The Light Brigadeby Ravenfur
AN: Holy shit. It's actually done. It's taken me since March of 2008, but it's actually DONE. And all it took was a week long internet outage. This chapter (and the eventual villian) have been in my mind since I started the thing, its just taken forever to write. Thanks for reading everyone; I hope you like this final installment.
Disclaimer: Nope, don't own them.
The loud crash from the downstairs entry captured the attention of the four people in number 12 Grimmauld Place's hospital wing. John Sheppard glanced over to Rodney McKay. The expression on the Colonel's face was familiar to the scientist. It was a look of, 'Who invited Murphy to the party?'
"You by chance didn't happen to grab a life signs detector did you?" John asked Rodney, shutting the door leading out of the hospital wing as quietly as possible before standing to one side of it.
The scientist almost dove for the trunk, going through the bag in the open compartment. "Please be here, please be here, please be here," Rodney muttered as he dug through each pocket in the duffel. "Yes!" he whispered as he pulled out the Alteran life signs detector. This was quickly thought 'on'. "Uh-oh."
"What-oh?" John walked over to the trunk and shut the storage compartment. Opening it to the armory compartment he pulled out a P-90 and several clips of ammo. Shrugging into a flack vest, Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard felt ready for war.
"Twenty-one life signs on the floor below us, but one's green and kind of fuzzy. That's probably the elf. They've split up, half look to be clearing the bottom floor and half are on their way up here," Rodney reported.
John looked over Rodney's shoulder. "It looks like they're starting at the opposite end of the hall, we'll probably be able to pick them off when they try to investigate this room. How are you on ammo?"
Rodney looked guilty. "Left 'em in my room." John looked reproachfully at his geek. "Well, I didn't expect to have this place invaded!" Rodney defended himself.
The Colonel fished out several clips of ammo for the Beretta 9mm handgun that Rodney was already wearing. He turned to Dora who was looking down into the expanded trunk compartment full of everything from Earth low- and high-powered weaponry to weaponry found only in the Pegasus Galaxy.
Dora looked up from her contemplation of the armory compartment. "I could get you arrested for 99 percent of this stuff," Inspector Dora Tonks-Lupin of the Metropolitian Police's Magi Department told John. "Where did you get all of this?"
"Conjured most of it," John said as he dug around in the open trunk. "I had to buy the ammo though; I don't know enough about what actually goes into making bullets to conjure my own." He pulled out a hand-sized version of the Wraith stunner and handed it to Dora. "You use this. It stuns but prevents them from just reviving their downed comrades the way a stupefy could be canceled. Try to get at least one prisoner, I want to find out who paid this Hunter to come after Moony."
Taking the unfamiliar weapon, Dora took a few potshots at a ugly landscape hanging on the wall to get used to the recoil. "I don't suppose you'd let me keep this?"
"Damn," Dora said.
"What happened to the supposedly unbreakable wards that were on this dump?" John asked as he finished stuffing clips of ammo into the pockets of his flack vest.
Dora sighed. "Remy's the one holding the wards, only he can raise or lower them. After he got attacked I couldn't activate the wards. I guess that's one of the reasons that they were able to get in."
"What do I get to do?" Remus asked from where he was sitting up in the bed.
John looked over to his godfather. A wave of his hand and a flash from the freckle-like runes sent his bed walking over to a somewhat sheltered corner. Walls grew around him until he was protected on three sides. "You get to sit here and be safe. You're not in any condition to fight a battle. Activate the anti-apparation wards so they can't apparate past us."
Closing his eyes the werewolf sorted through the various ties that ran from his magical core to the net of wards over number 12 Grimmauld Place. "Done," Remus said.
"John! They're on the last room before this one!" Rodney interrupted from where he had been keeping an eye on the life signs detector.
"Let's go then. Remember, we want at least one prisoner. Remus, take this. Your magic is exhausted from fighting the curse. Shoot anyone who comes up through this illusion." John fished out another Beretta and three ammo clips for the bedridden werewolf before casting an illusion over the gap in the defensive wall.
The three able bodied defenders were crouching behind rough barriers conjured to give some protection. Each had their weapon of choice ready. Rodney kept half an eye on the life signs detector. After a moment he signaled to John who signaled Dora to get ready. They heard footsteps walking down the hallway, getting closer. Ten outside door, Rodney reported in hand signals after looking down at the life signs detector.
Wait, John signed in return as the doorknob turned, switching his P-90 off it's safety setting and to full automatic. The door was opened and three men walked in, the tips of their wands lit for illumination from the dark hall. Count down from three... two... one... Now!
Gunfire erupted as the room was lit up by the strange blue light of the Wraith stunner. First the three men who walked in to clear the room went down as the rapid noise of semi-automatic gunfire echoed off the walls. They went down riddled with rounds. The defenders ducked behind their conjured barriers as the remainder of the force entered the room, casting reducto's to give them cover. The reducto's hit the barriers, sending splinters of wood. Luckily they held long enough for the three to get off another hail of bullets and blue energy. When the dust settled there were ten bodies on the ground.
