Bloodfire – Chapter 3: Prime luce (at first light/at dawn)

Status:
  • Work in Progress
Content Rating:
  • NC-17
Fandom(s):
Stargate Atlantis, Stargate SG-1

Relationship(s):
McKay/Sheppard

Warning(s):
  • Character Bashing
  • Explicit Sex
  • Hate Crimes
  • Racism
  • Violence - Canon-Level
Genre(s):
  • Action Adventure
  • Alternate Universe
  • Challenge Response
  • Drama
  • First Time
  • Pre-Relationship
  • Science Fiction
Word Count:
5762

Author's Note:
Genres and warnings apply to the story as a whole, not this chapter in particular.

Summary:
The Expedition travels to Athos. What they find is not what they expected.


The Daedalus arrived at noon on their fourth day in Atlantis, carrying the rest of their personnel and supplies. Lania only allowed the ship to land if piloted by one of her people, which was the reason Major Lorne found himself in the ship’s pilot chair during landing, with a very pissed off Captain Cooper glaring at him the whole way down, and promising very personal bodily damage if he gave even a scratch to her ship.

Colonel Sheppard was waiting on the pier when the Daedalus’ ramp lowered and Colonel Caldwell descended.

“Welcome to Atlantis, Colonel,” Sheppard saluted.

“I see you’ve found our wayward city, Colonel,” Caldwell saluted back.

“Well, she’s a lady and just wanted to be treated properly,” Sheppard quipped.

“And it seems she’s quite picky too,” Caldwell commented. “I have a rather pissed off pilot, Sheppard.”

“I’ll try to smooth things out between them,” John promised.

“I’ll appreciate it,” Caldwell stated. “Now, what…”

“Get out off the way! ZPM incoming!” McKay pushed Caldwell to the side, and kept walking rapidly without looking back, followed by a hurried-looking Daedalus’ female scientist.

“My apologies, Colonel!” She burbled before rushing after McKay. “Really, Dr. McKay, I think…”

“I know what I’m doing, Novak!” McKay interrupted. “Now, if you want to watch the ZPM in action, stop thinking and follow me!” McKay continued down the pier at a brisk pace, Novak after him. “Harris, with me! Porter, you’re in charge of shepherding the minions! Try to make sure they don’t’ break anything!” he ordered before disappearing inside the city with Novak and Harris, while Porter glowered at him.

“How the hell did he get into my ship?” Caldwell growled.

“He hacked into the transporter,” a calm voice stated behind him.

“How’s that possible, Hermiod?” Caldwell asked the Asgard.

“I intend to find out, Colonel,” the alien stated, frowning severely. He descended the ramp, typing quickly into a strange-looking tablet. “I do not appreciate his interference with my systems.”

“Try not be too hard on him, Hermiod,” Sheppard asked. “I need my Chief Scientist.”

“I’ll make sure to return him to you in working condition, Colonel,” Hermiod stated, nodding to both officers before following the same way McKay had taken.

“Why do I think that does not bode well for McKay?” Sheppard asked. Caldwell just snorted.

The next morning, Sheppard walked into the conference room five minutes before the scheduled meeting time.

“Good morning,” he greeted, and a chorus of “Good morning, Sir” answered him. He took his seat at the head of the table, nursing his cup of double cappuccino. Majors Lorne and Teldy sat at his right, while Colonel Caldwell and his second, Captain Kleinman, occupied the left side of the table. Dr. Beckett and Dr. Porter sat opposite him, with only one seat left open.

McKay stormed in just as the meeting was about to start, a thunderous scowl on his face. His hair still looked damp and he hadn’t shaved, his t-shirt was skewed and the uniform jacket hang up only from one arm. He was carrying an extra-large mug, and some of the coffee sloshed over when he put it down on the table abruptly, alongside his tablet PC. He plopped down on the chair, shrugging to get his arm through the left sleeve of his jacket.

“Forgot to set up the alarm, McKay?” Sheppard smirked.

