Title: The Runner
Author: Keira Marcos
Series title: The Sentinels of Atlantis
Series Order: 11
Fandom: Sentinel/Stargate Fusion
Rating: NC-17 (language and sexual content)
Pairings: McKay/Sheppard, Lorne/Keller, Cameron/Vala, Stackhouse/Markham, Bates/Simmons, Cadman/Ford
Warnings: Adult themes, violence
Summary: Jennifer is separated from her Sentinel and taken hostage during a mission by a Runner. What she finds surprises the hell out of her.
* * * *
“Dr. Wallace, you were going to report on Sergeant Campbell?” John questioned with a raised eyebrow. “Does he remember anything more about his experience with the Wraith or why he left his quarters?”
Simon shook his head. “No. I’ve been reviewing the research on Wraith in the Ancient database and I believe he wasn’t in control of his mind or body during the time. I think he managed to break free of the Wraith’s mind control when he saw the creature because it’s the first thing he remembers after going to sleep. He doesn’t have a history of sleep walking but his mother is a documented sensitive. I spoke with Dr. Keller and we double checked his blood work to make sure we didn’t miss anything in his testing. Nothing popped beyond the fact that we believe he would be a great candidate for the ATA gene therapy she’s developing.”
“And we can give that to him without it turning him…” John sighed. “He doesn’t have any Satedian DNA at all?”
“None,” Simon assured. “We’ve been very careful to test everyone twice for that just to make sure that we weren’t missing anyone. Jennifer is currently working through the results on the Athosians. Unfortunately, all of the children from Sateda tested negative for the Sentinel/Guide gene set and only one had the ATA gene.”
That sucked. Of course, he wouldn’t have known what to do with any online children so it was just as well that it wasn’t an issue, yet. John glanced towards Rodney who was buried behind his laptop and decided that in a few weeks he was going to remind his Guide that he was actually in a dual leadership role with him for the expedition. Rodney abhorred administration and barely tolerated managing the science department so John figured he would do nothing when it came to city business until John made an issue of it. He didn’t mind, really, he sort of felt like it was his job to take care of Rodney and keep reality from creeping in on him 24/7.
John checked his watch. “We have one team off world doing a search for a ZPM but other that I have everyone on stand down while we prepare to map the rest of the planet. Hopefully, the intel on the ZPM is accurate. The search of the city is as complete as it currently can until we have more power and can drain the water out of areas that are flooded. I like to think that Wraith can’t hibernate in water.” He shuddered at the thought. “I mean—they don’t have gills.”
Simon laughed. “Let’s work with the assumption they can’t actually hibernate in water. In the mean time I’ve put out an email to everyone on the city requesting that the report to me any dreams they might have had since they arrived—especially dreams involving the Wraith. This thing latched onto Chuck because he found a vulnerable and empathetic mind—I’d be curious to know if it tried with anyone else before it came out of hibernation to feed.”
“Keep me informed—and also when you can meet with Teyla and Ronon to discuss experiences they’ve had in the field with Wraith. Find out if they’ve ever encountered one that could exert that kind of mental force over a mundane.”
“It’s on my list already.”
* * * *
The moment he touched her—she knew what he was. Even as she was overwhelmed with the grief and rage that poured out of his mind she understood that she was basically safe. His grip was tight but not painful as he jerked her through the forest. She also knew that Evan was just unconscious—taken out by a Wraith stunner. The man who was dragging her through the woods had a gun like Ronon’s. That made perfect sense—he had similar neck tattoos and radiated the same emotional devastation to the first Guardian she’d met in Pegasus.
“I know what you are.”
“Shut up.” He jerked her towards the open gate. “More Wraith will be here soon. They follow me; hunt me—now they’ll hunt you, too. One escaped through the gate. I have to protect you, Consort, so do not fight me.”
Jennifer turned just as he pulled her through the wormhole and reached out for her Sentinel. I’m fine, Evan. He won’t hurt me.
* * * *
“We can’t keep him sedated indefinitely,” Cameron murmured.
John nodded. They’d put Evan Lorne in the large observation room that Jennifer had set up for surgery. It kept him isolated from the rest of the people in the city, providing the Sentinel with privacy and also some level of relief from his spiking senses. Even deeply unconscious, his skin already burned with rashes and John couldn’t imagine what kind of pain he was in.
“Do we think she’s alive?”
Cameron sighed. “She wasn’t bleeding when she was taken. Whoever killed all of those Wraith was very skilled on a combat level. Evan has excellent reflexes and uses his senses very well in the field—with and without his Guide.” He moved closer to his own Guide, both relieved and guilty that he still had her by his side. He hadn’t taken Vala on the mission that had seen them attacked by Wraith and Dr. Jennifer Keller kidnapped.
“He didn’t even look for a Guide when he first came online,” John said softly. “He said he wanted to master his gifts on his own before he took another person into his life that way. You weren’t there when they met—but it was electric and beautiful.”
“What do we do for him?” Teyla questioned softly from the side. “How do we ease him until we find his Guide?”
“I don’t know that we can,” John glanced briefly at Cameron. “I think he’s going to blow when we let him surface.”
“He wasn’t good on the planet,” Cameron admitted. “If we hadn’t had the stunner for field testing—we would’ve had to injure him pretty severely to even capture him. I don’t know how long she’d been gone at that point.”
John nodded. “We’re going on twenty-four hours of sedation. I’m going to have Biro dial it back and let him wake up.” He glanced up as Rodney entered the observation deck. “Tell me you have good news, McKay.”
“I have three addresses—the last three that were dialed before Mitchell dialed into Atlantis to tell us that Keller was missing. Since we’ve more than established she isn’t on PXY-782… I had Radek pull all the data from the DHD we could. The world has obviously been abandoned for some time. There was a dial-in roughly six hours before our own dial-in and that had been the first in nearly a hundred years. Then after we went there—there was another dial in. I assume that was the dead Wraith we found littered all over the place.
“Three hours after the Wraith presumably arrived, there was a dial out and then another. The second dial out was back to the planet that I think the Wraith came from. The third was to the Alpha site, I think Lorne must have dialed it but became too disoriented to go through or couldn’t force himself to leave the planet where his Guide was taken from him. An hour after that, we have the dial into Atlantis.”
“So this first planet—you think that’s where Jennifer was taken?”
“It’s the only choice—but once her kidnapper got there he could’ve dialed out again and again. We’re…” Rodney looked out into the observation deck. “I figured you could come up to the gateroom and do your thing like you did with Vala to see if we get a hit.”
John nodded. “Vala, Teyla—his Guide is female so he’s going to respond best to the two of you.” He glanced briefly at Ronon and then Cameron. “I need you to do all you can for him within reason.” He relaxed when both Sentinels nodded their consent. “I don’t expect sex and if he were in his right mind neither would he.”
Vala smiled then. “We’ll take care of him, John. You’ll want to take him with you for the mission?”
“They’ll need each other and he alone will have the foundation resources to hunt for his guide in a rural environment. None of us have a full imprint on her.” He paused and sighed. “And that’s something we’re going to have to correct. When she’s returned—we’re going to do a pride imprint.”
Mitchell sucked in a breath of surprise and grinned when Ronon raised an eyebrow. “It’s kind of like a senses orgy. Each of us will do a full imprint on each Guide so that we can retrieve them better in the field if something goes wrong with their Sentinel.”
Ronon nodded and glanced towards Vala. “Not much of a hardship.”
For her part, Vala winked and offered her hand to Teyla. “Let’s go curl up in the bed with him. He’ll be calmer if he wakes up with us like that.”
Teyla paused briefly to check her Sentinel’s reaction and took Vala’s hand gamely when he smiled. “Very well, we must do what we can to ease him.”
* * * *
“I can’t do this!” Jennifer shouted her voice hoarse with exhaustion and barely controlled fury.
“We have to keep moving!” He tightened his grip on her arm. “I never have more than ten hours on any planet before the Wraith find me.”
