- Character Bashing
- Alternate Universe
- Challenge Response
- Established Relationship
Loving and Loathing
‘Has something happened?’ Rodney asked in surprise as Teyla unexpectedly entered his lab one afternoon.
‘Nothing has happened, Rodney. Is it so shocking I visit your laboratory?’
Rodney shifted uncomfortably on his stool. ‘Well…You don’t usually visit unless something’s gone wrong. You’ve heard nothing about the Athosians, I suppose?’
Teyla shook her head. ‘Nothing, although several of our allies are looking for them. It grieves me that I am unable to find them, and I wonder if I could, perhaps, have prevented it if I had remained with them. I wanted to talk to you today, however, about John.’
‘No, Rodney, nothing has happened to him, I merely wish to…’ She looked around the lab to where Radek and Miko were working. ‘May we go into your office, please?’
Nodding, Rodney slipped off his stool and led Teyla over to his -mostly unused – office where he cleared piles of papers from a couple of chairs. ‘Atlantis is supposed to be a paperless society, but it doesn’t seem like it with the number of forms the IOA demand from us.’ He waved to the now empty chair and sat down next to her, then shifted uncomfortably, pulling out a small screwdriver from underneath himself. ‘I wondered where that had gone.’
Teyla smiled at him, then dove right in. ‘I am concerned by the number of people on the city who are discussing John’s private affairs.’
‘What do you mean by his private affairs?’ Rodney asked in surprise. ‘Me and him? Because the ridiculous policy of DADT his backward country had for so many years was repealed months ago, and it never really applied to the Stargate programme at all as—’
‘Rodney!’ Teyla said sharply, stopping his rant in midstream. ‘I was not talking about your relationship. However, since John and Ronon returned from Earth and the funeral of John’s father, there has been much talk of the wealth John now has.’
Rodney frowned. ‘What! Why? I mean, what’s that got to do with anyone else? Money isn’t even an issue on the city as we don’t use it. And almost everyone on the city is piling up money on Earth what with bonuses for working in a war zone, and combat pay and—’
‘There is much discussion of the wealth John was left by his father.’ Teyla spoke over him. ‘I can assume it came from Ronon as I am certain John would never discuss such matters himself.’
‘No, he wouldn’t,’ Rodney said, shaking his head. ‘And he won’t be happy when he finds out his private business has become everyone’s business. I haven’t heard anything, but I don’t suppose anyone would talk about it in front of me. What’s being said?’
‘That the house in which John grew up is very large, and that it is only one of the family properties. Also that John made many purchases when he and Ronon visited the shopping mall, and that Ronon could purchase whatever he wanted and John would pay.’
Rodney snorted. ‘That makes it sound like Ronon’s some toyboy and John’s his sugar daddy.’
‘I do not understand.’ Teyla’s narrowed eyes suggested a tad of menace.
‘It’s nothing, just an Earth saying.’ Rodney cleared his throat uncomfortably. ‘Is there any way to stop the gossip?’
Teyla gave him a long look then appeared to be satisfied. ‘I do not know. I do not wish John to be hurt by the knowledge, however, and such gossip would pain him greatly as he is such a private man, and one, moreover, who has recently lost his father. I am unsure of how to stop it.’
‘I could…I could send an email around my department and threaten my people with dismemberment or something if they don’t stop,’ Rodney suggested, bringing forth a smile from Teyla. ‘Maybe Lorne would do the same with the Battalion if he could keep it hidden from John. That covers most of the city. I mean, they should be grateful to John for all the media equipment he brought back for the whole city to share, not gossip about him.’
The deep and sincere smile Teyla gave so infrequently warmed his heart. ‘If you will do your part, Rodney, I will speak to Major Lorne for him to do the same. Dismemberment, however, might be a little extreme.’
‘You don’t know how stubborn scientists can be, Teyla. Trust me. Dismemberment is the least of the threats I could make.’
She gave him another of her sweet smiles, stood, and pulled him up from his chair, bending her head forward in the Athosian greeting. ‘Thank you, my friend. I knew you would help me. And as for Ronon, from whom the knowledge must have come: I will deal with him.’
‘John?’ Sam Carter’s voice came through his radio, interrupting his train of thought regarding the personnel reviews he was trying to complete.
‘John!’ Sam repeated, now sounding amused. ‘Are you doing paperwork?’
‘There’s no need to say it like that,’ John told her. ‘I do paperwork.’
‘Only when you can’t pass it off onto Evan.’
‘I…Okay, you’ve got me there.’
‘You’re exactly like General O’Neill back when he was still a Colonel. For years he didn’t even know he had an office on base.’
John didn’t reply, simply because he’d been on the city for several months before Ford told him he had an office and where it was.
‘I’ve got an excuse for you to leave your paperwork and go off-world, but if you’d rather finish what—’
‘No, no,’ John said hurriedly. ‘I’m at your service, Sam, as ever. Off-world, you said? Why? Not that it ma—’
‘Dr Keller has to go to M29 4HV and would like you to accompany her.’
‘M29 4HV? That’s the planet…’
‘Where the people were suffering from something that sounds remarkably like rubella. Evan’s team went there last week and offered to send a medic to help them. Jennifer wants to try them with a vaccine from Earth which the SGC has used successfully in the Milky Way. If it works as well in Pegasus, it’ll make a useful option for trade.’
‘Okay, but why has Keller asked for me to go with her? Stackhouse’s team was down for escort duty the next time she went off-world.’
‘Ah. I forgot to tell you. Corporal Weathers sprained his ankle this morning. You were in the gym with Ronon, and I meant to call afterwards and tell you. I apologise.’
‘This is the fourth time Weathers has damaged himself this month! Are you sure he’s not related to Wallace from the SGC?’
Carter’s laughter filled John’s radio.
‘D’ya know where Wallace is now? John asked curiously.’
‘We sent him to Area 51 after you returned to Pegasus to rescue General O’Neill. No other team leader would agree to have him. Be that as it may, Keller requested you, but—’
‘No buts,’ John said quickly. ‘What time is she due to leave?’
‘1500 hours. Evan said the village is a few miles from the gate and is a peaceful enough world. He’d’ve gone again except David Parish wanted to go back to M74 P42 to take a closer look at the plants AR4 found. This one should—’
‘Don’t say it should be a cakewalk, Sam. That’s just asking for trouble. Okay. I’ll gear up and be in the gate room for 1500. Who else is going?’
‘One of the new nurses. It’ll be her first trip through the gate, though, so I suggest you take a couple of Marines with you as back up.’
‘I’ll take Markham and Stackhouse since they should have accompanied Keller in any case. Sheppard out.’
