Trilogy 10: Phantoms
Summary: SG-1 gets a fifth team member, but just prior to their planned Team Night evening, Jack goes missing.
Warnings: Torture and intention of rape.
1. Thanks go to my UK beta for helping me with background and British colloquialisms, to my American beta who’s a stickler for plot details, and to my new Aussie beta, who tidied it all up for me. Thanks, guys. Payments are in the mail.
2. The beginning of this story wraps up the plot in Trilogy 7. This is also mostly action/adventure so if you’re reading this for my standard glut of sex scenes, you’ll be disappointed. But don’t worry — there will be sex.
3. The acronym Sam uses, “OSI,” stands for the Air Force’s real life Office of Special Investigations. It’s their intelligence division, like the Army’s CID(Central Intelligence Division) and the Navy’s ONI(Office of Naval Intelligence/and their NCIS).
4. The model for Stuart Blackwell is British actor, Richard Armitage, using the look and voice of his character, Dr. Alec Track, from the 2005 British medical rescue drama, “The Golden Hour.”
5. The term “Gitmo” is the nickname for the US Navy Base stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; its use refers to the torture used there.
“You wanna get next to me
I need your intrusion
I don’t need to be
Blinded by confusion.”
As Jason turned down the short corridor, heading for Daniel’s office, he heard rapid breathing and quick footfalls behind him and looked over his shoulder just as Alex caught up with him.
“Jesus, oh great leader,” Alex said under his breath. “What’s the hurry? I’ve been trying to catch you.”
Jason slowed his pace a little. “Well, you caught me. What’s up?”
“That’s my question. Where’s the fire?”
“Just have to talk to Daniel about something,” Jason said, then redirected. “How’s the transfer to Adriann’s planet? Have the last shipments been sent up to the Odyssey?”
“Yes, everything’s done. Just sent the additional supplies for the greenhouses and outbuildings. Adriann’s well pleased.”
Jason paused at the corner that immediately preceded Daniel’s office door. “Good man. Now, what’s so important?”
“I needed to ask you when we’d knock off today,” Alex said, nervously swallowing.
Jason grinned at him. Alex was getting ready to go on leave, as was their mutual friend and Alex’s sort-of ex-girlfriend, Sergeant Cari Carmichael. The timing wasn’t coincidental.
“What?” Alex asked, uncomfortable with Jason’s long stare.
“Your paperwork’s done, Alex, but you’ll have to wait to get out of here till after we’ve made our formal goodbyes in the briefing room.”
Alex nodded back. “I kinda figured that.”
Jason shook his head. “No, you can’t get out of it.”
“I know,” Alex drawled.
Jason sighed. “Stop worrying.”
“I’m not, I’m just…” Alex paused and gave Jason a sour look. “Okay, fine, I am.”
“She’s not gonna back out, Alex. I already told you.”
“I can’t help it.”
Jason stared at Alex as if he’d just dropped his brain somewhere back down the hall. “Cari is giving you a second chance. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
Alex made a face. “You know it is.”
“Then tell the insecurity to fuck off.”
Alex cringed. “It’s one of those two-sided feelings, Jason. I need to make it up to her, make things right, but it’s just–“
“No, stop there,” Jason said sympathetically. “She understands, Alex, or she wouldn’t be making the effort.” When Alex made a face, Jason frowned at him. “Second thoughts from you then?”
“No, no, it’s just… I’m not in love with her anymore.” Alex winced again. He couldn’t help it, knowing how fucked up he sounded. At the look of pity on Jason’s face, he held up a hand. “Don’t say it.”
Jason crossed his arms. “If you know what I’m going to say, enlighten me.”
An airman passed by and gave him a look, making Alex blush slightly. When Jason raised a “move along, nothing to see” eyebrow at the man, he looked away and kept going. Alex sighed and gave Jason an imploring look but the sympathetic look was starting to fade. “Don’t look at me like that,” Alex said in a lowered tone. “This was her idea and I agreed because I’ve been wanting to make things right between us. We didn’t exactly end our relationship in the right way.”
Jason sighed, remembering his conversation with Cari at breakfast. She was just as mixed up as Alex, although for different reasons. Cari was more intrigued and curious than defensive. She’d always been able to shrug off relationships and Jason envied her. “Cari’s just fine, Alex, and she’s not planning on handing you your balls.”
“Is that what she said this morning?”
“Stop. Worrying.” Jason gave his Second a long, measured look as he put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed affectionately. Looking at his watch, he added, “Right after the meeting, you can take off.”
Alex smiled with relief. “Thanks.”
“She’s already gone, you know.”
Jason threw him a dirty look. “Leave Tahoe in one piece, okay?” When Alex blushed more fully, Jason smiled broadly and shoved at his shoulder. “Go on to the briefing room. I’ll be there soon.”
Alex gave him a lazy salute and turned on his heel, going back the way he came. Jason watched his back, feeling a little wistful. He didn’t understand how a man could be torn in two like that, attracted to both men and women. Like Jack and Daniel. How the hell could anyone like both sexes? He couldn’t find fault, he just didn’t get it. Although, if he tried to equate it with loving two people, then he could sort of see it. Except when he imagined them having sex with women.
Shaking off the second of revulsion that caused, he headed for the open office door. Daniel’s back was to him and he slowly walked up and passed a light hand over his ass, hiding the action from any passersby. Handy, all those years of training.
Daniel felt the light touch and froze as his dick twitched and goose bumps ran down his arms and legs. Since Jack was in Hammond’s office, he knew whose hand had taken the lovely but dangerous liberty. Smiling mischievously, he said, “Whoever you are, I’m taken.”
Jason chuckled softly and clenched his fingers together as he resisted the impulse to grab. “Good thing.”
Daniel set the video discs in his hand on the lab table and turned around. “You’re supposed to be in the briefing room.”
“So’re you,” Jason grinned. When Daniel eyed him suspiciously, he said, “I had to stop by and tell you something first.” He turned back and closed the door, then crossed the room and closed the opposite door.
Daniel wrinkled his brows with amusement. “Whatever you’re planning to do, don’t. This is so not the time and place.”
Jason walked back over to him, pretending he was going to say something, then grabbed Daniel around the waist with both arms and gave him a quick hug and kiss before he briskly let him go and stepped back. “Nice idea but no, that’s not what’s on my mind.”
Flushed, Daniel rubbed his lips together. His dick twitched from having the momentary sensation of feeling rough stubble on his skin and Jason’s scent in his nose. Regretfully, there wasn’t time to tease. “If this was another day, with nothing going on…” he threatened.
Jason sighed, thinking of their impending evening without sex. At least, till the late hours. “Ditto.”
“So what’s going on?” Daniel asked as he deliberately took a step forward. Just one more tease.
Jason stood his ground but swallowed convulsively as images of sex flooded his brain. “You’re not playing fair.”
Daniel started laughing softly and crossed his arms. “Serves you right for that fly-by kiss. So, the news?”
Jason took a breath and tried not to grin. “We’re going to get a treat in the briefing room.”
Daniel read the rebellious look and figured it had something to do with Adriann, who was currently on their deep space cruiser. “Adriann’s been here for over a month. I think everyone’s mostly gotten over the ‘holy shit, he’s a real vampire’ as well as his sexuality so–“
“No, not that. Exactly,” Jason interrupted.
“Then what?” Daniel asked. He could read Jason’s excitement, but he sensed there was something else. Something more mischievous than a stolen kiss.
“It’s our Brit. He’s in Hammond’s office with Jack.”
Daniel smirked tolerantly. “I know. Jack told me after lunch. He’s giving our Group Captain his schedule–“
“No, not that,” Jason whispered. “It’s the timing, Daniel. Think about it. Blackwell’s been at Indian Springs and Area 51 for the last year and a half, except for that British mission he went on a few months ago, so he knows about everything, has been prepping for this assignment for the last two months. I think he’s read about five years’ worth of mission reports and Jack is supplying him with the rest today.”
He paused, staring at Daniel, expecting him to get it. Daniel didn’t. “And?” Daniel asked impatiently.
“It means he has no clue about who we’ve been helping lately.” He waited again for Daniel to get it.
“So?” Daniel frowned.
“Adriann, Daniel. Blackwell hasn’t met him, so…” Daniel’s eyes widened as he realized what Jason was getting at. “Yep,” Jason smirked. “Jack’s setting him up.”
Daniel’s mouth dropped open and he started to shake his head. “No, Hammond wouldn’t–“
“Oh yes he would. Think about it. Jack could have waited one more day to bring your new teammate over from Indian Springs but he suddenly chose today and Hammond authorized it.”
Daniel glanced at his watch. It was 1347. The briefing was at 1415. “That sneaky sonofabitch.”
“If you’re planning on speaking to Adriann before the meeting, do us all a favor and tell him to behave.”
Daniel snorted. “Like he’d listen. He’s like Jack.”
Jason snorted back. “Yeah, I know. They both love to scare the newbies.”
Jason rolled his eyes. “Oh please. This couldn’t be a better opportunity for Jack than if he’d actually been planning it.”
Daniel closed his eyes and rubbed between his brows. “Actually, I wouldn’t put it past him. I still don’t know why the General wouldn’t have seen this coming and cut Jack off.”
Jason grinned impishly and lowered his voice. “Sometimes I think General Hammond gets his thrills vicariously through Jack.”
Daniel chuckled and started to say something else when the white light of an Asgard transport beam filled the room, leaving Adriann in its wake.
“Speak of the devil,” Jason quipped, winking at Daniel.
“Would you stop doing that?” Daniel said to Adriann. “Hammond doesn’t want you popping in and out.”
“You’ll scare the horses,” Jason said, making Daniel roll his eyes at him. Walking over, he took Adriann’s hand and squeezed it as he looked up into his light grey eyes. “We’re expected in the briefing room soon. Don’t be long.”
Adriann pulled Jason in for a hug and palmed his face affectionately. “I have a message from Jalen. He said to tell you, ‘I’m fine, I’ll see you later and stop fucking worrying.'”
Jason grinned, appreciating the message. “Tell him that my answer is, ‘Go off the deep end and I’ll kick your ass.'” Giving him a slap on the arm, he winked at Daniel again and left them alone.
Daniel crossed his arms and grinned at the expression on Adriann’s face; a look that clearly said, oh good, we’re alone. “Behave.”
“You fear I shall do something inappropriate?” Adriann asked, a tiny smile on his face. It took all his self-control to remain where he was. Every damn time he saw Daniel, the feelings were the same as the first time.
Daniel took a few steps away, keeping his distance as he picked up on the man’s feelings. “What do you think?” he answered sarcastically and Adriann’s smile broadened. The way he stood there, cocky, dressed in black leather and suede, reminded Daniel of a pirate. With fangs. All he was missing was an old pistol and a sword. “Are you all set?” he asked.
Adriann nodded once, remaining where he was. His telepathic sense heard Daniel’s thoughts and his empathic sense picked up on everything else. It pleased him. “I’m going to miss you. The last two months have been exceptional. You’ve helped me more than simply coming up with the solution for our problem.”
“Sam and I both came up with the idea, Adriann. Replacing your perimeter fence with an Asgard shield seemed the best way.”
Adriann sighed with contentment that his home was now secure. The shield generator had been installed within the mansion and the perimeter had been increased to a few miles instead of the half-mile it had been. It now included the stargate and surrounding woods and fields. “It is the best plan.”
Daniel sensed something else. “But?”
Adriann gave him a sheepish look. “I only wish we had thought of it ourselves.”
“You’re just not used to dealing with that technology. It wouldn’t have been long before you figured it out, given what’s on hand on Bel’alat.”
“Perhaps,” Adriann said admiringly as he approached him and took his hand. “You always think… what’s the phrase Jack uses? Outside the box.”
Daniel shrugged, hating to be put on the spot. “Lots of people do, Adriann, I just–“
Adriann lifted Daniel’s hand and pressed it against his own chest. “I don’t mean to embarrass you.”
Daniel lifted his chin slightly. “Yes, you do.”
“It’s so easy,” Adriann laughed.
Perversely, Daniel was annoyed. He started to pull his hand away and was glad when Adriann let him. Sighing, he looked up into the tall man’s face. He wanted to say so much, but couldn’t so he let Adriann read his feelings instead. “Anyway, now the problem’s solved. The Bor’cha have been relocated, though they’ll probably migrate back to their original home.”
“Probably. But they shall find a few miles have been taken away.”
“They’ll have to adapt,” Daniel said, and suddenly didn’t just mean the Bor’cha.
Adriann grinned sardonically. “We’ll have to for our survival. To grow and evolve.”
Daniel’s brow furrowed with needless worry. “How’re you readjusting, knowing you really don’t have to move? Must be a relief to know your home is secure. Are you planning some exploring with the Alkesh that was flown over or are you planning to use the cargo ship Ba’al was in?”
“Eros left me the run of Bel’alat, so it–and all those ships we are keeping–is now our home, too.”
“Has he completely given it up?” Daniel said, brows raised.
“No. He has decided that it is better to leave it in capable hands while he tracks down other planets used by his people.”
“Oh.” Daniel paused, wondering about the split in resources and people. “You’ve changed your mind about creating hybrids, so when you increase the population naturally, which will be called home?”
“Var’chol’si. It has to be the home of the new ones, as it was the home of the old. Emine is due to have her child soon,” he said, then grinned secretively. “And there’ll be another to join that child in a year or so.”
Daniel raised his brows in delighted surprise. “Who?”
“Tashin. She and Calane decided to try and Devana helped them with some of her herbal concoctions.”
“Wow, that’s…” Daniel said, then smiled, immensely pleased for him. Then suddenly, it occurred to him that Adriann might wish to add his own genes. “Are you planning to…” He didn’t finish even as he ruthlessly squashed the surge of jealousy as it tried to possess his heart. He had no business feeling that way.
Adriann reached out and pulled Daniel to him, wrapping his arms around him. “I will have to add my seed, yes, but do not berate yourself for your jealousy,” he said, lowering his head. “I am complimented.”
He kissed him, softly at first, then with increasing passion. Daniel couldn’t help but respond in kind. “I love you,” Adriann whispered fervently as he broke the kiss. “Always remember that.”
“I can’t possibly forget,” Daniel said, staring into his odd but beautiful eyes.
Lips parted, Adriann tilted his head and lengthened his fangs. He dipped his head and brushed his lips against Daniel’s neck. “Do we have time?”
Heart hammering, Daniel wanted so much to indulge, but he knew where he was and how much time they didn’t have. “No, dammit,” he panted, hands tightening to fists in Adriann’s hair. He was motionless, torn between pulling him away and completely surrendering. But in the end, rational, safe thought won out. “And this isn’t the place anyway.”
Adriann smiled against his skin. Eventually, he lifted his head and let Daniel watch as he retracted his fangs. “Next time.”
Daniel took a slow, steadying breath. “Next time.” He let Adriann go and was only slightly relieved when Adriann followed his lead. After taking another long breath, Daniel let out a half-hearted laugh, thinking of what Jason had come to tell him.
Adriann grinned as he raised his hand to cup Daniel’s right cheek. “It is time to meet your new teammate and say goodbye.”
Daniel laughed quietly as he shaded his eyes, as if holding off an impending headache. “Remember to behave yourself.” Dropping his hand and looking up, he added, “Just this once, okay?”
Adriann smiled broadly, showing off his brilliant teeth. “I promise I won’t eat him.”
Daniel shook his head as he stepped around Adriann and headed for the door. Looking over his shoulder, he said, “Tell Sam to send you to the briefing room. I’ll meet you there.”
“How’d you know Sam sent me down?” Adriann asked, surprised.
“No one else would have the authority–except for Colonel Emerson.”
Giving him an admiring look, Adriann pulled the radio from the pocket of his long coat. “Sam, I am ready.” A few seconds later, he disappeared in a white flash.
Daniel sighed deeply and headed downstairs, crossing his fingers that Adriann would behave himself. He was fairly certain that he wouldn’t go so far as to grab Stuart Blackwell and bite him. Not on base, anyway. Daniel made a face as he entered the elevator, knowing damn well that the moment Stuart stepped foot on Bel’alat or Var’chol’si, he’d be fresh game. As the car doors opened on Level 27, Daniel made a mental note to ask Jack to keep Stuart home on that day. Find the man something else to do. By the time he’d reached the briefing room door, he’d almost convinced himself that the request would actually work.
In Hammond’s office, Jack was pleased and impressed with Group Captain Stuart Allen Blackwell, just as he knew Hammond was. He hadn’t been at ease with the idea of having a temporary teammate. It had the vague smell of babysitting duty, and even though the man was British military, he would still be green. But the more Jack assessed him, the more his concern ebbed away. Not completely, of course. He had to see this guy in action, but so far, he liked what he saw. Blackwell was quick-witted and a fast thinker. It shouldn’t take him too long to get used to working off-world. Still, Jack crossed his fingers, hoping that their first few missions together would be cake walks.
The only thing he was concerned about was how Stuart would fit in. That usual British reserve wasn’t there. A lot of it had been worn down by combat and living abroad, and he’d been further “softened up” at Indian Springs and Area 51. The tall, handsome, dark-haired man with penetrating blue eyes still held himself slightly aloof, but that didn’t bother Jack. He liked it. Stuart wasn’t talkative. He listened and assessed, something that Jack–and Teal’c–understood; it was second nature, whether it came through natural personality or years of training.
The other thing Stuart did that Jack liked was behave in such an easy-going way that it made those around him relax, creating the beginnings of trust. That was a handy skill to have. In that way, Stuart reminded Jack of Daniel. Sam and Teal’c didn’t have that ability, not with adults anyway. When it came to potentially combative situations, Daniel could easily defuse the situation and Jack had a feeling that Stuart might just be the same way. Well, once he got used to the idea that he was talking to people on another planet.
The only thing Jack had yet to find out about was how quick the man responded to sudden shock–and he was about to put that to the test. Would Stuart be able to fake that charming Tom Cruise smile in front of a real life vampire?
“Something funny, Colonel?” Stuart queried.
Jack looked at the unusually high arch of his right brow and grinned, making a note to start teasing Stuart later about being part Vulcan. When he looked over at Hammond and saw the warning look, Jack quickly swallowed the grin. “Just thinking about all the stuff you’re gonna have to get used to rather quickly.”
And there it went again. The Vulcan brow. “I think I’ve got things sussed, Colonel,” Stuart said with a dry tone, making Jack grin at him.
“I have full confidence, Group Captain,” Hammond said and shot Jack another warning look, only this one was filled with an I know what you’re up to, Jack. “You’ll do just fine.”
Jack cleared his throat and turned to look through Hammond’s office window, anticipating the goodbye scene. With another grin, he stepped around Stuart and went over to the table by the window, placing a hand on a large file box. Tapping the cover with two fingers, he said, “Here’s the last box of mission reports.”
Stuart pursed his lips. “I could have read them on the computer, Colonel. You didn’t need to go to the trouble of printing them out.”
Jack grinned crookedly. “Until you have a base laptop, you’ll need the paper. But some of those will end up being recaps since we’ll be helping you out tonight.”
“Sorry?” Stuart was immediately wary. He hadn’t needed supervision before so why now? “Something particularly special about those files?”
Jack cocked his head and threw another sarcastic grin. “No, what I meant was that we’ll be giving you a kind of oral history instead. It’s our Team Night.”
“SG-1 periodically gets together for a team night. It’s always on a Friday and always at my place or Daniel’s since booze is involved. You up for it?”
Stuart thought it was likely the best way to get rid of the butterflies as well as gain information left out of the reports. And it would be a perfect opportunity to study his teammates. “Brilliant. I’d love to.”
“Good man,” Jack said, grinning, then looked at Hammond. “You’re welcome to join us, sir,” he said, knowing Hammond would decline.
“Thanks, Jack,” Hammond grinned appreciatively, “but I have other plans.”
“Offer’s always open, sir,” Jack answered.
“So noted,” Hammond said. He noticed that the briefing room was no longer empty and glanced at the clock on the wall. To Stuart, he said, “I’ll leave your schedule in the Colonel’s capable hands. And you’ll be getting that laptop the Colonel mentioned on Monday.” He held out his hand, which Stuart took. “Once again, welcome to the SGC. We’re glad to have you.”
“Thank you, General,” Stuart said as they shook hands. He looked through the star-mapped window and watched the members of SG-2 enter the Briefing room. Their leader, Jason Coburn, came in a few seconds later. Nice chap, as they all seemed to be. This was going to be the most interesting assignment he’d ever had.
Jack sighed. “C’mon, let’s get out there. I apologize in advance, Group Captain–“
“Stuart or Blackwell is fine,” Stuart interrupted.
“Jack,” Jack amended in return.
“Apologize for what?”
“Jack,” Hammond warned. “You didn’t tell Adriann to scare him, did you?”
Jack pretended to look offended. “No, sir.”
“Then when he beams down prior to departure, you’re both going to behave, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.
“Scout’s honor, sir,” Jack blinked at Hammond, trying to look innocent, while Stuart gave him a long look.
“Adriann? I’ve been hearing that name here and there. He’s the alien you’ve been helping?”
“Correct,” Hammond answered. “His people and ours have a trade agreement. They give us special herbal crops in exchange for the medical help we gave them not long ago.”
“Not to mention that they’re pretty good for search and rescue,” Jack added, keeping a straight face.
“How’s that?” Stuart asked.
Jack looked at Hammond and his mouth quirked slightly. When the General’s deadpan expression didn’t give him a clue, Jack knew it meant he had to play nice. Looking back at Stuart he said, “They’re good-looking, very tall, have these spooky grey eyes, stronger than you’d believe, and… they’re telepathic.”
Hammond snorted. “Among a few other things, Colonel.”
Stuart was about to ask when the Asgard beam lit up the briefing room, leaving behind Adriann, Sam, and Teal’c. The first thing he was struck by was Jack’s physical description. Very tall and good looking was an understatement. The alien was at least eight or nine inches taller than Teal’c. Weight seemed proportionate to height, too. He gave a cursory glance at the long dark blond hair tied in a pony-tail, but his eye seemed to be drawn more to the stunningly intricate patterns etched into the black leather and suede vest, and the hip-length jerkin.
“Imagine the shop he has to go to,” he said, giving Jack a grin.
“Let’s get to it, shall we?” Hammond said as he waited for Jack to open the door.
Stuart looked at Jack and before they left the office, he asked, “What precisely did you leave out of Adriann’s description, Colonel?”
Jack stepped aside and gestured for Stuart to go first. When the man walked past, Jack tried to contain his smile and failed. “He’s a vampire,” he whispered.