“I haven’t eaten in a day, I haven’t had water in ten hours, I’m not dressed for the climate of this planet, and I’m exhausted,” Jennifer ground out through clenched teeth. “You’ll kill me this way!”
He flinched and released her. “I have to protect you. The Consort must be protected.”
“You took me from my Guardian.”
“No!” He shouted. “There are no more Guardians. I am the last!”
Jennifer let her back rest against the cave wall and she slid down it. “No, you aren’t. We’ve been over this. You know I’m telling you the truth—you have to be able to sense my bond with him. I feel your mind reaching out for mine! You know I can’t give you the support you need.”
He paced back and forth around the cave, one hand scrubbing thoroughly his roughly short ink black hair. “I have to protect you. It wasn’t safe for you on that world—the Wraith. There were too many Wraith to keep you safe. I had to protect you.”
“I know. I understand. I do,” Jennifer whispered. “And my Guardian will understand, too. He will—he’ll forgive you for what you’ve done. He’ll know you couldn’t help yourself.”
“I had to protect you,” the man whispered. “I had to… you’re the first Consort I’ve seen…”
“Since the Wraith destroyed Sateda,” Jennifer supplied gently. “I know. It must’ve been overwhelming for you. Were you bonded? Did you lose your Consort in the final culling?”
He shook his head. “I never had the honor of meeting my Consort. I had manifested only six months before the Wraith came… my Alpha was strong and we had a good pride. He took care of me and trained me. Then the Wraith came.”
“You were culled?”
“Yes, during the final assault.”
“Will you tell me your name?” Jennifer questioned.
“Tyre Daos. Specialist Tyre Daos.” He cleared his throat. “I thought the Wraith would kill me—but the Queen on the hive ship I was taken to found me challenging. They turned me into a Runner. I’ve been running ever since. I don’t even know how long.”
Jennifer’s mouth dropped open briefly and then she took a deep breath. “Five years by your calendar on Sateda. Nearly seven years by my world’s calendar. Okay, so you’ve got a transmitter in your back? That’s how they are tracking you from planet to planet?”
“Yeah.” Tyre nodded and went to the front of the cave. “It’s quiet here—we might get a few hours before the dial in again.”
Jennifer shrugged out of her backpack. “I’m a doctor—a healer—I can remove the transmitter.”
He turned to stare at her. “No one I’ve approached has been willing to do it—either out of fear of me, the Wraith, or the mere fact that think they might kill me with the procedure.”
“I’m a very good doctor.” Jennifer cleared her throat. “I’ll get it out of you. I have something to dull the pain but considering our circumstance you probably won’t consent to being knocked out.”
“Right.” Tyre stared at her for a few seconds. “You’re doing something to me.”
Jennifer blushed. “Yeah, I’ve been—projecting on you, trying to calm you down but you weren’t receptive when we were moving. Now, you’re a lot calmer—easier to reach.”
“I don’t hold it against you.” He unbuckled his leather vest quickly and shrugged out of it. “You’re just defending yourself with the best weapon you have. I won’t hurt you. I won’t try to take anything from you. It’s not my way.”
“Of course not,” Jennifer smiled then. “You’re a Guardian.”
“Your… mate… he’s really a Guardian?”
“Yes.” Jennifer sucked in a breath as the man removed his shirt, revealing a network of badly healed scars as he did so. It didn’t detract from his attractiveness at all but it made her hurt for him.
Tyre rubbed his face with one hand dropped the shirt with his vest. “He has every right to kill me for what I’ve done. On my world, such an act is a death sentence.”
“You didn’t know. It was a pretty bad situation. There were so many Wraith and we only had a small team.” She prepped a syringe and then surveyed what she had in her backpack. “These aren’t the best conditions but it’ll work until we can get back to the pride. We can’t take you back with this thing in you.”
Tyre sat down on the rock she motioned to and sucked in a deep breath. “You have a pride?” His tone was so wistful that it broke Jennifer’s heart.
“Yes, a pride. It’s small and probably not what you’re used to on Sateda.” She pulled out a bunch of individually wrapped alcohol swabs and started cleaning the heavily scarred area where the transmitter was obviously inserted. “You tried to cut this out yourself?”
He was still under her hands as she cleaned the skin. Jennifer took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m going to give you a local pain killer to deaden this area just enough so I can cut without you zoning on me. Can you dial down your pain input?”
“Dial down?” He questioned.
“Yes, think of your sense of touch—now picture the numbers on a…” She sighed. “Think of settings on your gun. Turn your senses of touch down to past ‘stun’. To the lowest setting possible. We call that dialing down.”
Tyre relaxed minutely under her hands. “I can do that with all of my senses, can’t I?”
“Yes.” Jennifer put aside her trash and pulled out a scalpel. “Now, even dialed down your body is going to tell you that this is painful. Just ignore it and relax your mind. I can’t touch you mentally any more than I already am—I have to reserve my mental strength for my own mate. He’ll be in pretty dire straits when I return to him.”
“Understood.” Tyre took a breath as she sliced neatly into the flesh of his back. “Tell me about the pride.”
“We have nine mated pairs and there are nine Guides—Consorts—on our world who are unmated. Perhaps you will make a connection with one of them.” Jennifer considered if she should tell the Runner about Ronon and decided yes—keeping such a big secret from him would be horrible in the long run. “Our Alpha’s name is John Sheppard. He leads our city with his Guide, Dr. Rodney McKay. Our Beta Sentinel is a man named Ronon Dex—he’s from Sateda.”
Tyre jerked as if he’d been struck. “No.”
“Yes.” Jennifer responded gently. “He’s mated with a woman named Teyla Emmagen from Athos. They joined our people several weeks ago after Athos was culled. Ronon believes that he is the last of his people.”
“And he’s the Beta of your whole society?” Tyre questioned. “He’s an outside to your people and you’ve made him the Beta of your pride?”
“The pride is separate from our society but yes, he is the Beta of our pride. He is the second strongest of the Guardians we have on the city. Did you know him from Sateda?”
Tyre said nothing for a while and then finally he nodded. “I thought he was dead—he was one of the last Alpha’s on the planet and I was sure when Lenora was bombed that we lost him.”
“I don’t know the whole story but from what I understand he fought until the last day—until his Consort fell and instinct drove him through the gate with his dying mate. He buried Jonar on another world and then he had to force himself to search for a new Consort. He visited a lot of different worlds but he finally found Teyla on Athos and she accepted him as her Guardian.” Jennifer winced. “Geez, this is going to hurt coming out. It’s attached to a few nerves—I guess they wanted to make it as painful as possible to remove so you wouldn’t try it on your own.”
“Just do it. I won’t go crazy on you again.”
“Alright.” Jennifer shook her head to force herself to concentrate. She was exhausted but after they got this out they could move another world and then maybe they could rest until she could get him calm enough to let her dial Atlantis. She didn’t think she was in even close to that place with him, yet.
“So, Ronon returned to Sateda as soon as he was stable and started searching for survivors. He found eight children which were adopted into the Athosians. There are Satedians scattered all over the galaxy but he thinks less than one hundred. They are settled among other populations but no Consorts were among those that escaped. The Wraith were intent on killing them all on Sateda.”
Tyre moaned softly. “Do you know why?”
“Yes, but we can discuss this later. It is a long story and it would come best from the Alpha.”
He sucked in a sharp breath. “By the Ancestors, woman, are you digging into my heart through my back?”
“Sorry!” Jennifer sat back and surveyed her handiwork. “Just one more nerve cluster and I’ll be able to pull this out. It’s going to suck large.”
“That’s a bad thing right?”
“Right,” Jennifer agreed and pulled out a clamp. “Now, take a deep breath and think about something beautiful and perfect.”
“Like you?” Tyre questioned. “He must be insane to have lost you—to have had you taken from him like this. I’ll never make that right with him.”
“Evan is a good man,” Jennifer whispered. “He’ll forgive you.” She laughed then. “Eventually he’ll let himself understand your motivations.” She paused and centered herself. “Did you find your beautiful perfect place?”
