Okay, I am very very very nervous about posting this. I never write Carter. I never write Kid!fic. Please tell me what to do about this?
Bridge Isn't Burned
They didn't go through with it. The shield was raised over the Stargate before they could get through.
One week later, John and Rodney were gone. Vanished, every trace of their existence literally wiped off the face of the earth. Bank accounts cleaned out, apartments sold, but they themselves had left no traces whatsoever.
They looked, of course they looked, not least because those two were rather dangerous individuals with a lot of inside information between them. But…well…events overtook them, and then there were the Ori and a dozen other minor crises, and it wasn't that anyone forgot, really. It just got put on a back-burner (despite Jeannie McKay's outrage and subsequent refusal to help at all, ever, and Drs. Weir, Zelenka and Beckett going frantic), because they were alive and not causing trouble.
Atlantis was gone, though O'Neill made it out by the skin of his teeth in a daring escapade involving a Jumper, Teyla Emmagan, a message via Stargate and an eighteen-hour flight in the Jumper to meet up with the Daedalus.
All the former Atlanteans were spread across the globe, and most never even really knew two of their leaders had gone missing, until just recently, almost sixteen years later, when the Atlantis project got shoved to the forefront due to developments in Pegasus.
So it came as a surprise when, just when they were needed, the FBI sent the SGC notice that McKay and Sheppard had been located.
Sam Carter was now one of the heads of the SGC, and one of the only ones who'd known McKay, so she flew over to Washington to take part in it, because of "damage control", apparently. O'Neill was there too, now in something vaguely related to retirement (in the same way your cousin's great-aunt's brother's wife is related to you), always looking for something to do with his excess time, and insanely curious about his favourite, Sheppard. They'd always gotten on well, Sam mused. They were quite similar, after all. Though Sheppard definitely understood more about Wormhole physics than O'Neill ever would.
Elizabeth Weir and Carson Beckett were there as well, both having returned to the states from diplomatic missions in Korea and a genetics lab in Scotland, permanently, due to recent events that made finding John and Rodney all the more imperative, both a little greyer around the edges and a little more tired than they'd been the last time they'd all seen each other. They were getting old, Sam thought, and wasn't that depressing, more than twenty years of their lives, stuck in the Stargate Program, and nothing but grey hair and a lot of secrets to show for it. Well, and bank accounts fit to burst, but really, the more money you have, the less you care about it.
A man who looked to be in his early thirties, dressed up in a suit and a hideous tie, sat down at the table with them, holding a stack of papers. It felt like a thousand other briefings, but this was about just two people, nothing to do with aliens and Stargates. "So, Rodney McKay and John Sheppard," the man said, "Last seen in Colorado Springs, working for the SGC." The poor man had no idea what the SGC was, but he pretended to, glossing it over expertly. "No leads to nowhere, and pretty much untraceable. We finally found out why."
He opened the largest stack, and Sam leaned forward, interested despite herself. This was interesting, in everyday policework, exciting, even, to have finally solved a sixteen-year-old case. "They joined the Canadian witness protection program, citing-"
"Knowledge of confidential matters that would inevitably lead to pursuers, both governmental and nongovernmental," John read out. "Seriously?"
"They do know a thing or two about the SGC up here," Rodney answered, flipping through a different file. "Otherwise why was there Canadian military in Atlantis?"
John swallowed. Talking about it was still rough, but they could do it. It was a part of their lives and would always be.
"I always told you we Canadians have it right. They understand the need to hide us."
"Yeah, possibly because we lied to them about the SGC not accepting our resignations."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "You know what they're like. They'd say, yeah, sure, resign, go have fun, and then they'd be calling us up twice a day to go, "ooh, turn on this ancient doohickey," "ooh, save the planet from complete annihilation, again," and we've done that quite enough."
John rolled off the bed and laid his arms around Rodney's neck from behind, reading over his shoulder absently. "Are you sure? I mean, you specialize in ancient tech."
Rodney sighed and leaned back into him. "And you specialize in flying Puddlejumpers and saving everyone's ass." John laughed quietly. "I think it's time for a change. All my life, I've been bumped from one top-secret research project to the next, working on these big great things to save humanity, but I've never actually had the chance to be part of it."
"Hey, you know what else belongs to normal humanity?" John asked, grinning.
