A/N: See author's note at end of story for more details. I don't own any of the characters except for Chrissy and Stephanie. This is all for fun. Please be kind and rewind…er I mean leave a review.
Before the War at Home
by: DtC: K.A.T
Rodney held his crying child tight as the light enveloped the two. He could hear the screams of human and Wraith as the battle raged on. The city was about to fall at any second and neither side would be victorious. It was one last act of desperation to give Christina a fighting chance at survival. Death was all around and Rodney had just witnessed his wife take what was probably her last breath. Her last words before dying were 'Save Christina. . .' That's what he hoped he was doing by using the inter-dimensional transporter he had been working on for the last year. The device was still several months away from completion and it has a fifty percent chance of working but it was better than the certain death if he stayed.
As the light diminished Rodney no longer hear the fighting and there was no smell of the city burning. He only heard the cries of the child in his arms and the smell of Jennifer's blood on him. He blew out a sigh of relief, as he knew they were finally safe.
Radek had seen the sudden burst of light followed by the crying of a small child. His hand immediately went for his radio. "Colonel Sheppard to my lab, immediately." It was what the Chief of Science saw next that shocked him, "Rodney?" he asked, backing up when he saw the blood on him. The Rodney he knew disappeared after Carson's funeral and was never heard from again.
"It worked," Rodney slowly got acclimated to his new surroundings. "Shh, it's okay. No more scary noises," he worked on calming his hysterical daughter. "The Wraith haven't attacked yet?" his attention was now on the small scientist.
"Noooo," the small scientist looked at the man with great unease. "What are you talking about? We haven't heard anything from the Wraith in two years. Where have you been all these years? Whose kid is that?"
The disoriented man scrunched his forehead in confusion, "Been all these... No, I'm not the Rodney you know." So much for asking to talk to yourself. "Christina is my daughter. Where I came from Atlantis was just attacked by the Wraith." Christina's crying was down to a whimper as the child teetered on the brink of passing out from exhaustion.
Radek did not have time to reply as John showed up with Evan and several other military personnel.
"What seems to be the..." John asked as he entered the room, but stopped when he saw Rodney with a kid. There was something odd about seeing Rodney willingly holding a child. "Rodney?" he asked for clarification.
"No. Not the one you know," his mind was working overtime, processing that he had beaten the odds and they had survived to really realize the fact that his wife was gone. Rodney could see the skeptical faces of those around him. "I'm taking a logical guess that the me from this universe hasn't been seen in some time or is probably dead."
"And what makes you so sure of that?" Evan spoke up to voice what the rest of them must have been thinking that this could be some kind of trick.
"Because one of the first things out of his mouth was 'Where have you been all these years?'" Rodney nodded toward Radek. It was only a small miracle that Christina had finally fallen asleep.
John nodded, "He certainly sounds like Rodney."
"Gee. With the infinite number of universes there has to be at least half where my attitude doesn't change much. As fun as this banter is, I'm not in the mood. I just saw my home destroyed and I just lost most of the people I care for. Do what you want with me just don't hurt my daughter. I need to make sure Christina is okay first and then you can ask and do whatever you want," Rodney pleaded as any parent would for their child. He hoped that one of the men in the room was a father and would recognize the desperation in his plea.
Evan was the first to speak up. No one else in the room was a parent and he knew it was how he would be if he was in a similar situation with Stephanie. "Sir, I think we should bring our guests to an iso room so they can be examined and then you can decide what do with him." The Rodney he knew would never have a child, but it was clear as day that this Rodney's life took a very different path and there could be a chance that they could stomach this one.
"Colonel," John eyed his second in command as if he had given the wrong answer. "I'm not sure if that is wise."
"Please," Rodney almost begged. "You don't have to trust me, but don't take it out on my child. I did all of this for my daughter so she could have a chance to live. You can shoot me if I make one wrong move. Just help her." The shell-shocked man was grateful that someone has stuck up for him. "Thank you, Evan."
"Just one question before we go. Where did all the blood come from? That is not Wraith blood," John asked. The patterns did not match up with splatter and looked like he has close contact with a body.
Rodney felt the lump form immediately, it starting to register that Jennifer was really gone. "I tried to save her, but I couldn't. It was too late when I got to her."
The long walk to the isolation room was quiet and Rodney hated the odd stares he received. Hadn't these people ever seen someone from another universe before?
At the isolation room, Rodney and Cristina were left alone for ten minutes before someone came in with clean clothes for both of them. There were even some toys to keep Christina occupied when she woke up again. He could make out the shadows of several figures from the observation room. The nurse also drew blood samples from both of them. Several times Rodney tried to put Christina on the bed, but she would fuss until she was back in her father's arms.
