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Fanfiction: Broken Wings, Chapter 3

For author's note and disclaimer see Chapter 1.

 

At breakfast, John wondered what the hell he was doing and not for the first time. The mess was fairly empty. Ronon was occupied with food and that left John with far too much silence in which to contemplate his sudden decision to take a trip with Mitchell. He'd been poised to say no but somehow he'd found himself accepting. OK, so maybe the idea of flying cross-country in a small plane was cool and hit all his buttons, John thought defensively, and ignored the embarrassed thought that he was looking forward to it.

He had talked himself in and out of the trip with Mitchell three times before he'd picked up the phone to call his brother. They'd been doing better in the year since their father had died. Mostly, John had spent a lot of time telling himself that if Rodney could heal a rift with a sibling then so could he. But his relationship with Dave was a long way off being OK even if the sporadic emails had mostly turned from stilted to civil to something that was bordering on more than civil.

His brother had been unsurprisingly surprised to hear from him and had listened to John's request to help him rent a plane without speaking. It had only been when John had fallen silent that he considered that maybe he should have planned to spend some time actually with Dave on his leave rather than heading out on a trip with Mitchell. Before he could apologise, Dave had simply promised to take care of it, guilted John into spending the night at the old house, and hung up.

Teal'c slid into the chair next to Ronon and they did a complicated handshake thing that John was tempted to laugh at except he liked his face the way it was. He'd heard on the grapevine that the rest of SG1 had returned from Kansas. John was somewhat surprised that Mitchell hadn't invited one of them to accompany him on the trip across the States but he reasoned that it was likely none of them had a flying license outside of the SGC.

'Can you believe that they're not serving waffles today?' Rodney spluttered as he sat down at the table.

John wisely ignored the question and took a sip of his coffee. 'Good morning to you too, Rodney.'

'Yes, yes, morning and all that.' Rodney waved his cutlery around as he began to eat a plate piled high with bacon, eggs and hash. 'Some of us have already been working for hours.'

'On what?' John asked idly, pushing his own plate aside and slouching back in his chair.

'Repairs.' Rodney grinned happily. 'I've been remote working with Radek on some of the more critical systems and...'

'You're beaming back in another hour, Rodney.' John pointed out, amused and not at all surprised. 'You couldn't wait?'

'You heard O'Neill; the sooner the better.' Rodney retorted around a mouthful of food.

'You are departing the SGC today?' Teal'c interjected.

'Yeah.' Ronon replied, mopping up tomato juice with a slice of bread.

'We got the go ahead last night. They just wanted us to hang around here because...' John frowned, 'actually, I'm not sure why they wanted us to hang around.'

'I heard about your promotion, Colonel Sheppard.' Teal'c inclined his head. 'Congratulations.'

'Thank you.' John felt a small swell of pride.

'You know the best thing about your promotion?' Rodney remarked. 'I can still call you Colonel.'

'That is the best thing about my promotion.' John said dryly. He exchanged an amused look with Ronon.

The arrival of Daniel and Vala prevented Rodney from making a comeback. For a brief moment, there was chaos as both attempted to sit in the same seat next to Teal'c. Daniel ended up in the seat next to Rodney.

'Rod.'

'Danny.'

The two of them bared their teeth at each other.

'Play nicely, boys.' Vala suggested archly, grinning at them. She nudged Teal'c. 'We're going to Atlantis.'

'You are?' John and Rodney asked at the same time.

John was sure someone would have told him.

Daniel sent him an apologetic look and adjusted his glasses. 'I, uh, might have just gotten Sam to sign off on it.'

John mentally made a note to warn Lorne.

Sam snagged a spare chair and pulled it up to the top of the table beside John. 'Morning.' She set down a sensible tray of cereal, fruit and a mug of tea.

'Morning.' John smiled at her warmly. It was good to have her in command of the SGC no matter how temporary it was. He gestured back at Daniel. 'I hear Atlantis is getting some visitors.'

Sam shot Daniel an annoyed look before she smiled at John. 'If that's OK with you? Daniel would like the opportunity to follow-up on some of the research he started when he visited you guys.'

Rodney snorted.

John's smile widened. 'OK, by me. I'm on leave.'

'Yes, you are.' Sam agreed wryly. There was a note of acknowledgement in her eyes that he wouldn't be around to deal with any fallout if Rodney and Daniel got kidnapped and the Stargate exploded.

'Huh,' Rodney stared at him, 'you're really going on leave?'

