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it is an ever-fixed mark

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Jack Dalton doesn’t want a Sentinel.

When he’d been identified as a Guide – capital G – he’d briefly entertained the notion of maybe one day finding that one Sentinel that would complete him, rock his world, and all that emotional crap, but that feeling only lasted until he’d met his first online Sentinel and realized something important.

Sentinels were assholes.

Most young, newly-online Sentinels grew up to be entitled bastards who thought that just because their senses were above average, the whole world had to fall at their feet and cater to their every whim. They also pretty much assumed that every Guide was looking for a Sentinel, and while Jack didn’t yet have the power to make his punches count, luckily he had support from a wide circle of scary family members who would gladly drag the little snot-nosed Sentinel bastard’s parents and/or assorted guardians in front of teachers, police officers or officials from the Sentinel and Guide Centre to argue (yell) on Jack’s behalf.

Needless to say most of them didn’t bother Jack for long, and for those few that still tried, mostly the recently online, Jack’s grandfather had a few choice words, and a load of buckshot for the really stubborn bastards.

When Jack joined the military he’d expected to be paraded in front of eligible Sentinels until either he or the Sentinels got tired of him punching them in the face when they inevitably got grabby, but it turned out military Sentinels were well-behaved. Apparently, getting yelled at by a drill sergeant who’s also a Guide does wonders for building mutual respect, and so Jack’s years in the Army went on to be surprisingly Sentinel-free.

He considers bonding exactly once after meeting Steve McGarret. While they’re both on the same level power-wise and would probably make a nearly unstoppable Sentinel/Guide pair, there’s just something that keeps them back from forming a permanent bond.

When they meet again, years later, respective partners at their side, Jack realises that they’d simply been too similar to each other to truly be compatible. He still thinks that Joe White probably regretted that more than either he or Steve ever did.

Still, even after his years in the CIA and returning to the Army, Jack was still content with being Sentinel-less and probably would have gone on to be content for the rest of his life had he not met Angus MacGyver sixty four days before his return to the great state of Texas.

Of-fucking-course.   

Angus MacGyver comes online as one of the strongest Sentinels of his generation when he’s just five years old.

It’s Halloween. His costume has been finished for a while now, hanging on the back of his door. He and his mom are just about to pop down to the store for some last minute shopping before he can finally wear it. They take his grandpa’s jeep, Angus’ dad isn’t home yet but he promised to go trick or treating with his son later.

Mission City isn’t very violent, only rarely making the news for anything crime related, but sometimes even the most peaceful of places doesn’t escape the inevitable, and so it’s on this day, Halloween of ’95, that the small corner store where Angus and his mom are busy perusing the candy selection is held up by a desperate man and the gun he doesn’t really know how to use.

Ellen MacGyver never stands a chance.

Angus…Angus zones in on the sound of the gunshot and the colour of blood on his mother’s dress and doesn’t resurface again until three days later, waking up to a world where his mother is dead and he’s forced to spend the next several weeks in one of the Centre’s isolation rooms, shut-off from the world until he learns to control his senses enough not to throw up every time he has to go outside.

His case is…unusual to say the least. Angus isn’t the first Sentinel or Guide to show up in his family line but it’s been a while – the last one was nearly a century ago – and he’s by far the strongest.

He’s also the youngest.

The Centre isn’t really sure what to do about that.

It’s one of the most common misconceptions among the non-Guide and Sentinel population that bonding is inevitable once a compatible Sentinel and Guide pair has met, because there’s still an element of choice involved, no matter how well-fitted the pairing seems to be, but Angus is five and not really able to make that kind of decision yet.

Normally, protocol dictates finding a selection of possibly compatible Guides and introduce them to Angus, see if there’s bonding potential, but while bonds aren’t necessarily sexual, there’s a significant number of asexual Guides and Sentinels for example, not to mention those who were already married before meeting someone compatible, no one involved really wants to take that chance.

The thing is, that’s not something Guides and Sentinels normally have to worry about before they’re teenagers – some Sentinels don’t come online until their early twenties. The process for Guides is more gradual, but the fact remains that no Sentinel has come online as early as Angus in nearly three hundred years, and nobody really knows what to do about it.

There are simply no Guides of compatible age and strength.

Angus makes do. He realizes early on that neither his dad nor his grandpa can help him – or understand what he’s going through, but Angus is smart. He claws his way back to a semblance of normality, religiously practicing control of his senses until he can re-enter society without wanting to claw his eyes out. His dad sees it as proof of Angus’ superior intellect, his grandpa just smiles at him sadly and buys him his favourite ice cream.

It gets somewhat easier once Angus meets Bozer. The other boy is a Guide, not nearly strong enough to help ground his senses, but even being close to his new friend is a relief Angus didn’t know he’d been missing. It’s also the year Angus becomes Mac because well…Angus died with his mother.

His father leaving should have overthrown the careful equilibrium he’d achieved, should have destroyed what progress Mac made to balance his senses, but…

Later he will realize that he didn’t so much miss his dad, as miss the idea of him. James MacGyver had all but become a ghost after his wife’s death, and Mac’s senses had never really latched onto him the way they had done with his grandfather and Bozer.

