Transmutation Part 1

Title: Transmutation
Author: Ellywinkle
Fandom: Stargate Series/NCIS
Rating: NC-17
Relationships: Tony DiNozzo/Steve McGarrett, John Sheppard/Rodney McKay
Genre: Alternate Universe, Crossover, Science Fiction
Warnings: Character Bashing, Dark Themes, Death – Major Character, Death – Minor Character, Explicit Sex, Hate Crimes, Homophobia, Kidnapping, Murder, Racism, Violence – Canon – Level
Word Count:   77,834

Author Note: I am working with a terrific Beta on this, but edits are on hold while I decide which direction I want to take this to correct the multitude of plot holes. I don’t know when I will finish edits. Until then, please enjoy it as is. All mistakes within are my own. This was originally written for the 2018 November Rough Trade challenge.

Multi-fandom crossover, though most are just cameos. I’m totally stealing Steve McGarrett. Starts with NCIS SWAK episode. For Stargate, the gate bridge exists, and Weir is still in charge of Atlantis, but don’t spend a lot of time trying to sync up canon. Some minor dialogue taken from NCIS episodes Twilight and Kill Ari I&II. Also, would like to give a special thank you to Keira Marcos for letting me play with Matthew Sheppard. I assure you he’s clean and happy.

Transmutation (def.):  the evolutionary change of one species into another

Summary: Exposure to a Pegasus virus while battling the plague causes the virus to mutate in Tony DiNozzo. Now a new flu is on the rise. It seems mild enough, but in a few people, a very special few, ancient abilities from ancestors past have reawakened as their DNA undergoes transmutation.

– – – –

Chapter 1

Hyatt Regency Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Monday, May 10, 2005

“I expect this from those assholes out of the Mountain, they don’t know jack-shit about counting on your team when you can’t run home to mama at the end of the day. But that you idiots would pull this maneuver when you know why you are here is beyond my ability to comprehend.” Staff Sergeant Tyler Nichols looked at the eight men standing at attention in the hotel room with disgust.

“This is not fun and games people. You are not here on leave. You are assigned to provide security for Dr. McKay while he testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee and meets with the IOA. When you protect Dr. McKay, you protect him even from your own idiocy! Do you understand me?”

“Yes, Staff Sergeant!”

“There are no excuses for this bullshit. Every single one of you has been on Atlantis long enough to know McKay’s allergies. I don’t want to know who thought it would be a good idea to bring a bag of oranges into this room. I don’t really care whose fault it is. Every single one of you participated. And, since you are all so keen on participating, you will be happy to rectify this matter.”

He pointed forcefully at the offending bag, knowing that his face and body language projected a cold burning fury. “You will dispose of that bag. You will go to housekeeping and politely request citrus free cleaning supplies. Then you will clean every square inch of this room. And when you have cleaned this room in a way even God Almighty hasn’t seen it, then you will go to the room next door and repeat the process in the likely event one of you contaminated that room as well. Once you have completed that, you will see to the cleaning of your clothing and yourselves.”

Now he directed his attention to their sergeant who was supposed to be relieving him today, “Then you will get a list of food that have citrus, and you will memorize it. And since I have two men in McKay’s suite that will now be starting their leave a day late while you clean house, I suggest you decide who among you will be donating your own leave to make it up to them.”

Giving one last glare at the offending orange bag, Tyler motioned the other sergeant to follow him with a quick jerk of his head as he released the men to their work. He reached the elevators at the end of the hall before Sergeant Wycks caught up to him. “Tyler, look. I’m sorry about that. The men are just excited to be back on Ear…state-side. It won’t happen again.”

“Sorry? Ben, if something happens to McKay on your watch, you might as well just shoot yourself in the foot and plead your way into the psych ward. Because Sheppard will have no mercy on the team that lets him get hurt. What the hell were you thinking to let them do something so monumentally stupid?” Tyler asked while pointing back toward the room.

“Look, it wasn’t like it was planned. We’ve been state-side for maybe six hours. Jensen and Peters made a run to the store for supplies and came back with it. Do you know when I last had a fresh orange? Come on, are you telling me you haven’t? You’ve been here for three weeks. First with Weir and now McKay.”

Tyler sighed, “I freely admit when Weir was here, we indulged a little. But the moment we got the word McKay was on the way we cleaned out everything.” He looked away a moment trying to reconcile duty over friendship. “I can’t let this slide, Ben. Lieutenant James is in charge here, and I have to report the breach to him.”

“Fuck! Seriously Tyler?” Ben Wycks jerked back. “We are cleaning up our shit. There is no reason to bring James into this!”

“I will not disrespect the uniform or the chain of command by hiding an error like this from the lieutenant. Don’t you get it? What if there had been an emergency? In your rush to protect McKay, are you going to stop and clean up, so you’re certain it’s safe for your men to touch him? They could have killed the man with their stupidity.”  He shook his head and turned back to viciously stab at the elevator button, realizing yet again that it wasn’t going to open for him automatically. “You better hope James is placated by how well they clean up. Because, if my men are forced to forego our leave after two years out there then we are going to have words of a different kind Ben.”

He stepped onto the elevator as the doors opened and Sergeant Wycks followed. “And for the record Ben, trying to use our friendship to convince me to look the other way was a shit thing to do.”

– – – –

Lieutenant James was practically vibrating in place as Tyler explained the situation. He calmed slightly as Sergeant Wycks confirmed that his men were carrying out Tyler’s orders. “Lieutenant, if my men need to stay…”

“No, Sarge. Your men have done an exemplary job, and you’ve earned your leave. I’m not going to hold them up because of this situation. I believe it is best that this is treated as a learning opportunity. Sergeant Wycks, I am amending orders. You will have two of your men hustle to the laundry for clean clothes. Then they will report to my room to shower and change so that they can relieve Corporals Nguyen and Roy on time. I don’t think they should pay for your team’s error.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Now, I’m not going to tell McKay that my men were courting depraved indifference as the charge in their court-martial. The man has enough problems on his plate trying to dumb down his work for the vultures who are trying to cut our funding.”

Tyler saw Ben breath out a sigh of relief, and almost shook his head at how dense Ben could sometimes be, a moment before Lt. James finished his statement. “No, I will not do that. I believe Corporeal Jensen should have that honor. After all, it was Dr. McKay who carried him to the Gate when he was hit by that Wraith stunner on PY6-429. A man saves your life, you owe it to him to man up and explain yourself when you try to kill him.”

“Yes, sir,” was Ben’s quiet reply.

Tyler wasn’t sure when Jensen would be allowed to apologize to McKay, but he was determined that he and his men vacate the premises before that happened. In his experience, the man had two settings in this situation, asshole, and complete bastard. There was no way in hell he was going to be caught in the backlash.

– – – –

“Hey, Sarge!” Tyler looked up from his SGC issued phone to see Corporal Nguyen and the rest of his team approaching him. They were dressed for a night on the town and looked ready to party.

“You guys ready for some fun?” He asked with a smile.

“You better believe it Sarge. Are you sure you don’t want to go out with us? A good old-fashioned bar crawl would do you good.” The men were all smiling and relaxed. It was a good look on them.

Shaking his head, he answered, “No, I have plans of my own, and it doesn’t include any of you. Are you all packed? Checkout is at 1100.”

“Don’t worry, we’ve got it covered and the way the Lieutenant is hovering over Wyck’s team, there’s not a one of us that wants to be caught here after you leave Sarge. We’ve got to go if we want to make our reservation. See ya in three weeks Sarge!” and they were out the door.

Tyler grinned slightly watching them horse around on their way out. He felt that little tense band in his neck and shoulders start to release. As of this moment, the only thing he was in charge of was his own plans. Time to make that happen. First order of business vacate the premises. He picked up his bag and headed to the line of cabs waiting for the doorman to signal. As the cab drove up another doorman hurried forward to open the door as his bag was secured in the trunk.

“Where to?” the driver asked.

“Double Tree Hilton, Bethesda.”

– – – –

“Oh, honey, I can make some other plans if you want. It’s your first leave in two years, and you still haven’t said where you’re stationed. It’s just since your sister has the baby and Joey will be here with his fiancée, there isn’t a lot of extra space in the house.”

Tyler tipped the bellhop and switched his phone to speaker as he closed and locked the door. “Mom…mom…Seriously, Mom! It will be fine. I’m a real life, grown up, U.S. Marine. I’ve shared a room before. I honestly don’t have a problem sharing a room with my brothers. If I wanted a luxury room, I would rent a suite.” He shook his head at his mom’s dithering. “I’m coming home to see you guys, and it really doesn’t matter if I have to sleep on the floor.”

“As if I would let my baby boy sleep on the floor!”

He looked around the luxury suite at the DoubleTree Hotel he booked to start his leave. A night here before being crammed into his childhood home would be a taste of heaven. Room service left right before the bellhop, and he could see dinner set at the table as his mother chattered on about the plans.

He lifted the cover to reveal lobster with butter and extra lemon. Sautéed Crab with Avocado Grapefruit Herb Salad to start, Tahitian Vanilla Seared Scallops with Lemon Coconut Risotto to accompany the main dish, and a massive slab of Key Lime Pie to round it out. He looked down at his uniform and shook his head as he registered what his mother was saying.

“Mom, I love your cooking. You know that I will be happy with whatever you make. But I would really love just to have a good old-fashioned bar-b-que.” He headed toward the bedroom but stopped to turn on the TV, remembering to mute it before searching for the Diamondback’s game.

“Of course we will have a bar-b-que, honey. After all, I’m sure you’ve been forced to eat all sorts of strange foods, wherever they had you hidden.”

“You have absolutely no idea, Mom.”

He entered the bedroom and stopped to stare at the king-sized bed. “Mom, my flight is tomorrow at noon. I can’t wait to see you. I love all you guys. But I have to go if I’m going to get packed tonight.”

“OK, son. I love you. See you soon. And call me before you get on the plane.”

“Yes, Mom. Goodnight.” Hanging up he tossed the phone onto the bedside table before falling back over the soft, large…oh so wonderfully large, bed. Eyes closed with a relaxed smile, “Now this is how you spend combat pay.”

– – – –

It was hot, so hot. His face felt strange. Rough and itchy. And he was so very, very tired. Something was wrong. He looked at his hands in the dim light and noticed the rash covering the backs of his hands and his lower arms. Shit! It was back.

Why was it always him? Why couldn’t he be the one with immunity? Same as when he was a child. Got chicken pox three times before it took. He knew this one. Ancestor’s Bane the Athosians called it. A stupid childhood illness that knocked the expedition on its ass the first year before Doc Beckett developed the vaccine.

Stupid rare adult who got the bounce back symptoms. Always, fucking, him. Shit! Need to call the SGC and report. Damn. Where did he leave his phone? He lifted his head to look around and decided it wasn’t worth the effort yet.

He was just so fucking tired. Maybe a little more sleep first before he reported in. His mom was going to kill him for missing the bar-b-que. Laying his head back on the pillow he promised himself, ten more minutes and he would make that call.

– – – –

DoubleTree Hilton, Bethesda, MD

Tuesday, May 11, 2005

Melissa knocked briskly on the suite door before calling out loudly, “Housekeeping.” She waited a moment before using her card to unlock the rooms. Leaving her cart in the hall, she picked up the fresh towels and entered the suite. To the best of her knowledge, the occupant had not checked out. The tv was on low and the remains of dinner still on the table.

Well, if that were the worst of the cleanup, she would take it. Sometimes it amazed her the mess people would make when they were at a hotel. There was no way they lived that way at home. But when someone else had to clean up…

The bedroom door was slightly ajar. She hated waking up guests in the rooms. Some reacted badly. She took a deep breath then knocked loudly on the door. “Housekeeping.”

She waited almost a minute with no response. Knocking again, “Housekeeping!” she projected just a bit louder. Still no answer. Carefully, she opened the door. The curtains were drawn, and the room was dark. She moved through to flick on the bathroom light then turned to look back into the room.

Dropping the towels, she raised her hands over her mouth to prevent a scream. The man on the bed was only covered to his waist. What she could see of him was covered in a purple rash that looked like nothing she had ever seen. He appeared feverish and hadn’t responded to her presence. She ran to the phone by the bed and quickly hit the button for the front desk.

“We need an ambulance. Guest is sick and won’t wake up. Hurry.” She watched the rise and fall of his chest but didn’t want to touch him. In less than four minutes the manager entered, and Melissa was relieved not to be alone.

In no time the ambulance had arrived, assessed him, loaded up, and they were gone. The manager looked around at the room. “Put on your gloves. I want the bedding and towels bagged up so they can be washed on their own. Then start in disinfecting anything he might have touched. It’s probably nothing, an allergy, but let’s be careful.”

– – – –

“What the hell are they doing?” Dr. Brad Pitt asked while reviewing results from the patient’s latest tests.

Lt. Emma Ingham turned quickly to see a two men team with a patient on the gurney between them as one searched for his card to access ISO 1. She raced to the door to open her side, preventing them entry. Once her door cycled closed, the outer door opened. “What in the world do you think you are doing? We have patients in here.”

“Yes, ma’am. The patient was brought in with fever, rash, and unresponsive. We were instructed to get him to isolation while we await the labs. Captain Evers said you have another patient with this here.”

“Oh, Captain Evers said? Is he an infectious disease specialist? No. Did he call for a consult with an infectious disease specialist before breaking protocol to send a patient across the hospital? No. And were you idiots stupid enough to waltz him through a patient zone?” Lt. Ingham questioned bitingly.

“No ma’am!”

“First, never assume two patients have the same diagnosis. Second, get him to ISO 2, and the doctor will be in shortly to check him over. Third, contact maintenance and have the elevator and hallways you used shut down and cleaned on the off chance he does have something contagious.”

As they quickly acknowledged her and moved to ISO 2, she shook her head, grumbling to herself while trying to return to her previous flirty mindset to calm her patient. She turned back and felt the pull of air as the negative pressure prevented the inside air from escaping.

– – – –

Unseen by the human eye, a small cloud of micro-organisms moves through the doorway, clinging near the heat source that intersects air currents across the room. A second influx of air pulls them inward. Drifting and eddying apart, they spread as the cloud slowly dissipates. Individually they are dying under the lights of this alien environment.

The slightest movements around them change their directions while the strongest, fight for life. Even the micro-vibrations in the air alter their course.

“What was that?”

“A mistake. Nothing to worry about. The lights in here will kill anything.”

“What, no one wanted to be my roomy?”

“No one wants your cooties, DiNozzo.”

