said. “The kind of attention that McKay already gets from them. I signed a contract for him this morning to protect his rights.”
“You worried they might try to take him back to Earth and hide him from you?”
“No, I’d raze the planet,” John said simply and glanced toward Ronon who was nodding his agreement. “It is going to put an unreasonable spotlight on him, so I’d like to make sure he gets plenty of opportunities to just be a kid around here. He has a full schedule lately—too full, honestly. The penguin thing has helped because Avery is not at all shy about getting his needs met, so he forces Sebastian to focus on him when needed, which gets him out of his head.”
“Once I get an all-clear from Harris, we’ll work out a schedule for defense and fitness classes,” Ronon said. “He doesn’t have a tutor for literature. Teyla mentioned it.”
“No, no one on the city really studied language arts like that. Elizabeth is the closest.”
“I could…” Ronon paused. “I’d like to help with that. I’ve been reading a lot of books from Earth. If you got me the teaching materials on it—I could get up to speed pretty quickly. I taught poetry and creative writing on my world before I was conscripted.”
“He’d love that,” John said. “He gets eBooks from O’Neill—I’ll see that you get copies of what he’s reading. I’ve been reading the first Percy Jackson book since he recently got the sequel.”
“The kid has the second Percy Jackson book?” Ronon questioned and stood. “He’s in McKay’s lab?”
“Yeah?” John frowned. “Where…”
“I have the hardcover of The Sea of Monsters ordered, but it’s not due to arrive for two months, Sheppard,” Ronon called over his shoulder.
John was relieved to note that the younger man was hardly limping. He relaxed back against the wall and watched the training for a while. Honestly, Teyla kicking someone’s ass was one of the most stress relieving things he could imagine outside of an orgasm.
* * * *
Sebastian watched McKay squint and frown his way through the entire project in silence. He’d learned early on that asking the scientist questions when he was doing a review would just annoy him and slow the whole process down to a crawl. It amused him that there were people on the city who’d worked for McKay for years who hadn’t figured that out.
“Okay,” Rodney said and focused on him. “You have a go for a prototype. Zelenka will be your supervisor regarding every single moment of construction. At this point, you’re not authorized to close the vacuum on the device or attempt to activate it. Clear?”
“Yes, sir.” Sebastian shared a smile with Zelenka. “Really?”
“Yes, really. You can have two hours a day in manufacturing until you finish. Zelenka will schedule your lab time. Keep all files and prototype parts confidential at this point, and we’ll store all finished pieces in the safe in my office.”
“That’s still an issue…I mean, Kavanagh is gone?”
“It’s an issue,” McKay assured. “Because your work is currently classified at the highest level per Colonel Carter. We don’t want just anyone figuring out to work with Zero Point Energy. It’s very dangerous.”
“Okay.” He took a deep breath. “Could people make weapons with it? I don’t want to make weapons.”
“All matters of energy production can be weaponized,” Rodney said and put aside his table to focus on him. “Your little battery could revolutionize many industries on Earth—the model you have now could power a car indefinitely. We’re talking the eradication of fossil fuel usage inside the next decade especially if we can come up with easily installed conversion kits. It could give power to villages in underdeveloped areas. It could power water pumps, heat, and cool homes at a fraction of the cost.”
“A lot of people would be mad about that kind of development.”
“That’s why we’ll be cautious about how it’s released in the world,” Rodney said. “Moreover, your grandfather, Patrick Sheppard, could be in a unique position to front this technology for you and prepare the world for your… what are you calling it?”
“The Mini-Z,” Sebastian said. “But I didn’t know if that would work out for public consumption.”
“It’s perfect,” Rodney assured. “Sheppard Industries, the company your grandmother founded and your grandfather, continues to run in her honor is an engineering company currently focusing on green energy innovation. They also do some work in aviation. I turned down a job to work for him about a decade ago.”
Sebastian laughed. “I wonder if he’ll remember you?”
Zelenka snorted. “Oh, yes, he will. McKay is quite famous is engineering circles. Many were furious when he went into government work as it cut off his availability for private contract work quite a bit. Even more so now that he’s utterly unavailable most of the time.”
