Trilogy 11: Temet Nosce
Part 1 of 2
Summary: Domestic time as our trio plays host to Adriann, Talen, and Jalen for the winter holidays.
Credit note: Credit to Carra M. for the phrases “fuck me running” and “P4X-STFU”.
Temet Nosce — “Know Thyself.”
Jason stumbled slightly, his balance interrupted, as he felt the strange cold press of the Shak’lo slice across the back of his right thigh. He knew there was no damage there, but the icy cold caused by the energy blade turned to an uncomfortable heat that lasted a few minutes, long enough to remember how it happened and adjust his tactics accordingly. The blades were very good for teaching, and for sparring, which is why Jason had asked Jalen to bring them with him on his visit. Practicing Kenjutsu with wooden swords was good, but after a while, a little boring, and Jason rarely got the opportunity to hone his knife skills. Sadly, he was faced with the embarrassing fact that he actually needed the practice. Jalen was a little better at it than he was. Bastard.
The Shak’lo were eight-inch daggers made from a metallic alloy similar to steel, except these weapons contained a type of ‘folding’ metal. When used to stab, the blade ‘buckled’ into itself like a fake Hollywood knife. But it left behind a stinging reminder of what would have happened, and on the skin, a red mark appeared. When the blade was used to slice, the sharp edge also ‘buckled’, but only to dull the impact. Left behind was another red mark, this one the shape of the cut that would have been inflicted.
At this moment, Jason and his brother wore their share of red marks, starkly displayed by the shorts-only attire, but Jason’s tally was slightly higher and he was bound and determined to remedy that. Wiping the sweat off his brow with the back of his hand, he adjusted his stance and made sure that nothing but the windowed wall of his loft was behind him. He crouched slightly, attention focused on Jalen’s body language. Tense as a spring, he waited for the return attack, and laughed at the goading, smug grin on his twin’s face.
Jason flipped the blade in his hand and lunged forward, getting the expected block from his weapons-free hand. Advancing, they parried harsh and quick, their forearms slamming together repeatedly as they sought to unbalance or surprise. Finally, Jason found his opening. He provoked a block with his left arm, bringing his body in close, while he brought his right hand swiftly across Jalen’s throat before he swerved up and over and caught him in the center of his back, severing his spine.
“Shit!” Jalen cussed as he fell over Jason’s right leg and onto the floor face down. The ‘burn’ the blade left behind made him wince and he palmed the mark left on his throat. “Fucker,” he growled.
“Hurts don’t it?” Jason grinned as he offered his hand.
Jalen took it and got to his feet, and once he met his brother’s eyes, smirked. “You’d know.”
Jason blinked at him, eyes narrowing. “That’s it?”
Jalen held his gaze, then stroked his goatee with his fingers before finally nodding. “Fine. You’re not as rusty as you thought you were. Happy?”
Jason smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. “You have no idea.” Hefting the knife and giving it a brief examination, he headed for the kitchen island of his loft apartment. “You know what these remind me of?” he asked as he got out a couple of bottles of water from the fridge and tossed one to Jalen.
Jalen caught it and twisted off the cap. After a long drink, he sighed with satisfaction. “What?”
“Those mock weapons we use for SGC training.”
Jalen frowned, not knowing what he was talking about. “Elaborate.”
“Intars.” When Jalen’s frown deepened, Jason’s brows rose in surprise. “You never ran across them?”
Jalen thought about it, but shook his head. “Not ringing any bells.”
“Jeez, when exactly did our universes diverge, anyway?” The question was mostly rhetorical as he waved it off. “Never mind. Intars were weapons used by the Jaffa. Earth weapons. They’d kidnapped one of our teams, seeking out ways to defeat us by infiltration. So they took our weapons and modified them, using them for training purposes with new Jaffa.” Jason paused and sighed. “I learned about this after. I wasn’t part of the SGC at that time. Anyway, SG-1 came upon this camp and after … liberating it … we took their weapons back and appropriated the use of the Intars for our own training purposes. The Intars use a crystal port instead of a magazine and fire energy pulses instead of bullets. The Jaffa only had one setting, but we have two: stun and knockout.”
All the while Jason explained, Jalen nodded, then finally looked just as confused as before. “And these weapons remind you of the Shak’lo how exactly?”
Jason snorted. “They don’t do any real damage.”
“Except to one’s pride,” Jalen grinned as he rubbed at his throat.
Jason felt his stomach grumble and opened the cupboard under the island top. “Jack’s probably got something planned, but I could use a snack. Hungry for anything?”
Jalen shrugged. “Been a long fucking time since I’ve had any Earth snacks. What’ve you got?”
Jason grinned, pulled out a bag of chips and stood up. Pulling apart the top, he held the open end toward his twin. “Will these do?”
“Doritos?” Jalen asked, eyes wide as he stepped forward and reached in to grab a few. After popping two in his mouth, he said with a mumbled mouthful, “Oh my god, I’ve missed these.”
“Good old junk food,” Jason grinned and upended the bag into a mixing bowl. As they stood at the island and munched on the chips, he realized after a few minutes that Jalen’s expression had turned solemn. The energy Jason felt was dark and while he didn’t sense danger, he felt concern. “What’s the matter?”
Jalen brushed his fingers against his jeans, wiping off the chip dust, and prevaricated by making a show about needing a lot of water from his bottle.
“Jalen,” Jason pushed. “What’s wrong?”
Jalen shook his head. “Sorry. I just get these thoughts and images in my head, and before I became … whatever the fuck I am now … I used to be able to push away whatever I didn’t want to think about. But these days, with these intensified emotions, I can’t seem to do that anymore. Not as well.” He made a face, which turned imploringly at his brother. “If I get pissed off, my eyes spark and my fangs grow. It’s extremely fucked up.”
Sympathetically, Jason grabbed his shoulder. “Guess it’ll take longer to control than you thought.”
Jalen nodded. “Adriann’s folks are trying, but I’m proving to be a stubborn student.”
Jason offered a grin. “Runs in the family, I think.” Jalen grinned back. “So what brought this … whatever-it-is … on?”
Jalen made another face. “Thinking too seriously.”
“Elaborate,” Jason copied.
With a look that clearly told Jason that he’d rather talk about something else, Jalen sighed deeply. “Do you ever think about the time we met?”
Jason’s smile abruptly vanished. “That’s serious alright.” When Jalen didn’t say anything, Jason figured he was waiting for an answer. Problem was, he knew that the question Jalen had asked was more vague than direct. “Not often. What’s on your mind?”
Jalen moved around the island to the breakfast bar and pulled out a stool from underneath. It was an invite to sit, Jason mused, and found it a little funny that Jalen would do that in someone else’s home. But given their familial trait, and how close they’d become, perhaps that was the point? And perhaps that was the point of what was on Jalen’s mind?
“Should I get a drink for this?” he asked, pointing his water bottle at the cupboard where he kept the liquor.
Jalen again shrugged. “I don’t think it’s worth all that.”
“Okay,” Jason drawled, jogging his brows with acceptance as he moved to take an empty stool. “What’s the matter?”
“I …” he began, then paused a few long seconds. “I can’t help but think about how far we’ve come from that dark road you found me on three years ago.”
Jason blinked with stunned surprise. “Three years?” He stared back into the grey-flecked eyes of his twin and shook his head. “It doesn’t seem that long ago to me.”
“No,” Jalen drew out slowly, looking a little hesitant. “Sometimes it feels like yesterday.” When Jason gave him a worried look, he half-smiled and waved around him. “Especially when I’m finally back on Earth, even if it isn’t my Earth.”
“It is now,” Jason corrected.
Jason sighed, not liking the strange tone. It had been a week since Hammond had allowed Jalen to visit his brother and stay at his loft, and there’d been no hint at all that there was anything on Jalen’s mind. It forced Jason to realize that he should have had a talk with Talen or Kashan, the two people most responsible for Jalen’s tutelage, before their MALP conversation had ended. “Okay, out with it. What’s going on?”
“I’m having nightmares,” Jalen said in a rush.
He got up from his stool to pace and it was a move that reminded Jason of himself. It was eerie, but so was looking at a twin you didn’t grow up with.
“I’m back with Ba’al, and there’re the expected distortions of facts, the playing out of fears. The usual shit. But lately, it’s been …” He paused and stared at the floor, then sighed deeply and without looking up, he said, “I miss Camulus.”
Jason got up and went to him, taking him in his arms and hugging him tightly, glad that Jalen returned the embrace. “I know,” he said softly against his long hair.
Jalen went still. “How could you know that?”
“I would,” he said matter-of-factly, “if I’d been blended with another mind for a long time.” When Jalen didn’t relax, he pulled back enough to look into his eyes. “It’s those weird feelings I have, the ones I developed after that ceremony on Diné.”
Jalen stared at the tattoo over Jason’s left pectoral muscle, feeling a bit of envy. He sighed heavily, guilt in his eyes. “Your Raven Sense. I wish I’d had that happen instead of this.”
Jason stared back searchingly, then finally shook his head. “Thanks to Camulus, you’re alive. He didn’t mean for the rest of it to happen.”
“I know that.”
“But I think maybe you’re a little mad at him.”
“For what?” Jalen scowled.
After a deep sigh, Jason placed his hand over his brother’s heart, and the near the place where he’d had the deepest wound. It was now healed, of course, but the emotional scars were still there. “For leaving you alive, I think.” Jalen scoffed at the idea and tried to pull away, but Jason wouldn’t let him go. “I know you’ve been having a difficult time adjusting to what you’ve become, and I think it’s only natural to blame the cause, however indirect or innocent.”
“Hardly indirect,” Jalen growled.
The rumble inside Jalen’s throat literally sounded like a growl and despite himself, it made Jason wince. Not out of revulsion, but sympathy. He didn’t care for the weird ‘danger’ feelings he now possessed and could only imagine what Jalen was going through. It was very hard to imagine, actually. One day you went from being human to being a human/Tok’ra blend, then from that to something that was no longer human at all. Jason could hardly blame Jalen for having an identity crisis.
“Anything I can do to help you get through this?” he asked, not knowing what else to say.
Jalen made another growling sound, but offered up a smile. “You’re already doing it.” His smile turned mischievous and he laughed at the wariness in Jason’s eyes. “You could let me off the leash for crime fighting duty.”
At the term leash, Jason shoved him away. “Very funny.”
“I may as well put my new abilities to good use,” Jalen offered, realizing he was partly serious.
“And have the civvie cops notice, thus violating the meaning of low profile?”
Jason gave him the parent look and it forced Jalen to sigh and stare back, no longer teasing but fully serious. “One of these days, I’m going to cut loose, whether on this world or another.”
“What the hell are you talking about?” Jason asked, scowling.
“Someone’s going to threaten someone I care about and this monster inside me will break free without my say-so.”
Jason’s scowl was replaced by a knot of frustration. “But you said you had it under control.”
“Why do you think I brought up the anger issue?”
“Aren’t Talen and Kashan–“
“It’s different when I meditate, or scare off those goddamn predators on Var’chol’si, because I’m not angry, Jason. They are aware and they’re trying, but there’s nothing to test me on, to make me take control. And they won’t risk pissing me off themselves. I think they’re too worried I’ll do real damage, which is stupid, given their own abilities.”
Jason narrowed his eyes and sighed. “Then I guess I’m not the only one who needs to hone his abilities.” He paused, then added, “Am I?” as he realized that Jalen may have brought the daggers for reasons other than martial arts sparring. Jalen looked sheepish as he shook his head and Jason reached out and gently cuffed him upside the head. “Thanks for telling me, dickhead. Next time, level with me, or you won’t be the only one showing teeth.”
Jalen couldn’t help it and smiled back. “Thanks.”
“Being my brother.”
Jason jogged his brows, as if to say that thanks weren’t necessary. Then Jalen’s expression changed, becoming serious again, and Jason couldn’t help but feel protective. “Will you stop that? Things will be fine, you won’t go off half-cocked because I won’t let you, so just–“
“I think maybe you should,” Jalen said, and for a moment, the grey flecks in his eyes changed to amber.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Jason asked, recognizing the eye change as a literal spark of anger, like distant lightning warning of an oncoming storm.
“Have you run into that murderer lately?”
Jason stared at him, stunned. Jalen was referring to Dwayne Carlson, the man who murdered his boyfriend back in New Mexico when they were teenagers. “Thankfully, no, I haven’t even noticed. I took your advice and let it go. Why are you bringing it up? You want to go after him now?”
Jalen ground his jaw, fighting off the guilty feelings. “Perhaps.” When Jason simply sighed, he added, “You can’t because of your position here. But I can.”
“I’m not letting you commit murder, Jalen.”
“I’m not talking about murder. It’s Ah’na’ta’hen.”
“What the hell is that?” Jason asked, scowling.
“Something Adriann’s people have taught me. It’s not revenge. It translates as justice. And justice needs to be done, Jason.”
“Not by way of murder, it doesn’t,” Jason told him firmly.
Jalen tightened his jaw and after a long minute of silence between them, he nodded. “Fine, no murder. But I’m not letting go of it.”
“I’m not fucking kidding. And I’ll get back up if you don’t let me–“
“Don’t even think of dragging Daniel and Jack into this because they’ll agree with me and–“
“No, I’ll bring in Adriann and Talen. They’ll back me up.”
