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Title: City of Lost Dreams
Author: esteefee
Categories: Gen, Declassification, Series: Declassification
Words: 4,522
Rating: G
Warnings: none, I don't think; lemme know.
Beta: em_kellesvig
Prompt: Week #114-116: Regret
Summary: Dave gets that trip to Atlantis John promised.

City of Lost Dreams

by esteefee

Dave took the limo to his jet, bringing with him the prospectus of GEG Enterprises, a new global energy company Sheppard Utilities was considering acquiring for their portfolio. Although, with the breaking news, Dave's CTO was telling him to cool it on the acquisition; who knew what new green energy sources would be coming down the pike now the International Oversight Administration was declassifying the Stargate Program? When Dave told Maria he had a personal invite to Atlantis, she'd practically imploded at the opportunity it represented to gain the inside track.

But Dave had to play this carefully. It was an opportunity, all right, but not the kind Maria was thinking of.

Dave had been shocked when he'd received the call from a Lieutenant Ostermann from JAG with the offer for a visit and a request that Dave file the necessary NDA paperwork, the implication being that Dave couldn't profit from anything new he learned on his visit.

That much, he understood. What he didn't understand, and what he puzzled over on the flight out instead of going over the GEG prospectus, was how the hell John had pulled this off. What strings had he pulled, and did John even have that kind of influence in the SGC and with the IOA to bring a family member onto the single most highly secure facility in the world? One that everyone and his mother were presently vying to get an invitation to?

And, more importantly, why had John done it?

Back when Dave had asked for this favor, he hadn't kidded himself John would actually come through on his promise. John didn't have a terrific track record when it came to following through. He hadn't with Harvard, or with getting that MBA, and certainly not with helping run the company.

No, John had hightailed it the moment he turned eighteen, and there wasn't a damned thing their father could do but sit back and rant endlessly in Dave's ear about ungrateful sons who were such a disappointment, as if Dave weren't sitting right there, two years into his degree at Harvard and doing everything their father wished.

So, maybe this invitation was John's way of apologizing.

Sighing, Dave pushed down his old resentments and cracked open the GEG prospectus.


The limo that took Dave up to Marshall Beach had to wend its way slowly through bumper-to-bumper traffic. It seemed like San Francisco was stuffed to the gills with tourists, all wanting a bird's eye look at the famous Lost City. When the limo reached the barricade that led down to the private dock, Dave's driver handed out the pass Ostermann had sent by courier.

A marine tapped Dave's window, and he rolled it down.

"Mr. Sheppard?" The marine's stare was curious.

"Yes, that's me." Dave pulled his wallet from his suit pocket and held out his ID.

The marine flicked it a glance and then grinned suddenly. "Major Lorne is expecting you. Follow the loop down to the dock. Next ferry is in twenty-five."

He turned and walked away. As Dave closed his window, he heard the man say something to his fellow marine, who laughed.

Not an auspicious beginning.


As they drove down, Dave could see Atlantis in the distance to the north and shrouded by fog—a tall, majestic series of towers, eerie and alien and beautiful. Soon, he would be going there. Soon, he would be able to see it for himself.

They waited in the limo, he and the driver, Mr. Cruz, for the ferry to arrive. There wasn't much activity at the dock, just a couple of marines standing guard. It was obvious the dock had only recently been constructed, the wooden planks green and just taking on the tinge of salt stain.

Dave smelled creosote over the ocean spray and was reminded of the times Dad would take Johnny and him up to the Cape. Pulling on musty sweatshirts from the cabin's bench seats and then running down to the pier to fish all afternoon; coming home to dump their catch in the ice chest and then going out for hot clam chowder to melt the stiffness from their fingers and toes.

John lived on the ocean now. Dave wondered if he ever remembered the Cape.

"Mr. Sheppard? I think that's the ferry," Cruz said.

Dave looked up and spied a small cutter pushing through the waves and heading toward the dock at a good clip. He thanked Cruz for the ride and the company, then popped open his door and approached the marines waiting at the edge of the pier.

