Title: The Tempest
Author: Keira Marcos
Series title: The Sentinels of Atlantis
Series Order: 15
Fandom: Sentinel/Stargate Fusion
Pairings: McKay/Sheppard, Teldy/Porter, Carter/Jackson, Ellison/Sandburg, Jack O’Neill/Patrick Sheppard (pre-slash)
Word Count: 9,096
Warnings: Adult themes, violence, and sexual situations.
Betas: Chris King & Ladyholder
Summary: The Expedition dials Earth and sends them the bad news. John and Rodney take some time on the mainland to reconnect. Patrick Sheppard sticks his nose in SGC business and Jack O’Neill meets Alpha Sentinel Prime James Ellison.
* * * *
Patrick Sheppard settled down in his favorite chair with a bourbon and closed his eyes. “I don’t want to discuss it, Matthew.”
Matt Sheppard shared a look with his brother and then leaned forward from his place on the couch. “Dad, I don’t think you understand—John is just gone. His records with the Air Force were sealed by the Pentagon six months ago after his reassignment to Colorado. I’ve been calling people for two months trying to get to someone who knows where he is and there is nothing.”
“John made his choice,” Patrick murmured. “And he could’ve come home at any time. He hasn’t… it isn’t like I haven’t reached out to him time and time again only to be ignored.”
“He could be dead,” Matt snapped and stood up from the couch. “He’s dead and the Air Force is hiding so they don’t have to report a Sentinel death to the Center. You know how the Center gets about it.” He winced when the color drained out of his father’s face.
Patrick took a deep breath. “I’ll… I’ll find out, Mattie.”
“It’s important,” David Sheppard murmured. “When I registered Andy with the Sentinel/Guide Center last month, they were… for lack of a better word giddy over his online status. Sentinel politics have been changing rapidly over the last few months and the local pride that isn’t supposed to officially exist—they watch over Andy like they don’t trust me to take care of my own son. I don’t go a day without getting a visit from a bonded pair. They don’t always approach us but I feel watched all the time.”
Patrick blinked in surprise. “What does Andy think of it?”
“He told me it was their job to take care of him until he was ready.”
“Ready?” Matt asked with a frown.
David closed his eyes briefly. “One of the Sentinels calls Andy ‘Little Alpha’.”
“Jesus.” Patrick downed his drink. “Why didn’t you tell me any of this?”
“The Sentinel stuff has always freaked you out,” David returned evenly. “I didn’t want to give you another reason to back away from Andy.”
“Another reason?” Patrick demanded. “I love him, David. I’d never…”
“You did it with John and you stopped touching Andy when he came online. He asked me why you stopped hugging him, Dad. I didn’t even know what to say.”
“I don’t…” Patrick flushed. “I don’t want to hurt him. I hurt John once when he was small like Andy. Your mom knew how to make him feel safe—knew how to reach him when he had sensory spikes and I didn’t. We couldn’t even risk a conservator because John was hiding so much of what he could do from the Center. The thought they might take him away from me… take away the last part I had of Amelia was horrifying. I wouldn’t have had any legal recourse back then.”
“Andy is well-balanced. The people at the Center say he has a great deal of natural defenses and while they offered a Conservator—they don’t really think he needs one unless he’s physically ill. I have a few on-call just in case he zones but he zoned last week watching a butterfly in the back yard. When I touched his shoulder he came out of it.” David took a deep breath. “They say that Andy balances his senses on his family—me and you specifically since we’re in his life every day. That means that John did the same thing until… until the two of you fought.”
“Is that why he never came back?” Matt questioned.
“It would have been difficult for him to sacrifice it all at once. I doubt he would have wanted to come back to it only to lose the safety of it again and again. Without a Guide—he was vulnerable.”
“Was?” Patrick questioned. “Your brother has a Guide?”
“Yeah, I found an announcement on one of the websites I have access to for Andy. John bonded a year ago within days of his move to Colorado. A man named Dr. Rodney McKay. I don’t have much more information than that—except to say that McKay hasn’t been seen in months either.”
* * * *
“Unscheduled off world activation!”
Jack stood up from his desk and strolled into the control room. “What do we have, Walter?”
“Wormhole established,” Walter murmured. “Incoming data packet.”
Jack lifted an eyebrow and then blinked in surprise when the gate abruptly shut down. “Walter?”
“Sir, we need Colonel Carter.” Walter took a deep breath. “We’ve received an encrypted communication from Atlantis.”
* * * *
John squeezed McKay’s shoulder gently. “Great job, Rodney.”
He nodded. “Okay. Okay. Everyone back to work. Radek, did you get me that math on the generator schematics for the Satedan generators?”
John watched his Guide stalk from the gateroom aware that the anxiety of the entire expedition was beating down on him despite their bond. “Three hours, McKay!”
“I hear you talking, Sentinel,” Rodney returned as he disappeared down the hall towards the main lab.
Cameron Mitchell cleared his throat. “What do you think they’ll be able to do for us?”
“I don’t know. Maybe nothing.” John shoved his hands into his pockets. “I just hope that it worked. They need to know what could be heading their way any day now.”
* * * *
Jack was, for a moment, at a loss for words. In the years that he’d served at the SGC, he’d had to face a variety of hard choices and situations but nothing—nothing like this. He cleared his throat. “Carter, sort yourself to the Ancient outpost—find the signal that McKay identified and shut it down. If you can’t shut it down we’ll have to destroy the outpost. Can you remove the chair and drones?”