Dora made a face at the ever increasing pool of blood that surrounded the ten bodies. "Did we get any stunned?" she wondered, not wanting to go in and find out for herself. It had been quite some time since she had dealt with such a gruesome scene, even with her work with the Metropolitan Police or before that the Aurors.
John didn't have any of her squeamishness and waded in, checking pulses here and there. "We got one prisoner," he said as a flash of light from the freckle-runes levitated the man out of the pool of blood. The paralysis would last for quite some time after the stun effect wore off and he woke up. "Where should we stick him?"
Dora thought for a moment then hit the stunned man with an anti-gravity jinx, full body bind and a sticking charm. The result was the stunned man was stuck to the ceiling, an effective way to keep him out of the fight in case his stunned state wore off before the fight was over. "Good idea. Switch to your wand, we've got our prisoner," John whispered to Dora.
"Are you guys ok?" Remus shouted from behind the wall that hid his bed.
Remus was shushed as Rodney spoke. "I think they heard the guns," the scientist looked up from the life signs detector. "The other ten are on the other side of the house but they're on their way here."
A few evanasco's were cast to get rid of the bodies and the blood before they heard the pounding of feet storming up the stairs. "Higginson! Report!" Someone shouted from the hallway.
The pounding feet got closer as Rodney, John and Dora took positions behind the battered barriers. The noise got closer and closer until the man on point, the shouter, burst into the room. Gunfire erupted again, broken only by the spells from Dora's wand. Underneath the loud noise of automatic fire the tinkling of spent cartridges hitting the ground could be heard.
The first body hit the floor and the man entering the room behind him tripped over his comrade. The second man got three good shots off before McKay's two 9mm hollowpoint rounds ended his life. Men number three, four and five tried a different tactic, coming in under the cover of the five men still in the hallway. The conjured barriers held and one by one, they fell. Dora's quick over-powered diffendo's took the next two leaving just three men. These men apparently had no sense of tactics and, instead of fighting from a covered position in the hallway, rushed the room. They died.
Another perusal of the Alteran life signs detector showed that besides the stunned man, there were no other intruders in the house. A collective sigh of relief came from the three.
More evanesco's cleaned up the remaining bodies and accio charms made sure that both the shell casings that had been left by the two weapons and any stray rounds had been found and eliminated. Remus' bed was returned to its original position and the protecting wall disappeared. The impromptu cover was banished and reparo's restored the hospital wing to how it had been before Grimmauld Place was attacked.
John retrieved the gun that he had given to the werewolf and the Wraith stunner he had loaned to Dora. The metamorphmagus was reluctant to let the alien weapon go – it seemed to be the perfect thing for police work; knock out a suspect and have him unreviveable by magic but have him still be alive to take to court. Then, as one, four heads turned to look at the man stuck to the ceiling.
"What are you going to do with him?" Remus asked. It had been tough for him to sit and listen to the fighting going on just the other side of the barrier.
"First we need to figure out who paid them and who they were coming after," John said as he returned the weapons to the armory compartment of his portable trunk. "Then, how they found out where Remus was and how they found this place."
A quiet groan came from the man who was stuck securely to the ceiling. "How long does that stun thing last?" Dora asked.
"At most, thirty minutes, though they wake about fifteen minutes in. Paralysis lasts the full thirty though, and gradually wears off. My guess is that he's just barely coming around," Rodney estimated. He didn't mention the painful pins-and-needles that would linger for hours. Definitely not the thing you wanted when trying to escape from enemy territory.
"Well, let's get him a bit more comfortable," John said as he hit their prisoner with the counter to the anti-gravity jinx. He didn't bother to cushion the man's fall and when he hit the ground everyone heard the sharp sound of a bone breaking.
None of the magic users bothered to mend the broken arm as their prisoner's wand and magic objects were summoned away from him. Two wands, three potions, one bracelet portkey, one ring carrying poison and a dagger with an ever-sharp enchantment. Subsequent summonings produced other small daggers hidden on his person. Then Dora frisked him and a third wand was pulled from a accio-proof holster. Finally he was bound tightly in both a body bind and conjured ropes.
It took the man another fifteen minutes to come fully around and during that time Remus got out of bed, taking weak steps around the room. The Alteran healing devices had done their job well and although the werewolf was exhausted and magically drained, he was alive. Remus collapsed back on the bed when their prisoner groaned again and opened his eyes.
The panic on the man's face was evident when he realized that one: he was paralyzed, two: he couldn't hear any of his companions and three: the bounty and three other people were standing in front of him.
John smirked at the panicked man before turning to Dora and Remus. "Do you have any Veritaserum?"
The metamporphmagus walked over to the shelf that survived the fight, pulling a bottle of what looked like distilled water down. The shielding present on the shelf meant that the house could collapse and the bottles would be sitting unharmed, ready to dispense their contents. Taking an eyedropper, she withdrew enough truth drug for one dose.
Their prisoner smirked back at John and the magic users felt a whisper. While wand users could not do big things with wandless magic, wand users with enough magic in their core could master one or two spells. The whisper they had just felt was the activation of one such spell.
"Gd lk wif versrum," their prisoner slurred through still numb lips. The four took a moment to decipher the slurred voice.
