Two months had passed since Atlantis returned to Pegasus.
With the Replicators and the Wraith no longer a serious threat, no one had objected a return to the original planet of Lantea, where the city had remained safe for thousands of years. The biologists were delighted as it gave them the chance to go back to experiments and data collection on the local flora and fauna that they'd had to abandon after the Replicator attack forced a move of the city. Teyla was pleased too as the Athosians had made a home on the large land mass once, and had cleared tracts of lands to plant crops.
John frowned as he listened from the other side of the briefing room table, glad they were close to the end of this early afternoon meeting.
"Are your people likely to want to return there? I thought they liked New Athos... and having a Stargate again."
Teyla smiled. "It is true that my people have benefited from having easier access to the Stargate once more. Our numbers have grown substantially as other communities, devastated by Wraith cullings and the Hoffan virus, have joined with us. Many intend to return to Athos now that it is safe to do so." Her smile widened. "It is time we cast aside old superstitions and rediscovered our people through the great cities left behind."
"And the land mass on Lantea?" Richard asked.
"The Athosians relinquish all claim to that land as we believe it will be more beneficial to the Atlanteans. The soil is rich and fertile, and Atlantis is now the home to over a thousand people."
"A lot of mouths to feed," John stated, and saw Teyla nod in acknowledgment.
It was one of the many reasons why they had brought agricultural specialists with them this time, as they couldn't rely on Earth to send food parcels indefinitely. Just like in the first year when they realized they were out of contact with Earth, they needed to find ways to provide for themselves by growing most of their own food and trading for the rest of what they needed. The botanists believed the horticultural chambers on Atlantis would be sufficient in time, but Teyla had a good point. Why not make use of the land to grow Pegasus style crops too?
Many of their former trading partners had suffered under the triple threat of the Wraith, Replicators and Michael. Many would never rise back up after the rogue Asgard destroyed their Stargates, at least not without help from the new Atlanteans. John knew Rodney already had plans to harvest Stargates from the intergalactic bridge as replacements, wanting to assuage his feelings of guilt for doing as the Asgard ordered.
The bridge had been a great idea at the time but the Wraith had proved how vulnerable it had made Earth, and by the same token, how vulnerable it made Pegasus from rising menaces in the Milky Way, such as the Lucian Alliance.
"One last item on the agenda." Richard smiled. "The Daedalus is due to dock in less than four hours, and I've just learned that we have two important guests on-board." He waited a beat, glancing around the table. "General O'Neill and Doctor Daniel Jackson."
Rodney groaned aloud. Most of those round the table seemed happy with the news but John could see dismay in Rodney's eyes as the last time Daniel was in Pegasus, they had both been kidnapped by rogue Asgard and almost killed.
"Is this a formal visit?" Carson asked.
"I have it on good authority that the visit is informal. A working vacation. General O'Neill mentioned hearing about good fishing from one of the piers from someone?" Richard looked perplexed but every eye turned to a beaming Carson, who seemed to share O'Neill's enthusiasm for that particular sport.
"Aye, that would be me." His smile broadened even more, and John's quick glance showed Rodney's expression change from dismay to guilt, likely recalling how they had lost the original Carson Beckett.
With that news, the meeting broke up and everyone headed out. Rodney steamed off and John had to jog to catch up with him; he fell in step beside him, casting worried looks in Rodney's direction.
Rodney cast a glance back at him, mouth twisted in a downwards slant. "I'm fine. I do actually like Daniel... and O'Neill."
"Carson's doing fine too, Rodney."
His words stopped Rodney in his tracks. "Have you been taking lessons from Martinez?"
John shrugged with one shoulder as Rodney mentioned Heightmeyer's replacement, but it had certainly dragged Rodney out of his introspective mood. As they carried on walking, John bumped shoulders with Rodney deliberately, gaining an eye roll in response. They took the transporter together, stealing a kiss before John got out first.
"See you in the control room later?"
Rodney waved a hand arbitrarily, which meant 'yes', and John grinned as he strode away. He still had paperwork to catch up on, but despite his assurances to Rodney a few months back about never taking work home with him, he intended to collect paperwork and read through them in the den. That way he could be there when Zach came home from school.
The thought made him smile as he had never expected to have a family life, especially after admitting he was gay and in love with Rodney. Not that he believed having a family was impossible for two guys as there were plenty of families with same-sex parents. He'd just never expected to be one of those families because of his position as military commander in an Ancient city in another galaxy... and because his partner was the workaholic Chief Scientist of that same city. He didn't think they could balance work with a family commitment, but was so happy to be proved wrong.
Zach was a blessing, enriching their lives, and the only thing spoiling it was the interminable wait to hear if he had been granted adoption rights. Rodney had been so happy when John told him that he'd wanted to adopt Zach so they could both be legal parents to him, but the wait was killing them both. It should have been so easy, and sourly, John wondered if it would have been easier had they not been in a same-sex relationship. There were still too many prejudices on Earth.
