Reflection of Deceit: A Magnificent Seven/ Stargate Atlantis crossover. By Phyllis and Jkay
ANTARTIC Early Fall 2004
“So…when are you going to let me take her, Lieutenant?” O’Neill sat in the back seat of the Air Force jet, flying to the McMurdo Air Base in the Antarctic. Air Force Lieutenant Mary Travis had been selected to pilot the new SGC Commander to the site of the discovery of a second Stargate.
“Now, General, you know I can’t do that.”
“Ah, come on, Travis. No one will know.”
The woman chuckled before answering. “Sir, I’m the pilot…you’re the General.”
“I could make it an order, Lieutenant.”
Beneath her helmet shield, Travis grinned. “Yes, sir, you could.” She paused for a moment and then, “But you won’t.”
“And what makes you think that, Travis?”
“Because I know you, General, you don’t pull rank. Besides, we’re about to land.” The left wing dipped as she banked toward the landing strip.
With a laugh in his voice, Jack O’Neill responded with, “I would have let you fly, you know.”
“Yes, sir, I’m sure you would have.”
Ten minutes later, the pair was on the ground and being transported to the command center. As they moved down the hallway, O’Neill gave instructions to the junior officer.
“I want you to fly me out to the site and then come back and wait on Larabee’s team. They should be here late tomorrow.”
“Also, I need you…” Jack paused and the woman turned to look at the older man.
Looking off down a side hall, O’Neill held up his hands. “I…ah…I want to check something out. You go on and make arrangements for our ride and I’ll catch up with you.”
It was two hours later when O’Neill reappeared with a young Major.
“Travis, change of plans. Major Sheppard will fly me out. You bring Larabee’s crew out after they get here tomorrow,” Jack announced.
Mary Travis’ face went from relieved to seeing the General to confusion. “I don’t understand, sir. I was supposed to fly you out. I am your authorized pilot”
Stepping past the angry woman, Jack had moved toward the door that would take him to the flight line. The angry words drew him back. “You are still my pilot, Lieutenant. You will bring the rest of my security detail out to the site when they arrive.”
Casting an eye at the Major, the woman dropped her head, nodding. “Of course, General. Sorry, sir.”
Jack rolled his eyes before clapping a hand on the blonde woman’s arm. “This isn’t a reflection on your abilities. The Major saved my life and I haven’t seen him in a while.”
“I’ll deliver the others tomorrow, General O’Neill.”
“I know you will.” He looked from the woman to the dark haired Major. “Sheppard, let’s move out.” Not waiting for a response, Jack headed to the door and the flight line beyond.
John Sheppard acknowledged the woman as he moved past to follow the General with a nod and a crooked smile.
Standing just outside the door, she watched the two men board the helicopter and fly away. She liked her new assignment, liked O’Neill; she had worked hard to earn this post. It irked her that O’Neill had replaced her with this other pilot, but she understood his reason. She didn’t like it, but she did understand. With a shake of her head, she headed off to wait for Larabee and his team.
Travis stood at the window, watching as the plane landed and taxied to the gate. She was tense, still upset at O’Neill’s dismissal the day before. Even the thought of it caused her hands to clench in anger. She had worked hard to obtain this assignment. It was a prime position, one that many pilots had vied for. After months of waiting, she had found out she had been assigned to be the new SGC General’s personal pilot. She had a week’s leave before reporting to Cheyenne Mountain and the new post; she had taken two days to celebrate with friends and three to recover.
‘Damn’ she mumbled. It really pissed her off to be usurped like she had been. Drawing her attention back to the scene on the other side of the glass, she watched the Special Ops team as they deplaned.
Dunne came off first, closely followed by Wilmington. The taller man was obviously harassing the young man about something since JD’s hand was raised and waving the big man off. In response, Buck’s hand came up to slap at Dunne’s cap.
The barrel-chested Josiah Sanchez came out next. He hefted his duffle bag over his shoulder with ease while another bag hung from his other hand. The marine followed the first two down the steps. Nathan Jackson was directly behind Sanchez. Apparently the second bag in the marine’s hand was Nathan’s because the doctor was trying to capture the bag as it swung back and forth.
Ezra Standish stepped out and paused to appraise his surroundings. The ex-CIA agent picked at an invisible speck of dust before lifting his bag again and sauntered down to the tarmac.
The next man to step into the late evening light was Vin Tanner. The Texan took a visibly deep breath of the crisp air and ambled down the steps with his duffle bag in his right hand as his left gripped the strap of a gun bag slung over his shoulder.
Travis held her breath as the final member the General’s personal detail moved into the artic air. Larabee pulled his black jacket tight as he surveyed the base from the high vantage point. Though she could not make out his features from this distance, she could imagine the narrowed eyes, the tight jaw. It was a face she was very familiar with. Before his promotion to the elite Special Ops team, the two of them had dated for a while. It had been an amiable split, both of them very serious about their careers, leaving little time for personal lives. She watched as Chris nodded slightly at Tanner’s call to him and he strutted down to join the rest of his team, confident in the knowledge that this team was the best.
Mary took a deep breath and released it slowly as the men headed inside.
“Welcome to McMurdo, gentlemen” she greeted.
“Hey, Mary.” JD called out.
‘Ma’am’ was Sanchez and Tanner’s response.
Wilmington grinned broadly while Jackson smiled and nodded and Standish gave her a slight bow as his fingers touched his forehead in salute.
Chris walked over and stopped in front of the woman, close, but not quite in her personal space. “Mary” his voice was soft and sultry. It drew a flush to the woman’s cheeks. Luckily, the rest of the team had walked past and did not see the exchange.
“I understand the General has already gone to the site?”
‘Count on Larabee to break the mood’ she thought resentfully. Frowning, and drawing a chuckle from the man, she pursed her lips and nodded. “Yes, he flew out yesterday. Major Sheppard was recruited to chopper him out.”
Now it was Larabee’s turn to frown. “Sheppard? John Sheppard?”
“I believe so. You know him?”
“We…the team and the General…met him a few months ago. Good man.”
Chris’ frown turned into a smile as the woman’s ‘humph’ pulled a chuckle from him.
“I’m sure he is,” she said sharply as the man laughed. “The General expects us a oh-eight-hundred tomorrow. We leave here at oh-six-thirty. I’ll see you in the morning, sir.” The ‘sir’ was more a snarl than a word.
Lt. Travis spun and stomped away, leaving the man standing, laughing at her expense. She flexed her hands to try and relief some of the tension. Men just didn’t understand the struggles of being a woman in a man’s world. If O’Neill had replaced Larabee with another commander, he would have raised holy hell with the man. But it was ‘understandable’ for the General to request a replacement pilot that he knew and apparently ‘owed’. And, as a woman, she was supposed to accept the change and smile. ‘Men’ she muttered as the door to her quarters slammed closed.
The next morning, she rose and ate breakfast. By oh-five-hundred, she was in the hanger, performing a safety check on the helicopter. Verifying the chopper was fully fueled and equipped for the cold long flight, she clambered into the pilot’s seat and waited for Larabee’s team. It was a short wait as the team arrived fifteen minutes early and climbed in. Chris took the co-pilot position and slipped the helmet on.
“Ready when you are, Travis.”
“Right, sir,” she said tersely. Glancing back to confirm that everyone was buckled in, the woman caught Wilmington’s eye and nodded. Buck was the only member of the team that knew of the previous liaison between her and Larabee. She shook her head and smiled at his rakish grin and wink. You could always count on Buck to bring a smile to your face.
Turning back, she fired the machine up and pulled back on the stick to begin the long flight to the Ancient outpost.
Larabee’s team waited patiently as the elevator silently slid to a halt and, after a moment, the doors slid open. The seven men, along with Jack O’Neill, stepped from the small mechanized box and stepped into the cavernous interior. As Jack moved forward, he became aware that he was alone and turned back to stare at the team. They stood stock-still, unaware of the people in motion all around them. Seven pairs of eyes swept the area in an attempt to take it all in.
