Title: The Catalyst
Author: Keira Marcos
Beta(s): Ladyholder & Chris King
Cover Art by FanArt Series
Banner Art for the Page by CJ
Series title: The Sentinels of Atlantis
Series Order: 16
Fandom: Sentinel/Stargate Fusion
Pairings: Jack O’Neill/Patrick Sheppard, McKay/John Sheppard, Teldy/Porter, Carter/Jackson, Ellison/Sandburg
Warnings: Adult themes, violence, and explicit sexual situations.
Author’s Note: I know NOTHING about genetics and what I read might as well have been written in High Vulcan. Just go with it and make believe if I’ve fucked up royally.
Summary: Jack O’Neill struggles with coming online so late in his life while John comes to grips with the guilt he’s been repressing concerning his estrangement from his father and brothers.
* * * *
John sat back in his chair and waited until the rest of the Sentinels and online Guides in the city were seated. “Dr. Keller is going to give us a lesson about our ancestry based on the research she’s been doing with Dr. Grodin. It promises to fuck up our self-perceptions for the foreseeable future so be prepared.”
Jennifer put her tablet PC down on the table in front of her and picked up the remote for the big view screen for the conference room. “Sentinels and Guides as we know them today began on Sateda. While the more primitive history of our people has been lost to time, we are hoping to return to Sateda to learn more in the future. We know that the Ancients encountered the people of Sateda sometime during their war with the Wraith which started roughly twenty thousand years ago.”
“Do we have any data on how advanced the Satedans were when they were first located by the Ancients?” Rodney questioned. “Did they subjugate them to gain control of their abilities?”
“No,” Jennifer shook her head. “The Ancients didn’t document much social data on them just that they considered the population of Sateda a valuable resource for the war with the Wraith and then they made like England and colonized their planet.”
She turned and activated the screen behind her. “This is an example of Satedan DNA—before the Ancients started messing with them on a global scale.” Jennifer highlighted several pairs of chromosomes in the DNA chart. “Those are the Sentinel/Guide genes I’ve been using since our arrival on the city to identify us.” She highlighted another section. “This is a natural ATA gene.”
“The gene the Sentinel/Guide Center on Earth uses isn’t there.”
“Right, because it isn’t part of the Satedan genome,” Jennifer explained and set up another example of DNA. “This is an Ancient—pure, just stepped off the ship from Altera Ancient.”
“Oh. God.” Rodney leaned forward. “Jennifer.”
“I know.” Jennifer shook her head. “About a hundred and fifty years after the Ancients found the Satedans—we start seeing genetic profiles like this in their people.” She put up another example. “This man is identified in the database as a Sentinel and an Alteran. He has the ATA gene, the full Satedan Sentinel/Guide genome, and then there is this.” She went to the screen and pointed towards a pair of genes. “These are the genes that the people on Earth search for when they are looking for Sentinel and Guides.”
“It’s a mutation or artificial?”
“Both this gene and the ATA gene as we know it today are artificial. I found the original research notes but translating them is a complete nightmare,” Jennifer admitted. “This gene, Peter and I have been calling it the activator, doesn’t exist in the people from Sateda originally but I should point out that both Ronon and Tyre have it.”
“What is it?” Elizabeth questioned. “I don’t have it, right?”
“No, neither you, Bates, Stackhouse, or Radek have it. The Ancients were able to replicate the gene sequences that created the Sentinel Guide pairs but they couldn’t replicate conditions on their home world.” Jennifer went to the bag she’d brought with her and pulled out a dark blue crystal. “These things are in all Ancient technology—in various sizes. The report from Area 51 said they were the key component for mental communication between Ancient technology and gene carriers. They’ve been calling them psionic keys.”
“Okay.” John nodded. “I’ve read that report.”
“It is an emotion stone,” Ronon said. “They were highly valued on our planet and often given to Sentinel/Guide couples upon a completion of their bond. You’re saying…that these crystals are all over the city?”
“They are embedded in various sizes in every piece of Ancient technology,” Rodney murmured. “It is the foundation of the Ancients technology. At least, we thought that.”
“They adapted their technology so the Wraith couldn’t use it… by learning to use the emotion stones from Sateda.” Teyla frowned. “What do the stones have to do with Sentinels and Guides.”
“These stones are what connected Sentinels and Guides to the psionic plane before the Alterans interfered. They figured out the Satedans were using the psionic plane with purpose and that their use was connected to the ATA gene. They couldn’t reproduce the effect of the stones and didn’t want to leave the creation of Sentinels and Guides to chance—so they built an activating gene into the DNA of their off-spring,” Jennifer explained. “I can only assume that once they started actively breeding with the population on Sateda—to spread their own genetic legacy that they introduced the activator gene to the people there as well as a safe guard.”
“So, the pairs that we’ve had come online… they were influenced by the psionic keystones in Ancient technology? Elizabeth spent months at the Ancient outpost.”
“She didn’t have Simon with her.” Jennifer pointed out.
“That makes a difference?” Simon questioned.
“In our natural state, Sentinels and Guides come online together—when there is a compatible match. This activator gene is the reason there are so many unmatched Guides on Earth—they are being forced online by the junk DNA the Ancients put in them.” Jennifer crossed her arms and sighed. “And there are three times as many Guides as Sentinels on Earth because the Ancients were trying to prepare our planet for the invasion of the Milky Way Galaxy. They always believed the Wraith would follow them. They spread the Satedan legacy far and wide across our galaxy to build an army but they focused their energies on Earth.”
It was obscene, John thought. “Okay. So you’ve reviewed our DNA. Any surprises we need to be aware of?”
“None on our end—everyone who is going to come online has been identified. I’m hoping the latent Guides will remain latent until a Sentinel match comes into their environment. I think that because they don’t have the activator gene, even exposure to the psionic keys won’t be enough.”
“And people on Earth?”
Jennifer exhaled sharply. “O’Neill and Beckett both are latent. Beckett is a latent Guide—and a pretty strong one—all things considering. O’Neill, with his über ATA gene is likely just as strong as you, John and is a latent Sentinel. If he blows it will likely be epic for him and painful at his age.” She sighed. “He’s been exposed to a lot of Ancient technology—and with his habit of collecting Guides I can’t imagine that he won’t come online if the right Guide comes along.”
“Great.” John rubbed his face. “I should have sent some of the research and speculation. He’s in no way prepared…”
“He does know that several people who shouldn’t have come online have come online,” Jennifer offered. “He’s a bright man and he knows his ATA gene is as strong as yours.” She cleared her throat. “There is another matter, Colonel. It’s about you.”
“Okay.” John waved a hand. “Hit me with your best shot.”
“Having reviewed your DNA in depth—I’ve come to the conclusion that you received both your ATA gene and your Sentinel/Guide genome from your Father.”
John’s mouth dropped open. “But… Jennifer, my mother was a Sentinel.”
“And your father is a latent Guide,” Jennifer murmured. “And he probably has an active ATA gene. I double checked the mitochondrial DNA to make sure—your mother did not pass the Sentinel/Guide genome she had. It was actually quite weak when compared to the genome your father apparently had to offer.”
“My mother was a level five Sentinel,” John pointed incredulous.
Jennifer nodded. “A low level five, I checked when we were on Earth. An Alpha Sentinel Prime like yourself—could only come from an Alpha line. There is no question that you must have received your Sentinel/Guide genes from your Father and considering your level of empathy I don’t doubt he would be an Alpha Guide.”
“So you’re saying my father could come online?” John questioned tightly.
“Sure, if he came across a very compatible Sentinel and a cache of Ancient technology at the same time.” Jennifer shrugged then. “But what are the odds of that?”
* * * *
“Go ahead,” Jack said and prodded Patrick Sheppard towards the chair. “We have the weapons system off line so you can’t accidentally fire a drone.”
Patrick nodded and with a little exhale slid into the control chair. It lit under him beautifully and distantly he heard his son, Matthew, question O’Neill about how it worked. He let his eyes close as he gave into the seductive pull of the technology. It was easy to see why John hadn’t hesitated to step through the gate if Atlantis had half the potential he could feel in the chair. Unconsciously he reached out for John and around him the outpost trembled against the ice.
* * * *
John stumbled and took a deep breath as Rodney reached out for him. “Jesus.”
“What?” Rodney demanded. He pushed John against a wall to steady him. “John? What’s wrong? John, talk to me!”
“I have to… I have to get the chair.” John lurched a little against his Guide but McKay didn’t fight him, he wrapped one hand firmly around his elbow instead and they both headed for the chair.
By the time they reached the control chair, Radek Zelenka was already there—hovering and staring at the chair which was already lit as if it was in use. “Colonel. I think you need to sit in the chair.”
“Yeah, I think so, too,” John confirmed, his voice hoarse with stress and emotion. “Rodney?”
“I’m right here,” McKay murmured as he helped John into the chair. He held onto his Sentinel—moving with the chair as it spun gently. “I won’t let go.”
“Oh, God.” John’s eyes widened briefly and they fluttered shut. “Someone with a really powerful ATA gene is sitting in the chair on Earth.”
“Someone?” Rodney questioned. “O’Neill?”
“No.” John took a shuddering breath. “Not O’Neill.”
* * * *
Patrick felt the spread of his mind, he strained and reached out into the darkness that had always surrounded him. Then the darkness retreated and something deep inside him started to wake. And then—someone’s mind brushed against his and the light around him in the control room went from white to blue. In the background, he could hear O’Neill yelling at one of the civilian scientists and the woman, a female Sentinel, telling him it was too dangerous to force someone out of the chair.
Suddenly his mind was surrounded—enveloped in the protective mental embrace of another and he knew suddenly what it was. “John.”
“Dad, get out of the chair. Get out of the outpost—it’s dangerous for you.”
He knew it was too late—he could feel the changes in his mind already. “It’s too late, son. Whatever is going to happen has already started. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, Dad, we’re okay.”
“Come home, John.”
“I will. I promise.”
“Goddamn it, Carter, make this stop!” O’Neill shouted. “It’s hurting him! You said this was safe for mundanes.”
