Voyage par Mer
a Stargate Atlantis and Traders crossover.
Spoilers: Voyage par Mer is set between the first and second season of Stargate: Atlantis and after the final series of Traders.
Betas: thanks to LKY, Lisa and Cindy.
Chapter One: Role Models
"McKay, I know that you're in there," John yelled through the door. He consulted the wadded up piece of paper on which he had written down the private home address that he had wheedled out of
No one answered but the house didn’t feel empty.
"I've got Brut, chocolate and the long winded version of 'Return of the King'," he cajoled. “We deserve a celebration; we survived... Hey, it’s even imported chocolate."
A small voice asked, "What kind?"
"Lindt – the good stuff."
The door opened a crack and a single blue eye peered out. John wiggled the bar enticingly. He was rewarded by a clinking of the security chain and the door opened. Rodney looked more rumpled than usual; nervous blue eyes catalogued him before fixing firmly on the bar of chocolate. His hand came up and he nibbled on his index finger.
"Hi, Rodney," John said.
"Your right ear is more pointy than your left ear by a factor of 7.3 percent," he said around his fingers.
He shuffled nervously in his blue and white tennis shoes.
"You're not Rodney," John said unnecessarily. The stranger seemed a little bit shorter, somehow diminished.
"No." The doppelganger dropped his gaze to the floor. "I'm Grant. Grant Jansky, Rodney's cousin. My mother and Rodney's mother were twins and they were born 92.5 minutes apart on the twelfth and thirteenth of December 1942. So they had separate birthdays even though they were twins." He lifted his head a fraction and peered out under long eyelashes. "Who are you?"
"I'm John. John Sheppard," John said gently. "I work with Rodney at Cheyenne Mountain."
"Flyboy!" Grant flung his arms around John and hugged.
Automatically, John twitched to defend, but caught himself and settled for gingerly patting the stranger's back.
"Flyboy?" John drawled.
"Flyboy, pain in the ass, hero and best friend." Grant pulled away, pursed his lips tightly together and smiled.
"Really? Flyboy?" John smiled back at the man. "Is Rodney in?"
Grant shook his head emphatically. "He went out for Doritos and dips, and cheese in a tube, proper beer, and cherry flavoured coca cola and popcorn for the Flyboy – you!"
"Does that mean that I can come in?"
Suddenly discomforted, Grant rocked from foot to foot and the fingers bobbed back in his mouth. He shook his head rapidly from side to side.
"It's okay, I don't have to come in," John said gently.
"Rodney said not to let any strangers in," Grant explained earnestly.
"I'll sit on the step," John said easily.
The door slammed in his face, and then, unexpectedly, popped back open. Faster than a pilot's reflexes, a hand snatched out and grabbed the chocolate and then the door slammed shut again. John froze for a breath, shell-shocked by a McKay on speed. Letting out a long, slow sigh, he pulled the second chocolate bar from his pocket and settled down on the step to wait.
John leaned back against the door, stretched his legs out across the sidewalk and basked in the afternoon sunlight. It sounded like Rodney had just stepped out for snacks so he probably wouldn't be long and, to be frank, leaving his cousin alone for a long time seemed like a bad idea.
"Whoa!" The door opened and he sprawled on his back over the threshold.
A bashfully smiling Grant stood over him. "I made cocoa with marshmallows." He held a mug. "Would you like some?"
"Love to." John grinned up at him; the shy smile was infectious. Grant thrust the cocoa in his face and John barely managed to catch it without spilling as he sat up.
Grant disappeared back into the house and returned with a similarly filled mug clasped carefully between his hands. In great deliberation, he set the mug on the step and then, unexpectedly, he squeezed in beside John.
"I like the white marshmallows more than the pink ones." Grant shuffled on his bottom until he was comfortable.
John contemplated the over-filled mug and mountain of marshmallow. He scooped a fingerful of the melting confectionary and slurped.
Grant giggled. He stuck his own finger in the cocoa.
"How long are you visiting Rodney?" John asked conversationally.
Grant consulted his marshmallow covered fingers. "For five more days, then I have to go home."
"And where's home?" John asked, thinking somewhere special.
"Gardner Ross in Toronto."
"Is that a --"
"It's an investment house and I'm the derivatives department -- the entire derivative consulting department. I construct algorithms to predict the flow of money. And before I came to visit Cousin Rodney they made me get a minion – I don't need a minion – to look after my accounts. But I wrote a programme to run the derivatives instead because I don't like Mr. Badler in my office – he's very loud and he talks behind people's back. He thinks I'm strange," he finished softly.
"That doesn't sound fair."
"He's scary – he pretends to be nice but behind his eyes he's nasty. I don't understand how people can do that." Grant nibbled again at his fingers. "He hides behind a mask and most people just see the mask." Guileless blue eyes peered at him.
"Perhaps," John said slowly, "people are more comfortable with the mask."
"I don't like masks."
"Masks are scary," John admitted.
"I'm afraid of lots of things. I've got Achluophobia, Acousticophobia, Agoraphobia, Apiphobia, Brontophobia, Bufonophobia, Catoptrophobia…"
Realising that the guy was going to go through the whole alphabet, John volunteered,
"I don't like clowns. They scare the crap out of
"An extreme fear of clowns is known as coulrophobia." Grant shook his head wisely. "That's why you don't like masks. Clowns have masks."
"Hello." Rodney stood over them, plastic shopping bag in hand.
"Rodney!" Grant bounced to his feet, in his haste the cocoa falling and spilling to the earth.
Rodney simply opened his arms and folded the guy in. He hooked his chin over Grant's shoulder and regarded John levelly.
"We were just getting to know each other," John said responding to the weighing expression. "There's a guy at his work, Mr. Badler, who's being nasty to him."
"Really?" Rodney pulled back and tried to look in Grant's eyes. Grant tucked his chin down. "Grant?" he said, chastising.
"Yes," Grant said to his chest.
"Is D'Arby still at the firm?"
"Now he is. He came back."
"K’." Rodney pulled him in tightly. "I'll call him."
Grant sagged into him, sighing happily.
"Without Grant, I probably wouldn't be as well socialised as I am," McKay's lips twisted in a travesty of smile. "He was my role model, my big brother."
John couldn't help but look at the funny little man who was trying to entice Rodney's cat from underneath the sofa with a strip of smoked salmon.
"Well, that explains a lot." Sheppard bit his lip the second the words escaped.
"Yeah, mental illness is always hysterical."
"Look, I'm sorry, it just came out." He lowered his voice. "What's the matter with him?"
"Bipolar, obsessive-compulsive, schizophrenia, autistic – take your pick. He's been diagnosed with all of them by the voodoo community and usually at the same time," McKay said with a twist of his lips.
"And he works at an investment bank?" John checked.
Rodney took a long draw from his bottle of Molson Beer. "Yes and he's good at his job."
"But…" John couldn't finish.
"He lives and breathes patterns. He can see them in a cornfield or a projection of coffee investments correlated with the North Atlantic Oscillation. He can predict a terrorist attacks from whole grain stock movements and orchids in Brazil."
"Why isn't he…?"
"Working for the government?" Rodney read his mind once again. "Grant doesn't do stress any more."
Jinx the cat had finally edged out from under the couch and was draped lovingly over Grant's lap accepting slivers of salmon as his due.
"I can hear you," Grant said singsong.
Rodney slipped off his chair, joining Grant on the floor. "I think Mr. Jinx likes you."
"I like him. He's purring." Grant pulled the cat up against his chest and, amazingly, it did not complain.
"Mr. Jinx has been staying with my next door neighbour but, you know, I think he'd be happier staying with you while I'm away."
"Really?" Grant's eyes lit up.
Rodney opened his arms again and Grant dove in for a hug. "You never used to let me hug you much. Why do you let me hug now?"
Rodney didn't answer.
Mr. Jinx and Grant were settled down for the night in Rodney's spare bedroom. Rodney and John lay sprawled on his lumpy settee, shoulders mashing together as it sagged, making decent inroads into their second six-pack of Molson.
"That was a nice thing to do."
"What?" Rodney said blurrily. Alcohol went straight to Rodney's head. John thought that it was pretty funny.
"Giving Mr. Jinx to your cousin."
"I should have last time, but there wasn't enough time. He wasn't doing too good and he was in
"Must have been difficult."
"What was?" Rodney snapped.
"Going away when your cousin wasn't very well," Sheppard said non-judgmentally, but Rodney didn't hear that.
The warmth at his side moved away. "Grant's not dependent – he's better when he's with his friends. I can't protect him all the time and he doesn't need it. I have a role – I'm needed on Atlantis. I didn't leave him alone. I made sure that provisions were made. Jeannie checks up on him."
"It's okay, Rodney," Sheppard said softly.
"He didn't get ill until he was about nineteen," Rodney suddenly said. He brushed tiredly at his forehead with the heel of his hand.
"He was at Queen's University -- started early like I did. He understood people; he wasn't a freak. He'd always helped me, not with math and physics, but with people. He taught me the rules: 101 of understanding Homo sapiens. They don't always work but they're mostly useful," he mused ruefully. "But he became isolated, refused to talk to people, disordered, sometimes his thoughts didn't track. It was painful to watch. He managed but then the voices started when he was writing up his Ph.D.. He was in and out of institutions. When he was good, he was very good and when he was bad, he was very bad."
Sheppard cracked another Molson and handed it over. "Here."
"I ignored him," Rodney admitted, talking mainly to the bottle. "I couldn't face it. I didn't want it to happen to me. Like it was contagious or something."
"It's okay, Rodney," John said.
He laughed nastily. "Contagious. Right, idiot. I saw me in him and I ran away."
"Rodney?" John began.
Rodney felt silent. He flopped back on the settee and lost himself in the golden fizziness of his Molson.
John hunted for something to say, something to make it right; he could argue that Grant wasn't Rodney's responsibility and that he had his own life to lead. Yet, obviously, Rodney felt that he had let his cousin down.
"He's older than you, yeah?" John questioned.
"Couple of years."
"So you were pretty young when it started."
"Major. That is an excuse not a reason." Rodney shifted round on the couch to sit with legs crossed. "That was then and this is now. And 'now' my cousin is visiting."
The unsaid message was that: this topic is now over and will never be revisited.
"I think it's very nice that you're giving your cat to your cousin."
"Yes, it is very nice of me," Rodney said patronisingly. "It's also logical, when we return from Atlantis, I can kill two birds with one stone: visit my cat and Grant and Jeannie, since she's in the same city. It's perfect. Logical. Three birds with one stone."
"Okay." John held his bottle up and clinked it against Rodney's. "Here's to logical."
"And the next year on Atlantis."
John grinned. "Things to know, things find about and things to discover."
"And," Rodney said, a bright light in his eyes, "here's to progress."
Chapter two: House Call
“Hullo, Rodney, what are you doing?” Carson grinned – he had never in his wildest imaginings pictured Rodney gardening, wearing baggy cargo pants, an appallingly colourful Hawaiian shirt with a giant red hibiscus plastered on the front and a knitted cable cardigan.
Rodney blinked up at him and screwed up his nose. The man smiled guilelessly and then quickly looked away. His left incisor was slightly misaligned.
“Rodney said I could weed if I really wanted to. But it seems a little unfair to dig them out of their home just because Rodney doesn’t like them.”
“Ah. Rodney never said that he had a twin?”
The gardener shrugged minutely and returned to his weed, tenderly patting the soil around its stem.
“I work with Rodney at
“Where are you from?” The stranger cocked his head to the side, listening.
“Highlander. Duncan McLeod of the Clan McLeod.
“I know Flyboy. He works with Rodney too. He brought me chocolate,” the man said out of the blue. “The good stuff; it’s better than Hershey’s.”
“Anything’s better than Hershey’s,”
The man looked up at the hand and then glanced away, fixating on the grass under his crossed legs. “You’re the doctor.”
“Yes, I am. I’m a medical doctor and I have a Ph.D. in genetics.”
“My genetics are all right. You can’t have them.” He shuffled away on his bottom tucking his hands under his armpits, but he kept watch on
“He’s taking a nap. He said he was tired. He said his body clock said it was the middle of the night.”
“Oh, well, never mind. Will you tell him that I popped ‘round?”
“You should see him,” the stranger suddenly said out of the corner of his mouth.
“And why’s that?”
Rodney’s cousin or brother --
“Rodney has a headache. He had a headache yesterday – like bands of metal caught in a vice around his forehead.”
“Yes. But I’m fine. Honest.” He nodded fervently. “I don’t need to see a doctor. But Rodney’s got a bad headache.”
“The door’s open. I didn’t lock it. I have a key, but I was only going to the yard so I didn’t need to lock the door. But I have a key in case I got locked out.” He bounced on his toes, rocking to the left then the right to look around
“I don’t have a black medical bag,”
“Oh, okay.” The man darted around
“Son, a second.”
“Why? Why do you want to know?” He cocked his head to the side and scrutinised
“It’s just polite. I can’t call you ‘hey you’. I might need to ask you to get something for Rodney.”
Face screwed up and dismissing the question, the man crept into the house.
Rodney lay lengthwise along the sofa, arms straight by his side.
“Grant,” he said suddenly. “Grant.”
“My name: Grant.”
Grant smiled back bashfully and then looked at the floor.
Rodney screwed up his nose. With the utmost care, Grant brushed a finger tip over Rodney’s temple.
“I used to do this when he was a baby,” he confided, “when he was waking up. It stopped him crying.”
“You looked after Rodney?”
“Babysat? Toddlersat?” Grant grinned toothily. “Rodney’s my little cousin, he was my responsibility. When Auntie Ruthie and Uncle were fighting, someone had to look after him. Jeannie used run out and go and play with her friends, but I was too small and Rodney was very small… to have friends.” He drew tiny circles on Rodney’s temple. “Except us. Each other.”
Rodney mumbled and turned into the caress as the gentle wing of his eyebrow was mapped.
“Come on, Rodney, wakey, wakey,”
“Grant?” Rodney blinked sleepily.
“He liked having his tummy rubbed too,” Grant confided.
“Well, we’ll give that a miss,”
“Should have rubbed his tummy,” Grant observed.
Rodney groaned massively and rubbed the deep line between his eyebrows.
“Oh, that is a doozy of a headache, isn’t it,”
“Where did you get your degree from?” Rodney growled. “Kellogg’s breakfast cereal box?”
Rodney grimaced. “I can’t shift it. Paracetamol, Ibuprofen… I even resorted to Excedrin. Evenly spaced,” he added cutting off
“Nasty. Like a band over my forehead and it’s tightening. It’s a brain tumour, isn’t it?”
Rodney turned even pastier at the thought. “Once, twice, three times this morning. I lost count.”
Grant was watching them with wide eyes. He was nibbling on his thumbnail.
Slowly, Grant nodded and then more emphatically: yes.
“Just today or a few days?”
Grant pulled his thumb from his mouth and slowly extended two fingers
“And you’ve been gardening a lot while Rodney’s been feeling poorly? The garden looks lovely, by the way.”
“Okay, right, we’re going to--,” Carson thought quickly: he didn’t know Colorado Springs that well since he had been based at Area 51 and Antarctica; he factored in driving in a strange area on the wrong side of the road; knowing his destination; the presence of known, knowledgeable, competent staff; he knew what equipment was readily available and the miniscule possibility that it was infectious and related to off world activities. “--we’re going to the SGC and the infirmary.”