John could understand his disbelief. Rodney probably expected John to argue against being forced to take time off but truthfully John was tired enough that he was secretly OK with it. He needed a break from the relentless pressure, the constant state of combat readiness. Parked on Earth, Atlantis was the safest it had been for a while; they had the entire SGC and the somewhat battered resources of Homeworld Security to help them if there was an attack. Lorne could take care of the city for a couple of weeks.

'Walter said you've requested a beam down to Andrews?' Sam said quietly, pulling his attention back to her. She stirred her cereal thoughtfully.

John nodded.

'You're going to see Dave?' Rodney looked even more disbelieving.

John motioned with his mug. 'He's helping to organise the plane.'

'Plane?' Sam's blue eyes sharpened with interest.

John sat forward, nodding. 'We're flying cross-country Virginia to San Francisco. Kind of like a road trip but in the air.'

'We?' Rodney jumped on the pronoun like a bloodhound on the scent of a fox. He chewed and swallowed quickly. 'Not you and Dave? Because from what I know of your relationship, which granted isn't very much, that would be a gigantic leap forward.'

'No, not me and Dave.' John was suddenly hesitant. He wasn't sure if Mitchell had told his team but John reasoned that Sam would find out soon enough because Mitchell would have to log his change of whereabouts with the SGC. He shrugged. 'Me and Mitchell.'

The entire table stopped eating. There were varying levels of surprise and concern on the faces looking back at him.

John lowered his mug and looked back at them evenly. 'Is there a problem?'

'Yes.'

'No.'

Rodney and Sam spoke at the same moment. Sam glared at him.

'Oh, don't look at me like that.' Rodney shot back at her. 'Seriously, you can't tell me that you think it's a good idea for the two of them, the leader of SG1 and the military leader of Atlantis, to go off on some boys' own adventure together? I've read the reports; Mitchell gets into just as much trouble as Sheppard here.'

'Hey!' John protested.

Ronon's eyes gleamed with mirth. 'You do get into trouble a lot.'

John shot him a betrayed look.

'As does Colonel Mitchell.' Teal'c agreed.

'It's like the first sign of the apocalypse or something.' Rodney continued undaunted.

'We're planning to fly a plane and see some sights, Rodney,' John said defensively, 'not start an intergalactic war.'

'Well, we all know plan A never works.' Vala commented brightly.

'And what's with you flying a plane?' Rodney gestured with his fork. 'Why not take a puddle jumper?'

'Well, apart from the fact that I don't think we'll get permission to borrow the jumper for two weeks, the point of the trip is to fly something that needs concentration; finesse.' John stated, weaving his mug about as though it was a model airplane. 'Something that you feel when there's a tailwind and turbulence.'

Daniel looked down the table toward John. 'It sounds like you miss flying.'

'Miss flying?' Rodney parroted. 'You can't get him out of the puddle jumpers.'

'There's a difference.' John insisted firmly.

'Well, I know I'm jealous. It's been a long time since I flew a plane like that.' Sam jumped in before Rodney could start. 'It was good of you to invite Cam along.'

'Actually,' John said without thinking, 'it was his idea.'

Daniel's eyes narrowed on him before looking toward Sam; something was communicated although John had no idea what.

'You're really allowing this?' Rodney asked Sam. But the look he sneaked John was one that said 'did you see that thing they did' and 'what do you think' all at the same time.

John gave a minute shake of his head.

'Even Air Force officers are free to do whatever they want on their leave, Rodney.' Sam remarked. She turned warm blue eyes on John. 'Just, you know; don't start an intergalactic war.'

'Maybe next vacation.' John tossed back. His phone vibrated and John opened it to check the incoming text. It was Mitchell with his flight details. John sent him an acknowledgement, warned him SG1 knew about the trip and snapped the phone shut. He set his mug down. 'Well, I should pack.'

'Hmmm.' Rodney shovelled the remainder of his breakfast into his mouth and stood. He chewed enthusiastically as he waved his hand at his mouth and at John. He swallowed and picked up his datapad. 'I'll walk with you.'

John let him because it was Rodney and for all their bantering, they had a rock solid friendship underneath; one that had weathered losses and change, arguments and fights, blowing up part of a solar system. They were in the elevator before Rodney spoke again.

'Are you sure this was a good idea?' Rodney asked as soon as the doors close.

'Jealous, McKay?' John needled him, smirking.

Rodney rolled his eyes. 'Yes, yes, I'm jealous that you'll be stuck in a tiny cockpit for two weeks.'

