Satedan Legacy

Title: Satedan Legacy
Series: Sunvae Synergy
Series Order: 1
Author: Kylia
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Genre: Alternate Universe; Episode Related
Relationship(s): Rodney McKay/Ronon Dex
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Implied Sentinel/Guide Prejudice
Word Count: 15k
Summary: When Sateda was destroyed Ronon Dex thought the legacy of his people was gone.  Only to find that there were others of his kind.  Rodney had been online for a year when Ronon Dex joined the expedition.  Had hadn’t been expecting to come online, and he was in no way prepared to meet his Sentinel in a Pegasus Native.

Doctor Meredith Rodney McKay, Ph.D., Ph.D., Ph.D. stepped out of the Ancient shower room, which was a large room, with oddly shaped shower nozzles protruding from both the ceiling and the sides of the room at seemingly random locations.

Rodney had stopped trying to analyze the Ancients, their aesthetics, and sometimes bizarre reasons behind the things they created, or at least what it seemed were the reasons behind their inventions.

For a species weirdly obsessed with leaving the corporeal world behind, their architecture and design aesthetics left a different impression. Many of their designs seemed to have been invented with a more hedonistic outlook than Rodney expected of a species intent on ascension. Perhaps not all the Ancients were so focused on the journey of their soul as if that was a worthwhile endeavor.

A huff of air drew Rodney’s attention to the main room. At first, he thought the sound came from Shado, the snow leopard that had improbably chosen him to guide. He’d never understood the purpose of Spirit Guides, but then, he and Sentinel/Guides studies were not fond friends. It was the worst of the soft sciences in his opinion. Though, Rodney was self-aware enough to know that his issues were, well, his issues.

When he’d moved into the room, however, he noted it was not Shado who was asserting her opinion on whatever she had gleaned from Rodney. In the year since his coming online, Rodney had learned that his Spirit Animal was not like other Spirit Animals, at least as far as he could tell. She was far more empathic than he, or at least she seemed to buffer his empathy in a way that he didn’t receive as much input as he felt was normal. Whatever normal was.

However, the Spirit Animal taking center stage on his bed was not his Snow Leopard, but a Polar Bear. The large animal stared at him from his lounge as if he was waiting for something.

“What?” He snapped, turning away from the creature and moving towards what passed for a closet in Atlantis and began getting dressed. He could almost feel the eyes watching him but refused to let it get to him.

He knew what the beast wanted, but it wasn’t that easy.

He’d come online shortly after they arrived in Atlantis. It wasn’t something he had expected, nor planned for. In fact, he’d been told by multiple people on Earth that his results were unclear, but that he wasn’t a Sentinel or a Guide. He hadn’t let it influence his life, but it also meant he was woefully unprepared for the moment when all of those Earth so-called experts were proved wrong.

He had barely gotten a handle of this whole Guide thing, and he was not prepared to allow his life to be altered by a Sentinel, any Sentinel.

He finally turned back to face his bed. The bear hadn’t moved, and it was still watching him curiously. “Right then.” He turned away and moved towards the door. He heard a noise behind him and stopped and turned. The bear and risen and was getting off of the bed.

“No, no no. You are not going to follow me around like a lost…whatever.”

The bear seemed to be ignoring him and continued to move off the mattress and towards Rodney. He stopped several feet away and just waited.

Rodney sighed. “Fine.” He continued towards the door and made his way towards the transporter.

It was too early for regular traffic, so he wasn’t surprised not to meet anyone in the halls, but he was relieved nonetheless. He knew spirit animals could appear invisible to others, but he wasn’t going to assume that was the case with this polar bear. He’d seen John’s spirit animal plenty of times. And a few of the others on base as well.

He was not prepared to be the talk of Atlantis to be seen with a 450 kilo Polar Bear following him around, even if that weight wasn’t corporeal, or real or whatever the soft scientists in Sentinel Studies called it. He wasn’t getting into another discussion with those morons if he could help it.

Regardless, he decided to skip going to breakfast in the cafeteria and detoured to one of his more isolated labs. Not even Zelenka disturbed him there. He’d been working there for the last several days because the first time he had gone back to the main lab after the mission to track Ford had gone horribly, horribly wrong, he could feel the eyes of half his department watching him. And the ones that weren’t? He could feel their effort to not watch him. It was annoying. Even Shado’s buffering couldn’t stop his feeling their curiosity. He couldn’t work like that, so he found some place he could.

And now, he would return there precisely because it was so isolated. If this lumbering beast was going to follow him around, then at least no one else would be around to witness it.

At least until the next emergency cropped up.

John Sheppard stepped into the lab and looked around. It was a disaster, or at least it looked that way, but he had no doubt his friend knew exactly where everything was.

His eyes froze when they spotted the bear. He was lying on top of what looked like discarded sheets of metal from some machine, but it was hard to tell since there was a polar bear lying there like that was perfectly normal.

It was huge. Larger than anything he remembered seeing on Earth when he was a kid, but maybe it was the context. After all, they were inside a lab, and not in some sort of habitat. It was hard to tell, the way the beast was crouched, but it looked to be about two-and-a-half, maybe three meters.

John continued to stare at it. The bear stared back. He moved cautiously into the room, not sure if the bear would be aggressive or not. It was clearly someone’s spirit animal. If it hadn’t been, he had no doubt it would weigh about five-hundred kilos. But, Spirit animals weren’t really corporeal and didn’t affect the real world the same way. John was sure there was some complicated science to it, but he had never bothered to learn.

“Why are you here?” The acerbic voiced startled John out of his staring match with the polar bear. He turned towards where the voice had originated from under a console.

“Did you know there’s a Polar Bear in your lab?” John asked because he didn’t want Rodney to totally lose it when he came out from under that console.

There was a pointed silence and then Rodney continued whatever he was doing under the console as if John hadn’t spoken.

John sighed. “You’ve been hiding out in this lab since we came back from P3M-736.” He waited for a minute to see if Rodney would respond. When his statement was met with more silence, he huffed and hopped up on the counter opposite the console Rodney was working on, still a respectable distance from the bear.

“You want to tell me why?”

“No, I wouldn’t like to tell you why!” Rodney snapped, finally coming out from underneath the console. He had some sort of Ancient device in one hand and a regular wrench from Earth in the other. His eyes flicked, almost against their will to the Polar Bear, but then he focused on John. He waved the hand with the wrench around as he spoke. “I didn’t ask for this you know!”

“You actually did.” John pointed out, assuming he was referring to his Online status, as Rodney hadn’t been the most stereotypical Guide John had ever met. Rodney was brilliant at a lot of things; being calm, and centered, was nowhere on the list. “You demanded Carson give you the ATA Gene therapy as soon as it was available. You knew he was concerned about the anomalies between the tests in the labs with the bloodwork. If you had waited, he might have learned about the connection between the ATA gene and the Sentinel and Guide Gene before you had gone too far and had taken the therapy.”

Pfft.” Rodney waved the wrench around again. “Like that makes a difference. I still would have gotten the therapy and still would be in the same position.” He flicked his eyes towards the bear again as if pointing out that the Polar Bear was at the center of the position he found himself in.

“So, then, I ask again, why are you hiding out in this lab? Not just a lab where all your little minions can’t find you but this particular one, far enough away from the control room that Chuck and Carson both came to see me to ask if I would track you.”

Rodney moved completely away from under the console. “I’m sorry, Colonel?” He blinked up at his friend, not quite sure what to make of that utterly nonsensical statement.

“Carson was worried when you canceled your lunch with him yesterday and he didn’t see you at breakfast. He asked Chuck to locate you. Imagine his surprise when he couldn’t.”

Rodney opened his mouth to say something about that but then just shook his head, not sure what exactly he was going to address.

John sighed. “Rodney. I know this whole Guide thing is new to you, and you weren’t exactly expecting it.”

Rodney paled. “No, Colonel, I wasn’t. I was tested exactly three times for the Sentinel/Guide Gene, once in the United States, while I was…detained as a child. Once as a child in Canada, and once when I was in college.”

John kept silent. It was clear from the tone of his friend’s voice that the experience had not been pleasant.

“The Americans were somewhat sympathetic…to me. I was only six, after all, telling my parents only that I was neither a sentinel nor a guide.” Rodney snorted. “My father insisted on having me retested in Canada, where he was told basically the same thing.”

“And in college?” John asked softly.

Rodney scowled and shook his head. He wasn’t getting into that. Not now, and not with John. It didn’t matter. Not now, not here, and…clearly they had been wrong, wrong, wrong.

“Doesn’t matter now,” Rodney stated with finality.

“It matters if it kept you from being prepared for this.” He watched the scientist for a moment and then he sighed. This was getting him nowhere. “We came to this galaxy with seven unbonded sentinels, five unbonded guides, and a single bonded pair.”

“Yes, Yes.” Rodney moved away from his console, and John, “Not very many, to be sure, but considering the SGC wasn’t sure if this was a one-way trip or not, we were probably lucky to even get that many.”

“General O’Neill, however, believed in stacking the deck, so to speak.” John continued. “Despite what the IOA believed, or what the pragmatists in Washington thought about this mission, and no matter how leery the Sentinel and Guide Council was to send Online Sentinels and Guides or Bonded Pairs to an undisclosed location for an unknown time period, he still stacked the deck in our favor.”

