Trilogy 16: Magick and Mayhem
Summary: SG-1 and 2 meet the “Furling”, known on Earth a long time ago as the Tuatha de Danann.
A Pause Before The Storm
Jack was halfway out of the shower when he spotted a line of suds down the back of his calf. With a puzzled frown, he turned the shower back on and rinsed it off. Finished again, this time not needing to close the glass door, he stepped out, leaving the door wide open. Air conditioning or not, he didn’t like leaving a shower door closed when the shower was wet. It was different with a tub and curtain. He’d close the curtain all the way to make sure no trapped water in the folds developed bacteria.
He grinned to himself, remembering Jason’s reaction the first time he caught Jack spraying the shower curtain at his old house. His husband had been amused and confused. “You’re an anal twit, oh my god.” The double meaning had spawned a long conversation containing nothing but endless metaphors. If memory served, Daniel had put an end to that with a kiss and a summons for dinner.
Jack sighed as he grabbed a towel from one of the bronze rings on the wall, and felt as if he was in a fancy hotel. It was the same feeling you had after getting a new car. That newness would be around for a while, though considerably shorter where the house was concerned, since they’d be spending a lot more time in the house than in a new car—if they had one. Jack still had that feeling with his Harley. He didn’t get to ride it enough, and he’d love to get Daniel and Jason bikes of their own so they could go out on mini road trips.
Wiping off his face, he inhaled deeply. Even the towels were new, and he loved the fluffy cream type that Daniel had bought. Rubbing his hair half dry, he was about to rub down his upper body when Jason walked in, wearing nothing but his new black boxer briefs. Everything is new but us, Jack thought. He gave Jason an appreciative and admiring smile. His gaze lingered on the outline of Jason’s cock, lying north and to the left. It was flaccid, and since Jason wasn’t cut, Jack was absently disappointed he couldn’t see the head. The fleeting emotion left a sense memory on Jack’s tongue. There were times when he could almost taste Jason just by thinking about his cock’s texture, flavor, and smell. On the heels of that thought, admiration and memory turned to pride. Of all the male lovers he’d had in his life, Jason and Daniel had the best cocks. If he did say so himself. Not small, not huge. Jason’s was a bit flatter than Daniel’s, and the head sloped more. Daniel’s cock was pretty round, with a fully rounded head. Most cocks, including his own, Jack thought idly, sloped a bit at the split underside, but Daniel’s was much rounder.
Jason was staring at him, a big grin on his face. “What?” Jack asked.
Jason set his toothbrush down on the double vanity counter and walked over. He pointed with his full hand, as if offering something. “What in the world are you thinking about?”
Jack didn’t look down; he didn’t need to, naturally. He knew his cock was half-hard. “Admiring your nicely fit briefs made me think about you and Daniel.”
Jason looked down at himself, and the very obvious outline. “Me and Daniel in general, or …” He slid his hand over his groin. “More specifically?”
“Specifically,” Jack answered with a lop-sided grin. He was about to drop the towel down to dry his crotch when Jason suddenly grabbed it and pushed it to the side.
“Hold on,” he said, and with a dirty smile, eased to his knees. His gaze was on Jack’s cock. He stuck out his tongue, stiffening it as if to take the merest lick. “You’ve got something here that needs a tongue, not a towel.”
“Oh really,” Jack said with a short laugh, and his body flinched minutely as Jason placed his hands on the back of his wet thighs. Heat then raced over his skin like the red of a summer sunset and began to pool in his cock as he stared at Jason’s face, and his curved, full lips.
Jason looked up into his eyes. “Oh definitely,” he said with a smile. But then he frowned, and his hands gripped Jack and moved him so his back faced the long vanity. “Just in case you need something to grab hold of. Can’t trust a glass shower door.”
“Seriously?” Jack asked, knowing that Jason was just stalling, creating the tease that he liked.
“Mostly,” Jason winked, then took hold of Jack’s shaft with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. “But look here,” he said, finding water drops. As he used the tip of his tongue to draw away two beads of water, Daniel walked in.