Once through the gate to M29 4HV, John took point and ordered Stackhouse and Markham to cover the rear with the two medics in between them as they made their way through a small but dense wood close to the gate – the reason against using a puddle jumper – and in the direction of the village. Keller, however, insisted on walking with him and trying to involve him in a conversation.
‘How long have you been in the Air Force, Colonel?’
John glanced down at her in surprise. ‘Fifteen years. Why?’
‘Oh, no reason,’ Keller replied with a wave of her hand. ‘Just making conversation. Did you always want to be in the Air Force?’
‘Yes, and I’d appreciate it if you’ll drop back to walk with Nurse Andrews, please. I need to concentrate on our surroundings.’
She scowled at him for a moment, then adjusted it to a pleasant smile and slowed down to allow Nurse Andrews to catch up with her, but after a few minutes, as the path through the trees widened out, she joined him again.
‘I always seem to see you in BDUs. Do you ever wear ordinary, civilian clothes when you’re off duty?’
John sighed inwardly. ‘Sometimes.’
‘And what do you do in your leisure time? Other than play racing cars with Dr McKay.’
‘I don’t have a lot of leisure time, but I read and sometimes play chess with one of the scientists.’
‘Oh, you read, do you?’ Keller sounded almost excited at this information. ‘I belong to a book group with some of the medical staff. You’d be very welcome to join us.’
Biting back his immediate response, John forced himself to smile. ‘Thank you, but, as I said, I don’t get a lot of leisure time and what I do get I like to spend with Rodney or with my team.’ He let the silence grow between them, and just as he saw her mouth open to speak, he turned his head to Nurse Andrews and smiled.
‘You okay there? It’s your first trip through the gate, isn’t it?’
Andrews nodded. ‘I didn’t expect to see so many trees. It reminds me a little of Canada.’
Sergeant Markham laughed and drew level with her. ‘It does, doesn’t it? We’ve all said that at one time or another, especially to Dr McKay, who falls for it every time and goes off in a rant about how Pegasus trees are nothing like the Canadian Maple.’
‘Or like the spruce,’ Stackhouse added from the rear. ‘And don’t start him on Christmas trees.’
John laughed and fell back a little to include Andrews in the conversation, all the while taking careful note of his surroundings. ‘And definitely don’t start him off on the whole subject of Christmas.’
‘He doesn’t like Christmas?’ Andrews asked.
‘He adores Christmas,’ John said emphatically. ‘He just doesn’t like the religious concept of Christmas.’
‘Or any sort of religious festival other than the Athosian ones,’ Stackhouse added.
‘And that only because Teyla makes us all attend,’ Markham told her with a grin. ‘All of the first wave at least.’
Seeing Nurse Andrews chatting happily to the two Marines with Keller hovering uncertainly on the edge of the conversation, John increased his pace to retake point while Markham gave him a brief nod, falling back a little to guard their six.
‘Is this rubella outbreak similar to what happened on Earth, Doc?’ Stackhouse asked curiously, changing the subject from Earth festivals. ‘When the early explorers found indigenous tribes and half of them died from colds and measles?’
There was a pause before Keller replied, making John glance back at them. ‘Not quite, Sergeant,’ she said stiffly. ‘We don’t know that this is rubella, and our medical protocols on leaving and returning to the city are there to prevent the occurrence of disease, as well as any off-world illness or infection. ‘The widespread use of the gate-system in Pegasus makes the spread of any disease more prevalent, especially with the number of markets attracting large groups of people, of course.’
‘But how does an Earth disease come to be found in Pegasus if we didn’t bring it here?’ Markham asked.
‘As I just said, this might not be rubella, but something similar. Until I see it for myself, I won’t know. Rubella, however, is not something exclusive to Earth and is, in fact, a virus rather than a disease. That means—’
‘A disease is caused by a living bacteria of some sort, while a virus isn’t usually a living organism,’ Stackhouse finished for her, making Keller look at him in surprise. ‘I minored in biology in my first year at college, ma’am.’
Keller looked even more surprised, making John’s lips twitch, something he was careful to hide.
‘Most of the enlisted men in the battalion have at least a Bachelors degree,’ John explained. ‘Some of them have a Masters degree, as well.’
‘But why would they enlist if they could become an officer?’ Keller demanded.
‘Stacks? D’you want to answer that?’
‘I could give you my father’s usual answer, that I prefer to work for a living,’ Stackhouse said with a smirk aimed at John as he said it. ‘He was a Marine as well: it’s a sort of family thing. But in my case, I wanted to participate in operations rather than primarily organise or run them. As an enlisted man, I get to do both, but usually, an officer wouldn’t get his hands dirty the way we do. Atlantis is different. Here we all participate, just as they do at the SGC.’
‘Good save, Stacks,’ John told him with a grin. ‘You just avoided a week of night duty.’
‘Thank you, sir. I try my best.’ He gave John a mock salute, then dodged to avoid the head slap John aimed at him, grinning all the while.
‘I’m surrounded by smart asses,’ John complained, his grin taking the sting out of his words, then glanced at Keller. ‘Does that clear things up for you?’
Keller nodded. ‘It does, Colonel. Thank you, Sergeant Stackhouse.’
Before Stackhouse could reply, however, the village came into sight, and they saw a cluster of wooden buildings with a couple of children playing in a stream which ran at the edge of the village, all very low tech. At the approach of five strangers, three bearing weapons, the children scurried into the closest building.
‘Hopefully, they’ve gone to fetch the leader or chief,’ John murmured. ‘I wish Teyla had been available to come with us and make the introductions.’
‘I can do that,’ Keller told him, trying to push her way past Stackhouse who, with Markham, had sandwiched Keller and Nurse Andrews before and behind, shielding them from any possible danger.
‘Hold up, Dr Keller,’ John ordered. ‘You need to stay back until we know what’s happening. I was told they were expecting us, but it doesn’t look that way.’
No sooner had he spoken, then two men in long green robes came out of the building and approached John and his team.
‘Fair day to you,’ the older of the two men said, bowing his head to John. ‘Are you the Tau’ri? We were expecting Major Lorne to visit with us again bringing medical aid.’
‘He wasn’t available to come today,’ John explained. I’m Colonel Sheppard, and these are Doctor Keller, Sergeants Stackhouse and Markham, and Nurse Andrews. Doctor Keller—’
‘Two females!’ the younger man exclaimed suddenly, making John jerk back in surprise. ‘Two females with three men.’
‘Umm, yes?’ John queried, a little taken aback by the comment. ‘Is that a problem?’
‘Are the females related or bound to one of you?’ the older man asked.
‘Nooo.’ John stretched out the vowel. ‘Is this a problem for you? Major Lorne didn’t say our medic couldn’t be female. We can leave and come back with a male doctor later if you prefer?’