John whispered it into his ear.
"Our plane leaves in two days, I sincerely doubt there's enough time," Rodney said, more on autopilot than anything else. It was his Oh-My-God-Seriously?-voice.
"And we're in Canada. We can do this here."
"Really?" Rodney asked, sounding completely insecure. John's heart all but burst and he knew without doubt that he really definitely wanted to go through with this. If they'd offered him Atlantis back on a platter in exchange for this moment, he wasn't sure which he'd take.
And that hardly even scared him. "Really," he answered. "Rodney McKay, will you marry me?"
Rodney pulled him into a deep kiss. When they broke apart, he was smiling radiantly. "You have to call me Toby Silverman now."
"So when we told the Canadian government they never had resigned, they were quite happy to provide the address. They're living in Australia now, here you go."
With that, he stood up, and thus the briefing was concluded. The FBI hadn't gone to see what had become of them or who they were, because that was SGC business now. So thirty-six hours later found the four of them in a small bed and breakfast in what had to be the most rural town possible. Five thousand inhabitants, most of whom seemed to know each other by name.
"Oh, sure we know Ben and Toby," their landlady said affably over dinner. "Everyone knows Ben and Toby. The live outside the city," Town, Jack mentally corrected waspishly, "In the old mansion. You don't want to go out there now, mind, wait till morning. The dingoes can get nasty."
"Could you…tell us a bit about them?" Elizabeth asked, eating her steak so carefully you'd have thought she was at a state dinner and not in a tiny B&B in the middle of nowhere.
"Thought you said you were friends of theirs," her husband said, not with outright suspicion, but a little uneasily.
"Aye," Carson sighed. "But it's been a while. Sixteen years. We've been looking for them."
There was silence while everyone took that in. Finally, the landlady, Sally, she said to call her, started talking again. "They're the most decent people I've ever known. May not be that easy to get to know, and a bit…difficult," and there everyone smiled, because there was no doubt at all she was talking about Rodney, "But they're wonderful people. Anyone gets into trouble, first thing they do is go to Ben and Toby. Specially the kids."
That one was a shocker. Kids? Rodney had hardly been able to look his own niece in the eye, not to speak of John's vagueness about human society in general. She must have read their expressions, though, because she said, "Oh, I know you wouldn't think it, 'specially not with Toby, but they're really great with it."
"What do they work as?" Elizabeth asked, trying to get some amount of firm groundwork.
"Well, Ben's with the Flying Doctors 1."
"He would be," Carson smiled. "Flying was his big passion."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Sally said easily. "He only works part-time."
"Oh really?" Elizabeth raised her eyebrows. "The way I knew J- Ben, he was a complete workaholic."
"He used to be, but we're all getting on in years these days, and now both of them work part-time- Toby teaches maths and physics at the local high school- after all, they have a big house and something always needs doing. Anyway, someone always needs to be there for the kids."
They all choked at that one. "Okay, hold up, rewind." Jack said. They may have been better friends with Weir and Beckett, but he'd known them too. "You're telling us McKay, shit, sorry, Toby teaches high school physics, and the two of them have kids? How is that possible? Last I heard of, they were colleagues, and, oh yeah, men."
Sally looked at them, a bit coldly. "Toby's a damn fine teacher, I'll have you know. My son's got into Sydney University on a scholarship thanks to his teaching. And they are married, you know."
"No. We don't know. I'm really sorry, but we haven't seen them in years. They used to work with us and then one day just vanished. They turned up here with new identities and everything, and we've been looking for sixteen years," Sam said, professional mask all over her face.
"Well they are married. License and everything. Must be…oh, fourteen years ago, they started adopting. Got four kids now, and a better bunch you'll never see. And I won't have you going on about it, either, what they did for those children…"
Children weren't something Rodney had considered, not from the moment he felt John's lips on his for the first time. But then…
Then they'd gotten married in a tiny town hall somewhere in Canada, moved to Australia and gone suddenly and shockingly domestic. Then he'd started teaching teenagers, relearning social contact, relearning the fact that there were young minds and souls out there that needed nourishing and shaping.
He turned in bed and snuggled into John. On Atlantis, they'd been in a war zone, constantly on red alert, and it had taken them a good two years to relax into normality out here, and now they were finally back in everyday life and everyday concerns. So many people dreamed of doing important things and making a difference, well, they'd made theirs.