“No, Colonel, I certainly did not forget,” he snarled. “However, the alarm mysteriously reprogrammed itself, and instead of waking me up one hour ago, with the dulcet tones of Vivaldi’s Spring, it went off only 15 minutes ago, playing the Ride of the Valkyries at an eardrum-ripping volume!” McKay’s voice rose in volume until he practically yelled the last word. At his side, Potter snickered. He breathed deeply a couple of times. “Also, I had to take a detour through the mess hall since it seems that my room has an infestation of invisible mice with a taste for expensive Kona coffee and Belgian chocolate.” On the other side of the table, Colonel Caldwell snorted. McKay glowered at him. “Do you happen to know about them, Colonel?”

“No, Doctor, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for them,” Caldwell answered him, pulling his own coffee cup closer. At his side, Captain Kleinman tried to hide his snicker behind his own cup. McKay glared at everyone before taking a long gulp of his coffee and grimacing.

“Well, I’m sure you’ll be able to track them down later,” Sheppard answered, trying not to laugh. “Let’s start. Everyone’s aware of the situation. One year ago, the first expedition gated here but Lania forced them to leave, sending them to a planet called Athos. 10.000 years ago, Athos was populated by several nomadic tribes, but we don’t know the current situation. McKay?”

“When she opened the gate for the first expedition, Lania gathered some basic data,” he typed quickly on his PC and the room’s monitor lit up, “which matched what Lania had already divulged: basic Earth-like planet on gravity, atmosphere and climate, with 21 hours-long days and two moons. The air didn’t show signs of contaminants or pollution and she didn’t detect any kind of electromagnetic signal but the data she pulled from the DHD showed frequent use.” He looked around the table. “So, at most, we’d be dealing with a pre-industrial civilization like those we’ve encountered back in the Milky Way, which shouldn’t pose a problem.” He typed on his tablet again and the data on the screen changed to a star map with a plotted course. “Athos is in the same galactic sector, so it should take the Daedalus about three hours to reach the planet,” he finished, looking at Caldwell.

“Yes, Hermiod agrees with you,” Caldwell answered while McKay frowned at the mention of the Asgard. “How do you want to play it, Sheppard?”

John leaned back on his chair. “Two teams, one for recon and another to protect the gate, plus two cloaked Puddle Jumpers as protection. I’ll lead the recon team with Lorne and Teldy,” he nodded at his XO, “while Captain Vega will take charge of the second. McKay will be with Edison in one of the Jumpers and I’d like to borrow Captain Levine to pilot the other jumper, if you agree.”

“I’ll tell him to report to you,” Caldwell agreed. “You’ll be taking all senior officers off the city.”

“I know, but Lorne and Teldy’s Gifts are especially suited for this type of mission,” Sheppard replied, and Caldwell agreed with a nod. “It seems that Athos is three solar hours behind us,” Sheppard looked at McKay, who nodded, “so if you can depart within two hours, we can gate to Athos before their noon, which will give us at least six hours to look for our people.”

“It’s workable,” Caldwell agreed.

“Colonel, A’ll like for another doctor to accompany you in on’ of th’ Jumpers, with an expanded medical kit,” Beckett added. “We don’t know th’ state our people would be in.”

“Do you have someone in mind?”

“Dr. Adams has extensive field experience in crisis situations,” Beckett suggested.

“OK, but, out here, he has to obey my orders,” Sheppard indicated.

“It wouldn’t be a problem,” Beckett assured him.

“OK. Any other questions?” Sheppard asked. “And no, Majors, I won’t change my mind about leading the recon team!” he remarked pointedly when Lorne and Teldy tried to intervene.

“It was worth a shot,” Lorne shrugged, which earned snorts and snickers around the table.

Sheppard sighed. “Meeting’s over!”

