Title: Janus Two Step
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis, Stargate: SG1, Sherlock, The Losers
Genre: Action Adventure, Crossover, Episode Related, First Time, Humor, Slash, Time Travel
Relationship(s): John Sheppard/Rodney McKay
Content Rating: Mature
Warnings: Violence – Canon Typical
Author Notes: Can be found at the end of the story. But… Thank you to everyone who helped put this together. You all are amazing people.
Beta: Jilly and Keira
Word Count: 50,945
Summary: Janus is a pain in the ass and John wanted to punch him
Rodney was neck deep in the construction of a naquadah generator when he was unexpectedly interrupted by his third in command. “Why in the hell are we changing out the science lists this late in the game, McKay?” Kusanagi asked.
“Because we got a heads up from the Outpost that Atlantis is going to need repair to be functional, Kusanagi. Didn’t you get the memo?” Rodney asked.
“Yes, but I wasn’t sure if you were blowing hot air up our asses,” his third in command admitted.
“When have you ever known me to blow hot air up anyone’s ass?” he demanded. He wasn’t that PC.
Kusanagi walked over to his bench and handed him a spanner. “Never. So the Outpost gave up information on Atlantis?”
“To the newest ATA gene holder, yes,” Rodney admitted. “He’s a major in the Air Force, has a doctorate in math and seems like a good pilot. The Outpost likes him more than O’Neill.”
“The Outpost likes O’Neill more than me, so that’s saying something,” Kusanagi complained. “Has Beckett gotten at him?”
“Yeah, first thing,” Rodney confirmed. “Beckett thinks that he’ll be able to finish his treatment to activate the recessive ATA in people shortly.”
“That’s good to know. Is Beckett on the list of people who will be left behind because they’re theorists?” Kusanagi asked. She moved over to a new workbench and started assembling her own generator.
“By almost every standard he should be,” Rodney admitted. “But he’s the best we’ve got at the ATA gene, and Weir is pushing hard to keep him on the expedition.”
“I did his background check, McKay, and I don’t want him on this trip with us,” Kusanagi told him bluntly.
Rodney looked over at Miko in surprise. She had never seemed to have problems with Carson in the previous timeline. “Why?”
“Because he’s been a researcher since shortly after he graduated med school. While he was in school, he did only the bare minimum of patient interaction. Add in how he looks at every single one of us ATA gene carriers? It’s like we’re science experiments to him. He’s asked more than a dozen times to get ovum from me to further his research. He’s also asked for bone marrow. I’ve declined both requests. And I’m never going to agree.” She growled.
“For fuck’s sake,” Rodney closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was learning all sorts of things that he never wanted to know about people he had respected in the last timeline. Thinking things over, he winced. “Do you think he’s asked O’Neill for a sperm sample? Given that the general has a higher percentage of the ATA than he does?”
The look Kusanagi gave him was filled with horror. “Do you think he’s that stupid?”
Rodney stared back at her. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure he is.”
“If he hasn’t, make sure that he doesn’t. Because O’Neill won’t have any sort of a sense of humor about that. Let alone what Jackson will do,” Kusanagi ordered. “And don’t let him have any of yours, either before or after you get the therapy.”
Looking back on it, Rodney had to wince. He had readily given up all the body fluids Carson had ever asked for. And never questioned why the geneticist had wanted them. He had a nagging urge to find out what the Scotsman was up to. “Should we take a look and see what he’s been up to?”
“Well, you are the CSO, so you should know what he’s been doing,” Kusanagi reminded him. “And if you don’t, you have the authority to find out.”
“Point,” Rodney drew in a deep breath and nodded once. “Once we get these done, I’ll call him in and pin him down.”
“Better you than me,” Kusanagi admitted. She started working on her generator in earnest.
Rodney snorted softly. “I hate you so much.”
* * * *
“Carson, thanks for coming in,” Rodney said as he watched the Scot walk into his underused office. He had gone to Carter to figure out where she had stashed him. The colonel had laughed her ass off at his predicament.
“I don’t have the therapy ready, Rodney,” Carson admitted. “And with you and Dr. Weir constantly interrupting me, I won’t get it done anytime soon.”
Rodney suppressed a start of surprise a that news. “Is Weir pressing on you to get this done?”
Carson pulled the chair out across from Rodney at his desk and sat down. “Yes, she is. She thinks that if I can improve upon what I’ve got, she’ll be able to use the ATA gene.”
Rodney tilted his head to the side and thought about it. “But your report said she was 100 percent human, without even a trace of Ancient lineage.”
“True, she doesn’t have anything for me to work with to activate. I can activate your heritage now, but Dr. Weir had demanded that no one get the therapy unless I can make it work for her,” Carson admitted.
“What?” Rodney asked. He had ever heard of this. “Have you written reports on your progress?”
“Of course,” Carson looked insulted.
“I’ve never seen one, Carson,” Rodney informed him. “I need you to send myself and Carter all of your reports on your work on the therapy. Every bit of it.”
“Dr. Weir has been getting them, Rodney. Why do you need to see them?” Carson asked. He looked insulted at the demand.
“Last I knew, Dr. Weir was the administrator for the expedition, not the Chief Science Officer for it. I am technically your boss, Carson, and I need to know what you’ve been up to,” Rodney snapped. Things were worse than he had thought.
“But neither of you are a medical doctor!” Carson protested.
“Neither is Weir!” Rodney reminded him. “And while I don’t have a degree in medicine, I know more than most. I want the reports right after this meeting, and I want all of them. If Carter has a problem with any of the research, she can check in with the doctors here.”
“You’re unreasonable,” Carson groused. He seemed resigned, and Rodney tried not to growl.
“How is making sure you have oversight being unreasonable?” Rodney demanded. “Every single reputable scientist has oversight. Otherwise, they’re mad scientists, and there’s no place for one of those in the SGC!”
Carson looked constipated. “What does that make you, then?”
“A reputable scientist since Carter gets my reports. While we’re here, she’s my boss. Suck it up, Carson,” Rodney growled. “You aren’t to go any further on your research until we review everything.”
“Fine,” Carson gave in with ill grace.
* * * *
“You wanted to see us, McKay?” O’Neill asked as he settled into a chair at the conference room table.
“Yeah, I did.” McKay looked ill, and John wondered what his friend had been up to.
They had had meeting after meeting to get everything ironed out. He was far more comfortable sitting at the table than he had ever had been before. He also knew more about the supplies for the expedition. Looking around, he noticed that someone was missing. “Where’s Dr. Weir?”
“When you called for the meeting, I set it up for now, she never responded,” O’Neill told him with a shrug.
“That might be for the best,” Rodney said grimly. “Carter, did you read the reports from Beckett?”
“I did. And I had to get help with some sections, but I managed to through it,” Carter admitted. “Did anyone else?”
“I managed to get through my copies, but I had some questions,” O’Neill commented. “What did I read?”
“That’s what we’re figuring out,” Rodney admitted. “Colonel? Major? How about you?”
“None of my degrees are anywhere close to medicine, so I know I missed a great deal of those reports,” Sumner admitted. “What’s got you concerned?”
“I’m content to listen to whatever Colonel Carter and Dr. McKay have to say,” John said as he sat back in his chair.
“So, I finally pinned Beckett down on what he’s been doing with his research into the ATA gene,” Rodney started. “He’s got a therapy that should work for those of us with the recessive ATA gene. It looks like it would be safe, consistent, and, above all, successful.”
“Then why hasn’t he put forth a proposal to get this thing out to the people identified as recessive carriers?” O’Neill asked. He was leaning forward, and John was certain he was chasing an answer.
“Because Dr. Weir has been the one to get all the reports he’s been producing for the last six months. The last report I got from him was more than eight months ago and, in that, he stated that while he was close to a therapy, he hadn’t hit on the correct carrier,” Rodney admitted. “I took him at his word and left him alone, thinking he was still plugging away without results.”
“But come to find out, he’s further along than we thought and had been reporting to Weir,” Carter took up the tale. “She directed him to only report to her so she could keep an eye the research.”
“Why does that sound fishy?” Sumner mused as he tapped the pile of reports before him.
“Because Weir has even less education in the medical sciences than you do?” McKay said gruffly. He sounded irritated, and John was mildly worried that he would let his temper free. Tact wasn’t the Canadian’s best feature. “Carson has admitted that Weir wanted him to hold onto the therapy until he could come up with a way to give her a complete ATA gene on par with your own, General.”
“She’s too human,” John blurted out. He had suspected that Weir was jealous of the ATA carriers on Atlantis, but this was more than he had expected.
Carter flashed him a sharp look at his outburst. “How did you know?”
“The Outpost has sensors that can detail who’s got the correct ancestry or not. It was really happy with the general, Jackson, and me, but frustrated with McKay and Grodin. The rest of the people there, it tolerated. As for Beckett? He interacted with the computer only grudgingly, and it treated him much the same,” John admitted.
“Isn’t that interesting,” O’Neill murmured. “Apparently, Ancient tech likes Daniel as much as the squidy bastards do?”
“I haven’t met an Ancient that I know of, General, so I can’t say for certain,” John admitted.
“Most aliens like Daniel, sir, that’s a fact of life,” Carter reminded her CO. “It’s not really a surprise that alien tech likes him too.”
“Try all of them, Colonel. Seriously, I’ve yet to meet one that doesn’t want to keep him,” the general muttered quietly. He cleared his throat and let his voice return to a normal level. “So Weir wants to be able to access Ancient tech, and she talked Beckett around to giving her access to his reports without passing it on to McKay as his boss, and we lost all the updates on what he’s up to.”
“And Beckett clued into the freedom. He decided to look into some more areas only vaguely related to the research he was contracted for,” McKay confirmed. “He’s asked Dr. Kusanagi for ovum and bone marrow more than a dozen times. I can’t say for certain if he’s asked for sperm samples from anyone.”
“I haven’t given any,” O’Neill admitted. “Major?”
“I’ve given blood, but that’s about it. I haven’t completed my intake physical for the SGC,” John admitted. He made a mental note not to give any fluids to the medical department without finding out why.
“McKay?” the general looked at the Canadian.
“I’ve given three samples in the last year, but I never thought much of it. I’ve worked with some high radiation power sources, so making sure I’m not firing mutants has always seemed like a logical thing to do,” McKay admitted. “I don’t know if Carson got a hold of any of my contribution, but I don’t see why he would have been interested in mine. I’m currently recessive, and he knows it. Now if I get the therapy? I’m sure he’s going to want a sample to see if there’s been a change.”
“Fucking fantastic,” O’Neill said. The general leaned back and started to swing his chair from side to side. “If he’s that far under Weir’s thumb here on Earth, there’s no telling what he would be willing to do. I don’t want him in charge of the medical department, let alone on the expedition. But it’s not up to me, the IOA is still insisting on him going.”
John winced. That wasn’t good. “Then it’s a good thing Captain Watson has signed on to the expedition and has agreed to take over the medical department, isn’t it?”
“Why wasn’t I included in this meeting?” Weir demanded as she opened the door to the conference room.
The general stared at her and raised one eyebrow. “I’m very certain I saw your name on the email invitation, Dr. Weir. It’s not our job to fetch you for the meetings we hold.”
Weir glared at the general before turning her ire on McKay. “As my Second, you need to keep me up to date on what is happening, Dr. McKay.”
“I am not your secretary, Dr. Weir,” McKay ground out. “And while I am the CSO of the expedition and second in command under you, I am not going to do your job on top of my own. You need to own your responsibilities and not pass them off onto someone else.”
“Until I get a secretary, you’re it,” Weir smiled, voice sweet and vaguely poisonous to John’s ears.
“No,” Rodney snapped.
“Doctors,” John stepped in after a swift glance at Sumner. The colonel waved a hand at him, giving him permission to continue. “This meeting isn’t supposed to be a pissing contest on who does what task. But I will say that everyone is responsible for doing their own job, and McKay’s is to do science, not secretarial work.”
“I’m his supervisor, Major. I can reassign him as needed,” Weir snapped.
“You can’t, actually,” Carter cut in. “McKay is employed by the SGC in the science corps, and that’s under my aegis. He’s to keep making sure that the scientists that are here at the SGC stay within the ethical rules laid down in their contracts while doing groundbreaking science. He’s not here to be your secretary. Deal with the disappointment and move on, Dr. Weir.”
John looked at Rodney and raised an eyebrow. McKay rolled his eyes and then shrugged. No help there, then. “Dr. Weir, did you read the email we sent out regarding this meeting?” John asked.
“Yes,” Weir said shortly. She sat down at the end of the table and stared at them. “I don’t see what the problem is.”
“Dr. Weir, Dr. Beckett was contracted to find the ATA gene, research what it does, and then figure out a way to give it to those people who show it as a recessive trait,” Carter reminded her. “He wasn’t contracted to be your personal pass to getting the ATA gene.”
“He’s a geneticist who is supposed to develop a treatment to allow humans to use Ancient tech,” Weir reminded them. “If he can give me the ATA gene, that would be good for the expedition. We won’t have to rely on Major Sheppard.”
McKay leaned back and looked at Weir. “With Carson, we have three ATA positive members in the expedition. There are also roughly ten members of the expedition that have the recessive gene, and only two of them are military. That means there are eight civilians who we have good expectations of being able to use the ATA gene if given the therapy Carson has confirmed he already has. We don’t have time to try to develop a therapy that will work for a pure human.”
“We’re not arguing about this anymore,” O’Neill snapped as Weir opened her mouth to reply. “Dr. Beckett is to get two dozen doses of the ATA therapy ready for the expedition and the SGC. He can work on developing a therapy to give the ATA to someone who is 100 percent human later. Also, due to Dr. Beckett’s lack of current medical practice, he’s at this moment removed as the CMO for the expedition and will be replaced by Dr. John Watson.” O’Neill raised one hand as Weir opened her mouth to speak. “Acht! This decision isn’t up for discussion. It’s been made and approved by the IOA.”
“We shall see about that,” Weir snipped before she pushed away from the table and walked out.
O’Neill watched her exit and held his peace until she was gone. “Sheppard, go get your physical completed. You can’t go through the gate without it. McKay, let Beckett know his new orders and get your lists done for personnel so we can confirm who needs a dose for the ATA. Sumner, get the supply lists done so we can get everything ordered.”
“And me, General?” Carter asked.
“Do a review of all of our scientists and make sure they are reporting on whatever schedule they are required to. I don’t want to find out anyone is playing a mad scientist on the SGC’s dime,” O’Neill directed. “And once you have our people cleared, get with McKay and make sure that the scientists chosen for Atlantis are good too.”
