John recognized Jonathan as soon as he saw him: he was the boy from Lorne’s painting. Most likely also the boy from the opera recordings Lorne listened to. His mind spun with the information Dave had given him, compounded with what he’d gleaned from Parrish and Lorne himself. Jonathan was either part of the Stargate Program or otherwise had connections to it. Whoever he was, he had enough pull to talk General Landry down from getting Lorne court-martialed and discharged. Parrish had suspected that Lorne’s someone was a mole out to get Lorne. Lorne had sounded despondent, like his someone had thrown himself on his sword to save Lorne. Dave seemed to think this kid was nothing more than a very talented personal assistant who Kathy had been able to snap up after he was given a medical discharge from the Air Force, where he’d worked for none other than General Jack O’Neill.
Anna and Clara had nothing but nice things to say about Jonathan, who always had things for them to do when they went to visit Dave at the office and had to wait. Apparently he’d gone to great lengths to help Anna pick out her birthday pony, and he would sing for her whenever she wanted.
Kathy seemed to agree with her daughters’ assessment, that Jonathan was a blessing in their lives, doing his best to make Dave’s workday as trouble-free as possible so he could spend more time with his family.
John still had two weeks’ compassionate leave, so he spent the weekends and evenings with Anna and Clara, but they had to go back to school the day after the funeral, so John and Ronon ended up shadowing Dave at the office. It made the other directors nervous, that Patrick Sheppard’s oldest son and lost heir was checking up on the business. John wasn’t much interested in taking over the business or joining the board of directors, but now that he was older, he was curious about how the business ran, and he needed to know at least a little bit, in the event he had to manage things for Anna and Clara. And it was a way to spend time with Dave and, just a little bit, connect with Dad.
Jonathan was always there, though, Dave’s silent shadow. He reminded John of Lorne, he realized, on hand with coffee or last week’s sales figures or whatever it was Dave needed without Dave asking, sometimes before Dave realized he needed it.
While John listened to board meetings and toured R&D (and he was pretty sure he recognized Dr. Ambrose, who’d been with the SGC on Atlantis for at least one year), he thought of the best way to approach Jonathan. Subtly. Spec ops was not the same was espionage, though. John was a decent enough liar when he needed to be, years of first-contact negotiation under his belt (although admittedly Teyla usually took the lead), but he was no spy.
So he’d finally geared himself up to You remind me of a guy and a vague plot to corner Jonathan alone while Ronon distracted Dave with bizarre questions (the types of questions human aliens asked but that Dave had no experience with) when Jonathan cornered him in the break room under guise of getting coffee for Kathy and Dave and hot chocolate for Ronon, Anna, and Clara (Ronon hated coffee).
“So,” John began.
“Is Evan all right?” Jonathan asked. He kept his voice low, his gaze averted, seemingly focused on operating the coffee machine.
Lorne, he meant. Lorne’s first name was Evan.
“He’s okay,” John said cautiously. He hovered beside Jonathan helplessly while Jonathan fired up the stove and melted an actual candy bar into a saucepan.
“How okay is okay? He’s not drawing or painting anymore.”
How did Jonathan know, so far away here on Earth?
“Sure he is,” John said. “That’s how I recognized you. He painted portraits. Of you.”
Jonathan glanced at him. “Is he...is he happy? Out there. He was always proud of his job, of serving with you.”
John wasn’t sure he could say Lorne was happy, but neither Heightmeyer nor Beckett (or Keller) had reported further concerns, so John figured he was okay. Lorne hadn’t tried to drunkenly kiss John again either. John tried to figure out how to put the conundrum that was Major Lorne into words, his efficiency and his impenetrability, but what he said was, “How the hell do you even know Lorne? You’re - how old are you?”
“Older than people think,” Jonathan said. He whisked cream into the melted chocolate bar while the coffee machine percolated.
“Why are you at my brother’s company?” John asked. “Is my brother all right?”
“The Trust is interested in Sheppard Industries. On top of running utilities, Sheppard Industries does research into clean energy, like naquadah generators and, say, ZPMs.”
John flinched at the mention of highly classified information.
“I’m here to make sure The Trust doesn’t get its hands on this company,” Jonathan said.
