Antecedent Cause

by Domenika Marzione

In hindsight, it was probably a minor miracle that the problem hadn't cropped up before it did. But that didn't change the fact that, right now, they had a steaming pile of shit on their hands.

"I've tried to look through the database, sir," Radner was saying, "but there's nothing in the SGC files about any sort of precedent. The next step is talking to Doctor Weir, but I wanted to bring you and the Major into the loop before I did that."

John looked over at Lorne, who had the same look he always had when ambushed by bad news -- two parts placid calm, one part deer-caught-in-headlights, and one part Already Trying to Unscrew the Mess in Question. Lorne looked back and grimaced. Radner was right -- there was no way this wasn't going to involve Elizabeth -- but this was going to become a much bigger mess once the civilians were involved.

The two of them had gotten a call asking them to Radner's office at their earliest convenience, which had turned out to be right away because Lorne's spidey-sense had told him that this wasn't about the usual sort of personnel crap that Radner dealt with as battalion S-1. They'd pretty much finished weeding out the marines who weren't cutting it in Atlantis or had asked out, both mercifully low numbers, and Radner, even more so than the other two captains, had a finely tuned appreciation about what really needed approval from higher and what could stay with him and be passed on as informational.

Lorne, of course, had been right. They'd shown up to find Hanzis and his First Sergeant, Cadman, and Cadman's platoon sergeant already there. John's immediate thought had been that it had something to do with Cadman and what she did and didn't do as the only female lieutenant in Atlantis, but he had been wrong. It had been a girl thing, just not that girl thing.

John sighed, knowing that everyone was waiting for him to say something. "Before we get down to the who owes what and in what galaxy we're paying, do we know what Sergeant Beinhof wants to do?"

Cadman frowned and looked over at GySgt. Wilder. "He's offered to marry the girl, sir," Wilder said. "It's not a love match, but there'd be worse pairs."

Hasty and ill-considered marriages were par for the course in the military, although a surprising number turned out to work in the end. But a quickie wedding right before an overseas deployment wasn't the same as knocking up a girl from another galaxy. Hell, knocking up a local anywhere on Earth wasn't even the same as this. They had procedures for that. Here? How did they explain a child resulting from a union between an American citizen and someone who technically didn't exist?

"If we let him ask, will she accept?" Lorne asked.

Radner had called up all sorts of Earth precedents that could have any sort of relevance, most involving marines on Security Guard assignments getting involved with local girls and a few involving fallout from Vietnam. In almost every case, the girl had been eager to preserve her honor and even more eager to accept the benefits birthing a United States citizen could offer.

"Don't know, sir," Cadman replied. "We haven't had a chance to talk to her yet. If the kid is really Beinhof's, I'm guessing that she'll jump at any chance to get herself and her baby into a Wraith-free world. She's already lost everything once."

The only -- only -- good news out of this was the girl wasn't Athosian. John was pretty sure Teyla was not going to be overjoyed with this news when she found out anyway, but he'd hate to have to be in the position of apologizing for one of his men despoiling the virtue of one of Teyla's people. But the girl was from some other planet that had been culled practically to extinction, an RDR who'd stayed on with one of the mainland settlements. And while that didn't make it all right, it did mean that John's inevitable discussion would be just a fraction less painful and awkward.

"Are we sure it's his?" John asked. It was a cynical question, but not an impractical one.

"Beinhof's admitted to relations with the girl that could have resulted in a child, sir," Wilder answered with a shrug that said that the same question had already come up, probably more than once. "He seems to believe that it could be his, but, well, we're not on the mainland very often."

"Often enough, apparently," Radner commented dryly.

From the very beginning, right when the Athosians had moved in to Atlantis, John had had that talk with the marines. He'd opted for pragmatism over protocol -- they shouldn't be having sex at all, but if they were going to, they'd damned well better be doing it with protection. Of course, this ran completely counter to both the nature of the spontaneous hook-up and the desperate need for humans in Pegasus to reproduce in order to survive. But an unmonitored condom supply and sufficient threats and the realization that their kids would be Wraith fodder had combined to win the day. At least then. This year, with two hundred marines and regular ships to and from Earth, they'd had to work harder to achieve the same goal. And apparently they'd failed.