“No, he’s not,” Stuart automatically rejected, but the expression on Jack’s face forced him to throw him a second look. Jack seemed serious, but it could just be his way of baiting the newbies. He turned and looked at Adriann just as Daniel entered the room and his eyes skimmed past the alien to focus on Daniel. He nodded to him and Daniel smiled and nodded back.
“Group Captain Stuart Blackwell,” Hammond began, throwing Jack a quick warning glance. “This is our ally, Adriann, from the planet, Var’chol’si. Adriann, this is our newest member of SG-1, on temporary assignment from the country of Great Britain.”
Stuart kept hearing Jack’s words, “He’s a vampire,” as Adriann turned to him and smiled. Amazing eyes, Adriann mused as he held out his hand and shook Adriann’s. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir,” he said, disarmed by the strength of his handshake. Adriann then lifted his hand and Stuart’s eyes widened as he brought it to his mouth and kissed the back.
“Charmed,” Adriann said, loving the slightest tint of pink that crept into Stuart’s cheeks. Releasing his hand, and still smiling, he then lengthened his teeth just the tiniest little bit. “Your accent is wonderfully different.”
Stuart narrowed his eyes, unsure that he’d noticed the man’s teeth. Did those canines just grow a little? “As is yours, sir,” he replied. Vampires aren’t real, he kept thinking. Jack O’Neill is living up to his reputation and winding you up.
“Of course vampires are real,” Adriann said and let his teeth lengthen completely as he smiled more broadly.
Stuart froze and he ordered himself not to react. “Do you always read other people’s thoughts, sir?”
Adriann chuckled and released Stuart’s hand. “Not always, but it is very difficult not to do so at this moment. You’re so…”
“Play nice, Adriann,” Daniel said, coming up to them. He wanted to smack Adriann but let him see the image in his mind instead.
Adriann retracted his fangs and looked down at Daniel. “Jack wanted me to scare him.” He looked back at Stuart. “I didn’t scare you, did I?”
Stuart cleared his throat. “Not in the least, sir.” He was telling the truth, too. Fascinated and shocked is what he was. He threw Jack a look that promised payback sometime in the future and when Hammond cleared his throat too, Jack gave him a defensive look of apology.
“Sorry, sir, but better he find out here than in the field.”
“A few words prior to the meeting would have sufficed, Colonel,” Hammond scolded.
“In the Colonel’s defense, he did tell me, sir,” Stuart said.
Hammond smirked at Jack. “To the matter at hand,” he said, smoothly moving past the subject. “Now, Major Carter, Colonel Emerson tells me that they’re all set?”
“Yes, sir,” Sam nodded. “All the equipment they’ll need to maintain and modify the shields is on board, including a few more reactors to set up other fields outside the current perimeter.”
“I’ll assume you mean for the other crops?” Hammond asked.
“Indeed,” Teal’c said. “There are three areas outside the perimeter that contain the medicinal herbs and roots. Those crops will be shielded to protect their people as well as our own.”
Hammond nodded. “And how’re your people doing, Adriann?”
“They are well, General, thank you. Janet and her staff periodically check on our progress but it’s no longer necessary to our survival.”
“So she tells me. I still think it’s best to keep in contact where that is concerned.”
“And I am grateful.” Adriann inclined his head, reading Hammond’s worry about their health as well as the concern about keeping them as allies. He knew they also wanted to keep an eye on them and Adriann couldn’t help but be amused.
“How many people will remain on Bel’alat?”
“Only four remain,” Adriann answered. “We have made a verbal agreement to share the planet with the Tok’ra. Besides, it was Eros’ request in leaving me with guardianship of the planet.”
“Have you heard from him lately?” Jack asked.
Adriann nodded. “We receive word every two weeks from the communications room. He informs us of his current location and what his progress is, if any.”
Daniel sensed a twinge of loss but made no sign of it. Adriann missed him but sooner or later, Eros leaving would be inevitable. Whether looking for other Ancients or ascending himself.
“Well, you should get going, Adriann,” Hammond said, bringing things crisply to a close. “I know you’ve got to get back to your people. Please keep in touch.”
“I shall,” Adriann replied. He turned to shake hands with Al and Connor, both of whom had been content to stand behind everyone else and watch. Jason’s little spies, as Jack sometimes thought of them. Next was Alex, Teal’c and Sam, then Jason.
“Jalen will be fine,” he said, kissing Jason’s cheek.
“Give him a slap on the ass every once in a while to make sure,” Jason grinned.
Turning to Jack, Adriann winked as he shook his hand. “I would kiss you but I believe I would make everyone else jealous.”
“I’ll try to contain my disappointment,” Jack said drily.
While Daniel grinned and there was a snort from Sam, Adriann leaned over and gave Jack a bear hug. “If you get into trouble, call me. I will be there.”
“Done,” Jack said, not in the least embarrassed when Adriann snuck in a kiss on the cheek.
When Adriann turned to Daniel, he stared at him for a few long seconds before he pulled him in for a tight, rib-crunching hug.
Daniel slapped his back as he gasped, “Air.”
Adriann released him but took his hand, unwilling to completely let him go. “What I said to Jack goes double for you. Stay out of trouble.”
“I’ll try,” Daniel replied, feeling a lump in his throat and silently begging Adriann to go before emotion began to show.
Adriann slowly, warmly, kissed the back of his hand, then reluctantly let him go. Turning to Hammond, he shook his hand. “At your service always, General.”
“At yours too, sir,” Hammond smiled. “Take care.”
Adriann nodded again to Stuart, who nodded back, then plucked the radio from his pocket. “Colonel Emerson, this is Adriann.”
“Are you ready for transport?”
“I am.” He looked over at Stuart and smiled devilishly, showing a bit of fang. “I very much look forward to seeing you again,” he said just as the Asgard beam whisked him away.
Stuart’s eyes widened as a radiant warmth rushed through him. He looked over at Jack. “Was he serious?”
Jack grinned and nodded. “Where sex is concerned, Adriann is always serious.”
“Jack,” Hammond warned, then opened his mouth to say something when the phone in his office rang. “One moment,” he said and went in to answer it.
“Sex?” Stuart asked, looking at Daniel.
“Jack’s kidding,” Daniel replied. “I think he meant blood.”
“Well, to Adriann, sex and blood are the same thing,” Jason put in, winking at Stuart as he held out his hand. Stuart took it. “Nice to see you again.”
“Likewise. But tell me he wasn’t serious.”
There was a moment of throat-clearing all around before Daniel said, “I think Jack could probably find something else for you to do the next time we visit.”
Stuart didn’t know whether to be insulted or relieved, but Jack put an end to the matter. “Screw that, Daniel,” he said, frowning at him before turning to Stuart. “Don’t worry. You’ll be with us all the way or there’d be no point in your being here.”
“Well said,” Stuart said with a nod.
“And that said, it’s formal introduction time. Folks, this is Stuart Blackwell. Stuart, this is Carter, Teal’c, and Daniel.”
Sam smiled warmly at him as he shook her hand and he couldn’t help but smile back. “Colonel O’Neill says you’re the smartest science geek he’s ever known.”
Sam smirked at Jack. “I’m the only one you know, sir.”
“Hence the smartest,” Jack threw back.
Stuart cleared his throat. “Well, pardon the lack of modesty, Jack, but now you know two.” He nodded to Sam. “Wouldn’t mind talkin’ shop some time. The 302s and 303s, specifically. Amazing, those.”
Jack covered his eyes. “Oh no. Two of them.”
“Just because it doesn’t have a big di–” Sam started to say when Teal’c covered her mouth with one hand and bowed to Stuart.
“It is a pleasure to have you with us,” he said, then held out his hand when Stuart offered to shake his. When Sam slapped his hand away, Teal’c couldn’t hide the grin.
“Thanks, Teal’c,” Stuart said. “I’m glad to be here.” He was prepared for the stoic Teal’c he’d heard about, but he hadn’t expected the warm, close-mouthed smile. It was a nice surprise.
“Are there any particular curses in the British language that you could teach me?” Teal’c asked, making Jason and his teammates snicker.
Stuart stared back, trying not to laugh. “Sorry?”
“They speak English, Teal’c,” Jack said.
“I am aware, O’Neill. But I have observed on their television that they do have a different vocabulary.”
Daniel leaned toward him in a confidential manner. “Vernacular is the word, Teal’c.”
“Meaning you must be Doctor Daniel Jackson,” Stuart said as he held out his hand. Daniel shook it, grinning ear-to-ear as Teal’c gave him “the eyebrow.”
“It’s nice to have you here,” Daniel answered, then said to Teal’c, “Listen to him long enough, Teal’c, and he won’t have to teach you anything.”
Jack inclined his head, sensing an insult. “Meaning what?”
Daniel tried not to laugh as he explained, “Meaning that the things we put up with offworld will have him cussing in no time.”
“Oh, well, if that’s all you need, I can oblige by drinkin’ a few pints down at the pub, providing you lot serve something decent.”
“We do,” said Al and Connor.
“Leave it to my boys,” Jason said as he walked forward and held out his hand. “Lieutenant Colonel Jason Coburn, leader of SG-2.” They shook hands and Jason gestured at Al and Connor, introducing them. “I’d introduce you to my second, Major Alex Wagner, but I’ve just let him go.”
Jack raised his brows. “I take it that was authorized?”
“Yes,” Jason drawled, shooting Jack a dark look. “Alex is going on leave for a few weeks, remember?”
“So we’re down to a threesome,” Connor said to Stuart as he put his arm around Al’s shoulders.
“Not here,” Jason warned, snapping his fingers as Hammond came out of the office.
Stuart found it amusing and greatly relieving that they’d act like that around him. It was a form of acceptance and he very much appreciated it.
“Okay, people. I’m sure you have things to do before you’re released for the next two days. Make the most of it. We have a busy schedule. Group Captain, if there’s anything you need–“
“I believe I’m good to go, sir, thanks,” Stuart said, holding up his hand to stall the General.
“On base, perhaps,” Hammond replied, “but off-base?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve already transferred most of my property from the Indian Springs apartment. I haven’t looked into getting another apartment yet but I’ll get to it.”
Hammond gestured at SG-1 and SG-2. “They can help, trust me. You’re all dismissed. Have a good weekend.” He returned to his office and closed the door.
Jack watched him pick up the phone receiver and resume his conversation so he knew then it wasn’t an official call. He looked at Sam, Daniel, and Teal’c and jogged his brows. “I hope it’s a woman on the phone.”
“That’d be nice,” Daniel added.
“He’s widowed, isn’t he?” Stuart asked, having noticed the wedding ring on Hammond’s finger.
“Let’s get out of here,” Jack said, not wanting anyone to bring up the fact that Daniel was also a widower. They filed out of the room and in the hall, he said, “Daniel, Jason, a favor?” Turning to Stuart, he stepped to the wall of the corridor and stopped. “I have some shopping to do so would you mind hanging out with these two?”
“Not a problem,” Stuart said, “but I don’t mind helping.”
“Appreciated, but I rode my bike today so I have to get home and grab the truck.” He waved at them and headed down the hall alone.
“Bike?” Stuart asked Daniel. “As in…”
“Motorcycle,” Sam answered. “A Harley Davidson that Daniel and Jason bought Jack for his birthday two years ago.”
“Which he rides to work about two months out of the year,” Jason put in.
“Sir, we’re gonna head out,” Al said as he and Connor started down the corridor. “We have plans.”
“Tell your ladies we said hello,” Jason called after them. “And don’t turn off the phones.”
“Yes, mother,” Connor called back.
Stuart’s eyes grew round. “You allow that sort of talk on base?”
Jason shrugged. “It doesn’t hurt the discipline,” he said, and looked at Sam. “Unless you have a different take.”
“Your team is different, Jason,” she said, shaking her head. “But you don’t go behaving that way toward everyone else on the base.”
“No,” Jason agreed, smirking at Stuart as they headed toward the elevator. “They’re more like my brothers than anything else and we’ve been through a lot. Where the teams are concerned, we play fast and loose with the regs, but around the General, everyone behaves.”
“Except Jack,” Daniel jogged his brows.
Stuart nodded absently. “I understand how close you can get to your team. Combat will do that. Still, I can’t get over the fact that there are women on the SG teams.” When Sam lifted her brows, he gave her an apologetic look. “No offense intended, Major. It’s just not something I’m used to seeing.”
“Sam,” she corrected, “and I get it, even if I find it odd coming from a Brit.”
“How’s that?” Stuart asked.
“Your country is a helluva lot more relaxed than ours is, but you still segregate the women from the men where combat is concerned.”
Stuart nodded. “If I had the power to change the way it goes, I would.”
“Do not be deceived by what you see here,” Teal’c said, his brow arched slightly. “Major Carter is a most formidable warrior. Yet I must confess that I too was very surprised by the number of women warriors here.”
Sam grinned at Teal’c as they stopped at the elevator doors and waited. “You have women Jaffa, Teal’c.”
“Yes, but most do not serve under a Goa’uld and venture into battle. For many years, they have not been allowed.”
“They should be since they die right alongside you when you’re under attack.”
“This is so.”
The elevator doors opened and talk was suspended till they stepped inside. “Are your civilian clothes in your quarters or your locker?” Daniel asked Stuart.
Daniel pushed the button for their locker room on level 16, knowing that Stuart’s temporary quarters were also there. “Except for emergencies, we don’t go off-base in our uniforms,” and he tapped his arm patches.
“We can take these off,” Jason added as he pulled off his patch and put it back on, “but we’d be considered out of uniform outside this base. Higher ranks from other units will notice both the lack of unit rank and the fact that it’s one they’ve never seen before. We can’t be noticed.”
Stuart nodded. “Understood. Most of my clothes are in my locker since I was told that my quarters on level 16 are temporary, so I won’t be unpacking much except the uniform.”
“Speaking of which, when are you going to get your new uniforms?” Jason asked.
“New?” Stuart asked, moving aside as other personnel joined the car on level 22.
“The SGC uniforms,” Jason grinned, looking at Stuart’s British uniform and tapped his own right arm patch and the rank on the epaulet. “When do you report to the Quartermaster?”
Stuart cringed. “Monday. Guess I’ll be out of uniform till then.”
More personnel joined them and conversation was put on hold till the car stopped on 16. As they walked down the hall toward the lockers, Jason and Sam began to fill Stuart in on the protocols. Most were different from the ones followed at Indian Springs and Area 51, including the locker room. When Sam entered the locker room with them, Stuart’s eyes widened in surprise and he stopped just inside the double doors.
“Your locker is with the men?”
She grinned and headed for the right, pointing at the dressing room between her locker and Teal’c’s. “Don’t worry. I dress in there and the guys don’t usually walk around naked.” She winked at Daniel as she punched in the code on the keypad for her locker.
Daniel grinned at Stuart. “We wear towels.”
Stuart was just a bit shocked as he looked over at the shower entrance, remembering he’d seen private cubicles. Still, they were semi-opaque. “What about showers?”
“Clouded cubicles, and it’s just us,” Jason said. “Besides, we don’t usually shower together,” he continued as he winked at Daniel and headed around the locker island for SG-2’s section.
Daniel chewed at his lip, remembering a particular shower scene. Teal’c grinned to himself as he opened his locker and Sam turned her back to them, pretending she hadn’t noticed, but only for Stuart’s sake. She grinned at Stuart as she grabbed her civilian clothes. “Don’t worry. I usually wait till I get home to shower,” she said as she entered the dressing room and closed the door.
Stuart looked at Teal’c and Daniel as he closed his mouth and walked over to the additional locker unit that was now his. “This is going to take some getting used to,” he said as he paused, trying to remember the code he’d programmed.
As Daniel removed his fatigue shirt, the urge to tease Stuart started to fill him. He grinned, knowing it wasn’t exactly like him, but what the hell. In a dry tone, he said, “Teal’c, wanna make a wager on how many times we’re going to hear Stuart say that?” Stuart looked over and Daniel kept his expression as bland as possible as he winked at him.
Teal’c removed his t-shirt, pausing to consider. “One hundred dollars is the bet.”
“And how many times?”
Stuart stared at them, incredulous. They couldn’t possibly be serious. He was standing right there!
“Twelve,” Teal’c said.
“Fifteen,” Daniel challenged.
“Five,” Teal’c corrected.
“Eight,” Daniel answered.
“Three,” Sam called out from her dressing room.
“You lot are a bunch of nutters,” Stuart said, shaking his head.
“There’s one, Teal’c,” Daniel said as he and Teal’c grinned at each other.
“Hang on, gotta turn,” Sam said to Daniel on her cell phone jack as she turned her Carmen Ghia onto the main road, heading for the grocery store. She’d already showered and changed, but before heading over, she thought she’d pick up the ingredients for Bagna Cauda. “I won’t be long. Do you still have that fondue pot?”
Daniel made a long, groaning sound. “Are you wanting to whip up Bagna Cauda?”
She grinned all over the place. “Yep.”
“Yum. We can surprise our new guy, feed him enough salt to choke Utah. Now, Jack’s got enough of everything else, I think. You know how he shops. We’ve already stopped at the liquor store. Stuart’s amused by the different liquors.”
“He saw that in Nevada, didn’t he?”
“Only in the pubs he went to. He never ventured out and bought some. Never made the time.”
“Poor thing. It’s a good thing we’re not in Texas. They change liquor laws by county down there.”
“The whole South changes laws by county. Except for killing gays, that’s a national sport.”
“No shit,” Sam groaned just as she heard Teal’c’s baritone with Stuart’s bass. She could’ve sworn she heard Tal’shak’lo. “Is Teal’c teaching him the Jaffa’s version of Goa’uld?”
“More like giving him a primer on Jaffa culture.”
“Ah.” At that moment, someone behind her began honking and flashing their lights. “What the…?”
“Sam, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said, looking into the rearview mirror. “Someone’s trying to get my attention. I’ll just pull over and see what’s what.”
There was a pause. “Jason’s conferenced with me,” Daniel told her.
“Sam, get your sidearm–“ Jason began.
“I’m already there, Jason,” she said as she reached into her purse and flicked off the safety. If necessary, she could shoot through her purse. “Now hang on. I’ve pulled over and this guy is getting out of his car.”
“What’s he driving?” Daniel asked.
“Newish truck, GMC I think. Dark Blue.”
“Plate number?” from Jason.
Sam looked over her shoulder. “Regular plates, license number 254, Victor Charlie Echo.
“Got it. What’s he wearing?”
“Jeans, long-sleeved grey sweatshirt, black baseball cap, sunglasses.”
“On a cool, cloudy day,” Jason said, “I get that, but not the sunglas–“
“Hang on, guys,” she said, rolling down her window as the man walked up. “May I help you?” she asked.
He noticed the phone’s earpiece and cleared his throat. “Um, yeah, I noticed your right rear wheel is sort of wobbly. I think the lug nuts are loose. I could fix it for you if you want.”
Sam stared at him, knowing she’d heard that before but couldn’t remember where. It didn’t matter at the moment. The alarm bells were going off anyway. “Sure, go ahead,” she said, and the moment he walked away, she drove off, foot on the pedal. “Shit.”
“What the hell was that crap?” Daniel asked, his voice stressed.
“Did you hear him?”
“Some of it,” Jason said. “He actually said your lug nuts were loose? I can’t believe he’d think you were that fucking stupid.”
It suddenly dawned on Sam where she’d heard that line before. “Tell me about it. And I wasn’t buying it.” She looked in her rearview mirror and saw the truck on the road, a few vehicles behind her. “Where are you guys?”
“Jason’s,” Daniel answered.
“Good, ’cause I’m closest to his place so I’m on my way over.”
She paused long enough for Daniel to get worried. “Sam?”
“I’m here. But I just remembered why that line was suspicious.”
“I know, it’s familiar, but–“
“Zodiac, Daniel. Remember when we all saw that movie and we’re commenting on how stupid people were back then?”
“Of course!” Daniel replied. “That’s what the man assumed to be Zodiac used on that woman motorist, the one with the baby.”
“Exactly,” Sam said, taking a sharp right onto another street. She was five minutes from Jason’s. A second later, there was a beep on the phone and Jason’s voice.
“Thought you were still on.”
“No,” he said, “I left the apartment and got in my truck. Where’re you at?”
“Coming down Parkway.”
“I’m already on 168th. I’ll wait by the McDonald’s and pull out after you.”
“I’m fine so far. The truck doesn’t seem to be trying to move past people and get behind me. Too many witnesses maybe.”
“Doesn’t matter these days,” Daniel said.
“I know.” Sam began ticking off the cross-streets aloud as she passed them. When she stopped at the next light, nervously waiting for it to turn green, she began to assess where she could move the car if she had to. When the light turned green, she turned onto 168th. It was only a minute before she was approaching the McDonald’s. “I’m almost there, Jason.”
“I see you,” he said.
Sam watched in her rearview mirror as he whipped his truck out onto the road, disappearing behind the blue truck. She let out a breath, glad that Jason was there, but just as suddenly as she was relieved, the driver of the blue truck turned right. Not long after, she saw Jason follow.
“Did he just turn off and you follow?” she asked.
“Yep,” Jason said.
“What’re you doing?” Daniel asked.
“Stalking,” Jason answered. “Let’s see how the bastard likes it.”
Sam heard Daniel cussing away from the phone and grinned with understanding. “He can handle himself, Daniel.”
“You’re telling me something I don’t already know, Sam.”
“Well, I think I had to remind you anyway.” He made a throaty sound that made her smile momentarily, but she well understood the seriousness. “Watch yourself, Jason. He’s an unknown.”
“I know that, Sam. Daniel, I’m observing, not using the truck as a weapon.”
Sam sighed. “We need back-up to know what the hell’s going on. Daniel, ask Teal’c to contact the Colonel.”
“He’s already doing that.”
Sam let out another slow breath, finding it amusing how often the four of them thought the same–well, three of them for now, although technically four since Jason was with them. She heard the voice of their new teammate, saying something about how well they knew each other, and it made her grin her head off. “We’re a well-oiled machine, aren’t we?” When Daniel didn’t answer her, Sam’s alarm bells started going off again. “Daniel, did Teal’c get a hold of him?”
Daniel cussed away from the phone, then, “No, Jack’s phone is getting some sort of interference. Jason, stop following that asshole and get to Jack’s. We’re on our way. Sam?”
“I’ll meet you there,” she said and quickly pulled a U-turn and stepped on the gas.
Jack was preoccupied and annoyed. He hated forgetting stuff at the store. He walked into the kitchen, setting the groceries on the counter with one hand while taking out his phone with the other. Jason or Daniel could stop at the store on the way over. As he flipped open the phone and started to press Daniel’s number, he glanced down at the screen and frowned at the No Service message.
