Trilogy 13: The Alternative
Quantum Mirror/Parallel Universe
Summary: As a backlog of professional frustrations reach their breaking point, Daniel takes his unhappiness out on Jack and Jason. Before he can make things right, he’s kidnapped and taken to another universe.
Notes: New character, Lieutenant Colonel Marshall Zachary “Zak” McBride is loosely based on Karl Urban’s character in Doom. Quote is from “The Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden.
Warnings: Dark issues that involve sexual coercion and attempted rape, even though the recipient is turned on by the attacker.
“I left alone, my mind was blank
I needed time to think to get the memories from my mind
What did I see? Can I believe that what I saw that night
Was real and not just fantasy? Just what I saw in my old dreams
Were the reflections of my warped mind staring back at me.”
Daniel snapped his third pencil lead in ten minutes. Tossing the pencil itself in the garbage in frustration, he took a deep breath. He had to work late again on this Ancients’ language research so he could translate the damn building that SG-3 had found on P1X-911, and it seemed like every three fucking hours, Hammond was interrupting with a progress report.
Couldn’t everyone just leave him the hell alone for five minutes? He’d already tried to explain that this wasn’t a simple translation. There were some unexpected additions to the Ancients’ language that involved ideograms, so it was going to take him a while since there was no goddamn reference point. For all he knew, he was trying to decipher the Ancients’ version of emoticons.
And then there was Jason.
“Want some new pencils?” Jason asked as he got up and headed for the supply locker.
Jason meant well, but he wasn’t helping. Daniel’s patience frayed and came to an end. “Jason, you know I love you, but I’m trying to work here. Could you please just go?”
Jason stared back at him, thinking, I only came in here to invite you to lunch. His dark eyes filled with anger as he needlessly brushed the wrinkles out of his fatigue trousers. “Fuck you, too, Daniel. Have lunch by yourself.”
Daniel watched him leave, his stiff back conveying a thousand words. He briefly closed his eyes. “I’m sorry, Jason,” he murmured, though it was too late. He slumped back in his chair and rubbed his face. How the hell was he going to get time to fix this?
Pushing away from the desk, he grabbed his coffee mug and headed out the door. Halfway to the elevator, he ran into Hammond and had to bite back the urge to shout, I’m not done yet! Don’t ask me!
“Doctor Jackson, what’s your progress for tomorrow’s mission?”
Daniel sighed inwardly. “I’m gonna need to revisit the site, sir. There has to be a Rosetta Stone of some kind. Without even the smallest hint, I’m unable to do anything except guess, and that’s pointless. It’s akin to never learning English and trying to read the King James Bible. It won’t work.”
“Very well,” Hammond said with obvious disappointment. “Do what you can. Briefing’s at 0900.”
“Yes, sir,” Daniel replied, heading for the elevator once more. The General’s words bothered the shit out of him. He knew the damn time of the meeting! Why the hell was he being reminded?
Inside the elevator, he pushed the button for the Mess Hall floor and crossed his arms as he leaned a hip against the wall. Hammond’s silent rebuke rankled; Jack had been acting the same way lately, calling on him for an update more often than the General. Daniel knew that Jack was stressed, that he didn’t mean anything personal by the constant interruptions, but for God’s sake, he knew better.
It had been two months since the holidays; back-to-back missions since then. Some new Goa’uld had invaded Anubis’ territory and no one knew who the hell it was. Not the Tok’ra, not the Tollan–though the latter were in hiding after that last clusterfuck with Tanith seven years ago. Planets were being attacked, SG teams were getting injured or killed, and the SGC still did not have a weapon apart from that Tok’ra gas they’d adopted for use in smoke grenades.
And then there were the research digs that had been canceled, digs Daniel was sure could have yielded useful information. But because no ready-made weapons had been found, the research had been sidelined. In the meantime, Daniel was expected to come up with instant clues in the limited time he’d been given during missions. To top it all off, no one outside knew they were fighting a war that extended several million light years away while the rest of the military was engaged in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This resulted in massive, community-laden guilt. Not that they wished to be in the Middle East or Haiti, or God knew where else, but they had enough to deal with protecting the damn planet, not just the country.
The final analysis was that they badly needed a break. That much was evident the other day when he, Jack, and Jason had been leaving Gold’s Gym. Their gym bags had Air Force logos, so they were automatically identified as military. They’d drawn a few looks by civilians, as was typical, but the stress they were under rendered them sensitive to casual remarks.
Reaching Jack’s truck, a civilian had stopped and asked, “You guys just back from Afghanistan?”
“We work at NORAD,” was Jack’s response.
But then the guy had asked, “Why aren’t you guys in Afghanistan or Iraq?”
Daniel could have sworn that the already-cold temperature had suddenly dropped ten degrees.
“Because we work at NORAD,” Jason had said sarcastically. “You know, North American Aerospace Defense Command?”
“Yeah,” the man had said.
Daniel had decided at that point that the man’s IQ was lower than the weather temp, and judging by Jack’s expression, he agreed.
“Would you prefer we leave the country unprotected?” Jack had asked.
Daniel had keenly felt hostility from Jack and Jason. It was a wonder they had refrained from smacking the moron upside the head. Why did civilians think they knew all the answers and had a right to judge who went where?
Daniel smirked at himself, realizing that he no longer considered himself a civilian. When the hell had that happened?
Entering the Mess Hall, he shoved the internal question aside as he instantly looked around for Jack and Jason. They weren’t there; only Jason’s teammates. With a sigh of resignation, he went to the coffee machine, filled his mug, and added the milk and sugar. Taking a spoon, he stirred his caffeine fix as he wove his way over to the table where Alex, Connor, and Al sat.
“Have you guys seen Jason?”
Alex gestured at the empty seat across from him and Daniel sat down. “He went off base,” he answered with a tone heavily laden with questions.
“What happened?” McCaffrey asked in a tired voice. It was Connorspeak for “Did you guys have a fight?”
Daniel raised his mug to his lips. “I pissed him off.”
Alex made a face. “I wondered what was up. He was acting like someone had pissed in his bowl of Wheaties.”
It was Daniel’s turn to make a face. “Metaphorically, that was me. I told him to get the hell out of my office because I had work to do.”
“Christ, Daniel,” Alex said with disgust, though his expression was sympathetic. “I know you’re under the gun–no pun intended–but it’s not his fault.”
“I know that, dammit,” Daniel snapped, his expression filled with guilt. “Can we go back on vacation?” he asked as he abruptly left the table and went back to the buffet line.
Alex watched Daniel pick up a few items and head to the exit. As soon as Daniel was gone, he returned to his lunch. “We all need to go back on vacation.”
“You’re telling me,” Connor said, grimacing. “Eileen is pissed off that we had the baby just before the holidays.”
“Don’t remind me,” Al responded. With a full sigh, he sat back and pushed his tray away. “Maybe we can stay off-world for a few days, let people cool off.”
Alex snorted. “That would only work if Hammond sent SG-1 to the other side of the galaxy.”
Connor smirked nastily. “The Brit, too?”
“What’s wrong with Blackwell?” Al asked.
“Nothing,” Connor shrugged. “But he does tend to act like O’Neill whenever he’s got a burr up his ass.”
“The same can be said for the boss, too,” Al replied and both he and Connor jogged their brows in agreement.
“Enough, you two,” Alex mock-warned, “or you’ll find your names on the detail list.”
“Captains and Staff Sergeants don’t do detail,” Connor corrected, waving a half-eaten dinner roll at him.
“They can always start.”
. . .
Entering Jack’s house, Jason spotted him in the living room and headed down. The TV was on, the channel airing a hockey game, and Jack, in sweatpants and t-shirt, had his feet propped on the coffee table. He was doing the newspaper crossword and Jason felt perversely irritated. Jack looked too damn calm. Why wasn’t he as pissed off as he was?
“Hey, you,” Jack said, not looking up.
“Hey,” Jason replied, stuffing his hands in his jeans pockets. “Seen Daniel?”
Jack looked up, confused. “Working late. I thought you knew that.”
Jason sighed and turned as if to leave. “Shit.”
Jack didn’t need telepathy to feel the tension coming off his partner. “I hear he got a bit snippy with you earlier today.”
“Those his words or yours?” Jason asked, even more annoyed that Jack had clearly spoken to Daniel and didn’t look the worse for wear.
“Mine,” Jack said with a grin that telegraphed sympathy.
“He pissed me off,” Jason replied unhappily.
“If it’s any comfort, he threw me out of his office, too.”
Jason looked over, feeling a strange sort of camaraderie that warred with the irritation. “So why aren’t you all pissed off?”
“I was. He wasn’t exactly subtle.” Jason stared out the front window, clearly upset, so Jack set the crossword aside. “I’m not mad anymore because this blow-up was only a matter of time.”
“I know,” Jason said, sighing as he turned back. “Hammond’s pressuring him more than the rest of us.”
“You know why we’re going on that mission tomorrow,” Jack said, waving his hand at the ceiling.
Jason nodded. “Because Sam found some crystals.”
“Crystals she believes are part of a laser system,” Jack said pointedly.
“And we get to go play treasure hunter while Daniel attempts to translate whatever’s in that damn artifact lab?”
“Archive lab,” Jack corrected, and only because he’d been corrected twice already by Daniel. He smiled when Jason gave him the same look, he’d given Daniel.
“Whatever.” They were both silent for a few pregnant seconds.
“Sit,” Jack said, getting up. “I’ll grab you a beer.”
Jason waved him off. “I’m gonna go back to the mountain, see if I can mend fences.”
“You’re better off waiting till he gets home,” Jack warned as he headed for the kitchen. “Stay. Dinner’s in the oven.”
Despite himself, Jason perked up at the thought of a Jack-cooked dinner. He made his way to the kitchen, though he moved slowly as if he’d change his mind before he got there. “Whatcha makin’?”
“Leftovers,” Jack said with a smirk.
He didn’t elaborate, making Jason open up the oven to see what it was. Sniffing deeply, he sighed with satisfaction. Spaghetti casserole. Jack always used a lot of cheese, mushrooms, and onions. He was now torn between leaving and taking off his jacket, which was likely Jack’s intention. As if to talk himself out of leaving, he said, “Maybe you’re right. He may not even talk to me if I went up there.”
“Seventy-thirty chance,” Jack shrugged.
Jason growled in disgust. “You’re not helping.”
Jack walked over and pulled him in for a short kiss, then licked his lips as if Jason tasted better than the dinner in the oven. “Stay. Let Daniel work out his frustrations without interruption, so he’ll get the bugs out of his butt. It’s better than you coming back in a worse mood.”
Jack made sense, damn him. Plus, his warmth and touch were very good points in his favor. Wrapping an arm around his lover’s neck, Jason jogged his brows suggestively. “How long till dinner’s ready?”
“Unfortunately, half an hour,” Jack grinned as they kissed again. Giving Jason the beer in his hand, he went back to grab another. “We’ll mend things later when Daniel gets here.”
Jason sighed with pessimism. “If he gets here.”
With a sardonic half-smile, Jack toasted the air with his beer bottle. “True. And if that’s the case, then we’ll see him in the morning.”
“Why aren’t you mad?” Jason asked, still annoyed by it.
Jack kissed him again. “Because you’re here,” he said, making Jason smile despite his ornery insistence on staying mad.
. . .
Daniel sat up abruptly, startled awake by the beeping of his watch alarm. Blinking and focusing, he realized his glasses were still on. A second later, he realized he’d slept on his office couch. Groaning and rubbing his face, he checked his watch. 0730. “Shit.” Grumbling at his forgetfulness, he combed a hand through his hair and headed for his private bathroom. After taking a leak and making his hair and uniform presentable, he left the office and headed down the elevator for the locker room.
He’d only meant to lie down for half an hour. Apparently, his body had had other ideas. Jack and Jason were going to be pissed. Bracing himself, he entered the locker room. It was empty. Relief flooded him, then brief annoyance that neither of his lovers had come to get him. But as he opened his locker, he remembered why they would have left him alone and guilt replaced all other emotions.
After taking a shower and changing into a fresh uniform, he headed to the Mess Hall. He’d grab something and go back to his office. Or rather, go hide. He cursed himself for not remembering to bring his coffee mug and resigned himself to bringing yet another white ceramic mug back to the office.
The familiar sounds of breakfast greeted his ears as he entered the Mess Hall and headed directly to the coffee machine. No one called to him, and after a quick glance, he was guiltily thankful that neither SG-1 nor SG-2 were having breakfast on base. After getting his coffee, he grabbed some fruit and a few cereal bars, and headed back to the exit.
A few men passed him through the open doors, greeting him, and Daniel nodded back. “Morning,” he said automatically, but suddenly wished he’d had a mouthful of apple to keep from talking. It was irrational, this sudden desire for solitude, but Daniel couldn’t wish it away. In the elevator, he considered that perhaps he was experiencing a different form of PTSD, but dismissed it since he knew he didn’t have any other symptoms. It was just normal stress, he told himself. If anything about this place is normal came the inner voice.
Returning to his office, he transferred his coffee into his own mug and went back to work, absently eating his breakfast. It was an hour before he was interrupted. As the bulkhead door to his office hummed open, Daniel mumbled without looking up. “Whatever it is, just set it on the lab table, please. Thanks.”
“Good morning to you too,” Jason said, closing the door. He tried to hold back the previous day’s anger. “Did you sleep here last night?”
Startled, Daniel looked up, then shot out of his seat. “Shit!” he said, thinking he was late for the briefing, but when he looked at his watch and found that it wasn’t for another half hour, he irrationally glared at Jason. “Morning,” he said, then sat back down and looked back at his work.
Jason stared at him, mouth open. For a moment, when Daniel had got to his feet, he’d thought his lover was going to come over with an apologetic hug. When he didn’t, he walked over and placed his hand over the notes Daniel was taking. “Whatever is up your ass,” he said when Daniel looked up, “I suggest you not blame me. I deserved a better greeting than that.” He turned on his heel and headed back to the door.
“I’m sorry,” Daniel said tiredly, not rising from his chair, but Jason didn’t look back as he closed the bulkhead door behind him. “Fuck,” Daniel said between clenched teeth. He was digging an even deeper hole for himself. Why couldn’t he have just gone to him, put his arms around him, and said he was sorry, that he was angry at the pressure he was under, that Hammond was pissing him off, never mind those pissant Generals at the Pentagon and Area 51? What the hell was the matter with him?
With a heavy sigh, he ordered himself not to react that way when Jack came in–though mostly because the mission would suck if he pissed Jack off needlessly. Dropping his forehead to the desk, he closed his eyes and wished that he could take an hour to go meditate with Teal’c. His friend always helped him calm down.
Ten minutes went by as he tried to do the meditation anyway. It didn’t help, especially not while sitting there with his head on his desk.
The door opened again and expecting Jack, Daniel looked over with resignation. To his relief, it was Teal’c. The Jaffa left the door open and walked over, his hands customarily behind his back.
“Good morning, Daniel Jackson,” he said with a soft smile. “O’Neill asked me to check on you,” he added, and his expression turned to puzzled tolerance. It was the same look an adult gave a child–a look that would have pissed Daniel off if it was anyone else.
“Morning, Teal’c,” he replied. “You’re probably wondering why Jack sent you instead of coming himself.”
Teal’c shook his head. “It is obvious. You have been exceedingly preoccupied of late. Given the work you have been expected to do with limited resources, it is understandable. As Major Carter has observed, you have been ‘crotchety.'”
Daniel snorted. “So it would seem.” He grabbed his notes and went to his lab table, stuffing them into his notebook, then placed them in his field pack.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Teal’c asked.
Daniel sighed. “Turn back the clock to two weeks ago?”
Teal’c grinned sympathetically. “Would that I were able.”
“I know,” Daniel said as he gathered other materials for the mission. “Is he very mad?” he ventured after a silent moment.
“To whom are you referring?”
“I would say that he is concerned,” Teal’c answered. “As is Colonel Coburn, myself, Major Carter, Group Captain Blackwell, Major Wagner–“
Daniel held up his hand to stop the recital. “I get it.” When Teal’c looked at him with that same elder-to-child expression, he smirked reprovingly. “I’m working on it, Teal’c.”
“I am certain,” Teal’c said, walking over to him. “But you are not succeeding.”
Daniel agreed as he zipped up the pack. “When we get back, would you mind if I joined you for some meditation?”
Teal’c smiled and bowed his head. “You are always welcome.”
. . .
P1X-911 was another world abandoned by the Ancients. Jack had already asked Adriann and Jacob to send word to Eros that it had been discovered and that they needed help with the things they’d found, but so far, they’d received no answer from the lone surviving Ancient. Given that, they’d decided to claim what they found–Eros could always take issue later.
Half a klick from the stargate sat a tall, single-level stone structure with five wings that branched out in a pentagram. Jack had dubbed it the Ancients’ Pentagon. At its center sat an open room that housed an immense dais, forty feet in circumference. Atop that was a circular set of six control stations. High above them, the cathedral ceiling exhibited a complex system of crystals, at whose center lay an enormous blue one that glared down at them like a stalactite ready to plunge.
This room was where Sam worked, accessing the data from the control stations. Daniel was needed there, but after having shown Sam how to access the information and use the translation program they’d both created, he was off to examine a room stationed in the first right-hand wing of the complex. It was the largest room at the end of the wing, the room Daniel nicknamed the Archive Room. Fifty yards deep, perhaps twenty wide, the room was immense.
Three of the walls were filled with inset display shelves, all marked and catalogued in Ancient. A set of eight long, shallow tables sat close together at the center of the room. Separated by short dividers, they held more artifacts that were clearly a collection of objects the Ancients had either invented or gathered from around the universe. Daniel supposed both, for some of the objects were obviously of Ancient design while others clearly were not. They tended to resemble things a scientist like Machello would have made.
Daniel estimated that many of the devices and objects in the Archive Room weren’t for mundane use, though he’d refused to say whether or not any of the items were types of weapons. He’d informed Jack, “None of them are labeled according to their function. It would help if they’d simply say ‘Goa’uld Killer’, but I’m gonna have to find out the hard way and translate.”
On this second visit, he’d received Jack’s customary ‘Don’t Turn Anything On’ command, and Daniel had had to bite his tongue in order to keep from snapping back. He understood Jack’s caution; he’d learned it himself the hard way. He sure as hell didn’t need reminding.
The echoey silence and peace of the room calmed Daniel’s nerves a bit as he took advantage of this visit to have a closer look at the items on the wall shelves. He started at the left end of the room and made a cursory inspection, making mental notes of items that deserved closer inspection. As he approached the corner, his did a double-take on the empty space. Instead of shelving, there sat what looked like a large framed painting. He estimated it at eight feet high, six feet wide, and a little over two inches deep. It sat flush with the floor with a foot of open wall on either side. The painting resembled an oil wash and reminded Daniel of the patterns Adriann’s people used in their cloth, though this was much duller by comparison. Examining the right side to see what the frame was made of, he found that it had no ‘frame’; the picture was on frame material itself.
Frowning, Daniel examined the left side, looking for a notation of some kind. When that yielded nothing, he looked around for something to stand on so he could check the top. Finding a tall metal crate under the closest table, he pushed it in front of the mirror and climbed up. The top of the painting was just barely visible, and he had to stand on his toes in order to see better. Clicking on his Mag Lite, he examined the surface and found minute etches in the material. Plucking a brush from his pocket, he began to delicately sweep the dust away.
“Sam to Daniel,” crackled his radio.
Irritated at the interruption, Daniel made a conscious effort not to snap. “What is it, Sam?” he asked while continuing to brush away the layers of dust.
“I forgot what control key we decided to use for bringing up comparative diacritical marks.”
“Anything interesting in there?”
“Found what looks like a large painting sealed against the wall. Am clearing off dust to read whatever’s inscribed here.”
“Anything related to the crystals?”
“Will let you know.”
“Roger that,” Sam said, and communication ended.
The frame now swept clean, Daniel still couldn’t read the symbols clearly enough, so he tore off pages from his notepad. With a pencil, he rubbed the graphite over the surface. Once the entire etching was copied, he climbed down and went to the table, laying them out in order. The characters were odd, as if the etcher had been handwriting, but Daniel persevered. It wasn’t until he reached the last word that he fully paid attention to what he’d been mumbling under his breath.
“Spatial Location Threshold for Traversing …“
Daniel stared, blinking rapidly as his heart rate climbed in excitement.
“… Quantum Universes.”
Immediately, Daniel started scanning objects on the tables, searching for anything with a related label. A control device had to be here, unless the Ancients took it with them. He grew agitated, snapping his right-hand fingers as if doing so would make the object appear in front of his eyes. Not finding anything on the tables, he went to the shelf closest to the ‘painting’.
The radio crackled with Jack’s voice, breaking his focus for a moment.
“How’s it going, Daniel?”
Daniel cleared his throat, preparing to answer, just as his eyes settled on a flat, round tablet. The label said Quantum something. The second word was unfamiliar. Snatching up the tablet, he moved back to the table and set it next to the notepad pages. “I think I found a quantum mirror.”
Silence, then, “Say again?”
“I said,” Daniel recited slowly, “I think I found a quantum mirror.”
“Don’t you dare turn the damn thing on! We’ll be right there.”
“Like I would,” Daniel snapped back as he touched the tablet’s edges. He heard the sound of running footsteps echoing in the distance. It was likely that everyone had dropped what they were doing and were following Jack to this section of the pentagram structure. Daniel guiltily wondered if Jason was with them and keyed his mic.
“What?” came the reply. He sounded hurried. Or angry. Sometimes Daniel wished his empathy worked long-distance.
“Are you coming?”
Again Daniel cleared his throat. “Just checking,” he said, keeping his tone neutral.
