Summary: After Rodney's disappearance, Jack deals with the past and plans for the future.
Info: This story begins one week after Rodney disappears from Atlantis.
The tall and eloquently dressed man stood and offered his hand first to General O'Neill, and then to Doctor Jackson. "I hope that one day you will be able to explain all this to me, General," Justin White said, a sweep of his arm indicating several large crates, a battered leather satchel, a large painting wrapped in canvas, and a sturdy expandable portfolio that he'd brought with him from New York.
Daniel grasped the man's arm. "I promise you Mr. White, if we're ever able to, I'll come visit you personally," Daniel said with sincerity.
Justin White took in Daniel's expression, and his clear, straightforward gaze, and believed him. Justin had grown up knowing that he would most likely be the one making the trip to Colorado Springs. His grandfather had told the stories about Meredith Rodney McKay and John Sheppard for as long as he could remember. Stories that his grandfather had heard from his own father. Along with his grandfather's facts were also the rumors and speculation that had swirled around the two clients and their highly unusual request.
The stories he'd heard as a boy had been the deciding factor in his choice of careers. He'd taken the helm of the large, long established law firm at the young age of thirty, and made his reputation based on hard work and an unassailable code of ethics. Which made this task all the more difficult. As curious as he was, as curious as he'd always been, his code of ethics didn't allow him to go through the materials that had been left in his great-grandfather's care.
The letters of instruction had been very clear. He hadn't been allowed to contact anyone at Cheyenne Mountain in advance. He hadn't even been allowed to formally discover if Jack O'Neill or Daniel Jackson existed. There had been a two-week window in which the legacy must be delivered. It had taken Justin a week to make sure that the wooden crates and other things were all present and accounted for and in good enough condition to be moved.
Justin would never tell anyone, but he'd fully expected to leave Colorado Springs embarrassed and with his task unfulfilled. Over the last month, Justin had been making plans to begin research to discover if McKay had any living descendants. He knew that John Sheppard had descendants, and as a last resort, he would have turned the legacy over to them. The Sheppards had been clients until Patrick Sheppard had moved Sheppard International to Virginia.
Justin had been in law school at the time, but his father had insisted he sit in on the dissolution of the legal relationship. Lawyers from Sheppard's new law firm had also been there as well as a roomful of lawyers from his family's firm who took several weeks to unravel the complex legal code that had made Sheppard International a Fortune 500 company. The law firm in Virginia had close ties to the firm in New York, and as such, Justin had been called in to consult on several occasions over the years. He hadn't liked Patrick or David Sheppard, but would have felt an obligation to turn over the crates to the younger Sheppard if O'Neill or Jackson hadn't existed and if there were no provable McKays related to the M. R. McKay who had been the firm's client.
A brisk knock indicated that Mr. White's escort had arrived along with several Airmen to transport the crates to Jack's office. Daniel shot Jack a wry glance, curiosity and questions easy to read in his expression. He grabbed the satchel and the portfolio, obviously eager to begin wading his way through the material.
The General and the archeologist followed the crates to Jack's office, locking the door behind them. "This can't be our McKay, can it?" O'Neill asked Daniel.
"I don't know, Jack. It sounds - - crazy," Daniel acknowledged.
"Do you have the key?" Jack said, indicating the satchel.
"Yeah," Daniel replied, opening the lock.
Jack opened the bag, removing the letter that was addressed to both him and Daniel. He carefully opened the envelope and removed the somewhat brittle and fragile sheets of paper. He and Daniel read the letter together.
Once Jack had finished reading the letter, he immediately arranged for a data burst to Atlantis. He ordered Lorne to seal McKay's quarters to everyone. Doctor Zelenka was working hard on discovering what had happened to Rodney, but Jack couldn't allow him to find the remaining devices like the one Rodney indicated was responsible for his trip into the past. They were locked in the safe in his apartment, and Jack was determined that no one else discover them.
He returned to his office to find Daniel rereading the letter. "Do you think he really did it?" Jack asked.
"Which part?" Daniel snorted.
"Any of it, all of it," Jack said.
"I don't know, let's see," Daniel exclaimed, delving into the satchel.
He carefully pulled out three large bundles wrapped in canvas and tied with sturdy twine. He cut the twine and opened the canvas wrapping to discover a slightly smaller bundle wrapped in thick brown paper and tied with more twine. The package was addressed to Jeannie Miller.
When the wrappings were finally removed, dozens and dozens of photographs were revealed. The two men went through them, discovering Rodney's life, or at least part of it, told in the intimate portraits.
"It certainly looks like McKay and Sheppard," Daniel observed.
"Open up the other two bundles," Jack requested.
The other bundles, wrapped identically, were addressed to David Sheppard and Radek Zelenka. They contained the same photos, with one exception. Radek's package held a faded and frayed photo of the expedition. It was almost jarring to see the color photo among the black and white and sepia toned ones.
Daniel went back to the bag and pulled out two thick bundles of letters in unsealed envelopes that had been wrapped. They were all addressed to Jeannie Miller in Rodney's hand. "You're going to have to go through these, y'know," Jack informed his lover.
"I know," Daniel said.
The next item to come out of the bag was a large cloth pouch that held jewelry. Rodney had listed the jewelry in his letter, and it was all accounted for. Daniel replaced the jewelry carefully. He wanted to show it to one of his anthropologists who was an expert on jewelry. To his eyes the pieces looked valuable, and well crafted.
Daniel removed wadded up paper that had filled the empty spaces of the bag and rooted around to pull out two hard leather cases with two large jewel like devices secured to the cases. Daniel had read about their discovery. He wasn't the only one to be reminded of the Goa'uld reading devices. He'd postulated that the Goa'uld had adapted the Ancient tech for their own needs just like they had for most of their technology.
Daniel removed one of the tablets from its case, and both men were shocked when the nifty transparent tablet unfolded and turned on for him. They were only supposed to work with those who had the gene.
"Hangover from ascension?" Jack wondered out loud.
"Probably," Daniel agreed. This wasn't the first time Ancient tech had responded to Daniel. There was no pattern that Daniel or Jack could discern as to what tech would respond or when.
"Go ahead, Daniel. Let's see if Sheppard did what Rodney claims he did." Jack suggested.
"Um, recent documents," Daniel said aloud for Jack's benefit as he thought the same sentiment. Immediately page after page opened on the tablet screen. Daniel flipped through the pages, picking one at random. The page was entirely in English, as was the menu that popped up. "Shit, Jack, I think maybe he did it! We'll have to go through more of the tablet to see if its organized, but I think it's all in English."
"Crap. How come no one ever thought to just ask it nicely?" Jack laughed.
"Colonel Sheppard didn't spend a lot of time with the database, Jack."
"Yeah, but given the way the city responded to him, you'd think someone would have at least asked him to attempt to organize the database," Jack complained. Limited access to the database had been only one of the obstacles the expedition had encountered. Jack supposed the Wraith, the Wraith worshippers, limited power, and the like had commanded all of John's attention.