The last few living organisms hugged the warmth that was increasing. “Come on Tony, I need you to take a deep breath for me.”

A sudden, sharp current and the deathly light is gone, and it is pulled into a damp, dark, warm place. It lodges and starts to grow. Another organism attacks, aggressive and fierce. But this one is ancient and can adapt to survive. It consumes the other and takes what it needs. It mutates, changes, survives and continues to grow and multiply.

– – – –

Bethesda Hospital Isolation Ward for Infectious Disease, Bethesda, MD

Wednesday, May 12, 2005

Doctor Carolyn Lam marched into Bethesda with a stack of official papers, her team from the SGC, a case of pre-filled vaccinations, and all the attitude she had learned at the feet of her father. It took less than an hour to confirm her credentials and get access to her patient.

The SGC received notice one of their men was in Bethesda at 0632 today and heads were going to roll. An off-planet disease allowed to continue for almost twenty-four hours before she was notified? It was absolutely unacceptable. And to make matters worse, she discovers that they knew the system monitoring health alerts was down and instead of making it a priority, chose to disregard it until the next upgrade because they felt it was a waste of their time. Well, they are going to have a lot of time to rethink their life choices while they are awaiting prosecution for dereliction of duty.

To make matters worse, she had been in the middle of another argument with her father…no, with General Landry, regarding staffing levels between Atlantis and Earth. As usual, he wasn’t listening. All he would consider is the funding, and yes, she knows the money is important. But tell that to the men and women injured off-world.

As it stands, all medium to long-term injuries that do not have an obvious classified cause are shipped out of the mountain for treatment. Take today which started with being pulled from her bed at 0500 to treat SG-9 and their poor decision to climb crumbling scaffolding instead of waiting for a team of engineers to construct something safer. Which led to the argument, because she wasn’t going to allow a general the right to decide who she should spend time treating.

And then to have her contact at the CDC call in the middle of that love-fest with news of a sick marine at Bethesda? Well wasn’t that the perfect way to start her day. It took much longer than it should to access the appropriate information to confirm that not only was this one of their marines but to identify the illness from the database of known Pegasus diseases.

So, not only had Sgt. Nichols been allowed to suffer here when treatment was available, a disease from Pegasus was permitted access to Earth. This was beyond the pale, and now she was stuck doing damage control. It was now just past 1500, and she could finally confirm that the marine was stricken with the disease the Pegasus natives called Ancestor’s Bane.

According to Doctor Beckett’s comprehensive notes, the disease was equivalent to the Pegasus version of the Measles. Common symptoms were generally flu-like. Fever, muscle and joint soreness and pain, sometimes runny nose or congestion. The incubation period was seven to ten days after exposure. The saving grace was that the only infectious period occurred when the rash was present.

Sgt. Nichols had caught a very mild form of the disease during his first year in Pegasus. Typically, a person was immune once they had it. But the marine was one of the unlucky few who had too mild a case to develop immunity. He had been on Earth for three weeks, so it took a little digging to verify that for those who did not develop immunity, the disease could remain dormant in them for several years before re-emerging.

His was the first they had experienced and, unwittingly, he was going to launch a new study of long-term consequences of off-world infection. First things first, however, as she double-checked that the three IVs were flowing at the correct rates. The antibiotic cocktail was straight from the treatment protocols developed by Beckett. Two of them were standard Earth antibiotics. The third was pure Pegasus, and it was worth her career to allow a sample to be lost outside the mountain.

“I want the patient prepped for transport in thirty minutes.”

“Excuse me, who are you and what do you think you are doing with my patient?” A doctor was speaking from the desk outside the ISO room.

“I am Doctor Carolyn Lam, and this Marine is my patient.” She continued working with her staff while answering. “And you are?”

“Dr. Brad Pitt.”

“Sgt. Nichols handles security for my project. The origin of his illness is classified. I am, however, authorized to inform you that while it is infectious, it is not normally life-threatening. I have enacted standard protocols for treatment.”

“I’m going to ask you and your team to step off until I confirm you have privileges here. And then I want to review your diagnosis and treatment protocols,” He stated while dialing a number on the desk phone.

“Hello, this is Dr. Pitt in ISO 2. I need a security team, and I need to speak to…Yes, sir. Dr. Pitt, sir. Yes. Yes sir, Dr. Lam. But sir, my patient is…Acknowledged. But sir, with all due respect, I want it on record that I protest. If the patient needs to remain in quarantine, then it makes more sense to do so here.”

The doctor glared at Carolyn before turning slightly to the side making it more difficult for her to hear. “Yes, sir. Just myself, Lt. Ingham, Lt. Singh, and Dr. Yee had contact in ISO. Yes, sir.” He hung up the phone before turning back to face her through the transparent wall. “I certainly hope you know what you are doing Doctor.”

Carolyn didn’t back down an inch, “I assure you I am perfectly aware of my actions. The contagious period of the infection will end within 48 hours. He will be attended by only those individuals who have been inoculated.” She glanced back to her staff briefly, to judge how close they were to finishing before focusing again on Dr. Pitt.

“Speaking of inoculation, I need to vaccinate anyone who may have had contact with the patient during the time he was showing the rash.” She continued, businesslike. Fortunately, she had a supply of the vaccine on hand to inoculate the next wave of personnel that would be on their way to Atlantis in a month.  As long as she could reach anyone who had contact with Nichols within the next seventy-two hours, she could prevent an outbreak.

“As I was informed. Very well. I protest but am under orders to comply. Lt. Ingham is next door in ISO 1 with a patient. I have been notified that Dr. Yee and Lt. Singh have been called, but do not have their ETA.”

“If you could assist Lt. Hess with gathering a list of everyone who had contact with the patient, I would appreciate it. First, she will need a blood sample and then will vaccinate you.” She turned away to help her team complete the prep. Ten minutes later she assisted them as they moved the patient through cleared halls to the waiting ambulance.

She watched them pull away before turning back to use her authority. The ambulance would only be traveling ten minutes before they reached a position that allowed them to transport to the Apollo in orbit and then back to the Mountain. But she had an ambulance crew and a hotel staff to visit before she could return home.

– – – –

Bethesda Hospital, Bethesda, MD

Friday, May 20, 2005

“Last I checked, I was the General here.” General Jack O’Neill stated as Major Paul Davis pushed his wheelchair into the waiting room. Jack’s right leg was supported and sticking straight out in front of him with a cold pack draped over the simple splint.

“Yes, sir.” Was the only reply.

“I’m just saying if I don’t want an x-ray then…”

“Sir, you were on the phone with Doctor Jackson when it happened. He was very insistent.” Paul’s voice had that quality Jack had learned to mean, ‘I refuse to get in the middle of this one, but secretly know who is going to win.’ Damn. Jack shifted and winced. Just how many coats of wax were on that damn floor?

“I think I outrank Danny.” And no, Generals do not sound like petulant children, thank you very much, Daniel.

“Yes, sir. If you need to believe that sir.”

Emergency had taken one look at him and sent him up to Radiology before they would treat him. Something about the portable x-ray delayed. He could either sit around the ER and wait for a long time or sit around radiology. He was assured that waiting up here would be the fastest way out of the hospital. Jack knew that was a lie. Quickest way out is the Apollo and a healing device. He shifted and winced again. Why did he have to fall in public? Daniel was never letting him live this down.

Twenty minutes later and he was still waiting. Doesn’t a star mean anything to people nowadays? He was contemplating between Sports Illustrated and Popular Science when the two men entered the room. First was obviously a doctor. The other had the look of someone who had just pulled both feet out of the grave and finally has enough energy to stand up.

“Come on Brad. I’m going stir crazy man. You gotta sign the release.”

“Tony, it’s only been two weeks. I told you we could re-evaluate at three weeks. Give yourself some time.”

“You said I was healing faster than you ever expected. It’s the DiNozzo factor at work. Buckeyes just have a better constitution than Wolverines.”

“Faster doesn’t mean ready for field duty.”

“Braaaad. I promise I will take it easy. Let everyone else do the running and jumping. But, please. I’m gonna go crazy. Much more time stuck in my apartment, and I will be sneaking into Mrs. Thorwald’s apartment to gather evidence that she killed her husband to run off with her young stud.”

Jack huffed a small laugh then groaned when the movement set off pain in his ankle.

“Come on. Seriously? Rule 63 take on the 1954 masterpiece, Rear Window? James Stewart, Raymond Burr, Grace Kelly…”

“You have been alone too long. Fine. But first I want a full chest series to set a baseline for your lungs. Then, if it looks ok, I will approve limited duty.

“You are the best.”

“No promises until after the x-ray.” The doctor pointed at the empty chair next to Jack.  “Sit.”

“Woof.” He sat down and shifted twice in the chair before pointing at the Sports Illustrated in Jack’s hand. “You reading that, General?”

“Nah, be my guest.” Jack paused as a technician stepped out from x-ray to walk to the desk. The man, Tony, looked up and gave a big toothy grin.

“Nikki, my love. Are you finally ready for me to sweep you away from all this?”

“But what would my sister say if I ran off without her?”

“Hmmm. Twins. Bring her with us.”

She winked at him. “Sorry, but I’m here for the General.”

Jack perked up, finally. “What can I say, losing out to rank again.” The man, Tony, finished melodramatically as Jack was wheeled back into x-ray.

– – – –

Chapter 2

Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Monday, May 23, 2005

“I promise, Brad. I’ll take it easy, Brad. No, really, Brad, let me go to work, and I’ll let everyone else do the running and the jumping.” Tony muttered under his breath on the way to Abby’s lab to lay down per Gibbs’ orders. Brad’s gonna kill him if he finds out that Tony was running from a car bomb on his first day back.

Admittedly it was a little…no, ok, it was a lot stupid to not even take a moment and consider the effects of the plague when he insisted that he could run faster than Kate and McGee. When he took over from Tim on that trunk, he had a brief but intense flash of relief from his probie. It was a bizarre moment where he almost felt as if he could read McGee’s mind. Tim was concerned that he would screw up because he hadn’t been trained, with a little natural fear for his life. Understandable reactions, and he probably just didn’t realize he knew the probie that well.

Tony sighed as the elevator doors opened and he slowly entered, groaning as he twisted too fast to punch the button for Abby’s floor. Yeah, that’s it. He’s just too good at reading people. Of course, McGee is going to be frightened and worried. No mind reading needed there. It was purely projecting his own knowledge into the situation. And Kate was no different. She’s his teammate. Concerned for his well-being. But even so, he’s been around her enough to know that Kate sees the world through tinted lenses.

There was a moment there, just before she had bowed to logic and ran for Gibbs that he had the distinct impression she was angry that he didn’t give her a chance to handle it because she was a woman. No, he’s letting this get to him. I mean, she was genuinely worried about him. He heard her yell for him. No. Tony shook his head. Then regretted the motion.

Forget about his miniature momentary delusion, he was so sore. DiNozzo’s never give up, but there was a moment today when he had been convinced that he survived the plague only to die by that bomb. The thing is, and he would never tell the team, but maybe he should have died there. OK, no, that sounds bad even in his own head. Stop that.

The elevator doors opened, and Tony stepped off in the direction of Abby’s lab and immediately slowed down to a more manageable gait. It’s just, as slow as he’s moving now, there is no way he should have been able to get beyond the initial blast zone, much less half-way up that incline. He had given them just enough time to clear the zone as he psyched himself up to try since there was no way to know how long until the bomb would blow. But the moment he released the key, all that pent-up adrenaline hit his system, and he practically flew across that ground.

Granted, it was only for a brief distance, but he has never moved that fast in his life. Of course, right after it had felt as if he had been in an Ironman contest. Every joint and muscle ached and burned. He was exhausted. Maybe he should have stayed home another week.

The door to the lab opened to reveal Abby carefully measuring samples before placing them in the mass spectrometer. She was engrossed in her element, so he quietly moved into the room and let the door close behind him.

He smiled while watching her and decided to let his inner Duke out. “Well, hey there, little lady.”

“Tony, you’re back! I missed you!”

She spun, and for a moment he had a dual image of approaching himself and of Abby running toward him. Oh, shit! She’s gonna jump.

– – – –

The incessant ringing of his phone wouldn’t stop. He knows he turned off the sound, but somehow Paul’s calls always come through. He’s not sure how the Major did it, but he will bet his retirement that it was one of McKay’s geeks that did it for him. Carter could have been involved, but she might consider it crossing a line. As soon as the call went to voicemail, the ringing started again.

Giving up, he pulled the offending device from underneath the pillows, “O’Neill.”

“Sir, I hope you are doing well.” Davis inquired properly.

“Is the world about to be invaded by a previously unknown alien species?”

“Not to the best of my knowledge, sir.”

“Is the sun about to go supernova and extinguish all life in this solar system?”

“Sir…”

“Nu-uh. Is it?”

“No, sir.”

“Then by all that you hold holy, why am I being interrupted on my sick day?”

“Sir.”

“I mean, is it really too much to ask that the sick man be allowed to, I don’t know, sleep on his day off?”

“Of course, sir, but..”

“No. I have a broken ankle. I’m sick. Is it really too much to ask that I just be left to sleep? You’re sick, too. I gave you the day off. Off means not at work.”

“All due respect sir, but the IOA Committee decided they need another week of meetings with Doctor McKay before he returns to Pegasus, and today’s meeting…did not go well. They insist on your presence tomorrow.”

“Well, shit.” Jack hung up the phone. When the ringing began once more, he dropped the phone into the water pitcher on his bedside table. Three minutes of ringing later he covered his head with another pillow and cursed everyone who thought it was a good idea to get him a waterproof phone.

– – – –

Warehouse Rooftop, Norfolk, VA

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Tony’s blood was pumping hard as Gibbs shot out the controller for the target drone.  The terrorist cell had packed it with explosives and was targeting the families waiting for the Marine Amphibious Strike Group to bring their loved ones home. A firefight will do that to a person. Adrenaline pumping, senses heightened, split-second decision-making to protect yourself and your team.

He had been running a little on edge since they learned Ari was back in town and gunning for Gibbs. Hell, the man sat at a coffee table as polite as you please with a bomb under the table. All the while he was explaining to Gibbs how he needed to kill him, pretty please. He could see it almost as if he had been at the table in Gibbs seat when they were told of the attack.

Here Ari was supposed to be gaining access to the terrorist cell for the FBI, and instead, he was running the damn thing. Any logical person could see it, even if the feebs were in denial. At least Fornell finally caved and helped them out, of course he only did it to prove the FBI was right. And what a surprise for Fornell to learn that their mole was in Norfolk.

