Title: The Alliance
Author: Keira Marcos
Series title: The Sentinels of Atlantis
Series Order: 7
Fandom: Sentinel/Stargate Fusion
Rating: NC-17 (sexual content)
Pairings: McKay/Sheppard, Teyla/Ronon, Vala/Cameron (many secondary pairings—see the series index page for a full listing)
Warnings: Slash, explicit m/m sex, filthy language
Summary: Teyla and Ronon foster a relationship between the Lanteans and the Genii but not everyone agrees with the agreement the two peoples reach.
* * * *
Vala rolled to her feet and picked up the bantos rod she had lost when Teyla had put her down like a child. She took up the defensive position she’d been taught earlier in the morning and took a deep breath. “Again,” she agreed.
Teyla advanced and the striking of wood against wood filled the gym. They’d gathered quite a crowd, including their own Sentinels who were standing sentry on either side of the room—alternately glaring at each other and then the crowd of Marines who had gathered to watch the two alien women go at it.
She sacrificed her thigh to a vicious blow and in doing so positioned herself to hook one foot around Teyla’s leg and send them both sprawling. Rods scattered in four directions as they hit the floor. Vala pinned her with a smirk and Teyla lay there for a few seconds, breathless and then she started to laugh.
“Well done. You must teach me that.”
Vala rolled off of her and to her feet in one fluid motion. She offered the woman her hand and smiled when it was quickly taken. “Every man in the room just pictured us having sex. You realize?”
Teyla shot her Sentinel a look and Ronon just grinned, completely devoid of shame. “Yes. Men are very simple creatures—it is unfortunate.”
They each gathered their rods and took up position without further discussion.
* * * *
Dr. Elizabeth Weir was a pacifist though she never once in her life said it with words; her actions and accomplishments spoke to her desire for non-violence and peace on a galactic level. She’d brokered peace on and off world for nearly seven years before traveling to the Pegasus galaxy and had never once been asked to strap on a weapon.
Target practice every day for three weeks had her putting every shot in the kill zone – it was both a source of pride and horror. She enjoyed doing something well; but putting holes paper targets with the shape of a human being on them was a wretched display of violence as far as she was concerned.
She reloaded her weapon with non-target grade ammunition and set it down on the counter for Lt. Laura Cadman’s inspection. Laura picked up the weapon and went over it with care and then nodded.
“Good?” Elizabeth questioned.
“Excellent. I’ve already made note of the fact that this weapon will be your personal service piece in the armory logs. I’ll prep you a kit for cleaning and maintenance. Any time you step through the gate, you’ll be required to wear it. When you are in the city, it’s to be kept in your lock box in your office or in your personal quarters unless you are wearing it. At no time should you allow anyone to borrow it—including your husband. Ammunition, including target rounds, are strictly accounted for so please make sure to log in for target practice and keep an accurate count of how much you use during each session. When you go off world, your weapon is to be loaded and holstered. Two extra clips will be prepped for you by the mission specialist before each dial out along with your field pack.”
Elizabeth touched the gun briefly and nodded. “I never had to do this… before.”
“I know ma’am and we all realize how uncomfortable you are with it but Colonel Sheppard is not going to allow you through the gate any more without a weapon. The culling on Athos has brought home the fact that there are absolutely no safe worlds in this galaxy.”
“I understand.” She took a deep breath and closed her eyes briefly. “I really do. I just don’t know that I could kill anyone, Laura.”
“We all hope you never have to find that out but we’d be remiss in our duty to you and the rest of the expedition if we didn’t prepare you as best we can for the dangers we know are on the other side of the gate.”
Elizabeth picked up the 9mm and carefully thumbed on the safety before holstering it in the leg holster Laura had fitted her with before this target practice. It was her last session of personal training unless she requested additional private instruction. All of the civilians that had been rated for field activity had gone through similar training—including her husband. She’d fought it as long as she could before giving in. She’d done it more for Simon than for herself.
She looked out at the paper target, her gaze flicking over the torn paper and all the spots where her bullets had punched through. “I don’t want to break his heart.”
“Excuse me, ma’am?” Laura asked softly.
“My husband.” Elizabeth flushed. “He sacrificed so much to come with me—because he loves me and I don’t want to break his heart by not coming home to him. That’s why I did this.” Her fingers brushed over the grip of her weapon, the weight of it her thigh should have felt more oppressive than it did. “I don’t like guns.”
“I love guns.” Laura grinned and then leaned against the counter. “But, I don’t enjoy firing them at people. No one uniform should. The decision to take the life of another person is a hard one—and I really hope you never find yourself in that position. I think, however, your reasons for learning to use a weapon are good. I wouldn’t want you to break your husband’s heart either.”
Elizabeth nodded and cleared her throat. “Well, then. You’ll inform the Colonel that I’m ready for off world field work?”
“Yep, you’re the best shot of all the civilians save for Dr. Zelenka.” Cadman just grinned when Elizabeth turned to look at her with stunned horror. “Though most people don’t really consider Dr. Zelenka a civilian. They are so used to Sentinels being in the service that having a civilian one is messing with their mindset. Half the Marines salute him before they can help themselves.”
* * * *
“Okay, if that is all we can adjourn. We have a pretty big task ahead of us with our current population of refugees.” Simon Wallace glanced around at his staff and raised an eyebrow when Kate Heightmeyer leaned forward in her chair a little. “Kate?”
“I’ve had several people request anti-depressants. I’ve made it clear that I can’t personally prescribe them because I’m not an MD. To that end, I need to request a consult with you on each of the cases to determine if medication is needed.”
“Dr. Keller has offered to help with the prescriptions if necessary.” Simon made several notes on his tablet PC without looking up and glanced up in surprise at the complete and utter silence that followed his statement. “Kate?”
“As you must know, many people are uncomfortable giving empaths permission to scan them. I’ve had more than one member of the expedition tell me that she shouldn’t be the CMO because of her abilities. They don’t like her getting in their head while they are being treated.”
Simon took a deep breath and sat back in his chair in shock. “And did you tell them that she doesn’t do that?”
“How can I?” Kate asked with a frown. “I don’t know that she doesn’t.”