“Yes, sir!” Carter agreed. She looked over at McKay and nodded once.
“This meeting is closed until the next clusterfuck happens and then we’ll meet back here. McKay, I know you aren’t Weir’s social secretary, but make sure she knows what’s happening, even if you have to assign one of your minions to do it,” O’Neill directed before he stood up to walk out.
John looked at Sumner and nodded at the raised eyebrow the man gave him. “I have all the supply lists with the order forms in the temp office I was assigned. I’m just waiting on the supply lists from Watson and Cooper. Watson is going to take longer since he’s not actually here yet and needs to review everything. Cooper keeps revising her lists, and I haven’t gotten a final version yet.”
“How long until Watson gets here?” Sumner asked as he started jotting notes on a legal pad.
“He’s due in the next hour or so,” John said after a glance at his watch. “I don’t expect he’ll take long to get stuck in.”
“And Cooper?” Sumner pressed.
“She’s been sending me lists, but I have no idea how we’re going to be able to bring everything along in one trip. The amount of supplies on the lists are making me have second and third thoughts about the amount of time this will take,” John told him.
“You’ll have as close to thirty-eight minutes as we can give you,” O’Neill called from his office.
“Understood, sir,” Sumner called. “McKay, I seem to recall a cheap way to fire up the gate and let it connect to a new galaxy. Can we use that to give us more time to get our gear through the gate?”
McKay looked like a lightbulb was going off in his head. John tilted his head to the side as he tried to figure out what he was thinking. “Maybe. I’ll need to get into the records with Carter to figure something out.”
“The general’s first head-grabber?” Carter asked as she pulled McKay’s laptop over to her spot at the conference table.
“Janet took notes on that thing! And there was a video!” O’Neill called.
“Well that’s something,” McKay muttered. “Yes, that thing. I’ll get with Carson, then come back up here to help with the research, Carter.”
Carter looked up from the laptop and nodded. “See you then. I’ll need to take a look in storage for all the odds and ends that the general gathered but didn’t use.”
“Sir? Do you want to get my lists before I head to Medical?” John asked as McKay headed out.
“Yes. Let’s get moving.” Sumner pushed back from the table and headed out.
John followed after the colonel and tried to figure out why Elizabeth was going off the deep end. He couldn’t remember her being unhinged when they had started working together in the previous timeline. Mentally shrugging, John made a note to talk to Rodney. Maybe they could figure things out at a later date.
John turned at the sound of his name. Standing in the middle of the hallway was one very irate Captain John Watson, MD. “Captain Watson! Nice to see you!”
“Seriously, why did you have Home Office send me here again?” Watson asked after waving off the welcome.
“Because I need a combat-trained medical officer and you were the first I thought of. Plus, I can guarantee you won’t get bored here,” John explained. It was also the fact that Watson had iron ethics on the medical front that had informed his decision. The willingness to kill to protect his charges was a bonus too.
“Me being bored isn’t the end of the world, Sheppard,” Watson huffed. His accent was crisp, and every word sounded like it was coming from a BBC presenter. Since he normally didn’t bother, John was certain Watson was pissed at him. “I got the briefing while I was in London. Blue Book is weirder than they hinted at. Aliens, John? What in the actual fuck?”
“Oh, lots of aliens, wars, new worlds, and multiple civilizations: all waiting for us to explore, make friends and likely a few enemies,” John admitted cheerfully.
“Well isn’t this just ducky, then,” Watson said sourly. “And you want me to get medical set up?”
“Yup!” John agreed, popping the last syllable.
“How bad of a cluster fuck am I looking at, Sheppard?” Watson asked.
“I have no damn idea,” John admitted. “What little I’ve seen of the medical department has been okay. I just did an intake physical with the people here at the SGC, but we’re not taking them to Atlantis. I’ve got no idea what was already planned for the mission, and the man who had been slated to be the CMO has been removed.”
“Joy. So I need to investigate what’s already been done and what is on order,” Watson confirmed before running a hand over his face. “And then change everything to make it work.”
“That’s a good chunk of it,” John said. “And you’ll need to put together three shifts of doctors and nurses. It would be best if every one of your choices has multiple specialties too.”
“Let me guess,” Watson started, face pulled into a frown. “You want more like me. Doctors who are surgeons, OB’s, GP’s, or something else in addition to being a medical doctor. Maybe someone who has had a dental rotation?”
“Yes,” John agreed. Gods knew everyone needed to cross train and having people with multiple specialties was to the good.
“Isn’t this going to be fun?” Watson mused.
John reached out and patted his friend on the arm. “You’re up to it. Just let your inner asshole go free.”
Watson threw up his hands at that. “My inner arsehole isn’t nearly as inner as people want, Sheppard. And if I make people cry, I’m blaming you.”
“Works for me,” John admitted cheerfully. He waved once at Watson and headed off. He had an appointment with a firing range that he wanted to keep. He was also ignoring the outpouring of British cursing behind him. Watson would fit right in.
Three hours later, John was feeling much better about life as he headed to the mess to pick up a light snack. He had worked his way through every weapon he had chosen for the expedition’s armory and several outside it. A few thousand rounds through each, and he was still happy with his choices.
“Major,” Sumner’s voice cut through the chatter in the officer’s mess, and John tried not to sigh.
“Sir,” he replied, sitting up and placing Rodney’s tablet to the side after turning it off. “How can I help you?”
“I understand that Captain Watson is here?” Sumner asked as he sat down across from John.
“Yes, sir, he is. I expect he’ll get stuck in shortly as he would likely say,” John said slowly. He had a decent relationship with the colonel now, but neither of them were pushing for more. He was doing his best to be the type of XO that the expedition needed and it was working, but sometimes he could see the colonel or the general wince when he turned up with questions.
“Well, that will be interesting,” Sumner said with a sigh. “I’ve not met the captain, can you give me some idea of how he is to work with?”
“Here, sir?” John asked, waving his hand at the very public venue.
Sumner looked around the room and sighed. “Right. My office, then?”
“Yes, sir,” John agreed. He started to police his table when one of Cooper’s crew came over and shooed him off.
Sumner was waiting by the door when he got up. “Any idea why that happened?” the colonel asked.
“Cooper had been reporting to me as she overhauls our food supply,” John reminded him as he followed Sumner down the hall. “She was sending her people by with updated lists, requests, and food, but I’ll direct them at you if you want. I haven’t figured out a way to refuse the food without looking like an asshole. So I’ve managed to meet her whole crew, and they all seem to like me for some reason.”
The snort the colonel gave was amused. “Good luck with that. She does the same thing to Jackson, Carter, and McKay when he’s here. And no, I’m going to leave you her lists. The general has given us until Friday to get that settled, and she knows it.”
“Understood, sir. And the meals seem like a nice thing for her to do, but rather unusual,” John said as he slid into the chair in front of Sumner’s desk as the colonel sat down.
“She has her favorites and, after the number of years she has here, she’s given some leeway in things,” Sumner confirmed with a grimace.
“Is that going to be a problem, sir?” John asked carefully. He actually liked the habit and wanted Cooper to keep it. There were several scientists who needed to eat on a schedule, and the mother-henning could only help.
“Eh,” Sumner rocked one hand back and forth on his desk. “I get why she does it, but it just seems weird to me.”
“She’s Navy, sir,” John offered. What did he know about the USN? He was in the Air Force for a reason.
“And I’m a Marine. I still don’t understand the Navy,” Sumner muttered. “Anyway. Captain Watson?”
“Yes, sir,” John stifled a smile and then got serious. “What do you want to know?”
While I’ve been letting you run with this, I want a heads up on what I’m getting into,” Sumner explained. He had his hands flat against the blotter on his desk and looked like he was trying to project a willingness to listen. “Nothing you’ve proposed has been off, but I need to know why you went so far outside the norm for Watson.”
John studied the man across from him and nodded once. “Okay, so I mostly know Captain Watson from the outside. He was the doctor in charge of a medical group from the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers, and I was ferrying wounded to him regularly. Most of them lived and, in a great many cases, that can be traced back to Watson. He’s also ruthless in the protection of his patients. He’s called in air strikes on military targets trying for his hospital, has shot insurgents attacking him, and still manages to hold on to his compassion. While in Afghanistan, he also did a great deal of successful work on the hearts and minds plans. People are living because of him that would have been dead otherwise. I wanted that for Atlantis.”
“Add in the iron ethics he’s known for and the inability to tolerate lies and bullshit, and he’ll be an excellent fit for a bunch of scientists who might let their enthusiasm run wild,” Sumner surmised.
“Yes, sir,” John confirmed. “Plus he’s been serving in frontline medical situations for years. Having someone who can pull that kind of experience out and is on our side has to be a good thing.”
“Point. So play straight with him, don’t try to manipulate him, and don’t fuck with his patients. Okay, I can work with this,” Sumner summed everything up with a sigh.
“Pretty much, sir,” John agreed.
“Fantastic,” Sumner muttered before he leaned back in his chair. “Just so you are aware, our supply train is half again as large as it was before O’Neill made you my XO. I expect it’s going to grow larger still.”
John winced at that. Between Cooper and her additions, the armory, and Rodney? And Watson hadn’t had a chance to review anything yet. Yeah, their supply chain was going to be insane. “More practice runs for Atlantis, sir?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Sumner allowed. “Thank you for your time, Major. I’ll let you get back to what you were doing.”
“Just reading reports, sir. Catching up on all the things the SGC has done,” John admitted with a wave of the tablet computer.
Sumner eyed the small computer and then snagged it. “How far in are you?”
“I just finished the report on the Altairans and P4C-970. Do we often get hints from the future?” John asked. His previous skimming of files hadn’t given him enough basis in how fucked up the SGC had been in the early years.
“No, but I’m sure the general would listen if we did,” Sumner said. “You still have years’ worth of reading ahead of you. It doesn’t get any better.”
“Yup. Go. Thanks for the insight,” Sumner muttered before waving him out.
John nodded once and left. Things were so weird. Sumner wasn’t a giant asshole, Weir was, Carson was a mad scientist, and John was getting some of the people he wanted on the expedition. It was a mixed bag of results, but he was going to have to learn to roll with it.
* * * *
The sound of a knock on his door pulled John out of an after action report. He was into year five of the SGC, and SG-1 had just managed to fuck up a planet’s star. He was riveted at the insanity and now fully understood why Rodney was so pissed off at Carter for her workarounds on the stargate.
Opening the door, he raised an eyebrow at his visitor. “What can I do for you, McKay?”
“I am not staying here another night. I was wondering if you wanted to head into town and maybe eat a late dinner at someplace that wasn’t the mess?” Rodney offered. “I can offer a bed, good water pressure, and a breakfast that doesn’t come courtesy of the military.”
John didn’t really have to think too hard on that. “Sure. Let me get my wallet and stuff.”
As he walked out the door to his room, he saw that Rodney was damn near vibrating. John held his peace as they moved through the mountain and up to the secured parking lot that the SGC shared with NORAD. McKay had a car stored there and handed over the keys without a murmur.
They were on their way down the mountain before the vibrating exploded. “I told Carson he was no longer going to be CMO, and I was doubtful about him going on the expedition since his ethics seem to be a bit weak. To say that he was unhappy with me would be an understatement. I wasn’t even able to get to the point where I could tell him to produce the ATA treatment. I let him rant for about five minutes before I told him to shut the fuck up.”
“Gee, Rodney, way to be diplomatic,” John told him, amused.
“Bah. Diplomacy is overrated in this case,” Rodney bitched. “If he can’t roll with the changes, I’m not going to sign off on him coming out at a later time. Because this is bullshit.”
John shook his head, most of his attention on the road. “Did you think he would act like this?”
“No. Seriously, I didn’t. He never acted like this before, and I wasn’t expecting it now. But I’m not really shocked about the ethical lapses we’ve seen,” Rodney told him with a sigh.
“The nightmare of an archangel,” John dropped the descriptor like the bomb it was. They were trying not to be loose-lipped in public, but that was harder than expected.
“Yes,” Rodney agreed. “Given the early warning we’re getting here on his ethics, I’m seriously wondering if we should bring him to Atlantis and all the temptation she represents. If he’s got even the most minor access through the medical department, there’s no telling what will happen.”
“And if we’re alone where Weir has more influence, his lack of a spine towards her could potentially lead to issues that could bite us in the ass,” John murmured.
Rodney ran a hand over his face. “Yes. And if we’re cut off for a year or more like the projections say, that could be fatal.”
“Fucking fantastic,” John sighed. “Okay, you talked me out here to get something to eat. What do you have in mind?”
“O’Malley’s,” Rodney offered. “It’s a steakhouse with steaks that are measured in pounds, with baked potatoes bigger than your doubled fists, dripping with butter, sour cream, and all the fixings.”
“Isn’t O’Malley’s the same place SG-1 got kicked out of for getting into a bar fight?” John asked.
Rodney nodded with a grin. “Yup. You are a visiting member of the Air Force and obviously not a member of SG1.”
“Fair enough,” John allowed. It wasn’t like he could hide the BDUs. He wasn’t one of them, so he should get by fine. “Steak by the pound?”
“Yes. Tender, huge, and cooked to perfection,” Rodney confirmed, voice dreamy. “I’ve been missing them since I went south.”
* * * * *
John settled onto Rodney’s couch and suppressed a very satisfied burp. He had eaten a dinner that would live on in his memory for a long time. Because damn.
He watched as his scientist went over every surface of his home with a handmade scanner. The muttering in French and Russian was entertaining, and he smiled at the breadth of invectives. Every time Rodney found a bug, his curses got harsher.
“Whoever’s listening to the printout of tonight is going to get an education in cursing,” John told him.
The look Rodney flashed him was frustrated and pissed. “I hadn’t checked before now,” he admitted. “I’m pissed at myself for that.”
“I get that. What are you going to do with them?” John asked.
Rodney looked down at the handful of bugs and sighed. “I’m going to dump them in in the freezer. If they still work through being frozen, they will be better than the average little monsters.”
John held his peace as Rodney walked into the kitchen and put action to words. When he heard the freezer door close, he rolled his head to stretch his muscles. “This is immensely stressful.”
“Agreed,” Rodney called as he pulled something that clinked out of the fridge. “Have a beer.”
He held up one hand, and a beer bottle slid into it. He looked at the label and smiled. “You and this beer. Seriously, haven’t you tried any others?”
“Eh, I like Molson,” Rodney muttered as he slouched down next to him on the couch. “We have weeks yet, and the stress is already massive. I really don’t know what I’m going to do.”
“It’s been what, two weeks since we landed back here?” John asked as he bumped Rodney’s shoulder. “We’ve got just under ten more weeks until we ship out, and I don’t know how we’re going to make it with Weir being such an interfering bitch.”