Gibbs called out to McGee who had been penned down near the car and started to give orders to flush out anyone else, when suddenly Kate yelled, “Shooter!” and dove in front of Gibbs. She jerked with an impact and went down hard, unmoving. Tony didn’t hesitate. He spun and started firing, Gibbs only a moment behind him.

As soon as the shooter was down, they hurried back to Kate. Turning her over and opening the jacket, Gibbs revealed the slug in her bullet-proof vest. Relief flooded Tony. There was the usual banter they had when one had come close to dying, but Tony was honestly impressed with how Kate handled herself.

Just as he was giving her a compliment, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and electricity zinged through his body. That odd, double view thing came back. But this time, instead of someone looking at him, he had a view of Kate in the crosshairs of a high-powered scope.

Kate was laughing beside him, and he didn’t hesitate as he knocked into her just as her head snapped back and blood sprayed onto Tony’s face. Stunned, Tony looked down to see Kate silent and still as a small pool of blood gathered around her head. Through his shock, he could hear Gibbs say, “Ari.”

– – – –

“I don’t care if you think the IOA Committee chairwoman is the unfortunate product of a barely forking family tree who obviously invested her trust fund in plastic surgery to sleep her way to a degree. But you can’t just say that stuff in a special session.” Jack O’Neill said while slowly lowering himself into the desk chair and leaning his crutches against the file cabinet.

Rodney McKay waved dismissively, “Oh, please. Tell me I’m wrong. Besides, her husband is a stallion in bed, and I know for a fact he didn’t marry her for her brains.”

“How the hell do you…? You know what? I don’t wanna know.”

“You’ll be pumping Jackson for info inside a week,” McKay snorted.

Jack rubbed his hands over his face, “I seriously don’t care. But if you wanted to find a way to end the session early, that was it.”

“Well, I wasn’t going to stay one more day with Barbie and Kinsey. Who the hell let him sit on the committee anyway?”

Jack ached enough that he was able to let the Barbie and Kinsey comment pass while filing it away for his next meeting with President Hayes. “Well, as the Vice President it was determined he was the best option after it was discovered Parker was snaked.”

“The snake had more sense.”

Jack leaned forward and kicked his ankle against the desk, “Ow!”

McKay looked at him with a little concern which was nice, and surprising, “What’s with the cast? Sam could just use the,” he motioned by waving his hand with fingers spread out, “to heal that.”

Groaning as he put the leg up on the chair his aide had placed next to his desk, Jack explained, “Too many people saw me break it. She’s gonna heal it in a couple weeks, and I’ll switch to a removable thingy.”

“Stupid secrets. Get Sam to heal it now and take care of that flu you’re getting.”

“It’s not a flu. It’s just some summer cold thing. Besides, I’m just sore from the fall. And, tired of smart-mouthed astrophysicists that are a pain in my ass during meetings. How does Sheppard not beg for reassignment?”

“He at least appreciates my stunning wit.”

“He skips the meetings, doesn’t he?” Jack moved and shivered a little before groaning again because of the pain. “I think I will just sit here and imagine zatting those morons.”

“Whatever helps you through the day.” McKay wrinkled his forehead and screwed up his face like he was working out a problem. “Seriously, why suffer. Get Sam out here to handle this.”

If only, “Sam’s on a mission.”

“Lucky her. So do I need to stick around for round five of Idiots-R-Us?”

Jack shook his head, “No. I think you finally convinced them to let you go. Your dial out is in a week. You need travel arrangements?”

McKay let out a long, drawn-out sigh, “No. Caldwell will be transporting me to Vancouver.”

Jack felt his eyebrows raise in surprise, “You’re voluntarily spending time with your sister?”

McKay slumped down in the chair grumpily, “Sam promised Maddie I would be at her birthday party and Jeannie threatened me if I didn’t come.”

Jack grinned, “Soooooo, what did you do to Carter that she ratted you out?”

McKay shrugged, “Well, I might have torn apart her paper on energy consumption modules for naquadria.”

“Annnnnd?” Because she would be angry about that, but not vindictive.

“And compared her IQ to her bra size.” Well, yeah, that would do it.

Shaking his head, Jack responded, “Seriously? What is wrong with you?”

“She started it. Besides, she can do better work than that. She’s getting sloppy. She needs to choose between heading the sciences and getting a command. She can’t have both. O’Neill, she’s brilliant, but that won’t carry her at this level, and she knows it.  I respect dangerous women in command positions, but it’s a full-time position.”

Jack rubbed at his eyes while reaching for his bottle of water, “Yeah, she’s the best at what she does but, she will never promote higher unless she can prove herself in a command position.”

“Whatever. Just because they can’t accept running the science program as equivalent because she’s not out ordering idiots to set up camp and shoot things.”

“So hey, why don’t I see if Caldwell can send you to Vancouver early?”

McKay jerked upright, “What?! Do you hate me too? Fine. Find out if your minion was able to get those gifts for me.”

“Did you actually send a Major in the Air Force toy shopping?” Jack sighed, knowing he was going to owe Davis one.

“Well, I wasn’t gonna do it.”

– – – –

Warehouse Rooftop, Norfolk, VA

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The rain was starting to pour as Tony finished documenting the spent shell casings. Balboa and Strickland’s teams were onsite documenting the firefight and the warehouse below it where the terrorists had been modifying the drone. But this scene belonged to the MRCT. This bastard shot Kate, and they were going to be the ones to take him down.

“Tony?” The soft voice of his teammate, Timothy McGee, broke him out of his thoughts.

“Got it all. Bag and tag, probie.” Tony responded while storing the camera to protect it from the elements.

Tony watched Tim while he worked, the motions practiced, thinking back to earlier today.

“Are you positive Kate is going to be OK, Tony?” Tim asked. The probie had been forced to stay with the scene when backup arrived with the ambulance.

Tony looked around quickly to ensure no one was nearby. “She’ll be fine, McWorrier, she woke up in the ER puking her guts out with a killer headache. They’ll keep her in a few days, but long term I suspect her only issue will be a new part in her hair.” Tony shuddered again as his mind went back to the rooftop and watching Kate’s blood spread. He had been so certain that he had been too late. Gibbs had taken rare pity on him and let him accompany Kate to the hospital, because he needed to know she was ok.

“Gibbs said you shoved her just as she was shot. How did you know?” Tim glanced his way for a moment before continuing to label the evidence bag.

Well, now, isn’t that the question of the day? “Years of training and a finely tuned situational awareness, Probie. Something you just have to develop over time.” Yeah, right. Hmm, maybe? That could be it.

Tony quickly looked around again to verify they were alone and unheard on the rooftop. “Just remember, Johnson’s team here in Norfolk are the only ones who know she’s alive. Gibbs will handle everything with Morrow, but the creep is still out there, and she will be in protective custody per Boss’s orders.”

“I understand, Tony.”

“That means even from our own people, McGee.” Tony started moving toward the rooftop door that lead to the elevator. “If the Director asks how you are doing, you tell him that you’re as well as can be expected given the situation and pretend he doesn’t know Kate made it.”

Tim waited until they were out of the weather to respond. “I get it, Tony. Do you really think it was Ari who shot her?”

“Yeah, Probie, I do.” Tony was certain of it, but how to explain that one. “More important, the Boss is certain of it, and that is all that matters.”

“Abby’s gonna be mad that she wasn’t told.” McGee shivered, whether, from his soaked clothes  or the unfortunate image of an irate Abby, Tony wasn’t sure.

“Boss’s call. Let him handle her. But, no matter how devastated or angry she is, it’s more important that Kate is protected.”

“I thought it was Gibbs that Ari wanted to kill.” McGee voiced the question they were all asking.

“It is. But the little psychopath isn’t beyond taking a shot at his team first.”

“Maybe he missed.” McGee mused as they reached the car.

Tony flashed on that feeling of satisfaction that had accompanied the view of Kate in the crosshairs. “Not likely.”

– – – –

Tony listened as Abby’s monologue about ammo and the sniper rifle grew toward histrionics and came to the uncomfortable conclusion that Gibbs decided not to clue Abby in on Kate’s survival. McGee was right about one thing, Abby was gonna be pissed when she found out. And in true Abby fashion, it wouldn’t be Gibbs that had to suffer for it. By being the first one here, he would probably be the primary target. But McGee was sure to fall under her wrath as well.

He tried to derail her by letting her know the rounds were Lapua since it was clearly marked on the casing. And in true Abby fashion, it was back to the hugging. Usually, he wouldn’t mind it. Abby could give some of the best hugs when she realized you were a human and needed the ability to draw air to function. But, that hair-raising feeling was back.

Tony concentrated, tried to focus on the source of that feeling. Then, in a moment of déjà vu, he was staring down the crosshairs of a scope again. First, it was himself Tony saw in the vision, but then the scope moved, and it was Abby’s head that was centered. He reacted instantly, knocking Abby to the ground as the glass in her window shattered and the sound of a bullet striking the wall above them registered.

“Are you hit?”

“No, you’re heavy.”

“Sorry.”

“God, no wonder you’re so heavy, Tony, you’re all muscle.”

What the fuck is wrong with her? “Abby, sh.”

“Hey, got a nice booty too.”

“Hey, is this how you deal with getting shot at?” Tony looked at her, checking for a head injury.

“I don’t know, it’s my first time.”

“Abby?” Gibbs’ voice called out, thankfully ending the somewhat uncomfortable responses from the goth. Tony gladly let the boss take charge, giving orders that he happily followed to get away.

– – – –

Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

What a difference a day makes. Tony followed Gibbs into the elevator, contemplating the curveball that included a new NCIS Director who was apparently well known by Gibbs. A director who happened to have connections to Ari’s Mossad handler, Ziva David. She just waltzed into the bullpen and greeted the director like sorority sisters reunited. Then tried to insist that Ari is one of the good guys.

“I want you on Ziva’s ass,” Gibbs growled out.

“She’s not really my type boss…” Tony went for his default inner clown.

“To tail her.”

“I know that.”

“She’s been in contact with Ari, it’s the only way she could know I hung up on him.”

“Talking about knowing, Boss,” Tony decided to confirm his suspicions. “The Director.”

“What about her.”

“Was she just playing along about Kate? Cause it didn’t really seem like she was playing.”

“Ya think?” Gibbs stared him down, and Tony swallowed hard knowing they were keeping this secret from their new boss. It meant Gibbs didn’t trust the new chain of command, great. “Kate is in protective custody, DiNozzo. No one knows where she is or that she’s alive until I say so. Ya got it?”

“Yes, Boss. Got it.” Tony stood still as Gibbs exited the now open elevator and then banged his head back against the wall. How is this his life?

– – – –

Embasero Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Tony stood next to Ziva David, watching the rain fall as she ate the last slice of his pizza. She was playing a game with him, that was obvious. Their flirty back and forth might have otherwise been considered fun if it weren’t for the fact that she was trying to protect Ari Haswari.

He continued to play his part, though there was something about her that made his skin crawl. It was very similar to the feeling he got both times he had that vision before Ari tried to kill his teammates. His chat with her confirmed one point. She was certain Kate was dead, so no leaks at this point.

In general, that was good. It didn’t confirm if Gibb’s distrust of their director was warranted, but it at least kept Kate alive. Because he was confident that Ari had wanted Kate to die. She had previously been a bit of a weakness for him, and Ari was all about eliminating weakness.

Ziva was another in the same mold. Tony was certain she approved of eliminating weakness. There was just something cold about her. She knew how to play the game and act the part, but deep inside, there was a disconnect where true emotion should live. Standing beside her, he felt the chill stronger than standing in the rain alone.

She was playing a strange game, both superior and coy, failing at both. Maybe it was a ploy to intimidate him, knock him off his game. He can admit that if he had been dealing with Kate’s death, it might have worked. But what it was really doing was giving him insight into the mind of a killer.

Because with just this little bit of interaction, he is now certain that is what Ziva David is…a killer.

– – – –

Tony parked in Gibb’s driveway and considered how to talk sense into the idiot. There’s a killer on the loose that is targeting Gibbs and he just heads home to an unlocked house to sand some wood? Of all the bull headed…he turned off the engine and stared at the house. Something wasn’t right. If this was a Marvel Movie, his Spidey-sense would be going off. It was like an internal alarm screaming “Danger, Will Robinson!”

He pulled his primary weapon and eased his way through the front door. Tony quietly cleared the main floor of Gibb’s house as a gunshot rang out. He made it to the open door of the basement and saw Ziva, gun in hand. Adrenaline started to pump, but a moment before he called out for her to drop it he saw Gibbs step into the light to reclaim his rifle from the floor beside what Tony could now see was Ari’s body.

Why he didn’t move forward and make his presence known, he would never be able to say. But he overheard the conversation between Ziva and Gibbs. She had set up her own brother. What had happened here was nothing more than an execution.

– – – –

Massachusetts Ave, Washington, D.C.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Tony adjusted his pace as he settled into a comfortable stride. Technically, Dr. Pitt hasn’t released him to resume his jogging schedule, but sometimes he does his best thinking when he is in the zone. And, today he needs to think.

His thoughts and feelings had been a mess all night long. The last week spun through his mind, details popping in and out as he examined them. Looking for patterns, for angles that he previously had avoided or denied. Actions, reactions, interactions among and around his team. Because at some point when he wasn’t paying attention his world had changed.

When had things gone off the rails? Gibbs taking the bit in his teeth and heading off on his own isn’t a new thing, unfortunately. He has always been a my-way-or-the-highway kinda boss. Shoot, he was even that when he was more of a partner than a boss. But this is different. Last night was…

No, it was before that. Tony was in agreement with Gibbs when it came to hunting Ari. Everything they had pointed at him as the perp and they were right, damn it. But, and he knows this deep inside, Gibbs never had plans to bring in Ari alive.

Tony jogged in place, waiting for the light to turn while checking his pulse. It was uncomfortable to think about, because prior to Kate getting shot, Tony had every plan in the world of stopping Gibbs from taking that step. They were the law, damn it, and that means something.

The light changed, and Tony started out again. After Kate, well, he admits that he was a little blood-thirsty for a while there. But Gibbs hadn’t been blood-thirsty, he had been determined. He passed judgment and was just waiting for the opportunity to carry out the sentence. And that is where Tony drew the line.

Thing is, he knew it was happening. When Gibbs split the team up, obviously keeping them from interfering with his plans. He should have called him on it then. Even with Kate out of the picture, everyone knew that Ari’s target was still ultimately Gibbs. But there he was, taking off into the night. Calling the shots, solo.