Jason narrowed his eyes at him. “Cute. You’re resorting to emotional blackmail and manipulation, which is amusing since that shit doesn’t work on me.”
Jalen let out a gasp of exasperation. “Goddammit.”
Jason reached out and took his brother’s shoulder. “I appreciate it, but let’s talk about this another time. Okay?” When Jalen didn’t respond, he repeated himself for emphasis. “Okay?”
“Fine. Fine. Okay.”
“Thank you,” he said with heavy sarcasm, then grabbed one of the daggers off the table and tossed it at his brother. “Now, let’s get back to the other issue, shall we? About your anger control. We shall see what kind of provocation you really need in order to get some of this shit out of your system.”
“Yes!” Jalen hissed triumphantly as he walked back over to the cleared part of the room and resumed his ready stance. “All you have to do is make me mad, then force me to control it.”
“You think I’m capable of doing that?” Jason asked drolly.
Jalen smirked. “I’ve read your file, listened to Daniel and Jack, and seen you in action. I know you are.”
“Be very careful what you wish for then,” Jason replied darkly. He stood across from him, hefting the knife once more before gripping the handle and laying the blade against the underside of his forearm. As he contemplated getting a good workout, it occurred to him that perhaps this was possibly going to get a little destructive. He calculated what damage he could do, what damage he could withstand (and not get in trouble for), then focused intently on Jalen. “I’ll say things you’ll think I mean, but I’m telling you now, I don’t.”
“Thanks for the warning. I’ll try not to hurt you.”
Jason snorted and tensed his body for combat. “Just bring it, whore.”
On the way to Jason’s, Jack expected more conversation from Daniel but he was unusually quiet. Normally, he’d be chattering away about whatever was on his mind. Not today. Instead, he was rubbing his temples and the spot between his brows; Jack knew this wasn’t a typical headache or one of his migraines. It was yet another of those empathy headaches. Normally, Jack could see them coming, but this came out of the blue. Which meant that Daniel was now hiding the symptoms and all that managed to accomplish was to make Jack mad. His lover wasn’t taking care of the problem and his stubbornness was going to kill him if he was left to his own devices.
“You’re getting worse,” he said, trying not to let his worried anger color his tone. Not yet, anyway. Let Daniel answer and see where it went.
Daniel was startled by the comment, though more by the interruption of silence than Jack’s observation. “I’ll be fine,” he said softly. “I took something for it. It’ll be okay in a while.”
“No, this is getting worse and you know what we have to do.” When Daniel didn’t answer and closed his eyes instead, enough was enough. Jack didn’t want to snap at him but he no longer cared to hide the frustration. “It’s time to call Adriann.”
“No.” Daniel let out one of his long-suffering sighs and dropped his head back on the headrest. “I’m not going to run to him whenever something goes wrong.”
“You’re not. Up to now, nothing has gone wrong. But now you’re not able to block emotion. He has to fix it.”
“Okay, fine,” Daniel answered. “We’ll call him tomorrow. Can we drop the subject please? I don’t want to argue.”
Jack ground his teeth. Tomorrow wouldn’t cut it. At the next intersection, he took a right turn to head back to the SGC. When he noticed that Daniel was looking at him, he ignored him. Perhaps doing that would keep Daniel’s attention on him instead of where they were going. Or weren’t going.
“Don’t get mad at me,” Daniel said, trying to sound firm but the soft tone made that impossible and he wasn’t in the mood to raise his voice.
“Don’t tell me how to feel, Daniel. You hate it when I do that to you.”
“Fair enough,” Daniel replied and again covered his eyes with his hand. “I guess I don’t want him to feel guilty for giving me something that was meant as a gift.”
“That would make sense if you weren’t being pigheaded about asking for help.”
Daniel’s eyes widened. “What? I’m not–“
“You do that all the time, Daniel. You want to deal with things on your own, but you’re not alone, nor can you allow this to continue. It’s going to kill you.”
“It’s not that bad, Jack.”
“Horseshit. It’s been messing up your life lately, never mind your job.”
“Always the Colonel,” Daniel grumped.
“Don’t pull that shit with me. I know how important your job is to you, so you know damn well that’s what I meant.” Eyes still closed, Daniel grimaced at Jack’s emotional words and held up a hand, warding him off. It forced Jack to pause and let out a long steadying sigh. “This isn’t about your job anyway,” he said in a quieter tone. “It’s about you.”
The cab was silent for a few long minutes before Daniel nodded. The meds were kicking in and the sharp pain in his head was moving to a dull throb. “It’s been nineteen months.”
“Nineteen months for what?” Jack asked, puzzled.
“Since I’ve seen him.”
Jack thought about that for a moment, then he rolled his eyes. “I thought you were done feeling guilty.”
“I am. This isn’t about guilt. It’s about … it’s been nineteen months.”
“And … you know.”
Jack tried not to smile and figured he really didn’t need to anyway since Daniel could probably feel the humor. “So?”
“So. You know that when I see him, when he sees me, that we’ll …” Daniel cleared his throat. “To fix this, he’ll probably have to feed.”
Jack mulled that over, then grinned crookedly. “Maybe that’s what you want.”
Daniel took a deep breath, trying to will away the feelings he’d kept buried for a while. “Maybe.”
The tone sounded off and Jack lifted a brow. “I thought you liked that.”
“Yeah, but …”
“But? I don’t get it. Didn’t you fall in love with him because of that?”
“No,” Daniel argued, trying to think up a better answer and failing.
“Liar,” Jack replied, grin widening.
Daniel growled and opted to change the subject slightly. “So … I guess we’ll call Jason from the base and tell him what’s going on?”
Eyes on the road, Jack pulled out his phone. “No, I’ll call him right now.”
“No you won’t. Give me that,” Daniel said, holding out his hand. “No driving and talking on the phone.”
With a gentle smile, Jack handed over his phone. After the call connected, his smile broadened after learning the call had interrupted a sparring match, but very quickly, he lost the smile when Daniel told Jason that they were ‘just making a simple stop at the mountain’. “Give me that,” he said, snatching the phone out of Daniel’s hand. “Jason, we’re calling Adriann to help with this headache shit … Yeah, I know it’s about damn time. Just lock up those sparring toys and meet us there.” With that, he hung up and put his phone back into his pocket. “There are days where I just wanna smack you.”
“You pull that daddy shit again,” Daniel said angrily, “then you’ll be getting the smack.”
“And if you pull that evasive shit again, that’ll be another smack.”
Jack was serious. No longer in the mood to smile, he dreaded taking Daniel to the SGC. If Daniel was having problems now, they would soon be far more serious–entering a place like the mountain, filled with a bunch of people broadcasting high emotion, wasn’t going to be a picnic. For a moment, Jack considered knocking Daniel out.
“I’ll be fine,” Daniel interrupted, knowing exactly what Jack was feeling–whether he wanted to or not. “But if you’re that worried, call Janet and have someone meet us in the parking garage with a tranquilizer.”
Just the words alarmed Jack because he’d never heard Daniel capitulate like that, never mind offer up a trank solution. “It’s not better,” he stated.
“No,” Daniel sighed, wincing as he continued to rub his forehead. “It’s definitely not better.”
Jack pulled out his phone again, this time calling Hammond. “Do not grab this phone,” he warned.
Daniel had no wish to. The pain was worsening. He knew that sudden physical movement and emotional flare-ups were not a good idea. That in itself meant bad news, and as he listened to Jack talk with Hammond, then Janet, he felt a twinge of panic.
By the time they stepped into the Sub-Level elevator, dizziness and extreme nausea were new symptoms. It was almost like having a really bad concussion, Daniel thought. Focused thought was becoming harder to handle. Hell, he couldn’t even pay attention to where they were going, leaving the matter to Jack. When a particularly sharp pain threatened to make him puke, he crossed his arms over his stomach and groaned. “Not gonna puke. Not gonna puke.”
Jack tightened his arms around him, holding him up, bolstering him, and Daniel wished that he could take the pain and nausea away. Emotionally, he could tolerate feeling weak, embarrassed, and afraid. It was the constant pain and nausea that was beginning to make him fray around the edges.
When the doors opened on Level 21, Janet was there waiting, and after taking a look at his pale face, she wordlessly assisted Jack and led him to one of the infirmary wards and guided onto a bed. Daniel was thankful when the lights were dimmed. Janet’s natural empathy was stress-relieving. Though the headaches weren’t technically migraines, the side-effects were the same, and Daniel silently vowed to thank her more often. Buy her dinner, flowers. Porn. The thought made him smile, but only for a second. Another wave of nausea was striking like lightning.
“He’s on his way,” she said as she felt his forehead.
The sharp sting of a needle poked into his right arm and Daniel knew an I.V. was being set up. When he finally registered what Janet said, he asked, “Who?” He really didn’t care. Whoever it was, he’d better get this pain out of his head. Daniel heard running footsteps, many of them, and suddenly he needed to run too, fast as he could. Emotions swarmed his mind and he moaned in pain just before his mind escaped the din.
Jack and Jason turned toward the doorway as loud reports of hard bootheels echoed loudly in the corridor. A few seconds later, Adriann and Talen appeared, taking a few steps inside the ward and stopping as if they needed permission to approach. Adriann met Jack’s eyes and Jack saw the worry and pain there, framed by that long, honey-dark hair that flowed loosely over his shoulders. He switched his gaze to Talen just as she tossed her long, black hair back across her shoulders. It had grown to the middle of her ass and Jack absently thought that it would earn her a few extra looks from the personnel on the base.
Adriann shifted his large grey eyes to the bed behind Jack and Jason and walked slowly over. Eyes glued to Daniel’s face, he reached over to caress his forehead. Standing across from him, Talen placed her hand on Daniel’s crown and closed her eyes. A moment passed, and when she opened them, she looked up at Adriann and nodded once. He sighed and stared back down into Daniel’s face. “How long has he been unconscious?”
“Forty-six minutes,” Jack said as Janet walked in.
Adriann sighed and looked at his sister, who nodded. Turning to Janet, his solemn expression made her stop dead in her tracks.
“What is it?” she asked with alarm.
“We need to hurry. I need to move him to a room as sound proof as possible.”
Janet frowned, thinking. “There’s the isolation ward in the next corridor.”
He shook his head. “If I recall, that has an observation room. We’ll need privacy.”
“No needs to be in the observation room,” she answered.
Adriann sighed. “Fine. Lead us there.” He suddenly scooped Daniel off the bed and into his arms as easily as a parent lifting a child.
Jack and Jason were startled by Adriann’s sudden action and feeling inappropriately possessive, Jack held up his hand. “I can take him.”
Adriann stared hard at him. “Don’t be stupid, Jack. I can carry him faster.” He took a few steps, eyes on Janet, and she turned and led them out of the room.
By the time they reached the isolation room and Daniel was deposited on the bed, Adriann turned to Jack, Jason, Janet, and Jalen. They stood at the foot of the bed like guards. “You’ll need to leave,” Adriann soberly.
“I’m not leaving him,” Jack said flatly as he crossed his arms.
“Neither am I,” Jason echoed.
“Adriann–” Janet began.
“No,” Adriann said firmly and resolutely. “I understand why you want to stay but you can’t.”
“I’m not leaving,” Jack repeated, meaning business as he met Adriann’s gaze squarely.
Adriann returned the hard stare and closed the short distance between them till they were practically nose to nose. “You listen to me, Jack. I’m going to wake him up so that Talen and I can help. He cannot have any distractions. No one else in the room. No other minds. Do you understand? If you and Jason were to stay, you’d have to stand across the room, out of sight, and completely, utterly silent. That includes shutting off your feelings so that you’re transmitting nothing. Neither you nor Jason is capable of doing that right now.”
He could hear and feel the rebellion, not just from Jack but from Jason as well. Janet seemed to understand, and he knew Jalen did, but lovers were sometimes blind. It was something Adriann understood very well. It would take all his self-control not to feel any emotion during this procedure.
Jack recognized the seriousness in Adriann’s eyes, understood what he meant, and he knew he was right. There was no way he could shut away the panic he was feeling. “We’ll be right outside. If I can’t be in the room, I’ll be as good as.”
Adriann spared the hint of a smile and grabbed Jack’s shoulder reassuringly, then reached out with his free hand to do the same to Jason. “This won’t take more than an hour.”
“And he’ll be fine?” Jason asked.
Adriann nodded, then fixed Janet with a smile. “Trust me.”
“Do you need anything?” she asked, feeling useless and not liking it one damn bit.
Standing next to a trolley, Talen pulled a long, cone-shaped stone from the pocket of her dark suede jacket. “No, we have what we need.”
“What is that?” Janet asked, both curious and protective as she walked over to look at it.
“Incense,” Talen replied. She pried at an opening at the wide end to reveal a recessed bowl, already filled with a black resinous material. “Made from a combination of the Tanna root and the Cavro flower. It will help calm him while we heal his mind.”
“What that will entail?” Janet asked.
“Telepathy,” Talen said, then touched Janet’s arm reassuringly as she sent equivalent looks to Jack, Jason, and Jalen. “Very deep telepathy.”
Adriann went to the door, waiting until they walked through.
As soon as the doors shut, Jason ground his jaw and turned to Jack. “Did you see the look in his eyes?”
Jack nodded pensively. “It’s worse than we thought. Certainly more than Daniel thought.”