“I do email consults,” Rodney said absently as he picked up his tablet. “Provided they pay enough for my time. When the two of you are ready to capture the ZPE and close the vacuum, let me know. I’ll evaluate the danger of doing it on the city and make a decision about that.” He cleared his throat. “And after that, Sebastian, your next task will be designing a larger version of the Mini-Z.”
“Purpose?” Sebastian asked in surprise.
“To power this city. I want her at full power inside the next year, and your little battery at the right scale can do that in a way the Ancients never bothered to even think about.”
Sebastian’s stomach tightened. “I…” He felt his face heat. “What if it doesn’t work?”
“We both know it’s going to work,” Rodney said. “We can retool the ZPM cradle to accept your version of the ZPM.”
“Three of them,” Sebastian said. “The cradle works like a raid array, right?”
“Similar,” Rodney agreed. “That’s why we can use the naquadah generators without blowing the place up. The cradle moderates and distributes all the energy it receives.”
“But we’re burning through naquadah generators like they’re candy,” Sebastian murmured, and he pursed his lips. “The Ancients…were more interested in ascending than living near the end. That’s why they never bothered to fix the entropy problem in the ZPM. For them, it was easier to make more than to worry about repairing what they already had.”
“And?” Rodney prodded.
“That means that there must be a facility on the city to manufacture the ZPM.”
“Why?” Zelenka questioned.
“Because they were lazy,” Sebastian said with a huff. “No way those buttholes went off planet to pick up what’s essentially a thirteen-pound battery.” He started to say more, but Ronon Dex came into the lab. “Hi, Mr. Dex.”
Ronon focused on him. “You and I need to talk.”
Sebastian raised an eyebrow. “About what?”
“Your dad says you have The Sea of Monsters.”
“Yeah, did you want to borrow my Kindle to read it?” Sebastian questioned and went to pick up his messenger bag. “I finished it last night.”
“If you pass that my way, I can put it on the eBook server for him to download,” Rodney said.
“That’s stealing though,” Sebastian said and raised an eyebrow.
Rodney grinned at him. “I’ll put it on the list of titles for the SGC to purchase in bulk—all of our digital library is paid for. I promise. We don’t pirate around here.”
Sebastian passed the Kindle to McKay and focused on Ronon. “Have you read the Harry Potter books, Mr. Dex? I have those, too.”
“I rage quit the series after Order of the Phoenix,” Ronon admitted.
“And I don’t blame you,” Rodney announced. “I should’ve stopped reading at book four and supplemented with fanfiction.” He paused and pointed at Sebastian. “You’re not allowed to read fanfiction. It’s mostly all porn.”
Sebastian laughed. “Not all of it. I don’t have time to read fanfiction right now anyways. I barely have time for any fiction reading. Plus, how would I even get it out here?”
“Miko keeps the fanfiction server,” Ronon offered and shrugged when Rodney glared at him. “Like he couldn’t find it on his own?”
“You’re a terrible example.”
“I didn’t sign up to be a role model, McKay. Being a bad influence is way more fun.”
Sebastian laughed when McKay just continued to glare.
Due to the security surrounding my mission, I’m unable to tell you where Sebastian is. He is safe and well-cared for. If you’re willing to sign the longest non-disclosure agreement known to mankind, go visit O’Neill again and ask to be read in. I’ve already sent him an email about the possibility so he’ll be expecting you.
As I said previously, I’ll have several weeks of leave in a few months, I’d like to see you all at that point. I think it would be best, security-wise, if we allowed O’Neill to make those arrangements for us. He’ll know what the best options are and what would be the safest situation for everyone. If you get read into the situation, you’ll understand why that’s important.
Feel free to offer Nancy a job, she certainly deserves to make more money than she’s making in whatever government job she currently has. Despite our divorce, we didn’t part on bad terms. She knew before I did that I could no longer force myself into being the man she wanted. By the way, her maiden name is Hooker. I thought you knew? I’m entirely convinced that she made the choice on which men to date based on potential new last names.
“We all look a lot alike,” Sebastian said.
John looked up from his laptop and focused on his son.