“Yes.” Sam stood up and rubbed her arms with a frown. “Sir.”
Jack looked at her then, taking in the pallor of her skin, and the bright eyed fury that radiated off of her in waves. Sam Carter was beautiful—he’d always thought so. Sometimes it was easy to forget she was a Sentinel but now wasn’t one of those times. She was radiating anger and throwing off that ‘danger, danger’ vibe that had always served them so well in the field. “I want to meet Jim Ellison. Arrange it.”
Sam nodded abruptly. “Done, sir.”
Jack stood up from the conference table and went to his office. He picked up the red phone and waited just a few seconds before it was answered. “Mr. President—this O’Neill. We have a problem. It’s time to read the Alpha Sentinel Prime of North America in on the Stargate Program. Our best solution would be to take him out of retirement. He left the Army a two-star, right?”
* * * *
“You won’t hurt me.”
Patrick set aside his coffee cup and stared at his grandson with soft, concerned eyes. “Hey, kiddo.”
“They say I’m like Uncle John,” Andy’s hand curled around the glass of orange juice in his hand. “The people at the Center… they say I’m going to be special.”
“You’re Dad mentioned that.”
“But I’m not like him,” Andy inclined his head and stared at his grandfather with all the power an intensely honest six year old is capable of. “I won’t ever leave you.”
“I really didn’t give him much of a choice, kiddo.” Patrick reached out hesitantly and brushed a stray lock of hair from Andrew’s forehead. “You shouldn’t blame him for it. Losing his mother hurt him so much and I was never there for him the way I should’ve been.”
“He knows you love him,” Andy said. “If he’s like me… really like me… he always knew how much you loved him.”
“And how difficult it was for me to accept him,” Patrick added.
Andy paused and then nodded. “Yes, he knew that, too.”
It hurt for it to be bluntly put to him but Patrick accepted with an abrupt nod of his head. “Okay.” He took a deep breath. “I’m going to try to find him. Would you like to meet him?”
Andy nodded and refocused his attention on his food. “He’s not dead, you know.”
“I…” Patrick sighed. He didn’t know that. “I hope that they wouldn’t keep such a secret from his family.”
“They couldn’t,” Andy said bluntly. “Mundanes can’t keep secrets from Sentinels. They just think they can and we let them. One of us knows where Uncle John is—knows he’s alive. She’ll let the rest of us know if that changes.” He paused. “Dad’s girlfriend smells like other men sometimes. Should I tell him?”
“How do you know that one of the Sentinels knows where your Uncle John is?”
Andy paused and looked away, clearly uncomfortable. “I hear things—things I’m supposed to ignore but when I hear Uncle John’s name I can’t ignore it. I don’t know where he is but I heard someone at the Center in Seattle talking about a female Sentinel in Colorado who is with Uncle John. I think she would tell the Center if he was dead.”
* * * *
Jack adored the Sentinels in his command, really. He loved Sam Carter like a sister, adored her Guide despite how the younger man annoyed him to no end. Since most of the ones in his command had gone with Sheppard to Atlantis—he’d recruited some more to fill in the gaps at the SGC. His newest favorite pair was a US Marine Major and her entirely too attractive civilian Guide. They were the first female/female pair he’d ever encountered and he knew every man in the mountain had lesbian fantasies about them. He knew it—because he refused to believe he was the only one that thought about it.
With Carter in Antarctica tearing apart the Ancient Outpost—Major Anne Teldy had taken it upon herself to arrange his travel to Seattle and accompany him on the plane. Jack let the female Sentinel have her way mostly because he’d learned over the years that interfering in the protective instincts of a female Sentinel would just make things very difficult in the long run. Dr. Allison Porter was ensconced in a seat on the opposite side of the plane with a laptop. Like all the geeks in the mountain, she’d spent the last twenty-four hours decrypting and reviewing the scientific data that McKay had sent on the city, the gate system in Pegasus, and the Wraith.
“Any thoughts on the Wraith, Dr. Porter?”
She looked up, her eyes darkened. “Please, General O’Neill, call me Allison. As for the Wraith—they eat us, sir.”
Jack nodded. “Right.” And nothing else really needed to be said because no enemy—none they’d ever encountered in the Milky Way galaxy had been so fucked up that they ate people. He paused and frowned. “The system lords used to eat their symbiote young. I always thought that was the freakiest thing I’d ever know—weird cannibalism by proxy.”
“Just when you think something more messed up can’t happen…” Allison shrugged. “It does.”
Jack figured that should be the SGC’s motto. Maybe he’d get some t-shirts.
Teldy emerged from cockpit where she’d been watching the pilots of the Air Force plane like they might crash on purpose and fell into parade rest beside O’Neill’s chair. “Sir, we are thirty minutes out. Alpha Ellison is on the ground waiting for you personally. At this time, I’d like to remind you of a few… rules concerning the Alpha Sentinel Prime pair.”
Jack nodded. “Alright.”
“You’ll be introduced to Dr. Sandburg. Don’t hold out your hand to him—he would compelled to shake your hand because he’s not a rude person by nature. Neither of them will be very angry with you for the breach but it wouldn’t serve to begin this meeting on such unequal footing as it would definitely irritate the hell out of their security.”
“No handshaking,” Jack repeated with a small smile and a nod. “Got it.”
“I take it you have permission to read Ellison fully into the Stargate program?”