"Dr. Lorne, I think you should do the initial interview. He might give as much..." Richard started to speak until John cut him off.
"What he is trying to say is he might not give as much McKay attitude to you. The Rodney I remember always had a thing for blondes, so you might fare well for him. He might be better behaved to a face he's never seen before," The military commander suggested.
Jennifer looked between the men before her. She had always heard stories about the arrogant Dr. McKay and had always wanted to meet him. Most of the stories had not been pretty, but she wanted to know what made a man like that tick. "I'll give it a shot, but did you consider that where he came from I might not be a stranger?" She turned to her husband who shrugged his shoulders in agreement with the other men.
"I considered that, but perhaps a female presence will put him at ease," John looked at the man through the window and sighed at Rodney's obvious distress. He wondered just how much the man had lost today. The child refused to let him go even in her sleep, and he seemed to act as a father would when soothing his child. John knew he could not easily separate the two.
With a small nod the CMO left the room and made her way down to the isolation room. Rodney did not seem to notice when she entered the room and watched for several moments as he whispered to the sleeping girl. Jennifer noticed the wedding ring on his finger and it was a safe assumption that he lost his wife today. Maybe he is not a jerk like the stories. "Dr. McKay," she said softly and watched as he immediately tensed upon hearing her voice. "I'm sorry for your loss, but I am going to need to exam you and your daughter. Also, I need you to answer a few questions."
Rodney's eyes squeezed shut at the sound of the familiar voice. Four hours ago that voice had been laughing softly in his ear and wishing him fun on his trip with Christina to the lower regions of the east pier and an hour ago it was pleading with her dying breath to save their daughter. Now the voice thought it knew the pain he was feeling, but she couldn't begin to have a clue. "I need to talk to someone else," his voice was strangled and he refused to look at the woman who had the same voice as his wife.
Jennifer was taken aback by the reaction and was not sure what to make of it. "I promise to be gentle."
"Someone else," Rodney insisted. It was not only for him, he knew once Christina woke up she would reach for her mother. "It has to be someone else," his voice now sounded angry. He rubbed his eyes to hide the tears that were on the verge of falling.
"Okay fine I can take a hint," the woman sounded offended. Perhaps this Rodney was as sour as the one she never met, but she was going to give him the benefit of the doubt for the horrors he had seen. She stood in the open doorway and watched for several moments. There was great pain written on his face that the father was trying so hard to hide.
"I think we need to give him some time. I am going to take a good guess and say that the blood that was all over him belonged to his wife," Jennifer said as he rejoined the trio of men.
"Wife?" John never saw Rodney as the marrying type even if he had a child with him.
Jennifer rolled her eyes at the obliviousness of Evan and John. "Did any of you notice that he wears a wedding band? I think it's starting to register with Dr. McKay what happened. You can't fault someone who would do anything to save their child," her eyes fell to her husband, as if to say you should know better.
"That's the problem," Evan knew he had to tread carefully where Jennifer was concerned. "What if that is not his child and he is using her as a way for us to trust him." He had sided with the scientist earlier, but now he was not totally sure about the story McKay told.
John and Richard nodded in agreement, which made Jennifer see red.
"Why would he be so insistent on having someone else examine him if he didn't have something to hide?" John replied.
"What is with you all? I don't think emotions like that could be faked," she could not understand why they were so skeptical of Rodney's claims. Even though the stories made out the astrophysicist to be overly-prickly, she did not think he would be capable of doing something like this. A sound from the tablet, the physician was told alerted that some results of the blood tests were in.
"Some of the DNA profiles are in. Neither of them are Replicators," Jennifer read aloud as she skimmed the findings. "She is definitely his daughter..." her mouth froze in a twist of horror and confusion. It was not something she had expected, but it explained everything.
"What is it?" Richard wondered how bad the news was.
"The reason he did not want me examining him," she flipped over the tablet so the men could read.
"Is that some kind of joke?" Evan's eyes were glued to the tablet.
"No. Why would it be? The only reason the tests came back as quick as they did was because there were samples in the database to compare it to." Jennifer did not know what else to say. She knew there would be other universes where she and Evan were not together and Stephanie did not exist, but it was different when you came face to face with proof. It was strange to watch Rodney, a man she never knew, trying to deal with the reality that he was now a widower and would have to raise his young daughter by himself. The notion that her other self had married him and had had a family gave Jennifer an odd compulsion to want to help and comfort the grieving man.
"The tests basically confirm his story?" Woolsey asked for clarification.