“Goddamn phone company,” he said, and went to the land line by the dining room table. He picked up the portable to dial, then froze. No dial tone. He cursed himself for having dropped his guard then dismissed the self-punishment and went smoothly into combat mode. Senses on alert, he set the phone back down and opened a kitchen drawer, removing the sidearm and magazine. Locking the mag into place, he flicked off the safety as he moved to the dining room, ears attuned to any movement from the hallway while his eyes were trained on the darkened living room.
He stepped cautiously to the entrance of the dining room and stopped, listening for movement in the hall and the rooms beyond. His right peripheral vision and hearing was attuned to the half-wall that separated the dining room from the living room. If an intruder were hiding in the living room, that’d be the place.
Moving carefully to the corner of the dining room, pressing his back against the support wall, he looked through the opening, eyes trained downward. There were no unusual shadows, but that didn’t really confirm anything. He’d have to expose his position and search. Heart pumping, body tensing for action, Jack left the dining room with carefully placed steps and paused at the end of the wall before looking around the corner and into the living room.
No one. He let out a slow breath of relief but didn’t let down his guard. He turned in place and with his back to the wall, began to edge down the hallway, gun in his right hand, left hand cupping underneath. He was almost to the bathroom when a black figure appeared from the bedroom, hands holding up some sort of weapon.
There was no time to offer a warning. They intended to fire, so Jack fired first, aiming for the left shoulder. The bullet hit its mark, but the intruder had also fired. There was a sting in his left thigh but Jack didn’t need to look down to know what it was. He knew the difference between a gun dart and a bullet. Whoever this was didn’t want him dead, which was more alarming to him. The drug in the dart was filled with something fast-acting because a wooziness began to engulf him almost immediately. He needed to attack and disable quickly before whatever this was could overtake him, so he fired again just as the intruder ran right at him.
Jack’s bullet ricocheted off the wall and he gnashed his teeth in anger, hating that the drug was already fucking with his aim. He stepped aside, back against the wall to avoid the impact, but his balance was off and he swayed just as he fired again–and missed. The intruder slammed into him, knocking them both to their knees, but Jack raised his gun first just as he grabbed the throat of his attacker.
“You’re a dead man,” he growled in a slurred voice, but before he could pull the trigger, someone from behind grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head back.
“You first, you stubborn bastard,” said the second intruder and shot another dart into his neck.
Jack’s vision was fogged but he was aware enough to see the face of the second man. He looked familiar, or so he thought. “Aren’t you supposed to be dead?” he mumbled right before he slipped into unconsciousness.
“I don’t think so, asshole,” gloated the second man. “God, I love this tranquilizer.” He looked over at his companion and scowled. “Can you move or do I need to put you down for fucking up?”
The first man glared at him as he harnessed his tranquilizer rifle and pulled a gun from his holster. “It’s nothing but a graze, Victor. Now haul him up.”
“So comforting,” Victor said as he slipped his weapon about his neck in the same style as his partner’s and moved around to grab Jack’s wrists before bending to one knee and hauling him over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry. “Let’s move.” They moved to the kitchen doors and out into the backyard where a black SUV was waiting. The driver started the engine as Victor dumped Jack into the cargo area, then moved quickly into the shotgun seat. When his partner got in the backseat, he said, “Go,” to the driver.
Moving down the road at normal speed, Victor looked over his shoulder. “Did you remove the jamming box?”
His partner squeezed his eyes shut and swore, then quickly tried to explain himself as Victor pulled out his silencer-equipped sidearm and pointed it at him. “I wore gloves! There won’t be any prints.”
“No, but that device is not on the public market.”
“It can’t be traced back to us,” said the driver reassuringly.
Victor took his eyes off his partner and looked forward, feeling only slightly mollified. “That had better be true, Derek, or Stan there is going to end up as plant food.”
“Fuck you, too, Victor,” Stan growled. “We didn’t have the time and you know that. O’Neill’s people were bound to show up any moment. You know the window we had.”
Victor closed his eyes and counted to ten, telling himself that shooting Stan would only create more problems. For the time being, and until he was certain there’d be no witnesses or mess to clean up, the fuck-up would live. “Tell me O’Neill’s usual plane is standing by,” he said to Derek.
“Ready to go. Flight plan filed using O’Neill’s typical route. We’ll be at his cabin in a few hours, providing traffic control doesn’t fuck with us. Second location is standing by.”
“Cover story done?”
“Done. The locals don’t know shit.”
“Good, good,” Victor said, starting to smile as he stared at the scenery without seeing it. “We’ll be extracting what we need by midnight. If all goes well, I’ll have O’Neill’s head, too.”
Derek whipped his head to the right, startled. “We can’t afford to kill him.”
“We can’t afford to leave him intact, either. He’s a loose end, Derek,” Victor replied, his voice cold.
As they turned a corner, Daniel’s jeep sped by, and thirty seconds later, they passed Jason. “Fuckers are fast,” Derek said, glancing in the side and rearview mirrors as he leaned on the accelerator.
“They should be,” Victor said, not bothering to look. “They work with O’Neill. Don’t know who they are or whom precisely they work for, but I’ll find out.”
Stan snorted from the backseat. “Nicaraguan guerillas and Iraqi agents couldn’t break him when he was younger and stronger, Victor, and they had the time and resources. We don’t.”
Victor smiled cruelly. “I have my own ways, Stan, as I’m sure you remember.”
Stan and Derek exchanged looks through the rearview mirror but neither of them said anything.
Daniel entered the house first, with Teal’c and Stuart right behind. “Jack?” he called out, entering the dining room, then the kitchen. He spotted the groceries and Jack’s cell. Picking it up, he saw the “no service” message on the screen and frowned.
“Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said, entering the kitchen. In his hand was a shell casing.
Daniel grit his teeth and hissed, “Shit.”
“Precisely,” Teal’c said.
“Phone’s out of order,” Daniel replied as he picked up the portable and clicked the button. He listened, then turned it off. “Land line’s dead,” he said just as Jason came through the front door.
“Situation?” Jason asked.
“O’Neill appears to be gone,” Teal’c said as he handed Jason the shell casing. “This is a casing from a weapon precisely like the one O’Neill owns. It could be his.”
Jason swore. “Phones?”
“Out,” Daniel replied. “I’ll check the junction box outside. You guys run a search.”
Stuart followed Daniel outside and began to sweep the yard. Daniel went to the small box attached to the house and found another one attached to it. It was small, black, and blinking green from a light at the end. There was a small switch and Daniel flicked it off, then pulled out his own cell phone. Service normal. Yanking his jacket sleeve down over his fingertips, he yanked the black box free. When he turned to head back inside, Stuart held up his hand and gestured Daniel over.
“You find something?” Daniel asked, walking over.
Stuart pointed at the lawn. “Tracks. Someone had a vehicle parked here. Does the Colonel park his truck back here often?”
Daniel shook his head as they both followed the tracks to the driveway beside the house. “Judging by the tread, would you say this was a truck of some kind?”
Stuart shook his head and shrugged. “Difficult to say. Could be a truck, could be an ATV or SUV. It’s hard to tell.”
“Come on,” Daniel said and they headed back inside. “Anything?” he asked Teal’c as he set the black box on the kitchen table.
“There’s blood on the wall by the bedroom door,” Jason replied coldly. “It had better not be Jack’s.”
“I do not believe it is,” Teal’c added and gestured at the shell casing in Jason’s hand. “I believe he shot whoever took him.”
At Daniel’s puzzled look, Jason added, “Same type of ammo. But we can’t assume anything right now. Just hope it isn’t Jack’s blood on the wall.”
“Did you find him?” Sam asked, appearing in the front doorway.
“It uh, looks like Jack’s been… kidnapped,” Daniel said.
“What?” Sam asked and the men quickly filled her in. With a sigh, she said, “Okay, then…” She looked at Jason and technically speaking, he was now her superior officer, but this was Jack and she was his Second. “How do you want to do this, Jason? You wanna take charge or do you–“
Jason grabbed her shoulder and squeezed. “You’re his Second, Sam, and therefore responsible for him when the shit goes down.”
“Sounds familiar,” Stuart quipped, “although we’d still have to go with the man most superior.”
“Protocols fall somewhat differently where the teams are concerned,” Jason told him, then turned to Sam. “Listen, if Hammond wants me in charge, then I’ll do it, but I’d prefer it if you took the lead.”
Sam gave them all a rather wan smile. “Okay then, first rule is don’t touch anything that might negate identifying the people who took him.” She pulled out her cell phone and dialed the SGC. “This is Major Samantha Carter. Patch me through to External Security.” As she waited, she walked into the living room for better privacy.
In the dining room, Daniel and Jason exchanged looks, catching each other’s worry. It was Jason who reassured first. “There’s not a lot of blood, Daniel. Teal’c’s probably right and I don’t think this was a kill order.”
“No, but the presence of blood isn’t a good sign, either,” Daniel replied.
Sam came in from the living room and gave Jason and her teammates a nod, including Stuart. “They’re on their way out to secure the scene so it’s probably a good idea that we don’t contaminate it further.”
“We should put the groceries away,” Daniel said, wrinkling his nose.
“Go ahead,” she said, waiting for Daniel and Jason to do it. Soon as they were done, she gestured for them to follow her outside. Out on the walkway, she pressed her lips together. “I think I’ve another favor to use up,” she said and opened her phone and dialed the number.
“Barrett?” Daniel asked.
“Who’s Barr–” Stuart started to ask but Sam interrupted him when her call was answered.
“Hi, Malcolm, it’s Sam,” she said crisply. “… I’m good, you?” She paused, making a face at Teal’c that pretty much said she’d rather be talking to anyone else. “Listen, I’m calling because I need to know if you have any agents on Colonel O’Neill?” She stared at her teammates, shaking her head as she was answered. “Okay, then I need to know if you have any rogue agents we need to know about.” Again, she shook her head, but then her eyes became unfocused as she froze, listening to Barrett. Her brows went up and she switched her gaze to Daniel. “And do any of them know Colonel O’Neill personally?” She listened again and this time, her brows narrowed. “Because he’s been missing for the last hour, Malcolm, and there’s definite signs of abduction. We were supposed to meet up at his house but we couldn’t–“
“Sam, tell him about that driver,” Jason told her.
“Hang on a sec, okay?” Sam told Barrett, then frowned at Jason. “It may not have anything to do with this.”
“You know damn well this wasn’t a coincidence. I think that guy was meant to distract us while Jack was taken. Maybe we would have been too late, maybe not, but you were on your way here first. You may have interrupted them. In that case, Jack might not be the only one missing.”
Teal’c touched her shoulder. “Colonel Coburn is correct, Major Carter.”
Sam sighed and told Barrett about the mysterious driver with the shady M.O. “No, Jason was pulled off him when the Colonel’s phone was no longer receiving. When we got here, we searched, found a bullet casing… In the hallway… Yes, there’s blood by the bedroom door. We don’t know if it’s his… Daniel and our new guy, Blackwell, found tire tracks out back… No, the Colonel doesn’t park back there… Okay, will you run a check and see if there’s anyone out for revenge? Okay, thanks.”
She hung up and sighed. “Apparently the trackers they had on a bunch of former CIA agents have gone dark.”
“Did they have reason to watch them?” Daniel asked.
“I guess so,” Sam answered, “or Agent Barrett wouldn’t have mentioned them.”
“Did they know O’Neill?” Teal’c asked.
Sam nodded. “Some did. Agent Barrett wouldn’t say precisely how, but he said that when Jack worked with OSI, he went on a few mission co-ops with the CIA. A few of those former operators went rogue.”
“Does he know why or where they went?” Stuart asked.
“He’ll call me back, let us know,” Sam said, then gave Daniel and Jason a long look. “And I just remembered something. If those guys are heading here to secure the Colonel’s house and look for trace evidence or something…” She cleared her throat and lowered her voice, even though it wasn’t necessary. “If there’s anything you don’t want them to find, then… you know.” Just as she said that, her phone rang. “Carter,” she answered. “Hammond,” she mouthed, then turned her attention to her commander.
As Daniel looked at Jason, trying to figure out if there was any evidence of their relationship in Jack’s house, he suddenly widened his eyes as he remembered something.
“What?” Jason asked.
“He’s lo-jacked!” Daniel said, heart pumping with excitement. “The chip!”
Sam partly overheard. “I’m sorry, sir, hang on a moment. Daniel, what was that?”
“We’re all lo-jacked, Sam, remember? Aren’t they online all the time?”
Sam’s eyes went round, too. “Yes!” she answered, then to the General she said, “Sir, the locator chips we had implanted. We could track the Colonel.” She paused, giving the men an impatient look. “General Hammond’s contacting security.”
Jason ground his back teeth. “Soon as we find him, I say we run a little Gitmo crap on the assholes who took him.”
Daniel made a face. “At least it’d be warranted instead of fact-finding without proof of intent.” When Jason looked at him in surprise, he added, “Doesn’t mean I’d condone it, Jason, but I can see why you feel that way.”
Sam held up her hand for silence as she listened to the General. Then her face fell and she stared at Daniel and Teal’c. “The signal’s getting scrambled,” she said quickly, then to Hammond said, “Yes, sir, I understand, but what I don’t understand is what they could possibly be using to block the signal.” Her voice was filled with disappointment and it was reflected on her face as she listened into the phone. Suddenly, her face brightened. “Sir, I have an idea. We could use a cargo ship to pinpoint through that interference… Teal’c could fly it while I use the equipment on board…” She suddenly smiled broadly. “Yes, sir, thank you, sir.” She hung up and sighed heavily. “At least we can do something. We need to get to the mountain’s chopper pad and fly over to Area 51.”
“All of us?” Jason asked, not liking the idea of concentrating all their efforts on one method.
“Do you have something else in mind, Colonel Coburn?” Teal’c asked.
“To stay on the ground. Only way to get him out of here fast is to head for an airport and they won’t go commercial. They’ll stay away from the Springs’ airport. They might go to Meadow Lake.”
“That’s 20 minutes from here,” Daniel reminded Sam, catching on to what Jason wanted. “Jack rents a plane there. I’ve learned the shortcuts so we,” and he gestured at Jason, Stuart and himself, “could get there rather quickly.”
Sam chewed on her lip, thinking quickly. It really wasn’t a bad idea. “Okay, do it, but you’ll need weapons so you’ll probably have to head back to the SGC.”
Daniel crossed his arms and cleared his throat as he looked over at Jason. “Um, maybe not.”
Jason glanced back, then sighed and lifted his chin at Sam. “Both Jack and I have more than one sidearm.”
“Including extra clips and ammo?” she asked, doubtful.
Jason nodded. “In Jack’s safe and in mine. I’ll need your permission to take Jack’s though, as his Second.”
Sam frowned. “You’re listed as next-of-kin, Jason, along with Daniel. You don’t need my permission.”
Jason winced, having forgotten. “Right.” He wasn’t too crazy about hearing the term. It only brought back bad memories.
Sam reached over and tugged at his jacket collar. “Sorry.”
“No need, not your memories, Sam.”
She took a deep breath. “Okay, well, the only problem is radios.”
“Are there any on the ship?” Daniel asked.
“There are,” she said.
“Then beam them down to our location–you’ll have the tracker.”
She nodded. “Okay, get inside, grab what you have to, including the, uh…”
When Jason and Daniel went inside, Sam looked at Teal’c, then they both gave Stuart their attention. “We’d appreciate it if you kept mum about this whole conversation about removing anything personal from the house. And I’m not talking about weapons and ammo.”
Stuart looked between them and narrowed his eyes slightly as he began to see the picture. “What you’re trying to say is one of them is seeing the Colonel?”
Sam thinned her lips, wishing she could tell if Stuart was an understanding man or a homophobe. The man was so close-vested, it was hard to tell. “Something like that. Given how our military is less enlightened than yours, we’d prefer it if you didn’t repeat what you… suspect.” She grinned on the last word.
“Repeat what?” Stuart replied with a jog of his brows and Sam cleared her throat. “What?” he asked.
“You’ll be forgetting a lot, just so you know. Our missions tend to be a little… unorthodox.”
Stuart’s eyebrows arched with pleasant surprise. “Smashing. I guess this show won’t be as strict and boring as I feared it might be.”
“Certainly isn’t now, is it?” Sam answered rhetorically.
Inside the house, Jason retrieved a small duffle bag from the hallway closet and went into the kitchen. Squatting down in front of a bottom cabinet, he opened the door that held Jack’s safe and opened it, taking the extra gun and several boxes of ammo. There was also a zat gun inside and he shook his head as he put that into the duffle bag, too.
“Got it all?” Daniel asked, walking in.
“Yep,” Daniel said, holding up a sack. “The stuff you and I keep in the hall closet I left alone because everyone knows we stay here sometimes, but the stuff in the bedroom, like the lube and toys, I put in the sack.”
Jason looked at him and grinned as he closed the safe and cabinet. “Just return them when this is all over or Jack’ll have your ass.”
Daniel grinned but said nothing, waiting for Jason to stand and see the expression. When he did, Daniel leaned in and kissed him lightly. “He always has my ass, just like he always has yours.”
Jason set the duffle on the counter and pulled Daniel into a hug. “And always will or I’ll kill him,” he said softly, the words puffing air against Daniel’s hair.
Daniel grinned as he turned his head, lips pressing against Jason’s neck. “Would kinda defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it?” He reached up, framed Jason’s head in his hands and kissed him slowly, softly. “He’ll be fine. He has no choice.”
Jason hugged him tighter. “No, he doesn’t.”
At that moment, Stuart came walking in and rocked back on his heels, hand quickly over his eyes. “Oh bollocks, I wasn’t supposed to… okay, I saw nothing.”
Daniel and Jason pulled apart slowly and Daniel looked over at his new teammate. The man was still covering his eyes, but two fingers were spread open and he held a sarcastic smirk on his face. “You must have crap vision then,” Daniel said back.
“Horrible,” Stuart replied. “I don’t know how I made Group Captain.”
“Must have had the same idiot who promoted me,” Jason said, turning to him. “But just between us, what did you see?”
“Nothing that bothers me,” Stuart answered seriously. “My reaction just now was for your privacy, not my embarrassment.”
Jason and Daniel looked back at him, liking this man more than they already had before. “We’re done,” Daniel said, holding up the sack as he gestured for Stuart to precede him out of the kitchen. Dipping his hand in the dish on the kitchen table, he took Jack’s keys and motioned for Jason to go ahead of him, too. Before closing the door, he said, “Sam, are you and Teal’c going to wait for security?”
“Yeah, we’ll have to.”
“Here then,” and he handed her Jack’s keys. “Tell them not to mess it up too much or…”
She gave him a small grin. “I think they already know what would happen if they did.”
Daniel raised his sack and pointed at Jason’s duffle. “We’re gonna stop at Jason’s, drop this off and pick up supplies. It’s on the way to the airport.”
“Okay. Call when you get to Meadow Lake.”
“Done.” He hesitated, then started forward to give her a hug when she backed away, hand up.
“Feels like goodbye, Daniel. This is a mission now and we don’t do that during missions, do we?”
Daniel stared into her eyes and understood. A hug was too much like expressing fear and she didn’t want it. “Okay.” Walking across the lawn toward his Jeep, he turned to Stuart, who was between himself and Jason. “Ride with me or Jason?”
Stuart gave him a funny look. “Does it matter?”
“Nope,” Jason said and put his hand on Stuart’s shoulder, steering him toward his truck. “We’re gonna end up in my truck anyway.”
“We are?” Daniel asked, but he knew Jason was right. His Jeep was too small for the road trip he was sure they were about to go on.
Daniel set the sack down on the floor by Jason’s sofa and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He’d been debating whether or not to use one of Jason’s weapons or get his own and in the end, decided he’d prefer his own. It sort of disturbed him a little bit that he’d actually grown attached to the damn thing. Perhaps it was having this job for the last nine years, or perhaps it was just the stress of Jack being gone, or perhaps it was having two husbands who pretty much loved that damn fourth amendment, or perhaps–
“What’s on your mind?” Jason asked, disrupting Daniel’s obsessive focus.
Daniel blinked several times, startled by the fact that he’d been so preoccupied. “Um, I hate to take up time here but I have to stop by my house before we head to the airport.”
“You can use my weapons, Daniel,” Jason said as he went to the cabinet that sat underneath his display of martial art weaponry.
Daniel cleared his throat and glanced nervously around before he looked back to Jason. “I know we’re in a hurry here but I’d feel a lot more confident getting the drop on those assholes who took him if I could get my Beretta. Its sight is fixed, I’m used to the way it fires, and it’s just…” He let his words fade, knowing that he was rambling, and ran a hand through his hair. “Can we just stop there please? It’d take two minutes, tops.”
Jason looked over his shoulder, thinking of saying something sarcastic to calm his lover down, but Daniel knew him so well that he already knew what he would say. He sighed and nodded instead. “No problem, Daniel. You need ammo or are you covered?”
Daniel snorted. “Do you have a stockpile for Glocks and Berettas?”
Jason grinned as he retrieved his sidearms and ammo from the cabinet’s safe, holding one of the Glocks out for Stuart to take. “I keep both Daniel. And if we need more, I’m sure Teal’c and Sam could provide.”
Stuart took the gun and the three offered mags, loading one. “Gotta holster for this?”
“Belt only,” Jason said, throwing him one.
Stuart caught it and began to secure it to his jeans’ leather belt. Glancing at Daniel, he asked, “Do you prefer the Beretta?”
Daniel shrugged. “I prefer the zat, but we can’t use that out in the open.”
Stuart jogged his brows. “Good point.”
Daniel shook his head, mostly to himself. “For our own weapons though, yeah, I prefer the Beretta. I like the weight.”
“Really?” Jason asked, throwing him a sarcastic grin. “I thought it was because your Beretta shoots 12 while mine shoots 11.”
Daniel rolled his eyes as he headed for the sink to get a glass of water. “No, that’s you and Jack and your money shot competition.”
Stuart barked out a loud laugh. “What?”
Daniel threw him a sarcastic smirk. “I’m sure you’ve heard that old, ‘My gun shoots more bullets than your gun.'”
“Well, guns are phallic substitutions so what do you think their bullets are? They don’t call the STD shot the Silver Bullet for nothing.”
Stuart began to laugh and Jason sniggered, holding up his hands in surrender. “You win,” he said.
“Naturally,” Daniel answered with a hint of a smile. He knew that would annoy Jason, but it was necessary. While they both needed distracting to keep from worrying themselves sick, Daniel knew that Jason needed it more. Given what he went through the last time Jack went missing, Daniel was sure that Jason would go a little Rambo. He needed continued grounding.
“Phallic substitutions,” Stuart grinned. “When I get back to England, I’ll have to use that on the lads.”
Jason’s brows raised in a look of mock shock. “Daniel, someone’s actually going to quote you. I think you need to call Doctor Raynor, don’t you?”