There was one more item in the bag that Jack wanted to see before he opened the tablet with the square green jewel attached to it. Although he was anxious to begin viewing the video messages Rodney said he'd left, he thought the device Rodney claimed was responsible for his journey to the past was more important. Even after the lawyer's story and viewing the obviously old photos, Jack could hardly believe Rodney had lived out his life in the past.
The only item left in the satchel was a wooden box. Daniel removed it and pried open the top. Inside sat another wooden box, this one being well crafted out of what Daniel thought was either teak or mahogany. He opened it and saw a thick square of oilcloth.
"Careful," Jack cautioned as Daniel unfolded the cloth.
The device was sitting in the middle of the cloth on Jack's desk. "Huh, looks like a gold coin," Daniel said.
Jack gave him a puzzled look. "Uh, no it doesn't, Daniel. It looks like a big computer chip. It's got all these green and blue things criss-crossing it. Sort of like embedded wires, but prettier."
Jack's hand clamped on Daniel's shoulder when he reached out carelessly to pick up the device. When nothing happened, Jack loosened his grip, but didn't remove his hand. Daniel examined the disc closely, turning it over and over to examine it. When he'd examined it from every angle, Daniel rewrapped the device in the oilcloth and put it back in both boxes. "Seems impossible that such a small device could be responsible for time travel," Daniel observed.
"Whatever," Jack said. "Just promise me you won't touch it if I'm not with you," Jack pleaded.
"No time travel if you're not with me, Jack. My word of honor," Daniel laughed, crossing his heart. "You ready to see Rodney's messages?"
"I'm not sure there's really a way to prepare for something like this, Daniel," Jack said dryly. He opened the other tablet, and when it opened, Rodney's face appeared on the screen. He thought play, and Rodney's voice filled the room. . .
Jack woke suddenly, forgetting for a moment he was in his quarters on base. His internal clock rarely allowed him to sleep past 06:00 no matter how late he'd gotten to bed. Checking his watch, he saw that it was only 05:15. Beside him, Daniel was snuffling softly, his loose-limbed sprawl indicating he was sleeping deeply. Jack had woken briefly when the other man had found his way to bed a few hours before.
Yesterday, Jack had watched hours of Rodney's video messages addressed to him while Daniel had gone through the crates containing papers, journals, and the other personal effects Justin White had delivered. They had listened to Rodney explain in detail how he had ended up in the past, his life with John Sheppard, and his research into charging the ZPM's as well as a brand new and cheap power source.
The device that had allowed McKay to escape into the past had been locked up tight in Jack's office safe. He wasn't taking any chances with it.
Jack hadn't handled the device fearful he would activate it. Daniel had no such fears; he not only lacked the ATA gene, but he saw the discs as gold coins, a phenomenon Rodney had detailed in a video message. But, as his ability to use the cool tablets had proved, all bets were off when it came to one Doctor Daniel Jackson and Ancient tech. Jack had decided not to take any chances and kept his hand on his lover's shoulder the entire time he handled the device. He was determined that if the overly curious man activated the device, he was going along for the ride.
The device had invaded Jack's dreams, the green and blue tendrils escaping the disc, and winding round and round his limbs. He'd woken this morning with the intent of finding out if this particular device was still operable.
Opening his safe, Jack remove the wooden box, and retrieved the device from the box that held it. He examined the disc closely as it lay on the oilcloth. The pretty device was shot through with green and blue, and looked innocuous. It certainly didn't look like something capable of sending someone more than a hundred years into the past.
Finally, Jack took the disc in his hand, and gripped it tightly. He felt an immediate rush of power slam through his body. It left him shaking and dizzy for a long moment. The walls of his office shimmered briefly before fading away completely. In an instant his office was gone.
Jack found himself standing on a wide dirt road bracketed by four-foot stone walls and thick woods beyond the stone walls. The temperature was on the cool side, and Jack could see a perfect blue sky through the tree breaks. The trees were a riot of reds, oranges, and yellows, and the woods were still and devoid of animal and insect sound. Behind him, the road stretched out as far as he could see. It began curving about thirty feet in front of him, giving him time to scramble behind a wall when he heard voices approaching.
Jack cursed silently for not thinking to arm himself. He'd known instinctively the disc would work for him. He had wanted to test out the device before Daniel took it in his head to go for a jaunt even though Jack was fairly convinced this particular disc would not work for his lover. This wouldn't be the first time Jack had acted on impulse and instinct and he was pretty sure it wouldn't be the last, but he preferred going into any unknown situation armed.
As the voices got closer, Jack could hear that they were singing. He positioned himself behind some thick brush so he could see, but not be seen. When he recognized the song and saw the group of four people on old-fashioned bicycles, he nearly burst out laughing.
Rodney's voice was the strongest, joined by a childish voice belonging to a boy around ten, a hesitant lilt from a young man of around fifteen, and the off key rumble of John Sheppard.
"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do,
I'm half crazy all for the love of you.
It won't be a stylish marriage,
I can't afford a carriage.
But, you'll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two."
Jack took in the two men carefully. John's thick hair was still mostly dark, but there was white mixed in with the dark. Jack thought back, but couldn't recall if he'd ever seen John look so happy or carefree. His eyes were crinkled in delight as he started singing, bellowing out the song, seemingly entirely comfortable - - and willing to overlook his out of tune singing and make a fool of himself. The boys were laughing; the older boy was John in miniature and the younger boy's delight was easy to read on his open, expressive face. Jack's heart clenched for a moment because this boy was very like his son Charlie had been. Every emotion was plain to see; love and anger and hurt and joy.
It was Rodney that was the real surprise for Jack. His hairline had receded quite a bit from the last time Jack had seen him only a few months ago. He was as broad and strong as ever, but the look of contentment on his face was startling.
Jack had seen all the photos that Justin White had delivered, and Rodney had looked well in all of them, but seeing the man's face now was a revelation. His wide mouth, so often turned downward in a partial frown in the future, was now smiling broadly even as he was singing. His eyes were shining, and as he threw a soft glance at John, Jack could see love there as well.
The real difference Jack supposed was in air of relaxation that was easily seen in Rodney's body language. Jack had never seen the astrophysicist so relaxed, not even after sex. Jack looked his fill as the small group passed him, and something deep within him was eased.
When Atlantis had dialed in with the report of Rodney's disappearance, Jack was sure the man had found a way to bypass every security measure on the city and commit suicide quietly. Although many people would argue that McKay just wasn't that selfless, Jack and the people who knew Rodney best were aware that he would never intentionally hurt his loved ones. The Rodney he knew would prefer to leave a mystery rather than a body.
Even after receiving the crates filled with papers and photos and video messages that proclaimed Rodney's happiness in a hundred ways, large and small, Jack had worried about him. Worried that Rodney couldn't possibly be as happy as he'd made out.