The sun filtered between the tree tops when they stepped through the gate to Athos. John’s soldiers fanned out in a protective semi-circle and John could feel the smooth static of Lorne’s force field when he arrived. He dialed up his sight and hearing and, discarding his team’s heartbeats and the shield’s frequency, started scanning the wide forest clearing systematically, walking the perimeter of the Major’s force field. The clearing was surrounded by tall spruces and firs and wide-trunk red cedars, surrounded by lush underbrush. A couple of deer-like animals with reddish-brown fur grazed calmly in a nearby glade, while a mottled gray-brown bird, with a passing resemblance to an owl, napped on a gnarled branch. To his right, he could hear some running water, a small stream by the sound of it. On the opposite side of the gate, directly in front of Lorne, there was a carefully cleaned footpath and, close to it, he found an accelerated heartbeat, too loud to belong to any of the animals he’d seen and not belonging to anyone on his team. John walked up to his XO’s position.

“Sir?” Lorne asked.

“A heartbeat on the left side of the footpath,” Sheppard informed him. “Not sure if it’s human.” John zoomed on a particularly large red cedar, shifting his vision to infrared, and smiled. “Clever bastard.” Lorne looked at him quizzically. “There’s someone in that tree, using some kind of ghillie suit. It’s cleverly made, but as far as I know, trees don’t have thermal signatures… or lungs, for that matter” he smirked. “Shift your shield, Major,” he ordered Lorne, dialing his sight back to normal.

Evan closed his eyes and his shield fizzled for a moment. John could feel the energy frequency change as Lorne shifted his shield to allow electromagnetic communications to pass through. Once the shield settled again, John activated his radio.

“Daedalus, this is Sheppard. Do you copy?”

“Yes, Sheppard. We have you located,” Caldwell answered through the radio.

“We’ve got a scout hidden in the forest, though he seems to be alone. Did you find any settlements?” John asked.

“We’ve spotted only one settlement, three klicks northwest of your position. Looks like big tents, no sign of advanced technology.”

“Understood, Daedalus. We’re going to proceed.”

“We’ll be keeping an eye on you. Daedalus out.”

“Drop the shield, Major,” Sheppard ordered and then turned around. “Clear the gate!” His men quickly moved away to the sides of the Stargate and John activated his radio. “Atlantis, this is Sheppard. Send the Jumpers through but tell them to come cloaked.”

“Jumpers on their way, sir,” Chuck acknowledged.

A couple of seconds later, the gate vortex rippled twice in quick succession and the breeze created by the Jumpers coming through swept through the clearing. Sheppard followed them by sound while they got into position. Jumper Two, with McKay and Edison, floated over the clearing ahead of them while Jumper Three, piloted by Levine, stood guard over the gate.

“Sheppard to the Jumpers. We’ve got a camouflaged scout on the left side of the path.”

“Yes, we have him in the HUD, sir, ” McKay Lieutenant Edison answered. “He seems to be moving.”

John zoomed on the red cedar again. “Probably back to the settlement the Daedalus detected, three klicks northwest,” he answered, zooming out.

“The Jumper is detecting at least 70 lifesigns there,” McKay added. “No signs of technology, though.”

“Yes, the Daedalus found the same,” Sheppard confirmed. “All right. Jumper Three, you stay here with Vega’s team. Protect the gate and our rear.”

“Yes, Sir,” both Captains Vega and Levine replied in unison.

“Recon Team, you’re with me. Jumper Two, follow us but stay behind about 100 meters, so you won’t distract my senses,” John ordered.

“Yes, yes, understood!” McKay replied. “Are we going or not?”

John rolled his eyes and signaled his men to advance.

The footpath wonded through the forest in a mostly straight line. Sheppard was on point, using his senses to check the way ahead, with Donovan and Reese at his sides and slightly behind. Lorne advanced in the middle, ready to throw his Shield over the team if necessary. Teldy brought the rear, using her Arachne senses to make sure they weren’t ambushed from behind. Kemp, Callahan and Mehra completed the Recon Team.

They’ve been walking for half an hour when Sheppard signaled the team to stop and turned to face them.

“Our scout has decided to stop shadowing us and speed up to the settlement,” he informed them. “We’re 550 meters away from it. Donovan, shadow up and do a recon. Don’t use the radio, just whisper. I’ll hear you. Afterwards, find a good position to be our ace up the sleeve.”

“Yes, Sir,” Kyle acknowledged and breathed deeply. His silver eyes became covered in a metallic film for a second before the organic Shadow polymer began pouring out of his pores, covering his skin and clothes, rendering him completely invisible.

