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Title: Trust Issues
Author: sian1359
Recipient: enviropony
Genre: Slash; Episode AU; Action/Adventure; Angst
Pairing: McShep
Rating: Adults recommended for violence and language
Word Count: ~20,000
Disclaimer: So not mine, although Syfy et al doesn't deserve them anymore.
Thank Yous: to adonnchaid for a very last minute (as in I needed a day's extension) save to my reputation.

Notes: So, I got one of the prompts I was most concerned with. While the quantum mirror as canon makes AUs a snap, I found I didn't want to write a 'through the looking glass/mirror, mirror' thing -- from either side. And Crimes Against Humanity has already been done to a much greater effect than I could ever hope to accomplish. Before the following happened, I started three other stories to answer this request, and just couldn't get there. What has happened could have easily turned into a fifty thousand word story, and is something I may come back to, as I simply ran out of time. My apologies enviropony, I'm only picking and choosing bits of what was requested, and I doubt it's anywhere near as Dark as it should be. I am sorry that I couldn't be the writer you wanted.

Summary: The SGC meets John Sheppard.


"Some days it's just not worth gnawing through the straps, is it?" John Sheppard addressed the man before him as he opened the door. "Oops, sorry, I guess for you..." John trailed off with just a gesture in O'Neill's direction. The prisoner had a set of ropes holding him against the chair he'd no doubt have fallen from were the bindings not holding O'Neill upright. Certainly O'Neill wasn't capable of sitting upright at this point on his own.

Lifting his head slowly, gingerly, O'Neill's expression showed pain, exhaustion and confusion for a few seconds before he managed to find a mask of weary acceptance to don. John nodded in acknowledgement of the effort, recognizing that O'Neill just might be a little better at pulling it off than he was.

"Before you strain anything in wondering, General, I'm not here to pick up where Jock," and even now John had to shake his head at the name, "left off. He had personal issues to work out that everyone figured would be better to indulge in a controlled setting instead of letting him find you on his own. What do you suppose it is about clones that make them eventually become a science fiction/fantasy cliché with this burning need to destroy their progenitor?"

O'Neill mask slipped into a grimace that held frustration and maybe even a little guilt, but he didn't try to answer.

"Not that I blame the poor kid," John continued when O'Neill remained mute. "If I'd been forced to relive my high school days when I was really pushing what... fifty-five? Sixty? I'd have probably gone crazy and had it in for the guy who'd done that to me too. You certainly couldn't date, not without feeling like a perv, so then you'd have the whole fag thing to deal with from the school jocks. Is that why he picked that for his name do you think, General? Because of your overdeveloped sense of irony?"

"So who are you --" O'Neill was forced to stop, his words dissolving into coughing and hacking, blood spilling over his lips.

John scowled and hoped the blood was from bitten flesh or maybe a loose or missing tooth. It wasn't dark enough or simply enough, enough to be from serious internal bleeding. He hoped. Killing O'Neill had not been part of the deal, something that had been expressed to Jock more than once.

"You're The Man, then?" O'Neill finally managed to get out. "Jock's" -- and even he had difficulty with the name -- "boss?"

"Bite your tongue," John scolded, then offered a chuff of laughter at the slip of his own tongue. "Sorry, poor choice of words, I suppose." He pushed up from his lean against the doorsill and moved into the room. Jock had left a bottle of water on the table next to O'Neill, no doubt for taunting purposes. John twisted off its cap, making sure O'Neill could hear the snap of the plastic that proved it was new and untampered with, before he held it to O'Neill's swollen and bloodied lips.

O'Neill accepted, need outweighing pride. But then, from everything John knew about Jonathon "Jack" O'Neill, Major General, United States Air Force, the man had 'resigned practicality' practically engraved on his dog tags. O'Neill had the 'do whatever you have to, to survive until they find you' mentality, established not only from his too many years in special ops, but no doubt also his second career of serving in the SGC.

Again, John was caught comparing the two of them and not being sure if he'd come out the winner. Although O'Neill did have fifteen or so years of additional experience on him. And the support of the Air Force, whereas John's father had had the influence and anger to bully the entire American government on his own behalf while claiming it had been for John.

Even if John's natural inclination hadn't been to piss of COs, Patrick Sheppard had made it next to impossible for the Air Force to be comfortable about John being in their ranks.

When O'Neill pulled back from the water, he tilted his head, studying John intently. John stepped back to cock his hip on the edge of the table full of Jock's 'persuasion' implements, and let him look.

"I know you." O'Neill's voice was still pretty ragged; Jock, of course, was not only experienced in torture from both sides, but had also been highly motivated in getting O'Neill to scream for him.

John shrugged. "Our careers in the Air Force did overlap a few years back, so it's always possible." John remembered when that had been, as well as where. Even though he'd never served directly under then Major Jack O'Neill, they'd spent months in the same arenas and had actually shared action in three different missions. During the final one they'd had in common, John hadn't been the pilot that had pulled O'Neill out of the North Korean mess, but he had been the one that had gotten the rest of O'Neill's team out.

"John Sheppard," John offered, though he didn't bother to enlighten O'Neill about any of the rest of it.

"John Sheppard, Trust assassin?" O'Neill asked thickly. His expression was again more resigned or maybe even touched by relief, instead of showing anything resembling fear. Or an inclination to beg. Jock had been successful only in getting screams, never any pleading.