Carter flushed and her eyes darkened. “Right, well he isn’t mundane!”
Patrick opened his eyes just before Jack O’Neill reached out for him and lifted his hand. He grasped the General’s hand without hesitation. “I’m okay, Jack.”
Jack glared at him and pulled him from the chair. “Carter, clear this room!”
Patrick took a deep breath as O’Neill urged him close. “Easy, there, General.”
“Shut up,” Jack snapped, his fingers curling into Patrick’s fleece jacket as the room emptied of other people. “What did you do?”
“I… talked to John,” Patrick whispered against Jack’s neck as he was pulled into the other man’s embrace. “I talked to my son.”
* * * *
John’s knees buckled as Rodney helped him from the chair and shuddered. “I’m going to fucking kill, O’Neill.”
“Military type people tend to frown on the murder of Generals,” Rodney murmured as he prodded John onto the gurney that Keller had brought. “You just earned yourself a couple hours stay in the infirmary, Colonel.”
“Right.” John shuddered. “I can’t believe…” He turned his head and whispered, “I talked to my Dad.”
Rodney frowned and looked at the chair. “Radek, do you think you could remove the chair?”
“To what end?”
“I’d be really interested in seeing how big the psionic key under the chair is,” Rodney admitted. “Apparently it’s big enough that John just chatted with his daddy across a galaxy.”
* * * *
“I’m fine,” Patrick said for the fifth time in six hours. The helicopter ride back from the outpost had ended with him in an infirmary bed at McMurdo while Jack O’Neill hovered and glared at people. “When does our flight out leave?”
“In the morning.”
“That’s bullshit, Jack. It was scheduled for 2100 hours before we went to the outpost.” Patrick glared at him. “I do have a company to run, General.”
“They’ll have to wait.” Jack crossed his arms. “The people here are worried about your blood pressure.”
“The people here can kiss my ass!” Patrick snapped. “Get me out of this bed, O’Neill, and on a plane back to Colorado or I will make your life a living hell.”
Jack stared at him, a small smile playing on his mouth. “You would, wouldn’t you?”
“Try me.” Patrick huffed and looked away from him. “I want my pants, too.”
“You know your kids are far more agreeable than you,” Jack pointed out. “Matthew couldn’t be more charming if he tried and John is a dream officer. David seems like a great guy, too—never threatens to ruin my life or anything.”
Patrick rearranged his blanket with a brisk flick of his wrist and then turned to glare at O’Neill with dark green eyes. “Did you expect to get laid in this decade?”
Jack stared for several seconds and then cleared his throat. “You’re really… I’ll just go talk to Dr. Gray.”
“You do that,” Patrick responded peevishly and crossed his arms. “Send Matthew in here when you leave.”
Matt slid into the room with a small smile playing on his mouth. “Hey, you’re in here causing all kinds of hell, huh?”
“Shut up.” Patrick pointed at the chair in front of him. “I don’t want you sitting in that chair in Antarctica and I don’t think you should handle a lot of Ancient technology, either. It’s a bad idea.”
Matt blew out a breath. “Dad.”
“I’m serious, Matthew.”
“All of the gene carriers are asked to handle that stuff. It’s one of the reasons why O’Neill recruited me for the SGC. It isn’t like he has much use for another pilot when he has a metric fuckton of pilots just sitting on their asses at Area 51 where they’re building those super sci-fi fighters.”
“It’s dangerous,” Patrick repeated.
Matt leaned forward. “What did… what happened to you in the chair?”
“I think I talked to your brother John—I don’t know how. But that wasn’t the problem. The moment I sat down in the chair something flipped on inside my head.”
“You’ve never tested positive as a Guide,” Matthew whispered.
“I will the next time they test me,” Patrick responded shortly. “I can feel it—I’m on the cusp of coming online.” He looked down at his hands. “Your mother taught me a lot – she couldn’t achieve a full bond with me because I wasn’t online but we had a strong physical connection. She bonded with me in the only way she could at the time. It’s another reason why the Center has tested me repeatedly over the years—why they insisted on testing me again a few months ago.”
“I thought that was because of John.”
“Partially—I think also because the woman I’d been dating came online as a Sentinel. It isn’t the first time that a Sentinel has come online after having contact with me.”
“Sexual contact?” Matt questioned.
“No, it’s not required really. John came online while your mother was out of town—she thought he was responding to a perceived threat. Someone had broken into the house while we were gone. I brought David and John home that night and walked into a mess.”
“And John came online to protect you?” Matthew questioned. “He was a little kid.”
“So is Andrew.” Patrick frowned. “And he definitely came online in response to what he considers a threat. He hates that woman your brother is dating.”
“Yeah, no shit.” Matt sighed. “Did he tell you…”
“Yeah, he told me about how she smells like other men. I don’t know what to tell your brother and I don’t know why Andy hasn’t told his Dad.”
“Maybe he doesn’t want to be the one to hurt him,” Matt murmured. “David likes her a lot. We shouldn’t keep it a secret—it feels like a betrayal keeping it from him.”
“At first, I did wonder if Andy just didn’t like her,” Patrick admitted. “And we don’t know if she’s just had casual contact with a male co-worker. It isn’t like we can ask Andy if she smells like she’s had sex with another man.”
“Right.” Matt rubbed the back of his neck. “I can’t think that the pride in their area will tolerate it—her making Andy so uncomfortable in his own home. One of them is going to say something to David about it.” He stood up as the door opened and O’Neill entered with a female Marine and a young civilian woman. Matt hadn’t much contact with the female Sentinel and her beautiful Guide but they both offered him warm smiles.
“Okay, Porter, do your thing,” O’Neill said roughly.
Allison Porter tucked a lock of hair behind her ear and sat down confidently on the edge of Patrick’s bed. “So, how close do you think you are?”
“I can almost taste it, if that makes sense,” Patrick admitted roughly.
“It does.” Allison offered him her hand and smiled when he took it without hesitating. “How did it feel sitting in the chair?”
“Exciting, comfortable—it was like.” He stopped and took a deep breath. “Like when my mother used to hold me when I was little.”
“And then you reached out for your son?” Allison questioned. “I can see how it would make you feel like you could. How did it feel when John reached back?”
She nodded. “Colonel Sheppard is has a sixth sense—almost like a Guide. It makes sense that he’d feel that way to you. What did he say to you?”
“He ordered me out of the chair—he said it was dangerous for me to be in the outpost,” Patrick murmured.
“Because something in the outpost has activated your Guide genetics,” Allison murmured. “We have much to learn about that I’m afraid. The expedition didn’t send all of the data. They couldn’t… risk it, I suppose. There are some things mundanes don’t need to know about our kind.”
“You’re sure, Porter?” O’Neill questioned. “He’s coming online?”
“Yes, I’m sure.” Porter released Patrick’s hand with obvious reluctance. “We should contact Dr. Sandburg when we return to Colorado. Dr. Sheppard will likely come online as an Alpha Guide and that will attract unmated Sentinels for miles in every direction. The Center needs to be prepared.”
“You sure about the Alpha thing?”
Allison looked at O’Neill. “Colonel Sheppard’s mother was from all reports a very low level Sentinel and she gave birth to an Alpha Sentinel Prime. That means that the Colonel received his genetic gifts from his father. I’m sure that the Center has been puzzling over Dr. Sheppard’s status for quite some time now.”
“Understood.” O’Neill took a deep breath. “He’ll stop attracting Sentinels when he’s learned to shield himself, correct?”
“Or when he bonds,” Porter said with a small smile.
“He won’t have a problem finding a Sentinel,” Teldy murmured and carefully pulled her Guide from the bed. “I kind of want to crawl all over him and I’ve been bonded for years.”
Allison grinned and winked at Patrick who laughed. “We could both play with him.”
Teldy laughed but sobered when she caught the near murderous look on O’Neill’s face. “Or not.”
Porter bit down on her lip to keep from laughing. “Right.”
* * * *
Anne flipped off the safety of her P-90 as the stairs dropped on the plane and stepped in front of O’Neill. “I’ll go first, sir.”
O’Neill sighed. “Of course, Major.”
“I know you don’t like it, sir,” Teldy offered him an amused smile. “But it’s relieving that you endure it. Colonel Carter would have my ass if I let anything untoward happen to you while you’re in my care.”
“Do I even get to decide what is untoward?” Jack demanded.
“No, sir, that list was provided in advance.”
Allison shrugged when O’Neill looked at her and then trotted after her Sentinel.
Jack sighed and turned to look at Patrick. “Ready to go?”
“Yeah, I should have a driver waiting on me,” Patrick murmured. “I need… to go to the Center for a consult.”
Jack frowned. “They suck you know. I’m not sure I trust them.”
“I’ve already made arrangements to meet with Sandburg,” Patrick said and waved his Blackberry a little when O’Neill raised an eyebrow. “He and Ellison are coming to Denver—which is just as well since Lincoln Bates, the Beta of the Denver pride wants to know where the hell his son is. Apparently he got wind that the SGC registered him as a Sentinel.”
Jack sighed. “Dean Bates is on the Atlantis mission.”
“Looks like you’ll have another father to pacify.”
“You don’t look all that pacified to me,” Jack muttered. He shoved his hands into his pockets as the two pilots exited the cockpit and left the craft. “Look, I don’t think I want you around a bunch of Sentinels. What if one of them…”
“I’m not interested in them.”
“You haven’t met any of them, yet.”
Patrick shook his head. “Trust me, O’Neill. I don’t want them. I won’t be interested in any of them.”
“You’re sure,” Jack questioned and then reached out finally and snagged the sleeve of Patrick’s jacket with nimble fingers. “Maybe they’ll find you some young, nubile Sentinel with great breasts or an amazing ass.”
Patrick laughed. “Shut up, Jack.”
O’Neill sighed. “This is stupid, so stupid.” He pulled Patrick closer and sighed again when the other man didn’t offer up any resistance at all. “I have no business wanting this.”
“We’ve both got people waiting on us, Jack.”
“And?” Jack frowned.
“If you’re going to do something interesting—you should go ahead and do it. We don’t have a lot of time.”