The rest of the meeting was simply organizing what steps should be taken when, from interviewing the girl to contacting the SGC. John and Lorne were going to end up having to drag this to Atlantis Command Staff meetings, but there were steps that could be done by others. Starting with the reinforcement of the rules regarding fraternization.

John followed Lorne back to his office because they were going to have to work this out before going to Elizabeth.

"I'd hate to think that this is a con," Lorne began, standing by the window and looking out on the city as John made himself comfortable in his favorite chair. "But I don't want to get in trouble for underestimating the guile of the locals."

Not many people on the mainland -- not even all of the Athosians -- knew about Earth. They knew that the people in Atlantis had come from a planet where the Wraith had not yet gone, but where that could be (besides "far away") or how to get there wasn't something asked or answered. Yet just the existence of a Wraith-free world could be enough of a temptation to try something. They knew how far the Genii would go for such a result, but....

"It's going to be a clusterfuck no matter what," John said, reaching out for the Rubik's Cube on Lorne's desk. He was starting to think that Lorne was undoing his progress on it when he wasn't around. "Our PR on the mainland is going to take a hit, the SGC is going to shit bricks, Doctor Weir is not going to be amused, and we're going to have to treat the marines like horny teenagers instead of responsible men for a while."

They were horny teenagers, even if none of them were actually teens, but that wasn't the point. However, there was a festival on the mainland in a couple of weeks and this would have to be brought up and rehashed six times before then.

"There's precedent for the adoption of alien children," Lorne said, coming back to his desk and sitting down. "The real question is going to be what to do with the mother. Now and later on."

They didn't, as a rule, house the pregnant in Atlantis. They tried to bring them back for delivery and the usual post-partum stuff, but everything else (and occasionally the birth itself) took place on the mainland. But -- as far as they knew -- none of the births in the settlements had yet involved children with Earth-born fathers.

"I don't know that I want to be around when we have to broach the topic of testing for paternity," John sighed.

Once (if) paternity was established, then they were on the hook. According to Radner's research, the Code of Federal Regulations had a whole part on paternity and custody issues as pertaining to service members. And so even though it said that (in this case) the Department of the Navy wasn't responsible for deciding how much to give, it was pretty clear on the fact that there was no welshing out on child support no matter what. And it did, in fact, have guidelines as to percentages of a serviceman's pay, although what that meant in a society without currency was too much for John to contemplate. And so while even though the CFR didn't cover inter-galactic romances, he was pretty sure they had what they needed to go by.

In the end, John went to Elizabeth before it could come up in a command staff meeting. She took the news about as well as he had anticipated, which was "not well", but this was Elizabeth and after she purged her frustration, she got down to business. With John still there, she called down to Medical to reach Beckett but ended up with Safir, who showed up in her office five minutes later.

"We'll have to see how far along the pregnancy is before we do any testing," Yoni told them, not bothering to sit down. "And that in itself will be a test. Nine months here isn't nine months on Earth isn't whatever unit of time measurement our expectant mother is used to counting, either through her planet's lunar cycle or her own menstrual cycle. If we're not in a rush, then waiting for amniocentesis would be preferable since there's a lower risk of miscarriage and infection. Otherwise, we can do a CVS with the equipment we have."

It had been a while since John had had to be interested in the specifics of girl-parts medicine, but he could follow along as Elizabeth and Safir worked out the details of bringing the girl back to Atlantis and sonograms and the rest.

"We have to factor in the possibility that she will refuse to come," Elizabeth said after Safir left. "By demanding to verify paternity, we are doubting her honesty. That's going to be a thornier diplomatic issue than what is essentially a public announcement that she's had carnal relations with a marine."