“Be there in a few minutes. This building’s huge.”
The personal comment eased the knots in Daniel shoulders. If Jason were still mad, he wouldn’t have said it. “Yeah, it’s huge. And so’s this mirror.”
“Be there asap.”
On the heels of Jason’s words, a weird sound came from his left. It started high and faint, like a mouse squeak, then dropped to a low hum. Daniel turned at the same time, brows knotted, and when his gaze landed on the quantum mirror, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. The painting no longer appeared. In its place was the room he was in, and it wasn’t empty.
“Jack, someone in another universe activated the mirror!”
“Get the hell out of there!”
Daniel was already moving backward when the five men from the other side appeared in the room–two falling over the crate Daniel hadn’t returned to its place under the table. They wore black SGC uniforms and carried P-90s and Zats. Daniel didn’t recognize them from any team his SGC had and took off for the end of the tables on his side of the room. Sidearm out, safety off, he dove for the last table, hand on the table leg, and slid around its corner like a runner sliding home. Hiding behind the boxes under the table, he remained on his belly and keyed the radio. “Five men have come through. SGC uniforms but I don’t recognize them. Where are you?”
“Almost there,” Jack replied. “Where are you?”
“Took cover behind the table closest to the door.”
“Good man. Hang tight.”
“Who are you?” Daniel called out, hoping to stall for time. There was no need to remain silent anyway since they knew where he was. The room didn’t exactly have hiding places.
“We’re friends, Doctor Jackson,” said one of the men. “We need your help.”
Listening to his inner alarm, he pushed to his knees and looked behind him. The door was still several yards away. Why did this room have to be so damn long?
“Help with what?” Daniel asked.
“Ancients’ translation,” replied the voice. He sounded like he was still at the mirror, but just when Daniel began to think that, he detected the sounds of approaching footsteps echoing not from the hall outside but from within the chamber. He clenched his jaw and carefully looked past the table leg. Two men were heading his way. One remained by the mirror. That meant the other two were coming up behind him on the other side of the tables.
“Funny how you’re not acting like friends,” Daniel called out, wishing Jack and the others would hurry the fuck up. It was only a matter of seconds before he was surrounded. If they were here for him, their purpose wasn’t to kill him, but a disabling Zat shot would serve their purpose if he refused.
“Shit,” Daniel growled, and fired a warning shot over his head. The bullet ricocheted off the high ceiling and slammed into something that broke like glass or crystal. Wincing, Daniel hoped to hell it wasn’t something they needed.
“That wasn’t very wise, Doctor Jackson,” called the man at the mirror.
It was something, Daniel thought, because he could no longer hear footsteps within the room. The running footsteps outside the room were getting closer. He was about to turn and make a dash for the door when something cold and hard pressed against the back of his head.
Daniel seriously contemplated aiming the muzzle of his gun over his shoulder but the man with the gun at his head pushed warningly. “Gun.”
Clenching his jaw, Daniel held it up in surrender. The man took it just as the other two appeared around the table before him. They wore SG-3 patches on their arms. “Get up, Doctor Jackson,” said one of the newly-arrived men. “Hands behind your head.”
Daniel pushed to his feet, then broke away from them, dashing for the door. He’d gone no more than a few feet before he was enveloped in the Zat’s painful electrical field. Seizing up, he fell helplessly to the floor. As he lost consciousness, he hoped that Jack and Jason would forgive him for getting captured.
“Goddammit!” said the man at the mirror. “I don’t wanna carry his ass!”
“He tried to make a break for it!” shouted the man who’d pointed the gun at Daniel’s head.
“Hurry the fuck up then! We’re gonna be shit deep in major gunplay in about ten seconds!”
The man who fired his Zat picked Daniel up in a fireman’s carry and the others flanked him as they ran back to the mirror.
Daniel’s would-be rescuers appeared with Jack and Stuart ahead of the pack. They rounded the tables, P-90s raised for sniper shots as they continued to run. “Let him go! Now!” Jack shouted.
Touching each other’s shoulders, the leader of the team shouted back, “Screw you, O’Neill!” before he touched the mirror and they were gone.
“Sonofabitch!” Jack cursed, and when close enough, he lunged at the mirror, intending to transfer to the other universe. The mirror, however, returned to its painted surface the moment he arrived, and he did nothing but crash into its solid surface. Frustrated rage boiled out of him. “Fuck!” he screamed, slamming the side of his fist against the surface of the mirror. Turning, he saw Carter staring at something on the table. “Daniel’s stuff?” he asked hopefully as he quickly strode over.
“Yeah, but it looks like he’d only gotten as far as translating the labels.” She looked at him. “He didn’t turn it on, Colonel.”
Jack stared back, growing angry. “I didn’t say he did, Carter.”
“Just making sure of the consensus, sir.”
Jack bit back a tart reply. “Do his notes tell us anything that will help find his ass?”
“No, sir,” she said, shoulders sagging like a deflated tire.
Jack didn’t like her body language and cursed himself for snapping. “Please tell me that’s the control device,” he said, pointing at the round disc.
She looked at it, then nodded. “The label confirms it.”
Jack took a steadying breath. “Can you tell me how long it would take before you figure out how to use it?”
“I don’t know yet,” she answered, making a face. “I do know that it’s going to take me hours to figure out how. It’s not like the first device we found.” She gestured at the mirror. “And neither is that.”
“Better get to it then,” he said tightly. “This is now your priority. The laser can wait.”
She hated to say it and thankfully, Stuart said it for her. “I doubt the General would agree if Daniel’s gone longer than a day.”
Jack knew the implication. They would be forced to return their focus to the crystal. For the first time in a long time, Jack wished for retirement. Heading for the exit, he said, “I’ll contact the base. Teal’c, help Carter.”
Jason watched him depart, Stuart on his heels, as panic tried to engulf his mind. Daniel was gone. What if he never saw him again?
“We’ll get him back,” Alex said, his hand on Jason’s shoulder.
“You’re fucking right we will,” Jason said forcefully, stomping on the fear and pessimism. He’d lost him once, only to find him again. The only difference between then and now was that it wouldn’t take six months, even if he and Jack had to search every goddamn alternate universe to get him back.
Daniel regained consciousness just before they arrived at the gate and promptly surprised the captor carrying him by kneeing the man in the ribs. He dropped to the ground, rolled, and got to his feet. He was about to start running when the sounds of Zats being activated made him freeze. “Not worth it, Doctor Jackson.” Daniel sighed and turned to face them. Five Zats were aimed at him.
The leader motioned at his men and two of them grabbed Daniel by his arms. The after-effects from the Zat made him a little unstable, but he was determined to walk under his own power and not be dragged. However, he needed to leave a message somehow, to let Jack know this was the right world. Taking a page from that horrible sojourn to Naetu, he pulled his right arm back, forcing the guard on his right to yank him forward. Daniel reached over with his left hand and shoved the man’s hand off his sleeve, and in the ensuing brief struggle, pulled the SG-1 patch from his arm and let it fall to the ground.
No one even noticed, and he made certain of that by scowling at the guards, keeping their eyes on him as he turned and headed to the gate.
Exiting the event horizon into the familiar gateroom was something he pretty much expected. What he didn’t expect was the Control Room’s Blast Shield to be closed. Either they were expecting an attack through the gate or no one was manning the control room. He hoped it wasn’t the latter. It would mean that this visit was off the books.
It could also mean a desperate plea for help, but Daniel wasn’t feeling charitable. Any command that authorized the kidnapping of an individual to achieve its own ends deserved no respect and very little tolerance. He was, for all intents and purposes, in enemy territory. Everything may look the same, but it obviously had major differences.
Yanking his arms free, Daniel stopped at the top of the ramp, and when the man on his left tried to take his arm again, he pulled away and backed up. “Who the hell is in charge of this mess?” he yelled, directing his answer at the intercom system. “Why am I here?”
“You’ll get your answers soon,” the leader of SG-3 said as Daniel was surrounded and pushed forward.
Daniel resisted and the leader grabbed him roughly by the back collar. “You’ll walk or be carried. Your choice.”
“I have a choice?” Daniel asked. “How magnanimous of you.”
Choosing to walk, he was escorted out of the gateroom. On the way to the elevator, he passed few people, and the ones he did see he thought he recognized. But passing them, the hairs rose once more on the back of his neck. He was tempted to open his mind to find out why, but decided to wait until he could focus only on one person. His empathic awareness was already getting warning bells and he didn’t want to chance picking up more than one mind.
The elevator stopped on the Infirmary floor and he was soon locked in a private examination room. He barely had time to examine it for clues before the door opened and a familiar face came in. Doctor Warner. Followed by two corpsmen. On his collar were gold oak leaves and under his name tag were the letters, CMO.
“Janet?” Daniel ventured.
With a grim, sympathetic smile, Warner said, “She was killed during an attack on the Alpha site two years ago.”
“I’m sorry,” Daniel said earnestly. There wasn’t anything else to say. At least, not about that. “So what am I doing here?”
“Well you’re not here for a flu shot,” Warner said.
“No, here in this universe.”
“That’ll be explained to you,” Warner said crisply, then held up a device that reminded Daniel of something Nirrti used to have. “First things first, we need to examine you. Do you recognize this?”
Daniel frowned and for a second, he wondered if that was why he was here. But if that were the case, he’d have been shown the device back on P1X-911. “No.”
“It’s a symbiote detector,” Warner said. “Regardless of your importance, you still need to be cleared.” He gestured at the gurney bed. “Lie on your stomach.”
They thought he had a snake in him? “I’m not a Goa’uld.”
“I’d love to take you at your word, Doctor Jackson, but protocol is protocol.”
Daniel stared at the table, finally noticing that it had a padded cut-out on the end, meant for a patient’s face when they laid face-down. He recalled a chiropractor’s massage room … then remembered the gurney that Kowalsky had been strapped to nine years before. He froze. He knew resistance was pointless, but he didn’t like the gurney, nor the look of that damn thing in Warner’s hand. Except for the silver color–naquada probably–it reminded him of a horseshoe crab.
“Can’t you just give me an MRI?” he asked, taking a step back and warily eyeing the corpsmen who took a step toward him.
“Takes too long,” Warner said. “This is faster.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Daniel said stubbornly.
“I’m sympathetic, Doctor Jackson, but if you don’t cooperate, the corpsmen will have to use force.”
Daniel frowned at him, sensing that was not quite the truth. “Will they leave?”
Warner gave him a cold look. “I’m afraid not.”
Swallowing nervously, Daniel knew he had no choice. Still, he moved slowly onto the gurney, keeping his palms planted on the mattress in case he needed to jump off. But the two corpsmen flanked the bed and took hold of his shoulders and thighs.
“What the hell are you doing?” Daniel asked, panic rising swiftly as he tried to get up. The corpsmen forced him back down.
“Stay still, Doctor Jackson,” Warner said irritably. “This won’t be pleasant, but it has to be done. They’re here to keep you from falling off the table.”
“Why the hell would I fall off the table?” Daniel asked in alarm, even knowing the question was pointless. He stared at the floor as Warner gripped the back of his head. To expose his neck? Panic skyrocketed as Daniel was suddenly assailed with the fear that they were going to put a snake in his head. “No!”
The corpsmen who held him were losing their grip and Doctor Warner called out for help. Two more corpsmen burst into the room, rushing to help as a cold metal pressed against the back of Daniel’s neck. He squeezed his eyes shut as something sharp pierced and pinched his skin, causing a deep burning pain. He screamed with furious defiance as pain and heat spread rapidly through his nerves, then just as suddenly as it began, sensation abruptly eased. Frightened, Daniel waited for his mind to be taken over; seconds passed, then the device beeped.
“Let him up,” Warner commanded.
Daniel quickly pushed up by himself, shoving one of the corpsmen away, and massaged the back of his neck while shooting a hateful glare at Warner. “I think I like the MRI better.”
“I understand, but we can’t afford to waste time,” Warner said, a sad smile on his lips. Jerking his head at two of the corpsmen, he said, “They’re going to take you to one of the holding rooms. You shouldn’t be there long.”
“Gee, thanks,” Daniel said sarcastically as he was pulled to his feet and escorted out of the infirmary.
They had torn the wall apart on either side of the mirror in order to get behind it, but the material behind the mirror was proving tough. For that reason, they’d returned to the SGC for crowbars, prying at what they could while Sam shone her flashlight into the dark crevice. She figured that there must be a system of crystals powering it the same way they powered the gate. Since the gate had a memory buffer perhaps the mirror did too, so she’d suggested they not randomly dial until she could prove or disprove her theory.
“Carter, do you think you can hurry it up?” Jack snapped for the umpteenth time.
“Would you give it a rest!” Sam shouted, startling herself as well as everyone else. “Sir,” she added hastily. She adjusted her position as she lay on the floor next to the mirror, feeling the beginnings of a cramp. She hated hard, cold floors. “I know what I’m doing. Your hounding me every five minutes is not helping. Daniel is one of my best friends and I’m as anxious to find him.”
Jack ground his jaw, then turned on his heel and headed for the exit. Squatting next to Sam, Jason watched him leave, but didn’t follow. He knew Jack needed some alone time to cool off–and not come back to bite Sam’s head off.
“What do you see?” he asked her.
“Dammit, I can’t see enough. There’s something there but we’re not giving me enough room for me to tell what it is.”
“Stuart, Alex,” Jason said, gesturing at a spot two feet above his own. Alex and Stuart wedged in their crowbars while Al and Connor adjusted theirs below Teal’c. On Jason’s count, they pushed their crowbars against the wall, leveraging the mirror away from it.
“Oh, I see something!” Sam said excitedly. “Wait … hey, there’s nothing but space behind this–“
The broken sections around the mirror groaned ominously. Sam rolled away and quickly got to her feet, thinking debris from the wall would come down on her head; she was partially right. Debris came crashing down around her but as it broke off around the mirror, the mirror itself began to fall backward into the empty space.
“Help me!” Teal’c bellowed as he slid off the ladder, hands on the edge of the mirror. Al and Connor rushed to his side while Sam moved to help Jason, Stuart, and Alex. The mirror no longer moved, but the goddamn thing was heavy.
“Now what?” Sam said, more to herself.
“We got this side, Sam,” Jason told her. “Look behind there, see if there’s enough room to shore it up.”
“With what?” Alex asked as Sam carefully moved around them and aimed her flashlight behind the mirror.
“I dunno,” Jason scowled. “Those broken tree branches outside?”
“There are metallic planks in the lower west wing,” Teal’c said. “I believe they are long enough to use as leverage braces.”
Stuart groaned. “I know where they are. Goddamn things are heavy.”
“We could stack them on top of the FRED,” Connor suggested. “Then wheel them in here.”
Jason lifted a brow. “That would work. There is only one problem.”
Stuart nodded. “Two people have to lift them.”
Sam pushed to her feet and gave Stuart and Jason a feeble smile. “Can you guys grab the Colonel and get the planks?”
As soon as the two men jogged out of the room and out of hearing, Jason muttered to Stuart, “‘Bout time we put him to work. He’s been a pain in the ass all evening.”
“We all need sleep,” Stuart said.
“Yeah, except for Teal’c,” Jason said enviously. “Once we shore this damn thing up, I say we all get some shut eye.”
“Jack might not agree,” Stuart said, saying the words Jason was thinking.
“He’s no more impatient than I am, but running on fumes won’t get us anywhere. We need our wits about us once we find that damn universe.”
“You think Sam is right about her theory?”
“Yes,” Jason nodded. “It actually makes sense.”
“And if she’s wrong?” Stuart asked.
Jason felt his stomach turn over the layers of butterflies. “Then we’ll all be taking turns dialing and searching.”
Forty-five minutes passed while Daniel paced in the interrogation room. Ceiling cameras were stationed at the corners and he frequently stared into them, letting them see his anger. “Aren’t you people in a rush or something?” he yelled. “Someone get in here and tell me what the fuck you want with me!” The door opened abruptly, forcing him turn swiftly and tense for confrontation. Standing beside the door, hand on the knob, was a dark-haired man with large, intense eyes and an unshaven face. He was dressed in the same black fatigues everyone else wore. Strapped to his thigh was a standard-issue Glock. Daniel glanced at the nametag. It said, “McBride”; his rank was Lieutenant Colonel. “Don’t you guys have camouflage?” he asked sarcastically, not expecting an answer.
“It’s on order,” snapped McBride.
As he turned to step aside, Daniel noticed the team patch: SG-8. They’d sent a team leader? What for? And should he be worried?
“Come with me, Doctor Jackson,” said McBride.
“Mind if I ask where?” Daniel asked, grabbing his jacket off the back of the chair.
“A place for you to work,” McBride replied impatiently, holding his hand out and gesturing for Daniel to precede him.
“You’ll be filled in as soon as we get there.”
Feeling that it would be pointless to argue, at least during transit, Daniel sighed in disgust and followed. Five minutes later and several floors up, he found himself in somewhat familiar surroundings. His lab. Or rather, the office that was his lab in his universe. In this universe, the damn thing looked like a storage room that was used for discarded books, manuals, and computer parts. The table he used for a lab desk stood in the center of the room, empty but for several stone slabs.
As Daniel approached them, he recognized the writing and figured this must be what they wanted translated. He’d seen something similar on the planet where that damn alien archaeologist, Malakai, had been messing with an Ancients’ time device. Were these part of that Ancient device? Or one similar?
He turned to ask McBride and realized that he hadn’t noticed that the door had been closed and that the man was now sitting on a stool in front of it. His arms were crossed, and brows so deeply furrowed that Daniel wondered that the man could still see. “What planet did you find these on?”
“What difference does that make?” McBride asked warily. “Can you translate them?”
“Was it P4X-639?” McBride stared back and Daniel sighed loudly with the lack of patience he’d been feeling for the last week. He glared back and dredged up a smile that was clearly false. “Look. We’re both quite obviously in places we don’t want to be,” he began, “so why don’t we pretend to get along in order to get this over as quickly as we can. Then I can get back home and you can get back to whatever you were doing before I was summarily kidnapped by a bunch of psychopathic mercenaries. What do you say?”
McBride’s eyes widened in surprise. Daniel wondered if it was because he’d guessed correctly–though it was hard to tell if it was referring to SG-3 as ‘psychopathic mercenaries’ or guessing that McBride desired to be elsewhere. It was likely both. Refolding his arms, McBride propped the sole of his boot on the bottom rung of his stool. “Agreed.”
“Wanna start with a name?” Daniel asked. When McBride’s surprise gaze turned sarcastic, Daniel returned it. “Yeah, I can see the tag. But I like to be on a first name basis with my captors.”
McBride snorted with amusement. “What was your question?”
Okay, so humor didn’t get him anywhere. “P4X-639?”
McBride shook his head. “P3Y-103.”
Daniel didn’t recognize the designation but stored it away for future use. Turning to the desk, his innate curiosity had him studying the tablets despite the circumstances, and out of habit, he reached for a notebook that wasn’t there. Exasperation filled him. “I can’t translate this orally.” Actually, he could, but he wasn’t about to tell him that.
Reaching into a front pocket, McBride took out a notepad and a pen. “What do you need?” he asked, prepared to write.
Simple, terse. Easy to communicate with. Despite his distrust of everyone on this world, Daniel felt he could easily like this man if only he’d be a bit more friendly. He was tempted to open his mind, but since he wasn’t receiving any warnings that the man was lying–or a threat–he decided otherwise. Self-protection kept him from learning things he didn’t think he’d want to know anyway. He suddenly wondered if the man’s resistance to being friendlier was done out of the same sense of self-preservation. A long time ago, Jack used to say, “Make no connection, suffer no loss.” Was it the same mindset here?
“Jackson,” McBride said loudly.
Daniel blinked, then cursed himself for getting distracted. “Daniel,” he corrected, and in the manner of a professor addressing a student. An old, unshakeable habit.
McBride stared at him, lifting his chin. After a few long seconds, during which a thoughtful decision had obviously been made, he nodded once. “Zak. With a K.” He tapped the notepad with his pen. “Supplies.”
“Man of few words,” Daniel said, his tone still filled with sarcasm. “I think I’m in love.”
“Well ain’t I honored,” Zak replied, adopting a heavy Southern accent.
His tone was sarcastic and impatient, but there was a trace of a smile. Daniel found it strange that they seemed to share the same sense of humor. “Notebook, pens, pencils, the mechanical kind.” He paused, looking around the room. “Chalkboard.” Ignoring another look of surprise, he added, “Chalk and eraser.” When Zak snorted, Daniel said conspiratorially, “You have to add that, or they’d actually just deliver the chalkboard with nothing else.” Daniel walked around to scan the metal bookshelves on the other side of the room and missed the smile that briefly appeared on Zak’s face. With a sigh, he said, “I’ll need Latin books. Ancient Roman, Modern Roman, Middle English.”
“Because Latin is similar to the Ancients’ language.”
“How does that help?” Zak asked, frowning as he pointed at the stone blocks. “That stuff doesn’t look anything like Latin.”
“No, but trust me,” Daniel said, remembering when Jack had spoken the words nine years before–it had been the only way he’d found out about the Latin tie-in. He’d never been able to find a Latin reference since then, so Jack’s download had yielded more than a meet ‘n greet with the Asgard. “They’re similar,” he added, unable to keep the sarcasm from escaping his mouth.
“If you say so,” Zak said as he shook his head and waved the notepad. “Anything else?”
Daniel considered, then turned and rattled off the other things he’d like to have but didn’t expected to get: “Coffee maker, coffee mug, coffee, sugar, cream, fruit, tissues, paper towels, a set of paintbrushes–“
“Whoa, whoa,” Zak interrupted. “Paintbrushes?”