"Is my tattoo showing?" John made a production of looking down his arms and hands. "Oh, you're working off my having given you my real name, assuming, of course, that I did." John brought his head back up to meet O'Neill's frown and then the eye roll that called John on his bullshit.

"I've tried to tell the others you're not as dumb as you pretend to be, General." John grinned. "Even with Jock as an example, they've still bought into your Peter Principle act. That's why you've been so successful, why you're still alive, isn't it? A combination of sheer stubbornness, and by getting people who definitely should know better to underestimate you."

O'Neill raised his brow. "Takes one to know one, right? Call sign, Velvet, isn't it, Captain?"

"Not for a few years now." John kept his grin, this mask for him as much practiced as O'Neill's own bland affability. The last thing John felt was anything resembling glee, however, especially in being reminded that he no longer had the sky.

He must have given something away, since O'Neill lost the cutting expression and nodded as if he understood what John still felt. His expression turn sympathetic, but not cloyingly so. "Right. You're the one that that Afghan Warlord..." O'Neill trailed off and managed a full body shrug despite his injuries and the bindings. Managed too, to convey their similarity of circumstances then and now, maybe in sympathetic understanding, but no doubt also trying to invoke guilt and sympathy in return.

John let his smile turn feral. "That the Air Force decided had had enough, without bothering to ask me if I agreed."

"Well, you did take out a whole village getting yourself and your men free," O'Neill commented mildly.

"I killed eleven men and three women," John corrected. "Hardly an entire village."

O'Neill's brow rose and he gave John the kind of look John had gotten from his father, his teachers and his COs all of his life.

"Fine, and five children," John scowled back at him. "Only one of which was collateral damage. Believe me, the other four were enthusiastically firing on me even if they didn't have the skill to hit me." He raised his chin. "If I could live with having to shoot through a little girl to kill the bastard that had tortured half my flight crew to death, the Air Force damn well should have been able to, too."

O'Neill gave John a direct look this time, evaluating him, judging him, no doubt, but that was also nothing new to John. Finally O'Neill nodded, not necessarily agreeing with John's assessment about his own sanity and fitness during that time (or now), but at least with a look that might mean he agreed that the Air Force had rushed to their conclusions.

With John's father's help, of course.

"So what brings you here?" O'Neill then asked, with remarkable aplomb. "If you're not the Trust's hit man."

No wonder Jock hated this man. Hated what he had once been himself, but now forced to be someone else.

John let his grin become real again. "Oh, I never said I wasn't an assassin. For the Trust, even," he acknowledged, since the Trust's involvement wasn't exactly a secret here between them. "If you can believe it, though, in this instance I'm here to get you out."

Yeah, that look of skepticism wasn't unexpected. John still waited O'Neill out.

"Why?" the general finally asked with another roll of his eyes.

"Why should you believe me, or why am I going to let you go?"

"Sure," O'Neil was all smiles back.

John laughed. "As far as believing me, you have no reason to. I won't say I never lie, as we both received a lot of the same training, so you'd never believe me. But I have no reason to be lying right now, since we both know you're not the type to fall for the good cop bad cop routine."

O'Neill still looked skeptical. He wasn't giving in to hope, but he had unconsciously relaxed. A man like him was willing to die for a cause or for someone else, John knew. O'Neill wasn't especially suicidal or eager for it, though - not any more at least. It was also damn hard to stay accepting and resolute about dying when someone was offering a way out. While, theoretically, not asking you to compromise your duty or principles.

"As far as why we're not keeping or killing you..." John shrugged. "Jock, obviously, has become a sociopath. In all likelihood, little Jock/Jack is going to go too far and kill you if he's allowed to keep at it. And, at the moment, your death isn't in the Trust's best interests."

O'Neill frowned. "Why doesn't that sound encouraging?"

John shrugged again and adjusted his seat on the table. "Because you know the players and just because they don't want it now, doesn't mean they won't eagerly take you out in the future. If I were to make a guess about why now, I'd say that the Trust still doesn't have everyone in place to take control when they do get around to eliminating you. The SGC is under the aegis of the IOA, after all, not just the American government."

John watched O'Neill's eyes narrow at that little slip of information. If O'Neill really was a dumb as many of the Trust members had decided he must be, John's hint of the government operative would have been overlooked and innocuous, instead of O'Neill recognizing it as potentially useful information.

O'Neill would just have to decide if he could trust it.

"So what piece of my soul are you asking for in return for my freedom?" O'Neill seemed to have realized he'd given himself away and was back to showing only resignation and acceptance.

"No souls today, General," John shook his head. "As I've said, they don't want you dead yet -"

Jock suddenly burst into the room behind them, his face ugly with anger. "What the fuck, Sheppard!"

John had never been sure if the kid was really a double for how O'Neill had looked when he'd been that age. Whether or not, the swaths of purple and green streaking his blondish hair now was simply an attempt to piss off the stuffed suits who had played on the clone's resentment and anger when they'd recruited him into the Trust, as were the eyeliner, the nose ring and the multiple ear and an eyebrow piercing. He looked the part of a cliché, instead of just acting like one.

While John's own issues with authority figures were legion, O'Neill Point Two's were absolutely legendary; making it even harder to believe that Original O'Neill had even gone into the military, much less lasted long enough to attain two stars. In this moment, though, despite his physical appearance of an emo seventeen year old, it was definitely the fifty-something, special ops warrior looking murderously back at them. Had they not planned for this, John would probably be feeling a bit apprehensive right about now, under the glare of such angry menace.