“Wow!” Sgt. Mehra whispered. The expressions on the other’s faces matched her appreciation.

Donovan’s feet left a few light marks on the soil as he walked into the surrounding forest. John turned up his hearing to follow him, using the red cedar’s strong smell to ground himself against a zone out. Kyle’s fox-walked through the trees, breathing slowly and evenly, avoiding branches and rocks, silent for anyone without enhanced senses. John used his heartbeat as a beacon to follow his progress, while his Thales’ abilities helped him calculate his position and route. He heard him stop for a moment on the verge of the clearing, before starting fox-walking again around the perimeter. The clearing was strangely silent. He could count 73 heartbeats, but only fragments of whispered conversations that didn’t make sense to him.

“Everyone seems to be on alert, Sir,” Donovan reported. “Several locals are armed with longbows and staffs. All of them are around the biggest tent, on the northwest side, like waiting for something. I’ve seen a young man entering that tent, and I think he may be our scout from his clothing. I’ll try to get closer.”

John related Donovan’s report to the others and activated his radio. “Edison, position Jumper Two over the clearing, on the path’s exit,” he ordered, after updating them on the situation. “You’re our air cover.”

“Yes, Sir,” Edison acknowledged. John smiled when he overheard McKay muttering “Longbows!” on the background.

“Teldy, take position on the west side trees. Cover us and prevent anyone from leaving,” he ordered the Major.

“Yes, Sir,” Teldy acknowledged. After taking out her backpack and boots, which Kemp and Mehra took custody of, she jumped on the closest red cedar, leaping from tree to tree until she disappeared from view.

John zoomed in on Donovan again. “I can’t hear all that they’re saying, but I got ‘Tau’ri’, ‘P-90s’ and ‘Stackhouse’,” Donovan reported. “Also, I found a good spot. Ready when you are.”

Sheppard relayed the information back to the team and the Jumper. “OK, we’re rolling in. Weapons ready, but keep them down. We don’t engage unless engaged. Kemp, be ready to send an emergency signal to the Daedalus if needed. And remember that bullets ricochet inside Lorne’s shield. We don’t need blue on blue contact, OK?”

A chorus of “Sir, yes, Sir!” spiced up with smirks and snorts answered him.

“Do you really need to…” McKay started on the radio.

“McKay,” Sheppard interrupted him. “I don’t need an assessment of me, my men’s IQ, or your perceived lack thereof right now, OK?”

“As you wish, Oh Grand General,” McKay snarked over the comm before John closed the channel. He pretended not to hear the snickers behind him as he activated his radio. “Sheppard to Daedalus, we’re rolling in. Be ready for an emergency beam up on Kemp’s signal.”

“Transporter’s ready,” Caldwell answered, “and we have the sensors locked on you.”

“Understood. Sheppard’s out.”

As they approached the clearing, John could see the locals in a rough semicircle around the main tent. He noted Donovan and Teldy’s positions, and quietly signaled them to the rest of his team. To his right, he felt the buzz of Reese’s Lighting under his skin as he charged up; to his left, he could detect the acrid smell of Mehra’s Naga poison pooling in her mouth and behind him, he could feel the static over Lorne’s skin, ready to deploy a Shield if needed, and the heat pooling in Callahan’s hands, as much able to heal as they were to cause excruciating pain.

As they walked into the clearing, he found himself calculating distances, positions, angles and trajectories, and adding them to their weapons’ and powers’ range, speed and impact. He had at least seven ways to kill them all under a minute before they were three steps in, and he subtly signaled Reese and Mehra to take better positions.

The locals were watching them with expressions ranging from distrust to overt hostility, eyes narrowed, jaws set, muscles tense, crossbows ready but pointed to the ground, staffs on hand. John could hear their accelerated heartbeats, the sharp scent of adrenaline in the air, and the distinctive tang of fear and anger. He stopped his team two meters away from the group.