Flicking her wand in a complicated pattern, Dora grumbled to herself when the wisp of vapor emitted from her wand was blue. She'd seen this before but because it was so expensive, it was only the third time. Before speaking she charmed their prisoner deaf. "He took a antiserum. I think it was in his stomach and he activated it with that bit of wandless magic." She spotted John and Rodney's confused looks. "The Hidden Truth potion was developed a year ago; it's extremely expensive but is an effective preventative against Veritaserum. We have no way to know how much he took so no way to calculate how long he's immune."
"Isn't there another way you could force him to tell the truth?" Rodney asked.
Remus stretched, getting used to being up and around again. "We could verify what he said was true but only Veritaserum will force someone to talk."
As they spoke the wraith stunner's paralyzing after-effects were wearing off. From the way their prisoner was twitching his upper body the pins-and-needles sensation had begun. John sighed and then looked over to Rodney. "Why don't you guys go downstairs and get Remus something to eat. I'm sure he's starving after all that time in stasis."
Their several years in the field together meant that Rodney could see what Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard was going to do. A quick, silent argument was held before the scientist sighed and acquiesced. "Sure, let's go get some food. I'm starving and there's probably some of the cake from dessert last night around." Rodney made sure that Dora and Remus preceded him down the stairs. "Be careful," he told John before following.
John removed the charm deafaning the man bound before him and sat on the bed, waiting for the rest of the paralysis to wear off. The bound man, noting the absence of any other witnesses, watched as the scary looking wizard talked. "I want you to know that if you freely give up the information I request nothing will happen to you. You'll have to swear a Oath to the veracity of that information though."
The paralysis had faded enough so that their prisoner could talk understandably now. "Not gonna say nuffin," was all the man would say.
"I thought you would say that," Sheppard sighed before standing. Picking up the prisoner he dropped him onto a chair and securely tied him to it. "I'll stop anytime you want to start talking."
There was the snap of a bone breaking.
Halfway through a lunch of curried chicken, Remus heard a shout from the foyer. "Guys, come back up, our prisoner is ready to talk."
Rodney was the first up the stairs and into the hospital wing turned interrogation room. The man they had captured was drenched with sweat and was shaking. There were suspiciously clean spots on the otherwise grungy and dirty outfit the man was wearing. Pale as bone their prisoner tried to edge away from John Sheppard as much as he could even though he was restricted by the ropes that bound him to the chair.
"I'll talk, I'll talk," he cried, looking at the three new people in the room. "Just keep him away from me!" The prisoner jerked his head towards John, who was looming not too far away from the bound man. Rodney looked John over carefully. He could tell by the look in the USAF officer's eyes that John wouldn't be getting much sleep tonight.
By default of her professionally trained interrogation skills, Inspector Tonks-Lupin was nominated to do the talking. Following the routine she had been taught, not by the lazy idiots at the Aurors but at the Magi Division of the Metropolitan Police, Dora deafened their prisoner and conjured a temporary barrier. As John had claimed command, she deferred to him. "Any questions that you want to make sure are answered?"
"Make sure you find out who paid them to attack Remus, and how they found out where this place was," Shepard immediately said.
Dora nodded and went to vanish the barrier before pausing. "What are we going to do with him when we're done?"
Silence. The four looked at each other. A hard look was in John's eyes; he wanted to eliminate a threat to the family that he had built up. That look was matched by Remus; the wolf in him wanted revenge. "What was that forgetting spell you told me about when we were talking to Herman Juno?" Rodney asked.
That drew John away from the bloodthirsty area his thoughts had wandered into. "Obliviation, why?"
"Why don't we just make him forget everything? Dump him in a hospital as an amnesia patient. Can this Obliviation be broken?" Rodney proposed.
This solution appealed to Dora. "Depending on the strength of the Obliviation, no. And then, it would take someone more powerful than the Obliviator to break it." She turned to John. "You're the most magically powerful of us, you should do it." John nodded and Dora vanished the barrier.
Settling the case she had carried into the room with her onto a table, the metamorphmagus took out what looked like an ivory baton. It was too long and thin to be a wand. The runes inlaid in ebony identified the baton to the magic users. "It's an oathmaker. When the Auror department needs someone they can't trust with a wand to make a magical oath, they give them one of these. There's just enough magic in the oathmaker to make a binding oath but it's useless for anything else," Dora told Rodney.
The oathmaker was placed in the bound man's hand and he was coached through a carefully worded oath. "I, Frommel Higginson, vow to tell the complete truth to any question asked in this room, and not leave anything I know out of my responses." The oathmaker flashed and Higginson felt the self-induced compulsion settle over him. He could not even contemplate lying.
"Why did you and your companions attack Remus Lupin?" Dora began the interrogation.
"Our employer knew that if the werewolf was killed then John Sheppard would show up," Higginson replied.
"And who is your employer?" Dora asked. Rodney exchanged looks with John. If this was another attack by the Trust...
Higginson sighed. "Most of us didn't know, but as I was assigned to watch this place and report to our commander when Sheppard showed up, Sobel let me know. We were being paid by Hortensia Nott."