A tug on his arm made John turn around to find Keller standing right behind him. ‘I told you to stay—’
‘Major Lorne’ report said there were several pregnant women in the village.’ Keller spoke over him, not bothering to keep her voice down. ‘If they’re infected with the virus, and if it is similar to rubella, it could cause miscarriages or deformities if they’re not treated now.’
The younger man continued to scowl, but the older man listened to Keller’s comments. ‘Perhaps we should withdraw to the council chamber?’ he suggested, waving his hand towards the building behind him.
John nodded. ‘Keller and Andrews with me,’ he said in a low voice. ‘Stacks and Markham, stay outside and stand guard. Usual off-world protocols. I’m not happy with the way this seems to be going. It’s making my gut twinge.’
John led the way into the council chamber which looked to him to be a shack with a table and chairs. He glanced around, marking the one exit, and took the seat close to the entrance, pointing the two medics to seats furthest from the door.
‘Keep quiet until we know what’s going on,’ he ordered in a low voice and turned his attention back to the two men who were joined by a heavily pregnant woman seated slightly to the rear of the two men.
‘I am Chief Councillor Merrin,’ the older man said. ‘This is Junior Councillor Merrin, my son.’
John nodded to each of them, noting the lack of introduction to the woman, but remained silent, remembering the advice Teyla had given him on first contact missions.
‘Permit them to speak first and explain their position before you begin negotiations for trade,’ she’d explained. ‘Only when you know their position can you counter it with a different offer.’
This might not be a trading situation, but he intended to follow Teyla’s advice. She hadn’t steered any of them wrong thus far.
‘In our society,’ Chief Merrin said, looking at John and ignoring the two medics at his side, ‘a female may not be in the company of a man unless accompanied by a member of her family.’
Like Islam, John thought. He’d had plenty of practice with Muslim societies in Iraq and Afghanistan.
‘Nor is a woman permitted to touch another person without the permission of her husband or senior family member,’ Chief Merrin continued. ‘Major Lorne explained the Tau’ri doctor would have to pierce the skin of my people to prevent the devastating red spot. Such intimacy by an unwed female is not permitted.’
‘Then we have a problem,’ John replied promptly. ‘Dr Keller and Nurse Andrews will have to touch your people to do the vaccinations. I’m not trained to do it, and nor are my men. We can come back with a male doctor to administer the drug, but it may be some time before we can do that.’
‘There is another way.’ Keller leaned forward to speak, again ignoring John’s earlier instructions, much to his irritation.
The two men opposite ignored her and continued to look at John, who sighed.
‘Please excuse me, Councillors,’ he said and turned to Keller. ‘What did I tell you?’
‘There’s another way we can do this,’ Keller repeated in a low voice. ‘Look, I’m worried about the pregnant women here. If they have to wait for the vaccines, it may be too late.’
‘While I’m sorry for them, that isn’t our problem, Dr Keller. We can get them inoculated today if they want, but as it is, there’s not much we can do.’
‘That’s discrimination, Colonel Sheppard. I thought more of you, and there is another way. If I were married, it wouldn’t be a problem.’
John frowned. ‘I’m not sure they’d believe us if we now told them you were married, or even related to one of us.’
‘They would if they performed the marriage ceremony.’
‘What! No one’s getting married just to give a few inoculations,’ John retorted, louder than he’d intended and drawing the attention of the two men opposite as well as Nurse Andrews who leaned forward to speak around Keller.
‘If the women are already pregnant, they shouldn’t be given the vaccine in any case, Dr Keller. You know how dangerous it could be.’
‘It’s less dangerous than almost certainly getting it without the vaccine,’ Keller retorted. ‘My idea is better. I marry Colonel Sheppard.’
Andrews frowned at Keller. ‘Why does it have to be the Colonel? Why not one of the Sergeants?’
‘Because…’ Keller paused. ‘Because…’
John shook his head and opened his mouth to speak when Stackhouse appeared at his side. ‘Nurse Andrews is right,’ he told Keller. ‘It doesn’t have to be the Colonel. I’ll do it. I don’t mind.’
Keller scowled at him, and the anger in her eyes and on her face made John shift uncomfortably.
‘You can’t, Sergeant,’ Keller told him. ‘It needs to be the Colonel.’
‘What?’ John demanded and frowned as her expression went from angry to triumphant. ‘Why?’
‘Because Sergeant Stackhouse is already in a relationship,’ Keller said with satisfaction.
‘As am I,’ John said dryly, but Keller simply waved that fact off.
‘This is acceptable,’ Chief Merrin interjected. ‘Our priest will be happy to perform such a ceremony, and then our women will be protected.’ He glanced at the woman behind him, who gave a hesitant smile but was careful not to look directly at John.
‘No!‘ John repeated, speaking not only to Chief Merrin. ‘It is not acceptable to me! And in any case, what about Nurse Andrews? She still won’t be able to touch the women, unless you suggest she marries Sergeant Stackhouse, Dr Keller?
‘She doesn’t matter.’ Keller waved away any possible problem with Andrews. ‘As long as I’m married, she won’t physically need to touch anyone. I can do that.’
John gazed at her, trying to work out why Keller was so insistent, something in her manner making John’s gut recoil.
‘I don’t like this, sir,’ Stackhouse said quietly. ‘Let’s come back with a male medic later.’
Just as John opened his mouth to respond, the woman seated behind the two councillors groaned and clutched her stomach.
‘See!’ Keller exclaimed. ‘She could already be infected.’
‘In which case, an inoculation would be useless,’ John pointed out. ‘And we’re not just talking about any old ceremony, Dr Keller. You’re asking me to marry you! What do you think Colonel Carter would say about it?’ Even as he said it, though, the argument sounded weak and selfish. There was also an unwritten policy in the SGC that what happened off-world stayed off-world, and he’d certainly heard rumours of off-world marriage ceremonies in the Milky Way. Thus far, in Pegasus, they’d managed to avoid such situations.
‘How soon can we do it?’ Keller asked Chief Merrin, and this time the man deigned to speak to her.
‘I can have our priest brought here right now.’
Within a matter of minutes, John found himself promising the Pegasean equivalent of ‘to have and to hold from this day forward’ and wondered how he was going to explain it all to McKay.
It turned out that McKay had plenty to say about it while Sam Carter just laughed when John made his initial report.
‘Welcome to the club,’ she told the two men, Rodney still grumbling quietly. ‘I’ve been married to Daniel, Teal’c, and General O’Neill. And on one memorable occasion, to all three of them in the same ceremony. Don’t worry, John. It happens, although I would have preferred to be told about it before it happened. Why didn’t you send Stackhouse or Markham back to the gate?’
