Title: Just One Touch
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis/The Sentinel
Genre: Crossover, Alternate Universe
Warnings: No Beta
Word Count: 2542
Author Note: This is for the One Sentence prompt on Rough Trade. You can find the challenge here.
Jilly’s Response: Choices (link to her site)
The Prompt: “Since arriving on Atlantis, no one had been offered the choice to be a sentinel or guide until the day they were to meet the Genii.”
“Everything cool, McKay?”
Rodney sent me a look that was half-scorn and half-misery. He’d been off all day but hadn’t wanted to admit it. I’d have pushed it under normal circumstances, but the city needed the trade deal with the Genii. Food supplies were low and contacting the Athosian’s trading partners to set up alliances was the priority.
McKay’s spirit animal, a grey wolf, was lounging near the gate. The animal rarely appeared before missions and as far as I knew had never appeared on a mission. McKay’s status as an online Guide was a sensitive topic of the scientist, so I stayed out of the man’s business when it came to his spirit animal. I didn’t even know the wolf’s name. Teyla had asked once, and Rodney had averted his gaze without answering.
Sentinels and Guides were unheard of in Pegasus and Rodney was the only Guide on the city. The fact that he wasn’t bonded had been a small bone of contention on his being included in the expedition. Weir had used whatever influence she had to soothe the way, and the Sentinel-Guide Foundation had backed off. It wasn’t something the organization often did on any front but most especially when it came to a wolf Guide.
Ford and Teyla were both standing a few feet from McKay who had started to pace.
He focused on me, and his eyes darkened with emotion. “Something is coming.”
“Something?” I questioned, feeling dumb and useless against the weight of his words. My hand tightened on my weapon, and I cleared my throat. “Good, bad?”
“Big,” McKay said shortly. His wolf lurched to her feet and trotted to his side. McKay’s hand dropped instantly, and his fingers curled into silver and grey fur. With his free hand, he activated his radio, and I winced against the static of the all-call channel activating in my ear. “Attention all personnel, if you are sensitive to psionic energy you need to fucking brace yourselves. We have an event incoming.”
“Sir?” Ford questioned.
I held up a hand. “Keep it calm, Ford. Teyla, you should find a seat. We don’t know how you’ll react to whatever is coming, but severe headaches have been reported from those with documented sensitivity.”
Focusing on McKay, I found that he had slid to his knees. His face was pale. I regretted letting the man’s unease slide all morning. Elizabeth Weir came to stand beside me, and I shifted slightly away from her. She didn’t really pay attention to anyone’s needs on the personal space front, and McKay had already gotten snappy with her once about it. He really didn’t like to be touched by mundanes, and there were no exceptions to that rule.
“John?” Weir shifted closer. “What’s the problem?”
“As McKay stated we’re about to experience some kind of event,” I said and cleared my throat. “It would be best if you sat with Teyla. It’ll be a new experience for her.”
“Of course, Rodney do we have time to gather the Athosians in one place?”
“No,” McKay snapped. “He’s coming now!”
The words were no more out of Rodney’s mouth when a dark blue ball of light appeared in front of the gate. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen the arrival of a spirit animal, but as psionic energy washed over me, I dropped down to my knees. People were shouting—excited and maybe terrified. The first emergence of a spirit animal on our plane was nothing short of extraordinary. The fact that I’d seen it more than once in person was rare, but then I’d spent most of my adult life in combat zones. First emergences happened in dangerous times.
The light snapped away revealing a large jaguar. His fur was so black it looked blue in some places. I swallowed hard, shocked by his beauty and the intense stare he was giving me. My brother David was a Sentinel to the surprise of no one that knew him. It had been practically expected from his birth that he would be gifted with a spirit from the psionic plane but no one had ever suspected that I would also be chosen.
I jerked and looked briefly at McKay who was focused on me just as much as the jaguar was.
“He’s here for…” I trailed off.
“You,” Rodney confirmed. “Sentinel.”
I closed my eyes and tried to think. Did I want to be a Sentinel? Heightened senses were a burden, but they would also be a very valuable weapon for me in Pegasus. It would also increase my value to the program and I sort of hated myself for even considering that, but I needed to worry about reconnecting with Earth. There were plenty who wouldn’t be so forgiving about the mercy killing of Marshall Sumner and having a bit of extra weight on my side would only be to my benefit.