“Every Guide on this mission from Dr. McKay down has taken an oath of service and were fully vetted by the Pentagon. They won’t scan our own people against their will unless they are an obvious threat. While they certainly can’t control what gets projected onto them, they don’t seek out anything from the people around them. In fact, they work very hard to do the exact opposite. Jennifer Keller, in particular, is a very newly bonded Guide. Every bit of her mental abilities are wrapped up in her bond with her Sentinel. The fact is that she would likely refuse to scan anyone during this time, even if they were willing, because it would be considered a mismanagement of her abilities when the needs of her Sentinel must come first.”
“There is another matter,” Bryan Grant offered. “There are some rumors going around about Dr. McKay killing a Wraith with his mind. Combine that with the expectation of zero privacy, the alien and unknown Guide recently being welcomed into the city, and we have a situation that could go from bad to worse.”
“I take it this is mostly from civilian personnel?” Simon asked, his gaze flicking to the only military psychologist on his team. “Captain Hicks?”
Dr. Jason Hicks had been in the Air Force all of eighteen months when he’d been taped to join the Atlantis expedition. He still wasn’t entirely sure why he was picked but the opportunity had been stunning and too amazing to pass up. “I only see military personnel and if the civilians are talking about McKay killing Wraith with his brain they aren’t doing it in front of me. A few of the Marines have expressed an interest in the incident—both in passing and in formal counseling sessions.”
“And are they concerned or worried?” Simon asked, barely keeping back a sigh of frustration.
“Not in the least, it hasn’t been confirmed for them so most look on it as almost like an urban legend. Some joke that they always knew McKay’s brain was dangerous but mostly if it’s true they are relieved and sort of proud of it. On the whole, we are thrilled to be under the leadership of an Alpha Sentinel and a decorated war hero. Sheppard is a hard man to know but what they do know—makes them loyal and slightly propriety. McKay, as far as the Marines are concerned, belongs to their CO and therefore he is to be protected, indulged, and obeyed. In the Colonel’s absence, Dr. McKay would essentially be viewed as the military leader of the expedition based solely on the trust and faith that the SGC and Colonel Sheppard have placed in him.”
Simon tapped his fingers on the table in front of him. “Every single member of the expedition—military and civilian was scanned by Colonel Sheppard before he approved them for placement. He did this within weeks of taking Colonel Sumner’s place and long before he had me evaluate everyone for their mental fitness to survive out here.”
Mouths dropped open around him and only Captain Hicks seemed unbothered by the news. “Colonel Sheppard’s empathic abilities rate as high as his other senses and in case you aren’t aware of it—he broke the scale. The Sentinel-Guide Center doesn’t even have a numerical distinction for him or Dr. McKay. After bonding, they were labeled as a Level Six pair but several weeks later they’re designation was changed to “immeasurable”. In the past, that designation meant the Sentinel or Guide scored so low as to barely qualify to be registered. In their case, it means they don’t have the first clue what either of them is capable of.”
“Did McKay kill a Wraith with his brain?” Hicks asked, his voice subdued.
“That particular incident has been deemed classified by Colonel Sheppard and Dr. Weir. It wasn’t even discussed in the senior staff meeting we had yesterday.” Simon looked around the room, gauging their reactions carefully.
“But,” Kate Heightmeyer started. “You are their attending mental care professional so you have access to their full, uncensored field reports.”
“I do and of course, I take doctor/patient confidentiality very seriously.” Simon focused on his tablet PC and closed several documents, including the schedule he’d been filling out during the course of his staff meeting. “Now, I will do my best to see anyone that you’d like to have put on medication for an evaluation. Let’s be careful about the long term prescription of anti-depressants as our supply is somewhat limited and most of what we have will expire within twenty-four months of being out here. Dr. McKay has already put most of the botanist and the chemistry department at the disposal of Dr. Keller for the creation of medicines if we are out here long term without support or if our needs out strip our supplies.”
“And what should tell patients who don’t want Dr. Keller touching them even in treatment situations?”
“I’m sure Dr. Keller will work with whatever their needs are but they should keep in mind that even the lowest rated Guide on the expedition doesn’t need to touch us in order to scan us. That is an old wives’ tale.” Simon stood, frustrated and little put off by his own staff. It wasn’t a situation he’d anticipated and that irritated the hell out of him. “Now, if you’ll excuse me my wife is scheduled to go off world within the hour and I’d like to speak with her before she does.”
With his most neutral expression in place, he left the conference room and stalked towards the Ready Room. The large equipment room had been assembled quickly and served both civilians and military personnel as they were preparing to leave the city. He found his wife sitting on a bench near the back of the almost empty room. He paused in the doorway and took her in.
Elizabeth had braided her hair into a tidy thick braid that brushed between her shoulder blades as she moved. Her combat boots were very small and exceedingly shiny. Simon wondered briefly who had seen to that for her. The black BDUs she was wearing fit her trim figure better than he’d thought they would and the T-shirt she wore was snug but not overly tight.
She had a military issue knife strapped to her lower left leg and a gun holster on her right thigh. The gun, which she’d refused to touch for months before leaving for Earth, was snug in its place. Simon, more than anyone, knew how much she hated the very idea of a weapon much less the likelihood that she might end up using it to defend herself. He was insanely proud of her for taking the task of learning to use the weapon and mastering it with a skill that rivaled his own.
The small mission pack she’d been rated to carry was sitting open in front of her and as he pushed away from the doorway to walk toward her she dropped a first aid kit and a three power bars into it.
“I see you’re taking lessons from McKay on packing essentials.”
Elizabeth looked up and offered her husband a wry grin. “He is the smartest man in the galaxy.”
Simon laughed and sat down beside her on the bench. “How are you?”
“That depends—how are you asking that question?”
“What do you mean?” Simon asked as he spread his legs out in front of him and stretched a little.
“Are you asking as my husband or as a mission psychologist?”
“You’re my wife,” Simon murmured gently. “Not my patient. It’s Kate Heightmeyer’s job to evaluate your mental state for field operations and she already gave you the all clear.”
Elizabeth nodded and sighed. “I know. I’m just…” She waved her hand in front of her. “A bit freaked out. I fought Sheppard for this opportunity and about twenty minutes ago I realized that I’ve never once done a first contact mission.”
Simon laughed softly. “No, I don’t suppose you have. The SGC normally called you in after everything had gone to hell in a hand basket. This will be a new experience for you but I’m confident you are up to the task. Your work with the Athosians has been stellar. They trust and respect you a great deal.”