Point Two rushed toward them, the gun he held coming up probably without conscious thought. When Point Two did become aware of its presence, the intent to use it followed. John had been counting on it, though he hadn't quite expected Point Two to gain control over his temper quite so fast, so he barely kick out from his position near the original O'Neill in time. Point Two fired just as John's boot just connected with the edge of O'Neill's chair. Probably also a knee from the sound of the pained shout O'Neill couldn't keep silent. O'Neill's chair tumbled backward, eliciting yet another noise from O'Neill that was then shouted down by Point Two's Goa'uld modulated roar, and the sound of more successive gunshots.

John had pushed off the table and the chair both, letting his momentum carry his body below the initial trajectory of Point Two's aim. He landed on his back only slightly more gracefully than O'Neill had, pulling his own gun and firing to keep Point Two's attention. John wasn't surprised when his bullets were repelled by the defense shield Point Two wore, but then, John's gun was just the distraction anyway.

While O'Neill was shouting out his pain and dismay in discovering his clone was not just crazy but also a Goa'uld, and the clone was screaming in rage at the both of them, screaming at the Asgard, and at life in general, John rolled and came up on his knees. Keeping his gun trained and firing on Point Two's face, John freed the knife he wore at his back with his other hand and lunged upward. The knife blade wasn't repelled by the personal shield (quite the flaw in Goa'uld shield technology in John's opinion), and the first thrust took Point Two mid sternum.

Not repelled, but still an injury any Goa'uld could heal from, so John quickly found his feet and pulled the knife free to strike again. Point Two flailed, managing to clip John across the jaw with his gun, hard enough to break skin and maybe even bone from the burst of pain that followed. John shook it off and blocked a second wild swing, trapping Point Two's arm under his own and bringing them close enough together that he could draw his knife across Point Two's throat. As Point Two then collapsed against him, John drove the knife in a third time, now against the back of Point Two's neck where the Goa'uld symbiote had wrapped itself around Point Two's brainstem. This time when the flash of gold in Point Two's eyes went out, all traces of life followed.

John let the body drop. Any regret he might have felt over having to kill the kid had disappeared months ago. Finding out that Point Two had become a Goa'uld had meant the kid needed to be put down.

While John had never fully bought into the Trust's self righteous belief in their own manifest destiny, especially when being spouted out of the mouth of his father, he'd still been angry enough at the Air Force and his government five years back when he'd first been approached, to go along with the broadest of the Trust's tenets set around defending the Earth from alien influence as well as invasion. It wasn't as if the SGC wasn't heavy-handed themselves, especially when it came to making decisions that affected people who never had a clue.

However, given the utter hypocrisy of the Trust getting into bed with the very worst of the aliens they were castigating the SGC for suffering to live, John had decided the Trust was definitely unworthy of his loyalty. They needed to be taken out of the picture, their power at least broken, had been the conclusion. Unfortunately, that meant working with the SGC, at least for a little while.

Thus, saving O'Neill.

Pointless as it ultimately was, John tried to wipe the spray of arterial blood off his face with his shoulder, at least managing to clear his eyes and mouth of the worst of it. He would never be happy that he'd gotten used to the smell and feel of blood, but at least he wasn't puking to add to the mess around him.

Getting his gun back into its holster wasn't much easier, also because of the blood that saturated his shirt and jacket. He was tempted to leave the knife where it laid buried in Point Two's neck, only John would need it to free O'Neill. So he wiped his hand down the back of Point Two's shirt tails before giving the blade a tug. More than blood spurted this time and the smell of a dead Goa'uld was almost enough to get John to lose it. He didn't have the time, though, or the luxury. He and Point Two hadn't been the only Trust members occupying this facility.

"What the fuck, Sheppard!" O'Neill repeated his clone's arriving words in a croak. He wasn't looking at John, however, but instead toward the dead body, his face twisted in the guilt and regret John couldn't find within himself, as well as a duplication of John's disgust.

John frowned. "Let's just --" Damn. While he was pretty sure his jaw wasn't actually broken, it was still beginning to swell enough that his words came out slurred. "The SGC and the American government aren't the only ones who've been compromised," he forced out as he stumbled over to O'Neill's overturned chair. He didn't bother to try and right O'Neill when he crouched down, but simply started cutting through the bindings from where O'Neill was turtled on his back.

"He was a Goa'uld?" O'Neill, still looking at the kid, sounded absolutely horrified.

John laughed harshly. "Not just any Goa'uld, General, though I doubt you'll appreciate the irony." John swallowed a groan. Not only did talking hurt like a mother, but trying to saw through the leather and rope bindings that O'Neill's own blood had tightened caused his bicep to burn. He must have caught a ricochet from the kid's gun (or his own).

"You're not saying it was Ba'al?" O'Neill could barely choke the name out. Anything he might have added was lost in a long moan as John freed one of O'Neill's arms.

"One of the Ba'al clones, yeah. He thought it was just the funniest fucking thing, given your history. Probably safe to say that his presence helped contribute to your clone's psychoses."

O'Neill looked like he was going to hurl. John hurried through the rest of the bindings, practically shoving O'Neill onto his side away from him. He heard more swearing than gagging though, making note of a few words that had to be alien, then echoing a few of the others in his head as he climbed to his feet. Adrenalin crash was a bitch.