Then there was the fact that he kept it all from the Director. And, OK, so frankly he wasn’t getting sunshine and roses from the new boss either, but that is a severe breakdown in the chain of command that is going to come back and bite them all on the ass if he could read that woman correctly. So, the real question was…did Gibbs do it because she would have stopped him…or because she can’t be trusted?

Damn! He got a stitch in his side and pulled up short to walk it out. Time to face facts. What’s really bugging the hell out of him was Gibbs colluding with Ziva fucking David to kill Ari. He sat in his car outside Gibbs house trying to decide what to do when Gibbs stepped outside to wait for the LEOs to show up. And, the master-of-knowing-all had no clue Tony had witnessed it. He gave Tony the official version of self-defense in the basement. Gibbs explained to Tony how, amazingly, Ziva arrived after it happened. Was Tony not supposed to notice that her car wasn’t even in the driveway?

It made Tony sick. How can he go into work today and act like he is okay with this as they all write up their official reports? Stitch gone, he picked up his pace, slowly returning to the jog on the final leg. He’s been in this place before. Trying to weigh loyalty with his own self-respect. In the past, his answer was to walk away.

But, damn it! He loves his job. This sucks! Feet pounding on the payment, breathing increasing, pace quickening as he reached the beginning of his sprint home. OK, fine. Gibbs wants to go off the rails—in the end, Ari is dead, and Tony isn’t sad to see that psycho gone forever. That means Kate and his team are safe.

And that’s the main point now, isn’t it? It’s about his team. Gibbs might have thrown them aside to complete his vendetta, but Tony won’t. He can’t. Kate’s alive, he needs to see to it she stays that way and has a team to come back to. She’s not ready to deal with Gibbs on her own. And his probie? Well, McGee isn’t prepared for any of them yet.

Decision made. Tony felt the stress fall away with his choice firmly in mind. He will stay for now. But only until he’s certain that they can look out for themselves and each other. After all, Tim is his probie, not Gibbs’. Gibbs took on Kate, and ultimately, Tony will do what he can to keep her safe. But Tim is Tony’s responsibility. Time to start teaching Tim how to be a partner, not just a teammate.

– – – –

Chapter 3

Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

Friday, May 27, 2005

“McGee, you’re late” Tony stated as McGee stowed his weapon and put down his bag. “Two hours late to be precise.”

“Um. Actually, Tony I had a call from Gibbs this morning to escort Kate’s sister to the safe-house to pick her up. She’ll be staying with her sister, Rachel, while on medical leave.” Tim replied before pulling out his chair and turning on his computer.

“Gibbs called you?” Since when did Gibbs start…

“Well, the safe house is in Silver Springs, so I was the closest,” Tim said defensively.

Tony reminded himself of his priorities: support and train. “So, how was she?”

“Pretty good. Still getting a little dizzy, but that’s to be expected. They have her using a walker, but she said it should only be for a few more days. Tentatively she will be out for a month, but she was insisting she would be back next week.” McGee supplied quickly.

“Yeah, as tenacious as our Kate is, I think we better count on at least a month. Better work on your reports, we need all the paperwork squared away so we can put this one away.” Tony said while pulling up another report. He had been at it all morning.

McGee looked around, “Where’s Gibbs?”

“Oh, Boss is currently behind closed doors with Madam Director. She was not a happy camper this morning.” Tony watched Tim’s expression out of the corner of his eye while continuing to work.

“I know she said to leave it alone, but I thought it was self-defense.”

“I guess you could say that. I don’t think she’s necessarily mad at being wrong, but it’s probably best to leave that to Gibbs to explain. So fire up the computer there and get cracking on those reports.” Tony pulled up Abby’s ballistics reports to cross-reference samples.

“Um, Tony I’ve finished most of my reports. I did them while I was on protection with Abby.” Tim said smugly.

“Well, in that case, Probie, you can send them to me for review.”

“Usually we just send them to Gibbs, Tony.”

“Yeah, usually we skip the part where I’m the Senior Field Agent of this team, but I’ve realized we’ve been skipping parts of your training as well. You are still a probationary field agent. As your training officer of record, I should be reviewing your reports before submission to our supervising agent,” Tony responded. Things change today, and he’s not backing down on this.

Tim looked genuinely confused, so he wasn’t just being difficult, “But, that’s not how Gibbs does it.”

Tony sighed rethinking this. He got up, holstered his weapon and motioned McGee to do the same. Grabbing a piece of paper, he wrote a quick note for Gibbs and placed it on the man’s desk. “Let’s go get some coffee.”

McGee looked like he might argue for a moment before following Tony out. They walked in silence for a while, McGee confused, and Tony was deciding how to approach this.

“Look, Tim. Gibbs is good at what he does. He gets results, and that’s what people notice. Back when Gibbs was a one man show, he was known for solving 68% of his cases. That’s a decent clearance rate for someone who had trouble working with a partner.  Since I’ve been on this team, our clearance rate has been between 78% to 82%. If you realize that the national average for law enforcement, in general, is about 64%, then you understand that makes our team one of the best in the country at solving crimes.”

Tim started to open his mouth to comment, but Tony cut him off. “What you may not know is that before I joined this team, Gibbs’ conviction rate was only 67%. He’s good, but he can get hyper-focused. When he does that, he cuts corners. Cutting corners doesn’t make for solid case files. Without solid case files, the prosecutors have to plea bargain because they can’t make the charges stick.”

He could practically see the tiny gears in Tim’s mind turning. “Tony, our current conviction rate is 91%.”

“Yes, it is. And that is the benefit of solid police work. Gibbs has been great at teaching you how to see a crime scene, analyze it, connect the dots, etc. It’s what he excels at. Boss is also great at reading people, normally. But, while he respects the police-work, he hasn’t been teaching you. He just expects you to absorb everything through observation. But see it then do it isn’t always the best way to share knowledge. Sometimes you need to talk it out. Some people, like you I suspect, need examples in writing to compare to the real world to line things up in your head. Gibbs rarely considers anyone else’s learning style.” Tony cut off as they ordered their coffees and he added two Gibbs’ Specials to his tray.

Tim was silent as they started to walk back to the office. “What’s brought this on, Tony?”

“Everything with Ari made me think. If Ari had decided to go after Gibbs instead of gunning for the team first, I don’t think anything we could have done would have stopped him. In a way, we were lucky that he was a sick bastard because he got a thrill out of playing games with Gibbs.” He glanced over at Tim as he said the next part. “But Gibbs lost sight of convicting Ari, at some point, it changed from taking him down to taking him out.”

Tim paled and stopped walking, so Tony turned to face him and wait him out. “Do you think Gibbs…?”

“The truth—I don’t know. But, keep one thing clear in your mind right now. The bastard tried to kill you, tried to kill Kate, tried to kill Abby, and tried to kill Gibbs. He entered Gibbs home with the intent to kill him. No one is questioning that it was self-defense.” Yeah, just keep telling yourself that, Tony. “So, Ari is gone. Today that is what matters. And as of today, we are getting back on track.”

“Okay, so what does that mean?”

“First, it means I review your reports, the way a Senior Field Agent is supposed to review them. I’ll warn you, Kate will probably fight that, and if she does—well, I’ll let her. But, don’t let her tell you otherwise. Second, I will be completing a skills assessment, and we will make a plan to get you the training you need to round out your skills.”

Tim started to bristle a little, so Tony jumped in to head it off, “I’m not blind, you know. I see how frustrated you get when Gibbs leaves you behind the computer while the rest of the team heads into the field. I clearly acknowledge that’s where you shine, but that’s a disservice to you. It’s holding back your development because you are missing out on a chunk of the fieldwork. Let’s face it, any of us could handle 50% of what you do. Maybe not as quick, but just as accurate.”

They were almost back, so he hammered his point home. “The fact of the matter is, it’s my job to see that you are properly trained so that you will be able to step up when the time comes. It should be Gibbs’ job too, but his training methods leave something to be desired when it comes to this part of the work. So, let me do my job, and if he gives you any grief, then let me handle Gibbs.”

They passed security and entered the elevator. “Tony, how did you know all those statistics?”

“Well, Probie, because it’s part of the research for my Master’s thesis in Criminology.”

“You have a Master’s?”

“Don’t act so surprised. Though, I don’t have it yet. I submitted my thesis to my advisor while I was on leave. So, we will see.”

“Wow, does Gibbs know? Wait, of course he knows. Oh! Does Kate know?”

“No, and you are not to tell her. It’ll ruin my image.”

“How can being educated ruin your image?” Tim questioned before covering his mouth for a quick cough.

“Never hurts to be underestimated.” Tony looked him over, “You getting sick on me?”

They stepped out of the elevator onto their floor before Tim responded. “Yeah, think I caught something while we were out in the rain. Maybe a cold or something.”

“Summer colds are the worst. Better take something for it now.”

“Yeah, don’t want to get sick and ruin my plans for this weekend.”

“Oh? Hot date?” Tony asked with a grin.

“Sort of, but not like you’re thinking,” Tim responded, blushing.

“Oh, no. I saw that. Probie’s got a date.”

“She’s just a friend from online. I scored two tickets to Otakon tomorrow, and she’s a major anime fan.”

“Probie’s got a date with pixels.  Imagine your surprise when she shows up tomorrow. What are you going to do when you learn she’s 55, 5’9”, 256 pounds with a five o’clock shadow and Max is not short for Maxine?”

“It’s not like that. I’ve known Penelope for a while.”

“Penelope. Definitely a fake name.” Tony continued to tease him as they rounded the corner to the bullpen.

“Penelope is just a friend, ok. This isn’t the first convention we’ve gone to together. So tomorrow we will go to Otakon, hang out, and just have fun—as friends.”

“Friend’s gonna have ta go without you.” Gibbs passed by them, taking his coffees without stopping.

“Boss?”

“Madam Director has decided to switch the duty. We have a petty officer aboard the Harry S Truman suspected of tampering with ship’s systems. Agent Afloat found propaganda for Only US in his possession.”

Tony confirmed, “Only U.S., or better known as Only Us, was recently added to the watch list for known hate groups. Their argument is that only U.S. citizens should be allowed to serve. They want to end immigration and citizenship through military service. Their normal M.O. is to mount a campaign of harassment against service men and women who are not already U.S. citizens.  Unfortunately, they have recently started physical intimidation tactics, and there were three deaths last year.”

“HST isn’t due back in port until next week, Boss,” Tim added.

“Yeah, McGee. Our ride leaves in three hours. Get home and pack. According to the Director, we can ride the ship back.”

Excuse me? Tony thought. “Uh, Boss. Have you been cleared for duty after yesterday? They haven’t possibly had a chance for a review of the shooting.”

“According to the State Department, never happened, DiNozzo,” Gibbs responded as he grabbed his gun and bag to leave. “Gear up and don’t be late.”

What the actual fuck? It didn’t happen? No one is going to even pretend to look into an attempted murder of a federal agent by a foreign national? Tony mentally shoved it into the file drawer labeled More-Fucked-Up-Shit-to-Consider and focused on the now. “OK, you heard the man, Probie. I guess the wonderful Miss Penelope will be attending the convention alone.”

– – – –

Penelope Garcia smiled with a big toothy grin as she thanked the barista for her Pink Raspberry Passion before spreading out at her favorite table. Laptop booted up and connected to the FBI’s servers to access her email, she put the bluetooth back into her ear and placed a call. “Listen up my chocolate Adonis, I can get that list for you asap, but I need more information.”

“What do you need from me, baby girl?” Was Derek Morgan’s quick reply.

“I’m sending a list to you now. If you can get our resident boy genius to get me this information, I will be happy to answer your every wish.”

“Oh, really? I can wish for a lot, sweet mama.” Derek’s rich, smooth voice teased.

Penelope smiled. “Be still my beating heart. My imagination is running away with me.”

The chime on the door sounded, and she looked up then waved to the man entering. “I would love to chat more, but I have a prior engagement, mon ami.” The man perked up and quickly approached the table.

“Prior engagement? You cheating on me, Garcia?”

“Penelope. I hope I didn’t interrupt your plans today.”

“No, Tim. No plans, I’m glad you called.”

“Who’s Tim? Come on, talk to me baby girl.”

She shook her head and motioned to her ear so Tim could see, “Goodbye, Derek.” Then she hung up and removed the earpiece. “Sorry about that. The team is out of town on a case.”

“Nothing bad, I hope. Well, I mean, it is the BAU, so of course, it’s bad.”

She took pity on him, “No, they caught the unsub. They are just cleaning up loose ends. They should be on their way home tonight. But, how are you doing? The rumor mill has been going ballistic. First, they said one of your agents was murdered, then they say she’s alive. And, forgive me but you look like a long stretch of bad road.”

“It’s ok. The perp did try to kill Kate, Agent Todd, but she was just wounded. We let everyone believe she was dead for her protection while we tracked the killer. But the threat is over.” Tim explained.

“I am so relieved. But you are still looking pale. Are you going to be ok? Because I am really looking for a little R&R tomorrow at Otakon.”

“Yeah, actually, that’s why I wanted to meet.” Tim reached into his inside pocket and pulled out an envelope. “My team caught a case. We’re flying out in an hour.”

“Noooo. Sometimes law enforcement sucks. You just got off a case and are obviously unwell. Can’t they give it to another team?” Penelope looked at Tim and realized he really did look like he was coming down with something.

“It’s fine. I think our boss irritated our new director. So our team has the assignment, and it’ll be next week before I’m back.” He handed her the envelope, and she took them with a frown. “So, two VIP passes to Otakon. No reason for both of us to miss it. Maybe you can find someone who wants to go, your friend Derek?”

“Derek at Otakon? I don’t think so. My hunka burnin’ love wouldn’t know what to do.” She frowned again, making her sad face. “I hate to go without you. We’ve been planning this for months. And, there are not many of my online friends that I can hang out with in the real world.”

“I know. Same here. Sometimes it’s just nice to be with someone who has no expectations.” Tim said.

“Oh, honey, I have all the expectations in the world. But you are my sweet little brother of the information highway, and it is all kinds of ick to put you in the same thought with that.” Penelope shuddered dramatically.

“So, you’ll go?” Tim asked miserably.

“You bet your shiny leather loafers I will. Even if I go alone, I will make sure to enjoy myself enough for two.” She looked at him again. “You are going to be careful right? Take care of yourself?”

“I’ll be fine. This is just a cold or the flu. I was out in the rain at a crime scene earlier this week, and I’ve felt it coming on since then. So, I’m sure it’s nothing bad.” An alarm went off on his phone. “Oh, I’ve gotta go if I’m going to make my flight.”