‘It all happened so quickly,’ John muttered, scarlet-faced from Rodney’s rant about fluffy-haired idiots who had less sense than an amoeba, and stone-age Pegasean societies who had barely crawled out of the seas. ‘One minute I was telling Keller I’d get Lorne’s team to go back with a male medic and the next minute their priest was waving some sort of animal leg over our heads.’
‘An animal leg?’ Rodney paused in his tirade to ask a question.
‘Looked like it belonged to a woolly mammoth or something,’ John explained vaguely. ‘He seemed pretty attached to it, though, as Andrews found out when she tried to take a closer look. Chief Merrin said they’d have to get another one as her touch made it impure or something.’
This clarification simply changed the subject of McKay’s rant to one about sexist Pegasus societies. It all made John’s head ache.
‘Just make sure it’s all clear in your AAR, John,’ Sam told him and indicated her appreciation of Rodney’s removal from her office. John pushed his partner ahead of him, noting as he did so that it didn’t slow or stall Rodney’s rant one little bit.
John then promptly forgot all about his off-world wedding, especially as the city became involved in yet more fallout from the ‘Michael’ experiment when the Wraith-turned-human-turned-not-quite-Wraith-enough managed to kidnap the pregnant Teyla. With his concern for Teyla and the shock of finding Carson Beckett alive – albeit a clone version of Beckett – it was hardly surprising John thought no more about his wedding ceremony until Keller appeared in his office, several weeks later, asking to talk.
‘That’s never a good thing for a man to hear,’ John joked, tilting his chair back and rocking it slightly. ‘How I can help you?’
‘I did a little digging into the Atlantis Charter,’ Keller said as she seated herself, folding her hands carefully upon her knee.
‘And it would appear that whoever drew up this Charter forgot to include the section from the SGC Charter regarding off-world weddings.’
‘Wait. What?’ John brought his chair back down with a thud.
‘It would appear that our marriage is fully legal, John.’
Her use of his given name both shocked and convinced him. Keller was always careful to use his rank, which amused him at one time; it now sent a chill through him.
‘Surely it can be included retrospectively?’ he demanded. ‘It was purely for convenience. Neither of us wants to be married to the other.’
‘I thought we had every choice,’ Keller countered. ‘I believed you were perfectly happy to marry me; in fact, I’m very upset to think you lied to me.’
‘Whoa, what? I didn’t lie! There was no real discussion, even. The only way Merrin was going to allow you to inoculate his people was if you were married. I wanted to leave and let someone else return with a male medic, but you insisted the inoculations needed to be done right away. Neither of us thought it meant anything.’
‘I think you and I have very different recollections of the time spent on M79 P42,’ Keller told him primly.
John didn’t particularly like Keller, not least for her treatment of Ronon and their ‘almost’ kiss, as Ronon described it. We used to call it being a cock-tease. Now it appeared she was about to lie to…do what? Keep him tied to a marriage he didn’t want?
‘What about Andrews? She’ll tell the truth.’
Keller smirked at him. ‘Nurse Andrews remembers events exactly the way I do, John.’
John glared at her. “What’s this all about, Keller? You made a play for Ronon then tossed him aside. Am I your next target?’
‘You’re my husband, John. I will grant you a divorce, however, but only on my terms.’
‘Your terms? What does that mean?’ He watched her for a moment. ‘Money? Is that what this is all about?’ His lip curled. ‘What happened to ethics, Dr Keller?’
She flushed and jutted out her chin. ‘Think about it, and let me know what you decide.’
‘My decision is to tell you to go to hell!’
‘But the Air Force might not see it in the same way.’
‘Now you’re attempting to extort me? Get out, Keller, and don’t be so childish.’
Keller shrugged and got to her feet. ‘You’ll come round to my point of view eventually. You value your position on the city too much to jeopardise it, and my father has some pretty influential friends. Think about that!’
As soon as she’d gone, John clicked his radio to his private channel. ‘Rodney? Get down here now. Something’s happened.’
‘What sort of something? Wraith-like something or the city’s sinking something?’
‘Just get your ass down here, McKay!’ He breathed deeply for a few seconds then radioed to Sam. ‘Colonel? Can you come down to my office, please? A problem’s arisen, and I’d like your advice..’
‘On my way, John.’
‘She said what?!’ Rodney demanded after John finished explaining his earlier confrontation with Keller. ‘That’s ridiculous! She can’t possibly force you to acknowledge the marriage.’ He glared at Sam. ‘Can she?’
‘I’m not sure,’ Sam admitted. ‘It’s never come up before. Most off-world marriages are just ignored or joked about back on base. The SGC is covered by the clause in their charter though, and I’m astonished that it’s missing from the Atlantis one, especially as Daniel was involved in writing both of them.’ She flicked through the hard copy of the charter she’d found in the desk in her office. ‘This is the official copy signed by Dr Weir and General O’Neill. The original is back on Earth, of course, but they’ve both initialled each page of this which makes me believe it’s an official copy, but the off-world marriage clause isn’t in here.’
‘Nor in the copy on the server,’ Rodney agreed, waving his hand at his laptop. ‘I skimmed through it while you were checking the hard copy. How did it come to be missed out?’
‘I’m not sure, but I can only think it’s so unlikely anyone would insist on an off-world marriage being recognised that neither Daniel, Dr Weir nor the General thought it worth including.’
‘Which is absolute bollocks,’ Rodney retorted. ‘Every possible thing was itemised, including someone becoming invisible! When has that ever happened?’
‘Never, to my knowledge,’ Sam admitted. ‘But we’ve had body-switching a few times as well as multiple occupancies of a body: in both galaxies. The omission of marriage is very odd given how many times it’s happened to SG-1 alone.’
‘So I am actually married to that blackmailing bitch?’ John asked, burying his head in his hands. ‘Just my fucking luck.’
‘I’m sure we can get you out of it.’ Sam tried her best to comfort him, but it wasn’t working. ‘I’m puzzled at why she’s pressing it so much, though. It’ll only make you hate her, and it can’t be for financial reasons as the civilians are much better paid than the military.’
‘We’re paid very well,’ Rodney agreed, ‘but since his father passed away, Sheppard’s worth billions!’
‘What?’ Sam and John demanded simultaneously.
‘How’d you work that out?’ John asked Rodney. ‘My brother was the main beneficiary of Dad’s will.’
‘Perhaps, but you also said your granddaddy left you and your brother five per cent each of Sheppard Utilities stock.’
‘Well, yeah, but—’
‘And I’m guessing you’ve never looked at what that five per cent is worth, right?’
‘Well, no, but—’
‘I have some stock in SU, and going by the last statement I had from my financial advisor, your five per cent is worth around 8 billion dollars.’
‘I…What?!’ John stared at him in shock. ‘How can that be?’
‘You’re a fluffy-headed idiot, but you’re my fluffy-haired idiot,’ Rodney said fondly.