"As much as I shym -- sympathize," John carefully talked around his jaw, "there's a team of five due in the next few minutes with plans to take over your interrogation. Your own people won't be getting here for --" he paused and looked at his watch. "For at least twenty minutes by my calculations. Not unless one of your X-303s wasn't where it's reported to be. Can you walk?"

A glare was his only answer, along with a hand raised in his direction. John took it and tugged, not quite able to hide his grimace and groan as he needed to use his injured arm since he was keeping his gun in his other hand. O'Neill gave him a look which he just ignored; he had no need to get into a 'who's tougher' contest but he also wasn't going to let O'Neill think he'd be better off without John's help.

"You contacted the SGC?" O'Neill didn't sound so much as skeptical as simply confused, his confusion expanding when John leaned down to pick up Point Two's gun and handed it over.

"I don't work with Goa'uld," John said flatly as he led the way from the room. He'd taken care of Point Two's back-up on his way in, but he hadn't been lying about a new team's arrival; he'd been supposed to be a part of it, before he decided to get here early.

"The Trust are a bunch of old men who've decided making a profit is more important than defending our country -- our world," he continued at O'Neill's snort. "Assuming we get out of here, General, I've got a list for you, as well as physical evidence to find some of them guilty of treason should your people dare to go to trial --"

"Fuck!" The corner John had just started to peer around suddenly flared with a bolt from a zat. He threw himself backward, sweeping O'Neill back too, and worked at turning them both around so he could push O'Neill further down the hall. "Run," he warned, moving ahead of O'Neill and not completely caring if he was followed. There could always be other plans.

O'Neill wasn't an idiot. He certainly didn't move gracefully, more in a lurch than a run, and no doubt with significant pain. Knowing that not moving meant death or worse was a great motivator, however; a new burst of adrenalin, a good compensator. He didn't even fire blindly off behind them as he followed John, thereby using up half of their very limited ammunition.

Temporarily limited; as John wasn't an idiot either. He'd studied the layout of the building and had memorized several potential escape routes. He just hadn't planned on Dave's interrogation team having a standard Ba'al clone there alongside his brother's personal thugs.

For a moment, John considered activating the device in his pocket. Rodney's plan called for O'Neill to be alive as a participant, but even more it needed John alive. And free.

No. John didn't think any of Dave's group had gotten a good enough look to identify him; they'd simply come across the dead bodies he'd left in his wake and were reacting to sound and movement; the zat would allow them to stun anyone and figure out who was on who's side afterward. So the plan was still viable, as long as he could keep himself and O'Neill a corner or room away from the others. Once the SGC did get here, from past experience he knew Dave, and more especially Ba'al, would definitely bail.

John signaled O'Neill to take the next door, which would lead to a series of rooms filled with some of the alien trinkets and defense contract results that the Trust had been siphoning away from the SGC for years. John had a small cache of his own weapons and tech in the second storage room, including something that he could use jam the entrance and some C4 to blast out one of the walls to give them a new escape route. Dave's team would need to retreat back to a corridor half a building away in order to get back on their trail.

O'Neill stumbled into one of the crate stacks in the first room, sending a box set on top of the pile over the edge and spilling its secrets onto the floor. More than one object began to light up as they rolled near to either of them, set to give away one of John's hole cards, but maybe that was for the best; the designated ATA gene that allowed O'Neill (and John) to use Ancient technology was damn rare, and highly sought after, therefore upping John's value to the SGC that much more.

O'Neill noticed John quieting one of the noisier pieces. "You're kidding me. You've got the Ancient gene, Sheppard?"

John nodded. "From my mother's side apparently, since neither Dave nor dear old dad can initialize squat." Recognizing one of the scarab shapes skidding to a rest at his feet, John carefully thought 'off' at it before he scooped it up. "Here, General. Think 'on'," he ordered as he tossed it O'Neill's direction. "The Ancient's personal shields operate on a steady state, without having to modulate against kinetic energy like the Goa'uld ones do."

Even if O'Neill had been inclined at this point to actively distrust John, he'd been primed with John's words. The scarab flickered in O'Neill's hands as he instinctively caught it, a green glow then spreading out from it to encompass O'Neill's body, even as he looked prepared to command off. The first box wasn't the only one destabilized, however, and the next one was both larger and sturdier. It also tumbled from the stack, directly toward O'Neill this time and falling much faster than O'Neill was able to move. The edge of the container headed straight for an impact against O'Neill's head, only to be stopped and repelled by the shield in a shimmer and crackle.

Good call then. Yet when the door behind them opened before they reached the second room and John's cache, John had reason to wish he'd kept it for himself. Two of Dave's men rushed in with weapons firing - only one of which was the zat -- forcing John to dive behind another set of packing crates. He had no cause to worry about shooting back and killing his brother's men, other than his limited ammunition. In truth he'd be just as happy taking aim at Dave, too.

The one with the hand gun went down. And stayed down, his eyes open yet sightless; there was a reason John had become the Trust's de facto assassin after Kinsey's man had so badly botched things up. The gunman with the zat was smarter, however, and had taken up his own position behind cover, with too clear a field of fire against anyone going for the second door, as John found out quickly, only just missing blowing the whole deal by trying for it.

O'Neill's own position behind cover was within John's line of sight and he wasn't surprised to see O'Neill hand signal that he'd go for the end around if John drew the fire again. John hesitated for only a breath before signaling back his agreement. He would have preferred things to go the other way, with O'Neill providing the distraction since he had the fucking personal shield, but O'Neill had the better position to get the drop on the second man, and it wasn't like they had the time to debate. These two had raced ahead of their companions, but Dave, Ba'al, and the rest wouldn't be that far behind.

