- Primus: The Hunt
- Work in Progress
- Explicit Sex
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Crime Drama
The very first guides became one with their spirit animal and were made for war. Modern civilization has little use for wild guides and sentinels, and those first guides, called Primus, have slowly faded away until only a handful remain on the fringes of society.
Tony DiNozzo wakes as a Primus guide with visions of the new battleground and a new enemy to fight. First thing he has to do is get a sentinel, and like all Primus guides before him, he has to hunt one.
Additional Author Note: This series is in limbo while I sort out some stuff, but I’ve talked about it quite a bit lately so I decided to post the original work here on Wild Hare while I ponder. Conceivably, this is the first full episode, but I’m considering where the episode breaks should be, so this could change in the final draft. It’s basically what was posted on Rough Trade with a minor edit shortly after I wrote it.
– – – –
Primus: The Hunt
When Tony walked out of his bedroom in the wee hours of a Wednesday morning, the last thing he expected to find was an enormous tiger on his sofa.
Even at 0500 and running on little sleep for days on end, he knew some sentinel and guide shit was about to go down in his living room. Despite knowing he wasn’t in danger, the adrenal response had kicked in and his heart was going a mile a minute.
When nothing happened for a long time, except for a lot of staring and paw licking, Tony’s heartrate settled, and he said, “So, I thought the guide thing just happened. Is there an interview process no one tells the latents about? Is it like some initiation thing?”
The tiger lifted its head and stared at Tony with such intensity that he nearly took a step back. Suddenly, images started flashing in his mind. Familiar images. Weird things he’d been seeing in his dreams for several weeks. He’d written it off as too much late-night sci-fi.
He glanced behind him at the sketch pad he’d been doodling the images in then looked back at the tiger. The pieces all came together in his mind, and he felt like his heart got lodged in his throat. “Oh, fuck.”
Moving closer to the couch, he kept eye contact with the tiger. “Are you the spirit animal of a Primus guide?”
The animal actually dipped its head, and Tony was pretty sure his heart stopped for a few seconds. Almost unable to help himself, he moved closer to the huge animal. It was fucking enormous—more like a small horse. The tiger moved a bit and clearly made space for Tony on the couch. And this was officially the weirdest Wednesday of his entire life.
He carefully sat and the tiger plopped its head in Tony’s lap, startling him. There was real weight and heat and, well, it was furry. He started petting, which was probably stupid, and he might lose a hand, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself. But the tiger just nestled down and made these pleased little chuffing sounds.
“Is this the deal? You have to ask first? Is that what this is?”
The tiger just moved its head into Tony’s hand and chuffed again, but he seemed to get an answer anyway. Something that felt like a “yes” reverberated in his being.
Tony probably knew as much as anyone about Primus guides, which wasn’t a whole hell of a lot. They were what guides started out as, throwbacks to ancient man. Some cultures called them the First Guides, some called them wild guides, or ferus, but Primus was more common. Historical records indicated that there used to be more of them. Sometimes there were even so many that an Alpha Primus would emerge and they’d form their own prides. Which seemed like a contradiction since Primus pairs were known to be fairly solitary. But with greater population density and less threat to the tribe, the Primus guides began to dwindle, and there were no Primus sentinels without the guides, because the guides came first.
When a Primus guide did pop up in the US, they found their sentinel and then took off for wherever they felt they needed to go, and they rarely ever returned. There was a huge amount of mystery around how a Primus guide knew where to go, and the S&G community had never been forthcoming with information for the mundane population.
Scratching behind the tiger’s ear, he wondered when the last Primus guide in the US had been. He was pretty sure it was more than two years ago.
“Why me?” he asked, knowing there wouldn’t be an answer for that. He thought about what he’d been seeing in his dreams. “Is that how they know where to go? The dreams?” The tiger chuffed a little. “But those dreams of mine…it was like science fiction.”
His brain was going a mile a minute, and he had the strong sense that he didn’t have a lot of time to make a choice. This year had already been brutal for him—he’d gotten the plague, he’d lost Kate, the great twat from Mossad was sitting in Katie’s chair, he’d been beat up repeatedly, been framed for murder. And now a tiger was ruining the support properties of his couch and wanting to change his life forever.
Life seemed to happen when it was damn inconvenient.
He never thought he’d have a moment when fate literally landed in his lap, but what he’d seen in those dreams was so ugly, and he felt like he was being tapped to do something to help. He wasn’t sure how to say no to that.
He slipped off the couch, getting a grumble of complaint from the tiger, and knelt down right in front of it, meeting its eyes. The tiger’s eyes were blue, which struck him as odd since he thought only white tigers had blue eyes, but hey, mystical animals can do whatever they want. “They say the spirit animal of a Primus guide is never seen. That the animal becomes part of them.”
The tiger cocked its head to the side.
“Right. What’s my question, eh?” He scratched the tiger’s head again. “Will it still be me in here when you’re done?”
In response, the tiger licked his face.
Tony made a face and wiped it away. “That was surprisingly wet. And gross.” He sighed. “Are there really things out there eating people?”
The tiger sprung off the couch with surprising agility considering its size and prowled its way into his bedroom. It came back with Tony’s sketchpad between its teeth and dropped it on the floor in front of him.
Tony didn’t have to look, he intimately knew the images that had been plaguing his dreams. He’d been wondering what the fuck was going wrong with his subconscious. Now, he thought the dreams were a way to prepare him for the choice he had to make today. To show him how bad the situation he was being called to was.
“I hate mystical shit,” he muttered. “This could all be a very weird dream, right? Or maybe it’s like that movie…the Thirteenth Floor? I don’t know that I’m in a computer within computer?” At the Tiger’s look, Tony sighed. “Right.” He felt an odd pressure, like his ears needed to pop. “Decision time, huh?”
The tiger headbutted him and knocked Tony on his ass.
“Fine. Just…don’t do too much rearranging in there. I kind of like me the way I am.”
The big animal suddenly vanished and Tony slowly got to his feet, wondering what had happened. The sense of pressure increased and he looked around, trying to figure out what was happening.
His tiger reappeared several feet away and roared so loudly that Tony wanted to cover his ears. Then the tiger leapt at him and everything was light and hot and pain before the world went dark.
– – – –
Tony blinked as the sound of a ringing phone intruded into his consciousness and hurt his ears. He was on his back on the floor, and he rolled his head toward the source of the sound and growled at it—a deep rumbling sound that he’d never heard before and that had no place coming from his throat, yet seemed perfectly right. The shrill ringing stopped.
He rolled to his feet and stretched his neck from side to side, feeling the joints pop. The ringing began again and he hissed. He realized he was stuck in the animal part of his brain—and he now had a big animal part in his brain—and forced himself to take a few deep breaths and get centered.
First thing he had to do was stop the racket. He went into the bedroom, realizing his movements felt entirely different but not sure how to move like normal. Shrugging it off for now, he grabbed the phone, saw Gibbs’ name, and declined the call. Then he turned the phone off.
On some level he knew he wasn’t going to find his sentinel at NCIS, he was fairly certain he knew exactly where the right sentinel was, but Gibbs was a viable candidate, and it was in Tony’s nature to hunt. He’d assess many candidates before making a choice.
He shucked his sleep clothes and found he was much happier completely naked. Needing to get centered, he sat cross-legged on the bed and let all the new information floating around in his head filter into his consciousness. He really needed the two sides of himself to be a little more integrated. Somehow he knew meditation was the key.
Dropping into a meditative state was surprisingly easy. He definitely felt different but still like himself. There was more there now, but nothing had been taken away. After he reconciled that Tony DiNozzo was still rattling around, he just had a big alter ego to deal with, the first thing he became aware of consciously was his expanded senses. Somehow he’d missed that memo about Primus guides. They were practically low-level sentinels in their own right.
“Well, well, well,” he murmured, eyes popping open. “Let the games begin.”
– – – –
Gibbs hung up the phone, pissed at DiNozzo, but he was also getting worried. His SFA was over three hours late. His phone had been ringing and then going to voicemail, but now it was just going straight to the greeting. Tony’s phone had been turned off. Or the battery had died.
“No, Boss. His phone must be off.”
He better have a damn good reason for this, Gibbs thought, getting to his feet and grabbing his sidearm. He’d have to go to Tony’s apartment to see what the hell was going on. And god help DiNozzo if he was just hungover. “Stay here. Keep trying. I’ll call when I know something.”
“You sure you do not wish me to come with you, Gibbs?” Ziva asked.
“Stay here and–” he broke off, suddenly feeling disoriented and like the room was pressing in on him. He braced a hand on his desk, trying to get his bearings. He felt like he was surrounded by guide. But like a thousand of them, with all of them pushing at him mentally.
“Tony!” McGee said incredulously.
Gibbs head snapped up and he met the eyes of his SFA, who was standing at the end of the cubicle aisle, head tipped down, but staring right at Gibbs. The color of his eyes threw Gibbs…they were blue, very blue. Plus, the iris was too big, and they seemed to glow.
Then Tony growled—actually growled—and Gibbs did something he could never have imagined himself doing. He bared his throat.
The man he’d known for nearly five years stalked across the distance between them and got right in Gibbs’ space. He didn’t touch him but rather nosed up the column of his neck, breathing deeply, and something in Gibbs wanted this desperately. But another part of him really didn’t.
He realized the pressure he was feeling was just Tony’s empathic presence unleashed for whatever reason Primus guides did anything. And there was no doubt in his mind that this was a Primus guide on the hunt.
Tony continued to scent him then nuzzled his cheek, the touch electrifying.
“Tony,” he whispered.
“You wear your grief like a shroud,” he murmured against Gibbs’ ear and there was something different in the tone, raspy and it almost had a hum under it. Then something warm and gentle seem to wrap around his soul and he gasped. “They’d want you to have a happy life, Jethro.”
He swallowed thickly, pushing away the feelings those words brought up.
Tony pulled back, and Gibbs was looking into Tony’s eyes—the green eyes he’d always known. He smiled at Gibbs a little sadly. “It’s time for you to move on,” he said in a normal tone. “When you’ve grieved enough, give Fornell a call.”
Gibbs frowned, not sure he was following the conversation anymore. “Tony?”
“It’s time for me to move on, too. It’s been…something, Gibbs.”
“Will I ever see you again?”
“Don’t know. I’m not a fortune teller. I wouldn’t be surprised either way. Just…try to have a good life, okay?”
“You, too, Tony,” he replied, completely at a loss for anything else to say.
He watched as Tony turned to go, but Tony paused by Ziva’s desk, who was sitting frozen in her chair. His head cocked to the side and his brow furrowed. Eventually he rumbled, “Latent guide, you said.”
Ziva straightened up and thrust her chin out. “I am.”
“No…” Tony braced his hands on her desk and seemed to be looking right through her. Gibbs tensed, wondering what was about to happen. “No, you’re no latent guide. Dormant guide.”
Gibbs sucked in a breath. Guide dormancy only happened when the guide was responsible for the murder of another guide. The psionic backlash destroyed any gift they had or could have.
Ziva shoved back from the desk and got to her feet, a snarl twisting her features. “You do not know of what you speak!”
“What guide did you murder, little killer?” Tony asked lowly, dangerously.
“I have killed no one!” But Gibbs could smell the lie on her, though it was oddly muddled with truth.
“Complicit in a death, then? Yes…that’s it,” he said dangerously. “You must have been very complicit for this consequence to be exacted upon you.”
Gibbs saw her pull a knife, but clearly Tony saw it, too, because he gave a laugh that held no actual amusement.
“It wouldn’t happen to have been our dear Kate, now would it?”
Gibbs thought his heart was going to stop.