I opened my eyes, and the jaguar was mere inches from me. His yellow gaze no less intense now that we were face to face.
I flinched, unprepared for Elizabeth’s voice in such a moment. It was galling that she would interfere but not a surprise.
“John, we don’t have the resources to take care of you if you accept the gift,” she continued.
“Stay out of this,” Rodney snapped. “How dare you, Elizabeth!”
I took a deep breath as there was only one answer as far as I was concerned. There were people who turned down the gift, I just didn’t know how they could in the face of such terrible, lethal beauty. Just one touch and it would begin. Just one touch and my life would never be the same again. Just one touch and I would be a part of Rodney’s private world, and that was the most appealing thing ever.
I leaned forward, and the jaguar responded with a rumbling purr. My head rested on his then, and I pushed my fingers in thick black fur. Psionic energy rushed around us and in the distance I heard McKay’s wolf howl in celebration. My vision darkened and I found myself clutching at the jaguar.
“My name is Dai, Sentinel.”
* * * *
I woke to the thick heavy sound of Dai purring. I loved it—it was my favorite my sound in the universe suddenly. My fingers curled into the thick fur underneath my hand, and I forced myself to open my eyes. The room was dimly lit and the air strangely still but fresh.
“You’re awake,” Rodney murmured. “Good.”
“Isolation room—Carson set this up for me just in case when we first arrived. The lights are at ten percent, and the room is sealed with cycled air. The only scents you should get are mine, and you’ll find your quite used to those smells already.”
“I…” I couldn’t help but inhale sharply to test that theory. It was just a little bit annoying that Rodney was right. “How?”
“It’s not normally discussed outside of our circles, but potential Sentinels spend their whole lives with heightened senses. Your brain just can’t process the extra data without the Sentinel parts of your brain, so it’s just filed away. The connection you made with your spirit animal allowed those parts of your physiology to wake. It’s been about fourteen hours since he appeared.”
“Why aren’t my senses going crazy?”
“Because you’re in isolation and the only stimulation you have is an online Guide. Sensory spikes happen in extreme situations normally—otherwise, Sentinels would go insane trying to keep themselves balanced even their sleep.”
I nodded and shifted so I could sit up. “The mission.”
“Cancelled. Your spirit animal chose to come to you ahead of the mission instead of waiting which means he had a problem with the mission or the planet. They’re very intuitive and have superior instincts when it comes to danger. There’s something off about the Genii, so we’ll have to tread carefully with them. At the very least something or someone on that planet is an extreme threat to you.”
I nodded and focused on Dai. The animal was essentially sprawled over most of the hospital bed, but he didn’t feel heavy. Solid but not heavy. Spirit animals were weird. “Weir?”
“I think you know what’s going on there,” Rodney said shortly. “As much as I try to ignore it, her physical attraction to you is undeniable.”
It should’ve been flattering because Elizabeth Weir was an attractive woman, but it felt threatening instead, and it had since the beginning. I’d just ignored it. “She gets in my space a lot.”
“Everyone knows you hate that,” Rodney said. “And she’s the only one that ignores it. Teyla figured it out within a week of knowing you that preferred little to no physical touching. It’s gotten worse for you on that front over the last year, right?”
“I thought it was just because of how isolating it was to be in Antarctica,” I said roughly.
“And your refusal to follow orders—the black mark in your record.”
“I was ordered to stand down and I couldn’t. I had to try to save them.”
“So even as much as three years ago, your instincts were starting to emerge,” Rodney muttered and rubbed his head. “I really wish they had better education programs for this kind of thing in America.”
“Well, the SGF doesn’t like to share information with mundanes, and they’re no longer allowed to troll American schools for potentials to be educated in their private facilities.”
“They’re corrupt as fuck anyway,” Rodney said. “At least the one in the US. I didn’t even trust them with my full file from Canada which pissed quite a few of them off.” He waved a hand and slouched down in a chair. “So look, you don’t know enough about what you are now, and that’s dangerous as fuck. More so for the fact that you’re now in a position to take over the entire expedition due to the threat of the wraith.”
