Title: The Aftermath
Author: Keira Marcos
Series title: The Sentinels of Atlantis
Series Order: 14
Fandom: Sentinel/Stargate Fusion
Pairings: McKay/Sheppard, Elizabeth Weir/Simon Wallace, Grodin/Tyre, Stackhouse/Markham, Cameron/Vala, Cadman/Ford, Bates/Simmons
A/N: Special thanks to Ladyholder and Chris King for being on hand to deal with my neurotic bitching and for reading 😉
Warnings: Adult themes, violence, and sexual situations.
Summary: “The life of a soldier is defined by discipline, shaped by duty, and immortalized in acts of courage in the face of the most dangerous situations.”
– – – –
The first time John heard a woman weeping, it was his mother. It was the day she’d realized out her five year old son had come online. An ache had built in his chest in response, tangling into a hot, tight knot of pain that still lingered with the other memories of his mother. As proud as she was to have birthed a Sentinel, his mother had been truly unprepared for him to come online before the onset of puberty.
His father had held her, rocked her gently while he promised her fiercely that it wasn’t her fault. John didn’t think that Patrick Sheppard meant anything more than that—at least not now that he was an adult but as a child he’d often wondered if his daddy had thought it was his fault instead. He’d never doubted his father’s love but some part of Patrick Sheppard had been unable to fully embrace the only son of three to exhibit the Sentinel trait. His touch had always been light, careful as if he were afraid he might break John.
David and Matthew both had played sports—rough and tumble sports that John hadn’t been allowed to play. First because his father thought he was too sensitive to physical pain and then eventually because John’s adrenalin response surfaced with puberty. He was just too dangerous after that.
Elizabeth Weir’s uncontrollable and gut wrenching weeping slipped through the walls of the Ancient city—a testament to her survival and the fundamental change that had come to her just fifteen short hours ago. Simon Wallace’s gentle, sweet words to his wife should have soothed but John thought perhaps the man didn’t understand what Elizabeth was truly mourning. She’d killed—viciously and without remorse—moving fast and hard as if she’d been a Sentinel all of her life. There had been no hesitations, no considerations, and absolutely no mercy. She’d gone as feral as John had ever seen a female Sentinel go and it had been a breathtaking sight.
She didn’t mourn the thirty-four Genii she had killed in the invasion, didn’t regret defending the city, her pride, her tribe. Elizabeth was mourning the woman she used to be—the woman she would never be again and it was heartbreaking.
“I’m not sure I can take much more,” Evan whispered from his place near the back of their private gym. It was the one place in the city that the Sentinels had to themselves—not even their Guides entered the room without an engraved invitation.
“She’s almost worn herself out,” Cameron pressed his fists against his face and took a deep breath. “I don’t… I would give just about anything to have been in her place yesterday.”
“We all had responsibilities. We couldn’t send the civilians and the Athosians off-world without all the protection we could give them.” John ran his finger tips across the surface of the mat he was sprawled on. “She’s a level five across the board. Just five senses, thank God. I worried that she might pick up the sixth as well—she’s very intuitive.”
“Very,” Laura agreed at a near whisper. “I want to go kill every able bodied man on Genii for what they’ve done but then—we’d be leaving their innocent vulnerable to the Wraith.”
“There were ten females among the invaders,” Ronon pointed out needlessly.
Laura sent him a sharp look. “I saw.”
“What do we do the bodies?” Tyre questioned. “We don’t have the power to store them in the place you’ve set up for our own dead. There are too many.”
“I say we toss the entire lot back through the gate to Genii,” Bates muttered. “Let them get a good look at what happened to their people because they tried to take from us.”
“Our dead don’t get to go home—why should theirs?” Evan demanded.
“Because we are better people than they are,” John whispered. “And Tyre is right—we can’t keep them in storage with our own in the morgue. Additionally, I don’t think a single one of them deserves to lie next to our people—not even in death.” He relaxed and blew out a breath as Elizabeth surrendered to a fitful sleep on the other side of the city.
“When she wakes up—she’ll start nesting,” Bates said as he rolled to his feet.