Rodney blinked. “Are you implying the large number of latent Sentinel and Guides that came on this expedition was not an accident?”

“I’m not implying anything.” John shrugged. “and I can’t speak for the civilian population or how they were chosen, but as to the military? The General did take me aside before we left, and though he never said so explicitly, he was clear all the same…”

Rodney held out a hand to stop John from saying anything further. “Wait. You weren’t even on the original roster. In fact, Colonel Sumner tried to get you off the expedition precisely because you were an Unbonded Sentinel, of indeterminate ranking.” Here Rodney’s lips curled in that way they did any time the United States Ranking system was mentioned.

John nodded but then shrugged again. “He felt I was a security risk. My undetermined status isn’t exactly a secret, at least not to anyone with access to my file. Colonel Sumner believed, erroneously perhaps,” John offered because he wasn’t going to lend credence to those ridiculous ideas, “that the incident in Afghanistan was a result of my undetermined status and not some issue with authority.” He paused again, waiting to see if Rodney was going to interrupt. When he didn’t, he continued. “Plus, the incident from boarding school has never been adequately explained, so…it makes people wary. Until I’m bonded, and…contained, as the mundanes see it, I will make them nervous.”

Rodney watched John carefully for a moment. John had never made him nervous, not even when he had killed all those Genii during the storm, or when he’d seen the single-minded way John had gone after the SuperWraith on that horrible mission. But then again, he wasn’t a mundane, was he? And he never had been, apparently.

“All those people…the latents…they’re the ones the ATA therapy worked on, right?” Rodney guessed. “The ones that haven’t taken to the therapy, like Radek and Elizabeth, don’t have any recessive Guide or Sentinel genetics.” Rodney wasn’t a geneticist, in fact, he thought it could barely be called a science but he did recognize that the Alterans understood far more about biology and gene splicing than any current human could claim to know. It was possible they had known something about the origins of Sentinels and Guides.

As far as he knew there was no conclusive evidence about how or when or even why Sentinels and Guides had started to emerge, not that he’d ever devoted any energy or time into Sentinel studies. It was a soft science after all. Regardless, it wasn’t as if the people who did study that sort of thing knew about the Ancients, so they wouldn’t be likely to form any valid hypothesis anyway.

Rodney turned away from Sheppard and set his tools down. “It’s a moot point. What’s done is done.”

“Are you avoiding Dex?” John hazarded. Their new guest wasn’t exactly confined to quarters, but he did have an armed escort. Though John was the first to admit that if the man had wanted to escape he could have.

Rodney’s eyes flicked to the polar bear and then his shoulders slumped. “Not exactly.”

John watched silently for a minute and then had to ask. “How long has he been here?”

“He followed me to the lab this morning,” Rodney admitted.

“To the lab?” John questioned because that implied the bear was with him before he’d left his quarters unless he was camped out in the hall or transporters, which he was sure someone would have reported unless he’d been invisible then.

“Yes. He appeared in my quarters this morning while I was in the shower.”

“Okay.” John looked around the room. “Where’s Shado?”

Rodney looked around the lab in confusion for a second and then his eyes found the bears. “Hmm.”

Ronon watched as Sheppard’s men sparred in the gym. They weren’t bad, but they were predictable. Using the same moves over and over again. There were one or two that varied things, and he could see the potential. It was easy to see that these people were determined.

None of the men sparing were Reyat but, but he could sense the power in others nearby, waiting to emerge. That was the only reason he’d agreed to return to the city of the ancestors with Sheppard.

The shock he’d felt at realizing Sheppard was Reyat, and an Alpha no less, even if he was unbonded, nearly had distracted him from the hunt. In the years Ronon had spent Running, he had been to many worlds, none as advanced as Sateda, though a few had been close. He had never come across another Reyat, and to his sorrow, neither had he found any Kjarja.

Meeting Sheppard and Teyla was like a sign from the ancestors that his time running was over. They had even provided an end to the Wraith’s ability to track him. It seemed like it was time to stop.

Then he had met him. Hanging upside down from some trap.

A Kjarja. His Kjarja.

For a moment all his senses narrowed to just him. His voice, his smell. He let him down from the trap but hadn’t really been able to acknowledge their connection when Sheppard’s wayward friend became an issue.

In the chaos that followed, it was clear that his Kjara, Rodney McKay, recognized him for what he was. Not just a Reyat, but his Reyat. But it was also equally clear he was not ready to discuss it. Ronon wasn’t sure what that was about, but as these people were strangers, he was willing to wait.

He now had time.

Ronon’s attention was now brought back to the present and the soldiers sparring.

He could sense their attention on him. He wasn’t sure what they found so interesting.

He’d gotten the impression from Teyla that they weren’t familiar with Runners, so that could be it. Perhaps it was the novelty of having someone new in their city, though Teyla had said she had lived here for some time.

Or maybe it was the Kria who had followed him into the gym that morning. He knew that others could see it because the security that Sheppard had following him had seemed quite startled when she appeared at breakfast.

He had heard the whispered comments and knew that the Spirit Animal belonged to Rodney, though he would have guessed as much even without the gossip. She was beautiful. She appeared to be fully grown, and of a spotted species. Similar to ones that lived in the colder climates in Sateda, where his own Baruk came from. Ronon wondered if there was meaning to that.

The kria seemed to be watching him intently, carefully as if trying to decide if he was a worthy Reyat for her charge. He welcomed her scrutiny, especially if her approval would gain him any favor with his Kjarja.

“Colonel Sheppard has told me that he asked you to join his team.”

Ronon heard the approach of the woman who Sheppard told him ran the city, but he had been more interested in watching the Kria. Her focus had shifted subtly when Dr. Weir had approached and she seemed to tense.

Ronon turned and stared down at the woman, his senses cataloging her carefully. “He did.”

“He was supposed to talk to me about that first.” She said a little tersely.

“Okay.” Ronon acknowledged.

“Sometimes he just does things without consulting me. Sentinels are like that.”

Ronon raised an eyebrow at her. He recognized the word. That’s what Sheppard’s people called Reyat. Did Sheppard not tell her he was one as well?

“It’s not that I don’t…that we don’t want you here.” Her eyes moved to the soldiers before focusing on Ronon once more. “I’m sure you can make a valuable contribution to the team, but we don’t really know each other and I just think…” she trailed off as something caught her attention. She turned her head and her eyes narrowed and her lips tightened.

The Kria was standing up and stretching out its front paws. Then it yawned, showing off its sharp teeth, it’s startling blue-eyes focused on Elizabeth Weir before vanishing.

Ronon watched as the Kria reappeared a moment later, focus still on the woman. Ronon knew that this time he was the only one that could see her. No one else seemed to be looking their way anymore.

“What was Rodney’s…cat doing here?” Elizabeth asked.

There seemed to be a chill in her voice and Ronon wasn’t exactly sure what was causing it.

“On Sateda, we had a saying. The Sundassa is open to all, and the Ililsa travels where it wills.”

Elizabeth looked at him blankly so he quirked his mouth slightly. “What you call Spirit Animals are their own Masters.”

Elizabeth frowned. “Sateda had Sentinels and Guides?”

Ronon nodded. “We did.”

Elizabeth looked like she was going to say something else but she received a call on the radio and turned away abruptly.

He watched her go curiously. Even more curious was the way the Kria watched her with narrowed blue eyes, protectiveness in its stance. Who was she protecting? Ronon, or his Kjarja?

“You have questions?” Teyla asked allowing Ronon into her meditation space. She watched as the marine followed him in and then turned towards her mat. “Would you care to join me?”

Ronon nodded once and sat with her on the floor.

Teyla waited patiently for Ronon to speak. She had learned that it was often easier to allow others to begin than for her to push.

“Do your people have Reyat and Kjarja?” Ronon asked at last. “The Athosians?”

“I am unfamiliar with these terms,” Teyla admitted.

Reyat is…what I am. What Sheppard is. He called it a Sentinel. Kjarja is…” He hesitated unsure how to explain what a Kjara was. They were safety and balance and purpose.

“What Rodney is?” Teyla asked. “A Guide? That’s what they are called here.”

“A Guide,” Ronon repeated. That seemed as accurate as anything else. “Yes.”

Teyla shook her head. “There have been no…Sentinels or Guides among the Athosians. Perhaps once, long ago, but none in recent memory. We have not encountered them on other worlds, though it is believed they existed once.”

“But Sheppard’s people…they have them. I sense more than just him and…Dr. McKay. There are others in the city.”

“Yes. I am told it is quite common back on Earth,” Teyla acknowledged. She was watching him. He seemed troubled. As if to validate her observation, with a subtle movement of air Rodney’s spirit animal appeared and sat on her haunches close enough to Ronon that they were nearly touching, though not quite.

“Shado seems quite taken with you, Ronon,” Teyla said, eyeing the animal. She had seen the creature many times in the past year. She tended to go wherever Rodney did, however, she didn’t like people very much, so this behavior was unusual.

“Is that her name?” Ronon asked in interest. “She is Dr. McKays.”

Teyla stared at the two in surprise. “You can…sense this?” She was intrigued by the gifts the Sentinels seemed to possess. John did not speak of it often, but she had spoken with a few of the others whose job it was to study them and she had learned a few things.