No matter how much of a hard-on Ba'al had to get his hands on O'Neill, John might not be the only one pissed off about the Trust's arrangement with a Goa'uld. Only one of the others would be more likely willing to just kill O'Neill during this dust-up in order to screw with Ba'al than help O'Neill get free, not knowing that John had made O'Neill invulnerable. John's own chances of getting shot during the firefight were even more likely, only getting zatted would be the rawer end of the deal than getting hit by a bullet. John had no desire to die, yet getting killed would definitely be the better option over getting caught. Not just for his own sake.

Putting all of his money on getting away instead, John broke from his cover, used his cover as part of the distraction by kicking out against them as he had O'Neill's chair, and then launching his body in a horizontal shove backward, with his gun blazing like something straight out of a Hollywood movie. The crates wobbled and one fell, not particularly in a useful direction, but it still drew the eye and the first zat discharge took it square, exploding the box into splinters and shrapnel.

Fortunately, John's Angelina Jolie move had him under the next discharge as well as moving away from the debris. Unfortunately, something in his shoulder crunched as he landed and skidded across the floor toward the next set of cover, causing him to lose his hold on his gun. His empty gun, however, so not a huge loss, and O'Neill had started moving when John had, which caused Dave's gunman to hesitate over who to shoot at next -

Until O'Neill disappeared. Not behind another set of crates, but in a vertical burst of light.

Son of a bitch!

So the Daedalus or the Apollo had been on station despite contrary intel, had at least been near enough for a recall to come in and find O'Neill, something possible now that John had turned off the jamming field that had kept O'Neill's subcutaneous transmitter from being picked up.

Nice move, John, giving O'Neill the shield and the second gun, he berated himself as he scrambled upright, then scrambled for the failsafe device in his pocket while trying to ignore the blaze of agony from his dislocated shoulder.

He was screwed. Sure that the zat gunman had made his identity, he could only teleport out himself now; he'd lost the ability to charm or cajole his brother too many years ago, and no amount of dissembling would cover what he'd been doing with O'Neill. Rodney was going to have his ass -

It was a ribbon device's energy that hit him, not the zat's, though the result was more or less the same, only with a shit load more pain, that dropped him to his knees, and dropped the recall device from his fingers. This wasn't John's first time at this particular rodeo, however, and the Ba'al clone wasn't the only one who could activate an alien device by using his mind.

John had no idea of what a tenth of the items in this storage room could do, but he could still sense which ones were Ancient, and that was enough to get a few of them jumping to do his bidding.

Lights, noise, vibration... Most of it was likely the ribbon device, as Ba'al set fire to John's nerves, yet the shout John heard had come from someone other than himself. The blinding flare that threatened his eyes, even with them closed, was also something more. For a moment Ba'al's hold on him stuttered, then cut off completely. John collapsed all the way to the floor, his breaths now what was stuttering, the pain from hitting his shoulder again almost pleasurable compared to what he had been feeling. He'd fallen over the recall device, was shouting silently at his own brain for his body to move enough that he could grab and use it, but in the next moment he had other hands on his uncooperative arms, and while he was reasonably sure the dissociative feeling he was abruptly experiencing was indeed some form of teleportation, it was his first flight commander's face hovering over him when his mind reconnected to his body and his body reconnected to gravity, not Rodney's.

Good old Cam's open face, and then nothing.


Despite Rodney's bitching to the contrary, John really didn't have a wealth of experience in waking up in strange places. Sure he used all of his abilities and assets to achieve his goals, including seduction when necessary, but it wasn't like he went looking for the opportunity to have sex with strangers. In many ways, doing that had been even more dangerous when he'd still been a part of the United States Air Force, considering his preference had always been for sex with men. Nor did he normally stay the night or even fall asleep in such situations, especially now, since sleeping with the enemy could just as easily get you dead as get you the needed information or assistance.

The other thing Rodney didn't really understand about strange awakenings, was that you only needed to wake up once after being shot (or tortured) to pretty much have the experience engraved in your brain, no repetitions needed to know right down to the fundamental level when you were in a hospital - and when you weren't. Antiseptic smells and beeps and bustle were all simply window dressing, especially when muted by morphine or some other form of pain relief or sedative. Just as were the smells of blood and feces and death, and the mishmash sounds of foreign words, shouts and groans only peripherals to the misfiring or broken circuits of your own agonized body.

In this instance John knew immediately he was being cared for in some form of a hospital, that he'd actually been cared for, as in his injuries treated instead of being exacerbated. While that didn't preclude that he wasn't in enemy hands, he wasn't excessively worried when an attempt to recall how he'd gotten his injuries came up empty. He knew who he was, who Rodney was and, frankly, that was really all that mattered. Rodney would be coming for him, no matter where - or with whom - John was now their guest.

Not that he planned on waiting for Rodney to have to take that risk. Not if he didn't have to.

John took stock of his body, feeling deep muscle aches as well as an overall lethargy, along with the telltale remnant of drugs that were no doubt intended to keep him docile if not happy. He'd always metabolized things quickly, however, so he doubted he was in quite the state he figured his hosts were expecting. He could move, which meant he could escape.

The burn of a cut, stitches and bandages across his arm, then the ache of his shoulder as he manipulated said arm, brought back his missing memories. Of O'Neill and the warehouse, and then in being teleported before Ba'al had gotten more than started.