Attitudes toward sex were different in Pegasus than on Earth. Procreation had a much more central place in social norms and mores; depending on the planet, you could do it for fun if you wanted, but you'd better be doing it in a way that made babies. Over-population may have been a big myth back on Earth, but it was too absurd to even be a joke in Pegasus. Beinhof's girl wouldn't be shunned for having procreative sex, but there could be problems with raising the idea that she was lying about the father. Especially because she was an RDR and didn't have the social network to defend her. The mainland settlements were catch-alls for sole survivors and they more or less got along on the shared experiences of loss and survival, but it wasn't the sort of ties that came from living together and dodging the Wraith together for generations. That she had no family made it easier to take advantage of her; that they were making it a factor in whether to do so was all the more reprehensible.

"So we lie about why she's being brought in," John said with a shrug. "I'm sure one of the doctors can mumbo-jumbo their way into a diagnosis that requires her to be brought in for treatment."

"Do we lie to her?" Elizabeth asked. She was in diplomat mode and John knew she was asking more to debate the question with herself than to seek guidance from him.

"If we think she'll cause trouble," John replied. He usually played the Machiavelli role in her games of Devil's Advocate. "We've lied by omission before when it comes to using our technology. This is no different."

Yoni had said that the amnio was a routine pregnancy test; they just didn't have to say what else they were testing for.

"We're using our advantage to decide whether or not to steal her child," Elizabeth said, learning back in her chair.

"We've used our advantage to decide whether or not to steal a planet's ZPM," John countered. "Hell, we use our advantage to decide whether or not to trade with other worlds. We've played with bigger stakes than this."

"I've never let you steal anyone's ZPM," Elizabeth told him.

John raised an eyebrow because they both remembered Dagan and he knew it.

"I've never let you steal anyone's ZPM who was using it," she amended with a frown. "And we're digressing."

"We've got nothing to do but digress until we know for sure whether we've got a baby leatherneck to care for," John replied with a sigh. He didn't want to get stuck talking this to death before they knew what their options -- and their responsibilities -- were. There'd be enough discussion once they established (or failed to establish) paternity.

"What's going to happen to Sergeant Beinhof?" Elizabeth asked.

"We're still working on that," John said. "He's lost his fun time and he's getting a note in his file, but what else happens... depends on if he's the father."

Sending Beinhof home had already been discussed and there was some support for the idea. Beinhof was a good marine, but this was a stupid mistake. Surprisingly -- or maybe not -- Cadman was the one advocating the harshest punishment. Neither John nor Lorne knew if it was because of the Gender Thing or because she was pissed off that one of her men couldn't follow one of the basic rules of Little Tripoli (i.e., Don't Knock Anyone Up). The latter was easier to deal with; the former was more sensitive because this wasn't really about Cadman.

(Cadman had plenty to do in Atlantis because of her EOD expertise, but they didn't put her platoon in positions where they might see fighting and she didn't stand guard room duty and John didn't think either side was happy with the sorts of compromises they were making between what was expected and what was needed.)

"I am not looking forward to the discussion with the IOA about this," Elizabeth said and John grimaced in agreement. Replacing Beinhof was just one of the things they'd have to discuss with Earth, even if the baby turned out not to be his. John had a vague understanding that SGC personnel had created several intimate and familial relationships with aliens, but the SGC also had a lot more leeway than Atlantis did. "It almost necessarily will get ugly and personal."

John made a face. "They shouldn't throw shit if they don't want any in return."

It wasn't that simple, but that didn't make it any less true.

"I think we should bring Teyla in as soon as possible," Elizabeth said with the tone of voice she used to change gears. "She may be our only choice for an independent arbiter should there be a disagreement over the custody arrangement."

Teyla wasn't going to be viewed as independent by either side, but who else were they going to ask? Ronon? John was actually kind of curious what Ronon thought about this, but he wasn't going to bring it up. He didn't doubt that Ronon already knew --Little Tripoli was full of the toughest hombres in the galaxy, but they all gossiped like old ladies -- but there was no way such a conversation ended well.