‘Fuck off, McKay. This is serious.’
‘It does put a rather different view on the situation,’ Sam said, rubbing her eyes tiredly. ‘I think it’s pretty clear what’s motivating Keller now, though. What I want to know is, how did she find out about John’s wealth? Even he didn’t know how much his stock was worth.’
‘No, but Ronon was quite vocal about the Sheppard mansion after they returned from the funeral, just one of their homes, he said. And about the subsequent shopping trip,’ Rodney explained.
‘He did?’ John demanded. ‘I never heard about it.’
‘Because Teyla and I shut it down. There was no malice intended, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out exactly which Sheppard family you belong to, and a little digging would reveal the rest.’
‘Are you saying Keller targeted me?’
Rodney shrugged. ‘It’s possible.’
‘She was rather insistent you accompany her to M79 P42,’ Sam said slowly.
‘But I’m pretty sure she didn’t arrange for Merrin to insist we be married. How could she?’
‘She might have thought it was a good opportunity for her to get to know you, though,’ Sam pointed out. ‘Before that mission, how many conversations had you had with her?’
John shrugged. ‘That wasn’t medical related? A couple, maybe? I didn’t like her from the get-go. She’s far too young to be dealing with my Marines although I’ve heard her called Dr Barbie rather than any of them harbouring serious feelings for her. And after that FUBAR with Elizabeth and the nanites?’ John shrugged again. ‘I considered requesting an experienced military medic to be honest, although now we’ve got Beckett—at least a version of Beckett – it might not be necessary. If we can get him squared away, that is. How am I going to get out of this mess?’
‘I need to speak to General O’Neill,’ Sam said thoughtfully. ‘And possibly Richard Woolsey.’
‘Woolsey?’ Rodney demanded. ‘Why do—’
‘He’s a lawyer, Rodney,’ Sam interrupted. ‘It’s not as though John can pick out a lawyer on Yelp, now, is it?’
‘Good point, unless…Do you already have a lawyer, John?’
John gave a snort of derision. ‘How likely is that? I’ve been out here for almost four years.’
‘So have I, but I have my own lawyer on Earth,’ Rodney retorted, and John heard him mumble ‘fluffy-haired idiot’ not entirely under his breath so reached over and slapped the back of his head.
‘Cut it out, McKay.’
‘You’re so sweet,’ Sam said grinning at them. ‘We need to get John a divorce so you two can get married.’
The resulting pair of scowls made her laugh all the way down the corridor away from John’s office.
Sam’s first job on returning to her office was to write a long email to Daniel and Jack, aware she probably needed Daniel’s help to sort this out. She then wrote a short, but more serious – and less abusive – email to Richard Woolsey, encrypting both with a code Daniel would be able to translate, and leaving it to him to forward Woolsey’s email. She then radioed Chuck to summon Stackhouse and Markham and to scrounge coffee and cake from the mess.
Chuck nodded and grinned at her from his place on the control deck, making her grin back, but also reminding her of how much she missed Walter Harriman and the SGC. And Jack and Daniel, she added mentally, aware of how important this placement was to her career, but still missing her friends. She gave a deep sigh then pulled herself together and brought up the video feed for the infirmary.
Sam watched Keller move around and noted her interactions with the staff. It was clear Nurse Andrews was avoiding Keller, twice dodging into a closet when she saw Keller approach her position. I’m guessing John isn’t the only one being coerced.
A knock on the doorframe brought her from her meditative state, and she smiled at the coffee carafes and plate of cakes Chuck was bearing.
‘Make sure you take enough cakes for the control deck,’ Sam told him.
‘No need, ma’am. The mess sent a plate up for us as well.’
He set them out on her desk just as Stackhouse and Markham arrived, seating themselves as she waved off their formal greeting.
‘Help yourselves,’ she told them, pouring herself a mug of coffee and settling back in her chair.
The two Marines were amongst the most popular people on the city, with both the military and the civilian populations. Both relics of the original expedition, Markham almost died when his jumper was shot down by a lone Wraith dart in the first year, and following his recovery, it was rare for one of the partners to go off-world without the other. They’d also been the first couple on Atlantis to move into joint quarters after the repeal of DADT.
‘I was hoping you could tell me more about the mission on M29 4HV with Colonel Sheppard and Dr Keller,’ she said, looking between them.
The two men looked puzzled.
‘I know what you put in your reports, gentlemen, but I’m hoping there’s something you recalled afterwards,’ she explained, not wanting to divulge too much of John’s private business.
‘It’s all in either our reports or on the recordings, ma’am,’ Stackhouse assured her. ‘The Colonel asked us to keep our radios open when he went into the Council Chamber so we could follow what was happening, and I put mine on to record so we wouldn’t miss anything.’
Markham nodded. ‘I did too.’
Sam’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Record? I wasn’t aware there was a recording facility!’
‘Dr Zelenka set it up after the Genii invaded the city,’ Markham explained, glancing at his partner. ‘When Kolya’s goons held Dr Weir and Dr McKay hostage and the Colonel had to hunt down the Geni. The Colonel said afterwards it would have been helpful to record it all, so Dr Z adapted the radios. Maybe he forgot to adapt the newer ones?’
‘I’ll look into it afterwards,’ Sam said, making a note. ‘You recorded the whole discussion inside the Council Chamber?’
‘There’s a file on the server we download them into. I guess it’s second nature to all the first wave people and got forgotten afterwards. It all got a little hectic after the Wraith siege.’
‘Hold that thought,’ Sam told him, and clicked her radio to ask Zelenka to join them.’
While they waited for Zelenka, they chatted idly about the differences on the city from the first year.
‘I know we had to ration food sometimes, and until the SGC sent Colonel Everett with the ZPM we had little power, but the first year here was…’ Stackhouse paused.
‘More fun,’ Markham finished for him. ‘Even with all the problems and the Wraith, and not knowing if we’d ever make contact with Earth again. We were all much closer to each other.’
‘We were all any of us had, if that makes sense, ma’am.’
‘It does,’ Sam nodded. ‘The early days of the SGC were similar. I don’t think you ever served there, but after we grew so much, it became impossible to know everyone as we did at first.’
‘No, we came directly from a second tour in Afghanistan. We both have a natural ATA gene, you see,’ Markham told her. ‘We were tested and posted to the SGC a couple of weeks before the Expedition left Earth.’
Sam nodded, recalling testing for the ATA gene became standard policy for the armed forces soon after John’s super-gene was discovered two months before the expedition left, and she opened her mouth to explain this when Zelenka arrived, his eyes lighting up at the sight of the coffee. Fortunately for the others, Chuck appeared with a third carafe and a mug for Zelenka.
‘Tell me about the recording option on the radios, Radek. I didn’t know they could record.’