“Agreed. Do you know if there’s any way to get her off the expedition?” Rodney asked. “She’s stressing me out, and I am not going to play her social secretary. Nor am I going to let anyone else do it. Because you know she’ll try to get Grodin or someone else in the admin group to act as her secretary if she can.”
“Has Grodin said anything?” John asked. As he remembered, the Englishman had served in that position in the previous timeline.
“No, he hasn’t. But I am not going to let Weir abuse my people like that,” Rodney bit out.
“How much of the civilian population is under your control?” John asked.
“I’m the CSO, John, it’s all under my control,” Rodney admitted.
“Then why do we need Weir?” John demanded. “If you are the one in charge of all the sciences, why do we need her?”
“Because she, along with Jackson, is the one who sold the need for the expedition. And she managed to maneuver herself into the lead spot. Do we really need her? No, we don’t. Do we need diplomats? Yes. And she can be useful in that position,” Rodney explained. “Even then, I’m not wild about her ability to be diplomatic and such. Her reaction to the Wraith last time didn’t thrill me, and I don’t want to go through that mess again.”
“Speaking of that horror story,” John muttered. “Is there any way we can make sure that we don’t lead the Wraith to Teyla and her people?”
“Did no one tell you?” Rodney asked as he looked at him in question.
“Tell me what?” John asked, confused.
“When you picked up that pendant of hers, it let out a pulse drawing the Wraith to Athos. So, if we do get back there in time, you can’t pick the damn thing up. It was your ATA gene that did it,” Rodney explained.
“No one told me that,” John growled. “There is no way I will be picking that thing up at this point.”
“Good. That’s excellent,” Rodney confirmed.
“How…” John paused and then shrugged when Rodney looked over at him. “How much do you understand of the various sciences?”
Rodney side-eyed him and shrugged. “Anything in my areas? I understand fully and try not to be bored with some of the bullshit I hear. I understand about 80 percent of the medical stuff and roughly half of everything else. Some days I understand more than others since anything that butts against my interests. I’ll have looked into, but yeah.”
“Huh,” John said. “How have you not gone insane from boredom?”
The laughter Rodney let out sounded unforced. “The SGC found me before I started looking at being a supervillain as a hobby.”
“Seriously?” John asked as he turned to look at the other man.
“No. Jesus, John. I’m not going to become a supervillain,” Rodney protested. “Do you know how much work is involved in that? I barely tolerate the paperwork I have for my position as the CSO, and that’s with Radek and Miko helping me.”
“Point,” John allowed. “And I sure wouldn’t want to be the person in charge of the planet either. It was bad enough when I was in charge of the military on Atlantis.”
“Remember, you aren’t in charge now,” Rodney reminded him. “You get to do all the paperwork this time.”
“Thank you for reminding me,” John said. That was one thing he was not looking forward to.
“You’re welcome,” Rodney said before finishing off his beer. “Come on. I promised you a good bed, and some sleep not surrounded by the SGC.”
John followed him down the hall and looked around. “Don’t you have a cat?”
“I’m leaving Fractal with my neighbor. They’ve bonded, and she basically told me to fuck off when I checked in,” Rodney said as he pushed a door open. The room was bland, but the bed was large and made up with fluffy linens. “My service manages this, so everything is clean and ready to be slept in.”
“Rodney, even I know you loved your cat. Why aren’t you trying to get it back?” John asked as he settled onto the bed.
The sigh his friend let out was long. “Because my cat has just spent six months with her and basically bonded with my neighbor as his new person. I’ve been in and out of Fractal’s life since he was a kitten, and she’s been there every time. Unless I can get cats signed off on for vermin control, I don’t think I’m going to be getting my cat back. And even then, he’s a pampered puss. I’m not sure if he would know what to do with a mouse.”
“There are those cat things that were on Planet Kid,” John offered.
“They don’t purr,” Rodney said softly. “As sweet as they are, I miss the purring of cats. Even though they are good mousers.”
“Did we have a lot of vermin?” John asked. He was trying to remember if there had been mice or bugs on the city, and he couldn’t recall.
“For the most part, no,” Rodney admitted. “But we made damn sure that we didn’t bring any to the city. The grain we traded for often came with the Pegasus version of mice in the piles of grain bags. We killed a lot of them.”
“Gross,” John swallowed once at the thought. “Is there anything we can do to stop that?”
“It happens here on Earth, John,” Rodney told him, amused. “We tested all our grains, and the stuff in the bags are clean. But it would be nice to have a few to protect against any possible vermin.”
“I’ll bring it up,” John promised. He shuddered at the thought of mice and the like. “Did we have cockroaches?”
“Thankfully, no. Most of the things we brought out were screened to make sure that bugs and any other vermin from Earth wouldn’t get to Pegasus. That meant that things like grains and the dried foods were exposed to vacuum before they were stored on the Daedalus. Fruits and veg were mostly dried or frozen, and those were also exposed.”
“That explained the food,” John said with a grimace. “And why we traded for so much fresh.”
“Yeah,” Rodney ran a hand over his head. “Get some sleep, John. You’ve got soldier stuff to do tomorrow.”
John watched as his friend walked off. Rubbing his hand against his breastbone, he took a deep breath. He was getting in over his head with the other man. What had been an idle attraction was growing quickly to something more. They were all they had, and John was aware that could lead to a codependency that was unhealthy. But it felt wrong to try for anyone else after having traveled through time.
John got up and closed the door. He was going to take a long, hot shower, jack off and maybe, if he was really lucky, get some sleep. Because Rodney was right, he had soldier things going on in the morning.
* * * *
Rodney tried not to turn around to look at John as he sat on the spare bed in his home. He had Sheppard in his house. John was within reach and would soon be warm and blurry with sleep and relaxed…
Drawing in a deep breath, Rodney pushed the whole insane thing to the side. He had wanted the other man since he had set eyes on him in the first timeline, but there was no way that he was going to take the chance while John was military. He respected his choices and the rules he had to live under too much to try to fuck up anything between them.
He moved through his nightly ablutions on automatic and laid down on the bed. Sleep was going to be a long time coming.
“Why did you take Sheppard out last night?” Weir asked as she walked into his office.
Rodney looked up at her and raised one eyebrow at her. “Because I wanted to. Why do you care?”
“He’s been sticking his nose into everything. None of which concerns him,” Weir snapped.
“He’s the 2IC for the military arm of the expedition, and given that they will be doing 90 percent of the support work for us, I think everything concerns him,” Rodney reminded her.
“I put together a perfectly reasonable supply list for the expedition,” Weir protested. “We don’t need all this extra stuff.”
“You realize that the supplies you approved would have left us starving by the 6th month of this thing, right?” Rodney asked.
“We don’t eat that much,” Weir protested. “What we had would have lasted us a year or more.”
“You might not eat that much, but my minions certainly do,” Rodney told her, voice even. “And that’s not even counting how much our military members eat. They use about twice the calorie load that my people do on an active day, and most of their days are active. Also, the food choices you made were short on any type of balanced nutrition. Scurvy is a legit thing, and you seem to be ignoring that.”
The noise Weir let out sounded impatient to Rodney’s ear, and he stifled a grimace. In the last timeline, they had been saved from starvation because Teyla and her people had managed to make up for the shortcomings in their food supply. Tuttleroot stew was a complete meal, but it wasn’t the most exciting diet out there.
“Bah, that’s what we have citrus for,” Weir said, waving off his concern.
“Well, if you are really that interested in murdering me, please let me know so I can tender my resignation now,” Rodney snapped.
“I’m deathly allergic to citrus, Dr. Weir. And if you are going to insist on including it in the supply list, I will have to tender my resignation on the grounds of you being a credible threat to my life,” Rodney told her after several deep breaths. “I would have expected that you know the allergies of your people and take them into consideration when making up the supply lists.”
“But you mentioned scurvy, and even I know that citrus stops that,” Weir protested. “You don’t have to eat it!”
“If I’m exposed to citrus, I go into anaphylactic shock, Dr. Weir,” Rodney explained, patience wore thin. “That means that even having it in the same room as me can cause me to damn near die!”
And he had, almost, that first year in the other timeline. While the guys doing the cooking had never made the same mistake again, he had come far closer to death than he wanted to think about. And no one had ever taken his allergies lightly again.
Weir looked confused. “Then what will we use to keep us from getting scurvy?”
“Chief Cooper has several sources of vitamin C in her supply list, so that’s actually covered. Because you didn’t even include dietary supplements, and she has several tons included in hers,” Rodney explained voice even. “Look, why don’t you let the actual experts do their job while you do yours? Last I knew, you’ve never been in the military, you don’t cook, you aren’t a medical doctor, and you aren’t one of my minions. So why don’t you go do what you’re contracted for? Because, in this, you are not needed.”
When she said nothing and walked out, Rodney took a deep breath and blew it out. He had officially declared war it seemed. Fucking perfect.
“What did you say to Weir?” Miko asked as she walked into his lab with Radek.
“I told her to go do her job and stop trying to do everyone else’s,” Rodney admitted. “I’m pretty sure she didn’t like it.”
“No, she basically hated it,” Radek confirmed. “Her face looked like a thundercloud as she walked out.”
“Great. Well, that will make the next year interesting at least,” Rodney muttered as he got up from his desk to pace.
“It’s not like she hasn’t been told that several times before,” Miko observed. “And, really, her job is to coordinate the experts in the expedition, not micromanage it. I can’t see where she thinks that she’s actually an expert in anything other than maybe diplomacy, and even that’s suspect.”
“I know. If she’s an expert, we need to reevaluate what factors the SGC is using to hire diplomats with. She sucks at it,” Rodney muttered as he ran his hands over his hair. She had never gotten any better either, he remembered.
“So, we’re here to go over our lists, make sure we have everything, and then arrange to pack,” Radek said as he went to the coffee machine to pour a cup. “We need to make sure that every bit of space is used because I’ve seen the lists for the other departments and getting all our gear through the gate in thirty-eight minutes will be a trick and a half.”
“How much do we have?” Rodney asked as he took the cup of coffee Miko handed him.
“Currently, there seems to be about three times the amount of gear as there was before Major Sheppard started asking questions,” Miko reported. She had her tablet out on the table. “If I understand this correctly, Chief Cooper has increased her allotment by a factor of two, with the composition changed to actually be useful. The military has increased their load by a lot more than that, and we’ve added our lot. It’s going to be a close thing to get our gear through in time.”
“We can get everyone through quickly, that’s not actually an issue,” Radek murmured. “The gate is more than wide enough that two hundred people can go through in less than five minutes. That would leave a maximum of thirty-three minutes to get our supplies through.”
“We need to practice this,” Rodney said after several moments thought. “Because I can’t see some of our people not fucking things up.”
“O’Neill has authorized a few test runs through to the Alpha site,” Miko informed him after poking at her tablet. “And it seems that the major got us more information out of the Outpost than expected. There aren’t really any plans for Atlantis in there, but he was able to find a picture of the Gateroom on the city.”
“Really?” Rodney asked. He leaned over to look at the picture displayed on the tablet. The header on the email said that it was coming from Grodin. “Huh. Seems like there’s a fair amount of room then.”
“And doors, so there should be more room still to push things through so we can keep pushing supplies through the gate forming a bottleneck,” Miko said, pointing to the structures at the back of the room.
Rodney hummed as he mentally reviewed the space around the Gateroom on Atlantis. There were several storerooms that they had used in the last timeline to handle the overflow. The tower was large enough to have plenty of room to store more than they had originally brought. “Ask Grodin to see if the Outpost has anything on the layout.”
“He mentioned there were no plans,” Miko repeated. She sounded faintly irritated.
“Right. Well damn,” Rodney muttered. “Do we have any frame of reference so we can figure out how large that room is?”
“It’s big enough that everyone we bring will be able to fit and then some,” Radek muttered from his spot at Rodney’s work table. “But that still doesn’t mean we have enough room for our gear. We need to work out a priority order and label everything for easy confirmation of where we are in the supply chain.”
“Right,” Rodney agreed as he sat down as well. “Computers, power supplies, tools, testing equipment, spare parts, general shit.”
“Coffee?” Miko asked as she nodded at the machine.
“I’ve been informed that Cooper is bringing a whole mess of coffee pots and the amount of the ground product is being measured in tons,” Rodney informed her. “She’s also got tea on the list. Green and black.”
Miko nodded. “Excellent.”
“Stills?” Radek asked. “Because you know that is needed.”
“Truer words,” Rodney agreed. “Salt the ones you want to bring through everything, and we’ll do our best to make sure we get everything through.”
“Is good,” Radek agreed. “Will military need to add anything to our lists?”
“Not that I know of,” Rodney admitted. He grabbed his laptop and fired off a message to Sheppard, asking if he had any further additions that might need to be added to their lists. “Do we have anything that hasn’t arrived at this point?”
“We have all our gear, and we’re in the process of breaking down all the packaging to allow it to be repacked in the pallets the major designated,” Miko informed him after reviewing the lists. “I think we’ll have a fair amount of dead space in each crate, so we can stuff those spaces with all the extras we’re gathering.”
“Good idea,” Rodney allowed. “Get someone in the anthro department to put together a list of everyone’s favorite music, movies, and TV shows and start pulling them from as many online sources as they can. Legal or not. Because we’re going to have downtime, and I know some people like mindless entertainment.”
“I already have many books saved to my personal tablet with much music,” Radek confirmed. “And several hard drives full of other things.”
“Same,” Miko confirmed.
“Make sure that the anthro guy doesn’t pick up any porn. That’s up to the individual person to bring. I’m not going to be anyone’s source for that,” Rodney said firmly.
“Good idea,” Radek agreed. “I have heard new CMO has ordered a large amount of lube for the expedition.”
“Define large?” Rodney asked, curious despite himself.
“Several 55-gallon drums,” Miko shared. “Apparently, they come with hoses and pumps.”
“What in the hell does he think will be happening out there?” Rodney asked. “As far as I know, the SGC has never had a fuck or die situation, so what do we need all that lube for?”
“We have many more men than women on this thing,” Radek reminded him. “And many of them are young.”
“So, he’s expecting a lot of fucking?” Rodney asked as he looked back and forth between his two seconds.
“More like a lot of lonely wanking to illicit and possibly illegal porn,” an unexpected voice cut through the air.
Rodney looked up to see an unfamiliar officer standing in his doorway, and he raised one eyebrow at him. “And you are?”
“Captain John Watson, the new CMO,” the officer introduced himself. “I thought since I’m going to be running all the medical and associated science departments, I should come down and introduce myself.”