"Let's cross that bridge when we come to it," he said instead.

They came to that bridge almost three weeks later, after Adetha had been brought back to Atlantis (John had no idea what Carson had said or done to make that happen) and determined to be both roughly seventeen weeks pregnant and carrying Sergeant Beinhof's son.

"Adetha is willing to surrender all parental rights in return for the child being brought to Earth," Elizabeth said to the assembled command staff meeting (plus Radner). "Which solves one set of problems but creates another. We still must decide what our ethical responsibilities are in addition to our financial ones. And we must, in turn, balance our obligations to Sergeant Beinhof's child with the repercussions, both within the city and on the mainland, for the actions we take."

Which basically came down to possibly screwing Beinhof's kid in return for making sure that this wasn't the first of many instances of impregnation as ticket to a better life. That the baby was going to Earth wasn't a question; it was with whom and under what circumstances. Their options ran from taking Adetha up on her offer to packing Beinhof and his befuddled bride on to the Daedalus and there were about a million options in between, but every one had its problems.

Carson and Yoni had both spoken to the medical issues -- was it was risking the child's life for the mother to stay on the mainland (not really), would it be best to have the child born on Earth (only if there was a complication that couldn't be handled in Atlantis's medical facilities), and should they take the child from the mother directly (breastfeeding was universal in Pegasus and preferable for the baby, but it could cause emotional attachment issues to take custody of the child later), among other topics that made John feel like he was sitting in on television medical drama or maybe daytime television.

Then it was his turn, supplemented by Lorne and Radner, to essentially rehash the discussions in Little Tripoli about the ramifications for the military personnel. Which had come out unsatisfactorily not in the sense that they couldn't agree, but that they couldn't do right by everyone involved, both in the sense of punishing the guilty and reminding the innocent.

Ever since he'd taken command, John had held the unofficial position that General Order Number One was a helpful guideline that fell under Don't Ask, Don't Tell (and Don't Be A Fucking Idiot). Which meant, practically speaking, that he didn't care about the illicit booze, copious porn, or any fraternization with civilians (which mostly applied to officers) so long as it didn't affect anyone's job performance or make a scene, at which point he cared a hell of a lot and would happily nail anyone's ass for violations because no one person should be screwing it up for everyone else.

(There'd been maybe three incidences of public intoxication in a year-and-a-half, which was a far better rate than Science could muster, and John knew the marines were getting most of their porn videos from the civilians, anyway.)

All of this meant that while the actual problem was not that Beinhof had had sex with a local, but that he'd had unprotected sex with a local that had led to a pregnancy, the official problem was that there was no way to plausibly deny the fact that Beinhof had violated a standing order by fraternizing with the indigenous population. And no way to keep this in-house, which meant they had to come up with a punishment that looked good in the eyes of the IOA and SGC both. If this were Earth and a regular military post, like a FOB in Iraq, Beinhof would be on the first plane back to the States and a possible court martial. (John knew how that went, although he wasn't feeling much in common with Beinhof here.)

But this wasn't CENTCOM's jurisdiction and John wasn't hot to bust Beinhof down to corporal when there'd be plenty of other punishments, lasting and not. However, he was interested in making sure this never happened again, so he was in agreement with Lorne that whatever punishment they chose, it should be as effective a deterrent as possible. And that might mean Corporal Beinhof.

"Sergeant Beinhof will be removed from the Battalion as soon as we can get a replacement," Radner explained to the group. "He will be removed from the Stargate Program upon his return to Earth and a letter has been placed in his file. What happens either after that or because of that will be at the discretion of the Commandant."

The letter was necessarily non-specific about names, dates, and places, but the rest would be familiar enough to everyone reading it on Earth. John was sure the Marine hierarchy had a good handle on how to deal with those sorts of problems.