“Maybe I want you to do it.”
“Maybe I need you do it—it’s your career that could be damaged by this.”
Jack snorted. “I saved the whole planet, Patrick, I think that means I get to put my dick wherever it’s welcome.”
Patrick laughed, curled his fingers into the front of Jack’s BDUs, and pulled. The kiss was softer than either had expected—softer than men like them thought they were capable of. Jack’s fingers grazed his nape, clenched on the back of his neck and Patrick shuddered at the brush of O’Neill’s tongue against his lips. He parted for the invasion without a thought and swallowed Jack’s moan of surprise.
Jack pulled away carefully, his eyes dark and serious. “Your whole family is just dangerous.”
* * * *
David stumbled out of the bed and was reaching for his gun before he even had his eyes completely open the sound of his screaming child was almost drowned out by the battering on his front door. The door downstairs gave way just as David entered his son’s room. Andy was struggling with the covers. With the gun lowered against his leg, he moved forward and jerked the tangle of sheets and blankets from his child. Andy sobbed softly and launched himself at his father just as a man entered the room.
David raised the weapon and turned his body away to shield his son. “What the fuck?”
“He was screaming.” The young man’s gaze darkened as he inhaled and he glared pointedly at David. “He’s afraid.”
David lowered the weapon slightly when another person appeared in the doorway. “Both of you stay back.”
“We won’t come any closer.”
David sat down on the edge of the bed and sighed when Andy shuddered against him. “Hey kiddo, you want to talk to me?”
Andy inhaled sharply against his father’s throat and his hands tightened in his shirt. Slowly, his trembling stopped and he lifted his tear stained face with a deep breath. He turned his head slightly and looked at the Sentinel in the doorway. “Are you of my pride?”
A small smile drifted over the man’s mouth. “You know I am.”
“Someone took my grandpa. They hurt him.” His bottom lip quivered slightly. “Find him.”
The man inclined his head. “As you will, Alpha.”
David’s gaze widened briefly as the Sentinel and Guide both turned abruptly to leave. “Wait.” The Sentinel paused and turned to stare at him. “You can’t just…”
“I can. I will,” the Sentinel interrupted. “Your father registered as a Guide sixteen hours ago with the Center. I will go verify his location and if the little one’s fears are actual—someone will pay for it.” He paused and cleared his throat. “My brother Joel lives across the street. He will see you have a new door within the next two hours. We won’t leave his home unprotected in the mean time.”
* * * *
Matt rolled over and reached out blindly for the phone on his bedside table. “This is Sheppard.”
“Mattie, it’s David. Andy had a nightmare about Dad… and Jesus… I think half my neighborhood is full of Sentinels at this point. Andy says someone took him. He’s with O’Neill, right?”
Matt pushed back the covers as he tucked the phone against his shoulder. “No. O’Neill was called to Washington and Dad didn’t want to stay out there in the wilds of Colorado by himself. You know he hates nature and he always bitches about O’Neill’s Wi-Fi set up. He’s supposed to be in a hotel suite in Denver mooning over his not-boyfriend and making people miserable via his Blackberry.”
“Andy says someone took him, Matt.” David sucked in a deep breath. “He woke up screaming. I don’t know… what to make of it and Dad isn’t answering his phone. The Alpha for the local pride has already put in a call to the Alpha for the Denver region. If he’s gone… all hell is going to break loose.”
“No shit.” Matt pulled on a pair of BDUs one-handed. “I’m going to Denver. Call O’Neill—you can cop more attitude with him that I can get away with and I’ll grab the Sentinel/Guide pair that’s on base. Carter went with O’Neill to Washington so I think the female Marine stayed here—Teldy.” He jerked a t-shirt out of drawer. “I’m probably an hour from Denver but I’ll call you as soon as I know something.”
“Right.” David took a deep breath. “Be safe, kiddo. Don’t hesitate to shoot first and ask questions later—we’ve got great lawyers.”
Matt laughed weakly and closed his eyes briefly. “Why would someone risk taking him? They can’t know he’s online—no one would mess with an online Guide.”
“I doubt it’s business related but if someone’s taken him for money—well—they’ll get whatever they ask for.”
* * * *
“Dr. Patrick Matthew Sheppard, retired US Navy as a Vice Admiral, three sons, one grandchild, and widowed for nearly twenty years, CEO of Sheppard, Inc,.” The man paused and adjusted his glasses. “Your grandson, Andrew, is rumored to be an online Sentinel but due to his age—his medical records were sealed by the Center.”
Patrick looked down at his cuffed hands with a small frown and then took a deep breath. “There won’t be place on Earth you can hide from me if you were to hurt my grandson.”
The man lifted an eyebrow and closed the folder in front of him. “Your Grandson doesn’t interest us. Despite his sealed medical records we are aware that he was identified as a latent Sentinel at birth. You, on the other hand, Dr. Sheppard have been tested by the Center at least six times and despite all of the negative genetic results, you recently came online as a Guide. A powerful Guide.” He folded his hands in front of him on the table. “We want to know how you did it and why.”
Patrick frowned at him. “You can’t honestly think that I would’ve wanted to come online at this age. I didn’t do anything to make it happen, it just did. The Center thinks I came online due to someone I met recently.”
“Ah, you mean Major General Jack O’Neill.” The man picked up another folder and opened it. “Divorced, one deceased child, and no living siblings that we’ve been able to locate. His parents are dead and his closest living relative is a twenty year old illegitimate nephew who is currently at the Air Force Academy.” He smoothed the folders. “He interests us very much and has for many years.”
“Did you take him, too?”
“No. Taking him wouldn’t be nearly as easy as taking you—if you take the leader of a military base—well it’s not unlike knocking a hornet’s nest out of tree.”
Patrick couldn’t disagree with him on that. “Do you plan to experiment on me or something?”
The man pursed his lips in distaste. “That wouldn’t be entirely civilized, would it?”
“Neither is kidnapping.” Patrick rolled his head on his shoulders and shifted in the chair he was seated in. “What do you plan to do with me?”
“You’ll answer our questions.”
“And if I don’t?”
“Things will become unpleasant.”
Patrick laughed softly. “Then things will be unpleasant because I’m not answering any of your questions.”
The man stood abruptly and straightened the sleeve of his jacket. “If that is the way you wish to be. I will bring in Mr. Raynor.”
* * * *
The General’s hands were trembling and they had been since they’d entered the suite of rooms that belonged to Patrick Sheppard. There were signs of a struggle and she caught the scent of blood in the air immediately. It had been the telling jerk of O’Neill’s head when they’d entered the room that told her that her CO was keeping secrets from her. He’d caught the scent of blood, too. Carter didn’t blame him, exactly. She wondered how many of his senses were online and how close he was to full blown meltdown.
Lincoln Bates, the Beta of the Denver Pride, was on the scene prowling around in mute fury. The kidnapping of a high profile parent of an Alpha Sentinel Prime was one thing and the kidnapping of an online Guide was another matter all together. Patrick Sheppard was both. They had returned to Colorado on a private plane—Sheppard’s private plane and they’d brought with them the oldest son of Patrick Sheppard and the youngest online Sentinel Sam had ever encountered in her life.
Andrew Sheppard had said nothing the entire trip—he’d touched his grandfather’s jacket and then picked up his abandoned cell phone despite the displeasure of the mundane cops on the scene. None of them had approached the child after Teldy had hissed at one of the detectives when he’d started to touch the boy.
“We’ll need to take the phone for evidence.”
Everyone turned to Andy who was clutching the device in one small hand. His fingers tightened around it and his knuckles went white with the effort. “No.”
The detective exhaled angrily and stepped forward only to have Teldy step in front of him. “You’ll come no closer.”
“Look, I realize the little kid is upset but…”
Teldy pushed him back with a sharp jab of her finger. “I said back off. I don’t like to repeat myself, Detective. Repeating myself makes me angry and not to be a big damned cliché but trust me when I say you won’t like me when I’m angry.” She poked him again. “And he’s not a little kid—he’s an Alpha Sentinel Prime and if you lay a hand on him the rest of the people in this room will have to get in line behind me to kick your ass. Understood?”
The cop rubbed his chest and glared at her. “Yeah, understood. I still need the phone.”
“No, you don’t,” Andy said simply and walked across the room to the window.
“Mr. Sheppard,” the cop began and then turned to David. “Your son…”
“You don’t need the phone. It’s a company phone so I’ll sign a release so you can get the incoming and outgoing calls. As for the content of the device, it’s loaded full of emails and encrypted communications that very few people on this planet should have access to. If you want it—you’ll need a Federal warrant and be prepared for the Pentagon to protest it until the end of the next century.”
* * * *
Rodney found his Sentinel staring at the k-bar he’d used to kill a Wraith. He sat down on the stairs behind him and smiled when John snuggled in between his legs. McKay sighed against John’s hair and took a deep breath. “Why aren’t you asleep, John?”
John shook his head. “In all the time that we’ve been here—it’s felt right and good. I am a horrible son, Rodney. I left Earth without even trying to reconnect with him. What kind of bastard does that to their own father?”
Rodney sighed. “John.”
“He’s always loved me so fiercely—I felt it, indulged in that emotion as a child even when he was afraid to touch me. I wrapped myself up in him every day for years and never told him how much he meant to me. I just turned my back on him and didn’t let myself look back over a stupid argument. My mother would’ve been so ashamed of me.”
Rodney tightened his arms around John and closed his eyes—the misery pouring off John was as close to agony as he’d ever known in his Sentinel’s presence. “He’s not an innocent bystander in your relationship, John. I think you and he both could win awards for stubbornness. There is plenty of blame to go around.”
“He did try but I ignored his emails and his phone calls. The last one came just days before we stepped through the gate. He wanted to inform me that the Center had tested him again.” John sighed. “I woke up earlier and for the first time since I stepped through the gate to the city—I wished more than anything I was back on Earth.”
“I think that you’re still a little compromised from sitting in the chair.” Rodney considered the report he’d received from Zelenka and the size of the stone under the chair. “The psionic key under the chair is three meters tall, one meter wide, and nearly a full meter thick.” He sighed. “It would be quite at home sitting in the middle of Stonehenge.”