“Yes. Our Ililsa are an extension of us, and the Sundassa we walk between this world and the next.”

Teyla blinked at him. “Ililsa is the Satedan word for Spirit Animal?” She asked, catching that much from context. “Sundassa is…?”

Ronon closed his eyes trying to explain a concept that was just simply known to Satedans. “Sundassa is…the journey one takes between the time ones is first awakened until one has found unity and bonded.”

Teyla nodded. She would have to think on this later. Perhaps discuss it with Kate Heightmeyer. She was far more open to discussing her Guide status than Rodney was. “You seemed troubled when you entered. Have you been finding your time here unpleasant?”

“Not unpleasant, but some of the people here are confusing,” Ronon admitted.

“How so?”

“There are…Sentinels and Guides, yet some people seem uncomfortable around them, wary.” He wasn’t sure if that was the right interpretation, but he wasn’t exactly sure how to describe it. He was not an empath, he could only go by his instinct. Well, his and Shado’s, apparently.

“Did you not have those on Sateda who felt wary of those with such gifts?” Teyla’s experience was there were always those who were either envious or afraid of those with special abilities. She had seen as much in her own people, even before the truth of how her gifts came to be was revealed.

“No,” Ronon answered. Then he hesitated. “Occasionally there was someone who was damaged or dormant who may have issues, but otherwise, no. We, of course, had people who had other issues, but none related to one’s status as Reyat or Kjarja.”

“Then you were most fortunate,” Teyla said softly.

“What can you tell me about Dr. McKay? Sheppard told me he has only been a…Guide for a short time.” Ronon questioned.

Teyla watched as Shado relaxed even further, telling her that the line of inquiry was not inappropriate. “Yes. I will tell you what I can.”

John Sheppard was more than happy to release Ronon’s guard the next morning. He had won that battle with Elizabeth. She was was still hesitant to agree to put him on John’s team but John knew that she would have to give in eventually. If Rodney and Ronon bonded not only would there be no way to stop Ronon’s joining the team, but she would be breaking the Atlantis charter as well as Sentinel and Guide law to even attempt it, assuming that’s what both of them wanted.

There was no law that stated both parties in a Sentinel and Guide bond had to work together, though it was common.

Perhaps he was borrowing trouble when there wasn’t any to be had. Elizabeth hadn’t said no to Ronon joining the team, or to him staying on Atlantis, she just seemed to be wary of him, that was all. Of course, John had neglected to tell her he was a Sentinel.

John didn’t believe it was important whether a person was a Sentinel or Guide, whether they were Latent or active, mundane or Sensitive, though he had been in plenty of commands where that sort of distinction had mattered, on both sides of the equation.

He had hoped that Ronon’s skills and knowledge of the Pegasus galaxy and of the Wraith would prove their own worth, and perhaps they would. He just needed to give it a little time. In the interim, he was hoping he could see where Ronon was at, in regards to the Rodney situation.

John found Ronon on one of the balconies, leaning against a pillar, a knife and one hand and a block of what looked like wood in the other. It was hard to tell as Shado was crouched in such a way that John could only see clearly every couple of minutes when Ronon brought his hand up for a better look in the light.

“Uh, hey,” John said as the door slid closed behind him silently, leaving them alone on the balcony.

Ronon grunted but didn’t move his attention away from whatever he was doing with the knife.

“So, I spoke to Teyla,” John said, moving closer. His eyes moved towards the water and then back to Ronon when the man grunted again. “She said you had some questions.”

“You didn’t tell Weir I was a Reyat.” He paused a second and then corrected. “A Sentinel.”

“No,” John admitted. “It wasn’t important that she knows.”

Ronon looked up from his carving. His eyes looking at John, gauging his truth. “I will not hide.”

“I’m not saying you should.” John leaned back against the balcony railing. “I’m just saying that whether you’re a Sentinel or not, has no bearing on whether you would be a good fit for my team, which is what Elizabeth really needs to know.”

Ronon just stared at him and John knew that the obvious point would be that whether or not a person had heightened senses and was in control of them was probably something that any leader worth their salt would very much need to know.

“Weir doesn’t approve of Sentinels,” Ronon stated as he returned to his carving, his eyes moving to Shado briefly to get another look at how she had positioned herself.

John didn’t say anything at first. He was reluctant to deny the accusation because he really didn’t want to start off what could be a good friendship with misinformation or lies. It’s not that Elizabeth had ever been direct about her feelings about Sentinels and Guides. She had never come out and said she had issues with them or didn’t trust them. And she did go to bat in support of John once they’d made contact with Earth, but John was savvy enough to know that was less about him and more about maintaining her own control.

Elizabeth may not have said anything overt to John in the year they’d been in Pegasus, but Colonel Sumner had said plenty. The mission’s original military commander had not wanted John on the expedition and when he’d been overruled he’d made a point to sit John down and explain why, so there would be no misunderstanding.

It wasn’t about John’s military record, or even about his Sentinel status, not exactly. It was more the fact that his Sentinel status was listed as undetermined, meaning that even though he was online, and had been since he came online in elementary school, no amount of testing could determine an accurate measurement of his rating or gifts. Add to this an unexplained event which had happened shortly after John had come online and ended with him in zone-out for three weeks that no one had been able to explain. It made him a wild card.

Colonel Sumner didn’t like wild cards. However, it was exactly this same factor that made Elizabeth want to keep him in Atlantis. Something she felt was malleable.

Knowing this didn’t make it any easier to explain to Ronon. “She doesn’t disapprove of Sentinels, exactly.”

Shado chuffed as she moved, her gaze showing her disapproval. Ronon’s lips quirked as he continued to carve. “No? What is it exactly?”

“She’s not enamored with a Sentinels…priorities,” John said carefully. “She finds Guides…hard to define.”

Ronon grunted again and brushed some wood shavings aside, eying his carving carefully. His eyes moved towards Shado once more before eyeing Sheppard. “She can’t control the will of the Ancestors.”

“Um, yeah, don’t repeat that ‘will of the ancestors’ stuff to McKay.” John rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. “McKay finds the Ancients…the Ancestors…lack of scientific responsibility…um, troubling.”

Ronon stood up and stretched before wrapping his carving carefully in a square of cloth before turning back toward John. “My Kjarja finds the Ancestor’s inability to clean up after themselves instead of leaving their highly dangerous toys strewn across the galaxy like some temperamental torvak alarming.” His lips twisted in what John was beginning to recognize as a smile. “And your Dr. Weir doesn’t like things out of her control?”

“She has certain beliefs.” John sighed, deciding not to comment on the whole torvak comment since he didn’t even know what that was. He ran a hand through his hair and was startled when he felt the barely-there sensation of Shado brushing against him. He smiled to himself and straightened. “When we came here, we didn’t know what we’d find, or if we’d ever be able to contact Earth again, but the hope was that we’d be able to contact the An-Ancestors.” John paused. “Elizabeth especially, more even than some of the scientists, seemed invested in finding them. And every time we’ve come close to meeting one, or to a method that aids in reaching Ascension in some way…I’m not sure how to describe it exactly, but I see the…avarice in her eyes.”

Shado turned abruptly towards the doors, startling both sentinels who were both focused on one another. Ronon focused his hearing and straightened. His fingers flexed over the cloth-covered carving. John heard the familiar heartbeat and eyed Ronon in concern. He had hoped to move the conversation towards Rodney but it looked like they’d just run out of time.

Rodney then burst through the doors followed by the Polar Bear and stopped suddenly. “Oh, there you are.”

“Were you looking for me?” John asked cautiously. Rodney didn’t usually come looking for him this time of day, and he hadn’t received any radio calls.

Rodney turned to look at his friend and blinked as if he just now noticed him. “Oh, no.” He snapped his fingers several times towards Ronon. “Conan here.” He looked at Ronon but his eyes kept moving around wildly, not settling on any one thing.

John watched Rodney for a minute, his eyes going first from one man to the next, then to the two spirit guides, who were standing near one another but not close enough to touch.

He wasn’t sure if he should stay to supervise or if he should let them sort this out themselves. It wasn’t that he thought anything would happen. He hadn’t known Ronon long, but he knew enough that he wasn’t worried about Ronon doing anything aggressive, and he wasn’t anywhere near feral. Rodney, on the other hand, wasn’t always the easiest person to deal with, under the best of circumstances, and John wasn’t sure if these were anywhere near the best circumstances. On the one hand, they weren’t in any danger, but on the other hand, they had a lot of complicated crap between them, between whatever Rodney’s issues had been when he had been tested on Earth, and the fact that Ronon’s people were wiped out.

Maybe John should leave them to handle this on their own after all.

“Are you still here?” Rodney snapped out, almost as if he could hear the direction John’s thoughts had gone.

John seriously hoped that wasn’t some unknown Guide gift because that was one thing that Rodney really didn’t need. “I’m going. But, uh…maybe you should have this…whatever it is, somewhere not so…” He waved his arm to indicate how close it was to the general populated area of the city.

Rodney blinked. Then he looked through the door he had come through and noticed that more than one person was watching the three men and two spirit guides standing out on the balcony. “Yes, yes.”

His hand reached out towards Ronon as if he was going to grab him but stopped just before he would have touched his shoulder, as if almost afraid of the contact, even through the fabric, would have started something he wasn’t ready for.