“If he asks you a question you feel shouldn’t answer in the current setting or circumstances—tell him that exactly. Don’t evade or lie—it will be insulting and irritating. He has little tolerance for either. We’ll be escorted to the most secure location available in Seattle with advanced white noise buffers. It’s the best we can do under the circumstances.”
“Never approach Sandburg or Ellison from the left.” Teldy paused. “Ellison has an extremely predatory territorial drive concerning his Guide. When Sandburg was shot—it was from the left of their position. Ellison is incapable of not responding viciously to intrusions on his space from that direction. I’d rather not have to neutralize the Alpha Sentinel Prime of North America to protect you, sir.”
“But you would?” Jack questioned.
“You’re mine to protect. The leader of my tribe, sir,” Teldy responded. “I’d lay a whole pride to the ground for you if I had no choice.” She paused when O’Neill blinked in surprise. “Just don’t make me do it.”
* * * *
Daniel found his Sentinel amidst the remains of four Ancient consoles, crystals spread out around her supine form in a dazzling, shiny display. She was bouncing one of her feet gently—an indication that she was wearing her iPod. He nudged her foot with his boot and she slid out of the console with a smile. “Hey.”
Sam pulled out her ear buds and rubbed the back of her neck in frustration. “Almost got it. I really don’t want to blow this place up.”
“No, it messes with my head to even think about it,” Daniel admitted. He squatted down in front of her and ran his fingers along her cheek—picking up a fine smattering of dust from her skin. “This isn’t too much for you?”
“I’ll need a shower soon,” Sam admitted. “Did you finish the message?”
“Yes.” Daniel stood up and frowned. “Are you sure it’s wise to send one?”
“I don’t think it’s enough just to turn the signal off,” Sam admitted. “We need to communicate with Sheppard—to let him know that we heard and that we’re not going to leave them out there to fend for themselves.”
Daniel nodded his agreement. “Okay.”
“So what did you say?”
Daniel paused. “I didn’t want to say anything straight forward in case someone else gets a copy of it—I know your encryption is good but there is no use taking chances. I’ve translated the poem The Poisoned Tree by William Blake into Egyptian. Elizabeth will be able to translate it.”
Sam frowned. “And that will be enough?”
“I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe;
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I water’d it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with my smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,
And into my garden stole
When the night had veil’d the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch’d beneath the tree.”
Sam blinked in surprise. “Okay, yeah, I think that works.”
Daniel smiled, leaned forward, and kissed her mouth gently. “Yeah, I think it does, too. No one gets symbolism like a Sentinel.” He huffed out a breath. “I can’t believe… that Elizabeth Weir came online as a Sentinel.”
“I look forward to an explanation,” Sam admitted. “I know they didn’t send everything—there are some gaps in the information. Purposeful gaps I think related to Sentinels but Sheppard would guard that information closely. It wouldn’t be something he’d want to share with the US government.”
“Agreed.” Daniel sighed. “So I’m ready when you are.”
* * * *
Jack had heard once that Jim Ellison’s spirit animal was a jaguar. As he watched the Sentinel settle in a chair just a few feet from him and prod his lithe younger Guide into place beside him, he couldn’t help but think he was being assessed for a meal by a big jungle cat. “I’m not foolish enough to think that you don’t already know some if not all of what I’m about to say to you.”
Jim inclined his head. “I have some questions, a few issues, and a concerned father on the premises that you’re going to have to answer to, General O’Neill.”
“Patrick Sheppard,” Blair Sandburg murmured. “He wants his son.”
Jack didn’t sigh but he really wanted to. He knew John Sheppard’s personnel file well enough to know that in more than one psychological evaluation that his seemingly permanent disconnect with his family made him dangerous and suicidal. He hadn’t believed the suicidal part—online Sentinels weren’t capable of that kind of emotional breakdown unless they went insane. “That’s not possible and I’m not sure what I can tell him. He’s a civilian.”
“He’s retired Navy,” Ellison pointed out. “With the amount of government contracts the man has at Sheppard Industries—I’m pretty sure we can get him the clearance he needs to know what is going on and something tells me that you could use a man like him—one with little regard for politics, a whole lot of money, and an engineering firm that is the envy of the private sector.”
Jack couldn’t actually disagree with any of that on the surface. He could use someone like that—someone who wasn’t bound to play nice due to rank or social position. Someone with a healthy, active ‘don’t give a fuck gene’—a gene he figured ran in the Sheppard family.
Jack cleared his throat. “Nine years ago, a civilian scientist named Dr. Daniel Jackson was recruited by the Air Force to research a device the US Government had in its possession since its discovery in Egypt in 1928. Dr. Jackson translated the cover stone that covered the device and determined it to be a ‘stargate’. It was opened once briefly in 1945 by accident but that incident was covered up. He was able to discern a dialing address for the gate and we opened it. I took a group of soldiers on a mission to another planet through the stargate.”
“And you recruit my Sentinels to do this now—to explore planets for you,” Jim murmured. “Where is John Sheppard, O’Neill?”
“In the Pegasus Galaxy. We were able to open the gate six months ago in order to locate a city… the gates were built by a race of people we call Ancients. These people built a city, Atlantis, that we believed could lead us to technology that will help us defend the planet from threats in this galaxy.”
“I take it they can’t return home?”
“No, the power it takes to open the stargate to another galaxy is extreme. We did receive a message from them thirty-six hours ago, and that’s why I’m here.”