“You guys coming, or what?” O’Neill called out.
The team leader was the first to pull his attention from the wonders of the area and focus on the man in front of them. Larabee glanced at his men and sharply coughed to draw their attention.
Vin blushed slightly even as Ezra molded his features into a bland expression. Josiah pasted his best ‘Jarhead. Don’t Fuck with me’ expression on causing Nathan to roll his eyes and shake his head. Buck appeared to notice the female sector for the first time and his eyes snapped around as his mind catalogued each one. Only the youngest member of the team seemed unaffected by Larabee’s utterance.
Jack stood quietly, a hint of humor pulling at his mouth, as he watched the man and his team. “Chris, why don’t you come with me and the others can have a look around while we talk?”
Chris inclined his head in acknowledgement. Nodding at his second in command, the blond stepped out to join the older man. Turning, he growled to no one in particular, “Don’t. Touch. Anything.” With one last glance at Tanner, the blond followed the Colonel away.
Vin looked around at the others before saying, “Well, I guess we’ll just…wander around?” With a shrug, the lanky Texan strolled off with Ezra Standish at his side.
A bank of equipment to their left captured Nathan’s attention and the team medic headed in that direction. Josiah clapped a companionable hand on Wilmington’s shoulder before trailing after Jackson.
Buck nodded in acknowledgement before his eyes flicked to a young tech as she strode past. He started to move after the shapely brunette, but paused to glance over his shoulder and turned back with a sigh.
“JD?” the tall man called softly. Getting no answer, he approached the young man and swatted at the dark hair, saying, “Hey. Kid. You’re drooling.”
“Huh?” JD responded, his attention still on the wonder that lay before him.
Laughing, Buck wrapped an arm around the young man’s neck, pulling the boy in close to his side. “Kid, didn’t I tell you that you’d see things ya never thought possible if ya stuck with me?”
Pushing against the older man’s side, the former Delta agent scoffed, “I think your words were ‘Kid, you ain’t going believe the shit we’ll see’.
Tossing his arm out, the man said, “And did I lie?” After a pause, he continued, “Let’s go exploring.”
“Cool,” the youth commented, grinning.
They wandered around taking in the equipment, the personnel, the hustle of activity. Rounding one corner, they stopped and stared at the chair positioned in the center of a raised platform. Glancing at each other, the duo approached.
JD tentatively stretched out his hand only to have Buck slap it away.
“Ah, ah, ah. No touching.”
JD stood up straight, rolling his eyes as shook his head. “I’m not going to hurt anything.”
“Well, just be sure ya don’t,” Buck drawled as he strolled around the cold metallic fixture. “Is it just me or is it cold in here?”
JD’s laugh burst from his throat with a harsh bark. “We’re in the Antarctic, Buck.”
Continuing to circle around, Buck cut his eyes over to the dark haired man. “I know we’re in the Antarctic, kid. I meant colder in here than else where.”
JD looked around, studying the room. “Well, the shades of blue and design of the walls all give the illusion of snow, ice, hence cold.” His eyes raked the area, taking in the planning and placement of chair and raised platform as his partner completed his circle and stopped next to him. “It’s almost as if the entire design of the room is aimed at promoting a cool feel. Who did they say built this?”
Wilmington looked around and shrugged.
The dark haired man rolled his eyes at the man. “Buck, didn’t you listen to a thing the General said?”
“Come on, kid. That’s what I got you for. I’m the brawn, you’re the brains.”
“Brawn, huh?” Slapping at the taller man’s waistline, JD chuckled.
“Hey! What’s that supposed to mean? I’m is excellent shape.” Buck ran his hand across his abdomen as he spoke.
The boy’s eyes crinkled. “Sure you are…for a man your age.”
Wilmington’s head shot up and his dark blue eyes twinkled. “Why you smart mouthed little…” And he made a grab at the dark head.
JD was prepared and stepped away from the man to the far side of the chair. They dodged back and forth for several moments, laughing, as JD worked to keep the back of the metal chair between them. Then JD moved left to Buck’s feint to the right and immediately was wrapped in the bigger man’s arms as he reached across the seat of the chair. With a crow of triumph, the big man dragged his smaller partner up and over the chair.
“Didn’t we tell you to not touch anything?” Chris bellowed as he and O’Neill approached from behind the men.
“What??” Buck stammered as he released JD and spun around.
Half across the seat, JD flopped onto the seat on one hip, his legs still dangling over the arm. Placing his hands on the other arm, he started to pull himself up and out of the seat.
“STAY! Don’t move,” O’Neill commanded.
Dunne froze, his arms tensed in preparation of rising, his eyes wide.
“Not again,” Jack grumbled as he stood with one hand in his pocket and the other scrubbing across his face.
Larabee’s eyes dropped to the floor and Wilmington’s naturally followed. He leapt off the platform and turned back to stare at the blue light that emanated from the floor of the two platforms.
“Wha…what…” Buck stammered.
With a sigh, Jack O’Neill slipped his free hand into his pocket. “Well…that was…unexpected.” He stood quietly for a moment. “Dunne, bring up a map.”
Almost before the words were out of his mouth, a celestial map appeared in the air above the chair. JD’s eyes widened even more, Buck whistled softly, and Chris frowned.
Turning his head to Larabee, O’Neill smiled a humorless smile. “Gentlemen, we need to talk.”
He spun on his heel and walked away, calling over his shoulder, “Dunne! Get out of that chair.”
The youth shot up and away from the chair. He blinked rapidly as he gazed at the fixture, watching the blue glow fade. JD jumped slightly as Buck’s arm dropped over his shoulders. Looking up into the man’s twinkling eyes, he asked, “Did I do that?”
“Well, I sure as hell didn’t.” Bending closer, Buck continued, “And judging by Chris’ expression, he didn’t do it either.” Both dark heads turned to look in Larabee’s direction.
The black clad man stood with his hands fisted on his hips, his eyes narrowed. Green eyes flickered from the chair to his two teammates. Compressing his lips together, his gaze bore into the two men. “What part of ‘don’t touch anything’ did you not understand?”
Buck’s mouth opened but snapped closed as Larabee’s hand flew up.
“Not. One. Word.” Chris growled. He glared at them for another moment and then he stalked off in O’Neill’s wake.
Feeling the slight tremble shudder through the slight frame under his arm, Buck pulled JD in closer. “Don’t worry, kid, they can’t eat ya.”
Wide hazel eyes looked up, shock evident in them. Finally, the youth swallowed hard and nodded before noticing the small crowd that was gathered around the area, whispering. Scraps of hushed conversations reached the two men, ‘..again…Major…almost as bright…”
Buck tugged on the tense shoulders, saying, “Come on, we better catch before they send someone after us.”
“What just happened?” The younger man stammered.
Seeing O’Neill and Larabee waiting just ahead, Wilmington bent close to the boy’s ear. “I think we’re about to find out.”
JD took a deep breath, sparing one last glance at the chair, before the two quickly headed toward the waiting commanders.
STARGATE COMMAND-Mid Winter 2005
Larabee glared at the man behind the desk. They had been going back and forth for two hours. Why? Larabee had no idea. He knew he wouldn’t win. He just couldn’t give up without a fight.
“General, I just don’t understand. Why recruit the man only to send him away? Last month you had him to come and train with us. I assumed you wanted him as a pilot. Why send him to Atlantis?”
Jack sat back in his chair, his hands across his stomach. “He’s a smart one… thinks with his heart as well as his head.”
“That’s not always a good thing, sir.”
“Ah,” O’Neill’s right hand came up, one finger pointing upward. “but sometimes it is.”
Larabee shook his head and sighed, a smile pulling at his mouth.