“That hole you’re digging is getting deeper,” Daniel replied as he winked at him. Jason gave him a long look, then smiled and walked over, wrapping his arms around him. “What’s this?” Daniel asked, his main focus on the fact that they weren’t alone.
“Thanks for distracting me.”
Daniel grinned and turned his head, intending to kiss him, but Stuart’s presence reminded him not to so he pulled his head back a little. “If we keep this up, Stuart will think something’s going on.”
Leaning against the kitchen island, Stuart gave them a reassuring smile. “Even if there were, fellas, it’s not a problem.”
Daniel stepped out of Jason’s arms and gave Stuart a curious look. Was he serious or just teasing? “So, you’d be okay with it if we were?”
“Yes,” Stuart smirked, then wagged two fingers at them. “I’m just surprised since I’ve just never met anyone in a threesome before.” At their wide eyes, he quickly added, “That’s assuming there is one.”
Jason eyed him quickly, clearing his throat. “Right, well, I think we need to chill out because if you picked up on something, others will.”
“Not from me,” Stuart answered. “And frankly, the only reason I was able to guess was because it’s familiar. There are a lot of openly gay men in the RAF now. Unfortunately, it’s not the same in your Air Force. Or the other branches, for that matter.”
Daniel made a face, hating the idea that he was about to pry but curiosity was getting the better of him. “What about you? Do you have someone here or at home?”
Stuart crossed his arms and shook his head. “Not met anyone worth keeping,” he replied and when Daniel raised a brow at him, he shrugged. “I’m not too keen on commitment. Or rather, commitment isn’t too keen on me.”
“For you or the other person?” Jason asked as he came over and set the duffle on the counter.
“The latter,” Stuart said with a sigh. “But truthfully, it’s also on me, given the job. I’m never around long enough to actually be in a committed relationship.” Jason started to laugh quietly and Stuart tilted his head, frowning slightly. “What’s funny?”
“You’re gonna be here for a while, Stuart,” Daniel said, jogging his brows. “Anything could happen.”
Stuart rolled his eyes. “Don’t go playing matchmaker. I’ll disappear faster than a rat up a drainpipe.”
Jason grinned, but thought of Jack at the same time so the smile was painful. “We need to get rolling.”
“Okay, but we need road trip food, Jace,” Daniel said as he picked an apple out of a basket on the counter.
Jason winced. “Right now, I hate that term.”
Daniel bent down and opened a cabinet, retrieving a plastic bag. Putting a few apples in the bag, he asked, “We can always stop for food, but these should help. Stuart, would you grab some water out of the fridge?”
Stuart opened the fridge and asked, “How many?”
“One each for now,” Jason said. “Daniel’s right. We can pick up more on the road.”
“Clothes, too, I think,” Daniel said, cringing when Jason threw him a startled look. “Jace, you know I hope we find him in less than a day but you also know we have to prepare for it to take a lot longer.”
Jason closed his eyes, not wanting to hear that from Daniel. But his training and experience told him Daniel was right and after a silent moment, he opened his eyes and gave him a look of regret. “You sound like Jack.”
Daniel shrugged. “Maybe, but I didn’t learn it from him, or this job. Going on digs makes you learn what to take and what not to take. And whether or not you need something to defend yourself with. Not every archaeological mission to another country is met with open arms. Half of them start to look at you as bargaining chips.”
“Sounds like intel missions,” Stuart replied.
Jason gave Stuart a smile of recognition. “And so you quickly learn to prepare for anything… or else…”
Daniel nodded. “Or else.”
Daniel clicked his phone shut, nodding to Jason and Stuart, who sat in the back. “Sam and Teal’c are prepping the cargo ship.”
Stuart grinned and shook his head. “It’s so nice to have the use of phones that don’t get that pesky, ‘Out of Service Area’ nonsense.”
“Tell me about it,” Jason replied as he turned down the road that would lead them to Meadow Lake airport.
Nerves were getting a bit frayed as they closed in on their objective, hoping that they were both right and on time. When Daniel started to nervously tap his foot, it didn’t take long for it to annoy Jason. He cleared his throat as a hint but when Daniel didn’t catch it, he snapped, “Daniel, stop that,” and then threw him an apologetic look. “Sorry, but your tapping’s driving me nuts.”
Daniel took a deep breath as he stilled his foot. “Probably because you’re on edge, like I am.”
Jason reached over and rubbed his shoulder consolingly. “We’ll get him back,” he said, then abruptly took a sharp right onto the back road that led to the private buildings.
“Providing your driving doesn’t kill us,” Daniel snarked, then it was his turn to cringe with apology. He couldn’t help but snap, and it was understandable, but there was something else bothering him, a bad feeling he couldn’t get rid of. “Head for Jack’s hangar,” he said, abruptly disturbing the awkward silence.
Jason gave Daniel a frown of confusion, then it dawned on him. “You think they might try to use his rental?”
Daniel shook his head. “You never know, but it’s worth a check. If you were them, what’s the best and most inconspicuous method of getting out of here with him?”
Jason nodded and took a left, driving across the tarmac in the direction of Jack’s plane. Thinking of what Daniel said, he let out a snort. “Daniel, if I were really the kidnappers, I’d take another route. Faster is not always wiser.”
“True enough,” Stuart agreed, fingering the sidearm on his belt. “When we get out of the truck, it should be weapons out.”
“Agreed,” Jason said, slowing down as he neared the back of the hangar. All three men were scanning the area and Daniel frowned, hairs standing up.
“There’s no activity.”
“No, there’s not,” Jason said and stomped on the gas, driving around the front and screeching the truck to a halt. “Fuck!“
Jack’s plane was gone. Staying in the truck, Jason turned in his seat, looking for planes on the tarmac but none of the ones running were Jack’s. “Shit, do you guys see anything?”
“No,” Daniel said grimly.
“I don’t see the plane you described,” Stuart answered, “so now what? Flight office?”
Jason nodded and they headed across the tarmac toward a long white building. Slowing down around the parked cars, he parked in front of the main door. “Weapons holstered. And Daniel, one of us stays outside.”
“You have the military I.D., Jace, so you go in,” Daniel said, and he looked at Stuart. “You should probably go with him. A British accent goes a long way when you flash government I.D.”
Jason winked. “People think ‘James Bond.'”
Stuart laughed, incredulous. “Oh, surely not.”
“You’d be surprised,” Daniel said, then nodded curtly at them both. “Go.”
He stood outside, scanning the tarmac, the hangars, and even the parking lot. Back and forth, quickly, not wanting to miss anything. He hoped Jason and Stuart would get some results because coming here was only a guess. Sighing and mentally crossing his fingers, he looked away from Jack’s hangar and drew his gaze over the parking lot cars when he froze, his gaze resting on a figure that had appeared between two cars perhaps fifty feet away. Daniel shaded his eyes with one hand because the sun was behind him so he was partly blacked out. With his free hand, he rested it on his sidearm, sending the message that he was serious.
“It’s me, Doctor Jackson,” said the man as he stepped out from the cover of the cars and walked toward him. As he did so, Daniel’s brows rose for a second before dropping as he narrowed his eyes. It was Harry Maybourne, former Colonel and head of the NID.
“Don’t you have anything better to than stalk Jack?” Daniel asked, but he was thinking the same thing Harry said next.
“Be glad I was in the right place at the right time to hear the right thing, Doctor Jackson.”
Daniel wanted to signal Jason and Stuart but he wasn’t about to take his eyes off Harry. “And what was that?”
Harry stopped a few feet away and smirked at Daniel. “What, no ‘nice to see ya’ or a hug or anything?”
Daniel stared at him. “Let’s skip the games, okay? What do you know?”
“It’s not that simple,” Harry replied, then took a few steps back when Jason and Stuart exited the building.
“Well, look what the cat dragged in,” Jason said. “What’re you doing here, Maybourne?”
Harry stared at Stuart warily before giving Jason his attention. “Who’s he?”
“The newest member of SG-1,” Jason answered.
Harry snorted. “You replaced Jack already?”
“Let’s go,” Daniel said, turning toward the truck’s passenger side.
“No, wait,” Harry said, cutting him off. “I really did come here to help.” He tried to sidle away when Jason came up behind him and placed a hand on the truck beside Harry’s head. “Really I did.”
“I have to come with you.”
Jason laughed. “No, you don’t.” Harry started to say something but Jason cut him off. “And if you tell me that you’re not going to tell us anything if we don’t take you with us, your next stop will be the emergency room.”
“Jason,” Daniel admonished, though with very little force behind it.
“Who is this person?” Stuart asked, standing to Harry’s left, making sure the man had nowhere to go.
“Stuart, meet Colonel Harry Maybourne,” Daniel said.
Stuart’s right brow went up and so did Harry’s. “You look like Mr. Spock when you do that,” Harry said.
“I remember reading about your… activities,” Stuart said, then backed up and moved around to Daniel’s side, reaching for the door handle. To Jason and Daniel, he said, “We can’t trust him.”
“No,” Daniel said, then sighed and rolled his eyes. “But he wouldn’t be here if he didn’t know something.”
Jason looked at Daniel. “Flight plan was for Minnesota. Guess where they’d like us to think they’re going?”
Daniel made a noise of disgust. “It can’t be where they’re going. Why would they take him there?”
“Because they’re looking for something they think Jack has,” Harry answered.
Jason stared at Harry, quickly calculating the possibility of Jack actually being at the cabin. “If we drove there, they could be gone by the time we arrived. If we fly up there, we’re cutting the time shorter but there’s still no guarantee that they’d actually be there. What do you think, Maybourne?” His gaze on Harry was dark, foreboding, and he was almost hoping Harry would lead them astray so he could get rid of him.
“Believe it or not, I actually have Jack’s best interests in mind.”
“Depends on what you think his best interests are,” Daniel said distrustfully.
“We’ll need to fly up there,” Harry said, “and I know where we can get a decent ride for an indefinite period of time.”
“Borrow or appropriate?” Jason asked.
Harry gave him a brief, nasty smile. “Rent.”
“Model?” Jason asked, crossing his arms.
“Hummer, black, all the bells and whistles,” Harry replied, sensing he was making a sale.
“And the cost of this would be to bring you along?” Daniel asked.
“No, Doctor Jackson, the cost is free. If you want my assistance, that will require my accompanying you.”
Jason looked at Daniel, then Stuart, but he got the same undecided look from them that he felt. A few moments passed and he pulled out his keys and handed them to Daniel. “Park the truck. We’ll get a plane.”
“You’d better make sure there’s one available,” Daniel said.
“There is,” Stuart answered and gave Harry a smart-assed look. “We asked before leaving the office, just in case.” Both he and Jason then returned to the office, leaving Daniel standing there, shaking his head.
Despite underestimating these men, something he wasn’t going to do again, Harry felt rather pleased with himself as he turned and walked back toward the parking lot.
“Where the hell are you going?” Daniel asked.
Harry looked over his shoulder and grinned. “To get my stuff.”
Daniel kept an eye on him as he got into the truck and drove toward the back of the parking lot, all the while hating the new addition to the team–and the fact that this search had just gotten a lot more complicated. “Swell,” he said, echoing Jack, and flipped open his phone. “Sam, it’s me,” he said when she finally answered. “Yeah, we’re at the airport… Yes and no. I’ll tell you about that in a sec. But first, you’re not going to believe who we’ve run into.”
They were sixty-five miles from Jack’s cabin. All during the plane ride and the Hummer acquisition, Jason and Daniel kept telling themselves that they could drop Harry Maybourne off somewhere. The man was trying their patience as well as Stuart’s. He kept behaving as if he was in charge and the closer they got to Jack’s cabin, the more often Jason made fists around the steering wheel.
“We can always dump him in the middle of the woods,” Daniel suggested dryly as he looked out the window.
“Hey,” Harry warned.
“Bear food sounds right,” Jason growled.
Stuart sighed, not wanting to hear another round of verbal sparring. “Maybourne, don’t let them start again. What else do you have?”
“Can you be specific?” Harry hedged.
“Maybourne,” Daniel said impatiently, turning to look at him. At the sarcastic and belligerent look on Harry’s face, he narrowed his eyes. “If you pulled this shit on Jack, he’d kick your ass. And since you’re here to save him, I think you need to do what you can to help. Otherwise, what’s the point of your being here?”
Harry twisted his mouth and sighed heavily. “Point. The men who have him are mercenaries and once upon a time they worked with teams like Jack’s when they were running missions with the CIA.”
“Like Burke?” Daniel asked, eyes widening.
Harry sighed again, looking grim. “Like Carl Burke. They’re after something that Burke’s team knew about.” He paused, eyeing Daniel. “Did Jack tell you what Burke took the rap for?”
Harry nodded, catching a quick look from Stuart and ignoring the obvious judgment. “Thing was, it wasn’t just heroin that Tom Woods was smuggling. But Burke didn’t know about that. Unfortunately.”
“Why?” Jason asked.
“If Burke had known what else Woods was dealing with,” Harry went on, “then he’d… have been able to tell them what they wanted to know.”
“Fuck,” Jason groaned, momentarily closing his eyes before returning his focus on the road. “He’s dead?”
Harry nodded. “He was a good guy.” He suddenly grinned darkly.
“And that’s good why?” Daniel asked, frowning.
“Because if those dickheads tell Jack that…”
Daniel barked out a laugh and rubbed his eyes. “Trying to induce him into talking won’t work. That’ll piss him off.”
“Give him even more incentive to kill the fuckers,” Jason said, his tone deadly serious.
“Will he?” Daniel asked, knowing how Jack hated to kill.
“You know he will,” Jason answered. “He’ll make time for regret later.”
“Mind if I ask what else this Woods chap was up to?” Stuart asked.
Harry gave them all a sick smile. “Diamonds.”
After the long stretch of silence, Jason said, “Fuck.”
“I hope they’re at the cabin,” Daniel said, feeling a headache coming on. “I hate to think about what they’ll do when they realize–“
“Don’t, Daniel,” Jason interrupted. He threw him a warning look. “Don’t go there.”
Daniel swallowed and nodded, then turned back to Harry. “How’d you find out about Burke?”
“Was in Florida,” Harry answered simply. “They found him floating in the Keys. They probably found out where Jack was through Burke. They’re… good at their job.”
Daniel snorted. “Do they know who they’re messing with?”
“No,” Harry answered, grinning again.
“Why the cabin?” Daniel asked.
“They might think Jack was in on the diamonds and hid them there.”
Jason shook his head. “They’ll find out otherwise so got any ideas where else they’d go?”
“Maybe North Dakota,” Harry mused. “But there’s no way to know for sure. They might have hacked into the network to get the location of the safehouses, but it’s just a guess.”
“Guess better,” Jason said, sighing heavily with frustration. He pressed the button on his earpiece, signaling Sam aboard the cargo ship with Teal’c. When she answered, her voice was faint, far away. “Sam, it’s Jason. That signal get cleaned up yet?”
“We’re working on it, Jason.”
“Okay, I’ll let you get back to it then.” He pressed the earpiece again, then thumped the top of the steering wheel with the heel of his hand.
“They’ll get it, Jace,” Daniel told him.
“I just wish we could have called in more people for this.”
“Out of curiosity,” Stuart asked, and caught Jason’s reflection in the rearview mirror.
“Why didn’t we?” Jason asked.
“I get this is top secret, but even the military has ways to control information and resources.”
“Except for this kind of thing,” Jason answered, lowering his voice to a hush. “You know, we used to be like the FBI, just barge in and take over. We can’t do that anymore.” Daniel snorted when Stuart looked between them. “Okay, well, when we can take care of it ourselves, we do. We have our resources. But for now, we have to keep things a little…”
“Friendly with the locals?” Stuart asked.
“Yeah, and they’ll get in the way if we don’t handle this right,” Jason answered gruffly. “And I’ll warn you now. I’m bound to become a bastard for a while.”
“You and me both,” Daniel sighed as he pinched the bridge of his nose.
“So what’s changed,” Harry grumbled, then flinched when Stuart turned and glared at him. “What?”
“Mind your manners, mate.”
Harry was about to answer but Daniel raised his hand, eye on Harry for a moment, telling him not to respond. “Don’t mind, Maybourne, Stuart. We understand where we stand. He doesn’t like us, we don’t like him. But if he can help, then we bring him along.”
“Whatever you say, junior G-man,” Harry smirked.
“You can always walk,” Daniel said as he rolled his eyes and turned away.
Observing Harry carefully, Stuart crossed his arms. “I’ve known blokes just like you. Just pray you don’t end up like ’em.”
“Sittin’ pretty in the Bahamas?” Harry snarked.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night, mate.”
Jack felt the pain throughout his body as he came to. He kept his eyes closed as he ran a quick assessment of his condition. His wrists were cuffed behind him but his legs were free, which was a stupid move. He focused on any noise around but there was no sound. For the moment, anyway. That would change. He could smell pine and burning wood and soon after, he felt the heat of a fireplace. Cracking his eyes open a sliver, he stared and it took a long minute before he recognized it. Then came the scrape of boot on wooden floor disrupting the silence and it was by sheer self-control that Jack didn’t startle.
“He should wake soon, Victor,” said a man with a voice that sounded tentative. He was behind Jack, perhaps ten or fifteen feet. Going by that voice, he was a lackey, a body mover. Jack figured he’d be the easiest one to take out. Should he get loose, that is.
“You get that gear stowed?” growled the one Jack assumed was Victor.
“Yeah, and Derek’s making use of what that guy’s got stashed here at the cabin.”
Jack ground his jaw, hoping they weren’t referring to the guns. He had those in the cabinet in the wall that was hidden to anyone but those who knew they were there. The only thing Jack could think of that might be of use to these assholes was the canned food and the meat in the freezer.
“You check out the shed like I asked?” Victor said.
Jack had a feeling that it wasn’t going to matter if he got to the guy first. This Victor didn’t sound pleased with him–providing he’d ever been.
“Yes, and I found cables,” said the lackey.
Jack hated the sound of that. Cables. Hopefully that meant they needed to jump the battery in their vehicle. If not, Jack knew what would come soon after he was discovered awake.
“Set them on the counter, Stan. Derek will be in soon.”
Three guys, Jack thought. Were there only three? And where had that third guy been back at the house? Manning a vehicle like a getaway driver? Had to be. How else could they have gotten away? The silence and swiftness of it meant it was well-planned and executed, albeit not as smoothly as they’d hoped. Smooth enough. He was here. And why?
Suddenly Jack felt pain as he was grabbed by the back of the hair. The only thought that came next was to berate himself for not having been paying attention or he could have steeled himself. As it was, the gasp of pain he’d involuntarily let loose was a victory for the asshole grabbing him. Jack would not let that shit happen again.
“I see you’re awake,” Victor growled smugly.
“I see you’re still a dead man,” Jack shot back, gritting his teeth when the man let him go, shoving his head forward.
“Burke was right. Ever the smart-ass.”
Jack froze at the sound of Burke’s name and a renewed anger at his former colleague began to surface. Turning his head to get Victor in his peripheral vision, he said, “Are you talking about Carl Burke?”
“The CIA spook,” Victor said as he came round Jack and squatted down by his head. Nice manipulative tactic. It would force Jack to look up in a perceived submissive role–as if being on the floor didn’t qualify. “He’s a helluva character, that one.”
“If you got rid of him, that’s one less asshole in the world.”
“Nope, sorry, hate to bust your bubble.”
Jack knew that was a joke. The man was gloating; he thought Burke was a friend. “No bubble bursting here.”
“Oh, but didn’t you know?” Victor said secretively. “Your buddy Woods? Burke shot him because the man was a traitor. He’d revealed your position during that op, was gonna sign up with the Warlord, Xian Xi.” Victor paused and leaned in. “And you’re probably wondering how I know this. Well, that’s because we were in on it. Burke did right by you, O’Neill, and all this time, you thought he was bad.”
Jack’s anger began to build in a new direction. At Victor, at Carl. He tried to think of why Burke hadn’t said anything and could only figure out it had something to do with Woods’ wife. Either he was boning the woman or he didn’t want her to be robbed of Woods’ pension. Didn’t much matter now though, did it? Jack would never know and that just pissed him off even more. “I suppose you ambushed him,” Jack seethed, unwilling to look at that smug bastard hovering over him. “Only way you could have gotten one over on him.”
“He’d gone soft,” Victor answered. “Unlike you.” He brought a taser into Jack’s view, sliding the metal points down Jack’s cheek like a lover’s caress, then touching the taser’s button just enough to give Jack a small jolt. He laughed as Jack flinched. “Yeah, you’re a different story. You’re still on the job.” He pressed the taser ends hard into Jack’s skin, threatening to zap him again.
“Can’t you come at someone straight out?” Jack growled.
“Sure, but it’s no fun,” Victor said as he stood up and crossed the room. “But it doesn’t matter once you have your quarry like I have you. Watching you squirm is my reward for having to take precautions.”
Realizing he wasn’t going to be kicked back down–not right away–Jack turned himself over and pushed to his knees so he could face his abductors. Victor looked just like he sounded. German-descent, heavily built, maybe 5’9″. Stan was just like Jack remembered, body-wise anyway, and now he could see the man’s plain face and brown hair. Not an improvement. “Yeah, guess it would be a reward to sickos like you, since tasers and other torture devices tend to do more than make people squirm.”
Victor sighed a grin as he leaned against Jack’s kitchen island, making Jack want to hurt him for just violating his space. “Sadly, I don’t have time for what I’d really like to do, so…” and he fingered the jumper cables beside him. Lovingly. “I’m gonna have to get a little crude.”
“Skip the rhetoric and tell me what you want,” Jack ground out.
Victor stared at him, not answering. Whether he was hesitating or mulling over a decision, Jack couldn’t tell. “Diamonds,” Victor finally said.
Jack first looked surprised, then narrowed his eyes. “If you’re here to steal diamonds, you’re barking up the wrong tree. I don’t own diamonds.”
Victor snorted and picked up the cables. “You’d tell me that even if you had them so let’s skip the denials, O’Neill, and just tell me where they are.”
Jack sighed. “If I had diamonds, they’d be insured so I’d just let you have them.”
“The ones I’m looking for aren’t insured,” Victor said, gesturing his head at Stan, who placed a bucket in the sink and turned on the water.
Jack stared back evenly. “Sorry, can’t help you. There’s a place called Tiffany’s in New York. Try there.”
“Fine,” Victor said, shrugging.
“I think you need to tell me what the–” Jack began.
“Vic!” said a man who came bursting through the front door.
“What?” Victor scowled.