* * * *
The Sheppards were sequestered in a quiet room in the Center building—mostly for the sake of their little Sentinel. Anne Teldy entered the room and surveyed the occupants critically before allowing her Guide to enter. She focused intently on Andrew Sheppard and inclined her head. After a few seconds, she unclipped her P-90 and passed it to her Guide. The child stood, abandoning the coloring book he’d been diligently working in and walked to stand in front of her.
Anne dropped down on one knee and curled her fist tightly over her heart. “It is my honor to meet you, little one.”
He raised his own hand to his heart. “I am pleased to be met.” Andy reached out and captured a lock of her hair between his fingers. “There are no female Sentinels in my pride at home.”
“We’re pretty rare; I’ve only met twenty my whole life.” Anne touched his face carefully with the tip of her finger. “You need not be afraid.”
“I heard what the General man said.”
“I know.” Anne smiled then, soft and fierce at the same time. “You know we will defend you. The young of our kind are precious to us. You know you cannot discuss what you heard General O’Neill speak of today—not to anyone.”
“It is my duty to hold the secrets I hear.”
“Yes, your duty and your privilege. I’m sure a lot of what you heard doesn’t make sense to you and perhaps won’t for many years to come.”
“There are bad things coming.”
“Yes, bad things,” Anne agreed. “But they won’t touch you. We won’t let them touch you. Your Uncle John—he is strong and dedicated to the defense of Earth.”
“And if he falls?”
“Then we will be here to catch his mantle and take it as our own,” Anne assured. “Then one day it will be your duty to stand where we stand today.”
“To defend Earth,” Andy said quietly.
“Yes,” Anne said and swallowed hard. “Because if John should fall—you’ll stand in his place as an Alpha.” She lifted her gaze and inspected each of the three Sheppard men in the room individually so that they understood how serious she was. Satisfied that they understood, she regained her feet and took her weapon from Atlantis. “This is my Guide, Dr. Allison Porter.”
Andy flushed and averted his gaze. “Hello, Dr. Porter.”
Allison grinned, completely charmed. “It’s my pleasure to meet you, Andy.
* * * *
Patrick took a deep breath and turned to Ellison. “Exactly how far away from this building would I have to travel in order not to be heard by my grandson?”
“About five miles should do it—he’s imprinted on you so he’ll follow you for at least that distance before it becomes overwhelming for him to do so. Instinctually, he’ll cut himself off from the input rather than damage himself.”
Patrick nodded and pointed a finger at O’Neill. “You’re coming with me.”
Jack blinked and nodded. Patrick Sheppard had taken the news about the Stargate Program and John’s absence from Earth in near silence. No one had missed the way the man’s hands had started to tremble as he’d laid out the circumstances that John faced in Pegasus. Fifteen minutes later, the car Sheppard ordered him into was barreling down the highway and dead silence had settled between them. Jack let it ride because he kind of figured the man was due to blow a gasket.
He wasn’t surprised when they pulled into the parking lot of a very nice hotel about ten miles from the Sentinel Guide Center. Jack figured that the Sheppard family had a suite of rooms at the hotel so he followed along silently as Patrick stalked through the lobby, into an elevator, and all the way up to the penthouse.
“I always thought men in the Air Force were a bit more chatty,” Patrick muttered as he went to the bar.
“I figured I’d done enough talking today. President Hayes sends his regards by the way. He’ll be contacting you shortly about several new, exclusive contracts for the SGC. It means you’ll have to do some expansion to Colorado and probably Nevada.”
“Right.” Patrick stared at the glass of bourbon he’d poured, picked the glass up and hurled it across the room. “You son of a bitch!”
Jack winced and shrugged out of his jacket. “Your son is a strong, capable leader with an excellent group of people watching his back. His Guide is the smartest man on the planet, hell, probably this galaxy, and nothing is more important to McKay than his Sentinel. What they are facing out there isn’t easy—it’s not remotely easy but they’re surviving.”
“It’s a suicide mission,” Patrick hissed. “The kind of mission you throw people at that you never fucking expect to see again!”
“No. Just no,” Jack ground out. “Every one of those people is precious to me and I’ll tear a hole in the goddamned space/time continuum to get them back. We have a ship—almost ready to go. It’s just three months away from being ready. I’m going to send it to Pegasus to help them and I’m going to load the damn thing down with everything I think they need and then just stuff they deserve because I want them to remember that we’re here—that we’re here waiting for them to come home.”
Patrick sucked in a deep calming breath. “If I lose him before I get a chance to make this right between us—I don’t think I’d survive it, O’Neill. Of my three sons, he’s the most like his mother and that is a gift I never treated with the respect it deserved.”
“I have faith in him and in the people that follow him, Patrick.”
“I can’t even…” He looked at Jack then—lost and angry and so very hurt. “I haven’t set eyes on my son since he was eighteen years old.”
Jack pulled a thumb drive out of his pocket. “He sent you a message—you and his brothers. All of the members of the expedition sent messages to their families. We’re in the process of reviewing them to make sure they didn’t slip up and do their message in front of the gate or something. I brought John’s in case Ellison wanted proof that we believed him to be alive.”
Patrick took the drive silently and walked to the desk at the back of the room. “Do you have any children, O’Neill?”
“I had a son,” Jack said shortly. “He… he would be twenty if he’d lived. His name was Charlie.”