“We owe him, Chris.”
The blond looked down as he slumped back into the chair. “You’re right, sir. We owe him. You, Jackson, the rest of that crew, you all owe him, but why send him on a one-way trip? He’s been training with Travis for the past three weeks. He’s beginning to fit right in with the team. We could use another pilot on your detail.”
“There’s only one of me. Why do we need two pilots? Travis is more than capable.”
“We’ve been over this before, Jack,” Chris said, the exasperation evident in his voice and his use of the General’s given name. “With a security team of seven, you and a pilot, we could use two helicopters. Dividing the team, using two choppers, doubles the targets, we have a fifty-fifty chance of getting you out safely if there is an attack.”
“There’s a dozen of pilots to choose from. But a man that can adjust the situation, which is committed to his people, that’s something that is hard to find. That kind of man is the kind that we need in Atlantis. Besides, who says that it’s a one way trip? If we can get there once, we can get there again.” Jack smiled.
‘There it is.’ Chris thought to himself. ‘The smirk.’ God, he hated that look. It said ‘I’m the General, I know best, I always get my way.’
Chris shook his head. He knew he’d lost. And he didn’t like it.
O’Neill’s smirk turned into a full-blown ‘shit-getting’ grin. He knew he’d won, also.
“He’ll be arriving back soon, permanently this time. I got his transfer papers from McMurdo today, so he is officially ours now. I’d appreciate it if you’d meet him…take him around the complex. Make him welcome. I have a couple of things to do before our meeting.”
Larabee frowned as he looked at the commander of SGC. “You all right, sir?”
Jack smiled and nodded. “Yes, Mother. You know? You’re the second person to ask me that. Do I look sick?” His hand came up to scrub at his chin.
“No, sir,” Chris stated. “Just checking.”
“Well, thanks for the concern.” Standing, he waved his hand in the general direction of the door. “Go on. You have a Major to greet. Show him around, introduce him to the right people, and convince him that he wants to work here.”
“Right, sir.” Chris moved to the door and turned back, his hand on the knob. “He’ll make an excellent pilot for us.” He grinned at the general’s raised eyebrow before turning and leaving.
It only took a few minutes for the ex-SEAL to reach the upper levels where he waited for the arrival of Major Sheppard. He only had to wait two minutes before the car arrived with the man.
Sheppard stepped out and ran a hand along the front of the heavy dress uniform, smoothing any wrinkles that dared mar the material. He turned at the sound of his name and his hand snapped up at the sight of the senior officer.
“At ease, Major. Welcome back to Cheyenne Mountain.”
Dropping his arm, the dark haired major took the offered hand and shook it.
“Thank you, sir. Nice to see you again, Commander.”
Larabee glanced over as an airman retrieved the major’s flight bag and now stood waiting patiently just behind the major’s shoulder. The commander nodded as Sheppard turned and took the bag, thanking the enlisted man.
Chris nodded his head at the waiting tram and the two men boarded. As they drove, Chris pointed out different areas of the upper portion of the Cheyenne Mountain base. They arrived at an elevator where the tram stopped and Larabee got off. Sheppard joined him at the guard post. After a check with the MPs stationed on either side of the doors, Larabee swiped a card through the reader and the elevator opened to admit the two men. They stepped in and Chris pushed the appropriate button and the car began its downward descent.
“So…I take it that the General has made his pitch.”
John Sheppard’s green eyes cut over at the older man and he considered the man for a moment. Finally glancing away, he responded. “Well… he did mention an assignment. One far away…an expedition is the word I believed he used. Nothing too specific, yet.”
“Far away? That something you’re interested in?”
The Major shrugged, his head tilting to one side, away from Larabee. “Well…maybe. I’m always ready for an adventure.”
“Might not be any flying.”
The dark head whipped around as he squeaked, “No flying?”
Chris smirked as he stared straight ahead. “Can’t really say for sure. It’s an…unknown aspect at the moment.” His eyes cut to the side to study the man’s face. Sheppard was frowning, his features pulled down in a pout of sorts. “There are other prospects within the SGC that you could explore.”
Green eyes met green as the pilot turned to face the ex-SEAL.
“And those prospects would be…” John left the question hanging.
Larabee turned to face the doors, knowing they were about to reach their destination. “We could use another pilot to ferry the General around.”
“Ah,” was the younger man’s only response, his head bobbing in acknowledgement. He opened his mouth to speak just as the car slowed to a stop with a slight bounce. The doors slid open silently and Larabee stepped off, disregarding the unvoiced question.
“The team is down this way. Thought you might like to say ‘hi’.”
Sheppard hastened to catch up to the blond, his head turning to take in the sights of the underground complex.
“So just how far down are we?” he finally asked. During his last visit the major was never allow access below the fifth level.
“Far enough that we don’t have to worry about attacks from above.”
“Cool,” was the Major’s response.
Moving down one corridor, Chris stopped and pushed open a door. “This will be your quarters.”
The two men stepped into the room and Sheppard moved to the bed and dropped his flight bag. This room was no different than any room he had occupied since his enlistment except for the fact it was hundreds of feet underground.
Chris cleared his throat, gaining the major’s attention. With a glance downward, he said, “We’re not formal around here. Why don’t you change into your BDU’s and meet me outside?”
John nodded and the blond exited the room. Within moments, John was changed and coming out the door.
Moving to the right, Chris pointed out a few places to the pilot, assuring that he was familiar with the area around his quarters. They turned down a hallway and Chris stopped at the second door. Turning the knob, he stepped into the noisy room with Sheppard right behind him. The reminder of the Special Ops team was in various areas around what appeared to be a rec room. Wilmington, Sanchez and Standish were seated at the table playing a hand of poker while Tanner and Dunne were engaged in a computer game…Halo, if Sheppard wasn’t mistaken. Jackson was in a corner, a pile of books to one side of his chair, four more on the table beside him and two more open in his lap. On the opposite side of the table, Mary Travis sat in a matching chair, typing on a laptop. Everyone turned at the arrival of the two men.
“Well, lookee what the cat dragged in.”
“John, where ya been…”
The men all called at out to the pilot as they stood and moved toward the new arrivals. Only the blonde female did not acknowledge the man. She had snapped the laptop closed and stood. Moving across the room as the six men greeted Sheppard, she walked past the gathering and headed for the door. Only Larabee seemed to take notice of her departure and he alone, received the scathing look that she threw in his direction before exiting the room with a loud bang. Seven pairs of eyes looked over at the noise, but quickly returned to their warm reunion.
The eight men sat around, getting reacquainted with each other. Chris shook his head at the blusterous conversation. The men acted as if they hadn’t seen each other for months when in fact they had only parted company six days before when Sheppard had reported back to McMurdo.
They had been talking for about thirty minutes when Chris excused himself, saying he would be back in a few minutes. He left the room and headed to his quarters with the intention of changing before the meeting that was scheduled later with O’Neill and Hammond. He got as far as his door before being stopped by the female pilot.
“Commander Larabee, could I speak with you, sir?”
Lt. Travis’ formal request alerted the man to the woman’s mood and he knew what was coming.
“SIR,” she snapped out forcefully. “I need to speak to you.”
Larabee sighed and then ushered the blonde into his room, leaving the door open behind them.
As he walked around the room, she began, “May I speak freely, Commander?”
“Of course, Mary.”
The pale eyes flashed as her hands came to rest on her hips. “I have worked hard in ‘this man’s Army’ and I resent being replaced by one the General’s ‘favorites’.”
“Now, just hold on, Mary.”
Chris held up his hands but the woman advanced on him. “NO. YOU hold on. I earned this post. I deserve this post. General O’Neill had no problems with me until we flew to the Antarctic and he spotted that…that…hotshot.”
“That ‘hotshot’ saved both O’Neill and Jackson. The General just wants to offer him an opportunity in way of thanks.”