“Agreed.” John nodded. “Rodney says that Wallace is ready for it—he’s a very talented Guide and they’ve all worked pretty hard to prepare since he came online—well even before he came online.” He cleared his throat. “Get the bodies off the city before she wakes up. I don’t want her to see or smell them ever again. Set out cleaning crews and sanitize the kill zones so thoroughly even we can’t smell the blood.”
John said nothing else as they all started moving. He reached out through his bond and found that Rodney was finishing up repairs to the grounding station. It was easy to prod his Guide to come home to him. He sat up and then dragged himself to his feet—he’d never felt so old and exhausted in his life.
He stripped off his t-shirt before he even reached their quarters and was bareassed by the time he walked through the door into the bathroom. The shower was already on—steaming beautifully. He sent a silent thank you to the city for her thoughtfulness and slid under the water.
John was alone for less than five minutes and just sighed when he heard McKay drop his pants in the other room. Within seconds, Rodney was in the shower with him—running his big strong hands over his back. “I hate myself for what I asked of her.”
Rodney pressed a kiss against his shoulder blade. “You and I both know that the moment she came online in response to the invasion that she was going to blow. Kolya got between her and her Guide—her feral response was a foregone conclusion and his death is no loss as far as I’m concerned.”
“He was a waste of flesh and bone,” John admitted roughly. “I still—I’ve never ordered a civilian to kill before.”
“She’s a Sentinel.”
“She was a gentle, sweet but slightly ill-tempered academic who wanted to bring her dog on the expedition but didn’t want to ask. She was a woman who adored her husband with this sweet, fierce emotion that overwhelmed her. Now—she’s a Sentinel—territorial, deadly when crossed, and she desperately wishes for it to have never happened.”
“They would have killed her and Simon both—you know that.”
“I do,” John admitted. “I knew it the moment I realized they were in the city—when I heard my men dying in the gate room. I knew if she didn’t come online that they would kill her eventually. I didn’t get to her fast enough, Rodney. She had to close the gate shield on all of those men plus the four she killed in the gate room.”
“Plus the sixty-six you and Tyre killed,” Rodney whispered. “They said there was thirty more coming through the gate. So that’s probably a hundred people the Genii lost trying to take the city. It’s going to be a serious blow to their population.”
“It’s no less than what they deserve or what they tried to do.”
“I agree,” Rodney whispered. He turned his Sentinel in his arms and pressed John against the cool wall of the shower stall. “You’re covered in bruises. Any of these too deep?”
“No, I’m good. My scan turned out cool.” John pulled his Guide close and wrapped his arms around him. “We should have let the city wake her—it would have been less traumatic than this. I just hoped she’d have a gentle, loving experience like Stackhouse and Markham did.”
“Well, she didn’t so we have to work with what we have versus what we would like.”
“Granted,” John returned dryly. “I ordered the Genii bodies returned.”
“Good I don’t want them in our city,” Rodney said nuzzling against John’s neck. “We need to have a memorial service for the dead—try to find some closure for everyone so we can continue with our mission.”
“The Athosians that died off world when the Genii took their IDC—we need to ask Teyla how we can honor them as well.” Rodney lifted an eyebrow when John stiffened. “You can’t hold untrained hunters and farmers to your standard, John. Sure you could have withstood torture—you could have told them all to eat shit and die. It’s just not the same.”
John relaxed. “I know. I know. Damn it. I just—I blame myself for their deaths as much as the four men we lost. Even after the Genii tried to bomb us—I didn’t take them seriously as a threat. I underestimated them and that makes me feel like a fool.”
– – – –
Forty five minutes after they sent the last body back through the gate—Atlantis had an unscheduled off-world activation. John was pleased to note that Chuck was back at his post, excitedly reciting those words as he jogged up to the command center.
“Sir, we are receiving an AV signal.”
“Can we accept it on an isolated laptop, McKay?” John questioned.
“Already working on it,” Rodney said—his hands moving swiftly over the keyboard in front of him. “And we can send back a signal if they can pick it up.”
“Very well. Big screen?”
John fell into parade rest in front of the screen and lifted one eyebrow when Cowen’s craggy, very angry face filled the screen. Maybe the big screen wasn’t the best choice after all.