Jason set his jaw grimly and crossed his arms. “But he’ll be fine.”
“Damn right he will,” Jack replied, letting a bit of anger show in his voice.
“Don’t be mad at him,” Jason said, repeating Daniel’s earlier request in the truck.
“I can’t help it,” Jack replied. Leaning against the wall by the door, he was about to cross his arms too when Sam and Teal’c appeared around the corner of the connecting corridor.
“We got your text,” she said. “What’s wrong?”
Jack jerked his chin at the therapy door. “They just went in. Adriann said it’ll take an hour.”
“Why the hell does he do this to himself?” Sam asked with exasperation. Her words made Jack and Jason exchange knowing glances. “I mean, does he like being in pain? We all know he’s not attention-seeking, but you’d think so with all this stubborn shit.”
Jack shook his head. “That’s exactly it, Carter. This is all because of that stubborn shit.”
Sam made a rude noise as she too crossed her arms and took up wall residence opposite Jack. “We have to do something about that.”
“Don’t worry,” Jalen said, giving them all a wan smile as he leaned against the opposite wall. “I know that look on Adriann’s face.”
“So do I,” Jack said with a humorless smile. “He’s pissed.”
Teal’c arched his brow as he crossed his hands behind his back. “Good.”
“I wouldn’t quite say that,” Jason said.
Teal’c paused for thought, looking around before giving Jack and Jason the longer consideration. “I know that in your friendship, you have the most influence, and still he has not learned. Perhaps Adriann, as an outsider, will finally make Daniel Jackson understand.”
“He’s not that much of an outsider, Teal’c,” Jack said grumpily.
“Yes, Adriann is very close to Daniel Jackson, but he is, as you have said in the past, someone with unusual influence. Perhaps that is what is needed.”
Jack pursed his lips, feeling a bit of possessive jealousy. “If by that you mean he can dig into Daniel’s head and make him obey?”
Teal’c’s concerned expression allowed a tiny smile. “Perhaps.”
Jason snorted. “I’m not sure that’s possible.”
Jack jogged his brows. “It is if you scare the shit out of him. Only damn thing that works anymore.”
Jason didn’t buy it. “I don’t think anything scares him anymore.”
Jack tended to agree. The only thing that still scared Daniel was the thought of any of his friends or loved ones getting snaked by a Goa’uld. Daniel was someone for whom individuality was sacred and having it taken away was horrifying. Daniel would risk his own life in order to free a person from that kind of torment. Jack didn’t like to think about it because it reminded him how reckless Daniel still was in that regard. His common sense tended to get over-ridden. Seven years ago, he’d gone after Amaunet with no thought of the consequences, and if it hadn’t been for Teal’c, Shau’re wouldn’t have been the only one to die in that tent.
“What?” Jason asked.
“Getting snaked, or having someone else get snaked, is the only thing that still scares him.”
“Understandable,” Sam agreed as she looked over at Jalen. “I wish I’d been able to tell the difference ten years ago.”
“Between Tok’ra and Goa’uld,” Jalen asked, and when she nodded, he sighed heavily. “I’d heard. And I’m sorry it happened like that.”
“I only wish she’d explained herself better,” Sam said with a disapproving frown.
“We know better now, as do they,” Jack said abruptly, trying to put an end to the path the conversation had taken. Carter didn’t like talking about Jolinar, so why the hell had she brought it up? Before he could switch the topic of conversation, the appearance of Stuart and Alex did it for him. They appeared around the corner at the end of the hall, coats in hand. “Did you call them?” Jack asked Jason.
“Just our wandering Brit.”
“Ha, ha,” Stuart said as they caught up. “Very funny, Coburn,” he said, making Jason grin. “Alex was with me.”
“Want me to leave?” Alex asked with sarcastic irritation.
“Don’t be stupid,” Jason scolded. “I was thinking of protocol. Stuart’s a member of SG-1. He needed to know.”
“And I didn’t?” Alex frowned.
“I didn’t mean …” Jason began. “I’m sorry.”
“Better be,” Alex snapped.
Stuart glanced around, taking a double-look at Jalen. He’d forgotten the man was still visiting his brother. “What’s the word?” he asked Jack.
“In there, getting fixed,” Jack replied.
Stuart sighed and lowered his voice to privacy level. “We saw this coming,” he said, reminding Jack of their worried chats over the past few months.
“And as usual, the point’s moot now,” Jack shot back. “You know, if he’d been military, none of this would have happened.”
“Civilians,” Stuart said with disparagement. Jerking his head at the room, he asked, “Who’s seeing to him then?”
Jack was abruptly reminded that this would be Stuart’s first real meeting with Adriann and despite the severity of the situation, his dark humor rose up. “Adriann and his sister.”
“Adriann and Talen?” Alex asked, a surprised smile on his face. “Cool.”
Stuart cleared his throat, uncomfortable with the news. Jalen seemed to find it funny. “What?” he asked defensively.
“What is it that bothers you about him?”
“One word,” Stuart answered. “Vampire. I mean, hello?” It wasn’t so much the reality of it as it was the subject. Stuart had always found vampires, whether in books or film or TV, to be creepy. Not bad creepy so much as horrified arousal. He did not like the contradiction. In his world, certainties were his preference. They fed his comforting sense of security.
Watching him, Sam asked, “Don’t like myths coming to life?”
“Not exactly, Sam,” Stuart replied.
“You and Adriann and Talen. This is gonna be entertaining,” Jack said as a bit of humor snuck in under the worry.
“You have a warped sense of fun, mate,” Stuart replied drolly.
“And this is news how exactly?” Jack shot back.
The door to the therapy room opened and Talen poked her head out. She scowled and placed a finger over her lips, then shut the door again.
Jason made a rude noise as he stared at the floor, thinking of ways to torment Daniel for making him worry. Adriann was next on the list. “When this is all over, I could use a stiff one.” At the silence that met his comment, he looked up to see grins on everyone’s faces and realized what he’d said. “What?” he asked when his gaze finally landed on Sam.
“Your comment,” she said with a smirk.
“What about it?” he asked, feigning innocence.
“You know,” Sam prodded.
“No,” Jason drawled. “What’re you talking about?” He glanced over at Alex, who had the same look on his face. “What?”
“You really don’t get what you said?” Alex asked.
“About having a stiff one?” Jason asked, milking the innocence for all it was worth. “What the hell is wrong with that?”
“Okay, Jason,” Stuart grinned. “Now that you took the mickey, own up.”
Jason narrowed his eyes, thinking Stuart knew him too well now to be fooled. “Had you people going.”
“Most of them,” Jack said with a crooked smile.
“Yeah, well, you know me a little,” Jason replied drily.
“Why the performance?” Stuart asked.
Jason looked at the closed Iso Room door. “Seemed as good a diversion as any.”
Shutting the door, Adriann sighed with frustration and walked over to the gurney, placing his hand on Daniel’s chest.
“You mean to wake him?” Talen asked, surprised.
“I’d rather not but he would prefer it.” He sent a mental summons to Daniel, keeping his inner voice as gentle as possible.
Daniel, wake up. I am here.
Daniel slowly rose to consciousness, but with it came the noise of a thousand ‘voices’, the constant loud hum that threatened to drive him mad. Half-awake, he shook his head, but Adriann cupped the side of his head and stilled him.
May I proceed?
“With what?” Daniel whispered, eyes still closed and brows deeply furrowed.
Helping you block out the noise.
Adriann received silent permission. He placed his hands on Daniel’s head, framing his skull, and closed his eyes. Through a mental projection, steel and iron walls went up around them, effectively cutting them off from everyone outside the room. Beside them, Talen used her powers as a shield and buffer, reinforcing what Adriann put up.
Open your eyes, Daniel. Wake up completely.
It was a few moments before Daniel realized that he could no longer hear the heavy tide of emotions clamoring inside his mind. He opened his eyes slowly, momentarily caught off-guard by the dim light of the room. He fixed his gaze on Adriann, relief his only expression. “It’s all gone,” he said, body tension dissolving.
“Not precisely,” Adriann told him, not releasing his head.
“What do you mean?” Daniel asked, filled with unease as he reached up to cover Adriann’s hands with his own.
“Talen and I have put up barriers to protect you while I teach you to construct your own.”
“So nothing was taken away?”
“I’m sorry,” Adriann said solemnly. “You still have the empathy. What needs to be done now is to …” He made a face and looked at Talen.
“Honestly, Adriann,” she said softly. “If this were one our people, there wouldn’t be a problem.”
“We have to respect his wishes, Talen. Don’t be difficult.”
“I respect them, but he’s suffering and regardless of his feelings, things need to be done.”
“He needs to do it himself, Talen. Self-sufficiency is everything to him.”
Daniel’s eyes widened in alarm. “Hello? Wanna talk to me about this? I’m right here. What the hell are you two talking about?” With a heavy sigh, Adriann looked into his eyes with something approaching fear. Daniel very rarely saw it there and it scared him. “Tell me what’s wrong?”
“I could just reach into your mind and put up the walls, but it would be temporary. I would have to periodically reinforce them.”
Daniel hated idea of running to Adriann whenever something went wrong. “And the alternative?” he asked. “There has to be one or you wouldn’t have said ‘could’.”
“The walls come down, then I help you construct your own, ones that you will have control over. Ones that will remain.” He sighed again, looking even more guilty. “The only trouble is that this will cause you pain. I’m sorry, Daniel. I didn’t think to do this when I gave you the ability. I should have realized that the human brain wasn’t ready for this type of open power.”
“Some are,” Daniel said ruefully. “Just not mine apparently.” Adriann said nothing, just cocked an expectant eyebrow. Daniel looked over at Talen and as she nodded reassuringly, he gave them both a wan smile. “Let’s get this over with. Show me what to do.”
Adriann and Talen gazed into each other’s eyes, their minds synchronizing so that her shield protection would be ready for each level of protection Daniel gained with Adriann’s help. With a single nod of agreement, they looked down at Daniel, taking the walls away. He groaned, the pain returning, but the pressure of Adriann’s fingers distracted him, getting his attention.
“Listen to me,” Adriann said softly, using his talent for swaying others. “Picture your mind as a building of many rooms, many floors, in which you stand at the center on the ground floor.”
Daniel tried, despite the pressure coming from outside, and managed to think of an ancient building of iron and oak, with many wrought-iron grates covering many oak doors.
“Excellent,” Adriann murmured, intensifying the hypnotic tone. “Each door holds the mind of others, and on those doors is a marker displaying their name. You don’t have to see the markers to know who they belong to. It is enough to know they’re there. Do you understand?”
Yes, Daniel said, holding his breath.
“Breathe slowly, Daniel.” He waited until Daniel wrinkled his brow and concentrated, taking slow, even breaths. Eventually, the breaths became deeper, more relaxing. “Very good,” Adriann said, and his voice wasn’t the only thing he used; he pushed with his mind as well. He knew Daniel wouldn’t notice and right now, there was no need to let him in on it. Later, perhaps, if it was necessary, though Adriann had a feeling that Daniel would figure that out on his own. “At this moment, all those doors are open,” he continued. “Close them. Start with the many floors above. Do it now.”
Daniel felt almost weightless as he listened to Adriann’s words lull him into obedience. The oak ‘doors’ on the ‘upper floors’ closed, the wrought-iron grates slamming shut after them, and the clamoring sounds began to lessen.
“Good,” Adriann reassured slowly, voice like honey. “Continue, travel down, floating among the inside of your house. When you get to the bottom floor, you will now see names on the doors that belong to people you know. Your friends, the people you love, others. Close all but the one with my name on it. Do it now.”
It took a few moments because Daniel literally walked to those doors in his mind, closing them with a strange feeling of regret. Almost all the doors had bronze plaques with names chiseled into them; three of the plaques were made of gold. He smiled inwardly because they belonged to Jack, Jason, and Adriann. Bemused, he took a moment to wonder why Adriann’s was gold and considered that perhaps his subconscious had done that. Or Adriann. That thought literally made him smile.
“What is amusing?” Adriann asked unnecessarily.
“You should know,” Daniel whispered.
“As I’ve learned with you, it never hurts to employ tact and consideration and simply ask.”
Daniel pictured Jack’s and Jason’s doors closing, then stood before the room with Adriann’s name. “Now what?” he asked before he realized that all but Adriann’s emotions were gone from his mind. It was dizzying and his heartbeat increased in a mild panic.
“Shh,” Adriann soothed. “There is nothing wrong.”
Daniel swallowed hard and concentrated on relaxing. “I’ve been so used to them, even though they …” A sudden weight on his mind, his chest, nearly suffocating him. Panicked, he said, “Adriann, what’s …”
“Shh, it’s alright.” Adriann leaned over, hands holding his head steady while he pulled back on the pressure his emotions were causing. “Do you understand what just happened?”
Daniel knotted his brows in familiar analytical thought. “No.”
“I had to fully open your mind to mine before I pulled back. Now I will teach you to do that yourself.”
Again, Daniel swallowed. “I thought the rooms did that.”
“Partly. But now I need to show you how to adjust the level of emotion you receive. That had been under control, but now the doors are wide open when you pick up on a person’s feelings. It’s what caused this mess. Do you understand?”
Daniel relaxed. “I do.”
“Good,” Adriann said, keeping his voice soothing and melodic. “Now we’ll use something you’re familiar with to make it easier. Go to the door with my name on it. Picture a volume control there.”