The blonde woman threw up her hands and spun away from the man. “An opportunity? All my work to become the General’s pilot just gets tossed out the window so he can thank this guy?”
“Travis, you don’t even know why the man is here.”
Whirling back, she advanced on the man again. “Are you telling me that he isn’t here to pilot the General around?”
Larabee looked at the woman, blood coloring his face slightly. “Well, it depends on who you talk to.”
Her reaction was to fold her arms under her breasts and glare at the man. Chris turned and moved away. He cleared his throat before speaking.
“O’Neill wants Sheppard to accompany the expedition to Atlantis.” He turned to see Mary frown slightly at this. “I, on the other hand, want him to stay here as a second pilot.”
Seeing the woman’s pale eyes narrow, he quickly added, “We would use two pilots, Mary. It only makes sense that we divide the team by using two helicopters. If there was an attempt made on the General, we cut their chances in half if there are two targets.”
He watched as the woman processed the information.
“He’s a grade above me,” she finally ground out.
Larabee sighed. “Yes, he is that.”
“I was here first.” When Chris did not respond, she continued, a slight whinny quality to her voice. “I have seniority.”
“We don’t even know which assignment he’s going to accept.”
The pale blue eyes flared as she fisted her hands. “He…gets…to…choose?”
The man knew he was in trouble now and played the only card he had. Drawing to his full height and squaring his shoulders, he barked, “Travis, whatever General O’Neill has offered Major Sheppard is none of your concern. You are assigned as a pilot for the SGC. You understand?”
The tone of Larabee’s declaration made it evident to the woman that she was treading on thin ice with the man. Their past history had nothing to do with the present situation and she knew if she pushed too hard, that history would be a factor in the commander’s response. Knowing this, she stepped back and threw up a salute.
“Yes, sir, I understand perfectly, Commander. I will not mention it again.”
After her salute was returned, she quickly turned and left the room but her mind was still whirling. If the Major had a choice, then she was determined to insure that he made the correct one.
Meanwhile in Larabee’s room, he slumped against the desk and shook his head. He knew that the female pilot had worked hard to get assigned to the SGC and he could understand her resentment of the new pilot, but as her commanding officer, he could not allow her to dictate to him or question orders. Pushing himself off and heading back to the closet and a change of clothes, he wondered how the woman would react if Sheppard did turn down the Atlantis expedition in favor of the SGC pilot post. It was a bridge he would worry about when he got to it. Right now, it was time for the General to pitch his proposal at the young Major.
He entered the room to find only four of the men left and they were preparing to leave.
“Hey, Chris,” Vin greeted. “We were heading down to the mess to see what they’re serving today. Want to join us?”
“Thanks, Vin, but I have to get Sheppard to the General’s office and then I want to go down and check on that ordinance we ordered.”
The young Texan moved to side next to Larabee. “Need any help?”
Dropping a friendly hand on the slender shoulder, Chris shook his head. “No, thanks, you go eat. I won’t be there long. I have a meeting with O’Neill in a while. I’ll meet up with you after that.”
“Sounds good.” Vin held out a hand. “Was good seeing you again, John. Glad to have ya around.”
“Yeah, John, you’ll like it here. There’s plenty to keep us busy,” JD piped up.
“Sure is, Sheppard. Most of it is keeping the kid here out of trouble.”
“HEY! What’s that supposed to mean, Buck? Seems like ‘you’ were the one that we had to bail out last mission, not me.”
“He’s gotcha there, Buck. Matter of fact, you still owe us twenty bucks from the last little venture.”
The big man grinned and backed toward the door, both hands held up in surrender. “Now, boys, you know payday ain’t for another week and I done spent my allotment from the last pay day. Guess you’ll just have to wait.”
That said, that man turned and bolted down the hall with the two younger men after him. Chris turned to the smiling Major. “One thing is for sure. It’s never dull around here.”
“I’m beginning to see that.”
“Let’s get you up to O’Neill before he sends the marines out looking for you.”
“Lead the way, Commander.”
The two men headed back to the elevator to go up to the control room level. As they waited, Larabee felt an odd sense of unease settle over him and his head turned to survey the area. As he turned toward his right, he looked at the young man beside him and noticed for the first time the bead of sweat that had appeared on the furrowed brow.
“You alright, John?” His hand rose to grip the pilot’s arm.
Sheppard’s eyes darted around, scanning the vicinity for a threat, his inner warning system blaring at him. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, he willed himself to calm and nodded at the question. Finally, he answered, “Sorry, sir. Don’t understand that. I don’t usually have a problem with tight spaces.”
Grinning, he added, “Guess I’m just not used to being underground. I like the freedom of the open sky.”
Seeing the worried look in the blond’s green eyes, Sheppard shrugged off the steadying hand. “Not to worry, I adapt quickly.”
As the doors opened and they stepped in, Chris stated, “Yeah? Well, around here, you have to.”
The doors slid closed and the car whisked the two soldiers upward as, from around a corner, Dr. Malachi stepped into view, a malevolent expression marring his features.
“Well, well, all things come to those who wait.” The deep laughter rumbled in the man’s chest as he turned and headed back down the corridor he had just traveled up.
“So, Major, what ‘cha think? You ready for a little adventure? To go boldly where no man has gone before?” General O’Neill asked the dark haired officer standing at ease in front of his desk. ‘His desk’, Jack still was not used to the fact that he had a desk.
Allowing the man time to consider the offer, he glanced down at the officer’s file; turning a page, he studied the record of one Major John Sheppard. Leaning back in his chair, Jack closed his eyes, wondering where had he heard that name before. There was a Private David Sheppard that he washed out of the SGC last year. Jack shook his head, that Sheppard had been a six foot four, black marine. Thinking back, Jack remembered a badass Marine Colonel named Norman Sheppard he had met a little over two years ago at one of General Hammond’s granddaughters’ birthday party.
Glancing up, Jack noticed no similarities to the arrogant marine that Hammond had forcible removed from his house. This Sheppard was tall while the Marine Colonel had been barely five eight and must have weighed over two hundred fifty pounds. The major looked to barely weigh one fifty, if that. ‘Don’t they feed those flyboys in McMurdo?’ O’Neill wondered.
“Let me see if I have this straight. You want me to step through a …Stargate… be transported instantly across thousands of light years to another solar system, to a planet that no one has ever been on…assuming it’s still there… and explore?” Sheppard cocked one eyebrow up. “That about sum it up?”
O’Neill smiled. “Yessireeyoubet.”
“Well Sir, as far as I can see…” Sheppard started but that was as far as he got before he was interrupted.
“Look Sheppard what’s not to like? You get to go through a wormhole, think of it as flying, if you like. Believe me, a couple of times it felt like our butts got shot out of a canon. You’ll get to meet and greet new people, shoot your firearm off a little bit, oh there be some running, screaming,” Jack stood, placing his hands flat on the desk, “saving the Earth, again, may I remind you. All in all, isn’t that why you signed up?”
“Begging the general’s pardon, we’ll won’t be on Earth,” said the major, rolling his eyes. “There might not be any lights or running water or indoor toilets. What about air conditioning, DVD’s, dancing girls, football? There might not be anyone to fight.”
“And your point?” Jack asked, raising his hands in the air, gearing up to his sarcastic self, then stopped as he took in the young man’s face. The Major had a stupid, lop sided grin on his face, “Enjoyed that, did you?” At Sheppard’s chuckle, Jack sighed and sat back down in his chair, asking. “Well, what’s the problem, then?”
“Darn, I was hoping to learn a new reproach; heard you were the best.” John said with a big smile on his face. The first smile that O’Neill had seen on the major’s face since arriving at the SGC, so Jack wasn’t surprise when Sheppard’s lips turned downward into a frown, “Sir, I want to fly, need to fly.”