"Hi, I'm—"

"Yeah, we know," the taller one said. His nametag read 'Singh,' and his dark brown eyes gave Dave the once-over then crinkled in amusement. "The colonel's brother, right?"

"Yes," Dave said stiffly. "I'm David Sheppard." He wanted to snap he was CEO of Sheppard Utilities, a Fortune 500 company, and he had more in his checking account than John probably had in his entire retirement portfolio, but that would be uncouth. He'd thought he was beyond feeling competitive about his brother; apparently, he was wrong.

"C'mon, Mr. Sheppard. I'll take you down to the ferry." Singh led the way down the dock.

The ferry was just pulling up, pushing a small wake before its bow. Singh stepped forward, caught the line someone threw from the deck, and crouched to attach it neatly to a cleat fixed near the edge.

"Ahoy the ship," Singh yelled, laughing, and someone, another man in a black uniform, shouted down, "We'll make a sailor of you yet, Singh."

"No, sir—not me."

"Is that one of our passengers?"

"Yes, sir. That's Colonel Sheppard's brother."

"Cool." As soon as the boat settled, the man hopped onto the dock and approached Dave. "Mr. Sheppard. I'm Major Lorne, XO of the base." He stuck out his hand, and Dave took it, bemused.

"Nice to meet you, Major."

"The colonel asked me to come out myself and pick you up since he's stuck in meetings this morning." Lorne made a face. "Believe me, I'm glad it's him and not me."

"That was nice of him; you didn't have to go to any trouble."

"No trouble at all." Lorne had a very boyish grin. "Pretty day out, in spite of the fog; they say it will burn out by noon."

"I hope so." Dave confessed, "I'd love a chance to see the outside of the city from one of the piers. I even brought some high-powered binoculars."

"Oh, I'm sure we can do better than that," Lorne said mysteriously. He glanced down the dock and lifted his arm in a wave. "Looks like our other passengers are arriving."

Singh was back, directing a small group of men and women in suits. They didn't look very excited to be there, and Dave was surprised. He gave Lorne a questioning look and got a rueful headshake in response.

Lorne waited until they had passed before saying, sotto voce, "IOA members, here for ongoing committee meetings. They're really not a happy bunch. C'mon, let's get you aboard." He reached down and grabbed Dave's bag, brushing aside his protest, and helped him aboard with a steadying hand.

They ducked under the canopy and took a pair of seats a slight distance from IOA contingent. Lorne handed Dave a life jacket that, with a short struggle, he managed to get reasonably settled. It smelled fishy, but Dave didn't complain.

He'd hoped to talk a little to John's XO, maybe ask some questions, but the motor was too loud for discreet conversation, and anyway, Atlantis was growing larger every moment off the stern.

Dave couldn't take his eyes off it—off the impossible height of its towers, and the oddly shaped slant of its rooftops, or the smaller buildings squatting at the base. Or the way it just floated so serenely in the middle of the foggy ocean, a self-contained entity.

It was like a dream.

"She's a sight, isn't she?" Lorne said over the sound of the motor.

"You call it 'she'?"

"Yeah," Lorne said, his expression fond. "You'll understand once you meet her."

They were silent the rest of the trip. Eventually, the boat pulled up close into a protected bay formed by a jutting, hexagonal dock. Lorne jumped onto the deck and threw over the dock line, and someone there was ready to catch it.

"Last on, first off," Lorne said, picking up Dave's bag. He stepped over the gap and offered his hand. "Watch your step," he said. "Can't have an accident before you even get here." There seemed to be a hidden meaning to his words, but Dave was too caught up in his first close-up view of Atlantis to think about it.

She was real, stretching out above him taller than his eye could take in. There was a bluish tint to her metal, overlaid with purple and other colors, gleaming in the sun when it broke through the cloud cover, as if she were made completely of mother-of-pearl.

Dave had to catch his breath.

"Come on," Lorne said, amusement in his voice. "The colonel should be getting out of his meetings soon. I cleared out his afternoon for you."