He cleared his throat to talk, but then the tent’s flap opened, and a bronze-skinned woman walked out. Immediately, the others gave way for her. She walked with aplomb and elegance, her long brown hair swayed by the wind. She stopped just slightly inside the circle of her people.

“You know you’re not welcome there, Tau’ri,” she said.

“Ummm… you’ve got me at a disadvantage here,” Sheppard answered. “You seem to know who we are but we’ve got no idea of who you are. Maybe you’re mistaking us for someone else?”

A taller man who stood to the leader’s right side seemed ready to intervene, but she cut him off with a gesture. She pinned John with her dark brown eyes.

“Do you answer to the name of Tau’ri?” she asked.

“Sometimes,” John answer cautiously.

“Yet you deny to know us?”

“Well, this is the first time we’ve set foot here so… I’m sorry, ma’am, I can’t say I know you, but I’m sure we can be friends,” John smiled.

“What kind of trick do you think you’re playing?” The taller man growled. “You wear their uniforms and their weapons! Does she think we’re so stupid?”

“Whoa, whoa, calm down, Big Boy!” John tried to placate him. “So, you’ve met people like us before? Well, that’s good, because we are looking for some people we have misplaced…”

“Liar!” the taller man shouted and took a menacing step towards him. John felt the smooth static of Lorne’s Shield settling over them just before the man’s fist collided with it. The shield bounced off the kinetic energy of the man’s movement, throwing him to the ground. Immediately, those armed with longbows pointed their arrows at them. One man stepped in front of their leader, his arrow set on John’s heart.

“Stop!” Someone shouted from behind the human wall.

“Jason!” The lead woman turned to him. “You should stay inside!”

John and his team perked up at hearing the Earth-sounding name. Zooming his sight between the locals, John saw a young brown-haired man stumble out of the main tent. He was wearing native clothing, but had U.S. military-issue boots on. He walked with a slight limp, and John was puzzled when he smelled the spicy undertone of his kind on the man.

The younger man reached the lead woman, and put a hand on her arm to steady himself. He looked directly at John and smiled.

“Alpha,” he stated, with a relieved tone. “Thank the Goddess!” He turned to the native woman. “They’re not Weir’s people, Teyla. They’re from our homeworld, from Terra.” He pointed at John. “He’s an Alpha, a leader and protector among my kind.” He turned toward her again. “In fact, all of them are of my kind. They won’t harm us. Please, tell them to lower their weapons,” he pleaded to her.

The lead woman, whom the man had called Teyla, looked searchingly at him for a moment, and then nodded.

“Lower your weapons, now!” she ordered. She was obeyed immediately, despite the distrust still plain in her people’s faces. Sheppard signaled Lorne to lower his Shield and walked towards the younger man.

“Pardon me, Sir, but we were starting to believe nobody would come!”

“There had been some trouble back home… ummm…” The younger man’s face finally clicked on John’s memory. “Sergeant Markham, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Sir!”

“Colonel John Sheppard,” he introduced himself. “Major Lorne, Sergeant Reese, Lt. Kemp, Sergeant Mehra and Lieutenant Callahan,” he introduced his team, leaving Donovan and Teldy out for now. “Is there anyone else here?”

Markham’s face clouded. “Yes, Sir. Sergeant Stackhouse and Lance Corporal Alvez are also here.” Markham gave the tent a quick glance. “Do you have a Healer with you, Sir?”

John motioned Callahan over. “Is anyone hurt, Sergeant?” the Lieutenant asked.

“You could say so, Sir.” Markham guided John and T.C. back to the tent. Teyla followed them, but the others kept their positions. A sudden shiver told John that Donovan was at his back.

Markham lifted the tent’s flap, and signaled them to enter. The rank smell of sickness hit John as he stepped in. Opposite the entry, a man laid on a makeshift bed, his light-brown hair stuck by sweat to his ashen, clammy skin. Markham kneeled at this side.

“Marcus? Can you hear me?” he asked. The sick man opened his eyes and looked at him with a strange mix of pain and love. “Help’s here, babe,” Jason told him, softly pushing his mate’s sweaty hair away from his forehead.

