Colonel John Sheppard drove his rented convertible Corvette Stingray up the long sweeping driveway. It was a specialty rental and a lot more expensive than the normal mid-size, but it gave him the performance and speed he craved. Didn't hurt that anyone would look good in it. He slowed as the house he grew up in came into view and memories swamped him, some good, some bad and some fairly recent of both varieties. The last time he'd been here, he'd had to run out on his father's wake, leaving a very angry brother behind him. When he'd come back after they'd found and destroyed the rogue replicator, he'd thought Dave wasn't even going to let him in, but then he'd relented and moved out of the doorway, gesturing for John to enter. They'd talked, albeit stiltedly, as Dave continued to harbor resentment and suspicion while John had to continue to withhold information on where he'd gone and why, due to national security. They'd reached an uneasy truce and John had had to head back to Atlantis. They'd kept in touch via email and the tenor of their conversations had eased over the months as the brothers tried to reconnect.
When Atlantis had returned to Earth to stop the Wraith super hive and then been stuck there, he'd met Dave for dinner several times but never returned to this house. Earth no longer felt like home and when they'd finally convinced the IOA that the city belonged back in the Pegasus Galaxy, he'd let Dave know he was shipping out again. The response was less than happy as it was obvious John was thrilled with the idea and they'd slid backwards for a while. Now, he was back on Earth for a mandatory meeting that had left him stunned and he'd decided to surprise his brother at home before he headed back to the city the next morning. He'd checked with Dave's office and his assistant had told him their CEO was in town and was attending some black-tie event that evening. He was then surprised to hear that his brother was at home instead of in the office. John felt a little cowardly as he knew Dave would be busy right now and the visit would be necessarily short. He smiled ruefully. He still felt like an outsider in this house. Atlantis was more home to him than it had been for a very long time. He pulled up and parked next to Dave's oh so respectable Volvo.
Getting out, he straightened his sport coat and shot his sleeves, not bothering to try to tame his hair, it just wasn't worth the effort. He'd foregone a shirt and tie, instead opting to wear a turtleneck in deference to the chill in the air. He still felt Dave would find fault with his dress, the jeans and worn boots probably weren't up to his standards. He stopped himself, this was why their conversations deteriorated so quickly. He had to stop looking for condemnation from his older brother and not expect the worst. And if he did get it, he needed to let it go. He looked up at the house and sighed. He'd come here of his own volition and now had to fight the desire to get back in the car to return to the hotel, maybe stopping at a bar on the way. He shook himself and headed up the walk to the front door. Without giving himself a chance to think, he knocked quickly and waited. He frowned when there was no answer, realizing there was always the possibility that Dave was out with someone else. He'd just decided to turn away when the door opened, and his brother stood there, looking shocked.
He grinned and asked. "Surprise?"
"John, I…I wasn't expecting you. When did you get back? How long are you here for? Look, this really isn't a good time." David Sheppard was a bit frazzled as he'd just learned that morning that the President of the United States would be attending the fund raiser he was going to that night. He wanted to make a good impression, providing he was actually introduced to the man. It was going to be a crush and his company wasn't the only one being represented and, while big, it wasn't the biggest. He'd been trying on one tux after another, trying to find the best look and this interruption was both unexpected and unwelcome, although he did find himself pleased to see his little brother on his doorstep.
"I just got in yesterday, today was the first day I was free. I need to head back tomorrow and thought I'd take a chance on you being around. If now isn't good, I can come back next time I'm stateside." Or galaxy side he said in his head, fighting a smile at the way it sounded.
Dave knew the next time could be months, if ever. He still didn't know what it was his brother did for the Air Force, but he knew it had to be dangerous if he couldn't talk about it. He worried about getting that visit. He thought about it and then had an idea. His invitation had been accepted as plus one but he was now going alone. He could take John, let him see how important the company their father had started really was. The good works it did on the side. And if having a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force with him who just happened to be a fighter pilot who flew top secret missions didn't give him some cachet, then he didn't know what would. He felt a little guilty about using his brother that way but convinced himself the major benefit would be getting to spend some quality time together. He wouldn't mention the President though, sure that would be enough to get a resounding 'oh hell no' in response.
