Reading Time: 52 Minutes
Author: Keira Marcos
Betas: Ladyholder & Chris King
Series: The Alpha Chronicles
Fandom/Genre: Stargate Atlantis
Content Rating: R
Word Count: 12,981
Summary: John Sheppard comes online after a combat injury–aching for a long, lost love. He crosses a galaxy to be reunited with the Guide he left behind because he was latent and thought he’d never come online.
It’s been a year since you left as I write this. In the event that you come online, I’ve asked that this letter be delivered to you if we’re a match. If it’s been left sealed then no one at the Center knows the content so I’m sure you got your share of pity when it was delivered as they assume this is some kind of rejection. I apologize for that. I haven’t bonded since we parted—if I had you wouldn’t have received this letter. I don’t know if that will be a comfort or not considering the fact that you left so I could move on and bond.
I don’t let myself think about how long we may be parted and while I still don’t agree with your choice, I respect it. I suppose in some ways, living day in and day out with an online Guide was a special kind of torture for a latent Sentinel. I miss you. I miss you every single moment of every single day and I can’t imagine I’ll feel differently five years from now or even fifty years from now. I hope you came online naturally and peacefully but considering your career, I’m certain that my hope is vain.
Since we parted, I’ve continued to be brilliant and intellectually superior to practically everyone I meet. I don’t suspect that to change any time in the future. So take heart in the fact that I’m out in the world making dumb people jealous. I’m not pining or anything foolish like that but there will be a part of me saved just for you and I hope one day life will give us another chance at getting it right. Tell them to call me because I’ve been waiting for that phone call since the day you walked out my door.
All My Love,
* * * * *
Brigadier General John Sheppard had the kind of war record that made Jack O’Neill equal parts pleased and sad. He could read between the lines well enough to see the trauma and loss the man had suffered. Sheppard’s interest in the Stargate program had come out of the blue and on high. The IOA had signed off Sheppard’s placement as the new leader of the Atlantis Expedition so fast that it had made Jack really suspicious. So he’d gotten a copy of the man’s unedited file and came upon a living legend instead of a Trust spy as he’d begun to suspect. An Alpha Sentinel. Sentinels weren’t rare but they were coveted in a variety of ways in public and military service. An Alpha Sentinel was rare and considered a peerless and priceless asset. They wrote their own ticket in the military and when they went to war—wars were won.
They’d never had a Sentinel in the program, never had one step foot in Cheyenne Mountain as far as that goes. The Pentagon kept Sentinels unencumbered by permanent assignment and they were often part of Special Forces teams that made dark war. He’d met a few in his day, when he’d dipped his entire foot in the kind of wet work a man in the Air Force wasn’t really supposed get into as far as the general public was concerned. But what startled him most about Sheppard’s record is that he’d come online just six months before—a feral combat drive that had resulted in no survivors for the terrorist camp who’d made the mistake of capturing a high ranking United States Marine for leverage.
Sheppard had come home a colonel, retrained in private with Jim Ellison, the newly appointed Alpha Sentinel Prime of North America, and returned to active duty as a one-star general. The Marine had been an outstanding asset before he’d come online and Jack couldn’t figure out why the Pentagon was letting him go to Pegasus when they’d never let him have a single Sentinel asset before.
He stood from his desk and left the office he still considered George Hammond’s. When he’d turned down the post in Washington, he’d thought they would push him out of the Mountain and into retirement. So far they’d let him stay where he was and he figured maybe he’d earned it. Jack walked into the conference room and found John Sheppard standing in front of the large window staring at an open wormhole.
“I really hope you didn’t zone on me,” Jack said wryly and grinned when Sheppard turned to face him immediately. Green eyes swept over him, assessing and he watched the Marine’s gaze narrow slightly. “Take a seat.” He motioned toward the table.
Sheppard took the seat close to the head of the table and said nothing while Jack poured himself some coffee and returned to the table.
“I’ve got two questions.”
“I’ll answer them if I’m able, sir.”
Jack raised an eyebrow and sat down at the table. “Why don’t you have a Guide?” He watched the younger man’s eyes darken with a mixture of sadness and fury. It was startling and he wondered if he’d made a mistake in asking the question.
“Because he’s on Atlantis,” John stated.
“That changes my second question significantly,” Jack admitted. “Why not have the military recall your Guide? Is he Air Force?”
“He’s a civilian scientist and taking him from his work—work he obviously loves a great deal—would be harmful. I have no desire to hurt my Guide in any fashion.”
“I don’t know the status of any civilian on the city, the Sentinel Guide Center keeps that shit pretty tightly under wraps as you well know,” Jack admitted. “Does he know you’re coming?”
“I have his information packet with me, sir, due to his location and the inability to keep the information secure the Center decided against emailing him a notification. If and when we choose to bond, you’ll be notified of his identity as our records will be permanently joined as a bonded couple. If he declines…” Sheppard trailed off and winced. “I will complete my yearlong rotation and we can make a decision at that point about my continued placement on Atlantis. I won’t want to leave him—unbonded or not—because instinctually the desire to protect him will be extreme. That being said, I know nothing about his personal life and I won’t intrude on him if he’s… I just have no interest in being a third-wheel.”
“I get it,” Jack said. “I have to say now that I have you in my command, I’m not going to be all that willing to part with you so if Atlantis doesn’t work out for you then you’ll have a place here in the Mountain if you want it. Do you have other matches in the Guide system?”
“Two but they’re partials,” John said. “If my Guide says no or we can’t bond, I’ll release those names to you and we can make a decision about how I’ll meet them. One is military so it would probably be best to meet him first.”
“But you don’t want to,” Jack said.
“Not at all,” John admitted. “I’ve read his service record and he’s… not exactly my kind of soldier, sir. My senses are balanced and I’ve not had a single zone out since I finished training. I have coping mechanisms I need to function and if needs be I’ll request a Conservator. I also have a full complement of suppression drugs. They’re new but the testing has been thorough so I feel safe in their use if my condition becomes untenable. I won’t be a liability to the mission.”
Jack leaned back in his chair with a little grin. “Hell, son, you’re a badass. That’s the last thing I’m worried about.” He checked his watch. “We’re 30 minutes from dialing the Midway station and your gear has been sorted to the gate room. Though I’m curious about the extra duffle you brought with you this morning.”
“Oh, it’s a bribe,” John said without an ounce of shame. “One hundred pounds of the finest gourmet coffee I could get my hands on.”
* * * * * *
John Sheppard. He hadn’t allowed himself to think about his Sentinel often in the ten years they’d been separated; not since John had with all the gentleness in the world broke up with him and disappeared from his life. Sheppard had already been in the Marine Corps for four years when they met as he’d joined right out of high school. They’d met when John had pursuing a degree in applied mathematics. Rodney had been an online Guide for almost five years and he’d known the moment he’d met John that they were a pair but John was latent.
They’d become lovers within a week of meeting and every moment of their relationship had been rich with passion and ultimately heartbreak. McKay rubbed his sternum as he thought about their last day together when John had, after almost three years together, told Rodney they were over. Intellectually, he’d understood that John was breaking up with him because his presence in McKay’s life had made bonding with a Sentinel impossible. Rodney had refused to meet four different Sentinels while he and John were lovers. When John found out, he’d not taken it well because he knew how much stress being unbonded caused Rodney. So in the end, John had left with whispered love still humming on Rodney’s skin.
McKay had hated John for roughly two days. Then he’d pushed his empathic abilities as deep as he could and focused on his education. He’d refused every single overture by the Sentinel Guide Center and finally had made it clear that he didn’t want to hear from them ever again unless John came online. John was the only Sentinel he wanted. Period. Reckless to be sure but he’d never regretted his decision to remain alone. He’d had lovers over the years but he’d never allowed himself to get emotionally invested anyone. He’d given away his heart a long time ago and while he knew John had made an honorable choice, it sucked.