“What!” Rodney said stridently. “We can’t take Grant to the SGC.”
“Under my medical recommendation, we can,”
“Would you like to get your… uhm… comfort toy, if you have such a thing, and a book?”
“He’s not a moron,” Rodney growled.
“Grant--” Rodney rubbed his forehead, hard, “--get your blanket. We’re going to see where I work when I’m in the
For a heartbeat it looked like Grant was going to balk, but abruptly he spun away.
“What’s the matter with us, Carson?” Rodney demanded. “I guessed it was the ‘flu or something.”
“Probably is just the ‘flu, but let’s just err on the safe side shall we?” Deftly, he helped a pale and sweaty Rodney to his feet. “Slippers?”
“What?” Rodney swallowed harshly.
“Uhm, you call ‘em houseshoes?”
“Oh yeah, I know.” Rodney used his toes to pull out a pair of slippers from under the sofa. Once Rodney had pushed his feet into them,
“I can’t go like this!” Rodney gestured at his ratty old, faded sweat shirt and baggy trousers.
“I’m going to have you in a medical gown inside of thirty minutes, so I wouldn’t let it bother you.”
“Both hands on the wheel!” Rodney insisted, eyes firmly closed as he hunched over the plastic shopping bag in his lap.
He tossed his cell phone into the passenger’s footwell as he headed up the road to the
“And the passenger, Dr. Beckett?” the SFP asked.
“Mr. Grant Jansky, Dr. McKay’s cousin – he also needs to be checked out.”
The SFP waved them through. “Dr. Lam is waiting by the main entrance.”
A hundred meters inside the tunnel,
“What?” Rodney protested, flailing, as it was fitted over his nose and mouth.
“Just relax, Rodney,”
“What’s happening?” Grant demanded loudly. He fumbled at his seatbelt.
Grant’s eyes darted nervously cataloging the high tunnel overhead, the many people now ringing the car and the actinic bright lights.
“I want Rodney,” Grant demanded.
Rodney yanked off his mask. “Grant, do what
“Come on, Grant.”
Grant breathed in and out harshly.
“We need to go with Rodney,”
Hesitantly, Grant placed his own long fingered hand on Carson’s, and then, balled up blanket clutched to his chest, slowly clambered out of the car.
“We’re going to use the wheelchair.”
Grant swallowed nervously and scrunched up tightly into a ball.
“Wait. Wait. Wait.” Rodney demanded from the other side of the blue Taurus. “Not until Grant’s ready.”
“This is a mask. It’s got oxygen in it. You breathe through it.”
Grant took the mask and cautiously held it over his face. He looked up begging for reassurance.
“I want: CBC; venous carboxyhemoglobin and arterial blood gases -- double check the lactic acidosis results,”
Rodney glared at all and sundry as two burly nurses descended on him.
“I want one litre normal saline at seventy five ml per hour,”
“Yes, Dr. Beckett,” the largest nurse said in a surprisingly quiet voice, for such a large man.
“You have base’s hyperbaric chamber ready?”
“Yes, as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed,” Dr. Lam said flatly. “I concur that an infectious agent is unlikely; it would have a curious incubation period. Perhaps a spinal tap is in order.”
“Let’s get the CBC and the COHb results first, shall we.”
“Ow!” Rodney wrenched his hand away from the nurse trying to insert a needle in his wrist and suddenly
“Rodney!” Grant begged.
Rodney swore loudly and tried get away from under the mask and the nurses prepping him for an IV and multiple blood tests.
“Calm!” an unfamiliar voice boomed.
Everyone froze, including Grant. A General stood silhouetted in the infirmary door way, tall and a larger presence than his girth, he commanded respect. A skinnier, taller, newly minted Lieutenant-Colonel stepped out from behind the general.
“Hey, Squirrel.” Sheppard held an arm out and Grant arrowed under the limb as if shot from a cannon. Rocking under Grant’s heavier weight, Sheppard simply wrapped an arm around his shoulders and held him. Then he shrugged and cocked a smile at the General, but he didn’t let go.
“Major Sheppard, I’m bloody well glad to see you,”
“Yes, Grant told me that you’d been visiting,”
Rodney sat on his gurney, legs hanging over the side, grimacing as he held the nonrebreather mask over his nose and mouth. The detritus of his own, failed, escape attempt lay about him – discarded IV port and abandoned blood pressure cuff. The burly nurse had a firm grip on his wrist and was attempting to reinsert a needle. Leaning tiredly, with his shirt pushed up over his shoulders, Dr. Lam was behind him listening to his lungs.
“I think that it’s a good possibility,”
Sheppard nodded at the bed and then looked pointedly at Grant clinging to him like a limpet.
“Come on, Squirrel, we need to get you and Rodney checked out.” Waddling somewhat, he managed to sit on a gurney with Grant still attached.
Sheppard rolled his eyes heavenward, but proffered his arm without a word of complaint.
The door closed on the hyperbaric chamber, sealing in Rodney, Grant, John and the unit’s trained medic inside.
“Dr. Beckett,” General Landry said soberly, “a word?”
“I wonder whether breaking security protocols and bringing Mr. Jansky to the SGC was really necessary?”
“Would you care to explain? Dr. Lam tells me that it was highly unlikely that this was a contagion from the Pegasus Galaxy.”
“Well, if you’d spent any time there, you’d know that anything is possible in the Pegasus Galaxy.” He smiled softening the criticism. “To be frank, your Dr. Lam is correct that the risk was minimal: all personal had been thoroughly checked before going off base after we’d returned from Atlantis. If it was an infectious agent it had a peculiar incubation period to affect both Dr. McKay after a prolonged period and then Grant in a matter of days. But it was entirely possibly that we were dealing with a pathogen which had been previously dormant.”
“But you suspected carbon monoxide poisoning from the outset.”
“After Rodney described his headache: yes. His house is rather old. The heating hadn’t been used for over a year. Grant showed similar signs, but reduced, because he had been working outside.”
“So why bring them here?” Landry said neutrally.
“The man’s intellect is a national treasure,” Landry said dryly.
“He’s lucky that you dropped by.”
“Aye, that he is.”
“Okay, Dr. Beckett.” Humming introspectively under his breath, General Landry took his leave with a respectful nod.
Satisfied on many levels,
“How are you feeling, Rodney?” John asked.
Rodney lay on the lower bunk, stretched out and an IV stuck in the back of his hand. He cracked open an eye. “I’m dy--,” he spotted his cousin, “--much better, thank you.”
“We’ll be doing three hyperbaric treatments evenly spread over a twenty-four hour period,” the medic monitoring Rodney’s pulse suddenly spoke, his voice loud in the chamber. Pushing frameless glasses up his nose, he made note of the readings from the bank of gauges above Rodney’s head.
“What pressure?” Rodney snapped.
“We’ll only be increasing the pressure to twice normal atmospheric pressure.” The young man moved to the back of the chamber.
Rodney scowled at the words and looked like he was going to pontificate on the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
“You look much better, Rodney. You’ve got some colour,” John noted quickly.
“Thank you for that observation.” Rodney thudded his head back on his pillow.
“Dr. McKay.” The medic returned with a transparent plastic hood. “We need place this over your head to ensure that you receive a hundred percent oxygen.”
“Get me some more pillows,” Rodney dictated.
“That’s not necessary, sir.” The head of the bunk ratcheted up and Rodney gracelessly submitted to having what amounted to a plastic bag attached to a hose placed over his head.
“Hey, Grant, how are you doing?” John asked.
Grant unfurled from his ball at the far end of their shared bunk. “Today’s just been a little bit too stressful. I don’t like it.”
“Look on the bright side, Grant,” John smiled winningly. “If you hadn’t been rescuing the weeds yesterday and today, you would have needed to try that fetching hood.”
Grant brightened, but then mercurially shifted mood and asked, “What about Mr. Jinx?”
“What? Rodney’s cat?”
“Do cats get carbon monoxide poisoning?”
John almost shrugged and managed not to roll his eyes. “I guess so, but Mr. Jinx probably was out most of the day. He goes out, doesn’t he?”
Grant nodded wisely. “He seems fine. But he’s sleeping so I can’t tell.”
Grant carefully opened the balled up blanket that he had kept close through the whole ordeal to reveal a – John hoped – peacefully sleeping Mr. Jinx.
“Oh, uhm.” Dreading that Grant was carrying around a smothered, dead cat, John carefully stroked Jinx’s head and side. Grant blinked up at him, waiting for him to make it all right. John continued to keep up the smile as he waited for a sign, any sign.
The tiny ribs moved and John felt a cat-fast heartbeat against his fingertips.
“Mr. Jinx is fine, Grant,” John said honestly.
Grant beamed like he had been given Christmas and Easter both at once.
“That really shouldn’t be in here,” the medic said.
John glanced at the horrified looking medic and shrugged puckishly. “I guess he’s here for the duration – it’s not like we can open the door.”
“Hey,” Rodney said absently, waving a finger idly in the air, “leastwise it’s Grant and Jinx. It could have been my cousin Emmett and Betty.”
Grant nodded enthusiastically. “You never know what kind of creature Emmett’s got tucked down his pants.”
John crossed his legs automatically.
Rodney mumbled, “Grant’s exaggerating, it’s normally a snake.”
John shook his head, the McKay family were pretty weird.
Chapter three: Chocolate
Grant snuck out of the SGC infirmary bathroom, crossed the expanse of the ward and dove back into bed.
He burrowed under the blankets and pulled them up to his chin. The angry lady -- Dr. Lam -- was talking to the general on the other side of the infirmary. Her arms were crossed over her chest and her chin was raised. The general looked directly at her when he talked, not the slightest distraction in his gaze. The edges of the general’s aura gingerly extended, wanting to intersect with the colourless spiky edges of Dr. Lam’s aura, but her razor sharp edges made him flare blood-red with every careful probe.
“Yes, sir,” she said flatly.
The boundaries of General Landry’s aura retracted so fast that Grant winced. He clasped his hands over his ears and shifted his focus to his cousin. Rodney was on the bed next to Grant’s. Under a pile of blankets, Rodney was an unformed huddle of comfort. The hand with a sharp IV stuck in its back was curled by his face, so it looked as if he was nibbling on his fingertips. Mr. Jinx was wrapped, head around tail, in the hollow formed behind Rodney’s bent knees. They both looked content.
A clatter jerked his attention away from Rodney. Four nurses in painfully bright, white uniforms rolled a gurney into the infirmary. Dr. Lam raced forward calling out instructions. Another two soldiers entered with a bleeding man slung between them.
Grant had had enough; everyone was a little bit too spiky. His skin was starting to prickle. He kicked off the blanket and set his bare feet on the cold floor. That was nasty. Slithering off the bed, he settled before the tiny bedside cabinet. The change of clothes that Flyboy had brought him were carefully folded and set neatly on the top shelf. Grant pulled on Rodney’s favourite blue fleece over his white scrub top. Grabbing his wallet, he stuffed it in the front pocket. His scrub trousers were too thin, so he kicked them off and pulled on a brand new pair of jeans. The folds were sharp like the edges of a tightly nipped piece of paper. Grant lay on the floor and pulled them over his hips. Hordes of feet on the other side of Rodney’s bed rushed back and forth, stamp, stomp, skid, pattern-less and painful. Grant shivered. He grabbed a white pair of sneakers, tucked his hands in them and crawled under the bed, alongside the wall. Edging around banks of equipment, he slowly made his way to the open doorway. On hands and knees, ever so carefully placing the sneakers one after another, he snuck behind the man watching Dr. Lam. The man stood tall with a gun hanging off the carabineer on his waistcoat of clips and fasteners.
Grant’s thoughts fractured and repaired.
Outside the infirmary on the floor were lines of colour radiating away. The yellow one turned down the left hand corridor, the green one went right and the red one went straight ahead.
Slowly, Grant stood. He dropped his shoes to the floor and inserted his long toes in -- wiggling until one foot was settled. Grant contemplated the colours. Yellow, red and green. No blue, he noted. He liked blue. Red sometimes was angry. But it also was vibrant and full of life.
Grant toed on his other shoe and walked forwards.
Red was important. He was careful to stay within the line, placing one foot precisely in front of the other ensuring that he didn’t fall off the edges. Someone laughed at him, but he was used to that, as he picked his way towards the line’s destination. The right angled turns were a bit hard to navigate.
Grant lifted his head from the contemplation of the line of red. A lot of people seemed to confuse him with Rodney. Some people just didn’t know how to look closely.
“Yes, sir, I got the grant.”
Vaguely, Grant registered warm brown eyes and a mop of startling wild curly hair which had been tamed into tessellating hexagonal braids. More interesting was the laptop that the man angled towards him.
“We’ve been running a parallel series diagnostic on the Stargate trying to incorporate the presupposed redundancies that Colonel Carter found necessary to overlook when first initialising the Stargate to see if it is the source of an identified error.” The man took a deep breath. “I was coming to see you in the infirmary. I thought you were in the infirmary?”
Grant’s fingers twitched and he reached for the laptop. Braid man released the laptop without hesitation. Bracing the laptop on his forearm as carefully as holding a vulnerable baby’s neck, Grant squinted at the streams of numbers.
“Bad, bad. Hmmm.” Grant let his fingers tap over the keys, checking the laptop’s programs. A few key strikes opened a visual representation of the data stream. It was incomplete, unformed. “There’s not enough processing power in this computer.”
The man stuttered. “I know… I was uhm… I thought it best to bring this to… We could go to the Cray, the data’s uploaded.”
“Cray?” Grant rocked from foot to foot eagerly.
“Uhm… yeah, we have Cray X-0A. We updated the serial Cray X 1E. It’s a petascale Cray.”
Visions of chocolate danced through Grant’s head. “Where is it?”
Carter entered the Stargate control room as the event horizon settled in the gate room below. Walter was leaning back on his chair watching McKay and Dr. Storey working at the bank of Cray computers along the left hand side wall, or more accurately Dr. Storey was watching McKay opened mouthed.
“Solved!” Gleefully, McKay leaped to the Cray dual keyboard interface and, with the virtuoso of the pianist he once professed to aspire too, began to programme.
Carter raised her chin to better focus from a distance on the Cray screen. It appeared that McKay was using Python 2.4.2. with a few personal programming language quirks thrown in for good measure.
“Ma’am.” Walter held up a clipboard with a hard copy of the last hour’s activity report.
Carter glanced through the line of numbers showing the primary data stream, immediately registering the glitch that Dr. Storey had been charged with identifying. She leaned over Walter and consulted the real time data stream on the monitor to check the glitch, which smoothed before her eyes.
It appeared that McKay was helping the younger scientist. It struck Carter as a bit uncharacteristic.
McKay stepped back from the Cray and cocked his head to the side. He muttered disconnectedly under this breath. Carter couldn’t make out the words. A perplexed expression crossed McKay’s face and he executed a long limbed crab walk to the right and another which brought him directly before the main windows which looked down on the Stargate.
“Discrete wavelets,” he announced. “Einstein-Rosen bridge.”