‘Was something we did in first year, yes?’ Radek told her, nose buried deep in his coffee. ‘Ah, nectar!’
Sam couldn’t help laughing. ‘Don’t you have coffee in the labs? I thought all scientists existed on coffee and power bars.’
‘Ano, ano, but Rodney, he is angry and has locked coffee away.’
‘Ah. I’ll have a word with him about cruel and unusual torture,’ Sam promised, still grinning. ‘Now tell me about the recording feature…’
After Zelenka and the two Marines left her office, Sam opened her email to Daniel and Jack to add the extra information she’d discovered.
‘It’s all quite clear on the recordings. John protested the wedding, but Keller insisted the inoculations be done there and then otherwise the babies and mothers would be at risk. Apparently, the woman in the chamber was the wife of the younger Merrin – something I didn’t realise before – meaning the councillors were even keener to get the whole village vaccinated, especially as the wife was experiencing some discomfort. There’d already been a couple of miscarriages which Keller put down to the virus, but after listening to the symptoms described on the recording and with hindsight, I’m not convinced. Keller made her case sufficiently convincing at the time to make John think he had no other option, especially as he believed the clause regarding off-world weddings was in the Charter.
‘What I don’t understand is why it isn’t in there. Much of the Charter is lifted directly from the SGC Charter, so why was it cut?
‘We have the evidence of the audio files though, so we have a good chance of getting the thing overturned, especially as it was never consummated. And, yes, I have copied the recordings to a private file and locked the main file down to prevent editing or deletion. Only Radek, Rodney, and I can now make any changes, and in the next couple of days I’ll write a new protocol for using the radios, and I’ll send it to the SGC. If John had recorded what was happening with Marshall Sumner’s rescue, for example, a lot of heartache would have been avoided.
‘I really want to get Keller off the city, but I think keeping a close eye on her is the better option, plus I don’t want John’s private affairs spread around. At present, I suspect she thinks it’s in her best interest to stay quiet. Her career with the Stargate programme is over, though. The IOA might object, but you’ll back me up Jack, won’t you? Despite her father’s ‘influential friends’. I’m furious John’s been put in this position and that I’m so helpless.
‘Keeping Rodney from killing her will be difficult. She’ll never have hot water in her rooms and John and Rodney, as well as the two Sergeants, have changed their Doctor of record to Eliza Biro, and unsurprisingly, so have I. I suspect a few others will too once the news spreads, and we know it will. I hope I can keep it from spreading to the SGC, at least for a while.
Wrapping up her email to her partners, Sam closed her computer and sat thinking for a while, her chin resting on her hands. The situation with Keller made her angry and…dirty? No. Unclean. Totally different. How could a professional, who had worked to get both her MD and a position on Atlantis, behave in such a way?
Furthermore, Sam intended to keep the ‘unconsummated’ part of the so-called marriage very private, and would have a word with Rodney and Lorne about keeping John safe. And now I feel even more unclean.
Her mind now made up, she radioed to Rodney and Lorne to come to her office – as surreptitiously as possible: John did not need to know about this conversation.
‘No, Rodney, you can’t arrange an accident for her,’ Sam repeated tiredly.
‘I don’t know, ma’am,’ Lorne said thoughtfully. ‘It’d solve a whole heap of problems.’
‘See!’ Rodney crowed. ‘Lorne agrees with me.’
‘Hell, I agree with you, Rodney,’ Sam told him. ‘It’s impossible, though. Imagine the enquiries, the guilt, the sheer amount of paperwork!’
‘That’s true.’ Lorne nodded thoughtfully. ‘What about the Alpha site? We could send her there. Major Maxwell’s in charge for the next two weeks and then Anne Teldy takes over. I can rearrange the duty roster to suit us.’
‘John would hate for his business to be broadcast, especially amongst his Officer Corps,’ Rodney pointed out.
‘They won’t have to know details, just that Keller’s a threat to him. They won’t ask questions.’
‘Are you sure?’ Sam asked. ‘I’d’ve asked questions in a similar situation.’
Lorne smiled at her. ‘You don’t understand how everyone feels about the Colonel, ma’am. It’s not like the SGC at all. If…’ He paused. ‘Permission to speak frankly, ma’am?’
‘Go ahead,’ Sam agreed, curious to know where this was going.
Lorne smiled gratefully. ‘Atlantis is very different to anywhere I’ve served before. You’ve only been here a few months, ma’am, but I’m sure you’ve felt the…closeness of those who’ve been here for some time. Even more so between the original expedition. The SGC had some dicey moments, but when it was all over, we went home and slept, even those of us who lived on base.
‘It’s different here. We live and die together, and those who’ve put their lives on the line for everyone countless times, like the Colonel, and Dr McKay… We all owe our lives to them. And the battalion would follow the Colonel into a burning building, ma’am. Hell, some of us have. It’s way beyond respect and gratitude. Every single person under the Colonel, and many of those outside the Battalion, would die for him. There’s no problem about questions if they know it’s to help Colonel Sheppard. We’d do anything for him.’
There was a silence after Lorne finished speaking, and Sam found she had tears in her eyes. If only General Landry could hear that accolade.
”course, it doesn’t mean most of us don’t want to shoot McKay sometimes,’ Lorne added, relieving the tension and making Sam and Rodney laugh. ‘Myself included!’
‘You must enjoy cold showers, Major,’ Rodney told him, but his look of pride removed the venom from his words.
‘Love you too, McKay.’ Lorne looked at Sam. ‘So, are you happy to send her to the Alpha site?’
Sam grinned at him. ‘More than happy, Major. And thank you. For everything.’
Lorne stood up and saluted. ‘Any time, ma’am.’ He was already talking on his radio as he left the office.
Rodney, however, remained seated, still looking nonplussed at Lorne’s speech.
‘You okay?’ Sam asked.
‘I’m fine, I just…’
‘Yeah. I understand. Y’know, you’ve changed tremendously since we first met.’
‘Since I hit on you and got sent to Siberia for my efforts, you mean.’
Sam chuckled. ‘You called me a dumb blond.’
‘Compared to me, you are!’
‘You were right, you know.’
‘I’m almost always right, but about what in particular?’
‘About the gate and the 48 hours,’ Sam admitted. ‘You were right, and you were right about the dialling computer too.’
‘But I was wrong enough that you were able to get Teal’c out safely.’
‘You’ve changed from the arrogant man I first met.’
Rodney raised his eyebrows.
‘Atlantis has changed you. It changes everyone who comes here, but it’s changed you in particular, Rodney. The old McKay would have spluttered about always being right, but you actually admitted you could sometimes be wrong.’
‘I didn’t say that. I said—’
‘That you were almost always right, I heard.’ Sam considered him carefully. ‘Atlantis has been good for you. You’ve found your place in the universe.’