“Oh, come on, McKay, it won’t be that bad.”
Rodney looked up and met Colonel Abraham Ellis’ gaze. He’d taken Sumner’s place after the first year and it hadn’t been any real improvement. Sumner might have been impatient with the sciences but he listened to Rodney and paid attention when it mattered. They’d all assumed that Sam Carter would be sent to Pegasus to temporarily take over for Elizabeth Weir, the civilian diplomat who led the expedition until she’d been injured by the Genii just four weeks before. He let his gaze drop back to the tablet where he’d been reading John’s bio which the SGC had sent them as part of a briefing package.
“No, I doubt it’ll be bad at all. He has a Master’s degree in Applied Mathematics and double majored in math and engineering as an undergrad. John’s an analytical thinker but he can be incredibly pragmatic in emergency situations.”
“You know Brigadier General Sheppard?” Ellis questioned with a skeptical expression.
“Very well, we were roommates in college when he was finishing up his undergrad degrees,” Rodney said and went back to the bio the SGC had sent. “He’s been in a lot of heavy combat environments in the last five years and was a POW before his recent promotion and reassignment. He respects science and intelligence but he’s difficult to please so we should all expect to make some adjustments.” He checked his watch and closed the file on his tablet. “He should be arriving from Midway within the next ten minutes. If the memo the SGC sent is to believed, looks like you get the first briefing slot Colonel Ellis.”
“How long it’s been since you’ve seen him, Rodney?”
Rodney looked toward Jennifer Keller and wasn’t all surprised to find the mild attraction he’d had brewing for her was gone. Just seeing John’s name had filled up his head with remembered love and lust. There wasn’t room for anything or anyone else. “It’s been about ten years.” His gaze dropped towards the tablet. “He’s seen a lot of combat since I knew him so I don’t expect he’ll be any less the Marine when I knew him. He’s extremely unfond of bullshit and ass kissers for everyone’s reference.”
She started to respond but the stargate activated in the background and they all stood from the conference table and walked out into the gate room.
Rodney watched each chevron engage with a little tingle of excitement he hadn’t felt in years buzzing through him. The wormhole stabilized and Chuck negotiated the transfer of personnel though McKay didn’t bother to pay attention to what was being said. Four men came through with a large crate, the kind they’d used when they’d first come to Pegasus. Then another crate with three more Marines and Major Evan Lorne carrying it. It appeared General Sheppard planned to stay long term as they weren’t expecting any supplies. John stepped through last, in BDUs and combat boots so shiny they looked like glass. He’d always been like that, Rodney thought, polished to a shine. If anything he was more beautiful at thirty-four than he’d been when they’d know each other in college—his black hair cut high and tight, jade green eyes taking in everything and everyone in the gate room. The military personnel in the room scrambled to their feet as Ellis stepped forward and offered Sheppard a precise salute.
John returned the salute and with an incline of his head the Marines and Air Force personnel relaxed slightly.
“Welcome to Atlantis, sir,” Ellis said.
“Thank you, Colonel Ellis. I brought back a few men with me—O’Neill said they were slotted to return on the Apollo but you wouldn’t be opposed to getting them back early.”
“Not at all, we’re a little short on the duty roster and I was starting to lose my mind since Major Lorne makes his job look so easy,” Ellis admitted. “If you’ll come with me, I’ll show you the quarters we’ve picked out for you.”
“Actually, Major Lorne can see my gear shifted to those quarters. I’d like to go ahead and meet with you, Dr. Keller, and Dr. McKay.”
Ellis raised an eyebrow. “Yes, of course, if you’re sure?”
“Positive.” His gaze centered on Rodney at that point. “I’ll get a better picture with a team discussion rather than individual ones like the SGC planned for me.”
“They probably planned them for Colonel Carter,” Ellis said as he motioned towards the stairs. “Up until yesterday, we had no idea you were coming, sir.”
“The SGC has known for three months that I was coming to Pegasus, Colonel Ellis. Are you often left in the dark regarding personnel assignments? And just how short is your roster?”
“We have the room and the need for 30 more enlisted, sir. We could also use a few pilots and some X-302s. I don’t have the rank to pull that kind of equipment and personnel.” Ellis smiled then. “But you do.”
“I do,” John agreed. They got settled at the conference table and Rodney watched John pull a tablet and a lap top out of the slim black case he’d carried with him through the stargate. “I’ve read through the mission reports and I have some concerns.”
“Which missions?” Ellis questioned.
John focused on him. “All of them and I’ve reviewed the reports coming out of the science department since the expedition was in the Ancient outpost as well.” He turned to Rodney. “So I have a few thousand questions for you.”
Rodney nodded. He didn’t trust himself to speak, just yet.
“But let’s start with the Genii,” John said. “And the fact that they’ve managed to invade the city four different times.” He opened up the lap top and typed something before sitting back in his chair. “The last incursion saw to the deaths of six Marines and two civilians plus the near fatal wounding of Elizabeth Weir.”
“Yes, they ambushed AR3 and took their IDC,” Ellis said.
John nodded. “I did read the report. What I want to know, Colonel Ellis, is why you let the civilian leader of this expedition make military decisions.” He stared at the Air Force man as he spoke. “The charter for the expedition is clear and I can name seventeen different instances where either you or Sumner allowed Elizabeth Weir to make a strategically foolish decision that resulted in the loss of lives. After the first foothold situation on the city, Sumner wanted to establish a beta site but Weir said no and he relented. He was adamantly opposed to working with the Wraith. She did it anyway and nearly led a hive full of Wraith to Earth. You allowed her to bring a captured Wraith back to the city for experimentation despite the fact it was established early on that the creatures have telepathic abilities that work over extremely long distances. I bet you weren’t at all surprised when two Wraith hives showed up in orbit.”
“No, I wasn’t,” Ellis said. “She had the IOA’s backing and Sumner was removed from the city for fighting her constantly regarding these decisions. So I made a different choice in order to keep as many of my people safe as I could. I submitted report after report to O’Neill but his hands were tied by the IOA as well. What changed?”
“Corporal Eli Cantor.”
“He was killed three months ago…” Ellis trailed off. “Who was he?”
“The grandson of Senator Jessica Cantor and since she happened to be on the Senate Arms Committee, she was aware of the exact nature of her grandson’s death here in Pegasus. She soon became privy to all of those reports you’ve been filing regarding mission integrity and safety. She ripped Senator Kinsey a new asshole over the budget constraints he put on the SGC and got it in her head that if her grandson had been issued proper body armor he’d be alive today.”
“He probably would be,” Ellis said. “He took an arrow in the back, sir.” He leaned forward. “So you’ve been preparing to take over even before Weir was injured.”
“Yes,” John said simply. “I want the duty roster reorganized and all off-world activity is suspended until we have a proper beta site in place. All teams will travel through the beta site before returning to the city—there will be no exceptions to this so the beta site will have to be staffed for emergency medical treatment when we have teams in the field.” He looked towards Keller as he said that. “Field medics will be used there as I will no longer be allowing civilian medical personnel off-world.”
“But…” Keller trailed off and took a deep breath. “I do a lot of good work in the field, General.”
“That work can be delegated to military medics, this isn’t the Red Cross, Dr. Keller and you’re a liability in the field. You’ve been off world four times and kidnapped twice. That’s ridiculous.” John refocused on his lap top and Rodney wondered what sort of program the man was using to infiltrate Atlantis’ systems. “You endanger yourself and other personnel in the field. I shouldn’t have to waste resources and put others at risk because you can’t be bothered to learn to defend yourself or carry a weapon.”