“The stones need cleaning. An archaeologist’s tool set would be preferable to paintbrushes, but since I left my tool set back on P1X-911 … now there’s an ironic designation if ever there was one.”
Shooting Daniel a dirty look, Zak stood up. “An-y-thing else?” he said, slowly enunciating.
“Nothing but the obvious.”
“The obvious?” Zak asked.
“Getting me the hell out of here,” Daniel replied condescendingly. When Zak made it clear that he wasn’t amused, Daniel said, “A description of the site these tablets were found and an explanation on why I’m here.”
“You know why,” Zak said.
“No, I don’t. There’s a reason you want these translated. It would help me to know what that is, so I don’t waste time on the irrelevant. You see, I’ve discovered that the Ancients have many homonyms. I need to know what I’m looking for, so I don’t mistranslate.” That wasn’t exactly the truth, but a layman could buy it.
Satisfied with that reply, Zak nodded. “I’ll need to get authorization.” He turned to the door and typed in a code, then slid an access card through the port. After the door opened, he stepped out, then motioned at the two security guards as he gave Daniel a warning look. “I’ll be back as soon as possible.”
The door closed and Daniel pulled a stool out from under the table and sat down. “Great. I can’t wait.”
Jack paced in front of Hammond’s desk. “We can’t give up on this, sir.”
“I’m not suggesting we do. But you know we can’t use resources on this indefinitely, not even for Doctor Jackson.”
“He’s only been gone for twelve hours, for cryin’ out loud,” Jack snapped back.
“Jack, sit down,” Hammond said firmly. Jack complied. “We can spend three days’ time, then we’ll have to move on.”
Jack was not happy with that. “Assign one person to keep searching. Carter’s already got that dialing device figured out.”
“I’m aware of that,” Hammond answered, and at the look on Jack’s face, he adopted his sympathy face. “I understand how much he means to you. He’s a valuable asset to this facility and I consider him a friend. But you know I can’t let that interfere with the decisions I have to make.”
Jack ground his jaw, trying to think of a way to impart just how important Daniel was to him. There was really only one way, but if he spoke out now, he could risk everything. And maybe lose Daniel in the process. Hammond might be tolerant of a lot of things, but Jack had no clue how the man would react if his 2IC told him he was having a relationship with a member of his team … who happened to be a man. Two reg violations right there.
Jack swallowed and threw aside the inner argument. If he wasn’t willing to risk it all for Daniel, he didn’t deserve him. “He isn’t just my friend, General.”
Hammond nodded. “I know the two of you are close, Jack. It still doesn’t change–“
“That’s not what I mean, sir. It’s more than a close friendship.” Hammond stared at him and when he didn’t say anything, Jack slowly added, “The regs are about to be changed. I can’t get into any trouble disclosing–“
“The hell you can’t,” Hammond snapped back angrily. “Changed regs or not, if you’re saying what I think you’re saying, you’re admitting to violating the fraternization regs as well as the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy–which I’ll remind you is still in effect until the repeal is signed.”
Jack straightened his back. “It’s worth the risk. He’s worth the risk.”
“And if I go by the book, Colonel, you won’t be in a position to help him at all. Have you considered that?”
Jack stared back determinedly. “I have.”
Hammond rolled his eyes and sat back, wishing Jack wasn’t so goddamn stubborn. And wishing he’d kept his mouth shut. “A week at most. That’s all the leeway I’ll grant you.”
“Thank you, sir,” Jack said, getting up. “Permission to leave?”
Hammond nodded, but before Jack opened the door, he asked, “How long?”
Jack stared back in surprise, then cleared his throat a few times. “Off the record?”
“As a friend,” Hammond relented. “Off the record.”
Jack hesitated, feeling very strange. Even though he was the one who’d opened this can of worms, he now wanted to close it back up. It was like talking to your parents about sex. “Seven years.”
Hammond pursed his lips as he took in this fact. “And can I assume that those closest to you, such as Major Carter, Teal’c, Colonel Coburn … they know about this?”
“Off the record,” Jack replied. “Yes.” Part of him wanted to explain exactly why Jason knew about it, but a larger part decided he’d rather have a root canal.
As he waited, Daniel inevitably wondered where this world’s Jack and Jason were. And everyone else. Was Teal’c here? Had he ever been recruited? What about Sam? Was she civilian or Air Force? Was she dead? Were Jack and Jason? Was he? It didn’t really matter if he was. If his other self were around to translate, he wouldn’t be here. One other question came to him, one he’d been trying not to focus on: What if they had no intention in letting him go?
“Doesn’t matter,” he murmured to himself. He’d be thinking of escape either way. He turned his attention to the room, scanning the contents for anything he’d need–and he didn’t bother looking for a weapon. He’d still have to evade two guards and more down the corridor, not to mention how many he’d run into trying to get to the Control Room. Then there was dialing the gate, and the computer was likely password-protected like his SGC’s Control Room. He’d get nowhere in a damn hurry, especially when they could simply close in on him by closing corridor bulkhead doors. That would cut off access to the emergency ladder. If he couldn’t get to the control room, he’d go for topside. Without the ladder (forget the elevator), there’d be no way.
He spotted a standard-issue green wool blanket and shook out the dust. Folding it lengthwise, he laid it on the lab table and placed the tablets on top of it, side by side. He really didn’t give a shit about scratching the table or the artifacts, but the noise stone made when it scraped together bothered the crap out of him. For him, it was the proverbial nail on chalkboard.
He was engrossed in mental translations when the door opened and Zak returned, followed by a man in fatigues and a World War II bomber jacket. His hair was buzzcut and there were stars on his shoulders. Zak remained by the door, but the General walked to the table and held out his hand. “General Landry,” he said, and though the expression on his face was fatherly and pleasant, Daniel could tell by his body language he wouldn’t tolerate any insubordination. Much like Hammond, he thought, but this definitely wasn’t Hammond. There was also an oddness to him that Daniel couldn’t pinpoint.
He politely shook his hand. “General Hammond?” he inquired.
Landry inclined his head, then nodded. “You need to familiarize yourself with what you know and trust. I get that.”
Daniel briefly smiled and waited.
“Hammond’s retired,” Landry said, leaning forward slightly as if he were talking to a ten-year old. Daniel ignored the condescension.
“And my counterpart?”
“Died from exposure to radiation after a failed mission.”
Implying it was his fault? “Major Sam Carter?”
“Doctor Samantha Carter is head of R and D.”
Interesting, but not unexpected. “Teal’c?”
Landry frowned. “Who?”
Zak came forward from his guard stance by the door to stand next to the General. “The Jaffa that joined SG-1 after the program was reinitiated.”
“Oh, right,” Landry nodded, but looked back at Zak because he obviously had no clue.
“After Chulak was bombed by Baal,” Zak explained, “he returned to his people, ostensibly to form a Jaffa rebellion.”
“Ostensibly?” Daniel asked defensively.
“The fifth column Jaffa have cut off all ties with Earth.”
Daniel had the suspicion that perhaps the Jaffa’s hands had been forced. “One more personnel question?” he asked when he sensed that Landry was growing impatient. When the General nodded, Daniel asked, “Major Jason Coburn?”
Landry frowned, puzzled by the query. “Mind if I ask why you’re interested in him?”
Daniel suddenly had a feeling that asking about Jason threw up some sort of wall. “He’s my best friend back home,” he said carefully, then added, “And leader of SG-2.”
“He was leader of SG-1,” Zak said after getting a nod from Landry. “But he was wounded in a firefight and can no longer serve in the field.”
Daniel knew there was more to it but given the warning he detected in Zak’s eyes, decided to leave further inquiry after the General had left. “Okay, the reason I’m here?”
“I’ll give you the short version,” Landry said. “Baal has assembled a fleet of ships. Tok’ra intel says they’re planning on attacking human colonies and eventually Earth.” He paused to allow that to sink in, then went on. “We also received intel that there was some sort of weapon in Antarctica close to the location of the beta gate. We sent a team and discovered some sort of Ancient outpost. We’re told that it contains a weapon, but everything is written in Ancient and we have no idea how to translate it and get it working.”
Daniel was confused. “And these tablets?” he asked, gesturing at the stone.
“They were part of a device that displayed planetary data in holographic form, similar to the data found on a planet we dubbed ‘Heliopolis’. We had only enough time to find Earth’s designation and a map of the Antarctic before the building was attacked by the Goa’uld.”
“So you grabbed what was left and hightailed it back here?” Daniel surmised.
“Quick, Doctor Jackson. Can you translate it?”
“Yes,” Daniel answered, though he wasn’t certain of it. “But whether it will tell you what you want to know–“
Landry waved his hand dismissively as he turned and walked back to the door. “Just translate what is there, Doctor Jackson.”
Daniel frowned, growing angry. “Wait. Why kidnap me? I would have given you the information without all the cloak and dagger.”
Landry stared at him. “We couldn’t take the chance that you would have refused.”
“Why the hell would I refuse?” Daniel asked, walking toward the General. Zak stepped around him and took his arm, forcing Daniel to stop. Eyes still on the General, he said, “Surely you understand that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
Landry smiled grimly. “Just translate the tablets, Doctor Jackson.”
Daniel’s suspicion that he might not be let go intensified. “And after I translate them?”
The General gave him a sympathetic look and left. Daniel turned to Zak. “That was a lie. I’m not going to be free to go after I translate these, am I?”
Zak stared back at him, eyes filled with something that looked like guilt, but Daniel didn’t sense it. “I was told you would be.”
Daniel knew he was holding something back. Grinding his teeth, he tried not to get mad. “But you don’t believe that any more than I do.”
Zak turned away and headed back to the door. “I’ll get the things you need.”
Daniel suddenly asked, “Could I talk to Jason?” Zak frowned at him, his expression unreadable. What was the matter?
“I don’t see the point, but I’ll speak with him,” Zak said, then left, and the bulkhead door hummed closed.
If Jason hadn’t retired but could no longer go out in the field, why was he still here? What had happened? And why the hell did McBride and Landry give him weird looks when he asked about him? Daniel closed his eyes and told himself that at the next opportunity, he’d open up his empathy a bit more and see if he could discover what the hell they weren’t telling him.
When Zak returned, he was pushing a two-shelved cart laden with the supplies Daniel had asked for. Including a coffee machine. Daniel got up to help him off-load but he was waved back down. Zak tossed a pack of pens, pencils, and yellow legal pads on the table.
“These’ll have to do,” he said. “Get started and I’ll take care of the rest of this stuff.”
Daniel sighed, half-watching Zak and half-reading the tablets as he copied down symbols. It was a good thing he had an eidetic memory or he’d never be able to get this done without his notebook back home. And he had a pretty good idea they wouldn’t let him go back for it.
He tried to work, but Zak was clearing the cluttered desk by tossing the items on top of it into a corner. He was irritated, pissed off, and Daniel surmised that it was because the work was beneath him. Actually, Daniel couldn’t blame him. The man was a Lieutenant Colonel, after all. Only Airmen did the grunt work.
When the coffee machine began making the tell-tale brewing sounds and Zak set a plastic bag filled with fruit on the lab table, Daniel set down his pen and reached for a golden apple. When Zak brought the stool by the door over to the other side of the table and sat down, Daniel asked, “So, Lieutenant Colonel, who did you piss off to get this detail?”
Zak stared back at him, not answering right away. He then reached into his right front pocket and pulled out a cigar. It was one he’d obviously been working on all day. As he lit it, he gave Daniel a look that dared him to disapprove.
Instead, Daniel waved at the ceiling. “Won’t the smoke alarms go off?” Zak shook his head, still saying nothing. Daniel eyed him. “I take it that since you’ve apparently done something wrong, it won’t hurt to break the smoking reg.”
Zak half-grinned as he took a puff off the cigar. Thankfully, he didn’t blow it in Daniel’s face. Not that Daniel would have cared, but in his experience, doing such a thing had always been a sign of sexual flirtation, not macho aggression. “Not going to tell me, eh?” Daniel asked, jogging his brows as he picked up the pen and returned to translation work on the pad.
After a silent minute, Zak blew out a puff of smoke that sounded more like a sigh. “Captain Coburn was supposed to have this assignment.”
Daniel looked up in surprise. “Captain? What’d he do to get demoted?”
Zak grinned. “Punched Senator Kinsey in the face.”
Daniel’s jaw dropped.
Zak’s grin mirrored admiration. “It was a sight, too. Knocked him on his ass.”
“Why?” Daniel asked, then quickly added, “Not that the sonofabitch didn’t deserve it. I’ve come close a time or two. So’s Jack.”
“Jack?” Zak asked, puzzled for a second before he nodded. “Colonel O’Neill.”
“So?” Daniel pushed.
Zak reached over and tapped the pad. “Continue and I’ll tell you. From what I’ve heard, you can listen and work at the same time.”
Daniel threw him a sardonic look and went back to work, though he would only wait for several seconds for Zak to explain, then he’d put the pen down. He had a feeling he could push the man, but just how far was the question. He’d find out, one way or the other. Looking up without raising his head, he found Zak looking back, watching him. Assessing, Daniel figured. He recognized the look, having seen it often enough.
Keeping his gaze, he waited a few moments before looking back down at his pad. He wrote a line of characters, then looked up again. Zak was still watching him. “If you don’t stop doing that,” Daniel smirked, “I’ll start thinking you have a thing.”
Zak snorted and the smoke went up his nose, making him cough. “Funny.”
Daniel smiled sarcastically as he bent to his task. “If the shoe fits.”
Zak puffed. “I’m not gay,” he said, then purposely blew smoke in Daniel’s direction.
Daniel waved it away, mostly out of principle. It actually didn’t smell that bad. “That says you are or you don’t care if others are. Or both.”
Zak didn’t respond, but after a few silent minutes, during which Daniel was beginning to think he’d failed, the man cleared his throat.
“Jason and I are friends,” he said.
Daniel looked up, frowning. “Meaning what?”
Zak shrugged and puffed on his cigar. “Meaning that friends talk.”
Daniel wasn’t about to play coy little games. “And?” he prodded.
“And,” Zak drawled. “Friends talk.”
Daniel rolled his eyes and sighed. “Whatever,” he said, giving up. As he was used to doing back home, he forced himself to ignore his surroundings in order to focus on his work; it was usually how he was able to figure out the answer to a question or dilemma in the middle of a meeting. Suddenly Zak reached over and took the pen from his hand. Daniel was instantly reminded of a scene from Junior High, when a girl had done the same thing simply because he wasn’t paying her enough attention. He thought about reaching over to grab his pen back, but had a feeling that this aggravating man would play ‘keep away’. Picking up the box of pens, he pulled out another, and when Zak reached to grab the box, Daniel snatched it away.
“Either explain what you meant or go sit outside,” he scowled.
Zak straightened and took the cigar from his mouth. With his gaze focused on a stone tablet instead of on Daniel, he said, “One day, we were shit-faced drunk. He told me about his feelings for you. The other you.”
Daniel recalled Landry’s expression, Zak’s assumed familiarity, the revelation about Kinsey. Were they all related?
“What happened to make him hit Kinsey?”
Zak glanced up, then kept his gaze. “My team went with SG-1 on a mission that went FUBAR. We were in the infirmary. Kinsey came in, demanding to know whether we’d sealed the deal or not.”
Daniel frowned. “Bastard never did know his place. What deal?”
Zak lifted his chin as a sneer of disgust subtly spread across his face. “With the Aschen.”
Daniel was momentarily surprised. “Jack wasn’t in on that?”
Zak shook his head. “He’d left by then. Jason was given command.”
“Oh.” Daniel suddenly realized that events here were shuffled around. If Jack had left, then the other Daniel had already died. “Who found out about the Aschen’s planetary cleansing?”
“Carter,” Zak replied. “She took up your mantle after you died.”
As Daniel mulled over that interesting bit of news, he noticed the face Zak made. “What?”
“Nothing,” Zak said, shaking his head. “I feel like I’m talking to a ghost. Anyway, when he told Kinsey that the deal was off because of what Carter had found out, Kinsey went ballistic.” Zak paused, shaking his head. “If you think things are bad here, you should see Congress.”
Daniel didn’t care about that. “What’d he say to Jason?”
Zak hesitated, staring down at his cigar. “The gist of it was that he couldn’t do anything right, that he’d lost his balls ever since he’d lost his, and I quote, ‘catamite’.”
Daniel stared back, more shocked at the archaic word usage than the meaning behind it. It was obvious that Zak would rather not go on about it but Daniel needed to know. He cleared his throat. “Jack used to say, ‘In for a penny–‘”
“‘In for a pound’,” Zak replied. “I know.”
That he knew Jack that well surprised Daniel. “How long have you been here?”
“Since the beginning,” Zak answered, and guessing Daniel’s thoughts, he added, “Yeah, I knew him well enough to know that.”
“Right,” Daniel answered, his mouth thinning with jealousy, even if it was irrational.
“Still wanna know? You’re really not gonna like it.”
“I figured as much.”
“Kinsey barreled into the infirmary, and after the news, he went off on a tirade. Obviously pissed that he’d just missed out on the money-making, power-grabbing deal of a lifetime. Fraiser yelled for security just as Hammond arrived and that was when Jason lunged and punched Kinsey in face. Knocked him several feet back, made him crash into a cart.” Zak started to laugh, then sobered quickly. “At first, everyone thought his nose was bleeding, but it turned out to be Jason’s blood.”
“Why was Jason bleeding?” Daniel asked in alarm.
“Some of those simple-minded Volians tried to protect their benevolent masters and chased us to the gate. Just as–“
“Hang on, didn’t the Aschen take over the usage of the gate on that planet?”
Zak paused, confused. “Yeah. I don’t see what you’re getting at.”
“You weren’t on their ship, over the gate?”
“No. We gave them the pretense that we’d rather make the deal on the ground, so they landed the ship.”
“How thoughtful of them,” Daniel snapped.
“Wasn’t it? After they were exposed, they dialed the gate to release some sort of bio-weapon. We were heading to cut it off when we were attacked. They came at us with farm implements, for chrissakes.” He grimaced and held up his right arm, bending it to show Daniel a long, thin scar, white with age, that went from wrist to elbow on the side of his forearm. “This is my reminder never to underestimate the lethal use of a fucking hoe.”
Despite himself, Daniel cracked a smile.
“Jason was hit in the legs right at the gate, then a flying scythe came at his head, scoring him across the face.” Zak drew a line with his index finger, moving from right cheek bone, across his nose, and ending in the middle of the left cheek. “It didn’t get his eyes but dirt debris off the blade did. Damaged the right cornea. Can’t fly anymore.”
Daniel swallowed, knowing that his Jason would have been severely depressed if he couldn’t fly anymore. “Does he know I’m here?”
Zak didn’t answer. “Kinsey was wrong, by the way.”
Daniel frowned. “What?”
Zak cleared his throat. “You and Jason weren’t together.”
“Lovers, you mean,” Daniel said, holding no patience for homophobic euphemisms. Zak nodded once. “But there was something, wasn’t there? There’s a reason you and Landry had those looks on your faces when I asked about him.”
“Jason refused to confirm or deny Kinsey’s backhanded charge.”
“How could he?” Daniel scowled, “and keep his job with DADT in effect.”
“DADT?” Zak asked.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” Daniel said. “That idiot piece of legislation that Clinton passed back in ’93?”
At first, Zak was confused, then his face cleared with understanding. “Clinton didn’t win back then. Bush Senior did. Clinton got a single term before Bush’s moronic son stole the election from Hillary Clinton in 2000.”
“So there was never …” Daniel began, but left off, knowing there was no need to finish. “Doesn’t matter. Gays still aren’t accepted in military.”
“No,” Zak said. “They have to keep it on the down low, like the rest of us.” When Daniel’s frown turned to confusion, Zak added, “Frat rules are harsh.”
“Right. Does he know I’m here?” Daniel repeated.
Zak slowly nodded, then pointed to the cameras in the corners of the room. “He’s head of base security.”
Daniel looked sharply at the one to his left, by the door. “Is he watching?”
“Don’t look, stupid,” Zak hissed, chomping on his cigar. “I haven’t spoken to him yet. If he’s watching, he’s watching in the presence of others who monitor the base inside the surveillance office.”
“Oh,” Daniel said, looking away and focusing on his work. Now that Jason was possibly watching, he felt a tingling sensation crawl down his spine. It wasn’t arousal or excitement. It was unease. Keeping his gaze on the legal pad, he asked, “Did my counterpart return the feelings?”
Zak blew out some smoke and cleared his throat. “Not that Jason knew.” He tapped the legal pad. “Now do yourself a favor and get back to work.”
Daniel pressed pen to paper, but didn’t write. In an undertone, he said, “For all the good it will do. They’re not going to let me go, are they?” When Zak didn’t answer, Daniel put his pen down. “Then I really don’t see the point in cooperating any longer.” He picked up the pad and dropped it on top of the stone tablet closest to Zak. “Good luck with that.”
Zak slowly picked it up and placed it back in front of Daniel as he leaned forward across the table. Tapping the pad firmly and meaningfully, he stared into his eyes with a deadly seriousness. “Don’t mistake my amiability as an example of everyone else’s goodwill, Daniel. Do you understand me?”
“I’m not sure I do. Spell it out,” Daniel replied, not daring to make assumptions.
“You don’t want to know.”
“No, I probably don’t. Explain anyway.”
Zak’s jaw flexed from the grinding of his teeth, letting Daniel know that he was reluctant to explain. “The plan was to haul your ass to Area 51 and force you to work there.” He paused and emphasized each word. “By. Any. Means. Necessary.” Without moving his head, he looked in the direction of one of the cameras. “If they don’t see any cooperation on your part, they will send someone in to ensure it.”