“McKay? Are you all right?” Carter asked.
McKay glanced back at the Cray, the laptop that Dr. Storey held and then back to the initiated Stargate. SG-15 walked through the event horizon into the embarkation room.
“Why haven’t they frozen to death?”
“Because the stage modulations of their component atoms are artificially vibrated so that they do not approach absolute zero,” Carter supplied automatically. “Which you knew already.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I don’t.”
“You’re such a…” Carter focussed on the man, he was crouched in on himself, hands curled up to his chest, head canted to the side as he watched her through impossibly long eyelashes.
“Hello.” A shy smile crossed his face.
“Who the hell are you?” Carter automatically reached for her field issued Beretta, which of course was not holstered at her side. The three security officers stationed throughout the control room responded to her movement, unslinging their SIG P-226s and aiming at the intruder with satisfying speed and precision. “Sergeant Pritchett. Arrest this man.”
“No! No… no.” The alien metamorph, camouflaged goa’uld (possibly even wraith) or human with a chameleon device backed up rapidly, hands outstretched. His eyes darted to the left and right, hunting for an escape. “Braids invited me.”
Walter reached for the SCC intercom and made a station wide announcement of a possible alien incursion in the control room. Sirens wailed.
“On the floor.” Sergeant Pritchett took a measured step forward, moving threateningly but staying outside the reach of the intruder.
“I’m Grant. I’m Grant. I’m not Rodney!” the man squealed. He jerked towards the exit.
Carter made an instant decision. “Contain him.”
Pritchett took the stranger down like a ton of bricks, face planted on the floor in the space of a heartbeat. The sergeant’s arm lock immobilised him. The other two security staff kept their weapons trained on the man.
“Search him,” Carter ordered.
Pritchett hauled the man to his feet and then nodded at his fellow airman, who checking that the third guard kept them covered, proficiently patted the intruder. Peculiarly, once firmly contained, the man seemed to relax in the Pritchett’s tight grasp.
“Ma’am.” The security officer passed over a wallet.
Three other airmen entered the control room, scoping the situation they stood at the fringes waiting for orders from the officer in charge.
Carter flicked through the leather wallet pulling out a “Grant Jansky’s” credit and business card for a company in
“Who are you?” Carter asked.
At the back of the wallet where bills should live was a sheaf of well-thumbed photos. Sam extracted the first one and grinned.
“Who’s this?” Sam asked even though she now knew the answer. Two boys stood as close as skin, knock-kneed and grinning cheekily with wide, wide mouths. The photo was faded, but Sam would have laid a bet that the eyes framed by those long lashes were sea blue. The shock of light, curly hair was a practical joke waiting to happen. Sam’s day wouldn’t be complete if she couldn’t get a scan of this photo and post it on the SGC intranet.
“Colonel Carter, should we cancel the alert?” Walter spoke up.
Carter nodded. “Yes. I’m not entirely sure how he got in here, but I don’t think Mr. Jansky is an alien.”
The siren silenced immediately, and Walter’s calm measured tones announced that there had been a false alarm.
Grant leaned out of the airman’s grasp to peer at the upside down, dog-eared photograph. “That’s me and Rodney at Mrs. Anderson’s, before Rodney went back to Auntie Ruthie and I went into the ‘system’ never to get out.”
“That’s Rodney all right, but there isn’t an ounce of fat on him. On either of you,” Sam smiled.
“Jeannie was a bit skinny too, but Auntie Ruthie liked her more so she got treats sometimes.” Carter’s fingers flicked through the sheaf of photos and withdrew a second photo of three stick-thin creatures staring at the lens, the downward slanting mouths were as belligerent as sin. The contrast between the two photos was horrible.
“Auntie Ruthie wasn’t well, but she got medication and got better. And then Jeannie and Rodney had to go back and live with her. But I was her only her nephew and I didn’t go back.” Grant looked at her directly. “I think I was the lucky one.”
“What are you doing here?” Carter asked.
“Get your hands off my cousin!” McKay bellowed.
The scientist blew into the control room riding a wave of ire. Even dressed in white scrub pyjamas, bare footed and one cheek sleep-creased, the force of his presence was not reduced in the slightest.
“You!” He pointed at the security officer holding Grant. “Stand down this instant.”
The dark-haired airman simply regarded Colonel Carter. She gave no such order.
“Hello, Rodney,” Carter said easily.
“Tell your dull-witted underling to release my cousin immediately.” His eyes narrowed furiously.
“I’d actually like to know what a civilian is doing in a high security area like the control room?”
“It’s none of my concern why your asinine Air Force security procedures don’t work. Release Grant now,” McKay countered.
Grant lifted his chin. “Rodney,” he said with a hint of trepidation.
“He’s my cousin,” McKay explained in the face of that nervousness. “
“Ma’am?” The officer remained impassive, but a hint of nervousness coloured the air.
“Sam!” McKay stepped forward and yanked his cousin bodily free from the guard as Carter nodded.
Freed from the security officer’s grip, Grant came alive and latched onto his cousin.
“It’s a wormhole. It can’t be an Einstein-Rosen it has to be Lorentzian. Rodney, is it an inter- or intra-universe wormhole? It’s not calibrated very well,” Grant said, his nose burrowed in McKay chest.
“Yes, I know. I keep telling them,” McKay returned smugly.
“But it violates Einsteinian causality.” Grant lifted his head. “How does it stay open in non-relativistic space?”
Carter raised her hand and made an abrupt cutting motion. “Mr. Janksy does not have clearance.”
“He discerned more in a two minute study of the Stargate than the retarded gnomes that you have have managed in three years of study,” McKay said pithily.
“It is just a mathematical solution to general relativity,” Grant said innocently. Turning in McKay’s arms, he looked at the Stargate. “Something inherent in that structure must allow the wormhole to stay open. But it has to be constructed of an element which doesn’t exist on this planet.”
Carter threw her hands in the air.
“Is Mr. Jansky capable of signing and understanding the provisions of a confidentiality agreement?” General Landry asked.
Rodney paced along the edge of the briefing room’s long table. “Grant is, I repeat, not a moron, nor is he an autistic savant. He is fully capable of understanding privacy issues. His… focus is different.”
Landry rested his elbows on the table and regarded Rodney over the edge of his folded hands.
“So Mr. Jansky is fully capable of holding a position here at the SGC?”
“What!” Rodney turned abruptly on his heel and jabbed a finger at the general. “No. No. Absolutely, no way. Grant’s one of the innocents that this whole place has been created, ultimately, to protect!”
Landry smiled. “But, ultimately,” he echoed, “it would be Mr. Janksy’s decision, since he is, as you are taking such pains to point out, capable of making his own decisions.”
Rodney’s response was succinct and to the point. “You bastard.”
Chapter four: Soufflé Furlough
food.” McKay spun on his heel and walked backwards along the pavement. He spread
his arms wide and inhaled the dry, warm air of a
“Christ, McKay, you sound like Homer Simpson.” Sheppard rolled his eyes.
“Come on, I was locked up in the SGC Infirmary with carbon monoxide poisoning, I need red meat.”
“I’m not sure one necessarily leads to the other,”
“It’s called convalescence,
“Are you sure you don’t want to go that French restaurant that
Sheppard shrugged easily. “Rodney says that this place is the best steak house in
Sheppard’s unspoken ‘It’s not where you go, it’s who you’re with’ hung on the air.
“You won’t regret this. Trust me. The steaks. The steaks.” Rodney raised his hands in supplication. “Cooked to perfection, the barest hint of pink, a slither of Stilton…”
“Well, some kind of blue cheese,” Rodney said.
“What kind of chips do they have?”
“With steaks?” Sheppard asked, his eyebrow lifted curiously.
“Our esteemed Scottish colleague means fries.” Rodney dropped back to walk at
They came to a halt at a pelican crossing on a cross roads and Rodney paused a moment, fingers moving to his mouth as he contemplated directions.
“Yeah, straight ahead.”
It was late and there was little traffic so -- rather than hitting the big silver pedestrian walk button and waiting for permission --
“If there was a cop around he’d yell at you for jaywalking,” Sheppard noted, but he darted across the road after a giant SUV passed.
“You’re not supposed to run across intersections like that. If you’d got hit by that SUV your insurance probably wouldn’t pay out. And, technically, you could get pegged for jaywalking if a cop was trying to fill their ticket quota.”
The lights changed and McKay ambled over to them. “Nah, he’s just fire that Scottish accent at them or bat those blue eyes and he’s be let off, Scot-free.”
“Where is this restaurant?”
“Just ahead on the left.”
Sheppard planted his hands deep in his pockets and matched McKay’s ambling pace.
“Did I tell you about Landry? The man’s offered Grant… Oh, hang on.” McKay looked down the back alley. “Yes, this is it.”
They turned down the side road and nestled beside a bicycle shop (which grabbed Sheppard attention until Rodney physically dragged him away) was a small ‘mom and pop’ establishment.
“Have you been here before?” Sheppard asked
The restaurant was small, only six tables in the immediate area. Two were already occupied with couples deep in conversation, heads close as they conversed. Warm and heady scents hung, welcomingly, on the air.
“Professor McKay, long time no see.” A chunky woman, setting a table for six by the window, straightened.
“Mrs. Reynolds, I brought… friends.” Rodney waved at Carson and Sheppard.
She folded her arms over her ample chest. “Hmmm, you’ve lost weight, Professor.”
“Ha, well, the stories that I could tell you. But can’t.” Rodney tapped the side of his nose. “Classified.”
“So table for three?”
“In the back, so we can talk if we want.”
“It’s going to be a boring meal if you’re not going to talk,” Mrs. Reynolds observed. “Take the one at the back on the right. I’ll be up in a moment with the new menu.”
Rodney smiled, actually smiled widely, and then bounded ahead and up a short flight of stairs to the next tier with a, “Come on.”
Sheppard moved after him, leaving
She regarded him, rolled her head back so she could scrutinise him through her glasses perched on the tip of her nose.
“Can I help you?”
“Our friend, John, got a promotion.”
“Rodney, Dr. McKay, mentioned that you normally just serve beers and you’ve only got a limited selection of wines. I don’t know how it works,” he continued rapidly, “and I don’t want to get you in trouble with the authorities. But because it’s a celebration and we’re shipping out in a couple of days, I took a chance and I brought a bottle of champagne with me and a bottle of red wine. I was hoping we’d be able to celebrate our John’s ...uhm… Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard’s promotion.”
“That’s a nice accent you’ve got there.” She held out her hand. “I’ll put the champagne on ice while your steaks are being prepared. I’ll come up with a corkscrew to your table.”
“Off you go. You better order appetizers and dessert and big steaks.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’ll make sure that Rodney orders double.”
“Like that wasn’t going to happen.”
Sheppard was already settled at the table, lounging like he belonged, by the time
“Pity that Grant didn’t want to come,” Sheppard said.
Rodney shrugged. “Grant’s not that fond of restaurants and it’s past his bedtime.”
“You’re kidding,” Sheppard blurted.
“Early to bed. Early to rise.” Rodney leaned back in his rickety chair and looked at the ceiling. “I can’t believe that Landry offered him a job.”
“He didn’t take it, though?” John checked.
“No, Grant’s more sensible than that,” Rodney muttered.
“Ooooh.” Rodney’s chair legs smacked to the floor as he leaned forward to grab the bottle. Turning it in his large hands, he whipped off the protective netting. “Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2000. Is it any good?”
“I like it.”
“Are you allowed to bring your own booze to a restaurant?” John asked.
“No idea, but I checked with Mrs. Reynolds and she said that it was all right.”
Sheppard shrugged and pulled out his Swiss Army knife and extracted the corkscrew. Rodney waiting in grinning anticipation as Sheppard cracked the seal and drew out the cork.
Mrs. Reynolds clomped over with three plastic covered menus. “Here you go, dears. I recommend the tender fillet steaks grilled and wrapped in bacon,
Sheppard’s eyes bugged.
“I’m hungry,” Sheppard announced suddenly.
Eyes turned to the Lieutenant Colonel.
“I think that is the first time I’ve heard you say that,” Rodney said slowly.
“He needs feeding up,” Mrs. Reynolds observed; the glint in her eye spoke of ‘cheek tweaking’.
John shuffled down in his seat a fraction chancing a smile. “I think I’ll have what
“Fillet steaks, bacon,
“Appetizers?” Mrs. Reynolds asked, looking directly at
“Oh, my yes.” He looked to the menu, trying to find the most expensive item. “I tell you what. How’s about a selection?” He looked at his companions, checking their opinion, both shrugged.
“Sounds good,” John said.
“We can nibble as we drink our first bottle of wine. While the red is breathing. I see --”
“Can we get a bottle of sparkling mineral water, please?” John asked.
Mrs. Reynolds smiled. “Of course you can, dear.”
“And once again the female sex falls before his dubious wiles.”
John rolled his eyes.
Rodney shrugged unrepentantly.
Mrs. Reynolds gathered up the menus. “Rodney, I’ll get started on your double chocolate Cadbury’s soufflé?”
Rodney flashed a wide, toothy grin at the woman.
“I’ll take that as a yes, Rodney.” She hummed under her breath.
John raised a finger. “Make that two, please.”
Mrs. Reynolds looked at
Smiling, Mrs Reynolds tootled off.
“Curious sort of place,”
“I don’t know. I haven’t statistically analysed the distribution of patrons.” Rodney poked the jar of bread sticks on the table. “It’s cooked on the premises. It isn’t part of a chain. It’s good food, mainly locally sourced, high quality produce. Not a massive selection of dishes. But she listens if you have a dietary ‘issue’. No peanut has ever been on the premises. And the soufflé…” Rodney rocked back on his chair and manufactured a tiny orgasm.
“You just wanted to come here for the soufflé.” John grinned.
Sitting upright, Rodney rubbed his hands together. “Believe you me, you won’t regret it.”
“Well, that’s enough breathing, I think,”
Mrs. Reynolds and her assistant waiter brought out the soufflé and the chilled Bollinger Grande Année 1997.
“Oh, my god, I’m in heaven!” Rodney proclaimed as the young man set the giant soufflé before him. “You should get promoted more often, Major.”
“Lieutenant Colonel,” John drawled.
John took possession with a smile. “Did you get this stuff from duty free?”
“I took advantage of the opportunity to travel between the
“Enjoy your chocolate.” Mrs. Reynolds said, corralling her waiter the second he had finished placing the desserts and drawing him away so that they had their privacy.
John peeled back the gold foil and then ever so carefully teased out the cork. It came free with a delicate pop and, with panache, John poured three generous glasses.
“We are going to be so hungover; it’s a good job we’ve got nothing on tomorrow.”
“What?” Rodney said around a mouthful of soufflé. “Oh, yeah, sorry.”
A little shaving of chocolate was melting on Rodney’s bottom lip; his tongue dipped out gathering it in. He set his dessert fork down and picked up the glass of sparkly champagne.
“Well, what can I say? Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking.”
“Lieutenant Colonel -- and I’m pretty sure that most people thought that you wouldn’t have made it past Captain -- I think that we can all safely say that Atlantis has made you. And--” he scowled thunderously, “--if you ever strap your ass on to another *thing* instead of waiting around for me to pull a brilliant plan out of my enormous brain, Pinky, I will kill you.” Rodney stood up. “To Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, Congratulations!”
