Warnings: # 24 in the Ancient!John 'Verse; takes place during "McKay and Mrs. Miller"
Parings/Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney, Jeannie Miller/Kaleb, Sam Carter/Jack O'Neill
Summary: Jeannie learns the truth about what her brother's been doing for the USAF
Notes: First thing's first, this was hard to start. Secondly, Jeannie is proving to be a lot tougher to write than I'd anticipated. She draws EVERYTHING out, and so I got nowhere near as far as I'd intended with this installment. Thirdly, this is probably the last story I finish for the AJ 'Verse for a while, as I'm shipping out on the 12th and will have no internet access until mid May at the earliest. Fourthly, I was bored today, so Iohannes & Rodney's new quarters can be seen here. Fifthly, "Angelus" means "Angel" in Latin.
Oh yes, and six, I think this might be the closest to actual R scene I've ever written.
An Ancient!John Story
Jeannie is in the middle of making cupcakes when the doorbell rings. She glances at the oven timer - four-and-a-half minutes until the next batch is ready - and wipes her hands on her apron before answering the door.
"Hello," she says cautiously when she sees a blonde woman in military dress blues on her porch with two of Vancouver's finest. "Can I help you with something?"
"Yes." She swallows audibly. There's only one reason she can think of that an American Air Force officer might show up uninvited like this on her very Canadian doorstep and the very thought of it has her gripping the doorframe tightly. "Is my brother alright?" She and Mer might not be the closest, but they've started getting to know each other again since his own unexpected visit last summer. Admittedly, most of that's John's doing - she's been emailing her brother's boyfriend on a fairly regular basis, - but it's still better than what they had before. She can't lose him now.
The officer gives her a sympathetic smile. "I apologise. I realise how this must seem, but I assure you that, to the best of my knowledge, your brother is just fine. I'm Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter of the United States Air Force and I'm actually here with regards to a different matter."
Jeannie glances towards the kitchen. As important as this is, she just doesn't have the time to bake more cupcakes if something happens to these. "I see... Do you mind if we talk about this inside? I'm kind of in the middle of making cupcakes for my daughter's school bake sale, so..."
"Yes, of course." Colonel Carter dismisses the two VPD officers and follows her into the kitchen. "Rodney's never mentioned anything about having a niece."
"You know Meredith?"
"It's his name. Meredith Rodney McKay. He prefers 'Rodney' for some reason," Jeannie sighs, not really understanding it herself, and pulls the last batch of cupcakes out of the oven and setting them to cool on the stovetop. Several dozen are already awaiting frosting in their yellow and blue paper cups on the kitchen island.
"That's brilliant," the Colonel laughs, honest and true. "But, yes, I know your brother. I've worked with him on several occasions over the years. We're in the same field, academically," she elaborates at Jeannie's raised eyebrow.
"Engineering or physics?"
"Physics. Which is actually what brings me here."
"Colonel Sheppard forwarded me a copy of the math proof you sent him several weeks ago. I must tell you, it's impressive work. Is it true you did the original calculations in finger paint?"
Jeannie blushes as she riffles through the knife drawer, looking for something to ice the cupcakes with. "Inspiration struck," she admits, grabbing a pair of spatulas before turning around. "I got caught up in the math. It happens sometimes."
"I understand. It happens to me all the time. I once-" she catches herself. "Well, the details aren't important. What 'is' is that your proof has some startling real world applications that we'd like you to consult with the United States military on. You would, of course, be compensated generously for your time."
Jeannie hands the Colonel a spatula and pushes the bowl of icing into the centre of the kitchen island. It's simple buttercream - homemade, with real ingredients instead of five kinds of chemicals someone brewed up in a lab somewhere just so a box can sit on a shelf for a while longer, just like the cupcakes.
"I fail to see what real world application a trans-universal matter bridge could have, even for the US military."
The corner of Colonel Carter's tongue peeks out of her mouth as ices one of the cupcakes with, well, nothing short of military-grade precision. "I can go into more detail if you'd like, but first you'll need to sign a non-discloseure agreement."