The polar bear heaved a sigh and disappeared suddenly. Shado chuffed once, her tail wrapping around Rodney’s wrist briefly before she too disappeared.

“I have dinner in my room,” he said into the silence.

Ronon’s lips twitched slightly as if he wanted to smile but wasn’t sure if he should. McKay stepped into the hall in front of him and he followed, only too willingly.

The journey wasn’t far and the few people they passed had given them a wide berth. He wasn’t sure if that was Rodney’s well-deserved reputation, the rumors about Ronon or the two Ililsa that were making a path for them.

They finally arrived in a corridor Ronon hadn’t been down but the ambient noise of the city was muted here and it took him a minute to realize there was a subtle energy about the place that was calming, different than a Kjarja’s but relaxing all the same.

Rodney watched Ronon carefully and saw his shoulders shift slightly. He reached out with his Guide sense, as loathe as he was to call it empathy, and felt the curiosity and interest in the Satedan. He moved towards a panel and mentally activated the sensors, allowing the door to open.

Ronon entered quietly, his eyes moving across the room’s spacing, eyeing the various projects McKay had strewn across the room. The sentinel took his wrapped carving and set it on a small table Rodney had placed their dinner. “I made this for you.”

Rodney looked startled as Ronon took out the carving. and set it gingerly down on the table.”

Rodney stared at the figure and when to pick it up. The wood was almost soft. The spots almost had a different texture, but the likeness was impressive. “When did you do this?”

“Today. Shado was a good model.” Ronon smiled. “Do you like it?”

“Yes, thank you.” Rodney brushed a finger across the carvings back. He moved away, feeling awkward all of a sudden. “Dinner is just sandwiches, so we don’t have to worry about it getting cold.”

Ronon nodded as he began looking around again, trying to give Rodney some space. He again noticed the calm vibe of the room and didn’t think it was just because of Rodney.

“Sheppard found this section of quarters shortly after we arrived,” Rodney said, trying to get onto safer ground. “I couldn’t access the information in the database about the area until I came online. The information is still extremely restricted. Radek can’t access it. Miko and I are the only ones with any sort of authority in that part of the file server.”

“This part of the city was made for people like us…Sentinels and Guides?” Ronon asked.

“What did you call them on Sateda?” Rodney asked instead of answering.

Ronon turned to look at him. He placed a hand toward his chest. “Reyat.” And moved the other hand towards McKay, placing all five fingers against McKay’s breastbone. “Kjarja.”

McKay covered his hand and traced his features, from his dreads to his dark eyes before placing his other hand along his cheek. “Reyat.”

There was a flash and then everything sort of whited out, for both of them.

When Rodney could see again he was not in his room anymore. He was…well he wasn’t sure where he was. He would say he’d been transported to Antartica or somewhere like it in Pegasus except that he wasn’t cold.

Everything was white, blindingly so, and there was snow everywhere, or what looked like snow, but it didn’t quite feel like snow. There was no chill in the air either, he felt no different than when they were standing in his room.

“I am not cut out for this.” He said at last. He looked across at his Sentinel who didn’t seem disturbed at all to be in some bizarre winter landscape. “I’m really, really not.”

Ronon eyed him for a second before saying confidently, “Perhaps not, but you won’t walk away from what we have been given.”

Rodney sighed. “No, but you’re going to regret bonding with me.” He turned away for a moment to see if there was anything that would give him a clue as to why they were here.

“My people bond on the ililsavek first,” Ronon said.

“The what?” Rodney asked. He was trying not to be an ass about the cultural landmass between them. He recognized that normally he really wouldn’t be very subtle, but he was trying.

Rodney was in no way prepared for a Sentinel. He hadn’t ever wanted to be a guide, but Teyla reminded him, none to gently, that Ronon had been prepared for a Guide, had in fact probably expected one of his own people to match with him, until the Wraith had destroyed that option, and he had been left not only running for his life but without hope for a match.

“The ililsa is the Satedan word for what you call Spirit Animals, like Baruk and your Shado,” Ronon answered and as if summoned by their names being spoken, first the Polar Bear and then the Snow Leopard appeared in the landscape.

“His name is Baruk?” Rodney asked in curiosity. “What does it mean?”

“Fierce companion,” Ronon answered simply.

“Hmm.” Rodney nodded, agreeing that it was fitting. “And the Ililsa-vek means what? The Spirit Plane? Where we are now?” He looked around at the snow and then back to Ronon. “Who chooses the landscape? Is that the Spirit Guides’ doing?”

Ronon’s lips twitched. “The Kjarja controls the Ililsa-vek.”

Rodney blinked. “I am not controlling anything. And I certainly didn’t magic up a bunch of fake snow!”

“Perhaps you wanted Shado and Baruk to feel…comfortable.” Ronon offered implacably.

Rodney narrowed his eyes. Ronon had clearly been taking lessons from Teyla. Though he couldn’t deny that he had wondered how two spirit animals who represented animals who came from arctic climates could be comfortable in Atlantis with it’s more moderate climate.

“Tell me about this bonding on Sateda.”

Ronon watched his Kjarja for a moment. “On Sateda, the Kjarja initiates the bonding and controls the flow of energy. It’s often easier to share that energy, and therefore what we are, with one another in the Ililsa-vek. There are no boundaries here.”

“The guide initiates the bonding…is there a reason…” Rodney paused not even sure exactly what he was asking. He really wasn’t prepared for this. He had only been online for a year, and though both Carson and even Kate Heightmeyer had insisted he learn the most basic shielding techniques, he still didn’t have a lot of practical guide experience. Not to mention, he had no idea how to equate Earth Sentinels and Guides with those on a completely different planet in a completely different galaxy, regardless of the fact that the Alterans were moderately responsible for the advent of both their species.

“Sateda was a race of many. We had scholars and healers, engineers, and warriors, Yet we all walked the Sundassa. We all understood that for every Reyat, there must be Kjarja, for there must always be balance. We Reyat often get lost, and it is only the Kjarja that can help us find the way. For this reason, the bonding is sacred, and only the Kjarja can choose when he or she is ready. When they are, they will make the choice, and come to the Ililsa-vek, and bring the Reyat, for the Korsiin…” He thought a second, “The closing?”

Rodney thought about what Ronon had said, and what he hadn’t. The implication was staggering. “Are you saying…was Sateda…were all your people…was everyone a Sentinel or a Guide?”

Ronon thought that had been clear. “Yes. Unless there is an injury, or some other problem, yes.”

Rodney made a move to sit down, totally flummoxed, and was only slightly surprised when he landed in a soft chair. He looked down and found a really comfortable couch. It was totally out of place in the winter wonderland he’d apparently created, but appreciated nonetheless.

Rodney was afraid to ask, or even think about it too hard, but if Ronon’s planet was really made up entirely of Sentinels and Guides, did that have something to do with why the wraith had obliterated them? The wraith were not kind to the planets they fed upon, but neither did they tend to completely destroy one.

It had been thought that perhaps the reason was that the Satedans were approaching a level of technological advancement the wraith found threatening, but perhaps there was another reason?

Rodney shook his head. He wasn’t going to think about the wraith now. That had no place here. “I’m not even sure what to say to that.” Rodney admitted.

Ronon shrugged. “Sateda is gone now. Perhaps it doesn’t matter.”

“No!” Rodney snapped. “That is precisely why it does matter.” He stepped closer to Ronon. “Your people are important. They’re important to you. That’s enough.” He paused and took a deep breath. “I…I’m a horrible guide, really. I wasn’t ever supposed to come online, and I never studied Sentinel and Guide…stuff, and even after I did come online, I just…it didn’t seem important.

“There were seven online Sentinels on Atlantis when we arrived. One of them is John, so just no. Peter Grodin died tried to stop a wraith attack. Miko is, well Miko. And the rest? Not even if I had a personality transplant. I knew others might come online, just like I did, and they probably will, but I have no interest in bonding with anyone on this expedition.”

“And yet, you’ve brought me here.” Ronon pointed out.

Rodney placed a hand on Ronon’s chest as if he was going to push him away but he just rested it there. “My point is that since I came online, I haven’t felt…like I was one of them. A guide like I was supposed to be. Maybe…maybe that’s because I’m not. Maybe, even though I’m from earth, I really am more like a Satedan Kjarja.”

Colonel John Sheppard watched two of his men sparring in the gym. They were practicing some of the moves Ronon had shown them. He noticed some improvement in just the few days they had been practicing.

He tensed as he felt Sue shimmer into view in front of him. His head was cocked to the side, his eyes alert in that way that told John he was expecting trouble. John raised his sense of hearing, stretching it just past the gym. He heard the sound of Elizabeth’s distinctive stride headed his way. A moment later she entered the gym.

“John.” She spoke as she entered.

John turned as nodded to her. “Elizabeth.”

Her eyes moved around the room, drifting past John’s spirit guide without pausing. “Where’s our guest?”

“Ronon? He’s having dinner with Rodney.” John told her.

Elizabeth frowned. “Rodney? Why would he…” She trailed off confused.

John sighed and then just told her. “You should probably know. Ronon is a Sentinel and he and Rodney are probably going to bond.”

Elizabeth’s eyes widened. “He’s a Sentinel.” She repeated, not sure she heard correctly. Ronon had told her Sateda had Sentinels and Guides but she hadn’t expected…She turned back to John, her eyes narrowed. “How long have you known?”