Daniel’s brows knotted once again as he pictured a large dial to the right of the door, one he’d imagined as a kid when reading HG Wells. On the dial, he pictured 0 at the 7 o’clock position and 100 at 5 o’clock position. “Okay.”
Adriann smiled at the creativity Daniel used. “I’m going to unblock my emotions now, so be prepared. Right now, you have my volume tuned to 100. I want you to turn it down.” He paused, then let go. “Now.”
The suffocating pressure returned and nearly overwhelmed him, but he reached out with a mental hand and turned the volume down to 30. Instantly, the noise lessened, but that wasn’t quite the right word for it. Daniel could still feel emotions from Adriann, but he realized that he could actually name what he felt now, as if the emotions had been reduced in number. It was perplexing. Had he been feeling everything before?
“Yes,” Adriann said with a soft smile. “Now, you are now picking up only on surface feelings.”
Daniel didn’t need to ask what that meant. What Adriann meant simply came to him: worry, concern, and love. Which meant that what he’d felt before was … what?
“What you picked up before was the emotional content of all my thoughts, not just the surface ones.”
It was a sobering, frightening thought, as Daniel realized just how deeply he’d been feeling everyone around him. He let out a weary sigh and reached up to rub his forehead. There was now a residual ache where the pain used to be. “No wonder I passed out.”
“It was a lot more dangerous than that, Daniel.”
Daniel made a face. “I know.” Staring into his lover’s grey eyes, he dredged up a good-natured smirk. “I just prefer to downplay it.”
“I know,” Adriann mimicked, and returned the smirk as well.
“So, is that it?”
“Not quite. Now comes the test.”
“Test?” Daniel asked, and when Adriann looked up at his sister, he understood that Talen was still protecting the room. “Oh, right.”
“Let’s sit up,” Adriann said as he guided him.
Daniel was alarmed at the soreness of his muscles as he sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. “All this from a mental exercise?”
Adriann grinned. “They’re not separate things.”
“Most people on this planet would disagree. Comes from this idiotic brawn-over-brains bullshit that’s been conditioned into humans for about 4,000 years.”
“But not everyone, I take it?” Talen asked, finally speaking as she reached over to massage Daniel’s neck.
Daniel groaned happily. “No, not everyone. A few of us know better.”
Talen chuckled as she and Adriann shared a look. “Should probably inform Jalen. He seems to think brawn is better.”
“He should know better,” Adriann said with a mock-growl.
“How do you feel?” Talen asked Daniel.
Daniel blinked and looked over at her, then back to Adriann. Their protection was down and he could feel no one but Adriann. “Wow. I didn’t even notice.”
“Which is a good thing, trust me,” Talen said. She let him think he knew what she meant, but that wasn’t it at all.
“Talen removing the protection was the first test,” Adriann said, shooting a little glower at Talen.
“First?” Daniel asked, then groaned louder and bowed his head as Talen worked her fingers higher into his neck.
“You open a door for the next test. Before that happens, close your eyes and purposely set all the rooms to zero. You didn’t do that before. While your subconscious might just assume zero, it’s best to make sure.”
Daniel sighed and closed his eyes. As Talen worked her magic on his muscles, he swept his mental building, turning all the dials off. It took a minute or two, though it felt like ages. Finally, he stood in front of Jack’s door and turned the volume up to 30.
Worry, impatience, and anger.
He couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled up. He was both relieved to feel Jack’s mind again, knowing that he was out there, and perversely amused that Jack was being his customary gruff self whenever someone he loved was hurt.
“What?” Adriann asked, having purposely backed off from any telepathy just in case it interfered with Daniel’s new fine tuning.
“How long have we been in here?”
Adriann looked up at the clock over the door and shrugged. “Almost an hour.”
“An hour?” Daniel asked as he straightened up, eyes wide in surprise. “Well no wonder he’s getting a little bitchy.”
Adriann cocked his head in an obvious show of telepathy as he listened in on Jack’s mind. “Definitely bitchy,” he grinned.
“Don’t tell him you were doing that. You know how he gets,” Daniel warned as he began to push himself back up. When Adriann placed a hand on his chest to stop him, Daniel brushed him off. “Stop it, I’m fine now.”
“Not quite,” Adriann warned, but Daniel ignored him and sat up. As soon as he did, a wave of dizziness hit him, and with it, nausea. Groaning and holding his stomach, he lay back down and remained still. “Listen to me next time,” Adriann scolded.
“What’s going on?”
“Your brain needs time to adjust. Sudden movement, like that, will be a problem.”
“Obviously,” Daniel responded drily. “How long?”
“A few hours,” Adriann replied, the sympathy clear in his tone.
Daniel sighed and looked up at him. “You could’ve warned me.”
Adriann grinned knowingly. “You would have thought I was being overprotective.”
Daniel didn’t answer as he looked away; there really wasn’t a need because Adriann was right and Daniel wasn’t in the mood to tell him that. Perhaps after the nausea faded.
“You are the most stubborn,” Adriann said softly.
“It’s a talent,” Daniel sighed. “Are you sure it’ll only be a few hours?”
“I am guessing,” Adriann answered cautiously. “This is unfamiliar territory. Like my not knowing how that power would damage you.”
The guilt was plain on his face and Daniel reached out and took his hand. “You meant well and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Talen stared at her brother, reading his mind easily, and startled Daniel when she reached over to smooth his hair back with her hand. “We thought it would be safe.”
“We?” Daniel asked, glancing between them. “You discussed it?”
She hesitated, exchanging a quick look with Adriann. “We … deliberated.” She paused, then added, “Though the intention was honorable and good, we failed to consider the ramifications. There was also the lack of foresight where our communication is concerned. Since we can easily read your minds and …”
“Manipulate them?” Daniel asked, a soft smirk on his lips.
Talen nodded. “We did not consider your adverse reaction.”
“Because I’m human?”
“Humans seem to resist any form of mind control or invasion.”
“Not successfully,” Daniel said, thinking of the common ability some humans had in manipulating others. He also thought of the Goa’uld and other alien invaders of the mind.
Peering inward, he pictured Jack’s door and shut it, then tested Jason’s. When his mind was immediately met with his feelings, he widened his eyes in surprise. Hadn’t he shut all the ‘dials’ off?
“I can hear Jason and I didn’t focus on trying. Has something gone wrong?” Adriann looked at him affectionately, as if he should know the answer, and Daniel found it condescending. “Don’t do that. Just answer the damn question.”
“You’re tuned into him, like you are with Jack. Simply thinking of him opened your mental door. I think with others, you’d have to specifically focus.”
“We tend to call it the lover’s connection,” Talen added, giving her brother the periodic long-suffering look she adopted. “Honestly, Adriann, you do get long-winded.”
Chagrined, her brother rolled his eyes. “Shall we open the door and let in the restless throng?”
Daniel sighed. “Yes, before Jack starts banging on the damn thing.”
Outside the therapy room, Jack and Jason set themselves up as sentinels on either side of the door.
“Is it me or has this taken too fucking long?” Jason asked, re-crossing his arms.
“It’s not you,” Jack grumbled.
Jason watched him run a hand through his hair for the umpteenth time; it was a common display for his lack of patience. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Jason found it adorable. Before anyone could notice the expression on his face, he changed it. “I know we’ve been through this sort of crap before, and I know that this is different because we have no frame of reference, but it’s still maddening. At least normal human injuries give us a time frame we’re used to.”
Jack grunted agreement and glanced at Sam’s ceaseless pacing. He was about to say something but Teal’c saved him the trouble.
Teal’c laid a hand on her arm. “You are ‘wearing a hole in the floor.'”
Sam smirked at him. “If you fall through, I’ll save you.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” Teal’c nodded sagely. “You must be patient.”
“I know, but you know I hate waiting.”
“Yes, I am aware, but Daniel Jackson is in good hands.”
Jack made a rude noise and across the hall, leaning against the wall next to Alex, Stuart lifted a brow. “You don’t believe he is?”
“Oh he definitely is,” Jack said with a disgusted look, “but like Carter, I also hate waiting. However, what’s really the problem here is that none of this would be necessary in the first goddamn place if Adriann hadn’t–“
The therapy room’s door opened, cutting him off. He turned to go in, impatient and insistent, and Jason moved with him. Lying on the bed, Daniel looked a little pale. Jack reached over and copied Talen’s earlier caress, but moved his thumb between Daniel’s brows to smooth the knot there. “What’s with the frown?”
“Impatience,” Adriann answered.
“Gee, what a coincidence,” Jack snarked.
Ignoring his remark, Adriann continued. “He will be fine. He simply needs to rest for a few hours.”
“You’re sure?” Jason asked. He glanced behind him, toward the door, finding Sam and Teal’c in the doorway … blocking the view. He took advantage of the blockade and caressed Daniel’s cheek with the back of his hand. “You look like shit,” he said fondly.
“I feel like shit,” Daniel grinned back. “But I also feel better.”
Teal’c and Sam moved aside as Janet appeared. As she entered the room, the others filed in behind her. Jack stepped aside and watched both Janet and Daniel as she checked his eyes with a pen light and took hold of his wrist.
“How’d it go?” she asked, glancing at Adriann.
“Well,” Adriann said simply.
“Daniel?” Janet asked.
Before Daniel could answer, Adriann sent a telepathic query.
Will they always doubt our word?
Daniel looked up at him. “It’s nothing personal, it’s just the situation. And besides, it’s Janet’s job to question until she’s satisfied.”
Janet smirked at him. “I meant no offense, Adriann, but we always ask the patient how he or she is feeling. Especially when it’s obvious that something’s still wrong.”
“What?” Jack and Jason asked.
She looked imperiously down at Daniel. “Your pupils are dilated.”
“He will be better in an hour or so,” Adriann quickly informed her. “It is a side-effect, nothing more.”
“You’re sure?” Jack asked, not liking Janet’s reaction.
“I am,” Adriann said.
“This side-effect worries me,” Janet told him.
“I understand,” Adriann answered, “but you should rest assured. The amount of … adjustment … his brain needed is to blame. It will not last long.”
“Did you take that ability away?” Jason asked.
“I can’t,” Adriann said. “What I mean is that he now has control of it.”
Janet nodded. “As long as his pupils return to normal soon, I’ll be satisfied with that answer. I’d like to run an MRI though.”
Daniel groaned. “No, please, Janet. Wait till we get back from leave, okay? I’m fine. Really I am.”
She thinned her lips and examined his eyes again. At least they reacted evenly. She patted him on the arm. “Fine. After we return to work, then I want you here. Deal?”
“Deal,” Daniel answered, relieved.
Janet then surprised everyone when she turned to Jalen. With an arched brow, she asked, “Weren’t you supposed to be somewhere this morning?”
His eyes widened as he remembered that he’d missed coming in for a routine blood draw. “Crap, I’m sorry, Janet. I forgot.”
Twisting her mouth, she pointed outside. “We’ll get it down now before you forget again.” She turned to Jack. “General Hammond’s waiting in his office. While I take Jalen to the lab, take Adriann and Talen down to his office and give him a full report.”
Jack nodded, waiting till she and Jalen left the room before he turned back to Daniel. “You sure you’re okay?” Daniel rolled his eyes, making him smile. Jack stuffed his hands in his pockets and cocked his head toward the door. “Let’s go then.”
“Jack, wait,” Daniel said, pushing his fists into the bed so he could sit up. It suddenly occurred to him that Hammond might just send Adriann and Talen home and he didn’t want that, not yet.
“What?” Jack asked, walking to the foot of the bed.
“Ask permission for them to stay while we’re on leave.”
No one was surprised by his request, but Jack didn’t know if it would fly. “They’re not here on official business. Do you think he’ll grant permission because you asked? Where would they stay?”
Daniel frowned stubbornly. “With me. And why shouldn’t he grant permission? Jalen gets to visit Jason.”
“Because he has a purpose being here.”
“So did Adriann and Talen, and I think as a reward, we should extend the invitation to visit for a while.” He looked at Talen, then Adriann. “That’s providing you want to stay here for a few weeks.”
“I would enjoy that,” Adriann said, his smile was warm and affectionate. However, his eyes spoke of mischief and no one but Daniel seemed to notice.
“Thank you for the offer, Daniel,” Talen said, “but I would prefer to return home.”
Adriann was surprised. “Why? You’ve been wanting to visit this world for years.”
She sighed and gave Jack a knowing look. “Only on our own terms, not someone else’s. Do you actually believe you have ownership over who visits your planet?”
Jack pursed his lips and nodded. “I’m sorry, but for the time being, we do, and for one very simple reason: With the exception of a small group of people, the population of this planet doesn’t even know about the existence of aliens. Many think they believe in alien life, but it’s quite another to discover it’s true. For now, secrecy must be maintained, whether I personally agree with it or not.”
Adriann snorted. “I understand duty, Jack, but your people are not stupid and secrets have a way of getting out.”
“That’s true,” Jack replied, “but until that time comes–“
“Do you think now is the right time for this discussion?” Daniel interrupted.
Jack reached over and squeezed his foot. “He’s right. Let’s go see if we can continue it. Besides, the entire conversation may be moot if Hammond says no.”
“Then I’m coming with you,” Daniel said, swinging his legs over the side of the bed, but he was hit with a dizzy spell and Jason grabbed him to keep him from falling off the bed.