“There’s weird chatter on a couple of lines. I can’t make it out but I’d be willing to bet–“
Victor waved at the bucket Stan was filling. “Forget that. We have to go to the second location.” He waved at both men. “Get the rest of the shit stowed while I take a stab at him.” As the two men got busy picking up black backpacks, Victor headed toward Jack, looking angry and frustrated. He knelt next to the fireplace and with the taser in his left hand, threatening Jack with its dangerous metal points aimed at him, he reached for the poker he’d left sitting in the fire.
Jack stared at it and sighed. “That’ll just piss me off even more.”
“So Burke warned me,” Victor said, “but here’s the thing. No matter what I choose to do to you, you’re gonna be pissed.”
Jack gave him an assessing look. “Good point. But why try?” He leaned forward slightly and lowered his voice. “If Burke told you I had diamonds here, he lied.”
“He didn’t,” Victor said, raising the poker to stare at the tip.
It wasn’t glowing, Jack was relieved to see, but it’d be hot and that’d be enough.
“He didn’t lie on that, anyway. But the old buddy code would have him protecting your ass.” He aimed the poker tip at Jack’s groin. “Tell me where they are or I’ll turn your junk into fried mush.”
“I’m disappointed,” Jack said, eyeing the poker. “You should already know that if you touch me with that thing, you’ll lose any hope of me telling you anything.”
“That so?” Victor said, his eyes sparkling as he let his gaze slide over Jack’s body.
He waved the poker slightly and the act plus the look on Victor’s face made Jack’s blood run cold. The man was considering rape. “You don’t want to do that, either,” Jack warned him. The first thought that came to him was what he’d do to this man. The second thought was what Jason and Daniel would do.
“Why’s that?” Victor taunted as he thrust the poker back into the fire, then turned and jabbed Jack with the taser.
Jack spasmed in pain, his body jerking, falling backward. He felt Victor’s hands on him, turning him over. There was the sound of a switchblade opening.
“Don’t move,” Victor warned as he slid the blade down Jack’s right hip, slicing open his jeans.
Jack hissed as he felt a hot sting then wetness, the blade having cut him. It was shallow but nonetheless painful.
“See? If you move, I’ll cut you. Not that I mind cutting you,” and with that, Victor began to slice at his clothes, not caring if he nicked Jack in the process. Jack felt the tugs and quick stings as Victor set about baring his ass. The taser had done its job and Jack couldn’t move. He could do nothing but feel as he waited, bracing himself for the slide of a cock into his ass.
“How would you like to be fucked, O’Neill?” he said, chuckling as he yanked Jack to his knees. “With my rod or your poker?”
If Jack could look, he’d swear the man was drooling. “Fuck you,” he managed to hiss out, his own spit coating his lips.
“No, I’m the man here,” Victor said as he ran his hand possessively over Jack’s bared buttocks, making the skin sting from the tiny nicks he’d made. “I think I’ll fuck you with my dick but I also think you need branding first.”
Jack let out a short scream as hot iron touched his skin below his right buttock. The heat was dangerously close to his balls and he prayed both that this would stop and that Victor would just rape him and get it over with.
“Victor!” came the voice of the man who’d barged in earlier. “We don’t have time!” Jack knew that tone. The man was panicked as well as horrified but Jack couldn’t tell if it was from the fear of being caught or by what his leader was doing.
“We have time, Derek,” Victor said.
“No, we don’t!” Derek shouted at him, boot heels quickly hitting the floor.
From the cool air that now blew over his ass, Jack knew that Derek had pulled Victor away from him. “Do him later if you have to,” he growled, “but not now. I swear, your twisted idea of fun will get us caught or dead.”
There was silence, then Jack heard movement, knowing they were going to pick him up. They did, but as he was lifted, the taser was pressed against his balls, making him howl and crumple, his body shaking out of control. Embarrassingly, what followed was Jack’s bladder letting loose.
“Piss yourself, that’s it. You’ll be shitting blood before I’m done. I’ll have you and those diamonds,” Victor growled. “If they’re here, we’ll come back for them. If you stashed them elsewhere, we’ll be going on a treasure hunt.”
Jack couldn’t answer just yet but he could feel his body returning to his control. He managed a groan, hoping it sounded just as threatening as it was meant to be.
“Enough,” Derek said authoritatively, grabbing Jack’s arm and yanking him to his feet. Jack couldn’t stand yet so Victor was forced to grab the other arm. As they dragged him toward the front door, forcing him to half-walk, Derek added, “After we get him in the car, you’ll get that blanket off the couch and cover his ass.”
“Fuck you, Derek, let him suffer,” Victor growled back.
Derek sighed and said nothing as they led Jack down the steps and across to the SUV. Jack had a feeling that the silence wasn’t capitulation and sure enough, the moment he was unceremoniously dumped in the cargo area, he felt a thud and jostling. He turned his head, moving his face away from the carpet so he could concentrate on the fight, hoping there’d be a window to get free.
Then came the click of a gun hammer and Jack’s hope temporarily died. “You were in charge, Victor,” Derek spat. “Now I’m taking over. Your sick games will get us killed and I didn’t sign up for that. We get him to tell us where the diamonds are and your sexual perversions will not enter into it. Got me?”
“You wanna get that gun out of my face,” Victor warned.
There was a punch and a cry, more jostling, then the SUV’s cargo door was slammed shut and Victor’s gasping came against the window over Jack’s head.
“I said get that out of my face!” Victor yelled, his voice muffled, then he yelled again, in more pain this time.
“Goddamn it,” came Stan’s whispered complaint from the front of the vehicle. “Get a move on!” he yelled.
“Start the car,” Derek yelled at Stan, then to Victor said, “We do this my way.”
“He’s mine after,” Victor argued, then he began to laugh. “Or are you queer jealous, Derek?” The next sound, as Jack expected, was a cry of pain and coughing.
“Don’t fuck with me,” Derek growled, “or I’ll take you out right here.”
Jack was suddenly grateful that one of the three men was sane. At least, for now he was. Derek might not be a rapist but he might just be one of those men who tortured because it was business. The SUV’s gas was gunned while the vehicle was still in park–a reminder from Stan apparently. The next thing that happened was someone was climbing next to him, throwing a blanket over Jack’s head.
“Get moving,” ordered the man. It was Derek and Jack wasn’t too sure anymore that it was a good thing. He knew what to expect from Victor, but Derek? As the vehicle began to move down the uneven road, Jack was startled by the rough voice in his ear as Derek leaned over him. “Vic may want your ass, but the problem is that he’d enjoy it and waste time. I won’t get off raping you, but if I have to use rape, I will.” He suddenly reached through Jack’s torn jeans and grabbed him by the balls. Jack yelled out in pain, and rage began to build when he heard Victor laughing.
Derek released his hard squeeze on his balls and shocked Jack when he began to undo his belt and rip open his jeans. Slowly, he pulled them off his hips and down to his knees. “Now let’s see you use your legs,” he said.
On his side, Jack turned his head to finally get a good look at Derek. Blond, handsome, but with a cruelty around his eyes and mouth. “It’s just a suggestion but don’t stick anything in my mouth.”
“I’m not that stupid,” Derek said as he maneuvered Jack onto his back, then dropped his weight onto his legs, making it difficult for Jack to get any kind of leverage. The next shock was him taking Jack’s cock in hand and beginning to stroke. “C’mon, Jack. Don’t make me hurt you. Where’re the diamonds that Woods gave you to stash?”
Jack squeezed his eyes shut and grit his teeth, trying not to feel any pleasure as his body biologically responded to Derek’s hand. “You’re wasting your time. I wasn’t into smuggling, dope or diamonds. And given what you said about Burke, I’ll assume he wasn’t either if he took Woods out.”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what Burke said,” Derek said, then he removed his hand and pressed them both against Jack’s knees, forcing the legs painfully open, straining against the jeans. Eyes shut again, Jack gasped in pain, then gasped in greater shock when Derek put his weight on him as he leaned down and took his cock into his mouth. He purposely used his teeth, scraping them firmly over the head, making it quite clear that he had no problem with injuring Jack this way.
“I told you I don’t know,” Jack said, holding his breath when Derek sucked hard, biting down a bit just under the mushroomed dome. “Don’t, please.”
“How would you like it,” Derek said, breathing over his cock before nipping–hard–against the shaft. Jack bucked but Derek had a good hold on him with his weight, hands, and mouth. “I can make it so that the only way you’ll get off is through inflicting pain. By the time I’m done with you, O’Neill, I’ll have your sex life so screwed up, you’ll have to let go of those pretty boys you’re fucking.”
“Don’t you fucking dare,” was the only thing Jack could think of saying. What he was thinking about, however, was bluffing. They weren’t going to believe him and he didn’t really blame them. So he had to buy time, get this man off him, away from him. Jack needed to keep them in the area around his cabin, both for the rescuers to find them, and for a chance to get away. “Don’t go too far from the cabin,” he said next as he thought of a place where he’d hide diamonds.
Derek sat up, hands still pressing hard on Jack’s knees. He stared down into his face, then suddenly slapped him hard with every word. “Don’t. Lie. To. Me.”
Jack spat at him, the leftover dribbling over his lip. “Fuck you.” Derek grabbed his dick and Jack put on an act of fear. “Wait, wait. You want them, have them. Two clicks out, 15 degrees north of the cabin.”
Derek stared, assessed as his hand moved, twisting just a bit too hard to make Jack squirm in pain. “If this is a wild goose chase, I’ll cut your dick off and feed it to you. Think carefully.”
“Not a big decision,” Jack cracked, then let out a sigh of relief when Derek let his dick go. The relief wasn’t lasting because he yanked him up, bringing him to his knees so he could see out of the windows. Pressing his groin against Jack’s ass, he mock-humped against him. “Tell me where and you’ll get me. Fuck with me and I’ll give you to Victor.”
“Screw that, I’m having him anyway,” Victor growled, watching.
“No, if he gives us the ice, I’ll let him go.”
“We’ll see,” Victor argued, but he subsided and turned away.
“Ignore him and talk,” Derek ordered.
First Victor, then the others, Jack thought as he stared through the windows. His vision was a bit blurred but he knew these woods. He didn’t need to see much to know where they were. “A mile up, on the right, a narrow trail. Take it. It’s about two miles in.”
“Describe it,” Derek asked as he purposely rubbed against the burn mark made by the poker.
Jack gasped, eyes squeezing shut. “I’ll have to lead you there. It’s a small, abandoned shed, left to the elements. I camouflaged it so I can’t just give you directions.”
Thing was, Jack wasn’t lying. Exactly. There was something stashed there all right, but not diamonds. A long time ago, he’d hidden a large emergency kit there, filled with guns, ammo, rations, and clothing. He felt a little silly about it now, given that Earth was better prepared, but the Goa’uld were still a threat, just as others were. Better to be prepared.
Five minutes later, as they were heading down the narrow trail and Jack was forced to assess escape options as well his impending rape, Jason came to a skidding, dirt-spitting halt in front of Jack’s cabin.
They were too late, Daniel thought to himself as Jason, Harry, and Stuart ran inside the cabin. Daniel bent down, fingers running over the dirt. There were deep tire tracks, as if someone had peeled out of there. “They’re gone,” he yelled. Jason and Stuart exited the cabin and Jason’s grim expression made Daniel stand slowly. “What?”
Meeting Daniel’s gaze, Jason said, “There’s a fire lit and the poker is stuck into it, as if…”
Daniel closed his eyes.
“There’s also a pair of jumper cables and a bucket of water,” Stuart added, “but it doesn’t look like they had a chance to use that.”
Daniel sighed. “Any blood?”
“Yeah, but not much,” Harry said as he closed the front door and locked it. He walked down the stairs, adding, “Tiny smears of it on the floor in front of the fireplace. Not much. He’s not seriously injured and that’s good.”
“Daniel,” Jason said, hand on his shoulder, then looked at Harry. “Will they take ‘I don’t know’ for an answer?” Harry just looked at him. “Right,” Jason said, rolling his eyes. Squeezing Daniel’s shoulder, he said, “Jack will want to keep them here so he’ll give them a false lead. Got any ideas where he might send them?”
Daniel stared at him, incredulous. “How the hell should I know?”
Jason grabbed him by the shoulders, brows knotted. “Don’t do that. Think, Daniel. Where would he go?”
Daniel shook his head. “I don’t know.”
“You know this place better than I do, dammit,” Jason said with a frown.
Daniel pushed away from him, throwing up his hands. “That’s just it, Jace. Till the three of us started coming up here together, I’d never been here.”
Jason sighed and pressed his earpiece. “Sam?”
“Where are you?”
“Hovering 500 feet over your head.”
“How’re the scanners doing?”
“Still getting jammed but I think we’re making some headway on getting through, which explains why we’re flying so low.”
“Got it. But what about the other sensors on the ship?”
“Whatever they’re using, it’s scattering the readings, making it impossible to tell if there are four or thirty of them down there. Local heat sources less than a mile away aren’t helping because whatever jamming device they’re using is kicking that back to us, like a weird kind of sonar. We’re adjusting the sensors but we’re getting nothing so far.”
There was a bang on something in the background and Jason grinned. “He didn’t just smack the console, did he?”
Sam sounded a bit amused. “Even a Jaffa like Teal’c can get frustrated. So, what now?”
“Let’s assume Jack’s leading them on a wild goose chase.”
“We’ve been trying to figure out a direction. If we go the wrong way, we lose time. So, do you or Teal’c got any ideas where Jack might go?”
“Hang on,” Sam told him and after a few long moments, Teal’c came on the line with an idea.
“I believe that O’Neill has hidden provisions in case of an attack on Earth by the Goa’uld. However, I do not know the precise location. He mentioned hiding it north of the cabin in an old, small building of some sort.”
Jason sighed again. “That’s a big area, Teal’c.”
“Then we should begin searching.”
“North,” Jason said, hanging up as he got back in the hummer. When Daniel climbed into the shotgun seat and began to buckle up, he reached over and grabbed his hand. “He’s not badly hurt, Daniel, and he’s not that far away. We’ll get him.”
Daniel squeezed his hand, then let go as Jason drove back down the road and headed up the north slope further into the forest. All Daniel could think about was his sick hope that Jack was able to free himself before they discovered his duplicity. Problem was, Daniel also had a sinking feeling that it really didn’t matter what Jack said. They probably weren’t planning on leaving him alive.
At the same moment that Daniel was thinking that, Jack had already accepted that and moved on. Nothing Derek had said had convinced Jack that they’d simply leave him in the woods alive. The plan now was to take them out before they had a chance to play with him and toss him aside. And he was still undecided on allowing an extended rape scene. Key word, extended. They were going to rape him and Jack had accepted that, too, although he would still fight. Pride and self-respect demanded it, never mind self-preservation. But should he fight a little less? Should he force them to waste time, draw it out?
The prospect filled him with deeper dread. With Derek’s assurances that he wasn’t like Victor, Jack realized now that he was right. He was worse. He was currently kneeling behind him, painfully jerking him off, making Jack wince constantly while his body fought the battle between pleasure and repulsion.
“This is three miles in,” Stan said, bringing the SUV to a halt.
“Time to go for a walk,” Derek said as he let Jack go with business-like efficiency, opened the cargo door, then grabbed him by his handcuff chain. “You two wait here,” he said to Victor and Stan.
“Fine,” Victor said, “but don’t go double-crossing us.”
Derek ignored the threat as he got Jack to his feet and pulled up his jeans and briefs. He was typically careless with putting Jack’s dick back undercover and earned a glower for his attention. Derek replied by pushing Jack toward the path. Wobbly on his feet, Jack tried not to stumble as he stepped over and around roots from pine trees. He thought about falling on purpose and just as he started to map out a plan, Derek placed a hand between his shoulders and grabbed the link between his cuffs, raising it to force Jack’s arms back. The immediate pain made Jack bend over to lessen it. “Sonofabitch.”
“You should have expected it,” Derek said, then eased his hold and pulled Jack up. “How far?”
“Just keep going,” Jack said, pointing with his chin. They headed off to the right, down an overgrown path, and Jack began to grow angrier at having to concentrate on where he walked. While getting zapped way too many times was a great excuse not to be at tip top shape, it sucked not being able to control himself.
“How much further?” Victor asked impatiently.
“You this big a nag in everything else you do?”
“Answer the question, O’Neill.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Fifty yards maybe.”
Victor gave a sharp tug on the cuffs as punishment for being vague and Jack wavered slightly but didn’t stumble. He didn’t give the man what he clearly wanted either, a reason to fight. It wasn’t time yet, anyway. What he needed right now was an excuse to move his hands to the front. The keypad number locks on his stash box weren’t the way. Derek would simply ask for the code. Taking a piss wasn’t a good excuse, either, and the more Jack thought about it, the more he realized he’d have to figure out a way to disable Derek first, then run far enough away to get his hands in front of him.
As he walked, Jack decided on one more thing. No matter what happened, and providing he had any say in the matter, no one would touch him again, not without a fight. It might not give him the amount of extra time he required but fighting would definitely slow things up. Most of all, Jack wasn’t the sort to lay down and take it. What the hell had he been thinking, considering such a thing?
He suddenly thought of Daniel and Jason and he couldn’t help but focus on his hearing, wanting to hear a particularly special whine of engine that came only from cargo ships. Or would they be on the ground? If they came upon Stan and Victor, Jack knew damn well that there’d be no sound, not with Jason. They just might have Stuart with them as well and after reading that man’s background, he felt he and Jason were perfectly matched. Daniel… well, Daniel was quiet and sneaky and could accomplish anything, except he wasn’t a killer like Jason. Not that he didn’t have it in him, because Jack had seen–
“You’re stalling,” Derek said, startling Jack out of his thoughts as he brought him to a halt. The jerk on his cuffs forced Jack to take a step back, nearly making him fall.
Jack sighed, but not at Derek. He was inwardly cursing himself for not paying attention. He hoped this was the taser’s doing, this lapse in concentration. Didn’t much matter at the moment, however. What was done was done. “And you’re an ass,” he said dryly. Derek thumped him on the back so hard that Jack stumbled forward, quickly securing his balance so he wouldn’t fall over. “Did I say something?”
Derek grabbed Jack by the nape of the neck and brought his lips to the back of his ear. “Stalling won’t help you.”
“A, I’m not stalling,” Jack said between clenched teeth. “and B, you’re going to be a dead man soon so what do you care?”
Derek laughed and roughly let him go with a shove and Jack stumbled forward, moving sideways. He glared at Derek and that smug, superior grin on his face. He looked like a man who didn’t lose often. He wasn’t desperate and he wasn’t off-balance. Which, Jack thought grimly, made him more dangerous than Victor or Stan.
“Over there,” Jack said, nodding his head to the left while never taking his eyes off his captor. Derek looked past him, scanning the forest foliage. When he narrowed his eyes, Jack knew he’d spotted something.
Jack turned and headed for an overgrown mound off the left-hand side of the path. As he stepped off the trail, he moved carefully, hoping no animal holes had been made. The three-foot high shed was nestled against a hilly mound. In front of it was a small clearing, though hardly free from the usual forest debris. The structure’s wood was dark with rot, the boards grown over with moss and small ferns. An innocent looking mess to the casual observer.
When Derek stepped forward to break open the shed’s door, Jack suddenly found the opportunity he’d been looking for. “Uh, I wouldn’t do that,” he warned.
Hand outstretched, Derek paused and turned his eyes on Jack. He said nothing but the dark stare wasn’t difficult to interpret: he was angry that he’d not suspected booby traps and he’d take it out on Jack. He pulled back his hand and gestured at the shed. “Disarm it.”
“Not like this,” Jack said, indicating his cuffs. “Take them off.”
“You can still do it with your wrists cuffed in front,” Derek answered and waved his taser at him. “And I think you know how to do that without my taking them off you first.”
Jack stared at him, pretending to be disappointed, then let out a heavy sigh as he slowly squatted. Carefully grabbing his ankles, he let himself fall onto his left side while tucking his knees and feet as close to his body as possible. With that, it was a simple matter of sliding his cuffed hands under his feet. Once done, he slowly straightened and pushed himself to his feet. Shaking his shoulders and arms, readjusting blood flow, he walked toward the shed, mentally cataloguing every movement he’d make once he opened the hidden safe.
Derek held out the hand with the taser, making Jack halt. “Don’t get any ideas, O’Neill.”
Jack stared at him and revised his earlier assessment of the man. He was an idiot. “You didn’t just say that, did you?”
Derek glared back, then suddenly smiled. “You’re right. My apologies.”
“I mean, if you’ve done your homework at all, you’ll know I’m looking for a route of escape.”
“Unless you’re depending on your buddies to come save you,” Derek countered.
Jack shook his head slowly as he affected a dark, brooding expression. “I never depend on others. People can let you down.”
Derek snorted. “Ain’t that the truth.”
“So,” Jack said, gesturing at the shed. “You mind if I…?”
“Go slow,” Derek said, then from the inside pocket of the jacket he wore, he pulled out a slender black object no wider than the center of a cue stick. With a press of a button on the bottom, the stick extended into something far more familiar to Jack. An electric prod.
“You certainly like your electrical toys,” Jack said blandly, “but it would’ve been better if you’d brought a gun.”
“Guns make noise and silencers fuck with the aim.”
“Good point, but at least you can shoot at a running target,” said Jack as he slowly lifted a large fern leaf covering what appeared to be a broken slat of wood. The leaf wasn’t real and neither was the wood slat. It was, instead, a metal plank painted to resemble the real thing. Sturdy, it was planted firmly to hold wire in place so that nothing would knock it loose. Not animals, not the weather. An intruder, however, would find an old WWII grenade, and when Jack set the leaf down, he revealed to Derek the trap.
“Nice,” Derek said, not smiling.
Jack lifted a sarcastic brow. “So now that you know it’s there, smart ass, you can either do this yourself or assist me because I can’t do this cuffed.”
Derek pocketed the taser and shifted the prod to his left hand. With his right, he pushed aside the real fern on the right of the shed and grabbed the trip wire. As he held it, Jack unclipped the grenade, making sure the pin stayed where it was. Derek let go of the wire and held out his empty hand while he pointed the prod. “Hand it over.”
Jack threw him a false grin and held out his hands. Derek took the grenade and slipped it inside his coat pocket, then stepped back. “Open it.”
Placing his feet for better balance, with one pressed into the base of the hill for leverage, Jack pulled the rickety door wide open, pushing it a few times to make it remain that way. Inside sat a worn, woolen grey blanket, covered with earthy dust and a few small twigs. Jack tugged until it pulled loose, revealing a grey and black rectangular safe. Beside the handle was an electronic keypad.
“That’s rather new,” Derek commented, as if that proved Jack had something to hide, namely the diamonds.