“Teyla has been instrumental in that. She trusts me and her people would do anything for their Guardian and his Consort.” Elizabeth zipped her backpack and tested the weight in her hand. “John said I couldn’t have more than thirty pounds.”
Simon took the pack from her and tested the weight himself. “I think you’re fine but don’t be surprised if he checks for himself. He’s only looking out for you.”
“I know that. I trust him.” Elizabeth bit down on her bottom lip. “I trust him more than I think is wise sometimes.”
“Men like Sheppard inspire that; it’s one of the reasons why his own kind ranks him some highly above themselves. You can’t lie to a Sentinel. You can’t deflect them with smoke and mirrors. So, when one of them is elevated by the others—held to a high honor by men and women who under normal circumstances can’t be mislead…” He trailed off. “As a society, the people from Earth have had Sentinels among them for a very long time.”
Elizabeth nodded. “Okay.”
“We trust them because instinctually they’ve always protected and honored us with their service. Even in countries where Sentinels were forced into military or police service of some kind—they never hurt their own or the innocent. It’s hard not to trust a man like John Sheppard when you know he holds himself to a moral standard so far above your own.”
He watched her digest that information and then stood. “I’ll be in the gateroom to wave you off.”
Elizabeth stood and picked up her pack. “Okay, we’re meeting in the main conference room for a final debrief before the mission.”
* * * *
John rubbed the bridge of his nose with two fingers and blew out an impatient breath that immediately caught his Guide’s attention. McKay stopped mid rant and glared at his Sentinel.
John raised one eyebrow and stood away from the doorway where he’d been leaning for ten minutes. “I hate to take you away from your demonstration in Advanced Bitching for Astrophysicists but we have a mission and it’s time for the debrief.”
Rodney’s gaze narrowed. “That’s not until 1100 hours.”
“Right.” John tapped his watch. “It’s 1056 hours.”
It was Rodney’s turn to huff out a breath of irritation and grabbed his tablet PC. “Let’s go then. You could have just said.”
“I did.” John tugged him by his TAC vest out into the hall to hurry them along. “When I brought you your lunch two hours ago and when I brought your gear forty five minutes ago. You just didn’t pay attention to me. You’re really lucky I have great self-esteem.”
“I haven’t packed my back pack.”
“I had the mission specialist take care of it for you. We even included six chocolate flavored power bars.” He led his Guide past the transporter and to a set of stairs. “Is Dr. Simpson really all that stupid? Because you lead me to believe that we were only bringing really smart people.”
“Yes, well ‘really smart’ out here is practically comatose.” Rodney rubbed the back of his neck as they left the stairs and headed down a hall towards the large conference room. “Why didn’t we take the transporter? Do you think I enjoy taking the stairs or something?”
John paused and considered telling his Guide a big fat lie but the uselessness of that wasn’t lost on him. “I can’t… the transporters make me tingle.”
Rodney grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop. “Try again.”
John glanced towards the opened doors of the conference room and then met his Guide’s gaze. “It hurts. I don’t know why. I haven’t asked the others if they feel it.”
“So it’s physical pain?” Rodney frowned. “You shouldn’t feel anything John. The database says it’s basically just like the Asgard beam. Instantaneous and completely painless.”
“For a mundane maybe it is. I haven’t beamed by the Asgard technology so I don’t know if that would hurt, too. It’s not an agony or even remotely debilitating. I can certainly use the transporters when I must—but I’d like to avoid them whenever possible.”
Rodney’s mouth tightened. “You didn’t mention this before.”
“It’s not a big deal.”
“Yes, it is,” McKay snapped. “We think this city was built and used by people with Sentinel gifts, John. Do you think they would have designed a system that would hurt themselves? We don’t know how many of their population where Sentinels but we do suspect that Sentinels were engineered to mate and bond with Guides.” He stalked away from Sentinel, absolutely furious and entered the conference room. “Who else?”
The Sentinels in the room didn’t bother to pretend they didn’t know what he was talking about. Reluctantly they all nodded in turn. Cameron Mitchell rocked back in his chair. “It’s kind of like being pinched all over at the same time. Brief, intense, but it doesn’t linger.”
“It burns for me,” Lorne muttered and then shrugged when his Guide glared at him. “Why?”
“That is something you should be telling us,” Rodney snapped. He clicked his radio. “Zelenka, do you use the transporters to get around the city?”
“No, they make my head hurt.” Zelenka huffed a little. “I’m busy Rodney, we play twenty questions later, yes?”
Rodney clicked off his radio and sat down. “We’ll handle this later. We’ll need to run a diagnostic on the entire system.” He put down his tablet PC and stared pointedly at Teyla. “Now, you were going to tell us about the Genii.”
“The Genii Confederation is the most advanced society outside of Sateda that either Ronon or myself is aware of. They spread out over many worlds and their main trade crop is tava beans. They are fair trade partners but I learned after I bonded with Ronon they have many secrets. Most of the population lives underground and while they present themselves as simple farmers much like my own people—Ronon believes they are quite advanced. Not as advanced as his own people once were but at the very least they progressed to projectile weaponry.”
“But this is a secret?” John questioned.
“Yes, and it is not one they’ve ever shared with us. I only know because of my Gua—Sentinel,” Teyla admitted.
“Do you think they’ll reveal themselves to us?” Elizabeth asked.
“It is doubtful. One of the reasons why they’ve been able to advance as they have is because they’ve never garnered the attention of the Wraith on an extreme level. Even when most of the Wraith slept, there were those who traveled and culled at will. We know very little about Wraith culture.” Teyla bit down on her lip. “It’s never necessary to learn before.”
“No, I imagine not.” Elizabeth looked down at the laptop in front of her. “The Ancients had detailed reports on the Wraith, their social structure and their methods of war. Perhaps when we return from this mission we can go over them together?”
Teyla smiled. “Yes, I would be interested in that. I read the language the Ancestors. My father taught me.”
John blinked at that information and shared a glance with his Guide. “That will be very helpful, we didn’t bring a large linguistics staff. Dr. Weir only has two people on staff to help with the Ancient database and McKay’s people are still learning.” He reviewed his own notes. “The tava beans—it’s a valuable crop for trade?”