“Administrator Cowen.” John tilted his head. “My apologies for not returning the other thirty men you sent to take our city—but they were destroyed a cellular level when they hit our activated gate shield. Much like the bomb you sent us in the past.”
“You will pay for this, Sheppard.”
“For a man with no shield on his gate, you’re entirely too free with the threats. I could sit in my office and decimate your entire village—including you super not-so-secret underground bunker with ease. I wouldn’t have to send a single soldier through the gate to do it. Because you might still be struggling with making nuclear weapons and bombs—my people conquered that particular technology over fifty years ago.”
“You have no honor,” Cowen hissed.
“You had a family of four tortured and then slaughtered for their IDC so you could invade our city and take it from us and you say I have no honor?” John raised an eyebrow. “I’m a killer—a stone cold killer. I’ve probably killed more people than there are currently living on your planet, Cowen but at least I’ve never tortured a fifteen year old girl for information.”
“The city of the Ancestors is our birth right!”
“They weren’t your Ancestors, Cowen.” John inclined his head. “But, there are quite a few people on this city that descend directly from the people you call the Ancestors and I’m one of them. This is our city and it will remain ours. I will destroy it before I’d let a man like you have it.”
“I’m going to kill you,” Cowen promised.
“I wish you happy hunting, Administrator, just make sure you understand what you’re hunting before you get started.” John leaned forward a little. “I’m like nothing you’ve ever known before.”
The wormhole ended abruptly, cutting their communication and John shot his Guide an amused look. “You sucked the fun out of that.”
Rodney frowned at him. “Psycho baiting is not a hobby I’d like you to cultivate.”
“Too late, Guide. I served in the Middle East before I met you and that’s all there is to do there.” John touched his shoulder as he passed him by. “We have a meeting with Teyla and Ronon.”
– – – –
“Some of my people wish to leave Lantea—terminate our relationship with you because of what has happened. They believe being your friend is dangerous,” Teyla murmured. “I am ashamed by their thoughts—when your people have done nothing but protect and shelter us since our first meeting.”
John focused on the table in front of him. “It is not in my nature to make war on women and children. That isn’t to say that I won’t retaliate should the Genii come at us again. We can’t let them get away with it again and again. They suffered heavy losses in the invasion—so heavy they may hesitate to act against us in the future.”
“They play games with the Wraith and try to make enemies where they should make allies,” Ronon said in a disgusted tone. “They’ll destroy themselves before long—the Wraith will determine they are a real threat and they will wipe them out. It’s what happened on Sateda. It’s happened on a lot of worlds. The Genii won’t be an exception.”
John nodded. “I certainly won’t hold your people hostage, Teyla. If they wish to leave Lantea they may but I won’t give them a way back to us. As it stands we’re going to have to rework our IDC system and find a new Alpha site. From now on, unless there is a medical emergency—no one is coming back to the city directly.”
Teyla nodded. “I will tell those who wish to leave exactly that. There are only a few—they have families on other worlds.” She paused. “We lost crops on the mainland but we had plenty of time to pack up the village before the storm hit. While it is not important to our overall mission, I would like you to know that my people have requested that I step down as leader.”
“Because of this?” John questioned.
“No, because I refuse to provide an heir.” Teyla took a deep breath. “My relationship with Ronon is contrary to our ways—my people have not engaged in exclusive pair bonds in many hundreds of years. It proved to be detrimental to the growth and health of our population. After our mourning period, Halling will take my place as leader of the Athosians. I chose him—he is a good man and he already has a son to teach the skills of leadership. It is a sound choice. In thanks for my faith and support, Halling related to me a story he heard recently a trade fair.”
“No, about a world where the people are safe from the Wraith. Halling saw drawings of the village and part of it—looked a great deal like the central spire of the city.” Teyla looked down at her hands. “I’m ashamed to say that this story was related to more than one person within my people since we have come to live on this world but they chose not to tell you.”
“They don’t trust us?”
“They assumed you would take this world from the people living there—as they believe it is your blood right. The Genii might chose to ignore what it means—that you’re people can work the technology of the Ancestors but my people understand the truth of it.”