'You are jealous.' John replied with relish because winding Rodney up was his daily fun.

'I'm concerned.' Rodney retorted. His hands were already in motion, the datapad coming close to being whacked off the elevator control panel. 'The guy called off his wedding. Are you sure he's mentally stable enough to fly a plane?'

John wasn't surprised that Rodney had heard the gossip and shrugged. 'He called off a wedding, Rodney. He hasn't gone nuts.'

'I don't think that's what SG1 think.' Rodney said. His mouth slanted downwards, his brow furrowed. It was Rodney's 'this is a really bad idea' look, the one reserved for when John was about to embark on some foolish mission that had a fair chance of getting him killed. It seemed a bit extreme for the circumstances.

'They're concerned about him that's all.' John replied seriously.

'For apparently good reason.' Rodney stressed, clutching his datapad close.

'Look, Rodney, he's not nuts, just maybe unhappy and wanting to get away for a while, clear his head; that kind of thing.' John reassured him.

And suddenly Rodney looked at John as though he'd transformed into an interesting piece of Ancient technology.

John shuffled uncomfortably. 'What?'

Rodney turned away from him and stared up at the elevator floor indicator. 'You really think this trip is going to help him with that?'

'Yeah, I do.' John replied. 'Plus you know; two whole weeks of flying which is very cool.'

Rodney gave an audible sniff. 'Just try to remember that I'm not there to save you when you inevitably get into trouble.'

'I'll miss you too, Rodney.' John patted his back as the elevator slid to a halt.

In the end, it didn't take him long to pack. He wasn't surprised when there was a knock on his door and he opened it to find Teal'c on the other side. He simply opened the door wider and let the Jaffa in.

Teal'c immediately handed him the small box he carried. 'It is Colonel Mitchell's service weapon.'

John decided to find it a touching gesture rather than a disturbing indicator of Teal'c's belief in their chances of not needing a weapon for two weeks. John tried not to think about what it said about his own belief that his own weapon was one of the first things he packed. 'Thanks. I'll see that he gets it.' At least, he pondered with semi-seriousness, it was proof that SG1 didn't consider Mitchell suicidal.

Teal'c clasped his hands behind his back and regarded John impassively. 'This is a most difficult time for Colonel Mitchell.'

'It is.' John agreed and tried hard not to be intimidated.

'And yet he has chosen you to travel beside him.' Teal'c continued.

John nodded and said what he thought Teal'c was there to hear. 'I'll look after him.'

Teal'c suddenly smiled. 'Of that I have no doubt, Colonel Sheppard.' He tilted his head. 'It is more difficult I think to accept that he will allow you to do so and not allow us. That you have already helped him in this matter where we have failed.'

John understood. He remembered all too well the frustration when Teyla had kept her pregnancy secret, the horror of unknowingly putting her unborn child in danger coupled with a complete lack of comprehension about why she hadn't said anything to them - to him. There was an unspoken expectation in a team that they turned to each other before going outside of it. Conversely he also appreciated that sometimes it was too difficult, too hard to turn to those closest, who knew too much, saw too much. Of course, understanding didn't mean that he had a clue what to say.

Teal'c's lips twitched. 'I will endeavour to ensure Doctor McKay and Daniel Jackson do not kill each other when we visit Atlantis.'

'That would be good.' John smiled in appreciation for Teal'c letting him off the hook more than the promise.

Teal'c left.

An hour later, John beamed down into the Homeworld Security office at Andrews, saluted the Sergeant who was saluting him and allowed himself to be escorted out to a rental car that was a hundred times more sensible than the car John would have chosen.

John threw his duffle and jacket in the back, slipped into the driver's seat and headed out. He was meeting Dave at a private airfield to see the plane before going into Richmond to collect Mitchell. The airfield was tucked away in land that bordered the Sheppard estate. He drove past the driveway that would take him to the main house and followed the road down. The going was bumpy enough on the access road that John was grateful for the sensible car.

He pulled up outside the hangar and got out. He stretched, easing the ache of the drive from his muscles. Dave walked out before he could get any further. John plucked his sunglasses from his face and smiled at his brother.

Dave was dressed in what passed as casual wear for him; button-down shirt, khaki pants that looked as though they'd been ironed, a sports jacket in a matching shade of taupe was thrown over the ensemble. John felt scruffy by comparison in his worn jeans and an old Air Force t-shirt under an open checked shirt that had two buttons missing.