After all he had seen in two whole galaxies, it seemed so petty to discriminate on those grounds. If Zach had held Canadian citizenship then it might have gone a lot easier but they were dealing with the red tape from both Canada and the U.S., though at least Leanna had signed away all parental rights before she joined the Tok'ra, or that might have complicated it even more.
A few hours later, John heard the door swoosh open and poked his head round in time to see Zach dropping bags and shoes in his wake as he headed towards the family room.
"Zach! Put your stuff away!"
Zach sighed dramatically but retraced his steps to do as he was told. Fifteen minutes later they were side-by-side on the large couch with milk and a few cookies, going through Zach's homework. The radio call warned him that the Daedalus was only minutes out, and he dropped Zach off with Jeannie before heading to the control room.
John smiled when Rodney stepped up beside him, timing it perfectly as the Asgard transporter beam flashed ahead of them, leaving behind several individuals. After Richard gave his welcoming speech, John saluted the higher ranking officers.
"General O'Neill, Colonel." He nodded his next greeting, "Doctor Jackson. Good to see you back on Atlantis."
Rodney gave a noncommittal sound that had both John and Daniel fighting back a smile.
O'Neill handed a data package over to both Richard and John, then rubbed his hands together. "That's the I.O.A and military formalities over with. So where's the cake?"
John grinned as Rodney perked up on the mention of cake.
When O'Neill asked John and Rodney to join him and Daniel for dinner in the mess hall, it took only a small detour to pick Zach up from Jeannie's on the way, deciding they could all eat there for a change. O'Neill had never been the type to stand on ceremony or follow military protocol too closely, and John found himself relaxing as he listened to Rodney and Daniel argue over semantics - literally. Jack - as he insisted on being called while on vacation - waited for a lull in the heated exchange before passing an envelope across to John. John recognized the official stamp immediately and willed his fingers to stop trembling as he tore open the envelope and pulled out the contents.
He had to read it twice before handing it over to Rodney.
"Congratulations, Sheppard. You're now officially a father."
"Thank you, sir. Jack," he amended, barely able to suppress his happiness.
"Now I've discharged all my official duties - including postal delivery services - I am officially on vacation."
John grinned wider still, determined to ensure Jack and Daniel had a great vacation after delivering such amazing news.
The Daedalus stayed only a few days but the Apollo slipped into orbit three weeks later.
During those three weeks, Jack had proved incapable of taking a full vacation despite spending a few days in a deck chair with a fishing pole, and with a line in the water off the south pier while he sipped an Athosian ale. He surprised even Rodney by knowing how to fix a problem with the light circuits in Tower Two and the plumbing in the third washroom in the main tower - apparently he'd learned a few things about Atlantis while acting as an Earth Representative to Captain Helia and her crew of Ancients. He'd stepped in to cover one of the classic history classes, adding teacher to the list of accomplishments, surprising those who never knew he'd studied history while stationed in Washington D.C., mostly because of Daniel and his experiences off-world with the Goa'uld and Asgard. Plus the city liked him almost as much as she liked John, reacting to his strong expression of the ATA gene.
By the time the end of his vacation rolled around, John knew he would seriously miss Jack, and John knew Rodney felt the same about Daniel. Their bickering had led to a number of breakthroughs while comparing entries in the Ancient database. For once they hadn't attracted more trouble than John could deal with.
The night before the Apollo was due to head back, John invited Jack and Daniel for a quiet family meal. After Daniel and Rodney left the table to bicker over what movie to load up, with Zach casting the deciding vote, Jack accepted a beer from John and leaned back, smiling at the domestic sight.
"I never expected to say this, considering who you married, but I'm a little envious of you, John." He used his beer bottle to indicate towards Rodney and Zach, smiling as he heard Zach's laughter.
John wondered if Jack was recalling his own son, Charlie, who had died under tragic circumstances, destroying his marriage at the same time. He said nothing though, waiting for Jack to continue and noticed an unguarded expression as Jack looked at Daniel. The rumors of Jack and Daniel in a relationship had been going around the SGC for years, only drowned out by similar rumors about Jack and Sam Carter, but as he looked at Jack, John knew which rumor was based more in truth. John had seen that same expression reflected back in the mirror before he'd found a way round the regulations so he could be with Rodney. Thinking about it, he swore he had seen the same look on Daniel's face in an unguarded moment.
"No reason you can't have the same," he said nonchalantly, tipping back his beer to take a long swallow while glancing at Jack. "I hear there's this great city in the middle of an ocean in another galaxy from Earth that would be an ideal place to retire. Plenty of fishing, the chance to teach ancient history, fix the plumbing and lights as well as advise on strategy..." John let his words trail off.
Jack seemed thoughtful, tapping his lower lip with the rim of his beer bottle.
"Daniel wants to stay. Says he'd had enough of saving the Milky Way." Jack glanced from Daniel to John, then back again. "He wanted to go on the original expedition to Atlantis, and I said no."
"Then maybe it's time to say yes... for both of you."
Jack caught John's eyes and held them for a long time before smiling. "Maybe it is."
When the Apollo left the following day, she carried two less passengers.