John’s jaw tightened. “I’d never authorize such a thing, Teyla. Don’t they understand…” He trailed off and shook his head. Turning in his chair and focused on the ocean just beyond the large window in the conference room they were using. It was nicer than the large one off the gate room and John preferred it. “Let Halling know we’d like to visit this world at the first opportunity. If they can fight the Wraith effectively then they are ally we must make. I want him to come with us so he will understand that his fears—the fears of everyone who kept this from us were baseless.”
– – – –
Simon shifted on his side and watched his wife stir from sleep. She’d slept for nearly ten hours—her body still and just short of rigid even in sleep. Before she’d come online, she’d always been languid and malleable in sleep—eager to be in his space and content to sleep half on top of him when he allowed it.
Elizabeth inhaled sharply and her eyes flickered open. She turned to stare at him—her eyes dark with emotion but it was clear her grief had been truly spent—pushed away as was the nature of her kind. Guilt and grief had no place in the mind of a Sentinel—not if they were to protect their tribe to the truest of their abilities.
“How are your dials?”
“Good,” her voice was slightly hoarse—a left over from the five hours she’d spent sobbing after it was over. “It’s easier than I thought to control them. I’m sorry I was so stubborn about the lessons before—you and Rodney had to push me into it. It wasn’t fair to either of you.”
“I understand,” Simon leaned forward and pressed a kiss against her forehead. He closed his eyes when one of her hand settled on his hip and put a voice to his deepest insecurity. “Please tell me I’m the one, wife. Tell me I am your Guide.”
“You are everything,” Elizabeth responded. “You always have been—since the moment I met you I’ve known nothing but peace and safety in your touch.” She prodded him backward and slid astride his hips with a predatory smile. “My husband, my lover… my Guide.” She sat back and ran her fingers through her hair. “We don’t normally sleep naked.”
He laughed. “Or on all cotton sheets. We aren’t bonded—I didn’t want you to have any skin reactions before we can get you settled.”
Elizabeth hummed under her breath. “The last thing I want is to get settled.”
Simon hissed softly as her hand wrapped firmly around his cock. “Well, we can do that, too.”
“I want you in me—in me in every way possible.”
He groaned as she lifted up and slid down onto him with ease. “Jesus, Liz.” Simon ran his hands over her thighs and cupped her hips. He slid one hand up her body, cupping one breast briefly before letting it slide up further to cup the back of her neck. He pulled her down roughly. “Kiss me. Taste me, Sentinel.”
She moaned against his mouth and shuddered as his lips opened under hers.
– – – –
“And there goes the rest of our day,” Radek muttered. “Everyone will walk around like dazed idiots until Weir and Wallace pass out now.”
“Seems like the city could use something to soothe everyone—calm them down,” Grodin murmured from his place under the console in the gate command center. “Most everyone is on edge about the Genii and what happened here.”
“Mostly I think they are on edge about all of the bodies,” Radek corrected dryly. “Tyre and Colonel make mess of the city.”
Peter grimaced and nodded. “I was there; I know exactly what they did.”
“Are you well?”
“I’m fine. Tyre is running his tenth mile of the day and I’m taking a part something that isn’t even broken. We’re both too wired for sex or sleep. He says the city feels wrong. Do you feel it?”
“She is…” Radek trailed off. “I hesitate to use the word upset. The city appears to be disturbed by the invasion. She did not like the strangers being here and was relieved when the last of the bodies were moved from her.”
Peter nodded and pulled out another crystal. “Right. I think I understand. The hum has changed—the one in the back of my mind. It’s stronger now; the rhythm of it is a little more intense.”
“She wants more power—she cannot defend us in her current state. I believe it violates her programming—her failure to protect her inhabitants from an outside threat. The failure reads as error and is disturbing.” Radek glanced over the collection of crystals Peter had lined up beside him. “You’d best hope that the Colonel keeps McKay occupied the rest of the day or you’ll be screamed at for this mess.”
“We aren’t using this console for anything,” Peter assured. “It’s for external sensors which we don’t have the power to run. I was hoping that by researching this system that we could figure out some way to utilize it with a generator instead of from the central power hub. If I can accomplish that with these small sensors for planetary monitoring… we might be able to use the long range sensors for the city in the same way.”
Radek nodded. “Good explanation for your self-appointed busy work. McKay might buy it.”