She pulled the transmitter free with one merciless jerk and winced when he screamed and pitched forward. “Sorry!”
“Your Evan is a lucky man to know gentleness in your hands, little healer.” Tyre took a deep shuddering breath as she pushed him back down onto the rock. “And to think I believed you needed my protection.”
* * * *
Evan woke surrounded by soft female bodies and smells that were absolutely not his Guide’s. Still, it wasn’t a bad way for a man to wake up—wrapped in the arms of two very beautiful alien women. “If Ronon and Cameron are gearing up to kill me—can they wait an hour or so?”
Vala shifted against Evan Lorne and laughed softly. “Your mind has settled down; that is good. We are preparing a mission to retrieve your wayward woman. John is searching for her the way he searched for me.”
“She’s okay,” Lorne finally said. “She reached out for me—touched me before she was taken through the gate.”
“Did she say something?” Teyla questioned as she rearranged Evan’s blanket.
“That he wouldn’t hurt her,” Evan said and closed his eyes. “She didn’t think he’d hurt her. She was worried, scared but not afraid of him. There were so many Wraith on the ground—like a swarm. Easily twenty.”
“We found twenty-three bodies but we think they dialed out for reinforcements but they never came through,” Teyla explained. She glanced down at her wrist and smiled at the way Evan had curled his fingers delicately around her arm. “We need to get you up and moving.”
* * * * –
“We need to keep this dry and clean as possible,” Jennifer explained as she tied off the stitches. “The risk of infection will be high. I need to get you back to my infirmary.”
Tyre tilted his head and exhaled sharply. “No time, little healer. They found us.”
“Six soldiers on the ground.” Tyre picked up his shirt and pulled it over his head abruptly. “I need the transmitter.”
Jennifer offered the bloody device without a single hesitation. “Do you have a plan?”
“Kill all of them; get you through the ring so you’re safe.”
“Great plan.” Jennifer agreed. “Let’s toss this transmitter through a space gate and then we dial somewhere else?”
“Space gate?” He questioned.
“Yeah, there are a couple hundred of rings that are in space instead of a planet. I know one – we flew through it last week on a recon mission. The planet it is orbit above is a dead loss—volcano planet. It was disappointing because we’d read that there was an Ancient ship on it and a ZPM. The Wraith will either follow through without realizing what it is or they’ll think you killed yourself.”
He stared at her. “That’s very good planning.”
“I’m a genius,” Jennifer offered earnestly as she pulled on her backpack.
He smiled. “That’s a good thing, right?”
“That’s a great thing.”
* * * *
“Nothing,” John said grimly.
“We have four more planets.” Rodney slouched and picked up his tablet PC. “The planet they dialed to first was stupidly busy—there were twenty dial outs within two hours of their dial in.”
John glanced to the left of him and watched Evan Lorne enter the gateroom. He was steady on his feet but he didn’t look good at all. The gate started to dial and they all turned to look at in surprise. “Better not be the fucking Genii. I’ll have to send them a nuclear present back.”
Rodney cleared his throat. “We’re receiving Dr. Keller’s personal IDC.”
Weapons primed all over the room as John opened the radio connection. “This is John Sheppard. Dr. Keller, can you respond?”
“John.” Keller’s voice resonated through the room and Evan went slack with relief. “Is… my… is Evan with you?”
“I’m here, Jen.” Evan sat down in a chair at the control center and rubbed his face. “Are you alright?”
“I’m good. I have a guest to bring through with me. I need Ronon Dex in the gateroom and we need a clear path to the infirmary. My guest is severely injured, practically feral, and would appreciate seeing a face of someone he trusts.”
John’s gaze widened in surprise. “What is your current situation?”
“Safe for the moment but we are both exhausted and we left a lot of dead Wraith on four different planets.” Jennifer took a deep breath. “John, trust me.”
“With our lives,” John murmured. He glanced around the room to make sure Cameron had taken care of the Marines. Ronon was at the foot of the stairs, his weapon drawn. John disengaged the shield personally. He couldn’t ask anyone else to do it—to bear the guilt of risking the entire city. “The gate shield is down.”
Jennifer came through backwards, her backpack torn and dirty, her ash blond hair disheveled around her shoulders as she dragged a man twice her size through with her. “I had to knock his big stupid ass out! I swear to God, he is the biggest pain the ass in this entire galaxy. Don’t sit there. Don’t stop. You can’t rest. You can’t sleep, woman. Get up, move, do you want to die?” She dropped the man unceremoniously on the floor and shrugged out of her back pack. “I need a full medical team. The second to last planet had a population who had figured out bows and arrows. He took two in the leg trying to dial the gate so we could leave.”
She turned abruptly and wiped at her dirty face with both hands as her Sentinel came down the stairs. “Hey, you. You look so much better than I thought you would.” She barely squeaked when he grabbed her and she buried her face in the side of his neck as he lifted her off the ground and away from the body of the man she’d dragged through the gate with her.
“Is this the man who took you?” Evan demanded softly.
“Yeah.” She held Evan fast when he started to move towards Tyre. “No, listen. He didn’t have a choice. You were all down—more Wraith were coming. He had to leave that planet but he couldn’t leave me behind for the Wraith to find. There is no way he could’ve left me behind. It took me hours to even get him to listen to reason.”
Ronon walked across the gateroom, his gun still out and then dropped abruptly to his knees. “Tyre?” He touched his fellow Guardian’s face with shaking fingers. “Tyre Daos.”
“He was a Runner,” Jennifer murmured as she patted Evan. “He’s been hunted by the Wraith for seven Earth years and I’m the first Guide he’s come across in all that time. He was just overwhelmed and unprepared.”
* * * *
Jennifer shuddered as her Sentinel’s hands slid down her back and over her ass. He hadn’t stopped touching her since the gateroom—she’d barely been able to give instructions to her team regarding Tyre’s care before he hauled her physically away. Absolutely no one had gotten in his way.
“He didn’t hurt me.”
“You’re bruised,” Evan muttered, his fingers drifting gently over one on her arm and another on her thigh. “I won’t kill him—he just needs to understand that you’re mine and he can’t have you.”
She was silent as he worked shampoo through her hair for the third time. She knew she wasn’t getting out of the shower until her Sentinel was satisfied that she didn’t smell like anything but him and Atlantis. His fingers felt great on her scalp and she leaned back into him with a smile as he prodded her under the water to rinse.
“He said he wouldn’t blame you if you did—if you killed him. When he was calm enough to reason with and he realized what he’d done to you—he was guilty.” Jennifer sighed when Evan’s hand drifted between her legs. “He never once tried to touch me and he didn’t—he didn’t express any interest in me at all as if to bond with me. He just was driven to protect me.”
Evan nodded. “I didn’t smell… he didn’t smell like he wanted to bond or fuck.”
“He did say I was beautiful and perfect,” Jennifer responded with a little grin when her Sentinel met her gaze.
“I agree. You are beautiful and perfect. You’re the most peace I’ve ever known in my life and I can’t blame him for his instinctual response to you—he kept you safe when I couldn’t. I’ll do my best not to be hostile with him for more than a week or two.” Evan slid one finger into her and groaned when her body responded so easily to his penetration. “I should probably let your staff look you over.”
“I’m fine.” Jennifer pressed a kiss against his collar bone. “I want you inside me. We both need this. Fuck me.”
Evan shuddered against her. “Let’s get out of this shower.”
* * * *
Tyre woke up suddenly, bolting upright in the bed. One big hand pressed into the center of his chest and pushed him right back on the too soft bed. Startled he swung out and his fist was caught tightly. His vision was blurred. “What the…release me. I can’t see.”
“Easy,” a familiar voice murmured. “You had a reaction to the drugs they used on you when they sedated you to work on your leg. Sheppard said you’d probably have some vision problems but nothing that won’t clear up when the drugs wear off completely.”
“Yes, just relax. You are among friends and you’re safe, my friend.”