Ziva backed up but her heartrate shot through the roof, and Gibbs could feel the rage build in him. But Ziva’s eyes narrowed and Gibbs thought she might actually attack Tony. He started to move, to stop what was about to happen, but then Tony’s aura snapped wide open and Gibbs staggered back into the partition. He thought he’d already experienced Tony’s aura, but he’d been completely wrong.
The air was thick and heavy and full of some kind of intent Gibbs didn’t understand.
“What in the world is going on here?” Shepard yelled from the landing.
“Shut up, Director,” Tony ordered, not looking away from Ziva, and Gibbs could feel the order permeating the air. Jenny’s mouth shut, and she looked stunned. “You brought this corrupt human being into our midst and I’m wrestling with my own conscience right now. So please don’t provoke me.”
For some reason, Gibbs felt like he was in the middle of one of the most dangerous moments he’d ever experienced. He’d heard rumors about this kind of thing, but never seen it firsthand. The kind of power Tony was displaying was terrifying in its way, but Tony was one of the rare people Gibbs had ever met who he felt morally capable of managing it. Gibbs knew he himself should never have that kind of ability.
“Drop the knife, little killer,” Tony directed to Ziva and the blade slipped from her fingers, landing on the floor with a thunk. She was breathing hard, eyes wide, angry, and frightened. “Do you think I don’t feel that you wanted to kill me just now? But this isn’t the pre-crime unit, so the fact that you intended to gut me doesn’t mean much. Now, why don’t you sit down.”
Motions uncoordinated and jerky, Ziva sat.
Tony looked over at him, and the eyes were blue again. “I’d appreciate it if you’d cuff Ms. David since she’s not capable of self-control, and she’s rather peeved about being found out.”
There was no order, no sense of oppression about it, and Gibbs appreciated that Tony hadn’t directed whatever power he was using Gibbs’ way. But detaining Ziva seemed like a good idea, so he got her hands cuffed behind her and removed many weapons from her person.
Tony stepped back and the thick oppressive feeling in the air vanished. “Director Shepard doesn’t seem to be aware of Ms. David’s naughty behavior, but she is gearing up for a fit of righteous indignation, so I expect her to try to cover this up. I’m not sure what she’s getting out of David’s presence here that would warrant such actions.”
“It’s not gonna happen,” Gibbs promised, and he saw several nods from other agents.
“Good.” Tony took a deep breath, and his eyes returned to normal. “Sorry, Gibbs,” he said so softly that only a sentinel could hear.
Gibbs just nodded his acceptance, feeling like he was truly losing something in this moment. Tony’s demeanor abruptly changed, like some switch had been flipped. It was startling it was so sudden.
“Hey, Probie,” Tony said with a smile that was reminiscent of the man Gibbs knew. “Do me a favor and call the Pentagon. Tell ‘em I’m coming.” With a grin, he turned and headed for the stairs.
McGee snapped out of his stupor. “Coming for what?”
“A sentinel,” Tony called back before he disappeared into the stairwell.
“Agent DiNozzo!” Shepard yelled, a bit late as far as Gibbs was concerned. She glanced down at all the agents milling around and ordered, “Call security and have him detained.”
Balboa crossed his arms over his chest and snorted. “You really think we’re going to interfere with a hunting Primus? You do realize that’s actually against the law, right? But more than that, it’s completely stupid.”
Gibbs pulled Ziva to her feet. “Against the law and stupid,” he agreed. “McGee make that call to the Pentagon. Tell them a hunting Primus is headed their way and then call the DC S&G Center, see if they can get down there. Then do what you can to get SecNav on the phone. See if he can get here to deal with this goat rope. Director Shepard has some explaining to do about her pet spy.”
Ziva struggled against his hold. “Gibbs, you must release me. I have killed no one.”
He nodded to Balboa, who came to help him get Ziva down to holding. “Good luck, Tony,” he whispered.
– – – –
A tap at the door interrupted the endless flood of paperwork. Blissful interruptions.
Paul Davis stuck his head in. “General, there’s been a security alert.”
Jack’s eyebrows shot up. “About what?”
“I’m not sure if this is someone’s idea of a tasteless joke or not, but we were notified that a hunting Primus is on his way here.”
“Here? To this office?”
“Oh, no, sir. To the Pentagon. The alert was that all level five and six unbonded sentinels needed to be prepared to immediately leave restricted areas if the Primus should be drawn to them. And, well, that’s you, sir.”
“Right.” He rubbed his hand over his jaw. “Well isn’t that a hell of a thing. Thank you, Major. I assume you’ll let me know if he’s headed this way?”
“Of course, sir.”
Jack tried to return to work but memories kept intruding. Memories of the only other time he’d encountered a hunting Primus. He’d met a couple who were bonded over the years, but their disinterest in most guides and sentinels was almost palpable. A hunting Primus, on the other hand, could be intensely focused on you, and it was like nothing he’d ever experienced before or since. There had been that terrible moment in his own mind of not being sure if he wanted to picked, and become the most elite type of sentinel known to man, or left to go about his life.
Primus guides were incredibly dangerous when they wanted to be or if they were pushed into a corner. It was why there were laws in place about interfering with one. They tended to only come online if they were needed somewhere, and in order for them to get to their mission, they had to find a sentinel first. They had the reflexes of a sentinel, the senses of a low-level sentinel, and the territoriality of a high-level one. Plus they had guide abilities the S&G Center didn’t even know how to explain much less rate. For the second time in Jack’s life, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to get a call or not.
About a half hour later, Davis returned. “People from the S&G Center have arrived. They’re not sure if the alert is real or not, but they’re advising our security forces and hoping they can offer aid to the Primus if he needs it.”
“Assuming he’s even coming here.”
“Well, keep me posted.”
What seemed like barely a few minutes later, Davis came in again, this time looking sort of rattled, which wasn’t a good thing in Jack’s book. He tended to not like things that made Paul flustered. “Sir, he’s here. His name is Anthony DiNozzo. He’s a special agent with NCIS.”
“He asked for you by name, General.”
“Ah, hell.” In that moment Jack was pretty sure he wasn’t ready to go to war again. Not that literally, anyway. And that’s what Primus guides did…they went to war. Still, he got to his feet, and straightened his jacket. “Well, let’s see what he wants.” Jack’s spirit guide made a brief appearance, and he tried not to make a face. He liked his spirit guide eagle well enough, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to merge with it, have it become a part of him.
He left his office, but before he even made it to the corridor, the air began to feel thick and heavy. Yeah, he knew this feeling. It was so much guide aura it was disorienting for a few seconds. As a high-level sentinel, Jack thought it felt pretty damn good, but he’d seen low-level sentinels nearly run from it.
When he made it outside his suite of offices, the Primus was already at the end of the corridor, sniffing up a sentinel who looked like she was ready to climb that guide like a tree. There were members of the S&G Center hovering in the background, watching everything very intently. It was kind of voyeuristic to Jack’s mind. Oddly enough, the Primus had some sort of notebook tucked under his arm.
But the Primus broke away, his gaze snapping to Jack, and Jack felt all that focus on him like a punch to the gut. As the Primus—DiNozzo, he reminded himself—started toward him, Jack had no doubt this Primus had merged with some kind of predatory cat. It was in the way he moved. And he moved entirely too much like a he was stalking prey. The weird blue of his eyes was decidedly inhuman, more feline. The guide was in his early 30s, like most Primus guides he’d run across. He was also obnoxiously attractive.
DiNozzo stopped a few feet away. “Jack,” he said, and there was a weird rumble in his voice that made Jack feel like his knees were turning to goo.
“You know I’m too old for this, right?”
The guide moved closer and Jack leaned back against the wall, baring his throat. It was only the second time in his life he’d done this, and it felt so foreign and so right at the same time. It was so contrary to a sentinel’s nature to go belly-up for any reason. At least, that’s what sentinels thought until a Primus wanted to sniff you.
As DiNozzo began scenting him, Jack’s insides joined his knees in feeling completely liquid.
“You smell really good,” the Primus muttered as he nosed about Jack’s ear.
“You don’t smell too bad yourself, kid.” Jack was proud of his ability to speak at the moment.
DiNozzo chuckled, and it had an animalistic quality to it. Like a lion enjoying its prey. “If it weren’t for two things, I’d invite you to join me.”
“And it’s an invite kind of deal?” Jack asked a little more breathlessly than he’d like.
“Of course it is. Even I was asked,” he said mysteriously before he pulled back a bit. “Would you want to say no to me, Jack?” The weird blue eyes were kind of creepy.
“This feels like a cat playing with its dinner,” Jack said dryly.
DiNozzo threw his head back and laughed. When he met Jack’s gaze again, the eyes were a more normal human green and that strong guide aura had lessened. “Not that I wouldn’t be happy to eat you, but…” he trailed off and raised an eyebrow.
“Right. Two things you said.”
“First is that someone has their little psionic fingerprints all over you. But they’re not a guide, so that’s interesting. At least, they’re not a guide yet. And I’m not going to disrespect another guide’s claim.”
Jack frowned, not sure what that even meant. “And the other thing?”
DiNozzo just smiled mysteriously and cocked his head to the side. “I think we need to talk. Privately.”
Brows shooting up in surprise, Jack asked, “And is that a euphemism for…”
“Making you my dinner?” DiNozzo laughed again. “No. It just means talk.”
Jack cocked his head toward the door to his offices.
DiNozzo pointed at the small group of S&G reps. “Stay!”
Smirking, Jack led DiNozzo through the outer offices and into his private office. “We need privacy, I take it?”
“Mm hmm,” DiNozzo murmured as he began prowling around the space, seemingly sniffing at dust motes.
Jack activated the privacy features of his office, which went way beyond noise generators. “All right. We’re as private as we can get within these walls.”
DiNozzo tossed him the notebook he’d been carrying around. It turned out to be a sketchpad.
He opened it to the first page and nearly dropped the pad when he was confronted with the snarling visage of a wraith. His gaze snapped to DiNozzo, but the guide just jerked his chin at the sketch pad. Jack began flipping through the pages. More wraith, including a queen; sketches of parts of Atlantis; puddle jumpers; and a man it took Jack a minute to place. It was the new alien on Sheppard’s team. Something-Dex.
He met DiNozzo’s gaze. “What is this?” Though his attempt was pointless. There was no way DiNozzo couldn’t read that Jack recognized every one of those images.
“How do I get to Atlantis, Jack?”
Jack rubbed his hand over the back of his head. They hadn’t exactly worked up a protocol for a Primus guide showing up on the doorstep of Homeworld Command, demanding to be sent to a super-secret base in another galaxy.
– – – –
SG1 had barely showered and had blood drawn before General Landry joined them in medical.
Cameron blinked in surprise when he pulled up a chair. They’d been off world for a week, but the mission was one of their less noteworthy ones so he wasn’t sure why the urgent debrief. “Sir?”
“There’s a situation you need to be apprised of.” Landry made a little noise of frustration, which caused Cam’s eyebrows to climb toward his hairline. “We have a Primus guide on base.”
Carter and Daniel reacted at the same time, firing out questions. Cameron just stared. Teal’c raised one brow and said, “I have yet to meet these guides you call Primus.”
Daniel started to explain why, but Landry waved him off. “That explanation can wait. My time is rather limited. Agent DiNozzo is off base at the moment, but he’s due back shortly and I wanted to inform Colonel Mitchell before DiNozzo returns and comes looking for him.”
“Sir,” Carter interjected, “could you start at the beginning?”
“Shortly before you all went off world, a Primus guide came online in DC and began to hunt.”
Cam blinked in astonishment. He’d met a bonded Primus pair once. The guide had actually scared him much more than the sentinel and that was saying something because he’d seen that sentinel literally rip someone’s head off. Primus sentinels became insanely strong after they merged with their spirit animal, and in a feral drive to protect their guide were known to do some fucked up shit.