O'Neill felt he owed McKay his life. Recalling how unhappy and reckless he'd been after Daniel's ascension, Jack knew he hadn't valued his life and had been searching for death. When his job hadn't obliged, Jack had, for the second time in his life, considered eating his gun. Every night the feel and smell of his weapon became more appealing. That changed after the two days he spent in bed with Rodney.
This excursion into the past was inevitable from Jack's view. Rodney had claimed in one of the video messages that he'd been afraid to destroy the device, fearful that it would throw him out of the past, or somehow destroy the past. But, Jack thought now, he could've easily thrown it into the ocean, or buried it somewhere.
He wondered if Rodney had included it with the other stuff knowing that Jack would need the real and visual confirmation of his new life. Since Rodney hadn't mentioned a visit from Jack, he could only assume he never made contact with the scientist. It was also possible McKay had somehow sensed his presence, or had even seen him just now and included the disc so Jack could make the trip he'd already made.
Whatever the case, all the paradoxes of time travel made Jack's head spin usually giving him a headache anytime the subject came up. He decided to just stop thinking about it. Jack knew his brief sighting of McKay and Sheppard wasn't really enough, not for a man like him, but it would have to suffice. It was all he was going to get and he would have to be content with it.
He knew he couldn't see Rodney again, but he decided he'd take a few minutes to explore. Waiting a few more minutes until the bike riders were well and truly away, Jack began to walk in the opposite direction. The road curved gently and before long he came to a hand crafted sign reading 'Oak Tree Manor'. Two rock columns, eight feet tall graced the start of the broad path leading up to a graceful white house.
He took a few moments to look over the house, imagining Rodney, Sheppard, and the two boys living their lives in and around the large home and expansive property. Jack wondered if the house was still standing in the future and determined he would find out.
When he had looked his fill, Jack walked back into the tree line. No need to alarm anyone if they happened upon him. He gripped the disc tightly and watched as the big white house and trees vanished and were replaced by the walls of his office.
By his own estimation, Jack had been in the past for less than an hour, but he was exhausted. He felt the need to assure himself that his lover was real and solid and was still sleeping in their bed. He was quiet when he undressed and then crawled back into bed.
As soon as he settled, Daniel sat up. "So, was he okay?"
Looking sheepish, Jack asked, "How did you know?"
"You're crazy if you think I don't know you, Jack. I know that you were worried about him even if you hid it well," was the smug reply.
"Yeah, well, I know what he was going through. I just had to make sure. Are you mad?"
"Not at all," Daniel answered. "If I was going to get upset, I would've gone with you. Or tried to anyway."
"Honestly, Daniel, I don't think the device would've transported the both of us. I think the only reason I was able to go was because I had a personal connection to McKay," Jack explained.
"Did you see him?"
"Yeah. Him, Sheppard, and the two kids. Not to mention the big ass house in the middle of nowhere. They were all riding bicycles and singing that lame bicycle built for two song," Jack chuckled. "He looked happy. Sheppard too."
Daniel began laughing. "Seriously? McKay was singing? Man, I'd pay money to see that! I don't think you should ever tell Sam."
"Agreed," Jack said gravely. "In fact, I have no intention of telling her that there are more devices. I don't plan on telling anyone."
"How will you explain the papers?" Daniel inquired.
"That's easy enough. We'll let the key players know where McKay landed; everyone knows the Ancients experimented with time travel. We'll just keep it vague; make it out to be an accident or something. And we're not letting anyone see the messages either, except Sam and Jeannie Miller, and I'll be limiting them to the messages addressed to them. We'll release the other tablet and the papers to Sam and Zelenka so they can get started on recharging the ZPM's," Jack detailed.
He had begun coming up with a believable story while Justin White was still telling them about his clients. He'd been making plans since the moment he knew more of the devices existed. "We'll have to come up with a story about where the tablet was found. And the tablet with the messages will have to be stashed with the devices."
"So, we're going to lie to everyone?" Daniel quietly remarked.
"More like omitting some of the truth, Daniel, O'Neill admitted, taking his lover's hand.
"Jack ... You can't possibly think Sam would use the discs to our detriment," Daniel protested.
"No, of course not. But - - the tech is dangerous, Daniel. What if it got into the wrong hands? They could go back in time and change all of our history. I'm just not willing to take that chance," Jack confessed. "The more people who know about the tech, the more difficult it is to protect. Those discs will never leave Atlantis and their existence will be on a need to know basis. Right now only you and me need to know."
With a sharp nod, Daniel acknowledged his lover's concern, twisting his hand in Jack's to stroke his thumb along the top of Jack's hand. "You think I would learn after all these years to just trust your judgment."
Jack laughed. "It's my job to see the worst in any situation, babe, it's yours to see the potential."
"So, sleep, or back to work?" Daniel asked, abandoning his protests.
Jack swept hooded eyes across Daniel's naked chest. "I was gonna go for blow jobs."
Grinning, Daniel leapt out of bed. "We'll wrap things up at 04:00, go for dinner and then spend the rest of the night in bed."
"Deal!" Jack agreed, getting up to redress.
Several hours into their cataloging of the materials, the phone rang. Jack answered, annoyed by the interruption. "O'Neill," he barked.
"Is this General Jack O'Neill?" a cultured voice asked.
"Speaking. Who is this?"
"General O'Neill, my name is Russell Mayer. I'm an attorney in Canada. Several months ago Doctor Rodney McKay retained my services. I'm calling you as per my instructions," the voice informed him.
"Are you able to discuss those instructions?" Jack asked.
"Yes, I am. I was instructed to tell you that Doctor McKay named you executor of his estate. I overnighted you a package containing all of the details of my work for him. I was also authorized to answer any questions you might have," Mayer informed Jack.
Jack briefly scrubbed at his face, thinking fast. "Okay, give me the short version of what you sent."
"Sure. Doctor McKay liquidated all of his assets and established an irrevocable trust fund for his sister, his niece, and any children his sister might have in the future. He also made provisions for Kaleb Miller in the event he and Jeannie Miller divorce," the attorney listed.
Knowing there had to be more, Jack asked, "What else did you do for him?"
The lawyer hesitated briefly before answering. "Doctor McKay wanted me to check out a law firm in New York. I tried to tell him to contact the firm directly, but Doctor McKay was quite - - insistent."
Jack chuckled. "That's Doctor McKay."
"So I came to find out. I bill at five hundred dollars an hour, General. Because Doctor McKay insisted I complete his request in a such a short amount of time, I had to charge him seven hundred and fifty dollars an hour," came the explanation. "I was attempting to save my client some money."
"What did you find out?" Jack inquired, although he was pretty sure he already knew the answer.
"That the law firm in question has an impeccable reputation. There has never been even a hint of scandal associated with it in all the years they've been in existence," came the swift reply.