“Security measures always need to be improved,” Jack said dryly as he began to punch in the code. He wasn’t really paying attention to his own words. His attention was on his actions and where precisely that cattle prod was–now pointed at him from a distance of three feet away. Not an ideal distance, but Jack could work with it.
As he pressed the last button, the locking mechanism clicked and beeped. Jack carefully opened the door to the safe, remembering exactly where his loaded Glock sat.
Suddenly, Derek’s hand clapped down hard on Jack’s shoulder. “Hold it right there, pal.”
Jack looked over his shoulder, considered a moment, then shrugged. “Don’t trust me?” Derek flashed him a quick and dirty smile. Jack gave him his cat-that-ate-the-canary smile in return and added, “Your funeral.” He dropped his hands and was preparing to step back when Derek’s hand, still on his shoulder, kept him in place.
“Fine, open it, smart-ass bastard.”
Inwardly, Jack let out a heavy sigh of relief and reached for the door again.
“It would be wise to slow your vehicle,” came Teal’c’s broadcast from the cargo ship. His contact was now coming over the intercom radio set in a slot on the dashboard so that everyone could get prompt reports.
Jason pulled his foot off the gas as he glanced at Daniel to respond. “What’s goin’ on, Teal’c?” Daniel asked.
“We are reading a heat source ahead of you,” Teal’c answered.
“I think their jamming device is losing strength or our adjustments to the sensors are working,” Sam added. “I can’t be sure but I’m pretty sure that his signal is near the heat source, perhaps 100 yards west.”
“Into the woods?” Daniel asked, to be clear.
“Roger that,” she answered.
“We’re proceeding with caution,” Jason said, then to Daniel, he added, “Why the fuck don’t we know about that place?”
Daniel shook his head. “Jack’s idea of precautionary measures, I think. You know how he always likes to be prepared.”
“Guys, stop right there!” Sam called down.
Jason braked the hummer and set it in park. “Near?” he asked, touching his earpiece.
“Elevation reads that you’re on a hill, right?”
“Right,” Daniel said.
“From these readings, just over that small rise is a parked truck or SUV. My gut says it’s them.”
“How many life sign readings are you picking up?” Jason asked.
“Two at the vehicle, two in the forest itself, maybe fifty yards from the others.”
“Roger that,” Jason answered as he opened his door and moved around to the front of the hummer. Daniel, Stuart and Harry joined him and Jason thumbed at the top of the short hill as he spoke in a hushed voice. “Okay, we’re on foot from here on out.”
“Visibility is crap,” Stuart said as he checked his weapon.
“I know,” Jason agreed. “We can’t get a read on them.” He pressed his earpiece. “Sam, Teal’c, we’re going on foot.”
“Confirmed. I don’t have to tell you to be careful.”
“Roger that,” Jason answered as he and Daniel jogged their brows at each other.
“How’s that signal coming, Sam?” Daniel asked.
“Still intermittent, Daniel,” she said, “but he’s there with someone, that’s a positive.”
“Okay,” Jason said, looking up the hill. “I don’t like the idea of just walking up the road so–“
At that moment, Harry started for the forest, not the road, and Stuart snapped his fingers at Jason, gesturing with his head. “Where’s he going?”
Jason frowned and carefully called out to Harry. “Maybourne.”
Harry paused a few yards in and looked back. “There are trails all through here and it’d be best if we didn’t charge up the road.”
Daniel threw Jason a sarcastic look. “Gee, I wonder why we didn’t think of that.”
“You might wanna wait for the directions we get from Sam, Maybourne,” Jason told him.
“I’m confident you’ll tell me where to go,” Harry said dryly.
“You’ve no idea,” Jason sighed, then he, Daniel and Stuart followed Harry into the forest. As they walked, they did indeed find a trail, but the forest had started to take it over. Feeler branches from evergreens swarmed the path. Refuse from storms littered the ground. They had to be careful, for one loud echo from a snapped twig would give them away.
“How do you know about these trails?” Jason asked as he quickly moved directly behind Harry.
Harry looked over his shoulder and smirked at him as well as at Daniel walking behind Jason. “You don’t really expect me to answer that, do you?”
Jason put a hand on Harry’s shoulder and forced him to stop. “I expect you to answer the question.”
“If you’re stalking him again,” Daniel said blandly, “you might want to give it up.”
“It’s not stalking if he’s not here,” Harry said as he turned to continue walking.
Jason wouldn’t let him. “Answer the question.”
“Because I’ve reason to know and that’s all I’m telling you.”
Jason stared at him, considering the tempting idea of taking him back to the hummer and handcuffing him to a door. But unfortunately, they could probably use his help. Traitor or not, the man had training for operations like this one and so he was useful. “Fine,” Jason finally said, his voice still hushed, “but earn your keep. Does this trail lead to Jack’s location, because if it doesn’t–“
“Don’t worry, it does. All these trails intersect.”
“If you’re lying,” Jason said, leaving Harry to imply the rest.
Harry answered by rolling his eyes, which annoyed Jason no end. He didn’t much like the thought of the former NID spook skulking around Jack’s cabin, knowing all the details. He made a mental note to hash it out with the man later, though he was sure Jack would probably take care of that. Besides, focusing on Jack was far more important than Harry’s evasions. Gesturing for Daniel to let him go, he gestured for Harry to continue walking, then touched his earpiece. “Sam, copy,” he whispered.
“From your position, 12 o’clock, two hundred yards or so out. Can’t be more precise because of the terrain.”
Daniel exchanged glances with Jason as he thought about what Jack might be stashing out here. “What’s he got in there, you think?”
“What would you put in a safe place for emergencies?” Harry asked over his shoulder. “More importantly, think what Jack would put there.”
Jason nodded, looking back at Stuart. “He’s got access to at least one gun then, providing that the dickhead in charge lets him open the lockbox.”
“And if he doesn’t let–” Daniel began, but was cut off by the sound of a gunshot.
“We’re out of time,” Jason said as he and the others abandoned the idea of moving quietly and began to pelt down the trail.
Jack cursed his luck and his cuffed wrists. Derek had seen the butt of the gun just as Jack had pulled it free from the safe. Grabbing his hands, Derek had forced Jack to fire prematurely and the bullet had hit a tree instead. But what was most on Jack’s mind was gaining the upper hand and that was to take advantage of the element of surprise before Derek could recover. He needed to get away from that damned cattle prod.
With a sharp jab with his right elbow, Jack knocked Derek backward a few steps. More than enough room now, and Jack took a few steps back and aimed the gun at Derek’s forehead. Derek froze, staring at him, and the look on his face was so darkly comical that Jack couldn’t help but snort with amusement.
“Yes, Derek, you fucked up,” he said sarcastically, then pointed the gun at Derek’s knees. “Now drop the stick and throw me the key to the cuffs.”
“If you’ve done even a small bit of research on me,” Jack warned, “you should know that I will shoot you.” He paused, then added with a shrug, “Killing you isn’t the plan but I can work with it, especially given what a twisted piece of shit you are.” He motioned his Glock again when Derek didn’t comply. “I can start with your feet instead of your knees.”
“You don’t have enough bullets.”
Jack stared at him and lifted the muzzle of his gun so that it pointed at Derek’s groin. “I only need two,” he said, then targeted the man’s head again. “Key, please. Now, before your buddies get here.”
Derek resisted, still holding the cattle prod and eyeing the taser now lying on the forest floor. “Go ahead, shoot. You won’t make it out of here.”
Jack was going to explain that he knew these woods better than anyone but reminded himself that explaining wouldn’t do any good with this idiot. Besides, he remembered quite well what Derek, and Victor, had planned for him once they had those goddamn diamonds. He hardened his stare, losing any trace of humor or mercy on his face. “Five… four… three…”
Fortunately for them both, Derek read him correctly and dropped the cattle prod, then reached into his pocket, pulled out a key ring, then tossed it over. It was a clumsy catch, but Jack quickly looked for the small, fat silver key while keeping an eye on his adversary. Finding it, he held the gun in his right hand as he unlocked that cuff, then switched hands. All the while, he was waiting, almost hoping, that Derek would make a move.
Finally free, he gave Derek a nasty smile and motioned with the gun for him to turn around. “Turn around, lace your fingers behind your head. And if you make a move for your pocket, I’ll blow your head off.”
Derek bared his teeth, then slowly turned around, doing as he was told. Jack cuffed him quickly, took the grenade from his pocket, then shoved him down, making Derek sit down hard on his ass. “You know the drill,” Jack said, slightly waving the muzzle of his weapon. “Stay put.” Derek only glared at him but Jack didn’t waste time with more sarcastic banter. Keeping an eye on the sonofabitch, he stepped back to the safe, yanked out a plastic package containing green cloth and tucked it under one arm, then tossed the key to the cuffs in the safe. Derek started to rise but Jack waved his gun at him. “Ah ah.” Closing the safe door, it beeped as it relocked.
“Give us those diamonds, O’Neill,” Derek glowered. “We earned them, they’re ours.”
“First, I don’t have them. I never did. Second, the only people who actually earn diamonds are those who mine them, so don’t give me that shit.” On the heels of his last word, Jack picked up a sound coming from somewhere behind him. Just a whisper, but it was there; running feet maybe. Since Victor and Stan were just as ignorant of these woods as Derek, Jack figured it couldn’t be them; they’d instead come blundering down the trail Jack and Derek had taken. He could only hope that the sound was coming from his team and Jason and not some damn hikers. Strangers rarely ventured into his neck of the woods. They tended to stick close to the lakes north and south, which was why Jack had chosen this spot for his emergency stash in the first place.
“Expecting someone?” Derek asked.
“Actually,” Jack said as he set the grenade on the ground and removed a pair of military trousers from the plastic bag. There was no way he was going to stand around with his ass out for everyone to see. Plus, he didn’t want Jason or Daniel to see him like that. They’d both go mental. Shaking the wrinkles from a long storage free, Jack changed as quickly as he could while keeping a gun on Derek and looking out for his buddies. It occurred to Jack that they might not show–those buffoons might have assumed the gunshot had been Jack’s death. He just hoped that whoever else had heard the shot, aside from his own people, thought it was some guy doing target practice.
As he buttoned up, Derek got to his knees. Jack raised his gun hand and cocked the hammer, making Derek freeze. “I’m a damn good shot with this thing no matter what I’m doing, so please, if you want to do something enormously stupid … well, other than what you’ve already done … then go right ahead.” He waved the gun in a shooing motion for emphasis and Derek sat back down. “Good boy.”
As soon as Jack had his trousers on and was trying to button them, there came a few snapping twigs behind him. And a lot of running feet. Quickly, Jack looked over his shoulder, then back at Derek. “Cavalry’s here.” They were still about thirty yards away but gaining ground quickly.
Derek chose that moment to lunge at him and though Jack was expecting it, he hit the ground hard and grunted as his back and ass smarted, especially on that damn branding burn. Derek head-butted him, hitting him in the jaw, and the pain only fueled Jack’s growing rage. He grabbed Derek by his shirt and turned them both around, then aimed the muzzle of the gun under his jaw. Derek froze once more, teeth bared. With his finger off the trigger so no bullet would go astray, Jack pressed the gun in further. “That was strike two,” he said between clenched teeth. “One more and your head gets blown off. Now… get… down.”
“Jack!” Daniel called as he and Jason reached the clearing first.
Jack waved at him and held up two fingers, pointing at the trail behind him. “Two more that way.”
“We know,” Jason said as he and Stuart rushed over, their weapons trained on Derek. Jason clasped Jack’s shoulder, giving him a shake. “Sam and Teal’c are overhead.”
“I was wondering where they were.”
“You okay?” Daniel asked.
“I am now,” Jack replied, trying to convey everything to his lovers with just a look.
Daniel wanted to kiss him but settled for a hug and Jack returned it one-handed. “You sure you’re okay?”
Jack gave him an annoyed look and it made Daniel grin. Jack nodded at Stuart and started to say something smart-assed but movement over Stuart’s left shoulder caught his attention. He started to look away but pulled a double-take as Harry walked into view. Jack raised a brow at Jason and Daniel, then took a step away from them as he walked around Stuart. He held out his hand, shaking Harry’s as the man threw him that familiar smirk.
“Cat got your tongue?”
Jack returned the smirk. “You lost?”
“I was out hitchhiking,” Harry said as he looked Jack over. He saw a few bruises forming but said nothing as he instead shrugged and gestured at Jason, Daniel, and Stuart. “Just my luck, I think, that these are the fellas who picked me up.” He thumbed at Stuart. “New meat, I see.”
Jack winked at Stuart. “Things get boring, you know how it is.”
“Not really,” Harry said with a smile.
“Then what are you doing here?” Jack asked, lifting his chin.
Harry paused, then smiled broadly. “I heard a few things, figured I’d help.”
Jack smirked as he looked back at Daniel, Jason, and Stuart. “I take it he helped?”
Jason gave Harry a half-lidded stare. “When he was in the mood to help.”
Jack turned back to Harry. “Harry,” he admonished and Harry shrugged. “Well I’m glad you showed up to offer your help.”
“Couldn’t very well leave him on the side of the road,” Daniel drawled, then pointedly added, “Jason was tempted to perform a body dump.”
Jack threw Harry another scolding look and Harry lifted his hands with mock-innocence. “Let me guess.”
“I wasn’t that bad,” Harry answered.
As everyone rolled their eyes, including Jack, Jack asked, “So, you knew who was coming after the wrong guy?”
Harry gave him a grim look. “I heard about Burke.”
“Yeah,” Jack said as he thinned his lips and turned his attention back to Derek, who was now pinned face-down on the ground by Stuart’s knee in his back. “I’m considering shooting this asshole just for him.”
“Can I help?” Harry answered.
“I think we need to get Jack out of here first, Maybourne,” Daniel said as he looked at the captive man on the ground.
“Fuck that,” Jack said as he stared at the piece of shit on the ground. “Wish I had a zat,” he continued, then stuck the gun in his waistband as he retrieved the cattle prod and the taser. He held them up for Jason and the others to see. “But these will do.”
“Kind of old school, aren’t they?” Stuart asked rhetorically as he got up and stepped away.
“I’m just glad they didn’t have the electronic versions that nail you from a distance,” Jack answered as he took a step toward Derek. “Frankly, I think this sonofabitch liked the hands on approach. I’m thinking it’s his turn.”
“Jack–” Daniel started.
“What?” Jack asked angrily.
Jason grabbed Daniel’s arm, restraining him. “Don’t,” he said, his voice deepening with rising anger as he stared at Jack’s trousers–not his jeans. He caught Jack’s gaze and immediately recognized the hatred building. “Leave him be,” he continued, and he wasn’t just talking to Daniel.
Daniel noticed that and hated that he didn’t know what Jason was talking about or why he was suddenly alarmed. “What’s goin’ on?”
“Not now,” Jack said to them both as he considered and dismissed the idea of torturing Derek. For now.
Jason ground his jaw as he picked his words carefully. “We can’t kill him. Or the others.”
“You can’t be serious,” Daniel said, growing more alarmed. Jason suddenly took him by the elbow and steered him away from the others. “Jason, what the hell are you two talking–“
“Daniel,” Jason said, voice hushed. “He’s not wearing his jeans but he’s still wearing the same shirt. What does that tell you?”
Daniel looked behind him, double-checking, and when he looked back at Jason, his eyes widened as he recognized the look on Jason’s face. “There could be plenty of reasons for that,” he said quickly and quietly, hoping his rational tone would put out the fire he saw building behind his lover’s eyes. He’d seen that look twice before. The first time with Makepeace, the second time with Ba’al. “He wasn’t, Jason,” Daniel told him softly, deliberately leaving out the word raped.
Jason took a deep breath and shook his head. “I swear to you, Daniel. If he was, those men are already dead.”
Daniel clenched his jaws and wrapped his fingers around Jason’s gun hand. “Okay, I understand, trust me, but you need to take a step back. If he–“
“I’m not just going to–” Jason whispered harshly.
“You have to,” Daniel hissed back. “It’s for Jack to decide. Not you, not me, and you know that.” Jason looked mutinous and Daniel tightened his grip around his wrist. “Why do you think victims have so many issues after?”
Sense came filtering in and Jason closed his eyes as his psych training forced him to calm down. “Because well-intentioned morons don’t realize that victims don’t need rescuing. They need to regain their control and power on their own.” He suddenly grinned and opened his eyes, giving Daniel a rather smug look. “Which is why we can’t take Jack to safety, even if he’d allow it.”
Daniel cringed, realizing how hypocritical he sounded. “Shit.”
Jason laughed softly and slid an arm around his neck and turned them back toward the others. Reaching Jack, he let Daniel go and slapped Jack on the back. “Before you decide what to do with this guy, we need to take out the others.”
Jack nodded as he gave Derek a long look, then deliberately turned away from him. Holding both the prod and taser in one hand, he held out his hand. “Let me talk to Carter and Teal’c.”
Daniel grabbed Jason’s arm, stopping him from giving him his comm unit. “Here, take mine,” he said, unable to hide the questions in his eyes as Jack took the earpiece.
Jack kept their eyes locked as he put on the earpiece, not saying a word about why there was a pool of worry in Daniel’s eyes. Daniel sighed and nodded in agreement. Their talk would wait. Looking back down at Derek, Jack pressed the tiny button on his earpiece. “Carter, Teal’c, this is your fearless leader.” His words made Daniel and Jason grin and he purposely ignored them as Carter’s voice filled his ear.
“Sir, it’s good to hear your voice.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c added.
Jack grinned at the worry in Carter’s voice and the usual front in Teal’c’s. “Thanks for your usual thoroughness. Now, where are you two?”
“Directly overhead, sir.”
“What are you planning, O’Neill?”
It was so nice to hear that voice, Jack thought. And how typical of Teal’c to know he was planning something. That he knew him so well was both reassuring and scary. “Correct me if I’m wrong but that cargo ship has that interesting little transport addition, doesn’t it?”
“It does, O’Neill.”
Jack looked down at Derek, the man’s face turned toward him, ears focused. “How about you spring a surprise on the other two bad guys back at the SUV.” Sam laughed in Jack’s ear and he had a feeling something had already been done. “What? I take it that’s no longer necessary?” Jason, Daniel, Stuart, and Harry all looked over at him in surprise and it made Jack grin with pride.
“You are correct, O’Neill. We did not wish for them to get away, but I did not wish to risk them waking up on the ship.”
Jack lifted his brows. “Point. What’d you do instead?”
“They are bound securely in the back of their vehicle. I trust that will be satisfactory.”
“Master of understatement,” Jack cracked, then grimly added as he stared down at Derek, “Though I wish you’d just gotten rid of them.”
“The thought occurred to me, O’Neill.”
Jack grinned a bit, then said, “Well take them back to the cabin, tie them up out on the deck till it’s decided who gets custody.”
“Sonofabitch,” Derek growled and suddenly froze as Stuart planted a boot between his shoulder blades.
“You wanna keep quiet,” Stuart advised.
Jack grinned. “I knew there was a reason I’d like you.”
“Just one?” Stuart grinned back.
Harry sighed, putting on a mock expression of disappointment. “Guess I’ll be on my way then.”
Jack raised an eye-brow. “Cuttin’ out so soon? You’ll miss the festivities. We could manage to drop you off somewhere as a thank you, you know.”
Harry affected a look of shock. “I’d like to stay at the cabin, but if you’re going to call in the people I used to work for…”
Jack smirked back. “Relax, Harry. Much as I hate to say it, you’re more useful on your own.”
“Gee, you’re all heart.”
“Don’t mention it,” Jack replied, then gestured at Stuart to step away from Derek as he squatted down and waited till he caught the man’s gaze. “When you wake up, you might just be alive, but I make no promises,” and he stuck him with the taser for two long seconds. The man spasmed and went limp.
“Was that necessary?” Jason asked, frowning.
“I can’t believe you just asked me that,” Jack said with surprise as he stood back up.
“No, I meant the two seconds,” Jason said, trying to convey everything he was feeling with just a look.
“Ah,” Jack replied, then looked upward, touching his earpiece once more. “Carter, we’ll meet you and Teal’c at the cabin, help us unload.”
“Roger that, sir.”
“I’ll take their vehicle back down,” Harry offered.
“Don’t get lost,” Jack said.
“Ha, ha, funny.”
Jack grinned, then abruptly grimaced at Derek’s unconscious form. “Shit.”
“What?” Daniel asked.
Jack stepped over to the small shed and opened the safe, retrieved the key and stuffed it in his pocket, then began to replace the grenade and wire. “I should’ve waited before knocking him out. Now we’ll have to carry him.”
“Who do you think is going to take charge of these men?” Stuart asked as he and Jason dragged an unconscious and bound Derek through the cabin hallway and out onto the deck, where they dumped him unceremoniously. Nearby, Teal’c and Jack were tying Stan and Victor to the deck’s fence. Sitting with their backs against the water, there was nowhere they could go.
“CIA maybe,” Jack said, “since they killed Burke and they’ll want justice.” He gestured at Teal’c, who grabbed Derek by his cuffed wrists and dragged him over next to Victor. Propping him up and holding him by his neck, Teal’c waited while Jack unlocked the cuffs, then used the plastic ties to bind his wrist. Teal’c let go and took the other tie from Jack, binding the other wrist to the wooden slat. Nodding to Teal’c when they were done, Jack stuffed the cuffs and their key into his back pocket, then grabbed the slat and shook it for sturdiness and security. “Good thing I used screws on this deck, not nails.”
Listening, Jason jogged his brows, then was distracted by Harry, who’d just appeared in the back doorway, biting into a sandwich. “Christ, Maybourne. When Jack told you to make a sandwich, you didn’t waste time, did you?”
“I’m hungry,” Harry said with a mouthful. “Besides, he knows I have low blood sugar.”
“Funny, since you make everyone else’s go up.”
“Isn’t that blood pressure?” Harry shot back. Teal’c turned and headed for the door and Harry stepped out of the way, unnerved by the look Teal’c gave him. “What?”
Teal’c looked over his shoulder at Jason, then shook his head as he continued inside. “You are wasting your time, Colonel Coburn.”
“Probably,” Jason said, then looked up at the sky. Clouds were forming. “I hope this is one of those times when your neck of the woods has a thunderstorm.”
Jack nodded as he looked back, then he followed Teal’c inside. Right behind him were Stuart and Jason, with Harry closing the door behind them.
“I could make you a sandwich,” Harry offered, knowing it would only annoy Jason further.
Jason forgot about a retort as he watched Jack pat Teal’c on the shoulder, give him his earpiece, then cross the living room on his way to the bedroom. When the door closed, Jason looked over at the fireplace where Daniel was and caught him watching as well. They exchanged long looks and then their moment of worry was interrupted by Sam’s radio call.