“And he’s still hunting?” Daniel asked. “For over a week?”
“Yes. General O’Neill and I believe he is looking for a specific sentinel that he’ll actually find on Atlantis, but the instincts of a Primus are very…” he trailed off, looking at a loss for words.
“Deeply entrenched?” Daniel supplied.
“Thank you, Dr. Jackson. Yes. In any case, he’s bound for Atlantis to be the NCIS Agent Afloat for the mission. O’Neill sent him to me to get him cleared for and accustomed to gate travel and pass field qualifications for the SGC. He arrived three days ago.” Landry’s expression was hard to read, but the man’s scent pile was saturated with frustration. “In any case, he’ll ship out on the Daedalus when it makes its next run.”
“Have there been problems?” Carter asked astutely.
“General O’Neill suggested that if there were any investigations on base that Agent DiNozzo be allowed to look them over. He remarked that he’d seen a bored Primus once, and he’d prefer the mountain remain intact.” He blew out a breath. “We’ve arrested seven people in three days. Assuming he doesn’t find you an agreeable choice for his sentinel, I’m turning the fallout of his investigations over to you, Colonel. You can call me if absolutely necessary. Some quiet as we near the holidays would not be amiss.”
Cam was sort of bewildered. He thought he’d be a lousy choice for a Primus sentinel, but he could admit he was curious what a hunting Primus was like. “Sir, should we–” Before he could get the thought out, everything began to feel thick and heavy and something began to smell really good.
It took him a few seconds to adjust to the overwhelming sense of guide, but when his head was clearer, he noticed that Daniel and Carter were both blinking in astonishment, and Teal’c’s brow was furrowed.
General Landry just rubbed his forehead. “I’ve seen this enough. Good luck, Colonel,” he said in parting as he left.
He wasn’t even sure what ‘luck’ was in this situation, but then he didn’t care because hotness personified was prowling into medical, and while Cam was really sure the head-ripping style sentinel was not for him, he couldn’t deny that everything about this guide felt good. The eyes were kind of creepy though.
Then the Primus was all up in his space and sniffing the neck he’d readily bared without any real thought. A throaty chuckle caused his skin to prickle, and he shivered. When DiNozzo pulled back he was met with amused green eyes.
“That’s a most resounding no.” DiNozzo smiled faintly.
“Had many?” Cam couldn’t stop himself from asking.
“Just you.” Before he could say anything else, DiNozzo’s head swiveled and all that intense focus was on Daniel, who blinked in astonishment. “Well, there you are. Why aren’t you online?”
DiNozzo moved over to Daniel and when he turned enough, Cameron could see that his eyes were unfocused. He held out a hand as if he were going to touch Daniel’s arm and said, “May I?”
“Yes,” Daniel agreed readily, entirely too ready for new experiences in Cameron’s opinion.
After touching Daniel’s arm, DiNozzo made a sound of displeasure and let go. “You have a psionic block keeping you from coming online.”
“I have a what?” Daniel yelped indignantly.
– – – –
Cameron had a headache. Actually it was more of a metaphorical headache because sentinels didn’t get real headaches unless they were injured. And his not-headache was about the size and shape of a Primus guide.
The amount of work DiNozzo was generating for him was ridiculous. And, okay, maybe it was weird that the SGC had never read in Special Investigations or NCIS, but the SGC handled investigations all the time on base! Except it turned out that they seemed to deal mostly with the major stuff, and small malfeasance on base had been running rampant. Two of the officers who were assigned small investigations had made some very questionable decisions in that handling, and now Cameron had to deal with it. No, it wasn’t a good idea to just adjust the acceptable percentage of missing supplies rather than figuring out where the supplies went!
Plus, the base was getting a little edgy. Especially the lower-level unbonded sentinels. The problem was that it wasn’t normal for an unbonded Primus to hang around any one place for several weeks. They were supposed to hunt until they found a mate and then go do whatever weirdo things Primus pairs did. Like rips heads off.
It wouldn’t be so bad if they could let Tony off base, but as of a week ago he was confined to the Mountain. He’d hunted through Colorado Springs, but his lengthy presence and ongoing unbonded status had drawn the attention of the media and the S&G Support Center. Homeworld Security had helped file a fake notification to the Center that DiNozzo had bonded to a fictional sentinel and taken off for Colombia, which was one of the least regulated countries for Sentinels and Guides. Plus, more than one Primus pair was known to be in Colombia keeping the citizens safe from exploitation by the drug cartels. Usually by very violent, head-ripping means.
But that meant Tony was on base 24/7 leaking frustration and pheromones and driving the sentinels up the wall. The requests for new guide searches for the unbonded sentinels had skyrocketed. Even Cam had considered making the call. He’d only been online for two years and was fairly stable, only occasionally needing guide support, so he’d put off bonding. But all this exposure to Tony was highlighting the connection he didn’t have for some reason.
Yesterday, the guide had spent most of the day with his eyes blue, prowling the halls and making this near-constant low rumble in his chest. Cameron had been with him when they’d crossed paths with one of the night shift nurses who’d stayed late for an emergency with an incoming SG team. Tony had stopped abruptly and stared at her with the eerie blue eyes. She’d burst into tears and admitted to stealing opiates. The Primus hadn’t had to say a word.
This morning, a supply sergeant had come to his office and confessed to the supply smuggling going on in the mountain just because he wanted to avoid an interview with DiNozzo which had been scheduled for later today.
It was weird because when Tony wasn’t growly and blue-eyed, he was incredibly fun and outgoing with the kind of sense of humor Cameron appreciated. And while the bonded pairs and high-level sentinels liked the feel of the Primus—except for his escalating frustration—the unbonded guides and low-level sentinels most assuredly did not. He and Major Warren had been unimpressed when a level-2 sentinel had tried to get out of a mission brief because DiNozzo happened to be doing an interview on the same level as the conference room. It was ridiculous.
Not that the work DiNozzo was doing wasn’t great and obviously needed, but every one of these instances meant paperwork. For Cameron. His DiNozzo-shaped not-headache was growing to epic proportions.
The only saving grace was that the Primus would be gone in a week and no longer his problem. He already felt some serious sympathy for Caldwell having to deal with a Primus stalking around his ship for nearly three weeks on the run to Atlantis.
An alert went off reminding him to get to his next meeting. One with the general and Tony. He rubbed his forehead and reminded himself to get Tony to explain why in the world he was trying to bring a bunch of damn swords into the Mountain.
– – – –
Tony was the last to arrive to the meeting, and Cameron sighed in relief when he saw green eyes and an easy smile. “Sorry for the delay. There was an issue with one of the scientists.”
Cameron thought Landry looked decidedly constipated when he asked, “Do I even want to know?”
“Dr. Akers came to confess that he’d been thinking about smuggling plans for a propulsion system out of the mountain. He’d found a hole in the security protocols that should have prevented downloading. But, seriously, what am I supposed to do with someone thinking about a crime? I stopped by Sam’s lab on the way here and handed her Akers and the whole mess.”
“Was he crying?” Cameron asked.
Tony made a face. “There may have been tears involved. What is wrong with these people?”
The general leaned back in his chair. “Some of the mundane people have reported that your presence makes them feel particularly burdened by any misdeeds, or perhaps convinced they’ll be found out. Do you have any insight into that?”
“That was not in the Primus manual, I can assure you of that.”
“Manual?” Landry asked, looking perplexed.
“Not literally. At least, if there’s a manual, no one told me about it. The merger brings a lot of information along with it, but there’s nothing to explain people confessing to acts they haven’t committed.”
“I can’t say that I don’t feel confident that my command is in better shape for your presence here.”
Tony frowned. “I’m trying to wrap my head around your double negative and decide if it was a compliment or not.” And Tony was pretty much the only person on base who could be that snarky with Landry.
“Your work has been beneficial,” Landry conceded.
“But you’ll be happy to see the back of me,” Tony stated dryly.
Instead of taking that further, the general asked, “Have you and Dr. Jackson made any additional progress on his rather unusual situation?”
Tony gave a one-shouldered shrug. “Nothing’s changed, though his window for making a decision is obviously getting narrower.”
“And he hasn’t expressed any particular inclination?”
“No, but honestly it’s none of my business. If he wants me to try to remove the block, I will. If I do, he’ll come online. If I don’t, he won’t.”
“And you have no additional insight into the source of the block?”
“Nothing that hasn’t already been reported. We think the block was placed after Daniel was kicked out of Ascended Club-Med. Why they felt compelled to do that, I have no clue. The block could have been for Daniel’s benefit, or it could have been pure assholery. And, like I told Daniel, since I have zero insight in to the motivation, I can’t give him any advice.”
Cameron worried about Daniel’s predicament. He was more than a little outraged that those ascended twat waffles had done this to him with no word or explanation. He knew there was something Daniel and Tony were keeping between themselves, and whatever it was, it had resulted in a very distracted archeologist the last couple weeks.
Landry nodded, looking concerned, but he changed the subject to the purpose of the meeting. “What did you need to see us about?”
“I think two of the guides in your command are moles.”
Cam blinked in surprise. “Really?”
“Yeah. They’re well trained empathically and can mask from most guides, but their whole empathic signature is deceptive. Their identity feels artificial to me. Also, they’re very comfortable with their deception, so it’s long-standing and they likely believe in what they’re doing. As a result, they’re not going to ping a sentinel’s radar with the scents of anxiety and guilt that most people who are lying would have. As you know, the best spies are guides who believe in the cause. Plus, guides are a bit of a blind spot for most sentinels.”
Cameron exchanged a look with Landry then talked through all the information Tony had, which admittedly wasn’t much. “So you didn’t look into their backgrounds?”
“I’m sure everything about them is flagged and even running an extra background check could get them extracted immediately. You’d want to detain them before going that route.”
Landry looked thoughtful. “Would you be willing to conduct or at least aid in the interrogations?”
“Well, as long as another guide or sentinel are present who can confirm I didn’t compel them to tell the truth.”
“I’d prefer that you compel the truth,” Landry replied.
Tony raised one eyebrow and pursed his lips briefly. “I see. You know if it goes to court, there’s a good chance the confessions won’t hold up on self-incrimination grounds?”
“If they’re agents for the Trust, we wouldn’t choose to see the matter through the courts.”
Holding up a hand, Tony shook his head. “Please don’t elaborate.”
Landry inclined his head. “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll arrange to have these two detained, and we can see to the interrogations later today. I’ll return shortly.” He exited the conference room, leaving Tony and Cam alone.
Tony leaned forward. “You have got to get me off-world. I am going out of my mind. I’m about to climb the walls, and I really don’t want to find out if I’m literally capable of it.”
Cameron considered it and realized it was a good solution. They’d only taken Tony on quick trips to the alpha site to get him used to gate travel, but sending him on a mission—one with relatively low risk—wasn’t a bad idea for Tony’s sake, and it would also give the base a little bit of a break from the intensity that was having an unbonded Primus running around.
“I’ll talk to Landry. Getting you off world for a few days is a good plan. Probably not a good idea to put you on the Daedalus for eighteen days if you’re already coming out of your skin.” He leaned forward and gave Tony a pointed look. “Now, what the hell is the deal with the swords?”
– – – –
John jogged up to his office, anxious to review the contents of the databurst from the SGC that had come in while he was sparring with Ronon. He did a quick sensory check on the city while logging in and found everything normal.
He skipped over a lot of stuff he’d have to read later and instead tried to find the SGC’s response to Beckett’s request to go forward with the experiment with a retrovirus he’d developed to suppress the wraith genetics.