Tyre relaxed on the bed and nodded. He took a deep breath. “The Consort? She’s… she’s okay?”
“Dr. Keller is with her Sentinel. These people call Guardians—Sentinels and their Consorts are called Guides. She is well—you protected her.”
“Duty,” Tyre muttered fretfully. “Protect the Consort.”
“Yes,” Ronon agreed. “You can tell me everything later. Right now you need to relax and let these people take care of you. I trust them.”
“I trust you, Alpha.”
“Not anymore,” Ronon corrected gently. “I’ve sworn my oath to John Sheppard—the Alpha Sentinel Prime of the Lanteans.”
“As will I.” Tyre exhaled sharply. “If he will have me after what I’ve done.”
* * * *
“And you threw the transmitter through a space gate?” John rocked back in his chair. “And then watched four Wraith go through it?”
Jennifer shrugged delicately. “I’m a genius.” She picked up another sandwich. “And they are really stupid, apparently.”
“Apparently,” John agreed dryly. He watched her wolf down another peanut butter sandwich. It was her third, but then she’d been sequestered with her Sentinel for nearly twenty-four hours and while he’d made sure food was taken to them—she still had to be pretty drained and hungry.
“The Wraith came out of nowhere on the planet—the stun weapon they used hit the Marines first. It wasn’t a gun—more like a grenade but bigger and it just took everyone down within about ten square feet of it. Cameron and Evan went down a few minutes later—then he was there.” Jennifer frowned. “The Wraith were expecting him—it was almost like they corralled us and used us for a trap for him.”
“It’s probably one of the games they played with him,” Ronon offered. “Make him watch as they feed on the innocent and the defenseless until he couldn’t take it anymore. They might not really understand what he is—but they would’ve used it against him.”
“One of the Wraith escaped to the gate and Tyre thought that it had recognized what I was. He said they would hunt for me now.”
“After he took you through the gate?”
“We kept moving—but every planet we landed on we only had a few hours of respite before those bastards would come through the gate and he would start killing them again. I don’t even know how many he killed. Finally, he seemed to calm down enough that he would listen to me.”
“And you were able to pull the transmitter out of his back at that point?”
“Yes.” Jennifer nodded. “Then I dialed Athos. I figured it was safe because of the recent culling and the destruction was so complete that no one would be living in the village near the gate. I didn’t want to take Tyre through to the Alpha site because he was injured and combative at that point. The Marines at the Alpha site might have tried to take me from him and he would’ve killed them.”
John couldn’t disagree with that and it would’ve been a bad situation all the way around. “Ronon?”
“He’s calm and following orders. He feels guilty about what he did to Keller and more guilty for leaving Cameron and Evan unconscious on the first planet. He would’ve never left fellow Guardians unprotected if he’d known.” Ronon’s gaze dropped down to the table. “Tyre was barely out of school when I met him. He’d manifested his gifts—until that point he’d been headed to the academy to study. His whole family was full of scholars, diplomats. They were stunned by his gifts—unprepared to deal with a Guardian.”
“So he was sorted to the military instead?”
“Yes.” Ronon nodded. “I met him when I travelled to Vernisu, our capitol city. He was studying under the Alpha there. Tyre had searched for his Consort twice but had been unable to make a connection with one. Among our people, he couldn’t take a wife until he’d bonded with a Consort—because there was always some small hope that the Consort would be female. At any rate, there was a young woman he’d been prepared to marry before he manifested.”
“She didn’t survive the culling?” John questioned.
Ronon shook his head. “She married another because she would not wait for Tyre. I do not know what happened to her during the culling but I doubt it was good. The capitol city was hit first and hit hard. It was the center of our population. I was notified when Tyre was culled—he’d managed to make it almost to Lenore that final day with his refugees from the capitol. It never once… I never thought he would be turned into a Runner. I didn’t even know the Wraith were still doing that. There are no rumors of Runners. I heard nothing about Tyre and I would’ve…”
“He had to keep to worlds that were barely populated or completely abandoned,” Jennifer said. “Beyond his physical injuries—he’s isolated and lonely. He’s dealt with the grief of losing his people and his world on his own for years. I think I’m the first person besides the Wraith he’s had any physical contact with since Sateda fell.”
Ronon turned and focused on her. “He didn’t hurt you?”
“No, beyond dragging me around and getting me covered in Wraith blood—it was a very decent kidnapping,” Jennifer assured. “Not that I have a lot of experience with being kidnapped or anything.”
Ronon glanced at Evan. “How do you want to address this?”
Lorne paused and considered the implication of what Ronon was asking. “I don’t like his methods but I can’t fault his instincts. The Wraith on that planet would’ve killed Jennifer if he hadn’t been there. Killed or worse—once they figured out what she was. He didn’t hurt her, wasn’t unduly rough with her, and let her return to Atlantis when he calmed down. All in all, I’d like to kick his ass but I’ll get over it.”
“On Sateda, separating a Consort from his or her Guardian is a death sentence.”
Evan blinked in surprise. “Ronon, we don’t kill our own unless there is no hope for them. Even then it’s never done without a great deal of thought and discussion. As long as he doesn’t get it in his head to challenge me for her or anything stupid like that I’m prepared to let the matter lie. And he can’t ever touch her again—unless he has to save her life again. I’d be okay with the life saving part of things.”
Ronon nodded and relaxed back in his chair. “He won’t disrespect your pair bond. It’s not our way and our culture did not allow one Guardian to challenge another for a Consort—it’s the highest of crimes to interfere in a pair bond.”
* * * *
John’s life was complicated and he mostly blamed McKay. Before McKay—he had a pretty ordinary life. He didn’t know aliens existed, he didn’t know about the Stargate, and he never had to worry about how to integrate alien Sentinels into a pride. Hell, he hadn’t had a pride to worry about at all. He looked up from his computer as Tyre Daos stirred minutely. The man had been awake for nearly thirty minutes but had been content to play dead. John had let him—figuring the young Sentinel was trying to assess the city and deal with the way she was reaching out for him. It was probably the most comfort he’d ever known—since he’d never bonded.
Tyre opened his eyes and turned his head. “Alpha.”
“Yes.” John set aside the computer and sighed. “I’m torn between congratulating you on all the Wraith killing and lecturing you for stealing my Chief Medical Officer. We’ll settle for—don’t do that again and welcome to Atlantis.”
Tyre smiled hesitantly and glanced around the large room. “It’s good to see again. I was worried.”
“Jennifer normally handles the Sentinels on the city but she was with Evan and we didn’t feel comfortable waiting for her to do your surgery. There were some mistakes on the dosages—it’s something that mundanes don’t normally have a talent for. They are all pretty pleased with your healing time already—Ronon hasn’t been injured since his arrival so we weren’t aware of the extremely fast healing of your people.” John reached out and touched the control panel on the bed when Tyre sat up. “Ronon is asleep with his Guide but I can wake him if you wish to speak with him.”
“No, I wouldn’t want to disturb him at such a time.” Tyre’s hands tightened into fists. “I should leave. I don’t think I have a place in a pride—I’m too damaged.”
“He’d be devastated if you did,” John returned evenly. “He thought all the Guardians dead but himself and to find he’s not alone in the galaxy—to have a little piece of his world returned to him has eased him more than anything else in recent memory. I won’t keep you prisoner here—it’s not our way but I believe you would be a good addition to our mission.”
“And your mission?”
John smiled then. “I plan to kill the Wraith.”
Tyre blinked in surprise and huffed as he sat back in the bed. “All of them?”
“Every single mother fucking one of them,” John confirmed. “I figured you might be game for that being seeing as how you’ve been a one man war against them for seven years.”
“I could…” Tyre nodded. “I could get behind a plan that included the extinction of the Wraith.”
“Good. I’m going to tell you a story about the Ancients and your people—and then I’m going to tell you about your new home.”
“Thank you, Alpha.”