“I’m sorry,” Patrick murmured. “I buried my fourth child with my wife—a girl. I named her Margaret after my mother. Maggie would be twenty-five if she’d lived.” He put the thumb drive in the computer and took a deep breath. “Is this…”
“It’s not bad. I wouldn’t show it to you if he was cruel. I’m not that big of an asshole. Also, I think you know your son well enough to know that he wouldn’t abuse what he considered his one and only opportunity to talk to you
“Right.” Patrick rubbed his face briskly. “Once I can think again—you’re going to tell me exactly what you need, O’Neill. Everything you need—that the Pentagon has ever stonewalled you on or whatever. Money, weapons, ships—I’ll reorganize my company in every way necessary to support Stargate Command. If there are technology companies we need—people for the project—I’ll buy them.”
“Whatever.” Patrick shrugged. “John will have everything he needs from me and so will the people who support him.”
“Ellison is going to push for declassification of the entire project.”
“I own a news network,” Patrick said. “I can find the people that will present it to the public in the best possible way.”
“You’re kind of scary.”
“I haven’t even gotten started,” Patrick said as he double clicked the file that was simply named ‘John’.
“Dad—I don’t know how much you’ll be told about where I am or what I’m doing. I hope that O’Neill can tell you everything but if he can’t, don’t blame him. There are much bigger things at play here than I can even say. I want to apologize for ignoring you but I don’t know how I can do that this way. All I do know is that in the last six months I’ve learned what it is to love with your whole soul so I am just beginning to understand what it meant to you when you lost mom and Maggie. I was so consumed with my own grief that I shut down on you and never opened back up. I hadn’t been taught to process the loss of someone so integral to my life—as a Sentinel. And my Guide says I sublimated that grief with hostility. His name is Dr. Rodney McKay. You can look him up on the ‘net; he’s sort of famous in academic circles and ridiculously smart. I was lost when he found me but I’m better now.”
“I need you to know that I never let you go. Every night since the day I left, I’ve searched for the beat of your heart only to find it missing. I’ll always search for it—because it was the first sound I ever imprinted on as a Sentinel. I know you must have assumed it was Mom and I’m sorry I never told you otherwise. You were always my focal point—the center of my physical existence as a Sentinel and she was my spiritual. Rodney theorizes that it many ways you were both a Guide to me and the loss of her damaged me—perhaps for life. It is a pain that he and I both live with.”
Patrick took a deep breath and just nodded at O’Neill when he set a glass down beside him.
“If O’Neill is able to read you in and you need an engineer—look up Dr. Jeannie McKay-Miller. She’s Rodney’s sister and lives in Canada with her husband and two kids. Rodney hates her husband with a passion unmatched in the multi-universal complex but she’s brilliant. As brilliant as my Guide and I think you might have need of her.”
John leaned forward, his expression serious—his eyes dark. “I don’t plan to die doing what I’m doing. I want to make this right with you in person one day and I’ll do everything I can to make that happen. There is nothing out here that I fear. If I don’t make it home—know it wasn’t because I surrendered. Tell David and Matt that I think about them every single day and I hope they can forgive me for bailing on them. It wasn’t fair and it was a fucked up thing to do. I can’t even begin to make excuses for it. I love you—all of you and I’ll get home—even if I have to make war on the universe.”
Patrick silently copied the file to his computer and then pulled the thumb drive out. He tossed it in O’Neill’s direction and then downed the drink the Air Force man had poured him. “Anything, O’Neill. You can have anything and everything I’ve got. I just want my son back.”
* * * *
The small cabin they’d built for a retreat on the mainland was two days walk from the Athosian village but it was a quick trip in the Jumper. It had been Tyre’s suggestion and the other Sentinels had quickly agreed that it would serve them well—to get them out of the city even for short days. They’d scoped out a great beach location an hour away from the Athosians for the rest of the expedition to use for recreation trips—tents were easily erected and people went out in groups to relax and take extended breaks.
“You still feel her, don’t you?”
John nodded. “Yeah. I can feel her in orbit, too.” He stretched his arms over his head and groaned a little. “How long before we know if they received the message?”
“If they shut it down today, the last distress pulse from the outpost should reach the city is sixty-four days. We get a pulse every single day because it’s been running so long but the first day we don’t—that’s the day we’ll know Earth received our message and found the distress signal.”
“Or that’s the day we know that Earth is gone,” John murmured. “I worry about it—I worry about our world in a way I never did before.”
“You’re a Sentinel—your spiritual connection to our homeworld is as tangible as your connection to me. I’ve been worried since the start of the mission that a prolonged absence from Earth would be difficult for all of the Sentinels. Meeting Ronon and Tyre actually relieved me a lot. They lost their world for all intents and purposes and were able to create bonds with new planets, new places.”
“Not without considerable heartache,” John murmured. “Do you think O’Neill will get my message to my Dad?”
“I think that O’Neill would do just about anything to be reunited with his son. He’ll make sure your Dad receives your message, even if he can’t tell him about the Stargate program.”
* * * *
The thing was that once Jack O’Neill set eyes on Patrick Sheppard he had a hard time letting the man go anywhere without him. It was the damnedest thing he’d ever experienced unless he counted the fact that Sheppard wasn’t complaining at all. When he’d suggested that the civilian come back to Colorado with him to discuss the SGC and the mission—Patrick had packed his sons and grandson on the Air Force plane without complaint.
It hadn’t taken much to get David Sheppard, the current CFO for Sheppard industries and former Navy man access to the Stargate program. He’d already had a security clearance that rivaled his father’s due to his more recent military service. As for young Matthew, Jack had just transferred the younger man to the SGC. The men in the mountain absorbed the youngest Sheppard without complaint or hesitation within hours of him entering the mountain. Jack had already had four requests for the kid to join off-world teams due to his ATA gene. It was a prize in their quest for Ancient technology in the Milky Way galaxy. If the Ancients built the gates than every planet with a gate had the potential for Ancient tech.
