John sat alone on the pier, looking up at the two full moons shining brightly in the night sky. He had the urge to change, to go for a run, but he didn’t. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to succumb to the pull of his true nature or crap like that, it was because it wouldn’t be any fun on his own. He longed for a pack by his side, friends, maybe even a mate. But that happening was about as likely as a snowstorm in hell.
The necessary secrecy his kind lived by meant he had no idea if any other members of the expedition had the same abilities he did. So far he hadn’t had any luck locating one, the need to keep a low profile making things much more difficult than they had to be. Given the small size of the expedition, it seemed unlikely - that aforementioned snowstorm in hell - but he didn't want to give up trying.
Atlantis was quickly becoming home, and finding a place to call his - a territory of his own - made the desire for pack all the stronger.
It wasn’t that they were being hunted. It just wasn’t “proper” anymore to be a shifter. Weres were viewed as unreliable, and instinct driven, their once proud culture lost sometime during the last century. They’d tried to breed their abilities out, to tame themselves, ‘domesticate’ themselves. Make themselves human. It had even worked, to a certain degree. Alphas like John had lost their aggressive, sometimes extremely territorial, nature, while male Omegas had lost the ability to bear offspring; heat cycles were a thing long past for Omegas of either sex.
It was a civilized new world. One John had hoped to flee from when he had signed up for Atlantis.
John certainly didn't want to deal with the discrimination that came with being a Were; some people thought them little more than animals and treated them accordingly. With the expedition on its own, they couldn’t afford to ostracize or mistreat anyone. They all had to work together in order to survive.
Still, a companion would be nice. Someone John could be open with, who would understand the need to run, to feel the wind in their fur and the rush that came with running free. He wouldn’t be able to deny those urges forever. The best he could hope for at the moment was that there would be a section in Atlantis that was large enough for a good run, but far enough away from the main corridors to be free of people.
Maybe he could take a trip to the mainland. John would try and take a run through the nearest forest. He could already imagine the moss under his paws, the smell of the earth, the way his senses changed, sharpened, and broadened when he was in his fur.
He didn’t change often. The military didn’t look too kindly on shifters, and even if nowadays no-one was required to give notice of Were-status, the moment one’s comrades found out you were a shifter was usually the moment you lost whatever buddies you had.
John might be the military leader of Atlantis, might have made sure there was a culture of ‘welcome-the-difference‘ practiced in Atlantis, but he also knew caution was advised. It still disturbed John greatly that even people who readily accepted alien cultures and foreign planets could be so prejudiced when it came to Were culture.
John wondered if the Athosians had ever heard of a Werewolf, if Teyla would keep her calm demeanor if she witnessed John changing. If they knew about shifters, then perhaps she could help him turn opinion around. They were allies, after all, and it wouldn't do to piss the Athosians off. Not when friends were in such short supply in Pegasus.
If they wanted to survive there, things needed to change. They didn’t have the luxury of walking away from each other. John got to his feet, giving the moons one last, lingering look. Atlantis could be a haven for wolves, if someone had the stones to start the ball rolling. He nodded to himself, determined. He knew what he had to do.
“… Hickman says that there were clothes in one corner of the room and this big mountain lion pacing around in front of them. I tell you, someone on the expedition is a Were. Can you imagine that? We’ve been working with a Were all this time. What if this planet has some strange effect on it and it shifts in the middle of the gate room and starts ripping people apart?”
Rodney boiled with anger when he walked in on the conversation two of his youngest scientists were having in hushed voices. Rodney hadn’t thought he had anyone on his staff who was that abominably stupid, but apparently he had been wrong. There was really no excuse for behavior like this, and for the millionth time in the last few months, Rodney regretted not having been privvy to information like this earlier. Namely before he had approved these scientists for his Atlantis mission team.
“When I was first asked to join the Atlantis expedition, I was told we’d be bringing only the best of the best with us.” Rodney paused, glaring at the two idiots standing before him. “Clearly they were mistaken, as two low IQ, prejudiced persons such as yourselves would never have been included.”
“Doctor McKay,” one of them started, face red. “We weren't - it's not as though we weren’t telling the truth.”
“Hardly,” Rodney snapped. “Instead you’ve fallen victim to one of your worst habits - speaking about things of which you are sadly misinformed. Weres are loyal, protective, and stronger than the average man. Are you telling me you wouldn't prefer to have a group of them protecting you from the Wraith?”
“Uh, well,” the guy stammered. His partner in stupidity was slowly backing away, eyes wide, mouth hanging open.
“Of course, they’d hardly be loyal to people who talk badly about them behind their back, who think of them as nothing more than animals,” Rodney continued, voice growing steadily louder. “So perhaps it’s a good thing there are no known Weres on this expedition. Why should they stick their neck out for you?”
“Good point,” someone said from behind Rodney. He turned to find Sheppard leaning in the doorway, looking amused. Despite his boneless posture and lazy drawl, his eyes were sharp.