Right. Shit. Not even his father's position and influence was going to get John back in the Trust's good graces, not that he could expect his father to even try, after working so directly against favored son Dave's operation. Plus John had made it personal between him and Ba'al, not just in turning the bastard down the night(?) before, but in freeing Ba'al's favorite pet. Who had, apparently, been grateful enough to send a team back down in time to extract John, instead of waiting to see what the SGC could recover from the Trust, after the Trust had cleared out.

Not exactly the plan, John's life one-to-one for O'Neill's, but maybe he could still work it. He still had a few cards left to play in the game, plus he did have the advantage of knowing that with O'Neill having recognized him, O'Neill would also know that the stick approach just wasn't going to work. No matter how big or mean that stick turned out to be.

"Before you think or do anything too stupid, you should know that I don't subscribe to the 'enemy of my enemy is my friend' philosophy," a voice from long ago abruptly spoke up from somewhere down near John's feet.

John blinked open his eyes, squinting and tearing from the brightness of the room he was being held in, but still able to make out the current leader of SG-1 standing at the end of his bed. And the two marine guards on duty outside John's open door.

"That being said," Mitchell continued, his voice falling into something a bit more down-home southern --

True, John knew, even if it was also an act right now,

"-- I am a compulsive believer of paying off debts, as one of my favorite characters is wont to claim."

"Modesty Blaise is one of your role models, Buck? A thief? Does the general know? Of course, that does explain your ready acceptance of Vala Mal Doran."

Cameron 'Buck' Mitchell snorted and threw a pair of pants at John's head. "Get dressed, Nugget. You've got two generals who've been waiting for you to wake up, and neither one of them are in a good mood."

John shrugged and levered himself into a sitting position, maybe playing it up a little when Cam came over to help. But then, maybe not, he discovered as he would have fallen right back down when he moved to stand. That earned him another snort and an exasperated sigh, but also Cam's help in skinning down the scrubs and pulling on the pants. And a laugh at John's striped boxers.

The pants were BDUs, of course, although Cam then produced a black t-shirt instead of the matching uniform blouse. No socks or boots, though. John gave Cam a look at that, but Cam just shrugged and started for the door. Petty, but that was definitely Hank Landry's style, as well as part of the reputations of Landry's ship captains, Caldwell, Emerson and Ellis.

And it wasn't as if John couldn't kill someone with just a shoe lace.

One of the Marines' P-90s would make things a lot easier, and for a moment John was tempted to acquire one, was extremely tempted to show Cam and the rest of the SGC that old friendships meant nothing after Afghanistan, and that only providing two Marines as a guarded escort was an insult. There was the off chance that O'Neill had only set two guards on him as a sign of trust, however, plus John was supposed to be fostering more trust, not eliminating all of it. He was also on a spaceship he could sense, one hopefully still in orbit around Earth, but even so, where would he go without his recall device? Even with a P-90 over a shoe lace, he wouldn't be able to take out the whole crew -

Especially not with the alien, Teal'c, currently a part of it.

John wasn't sure why he was surprised that the rest of SG-1 had come along on the O'Neill rescue; the three other than Cam and Vala had, after all, been O'Neill's teammates much longer than they'd been Cam's. John would have paid good money to see Teal'c throw down against the Ba'al clone down there. Only Teal'c was looking placid alongside his normal alien menace, not homicidal, leaving John to conclude that Ba'al had split the minute the SGC team had beamed back in.

Placid, but still willing to hurt John if he tried anything, so John meekly took the place where he was directed, next to Cam and in front of the Jaffa warrior.

Another trip through an Asgard transport beam brought John not to the SGC headquarters in Cheyenne Mountain as he'd expected, and not even to O'Neill's Homeworld Security office in the Pentagon. Instead they'd been put back down in the Trust's warehouse. Not in the storage room, but in the room where O'Neill had been held. The one that still held O'Neill Point Two's body, though it had been placed in a body bag.

From the smells still prevalent, John hadn't actually been unconscious and on board the Apollo or whatever X-303, for more than a couple of hours. O'Neill looked like he'd stayed long enough to get his more serious injuries treated, but not long enough to gain back any of his color or general robustness.

Or maybe O'Neill was still feeling melancholy about his clone's betrayal and death.

Hank Landry simply looked disgusted and pissed off, his constipated look growing when he turned his gaze John's direction. John gave him a brilliant smile in return, then gingerly made his way across the floor to the table that had be righted at some point. He climbed atop it this time instead of just hitching a hip. Landry scowled and began to say something, but John simply pointed to the blood and debris littered floor, then to his bare feet, daring the head of the SGC to continue.

Landry obviously bit back whatever he'd been about to say, and gestured instead to O'Neill to take the lead.

Only Jackson was the one who spoke. "How long was Junior - Jock -"

"I always called him Point Two in my head," John offered Jackson the out, ignoring Carter's choked gasp and Vala's not quite stifled chuckle. The remaining SG-1 men stayed stoic, or further disgusted like Landry, not that John turned around to look at Cam or the others. O'Neill's expression was mostly unreadable, but John thought he saw a glimmer of something not completely negative. The ability to remain calm, to joke even, in the face of your enemy was yet one more thing the two of them had in common and O'Neill, no matter what else he might be, wasn't a hypocrite.

"The Trust made contact with him pretty much right after you guys stopped making contact," John continued, letting his tone become slightly pedantic and scolding. "He was given over to one of the Ba'al clones three months ago."