John nodded. “I read Radek’s report. That’s the biggest one we’ve found so far right?”
“Yeah, except I bet the one at the Ancient outpost is just as big,” Rodney admitted. “I think that’s why it felt so amazing for you when you sat in the chair. If the psionic keys really do act as a conduit for psionic field energy—that stuff about Marius dipping his fingers into the flow and disturbing it a little is making a lot more sense to me now.”
A soft white flash of light was the only warning they had that they were no longer alone on the stairs. Marius relaxed back on the step behind him and waved cheerfully at the four Marines who had immediately raised their P-90s. “Excellent reflexes. Caesar himself would be proud to have such fine soldiers at his disposal.”
“Stop kissing their asses,” John muttered and waved the Marines off. “He’s exactly what you think he is guys—isn’t like we can fight him off.”
The Marines eyed Marius suspiciously but backed off.
John turned to stare at his fellow Sentinel, exasperated. “Would it be inappropriate to wish you came with a bell?”
Marius grinned briefly and then grew serious. He focused on the gate in front of him. “Times are dangerous on Earth, John.”
“Dangerous enough that I’m here and my Guide is there. It’s not often I agree to separate from him like this but my first duty must be to you. It is the pact I made with the others.” Marius took a deep breath. “Bastien will do all that he can to shape the events that are to come but we are limited by the rules of the others.”
“They aren’t your rules.”
“No, but ascension is not a democracy. If you don’t play by their rules they throw you out.” Marius paused. “Of course, all of that may change should the Alterans find themselves greatly outnumbered.”
“Is that why you helped the Satedans ascend?”
“No, that was my duty.” Marius rubbed his bare foot along the edge of the stair beneath his foot. “It is curious—feeling all of this without having to worry about my senses.”
“You’re no longer a Sentinel?” John’s nostrils flared in outrage. “They take it from you when you ascend?”
Marius shook his head. “It’s not like that—how our kind uses psionic energy changes after ascension. Our people have been ascending for millions of years, John—long before the Alterans ever came to Pegasus. There are those who travel with the psionic flow—they merge with it seamlessly and become part of it. They are believed to be the first to have ascended and there are plenty of our ancestors ascended but they do not bother with the Alterans at present. Should that change—I can foresee changes in the rules that govern us all.”
“Is it possible?” Rodney questioned.
Marius shrugged. “One day—I will do something so dramatic that they will try to force me into a corporeal form once more and when they do—we shall see. They’ve never tried to force a Sentinel or a Guide to return to human form.”
“Daniel came back,” Rodney interjected.
Marius sighed. “Daniel begged for six solid months to be returned to his Sentinel and finally someone took pity on him and dropped him naked practically in her lap while she was on another planet.”
Rodney chuckled. “That part I remember. I was there—and the view wasn’t bad.”
John laughed in spite of himself. “Why didn’t they want to return him to Earth?”
Marius’ smile fell away slowly. “They believed him damaged – none of them could understand the love he has for his Sentinel nor could they comprehend the overwhelming sense of guilt he suffered in being parted from her. They even tried to prevent him from seeing her during those months—in an effort to force him to accept his new existence.”
“So who returned him?”
“No one knows—some think Dr. Jackson was returned to his Sentinel by one of the old ones but if that is the case than none of the Alterans would dare question it. Despite what they would want you to believe—they aren’t all seeing and all knowing. There are even limits to our powers. We aren’t supreme beings—this is just the next step for our soul.”
“Is there another step?” John questioned.
Marius shrugged. “It is not for me to know, yet. I will say that over the last thousand years—the numbers of Alterans had started to dwindle. Whether they are choosing to become part of the psionic flow permanently or moving on to something else I don’t know.”
“What’s wrong on Earth, Marius?”
Marius paused briefly and frowned. “Did you know that there are only fifty-two Alpha Sentinel Primes on Earth?”
John nodded. “I’m aware that there aren’t many.”
“Your nephew, Andrew, came online some time ago.”
Rodney felt his Sentinel stiffen in his arms with shock and he winced at the fresh horror that rushed over their bond. “You didn’t know.”
“No.” John closed his eyes. “I didn’t know about him at all.”
“He is quite exceptional,” Marius continued. “His father is very protective of him and he’s quite safe. No harm will come to him, my word on it.”
John accepted that. “Yeah, okay. But is he the reason your Guide is on Earth? Is he an Alpha Sentinel Prime?”
“Bastien wished to keep an eye on your Father during his process. To come online so late in his life is quite traumatic and Andy was worried about him. And yes, your nephew is an Alpha Sentinel Prime. It’s difficult for those around him to adjust. He’s just six years old but in a great many ways he’s very mature and powerful.”
“So…” John bit down on his lip. “That wasn’t wishful thinking. I did connect with my father?”
Marius laughed softly. “You did—the experience was quite intense. No one has ever used the psionic keys as the two of you did yesterday. It was cause for much debate and discussion. The Alterans don’t quite know what to make of their descendants.”
* * * *
“The problem is, Dr. Sheppard, that if I lay a hand on you—every Sentinel within five miles will smell you on me when I leave here.” Edward Raynor leaned against the wall and stared at Patrick dispassionately. “It’s a matter of some concern since I’m sure you’re putting off pheromones left and right. I certainly wouldn’t want to get the attention of one of those primitive sons of bitches.”
Patrick inclined his head as if to agree. “How do you intend to proceed?”
“The beauty of serving my country,” Raynor started and then grinned. “Is that I learned early on how to get information out of individuals such as yourself.”
“CIA?” Patrick questioned.
“A little mundane even for me,” Raynor responded cheerfully. “Pardon the pun.” He leaned down until he was barely an inch from Patrick’s face. “That’s the thing—I’ve spent my whole fucking life being called a mundane. Do you know what it’s like to be ordinary, Dr. Sheppard?”
“I came online twenty-two hours ago, asshole. I’ve been ordinary all of my fucking life so don’t play that stupid little game with me. Men like you don’t need an excuse to be cruel so please have enough respect for me not to play stupid games.” Patrick grimaced and sighed. “And brush your teeth. I can’t stand the smell of garlic.”
Raynor snorted with laughter and then walked away from Patrick. “Good. I’d hate to think you weren’t going to be a challenge.” He picked a case up off the floor. “They wanted to wait to take you but I told them they didn’t want to mess with an online Guide who’d had any kind of training for their gifts. You’re vulnerable right now—untrained and unbonded. Vulnerable and uniquely valuable.”
“Are you NID?” Patrick questioned.
Raynor shrugged as he prepped a syringe. He pulled on a pair of latex gloves. “You probably haven’t been taught much about your new biology—but Guides are deeply affected by certain drugs. With the right drug cocktail, I could make you relive the worst moment of your life.” He paused. “I’d say that would have to be the day they showed you the bodies of your wife and infant daughter.”
Patrick sucked in a breath. “I see you’ve done your research.”
“It pays to study one’s targets,” Raynor murmured. He inclined his head. “Perhaps not that day—perhaps the day your son John walked away from you without even looking back because you wanted him to ignore his own sense of duty.”
Patrick pushed back the rush of fury and pain that followed the man’s casual words. “Fuck you.”
“Fortunately for you—you aren’t my type,” Raynor said with a little smirk and then sighed when the door opened. “Ah, there you are. I’m almost ready.”
“You know the drugs aren’t necessary,” the man muttered.
“The GHB will make sure he doesn’t remember us.”
Patrick took a deep breath and frowned at the new comer. “Christ, you’re a Sentinel.”
“Yes,” the Sentinel said and inclined his head. “You can call me Kevin, Dr. Sheppard. I had the distinct displeasure of meeting your son John a few months ago. Thanks to him and McKay, I can’t work in legitimate circles. I’ve been reduced to working for men like Mr. Raynor.”
Patrick glared at him. “You’re the one that abused Cameron Mitchell. Fordham.” He looked away from him and grimaced. “As far as I’m concerned, you haven’t suffered enough.”
“It’s too bad for you that you feel that way—it makes what is about to happen to you all the more amusing for me.”
Patrick looked at him, his eyes dark and serious. He inspected the Sentinel carefully and then turned to Raynor. “You were actually doing pretty well on the threats and the general intimidation but you’ve made a mistake.”
Patrick closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He knew that the Sentinel Guide Center had put Fordham under 24/7 surveillance the day he and his Guide had been disavowed by their community. He spread his mental shield thin and he reached out like had when he’d sat in the chair. Almost immediately he brushed against the mind of a Guide—a bonded Guide. “Jack O’Neill.”
The strain of the communication was so overwhelming that within seconds he felt unconsciousness approach. One of the men in the room started cursing and then Patrick knew nothing else.
* * * *
Jim Ellison entered the hotel suite without knocking and urged Sandburg towards a less occupied part of the room. “The Sentinel/Guide pair that we have monitoring Kevin Fordham contacted the Center four minutes ago. The Guide part of the pair reports that someone within the building that Fordham entered two hours ago sent him a mental message.”
Jack frowned. “Who’s capable of doing that?”
“It’s the kind of thing a really powerful Guide could do if they were in serious trouble. It certainly comes with a heavy cost—communicating like that with someone other than my Sentinel has put me down for hours in the past.” Blair Sandburg went to the wet bar and pulled out two bottles of water which he handed to his Sentinel. Ellison opened both, inspected them and then handed one back to his Guide. “Considering the message, we’re fairly convinced that it must have been Patrick Sheppard.”
Jack stood up abruptly. “The message?”
Blair inclined his head. “Your name. Just your name.”
* * * *
The building appeared empty but there were upwards of sixty people between him and Patrick. Jack realized that he wasn’t hiding much from Carter or Teldy – they’d both been around him long enough to know something was off about his behavior. Ellison had given him one narrowed-eyed look when he’d insisted on the rescue operation being handled by the SGC. Technically it was the purview of the Center—the recovery of a kidnapped Guide—but Ellison had agreed with Jack, effectively shutting the rest of the Sentinels in the room up.