Dave forced himself back down to Earth. "That was—thank you, Major, that was very kind of you."

Lorne shrugged and grinned. "Anything for family."

Without leaving Dave an opportunity to respond, Lorne walked off across the deck. The IOA representatives had already proceeded ahead, Dave saw, and he was in danger of being left behind. Dave hurried to catch up.

They passed inside through doors that slid open automatically, leading past a sitting room into a corridor that curved subtly. Dave immediately made note of the squared detailing on the corridors, copper and green, the sconces of pale, striped lights on the walls instead of overhead—strange and yet pleasing.

"C'mon," Lorne said, nudging him. "You'll get the tour; I promise."

He led Dave into an elevator and then pressed what appeared to be a map on the wall. A moment later, the doors opened onto an entirely different corridor.

"Transporter," Lorne said, making Dave blink.

This corridor was better lit, with bright yellow striped lighting and a glass, chambered conduit with water bubbling through it. It glowed a gentle green.

"What the heck is that?" Dave asked. It was pretty but weird.

"Part of the desalinization system," Lorne said. "Near as we can figure, the Ancients thought they'd use it to liven up the visual space while they shunt saltwater through the system."

"You are shitting me," Dave said and then bit his tongue. Way to be professional there, Dave. But... "Plumbing as art."

"Yup. I think it's nice. Though, apparently, the scientists get cranky if you hit the plumbing with friendly fire during an invasion." Lorne nudged him forward again, not giving him a chance to react to that comment.

They followed the corridor, which kept curving it seemed, until finally it turned and opened up.

"This is the Gate room," Lorne said. Dave waved him quiet to stare.

To his left was the infamous Gate he'd seen pictures of, a very imposing presence in reality. It made him feel uneasy, as if it had a mind to suck him through it to another planet without his say-so. He stepped in front of it and then looked straight ahead, up a graduated series of stairs with strange glyphs on the risers to a brilliantly lit stained glass window unlike any he'd ever seen before.

Marines guarded the stairs and the Gate as well, and he was grateful for Lorne's presence by his side as he continued to stare, awed by the copper and blue balconies and vaulted ceiling, the tremendous sense of space, the room humming with voices and weird energy.

"I don't know, sir. It might take him awhile to come back down to Earth."

"Dave?" A familiar voice chuckled. "You with me, bro?"

"Huh?" Dave blinked and dragged his eyes back down. His brother was standing in front of him. "Oh. John. Hello."

"Hello, Dave," John said. "Good to see you." His expression was uncharacteristically soft, almost anxious. "Glad you made it."

Dave automatically offered his hand. "Thank you for having me," he said, meaning it wholeheartedly. "For arranging all this. My God, John."

John blinked and shook his hand.

"Well, if you've got him, sir, I've got some reqs with my name on 'em."

"Yeah. Thanks, Evan," John said.

"Yes! Thank you, Major," Dave said, and shook the major's hand as well, accepting his bag in return.

"Come on," John said. "I'll give you the ten cent tour."

"I'm hoping for better than that," Dave confessed sheepishly.

"'Kay," John said easily. "Fifty cents at least." He grinned and nudged Dave's elbow with his own, then started up the stairs, which lit up under his feet.

"Wow," Dave said, grinning as he followed. "Now that's a waste of power."

"What? Oh, the steps. They only do that sometimes," John said, and it was his turn to look sheepish. "I got a little carried away." He led Dave from the top of the steps to a stained glass door that slid out of their way, and then out onto a balcony.

"Now, this is my favorite view," John said.

Dave looked out at the towers and the ocean far below and felt his jaw drop. He'd had no idea when they'd used the "transporter," as Lorne called it, that they'd moved from water level to such an elevation. His ears hadn't even popped. The technology was a marvel.

"Amazing," Dave said. "Just remarkable. Completely overwhelming. I realize that's an understatement."

John grinned, the same boyish smile he'd get when he'd hear the latest issue of Batman was out. Then he rolled his eyes and he raised his hand to tap his ear.