He grows up and outgrows Mission City. MIT is a blur of science, new experiences, and Frankie. Bozer and Mac’s grandfather are concerned that the sudden change will negatively affect his senses, but Mac’s control holds steady. It holds steady through his years at MIT, through his decision to leave and join the Army and even through his EOD training.

His superiors are concerned about Mac’s senses, of course. He has to dodge more than one ‘casual’ meeting with Army Guides that just happened to be in the same place as Mac, but after a while that concern fades into the background.

Mac is steady and quickly comes to be considered one of the best EOD techs to ever come out of training.

His control holds.

Then he meets Jack Dalton.

Jack doesn’t realize his new EOD tech is a Sentinel until he has to pull him out of a zone halfway into his last sixty-four days as an Overwatch. The kid is busy defusing a bomb, the street they’re in appears to be deserted, but Jack has seen too many ‘peaceful’ situations like this go to hell in a handbasket to relax his guard even slightly. That way lies madness and death by IED.

He’s ready to tell the kid to hurry the fuck up because he may be the slowest goddamn EOD Jack’s ever met, but this is slow even for him, when Jack notices something odd.

MacGyver isn’t moving. It’s not just his usual I’m thinking stillness, he’s frozen to the spot, eyes staring ahead, unfocused and Jack swears the kid is barely breathing.

Jack may avoid contact with most Sentinels like the pest, but he does know what a zone out looks like.

“Oh, you gotta be fuckin’ kidding me.” Of course, no one had actually thought to inform Jack of the little fact that his current EOD is a goddamn Sentinel.

Jack reacts quickly, scanning the street for immediate threats, using his latent Guide-inherent empathy to find potential hostiles. Once he’s reasonably sure they won’t be shot at in the next few minutes, Jack concentrates on the more immediate problem.

A Sentinel’s senses are their greatest weapon but they can also become their greatest enemy if caught in a zone out. Jack isn’t sure what MacGyver zoned on, it could be anything from the colour of the wires he’s been cutting to something as microscopic as a grain of sand.

Jack kneels down next to the kid and thinks about his options. Without a bond, trying to use his empathy to bring the Sentinel back could do more harm than good, considering Jack doesn’t know how strong he is – if they’re at all compatible. Jack will have to use the kid’s senses instead.

Hearing didn’t work, Jack’s exclamation earlier didn’t get any kind of response, it would have if that’s the sense the kid has zoned on. He tries MacGyver’s eyes next, carefully tilting up his head until Jack is looking right into the unfocused baby blue eyes of his EOD tech.

The kid is beautiful – is a thought he quickly supresses because that’s a complication he really doesn’t need. Jack doesn’t have long to think about it either way because it turns out, touching does the trick and Jack finds himself with an armful of exhausted, slumped-down Sentinel before he can even blink, his arms closing around MacGyver without a conscious thought.

“What…Dalton?” The kid asks confused but doesn’t try to get out from Jack’s hold. Jack allows himself a moment of weakness and tightens the hold he has on the kid.

“You alright, hoss?” All he gets is a confused stare in return.

“You zoned out for a moment there buddy…might have been smart to tell me you’re a Sentinel before something like this happened.” Jack watches as those blue, blue eyes come into focus again, and his EOD tech blushes and ducks his head in embarrassment once he realizes the position he’s in.

“Thought you knew about that,” the kid says and tries to get up. Jack steadies him but it doesn’t help much, MacGyver nearly tips over and Jack slings the younger man’s arm around his shoulders, pressing him close to Jack’s body, so he doesn’t fall down on the way back to their transport.

If Jack’s just a little bit selfish, not yet ready to let go of the kid, that’s between him and the God he isn’t sure he believes in anymore.

“I’m guessing you’re done with the bomb then?” Jack asks while they all but stumble back to the jeep and receives a nod in return. He puts MacGyver in the passenger seat and lingers at the door for a moment, hands carefully not touching the other man.

“Look, kid…just ‘cause I got you out of that zone doesn’t mean I’m lookin’ for a bond or anything,” Jack says because he knows how this might look to others. There are countless romance novels out there, depicting Sentinels as knights in shining armour, sweeping Guides off their feet left right and center, but the reality is slightly different. Sentinels have their senses to rely on, and Jack has seen them do some amazing things with those, but Guides’ abilities are much more esoteric and also inherently more problematic in terms of consent.

Jack can render half a dozen grown men unconscious if he really tries, granted he’s much more powerful than most and he’ll have one hell of a headache after, but the point stands…

The power imbalance isn’t nearly as tipped in the Sentinels’ direction as the general public likes to believe and, adding the fact that Jack is significantly older than MacGyver and technically his superior to boot…

“I…I understand.” Jack thinks he imagines the crestfallen look on the kid’s face because it’s gone in an instant, replaced by determination.

“Of course.” MacGyver smiles at him and it might be the first true smile he’s ever given Jack. “That would be ridiculous.” Jack looks at the EOD tech a bit longer, searching his face for any sign of a lie, trying to ignore the unpleasant feeling in his stomach, before he makes his way to the driver’s side.

They leave in silence, neither talking to the other and for all that Jack thinks they resolved the situation in the only way possible, he still feels like he lost something important.