“You?” John asked. “Alone?”
“Not alone,” Jonathan said. “Dr. Ambrose is on my side, even though he doesn’t know it. And sometimes Ambassador Shen lends a hand, though she also doesn’t know it.”
“How long will this take?” John asked.
“As long as it needs.”
John thought of how bleak Lorne had sounded, how hopeless, how sure he’d never get to see Jonathan again.
“Is my family targets?” John asked.
“Did you think you were the only one with the supergene in your family?” Jonathan cast him a look.
John went still. He hadn’t thought about it. It stood to reason that Dave or maybe even his daughters had the gene, but he’d never thought about anyone realizing that, going after them.
“There was some speculation that General O’Neill’s son had the Gene.” Jonathan poured the contents of the saucepan into three mugs, spooned whipped cream onto the top of the hot cocoa, then turned to see to the coffee machine.
Son? John wondered. He stared at Jonathan, and suddenly he saw it. He was General Jack O’Neill, three decades younger. He was O’Neill’s son.
But Jonathan continued, “Of course, the speculation didn’t have a solid enough foundation to justify exhuming his son’s body.”
He loaded all of the drinks onto a tray, added a plate of what looked like fresh-baked biscotti, some artfully arranged napkins, and smiled at John. “Get the door, please?”
John nodded numbly.
“About Lorne,” he said, following Jonathan back to Dave’s office. “I won’t tell anyone about -”
“I know you won’t,” Jonathan said. “After all, you and McKay…”
John winced, darted a glance over his shoulder reflexively. “Just how much did Lorne tell you?”
“Everything,” Jonathan said softly. He paused at Dave’s door. “Before you go, I have something for you. To give to him. If you’re willing. No one would suspect you of having any connection to me, so -”
John stared at him.
Jonathan swallowed hard. “Unless he has someone new, now?”
John thought of Lorne’s attempted drunken kiss and wondered if Lorne had tried that with anyone else. He remembered Lorne’s solemn declaration that he would be a model officer.
“As long as it’s not too big,” John said finally.
“It’s not,” Jonathan said. “Not at all.”
“Sure,” John said. He was discomfited by the intensity of the emotion in Jonathan’s gaze.
“Thank you,” Jonathan said solemnly. And then he stepped into Dave’s office, handed out the drinks, and blended neatly into the background.
John didn’t manage to catch him alone again for the rest of his leave, but when it was time to say goodbye, Jonathan shook his hand - and palmed him a tiny flash drive that John realized he’d seen Jonathan wearing around his neck. He’d thought it was just some kind of funky pendant.
“Godspeed and good hunting, sir,” Jonathan said.
“Thanks.” John smiled. “Keep an eye on my brother for me.”
“Always, sir.” Jonathan dipped his chin deferentially.
“That kid is weird,” Ronon said on their way to the car.
John shivered. “You have no idea.”
He spent quarantine at the Midway station contemplating his time with his brother and his family and answering questions for Ronon about Earth and funerals and corporate America and whether or not they'd ever get hot chocolate like that in Atlantis.
If Jonathan Evans wasn’t Jack O’Neill’s son, who was he? How was he related to the Stargate program?
John had a solid half hour to settle back into his office at the beginning of his first shift on duty after his leave before Lorne tracked him down to give him an update on how things had been on Atlantis in his absence: surprisingly quiet and calm, all things being unequal. Of course Atlantis behaved for Lorne and not for John.
“Any questions, sir?” Lorne asked.
“Do you know someone named Jonathan?”
All the color drained out of Lorne’s face. “Sir?”
“He’s fine,” John said quickly. He reached into his pocket and drew out the tiny flash drive. “He asked me to give you this.”
“You saw him, sir?” The hope on Lorne’s face was terribly fragile.
“Yes. Like I said, he’s fine. Go, take a break. You’ve earned it. I’ve got this.”
Lorne picked up the flash drive, cradled it carefully in his hands. “Are you sure, sir?”
“Completely. Go.” John made a shooing motion.
Lorne disappeared from the command office so fast John thought his hair might curl.
He set to work, reading the AARs Lorne had flagged as critical, and wondered if he’d just torpedoed Lorne’s career forever.