"Yeah, McKay, he's here. We're out on the balcony behind the control room." John dropped his hand and said to Dave, "My team wants to meet you; that okay? I promise we'll get on with the tour after that. And ignore anything they say about me; they're a bunch of chuckleheads. Well, all except for Teyla. She's awesome."

"Uh-huh." Dave cocked his head. "From what I've read, they've been pretty good friends to you."

"You read that stuff? God, don't do that." John's face went funny, twisting up as if he were trying to disappear through the floor. Dave always thought, when they were kids, that John's love of comic books wasn't because he wanted to be a superhero, but because he was fascinated by superpowers.

The funny thing was, now he was a superhero, by all counts. And it looked like he still wanted to be the Invisible Kid.

The door behind them slid open with a swoosh, and Dave turned to see a stout, pink-faced man come barreling through, followed by a tall guy he immediately recognized, and a beautiful, shorter woman with light brown skin.

"Sheppard. Is this him?" The pink-faced man demanded. "I'm Dr. McKay, PhD, PhD." He thrust out his hand.

"Dave Sheppard," Dave found himself drawling in reaction. Something about the man made him want to slow everything down. He caught a flicker of a devilish smile on John's face. "Master of Business Administration," Dave added, and the flicker burst into an outright grin.

"Oh, terrific," McKay said. "Another kidder."

"Dave," John cut in. "You remember Ronon Dex?"

"Right," Dave said, shaking his hand. Ronon clapped him on the shoulder hard.

"Good to see you," Ronon said.

Dave stared at him a second. "You know, I knew there was something off about that civilian contractor biz. I just didn't realize he was from another planet." Dave gave John a betrayed look.

"Hey! He is a civilian contractor. So are Teyla and Rodney. They're all on my team. This is Teyla Emmagan," John said, waving her forward. "As I mentioned: she's awesome."

"Thank you, John." She smiled, obviously indulging his idiocy. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Dave. Family of John's is to us, family." She held his hand in hers an extra moment, and he felt his face flushing. If only it were that simple. But he knew it would take more than that to get close to any part of John's life again.

As if proving the point, John said, "Okay, so. Now you've met him," trying to wave them all off.

"But we haven't gotten to hear any stories," McKay said. "I'm expecting stories, embarrassing ones."

"Yeah, yeah. Dave and I are doing a tour. You can catch us later."

With that, John's teammates headed one way through the door, and John and Dave went in the opposite direction, along the railing overlooking the Gate room, past an office Dave would knife someone to work in, and then up a flight of stairs into some kind of bay.

Inside the bay were racks of small spaceships he'd seen pictures of in a magazine.

"These are my babies," John said. "Puddlejumpers. First time I flew one of these things, it..." John coughed. "It pretty much read my mind. It knew what I needed to get the job done and gave it to me. I've never flown anything like it before or since."

Dave wasn't sure why John was telling him this stuff. John never told him anything. He'd never said a word about his plans before leaving for the Air Force Academy instead of Harvard or even Stanford, never even told Dave he and Nancy were getting a divorce.

"Come on," John said when Dave didn't respond. "You said you wanted to see Atlantis." He took Dave's bag out of his hand and pushed him ahead.

"Oh. Yeah. Yeah," Dave replied, understanding finally.

The inside of the puddlejumper was larger than it appeared from the outside—again, the building materials the Ancients used must be much more lightweight than Earth manufacturing, because Dave had expected the hull to be much thicker for something that flew into space, for God's sake. But the puddlejumper was roomy, with four seats in the forward area and a large cargo space behind. John stashed his bag there and sat down in the pilot's seat.

Dave took the co-pilot's chair and tried not to be awed by the way a hologram floated before their eyes, showing them various systems as John prepared the little ship for flight.

"Flight, this is Jumper Two; we're go for bay launch."

Jumper two, you are clear for launch. Mr. Woolsey requests that you go dark to avoid opportunistic photographers.

"Copy that, Flight. Over and out."