"I see. Anything else I should know?"
"No, General O'Neill, that's it. You should be receiving the package today. If you could pass along my name and number to Mrs. Miller, I would appreciate it. And, of course, if you have any questions, call me," Mayer said cordially.
"Will do," Jack said hanging up.
Daniel looked up from a book he was scanning. "What was that about?"
"It seems Rodney planned his trip into the past a little better than I expected," Jack began, proceeding to tell Daniel what Russell Mayer had told him.
Once Jack and Daniel had gone through all the material sent to them, at least superficially, they decided it was time to bring Sam on board. She was called into Jack's office and quickly briefed. She viewed several of the video messages related to the research Rodney had done, and was given the copies of the papers Rodney had earmarked for her. No information on how McKay landed in the past was given to her. She had the papers delivered to her lab and she retreated there to go over the work done by McKay and Sheppard.
Daniel gave her two days to get lost in Rodney's research. An airman had informed him that Sam had requested meals to be sent to the lab and that no one had actually seen her leave her lab since she'd entered it. He decided she needed a break and went to her lab to take her to lunch.
Knocking at her door, he heard a muffled, "Go away!"
"It's me, Sam," he yelled.
A moment later, the door was unlocked and he entered. Sam was already back at her desk, two computers open, and surrounded by papers. Several white boards were covered in complicated math. Sam was red-eyed and pale. Daniel immediately went to her side and knelt. "Are you okay, Sam? I was getting worried. Looks like I should have started worrying yesterday."
She fell into Daniel's arms, weeping quietly. He let her weep, stroking her back and making shushing noises, completely at a loss as to what else to do. Sam was rarely this emotional. Rubbing at her face, she got herself under control.
"I'm sorry, Daniel," she murmured. "It's just that Rodney's work - - it's a lifetime of work, and it's so damn beautiful. I'll never get the chance to tell him or to thank him. I don't know how I can be so pissed at him and happy for him at the same time," she explained.
"So, he really figured it out?"
"Oh, yeah. I think we'll be able to charge the ZPM's within six months. And we'll have a new energy source within five to ten years. Whoever does the energy research will win a Nobel Prize," she said.
"Well, that's gonna be you, Zelenka, and hopefully, Jeannie Miller," Daniel reckoned.
"Truthfully, I don't think anyone else could do it, Daniel," she concurred. "It just seems - - I don't know? Unfair?"
"Rodney made his choice, Sam. We have to respect that," he counseled.
Sam ran her hands through already messy hair. "I know. I do. It's just that I never expected to miss him so much."
Chuckling, Daniel asked, "How long before you finish going through this stuff?"
"Thoroughly? Maybe six weeks. I figure we can send Zelenka his copies of the papers in two or three weeks. And then - - I'll be heading to Atlantis, Daniel. I plan on asking the General for a transfer by the end of the week," she confessed.
Daniel nodded. It wasn't unexpected. It was where he wanted to be as well. Now, if he could only convince Jack. "It won't come as a surprise," Daniel acknowledged, give Sam the reassurance she'd been subtly seeking.
Sam was briefing Jack on her progress when Daniel burst into his office. "Jack, I need to go to the Hastings-On-Hudson Historical Society," Daniel exclaimed.
Jack shared a look of amusement with an equally amused Carter. "Is there anything else, Carter?"
"No, Sir. I'll keep you updated on my progress," she said respectfully. "And, thank you, Jack," she added softly.
Waving a hand at her unnecessary thanks, Jack dismissed her before turning to his lover. "So, how long will we be there and what do we need to do there?"
"What? No protests?" Daniel asked in surprise.
Daniel sprawled in a chair as he regrouped. He'd come in expecting an argument and Jack had taken the wind out of his sails. "I'll need at least four days. Most of what I need isn't online yet, so I have to go through their archives and microfiche."
"I'll leave it to you to set up the details, Daniel."
"Thanks, Jack," he said. "You should also know that Oak Tree Manor is open to the public. It's one of those historical houses."
Jack sat back on his chair. "Well, that'll save me the trouble of trying to talk my way in," he grinned. Jack was glad to hear the house was still standing; he hadn't had the time to find out on his own.
Daniel left to arrange their stay, and Jack went back to his endless paperwork.
Jack and Daniel checked into The Heritage House, deposited their belongings in their room, and got directions to Oak Tree Manor and the Hastings-on-Hudson Historical Society, which was housed in the Hastings Library, as well as St. Andrews, where John and Rodney were buried. Their hostess was unfortunately unable to give them the locations of the graves. They headed for Oak Tree Manor first so Daniel could see where and how Rodney had lived his life.
As they approached the Manor, Jack tried to overlay the past onto the present, but it was difficult. The Manor and the surrounding houses sat on huge expanses of land, and were enclosed behind thick, tall walls or fencing, but much of the woods had been destroyed, and the roads were all paved. When Jack had visited the past two weeks ago, Oak Tree Manor had been the only house around for as far as the eye could see.
He navigated the rental past the rock columns that still stood and into a small parking lot. There were still quite a lot of trees on the property, and the two men took in the quiet and the large, well maintained Greek Revival home. Although the house was only opened from May to October, Fay Newberry, the woman in charge of the Historical Society had arranged for Bill Leahy, who headed the museum staff, to meet them.
They walked to the side door entrance and knocked. A casually dressed man in his seventies opened the door and welcomed them. "General O'Neill, Doctor Jackson? Come in."
Introductions and handshakes out of the way, Daniel asked if they could look around. They were given permission and the two men wandered through the large home. Because Daniel was an anthropologist, Bill had agreed to open the entire house, including the areas that were usually closed to tourists.
Bill puttered in the kitchen, putting up coffee and slicing the pie his wife had made for his guests. It wasn't often that he had the opportunity to discuss the history of the house he loved with an expert.
Daniel and Jack wandered through the large house, each of them seeing different things. Jack saw the home Rodney had made with John. The rooms were spacious and comfortable, and there were photos of the two men and their family scattered throughout. Jack could feel the presence of the people who had lived and loved here.
Daniel, with his educated eyes, realized that many, if not most of the items in the home were authentic. The furniture was of the highest quality and was remarkably well cared for. He knew that any large museum would be thrilled to have any one of the items here for their collections. It was perhaps the most impressive historical house outside of Europe he'd ever seen.
The two men found their way back to the kitchen and Jack's eyes lit up when he spied the cherry pie. Bill had been drinking a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper. He sprang out of his chair, poured the coffee, and served the pie. "What did you think, Doctor Jackson?"
"Oak Tree Manor is beautiful Mr. Leahy. You're very lucky to be able to spend so much time here," Daniel answered truthfully.
"I agree with you, Doctor Jackson. To be honest, I was surprised to hear about your interest in the house. Usually it's the Gold Coast Mansions that get all the attention, and in this area of course, it's Washington Irving's home," he said.