There was still no answer. As the head of the military, John had filed a complaint about the research even being conducted. Rodney had done the same as the Chief Science Officer. Rodney’s complaint had more weight as he was supposed to have final say on all research, but Elizabeth had overruled his decision and told Beckett to proceed, which was actually against the expedition charter.
They’d also filed a complaint on behalf of the sentinels and guides on the city. As the Alpha pair for Atlantis, they’d informed the SGC that they unanimously found the idea of letting a wraith on the city completely intolerable. When they’d tried it the one time, the sentinels had nearly lost it. With their danger instincts running at full throttle, a couple of the less experienced sentinels had slipped into a feral state and tried to kill the wraith, and John had been forced to stun and sedate them. He’d promised his Pride it would never happen again.
Elizabeth had agreed, but then she overruled Rodney on the research, and overruled them again when Beckett announced he was ready to begin live experiments. Rodney had been furious, but they’d had no recourse but to lodge a complaint, and request that Weir and Beckett be sanctioned.
In the last few days, John had managed to be civil to Elizabeth but not much more. Rodney and Beckett were barely speaking. Ronon didn’t want to be in the same room as either Beckett or Elizabeth, but Teyla was torn. She supported John and Rodney’s position, but also felt that ultimately Elizabeth was the leader. Since she wasn’t a sentinel or a guide—which existed in Pegasus to their surprise, but only on a few worlds—she couldn’t really understand.
Expecting a long rant later from Rodney, he switched to reading anything else flagged for his attention in the databurst.
He was aware of Elizabeth’s approach about a minute before she appeared in the doorway, arms crossed over her chest. “The databurst from the SGC contained orders that something called an ‘Agent Afloat’ was being assigned to Atlantis. Can you please explain?”
John blinked in surprise. “I hadn’t gotten that far in the databurst, but if they specifically called them an ‘Agent Afloat’, they’re with NCIS—that’s the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Much like the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, their responsibility is to provide investigative service, crime prevention, counterintelligence, force protection support, and advise the military commander on matters of security.
“It’s actually a good idea. Not having one was an oversight. Perhaps not at the very beginning, but it should have been considered when we were requesting additional personnel while we were on Earth. It’s not uncommon for an Agent Afloat to also concern themselves with matters of morale onboard a ship, which could be useful to us.
“However, I am surprised that they went with NCIS and not AFOSI. Even though there are more Marines on base, the command structure is primarily Air Force. Also, in a situation like ours, he’d be responsible for crime amongst the civilian population as well.”
Elizabeth looked like she could care less about the details she’d asked for. “So he would report to you?”
“No, not exactly. Unlike AFOSI, NCIS is purely a civilian agency. He would be accountable to the captain of the ship, so to speak, but he actually reports to the Director of NCIS.”
“So, if he’s a civilian, he’ll report to me?”
“No,” he repeated. “He’ll report to the Director of NCIS. In the event the director isn’t read in on our program, he’d report to the Secretary of the Navy. In the event he isn’t read in, the Agent Afloat would report to the Secretary of Defense. Though it’s possible he could report to the Chief of Naval Operations or the Commandant of the Marine Corps if one of them were already read in as that would be more expeditious than having a single agent report to SecDef.”
“I’m sure I can arrange to have him report directly to me.”
John forced himself not to grind his teeth. “That would inherently be a conflict of interest. The reason someone in that position doesn’t report to the command structure of the ship, as it were, is because it limits their ability to effectively investigate crimes free of undue influence. He would be accountable to me as the ranking military officer since his presence is a matter of military regulations, but he will report to whomever in his command structure has the clearance to receive his reports and findings. At worst, he’d report to Homeworld Security.”
She nodded shortly, but he could tell she wasn’t going to give up on this, and he had no idea why it mattered to her that the one cop on the city reported to her. “Additionally, there’s an encrypted message for you from Stargate Command. I’d like to know the contents.”
John’s eye twitched. “I’ll review it and if I’m able to disclose the contents to you, I will.”
“We’re part of the same command, John. I expect you to brief me on the contents.”
“Elizabeth, respectfully, you are not military. If someone in my chain of command orders me to keep information classified, I will do so unless not disclosing the information puts the city or lives at risk. And even then, I’d attempt to appeal the decision before disclosure. I believe General O’Neill and General Landry were clear on the issue of military chain of command.”
Mouth pinched, she took a deep breath, and he could hear her speed up in her agitation. She forcibly relaxed her expression and inclined her head. “Then I’ll expect to you to tell me what you can, when you can.” With that she turned and left.
John took a moment to get his temper under control before going back to reviewing the databurst. He read the Agent Afloat directive first and got the name of the agent. Anthony DiNozzo. The name seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. The man was thirty-two and had five years field experience with NCIS and six years as a police officer. The only thing that indicated why he’d been assigned to Atlantis was that he had a strong expression of the ATA gene. Equal to John’s, in fact. Well, the geeks would be thrilled, and John was happy enough to have someone with field experience who could fly a jumper.
Next he found the encrypted dispatch from Homeworld Command and entered his key to decode the communication. He read the message. Then read it again. Then read it a third time, because he must be hallucinating. When he was sure it said what he thought it did, he tapped the earpiece for a connection straight to his guide.
“Rodney, can you join me in my office. As soon as possible.”
After a brief pause, he got back, “I’m on my way.”
It was about five minutes before Rodney entered, shutting the door behind him and flopping in the chair. “I saw the databurst. No response to our formal complaints.”
John mentally flipped on the privacy protocols on his office. He didn’t need this getting out to the other sentinels yet. “I know. But we can give it a little more time. There’s something else we need to discuss. I received an encrypted message from General O’Neill.” He paused, knowing he was about to give his guide fits.
“We’re getting an Agent Afloat on the next run of the Daedalus.”
“A what-a-what?” Rodney asked with a frown. “Oh. Wait.” He snapped his fingers. “Like a cop on an aircraft carrier.”
“Close enough.” He wasn’t going to get into that gross oversimplification right now because it wasn’t the point.
“Well, good. He can figure out who keeps stealing coffee from my lab.”
“Rodney,” John said on a laugh.
“Do you realize that caffeine is half the reason why this city still even works? If people don’t stop messing with my minions’ productivity juice, the whole city is gonna get cold showers for a month!”
“I’ll get right on that,” he said dryly.
“Why would they send you that in an encrypted message?”
“They didn’t. It’s the status of the agent that’s an issue. He’s a Primus.”
Rodney froze then pointed his finger at John. “Is this a practical joke?”
“No. I wouldn’t make a joke about our Pride.”
“Well, we probably all should have seen that this was a possibility.”
“How do you figure?”
“Aren’t Primus pairs drawn to the most dangerous, backward locations? What is more dangerous and frequently backward than here?”
“Point,” John conceded.
“But I’ve never heard of a Primus pair fitting in well with a formal command structure or a conventional Pride.”
“Have you ever met a Primus?”
“I have. And they’re more adaptable than you might think. It’s not exactly what I’d choose with everything going on, but if the Primus is being drawn here, there must be a reason. But that isn’t actually the problem.”
“Are you telling me it’s worse than Primus pair landing in our laps, who may or may not acknowledge us as the Alphas, and could disrupt our Pride structure?”
Before Rodney could really get going, John interjected, “It isn’t a pair, Rodney. It’s a guide. And he’s hunting.”
“That isn’t funny!”
“Do I seem like I’m joking?” John shot back.
“There is so much wrong with that statement, I don’t even know where to begin! For starters, how do you even corral an unbonded Primus and get him to stop hunting! It’s supposed to be a nearly primitive drive.”
John sort of nodded and shrugged and held up his hands because he had no clue. “Well, he’s boarding the Daedalus in three days and he’ll be here in three weeks.”
“And that’s another thing! A hunting Primus on a space ship for three weeks? Caldwell is going to kill someone.”
“Maybe Caldwell is who he’s hunting,” John offered hesitantly. “Oh, stop making that face. He’s getting better.”
“I’ll concede he’s not as bad as he was at first, but the two of you in the same Pride? Thanks, but I’ll move to the alpha site first.”
John forced himself not to roll his eyes. He was too old for that shit.
“But if it’s not Caldwell, that means he’s going to come here to hunt. We only have three sentinels unbonded level five or above! Kusanagi, Lorne, and Bates. What if he doesn’t find someone? This is a recipe for disaster!”
“You’re forgetting about Ronon.” But John could understand why he’d leave Ronon out. Even though he was a member of their team, he was still meshing with the Pride. He also didn’t have a formal sentinel rating though John had no doubt he was a level six.
“Right, Ronon.” Rodney’s nose scrunched up. “That seems too likely actually,” he said unhappily.
“Ronon. Our Ronon…dealing with a primal imperative no one understands? Merging with that monster spirit guide of his and gaining its strength and senses?”
“Sounds like a one-man war,” John remarked idly, almost intrigued to see something like that.
“John,” Rodney said, voice full of exasperation. “Elizabeth.”
He winced. She had wanted to scrub John and Rodney from the mission when she’d found out they were an alpha pair after they bonded. While she was happy enough to have sentinels and guides because they were useful, she hadn’t wanted to add the structure and hierarchy a real Pride would represent. Which had shown how little she cared for sentinel and guide health and wellbeing. O’Neill had overruled her, but there were ongoing issues with her respecting the Pride. While sentinels and guides could easily accept the role the Primus played, even if their place in the Pride was uncertain, Elizabeth would have no appreciation for what might be gained by their presence.
“Look, O’Neill wants this DiNozzo guy en route before Elizabeth is informed. He doesn’t want the IOA breathing down his neck and delaying things if she decides to raise a stink.”
“They have no authority to interfere with established agreements most governments have with the S&G Council. Which means, for the most part, Primus guides go where they want,” Rodney replied.
“Yeah, Rodney, I know, but it doesn’t mean that the IOA couldn’t stall things for a while, and I get the impression that the last thing O’Neill wants is an unbonded Primus on base longer than necessary. Especially if what he’s hunting for is here.”
“And so he throws that problem over the wall and into our laps! He’ll be on this base unbonded!” He took a calming breath and said, “Fine. We’ll keep it quiet for a few days. And then, somehow, between then and the arrival of your floating agent, we deal with the litter of kittens she’s going to birth over this.”
“Right. Secrecy, then kittens, then a Primus hunting on Atlantis. That doesn’t sound so bad,” he said unconvincingly.
“Let’s not forget the wraith Elizabeth and Carson are trying to bring on the city,” Rodney said sarcastically.
John double-birded his guide.
– – – –
Steven Caldwell stared at General Landry trying to decide if his superior had taken a blow to the head recently. After several seconds, he managed to reply, “You really want me to take an unbonded Primus onto my ship for eighteen days?”
“O’Neill’s order is that he be stationed at Atlantis, and he hasn’t found any of the sentinels thus far to be to his…taste. Of course, when he’s back from the current mission, I’m sure we’ll see if you are going to end his hunt.”
Steven didn’t let any expression show, not even sure how he felt about that. “And when will he be back?”
“Scheduled for two days from now. Then I’d like him to meet with every member of the Daedalus before the departure.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but what is the value of that?”
“Best to find out before you depart if there are any issues rather than have your brig overflowing,” Landry offered as if it made sense.
“I feel like I don’t have the whole story.”
Landry filled him in, and Steven was happy enough to have the guide assess his crew. He was also glad he’d been in space when the base had been turned on its ear.
– – – –
A couple days later, Steven was in the officer’s mess dining with General Landry when he felt a powerful guide nearing. It was the most powerful presence he’d ever encountered, and it caused his senses to wobble for a second. He realized it had to be DiNozzo.
“Does he always have his aura on full blast like that?” Because that could be distracting on the ship.