“One of the most valuable and very useful. Unfortunately it doesn’t grow well on all worlds but the Genii are always generous in their trade agreements and the ore you traded the Lorians for is one of the things that the Genii are always seeking.”
Ronon lifted his attention from the knife he was sharpening. “They use it to make the ammunition for their weapons. From what I can tell, their guns use a standard gun powder round much like yours. Though, your guns are far better in construction. I’ve only seen them at a distance. They try to keep out of our sight. If they knew what I was they’d have probably shot me on sight.”
“How much of the ore would they want?” John asked. One of the reasons he’d traded for it was because his Guide had gotten all excited and made sex noises over it so he wasn’t interested in parting with a lot of it.
“Lorian ore is a highly valued trade item,” Ronon responded. “A crate of it would grant you enough tava beans to feed the whole population on the city for a year or more.” He inclined his head. “Something that must be a concern with all of my people here.”
John met his gaze steadily. “It’s no burden. We brought with us enough food to last us a full two years. Granted, it’s not the kind of food we prefer to eat but we won’t starve. Our botanists are already scouting the mainland for land that we can plant. We have our seed crops and of course whatever your people can trade for off world can be planted.”
“They use the ore to make ammunition?” McKay asked with a frown. “You are certain?”
McKay had an unhappy sound and went back to his computer. “Not good.”
“Not good?” John repeated in an obvious prod for more information.
“Its composition is scarily close to naquadah,” McKay finally said. “In fact, Radek and I are fairly certain we can use it to make generators. It’s not exact match but it’s so damn close that…” He waved a hand in frustration. “And we’ve got isolationists farmers hoarding it for projectile weapons? Worse? The only good thing about it is they have no idea what they could be using the ore for.”
“Is this naquadah dangerous?” Teyla asked.
“We use it to make power sources,” McKay explained softly and then lifted his head. “And bombs. We use it to enhance the explosive power of bombs.” He focused on Ronon. “Had your people discovered nuclear power before the Wraith came?”
Ronon paused and considered McKay’s words carefully. He frowned and shook his head. “You need to rephrase. I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Okay.” Rodney cleared his throat. “The basic component of life—the atom.”
Ronon nodded. “Corpusculum.”
Rodney paused and then looked at Elizabeth. “Dr. Weir?”
“It means ‘little particle’ in Ancient,” Elizabeth explained.
McKay smiled. “Good. Good. Exactly. Now, roughly seventy years ago on our home world scientists split the atom and in doing so created an immense source of energy.”
Ronon’s jaw tightened. “And destruction. We lost almost an entire generation of Guardians because of a similar project on my world. Our government shut it down but the damage was difficult to recover from. That was nearly four hundred of your years ago. Of those Guardians that did survive—only one in three could reproduce. In fact, it wasn’t until my father’s life time that our population truly recovered. It was a disaster at a global level.”
Rodney swallowed hard. “Fortunately on our world we realized the dangers pretty quickly and learned to shield the technology against radiation exposure. As far as I know we’ve never lost a Sentinel to radiation poison. I can see how it could’ve been a problem. Were you ever given the opportunity to sense a danger area on your planet? A place you were taught to avoid?”
“No.” Ronon shook his head. “And I wouldn’t know if the Genii were experimenting which such technology. I wouldn’t be able to sense it.” He looked at John. “Can you?”
John nodded abruptly. “I was taught in a controlled environment to detect various kinds of poisons and hazards from nuclear waste to air borne gases. I’ll catch it before it can hurt us.”
“Do you think…” Teyla leaned forward. “Has it already hurt him?”
“No.” Jennifer Keller spoke up. “All of your tests came back clean. When did you last visit the Genii?”
“Several weeks before we met your people,” Ronon answered. His eyes dark with anger and worry.
“It would have definitely shown up in your blood work and in the hair samples I took,” Jennifer explained. “You said the Genii house most of the population underground? If they are working on something like nuclear power—they would definitely keep it out of sight. I would advise none of you to go below until you can be certain that they aren’t experimenting with anything dangerous. There are plenty of things that could hurt that aren’t nuclear—especially in a closed environment where you have no escape.”
“Okay.” John sat back in his chair. “Cadman—you and Ford will take a cloaked Jumper through the gate after us. I want you on hand in case we need to evac quickly. Also, you can do a complete scan of their settlement and see if you can’t get a good look at what they have going on.”
“Yes, sir.” Cadman looked up from her own computer. “Jennifer, does it matter which Jumper we take? I know you’re people are in the middle of getting them supplied for field use.”
“All of them are done but Jumper 6 and 8. I want to turn 8 into a med lab. I think it might have been used for medical when the Ancients were here. It has built in medical equipment. The rest of them are practically identical physically. So, we believe it was used as an ambulance. We’d like to use it the same way.” Jennifer glanced towards Sheppard who only nodded. “Take Jumper Two. I’ve already checked it off my list as ready to go. It’s equipped with a full medical kit, enough MREs to feed a team of eight for fourteen days without rationing, and the engineers were able to get the tiny rest room to work as well.”
John grinned. “Never let anyone tell you that you don’t know how to pack for a trip.”
* * * *
A group of Genii met them half between the gate and the village looking for the entire world like Amish farmers. If he hadn’t smelled the evidence of industry and the stench of recently fired weapons—he might have been bought into their act at least until Cowen opened his mouth and started talking.
Teyla had stepped forward immediately to greet each of the Genii by name and then introduced Dr. Weir based on John’s final instructions before they’d dialed out. It was best, he thought, if the Genii didn’t realize that the rest of them where anything more than a security escort for their ambassador.
John listened to the lies and half-truths for well over an hour before the subject of weapons came up. The greed pouring off Cowan and the man they’d introduced as Commander Koyla was practically physical. Elizabeth knew her role well and with practiced ease she laid out their policy concerning the trading of weapons—they didn’t. He wasn’t going to arm people like the Genii because he knew in his gut they wouldn’t just use the weapons on the Wraith.
“I assure you, Ambassador Weir, we only have the safety of our own people in mind. The military escort you’ve brought with you is very well armed. This kind of technology would be invaluable to us and many like us.” Cowen waved Koyla away with his hand and John watched the older man leave the building.