Penelope jumped up and moved around the table to give him a quick hug. “I don’t know where you’re going, but I rarely do. Be careful. Just know that if you need anything, let me know.”

He gave her a small smile, “You too.” Then he turned and was out the door.

She finished her tea while slowly shutting down her laptop. She carefully tucked it away in her bag and stood up to return to work. Hesitating a moment, she considered her available options for appreciative companionship, then nodded…decision made. Penelope put her bluetooth back in her ear before searching her contacts for the one that read Locksley and hit call as she turned to walk out the door.

“Edgerton.”

“Greetings my Manly Master of Marksmanship. This is your Tech Goddess demanding your attendance and servitude tomorrow. You, me, and two VIP passes to Otakon. You may now worship at my altar.”

“No way. How did you get VIP passes to the hottest ticket on the eastern seaboard? They’ve been sold out for months.”

She scoffed, “You doubt my mystical powers? I know it’s short notice, but are you free?”

“Not free, but I think you can meet my price.”

“Oh, sweet mother of mayhem. Pick me up at 7am… that is unless you just want to stay the night.”

“That would make it a shorter drive.”

– – – –

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Friday, May 27, 2005

Jeannie Miller breathed in and out slowly while counting to 100 using base 8. Dealing with her brother was like handling a toddler holding a taser. “Why do you have to be difficult? You’re gone 99% of the time. Is it really too much to ask that you take your niece out for the afternoon?”

“What am I supposed to do with a kid? I don’t even remember being a kid. And there are things. Things that can happen to kids. What if something happens?” Meredith shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot.

“You’re a genius. You’ll figure it out. Maddie’s been looking forward to spending time with you. So you are taking her for the day. End of discussion.” Jeannie continued packing a day pack for Madison.

The whining was never-ending. “I came for her birthday party tomorrow. Isn’t that enough?”

“No Mer, it’s not enough. Family is more than just showing up when it’s convenient. I want you to get to know her. You are going to take your niece out. You are going to get her food at an actual restaurant. You are going to take her someplace that she wants to go. And you are going to enjoy it.”

“Jeannie, don’t you think it’s better for us to wait until Sunday to do something? When everyone is available?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Why can’t you just—Do you really want to know? Fine. Caleb will be home in thirty minutes. I’m ovulating and I want you and Maddie out of the house while we try for a little brother or sister for Madison. And you are going to happily help me do this or I will spend the next year telling all your friends every humiliating incident you ever…”

“Fine. I don’t want to know the details. Just…did you have to tell me that? I’ll be scarred for life.”

“Go be scarred someplace else and take those two poster boys for war that are guarding you. I can’t have sex while there are people guarding the house with guns.” Jeannie shoved the house keys and the daypack into Mer’s hands. “Maddie! Uncle Mer’s gonna take you to the children’s science museum and tell you everything they have that’s wrong. Put your shoes on!”

Meredith looked miserable as he took the bag. “Why couldn’t you wait until John was with me?”

“Why didn’t your better half come with you?” She waved it off. “Look, Mer, Maddie likes her Uncle John, but she loves her Uncle Mer. Go make science with her and heckle the curator. It’s Benson and you know he hates you.”

“Fine. Whatever. Go do whatever mating ritual you need and call me when the house has been sanitized.” He headed to the door. “Maddie—chop, chop. Let’s go.”

She watched through the door as Mer awkwardly strapped Maddie into the booster seat and checked her watch as the two U.S. Marines who had arrived with Meredith buckled up and pulled out of the drive, Mer waving his hands around in the back seat and pointing directions.

– – – –

U.S.S. Harry S Truman, At Sea

Saturday, May 28, 2005, 0100 hours

Tony was relieved as the lights from the deck of the United States Aircraft Carrier, Harry S Truman finally came into view. They were on the last leg of their journey and the storm battering against the helicopter was worrying, as were the stormy seas.

Honestly, he was more worried about McGee. He showed up for the flight to Spain looking off and had been steadily degenerating. At this point, Tim’s gone through all the airsick bags they grabbed for the flight, and Tony’s just hoping his ever-present seasickness can be controlled. Even though it just kept coming up, Tony kept forcing fluids on him. Meanwhile Gibbs showed his concern by sleeping through half the flight.

They touched down, and a team ran out to secure them to the deck. As soon as the door was open, they grabbed their gear and followed their escort. Intense sound and rain were suddenly muted, and Tony saw Agent Afloat Jerry Lowen waiting for them.

“Gibbs, DiNozzo, glad you guys could make it. We won’t have access to the systems tonight due to the conditions, but the Captain and XO are requesting a meeting with you at 0700. You’ll be bunking with me, Gibbs. Seaman Ruiz here can show your team where they’re bunking.”

Gibbs nodded agreement and passed off his bag to the waiting seaman before turning to amend the order, “DiNozzo, get McGee to the infirmary for some Dramamine.”

“On it, Boss.” He motioned Ruiz to lead the way. “Come on, McQueasy, let’s get you some help.”

They moved slowly down ladders and around passageways like rats in a maze. The further they walked, the more of McGee’s weight Tony was taking. And, unfortunately, the greener he became. Tim’s eyes were sunken, and he was running a fever based on the heat coming off him. Tony wasn’t sure this was just sea sickness anymore.

He urged the seaman to move faster, but as they got to the corner a fast-moving body slammed into them, and all three went sprawling. He was able to shift on the way down to cushion McGee’s landing, but it knocked the air out of him. The other asshole quickly regained his footing before barking out a reprimand.

“What do you think you’re doing blocking this passage?”

Wait! That voice…but he’s…

“Commander McGarrett, Sir!” The seaman spoke up and Tony felt a shock go through him at the name. “Transporting civilian to the infirmary, sir!”

“Shit.” The Lt. Commander turned, and Tony saw a face he knew well. “Let me help you.”

The two men quickly helped Tim to his feet, and Tony moved back as soon as the weight was off him. He took a moment to fix the expression on his face before standing to turn, just as McGee vomited all over the Lt Commander’s shoes.

“Fuck!”

“Sorry about that, but not like it’s the first time that’s happened to you, Flash,” Tony smirked as Steve’s head jerked around to look at him.

“Tony! What are you doing out here?” Steve McGarrett asked with a look of surprise on his face.

“I could ask the same. Last time we chatted, you didn’t think your team would be recalled for a few more months at least.”

“You know how it is, people hear you’re doing a good job, and you become popular. Some chairforce General out of D.C. wants to recruit the team for a volunteer op.”

“Volunteer, huh.?”

“You know how it is, go, listen to the spiel and weigh the risk rewards. I don’t take chances with my team, Tony.” Steve grinned at him just before McGee heaved and threw up again.

“Shit, sorry, Probie.  Let’s get him to the infirmary.” Tony moved up to take one side while Steve took the other. The seaman grabbed the extra bag, and they practically carried McGee.

A hospital corpsman met them as they entered and helped them get Tim onto the bed. Tony backed off as a doctor, and another corpsman stepped in to assess the situation.

There was the standard round of question and answer as they poked and prodded. Tony flinched and turned away when the needles came out. The plague had left him with a bit of a phobia when it came to pointy things. They shoved another emesis bag into his hands and questions were momentarily halted.

“He was getting sick before we left home, but we thought it was just a cold. He does experience severe seasickness, but he took a Dramamine before we left and another before this last ride. I don’t know if that last one stayed down. He threw up the whole way on the helicopter.”

The doctor nodded, then returned to his patient. “Agent McGee, I would like to keep you overnight so we can administer some fluids and anti-nausea meds. And, I want to keep you for observation because you are running a fever. We are testing, but based on your symptoms, I suspect you have the flu. Though, I’m sure your natural motion sickness isn’t helping that. Is that ok with you?”

It spoke to how Tim was feeling that his only response was to nod. Tony took the position of advocate to ask the question, “So you’ll release him in the morning?”

“I’ll evaluate him in the morning. Before I release him, I want to make sure he’s not contagious, can keep down a meal and his temperature is under control.” He looked at Tony, taking in the NCIS gear. “I realize you have a job to do, but he’s no good to you in this condition. Unless it’s a matter of national security, I say when my patient is ready. Actually, I decide no matter what.”

“No problem, Doc. Tim, take it easy, and I’ll update Gibbs. It’s not like we can do anything tonight anyway.” Tony took Tim’s laptop and equipment to keep it secure while leaving his clothes behind. When he exited the infirmary to see if the seaman had waited for him, he found Steve sitting in the chair with a couple of curious seamen sporting some minor injuries.

“I sent the seaman ahead to deliver your Boss’s gear. He’s bunking in with our Agent Afloat. Guest quarters are a little tight, but you and your teammate are assigned to a berth a deck down. I’ll be happy to escort you if you want. Thought it would give us some time to catch up.” Steve said with a friendly face. The kind of look you have for an old friend that you keep in touch with.

“Sure, sounds like fun. You, leading me around when I’m tired and can’t find the way home. Reminds me of Spring Break in Corpus Christi.” Tony gave the after you motion and followed Steve into the passageway.

“You don’t mind if we stop by my berth so I can change out of this?” Steve pointed down to the vomit covered shoes and pants legs. He had cleaned up some here, but yeah—that was nasty.

“Nah, don’t mind at all.” He hefted his bag higher on his shoulder and followed Steve into the corridor.

– – – –

Steve opened the door to his berth and stepped in. Tony followed, looking at the too-neat-to-be-normal standard ship’s décor and turned to close the door behind him as Steve kicked off his shoes and started to strip off the soiled pants before the door was even closed. “You got a roomy?”

“No, I’m solo unless we take on more people.”

Tony locked the door and turned around only to have Steve pin him to the door with a kiss that was full of lust and want. Parts of him that hadn’t taken notice since the plague were waking up.

They came up for breath, and Steve leaned his forehead against Tony’s, “Damn, Tony. When I heard you had the fucking plague of all things, I almost jumped ship.”

“I’m fine.” Steve’s hold tightened a moment. “Cleared for field duty and everything. No lasting repercussions.”

“Ok, right. I want you, Tony. I need to feel you here and alive.” Tony pulled him back for another kiss.

Pulling back, Tony shook his head, “We shouldn’t be doing this. Not here. You get caught, and you’re screwed.”

“I’ll take the risk. But I need to feel you here, man.”

“Ok, Ok. But…”

“You don’t want it? Just say the word.”

Tony hesitated; this was dangerous here. Steve’s hand ran gently down his back, and he felt a frisson of desire and lust tempered by respect and care with a need that was more emotional than physical, and parts stood up at attention in response. Throwing caution to the wind, he turned Steve to press him against the bunks while he took control of the kiss.

“Want you. Want this.”

“Gonna be fast.”

“Ok, stop talking and move.” Knowledgeable hands worked at Tony’s belt and zipper.

The kissing continued unabated with speech becoming harder to consider, “Pitch or receive?” Steve asked.

“You have more to lose. Receive.”

Steve seemed to vibrate a moment at Tony’s renewed kissing. Alright, not going to last if they don’t get this started. Something’s missing. He broke the kiss, “lube, condoms.”

Broken between kissing Steve answered, “…top…drawer…back…corner.”

Tony opened the drawer with one hand and spotted them in the far back corner just as Steve spun them back around, so it was Tony against the bed. Tony reached into the drawer blindly, trying desperately to reach the condoms and lube before this ended prematurely. He closed his eyes as Steve kissed him deeply, taking control in a way he usually only did when they had plenty of time on their hands for play.

Suddenly he felt the tube of lube and two condoms in his hand even though they had moved about a foot out of reach of the drawer. That thought was derailed as Steve’s leg pushed between his and rubbed against his dick. Handing Steve the lube and one of the condoms, he quickly ripped his own open to roll it on and, hopefully, minimize the evidence.

Steve pulled a pillow from the bed and turned Tony around so he could wrap his hands firmly on the bunk. He snapped open the lube and quickly inserted a finger into Tony’s ass. “Damn you’re hot. Must keep this quiet. You need to make noise, use the pillow.”

“Shit Steve, not gonna last long enough to raise the volume. C’mon man.”

“Shh, no begging now. You know I only like begging when we have time for you to make it count.” Steve practically purred in Tony’s ear.

A second finger entered and stretched, but Steve was careful not to hit the prostate. Tony knew from experience that he was too far gone to wait for penetration if Steve started playing like that. He pushed back on the fingers to hurry this along, and Steve withdrew before wrapping lube covered fingers around his own dick.

“Say it, Tony, tell me you want it.”

“Yes, damn it, come on SEAL. You have a job to do.”

“Oh, no, Tony. You are never just a job.” He felt the pressure and burn as Steve entered him in one smooth motion.

“Oh, Fuck.”

“Too much?”

“You stop now, and I swear I will find a woodchipper for your surfboard.”

“Don’t threaten a man’s surfboard. Next time we have time, you will pay for that.”

Tony was riding an edge with the pace Steve was setting. He tried to reach for his cock, but Steve beat him, stroking him in rhythm with every thrust. Five strokes later and he was biting into the pillow as he came, the feeling of Steve’s release pulsing in time with his own.

They held the position for a minute, breathing hard and regaining control of limbs. Steve slid out but held Tony in place a moment while checking. “I’m fine.”

“That you are,” Steve said with a low chuckle.

They quickly removed and tied off the condoms. Steve wrapped them quickly for disposal. Wet wipes, and redressing, before a quick spray of something to deodorize the room.

“I really needed that.”

Tony grinned, “So did I, but no more taking chances with your career.”

Steve gave him that grin that meant trouble before reaching for the door. “Let’s go be seen and spread wild rumors of all the beach bunnies we deflowered.”

Tony shook his head as he grabbed his gear and followed Steve out of the room. Bantering about who had the best pick up line.

– – – –

Chapter 4

Oval Office, White House, Washington, D.C.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

“With all due respect, Mr. President, I don’t agree. The men and women of the armed forces serve with honor and integrity. They have accepted and abide by the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell doctrine. I see no reason at this time to change that law in a way that will disrupt the cohesiveness of our current operations.” Admiral James Whitehead, Chief of Naval Operations, insisted.

“With all due respect, Mr. President,” General Howard Oscar Shaw, Sr. began, “that’s bullshit. Will the change cause disruption? Sure, all changes cause issues. They will get over it. I say it’s past time for a law that has nothing to do with the function and operations of our service men and women to be eliminated. And, I assure you that my Marines will follow orders and adapt.”

“Are you saying my Navy is unable to adapt, Howard?”

“Seems to me, I’m not the one saying that Jim. Are you saying it?”

General Francis Maynard, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cleared his throat and there was silence. “I don’t believe our Commander in Chief invited us here today to listen to us squabble like children.”