He flicked through another screen on his tablet. “Daphne and I could pass for siblings. Looks like Isabella got her mom’s blonde hair.”
“Your grandmother was a blonde as well,” he murmured. “On both sides actually. Your mom used to joke that she was the only natural blonde she knew in Santa Barbara.” He looked up from his book and found his son frowning. “What?”
“What if they don’t like me?”
“They’re going to love you,” John promised.
“You and Grandpa have been fighting for a long time.”
“Not fighting, not really. We just stopped talking, and there is a lot of blame to go around on that. But the love’s still there, ya know? I just got frustrated with trying to defend my choices and walked away. He eventually stopped trying to get me to come back, and we existed in this kind of terrible limbo where we were both too stubborn to reach out. I imagine that’s how it would’ve gone until…” John trailed off.
“One of you died,” Sebastian said flatly. “I know your job is dangerous Daddy. You came back bleeding from a mission with a hole in your side.”
“A small hole,” John said. “Hardly any sort of injury really—it was just bloody. It didn’t even get listed in my jacket as an official wound since there won’t be a scar.”
Sebastian made a face and concentrated on his tablet. “Uncle David’s wife is beautiful.”
“Very,” John admitted. “I haven’t met her, but she’s probably equally brilliant. He’s always gone for that sort—smart and beautiful.”
“What did you and grandpa argue about?”
“My career choices for a start. He didn’t mind the military service, in fact, he was proud that I wanted to serve since he’d been in the Navy himself. The Air Force choice bothered him a lot, but he was even more pissed by the fact that I didn’t major in a field that would lead to a job at the family company after a few tours. Then he realized I intended on being a career officer. His disagreement was aggressive and at times, completely out of line. He stomped all over my boundaries, and I reacted very badly to that. In retrospect, he was terrified I’d get myself killed, but all I saw was disapproval, and it made me resent him.”
“Can you get past that now?”
“I hope so,” John said. “I miss them, but I learned to live without them. I can’t say it was great, but over the last couple of years, I’ve allowed myself to make a family here on Atlantis with my team. It was helping…things were easier.”
“Then, I came along.”
“Weirdest and best day of my life,” John said and smiled when Sebastian laughed. “I thought for certain I was about to get my ass handed to me.”
“Well, you were pulled off duty from another galaxy by your CO,” Sebastian said. “I guess that was unnerving. I was worried—that you’d say no. I mean I knew I had places I could go but I was scared, I guess, that you’d be angry about being pulled away from your duty station and about mom keeping me a secret.”
“I…” John sighed. “Honestly, I’m quite furious with your mother about keeping you a secret from me. I’d have very much liked to have been part of your life long before now.”
“You wouldn’t have Atlantis,” Sebastian said. “You wouldn’t have gone on a one-way mission if you’d known about me.”
“No, I wouldn’t have,” John agreed. “But I think me and Atlantis had a bit of a date with destiny so I’d have met her one way or another.” He stood. “You have a lesson with Dr. Kusanagi in twenty minutes. She wants to test her new allergy medication. Be prepared to be passed off to her second in command if it doesn’t work.”
Sebastian nodded as he slid his tablet into his messenger bag and whistled softly. Avery wiggled out from underneath the sofa and waddled to him. “I don’t know what’s so interesting under there.”
Avery nooted at him and flapped his little wings as Sebastian put him in the leather backpack. John just watched as the kid shouldered the pack, and the penguin started nuzzling his beak through the dark hair curling around the boy’s collar.
“Fine, when that penguin starts grooming out your bad feathers, don’t come crying to me.”
Sebastian’s eyes went wide. “I don’t have bad feathers.”
“Like he’s going to see a difference?” John questioned and laughed when Sebastian stared at him in horror. “Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll be able to figure out some way to minimize the bald spots.”
“Maybe a small haircut,” the kid conceded and ran his fingers through his hair.
A few moments after dropping Sebastian off with Miko, John wandered into McKay’s lab and took a seat on a stool across from the scientist who was having a discussion full of hand waves and disdain with Radek Zelenka and Helen Simpson. John glanced down and noted with some amusement that no one had bothered to make Simpson put on matching shoes for the day. She had on sneakers—one blue and one white.
