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Out of the Closet, Into the Fire

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Jack, being Jack, took a typically Jack way of coming out of the closet. He didn’t give Daniel any warning…he just greeted him with a kiss, took his hand and said, “What do you feel like for lunch?”

The fact that he’d just gotten out of the latest meeting on the DADT repeal and there were a dozen other Generals standing around didn’t seem to bother him, so Jackson kept his cool and answered, “I could do with some deli, if you don’t mind.”

A few heads were snapping as they walked down the hall, Jack still holding his hand tightly. O’Neill’s assistant just smiled and nodded when they walked by him and Jack said, “We’re going to lunch. You’ll probably need to take messages. A lot of messages.”

Col. Paul Davis smiled too when they strolled by him and then put his arm around Col. Mike Evans who looked like he was hugging back.

Daniel waited until they were in the cab before he spoke. “Was that wise?”

Jack shrugged. “Probably not. Never stopped me before.”

“Why now?”

“Troops deserve to know this comes from the highest levels, that they have approval from the Pentagon to be who they are. We need all the best minds and bodies for this world’s defense. Not that they all get to know that part. Earth, not just the USA’s defense.”

“And if there are repercussions…well, there will be, but what if it’s stuff you don’t like?”

“Depends on how much I don’t like it. Do you want to get married?”

“Just like that,” said Daniel in a peevish tone. “In a smelly cab, in the middle of DC lunchtime gridlock, when I’m starving and you just outted us to the Pentagon.”

“What? You wanted dinner, candlelight and roses first? Guys don’t do it that way, Daniel. Besides, it’s better than your last proposal: Welcome to our planet, here’s a wife, Chicken Man.”

Daniel looked nervously at the cab driver. “Um, TMI.”

Jack looked only a little guilty. “Oh, come on, he’s not listening to us with that radio up that loud and we’re almost whispering. Besides, he’s busy exchanging gestures with that traffic cop. So. What do you think?”

“Don’t I get a ring?”

Jack nodded. “Guys do that. I thought we should shop for them together. It’s too bad Nevada doesn’t do same-sex marriage. Elvis officiating would be cool.”

Daniel made a sound that was a cross between stifled laughter and a groan. “We are not getting married by Elvis. We are not treating this as some big joke.”

Jack took his hand again, his face hardened a bit and using his best serious/General tone. “This isn’t a joke to me, Daniel. I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I probably just tossed my military career out the window in spite of the President’s signature on that order. To be fair, I’m getting tired and maybe I will take retirement if that’s my only recourse, but I didn’t kiss you today in front of the whole world just to make a statement about stupid laws. I love you and you know that.”

Daniel leaned over to kiss him gently. “I do know that and I do know how much it cost you. How much I cost you.”

“You don’t cost me…you make me happy. You also aggravate me and challenge me and make my hair gray with all the dying on a regular basis stuff, but you make me happier than I’ve been in years.”

They rode in silence, still holding on to each other until the cab finally got them to the small deli they both favored. “I’m dying for a chicken salad,” Daniel said, with a teasing look before sliding out the door as Jack was paying for the ride.

“You always get the chicken salad. I’m telling you, the pastrami is truly to die for. So how soon do you want to get married? And big wedding or little?” said Jack as he caught up with him in the order line.

“Fine, I’ll try it since I’ll be kissing your pastrami breath anyway. Soon as possible and small as possible. We wouldn’t be so compatible if we didn’t both hate ceremonies.”

~~**~~

It wasn’t as bad as he expected when he got back to his office. There were a half a dozen ‘What the hell were you thinking’ messages and more than 2 dozen “Bravo” messages, including one from the President. One from someone he wouldn’t have guessed about was an ‘if you and Jackson ever break up’ one that made him shudder.

He was in his boss’s office within an hour of being back.

“I don’t suppose you’d like to consider retirement yet?” General Waverly asked with a deep sigh.

“Wouldn’t be my first choice, sir,” Jack answered.

“I figured. I wonder if it’s time for me to think about it. You’ve pissed a lot of people off, you know.”

“You included, sir?”

“You should know me better than that, O’Neill. Only reason I didn’t testify for the senate to repeal was because they didn’t ask me. More than half the straight troops have fuck-buddies even if they think being gay is abomination. It’s something that we shouldn’t have to be dealing with in the first place because it’s no one’s business who anyone has in their bedroom as long as they are of age.”

“I didn’t figure you’d care, sir. Only about how I chose to come out.”

“You’re O’Neill. You’re a pain in the ass, but you’re also a big damn hero. Someday, all this classified stuff about Home World Security and the Stargate is going to be public and once that happens, you’ll be the stuff of legend. Not that you aren’t already although I’m pretty damn sure a lot of it was just luck.”

“Pure dumb luck, sir. And maybe with the help of a brilliant linguist/archeologist and a brilliant astro-physicist and the toughest son-of-a-bitch Jaffa in the Galaxy. Then again, I was lucky they had my six.”

Waverly handed him a file folder. “Lt. Col. Sheppard is on his third week MIA. The IOA is getting nervous and they’d feel a lot better if someone with a lot of luck was in charge. They have confidence in Weir and Lorne, but we need a military leader with some clout. Up to a little field work?”

Jack opened the folder to look over the summary on top quickly. “Promotion or demotion, sir?”

“Neither. Just getting you out of town til things cool off a bit. We’ll keep your seat warm for you here if that’s what you want.”

“I’m going to need at least a week. Getting married. Have to make arrangements to sell some real estate or at least get a house sitter or something. And Jackson goes with me or no deal.”

The General nodded. “I figured. Also figured he’d be happy to go study the Ancient city for a while too. Knew Antarctica wouldn’t be the best place for his skills, not that they wouldn’t love to have you both.”

“You considered sending me to Antarctica?”

“Chair is there, O’Neill and even with our two other gene candidates, you’re the only one who has actually used it in real combat.”

“In that case, I’ll remember to thank Sheppard for going MIA when we find him.”

~~**~~
“Honey, I’m home!” Jack shouted as he entered the pretty little Georgian brownstone he’d bought in DC.

“In the kitchen,” Daniel answered him.

Jack finished hanging up his coat and hat, kicked off his shoes before plunging into the plush pile carpet he’d paid extra for and dumped his briefcase in the closest handy chair. Daniel greeted him in the doorway to the kitchen/dining room with a kiss and beer, and Jack ignored the beer for a bit while he enjoyed the kiss.

“What’s all this?” he asked, looking over Daniel’s shoulder at the candle-lit dinner table, crystal shining and a mass of red roses in the center.

“Candlelight, steak, red roses and really good imported beer. I was going to propose to you tonight,” said Daniel, shoving the beer in his hand before going to tend the steaks on the Jenn-Aire grill. “So, do you still have a job?”