Carter pursed her lips briefly and then shared glance with her Guide. “And if you aren’t once the action starts? Sensory spikes…”
“I am fine,” O’Neill repeated and let his gaze sweep over the plans of the building. In his memory he searched for something his body had taken note of even before his senses came online—Patrick Sheppard’s heartbeat. He put his finger on a small room near the back of the building. “This is where I’m going.”
“Dr. Sheppard is there?” Teldy questioned. She leaned in and viewed the plans. “Colonel Carter?”
Carter took a deep breath. “I haven’t done an imprint on him.”
“No, neither have I. I concentrated on the child when I met the family the first time.” Anne flushed with irritation and looked at her CO. “Where do you want me, sir?”
“Here.” Jack pointed to back entrance near where he thought Patrick was. “Take teams four, seven, and ten. Carter, I want you on the front with teams two, three, and six. Team five is with me—we’ll take this side door here.”
Carter frowned at him. “I’d rather come with you, sir.”
“I know but I need you here.” Jack stared at her. “In case they try to take him from the building. We have to have all the exits covered.”
“I’ll be with him,” one of the Sentinels said as he prepped a weapon. “I promised the little Alpha that I would find his grandfather.”
Jack stared at the Sentinel for a few seconds. “You’re one of David Sheppard’s neighbors, right?”
“My brother is—I’ve been staying with him. Chase Harris. I do have an imprint on Dr. Sheppard.”
Jack glanced around. “You’re not bonded?”
“Not anymore,” Chase said shortly. “I’m on medical leave from the Corps recovering from the loss of my Guide. I won’t be a liability, sir.”
“No, I can’t see how you would be,” Jack said sadly and inclined his head towards the team he was taking with him. “Introduce yourself. We’re rolling in four minutes.”
* * * *
Lt. Colonel Martin Edwards had been with the SGC since the gate had been reopened for recon missions. SG5 had been his command for nearly four years but he rarely found himself in the field with the General. O’Neill normally worked in the field with SG1 but in the months since Mitchell had returned to the SGC and then left for Atlantis, they’d not bothered to replace their missing team members. Carter and Jackson were concentrating on research while Teal’c had barely been on Earth at all. Martin had no idea how much work was involved in forming a government out of a nation of former slaves but he figured Teal’c had his hands full.
“You’re on medical leave, Captain Harris?”
“Yes.” Chase Harris nodded abruptly as he accepted the TAC vest and P-90. “Officially, I’m on site as part of the team from the Center. Alpha Ellison approved me for field work despite my loss.”
Martin nodded. “You have my sympathy, Captain. I can’t imagine what it would be like to… lose someone so integral to my life.” He cleared his throat as O’Neill approached. “Sir, we are ready. If you would allow us to clear the way for you?”
O’Neill shook his head abruptly. “No. I can’t risk putting anyone friendly between me and Dr. Sheppard.”
Martin exhaled sharply in surprise and glanced at the young Sentinel who had edged closer to O’Neill. He’d seen behavior like that in the past—over the years Sentinels and Guides had become a common feature at the SGC. Distinctly, he remembered the way all of the Sentinels in the mountain had responded to Colonel Sheppard while he’d been on Earth. The young Marine that O’Neill had put on his team temporarily was looking at O’Neill like he was the center of the fucking universe.
Three minutes later they were sliding into an unguarded door from a narrow alley and Martin watched both Harris and O’Neill tilt their heads in a way so telling that he had to pinch himself to keep from saying something. The signs had been there for the last few weeks. It wasn’t like the General had gone out of his way to pretend he didn’t have a male civilian living in his home. He hadn’t appeared at all worried about his career or the rumors that surfaced almost immediately. Now, Martin understood why.
A security guard came around the corner and before anyone could react—the General grabbed the man, broke his neck, and dropped him on the ground while barely breaking in his stride. Martin motioned his men back a few paces in response.
The young Sentinel turned and looked at him. “He’s… on the edge of a feral episode. It’s not uncommon for Sentinels to come online in combat or extremely stressful situations. If he blows, you’re going to have to be prepared take him down like he’s your enemy.”
“He’s my commanding officer.”
Harris grimaced. “Patrick Sheppard’s heart rate is extremely slow and getting slower every second. If his presumed Guide is dead by the time we reach him—knocking him out will be the humane thing to do.”
They were moving fast, up eight flights of stairs and then towards the back of the room. Anyone that got in O’Neill’s way ended up dead on the floor and Martin stopped counting the bodies by the time they reached fourth floor. When they reached the door—O’Neill paused and pressed a shaking hand to the surface. “He’s alone in here—but there are a few people on this floor.” Jack turned to Martin. “We need people to ask questions of, Colonel, so try to take some prisoners.”
* * * *
Patrick woke between one deep breath and the next. He lashed out blindly against the sharp bite of another fucking needle and then a strong, warm hand wrapped around his wrist. “Jack?”
“Easy there,” Jack murmured. “We’re about to put you on a helicopter.”
“I can’t fucking see,” Patrick hissed and tried to sit up.
“They drugged you pretty heavily—my people are taking blood so we can figure out exactly what but they probably wanted to deprive you as much sensory data as possible.” Jack’s fingers brushed over his forehead. “I’ve got Matt in the pilot seat, Patrick. Let’s let him take us back to the mountain, okay?”
“Mattie.” Patrick reached out with this other hand as the gurney he was on was lifted off the ground. The whir of a helicopter was muted as the doors were slammed shut. Matt’s fingers brushed against his and he relaxed.
“I’m here, Dad. We’ll have you at Cheyenne Mountain inside 30 minutes.”
“Andy? Is Andy okay? They talked about him.”
“Yeah, Andy is fine,” Jack murmured. He tucked a blanket around Patrick and sat back on the bench as Carolyn Lam started to work. “We’re all fine, now. Let Dr. Lam do her job, Sheppard.”
Patrick relaxed under the blanket but flexed his fingers around O’Neill’s. “Sorry if I hit you, Ma’am.”
“You didn’t,” she murmured and ran her fingers along his neck to check his pulse. “Can you tell me what they gave you?”
“I… I remember one of them mentioning something about GHB because they didn’t want me to remember and then the Sentinel came in and I found a Guide outside the building.”
“The Sentinel?” Jack demanded.
“Fordham. Kevin Fordham.” Patrick exhaled sharply. “He’s a twisted mother fucker. I can’t see how he isn’t dormant… doesn’t seem natural that he would be online and be so morally corrupt.” He blinked rapidly but found only darkness. “Doc?”
“I’m here,” Carolyn murmured. “Just relax for me, Patrick, and we’ll take care of everything.”
“They couldn’t have… whatever the drugs have done to my eyes… it’s not permanent, right?”
“No, it’s not permanent,” Carolyn assured. “They likely gave you some psionic inhibitors. We give them to Guides and Sentinels both in emergencies. They dampen your abilities and so that you can assimilate changes. In your case, these people wanted to keep you from using your gifts against them.”
* * * *
“I’m too old for this bullshit,” Jack muttered and rubbed his face briskly before turning to face the Alpha pair in the conference room behind him. “So?”
Jim Ellison quirked an eyebrow at him. “I have to say I’ve encountered very few Sentinels in my lifetime who aren’t slightly threatened by my physical presence even if they trust me.”
“I don’t trust you,” Jack said without preamble. “I realize you almost lost your Guide but that is no excuse for the state you left the Sentinel Guide Center in when you left. There is no telling how many Sentinels and Guides were mistreated in your absence and I doubt I’ll ever forgive you for what was allowed to be done to Cameron Mitchell.” He glared at Ellison when he started to speak. “He’s one of mine. He’s been mine for years and I regret leaving him in the hands of the Center. I regret taking their word that he would be fine in their care. I’d like to kill a few people over it and I blame you.”
“I blame me,” Ellison responded coolly. “I blame myself for a lot of things and I’m here now, O’Neill. I’m doing my damnedest to make it right.”
“It’s…” Jack sighed. “All a man can do when he makes a mistake.”
“You’re not completely online,” Blair finally said. “What’s missing?”
“Taste and touch.” Jack shoved his hands into his pockets and took a deep breath. “Everything else is online but under control. I’ve been reading and talking with someone from the Center for a few weeks. I knew something like this was coming because… I’ve gotten territorial about Patrick. I’ve pretty much been gone on him since I set eyes on him and that doesn’t happen to me often. Guides have always done it for me, I can’t lie and say otherwise. I’ve slept with a lot of them when given the opportunity.”
Jim snorted and then just smirked when Jack looked his way. “That probably isn’t something you should brag about to your own Guide, ya know.”
“He’s much the same way,” Jack murmured. “He said that he’s had more Sentinels for lovers over the years than mundanes.”
“The people on Atlantis—they’ve learned something about our people they didn’t share in the databurst,” Blair said. “If you’re sending a mission there—General—I’d like Dr. Jackson to go specifically. He’s in the best position to research the history of our people.”
“As much as I’d like to send out a research mission,” Jack murmured. “That can’t be our focus or even a goal when it comes to sending the people in Pegasus support. To that end, Ellison, have you made a decision about being reactivated for the Army?”
“I think that I would be better utilized as a civilian because I can interact freely and without any kind of stipulation with every Sentinel on this planet.” Jim lifted an eyebrow when Jack paused. “Something I think you need more than you need a two-star Army General with a civilian Guide and a bad knee.”
Jack sighed. “Right.”
“Besides, I’m not interested in being the Director of Homeworld Security. Politics just piss me off and right now I don’t answer to anyone—not even the President.” Ellison relaxed on the small couch in O’Neill’s office and sighed. “I am having a problem here though—I don’t like leaving you unattended in your current situation. You’ve got an Alpha Guide in your infirmary who is throwing off bonding pheromones like there is no tomorrow, you’re personally on the cusp full blown mating drive, and you’ve got two of the most aggressive female Sentinels I’ve ever encountered in my life circling around you itching to form a pride in your wake.”
“Carter and Teldy concern you?”