"So far, yes. There is no reason not to believe him," She looked through the window with sad eyes at the man who was trying to comfort his now awake daughter. "He's just a man who lost almost his entire world." Jennifer trailed off and looked at her husband. "You know Christina was the name of my best friend who died when I was fourteen."
"In the same accident that almost killed your mother?" Evan was already feeling a little uneasy at the interest his wife was taking in the new McKay. "Maybe I should try talking to Rodney?"
"I want to try again now that I know what where he is coming from," She had always been intrigued by the tales of Rodney McKay and now it further intrigued her that this version was married to her from his world. She wanted to see what her other self saw in him.
"I don't think that is a good idea," Lorne replied, having several reasons. "The girl is awake. Isn't she going to think you are her mother?" That being one reason and the other was the jealously that was bubbling beneath the surface that his wife seemed very eager to want to help and spend time with the new McKay. There was also the way she looked at the new doctor, a mix of curiosity and intrigue. It was a look Evan had not seen in a long time. He was not sure if it was genuine curiosity or if something else was going on.
"Oh," Jennifer had not put much thought into that fact.
"Can we talk in private for a moment?" Evan gently grasped his wife's upper arm. He wanted to get to the bottom of Jennifer's behavior. For the last couple of months it was obvious that she was pulling away slightly with each passing day. There were too many fights to count and the blowout from the previous night was the worst yet.
"What is it?" the woman sounded slightly annoyed. A ding from her tablet informed the doctor that more test results were in. "Can this wait until later?" she pointed to the electronic device in her arms, a sign they used to say duty calls.
"Do I have a choice?" Evan's voice lacked emotion. Work was the excuse used every time neither wanted to discuss their problems.
"Everyone wants answers where this Dr. McKay came from. I have more results to review. I'll be home later. I promise. We'll talk about this later." Jennifer gave a hint of a smile before dashing back to the infirmary.
The longer Rodney sat alone with his daughter the more it the reality of the day sunk in. Everything he knew and loved was gone forever. A few tears rolled down his pale face. Several hours had passed and Rodney was sure it was closer to half a day, but he had been busy trying to keep Christina's spirits up. There was only so much he could take before his strong façade started to crumble.
"Daddy, where you hurt?" Christina looked puzzled as her father's tears. "No more scary noises?"
"I'm not hurt," Rodney's voice cracked slightly. "The scary noises are all gone and they aren't coming back," he held onto the child for dear life, as if his existence depended on it. In a way it did.
"Too tight," Christina tried to squirm out of the right embrace. "Where Mommy? I want Mommy."
The grieving father's mouth opened, but no sound came out. There was no way Christina would be able to understand that her mother was never coming back. "I...I...I don't know. She got lost."
"Find her," the child demanded as she struck a defiant pose. "Find Mommy," Christina slammed her head against Rodney's shoulder and quickly fell asleep again.
Rodney felt his body begin to quiver with grief. He doubted anyone in this world was going to ever trust him. Part of him wished that the device had not worked and he would be free of this pain coursing through his body. Yet, he was alive and Christina would have a chance at life, which is why he took the insane risk he did.
Jennifer waited until the girl was asleep before reentering the room. She had thought what she was going to say but now looking at the despondent man all those words escaped her. She had planned on visiting earlier, but Laura and Radek had bought their newborn son in with a high fever and lost track of time stabilizing the baby and getting his fever down.
"I thought I said I needed someone else," Rodney felt Jennifer's presence and did not need to look up to confirm who it was.
"I just thought you would like to know that some of the preliminary test results came back and they back up your claim," Jennifer chewed her lip as she watched him hold onto her daughter.
"And you came personally to tell me that?" he finally looked up at Jennifer. It hurt more than he imagined. He never thought she would die before him. "You know if DNA results are included in that then it's pretty messed up that you came to talk to me or do you see me as some kind of test subject? See how different her life was from yours? I'm guessing pretty different since it's obvious that you never met the other me. Getting married and having a child changed me, but it didn't change me that much. I still can toss the snark back and list all the reason why you of all people coming to talk to me is idiotic, mean spirited and not to mention depraved and completely unprofessional. My wife died in my arms. I don't know what possessed you to think coming here was a good idea! Christina lost her mother and the last thing she needs is some strange demented woman coming over here to confuse her. You are not the woman who gave birth to her in the back of a jumper." His eyes swept up toward the observation room, "Was this your idea, Sheppard? See if you can break me? Well it's too late flyboy, I'm already broken," the anger and the venom of his words increased the tension in the room exponentially.