“That he was a Sentinel?” John stared at her, one eyebrow raised. She clearly didn’t understand the first thing about Sentinels. “Since we met.”

“And you didn’t think I needed to know that?” She asked, her voice lowering as she realized the people in the gym kept looking at her.

“No,” John told her firmly. “Let me be clear, Elizabeth. The Sentinel or Guide status of anyone on this expedition, or on Atlantis is not your business. Whether or not Ronon Dex is or is not a Sentinel has zero bearing on whether or not he would make a good addition to Atlantis or my team.”

“I’m the leader of this expedition.” She said frostily.

“Yes. This expedition. You are not, however, the Alpha of the Pride of Atlantis. That is me, and you will not tell me how to run Pride matters when they are of solely Pride business. Are we clear?”

“How can you be the Alpha of a pride, if what we have on Atlantis can even be called that, when you are not even bonded? I thought only bonded Sentinels could be Alphas.”

“Don’t believe everything you read in extremist propaganda,” John said with a steady look. “Are we clear?”

Elizabeth stared at him for a moment before nodding and then turning around sharply and walking out of the gym, her back straight.

“Is that going to be a problem, sir?”

John turned to look at Sgt. Winters, who had been leaning against the far gym wall, waiting his turn to spar. “Perhaps.”

“Is Dr. McKay really going to bond with Ronon?”

“We’ll see.” He gave the sergeant a cold look. “But you keep that information to yourself.”

“Understood, sir.”

Sheppard walked away, trying to decide if Elizabeth was a real problem or just an annoyance. He heard the shriek of his martial eagle and watched as Sue flew through air in front of him. Some days he wished he could chuck his responsibilities and just fly away too.

However, even though he didn’t know what was coming, he had a feeling that he’d better prepare for it.

Ronon felt his senses immersed in his Kjarja. It was different, here on the Ililsa-vek. His connection to Rodney was both more intense here and less corporeal. Things were more spiritual and had less of a solid weight to them, but they also had a deeper meaning, than when things were just sensed on the surface level.

Rodney’s fingers were clutching his skin, one hand around his wrist, another along his collarbone, and he could feel the pressure intensely, even though he wasn’t pressing very hard.

Rodney took one breath and then another. He wasn’t sure what was real. He knew that here, in this other place, things were different, they weren’t real, but he could feel things differently. His emotional sense of things was vastly different than in the real world. It wasn’t so muted.

Ronon felt this layer of…energy surround him. It was almost like the hum of energy his mother projected when he was young, but not exactly the same. This was different. He felt it like a balm, soothing his rough edges, the rawness to his battered senses, so sharp and on edge for so many years. He’d felt as if he couldn’t stop for even a second. Even after he’d met Sheppard, and had the tracker taken out, it was like he was waiting for something. He wasn’t even sure what it was, but he had still felt on edge. When he’d met Rodney and realized he was his Kjarja, Ronon that that maybe that was it, but there was still this tension, this distance. But now…when he could feel, for the first time, Rodney’s strength, the power of his own mind, he knew what it was.

Sheppard had warned him that Rodney was not like other Guides. That he wasn’t typical, and he had no empathy or even very much sympathy for his fellow man. Teyla had tried to caution him that the people from Earth didn’t have the same reverence for the Ancestors as those born in Pegasus did and that Rodney, in particular, had an abhorrence for what he considered their scientific malfeasance.

That might all be true, but there was more to Rodney than his surface layers. The power that resided inside was like a simmering pool of electricity just waiting to be released. Ronon could also feel his own senses surrounding Rodney, almost like a shield of their own. Rodney’s came up to meet them and they met and blended together in a weird cacophony of sound and color.

Ronon could feel what Rodney felt now, the barest hint of concern and fear, interspersed with wonder.

They were wrong. Rodney’s empathy was a thing to behold. It was vibrant and powerful and maybe just a little sharp-edged, but he could feel everything. Rodney wasn’t hiding anything from him, not right then.

Rodney gasped slightly, his fingers tightening as he moved them along Ronon’s skin. “I..I didn’t know.” He whispered. “Shado…she was buffering me. I thought my empathy was broken.” He said hoarsely. Not that he had necessarily wanted to be feeling everyone’s emotions, but he didn’t want to be broken either.

“Not broken, just…different.”

“I can feel you…everywhere now. It’s like everything has another layer, but you’re buffering the input the way Shado was buffering the emotion before.” Rodney shook his head. It was hard to explain adequately. None of this made any logical sense. Of course, he’d been trying to make sense of Sentinel and Guide matters for more than a year without much luck so perhaps he should take things as they came.

“Once we bond fully, things will blend fully together.”

“What do you need to do next?” Rodney asked.

Ronon looked at him seriously, an eyebrow raised. “Once we complete the circle in the physical world we will be fully joined.”

Rodney felt his cheeks heating as he thought about what exactly that might involve.

“There is no rush, Rodney,” Ronon said quickly. “Our energies are already Sunvae…on the path together.”

“And this is how your people bond?” Rodney asked, unsure.

“That was how my parents explained the process.” Ronon nodded. “The joining on the Ililsa-vek is the most important part and is began by the Kjarja. The final bonding, on the Rey-nor, the physical plane, comes once the energies are settled and both the Reyat and Kjarja are comfortable in their choice and the path before them.”

Rodney nodded. He wasn’t exactly sure what the path before them was, but he was pretty sure Ronon was the right choice.

He made a step closer and leaned up to place a kiss against Ronon’s startled mouth. Ronon opened his lips without hesitation and even though this first kiss was not on the physical plane, it was no less intense.

Suddenly, there was a fierce noise behind them, and another to his left. When Ronon pulled away from the kiss and turned to look, both llilsa were standing up straight and looking off in the distance and then they disappeared in a flash.

Rodney pulled away and sent his own senses out, past the illusory snow and into the real world. He pulled back suddenly and looked at Ronon apologetically. “We have a guest in my room.”

Rodney opened his eyes and found Shado and Baruk standing in front of his door at attention, their fur standing up slightly as if they were sensing danger. “What is it?” Rodney asked, sensing Ronon return with him. There was a lot more presence to him now, but he didn’t have time to analyze the differences just yet.

Ronon sent his senses out past the door. And frowned. “Dr. Weir is outside.” He moved towards Rodney’s door and swiped his hand over the panel. When the door opened he loomed there in the entryway, making it impossible for anyone on the other side to see into the room.

Dr. Elizabeth Weir startled slightly at the sight of Ronon Dex standing in Rodney’s doorway. She frowned at him. “Where’s Rodney?”

“He’s busy.” Ronon stared at her.

“I need to speak with him.” She pursed her lips, eyes narrowing slightly.

Ronon stared at her a moment longer and then stepped back. He heard Rodney approaching and moved further into the room and leaned against the wall as Elizabeth entered the room.

She looked around the room curiously. Her eyes stopped on the two spirit guides. Rodney’s cat was standing, her fur ruffled, her lips pulled back in a snarl. The polar bear was still standing on all four legs, but he didn’t look particularly happy. She finally turned to Rodney. “I’d like to speak to you.” She turned to see Ronon leaning casually against the wall and turned back to Rodney. “Alone.”

“Is it about personnel or sensitive matters involving my department?” Rodney asked.

Elizabeth looked confused for a minute. “No.”

Rodney smiled as if that solved the dilemma. “Then Ronon can stay.”

“Rodney, I don’t think it’s appropriate,” Elizabeth said sternly. “We don’t even know if he is going to stay in Atlantis–”

“He’s staying.” Rodney interrupted before she could continue.

“Rodney, that is not your decision to make,” Elizabeth said crisply. “I am the leader of this expedition. I decide who may join and who may not. John has asked that Ronon join your off-world team, but I have not made a decision whether that is the best decision for Atlantis or not.”

“Stop.” Rodney raised both hands in emphasis. “All of that is a moot point. Whether you think he’s a good fit or not, Ronon is staying. He’s my Sentinel and I’m keeping him.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk to you about,” Elizabeth said. She carefully did not look in Ronon’s direction but couldn’t ignore the polar bear rising to its hind legs and roaring. She shook slightly.

“Baruk.” Ronon’s voice was quiet, not much more than a grunt of noise but the polar bear returned to his previous position.

Elizabeth took a breath and firmed her resolve. “I don’t think it’s wise for you to consider bonding at this time.” She looked at Rodney carefully as she continued. “Further, I think it’s dangerous to your position here to even think about bonding to an Alien. I’m not sure the IOA would allow that.”

Rodney stared at her for a long moment, not sure exactly what to say, there was so much wrong with what she had said. He didn’t have a lot of experience with the IOA, at least not as a Guide, but he knew that bonding interference was not only against the Atlantis charter, it was against several country’s laws, including his own. Enough country’s had laws against bond interference that it was built into international treaty law. He did know that the S&G council was part of the original formation of the IOA, so he was pretty sure the IOA had rules against bond interference too, separate from what was in the charter.

Even if all of that wasn’t true his status as chief science officer was not something that could be so easily dismissed, so her implication was baseless.

“First of all, you get zero input into who I bond with or when. Just suggesting that I not bond is an act of bond interference which I can bring you up on charges for. In any case, we’ve already bonded so it really doesn’t matter.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips, not liking that things had happened so quickly. “I see. Well, I guess there’s nothing I can say or do at this point then.”