Peter grinned and went back to pulling out crystals. “My second option is to tell him I’m cleaning it.”
– – – –
Jennifer closed the last body bag with shaking hands. “Okay, Elisha, we’re done here.”
Elisha Biro nodded as Jennifer pushed the cold vault shut. “I’ve rearranged the schedule so we’re both off duty tomorrow morning.”
“Thanks.” Jennifer let her forehead rest on the cool metal door as Biro left the room. “We don’t know what the Ancients used this room for—maybe to keep experiments frozen. It might have been their morgue because it’s terribly close to the infirmary.”
“Are you okay?” Evan questioned.
“No.” She turned and looked at him, tears slipped down her cheeks. “Biro worked as a medical examiner for the state of Colorado… in fact, it was how she ended up at the SGC. She came across a body in her work that had died in a truly alien manner. The SGC recruited her to basically keep her mouth shut.”
“I’m not surprised—I imagine they’ve recruited a lot of civilians in that manner.”
“I was a trauma surgeon in Chicago when Carson Beckett called me and asked for a meeting. He told me I could make a difference—that I could change the field of medicine and I believed him.” Jennifer wiped away her tears. “I still do. I see the technology on this city—the things we could use if we had the power and a galaxy just waiting to be investigated. Maybe it is unrealistic to still believe.”
“I’d like to think we can find ways in this galaxy to make life better for everyone.”
Jennifer nodded. “I never had to… there were three deaths in the mountain while I was training under Dr. Lam but I never had to attend to the bodies. The procedures—I knew what to do because the SGC has guidelines for everything.”
She offered him a small, trembling smile. “I feel it, you know. The low burn of anger of all of the soldiers on the base—the grief of loss, the fury of not being here. But it pales in comparison next to the fear that everyone else is drowning in.”
“How do we fix it?”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. I don’t know that we can actually. There were people on the exhibition who understood—maybe since we stepped through the gate that what we were doing out here wasn’t safe but plenty didn’t get it. They didn’t even get it when Athos was culled. It was isolated to them—removed from their experience. Even the two Wraith bodies that we’ve dissected them weren’t seen as example of the threats we face in this galaxy—they were just all so excited about the data.”
“I understand,” Evan whispered. “Come on—let’s go take a walk around the city and find something beautiful to stare at for a while.”
She nodded. “Yeah, okay.”
– – – –
“You did well,” Peter whispered as he ran his hands confidently down his Sentinel’s back. The small amount of mineral oil made the glide of his hands easy and comforting. “You know you have nothing to prove to us—to me.”
Tyre let his fingers unclench and he nodded minutely. “I know. I hate that those men died—the tribe feels unbalanced and incomplete with them gone. I keep searching for their heart beats.” He pressed his forehead against the mattress and took deep breaths. “I’ll never hear them again. For years after Sateda fell, I would search for the heart beats of my pride—especially my Alpha. He was the first member of the pride that I imprinted on when I came online. I used the steady beat of his heart to settle me into sleep until he fell during the final culling.”
“Do you use Sheppard now?” Peter questioned.
“No.” Tyre stilled underneath him and then slowly lifted his hips. Peter took the hint and lifted his weight of his Sentinel and Tyre turned over. “I’ve used you—since the very first night I was on the city. I’m sorry.”
Peter resettled his weight and trailed his fingers down the center of Tyre’s chest. “No, it’s okay. I might have resented it in the past—when you were denying me the place I deserved in your life and in your bed. There is no room for resentment now.”
“I’ll never deny you anything ever again,” Tyre whispered fiercely. He pulled Peter down and wrapped his arms around him.
– – – –
A week after the Genii invasion—John gathered his pride for an imprint. They were all dressed in casual clothes because military rank had no place in the situation.
“Elizabeth.” John offered her his hand and she took it without hesitation. He pulled her into his personal space without pause, until he could feel the heat of her body brushing against his. “This is our pride and in the center of our pride—you and Laura will remain. We hold you close—not because we consider you weak or incapable but because our instincts will demand your protection at all costs. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Alpha.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I understand.”