A deep red blush flushed Sheppard’s pale, pale skin, turning his cheeks a rosy apple red.
“Thank you,” he managed squeakily, embarrassed out of his customary laconic drawl.
“And now, chocolate and champagne.” Rodney settled back, wriggled happily in his chair, lost in a happy place filled with chocolate, effectively giving John a moment to gain his equanimity.
“Wow,” John said suddenly. He shovelled in another bit of chocolate. “Do you think we can get the recipe?”
“Told you,” Rodney crowed, as he topped up their glasses.
“It’s better than good, Rodney. Excellent choice,”
Rodney preened happily.
Rodney slouched back in his chair and cupped his hands over his full tummy.
“It’s a pity that Grant didn’t want to come.” John mused, carefully running his finger along the lip of his coffee glass, coating it with cream. “He missed an excellent meal.”
“I told you he doesn’t like restaurants,” Rodney said.
“We could take him a doggy bag?” Carson ventured muzzily; a third of a bottle of white, a reasonable proportion of the red and two glasses of bubbly and now an Irish coffee, was making the world a lovely place.
“Can you believe that Landry tried to recruit Grant!” Rodney suddenly grumbled. He pointed, finger wagging emphatically. “Grant can’t be at the SG-thingy. He’s got to be safe in Toronot-no-ro. Tornonto?”
“Yes, Toronot.” Rodney shook his head. “Grant’s the reason that we do what we do. It’s to keep him safe.”
“So he decided not to accept the general-bloke’s offer?”
“Yes. And it’s a wise decision, and I, emphatically, did not coach him.” Rodney puffed out his chest. “He doesn’t like the guns and I think he finds uniforms a bit threatening. I can’t believe Landry. Yes, yes, he could make a valuable con-con--”
“Contribution,” John inserted.
“Contribution to the SG-thing. I can’t believe Landry trying to recruit my little cousin.”
“I thought that Grant was older?” John checked.
“Whatever.” Rodney waved his hand. “He’s my little cousin, now.”
“Surely, General Landry checked Grant’s curriculum vitae?”
“His what?” John asked.
“Landry had a dossier on his big, long table--” Rodney snorted irreverently, “ --which he kept referring to when he was talking to me. He made an offer to Grant which was a legitimate…eh… thing. What’s going to happen when I’m not here if he was working for the SGC? I wouldn’t be able to look after him. I’m going to have to talk to Jeannie before we go back, make sure that no one tries to recruit…”
Rodney paled, his generous red, alcoholic flush fled.
Rodney stood, abandoning coffee and chocolate mints.
John rose to his feet. “What’s the matter, Rodney?”
“Landry had Grant checked. It was a legitimate offer. Grant’s now in the SGC database.”
“And?” John raised his hand, trying to calm Rodney.
“He didn’t take the post. His details are on the SGC inter- and intranet.” Rodney, impossibly, paled even further. “I can’t believe that I didn’t think of this…”
“What?” John demanded as Rodney jerked in the direction of the door.
“The NID. The Trust. Anyone and any other covert operation that’s got a finger in the SGC pie will now be fully aware of Grant’s skills and he’s not working for the SGC so it will be open house.”
“So you think that someone will try to recruit him?”
“That’s the best case scenario.” Rodney rifled in his wallet and threw down a wad of notes on the table top. “I have to get home. I have to check on Grant.”
“McKay!” Sheppard snapped.
“Do you believe that there is a threat to Grant?” Sheppard asked his tone neutral.
“Let’s say that I’ll be happier, when I get home and find my cousin curled up fast asleep with Mr. Jinx.”
“Okay, then. Let’s go check on Grant,” Sheppard said. “Now.”
Chapter five: Adrenaline
“This is all your fault, major!” McKay snapped as he stomped out onto the sidewalk.
“How did you come to that conclusion?” Sheppard demanded, pushing through the restaurant doors and following the scientist out into the dusky, evening light. “It was Carson who took you both into the SGC.”
“It’s your fault, because if I was a fat and out-of-condition scientist used to sitting behind a desk I would have brought my car and we could almost be back at my apartment. Where’s a taxi when you need one?” McKay yelled. He spun in a circle and then turned to stare at
“It’s a figure of speech, Rodney.”
“We need a cab.” Sheppard pointed back to the main road. “That way.”
“Actually, if you wait a moment.”
“That only works in
The engine of a low slung, black sedan at the far end of the alley turned over with a well-tuned roar.
“That’s probably the enemy!” McKay shrieked.
“Calm the fuck down, Rodney,” Sheppard barked. “Who are they, Doc?”
“They’re my bodyguards.”
“What!” McKay splurted. “You rate a bodyguard? How? Where are mine?”
“They were assigned when I went home to
“I can kill you with my brain!”
Carson and Sheppard looked at Rodney sadly, the latter’s face pinched. “That’s just pathetic, McKay.”
“Okay, okay, I could blow up a solar system if I put my mind to it.”
The car pulled to a halt and the side window of the sedan rolled down. “What’s the matter, Doc?” The occupant was a middle aged man, who despite the evening’s waning light wore dark aviator glasses.
“Malcolm, you need to get us to Dr. McKay’s house, asap.”
“We need to move. My house, now! You know where it is?” McKay pointed between the two front seats through the windshield. His finger jabbed impatiently. “It’s an emergency.”
They screeched down the alley leaving a trail of black rubber.
“Do we need to call control, Dr. Beckett?” Malcolm asked.
“Is there a unit on Dr. McKay’s house?” Sheppard asked.
“No, sir.” Malcolm’s partner turned in his seat and pointed out the back window. A large, newly registered SUV peeled away from the side of the road, following them. There was the distinctive chirrup of an ear piece. The bodyguard tapped his comm.. “Isaac, here.”
“What’s the problem? Why have you picked up our assignment?”
“I don’t know, Agent Totter. Dr. Beckett’s asked us to return to Dr. McKay’s house. We don’t know why.”
McKay clicked his fingers demanding the comm.. When Isaac didn’t relinquish the ear piece, McKay simply plucked it from his ear.
“I need protection for my cousin. My identical cousin whose intellect almost matches mine, immediately. Are there bodyguards in the vicinity of my house?”
The silence spoke for them. Malcolm floored the accelerator, breaking the local speed laws.
Sheppard leaned forward between the front seats as they turned onto the cul-de-sac housing McKay’s little house “You got a spare weapon?” he asked.
“Sorry, sir. No.”
“Really?” Sheppard drawled.
“I’m afraid that I can’t help you, sir.”
“Pull over! Pull over!” McKay demanded imperiously. He popped open the door and was out and running before Sheppard could grab him.
“McKay, wait!” Sheppard said scrambling after him, falling head first out of the car. Stretching out his hands, he crabwalked -- hands and feet for a step -- and then found his feet and raced after McKay.
“Dr. Beckett, we’re assigned to your protection.” Malcolm leaned over, placing his hand between
“Get out of my way, son.”
Rodney was fumbling with his set of house keys, flicking through them, eyes wide -- hunting for his front door key.
Sheppard snatched them off him. “Which one, McKay?”
Sheppard found it and inserted it in the lock as
“Grant!” Rodney scanned his cluttered, book filled front room. “Grant!”
“Dr. Beckett?” The older of
Rodney moved, kicking an abandoned pizza box to fly across the floor, intent on the staircase on the far side of the room. Carson and Sheppard followed on Rodney’s heels. They pounded up the stairs, the wooden balustrade shaking. The staircase turned sharply up to the second landing. Rodney took the last four steps in one leap and ran along the short landing. He shouldered through the plywood door at the end of the short corridor into Grant’s bedroom. It banged into the wall, thudding into the sheetrock wall.
Rodney came to a complete and abrupt halt,
Grant sat up in his nest of pillows and quilts, rubbing his face tiredly. The nightlight beside his bed set amber shadows across his face. “Rodney?”
“Oh…” Rodney sagged.
“Hey, Squirrel.” Sheppard smiled. “We just thought that we’d check on you.”
Grant tucked his head down, so he could look at them through veiled eyelashes, never quite meeting their gaze. “That’s nice. Did you have a nice evening?”
“Oh, damn it!” Rodney surged forwards. “Come here.”
Grant opened his arms and folded his cousin in.
Chapter six: Trust me
“Are you ready, Grant?” Rodney called up the stairs to the guest bedroom. Huddled on the sofa, under a sheet and pile of blankets, Sheppard mumbled a vague objection. Rodney peered through the dimness of a room sheltered by heavy curtains. Making a step towards the couch, all he could see was a lump and a sweep of jet black hair since Sheppard’s forehead was pushed up against the back of the couch.
“Where are we going, and why are we going and what are we going for?” Grant asked as he made a point of avoiding each third step on his way down the stairs. Rodney did not ask.
“We’re going to Borders because I need DVDs, DVDs and more DVDs and some books and some novels and maybe a biography or two and audiobooks.” Rodney counted off on his fingers.
Grant chose to not step on the bottom two steps and executed a bouncy jump right into Rodney’s personal space.
“Don’t they have bookstores in
“No. Or Starbucks,” Rodney returned darkly.
“Do you really want to go back?” Grant cocked his head to the side.
A valid question, Rodney thought, and one that no one had asked. On one hand there was the call of research -- the beauty of finding and knowledge to be plumbed -- but that was countered by the Wraith and threat of Atlantis’ exposure which hung over them every day. The balance was so evenly distributed between the two.
Knowledge or Death.
Warmth touched his chest. A hand rested over Rodney’s heart.
“Wha--” Rodney flinched away, violently. In the space of a harsh breath, he moved three steps away from his cousin. Grant stared back at him. Tensely, Rodney scrubbed at his sternum, knuckles hard against the flesh. The ripple of skin over bone was strangely reassuring.
“Where did you go? You went far away,” Grant asked softly.
“No. No. I’m fine. Fine. What coat do you want to wear? Or just your cardigan?” Rodney babbled.
Grant touched his own chest, expression perplexed.
“We need to get moving. It’s Saturday; the store will get busy. Coat or cardigan?” Rodney persisted, willing his heartbeat to slow to normal rhythm.
“What’s the weather forecast?” Grant asked sensibly.
Rodney glanced up to the left as he made a point of recalling the morning’s Weather Channel on the tiny television in the kitchen. Details always soothed him. “58oF, mostly cloudy, humidity 42%, Dew point 42oF, wind 2.7 mph from the North, pressure 1013.4 HPa, visibility 16.1 kilometres.” Rodney clicked his fingers and converted back into Imperial. “10 miles. Few clouds at 6000 ft. Scattered clouds at 12000 ft but mostly cloudy at 22000 ft.”
“Cardigan,” Grant decided.
“You’re a match made in heaven,” John grumbled from the sofa.
Both men turned. The lump hadn’t moved. Grant leaned to the side looking around Rodney. Not even a tuft of jet black hair was now visible.
“Do you want to come, Colonel?” Rodney ventured.
“Cheese on toast,” Sheppard said abstrusely.
Rodney shared a confused glance with his cousin. Grant put his fingers to his lips. “I think he’s sleep talking.”
“Yeah, he does that on missions when we’re sharing a tent,” Rodney said absently. “Mutter, mutter – never says anything useful, though. No blackmail material.”
“Missions?” Grant queried.
“Cardigan then?” Rodney stepped adroitly away from both his cousin and the subject, to collect his thin canvas jacket and Grant’s baggy blue cardigan hanging on the end of the banister.
Grant tiptoed over to the old, battered couch. One of two things were going to happen, Rodney noted: either Grant was going to make it into John’s personal space without disturbing him or any second, Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard was going to be sitting up, wide awake and spitting nails. Picking up Grant’s cardigan and rifling through his pockets, McKay watched.
Grant made it right to the side of the couch, and, astonishingly, lifted up the edge of the covers without the slightest reaction. Edging forward a step, but staying well out of reach, Rodney craned his head to peer around the edge of the couch. Sheppard was tucked tightly back against the back of the couch, forehead still mashed against the cushions. He was sound asleep, breathing deeply and evenly.
It was sort of flattering, Rodney thought, that John could sleep so deeply and safely in his home. He cocked a finger, drawing Grant away. Obediently, he came to his side.
“Are we leaving Flyboy and--” Grant pointed in the direction of Rodney’s bedroom, “-- a note?”
Rodney grimaced, thinking of
Hence the shopping expedition.
“I thought about going to Best Buy, but there’s a ‘Peets’ in Borders. We can get coffee.” Rodney brightened.
“Note?” Grant emphasised. “Flyboy will appreciate a note.”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Rodney waved a hand at his annoying cousin. “Go find Jinx and drop him on Sheppard’s head then we’ll go shopping. I think that he’ll figure it out.”
“That’s not very nice.”
“I’m not a very nice person.”
“That’s not true,” Grant noted, “at least not some of the time.”
“I don’t believe that I’m here.” Rodney clenched the steering wheel of his reliable, Subaru Legacy wagon and looked at the Borders bookstore across the parking lot. The store looked busy even though it was just after . He heard Sheppard say ‘09:00, McKay!’ in his head.
For the last year he had lived in a community where, even if he didn’t know everyone’s name (as if), he recognised their faces. He felt strangely naked; as new experiences went – suddenly being aware of the gnomes that had not even twinged on his consciousness before – it bordered on the pure mundane. Rodney shook his head; he had orbited stars, why had this stopped him for even a heartbeat? He stormed out of the car, made four long steps, stopped, turned, looked back and said,
Grant slowly crawled out of the car on the driver’s side for some inexplicable reason. Standing, he glanced around, head bobbing as he took in everything: all the different shops, gaudy and colourful; the sprawling parking lot and trickle of the cars and SUVs slowly filling up the parking spaces.
“Grant?” Rodney pointed impatiently over his shoulder at the Border’s store.
“Special books. Good books? Any books? Rodney?” Grant asked, head bobbing smoothing to stillness.
“Just browsing, grab anything that’s interesting. Bookshop.” Rodney inhaled and smiled, already smelling that distinctive scent of books from memories alone. “I need lots of books to take back.”
“Take back,” Grant mused.
Rodney watched Grant add one and one and come up with Stargate despite the logical
“I’d thought you were working in
“Grant.” Rodney scanned the parking lot. His bodyguards’ black windowed SUV was parked in the other aisle – its mass taking up two parking spaces. It seemed to loom.
Grant followed his gaze and screwed up his nose in question. Rodney strode to Grant’s side and swung an arm around his shoulders, to draw him from the parking space to the paved sidewalk.
“Lock the car?” Grant tapped the metallic green hood.
“Out of practice!” Rodney clicked his fingers, he had even left the key in the ignition; Ancient technology was spoiling him. Releasing his cousin, he reached in, collected his keys, then kicked the door shut and locked the door. Grant was still standing where he had left him, his attention caught by a bird flying overhead, the sweep of its wings making it soar.
“Come on.” Rodney swung his arm back over Grant’s shoulders to guide him towards the store. A lady coming out of the bookstore made a double take and smiled widely.
Twins – or at least relatives that verged on the identical -- always seemed to garner that sort of smile.