“I understand your situation, of course. We encountered the Wraith during the culling of Athos. Fortunately we were able to save the majority of their population.” Elizabeth let him absorb that. “Our people, however, consider it an extreme breach of ethics to trade in advanced weaponry. Beyond that we would be unable to supply you with an adequate supply of ammunition.”
Cue fake smile, John thought, and Cowen didn’t disappoint. “Of course, Ambassador. However, you also have many more mouths to feed and trading for enough food to support both your population and the displaced Athosians must be taxing.”
“Actually, we aren’t trading for the tava beans for food.” Elizabeth offered him a bright fake smile in return. “It’s a valuable crop and many of our other trading partners would trade it for things we do need. We have a full crate of Lorian ore to offer you if you are interested. If not, we’ll continue our search elsewhere.”
Cowan’s gaze narrowed. “A full crate you said?”
“Yes, of course, Teyla advised trading for the entire crate and while the ore has some interesting properties—it has limited trade opportunities. The Lorians enjoy a monopoly on the market and few societies’ need the ore in large qualities like the Genii appear to.”
“We can barely get a half of crate out of the Lorians once a season,” Cowen said his expression darkening. “What did you trade to them to get it?”
“Medical services. We treated their entire population including the leader. Our doctors were very well received. We received the crate of ore as payment.” Actually, they’d received twenty crates full—a metric ton of ore for the work they’d done on the Lorian home world and the aqueduct system McKay had repaired. “Their entire population suffered from an illness we call dysentery. We were able to cure them and fix the problem with their water duct.”
John tilted his head at the same time Ronon and Cameron did. All three Guides in the room stiffened and moved closer to their Sentinels. He flicked the safety off on his P-90 and everyone followed suit. Elizabeth glanced briefly in his direction, but to her credit she didn’t acknowledge the change otherwise.
“Teyla has indicated that the Genii are fair traders and have always dealt in friendship with the Athosians.” Elizabeth let one hand rest on her thigh just next to her holstered weapon. “If you aren’t interested in the Lorian ore, perhaps we can discuss medical services. You don’t appear to have any technology that would require our engineer’s attention.”
“We are, of course, interested in the ore. It’s valuable to us. We use it to build tools and a full crate of ore would help us in the creation of a new plough system for our fields.”
John blinked because that wasn’t even a lie. He shared a look with Cameron who just raised an eyebrow in question. “Ambassador Weir.”
Elizabeth turned and looked at her. He saw the building fear in her eyes but her mouth was pressed in a firm determined line. “Yes, Colonel Sheppard?”
“Perhaps we should return tomorrow after Chief Cowen has had a chance to discuss our trade offerings with his advisors.” His finger drifted over the trigger of his weapon as more men gathered outside of the building they were in. “We wouldn’t want anyone to feel pressured to make a decision today.”
“I thank you for your concern, Colonel.” Cowen glanced him over and then dismissed him before focusing on Weir. “But, I believe we can reach an agreement today. I can offer five hundred trillis for the crate of Lorian ore. It is the majority of our surplus but tava beans are not our main food source.”
Elizabeth turned and looked at Teyla for help. “Teyla?”
Teyla smiled but her eyes were dark. “That is roughly fifteen thousand of your pounds, Dr. Weir. It is far less than the ore is worth. If that is all the tava beans the Genii can spare—perhaps they could supplement the trade with two hundred trillis of kenar meat and three hundred trillis of grain.”
John wondered briefly if the kenar meat came from the cow looking animals he’d seen in one of the pastures. He really hoped so. He would kick someone’s ass for a hamburger. McKay snorted and then coughed to cover up his amusement and John pursed his lips to keep from smirking. He hadn’t exactly meant to share that thought with his Guide but the constant bleed through their bond was always a source of both amusement and occasional discomfort.
“Chief Cowen, is Teyla’s counter offer acceptable?” Elizabeth raised one eyebrow in question and her fingers edged closer to her gun.
John wondered if she understood how tenuous their position was and how many men with guns Koyla had rallied outside their location.
“I believe we can work with it,” Cowen all but growled. He didn’t outright glare at Teyla but it was obvious he wasn’t pleased with her participation in the terms.
Elizabeth inclined her head. “I recently married.”
“Excuse me?” Cowen frowned at her.
“I recently married. He is a good man. Strong, intelligent, and he really loves me. I never thought I’d get to have that kind of relationship with a man because I spent most of my life sitting across the table from men like you—ambitious to the point of stupid.”
John’s mouth dropped in shock.
“I will not be insulted,” Cowen snapped and started to stand.
“Sit.” Elizabeth smiled then. “How many men do you have gathered outside this building? Probably enough to take our trading party hostage. But, you have to ask yourself if the technology we brought with us is all we have and what our people will do to get us back if you take us hostage. We came here in good faith, Chief Cowen, but you shouldn’t mistake our ability to act on faith even in the face of obvious your greed as a weakness.”
“Your husband is the leader of your people?” Cowen questioned.
“No. He is a scholar, a man of books and high ideals. Our people form intense pair bonds and loyal friendships with others in our society—often a sense of family develops. We all left such family back on our world. What would you do to protect your family, Chief Cowen? Or better yet, what do you think we would do to protect ours?”
Cowen scowled at her. “The weapons interest us greatly, Ambassador Weir.”
“Even if we were in a position to trade weapons with your people; I couldn’t in good conscience give you access to such advanced technology when your people are literally hundreds of years behind us in your societal and technological advancement.”
“We are not a primitive people, Ambassador.” Cowen’s eyes glittered with temper. “Far from it.”
“I’ve yet to see any evidence to the contrary.” Elizabeth stood from the table. “We will contact you to set up a delivery of the ore. How long will you need to prepare our goods?”
“Three days.” Cowen stood reluctantly.
“You should have Commander Koyla withdraw the men he’s gathered outside,” John murmured. “It would be unfortunate if our new alliance began with a blood bath but I promised Dr. Weir’s husband that I would bring her home without getting her dirty today.”
“My men out number you fifteen to one.”
John quirked an eyebrow and motioned to Cowen to follow him. “Come with me. I want to show you something.”
He offered the men outside a little wave, taking a silent head count and checking out the weapons they were hiding. Gun toting Amish farmers, it was just bizarre. John clicked his radio. “Cadman, wave hello to Chief Cowen.”