"Who's Hortensia Nott?" Rodney whispered.
"She's the mother of one of my former year-mates at Hogwarts," John whispered back.
"Why is Nott trying to get John Sheppard killed?"
Their prisoner took a glance over at the still looming Colonel, then back at Dora. "I don't know," he told her. "She wouldn't say, just hired our team and told us that if we killed the werewolf, our target would come to the funeral. Lady Nott gave Sobel a few photographs to help identify who she wanted brought to her."
Further questioning revealed that Higginson knew nothing of the Stargate program, Atlantis or the fact that Harry Potter was now living under the name John Sheppard. He did give Hortensia Nott's address, a manor house outside of Whitehaven.
Doctor Anthony Stebbins looked at John Doe in slight confusion. He had been admitted that day with amnesia. The officer that had brought him in, Inspector Tonks-Lupin, told the hospital staff that she had seen a man collapsed outside her house. Thinking he was a homeless man, the Inspector went outside to ask the man to move on and was surprised that, even though the man was physically fine he didn't remember anything, not his name or why he was walking around in London at night. There was a lot of work to be done with John Doe but hopefully he could be helped to making a productive life in society.
"Why didn't we bring Dora or Remus with us?" Rodney whispered, shifting his P-90 to a better grip.
"You saw how exhausted Remus was," John replied, squinting at thin air. "Dora didn't want to leave him. Besides, we're better at this kind of situation, we go through it every time we leave base." He continued to peer at something Rodney couldn't see, despite the spell allowing him to see magical dwellings. He could see the well kept medium-sized manor house across a grassy field, not the strong dome of wards that they had almost triggered.
The work he put into studying runes was paying off, John thought. A small spell that had been taught to him by Dumbledore allowed him to read the arithmantic equations that the ward was supported by. It was a very good set of wards. Only those allowed by the holder of the wards – Hortensia Nott – were allowed through. Another layer barred animagi. A third stopped spells cast from reaching inside. The wards, from what he could see, also deactivated wands not keyed into the wards. The wardcrafters probably thought they had covered everything. They had never met John Sheppard.
"I think I see a way in," John looked over at Rodney. "Do you trust me?"
"Of course," Rodney said instantly.
Sheppard looked over at Rodney. "I'm serious. Do you trust me? Not just with your body but with your mind?"
McKay took a moment to think about that. Did he really, truly trust John? He thought back to countless missions where the Colonel had pulled his ass out of the fire. After a moment he spoke. "You're probably the only one I really do trust," Rodney whispered.
That was touching and deserved a quick kiss. "The wards prevent any access by animagi or humans, and extend upwards and downwards in a complete sphere. I do see an opening, but it's going to be risky. Very risky, for you."
"Oh, just spit it out," Rodney demanded, as quietly as he could.
"Remember how I transfigured that jar into a cat back home?" John asked.
"Yes..." McKay drew the word out, unsure where this was going.
"I can get by the wards if I change shape. It's not an animagus transfiguration so the wards will think I'm just a normal animal. I'm going to have to transfigure you into an animal to get you across. It's very dangerous to transfigure someone into something. If the person's left in the transfigured state too long they could lose their sense of humanity. They could forget they're anything but the animal," John said quietly.
The paranoid pessimist in Rodney threatened to rear it's ugly head but he forced it back. They had to figure out how Nott knew about John and force her to never attack them again. "If that's the only way..."
John reclaimed the P-90 and tucked it into the trunk on his necklace, then stripped off his clothes and unbound his ribs. Shoving clothes, bandage and his own P-90 into the compartment, John returned the trunk to his necklace. Rodney eyed the nude John with appreciation. "Focus Rodney," Sheppard told McKay. "You need to keep a firm grip on yourself. You're going to be in a transfigured state until we reach the manor; there's no cover in between here and there. Once we get there I'll return you to normal. Ready?"
No he was not ready, thank you very much, Rodney thought to himself. "Yeah, do it," he said instead.
Whispering something that felt like a prayer, John transfigured Rodney into a cat and hit him with a paralysis jinx. It was plain that the tan cat felt unnerved; every hair on the cat was standing straight out. John quickly made his own shift, runes facilitating the flow into feline form. Acting as quickly as he could the grey and black cat dragged the tan one through the grass until they reached the manor.
Hoping he had been quick enough, Sheppard flowed back into human and returned the tan cat to normal. There was a distinctly unnerved look in Rodney's eyes before the man stumbled and fell on his rear. "Rodney, you ok?" John bent down to help the scientist up.
"Yeah, I think," McKay said in a decidedly weirded out tone of voice. "That was... strange." He didn't remember much, just a strange feeling like he should be chasing something fuzzy and a strong craving for fish.
John had resized the trunk and was pulling on his clothes. He looked at the bandage and tested his ribs, bending and stretching. Still painful but he'd always healed fast and they felt fine so he left it off. The two automatic weapons were retrieved and flack vests were donned. Extra ammo clips were tucked into almost every pocket. Rodney claimed the life signs detector and thought it on.