Grant smiled toothily back at her. Rodney executed a curt nod and dragged them through the double doors and into the foyer.
“Heaven,” Rodney breathed. There were three floors arrayed before him around a central escalator. The ceiling was an arch of glass so the building was bright and airy. The scent of brewing coffee wafted on the air. To his immediate left was a section devoted to magazines and to the right was silly gift wrap and cards. But the chest-high shelves arrayed before them would be filled with literature, reference manuals, history, science fiction, DVDs, videos, CDs, audiobooks….
Grant and Rodney walked in tandem to the store map.
“What first?” Grant asked.
“Some audiobooks would be good. Listen to them in the lab.”
“For everyone to listen to in your lab?”
“No, for me. I can upload them onto my MP3 player.”
“You--” Grant smacked his lips. “--you came home. Back. Here… from far away.”
Rodney hummed a vague agreement, mapping out the most efficient path through the store.
Grant pondered for a heartbeat. “So your… people are still far, far away? Stuck in ‘
Rodney rolled his eyes. “I’m not taking my entire lab presents. I’ve downloaded the latest TV series – that new thing: Lost and Battlestar Galatica. I’ll put them on the server when I get back home.”
Grant smiled winningly, evidently approving of Rodney’s largess. “What about the films you were downloading?”
“Hey, it’s a barter economy; I have to hold some collateral back.”
Grant’s mouth fell open. “Barter economy?” he whispered, horrified.
“Yeah. Chocolate is very valuable.” Rodney tapped his fingers on the engraved map -- the first level seemed to be devoted to popular culture and cookery books. They could bypass them. Taking cookery books to Atlantis would be a little like torture. He mused, “I could wrap one up for Kavanaugh.”
“Barter economy.” Grant nibbled on his fingernails.
“I think we should do the sci-fi section last. Nah, I don’t think I can wait that long. What do you think about checking the DVDs and picking up a few of the classics like Hitchcock or ‘The Shining’? Oh, I know: ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ – that would be good for movie night.”
In rapid succession, Rodney selected a route going through all the interesting sections and at the halfway point they neatly ended up at ‘Peets’ for coffee.
“Barter economy.” Grant moaned.
“Get over it.” Rodney clicked his fingers right under Grant’s nose. “It’s just a different sort of mathematical patterning: tava beans for antibiotics.”
“What are tava beans?”
Rodney held his finger and thumb about an inch apart making Grant cross his eyes. “Sort of elongated, dicotyledonous legume which can be ground into a paste to fortify flat bread and stews. Pretty horrible, actually. But as
“You should check out the cookbooks,” Grant said sagely, nodding his head. “Yes, check out the cookbooks.”
“I don’t think any amount of garlic would make tava beans palatable,” Rodney responded darkly, “I don’t even think that chocolate and chilli could help.”
Rodney hummed happily under his breath. He wasn’t a total bastard; he remembered that Radek had a fondness for the dulcet tones of Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas and liked Iain Banks. There was no real accounting for taste, but Rodney thought that he would read the novel before giving it to Radek. He carefully dropped the book in the third basket that an enterprising member of staff had dug up for him. The other two were waiting at the registers on the first floor.
“Money to burn. Money to burn,” he sung happily under his breath. A couple of patents and over a year’s consultancy salary with danger pay on top of that and practically no outgoings, he could seriously splurge.
There was something very nice about browsing. He had ordered upwards of eight DVD box sets and more than a few books from authors whose works that he coveted over the internet. But wandering along the stacks, head cocked to the side, reading the titles and author names, and looking for that gem was a special pleasure.
He pulled out a book by a Jim Butcher and saw by the cover that it was a bit too fantastical for his taste. He needed some Heinlein. Rodney shook his head, he was looking at the “B’s - the rest of the alphabet would have to fall in line.
There was a beep of a communications device and Rodney automatically tapped, jabbing his finger deeply in his ear. The kid at the other end of the aisle, wearing impossibly bagged canvas pants and a black, ripped t-shirt glanced at him.
Rodney scowled and pulled out his cell phone. “McKay,” he growled.
“Hey,” Sheppard drawled. “You still at the bookstore?”
Rodney huffed happily. “Books,” he intoned.
On the other end of the line Sheppard let out a relaxed laugh. “You sound just like Grant. Have you seen any Carl Hiaasen or Val McDermid?”
“Who?” Rodney shifted his shoulder and trapped the ‘phone against his ear as he pulled out a new Charles de Lint and shook his head – more fantasy, but De Lint had an interesting way of telling a tale. “Is
“Nah, still out for the count, judging by the snoring. He could wake the dead.”
Rodney threw the book in his crate. “McDermid? What genre? Fantasy, biography? What?”
“Crime thriller,” Sheppard supplied. There was clatter which sounded like the dishwasher being emptied. Rodney knew if John wanted to eat breakfast off a plate that needed doing.
“Grant’s in the crime section. I’ll go tell him to pick up the latest releases?”
“That’ll be great.”
“Hey, why don’t you grab a taxi and join us?” Rodney consulted his watch. “It’s about time for coffee. There’s a ‘Peets’.”
There was the clunk of kitchen cabinet doors opening and closing. “Since you don’t seem to have any groceries, I’ll take you up on that. Where the Hell are you?”
Rodney turned down yet another aisle and scratched his head. Giving up, he stood on his tiptoes and hollered over the sea of books.
Heads snapped around. The woman on the registers looked up. A mother with a red nosed, drippy brat in a stroller scurried forwards.
“Have you lost your son?”
“No.” Rodney scanned left and right. He drew in another big breath. “Grant!”
The woman on the registers raised her hand and waved at a colleague arranging a display beside the escalator. Rodney cast an absent glare at them both, they were not going to stop him finding Grant and if that necessitated yelling, he would yell.
He strode down the row of shelving, stopped and looked left and right. But still no Grant. Worry began to spiral in his guts.
The display gnome finally caught up with him. “Can I help you, sir?” she asked.
“I’ve lost my cousin. He’s autistic. You don’t need a photograph; he looks like me. See if you can find him.” Rodney patted down his pockets and pulled out his Ancient life signs detector. They looked alike, their mothers were twins, and Rodney sort of possibly suspected that they might have the same father. Regardless of whom Grant’s father was there was obviously a great deal of shared genetic material. He popped the back panel of his detector and reconfigured the sensitivity of the array. Turning it on himself, he took a detailed reading. The staff member leaned forward to peer at the screen.
“What! Why are you still here? Why aren’t you looking for my cousin?” He waved her off with a flick of his hand.
Rodney flipped the life signs detector back over and reinitialised it with the new configuration. The screen showed the gross structures of the immediate area. Not for the first time, Rodney berated the Ancients for making a device with such a limited range.
Grant was not within a two hundred meters radius. Rodney headed immediately for the escalator, striding down it, mowing past two old grannies who had to cling to the moving rail. He arrowed straight to the exit, abandoning his collection of books, DVDs, CDs and audiobooks without a backward glance. He burst out into the parking lot.
The giant SUV sat watching. Rodney bolted over. The incompetent twits. They were as useless as Kavanaugh; Grant resembled him closely enough that they were mistaken for twins. If he had walked off – they should have followed. It was entirely possible a bright shiny object had garnered Grant’s attention. But it was not unfeasible that the reason behind his disappearance was more nefarious.
Rodney stomped alongside the vehicle, intent on getting the agents in on the search. He yanked open the driver’s door and swallowed a scream.
He slammed the door shut and fell back against the car parked parallel to the SUV. His heart clamoured as if it were trying to escape through his throat. Rodney fumbled for his cell phone and hit the third speed dial getting straight through to the SGC operations control on the secure line.
“Dr. Rodney McKay. Contractor – Deep Space telemetry,” Rodney said faster than the speed of light. “I’m at the Borders at the
Rodney ignored him, ending the call and hitting speed dial one for Sheppard. “Pick up the ‘phone, Sheppard,” he berated. “Pick up the ‘phone.”
“Hullo?” A Scottish voice said cautiously.
“Carson, where the hell are you?”
“Hurry up. Grant’s disappeared and my bodyguards have been killed.” Rodney ducked down between the two vehicles presenting the smallest possible target to any watching agent.
“We’re pulling into the parking lot now,” Sheppard said tinnily over the cell phone. “You’ll spot us easily, we ‘borrowed’
Rodney popped up like a jack rabbit, spotting the SGC black sedan tooling to a halt beside his own Subaru Legacy wagon. Heart in his mouth, he started running.
“Rodney, lad, are you okay?”
Rodney waved frantically. “Get back in the car. Sheppard, keep the engine running.”
Sheppard turned in the driver’s seat, resting an arm across the back, so he could better see Rodney. In turn, Rodney leaned forward, holding the life signs detector between the driver and front passenger. “This is going to pick up Grant’s DNA life signature. It’s a limited radius, we have to move and we have to move fast.”
Sheppard moved, snatching the local map that
“Time line?” Sheppard asked.
“Less than five minutes,” Rodney said shortly.
“They could be anywhere,”
“The freeway is going to be backed up, some kind of accident,” Sheppard said. “We heard it on the radio when we were driving in. Question is, will the guys who took Grant know?”
“On television the bad guys usually monitor the police with radios,”
“Okay, they want to get away. They won’t go to the freeway.” Sheppard shifted the map through ninety degrees. He ran his finger tip over the details, threading his way the five or so miles to the small Paddock Field airport. “You can’t take an unconscious person through Denver International Airport.”
“Unconscious!” Rodney shrieked as Sheppard flipped the map off the steering wheel and shifted the sedan into reverse. Rodney fell back against the seats as Sheppard spun the car around.
“Aye, and I’ll tell them what we’re doing. This is an assumption, you know. We could be completely up the garden path.”
“It’s a reasonable hypothesis,” Rodney said sharply.
“Faster. Faster. Faster.” Rodney shook the detector frantically. “Faster. I don’t believe this is happening. Even after last night, when we thought something might happen. And the bodyguards. They were dead. Dead. Shot in the head. A bullet right in the temple. There was blood everywhere and brains. Can you drive faster?”
“I’m going as fast as I can, Rodney. This isn’t the freeway; these are side streets, there’s cars and intersections.” Sheppard stamped on the clutch, shifted down a gear and, illegally, overtook a car and then the next two in front of them. Horns blared.
“Cars must have been directed off the freeway because of the accident,”
“Or trying to avoid the traffic jam,” Sheppard said, pulling quickly to the side to avoid an on coming car.
Rodney’s life signs detector beeped. “Oh my god. “Left. Left. Left!” he shrieked.
Sheppard made a hand brake turn -- to a cacophony of horns and screeching brakes -- onto a cratered, bumpy and bouncy road. Cars were parked on both sides of the road restricting their passageway. Sheppard threaded the car like a puddlejumper in the eye of the Stargate through the gap. To the left was the backside of a grim set of apartment buildings. On the right, edged by a high, open weave metal fence, was an area with dry tufty grass interspersed by prairie dog holes and a mess of squat, grey, one storey buildings sat about hundred yards off.
“Damn, I lost it. We must be on the periphery of the signal.”
“Direction?” Sheppard demanded.
“Due west. Faster!”
Sheppard floored the accelerator and the sedan’s shocks did little to protect them from the gutted old road. The life signs detector beeped and Grant’s life sign showed up within the complex on the right.
“See if you can see a gate into that estate,” Rodney directed.
As they drove forward, the life sign remained static – Grant’s kidnappers had stopped. Sheppard reached back and snatched the detector out of Rodney’s hand. He glanced at it for a heartbeat and then spinning the steering wheel, parked the sedan haphazardly. Before Rodney blinked, Sheppard was out of the car and scaling the wire fence like a cat.
“I couldn’t do that on the best day of my life,”
Rodney, hand on the door handle, paused. “What are you doing?”
“Going to drive around and see if we can find the gate. Try to keep an eye on John.”
“Sheppard’s got the life signs detector,” Rodney said.
“We’re going to lose him.”
“Bugger. Oh, there we go.”
Rodney’s head bumped against the roof as they careened across the open area, squashing piled up dirt around prairie dog holes into non-existence.
“You’re batshit insane. You drive like a rally driver.”
“You’re just jealous,”
Rodney hauled on the back of the passenger seat and dragged himself up. They drove up the alley between the two warehouses following Sheppard. They emerged in a warren of blocky buildings with windows and doors protected by steel shutters. Trash cans and piles of black plastic bags were pushed up against walls.
“There!” Rodney caught a flash of Sheppard’s white hooded fleece moving rapidly down a passageway way to their left.
“You’re right.” Breathing heavily, Rodney fumbled his way out of the car.
“Bugger, no signal.”
“Come on!” Rodney picked up his pace and ran in Sheppard’s last direction. The area had a feel of disuse: old grey buildings, peeling paint, rusty shutters with faded signs and piles of abandoned garbage. All in all a perfect place for kidnappers to lay low.
Bright, clean whiteness caught Rodney’s eye. Sheppard’s fleece lay abandoned on the ground, its very colour leading to it being discarded. On auto pilot, Rodney scooped it up. The line of the building angled away from him, and Rodney skirted the edge, aware of
Intent on whatever had his gaze -- out of Rodney and
“Took you long enough,” Sheppard breathed as they settled behind him.
“What do we have?” Rodney asked, dropping the fleece beside Sheppard.
Sheppard angled the life signs detector. There was an open space revealed in stark lines, then another blocky building and within it Grant’s life sign flared. Behind Rodney there was a gentle beep as
Sheppard caught him and pulled him back to force him into his shadow, but not before Rodney saw a suited goon pacing sentry like around the van. Leaning back against the wall, Sheppard looked directly at Carson and Rodney.
“Go.” Sheppard backed up the order with a finger, jabbing once down the alley.
Sheppard raised an ironic eyebrow. “Stay here, McKay.”
“We don’t have time for this,” Sheppard said harshly. “I’m just going to reconnoitre.”
“I’m coming. He’s my cousin.”
“McKay,” Sheppard said through gritted teeth, “I’m better alone.”
Rodney jerked back, jarred.
Sheppard’s gaze turned unfathomable. Rolling his head on the wall, he edged forward a fraction to look back across the yard. His limbs unfurled, and crouched low he darted across the expanse. Rodney jumped to his feet, trying to stay within the shadow of the wall to watch Sheppard. Fast and silent, Sheppard ran, angled to stay out of the peripheral view of the guard.
The suit walked along the length of the van and paused to raise a square chin. He scanned the wide pathway leading to the warehouse, opposite to Sheppard’s approach. Sheppard slid up behind him, running lightly on his toes. Alerted in the last instance, the man turned and Rodney winced as Sheppard jabbed with the flat of his hand at his throat. The suit started to crumple without a sound. Sheppard caught the agent’s ear and yanked on his opposite shoulder and a dead body fell away. Twisting back and to the side, Sheppard pulled the body down aiming so it wouldn’t fall into the view of the open shutter.
Sheppard crouched and ruthlessly frisked the body, pulling out a weapon from a shoulder holster and another from an ankle holster. Both guns were subject to a millisecond’s scrutiny and then the smaller gun was tucked down the back of his tight jeans. On his toes, Sheppard turned and, keeping low, darted around the back of the van and out of sight.