In the ensuing silence, Vice President Robert Kinsey spoke up. “Squabbling aside, I have to side with Admiral Whitehead on this one Henry. This is not just a change of a law, it’s an attack on the morality and an affront to the God-fearing men,” a cleared throat from the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Joan Payton Pratt and a nod in her direction before he continued, “and women who serve our country. The American people will not stand on this attack on our very values.”

“Oh, give it a rest, Bob!” President Henry Hayes popped off with an expression of distaste. “We’ve got men and women serving this country right now, with honor and distinction, who don’t privately identify as heterosexual. It’s the height of hypocrisy that we can honor them as long as they never let us know who they choose to love. And, frankly, I find it offensive that you are including my god in your argument against this issue.”

“Henry, I think everyone in this office is aware of why this issue is suddenly coming to the fore. There’s not one of us that has missed the fact that General O’Neill was invited to a conversation with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This isn’t a question of service or morality for you.” Kinsey pointed toward Jack who up until this point had been sitting quietly outside the circle of his superiors. “This is another example of you bowing to alien mores.”

“Sirs,” Jack addressed them for the first time, “The fact is, this is not just about my program. But, in regard to the Stargate Program, we are dealing with peoples that do not understand or respect our stance regarding interference in personal choice. Added to that, the Atlantis Expedition, which happens to be an international expedition, has service men and women who are not restricted in the way that our forces currently are.”

“Now we come to the heart of this, don’t we? This isn’t about our armed forces. This is about bowing to the will of that bastard, McKay, and his bleeding-heart civilians.” Kinsey interrupted. “The man isn’t American, is an admitted atheist, is a known homosexual, and there are rumors of him and…”

Jack jerked forward, “Actually, I believe the man identifies as bisexual, but he’s open to evolving definitions. As for rumor, you might remember that currently the policy is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue, and Don’t Harass. Rumor is not proof, and I refuse to go on a hunt.”

“Alright, I’ve heard enough here.” President Hayes looked around the room and interrupted Kinsey as he opened his mouth to object. “I didn’t call you all here to debate this issue. The reports are in, and I’ve made my decision. Our service men and women are protecting and dying for their country, and frankly in some cases for their world. We owe them the same respect. And frankly, Bob, I’ve seen the footage the Atlantis Expedition sent us on the Wraith threat. I don’t think the aliens are stopping to ask who their food is sleeping with before they start to eat. I see no reason to delay this. The new Military Code of Criminal Justice has been completed, and I want this change added. On Wed, June 1, I will be signing the Repeal along with Francis and Secretary Fleming. I expect each and every one of you to be there in support of the Armed Services.”

“Mr. President, that is only four days to prepare,” Whitehead complained.

“I don’t see a reason to draw this out. I suggest you all take this opportunity to prepare your own communications. Thank you, Gentlemen.” He stood, and everyone stood with him. “Jack, if you could stick around.”

Jack remained standing until the door closed, having endured Kinsey’s continued glare while Hayes walked over to the liquor cabinet to pour them a couple of scotches. “Well, that went well.”

“It could have gone better. I didn’t expect Whitehead to stick his foot in it.”

“Heck, Henry, the man had a history of aggressively pursuing any hint of immoral activity. He smoothed it out when rank became more political because he’s always had his eye on the Chairman’s seat, but I have enough geeks that can get information for me.” Jack shrugged when Henry looked at him and smirked.

“So, if you have the dirt, tell the truth. I’m a political animal. I had a list of reasons why I went along with repealing this, but Bob isn’t wrong. You and I both know that McKay made some pretty impressive demands. So, are the rumors about Sheppard and him true?”

“I honestly have no verifiable evidence one way or another. Privately, I have $200 down on him being the first to come out on Atlantis.” Jack smiled as Henry burst out laughing.

“Can I get some of that action? I want $100 on McKay outing him.”

“I can see what’s possible.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be at the IOA meeting. I heard that McKay was in true form.”

“Oh, he was. Afterward, he was referring to them as Barbie and Kinsey.”

“It’s official, I miss all the good opportunities.”

– – – –

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Dr. Carolyn Lam had been listening to the growing volume of her patient’s ire from the inside of her office for the last 32 minutes. The man was loud, rude, and dismissive of her knowledge and skills. She had years of experience dealing with unruly patients, but he had a unique way of getting under her skin.

She was aware that he was a priceless asset for the program, but she was perilously close to sedating him for her own sanity. Damn, she was going to owe Sam a case of beer. It was a stupid bet, and she didn’t usually do that kind of thing when it involved patients, but he had been charming in an off-humor sort of way when he had arrived five weeks ago. Spending an hour in his presence without getting pissed off should have been easy. She should have known it was a sucker bet. Now she realized that he hadn’t been well-behaved, he had been absorbed in the reports he was reviewing during Earth-side medical.

The tone of his complaint took a caustic turn and she stood to open the door. “Ok, I think that’s enough of this. Dr. McKay, my staff are just following the protocols I have set for a pre-mission check. We have protocols for a reason. The last thing we need is cross-contamination between Earth and other worlds. Since I enacted these protocols, we have had a 98% reduction in disease transmission.”

“Atlantis is in danger, and I need to gate back immediately. Are you honestly going to tell me that you are preventing me from saving the city because my sister insisted on inviting those little germ factories to my niece’s birthday party?” Dr. McKay argued.

“Dr. McKay, you are running a fever. You are dehydrated. You have chills, muscle and joint pain, and fatigue. I am not in the habit of allowing someone who is exhibiting these symptoms to participate in gate travel.”

“I have the flu, not the plague. I’ll be fine, but the city won’t if these readings they sent are correct.” McKay countered. “I’m sick, not dying—I’m not dying, right? Why are you staring?”

“Actually, the Spanish flu killed more people than the Black Death.” Daniel Jackson piped up from the translation of the Ancient database he was working on. It had arrived with the power spike data that McKay was reviewing.

“Don’t help her.” McKay pointed between Jackson and Lam.

“I’m waiting on my test results to rule out infectious disease. Even so, I’m not comfortable with the idea of the flu spreading through Pegasus.” Carolyn explained.

“Comfortable or not, Dr. McKay’s presence is required on Atlantis immediately, Dr. Lam.” General Landry stated from the doorway. “As soon as we’ve assembled the materials that were requested for the repairs, I am authorizing the dial out to Midway.”

“He is my patient, General. I say when he is authorized to leave.” She stared him down.

“Dr. Lam, if we could speak privately.”

“No, General. There is no reason to speak privately. I understand the danger to Atlantis and that Dr. McKay has a job to do, but I have a job as well, and I refuse to compromise my ethics.” She turned and motioned toward McKay, “Look at him. He’s in no shape to go running all over Atlantis.”

She cut McKay off as he started to protest, and then spoke to him instead of the General. “I will approve you for gate travel on three conditions. First, everything depends on the results of your blood test. You admitted you were with a room full of children,” and she shuddered to think how that might have gone, “so I need to rule out they didn’t pass you any communicable diseases. A childhood illness from an unvaccinated child here may be minor but could be devastating to Pegasus natives. Second, you are dehydrated. I insist on a round of IV fluids to compensate. And third, I want to see you get down a meal. Your blood glucose is a bit low, and I’ve heard the rumors of your power bar addiction. Real food.”

“Fine. Whatever. Terms accepted. Do you mind if I keep,” Rodney waved his hands over his laptop, “working on saving the world?”

“Be my guest.”

Daniel Jackson had barely looked up from his computer the entire time the conversation had taken place. “You know, it might be a good idea for me to go with you. Some of these translations are complex and having me on hand in case more information is found might be preferable.”

“I don’t think so, Dr. Jackson.” Landry said at the same time Lt Colonel Mitchell, Jackson’s team lead, practically yelled, “No.”

Jackson sighed as McKay giggled and reached out a hand. Neither even looked up from their work as Jackson pulled a twenty-dollar bill out of his pocket and handed it to McKay.

– – – –

Lt Colonel John P Sheppard practically vibrated in place as he waited for the last chevron to engage. It had been almost six weeks since Rodney had been recalled to Earth for hearings. Unfortunately, the hearings were involving civilian initiatives and scientific projects. John had dreaded leaving the man alone with bureaucrats, even though John was aware Rodney had more personal depth than he generally chose to share.

It wasn’t that Rodney didn’t understand how interpersonal interactions should take place, it was that he honestly didn’t care about 99.99% of the human race. For those people that Rodney decided to care about, there was—well, not a different person under there because you pretty much got what you saw with Rodney, but a level of interaction and thoughtfulness that was hard to describe. John just thought of it as that unique blend of Rodneyness that inspired a person to want to gain his trust.

Elizabeth was Earth-side for two weeks before she traded places with Rodney. John was starting to get twitchy that something had happened to prevent his return when they began experiencing these sudden power spikes throughout the city. They were increasing in intensity and duration, but the site of each disturbance was too random to determine a pattern according to Radek. If they weren’t stopped soon, they would have to consider abandoning the city.

The last chevron engaged and the Stargate whooshed to life. “Receiving IDC from Midway, Colonel,” Chuck stated from the control station. “Confirmed for Doctor McKay.”

“Lower the shield,” John responded before moving down the stairs to stand on the gate room floor. Thirty seconds later Rodney was coming through the gate carrying his laptop case with two marines, Corporals Jensen and Peters if he wasn’t mistaken, pushing crates with the 911 supplies he suspected.

“Welcome back, McKay. Sorry to interrupt your vacation.” The man looked tired and was sporting a bandage on the back of his hand. He motioned toward the corridor and started to walk, McKay following behind him.

“Dr. McKay?” Jensen called out.

“Get those to Dr. Zelenka.” Rodney looked around, “Where is Zelenka?”

“He’s at the secondary power relay hub in the Southeast quarter prepping it to take over when we shut down primary power.” They entered the transporter and the door closed but John didn’t activate the panel. Instead, he turned to Rodney, kissing him.

“You shouldn’t do that. My sister’s spawn infected me with some plague.” Rodney said when John pulled back.

Leaning forward to kiss him again John whispered, “I’ll take my chances. I missed you.” Another kiss.

“Hold that thought. Let me fix whatever mess my morons created and then I’ll give you a chance to fix me.” Rodney reached out and hit the panel, taking the choice out of John’s hands.

“How do you know it’s your people who did it?”

“It’s them or the idiots who built the place.”

– – – –

Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

John paced back and forth in the control room. Rodney was missing and John was ready to take apart the city to find him. He wanted to be out there looking for Rodney, but the man had been running from one repair to the next non-stop. John knew that the man could be anywhere and with the power outage in half the city there was no way to find him remotely. Lorne was leading the search teams. He trusted him to do the job…but it was Rodney. He tapped his radio again, “McKay, do you copy?” Just more static answered him.

He walked back behind Radek and Chuck who were rebooting systems as power slowly came back online. “Are we sure he reported from the Western power conduit before the power cut completely?”

“Yes, Colonel. I was controlling Western Pylon. Rodney was fixing conduit. The corporal was acting as runner for comm interference. He left to give me order to shut down and when he was back, Rodney was gone. That was two hours, at least.”

“And we can’t tell if he used any of the transporters?” John tightened his jaw in frustration to keep from yelling at them. The men were working as fast as they could.

“No, Western power controls data logs in area. Southern is primary systems. Until we get back up, cannot review logs.” Radek pushed him to the side and moved to the laptop plugged into the panel. “Am worried too. He is ill, needs more sleep. We all need more sleep.”

John patted Radek on the shoulder. “I know you’re doing everything you can Doc.”

Radek ran a diagnostic on the panel, “Colonel. Please be initiating station.”

John touched the display and was relieved to see it light up. “Way to go, Doc.”

“No, is not me. This panel controlled by Southern relay. All teams should be at Western.”

John reached up to tap his earpiece onto the all call channel. “Rodney, come in…McKay, answer your damn radio.”

“John?” The voice was weak but one of the best things he had heard today.

“Rodney! Where the hell are you? The Marines reached your last position two hours ago, and you weren’t there.”

“South Pier—relay destabilized—fixed—initialize power…” A combination of static and broken breathing came over the channel.

“Rodney?” John called out and his heart sped up when there wasn’t an immediate reply. “Lorne, did you hear?”

Lorne replied immediately. “Yes, sir. I have a team making the run to the South Pier now. Transporters would be a real help out here.”

“Radek?” Rodney’s breathing was ragged.

“Yes, am here, Rodney.” Radek answered.

“cannibalized crystals—from tertiary—systems—primary power relays.” Rodney’s voice was becoming more strained.

Radek started cursing and then began typing in earnest. John just looked at him with one eyebrow raised until Radek began speaking. “Reports first year of expedition explain. Primary relays work on a tertiary system with all three parts working in tandem. Tertiary not meaning redundant.” He checked his readings before turning back to the main console. “Please…yes. Rodney fixed. Must reinitialize.”

John watched him work and then sighed in relief when all the systems came back online. Radek leaned back and then nodded. “Transporters now working, Colonel.”

John looked over at Chuck who was bringing up internal sensors.

“He’s about five hundred meters from the Southern Pylon.”

John sighed as he headed for the transporter. “You did it Rodney. We’re on our way. Do you need medical?” Nothing but silence answered him.  “Rodney! Answer me.” When he didn’t, John took off running.

– – – –

“Are you sure he’s going to be ok?” John Sheppard asked for the twelfth time today.

Dr. Carson Beckett sighed as he continued to update the latest charts, “Yes, Colonel. Rodney will be fine. It was a combination of fever, dehydration, low blood sugar, and exhaustion. As you can see, his readings are returning to normal.”

Carson leaned his head back and then rotated his neck before stretching his back. He was spending too much time sitting in the infirmary. His muscles were starting to get a little stiff.

“How are they?” Sheppard asked, motioning to the other men in the infirmary.

“They’ll be right as rain in a few days. I’m just keeping them for observation tonight.” Team 4 had been stuck off-world for the last 36 hours. They had been unable to make it back to the gate before primary power went offline.  They returned five hours ago damp, muddy, and sick. Simple colds on a couple of them, but Carson preferred to play it safe.

“Colonel, I don’t suppose I can convince you to go back to your quarters and get some sleep?” Please, Carson thought. A quiet shift would be wonderful.

“I’m fine here.” Sheppard insisted.

Carson sighed, “At least take one of the beds. I’ve already ordered Radek to bed, they can complete any other repairs tomorrow. The man looked as exhausted as I feel.”