“Welcome then. I’m sure you know who I am, but let me introduce my seconds.” Rodney pointed at Radek and Miko in quick succession. “Radek Zelenka, Ph.D., Ph.D. He’s over the engineers and other physical scientists. Miko Kusanagi, Ph.D., Ph.D. She’s overall the native IT systems and what we bring in. She’s also ATA positive.”
“And you are M Rodney McKay, Ph.D., Ph.D., and the CSO,” Watson finished. “You’re also on the list of people who need to get the ATA gene treatment now that we know we have a safe version of it to give. I understand that the general is working out a timetable to get everyone out to someplace called the Land of Light to do it?”
“Yes, he is. They’re allies, and it’s a safe address to dial and wait while the treatment takes,” Rodney confirmed. “Nice to meet you, Dr. Watson.”
“Thank you,” Watson said. He looked at all three of them and tilted his head to the side. “Do you think that you will be able to work with me?”
“Are you going to be a vampire and ask for blood from me every three days? Or any other fluid?” Miko asked.
“No,” Watson drawled. “Why do you ask?”
“Because Beckett was doing that. If you aren’t, I’m good,” Miko said.
“Bloody hell,” Watson said before he drew in a deep breath. “Right. Have the three of you been to medical to get checked out and everything updated? I know the military members are all up to date on their physicals. Also, Dr. McKay, I wanted to let you know that we have several cases of EpiPens. Just in case. Apparently, they are standard issue for every team since food allergies can be a surprise when eating food that’s not from Earth.”
Rodney winced at that. Yeah, they had run into that issue several times while in Pegasus. He had used his personal EpiPen on Sheppard when he had tried a dish on Planet Kid that caused his airway to swell shut. It hadn’t been a good time for anyone.
“Good idea,” Rodney said. “I think we should make sure that everyone has a chance to learn how to use those. Can we set up an afternoon where my people can go through a brief course on common first aid items?”
“Excellent point. Shall we set up a time and place to get everyone started on the basics?” Watson asked as he pulled out a notebook and pen.
“Most of us who have worked here at the SGC have the basics. There’s been an average of one foothold situation every six months,” Miko informed him. “And that’s not counting any of the various lab accidents, and the like that can happen because we’re working with alien technology that we barely understand. We do our best, but even with Earthborn tech, accidents happen.”
“True. And it will take time for any response team to scramble, no matter where we are,” Watson agreed with a nod. “I can work some advanced classes into my schedule. Now. Physicals? When can I get the three of you down?”
“I can go now,” Rodney said after a glance at his schedule. There were no meetings, and he had no projects queued up for Carter. “Miko put out a memo to the science department directing them to show up at our storeroom in two days at eight AM. We’re going to spend the day packing our gear and getting it all ready for transport. Everything is going to be ready in two weeks.”
“You really think it will take that long?” Radek asked. He seemed amused.
“I think it would take the next ten weeks before we’re scheduled to leave if I didn’t put my foot down,” Rodney said. “Because some people will not hear the word ‘no’, no matter how many times we say it to them. The chances of this going smoothly are basically nil.”
“When you asked me to be your second, I didn’t realize position would be glorified babysitter,” Radek muttered after a drink of his coffee.
“Oh, please, you knew,” Rodney snapped. “And if we’re going to manage all our gear, we have to do this.”
“I know. Still sucks,” Radek announced. “I will blame you when they cry at me.”
Like that was anything new. Then again, he was the CSO, and his word was final on what was to be brought. “Dr. Watson, do you need to join us in the packing? Or will your departments be doing the same?”
Watson looked amused at them, and Rodney rolled his eyes. Yes, they were all assholes. It wasn’t news. “I’ve still got things coming in, but I expect that I will be organizing something similar next week. Also, let me know if I need to add any hoses or tubing for the stills to my orders.”
The three of them started laughing, and Rodney shook his head. “We’re good.”
“Excellent, then. Shall we go, Dr. McKay?” Watson asked as he waved a hand at the door.
“Yes, let’s,” Rodney allowed. He looked at the other two and pointed at the tablet. “Go over the list one last time to make sure Weir didn’t do anything funny to it.”
Radek waved him out and shook his head. “Go. We have this covered.”
Walking out the door, he looked at the Englishman and took a deep breath. Time to get to know the man who had replaced Beckett and see if he was as impatient as a doctor.
* * * *
“Time to get ready, Sheppard!” Sumner called from the door of his office.
John looked up from the latest supply list to hit his desk and nodded. “I’m finally getting to go through the gate?”
“We’ve got all our new people, they’ve been through medical and orientation, so it’s time to go through the gate,” Sumner confirmed. “It’s gonna be fun.”
“Sir, you and the general were the ones that told me this thing will slightly freeze me and also make me want to hurl, I can’t see the fun in that,” John reminded him, voice dry as he shut down his computer.
“Well, the hurling part only happens to a small percentage of people,” Sumner allowed. “And, yeah, everyone gets a bit frosty, but it fades pretty quick.”
Sounds like loads of fun, sir. Are we going to be meeting anyone specific?” John asked.
Sumner shook his head. “No, not with as many new people as we’re going to have with us. We’re just going somewhere really alien so everyone can see we aren’t yanking their chains.”
“Seems like a good idea,” John conceded. Certainly, it was better than what had happened in the first timeline. “And after this trip, are we going to do the dry run for transferring supplies?”
“Seems like the thing to do,” Sumner allowed.
“Yes, sir,” John confirmed. “I want to make sure we know what to do when the gate to Atlantis opens. Also, Chief Cooper was right, we can’t use the ramp that’s currently attached to the gate.”
Sumner glanced at him out of the corner of his eye as they walked to the ready room by the gate to gear up. “Why?”
“Have you looked at the ramp recently, sir?” John asked carefully.
“No,” Sumner drew the word out and then paused. “Shit, it’s all open grating. Getting a wheeled cart up that will be a bitch.”
“And take time we don’t have to spare,” John said. “Do we have a solid ramp we can replace it with?”
“I think so,” Sumner said after a moment’s thought. “How many pallets do we have?”
“Several hundred at the least, sir,” John said with a shrug. “And that number is growing every day.”
“How much of it is perishable?” Sumner asked as he started gearing up. “And do we have enough refrigeration units to go with that?”
“About 30 percent of the supplies that Cooper is putting together could be considered perishable over the long term. She has meat and veg that will be on dry ice when it goes through the gate, so we will need to get that stored quickly. And, yes, the crates are insulated, and we have mobile refrigeration units that we can attach to them to keep them cold while we wait.”
Sumner shook his head at that. “Yeah, we’re going to need practice getting pallets like that up the ramp and through the gate. Are they standard sized pallets?”
“Yes, sir,” John confirmed. “All on coasters and roughly five to six feet tall.”
“That seems a bit high,” Sumner said, voice cautious.
John hummed softly in agreement as he located his locker and started getting ready to go through the gate. It was a relief to be armed again. As he buckled the last strap into place for his holster, he looked up to see Sumner staring at him. “Sir?”
“I’m not even going to comment on how comfortable you seem to be with getting armed,” Sumner told him. “I’ve read your jacket, and I know what you did to get that way.”
“Yes, sir,” John murmured. “As for why the pallets will be piled that high? We’ve only got so much time and making sure sufficient supplies get through the gate seems like it’s worth piling things up.”
“Point,” Sumner conceded. “Okay, let’s get to the gateroom and get started.”
The walk to the Gateroom was done in silence. John didn’t feel like he was being judged and it relaxed the last of his nerves about his working relationship with Sumner. By the time they were standing before the gate, he found he really was looking forward to the trip.
Watching the stargate flush itself open was akin to watching a clear bucket drain in one circular swirl. It never got old and was always amusing on several levels. Despite that, John found his fingers itching for a pen and paper so he could write down the math that would explain the whole thing.
As soon as the event horizon settled, Sumner headed up the ramp and stepped through the gate without a pause. John followed suit and stepped out of the wormhole onto a new planet and shuddered. Damn, that had been cold.
“Keep moving people. You don’t want to bunch up right in front of the gate!” Major Michael Griff of SG2 called.
“Bloody fucking hell.”
Laughing, he glanced down at Watson. “Is it the cold or the new planet we’re on?”
“Both,” Watson murmured, staring up at the gas giant dominating the sky. “Definitely, both.”
“Cougar, we’re on Yavin 4. Fucking YAVIN.” John heard Jensen crow to his silent shadow.
“Technically, Lieutenant, you’re on M4Y-335,” Sumner called as he walked through the crowd.
“Sir, there’s a gas giant of a planet up there. We have to be on one of its moons,” Jensen waved at the planet hanging in the sky.
“We are,” Sumner confirmed. “That’s what the M designation in the alphanumeric ID is for. And yes, Lieutenant. The geeks do call it Yavin.”
“I knew it,” Jensen crowed.
John smiled at the sounds of a happy geek. He could totally understand it. After all, there had been a similar planet and moon set up in Pegasus, and everyone on the city had referred to it as Yavin 5.
“Okay, enough sightseeing, let’s get moving on what we came here for,” Sumner called.
Everyone gathered around the colonel and got their assignments. They would be spending three days exploring the moon and the area surrounding the stargate in a bit of extended exploration. The science department had put their request in for it to take advantage of their trip.
“I’m bored,” John announced as he walked into McKay’s office before closing the door. His scientist was sitting on the couch in the small room, reading a book of all things.
“That’s dangerous,” McKay observed. He sounded distracted by his reading material.
“I know,” John acknowledged. “Makes me want to do all sorts of insane things.”
“Define insane?” Rodney asked as he turned a page.
John stared at his friend and made a decision. He had been contemplating things and now seemed like a good time as any. “Oh, this,” John told him before pushing Rodney’s book out of the way and swinging one leg over the other man’s lap and settling into place.
Rodney dropped his book and placed his hands on John’s hips. ‘‘This is dangerous.”
“Not really,” John told him. He appreciated the change in angle and took the time to study McKay. His scientist looked tired, but from the way his eyes were slowly dilating, he was enjoying John’s actions.
“Yes, really, you beautiful idiot,” Rodney snapped. “We’re in the SGC, and DADT is still the law of the land. They can court-martial you for this.”
John noticed that Rodney’s hands were still locked on his hips, and his dick was hard under John’s ass. That gave him the confidence to push forward. “Have you ever seen DADT enforced here?”
He could tell Rodney was taking the time to think things through before he shook his head. His hands were kneading John’s hips, and he wanted to moan. Yeah, Rodney had good hands. Sharp blue eyes focused on him and Rodney raised an eyebrow at him. “No, I haven’t. Why?”
“Because Hammond came down like the wrath of God on the first person trying to report a DADT violation,” John told him with a satisfied smirk. John hadn’t been certain if Sumner had suspected he was gay or not, but he had been less than thrilled about the black mark on his record. The colonel hadn’t been too interested in finding out the substance of behind the mark and held it against him every chance he had gotten. General O’Neill’s intervention had been appreciated.
“Hammond’s a good general,” Rodney sounded begrudging, but John couldn’t blame him. From everything he knew, Siberia was damn cold, and Rodney had been sent there under some seriously sketchy circumstances.
“He is,” John confirmed. He rocked softly on Rodney’s lap and bit his lip at the feel of the other man’s cock. It had been way too long since he had a nice cock in his ass.
Rodney’s grip changed to hold him still. “Are you sure about this, John? Because a relationship between us will change everything.”
“Who else would I go for?” John asked. “I’ve wanted you since we survived the first Wraith siege.”
“And I was looking at Katie Brown,” Rodney murmured.
“Right,” John agreed. “And I wasn’t going to get pushy because I didn’t know about the SGC’s stance on DADT at the time. Also, my position as the military commander wasn’t a sure thing. My record for the year we were on our own was good, but my black mark was still what most of the brass saw first.”
“And now you want to take the chance with me?” Rodney asked.
John stared into the eyes of the man he wanted to be his partner in every way possible. “Yes.”
“Nutter.” Rodney sounded fond. “We aren’t doing anything here at the SGC.”
“Not a problem,” John agreed. He rocked back on the cock under his ass once before standing up. If he was in Rodney’s lap any longer, he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions.
“Oh, there’s a problem all right,” Rodney disagreed, voice wry. He had his eyes closed and was breathing deeply.
John felt a rush of irrational pride at how wrecked Rodney was sounding. Fair was fair. The other man routinely messed with his libido after all.
“Let’s talk about something else,” Rodney suggested. “We’re nine weeks out from our travel date, and we’re as staffed as we are likely to get. Our supplies are arriving in droves, and the science corps are doing weapons practice. Are we finally going to do some gate runs to get used to the process?”
“You are recovering faster than me,” John complained good-naturedly. He settled back into his seat and tried to get his mind off his dick. “So, O’Neill wants us to take a mass of supplies through to the Alpha site as a test drive type of thing. They’re getting an influx of stuff that is scheduled to last them six months. I figure we can plan out how to get our people through and do the bucket brigade for the SGC.”
“Sounds doable,” Rodney allowed. He shifted once in his seat and grimaced. “Do we know if Weir is going to sign off on this?”
“I really don’t care,” John admitted. “Sumner is going to continue to have the military assets go through the gate every chance we get, so no one hesitates on the big day. Plus, we’re going to be setting up some teams.”
When Rodney raised one eyebrow at him, John chuckled. “Yes, I’ve already put your name on the list for my team. I’m hoping for Jensen and Alvarez as well. We’ll see if we can pick up Teyla and Ronon as needed.”
“Good,” Rodney told him with a huff. “I’ve already passed my gun qualification and have started my morning torture sessions. They’re as hideous as I remember.”
“Running won’t kill you,” John reminded him. “Is anyone else joining you?”
“Miko, Radek, Grodin, and a few others,” Rodney reported. “Mostly the same group who went through the gate on missions before. I’ve been so tempted to leave certain people behind. We don’t need the deadwood and redshirts, but there are some I just can’t disqualify, no matter how I try.”
“I fully understand that,” John murmured. “Aiden is staying here on Earth. With the expansion in the officer corps, we can afford to leave him here.”
“And away from any exposure to that damn enzyme,” Rodney said with a sigh.
“Yeah, that was one of my reasons. Not one I could give Sumner or O’Neill though,” John confirmed.
“So, busy week,” Rodney said. “Want to go back to my apartment for the weekend?”
“Yes,” John agreed. “And maybe a stop at O’Malley’s for a steak dinner.”
Rodney started laughing. “I should never have introduced you to that place!”
* * * *
“Are you sure?” Rodney asked as they walked into his apartment.
