Author: Jilly James
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Genre: Sentinels and Guides are known AU
Relationship: Rodney McKay/John Sheppard
Warnings: No beta. Semi-explicit sex. Elizabeth being a tool.
Word Count: ~3300
Author Note: For the One Sentence Prompt on Rough Trade. You can find the challenge here.
Keira’s Response: Just One Touch (link to her site)
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.
– – – –
John did a quick last look over his team, making sure everyone was set for the mission before they dialed the gate. Meeting these farmers Teyla knew to establish trade should be a cakewalk of a mission, but he always doublechecked his team.
Elizabeth stood at the balcony. “Are you ready, Major?”
He opened his mouth to confirm and have Chuck dial the Genii homeworld, but the words died in his throat as a heavy feeling settled over him.
“Major?” Elizabeth called. “Is everything all right?”
John blinked a few times, feeling a pull deep in his gut. It was if everything were in slow motion. Feeling as though he were moving through taffy, he turned to face the gate.
“Oh my god!” McKay breathed, but John could only focus on the hazy landscape that had appeared behind the gate.
It was as if they were seeing through the gate into a blue jungle. The image was soft and wavery as if it were rippling water. A black shape moved through the blue, getting closer to the gate.
John realized he was seeing a huge black jaguar just as it stepped away from the rippling image of jungle and then through the gate. It paused in front of the gate, head swinging slowly from side to side. He heard gasps all around the room and was vaguely aware of Teyla lifting her weapon.
Ford reached out and pushed it down. “It’s a choosing,” he said softly to her.
“This is where your sentinels and guides come from, yes?”
“Yes, though I’ve never seen a choosing before,” Ford admitted.
John couldn’t look away from the jaguar as its gaze eventually settled on him. He stared at it for a long time, feeling an even stronger pull deep within him. He didn’t fight it or turn away, he just…waited.
The jaguar began walking forward, moving down the stairs, its every step evoking a sort of atavistic reverence and fear. The jaguar was the most ancient and primal of the known spirit guides, and whoever should bond with them would always be an alpha sentinel.
The jaguar, and it was more enormous than he’d realized, stopped about ten feet from John, simply staring.
Then it very deliberately placed one foot forward and inclined its head.
No one said anything, it was forbidden to try to influence the decision of a chosen.
John knew he had the biology to be a sentinel, but so few were chosen anymore. Only a thousand or so a year worldwide. And the primal guides like the jaguar hadn’t been seen in several years. He knew something deeply profound was being asked of him, and he never considered refusing.
He slipped the strap of his P90 off his shoulders and passed the weapon to Ford. Then did the same with his TAC vest, leaving him in a black T-shirt. He removed his knife and the gun from his ankle holster, handing those off as well until it was just him and his clothes.
“Major Sheppard!” Elizabeth called. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Loud murmurs of disapproval rose among the military and civilians. Her interference was the worst kind of behavior. He paid her no mind.
He’d heard sentinel and guide lore and protocols his whole life, but he could so easily hear his mother’s voice telling him that if he were ever lucky enough to be chosen that the depth of his bond and the strength of his skills would depend on nothing so much as his willingness to surrender to the spirit that had chosen him.
John dropped to his knees, and the jaguar was so big that John was now below its eyeline.
The jaguar prowled closer.
It had chosen John, but it could change its mind until the moment the full bond was completed.
John tipped his head back, surrendering.
There was a low rumble that sounded pleased. Then teeth, very real feeling teeth, touched his skin as those powerful jaws closed over his throat.
A pressure built in his mind, in his very being, and the urge to resist was there, but he pushed it away and gave in. He could feel the jaguar’s approval reverberate through his being. The bond was not yet complete, but the jaguar had chosen and John had accepted.
His throat was released and the jaguar stepped back, watching John. He rose to his feet, waiting, his senses on edge, just at the precipice of coming online.
The jaguar turned to face the stargate, tipped back its head and roared.
The resonance of the roar grew in a way that wasn’t natural until the whole building felt as if it were vibrating.