‘It took John to help me,’ Rodney said quietly. ‘I can’t lose him, Sam. Not to a bitch like Keller. If she persists with this, and O’Neill can’t do anything, we’ll lose him. He’ll either go back to Earth and disappear, or he’ll disappear in this galaxy. Either way, Atlantis will lose him.’
‘I know. And that’s why I’ll be doing my utmost to save him. For you and everyone on Atlantis, but mostly for you.’
Rodney smiled at her, a real, genuine smile, then, much to her surprise, he leaned over and pressed a kiss to her cheek. ‘Thank you.’
Initially, John was confused as to where Keller had disappeared. Rodney brushed him off when asked, and Teyla and Ronon clearly didn’t know. Finally, he tapped on the open door of Sam’s office.
‘Got time for a chat?’
Sam looked up from her computer and smiled. ‘For you, John, always. Come in and close the door. Want some coffee?’
John shook his head and sank into one of the chairs in front of her desk, remaining silent but watching her thoughtfully.
‘What’s happened to Keller?’
Sam sat back in her chair and folded her hands together. ‘I wondered when you’d notice. She’s at the Alpha site and will remain there until I get a response from the SGC.’
‘Doesn’t it leave us rather short-handed in the infirmary? Even if Carson is now able to resume work.’
‘You only had Carson and Eliza Biro in your first year.’
‘But we had considerably fewer people. Don’t keep her off-world just to help me, Sam.’
‘You know,’ Sam began conversationally, ‘this is exactly what Rodney and Teyla said would happen when you found out where she was.’
‘You don’t always have to put other people first, John,’ Sam said in as soft a voice as he’d ever heard her use. ‘You are allowed to have feelings, and you are allowed to express them. Occasionally at least.’
‘So whose idea was it? Rodney’s?’
‘No, actually it wasn’t. And that’s all I’m going to say about it. I don’t want someone with the morals of a polecat on this city.’
John sat for a moment, thinking this through and finally nodded. ‘Okay, works for me,’ he said easily and got to his feet.
‘That’s it?’ Sam asked with a grin. ‘Just ‘okay’?’
John shrugged. ‘Would nagging and whining make any difference?’
‘No.’ Sam was outright laughing now.
‘Then, permission to be dismissed, ma’am!’
Sam threw a paperclip at him. ‘Get out of here, Colonel.’
The awaited reply came in the databurst from Earth while the Daedalus was still two days out and explained that General O’Neill and Daniel Jackson were aboard. A feeling of joy and anticipation swept through Sam, and, in private, she hugged herself tightly in glee. In public, it was more difficult. She was no longer in Jack’s direct line of command, she hadn’t been for some time, and the three were now freely able to begin their long-awaited love affair. However, she still had no desire to flaunt her relationship and pondered how to arrange accommodation for her visitors.
An unexpected ally appeared, however, in the form of Major Lorne who suggested the General and Doctor – who were quite open about their relationship since DADT was abolished – would be more comfortable in the room next to Sam’s rather than in the more remote VIP rooms which also happened to be where the visiting officers were quartered. Sam grinned at Lorne, unable to keep her happiness inside, and was rewarded with a wink which told her their relationship wasn’t as secret as she had supposed.
Given the more relaxed atmosphere of Atlantis, outside of an emergency, she decided to ignore the inference and planned a private dinner for the three of them on the second night. The first night would be the usual formal dining-in or Mess night, held whenever the Daedalus made port, and the only time three different dining rooms were used. The Officers dining-in had begun early in the second year, with the Enlisted – all enlisted, not just the senior rates – beginning soon after, all enjoying private time together with their peers in a formal setting, free to indulge in traditions and customs of their services. The remaining civilians appeared unaware there were no military personnel in the main mess hall other than the servers. Bless them.
Sam could barely conceal her excitement as the Daedalus landed gently on the East pier, quite unaware of the understanding and amused glances from the senior staff present, all of whom either knew or guessed at her eagerness, and when Jack and Daniel emerged from the ship, Lorne and Anne Teldy enabled them all to escape with little notice after their formal welcome.
Sam led her partners through Atlantis by routes she knew would be deserted.
‘City’s looking better than she did the last time I was here,’ Jack commented, looking around. ‘There’s a distinct lack of holes in the walls for a start.’
‘Stop rubbing it in,’ Daniel told him. ‘I only got a couple of days here when we were Sangraal-hunting eighteen months ago.’
‘Is it really only eighteen months?’ Sam asked in surprise. ‘It feels like much longer.’
‘Is your time here dragging?’ Jack was curious.
‘Not at all, it simply flies by. A crisis every week without fail.’
‘That’s the Stargate programme for you,’ he grinned, and, after a quick look around, caught hold of her hand and squeezed it. ‘I’ve missed you.’
‘We‘ve missed you,’ Daniel corrected, capturing her other hand. ‘What’s the programme for today? I understand there’s a formal dinner for officers and guests.’
‘As formal as we get here,’ Sam hedged. ‘Best uniform available, not necessarily dress uniforms for a start. Suit and tie, or cocktail dress for the civilians who attend. John usually manages formal uniform, particularly since he and McKay have been living together.’
‘I can’t argue with Rodney’s priorities,’ Daniel said with a grin. ‘There is something about a uniform that heats the blood. And I’ll have two of them to look at tonight!’
‘Where’re we bunking?’ Jack asked, looking around as they exited one of the transporters. ‘This isn’t the VIP area.’
‘No, you’re in the room next to mine,’ Sam told him with a shy smile. ‘Major Lorne thought you might prefer being there.’
Jack looked at her in surprise. ‘Lorne knows about us?’
‘I’m not sure he knows, but he clearly suspects.’
‘And you’re okay with that?’
‘Since he’s shacked up with David Parish and Miko Kusanagi, I’m perfectly fine about it.’
‘Go Miko and Parish!’ Daniel said with a grin and waggled his eyebrows. ‘I’ve showered with Lorne!’
‘Really?’ Jack asked. ‘Huh.’
‘You’re both terrible people, and I’m ashamed to be associated with you.’
‘Nah, you’re not.’ Jack told her, slinging his arm around her shoulder and pulling her towards him to press a kiss to her forehead. Now, which is ours?’
They stopped before the only two doors in the corridor. Sam pressed her hand against the door device, and it slid open.
‘You’re both next door, but this is me.’
Daniel was through the open door before she finished speaking. His love for Atlantis had clearly not diminished.
‘Wow!’ he said, turning around, looking at the large, sunny sitting room. ‘This is much better than the VIP quarters.’