The Jumper appeared fifteen feet above the crowd and men scattered like chickens. Laura waved cheerfully to Cowen through the front windshield of the craft and Cowen waved back, shocked and obviously dismayed. He looked at Ronon then, and took a deep breath. “I thought your people were destroyed by the Wraith.”
Ronon glared at him. “As you know, Chief Cowen, I was raised on Sateda by my godfather but I was not born there. My parents were Athosian. I was off world when the Wraith culled my former home. As far as I know no one survived the culling of Sateda.” He paused and then continued. “There are other peoples with flying technology. The Travelers for instance.”
“Scavengers,” Cowen corrected with a grimace. “Nothing more and nothing less than that. They are no more advanced than most of the other worlds and certainly not as technologically rich as your new friends.” He looked at John then. “Colonel Sheppard, do you often let women speak for you?”
John met Cowen’s gaze with a hard one of his own. “I won’t pretend to understand the social structure of your people, Chief Cowen, but among mine—women are valued and equal to men. I let my people do the jobs they are assigned. Just as I’m sure you do.”
“The Minarians were most impressed with Dr. McKay’s knowledge of the sciences.” Cowen’s gaze flicked toward the Jumper and then focused entirely on Rodney who hadn’t been introduced. “They said he rarely leaves your side and that you appeared to be mated. We do not allow such pairings among our people – it does nothing to continue the growth of our population. All men within our society are required to father at least two children if they are able.”
Elizabeth edged closer to Vala when the Guide touched her elbow. “We are fortunate, Chief Cowen, to have a healthy population on our home world. It allows us to mate for love.” She glanced around the village. The men who had scattered at the appearance of the Jumper were easing out of their hiding places. She caught the glint of several weapons in the mid-afternoon sun.
John put his hand on the small of Rodney’s back, keenly aware of his Guide’s building ire. A mundane questioning the legitimacy of a pair-bond was of the highest insult on Earth. “Ronon and Teyla will return with the information on how we will commence with the trade, Chief Cowen.” He inclined his head. “Unless you’ve changed your mind?”
“No,” Cowen shook his head. “We are in agreement on the trade.” He looked at Koyla out of the corner of his eyes. “How can we contact you if we are ready earlier than expected?”
“We’ll contact you in three days time,” John returned evenly. “If you are not ready we’ll find someone else to trade with.”
“We’ll be ready.”
John figured that was a threat but he only nodded. “Then we’ll just be leaving.”
“Perhaps Dr. McKay could stay—we have scientists in the village who would be interested in speaking with him. I imagine he would have much to teach us.” Koyla edged closer to Rodney and Cowen followed suit.
“As you might have heard from your friends, the Minarians, Dr. McKay goes where I go and I’m ready to leave.”
“You could both stay while Ambassador Weir and your people prepare for the trade. A gesture of good faith.” Koyla crossed his arms over his chest. “If our people are to be friends—we should share knowledge. That is not too much to ask.”
Cowen moved closer and John’s eyes darkened. “I said no.” He inclined his head and glanced out into the field to the left of him. There was a large tree stump roughly three hundred yards away. It was one of the few areas that remained unplanted. “The stump a problem out there?”
Cowen frowned and glanced, clearly confused. “Yes, we have a hard time getting our equipment around it to plant.”
“Cadman, get rid of Chief Cowen’s stump problem.” The Jumper whipped around swiftly and seconds passed before a drone was released. The explosion was brilliant and loud—it left only ashes behind. John dialed his hearing back up to an acceptable level and assessed the Genii leader with cool, green eyes lit with a slight bit of humor. “Questions?”
“No. None.” Cowen took several steps back. “Perhaps Dr. McKay could return at a later date.”
“It is entirely doubtful,” John acknowledged cheerfully. “My mate has little interest in farming.”
Cadman lowered the Jumper and the back hatch opened just to the left of McKay. Rodney reached out and cupped Elizabeth’s elbow. Silently he prodded her into the Jumper and Cameron and Vala followed.
John paused on the ramp and his gaze centered entirely on Koyla. “Don’t let this politician get you killed Commander Koyla. You can’t even begin to imagine what you would lose if you went up against me.”
Koyla flushed with temper. “Is that a threat?”
“No, it’s a reminder—I’m not one of the barely trained children you gathered from the village.” His gaze flicked over the young men in the village who had backed away abruptly when Cadman lowered the Jumper. “And neither are the men and women who follow me.”
John backed up the ramp of the Jumper and stared at Koyla until it closed. He turned abruptly and glared at Ronon. “You said that Sateda didn’t allow Guardians to live off world.”
“It was the way of our people.” Ronon’s gaze narrowed. “Are you saying that Koyla is a Guardian?” He looked at his own Guide. “Teyla?”
Teyla braced her hands on her knees. “I’ve never felt much of anything from Commander Koyla, not in all the time that I’ve known him.”
“He’s not online,” John snapped as he unhooked his P-90 and passed it to McKay who was sitting on the bench behind John—decidedly pale. “He’s dormant.”
Cameron Mitchell sucked in air between his teeth and shook his head. “Not good.”
Ronon’s gaze narrowed. “We are having a language problem, Sheppard. Explain.”
“Did you have men or women in your population that should have been Guardians but for some reason—a defect perhaps—their gifts never surfaced?”
Ronon’s mouth tightened into a frown. “I had an older brother. Tellan fell as a child and struck his head hard enough to crack his skull. He was… damaged afterward. His gifts never emerged. When the Wraith came the final time—I ended his life rather than let him fall prey to them.”
“It was the most just thing you could have done for him,” Teyla murmured and leaned into her Sentinel to offer him the support he wouldn’t ask for.
“On our world, there are other reasons why a Sentinel’s gifts may lay dormant.” Rodney rubbed his hands on his BDUs. “A severe physical injury like losing a limb or…” He took a deep breath. “Insanity.”
“My military commander lost himself to blood lust in the final culling,” Ronon murmured. “His Consort fell and he devolved into the worst kind of mindless rage. He managed to kill ten of his own men before I could get to him and put him down. My Consort always said that Kell was off and should have never been allowed to bond. Kell’s Consort suffered in their pair bond.”
John listened with half an ear as Cadman negotiated their return to Atlantis and sat down on the bench beside his Guide. He would have preferred to do the flying himself but he was too agitated to control a ship with his mind. “So, he’s never expressed any undue interest in Teyla?”