Patrick looked up from his laptop and then frowned. “Yeah, but I can’t very well tell David that he couldn’t take his son back to Virginia with him.”
“How long do you think it will take for the reorganization?”
“Six months. We have a few Navy contracts to finish and one for the Army that is a priority project.” Patrick closed his laptop and set aside. “I need to figure out if I want to have a house here or in Nevada.”
Patrick lifted an eyebrow at him. “I’d probably be more useful on site on the construction site in Nevada.”
“We’ll be designing and building new ships. You’ll want to utilize my people and your own,” Jack murmured. “It would necessitate you being in the mountain a great deal.”
“You ready to talk about this, yet?”
“Not remotely,” Jack responded quickly.
Patrick sighed. “You aren’t a latent Sentinel are you, O’Neill?”
Jack flushed. “I don’t… not as far as the Center is concerned.”
“Except neither was Elizabeth Weir—I read that report and she tested negative for the Sentinel/Guide gene here on Earth yet is online on Atlantis. I know they didn’t send all of the information they had on that but I think it means that we’ve been looking at the wrong genetic data for determining Sentinels.”
“And Guides,” Jack murmured and glanced briefly Patrick’s way. “Why do you ask anyway?”
“Because you touch me a lot more than you think you do—six times in the last hour and my wife did the same thing. She did it practically from the moment we met. I’ve been tested by the Sentinel/Guide Center six times because of the… with the exception of my son, John, Sentinels seem to really trust me a lot. They are protective of me, handsy with me, and often attracted to me.”
“Does it bother you?”
“No—no one is a better lover than a Sentinel,” Patrick admitted dryly. “I’ve never lacked for companionship but more often than not they always move on because I can’t be what they need mentally. If you’re a Sentinel—I can’t be what you need either. I’m not a Guide.”
“I have the ATA gene which Sentinel/Guides have in spades but I don’t have the gene set that the Center uses to determine a Sentinel or a Guide. I don’t know what happened to Elizabeth Weir or Radek Zelenka on the city. At least with Dean Bates—his father and brothers are Sentinels—there is a history in his family. As far as I can tell there is no history for Weir or Zelenka.”
“So I should just ignore all of this and it will go away.”
Jack looked at his socked foot and then around his house. He liked Patrick Sheppard in his space. “I’ve been around Guides for as long as I can remember—I sort of collect pairs and individuals. It’s one of the reasons that John ended up at the SGC to begin with. He wasn’t labeled a strong Sentinel but he intrigued me because of his war record. I can’t say there haven’t been Guides in my command that interested me in a multitude of ways but none of them really tripped my trigger. I don’t think I’m a Sentinel.” He blew out a breath. “I don’t think I want to be a Sentinel.”
“When John came online—he wasn’t much older than Andy. Amelia was extremely upset because she didn’t want her son raised in a facility. Her anxiety and fear bled all over John. The third night he woke up screaming—I went to his room because she couldn’t take it anymore and I…” Patrick took a deep breath. “I held him so carefully—afraid I would hurt him. He was so sensitive to touch. He’d been running in the house earlier in the week and I grabbed him to slow him down. He screamed like I’d ripped his arm off.”
“Sucks,” Jack murmured.
“Like nothing I’ve ever known. I loved my boys so much—the last thing I wanted to be was a source of pain for John. He was so hurt and scared that night—just shaking with it and he told me that he wished every single night that he’d wake up the next morning and not be a Sentinel.” He cleared his throat. “He asked me if I could make that happen for him and when I said I couldn’t—he looked at me so earnest and innocent and said, ‘Daddy, you can do anything’. It was the first time I completely failed him but unfortunately it wasn’t the last.”
“What caused the fight between you?”
Patrick left the chair he’d spent most of the evening in and ran his hands through his hair in frustration. “I didn’t want him to join the Air Force. He was rated low enough with the Center that he wasn’t even on the military’s radar and I wanted it to stay that way.”
“David had already joined the Navy at that point, right?”
“Right.” Patrick nodded. “But David isn’t a Sentinel and the Navy never treated him like he was more than what he is. I didn’t want John used up by the military complex and I knew it would happen. He was rated so low that many would consider him useful but ultimately expendable. He ignored my concerns and enlisted. I was so fucking furious.”
“He did well for himself—finished undergrad in just three years, did OTS shortly thereafter. He’s an outstanding officer, Patrick.”
“How many times before he ended up at the SGC was he misused in the field by a commanding officer because not only was he a Sentinel but an unGuided one at that?”
“I doubt I could give you an accurate number,” Jack admitted roughly. “But that wouldn’t happen in my command, despite what you still think about the Atlantis mission I never looked at it as a suicide mission. I didn’t send those people out there thinking I’d never see them again.”
Patrick frowned. “I don’t think I can apologize for how I feel about my son being in another galaxy, Jack. I feel pretty fucking helpless—I always have when it comes to John and his safety. I’ve never once, not since he was identified as a Sentinel, believed that it was within my power to protect him. Even as a child, before the laws changed, my custody of my own child was tenuous. If he had slipped just once—zoned out in school, had a sensory spike in front of someone—the Sentinel/Guide Center could have taken him from us. I don’t doubt they would have made him a ward of the Federal government. They did it—a lot and the prides allowed it for reasons I still can’t comprehend.”