“What about my people?” McKay questioned.
“Only eight including yourself are field qualified, correct?”
“Correct,” Rodney said with a grimace.
“Then they can stay active in the field. Any civilian that wants field status is going to have to prove to me they can handle both a 9mm and a P-90.” John closed the lap top. “The entire city will be reorganized on the job front in the weeks to come—all scheduling regarding missions and scientific experimentation will be reviewed and I’ll expect detailed reports from you both regarding those reviews.” He focused on Keller. “All research into the Iratus and Wraith genetics are suspended indefinitely. The Hoffan drug research will also stop.”
“There are no buts,” John interrupted and watched her face flush with fury. “The mission perimeters for the expedition have changed, Dr. Keller. Also, how long exactly do you plan to take to kill the Wraith currently imprisoned on the city?”
“We’re not killing him,” Jennifer denied, clearly horrified. “He’s being treated very humanely.”
“You’re starving him to death,” John said plainly. “And while you ignore his basic needs, you’re plucking biological samples off of him like he’s not even sentient. Having him on the city is an immense security threat and as of this very moment, it serves no purpose.” He put his tablet on top of the closed lap top and focused on McKay. “I want the genetics lab where the Wraith research was conducted closed and cleaned. All data is to be transferred to a secure, encrypted hard drive and given to me within the next twenty-four hours. There are to be no other copies made of the data and any data that is not currently secured pertaining to the research is to be transferred and deleted. All samples are to be destroyed.”
“General Sheppard, this is outrageous,” Jennifer protested. “That is years of research.”
“It’s useless research,” John said plainly. “We already know how to kill them and that’s the only information I need.” He stood. “Colonel Ellis, you have twenty-four hours to prepare a report on the battle readiness of the military assets on the city. Dr. Keller, I want a full review of the medical services and must-need equipment as soon as possible. Over the next week, we’ll meet once a day for two hours as we work through the many issues I have with the way the city is currently operating. Rodney if you would show me to my quarters, I’d appreciate it.”
Rodney stood, stomach tight with anticipation and a small amount of anxiety. “Yes, of course. All of the senior staff are housed it the same tower so you and I are neighbors.” He watched John store the lap top and tablet.
He waited until they were moving down the hall towards a transporter before speaking. “So did Carter build you a program to infiltrate the city network or did you do it yourself?”
“I did it but Carter proofed it for me,” John admitted. “It worked everywhere but your personal servers. I trust you’ll do as I requested regarding the Wraith research.”
“I will,” Rodney said. They entered the transporter but he didn’t push a destination. “I… John.” He turned to stare at him. “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask the same of you, McKay,” John snapped. “You left Earth and didn’t even send me an email telling me goodbye. It was a one-way fucking mission, Rodney!”
Rodney looked at the floor as he shoved his hands into his pockets. “Yes, well, I had to come and if I’d figured you into the equation I never would’ve stepped through the gate. Leaving Earth was the second hardest thing I’ve ever done.” He looked up and found John glaring at him. “Letting you walk away that morning was the first. I never regretted anything more in my life than that. You’re all I’ve ever wanted, John, and you just walked away like… like it was easy.”
“The last thing it was, was easy,” John protested. “But the Director of the Center at the time made it clear to me that I couldn’t… stand in your way. You’re a powerful and talented Guide, McKay, they wanted you to bond. I was told our relationship was corrupt and bordering on abusive.”
“That’s bullshit!” Rodney shouted and huffed. He leaned against the wall. “You didn’t tell me any of that.”
“No, in fact I never told anyone until… recently.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out an USB drive. “This for you from Blair Sandburg.”
“Why is the Alpha Guide Prime of North America contacting me and why didn’t he email?” Rodney questioned.
“Because the information on that drive is highly sensitive and he didn’t want the SGC or anyone at the Pentagon to read it,” John said.
“What’s on it?”
“I don’t know the full content but I can assume it’s a detailed psychological profile, testing results, and the training I received when I came online six months ago. I know it has our DNA compatibility testing results.” He paused and watched the color drain from Rodney’s face. “You were right, Mer, we’re a perfect match.”
“I.” Rodney slid the drive into his front pants pocket and took a deep breath. “You… you’re… I would’ve come to you if you’d asked. They knew that. I left explicit instructions to be informed the very day you came online.”
“I know and I read the letter you left—it was more comfort than I deserved. They offered to try to bring you back but you wouldn’t have come out here if the work wasn’t important and I’d never want to take you from your work. So the Center forced the Pentagon to sort me to the Atlantis expedition and the IOA caved pretty quickly.”
Rodney nodded and reached out. He pushed their destination absently and they flashed away only to reappear in a different transporter. “I’ll show you how to operate this later.”
“I read the report you wrote on them.” The doors opened and he let McKay exit ahead of him.
Rodney let his fingers trail along the wall as they walked until he came to a stop in front of a door. “We picked this out for Sam Carter but I think you’ll be comfortable here.” He pressed on the door panel. “There’s a balcony—it’s three rooms so we can set up one for private office space if you want.”
John glanced towards the metal crates that were stacked neatly against one wall and took a deep breath. “McKay.”
“I need a little time to process,” Rodney said quietly. “Don’t take this as a rejection, John, because it’s not. I accepted you as my Sentinel practically the day we met and nothing has changed for me on that front. I was never going to accept anyone but you.”
John shoved his hands into his pockets and looked at the floor. “Okay.”
“The only doctor on the city qualified to handle your care is new on the city—just a few weeks.” Rodney sighed. “Fucking IOA.”
John laughed weakly. “I picked Harris out myself actually. He did a physical for me before he came out here. He’s young but very talented, graduated at the top of his class at John’s Hopkins at twenty-six and has practiced Sentinel/Guide medicine for five years. It also irritated me that there wasn’t more knowledgeable medical personnel regarding Guides on the city already. What if you’d had a problem?”
“Most people don’t know I’m a Guide,” Rodney admitted. “Mundanes often try to manipulate us into taking risks we shouldn’t—especially if we don’t have a Sentinel. I can’t imagine what kind of situations Weir would’ve thrown me in regarding the Wraith if she’d known I was a Guide. She’d have probably blown her stack if she knew I was a Wolf Guide.” He turned to John then. “What’s your spirit animal?”
John sighed. “I haven’t told anyone because it’s almost cliché.”
Rodney grinned. “Eagle?”
“Shut up,” John flushed. “Bald Eagle no less. I might as well tattoo a flag on my ass.”
“I’ve missed you,” Rodney said his tone soft and pleased. “I’m glad you’re here. I hate what you must have suffered to force you online and we will be talking about it at length.”
“Okay.” John nodded and averted his gaze. “It’s getting difficult not to touch you, McKay, so you should go.”
Rodney grimaced and started towards the door. “Right. Well, I don’t want to make things hard for you but I also don’t want to go but I will. I’m going to my lab which is on the other side of the city. I’ll send someone around with a radio for you in about an hour. I’ll have to make some adjustments to it so you don’t get hurt or have a hearing spike. I don’t have anything specifically made for Sentinels.”
“I do,” John admitted. He put his bag down and pulled out a slim black case which he offered to McKay. “You can wed it to the city comm system, Carter made sure.”
“Great.” Rodney took a breath. “So I’m going.”
“Please,” John said in agreement.
He waited until the door shut before he sank down on the pristine white sofa that dominated the front room of his quarters and rubbed his face with both hands. John shuddered as McKay’s heartbeat disappeared for three seconds then reappeared. The transporters were suddenly a complete nightmare. He listened to McKay hand off the radio he’d been given to a man named Zelenka and explain that situation. Rodney’s tone as they spoke told John everything he needed to know about Radek Zelenka—McKay trusted him.