Jack sat down in his usual place. “A doozy. Thought I’d run it past you before I formally accepted.”

“Which means you want to go,” Daniel said knowingly as he slipped a plate of steak, baked potato and some mixed vegetables in front of his lover. “Antarctica or Afghanistan?”

“What’s with me and Antarctica? The fishing there sucks.”

Daniel shrugged as he set his own plate down and then took his seat. “You have the greatest expression of the gene and the chair is there. It’s a logical match.”

“How do you feel about Atlantis?”

Daniel’s face lit up. “Really?”

Jack nodded, his mouth full of steak. It was cooked to medium rare perfection. Damn, he was going to be one lucky man with a husband who cooked like this.

“Sheppard is MIA. IOA wants someone with some luck to take over finding him,” he said once his mouth was empty. “I told them I want a new bed. Those Atlantis cots are hell on my back and knees. They said they’d send one on ahead. Should have seen Walter’s face when he asked if I wanted a queen-size and then realized what he’d said. I told him king. Want some room to roll around.”

He gave Daniel a bit of a leer.

“They’ll want you soon. I guess this means we’re going to elope.”

Jack shook his head. “Right here, Saturday, if you don’t mind. I’ve got my aide working on some of the details. Sam says she’s free and she’s going to get a hold of Teal’c. They can beam in Friday night for a bachelor party.”

“Beam in? IOA must want you pretty badly,” Daniel mused.

“Us. They want us both there. We’ll be going by the gate too. Daedalus will take too much time. We can take as much stuff as we can shove thru the gate in five minutes.”

“I’ll need to pack up some books,” Daniel said.

“I’m going to teach some Athosians how to type so you can have all those in digital format that you can just load onto a pad,” Jack grumbled.

“Scanner. They’ll need to scan the illustrations too.”

Daniel smiled at him and he knew even if he was getting ribbed back, it was because Daniel was happy with the situation. It made him happy too. This couldn’t have worked out better, he decided, taking another big bite of steak perfection.

~~**~~

“Welcome to Atlantis, sir,” said Lorne with a snappy salute.

Jack gave him a half-hearted one back before pulling Elizabeth into a hug. “And congratulations,” added Elizabeth holding out a hand to Daniel to pull him into the hug too.

Rodney was waiting his turn to give congratulations. He looked like hell, Jack thought.

“So, would you like me to show you to your lab or your quarters first,” Rodney asked Daniel.

“And I have your office ready, sir, “ Lorne chimed in.

“Daniel, would you mind getting us settled in while I talk with Elizabeth?”

“No problem,” he answered. “You want your fishing gear in the bedroom or your office?”

“I’d suggest the bedroom, sir,” Lorne said. “You have a bonzer balcony. Check with botany first though about bait and what to release. Some of the local fish are toxic.”

Jack nodded to Daniel and followed Elizabeth’s ‘this way’ up the stairs to her office.

“You know we repealed DADT a long time ago here,” she said as they sat down at a small table where the scent of fresh coffee wafted from a pot.

He nodded. “I figured as much last time I saw Sheppard and McKay together. It looked like more than just friends to me.”

She poured them each a steamy mug and took a sip of her own before answering him. “It’s not official with them, but everyone knows. Rodney’s been having a hard time of it. Thinks it’s his fault. We’ve tried everything we know, but it will be good to have some fresh eyes look over what we found. It’s a pretty good bet the Travelers have him again, from what we’ve gathered. They move around so much, it’s been hard to know where to even start looking.”

“Travelers? Sorry, I haven’t had time to read all the reports what with the move and wedding and all. Care to fill me in for now?”

Elizabeth snagged her pad off her desk and after a few taps handed it to Jack. A slide show of various pictures and charts began to run, showing people with names and information labels on some. “We don’t know nearly enough,” Elizabeth confessed. “They aren’t interested in allying with us from the one real contact we had with them when we found an Ancient ship, the Orion. They ended up stealing it away from us, by the way. It’s pretty much what they do.”

“So, pirates?”

Elizabeth shrugged. “More or less. They seem to only take what they think they need and they need ships to stay on the move. It’s how they avoid the Wraith. From what we could find out, they have at least a dozen big ships and maybe twice as many smaller ones. They sometimes travel together and other times, they are all scattered around the galaxy. Rodney thinks he’s found their frequencies for communications. They use over a hundred on a rotating basis, but he’s written a program that will let our jumpers scan for any activity on those frequencies and zero in on any that are being used.”

“Do they trade or make any stops on a regular basis?”

Elizabeth shook her head. “Not that we can tell. They seem to be fairly self-sustaining. They aren’t evil or mean or looking to make trouble. Just suspicious, selfish and dedicated to the preservation of their own people.”

“As handy as the jumpers are, I think we may need something with a little more firepower. That’s going to take the Daedalus which means we have about a month before it gets here to find which ship Sheppard is on and where it is.”

“We’ve been working on getting the right bait to lure them into contact with us again,” Elizabeth said, taking the pad back from him and calling up another picture. “This is the Argo, sister ship to the Orion. It’s sealed in an underground bunker on a planet that had an active volcano which destroyed the cities on the surface. Rodney has been working on a way to tunnel down to it and use its power to blast it free. Once freed, we’re pretty sure it will be able to contact the other ships of it’s kind the Travelers have and be able to track them down. At the very least, it should be able to find the Orion and I suspect that’s where they have Sheppard.”

“Any solid proof of that?” Jack asked, setting the pad down.

She shook her head. “No. Just a gut feeling. The first time we ran into them, they needed John to activate some of their systems. They don’t have anyone with the Ancient gene. The Orion was in rough shape when they took it. My guess is they got far enough into the repairs and found they needed him again. Which is also why we’re pretty sure it was the Travelers who took him and why they won’t kill him. They need him too much.”

“This Argo…any idea what kind of shape she was in?”

“Perfect from what we could tell. Just couldn’t get to her as the bunker had already been sealed by the time we got to the planet to help. Those pictures come from the natives of the planet. We resettled the population who were left on another, less seismically active planet. They’ve been doing well and are good allies.”

He nodded and said, “Well, it sounds like you’ve been doing all you can do. Getting the Argo free needs to be priority, but I’d like to see if we can set up some listening posts of some kind to record activity around the galaxy and see if we can find a pattern in the Traveler movements. If we can put them in a squeeze between the Argo and the Daedalus, we can probably get them to trade Sheppard for their freedom.”

“You want to just let them go?”

Jack smiled. “Without the Orion, of course.”

“We don’t have the kind of power systems we’d need to be able to put listening posts around. Besides, the Wraith could follow their signals back to us.”