"Look, John, I have this fund raiser tonight that I can't miss. It's for Doctors without Borders."
John smiled widely. "That's a great cause! Good friend of mine was a member. I contribute myself." Carson Beckett was the best doctor he knew, with Jennifer Keller a close second, and anything the man thought highly of, was good enough for him.
"You do? That's great! So, would you like to go with me as my plus one?"
John blanched. The last thing he wanted to do was get dressed up in a monkey suit and play nice with a bunch of rich snobs, even for a good cause. Desperately, he asked. "Christina?" His voice came out higher pitched than he would have liked.
"We broke up."
Dave sighed. He was pretty sure Christina was the one and that she felt the same about him. Their relationship, however, was complicated. They broke up and got back together on a regular basis. He was pretty sure she'd broken up with him, this time anyway, just to get out of going tonight. It wasn't really her thing.
"Yes, again. Now, will you, or won't you?" He put on his best hopeful face and watched the emotions play over John's. He knew he had him when resignation hit and stayed.
"Fine, what do I have to do?"
Dave rubbed his hands together as he planned it out. "Well, you'll need a tux."
John interrupted him. "A tux?!" His voice even higher pitched then before. He'd hoped that maybe he could get away with what he had on, maybe switch out the jeans for a borrowed pair of dress pants, although his brother was a bit taller and thicker. He should have known better; fund raisers had been a part of his life growing up.
"Yes, yes. I know just the person to help! None of mine will fit you. Come on in and I'll give him a call."
John wondered how he'd been talked into this without even having made it into the house yet. He numbly followed, actually hoping for that phone call that said he had to drop everything and return to the SGC to help save Earth or Atlantis from some enemy or another. He stilled that thought, knowing it was selfish. He'd faced wraith and replicators, iratus bugs, entities that lived in crystals that entered your dreams and could kill you. Hell, he'd dealt with Lucius Lavin, twice. He didn't even want to think about Kolya. This should be a piece of cake.
Three hours later, and six different tuxes with the requisite shirts, had been tried on and discarded. That Dave had a place that sold tuxedos on speed dial, and that they'd come to him with a whole wardrobe without a single protest, had kind of impressed him. The small guy that showed up had impressed as well. Francois had looked him up one side and down the other, then proceeded to rummage through the rack of clothes he'd brought with him. He'd known exactly what size would fit, without a single measurement. However, even he was beginning to get frustrated as either one brother or the other would find fault with the current offering. John wanted comfort, Dave wanted style.
Francois had one left to show them and then he would fail, something he was not accustomed to doing. He offered the last one, an Armani Collezioni G-Line with a satin lapel that was classic but comfortable, with some trepidation. He'd gotten a feel for the younger brother and offered a simple but elegant shirt and bow tie to go with it. The fit was as perfect as if it had been meant for him, it wouldn't even need any last minute alterations, and there was silence in the room. Francois found himself thinking of James Bond. He'd known David Sheppard for quite a while but had never met the brother. While Dave was cool and classically good looking, the brother was something else. Rakishly handsome with a lean, hard body that was to die for. Add in the intense hazel eyes that contrasted so sharply with the messy dark hair and he was practically in love. John Sheppard had shown little modesty, stripping down between each offering. Through the conversation going on around him, he understood the brother was military and, from what he'd heard over the years, that would cure the modesty out of most anyone. He'd also noticed the various scars on the man's body and found himself wondering at the story behind each one. Not that he'd ask. However, he'd have plenty to talk about when he got back to the shop.