Rodney couldn’t wait another moment. He left the shadows and ran across the yard. He skidded around the back of the van and Sheppard scowled mightily at him as he scooted up close.
“What did you do to this thing?” Sheppard proffered the life signs detector.
Rodney responded rapid and low, “A quick and dirty tweak so it only registered my DNA. Other people don’t show up. If I’d had more time, I’d have--”
Sheppard gestured cuttingly at his throat and, for once, Rodney shut up. Sheppard stood, hugging the wall and leaned out a fraction to peer into the dark warehouse. Grimacing, he pulled back.
“Can’t see anything.” He handed the life signs detector over.
Automatically, Rodney popped off the back cover and reset the configurations to standard. As he handed it back, he realised that his hand was shaking.
As cold as ice, Sheppard accepted the newly configured detector. Rodney stretched his neck -- five concentric circles pulsated on the screen. Sheppard tapped the circle on the lowest south-eastern quadrant and mouthed: Grant. He was alone, at least twenty foot from the nearest circle.
“I’m going in,” Sheppard said. “Stay here.”
“I…” Rodney managed, but -- amazingly -- Sheppard could move quicker than Rodney could speak. He didn’t hesitate, darting after the colonel.
It was dark and gloomy inside the warehouse and filled with boxes upon boxes like the epilogue in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Of Sheppard there was no sign. Rodney guessed that he was targeting the blobs who weren’t Grant. Photographic memory supplied Grant’s whereabouts. Heart clawing up his throat, Rodney dodged around the boxes, heading towards his cousin.
Scuttling along, he fetched up against a small crate, barking his shoulder hard against splintery woodwork. Peering around a corner revealed more boxes and a wall. He should have seen Grant; he should have passed Grant. He was at the far edge of the warehouse. Rodney turned on his heel. The only answer was that Grant was in one of the nearby crates.
“Bastards,” he grated. Rodney looked to the edge of the building, closed his eyes, estimated distance from the entrance and the images on the LCD screen and picked three possible crates.
A bellow of pain brought his head up like a scenting hunting dog. There was the slap-slap of sparing combatants vying for dominance. Rodney now knew the sound of fighting. He skirted the edge of the pile of crates. Sheppard ducked and dodged around a behemoth, avoiding swings of limbs like tree trunks encased in Armani.
“Oh, for a gun!” Rodney berated the world in general.
Sheppard feinted to the left, moved under an ungainly swipe and thrust the heel of his hand under the agent’s jaw. It proved to be glass. The man’s eyes rolled in the back of his head and he toppled backwards.
Ribs heaving, Sheppard spun around, a fiery gaze focused on Rodney, who stood straight -- hands opened unthreateningly.
“Hey, Colonel. That the last one? That was fast.”
“Where’s Grant?” Sheppard snapped out.
Rodney looked left and right. There was a brand new, pristine crate sitting alone, no other crates stacked on top of it, pushed up against a table. There was a hammer and nails on the table. Rodney didn’t answer; arrowing to the table and snatching up the hammer. He banged the top of the crate with his fist.
“Grant?” he tried as he set the prongs of the hammer to lever up the nails.
“He’s in there?” Appalled, Sheppard crossed over, life signs detector stretched out.
A nail came free with a back grating screech. “It’s just me, Grant!” Rodney yelled. “I’m getting you out.”
There was a muffled thump underscored by a moan.
“Shit. Shit. Shit!” Rodney echoed as he fought with the nails. Sheppard paced back and forth. There was only one hammer.
“Colonel Sheppard!” A familiar Scottish brogue demanded. “Rodney?”
Sheppard rolled his eyes. “Why can’t you guys stay where it’s safe? Over here,
A flustered, pink Beckett emerged from the forest of crates. “There’s a dead man beside the van!” he said. He spotted the agent laid out on the dusty floor. Automatically, he crouched checking the man’s pulse.
“Did you contact the SGC?” Sheppard asked flatly.
“Aye, I got through. They’re on their way,”
Sheppard pointed to the crate, Rodney was labouring over.
As the behemoth groaned with a grunt, Rodney freed the last nail. Sheppard immediately loaned a hand to force the lid up.
Grant’s big blue eyes met theirs. Grey, shiny masking tape was wrapped around his head sealing his mouth shut. Tape plastered his hands together from finger tips to elbows. Tears and snot stained his face. The bleat as he recognised them was unmistakably Grant.
Sheppard turned and dove at the downed agent, blood-intent in his eye.
“Don’t do it, son.” He curled long arms around a skinny torso and straight lifted the thinner man off the floor. Sheppard’s hand darted, aimed to gouge at eyes, but he caught himself in the last instance.
“Let me go,
Rodney ignored them; he didn’t care if Sheppard killed the agent. To do this to Grant was unconscionable; the man wouldn’t hurt a fly. He clambered into the crate, wriggling down next to his cousin.
“I got you, Grant. I got you Grant. You’re safe.” There was tape everywhere. He reached to touch the tape but had to stop. “I need some kind of solvent to get this off or I’m going to tear your hair and skin.”
Grant stared at him mutely, eyes overfilled with tears.
“I’m so sorry, Grant. This is all going to come off, I promise you, but it’s going to take time.”
Grant sat at the back of the paramedics’ unit, holding himself stock still as Carson carefully teased strands of baby fine hair from thick, gooey adhesive. The smell of ethanol was strong in the air making
Grant whimpered, low in the back of this throat. He was a hairsbreadth from rocking back and forth. The muscles bunched along his back spoke of tension thick enough to cause migraines.
Once the hair was freed,
“Hey.” Rodney finally reached the tape at Grant’s wrists and could cut more quickly. “Almost free.”
Grant could not stay still another second, he jerked, tearing at his hands, but couldn’t defeat the metallic weave of the tape.
“Stay still, Grant,” Carson implored. “We’re almost there.”
Sheppard paced behind Rodney, back and forth, back and forth, Sig Sauer held at rest at his hip, primed and ready. He stood between them and the SGC containment team and the ambulance’s paramedics who had been relegated to helping with the surviving Trust agents.
Shaking, Grant thrust his hands into Rodney’s face, mutely demanding speed. Rodney snipped as fast as he could, the tips of the scissors becoming gluey. The final stretch of tape parted and Rodney reached to peel back the fragments. Grant thrashed violently. Carson had to stop carefully removing the tape on his cheek. Grant, finally, wrenched his hands apart and threw himself into Rodney’s arms.
Carson laid a hand on Grant’s back, carefully rubbing, trying to soothe. Gradually, the fluttering heart under his fingers dropped to a respectable rate. Rodney hooked his chin over Grant’s shoulder and stared Carson.
“SCG infirmary?” Rodney whispered.
Carson had insisted that they give Grant a bed in the more private corner of the infirmary. Grant had immediately pushed the bed up to the wall. Twice Rodney had had to coax him out from under the metal framed bed. Now Grant rocked back and forth at the head of the bed, tucked up tight against the wall. His knees were clutched against his chest and his face pushed down. He keened under his breath. Rodney sat at the other end, twisting his fingers back and forth, unable to offer any comfort.
Carson, decked in his official white coat, strode back into the offset area holding a clip board with Grant’s initial results. Rodney sat straight at his approach.
“What?” He pointed a pugnacious chin at the papers.
“Grant was given the benzodiazepine diazepam, he’s metabolising it, but I’m going to keep him over night as I’m concerned about its interaction with his haloperidol.”
Rodney erupted to his feet. “What about it?”
“In combination it increases the risk of CND depression and motor impairment.” Ever so slowly,
“IV?” Rodney sent a weighing look at Grant which spoke of how likely it would be that
Grant curled up tighter than a drum, crossing his arms firmly over his chest, and touching his forehead to his knees.
“I’ll take that as a no, then,”
There was no answer.
“Grant, please, lift your head,”
Grant didn’t move -- he didn’t even seem to be breathing.
“Hey, Squirrel.” Sheppard slid smoothly into view. Evidently he had escaped the briefing with General Landry and O’Neill unharmed. He canted a hip on the bed and without hesitation curled an arm around Grant’s shoulders. “Come here.”
Grant uncurled and mashed his face into Sheppard’s stomach. Sticky fingers clutched at Sheppard’s white fleece as Grant began to sob. Sheppard smoothed large circles over Grant’s shoulders.
“It’s okay, Squirrel. Those men won’t get you again.”
The Trust was still out there.
“I’ve got the Gatorade.” Rodney ran up, holding the bottle like a talisman.
Clutching the bottle to his chest and curled up tensely, Rodney watched, eyes wide.
Finally, Sheppard reached out, requesting the bottle of fluorescent blue liquid. Rodney jerked over and planted it in his hand.
“Hey, Squirrel, sit up.” Not taking any refusal, he drew Grant up. Face bright red -- from emotion and the solvent and the residue of the adhesive tape -- Grant drew in a wet sniff. Sheppard flipped the cap off the sports bottle. Pushing the drink into Grant’s hand, he said, “This will help.”
Trembling, Grant stuck the top between his lips, drawing in a mouthful then another.
Visibly shaking, Grant curled into Sheppard as he took tiny sips. Sheppard held him, expression impassive, but his grip comforting. Grant shivered minutely and kept his eyes firmly fixed on the floor.
“Right,” Rodney suddenly growled. “Right. I’m going to talk with Landry and the President and the Prime Minster. This will never happen again.”
Air rushed in to fill the space left as Rodney abruptly turned on his heel and stalked off. A shiver walked over
Chapter seven: Slaves to
McKay rode a wave of fury.
Fury with a capital F.
As he blew into General Landry’s office, smashing the door up against the wall, the man stood up, pushing back from his desk. The annoying little white haired gnome, who seemed to be part secretary and part stargate announcer, ran away through the opposite door into the adjacent corridor – no doubt to get reinforcements.
“You bastard!” McKay jabbed a finger in Landry’s direction. “You thought it was funny, didn’t you. Clever. Let’s get a replacement McKay. Quiet, bright, easy to control.”
“Don’t call me son. I’m not your son. Did you even bother reading his medical records before alerting the whole fucking universe that there was another Brain in the system? A vulnerable Brain at that? A Brain that can’t protect himself? You know that the Trust is out there… NID, you name it… any terrorist organisation with even an interest in science. You know the reality of this world: we’re slaves to the institution.”
“There were assigned bodyguards,” Landry interjected.
“Fat lot of good they were,” McKay said nastily, registering an answering flare in Landry’s eyes. “They were in the parking lot, the imbeciles. They deserve Darwin Awards. Who trained them? Bugs Bunny or Elmer Fudd? You put my cousin in an untenable situation – then you left him hang out to dry because he didn’t agree to join the programme. They were barely there for me. They weren’t there for Grant.”
“Remit! Remit! What remit? Protect from a hundred yards away? I want your fucking resignation on this desk.” McKay slapped his hand down. “I want the head of security’s resignation on her desk.”
“McKay.” Another voice entered the throng.
Rodney jerked around. General O’Neill stood silhouetted in the doorway leading to the corridor.
New meat. McKay bared his teeth at the reinforcements.
“How’s your cousin?” O’Neill asked softly.
“How the Hell do you think my cousin is? He’s in the infirmary. They can’t give him tranquilizers because the drugs that the fucking kidnappers gave him are interacting dangerously with his meds. I--” McKay thumped his chest, “--had to cut his hair to get the glue from the gag off his face. Carson had to hold him down to give him antihistamines to stop the allergic reaction from the glue and the solvent we needed to use to get the reams -- you hear that, reams -- of tape off his skin. He’s in Sheppard’s arms sobbing his heart out. All because you guys couldn’t find your ass --”
“McKay!” O’Neill barked.
“Don’t ‘McKay’ me,” McKay snapped back. “You want to know how serious I am? The President--”
“Hey.” Sheppard slipped in behind O’Neill. A cant of his hips and a twist and he suddenly stood between McKay and O’Neill.
“Why are you here?” McKay demanded. “What about Grant? You left him alone.”
“He’s finally sleeping,” Sheppard said softly. “
“He doesn’t like
Sheppard always responded to orders so very well. He leaned back against the tall bureau near O’Neill. Resting an elbow on the top, he reached up to entwine a spike of black hair.
McKay glared at him. A faint smirk curled O’Neill’s top lip. Sheppard straightened perceptibly, elbow slipping off the bureau.
“You can’t distract me,” McKay snapped at Sheppard. He stepped back toward the large window that overlooked the meeting room so he could see all of the players. Scowling at O’Neill, he then turned his focus on Landry, still standing behind his mahogany desk. “Grant is in danger. Danger that you, General Landry, put him in. Grant has to be protected. And tell me, General Landry, how are you going to do that?”
“Your cousin is--” General Landry began.
“If you say ‘special’ I’m going to show you some of the skills that I’ve learned in the last year.”
Landry’s nostrils flared, he said flatly, “Your cousin will be protected. I have spoken with your Prime Minister, Mr. Harper, personally, and he has expressed his concern over the threat that has been raised against Mr. Jansky.”
Rodney planted his hands over his face. “My cousin is never going to be safe. He might as well be wearing a red shirt.”
McKay fell away from them and their military persuasion. His back hit the window jarring him from heel to the tip of his spine. They didn’t understand; they might rail against the powers that be, but if asked they considered that they served a greater good. Even the most sarcastic and insincere -- McKay looked through his fingers at O’Neill -- still showed a degree of naivety, a belief in Cowboys with White Hats.
Damn, what was the answer? He couldn’t leave Grant. Grant couldn’t work in the SGC at
“Can I make a suggestion?” O’Neill raised a hand.
McKay’s head snapped up.
“We could send him to
That could work. McKay peered at O’Neill. The man often pretended to be an idiot, and in reality was an imbecile – otherwise why keep throwing himself in front of the enemies of Earth? Hadn’t O’Neill heard of delegating? But occasionally he showed a modicum of not being an idiot.
“Excuse me,” Sheppard interrupted, “but can the Air Force really keep Grant sequestered in
“So what do you suggest?” McKay demanded. “Atlantis? I’m trying to find a stress free environment where he’s not under threat. That sounds just like Atlantis, don’t you think? Oh, possibly, in Fairy Tale Universe.”
Sheppard consulted his nails. “We can protect him.”
McKay opened and closed his mouth. Part of his gut turned inside out at that casual promise. But Sheppard would write it in blood if needed.
“It’s not like Earth is safe,” Sheppard continued blithely, “now that Dr. Jackson -- that’s his name, isn’t it -- has woken up the Ori. Hey, I don’t have a crystal ball, anything can happen. We could all get some of that really nasty Chicken ‘Flu tomorrow and all die.”
McKay wondered if, when he throttled Sheppard,
“Bird ‘Flu,” O’Neill corrected.
“This is serious!” McKay screamed, spittle flying in the air. “You’ve just proven that Grant isn’t safe. The American Government or The Canadian Government isn’t going to protect an asset that doesn’t produce anything that they can use. And Grant’s never going to dance to your whims and your threats. He’s not going to jump through your hoops.”
“Like you?” O’Neill asked, smirking.
“Don’t you even start! This isn’t funny. It isn’t remotely funny. My cousin is in the infirmary.” McKay raised his hand, and then let it drop, suddenly defeated. There was no good solution to Grant’s dilemma. “And he’s not safe and he’d never going to be.”