“Teyla would not suit Commander Koyla’s needs,” Ronon quirked one eyebrow. “He prefers the company of men—though I know that he has fathered several children as their culture demands. I doubt he’ll ever formally mate with a female Genii.”
John nodded and edged closer to his Guide. The entire experience had left an itch in his gut.
“On an interesting note—he doesn’t have the ATA gene.” Ford turned in the co-pilots chair and focused on John. “The Jumper marked everyone with an ATA gene on our sensors. There wasn’t a single one within range among the Genii settlement, including their extensive underground compound. If he is a dormant Sentinel, it’s weird that he doesn’t have the ATA gene. I mean, we’ve never encountered…” He trailed off and shared a look with McKay. “Unless he’s dormant because he doesn’t have the ATA gene?”
McKay frowned but said nothing. He hadn’t known what Koyla was—and his Sentinel had. “I’ve never interacted with a dormant Sentinel before.”
“Not a surprise, sir.” Cadman glanced over her shoulder briefly. “The mentally damaged ones are isolated from the rest of the population for everyone’s protection and the physically disabled ones often chose to isolate themselves.”
“Why?” Elizabeth asked softly.
Rodney’s eyes darkened with sadness. “Because the lack of online senses doesn’t prevent them from desperately wanting and searching for their other half. It’s the same with dormant Guides. We aren’t like you, Elizabeth. Sentinels and Guides are born—with an empty place inside that is meant for another person to fill up.”
“Do you really think the Ancients genetically engineered Sentinels and Guides to fight the Wraith?” Elizabeth asked.
“You tell us,” John said evenly. “They were certainly capable of it and they were fighting an enemy that can use their own minds against them.” He looked at McKay and then looked away from everyone in the Jumper as it landed. “They made weapons—human weapons to fight the Wraith and then they made Guardians to protect them. In order to make sure they would defend and protect each other—they designed the pairs to need one another to fully function.”
“This angers you?” Elizabeth questioned.
“It confuses me and that makes me angry,” John stood as the hatch started to fall silently open. “Dr. Weir, please meet with Ronon and Teyla about picking out a world for the Genii trade deal. Cameron, you’ll handle the drop—a full squadron of Marines and three cloaked Jumpers. We don’t want them to know we have more than one of these things unless things get ugly.” He turned then with a frown and looked at Ronon. “Your people had aircraft like this?”
“No. We did have aircraft but nothing like this—very few people were actually allowed through our ring to view our world. Many societies have stories about us—Cowen assumed that the Jumper must be Satedian because he’s probably never heard of another world with small ships like this one. None of them were capable of leaving the atmosphere of our planet.”
* * * *
John found his Guide sitting on the balcony outside of their quarters, several computers spread out around him. “Hey.”
Rodney looked up at him. “The Genii are going to be trouble.”
“Yes.” John slid into the lotus position just in front of him and looked over the computers. “What are you doing?”
“Going over the data from Cadman’s scans of the Genii settlement. Their underground compound is developed and as complex as Cheyenne Mountain. They have a few power problems but they are well on their way to being someone dangerous to know. The Jumper picked up a serious level of radiation so I think we were right to be worried about nuclear power.”
“So, circa 1950?” John asked.
“Somewhere in that range, yes. They have to hide too much to as developed as we were during that time period—so no manned air craft, nothing that would catch the eye of the Wraith. I doubt the Wraith bother to fully scan settlements when they are culling to see if the populace has secret underground nuclear bunkers.” Rodney sat back and braced himself on his hands. “They could be a good ally but I think we both know they are too greedy and too self-centric to really develop a working relationship with another world—unless they think they are in control.”
“Agreed.” John pursed his lips. “Elizabeth was a bit of a surprise today.”
“I think your superior bad attitude is rubbing off on her,” Rodney offered with a little grin.
“That’s rich coming from the most arrogant man in the galaxy,” John muttered and the glanced his Guide over. “So, you told the Marines last week that Guides like to fuck a lot.”
Rodney laughed. “I did, didn’t I.”
“I wouldn’t want anyone to think I wasn’t seeing to your needs.” John rolled to his feet and pulled off his t-shirt. He dropped the shirt in the doorway and then disappeared into their quarters.
He laughed a little when he heard McKay scramble to his feet. He had his boots and pants off by the time his Guide had picked up all of his computers. McKay dropped them unceremoniously on his desk just as John crawled up into the middle of their bed and laid down, legs splayed brazenly.
Rodney stood at the end of their bed gapping at him for several seconds before he started tossing off his clothes. “You’re like live porn.”
John just laughed a little and ran one hand down his chest, over his stomach muscles, and then he palmed his already hard cock. “I want you to fuck me.”
“You can’t talk that way,” Rodney hissed. “It’s just… Jesus.”
John planted his feet flat on the bed and tilted his hips just a little as he stroked himself. “I want your gorgeous cock in my ass, Rodney, so hurry the fuck up and get over here.” He laughed just a little as Rodney tossed a bottle of lube on the bed and then crawled up between his legs. “I love that you’re the only man I’ve ever had inside me like this.”
Rodney rubbed his face against John’s belly as he groped for the lube. “If you don’t shut up—I’ll come all over myself and you won’t get fucked.”
“You’ll just have to get hard again,” John murmured, his eyes half closed with pleasure as one slick finger breached him. “Shouldn’t be a problem, you always get hard for me.”
Rodney lifted his head and licked across the head of John’s cock as he continued to jack himself off. “No one would ever believe how filthy you are.”
John grinned then. “I think some would believe—it isn’t like there is a place in the city we could go that Zelenka and Mitchell couldn’t hear us. There is no telling what kind of range Ronon has. I think even Cadman can cover most of the city with her senses. They could all be listening right now, Rodney.” He watched his Guide’s eyes dilate with arousal and shock.
“Well it is their duty to make sure I’m safe at all times,” John murmured with a little grin. “So, if you don’t fuck me right – you could get a lecture from one of them on the proper way to treat your Sentinel.”
Rodney huffed out a sound of amused disbelief. “Is that so?” He pushed three fingers in without warning and John arched under him in complete abandon. “So, do you think they are going to listen while I fuck you?”
“Even the ones that can’t hear are going to feel it,” John whispered his voice hoarse with pleasure and arousal. “They always do—their bodies flush with heat, their muscles relax, endorphins rush through their blood, and everything feels better—nothing seems completely unreasonable, the stress bleeds away.”