He stepped back and waited. Both brothers looked at the full-length mirror Dave had brought down to the living room that had become an impromptu dressing room. Neither spoke for a moment until Dave cleared his throat. "You'll need cuff links. I think dad would have been proud if you wore a pair of his." He picked up the box he'd brought down and opened it to show a beautiful pair of understated silver cuff links with an simple S engraved on them. He'd known better than to offer John a pair of the gold ones or one of several studded with diamonds.
John reached out and ran a finger over them. He looked up at his brother with an expression Dave thought was regret. "Do you really think so?"
"I know so. And John, these are to go with you when you leave. They're yours." They smiled sadly at each other and John nodded his acceptance.
Dave turned to Francois. "We'll need dress shoes as well and some socks to go with them."
"Of course, Mr. Sheppard. As always, I brought several styles in several sizes. I'm sure one will work." He asked John for his size and then hurried out to the van and pulled out just the style he was pretty sure the Colonel would like. He already knew the others would be too fancy for him. Inside, he placed several boxes on the floor, the size he'd been given, a size down and a size up just in case. He knew that not only were these understated but stylish, they were also very comfortable, something he was sure would be a major consideration in the choice. If these didn't meet with approval, he still had three more styles to chose from. He opened the box in the size he'd been told and handed them to John, along with a pair of black dress socks. He knew it was the right choice when he saw the slight smile that appeared on the man's face and, if he was honest, his heart fluttered a bit.
John sat down and put them on, standing up and walking around the room. The shoes were very comfortable and fit like they'd been made for him. A far cry from his normal combat boots. He nodded his approval and David smiled at the picture his little brother presented and said. "This is perfect. Put it on my bill."
John's head snapped up. "You will do no such thing. I'm perfectly capable of paying for it myself." And he was. With his regular salary, plus the hazardous combat pay, money he didn't have anywhere to spend in the Pegasus Galaxy, he had built up quite the healthy nest egg. Add in what his dad had left him, and he was actually pretty well off. What little he'd spent over the last few years, had gone towards making life better on Atlantis for all the personnel. Not that they knew that he'd paid for the pool table or the two big screen televisions with the huge complimentary library of DVDs. As far as anyone knew, the various governments of the countries represented on base had provided them. Even with that, he still had a bank account that most would envy.
Dave opened his mouth to protest but knew the mutinous expression on the face looking back at him only too well. "If you insist."
John dug out his wallet and handed a black Mastercard to Francois as Dave's jaw dropped open a little. By the time the sale had been rung up and paid for, he had his normal placid look pasted back on. John changed back into his regular clothes, knowing he'd have to shower and shave before they left and then helped the little man put the discarded clothes back on the rack. He'd then proceeded to help him lever the rack into the back of the store's van and the little man fell the rest of the way in love. He couldn't remember when a customer had done anything but dismiss him once they had what they wanted, leaving him to clean up their mess and wrestle with the rack by himself.
"My thanks Mr. Sheppard."
"It's John or Colonel Sheppard, Francois."
"Then, thank you…John." He got into the van and slowly drove down the driveway, watching the brothers move back into the house. The difference between them was marked and he knew which one he preferred. He hummed along with the radio on the way back, daydreaming about a pair of hazel eyes.
Back at the house, unaware of the effect he'd had on the nice little man from his brother's tailor, John stretched and yawned a little. Trying on clothes was exhausting. He could run on only coffee for hours while sprinting from one place to another putting out fires on Atlantis but this, this was a different kind of tired. Dave noticed and looked at his watch. "You have time for a rest before we need to get ready, if you'd like John. I'd say about an hour and a half to two hours. How long will it take you to shower and shave?"
"Ten minutes." He yawned again.
"I'm sorry, did you say ten minutes?"
John blinked at him. "Yeah, why?"
"I just…I mean…well. Okay then, you have closer to three hours. Let's take these up to the guest room and I'll get you a razor. I'm sure you don't have anything with you as you weren't expecting this."