“They wouldn’t have to broadcast to us. Have them set to turn on and record when they get activity on those frequencies and we pick them up on a regular basis to study the data. We don’t want to confront til we have everything in place. ”

“Grodin. One of my gate techs. He’s good with communications and I think he’d be best for the project so Rodney and Radek can concentrate on freeing the Argo.”

Jack stood up and Elizabeth followed. “If you don’t mind, I’ll go check out my new rooms and will get back with you after you talk with your people and see what kind of time it will take to get the listening posts ready.”

“Our people, Jack. They’re your responsibility too now,” Elizabeth corrected him.

He nodded and said, “Right. So, which way?”

They stepped out of the office and Elizabeth beckoned a nearby Marine. “Can you see the General to his quarters?”

The man saluted and said, “Of course. This way, sir.”

Jack sighed. He was pretty sure they weren’t saluting Sheppard every other minute. He followed the soldier as the man was calling in his change in duty, listening with approval as he arranged to have another guard to take his place in the Gateroom even though there wasn’t an alert situation. Once he was done, Jack asked, “Can we stop by my office first. I need one of those nifty radios, I think. “

“Certainly, sir.”

“And all the saluting…if you’d be so kind as to pass on the word that I hate the saluting stuff, except if I’m in a pissy mood and need to intimidate someone. Just have everyone knock it off unless I feel the need to intimidate.”

“Of course, sir. I should keep calling you sir, though, right? I mean, we don’t call Sheppard sir. Sir?”

“That would be fine.”

~~**~~

The rooms he’d been assigned were nicely appointed, with the huge bed placed below a large window. Bathroom and dressing room were on one side with a sitting room/office on the other which opened out to the balcony Lorne had mentioned. Daniel was nowhere to be seen, but his boxes of books were still sitting in the middle of the room. He must be out looking for bookcases, Jack thought.

He wandered over to the balcony to look out over the fairly smooth and deep turquoise sea that surrounded them. His fishing gear was neatly stacked to one side, but he didn’t reach for it, taking Lorne’s warning to heart. Besides, he just wanted a moment to take this all in. His last visit to the city hadn’t been long, but it had been quite the adventure as they’d been captured by the Replicators. He hadn’t had much time to really see the city then, other than a meeting room, a jail cell and several wet, unused rooms where he and Woolsey had been hiding during their escape. He was due to report to Carson for a baseline physical, but wasn’t much in the mood to be poked and prodded at the moment.

They’d arrived at midday and it was now late afternoon. If he didn’t show up for his physical before dinner, he’d undoubtedly be hauled off after his meal. He was pretty sure Carson wasn’t going to let it wait until tomorrow, not with Jack’s age and his rank.

He dropped into a lounge chair someone had conveniently left on the balcony for their use and took a deep breath of the clean, salty sea air. The sun was angled away from him, suggesting that the balcony would be flooded with morning sun. He’d need to remember to close the curtains over the bed if he didn’t want an early wake-up from all the light. Jack closed his eyes and concentrated on the background hum he’d felt in his bones from the moment he’d stepped into the Gateroom. As he did, he felt a change in the hum. Atlantis was awake and she’d taken notice of him.

I know I’m not him, Jack thought to the city and he pictured Sheppard in his mind. But I’m here to help get him back for you.

The scientists had argued about whether or not the city was sentient. They hadn’t found a definite answer, but Jack knew, on a certain level, it was, and he was damn sure that Sheppard felt so too. For the scientists, especially those with the artificial gene, it was just a feeling of power, to be able to open doors with a thought. For those who really ‘felt’ the city, it was cooperation. And Atlantis sometimes played favorites. It responded to Sheppard in a way it didn’t for others.

Jack relaxed and let the city hum him to sleep.

~~**~~

Daniel had indeed been rounding up bookcases and Jack woke to the sound of him directing several grunts on their placement. He also had a couple of laptop computers in hand for the two desks that were already in the room. “I’m pretty sure you have email already,” Daniel told him as he brought one of the laptops out to him on the balcony. Carson was looking for you. Nice digs, aren’t they?”

Jack took the machine but didn’t turn it on. “I think we got the honeymoon suite.”

Daniel was all smiles as he leaned on the balcony railing and looked over the city-and-sea-scape before him. Any possible doubts Jack may have had about the posting was gone. He’d been right about every step they’d taken in the last couple weeks.

One of the marines came to the doorway. “All in position, sirs. Mess opens in about 20 minutes and tonight is barbeque which is pretty tasty. Rank can take cuts in line when there’s a reason; otherwise, everyone pretty much takes their turn. Call if you need anything more or just a guide to the mess hall.”

Daniel nodded and Jack said, “Thank you. Dismissed.”

He waited until they left before he set the laptop aside and got up to join Daniel at the balcony. “How’s your lab look?”

“It’s good. No view, but that would only distract me. McKay did a good job setting it up, especially considering how distracted he is.”

Jack slid his arm around Daniel’s waist and pulled him a little closer. “I know the feeling.”

“He’s hurting, Jack.”

“I know. And that’s exactly what I was talking about, Mr. Get Captured/Disappear/Die Again. I didn’t get these gray hairs all on my own.”

Daniel didn’t start apologizing again although Jack was pretty sure he probably felt like it. He had to stop with the guilt tripping on the poor guy. It wasn’t like he hadn’t taken a few unplanned leaves himself. “How’s our chances of getting him back alive?” asked Daniel.

“Good from what I can tell. His gene makes him a valuable commodity in Pegasus. Elizabeth thinks a group of pirate-nomads called the Travelers have him. Apparently they tried to take him on an earlier contact.”

“Rodney told me they’re working on getting an Ancient ship from an underground bunker?”

“Yeah. They figure they can use it as bait to lure these guys in and then turn the drones lose on them if needed.”

“What do you think of that plan?”

“It could work. We need the Daedalus too though, so meantime we gather intel and get that ship.”

Daniel leaned on Jack’s shoulder. “I feel bad for McKay. He’s changed a lot. He’s still arrogant as hell, but he’s a lot less self-serving. Even the Marines respect him. They say he’s turned into a pretty good shot.”

“Reminds me a bit of a scientist I know who’s become a pretty good soldier these days too.”

Daniel arched an eyebrow at him. Jack quickly amended, “I didn’t say the arrogance part was similar. Just that you’ve changed and you’ve changed me. I don’t shoot first anymore, do I?”

Daniel kissed his forehead. “No, you don’t. You’ve mellowed a bit, but you haven’t gotten soft.”

He began to run his hands gently over Jack’s body, starting from his shoulders and working downwards. “This is all very firm….very nice.”

“Rain check. Come on,” Jack said as he took his arm from around his husband’s waist and took his hand instead. “Let’s go check out the barbeque buffet. I’m getting hungry.”