Callahan knelt beside the man and tried to check him, but a stern-looking older woman caught his hand, giving him a hard look.

“Please, Eira, let him go. He’s a Healer of my people. He can help,” Jason pleaded with her. The woman looked at Jason and then back at TC, glaring at him. Without saying a word, she let go of Callahan’s arm and retreated to the back of the tent. Callahan seized the chance to get closer and put his hands over his patient, closing his eyes. A few moments later, he looked up sharply at Markham.

“He’s Sergeant Marcus Stackhouse, isn’t he?” he asked.

“Yes, Sir,” Markham confirmed.

“He wasn’t listed as Bloodfire on his SGC records,” Callahan stated. Surprised, John dialed up his smell and yes, under the sick foulness there was the spicy undertone of a Bloodfire.

“He Fired up shortly after we arrived at Pegasus,” Markham explained. “He’s my True Mate.”

“I see,” Callahan said, and went back to examining Stackhouse.

Meanwhile, Sheppard addressed the other man in the room.

“Lance Corporal Alex Alvez?” he asked.

“Yes, Sir!” the young man saluted.

“At ease, Corporal,” John ordered. “We’ll have the full debrief back at base, but can you tell me why the Athosians seem to hate us so much?”

“Well, the story is a bit long, Sir, but it boils down to the fact that the Expedition betrayed their trust, and trust is sacred for them. And afterwards…” Alvez shifted uncomfortably.

“Speak freely, Alvez.”

“The Athosians are very respected in Pegasus, Sir. To justify herself, Dr. Weir turned to… questionable methods to put their credibility in doubt.” Alvez informed him.

“And I suppose that by ‘questionable’ you mean dirty, underhanded and outright dishonorable?” Sheppard asked, dryly.

“That about sums it up, Sir,” Alvez agreed.

“Shit!” Sheppard muttered.

“More than you can imagine,” Alvez added. Sheppard looked at him, and noted the sad smile on the Corporal’s face. He sighed. As if their mission wasn’t complicated enough…

“Colonel!” Callahan called out. Sheppard turned to him. “We need to get him to Atlantis immediately! I can’t help him here; his Healing’s a mess!”

“Atlantis?” Markham looked up in surprise. “The city didn’t kick you out?”

“We managed to convince her to let us stay, Sergeant,” Sheppard answered, cautiously. He didn’t miss Teyla’s narrowed eyes, but decided to ignore them. “What do you need, Doc?”

“Just the stretcher. I can’t risk drugging him in his state,” Callahan replied.

Sheppard exited the tent, walking to where the rest of his team was waiting. Lorne looked questioningly at him, but Sheppard shook his head. He walked up to Kemp’s position. “Kemp,” he whispered. “Transmit to Jumper Two to go back to that clearing we passed on our way here, decloak and wait for my orders.”

The Lieutenant nodded and closed his eyes. Standing just by his side, John could feel the electric spike in Kemp’s nervous system as he used his Transductor abilities to send the message directly to the Jumper with his mind. “Done, sir,” he reported as he opened his eyes.

“Donovan?” Sheppard asked while he waited. An ice-cold touch on his arm confirmed the Lieutenant’s presence. “Fetch Teldy, shadow her up and get into the Jumper as soon as it lands,” he ordered in a low voice. “Don’t let the Athosians see you.” Donovan acknowledged the orders with the pre-accorded two touches on Sheppard’s arm. John counted to 30 before he activated his radio.

“Jumper Two, we need immediate medical evac on the Athosian’ settlement.”

“On our way, Colonel,” Lt. Edison replied.

“What’s the situation, Colonel?” Dr. Adams asked.

“We found three of our people, but Sergeant Stackhouse is seriously sick, Doctor. He’s a Bloodfire now and according to Callahan, his Healing is a mess.” Sheppard didn’t miss the doctor’s sharp intake of breath.

“We should contact Atlantis and let Dr. Beckett know that he needs to have a Bloodfire treatment suite prepared, Colonel,” the doctor advised.

“Call Jumper Three and tell them what they have to say, Doctor.”

“Immediately, Colonel.”