“Well that’s just fucking great,” Daniel growled, staring at the pad in front of him. His mind began to formulate a plan of escape when Zak said something to make him look up sharply.
“Listen to me. The only reason I’m here is because Jason asked me to take the assignment. He convinced them that pretending friendship would get you pliable and reasonable.”
Daniel swallowed as heat suffused his cheeks. Jason was protecting him. But how long would it last? “So that’s your job, is it? Pretending to make nice and get me to cooperate?”
Zak puffed on the cigar. “You know how this shit works.”
“Great. Say I cooperate. What if I don’t solve this according to their time table?”
Zak looked away. “Desperation and fear make people do insanely unwise things.”
Daniel looked down at the legal pad again, revising his plan of escape. “Yes, I imagine it does.”
“I’ll speak to Jason. See if I can arrange a meeting. But don’t get your hopes up. He’s not quite the same man as he used to be.”
“That I’m here and not at Area 51 says otherwise,” Daniel replied. Zak didn’t answer as he left the room.
“Here it is,” Sam said excitedly, pointing to a page in Daniel’s notebook. “The Ancients’ numerical system.” She took the book with her back to the mirror, hunkered down and wedged in behind it.
“Carter?” Jack asked, turning toward her, and walking over.
“Just a minute,” she said, sitting down cross-legged. She aimed her flashlight back and forth between the book and an open panel behind the mirror. “Where’s Jason with that damn–“
“Got it!” she heard Jason call, his voice echoing around the chamber as he sprinted in. She looked through the opening as Jason handed an electric lamp to Jack and he passed it on to her. “Excellent,” she said, moving the lamp to illuminate the panel while she kept the flashlight on the book. After a minute, she said, “I knew it!”
“It’s got a buffer?” Jack asked.
Focused on her work, she absently said, “I already figured that out. What I needed was a translation.”
Jack looked at Jason and rolled his eyes. “Why didn’t you tell us that before?”
“What?” she asked, looking up and peering from the darkness behind the mirror. A second later, she registered his question. “Oh, right. Sorry, sir. It’s just that it wouldn’t have made a difference if we couldn’t read it. There’s a system of small crystal cards and above them is an LED readout but it’s written in Ancient.”
“And now you can read it,” Jack said. “So what’s it say, Carter?”
“It’s a code, and it’s binary,” she said, grinning her head off.
Jack looked at the others with a long-suffering glare. “It must be a geek thing.”
“Bite me,” Sam muttered under her breath, writing down the code.
“I heard that,” Jack said, but he wasn’t angry. He was too damn excited that Carter had good news.
“I’m copying it down,” she said, writing carefully, “then I’ll need to transcribe it to the dialer.”
“And then we dial,” Jason finished for her. “After that, we enter another universe and hope like hell that whoever took him took him through the stargate.”
“So their designation will have remained in the buffer,” Teal’c said.
“And hopefully, it won’t be the SGC,” Alex said, hating to be the doomsayer.
“What?” Connor asked, but Jack, Jason, and Teal’c were making faces. “Why?”
“Shit,” Jack said as he caught on to what Alex meant.
“What?” Connor asked, then it came to him. “Shit. The iris code.”
“This sucks,” Jason said, shaking his head as he began to pace in disgust. “Those bastards were in SGC uniforms.”
“Even if we knew the code,” Jack said, “we’d be walking into a ready-made ambush.”
Jason made a rude noise, shaking his head. “This totally fucking blows.”
Jack sighed with agreement. “I vote we go steal a ship with Asgard beaming technology. It’s not like we’re gonna be able to keep it.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said. “Do you have a world in mind, O’Neill?”
“I was actually kidding, Teal’c.”
Teal’c smirked back. “I was not.”
Several hours passed as Daniel worked on the translation. He was no longer doing it to help these people, but to help his own, and he occupied his time by memorizing all the details so he could take the information back home. Maybe Hammond would let him assist in the project; if not, Daniel would at least be able to work on making a complete translation. And who knew what else was down there.
He felt guilty over the thought of abandoning this world to its fate, leaving them without a full translation matrix, but if Zak was right and they had no intention of letting him go, then there was nothing to mull over. He was a prisoner, they were his captors. It no longer mattered if this wasn’t his world and these weren’t his people. They no longer operated under moral and ethical laws, even in secret. They were, in fact, acting much like Harry Maybourne’s rogue NID teams: take what they want and damn the consequences.
Sitting back, Daniel took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes, then got up to walk around the room. He still had coffee but he didn’t want any. Zak had brought him dinner but he wasn’t hungry. The only thing he wanted, other than to escape, was sleep.
He looked at his watch and sighed. He’d been missing for eighteen hours now. He’d been awake for twenty-two. Jack, Jason, and the others would be doing their damnedest to find him. Sam would have already figured out how the dialer worked. The only problem he could foresee was having enough time. When they found the right world, the only way they’d know for certain would be to check out the surrounding area, including the gate.
Would they find his bread crumb before Hammond forced them to abandon the search?
Startling him out of his thoughts was the hum of the door as it opened. An SF guard stepped to the threshold. “I’m here to take you someplace to get some sleep.”
Daniel walked back to the table to get his glasses, then followed the guard out of the room and down the corridor. He expected to be taken upstairs, but the guard pushed the button for Level 22. Only VIP rooms were on the 22nd floor, at least in his reality.
Sure enough, after exiting the elevator, Daniel was led to one of those very same rooms. The guard opened the door and Daniel walked inside, then turned around to face the guard. “Think I could get a toothbrush–” he began, but the guard shut the door. It clicked shut, then beeped from the electronic lock. “Guess not.”
Turning back to face the room, he scratched his stubbled face before taking off his field vest and fatigue jacket. The bathroom was off to the right, opposite the bed, and he took a step in its direction when he suddenly thought to check for surveillance. Sure enough, cameras were hooked up over the bathroom and main door, aimed at the center of the room. Leaving the bathroom unwatched. Daniel checked, just to make sure, and sighed with relief that he could at least take a piss in peace.
Returning to the bed, he sat down beside the bedside table and considered taking off his boots. But what if an opportunity for escape presented itself and he had to waste time putting on his boots?
Fuck that, Daniel decided, and took them off anyway. He’d run in his bare feet if he had to. Stuffing his socks into his boots, he pulled aside the comforter and laid on top of the sheets and blanket. He wanted to be comfortable enough to sleep, but not comfortable enough to resist waking up. And to ensure that, he left the table lamp on.
The sound of whispering voices roused Daniel from sleep. A second later, he registered that they were in the room. Well-ingrained instinct informed him that anyone doing such a thing without his permission definitely did not have the best of intentions. Their voices came from his left and behind him, so he quickly rolled right, off the bed and onto his feet. On the other side of the bed were two men in black fatigues and SF armbands. This did not bode well if members of the Security Force were in the habit of messing with captives.
“Moves fast, doesn’t he?” said the one by the foot of the bed.
“Faster than the one who died a few years back,” said the other one, who now stood by the bedside table. He picked up Daniel’s glasses and looked at his partner. “Should I break them?”
The other one shook his head. “It’d just waste more time replacing them. They need him to see.”
The glasses were casually tossed back on the nightstand and Daniel forced himself not to look there–it was a distraction, and likely done on purpose to see how he’d react. He was pleased to note a certain disappointment on their faces, then glanced at their nametags. They were a little blurry without his glasses, but he got the gist. The man at the foot of the bed was “Jones” or “James”. The eyeglass tosser was “Sanderson” or “Sanderman”. The bars on their uniforms said they were Lieutenants. Didn’t matter anyway. They weren’t here to ask questions. He’d slept no more than a few hours, so it was the middle of the night. Who had legitimate concerns at this hour? There wasn’t a desperation about them, as if the base or planet was under attack, so this was personal, not professional.
To make sure, Daniel opened his mind to learn more; what he read was not good. Hostility, anger, amusement. And lust. Alone, they weren’t a threat. Together, they had the advantage. Daniel now wished he’d left his boots on. They’d crack ribs and break noses, though elbows would work just as well for the latter. If he got the right upward angle, it would kill. The thought was decidedly unpleasant, but so was capitulating to whatever sleazy thing they had in mind.
“You guys having trouble sleeping?” he asked sarcastically, “Nightmares? Narcolepsy? Psycho-sexual dysfunction? You might wanna talk to a shrink. Though that may be moot at this point.”
Jones, James … oh fuck it. Jones gave him a smile that creeped Daniel out.
“We’re gonna do you worse now.”
“Do me?” Daniel asked, hiding the panic that instantly climbed. “You’re hairdressers then?”
“Grab him,” Jones said as he and Sanderson launched themselves around and over the bed.
Daniel grabbed Jones by the collar and tried to shove Sanderson off-balance as he kicked at the other, but they had a good grip. Dragging him onto the bed, Sanderson landed hard over Daniel’s back, knocking the wind out of him. He wrapped his arms about him in a bear hug and held him down, face smushed into the mattress. Daniel’s panic and anger rose exponentially and he grabbed at Sanderson’s forearms, trying to pry him off while he kicked out at Jones. His reward was two painful punches in the backs of his thighs and Daniel cried out as they went numb from the impact on the nerves.
“I’m gonna mess you up good,” Jones spat as he straddled Daniel’s calves.
“You’ll earn it,” Daniel growled, his words muffled. Jones was at his trousers, trying to unbuckle and unbutton. It was a battle since Daniel refused to stay still. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter, and he cried out as the man grabbed his balls from behind and squeezed hard.
“Little bitch, you behave or we’ll cut it all off when we’re done.”
For a few long horrifying seconds, Daniel froze. Then his empathy kicked out LIAR. For some reason, they couldn’t damage him. Just the thought of why scared the shit out of him and his mind raced as he tried to think up a plan to get out of this.
Bait and switch came the memory, the words Jack’s.
Daniel relaxed his body, slumping his shoulders. The result fooled his tormenters into thinking he’d given in.
“Good boy,” hissed Sanderson from behind his head as Jones yanked Daniel’s trousers open.
“I want it,” Daniel said, spreading his legs … which succeeded in preventing his trousers from being pulled down, keeping his ass covered and unavailable.
The two men stopped moving, momentarily taken aback by this suspicious turn of events. Daniel knew they wanted him to fight. They couldn’t get off on the rape without it. There was only one problem: they were intent on going through with it anyway. Sanderson’s erection was pressing into his back and Daniel could feel Jones’ against the back of one knee.
“Close your legs,” growled Jones.
“I can’t,” Daniel protested, not allowing his dark humor to bubble up and make him laugh. “You’re sitting on them.”
“Bitch, I can fix that,” threatened Jones.
Then Daniel heard the unmistakable sound of a switchblade opening.
Shit. That plan went south in a hurry.
“No!” Daniel yelled, and knocked his head back, hard, catching a part of Sanderson’s face. His grip lessened and Daniel pulled his left arm free and unleashed an elbow into whatever part of his attacker he could find. The result was a fist to the side of his head, and as bells rung and he shook his head to clear them, he heard, “Motherfucker!” … before he was punched in the balls.
White, blinding pain exploded throughout his body, making Daniel want to instantly curl up. It also distracted him, leaving them to do whatever the hell they wanted.
“That did him,” Sanderson said with vicious glee as he got off Daniel and moved around in front of him. Opening his trousers, he pulled out his erection. “Grab him. After I shoot my jizz down his throat, you cornhole him.”
Jones scrabbled up over his back and clamped his hands over Daniel’s forehead and the front of his chin, forcing his mouth open. “Choke him.”
The pain in Daniel’s entire groin and lower spine was only just beginning to abate. Head clearing, he violently thrashed it back and forth, freeing his mouth. He was suddenly reminded of that scene in the Stephen King story, Rita Hayworth, and the Shawshank Redemption. Funny how Andy Dufresne was dead-on correct in his warning. Even funnier in Daniel’s black mood was how he should compare that scene to his own.
“You put anything in my mouth,” he warned, “and you’ll lose it.”
“Pull that shit and you’ll die,” Sanderson snapped as he grabbed Daniel by the hair.
“And you’ll live without a dick,” Daniel said tightly.
“He’s bluffing,” Jones said, regripping Daniel’s chin but unable to pry open his mouth.
“Try me,” Daniel promised between clenched teeth.
The room and action went quiet as his attackers seemed to mull over his threat. While they appeared to revise their plan, Daniel tried to think up another way to get free. The men were strong, they had him at a disadvantage, and he knew that no matter what he tried, he might just end up getting raped anyway. Daniel had always empathized with rape survivors, but until now, he’d never known the tremendous amount of fear it caused. It made him feel a bit guilty for having more strength than an average female victim, but right now, his strength wasn’t helping him so it really didn’t matter.
Tensing his muscles, Daniel prepared himself to put on the fight of his life. If he was going to get raped, they were damn sure going to suffer for it. When the high beep of the door’s lock interrupted the scene, his would-be rapists jumped off him, startled. For a moment, Daniel thought the intruder was coming to save him. On the other hand, he could be interrupting because he was entitled to be first. If it was the latter, Daniel had no intention of making it easy. He rolled across the bed and landed on his feet, ironically back where he’d started.
The intruder stood in the doorway, the corridor light throwing him into silhouette. He remained stationary for a moment before he stepped aside. “James. Samuelson. Report to Siler for detention detail.” When they didn’t obey right away, he yelled, “Move!”, making them cringe. As they quickly walked past him, the silhouetted man jerked his head at two other SF guards standing in the corridor and they followed James and Samuelson back down the hall.
Daniel knew that voice, but he refused to consider him a friend. His supposed rescuer came in and shut the door, sliding his access card through the port to lock it.
“I’m sorry,” he said in a normal tone.
For a second, Daniel toyed with the idea that this was a staged game–a sort of “good cop, bad cop” routine–but such a thing didn’t make sense if they assumed that he was cooperating. Plus, given who was now in the room with him, Daniel wanted to believe that this man really did mean what he said.
“Thanks,” he said, staring at Jason’s doppelgänger as he closed his trousers. He’d have to think of this man by his last name in order to remind himself. “Have you spoken with Colonel McBride?” he asked for no particular reason.
“Earlier this evening, before I dismissed him home,” Coburn said, then took a few steps forward to let the lamplight illuminate him more.
He walked with a slight limp, forcing Daniel to feel automatic sympathy, which he tried to squash. His hair was shorter than Jason’s and he had a moustache and goatee. Apparently the facial hair regs had been rescinded or loosened. The scar across his face wasn’t that deep, Daniel was happy to see. It was more like a bad scratch that had healed white. It somehow gave Coburn a rakish appearance, as if he’d look better wearing leather and a sword. Though the black fatigues did look good on him. It was then that Daniel noticed the twin bars on his epaulets and was reminded of the demotion.
“McBride told me how you got those,” Daniel said, tapping his own right shoulder.
Coburn lifted his chin. “That a fact.”
“I’ve had the urge a few times myself.”
“Big an asshole in your universe?”
“So it would seem.”
“Was there a reason I was supposed to speak with McBride?” Coburn asked, abruptly dropping the subject.
“No,” Daniel replied, not moving. He was still tensed for flight and couldn’t seem to get his body to calm down. “Just breaking the ice, I guess.” He paused, then pointed at the nearest camera. “Are you here for a reason? Other than watching me and coming to my rescue.”
His words elicited a brief smile from Coburn. “The latter. Zak tell you I was keeping an eye on you?”
Daniel nodded, then crossed his arms protectively. “I’m sorry.”
“For what? I’m not the prisoner.”
Daniel gestured a line across his own face. “For the Aschen.”
“Ah,” Coburn replied. “Creepy little bastards, weren’t they?”
Daniel definitely agreed. “I’m also sorry for, you know, your other loss. If I’d lost someone I cared–“
“Zak tell you about him, too?” Coburn interrupted crisply.
“He only said you and my other self were very good friends,” Daniel answered, trying to make his tone clear that he hadn’t meant anything other than that. Coburn visibly relaxed … until Daniel added, “We are too. My Jason, I mean.”
“Your Jason,” Coburn repeated, then all of sudden, he suddenly chuckled.
Daniel was unnerved. Why was he laughing? Defensive reaction or was there something to Zak’s warning that Coburn wasn’t the man he used to be? Forcing a smile, he said, “That sounded like I owned him. It wasn’t what I meant.” Would Coburn guess what he did mean?
“I know what you meant,” Coburn replied.
“Right,” Daniel said, then cleared his throat. He didn’t like standing there. It was awkward. He wanted to move, wanted to walk around the room, but with Coburn staring at him as if he were a ghost come to life …
Coburn suddenly walked over to the bed–and for a moment, Daniel’s body betrayed him with an aroused zing up the backs of his thighs. It disappeared when Coburn bent over and picked Daniel’s glasses off the floor and returned them to the nightstand. Daniel hadn’t even noticed they’d fallen, but thanked the gods that they had. If he’d been on top of them …
“I should probably let you get back to sleep,” Coburn said, half-turning.
Probably? Daniel thought. Coburn did indeed appear hesitant. Was there something else he wanted to talk about? Daniel threw ethics and caution aside to open his mind to him.
Concern, apprehension, love. And fear. But the fear wasn’t of him, it was for him. Turned out there was a reason. Given that the man genuinely cared, Daniel decided to take a risk. He pointed to the bathroom. “Could I talk to you in there?” Coburn stared back in confusion, so Daniel added, “I don’t like being spied on.”
“Like I was doing?” Coburn asked, not moving.
“No, not like you were doing,” Daniel reassured. “Unless you were getting off watching me nearly get raped.”
Coburn grimaced angrily. “I wasn’t.”
“Then can I talk to you in there?”
Long, long seconds passed as Coburn refused to move, and just when Daniel was sure he’d been refused, the man moved toward him in a hurry. Surprising and alarming Daniel, he grabbed him by the shirt front and pulled him toward the bathroom.
“Get inside,” Coburn said, shoving him, and the moment they were out of camera view, he raised his hand as he shut the door. “That was for effect.”
“It worked,” Daniel said as he moved to the far end of the bathroom.
With a sigh, Coburn crossed his arms. “I know what you’re going to say, and I’m sorry, but the answer is no.”
Daniel stared back, refusing that answer. “You’re head of security. You can arrange it. You know I shouldn’t be here.”
“I know,” Coburn replied. “But we need your expertise–“
“You’ll already have that,” Daniel interrupted, “with the notes I’m giving you. You only need a Rosetta Stone, then work the rest out for yourselves.” Coburn looked like he wasn’t listening so Daniel decided to go for the jugular. “This is wrong, both morally and ethically. It makes me sick that the SGC is run like this. Get me the fuck out of here and back to P1X-911.”
Coburn narrowed his eyes at him. “Why do you think I’ll help you?”
“Because of your friendship with my counterpart,” Daniel said, then chucked caution aside. “Would he want you to do this?”
Coburn turned away, hand on the doorknob, but Daniel bolted forward, placing his hand over his to stop him. His face was less than a foot from Coburn’s when he said, “Jason and I are more than best friends.”
Coburn froze. After a pregnant pause, he said, “What makes you think that means anything to me?”
“Because I can tell you felt the same way for him,” Daniel said.
As Coburn stared back, a coldness settled in his eyes. “You were mistaken,” he said, shoving Daniel roughly away and yanking the door open.
Daniel refused to follow him, knowing it was pointless. The room’s door opened and shut loudly and a locking beep followed. Daniel sighed heavily. “Well that went well.”
. . .
When Daniel woke again, he was alone. His watch said it was 10 a.m. Why hadn’t anyone come to get him and take him back to his work? Not knowing worried him. Getting out of bed, he went to the bathroom to take a leak, then checked the medicine cabinet for the standard supplies every VIP room was issued. With relief, he took the toothbrush and paste and quickly cleaned his teeth, then washed his face. He wrinkled his nose at the days’ worth of stubble and washed his face once more. He didn’t mind looking scraggly, he just didn’t like the itch. Another few days would take care of that, but he didn’t plan on being here that long.
Drying his face with toilet paper, he combed his hair with his fingers, and turned quickly when the room’s door beeped, startled him. He didn’t move, wary of who was arriving. A few seconds passed, then Zak’s voice filled the room. Daniel only slightly relaxed.
“Yeah,” Daniel replied, tossing the TP in the toilet, and flushing. He was surprised that Zak didn’t come to the bathroom door and for a moment, he wondered if that boded ill. Entering the room, he glanced at the man as he reached for his fatigue shirt, then did a double take because Zak had a McDonald’s bag in his hand.
“You miss breakfast?” he asked, thinking he did too. The smell made his stomach grumble.
Zak shook his head and gestured for Daniel to sit on the bed while he took the desk chair and sat down. “It’s Saturday,” he said, emptying the contents of the bag on top of the small desk.
“It is?” Daniel frowned. According to his watch, it was Tuesday. This world wasn’t completely aligned, date-wise. “What’s the date?” he asked as he sat down by the bedside table.
“March 6th, 2010,” Zak answered, holding out a McLatte cup. “What day is it for you?”
“The 2nd,” Daniel answered, taking it.
“Weird,” Zak replied as he handed Daniel the food: two egg and bacon wraps.
Daniel took them, relieved that they weren’t the biscuit sandwiches. Damn things were too dry. “Thanks. But why aren’t we going to the Mess Hall? Am I not supposed to be seen or something?”
“No and no,” Zak replied, his mouth full. After taking a sip from his plain coffee, he said, “No, you’re not supposed to be seen. And no, our food service isn’t supplied by the military but by DOD civilians. And they aren’t allowed to work weekends. Since our SGC doesn’t have food service personnel, we get our food from the vending machines or off base.”