~~**~~

Carson let him eat his dinner before hauling him off to sickbay for his physical. Daniel came along for his too, although it was a Dr. Keller who did his while Carson was checking Jack out.

“You’re in fine shape, laddie,” Carson commented. “However, the knees are showing some improvement that isn’t normal.”

He gave Jack a questioning look. Jack decided ‘fessing up was the best course. “Wedding gift from Vala and Sam. They smuggled a healing device out of Stargate Command and each took a knee. They promised it wasn’t excessive. Just enough to make me a bit more comfortable.”

“Vala offered to run it over another portion of his anatomy,” Daniel said, sitting on the bed next to Jack’s.

Dr. Keller smothered a laugh. “We explained that part was working just fine,” Jack said smugly.

“I’m glad to hear it, “ Carson said, tapping information into his pad. “We traded the last of the little blue pills away two weeks ago for some vegetables. Won’t have anymore until the Daedalus arrives.”

“We’re low on condoms, too,” Keller mentioned.

“I put in an order for some real balloons so the Marines will stop giving them to kids to play with,” Carson said. “Just some blood work and you’re done, General. I’ll send in an orderly to take samples from you and Dr. Jackson and then you are free to go. There’s a perpetual poker game in the rec room, but if you feel that might be too public, Dr. Weir and I hold one on Saturday nights in her quarters for a select few by invitation only. I’m sure she’d love some new blood to fleece.”

“She that good?” Jack asked, reaching for his shirt.

“Aye. Says it’s not much different than negotiating trade treaties. You never show them your hand unless they pay for it. She makes you pay.”

Jack rolled up his sleeve in anticipation of the blood draw. “Sounds intriguing.”

“You mean sounds expensive,” corrected Daniel as he jumped off the bed and began to button his shirt.

“Oh, ye of little faith…”

“Sam whips up on him too,” Daniel said. “Poker isn’t your game. Chess maybe.”

“She’s pretty fierce at chess too, but they don’t play that for money,” said Dr. Keller. “Just the glory. There’s a regular tournament twice a year between the Marines and the Scientists. So far, I’d say the Marines could use you, General, if you’re that good at it.”

The orderly with the blood draw equipment arrived and the two doctors left with all their data, after bidding the two newcomers a good evening.

While walking back to their room after deciding on an early night, Jack asked Daniel, “Are you planning on signing up for the Science Chess team?”

“Thinking about it. You going to sign up for the Marine’s team?”

“Thinking about it. I’m not sure they’d allow both of us to play. You know, husband against husband. Whoever loses might be accused of throwing the game….”

Daniel was giving him ‘the look.’ “It could happen. Just thinking about it.”

“Dream on,” Daniel answered.

In spite of the bantering, bed came early, but sleep came late.

~~**~~

Daniel’s first assignment was to go over a set of plans of the city and compare it with records in order to locate some mining equipment that Rodney was sure the city had. “It didn’t get built by magic. They used their own alloys and had to be able to make and machine their own parts. It’s here someplace,” he insisted.

Since Elizabeth was best with reading Ancient up to this point, she’d been involved with searching the records, but her time had been limited by her other duties. Daniel jumped into the task with fervor and had three different possible locations by the end of the first day. All three were far out on the perimeters of the city and deep below. Some, possibly underwater too.

Jack’s first day was spent mostly in meetings with Lorne and his admin crew. Not quite as interesting a day which was probably why he decided to head up one of the 3 search teams the next day. Each team had a scientist/engineer along and at least one or two natural gene carriers to help initialize anything that might be needed. He chose the location that was least likely to be underwater. “Been there, done that. I’m staying dry this time,” he said as he assigned a less likely spot to a team being led by a young Lt. Ford. “Take your rubbers.”

“Yes, sir! We’re Marines, sir. Don’t care if it’s wet or dry,” Ford assured him.

They took a servo-cart loaded with diving equipment with them.

The first search day proved fruitless as far as mining equipment, but they did locate some other interesting facilities that were marked for later explorations.

Finally, on the third day, Jack’s team found what they were looking for. Jack had a feeling the city had been helping him along as the area where they found the mining equipment was actually adjacent to their original search area. “That’s big,” Daniel said as a several small groups of scientists swarmed the room, checking over the machines.

“Too big,” said Elizabeth. “Rodney, can a Puddlejumper haul this?”

He shook his head. “I don’t think so. I think they may have carried them in the big ships. In any case, it won’t fit through a Stargate.”

Jack’s mind blurred a bit as he tuned out the discussion that had turned to possibly using several Jumpers in unison. The city was humming louder in his bones. He walked over to a nearby console and put his hand on it, bringing it to life, un-noticed by McKay and Weir who had now dragged Lorne and Zelenka into their discussion.

He looked up at the ceiling. It looked much like the Jumper Bay ceiling which opened to permit exit as an alternative to the Stargate exit. So, they had to take the machines out that way. But how? He pictured one of the big Ancient cruisers. A dimensional screen lit into existence over the console, picturing a similar ship as the cruiser, but not as large. And no defensive capability that Jack could see or feel. Where? he asked, mentally.

The city cooperated by replacing the picture with a map of the city, showing a glowing dot not far from the lab, but in a direction they hadn’t explored yet. He heard Daniel say loudly, “I think Jack’s found something.”

The discussion group went silent and then everyone in the room was suddenly crowded around him, looking over the display. Jack brought up an inset over the map and showed them the ship he’d seen. “I think we’re looking for this. Should be here.”

He pointed to the glowing dot on the map grid. “We’ll go check it out, sir, “ Lorne said.

He called out to a couple of his Marines and took Zelenka with him to go look for the ship.

“How did know to you….?” McKay asked, his hand flapping at the display.

Jack shrugged. “I had a feeling.”

“A feeling,” Weir echoed him.

“A feeling. I was thinking about the problem and it kind of felt like the city was trying to say something, so I went over here to this thing that looked like it might give me some access to the database and it pulled this up for me.”

“You talk to the city?” Daniel asked.

“Sorta. Not really words. Just a feeling now and then.”

“I think Sheppard does that too,” said McKay. “It likes him.”

One of the scientists spoke up. “Can you ask the city about this largest machine in front of us?”

Jack looked at the machine and another display took over. It was almost like a slide show, going through the schematics first and then onto the actual working. He let the excited engineers take over after showing one with the gene how to change the display.

Not too many minutes later, an excited Lorne called over the radio and they went to look at the ships he’d found.

There were two of them, side by side in a bay larger than any other room they’d found in the city so far. The bay was large enough to hold more than the two that were left, but Jack suspected they’d taken the others back to Earth. He’d have to let the Antarctica Base know so they could look for them. “How did you miss this?” Jack asked Weir.

“We weren’t looking for it. All our attention has been towards survival and defense up to this point. It’s a big city, Jack.”