"I'm sorry, Colonel-"
"Call me Sam, please." The corner of her mouth twitches. "We're practically family."
Jeannie's brow wrinkles, but she chooses not to question this odd assertion for the moment. Instead she continues, "Well then, I'm sorry Sam, but I believe that getting proprietary about our research and ideas is everything that's wrong with science today. If there's 'any' value to my proof, it's that it'll spark an idea in someone else. The last thing I'm going to do is sign away my rights, least of all to the US military."
To her surprise, Sam nods understandingly and ices another cupcake. "Normally I'd agree with you, but we're talking about some pretty exceptional circumstances here. There are some things that we are simply not prepared to tell the general public about at this time. Or that the general public is ready to hear. And while steps 'are' being taken to change that, the process would go much more smoothly if you agree to help us now."
"I'm sorry, but no."
Sam bites her lower lip and sets down her spatula. "Would it help any to know that you'd be working with your brother and Colonel Sheppard?"
"My brother's a genius and John's a Millennium Prize winner. I'm sure they can figure it out without me."
"While I'm sure that's true, it would be a lot easier - and go a lot faster - with your assistance."
Jeannie 'hmms' and ices another cupcake.
Sam sighs and pulls out a cellphone, sucking the icing off the ball of her thumb while she waits for it to connect. "Walter," she says when it finally does, "can you have Doctor McKay brought to his sister's house in Vancouver?" There's a pause. "Yes. As soon as possible." And another. "Promise him we'll have him back in under twenty-four hours. Oh, and try to make sure the IOA doesn't know he's coming. We don't want to open that can of worms quite yet if we can help it. Thanks, Walter." She snaps the phone shut. "Rodney should be here within the hour."
"You think bringing my big brother into this is going to change anything?"
Sam blinks, as if the thought that it wouldn't had never occurred to her, and picks up her spatula.
The Colonel has iced her way through three cupcakes before curiosity gets the better of Jeannie's anger. "I thought," she says, "that Mer was stationed somewhere in Afghanistan."
"God, no. Is that what he told you?"
"I read the article in 'Time' about John when the CMI announced he'd solved the Riemann Hypothesis. It said that John was in some dangerous part of Afghanistan, and where one is, the other's not far behind."
"Well," Sam muses, "you're not wrong about the second part."
Jeannie frowns. "Why would they lie about where he's posted?"
"That's complicated too."
Sighing, "What 'can' you tell me then?"
"Without signing the non-disclosure agreement? Not much."
"Alright, what about you?"
"Me?" Sam repeats, surprised.
"If we're going to be sitting here for an hour waiting for my brother to show up from whatever not-Afghanistan place you've got him tucked up away in," Jeannie points out, gesturing between them with her spatula, "you might as well tell me something about yourself. Unless," she smirks, "I've got to sign a non-disclosure agreement for that as well?"
"It's the price you pay."
"For what? Being a lead scientist on the next Manhattan Project?"
"You forget," Sam says, setting an iced cupcake carefully on the tray before carefully selecting another, "that the Manhattan Project didn't just build the weapon which ended the deadliest war in human history and saved the lives of countless Allied soldiers, sailors, and airmen. It also gave us atomic power, spurred advancements in nuclear medicine, and left behind a series of national laboratories, without which our current way of life would not be possible."
"Yes, because that excuses killing two hundred thousand people."
"Best estimates for Operation Downfall, the Allied plan to invade Japan, would've resulted in five hundred thousand American and six million Japanese deaths. That's the 'cold calculus of war' for you." She says it like she believes it - not in the fanatical, jingoistic way she's seen so much of since the towers fell, but with the quiet devotion of a soldier who'd do anything for the men and women fighting at her side. It's a tone she expects from war-weary veterans in the movies than a military scientist whose probably never seen a day of fighting in her life.
It doesn't change anything though.
"And how many people will this weapon you want to use my proof to build kill?"