* * * *
Rodney woke and ran his hand down the side of the bed that John normally slept in. He knew where his Sentinel was—could feel the emotions pouring off of him as he told Tyre Daos the story of their Ancestors and about Earth. Even in his sleep he’d felt the twinge of it but that wasn’t what woke him up. He pushed back his covers and put his headset in as he went in search of some clothes.
Mostly dressed he activated his radio to the private pride channel that would activate the radios of everyone in the pride whether they wanted it or not. “Vala. We need a Guide check—I think one of our latents is online. Do you feel that?”
She was silent for a minute. “Agreed. I’ll start with my list.”
Rodney sighed reluctantly. “I’ll start with Simmons—I think he’s down the hall from me anyways.”
Five minutes later, he was face to face with Dean Bates—the Marine answered his door in a pair of boxers and a grim expression. “What’s wrong?”
“Is Simmons with you?”
Dean glanced back into his quarters. “Yeah, he’s basically glued to my ass when I’m off duty.”
“That could be fun,” Rodney acknowledged. “I need to come in, Bates.”
Bates frowned but stepped aside. “Problem?”
“Maybe.” Rodney walked to the bed where Graham Simmons was sprawled, a sheet barely covering his naked ass. He touched his fellow Guide’s back—ignoring Bates hissed breath. “Graham?”
Graham stirred in his sleep and sighed. “Rodney, you know I think you’re hot but we agreed your Sentinel would kill me for any naked play time.”
Rodney laughed. “Wake up for me, Simmons. I need to scan you and I don’t want to dip into your mind when you aren’t fully awake.”
Graham rolled over and pulled the sheet into his lap to cover up as he rubbed his face with one hand. “Geez, okay, you know I haven’t been asleep two hours yet. All I do is work, work, work.” He eyed McKay. “Turning a straight guy over to the dark side is a taxing endeavor.”
Rodney laughed aloud and patted his cheek. “Okay, relax and take a deep breath for me.” Graham did so dramatically and actually flinched when Rodney reached out and breached his mind. “Okay, not you.” He paused and took a deep breath. “But soon, very soon.” He sat back and released the young man’s mind gently. “Bates, you’ll want to keep an eye on him—mood swings, irrational anger, and/or very needy behavior will be the indicators. If we catch him early on we’ll be able to gentle his way into his gifts.”
“I’ll take care of him.”
“Rodney. It’s Peter Grodin,” Vala said breathlessly over their radio connection. “Come now—it’s bad.”
* * * *
There was a Guide convention outside of Peter Grodin’s quarters by the time that McKay arrived along with several hovering Sentinels. He knew John was on his way and he was really the only one among the Sentinels that could help at all in their current situation.
Peter, out of all of the latent Guides on the city, had been the one both Vala and Rodney agreed wouldn’t come online without a stressor. Guides normally came online gradually like Simmons but Peter had a fortified and very orderly mind—the Englishmen wasn’t prone to hysterics. It was his calm and often taciturn affect that made him so easy for everyone on the expedition to deal with.
If Rodney were going to be honest, if anyone had asked him to pick out a Guide for Bates he would’ve chosen Grodin. That Bates been pulled towards the feisty bit of goods that was Graham Simmons was both stunning and a source of genuine amusement for everyone in the city. With Grodin—Bates could’ve probably talked the scientist into a platonic bond. But Graham was nothing like Peter and Bates was doomed to a life of really hot, shameless, gay sex. Rodney could almost feel sorry for him.
Peter was in his shower, still dressed in his uniform and soaking wet. Rodney sighed and took one of the towels that Vala offered. “Peter.”
“Sor-ry,” Peter stuttered. “I thought I could make it through the night and report to the infirmary in the morning. Everyone was so busy with Keller being kidnapped.”
“How long?” Rodney demanded. “Goddamn it, Peter! We warned you.”
Grodin flushed and averted his gaze. “Since they brought Lorne back through the gate.”
A Sentinel in distress was a hell of a stressor, Rodney thought and it should’ve occurred to him. “Vala, check the rest of them. I only managed to get to Simmons.”
“I have two left on list and then I’ll finish yours,” Vala said and left the room quickly.
Rodney helped Peter stand. “Come on.”
“You…” Peter staggered and collapsed in near relief when McKay wrapped an arm around him. “How can you feel so awesome and be such a bloody wanker at the same time?”
“It’s one of his better gifts,” John offered from the doorway. He took Peter’s other side. “I ought to make you do PT with the Marines as punishment for keeping this bullshit to yourself. You know it’s our job to take care of each other. You don’t hide your pain, Peter. It’s just stupid and suicidal.”
“I already run with the Marines,” Peter muttered. “I’m completely badass. Just ask Bates.” He groaned when they started stripping out of his clothes. “Seriously—I have a black belt. I can kick your asses.”
“I believe you,” John promised. “We don’t doubt your badassness at all, do we McKay?”
“He’s a total warrior,” Rodney responded dryly as he started drying Peter’s short hair.
Peter batted at their hands ineffectively as he was sorted into a pair of dry sweats and a t-shirt. “I can handle this. It’s just bad. It’ll be fine. I’m strong. I won’t—won’t let this kill me.”
“We know you’re strong,” Rodney murmured as he prodded him into the bed and settled his covers around him. He pulled off his own shoes and just nodded when John did the same. “Peter, we’re going to sleep with you, okay? We’re going to wrap our bond-shield around you so you can rest without pain.”
Peter shuddered. “Seriously, you’re such a prick, Rodney. How can I like you so much right now?”
“Well, I did let you push me off a balcony.” Rodney patted him and then situated the shaking scientist between him and John. “Just relax—we won’t even hold it against you if you pop wood.”
“Nice ass,” Peter muttered. “Always thought so. Utter prick with a fantastic ass.” He shuddered again. “This is why he loves you so much, Colonel.”
“Oh yeah?” John questioned with a small laugh.
“So safe,” Peter whispered brokenly as he rubbed his face against John’s chest and then passed out.
“Jesus.” Rodney took a deep breath and sought out John’s hand in his own. “I’ve never had to do this, John. Is this the right thing?”
“I think so—we can’t help him build shields if he’s exhausted and combative. Let’s let him sleep as long as we can and then we’ll get to work on his shields with Vala. She’s the best at it, right?”
“Yes, she can teach him all kinds of methods for privacy and emotional sorting that I didn’t learn until I met her. They should let her revamp how Guides are trained on Earth she’s so good at it.”
* * * *
Tyre was sitting up staring at the food that had brought to him with a sincerely worried frown when Ronon and Teyla came into his isolation room. “Ronon.” He relaxed at the sight of his fellow Guardian. “Is this… what is this?” He motioned towards the tray.
Ronon laughed. “Food. The people from Earth do weird things with it.” He pointed at the fries. “Eat the French fries, first. They’re best hot.”
Tyre took one, munched on it carefully, and quirked an eyebrow. He grabbed another. “Something happened? Sheppard left out of here pretty quickly.”
“One of the Consorts on the city manifested in the last few days and kept it to himself, he’s in a great deal of emotional pain.” Teyla explained as she opened his juice box and stuck his straw in it. “Drink this. It tastes like nothing I know but it’s good.”
Tyre took the juice and sipped without question. “Weird.”
“Very,” Ronon assured. “But good. A lot of their food is especially prepared for us so we don’t have to worry about things messing up our senses.” He touched Teyla. “This is my Consort, Teyla Emmagen, daughter of Tegan, leader of the people of Athos.”
Teyla inclined her head. “Teyla will do.”
Tyre grinned and then grew serious. “I am Specialist Tyre Daos, third to the fallen Alpha Guardian—Gregos Knorr, son of the scholar—Da’lac Daos.”
“Welcome to Atlantis, Tyre.”
Tyre blushed under her attention and averted his gaze.
Ronon wondered when he’d last had contact with a woman besides Keller. “I’d prefer that you stay but I won’t ask you to stay with us if you can’t abide it.”
“I—I’ve been alone for a long time,” Tyre admitted. “It’s hard to grasp what Sheppard told me—a whole world where Guardians are welcomed, protected… plentiful… even if they don’t approach our numbers before the final culling.” He looked down at this tray of food and poked the hamburger briefly before picking it up. “Is this like koras wraps?”