Jack was called to initialize the ships and the rest of the day was one surprise after another. The ships were powered up and taken on test flights. They had hyper-space capability, which made sense as they couldn’t be taken through a Stargate. The mining equipment didn’t fit entirely inside the ship, but was attached so the blasting beams that moved rock and soil aside were exposed for use. They were powered by a combination of what looked like a mini-ZPM and the ship itself.

It took another day or so of meetings and planning before a team was dispatched to move the ships and equipment to the planet where the Argo was buried. A flight of Puddlejumpers were dispatched along with them for protection although there were no Wraith signs in the area of the now dead planet. No people meant no food and therefore, no Wraith.

They started digging one week after Jack and Daniel had arrived.

~~**~~

“I should be there. They need me. God knows what they might screw up without me there to….” Rodney’s voice was weak, but still had an angry and bitter tone, Jack thought.

Angry mostly at himself, most likely. He understood those feelings; self-recrimination and that need to control in order to buy back self-worth. McKay’s color was bad and he was apparently too exhausted to even flail his hands around as he usually did, which was probably a good thing considering how many IV’s and things the man was hooked up to at the moment. Jack stood back a bit, letting his presence there just be an emphasis to Carson’s ultimate authority.

“You need to be here, laddie,” Carson was telling him gently. “You collapsed, just the way I told you that you would if you kept treating your body that way. It can only take so much.”

“So fix it and let me get out of here,” McKay demanded petulantly.

“Only rest and decent meals are going to do that. The hypoglycemia isn’t just an empty excuse you can turn on and off as needed. Not sleeping well, not eating well, pushing your body to it’s limit—it all adds up. So now you’re going to rest and stop worrying. That’s an order. We will all manage while you get some sleep.”

“I can’t sleep here. It’s too noisy. These beds are horrible. And the smells bother me,” Rodney complained.

“Then I’ll let you go back to your room tonight after you’re re-hydrated and you can sleep there…with a guard.”

“A guard!” Rodney squawked. “How am I suppose to sleep with some huge, hairy, ugly Marine watching me!”

“We’ll get someone you like, Rodney.”

“I don’t like anyone.”

“That’s a lie and you know it and you’re acting like a two-year old. You like your scientists and you love your team.”

“Fine. Maybe the team is okay. But I don’t want Ford. He can’t sit still on a bet. It would be impossible to sleep with him wandering around my room, touching things.”

“Will I do?”

Teyla walked into the room, escorted by Daniel who’d gone to the mainland to fetch her from the Athosian settlement. Carson gave her a grateful smile and Rodney looked a bit relieved when he said her name. “Teyla! What are you doing here?”

She moved to Rodney’s bedside, a tender hand reaching out to smooth his hair a bit as she scolded him gently in a motherly tone. “You look terrible, Rodney. How could you do this to yourself when you are so needed? John would be most upset to see you here. He would expect you to take good care of yourself in anticipation of his return.”

It had been Dr. Keller’s idea to go to the Athosians and ask for Teyla to come back. Teyla gone to the settlement after a week of John’s absence and checked in every few days to ask about the search progress. Elizabeth called her and explained the situation, asking if she could come and use her skills to keep the slightly crazed McKay under control. Daniel had gone with one of the marines in a Jumper to bring her back when she agreed that she was needed.

“She thinks he’s a big old cranky teddy bear,” Daniel whispered in Jack’s ear as he slipped an arm around him.

Jack moved slightly to put an arm around Daniel’s shoulders and pull him in closer. “I know how she feels,” Jack said. “Team. Closer than blood. You make allowances because you know them and care about them.”

“Missing Sam and T?” Daniel asked.

Jack just nodded.

“Me too. Think they’d consider moving to the Pegasus Galaxy?”

“Probably not. Teal’c has his son and maybe some grandkids soon. Sam is almost certainly going to marry that guy.”

“His name is Pete and he’s a nice guy.”

“Stalker,” Jack sniffed scornfully.

“He’s a cop and when things don’t add up, they get suspicious. Tell me you wouldn’t have done the same?”

“Maybe,” Jack allowed.

“He was right there when he was needed. Osiris would have blown Sam away if Pete hadn’t been there. He took a hit for her. I think he’s good for her and he’ll be a great asset to the SGC. He’s tough and nothing rattles him.”

“Think she’d give him up to move here and marry us?”

Daniel gave Jack a look that clearly said ‘are-you-out-of-your-mind?’ “It was just a thought,” Jack said.

At that point, Teyla had settled into a chair next to Rodney’s bed and Keller was pulling the curtains around to give them some peace and quiet. Carson shooed everyone out, telling them all that he’d start taking random kidney donations from anyone left who didn’t belong there. They beat a swift retreat.

~~**~~

They managed to keep Rodney down for two days. During that time, the mining team had broken into the underground bunker and a team of scientists and engineers, supervised by Zelenka were going over the ship. So far, it seemed in good condition and would be able to fly out once freed of it’s tomb. They’d fired up the engines enough to move it in the furthest corner of the bay in anticipation of more rock removal from above.

Teyla went along with Rodney, Jack and Daniel out to the planet to check out the ship. Lorne had activated most of the systems for the scientists, but the ship responded even more to Jack. With some help from Rodney, they set up a remote command system on a pad so Jack could leave the ship and then turn the shields on to protect it from falling rock.

Mining began in earnest then as they watched from a Jumper high above. “How is the ship holding up?” Daniel asked Rodney.

“Looks fine,” said McKay, looking over the General’s shoulder at the pad he was still holding. “At this rate, they should be completely done in about 12 hours. Then with the moving equipment hauling the rocks off it, I’d estimate another day before it can be moved.”

“Do we have some place to move it?” asked Daniel.

“We still have another two weeks or more before the Daedalus arrives,” answered Jack. “I think it best we take it back to Atlantis and give it a better inspection before we trust it to battle. Besides, I have a few modifications I think we need to make. McKay, can we find a way to hide the energy signature so it doesn’t look quite as functional?”

Rodney looked thoughtful. “I’m not sure on that. But I do know we can put the engine into a sleep mode that will fire up to full power faster than just cold engines. That might fool another ship for a short time. Might also be able to write a program that lets it communicate with the other ship and give it false information.”

“It would be good if it did not look quite so worthy,” Teyla suggested. “Perhaps some of your engineers could make it look worse than it is with some paint and such?”

“That’s a good idea,” said Jack. “Maybe we can set up some areas to have it vent stuff to look like it’s damaged and leaking. They need to think they have the upper hand when we let them find us.”

“Just how are we going to do that?” asked Rodney.

“I’m going with Elizabeth’s gut feelings and we’re going to put ourselves in the way of the Orion when we finally track it down. Hopefully, between the listening posts and the Argo, we can narrow down the possibilities.”