“No, there really isn’t.” Rodney agreed.

“I can still decide not to allow him on your team,” Elizabeth said.

Rodney snorted. “You could, but in order to comply with the charter’s regulations on bonded pairs, then you’d also have to replace me on the team. If that’s the route you want to go, I’ll inform John.”

“I’ll think about it some more.” She said stiffly as she turned to leave.

Rodney watched her leave with a frown. Once she was gone he turned to Ronon. “That’s going to be a problem.”

“Are you going to tell Sheppard?”

“Oh yeah. In fact,” He turned back towards his desk and found his discarded radio. “McKay to Sheppard.”

“Sheppard here.”

“Can you come to my quarters? We may have a situation.”

“I thought you were with Ronon?” John asked hesitantly.

“I am. He’s here. We just had a visit from Elizabeth.”

“I’m on my way.”

Rodney took off his radio again and sighed.

“Has she always been so…”

“Bigoted?” Rodney offered when Ronon paused.

“She came to talk to me in the gym the other day and said something about Sheppard being a Sentinel. It was clear that however she may feel about Sheppard as a person, or as a military leader, she sees the fact that he’s a sentinel as a flaw.”

“Hmm.” Rodney thought about that a moment.

Rodney hadn’t had any input on who from the military was chosen for the expedition. John hadn’t been on the original expedition list and was only added last minute due to his strong expression of the ATA gene. Even then, Colonel Sumner had protested his inclusion due to something in his Sentinel records. Not because he was a Sentinel though.

There were two unbonded sentinels and three unbonded guides in his department when they staffed the expedition and several people who were registered as latents. He had chosen his entire team with no regard for their sentinel or guide status. It was possible Elizabeth had chosen to infer from that that that he didn’t have much use for Sentinel/Guide politics and had chosen to keep her opinions to herself.

Now that they knew the ATA gene therapy could affect a person’s online status, there might be more people who received the therapy who would end up coming online. If Elizabeth was really prejudiced against Sentinels and Guides, or even if it was just Sentinels, she was not the right person to lead this expedition.

“Sheppard’s here,” Ronon said moving towards the door and opening it before John had a chance to chime the panel.

John entered the room, took in the sight of the two spirit animals, and Rodney moving around his quarters in agitation before turning back to Ronon. “Weir was here?”

Ronon grunted. “She wanted to prevent us from bonding.”

Sheppard looked from Ronon to Rodney. He could sense a change in them both. He could sense a connection between them, though it felt as if it was still settling, building to something. “She was too late.” He said.

“Yes.” Ronon moved closer to Rodney and stopped him from moving around. “Hey. You were honest with her.”

“What exactly did she say?” John asked, not liking the look on Rodney’s face or the way his heart was racing.

“Basically that she wasn’t sure if Ronon was going to stay and that she hadn’t decided if he could be on the team. When I told her that he was staying and that we were bonding she said she didn’t think it was a good idea.” Rodney scowled.

“Even suggesting that you not bond is a violation of our agreement with the IOA. It’s against the Atlantis charter. I’ve already told Elizabeth to stay out of Pride business once.” John wasn’t surprised she had ignored him, but he wasn’t too thrilled with what would no doubt end up being the next step if she continued pushing.

“I don’t think she heard you,” Ronon said. “I don’t think she heard him either.”

“No.” Rodney agreed. “She’s going to be a problem. When I reminded her that she would be violating the charter, she told me that she still had control over whether or not Ronon would be allowed onto the team.”

“If she keeps Ronon off the team, then you might have to find another scientist to fill in.” It wasn’t a requirement that bonded pairs work together, but it was common, and especially with a newly bonded pair, it was rare for a sentinel to allow his guide out in the field if they weren’t there as well.

“I reminded her of that.” Rodney snapped and then sighed. “She said she needed to think about it some more.”

John’s bird appeared in the room, in response to his ire. “The Daedalus is still in orbit. I’m going to make a report to send back to the Council.” He turned to look at Rodney. “and I’m going to send a message to the general as well. If the council is going to get involved he probably needs a heads up.”

“Fantastic.” Rodney muttered.

John ran a hand through his hair and sighed. “Well, thanks for keeping me informed.” He paused awkwardly. “But, uh, congratulations.”

Rodney rolled his eyes. “Yes, yes. Thank you, now go away.”

John smiled because Rodney never changed and then he did as asked and left the two alone.

Colonel Steven Caldwell met with Jack O’Neill before his crew had even finished their Return-to-Earth system checks and validations’ for the reports he always supplied on his return home.

Sheppard had impressed upon him the importance of the reports he was carrying back and why they needed to remain confidential. To be honest, this was one situation he didn’t want to be in the middle of.

The line he walked with Sheppard was always a very fine one. As far as military matters were concerned, he had rank and seniority; however, in matters of the Tribe, Sheppard held a higher position. They were both unbonded, but even so, Sheppard was a stronger sentinel. Even with his undetermined status, he had a lot of power at his command, with or without a guide.

“So, Steven, what was so urgent you had to meet with me right away?” Jack looked around the small conference room he had been brought to once he had beamed aboard.

“There’s a situation developing on Atlantis. Colonel Sheppard has asked me to forward reports to you and the Council.”

Jack raised an eyebrow. “So, clearly not a wraith situation, then?”

“No. I think I’d probably prefer a firefight to what might be on the horizon.” Caldwell handed over a single data disc and motioned towards the tablet on the table behind them.

Jack sighed and took the disc and connected it to the tablet. He waited for the decryption, which seemed to take longer than usual. Finally, the tablet beeped and he began to read. He paused halfway through to look up at the colonel standing rigidly, waiting. “You said a report went to the Sentinel & Guide Council?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I don’t suppose it went directly to the North American Primes?” Jack asked hopefully. While Sandburg and Ellison were nothing to sneeze at they were nothing compared to the hardasses the East Coast Primes were.

“No such luck. Sir.” Col Caldwell smiled briefly. Colonel Sheppard was very clear in his orders.”

“You do outrank him.” Jack pointed out plaintively.

“Not in this.” Caldwell stiffened. He looked at Jack carefully. “If he was here he’d outrank you as well, in Sentinel matters.”

Jack knew that much was true, but he and John had an understanding. “Oh, relax. I’m not suggesting you disobey an Alpha Sentinel, I’m just…crap, this is going to be a shitstorm.” He tapped his finger against the table in consternation. “What do you know about McKay’s situation?”

“He found a sentinel bond with a Pegasus native. Some rough warrior type who’s been on the run from the wraith since his planet was destroyed nearly a decade ago.”

“Hmm.” Jack continued to read. “And when McKay came online last year? What do you know about that?”

“Same as you. What was in the reports sent from Atlantis in that initial data burst. He came online as a guide suddenly shortly after they arrived in Pegasus. I presumed it was due to their precarious position there. Though I am surprised there weren’t more cases. The data burst reported two others aside from Dr. McKay, but if I recall, there were at least thirty latents in the original expedition.”

“Yes, but McKay wasn’t one of them.” Jack pointed out. “According to the report Dr. Beckett made in that original Data burst, and Dr. Weir confirmed separately in her own report, Dr. McKay came online during an event with an entity they found trapped in an Ancient ascension machine. Weir hypothesized that McKay’s fear of their situation brought on his status as a Guide, especially considering he hadn’t been rated latent previously.”

Caldwell frowned. “I read the reports.”

“That’s not what Colonel Sheppard says in this report.” Jack taps against the table again. “Here, he indicates McKay came online as a result of Dr. Beckett’s ATA gene therapy.”

“Sounds like someone’s not being honest in their reports.”

“But who?” Jack leaned back in the chair. He really hated dealing with bullshit. “Did you read the report that went to the Council?”

“No,” Caldwell admitted. “Sheppard was pretty clear that he wanted to bypass the representatives in the program, and the Alpha’s in charge of the Center in Aurora, who handled all the civilian work prior to the Atlantis mission.”

“Did he ask you to contact Sandburg and Ellison?” Jack asked curiously. He was trying to figure out what Sheppard’s thought process was. He clearly thought there was a concern with the base S&G contact, and possibly the one in Aurora.

“No. He wanted the report to go directly to the East Coast Primes.”

“Hmm.” Jack leaned back, his eyes staring at the ship’s paneling, wondering what Sheppard was thinking, and how much damage control he was going to have to do.

Rodney moved his lunch around his tray absently. It had been a little over three weeks since the Daedalus had left. They would have returned to Earth by now. He wasn’t sure what was going to happen if anything was. Sheppard had told him he would take care of the situation, but he hadn’t been clear on how he was going to do that. He hadn’t told them what he said to Caldwell, exactly

In the meantime, they had been cooling their heels on Atlantis because Elizabeth hadn’t made up her mind about allowing Ronon on their team. Ronon was taking his frustration out in the gym, and he was busy with his own projects, but Sheppard was getting more than a little frustrated by her stalling.

“–will be back today, so I hope something happens soon.”

“What?” Rodney tuned back in just as Sheppard finished speaking and he realized he no idea what John was talking about.

“Were you even listening to me?”

“No, sorry…what now?”