A kitten jumped up onto the bed and alerted them to the fact that it was breakfast time. John groaned and petted it lazily, and Rodney remembered exactly how he'd jumped up in five seconds flat at the smallest sound two years ago. Even the nightmares, though he doubted they'd ever really be gone, only came once in a while now.
"Yeah," Rodney whispered into John's chest, "You're right. We could adopt."
Sabaun was five years old when they adopted him. "It's brilliant," Rodney said imperiously. "We miss the diaper changing and the four in the morning screaming but still get a kid small enough to listen to us."
But they both knew he was just saying that. Sabaun was from Afghanistan and had lost his entire family, which had been quite large, in the war. He understood English perfectly well, having been taken in by the British contingent of the army and sent to an English-speaking orphanage, but never actually spoke, and suffered from night terrors. He had skin like caramel and two large, dark eyes, and had his hair not been so dark, he'd have reminded them terribly of Teyla. But if anyone could understand nightmares and war zones, it was John and Rodney.
For weeks, he woke every night screaming, but, though they'd always wake him, and John would speak softly to him in Dari, and Rodney involved him in one-sided conversations in English, he never spoke a word to them.
Then, one night, John awoke to a small finger poking his arm, and Sabaun staring up at him with the biggest eyes imaginable. "You wanna climb in, little fellow?" He asked, not really expecting answer. "Yes," Sabaun whispered.
He crawled up in between them, Rodney, who'd woken as well, and heard the whole thing, making space for him. And that night, when the nightmares and the screaming began, they were right there to help him.
He finally started talking the next day, in slow, accented English and rapid, whispered Dari, from which they found out several important facts, like that he'd seen his sister raped, that he was terrified of the P-90 John still kept handy in case of dingoes, and that he despised peas with the passion of a thousand suns.
The social services worker, who'd been stopping daily, to make sure everything was okay, started coming weekly after that.
Another two years after that, they adopted two more children, Sarai from Iran and Yannick from Kosovo, and five years after that, Marina from Sudan. The house was full and loud, and so much happier than either of them had ever been growing up, that neither John nor Rodney ever thought to miss their old lives anymore. There were still a hundred crises a day, but of the small, manageable kind, and maybe it was all the practice they'd had dealing with crises that gave them that much more patience.
Anyway, it worked, and when the children had gone to sleep, there were still the two of them, a glass of wine, and slow, sweet kisses and touches, because they had the time now.
And if sometimes, an old comrade was missed, or a memory overtook them, there was always someone to talk to, these days.
The next day was a Saturday, and they pulled up into the drive in front of the mansion at ten o'clock. It was aptly called 'mansion', because it was indeed, old and dilapidated and vaguely Victorian. There was a high fence around it, and the garden seemed to be wilderness randomly interspersed with attempts at herb and flower growing.
It looked lovely.
Elizabeth felt like she was intruding on someone's private life as they rang the bell, even more so when a little black girl, at most ten years old, opened the door. But this was John and Rodney, the men with whom she'd shared command, with whom she shared three years worth of wonderful, painful memories. Her voice failed her.
"We're looking for Ben and Toby," Carson jumped in for her.
The girl nodded. She called out their names, and a second later, an all-too-familiar American accent answered, "What is it, sweetie?"
"There's people to see you."
"Who?" Rodney called, footsteps drawing closer from both sides of the house.
"Don't know," the girl said.
"'Course you know, everyone knows everyone around here, it's the advantage of living on the edge of the wor-" Rodney's incessant talking stopped dead when he saw them, to Elizabeth's chagrin. She'd missed that more than she cared to admit.
John was there, too, mouth open and speechless.
"Oh, my god," Rodney said when he'd regained speech. "Oh my god!"
The little girl looked up at him, smiling, obviously used to…well, him. "Sadik2?" She asked.
"Yeah," John said. "Sadik. Rina, could you go get the others? I think we'll all need to be here for this."
She trotted off, throwing curious glances at them as she went.
"Um." Rodney said. "Come in. D'you want a coffee or…something?"
"Well," Jack said, leaning against the door, "I kind of want to know when you got involved, let alone married, why you're living in Australia, and why you didn't tell anyone, so we had the FBI looking for you for sixteen years, but sure, let's have a coffee to start with."