“That sucks,” Daniel replied, meaning it. It did suck. “You’re forced to spend your money on the very thing the military is required to supply.”
Zak nodded. “Thank the Vice President and the Joint Chiefs.”
Daniel was curious. “Who’s VP?”
Zak lifted one side of his lip in a sneer. “Kinsey.”
“And the President is …?”
Daniel made a face. “Great.” Zak shrugged in a way that put the subject to rest. Daniel didn’t argue. The last thing he wanted to talk about was politics. After swallowing the last bite of the first wrap, he asked, “So, are you late because it’s Saturday?”
Zak stared at him over the rim of his coffee cup. “Partly.”
It was then that Daniel wondered if he’d heard about the middle-of-the-night interruption. He was about to ask, but Zak’s next comment sort of made that unnecessary.
“Jason is a very pissed off man this morning.”
“Did he tell you what happened?”
Zak nodded. “But it’s more than that,” he said, eyeing Daniel critically. “What exactly happened?”
Daniel hesitated to answer, but he figured that sooner or later, Zak would expect an escape attempt, or for Daniel to elicit help with one. “I asked him to let me go.”
Zak shook his head. “I expected that,” he said, waving dismissively. “Something else happened, because he’s not just pissed off at those two fuckheads who came to mess with you.”
If Coburn hadn’t explained, Daniel thought, why should he? “I don’t know,” he evaded, and inwardly winced when Zak sat back and gave him an angry stare.
“What happened?” he repeated.
Daniel quickly went over the pros and cons of answering truthfully, and decided what the fuck. “I asked him to let me go … on the basis of his feelings for your Daniel.” Mouth full, Zak rolled his eyes. “I then told him that my Jason and I are more than best friends.”
This news made Zak swallow wrong and he coughed. Hitting his chest, he coughed again, cleared his throat, and took a sip of his coffee. “Are you serious?” he asked hoarsely.
Daniel nodded warily, wondering at Zak’s reaction. Did Daniel mess things up? Was Coburn a self-loathing gay man? Was Zak homophobic? Or was he just shocked that Daniel was different from his counterpart?
Waiting a long minute of silence, Daniel said, “I take it that your Daniel wasn’t Bi.”
Zak shrugged. “Never knew, don’t really care. It’s Jason who’d mind.”
“Why?” Daniel frowned.
Zak stared at him for a second, then shook his head. “I keep forgetting you wouldn’t know.”
“Know what?” Daniel asked, growing impatient.
“Well how the hell would you feel if you lost someone you thought didn’t feel the same way you did, only to find out later that he might have?”
Daniel blinked quickly and looked down at the remainder of his second wrap with embarrassment. It hadn’t actually occurred to him that Coburn would be upset by the prospect that his Daniel may have hidden his true feelings. How dimwitted.
“Sad,” he replied. “And angry at myself for not asking, for wasting what could have been.”
Zak jogged his brows. “He holds grudges like you wouldn’t believe. He may not help you at all now.”
Daniel scowled. “But none of that is my fault.”
“No one ever said that unrequited love was rational.”
“For cryin’ out loud,” Daniel grumbled, his appetite lost. He set the rest of the wrap on the bedside table and leaned forward on his elbows, resting his forehead on his palms. “This is just great. My future depends on a man who’s wallowing in grief.”
Zak didn’t answer and the room was silent while Daniel tried to think of other ways to get the hell out of here. He’d have to start implementing them soon. He was nearly finished with the translation of the tablets.
“He may not help, but he won’t stop me from getting you out of here,” Zak suddenly said.
Daniel snapped his head up, staring at Zak. This was an interesting development. He wanted to believe him, but he suddenly thought about how nice Zak had been with him. How friendly. Bringing him his meals, acting as if he no longer minded babysitting. Then bringing him this breakfast. Daniel realized that though this man may genuinely feel sympathy and friendship, he’d waited to offer his help until after Coburn had rejected it. Which meant what? He was taking his cues from Coburn and needed permission? Or he wanted something in return?
Daniel’s throat went dry and he sipped at his latte. Swallowing, he asked, “Are you sincere?” Zak gave him the barest nod. “There’s a price,” Daniel stated knowingly.
Zak stared at him and leaned forward, elbows on knees. He waved at the cameras and Daniel looked up. The green lights of the cameras were now red. They’d been disabled. From his right front pocket, Zak withdrew a small digital camera and set it on the desk. He pushed a button before looking back at Daniel. “Yeah. There’s a price.”
Daniel frowned. “What’s that for? Do you want me to record a message or something?”
“Not exactly,” Zak said, then lifted his chin ever so slightly as he looked at the bed.
Daniel blinked at him as his mouth dropped open. “You’re not serious.”
“Deadly,” Zak replied.
“Deadly? What, if I don’t let you fuck me, you’ll kill me?” Daniel snapped angrily.
“No, I mean that if you want out of here, the only way is to let others think I’m getting what Jones and Samuelson tried to get.”
“And if I don’t agree?”
“Jones and Samuelson. Or someone like them,” Zak said. “Not right away, but they’ll succeed sooner or later. Trust me.”
Daniel made a face, further confused. “Then why don’t we just make the noise?”
Zak stared straight back. “Because they’ll periodically check the cameras. It has to be real and it has to look like I’m making you do it.”
“Then what the fuck is that for?” Daniel said, pointing to the digital camera.
“Would you believe me if I said it was for my own personal use?”
“No.” When Zak didn’t explain, Daniel grew angrier. “Who’s that for?” Again, Zak refused to say and Daniel suddenly wondered if it was Coburn. Was that his price for turning his back?
Eventually, Zak said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you everything. Just know that this is necessary.”
Daniel wished that he wasn’t shocked by all of this, but he was. He’d been trying to fool himself that Zak was better than the rest of the people he’d met, including Coburn. Apparently he was wrong.
“Look,” Zak said, his features softening. “If there was another way, I wouldn’t be asking. But there isn’t and here we are.”
Daniel frowned at him, confused, and Zak’s tone made him wonder if any of this was even his idea. “Are you being forced?”
Zak looked as if he was about to explain, then his expression hardened and he shook his head. “No. The people I report to have plans. So do I. It just so happens that both involve you in one way or another. Now, if you want to get the fuck out of here, I suggest you consider my way the only positive choice.” He sat back and adopted a humorless smile of smugness, knowing that he had backed Daniel into a corner. “But you do have a choice. The proverbial hard way or the easy way.”
Daniel wanted to hit him. He was now faced with testing his own personal vow: that he’d do anything he had to do to escape a hostage situation. It just had never occurred to him that it would involve sex. If he said no, it could cost him days, weeks, or months to get another chance at escape. Or never. But time was less an issue than the certainty that Jones and Samuelson would return to finish their rape crime. Daniel’s empathy told him that that had not been an implied threat; the man was telling the truth. Given what had almost happened, there was no reason to doubt his word. He did consider that the interrupted rape could have an elaborate scheme to make him cooperate, but again, there had been no inner warning about subterfuge.
“Would it help your decision if I promised that nothing else would happen to you?”
“If I choose your plan,” Daniel said, a disrespectful sneer on his face.
Zak sighed and patted his Glock. “You could always get the chance to take this, shoot me, then head for the gate yourself.” He stood up and unbuckled the gun belt and released the leg holster. “But you wouldn’t get very far without help.” He set his gun belt on the desk, then moved his fingers to the buttons of his jacket, preparing to take it off. “What do you say?” he asked, but his actions made it look like Daniel had already decided.
Daniel balked. “What are you doing? I didn’t agree.”
Zak paused in surprise, fingers frozen over a button. “You’re saying no?”
Daniel swallowed. “I need more time to think about it.”
Zak stared at him, grabbed his gun belt, and headed for the door. “Let the guard know when you’ve made a decision. Just don’t take too long.”
Daniel stared at him in surprise. “But … aren’t you going to take me to the lab in the meantime?”
Zak stuck his tongue in his cheek, thinking over his answer. “No. The plan was to convince you to work harder.”
“By blackmailing me with sex? That makes no sense.”
“Yeah, well, we’re dealing with people who’ve taken their power and run with it, indulging in their prurient interests. You’re one of them. If that’s not gonna happen, then I’m supposed to report back.”
“Jason. Who has to report to someone else, telling them that you refused.”
“And if I say yes?” Daniel asked.
“Then Jason tells them you’re cooperating and they leave us alone for a while.”
“That still doesn’t make sense. What am I supposed to be cooperating to do? I’ve already worked on the translation. What more do they want?”
Zak stared at him puzzled, as if Daniel had suddenly lost a few IQ points. “You know damn well they don’t plan on letting you go.”
Daniel realized his mouth had dropped open and promptly shut it. “Fine,” he said, anger rising. “I refuse to cooperate with anything. Not for you, not for them.”
“Daniel–” Zak began, warning in his tone.
Finally, Zak grew angry. “You’re signing your future away,” he said, grabbing the camera and leaving the room, slamming the door behind him.
Daniel sat there, staring at the closed door, his mind quickly running over possible futures. If Zak didn’t return, someone else would show up in his stead. He had to do something, find a way to get out. Zak’s offer to grab for his gun made him think, so for the next hour, he occupied his time in the bathroom, attempting to pull apart the pipe under the sink. It was the only weapon he could come up with, other than the bedside lamp.
Though he’d shut the water off, there was still a bit in the pipe that splash him when the pipe’s fittings finally loosened and gave way. Wiping his face on his upper sleeve, he got to his feet and hefted the long elbow joint. If he hit the guard in the right spot, it would knock him out. Now all he had to do was contrive a believable act to get the guard to come into his room.
When the door beeped and opened, ruining his timing, Daniel stood aside the threshold of the bathroom doorway and raised the pipe. The forehead? The chin? No, the nose. It blinded the subject so other damage could be done.
Footsteps grew nearer and Daniel tensed, ready to strike. When the footsteps ceased, Daniel felt nearly overwhelming disappointment and anger. Whoever it was, was now suspicious. The advantage of surprise was lost.
“If you’re planning to bash my skull in, Daniel,” Zak said, “give it up. I have my gun trained on the doorway.”
Gun versus metal pipe. Yeah, that was even, Daniel thought sourly. Still, he didn’t drop the pipe when he turned and stepped into the doorway. His gaze landed not just on Zak, but on the desk. The camera was there. That perversely irritated Daniel. “Aren’t you supposed to be with your dungeon masters?”
“Funny,” Zak said, holstering his weapon. “I gave you time to think. You’re not a stupid man, Daniel.”
Daniel narrowed his eyes. “No, I’m not. Which is why I don’t understand exactly what having sex with me will accomplish. Explain that to me. Without that, I can’t give you an answer.”
Zak frowned at him. “I already told you.”
Daniel made a dismissive growl as he walked out of the bathroom, heading for the bedside table. He set the pipe down and picked up his cold coffee. “Yes, yes, it’s either you or Frik and Frak.” Zak snorted. “But why the sex or rape at all? What’s that get them?”
Zak blinked at him, again looking at Daniel as if he’d lost intelligence. “Are you purposely being dim?”
“Goddamn it,” Daniel said, sitting down on the bed.
Zak came over, stopping in front of him. He forced Daniel to look up at him, then he squatted down so that Daniel wouldn’t be as intimidated by the pose. “When I said they indulge in their prurient interests, I wasn’t kidding. This,” he said, gesturing between them and at the bed, “has nothing to do with why you were taken. When I told you that they wouldn’t let you go, I wasn’t kidding about that, either. They’re indulging themselves, Daniel.”
He paused, letting Daniel think it over, then swallowed hard.
“Now what?” Daniel asked warily.
Zak looked down, sighing. Daniel could feel that he was struggling with something, but he didn’t know what. He didn’t wait long to find out.
“I’m to soften you up,” Zak said, swallowing again as he met Daniel’s gaze. “I get you pliable. I bond you to me. Then, they really start playing their game.”
“Which is what?”
“They send in Frik and Frak the day after tomorrow.”
“And Jason comes riding to the rescue again?” Daniel asked, rolling his eyes. But Zak shook his head. Slowly. Soberly. And with fear.
“They’ll rape you this time. They’ll put you in the infirmary. During your recuperation, Jason and I are to make you believe that we would have done anything to stop what happened but that we were prevented. Then we convince you to have sex, on a live video feed, to avoid another rape. But when he’s supposed to come to take you back to your room, he’s shot in front of you, then you’re raped again, only this time, it’s a gang rape and in front of his dead body. Afterward, they reveal to you that he’s not really dead. That he was just injured. Then it starts all over again. It will go on and on and on until they’ve raped and mindfucked you so badly, you’ll break. Then they’ll turn you into their willing sex slave. For no other reason than their amusement.”
Daniel shook his head, silently signaling that he would never willingly do such a thing. In fact, he’d never reach that stage. When Zak nodded back, guessing at his thoughts, Daniel sighed and stared over his head at the wall. “This isn’t happening. I can’t believe this SGC has gone completely insane.”
Zak smiled sympathetically. “One more revelation for you.”
Daniel looked down, rubbing his forehead. “What is it?”
“I plan to go with you back to P1X-911.”
Daniel snapped his head up, staring at Zak in shock. “But what if your counterpart on my world is alive? You can’t–“
“I didn’t say I’d stay in your universe. I have other plans.”
“Like what?” Daniel couldn’t help asking.
Zak smiled again, shaking his head. “Sorry. Need to know.”
In case of capture. Daniel nodded back, understanding. It was then that he realized that without thinking it over, he’d already accepted Zak’s offer. Perversely, he balked at his own subconscious action.
“Thinking it over now?” Zak asked.
“Observant,” Daniel said sarcastically. Now that he knew what his future entailed, Zak’s offer was, in itself, a rescue of sorts. But … “This part of the overall plan or just your plan?”
“Overall,” Zak said, then waved at the cameras. Their lights were green again. He stood up and turned slightly so his mouth couldn’t be seen. “And mine,” he said as Daniel looked up at him. “The difference is that I have no intention in going through with the rest of their plan. But, they will be watching until the first part of the plan is done tonight.” Zak looked at his watch and sighed. “It’s just before ten. At 20:00, they’ll quit the surveillance and leave their little operation in Jason’s hands. He will then dismiss personnel and the coast will be clear for our window of escape.”
“How can he dismiss personnel?”
Zak looked at him soberly. “Jason’s head of security for a reason. He basically runs this base on the say-so and direction of his superiors.”
“Superiors? Landry isn’t in command?” Daniel asked, surprised.
“A puppet figurehead, nothing more. He’s no longer on base anyway. He left after his talk with you.”
“Part of the illusion,” Daniel said, and when Zak nodded confirmation, he frowned, unable to understand why or even how any of this could be possible. He wanted to ask more questions, but they were secondary, unnecessary for escape. If they had time, Daniel would ask later. Right now, the only thing he needed to concern himself with was in getting the hell out of here. He had to take Zak up on this idiotic offer.
Swallowing, he stared back at Zak as his palms began to sweat a little. He was really going to do this. It was small consolation at least that Zak was rather handsome. Full lips, lovely smile, nice hands. What did his dick look like? What would it feel like? “Protection?”
With a dark grin, Zak took off his jacket, then reached into the left front pocket and pulled out a handful of condoms and a small bottle of lube. He tossed them on the bed, then discarded his jacket on the floor. “Let’s get to it then.”
As he sat down to remove his boots, Daniel grew self-conscious. “Naked?” he asked.
Zak smirked at him as he tossed one boot on top of his jacket. “We’re gonna be busy for the next ten hours, Daniel. This isn’t a ten-minute fuck.”
“Oh boy,” Daniel said, looking away as he stood up and faced the bed. He heard Zak behind him, removing his trousers and dog tags, then fiddling with something else. A quick over-the-shoulder glance answered him; Zak was setting up the camera. The glance awarded Daniel with the sight of Zak’s bare skin. It made him swallow and turn back around. With a hesitant sigh, he pulled off his t-shirt and tossed it on the pillow, then slowly unbuckled his belt. When he started to unbutton, Zak startled him by placing his hands on his hips.
“Turn around,” he said, guiding him with his hands. When Daniel turned around, he was surprised that Zak stayed behind him, but quickly caught on why when the man moved his hands to Daniel’s trouser buttons and began to open them for him. In front of the camera. His breath was warm on Daniel’s neck and it made him shiver. Goosebumps didn’t rise, however, until his trousers and briefs were pushed down. “Kick them off,” Zak told him.
Daniel complied, then jerked when Zak took his cock in hand. Swallowing, he felt desperately awkward. In front of him, the small window of the camera displayed Zak’s hand on his dick and Daniel found his attention curiously captivated by it.
“Perfect,” Zak said, his voice behind his left ear. “Put your hand over mine. Guide me.”
As Daniel complied, his attention was not on his dick nor Zak’s hand, but the feel of his partner’s cock rubbing against his ass. His unsheathed cock. “Put a condom on,” he said, stopping his assistance.
“Don’t worry, I will,” he said, keeping his hand moving. “But I want you to suck me, which tends to work better without a condom.”
Shit, he was really doing this. “Please tell me you’re clean.”
Zak sighed. “I’m clean. I don’t fuck without a condom. I swear.”
Daniel suddenly found the oath a bit silly. The man could be lying to pacify him, even though he was sensing nothing but the truth. In fact, the man was broadcasting his desires loud and clear. No obfuscating of any kind. The lust was climbing and Daniel found that despite the part of him that wanted nothing to do with this bargain, he didn’t want to block anything coming from his … partner didn’t sound exactly right. John? Trick? It certainly felt like prostitution–the payment being his freedom. “Let’s do this,” he decided, no longer wanting to waste time.
“Put on the show of your life, Daniel,” Zak whispered, then grabbed Daniel by the shoulders and shoved him onto the bed. Loudly, for the digital camera, he said, “If you don’t cooperate, I’ll call those other two in here.”
Zak’s cock was hard and eager, and Daniel couldn’t help but feel his own arousal rising. The man was big, but on par with Jack. At least that was something familiar. In a way.
Maneuvering his body so his head rested on the pillow, the discarded t-shirt under him, Daniel found himself covering his cock with his hands as he focused on his acting. “Fine, you fucking bastard. What do you want?” He was only slightly hard, and as he touched himself, Zak moved to the foot of the bed, climbed on, and crawled toward him. When he reached his cock, he pried Daniel’s hands away and surrounded the head with his lips.
Daniel arched his neck, swallowing hard as he stared at the ceiling. Zak’s mouth was hot and wet, tongue probing with excitement. At the feel of him over the most sensitive part of his body, Daniel grabbed the headboard. It felt mechanical, doing this, as if he were responding to director’s instructions. And so he was, really, pretending that he didn’t enjoy what Zak was doing. It was bizarre. He didn’t mind what Zak was doing, but at the same time, he could have fought his way to freedom with just as much … fervor.
“Get it over with,” he said impatiently when Zak sucked a bit harder.
Zak smiled around his cock before he swallowed him to the root. Daniel sucked in a breath and held it as Zak bobbed up and down, getting him harder and harder. He may be feeling nonchalant about this, but still … a blow job was a blow job. After a minute, through groaning and heavy breathing through his nose, Zak dropped Daniel’s dick from his mouth and panted for air. “You taste so good,” he said, licking at the shaft and head before starting again.
Was he serious? Daniel asked himself. Judging by the way he paid attention to his cock, maybe so. Though it was good and Daniel was fully hard now, he was far from coming. He just wasn’t into it. He watched Zak suck him, feeling the contradiction of arousal and boredom. He looked at the camera and wondered, Who was Zak recording this for? Was it Coburn, and was he watching now? Would he be jerking off to this video? A blue light on the camera front caught his attention. What was that? A wireless indicator? If Coburn was indeed watching him through the security cameras and the hand-held, Daniel’s feelings about what he was doing changed somewhat. He was growing interested.
No, he wasn’t his Jason, but he was still Jason. And Daniel felt a perverse need to pretend he was having sex with him. It wasn’t part of the script, but he could so easily forget about that. Just thinking that Jason was watching was, well, tantalizing.
Zak interrupted his thoughts as he pulled off and lunged forward, dropping his weight on top of him as he hungrily attacked his mouth. Daniel threaded his hands through the man’s short hair and kissed him back before he realized he was supposed to be angry and fighting back. Zak took care of it by grabbing his hands and pinning them to the bed on either side of his head.
“Suck me,” he said between biting kisses.
“No, I’d rather not.”
With a growl, Zak sidled up his body and grabbed Daniel’s head in his hands as he straddled his chest. “You’ll suck me or I’ll invite those other two back in here.”
Daniel swallowed and parted his lips, looking for all the world like he was disliking the fact that Zak was slowly sliding the head of his cock into his mouth. Moving his hips, Zak adjusted his body so that the camera would capture more of his cock in Daniel’s mouth. Amateur porn, Daniel thought as he squeezed his eyes shut and knotted his brows, making it look like he hated it. In reality, he focused on the musky smell and taste, feeling the need to look up and drop his mouth open. He gave Zak an inkling of his true desire when he licked the underside of his cock.
“Shit,” Zak whispered, cradling his head as he thrust slowly back and forth. “I knew it. You like sucking cock, don’t you, you slutty little bitch?”
Daniel blinked in surprise, then went with it. He grunted disagreement and shook his head slightly. Zak groaned and slowed his hips. Throwing his head back, he fucked his mouth for several minutes, all the while whispering “dirty talk” insults. Then Daniel felt the tingling on the underside of Zak’s cock, signaling impending orgasm. Zak abruptly pulled out, hissing, “Cock-whoring sonofabitch!” He moved off the other side of the bed, snatching a condom. “It’s rape time, Daniel,” he whispered. “Make it look good.” Loudly, he ordered, “Get over here, on your belly.”