“Let them handle it,” he said as he pushed Daniel back down. “Jack, get going.”
As soon as they left, Daniel sighed and refused to meet Jason’s eyes. “You’re an overprotective asshole, you know that?”
“Bite me,” Jason replied as he moved behind the head of the bed and stepped on the brake pedal, releasing it. “Teal’c, Stuart, give me a hand. Sam, would you hold that door open.”
“Where am I going?” Daniel asked.
“Back to the infirmary,” Jason replied. “Now stop being a stubborn shithead.”
“I like being a stubborn shithead,” Daniel grumbled. “Besides, if you’re that worried, why don’t you tie me down?”
With a wink at the others, Jason said, “You’d enjoy it.”
Despite his mood, Daniel barked out a laugh. “Isn’t that your thing?”
“Okay you two, enough with the unintended visual images,” Stuart said, making Jason grin. “You think the General will give permission?”
Daniel nodded. “With Jack framing the request in such a way that it’ll sound like a violation of National Security if Adriann doesn’t stay over?”
“Good point,” Stuart grinned. “The man could talk a snake out of its skin.”
“Understatement of the millennium,” Daniel smirked. “But Hammond’s far from a pushover and if he doesn’t feel the reason is justified, no matter how Jack puts it…”
After a brief word that Daniel would be fine, General Hammond invited them into his office and gestured for Adriann and Talen to take a seat. Since there were only two chairs that normally sat before his desk, Jack chose to remain standing, positioning himself between the boss and their visitors.
“First, let me extend my thanks for helping Doctor Jackson,” Hammond began as he took his seat and folded his hands on the desktop.
“You’re welcome, General,” Adriann replied. Jack didn’t need to be a telepath to notice that there was tension around the corners of the man’s mouth. Was he nervous?
“Explain how this occurred and what you did to alleviate the problem.”
As Adriann and Talen complied, Jack listened and observed, carefully calculating Hammond’s response and mood. The General disliked anything that happened to his people, especially if it could have been prevented. At the SGC, every person was expected to be at their best, and if they couldn’t be, to get the problem situated. Knowing that, Jack had an idea how he could persuade the General to let Adriann and Talen stay. Personally, he knew how much Daniel missed Adriann. For himself, he would love to play the escort, to show Adriann around a place he’d only seen by way of people’s memories. He hoped that Talen would stay too. She was the only woman nowadays that got him hard, although he suspected that his ex, Sara, could still manage it.
“Colonel, anything to add?” Hammond asked him, pulling Jack out of his thoughts.
Jack had only half-listened to the conversation, but that wasn’t a problem. He rarely missed anything, even when he wasn’t paying full attention. It was a little trick he kept well hidden, and something he’d never tell Daniel about. It was way too much fun getting a rise out of him during mission presentations.
“Not about Daniel’s health, sir,” he answered, then cleared his throat. “But I would like to make a request.”
Jack gestured at Adriann and Talen. “Seems a shame to send them back home after all their help.”
Hammond pursed his lips, looking for all the world like he’d been expecting this. “Go on.”
“I’d like to request that Adriann and Talen stay until we return from leave.” As he expected, Hammond grinned crookedly. The man was so instinctually intelligent it was scary.
“Was this your idea or Doctor Jackson’s?”
“It was actually Daniel’s request, but I agree. It’s not just because I would love to show them around, let them know what this planet is like.”
“What’s the other reason?”
“I’d like Adriann to stick around, make sure the mental adjustments he gave Daniel stick.”
Hammond nodded. “Who will they stay with? You?”
His expression was bland and Jack hated that he couldn’t tell if Hammond’s opinion was leaning towards favorable or unfavorable. “Yes, sir. And Daniel. We both have the extra rooms.”
Hammond gazed at his laced fingers, quietly contemplative for what seemed like several minutes instead of the seconds it actually took. Finally, he looked at Adriann and Talen, then focused on Adriann. “I have a few items that need to be addressed. First, if I authorize this off-base visit, you’ll be staying here for the duration of their time off, starting now. There’ll be no going back and forth through the Stargate. This isn’t a train station.”
“Understood,” Adriann nodded.
Jack hid the grin on his face the moment Hammond looked up at him.
“Second,” Hammond continued, eyes back on Adriann and Talen. “You’re not to leave the area without an escort supplied by either Doctor Jackson or Colonel O’Neill.”
Again, Adriann nodded. “Yes, sir.”
Hammond gave Jack his full attention. “I think I can trust your judgment on the remaining details.”
“You can, sir.”
With an accepting nod, Hammond rose and opened the door. “Adriann, Talen, would you both please wait outside while I talk to the Colonel in private?”
Adriann nodded. “Of course, General.”
As soon as they left and the door was closed, Hammond gave Jack a shrewd look. “You’re not surprised I authorized the visit, are you?”
Jack shifted uncomfortably. “Not after I added the medical advantage of keeping him around, sir.”
“Then you know me well enough by now to ascertain that that was why I gave the go-ahead.”
Jack nodded slowly. “Yes, sir.”
Hammond nodded. “However, there are other considerations.”
“Sooner or later, they’ll come here on their own. I’d rather oversee the first time, if you take my meaning.”
“I do, sir.” Jack knew he meant an introduction to Earth’s protocols and laws.
Hammond grinned. “I assumed as much.” With a satisfied sigh, he opened the door and gave Jack a smile. “Merry Christmas, Jack. And give my best to the others. I’ll be leaving soon.”
“Yes, sir, and the same to you. Give my love to Kayla and Tessa. And tell them to expect some presents from UPS.”
Hammond laughed softly. “I will, Jack. Thanks.”
Jack waited till they were in the elevator to explain, but first he had to get rid of a suspicion he hoped was wrong. “Tell me neither of you eavesdropped.”
Adriann stared at him, and in his version of a Boy Scout salute, he clasped his hands behind his back and bowed his head. “You have my word that we did not.”
Jack nodded back, satisfied, then explained what Hammond had said, getting approving nods in the process. As soon as the explanations were finished, he changed track and raised an eyebrow at Talen. “Why’d you change your mind about staying?”
She pursed her full lips, then drew them into a crooked smile. “Adriann pointed out that it has been a while since we have had fresh blood. It is always wise to never walk away from a beneficial opportunity.”
Adriann snorted. “And you say I’m the one with the long explanations?”
She didn’t respond. She merely met Jack’s gaze. He noticed the feral twinkle in her eyes and shook his head. “Don’t get any ideas about going out for a midnight snack run.”
“You’d prevent it then?” Adriann asked. Jack’s reticence was surprising. “Why?”
Jack pursed his lips, thinking it over, and knew there’d be more to hash out, particularly with Daniel having something to say about it. The thought perversely amused him. Giving the duo a patronizing smirk, he said, “As much as I trust the two of you to behave yourselves, I’d like you to get your sea legs first. Wait till you’ve gotten settled before you disappear on your own in the middle of the night.”
Talen lifted her chin. “What makes you think we would do that?”
Jack grinned back, but there was a warning look behind his eyes. “I imagined what I would do in your place.”
After Jack delivered the news about Hammond’s permission, Daniel felt a giddy warmth grow inside his belly–right next to the guilt. “Are you sure you don’t have somewhere else to be?” he asked Adriann, knowing that it sounded like he’d just contradicted his own wishes.
Adriann widened his eyes in surprise, but before he could answer, Jack cleared his throat. “Could everyone excuse us for a moment?”
When they were alone, Daniel sat up. “What now?” he asked as he swung his legs over the side. The dizziness was thankfully gone. When Jack and Jason reached out to steady him, he had to throttle the urge to slap them away.
Jack stuffed his hands in his pockets and sighed. “What’re you doing?”
“What he said,” Jason replied, crossing his arms.
“I don’t know what you mean,” Daniel answered, averting his eyes.
“Daniel, don’t even pull that shit,” Jack warned.
“When are you going to get over this guilt?” Jason asked point blank.
His lovers stood there, staring at him with expectation, concern, and disapproval. Daniel wanted to get mad, but being defensive wouldn’t get him anywhere. With a sigh of resignation, he waved at the door. “Every goddamn time he shows up, I get distracted.” He paused for emphasis. “Away from you.” When they were apparently unimpressed with that answer, he added, “It’s Christmas, dammit. Even if that’s not of religious significance to me, it’s a special time, and the last goddamn thing I want is to be distracted from our time together.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “First, it’s not our last Christmas. Second, you won’t be with him the whole time we’re on leave. Third, you haven’t seen him in a long damn time, so give yourself a break. And fourth, stop being an obstinate ass.”
“Nice. You’re using big words now.”
“I can think up plenty more if you like,” Jack warned.
“Dammit, Jack–” Daniel scowled.
“He’s right,” Jason interrupted. “Why did you ask for Adriann to stay if you really didn’t want him to?”
Daniel didn’t have what he felt was an acceptable answer. “Because I forgot it was the holidays?” he offered sheepishly.
“Oh bull-fucking-shit, Daniel,” Jack said as he made a face. “It’s just Christmas, not an interruption of a honeymoon in St. Croix.”
Daniel scowled back. “I know that, dammit.”
Jason didn’t like the tone they were taking with each other. To distract them, he asked, “So that’s the surprise gift you’ve been teasing us about?”
Jack threw him a sarcastic look. “Sorry. Another time.”
“Be nice though,” Daniel had to admit. When Jack rolled his eyes, the tension in the room dissipated. “Sorry, Jack. I just didn’t want distractions. We’re on leave. Finally. We haven’t had a break since Stuart joined us a year and a half ago. I wanted nothing more than to selfishly spend this time alone with you.”
“You will,” Jack said, touching the back of Daniel’s hand. “When it counts.”
Daniel stared at him. “It always counts.”
“Yes, it does,” Jason agreed, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t have something special.”
“We have that,” Daniel said, irritation rising.
“Different,” Jason amended. “We’re going to have lots of Christmases. But how many will there be with Adriann on Earth?” As Daniel stared back at him, Jason could see the tension lines around his eyes beginning to soften. “He’s only seen this place through our eyes. Maybe the holiday will be made more special by seeing it through his.”
Daniel looked down, plucking absently at the wool blanket as he thought it over. What they said made sense–as usual, damn them. There was a definite attraction to watching and feeling Adriann’s reactions to his world. But there was also the strange knot in his belly, his loins; the one he got every single time he was physically near Adriann. It was his love for the alien, combined with the somewhat uncomfortable desire to be with someone so very, very dangerous. A myriad of sexual images spun quickly around in his mind and after a few seconds of indulgence, Daniel pushed them aside and looked up.
Conflict still warred within him, but he had to concede that his lovers won the argument. “I hate it when you’re right,” he said with a soft smile.
“Welcome to our world,” Jack grinned. Situation handled, his thoughts immediately turned to mischief. “Now, speaking of Stuart …”
Daniel didn’t need to be clairvoyant to know what he was thinking. “Jack, behave.”
“Yeah, that’ll definitely deter him,” Jason said sarcastically.
“Shut up,” Daniel said, jogging his brows. “I know what Jack’s thinking.” He leveled his older lover with a wry smirk. “There’s only one down side with your plan, Jack.”
“Not seeing a down side here,” Jack replied.
“Stuart’s leaving day after tomorrow.”
Jack winced, hating that he’d forgotten that Stuart was heading home for Christmas and wouldn’t be back till after New Year’s–when their leave was over. “Okay, one day’s torture then. And it’ll kill two birds with one stone.”
Daniel’s brows rose. “What?”
“The Christmas party tomorrow. They’ll both be there.”
Daniel glanced at Jason, a frown of confusion forming. “Yeah, and? I’m not seeing the ‘two birds’ part.”
Jack smiled. “How long have Stuart and Alex been tiptoeing around each other?”
Jason let out a snort of laughter. “And people say you’re not sentimental.”
. . .
The smells of gasoline and oil were a bit disconcerting, but Adriann had smelled worse. Talen, however, was none too pleased as they walked across the span of the garage, heading for Daniel’s Jeep.
“You are sure this unpleasant odor will disappear when we leave this place?” she asked with a doubtful grimace.
Daniel nodded, then thought of the traffic they’d encounter moving through town. “It’ll get replaced with noise.”
“A lot of noise,” Jack added over his shoulder as he reached his truck, parked next to Daniel’s. Next to him was Jason’s vehicle and already the man and his twin were climbing inside. “Where’re you two heading …?” he began, hating that he didn’t know what Jason’s plans were.
Jason froze, staring back, and suddenly an idea came to him. He got out and leaned against the door, propping an arm over the top. “I have an idea,” and he jerked his chin at Adriann and Talen. “Why don’t we take them out for dinner?”
Daniel smiled. “That’s a great idea.” He looked over his shoulder and shouted across the lot to Sam and Teal’c, Alex and Stuart. “You guys wanna join us? We’re gonna take these guys out to dinner.”
“No thanks, Daniel,” Sam called back. “We have plans. We’ll catch you tomorrow, okay?”
Stuart and Alex gave pretty much the same answer and he frowned as he watched them get into their respective cars. Pursing his lips in thought, he mused out loud. “Maybe they’ve gotten together without any interference from us.”
“Carter and Teal’c or Stuart and Alex?” Jack asked.