"Go dark?"

John smirked. "Means what you think. And don't forget that NDA you signed."

Dave nodded, swallowing dryly.

John touched the controls again, and light began to stream through the port. With another touch, they began to rise—Dave could only tell because the walls were falling downward, not through any sensation in his gut.

Then the sky opened up, and they were out in the open air.

They hovered for a moment, and Dave felt a strange shiver in the back of his skull.

"What the hell was that?" he said.

"You felt that? Huh. I didn't even think to check." John smiled. "That was us going dark. And you, brother, have the gene. Which means a blood test in your future from Doc Keller."


They took a long, slow lap around the tallest tower of Atlantis, and Dave glued his eyes at the slanted architecture, the impossibly tall spikes, the odd coruscations, corbels, and mullions, all located in unexpected and improbable locations that still, somehow made an integrated whole that was aesthetically spare and pleasing.

"Wow. Jesus, John. I can't believe you live here. It's like living inside a work of art."

John laughed, and suddenly they careened in a sideways loop that made Dave's stomach swoop, but only because his eyes didn't match what his stomach felt. Also, they'd just zipped by the most unlikely pilaster he'd ever seen in his life.

"Jeez, John. Slow down," Dave pleaded, putting his hands down on the dash. The ship did slow down then, shuddering under Dave's hands, and John let out a low curse.

"Hey. No backseat driving. Or sidebrained. Or whatever. Get your hands off the controls," John said. "Worst thing to do to a pilot."

"I didn't mean—"

"S okay. Just hang on." John hovered the little craft and swung it around so they directly faced the side of the building.

Dave filled his gaze.

"I free climbed that once, you know," John said idly.

"What?" It took a moment for it to sink in, and then Dave gave John the full force of his disbelieving glare.

John shrugged. "We were under quarantine, and I had to get up to the tower to turn off the beacon before the Wraith...well, long story short, it was an emergency."

"So you just, what, put on a cape and made like Batman?"

"Funny. I said the same thing to Teyla. But it was a hairy few minutes; not denying it. See that little metal thing there?" John pointed. "Broke while it was my only handhold."

"You broke a ten thousand year-old ornamental fixture?"

John chuckled, his voice warm with affection Dave hadn't heard from him in twenty years. "Knew you'd love this place. Was hoping you would." There was something else there hiding behind John's words that Dave couldn't place. "Come on; you haven't even seen the terrarium yet." With swift hands, John swooped them down, down, over one of the squat buildings Dave had seen on approach from the cutter.

From this angle, it was obvious the ceiling was almost entirely faceted glass, or some equivalent, all in varying shades of yellow, blue and red, the pattern irregular but somehow appealing. The sun glittered on each facet as they traveled over it, making it look like a precious, carved gem, gigantic in scope.

"Holy crap. They sure went big."

"Yeah, they weren't fucking around."

John kept going for as long as Dave kept asking questions, seemingly tireless, or perhaps as fascinated as Dave was. It was the first time in a long time they'd had any common ground between them. Dave wondered if that was the secret; was this all it took for them to be brothers again, because as they landed on a tower next to a hexagonal pool, the present purpose of which John claimed was P.T. for injured marines, Dave realized he hadn't had a conversation with his brother that lasted this long since their epic comic book trading showdown at ages ten and twelve.

And he could at least be the better man and say it this time, knowing how crappy John was talking about things. "This was great, just really great," Dave said. "I don't know how you managed to swing getting me here, but it really means a lot to me, John."

John looked bug eyed for a moment, then ducked his head. "Yeah. Yeah, good. Because I wanted you to see her. I knew you'd like her if you came." He'd had that same shy smile on his face he'd had when he first brought Nancy home, and Dave grinned.

"I do. I love her, John. She's beautiful." Dave clapped his hand on John's shoulder, feeling a little ridiculous. "So, no more breaking the ornaments or shooting up the plumbing, all right?"

"Heh. Right."

"And thanks again for having me."

"Hey, I said I'd do it. I always keep my promises if I can."