As was his habit, he grabbed the bug detector he had made and started checking out every spot in his apartment. Whoever it was bugging him had to be losing money hand over fist with how many bugs he kept finding. He dropped the little devices into a plastic bag before immersing them in water and sticking the whole mess in the freezer.
“Haven’t they gotten tired of bugging you yet?” John asked as he wandered down the hallway to his bedroom. “And have you informed the general of the surveillance?”
“Apparently not. I need do, but it could lead to more surveillance as they try to figure out who’s spying on me,” Rodney said with a sigh. “I’ll bring it up when we go in, in the morning.” Opening the fridge, he grabbed two bottles of water and headed after his friend. Walking into the bedroom, he stopped in shock. John was spread out on his bed, naked. “Holy alters of science.”
“You’re an atheist,” John reminded him.
“I’m not swearing to a god, but to science,” Rodney told him, dazed. He dropped the water bottles beside the bed and got undressed. He was a bit pudgier than he had been when they had been thrown back in time, but he wasn’t bad…
“Stop obsessing on your looks, Rodney,” John told him, amused. He was staring at his dick and licked his lips before meeting his eyes. “I’m attracted to you not a set of abs.”
“The body helps too,” Rodney reminded him.
“I know you’re getting yourself in shape, and that does take time,” John reminded him. “Besides, remember I said that I had wanted you since the first time I met you.”
“Point,” Rodney admitted. He looked down at John and took in everything. “What do you want to do?”
John eyed his dick again. “I want you to fuck me.”
Rodney closed his eyes and took a deep breath as his libido surged. “Yeah, I can totally get with that.” Walking around to the foot of the bed, he knee-walked up to take a spot between John’s legs. Leaning forward, he licked a path up his cock from root to tip. “But, first, I want to blow you.”
Glancing up, he saw John’s head fall back as he moaned. “Oh, yeah. Do that.”
Sliding his hands under John’s ass, Rodney squeezed once before he took the head of his lover’s cock into his mouth and swallowed him whole. He ignored the shout of surprise from John and concentrated on the taste of him. Humming in pleasure, Rodney started moving up and down John’s cock, sucking strongly while flicking the head with his tongue as he came up.
“Jesus, Rodney. I’m…” John’s voice sounded wrecked, and Rodney smirked internally. “I’m gonna come if you keep that up!”
In response, Rodney hummed again before he let the tip of John’s cock slip into the back of his throat. “Oh, fuck!” John moaned before he came. Rodney pulled back and felt the pulse of John’s release hit his tongue. Salty and slightly sweet, the taste wasn’t bad.
When the moans above him changed pitch, Rodney pulled off and let John’s cock fall out of his mouth. Resting his head against John’s hip, he took several deep breaths as he tried to keep from coming in response to John’s pleasure. When clumsy hands moved through his hair, he smiled.
“I think you broke me,” John muttered before he pulled on a lock of hair. “But you still need to fuck me.”
“Yeah, I know,” Rodney murmured before placing a kiss at the tip of John’s cock. That earned him a moan. Overstimulated was a good look on John.
“Fucker,” John moaned before he twisted and pulled open the drawer to the nightstand. The lube and condoms were exactly where he had hoped they were. He plucked out a condom and the lube bottle without hesitation. Rodney held out a hand and took both without a word.
Popping the cap of the lube, he coated two fingers with the slick and reached under John and started rubbing against his asshole. The muscles were loose and relaxed from his orgasm, and Rodney slid both fingers in carefully. At the sigh of pleasure John let out, he crooked his fingers and ran them over the small hint of his prostate.
“Oh, fuck,” John moaned.
Rodney kept an eye on John’s dick, and it was twitching as if it was trying to get hard. Decision made, he leaned forward to run his tongue along the length. He wanted to see if he could get John going before he slid into him. Fucking him smoothly with his fingers, Rodney carefully dribbled more lube on them before adding a third.
John’s breathing started to change again as he pulled in deep breaths. Rodney could feel his legs tensing and relaxing as the pleasure he was giving moved through John. “I could do this all day. See if I can get you to come just from my fingers moving in your ass,” he murmured. “And then, when I know that, I’ll move on to see what else I can do to make you come without touching your cock. Can I make you come from touching you everywhere but your cock? Can I fuck you long enough that you will come on my cock and come again?”
“Jesus, Rodney!” John moaned, twisting against Rodney’s fingers even as he moved his hips to try to get them deeper. “We’re going to do all of that one day. But not now! Just fuck me already!”
He pulled his fingers free reluctantly and reached over the side of the bed to grab his t-shirt to wipe them clean. Once that was done, he sat up, hissing as his dick was dragged along the sheets.
It was the work of only moments to open the condom and roll it onto his cock. While he had himself in hand, he gave the base a good squeeze, trying to push any orgasm off for a bit longer. Grabbing the slick again, he drizzled some on his cock and then pressed the tip against Johns’ asshole.
As he pushed forward, Rodney hissed. The heat of his lover, with the thin layer of latex between them, was incredible. Drawing in a deep breath, He kept moving until his body was snug against John’s.
“If you stay still…” John threatened.
“No one would ever believe how pushy you are in bed,” Rodney said with a smile before he pulled out and then paused with just the tip of his dick still in his lover. Only when John relaxed did he slide back in. Leaning forward, he placed his hands on either side of John’s chest and pressed forward to kiss him, all the while moving his hips lazily.
Wet and hot, John kissed him back with abandon. Rodney licked into his mouth and took the moan he let loose as his due. When John’s hands moved to his ass, Rodney shifted, grabbing them and carefully placing them on the bed. He wasn’t going to be rushed.
“Rodney!” John protested; voice raised to an almost desperate pitch. “I want you to move!”
“I am moving,” Rodney told him as he slowly pressed in and out again.
“Not fast enough! Just fuck me already!” John growled.
“Want it fast, huh?” Rodney asked with a smile. He glanced down their bodies and saw that John’s dick was hard and leaking precum.
“Yes,” John hissed as he twisted against Rodney’s grip.
Rodney shifted once, sliding his cock in, and grunted in satisfaction as he ran it over the bump of John’s prostate. From the low moan John let out, he was also happy with Rodney’s actions. Angle found, Rodney started fucking John in earnest. Hard, driving, and relentless, he let it all out in an effort to drive his flyboy into orbit.
“Oh, damn,” John yelped before he wrapped both legs around Rodney’s hips and held on for dear life.
Rodney could feel the strain of his actions, but he didn’t care. John was moving with him, ass hot and gripping, and Rodney’s orgasm was crawling up his spine at a speed greater than anything he had ever known. Gritting his teeth, he tried to push the pleasure away until John came. It wasn’t working. Just as he was about to give in and let go, John went rigid in his arms, and his ass clamped down on Rodney’s cock, working to keep him in place.
That was it, Rodney thought hazily before he came. The pulses of pleasure whited out everything, and he kept moving on autopilot, drawing out everything until he couldn’t handle it anymore. He pushed in one last time and stopped. He knew from experience that he could stay hard for several minutes.
The flutters of John’s orgasm were moving against him as well, and Rodney released his grip on John’s wrists. He tucked his face into John’s neck and breathed deeply. He stayed that way while his cock slowly softened until he finally slid out, and John’s legs released him. Sitting back on his knees, he looked at his lover.
John looked utterly wrecked. His lips were swollen as if he had been biting them while Rodney fucked him, and his hair was standing even more on end than usual. His expression was also as unguarded as he had ever seen it. Leaning forward, Rodney pressed a tender kiss to his mouth. He was as gentle as he could be and brushed kiss after kiss on his lips.
“You are doing that again. As soon as I can feel my toes,” John whispered after several moments.
Rodney chuckled and then nodded. “Sure thing.”
“We’re a week away from dial out. Are you as impatient as I am to get going?” John asked as he sat in Rodney’s office.
“Hell yes,” Rodney said from behind his desk.
“We’ve managed to get the gear down from a mountain range of stuff to something that we can manage, and we’ve been through the gate to the Alpha site so many times that I’m starting to know that base as well as I’m getting to know this one.” John ticked off the point on his finger before putting up another. “You and all the other ATA recessive people have gotten your jabs and had a chance to play with Ancient tech, and Grodin managed to tickle a floorplan out of it, so we have a plan to store our gear as it comes through the gate. What do we have left?”
Rodney pulled a face and shook his head. “No, damn idea. Last will and testament?”
“I did that already,” John admitted. “And called my family to see if I could talk to them. It went about as well as I expected, but I needed to get that done.”
“That bad?” Rodney asked.
“Yeah, my dad has never been all that thrilled with me, and since I didn’t go into business like he wanted me to, I was basically disowned at eighteen. The only reason he didn’t do the full legal route is because of the potential scandal,” John admitted. “Image is everything to Patrick Sheppard. Having a son in the military looks good, but he would have preferred it if my brother, the spare, had done it.”
“That’s fucked up,” Rodney said. “Really.”
“Oh, I know. David and I agreed on that part at least. He’s happy enough being a businessman and he’s damn good at it. Thanks to him, the company has thrived and, from what I can see, expanded. I don’t get why my father isn’t thrilled with him,” John admitted.
“Well, his loss,” McKay waved the family drama aside. “Did Jackson ever get back with you to confirm if you are related to O’Neill? Given that both of you have the super-duper suped up ATA gene.”
John snorted at the descriptor. He and the general were apparently mostly Ancient, and the Outpost really liked them both. It was creepy. “It seems that both my parents are decedents of the O’Neill family, just different branches than the general. Names changed by history and the like, but Jackson has someone who can do ancestry searches, and they say that the whole family seems to have branches that keep marrying back in on itself. Cousins of various distances marrying each other. Like my parents. They were apparently sixth cousins, twice removed or some such.”
“That’s weird,” Rodney said, leaning back in his chair. “And your expression of the ATA?”
“Yeah, I get that honestly, it seems. Dad has it in spades, and they were able to confirm that mom did as well,” John admitted. “David is just as active as I am, but since he’s a civilian, they’re planning on moving slowly there. I don’t expect they’ll contact him at all on this unless they have no other choice.”
“Fabulous,” Rodney muttered. He tapped one finger on his desk before sighing. “It seems the McKays and the O’Neills are related as well. More distantly than you and your family, but still related. Jackson’s ancestry person seems to think that the O’Neills are the ones who’ve managed to keep the ATA gene going in humanity and spread it by marriage.”
“That doesn’t explain Dr. Kusanagi though,” John said after several minutes of thought. “She’s Japanese, right?”
“I was wondering the same thing. She’s mostly Japanese,” Rodney explained. “Apparently, there was a European ancestor somewhere in the not too distant past. When Japan first opened itself up for trade, someone from the clan O’Neill was on a ship and contributed to the gene pool in her family. Like most of the men and women in that family, they bred back in a few times, reinforcing the traits.”
“Cousins marrying cousins, fantastic,” John muttered. “Seriously, is there only one family that carries the gene?”
“Near as we can figure, it’s attached itself as a series of genes that need two copies to work. With both, you have the excellent access you and O’Neill have. If you are like me, you might have one and a corrupted copy, so you get some of the benefits, but not the access. And due to that, I needed the therapy to fill in the gaps,” Rodney said, waving one hand as he explained.
John nodded at that, but something was bugging him. “Okay, but that still doesn’t explain why it’s Clan O’Neill and their descendants who seem to have the majority of the ATA gene carriers.”
“Because, as near as we can tell when the Ancients came back to Earth from Pegasus, they were basically trying to ascend and had stopped paying attention to the physical,” Daniel Jackson announced from the door. “I heard you talking, and since I have some of the answers, I thought I would share.”
“Thanks,” John said. In the last timeline, he hadn’t really given much thought to where he had gotten the ATA gene from. It had just become a fact of life, and he had treated it like that. In this timeline, knowing was better than ignorance.
“You’re welcome. So, when the Ancients came back, from what we can tell, they came through the Antarctic gate because that was the only one on the planet at the time. They headed north to the British Isles. It was as isolated as was possible to be and still be on this planet. Ra hadn’t reached us yet but would show up a few decades later. By the time the Goa’uld arrived, the Ancients were winding down, and most of them were either dead or ascended. And ascended is as good as dead as far as reproduction is concerned,” Jackson told him as he walked in and took a seat across from Rodney’s desk.
“So, what happened? Someone had to have gotten a leg over with one of my ancestors to have dropped enough copies of the ATA gene off to allow for it to spread,” John protested. “I’m good with not knowing the how, but was it one? Was it many? Did someone go fuck his way through my distant ancestors? Or did he/she/they use some kind of genetic manipulation to give them the ATA gene?”
Jackson snorted softly in laughter and shook his head. “You and Jack are much the same on that. The ATA gene is all through the Celtic peoples of the British Isles, in larger or smaller concentrations. I know Clan O’Neill has it running as a dominant trait through most of them, and the branches of the clan have it too. There are other, smaller concentrations out there but, even then, they can all be traced back to the main O’Neill tree. It’s a bit weird, but given that there isn’t a sure fire way to confirm with certainty, I would say that the O’Neills are the vector that allowed the ATA gene to stay with humanity. As for the Ancient that did it? We don’t have a way to tell. Here on Earth. Check on Atlantis when you get there. There’s some bets that need to be settled.”
John shared a look with Rodney and winced. Yeah, he was going to put his money on Janus. The man had managed to make the best of the whole mess with the city drowning and them going back in time. He would have been the one to see the advantage of making sure that the one thing to make it all possible had survived. When they had privacy, he was going to ask about how…natural the ATA gene was. Because it didn’t really seem possible that something that important had stayed static on human DNA.
“Will do, Dr. J,” John told him. “Do you have any hints as to what we can expect when we head out?”
“You mean from my time ascended? Or because I’ve got more experience going through the gate?” Jackson asked.
“Eh, both?” John said.
Laughing, Jackson shook his head. “As far as I know, I never went to Atlantis while ascended. It wasn’t something I was really interested in at the time. I would say, be respectful of anyone you meet, remember their culture is just as valid as ours, and don’t be a dick to anyone.”
“Sounds like good advice,” John agreed.
“Also, remember that the Ancients were so far advanced that even their most casual science is going to be thousands of years ahead of ours,” Jackson reminded them.
“Point,” Rodney muttered. “And since it is so advanced, there’s rarely going to be the intermediate steps showing how they got to that science.”
“Yeah. So piecing together that they did is going to drive you up a wall,” Jackson confirmed.
“Do you think you can run a cultural sensitivity class for dummies before we head out?” John asked suddenly. Most of the people he had going were decent people, but not all of them could be trusted to be…smooth and appropriate with new people from Earth, let alone another planet.