Daniel threw Jack a smirk. “Sam and Teal’c have been back together for a few months now, Jack. I meant Stuart and Alex.”
“Carter and Teal’c are back together?” Jack asked, eyes wide. “When did this happen?”
“Back on that mud planet. Remember when we got stuck on either side of that river we’d thought was dried up?”
Jack exaggerated a shudder. “Damn crap stank to high heaven.”
Daniel jogged his brows in agreement. “Before we got back home, I noticed the two of them weren’t keeping their distance anymore. I asked Sam. She told me.”
“Why didn’t she tell me?” Jack asked as he watched the tail end of Carter’s Carmen Ghia disappear into the tunnel.
“She probably thought I did.”
Jack narrowed his eyes. “Why didn’t you?”
Daniel was growing impatient. “Because I thought you’d already figured it out and decided not to say anything.”
“Well I didn’t–” Jack said, his voice rising.
“Well I’m sorry, Jack,” Daniel scowled. “It’s not my fault if your romantic radar’s busted.”
“It’s working just fine,” Jack scowled back. “But in your case, I may throw it out altogether!”
Beside them, Adriann and Talen watched this exchange with increasing surprise. How could they build an argument over something so trivial?
“Oh great!” Daniel went on, “and here I thought you already had!”
On his way over to see what the holdup was, Jason and his brother grew alarmed at the tone in their voices. “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” Jason shouted. “What the hell’s going on?”
“They’re arguing,” Adriann gestured with an amused smirk.
“I can see that,” Jason answered, giving his lovers a sour look. “About what?”
“Jack did not know that Sam and Teal’c had resumed their relationship,” Talen answered.
Jason dropped his mouth open. “Well that nails it. If you’re arguing about something that stupid, we really do need a vacation.” As Jack and Daniel looked at each other with grudging apology, Jason shook his head and sighed. “Will the two of you just say it and move on? We’ve got more important things to do.”
Daniel spoke first. “Sorry, Jack.”
Jack nodded. “Backatcha.”
It was apparently good enough because Jason smiled at them. “Good boys. Now, can we go? I’d like to get some things done before tonight.”
Jalen grinned. “While the cat’s away … I may just stay out all night and–“
“Think again,” Jason told him with a mock-scowl. They’d come to an arrangement about Jalen’s off-base restrictions. As long as he was discreet and back by 3 a.m., he could go wherever he wanted, unless he was staying overnight with Alex. The only problem Jason had with the arrangement was that during the nights he stayed with Jack or Daniel, he had no idea if his brother took advantage and stayed out all night.
“You behaving yourself?” Jack asked Jalen.
“I’m an angel,” Jalen answered.
Satisfied that their brief argument was over, Daniel waved airily at Adriann and Talen. “So, do we take them out for dinner?”
Jack looked at their guests. “What do you think?”
“Do you not require permission first?”
“No,” Jack frowned. “We don’t need Hammond’s permission.”
“No, I am referring to permission from the restaurant.”
Daniel laughed. “Reservations. Is that what you mean?”
“Yes,” Adriann replied, shooting him a tiny smile filled with warning. “And please don’t tease me about all the things I’m going to get wrong during my stay.”
“And if I do?” Daniel challenged.
“Something will happen,” Adriann challenged back.
“Reservations are out anyway,” Jack said, thinking. “It’s too late in the day. Wherever we go, it’ll be crowded. It’s Sunday, remember?”
“Oh, right,” Daniel answered, but instead of thinking of a restaurant, he stared at Adriann and Talen. And their eyes and clothes. “Damn.”
“What?” Jack asked.
“They can’t go out like that,” Daniel said, waving his hand at them. “They stand out.”
“What would you suggest?” Adriann asked.
“Clothes’ll be easy,” Jalen replied. “But you’ll need colored contacts. I bought some two weeks ago and I wear them to hide the grey flecks in my eyes.”
“They aren’t that noticeable,” Talen said with a worried look. She didn’t like the idea of hiding, but could understand the security issues involved since they were supposed to keep a low profile.
“No, but they’re different enough to be remembered,” he answered her.
Jack pursed his lips again, staring at Daniel. “Okay, you take off to the mall, get the contacts. We’ll find something else for them to wear.”
Daniel shook his head. “You’ll have to head to the mall, too, Jack.”
“Because neither one of them will wear anything but leather, suede, and silk.”
“Crap,” Jack sighed. “There goes the balance on my card.”
“And Talen?” Daniel went on, glancing at her and her height. “She’ll have to wear men’s clothing because there isn’t a shop in the mall for tall women. Sam could order other stuff online since she’ll be here long enough.”
“With the holiday shopping season, that might not make a difference,” Jack said.
“Yeah, but after the 26th, it’ll die down. Tomorrow, Sam and Janet can use my laptop and help her find something during the party.”
“That’s six days away,” Jack said, making a face. “She’ll need something now.”
Daniel grinned at him. “Then you’ll be at the mall a little longer.”
Jack sighed. “Fine. Now all we have to do is figure out where we’re going to eat.”
“And sleep,” Daniel said, clearing his throat.
As Adriann raised his brow at Daniel, Jack looked at his blue-eyed lover with amusement. “Adriann will be staying with you. Talen with me.”
“We’d already decided on that,” Adriann replied, then realized that Daniel was annoyed that the decision had been made without him. “I’m sorry, but I didn’t think you’d mind.”
After a long pause, Daniel said, “I don’t, really. Jack, you could have mentioned it when we were talking in the infirmary.”
Jack shrugged. “It’s done.” The two locked eyes for several long seconds, and Daniel thought about giving Jack a little payback for leaving him out of the loop. The only problem was that he’d like it too much. Spanking certainly.
An echo from Adriann’s mind let him know that he’d been listening. And now, he was laughing.
Tell him you know about that and you’re a dead man, Daniel warned.
I will not say a word. But are you interested in that sort of thing?
There was a mental throat clearing as Daniel refused to answer the question. “Okay, so, let’s go. Adriann, you can wait with Jack while I get the contacts.”
“I’m sorry?” the man asked.
“I’m not taking you into the mall with me until I get them. Odd fashion can be forgotten. Not pale grey eyes.”
“And if the contacts need to be ordered?” Jack asked, finding a kink in the plan. When Daniel sighed with disgust, he grinned at him and pulled his sunglasses from a front pocket. “I think I have the solution.”
Daniel snorted. “I should have thought of that.”
“Maybe you were distracted,” Jack grinned back.
Adriann was wrapped up in what he saw as Daniel drove them off the mountain and into the city. There was both beauty and ugliness. They meshed with a casualness he found both fascinating and disconcerting. At times, it reminded him of his world a long, long time ago. While they hadn’t been the type of society to build large structures or cover the land with metal and plastic and wood, his own culture had had its ugly side. The only difference was that it couldn’t readily be seen, whereas Earth seemed to revel in displaying it.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Daniel said.
Adriann glanced at him, startled. “What particularly would you like to know?”
“What’s on your mind,” Daniel clarified.
Lifting his chin with understanding, Adriann looked out of the side window at the wild array of signs announcing everything from food to furniture to car mufflers–whatever the hell that was. Then there were the varied modes of transportation. Four-wheeled, multiple-wheeled, and variations on the two-wheeled: Some with engines, some without. All of them left their strange odors on the wind.
That included the people they passed. Adriann could detect their scents sometimes. A mixture that was both unsettling and intriguing. Some were ugly, some were beautiful, and some seemed to be going out of their way to be invisible. It saddened Adriann, making him think of the Brethren and how he missed them when he was away. Fortunately, several had moved to Bel’a’lat but it didn’t lessen the emotion any.
“Adriann?” Daniel prodded. He could feel a deep curiosity, overlaid with a touch of sadness. “You don’t care for this place?”
Adriann shook his head. “It is not that. I was thinking of the Brethren.”
“Wishing they could visit here?” Daniel probed.
“No. I was reminded of them by watching some of the people here.” He pointed at a few pedestrians using the crosswalk. “Some of them try so hard to be invisible.” Catching several young males wearing baggy clothing, he added, “While others seem to be shouting at the world.”
Daniel grinned. “A sub-culture based partly on music style and partly on criminal gang behavior.”
Adriann scowled. “Why would they model themselves after that?”
Daniel shrugged. “It’s a defense mechanism. We’re a melting pot of lost traditions. Centuries of conquerors in other lands before emigrating to this continent. So for lack of a tradition, some people make up their own.”
“Unfortunate,” said Adriann. To him, it was a great tragedy to have lost the rituals and traditions of one’s ancestors.
Eyeglasses and sunglasses were curious, if useful, devices. It took Adriann some getting used to, wearing something across the eyes that did not interfere with vision. His people had never needed to invent eyeglasses of their own. They healed too quickly when damaged. The shiny black sunglasses Jack had bought him and Talen were heavier than the type of glasses Daniel wore. Perhaps because the lens changed the brightness of the world around him? Whatever the reason, the moment Adriann caught his image in a reflection of glass, he hadn’t recognized himself. That in itself carried more weight than any marked difference in eyeglasses.
He felt for the container in his pocket and the contacts resting there. Contacts. What a strange name. Why not ‘eye-lens’? His were dark hazel. Talen’s, violet. He liked hers better, but only because he’d like to see Daniel wear them. He stored away a mental note to ask him if he’d indulge this interesting new kink.
He resumed his attention to the large, complex structure that Daniel and Jack led them through: the Mall. A busy, noisy, brightly lit place, filled with dozens of shops, a third of which were stationed in the middle of expansive aisles where the customers walked.
This bothers me, Talen sent him.
Which part? he asked.
Having to endure bits and pieces of random thought. The wall of silence is much harder to maintain here.
He understood. It was a bit distracting. It may be the very same when we dine with them later. We will simply have to endure it, my sweet.
Perhaps. Does not make it any more pleasant.
No. Have you been noticing the bizarre mental theme among them? These humans think one thing and say another. I thought the people at the SGC were contradictory, but this is much worse.
It is, Talen agreed. Though our friends are not as bad.
As they spoke to each other, Daniel was talking, pointing to a bookstore. Adriann automatically answered as he and Talen followed Daniel and Jack into the shop next to it. When the smells of leather and suede hit his nose, he stopped to inhale with appreciation. “Finally, something familiar,” he said out loud, earning a grin from Daniel.
Talen sent a word of mental agreement.
As they searched through racks of clothing, Adriann was once more reminded of the Brethren back home. These Earth leathers lacked the embroidery he was accustomed to having on his clothes. In fact, the only embroidery at all was on the shoulders of a few coats. It made no sense to him.
Behind him and to the left, Adriann suddenly caught a fragment of human thought that didn’t belong to Daniel or Jack.
… a nice ass.
He looked over his shoulder, chin tucked in slightly. A young man and woman were at the sales counter, buying clothes. Neither of them were the senders. The young male clerk behind the counter was. And he was failing miserably at hiding his attempt at subtle ogling. Narrowing his eyes, Adriann plucked the accompanying thoughts from his mind in order to find out who the source of his admiration was. The answer made him smile. Jack.
Instead of going over to inform Jack of the young man’s appreciation, Adriann decided to look for himself. Jack’s ass was barely visible under the t-shirt and jacket, but there was enough to smile about. Jack’s jeans weren’t snug, but they certainly gave the viewer an idea of what was under them.
Keeping his amusement hidden, he returned his attention to the clothing. Daniel occasionally came up to him with items and eventually discerned that the only clothing he and Talen were interested in was suede. The leathers were too plain and boring. The suedes were not much better, but their cuts were preferred.
After paying for trousers and vests, Daniel and Jack took them to another leather store to see if there was anything else they could buy. He didn’t find anything, but Talen found a few pairs of fur-lined gloves.
“Guess you’ll get away with wearing your tunics and boots,” Daniel said as they left.
Adriann nodded with agreement, his attention turning away from Daniel and Jack to scan more of his strange environment. It appeared as if every other shop displayed blinking, colored lights; small green trees, and some odd, fat bearded fellow dressed in red and white. He gave Adriann the creeps. Christmas-themed music issued from speakers in the Mall ceiling. The combination of it all started to get on Adriann’s nerves. It was small wonder why Daniel didn’t care for this time of year. The only thing Adriann found appealing were the small stuffed-cloth representations called reindeer. They reminded him of the forest animals on his homeworld.
He turned his attention to admiring Daniel’s backside and taking in his sweet, musky scent. He hoped this excursion would soon end.
“What do you say we stop at the food court?” Daniel asked.
“I believe I have had enough of your ‘Christmas cheer’,” Adriann replied, then sent Daniel a mental picture of hot, sweaty skin. When Daniel cleared his throat and turned to speak to Jack about leaving, the creepiness that had been dogging Adriann for the last ten minutes receded. It was so damn convenient to be a telepath.
Jason wrapped the towel around his waist and entered Jack’s bedroom, wondering if he and Jack hadn’t overdone the food shopping for tomorrow’s party. They had enough to feed an army. He hoped that Adriann and Talen liked the selections. He didn’t have to worry about Jalen. He was from Earth and still, mostly, partly, human. But given the way that Adriann’s and Talen’s noses had wrinkled when they’d passed a few restaurants at the mall, he couldn’t help but be a little concerned.