“That is not ‘full blast,’” the general retorted, wiping his mouth and placing his silverware on the plate. “It’s barely a fraction of what I felt the other day. And, no. Fortunately, he keeps it reined in most of the time.” Landry got to his feet. “I’ll leave you then. I’ve seen enough hunting Primus to last me a lifetime.” Then the general was headed out.
He belatedly thought he should change locations, something less public, but then the guide was in the room and coming toward him. He suddenly thought he wouldn’t mind a whole hell of a lot of that.
But the guide stopped abruptly a few feet away and blinked at him. He cocked his head to the side and stared. The odd blue eyes faded to green.
Steven was keenly aware that everyone was watching. With casualness he didn’t feel, he got to his feet. “You must be DiNozzo. I understand I’m taking you to Atlantis.”
After a couple more seconds of intense staring, DiNozzo said, “We need to talk.”
His eyebrows shot up, but he wasn’t going to give anything away in public. Inclining his head, he said, “If you’ll follow me.” A couple minutes later, he let DiNozzo into his office and crossed his arms, staring back at the other man. “Talk.”
“You’re wounded,” DiNozzo said bluntly.
“I assure you, I’m perfectly fine.”
“No. You really aren’t. There’s all this psionic damage. You’re the one they tried to put a goa’uld in, right?”
Steven tensed, not happy to be reminded of that. “They didn’t try. They succeeded.”
“Tell me about it,” the guide prompted.
Not sure why he was willing, he eventually replied, “It was a mole on my ship. They’d managed to package the parasite in a way that sentinels couldn’t smell it and it was psionically shielded, so the guides couldn’t feel its presence. Although, I understand that when they’re not in a host, they can be hard to detect for a guide because they emote on different frequency or something.”
“But once they’re in a host, they are connected to the host’s neural pathways and are detectable. Go on.” DiNozzo was watching him intently.
“We have very few sentinels and guides on the ship. They tend to find prolonged space travel disagreeable.”
“But not you?”
“I’ve always been a little different,” he remarked wryly. “And it was easy enough to avoid the few we do have aboard.”
“So they got this snake into you and you realized it couldn’t control you?”
“Not to the degree it needed to, but I’d have been killed immediately if I’d showed it wasn’t working, so I bided my time and energy until we finished the trip to Atlantis.”
“I’m surprised it didn’t make you feral.”
Feeling like he was giving a mission debrief and not sure why he was going along with it, he responded, “If I’d gone feral, it would have truly been in control. And when we got to Atlantis, I wrestled complete control away long enough to have myself beamed right to Sheppard. I told him I had a goa’uld in me, but he knew the minute he saw me. He stunned me. I spent some time strapped to a gurney in Medical. Hermiod figured out how to beam the goa’uld out.”
“And no one noticed the psionic damage you were left with?”
“I was still recovering when we left for Earth. Dr. McKay had assessed me before we left. He indicated there might be some issues and I should be reassessed after I fully recovered. I was scanned by one of the few guides on the ship and told I was fine.”
DiNozzo’s eyes narrowed. “You’re not fine. This McKay person clearly knew what he was talking about. But we can figure out why you were told that bit of bullshit later.” The guide’s hands clenched. “Your damage could start to cause you problems. Also, from a purely selfish perspective, it’s very uncomfortable for me. I’d like your permission to fix it.”
Steven wasn’t blind to the signs of stress around DiNozzo. “You can do that?”
Steven didn’t even have to consider it for long. “Do it.”
The next day, feeling better even though he hadn’t realized that he felt bad, he watched the interrogation of the guide who’d cleared him as having no lingering damage. She was an agent for the Trust and had been in on the plot to snake him.
By the time his whole crew had been questioned, another Trust agent had been discovered, and four people who were reporting on him, the SGC, and Atlantis back to the IOA had been uncovered. Because, apparently, they didn’t trust that they were getting the complete picture from the reports the SGC filtered to them. The Trust operatives were arrested, and the IOA moles were sent back to the IOA. Steven had no idea what might have been said to the Oversight group about their little spies. There were also a few people rotated off the ship on DiNozzo’s recommendation based on their emotional health.
At the end of the day, he could honestly say he didn’t understand Landry’s aversion to the Primus. The benefits of his abilities more than compensated for a few inconveniences. Although, to be fair, the one person who’d started to cry had put him off more than a little.
– – – –
The chime of the intercom broke his concentration, and Jack absently pressed the button. “Yes?”
“Sir, Daniel Jackson is on the line for you. He says it’s urgent.”
He sat up a little straighter, feeling a spike of anxiety. “I’ve got it.” He picked up the phone and pressed the button for the line on hold. “Danny? What’s wrong?”
“I’ve got a problem, Jack, and I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to figure it out, but I can’t make up my mind and now I’m out of time.”
Jack frowned. “What’s wrong?”
“When I met Tony, the first thing he said to me is that I’ve got a psionic block.”
“What does that even mean?”
“It’s preventing me from coming online,” he admitted after a pause.
Jack sucked a breath in through his teeth. “How?”
“He thinks they did it when the ascended kicked me out. But we don’t know if it was for my benefit or as some kind of punishment.”
Eyes squeezed shut, Jack hated those ascended assholes just a little bit more. “Are yours the ‘psionic fingerprints’ DiNozzo said are all over me?”
“Right. Can anything be done about it?” he asked, feeling a desperate hope.
After a long pause, Daniel replied, “Tony thinks he can remove it.”
Jack froze. “Are you telling me you’ve known since DiNozzo got there and you’re just informing me now? The Daedalus leaves in two hours!”
“But nothing has changed!” Daniel said, obviously frustrated. “We agreed that you need to be there, and I needed to be here.”
“No, Daniel, you agreed. I couldn’t use my senses effectively in the field anymore and you decided to be noble and encouraged me to get a guide.”
“It was the right thing to do!”
“No, no it wasn’t. We were right. But you get these ideas in your head and think you know best!”
“I wasn’t a guide!”
“And I chose to take a desk rather than pick someone else!” The closest he’d come to changing his mind about that was DiNozzo sniffing him up. “Apparently you are a guide but for some interfering assholes. And you’re my guide. You always have been. Plus, you went and staked your claim on me.”
“I didn’t mean to do that!” Daniel said defensively.
“That you got territorial and claimed me is the second best news I’ve heard today.”
“What’s the best news?” Daniel asked cautiously.
“That the block can be removed.”
“Nothing has changed!” he repeated. “I have to be here. You have to be there. Maybe…maybe it’s best to leave it and Tony can remove it later.”
Jack wasn’t sure if he wanted to shake some sense into his guide or kiss him stupid. “Look…” he trailed off as an idea occurred to him. “We need to talk about this. But I need to clear a problem so I can do it without distraction. Give me five minutes.”
“Jack…” he said on a sigh.
“Five minutes, Daniel! And do not go anywhere.” He hung up before he could get into with Daniel again and buzzed Major Davis. “Call the SGC and have them beam me to the Daedalus immediately. But I want this kept quiet.”
While he waited, he shut down his computer and packed it up in his laptop case. He quickly grabbed the go-bag he kept for emergencies and signed a couple things Paul needed immediately.
“One minute, sir,” came over the intercom. “Is there anything you need?”
“I’ll be in touch as soon as I can. Hold down the fort.”
“Of course, sir.”
A few seconds later, he was on the bridge of the Daedalus. Caldwell stood and came to attention. “General.”
“Is DiNozzo already on board?” he asked without preamble.
Caldwell frowned. “Yes. He’s prowling around the ship, checking everything like I’d expect if he were a sentinel.”
“I need him. Get him here and beam us both down to the SGC.”
“Sir, we depart in under two hours,” Caldwell reminded him.
“I won’t have him for long, Colonel. Now, get him here.”
“Yes, sir.” He summoned DiNozzo over the intercom.
A couple minutes later, which felt like an eternity, the Primus entered the bridge, not looking at all surprised. “I guess he finally told you.”
He was surprised at how stressed DiNozzo looked, but it wasn’t something he had the time to deal with. “Beam us down to the SGC, Colonel.”
They were met with General Landry, whose expression was a bit displeased, but it was mostly directed at DiNozzo. “What can I do for you, General?”
“I need to speak with Dr. Jackson. Urgently. I’ll send DiNozzo back to you shortly. Come on,” he directed to DiNozzo.
Once they were in the hall on the way to the elevators, Jack said, “You could have told me.”
“No, I couldn’t,” the Primus said evenly. “It’s entirely his choice.”
“Yeah, well, Danny is known for making shitty choices when he thinks he’s protecting or helping someone.”
“Well, if we only had autonomy to make good choices the world would be a lot different.”
“You’re a pain in the ass,” Jack groused.
Once they were in the elevator, DiNozzo offered, “If he agrees and there are problems from removing the block, I won’t be here to help.”
Part of Jack wanted to delay DiNozzo’s departure for the next Daedalus run, but he wasn’t sure what another 7-10 weeks at the SGC would do to him, and he couldn’t justify possibly endangering him. “I understand. There’s an Alpha guide in Colorado Springs. If necessary, I’ll take Daniel to him.”
DiNozzo didn’t say anything, he just stared at the wall, jaw clenched. Jack wished for empathy for a minute because he had no idea what was going on.
“Is Dex who you’re hunting for?” he asked as they exited the elevator.
It was a couple seconds before he got a reply. “I think so. I dream about him every night. And as many compatible sentinels as I’ve assessed, I can’t get his image out of my head.”
“That’s not typical for a Primus, is it?”
“Not even a little bit.”
He could see the strain the prolonged hunt was putting on the guide, but the only thing Jack could do to help was make sure he was back on the Daedalus as soon as possible. Putting DiNozzo out of his mind for now, he entered Daniel’s office without knocking, finding his guide with his elbows braced on the desk and his head in his hands.
Daniel looked up when the door opened, and stared with his mouth open. “Jack!”
Jack rounded the desk and pulled Daniel to his feet then framed his guide’s face with his hands. “Remove the block, Tony,” he ordered.
“Jack,” Daniel said on a sigh.
“Remove it!” he said again, not looking the Primus’ direction.
Jack’s head snapped around and he glared at DiNozzo, who had his arms crossed over his chest. “That wasn’t a suggestion.”
DiNozzo’s aura flared bright and hot and the sense of displeasure was nearly oppressive. Daniel flinched under the weight of it. “My temper is short right now, Jack. Don’t push me. This is Daniel’s choice to make. Not yours!”
Closing his eyes, Jack took a steadying breath then focused back on Daniel. “Are you keeping the block because you don’t want this?”
“No,” Daniel admitted.
“Is it because you’re worried it’s actually helping you?”
Daniel glanced away for a second, but shook his head. “I think it was punitive, not helpful, but I don’t have any data to support that supposition.”
“If we didn’t have logistical issues, would you keep the block?”
There was no verbal response, but Daniel shook his head faintly.
“Danny, please don’t let logistics get in the way. I’ve been in love with you for years, but you’ve kept me at arms’ length because you thought you knew what was best for me. Can you just stop and let whatever is gonna happen happen?”
Daniel stared at him for a long time, and Jack knew DiNozzo was right. Daniel had to come to this decision on his own.
He rested his forehead against Daniel’s. “Please choose us,” he whispered.
“Remove it, Tony,” Daniel said softly.
Jack closed his eyes and took a steadying breath, aware of DiNozzo moving close. He leaned his head back, watching as the Primus put both hands on Daniel’s shoulders and looked like he was concentrating. The air began to feel thick and heavy, and he couldn’t imagine how anyone could move through it, much less breathe it. But everyone was breathing fine for all that it seemed impossible. He could feel something building and then there was a flare of energy flooding the room and Daniel made a little choking noise and his knees tried to buckle.
DiNozzo stepped back, watching them closely.