Daniel nodded his head knowingly. He'd been to all of the Gold Coast Mansions. "Can you tell me how the house became open to the public?"
Bill sat down, and launched into his explanation. "After the original owner, John Sheppard died in 1930, there was some debate between his sons as to what would be done with the house. It was the Great depression, you see.
"They eventually decided to close the house up for a time. Of course they hadn't lived here in years. They hired a caretaker, and after the war, they decided to give the house and the property to the town of Hastings provided we keep it as a museum."
Jack had inhaled his slice of pie and was eying a second piece. "Do you know the history of the house before it was opened up to the public," Jack inquired.
Bill deftly slipped a second piece of pie on Jack's plate before answering. "The house was built in 1875 by John Sheppard and his wife, Virginia Rose, as a summer home. Virginia died in childbirth in 1878, and John, his two sons, and his aunt moved here permanently about ten months after Virginia's death."
Taking a sip of coffee, Bill continued. "Late in 1880, John hired a tutor for his oldest boy Patrick; one Meredith Rodney McKay. It was common back then for rich people to hire live-in tutors for their children, and John had married money. He was a Civil War hero, and Virginia Rose Palmer was one of the wealthier debutantes in New York City."
Jack nodded at the information. Daniel's research had uncovered John Sheppard's history including his war record and his marriage. Jack was more interested in what Bill Leahy knew about Rodney. "I noticed a lot of the photos are tagged with the tutor's name," Jack observed.
"Noticed that, did you?" Bill chuckled. "It was quite the local scandal for a time. The town is still divided as to which was the greater scandal; John's gypsy roots or his suspected relationship with his son's tutor."
Jack looked over at Daniel to see amusement coloring his expression. Bill had the same habit as Daniel; that of talking about long dead people as though they were friends, or known to them personally.
"How did the town find out John's people were Travelers?" Daniel asked using the correct terminology.
"When John first moved to town, he passed his Aunt Sabina off as his housekeeper. At the time, Doctor Jackson, as I'm sure you're aware, there was a great deal of prejudice against the Irish, and not even the Irish liked the Travelers," Bill said. "I'm Irish myself and the prejudice still exists. By 1885, John was so rich, his roots didn't matter, and he began telling people the truth."
"What exactly was suspected about John and Rodney's relationship?" Jack asked, already knowing the answer, but curious as to how the town had viewed the men.
"Well, thanks to two local women, the talk that they were romantically involved started almost immediately. They were two busybodies who couldn't mind their own business," Bill huffed.
Jack snorted, thinking Bill was being very diplomatic using the word romantically. He could only imagine the unpleasant words that had really been used.
"What do you think, Mr. Leahy?" Daniel inquired.
"All I can tell you is that Rodney joined the household and never left. They were always together and I doubt anyone ever had the courage to ask them outright. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say they were most likely lovers, but don't expect me to say anything bad about them," Bill said with some heat.
"My grandmother, Birdie was their housekeeper for many years. They took very good care of her, and she only had good things to say about the whole family," Bill confessed. Birdie had actually told Bill a great deal more about the family, but she'd always emphasized that John and Rodney's secrets were theirs to keep. Bill had adored his grandmother, and there was nothing that could tempt him to reveal those secrets.
Daniel looked at his watch. "I have an appointment with Ms. Newberry in fifteen minutes. May we come back to visit, Mr. Leahy?"
Bill rose and scribbled his number on a piece of paper. "Fay told me you'll be in town for several days. Here's my number, I'll be happy to open the house for you whenever you like."
"Can you write the directions to John and Rodney's gravesite?" Jack requested, figuring he'd know exactly where the two men were buried.
"Sure. If you'd like to visit the cemetery, I could run Doctor Jackson to the library," he offered.
Agreeing in a brief glance with the plan, Jack and Daniel split up.
Jack quickly found the cemetery, and located the two graves using Bill's clear directions. Although the weather was cold, he sat on the small bench and contemplated the two graves, reading the headstones over and over.
Beloved Father and Companion
There is no remedy for love but to love more
Meredith Rodney McKay
Lose not yourself in a far off time, seize the moment that is thine. . .
In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities
He thought about the love John and Rodney had shared and refined his plans for the future. He said his goodbyes to Rodney, and then left to help Daniel with his research.
Fay Newberry was waiting for Daniel, and she eyed him approvingly when he managed to get to the library on time. She was a tiny bird-like woman in her sixties, with well-coifed grey hair, and whose half-moon reading glasses hung off an expensive beaded chain. She was wearing a blue sweater set, and a blue wool skirt, a shade deeper than her top. She wore a necklace with large pearls slanting toward pink, and reminded Daniel of a lady who 'lunched'. He figured if not for her dedication to the Hastings archive, that's exactly who she would be.
Both her small hands gripped his in greeting. "I'm so pleased to meet you, Doctor Jackson. After our phone conversation, I took the liberty of gathering the material you said you wanted to view," she babbled, leading him into a room in the back of the library. "Mr. Sheppard and Mr. McKay were very popular figures in their time, so there is quite a bit of information."
Lifting an eyebrow, Daniel asked wryly, "Even with the scandals?"
Fay gave a small giggle. "Oh, yes. They were wealthy and handsome. Both scandals were rather short lived, and they did so much for the town. John's roots meant little after the shock of it wore off, and it was never proved that they were gay, although they most assuredly were gay."
"What makes you say that?' Daniel asked.
"I have no direct proof, Doctor Jackson, but the inscriptions on their graves tell me everything I need to know. And from all accounts they were completely devoted to each other. I think it's a wonderful love story," Fay admitted.
Daniel silently agreed. "How long has the Historical Society been around?" Daniel inquired politely.
"Since 1950. Clara Batherson ran it out of her home for thirty years. When she died two years ago, the town council decided to house the archive in the library. I've been involved for ten years," Mrs. Newberry fluttered.
On one of the tables, four boxes were stacked, all neatly labeled. Fay explained the archive system to Daniel. "The microfiche for the years you're interested in are here," she said pointing, "and the photos are in these boxes. The microfiche machine is in the corner and the copier is by the coffee machine."
"I'll be needing a lot of copies Ms. Newberry, as I told you. If you like, I can pay for the paper and toner," Daniel offered.
"I think your generous donation to the archive will cover that, Doctor, but I appreciate the offer," Fay said. She had been shocked when a check for a thousand dollars had arrived before Daniel's visit.
"Thanks. My colleague will be joining me soon, but I'd like to get started right away," Daniel informed the small woman.
"Of course, Doctor Jackson. I'll be at my desk if you need anything. Feel free to help yourself to coffee."
Daniel thanked her and opened the first box.
It took Jack and Daniel four days to go through the photos and microfiche. Jack had looked at every photograph in the boxes provided, scanning each one for Rodney or John. He'd made copies and had been surprised that Rodney had been so much a part of the small town.