"After the sinking Jumper incident, sixteen years ago, because it's English-speaking and as far away from you guys as we could manage, and also full of helicopters, and because we were kind of pissed at the SGC at the time and didn't want to spend the rest of our lives doing you favors." John said, showing them into the living room.
Four more people came trooping in, led by little Rina. The oldest was a boy in his late teens, middle-eastern, tall and imposing, the second a shorter boy of about fifteen with longish black curls, and the third a girl, also middle-eastern, hair in a long black braid down her back, and nose firmly in a book.
"Okay, kids?" Rodney said, in a tone of voice Elizabeth remembered from when he was calling all the scientists to act as a cohesive force, "You too, Sarai, as interesting as the book may be. These are…friends of mine and Ben's. Elizabeth Weir, Carson Beckett, Jack O'Neill and Samantha Carter."
The children didn't look particularly impressed, really. "Elizabeth, Carson, Jack, Sam, these are our children, Marina, Sabaun, Yannick and Sarai."
"We know them from…before we came to Australia," John said. That perked the children's interest, and they sat down on the living room sofa. John, Elizabeth noticed, had flecks of grey in his hair, too, and Rodney's was thinning, especially around the back.
Rodney and John exchanged a look. "Okay, this isn't gonna work. Rodney, would you…"
Rodney nodded. "Guests, out. I'll…show you the garden or…the cutlery or whatever."
Once they were out, Rodney carefully closed the door and then led them as far away from the living room as he could. "I guess you'll be staying with us a while then," he said. "God knows we have the space. After all, you don't make the trek out to Australia for a day, do you…"
"'Scuse me," Jack said, "But what the heck?"
Rodney glared at them. "So sorry for kicking you out of the living room. John's busy explaining to our children that we've been lying about who we are for the last sixteen years, and oh, yeah, that we used to work for the government that destroyed parts of their countries."
"You know, I never pictured you as a father," Sam said.
"I bet you didn't picture me married to John Sheppard, either," Rodney answered testily. "If you don't mind my asking, what the hell are you doing here?"
"We've had the FBI looking for you ever since you left," Elizabeth said, looking as if she wanted nothing more than to reach out to Rodney and touch him to make sure he was really there. "We missed you. Why didn't you tell us?"
Rodney swallowed, looked away. "We couldn't. It was just…we couldn't."
No one said anything for a while, this was Rodney's house, Rodney's territory, and he was obviously lost in thought.
Finally, voice a bit hoarse, he said, "Atlantis was the best thing that ever happened to either of us, John or me. We found so much…lost so much, with her. And when we had to give her up, the only thing we really had left was each other. So we made a decision. We decided not to be a part of it all anymore. And we're happy here. Why did you have to come?" Rodney had changed, his voice was quiet and contained throughout, not rising to a squeak and falling to a bellow like they remembered from Atlantis.
"Rodney…" And it was Carson who spoke this time, Carson, who'd always been Rodney's friend, perhaps more so than Elizabeth. "It's…a few months ago, Teyla and Ronon came through the gate. They got Atlantis back."
Rodney didn't turn around, but a visible shudder ran through him. Carter started to talk, but she didn't get any further than, "They-" before Rodney held up a hand and said, "We're waiting for John before we talk about this."
He showed them guest rooms silently, not meeting any of their eyes. It was like he couldn't get done fast enough before he practically ran back to the living room. Carson and Elizabeth followed silently, motioning for the other two to stay back.
"How'd it go?" Rodney asked John, who was sitting alone on the sofa.
John sighed. "They're pissed. Sab just took off, and the other three followed. What about…them?"
Rodney started shuddering again, shaking, and they could only see his back, but this was Rodney fallible and vulnerable, not as they'd known him. In an instant, John had crossed the room and pulled him close. "Hey," he said into Rodney's thinning hair, "Hey, what's wrong?"
"They…" Rodney sobbed once, buried his face in John's shoulder, "they said Ronon and Teyla got Atlantis back."
John's eyes closed, then snapped open and coldly directed Elizabeth and Carson away without saying a thing.