Sheppard pushed away from the bureau. He came close but not close enough to touch. “Atlantis is the best place for him, Rodney. Do you want him squirreled away --” he chuffed out a shallow, depreciative laugh, “--in some kind of brain tank? He could be great in Atlantis.”
“It could kill him,” McKay pointed out.
“Are we really safe anywhere?” Sheppard returned.
“Oh, thanks. Thanks for that.”
“Look, Rodney, that’s the reality of the situation, and you know it. But on Atlantis he’ll be with his family.”
McKay folded his arms over his chest, holding them up high. “Okay. But short term, we have to see how he does.”
“I don’t think…” Landry began.
“Like you have any say,” McKay said quellingly. “It’s for Dr. Weir and the IOA to approve. And given the debacle you, personally, engendered, I don’t think that you’ve got anything to contribute.”
McKay moved, forcing Sheppard to step back or be brushed aside. O’Neill waited until the last instant to step out of the way. But he withdrew, McKay noted with a thrum of satisfaction. He spun on his heel, glaring back at General Landry.
“I still want your resignation, Landry.”
He didn’t wait for an answer or an acknowledgment, turning and stalking past O’Neill. He didn’t know this new General, but he could say that he didn’t respect him.
The man hadn’t even apologised.
Chapter eight: Calculated Misunderstanding
At the knock, which could only be described as timid, Elizabeth Weir hit control+S on her notebook computer and pushed it aside. Folding her hands together, she set them on the desk blotter and found a smile.
The door to her bland SGC-assigned office did not open.
“Come in?” she finally called.
The door opened a crack. A shy voice drifted through, “Rodney said that you wanted to see me?”
“Mr. Jansky?” She stood, quickly skirting around the desk to get to the door. Pulling the door open revealed a hunched up figure topped by a SGA-issued boonie hat -- the type that Daniel Jackson used to favour before he had found his ‘cool’.
“Hullo,” Grant said quietly, keeping his gaze firmly fixed on the floor.
“Please come in.”
Grant scurried away, jumping onto the sofa and pressing back into the cushions. He pulled his knees up against his chest and kept his head down.
“I’m sorry.” He gulped. “I’ve had a bad weekend.”
“Yes, I’m sorry to hear that.” She winced at the triteness of her words. “How are you feeling now?”
Pulling at the cuffs of his over-large cardigan, Grant drew them over his bandaged wrists.
“Do you understand what happened?”
Grant snorted under his breath. “The NID wanted me. Or The Trust. It’s because I can see patterns. Rodney wants me to find the patterns in the Ancients’ Database so I can tell their stories.” He lifted his head a fraction, and
“The question is, Grant -- can I call you Grant?”
“It’s my name,” he said brightly, and the head came up another fraction of an inch.
“The question is: what do you want?”
That garnered a full head lift. For a bare instance, he looked at her directly. Then his gaze drifted away, finding something of interest on the plain carpet. Uncurling fractionally, he set his feet on the floor, carefully placing his hands on his knees. His posture was as relaxed as a debutante at her first ball and he radiated enough tension enough to thicken the air.
“I want to be safe. I’m not safe here. I can do things, even if it hasn’t been proven to you and everyone here at the SGC. Although I did fix the calibration problem with the Lorentzian intra universe bridge, didn’t I?” Grant smiled crookedly, so much like Rodney that
“Rodney mentioned that,”
“Rodney wants me to be safe. I work ‘differently’ and now your NID -- when I say ‘your’, I mean it’s the American Government not you – wants me. When I say NID, I think that I mean The Trust. I went into the SGC database and The Trust is formed of ex-NID members. Although, given that they tried such a blatant kidnapping attempt, instead of a subversive strike when I was back at home, indicates that there is another player. It was very uncharacteristic and wasn’t well thought out. Mr. General Jack O’Neill didn’t let me finish my analysis, though.” He lapsed into silence.
“Do you want to go to Atlantis?”
“Mr. Jinx will have to come. I don’t think I can go without Mr. Jinx.”
“My cat.” Grant coughed. “Rodney’s cat. He told me that I had to look after him. He’s had all his shots.”
Grant rocked in her direction conspiratorially, almost but not quite bumping his shoulder into hers. “He’s also had the--” his fingers made the snip-snip of scissors, “--so he’ll be safe. No baby kittens. But don’t tell him, he’s sensitive.”
“How are you feeling, Grant?
Grant tucked his chin deep into the collar of his buttoned up blue cardigan and found that interesting region on the carpet to the left of Elizabeth’s knee. He shrugged, shoulders almost coming up to touch the brim of his ridiculous green hat.
“I can go to Atlantis. I’ll get better.”
“We’re going in less than forty-eight hours; it doesn’t give you a lot of time to think about it. It has to be your decision, Grant, not Rodney’s or Colonel Sheppard’s.”
Grant flicked a little sideways glance at her; the eyes were perceptive, engaged, and then the brim came down and he was hidden from view.
“Mr. Jansky, Grant, Atlantis is a wonderful place, but there are problems there.” Intent on her words she had to concentrate not to squeeze the vulnerable man’s hands. “We’ve angered some people called the Wraith, and sometimes they try to hurt us. There’s marines and members of the Air Force there who protect the scientists, but sometimes it gets very scary. It might not be the best place for you.”
The boonie covered head nodded sagely. “But I don’t think that I’ll be safe anywhere else.”
What could she say but ‘yes’ in the face of that innocent declaration?
Rodney threw his hat on the plush armchair in the corner of the VIP quarters.
“How’s Grant?” he asked Sheppard.
Curled up on another armchair by Grant’s bed, Sheppard glanced up from his book to the huddled up figure in the centre of the king-sized bed. Grant slept under two embroidered quilts. His face pushed into a soft pillow. Only the vulnerable line of his neck and the soft curve of his jaw and cheek were visible. A faint red flush touched his cheek where the adhesive had stripped his skin raw.
“No nightmares,” Sheppard reported, setting the book aside and balancing it on the arm of the chair. “I think Mr. Jinx helps.”
Rodney cocked his head. He couldn’t see the cat who had abandoned him at the drop of a hat for his little cousin.
Sheppard pointed at a quilt covered lump.
“Jinx is under the quilt?” Rodney asked, as he crouched by the mini bar. He extracted a miniature whisky. Sheppard raised two fingers so Rodney grabbed another three miniatures. If he was going to get shit-faced he was going to do it on the SGC’s buck. Curling his nose up at the supplied plastic tumblers, he poured two generous doubles of Glenlivet. “You want ice?”
“Philistine.” But he extracted a cube from the ice tray and plopped it in the beaker. It did not tinkle satisfactorily. Sheppard leaned out of his chair and snagged his glass.
The first mouthful burned its way, warmingly all the way down Rodney’s gullet. Smiling, he crossed the room and flopped on the armchair, planting his butt on the hat and swinging his feet on the edge of Grant’s bed.
Sheppard swirled the whisky in the tumbler, watching the amber liquid coat the sides for a bare instance before sliding back down.
“You packed? Ready to go back on the Daedalus?” Sheppard asked.
Rodney shrugged. “Mostly. I’ll send a marine to go and collect my goodies from Borders. I need to get back to my apartment and grab a couple of things. I have to get a couple of officers to pack down Grant’s apartment, and ship his computers to either the SGC or an approved site where the Daedalus can beam them up.”
“Hmmm.” Rodney nodded and took a mouthful of whisky. “She’s got her reservations, but knows at the moment it is the best place for him. I’ve also got to check the Atlantis’ hardware manifesto. I mean, okay, now we have a link with the SGC and Earth, but I don’t want to get to Atlantis and find that they have only given us three Serial Cray super computers."
“Yeah, that would be a hardship.” Sheppard held the glass, looking through it at Rodney. “So if you haven’t been checking your geek shopping list what have you been up to?”
“This and that. Chat with
“Why do that?” Sheppard took a big hit from his whisky.
“If this is Earth.” Rodney held up his middle finger and Sheppard toasted him back with his tumbler. “Your Glenlivet is P2X-555, and the bed is the sun and there is a solar flare--” He flipped the edge of the quilt with his foot making a tiny wave, “--the resultant flux in the energy, as the stargate forms the wormhole between the two points, can result in an intra-dimensional bridge due to delay-changes in the nonconservative gravitational field.”
“Fascinating,” Sheppard said dryly.
“Ancient-designed DHDs have protocols to avoid problems of this nature. The mock-up of the DHD that they have here is barely even adequate to form stable wormholes; I’m surprised that they haven’t had more problems than they have had.” Rodney sniffed.
“And what did Colonel Carter have to say when you pontificated at her?”
The door opened, interrupting Rodney’s planned witty repartee, and
“How’s he doing?”
“He’s been sleeping a lot,” Sheppard reported.
Rodney drew a sip of whisky, holding it in the well of his tongue to allow it to evaporate and caress his senses. Enjoying the warming curl of the vapour was a guilty pleasure in which he didn’t indulge often.
Sheppard shook his head. “Nothing, I even asked if he wanted some chocolate. Galaxy or Lindt. And nothing, nada, not a jot.”
“Will he come ‘round?” Sheppard asked intently. “I mean, start talking again?”
“I expect so,”
“You want a whisky?” Sheppard held his glass up.
As Sheppard raided the fridge for another whisky,
“Why are you wearing Grant’s cardigan, Rodney?”
Rodney smiled. “Oh, no particular reason.”
Chapter nine: Permission Granted.
Bedlam, organised, military bedlam, McKay grumbled inwardly, as he and Grant stepped into the SGC embarkation room. There was a veritable forest of storage containers set before him. In between them, SCG staff ran back and forth ensuring equipment was correctly stored. Against the far wall, a squad of marines waited patiently, each had a MOLLE backpack and a large crate. The squad’s corporal was conversing with a lieutenant, bringing his attention to a sheaf of papers on a clipboard. Walter called something incomprehensible over the public address system and at a nod from the lieutenant, four marines started to move large crates stamped with USAF from blocking the opposite doorway.
At McKay’s side, Grant shivered violently, hands coming up to his ears. He was on the brink of collapsing on his knees when McKay got him under the arm and kept him upright. McKay body pushed Grant away from the entrance, half into the shelter of a stack of medical supplies. Still holding his cousin’s arm, he set Mr. Jinx's cat carrier on the floor. Grant continued to shiver, dropping his hands as he tried to turn away from McKay’s hold. Another clatter across the embarkation room sent Grant shying back.
“Freeze, Grant.” Rodney clicked his fingers. “Focus. Focus on me.”
Rodney caught Grant’s chin and turned his head so he could look him in the eye. Immediately, Grant ducked his head, burrowing into the folds of his collar. But he stilled.
“Grant,” Rodney said between gritted teeth, “if you keep this up, I’m not going to be able to get you to Atlantis. It just people getting ready to go up to the Daedalus. It’s nothing to be frightened of.”
Grant reached up and pulled his green boonie hat down over his ears. Rodney straightened and took an assessing gaze of the SGC embarkation room. Nobody had caught their altercation.
He had already organised pick up of Grant’s entire computer set up from the Air Force base at
Abandoned, O’Neill was turning in a circle. Spotting them, he stuck his hands deep in his pockets and ambled over. McKay shifted back a step, shielding Grant with his body. Folding his arms over his chest, he glared at the inquisitive general. Behind him he felt Grant grip the hem of his fleece and twist it in his fingers.
Cocking his head to the side, O’Neill tried to see around McKay’s bulk.
“Grant’s feeling a bit shy at the moment,” McKay said directly. “As you can probably guess it’s a bit overwhelming.”
“You’ve got an answer for everything, haven’t you, McKay?”
McKay let the smile turn his top lip. “Well, I am a genius.”
The returning stare was implacable.
Jesus, McKay thought, his eyes are like a shark’s. A cold, as intense as the Siberian winter, froze his guts. With great deliberation, O’Neill rocked slowly to the side to better see Grant, whose head was now pushing between Rodney’s shoulder blades. The fingers twisting at McKay’s hem were pulling the fabric tight over his stomach.
O’Neill looked McKay up and then down. “You going to look after him?”
“Yes!” McKay bristled, and then toned his voice down as Grant shivered against him.
“Grant, how are you doing?” O’Neill drawled.
Grant simply burrowed further into McKay’s back.
“Hey, Kid,” O’Neill said softly. “The Daedalus is on a six week turn around. If you find that Atlantis isn’t for you, you can come back on the next flight. Okay?”
There was no answer. McKay stared at O’Neill. Belatedly, he noticed that Sheppard was leaning against one of the piled up blocks of petascale Cray Super Computer components watching with a hawk-like gaze. A line of tension coursed through the lean form.
“Grant?” O’Neill said implacably, sliding closer. The air seemed to part before him.
The weight between his shoulder blades lifted and McKay, under that predatory gaze couldn’t move, couldn’t crane his neck to see what was happening. O’Neill circled him. Grant drew in a breath and held it. The hubbub of SGC personnel rushing around them to get ready before they departed seemed to quieten. McKay watched the scene through Sheppard; tense shoulders relaxed a fraction and McKay felt a visceral echo.
“Okay, son.” O’Neill stepped back into McKay’s line of sight
McKay jerked around, yanking his fleece free from Grant’s hand. Grant flinched, cupped hands coming up to his mouth. The faintest of smiles touched his lips where he nibbled on his thumbs. McKay glowered, thinking that somewhere not too far away, someone known as General Jack O’Neill, was making a joke at his expense. Grant shuffled back into his immediate personal space and, automatically, McKay looped an arm over his shoulders
O’Neill ambled away, every inch the senile old grandfather. McKay knew better.
Sheppard slid over as soon as O’Neill had wandered past the men guarding the embarkation room and out into the corridor.
“Hey, everything okay?”
“Fat lot of good you were, Sheppard,” McKay hissed.
“What did you expect me to do?” Sheppard cocked an eyebrow. “He’s a general. He used to lead SG-1, ran the SGC, he’s like--”
“God?” McKay said nastily.
Sheppard rolled his eyes. “My superior officer, McKay.”
Abruptly, Grant moved from under his arm, bending down to open the cat carrier at his feet. He pulled a mildly sedated Mr. Jinx from within and tucked him up against his neck.
“Hey.” Sheppard let the cat sniff his fingers before gently scratching him behind the ears.
Grant rubbed his chin against the top of Mr. Jinx’s head, stroking him with his unshaven chin. The bright red rash of the adhesive tape used to gag Grant was fading but he had refrained from shaving. McKay had no particular opinion on facial hair, but if Grant cultivated a beard or a goatee, there would be less confusion once they got to Atlantis and he was introduced. The trick in the meantime was keeping him away from
“Have you got all of Mr. Jinx’s stuff?” Sheppard asked, trying to cajole Grant to speak.
In response, Grant toed Jinx’s carrier.
McKay huffed at the two grown men pampering his pet. “You better put Mr. Jinx back in his carrier until we get to our assigned berths. We don’t want to give what’s-his-face--” McKay clicked his fingers, “--
“Yeah, it’s for the best, Squirrel.” Sheppard extracted Jinx from Grant’s arms and, fumbling the liquid-limp cat, poured him back in the carrier.