“I thought you and Sumner were running all your troops through every gate address you could so the expedition could meet new people?” Jackson asked.
“The colonel has been doing that,” John agreed. “And it has led to some staffing changes. But, honestly, I think we need to bookend it with a nice lecture from you detailing why we did it.”
After all, having one of the men blow his gasket because a gay man had hit on him had been unexpected. John hadn’t remembered the guy from the first timeline, so he had no idea how he would react to anyone. Luckily for the SGC, the culture they had been visiting hadn’t been offended. They’d actually been somewhat pleased to be used as an introductory culture. Humans were weird, no matter what planet they resided on.
“Okay, I can see that,” Jackson agreed. “I’ll get my admin to put together a timeslot in the next two days, and we’ll see how many of your people are awake at the end.”
The three of them were silent for a moment then started laughing. “Just add some interesting facts, Doc, I’m sure they’ll pay attention.”
“Well, they had better,” Jackson confirmed. “I know Rodney thinks what I do is a soft science, but knowing how people are going to react and planning for it helps smooth out our interactions with the cultures we meet.”
“You know science is soft and squishy on the anthro side, Daniel,” Rodney protested. “It’s full of people and, as a whole, people make less sense than my cat!”
“Sometimes,” Jackson allowed. “But if you know what underpins a culture, you can, at least broadly, guess where they will jump when a stressor happens. And that’s shown even with computer models.”
“Bah,” Rodney waved a hand. “I’m including an anthropologist, an archeologist, and a sociologist in the science corps, aren’t I?”
“Mainly because the three people in question are also linguists and pretty decent with getting Ancient systems to give up information but, yes, you are,” Jackson agreed, voice dry. “Not everyone likes hard science, Rodney.”
“I don’t see why not,” Rodney said. “Life would be so much easier if people were logical.”
“Not everyone is interested in becoming a Vulcan,” John said with a chuckle.
Rodney grimaced and waved a hand. “Point. But the extended lifespan would be cool. Can you imagine what I could find out if I were going to live to three hundred years old?”
“Tempting,” John allowed. “But I’m not too sure if I would be willing to trade it for an unstoppable mating urge every seven years.”
“Yeah, that’s not exactly something I would be thrilled with either,” Rodney admitted.
* * * *
“Okay, people, we’re here today to do a final lecture on how not to be an asshole when you go through the gate,” John announced. “We’ve been through the gate more than a dozen times and met a variety of people. And yes, even the lizard people were people and, no, the xeno-biologists haven’t figured out how they managed to interbreed with humans. I know this because I asked. Trust me, they are just as curious as we are.”
The laughter that moved through the large auxiliary meeting room was loose and stress-free, and John was happy to hear it. It had taken a bit of time for everyone to jell with their new teammates, but the military arm of the expedition was coming together into a cohesive whole.
The civilians who had managed to meet the necessary standards for the teams were sprinkled through the room as well and John was keeping a weather eye on them. Most of them had been first or second-year expedition members, so he knew, mostly, how they would react. But they were still civilians.
“At any rate, Dr. Jackson has graciously volunteered some of his time to explain how to be a good gate team member and how not to offend people. For those of us on the designated first contact teams, this is information that we need to know,” John reminded everyone.
He had Rodney, Jensen, and Alvarez on his team, and it was going to be interesting to see how everything worked out. If he had his way, he would also be adding Teyla and Ronon, because native guides were worth their weight in naquadah when they were good. And those two were excellent.
“Dr. Jackson? You’re up,” John called.
Jackson stood up from his spot in the center of the room and looked around. “Okay, so most of you know me. Given that, anyone who’s an old SGC hand, please refrain from answering this question: What do you think when you look at me?”
John shared a look with Rodney, and then his other two team members. What?
“Seriously, what are your first impressions of me?” Jackson asked. He spread his arms and spun around, looking at everyone in the room. “I’m not going to be offended. Just call it out.”
“Soft,” a voice from the back of the room called.
As if that broke the ice, the words started coming fast and thick.
John cleared his throat and nodded at Jackson. “Deadly.”
The room went silent at that, and everyone looked from the doctor and back to him, trying to figure out why he had used that word. Jackson smiled once before straightening his back and adjusting his stance. The subtle changes brought his stature into view, highlighting the muscle that lined his frame. It also highlighted the pistol tucked into the back of his waistband in a holdout holster.
“I take it your reading has been productive, Major?” Jackson asked, amused.
“Oh, yeah. You aren’t harmless by any stretch of the definition, Doctor,” John agreed. “And anyone who thinks you are is being snowed.”
“True,” Jackson allowed. “But I’ve worked hard to project both personas around here. Either will get me what I want, but for the most part, the harmless academic works the best.”
“I’m sure it does,” John agreed. “How many people want to feed you and give you coffee?”
“Damn near all of them,” Jackson said with a smile. “The reason I bring this up is because what you saw was camouflage. I changed nothing about what I’m wearing, or about my actual person, just my posture. And by doing so, I made myself look harmless. The only one who didn’t buy it, out of the new people is the major. But he had an advantage over you lot. He’s been reading the unabridged After Action Reports we’ve filed.”
Jackson looked around again and adjusted his stance. Now, instead of standing like a nervous civilian in a room full of soldiers, he stood like the experienced gate team member he was. Ten years traveling through the gate with SG-1 and being on the flagship team had wrought changes to the man, and he was showing them all. “So, what do you see now?”
“The major’s right, deadly.”
“All good words and all true. Most of the earlier words were true when I started going through the gate, but harmless really wasn’t,” Jackson allowed. “If I had been harmless, Ra would have won.”
“So why do this exercise, Daniel?” Rodney asked. He had his arms crossed over his chest and was staring at the archeologist, intent on an answer.
“Because when you walk through the gate, not every culture is going to be what you expect. Not everyone will be friendly, even if they act like it. I don’t know how many times we’ve been on a first contact and meet people who looked okay on the surface but really weren’t. I’ve even got a few scars from those surprises,” Jackson explained.
“Humans and the associated races they live with cover the full gamut of behaviors, and you need to be on the lookout for them. Good examples of this are the Jaffa, the Unas, and Serrakin. The Unas look like humanoid dragons and, due to the way their jaws are hinged, they really don’t have a way to speak like a human. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t intelligent. They’re just as smart as we are, and you need to be aware of that,” he warned. “Major Lorne can give you a briefing on that if you want.”
“And the Jaffa?” asked one of the men in the back. John suppressed the urge to twist and check out who was asking questions. This was Jackson’s show, and John was there to learn, just like everyone else.
“The Jaffa started out just as human as you or me,” Jackson started. “And due to some pretty severe genetic manipulation by the Goa’uld, they’ve been changed to be able to carry a prim’ta, or larval symbiote, to maturity. In doing so, they get advanced healing, longer aging, and endurance. If the prim’ta is removed, a Jaffa will die within days. Roughly two-thirds of the Jaffa are using Tretonin as a way to get around this issue. Best analogy is they’re Type 1 diabetics. Without their meds, they die. It’s a nasty death too.
“At any rate, the Jaffa are a classic case of what you see is not what you get. Over the millennia serving the Goa’uld, they’ve learned how to hide in plain sight. How to shift attention away from what they don’t want to be seen. And how to project an image that may be utterly false in ways that tell you the image is 100 percent truth,” Jackson explained. “This allowed many of them to survive situations where anyone who hadn’t mastered those skills died.”
“So how do you work with them?” Jensen asked. He looked like he was trying to soak up everything Jackson was saying and slot it into place in his head.
“By being as straight as you can,” Jackson said. “The Jaffa are used to seeing the layers and layers of traps under a Goa’uld’s words and reacting accordingly. It may confuse the hell out of them the first few times they deal with us but, eventually, being honest with them wins them over. Will that work with every Jaffa? No. Just like it won’t with every human. But for the greater majority, it has shown them that the Tau’ri aren’t going to play with them like the Goa’uld do.
“Incidentally, when the Trust and the NID sent a bio-bomb through the gate to kill any and all Jaffa, we took a massive hit in our reputation out there,” Jackson shared. He waved a hand down in the general direction of the stargate. “All we actually have out there is the reputation that every single SG team has been building, one act of kindness or brutality at a time. We’re thought to be honest, fair dealing, unforgiving of betrayal, and willing to admit that we can be wrong. Also that we are willing to deal harshly with the factions on our world the betray us. We reinforced that reputation with how brutally we dealt with the Trust and the reparations we were willing to pay those affected.”
“Not a bad reputation to have, Doctor,” John said.
“No, it’s not,” Jackson agreed. “And we work to keep that reputation up. It’s not always easy, but playing it straight with our allies has given us far more than can be easily explained. Also, it means that people know we are honest, forthright, and can be trusted, even when we bring word of outlandish things.”
“Like the general,” Rodney cut in.
“Yes, like the general,” Jackson confirmed. “We’ve had some seriously weird shit happen before, and his practice of being blunt and truthful has been an immense asset. No matter how much heartburn it gave General Hammond.”
“Okay, I can see all of this, but what are you trying to get through to us?” Stackhouse asked from his seat by Bates.
“What I want you to take away from this discussion is the reminder that not every culture is like the one you grew up in. We, as the Tau’ri, are used to meeting new people and new cultures as we travel around the globe but seem to lose that adaptability when we step through the gate. Every single civilization out there has their own way of expressing good manners, of conducting trade, of being a good citizen. And you need to respect that up front. Because not doing so can be deadly.”
“Like what happened with Johnson,” Bates cut in. “If the people of P3D-449 hadn’t been willing to laugh off his homophobia, it could have damaged our relationship with them and our ability to trade for naquadah.”
“Yes,” Jackson agreed. “And there are other trade agreements that we have out there that are just as important as the one that is getting us enough naquadah to complete the Prometheus and the Daedalus.”
“So if you have a prejudice, deal with it and don’t take it through the gate?” the question was asked quietly, but it still echoed through the room.
“I get being scared of clowns,” Jackson shuddered at that. “And don’t get me started on spiders, but homophobia, xenophobia, and the related phobias in that vein have no place when you are stepping through a wormhole going from one planet to another. If you can’t accept that there’s more out there than you learned about when you were a kid, you are in the wrong job, and we need to get you out of the SGC before you get people killed because you insulted the wrong person at the wrong time. And yes, that does include misogyny and misanthropy.”
“The general’s apathy towards Goa’uld and snakes in general?” Markham asked. “Didn’t that cause problems with the Tok’ra?”
“Yes, but he developed that for good and legitimate reasons,” Jackson told the room. “And we earned their ire several times. But he was still bluntly honest and straight with them. Even the ones that he flat out hates knew he was going to treat them honestly. If not always politely.”
“So, does it still boil down to ‘treat people like you would want to be treated’?” Alvarez asked, voice quiet.
“Pretty much. Or another way to put it is ‘don’t be an asshole.’ Or don’t think that just because the culture you’re meeting uses bows and arrows, that means that they are primitive and useless. Some of our best and most valuable trades have come from people like that,” Jackson said, looking around the room. “Any other questions?”
The room was quiet for several minutes, and John stood up. “If you just can’t bring yourself to ask your question to Dr. Jackson in public, he’s going to be in his office until six tonight. He’s willing to answer polite questions until then. And so are the other members of the anthro department. We’re going into a whole new galaxy, people. We can’t afford to let any Earth-born prejudices come with us. The norm has officially been left behind. Understood?”
“Yes, sir!” the company responded, and John nodded. He was aware that he wouldn’t be able to stamp out all cases of the dreaded phobias, but anyone harboring them was now on notice that they weren’t going to be tolerated.
“Now, hand in glove with what Dr. Jackson has mentioned today about how some behaviors can get you in deep shit out there here’s one that won’t. We’re an international expedition. We have troops from several countries along with the US, and that means that we needed to make sure we’re all working under the same rules.” John didn’t look at Rodney as he talked. “It is officially the policy of the Atlantis Expedition that DADT is not going to be enforced. If you are gay/bi/straight, it’s your own business and no one else’s. We aren’t going to report anyone for being gay/bi/straight, and we sure aren’t going to drum anyone out of the service for being so.
“This is your last chance to leave the expedition. If possibly serving with a gay or bi soldier is your breaking point, just go let Master Sergeant Harriman know, and he will process you out of the SGC. Because they don’t want you here either,” John finished.
The room was silent, and almost everyone was trying not to meet anyone else’s gaze. John took the time to meet the gaze of each and every person he could until the silence was too uncomfortable to be sustained. “Dismissed.”
There was a rush for the door, and John shook his head. Sex sold the world over, but talk about it, talk about prejudices, and everyone was too uncomfortable to handle it. Humans were so weird.
“Good job, John,” Rodney murmured as he headed for the door after the first rush had subsided.
“Is that what you wanted?” Jackson asked as he sat back in his chair.
“Pretty much,” John agreed. “Thank you, Dr. Jackson.”
“You’re welcome, Major,” Jackson said. “Now do me a favor?”
“If I can,” John said, suddenly wary.
“Take care of Rodney. Despite his prickly attitude, he’s a friend, and I would hate to lose him.”
“I’ll do my best, Doctor,” John promised.
“See that you do.”
“Last meeting,” O’Neill called as he walked into the conference room. “And then the lot of you will be on your way through the gate in two days.”
“You don’t have to sound so happy to see the back of us, General,” Sumner said.
He sounded amused to John’s ear, and he certainly looked it as he relaxed in his chair. John felt much more confident in his reading of the colonel this time. They had actually developed the working relationship they should have had the first time around. “We have how much of your gear stuffed into the Mountain?” O’Neill asked as he settled into his place at the table. “And that’s not even counting the members of the expedition. We’re bursting at the seams.”
“Point,” Sumner allowed before he shrugged. “Only forty-eight more hours until we try to dial out.”
“Right, speaking of that,” O’Neill looked down the table until his gaze settled on Rodney. “McKay, we weren’t able to get the kinda/sorta!ZPM together despite Carter and I both working on it. Whatever it was I used; we seem to be missing a critical part. So we’re sending everything we have on it, and some naquadah bulbs that Carter assures me are at 100% capacity through with you. I figure you can work on that on Atlantis.”
“And hopefully the database on the city will have something on the machine and give us some clue on how to acquire the missing bit to allow us to dial home if needs be,” Rodney confirmed.
“Right,” O’Neill looked frustrated for a moment before he shook his head. “Okay, so let’s take this from the top. Dr. Weir, do you have any last changes to report from the IOA regarding the directives for the expedition?”