* * * * * *
Rodney turned on the white noise generator he’d brought to Atlantis more out of habit that need as soon as he entered his private office. He shut and locked the door with a thought then slumped down in the chair briefly before pulling out the USB drive and plugging it into his computer. He was surprised when a security panel with the Sentinel-Guide Center logo appeared. He took the lap top off the network entirely then entered his credentials. The security screen disappeared and a folder opened. He skipped over John’s medical records, the genetic testing information and clicked on the file simply labeled ‘Rodney’.
I hope this letter finds you well and that despite the issues at hand that you’re pleased to have your John back. You always said he was perfect for you and you know I never once disagreed with your choice to ignore your other options in the system. Sharing your mind with another person is so intimate a thing and there are those who stubbornly refuse to see that. So much of the bonding process focuses on the need of the Sentinel—their needs, their health, and their wants often trumps everything else. Instinctually, I even agree with it. I can’t help but want to shelter my Sentinel. I know you feel the same way.
I did my best to get him as healthy as possible so he could come to you—something he insisted on. Everyone who knew offered to bring you back to Earth from him. Yes, I’ve been briefed on your location and mission. They don’t keep much from Jim these days—he considers secrets practically a betrayal. Age has not mellowed my Blessed Protector in the least, to be sure. John has a good grasp on his senses and quickly learned the techniques required to keep himself safe. When he left the Center, he hadn’t zoned in sixty-three days. Even then his last zone was brief and he was easily brought out of it.
I’ve included his medical records in the information packet you’ve received. His feral episode was BAD but he didn’t turn on his own people which surprised many on the ground. He had to be tranq’d four times before they could take him down and contain him for transport back to the US. He was sedated for three days before he was transferred into our custody and when he woke—he was still feral. It’s the stuff of legends, as you know. He’s an Alpha to the bone so you’re certainly going to have your hands full. I expect he’ll wake things in you that have slept a long time.
Come home if you need—Jim and I will make time for you both.
-Dr. Blair Sandburg
Alpha Guide of North America
Rodney took a deep breath and knocked on the door that stood between him and Dr. Chase Harris. The doctor was young but not as young as Keller. Harris held out a hand and looked McKay over with vivid blue eyes. The other Guide sighed.
“You’re a mess, McKay.”
“Yeah, I am,” Rodney agreed. “I’ve spent over a decade suppressing as much of my gifts as I could get away with. I’m in no way prepared for this.”
“If I could’ve told you I would’ve but it would’ve been a violation of doctor/patient confidentiality. I can’t discuss him with you until after you bond so please don’t ask me any questions about his status.”
Rodney held up the USB drive. “I have a full information packet. It included his medical records so I don’t have any questions on that front.” He put the drive back in his pocket. “Can I sit?”
“Of course,” Chase said with a nod. “My apologies. I’m just surprised to see you.” He shut the door with a wave of his hand over the sensor. “I have to admit—the city is pretty cool.”
Rodney nodded. “Very cool for those of us with the gene.” He sat down in a chair in front of Harris’ desk. “I need you to take over as my primary physician. I was going to do it anyway but I’d been looking for an excuse, honestly. I didn’t want it to look like I had a problem with Keller who took over after Carson returned to Earth.”
Harris nodded and picked up a tablet. He worked with it for a few seconds and presented it. “Just sign off on the transfer of your full records. I’ve codes to open up the portions of your files locked to mundanes.” He paused as he said that. “You should know that Keller recently requested that I open several locked files—yours and a military one among them.”
“You’re the only other online Guide on the city,” Rodney said.
“We have two latent Sentinels—they’re both military. I refused, of course, and I’ll have to file a report with the SGC regarding her violation of procedure. She had no need for the records—just curious and more so probably regarding you. I understand you were working towards some sort of relationship with her.”
“We had a date,” Rodney said. “Just last week but… I was bored out of mind. We don’t have a lot in common even without considering the age difference.” He waved a hand. “Not that you care.”
“We can talk about anything you want to talk about,” Chase said seriously. “I have a Master’s in Psychology and I qualify to act as a counselor due to my Guide gifts. If you need that from me—I’m available.”
“What I need is lubrication,” Rodney admitted. “And a full STD scan to make sure I’m clean. John had problems with latex when he was latent. I don’t know what it would do to him now that he’s online. I’m almost entirely sure I’m clean but I don’t want to take any risks.”
“Okay,” Chase said. “Anything else?” He paused. “Since you’ve asked for lubrication, I can take it you haven’t had anal sex in a while. I brought two bonding prep kits—one for you since I figure you haven’t one of your own.”
“No, I tossed it out more than a decade ago.” Rodney blushed. “At the time I was having plenty of anal sex and I had no need for an anal plug.” He huffed. “Is it discreet?”
Chase grinned and opened a desk drawer. He pulled out a black leather bag that looked like a shaving kit. “Yes, everything is still in the original packaging. You’ll find a bottle of lubricant as well.” He put the bag on his desk. “How are your shields?”
“I’m like Fort Knox and it’s a problem,” Rodney admitted. “I’ve invested in protecting myself so much that I’m not sure I’ll be able to let John in.”
“And your previous relationship with him won’t make that easier?” Chase questioned. “I have to say, McKay, that I envy you a little. You have a rich past with your Sentinel—there’s already love there and that’s rare for us.”
Rodney picked up the bag and nodded. “Yeah. I’m going to meditate and try to get myself set to rights.”
* * * * * *
John listened to Rodney move around the city as he got settled. He’d unpacked his TV first so the pilot episode of Babylon Five was playing in the background but he’d muted the show so he could keep track of his Guide. He couldn’t make himself stop so he figured he owed McKay an apology for violating his privacy.
The door chime sounded. Rodney had sent his radio to him through Radek Zelenka. The Czech scientist was throwing off a variety of scents—coffee, stress, and irritation. John opened the door as it chimed again.
Radek made a face at him. “General Sheppard.”
“Relax, spying on people is actually a waste of my gifts.” He took the radio case when the scientist offered it and grinned when Zelenka blushed. “Besides, I’ll probably content myself to invade McKay’s privacy on a regular basis. Everyone else will be kind of boring compared.”
“Rodney is a loud mess,” Zelenka said. “I can see how that might be entertaining. Did you need help setting anything up? White noise machines?”
“I have one and I’ve placed it in my bedroom. Honestly, the ocean is more of a soothing sound than any white noise machine I’ve ever had. I don’t have problems sleeping around mundanes—we’ll see how it goes on that front, I guess. I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t discuss my status with anyone.”
“I’ve always known Rodney was a Guide and I kept it secret,” Zelenka said. “It’s no one’s business.”
“I plan to announce my status to the populace,” John explained. “But I don’t want to deal with the speculation before my announcement. They have the right to know I’m here and more importantly what to do if I have a feral episode.”
“Have you had one?” Zelenka questioned.
“It’s how I came online,” John explained. “I was a POW.”
Radek snorted. “I bet they bitterly regretted that shit.”
“Thanks for the radio,” John said with a grin.
“Let me know if it gives you any feedback,” Zelenka ordered and left without another word.
John took a step back and would’ve let it close if Ellis hadn’t called out to him from the transporter. John motioned the man in when the Air Force man paused briefly. “Come in, Colonel.” He put the radio down on the table between his couch and the TV. “How can I help you?”
“I came to ask you if wanted a few Marines to help you unpack,” Ellis said.
“No, I’d prefer to not have anyone handle my things,” John said. “Is there a problem?”
“No.” Ellis frowned.
John sighed. “Don’t lie to me. It’ll piss me off nearly one hundred percent of the time and it’s a waste of your time.” He focused on the man. “I’m a Sentinel, Colonel Ellis. An Alpha Sentinel and you don’t have a hope of keeping a secret from me. What’s wrong?”