The eerie blue landscape behind the stargate rippled and an enormous shape stepped through. A grey and white wolf, or what would pass for a wolf if wolves were nearly the size of horses. John had never heard of or seen a wolf that large. He wondered what they were being called to do that such primal spirit guides were coming forth to choose.
The view into the spirit plane shimmered then vanished as the wolf walked down the stairs with an air that could only be called majestic.
The wolf paused and nudged the jaguar, nearly knocking it over, getting a growl in return that John could feel was playful. He felt the deep, eternal connection between these two spirits.
The wolf stopped in front of John, giving him a once over then making a huffy little sound that felt like approval. It licked a warm stripe up his cheek then began prowling around the gate room. For the first time, John paid attention to something other than the spirit guides. Most of the Marines had quietly come to the gate room. He noted the ones on guard duty were not here, and he was pleased by that. If a spirit guide wanted someone, they were known to roam as far as they needed to in order to find their target.
When the time of choosing came, most treated it as the sacred event that it was. The guides from the spirit plane were reaching out to choose who would be the protectors of their people. The military had special protocols for such events, and all available personnel would stand vigil until the choosing was done.
John watched the huge wolf prowl around, causing more than one person to swallow nervously or step back, but the wolf paid them no mind. Several of the people looked longing, but never made a move.
Elizabeth caught his attention when she walked down the stairs, shaking off Grodin’s hand when he obviously tried to keep her on the balcony. “I think that I’m the obvious choice here,” she directed to the wolf.
John internally recoiled at the thought of her being his guide, and the jaguar made a huffy sound then lay down and started licking its claws.
The wolf stopped and stared at her, nearly at her eye level.
“Clearly I should be the major’s guide,” she said firmly.
The wolf blinked, but didn’t move.
She reached out as if to touch the wolf. Before John could react, it was McKay of all people who reached out and grabbed her arm, stepping between her and the spirit guide. “Have you lost your mind?”
“You need to stay out of this, Dr. McKay.”
“There’s nothing to stay out of. Nothing. They do the choosing. We stand still and wait to see if we’re invited. I had my head so far in a physics book, I barely paid attention to S&G studies but even I know that. You don’t ask, you don’t interfere, and you don’t touch. Has Pegasus completed addled your mind?”
“Rodney!” she said reprovingly, jerking her arm way. “This has nothing to do with you. You may return to your lab since the mission is obviously postponed.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with anyone unless the guides choose. You know better, so what is your angle?”
John’s brain said he should interfere, but this ancient part of himself that was teetering on being awakened waited to see how this would play out.
“That will be all, Dr. McKay,” she snapped.
McKay’s eyes were narrowed in the way John knew meant he was figuring stuff out. He turned toward John. “Why aren’t you in command?”
John arched one brow.
“Seriously, you should be. The charter says the ranking military officer is in command of the expedition should we find hostile forces here. The wraith could be described in no other way, and yet you never fought to take over.”
“Not never,” John said softly. He’d had one conversation with Elizabeth where she’d made it clear that she would fight him, and that she doubted the Marines would all be on John’s side because of the death of Sumner. John had known a lot of the Marines had been upset over Sumner’s death, though he didn’t think they actually blamed him. But he hadn’t been sure, so he’d let it go for the good of the expedition. They’d clashed a few times, but she eventually saw his way on military matters. Some of the delays to persuade her to his way of thinking, however, had been costly.
McKay looked back to Elizabeth. “You fought to keep control I take it. What was your leverage? Did you really think the military would be so undisciplined as to choose you over him? Did you think the scientists would back you and cause chaos? I guess it doesn’t matter, really, because now you’re realizing that there’s about to be an alpha sentinel and guide on the city, and the military will gladly fall in line behind a sentinel. Most of the scientists too because most of them are scared. You’d be the city administrator, which, I believe, puts you like eighth in the chain of command.”
“That will be all, Rodney!”
“No, it’s not all. Do you get the timing of all this and what it means? We were about to walk through the gate and were basically stopped. We’ve already encountered the wraith, and the spirit guides waited. But now they come. My first thought was there is something worse waiting for us, but now I’m wondering if the bigger issue isn’t that we can’t afford for you to be in charge when we walk through the stargate the next time.”