Rodney flung a hand out to gesture at him. “Thank you!”
“Dr. McKay, I think it’d be best if Doctors Sandhoff and Johnston are taken off their respective gate teams. We wouldn’t want the Doctors to run into a shifter while visiting one of our trade partners, would we? Their rude behavior could cost us a good deal. Teyla just told me how precious and honored shifters are in her culture. They can sense the Wraith coming long before anyone else, and apparently feeding on a shifter is a lot more difficult for the Wraith. The Athosians feel quite blessed when they realize a shifter has been born into their community.”
John’s tone was light and conversational, as if speaking about the weather, but his eyes were hard and Rodney, bad as he usually was with reading people, could easily pick up on the anger lurking beneath the surface. Sheppard was tense as a coiled spring, ready to leap at their throats for being prejudiced idiots. It took Rodney a bit by surprise, but it also made him feel warm all over.
Rodney had resigned himself to possibly never being able to openly shift, to only get to wear his fur in the safety of an far-off lab or, as long as Sheppard wasn’t around to override the locking mechanism, inside his own quarters. That Sheppard was now defending Weres in that way, was essentially protecting him even if he didn’t know it, made Rodney feel accepted in ways he hadn’t anticipated.
“Excellent idea,” Rodney agreed, unable to stop the soft smile curling his lips. He felt as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He turned to the two idiots, his smile disappearing.
“The two of you are dismissed,” he said curtly. “Make sure you return your assigned weaponry to the armory. Don’t make me send the Quartermaster after you.”
The scientists practically ran from the room, giving Rodney a wide berth and keeping their heads down when they passed by Sheppard. The two of them were alone, and Rodney was both elated and nervous, and so, so in love. He wanted so badly to tell Sheppard everything, about him being a shifter, about the crush that had started in Antarctica and had only grown since getting to know the Major.
Sheppard’s face was somber, but not unkind, when he stepped closer to Rodney. “I’ve talked to Elizabeth about this problem. It’s the full moon. Hell, there are two full moons in the sky. If we have any Wolves among our people they’re going to long for a run. I’m actually surprised we haven’t had any problems so far. We need to resolve this if we have any hope of surviving here.”
Rodney looked at the Major, surprised by his speech. Sheppard wasn’t exactly known for his loquaciousness: grunting and drawling were more his style. It wasn’t hard to recognize that this was a topic Sheppard felt strongly about. There weren’t many military men who were open about their opinion on Were culture and shifters; Sheppard was always good for a surprise.
“I’ve got Star Trek: The Original Series on a thumb drive,” Rodney blurted, the desire to stay in Sheppard’s company settling in his chest next to the fondness he felt. He fidgeted while waiting for Sheppard to respond. Though they were on the same team and shared meals, they hadn’t really spent any time together outside team movie night. This was something different, something for the two of them.
John smiled, slowly. “Cool. Your quarters?”
Rodney grinned back, delighted. “You bring the popcorn and I’ll meet you there.”
This was the start of something great, Rodney knew it. For the first time, he felt hope for the future of Were-kind.
Rodney wasn’t a keen observer of human nature, as a rule. But even he had taken note of the many secretive meetings Elizabeth was holding with Teyla. Whatever they discussed was never brought up during senior staff meetings, which meant...Rodney didn’t know. He knew what he hoped, however. John had mentioned the high esteem with which the Athosians held shifters, which meant they had discussed Weres. Teyla would be a fantastic ally for Were rights, and he hoped that she had been inspired to take up the cause.
A little over a week after the incident in the lab – and two more exposed shifters later – the gate room was bursting with people. Elizabeth had called a meeting, attendance mandatory. Her speech would be broadcast throughout the city, so the staff members who were on duty would hear it, too. Rodney felt nervous in a way he rarely did. This was big, he just knew it. It would change the way of life in Atlantis.
“Welcome,” Elizabeth began in a warm voice. She looked regal and self assured, calm and content in a way he had seldom seen her since coming to Atlantis. “I’ve called for this meeting because I am about to make drastic changes to the way our community works here on Atlantis. Disturbing things have come to my attention, incidents I need to address before things get out of hand. These incidents are related to the shifters within our expedition. I don’t think I’m telling anyone anything new when I say that there are shifters, Werecreatures, among us.”
She looked out over the people that had gathered, a low murmur running through the crowd.
“The shaming and ostracizing of shifters, the way it is still happening on Earth, has gone on long enough here. From this day forward, anyone who is caught demeaning a shifter in any way, will face severe repercussions. We are a small communit,y and Weres are a part of it. Deal with your own prejudices and move on. I will not have narrow-minded, intolerant people trampling all over the Pegasus galaxy, offending natives that could have been our friends by behaving in an unpleasant way towards Werecreatures. Weres are part of our lives and our culture. Shifters are honored and held in high praise among a lot of cultures throughout the Pegasus galaxy. Teyla has given me many examples. I want to make this clear once and for all, any person who discriminates against a Were in any way, because of what they are, will be dismissed from the expedition and sent back to Earth as soon as we establish contact again. Until that time, the penalty for rule-breaking will lie with your head of department or commanding officer.”