Wrapping his arms around Daniel, Jack actually felt the change when it started to happen. It was like Daniel was suddenly there in a way he’d never been before. His eyes were wide with astonishment as he empathically connected with Jack for the first time.
“It’s a guide. Mazel tov,” DiNozzo said dryly.
Jack met the Primus’ stare. “He okay?”
“Yeah, he’s fine.”
Jack looked back into Daniel’s eyes. “Guide,” he whispered.
Daniel reached up to touch his cheek. “Sentinel,” he acknowledged.
Unable to resist, Jack kissed Daniel with all the pent up want and frustration of the last several years.
The door opened and DiNozzo muttered, “I need to get laid.” The door shut and Jack was alone with the only thing he’d wanted for himself in a very long time.
– – – –
John thought Elizabeth looked like she was going to explode as she digested the news.
“You’re telling me that this person who doesn’t report to anyone actually on the city is a guide? And one of those savage ones no less?”
Completely unprepared for that reaction, John exchanged a look with Rodney. He could feel that his guide was just as confused and not a little offended. “Primus pairs are not ‘savage,’” Rodney retorted.
Before that could get going, John said, “Why do you care if the law enforcement on the city is a guide?”
“He’s practically outside our command structure, but he’ll be part of your Pride. It seems like that might lend itself to some of this undue influence you were so concerned about.”
“I do not, and will not, use my position in the Pride to subvert the command structure. We’ve talked about this repeatedly. I can’t help that you don’t understand the function of a Pride. If DiNozzo wishes to be part of it, he will be, and it will not interfere with his duties.”
“Unless some member of your Pride has some sort of trouble.”
John wasn’t getting into this with her. Again. Sentinels and guides weren’t going to change thousands of years of behavior because Elizabeth Weir ‘didn’t like it.’ The military complex found sentinels’ protectiveness of guides inconvenient at times but felt the benefits were more than worth it.
He got to his feet and Rodney followed suit. “I’ll leave you to file your complaint with the SGC.” Despite the fact that she and John had worked reasonably well together last year, she had tried to have him removed from the mission when they’d gone back to Earth and replaced with Caldwell. Landry had agreed. General O’Neill had overruled them both. John never knew what to expect from her. One moment she was adapting to working with an Alpha pair as part of the command structure, and the next she was off the rails. There was something going on with her and he and Rodney hadn’t quite managed to pinpoint what it was.
As soon as they were at the bottom of the stairs, Ronon peeled away from the wall and began walking beside John. “What is a Primus guide?”
He figured Ronon’s eavesdropping was his own fault since he hadn’t engaged the privacy protocols. “I guess you could think of them like warrior guides. Not that regular guides can’t be warriors,” he clarified, “but Primus guides are…something else. They’re incredibly rare.”
Ronon halted and stopped John with a hand on his arm. “Do these warrior guides join with their spirit?”
“They do. You had something similar, I take it?”
Obviously agitated, he asked, “If you have such guides, why are they not here? They are a great weapon against the wraith.”
“Wait…what?” Rodney asked. “How so?”
“Hold up. Let’s go to my office.” Once they were in his office with the privacy engaged, John ordered, “All right, explain.”
“On my world we called them Saliq, and they were not rare. But to be chosen by a Saliq was the greatest honor a sentinel could have. The bonding brought strength and ability to defend our people.”
“Okay, but how did they help you with the wraith?” Rodney asked.
“You know the power they possess? The ability to subvert someone’s will.”
“I’ve heard about it, but I’ve never seen it in action. Our Primus pairs are drawn to remote areas where there are wars and greater danger to the tribe.”
“The wraith are as susceptible to the will of a Saliq as a human. And many Saliq can combine their efforts and act together. I saw a group of twenty working as one crash a wraith cruiser. And it was not the first time.”
“How?” Rodney asked, obviously struggling with skepticism.
“With combined effort they can project their will across a great distance. They ordered the wraith in orbit around our planet to crash itself into our great ocean.”
“And that worked?”
“It worked. The Saliq are how Sateda advanced as far as it did. Our technology grew and our population expanded because our Saliq ensured no wraith cruiser left orbit. Some of our people were still captured and killed, but we survived because of what you call Primus.”
Rodney looked thoughtful. “They must have existed in high numbers among your people because of the constant danger of the wraith.”
“Eventually the wraith came in numbers too great for our Saliq and my people were destroyed.” His jaw clenched and he looked away. “Saliq are a great gift. I do not understand Dr. Weir’s dislike.”
John got the impression Ronon was actually holding back on his real opinion of Weir’s disdain for the Primus guide.
“Is your Primus an Alpha?” Ronon suddenly asked.
“Not that we know. There hasn’t been an Alpha Primus on Earth in a very long time. Does it matter?” John asked.
Ronon met his eyes again. “If it is an Alpha pair, more will come. Unlike the type of guide you are, Rodney, the Alpha is always first with Saliq.”
“It’s not a pair, Ronon. This guide is coming here unbonded,” John clarified.
Nostrils flaring and radiating barely leashed violence, Ronon asked, “How can that be?”
“All we know is he has refused all the sentinels he’s seen and demanded to come to Atlantis.”
Without saying another word, Ronon turned on his heel and left.
Rodney stared at the door for several seconds. “Well that was weird.”
“I think it might be a sensitive subject. Probably best to keep Elizabeth away from Ronon while he gets over her calling DiNozzo a savage.”
“That will likely be never,” Rodney snarked. “Are we gonna bet on whether DiNozzo picks him?”
“How are we supposed to bet if we agree?”
“We could bet on whether they try to bond in the gateroom?”
“No. Absolutely not. We have to avoid anything like that happening at all cost. Elizabeth would upgrade her reaction to a litter of puppies.”
Rodney blinked. “I was kidding. You don’t really think they’d try to bond in the gateroom, do you?”
“No?” John said unconvincingly. He’d heard from more than one source that Primus bondings were a little out of control and you might lose something important if you tried to interfere.
Rubbing a hand over his face, Rodney flopped into one of the chairs. “Right. Containment plan.”
– – – –
Tony stared out the viewport, mind a million miles away. There weren’t many places to look out at space on the ship, but there were a couple, and they were his favorite spots. Of course, since they were in hyperspace, they were moving too fast for him to really see space, but it was close enough.
At a purely intellectual level, he recognized the odd turn his life had taken. The surrealness of being on a spaceship on the way to another galaxy to hunt an alien sentinel and live on the lost city of Atlantis. Yeah, it sounded ridiculous.
He’d always thought of himself as pretty adaptable, but something about the merger with his spirit guide had amped that up to an untold degree. Part of him recognized that he should be nearly staggering under the weight of the changes he’d been through recently, but most of him was so focused on getting to Atlantis, it was all that mattered. Something had short-circuited the part of his mind that would get overwhelmed or worry or any normal human reaction.
Sighing, he rested his forehead on the glass. He still felt like him at his core, but the merger had made the things he’d normally worry or care about just seem to vanish. On some level, he thought he’d begin to miss the people he’d left behind, but on another level, it didn’t bother him in the slightest that he might never see them again. Christmas had come and gone and he hadn’t even thought of calling anyone. The disparity was hard to reconcile. At least, mentally it was. And he sort of forced himself to think about it, because all the change should be harder than it was.
With great ease, he pushed the whole topic away and focused on his real problem.
Which he wasn’t having.
Because his sentinel was in another galaxy.
This wasn’t the way he usually reacted to lack of sex. It probably wasn’t even the sex. He was hard wired to bond. Bonding meant sex. He was focusing on the horniness so he didn’t have to think about the sentinel-shaped hole in his life.
He dreamed about him every night, and he was sure that was his sentinel. He knew what he looked like when he was unhappy, when he was laughing, and even when he killed. But he wasn’t sure why he was different from other Primus guides. Why did he know exactly who to go for? And what if he was wrong about what the dreams meant?
He turned and offered Steven a nod. They’d become something like friends in the time he’d been aboard.
“We’re officially twelve hours out from Atlantis.”
He blew out a breath. “Right. Good.”
Steven came and leaned his shoulder against the bulkhead, giving Tony an assessing look. “Any problems?”
“No. Just thinking about the future.” He wouldn’t admit to anyone that he worried about not finding his sentinel on the city.
“Dr. McKay, the Alpha guide for the Atlantis Pride, asked if you needed any special accommodations?”
“I don’t… It’s confusing.”
“My instincts say to live closest to dangerous access points on the city, which is why typically Primus pairs live on the fringes of the tribe. But in this case, I think the most dangerous access point is the gate, which puts us in the middle of the city. And that makes me uncomfortable, so I’m not sure what to do.”
“I’ll tell Dr. McKay to assign you temporary quarters as close to the gateroom as possible, and that you might have to move them as your instincts settle. That work?”
Tony nodded. “So, has this been horrible…having me on the ship?”
Steven gave a half laugh. “No. It presents some challenges, but, in truth, I’m not sure I understand why General Landry was so bent out of shape. I have more confidence in my crew’s loyalty than I ever have.”
“Considering your aversion to anything approaching deception, I tend to think that’s best,” Steven retorted dryly.
Tony’d had an epiphany shortly after they’d left Earth orbit that he couldn’t stand being lied to. Which wasn’t much of an epiphany because who wanted to be lied to? But in Tony’s case, it riled him up to such a degree that being around deceptive people caused him to broadcast so much displeasure, people started to crumble under the weight of it. Hence the flood of tears and confessions and weird pre-crime issues. Now why Tony’s displeasure was so difficult for people to tolerate was another matter he hadn’t quite figured out yet.
“Landry has some old-fashioned ideas about guides,” he finally admitted.
Steven’s eyes narrowed. “How old-fashioned?”
“I’m pretty sure he’d like us to go back to the days where guides were banned from military service and law enforcement, were allowed to choose from an ‘acceptable’ list of careers, or stayed home. Never mind that the best performing sentinels work with their guides. Of course he doesn’t say those things, but his displeasure comes through loud and clear.”
“Does he come across as deceptive?”
“Oh, he’s not lying about it at all. He just doesn’t voice it, so he doesn’t push my deception buttons too much, just my bigot buttons. But I had those before I got an inner animal.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“I looked into the records—since O’Neill gave me access to investigate the base, I figured why not. When Hammond and O’Neill were in charge, there were a fair number of guide combat assets on front-line teams. Just like sentinels. Since Landry took over, he’s rotated out every military guide who wasn’t bonded. Every single one. The sentinel support department used to be primarily military guides. It’s all civilian now. And I have a feeling he only has the department at all because he’s required to. But the number of people in the department has dropped by more than a third.”
“How did I not notice this?”
“Why would you? You’re a remarkably stable sentinel, you rarely need guide help, and when you do, you seek out the guides who serve on your ship. I promise you, most of the sentinels in the mountain have noticed, but there’s no Alpha under Landry’s command, and it’s not like they can complain to the civilian Alpha in town. And going around Landry to complain to O’Neill could be career suicide.”
“I’ll talk to O’Neill about it when I get back. We should be long past those types of viewpoints about guides.”
“You may not have to. Unless you just want him to know that you don’t approve or something. When I sent O’Neill my final report and recommendation about the situation at the SGC, I included my assessment of the sentinel and guide situation. It was one of the last things I did before I was beamed aboard the Daedalus. I’m sure he’s done bonding now and will have read it.”
Though still looking concerned, and feeling pretty pissed, Steven nodded and asked, “So there weren’t any deception problems with him?”
“Well…there’s something small he’s being deceptive about. But a lot of people have something tiny like that. Hence all the confessions about stolen Jell-O,” Tony snarked with an eyeroll. “Still, I’m pretty sure that’s why Landry avoided me as much as possible and why he so desperately wanted me out of the mountain. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but he’s gutted the sentinel and guide effectiveness, and he’s got some really outdated and offensive ideas that should not be tolerated in a military commander.”