The shocked woman had not expected the reaction to be so harsh. "I'm sorry I thought I could help. I cannot imagine what you must be feeling." Jennifer stepped back several steps very timidly, not knowing if there would be a more violent outburst. "How long have you been married?"
Rodney sat in silence for a long minute before answering, "It's going to be five years in two weeks. Christina will be three in a month and a half." Once he started talking the words would not stop.
"I really am sorry for your loss," Jennifer tentatively laid her hand over his. "We...I just want to help."
"Help?" Rodney looked up with tears brimming in his eyes. "Nothing short of going back twenty hours and saving her will make it better." After that statement he lost all control and the tears fell and violent sobbing wracked his body.
The only thing Jennifer could offer was a shoulder to cry on and to let him take the time he needed to grieve. She rubbed his back soothingly and let his emotions spill forth.
Evan slapped a nearby wall as the scene unfolded in front of him. This was exactly what he was afraid of happening and the only reason he did not burst into the room and break the two apart was because of the child Rodney had in his arms. Grieving or not the whole situation stunk like a week old dirty diaper. Christina was the only thing that prevented the astrophysicist from having a broken nose.
"Another broken promise," the now angry man muttered to himself. He did not need to see anymore as the knot in his stomach twisted tight enough to make him feel nauseous. Evan was doing all he could to save his marriage which was almost perfect until a few months ago. He knew something was bothering Jennifer and every time Evan pressed his wife for answers she dismissed his worries. The fight from the previous night was the same as it always was; Jennifer would come home late without telling him. It was hard because Stephanie asked for her mother to put her to bed and most nights the child went to bed disappointed. He took the verbal battle too far when he asked if she was cheating on him. Last night was the first time Jennifer's voice got loud enough to wake Stephanie. Dealing with a crying toddler and the snipping back and forth led to the married couple to sleep apart for the first time because of a fight. If there was no trouble in their marriage, Evan would not have thought anything wrong about Jennifer helping Rodney. The tiny devil in the dark recesses of his mind planted the idea that she was looking for an escape from their marriage and the man she was comforting was the perfect candidate especially since Christina had a biological connection with Jennifer. A ready-made new family.
Jennifer's eyes grew when after she caught a glimpse at the time on her watch, realizing she was two hours late. The weary physician braced herself for the fight she know was coming. She briskly walked toward her quarters and winced at the image of the scowl she would be met with the moment she walked in the door. "I'm sorry. I lost track of time."
"There is something new," Evan said sarcastically. He detested using that tone, but as the pressure from their strained marriage grew, the tired husband found himself doing and saying things he would normally do.
"It's not my fault. Laura and Radek bought Milo in with a very high fever. It took a while to get it down and him stabilized,"
"Really? Then why did I see you with your arms around McKay," He thought it was low to use a baby as an excuse.
"You were spying on me?" Jennifer did not like the idea that Evan did not trust her. "I checked in on Rodney for five minutes. He broke down. What did you expect me to do? Leave him crying and distraught? For the record Milo is still in the infirmary. Marie is watching over him."
"What has really been going on with you?" He let only a hint of the distress he was feeling leak out.
"Huh? What are you talking about?" Jennifer scowled at the accusing tone of her husband.
Evan pursed his lips and puffed his cheeks as a way to keep his emotions in check. "Why are you so eager to jump all over HIM and help? Why are you so insistent on paying so much special attention to a stranger?"
The annoyed doctor clicked her tongue against her cheek, "You're jealous? I can't believe you." Jennifer called out her spouse only as one spouse could when they thought their other half was being unreasonable. "I'm not paying special attention to Dr. McKay. I cannot imagine what he is going through right now. Everyone, including you, is so distrusting of him. He just lost his wife and the mother of his child and I expected you to be a little more sympathetic of the situation. I guess all these years in the military have hardened you."
"That's not fair, Jen. What do you expect us to believe? This Rodney just shows up covered in blood, claiming the Wraith just attacked his world. I thought all the years here would have taught you to be a little more cautious of strangers showing up like this," his voice betrayed the actual anger he felt.
She knew her husband had a point, but there was something that made her felt as if she could trust him and she went onto explain that. "There was just something about his expression...that kind of emotion could not be faked. Maybe it's maternal instinct, but he needs someone to reach out and help. He risked everything for a chance to save his daughter. You know you would do the same for Stephanie. Is having a little compassion for Dr. McKay too much to ask for?"
"I didn't mean it that way. Why did it have to be you? It would be different if he wasn't..." Evan was unsure how to word what he wanted to without coming off as the insecure jealous husband.