“Carter said they did it because agreeing to the government custody of minor Sentinels and Guides gave them more power over the adults and how they were utilized in government work,” Jack said. “If… if my Charlie had been a Sentinel and someone tried to take him from me—I would have butchered anyone who tried.”
“I want to believe I would have fought them, physically and legally, but I had two other children to take care of.” Patrick grimaced and sat back against the couch. “I just thank God I never had to make such a decision and it’s a shameful thing that other parents had to. John was in his late teens by the time Ellison became Alpha Sentinel Prime and stopped all of that non-sense. Though I felt the public dissolution of the prides was a pretty harsh price to pay for getting to keep our kids.”
Jack nodded. “I’ll grill some steaks.”
Patrick lifted an eyebrow at the abrupt change of subject. “Are you one of those men that thinks red meat solves everything?”
“No, but I figure it can take care of anything that I can’t solve with a P-90.”
* * * *
John sighed and nodded. “Yeah, fuck yeah.” He spread his legs and lifted his hips a little helpless as McKay sucked softly on one nipple. “Rodney.”
“I’m here,” McKay murmured. He trailed soft kisses down his sternum and then his stomach. Rodney flicked his tongue over the head of John’s cock and sighed. “You really do it for me.”
“Hmmm, I know.” John laughed a little as his Guide trailed his fingers down his rib cage. “No one has ever wanted me as much as you do.”
“No one ever will,” Rodney assured as he reached out for the lube. “Want to get me ready?”
“Always a privilege,” John murmured. He took the tube and slicked up his fingers with practiced ease. “Get on your knees.”
“You’re such a caveman,” Rodney complained good-naturedly. He rolled to his knees with a little smirk and presented his ass without another word.
“You love it,” John responded. He leaned down and kissed the small of his back. “You like it when I mark your body—when I get a little rough. The first thing I realized about you is that even when you aren’t telling me that I should fuck you harder—you want it hard anyways.” He pushed two fingers roughly into McKay’s hole.
“John.” Rodney buried his face in the sleeping bag they’d spread out on the bed in the cabin and took a deep breath as his Sentinel worked a third finger into him mercilessly. “You like it slow and easy.”
“Yeah,” John agreed. “I do. I love when you fill me up slowly then work your cock in me like you have all the time in the world to fuck me.”
“I wish I did.”
“Agreed.” Sheppard pulled his fingers free, slicked up his cock, and pulled his Guide back onto his cock. “Perfect. You always feel so perfect.”
Rodney rocked back and arched his back as John started to move. “Just… come on. Give me what I want.”
John pressed his clean hand against the middle of Rodney’s back to still his lover and then started to pound into him. Their bodies smacked together sharply—skin heated and slick with sweat. He closed his eyes and tried to push back the lewd, hot sounds their bodies made as he fucked into McKay repeatedly. John had always found the sounds of two people pleasuring each other such a turn on.
Their bond hummed fiercely between them as they moved together. John curled his fingers against Rodney’s hips and started push in deeper, harder. He could feel pleasure rolling off his Guide in waves and it was delicious, addictive. Orgasm rushed against them both and he pulled McKay into his lap. Sheppard wrapped his hand around Rodney’s cock and shivered as his lover came all over his fingers.
Rodney relaxed in his lap, his ass still clenching on his cock and let his head fall back on John’s shoulder. “I love you.”
John mouthed against McKay’s neck gently. “Love you, too.”
“I just wanted to say that before I told you how—stellar you are in bed.”
John laughed softly against his skin. “Christ, McKay.”
“It’s just you’re the best sex I’ve ever had.”
Sheppard rubbed his thumb over the head of Rodney’s cock. “It’s the love, you know. The intimacy and physical pleasure is almost secondary to the emotional pleasure we give each other.”
“Almost,” McKay agreed, breathless. He flexed his hips briefly as John continued to play with the head of his cock. “Are you trying to kill me?”
“Never,” John promised.
* * * *
“So, how is your bromance going with O’Neill?”
Patrick flushed and threw a wadded up napkin at his son. “Shut up.”
“It’s kind of cute,” Matt confided.
“It’s a career killer waiting to happen,” Patrick returned evenly.
Matt slouched back on his side of the booth and ran a French fry through ketchup. “The new legislation is about to pass so it won’t be a problem.”
“Until it does—that kind of bullshit could end the career of a decorated war hero. The man has served his country for entirely too long to lose it over something like an unfounded rumor.”
“So, you’re going to get your own place to live sometime soon?” Matt questioned. “Because most of the Marines in the mountain are aware you’re staying in his house.”
“In his guest room.”
Matt shrugged. “I don’t care either way, Dad, you know that. It’s pretty hard to miss that something is happening between the two of you. I don’t know what it is—I mean it’s hardly the first time I’ve seen you hook up with another man it just never seemed this intense and instant before.”
“I can’t explain it,” Patrick admitted. “And I’d rather not talk about it.”
“Alright, fine.” Matt frowned. “So, I finished reviewing the reports that came from Atlantis. John’s mission reports are pretty succinct and harsh. I’m not… it’s just that I don’t remember him that way.”
“No, I imagine you don’t.” Patrick glanced around the diner and shook his head. “He’s not the boy I let walk out of our lives. He’s a grown man with a war record that rivals my own—he’s seen more action on and off-planet than I did in my whole career. John is a Sentinel. An Alpha Sentinel Prime with an intense focus and from what I’ve heard a very strong Guide. I wouldn’t say he’s invulnerable but I wouldn’t want to be the one to get in his way.”