“Similar,” Ronon assured. “Bread and meat.”
Tyre grasped the sandwich and took a healthy bite. He nodded thoughtfully as he chewed. “Interesting.”
“That’s what Ronon always says about our food,” Jennifer Keller said from the doorway of the room. She leaned into her Sentinel briefly and curled her small hand into his as they entered the room.
Ronon glanced between Lorne and Tyre. “Sentinel Lorne has declined retribution.”
Tyre looked shocked for a few seconds and then looked away from them all. “Is it because they are more civilized than our people were or less?”
“I’m still trying to decide,” Ronon admitted. “They value each other more—and every single one of them really thinks they can kill all the Wraith—even the academics.”
Tyre’s breath caught momentarily and then he laughed softly. “By the old gods, Ronon, you always did meet the most fascinating people.”
“I’d like to speak with Tyre privately,” Evan said and just shot his Guide a look when she opened her mouth to complain. “Yes, that means—you out in the hall.”
Jennifer offered him a mild glare. “He’s my patient, Evan. You do know how I feel about that, right?”
“Absolutely.” Evan held up his hands in an age old sign of supplication that Jennifer didn’t buy for a hot minute.
Ronon only nodded and after a few seconds, herded both Guides out of the room.
Evan walked away from the bed and glanced around the room. “I hate this isolation room—there is this big observation area up at the top so they can stare at you like you’re an animal in a zoo.” He turned to him. “Did they have zoos on Sateda?”
“A place where animals were kept for entertainment?” Tyre questioned and sighed when Evan nodded. “No, but I did see them off-world a few times. I don’t understand the practice. It’s never seemed right to me.”
“Agreed—but most mundanes would say we’re too close to our own animal nature to be comfortable with another animal living in a prison without cause.” Evan plucked a chair up and walked over to the bed. He sat down and took a deep breath. “So, it would be bad for the pride dynamics if we have this huge knot of resentment and hostility burning between us all the time. Survival—my Guide’s survival—depends on a strong pride that I can depend on. Not a pride divided by old loyalties and anger.”
“You’re entitled to be angry.”
“I burned all of that anger out on the planet you left me on,” Evan returned evenly. “Trust me—it’s a good thing the damn thing was empty and I was aware enough not to kill my own people but not much else. They had to stun me, twice, to take me down. It’s too bad; however, you killed all the Wraith before you left. I could’ve used some targets.”
“I’ll find you some more. I’m pretty good at finding Wraith,” Tyre admitted. “Sometimes—in the past—I didn’t wait for them to hunt for me. I hunted for them instead. They never saw it coming—no matter how often I did it.”
“Arrogant,” Evan summed up. “They don’t even have defenses on their landing bays for returning darts. We flew right into one and blew their shit up.”
“Sheppard told me,” Tyre admitted. “I wish I could’ve seen it.”
“It was exceptional.” Lorne sighed and leaned forward. “I met Jennifer about six months ago—about one hundred and eighty days. I don’t know how you’ve been keeping track of time. They said it’s been five Satedian years since you were taken but that’s almost seven years for us.”
“I wasn’t keeping track of time,” Tyre admitted. “At least not in any real way, mostly I just kept track of how many Wraith I killed.”
Tyre grinned then and rooted around through his fries for a few seconds. “3056—counting the seventy-two I killed protecting your Guide. I don’t think I got the one that saw her. I consider it a problem.” He frowned. “I like these brown ones the best—they’re crunchy.”
“Burned,” Evan corrected and laughed. He clicked his radio. “Corporal Jenkins—bring another plate of fries to Isolation Three and make sure they’re extra crispy.” He turned off his radio. “So, staying?”
Tyre shrugged. “I don’t know. We’ll see—I don’t want to make the people here uncomfortable. I’m not like Ronon. He’s had a Consort these few last years and even when we were on Sateda he was a leader. I didn’t even finish my Guardian training when the culling came.”
“Colonel Sheppard—our Alpha—will train you. We have three Sentinels coming online, manifesting, as we speak on the city. You’ll be ahead of them but we’ll teach you all that we know. It’ll be good to swap out skill sets and learn from each other. Besides, you’ll disappoint my Guide if you leave. She thinks she rescued you.”
Tyre lifted an eyebrow. “She rescued me?”
“Yeah, she thinks she did. You’re like a stray cat or something for her and she’s pretty intense about it. I got a lecture like you wouldn’t believe on how I was allowed to act around you. Apparently, I can’t even spar with you until she’s confident I’m not harboring any unconscious desires to kill you.” Evan stood up and patted Tyre on the shoulder. “I’ll kick your ass if you hurt my Guide’s feelings, Tyre. Think of her like the little sister you never really wanted because she’d probably knock your ass out with your own gun again if you tried to leave.”
Tyre grunted. “I did wonder how I got here. One minute, I’m arguing with her.” He waved a hand. “And the next I’m waking up here.”
* * * *
“Sir, we’ve completed scans on the mainland and the sixteen islands—including both poles,” Stackhouse started as he sat down in front of Cameron Mitchell in the mess hall with a tray. “We’re ready to start charting the ocean floor. What does Sheppard think we’ll find?”
“He doesn’t know,” Cameron admitted. “But he’s serious about the necessity. I think he’s Spidey Sense is tingling and he doesn’t want to admit it. McKay mentioned that the Ancients might have one of those underwater power plants here—like we found on Sateda only mothballed here. Have Radek set up engineering crews to maintenance the Jumpers and then we’ll start on the scanning plan the geeks set up for us. We have ten Jumpers that are operational right now and then think it’ll take us at least five months to scan the water.”
“It only took two weeks on the land.”
“Less to cover and more interference. We’ll have go slower because of the water.” Cameron looked up as his wife entered the mess hall. She had a smile on her face and was carrying one of the Athosian children. A new born—the first baby born in the infirmary. They’d kept the expectant couple on the city after the rest of the population had moved to the mainland to set up homes. “Hey, I thought you liked kids at a distance.”
Vala slid into a chair beside him. “This is a baby, Cam. Big difference.”
He reached out and the little one grasped his finger immediately. Her tiny, perfect fingers curled against his skin. “Hey, kiddo. What did they call her?”
“Liana,” Vala answered and rocked her gently when she fussed. “Her naming ceremony is next week and we’ve been invited to attend.” She arched one eyebrow at him. “I accepted for us.”
“Yes, wife.” Cameron touched her shoulder, tugged on her braid gently. “Will there be food and wine?”
“I’m sure. The Athosians use any excuse to have a party.”
And Cameron didn’t blame them in the least. With the lives the people in Pegasus lived—another day alive was reason to party as far as he was concerned.
* * * *
“Take a deep breath and focus inward. There is an energy moving inside you,” Rodney said as he took a deep breath. “When I first discovered mine in my mind I decided that it looked like gold.” He grinned when Peter Grodin laughed. “I have a stunning mind.”
“You do.” Peter agreed. He relaxed in his place on the exercise mat. “It’s easier to do this when you’re with me.”
“Yes, I know but I can’t buffer you indefinitely. It wouldn’t be fair to my Sentinel. You have to learn these skills, Peter, so you’ll be able to function and work.”
Grodin sighed. “I know. I want… I want to do my job. This isn’t going to beat me down. I couldn’t stop her from changing me but I won’t let this defeat me.”
“Do you think Atlantis changed you with intent?” Rodney questioned softly.
“No.” Peter shook his head. “I think it’s being here on the city—I think that’s enough for those of us who can’t come online naturally.” He sucked in a deep breath. “I’ve been thinking about Keller’s research and the genome work that’s been done on Earth. I think the gene that they identified on Earth as the Sentinel/Guide gene is really an activation gene for the real pair of genes we inherited from the Satedians.”
Rodney raised an eyebrow. “Your PhD is in biomechanics.”