Daniel read through decades of the local newspaper, scouring each addition for mention of Rodney or John's name. He couldn't work for more than a few hours at a time without developing a headache, so they took a long break each day around noon.
They would grab a bite to eat and meet Bill Leahy at Oak Tree Manor. Daniel thoroughly photographed the house, and both men listened to the many stories Bill had to tell about the home and the family it once housed.
Daniel had returned to the cemetery with Jack twice and was deeply moved by the sentiments on the headstones. On their final visit they left a bouquet of mixed flowers on each grave.
Once Daniel told Jack that he would soon be done going through the microfiche, Jack called the Miller's, asking if he and Doctor Jackson could visit the next day. He spoke with Kaleb, and while he didn't give him any information, he made it clear that he had news to give them about Rodney.
Jack arranged their flights so that they would be arriving and leaving Canada the same day. After they spoke to the Miller's, there was no reason to be in Canada. They left Hastings-On-Hudson at 06:00 for an eight o'clock flight, secure in the knowledge that they now had as much information as was available about Rodney McKay's life in the past.
Daniel rang the doorbell of the neat suburban home. Kaleb Miller answered the door, looking unhappy as he motioned the men in. Although Jack had been as vague as possible when he had reached out to the Miller's, it was clear from Kaleb's tense body language that he was expecting bad news. It was also clear that he didn't want O'Neill or Jackson in his home.
"Is your daughter at home?" Daniel asked.
"No, she's at school. We thought it would better to keep to her normal schedule," Kaleb replied.
Daniel nodded in agreement as they were led into the living room. Jeannie was sitting on an easy chair in the toy cluttered living room wringing her hands nervously. She turned a pale face towards Jack and Daniel. "If he's dead, just tell me quick."
Exchanging a look with his lover, Daniel replied, "Um, it's not as easy as that I'm afraid."
"It never is with Meredith," Kaleb hissed.
"May I sit down?" Daniel asked Jeannie, ignoring Kaleb.
Nodding her assent, Jack and Daniel took seats on the couch and Daniel began explaining. He'd been the one to call her when John had died and when Rodney went missing, so it was agreed that he would be the one to tell her that Rodney was never coming home.
It didn't take much time to lay out the true circumstances of Rodney's disappearance to Jeannie. She'd grown paler by the minute, and when Daniel was done, her eyes were flashing with anger.
Kaleb began laughing. "You can't possibly expect us to believe this crap! It's bad enough that you've put my family in danger in the past, I won't have you upsetting my wife!"
"Sit down, Mr. Miller, and let us finish," O'Neill ordered. He watched as Kaleb sat on the arm of his wife's chair. Jack leaned forward, taking Jeannie's hand. "Rodney left a video message for you that I think you should see," he said gently.
He grabbed his laptop from its case and turned the screen to Jeannie. He had set up the video before they'd come into the house. He pushed the play button.
An image of an older Rodney filled the screen. He waved self-consciously. "Um, hi, Jeannie, it's me - - Meredith. I, uh, I don't really know what to say..."
"Just talk to her, Rodney," Sheppard instructed off screen.
"Yeah, okay, I can do that. Today is January 1st, 1900. I - I've been meaning to do this for twenty years. I don't know if you can ever forgive me, Jeannie, or understand... But, when I had the chance to be with John, I had to take it.
"Jack has a bunch of stuff to give you - - letters, and photos and some financial stuff. I know money can't make up for me leaving, but it's all I have to give you. I, uh, I hope you'll at least take the money for Madison."
Rodney's face then lit up in joy. "I did it, Jeannie! I figured out how to charge the Zeds. And a way to solve the energy problems. It needs some work, though. I know the SGC won't give you my work, but I've told Jack he'd be a moron not to hire you. I'd like for you to consider it.
"I'm happy, Jeannie, really happy. If I have any regrets, it's that I don't know how your life will turn out and that I won't get to see Madison grow up. I think about you everyday. I really hope that one day you can forgive me for leaving.
"I don't know if you'll ever get to see this. Hopefully, Jack'll be able to work around the security issues. But in case he can't, I wrote you at least one letter a year - - on your birthday, and I'll keep doing it.
"Kaleb, if you're watching this, you'd better take good care of my sister and my niece. I don't know what you'll end up telling Madison, but maybe you can tell her that I love her."
"What about me?" John whined off camera.
"Oh, for ... Come here," Rodney groused.
John knelt next to Rodney. "Jeannie, meet John Sheppard."
His handsome face split into a grin, John waved. "Hello, Jeannie. I promise you, I'll take good care of your brother. Hell, I've been doing it for almost twenty years now."
Rodney made a rude noise, and faced the camera, smiling. "I love you, Jeannie. I always have."
The video ended abruptly. Jeannie sat stunned and still for a moment before great wracking sobs erupted out of her.
Kaleb tried to console her as he shot dark, threatening looks at the two men on his couch. Jack and Daniel allowed Jeannie her grief.
"So he's dead, right? Surely he can't still be alive," she demanded, still crying.
"He died in October of 1929, Jeannie," Daniel told her gently. "John died in January of 1930."
Jack reached into his bulky briefcase and withdrew a long envelope. "Here are the locations of the graves. Daniel and I were just there."
Jeannie's hand shook as she reached for the envelope. She took it and laid it on the coffee table without opening it. "Meredith said something about photos?"
Reaching again into his briefcase, Jack plucked out a thick bundle and handed it over. Jeannie opened the package and went through a dozen or so photos, smiling through her tears. She put them aside carefully and looked at Jack, silently demanding the rest.
Jack handed over the letters next. Daniel had skimmed through them, checking to make sure they contained no classified information. He had registered his discomfort with Jack about having to look through such personal missives, but had done his job anyway.
Jeannie didn't open any of the envelopes and both her visitors assumed she wanted to read the letters in private. He reached back into his briefcase and took out a sizable cloth pouch. "It's jewelry. The men's jewelry was his, but he bought various pieces throughout the years for you and Madison," Jack said.
Jack next took out the expandable portfolio. He'd had the SGC accountants and lawyers check out the financial details without giving them any information about where the various financial instruments had come from. Despite reassurances from Russell Mayer and Justin White's reputation, Jack wanted to make sure there were no improprieties. It would take them several more months to complete their work, but so far, everything appeared to be above board.
Jack cleared his throat. "When Rodney was on Earth a few months ago, he took care of a few things, Jeannie. It's pretty amazing that he was able to get so much done in such a short amount of time. He found a local lawyer and put everything he had into a trust fund for you and Madison.
Kaleb, if you and Jeannie ever divorce, you'll get a settlement of 2.5 million dollars. If you attempt to seek a larger settlement, the entire fund goes to charity," Jack detailed.
"Generous of him," Kaleb drawled.