“He’s getting cleaned up, Sam,” Jason answered her as he stared at the bedroom door. He wanted so much to go in there. Sam said something else but he only partly registered what it was as he and Daniel exchanged another look. They both wanted to do something, but whether or not it was a good idea with other people present was another matter.
“Jason, are you listening?”
He winced. “No. Sorry.”
“So’re you,” Jason said, trying not to make it look like his feelings were more important than hers.
Sam hesitated. “Does Stuart have his earpiece on?”
Jason looked over. “In but not activated. Why?”
“Just checking before I say this.”
“Jason, you and Daniel need to go check on him, see what he needs. I don’t even want to imagine what they did to him and I don’t think I’m the one to find out anyway. So, go. Take off the phone and tell Stuart to switch his on.”
Jason grinned suddenly. “My, we’re bossy. I can’t wait till you make Lieutenant Colonel.” Before he could hear her answer, he turned off his phone and snapped his fingers at Stuart. “Sam wants to talk to you.” He then gestured at Daniel. “Let’s go check on Jack.”
Coming over to stand at the fireplace, Harry looked up sharply at Jason’s words. “Both of you?” he asked with amused surprise. “What are you? Girls?”
Daniel rolled his eyes and before Jason could get into another argument with the man, he shoved him toward the bedroom door. “Concept of best friend elude you, Maybourne?”
“Very funny,” Harry drawled as they disappeared into the bedroom and closed the door. He looked over at Stuart, who was watching. “What? I’ve just never had two best friends.”
Stuart cocked his brow and grinned sardonically as he turned on his earpiece. “I’m here, Major,” he said, then grinned when she corrected him. “Sam.”
Harry grumped and turned back to the fire, cogitating this new bit of information. He’d known that Jack and Doctor Jackson were close but Coburn, too?
The shower was running and Daniel and Jason exchanged looks, both hesitant about bothering Jack.
“We should probably wait till later,” Daniel suggested even as he took a step toward the closed bathroom door.
Jason sighed and sat down on the foot of the bed. “No, we have to see how he is. If we both go right after it all happened, it’ll look like we’re ganging up on him, so you go.”
Daniel frowned at him, now hesitating as he took a step back. “You could go–“
Jason waved at him. “Just go.”
Daniel stared at him, knowing that Jason was just as conflicted as he was. He sighed and walked over, bending over to kiss him. There was a moment of quick desire when Jason reached up to cup the side of his face as he kissed him back and Daniel sighed again. “I wish we were alone.”
Jason whole-heartedly agreed and let Daniel know as he took him in his arms and pulled him down on the bed, kissing him soundly. “Me, too,” he said when he finally let him go.”
Daniel didn’t move quite yet as he reached up to thread his fingers through Jason’s hair. Despite the worry and anxiety or because of it, he was suddenly in the mood to do more than kiss. It made him feel a bit guilty and when Jason raised a brow in query, Daniel have him a sheepish look. “You’re getting me horny.”
Jason smiled widely. “Like the postmen, aren’t we?”
Daniel chuckled in return as he pushed off the bed. “Except we’ve yet to do it in hail and snow.”
Jason jogged his brows at him as he leaned forward, elbows on knees. “Our next leave could be here in the middle of winter.”
Daniel shook his head slowly, his eyes filled with mischief. “Too planned. Let’s just see what happens.”
“Deal,” Jason smiled back, then gestured at the door. “Go, before he’s done with his shower.”
Daniel started for the door, then hesitated again. “I feel guilty now, being in this mood–“
Jason stood up and walked over to him, kissing him softly. “You know what to do. Let him lead, even if he wasn’t… you know.”
“Raped, Jason,” Daniel whispered. “You have to say it.”
Jason nodded. “I know that, but he may not want to.” He swallowed and looked at the door, imagining Jack behind it. “I don’t get the feeling that he was, but I think it came close.” Looking back at Daniel, he asked, “Do you sense that, too, or am I just imagining what I want?”
Daniel cocked his head a little, considering it as he opened his mind to Jack. There was an onslaught of emotion coming from their lover and Daniel inhaled sharply and closed his eyes.
“What?” Jason asked, alarmed.
Daniel shook his head. “He wasn’t raped,” he said, then opened his eyes, meeting the relief he himself felt. “But there’s rage.”
“There should be,” Jason said, swallowing hard, mostly to fight down his own anger. He leaned in and kissed Daniel again, then gently pushed him toward the door. “Just let him lead.”
Daniel opened the door, giving Jason another look before he closed it behind him.
“That had better be someone I know very well,” Jack said behind the glass door of the shower.
Daniel’s conflicted feelings increased as he looked at the blurry nude body of his lover and felt desire. “It’s me,” he said.
Jack pushed the water away from his face and hair as he moved his head away from under the nozzle. He felt both invaded and relieved and though he expected it, it was still maddening. “Checking up on me?”
Daniel leaned against the wall right next to the shower and folded his arms, eyes still on Jack’s form. “Yes.” He forced his empathic wall to go back up, to shield him from the anger and shame. He wanted to tell Jack that it was okay, but it really wasn’t his place to tell him that. Or to ask how he was, for that matter, regardless of the need inside him.
Jack wrestled with his feelings, fighting both the need to have Daniel there, to be in the shower with him, and the growing impulse to beat the shit out of something. He knew that he would feel better when he could do both but not with Daniel. He wiped the water from his face again and slid the door open an inch. An invite, nothing more, he told himself. Leave the rest to Daniel. If he took him up on it, then Jack would… “Don’t just stand there then.”
Daniel swallowed hard as he quickly toed off his shoes and pulled his shirt over his head. His jeans and briefs quickly followed and he dumped them onto the toilet seat, then turned to the shower door. He reached out, hesitating again. “Don’t think,” he told himself, then slid open the door. He stared at the wet skin of Jack’s feet and legs and was going to say something when he looked up to meet his eyes, but all was forgotten the moment he did.
Jack had just told himself that they’d shower and talk, that he’d explain that he was fine, that nothing happened, but the moment his eyes drank in his lover’s face and bare skin, he was suddenly aware of the restlessness inside him, growing steadily from the pent-up energy. Beating the shit out of something, especially Victor or Derek, would be nice, but this…
He slid the door closed and pulled Daniel to him, hugging him firmly. The moment skin touched skin and Daniel grabbed his head and kissed him, Jack grew hard. He was amazed at the quickness of it but that was about all the thought he put into it. “It may not be a good idea,” he whispered against his lips, “but I need you right now.”
“Me too,” Daniel said, kissing him repeatedly as he backed against the wall. He was prepared to turn around but Jack was suddenly dropping to his knees. Daniel gasped as his cock was engulfed and his hips began to move slightly as Jack quickly got him hard. “Jack,” he whispered, shuddering from the spikes of pleasure. He wished they had more time and wished also that they didn’t have to keep quiet. If Jack kept sucking him the way he was, Daniel wasn’t sure he’d be able to stifle the noise he’d make. “Jack, enough,” he said, pushing at him with one hand while he grabbed the lube off the caddy with the other. “Get up here.”
Jack groaned mutinously as he pulled off, and out of a need to simply make Daniel squirm, he nipped and bit his way back up his body, grinning with victory each time Daniel flinched. Finally face to face, Daniel reached around and lightly pinched him–and Jack hissed and jumped back, smacking Daniel’s hand out of the way.
Eyes wide, Daniel placed the offending hand on Jack’s hip, his free hand framing his neck. “What’s wrong?” he asked, getting ready to drop down and see. Jack grabbed him, holding him upright. “No, later. I need this right now.” He kissed at his neck, whispering, “I love you,” before grabbing his shoulders, preparing to turn him around.
Daniel resisted for a moment, but he knew that look in Jack’s eyes. Rather than stop the mood altogether, he held up the lube for Jack to see, and the slickness of that hand let him know that he’d already been busy with it. Jack took a deep breath, then grabbed his head and kissed him deeply. Daniel smiled through the embrace, all the while squirting more lube into his hand. He reached down and took hold of Jack’s dick and couldn’t help but smile when Jack hissed quite differently and slammed his hands against the wall.
Jack closed his eyes and dropped his forehead on Daniel’s shoulder, whispering, “Oh yeah,” with encouragement as Daniel continued to stroke. Daniel opened his mind and the rush of feeling from Jack suddenly made him forget everything but this. He let go of his cock and turned around, bumping his shoulder against Jack’s chin along the way. Grabbing his lover’s hands, he rubbed his ass against him. “Fuck me.”
“Nice,” Jack said as he slid his cock between Daniel’s cheeks, riding up and down until his cockhead found the opening and naturally followed the course. Sliding in, they both groaned at the sudden sensation, but there was a moment when Jack felt tingling inside his balls that had nothing to do with arousal. He closed his eyes and with a bit of anger, fought against the taser’s effects. He concentrated solely on the pleasure and slid his hands over Daniel’s, linking their fingers together tightly. Secured, and with a small, happy groan from his lover, Jack began to pump. The tingling was replaced by the pleasure of friction and Jack was quickly unable to think of anything else. Exactly as he wanted it. Letting Daniel’s hands go, he slid one under his jaw, pushing his head back, and with the other, he reached around, taking Daniel’s cock in hand. “So nice,” he repeated.
Daniel’s breathing became heavy and shallow and he made grabbing gestures against the tile each time Jack stroked and pumped. Spikes of pleasure spread through him and intensified when Jack sped up his actions. “Yes, harder, Jack,” he begged quietly. “Fuck me harder.”
“Feels good like this,” Jack murmured against his ear as his rhythm steadied. He could feel his balls tighten and that pull come from deep inside. Another five minutes and he’d come, and he could tell the same would happen for Daniel, if not sooner. There was his sweat, his heavy panting, and the way his ass clenched around his cock. Most especially, there was the way Daniel’s dick twitched in his hand and it wouldn’t be long now before he’d get that familiar swell.
Minutes went by; rhythmic, good, indulgent. He was consumed by Daniel, nothing else could intrude. For a moment, he wondered, then asked out loud, “Where’s Jason?”
“Bedroom,” Daniel breathed.
“No, I’m right here,” Jason whispered, startling them both for just a second before normal activity continued.
Daniel smiled, as did Jack, and neither of them stopped what they were doing, knowing damn well what Jason was doing. He could join them, of course, but he seemed to prefer being where he was.
Jack didn’t seem to agree. “Get in here,” he ordered.
Jason, already naked and dick-hard, slid open the door and stepped inside. Daniel reached out blindly, not wanting Jack to remove his hand from his throat, and Jason stepped over, letting out a small groan as Daniel’s hand joined his own. Grabbing Jack by the nape of the neck, he kissed him fiercely as he wrapped his fingers around Daniel’s and encouraged him to squeeze tighter–to hold still as he fucked his fist. Breaking the kiss, he bit over his chin, his cheek, then kissed him again.
“Fuck him harder,” he whispered, looking down between them.
Jack complied, giving in to Jason’s voyeurism and his own private exhibitionism. He loved having Jason watch and right now, with his lover’s hand tightly gripping the back of his neck, Jack indulged in it, using it to bring him close to the edge. So close, dammit, so close. He pumped faster and tried to jerk Daniel off at the same time, but he didn’t want to ruin his rhythm or throw Daniel off. He needed them both to get off, together if possible, because if they didn’t, Jack was likely to get there without them.
An idea came to him then and Jack carefully turned Daniel toward Jason, gritting his teeth as he tried to maintain position and friction. “Take his cock, Jason,” he said as he held Daniel firmly, the words a warning as he began to fuck with frenzied attention.
“Yes,” Jason replied, pulling Daniel into a passionate kiss as he reached down with his freed hand and stroked along with Jack’s pace. “Come, wanna see you come,” he whispered over Daniel’s mouth. “Both of you. Come for me. Do it. Come on, spill, come on, let me see.”
“Jace,” Daniel gasped, eyes squeezing shut as he pulled Jason into a hard kiss, choking off a moan as his legs began to shake from the orgasm hitting him like a rocket.
Jason sucked in a breath and jerked off rapidly. “Yes!” he cried softly, the sight of Daniel’s come shooting from his cock more than enough to get him off. He dropped his head on his lover’s shoulder as he came, spilling thickly over his hand and hitting Daniel, too.
“Goddamn yes,” Jack breathed as he watched, thrusting faster, knowing it would be soon–then suddenly he was there and he closed his eyes and hissed, “Fuck yes!” as the pleasure swelled. He wrapped his arms around Daniel’s chest and held him tightly as he poured inside him, jerking with each spurt of his release. There was a hand on his shoulder that he knew was Jason’s and a hand on his hip that he knew was Daniel’s. He opened his eyes and reached to bring Jason closer, panting through a smile when Jason wrapped an arm around his waist.
Daniel groaned as Jack’s cock slipped out of him, but he was more concerned with holding his lovers. He turned around and held them, shivering slightly despite the warm water cascading over them. He wanted to ask Jack if he felt better but he kept silent, knowing how dumb that would sound. Right now, Jack felt peaceful, maybe even good, but Daniel knew that the only reason they were there with him was because Jack needed them as a distraction.
Daniel felt a squeeze on his waist from Jason. Perhaps he was thinking the same thing and Daniel squeezed back, hoping Jason would get the message to leave the talking to Jack. For now, what they needed to do was get cleaned up and go back to the others before they started to think something was up–if they didn’t already.
Wiping water from his face, Daniel leaned in and kissed Jason, then Jack. He touched Jack’s face, palming his cheek. There was something in Jack’s eyes at that moment, maybe a warning not to say anything, so Daniel grinned at him reassuringly and stepped out of their hold. The water was turned off and they followed him out of the shower, grabbing towels Jack had placed on the rack nearby.
They were silent as they dried themselves and each other, lost in their own thoughts and worries. It was almost peaceful, Daniel thought, as he watched Jason dry Jack’s back. Then the peace was broken when Jason’s towel brushed Jack’s ass and he jumped, slapping the towel away without thinking.
Jason and Daniel stood there for what seemed an eternity, eyes wide with worry that Jack had injuries he was hiding. “What’s wrong?” Jason asked as he squatted down.
Jack turned his backside away from his lovers’ concerns, knowing it was futile to do so. They’d find out anyway, he told himself, but it didn’t keep him from wanting to stave off the inevitable. “Just a burn,” he said, resisting when Jason tried to turn him around.
“Let me see, dammit,” Jason said with a deep frown.
“Leave it alone,” Jack tried, continuing to resist and knowing that would just make things worse.
“Dammit, let me fucking see,” Jason snapped and finally, he grabbed Jack’s legs and held onto him as he bent over to find whatever was the problem. And there it was. An angry red and brown burn, and dotted over Jack’s ass were tiny, red nicks. “What the fuck?” He sucked in a breath as fury filled his mind. He stared up at Jack, trying to will him to look at him. Sympathy and understanding mixed with annoyance when Jack refused to do so.
“What?” Daniel asked, dropping to one knee.
“Goddamn it,” Jack spat, pulling free so Daniel wouldn’t see.
“What is it?” Daniel asked, sitting back on his heel. He looked at Jason when Jack wouldn’t meet his gaze. “What?”
“Knife nicks on his ass cheeks and a burn mark under the right one.” Jason took a breath to calm down, then stood up and opened the medicine cabinet to find the Silver Sulfadiazine cream and burn bandages.
Daniel stood slowly and grabbed Jack by the shoulders, turning him so that his ass faced Jason. There were many questions behind his eyes but he didn’t ask them. What he was going to do, however, was chastise if Jack continued to resist. He really didn’t want to do that, given the waves of restrained anger he could feel emanating from Jack, but he would brave the wrath if Jack didn’t let them help. “Let Jason treat the burn,” he said, and his tone said it wasn’t a request. He was only mildly mollified when Jack ground his jaw and complied, bending forward slightly to let Jason apply the bandage.
“At least the wound’s clean,” Jason said as he pressed the edges of the bandage, sealing it. “Done,” he said with a sigh. When Jack reached down and felt the edges of the bandage, Jason gently batted his hand away. There was no need to rebuke him for checking his own wound but there was reason enough to scold for keeping this injury from them. “Why didn’t you ask me to do this earlier?”
“It would have come off in the water,” Jack answered, knowing that was the wrong thing to say.
“That’s bullshit, Jack.”
“Don’t start–” Jack began, his voice edgy.
“Excuse me?” Daniel asked, staring at him, incredulous. “When Janet sees that burn, Jack, you’ll appreciate how lucky you are at this moment.”
Jack closed his eyes in that annoyed, tired expression and sighed heavily. “Look,” he said, opening his eyes but refusing to meet theirs as he headed for the door. He was going to give them an explanation that was nothing more than a dismissal but in the end, he met their gazes and said, “I needed the both of you to distract me, to keep me grounded. Keep doing it because I need that. What I don’t need is to wallow about the pain of this burn or if it gets infected. Hell, I’m surprised it isn’t already.” He opened the door and paused. “Just don’t expect me to be all…”
“Sharing?” Daniel asked, and when Jack jogged his brows and left the bathroom to his lovers, Daniel rolled his eyes at Jason. “Who is he kidding? He’s gonna have to talk about this.”
“Not now he won’t,” Jason said as he stared at the supplies on the counter, thinking about putting them in his field pack. Turning to look at him, he reached over and stroked his arm. “You know what he’s going through and what he’s gonna have to deal with. And this is Jack, remember? He’s not exactly touchy-feely when it comes to this sort of shit.”
Daniel winced a nod of agreement as he rubbed his temple, remembering the feelings he’d sensed. “I just wanna help him.”
“We both do, and we are,” Jason sighed. “Just not the way we want. It’s on his terms.”
Daniel threw Jason a sardonic grin as he picked up his clothes. “For now.”
Jason grinned back as he slid on his briefs. “For now.”
. . .
Jack skipped the briefs and opted for boxers, then grabbed a fresh pair of jeans. As he pulled them on, he grit his teeth, hating that his hands were shaking. Fucking tasers. Janet would have him on downtime for a while because of this shit. Suddenly Jack wanted nothing more at that moment than to beam up to the cargo ship, take it to the dark side of the moon, and space those fuckers who’d messed with him. Teal’c and Sam would let him, too. What stopped him from seriously considering the idea was the frustrating fact that those three bastards needed interrogating to find out who else was involved. No way they were working alone and there was no way those fuckwits could fence diamonds without considerable help. It just wasn’t possible. Jack wanted to take some time to investigate and find those damn rocks. If Woods was ghosting him and Burke, that meant he was into far more than just taking money from a warlord. Unfortunately, hunting them down wasn’t his purview. In fact, it was more along Harry’s line of business than his own, especially now. Jack could leave it to Harry; he’d get the job done, one way or the other. The thought made Jack snort with amusement as he put on a t-shirt and shirt, imagining just what kind of creative means Harry would use.
He sat down on the bed to put on socks and his old Timberland Waterbuck boots, distracting himself with the amusing fact that the style of boots he wore were British imports. He wondered if Stuart had a pair. Lacing up the second boot, he was mildly startled when Jason and Daniel came out of the bathroom just as someone knocked on the bedroom door.
“What?” Jack asked.
“C’mon, Jack, we should get out of here.”
Harry. Jack rolled his eyes and stood up, glancing at Jason and Daniel as he went to the door. They gave him secretive smiles and Jack smiled back. Despite the burn wound, he was glad to have spent some time with them, and perhaps it hadn’t been the wisest course of action given that he wasn’t exactly fit and ready after all that electrocuting, but he’d had to do it. Not just to distract himself, as he’d told them, but to make sure he still could. Electrocution tended to cause damage and only time would tell if sex was the only thing that wasn’t affected. Thing was, where Jason and Daniel were concerned, it was the one thing he needed to prove hadn’t been messed with. Things might be just a bit different right now if he’d been unable to get an erection or achieve orgasm; that little desire to space his captors wouldn’t have remained a passing thought. Jack did wonder when it would dawn on Daniel and Jason just how bad things could have ended up. If things had gone to shit, there might just be three people performing murder.
Opening the door, Jack gave Harry an irritated look. “We had things to discuss, Harry,” he answered. It wasn’t exactly a lie, but that was splitting hairs. He could see that Harry bought the lie, although it could easily be that he was making a pretty good effort to show that he had.
Harry nodded but he stared hard at him. “You okay?”
“You get all the gear out of the hummer?”
The dead-serious tone made Harry sigh. “All business. Okay, I can do that. Yes, it’s done.”
His words reminded Jack of Burke and the things he used to say. All business all the time. I can dig that station. Grief mixed with regret knocked on his mental door but Jack pushed it away with a sigh and left the bedroom, Daniel and Jason following. Looking at Teal’c and Stuart, Jack asked. “What’s our status?”
“Same as it was when you went to clean up,” Stuart answered, then stared hard at Jason and Daniel. And their wet hair. Clearing his throat, he added, “All we’re doing now is waiting on you.”
Jack nodded back but when he noticed the worried look on Stuart’s face as well as Harry’s and Teal’c’s(not so much on Teal’c’s but he knew it was there anyway). “I’m up and running. What I’ll be like later on is too soon to tell.” He paused and looked around the room, then behind him at Jason and Daniel. He recognized their expressions, nearly matching Teal’c’s. “Just do me a favor and keep me away from those men out back. There’s a fifty-fifty chance they won’t be alive when the spooks come pick them up.”
There was silence for a moment, which was broken by Harry, who’d noticed Daniel’s wet hair as he made his way to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of water.
“Your hair is wet.”
Daniel paused, then twisted off the water bottle’s cap and handed it to Jack. “Nothing escapes you,” he said to Harry, then to Jack said, “If you’re worried about murder, I guess that means there’ll be no alcohol for you tonight.” Jack was going to answer–both Daniel and Harry’s comment on his hair–when he suddenly felt a tremor go through his hand, making him drop the bottle. Quick as a flash, Daniel caught it and gave it back to him–in his other hand. “Sit, and if you tell me you’re okay, I’m kicking your ass.”
“It would be advisable for you to see Doctor Fraiser as soon as possible,” Teal’c suggested.
“I’ll see her, T, just not right now.”
Jason snorted as he caught Stuart’s gaze. “Meaning he’d rather face a battalion of Goa’uld rather than see her.”
“You got that right,” Jack said as he pulled out a bar stool from under the kitchen bar side of the island and sat down gingerly, adjusting himself so he sat only on his left cheek. Damn thing hadn’t been bothering him too much, not even in the shower, but then he hadn’t exactly had the time to do much sitting.
Stuart noted the way he sat down, but said nothing, knowing that if it were him, he’d hate it if anyone made a fuss. So he continued the conversation about the SGC’s CMO, conjuring up her image as he remembered his SGC physical. “She didn’t seem that forbidding.”