“I thought your people’s Healing could defeat anything, Colonel,” McKay interjected, while Adams contacted the other Jumper on the background.

“Well, not everything, but usually you’d be right,” Sheppard explained.

“Which means Stackhouse is in real trouble, isn’t he?” McKay asked.

“Right on it. You worrying for a goon, McKay?” Sheppard smirked.

“He saved my life once, back at the SGC,” McKay admitted, though he sounded reluctant. “He’s a good man.”

“So I’ve heard,” Sheppard answered as Jumper Two came into view, which caused a stir among the Athosians, who moved to block its way down. He turned to Teyla, who had followed him out. “Miss Teyla, could you tell your people to clear a space for our Jumper to land, please?”

“You’re really going to take care of Marcus, Jason and Alex?” she asked, looking directly at him.

“I still don’t know the details of what Dr. Weir had done to you, but I can promise you that her actions do not represent our world as a whole, not even the mundanes in it. However, as Bloodfires, other rules bind us. Did my people tell you about Blood Oaths?” he asked.

“They did, and they made one when they came to live with us,” she explained. “Unlike your other people, they’ve kept their word.”

“Of course, they did. For us, a Blood oath is sacred. We don’t make them lightly,” he said, taking his Ka-Bar knife out of its sheath. He turned to Corporal. Alvez, who’d followed him out of the tent. “Alex, tell Jason to come out, please.”

The young man’s eyes widened for a moment before he complied. As he exited the tent, Markham saw the unsheathed knife, giving Sheppard a tight smile and a nod, as both men joined him.

“Evan, Brian, take your place as witnesses, please,” John asked. As the Pride’s Beta, Lorne took position at Sheppard’s right side, while Reese took the left, as the highest-ranked Bloodfire present after Lorne, since Teldy’s presence was still a secret.

“Jason, Alex, Miss Teyla wants reassurance that we’ll take care of you before allowing you to leave with us,” John explained. “Are you willing to take a Blood Oath for our Pride?” he asked.

“John,” Jason answered, as given names were used for Bloodfire business. “I’ll be honored to, in my name and that of my mate.”

John nodded and looked at Alex, who was still looking at them with wide eyes. Jason slapped his arm.

“Ouch!” he exclaimed. “Umm… yes, yes, I’ll take it,” he babbled. Jason rolled his eyes at him while John smirked. Jason stood facing the Alpha and John presented his knife, edge up, between them.

“As Alpha of the Atlantis Pride, I pledge my protection to you, Jason Markham, and your mate, Marcus Stackhouse.” John intoned the formal oath, resting his left forearm on the knife’s edge, allowing it cut the skin. “From this moment on, you’re of my Blood: your friends are my friends, your enemies are my enemies; we shall share happiness and sorrow, success and troubles, light and darkness, until the Goddess calls us to Her side or she parts our ways in the world.”

Jason also rested his left forearm on the knife’s edge, clasping John’s hand as he did so. “I, Jason Markham, in my name and that of my mate, Marcus Stackhouse, accept your pledge, Alpha John Sheppard, and make my own: from this moment on, we’re of your Pride and your Blood; your friends are our friends, your enemies are our enemies; we shall share happiness and sorrow, success and troubles, light and darkness, until the Goddess calls us to Her side or she parts our ways in the world.”

Carefully, John took away the knife, allowing the two wounds to touch and the blood to mingle for the brief seconds it took their Healing to repair them. Evan came forward, clasping Jason’s healed forearm while his new pridemate clasped his.

“As John’s Beta, I welcome you to our Pride, our new Blood Brothers,” Evan spoke, the formal lines falling easily from his lips. “We’ll share your happiness and your sorrow, we’ll be at your side through light and darkness, and you’ll never be alone as long as there’s still one of us walking in this world.”

“We will be honored to walk with you, Blood Brother, through light and darkness, happiness and sorrow, until the day the Goddess calls us to her side,” Jason answered. Both men let go of each other with a nod, and Jason turned to Alex, who was biting his lips nervously. Jason pulled him in front of John, hugging him one-armed. Alex allowed himself rest against his friend’s side for a moment before pulling back and breathing deeply as he turned towards John.