“Teldy is as close to Alpha as I’ve ever seen in a female Sentinel,” Ellison admitted. “She makes me feel primitive.”
Jack smirked. “Sam Carter has always made me feel primitive—and mostly unnecessary. Smart, beautiful, and deadly—I’ve never served with anyone like her. I figured I’d find them a Goa’uld mothership, fill it up with people and supplies and send her and Teldy both off to find John Sheppard.”
* * * *
Jack frowned as he listened to the Marine Colonel give him a detailed list of reasons why he didn’t want Chase Harris in his command. “So, what you’re telling me Colonel Trainer, is that you have no idea whatsoever how to deal with a Sentinel and you mismanaged him in the field since he was added to your platoon. Then you actually got in his way when he went feral over the loss of his Guide and now that you’re pissed that you can’t court martial him for breaking your jaw. You’re lucky he didn’t kill you.”
“He has no business in uniform. None of those primitive sons of bitches do, General.”
Jack stared at the man until the Marine started to squirm. “You should watch your mouth, Colonel. I happen to be one of those primitive sons of bitches.”
Trainer paled and took a deep breath. “My apologies, sir.”
General Randolph Rampart, the current Commandant of the Marine Corps, laughed softly. “On that note, Colonel Trainer, you’re dismissed. I’m sure General O’Neill will take your opinion on the matter of Captain Harris into consideration.”
Jack slouched down in his chair as the door closed on the Colonel without regard for the rest of the brass in the room. “I haven’t changed my mind, General Hammond.”
George Hammond inclined his head and rocked back in his own chair. “Didn’t think you would, Jack. You always did like to take our wounded birds under your wing. I can’t see how you’d be much different now that you’ve got something a little extra on your plate. Randolph, do you have any problem assigning Harris to the SGC?”
“Not a one, Jack takes good care of my Marines.” Randolph poured himself some coffee and then as an afterthought reached across the table and refilled Jack’s cup. “You look like shit, O’Neill.”
Jack shrugged. “You try coming online as a Sentinel at fifty-six.”
“Yeah, no.” Randolph shook his head. “I’d rather not. Where is the Center on finding you a Guide?”
“I have… a Guide,” Jack admitted. “He’s recovering from being kidnapped by the Trust. I’m not fully online at any rate—it could be weeks or months before I complete the transition. Jim Ellison said I should be lucky—that coming online slowly is the best way but I don’t know if I agree.”
“You always were impatient,” George interjected. “Any luck on shaking loose a mothership from the Jaffa?”
“I shared the report on the Wraith with Teal’c and he’s returned to his government to fill them in. Once they get a look at one of those ugly bastards, I think they’ll cough up a ship without much fuss. Maybe even volunteer a group of Jaffa to send to Pegasus. Some of them are itching for a new fight—they’re a warrior culture and the peace has to be getting old for some of them.”
Randolph laughed softly and sighed. “Right, so who’s your Guide?”
Jack paused and considered not answering the question but it would be public knowledge soon enough. “Patrick Sheppard.”
Rampart choked on his coffee and then wiped at his uniform. “You rat bastard, O’Neill. You couldn’t wait until I’d finished swallowing?”
Jack shrugged and shoved a stack of napkins across the table at Rampart. “Sorry.”
“Right.” Randolph glared at him. “So, Patrick Sheppard. Retired Navy Admiral. Millionaire industrialist. Father of the man you have leading the Atlantis Expedition. That Patrick Sheppard.”
“Well,” George said faintly. “That’s… interesting.”
“You’re telling me,” Jack responded ruefully.
“At least he’s pretty,” Randolph offered and then smirked when O’Neill glared at him. “Seriously. You should ask him to put on a set of Dress Whites for you. The man made the Navy look good before he retired.”
“You’re going to make me fantasize about murdering you,” Jack cautioned. “What happened to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?”
“I’m a married man,” Randolph said and lifted one eyebrow. “Who’s gonna ask me?”
Jack couldn’t fault the Marine’s logic so he sighed and refocused his attention on Hammond. “Of course, my status as a Sentinel changes things…”
“Not from my perspective,” Hammond returned evenly. “You’re the best choice to lead the SGC and that hasn’t changed just because your DNA decided to mess with your life. As for your Guide, it’s my understanding that due to his company he has access to the program already. He’ll have to sign additional confidentiality agreements as well as employment contract with the SGC just like the rest of the civilians, especially if you ever think you might take him through the gate.”
“Right,” Jack sighed. “It’s a big mess, sir.”
“It could be worse,” George returned evenly. “I understand that many Sentinels can go for years without finding a compatible Guide.”
* * * *
“I’m sorry you were worried.”
Andy frowned but focused intently on his coloring book. His fingers tightened briefly around the crayon. “I knew they would find you.”
“Andrew, will you look at me?”
Andy carefully put down his crayon and took a deep breath before focusing on his grandfather. “You’re going to bond with a Sentinel.”
Patrick blew out a breath in surprise. “It’s a possibility.”
“I don’t like it.” Andy’s hand tightened into a fist. “Uncle John won’t like it either.”
Patrick leaned back against his chair and frowned. “Can you tell me why you don’t like it?”
“It’ll make you different.”
He considered the simple words and the worry on his grandson’s face. “You mean it will change the way your senses catalog me?”
Andy looked away. “It will change the way you feel. Your Sentinel will create a wall around you.”
“That is the nature of a Sentinel,” Patrick murmured. “You will do no different when you find your Guide. Andy, bonding is pretty important to my own well-being. You know coming online this late in my life has been stressful.”
“Yes. I know it hurts you.” Andy picked up his crayon again and started to color precisely within the lines. “I accept it. I just don’t like it.” He paused and reached out without looking up to pull another crayon from the box in front of him. “It will be General Jack.”
Patrick certainly hoped that would be the case but there was some small chance that they wouldn’t be compatible. “I hope so. He’s a good man and I think we’d work well together.”
“He likes you a lot,” Andy conceded. “But he carries a great deal of pain. Charlie still hurts him.”
Patrick nodded. “His son was killed.”
“He blames himself.” Andy looked up then. “He thinks it’s his fault Charlie is dead but when he comes online that will change.”
“I don’t…what do you mean?”
“He will remember everything. He will remember it wasn’t his fault. A mundane can hide from hurt but a Sentinel can’t.” Andy frowned at his picture and selected another green crayon from the box. “He knows it deep in his mind—I’ve seen it but he hides from it because it hurts so much.”
“Okay.” Patrick took a deep breath.
“You worry about me,” Andy said then. “You shouldn’t. I’m strong.”
“It’s my job to worry about you,” Patrick said and then reached out to pick up a crayon. “Can I help?”
“Just stay in the lines,” Andy advised seriously.
* * * *
Daniel Jackson looked up from his reading at the bright flash of white light and blinked in surprise. His Sentinel reacted immediately, hauling him out of his chair by the back of his shirt and leveling a 9mm at the man who’d appeared out of thin air in front of his desk.
“Easy, Sam.” Daniel wrapped a hand around her wrist and urged her to lower a weapon. “You’d never want to shoot a Guide if you have a choice.”
Sam frowned. “You’re sure?”
“Ascended,” Daniel murmured. “But definitely a Guide.” He relaxed as Sam willingly lowered the weapon. “Hello, Bastien, long time no see.”
Bastien’s gaze flicked over Sam and he grinned. “The others could never understand why you wanted to return to Earth. I think if they’d bothered to come look at your beautiful Sentinel they might have gotten a clue.”
Sam glared. “You can’t have him back.”
Bastien’s expression immediately grew serious. “I would never allow anyone to interfere in your pair bond, Samantha. It is sacred.”
“Why are you here, Bastien and where is Marius?” Daniel questioned.
“Marius is on Atlantis.” Bastien walked away from the desk and ran his fingers along the spines of several books on the shelf across from them. “I am here because of the little Alpha.”
“Andrew Sheppard?” Sam holstered her weapon. “Is he in danger?”
“No. He’s probably the safest child on this planet. I’ve been watching him off and on for the last year as he came online and settled into his gifts. I’ve visited him on several occasions and helped him manage his abilities but things are shifting in Pegasus and I will no longer be able to do that for him.”
“And that means?”
“You’ll want to encourage his father to seek him out a powerful conservator,” Bastien explained. “I considered going to David Sheppard personally but I wasn’t sure if he would trust me or even tolerate my presence long enough to take me seriously.” He pulled an atlas off the shelf and casually opened it on the desk. He picked up a pen and carefully measured coordinates before drawing a jaunty little x. Then he jotted down what looked like a GPS location. “Andrew is an interesting child.”
Daniel looked at the map with wide eyes and nodded. “Yes, I find him fascinating.”
“He’ll be a powerful leader one day—one your planet will need in the future that looms large in front of you. The Wraith won’t be defeated easily and there are other very powerful threats that may make life in this galaxy difficult in the future.” Bastien casually turned to another map and repeated his steps.
Daniel watched with growing wonder as the man marked four different maps before scrawling three gate addresses on the inside cover of the book. “We’ll be sure to keep a close watch on Andrew and I’ll talk to his father about a conservator. We might have better luck going through his grandfather though.”
“Right. Excellent idea.” Bastien waved a hand and then casually dropped the pen on the desk. “You know Earth is a beautiful place full of unspeakable and powerful treasures. I envy you mortality in such a fascinating time in history.”
Daniel reached out and picked up the atlas, barely suppressing the urge to clutch it to his chest. “We are a fortunate people to live in such times.”
Bastien inclined his head. “Be thorough, Daniel, and I do believe you will be rewarded.”
* * * *
Jack relaxed completely as his hearing picked up the sweet thud of Patrick Sheppard’s heart. He hadn’t known for sure if he’d find his home empty or not. He hadn’t talked to Patrick since they’d returned to the SGC, more afraid his own responses to the man than anything else. He’d kept track of Sheppard both with his hearing and then by assigning him personal security after he’d left the mountain in favor of the Center facility in Denver. So, it’d been nearly three days since he’d set eyes on the man and as much as he looked forward to it—he was dreading it, too. He was too damn old for life changing moments like the one that was waiting on him.