John frowned and stole a piece of bread from Rodney’s plate in punishment. “I said, Teyla is returning from the mainland today, so I hope Elizabeth makes a decision soon because I can’t stand much more of this sitting around doing nothing.” He looked around the room quickly. “Where’s Ronon?”

Rodney tilted his head slightly, closing his eyes, and then he opened them again and turned back to his food. “Level five, section B.”

“You can just pinpoint his exact location like that, like coordinates on a map?”

Rodney snorted. “No, I can tell he’s in the new workshop I found for him, which happens to be on level five, section B.”

“Ronon has a workshop? Why does Ronon need a workshop?” John thought there was some sort of disconnect going on, or that he had missed part of the conversation somewhere.

Rodney rolled his eyes. “He needed space for his wood…things and tools, and whatever.”

“His wood things,” John repeated slowly as if saying out loud would make it make sense. “Is that a euphemism for something, because I don’t think I’m ready to know that much about–”

“No!” Rodney smacked John on the arm. “Are you twelve?” He scowled. “He carves.”

“Carves?” John asked, confused.

“Yes. He carves wood, into animals, and…other things I suppose.” Rodney’s left hand grasped the figure he had in his pocket. He could have taken it out to show John, but he was reluctant to share it, even with John.

“Huh.” John nodded. He supposed he could see how Ronon being alone for so long could cause him to pick up something to keep him busy. Even running constantly he had to have something just for him, otherwise, he would have cracked, no matter how strong he was. His eyes moved across the room and tracked Elizabeth grabbing some lunch.

“Here comes Elizabeth.” Rodney murmured without looking up from the tablet he was now scrolling through.

John raised an eyebrow but didn’t have time to ask before Elizabeth had stopped at their table.


John looked up from his own lunch and smiled slightly. He knew he wasn’t as easy with her as he had been a few months ago, but that couldn’t be helped. “Good afternoon, Elizabeth.”

“I’d like to speak with you both.” She said without returning the pleasantries.

John stood up, nudging Rodney slightly as he did. “No time like the present.”

“Should I call Ronon?” Rodney asked, mostly to force the issue. If she had wanted Ronon there she would have said so, or called him herself.

“I think we should discuss this just the three of us first.”

Rodney and John exchanged a look but nodded. They followed Elizabeth to her office and watched as she sat stiffly behind her desk.

“I’ve made a decision regarding Ronon’s placement on your team.” She began, looking at the tablet on her desk instead of at either of them.

“And?” Rodney snapped when she didn’t continue.

“I’ve decided that on a trial basis he can join your team. We will see how it works.”

Rodney slumped slightly, relieved, despite her conditions.

John opened his mouth to tell her that she was being ridiculous, but decided it would keep. He wanted to wait to hear back from the general, and the Council before he pushed things further.

General Jonathan Jack O’Neill, bonded sentinel, was normally an easy-going person. He believed in rules, but he also believed that people needed room to breathe, and make their own mistakes. He didn’t believe in micromanagement, but in giving someone enough rope to hang themselves, if they were suicidal enough to use it.

He looked across the dining room table at his fellow sentinel and watched as he read the file Jack had brought to him. He knew that Colonel Sheppard had made a separate report to the Sentinel and Guide council, he’d said as much in his report to Jack, but he wanted Moses to see his own report so that he could get the full picture of what was going on out there.

After a minute, the East Coast Alpha Prime Guide threw his own copy of the report on the table. “Christ, Jack.”

Jack winced slightly. For all that William Cooper was younger than him, he had a nasty temper. “I know it looks bad.”

“It looks bad?” Cooper moved forward, his eyes narrowing. “When I allowed Sentinels and Guides to be included in this project, even in the few numbers that you had, you promised me that their interests would still be protected.”

“They were.” Jack insisted. “They have a strong Alpha.”

“John Sheppard isn’t bonded.” Frank broke his silence, removing his glasses and tossing his own report on the table. “He’s a strong sentinel, I’ll grant you. What he did when he was a boy was…remarkable, and it’s only a matter of time before we will see the Guide he’s destined for, but until then, he is still an unbonded Sentinel.

“This woman…Weir?” Cooper interrupted. “I told the Oversight Committee then that she was the wrong choice to lead this expedition.”

Jack raised an eyebrow. “What exactly were your concerns?”

“Before she came into the Stargate program, she’d made a point of never working with sentinels or guides, ever. Even though Guides have done exceptional work in negotiating, she never took an assignment where she worked with one directly. There were a few occasions where preliminary work was done by a sentinel or guide, but not once did she have any sort of direct contact with any member of our community. That was either an extremely rare happenstance or active avoidance.”

Cooper looked at Jack with a look that said he called bullshit. “Once she was briefed into the program, she spent a lot of time researching the Ancients and their history, and talking to various people in the mountain who studied them, and the various things you’d found on other worlds.”

“Yeah, and…” Jack made a motion with his hand as if to say what’s your point?

“So why then did she not speak to the one person who has more insight into the ancients than anyone else?” Cooper speared Jack with a look. “When I noticed her seeming avoidance of guides, and her obvious interest in the Ancients, I called Daniel, to see if he could shed some light on her. I was hoping maybe he’d spent enough time with her to alleviate some of my concerns.”

“Daniel told me that when the original expedition was prepping, she canceled several meetings with him and ended up meeting with Nyan and Dr. Peters,” Jack admitted.

“Neither of which are Guide or Sentinel.” Moses pointed out.

“No.” Jack sighed. “So, she’s probably prejudiced against sentinels and guides.”

“Even if she isn’t, she did violate both the Atlantis Charter and the International Oversight Advisory’s agreement with the Sentinel and Guide Council. At the very least we will need to send someone to investigate Colonel Sheppard’s report.”

“Do you have someone in mind?” Jack asked warily. He wasn’t too keen on getting the NID involved in this mess, or anyone on the Council’s payroll either. It was one thing to utilize the council and their resources, but it was another thing to have them in Atlantis spearheading this thing.

“We do,” Moses said. He looked to his guide, and they stared at one another silently for a long moment, Finally, Moses nodded and turned back to Jack. “He’s not Council, but he consults with us when necessary.”

“Sentinel?” Jack asked, sitting up a little straighter.

“Latent Guide.” William offered. “He’s been registered since childhood but he’s past the age one typically sees for an onset event so it’s doubtful he’ll ever come online.”

“Hmm.” Jack thought about that. A guide might have a better temperament than a sentinel for this, and even without being online, would still probably be able to pick up on some of Elizabeth Weir’s motivations. “Does he have investigative experience?”

“As a matter of fact, he does,” Cooper smirked. “He currently works for NCIS, on the Major Case Response Team.”

Jack stood up. “Okay. Send his file over so I can start the paperwork.”

Anthony DiNozzo, Jr, latent guide, sat at his desk finishing the last of his reports on their latest case. It was past midnight, but he always found it easier to get his paperwork done when no one else was around. He didn’t have to keep his masks up and could just work.

He knew Gibbs expected him to mentor Caitlin Todd and turn her into an investigator, but he doubted she really had the instinct for it. She had too many ideas about what people should be that it interfered with her ability to look at the evidence objectively.

He had tried to broaden her horizons over the almost two years they worked together, but she seemed to like her narrow view of the world. Which he supposed was fine for a Secret Service agent, not-so-much for an investigator, especially not one that dealt with major cases.

Tony finished and closed the electronic case file in their reporting system and signed off. He was sure there would be something new tomorrow. If not, he’d wander down and take a look at the unsolveds. He liked keeping his mind busy, and solving puzzles were a bit of a hobby.

Just as he had reached his car, his phone started to vibrate. He stopped, wondering if he would be heading back into work. He looked at the screen and seeing it wasn’t NCIS, continued unlocking his vehicle. “DiNozzo.”

“Can you come in?” Frank Moses didn’t waste time on pleasantries.


“You weren’t sleeping, were you?” He asked dryly.

“No.” Tony sighed. “Yeah. Give me an hour.”

“Make it two, and stop by your place and pack a bag.”

Tony paused. “It’s going to be one of those?”

“I’m afraid so,” Frank admitted and then hung up.

Tony looked down at his phone before he sent a quick text to Gibbs.

Council Business. Out of touch. Contact when I can.

He knew that wouldn’t hold Gibbs for long. The older man hated that Tony consulted with the Sentinel and Guide council, and they sometimes called at inopportune moments. However, Tony told him when he recruited him that he would take jobs from them on a case by case basis, and that wasn’t going to change.

“Well? What do you think?” Cooper asked after nearly an hour as his cousin had been reading over all the reports from Atlantis regarding Dr. Beckett’s therapy. Samantha had the crease between her brows that told him she didn’t like what she was reading.

“Coop, this is…” She pursed her lips. “This is wrong. All of it. And half of it doesn’t make sense, at least not how it’s reported in here.”

“That’s what we were afraid of.” Jack O’Neill said.

“I would need to get a look at the actual data, not these…manufactured reports, to have a better idea of what happened.”

“And you would be willing to go there?” Jack asked carefully.

Samantha Grimm looked up from the tablet and then looked at her cousin and his Sentinel. Cooper raised an eyebrow at her and Frank smiled slightly. “Yes.”

“Good. We’ll be sending an investigator with you to look into the other issues.”

“Tony, yes. We’ve worked together before.” Samantha Grimm looked at the Air Force officer carefully. She had worked with the military before as a consultant, but they often had different goals. “What exactly are you going to do about this Dr. Weir?”