“Dr. McKay!” Elizabeth yelled.
Before McKay could reply again, the wolf growled, and it raised the hair on the back of even John’s neck. Elizbeth took two quick steps away, backing into the railing.
The wolf got eye to eye with McKay and cocked its head to the side like it was seeing right through him. McKay looked nervous, but he didn’t move. Then the wolf took a step back and put one foot forward, dipping its head.
McKay sucked in a sharp breath. Wide eyed, he looked to John, an obvious question in his expression.
John smiled, feeling like the decision the wolf had made resonate in him as right, but McKay had to make this choice for himself. “You can say yes or no, Rodney. No one expects anything.” Being chosen was a great honor, but there was no shame in saying no. It happened rarely, but some people felt they couldn’t handle the responsibility of being chosen to protect the tribe. Sometimes the spirit guide would choose another, and sometimes they’d disappear back into the spirit realm.
“John…” McKay whispered.
“It’s your choice, Rodney.”
“But it’s not just me. It’s you too, and then we’d be an us. And I never realized how incredibly odd this is.”
“Just say what you want.”
McKay stared into the wolf’s eyes. “I want to say yes.” He looked back to John. “But—”
“I want you to say yes,” John said firmly, never more certain of anything.
McKay’s eyes were round with shock. “You’d choose me?”
“In a heartbeat.” John had always been attracted to McKay and his snarky little attitude. He couldn’t think of anyone else on the city he’d want to be his guide.
McKay stared for a long time, utterly still. Then he nearly startled into motion. “Right. How do I do this then? It’s about giving in, yeah? I’m really terrible at that,” he muttered as he removed his weapons and handed them off to a Marine who had quietly stepped up. When he was down to his T-shirt, he shot John a quick, searching look then dropped to his knees. “I hope you don’t expect me to behave like a typical guide,” McKay muttered to the wolf, staring it straight in the eyes. “I hate emotions and I can barely nurture my cat.”
The wolf made funny little huffing sounds that John was pretty sure were laughter, but then everything got serious when Rodney tipped his head back. Massive jaws closed over Rodney’s throat, and John felt the shift in the nascent bond. All four of them were separate pieces, connected but not truly bound.
With every fiber of John’s being, he ached to be closer to Rodney.
The wolf shifted away, and McKay looked a little dazed. John moved close, pulling Rodney to his feet.
“I feel like I’m thinking through molasses.”
“Just hang on a few more minutes.” John turned to face Elizabeth, suddenly aware of how all the Marines had moved closer. “I’ll be taking command of the expedition effective immediately, but Lieutenant Ford and Sergeant Bates will be in charge until McKay and I finish bonding. If you have an issue, please take it to them.”
“You can’t do that,” Weir snapped.
“Yeah, I really can. It’s in the charter every single member of the expedition signed. You’ll be city administrator, though I’m suspending your privileges until my bonding period is over and we can discuss the matter more completely since it’s clear you’re not on board with the charter being enforced.”
“You have no right!”
“He does have the right,” Grodin said firmly. “He should have been in command all along.”
John nodded. “Dr. Grodin, you’ll take the administration burden, and Dr. Zelenka will be acting Chief Science Officer.” He could tell a couple of civilians had reservations about Elizabeth being removed as expedition leader, but he knew enough of the civilians were in his corner—the ones with real power—to keep things under control
“We should commence with the mission to visit the Genii,” Weir began. “Just because you’re going to be…fucking for two days doesn’t mean the city stops working.”
There were several gasps of outrage but before John could reply, Bates stepped forward. “It does mean that, actually. All gate travel is suspended, and Ford and I will be doing a thorough investigation into what we might be facing over there.” He shot John a look. “We wish you a happy bonding, Major, Dr. McKay.”
John needed to get out there, so he nodded his thanks and herded Rodney out of the room, the spirit animals following. He caught Dr. Kusanagi giving Rodney an enthusiastic thumbs up as they cleared the doors, but Rodney seemed a little too dazed to pay attention.