One of the lamps was on the in the living room but he didn’t need it to navigate through the house to the guest room. He paused in the door way and stared at the empty bed for several seconds in complete shock. He knew that Patrick, wherever he was in the house, was sound asleep. The ‘at rest’ beat of his heart told Jack that much. He shrugged out of his jacket and dropped it on the back of the couch as he headed up to the loft and his own bed. His normally orderly and most sincerely empty bed was occupied in the most fascinating manner.
He stood there at the foot of the bed for a long minute, cataloging the long lines of Patrick Sheppard’s nude form. Jack paused only briefly to glare at the sheet that was tangled around Patrick’s hips before reaching out and pulling carefully on the offending material. The cotton felt soft, even silky in his hand as he pulled it away.
The sheets had been the first suggestion the Center had made after white noise generators and a new air filtration system for his house. Touch was normally one of the first senses to come online for a new Sentinel—they’d been very surprised to find that wasn’t the case with Jack. He figured he knew why—he hadn’t allowed himself to touch Patrick much after he’d started to change. Cutting himself off from the man that way had been hard but he felt necessary. He hadn’t trusted himself.
Jack shed his clothes quickly and vainly tried to ignore his rapidly hardening dick. He exhaled sharply and let his gaze travel down the slope of Patrick’s back and over the firm cheeks of his ass. He was in so much trouble and the ex-Navy man in his bed had it going on. O’Neill thought briefly about Navy whites and cursed Rampart mentally for planting that ridiculous idea in his head.
Patrick rolled onto his back suddenly and lifted one arm above his head. He wrapped his hand around a wooden bar in the headboard to brace himself and spread his legs. “Come to bed, Jack.”
Reality shifted. It was hardly the first time his entire world had been altered under his feet and he found himself crawling into bed without a word. Jack settled his weight on Patrick with a little exhale of shock and shuddered when one hand slid down the length of his back.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” Patrick murmured. “I’ve missed you.”
“I…” Jack took a deep breath. “I didn’t want to hurt you. My senses are all over the place and Ellison thinks I’m pretty close to a feral mating drive.”
Patrick cupped the back of his head with a firm grip. “I’m not weak, O’Neill, I can handle everything you’ve got.”
“Everything?” Jack questioned, his eyes darkening with desperation.
“I promise,” Patrick whispered and urged him down so that their mouths met.
Jack groaned into the kiss and started to tremble when Patrick shifted under him—causing their cocks to brush together. He’d lived too much, survived so many fucked up things that it seemed impossible that he could feel so inexperienced and new in Patrick Sheppard’s arms. Pleasure drifted hot and heavy over his entire body as strong, warm hands drifted over his back and ass. His other senses had come online so gradually it had almost been like they’d been there the whole time—touch was suddenly just there and he groaned harshly at the rush of pleasure and pain that followed.
“Easy,” Patrick murmured. “Dial it down, Jack. It’s no different than any of your other senses. You can control it.”
None of his other senses had hurt him as he came online and the pain continued to drift hot, heavy over him in nasty waves until his erection was a thing of the past and tears were stinging in his eyes. “I can’t.”
“I promise you that you can,” Patrick murmured. He kept his touch soothing but firm. “You know this should feel amazing—you have to let yourself have this, Jack. You’ve done nothing in your life that could make you unworthy of a Guide.”
Jack reared away from Patrick and tried to roll off of him but Sheppard held on, hooking one leg around his and grounding him physically as much as he could. “No. You don’t know.”
“I do know,” Patrick insisted. “You don’t have any secrets from me, O’Neill. None.” He pulled Jack back down to him and pressed an urgent kiss against his mouth.
Jack shuddered against him and only sighed when Patrick opened his mouth for the sweep of his tongue. The first taste was so overwhelming that his spiking sense of touch was nearly overshadowed. It allowed him to dial back as instructed and with a whisper of relief he relaxed in Patrick’s embrace. Sheppard surged under him, rubbing his hard cock against Jack’s stomach with a little groan.
“Taste me, Jack.”
Jack closed his eyes briefly as he was almost instantly erect again. He hadn’t gotten that hard that fast in more years than he could remember. Having an enhanced sense of touch suddenly didn’t seem like such a bad thing.
He trailed soft kisses down Patrick’s neck and chest, flicking his tongue out to sweep across hardened nipples and into the small indent of his Guide’s belly button. Then with a shiver of anticipation, he sucked the head of Patrick’s cock into his mouth. The taste—salty, sweet, and absolutely perfect—wallowed on Jack’s tongue and he had to grab his own dick to keep from coming. O’Neill took in the whole length of him in and moaned around the thick length of cock sliding over his tongue.
Jack was no stranger to pleasuring another man but in the past there had always been a shroud of shame layered over how much he enjoyed having a cock in his mouth. There was no room for any of that in the wake of his Guide’s pleasure. Every shift of Patrick’s body under his, every intake of breath, every little moan was a gift. Shame, guilt, worry, self-incrimination, decades of being told by his father that wanting a man was wrong slipped away like a swift summer wind.
He released Patrick’s cock in favor of running along the crease of one thigh before letting his lips glide over the delicate skin of his Guide’s balls. The different textures and tastes of his body were so alluring and perfect that he could barely think straight. Was he imprinting? Jack didn’t even know for sure. When they’d talked about the imprint process at the Center—Ellison had made it seem like it was something done purposefully, almost ritually.
Jack lifted his head and trailed his lips over Patrick’s inner thigh with a sigh. “Will you turn over?”
“Absolutely,” Patrick murmured.
Jack sat back on his knees and watched with dark eyes as Patrick rearranged himself on the bed. He spread his legs without any hesitation and Jack moved to kneel between them as the Guide settled on his stomach. Jack leaned over him, brushing soft kisses along his neck and behind one ear as he rubbed his cock between the cheeks of Sheppard’s ass.
“You’re not always so easy to maneuver in bed,” Jack murmured. “I don’t get that vibe off you at all.”
Patrick laughed softly and then groaned as Jack clenched his teeth briefly on his shoulder. “No, I wouldn’t say so but this is what you need now. I’m going to give you everything you need, Jack.”
O’Neill shuddered against the sweet promise of those words. “When did you get your body hair removed?”
“Long ago,” Patrick murmured his breath hitching as Jack placed hot, open-mouthed kisses down the center of his back in a long heady trail towards his ass. “When I made the choice to marry a Sentinel.”
“Your skin is like silk,” Jack whispered, his voice breaking with desperation and want. “You taste and smell amazing. I don’t even know how I lived without you, Patrick.”
“We’ll be together for the rest,” Patrick said roughly and let his head fall forward as Jack licked against the small of his back. “Jesus.”
“You know what I want,” Jack said thickly. “Are you okay with this?”
“Yeah,” Patrick shifted his hips and pulled one leg up on the bed. “You can have whatever you want.”
O’Neill moaned a little and cupped Patrick’s ass with both hands as he spread his cheeks open to expose his hole. He didn’t hesitate then, using the flat of his tongue to lick over and into the hole repeatedly. He indulged himself without restraint—tasting and learning silky texture of his Guide’s private place that was just for him. Within minutes, Patrick was on his knees pushing back into the stimulation, soft breathless moans falling from his mouth.
When Jack could take no more, he lifted his mouth away and rummaged through his nightstand for the lube. He slicked up his fingers and pushed them roughly into Patrick before he could help himself.
“Sorry.” Jack slowed down with a shudder. “I didn’t think it would be…”
“It’s okay,” Patrick pushed back against his hand. “Take what you need from me, Jack. I don’t care if you get a little primitive on me.”
Jack laughed softly and worked Patrick open as patiently as he could before slicking up his cock. He pulled his Guide back into his lap with shaking hands and pushed into him with one solid thrust. Sheppard settled against him with a little sigh of relief until they were pressed chest to back as Jack wrapped his slick fingers around Patrick’s cock.
“I’ve wanted you like this since I set eyes on you.”
Patrick laughed softly and rocked gently in Jack’s lap. “Even when I was cursing you and throwing things at you?”
“Especially then,” Jack admitted ruefully. “I dig that kind of thing a lot more than I should admit to.” He pressed a kiss against Patrick’s neck and sighed. “I’m ready for you.”
Patrick shuddered and let go—releasing the strangle hold he’d had on his mind since Jack had joined him in the bed and he was met immediately. The thick thrust of Jack’s cock into his body a near duplicate of the way his mind was pushing into his. He closed his eyes against the physical and mental pleasure and shuddered with shock as he came all over the sheets underneath them.
O’Neill’s hips snapped against his ass as he pushed him forward to his hands and knees. Patrick curled his hands into the sheets—making fists, tearing the delicate cotton material with strength he couldn’t use against his Sentinel as his prostate was immediately hammered on again and again. Then Jack pushed him down flat on the mattress and covered his body the same way he’d wrapped around his mind. It was overwhelming and everything he’d ever wanted.
Jack’s hands caught his and they threaded their fingers together tightly as he fucked into his body again and again. Patrick wasn’t remotely surprised when his dick hardened against the sheets and he started to come again almost immediately. He tightened against Jack’s thrusting cock and his lover’s hips stuttered against him.
“Sentinel,” Patrick whispered as Jack came and their minds shifted so closely together that they seemed like one person.
Jack’s teeth clenched down on Patrick’s shoulder. The scent and taste of blood rushed over his senses and he growled in satisfaction. “Guide.”
* * * *
Anne Teldy hated Sam Carter. She kicked the tire of her Humvee and glared at her Guide. Everyone in the Mountain had known that O’Neill was close to a nesting period so she and Carter drawn straws to see who would set up a perimeter around his cabin. Anne had two teams of Marines spread out on the border of the ninety acres of land O’Neill owned in the middle of no-fucking-where.
She was the only Sentinel on the patrol but every single person within sixteen square miles of O’Neill’s house was probably feeling pretty fucking great right now. Anne rubbed the back of her neck and with a heavy sigh pulled out her cell phone. Carter answered on the first ring.