He took her hand and pressed her palm against his chest over his heart. “You imprinted on your Guide through instinct—but doing an imprint on someone other than your Guide requires saturation. Focus on my heart—push away all of the other sounds in the city, in this room except for your Guide. The scents of the human body—pile and overlap together making each person you interact with unique. Sentinels have additional scents in their scent piles—because of the intense physical relationship we share with our Guide.”
“Yes.” Elizabeth nodded. “There is a melding of scents.”
“Yes, like puzzle pieces. The stronger the bond—the tighter the pieces will fit together. Sexual bonds create an intense chemical bond between Sentinel and Guide. All of the pairs on the city are engaged in a sexual bond. The first time you encounter a pair that doesn’t share a sexual bond—you will notice the difference immediately.” John took a deep breath and trailed her fingers along the line of her neck. “Come closer and learn my scent.”
Elizabeth shivered as she tucked her face against his neck and closed her eyes. “John.”
He laughed softly. “I know it appears sexual but it really isn’t. I’m quite incapable of responding to you physically. You’ll find the same is true of you.”
She huffed a little against his skin and laughed softly. “That’s kind of bizarre considering how pretty you are.”
“No shit,” Laura Cadman muttered and everyone in the room laughed as well.
“Rodney.” John reached out for his Guide and McKay took his hand. “Come close.” He took Elizabeth’s hand from his own chest and placed over his Guide’s heart. “Elizabeth, know my Guide by the sound of his heart and the scent of his skin. These are the tools you would use to locate him if he were lost to us in the field.”
Rodney remained still as Elizabeth moved into his space and tucked her face against the side of his neck to surround herself in his scent. He stayed still in her hold and relaxed when she lifted her head away. She held his gaze for a few seconds and then took a step back with an abrupt nod.
Weir reached out for Simon. “John, know my Guide by the sound of his heart and the scent of his skin.”
John let Elizabeth guide his hand into place on Simon’s chest. The gentle thump of the Guide’s heart was easy to latch on—he knew it from his scans of the city and now he would forever associate it with Simon Wallace individually. He pulled Simon to him with gentle urging and inhaled deeply against the skin under his neck.
“Ronon.” John turned to him as he released Simon. He held out his hand. “You are of my pride.”
– – – –
John sprawled out in the middle of their bed—naked with his legs splayed brazenly. The pride imprint had taken two hours—his body and mind thrummed with the primal connections he’d made with the other Sentinels on the city. “Don’t tease me, McKay.”
Rodney hissed a little under his breath as he watched John pull his slick fingers from his own ass. “I’m just waiting for you to tell me what you want.”
John looked at him with narrow eyes and grabbed his cock with his slick hand. He jacked himself casually. “I want you to fuck me.”
“Then roll over and lay on your stomach.” Rodney picked up the lube and poured some into his palm as John did as instructed without hesitation. He laughed softly. “God, no one would believe you’d be so eager for a dick in your ass.”
John folded his arms and let his head rest as he casually shifted his hips and lifted off the bed just a little. “Just yours, Guide.” He pulled one leg forward slightly and sighed when McKay joined him on the bed.
Rodney pressed a kiss against the small of John’s back as he moved up and settled on top of his Sentinel. “I really like watching you finger yourself. I love knowing that I’m on the only man to ever know you this way.”
John shivered against the small, sweet kisses that Rodney littered over his shoulders and neck and groaned at the hot glide of McKay’s cock between the cheeks of his ass. He rocked under him, impatient for penetration. “Rodney.”
“Easy,” Rodney murmured and then shifted slightly so he could push his cock into John’s ass.
They both groaned in the cool semi-darkness of their bedroom. John shifted to his knees at McKay’s urging and they found an easy rhythm together.
“I love you,” John whispered fiercely as he curled his fingers into the sheets beneath them. “So much I can’t even… fuck Rodney.”
Rodney curled one hand over one of John’s shoulder and pulled him back into his lap. John sat up and relaxed against his Guide’s chest. “Just like this, John.”
“Yeah, this is good.” John let his hands fall to Rodney’s thighs to brace himself. “Perfect.”
“Take what you need,” Rodney encouraged. He curled his hand around John’s cock as his Sentinel started to undulate in his lap.