Tonight would be the test as they took their guests out to dinner. Restaurant food was a far cry from homemade, but the basics never changed. Like the smell and taste of meat and vegetables. Spices would be slightly different; tomorrow, Adriann might just get a taste of Jack’s Grilling Chef routine, though Jack would swap the outdoor grill for the indoor version. Grinning at the thought of Jack explaining his “This is what happens when you fuck with the Chef” apron to Adriann, Jason opened the closet and hunted for his shirts. Buried behind Jack’s, Jason wistfully pushed aside the row of shirts to get to his own. Would there ever be a day when this closet was, officially and legally, no longer just Jack’s?
Fingering his left pinky ring, one of three identical rings that marked their spiritual marriage, Jason felt his wistfulness intensify. Indulgently, he pictured the three of them living in a house, perhaps this one, where they didn’t have to make excuses. They could be out, no longer forced to lie.
Soft movement by the bedroom door pulled him out of his depressing reverie and he turned to find Adriann standing there. For a moment, Jason was irritated at the interruption but he quickly shucked it aside as gave Adriann’s attire a critical look. The new black suede trousers blended with his own midnight blue sleeved tunic and leather boots. The high-collared V-neck of the tunic was unlaced, giving the viewer a glimpse of pectoral muscles. Jason grinned as he wondered if it was Daniel who dressed him or Adriann himself.
“You look good.”
Adriann grinned back playfully as he entered the room and closed the door. “So do you.”
Jason stared into Adriann’s hazel contacts and could see why Daniel chose them. Their color had a luring effect, more so than the light grey. Plus there was something attractive about changing one’s eye color.
Looking down at the towel around his waist, he said, “Obviously, I’m not going out in this.”
“Pity,” Adriann teased. He took the chair next to the dresser and sat down next to the bed. Leaning forward on his elbows, he clasped his hands in the thoughtful manner Jason recognized. Adriann had something on his mind.
Instead of asking, he decided to leave that to Adriann. “How do you like your new clothes?”
Adriann sat back and looked down, smoothing his hand over his thigh and knee. “I’m used to a heavier cut, but I do like this.”
Jason snorted. “I hope you have the same feelings for the restaurant cuisine.”
Adriann leaned forward again. “After your MREs, I’m confident the real thing will be more than adequate.”
Jason turned back to the closet. “They waiting on me?” he asked as he chose a russet colored shirt and tossed it on the bed.
“No. They are currently waiting on Sam to arrive to help Talen get dressed. I don’t understand why. She looks as good as she always does.”
Jason paused and looked over his shoulder, a grin on his face. “Maybe Sam wants to make her look more human. What Talen wears isn’t always what women wear out to dinner on this planet. On the other hand, it all depends on the woman. And Daniel would be the first to say that fashion doesn’t mean shit to some people. You should have seen what he’d been wearing eight years ago.”
Adriann grinned. “Since I am sleeping there tonight, I will probably find out.”
Jason shook his head. “Outside of a few pictures we took, you won’t find any of his old clothes. Between me, Sam, and Janet, we got rid of it all.”
“Pictures?” Adriann asked, curiosity tweaked.
Jason grinned mischievously. “Later, remind me and Jack to show them to you. Daniel will be horrified.” Adriann let out a sort of giggle that Jason rarely heard. It was a youthful sound, something he rarely associated with the man who was several centuries old.
Not noticing, or appearing not to notice, Adriann asked, “How could he be horrified if he didn’t even care what he wore?”
“Because he’s been educated,” Jason grinned.
Adriann frowned, puzzled. “I understand a little, but were the clothes that bad?”
Jason had to think about it. “Well, no. I think he’d look good in a sack cloth.” He grinned mischievously. “Probably because I’d want to get him out of it. But seriously, the problem was appearances. The style of clothing he wore made him look ten years younger than he was. Given where we work, that is a bad thing. He wasn’t given much respect for a while. His actions had to do that. Sam and I pointed out that proper clothing would help. And whether Daniel admits it or not, it did.”
Adriann jogged his brows as a cryptic smile spread over his face. “You wanted him to look good. Understandable from a friend. Even more understandable from a lover.”
“We weren’t lovers then,” Jason smirked as he pulled out a pair of matching trousers and tossed them next to the shirt before he moved to the dresser.
“In your mind, you were,” Adriann said. When Jason turned to give him a surprised look, Adriann softened the grin with a knowing lift of his brow. “You were.”
Chagrined, Jason turned back to the dresser and pulled out a drawer. “I hate it when you do that.”
Adriann smiled briefly, his eyes wandering over Jason’s back and at the play of tantalizing muscle under the towel. “So does Jalen.” When Jason didn’t respond, he added, “But hate is a strong word. Embarrassed is better.”
Jason pulled out black socks and white boxer briefs, and shut the drawer just a little too firmly. “Means the same thing in this instance.”
When he turned around and started to move past Adriann, he was caught by the elbow. “My meaning was not meant with malice.”
Jason’s features softened. “I know that.” He moved around the bed, removing his towel, and turned away to pull on the underwear. He was briefly aroused by the knowledge that Adriann’s eyes were on his backside and wished the man didn’t have that damned charismatic ability. Needing to deflect his thoughts lest they awaken his dick, he redirected. “Something on your mind?”
“You,” Adriann said truthfully.
“Me?” Jason asked with surprise as he looked over his shoulder. Thank god his briefs were now on, even though that was all he was wearing. With Adriann giving him that focused attention, it didn’t really mean a damn.
“I was curious,” Adriann admitted, gesturing at him in a way that was confusing.
“About?” Jason asked turning around, then looking down at himself. “You’ve seen me naked before.”
“I was … curious about the difference between you and your brother. You are no longer alike in many physiological ways, but I was curious about … others.”
Jason immediately tried to throw up a wall to avoid the direction of the conversation. “You’re gonna have to tone down this curiosity.”
“Curiosity is not a bad thing, Jason,” Adriann countered.
The smile he added made it worse and Jason began to feel warm all over as his enhanced instincts confirmed that this visit in the bedroom was entirely for sexual reasons. Did Daniel know? “In what way were you curious?” he asked, hoping to find a way to redirect the subject matter. Maybe Adriann’s answer would give him a proper segue, but when Adriann didn’t answer, something else suddenly dawned on him. Why would Adriann need to compare them in the first place? “Are you and Jalen sleeping together?”
Adriann’s soft, secretive smile was another confirmation and Jason couldn’t help but blush. A mixture of conflicting emotions filled him. If Adriann wanted to test his comparison, Jason didn’t actually object, but he’d rather Daniel have his reunion with him first. Plus, he could be wildly inaccurate about what Adriann was thinking because the man had the annoying tendency toward unpredictability. With a focused look, he asked, “Are you saying you’d like to compare me to Jalen? You know, quite literally? And by that I mean …” He didn’t finish the sentence and cleared his throat.
Adriann at least had the grace to look sheepish. “Sexually. Yes, that is what I mean. It’s prurient interest, but more than that, it’s almost academic. There are times where I don’t know what is his human side and what is the hybrid that was created later. You look nearly alike. Your voices are almost the same. You have a bit more muscle than he does. His face is just a bit fuller than yours. I’m more curious regarding his demeanor, his actions, and whether his sexual behavior is part of that change or if he’s always been … the way he is now.”
“You couldn’t ask him?” Jason asked bluntly. Adriann rose and walked over, reaching up to thread his fingers through Jason’s short, thick hair. The personal, intimate touch sent shivers down his spine. “What was that for?”
Adriann smiled. “I always want to do that. You have such thick hair.”
Irritated, Jason pulled his head back. “About Jalen, Adriann?” he reminded.
Adriann paused, then withdrew his hand. “I need to know if his behavior is original, or due to the changes he’s undergone. He can’t give me a straight answer because he doesn’t remember. He thinks it has to do with blending with Camulus all those years ago. He’s not even sure if some of his memories are truly his.”
Jason nodded absently, but Adriann’s touch unnerved him more than he thought, and he picked up his trousers and self-consciously placed them over his groin. He wasn’t hard, but if Adriann didn’t leave, or cease this line of inquiry, there was every possibility that he’d be hard in the next ten minutes. “I don’t see that it matters,” he said dismissively. This definitely wasn’t a conversation he wanted to have. Not this part. He didn’t need to know how his brother was in bed.
He hadn’t been all that thrilled about Daniel comparing their kisses and he wasn’t interested in knowing this either. Sure, he’d be curious about changes, but they were passing thoughts, not ones he wanted to investigate. Adriann was curious and that was fine, but how could he have a conversation with him about anything more than simple brotherly comparison?
Something then occurred to Jason about why they were having this conversation in the first place. “When was the last time you fed?”
Adriann stared at him. “You think that’s what this is about?”
Jason gave him a knowing smile. “I know you. When you haven’t fed, your lust intensifies along with your curiosity. And … I think you’d like to be with Daniel right now.”
Adriann offered him a gentle smile. “I was also sincere about you and Jalen.”
“Tell me you’d like to be with Daniel and I’ll answer you.”
Adriann’s smile altered to a dangerous playfulness. “Of course I’d like to be. I am enjoying the anticipation that will come. Later.”
Jason was suddenly beset with a bit of hypocritical curiosity. “What is he like when he’s with you?”
Adriann stepped closer until they were only a few feet apart. “Answer my question first.”
“What exactly am I supposed to tell you?”
Adriann gave him the hint of a smile. “What your preferences are. All the things that go with an individual’s likes and dislikes. I want to know whether Jalen’s tastes are typical for him when he was fully human. He is a little more savage than he used to be, but beyond that–“
“TMI, Adriann,” Jason interrupted. “And I really wish you wouldn’t ask a question you already know the answer to.” He tapped his temple meaningfully. “If you want me to say it out loud, then here it is. I like to be on the receiving end. I like to be tied down, brought to the edge, be driven mad by the pleasure. I like it a little rough sometimes, but usually through role play. Does that answer your–“
He was suddenly seized in Adriann’s arms and kissed so damn deeply and passionately that his body instantly responded by standing his dick at attention. Returning the embrace, part of Jason wanted to take off his underwear and have sex. Right now. Another more practical part didn’t want to waste time taking another shower. Lastly, and perhaps more importantly: Did Daniel know? What if he walked in? Would he be mad? Jealous?
Want to join in?
Adriann broke the kiss and whispered, “He knows what I’m doing. I asked first.”
A myriad of questions flew across Jason’s thoughts, but emotion pushed them aside. “Well he didn’t ask me,” he said, suddenly irritated. He was aware of his own hypocrisy, but Adriann’s words made it sound like Daniel was in charge of his sex life. Whether it was emotionally true or not, one didn’t infer it that way.
Adriann didn’t let him go. “Shall I call him?”
Jason felt even more conflicted, as well as embarrassed that he’d forgotten that Adriann and Daniel didn’t need physical closeness in order to talk. Of course, that also applied to Daniel, Jack, and himself, but only on the barest level. “No,” he said, drawing out the word as he made up his mind. “But I’d like to know why you kissed me like that. Just because of Jalen or …?”
Adriann lightly caressed the tattoo on Jason’s chest, tracing a finger around the edges. “The image in your mind was irresistible. You know what I can be like sometimes?”
Jason swallowed. “Impulsive, reckless, predatory?”
Adriann brushed his hand over a nipple, loving the way Jason’s skin reacted. “Daniel likes me that way. He likes to … be the prey.”
Suddenly Jason understood far more than he had about the way Daniel missed Adriann. The longer he was apart from Adriann, the more often his rough urges surfaced. It was as if he was acting like Adriann during his absence. Jason didn’t mind those times and sometimes preferred them, but not all the time. Still, they were good. A shiver washed over him as he thought about the sex they’d had a week ago. He still had a couple of fading bruises from Daniel’s teeth. “I sometimes think he envies your fangs,” he revealed suddenly.
Adriann focused on the rounded outer edge of the tattoo and the faint bite marks there. “So I see.” He thought back to the last time Daniel had been on Var’chol’si and wished the bite he’d received from him hadn’t healed so quickly. “Envies? Or simply fantasizes?”
“I honestly don’t know.” After a thoughtful minute, Jason asked, “Are you really here to compare me with Jalen?”
“I already said–“
“No,” Jason said. “You explained that we’re the same but different. But are you here for that? Your intention, Adriann.” Without pausing to consider his actions, he stepped back into his arms and tilted his head, deliberately presenting his jugular. “Isn’t this what you really want?”
Through the contacts, he watched Adriann’s pupils dilate as he lowered his gaze to his neck. “Not completely.”
He raised his eyes to meet Jason’s and swallowed convulsively. Jason was surprised. There was more to this than curiosity, more to the sexual relationship they were now sharing. Then something else dawned on him and his expression of surprise mixed with a hint of unjustified angry protectiveness. “Do you want to use me to see if you’re falling in love with Jalen?”
Again, Adriann swallowed. “Daniel is the center of my thoughts where love is concerned.”
“But?” Jason probed.
The silence between them stretched interminably before Adriann answered him. To Jason, it meant confirmation, though there was that damn unpredictability again.
“Jalen has been slowly accepting his abilities,” Adriann began. “His changes. There are times where I know him intimately, deeper than the sex we share. Then there are times where I worry about him. And I think I’m here to dispel that worry, to see if it’s just my imagination.”