Jack leaned back into the chair, his eyes looked up into Sheppard’s hazel ones, “Let’s be honest son. You have been reduced to taxi driver; you call that flying?”
“At least I was flying sir. If I go to this Pegasus…whatever…. I’ll be grounded. I don’t see a whirly-bird ready to go through the darn gate.” John said frustrated, then added quickly, “Sir.”
Jack rifled though the major’s file and stopped at the incident record from six months ago. It seemed a lifetime ago, so much had happened since then; he wondered how he had forgotten that the young major had been part of their rescue. Only when he had seen him at McMurdo, did Sheppard’s part in the rescue come to mind. Sheppard had put his career at risk and Jack couldn’t even remember if he thanked the young man. Jack hadn’t even asked to see the results of the court-martial, it never cross his mind to ask General Hammond what had happened to the young officer. Jack kicked himself; unknowingly, he left a man behind.
Thinking back, O’Neill realized things didn’t add up; Jack narrowed his eyes, studying the airman; someone or some ones had spirited Sheppard away as soon as Larabee had asked for his transfer onto his team. Darn the blonde ex-SEAL; he had beaten Jack to the request. The general wanted Sheppard for the SGC; even thought of putting him on SG1 under Carter for training. He wasn’t getting any younger, and Jack figured it was time for him to move on to the more personal side of his relationship with Sam Carter. Looking back down at the record, he wanted to read the results of the court-martial and was surprised to learn there was no trial. “Son, what happened at the court-martial?” Jack asked his eyes narrowed suspiciously. The major’s head snapped up, his hazel eyes darkened.
“Why? What does it matter? It’s done…over. There’s nothing left to talk about,” Sheppard said with a snarl. The major moved off to stare at a picture on the far side, though Jack was not sure if the man was actually seeing the image.
“Did your father…Colonel Sheppard, get you off?” Jack was guessing, and from the scowl on the major’s face, he had hit the nail on the head.
“He’s not my father.” John Sheppard stated, his hazel eyes were dark with golden specks as they shot daggers at the general.
“John…” Before Jack could finish what he was going to say, he was interrupted by a knock on his door and a brown haired head popping around the corner.
“Hi Jack, busy?”
“Yes Daniel, go away.” Jack shot back, leaning back in his chair. He threw a disgusted look at the man behind the linguist.
“Sir, I have a training flight with Lt Travis in thirty minutes, I need to go suit up.” Sheppard’s firm voice spoke as he stepped into view of the archaeologist.
Instantly, the hair on the back of the major’s head stood on end and, glancing around, he caught a glimpse at the man standing behind Daniel. Feeling cornered, John’s inner senses screamed at him to run, something dark and forbidding seemed to be stretching its tentacles toward him, turning the very air stale and hard to breath. John desperately needed to exit the room. He was barely conscious of Daniel calling his name.
“Hi, John. Well, actually Jack, the Major is why I’m here,” Daniel stepped into the room, moving over to the younger soldier. Professor Malachi waited at the doorway. His predatory eyes studied the two officers, finally settling on the dark haired major as he waited for the general’s permission to enter the office.
“Professor,” Jack choked out. As the dark haired professor entered, the old soldier sent a worried glance toward the major and rose from his seat at the sight. John Sheppard had taken a defensive stance, his back against the wall, and his right hand clenched at his hip, where his weapon would have been had he been armed.
“John?” Jack moved around his desk, his six-sense screaming at him that the airman was in danger, but his weak knees made the general too slow and the professor beat him.
“Well, if it isn’t the elusive Major Sheppard.” A feral smile spread across the professor’s lips at the sight of the man’s pale face.
“John, I’d like to introduce you to Professor Malachi.” Jackson said innocently, oblivious to the tension surrounding him. Daniel shifted to the side to make room for Malachi, blocking Jack’s effort to reach the major. “Jack, we think we found the problem with the translation of the tablet, in fact it’s two tablets, not one. Malachi and I want to question everyone who was at the desert complex and,” turning around back to the major, “you’re the last one, John.”
“Daniel, you’re always in a rush.” The professor said, reaching out to grab the major’s clenched hand, “We’ve already met, correct, Major? I didn’t have time to personally thank you for your help in our rescue, you disappeared so quickly.” Feeling John struggling to pull his hand away, Malachi tightened his grasp. Using his host’s ancient knowledge, he sent a silent message to the young man, ‘Submit, submit’. The boy had slipped through his fingers that first time. He was determined not to lose this second opportunity.
John’s inner voice screamed, ‘no! no! Succurro mihi , frater erant es vos.’ His childhood nightmare reared back to life, the little blood left drained from his face, leaving it chalky gray. Bile rose in his throat and he struggled to keep it down. Frantic, his eyes searched the room. His eyes settled on the general, briefly and then moved on when they did not find the comfort he sought. Again, his subconscious mind cried out for help.
Deep down in the SGC complex, two heads turned up as if listening to a silent plea. The first, the older of the two, rubbed his forehead at the flare of pain, hoping to make it go away. Unconsciously, he strengthened the walls around his heart, turning his back on the cry for help from a child, asking…begging…for help from a brother.
The other, younger man, dark haired and full of youthful innocence, heard the cry as an echo of pain, so reminiscence of his own that he instantly stopped what he was doing and, tilting his head, he waited. He heard nothing else but still the urgent plea echoed in his mind. Silently he left the room; his two companions giving each other a questioning look before going back to their meal.
“Daniel, move.” Jack shoved the archaeologist against the professor, forcing Malachi to lose his grip on the major.
John, seeing his opportunity, made a dash to the safety of the door and ran smack into the other pilot as she moved down the hall.
“Major, I’ve been looking for you.” Mary Travis stated as she stood at attention before the commanding officer. She was dismayed at the Major’s appearance; the man looked like he was in shock. “We have a training session scheduled.”
“Right, thank you, Lieutenant Travis.” Sheppard choked out. He turned and asked permission to leave with a single word, “Sir?” Hazel eyes begged the general to release him.
“Major, we’re not done talking.” Jack stated, concern lacing his voice. That concern only deepened when the airman shook his head. “Travis, see Major Sheppard down to the infirmary; have the doc check him out. I’ll call the down to Commander Larabee and inform him about the delay.” Seeing the rebellion the major’s stance, the general added, “That’s an order, Major.”
“Yes, Sir,” Major Sheppard responded, shoulders slumped in defeat as he turned from the doorway, followed closely behind by Mary Travis.
“Well…that was strange.” Daniel said.
“I do hope the major will be all right,” Malachi sneered.
Jack’s eyes stared after the retreating back of the major. Losing sight of him as the major went down the steps of the control room O’Neil addressed the two linguists. “So, what was so important about this tablet that you had to interrupt me, Daniel?” His tone betrayed his frustration.
Three of O’Neill’s security team sat in the commissary enjoying a late evening snack. As Vin and JD washed down their chocolate cake with milk, Buck regaled the younger men with stories as he consumed apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a cup of coffee.
JD’s fork paused halfway to his mouth as Wilmington described an encounter with a woman he claimed to have met while in Spain. The youngest team member turned his shocked gaze from the team’s mustached rouge to the sharpshooter, the question unspoken, but the hazel eyes begging confirmation.
Tanner chuckled at the open-mouthed expression of the ex-Delta’s face. Thinking to himself that Dunne had a lot to learn about ‘embellishing’ a story, a thing that Buck Wilmington was a pro at, Vin cocked his head to one side and declared, “Buck, I don’t think that’s possible, even if you was a cont..controt…hell, you’d have a be a damn pretzel.”
JD’s head bobbed up and down in agreement. “Yeah, Buck, nobody is that limber.”
Buck threw back his head and laughed. “Hell, boys, a man can do anything with the right instinctive,” he informed them.
Vin gave the big man a disbelieving gaze while Dunne stated, “Ahh, Buck, you’re so full of shit.”