"That's okay, I have my kit in the car. Never go anywhere without it." John trotted out to the Corvette and opened the trunk, pulling his duffle out and slinging it over his shoulder. Dave watched and wondered at the kind of man he'd become, ready and willing to go at a moment's notice to defend his country. He felt pride swell up inside of him, pushing aside the niggling voice that said that moment's notice could end in the death of his little brother. Once back in the house, Dave picked up the suit bag Francois had carefully packed the tux and shirt in, John picking up the rest and they headed up the stairs in companionable silence.
After taking the clothes out of the bag and hanging them in the huge walk in closet of the guest room, Dave turned and said. "I'll wake you about 6:30. Will that give you enough time to be ready to go by 7? The opening reception starts at 7:30 and it should only take about twenty minutes to get there." He had a car service picking him up in a limo, more than enough room for one more.
"Sure, that will be plenty of time." John yawned again and sat down on the bed, almost moaning at how soft it was. His bed back on Atlantis was too short and the mattress a bit thin. Still, he was used to it. This felt almost decadent. He laid back, fully clothed and stifled a groan of pleasure. His eyes closed, and he jerked them open, not wanting to sleep fully clothed. He sat back up and found Dave watching him.
"Nothing, nothing. I'll leave you alone to get that rest."
"Thanks." He stood up and started to pull his clothes off one more time. Dave moved to leave but stopped and turned back.
"I'm glad you're going with me tonight." He meant it. He was actually looking forward to a full evening in his brother's company, something other than a quick meal where John ran off right after they were done eating.
John studied him and then nodded. "Yeah, me to." Dave nodded and left, leaving his brother staring after him in contemplation. Maybe they could do this. Be brothers. He pulled his boots and socks off and fell onto the bed, dropping into sleep immediately. If Wraith and replicators walked his dreams, making him twitch now and then, he wouldn't remember it when he woke up.
John tweaked the bowtie into place, pleased with how it looked. He smiled at his reflection, remembering his father teaching how to do it. How they'd laughed, and Patrick hadn't made fun of his young fumbling fingers. He sobered. That was before he'd started developing his own personality and dreams, leading to screaming arguments and cold shoulders, eventually to banishment. He'd wanted to go to Stanford, not Harvard. He'd wanted to fly, not sit at a desk all day. Patrick Sheppard would have none of that and had cut his youngest son off, thinking that would lead to him crawling back and towing the line. He hadn't understood his son very well. Instead, John had joined the Air Force and gone to college on the GI bill. He'd graduated top of his class and had immediately selected fighter planes as his career path. His innate ability with any aircraft had led to more and more dangerous missions and a golden path to promotions. That was until his moral compass had led him to defy orders and he was banished once again. This time to fly helicopters in Antarctica. Still, that had led him to Atlantis and to Teyla. He'd suppressed his feelings for his teammate, glad he had when he found out she was pregnant with a fellow Athosian's child. Obviously, she hadn't felt the same about him and his pride had been intact, if not his heart.
When they'd arrived back on Earth, Teyla had been with them, as well as Torren. He adored the child and had been surprised at the lack of interest Kanaan had slowly shown his son as the child grew. When he was an infant, the man was as attentive as any father he'd ever seen. As the boy grew, Kanaan had distanced himself more and more, leaving all the parenting to Teyla. He hadn't said anything. Their culture was different and, for all he knew, this was normal. Of course, there was Halling who adored his son Jinto, but the boy's mother wasn't in the picture, having been culled when he was just a baby. He'd posited that that was the reason why and left his nose out her love life, not admitting that he was protecting his heart. By the time they'd left for Earth, Kanaan was spending most of his time on the mainland.