“Yeah, the bed would be good. I think I might have caught Rodney’s flu,” Sheppard admitted as he stiffly climbed up on the bed to stretch out.

Great. Carson moved forward and grabbed the thermometer, swiping it against the Colonel’s forehead before he could protest. 101.2. “Congratulations, Colonel. You are correct. Just get some sleep.”

Carson sat back down at the desk and accessed Colonel Sheppard’s rather impressive chart to start a new page. Fever, muscle soreness…

– – – –

Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

Thursday, June 2, 2005

“Elizabeth, the protocols in this situation are very clear.” Carson Beckett repeated for the fourth time. “At least one half of our population has been infected. Atlantis is under quarantine until we can verify that we won’t spread a virus to the Pegasus galaxy or back to Earth that could harm an unknown number of people.”

“Be reasonable and at least allow us to send another message to Midway Station. We aren’t all sick. I barely felt it. A minor 24-hour virus.”

“Yes, for you and several others on the city, it’s just a wee bit of inconvenience. But for most of us, it’s a pretty bad flu. I have three patients I have admitted to the infirmary because of the severity of their symptoms and several others I am keeping a close check on.”

She shook her head, “The internal quarantine protocols haven’t activated.” She stated as if that was a valid argument.

“I don’t know what is wrong with the sensors, but as Chief Medical Officer it is my call.”

“Rodney came to the city from Earth sick. Surely it is fine to ask Earth for help since half of your staff is down?” She insisted.

“And, Major Teldy’s team came in sick the same day Rodney went down. Most of the people tested have had both strains of infection so I cannot be certain which is causing the problem. I mean it Elizabeth. Quarantine protocols until I lift them. That means absolutely no dialing off-world.” Carson turned and stalked out of Elizabeth’s office. She hadn’t even bothered closing the door so the conversation would be fodder for the masses in no time.

He changed directions when he reached the transporter and instead set his destination to crew quarters. Reaching the door, he signaled, and it opened in less than a second.

Rodney started before Carson even cleared the doorway. “Carson, I’m following orders. No more than six hours work per day. No more than two hours at a stretch with an hour of downtime between. I can follow doctor’s orders without you and Colonel Wheezy over there checking on me every moment.”

“Hey! That was one day of wheezing.” Sheppard interjected from where he was reclined back with his feet up on the bed. They had apparently been watching a movie on the laptop.

“No. It’s not that. And, I don’t have people checking on you, Rodney. It’s not like you aren’t going to do whatever you want as soon as my back is turned anyway.” He sat down on the chair Rodney uncovered for him. “I actually came for both of you. Elizabeth tried to override my quarantine protocols and dial out to Midway.”

“What?” Rodney grabbed the laptop that had been sitting on a pillow between the two men and began typing furiously. Carson couldn’t see what he was accessing, but Col. Sheppard was following along with his head bent to the side to watch.

“Well, isn’t that great?” Sheppard said. “The only ones with gate room duty are the ones like Elizabeth that were over it in a day. Every one of them was ready to follow her lead, except for Chuck. How is he still working anyway? He was sick, I saw him.”

“It has to be that Mountie constitution. Crazy, all of them.” Rodney answered, his fingers never pausing on the keyboard.

“Well, I’m glad he was there. Honestly, Elizabeth’s probably right, and this all started with Rodney’s flu on Earth, but that’s not her call to make. It disturbs me greatly that she is ready to break protocol without scientific evidence.” Carson shook his head before running his fingers through his hair in frustration.

“You need to relax some Carson. Rodney’s almost back to his normal self. I’m just dealing with achy muscles and fatigue at this point. Same with most of us that got it.” John tried to placate him absently as he pointed at something on the screen and Rodney waved him off.

“Yes, yes. I see.”

“I have a few cases that aren’t improving as I would like, but you are correct. A normal flu-like pattern of illness. The spread seems to have slowed as people have become aware, but I’m still getting infection clusters. At this point, it’s a foregone conclusion that the entire expedition will be infected.” Carson finished with rubbing his sore neck. “My people are working on developing a vaccination for both strains, Rodney’s and Major Lorne’s team, but if it originated on Earth, they might already have a vaccination.”

“Don’t second guess yourself. We have these protocols for a reason. Stick to it.” He stabbed at the keyboard one last time, then turned it around. “I need you to enter your command code.”

Carson started typing as he asked, “What is this?”

“I’ve adjusted the gate protocols to require two command codes to over-ride a quarantine lock of the gate with a primary of medical.” He turned the laptop to Sheppard as soon as Carson finished. “That means one of us in addition to you.  Though, three of us working together can circumvent the lockout if it is determined that you are compromised.”

Carson shook his head, “How do you keep all of that inside that head of yours?”

“Genius.”

Sheppard laughed, “He already did the same for me for foothold situations. We can’t chance the Wraith gaining access to Earth through our stargate.”

Carson shook his head while he stood and stretched. “Elizabeth is not gonna be happy when she realizes what you’ve done.”

“Let me worry about her, you watch everyone else. And, can you have a look at Radek? He tends to hide when he’s sick.”

“Sure. Come in tomorrow for another blood test, and I should be able to release the two of you to work. But I would prefer you at least try to keep regular hours? You wouldn’t have been half as sick if you hadn’t been exhausted and dehydrated.”

“Right, right. And, next time I’ll just let someone else save the city. Prevent the city from sinking almost single-handedly, the hero of the hour and what do I get for it?”

Sheppard waved Carson off, and he could hear the two men joking as the door closed behind him.

– – – –

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

Friday, June 3, 2005

“So, still no word from Atlantis?” Jack asked Hank Landry. They were just waiting for Daniel to join the rest of the meeting. He was late, as usual.

“Nothing since early morning hours Wednesday. They sent through a data burst to Midway station. A virus had infected most of the expedition. At that point, Dr. Beckett was not certain if the cause was native to Pegasus or was the flu brought back from Earth by Dr. McKay. He ordered a quarantine of the base until he can verify.”

He took a drink of his water, “The Daedalus is due there in another four days. So, hopefully, we will know more by then.”

“How’s Carolyn?”

Hank shifted, “Still pissed I broke protocol to send McKay to Atlantis.”

“She’s not wrong. It’s probably why they have a quarantine now.”

“Tell me you would have done something different. It was just the flu.”

“The same flu that has half your base on the roster?” O’Neill countered with a raised eyebrow.

Before Hank could respond, Daniel came rushing through the door carrying a stack of files that he dropped at the end of the table.

“Sorry. I was distracted by an artifact team 9 brought back from…”

“Hey, good to see you, Danny. Glad you didn’t have to inconvenience yourself with a trip across country for a meeting. Reschedule committee meetings or those pesky senators who can’t stop asking questions.”

“Jack, don’t be an ass.”

“Dr. Jackson!”

“It’s ok, Hank.” Jack doodled around on the paper in front of him. “So, tell us why we are here, Dr. Jackson.”

Daniel sighed the sigh of the long-suffering. “The Chinese team, Jack.”

“Well, that makes this an easy meeting. No.”

“Jack, you need to reconsider. Both McKay and I have approved scientists to work in the program, and you have shot them down every time.”

“Yes, and I will continue to shoot them down. The Chinese won’t give us their scientists unless we take a security team with them. It’s their way of getting military access.” He sighed, “We’ve been through this before with the Russians.”

“Granted, I dislike the military aspect of the transfer. But don’t you think that maybe, just maybe, if their military could experience the same threat our people have faced all these years, that they would be more inclined to cooperate?”

“No, I don’t.”

“Look, I understand restricting access to Stargate Command. But we need to make some allowances to get the scientists that we need. Dr. Guan Tian Jianyu’s work alone is worth allowing at least a token team onto Atlantis. I mean, you of all people have to see the benefit of his work.”

“Dr. Who?”

Daniel threw down the file he was holding and stared at Jack across the table. “Jaack! You haven’t even read the proposal I wrote, have you?”

Oops! “Sure, yeah, you betcha.”

“Jack!”

Frustrated Jack reached out his hand toward the end of the table where Daniel had dropped the folders, “Fine! Let me have it.”

A folder lifted from the stack and flew into Jack’s waiting hand. There was silence at the table as everyone looked between the pile and Jack.

Looking at the folder in hand as if it was a poisonous snake, ready to strike, Jack said, “Huh, well that’s different.”

– – – –

Chapter 5

Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Dr. Carolyn Lam leaned against the desk while comparing the microscope against her readings one last time. She looked over toward Lt Colonel Samantha Carter who was compiling the data Carolyn had received from her contacts with the CDC. Sam looked up and met her eyes before quickly looking down and away. Yeah, this was going to be bad. She had six patients in the infirmary in distress, at least one was on life support and the others were headed in that direction. She was probably going to lose them all.

The flu hadn’t affected Carolyn as severely as some of the personnel here, but it was still enough that she felt old and decrepit. Sam had been among the majority for whom it was a minor inconvenience that seemed to pass as quickly as they were infected. But Carolyn had an idea what the virus was doing now, only no idea how or why. Infection seemed to be 100%. But only a small percentage were subjected to the effects. The bone-deep soreness was the clue that had her testing her own blood.

Her phone rang, and she picked it up to hear Sgt. Walter Harriman on the line. “Dr. Lam, the generals are ready for you, Ma’am.”

“Let them know we’ll be right there.” She looked back at Sam, “Well?”

“You were right.”

They entered the conference room together. Harriman was waiting for them with sunken eyes, but otherwise not allowing the flu to interfere with his job. It was going to take forever to test everyone on the base.

Once her presentation was set up, the chairs filled, and the door closed, Carolyn stood and approached the podium at the end of the table.

“So…Whatdaya know, Doc?” General O’Neill started things off. He had been their guest for the last two days while they ran test after test.

“Sir,” She flicked up two slides with accompanying data highlighted. “The slide on the left is General O’Neill’s DNA as of his last physical four months ago. The slide on the right is his DNA now.” She changed the view again, this time several sections were highlighted. “This seems to be the focus of the change.”

General Landry shifted, “Are you saying this is not General O’Neill?”

She shook her head, “Not at all. I have examined samples from people all over the base.” The screen changed a few times showing multiple images highlighted in the same area. “He is not the only person whose DNA has changed or is in the process of changing.”

Carolyn brought up a new slide with a comparison chart. “I need a broader sample to be certain, but of the samples I’ve been able to identify, changes in DNA seem to occur in those individuals who are most affected by the flu. The individuals who present severe flu-like symptoms that result in what has been described as a bone-deep muscle ache with fatigue are more likely to experience the transmutation.”

“Do we have any idea what caused this? Did one of our teams bring back something through the gate that medical was unable to catch?” Mitchell asked, ill at ease.

Sam Carter shrugged slightly, “Sirs, it’s not certain at this time that the cause was an off-world contagion.” Mitchell and the generals gave her a look of disbelief, so she continued, “But, it is most likely based on the data and spread.”

Jack perked up, “Spread?”

“Yes sir, General O’Neill,” Carolyn replied. She projected the CDC’s ILI Activity Indicator Map showing weekly reports by state of influenza outbreaks for the last month. “The initial spread seems to have started in the Washington, D.C./tri-state region.” Carolyn gave a hard look at her father, “Secondary clusters are in Vancouver, British Columbia and here in Colorado Springs. Of course, as any flu is apt to do, it has spread. Once an infected patient moves outside a disease cluster’s zone, a new cluster appears, and the pattern repeats.”

She flipped back to the original slide from the CDC. “We have to consider that the initial source of the infection may have been something Dr. McKay brought with him from Pegasus. I have re-examined his bloodwork, and his DNA shows the same transmutation. There is no determination as of yet why he did not present symptoms earlier. But I can’t ignore the fact that the infection followed his movements. Also, I can confirm he was the first case in the Mountain.”

“Ah, hell.” O’Neill rubbed his hands over his face, and a glass of water flew halfway across the room before dropping onto the floor with a crash. “Shit! Sorry!” The General was having trouble with control. He resisted tests regarding this ability.

Sgt. Harriman entered with a dustpan, broom, and towel before anyone could request assistance. He quickly cleaned up the glass and dropped the towel over the spill, before turning briskly and leaving the room.

Jack waited until the sergeant was gone before setting the record straight. “McKay might have been the first case here, but he wasn’t exactly the first. I had the flu at least a day before he caught it. He was perfectly fine when we were meeting with the IOA.”

Carolyn pulled over her laptop and pulled up the infection timeline she had been building. “When did you first feel ill?”

“Two weeks ago, Monday.” O’Neill motioned down toward his recently healed leg. “Between the broken leg and the flu, took the day off.”

“And, you met with McKay when?”

“Tuesday. He was perfectly fine. Left for Vancouver after the meeting. He either caught it from me or in Vancouver.”

Sam interjected, “I contacted his sister, they are all getting over the flu as well. Caleb Miller was fine, but Jeannie was hit pretty hard, and they had to take Madison into the ER for fluids, but she’s bounced back quickly. According to Jeannie, Rodney started showing symptoms that she knew about on Saturday during the birthday party.”

Carolyn added the data, “So that confirms a three-day incubation period. General, were you around anyone who was ill on either Thursday or Friday prior to experiencing symptoms?”

“Yes,” O’Neill responded, frustrated.

“Sir, do you have any idea who the person was?” Carter asked.

“Well, since I was at Bethesda for a broken leg, I was around a lot of sick people.”

There was silence as Carolyn exchanged looks with Sam and the Generals. “Our contacts with the CDC are working to track the spread of the virus so, hopefully, we will be able to determine the source of the contagion. Based on the incubation period, Dr. McKay would have been infected on Earth, which means…” She turned to look at General Landry, “We are responsible for spreading this to the Pegasus Galaxy.”

Unconsciously, the people in the room glanced toward the Stargate in the room below.

– – – –

“Time of death: 19:52.” Carson Beckett stepped away to pull off his gloves. “Marie, if you could document the supplies, I will inform Dr. Biro that an autopsy is needed as soon as possible.”

“Of course, Dr. Beckett.”

He left the room, just to see Dr. Alicia Biro come running from his earlier call. She drew up short and just looked at him before her shoulders dropped and she turned toward the room to get to work. He pivoted and entered his office, the door closing behind him. Carson hesitated, lost in his own thoughts. He sat down at his desk and powered up his laptop, logging in by rote.

He scrolled through his patient files: Brown, Kathryn G.  Carson stared for a moment and then started entering doctors’ notes. Symptoms, condition, and everything that makes up the last moments of human life. He documented it coldly and accurately. It would be cross-checked against Dr. Biro’s report following the autopsy. He completed his file with the date and time of death, Sunday, 5 June 2005, 19:52. Maybe they could learn something from her that will help one of the others.