JD turned his attention back to his loaded fork, but mumbled out around the cake, “If Doc had to give ya a enema, you’d totally disappear.”
“Hey! I resent that,” Wilmington protested as Vin fought to not choke on the chunk of chocolate cake he had just poked into his mouth.
Buck’s hand had just come up to swap the dark hair of Dunne when the youth suddenly froze, his head cocked to one side and a frown pulling at his features. Tanner and Wilmington watched as the younger man slowly stood and walked off without a word.
Eyebrows up in surprise, Buck turned to Tanner. “That was odd. Wonder what got into the boy?”
Jaw muscles flexed as Vin watched the slight figure go through the door, glancing both directions before heading off to the right. He shrugged in response and turned his attention back just as Buck reached for the abandoned plate. Whip fast, the Texan’s hand snaked out and snagged the plate and its contents.
“Wouldn’t want to risk losing that ‘manly’ form to a thick waist now would ya? ‘Sides, Doc is always telling me to eat more,” Vin mumbled around a mouthful of cake.
Sipping at his coffee, Buck glared at the slender man. “I don’t think chocolate cake is what he was talking about.”
Tanner just grinned and shoveled in another piece of cake.
As soon as John made it into the corridor outside the control room, he slumped against the wall for support. He struggled to control the trembling of his body. He wanted to shrink and disappear into the wall, the urge to hide strong within him, when a voice drew him back.
“Major Sheppard, are you all right, should I call a corpsman?”
“No, I’m fine.” John straightened his shoulders and pushed away from the wall. Placing one foot in front of the other, he moved away from the darkness that threatened to overtake him.
“You don’t look ‘fine’, Major Sheppard. In fact, you look like you’re about to faint,” she paused, and sarcastically added, “dead away…like a girl,” Mary’s cold voice echoed down the corridor.
“Go away, Lieutenant.” John stated slowly as he turned hazel eyes on her, barely suppressed anger burning within their depths.
Mary gasped, for an instant she saw the fleeting glimpse of pain and terror in the major’s eyes before they turned blank, devoid of emotion. “Sir?”
“Travis, you really need to be someplace else before I put you on report.” The major’s voice was now dull and lifeless.
Mary stood at attention, “Sir. Yes. Sir.” Turning, she marched pass the unwell soldier, straight toward the infirmary to talk with Doctor Frasier. She could feel Sheppard’s eyes follow her down the corridor.
As soon as Mary was out of sight, John turned and slowly headed in the opposite direction. Blindly, he moved down the halls, wandering about in a daze until he found himself in front of the door to his quarters. He turned the knob and entered the small, nondescript gray room. Allowing his eyes to glance around, he took in the meager contents and shuddered. He would only been on base a short time, but no matter, the room would remain sparse with no personal items around to alleviate the starkness. There were no photos, no plaques, nothing to mark a life outside of the military. His gaze moved to the locker sitting to one side and his pulse quickened. Striding quickly across the expanse, he knelt and unlocked the box to reach in and grasp the object that beckoned. The weight felt good in his hand and the evil seemed to recede for the moment.
The respite didn’t last long. Within moments, the niggling sensation was once again tickling at the back of his mind, an itch he couldn’t scratch. He began to pace in an attempt to divert his mind. The effort was wasted and soon the dark haired major was driven from his quarters and seeking to escape the feeling, he sought seclusion in hopes of finding a release from the darkness that scraped along his nerves.
Hugging the walls for support, he made his way toward the elevator that would take him down, deeper into the complex, somewhere where he could be alone and away from the darkness that was trying to envelope him.
Blinded with panic, the major stepped into the elevator as soon as the doors opened, blocking the path of the occupant. His arm arced out and his fist slammed against the control panel. As the doors slid closed behind him, a concerned voice filtered into his beleaguered mind.
“Uncle?” John opened panic-stricken eyes to see the older man standing in front of him, a concerned look on his face.
“John, what are you doing here?”
“Uncle George, help me.”
General Hammond barely had time to react before his nephew’s eyes rolled up and the young man descended into darkness.
Grabbing the young man as he collapsed, Hammond blindly slapped at the control panel and the metal box jerked to a stop. The older man grappled for a hold as John’s boneless form seemed to slip through his fingers. Both men ended up on the ground as the general followed his nephew down. Cradling the pilot’s head on his thigh, Hammond reached up to punch the emergency button.
“N…nooo…no…” A unsteady hand reached out and clasped his outstretched arm.
“John?” George looked down into the shuttered eyes of Sheppard. “You okay, son? What happened?”
The slender man went to push upright, but a hand on his chest stilled the motion. “You just stay right there until I get some help down here.”
Sheppard shook his head slowly and, after patting the restraining hand, he gently pushed it away. Breathing deep, he sat with his eyes closed for several moments. What was he going to tell the man? There was no way he could tell his uncle that he had freaked at the mere touch of one Professor Malachi? It felt as if every nerve in his body had gone into overdrive, each one charged with electricity, making him ill in the process. Feeling a light touch on his arm, he opened his eyes and gamely smiled at the older man. “Sorry, uncle, I’m okay, now.”
“I’d be more inclined to believe that statement if you weren’t the color of the walls, son.”
John looked at the gray interior of the elevator and huffed a laugh at the comparison. “Oh, just go ahead and bury me, then.”
Seeing that his uncle didn’t appreciate the humor, he clapped a hand on the broad shoulder of George Hammond and pushed up. The older man lumbered to his feet, also, a steadying grip on Sheppard’s arm.
“John, what’s going on, son?”
His face flushed as he responded. “Ah, Uncle George, this is so embarrassing.”
Hammond crossed his arms over his ample chest and waited.
Sheppard’s hand came up to run through the unruly hair before waving around in explanation. “I’ve been really nervous about this assignment. I know, I know. I’ve been working with the team and all, but that’s not exactly the same as being offered a position like General O’Neill just offered me.”
He had dropped his head to stare at the floor as he spoke and now he glanced up to see if his uncle was buying into his story. The look of doubt had his mind searching for another reason for his collapse. “I wasn’t sure what the general wanted and got to worrying about maybe I was in some kind of trouble again.” John dropped his eyes back to the floor, “you know as well as I do, the troubles I’ve had with certain military institutions and the more I thought about it, the more nervous I got and then I just stopped eating because it was making me sick and then when he offered this ‘Atlantis’ thing to me….” He glanced up again and knew he was convincing his uncle with the fabricated story, so he quickly decided to not push his luck. “…anyway, I just left the General’s office and I started to feel a little…strange…and…well, that’s when I ran into you. I guess I need to go eat something.”
Hammond didn’t move for several moments as he eyed the younger man, weighing the words, deciding whether or not to believe them. Finally, he sighed and dropped his arms. “You sure that’s it?”
John opted to simply nod in response.
“Okay, I’ll go with you to the cafeteria…”
“No, Uncle George, you…” Seeing the look on the older man’s face, he quickly changed his tactics. “I’m supposed to meet Buck and JD in the mess…” He looked at his wrist. “Actually, I’m late. And I know you have a meeting with the General…”
Sheppard threw up his hands. “Honest, Uncle George, I haven’t eaten in a couple of days. I know better, but I’ve just been so jumpy about O’Neill.”
Hammond studied the man with a knowing eye, but understanding how edgy John could get with anyone in authority, the man nodded, accepting the explanation. He reached over and hit the button that would take him to the level that housed O’Neill’s office. As the elevator opened, Hammond paused in the doorway and turned back. “John, are you sure you’re all right?”
Smiling, the younger man saluted though it was a relaxed gesture. “Sir, yes, sir, I’m fine.”
Rolling his eyes, Hammond stepped back, away from the doors. As they slid closed, he heard the younger man’s voice, saying, “Thanks, Uncle George.” George paused at the words, an odd feeling of unease coursing through him. He made a mental note to search out the pilot as soon as the meeting was convened.