Rodney paused long enough to push a tablet across the table, and John picked it up. It took just a few seconds to realize he was looking at Sebastian’s battery project. It wasn’t allowed out of the lab due to security protocols, and he hadn’t been around to see the final version that they were using to build the model. The design itself was descriptively simple—there was an influence underneath it all that spoke to alien technology, but John knew that only a select few people on Earth would ever even suspect it as long as the project remained classified.
The inside of the Mini-Z was a tiny maze of metal with just a micron of distance between the walls. He let his mind wander a bit as he considered the theory behind the battery and the idea of capturing Zero-Point Energy so it could be contained in a vacuum. The ZPM was entirely crystal based. John wondered if that was the problem. The Ancients had become dependent on crystal-based technology near the end of their scientific renaissance. They’d retooled large parts of the city to accommodate that as they’d secured Atlantis with the ATA gene.
It was brilliant and on some level kind of horrifying because he could see the applications for weapons spread out in front of it and he didn’t want that for his son. “A little Asgard, a little Ancient, a lot Casimir,” John murmured. “Most will see the Casimir influence only, which is for the best.”
“You’ve read Casimir’s work?” Rodney asked in surprise.
“Dutch physicist,” John said. “Yeah, not a lot, but it was interesting, and I had to take one physics class in graduate school. When Sebastian asked me about ZPE, that was the only name I could offer, so we did some reading on him a few weeks ago.” He set the tablet aside. “I know we can’t really control what people will do with this technology, but how do I keep my son out of the business of building weapons of mass destruction, Rodney?”
“Did you send the email to O’Neill about your father?”
“Good, because Sheppard Industries is the perfect front for the Mini-Z on Earth. They’re all up in clean energy already, and your father has the money to back the project to hell and back. I don’t want him building weapons either, and currently, the idea of it is horrifying to him which is good. I can’t promise he won’t change his mind later and we can’t control that either. The best you can do is teach him there are other ways to solve problems and hope his mother’s lessons really stick to him because she really was a bleeding-heart liberal.”
John laughed. “Yeah.” He rubbed his head in frustration. “I want things to work out with my father but we…haven’t really gotten along since my mother died. That’s a lot of years of hostility to work through. I held onto my grief for a long time and my anger for even longer.” He glanced around the room and found it empty. “Where did Zelenka and Simpson go?”
“Off to do their own thing,” Rodney said. “I only share my lab when the kid is here because he needs the stimulation. We honestly prefer to work alone for the most part unless we’re working so a specific project that requires a team. Sebastian likes the energy of a full lab and the noise that comes with it.”
John glanced toward the door and locked it with a thought before focusing on the tablet. “This is going to work.”
“Yes, and it will blow people’s minds,” Rodney said. “Because it’s deceptively simple and a lot of scientists on Earth are going to be honestly flabbergasted by the fact that they didn’t think of it. It’s revolutionary on the level of say the…wheel.”
John exhaled sharply and rubbed his face. “I…”
“I know.” Rodney huffed. “And the little shit hasn’t even been here a full two months. Imagine what we’ll be looking at a year from now.”
Sheppard made a face. “Gah, Rodney, shut up.”
McKay laughed. “Seriously though, he’s been eyeing the plans for the Jumpers, so I have no idea what’s on his big brain. He hasn’t asked for any source materials on aeronautics, so maybe that’s just boy-curiosity in space ships.”
John hummed. “Well, the Jumpers are powered with kinetic energy, so maybe he’s been comparing them to the rest of Ancient technology and his own project.”
“Maybe, let’s hope. If he busts out the plans for an X-wing, I’m not going to be mad.”
“I’m not even sure if he’s seen Star Wars,” John said thoughtfully. “We should probably investigate that.”
“Certainly,” Rodney agreed and cleared his throat. “But I need you to know that the SGC is going to see the Mini-Z as a solution in a lot of ways for powering the city, powering the SGC, adding power to the ships, and to the ship’s weapons. The Asgard were against giving us their weapons, so we’ve had to make our solutions. A laser cannon powered by a Mini-Z could cut a hive to pieces, John, in a matter of minutes.”