"We don't want it for a weapon."
"Then why all the secrecy?"
"Sign the non-disclosure agreement and I'll tell you."
Jeannie looks at the dark grey folder sitting next to the plate of already frosted cupcakes. It can't hold more than five or six pages, for all it was delivered to her by a lieutenant colonel. "This form, it's just a non-disclosure agreement?"
"And it doesn't sign me into some sort of intellectual slavery to the US military?"
"Different forms. I don't have them with me - you have to sign the non-disclosure agreement before you can even read them."
"Alright." She sets down her spatula and picks up a pen. It may be a mistake, but she's never considered curiosity to be a fatal sin. "Where do I sign?"
"Just the places marked with the little post-it flags," Sam tells her, carefully peeling the paper off one of the just-iced cupcakes. "Mind if I...?"
"No. Sure. I mean, go right ahead." She signs her name in four places and pushes the folder towards the Colonel when she finishes. "So, what do you want to use my proof for?"
"The holy grail of high-energy physics: drawing zero point energy from a parallel space time without fear of creating exotic particles."
Jeannie blinks. Not what she'd expected. (Not that she knows what she expected, but it certainly wasn't anything like that.) "And Mer? Where are he and John stationed?"
Sam wipes stray frosting off her upper lip before answering with a wide grin, "The Lost City of Atlantis, on a planet some three million light years away in the Pegasus Galaxy - the irregular dwarf one, not the spheroidal. As far as we can tell, there's nothing of interest there."
"I see," Jeannie says faintly, feeling her blood sugar plummet. "I think I'll have a cupcake now myself."
The bed in their new suite shifts underneath him as John kisses a wet trail up his chest.
"God," Rodney groans.
"Not exactly," he chuckles, detouring to swirl his tongue around his left nipple.
"You think you're so funny."
"I think I'm hilarious," John says before leaning in to kiss the protest off his lips. It's a kiss that makes no pretence of chastity, with John quickly licking his way inside and pressing him into the bed as he ravages his mouth. Rodney can still taste himself on John's tongue, but that's quickly lost beneath the Ancient's own flavours - sea salt and root liquorice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Old flavours, ancient flavours, ones John still favours if given half a choice about the matter. Tastes that haven't change since he Ascended.
He's panting when John finally remembers he needs to breathe. "Keep that up and we might manage round three after all."
He feels John's lips twitch upwards from where they've gone back to mouthing the line of his jaw. "It's been," he says, "a hundred thirty," between, "days since I," kisses, "Ascended. I'd be more surprised if we couldn't."
"Don't remind me," Rodney mutters darkly.
John pulls back at this, choosing to collapse into a wriggling ball of laughter beside him on the bed rather than continue the 'very' interesting thing his tongue had been starting to do at the join of his neck. "You're the one," he gasps when he can finally string two words together, "who wanted to wait until we could both get off to do anything."
"Well sorry if I'd rather our sex life be a two-way street," he protests, face heating up.
(John had offered- Well, he'd offered a lot of things while he'd still be working through his Tactile Dysfunction - but the idea of using John that way had just felt wrong. He was Rodney's lover, not some kind of rent boy. If they were going to have sex, both of them were going to or neither would. Even if the wait had nearly killed him.)
"I wouldn't have offered if I didn't want to."
John hums contentedly. "Still, even better than I remembered."
"Oh? We grading ourselves now?"
"You're right. Probably a bad idea to start that. I mean, I'd give us a high eight, low nine for execution-"
Rodney slaps his shoulder.
John's smile just widens. "-but we'd barely scrape a four for difficulty."
He doesn't know whether to laugh or be outraged. He settles on the latter. "A four!"
"We could go for a seven and-" he stops mid-sentence as both their radios start beeping furiously. With a great sigh, John rolls over and plucks both off the bedside table. "This is Sheppard," he says into his, tossing Rodney his own. "You can't be serious."