“No,” Daniel said, covering himself as he moved off the bed–on the opposite side. “I can’t. I’ve changed my mind.”
Zak ripped the wrapper open and stared at Daniel as he slid it on over his cock. Grabbing the lube, he coated himself and then tapped his stiff erection, letting it bob. “It’s me or them.”
Daniel hesitated, then slowly, reluctantly, obeyed. He walked around the bed and swallowed when Zak stepped back so he could get in front of him. When Daniel looked to the side, the man grabbed his hips. “Bend over, hands on the bed.”
Daniel did, making the most of taking his time.
“Spread your legs,” Zak ordered even as he kicked them apart.
Bracing himself for cock, Daniel flinched when cold lube hit his asshole. Zak’s probing fingers followed and they pushed deep. Daniel closed his eyes and groaned in pleasure but managed to make it sound otherwise.
“Yeah, I knew you’d like that,” Zak murmured. “Little virgin whore was just waiting for this, weren’t you?”
Daniel was taken by another surprise. He was supposed to be a virgin in this little scenario? Did the people in charge really think he was, or did they just want to pretend he was? Did it matter? No. “Fuck you,” he growled, then suddenly bit his lip so he wouldn’t laugh when Zak slapped his ass with his free hand.
“For that, you get it hard.”
“I hate you,” Daniel said, gritting his teeth. He no longer felt like laughing. In fact, he was getting turned on. This was reminding him more and more of the game he sometimes played with Jason. Thinking of the other one watching, his dick twitched.
Zak suddenly removed his fingers and slid his hand between Daniel’s legs, lifting the left one. “Foot on the bed,” he ordered. “Let’s see how you like cock.”
“Trust me, I don’t,” Daniel ground out as he tight-fisted the blankets and bent his knee, planting his foot on the bed. He was now extremely exposed. He tried to open himself as Zak went back to finger-fucking him, but the muscle tension from the lift only made him clamp down on the invading, teasing fingers. Zak repaid him by shoving them deep to the knuckle.
“Tight little bastard,” he said, wiggling three fingers in. “Bet you’d love it if I fist-fucked you.”
“Wrong,” Daniel replied, meaning it.
Zak chuckled, his breathing harsh. In a surprisingly quick move, he removed his fingers, grabbed his dick, and without giving Daniel any warning, he pushed his long, thick erection past the puckered entrance and plunged in to the hilt.
“Fuck!” Daniel shouted, squeezing his eyes shut as he dropped his head down. He’d dropped his leg, too, but Zak pulled it back up. “Sonofabitch,” he cursed, holding his breath as Zak ground against his ass.
“God, your virgin hole is nice and tight. Feels so good.”
“Not to me,” Daniel replied, and kept his eyes shut, breathing through the burn. “Hurry up.” The man was fucking bigger than Jack. He should have realized he would be, given how numb and sore his lips were. Zak suddenly pushed hard, nearly putting him off-balance.
“You’re not telling me how much you hate this.”
“Fuck off!” Daniel gasped.
Zak ground harder against him, swiveling his hips, and Daniel dropped his leg and shoved at his partner’s hip. “Back off. I need more lube.”
“Am I too big for you, baby?” Zak goaded.
That pissed Daniel off. “I’m not fucking kidding!” he yelled, and made to elbow Zak in the ribs, but Zak headed him off by grabbing him as Samuelson had done. The bear hug plunged Daniel to the bed and Zak laid over him, continuing to thrust and grind.
“You don’t feel like you need more lube,” Zak said tightly.
“Fucking asshole,” Daniel growled, then snatched the lube off the bed. He held it over his shoulder. “Now!” He really wasn’t kidding. If this was going to go on as long as he felt it was, he’d need more lube.
With an impatient growl, Zak grabbed the lube and pushed off him. Daniel sighed as the burn eased off and he pushed himself back on his hands. After the cool gel was liberally applied, Zak placed his hands on Daniel’s ass cheeks, spreading them open. “Here we go.”
As he eased back in, Daniel dropped to his forearms. The lube did its job and the burn eased off. But as a result, he felt a lot better. That was a problem. “Yes,” he said without thinking, then without warning, a zing of pleasure rippled through him as Zak’s cock rode over his gland. A sincerely-felt loud grunt of pleasure escaped his throat.
“Oh yeah, I knew you’d come around,” Zak said, moving slowly.
“Fuck off,” Daniel groaned, but each time the zing swept through his ass and groin, he couldn’t help but moan with it. Then suddenly, he dropped his face to the pillow and whispered, “Please.” He had no idea what he was begging for; his focus was on the cock in his ass, no longer on what came out of his mouth or whether he was supposed to be resisting. This happened every damn time with Jack, Jason, or Adriann. They always elicited this kind of mindless response. Except with them, nothing had ever been faked.
But was Daniel really faking anymore?
“Please what?” Zak asked, grinding against his ass again.
Daniel moaned loudly, spit wetting his lips. “Stop!” he called out, his words muffled by the way his face was mashed against the pillow.
“This is nothing,” Zak said, twisting his hips now.
Daniel had no idea what that meant. “What?”
“When he fucks me, I can’t breathe.”
He? Coburn? Did Zak just infer that Coburn was bigger? Or was he acting? “This is enough,” he said, then blurted out an act of his own. “I’m not a virgin, Zak. In fact, you remind me of Jack.” Which was nearly true.
Zak stopped grinding. “Jack? O’Neill?”
Daniel laughed, half-opening his eyes. “He’s a lame fuck, too.”
Zak began to move in hard, twisting circles. “How’s this feel?”
Daniel gasped. “Pitiful.”
Zak pulled out. “Turn over.”
“No,” Daniel said, suddenly not liking the idea of looking up at Zak.
Zak grabbed his legs and twisted hard, forcing Daniel, unprepared for the force used, to turn with him. With a deft quickness, Zak had him on his back and his knees pushed to his chest. He bore down on him, plunging his cock back into Daniel’s hole. “How’s this, bitch?”
Daniel’s eyes went wide and round when he realized he liked it. Then what happened next surprised the hell out of him. Not just for what he did, but for how Zak responded to it. Pushing his hands against Zak’s chest, he tried to pry them apart. When he succeed, he hauled off and slapped him hard across the face. They both froze, staring at each other. Then Zak returned the favor. The slap stung and burned, but Daniel didn’t care. “Bitch!” he said, swinging and landing a punch.
Zak suddenly laughed and thrust hard and fast, making Daniel cry out with each pounding stroke. “Hit me again!”
Daniel was pissed. And highly aroused, surprising himself. Scowling, he grabbed the back of his thighs and held them tightly against his chest. “You’re a hideously bad fuck! This is doing nothing for me!”
Zak gasped with delighted viciousness and grabbed the bedsheets over Daniel’s head. “I knew it! You’re a slut!” he yelled, pistoning into him. “Whore!”
“Fuck you!” Daniel spat back between clenched teeth. He was going to come soon. And he wanted it angry. Brutal. When Zak glared at him in a hateful smile, he shouted, “You can’t fuck worth a shit!”
Zak slammed into him. “Goddamn cunt!”
“That all you got?” Daniel asked, raising his head off the bed. “Fuck me!”
Zak bellowed in outrage as he slammed into his ass, fast and painfully hard. Daniel looked down, watching his balls roll jarringly back and forth as the man rode his cock in and out of him. Baring his teeth, he whined as his balls tightened.
“Yes,” Zak cried gleefully, and suddenly, he withdrew, backing off. His cock was beet red beneath the sheer condom and he squeezed at the base.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Daniel spat at him.
“Move around, stay on your back. Let the camera see your face.”
Daniel maneuvered himself so that his head dropped off the end of the bed. Zak dropped on top of him and pinned his knees to his chest once more. Fresh, cool lube was smeared over his dick and he slid back inside. But instead of returning to his pounding thrusts, he plunged to the root and returned to a grinding rhythm. His gland once more massaged, Daniel dropped his mouth open, breathing harshly. He locked his eyes on the camera. “Fuck me, Jason,” he begged. “Oh god, fuck me.”
“You teasing little slut,” Zak laughed, then grabbed the back of Daniel’s thighs and circled his hips, snapping on each deep grind. When Daniel began to let out grunt after grunt, Zak increased the circular grind of his hips. “Give it to me, bitch. Let me see you come.”
“No, don’t!” Daniel said, and he said it on purpose.
“Cunt,” Zak spat as he pulled back, grabbing Daniel’s ankles. Forcing him to straighten his legs, he spread them wide. “Give us a good view for the money shot,” he said, punctuating the words with short, rapid thrusts.
The rapid, slapping hits against his ass were so good. “Motherfucking psycho!” he spat, raising his head to glare at Zak.
“Come!” Zak said, and slapped him across the face. Hard.
Daniel promptly slapped him back. “You can’t fuck for shit!”
“Bitch,” Zak said, withdrawing his cock, and just as he’d done before, he grabbed Daniel’s legs and twisted.
Going with it, and only slightly resisting for effect, Daniel found himself on his belly again. Zak dropped on top of him, cock easily finding its target. Keeping with the violent theme, he grabbed Daniel by the hair and pulled his head back. With his other hand, he grabbed his throat under his jaw. Voice harsh against his ear, he growled viciously, “This what you want, you little prick tease?”
“Fuck you, coward!” Daniel yelled as Zak fucked him with hard and fast grinding thrusts. Underneath, Daniel’s cock rubbed against the exposed wool blanket and he knew it wouldn’t be much longer. When he felt his balls draw up again, he sucked in a breath of surprise. “No! I don’t want it! You can’t make me!”
“Yeah, do it, bitch,” Zak whispered. “Do it while he watches.”
Turned on by the exhibitionism, Daniel whined as his orgasm exploded from his cock. His body went rigid, hips shaking as he shot his load, smearing his abdomen and soaking into the blanket. Zak breathed heavy against his neck, hips moving slower and slower until he finally stopped.
Collapsing, Daniel let his head drop down and he focused on his heartbeat and the thrumming afterglow. His muscles flexed with tension as they tried to relax, and when Zak withdrew and got off him, he sighed with relief. He’d liked it. Amazingly. And it was over for now. Despite himself, Daniel felt disappointment. Though his ass was a bit sore, he was slick and tingly and …
Zak hadn’t come. Daniel looked over his shoulder. “Why didn’t you come?”
Zak grinned and rolled over against him, arm over Daniel’s back. Looking and pointing at the camera, he reached into the nightstand drawer, fished around for something, then pulled his hand out. Between thumb and forefinger, he held up a pill. “Take this. It’ll be so good,” and he kissed Daniel’s cheek.
“No,” Daniel said, shaking his head.
Zak pressed it against Daniel’s lips. “You’re gonna like it,” he sing-songed.
“No I won’t,” Daniel sing-songed back between clenched teeth.
Zak relaxed against him and whispered in his ear. “It won’t harm you, I swear. It will just make all this easier.”
“I don’t need it to be easier,” Daniel said, still clenching his teeth.
“Your loss,” Zak sighed, popping the pill into his mouth. “Let me know when you’re ready for round 2.”
Daniel dropped his head down in exasperation. “Shoot me now.”
It had taken hours, but finally, Sam had gotten the code. Excited that she’d been right about the mirror containing a buffer, she followed Jack, Teal’c, and Jason as the two teams jogged toward the alternate universe’s stargate.
“You’re sure about this?” Jack asked as they reached the DHD.
“Positive,” Sam said. She and Teal’c knelt down, removing the face plate for the DHD crystals. Hooking up her PDA console to the DHD buffer, she searched the memory for the coordinates as he stared at the screen.
Jason looked at Jack. “We still don’t have a plan.”
“Improvising ain’t a plan?” Jack asked with raised brow.
Jason smirked at him. “Not a survivable one.”
Daniel lay on his belly, sound asleep. Zak sat beside him, staring at his face, watching him breathe. He wanted to reach over and pet his hair, but the move might wake the man and he didn’t want to do that. Zak indulged in the guilt that would later distract him, wishing that none of this had been necessary.
Sure, he was attracted to Daniel. He’d even had fun. He reached up to feel the side of his face, the red mark only just now fading. He hadn’t been able to get to know his own Daniel Jackson, but he believed he would have been very like this one. He would have to be, to have had someone like Jason fall in love with him.
An inner voice told him to cut off this line of thought and he sighed. He wanted to lay back, get a few more hours of sleep, but he had things to prepare. And then there was Jason. As if reading his thoughts, Zak’s cellphone buzzed and he reached into his pocket to get it.
It was a text message: I changed my mind. Will he accept?
Zak texted back: He will. But do you want to go thru that?
Closure. See to the provisions. Then come calling.
Zak didn’t need to return the message. Already dressed, he eased off the bed, grabbed his gun belt, and left the room.
Waking up alone, the bedside lamp still on, Daniel tip-toed to the bathroom to take a leak. He wasn’t too sore, he was glad to notice. Having Jack and Jason for loving partners had its physical fitness advantages. As he flushed, he heard the beep of the door and assumed it was Zak coming back. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he scratched his scalp and walked out of the bathroom.
“You pop out for a midnight snack run or some …”
Four feet away stood Coburn, not Zak. He was dressed in boots and trousers, but no fatigue shirt. Just an OD green tank top, with his dog tags hanging between his ample pecs. Daniel cursed himself for the interest it caused within him and the knowledge that the man was damn sexy like that.
“What do you want?”
Coburn’s eyes flicked quickly over his groin and bare chest. He swallowed, then moved toward him.
Daniel could feel the lust and desire like furnace heat, and though experience warned him not to succumb, he found himself doing it anyway. Like the strike of a cobra, Coburn grabbed the back of his head and yanked him forward, seeking his mouth for a passionate kiss.
For the first time since being in this world, Daniel’s own desire shot up without any encouragement. The kiss and feel of Coburn’s body was more than enough. But there was something else in this embrace, partnered with lust. A desperate, lonely melancholy.
Daniel wanted to stop, to say he wasn’t Coburn’s Daniel, that he shouldn’t transfer his feelings to the wrong man. But as he was pushed against the wall and familiar hands grabbed his bare ass, Daniel chucked caution to the wind. Reaching between them, he undid the man’s trousers. But instead of shoving them off his hips, Daniel slid his fingers under the waistband of Coburn’s briefs and took hold of his erection.
And holy shit, Zak hadn’t been lying. How was this possible anyway? Wasn’t his Jason and this one supposed to be alike physically?
Coburn groaned and hissed through his nose, unwilling to break the kiss. He let go of Daniel’s ass to push his trousers and briefs off, but Daniel stopped him and pushed his body against him, forcing Coburn to move backward. Toward the bed. “Take it off,” he whispered.
The momentum that Coburn had started was interrupted, and as he sat on the bed, Daniel was almost sure the man was about to change his mind.
Instead, he looked up at him and said, “We don’t have much time.”
Daniel knew what to do then. He dropped his towel and stepped before him, holding up his half-hard cock. He’d rather take his time, but going by the look on Coburn’s face, he was serious about there not being much time. “Get me hard, then turn over.”
Coburn stared up at him for a few long seconds, then pulled Daniel to him and immediately took half his cock into his mouth. In and out, back and forth, sucking quickly and hard, he forced Daniel to grab his head for balance as he brought him to full erection.
His technique was not like Jason’s, and Daniel was glad of it, but he was good and thorough. Daniel indulged in the blow job a little longer than was necessary, then pulled back. Coburn turned over, bending over the edge of the bed, and pushed his trousers down to his ankles. When Daniel knelt on the bed and stretched across to the nightstand to grab the lube, he shot out his hand to stop him.
“I don’t want it.”
Daniel grabbed the lube anyway as well as two condoms. He handed one to Coburn. “I do. After I come, you’re gonna fuck me.”
Coburn stared at him in surprise. There were many things expressed in his eyes, but he remained silent. Grabbing the bedsheets and spreading his knees, he half-crouched over the edge.
He still said nothing. It was a little weird and lot awkward, but that didn’t soften Daniel’s erection any. Sliding on the condom, he squirted some of the lube over his cock, then a glob of it over Coburn’s hole. Stroking a few times to spread the slick gel, he positioned his cock, then bent over and planted his hands on the bed. He was going to say something. A warning, perhaps. But he took a cue from Zak and simply pushed.
He didn’t exactly register Coburn’s loud groan and gasp. The tight heat of him swept over his cock and balls and up his spine, amping up the instant need to thrust and create friction. Filling him was nothing but animal lust. Rutting for the sake of rutting. Daniel surrendered to it, slaking his thirst for this kind of fuck he seldom experienced. It was impossible with Jason and Jack. Or Adriann, Alex, Jalen, others. There were always deep emotional bonds attached to his lust.
But not here. Here, there was nothing but the need to fuck and come. The noisy grunts and groans came not just from Coburn, but himself as well, encouraging more. It was incredible, this simple driving need.
As he moved faster and harder, Daniel’s balls tightened, ordering him to speed up. Grabbing Coburn’s hips, he bent his knees wide and squatted slightly so he could get a straight-on fuck. Daniel gritted and bared his teeth, grunting savagely with each inward thrust. “Oh yeah, take it,” he whispered when Coburn gasped and dropped his forehead to the bed. “So good, so tight. Yeah, like that, hang on to me, take it, yeah, take it, take it, take it …”
Daniel threw his head back and came, hips jerking hard instead of thrusting. Before he finished coming, he pulled out and stroked himself as he laid over the edge of the bed and spread his legs. “Fuck me!” Coburn didn’t hesitate. Lube was hurriedly, sloppily applied, then came the rip of the condom wrapper. Daniel’s orgasm was fading and the afterglow made him overly sensitive. He winced as he moved his hand over his cock, pulling slowly. It was a keen ache of pleasure he usually stayed away from, but this time, he forced himself to endure it.
The stranger thing was, the moment Coburn pushed his lube-slick cock into him, that keen edge became a secondary distraction. “God,” Daniel groaned into the mattress, squeezing his eyes shut.
“Jesus,” Coburn sighed, slowing down to ease the burn.
“No!” Daniel called out, the words muffled. “Don’t slow down!” He expected Coburn to obey, which he did, but what Daniel didn’t expect was for the man to drop on top of him. For a moment, Daniel thought it would have been so much easier if the man had taken off his pants, but when he began to grind in circles, the thought evaporated.
“Faster,” Daniel begged, shocked and surprised that his balls were drawing up and his dick was still hard. “Please.”
Coburn complied. And it seemed to go on forever. Long enough for Daniel to build up a sweat and to feel Coburn’s dripping over the back of his neck. Mid-thrust, Coburn pulled his shirt off and the cold dog tags felt wonderful against his back.
“God, you’ll make me come again,” Daniel said absently, eyes still closed as he enjoyed the ride.
Coburn’s lips were suddenly behind his ear. He kissed him there and said, “I love you. Please forgive me.”
Was he talking to him, Daniel wondered, or his own Daniel? Did it matter? “There’s nothing to forgive,” he said back, voice soft and reassuring.
“I love you.”
Daniel wondered if he should say it back. “Fuck me,” he said instead.
“Tell me you love me,” Coburn said, grinding faster.
“I always have,” Daniel replied, panting more loudly when his dick began to spit pre-come.
“God, I’m so sorry,” Coburn whispered, and before Daniel had time to wonder about that apology, Coburn pushed up on his hands and slammed his hips into him with short, rapid, staccato thrusts. “Tell me you love this!” he shouted.
Daniel knew Coburn was about to come so he was eager to tell him anything. “You feel good! Your cock is so good. Fuck me, Jason! Fuck me good!”
That seemed to do the trick and Coburn yelled and dropped down on top of him, hips jerking as Daniel’s had done while he poured out his climax.
“Oh god, oh god,” Coburn whispered, the sound like a sob.
Daniel was still hard, but that was okay. He didn’t think he could come again. Not quickly anyway. He rolled on his right side, dumping Coburn off of him, and pulled off his condom. That stirred his partner into action and he sat up, discarding the condom on the floor.
When he looked over at Daniel, his expression was a mixture of gratitude and embarrassment. Then his eyes caught sight of his erection and he quickly rolled over and dropped to the floor between Daniel’s legs.
His mouth was warm and his tongue was great, but Daniel gripped his head firmly but politely. “No, that’s okay. You don’t need to.”
“Yes, I do,” Coburn murmured, persistently bobbing up and down to encourage him to come. Daniel sighed and stared at the ceiling, keeping his hands on Coburn’s head. “This’ll take too long,” he said, even though he was hard and the man’s mouth felt really good. His goatee and mustache were silky and different against his skin, and even better when against his pubic hair. But there was no use in continuing because there was simply no way he could come again in less than twenty min–
As two fingers slid into his rectum and twisted back and forth, Daniel felt his cock jerk in Coburn’s mouth. That all-encompassing heat spread over his cockhead and down the shaft to his balls, which tightened and drew up. Daniel gasped and raised his knees as he looked down at Coburn in surprise.
Hands still framing his partner’s head, he raised his knees higher and minutely thrust his hips. “Holy shit,” he whispered as his body took over his mind. There was nothing he would do to stop this now. Coburn’s fingers were as amazing as his mouth, zeroing in on his gland even as he continued to corkscrew into him.
“Faster,” Daniel pleaded softly. “Faster.” When Coburn looked up and complied, his eyes filled with pleasure, Daniel added, “Harder now.” Coburn tried but it wasn’t enough. “Harder.”
Again, Coburn tried, and still did not give Daniel the bolt of exquisite pleasure he craved.
Then Coburn moved his free hand to his sac and tightened his fingers around it, forcing his balls into a tight stretch. Daniel dropped open his mouth, liking the attempt, and he was about to ask for more when Coburn shook his balls like a rattle.