"It doesn't look like she has any visitors. One life sign, that direction," McKay gestured.
Taking a deep breath, the Colonel settled his P-90 in his grip. "Let's go."
The doors to the study burst open, wood clattering down off hinges to slam against the floor. Hortensia Nott looked up from her study of the fire, a cold look on her face. "So they failed," Lady Nott told the two men who entered her home.
"They did," her target stalked in pointing a strange weapon at her. A man she didn't recognize also carried the same weapon.
"I didn't think you would find out who sent them so quickly, Harry Potter. Or is it John Sheppard now?" Hortensia said without standing. She was pale as bone, her skin contrasting starkly with her widow's weeds.
"I prefer Sheppard, thank you very much," John said coldly. He wondered why Hortensia wasn't attempting to reach for the wand on the table next to her. "Why? Why did you send them after me?"
Hortensia laughed but began coughing before she could speak. When she drew the handkerchief away from her mouth she noticed blood. Good. "You wonder why?" She snorted. "Do you even remember the lives you have taken? Countless good men who died at your hands. Men like Thaddeus. Men like Theodore. Men you killed! Is that not enough reason?" She began to cough blood again.
"Who were Thaddeus and Theodore?" Rodney whispered to John.
The woman in the chair by the fire heard. "My husband! My son! Killed by that monster next to you. And our own government praises your actions," Hortensia snarled.
"It was their choice to bind themselves to Voldemort that killed them. If they hadn't taken the Dark Mark they would still be living today," Sheppard said quietly.
Hortensia began to wheeze, muscles relaxing. The strength in her hands began to fade causing a small vial to drop to the ground. It rolled until it rested against Rodney's boot. Warily the scientist picked up the empty vial. There were still a few drops of a thick amber liquid at the bottom of the container. "What's that?" he questioned, handing it to John.
Sheppard sadly recognized the amber residue contained in the vial. "Basilisk poison. Slow-acting but definitely one way to be sure you're going to die," he told his scientist, then looked back at Lady Nott. "How did you find out where I was?"
"I have friends in high places," Hortensia wheezed, then pulled together the last of her strength. "When I heard the werewolf was looking for John Sheppard, I asked them to find out what they could about you. John Sheppard never existed until after Harry Potter vanished from the Wizarding World. The picture in your SRB was close enough to what an older Harry Potter would look like."
The woman slowly shut her eyes, the energy to get that large amount of information out sapping the rest of her life force. "And thus ends the glorious Nott family... Thadd, Teddy, I'm coming..." she whispered before her chest fell and did not rise again. The smirk that was her last expression froze on her face.
The manor was silent for one long moment before McKay noticed a noise. "What's that?"
Sheppard listened for a moment before recognizing the faint yet rising hum. "An old demolitions spell," he shouted, yanking McKay back the way they came. Time was of the essence so when they came to a wall on the outside of the house John hit it with several Reducto's. When it was large enough to crawl through the two made for the wardline as fast as possible.
Their escape was thwarted when they smacked into the wards. John preformed the fastest ward analysis he had ever done. It helped that he knew what to look for this time. "We've got to change shape again to get out! Remember, keep a firm hold on your human mind!" Sheppard shouted over the loud hum. The fact that it was audible across the football field-sized lawn told the Colonel that the house was almost ready to blow.
Once again Rodney was turned into a cat and hit with a paralysis jinx so he wouldn't flee in his panic. John shifted to cat form and dragged the tan cat across the wardline. As fast as he could Sheppard reversed both his and Rodney's transformations, unjinxing the scientist at the same time.
They couldn't have crossed the wardline at a better time. The hum of building magical power reached its peak, the air within the wards vibrating. The noise silenced moments before the beautiful manor exploded. Timber flew in every direction, bouncing off the bubble of wards that enclosed the property. Each impact caused the almost impenetrable wards to flare into the visible spectrum of light, allowing Rodney to see what only John previously could. When the blast of energy had expended it's strength a massive cloud of smoke was trapped within the bubble.
"Let's get out of here before someone comes to find out what happened here," McKay suggested before looking over at John. "Where's your clothes?"
Sheppard sighed. "I didn't have time to grab them. Would you rather me have taken five seconds longer and still be on the other side of the wards?"
Rodney thought about the shards of wood, glass and fragments of house that had seemed to impact every millimeter of the wards. No-one could have survived that, not at the force that the debris hit. "Well, at least put something on. You're distracting," the scientist stated.
John fished out a spare set of BDU's out of his shrunken trunk and pulled them on, then turned back to McKay. "There. Can we leave now?"
"...so if you have any contacts in the Auror department, you might want to send someone over to the Nott manor tomorrow, if they haven't already detected the explosion," John told Dora as he helped manhandle Remus into the single bed in the hospital wing. While the two earthbound members of AR-1 had been on their hunt, Remus' energy had been slowly fading. The werewolf was healing but when the adrenaline of having his home invaded had faded his body reminded him that he had been ill for three months.
Dora nodded and smoothed her husband's grey hair out of his eyes. "I'll talk to Director Proudfoot tomorrow," she promised.