“Let the Center know that O’Neill is online and fully into his nesting period with Dr. Sheppard. I’ve secured the property.” Anne huffed a little at Carter’s snicker. “It’s just as distracting and powerful as we anticipated. Let the Denver Alpha know that Colorado Springs now has its own Alpha Sentinel.”
“Right.” Carter sighed. “I’ll call Ellison, too.”
Anne wrinkled her nose briefly. “Let him know that I’m not allowing anyone where near O’Neill until he’s finished nesting. It isn’t even up for discussion.”
Carter laughed. “I have no doubts, Major. Keep me in the loop and I’ll be out to relieve you in ten hours unless you need me before then.”
“I’m five by five,” Anne responded shortly and ended the call without another word.
* * * *
The jet was his father’s. When Matt had been given the assignment of retrieving Captain Chase Harris from Virginia and returning him to Colorado Springs for reassignment, Patrick had offered him the company jet instead. It had been built especially for Andy and was the newest craft in the small fleet of planes that Sheppard Industries owned. In fact, it was the first of its kind—designed especially for a Sentinel.
The young Sentinel was dressed in civilian clothes and the large SUV he’d traveled to the airport in obviously belonged to the Center. Matt gave the Sentinel-Guide pair that had brought Harris to the plane a brief nod as he helped gather two of the four duffels Harris had in the back.
“We’ve got a fairly short trip, Captain Harris, and you aren’t expected to report officially until tomorrow morning. Colonel Carter is in temporary command of the SGC pending the end of O’Neill’s nesting period.”
“He came fully online then?” Chase asked, his gaze flicking around the area where the plane was. “Not surprised. He was pretty close during your father’s rescue. I take it…”
“Yeah,” Matt answered with a sigh. “I think my CO just became my new step-Daddy-Sentinel or something. I’m trying really hard not to think about it.” He offered the Sentinel by the car a mild glare when he laughed. “It was far more cute and fun when they were having a bromance.”
Chase laughed and followed Matt up the steps and into the jet. “This isn’t an Air Force plane.”
“No, this is the Guardian 406 Jetstream. It seats ten and was specifically designed for Sentinels. My dad commissioned the design when we realized that Andrew was going to come online very young—like John.” Matt motioned him forward into the cockpit. “You’re welcome to sit up here with me. The entire craft has been designed to decrease noise, vibration, and provide a damn near perfect environment for your senses. I’m sure Dad will ask you to fill out a questionnaire about it. He’s asked for input from every Sentinel that’s been on it.”
“Are there more or is this a prototype?”
“There are 15 in use and fifty more in production. After Andy’s was finished—the next ten to come out of the plant were donated to the Sentinel-Guide Center for their exclusive use. Now, the company is taking orders for private companies that employ Sentinels and the like. David is toying with the idea of buying an airline so we can start offering special travel for Sentinels commercially.”
“Pretty slick,” Chase murmured as he slid into the co-pilot. “It looks like a Learjet’s cockpit.”
“Very similar,” Matt said as he handed him a headset. “The design is being considered for military use since there are so many of you guys in service. This size isn’t ideal for troop movements but the implementation that our engineers have come up with can be scaled to larger craft.” He paused and frowned. “Are you sure you should be back on duty without a Guide?”
Chase’s jaw tightened. “I was actually only bonded for three months, Major. We bonded out of necessity more than compatibility. He came online and I was the only unmated Sentinel on the base. We were introduced and told if we couldn’t bond that he’d be shipped stateside. My CO made it clear that such a circumstance would be very bad for our mission.”
Matt frowned. “Did you tell the Center you were compelled to bond?”
“The word is encouraged and yes, they’re aware.” Chase rubbed the back of his neck as Matt began preflight procedures. “It’s not actually all that uncommon in the field, Commander. We both had a need and his pain was driving me batshit insane. We weren’t a bad match at all and we formed a strong bond. Losing him was like getting my arm cut off.”
“I can say I’m sorry but I don’t think that’s enough in regards to how much you lost,” Matt murmured over the headset. “How does this feel so far?”
“Pretty good,” Chase admitted. “It’ll be better when we’re off the ground, I think.”
* * * *
Matt glanced back into the passenger cabin of the jet and looked at the Marine currently in his care. Chase had lasted about half the trip in the cockpit before deciding to take a nap. Matt negotiated their landing as quietly as he could though he knew that if Chase was intent on being alert than it was all for nothing.
He was surprised to find the younger man sound asleep when he walked back. Matt sat down in the seat beside him and hesitantly touched his arm. Chase stirred immediately, his head turning and beautiful blue eyes centered on him like a laser. A warm strong hand covered his before Matt could jerk his away.
“Don’t be,” Chase murmured. “It’s been almost a year since anyone could touch me without it hurting. Before I bonded I had no problems interacting with mundanes but now… it’s different.”
“Right.” Matt looked down at their hands and swallowed. “I’m probably not all that mundane considering my family and the fact that I have an active ATA gene. Something you’ll be debriefed about in the morning.” He grinned then. “But it probably isn’t a good idea for us to hold hands, Captain.”
Chase flushed and removed his hand. “My apologies, sir, it’s just… like I said it’s been a year since someone touched me without hurting me. Even the people at the Center couldn’t…”
“Don’t worry about it,” Matt assured. “We’re just sitting in the middle of an Air Force base and while you might be safe from those regulations because of your online status—I’m not.”
“Everyone keeps saying the President is going to change the rules.”
“Those kinds of changes take more time than it would take for my fine ass to be court-martialed, I assure you.” Matt grinned when Chase laughed. “Come along then—you’ve got a whole mountain of Marines and Air Force personnel to romance with that pretty face of yours.”
* * * *
Anne hated NID Agents. Every single one of them made her skin crawl and they had since she’d set eyes on one for the first time years ago. When her Guide had been offered a job at Area 51, they’d been secured for duty through the NID. Teldy had spent three days plotting the murder of every NID agent that came near her or Allison.
She levered herself off the hood of the Humvee and unbuckled the strap on her leg holster to free up her 9mm as the government car came to a stop twenty-two feet onto Jack O’Neill’s driveway. She’d heard the crappy, non-descript government car coming from a mile away and had already pushed one of her teams to the residence to secure the doors to the General’s home just in case.
A man stepped out of the car and immediately pulled out identification. “Colonel Harold Maybourne, NID.”
Anne lifted an eyebrow at him and glanced briefly over the identification. “Major Anne Teldy, United States Marines. Sentinel.” She watched amused as the color drained out of his face. Men never knew how to treat a female Sentinel—but their first reaction to Anne had always been a mixture of aggression and barely suppressed fear.
“I’m here to ask Dr. Patrick Sheppard some questions. I was told he was staying in General O’Neill’s house.”
“Neither General O’Neill or Dr. Sheppard are available for questions.” Anne watched him process that and when he started to open his mouth to protest she continued with, “They are nesting and unavailable for undetermined amount of time. Alpha Sentinel-Guide pairs have been known to nest upwards of a week and considering how late in life they’ve come together—they have much to learn about one another.”
“Nesting,” Maybourne repeated. “You’re telling me that Jack O’Neill is a Sentinel? An Alpha Sentinel.”
“Yes, duly registered with the Center as is his Guide, Dr. Sheppard.” She inclined her head and her eyes widened in surprise. “General O’Neill has ordered me to throw you off his private property, sir. Please return to your vehicle and leave before I am forced by pride law to get physical with you.”
Maybourne sputtered briefly and took a deep breath. “You tell Jack that this isn’t finished.”
She smirked. “He says that’s General O’Neill to you and you’re goddamned right this isn’t finished. You can expect to have him in your face within the week and you’d better have a good explanation concerning the so-called rogue elements of your organization or he’s going to rip your head off.”
* * * *
The sun coming up on Lantea was like nothing that John had ever seen before in his life. It was brilliant and beautiful in a way so alien that it never failed to take his breath away. He increased his pace, and beside him Cameron Mitchell increased his to keep up. They made it down to the end of the pier in record time—both coming to a stop to watch the sun rise over the ocean.
“I need…” John took a deep breath. “I need someone I know and trust on Earth, Cameron.”
“Carter is there.”
“I barely know her,” John murmured. “I trust her—trust her to do her job as both an officer and a Sentinel but I don’t know her the way I know you.”
Cameron nodded. “Okay.”
“If we get the chance to really open the gate—I want to send you back to O’Neill. Are you and Vala up for that?”
“We’re ready,” Cameron murmured. “You know I’m ready to fight this fight with you, John.”
“Yeah, but we need to prepare our world for what is coming and that means Jack O’Neill needs someone on Earth who has seen a Wraith. Who understands the threat they are.” John took a deep breath. “And I need a man on the ground on Earth who I can trust to take care of my family. My brothers—my Dad. Jesus, my Dad. He’s online, Cameron, and I don’t know what the fuck that means for him. It worries the hell out of me that I’m not there to protect him.”
“Then I’ll go,” Cameron murmured. “Being here like we have has really helped Vala and our bond is strong now, strong as it ever was. We’ll get Earth ready for the Wraith and we won’t let anyone forget you’re out here fighting for them. You’ll get everything you need to push the Wraith back.”
John took a deep breath. He didn’t even know what he needed to fight the Wraith but knowing that Cameron would return to Earth without protest eased him in the most incredible way. He dropped down on the pier and smiled when Cameron followed suit. Lantea’s star was painting the water now in brilliants shades of gold and yellow.
His mouth quirked gently when Marius appeared on his other side in a similar posture to them both. “Seriously. You need a bell.”
Marius laughed. “Congratulations—you’ve got a new step-Daddy-Sentinel.”
John turned to him in shock. “Excuse me?”
“That’s what your little brother Matthew is calling General O’Neill.” Marius grinned when Cameron started choking with laughter.
John glared at him. “It fucking figures.” He fumed silently for a full minute and then pinched his nose in a show of frustration. “Are they at least a good match?”
“They are a perfect match,” Marius assured. “Bastien said it was like watching two kindred spirits find each other after hundreds of years apart. We expected no less since they brought each other online. It’s how our kind was meant to be.”
Read the next episode: The Queen