John looked at Weir and tried not to frown. She had been basically hands off for weeks and now looked smug, like she had gotten the news that she had wanted. “I have. It’s been confirmed that I am indeed in charge of the expedition and can make any last-minute staffing changes I deem needed. So before we get started, I want to announce that Dr. McKay will no longer be the CSO. Dr. Calvin Kavanagh will be taking that position. The IOA agreed that Dr. McKay is too valuable to the SGC to allow him to leave the planet so he will be staying.”
“Say what?” O’Neill asked, voice quiet and deadly.
“I’m certain that I didn’t stutter, General,” Weir told him, voice snippy. “McKay is staying here on Earth. Also, Dr. Carson Beckett has been reinstated as CMO.”
“That’s what I thought you said,” O’Neill muttered before looking at the IOA representative for the US. “Mr. Woolsey, did you know about this?”
John stopped glaring at Weir to look at the older man. He remembered him from the previous timeline. From what he had observed, Richard Woolsey was honest, law-abiding, and honorable. He also had a nasty habit of obeying his orders to the letter.
“Yes, I did,” Woolsey admitted. “But we were under the impression that Dr. McKay was trying to find a way to stay on Earth and needed our authorization to do so. From your reactions, I’m to understand that this isn’t the case?”
“No, Mr. Woolsey, it isn’t,” McKay bit out. John could tell that he was angry on a level that he had only seen once before. And the last time McKay had been that upset, the Wraith hive that had been pissing him off had been reduced to rubble. “Dr. Weir is acting outside her mandate to do an end-run around everyone. She’s managed to be obstructionist to the military members of the expedition and only stopped because the general threatened to report her to your body. She’s been all up in the science corps business, trying to change personnel, supplies, and orders. I have done my best to block her, but apparently, she decided to use the IOA to get her way instead.”
He turned to look at Weir, and the anger he was feeling seemed to have surprised her. “What you don’t get, you overreaching meddler, is that my scientists are going to Atlantis despite you. Every single scientist on the mission before this morning has made it clear that they don’t want to work with you. And the only reason you were left in charge was because I had been told I couldn’t get you replaced. When this is announced, I’m absolutely certain that there won’t be a scientist left on the expedition’s rolls because we can’t trust you, we can’t trust Kavanagh, and Beckett is only a few short steps away from being a mad scientist. Good fucking luck finding replacements for us all.”
Rodney sat back and crossed his arms before looking at Woolsey. The IOA rep looked troubled. “You people are fucked. Because without us going, I’m not sure that O’Neill is going to let the military go on this wild goose chase.”
“No, I’m not,” O’Neill agreed.
“I can order everyone to go,” Weir cut in with a smile on her face.
“No, you can’t,” Woolsey told her. “The expedition charter is quite specific. Due to the uncertain nature of the mission, everyone has to be a volunteer. And if the whole of the science corps quits, that guts the main reason for the mission right there.”
Weir looked over at John and Colonel Sumner. “Dr. McKay was the one to say that the military members of the expedition could do some of the science requirements!”
“And we could do some of it,” Sumner confirmed. “But if there are no civilians on the expedition, why would we include you? Because if it’s purely military, I’m in charge, and you are out on your ass.”
“Right,” Woolsey stood up, derailing the next piece of bullshit to come out of Weir’s mouth. “General O’Neill? Could I use your phone? I need to make a conference call.”
O’Neill waved a hand at his office and said nothing while Woolsey walked into it and closed the door. Only when he was certain that they had some semblance of privacy did he turn to McKay. “Are you certain that everyone would refuse to go?”
McKay reached under his laptop and pulled out a set of stapled papers. He crumpled the whole things up and lobbed it at the general. “Read that.”
“Gee, thanks, McKay,” O’Neill muttered as he smoothed out the ball of paper. He was silent as he read through the whole thing and then dropped it on the desk. “I counted. There’s one hundred and fifty names listed and the same number of signatures. All of them agreeing to stay home if Weir gets out of hand. Are you sure?”
“If she’d kept herself confined to researching ascension and being the administrator of the expedition, we would have been fine with working around her,” Miko said before Rodney could say anything. She shot Weir a poisonous look. “As it is, we’ve had to do a lot of fast talking to keep people on the expedition. Weir and her cavalier attitude towards our safety has caused a great deal of anger.”
“What?” Weir seemed flabbergasted at that, and John couldn’t see how. It wasn’t like she had missed the increasing level of antipathy she had been treated with as they got closer to the departure date. “All I want to do is make sure we can do our research with a minimum of interference from the military! Dr. McKay seems to be perfectly happy to bow down to them!”
“Seriously?” O’Neill asked as he stared at Weir. “I get more shit from McKay than I do from 90 percent of the other scientists in this mountain. And that includes the two on my old team!”
“If you weren’t wasting your degree, I wouldn’t give you as much shit, General,” McKay sniped back. “And yes, Dr. Weir, you are cavalier with our lives. We’ve been here for the last twelve weeks getting ready for this mission. During that time, the SGC has had more than a dozen teams come through the gate wounded or followed by hostile natives. There have been just as many lab accidents where only the quick action of our medial department kept people alive. Colonel Carter worked herself to an exhausted heap with the Goa’uld hand device to heal one of the most grievously wounded scientists. If it weren’t for her, Dr. Lee would be blind. We also missed a possible foothold situation due to the quick thinking of one of the gateroom techs. So spare me the whole ‘interference from the military’ crap. It’s bullshit. You want a fiefdom, and I’m not going to let you use my people as your serfs.”
“The IOA is in agreement, Dr. McKay,” Woolsey announced as he walked back into the conference room. “Dr. Weir, we are accepting your resignation as the leader of the expedition, effective immediately. Dr. McKay, you are back as CSO and co-leader with Colonel Sumner. Captain Watson is again the CMO, and Dr. Weir will not be joining you in two days when you leave. The rest of the committee want to talk to her in person so she will be coming with me. Also, Dr. McKay? Your argument for including some kittens has been approved. You can bring five.”
John flashed McKay a quick look and suppressed a smile. It seemed that his lover had gotten everything that he had been maneuvering for.
“This can’t be legal!” Weir protested as Woolsey moved to stand by her chair.
“Like it was legal for you to move around us to try to get McKay and Dr. Watson fired?” Radek asked. He had been very silent as everyone else made their displeasure known, and John had to wonder what the Czech was thinking. From what he remembered, Radek had carried a torch for Weir for years before they were sent back in time.
Weir didn’t seem happy with his comment. “He could have stayed here at the SGC!”
“Not happening. And since you are no longer a part of the expedition, get lost. We have things to discuss without you,” O’Neill informed her.
Everyone kept quiet as Weir was escorted out of the conference room. As soon as the door closed behind her, the general held up on hand to keep the silence. “Walter!”
“I’m already processing her paperwork, and General Hammond has been informed. He’ll be handling her exit interview personally, sir!” Harriman called from his desk.
“Right, now that we’ve cleared the air, let’s get back to business,” O’Neill announced before looking that Rodney. “I know he said five cats. Make sure at least one of them is yours.”
“Mine abandoned me for my neighbor,” Rodney admitted. “I’ve already got my eye on a replacement.”
“I expected,” O’Neill said with a nod. “Anyway. Onto the next person on the list. Colonel Sumner? How are our troops?”
“Everyone has completed their last physical, we’ve all filed our Last Wills and Testaments, pictures have been taken, and our gear is packed. We’re about as ready as can be. I’ve declared tonight as a Cinderella liberty night, so everyone is due back by midnight. Once back on base, we’re here until we step through the gate.”
“Good plan,” O’Neill agreed with a nod. “Just make sure that everyone knows that if they fuck up and get tossed in jail, they are off the expedition and will be dealing with me. Also if they are going to O’Malley’s, do not wear a unit patch for the SGC. We’re still not welcome down there.”
“Yes, sir, we’re aware,” Sumner said. He sounded amused, and John couldn’t blame him. It was funny, in retrospect, how SG-1 was still banned from that steakhouse. The mission had not been amusing to read about though. No wonder the general hated the Tok’ra.
“Major Sheppard? How’s our supply situation?” the general asked him next.
“Everything finished arriving last week, and we’ve spent the last ten days repacking everything into the pallets,” John reported promptly. “Dead space has been reduced to a minimum, and any extracurricular packing has been reduced as well. We just don’t have room. All the pallets have been inspected, the wheels greased, and we’re starting to line them up in order of need. Most will be staged in the storerooms by the Gateroom. We’ve tested it extensively with transfers to and from the Alpha site, and we expect we’ll be able to get the necessary goods and people through in less than twenty minutes with the remaining eighteen minutes for all the extras we have budgeted.”
“Sounds good,” O’Neil said before turning to Watson. “Doctor?”
Watson looked faintly uncomfortable for a second before he took a deep breath. “Everyone on the expedition is healthy. No one is presenting with cold or flu-like symptoms either. All the blood tests have come back clean for any other disease, so we won’t be bringing anything communicable with us. My department will each be carrying an augmented first aid kit along with their standard gear, so worst comes to worst, we’ll have supplies to patch people up with while we set up the infirmary.”
“Good. Check to see if anyone else in the expedition would be willing to carry one of those packs, Doctor. One can’t have too many medical supplies, after all,” O’Neill directed. He waited for a beat while Watson nodded his agreement before looking at Bates. “Gunny?”
If Watson looked uncomfortable, Bates looked like he wanted to crawl out of his skin. John wasn’t surprised. Bates had never struck him as someone who wanted the spotlight. “Sir, morale is good. Everyone is happy that our date is close. The new teams are jelling slowly, but I expect we’ll be moving some people as new stressors introduce themselves. I’ve already shared my observations with Colonel Sumner and Major Sheppard, so we’re keeping an eye on that. I’ve already told the troops to be on their best behavior tonight, and the current rumor is that they’ll be heading to O’Malley’s in shifts while hitting the mall for a last movie and maybe a shit ton of candy. No one wants to be left behind.”
“Good to know, Gunny,” O’Neill told him with a smile. “I’m planning on seeing the new King Arthur flick myself.”
John cocked his head to the side. He remembered getting that movie as a DVD, and it had been pretty decent. Maybe he could talk McKay into going out with him for one last dinner at O’Malley’s and then the movie. Because a year without new entertainment was going to drag. Also, steak.
“I’m more looking at the Bourne Supremacy, sir,” Bates admitted. “But who knows? Maybe the colonel will let us go in enough time for both,” he suggested with an unsubtle glance at Sumner.
“If we can get this meeting done in good time, Gunny, sure,” Sumner agreed.
“Thank you, sir,” Bates said with a smile. He sat back in his chair and looked to his right where Cooper was sitting.
“Chief Cooper? What have you got for us?” O’Neill asked.
“My people have already turned over the kitchens to the next crew, and we are fully packed. Like everyone else, we’ve repacked everything to minimize our dead spaces. Unlike everyone else, I’m certain I have no spare space left at all. We’ve got everything prepped for meal service to be up and running within hours of getting to Atlantis. If the city is like the information that Dr. Grodin was able to get us, I should have a permeant mess in place within two days. After that, we’ll start exploring our area to make sure we’re aware of all the relevant public areas under our control. I am bringing enough seed crops to allow us to start eating fresh veg and not freeze dried or pickled within six months. Speaking of pickles, I’ve got enough in my supplies to preserve our food as we grow it and possibly trade for it. So long as it’s edible, I’ll be able to make use of it,” Cooper reported.
“Good to know, Cooper.” O’Neill looked sad for a moment before he shook it off. He waved a hand at the man next to him. “Make sure to say goodbye to Daniel before you head out. You know you’re his favorite Squid.”
“Aye aye sir,” Cooper agreed. She raised an eyebrow at the scientist and smiled when he nodded once. “Also, I arranged for the mess here to have several industrial-sized coffee urns set up in the mess we’ll be using the morning of so we can fill our carafes before heading out. Same with water for our canteens.”
“Thank you, Chief,” John murmured. He had forgotten about that and was happy that someone had remembered. It had taken several days before Atlantis was producing potable water in the last timeline, and he was hoping they could speed that up this time.
O’Neill turned slightly to look at the scientists. “Dr. McKay, you are up.”
“My people will be on liberty as well. It’s a damn good thing O’Malley’s is as big as it is. I expect they’ll be doing a brisk business,” Rodney said, amused. “We have the ZedPM from the Antarctic base up here, and Colonel Carter and I have built a rig that will allow us to slide it in and connect with the stargate. Doing it this way should lower the possibility of browning out the Mountain. If all goes well, the ZedPM will support a gate trip for the full thirty-eight minute and still have enough of a charge to run the Outpost for a year.
“Obviously that will be far less if there’s a space battle, but I hope that we will be back in contact by this time next year. The plan is still on for us to be looking for additional ZedPM’s so we can send one back here for the Outpost. As for our gear? We’ve been packed for weeks. Unlike everyone else, we didn’t really have any reason to wait, and the greater majority of our stuff wasn’t in use.” Rodney turned to look at Dr. Watson. “I’ll take one of the extra medical packs and pass the request on to my own people so those that choose to can volunteer.”
“Thank you, Dr. McKay,” Watson murmured. “I’ll have the extra packs made up and waiting for pick up.”
“We’ve also distributed the hard drives with the component pieces of an entertainment server on them among my people. It will not be going up immediately, but it will go up as soon as we have the wireless routers in place. No, we have not gotten porn, nor will any of my people download it for anyone. But we have managed to get movies, TV shows, music, and books on those hard drives, and we’ll be opening them up for the whole expedition to use.” McKay looked down at his list and tapped it. “I know that we have a large number of ATA-positive people, but we need to ensure that they remember not to initialize everything in sight. We want to make sure the city comes back online in a safe manner. The legends all say she was sunk, and it would be horrible if we got there only to find that we are fucked because we’re underwater.”
“Chances are, Rodney, that the city will be underwater. The Ancients were very certain that they sank her,” Daniel reminded him from his place by the general. The anthropologist had been very quiet as he sat through the meeting, and John had to wonder what he was thinking. Ascension did weird things to people, and Jackson took to it a bit weirder than most. But, then again, he’d only been ascended once at this point.
“Fair point, Daniel,” Rodney admitted as he looked at Daniel. “But we don’t want to do anything untoward while we’re finding our feet on her.”
“Okay, all good points.” O’Neill glanced down his list and then looked at Radek and Miko. “Do you two have anything to add?”
Radek raised one hand and nodded. “Engineers will be going over everything on the city before we use it. If something is lit up and it hasn’t been cleared by an engineer, exploration teams have been told not to touch it and get one of us so we can clear it. Ancient systems are very interconnected, so we need to make sure that everything we turn on is in good condition first. We can’t afford to have anything blow up.”