The public address system pinged and everyone looked up to the viewing windows overhead. General O’Neill stood there with Landry and Mr. Woolsey of the International Oversight Advisory committee. O’Neill flicked the microphone again.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve just got the go ahead from the Daedalus.” He looked down directly at the trio huddled around the cat carrier. “Permission granted to go aboard.”
The white light of the transporter beam engulfed them.
Chapter ten: It runs in the family
“I said: No, Rodney. I will not give Grant the ATA gene therapy.” Hands gripping a delicate in-vitro medical diagnostic kit,
Rodney flung his arms out, barely missing the medical box of supplies on
“The key word is ‘practically’, Rodney.”
“Oh, I get it, you’re discriminating against him because he’s got--” Rodney made speech marks with his fingers, “--problems.”
“Oh, don’t be contentious, you daft git.” He took a swift glance around his assigned lab. space and spotted the ream of folders poking out of his old, battered conference bag on the floor.
“What are they?” Rodney asked, following his line of sight.
“This is part of Grant’s medical file.” Scooping them up, he hefted the cardboard wrapped folders against his chest. “This is what I could get in the fifty seven odd hours I had before we embarked. There are five distinctly separate diagnoses in these documents and a number of interrelated conditions all relating to his mental and neurological diagnoses. Some of them are a complete load of bollocks and others I would give some credence.” He set the folders on the bench with a heavy slap and plonked his butt on a lab. stool, leaving a hand resting on the tome.
“And what does that have to do with giving Grant the ATA therapy?” Rodney took the other stool.
“Supposing that Grant suffers from bi-polar I disorder – and I’m speaking hypothetically here – is his history of psychosis a result of elevated calcium –independent phospholipases A2 activity? Or let’s see -- the possibility of an autism spectrum disorder -- Aspergers syndrome or PDD-NOS? Evidence indicates that these syndromes are linked with changes on the regional brain anatomy and functional networks and possibly are due to abnormal regulation of multiple ontogenetic processes. Possibly polygenic -- involving three to fifteen alleles with complex gene-to-gene effects. But don’t forget that recent hypotheses consider that gene-environment effects are an important facet. Which genes, though? UBE3A locus, several of the GABA system genes on chromosome 15q11-13? Oh, and what about the serotonin transporter gene 17q? Shit--”
“You’ve made your point,
“Have I? Because browbeating Dr. Biro or Urquhart when we get to Atlantis, isn’t going to change where we are now. Giving Grant the gene therapy would be criminally irresponsible. Sneaking into my lab. and helping yourself to a wee little injection could have unpredictable and catastrophic effects on Grant. Remember that there’s a mental components to the activation of ancient technology, marry together stretching your mind in the Ancient chair system with, perhaps, a touch of schizophrenia – I think that ‘recipe for disaster’ is an understatement.”
“If you think that poorly of Grant why did you approve his joining this mission?” Rodney said churlishly.
“I’m going to remember that you’re my friend and that you’re only being defensive because you care about your cousin.”
“Not even close,” Rodney protested automatically.
Chapter eleven: Daedalus at Night.
The nightlight illuminated the metal ceiling with a soft, pale orange glow. Grant rolled over in the bunk bed and peered down at Rodney, fast asleep on the bunk beneath. His cousin slept on his tummy, cheek turned into the pillow. Mr. Jinx, nose tucked into tail, slept between his shoulder blades.
Carefully, Grant pushed back his blanket and swung his legs over the side of the bunk. There was no noise from below, apart from breathy sighs. Creeping ever so carefully, Grant worked his way down the bunk ladder. Rodney continued sleeping. Grant crouched at his side, marvelling at the length of Rodney’s eyelashes, so dark against his cheeks. Fingers twitching, he estimated that they were thirty three percent longer than his friend, Jack’s eyelashes. Grant gave a sad huff; Jack only lived in his memories, now –dead and gone.
He crouched, clasping his knees against his chest. Rodney was busy, busy, busy – whirling and chaotic. He was a vortex of Rossby waves -- he was delta K over delta t -- azimuthal mean of kinetic energy -- drawing them all in. But his hair was ordered and smooth with glossy, chestnut highlights hidden within calming brown. He had been blond as a baby. Grant brushed quiet fingers over Rodney’s temple and a faint smile was his reward.
Some factors were eminently predictable.
Grant stood and caught a glimpse of his profile out of the corner of his eye. He tilted over to the mirror and regarded himself by the glow of the nightlight. He looked bruised but on the inside, not on the out. His hair was wild – sticking up left, right and centre. Rodney had cut his hair. He hadn’t done a good job. Grant saw that had been left tufty and scruff marred his jaw. He smoothed his fingers over the whorl at edge of his cheek, twisting over the valleys of a patch of red rash – dx over dt equalled Ax. His therapist had told him to remember his hygiene.
Grant scooped up his toilet bag, a change of night clothes and tiptoed out of their cabin.
Clean, freshly shaved and wearing brand new white boxer shorts and t-shirt, Grant stood outside the bathroom in the centre of the corridor. Which was port and which was starboard? he wondered. Port had four letters which was the same number of letters as l.e.f.t., so port should be left. Grant turned starboard and scurried back to his cabin, bare feet slapping – slap slap slap – a rhythm of three beats in the bar, back to his and Rodney’s cabin.
Or was it berth? Were they assigned a cabin or a berth in a starship?
Rodney had given him a necklace with a card -- hole punched -- looped through the chain. He pulled it out from under his t-shirt and leaned forward, holding the card at the end of the length of chain to strike through the door sensor. The door slid open without even a whisper – Rodney had fiddled with the controls (he had turned into a decent engineer in the last year) – so the sleeper within was not disturbed.
It was definitely a room, even if technically it should be a cabin or berth. A room with a bunk bed, a single dresser to share and one chair – all of which were bolted to the floor.
Grant didn’t quite follow why they had only been given one chair when the room was for two people. But Rodney had let him choose which bunk he wanted, so that was all right. Rodney still slept on his tummy and Mr. Jinx warm on his back. Neither had moved a muscle. Precisely, Grant stored his shaving kit and toiletries and placed his not quite clean clothes in the basket for washing.
Rodney actually liked things just so -- it was comforting.
He needed hot chocolate before he could go to bed. Hot milky chocolate and then he could go back to bed.
Grant padded barefoot back out of their cabinroomberth.
“Good evening, Grant.”
Grant drummed his fingers over the lid of the final canister in the row.
“It’s a little late for coffee,”
Grant’s brow furrowed perplexed, he drew his finger over the embossed writing tracing the letters.
“If you want a night time drink, how’s about a mug of warm milk?”
Grant gagged silently.
“I know that too much caffeine isn’t good for you, Grant.” One of Grant’s more interesting psychoses was triggered by excessive amounts of caffeine. However, how much constituted an ‘excessive amount’ had not been quantified.
Grant’s questing fingertips drifted to the canister of hot chocolate.
“There’s caffeine in chocolate, but we can make a milky hot chocolate with maybe a drop of peppermint.”
Grant snuck a quick, horrified glance at him.
“I guess not.”
As he carefully set the cream on the counter, Grant gently placed the bowl with sachets of sugar next to it.
“Can you see any cocoa, Grant?”
Tongue caught firmly between his teeth, Grant set to hunting. There was a tiny, two-burner combo set on the end of the counter suitable for heating a pan of soup or, in this case, two mugs worth of milk.
“Ah, good, you found it. Can you put a teaspoon in each mug, please?”
No prevaricating just a nervous head wobble and prompt following of the instructions. Next, he instructed Grant to tear open a couple of sachets and pour the sugar in the mugs. His hands were steady; no evidence of even fine tremors.
“Are you sure that you don’t want to try peppermint essence?”
Grant shook his head firmly and
“Where’s Rodney?” A question which couldn’t be answered with a yes or no response.
Grant pushed the two stirred and stirred mugs towards the saucepan, ignoring the question.
“Hey, guys.” Sheppard slid into view, skating over the shiny floor plates in his stocking feet. He too was ready for bed, dressed in old, soft-washed, faded sweat pants and a thin long sleeved t-shirt.
A hint of a smile creased Grant’s lips. He shuffled happily and took another mug from the rack and poured in the ingredients.
“Ooh, chocolate.” Sheppard set a hip on the edge of the counter.
Carson decanted more milk into the pan as Grant finished mixing Sheppard’s cocoa, sugar and cream into a smooth paste.
“Where’s Rodney?” Sheppard asked.
Cocking his head to the side, Grant folded his hands together, palm to palm, finger to finger, and laid his hands against his cheek. He closed his eyes and drew in a peaceful sigh.
“Sleeping,” Sheppard translated.
The thick scent of warming milk stroked the back of Carson’s throat and he saw the fine line of bubbles on the surface of the milk, so he cut the heat. Before the skin could curdle into being, he poured the hot milk in the mugs, filling them part way.
Sheppard raised any eyebrow at the meagre portion, but found silence. Grant’s fingers twitched eagerly. He moved, cupping the mug in his hands, raising it to his face and breathing in the warmth.
“Boy, you like chocolate,” Sheppard noted.
Grant smiled, his face framed by wispy curls of steam from the mug as he breathed. He wiggled in delight.
“So what do you think of the Daedalus?” Sheppard asked.
Grant toasted him with hot chocolate.
“That good, eh?” Carson laughed. Somehow, Grant made it easy to know his every thought through expression and deed. He took a mouthful of his own hot chocolate, enjoying it after limited rations for nearly a year, despite their fortnight holiday. Simultaneously, Sheppard took his own draft and maintained an appreciative expression. Truth be told, Carson knew that John was not that fussed about hot chocolate, preferring water or juice.
“It’s late, why are you guys up?” Sheppard asked as he licked a drop off his lip.
“I was working.” Carson waved a hand vaguely at the laptop on the far table.
Grant waggled his cup.
“I wish that you’d talk, Squirrel.” Sheppard tilted his head to the side. He found a haphazard smile as Grant’s eyes widened, fretful. His fingers clenched around the mug, knuckles turning white. “In your own time, though.”
Grant breathed an immediate sigh of relief.
Moving slowly, every motion choreographed, Sheppard reached out and flicked the tip of Grant’s nose. “Sooner rather than later, right, Squirrel?”
Grant nodded fervently.
Carson marvelled at John’s ease that spoke so unswervingly to Grant.
Grant let John steer him down the corridor with a light hand on his shoulder. They stopped outside the cabinberthroom-place of sleeping. John peered down his ski-jump nose at the card lock. Carefully wielding his swipe card, Grant opened the door to their room. Curious, John poked his head around the door to inspect the low-lit cabin. Rodney had turned on his lower bunk to the bulkhead, presenting them the breadth of his shoulders and the back of his head. Mr. Jinx sat sphinx-like taking up the Lion’s share of his mattress.
“You going to go to sleep, Grant?” John asked.
Grant nodded. On tiptoes, he crept into his room.
“K, then, good night.” With a cocky smile, John stepped back, allowing the door to close before him. Alone, standing in the middle of the room, Grant licked his top lip, chasing that final molecule of chocolate.
They were good people, nice. They weren’t cruel. Grant padded barefoot to the bunk. Mr. Jinx let him scoop him up and settle -- the cat on his lap -- on the bottom bunk. Rodney mumbled vaguely and shuffled closer to the wall, pushing up against the cold bulkhead giving them space. Grant carded his fingers against the grain of the short fur at the base of Mr. Jinx’s skull, drawing a purr from the tabby cat.
He had looked after Rodney when he had been too small to look after himself. They each struggled through different aspects of the confusing mishmash of life. Some clues Rodney had discovered and other he had deciphered. The benefit of experience had allowed him to help Rodney when he had been very small, coping with the bags of water around them, to learn the rules and the cues when, like the proverbial switch, suddenly people weren’t real.
Rodney mumbled, “Grant?” and shifted onto his back. His lashes fluttered on his cheeks as he dreamed. “Guys? No? Don’t.”
Grant breathed a silent shush and gently brushed his cousin’s temple. The eyes stopped roving and Rodney’s head lolled to the side.
I’m okay, Grant thought loudly as Rodney kicked out once, rucking up his blankets and pulling them down to his waist. Tutting, Grant drew them back and tucked him in, ensuring not a single wrinkle marred the grey-blue cover and that Rodney was not rolling over anytime in the near future.
Rodney’s brow furrowed, but swaddled he found an instinctive comfort. A breathy sigh passed his open lips as he passed deeper into sleep, relaxing into his bed. Grant stood with Mr. Jinx draped over his fore arm like a jaguar on a tree branch. Cat in hand, he clambered back up to his narrow bunk, ducking his head to avoid the low ceiling as he rolled onto the mattress. Jinx squirmed out of his grip, escaping to pace along the bulkhead edge of the buck, trying to find the most comfy spot. Grant burrowed into his blankets, hauling the covers up snugly around his neck. The ceiling was very low, pressing down without touching, and it was immensely comforting.
Content and warm on his side, sleep edged up next to him. Mr. Jinx draped over Grant, wrapping around his head to tuck a pointy chin over his neck.
He wanted a porthole so he could see the streamers of hyperspace moieties racing past on their way to the end of time where 1=Ω. The nimbus of light around the nightlight bled toward that boundary of impossibly infinity. Equations written in red minuetted before his eyes; hypothesis and solutions twisting back and forth, all drifting on the hyperspace wave that vibrated.
He should take his meds; but then the magic would be muted.
Draped over his neck, Mr. Jinx purred roughly and Grant felt the thrum over his skin,
Slowly, he closed his eyes letting the drone of space ship travelling through an impossibility -- where M theory equalled ‘mystery’ and E7 simply did not enter into the equation -- lull him to sleep.
Trade Earth for Atlantis
“Come on, Grant! Come on, Grant!”
Deliberately, Grant slowed to an ambling pace.
“Do you want to see Atlantis or not?”
Laughing merrily, but without a sound, Grant suddenly raced forwards. Rodney’s eyes widened for a heartbeat and then he was off in the mad chase of much younger cousins.
When he entered the observation deck, Grant was plastered up against the window, nose pushed up, fingers splayed, awestruck.
Rodney bounced up on his toes, grinning. ‘Grant likes my City. Grant likes my City’ his body language proclaimed.
“You’ll get to meet Radek and Miko – you’ll like Miko. And Teyla. Teyla’s the leader of the Athosians, but she also on my team.”
Carson smiled at the possessive, and wondered what Sheppard would say if he was not on the bridge, lounging next to the pilot, watching his every move.
“Teyla’s got this serene – I’m humouring the idiot’s thing going on – but I can understand that apart from when she’s aiming it at me. If she asks you to train, just say ‘no’.” Rodney shot a glance at Grant. “Okay, just shake your head emphatically.”
The ship decelerated rapidly, the inertial dampeners almost smoothing the sensation to nothingness. As one Carson and Rodney each rested a hand on the viewport.
“Must have let Sheppard take the wheel.” Rodney gripped.
The Daedalus swooped to the left and all they could see was the wide expanse of the Atlantean Ocean. The grey blue sea arcing to a blurring horizon.
“Well, I suppose we should get our bags,” Rodney said pragmatically. “We’re going to land on the North Pier. Come on, Grant.”
~*~ ATLANTIS ~*~