When Remus had fallen asleep the pair slipped out of the room and headed downstairs. Rodney had beaten them to the midnight snack that Trinnea the elf had set out. "Thanks for saving some for us," John said as he rescued a plate of chicken from the hands of the hungry physicist. "Hey, you've got your own," the Colonel replied to the dirty look Rodney sent his way.
"So how much longer are you two with us?" Dora asked. "Thank you, Trinnea," she added when the elf set some tea before her.
"We have to get back to the states the day after tomorrow," John replied. "Remy's on the mend so you won't need all the stuff we brought with us."
Dora frowned. "You've only been here two weeks! Isn't there any way you can stay longer?"
"We need to get back to Atlantis. I only could take two weeks leave," Sheppard set down his fork and pulled some paper out of his pocket. A flash from the runes that covered his body made a pen materialize. He quickly scribbled on the paper before looking across the table to his geek. "Rodney, do you have a copy of that encryption program you created for Jeannie with you?"
Rodney saw where the Colonel was going with this and nodded. "I have a copy saved on my laptop. I can install it before we leave," the scientist offered.
John handed the paper to Dora. "That's my e-mail address. Go buy a computer, teach Remus how to use it and you can get in touch with me that way. It might take a while to get a response – the e-mails are sent once a week through the Stargate to Atlantis – but I will get it and reply. That ought to be faster than sending a letter to Manny and having him forward it to me. Rodney's going to set up an encryption program that will prevent anyone Earthside from getting access to the e-mails so feel free to talk about classified material. However they're monitored by the Stargate Program so assume that they're being read by a muggle."
"No mentions of magic in the e-mails, got it." Dora wrote out her own e-mail address for Sheppard. "Don't disappear again. You're family. Stay in touch," the metamorphmagus demanded.
"Yes, auntie," John rolled his eyes.
"Don't call me auntie!"
"Now remember, you can't talk about the Stargate program or Atlantis to anyone. Even if you find a way around the oaths you swore, don't. You'll have the American, British, Russian and other countries involved after you," John was standing in the foyer, dressed in his dress blues and carrying his duffel over one shoulder.
Remus sighed. "You had me sign a veritable book of forms that said exactly that. I got it, cub." The werewolf stopped leaning against the wall and hugged the slightly taller man. "And this time don't go five years before visiting."
"Next time I get Earthside leave I'll stop by. Let auntie teach you how to use a computer. That way you can bother me weekly," Sheppard dropped his duffel to better hug his godfather.
Dora entered the foyer, tripping over and glaring at the umbrella stand that she still hadn't figured how to remove. Knocking down the wall had removed the portrait of Walburga Black but no matter what she tried the damn stand wouldn't move. "Computers are easy, Remy. Maybe this time you'll actually put effort into learning how to use one?" The metamorphmagus smirked to John. "When he first got his teaching job I tried to show him but Remus insisted on doing all his work on paper."
Before John could reply Rodney showed up, shoving one last piece of technology into the first of two duffel bags he carried. "Ok, I think I got everything this time," McKay zipped the bag shut and was surprised when Dora hugged him. "Uhm... it was nice to meet you," he said when she let go.
"Take care of John for us? I'm sure you could make him not do anything too idiotic and get himself killed?" Dora Tonks-Lupin asked.
Rodney smirked over Dora's shoulder at the grimacing John before replying, "I'll try. With all the idiotic shit he pulls offworld it's a miracle he's not dead yet."
"That's all we can ask. And if you want to come back and visit the next vacation from Atlantis you get, feel free to drop in." McKay looked slightly bewildered at the invitation but accepted.
There was an awkward silence for a moment before Sheppard smiled tightly to the two Lupins. "I'm glad you're feeling better, Remus. I'll give Kamaria, Frank and Sophie those letters you wrote. We'll keep in touch." John hefted his bag and reluctantly followed Rodney out of Twelve Grimmauld Place.
The plane ride back to the States was as stressful for Sheppard as the one to London had been. Rodney still found his fidgety behavior hilarious. John didn't even try to sleep on the ten hour flight from Heathrow to Denver International; he just tried to lose himself in his book. The flight seemed to take forever. John was used to the speed of the Daedalus or the Puddle Jumpers and the slow – roughly 500MPH – cruising speed was driving him crazy. He was very relieved when the captain turned on the seatbelt sign and they began to land at Denver International Airport.
Passports out they sped through customs. John was once again glad that the customs agents couldn't see inside the shrunken, invisible trunk around his neck. A taxi that was willing to take them the hour drive out to Cheyenne Mountain was secured and as soon as he got in the smelly, cramped car Sheppard was asleep.
John awoke to Rodney's frustrated voice. "John, get up," the scientist almost shoved him out of the taxi. "I want to get home and to do that I need to get out of this damn taxi and I can't do that until you get off me!"
After John was fully awake and they had paid their fare Rodney shoved him towards the heavily guarded entrance. "I don't know why you don't just sleep where you're supposed to, like you should have last night, in a proper bed?"