 

~~**~~

Things had pretty much fallen into place by the time the Daedalus arrived. The meeting room was almost too small for everyone to crowd in. Jack went over the plan with Col. Caldwell and Zelenka took over the visuals by calling up various 3D maps and charts for the group so Rodney could concentrate on delivering his reports. The Argo was ready and it looked seriously damaged, but worth being taken, although the Travelers would probably have wanted it even just for parts anyway.

The listening posts had been quite effective. At first they just tracked a confusing number of ships passing by, some even Wraith, but as Grodin tweaked the programs, they were able to track particular energy signals and found two or three that could possibly be the Orion. According to the Argo’s records, one in particular was a likely candidate.

Star charts were looked over and three sites chosen that had the necessary planets with Ancient ruins where a ship could have been found and close enough to the projected likely path of the ship they were tracking. The first and best site had a moon large enough to hide the Daedalus until it was needed. They would lay in wait there and if the Orion was a no-show, they could move on to the next site after a few days.

Dr. Beckett delivered his report last. “We are certain that the Travelers have either de-activated Col. Sheppard’s locator or cut it out entirely. In any case, their shields can block the signal. However, we’ve developed a new tracking device that will be deployed to everyone. It’s mostly Asgard tech that the Travelers haven’t seen before. It can work on fluctuating frequencies if one frequency is blocked and it’s too small to be easily located in the body for removal. Placing them will be tricky, but once in place, they won’t be able to block the signal and we can beam anyone off their ship if they’re taken.”

Col. Caldwell added, “The new Asgard tech has also given us the power to beam through Ancient shields. If someone can tag him, we can bag him.”

“The devices are keyed to DNA, so Sheppard’s is keyed just to him. In case they refuse to give him up, someone will need to go on board to deliver it directly to him,” said Carson.

“That someone will be me,” insisted Rodney.

“I was hoping you’d say that, Rodney,” continued Carson. “In order for the locator to activate, it has to have good contact with the Colonel’s DNA. Since it’s unlikely if you were taken on the Orion that they’d let you keep a syringe, you’ll have to hide the tracker in your mouth….and deliver it to Col. Sheppard’s mouth. The DNA in his saliva would activate it the quickest.”

Rodney colored slightly.

“Oh, come on, McKay. It’s not like you haven’t been there, done that,” remarked one of the scientists on the fringes of the group.

“Shut up, Kavanagh,” snarled Rodney. “It’s not like we’re some spectator sport either, regardless of how much you probably get off on that kind of thing. How long will it take to activate, Carson?”

“Quickly. I would say two or three minutes for it to show up on our screens.”

Rodney nodded. “Good, but if he’s not there?”

“Then we beam you off and we attack the ship, disabling it so we have hostages to trade for him.”

“I have a better idea,” suggested Rodney. “If the Argo can communicate with the ship, Orion or not, we can write a program that will plant a slave virus with the first contact. Then we can shut down their computer systems at our command. Without their computers, they’ll be dead in the water. I’ll have to be on the Argo anyway since the Daedalus will be in hiding.”

“I like it,” approved Elizabeth. “Less potential loss of life.”

Caldwell shrugged. “Less ammo wasted. Do it. We can fire as a back up if needed.”

“Well, it sounds like we have a plan, then. We’ll need to ship out at 0500 tomorrow to be in place before the Traveler ship passes by,” said Jack. “Dr. Weir, do you agree we have a go?”

She nodded. “You have a go.”

“Colonel Caldwell?”

“We can be ready.”

“Dr. Beckett, if you could post a schedule for the new locator implants, commencing immediately?”

“Aye, we’re ready. I’ll start with anyone who will be on the Argo, then the Daedalus crew so they have time to finish unloading cargo and get a meal.”

“Let’s get this show on the road,” commanded Jack.

As people began to file out, he turned to Daniel and said, “Let’s go get our locators first.”

Daniel looked confused, “I thought you said I wouldn’t be needed on this trip?”

“You won’t. I just want to make sure you get one so I can keep tabs on you.”
His “I’m so innocently charming” face wasn’t quite doing the job as Daniel sighed and rolled his eyes. “Fine. It works both ways. I know how to tune a Life Signs Detector so I can find you too, you know.”

“I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

~~**~~

As it turned out, Daniel did accompany Jack and the Argo. There were not enough Ancient readers on board, in spite of Daniel’s earlier work of labeling as many of the consoles as was possible. Time and again, he was called on to translate schematic notes as repairs were continued during the flight. Bedtimes found he and Jack on opposite schedules, one rising as the other was falling into bed.

It was a sleep deprived Daniel who joined Jack and Rodney on the bridge when the Orion came out of hyperspace near them. Jack was in the commanding officer’s seat and McKay was hanging over the shoulder of the navigator, reaching to occasionally tweak a reading or two between glances at the main viewing screen. “Looks like I am the luckiest bastard in two galaxies,” Jack commented.

“Only if John is actually on board,” Rodney said.

“They’re hailing us, sir,” said the communications officer.

Rodney raced over to look at his console. “Are we ready?” asked Jack.

“As we’ll ever be. Our first two seconds of reply to them will carry the virus.”

“Open communications.”

The main screen showed a rather pretty dark-haired woman who announced, “This is Larrin of the Kal du Orion. Who am I speaking with?”

“That’s her,” Rodney hissed. “She’s the one who took the Orion from us and tried to get Sheppard with it. He must be there.”

“Hit it,” said Jack. And then he spoke to the other ship, “This is General O’Neill of the Argo. Was this a social call or did you require some assistance?”

“Looks like you’re the ones who could use some assistance,” she answered.

“Actually, we’re just fine,” Jack said.

“Perhaps we could give you some pointers. After all, we’ve been flying these ships for many generations. We know them better than anyone else in the galaxy. I’d be happy to send over a few of our technicians to see how your repairs are doing and give you a hand.”

“Well, that’s very generous of you, but no thanks.”

Jack gave her a smile and waited for the next ploy.

“Well, then maybe you’d be interested in some trade. A few parts you might need?”

Jack looked around at the crew before saying, “We have parts, don’t we? Parts? Yes?” Turning back to the screen, he said, “We have parts. So, no thanks.”

She was still smiling but Jack could see the tension in her jaw line. “Maybe you’d like to come over and have something to drink and I could give you a tour of our ship so you can see what a working version is like? Give us a chance to know each other better?”

“Oh, I think we know you pretty well, Larrin of the Travelers. So you can just run along now. We’re pretty busy over here and we don’t exactly have time for socializing today.”

He really hoped Rodney had that virus in place, because she was looking really irritated now and like maybe she was ready to shoot someone or something. “You’re Lanteans, aren’t you?” she asked.

“What makes you think so?” he countered.