“Doesn’t have the authority that you do as a Sentinel and the leader of the military, Major,” Rodney said evenly. “In the next month or so this city is going to become your territory, and there are forty-six pages of regulations regarding the emergence of a Sentinel in the expedition charter. Her reason for trying to interfere was two-fold.”
“I don’t actually want to be in charge.”
I really hoped not but the memories of the way David changed due to his acceptance of the gift came back to me at that moment, and I just slouched down in the bed.
“Oh, look, a pouty Sentinel.”
“You’re not as amusing as you seem to think,” I muttered and focused on Dai. The big cat’s head shifted under my hand as I rubbed his ears. “My brother’s a Sentinel. He has a hawk spirit animal.”
“The Navy SEAL, right?”
I nodded. “Yeah, my CO in Afghanistan made it seem like I was getting a light ride out of the mess of my black mark because my brother was a Sentinel, but I figured it was because he’d fucked up royally by abandoning those men in the field. One of them was the grandson of a sitting Congressman. I didn’t know that, but we all found out real quick. I figured I’d get court-martialed. I just got put on ice instead.”
“Your file was reviewed with the scrutiny on presumptive-Sentinel instincts. That black mark will disappear pretty damn quickly under that mandate as no Sentinel could’ve followed that order.”
“I wasn’t…” It felt like a lie because I suddenly couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t a Sentinel. “Oh.”
“Making the connection now?”
“My mom wore perfume scented with jasmine.” My faced heated when I looked up and found McKay looking at me fondly. It was so weird. “Stop looking at me like I’m a fluffy puppy.”
“I can’t help it,” Rodney said with a laugh. “You’re utterly adorable. I had no idea baby Sentinels were so much fun, or I’d have gotten me one years ago.”
That thought was irritating, so I scowled at him which just seemed to amuse the asshole even more.
“How is everything going out there?” I waved a hand. “Did any of the Athosians freak out?”
“No, they were fine. Curious, of course, but fine. They’re all very enamored with you because you saved all those people from the hive and from their point of view you’ve been given a beautiful reward. Teyla witnessing the emergence helped on that front. She was enthralled for the lack of a better word. Zelenka, Kusanagi, Bates, and Heightmeyer were all admitted to the infirmary for observation due to migraines. They’re all four listed as psi-sensitive.”
“None of them were in the gate room.”
Rodney looked at me and seemed to brace himself before speaking. “John…you’re an Alpha.”
“What? No.” I focused on Dai who had lifted his head to stare at me. “Seriously? Come on. Alpha Sentinels are dicks. I worked with one in Iraq—I could’ve cheerfully murdered that bastard after a week in his company.”
Dai chuffed slightly and yawned.
I focused on McKay. “You…when we met in Antarctica…did you know I was going to come online? Is that why you changed your mind about going? The first thing I was told was that you’d turned down the mission then…suddenly you were in Chief Scientist.”
Rodney blushed. “Yes, of course, I knew you on sight. I just had no idea when he was going to come.” He looked at Dai. “Or even what he would be but Alix told me that you’d meet him in Pegasus.”
McKay’s wolf appeared then and dropped her big head on his lap. “Alix.” He rubbed her head. “Their names…you’ll find yourself reluctant to share such information with mundanes unless they’re close friends or family.”
“His name is Dai,” I said, but I kept my attention on McKay. “You knew me on sight. You knew I was a Sentinel.”
“I knew you were my Sentinel and I couldn’t let you come out here with me.” Rodney took a deep breath. “But I kept my distance because I didn’t want you to think I’d encouraged the emergence because Guides have been accused of that shit a lot in your country.”
“I wouldn’t have thought that, and all that crap is just social politics from homophobic morons who don’t like the fact that most Sentinels and Guides are male.” It was easy, perhaps too easy, to feel safe around McKay and it had been since I’d met him. “I trust you—I trusted you even when I didn’t know your name, and now I know why.”
Rodney smiled, and I pulled up my blanket as I settled down completely in the pillows.
“Don’t go anywhere,” I ordered. “I’m taking another nap, but when I wake up, you’re going to teach me all the shit you think I need to know about this whole thing.”
“That’s a deal, Major.”
“John.” I opened my eyes and stared at him. “You can call me John.”
“Go to sleep, John. I’ll be here when you wake.”