Their approach to the entrance of the SGC was halted by the security forces that had been eying their arrival uncomfortably. Sheppard's dress blues, adorned by his Lieutenant Colonel's silver oak leaves got him less rude treatment than the civilian he was stopped with. Once the Staff Sergeant in charge of the roadblock had cleared them Rodney made a beeline for the elevators.
"I'll go check in with the duty officer," John told McKay. "I guess you're going to see if we have to wait until the Daedalus returns to head home?"
"If that Puddle Jumper is broken in any way, someone is going to die," Rodney grumbled and left the elevator on the storage level.
John continued to the last floor and headed towards the control room. As it was 0100MT, he didn't expect to find General Landry on base. He did get in touch with Major Griff, the duty officer, and found out that they were expected. General Landry had written that, if Rodney got the Puddle Jumper working again, they were cleared to head back to Atlantis via the Midway Station.
"What exactly happened to the Jumper? I heard someone was trying to reprogram it?" Sheppard asked Griff.
Griff looked uncomfortable at the question but answered. "We had a scientist come in from Area 51 to look at a device we picked up on a recent offworld trip. She got sidetracked when she saw the Puddle Jumper and began experimenting with it. I don't do science so I didn't understand what was going on but Carter was as pissed as she could get when she saw what that scientist did."
Taking the elevator back to the storage level, Sheppard followed the sound of curses to the largest of the storage rooms. This one was specifically set aside for Puddle Jumpers from Atlantis, being open on the far end to the ceiling of the former missile silo that had been converted into the gateroom.
John approached the open hatch and peeked in. All he could see were two legs sticking out from the front console of the Jumper. "Rodney, everything OK in there?"
There was a loud thud before more cursing was heard. "Why can't you walk louder? Oh, don't answer that. Get in here. I think I almost have it. Do we have cle-there we go!" The front console lit up, the overhead lights turning on. McKay wiggled out of the tight place he had crammed himself in, rubbing at the back of his head with one hand. "They managed to completely disconnect any access to the power source and fry the power conduits. Nothing my genius couldn't handle." Rodney smirked smugly. "It's going to need a full inspection when we get home but it will get us there. So do we have clearance to leave?"
"I'm glad you fixed it. Three weeks with Caldwell was not something I was looking forward to. Yeah, Landry thought we'd be back tonight. He left Griff – the duty officer – orders. Wormhole travel to Atlantis via Midway." John dumped the bag he was carrying on one of the two benches in back next to Rodney's two and pulled the shrunken trunk off his necklace. Opening it to the second compartment he withdrew the bag of healing technology and carefully settled it on the pile. When the trunk had been returned to around his neck Sheppard sat down in the pilot's chair. "Are the radio's up?"
Rodney began replacing the paneling he had pulled away to access the Puddle Jumper's systems. "Should be."
Sheppard keyed the microphone. "SGC control, this is Puddle Jumper 1. We're operational and ready to depart. Can you open the doors for us?" He didn't get a response but the large blast doors at the end of the room slowly opened. "Thanks, Griff," John shut down the microphone and turned to his copilot. "Ready to leave?"
"Hell yes," Rodney buckled himself into the seat and punched the button that closed the rear hatch.
His hands on the mental interface, John thought on the Puddle Jumper and slowly eased it forward into the former missile silo. Carefully he lowered the Jumper until it was at the level of the Stargate, out of the way of the vortex expelled when the wormhole is created. The man seated at the computer in the control room punched seven keys on his keyboard and the seven chevrons lit up. "So long, Earth," Sheppard whispered as he sent the Puddle Jumper through the wormhole.
It was about noon Atlantis Standard Time. Elizabeth Weir was doing some paperwork, laughing at some of the supply requests that were sent to her for approval. What did Miko Kusanagi need with 500 Nerf bullets? Why did Sgt Stackhouse need two cases of Post-it notes and a case of Sharpies? What was Dr Heightmeyer going to do with three SuperSoakers and purple food dye?
A interruption came when the tiny red light situated on her desk lit up. When she had gotten sick of having the gateroom staff coming to her every time the Stargate was used, Weir instructed the maitenence staff to install two lights. The red one was lit when an incoming wormhole was detected and the green one next to it lit when they received a valid code to drop the shield. Elizabeth didn't think that there were any teams offworld and went to investigate what was coming through.
"Oh, Dr Weir," Chuck Waller, the gate technician on duty that afternoon sat up in his chair and dropped his magazine. He glanced over a the Stargate and saw the wormhole just forming. As soon as the vortex had dissipated the shield was activated tinting the normally blue event horizon purple.
"IDC received," another gate technician reported, looking at the information being sent through. "It's Colonel Sheppard's."
"Drop the shield," Weir authorized and the purple tint vanished. A 'all clear' signal was sent through the wormhole and momentarily a Puddle Jumper appeared. From where she was standing Elizabeth saw John and Rodney seated in the cockpit. She couldn't prevent a relieved sigh; they were back safe and sound. And since she hadn't gotten any reports through the SGC, she assumed there hadn't been any trouble.
John carefully parked the Puddle Jumper and picked up his two bags. Rodney opened the rear hatch and the gateroom guard with the strongest ATA-gene entered. "Welcome back, sir," the Sergeant saluted.