The pleasure was suddenly overwhelming and John came with a startled gasp. He arched in McKay’s lap and shuddered through his orgasm. When he could he started to rock hard back on Rodney’s cock until his Guide moaned and came with a soft moan.
– – – –
“You will not change your mind?”
Teyla shook her head and looked out over the village—the storm had hit the mainland as expected but because of the advanced warning they were able to pack up quickly. They hadn’t lost anything outside of a few crops they’d been experimenting with. They’d come to Lantea in the middle of the growing season but their experiments had taught them a lot about the soil of their new home.
“I accepted Ronon as my Guardian—when I did that I made a commitment to him that transcends everything—even death.” Teyla took a deep breath. “I cannot walk the path my father walked with our people, Halling. It is no longer my place. The traditions we hold sacred are contrary to the relationship that Ronon’s instincts and needs require of us both.”
“We understand your relationship with him,” Halling said and sighed. “Even if not everyone truly approves.”
“I cannot have a child and remain at his side in the battles that are to come,” Teyla murmured. “The Wraith—the Lanteans have a chance of launching a true offensive against them.”
“Then it will be done,” Halling said. “We have been asking discreetly about other Runners—but so far there have been no stories to be told. We will continue to search if there are more Guardians being hunted by the Wraith we have an obligation to find and rescue them.”
Teyla nodded. “I believe it is the destiny of our people to be the haven of those left on Sateda. I knew the moment Ronon stepped through our ring and dropped to his knees at my feet.”
“You are his sanctuary,” Halling murmured. “This world should be the sanctuary of all those in need. You will tell Sheppard this?”
“Colonel Sheppard would not turn away anyone seeking a haven from the Wraith,” Teyla murmured. “But for the moment we must find a way to give the city of the Ancestors the power she needs to defend us.”
“Yes, I understand.”
Halling looked out over the dark ocean spread out in front of them. “This is a beautiful world—the Ancestors chose well for their city. Our people can be content here, Teyla. We can make a place for our families and children. We all feel this.”
“Then it will be done. We have much work to do—Colonel Sheppard would like to add Athosians to his off-world teams. We must pick the strongest and most capable of us to train with the Lanteans—so that we may be an asset in their war with the Wraith.”
“I have volunteers,” Halling admitted. “Several young men who are willing and able to take this warrior path at Ronon’s side. They’ve always been willing but felt that they could not offer him assistance before.”
“We will discuss this with Colonel Sheppard and develop a list of skills to be learned so they can be safe in the field with the Lanteans. I would not wish for our people to be a liability. The scientists will also have more training to prevent these circumstances.”
– – – –
Elizabeth slid into her Guide’s lap and settled the blanket she’d brought with her around them both. She hadn’t wanted been all that interested in a balcony when it had come to choosing quarters but Simon had insisted. She closed her eyes and let her head rest on his chest to avoid looking out at the horizon—she found herself entirely too curious. Simon had found her zoned on her wedding band when he got out of his shower only an hour before.
“You have a question.”
“No.” Elizabeth shook her head. “I…not a question but perhaps a concern.”
“Okay.” He pushed his fingers through her damp hair.
“Rodney killed a Wraith with his mind—it put a great deal of strain on him ethically. I could tell he was really upset with what he’d done. John wasn’t. He was upset for Rodney but he wasn’t remotely concerned by what McKay did.”
“Sentinels are rather black and white,” Simon murmured. “It is the duty of a Guide to provide perspective and reason.”
“So you’re my conscience.”
“When it is required of me—yes, I will be your conscience.” He pressed a kiss against her forehead. “You are in a unique position to see a situation in your recent past both as a mundane and as a Sentinel.”
“Yes. In the past, I was concerned about the death and what it meant for the ethics of our mission. Now,” she paused and sighed. “Now, I believe like John that there was no choice but to kill that Wraith. We couldn’t have kept a prisoner with telepathy on the city nor more than we could have let him go.”
“And it concerns you, this new perspective?”
“A little,” Elizabeth admitted. “I killed four men—shot them all as if they were nothing to me without hesitating. I closed the gate shield on at least thirty.”
“Your instincts prevent you from feeling the guilt you think you should,” Simon murmured. “Your mind will adjust to this situation far faster than you think.”