“Your arrogant attitude, for one thing. And I think I saw Dr. McKay back there too. Am I right?”

“That’s us. Arrogant Atlantians with a big ship that you want. Am I right?”

“Your little gate ships are no match for our weapons, General O’Neill and from our sensor readings, the Argo is no match either. I suggest you prepare to boarded.”

“We’ll be happy to do that. And maybe we have more fire power than you think. In which case your ship could be more damaged than it is and this ship would probably be more damaged than it is. We aren’t about to sit by and let you take over, so some of your people are bound to be killed too; people your little group really can’t stand to lose, now, would they? Kind of a lose, lose situation, don’t you think?”

She seemed to consider his words, but Jack was sure she was listening to the radio button in her ear. Finally she said, “Well, that doesn’t sound very pleasant for any of us. Maybe we should revisit that trade idea? Your ship for something you might want badly.”

“I could go for a good beer about now,” Jack offered, “But that’s not worth a ship.”

“How about an Ancient gene-carrier then? They’re as rare as ships are, I’d say.”

She gestured and two men dragged in the slumped and staggering John Sheppard within view of the screen. He was thin and bruised and weak although Jack thought that from the gleam in his eye, he was faking the weakness some. “What took you?” he said.

Rodney stepped into the viewing area and called, “John! Are you okay?”

“Oh, just dandy as you can see. They treat me like a king….a deposed one.”

Larrin gestured and they began to pull him away. “Don’t do it!” he yelled. “Just blast them out of the universe!”

“He wakes up cranky most mornings,” Larrin explained. “So, do we have a deal?”

“We need to talk about this,” O’Neill countered.

“General…!” began an outraged McKay, but was cut off by a swift gesture from Jack.

“We’ll get back to you…” started Jack, but Rodney interrupted again.

“At least let me come over and make sure he’s okay,” said Rodney.

“Dr. McKay, we will discuss this later,” Jack said sternly.

“He may not have a later,” said a panicking McKay. “I just need to know he’s all right. Please!”

Jack turned back to the screen. “Can I have your word on your honor that our representative would be allowed to see your hostage to determine if he’s fit for the trade?”

“On my honor,” said Larrin, looking pleased. “You may send the good Dr. McKay, alone in one of the gate ships.”

O’Neill nodded and made a cut gesture to his communications officer. After the screen darkened, he asked, “So, did we get to their computers?”

“Done and I tested it briefly. We can take over anytime,” said Rodney. “Zelenka is in auxiliary, ready to take over on your signal. Do you think she bought my act?”

“I bought your act, McKay. I was ready to have you clapped in irons and throw you in the brig.”

“Well, it was only partly acting,” Rodney confessed.

“Go,” Jack gestured. “And don’t forget to pick up Sheppard’s locator from sickbay.”

~~**~~

The guards who met him in the bay were totally silent as they roughly and thoroughly searched Rodney, before tying his hands together. ”Well, that was comprehensive. Does this mean we’re dating?”

Firmly clasping his arms, they each took a side and tugged him along, completely ignoring his questions. They ended up on the bridge where Larrin was speaking with a small group who broke up and scurried away as he entered. Sheppard was collapsed in a chair with his two guards on either side, arms tied behind his back.

“John,” said Rodney, going to his side. “Take these off,” he demanded, shaking his tied hands at Larrin.

She shrugged and nodded to the guards who struggled with them, pulling them off half-untied and chaffing his wrists badly. “I thought I told you just to blast them. Why did you have to come over here?” John asked Rodney in a disappointed tone.

“I’m sorry. I had to know you were okay.”

He had his hands on John’s face, gently examining the bruising he found there. “She’s not going to let you go, you know.”

“I’m not,” assured Larrin. “You’re too valuable, Dr. McKay. Sorry, I lied.”

Rodney just glared at her and then said to John, “As long as we’re together, that’s all that matters.”
Then he gently, but thoroughly kissed John on the lips.

At first John resisted, but when he felt the thin wafer that Rodney pushed past his lips, he closed his eyes and let his lover move the strange object deeper into his mouth, hiding it under his tongue. Rodney drew out the kiss as long as he dared, the better to let the locator key into John’s DNA. “Don’t swallow,” Rodney said so low, it was less than a whisper and more like a breath.

“Ah, I suspected as much,” said Larrin, looking amused. “No man resists my charms unless he prefers boys.”

“Actually, I like girls too,” said John. “Just not bitches.”

“There’s that word again. I assume it’s a great insult, yes?”

“It is,” assured Rodney, pulling John up to stand next to him, holding on to him tightly. “And you’re about the biggest bitch in this galaxy, but I promise, the day is coming when you’re going to get what’s coming to you.”

She broke out with a short bark of laughter. “Oh, you don’t know the half of it, Doctor. But meantime, you’re going to work for me. And we’re going to need you to help make the Argo and the Orion into one perfectly working ship.”

“What makes you think I’ll cooperate with you?” he asked.

“That guy you’re holding on to so desperately. You work for us or he’ll feel it.”

Rodney let his jaw drop as he stammered, “You wouldn’t. You need his gene. Mine isn’t as responsive. I can’t initialize things. Besides, there’s no way they’ll let you take the Argo. Not without a fight.”

“They won’t fight back as long as we have the both of you. Your General O’Neill isn’t very bright, is he? He doesn’t deserve that ship. We can put it to much better use. ”

“Well, that’s debatable. I think General O’Neill is pretty smart. Maybe even smarter than you. Of course, not as smart as I am, but then again, nobody is as smart as I am, not in two galaxies.”

“Yes, I can see how smart, you are, Doctor,” Larrin laughed. “Smart enough to just walk right into my hands and now you’re stuck here, doing my bidding. Real smart.”

Rodney felt a bit of a tingle and he smiled. “Smarter than you…”

The beam took them directly to the sick bay where the Daedalus’ doctors immediately took hold of John and pulled him onto a gurney. “Don’t let them get away,” he called to Rodney over one doctor’s shoulder.

“We won’t,” said Rodney. “We’re taking the Orion back too.”

Just then the ship shuddered and Rodney turned to go to the bridge. “I’ll be right back,” he promised, calling over his shoulder as he raced out of the room.

~~**~~

The battle wasn’t long enough to even call a battle. Skirmish perhaps, at best. The Orion got off a couple shots at the Daedalus before Zelenka could wrest control of the weapons from Larrin, but damage was minimal. They beamed in a dozen or more groups of Marines who began shooting anyone who didn’t give up immediately. It didn’t take long for Larrin to order her people to stand down.

They brought them over to the Daedalus to hold in one of the big bays while it was discussed where to drop them. Jack liked Teyla’s suggestion of putting them down on a trade planet she knew of, but Caldwell was pushing to just dump them on the planet below with some supplies, but without gate access. Rodney was all for dumping them into the nearest star, but he admitted to some extra prejudice. “We can’t let them go yet,” said John walking carefully into the room, holding onto his left side.