Ellis stared at him in shock, horror and a bit of fury flowed over his expressive face. “The SGC sent a Sentinel here without telling me?”
“I suppose if I was under you in the chain of command, they’d have probably informed you,” John said and Ellis grimaced. “Because I would be your responsibility but I’m not—either of those things. Sit and tell me what’s wrong. Permission to speak freely.” He pointed towards the couch as he opened up another crate.
“Sir, I can’t sit on my butt while you work,” Ellis protested, exasperated.
John laughed. “Right. Fine. Go wash your hands and you can finish unpacking my DVDs. I only unpacked far enough to get to something I wanted on the TV.”
Ellis nodded and went in the direction of the bathroom. John put the box of DVDs near the shelving unit next to the table he’d put his television on and opened the final crate. It held clothing, toiletries, and a few books. He had a ton of books on his tablet but there were a few hardbacks he hadn’t wanted to replace with digital copies.
Ellis returned and went to the box of DVDs. “Dr. Weir has demanded you come to the infirmary to meet with her. She’s under the mistaken impression that you’re here to replace me and intends to protest that.”
John nodded. “What else?”
“I have a feeling you aren’t going to like it at all,” Abraham admitted, “considering your past friendship with McKay.”
“We were lovers,” John corrected absently. “For nearly three years while I pursued my undergraduate education.” He glanced towards Ellis whose heart rate had increased slightly. “Is that a problem?”
Ellis paused after putting the Star Trek television series in order of creation. “No.” He paused. “If I knew you better, I’d probably ask a profane question.”
John laughed. “He’s always had an ass you could bounce a quarter off.”
Ellis snorted. “Right, I thought so. I never have minded watching him go and I’m almost entirely straight. I had no idea he was bisexual actually. I’ve never known him to give a man the time of day personally.”
“What’s the problem with McKay?”
“The problem isn’t McKay, exactly. It’s Weir. She’s put in a formal request to have McKay replaced as the Chief Science Officer because he refused to authorize experimental treatment for her injuries. She’s blaming him for her partial paralysis and believes the solution would cut her rehab time in by two-thirds.”
“How experimental?” John questioned.
“Keller wanted to use nanites to heal Weir and McKay said no. Keller has filed a report with the SGC as well, accusing Rodney of abusing his power as CSO but he’s unaware of it.”
“So Weir and McKay don’t get along.”
“Weir liked him at first but when McKay refused to budge on a variety of scientific issues, including advanced ATA gene research they started to argue a lot. He’s also refused to be involved in the Wraith and Iratus research. The two times they’ve brought Wraith tech back to the city, Rodney had it destroyed within twenty-four hours citing security concerns.”
“Considering the fact that Wraith tech is organic, I’m inclined to agree with him that it’s stupidly dangerous to bring it to the city. An off-world research project might be viable on a short-term basis.” John made several stacks of clothes on the couch so he could transfer them into the dresser in the bedroom. “Weir’s trying to get rid of McKay?”
“Yes and this city is still here because of him. You know that because you’ve read the reports. Weir doesn’t seem to care.”
“She’s no longer in charge here and the IOA isn’t going to remove McKay from the city.” John paused and considered how to address that subject. “He’s my Guide, Colonel, and the reason I’m here. The IOA is invested in keeping me in Pegasus because of my gifts so you needn’t worry that Weir’s poisoned them against McKay. He could probably get away with murder but let’s not tell him that.”
“No, he doesn’t need that kind of information,” Ellis said wryly. “Big science fiction fan?” He waved a box set of Farscape.
“Yeah, I was pretty excited to be briefed on the Stargate program. I’d have been all up in it years ago if I’d heard even the smallest hint about it and not just because Rodney was part of it. I can’t wait to sit down in a Jumper. Major Lorne promised to teach me how to fly one.”
“They’re pretty fun,” Ellis agreed as he went back to shelving. “It’s good that Weir didn’t know about McKay’s abilities. It would’ve been a bad situation for him. She’s a big picture person and wouldn’t have blinked an eye at using him to further her agenda.”
“What’s her agenda?”
“Honestly?” Abraham questioned then paused to think over his answer. “At one time, I’d have said the advancement of mankind. She spoke of it a lot when I first joined the expedition but through personal observation I believe her primary goal is Ascension.”
“Ascension,” John repeated. “She’s suicidal?”
“She wouldn’t think of it that way,” Abraham warned. “But, yes I think so. She makes no effort to forge personal relationships. I understand she left the man she was engaged to be married to join the expedition. He found out she was gone through a video message of all things if the rumors are to be believed. She hasn’t returned to Earth in more than two years and devotes most of her time reading about Ascension and the experiments the Ancients conducted on the process.”
“Right.” John sighed. “Let me put these clothes away and I’ll go speak with Elizabeth Weir.”
* * * * * *
Elizabeth Weir was in a private room in the infirmary. Her dark hair was pulled back from her face in a French braid, and her eyes were dark with what John assumed was anger. She didn’t smell sick and all of her injuries were closed. She had a fresh pink scar on her arm but no stitches.
“I was led to believe you were quite ill, Dr. Weir, and too fragile to be transferred to Earth.” John glanced towards Jennifer Keller who blushed and averted her gaze. “General O’Neill will be relieved to know you’re in much better health than what has been reported.”
Weir flushed. “I’m not leaving the city. I can make my recovery here.”
“Dr. Weir,” John began and paused. He focused on Keller then. “Dr. Keller, I need to have a private conversation with Dr. Weir. If you’d wait outside? I’ll call you if you’re needed.”
Weir watched the younger woman go and frowned as the door swished shut. “I don’t appreciate you dismissing my people, General. That’s not how things are going to work between us. I’m in charge of this city.”
“Dr. Weir, I wasn’t sent out here to replace Colonel Ellis. The SGC and the IOA are pleased with his performance in Pegasus and the only reason he’d go home would be if he wanted to. I’m here to replace you, permanently. You’ll be sorted back to Earth with the next dial out. Dr. Keller is going to be reprimanded for lying and she might lose her job. She will certainly lose her place as CMO. I won’t have someone in that position who’s capable of such dishonesty.”
“Loves me,” John said. “They’re thrilled I was prepared to take the assignment off-planet because of my rank. You’re done here and it would be best for everyone if you’d be as gracious as possible. Don’t cause more trouble for the people here than you already have.” He turned on his heel and left the room, furious.
He glared pointedly at Keller as the door to Weir’s room shut behind him. “You’ll amend every single report you’ve filed before the next data burst to the SGC, Dr. Keller. I realize you’re young and for that I’m going to cut you more slack than you honestly deserve. You lied to General O’Neill and the IOA about Weir’s medical condition.”
“She was the leader of the…” Keller trailed off and looked away from her, tears streaming down her face. “I told her I wasn’t ready to be CMO and she said it would be fine. I told Rodney, too, but he couldn’t do anything. I can’t… I’m a researcher, General Sheppard and a very good surgeon but I can’t…” She waved a hand as if to encompass the entire infirmary. “This is so far beyond my scope it’s not even funny.”
John pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Right. Go fix your reports, Dr. Keller and if Dr. McKay agrees you won’t be sent home to Earth. I’ll replace you as CMO within the next two weeks so if you’d sort your office and any paperwork needed for your replacement, I would appreciate it.”
“Thank you,” Keller said weakly. “I’m sorry, General.”
“You really should be,” John snapped. “Go find someone else to cry on, please.”
* * * * * *
Rodney stood from his meditation mat and went to answer his door. He’d put himself off duty so he figured it wasn’t one of his people because they actively avoided him when he was working unless the city was about to explode. He swallowed back a sigh at the sight of Jennifer Keller which made him feel like an asshole because even a week ago he’d have been pleased to have her seek him out. “Jen.”