“Fuck!” Daniel laughed, crying out as pleasure zipped through him. Between that, Coburn’s mouth, and fingers endlessly screwing into his ass, Daniel white-knuckled the bedsheets and came. He pumped his release down Coburn’s throat, hips refusing to stop until the man held him down.
Unlike his other orgasms, this one was over very quickly. It left him wanting more and Daniel resented the feeling. Perhaps it was just as well because when Coburn pulled off and wiped his hands on the towel, Daniel didn’t feel any loss. Lying there, however, watching the man button up and snatch his shirt off the bed, he wanted to pull him down and snuggle with him a while. There was something so intimately vulnerable about Coburn just then.
“We must go,” he said, leaning over Daniel for a soft kiss. Staring emotionally into his eyes, he added, “Thank you.”
Daniel wanted to say, “You’re welcome,” but it sounded wrong and stupid. You’re welcome for what? For the sex? For giving him a going away present to help him get over his broken heart? What?
Instead, Daniel simply nodded and got up to get dressed.
Daniel felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck as he followed Zak and Coburn down the Level 27 corridor, heading for the Control Room. So far, the place was deserted. It was eerie. How could a Captain dismiss everyone, no matter what his position was? On his world, Jack had the power, but only during emergencies. Who was really running this base, and who exactly did Zak and Coburn pay off to make sure they’d be alone? As he ran into the darkened Control Room, wincing at the soreness of his legs and backside, Daniel decided that he really didn’t give a damn how or why the place was deserted. He was leaving.
Standing beside Coburn, he watched Zak sit down and rapidly tap keys as he brought up the gate controls. Typing as fast as Sam, he punched in the dialing sequence. The gate began to spin and Daniel’s heart rate quickened. Now was just about the right time for something to go wrong.
“Where do you think you’re going?” came a voice behind them.
Daniel froze and cursed himself for jinxing it. He turned to face the man trying to stop them and dropped his mouth open. Across the room, backlighted as Coburn had been earlier, Major Paul Davis stood there with a zat in his hand. Daniel sighed and looked at Coburn while Zak continued to type.
“What the hell are you doing Coburn?” Davis asked.
Coburn walked slowly over to him, then smiled. “What took you so long?” he asked.
The expression on Davis’ face was the same as Daniel’s, though Daniel’s was coupled with betrayed anger. When he looked at Zak, the man had paused but he wasn’t looking behind him. He was waiting.
“What?” Davis asked Coburn, pointing the zat at him.
Coburn raised his hands. “I’ve been disarmed. They forced me here to give them the security codes.”
Beside him, Daniel was startled to see Zak’s Glock in his hand, pointed at Davis. When had he pulled his gun? “We had to get them from someone,” Zak grinned at Davis.
In the gateroom, the wormhole exploded forward and settled into the event horizon. The blue glow reflected on them, casting stark shadows. Zak turned to open a cabinet, but Davis activated the zat.
“It’s over. What do you think you’re gonna do now, traitor?”
“Go through with the plan,” Coburn said.
When the first chevron lit up and the gate began to spin, Sam rapidly unhooked her PDA as Jack yelled at all of them to run for cover.
“Shit, shit, shit!” Sam spat angrily as they ran to the left, diving behind bushes.
“Do not worry,” Teal’c told her as he crouched beside her. “I memorized the glyphs.”
“Thank god,” she said with relief. “I only had four of them.”
The group ducked down further after the wormhole settled and waited for whoever it was to come through the gate.
Daniel stared in shock as Coburn snatched the Zat Davis held and yanked him forward. When he was forced off balance, he swung his other hand round to the back of his neck. A sickening bone crack followed the wide-eyed look of surprise on Davis’ face. He fell forward to the floor, his eyes on Daniel.
They flashed gold briefly, then returned to human color as the life fled.
Daniel felt a shocked hole open up inside him and as he stepped back, mouth open. He stared at the battle knife embedded in Davis’ neck, then looked up at Coburn, who had already grabbed the Zat and rushed to Zak’s side.
“What the fuck!” Daniel yelled, pointing. “A Goa’uld? Are you kidding me? Where the hell did he come from? What was he doing on base? Did you know?”
“Yes,” Coburn said as he helped Zak pull their supplies from the cabinet. “And I’ll explain everything, but not now, not here.” Zak stood up and handed him a field vest, pockets heavy with ammo clips. A P-90 was next.
Daniel’s shock was compounded. “You’re coming with us?”
“Not to your world,” Coburn said.
“Then where?” Daniel asked.
“Nowhere that concerns you,” Coburn answered, handing him Davis’ Zat. “Let’s go.”
Daniel’s mind was mired with questions but he set them aside for now as the three of them ran into the gateroom and sprinted up the ramp.
Two men in black fatigues and field gear appeared through the event horizon, Daniel between them. Jack and Jason exchanged frowns, puzzled for a moment because Daniel was armed. For a brief few seconds, Jack and Jason had the same thought: Was that their Daniel? Against his better judgment, Jack decided to give them a warning. He hand-signaled to the others, then sighted his weapon on one of the men and looked through the scope.
It was at that moment that he thought he was seeing things. Another Jason. And the second man looked familiar. “You see what I see?” he asked no one in particular.
“I do, O’Neill,” Teal’c said a few feet away.
“Great, another me,” Jason muttered.
Jack smirked sympathetically, then shouted, “Hold right there, fellas!”
Daniel would never admit it later, but his heart soared at the sound of Jack’s voice. He swung to his right and held up his hands. “Jack! Don’t fire!” Zak and Coburn raised their weapons, spinning to aim them at Jack’s position. “No,” Daniel said, stepping in front of them. “Jack!” he called out, looking over his shoulder at Coburn.
“Jesus Christ,” Jason said, shaking his head. “How the fuck does he do that?” He didn’t need to explain what he meant; everyone knew he referred to Daniel’s strange talent in making friends out of enemies.
“Lower your weapons!” Jack called out.
“If you lower yours!” Coburn challenged back as the stargate shut down.
With a smirk at Jason, Jack grumbled accusingly, “Sounds like you.”
“Fuck off,” Jason muttered as both he and Jack signaled to the others to join them as they straightened up and exposed their position.
Jack kept his fingers on the grip and trigger and walked around the bushes. He thought about stopping, waiting for Daniel to come to him, but he’d already had the scare of his life–for the billionth time. He was done waiting. Increasing his stride, he stopped in front of his lover. “Y’okay?”
Daniel nodded. He wanted to hug Jack, Jason, and the others, but it wouldn’t be appropriate.
Exchanging long looks, Jack saw something in his eyes. “What?”
“I’m just relieved to see you,” Daniel said, nodding to everyone else. “They saved my life. Guys, this is Colonel Zak McBride and …” He looked at Coburn. “Well, you know who this is.”
Up close now, Jack was staring at Coburn’s scarred face, as was everyone else. P-90 resting across his chest, he pointed to the scar. “I hope you gave back better than you got.”
“I did,” Coburn replied.
“Who was it?”
“Those empty-headed morons?” Jack asked in surprise.
“Empty-headed morons with sharp farm tools,” Zak answered.
“Yeah, you know, this is wonderful and all,” Coburn snapped impatiently, “but it’s time for us to get the fuck out of here and for you to get back to your own universe.”
Daniel stared at him as he remembered Davis’ eyes. “He’s right, Jack. There wasn’t anyone to stop us, but there’s no telling how long it’ll take that SGC to come after us.”
“Is it true what he said?” Jack asked Coburn and Zak. “You saved his life?”
Coburn nodded mutely.
“Thanks,” Jack replied earnestly, then added, “Would’ve been a bitch storming the castle.”
“You have no idea,” Coburn replied dryly, then turned away and trotted toward the DHD.
Meanwhile, Zak held his hand out to Daniel. Clearing his throat, Daniel accepted it. When Zak made a move to inch closer, perhaps to kiss him on the cheek or hug him, Daniel moved back slightly and gave him a humorless smile. “Thanks.”
Zak nodded, accepting the rebuke and the silent order that said their intimacy was long over. “Here,” he said, reaching into a front pocket. He pulled out a wad of folded legal paper and handed it over. Daniel frowned and shook his head, pushing his hand away. “You’ll need those. I’ve memorized them.”
“We’re not going back to Earth,” Zak said.
Daniel stared at him in shock. “You’re not going to leave all those innocent people hanging, are you?”
Zak opened his mouth to explain when Coburn’s outgoing code was overridden by an incoming stream. “Shit! To the complex! Run!”
Daniel was on Jack’s heels, his heart rate climbing as they sprinted toward the complex. “Tell me you left the mirror on?” he shouted to Sam.
“I left the mirror on!”
“Thank Christ,” Zak said.
Daniel glanced sharply at him, for there was something in his tone that instantly bothered him. It almost sounded like a resonance.
They were almost to the main doors of the southeast wing when Teal’c reached it first and held the door open.
“You can’t come with us,” Daniel said as they filed through.
“We’re going to another universe,” Zak replied. Coburn was just ahead of him, and behind them, Teal’c stopped to rig the door handle with a grenade.
“You don’t know where you’re going, do you?” Daniel asked, further bothered and concerned as they turned a corner.
“Don’t worry about it,” Zak told him.
Daniel glanced over his shoulder to make sure Teal’c was right behind, then picked up speed as they turned down the correct corridor. Before they arrived in the Archive Room, an explosion reverberated through the walls as Teal’c’s grenade went off.
“That’ll slow them down,” Alex shouted as he ran into the chamber.
“No it won’t,” Zak countered as both he and Daniel entered the room together. Coming to a stop and grabbing one of the double doors, he waited for Teal’c, then yelled, “Help me!” Teal’c pulled out another grenade, guessing the man’s intent, and Daniel grabbed what looked like a staff weapon off one of the tables. He tossed it to Teal’c, who caught it one-handed as he in turn tossed Zak the grenade.
“Forget it, let’s go!” Jack yelled. Sam and Jason’s teammates were already on the other side of the mirror and he didn’t relish the idea of being stranded here. “Move!”
Teal’c jammed the long staff between the door handles, then turned to follow Daniel, Zak, and Coburn. They were nearly to the mirror when the door exploded. Bullets came at them as the five of them touched the mirror. The tingling effect hadn’t even waned when Sam shrieked out a warning.
“Get down! There’s no telling if the bullets’ll travel through the mirror!”
On the heels of her words, bullets zipped over their heads to crash into artifacts and ricocheted off walls.
“Shut that fucking thing down!” Jack yelled, even though Sam was already grabbing the dialer off the table. In the next instant, the mirror’s face was replaced with the painting and the room was abruptly silent.
Everyone remained still for a moment, then a collective sigh of relief rippled through the room.
Tension eased, Zak looked at the mirror as he got to his feet. “Huh. Well check that out.”
“What?” Daniel asked, getting to his.
“Different painting,” Coburn said. “May I?” he asked, pointing at the dialer as he walked over to Sam.
She handed it to him and he tapped out a code and pressed the square that activated the alternate universe. The mirror changed, reflecting foliage and trees.
“You’re pretty handy with that thing,” Jack said, almost accusingly.
Coburn nodded. “We’ve had to be.”
Jack accepted that answer. “So, over there,” he said, pointing. “This building is in the middle of a forest?”
“It’s in ruins,” Coburn answered. “Nature’s reclaimed everything but the mirror. The dialer wasn’t too buried. We stashed it and left.”
He and Zak approached the mirror, and despite his mixed feelings, Daniel followed them. Zak turned to him, giving him a long look. Daniel felt gratitude, embarrassment, and fondness before Zak touched the mirror and reappeared on the other side. Inexplicably, Daniel felt a chill run through him. When Coburn turned to him, Daniel was suddenly beset with emotional warning. Liar.
“I’m sorry, Daniel,” Coburn said. “We couldn’t tell you.”
Daniel stepped back as a pit of dread grew in his stomach. “Tell me what exactly?”
“Who really took you.”
“You’re not SGC,” Jack snapped as the hairs on the back of his neck rose.
Coburn took a deep, steadying breath. “Daniel, how many people did you actually see at that SGC?”
As Daniel thought about it, he recalled five or six in the gateroom when he arrived. A few on the way to the elevator. There were four on the 18th level, then … four or five on the 22nd? “Not as many as I’m used to seeing.” Then he remembered Davis. “Davis wasn’t the only one, was he?”
Coburn shook his head. “Earth was subjugated by the Goa’uld. And …” He hesitated, warily looking at everyone as he made sure his weapon’s muzzle was aimed at the floor. “I pretended to be one of them.” Then his eyes glowed.
Daniel took a few more steps back as Jack and the others raised their P-90s. “What the fuck is this?” Jack spat, and everyone else pretty much echoed his words.
“Are you fucking insane?” Daniel growled, anger rising like venom. He’d been used. Feeling unclean, he desperately desired a shower.
Coburn had the grace to look guilt-ridden; when he spoke, it was with the voice of his symbiote. The resonance was soft, furry, and Daniel realized that it was what he’d heard earlier.
“I’m sorry,” the Tok’ra said. “It was necessary.”
“Bullshit!” Daniel snapped. “Who the hell are you?”
“Camulus. Zak is host to Corvin.”
On the other side of the mirror, Zak gave him a regretful smile.
“What the hell was all that about?” Daniel asked as memories of the sex flooded him, filling him with outrage and embarrassment. “Was all that stuff you told me a lie, too?”
“No,” Camulus said. “Everything Zak told you was true. Only the who was a lie. Your kidnapping wasn’t a ruse. You were definitely needed. Just not by humans.”
Daniel’s anger was increasing. Taking Coburn-Camulus by the arm, he pulled him aside. “Why’d you use me like that? None of what happened was really necessary, was it?”
Camulus’ eyes glowed and Coburn returned. “It was. The things they intended to do with you were very real, Daniel. We were all being watched and I had to bide my time. I convinced them to leave us alone, that I’d have a recording for them in the morning, showing your … cooperation.”
“Why did they want me to translate those tablets? Is there even an outpost?”
“There is. And they really did need your expertise. But they intended to use the weapon to defend their conquest of Earth.” Coburn reached up and squeezed his shoulder. “Which you’ve helped us thwart. You gave us the time we needed.”
“Our operatives are already on their way to Earth to blow up the outpost. After we return and they receive a signal from us, they’ll drop a naquada bomb.”
“What about the mirror?” Daniel said, frowning.
“As I said, we have the dialer stashed,” Coburn replied.
Daniel sighed and shook his head. “Blowing it up isn’t necessary.”
“What do you mean?” Coburn asked, confused.
“I didn’t write down everything I learned,” Daniel said, loud enough for everyone to hear.
“What?” Coburn asked, alarmed.
“Even if you’d left those notes I made, they wouldn’t have been able to use the weapon.”
“Because the weapon that the tablets referenced is designed to shut down if anyone but a human with Ancients’ DNA attempts to use it.”
A smile slowly spread across Coburn’s face, reddening the scar tissue. “You’re very good.” He started to laugh. “Oh, that’s perfect,” he added, shaking his head.
He started to turn away, but Daniel held him back. Lowering his voice again, he asked, “Was everything that happened a ruse?” Beyond Coburn, Jack and Jason were shooting them possessive looks.
Coburn shook his head ever so slightly. “No. Camulus and Corvin were never in control.”
“That’s not what I mean,” Daniel said, embarrassed.
Coburn cleared his throat. “What Zak told you about their plans was no ruse.”
“No, I mean … what Zak told me about you. And what happened between us.”
Coburn stared at him, then exchanged glances with Zak’s image in the mirror. With an apologetic look at Zak, who turned away and disappeared from sight, Coburn answered him softly. “We both meant it, though me more than Zak. For obvious reasons.” Coburn sighed sadly. “I’m sorry.”
“Why?” Daniel asked.
“For not being able to get you out of there without playing their game.”
Daniel swallowed. “You didn’t seem so sorry a few hours ago.”
Coburn lifted his chin. “I don’t regret what happened between us.”
Daniel stared back as several conflicting emotions filled him. He wished it hadn’t happened, but like Coburn, he didn’t regret it, either.
“We’ll make sure they pay,” Coburn said.
“Thanks for bringing him back,” Sam told him.
“What she said,” Jason replied, and thinking of Jalen, he said, “Watch out for Baal.”
Coburn lifted his chin. “We’ve already taken care of him.”
Daniel thought of what he did to Davis and didn’t doubt his word. “Who’s really in charge of the planet?”
Coburn’s expression turned hateful. “Hathor was, but Kali and Ra are now vying for control.”
“Ra?” Daniel asked, showing the same shocked look everyone else wore. “Then who was the Goa’uld we, you, killed to set Abydos free?”
“Isis,” Coburn answered, frowning with surprise.
“Ra,” Jack sighed. “Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.” Though his tone was sympathetic, the look in his eyes wasn’t. Something had gone on between Daniel and these men and though he didn’t know what it was, he felt an unexplained jealousy.
Coburn started to walk to the mirror when Daniel suddenly thought of something. “What was that device Warner used on me? He said it was a symbiote detector. But if the base is run by Goa’uld, then it couldn’t be. What was it?”
Coburn shook his head. “It was a symbiote detector, but it was refined to detect Tok’ra.”
“That makes no sense,” Sam argued. “Goa’uld pick up on the presence of other symbiotes just as the Jaffa do.”
“Yes,” Coburn answered. “But the Tok’ra have managed to mask their signature. Since our numbers are expanding and our infiltration is growing system-wide, they’re forced to run scans on everyone.”
“Mind giving us that technology?” Jack asked, expecting Coburn to say no.
“I would if I had an extra scanner,” Coburn said apologetically, then turned to touch the mirror.
Another question popped into Daniel’s head. “Wait! What happened to the camera?” It was too late. Coburn was on the other side and he smiled at Daniel as the mirror transformed back into a painting.
Jack turned to Daniel, his eyes searching. “What camera?”
Daniel looked at the folded paper in his hands. “Never mind. I’ll tell you when we get home.” He looked at Jack, then Jason, who had the same expression Jack had. “I won’t be mentioning any camera in my report.”
Meaning it was personal, and Jason’s teammates suddenly looked like they hadn’t been listening.
Turning to Sam, Daniel handed her the folded notes. “Give these back to me later. Right now, we’ve got to get back so we can send a research team down to Antarctica.”
“Antarctica?” Jack asked.
Daniel grinned. “If our worlds are the same, there’s an Ancients’ outpost near the place where the Beta gate was discovered.”
“No shit?” Sam asked.
Daniel smiled. “No shit.”
Sam smiled broadly and started to put the notes in her vest pocket when something fell out and dropped to the ground. She stooped and picked it up, then with a frown, held it out to Daniel. “Are there notes on this?” she asked.
Daniel’s eyes widened as he took the Microdrive from her hands. He stomped on the blush that tried to rise to his cheeks. “No, um, that’ll be mine.”
“What is it?” she asked.
Daniel looked at her, then at Jack and Jason. “Just … recorded conversations,” he said, allowing embarrassment to show. “Personal conversations.” He could feel his lovers’ curiosity intensifying by the second and wondered what they’d think when he showed it to them … if he showed it to them.
. . .
Daniel was extremely relieved that General Hammond hadn’t asked too many questions. After the news about the outpost, the debriefing had been short. Teams and equipment were already being assembled, with additional requests dispatched to Area 51. For now, Daniel’s part in it was finished. He’d type up the hard copy report at home. Jack, Jason, and Sam were still in Hammond’s office, hammering out the details of the excursion to Antarctica so he knew he’d have the locker room to himself. He thought of the look on Jack’s face when he’d asked the General if he could go home and get some rest. He wasn’t just curious, he was worried.
Exiting the elevator on Level 16, Daniel turned a corner and suddenly backpedaled, damn near running into someone else.
“Sorry, Doctor Jackson,” said the man, touching Daniel’s arm to steady him.
Daniel tried not to stare but surprise overrode manners. It was Zak McBride. Major. There were other subtle differences, like being clean-shaven, but regardless, this was the spitting image of the man he’d had sex with not twelve hours ago. A blush threatened to pink his cheeks as X-rated images rushed to the front of his mind.
Daniel brutally stomped on them. “No problem, my fault,” he said, still staring.
McBride noticed and a curious frown knotted his brows. “Something wrong?”
“No, I just …” Daniel began, then shook his head. “Long day.” He held out his hand. “Daniel.”
McBride smiled. “Zak.”
“Zak,” Daniel repeated. “SG …” he began because the man wasn’t wearing a patch.
“8,” Zak replied, then glanced at the upper arm of his dark forest green camouflage fatigues. “New uniforms, so new patches. We’re going into a dense forest tomorrow.”
“Right,” Daniel said, and seeing that the man appeared to be in a hurry, he quickly added, “Ask Jack or Sam about joining the Antarctic expedition. Someone else can always take your off-world mission.”
“Why? What’s the buzz?” Zak asked, even more curious.
“I think I found a weapon to defend Earth with.”
“No shit?” Zak asked.
“No shit,” Daniel smiled.
As Daniel drove home, his thoughts turned more and more to the Microdrive and what was recorded there. Was it what he thought or was it something else? By the time he reached home, his curiosity was approaching obsession. Stubbornly, he refused to slot it into his camera and plug the USB into the laptop. Heading straight for the bathroom, he stripped off his clothes and stepped into the shower. The tension-relieving hot water drenched his hair and cascaded down his body, and he sighed with blessed relief. Soaping up the sponge, he robotically rubbed it over his skin. For the first few minutes, he concentrated only on getting himself clean, but as he relaxed, his thoughts returned to the drive.
Inescapably, he thought of Jack and Jason. Guilt warred with the pleasure he had admittedly found with Zak and Coburn. While the sex may have been the part he’d played to get back home and he’d done what he’d believed was the right course, it didn’t bother him as much as he thought it should.