Chuck's voice is already coming over the other end by the time Rodney gets his in his ear, "...so, Sir. Colonel Carter specifically requested his help. The SGC assures us that, regardless of the outcome, Doctor McKay will be back on Atlantis in less than a day."
"Help with what?" Rodney asks, already rolling out of bed - the blissful, San Francisco king-sized bed John had somehow convinced one of the Athosians on the mainland to make for them; what it lacks in prescription memory foam it makes up for with forty-nine square feet of feathery softness - and padding over to the crate full of clothes they've not gotten around to unpacking yet. Which is to say, all of them.
"What about my sister?"
"I don't know the details, Sir, but apparently she's having difficulty securing her assistance with the Matter Bridge project."
"Of course she is," Rodney sighs, digging to the very bottom of the crate in search of civilian clothes that still fit. "I'll be there in fifteen." He yanks his radio back out and tosses it towards the bed. "Guess I'm going to get to try out that shower tonight after all."
John comes up behind him and pushes him towards the bathroom door. "Go ahead. I'll sort through this mess."
Rodney smiles tiredly at him. It's one o'clock in the morning local time and he'd had a long day 'before' they decided to christen their new quarters, so perhaps there's a bit too much honesty in his voice when he says, "Best boyfriend ever," meaning every word.
"Go," John repeats, lighting up like he's said something far more deep and meaningful than the simple truth. "Shower. The sooner you leave, the sooner we can pick up where we left off."
"So," Jeannie says when the shock has worn off somewhat, "the Lost City of Atlantis is real?"
"Yes. It was built by a race of people we call Ancients, most of whom abandoned it many thousands of years ago," Sam tells her matter-of-factly, taking a second cupcake. "We discovered it's location just over two years ago. Your brother was part of the first group to gate over."
"The Ancients also left behind a network of devices that allow us to create artificial wormholes and travel to distant parts of the galaxy almost instantaneously.
We call them Stargates. Thus, gating."
"Please," she snorts, crossing the kitchen to get to the coffee maker, "artificial wormholes are about as likely as teleportation or time travel."
"Yes, well... The Ancients were an exceptionally advanced society. Along their other inventions is something we call a Zero Point Module, which is a source of incredible energy that works by extracting vacuum energy from an artificial region of space-time until it reaches maximum entropy."
"Which is why you need my proof," Jeannie ventures. "How do you take your coffee?"
"Black's fine. And, actually, no. Your brother came up with a means to recharge dead ZPMs earlier this year. The problem is that they're incredibly rare devices. Between Earth and Atlantis we only have five, which sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. And that's where your proof comes in. If we can find some way to generate zero point energy without having to rely on ZPMs, we'd finally have a secure source of energy with which to defend ourselves."
Jeannie sets a UBC mug in front of Sam. "Defend ourselves? Defend ourselves from what? Aliens?" she laughs.
"Oh," she says soberly, taking a sip of her own coffee.
"It's a lot to take in, I know. But believe me, if you agree to help us, you'd be helping to save a lot of lives. The enemies we face... They want nothing more than to destroy this planet and all that we hold dear. I understand how you must feel about the military, but you have to understand that there are billions of lives at stake. We can defend ourselves with what resources we already have, but, with your help, we can do so with less risk to human lives."
"The calculus of war, huh?"
Jeannie sighs. "Alright. I'll do it. I'll help." It makes her feel dirty, the thought of making something to perpetuate the war machine, but if it saves lives...
"Thank you, Mrs. Miller. Believe me when I say you're doing the galaxy a great service."
"How long would I be gone?"
"A month. Two at the most," Sam informs her, pulling out her cell phone. "I know you need to pack and say goodbye to your family. Can you be ready by six o'clock local time?"
Jeannie nods, not trusting her voice. Six o'clock. That's just over four hours to get ready.
"Good. I'll send someone to pick you up then. Oh, and thanks for the cupcakes," the Colonel says before seeing herself out, leaving Jeannie sitting among the trappings of a life she could never look at the same way again.
Continue to Part Dua