“Can I…” Her mouth trembled and misery poured off of her. “Sheppard’s going to report me to the SGC for lying about Dr. Weir’s condition to keep her on the city.”
“I told you not to do it,” Rodney said and winced when she started to cry in earnest. “For fuck’s sake, come in.” He waved her in and thought the door shut as he went in search a t-shirt.
“You were meditating?” Jennifer asked in confusion. “I thought you hated that stuff? You don’t attend Teyla’s classes.”
“Her classes really wouldn’t do me any good,” Rodney said. “And would be a waste of time. I can’t relax with all that talking about getting in touch with my core. How can I help you?”
“Sheppard said you’ll have input on whether or not I get to stay on the city,” Jennifer said in a small voice but offered him a hopeful smile. “So I’m hoping that I can count on you to… put in a good word for me.”
“I guess that would depend on whether or not you intend on following the chain of command in the future,” Rodney said. “You ignored my direct orders several times over the past month and I was the de facto head of the expedition due to Weir’s injury. She’s emotionally compromised—I told you this when she woke up and you ignored me. Now you’re facing a reprimand for an ethics violation. You’re fortunate that the project is classified or you might be facing a reprimand from the AMA.”
“Is manipulative,” Rodney said plainly. “She’s dishonest when it suits her and she controls people through a mixture of intimidation and false camaraderie. She’ll deny to her dying breath that she ordered you to lie about her health to keep her on the city and claim she had no idea you told the SGC she was too fragile to move. I had to destroy the entire nanite project to keep you from activating technology you have no ability whatsoever to control.”
“If you’d helped me, I wouldn’t have had to sneak around you!” Jennifer shouted and crossed her arms with a frown.
“Nanite/human experimentation is strictly forbidden! The IOA would’ve destroyed us both and Weir wouldn’t have had a single damn thing happen to her if she’d survived the procedure. You’re very naïve if you think otherwise.” Rodney pulled the t-shirt over his head and slouched down in a chair near the balcony to avoid sharing the couch with her. “I’ll speak to John about it but I can’t make any guarantees at this point. It depends on the questions that he asks because I can’t lie to him.”
“He’s your friend,” Jennifer said. “And I’m your girlfriend. Just tell him how important it is…” She trailed off. “Why are you frowning at me?”
“We had one date, Jennifer, and it was boring. Don’t try to pretend you thought otherwise and really—don’t try to manipulate me for the potential for sex. It’s classless and you’re better than that. I was attracted to you, yes, but it was entirely physical because frankly we don’t have anything in common and your ethics suck.” Rodney shrugged when she looked at him with shock and hurt. “I’m not trying to hurt you with this, you know. You’re young and you made some mistakes. I can’t say I didn’t make some stupid decisions when I was your age but I’m grateful at least that I just hurt myself. You could’ve killed or maimed half the people in the city if you’d lost control of the nanites you were going to infect Weir with. Moreover, considering the Replicator threat in this galaxy—how was it wise to even consider activating the same nanites that were used to create the Replicators in Pegasus?”
“The team working on them had reprogrammed them. They were perfectly safe.”
“Bullshit,” Rodney said. “But there is no point in having this argument again because that situation is no longer even a possibility.”
She curled up into the corner of the couch. “So we don’t have… I mean, you don’t want to see what we could have together?”
Rodney huffed. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”
“Rodney just be honest.”
“You’re terribly young and the date was a mistake,” Rodney said finally. “I’d have never done it if you weren’t promoted to CMO. I mean—I thought—why not? You were equal to me, sort of, even if your research aspects still fell under my control. Then Weir was hurt and I had to step into her place temporarily and you ignored my authority because of our personal connection.”
“Why did you change doctors, then? There’s no conflict of interest if we aren’t going to go out,” Jennifer asked and bit down on her lip as she stared at him.
“You’ll find out soon enough, I guess. I’m a Guide and Dr. Harris has training in the handling of Guides and Sentinels. I’ve been suppressing my abilities for too long and it’s been stressful on my mind. I need to make some adjustments and that may require medical attention you aren’t trained or qualified to render.”
“You’re a Guide?” Jennifer asked, horrified. “How… could you keep this a secret, Rodney? What the fuck? Have you been reading my mind?”
“I’m an empath not a telepath. I can’t read anyone’s mind and I make every single effort not to pick up anyone’s emotions because frankly other people suck and I don’t want to be exposed to that crap. I kept it a secret because I didn’t trust Weir not to try to use against me or to force me to… try to interact with the Wraith.”
“But you could,” Jennifer said. “You could tell us a lot about what’s happening with the one we have in the cage. You could tell us about what he’s feeling. That would be so interesting.”
“And you don’t care at all what it might do to me to be exposed to the alien mind of a species that evolved from a fucking insect,” Rodney said wonderingly. “It hasn’t even crossed your mind at all how much it could damage me. Moreover, you’d be perfectly okay with me mind-fucking a Wraith.”
She paled. “It’s not… I mean… it’s important research. We don’t know enough about the species no matter what General Sheppard might think. He doesn’t understand what’s really happening in Pegasus. He can’t because he hasn’t even been here a day. The Wraith must be… studied. They can live forever, Rodney. They regenerate their cells even when they’re not feeding. Wouldn’t you want to have an extended life span? Imagine how many diseases we could cure on Earth if we could figure out how Wraith regenerate.”
“Imagine how exciting it would be to split the atom,” Rodney said snidely.
“I’m not researching weapons!”
“If you think your research couldn’t be weaponized, then you’re truly have no business working for the military. There is a scientist at Area 51 who successfully turned the Hoffan drug into a biological weapon, Jennifer. Fortunately, O’Neill had the entire sample destroyed when he found out. Imagine how dangerous a synthetic Wraith enzyme would be on Earth—it’s as addictive as cocaine and makes people superhuman in the short term. You weren’t here for it—but Sumner was forced to empty a P-90 into Ford because of what the enzyme did to him. That kid had a good heart and he was loyal. The enzyme corrupted him from the inside out in a matter of hours and he killed ten people trying to get to the stargate before Sumner stopped him.”
“I read the reports,” Jennifer said. “One of my mandates was researching they enzyme to isolate the components that increase strength and endurance…”
“Yes, because wouldn’t a super soldier be amazing?” Rodney asked and watched her mouth drop open. “God, I had no idea you were so naïve. Seriously? How did you get through medical school?”
Jennifer blushed. “I was in medical school at seventeen, Rodney. My mom was with me. Sometimes she even attended classes with me. You understand that—you were in college at fourteen.”
“I was alone,” Rodney said shortly. “My parents could barely stand the sight of me and I rarely saw them after I graduated high school. Look, I’ll speak with Sheppard. We obviously have a lot to discuss regarding your position on the city but I’m not going to allow any lingering affection I might have you impact the safety of the city or the integrity of the research being done here.”
“You’re not being fair.”
“I could say something really cliché right now but I’ll refrain.” He slouched down in the chair as she stood and marched out of his quarters with a haughty little flick of blonde hair. “Pretty but silly.”
His radio buzzed gently in his ear and he activated it with a brush of his fingers.
“Should I apologize?” John questioned in his ear.
“About which part? The eavesdropping or the abrupt reappearance in my life after a decade of silence?”
“Being mean to your girlfriend.”
“She’s not my girlfriend, as you well know,” Rodney said.
“And I do apologize for continuously violating your privacy but I honestly can’t help myself. I’m starving here, Rodney.”
Rodney closed his eyes and dropped his head back against the chair. “I just need a bit of time to clean up my head and for the sake of my personal safety—you should know I’ve not slept with a man since you so I need to do some preparation on that front as well.”