San grinned at him. ‘I know. They were Dr Weir’s quarters originally, and Rodney was furious when he saw them initially. Most folk in the first year were crammed into tiny rooms no bigger than a shoebox. Tiny didn’t even begin to describe Sheppard’s first bed. His legs hung over the end; it was so small. Rodney’s wasn’t much better, so I believe them when they said they didn’t get together before DADT was repealed. The beds were simply too small.’
‘So how did Elizabeth get to live here?’ Jack asked, looking around, then walking to the large windows opening onto a larger balcony.
‘I’ve no idea,’ Sam admitted. ‘It’s so very close to a transporter I suspect no one knew where she lived. If needed, she could be in the control room before the other senior staff so the subject probably never came up. Whatever the reason, I was pretty happy to keep it.’
‘I should say. Is the room next door like it?’
‘Not quite as big. Just one bedroom for a start. I have two, so I’ve converted one into a small lab for myself.’
Jack grinned at her. ‘You’re looking good, Sam. Being here suits you.’
‘It does,’ she agreed. ‘I’m glad it’s only for a year, though. I doubt I’d want to stay here much longer.’
Daniel looked puzzled. ‘Why on earth not? It’s a fantastic city.’
‘I don’t disagree, but I don’t have the ATA gene, and the artificial gene didn’t work. I don’t have a sniff of Ancient in my past.’
‘I don’t have the gene either,’ Daniel pointed out.
‘No, but being ascended has given you something. The city responds to you, to both of you. It doesn’t respond to me, and that’s the difference. I’ll be happy to return to Earth in a few months.’
Jack nodded and settled himself on one of the sofas. ‘What’s happened to Keller? I didn’t see her when we arrived, which reminds me, do we need to get checked out by medical?’
Sam shook her head. ‘You’ve both been cleared by Dr Berkeley on the Daedalus. He sent me a list of those he’d cleared as soon as you got within distance. It’s a protocol Carson set up in the second year as there’re far too many people on Daedalus for the infirmary here to manage. The chief medic onboard tests the senior crew and any passengers before the ship lands leaving only the enlisted crew to do when they arrive, and they’re kept on board until they’re cleared to enter the city. It keeps the infirmary staff here available for their own people.’
Jack nodded again. ‘Tell me about Keller, then.’
‘She’s at the Alpha site. I sent her off-world the day she approached John.’
Sam made herself comfortable on the sofa opposite Jack, Daniel slipping in beside her. ‘The best way to get John out of this wretched situation is by an annulment, meaning I had to ensure the marriage wasn’t consummated, and I don’t trust Keller not to try something terrible.’
‘Jesus,’ Jack muttered, scrubbing his face with his hands. ‘You really think she’d go that far?’
‘For a share of eight billion dollars? You bet I do.’
‘That’s…’ Daniel trailed off and shook his head. ‘I don’t even know.’
‘So what’s the situation, Jack? Can we get him out of this?’
Sam closed her eyes and released a breath she wasn’t aware she was holding. ‘Thank god!’
‘I’ve spoken to the IOA and the President, and none of them were happy. Mr Keller had begun to make some waves in Congress, but they were stamped out pretty quickly. He tried in the Senate too, but either didn’t have the friends he thought he had, or they refused to help him.’
Sam was aware of Jack’s eyes upon her, so she looked up and smiled at him.
‘It really got to you, didn’t it?’
Sam nodded. ‘John Sheppard is Atlantis in every way that matters. His people are loyal to him beyond anything I’ve ever seen before, even at the SGC with General Hammond. McKay too.’
‘Whoever replaces me needs to be briefed about the importance of Sheppard, McKay to Atlantis. The President himself could come out here as Commander, but the city will always belong to John and Rodney. I’d go so far as to recommend they never be removed from here unless they request it. The city herself adores John Sheppard, and Rodney isn’t far behind.’
‘Herself? The city is sentient?’ Daniel asked.
Jack shot him a puzzled look. ‘Can’t you feel it? Huh! I guess your ascended bits aren’t that strong after all.’
‘Or…’ Sam began thoughtfully. ‘Or Danny’s ability to make Ancienty things work comes from the Ancients themselves.’
‘Well, duh!’ Jack commented. ‘He was ascended, Sam.’
‘I know, but…’ She searched for the words to explain what she meant. ‘John Sheppard is the strongest gene carrier we’ve ever found, right?’
Both men nodded.
‘On paper, Rodney’s gene is way weaker than John’s and is artificial. His communication and synergy with Atlantis are almost on par with John’s, though. Atlantis recognises him as she does John. Lights are brighter; doors open faster. Rodney can get more out of the database than anyone else on the city bar John. None of that is down to his genius – and I’m willing to admit now that he’s way cleverer than me. Their relationship with Atlantis is like no one else’s. They’ve also saved the city and everyone here more times than I can count, which makes them almost…royalty here.’
Jack and Daniel watched her for a moment, and then Daniel turned to Jack. ‘Let’s never tell the IOA that, ever.’
‘So it’s all over?’ John asked for the second time.
Jack nodded. ‘It’s all over. Keller will go back to Earth on the Daedalus with us, and she’ll never set foot inside the SGC or anything connected with the SGC ever again. Her complete lack of morals shocked even the IOA.’
John grinned at that.
‘I wasn’t sure the IOA would recognise a moral if it hit them on their collective asses, but I guess I was wrong,’ Jack continued, sipping the coffee Chuck brought to Sam’s office earlier.
They’d decided not to keep Sheppard in suspense and, after a brief interlude – and a shower – Sam, Jack and Daniel had joined Sheppard and McKay in the office to discuss John’s situation.
‘We’ re still unsure why the clause regarding off-world weddings was cut from the Atlantis Charter,’ Daniel explained. ‘I certainly added it, and Jack didn’t notice it missing when he signed it with Dr Weir.’
Jack waved his hand, dismissing Daniel’s words. ‘That doesn’t matter. It’s in now, and a copy has been sent to everyone on Atlantis signed by both myself and Daniel as well as the IOA. The Chinese rep tried to do a little side negotiating, but everything’s hunky-dory now. Keller’s already on the Daedalus with a rotation of guards on duty. So,’ he asked, with a swift change of subject. ‘Any pie in the mess?’
John laughed and nudged Rodney’s shoulder. ‘Want to get married now I’m a free man?’
Rodney looked thoughtful. ‘Will you wear your dress-blues if I agree?’
‘Oh, no, Colonel fancy-pants! If I’m marrying you, I want the whole shebang—flower girl – Madison, of course. Dave’s kids can be page-boys. And I want…’
Sam watched them squabble with a smile on her face. She fitted in on Atlantis better than she had imagined, and while she desperately missed Jack and Daniel, she’d made new friendships which she hoped would be just as rewarding as her old ones were.
”Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage,” she quoted silently to herself. That could have been written with John and Rodney in mind. Or maybe Jack, Daniel and myself.