"Beinhof has indicated that he'd like custody of his son," Lorne picked up the story. "So if we weren't sending him back, he'd probably ask to go home anyway to help his case. The question is whether we send Adetha back with him and in what capacity."

If it had just been an encounter fueled by moonshine and hormones and circumstance, this would have been easier. But one of the side effects of not allowing Cadman to run around the galaxy like the boys did was that they usually gave her the projects on the mainland. It got her platoon some activity outside the city and Cadman had plenty of room out there to teach her squads the finer points of blowing shit up. The consequence nobody had seen coming was that in giving the marines in Weapons Company's Second Platoon increased exposure and access to the mainland settlements, they'd set up the possibility that one of the marines could go and fall for one of the locals. Gunny Wilder had said that it wasn't a love match and he had been right, but Beinhof was undoubtedly sweet on Adetha and interested in her enough that there might have been problems down the road if the pregnancy hadn't come up first.

All of which was why possibly sending Beinhof home with his pregnant girlfriend wasn't exactly a deterrent as far as punishment went. Beinhof would miss the place -- he liked it in Atlantis and, according to both Wilder and Cadman, had been one of the best marines in the platoon -- but he would still be getting almost everything he wanted and John, Lorne, and the captains were concerned that the rest of the battalion would be paying the penalty for Beinhof's mistake through the crackdowns on infractions that would have to follow.

"What has Teyla said on the matter, if anything?" Carson asked.

Elizabeth frowned. "She said that she was 'satisfied' with the measures being taken, both with respect to the baby and Adetha's wishes."

John knew how unsatisfying that conversation had been for Elizabeth. Parental rights in Pegasus were like everything else -- governed by the fact that the Wraith could take parent or child (or both) at any time and without any discrimination. Of course Teyla wished mother and child to remain together, but she completely understood Adetha's willingness to give up her child if it meant that the baby would never know of the Wraith. Elizabeth -- and John -- had been hoping for some firmer guidance on that front, but none had been forthcoming. And John still didn't want to ask Ronon.

"More importantly," Rodney spoke up, possibly his first words of the ninety minute (and counting) meeting, "what is the IOA going to say on the matter? We can't exactly send her back to Earth and tell people she's from North Dakota."

"I was thinking Ontario, actually," John replied. "Or Kyrgyzstan. One pre-industrial hinterland is the same as another."

"I think we've got an unimpeachable case for bringing the baby back to Earth," Elizabeth said, a little louder than necessary so as to drown out Rodney's retort. "If we decide to seek permission for Adetha, then I believe it would necessarily have to be as Sergeant Beinhof's wife and, even then, it would be a hard sell. Especially if the recommendation is to remove the sergeant from the Stargate Program. From an integration standpoint, there would have to be intense re-education even to get her to the point where she'd be in a class with other non-native wives of servicemen, which in itself isn't a very comfortable position as some of you know. In addition, we will have to be prepared to answer questions about what would happen in case of divorce or any other possibility where custody or residency issues can come up."

"It's like the first time I tried to study in America," Zelenka muttered.

Elizabeth had done her share of consular work, she'd explained to John earlier. You heard all sorts of stories while taking visa applications in embassies, saw all sorts of problems as US nationals stumbled in looking for help from back home. But that experience could only help so much. The IOA would expect them to have solutions to any number of hypothetical situations that would either never come up or would be rendered moot once Adetha had started assimilating into American society. And nothing in the Foreign Service Officers' training course covered how to deal with a citizen of a country that no longer existed in a galaxy they couldn't acknowledge.

"And then there is the response on the mainland," Elizabeth went on. "We've had a policy of no asylum on Earth and there have been no exceptions thus far, but now we would be making one and that opens up the possibility, I'm afraid, to further abuse."

"Are we really that worried about the marines getting seduced by comely native women looking for a ticket to Earth?" Rodney asked, skepticism written across his face.

"With all due respect, sir," Radner answered. "Yes we are. And it's not just the marines; it's the civilians as well."