John maneuvered his legs onto his Guide’s broad, strong shoulders and fisted his hands into the sheets as the blunt head of McKay’s cock breached him. The fierce burn of penetration gave way to the most intense pleasure he’s ever known in a matter of seconds. He wasn’t on bottom often, especially considering they had sex several times a day if they had time but he loved it.
“Yes, Jesus. Fuck.” He rocked against his Guide and shuddered as Rodney started to fuck in and out of his body with hard, deep strokes. “That’s perfect.”
“You’re perfect,” Rodney whispered. “So, goddamned perfect that I don’t know how I lived without you.” He clenched his hands on John’s hips and started to thrust faster. “Come for me, John.”
“Too soon,” John complained. “I don’t want you to stop.”
Rodney laughed a little breathless. “I’m not going to stop. I’m going to fuck you while you come and then I’m going to pound into your tight ass until you get hard again.”
John shuddered and arched almost completely off the bed as Rodney wrapped one hand around his cock. “Yeah, okay.”
He surrendered to orgasm without a single hesitation, his body bowing up against his Guide and then relaxing completely on the mattress with a soft sound of pleasure that never ceased to make his lover’s eyes darken just a little more with arousal.
* * * *
“It is impossible to concentrate when they are like this,” Radek said as he pushed his Guide against the wall in his office. “How am I supposed to work when all they do is fuck?”
David Parrish laughed. “That’s not all they do.” He looped his arms around his Sentinel’s neck and sighed. “You know their bond isn’t even a year old; among our kind that makes them practically newlyweds and really no one should be working right now—it’s nearly 2200 hundred hours.”
Radek nuzzled against his Guide’s throat with a sigh. “Let’s go back to our quarters. I want in you.”
“Sounds good,” David murmured.
Radek paused and forced himself to separate from his Guide with a sigh. “Sometimes I feel like I use you, David.”
David reached out quickly and brought him close. “No, don’t ever think that. All you have to do is reach out for me Radek, through our bond, and you’ll know there is nothing we do that I don’t want just as badly as you do. You’re a gift to me; I thank the gods everyday that I came on the Atlantis mission and I was here for you when you came online.”
“You never even tried to bond before.”
“That doesn’t mean I didn’t want it,” David rested against the wall. “Fuck, I wanted it so bad that sometimes I thought I could force myself to work with a soldier or a cop. But, I’m so glad I waited because you’re perfect for me. I couldn’t have asked for a better match.”
“Truly?” Radek sighed and relaxed against his Guide as David pulled him close. “Okay, it’s just… okay.”
“Yeah?” David asked amused.
“Yes.” Radek rubbed the back of his neck. “I wish to cut my hair really short and the hair on my body is irritating.”
“We can get Keller to help with that. I don’t know what kind of equipment the city has but there are permanent hair removal options available for Sentinels and Guides. I don’t know what she did exactly but she helped Teyla a few days ago with something similar.” David nuzzled the shadow of Radek’s stubble on his jaw. “So this is my last chance to get beard burn everywhere?”
Radek laughed. “Yes, I believe so. We should make the most of this, yes?”
“Yes,” David agreed.
* * * *
Elizabeth flipped the lock on the box she’d been given to store her gun and closed the desk drawer with a little sigh of relief. She hadn’t a chance to return it to her office or her quarters all evening—between post mission medical, the formal debrief, and then dinner there hadn’t been time.
The door to her office slid open and she smiled when Simon entered with a tea tray. “Hey.”
“Athosian tea, Teyla assures me it will calm and relax even the most agitated without any sort of side effects. I had Cadman do a sniff test for me—she said it didn’t smell like anything narcotic. Botany approved it for consumption yesterday but I wanted to make sure.”
“It smells great,” Elizabeth joined him on the small couch and let him fix her tea. “Something is bothering you.”
“Yeah.” Simon nodded. “I spent so much time making sure none of the men and women on this mission was homophobic that I sort of overlooked the glaringly obvious bias that some people have for Guides because of their empathic abilities. In particular, Jennifer Keller seems to worry more than a few people on the expedition.”
“Because of her position?” Elizabeth frowned. “Really, she should be the last one anyone worries about. She is bound by some of the strictest confidentiality agreements possible. Her Sentinel had to sign so much paper work for the AMA regarding her gifts in medical practice that he asked me if he was signing over one or two of their future children.”
Simon snorted and offered his wife a cookie. “Short bread, I was told not to expect this sort of thing to last very long. We’ll have to start rationing flour and the like if we don’t make some good trade agreements off world.”
“Anyone upset about the Athosians?”
“The Guide is a source of concern but most of the people out here understand and even approve of the situation Sheppard was in when it came to the Athosians. I mean, what could we do? They’ve proven to be a good friend to us already when they didn’t have to and out of the ten groups of people we’ve come into contact with—they were the only ones that opened to us in friendship.” Simon frowned. “That being said—the few civilians that do have privacy concerns about the Guides it could be a source of problems later on.”
“They should know that John won’t tolerate open hostility toward his Guide or any Guide on the expedition.”
He snorted. “If they don’t, they will soon enough. It won’t take long for something to come to ahead.”
It was more thing to worry about it. She groaned a little and shoved a whole cookie in her mouth. Disgruntled with the different scenarios that immediately popped into her head—she took a deep breath and cuddled into her next to her husband. “People suck.”
Simon laughed, clearly startled. “Yes, they do. But, I don’t think people like you and I am supposed to say stuff like that out loud.”
“Fuck it,” Elizabeth muttered. “They suck and they’re stupid and we don’t need that crap.” She waved a hand and then stared at her tea. “So, hmm, not narcotic right?”
“Right.” Simon pressed a kiss to her forehead. “But Teyla did say it really relaxed certain people more than others.”
“Well, then, you should take me to bed and not let me talk to anyone just in case. I can’t be held responsible for what I say right now.”
“I can handle that,” Simon murmured with a little grin. “It wouldn’t do for you to be less than diplomatic in public.”
“No, it just wouldn’t do,” Elizabeth agreed and wiggled her eyebrows a little as Simon manhandled her off the couch. “Wanna go make out?”
“I think we can do that, too.” Simon pressed a kiss against her mouth.
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