“My Masters is in genetics,” Peter returned with a quirked eyebrow. “I thought I might volunteer to help Keller with the research since the Colonel has classified it to her eyes only because we don’t want mundanes to see it.”
Rodney nodded. “Sounds good actually—she could use the help and it’d be a good side project for you. Now concentrate on the exercise… distracting me with shiny science isn’t going to get you out of this.”
Peter grinned and focused on finding the energy that Rodney claimed was inside in him. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “I think mine is blue—like the ocean.”
“Good,” Rodney said. “Now focus on it—you need to learn how it flows and moves in our mind. Then it’s important to find your weaknesses and learn when to shore them up. Your shield energy isn’t consistent and won’t be until you’ve bonded with a Sentinel.”
“And if I never bond?”
“Then you must learn to guard and protect your mind on your own. You’re not an idiot—you can do it. Guide children do it every day.” Rodney rolled his head on his neck and took a deep breath. “You can’t partner with a Sentinel until you’ve mastered these skills.” He shot Jason Markham a look. “You’re not meditating, Jason.”
Jason slumped. “Something is just missing, Dr. McKay.”
“I know,” Rodney snapped impatiently. “But if you learn these skills now when it does happen you won’t be screaming in your shower in the middle of the night.”
Grodin blushed. “Fuck you, McKay.”
Graham Simmons laughed softly and relaxed back on his hands. “You could’ve at least taken your boots off first. Just sayin’.” He nudged Simon Wallace who was sitting next to him. “Hey suck up, you’re already going to get a gold star from McKay for today.”
Simon opened his eyes and stared at Graham for a few seconds. “I liked you better when you were in the Air Force—you were so much nicer then. Getting a PhD has really done some detrimental things to your core personality. I’m going to redo your Myers-Briggs inventory.”
“Just because I let a uniform confine my amazing personality for years does not mean I need a personality evaluation,” Graham said with a little frown that quickly turned into a grin. “Besides, I’m entitled to be happy.”
Simon laughed and lay back on the mat. “Is it good that I can almost see my energy, McKay? It’s misty—white, like clouds.”
“It’s not a bad thing,” Rodney conceded. “Just keep up your mental exercises and be on your guard. I have a feeling that Elizabeth will just flip on when she finally lets go. She’s been on the cusp since our arrival.”
* * * *
“So, what do we think?”
Rodney grinned at his Sentinel and set aside his computer. “I think Peter would be a great asset for Jennifer on the project. He has some interesting ideas about the Satedian genome and now that we have two Guardians to study—it’s not a bad idea to get her the help. Since Teyla’s mother came from Sateda—we can investigate her mitochondrial DNA to check out what her mother passed to her. If he’s right about the activation gene that the people on Earth were mistaking for the Sentinel/Guide gene it would make a lot of sense.”
“So the city itself is bringing these people online?” He turned to Jennifer and raised an eyebrow when she shook her head.
“I think it’s more complicated than that. We know that Atlantis definitely activated Radek’s dormant genes but she hasn’t had any meaningful contact with any of the others. The Satedians certainly didn’t have Ancient technology to interact with…” She trailed off. “Unless we think that the ATA gene was actually developed on Sateda and it’s yet another thing that the Ancients took from them.”
“The Satedian technology isn’t Ancient.”
“Isn’t Ancient as we currently know it to be,” Rodney clarified. “And the database claims they were a primitive tribal society when the Ancients found them.”
John blew out a frustrated breath and then looked out the window. “Maybe we won’t ever really know what they did to them and what they really found on Sateda.”
“We need Daniel Jackson,” Rodney finally said. “If anyone can figure out what happened on Sateda—it’s him. He could do one of those anthropological investigations—dig up sites, excavate. Be an archeologist.” He shrugged when everyone turned to stare at him. “What? I mean it’s a soft science—so soft it might as well be cotton candy but he did figure out the stargate when no one else could.”
Cameron laughed. “I’m telling him. Who knew it would take going to another galaxy to admit you might need him for something beyond a chess partner.”
* * * *
The wind felt amazing, the solid floor of Atlantis under him felt substantial, tangible in way he hadn’t known in more years that he could remember. It had taken him two hours to talk Keller into releasing him from her medical care. She’d been singularly unconvinced that he didn’t need to be under observation. He didn’t know if she understood completely that he had to get away from her—but in the end she’d relented with this sad little frown that he hoped wasn’t an indication that he’d hurt her feelings. He figured he could probably take Lorne but he wasn’t keen on having that kind of fight with a member of the pride.
He didn’t want her—not really. There was no part of him, mentally or physically, that was drawn to her. Still, she was a beautiful and soft woman and he hadn’t any meaningful physical contact with anyone in more time than he could even fathom.
Tyre stopped at the end of the pier and flexed his feet in the shoes he’d been given. The people of Atlantis had been more generous that he believed he deserved. Clothes that fit and didn’t burn or rub on his skin. Shoes that had never been worn by someone else. One of the people Lorne called a scientist had taken his gun away only to return it a few hours later—cleaned and functioning twenty percent better than it ever had. His knives and sword—cleaned and returned freshly sharpened.
“You’re pretty fast for a guy who had two arrows in his leg two days ago.”
Tyre turned to find the red-headed Sentinel he’d been introduced to the night before. Female Guardians were rare and valued on Sateda. They’d never been allowed to serve in the military not even in the final culling. Female Guardians gave birth to very strong Guardians—everyone knew this and as a result they’d been coddled on Sateda. Coddled, untrained, and vulnerable to the Wraith. They’d been slaughtered.
“You’re beautiful,” he finally whispered. “Every time I look at you—I ache for my people and my world.”
Laura Cadman sucked in a breath and looked away. “I don’t know what to say.”
Tyre laughed sadly and dropped down on the edge of the pier. “There is nothing to say.” He exhaled sharply when she sat down beside him. “We never let the female Sentinels on my world fight—didn’t train them to take care of themselves. Coddled, protected them—killed them with our…”
Tyre laughed. “I’m not sure what that means—but I think you’re right. I was going to say arrogance. We were fools to treat them like they were weak and it’s obvious when I look at you.” He looked out over the ocean. “I spent most of my time in the capitol city but my parents had a home on the shore. We went there a great deal when I was a young boy. When my Guardian gifts manifested, they took me out there one more time before I was transferred into the care of the Alpha Guardian.”
“Was that mandatory?”
“No,” Tyre shook his head. “But I was of age and ready to leave home so it was a good time. It wasn’t what I thought I would do. All throughout my childhood, I had dreams of being a scholar. I wanted to study the history of our people. Instead, I was conscripted into the military and put into training as a Guardian.”
“It’s an honor on our world,” Laura began. “My father is a Sentinel—my mother is a mundane and they split up when he came online in college. She couldn’t handle his relationship with his Guide. Mom was so angry all the time that the life she’d wanted was taken from her because he came online.”
“Did they argue a lot?”
“Yes, a great deal—especially when I came online.” Laura frowned and sighed. “My mother was furious. I think she hated me for it—literally. She tried to refuse me the right to do a Guide search.” She paused when Tyre glanced at her in question. “On Earth, Sentinels aren’t as common as Guides—as a result a Sentinel often has many Guides to chose from. I met over one hundred before I found my Aidan. Meeting him was the most amazing moment of my life.”
“You must have been relieved,” Tyre said softly. “I met many Consorts but none of them were mine.”
“Keller?” Cadman asked casually.
Tyre shook his head. “No, not at all. She does remind me of the women of my world—soft, beautiful, and sheltered.”
Laura nodded. “Yeah, kind of. But we’re working on getting her field skills up so she can work better when she’s off planet. Of course, Major Lorne probably won’t let her off the city for months after your little trip with her.”
* * * *
“You’re handling Tyre a lot better than you handled meeting Ronon.” Rodney ran his hands down John’s back confidently, distributing the lotion evenly across golden skin.