“Yeah, well, you’ll find out otherwise,” Jack said grumpily, adjusting his seat again, then looked over at Harry, who was now staring at Jason’s wet hair. Jack sighed and said, “They had their showers, Harry, after me. Why don’t you indulge yourself, too. Shave while you’re at it. Don’t you ever get tired of that grizzled shit?”
Harry stared back, twisting his mouth as if making mental notes, then suddenly sighed and gave Jack his usual sarcastic smirk. “If I want mothering, Jack, I’ll go home.”
“She’d take you in?” It was asked with a look of mock-surprise.
Harry popped the last bit of sandwich into his mouth and muffled, “Only if I promised to do her yard work.”
Jack touched the tiny button on the earphone. “Carter, land the ship. We’re staying here tonight.”
Echoing Sam’s words over the comm unit, Daniel asked, “Is that a good idea, Jack?”
“It’s cloaked,” Jack frowned, speaking to both of them.
“I know that,” Daniel and Sam said, although she added a ‘sir’.
It was confusing, hearing them both say the same thing so Jack held up his hand to Daniel to stall him while he spoke to Carter. “There’s room to park that thing at the edge of the front yard, Carter. If I can call that a yard. Just park that thing and get in here.”
Jack sighed as he took the earpiece off and set it on the table top of the kitchen island. Turning to Daniel, he said, “Are you sure you two weren’t separated at birth?” While Jason snickered, Jack turned to Stuart and explained, “They kept saying the exact same thing.” When he looked back at Daniel, his lover rolled his eyes at him, making him grin.
Daniel recognized Jack’s teasing tone and decided to play along, only with his own version. “I don’t recall saying ‘sir.'”
Jack threw him a dirty look. “You never have, Daniel, so don’t start now and ruin it.”
Jason crossed his arms and smiled, sharing it with Stuart, automatically including him in their banter. He wanted to add to it but it was enough to see Jack doing it at all, which meant he wasn’t completely out of sorts. But then, those three assholes who’d taken him were confined out back, essentially out of sight, out of mind. Jason suddenly wondered who’d feed those dickheads and his mirth was short-lived.
There was a whirring noise outside, like a momentary intense wind; a sound all of them except Stuart were used to hearing. Jack opened the front door and watched as an invisible door opened thirty yards away, revealing Carter and the interior of the ship. He stepped out onto the porch and waited as she stepped out of the vehicle and turned back to say something. The door closed, recloaking the entire ship.
As she headed toward him, he said, “You and Teal’c should probably sleep in the ship.” He paused, giving her a significant look that she recognized.
“Just in case we need a quick getaway?” she asked, nearing the front steps.
“Just in case.” Jack looked over his shoulder as Daniel and Jason exited the front door and stood on either side of him. While he loved their closeness and found it reassuring, he also found it confining. “You babysitting?”
“Nope,” Daniel answered as he stuffed his hands in his pockets. “Just meeting Sam and looking at the invisible ship.”
Jack looked across the yard, then gave Daniel a puzzled frown, like a man confronted with a contradiction. It only furthered his assumption that he was being babysat. “There’s nothing to see.”
“There’s Sam,” Jason said, winking at her as she climbed the steps. She grinned back as she looked over her shoulder. “The Colonel’s right. There’s nothing to see.”
Jack snorted and clapped a hand on her shoulder as he escorted her inside. “Tomorrow, maybe you could plot a course to Maybourne’s mother’s house.” He looked over his shoulder at Harry, smirking at the evil look he received.
Harry narrowed his eyes. “And maybe tomorrow you’ll turn into Tinkerbell.”
Mouth closed, Jason began to snicker and when Jack glared at him, he had to turn away to keep from laughing out loud.
“Watch it,” Jack warned as he went to the fridge and retrieved a bottle of water for Sam.
“So now what?” Stuart asked, going over to the fire to build it up. “We wait?”
Jack stared at him, watching as he stoked the fire. A feeling of rage and revulsion began to creep back to the surface when he focused on the irons. He’d have to replace them, and now rather than later. He took a breath and started out the door.
“Where’re you going?” Daniel asked as he, Jason, and the others followed after him.
“To the storage,” Jack said, scowling at them over his shoulder. When he reached the end of the porch, he held his hand up–which meant he didn’t need an escort. “I won’t be long. I just need to get something.”
Daniel felt the dark panic coming from him and though he wanted to go with him, he knew better. Jack needed to be in control, but that didn’t mean Daniel couldn’t wait there for him. “Okay.” As he crossed his arms stubbornly, he felt Jason stand next to him and knew he’d back him up if Jack argued. It looked as if that was what their lover was going to do, but Jack ended up pressing his lips together with annoyance and continuing on. They watched him enter the front door of the storage building.
“What’s he going in there for?” Jason asked.
Daniel shook his head with worry. “Something spooked him and whatever it was, the solution to it is in that garage.”
Stuart was momentarily distracted by ‘Garage’. “Garage? It’s an out-building.”
Daniel gave him a nod. “True, but we sometimes refer to large storage buildings as garages, whether they house cars or not.”
“So basically a catch-all phrase then?” When Daniel nodded, he took a deep breath and crossed his arms. “He was staring at the fireplace, or me, I don’t know which, when he suddenly came out here.”
Daniel and Jason looked at each other, remembering the blood on the floor and the burn under Jack’s ass cheek. “Shit,” Jason said, closing his eyes.
Daniel looked over his shoulder to explain and saw Sam, Teal’c, and Harry hovering near the front door. He’d been about to offer an edited version of an explanation but with Harry there, he had to rethink what he’d say. Clearing his throat and gathering his thoughts, he gestured at Jason and himself. “Remember where we found the poker when Jack was still missing?”
Stuart winced, hating that he’d forgotten. “Right. Sorry. So he’s gone into the out-build… garage… to get a replacement or something?”
At that moment, Jack reappeared, carrying what looked like iron utensils in his right hand. Upon seeing he was being watched, he hesitated in his steps, then walked briskly up the side stairs and past them. In the cabin, he felt several pairs of eyes on him as he lay the new toolset on the hearth and picked up the old set. Turning to Carter and Teal’c, he asked, “Either one of you got a zat?”
Teal’c gestured outside with a nod of his head. “The ship.”
“Let’s go,” Jack said and Teal’c bowed his head once as he followed Jack back outside.
On the porch, Jason started to follow but Daniel grabbed his arm and held him back, and in so doing, held back Sam, Stuart, and Harry. “Teal’c’s with him,” he said, hoping that Stuart and Harry didn’t ask what that meant. They didn’t know that Teal’c was someone who’d seen far more torture than Jack or Jason and Daniel had no interest in explaining that to Stuart in front of Maybourne. Stuart would find out later anyway because he had a need to know. Maybourne didn’t and Teal’c’s distrust of him only strengthened Daniel’s decision.
Sam reached out and touched Daniel’s arm. “We don’t need to wait here, Daniel. Let’s go back inside.” When she received a mutinous look from him as well as from Jason, she tossed back her ‘don’t fuck with me’ look. “How about we make something for dinner?” she suggested, then winked at Stuart. “We could end up with a team night after all.” He grinned appreciatively and she turned back to Daniel and Jason. “So, what’s the Colonel got in his freezer?”
Jack dropped the fireplace irons on the floor between the peltac and the bulkhead that divided the rest of the ship. He didn’t need to see that Teal’c was retrieving a zat from the weapons crate; he could hear him. When the zat came into view, Jack took it from Teal’c and pointed it at the offending tools. It didn’t matter that only the poker had been used. They all would have been if that sicko Victor had had his way.
He activated the weapon. And paused. It wasn’t a hesitation, not in the usual sense. It was more like deciding on what to say before getting rid of the reminders of his torture. He could feel Teal’c standing just behind his right shoulder and wondered if his friend had any words to say, an anecdote or two. The moment he thought it, Jack was fairly certain that Teal’c did. It was only a question on whether he’d actually speak.
Jack waited a few more tension-filled breaths, then sighed as he pulled the trigger. Once. Twice. Then–
“These are merely common instruments,” Teal’c finally said, “but they have been forever altered.”
Jack turned his head, looking at him. Waiting. He’d had a vague idea what Teal’c might say but that wasn’t it.
Teal’c lifted his chin. “Will their replacement bring you as much ease as zatting their originals?”
Jack shrugged as he looked back to the floor. “Time will tell.”
“I too have had occasion to perform such a ceremony as this,” Teal’c went on. He cocked his head, staring at the instruments but as Jack looked at him, he thought that maybe Teal’c was seeing something else.
“Did it work?” he asked.
“Not as much at first,” Teal’c answered, “but over time, the knowledge that I had done something gave me a measure of peace.”
Jack sighed and abruptly zatted the tools a third time. The blue-white electricity sizzled around the iron tools until only the smell of metallic ozone remained. He was quiet for a minute, as was Teal’c, then he said, “It’s hard to imagine peace right now, T.”
“It will come in time.”
He handed the weapon back to Teal’c and waited for him by the door. When they left the ship, Jack felt a sense of ease and wondered if perhaps it was peace. Only time would tell him that, too, but he definitely felt a lot better. In a need to lighten the mood and to get his mind directed elsewhere, he said, “You know you sound like Yoda sometimes, right?”
Teal’c shot him a grin. “Indeed.”
Getting closer to the front door of the cabin, Jack suddenly detected the smell of cooking meat and smiled. He couldn’t be more blessed with such friends. The thought sounded decidedly sappy so he immediately began to place bets on which one of them got the idea to cook dinner.
Opening the front door, he was met with laughter, Stuart’s, and he tried to place why. Daniel, Jason, Sam, and Harry were in the kitchen–all of them cooking, or trying to. Harry was at the open fridge, Sam and Jason were at the island with cutting knifes, and Daniel was at the sink. Stuart stood, beer in hand, in front of the island’s kitchen bar, watching them and clearly entertained.
Upon seeing him, Harry held up an empty hand and started to say something but Jack cut him off with a wag of his index finger. “What? You don’t even know what I was going to say.”
Jack pulled out a stool at the breakfast bar side of the island and sat down. Inside, he was deliberately avoiding the living room and the fireplace that sat centerpiece. “If it’s about what you think goes good with steak, Harry, just forget about it. It’s potatoes, always.”
Jason barked out a laugh and earned a dirty look from Harry, then pointed his knife in the direction of the hallway that led out back. “Actually Jack, he was deciding what crap to feed the fuckheads out back.”
Jack turned up his lip, hating the idea that those fuckers would eat any of his food. Pursing his lips, he looked around. “Who’s got the keys to the hummer?”
Jason wiped his hands on the towel nearby then fished the keys out of his pocket and reached across to set them in front of Jack. “Gonna go grab them something?”
Jack grimaced, not liking that idea either but it was better than sharing his food. “No, Harry is,” he said, then tossed the keys at Harry, who barely caught them before they hit the floor. “You just volunteered.”
Harry knew better than to argue, especially since he agreed with Jack, but he wouldn’t let him get away without a deserving scowl. “Which is cheapest in town?”
“They have a McDonald’s about a quarter mile into town. Get them a bunch of kid burgers.”
Harry grabbed the jacket he’d hung up by the door and before leaving, he turned and asked, “You mean baby goat or real kids?”
“Funny,” Jack said, then grabbed his earpiece off the table-top and walked over to hand it to him. “Just in case someone shows up while you’re gone.”
“I won’t be gone that long, Jack.”
“It’s nearly Saturday night, Harry. It’s twenty minutes to get to town and there’s no telling about the line.”
Harry nodded as he put on the earpiece, then gave him a lazy salute before leaving. Jack returned to his stool and found a beer sitting in front of him. He gave Jason a look. “Thought you people put me on the wagon?”
Jason thumbed behind him, pointing at Daniel who was just finishing cutting up potatoes for boiling. “His decision, Jack.”
Daniel turned around with a bowl of potatoes and began to set them in the pot of water. “I was actually kidding,” he said dryly, then added, “Besides, until those assholes are gone, I doubt any of us are going to feel like having more than a few beers.”
“Teal’c’s designated sober man anyway,” Jack said as he smirked at his teammate. Teal’c bowed his head, then looked over at Stuart.
“While we wait, Group Captain Stuart Blackwell, we should educate you on the types of missions we regularly operate.”
Stuart stared at him, caught off-guard by Teal’c’s address. “Please call me Stuart or Blackwell, Teal’c. There’s no need to use my full name or rank when we’re among peers.”
Jack shook his head while Daniel, Sam, and Jason grinned to themselves. But they were all surprised when Teal’c bowed his head and said, “Very well. Stuart.” When Jack, Daniel, Sam, and Jason started to comment, Teal’c raised both his brow and his right hand. “You may not comment,” he ordered.
The subsequent looks on their faces had Stuart laughing. He clapped Teal’c on the shoulder and said, “By god, Teal’c, I look forward to getting to know you.”
Jack regarded them both, then took a long sip of beer before saying, “Be careful what you wish for, Stuart.”
It was raining hard outside as everyone sat at the breakfast bar for dinner. Jason had brought extra bar stools in from the storage building and he sat at one end of the bar while Daniel sat at the other. As Jack shared some experiences of off-world travel with Stuart, there was a strange comfort that filled his mind, having his lovers flanking him. Carter and Teal’c added to that and Jack was bolstered by their presence. Harry was a welcome diversion, trading barbs and teases with him.
As thunder rolled overhead, Jack wished they’d left those bastards out on the deck. It’d serve them right to freeze outside, or better yet, as Jason had said earlier, get fried by lightning. But Jack was far from barbaric, no matter much he might casually wish otherwise, and so the prisoners had been transferred to the storage building. They’d eaten under guard, and afterward were bound by hands and feet, then roped together for security. Their bonds were then tied to a few crates and boxes filled with assorted gear. There was no way they were getting loose without making a hell of a racket. Even so, Jack was half-hoping they would get loose, if only to give him the dark satisfaction of shooting them. It might be wrong, and perhaps a year down the road, he’d feel differently, but right now, it wasn’t a thought he cared to step on.
Then there was Daniel’s opinion of him to consider. Try as he might, Jack couldn’t bear to have Daniel look at him as a murderer. It’d be better if those dickheads were taken away as soon as possible, and Jack was just wishing that the CIA would make a night visit when a beeping went off on the alarm console by the front door. He looked up, as startled as everyone else was, then walked over to double-check the pad on the wall. Over his shoulder he said to the others, “Perimeter was tripped.”
“By what?” Stuart asked, reaching for his weapon in his jacket.
“One or more vehicles coming up the road. We’ll find out how many soon.” He pointed at Stuart’s sidearm. “Keep that close by but not in hand. Everyone’s going to be armed and there’s no need to carry it until we take them to the garage.”
“Didn’t think the CIA would show up at night,” Jason said.
“They don’t believe in letting the grass grow under their feet,” Harry replied as he nervously wiped his hands on his trousers.
Jack gestured with his chin at the bedroom. “Get in there, under the bed, Harry. They don’t have jurisdiction but they’re technically law enforcement and might get a wild hair up their ass. They might also have been tipped off that you might be here.”
“NID doesn’t know,” Harry argued.
“Never assume that, Harry,” Jack admonished. “You know better.”
With a grim nod, Harry disappeared. Jack checked on his own sidearm and stuck it in the back of his waistband, and watched as everyone else did the same. Checking that Teal’c had put on the black knit cap, he opened the door just as vehicle lights were spotted through the trees. They stepped out onto the porch and waited as the visitors appeared. A minute later, they did. Two black hummers and Jack snorted, mostly to himself.
As the vehicles came to a halt side by side in front of the cabin, the passenger side of the right one opened and out stepped NID Agent Malcolm Barrett, complete in his typical black suit.
“Nice to see you guys again,” he said as he approached. Three more men in suits exited the vehicles, two from the second hummer, and stepped over to stand behind Barrett.
“You didn’t have to involve the NID,” Sam said, glancing at Jack.
He acknowledged her with a jog of his brows. “So what are the NID doing here, Barrett?”
“Just acting as a guide,” Barrett grinned.
“My ass,” Jack smirked as he inclined his head, assessing. “Maybe you’re here for something else.”
“Nope,” Barrett said, holding up a hand. “I swear.”
They were there now, Jack told himself, and it really didn’t matter who got custody of the assholes in the garage. He started down the steps, gesturing for them to follow. “Let’s go.”
Getting a nod from Teal’c, Jason stopped Daniel and Stuart from following, shaking his head when Daniel gave him a puzzled look. “Let Sam and Teal’c accompany them. We need to stay right here.”
There was a protective tone there, and though Daniel understood, Stuart didn’t. “Why?” he asked.
“Just in case someone else in the vehicles decides that now would be a good time to search the cabin,” Jason answered.
The darkness of night and the annoyance of rain blurred Stuart’s vision so he couldn’t see well enough to verify Jason’s statement. “You’ve come up against this before?”
Jason slowly nodded. “Just not during my present assignment. In this situation, there’s no need to let them poke around ‘just because.'”
“Which is precisely what they’d do if given the chance,” Daniel added.
Stuart frowned slightly, hating the idea that the CIA would go where they weren’t invited. He knew that all intelligence organizations acted like that, but with his own country’s MI-5, it was different. In his experience, they were a bit more circumspect. At least, as far as he knew anyway.
The rain, heavy as it was, didn’t disguise the cussing that came from the garage and all three men touched their sidearms but did not draw them. They waited, hoping that they wouldn’t be necessary. A flash of lightning illuminated the yard and all three men looked over into the supposedly empty space where the cargo ship was parked. Thunder quickly followed, cracking and rumbling, and with it came movement from the garage.
Agents escorted the prisoners, now bound in steel manacles, out of the building and guided them toward the hummers. Daniel caught Jack’s face, lit up by another flash of lightning, and saw that his gaze was trained on Victor’s back, the man closest to him. He held his breath, hoping Jack wouldn’t do anything stupid.
“He won’t do anything stupid,” Jason said, and Daniel realized that Jason was watching Jack, too.
“Is that actually a concern?” Stuart asked, brow raised.
Jason and Daniel stared at Jack for a moment longer, then shook their heads. “Not anymore,” Daniel said.
“But it was a concern,” Stuart said.
Jason looked at him, standing next to Daniel, and nodded. “You don’t cross any of us, not like those men did. People off-world, like Goa’uld and Jaffa, have learned the hard way that we will not run cowering.”
“Would you risk a mission for revenge?” Stuart asked carefully.
Jason shook his head. “We’re not that lawless, but we won’t leave anyone behind and if given the opportunity to prevent harm to others, we will take care of the problem.”
“Hence the war with the Goa’uld,” Daniel said, still watching Jack.
Sam and Teal’c headed up the stairs and paused just inside the door, waiting for the visitors to leave. “I hope they feed those assholes poison,” Sam said before she walked into the cabin.
Jason and Daniel frowned. “What happened?” Daniel asked Teal’c.
“Their leader expressed no remorse for what he had done to O’Neill,” was all Teal’c said.
Jason groaned and closed his eyes while Daniel took a step off the porch.
“Do not, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c told him. “Agent Barrett assured us that these men will never harm anyone else.”
“How can he?” Daniel asked with a scowl. “He’s NID, they’re CIA. They hate each other.”
Teal’c shook his head, then lifted his chin at the men getting in the hummers. “They are not CIA.”
“What?” Daniel asked, looking at the agents as Jason’s eyes flashed open in surprise.
“That Agent Barrett tell you that in the garage?” Stuart asked.
“He… alluded to it,” Teal’c answered, certainty on his face that he was correct.
Jack shook hands with Barrett after the men and prisoners were in the vehicles. “You have transportation waiting at the airport?” Barrett grinned and Jack nodded. “Guess that’s it then. Thanks.”
“Anytime,” Barrett said.
“By the way, did you guys catch that guy following Carter?”
“Not yet, but we have bulletins out on the truck, even though we’re fairly sure it’s stolen.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Jack replied.
Barrett hesitated, seeming to fight over his words, then said, “If you see Maybourne…”
“I’ll give him your best,” Jack said with a grin, then thumped the top of the vehicle and stepped away. As he reached the top of the stairs, he looked at Stuart and Teal’c. “You guys wanna meet us inside? I’d like a word with these two.”
Curious but silent, Stuart and Teal’c went inside and shut the door.
Jack watched the agents’ vehicles as they turned around and made their way back down the long dirt road until they disappeared. Jason and Daniel stood next to him, flanking him again. They said nothing, giving support without needing words. Jack appreciated it, though he wasn’t in the mood to express that openly. What was going through his mind was altogether darker and though he wanted to dispel the hate and rage, it was still too fresh to fade. At that moment, he was wishing the call had never been made to pick up the criminals.
“I should have killed them when I had the chance.”
Daniel was uncomfortable with the words but he didn’t contradict them or tell Jack he shouldn’t feel that way. He could understand his feelings even if he didn’t share them. What he wished more than anything was the ability to take away the darkness Jack felt, a darkness that he couldn’t help but feel. He wasn’t about to put up a wall to block him out. No matter what, Daniel would feel what he felt. He owed him that out of respect for their friendship, if for no other reason.
Jason, too, was uncomfortable, but unlike Daniel, it was because he agreed with Jack. “We’d have to explain the mess,” he quipped, as if that excuse was a good enough reason. In truth, there’d be no literal mess, just a figurative one, and angry questions from Hammond. The real reason Jack had held back and why Jason understood was because lying to and disappointing their senior officer was something neither of them wanted. It was a strange world when lying to your boss outranked cold-blooded murder on the list of things not to do.
Jack snorted softly in response to Jason’s words and slipped his arms around his lovers’ waists, not caring if Stuart just happened to see. He might be busy listening to Carter and Teal’c but one couldn’t assume anything. The newest member of SG-1 could come looking for them and catch a glimpse through the window. Shit happened. Jack found it odd that he didn’t really care, not compared to what else he was feeling at the moment. When Daniel and Jason put their arms around him too, he knew that they were on the same page. It wasn’t always the case but it didn’t matter in the grand scheme. They were with him, as they always would be, and knowing that was all the therapy Jack needed.
“So,” Jack finally said, releasing the tension in the air. He gave his lovers a teasing grin as he raised his arms and wrapped them around their necks, pulling them close. He kissed them each on the cheek, then said, “How’re we going to keep our relationship quiet when you’re in the bedroom with me instead of out in the living room with Stuart and Harry?”
Jason made a face. “We’ll think about that after you tell Harry it’s safe to come out from under your bed.”
“Wouldn’t want him to stay there, would we?” Jack joked.
Daniel grimaced and let out a groan of disgust as he pushed away from Jack. “Thanks for that bucket of ice water, Jack.”
“Anytime,” Jack said, biting his lip with amusement as he and a snickering Jason followed him inside.
Quote at the top is from the song, “Love Will Find a Way” by Yes.