In the elevator, Sheppard randomly punched a button and when the doors parted, he staggered out, moving down the hall as if drawn. Seeing no one, he simply continued on until he came to the open door of the gateroom. Curious, he entered, staring at the huge ring at the back of the room. Slowly, he crossed the room and approached the Stargate. His hand reached out and he cocked his head slightly, mesmerized by the dim red glow.
Mary Travis was heading towards the embarkation room. Her checks were still rosy from the second heated encounter with Commander Larabee. Once again she had been demoted to the second seat. It didn’t matter what Larabee said. If Sheppard joined the team, she would be under his command. He would more than likely be flying the general and Larabee, while she flew the rest of the team in a second chopper. Damn Larabee, anyway. O’Neill didn’t want a second pilot. Scuttlebutt was he wanted the major for the Atlantis crew. Why couldn’t Chris just accept that and leave well enough alone. Damn him. Damn him and Sheppard.
Fact was, she didn't know who she was more frustrated with-the commander or the new pilot, Major John Sheppard. The man was an enigma. He was friendly enough while they were training in McMurdo, laughing, horsing around with the more exuberant members of Larabee’s little group. However he never initiated any of the playfulness only reacted to the others, her self-included. Not once had the dark haired Major joined their group outside of mandatory training sessions in the month of intense training they had gone through before his official transfer to SGC and the Cheyenne base.
The man was loner, and Mary had to admit, she had not been on her best behavior; she had been rude during their last training session especially after the enthusiastic response Chris had to the major’s simulation scores. Being downright malicious, she had given him the hardest simulation to perform in front of the Chris Larabee, the man the Major was so obviously trying to impress. Mary suspected the Sheppard knew what she had done, and without a backward glance he just shrugged his shoulders and climbed into the simulator.
She was jealous, plain and simple. The man could fly. It was like he became part of the aircraft, and everything else just blurred away. The mysterious Major had walked away with the highest simulation score that she ever seen for a helicopter pilot. He deserved the position with the team. She was embarrassed at his lack of response to her actions; her behavior was uncalled for and she tried to make up for it and was the first one to congratulate him after he climbed out of the simulator’s cockpit.
However, the dark haired major had only shrugged his shoulders and with a soft reply said ‘thank you’ before hastily heading out of the room amid the congratulations of the rest of the team. She shook her head as she stared after the pilot’s retreating back. From the major’s body language, bowed head and hands shoved in his pant pockets, the man was shy and not used to compliments. No, that couldn’t be it. He was an excellent pilot and he was aware of his natural skills. Word was the man was downright cocky most of the time; friendly, fun, relaxed, but cocky nonetheless. Mary doubted there was a shy bone in his body. No, it was something else.
Startled, Mary realized Sheppard had been acting this way since O’Neill order his transfer from McMurdo to the SGC for a month of training. Chris and her had picked him up at the airfield and they had driven back to Cheyenne Mountain to meet with O’Neill. Thinking back, she tried to remember that first day. It hit her hard like a ton of bricks, just over an hour ago she had witness the same look on Sheppard’s face. It took her moment to recall the details as she pictured the scene in her mind. John Sheppard standing cagily just behind O’Neil as the General had introduced him to Daniel Jackson’s coworker Professor Malachi that had join them during lunch. Thinking back, Mary could now remember watching his body go rigid, his face had turned a chalky gray as he shook the Professor’s hand. It was only moments after that, Sheppard asked the General to be excused.
Mary had dismissed the incident, but now she thought back to the man she first met. Gone was the arrogant, cocky flyboy she had encounter at the outpost after ferrying Larabee and the team out. Replacing him was a cautious, wary man that only seemed to relax when the team surrounded him. If Larabee was not around, Sheppard often secreted himself away until the next training session. Something wasn't right, and she was determined to get to the bottom of it.
After the rebuff of Sheppard, his countermanding O’Neill’s orders and flat refusal to go the infirmary, indignation had goaded her into once again confronting Larabee. She spent the last hour standing at attention in front of a very angry Commander Larabee getting her ass chewed out. Between Larabee’s yelling and dark glare, that withered the strongest, most seasoned soldier, Mary had made out that the Major had been offered an alternate position with the Atlantis expedition and therefore might not even accept the pilot posting that Larabee so badly wanted him to take. Why the man had such a hard on for the pilot to be on his team was beyond her comprehension. All she knew for such was that she had once again jumped from the frying pan into the fire where Major John Sheppard was concerned. The Commander had in no uncertain terms informed her that she would work with the personnel that he assigned to his team or she could request, and be granted, a transfer to a more suitable unit, one that didn’t threaten her personally.
Being dismissed by Larabee, Mary was now on a mission. She had visited the infirmary on the pretense that she was checking up on Nathan to see if he needed help. Next she hit the mess hall and chatted with Buck, and Vin while they stuffed the their faces with apple pie and cake. She casually mentioned that she was looking for Sheppard when a young airman at the next table mentioned that he had seen the Major near the gate room.
It didn't take long for Mary to reach the gate room. Her mind was running through all the things that she could say to convince the young man to stay. She had even gone through the major’s records. The parts that were not classified for ‘eyes only’ portrayed the young man as any ordinary pilot. But it was what she read between the lines that told her that the Major was much…much more.
She finally found him standing at the top of the ramp, staring wide eye up at the gate. He looked like a small boy; his head snapping around at the sound of her chuckle, his eyes wide and full of wonder. It was the first time she had actually seen a twinkle of delight in his hazel eyes. But it didn't last long as the light in his eyes dimmed and he shrugged his shoulders with his hands instantly going into his front pockets. His head dropped toward his chest, giving him the appearance of a little lost puppy about to be scolded.
“Is it not beautiful,” Mary stated, as she leisurely strolled up the ramp to stand behind the major even as he turned around to once again stare up at the Stargate in awe. “I spent hours studying the hieroglyphics on the gate.” She watched as the major ran his hand over the symbols. “I'm a closet, amateur archaeologist. I love everything Egyptian and even spent some time studying at the British Museum.” Travis stood at attention, taking a deep breath and said, “Sir, I would like to apologize for my earlier behavior. I lost sight of my duty, sir. It wont happen again.”
Sheppard glanced over and tilted his head giving her a lop sided grin, “apology accepted Lieutenant.” His eyes harden, his voice void of emotions, “A word of warning Travis, never let your emotions cloud your judgment. You’re a good pilot and I would be honored to fly as your wingman.”
“Thank you Sir.” Mary said softly. Both turned back to study the gate, it was an uneasy moment; the major was first to break the silence.
“Have you ever gone through the gate…to another world?” The major asked in his soft-spoken voice.
“No, so far we've only been assigned to security for General O'Neill and he hasn‘t gone off world since his promotion,” Mary answered, thankful for the turn of events. “Everyone on the team, except Larabee of course, is hoping that will change. The boys are just itching to go off world.”
“Commander Larabee hasn't gone off world?” Sheppard turned his head, studying the woman's face.
“I'm not aware of any missions where Larabee has gone off-world. Would that matter?” Mary paused, watching as the major faced the gate once again. “Are you thinking of turning down the position with his team?” Remembering what she had read in the major’s file about his habit of disregarding orders and charges of insubordination, she added, “Is it a trust or a leadership problem you have with the Commander?”
“I have no problem with Larabee. I respect him. I think he's a good leader,” Sheppard shyly answered back. Absently, he ran his fingers across one of the chevrons on the gate.
Mary grabbed his arm to turn him around to face her, “Then why are you thinking about turning down the position?” She failed to notice the dim red glow of the chevron as her motion pulled Sheppard’s hand away from the gate surface.
“I…I… You want that position, so it yours now.” Sheppard ducked his dark covered head.