“I know,” John said and frowned. “Can we just agree that he can’t be involved with the actual design or construction of weapons until he’s eighteen and can make a decision for himself. I don’t want to put him on that path, not ever, but I’d like to stand in the way of it until he’s an adult. And I can’t say I’m not going to make sure he understands that I’d prefer that he focus on saving lives and creating things that help versus destroy.”
“His Mini-Z could and certainly will save lives on Earth. That’s what we’ll focus on. I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep the details from him regarding the SGC’s use of the device, but I agree that making weapons should be the last thing he ever thinks about doing. I don’t do it unless I have no choice. In fact, I hadn’t built a weapon of any sort in eight years until I had to build those two nukes during the siege. It was necessary, but also morally repugnant.”
John nodded. “I know.”
“That being said, I need you to look at the other open document on that tablet.”
John raised an eyebrow but gamely retrieved the tablet and flicked through several screens. He settled on a document called McKay’s Hammer. His mouth dropped open. “Is this…” He scrolled down quickly and took a deep breath. “You’re going to use the Mini-Z to power a Wraith detector?”
“Kind of,” Rodney said. “I’ve had the idea for a while, but the city doesn’t have enough power to govern the system which will be housed here on Atlantis. Basically, the city gate will become the governor of all gates in the galaxy. The setup is already there so I think the Ancients might have controlled the gates at one point which is why many in Pegasus call it the Ring of the Ancestors. At any rate, the program will track the Wraith who use the gate and allow us to hunt them. I considered outright destruction in transit, but they’d catch on to that way too quickly. But we can also use it to create a sanctuary world where no Wraith can go. If we put a stargate down on a world that doesn’t have one and control how people get there—they’ll never even know it exists.”
“Or maybe our perfectly inhabitable second moon?” John questioned. “Then we could defend them if a ship comes.”
“Yes,” Rodney agreed. “That moon is easily the size of Earth, so it would have plenty of room for people. Lots of land and fresh water as well. I’ll be pitching this to the IOA with Elizabeth’s help after we confirm the viability of the Mini-Z.”
“Have you shared it with Sebastian, yet?”
“Not yet. I wanted to run it by you first.” Rodney raised an eyebrow. “What do you think?”
“I think we could find their nest world with this,” John murmured. “It could change the tide of the war we’re fighting here. And it’s not a weapon but more of a surveillance device, so I’m not opposed to him seeing or working with it in some fashion if he has ideas to improve it.” He paused. “Not that I think your work needs improving.”
Rodney laughed. “You don’t have to pander to my ego, John.” He nudged him a little as he sat down on the stool beside him. “Sleeping with one of the hottest people on the city is doing quite enough for my self-esteem.”
John felt his face heat with a blush and rolled his eyes. “You’re such an asshole, McKay.” He sighed and refocused his attention on the plans. “So, how does this work?”
“A person or object is transmitted through the gate system in a discrete package. The system is designed to make sure your package remains intact and unmodified by anything else that could be traveling with you.”
“So, no The Fly-like incidents,” John summed up.
“Exactly. Well, the system is keeping track of genetic codes already, so it was the work of nothing to isolate various species moving through the gate system in Pegasus in historical data. But to get that data processed while the system is in use requires a lot of power for the city’s supercomputer. In fact, I previously thought I’d need a ZPM dedicated to the project to make it viable. So it’s not been any sort of option until recently.”
“And we couldn’t use this program to alter the Wraith, like with Beckett’s plan? If he got access to this data, could he propose some kind of genetic manipulation?”
“No, he couldn’t. The gate system has dozens of redundancies built into the system to protect the traveler’s genetic code. We’d have to break the whole thing permanently to do that, and it wouldn’t be safe for anyone to travel through it. Besides, Beckett doesn’t have the computer or programming skills to decipher and alter the gate code, which is written in Ancient.”
John nodded. “Sometimes I wonder if our way is any better. I’m not sure we have the moral high ground on the Beckett situation. Even as fucked up as his ethics are.”