He’d been the victim of an elaborate ruse, not just by Zak and Coburn, but by twisted minds that now ran that SGC. He was angry over the millions of lives that must have been lost. And still, he could not find it in himself to regret what had happened. There was a little bit of justifiable anger at Zak and Coburn, but it contrasted the self-preservation he knew had driven them. How the hell could he fault them?
And yet. Zak could have backed off, told him the truth, and just asked him to go along with their own ruse. Daniel thought of Coburn in the surveillance room, overseeing their little plan. Had others been in the room with him, watching? They had to have been. Watching the little show he and Zak had put on.
The show that was not really a show. Body responses were one thing–almost any caress could get him hard if done long enough. but Daniel had allowed himself to enjoy what happened. He couldn’t deny it, not even with the massive amount of guilt. And the guilt was really only kept at bay for one simple reason: James and Samuelson, whoever they really were, and what Zak had said they planned to do to him.
Daniel shuddered at what could have been. If Zak and Coburn–Camulus and Corvin–hadn’t been there when he’d arrived, would he even be here, taking his shower and feeling guilty over enjoying the sex he’d had with Jason’s disfigured look-alike? No. He’d be in pain, tortured, anguished, and filled with rage over the feelings of powerlessness.
Daniel sighed, closed his eyes, and tipped his head back. As the water splashed over his forehead and down his face, he made himself set aside those thoughts for others; the unanswered questions.
If Coburn had really loved his counterpart, why had he waited till the last minute to be with his twin? Was he too immersed in grief still? Did he think he’d somehow betray the love for his dead friend? And why the hell had Zak claimed he wasn’t gay? Daniel recalled that moment, and he realized now that the man had said it just a little too quickly.
While they were in his counterpart’s office.
Did he say that because others had been listening and it was part of their ruse? Still, there would have been no reason to lie. Unless the two men had come up with their plan after the denial? Perhaps Zak simply didn’t wish to share his personal side. Daniel could relate to that. After all, there’d been no flirting or sexual overtones from either man, not until the rapists had come into the room. Had their plan been made after? Possibly.
Now for the troubling part. If that were true, then why hadn’t he sensed the deception from Zak and Coburn? Yes, their intentions were true, but the method in getting there had missing pieces. Like the lie about who was really running the SGC and the fact that they were Tok’ra. Why hadn’t he known? Daniel felt the anger rise and breathed deeply, trying to reject that something had gone wrong. Grasping at hope, his anger abated as something occurred to him. Was his inability to pick up on the head games due to the blending of two minds, Tok’ra and human?
If so, there was a blind spot in his ability to tell when people were lying.
Daniel sighed and made a mental note to test this blind spot the next time he was around the Tok’ra. Selmak wouldn’t lie to him, but others would.
Filing away that for the future, he focused on the one issue left. Telling Jack and Jason all that had really happened. Unsaid words reflected in his eyes during the debriefing had told them there was more to his kidnapping than his knowledge of Ancient. But they hadn’t asked. Not yet. Daniel knew they would and knew he would explain. But would they understand? Could they? He’d used sex as a barter with a hostile force–no matter that they’d ended up as a friendly one. It wasn’t the sex in itself. If he’d gone out to a bar and picked up someone for sex, Jack and Jason would not have been bothered too much as long as protection was used.
But this was different. Jack and Jason had personal rules about hostage behavior. When they’d been taken captive by Baal, those rules had been relaxed because they’d been under the influence of a powerful drug. But Daniel had no such excuse this time. Even though he’d thought he’d been backed into a corner and had no other options, he didn’t think that Jack and Jason would forgive him.
Turning off the water, he grabbed a towel and dried himself, thinking that perhaps he could avoid them for a couple of days–say he needed to be alone to process. No. They would not accept that and he couldn’t either. They deserved to know now. He couldn’t make them wait. It was selfish and self-serving to think otherwise.
Daniel thought of the recordings, still torn about showing it to them. But what was really there?
Driven by the desire to see for himself, Daniel grabbed the robe from the back of the bathroom door and his glasses from the sink, then snatched the Microdrive out of his jeans. He padded out to the kitchen, where he’d left his camera and laptop. Pulling out a chair, he sat down and connected his camera to the laptop, then slid the Microdrive into the slot.
At first, nothing happened after the camera program booted up, then cursor signaled the content was about to play. He was almost disappointed.
But what came on the screen next were images that flashed rapidly by. Coburn. Zak. Other SGC personnel? Then …
Daniel restarted the video, then paused it and advanced it frame by frame. Blue-screen and static snow interrupted the images, showing a haphazard editing. But Daniel was too stunned by what was playing to care. Recorded were images of Coburn and a few others, yelling at a prisoner: Hathor. They appeared to be in an empty warehouse of some kind instead of on base. Hathor knelt between two guards, hands cuffed behind her back. Coburn stood before her, backhanding her between demands for information. The last image was of him pulling out a sidearm and shooting her in the forehead.
Blue-screen again. Then Coburn was sitting in front of the camera. Behind him were black and white monitor screens. The SGC surveillance room.
“Daniel. You probably expected to see what happened between us, and you and Zak. It’s here. It follows this explanation because I’m making this recording ahead of time, before that happens. I need to give you my reasons for why I did what I did.
“If your world paralleled ours, you already know what Hathor was capable of. Here on Earth, her forces took over the planet eight years ago. She turned many people into Jaffa and forced many others to be her sex slaves. She had a flair for pretense and subterfuge. That’s why you entered an SGC instead of what should have been a Goa’uld palace.”
Daniel thought back to the replica Hathor had made of the SGC. It had been so real. There’d been unexplained changes, and though plausible, they weren’t quite right.
Coburn leaned forward. “I’m not going to apologize for executing that bitch. The things she did deserved a worse fate. That happened two days before you were kidnapped. I hadn’t acted before because the council kept telling me to wait, to give them more time to get more refugees off Earth. But I couldn’t wait anymore.
He paused and took a drink from a beer. Staring at it, he made a face. “Not as bad as some stuff I’ve had, but your wines and liquors taste a lot better. Anyway. What I will apologize for is misleading you. I really did not see any other choice. Although technically, I actually did have a choice. To let you live or let you die. I couldn’t let you die. Not a second time.
He paused and swallowed. “I could have told you the truth, allowed you the choice to go along with what we felt we needed to do in order to maintain our cover, but I didn’t. I couldn’t take the risk that you’d refuse, Daniel. I’m sorry.”
He paused again, this time drinking the rest of his beer and tossing it away before he picked up another and twisted off the cap–which he tossed over his shoulder with obvious disregard for keeping the room tidy. So unlike his own Jason. Was it because of Camulus?
Coburn looked away from the camera, staring down at something. “I wish …” He stopped, then shook his head as he stared back into the camera. “I loved you. The other you. He died never knowing that. I carry tremendous guilt now. It’s why I came to see you and I don’t ask forgiveness for using you.” He paused again, a distant look in his eyes–Daniel recognized it as memory recall. “You didn’t seem to mind.” He smiled tenderly, then cleared his throat. “Never mind. I wish you a long and happy life. Your Jack and Jason are very lucky men. I hope they know that.”
The video went to blue-screen again. Daniel stared at it, thinking over his words. He clicked the mouse and replayed the message, trying to figure out what Coburn had meant to say. When it ended again, Daniel went through a gamut of emotions, from embarrassment to arousal to confusion.
Then the other recordings played. The one with Coburn was black and white and without audio. As he watched, Daniel didn’t focus on the sex. He was unaroused, but not unemotional. He kept thinking about what had driven that Jason Coburn to accept Camulus into his head, his life. What had he and Zak gone through to accept a blending? What terror had they suffered that inexorably led them to take such steps to escape? What had they forced themselves to do to maintain their cover? What had happened before he’d been taken captive?
Swallowing hard, Daniel replayed the video. His hand was shaking as he pulled his robe apart and took hold of his thickening cock. When the video finally showed him and Coburn, he covered his mouth and nose with one hand while the other rapidly stroked his cock. Tears welled up in his eyes as he watched Coburn kiss him, remembering the desperation in his touch. When Daniel pushed him on the bed and fucked him, the man’s expression was a mixture of rapture and surprise. Like he’d been fucked by a ghost.
. . .
Jason stood in the kitchen, holding the camera. Over his shoulder, Jack watched with him. Hathor. Camulus. Coburn. Zak. And Daniel.
By the time they were through watching the porn, they didn’t know whether to be aroused or queasy. Neither of them had ever seen Daniel violent during sex. Rough behavior, yes. Violent, no.
The thing was, they understood why it happened more than Daniel did, though they didn’t know that yet.
“Is he in the bedroom?” Jason asked, setting the camera down.
Daniel wasn’t. He was in the hall, listening to them as they watched the tape. He’d heard them come into his room and had feigned sleep. But as he’d heard their voices in the kitchen, he couldn’t stay in bed any longer. When he’d realized what they were doing, he was flooded with the desire to get dressed and sneak out of the house. Embarrassment, shame, and guilt were the guiding influences.
Except now, he couldn’t move.
Jason turned away from Jack. “We should wake him,” he said, starting to move past Jack but his lover stopped him.
In the hall, Daniel moved back, wanting to hide, but Jack’s words stopped him.
“No, he needs the rest.”
“So?” Jason scowled. “He needs us. I know full fucking well that he’s gonna be feeling guilty as hell.”
“Yes, he will,” Jack replied, taking Jason’s hand–mostly to keep a grip on him. “But I think he wants time to process.” He paused, then added meaningfully, “Maybe we do too?”
“I don’t need time,” Jason said, tugging his hand out of Jack’s. “I want to hold him, tell him everything’s okay because it is.”
“Are you sure?” Daniel asked, appearing in the doorway. He felt awkward, wearing nothing but underwear, but what the hell. It was apropos. He’d been exposed onscreen. May as well be now, too.
He met their eyes, looking back and forth between them until he rested on Jack. Jason had always been the more forgiving of the two–except in the last week.
“You’re gonna need an explanation,” he said, not moving.
Jack airily gestured at the computer. “We already got that from McBride there.”
Daniel blinked, having forgotten that McBride had turned the camera on before he’d made his offer. “Right,” he replied.
Jason took a step toward him but Daniel quickly moved to his lovers. “I’m sorry,” he said, meeting Jack’s eyes as well as Jason’s.
Reaching them, Jason palmed Daniel’s face with one hand. “We love you, you fucking idiot.”
That did Daniel in and he made a sad, sighing sound as Jason yanked him in for a passionate kiss. Daniel put an arm around him even as he reached for Jack. “I’m sorry for being such an asshole,” he said, breaking the kiss.
“Daniel,” Jack said, grabbing the back of his neck. “Shut up.” It was his turn and he kissed Daniel so passionately that it woke up his dick.
“There’s nothing to forgive,” Jason murmured behind his ear.
Daniel felt skin against his back, then Jason’s cock rubbing over his cotton briefs. He’d stripped off his clothes so damn fast. It made Daniel laugh. Looking at Jack, he wordlessly reached to unbutton his jeans. Jack nodded slightly as he slipped his hands under the waistband of Daniel’s briefs and slid them down.
Rubbing his exposed dick against Daniel’s, Jack reached around him and slid a finger down the cleft of his lover’s ass. His eyes on Daniel’s, he said to Jason, “Let’s show him the old-fashioned way how much we love him.”
“Yes,” Jason said as he rubbed his cock over Jack’s finger.
“Old-fashioned way?” Daniel asked, pushing Jack’s jeans down so he could press their bared skin together.
Jack made a fist in Daniel’s hair. “We’ll never leave you. The only way you’re gonna believe that is when we reclaim what’s ours.”
“Reclaim–” Daniel started to ask, but Jack wrapped an arm around his neck and claimed his mouth while he slid a finger inside his ass. Over that was Jason’s cock, sliding inside with him.
“Shit,” Daniel gasped around Jack’s mouth before he was silenced.
He couldn’t believe how hard he was. How high his arousal soared, even after the events of the last twenty-four hours. He should be a bit spent, a bit tired; certainly unable to get hard as quickly as usual. But Jack was rubbing their cocks together while invading his mouth with his tongue and his finger in his ass. And Jason was moving deep and slow while he pressed his hands over his pecs. His nipples were teased, amping up the arousal, and the heat from their bodies welcomed him home.
Daniel abandoned all guilt and gave himself to them. Sweat beaded his skin and he licked his lips, loving the taste of their salt. Minute after minute passed and he didn’t want to come. This felt too good to end. When Jack thumbed the head of his cock and squeezed the two of them together, the choice was taken out of his hands. “Jack, Jason,” he whispered in warning, and his mouth was claimed again as he came. His lovers didn’t stop, driving him crazy with the over-sensitivity of post-climax until their own orgasms soaked him, front to back. What Daniel loved best of all was that he hadn’t heard the video at all; and it was still playing.
When afterglow began to fade and the need for a shower entered their minds, Daniel cleared his throat. “You said there’s no need to apologize, but I’m sorry anyway.”
“You did nothing wrong,” Jason said, hugging his back. “You did what you had to.”
“Doesn’t make me feel any better about it.”
Jack sighed. “Because it’s not supposed to.”
Daniel sighed back. “I guess.” He suddenly grinned, thinking of Antarctica. “At least something good came out of it.”
“No pun intended,” Jack said, grinning at the expected shove.
A few long moments passed in silence, but Daniel still couldn’t let things go. “So we’re good?”
“Yes,” Jack growled at him. “Now let’s get some sack time.”
“I was,” Daniel said, snuffling Jack’s sweaty face. “Then someone woke me up.”
“I’m not sorry,” Jason said as he did the same to Daniel’s neck, making him shiver. “I just hope this incident’s wiped the foul mood you’ve been in lately.”
Daniel squeezed Jason’s arm, then turned his head and leaned back to receive a kiss. “I love you.”
“I know. It’s over now,” Jason responded, then brushed his nose over Daniel’s ear. “So stop worrying. Or I’m gonna start teasing you about becoming a porn star.”
“A hot porn star,” Jack murmured.
Daniel cleared his throat, signaling acquiescence because they would definitely carry out that threat. But thankfully, that was a threat that he could happily live with.
Daniel was naked, face down. His lover lay over him, pinning his wrists to the bed. His dick was hard and too big, but Daniel loved it. He spread his legs, begging for him to go deeper, to make him come.
Lips were at the shell of his ear, a tongue licking the rim. “Feel good?”
Yes, he felt good, but Daniel didn’t say it aloud.
“How do you like my cock, Daniel?” asked his lover.
“It’s good, it’s so perfect, please fuck me.”
“It’s not his cock you love, Daniel,” came the resonating voice in his ear.
“What?” Daniel asked, not really paying attention. He didn’t mind the Tok’ra joining them. He was good, too.
“It’s me, Daniel,” said the voice, thrusting faster.
Weight pressed him down and it became too much. “Let me up,” Daniel complained, pushing his back into his lover’s chest. When he didn’t comply, Daniel pushed harder, hands grabbing fistfuls of bedsheet. He tried to turn, to look over his shoulder as the man clung doggedly on, thrusting harder and faster.
Daniel finally looked into his lover’s face. Martouf’s face. His eyes glowed and he smiled. “It’s me, Daniel. It’s Apophis.” He started to laugh and his fingers dug into Daniel’s hips.
Daniel screamed as his head was shoved into the mattress, two hands holding him down. Then a searing hot pain shot into the back of his neck. “No!” he cried, tears of rage coming down his cheeks. “No!”
The door to the VIP room crashed open and several men came in. They were led by a bearded Jason. His eyes glowed. Camulus? He pointed his gun at Daniel’s head, anguish on his face. “I’m so sorry, Daniel,” he said, and fired.
Daniel bolted up, staring in the dark of his bedroom. Swallowing against the rapid beat of his heart, he looked to his left where Jason lay asleep on his stomach.
A hand touched his back, making him jump.
“Whoa,” Jack whispered, flattening his hand on cool, damp skin. “It’s me.”
Daniel turned to face him, the words of the nightmare haunting him. “Jack,” he said, almost in relief.
Recognition reflected in Jack’s eyes. “C’mere,” he said, getting Daniel to lay back down. Arm thrown across his chest, he tugged. “Nightmare about what happened there?”
Daniel looked at him and sighed deeply, shaking his head. “Not exactly. It’s … it’s nothing.”
“Tell me. Please?”
Swallowing hard, Daniel reluctantly described it, watching the grimace slowly grow on his lover’s face. “Jesus,” Jack said, taking him in his arms. Daniel fell into him, his face against Jack’s throat. He was shaking and a feeling of foreboding would not leave him.
“I don’t think that was a dream.”
“No, it was a nightmare.”
“No, I mean, it felt like …” Daniel scowled in concentration as he pulled back, eyes unfocused. “A memory.”
Jack scowled back but before he could argue the impossibility of that statement, Daniel was startled again when Jason’s hand touched his hair. A second later, Daniel melted against Jason as he spooned against him.
“It can’t be a memory,” Jason said.
Daniel didn’t know why, but he was certain. And he was certain of how. “I think I absorbed it.”
“What?” his lovers asked, confused.
Daniel felt positive about it. “When I had sex with Coburn,” he said slowly, remembering. “I think I somehow absorbed a memory. Maybe from him, maybe from Camulus. I don’t know. My empathy was wide open to him so maybe …”
“Maybe,” Jack said, a frown of disbelief on his face. “But that would have been two memories to absorb. How could you absorb Martouf’s when you never slept with him?”
“I don’t know,” Daniel said, shaking his head. “But something happened.” He shook his head, beginning to doubt his certainty and Jack’s pointed logic. “Yeah, maybe you’re right,” he said, rubbing his forehead. “But if this was just a dream, then why did Coburn apologize and beg for forgiveness?”
“Apologize?” Jason asked alarmed, looking over Daniel’s shoulder at Jack.
“When did that happen?” Jack asked.
Daniel winced. Coburn’s surveillance recording hadn’t any sound. Embarrassed that he’d brought it up, he shook his head. “Never mind.”
“No, what?” Jack asked, making Daniel look at him.
Sighing, Daniel quickly conveyed what had been said during the sex with Coburn. “Do you see what I mean? Why would I have a dream like that if there wasn’t something to it?”
His lovers had no answers, but Jack and Jason exchanged looks that said they’d be checking in with Adriann to see if this was possible. They didn’t want it to be, and neither did Daniel.
It would mean that Zak had lied. That his Daniel Jackson hadn’t died from radiation exposure. And it made Coburn’s grief all the more unbearable.
Jason Coburn’s patience was at an end. He was tired of waiting in the middle of a forest surrounded by crumbling ruins. It made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. “Dial. They’re long gone by now.”
“Done,” Zak McBride answered, connecting the dialer with the mirror.
Returning to their universe, they found the trap door under the central complex and ran down the underground tunnel, heading for the exit by the DHD. Arriving, they hunkered down and Jason used his portable periscope to look around the gate. Sighing angrily, he said quietly, “Three of their bastards. I was hoping they’d have left.”
Zak scratched thoughtfully under his bottom lip. “Fine. We’ll have to use the smoke grenade.”
In the darkness, Jason turned toward his partner’s voice. “Tell me you brought the other kind.”
“In my pack.”
“Get two ready. We may need them if I can’t dial fast enough.”
It didn’t take them long, to Jason’s relief. Firing through the smoke, they took out the three guards and the ones hiding behind the gate didn’t move fast enough to escape the wormhole’s vortex. Zak and Jason ran for the gate, crossing their fingers that they weren’t followed.
“Shut it down,” Jason said as they exited the gate on their target world.
Just past the event horizon, Zak made a hard right, skidding on his backside beside the gate. Flipping up the panel at the base, he pulled a crystal. The gate shut down. “What’d you do with the dialer?”
“Here,” Jason said, patting his vest. “Come on.” He led the way behind the gate as they ran full pelt into the forest.
Half an hour later, Jason ducked under a low branch, Zak right behind him. They could see the clearing ahead through the mass of needle-heavy branches and slowed their pace. Caution was almost always best. But Jason recognized the friendly face and shared a smile with Zak as they walked out into the open, their feet now on a cobblestone path. Their friend greeted them, grasping Jason’s forearm. Jason waved at the enormous fortress in the background. “See, Zak? Told you it was huge.”
“Christ, Jason,” Zak said. “I think you understated things just a little.”
Laughing, Jason slapped his partner on the back, then gestured at the friend they came to see. “Let me introduce you to our ally and good friend. Zak, this is Adriann. Adriann, this is Zak McBride.”
Adriann tucked a lock of long, black hair behind his ear as he held out his hand. “Well met, Zak.” Looking at Jason, he said, “Tell me you finally saved one from those evil bastards.”
Jason sighed. “More than that. They can’t try it again. And Daniel’s alive and back in his universe. Though just a bit pissed off.”
“I would expect nothing less,” Adriann nodded.
Jason gave Adriann a sad smile as he handed him a Microdrive. “Here. Thought I’d bring you a gift. There are other things besides the surveillance records for Daniel’s office.”
Adriann took the small card, turning it between thumb and forefinger as he felt the hole inside him close a little. “Thanks.” He paused, then asked, “Are you okay?”
Jason swallowed and looked at Zak as his lover clasped his shoulder. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He swallowed hard. “At least this one escaped.”
Adriann nodded, tilting his head as he read a little of his friend’s surface thoughts. He could sense the Tok’ra trying to block everything else and sighed inwardly. “What was he like?”
Jason gripped Adriann’s arm and shook him tenderly. “Like ours used to be. Seems that a Daniel Jackson in any universe is always the same.”