Mary blinked; she couldn't believe what she was hearing or what her eyes were telling her. Standing in front of her was an Air Force major acting like a four-year-old. “I thought you said you forgave me. You do forgive me right?” she waited until he turned his attention back to her and nodded. “Major, do you want a position on the team?” Again, patiently, she waited for the slow nod of yes, “Then accept the position. Commander Larabee wants you on his team. I want you on the team; I would feel honored to be your co-pilot.” When the major didn't answer, Mary added, “The Commander is a hard man and has high expectations,” her voice went softer, “which, by the way, you passed with flying colors.”
“I know, but,” John forlornly added, “Dr. Weir and General O'Neill have asked me to join the expedition to the Pegasus system under Colonel Summers.”
“Because of this,” John ran his fingers over the closest Chevron. Instantly, it glowed with a dim red light. “They want the ancient gene… not me, the pilot.”
“So? Don’t go, stay and join our team,” Mary told him. Finally, it dawned on her that she was seeing, “John, do that again.”
“What? This?” John placed the palm of his hand on the gate, and another Chevron engaged.
“That's not supposed to happen,” Mary nervously glanced up at the control room. No one seemed to notice the gate activation.
“OH…” Instantly John jerked his hand away from the gate. “I thought everyone with the gene could do that.” The Major’s eyes started dancing around the gate room, his senses were screaming out, ‘danger’.
“No, it takes the computer to engage the chevrons.” Mary started to pick up on the major’s nervousness and glanced around the room. “Is something wrong?”
“I'm not…” Sheppard stopped speaking mid-sentence. ‘Threat’, screamed through every pore of his body, something dark and menacing was hovering around the corner. The threat spiked at the same time John instinctively pushed Mary Travis away from his body with one hand as the other one reached for his side arm.
The blonde pilot heard two distinctive sounds as she staggered back. The first was a bullet exploding from a barrel and the other was the thud of something impacting flesh. The sounds registered even as she tumbled down the ramp, landing face down on the floor but she was too stunned to realize their implications. Instead, anger flared within her.
“What’s the hell is your problem?” Mary angrily yelled as she rolled over to sit up. Raising her head, the sight that greeted her froze her in mid-rant. John Sheppard was slowly dropping to his knees, a dark red stain spreading from a spot on the upper part of his right shoulder. Mary struggled to her knees only to sit back as a shadow fell over her.
“Stay down, my dear, or I will be forced to shoot you.” A deep voice spoke from behind the blonde. “Do…not…move,” the voice repeated as Mary attempted once more to get to her feet. She knew she had to go check on Sheppard. She glanced around the gate room for help only to notice the heavy metal blast doors were still open. Nervously, her eyes went to the control room window, praying that help was on its way.
“Please, let me go help the major,” the woman pleaded.
“No.” The shadow turned into a body that moved to stand between the downed major and the woman. Turning, Malachi glanced over his shoulder to make sure the young man was down and could not cause him any problems while he dealt with the blonde pilot. Dark eyes fell on Mary, “What am I to do with you, now?”
“You're going to let me go help the major, Professor Malachi,” stated Mary, her eyes watching the kneeling form at the base of the gate.
“No. I do not believe so. Stand up.” The Professor waved his gun in her direction. Malachi turned his back on her and took a step toward the soldier he had shot.
Mary took a step back, toward the crash doors, the moment the Professor took his eyes off her. Her eyes narrowed as she saw Sheppard's fingers twitching around the trigger of the pistol in his hand. “Professor, you're ill. Why don’t you come down to the infirmary with me?” Her voice was soft, pleading, as she tried to distract the man away from the major.
“No, my dear, I've never felt better in my life.” Turning back around, the dark-haired Professor reached out and grabbed Mary’s arm, pulling her forward and crushing her against his chest.
Sheppard had landed on his knees, in a kneeling position, close to the edge. Now he moved back against the gate, as far away from the menacing voice from his childhood nightmares, as he could manage. His fingers twitched and he struggled to tighten his grip on his pistol. He could feel the blood trickling down his arm; could feel the warmth as the dark stain grew on the front of his uniform. Slowly, he opened his eyes. He watched as the professor removed the gun from Travis’ head and turned her to face up the ramp.
“That's it boy, open your eyes.” The Professor laughed, a hideous, resonating sound, standing with the struggling blonde in front of him. “I want you to see this.” His hand rose and he pointed the gun. The shot reverberated as sparks flew. Smoke rose from the keypad as the heavy blast doors slammed closed.
John caught a glimpse of movement behind the couple just as the man began to bring his pistol back around to the woman’s head. Sheppard’s waning attention was drawn back to the two people at the end of the ramp and he brought his own pistol up. But he was too late.
Two cries of “NO” echoed around the room, closely followed by the sound of shots ringing out.
Malachi retrained his weapon to once again take aim on Sheppard. He squeezed the trigger just as a hard blow hit him in the back. Releasing his grip on the woman, the professor staggered to the edge of the ramp and fell to his knees.
Mary spun around to see the man stumble and fall. Her eyes moved from the downed man to the doorway to see JD limping toward her. “JD?”
“Are you alright, ma’am?”
Mary’s hands came up to rub her arms. Noticing the quake in both hands, she ended up wrapping her hands around her ribcage in a self hug.
JD kicked the gun away from the lax hand of the professor and then moved around the ramp to where Sheppard lay in a heap. He didn’t know what had drawn him to the gateroom. Thinking he had heard the muffled sound of a shot, he had pulled his weapon and started down the corridor.
He entered the gate room to see Mary Travis being held by Professor Malachi as John Sheppard knelt on the ramp in front of the Stargate, bleeding. JD remembered flinching as Malachi suddenly fired a shot into the blast door control panel, shorting the mechanism and causing the doors to slam closed. Seeing the man aim and fire, hitting the pilot with his shot, Dunne raised his hand and fired at the man’s exposed back. A brief moment of grief and disgust at the act washed over him, but it passed quickly as he saw John topple over the edge of the ramp.
Only when he started to step forward, did he realize that one of the shots fired had struck him in the leg. Glancing down, he saw the hole in his pants but knew it was not too bad. Major Sheppard and Mary Travis needed his help now so he moved across the room. Disarming the professor, he glanced at Travis before continuing on to help the injured major.
He didn’t see as Malachi raised his head to stare at the downed pilot, his eyes glowed brightly as his mouth opened. The snake eyed his next host, judging the distance between them and launched his serpentine body toward his goal.
Mary shuddered as she stared at the pool of blood spreading out from Malachi’s body. Pinching her lips together tightly, she swiped at the tears trailing down her cheeks and turned to see JD squatting down next to Sheppard’s body. A small cry escaped her lips at the sight and she stepped toward the two men. A gasp of surprise was forced from her as something impacted the back of her neck. There was a burst of pain that froze her in place momentarily. It passed quickly though and her head dropped forward, swaying slightly.
When her head came back up, her gaze fell on the two men and a sneer pulled at her lip. Striding confidently forward, she reached down and pulled Dunne to his feet, turning him to face her.
JD paled at the glowing eyes that looked on him with complete indifference. When the woman spoke, the voice was deep and vibrated with an alien quality that the youth immediately recognized as Goa’uld. Even as he opened his mouth to question the creature, a once delicate hand tightened around his throat and squeezed. His question became a squeaked, ‘Mary’. He found himself whirled around to face the control room window as the woman held his body close against her chest, her hand tangled in his hair. Her mouth pressed against his ear as she spoke,
“I shall not be thwarted. I shall have the infant, if I have to kill you and the rest of your ‘team’, so be it.” She chuckled, though it was a humorless sound. The Goa’uld’s eyes briefly flash triumphantly, when the young man in her grasp shuddered. “We shall leave, the three of us. Tell your friends to open the gate. Now.”
She tightened the grip around Dunne’s throat. “Or die.”