This news wasn’t surprising. Jason had already discovered the changes, and the worry, while his brother stayed with him, though obviously on a different level. “He’s worried about the animal-like anger he’s trying to keep under tight control, so I’ve been helping him. But I don’t think you have anything to worry about. He’s changed, and yeah, he’s a bit more … predatory, if that’s the right word. I trust him enough to let him out to play. He needs it.”
“Play,” Adriann repeated, knowing Jason meant sex. “Do you know what he does when he’s out playing?”
Jason snorted. “No, and that’s why I’m uncomfortable with your questions. His sex life is none of my business. Brothers aren’t supposed to know those details because that’s an unhealthy crossing of boundaries. Unless he does something massively unwise, like get into a fight and kill someone, I don’t give a damn what he does. It’s none of–“
“Your business, yes, so you said,” Adriann said sharply, then it was his turn to take a step back.
Jason stared at him, shocked and surprised. “Oh my god. You’re jealous.” When Adriann simply sighed and looked away, attention on the clothes on the bed, Jason’s protectiveness turned toward Daniel. “Are you going to tell him how you feel about Jalen?”
Adriann looked up and frowned. “It’s not a secret that needs to be kept, Jason. It’s no different than Daniel’s relationship with me while he shares a more permanent bond with you and Jack.”
Jason winced from the revealed hypocrisy. “Touché. I guess I’m a little too protective of him.”
“I understand,” Adriann grinned.
He closed the distance between them again and reached up to caress Jason’s cheek before resting his hand on his shoulder. His gaze flickered briefly to his neck. Jason responded with a smug grin. This was one of those times where he could read Adriann plainly, and despite all the questions and evasions, the attention he was receiving right now really amounted to one thing.
“Yes, you want to learn about the differences between me and Jalen. But you knew I was just getting out of the shower and you came to me because, in the end, it all boils down to wanting a taste before I got dressed.”
Adriann stared back, almost annoyed with Jason’s accurate instincts. Allowing his actions to answer for him, he took the trousers from Jason’s hands and tossed them back on the bed. Slipping the fingers of both hands inside the waistband of his shorts, he began to push them down. Halfway over the curve of his cheeks, he paused. “I can still call him, if you wish.”
It was tempting, Jason thought. Daniel would go down on him while Adriann had his snack. But he remembered the time he’d given Adriann his blood. They’d been alone then, too, and though Adriann had been ill, he’d given him an amazing orgasm. How much better would he be healthy and vigorous?
The thought was heady and suddenly, the decision was made; Jason’s dick agreed it. With a silent answer to Adriann’s suggestion, he guided his hands as they both pushed his shorts off his hips. He kicked them off, then sat down on the bed and brushed his clothing aside. “I don’t want to shower again.”
Adriann picked up the damp towel and draped it over Jason’s stomach. “You won’t have to,” he said, his tone filled with impatient anticipation. He pushed Jason onto his back, then knelt between his legs and took his cock into his mouth.
In the kitchen, Daniel had been listening. Adriann had done some sort of “conference call” and though he couldn’t hear every word, he understood what the conversation was about. He felt their emotions, got aroused when Adriann kissed him, and felt a deeper kind of love when Adriann and Jason seemed to come to an accord. Then came the full-on sexual arousal from them both and Daniel wasn’t just sensing it, he was experiencing it.
Jack was at the kitchen table, talking to Talen, and Daniel looked over. Talen met his gaze. She jerked her chin toward the hallway and smiled knowingly. “Go.”
With a hard swallow, Daniel went over to Jack, grabbed his hand, and pulled him out of the chair. “Come with me.”
“What? Where?” Jack asked. He recognized this behavior, but he’d never seen it when they had company.
But then, their company had never been Talen and … Adriann.
“Where’s Adriann?” he asked as Daniel led them into the bathroom and shut the door.
“In the bedroom with Jason,” Daniel said before pushing Jack against the door while his hands quickly opened his trousers and exposed his cock. “Feel it with me,” he said, dropping to his knees, then with all of his will, tried to push what he was feeling from Jason and Adriann onto Jack.
The onslaught of Daniel’s mouth and the emotions coming from elsewhere made Jack hard in an instant. Better, Daniel was voracious. He was sucking and bobbing so deeply and rapidly that in two minutes flat, he was coming down Daniel’s throat. It wasn’t as intense an orgasm as he’d ever had, but it was good. Without doing up his trousers, he turned the tables, pushing Daniel’s back against the door as he quickly removed his lover’s dick from its confines. Dropping to his knees, he used his well-defined expertise, along with the cues of emotion Daniel was sending, to get him trembling and moaning.
Jason was staring at the ceiling in shock as he fisted crumpling bed sheets. He could feel Daniel and Jack. They were in the bathroom, feeding off what Adriann was doing to him. Jack’s orgasm caused him to inhale sharply and spurts of pre-come spilled into Adriann’s mouth. Then Daniel was moaning while grasping at Jack’s hair because the slide of Jack’s mouth over his hot, silky skin was nirvana. It was something Jason loved and loved to watch. Now he was feeling it along with Adriann’s mouth.
The heat, deep within his balls, was rising, orgasm fast approaching. Fingerfuck me, he sent, and when Adriann slipped a long finger inside him and began the rapid in and out, Jason knew orgasm was imminent.
Sucking in gulps of air, he waited for the explosion of pleasure. What he was not prepared for was for Adriann to release him from his mouth and take him in hand instead. The assault of pleasure by his hands, emphasized by kisses that moved over his balls and along the top of his inner thighs, made his body tremble.
Then came the stinging bite as fangs plunged into his femoral artery. The pain was brief, and the pleasure surrounded it and took over. Jason didn’t realize he was yelling until the hot spurts from his cock were half finished. His sphincter convulsed around the probing finger that taunted his gland and his balls shrunk and tightened as they let go of their contents, sending out shock after shock onto the towel. With his orgasm, he felt Daniel’s, and could almost see the restrained bucking his lover always did as he let his come spill down the throat of the man they loved.
While Jason would have enjoyed feeling that way with Adriann, he was instead distracted by the fact that Adriann had just discovered a new G-spot. His lips and tongue were busy on his inner thigh, over the bite mark, and holy Jesus, that made him squirm. Who the hell knew there could be something good over that artery? As he pondered the question, and indulged in the continuing afterglow Adriann created, he suddenly remembered the way he liked to have his thighs around Daniel’s hips as he thrust. Could that be part of the reason?
He smiled at the thought, and around welcoming Adriann’s sweet metallic kiss. Underneath that, he felt love and satiation from his lovers, and grinned at the thought of telling them about the discovery of this new and curious little G-spot. On the other hand, given this brief sexual link, perhaps they already knew. Besides, not saying anything would make things interesting later, especially on Christmas Eve.
“How the hell did you do that?” Jack asked when the two of them were back in the kitchen. The afterglow had primarily faded but there was still that little hum throughout his body that relaxed every muscle and gave him a general feeling of well-being. There were times where he loved that, and other times where he was sure it was a vulnerability he shouldn’t have.
In the living room, Talen had turned on the TV and she was laughing at something–or everything–the tube was showing her. A grin spread across Jack’s face as he took a peek through the open dining room to check on her. He’d always liked her laugh, so full-throated and deep. Sometimes, she reminded him of Cher. When he looked back, Daniel was standing by the wall phone, looking at the phone number list.
“Adriann did it, not me,” Daniel said with a side-long glance. “Did you notice that he discovered a new zone for us to play with?”
“I did,” Jack grinned. He walked over to investigate what Daniel was doing. “I thought Stuart said he had plans with Alex?”
“We both know it’s not in a bed, so I’m calling him,” Daniel said stubbornly.
Jack nudged Daniel in the back with his elbow. “Why?” he drawled.
“Because A, this is practically an SG-1 night. Sam and Teal’c changed their minds about joining us, so it would’ve been rude not to invite him–and by extension, Alex, since they’re out together.”
“I get that. And B?”
“And B, Stuart needs to get over this irrational fear of Adriann.”
Jack pursed his lips together. “Are you sure it’s a fear? Or something he’s resisting?”
Daniel threw him a smirk. “Like what? Being a member of the vampire club?” As Jack laughed, Daniel’s smirk broadened. “I’m serious. The more Stuart is exposed to him–“
“So to speak.”
“The more he’ll be comfortable.” Daniel threw him a dirty look. “Get your mind out of the gutter.”
“Don’t look at me,” Jack said, holding up his hands in surrender. “Our minds are always there when Adriann’s around. The man’s a walking aphrodisiac.”
The call connected, cutting off Daniel’s snarky reply.
“Daniel,” Stuart answered. “What’s up?”
“Can you talk?”
“Yeah, just finishing up a game.”
Distracted, Daniel asked, “Still playing pool?”
Daniel grinned. “Nothing like an uneven playing field.”
“Funny. You still owe me that rematch.”
Daniel chuckled. “Listen, I’m calling to ask if you’ve eaten yet. We’re going out to dinner and I wondered if the two of you would like to join us?”
“I thought we were having a party tomorrow at Jack’s?”
“We are, but we’re taking Adriann and Talen out on their first night here. Sam and Teal’c are joining us and I figured the more the merrier.”
“Liar,” Jack said, earning a scowl.
“Did Jack just call you a liar?”
Daniel breathed a heavy sigh while giving Jack a warning glare. “He thinks I have an ulterior motive, like wanting to watch Adriann around strangers.” Jack rolled his eyes and in order to keep a straight face, Daniel turned away from him. “Jack’s paying.”
“Since when?” Jack asked, brows rising.
“Since now,” Daniel threw over his shoulder.
“Thanks for asking.”
Daniel waited, ignoring the look he knew was directed at the back of his head.
“Let me ask Alex.”
Daniel waited, figuring that Stuart was using Alex as an excuse. It was a silly maneuver, if it turned out to be true. Alex rarely passed up free food.
The next voice Daniel heard was Alex’s. “Hey.”
“Hey. Whaddya think?”
“Since he’s just beaten my ass six times at darts, I’m inclined to say yes.” He paused, then added, “He’s hedging. And we both know why. He said he will if I will.”
Daniel grinned. “Coward. I mean to force him get over this fear of Adriann.”
“Yeah, but can it be done with two dinners before he leaves?”
“It’s a start, and we can help,” Daniel answered, grinning more broadly now. It was infectious because Jack was grinning too. Behind him, Jason and Adriann appeared, brows raised with curiosity. “He’s gonna be around them offworld sooner or later. Best to tackle this issue now, not then.”
“We’ll meet you. Where and when?”
“Not that fancy. Nice clothes, not tuxes.”
Alex snorted. “Okay, granted. It’s a nice choice for food. You intending to go into the lounge after?”
“We’ll see,” Daniel grinned and looked at his watch. It would take Sam about an hour after she arrived. “Meet us there at 7:30.”
“Max’s?” Jason asked as Daniel hung up. “I thought we were going for Chinese?”
“Nah,” Jack said as he gave Jason a scrutinizing look. “Let’s start with American food.”
Jason was about to ask what Jack was looking at when he remembered that his lover’s had been listening in. A mischievous smile spread across his face. “Enjoy the show?”
“You have no idea,” Jack grinned.
“Actually, I do,” Jason replied, giving both men a quick kiss.
The doorbell rang, interrupting them. “Sam and Teal’c are here,” Daniel said, heading for the door.
Talen was still amusing herself with television when Sam walked in, holding up a colored gift bag. Talen raised a brow. “I’m trying to be spontaneous, so I’m not reading your mind. What’s that for?”
Sam grinned. “Time for you to see what we Earth women have to put up with.”
As soon as Talen appeared at the entrance to the living room, Jack’s impatience at having to wait on them was forgotten. Sam looked at everyone expectantly, and at the shocked look on the men’s faces, she cleared her throat. “Anyone who says something negative becomes a eunuch.”
Talen black dress was perfect, as were her high-heeled boots; she towered over Sam now. Her appearance wasn’t that drastic a change, except for the glimpse of thigh and the eye make-up. The latter was the sharpest change. Her eyes looked just a bit bigger with the addition of mascara and liner and shadow. The violet contacts accentuated it.
“You look perfect,” Daniel said, going up to her.
“Indeed,” Teal’c said, and though he hadn’t said much since arriving, his oft-used expression seemed to speak for everyone else, too.
Talen gave them both a nod, but her eyes were on Adriann. His was the only opinion she valued at this moment. “Well?” When he simply stared and said nothing, she frowned at him and put her hands on her hips. “What?” she asked.
Adriann walked up to her and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. “You’re beautiful, as always. But I do believe you’ll attract unwanted attention, especially if we go into this lounge area when the meal is finished.”
“Maybe we should come home after,” Daniel grinned, holding the front door open. “Just to, you know, avoid any possible bloodshed.”
Talen waved dismissively as she followed the others out the door. “Do not worry. If all they do is look, there will be no problems.”
“Don’t you and Adriann have plans later?” Jack smirked as he stepped past. He and Daniel were now the last two to leave.
“What’s that got to do with anything?” Daniel replied. They eyed each other and he tried not to copy Jack’s smirk as he closed the door behind him.
Jack looked over his shoulder, his grin turning dark. “I think you’ll have plenty to worry about without focusing on who Talen might threaten.”
In front of Jack, Adriann turned slightly and gave him an evil smile. “He has a point.”
“I think the two of you need to put a sock in it,” Daniel rebutted, but privately, he liked the threats. They matched the anxious rumbling deep in his belly.