Dave couldn't help the snort that escaped him, he really couldn't, even though he regretted it the very instant later. God, what an idiot.

John's head jerked up and he frowned, hard. "What the hell was that?"

"Oh, God. Just forget it. I'm an ass."

"Did I promise you something else? I swear—"

"No. No. Really, forget it. Seriously, John—"

John cocked his head. "Is this about the Batman versus the Joker thing? Because I swear, that fingerprint wasn't mine, no way. And heck, forensics being so great these days, I bet we could even prove it if you still have the comic."

Dave chuckled ruefully. "Jesus. You aren't going to let that go, are you?"

"No way. I don't even like grape jelly. You know that." John sat back and crossed his arms. "Come on. Give."

"You didn't promise me anything; I told you."

John's eyes narrowed. "Ah. I get it. And you think I promised the old man." He kicked back in his seat, putting his boot up on the console with casual disdain for the ten thousand year-old upholstery. "I never promised him crap, Dave. I let him talk, talk, talk, because he was really good at that. And I made my own plans. But I never once said I was going to Harvard, or Stanford, or going to business school. That was his dream. I had my own."

"Fuck." Dave clenched his teeth, hard. "I wish you'd told me."

"Yeah? I couldn't. I was barely hanging on as it was. Like if I said it out loud it wouldn't come true."

But maybe if John had told Dave, he could have used the same strategy.

Dave looked out the window at the crazy, hexagonal pool and the water gently lapping at the walls. Beyond it, the bluish gray of other, distant towers rose, begging to be sketched and brought to life.

How long was Dave going to wait to start his own?

"We okay?" John said, and Dave nodded.

"More than okay." There was a lot in that NDA about science and tech and military secrets, Dave realized, but exactly zero about architecture and design and doorways shaped like keyholes and impossibly canted balustrades.

"Good. 'Cause my team is bringing lunch right about now. Picnic by the pool. They want embarrassing stories. I kind of promised them. Just don't tell them about the Batman Underoos or I'll never live it down. Deal?" John offered his hand.

"Deal," Dave said, smiling. They shook. John's palm was hard and calloused against Dave's, so different from the usual boardroom handshake.

John used the grip to pull Dave up from his seat. "Come on; lunch is waiting." He stood up and pushed Dave down the open ramp of the jumper, grabbing Dave's bag on the way.

"Hey," Dave said, pausing, "you never said what strings you had to pull. You going to owe a lot of favors?"

"Nah. I just asked Woolsey—he's our fearless leader. He said he'd call JAG and get the ball rolling."

"You're kidding. That's it?"

John shrugged and hunched his shoulders. "You're family." John's voice was quiet, but Dave heard the other part of the equation, the line between the lines that he'd been missing, and it was hard to believe, but he guessed it was true. Dave had missed it because he found it so incredible, but John wanted his brother back, too.

Dave smiled and walked over to where John's team was waiting.

He had a promise to keep.


See Dave's Cover Story in Architectural Digest.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 13th, 2014 09:50 pm (UTC)
Absolutely wonderful!!
Jul. 13th, 2014 10:21 pm (UTC)
thank you! <3
Jul. 14th, 2014 06:07 am (UTC)
City of Lost Dreams by esteefee
I just want to hug this story! What a great Dave voice. Thanks so much for sharing!
Jul. 14th, 2014 06:12 am (UTC)
Re: City of Lost Dreams by esteefee
Thank you so! <3 I had a wonderful time writing it: it was like visiting Atlantis myself. :)
Jul. 14th, 2014 09:49 pm (UTC)
Dave's sense of awe at Atlantis and mixed brotherly feelings--very nice.
Jul. 14th, 2014 10:10 pm (UTC)
thank you, fff! <3
Jul. 23rd, 2014 03:04 am (UTC)
You're very welcome, Esteefee.
Jul. 20th, 2014 11:26 am (UTC)

I'm a sucker for Dave visits John on Atlantis stories. ♥

Thank you very much for this one.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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