“No man since me?” John said.
“You were the only man ever, you asshole,” Rodney said and turned off the radio. He opened his eyes as his spirit animal brushed against his legs. The wolf eyed him with what looked like disappointment but that wasn’t a surprise. It had been nearly five years since he’d opened his mind up enough to accept a visitation by his spirit animal. “I’m not apologizing to you.” The wolf nipped his fingers which stung slightly. Nothing like being put in your place by a creature made entirely of psionic energy. “Don’t you wonder? Why we weren’t enough before? Plenty of Sentinels come online just meeting their Guide if the Guide is already online. But not John and we were lovers for years.”
The wolf whined.
“Fine,” Rodney said with a huff. “Go visit him—one of us should be free to give into our instincts.”
* * * * * *
John sat tense and stupidly excited all at the same time until Rodney’s spirit animal materialized in front of him. The wolf stretched leisurely and hopped up onto the couch. He put his head on John’s thigh and Sheppard hesitantly brushed his fingers through the fur on the wolf’s neck.
“I always knew you’d be beautiful,” John murmured. “You have his gorgeous blue eyes. I think… you were there, weren’t you? You were with me when I came online in that insurgent camp. The people at the Center told me it was impossible but Blair Sandburg didn’t discount it. He just said something stupidly cryptic and mysterious which I hate. I always appreciated how straight forward Rodney is despite his Guide training and the shamanism they taught him against his will.”
The wolf huffed.
“I’m not at all surprised that you thought it was bullshit, too,” John admitted with a laugh. He curled his fingers into the wolf’s fur and returned his attention to a report he’d found on the server—one that hadn’t made it to Earth, yet. He had thirty-seven to read. “This place is a fucking mess. I’m going to make a list of people you can bite on the ass.”
The wolf snorted and closed his eyes. John took that as agreement.
John been on the city for two weeks and it felt like a year—more for the fact that he’d had several arguments with Elizabeth Weir who had protested being removed from the city so vehemently that she’d very nearly given herself a heart attack. They’d been forced to sedate her to keep her from injuring herself and John had transferred her back to Earth while she was unconscious. Very few people had appeared to have a problem with it and no one had voiced a single complaint, so far.
His decision to execute their Wraith prisoner, however, had been met with shock and no small amount of horror where it concerned a large portion of the civilian personnel. The military members of the expedition had been relieved to be rid of him but then they’d been the ones responsible for keeping the alien contained. Six different civilians had sent the IOA complaints accusing him of war crimes. They’d all been fired and John wasn’t all that fussed to see them go. Every time he was in a room with Keller she looked at him like he’d broken all of her crayons. It was mighty annoying. He couldn’t figure it out if it was because he’d reported her foolish behavior to the SGC or because of McKay.
He set that bit of stupidity aside and focused on the woman in front of him. “You were a member of the original expedition, have extensive field experience first as a medic in the Marines then as a doctor with the SGC. Why weren’t you chosen to replace Dr. Beckett when he returned to Earth, Dr. Porter?”
“Elizabeth Weir hates me,” Allison Porter said. “In fact, she didn’t want me on the expedition at all because I was one of the few doctors at the SGC who voiced disapproval for the ATA gene research, how it was conducted, and implemented. She made Carson Beckett the CMO because he was the progenitor of that research but even he would tell you it was the wrong choice because he’s a researcher first and foremost. He’d not practiced as a doctor since his residency, General, until we came to Pegasus.”
John sighed. “Right. Unless you’d like to run screaming back to Earth through the stargate, you’re now the Chief Medical Officer of the city. Dr. Keller should be ready to transfer any files you need and your office has been vacated. Her privileges in the infirmary are suspended pending your review of all of her work while she was CMO. She lied to the SGC about Weir’s condition, repeatedly, both in verbal and written reports. O’Neill is furious but he agrees with me that Keller is stupidly young and ill-prepared to deal with a woman like Elizabeth Weir. She’ll be returned to the medical research department and won’t practice as a medical doctor on the city outside of an emergency until you say otherwise.”
“She needs some seasoning and her bedside manner is a bit of a nightmare. Her work as a surgeon is top-notch, General, so I’ll work on reviewing her case work and get her back into that rotation. There is no need for her to see patients outside of surgical circumstances. Dr. Harris is more than capable of taking on her patients and Biro will take what he can’t.” She smiled then. “Also, thanks for the eye candy.”
John laughed. He couldn’t deny that Chase Harris was very attractive. “You’re welcome. I’ll expect a report within the week regarding 911 needs for the infirmary. There hasn’t been a proper supply audit since Beckett returned to Earth.”
“Oh, I know,” Porter said in agreement. “I’ll get started ASAP. Biro has been keeping a list so she might have it ready for me if I ask nicely enough.” She stood and checked her watch. “Isn’t it about time for your nesting period to begin?”
John flushed. “I’m off duty in ten minutes.”
He’d gotten the entire city together and explained to them that he was a Sentinel and with Rodney’s permission announced that McKay was his Guide. That announcement had led to a stupid amount of research, discussion, and speculation. Nearly two weeks later—Rodney was finally ready for him. They’d both taken themselves off the schedule for forty-eight hours and it hadn’t taken a single rocket scientist to figure out they were ready to bond.
“Yes, well, have fun and I’ll have meals delivered on the schedule we agreed. Major Lorne will deliver them personally and he’ll be the only person allowed to enter your quarters for the next forty-eight hours. Drink plenty of water, General, and do try to get a little bit of sleep.”
He huffed. “It’s not like we’re going to be in heat, Dr. Porter.”
“Don’t ruin it for me,” Porter exclaimed and picked up her tablet from the corner of the desk where she’d placed it when she’d entered his office. “Geez.”
* * * * * *
While John had worked most of the afternoon, Rodney had supervised the shifting of their personal belongings into a small tower not far from the central spire. It was just three floors and had never been used by the expedition. It was connected on the power grid through the central spire and control room. They’d never been able to disconnect it and after a while Rodney had discovered that it was the former home of the leader of the Alterans and couldn’t be depowered without killing the entire central spire. He’d spent the last two weeks preparing it for them both. The first floor had become his private lab and he’d given his old lab to Zelenka. The second floor was office space for both himself and John while the third floor was for personal use and had security in place to insure it.
Rodney shifted on his meditation mat in front of the balcony doors as John entered their apartment and locked the door. He looked up and met his Sentinel’s gaze. The John he’d known in college lingered underneath General Sheppard—Rodney had spent the last two weeks looking for the gentle boy who’d kissed him with a mouth that tasted like peppermint and who trembled when he came. Sheppard stopped at the waist high table by the door and took off his watch. He dropped it in the earthen Athosian-made bowl. The radio followed.
John’s spirit animal flew through the balcony doors, a faint shine of psionic energy drifted over the eagle’s form as he landed on the perch Rodney had ordered from a wood worker on the mainland. The eagle ruffled his feathers and chuffed slightly—he’d rarely visited Rodney since John’s arrival on the city and had so far not allowed Rodney to touch him. Rodney’s wolf, however, had been at John’s side since Sheppard had announced what he was to the city. The people on Atlantis had grown used to the blue-eyed wolf lounging around John’s office and growling at people who pissed John off.
“I’m going to shower,” John murmured. He shoved his hands into his pockets and took a deep breath. “I’m pretty on edge so…”
“I should be where I want to get fucked when you come out,” Rodney supplied and grinned when John frowned.
“I’m not an animal,” John said shortly. “I can… we can bond in the platonic way if that is your wish. I’ll need to do a physical imprint but I can control myself, Rodney. I’d never hurt you.”