There was stunned silence for a moment before the murmuring started up again, this time louder than before. Weir let it continue for some time before she held up a hand for silence and, eager to hear what she had to say next, people fell silent.
"We stand together or not at all," she said. "Let us be a community of strength and support, where all feel comfortable to be who they really are."
To say Rodney was surprised at what happened next was an understatement. Weir stepped back, still looking as calm and regal as ever, and then it was as though the light bent, the eyes unable to accurately translate what they were seeing, and where Weir was standing there now stood a tall grey owl.
A good portion of the audience cried out in shock. Rodney glanced over at John, seeing his surprise. When his expression changed to one of determination, Rodney knew he was about to do something stupid. When he strode forward, stopping only once he was standing beside the large owl, Rodney's heart began to pound. His palms grew sweaty. Was John - was he about to…?
There was a wolf where John had been standing.
John was a Were.
Rodney felt a mix of elation and shock at the revelation. Without thinking, he took one step closer to John, his actions governed by an instinctive need to be closer to John, to stand between him and a possibly hostile crowd. But when Rodney glanced over, the crowd had settled. They were watching, waiting, though Rodney couldn’t imagine for what.
The press of a warm body against his knees startled him, and he looked down into John’s eyes. John cocked his head and Rodney swore he could almost hear John saying, “Get on with it.” With one last glance at the crowd, Rodney took a deep breath and tugged on the wolf inside him, bringing it to the forefront. The change was fast and painless, and soon he was standing on all fours next to John.
In this form he could smell John clearly, the wild spice that meant other. Shifters always smelled that way. Rodney hadn’t smelled such a strong concentration of it since the last time he’d gone to a pack meeting, however. Oddly, it didn’t feel out of place at all in the familiar, comforting smells of Atlantis. It felt right.
John nuzzled his neck, pressing close. Though the air didn’t smell hostile, Rodney was glad he was close by. He simply felt safer with John, and never had he revealed himself to so many people. The smell of shifters was growing stronger now, and to Rodney’s surprise, the people in the audience began to change. Not all of them, but many, into a variety of animals. Each transformation inspired a shiver of joy in Rodney, to see so many of his kind gathered together. Atlantis had always felt like home, but Rodney suspected it had become a safe haven for more than just humans.
“So, you’re a Wolf,” Rodney said, three hours later when they were sitting on the pier with a couple of beers between them.
John grinned. “Same as you,” he said. Then his voice turned serious. “Rodney, I … when we changed earlier … you smell-”
“Like Omega, yeah,” Rodney interrupted him. He’d hoped it wouldn’t be a problem. John was definitely an Alpha. He would surely start his own pack. There had been quite a few Wolves among the shifters in the gate room earlier. Along with almost every other animal imaginable. There had been a goose, a rabbit, a bear, an ostrich and countless other species. It was nothing short of amazing.
John looked away, avoiding Rodney’s eyes, and Rodney’s heart sank. He’d been more than just a little attracted to the suddenly-available Alpha John had turned out to be. Hopefully they could at least save their friendship if being pack-mates was out of the question. Surely this was John trying to let him down gently.
“Actually, I was going to say … mate,” John said quietly, still not looking at Rodney.
“Oh,” Rodney replied faintly. He’d never quite dared hope for something like this. John was so himself, friendly and supportive and somehow distant. Rodney wanted him with a fervor the likes of which he’d never experienced, but he hadn’t deluded himself about the possibility of any return interest. Rodney should have remembered he wasn’t good at reading people, John often more than most.
Rodney wasn’t sure how to communicate the weight of emotion knotting his chest, so he slid closer, bumped John’s shoulder with his own. When John glanced sideways at him, Rodney smiled tentatively. He reached out and thread his fingers through John’s, gripping him firmly. John perked up, one corner of his mouth curving into a smile.
“Everything we’ve gone through, and through it all you’ve been an annoying, idiotic, pain in the ass,” Rodney paused. “And so unbearably hot.”
John huffed a laugh, finally turning to face him completely. His eyes were bright and his ears were pink, and Rodney thought he looked genuinely happy. It was a good look on him, and it was Rodney that made him look like that - it was a heady feeling. He leaned in and brushed his mouth against John’s, feeling the soft warmth of his lips, the puff of his breath. Instead of pulling away, Rodney pressed his forehead to John’s in an imitation of the Athosian greeting.
“Rodney,” John breathed, eyes closed. You are the best thing to ever happen to me, Rodney thought, as though he could pass the words through the press of their skin. John pulled him closer, running his nose along the tendon of Rodney’s neck, breathing him in.
“Mate,” Rodney replied. He felt claimed, joined, and happy.