When she'd fiercely decreed to Woolsey that she would go with them to help them save his world, like his people had done for hers and many others, Kanaan had been called back so that he could join them in the journey. He, however, had quickly declined, leaving his little family to fly away without him. John hadn't heard about that until after the Wraith had been destroyed and he was back with them. The fact that it didn't seem to bother her, bothered him. He'd finally broached the subject and she'd been honest with him. She cared about the father of her child but wasn't in love with him. That she'd tried to love him, but her heart belonged to someone else. Had for a long time. When he'd finally understood what she'd been trying to tell him, they'd begun to stumble their way towards becoming a couple. He loved her and Torren with all his heart and was proud of them. He hoped to tell his brother during this visit. That he'd finally found the one and was happy. He already had a back story ready about where she was from and how they'd met. Maybe, he would have time tonight, as long as he felt out his brother about his own relationship. He didn't want to look like he was rubbing Dave's nose in it. No, no, he would make time tonight. He wanted his brother to know.
He put on the silver cufflinks and decided he was ready. He checked his watch and realized he had over twenty minutes to kill. He took one last look in the mirror, wishing Teyla could see him and smiled wryly. My, how he had changed. He'd had to dress up a few times when he was married to Nancy and he'd never wondered what she thought about the way he looked, his only concern had been how quickly he could get back into more comfortable clothes. He snapped his fingers a few times and then paused, wondering when he'd picked up that habit from Rodney. Smiling, he rummaged around in his old suit coat pockets to find the cell phone Walter had handed him before he left that morning and took a picture of himself in the mirror. He sent it to her via his secure email channel, knowing he'd probably be home before she actually got it. He wandered out of his room and down to the living room, figuring he'd pour himself a glass of liquid courage. Somehow, he wasn't surprised to find Dave already there. Something about tonight had his brother wound up tight and he found himself wondering what it was.
"John, what can I get you?"
Dave blinked. He'd been sure his brother would ask for a beer. "Really?"
"Yeah, that doctor I told you about? He's a fan and got me addicted to it. Not easy to get on base, although Carson seems to manage with no problem." He smiled in remembrance. Carson was one of his closest friends, his family, right up there with Rodney, Ronon, Radek and Lorne. The Scottish doctor was a force in his own right and he wouldn't have it any other way. Dave raised an eyebrow and wondered. Not saying anything, he poured the drink and handed it to his brother. John took a long sip and sighed appreciatively. He smiled at Dave and took a seat on the couch. Dave returned the smile and sat in the closest chair, resting his left ankle over his right knee.
"So, what have you been up to, that you can tell me about?" He asked.
Now was his opportunity. John sat up and placed his drink on the coffee table. "Actually, there is something that I wanted to tell you. Something I hope you'll be happy about." He took a deep breath. Talking about his feelings was something he was not comfortable with, an issue Teyla was helping him get over. "I've met someone."
"John, that's great! Is it this doctor you keep talking about?" He didn't care about his brother's sexual orientation, he just wanted him to be happy. The look of confusion that crossed John's face surprised him. When he burst into laughter, Dave bristled a little.
"Carson? You mean Carson?" John chortled. "I can't wait to get back to base and tell him. Knowing him, he'll be all weepy eyed. Although I doubt his girlfriend, Major Laura Cadman will be as pleased." The doc and Cadman had gotten back together shortly after they'd returned Atlantis to Pegasus. He still wasn't sure if was the right fit for his friend, but he kept his nose out of it. "No, her name is Teyla."
"Oh. Oh. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply…."
"Dave, don't worry about it. The fact that you could be happy for me finding love with another man, says a lot about you."
"You aren't upset?"
"No, why should I be? I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Love is hard enough to find."
"So, tell me about her!"
John spent the next fifteen minutes talking about Teyla, the things she could do, how proud of her he was, how stunned he was that she found him worthy of her love. He talked about Torren, laughing about little things, proudly telling his brother about the boy's first steps, first words. The longer he talked, the more Dave found himself missing Christina. Maybe it was time to stop playing games and make it official. Somehow, they were both surprised when the car pulled up the driveway. It was the longest the two of them had talked without rancor in years. They smiled and stood. Dave made sure he had the invitations and gestured towards the door. John headed out and Dave pulled the door closed behind him. He knew some were surprised he didn't have staff but, other than his cleaning service, he preferred to do for himself when at home. They got into the car and headed out into the night.