“I know you won’t hurt me and we’ll bond faster, better with sex. It’s what I prefer but if… I mean… if you don’t want me…” Rodney took a deep breath. “I’m not exactly how you remember, I guess.”
“I love you,” John said and waited until Rodney’s gaze connected with his own. “I’ve always loved you. I think… I think maybe from the moment we touched. I want you in every single way possible but I won’t take from you, Rodney. I left you—walked away to protect myself from being hurt because I thought it might kill me if I had to watch you accept anyone but me as your Sentinel. You had so many potential matches and they weren’t going to stop. Every single time you told them no, I’d get a phone call from the director of the national Center berating me for being selfish and dumb. What could I offer you as a latent Sentinel? He made it clear he thought I was defective and bordering on dormant.”
“I’d ruin his life if he weren’t already dead,” Rodney said. “Any Guide worth the effort used to train them would’ve felt your Sentinel lurking just under the surface, John. I think I could’ve forced you online. I’d have never done it given another choice but I felt like I could’ve done it back then. A part of me wished I had pushed you, especially after you left, which I know is a special kind of terrible.”
John crossed the room and he sank to his knees in front of Rodney. With shaking hands, he cupped his Guide’s head and pressed an urgent kiss to McKay’s mouth. Rodney surged up into the kiss, hands clenching on John’s shoulders for purchase. McKay hummed his approval when John released his head and immediately clenched his hands around Rodney’s hips. John lifted and Rodney snaked his legs around his Sentinel’s waist.
Their mouths parted and for a few seconds they just stared.
“You taste different,” John whispered, his voice soft with dismay. “You changed and I wasn’t here for it.”
“You’ll just have to learn everything all over again,” Rodney said as gently as he could. He took a deep breath as John stood easily, even with his added weight. “Got a boost in the strength department, huh?”
“Yeah,” John flushed. “Stamina, too.”
“Lucky me,” Rodney said as John carried him into the bedroom.
John crawled up onto the bed, lowered Rodney down onto the mattress and settled on top of him. He let one hand slide up McKay’s thigh as the Guide spread his legs to cradle him. “You’re all I want, Mer. You’re all I’ve ever wanted and I had to throw myself into one battle after another to keep from searching for you. I think if you’d bonded with someone else, I would’ve had to eat a bullet to keep from killing him.”
Rodney cupped the back of John’s head with one hand their eyes met—blue to green. “I never stopped loving you—not even in the hardest moments when the dark empty place inside me threatened to swallow me whole.”
“Mer,” John whispered. “God, I feel like I might fall apart at any second.”
“I’ve got you,” Rodney promised. “You’re safe with me.” He rubbed his thumb along the smooth line of John’s jaw. “You need to shower the salt off your skin. How long were you out on the docks this afternoon?”
“A couple of hours,” John admitted. He sat up and rested on his knees. “Stay right here.”
“I will,” Rodney promised.
“Only be more naked when I get back,” John instructed and slid off the bed.
* * * * * *
John dropped his towel into a basket near the bathroom door and stopped to stare at his Guide who was sprawled on the bed, his perfect ass on display. McKay had a tablet in his hands and he was reading. Sheppard stared for a moment. “You’re… plugged.”
Rodney put the tablet on the bedside table and turned to face his Sentinel. “You’ve got a big cock—I remember it well. I’ve spent the last ten years jerking off at least once a week thinking about it.”
“Rodney,” John huffed and ran both hands over his head. “Leave me some brain cells, okay.”
McKay grinned. “Look at you—the years have been kind.”
“Eleven years, sixty-four days, and twenty-two hours,” John murmured. “Thirty-six minutes.” He paused. “One hundred and thirty-one steps from your door to my car.” He walked to bed and put one knee on the mattress.
Rodney turned onto his back and held out a hand for him. “Stop punishing yourself, John.”
John laced his fingers with McKay’s as he let his Guide draw into the warmest embrace he’d ever known. He sought Rodney’s mouth in a soft kiss, content with the soft skin of his Guide under his hands. He felt lost and rediscovered all at once. Sheppard took a deep breath, inhaling deeply as he lifted his head. With shaking hands he prodded Rodney onto his back and slipped over him. He pinned McKay’s hands to the bed and the Guide went pliant under him—submitting.
He nuzzled against Rodney’s jaw. “Mer.”
“It’s okay,” Rodney whispered as he spread his legs and ran one hand over Sheppard’s head. He curled fingers against the back of his Sentinel’s neck.
“Forgive me,” John said hoarsely against McKay’s neck.
John shuddered and rubbed his cock against the crease of Rodney’s thigh. “You smell so good.”
Pleasure, relief, and love drifted over his mind and it took him a few second to realize it wasn’t from him. John lifted his head so he could meet Rodney’s gaze as his Guide settled in around him mentally—offering the Sentinel in him shelter. His senses flexed against the psionic shield Rodney was projecting and John couldn’t help but reach out in return. His vision shifted blue briefly as he slid one hand between them. His fingers drifted gently over the length of McKay’s cock then over the scientist’s balls as he moved into a kneeling position. Rodney groaned softly and spread his legs as John hooked his fingers around the silver knob of the anal plug.
“I need in you. I need to be part of you.” He tossed the plug aside and hooked one of Rodney’s legs over his left arm.
“I’m slick enough,” Rodney murmured and took a deep breath as John pressed the blunt head of his cock against McKay’s asshole immediately. “Remember the first time we did this?”
“I’ll never forget it,” John responded gently as he pushed in with one smooth stroke. “You were so hot and tight. It’s always perfect, god.” He rolled his hips and shuddered. “Like you were made just for me.”
“You’re beautiful,” Rodney said and wrapped his legs around John’s waist. “Sentinel.”
“Guide.” John let McKay pull him down so they were flush together—chest to chest. He flexed his hips. “This feels exactly the same—just like I remember.” He buried face against the side of McKay’s neck and shuddered. “You’re mine.”
Sheppard slid his cock deep into his Guide and watched Rodney’s eyes darken and go unfocused with pleasure. He repeated the long, deep stroke and propped himself up on one elbow so he could cup Rodney’s hip with his left hand. McKay stilled under the gesture just like John knew he would. He pressed in again, one deep slow thrust after another, his thumb pressing against Rodney’s hip bone as he worked his cock into his Guide’s ass.
He was so lost in it that the moment Rodney’s mind fully settled into his caught him completely off guard. The bonding connection burst between them with all the grace of a fist—a mixture of loss and furious love. John thought he might drown in the pleasure of it all—the safety of Guide’s mind and the hot clench of warm, willing flesh around his cock. It was too much and not enough; he came long before he intended, his hips smacking lewdly against Rodney’s ass.
“Fuck.” John lifted his head and met McKay’s startled gaze. “I swear to god that hasn’t happened to me since I was twenty.”
Rodney grinned and curled one hand around the back of John’s neck. “We came together if it’s any consolation.”
“Not really, I was looking forward to sucking your cock.” John shifted slightly and pressed his stomach purposefully against the mess of Rodney’s come splattered between them. “We’ve got a few days before anyone will bother us… so I have time for all the filthy things I planned over the last two weeks.”
Rodney smirked. “Did you make a chart?”
“Fuck you,” John said with a laugh. He thrust, still half-hard, and McKay groaned. “I made bullet points.” He pulled free carefully and moved so he could drop down beside McKay on the bed. He gathered his Guide closely and tucked the man into the little spoon position regardless of his half-hearted protest. “They made it seem like bonding would be difficult, perhaps even impossible for us because of our separation.”
“I’m the smartest man in the galaxy,” Rodney muttered and wiggled in to get comfortable. “I got this.”
“Yeah, Mer, you sure do.” John smiled against the back of his neck.
“I hate that name.”
“You liar,” John said fondly and laughed when McKay just huffed.