It was dinner time before their hosts surfaced. Jack had found the TV and was amusing himself with their DVDs- a wild mix that placed Rent right next to Rush Hour. Sam had joined him after a while, but the other two were too worried about their former friends to join in on the fun. "Come on," Sam said to Elizabeth, "they have, like, ten seasons of Grey's Anatomy. How can you not want to?" But even that had not tempted them.
Around five, the kids came back, slamming the door shut so loudly no one could miss it. By six, they'd apparently solved enough to pay attention to their guests and feed them.
There was a huge lasagne on the dining room table and complete silence. Even Jack didn't dare say a word.
For about ten minutes. "So," he said around a mouthful of lasagne, "We've officially reclaimed Atlantis. Head of military and science are reserved for you."
John slammed down his silverware. "Excuse me?"
"Well, we figured-"
"Yeah, you figured. We'd have taken Atlantis back to begin with, but don't you think it's a bit too late now? It's been sixteen years. We've changed, we have lives and responsibilities. The only thing that hasn't changed is you, and your damn Stargates and your damn military. Don't think they'd be keen on taking me back, do you, now we're married?"
"John-" Rodney said, but stopped dead when John's eyes met his.
"It's not like that anymore," Carson said. "It has changed."
"Oh yeah?" John leant back in his chair, arms crossed, defensive flyboy position so achingly familiar.
"By the time Ronon and Teyla contacted us, we had several more ships of the Daedalus class, and a few even better ones. We were able to take out the Wraith." Carter wasn't meeting their eyes, rattling it off. "We haven't fully won the war yet, but we're basically down to chasing remnants of the species. Atlantis is safe for habitation. Most of the former inhabitants have families they're bringing back. Thus, all policies regarding fraternization have been revoked for the Atlantis mission."
John stood up and walked out. Rodney apologized and followed him,
"So…this Atlantis," Sabaun said, continuing to eat his lasagne as if nothing had happened. "What's it like?"
Elizabeth smiled. Safe ground at last. "It's magnificent. I mean, it's a floating city in another galaxy, but beyond that, it's absolutely gorgeous. The towers and spires…and if you have the gene, it lights up for you, John and Rodney are like that. John makes her happy like no one else, and Rodney was the only one who could get her to do what he wanted. It's not the same without them, you know. Atlantis is beautiful, it's a fantastic opportunity to discover what's out there, but it's also kind of ours, because we were there from the start."
"Dr. Weir, these children do not have security clearance."
"It's cool," Yannick said, "Ben and Toby told us everything already. And that you'd say that. Anyway, if they go back, we'd go with them."
Sarai grinned an almost dangerous grin at them, and Carson realized what they were getting themselves into. "Good god," he said. "It's like the Von Trapp family, with guns."
"How can they think we'd do this?" John raged, looking like he wanted to shoot something.
"It's their job."
"Why aren't you mad? You can't want to go crawling back to the SGC."
Rodney sighed. "I am mad. But sort of not. I'm confused. I mean, we could have Atlantis back. But the kids…And as soon as they knew we were here they had to assess security threat, and ask us back. I'm not mad about that, really, I'm mad that I still want it all."
John looked down, studied the floorboards he'd help re-lay, the carpets they'd bought in India. "Me too. You know, all this time, I figured I'd gotten over it, but it turns out I just thought I couldn't have it so I made myself stop wanting it."
"Yeah," Rodney nodded. "But…"
"But we have a life here, too, with the kids, and we're happy."
"We could have more. We could have Atlantis. It's like…my whole life has been this kind of fantastic, amazing dinner, and now they're offering us a gigantic, beautiful chocolate cake, and I want it so badly, but I'm afraid I've eaten too much already to justify it."
John stared at him for a second. "I know what you mean, but I'm not too sure about that metaphor."
"Oh, shut up. So what do we do?"
John's eyes wandered again. Curtains, discount store in Sydney. Couch, Ikea. "I think we should leave this up to the kids."
"They're letting four children decide this?" Jack raged. No, really, raged. Stomping up and down, tugging at his hair.
"Technically they're all teenagers."
"I think it's a surprisingly mature way of parenting, from John and Rodney," Elizabeth said mildly.
"Okay, so not helping," Jack told her, and went back to pacing.
Elizabeth woke early the next morning. The others hadn't been able to sleep till very late, but she had gotten used to the time changes what with constant trips to the far east. She dressed and walked down to the kitchen, but stopped in the doorway when she heard voices.