He went to his own quarters, needing to feel like he was in his territory.
“This is so weird,” Rodney murmured, hands settling on John’s shoulders as soon as the door was closed.
“The whole thing, don’t you think? I mean, I’ve always thought you were hot like burning, but I have this urge to crawl all over you. Inside you. I want to meld with you. I’m not a damn Vulcan, Sheppard!”
“That’s because the bond’s not complete.” He shot a look at the two huge animals curled up. “Are you going to help here?”
The wolf yawned and put its head down, closing its eyes.
“So that’s how it is.” John sighed.
Rodney shook him by the shoulders. “I’ve never seen a choosing before, and no one every told me how awkward it is.”
“Awkward? Most people think it’s profound. Or maybe romantic.”
“No, definitely awkward to be on this side of it. Like a really awful cosmic dating service. Talk about being on the spot. And all I could think is ‘I want to say yes, but what if he hates that idea?’”
“I could never hate that idea. I’ve always liked you, Rodney, you have to know that.”
“Doesn’t mean you wanted to spend the rest of your life with me!”
“But I wouldn’t have minded dating you to see about that potential, except that I try not to date where I work. It’s usually considered bad form. But have you ever heard of a sentinel/guide pair who had issues after bonding? I think they know what they’re doing when they choose.” He nodded his head toward the spirit animals.
“So you’re okay with you and me being an us for the rest of our lives?”
“Yeah, Rodney, I’m great with it.” Not wanting to give Rodney more time to wonder if John was really into him, he pulled him forward, sealing their mouths together.
The heavy, thick sensation intensified as the bond began to change. Rodney’s taste and feel was so insanely perfect that John desperately wanted to be fully online so he could fully immerse himself in it.
“How does this work?” Rodney murmured breathlessly against John’s mouth. “I don’t know what to do.”
“We come online together—that’s how it works. That’s how it always works. Sentinel and Guide, never one without the other.”
“But when… What do we do?” Rodney pressed, nipping at John’s jaw.
“It happens when we surrender to the bond. Completely give in to being Sentinel and Guide.”
Rodney pulled back a bit. “I feel all up in the giving in portion.”
“Maybe. You surrendered to being a guide. Did you give in to being my guide?”
He looked thoughtful, head cocked to the side. “Sex makes it easier, doesn’t it?”
John grinned. “For most people, yeah.”
Rodney stepped back and yanked off his T-shirt. “Then let’s get on with the banging!” He had his boots off and was shimmying out of his pants before John could even react.
He sprawled out naked on the bed, and John’s mouth went dry at the view. “Get a move on, Sheppard. We’ve got some overdue fucking to do.”
Laughing, John got out of his clothes then stretched out beside Rodney. He cupped Rodney’s face, leaning in for another kiss. “I’m going to fall in love with you,” he whispered. “I can already tell.”
“John,” Rodney whispered, expression vulnerable. He leaned up, fusing their mouths together. “How do you want me?”
“Any way I can have you.” He slid on top of McKay, nudging his legs apart. “But just like this the first time. I want to see your eyes when we bond.”
The sudden intimacy of the forming bond was easier to get lost in than John expected, but months of unspoken sexual tension made this part it. It made the glide of tongues and the press of flesh feel right instead of rushed.
He was so caught up in the sensory experience that was Rodney, that he barely paid attention to the mechanic of sex. Right up until the moment. He pressed his cock against Rodney’s asshole.
John stared into blue eyes. “Rodney…”
Rodney’s legs wrapped around his hips, pulling him closer. “John,” he whispered as he pulled John into another kiss.
He slid inside Rodney, feeling the complete surrender of body and mind as the bond bloomed bright and hot between them.
“Sentinel,” Rodney gasped, clutching at John’s back.
There was a bright flash of light, and John’s senses expanded sharply until it felt like it was burning him from then inside out. But he was suddenly cocooned in their bond, feeling Rodney in every fiber of his being.
– – – –
EndNote: You can answer this prompt if you’d like (see the Rough Trade link above), but you do not have permission to continue my work on this prompt.