"You mean if the other me wasn't his wife? I love you, Evan but this jealous streak is very unbecoming. There is nothing to worry about. There is nothing wrong with helping someone who needs it. Everyone has cast this veil of doubt and suspicion over him and it's not what he needs right now. Both of their worlds have been torn apart and that little girl is going to grow up without a mother. That's not right. Someone needed to extend them an olive branch and since no one volunteered so I took up. I know the rest of you might find it hard to separate the McKay in isolation from the jerk everyone knew, but he is not that man," Jennifer did not understand her compulsion to want to help the stranger. Perhaps it was the need to she felt to fix something or in this case someone who was broken.
"Do you love me? I mean really? It seems as if for the last few months you have been pulling away from me. I'm not the only one who has noticed. It's time you stop denying that nothing is wrong and tell me what's really going on. Do you want this marriage to work?" It was the difficult question that needed to be asked.
"How can you even ask that?" Jennifer's face contorted into a weird form of horror that the taboo question was asked.
"Your behavior the last couple of months says so. I know something is going on and you keep denying it. You never answered my question last night," Evan knew he sounded like a broken record, but once he hoped to get through to her.
The frustrated woman sighed, "I refused to answer it because of its absurdity. How could you honestly think that I would cheat on you? You know me better than that," Jennifer was tired of all the fighting.
"I thought I did, but I'm not so sure any longer. You hardly talk to me, and you're slipping away a little more each day. Do I even know you anymore?" The raised voice dropped to reveal only concern. Evan watched as Jennifer struggle whether to reveal the true nature of her problems. "Enough is enough. Just come out with it."
Jennifer chewed her lip as she fought a losing battle with her emotions. This was not is battle to fight and she felt that she was the best equipped for this battle. "It's my mother!"
"Your mother?" Evan was confused what the woman had to do with his. He knew his mother-in-law did not care for him a great deal. "What does Stella have to do with this?"
"I'll show you," the emotionally drained wife walked to her dresser and pulled a stack of paper out. "A dozen or so emails she has sent me the last four months."
The equally drained husband roughly took the papers and started reading. It took only three lines into the first email to have his anger bubble over. The number of insults directed at him was staggering and it made a McKay rant look like praise. Mistake, neglected child, not fit to be a husband or parent, better that Stephanie stays with us were the things that stuck most in his mind and the rest of the emails melted into mindless ranting. The same mantra was repeated in each email with each growing with more venom and insults.
"You see..." she said with a high pitched squeak.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Evan gripped the paper, crushing it in his hands.
"Because you always say ignore her and I can't do that...she's my mother. You have it easy. Your parents are much more understanding about everything and my mother..." Jennifer could not bring herself to say it.
"Nitpicks every choice you make," he wanted to say the woman was a world class witch with a capital B.
"After a while I'm starting to think maybe she could be right. Maybe this isn't where I should be," the woman admitted in a soft voice, unsure of her own assertions.
"What do you think? Not your mother. You." Evan looked sympathetic. "You're in a different galaxy than she is. She can't control you here, and you can make sure you ignore her emails. Better yet, get a new email address." Being a strong woman, it amazed Evan how his wife let a bully like her mother influence her with such negativity. He imagined it had to drive his MIL crazy that Jennifer was no longer completely under her thumb.
"I...I...I'm not sure," Jennifer did not want her husband to see the shame in her eyes. Tears poured down her face, knowing her mother would always have this power over her no matter how hard she tried to break it. She could never sever family ties no matter how toxic the relationship was.
"Come here," he took his crying wife in to his arms. "We'll make this work. Somehow some way," Evan whispered as he pressed his lips against Jennifer's forehead.
Jennifer let herself be lead to the bed in the comforting embrace of Evan and unloaded the several weeks of emotions that she had bottled up. It was the conversation that should have happened after the first email she received from Stella. The long conversation was the first steps in repairing the crumbling foundation of their marriage. The problems would not be fixed overnight but as long as both were committed to making their marriage work there would be a light at the end of the tunnel.
A/N: This serves as a prequel to my War at Home series. Thanks go out to Ladygris for who originally planted this idea in my head months ago. It took a while for the seed to plant and take hold. She also helped with the beta work and keeping Evan IC. Thanks to Shadows-of-Realm for his beta work as well. My vacation recharged my muse that work sapped energy from (also this piece would not leave me alone until it was written) and hopefully I can get back to a regular posting schedule and finish my other works. Thank you for being patient.
Plot: After a sudden and devastating attack by the Wraith, Rodney is forced to try out an experimental device will transport him to another dimension in order to give his daughter a chance at survival. How will he adapt to a world where their Rodney has not been heard from for years and his dead wife is alive with a family of her own? Will her already shaky marriage be able to survive?