Once again, the Alpha placed the knife between them, reopening the just-healed cut. “As Alpha of the Atlantis Pride, I pledge my protection to you, Alex Alvez. From this moment on, you’re of my Blood: your friends are my friends, your enemies are my enemies; we shall share happiness and sorrow, success and troubles, light and darkness, until the Goddess calls us to Her side or she parts our ways in the world.”

Alex mirrored his position. Though he was breathing noticeably faster, he managed to complete the oath on the first try. “I, Alex Alvez, accept your pledge, Alpha John Sheppard, and make my own: from this moment on, I’m of your Pride and your Blood; your friends are my friends, your enemies are my enemies; we shall share happiness and sorrow, success and troubles, light and darkness, until the Goddess calls us to Her side or she parts our ways in the world.”

John smiled encouragingly at him as they completed the ritual and Lorne once again came forward to complete his part. After it was done, John turned to Teyla.

“Is that enough for you, Miss Teyla?” he asked, respectfully.

The alien woman looked directly at him, as if she was trying to read his soul. It was the same slightly unsettling feeling he got from an Empath’s reading, but without the warm sensation that accompanied an actual reading. After a few tense moments, she nodded.

“It is, Colonel Sheppard. Just remember this: I gave my own word to them when we they came to live with us and if I ever suspect you’re breaking your oath, I promise you that you will regret it dearly for the rest of your life,” she warned him.

“If I break it, you’re welcome to kick my ass all the way to the hereafter,” John agreed. “With extreme prejudice,” he added with a smile that, finally, made Teyla chuckle.

“Move back,” she ordered her people. “Let their craft land!”

The Athosians complied, looking more relaxed than when they‘d arrived. The taller man still looked at them narrowly, standing stiffly with his arms crossed, but the others seemed reassured by his oath, according to the bits he was overhearing.

Jumper Two landed cleanly, with its hatch facing them. As it opened, Dr. Adams and Private Walker ran to the tent, carrying the stretcher with them.

“So… everything settled?” McKay asked, joining Sheppard.

“For now, I think so,” he answered. “Dr. McKay, this is Teyla… sorry, I didn’t get your full name?”

“Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Tagan,” she smiled.

“Teyla Emmagan, meet Dr. Rodney McKay, our resident scientific genius,” John quipped. Rodney threw him a quick narrow-eyed look.

“Nice to meet you, Miss Emmagan,” he greeted her. “You have a very…” Rodney looked around quickly, “nice place here,” he finally settled on, with a nervous smile.

“Thank you, Dr. McKay,” she smiled.

Dr. Adams and Private Walker exited the tent, carrying the stretcher with Sergeant Stackhouse in it, while Lieutenant Callahan kept one hand over the Sergeant’s torso. A quick vision shift to infrared confirmed John’s guess that the Healer was using his Gift to keep his patient stable. As they boarded the Jumper with Markham and Alvez, Teyla addressed John again.

“Colonel, would you be so kind to send us word about their progress, please?”

“Sure, but I have a better idea. Why you don’t come to Atlantis to see them yourself in, let’s say, three days’ time?” Sheppard offered.

Teyla gasped, looking at him incredulously. “You would allow us into the city of the Ancestors?” A murmur rose among her people.

“Well, Lania can be a bit… picky, but I’m sure I can convince her to allow us to invite our new friends for dinner,” John grinned. At his side, Rodney snorted, but John ignored him.

“It will be an honor to see the city of the Ancestors, Colonel,” Teyla accepted.

“That’s settled, then! Just one thing: our gate is protected by a shield, and requires a code, so one of my people will have to come to get you. Don’t walk through directly. It’ll be… umm… quite fatal.”

“Understood, Colonel.” Teyla took a step toward him, grasping his forearms and bending her head slightly. John stiffened, looking wide-eyed at Rodney, who only grinned. Hesitantly, he copied the gesture until Teyla rested her forehead against his for a moment, before taking a step back.

“I will see you in three sunrises’ time, Colonel,” she smiled. “Fare well.”

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