“I won’t be the same woman you married… I’ll never be her again.”
His fingers fisted briefly in her hair and he relaxed. “I’ll love you the rest of my life—there is no circumstance that will change that. I can foresee nothing that would make me turn from you.”
“How about if I punch Kate in the face?”
Simon laughed softly and pressed a kiss against her forehead. “Ah, Liz, you have to know that woman has never turned me on even before I knew about her bigotry concerning Guides.”
“I still might punch her in the face,” Elizabeth muttered and flicked open the buttons of her Guide’s shirt. She pressed a soft, open mouthed kiss against the skin she exposed. She wiggled around and slid astride his lap. “I love you so much.”
Simon ran his hands down her back and cupped her ass. “You wanna go to bed?”
She hummed softly and tucked her face against his neck. “No. Let’s stay out here for a while.”
– – – –
His Sentinel had three laptops in a semi-circle in front of him. It was hardly the first time David had found Radek in such a position. Zelenka often let himself get lost in intellectual pursuits when he was disturbed. The Genii invasion of the city had put all of the Sentinels on edge—the three that had been on the city had borne the brunt of the violence but they all suffered the violation of their territory by an enemy.
All of the Sentinels had walked the perimeter of the city—taking in the changes made by the deaths of so many. They’d all done it again after the last of the Genii bodies had been removed. David had watched Radek move around the city—searching out each member of the expedition so that he could see them all.
The loss of four of their own had changed the overall “sense profile” of the city. It no longer smelled the same and the cadence of the tribe’s joined heartbeat would never be the same. All of the Sentinels felt it—the primal change in the expedition that had put them all on edge.
He went to Radek and sat down beside him on the floor. “How can I help?”
“The city she misses them as much as we do. Her sensors keep searching for their life signs and showing an error when we fall four short.” Radek looked up from the computers. “She was lonely for so long that the loss of any one expedition member would be distressing but to lose four in such a short period of time—I am worried that the AI will have a catastrophic failure. She does not understand death.”
“How did the Ancients deal with this problem?”
“There is a program that acts like a census—deaths and ascensions would be recorded by the city administrators to this program and the city would cease to look for these individuals. The city activated this program when the expedition came through the gate and counted us. We were unaware of its existence until she started reporting the error in the city census data.”
“You are recording the deaths of those we lost?”
“Yes, it is a lengthy process but someone must do this so that the city will cease to have the error.” Radek returned to his typing and said nothing as David moved closer and pressed against his side.
– – – –
“Today we gather to remember Joseph Carrs, Phillip Wells, Alec Davies, and Samuel Victor. It was my great honor to know these men and to serve with them in the defense of our mission. The life of a soldier is defined by discipline, shaped by duty, and immortalized in acts of courage in the face of the most dangerous situations,” John began and then paused. “To die in service is a circumstance we all prepare ourselves for the first time we put on a uniform. We train for war and all of chaos that comes with it. We accept that we are part of a war machine—we accept that we will bleed for our country and in our most unique circumstances—our world.”
He paused to look over the crowd, taking in the faces of each member of the expedition before speaking again. “We know that in the course of our jobs we may be called upon to make the most intimate of sacrifices.” John cleared his throat. “I have found during the course of my service that the best way to remember our brothers and sisters who fall is acknowledge how they touched me and what I learned of them during our time together. Sergeant Stackhouse as requested permission to begin. Marcus?”
Marcus nodded abruptly and stood. He took John’s place at the podium and took a deep breath. “I met Phillip Wells in a bar in Washington, DC. Though it would be a year before I would see him again—our first meeting is something I will remember for the rest of my life. After all, it’s not every day you have a two hundred and twenty pound Marine hop on your table and sing “You Are My Sunshine” at the top of his lungs just for you. I eventually forgave Jason for making that bet and I’ll go on record and say Phil didn’t sound half-bad.”
John took a deep breath at the soft laughter that filtered through the people of the expedition. One by one—stories were told and the men they’d lost were remembered. Remembered not just for how their lives ended but for how they lived and served. It wasn’t traditional but he hoped one day to take them home to Earth for burial so perhaps this memorial better served those left behind.
Read the Next Episode: The Tempest