"I can't believe this is happening to us. It's surreal," Rodney was saying, standing by a coffeemaker (sixteen years and still an addict, Elizabeth thought).
"Yeah," John sighed, leaning on the counter across the room. "I mean, we worked so hard to get here and be who we are now…and then they come back."
"But…I missed them. And Atlantis. I missed Elizabeth glaring and Carson snarking. I missed Zelenka making funny faces at the Naquadas when they ran out, and Major Lorne folding paper airplanes out of unimportant documents."
"Me too. Could've done without Carter, though."
Rodney turned around. "You cannot possibly still be jealous about that."
"Oh, like you've gotten over the whole Chaya thing."
"That is totally unrelated. I had a crush on Carter. You had glowy sex with, like, the alien priestess of doom."
"Yeah, but she still expects you to hang on her every word like a puppy. I just don't like the woman."
Rodney smirked. "Somebody's veeery jealous."
With a half-snarl, John pushed off his counter and backed Rodney up against the opposite one. "Yeah, well, you're mine. I get to be jealous."
She had never seen them kiss before. These were two men whom she still wanted as her best friends and colleagues, on whom her life had been dependant for more than two years in Atlantis, who had been involved for more than sixteen years, and she had never seen them kiss.
It was…quite something. She could still remember that time Lt. Cadman had kissed Carson in Rodney's body, but it wasn't the same. These two knew each other intimately, and had done so for years, without losing the passion, judging by the way their hands crept over each other and their tongues mingled.
Yannick pushed past her into the kitchen, longish hair tangled, in a bathrobe. "Aw, come on," he said. "It's seven thirty. I do not need to see that."
Her two ex-colleagues broke apart smiling. "You know you're going to get payback for that if you ever bring somebody home."
Yannick glared and pulled the orange juice out of the fridge. "I resent the 'ever' part of that," he said, and drank straight from the carton.
"Hey! Yan! Don't do that!" Sarai was up too, and obviously not a morning person. "If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times: DO-"
And the other three fell in, "NOT DRINK STRAIGHT OUT OF THE CARTON."
She turned to John and Rodney. "It is a disgusting, extraordinarily male habit. I don't know what makes you assume we all want to drink juice with your spit in it."
"They just don't assume there's anyone else out there who wants to drink juice," Sam said, having come up behind Elizabeth at some point while she was watching the McKay-Sheppard family spectacle.
Rodney's head snapped up. John turned around slowly. "Oh, morning," he said. "Sleep well?"
Sam shrugged. "Jet lag. So…has anyone made a decision yet?"
Blank silence. "It's a good thing you're not a diplomat," Elizabeth said. "Might wanna work on the whole tact thing."
"No kidding," John said, rubbing the back of his neck, one of the key signs for "flyboy is nervous".
Eventually, the two teenagers looked up from their breakfast. "Oh, were you waiting for us to answer?" Yannick asked innocently.
"I am so going to kill you for teaching them sarcasm," Rodney muttered.
"Please," John muttered back. "You practically invented sarcasm. I was just making sure they could defend themselves."
"We did make a decision, you know," Sarai said.
No one dared so much as breathe.
"We want to go," she said, and returned to Cap'n Crunch.
"You do know it's dangerous, different, the food sucks…"
"You mentioned last night. You two are absolutely dying to go, though, and it's not like any of us expected to spend the rest of our lives here. Worst comes to worst, we can always come back once we're of age."
Later, Elizabeth wondered why she'd been so worried. These were John and Rodney's children. How could they not want to go to Atlantis?
"My sister is going to kill me," Rodney said, quietly, for the third time in as many hours. "She is going to kill me dead. And then Zelenka is going to defile my remains."
"Seriously, how could you not tell us we have an aunt?" Marina asked, also for the third time.
"Because in all the other adoptive relations you would have had if we'd still been talking to them, one real one doesn't really matter?" Rodney suggested. "But really. Going to kill me."
"'Scuse me?" John put in. "I have mentioned my family, right? My military, homophobic family?"
"Yeah, about that," Sabaun turned from the seat in front of them in the small bus headed for the SGC. "How could you not tell us about them either?"