“If his bias is true, he might be avoiding you because you challenge his ideas about guides and their place in society.”
Steven snorted. “Even to a sentinel you read like an apex predator. A mundane who thinks guides should be at home isn’t going to be comfortable with you.”
Tony raised a brow and smiled. “Do I make you uncomfortable, Steven?”
“Stop flirting. You already sniffed me up and said no,” he said lightly.
He’d never admit how close he came to just giving in and asking Steven because he smelled so good. But Tony knew he was called to Atlantis and hopefully to Ronon, and he had a hunch the right guide for Steven was out there somewhere.
“Hermiod wants to speak with you, and then you should get some rest. If you’re going to hunt as soon as you get to Atlantis, you need the sleep.” He turned away then paused. “What is it that you two talk about all the time?”
Tony shrugged, appreciating that Steven tried not to spy on him. Though it was apparently hard for him to raise his aural sensitivity while they were in hyperspace, which Tony completely understood. Something about the FTL drive was murder on the ears above mundane hearing level. “Stuff. He has questions, I have questions. We answer questions. It’s like a mutual society of inquiry.”
“Hermiod?” he asked incredulously.
“What? He’s all right, though his sense of humor is a little dry. And I can’t help but wish he’d wear pants.” Tony scrunched up his nose. The constant reminder of the selective breeding away of the penis was all kinds of wrong. Seriously. Who does that?
– – – –
John leaned against a pillar in the gateroom with Rodney next to him tapping away on a tablet, waiting for the Daedalus to beam down DiNozzo. Caldwell had just radioed to suggest it, and John had agreed that it was a better solution than waiting for the Daedalus to land on the East Pier.
Rodney had initially wanted to just have the four viable sentinel candidates waiting when the ship landed, though not actually waiting in the gateroom, but John thought that was probably a bad idea. And not just because mating in public was a possibility. If Primus guides wanted their dinner presented to them, they’d show up at the S&G Centers, not go on a hunt.
He made eye contact with all the guards in the gateroom. They had their orders to keep their weapons down and out of the Primus’ way. Everyone on the city had been reminded of Primus’ protocols. He didn’t want any accidents happening. But, to be certain everyone was safe, he intended to follow DiNozzo at a reasonable distance. Make sure no one did anything stupid.
Like that, he thought as Elizabeth stepped up right in front of the spot they were going to beam DiNozzo. “Elizabeth, what are you doing?”
She shot him a smile that felt sort of condescending. “I’d like to meet our agent afloat before you show him around the city.”
“I’m not going to show him around the city. I’m going to follow at a safe distance to make sure no one does anything stupid! I explained this.”
“I need to know that this guide isn’t going to be a slave to his instincts and can follow the chain of command. I’m sure he can take a few minutes to talk and for me to set some expectations of his time with us.”
“It doesn’t work–” Before he could finish the sentence, there was a flash of light and then John’s senses were suddenly overwhelmed with a powerful guide presence and the scents of impatience, frustration, and sex hormones. The city lights flickered and a sense of welcome from the city skittered across John’s mind. He quickly got himself back to normal, other than the heavy aura beating down on everything.
“Whoa,” Rodney whispered. “That is intense.”
The man was tall and wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a bag slung over his shoulder. He didn’t even have shoes on, which really surprised him for some reason. But the weirdest thing was his eyes. He knew DiNozzo’s eyes were green from the photo with his file, but these eyes were an eerie blue.
“Agent DiNozzo, I’m Dr. Elizabeth Weir, the leader of the Atlantis Expedition.” She extended her hand and John nearly face-palmed. Never offer to touch a guide. Let them make the overture if they were so inclined. Rodney had told her that over and over and over.
DiNozzo ignored Elizabeth entirely and just tried to step around her, but she moved into his path.
“I’m sure you can spare a few minutes to speak with me before you get acquainted with the city.”
Rodney nudged John’s shoulder and whispered, “She’s broadcasting disdain like she had an empathic loudspeaker. She’s trying to rile him up.”
John winced, wondering how DiNozzo would respond to that and what Elizabeth’s game was.
The Primus tried to step around her again, but she moved into his path, crossed her arms over her chest and said, “I am in charge of this base. You will conform to the rules and regulations we have set down, or you will go back to Earth. There will be no tolerance for your primitive behaviors. Am I clear?”
“Oh. My. God,” Rodney said into his hands and John sighed.
A deep rumbling sound built in DiNozzo’s chest which quickly turned into a snarling growl that had more than one of the SFs on duty flinching and caused Elizabeth to take a step back in shock. He’d told her Primuses were part animal. Did she think he was kidding?
She firmed her stance and bit out, “I insist you cease this savagery.” Then she flinched when DiNozzo’s eyes flashed. The city lights flickered, and she took another step back.
DiNozzo followed her step, growl increasing.
Obviously able to tell she’d gone too far, she backed up again, and DiNozzo followed. “Guards!” Elizabeth yelped as DiNozzo kept advancing on her, the growl getting more menacing.
To John, she smelled more deceptive than afraid, but fear was gaining.
Most of the SFs stayed still, but a couple looked torn. John glared at them and waved them down. The only person who had a chance in hell of redirecting the Primus right now was Rodney, and he looked entirely too pleased with the outcome for John to expect any help from that quarter. Though if he thought for a second DiNozzo would really hurt Elizabeth, he’d be forced to intervene.
When Elizabeth had pressed herself back against a wall, still calling for the guards, DiNozzo stopped growling and backed off. He had never touched her. In the next instant, his aura snapped wide open and the overwhelming feeling of some blend of displeasure and anger and disappointment saturated everything and it was more than a little breathtaking.
Elizabeth’s knees buckled but she grappled at the wall for support, breathing hard.
“Why do I suddenly want to apologize to my sister for noosing her Barbies?” Rodney mused, looking thoughtful. John shot his guide an incredulous look as the extra flare of guide aura suddenly dissipated. He couldn’t even find it in him to care. Elizabeth was being impossible lately. Of course, this would probably make her worse.
DiNozzo turned to leave. But then he paused by Cadman, a level-4 sentinel who was obviously trying to contain her amusement at Elizabeth’s stupidity. When he advanced on her, she obligingly tilted her head back and he began to sniff her neck.
John easily heard DiNozzo whisper, “You vicious little thing. I like you.”
“How much?” Cadman retorted quickly. “’Cause I gotta tell you, I wouldn’t mind taking you for a long ride.”
With a feral little grin, DiNozzo pulled back, winked at her, and then headed for the corridor. He wasn’t moving fast, so John walked in that direction, wanting to give him enough breathing space to not earn that aura again.
Cadman crossed his path, moving toward Elizabeth and helping her up. “Come on, Dr. Weir. Let’s get you some tea. You know, there are good reasons why there are laws about interfering with a hunting Primus.”
As John continued following the Primus, he tracked the conversation in the gateroom.
“What were you thinking, Elizabeth?” Rodney groused. “We told you, repeatedly, not to get in his way!”
“I want him off the city! I won’t have that savage running loose!” So that was her play. She wanted to push DiNozzo into doing something so she’d have a reason to get rid of him.
“Now, that’s not very nice, Dr. Weir,” Cadman chastised.
“Dial the SGC. I want to speak to General Landry,” Weir ordered.
John wondered if they’d even get Landry if they tried. The last ten days, O’Neill had been there for their check-ins with no explanation of why.
“We are not dialing the SGC outside of our regular schedule because you couldn’t follow instructions, Elizabeth. There’s no justification for the power consumption. Don’t be ridiculous.” Rodney sounded more amused than he should.
“I want him gone!”
“How about you take it up with Colonel Caldwell. If he agrees, we’ll dial the SGC.”
“This is Caldwell,” came over the headsets. “I’ve been monitoring. I remind you, Dr. Weir, that General O’Neill is fully aware that Agent DiNozzo would be hunting on Atlantis and sent a refresher on the protocols in the databurst. He expected them to be followed. Also General Landry tolerated the Primus imperative for several weeks on his base. I doubt they’ll be inclined to accept DiNozzo back through the gate unless he can’t find a sentinel. Please prepare for the Daedalus to land on the Ease Pier in fifteen minutes. Caldwell out.”
“Dr. McKay, I need to talk to you about the coffee in your lab,” one of the SFs said out of the blue.
“We’ll talk later. Wait…what about my coffee?”
He kept part of his attention on the gateroom but let it drift to the back of his mind, staying focused on keeping up with the Primus.
“I can feel you following me, Alpha Sheppard,” an inhumanly rumbling voice carried to him from several corridors away.
“I’m just making sure you don’t have any more problems,” John said softly, wondering just how acute the senses of a Primus guide were.
He got a vague growly sound in response, but it didn’t sound pissed off. John would take it as a win.
– – – –
Ronon’s thoughts drifted once again to the guide who would be on the city very soon. It had consumed his thoughts for many days now, the idea that the Lanteans might carry the Saliq legacy had kept him distracted. When he’d first met John Sheppard, he’d recognized another powerful sentinel, a bonded sentinel. That sentinels and guides were integrated into their society much the way they had been on Sateda had fostered his trust in them. Being accepted into their Pride had given him a reason to stay. He’d been disappointed to not find Saliq among them but not all peoples were so gifted.
There were many planets in this galaxy who had sentinels and guides, though sentinels far outnumbered guides from what he had seen, but he’d never encountered another people with the Saliq. He had frequently wondered if they existed elsewhere but the wraith had destroyed them as they had on Sateda.
With his thoughts again on the Primus—he reminded himself again to call the arriving guide by the right name—he missed a block, and, seconds later, his back slammed into the floor of the training room.
“You are not concentrating,” Teyla said as she peered down at him. He grunted an agreement and she helped him up. “I thought a spar would be helpful, but perhaps I was mistaken.”
He didn’t reply. The spar was useful for burning off his energy, but he could not help his preoccupation.
Teyla cocked her head to the side, watching him closely. “You have not wished to discuss the arrival of this Primus guide.”
“There is nothing to discuss,” he said shortly.
“Then why does it distract you so?”
He did not know how to explain. Saliq were precious to his people. They had all died, as one, trying to drive the wraith away. But the people from Earth…they acted as if the Saliq were an oddity or disdained them outright. Some days, it made him question his own judgment about being here. Sheppard and McKay were all right, but Weir and some others… He felt himself starting to snarl and turned away, grabbing a towel and wiping off his face.
“Is it your hope that this Primus will come for you?”
Ronon froze. “I’m sure he will hunt amongst his own people.”
“But if he should come for you?” Teyla pressed.
“Then I would be honored to accept,” he said softly.
“There must be a reason he came all this way.” When he didn’t respond, she asked, “Have you read the report Dr. McKay prepared about the man who is to become our,” she paused over the term, “agent afloat?”
“No.” He had carefully stayed clear of anything but the man’s name. Tony DiNozzo. He’d heard that Tony was a shortened form of the name Anthony.
“He is a beautiful man.” She shot him a sidelong look. “I think you would do very well together.”
He looked at her, astonished, but suddenly felt the presence of the Primus on the city. “He’s here,” Ronon whispered.
A very short time passed before an oppressive blanket of emotions swept through the city.
Teyla rubbed her chest. “Why do I feel as if I were a young girl again and have disappointed my mother?”
Ronon whipped his head around, staring at Teyla as she continued to look perplexed. There was only one type of Saliq who engendered that response in those without the gift. The Primus they’d brought to Atlantis was an Alpha. If an Alpha had come, there would be more. He felt a vicious sense of satisfaction. With the technology of the people of Atlantis and the power of the Primus, they would bring vicious war to the wraith.