“He’s more closed off, keeps his grief tight to himself. Ronon had already spent so much time with Teyla that she’d broken down his defenses. When he thinks about Sateda—he hurts. When Tyre thinks about Sateda—he burns. Burns with the need for retribution and it’s…” John sighed and turned over abruptly. He pinned Rodney to the bed with a firm grip and for his part McKay relaxed and spread his legs. “It’s really exciting.”
Rodney laughed softly and sighed when John’s hand went in search of lube. He plucked from underneath a pillow and sat up abruptly. “Exciting?”
“Very. Every time I get near him I want to…” John waved one hand negligently and opened the lube. “Fuck. Fight.” He slicked up his dick and pressed two fingers into his Guide’s ass. “He’s hungry for life and for the kill. It’s compelling.”
McKay lifted his hips impatiently off the bed. “I’m not a virgin. Put your dick in me for fuck’s sake.”
Sheppard laughed softly and cupped Rodney’s hips. McKay lifted gamely and sighed as John pressed the head of cock into him. John prodded his legs up onto his shoulders and started to pump deep into his body with hard, deep strokes. All the while, Rodney rocked into him, his hands fisting into their sheets, and groaned softly without restraint.
“Yeah, fuck me, John.”
John shuddered as he ran one hand down McKay’s stomach. He loved to be in his Guide—loved the feel of his muscles clenching down on his cock as he worked his ass. It was almost too good—almost too much pleasure. The bond flared between them and he lost what little control he had left. His pace increased as he pushed Rodney’s legs forward to press against his chest.
McKay took every punishing thrust, his voice hoarse with pleasure and surprise. “Fuck, John!”
John wrapped his hand around Rodney’s cock and roughly started to jerk him off. “Come for me. I want to feel it—smell it.”
Rodney shouted his release, his hands scrambling against the sheets as his body gave into orgasm. He went slack and giving under his Sentinel and just shivered as John pressed deeply into one last time and came. “Jesus.”
John released McKay’s legs and rubbed them as he pulled from his Guide’s body. “Who needs PT?”
“Who indeed,” Rodney agreed. “That was fucking awesome. That guy is staying if I have to bribe him with weapons or whatever.”
John laughed softly and went to the bathroom to get a cloth to clean them both up. “He does inspire a little primitive behavior in all of us.”
* * * *
Peter Grodin lingered on his balcony watching the alien Sentinel. Tyre Daos was his name. He hadn’t been introduced but he did know that the latent Guides had all made it a point to be introduced to the man. Peter couldn’t blame them at all—he was powerful and very beautiful. Primal, tragic, and the ultimate warrior among a strong pride. He wondered if Sheppard knew that Tyre was sleeping on the balcony of the quarters he’d been given and figured that they all probably realized it.
Wild. Untamed. Peter didn’t think he’d be enough to be a Guide to such a man. Tyre turned on the lounger and looked right at him—they were separated only by fifty feet. It was enough that Peter felt reasonably safe but his heart started to thud against his chest. Tyre stood up and walked to the railing so they were closer—just a few feet but it seemed like a huge change to Peter. They were actually living in different towers. Peter had been offered quarters earlier in the day in the main tower with the rest of the pride. He hadn’t decided if he was going to move or not.
He didn’t have any illusions about his privacy on Atlantis—it was zero but he did like his apartment and he was alone on his floor. He’d picked the top floor of the tower because of the view and the other apartment on the other side of the tower was empty now that Radek had moved with David Parrish to the main tower.
“Don’t be afraid.”
The words drifted in the air between them and Peter just smiled. “I’m not afraid of you, Sentinel.”
Tyre grunted as if he didn’t believe him. “You have no need to ever fear me—we’re taught on Sateda to sacrifice our lives for a Consort. I’d cut out my own heart before I’d hurt one personally.” He turned his face and looked out over the city. “Did you want to take a walk?”
Peter sighed. “I’m not allowed. Colonel Sheppard is worried about me since my gifts are so new. I only recently got to return to my quarters to sleep.” He blushed when the Sentinel laughed. “It’s not very fair. I’m a grown man.”
“If what they say about Consorts are true—you are a very valuable man and a true weapon against the Wraith. Your protection is important.” Tyre leaned on the railing. “Are you going to tell them I’m sleeping out here?”
“You think the Colonel doesn’t know?” Peter questioned. “We don’t believe that there is a place in the city anyone can go that the Colonel can’t follow with his senses. He’s imprinted on the whole city.”
Tyre grimaced and shrugged. “I had hopes. I think they want me to go something called therapy. That can’t be a good thing. Major Lorne said he endured sessions in the past.”
“It’s not a torture no matter how much some might think so. It’s just a meeting where you talk to someone who’s been educated and trained to help you sort out your emotions and thoughts.”
“Do you go?”
“I’m required to go because of my Guide gifts.”
Tyre nodded. “On Sateda—we were encouraged to work out our emotional issues with family. My second mother was good to talk to. She helped me come to terms with my Guardian manifestation.”
“Second mother?” Peter questioned. “Your father had two wives?”
“No.” Tyre shook his head. “Second mother—the woman who birthed my mother.”
“Oh.” Peter blushed. “Grandmother—my grandmother was a good listener, too. She passed before I came out here but she always told everyone how proud she was of me. I was one of the first of her grandchildren to go to college.”
“That’s higher education? Beyond foundation principles?”
“Yes. I studied for ten years. I have several degrees—certificates that indicate how much I learned and in what in fields. Engineering, Genetics, and Biomechanics.” Peter smiled when the Sentinel frowned at him. “I like to know how machines work and sometimes people.”
Tyre looked at the moons then. “The hour is late—you should sleep, Consort.”
“Peter. Dr. Peter Grodin, Specialist Daos.”
“You can call me Tyre.”
“And you can call me Peter.” Grodin cleared his throat. “We could have breakfast tomorrow?”
“The first meal of the day?”
“I’m running with the soldiers but I’ll be in the place they call the mess hall after that.” Tyre held up his wrist to reveal a watch. “Colonel Mitchell taught me how to use this… what time?”
Tyre nodded. “Sounds good, Peter. Sleep well.”
* * * *
She was an old Queen—the oldest left of their race. The one to remember the day of victory over the Lanteans. She was intolerant of failure and he was going to have to tell her that they’d lost her favorite toy. It was fortunate that he had good news to share as well. Perhaps, he’d get out of the meeting alive.
“I am told that the signal for the Satedian runner is no longer on a planet. Did he get picked up by a ship?”
Well, at least he didn’t have to deliver the bad news—he just had to explain it. “It appears, my Queen, that he has killed himself—either accidently or by design—by dialing and stepping through a ring in orbit around an abandoned world. I dispatched two darts to investigate but we’ve been unable to locate a body and the transmitter is no longer functional. The ring isn’t far from the planet—it’s likely that the bodies of the runner and the four hunters who were chasing him have all entered the atmosphere of the planet.”
She glared at him, her foot twitching in irritation. “He was a favorite training tool.”
“Perhaps but the older he became the more efficient he became at killing—the soldiers consider escaping him with their lives to be an accomplishment.”
“As do I,” she hissed. “You escaped him often—you’re good at running away.”
“There was a female on the planet where the runner was cornered—a female with a guarded mind like those of Sateda,” he responded quickly.
She stood abruptly from her chair. “Our spy among the Genii—has he said anything more about the people with the Lantean ships?”
“No, the transmitter we gave him to put in the trade goods was disabled quickly and by the time we reached the planet to investigate they were long gone.” He took a deep breath. “We can’t be certain that they are Lantean.”
“The Lanteans built their technology so no one but they could use it—if they are using Lantean ships they are Lantean—which means they came here from our new feeding grounds. I want them found—it is your singular goal to capture one of these new Lanteans and find out where they are based. I want to know where they are and where they come from exactly. If they have the technology to travel between galaxies quickly—we need that information.”
“Do you think they had anything to do with the destruction of our sister hive? The one we sent to kill the Satedian on Athos?”
She turned to glare at him. “I think I’m finished speaking with you—leave me before I find my reasons for not killing you aren’t compelling enough.”
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