Glancing at him in disapproval, Jack continued. "Between his bank accounts, investments, the total came to nearly twenty million dollars. There'll be more from his insurance once his death certificate is issued."
Jeannie sat back in her chair, limply. "What? You're kidding me, right?" she asked, stunned.
Taking in her pale face, Jack wondered how she would cope with the rest of it. He plunged ahead. "No, I'm not kidding. There's more, whenever you're ready."
"Well, you might as well spit out the rest of it, Jack. I'm already in shock," she said.
"Rodney began investing shortly after he arrived in the past. In 1925, he left detailed instructions with his lawyers as to what stocks to purchase and when to buy and sell," Jack disclosed. "He had another trust fund set up in your name, and a percentage of money from the stocks was put into it every year," Jack continued.
Jack exchanged a look with his lover. The final figures were going to change Jeannie's life forever. "Your brother accounted for both the crashes, inflation, and attorney fees. As per his instructions, all of the financial instruments were put into your name on January 1st of this year. There's a lot of blue chip stocks as well as stocks in communications, energy, and technology," Jack said carefully. He refused to be rushed, wanting Jeannie to understand the scope of what Rodney had done for her.
"In addition, there are a few real estate holdings, including fifteen acres in Colorado Springs. The Colorado Springs property is so that you can have someplace close to the SGC to live. If you decide not to work for us, Rodney stipulated that the property goes to me. He gave you a year to decide," Jack itemized.
Jeannie laughed suddenly. "Leave it to Meredith to try and control my life even under these circumstances."
"He was your older brother, that's sorta his job," Jack grinned. "So, taking into account just the stocks and trust fund, it comes to eight hundred and thirty seven million. You can throw in another fifteen to twenty million for the real estate," he finished.
Jeannie's eyes unfocused briefly. "I need a drink. Kaleb, please get me a glass of wine," she requested. She didn't say anything as her husband rose and walked into the kitchen.
Once there, Kaleb quickly opened two bottles of wine and placed the bottles and four glasses on a tray. He carried it out to the living room and poured a glass of wine for his wife. He handed it to her and watched her drink it down in one long swallow, holding out her glass for a refill. He didn't say anything as he poured her a second drink. He gave it to her and filled glasses for himself and his two guests.
Jeannie drank her second glass of wine just as quickly. She turned to Jack. "I must have heard you incorrectly. You couldn't have said eight hundred and thirty seven million dollars."
"No, you heard right," Jack confirmed, sipping at his wine.
"What the hell am I supposed to do with so much money?" she shouted.
"Well, you could start building a house in Colorado Springs and maybe start a scholarship in your brother's name. After that, you could come work for us and win a Nobel Prize," Jack said sagely. "Rodney wanted you to have choices, Jeannie."
"I - - I need to discuss this with my family, General."
"Understood. Here are the numbers for both lawyers in case you have any questions. And, I'm leaving you my direct number as well as Daniel's number," Jack told her, letting her know that he and the SGC would be there for her.
"I want you to seriously consider coming to work for the SGC, Jeannie. It's what your brother wanted, and I'm not a moron," he said slyly.
Jeannie got up and kissed his cheek. "Thank you, Jack. I'll give you a call in a day or two." She turned to kiss Daniel. "Thank you, Daniel."
Kaleb escorted the two men out and then returned to his wife to begin planning their future.
In the weeks since Justin White had delivered the legacy left by Rodney, a great deal had been accomplished. Daniel had verified and documented Rodney's time in the past. He'd finished cataloguing all the items they'd received. He had gone through the journals written for Radek Zelenka, packing them up along with the papers, photos, and several personal items Rodney wanted him to have, including a stunning picket watch and fob.
They had been to see Jeannie Miller; delivering the bad news along with everything Rodney had wanted her to have. Sam had begun to recreate Rodney's work on the ZPM's, putting aside the work on a new energy source for now. She kept careful notes that she could send to Zelenka until she got to the city. She'd begun the tedious process of closing her house and notifying the utility companies and the cable company to shut down services. Sam had decided to keep her house for the time being, even though most of her time was now spent on base.
Jack was in the process of tying up as many projects as he could, knowing that his life would be very different once the work on the ZPM's was in full swing, and after they had access to full ZPM's. He pulled his 2IC off his team and worked him hard, cramming as many details involved in running the SGC down Mitchell's throat as humanly possible.
Daniel, Sam, and Jack had worked ridiculous hours over the last weeks, staying on base more often than not. With the exception of their trip to Hastings-On-Hudson, Jack and Daniel had only been home twice since Justin White delivered the crates.
But, now that the bulk of the work was done, Jack intended to have an early night at home. To that end, he informed Mitchell he would be leaving early, and went to collect his archeologist. For once, Daniel didn't balk at leaving early.
Although both Jack and Daniel were sick of eating commissary food and longed for a home cooked meal, neither one of them felt like grocery shopping, or cooking. They decided to get home, shower, and order pizza. They watched TV while eating, enjoying the normalcy of such a mundane activity.
They found their bed early enough, and fell on each other, kissing and stripping. Rodney's decision to give up his life in order to be with John had deeply affected them both. Jack especially, knew what it was like to find and lose the love of his life. He had been lucky enough to get Daniel back.
When their relationship started, they had both been surprised and overwhelmed at how quickly it had turned into a deep and passionate love. After years together, the white-hot passion of their early days was still there; not always, but often enough that neither ever took it for granted. Added to the passion was a deep understanding of each other, along with the intimate knowledge of the other's body.
Daniel used this knowledge to work Jack up quickly. Biting lightly at his sensitive nipples, he kissed his way down to Jack's balls, kissing and gently sucking them wetly.
Gratified to hear throaty moans, Daniel took Jack's thick cock in his mouth, sucking hard. Pushing his own need down, concentrating on his lover's pleasure, Daniel rubbed his thumb over Jack's entrance.
Jack lay back, spreading his legs wantonly. He stroked Daniel's head and shoulders, nearly beyond words. All too soon, Jack felt his body tensing. "Close, Daniel," he groaned.
Daniel doubled his efforts, wanting to feel Jack pulsing in his mouth. The scent of Jack's cock and his sweat was driving him wild. He could feel him straining to keep his movements in check.
Jack's hand suddenly clenched in his hair as he came. Daniel swallowed greedily, lapping at his lover's cock.
"Come here, Daniel," Jack breathed, tugging at him.
Daniel crawled into Jack's arms. Jack flipped him on his back, kissing him and slowly jerking him.
Jack had such big hands, and Daniel loved the feel of them on him. Jack had grabbed some slick and his hands were sliding up and down, just where he needed it the most. He thrust into his lover's tight grip, moaning into his mouth.
Sobbing for breath, Daniel's hips pumped until he was spilling deliciously into Jack's waiting hands.
As he lay in the arms of his lover, Daniel finally broached the subject of Atlantis. "Jack, now that we have a way to charge the ZPM's, I'd like to spend some time on the city," he stated.