“Tony is going to investigate the situation.” Frank said, “He’ll get to the bottom of it.

Samantha nodded. “Yes, he will.” She agreed. “But if even half of this is true, she’s violated more than a few of the agreements that were made.” She eyed the general again. “Are you prepared to replace her?”

“We are looking at candidates now.”

“Good.” She stood up. “Well, I have some things to arrange if I’m going to leave the planet.” She leaned over and gave Cooper a hug. “You always bring me the best mysteries.”

Cooper’s lips quirked. “Sam? Be careful.”

“I’m a Grimm. I’m always careful.” She nodded to the General and smiled at Moses before leaving the room.

Jack whistled. “She’s…interesting. She didn’t even blink about going to another planet.”

Moses laughed. “Yeah, well, she’s seen some stuff even you wouldn’t believe.”

“Okay.” Jack decided he probably didn’t want to know. “So, I looked into your boy DiNozzo.”

“As I knew you would.” Moses nodded.

Jack looked at Moses and Cooper sardonically. “You knew when you suggested him that he was already cleared for the Stargate program, didn’t you?”

Moses shrugged. “I knew he had done some work for the NID before, and he’s been down to Area 51, so it was a good bet.”

“Yeah. Agent Barrett said he tried to recruit him.”

Cooper laughed. “How’d that work out for him?”

“Not well,” Jack admitted. “DiNozzo’s clearance is almost higher than mine.” Jack looked a little discomfited at that. “His file is littered with commendations from every agency you can name, and a few that don’t actually have names.”

“He does a lot of consulting.” Cooper shrugged.

“And yet he works for NCIS? That’s the part I’m having trouble with.” Jack admitted.

“He likes to keep busy,” Cooper said. “He likes helping people, but sometimes it’s about more than that.”

“He also has a hard moral line,” Moses said. “He’s very loyal. More loyal than most, but he has a line he won’t cross, and he won’t tolerate when others do either.”

Jack paused. He felt like as much as Frank Moses was making a statement, it was also a warning. “He’s worked with a lot of agencies who aren’t too picky about the ethics of their agents.”

“Which is why he’s a consultant and will remain one,” Cooper said. “Look, you need an investigator, and he is one. The best I’ve worked with. He knows Sentinels and Guides, and he knows his way around temperamental people.”

“I’m sold,” Jack said because he needed to know what was going on in Atlantis, and if he needed to replace Weir, which he was pretty sure was going to be necessary, he needed to know the exact environment there so he could figure out who to put in her place. Plus he’d have to sell the whole thing to the IOA.

There was one other thing he was curious about. “You said he was latent?” Jack asked.

Cooper shifted in his seat slightly. “Yes.”

“When was he tested?”

Cooper and Moses exchanged a long, weighted look. “When he was a child.” Cooper finally said.

“O-kay.” Jack drew out. “Is there something I need to know here?”

“No,” Cooper answered quickly.

“Probably not,” Moses said.

Jack looked from one to the other. “Which is it?”

Moses looked at his guide and then turned to Jack. “It’s nothing. Tony is just…unique.”

“Well, his record tells me that much.”

“As a Guide.” Moses clarified. “He is latent, yes, and he may never come online. But, he doesn’t feel like a latent guide. So when you meet him, just…be aware.”

Jack wasn’t sure what to say to that exactly. “What does he feel like?”

“Something else,” Cooper said. His eyes rose to meet the general, and it was clear from his expression that the subject was closed.

John and Ronon were just reaching the Southwest pier when Ronon stopped suddenly. John went a little further before he stopped and turned around. He ran back and watch as Ronon stretched for a few minutes.

“Something on your mind?” John asked. Doing his own stretches. If Ronon stopped, there was probably a reason.

“What do you think is going to happen when the Daedalus returns?” Ronon asked.

John sighed. He could understand how this situation might be unnerving for Ronon, a sentinel in a new environment, with a newly bonded guide, and to have to deal with an unexpected complication. From what Rodney had told him Ronon’s people didn’t have prejudice against sentinels and guides because everyone on their planet had the gene for it, and they were all treated the same, regardless of status.

“I don’t know for sure,” John admitted. “I sent two separate reports. One to General O’Neill. He’s a bonded sentinel, so he’ll understand the issues. And to a Sentinel I’ve known a long time. He and his Guide are in charge of a portion of the country I come from. They’re briefed on the Stargate, and unlike the entire council, they do know what we do here.

Ronon grunted, not happy with the vagueness.

“Look, I know neither Jack nor Frank are going to ignore the situation, so something will happen. Neither one of them are the type to wait around to make a decision, so whatever they do, we’ll probably know about it when the Daedalus returns next. Until then, we can just keep dealing with things as we have been.”

“Rodney’s worried,” Ronon admitted.

“Did he tell you that?” Sheppard asked, thinking it very unlike his friend to say any such thing, though who knew how different he was with his sentinel?

Ronon rolled his eyes. “He didn’t have to.”

“Right.” John sighed again. For as much as he was connected to the Sentinel parts of him, he still didn’t have a handle on what having a guide might mean. John had never honestly given it a lot of thought because he’d always handled his senses reasonably well on his own. He’d always felt like he couldn’t commit himself to a Guide, not after what happened when he was a kid. It was probably just as well he ended up in the ass-end of the universe fighting space vampires.

“I’ll talk to him.” John assured and motioned towards their path, “You want to continue or are we done?”

Ronon snorted and started running again.

“So, why am I here at 0300, Frank?” Tony came into the Alpha sentinel’s office and set his bag down on the floor near the door.

“Tony. Thanks for coming.” Cooper motioned toward the third person in the room. “This is Jack O’Neill.”

Tony looked at the man. He was dressed in casual clothes, jeans, a t-shirt and a jacket. He didn’t seem uncomfortable in Frank’s office, but there was something about the look in his eyes that told Tony he wasn’t exactly happy to be there either.

“Military. Not Navy, definitely not Marines. Air Force?” Tony offered.

Jack smiled and nodded, and tried to keep a bland look on his face. They weren’t kidding. He didn’t feel like a latent guide. He felt online and bonded. “General.”

“Okay.” Tony sat at the table. “So, what type of fucked up situation has brought me out of bed in the middle of the night, and involved both the Sentinel & Guide council and an Air Force General?”

Cooper snorted. “You were never in bed, Tone.”

“My question is still valid.”

“Right. Let’s cut to the chase. We have a situation at a remote base. We’d like you to look into it.”

Tony continued to stare at Cooper for a long moment before turning his attention back to the unknown variable in the room. “How remote are we talking?”

“Extraterrestrial,” Jack told him seriously. He was watching him carefully. He knew he had been briefed on the program, but he didn’t know how much information he had needed for the previous work he had done.

“You work for the SGC?” Tony asked, suddenly not surprised. He’d done a few assignments with the NID, and twice he’d been asked to look into something at Area 51, so he’d been briefed into what kind of work they actually did. He’d never actually been to Cheyenne Mountain though.

“You’re pretty quick.” Jack admired his ability to make connections quickly and wondered if the odd vibe he got from him helped in his investigations, or hindered them.

Tony huffed out a breath and turned back to Cooper. He had known Coop for a couple of decades, so if he told him that this assignment was something he should agree to, he would. No questions asked. Cooper nodded once. He had that look on his face that told Tony that he really wanted to go with him and knock some heads together.

“Alright, General.” He turned back to the man. “You’ve no doubt already checked me out; otherwise I wouldn’t be here. What can you tell me?”

Frank stood up from his desk and dropped a file onto the table Tony and Jack were seated at. “There are two reports in here that were submitted by the military commander of a remote base. Read them over. It’ll take eighteen days to get to the base by ship.”

“Colonel Caldwell, the commander of the ship, will brief you on anything you need to know en route,” O’Neill told him. “I know you’ve been briefed on what we do, but if you have any specific questions, Caldwell can get you up to speed on that as well.”

“Sam is going too, Tone,” Cooper told him.

Tony looked surprised for a second. “So this situation involved some sort of research or scientific data?”

“Partially, yes.”

Tony narrowed his eyes at the lack of information that answer gave him. “Okay. I’m in, but since I’m going to be gone for a while, someone is going to have to deal with NCIS, and I nominate one of you.”

Jack looked a little nonplussed at the look on Tony’s face. He turned to Moses, who had a smirk on his face.

“We can take care of it,” Cooper said. He too was smirking.

Jack decided he was better off not asking.

“Grab your bag.” Jack stood up, walked to Tony and handed him a small round object. “Hold this.” Then he clicked something on his own jacket, and there was a flash of light, and they were gone.

Moses turned to his guide and said. Do you think the SGC has any idea what they’re letting themselves in for?”

“Not a one.” Cooper smiled. “But if Tony rains hellfire on them, they probably deserve it.


Satedan Words

Ililsa – Spirit Animal

Ililsa-vek – Spirit Plane

Kjarja – Guide

Korsiin – The Closing

Kria – Feline

Reyat – Sentinel

Rey-nor – physical plane

Sundassa – The Path – The Journey between ‘Onlining’ and Bonding.

Sunvae – on the path together


Dedicated pantser, who has a fondness for the underappreciated unicorn in every fandom....and a few of the appreciated ones.

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