"Glad to be back, Jefferson. Be careful with her, someone back on Earth fucked up the systems and McKay had to repair it," Sheppard replied as Jefferson took a seat at the helm.
Carrying their luggage the two exited the Puddle Jumper and watched the rear hatch close. Jefferson, whose job it was to return any inbound Puddle Jumpers to the storage bay, eased the ship up and out of the gateroom.
A faint humming filled his mind as the lights brightened slightly. John smiled and patted the nearby wall. "I'm home, alright? I missed you too." The humming in his mind had a pleased note. Sheppard turned to McKay. "I'll go brief Elizabeth. How about you go put away that technology before Carson realizes that you took his spares?" Rodney saw that as sense and hoped the Scottish doctor hadn't noticed that his backup set of healing gear had been borrowed.
Elizabeth met them before Rodney went to replace the Alteran healing devices. "Colonel, Dr McKay, welcome back," she inspected them carefully. "Hopefully you had a quiet vacation?" Before they could answer she headed back to her office, gesturing for John to follow. In her office the Colonel took one of the chairs, settling his duffel bag on the other. "John, how is your godfather?" Weir asked hesitantly.
Sheppard grinned reassuringly. "He had a miraculous spontaneous recovery. The doctors were rather freaked out at how quickly he got better."
Elizabeth looked relieved. "So those forms I gave you, did you need to use any of them?"
"Only two sets, one for my godfather Remus and another for his wife Dora. I didn't tell them anything specific about missions or Earthside details but I did talk about Atlantis and some of the things we do here. Hearing about the Wraith kind of spooked auntie Dora."
"Do they understand how classified this information is?"
John nodded firmly. "Dora works with the Metropolitan Police in a highly specialized and classified division. Remus sometimes does consultation work with them. They both understand that they can't talk about this to anyone. If I didn't think that they could handle it I wouldn't have told them. Oh, these are yours," he fished the signed paperwork out of his bag, along with the three unused sets of disclosure documents.
"I'll make sure they're filed back on Earth. Well, I'll let you get unpacked. Right now it's about noon on Saturday. Ronon and Teyla are out helping the Athosians with planting their crops. Come Monday you'll all be back on active duty so expect a checkup from Carson Monday morning." Elizabeth smiled at John's groan. "Welcome back."
John and Rodney were camped out in the commissary, plates of food and Athosian moonspice bread in front of them. At the far end of their table one of Rodney's many laptops was playing V for Vendetta. "Man, I missed this," Sheppard said around a mouthful of the moonspice bread. The moonspice was one of the Athosian's biggest selling crops, only planted and harvested on full moons. It tasted somewhere between cinnamon, ginger and cayenne pepper.
"I am so glad to be home. You wouldn't believe how much of a mess my lab is in. At least Radek got the two whiteboards I was working on carefully packed up and sent to storage," Rodney hummed in time with the 1812 Overture. It was one of both their favorite songs. Rodney liked it for the music. John just liked the cannons scripted into the score.
Loud voices at the door distracted them from the explosion of the Old Bailey at the beginning of the movie. A group of Marines were coming in from PT for dinner, joining the line leading to the kitchen. As John didn't recognize them they were probably part of the reinforcements brought by the Daedalus right before he returned temporarily to Earth. "Hey, pipe down over there! There are other people trying to concentrate here," Rodney turned and shouted at them.
The group of Marines turned en masse to glare at the shouter – or at least they did until they saw Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard glaring right back at them over McKay's shoulder. "Sorry, sirs," the Marines muttered and quieted.
As absorbed in the plot as they were Sheppard and McKay didn't notice one of the Marines duck out of the commissary and return with two women. "You're back!" Sophie St. Claire almost shouted, gaining the attention of everyone in the commissary when she tackled Sheppard with a hug.
John laughed and hugged her back. "It's good to see you too, sis," he told the mountain of bushy hair in his face. "Willows, Kamaria, how are you guys?"
"Glad to see you returned in one piece, John," Kamaria took one of the seats at the table and her husband took the other.
Sophie finally released Sheppard when she realized Rodney was giving her a dirty look. She pulled a chair from a nearby table and sat next to her honorary brother. "How's Moony?"
"We patched him up. I've got some letters he and Dora wrote to you three, and I've got Dora's e-mail address. I'll give you both later," John turned from studying his friends back to V for Vendetta.
For fifteen minutes after the trio of Pegasus galaxy rookies joined John and Rodney another loud voice entered the commissary. "Rodney McKay, how dare you steal my emergency replacements!" an outraged Scotsman shouted. "Did you think I wouldn't notice?"
Rodney's head snapped towards the entrance to the commissary fast enough to give him whiplash. "Seeyoulaterbye!" McKay told the four and fled the commissary, Carson Beckett fast on his heels.
John laughed until he couldn't breathe before returning to the movie.
AN: It's done. DONE. Five chapters, thirty two thousand, six hundred and fifty four words, one year and three months to completion. Man it feels good to actually complete a long story like this!
On a more serious note, I hope you like the final chapter of this fic. Please, please review and tell me your thoughts. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to bask in my accomplishment for a while.