“Also, for the computers, we know they will all be using Ancient until we can get the firmware patch in place, so they display in English,” Miko advised. “That will take time. If anyone is unsure of what a console is telling them, most of the science department has a good working knowledge of Ancient and will be able to tell you what’s happening. I don’t know how fast I will have the routers up, but that will depend on the superstructure of the city. I currently have enough packed to blanket the Mountain and the parts to build at least that many more.”
“Sounds like we have a plan in place then,” O’Neill said after she finished.
“Yes, sir,” Miko agreed.
“Okay, does anyone have anything else for me?” O’Neill asked as he stacked his paperwork together.
“I do,” Rodney admitted. He looked at Dr. Jackson. “If in the next two days you decide to come out with us, there is totally a place for you. And I might not make you the person in overall charge of the soft sciences. Maybe.”
Jackson started to laugh as the general stared at McKay like he had taken his favorite toy away. “You know I can’t go right now, but I’ll remember that for possible future reference.”
Rodney gave him a serious look and then nodded. “See that you do. Also, don’t die. I have fifty dollars on you actually not dying in the next twelve months. The odds are horrifically long, so I thought I would hedge my bet by letting you know.”
“I’m not planning on dying, Rodney,” Jackson said, still amused. “But I’ll take that into consideration.”
“See that you do,” Rodney said. “Okay, I’m done.”
“Why am I nice to you again?” O’Neill asked, voice bland.
“I have no damn idea why you’re trying to say you’re nice to me,” Rodney allowed. “You sent me to Siberia.”
“Can you see Carter going?” O’Neill shot back.
John sat back in his chair and let the whole thing wash over him. If nothing else, it was amusing. From the smile on Jackson’s face, he thought so as well.
“Carter would have sent some of those Cro-Magnon bastards through a wormhole to the heart of a star for their attitudes,” Rodney snapped. “The only reason we still have decent relations with the Russians is because the whole lot of them are bigger assholes than I am. And that’s saying something.”
“True. But you got paid, they got power, and the SGC smoothed over relations so we can keep going through the gate with a minimum of issues,” O’Neill told him. “And the head of that exchange program called you a charming man.”
Rodney burst into laughter at that. “Did that bastard say it with a straight face?”
“No idea, it was over the phone, but he didn’t sound like he was strangling on the words,” O’Neill said. “Seriously, you know it was useful, why are you bitchy about it?”
From the long look Rodney was giving O’Neill, John was sure he thought the general was slow. “I didn’t exactly volunteer for that, General. That’s one of the reasons I’ve been so militant on how the expedition was staffed.”
“Say what?” Jackson asked. “Rodney, we were told you volunteered for it after you were informed of what it entailed.”
“That would be no. I was placed on a plane and sent,” Rodney admitted. “And, yes, I got paid. Yes, I learned the ins and outs of the naquadah generators and managed to improve on them, so we get more bang for our buck, but I would have preferred it if I had been asked.”
“Jack!” Jackson yelped.
“Don’t look at me, Danny. I suggested him, but I wasn’t told this. There was no way I was going to send Carter, what with all the military intelligence she has running between her ears, into Russia. We couldn’t afford to have her gone. We could barely afford to have McKay gone, and he busted through their power program like a superstar and got back in the US in less than three months,” the general protested.
“I think I’m going to have a word with Hammond then,” Jackson said before he stood up. “In case I’m not at the departure, good luck, everyone, and may all the gods and goddesses be with you.”
“Right.” O’Neill looked distracted as he watched his friend march into his office. “Dismissed. Stay out of trouble.”
John looked at Colonel Sumner and raised an eyebrow at him as everyone started leaving, and the general headed for his office. “Anything planned, sir?”
“Not O’Malley’s, that’s for sure,” Sumner said with a laugh. “But I may hit the movies before I have a late dinner at a restaurant I know.”
“Have fun, sir. I’m hitting O’Malley’s as soon as we get the all clear,” John admitted.
“Just make sure that you and Dr. McKay get back here by midnight,” Sumner reminded him.
“Yes, sir,” John agreed, surprised at the comment. “Sir?”
“I’m just glad that he’s getting along with someone,” Sumner admitted. “And that you two have a good working relationship.”
“Right.” John shook his head as his mind tried to cramp over how…nice the colonel was being.
O’Neill opened the door to his office and leaned out. “Let the company head out now,” he ordered. “They’ll have twelve hours to get their last hurrahs out and contribute to the economy of Colorado Springs. That means you two as well.”
“Yes, sir!” John confirmed with the colonel, making a weird echo effect. The overhead speaker started making the same announcement, and they shrugged before heading out.
John needed to drop off his meeting gear at his room and change, and then he needed to pick up his scientist. There was a steak out there with his name on it, a couple of movies he wanted to see, and maybe they would be able to squeeze a BJ in there too.
“We’re hours away from leaving, and now you get the jitters?” Rodney asked as he watched his lover pace around what had been his office.
“Yes. I have to go out there and be all sorts of calm and stuff, and I can’t quite get there in my head,” John admitted.
Rodney walked over to the door and made certain it was shut and locked. “What’s got you all twitchy?”
“What if we’ve gone back to that original timeline where we all drowned?” John asked. “Or because we don’t have Elizabeth with us, the city doesn’t rise because no one was there to change out the ZPMs? What happens if we’re too late, and Athos has been culled, and we miss Teyla?”
“You’ve been stewing on this for a while, haven’t you?” Rodney asked carefully.
“Yeah, I have,” John admitted. “They’re legit concerns, Rodney.”
“Oh, I agree, they are,” Rodney agreed. “But something for you to consider… You and I are numbers two and three of the people heading through the gate. We know that city better than anyone currently alive. If, and it’s a big if, we are in the timeline where things go to shit, we know where the puddle jumper is, we know how to use it and, by science, we know what to do when we get back there.”
John stopped pacing and drew in a deep breath. “Right. That’s good. Good plan. I take it you made your selections for your carriable gear with that in mind?”
“You bet your ass I did,” Rodney admitted. “And I’ve calculated the dates. We’re actually going to get in two days earlier than we did last time. If nothing else, we can make sure that necklace gets destroyed before Teyla sees it. Or deactivated permanently.”
“Given that the damn thing is Wraith tech, I think she would want it destroyed,” John said after a moment’s thought. “Do you think we can get the city to rise?”
“Janus programmed the city to rise in the last timeline. I figure he’ll have done it in this one,” Rodney took a deep breath. “And if not, I have a Mark III generator that should have just enough juice to get us to the surface and, once there, the buoyancy of the city will take over. And the solar cells on her superstructure will start gathering power, and that will buy us enough time to find that damn geothermal station.”
John looked intrigued at that. “I know you’ve been thinking about it, but… How long do you think it will take you to get it up and running?”
“About three months,” Rodney admitted. “And we need to kill that damn queen, too. I don’t want to turn around and see her behind me.”
“Agreed. As soon as we can manage it, her and her ship need to die,” John concurred.
“Okay, any other freak-outs?” Rodney asked.
“No, I think that was it,” John admitted. He leaned forward and kissed him, gentle and sweet. “By the end of the day, we’ll be back on Atlantis.”
“I can’t wait.”
* * * *
John walked through the hallway towards the gateroom, his ruck on his back, his gun clipped to the webbing of his ALICE vest, and his lover following closely behind. Unlike the first time he had done this walk, he was a respected and valued member of the expedition, and he knew it.
When he reached Colonel Sumner, he nodded. “Everyone is lined up and ready to go, sir.”
“Our gear?” Sumner asked as he bounced once on his toes.
“All staged in the storage rooms and ready to be sent down after us,” John confirmed. “Everything is labeled, and the SGC has people in the rooms ready to push.”
“Okay. Let’s see if we can do this then,” Sumner muttered before he turned to the windows over their head. “General O’Neill, we’re ready when you are!”
“Stand by for dialing then. Clear the flush zone!” the general’s voice cut through the chatter in the gateroom. The area immediately in front of the stargate was cleared, and the MALP was ready to head on through.
The countdown, as each chevron was engaged, was nerve-wracking. John could feel the subliminal hum of the gate shake the mountain, and it only got deeper as they reached chevron number seven. When the eighth chevron engaged and the wormhole flushed out, the hum reached a crescendo and then died down to bare background noise.
John bit his lip as he started the timer on his watch while the MALP was sent through. The little machine was laden with supplies in addition to its sensor net. Glancing at his watch, he saw it had been thirty seconds. Time was ticking.
Just under a minute later, the general got on the loudspeaker. “You have an all clear, Atlantis Expedition. God speed, and we’ll see you in a year!”
“Move out!” Sumner called before he started for the wormhole at a trot.
John followed on his heels, certain that Rodney was on his. They dove into the wormhole together and exited back onto their city. She was still underwater. Tilting his head, John requested a status report.
“Sir, we have minimal power and the city is saying that she needs to rise soon,” John called.
“Already working on that,” Rodney answered as he shucked his backpack and reached for the Mark III generator on the MALP. “Radek, we need to get this spliced into the power relays. Miko, get with the major, and find me the power room!”
Sumner gave him a distracted nod. The man was working with the first group through to make sure everyone made it across safely and that each of them dropped their backpacks in the designated areas. Once that was done, each expedition member had a duty station to man as their supplies came through the gate.
John kept an eye on Rodney as he trotted up the stairs to the command deck. He was ignoring the way they lit up under his feet. The city felt much the same as she had the last time he had come through, and he mentally crossed his fingers that she was in the same condition.
“Major, I need your genetic override,” Miko called.
It took only seconds for him to place his hand on the console and the automated sentry system relaxed. His genetic signature was within the tolerances, and it released the information they needed. “McKay, two floors directly down from us is a relay that you can add that generator too. The computer says it will be conducting the aequor maneuver in thirty minutes!”
“Does the city need the power we have to be able to do that successfully?” McKay demanded as he moved through the checklist for the generator.
“No, she’s good. But she will need the power to get her basic systems up!” John relayed. “Colonel Sumner, we need to make sure our supplies are secure in thirty minutes. Atlantis will be rising then!”
“Understood,” Sumner answered.
John glanced at his watch as he unbuckled his vest and shrugged the whole mess off. He dropped his gear behind the DHD console and headed back down to the gateroom floor to help direct traffic.
All the people were through and the first batches of red, or urgent/necessary, supplies were being shoved through. John started directing them to the designated storeroom as he heard the colonel start reporting to the SGC.
“We’re here, the city is still underwater, but is apparently in the process of trying to rise. We seem to have enough power for that, but not for anything else, because we need to get our generators spliced in to get the basics up. I have no idea what the basics are on a floating city of the Ancients, but I’m sure we could use more power, sir.”
“Sheppard? What’s the city got to say?” O’Neill asked.
John toggled his comms unit and moved out of traffic so he could report. “She says she’s got about 5% left on the potentia that is currently plugged in and will need more power in the short term until her solar arrays can start drawing in energy.”
“We’ve got some extra naquadah generators that we can send through,” O’Neill said as the pallets marked in red switched to orange. “We’re holding steady on power on this end and expect to get to the full thirty-eight minutes out of the ZPM.”
“Good to know, General,” McKay cut into the line. “Because we need everything we can. This place has dead plants in the hallway, and that’s just creepy as fuck.”
“We’re on the orange, McKay,” John reported. He had stepped back into line and was pushing pallets on as quickly as they were coming through. As the next one slid through the gate, he saw that it had an uninitialized naquadah generator on top. “We’ve got another generator through!”
“Give it to Kusanagi. She’ll set it up at the command console,” McKay directed.
John shot the scientist a look as she paced the pallet and then grabbed the pieces of the generator from Stackhouse when he pulled them off for her.
“She’s got it,” John told him.
“Good. Now leave me alone for two minutes,” Rodney requested.
John didn’t bother to reply, he just returned to his job. When O’Neill announced they had reached the yellow supplies, there was a breathless cheer from the expedition. That was the personal supplies and everyone’s trunks. Once those were through, they were into the discretionary green supplies, and every single one of those was a gift.
“Holy shit, we made it,” John muttered as the greens started being pushed through. “We’re GREEN!”
“Holy shit, indeed, Major,” Sumner grunted as he helped push everything down the line. “I hope someone remembered to bring muscle relaxers and pain meds.”
“First crates had a supply, sir,” John confirmed with a breathless laugh. “Watson made sure.”
Sumner flashed him a smile and then grimaced. “Good call.”
John wanted to glance at his watch, but he didn’t. He could tell because of what pallet they were on that they were drawing to the end of the supply chain. He was utterly amazed that they had made it. Starvation wasn’t going to be visiting this time.
“Atlantis, this is the SGC, you are fully supplied,” O’Neill announced. “Congratulations on a successful arrival!”
“Thank you, sir,” Sumner panted.
John glanced at his watch and winced. They had managed that in twenty-eight minutes. Damn. Even as he thought that Atlantis passed on the alert to him. “The city is rising. Everyone hold onto something!”
“Moring clamps are released, and we have thrust,” McKay called from the command deck. “The city is rising quickly. She’s got a field up protecting us from the pressure of being underwater so we won’t get the bends from this!”
“Good to know, McKay!” Watson called as he gripped the support pillar at the base of the main staircase.
“We’re monitoring your situation, Atlantis,” O’Neill said.
“Not much you can do, General,” McKay shouted over the noise of millions of tons of city was thrust up to the surface.
Turning his face to where the balcony doors were, John watched as the city burst from her watery prison and reached for the stars.
“We’re on the surface,” Rodney’s voice abruptly lowered as the noise abruptly died. “General, I repeat we are on the surface.”
“Congratulations, Atlantis,” Jackson called.
“We’ll see you people in a year,” O’Neill promised. There was one last sound of something moving through the gate, and John looked down to see the case of champagne come through. As soon as it was on the Atlantis side of the gate, the wormhole shut off.
“We made it,” John muttered, amazed. He started up the stairs towards the doors he knew that lead to the balcony. Pressing them to open, he walked out to stare out.
“Holy shit,” Rodney breathed out as he stepped up to stand beside him. “We’re here.”
“Yeah,” John agreed. He brushed one shoulder against Rodney’s to get his attention off the scenery. “Time to get started.”
As I was writing this story, I realized that I had started something that would end up being the start of a series. So, count this as part one. I will be working on more in this universe as time goes on.
I want to thank Jilly and Keira for the hard work they put into being betas for this. The work is definitely better for their picky natures. Thanks to them, this actually works.
I also want to thank Syble. She did the art for this and it’s pretty damn amazing. I got lucky to see the art as she was working on it. It was beautiful then and it’s even more so now. I adore what she did and will be displaying it for all to see when it comes to putting this on my site. Syble? You are a superstar. Thank you.