"Mention one, we'd have to mention them all," Rodney said grimly. "Oh my god." He turned to John. "Your family will kill me before Jeannie even gets a chance! I'm going to be, like, the sodomite who converted their son!"
"Hah! At least my family doesn't live on Atlantis now!"
"How could you not tell us?!" Four voices said, more or less in unison.
Jack groaned. "Are we there yet?"
The wormhole to Atlantis was opened as soon as they came, but it was the middle of the night on the city herself. There was only a night shift there when they arrived, which suited them all just fine. It was stressful enough as it was.
The steps lit up when John started walking towards them, and he had to close his eyes for a minute just to savour the moment of being back home. "We did it," he whispered.
"Yeah, we did," Rodney said, not much louder.
Carson and Elizabeth exchanged looks, remembered how much this meant to them. "Why don't we go show the kids their rooms and let you get reacquainted with her?" Carson suggested, and herded the kids away quietly.
"Hey," Rodney said into the quiet of the control room, now empty but for the two marines who practically faded into the background, they were concentrating so hard on not staring. "You wanna go see if our tower's still empty?"
"Yeah," John said. "Yeah, I do."
The living quarters in the tower weren't, but the roof was. It was the tower furthest to the east in Atlantis, and the view was breathtaking by night. A few lights blinked here and there, but for the most part, the city slept.
Rodney let out his breath in a long hiss. "We got her back."
"It's like…getting everything I ever wanted all at once," John said, smiling in contentment, before pulling Rodney close for a kiss.
The sound of feet climbing the ladder made them pull apart. A minute later, Jeannie reached the top, followed by Zelenka, Ronon and Teyla in quick succession.
They stared at each other for a moment, before Jeannie let out something suspiciously like a sob and squeezed Rodney so hard she might have actually killed him if it went on for too long. Thankfully, she released him almost immediately to punch him in the stomach. "Sixteen years! Do you know how worried I was? Sixteen! Years!"
"Sorry, sorry!" Rodney said defensively.
"You are a very annoying man, Rodney," Zelenka said, wearing his frowny face. "Very annoying, incorrigible and absolutely impossible." And then he, too, squeezed Rodney as tightly as he could.
Turning to John, he said, "And you are an irresponsible moron for running away with Rodney of all people. And I won't hug you because…you have a gun." Nodding decisively, he stepped back.
Teyla came forward, and pressed her forehead to each of theirs in turn. "I have missed you very much," she said quietly, and to everyone's surprise it was Rodney who answered, "We missed you too."
Ronon hugged both of them, not being afraid of John's gun. He didn't look half as aged as the rest of them, and there wasn't a single grey hair in any of his dreadlocks.
Jeannie had a blanket and champagne with her, so they settled on the rooftop, surrounded by the breathtaking view of Atlantis.
"Where did you go?" She asked.
"Australia," Rodney said, sounding just a tiny bit embarrassed. "We've still got a house there, actually. I was…teaching high school physics."
Everyone burst out laughing at that, except John, though he'd found it amusing enough to begin with.
"Seriously?" Radek asked.
"Seriously," John said. "I think he got a kick out of influencing all those unformed minds."
"Shut up. You grew lavender in the garden because it smelled nice, that has got to be more embarrassing."
Jeannie looked between them, a bit confused. "Listen to you, all domestic."
Rodney and John both looked up slowly. "Please tell me they know and we don't need to tell them. Please tell me this was on some briefing."
"We…just found out you were back a few minutes before we came up here. No one told us anything," Teyla said slowly, looking between them. "Ah, excuse me, but…are you…?"
Before she could finish the question, a voice from below called, "Ben, Toby, you up there?"
"Yeah," John called back, "come on up," and four teenagers scuttled up the ladder.
"'S freezing up here," Marina said, glaring at Rodney as if he could fix it.
"Aw," he said. "C'mere."
She cuddled up next to him on the blanket and Yannick stuck his tongue out. "Daddy's girl."
"So, what do you think of Atlantis?" John asked.
The children seemed to be lost in thought for a moment, weighing it out, before Sabaun cracked a wide grin and said, "Yeah, it's awesome, we love it."
"The lights turn on and the doors open and Carson made us all sit on this cool chair that lit up!" Rina was grinning too from her position resting on Rodney's chest.
"Not for the rest of us," Sarai said, tugging her sister's curls.