“You’re not sport hunting, John,” Rodney snapped. “In any single fight, the Wraith have every chance of defeating us. We aren’t fighting over territory or oil or even resources out there. We’re defending the lives of the innocents against a genetic experiment gone wrong. Honestly, we’re cleaning up the mess an Ancient version of Carson Beckett left behind. Seeking the destruction of their species might not be the most moral choice we have, but what’s left? They think we’re food, and they have no desire whatsoever to investigate alternate food sources.”
“Right.” John set aside the tablet. “It’s a fucked up situation no matter how you look at it, and our choices are few. I guess we just have to…do what we can live with. Live being the operative word.”
* * * *
The moment he set eyes on her, he regretted walking from the engineering tower to the botany department. It would’ve been safer to take the transporter despite the sunny day. He picked Avery up and took a deep breath as Dr. Heightmeyer smiled at him.
“Good afternoon, Sebastian.”
“Hi, Dr. Heightmeyer.” She patted the bench beside her, and he couldn’t help but grimace. “I have a lesson in botany in just a few minutes.”
She raised an eyebrow. “It’s about an hour from now, right?”
Ambush, he thought sourly and exhaled sharply. “Avery’s hungry, so I’m going to take him to hydroponics for a snack first.”
“Just a few minutes won’t hurt anything.” She patted the bench again.
“I don’t want to talk to you,” he blurted out and his face heated up when she blinked in surprise. “Just leave me alone!” He turned on his heel and made for the nearest transporter at a near run.
* * * *
John entered the apartment and dropped the bag of food he’d brought from the mess on a table by the entry then headed for the kid’s room. He could hear Avery nooting very softly and wasn’t all that surprised to find Sebastian curled up on the bed. The penguin was perched on the pillow, plucking gently at the kid’s hair like he was petting him. Avery turned to John and squawked in what he thought was indignation. The little thing was very attuned to Sebastian’s emotions—something John figured he should report to biology.
He sat down on the edge of the bed, and Sebastian turned to him. “Hey, buddy.”
“I yelled at Dr. Heightmeyer.”
“She told me she upset you,” John said. “She wants you to know that she wasn’t waiting for you. She’d just finished a session with a patient and was resting there a few minutes before she went to lunch.”
“She knew my schedule.”
“Everyone knows your schedule,” John said gently. “It’s included in the daily security briefing.”
Sebastian lowered his gaze as tears slid down his cheeks. “I can’t talk to her. Not ever.”
John picked him up, and Sebastian burrowed against his throat and started to cry in earnest. “Okay.” He patted his back. “I swear I won’t make you but…I think you need to talk to someone other than me about your mom. Keeping all this in isn’t healthy.”
Sebastian’s fingers dug a little into his arms as he held on. “I know.” He pressed his face hard against John’s neck. “But not her.”
Avery tried to hop up onto John’s thigh and tumbled off onto the bed. The bird made a little chuffy sound that spoke to pure frustration. Sebastian laughed just a little before reaching out to pick him up.
John shifted slightly to accommodate boy and penguin then took a deep breath. “What about Kate puts you off? She’s the only psychologist on the city with experience with children and grief counseling.”
“She reminds me of Mom,” Sebastian blurted out and rubbed Avery’s back. “They could be sisters, Daddy. And every time I see her, I have to…all I can think is that I’ll never see my mom again and it’s horrible. It hurts.”
John closed his eyes. “I feel…like an idiot.” He pressed a kiss against the kid’s forehead. “I’ll take care of it, and I’m sorry I didn’t notice the resemblance. I should’ve. If I were still trying to be straight, Heightmeyer would’ve been…”
“Your first target,” Sebastian said wryly.
John winced. “Rude way of saying it, kid.” He poked the boy in the side gently, and Sebastian laughed, so John dumped him on the bed and Avery squawked as he rolled across the mattress. “I’m just saying that she’s the type of woman I’d have gone for. Even my ex-wife Nancy was a blonde when I met and married her. She started dying her hair brown shortly after our divorce. She said it was to make people take her seriously.”
“McKay’s got light brown hair. I guess it might have been blond when he was younger,” Sebastian said. “He’s got, ya know, feelings, Daddy. So I hope you don’t break his heart or anything.”
John flushed. “Hey, I’m not a jerk.”