'Hi.' Dave stuck out his hand and John took it, leaning in to do the awkward man-hug, pat on the back thing. Touching had never been an approved Sheppard family activity.

Dave seemed to appreciate the gesture though, smiling as John moved back and they dropped their hands. He listed his head toward the hangar. 'Come and take a look.'

John sauntered after his brother and his eyes widened at the sight of the Cessna sitting in the hangar. She was a beauty. Sleek lines, shiny exterior. John hurried up and placed a hand on the fuselage.

'This is...great.' John's already running the stats of the plane through his head; the speed the single engine could achieve for one. He grinned when he turned back to his brother. 'This is perfect.'

'I'm glad you like it.'

'I'm not sure Mitchell and I can afford to rent this though.' John admitted, thinking about the price tag that usually accompanied the plane even though he had a healthy bank account thanks to minimal spending and the remains of a trust fund his grandparents had left him.

Dave shrugged. 'Don't worry about it.'

John realised that the plane was likely Dave's own property. His brother had inherited the bulk of the Sheppard estate. What had been left to John, John had handed over to his brother without regret. He didn't need the money.

'OK then.' John said enthusiastically. He would owe Dave but he could live with that.

Dave motioned at an aide who, John belatedly realised, had stood to the side watching with interest. The aide handed over an official looking folder. 'Paperwork. You need to sign some stuff.'

John nodded and when Dave headed to a nearby table, John trailed after him. Dave efficiently spread the documents on the surface and started pointing to various signature lines. John scrawled his signature over all of the pieces of paper enthusiastically without looking at much of it. He straightened when Dave indicated that there weren't any more signatures required.

'OK,' Dave said cheerfully, holding out one of the documents, 'congratulations on your new plane.'

John's eyes snapped to his brother. 'What?'

'You own her.' Dave reiterated. 'We'll handle getting the official registration updated.' He pushed the form at John.

John took it and this time read what he'd signed. It was a transfer of ownership for the Cessna along with a sales figure that made his eyes widen. 'Dave...'

'This,' Dave continued as though John hadn't spoken, 'is your security pass.'

John numbly took the slim card. It was almost like his American Express but had the Sheppard International logo on the front.

'Your birthday is the passcode but you want to change that.' Dave said. He handed him another couple of sheets of paper. 'One of the guys worked up a provisional flight plan which will allow you to use our airfields. Once you log the flight plan, we'll make sure there's a rental car available for you at the airfields when you arrive and you're more than welcome to use the corporate penthouses and...'

John felt the press of his father's ghost; the deep down certainty that he was being controlled. Right on its heels was the automatic response to rebel and clear the hell out. He took a deep breath. 'David.' The sharp commanding tone honed in the years he'd been in Atlantis, stopped his brother mid-speech.

Dave gestured for the aide to leave. He folded his arms and regarded John belligerently.

'This...' John held up the papers he was holding, 'and the airfields and the...' he caught his breath, 'it's too much.' He'd asked for help renting a plane not to have his flight organised; not to be given a plane he already loved but couldn't afford.

'You're part owner of Sheppard International.' Dave said mildly. 'It comes with some perks.'

'I'm...' John's eyes widened. 'I signed everything back to you!'

'No,' Dave disagreed, 'you signed over power of attorney for your inherited assets.'

'So you could transfer everything to you.' John shot back. He was a cauldron of competing emotions. Anger because he'd been fooled, resentment that he was being controlled, and underneath those was a surprising rush of bewilderment at why Dave hadn't taken the stocks and shares, the money and property.

'I'm not going to steal your inheritance any more than you're going to steal mine.' Dave said stubbornly.

John caught a flash of something before Dave turned away and hid it behind his usual icy indifference. He remembered it from their childhood. It was the same expression Dave had always worn when he would try to gain John's approval on something and John would dismiss him. John wondered absently when he'd stopped seeing the hurt and had started seeing only the indifference that covered it up. The thought that maybe the plane and the rest of it was not about Dave controlling him but trying to please him shot through John.

The anger died out abruptly. John's hands tightened on the papers he held almost crushing them. 'I…I don't know what to say.'

The change in his tone registered with Dave. His brother looked over at him sharply, eyes roaming over John as though reassuring himself of John's changed position. His expression eased into something hopeful. 'Thank you would be good.' He said dryly.

'Thank you.' John parroted back obediently.

And suddenly, they grinned at each other. For the first time in a long while, John felt like he was a brother again.


Chapter 4

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