"Go almost anywhere in the third world," Yoni said with a frown. "Where the UN isn't setting up whorehouses, at least. And even then, some of them still hope. How much would you give for a chance to live free of the thing that you fear the most?"

Rodney held up his hands in surrender. John didn't think he was persuaded, just that he didn't care enough to continue arguing.

"If it's not common knowledge that Beinhof's the daddy," John said, "then we can just tell anyone who asks that she's gone off to live with the father of her child."

Elizabeth shook her head. "Do you see Teyla lying to her people about this? That's essentially what we'd be asking her to do."

"It wouldn't be a lie," John replied, but nodded anyway. It would be unfair to her.

"You could also just solve the problem by making sure the marines keep it in their pants," Rodney said, apparently not as done as John thought. "Abstinence does have a one hundred percent rate of effectiveness. Condoms work, too."

"We've been trying that approach," Lorne said, all conciliatory patience, which for Lorne meant that he wanted to throw something. "But we can't keep an eye on all of the marines all of the time."

"The Corps has an extensive wardrobe," John added, "but chastity belts aren't on the list of approved gear."

"We could always go back to one of our earlier options," Carson said before anyone else could get a jab in. He, like Elizabeth, usually ended up playing referee during command staff meetings. "Tell everyone that Adetha has a condition that cannot be treated in Atlantis and is being evacuated to Earth for treatment. It's something we've done before, at least with Earth personnel, and sets no precedent we'd have to be afraid to follow. The SGC has been bringing in foreign personages for medical treatment for years."

In the end, that's what they decided to do -- provided that Elizabeth could get approval.

John was present, along with Radner and Lorne, for the pitched warfare that was Elizabeth versus the IOA. Officially there to contribute, John really just watched Elizabeth tear strips off of the various bureaucrats. She demolished every one of their objectives, argued down every one of their points, and provided relevant answers to all of their questions. It wasn't even a TKO -- it was a clean knockout. And then the IOA hot air balloons tucked their tails between their legs and announced that they'd have their decision for Atlantis in the next databurst.

"That went pretty well," John offered as the wormhole closed. They were in Elizabeth's office, her preferred field of battle.

Elizabeth made a face. "I don't know. They don't like to lose. I should have let them get a few more jabs in, I think."

"This is why I chose guns over butter," Radner muttered, shaking his head. Lorne nodded in wry agreement.

A week later, Elizabeth forwarded John the letter of approval from the IOA.

"Are you okay with this?" John asked Teyla as they settled into the starting positions in the gym. He rolled his wrists, reacquainting himself with the feel of the sticks in his hands.

"With Adetha going to live on Earth with Sergeant Beinhof?"

"Yeah." It was Corporal Beinhof now, but he didn't bother correcting her.

"I believe it is the best solution under the circumstances," she replied, waiting for him to indicate that he was ready to begin. He nodded and they did, slow and in time, just to get the motions instead of actual fighting. "They will be able to live as a family in safety from the Wraith."

Teyla never had understood the amazing variety of dangers that existed when man, free from threat from without, had the luxury of turning on each other. John didn't think she ever would understand, not even if she spent time on Earth. (The real Earth and not the fucked up one from his head.)

"You're not..." John trailed off, not sure what he wanted to say. Or, rather, how to say it. He didn't know if Teyla even got jealous. Envious, sure. But jealousy was something else.

"I would like to visit your world," Teyla said as they moved in mirror images of each other, Teyla on her tiptoes to keep him from dropping his arms too much to compensate for their height difference. "Very much. And I hope that after the Wraith are defeated, I may get the opportunity. But I cannot leave my people for so long a time, not when there is so much danger in this galaxy."

"That's what I figured," John said. And it was.

The Beinhof family left on the last trip the Daedalus made before Caldwell was revealed to be a Goa'uld host. Nobody chose to take that as an omen.

feed me on LJ?

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27 January, 2007