Gasps, again from Carter and this time from Jackson too, told John that O'Neill hadn't been completely forthcoming with his friends. Or O'Neill hadn't completely believed what he'd seen.

John shrugged. "While the Ba'al clone was vain enough to lament over giving up the body he'd been used to for so long, the irony of taking your body as a host, even if it was only a pint-sized clone body, appealed to him more."

More movement from behind John, and then Teal'c moved into his peripheral vision, heading to the body bag and kneeling down to unzip it. John didn't know enough about the Goa'uld and their Jaffa to know if Teal'c could actually identify which Goa'uld had been killed, but there was no mistaking from his look that a Goa'uld had had possession of the O'Neill clone.

John again smiled Landry's direction. "Sorry, Hank. Not a hallucination, nor a special effects set up. I suppose he could have been a Tok'ra, that I then killed, but that would mean you have a lot more problems than little old me, given what he did to the general, here," with a nod O'Neill's direction.

"We still have you on plenty of other charges -"

"What, guilty of freeing a kidnapped victim and shooting back at the ones who'd held him? Of warning the Director of Homeworld Security that my own father is a member of an organization operating outside of the government and engaging in treasonous activities? Warning that Colonel Paul Emerson is not also a member of said organization, but is another Goa'uld?"

That last piece of information got heads lifting and turning, then shouts and more marines coming through the door, before Landry and those marines suddenly disappeared in another vertical flash.

"He left early," John remarked coolly when it was just him, O'Neill, and SG-1 left. "I was prepared to give him more."

"You are such a fucking asshole, Shep," Cam exploded behind him.

"Actually, I'm a man with limited options, playing the cards I've been dealt, Cam," John shot back, then stopped and took a deep breath. Letting Cam - letting any of them -- get to him wasn't a good play.

"I think you've exchanged one or two of those dealt for a card you've had up your sleeve," came from Jackson as he moved from behind John and over to O'Neill. O'Neill's there-and-then-gone smile was probably more for Jackson's cleverness than for John's, but the mood in the room did lighten from instantaneous murder to 'let's play with him first'.

John met O'Neill's judgmental gaze. "I offered you the greatest hits list before things got messy, General. My offer still stands. Surely after your experiences with Simmons and Kinsey, after Maybourne and Makepeace, you can't be surprised that the SGC and the American government are still compromised? That the Trust has in turn been compromised by the Goa'uld? Or that there are even higher placed traitors you're going to want to know about than Emerson and Jay Felger?"

"So what do you want in return for that list?" Carter was the one to actually ask, her eyes wide to learn that one of her precious scientists had also been compromised. She'd moved over toward Teal'c and the clone's body, when it became obvious there wasn't any place for her near O'Neill, from Jackson's hovering.

"At this point, I'm thinking asylum. For myself and one other."

O'Neill cocked his head, but again let one of his people, Jackson again, ask again. "Off world?"

"Preferably. The Trust's reach is long."

"Ba'al's reach is longer," Vala spoke up. "And the Ori are doing their best to eliminate any bolt holes from the other side."

John shrugged. True, but there were a lot of planets outside Ori domination or destruction too, if it came to that. Some Vala herself might be willing to mention for a few of the trinkets John had much better than the ones she was pocketing right now.

"I'm not sure I'd be all that comfortable knowing you were out there, stirring up trouble or making nice with folk like the Lucien Alliance," was Cam's contribution. "You're little more than a mercenary and an assassin, these days, Shep."

John made sure to turn his gaze on Vala first, before he looked over his shoulder to give Cam the same type of smile that had nearly had Landry stroking before the old man had left.

Cam's flush said he got John's point, as apparently did Jackson, from his own look at Vala when John returned his glance O'Neill's direction. Most definitely not 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' philosophy around here, but more the 'keep your friends close, and your enemies closer'. Though John suspected the rest of SG-1 and probably even O'Neill had developed a soft spot for the ex-Goa'uld, ex-Ori host. From everything John had read about and seen of Vala Mal Doran, it was impossible not to succumb to her outrageous charms.

"Who else?" Carter suddenly asked. "You said you wanted asylum for yourself and one other. Not your father?" She sounded scornful and accusatory.

"Not my father," John agreed pointedly, getting her to back down too. "Nor my brother, because he's the real asshole," he said more evenly, with a nod to the clone's body bag. "Dave was Point Two's handler, by the way."

Teal'c's growl was satisfying as well as intimidating. The look O'Neill shot John was just as intimidating. More intimidating. John offered them both a smile filled with teeth.

"Doctor Rodney McKay," John finally answered after another long beat, where even Carter and Jackson started to look dangerous, and Cam simply looked like he was going to slug or shoot John.

"McKay's dead," Carter protested automatically. "He died in an accident while serving in Russia."

John let his own expression turn lethal as he stared her down again. "Doctor McKay survived an assassination attempt after you threw him to the Russians out of pettiness and jealousy. After yousent him back," he turned that gaze now on O'Neill, "despite him saving your fucking life, not to mention the Earth. Sent him back and kept him there even after you knew about Kiselev and Vallarin."

Any defense Carter might have tried stayed stillborn in her throat when even O'Neill deflated just a hair under John's accusation.

"You have a habit of throwing people away that make you uncomfortable, General, or at least of allowing them to be thrown away," John pointed out more calmly. "You've done half the Trust's job for them."

"McKay's part of the Trust?" Now Carter simply looked sick.