"Wait, wait, wait. The control chair lit up? Do you know what this means? You must have the gene! John, she has the gene-"
John rolled his eyes. "Yes, she has the gene. So do I. So do you. So does Carson."
"But it lit up for her! Was it difficult?"
Rina shook her head. "As soon as I touched it, it just lit up."
"Rodney. You will not misuse our daughter as a scientific light bulb."
"No thanks to you."
"Ahem." Radek cleared his throat loudly, forcefully.
"Oh! Right! Sorry. Our children, Sabaun, Sarai, Yannick, Marina. This is your aunt, Jeannie, your godfather Radek, your other godfather Ronon, and your godmother Teyla. If they want to."
Jeannie's forehead went into crinkles. John steeled himself for explanations.
"Your…children. Yours and…John's."
"Right. Yeah. Uh. We're…married."
There was a collective moment of silence to absorb that.
"You…married McKay," Ronon said, face impenetrable as always.
"He's seriously our godfather?" Sarai whispered to Yannick. "Cause he's…cool."
"Yeah," John said. "I married him."
John turned to the children. "Rodney and Ronon have always had a very close and understanding relationship, as you can tell."
Rodney elbowed him. "Seriously, shut up. You are infecting them with your flyboy sarcasm."
"Well, congratulations to you both," Teyla said, touching foreheads with them again. "And I must say, I would like to hear about your lives while you were away, they must have been very different."
"So. Married." Radek looked…well, actually, he looked amused.
"Okay, Czech boy, get it over with, tell us what devastatingly cynical comment you have in store," Rodney sighed.
"Actually, I was going to say, I knew it."
That got their attention. "How?" Ronon asked.
"Well, I thought there was something there to begin with. Of course, I stopped thinking that after Chaya, but-"
Four voices groaned.
"What, what did I say?" Radek asked.
"Chaya," Sarai said. "Every time they get into an argument, the name Chaya falls at some point. So who was she?"
Radek's smile showed decidedly too many teeth. "She was a scary alien priestess."
John buried his head in his hands. "Am I ever going to live that down?"
Gossip still travelled like wildfire inside the city; people who hadn't seen each other in years were renewing acquaintance, and telling each other all they knew about the other members of the expedition. It wasn't surprising, really, that within a day, a day and a half at most, everyone knew about John and Rodney.
"Everyone keeps staring at us," Yannick said over lunch, which was, as advertised, pretty bad.
"You are quite famous," Teyla said, having taken to the children immediately, to nobody's great surprise.
"Sheppard-McKay children. Gotta be something special, right?" Lorne was one of the few who was not so in awe of the developments of the last years that he couldn't look them in the eye.
"But why does everybody know them?"
Carson shrugged. "A day where one of your parents didn't save us all from certain death was a very irregular day back then
"Great. So our parents are big gay superheroes." Yannick stabbed at his food. He'd never dealt well with excessive attention, but he liked Atlantis despite it.
"Where are they, anyway?" Marina asked, having taken to magic cities and constant attention like a fish to water, as any sensible ten-year-old would.
"So remind me again why you need me for your communing with the Jumper?"
"Come on. You missed these things almost as much as I did."
"I could be in the lab right now, catching up on all the scientific discoveries I missed because you talked me into eloping."
"Ah, but you wouldn't be if you knew this was on offer."
"What, flying aimlessly around in a Puddlejumper?"
"Not aimless. Look."
"Ooh. The beach."
"Pot. Kettle. And did you know, they have this colour in com- mmf!"
There was, after all, one sure-fire way to shut everyone up, even Rodney
And he was just complaining out of habit, because he always complained on Puddlejumpers, and John realized he'd missed the Rodney from Atlantis, too, his overwired, overworked physicist, and his heart beat just that much faster, because they were both here now, with their family, with their friends, and everything had slotted back into place. Not with a bang and fireworks, but with a neat click, like a puzzle piece sliding into place to complete the picture perfectly.
"So, you see? We get chocolate cake after all," John mumbled against Rodney's mouth.
"Thought you didn't like the metaphor."
"It's grown on me."
1 Flying Doctors: Service in Australia that takes the doctors out by helicopter to get to the more inaccessible patients, i.e. the ones in the middle of the desert
2 Sadik: Arabic for friend.