“Will he… I watched the video he sent.”
“He’ll come home if he can.”
“Will he accept us as his family after so long or have we lost that permanently?”
“I don’t know but all we can do is try. He wants to try—his relationship with his Guide has changed him, made him more open to the idea.”
“I’m so furious with him for leaving Earth without even…” Matt trailed off. “It isn’t like I don’t understand. The threats against Earth are huge—overwhelming but it’s so insane that he left without even saying goodbye to us.”
“From his point of view, he said goodbye a long time ago.”
* * * *
Sam input the last of the message and updated the signal. “Okay. We’ll let it run for thirty minutes and then we’ll kill the transmission.”
“The damage is done,” Daniel pointed out.
“Some but we don’t know… who hasn’t picked up the signal. We can’t know who or what else is still out there. It’s not a good idea to leave it running.”
“Or to use it again to send more messages to the expedition?”
“No.” Sam shook her head. “That might give away their position to the Wraith and that’s the last thing they need. I made sure that I didn’t change the timing on the transmission. So, maybe no one will notice that the content has changed and even if they do—it could be interpreted as a termination message since it will be the last thing received from Earth. If we activate it again—someone could figure out that we’re communicating with the expedition.”
“Three months is too long to wait for a ship.”
“Agreed,” Sam said and took a deep breath. “I’m going to ask the General about… well… I think it’s time we call in a favor.”
“The Jaffa or the Asgard?”
“Both. I know the Jaffa have several motherships and if we could get one to Pegasus with an Asgard hyperdrive… well we have to think of something. We can’t leave them out there to fight back the Wraith on their own.”
Daniel nodded and stroked the back of her neck to calm her down. “Agreed, just be prepared to reach resistance from the IOA.”
“I have faith that Ellison is already maneuvering himself with the President. There are strong prides all over planet—far more than any government wants to admit to. We can’t let… the Wraith come here. Every time I think of them I have this pain deep in my gut like I know on some instinctual level that I’ll never have a greater enemy.”
“Dr. Caudill thinks the ATA gene carries racial memories,” Daniel murmured. “She thinks that’s how ATA gene carriers seem to know intuitively how to operate Ancient technology.”
Sam wrinkled her nose briefly. “I’ve always thought she was a bit of a flake but that’s not bad.”
Daniel laughed. “You’re as bad as McKay when it comes to soft scientists.”
Sam turned in her chair and hooked her fingers in Daniel’s belt. “Not all soft scientists. I’ve always been fond of you—since the moment I set eyes on you.” She pulled him close and rubbed her cheek against his stomach. “I don’t resent her—I never resented that you married her but finding out you were married in the same instant I realized you were my Guide was a real blow.”
“I understand.” He trailed his fingers through the silky cap of blonde hair that she kept entirely too short and sighed. “I can’t say the same. I’ve hated every single man you’ve dated since we created our spiritual bond.”
She laughed softly, startled. “I had no idea.” She looked up and wet her bottom lip. “It’s different now—the bond. I don’t know how I survived on so little in the past.” Sam glanced around the lab they were in and urged the door shut. The outpost responded sweetly and the door clicked with a sharp sound when it locked. She flicked open Daniel’s belt buckle. “I want… to taste you.”
Daniel sucked in a deep breath. “God, Sam.”
“That wasn’t a no.”
He laughed. “No, you can have anything you want.”
* * * *
John wrapped the blanket more securely around them both and took a deep breath as he considered the dark clouds in the distant horizon. “We’ve got a tropical storm brewing on the other side of the planet if those clouds are any indication.”
“It won’t come near us or the settlement,” Rodney assured as he wiggled his toes in the sand. “The city has some pretty advanced weather analysis equipment. I’ve sent the principals back to Earth in the data packet. Maybe they can use it to save lives… predict storms before they even become a threat.”
“It’ll be years before that stuff is declassified,” John complained. “Christ, if I was on Earth I’d be frustrated as fuck. I don’t know how Carter can sit on information like that—stuff that can protect so many.”
“The SGC doesn’t sit on data like that. We have a dummy think tank. All of the scientists with the SGC are part of it and Sam runs all the data through the Pentagon—identifying research that benefits mankind. Stuff like new medicines, vaccines, weather prediction, etc. We’ve had a lot of years to figure out ways to get the information out—the important information,” Rodney explained. “New surgical techniques, energy conservation, etc.”
John relaxed. “That’s pretty cool actually.”
“We use the patents and the money we make on them to fund the SGC. In another five years, we won’t need government funding at all to function. I think it scares some of the politicians in Washington and especially the IOA. But I’ve always believed the more independent the SGC is the less likely it is to be corrupted by politics.”
“Won’t truly be independent as long as they have to depend on military support from the US and other governments in the IOA.” John prodded Rodney back against his chest. “We should go back.”
“You’d know if something was wrong,” Rodney murmured.
“It’s Elizabeth’s turn,” John nuzzled his face against the side of McKay’s neck and sighed. “I would’ve let her come out ahead of us but she needed to get used to the city before leaving it.”
“What if they can’t help us?” Rodney questioned. “What do we do?”
“Give the Wraith the fight they avoided on Sateda. We’ll teach them what it means to stir vengeance in the soul of a Sentinel. We’ll kill them all.”
Read the Next Episode: The Catalyst