"It would serve you right, but no, he's never worked for them willingly. Of course, willing hasn't ever been a big sticking point for the Trust. They implanted him, not with a Goa'uld," he waived away Carter and Jackson's horrified interruptions, "but with a device that was supposed to make him malleable to suggestion. As far as they know, it also made him stupid, and a stupid Rodney McKay does no one any good. So they sent a sweeper in to stage the accident that did actually take Svetlana Markov's life along with those of a handful of unfortunate techs. Oh, don't mourn her; she's the one who turned Rodney over to the Trust in the first place."

John laughed at the surprise on their faces. "Oh, my god, you didn't really think the Trust was only homegrown to the US, did you? Its members were global long before another one of your Goa'uld friends made its home in Shen Xiaoyi's body."

He watched as Cam's hand twitched toward his radio, as yet one more Goa'uld infiltrator was handed over to them on a silver platter. A look from O'Neill kept Cam silent.

"Instead of killing McKay, you got him away from the Russians and the Trust? So you're a rogue, rogue assassin?" Jackson asked, surprisingly non judgmental given the level of antagonism now permeating the room.

John adjusted his cross legged position on the table top. His various aches and pains were active again; ego and righteous anger only worked to stave things off for so long. The drugs he'd been given had either worn off or had been made intentionally weak. "I suppose," he inclined his head in acknowledgement. "That's the trouble with evil organizations; they have an unfortunate habit of attracting the type of people who think they're better qualified to make the decisions, and who aren't afraid to buck the status quo."

"Whose loyalty shifts with the wind," Cam commented bitterly.

John cocked his brow. "Loyalty, like respect, is something to be earned, not assumed as a god-given right. But don't worry, Cam, my father and brother never understood that either. Both also mean a lot more if they're reciprocal. Rodney and I owe nothing to the Air Force or the SGC, yet here we are, putting our lives and future in your hands. Not too much of a risk for me, since if I don't make it back to him, he'll bring the Mountain down around your ears, literally and by disclosing the program to the world." He smiled sweetly at Carter and Cam before turning back with a more sober mien to O'Neill.

O'Neill let the silence, the discomfort, build up. He'd said nothing yet, and nothing now, simply sweeping his look over the room, lingering on the body bag and the chair he'd spent over a day strapped to, on the blood spray still puddled on the floor, on the wall and under John's fingernails. Finally O'Neill turned his gaze back on John, holding onto the best mask that John had ever seen.

"The kid got a raw deal, Jack," John ignored the mask - ignored the rest of them in the room, too. He knew what O'Neill was really wondering, saying, just as John also knew what his answer needed to be. The full truth, for once. "Even if there is some way to involuntarily remove a Goa'uld without killing the host, we both know that Ba'al made sure that the kid was aware of what he was being forced to do. He wouldn't have been able to live with that."

"You killed him to save him?" Carter spat out.

His brittleness buried too deeply for her to see, John gave her the insouciant smile she was expecting, knowing she didn't understand, that she might never understand, yet praying for her hypothetical men's sake, that she wouldn't be given any command over them until she did. Even if that knowledge would strip away the last of her innocence. "It's been known to happen."

"Fuck you -"


And so the man speaketh, with reprimand not to his enemy but to his friend. Carter took it badly of course; as did Cam. Yet Teal'c and Jackson just looked thoughtful, just turned their thoughtful and assessing looks back John's direction.

John straightened his legs and leaned back on his elbows in a show of nonchalance under their regard.

"What does McKay's implant really do?" O'Neill finally asked, proving he'd been listening to all of the undercurrents.

John straightened up to put his weight on his hands over his elbows, but remained partially recumbent as his body was screaming at him now. "It's an interface to an absent AI. If he lets down his guard, it becomes extremely distracting as it's all but desperate to make the connection. He's in constant pain and had it been forced on anyone else, it would have made them stupid." John couldn't help his gaze turning to Carter there, though he brought it back right away under Vala's cough and O'Neill's scowl. "Not to mention suicidal," he scowled right back. "Phantom pain's a bitch, especially when your body feels like the limb it is missing is half its brain."

"Do you know the type of tech? Where it came from?" Vala sounded not only sympathetic and interested, but also willing to help. But then, more than the rest of them, she no doubt understood about phantom pain, even if she, too, had been an unwilling host.

John started to shake his head, but O'Neill interrupted him.

"It's Ancient," the general said with full conviction, his gaze holding John from shaking his head again. "This thing -" O'Neill waved his hand around the room "-- this whole contrived business was a goddamn audition. You're hoping for asylum in Atlantis."

Once more John tuned out the assorted gasps and exclamations of shock (and awe), to look steadily back at O'Neill. "So do we get the part?"

Predictably, the room exploded after that, even Jackson leaving his spot at O'Neill's side to take part in the cacophony of shouts, recriminations and accusations. John didn't bother trying to sort out any individual thread, noting only that not everyone was calling for his death, and that Teal'c wasn't saying anything. Neither, of course, was O'Neill though, again, John had no doubt that the general was paying attention to everything his people were saying. And not saying.

( Trust Issues - Part 2 of 2 )


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 23rd, 2009 01:43 am (UTC)
The action is wonderful. The relationships, issues, and motivations - besides being yummy and delicious all the way through - make me want to cry when I think of what some of the series writer were forced to do to the characters. And none of them can blame their mental lapses and suggestibility on an implant.
Jan. 1st, 2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
Thank you. At least the show is ours now.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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