“I’m not saying you are,” Sebastian protested and grabbed some tissues from the nightstand. “I just…I overheard Dr. Kusanagi say you were allergic to commitment but that she thought being a father had changed you.”
“Miko’s not necessarily wrong,” John admitted as his son blew his nose. “I’ve avoided relationships since I met her actually so…yeah…but Rodney is my best friend, and we’re trying to figure things out between us. I’d never hurt him on purpose, and I know that he’d never set out to hurt me either. I want to make it work with him, and I’m working on sorting out my own feelings. Can that be enough for now?”
“Yeah,” Sebastian said. “I mean, I’m not trying to get in your business.”
“We’re family,” John said. “And I know McKay is important to you. I think on some days you like him more than me.”
The kid laughed and shrugged.
“That’s okay because some days, I like him more than you, too,” John said wryly and flicked the kid’s nose when the kid pretended to be insulted. “Hungry?”
“Starving. And also, I didn’t feed Avery in hydroponics ‘cause I got so upset about Dr. Heightmeyer. I’m a terrible penguin keeper today.”
“Chief Cooper sent me some raw fish for Avery, but he’s eating it outside on the balcony because—gross.”
“We haven’t penguin proofed, so I guess we’re all eating outside,” Sebastian reminded.
* * * *
John rapped his knuckles gently against the doorframe of Heightmeyer’s open office. “Hey.”
Kate smiled and motioned him in. “Is he okay?”
“Upset but not angry anymore,” John conceded. “He did think you ambushed him and that was pretty upsetting for him. I canceled the rest of his lessons for the day, so he’s going to take Avery to the public swimming area and do that for a while.” He offered her his tablet as he sat down in the chair in front of her desk. “That’s his mom.”
Kate stared at the tablet for a long moment, clearly startled. “I see.”
“Do you? Because I didn’t, and I feel like a jerk.”
“She looks like my sister,” Kate said. “In fact, I could put her picture in amongst my sisters and me, and no one would question the relation.” She sighed. “I…I’m clearly not the person he needs for therapy. Perhaps if he saw the resemblance as a positive one, it would allow me to connect with him. But this combined with your very pointed email to the women on the city about not mothering him tells me that he’s not ready for that kind of interaction with a woman.”
“Katie Brown was making him uncomfortable with her efforts to…as he put it ‘mother’ him. I don’t know what she was doing exactly, but he started avoiding her like the plague. Since he isn’t avoiding all women, I get the feeling she was throwing out a maternal vibe that put him off completely.”
Kate nodded. “I’ll speak with Dr. Brown if you’d like?”
“I think she’s going to transfer back to Earth so unless it escalates there’s no reason to single her out,” John said. “I know she has some issues…around that whole thing, and I wouldn’t want her to be unduly hurt by the situation.” He blew out a breath. “I mean…well.” He exhaled sharply. “There’s the whole thing with McKay already, so yeah.”
Kate laughed. “I shouldn’t be so amused to watch you stumble around your emotions.”
“Good thing you’re not my therapist now,” John said wryly. “Or I’d be really offended.”
“Speaking of Dr. Grant, I believe due to the circumstances that Sebastian might do well with him. I’m not diagnosing your son, but it would be a mistake to overlook his reaction to me. I’m clearly a trigger of some sort.”
“His mother was murdered, Kate. I don’t think he knows that but he’s smart so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s starting to question that and maybe…” John sighed. “Jesus.”
“Dr. Grant does specialize it PTSD,” Kate said gently. “So let’s work on getting Sebastian into his office sometime within the next two months, okay?”
“Okay.” John slouched back in his chair.
Kate smirked suddenly.
She glanced toward the tablet and quirked one eyebrow. “I’m your beard-type, huh?”
“Shut up,” John said huffily. “And yes.” He waved a hand. “I’d be all over it if I were still trying to be that guy.”
Kate put on a grave face. “Let me know if you need that sort of assistance. I would be delighted to lie my ass off on your behalf regarding our nonexistent two-year secret sexual affair to practically everyone except for McKay.” Then she smirked again. “Because I’m not a moron.”
John blew out air between his lips loudly. “Thanks.”