Rodney jumped up and scowling, gave him his seat. “You shouldn’t be out of the infirmary yet. Those are broken ribs, you know.”

“I’m fine, Rodney. General, you can’t just let them go. At least not the women.”

Jack gave him the ‘go ahead and explain that one’ look. “They took…DNA from me. They’re trying to breed a batch of little gene-carriers.”

“Oh, crap,” said Rodney.

“Well, said,” put in Caldwell.

“Crap indeed,” said Jack. “Then we certainly can’t just let them go.

Caldwell reached to tap his headset. “Dr. Frasier, can you come up to the staff meeting room?”

Teyla moved to John’s side and patted his arm just below where Rodney was holding on to him. “That was a terrible violation of you, John. Most unfair. But will destroying children be the right thing to do?”

“They aren’t children,” sputtered Rodney, “They’re fetuses…potential children at best. And do you think we should just let them get away with this? It would only make them that much more dangerous. Next thing, they’d be trying to acquire Atlantis!”

“They are children,” Teyla insisted. “More than that, they are John’s children. He should have some say in what happens.”

Dr. Frasier arrived at that moment. She was tiny, but had an air of authority and competence about her. “I thought I told you to stay put,” she glared at John.

“We have a situation,” Jack broke in, partly to save the poor guy from what he knew Dr. Janet Frasier was capable of, largely from personal experience. “By the way, good to see you again. So, it seems these Travelers took some DNA from the good colonel and are making babies with it.”

“Oh, crap,” said Frasier. “I’ll have my team set up testing stations. If you can have your Marines bring up about 6 at a time, Col. Caldwell? I’ll send someone down to the bay to sort out the ones who are most likely of the right age…”

“All of them,” Sheppard insisted. “Larrin is a sneaky bitch. I wouldn’t put it past her to have a kid be impregnated if it served her purposes.”

Frasier looked to Caldwell who looked at O’Neill who then nodded. “I’ll need two holding cells. One for those who test negative and one for the positives.”

“They must have kept records,” Rodney said, snapping his fingers. “I’ll start looking.”

He ran out of the room before anyone could say anything else and Dr. Frasier followed on his heels.

“One more thing,” said Sheppard, who was looking very tired. “There’s a guy…he’s not a Traveler. They picked him up…he’s a Runner. Wraith put transmitters in them and then hunt for fun before they let them go again. Or kill them if they’re tired of playing with their food. The Travelers took out the transmitter and gave him a place, but he’s never really fit in and he was helping me a lot. I think he might like to come with us.”

“Can we trust him?” asked O’Neill.

“You trusted someone unlikely, once, from what I know, General. Yeah, I think he can be trusted. His name is Ronan Dex. Tall guy, dreadlocks, likes to fight.”

“I’ll have him cut out from the group and we’ll have a talk with him,” said Caldwell.

“You should probably get back to the infirmary before Dr. Frasier blows a gasket, “ said Jack. “Major Lorne, could you take care of that?”

“I will help,” said Teyla, putting an arm around Sheppard as he stood up. “Thank you General, Colonel,” said John.

“We will discuss possible actions, but I’d like you to think about it and we’ll talk about this later,” said Jack.

~~**~~

It was decided that the 8 women who tested pregnant would be offered either abortion or imprisonment until the child was born and then freedom without the child. Teyla offered the shelter of loving Athosian parents for any child born.

Larrin was, of course, one of the eight and she took abortion immediately without any thought or discussion. She glared at the others and 5 more stepped forward for abortion. The other two asked to stay and take imprisonment. One was an older woman who certainly could have never had a child without intervention. “This is my last chance to leave a part of me and my family behind to take over when I die. I’m sorry, Larrin, but I want my child to live.”

“Traitor!” hissed Larrin and one of the Marine guards had to hold her back from striking the poor woman.

The other was, as John feared, just a child herself. “I will stay and keep the old one company and have my child. Someone will love it for me if I cannot keep it,” she said in a calm and very assured voice.

Sheppard wasn’t very happy about the two children, but it was better than eight little Sheppards running around, messing with Ancient gadgets and helping the Travelers, he told Rodney.

He was released from the infirmary to bed rest in quarters he shared with McKay on the trip back as they brought the Orion and the Argo back to Atlantis. They were cuddled in bed together after having talked late into the night. John hadn’t held anything back, seeming to find it easier to talk with the room dark and Rodney had been uncharacteristically quiet as he listened. “You know, we could regard this as an opportunity, rather than a tragedy, “said Rodney finally. “You’d make a great dad. We could raise them ourselves.”

“Babies on Atlantis? Are you nuts?”

“It’s no more dangerous than any other place in the galaxy. It’s safer for that matter. And we’d have lots of help. Teyla can get us some babysitters and we have all kinds of experts for teachers and stuff. We could do this.”

“We should be married first, shouldn’t we?” asked John.

“Is this a proposal?”

“Well, maybe. I don’t know. Can we think about all this tomorrow or the next day? I’m beat and ready to sleep,” said John.

They kissed gently and settled in to sleep.

~~**~~

Teyla prevailed and it was decided the Travelers would be dropped off at a market planet.

As the last group gathered in the bay to be beamed down, Larrin looked at General O’Neill and said, “I will not forget this.”

“By all means. Don’t forget we let you live. And don’t forget how tricky we can be. And most of all, don’t forget how precious few there are of your people. One good battle could wipe them all out and I guarantee you, you cross us again and we will make defeating you a priority and I will not be so kind. Do I make myself clear?”

She looked angry and just nodded, and Jack was certain she had no intention of staying on her side of the galaxy. However, with any luck, her defeated crew wouldn’t back her doing anything like this again to the Atlantians.

And luck was something he had plenty of.

~~**~~

Back on Atlantis, he kept his office and continued to run the day-to-day while first, Sheppard recovered and then while Sheppard and McKay took time to get married and have a honeymoon. Eventually, it was decided he’d keep the job as commander of the Atlantis Military and Col Sheppard took over command of the Orion while Lorne was promoted and took the Argo. Between the two ships, Atlantis was safer than ever and the Wraith grew less and less with every passing season. Lt. Ford was given a gate team that included Dex who turned out to be quite an asset to Atlantis.

The old woman died in childbirth and the little girl eventually went to live with the Athosians, but the little Sheppards, one boy, one girl, were the darlings of everyone, especially their daddies.

Sometimes, Jack would catch Daniel looking at them with what seemed to be wistful envy, but then he’d go back to his work and was happy playing with the wonderful Ancient toys and texts of Atlantis.

And as for himself, well, the fishing was good.

The End