“He is upset,” Ronon finally answered. “It’s the only reason for that feeling.”
“Perhaps we should see if we are needed?” she suggested, starting for the door.
Ronon put his arm out to halt her. “No. He will not need our help.”
She looked at him assessingly. “You are certain?”
He nodded. He’d never seen a Saliq need help with anything. And as an unbonded sentinel, he should not approach.
The wave of feeling was gone as quickly as it came. He forced himself to focus entirely on Teyla. On Sateda, it was considered a breach of sentinel etiquette to use your senses on a Saliq hunting for their mate.
Despite his efforts, after a few minutes passed, he could feel the presence drawing closer until he was certain it was right outside the door. Unable to stop himself, he focused everything on the guide right beyond the training room and his senses blew wide open.
He smelled like rain and earth and sunlight. And he smelled like home.
“Ronon? What is wrong?” Teyla asked, touching his arm.
The doors slid open and he set eyes on the Primus. All guides were beautiful to him, but this one stole his breath. He had the eyes of the animal within him focused directly at the sentinel.
“Ronon,” the Primus rumbled, obviously scenting the air.
He stared in shock.
Before he could make his mouth form words, the guide was advancing on him. “Ronon,” he repeated, and lifted his hand as if he would touch, but Saliq did not ever touch. The hand curled into a fist and dropped away as the guide stepped closer.
He barely noticed that Teyla slipped away and the doors closed. Ronon dropped his head back, heart beating rapidly as the guide scented him. “I want you,” he breathed over Ronon’s skin.
They were not the formal words of offering amongst his people, but the meaning was the same.
“Will you have me, Sentinel?” ghosted over his ear.
He shuddered. “Yes.” Tipping his head back down, he met the eyes of his would-be guide. “I give my senses into your keeping for the protection of you, our bond, and our people. I will go where you will lead. My body is only for you.”
Fingertips were so close to his jaw that he felt their heat, but it was not quite a touch. “That was very…” the guide hesitated. “Are there formal words I need to say?”
Ronon stared into eyes that were now green. “You need only accept.”
“I accept,” the Primus said without hesitation.
He thought his heart might stop as he felt the connection begin to build between them.
“Let’s do this, then,” the guide—Tony—said as he stepped back. He held out a hand and Ronon felt his spirit guide summoned. Ronon’s spirit animal was unusually large even for a Satedan creature. The head of the gaddix came up to his shoulder.
Tony laughed shortly. “Well, look at you,” he said to the gaddix. “You look like a big tiger. But with horns and black eyes.” The gaddix rumbled in complaint and swished its tail. “And a barbed tail. Pardon the oversight.” Tony touched Ronon’s spirit animal, and Ronon felt it down to his bones, shuddering as the guide touched his soul.
His guide stroked the animal’s head, getting a pleased purr in response. The two moved a few feet away. He looked to Ronon. “Would you welcome him to become one with you?”
“Yes,” he said with no hesitation. It was something every sentinel on his world longed for.
The gaddix nudged his guide affectionately then leapt at Ronon.
His world exploded.
Tony watched his sentinel drop to his knees, panting as the merger took hold. He felt oddly dispassionate as he waited, like he’d had some kind of emotional lobotomy. He realized not all sentinels could handle the surrender and the blending, plus learning to control the animal instincts. The hunt was partly weeding out those who weren’t strong enough in addition to finding one the guide found most desirable.
He wondered if the apathy was protection for the guide in case the sentinel couldn’t pass the test…couldn’t settle the creature within him.
Long minutes passed before Ronon struggled back to his feet, eyes completely black, a deep rumble coming from his chest. His head was tipped down, eyes fixed on Tony, stance full of barely restrained primal urges.
“Saliq,” Ronon growled. Tony didn’t know the word, but he got the message well enough.
Like something switched back on, Tony felt desire rise up in him hot and heavy. He wanted this man with an intensity he almost couldn’t control. “Everything I am is for you, Sentinel,” Tony whispered.
In a second, his sentinel was on him, mouths crashing together. Ronon tasted like life.
His shirt was ripped away and he barely had the mental faculties to get the small tube out of his pocket before jeans were more torn off than pulled off. He grappled with Ronon’s strange shirt, getting his sentinel’s chest bare before as Ronon shucked his own leather pants. Then he was being lifted, his sentinel’s mouth attached to his throat.
He wrapped his legs around Ronon’s waist, his cock trapped against Ronon’s hard abs. “It’s always gonna be hot that you’re this strong,” he managed to get out.
Ronon gave an approving rumble and walked them across the room, slamming Tony’s back into a wall.
Tony’s brain was barely online but he fumbled with the tube in his hand, pushing at his sentinel’s shoulder. “Lube,” he grunted.
Growling, Ronon somehow got a bunch of the slippery stuff on his hand and reached for his dick. Then the slick, broad head of Ronon’s thick cock was pressing at his hole. Tony’s head dropped back, thunking on the wall as Ronon pushed inside. There was so much stretch and burn, but all he cared about was his sentinel being in him. He could feel his eyes changing as he dug his fingers into the strong back, then he bit into his sentinel’s neck.
Ronon broke the clutch of Tony’s legs and hooked his arms under Tony’s thighs, spreading his legs wide, and began fucking into him. Hard.
Tony growled at his sentinel, demanding more. He threaded his hands into Ronon’s dreads, yanking his head back so he could get to his sentinel’s mouth. The black eyes flashed, but then he had his sentinel’s tongue in his mouth.
The brutal fucking brought Tony right to the edge. He could feel the mating bond just out of reach when Ronon stopped moving and backed them away from the wall. He bit the sentinel for stopping and got a growl in return. Then he was being lifted and the thick cock slid out of him, and he hissed warningly. The room shifted and spun and he was dropped onto his knees, Ronon kneeling behind him and pushing his legs apart.
The sentinel managed to fist his hand into Tony’s short hair. “My guide,” he ground out before shoving him forward. He caught himself on his elbows just as Ronon grabbed his hips, yanking them back as he pushed his cock back inside Tony’s ass in one hard thrust.
Grunting in pleasure, Tony met every driving push, clawing at the mat on the floor. Orgasm was just out of reach, and he desperately wanted it. Now. He reached for his cock, but Ronon grabbed his hand. Tony snarled his displeasure and found himself yanked up, his back to Ronon’s chest.
Ronon grabbed both of his wrists, holding them tight. He was nearly immobilized, legs spread wide around Ronon’s, and the sentinel’s arms holding him close as he continued to fuck up into Tony. The change in angle put his sentinel’s cock in a direct battle with his prostate, and Tony’s eyes rolled back.
“Come,” Ronon growled in his ear, the mating bond sizzling between them, and Tony shook apart as the pleasure seemed to explode in them.
– – – –
John leaned against the corridor wall, shoulder-to-shoulder with Rodney. They’d cleared all the rooms in hundred-foot radius from the sparring room, telling people to go find something else to do for a while.
They were presently several corridors away, and he had his hearing turned way down. Still, he couldn’t exactly avoid the bonding aura that was heavy in the air. All guides radiated it when they bonded, but this was sort of ridiculous.
“How’d you leave things with Elizabeth?” he asked, trying for a distraction.
“Caldwell is talking to her. Every time she makes an argument for the Primus being shipped out, he looks at her like he can’t understand how she got to her position with that level of brain damage. It’s kind of great.”
His lips twitched.
Voice dropping to a bare whisper, Rodney added, “She feels satisfied about something, no matter what she projects, so somehow she got something she wanted.”
“Any idea what?”
“I’m working on it.”
The feeling of sex began to build in the air. “Okay, we didn’t push this perimeter back far enough.”
Rodney tipped his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. “Unless you want to get on the Daedalus and move into orbit, I suggest you buckle up and enjoy the ride,” he retorted nonchalantly.
“Just tell me it’s not going to be like that every time they have sex. No one will ever get anything done.”
“A- I have no way of knowing. B- When we get particularly revved up, our aura is palpable, so I can’t imagine they’d be any different.”
“Oh, stop. The only reason you care is because we’re stuck here and can’t go back to our quarters and take advantage.”
– – – –
Ronon pressed his lips to the back of his guide’s neck, tasting and scenting him at the same time. They were lying on their sides on the sparring mat, and he couldn’t seem to let go. “How did you know my name?” he whispered.
“I’ve been dreaming about you for a long time.” Tony pressed back into him as if trying to make them into one.
That was another sign. “Alpha,” he murmured.
Tony turned his head, green eyes questioning as they met Ronon’s gaze. “Really?”
“You have all the signs.”
“But I’m the only one.”
“The Alpha is first. More will come,” he assured.
“Oh.” His brow creased, and he seemed lost in thought.
“Does this trouble you?”
“No. For all that my spirit animal crammed a lot of information in my head, I feel like I’m flying blind. You seem to know a lot more.”
He stroked his fingertips along the side of Tony’s face. “Your kind were plentiful among my people.”
“I’ll need you to teach me then.” He pressed a kiss to Ronon’s lips. “By the way, did we get married or something?”
“Among my people, the mating bond of a Saliq is held as a marriage, yes.”
“Huh.” He looked thoughtful. “So how much of your imprint is done?”
“Very little. The urge to mate was…”
“Yeah, it really was.” Tony smiled at him. “How much is it pressing at you?”
Ronon didn’t really want to admit that it was difficult to ignore the sentinel’s urges within him.
“Right.” Tony pulled away. “We can’t stay in here. Even I can smell all the other people who use this room, so it’s going to make the imprint harder.” He gave Ronon another hard kiss then got to his feet. “You have a radio, right?”
He pointed to the bench and braced himself on his elbows. It was no hardship to watch his guide move, and he appreciated the beauty of the man who’d come from another galaxy for him. “Three taps for my team’s frequency.”
Tony got the radio in his ear and tapped it three times. “Can you hear me, Sheppard.”
“I can,” came the reply through the radio, and Ronon had no issue hearing. He never would have struggled with something that small anyway, but his senses hummed in a new way that was nearly fluid. He found it invigorating.
“Please have Hermiod beam us to Ronon’s quarters,” Tony requested.
“I take it walking is out of the question?”
“We’re naked and our clothes are in pieces, but I’m game.”
Ronon rumbled a complaint at the idea, and his guide winked at him.
“Sorry I asked. I’ll arrange it.”
They gathered up the few things they had and, a few seconds later, were beamed straight to Ronon’s quarters.
“They set up new quarters for you,” he offered.
“We’ll figure it out later. We’re both different and it will take time to figure out what’s right. Being in your territory is better right now I take it?”
“Yes.” He curled his arm around Tony’s waist, giving a tug and meeting no resistance. “Come here, guide.” He buried his face in the long neck, taking in his guide’s scent.
Appreciating his new strength, though he knew he had to learn to control it, he lifted his guide and walked to the bathing room.
Once they were under the warm water, he began to wash his guide, cataloguing every part of his body, committing it to memory. His senses were consumed with Tony, and he let instinct drive him as he continued to imprint.
When they were finally in the bed, he began to taste, exploring every inch of the smooth skin, returning over and over to his lush mouth.
As he neared the end of his sensory imprint, he felt the guide energy reach for him, weaving throughout his being, connecting him to his mate’s very soul. The bond flared to life between them, vibrant and strong. Ronon was driven to slick himself and once again slide into the heat of his mate’s body.
“Ronon,” Tony whispered, staring up at him with beautiful green eyes, arching up to meet the thrust.
After so many years, he felt like he’d found a home. “I have so much to learn of you,” he whispered as he slowly began to move.
He was pulled down into a kiss. “I’ll tell you everything,” Tony murmured softly against his mouth.
Burying his face in Tony’s neck, he whispered, “Thank you…for finding me.”
– – – –