He hit save and sat back, staring at the screen while remembering a sweet, quiet girl who was intelligent, shy, and devoted to the plants she studied. The work they had collaborated on, identifying locally sourced medicinal plants. The day she drunkenly cried on his shoulder because she realized Rodney would never return her crush as long as John Sheppard was in the picture.

He logged off his computer and opened his drawer, contemplating a glass of scotch but could only stare with the glass in hand before he sent it flying across the room to shatter against the wall. Why couldn’t he save her? Why?! He had knocked over his books, broken his chair, and was in the process of obliterating every piece of glass in his office when the door flew open and John was standing there framed, Rodney right behind him.

“Carson?” Rodney asked, his voice tight.

Carson stopped vial held over his head before he slowly lowered it to his side in defeat. He looked to the group picture of the original expedition members mounted to his wall. “She was too innocent for Pegasus.”

“Katie?” John’s voice was choked.

Carson couldn’t find his voice, trying once, then twice, then he felt his face just dissolve as he broke down and cried. John wrapped him in a hug as his knees started to give. A few moments later, Rodney joined him from behind, laying his head against Carson’s back.

He would never be able to say how long they stood there, embraced in sorrow. When he finally regained control, “I tried everything I could. I just wasn’t good enough.”

“No, Carson. It just hit her too hard, and her body couldn’t take it.” He felt John evaluating him. “Let’s go. We’re taking you to your quarters.”

“I have patients.”

“You’re exhausted, Carson. And, you’re recovering from the flu as well. Your people can call you if you’re needed, but you need some rest, or you will end up on one of these beds taking resources from your patients. Is that what you want?”

“You can be a real bastard sometimes Rodney.” Carson sighed and looked around. “I made a right mess of things.”

“Yes, you did. You should be glad the computer’s ok, or I would be strapping you down on the bed myself.”

John gave orders to the corpsman in the triage area so the office would be cleaned up before he returned. He looked back toward the other three beds with patients in critical condition, while young Dr. Keller acknowledged his unspoken command and turned back to her patients.

– – – –

Silver Springs, MD

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Tony put the car in park and just stared through the dark parking lot toward the lights of the apartment building in front of him. He got home at 7pm today and immediately crashed. Thirty minutes later he bolted awake, the same as the previous two nights. He was wrapped so tightly in his bedding that he couldn’t move and while staring into the dead eyes of a ghostly victim wrapped in plastic, seeming to be spread out on the bed beside him.

He shivered. OK, get it together Tony. Sleep deprivation was getting to him. He knows that it’s just a nightmare. Given the breadth of crime scenes he’s seen over the years, it’s a wonder this is his first repeater. But the strange thing is that as far as he can remember, which was remarkably much lately, this vic and crime scene wasn’t his. It had reached the point that just sleeping in his bedroom had given him the creeps. Considering he purchased an apartment that was a previous crime scene and had never had a problem before, that was saying something.

He climbed out of the car, remembering to grab his bag, before heading toward Timothy McGee’s apartment. The door opened a moment before he could knock.

Tim smiled. “Come on in, Tony. I’m just finishing the stir-fry, you want some.”

“Thanks, Tim. Sounds great.” He slipped off his shoes by the door before dropping his bag next to the couch. “Thanks for letting me crash here again tonight.”

“No problem. How long until your manager gets the AC fixed?”

“Oh, you know. Intermittent problem, hard to track down.” Nope, not gonna admit to why he’s here. No new psych eval needed for DiNozzo.

The whistle of the tea kettle sounded, “Tony, can you grab that? I have the cups ready on the table with that herbal tea Abby recommended. It really does help soothe the nerves at night.”

“Sure.” Tony poured the water over the tea bags before returning the electric kettle to its base. “Oh, Honey Garlic Chicken smells great Tim.”

“I wanted something different, and this way I can make enough for lunch tomorrow, too.”

“Way to think ahead. Need any help?”

“Can you grab the storage containers in the cabinet behind you and dish up some rice? I’ll go ahead and prep those when I dish.”

“Two lunch specials, coming up.” He set up their lunch bowls, filling one half with the rice. Then grabbed the plates Tim had out to the side and dished up rice onto those as well. “You finished with the honey? I want some for my tea.”

“Yeah, go ahead and take it to the table. This is about ready to plate.”

He grabbed the honey and added about a tablespoon to his cup. He looked around the table searching for a spoon which was not there. He glanced back over his shoulder to make sure Tim was still in the kitchen before staring intently at the tea, willing the liquid to spin within the cup. He pulled back and stopped it as soon as he heard Tim return the pans to the stovetop.

With a slight smile, he shook his head. Now, this is point two on Tony’s level of weirdness that he wasn’t sharing with the world. Making things move with just his mind did not make him flash on Luke using the force. Well, ok, maybe the first two times. Alright, so the first two times after he had that initial freak out in his bathroom when the toilet seat lifted on it’s own a little too close to his nakedness. In his defense he challenges any man to take that without doubting his sanity. But the telekinesis worked randomly at first. Tony instinctively knew how to do it, but it took practice to acquire any consistent control.

It would have been cool if all he could do was the moving things. There was the general noise. Mental noise that is. People were just so loud. Well, most people. It wasn’t consistent. And he had a lot of trouble turning it off. But he was sure he was hearing people’s thoughts.

There was a brief moment when he seriously considered voluntary commitment for mental evaluation, because—mindreader? But he tried a few controlled experiments. He might still be crazy, but he’s pretty damn sure it’s happening. It’s like having a staticky radio inside your head without an off switch. When he “hears” someone, he’s always right. But he can’t use it because he can’t figure out what turns it on and off.

What’s interesting, and more than a little disconcerting, is that Tim is sooo silent.  Instead of mentally leaking everywhere, Tim felt like being in a soundproofed room. Just being around Tim created a buffer zone from all the ambient mental input. Since they made it back from the case on the Truman, this was really the only place Tony could relax enough to sleep.

“So, Tony, do you think we are ever going to have another day off?” Tim asked as he set the plates down on the table.

“Oh, sooner or later Madam Director will get over her snit with Gibbs. Or, she will be reminded that regulation only allows us to be on call so many weeks in a row.” He took a bite and thought about it. “Her problem really isn’t with us, but we’re the ones paying.”

Tim nodded. “Kate’s doing better. She’s got another week before she’s released for desk duty. Maybe Director Shepard will let us off the hook then.”

“Dream on, Probie. Kate sitting around the office will be another reminder that Gibbs, and by extension all of us, failed to inform her that Kate survived and was in protective custody. That kind of maneuver makes her look weak in front of the other agencies.” And how her contacts perceived her was what she cared about, Tony added to himself. Though he had only caught that random stray thought twice from her, it came through loud and clear. “So, better count on the overtime for a while longer.”

“Why do you think Gibbs didn’t tell her?”

“This is one of those lessons I’ve talked about in noticing interaction. With Morrow, Gibbs deferred to him in the chain of command. Don’t take me wrong, he would do what he wanted as long as a direct order didn’t get in his way, but he respected him. Shepard hasn’t earned that yet. And, there’s history there.”

Tim’s brow furrowed. “How can you tell?”

“You need to pay attention when they interact. Right now, Shepard’s got her back up and is acting the part of a scorned lover. Don’t repeat it anywhere, but her actions aren’t enforcing her position, they’re petty because Gibbs could care less that we are on the roster every day. But before she found out about Kate, she was putting out the sex vibes near Gibbs. You ask me, there’s history there that’s more than a teammate, and I would think that even if he didn’t keep calling her ‘Jenny’ instead of Director.”

Tim shook his head, “I don’t understand how you read people so well.”

“It’s a gift and a curse, Probie.” He stood up, “Here. Let me clean up and then we can hit the hay. I have a feeling it’s gonna be a long day tomorrow.”

– – – –

Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

Monday, June 6, 2005

Carson sat back from the table, reviewing the data received from the SGC. He had released the quarantine lockout to Earth, though he was maintaining it with the rest of Pegasus since he had confirmed the illness came from Earth with Rodney. The SGC had obviously been relieved to have communications reestablished and had been quick to provide all the information on the disease they had accumulated.

He wouldn’t ever say he was relieved, but it was helpful to know that the SGC had several acute cases as well, and the CDC had a few deaths recorded. He didn’t have the data yet to know if the ones who died were compromised in any way.

It was disconcerting because all of Carson’s patients were in superior health before contracting the virus. He realized it happened, that perfectly healthy individuals could succumb to an illness that they should be able to overcome quickly. But he was intimately familiar with their histories, and there was nothing in them, no weaknesses, no indication that Katie Brown or Private Mark Richardson would not survive the flu.

Richardson had a sudden arrest during the night, sometime after Carson gave in to exhaustion. Rodney informed him this morning. Since it was too late to do anything, they had kept his staff from disturbing him. He’s not sure when the Colonel had left the room, but Rodney was still there when he woke up.

Carson doesn’t know how long the man slept, but at least he got some downtime, even if it was for a horrible reason. Sadly, when Rodney had asked him to check on Radek, he had been correct about the man hiding his illness. Between the two of them, they had saved Atlantis. And then the little scientist had taken over again when Rodney fell ill. But he was still trying to let Rodney heal instead of taking care of himself.

Now, Radek was one of the two remaining patients currently in critical condition. Most would never be able to see how terrified Rodney was that Radek would be the next to die because the man was dismissive and brusque with everyone he met. It was hard for Rodney to make personal connections and it would take a lot of work to beat through the shields the man kept to protect himself. Radek was one of the few to accomplish that task. He did it by being brilliant, thick-skinned, dismissive of Rodney’s attitude, and unwilling to back down.

And today the man was on life support, his breathing compromised, and his body was failing. Rodney was viciously ordering his staff around to keep them and himself from dwelling on the possibility of losing a second member of their team in as many days.

Strangely, it was Ronon Dex who would not leave Radek’s bedside. The man was loyal to Sheppard, and by extension, McKay. But he had developed a strange friendship with McKay’s second-in-command. The two were thick as thieves, working some kind of off-world black market trading operation, gambling rings, and all number of other borderline activities. Carson knew that McKay secretly endorsed their actions while Sheppard actively looked the other way. Unsurprisingly, Elizabeth was utterly in the dark about it all. She rarely saw intelligence in those who did not behave in a manner to which she could relate.

Moving past the virus progression and spread data, Carson pulled up the DNA comparisons Dr. Lam had included with the data package. He kicked himself because he never considered doing DNA analysis. Making a note to have a team get samples from everyone on the city, he pulled up Rodney’s data to review and stared at the DNA changes. There was something familiar here. But it just wasn’t coming through.

“Anything useful there?” John Sheppard asked. Carson hadn’t heard the door open.

“Plenty useful, but I’m not sure what it all means.” Carson turned to see him. He looked as tired as Carson felt.

“You’ll get it. With both you and Earth working on it.”

“But, will I get it in time?” He saw John’s expression start to close off. “Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just being a touch maudlin today.”

“You’ve got cause.”

Carson conceded the point with a small shrug. “Something I can help you with, Colonel?”

John sighed. “Elizabeth is concerned that we will negate our trade agreement with the Loruun if we don’t send people out to help in the fields soon.”

Carson shook his head in disbelief, “And, she isn’t concerned that we could spread a virus to the Loruun that would decimate their entire society? I haven’t even been able to assure myself that those of us that recovered aren’t still contagious.” Elizabeth was being difficult to work with and had been since she discovered she couldn’t override the gate lockout after Rodney’s reprogramming of the system. But thankfully, she had locked herself in her office to review all the communications from the SGC today and was leaving Carson alone.

He looked back to the DNA data on the screen. He was a geneticist. That was his specialty. And there was something here. A virus that was actually changing their DNA. “No, Colonel. Until I can assure myself that I’m not releasing a plague upon the Pegasus Galaxy, I will not relax the protocols. Elizabeth can find a way to apologize to the Loruun later, but I won’t allow her to kill them to keep our treaty.”

“Don’t worry, Carson. I’ve got your back on this one.” Sheppard gave him a little grin, “Not the first time I’ve had to placate Elizabeth.”

– – – –

Alarms were blaring, and the displays showed the futility, but he just couldn’t give up. Not now, not this one. “Resume compressions and get me another dose of adrenaline.” He continued ordering drugs, even as the nurses around him were exchanging looks, the ones that asked who was going to be the one to stop him.

As he turned to administer the dose, Carson could see Rodney standing to the side, John and Ronon directly behind him and Elizabeth separated by an arm’s length. The look of despair in Rodney’s eyes was enough to keep him going. When Radek finally went, Rodney would need to know Carson had tried everything.

“Come on, Radek. Don’t give up on us yet.” He muttered as injected the drug into the central line. He continued working for several minutes, trying everything he could think of to bring the patient back.

Dr. Jennifer Keller continued compressions at precisely the correct rhythm as Carson watched the readings and there was no response. He checked the time and was making the decision of when to call it. Keller was anticipating his order. Without breaking her rhythm, she asked in a matter of fact voice, “Do you want me to go ahead and call Dr. Biro for the autopsy?”

“No!” Came Rodney’s yell as he pushed his way through the nurses after the callous question. Carson jumped forward and tried to peel Rodney off as the astrophysicist shook him off.

“You don’t get out of it this easy. Come on you snarky, Czech bastard. You owe me.” Rodney grabbed ahold of Radek’s shoulders shaking the man while Carson signaled his staff to withdraw. He had done everything he could for the patient, now it was time to help the living.

“Don’t you quit on me. You aren’t leaving me alone with the moron patrol. They will blow the city up within a week without you riding herd on the ones I can’t stand to look at.”

“Rodney.”

“Radek! You open your eyes and talk to me.”

“Rodney, lad.”

“No, Radek…I won’t let you go now.” Suddenly a glow surrounded Rodney and spread to Radek. It enveloped them and became brighter. The heart monitor that had flatlined was now showing a regular rhythm. Carson stared for a moment before moving quickly forward to remove the breathing tube.

As the glow disappeared, Radek’s eyes opened and in a croaking whisper, “Rodney?”

Everyone else was frozen, staring between Radek and Rodney as Carson checked temperature, blood pressure, respiration. Everything was normal, and the lungs sounded clear. He looked at Rodney as well.

Rodney was staring between Radek and his own hands before looking up at all the eyes watching him. The look of pure surprise suddenly morphed into one of fear. “It’s happening again, isn’t it? That damn ascension machine…it’s back. I have to ascend or die. Oh, no….I’m gonna die….aren’t I?”

– – – –