"Really, Daniel? I never would have guessed," Jack teased.
"Jack, be serious. It won't be forever, and it'll be safe. I'll even promise not to go on any missions," Daniel pleaded.
"Well, Daniel, I'm perfectly willing, but you'll have to wait a few months," Jack stipulated.
"Wait for what?" Daniel was sure this was yet another delaying tactic on Jack's part.
Gathering Daniel closer, Jack sighed. He'd been planning on telling Daniel over a romantic dinner. "We have to wait until the President promotes Mitchell," he said. Although Colonel Mitchell was in charge whenever Jack had to be in Washington, the President wanted a General at the helm of the SGC.
"Also, Carson Beckett's clone is in the process of closing up his clinic. I contacted him with Rodney's suggestions about getting rid of the Wraith and he wants to work on the city, so we have to wait for that. And, we've just started negotiating Jeannie Miller's contract. She doesn't want to be on Atlantis full time. At least not yet, so we're clearing her to work part time in the mountain and discussing how much time she needs to spend on the city," Jack listed.
"You said we," Daniel observed.
"Oh, yeah. Didn't I tell you? I asked for and was given command of Atlantis. I'll be replacing Doctor Weir," Jack said smugly.
"No, you damn well didn't tell me!" Daniel denied.
"I had planned on resigning, but the President feels and I concur, that the program will have to be declassified within the next five to six years," Jack explained. "Once that happens, we'll have to return to Earth for a while, and it would look better if I were still a General, rather than a civilian."
Frowning, Daniel asked, "What did you tell the President?"
"I told him that there was an accident and Rodney was somehow thrown into the past. As for the rest of it, I lied to him, Daniel. I told him that McKay's tablet was found on Atlantis with his and Sheppard's preliminary work. I told you, I don't trust anyone with the full story," Jack said.
"When did you do all this, Jack?"
"Two days after we took delivery from Justin White," he admitted. "I had a story laid out in my head from the very beginning. I've been speaking with the President nearly everyday, Daniel."
"Aren't you worried he'll figure it out?"
Jack cupped his lover's face. "I love how you worry about me, Daniel," he said tenderly. "Honestly? I think he knew I wasn't telling the whole truth. He'll let me get away with it because he knows if I lied, it was because I had a damn good reason."
Daniel snorted. "I guess you get a lot of slack if you save the world five or six times."
"Yup. A lot of slack, and your choice of command," Jack agreed. "Have you written Zelenka's letter yet?"
"No, I was planning on doing that tomorrow. As soon as I'm finished, we'll send his boxes through to Atlantis."
"Tell him to keep the lights on for us," Jack ordered.
Moving deeper into Jack's arms, Daniel murmured, "I'll make sure to do that."
Upon Jack's arrival on Atlantis, he sequestered himself with Elizabeth Weir for the first three days as she formally turned over control of the expedition. She made a point of going through the personnel files of every person currently on Atlantis, telling Jack details that couldn't be found in any official document.
He oversaw the party that was given in her honor the night before she left Atlantis. Jack's appearance on the city to take her place seemed to break something in her. Still reeling from John's death and then Rodney's disappearance, she'd quietly expressed her gratitude that it would be Jack taking her place.
The entire expedition, including Jack, was on hand to see Elizabeth through the 'gate. She accepted their hugs and well wishes with her usual grace, and no one was unkind enough to mention the tears that slid continuously down her face.
After Elizabeth's departure, Jack met with every single scientist and military asset on the city, Lorne, Daniel, and Zelenka by his side. He read a mountain of reports concerning everything from how much toilet paper was used to every experiment currently being run. He'd always scanned these reports while at the SGC, but had concentrated on the ones Elizabeth had marked urgent. He had had underlings to deal with the minutia of running an offworld colony, and he'd had enough paperwork to deal with running the SGC.
After meeting every member of the expedition and reading every report that the department heads felt were vital, he'd given approval to more than a dozen experiments, and along with Lorne, Daniel, Teyla, and Ronon, had green lighted numerous missions for first contact or to shore up existing treaties. As a tribute to Rodney and to appease his lover, Parrish was given permission to grow whatever the hell he wanted in the greenhouses that Jack agreed should be opened, especially the coffee beans Rodney had discovered.
Overseeing Atlantis from Earth was quite different than being in command on the city. Jack was exhausted each night, the seemingly endless meetings taxing his patience to its breaking point. He would return to his and Daniel's quarters long after most sane people were sleeping and draw his lover close as he tumbled into sleep. Jack's management style was somewhat looser than Dr. Weir's, but he wanted things done his way nevertheless.
In the end, it took two full Atlantean weeks for Jack to make his way to McKay's locked quarters. He approached the small apartment feeling a small twinge of guilt about what he planned to do. He wasn't worried about getting caught, or even that what he was going to do was illegal; it was more the principle of the thing, the knowledge that he would be appropriating technology for his own selfish purposes.
Yet - - despite how illegal his intentions were, he was going forward with his plans anyway; he knew the Pegasus galaxy was dangerous. Yes, they now had a method to recharge the ZPMs, and were working hard at eliminating the Wraith, but still - - Jack knew anything could happen on the other side of the 'gate. Disaster took many forms, and he was unwilling to leave anything to chance.
Jack had some theories about how the devices worked based upon his own experience and the video messages Rodney had left for him. Daniel had spent time in the apartment where the objects had been found and had made some educated guesses and then some intuitive leaps, which had shored up Jack's theories. He'd always been a planner, and tried to account for every contingency, but sometimes a leap of faith had to be taken.
Entering the apartment felt like the worse sort of violation to Jack. Even knowing the ultimate fate of the two men who had once lived here couldn't change that feeling. Rodney hadn't bothered to clean up before he'd made his last trip, and Sheppard's things were still scattered around the rooms where they'd been before his death. Zelenka had searched the apartment when Rodney vanished, but he'd been careful not to disturb anything in case there was a clue to be found.
Surprisingly, the rooms didn't feel or smell musty. Jack supposed it was the environmental controls that accounted for that. The apartment looked as though whoever occupied it would be returning at any moment. Ignoring the impulse to look around and discover the private lives of the two men who had once shared this space, Jack went immediately to the safe where he knew the other devices were stashed. Zelenka had of course known about the safe but he hadn't had the time to break Rodney's code.
Jack's hands were steady as he entered the code. The safe door slid into the wall revealing only the box that had been left there. Jack recognized the box from Rodney's brief description and he took several seconds to admire the craftsmanship, thinking he would soon show it Daniel along with the device he planned to initialize.
Opening the box, Jack prodded through the discs until he touched one that that felt right to him. He picked it up gingerly, holding it between his thumb and forefinger. Taking a deep breath, Jack placed the device in the palm of his hand and gripped it tightly, thinking Daniel, Daniel . . .
Next: The Painting