“Whoa, hello,” he said, startled for a second, then amused. Dressed only in his jeans, he headed their way, except his angle aimed for the vanity drawers directly behind Jack. He opened the top one and took out his toothbrush and paste while Jason licked another drop. “Don’t mind me,” Daniel said with a grin.
“I’m not minding,” Jack said. “But I’m gonna mind if you don’t stop what you’re doing and join us.”
Daniel snickered and turned away. “Naughty boy,” he said, and as he did, he reached over and slapped Jack’s ass smartly with his right hand.
“Whoa,” Jason said, eyes widening a bit. A slow, dirty smile spread across his face as he looked up at Jack. “Now that was interesting.”
“Why, what?” Daniel asked, wetting his toothbrush.
Jack looked at Jason, and pointedly didn’t look at Daniel. What had just happened was a bit embarrassing. He’d reacted to Daniel’s slap with an almost electric pulse that went through his body and out his dick. The result had been a remarkable bob from his cock, hitting the tip of Jason’s nose. A blush spread over Jack’s cheeks and he cleared his throat. “Weren’t you doing something?” he asked Jason, trying to get him back to what he was doing.
Jason looked over at Daniel. “Hey,” he called.
Daniel paused, a look of interest on his face. He took in Jack’s expression, then at the flesh in Jason’s hand. “What?”
Jason jerked his head for Daniel to join them. “I got some very definite interest when you did that. Do it again?”
Daniel walked slowly over, his eyes meeting Jack’s. “Really?” he asked him. Jack didn’t say anything, but just met his eyes with an intense gaze of lust in his own. “Been a long time,” Daniel continued as he caressed the back of Jack’s neck with his hand.
“Yeah, it has,” Jack said, swallowing.
“Lovely,” Jason said in a low, breathy voice, and wrapped his lips around the head of Jack’s cock.
“Shit,” Jack whispered, looking down at Jason’s mouth, then back up at Daniel. He didn’t say anything. He couldn’t, somehow. The words were stuck in the back of his throat. But Daniel’s gaze reflected understanding, and they knew each other well enough that at times like this, they didn’t really need to speak.
Matching Jack’s silence, at least for the moment, Daniel slipped his hand down, smoothing the water beads over his back and stopped at his ass. He caressed his cheeks, while keeping Jack’s attention on his gaze, and without warning, slapped his ass again, the palm over the cleft of his cheeks.
Jason moaned and closed his eyes slowly, as if he’d gotten a taste of something delicious. He pursed his lips around Jack’s cockhead and pulled back, easing his mouth off his lover’s cock. He met Jack’s eyes, then Daniel’s, then back to Jack. “I think he likes it.”
“Told you,” Daniel said softly as he nuzzled Jack’s ear.
Jack took a deep breath, and with a short nod, allowed Daniel to continue. He was slapped again, and it was sharper, stinging like a thousand needle points. It wasn’t the slap itself. It was the slap plus the two previous; his skin was already sensitized and for a moment, he thought about stopping.
But he’d begun this wild ride and refused to tell Daniel to stop. He definitely wasn’t stopping Jason. The man was good. Comparing him to Daniel was impossible. They amazed him every time. And now, they amazed him even more by accepting and enjoying his private—and still newish—kink.
It had been a few years since that time on the mountain with Daniel. He’d thought about it, sometimes desired it, but never enough to ask, and then something else would occupy his mind and he’d forget about it. Acting out this particular kink had come about like the last time had: accidentally. A simple teasing slap that meant nothing.
Jack flinched when Daniel slapped the left cheek, and while the skin was tender and reacted with that pain-pleasure threshold, the other cheek seemed to vibrate in response. Like a much weaker echo. Regardless, his dick reacted to it the same way. He pulsed, and there was no other word for it. His cock inflated, growing bigger for a second, then deflating back to whatever his state had been. His balls didn’t respond until he’d grown erect, so now, they were tingling as if they’d been asleep. It was an unnerving feeling that somehow caused pleasure.
Below, there was no more teasing. Jason’s hot, wet mouth engulfed him enthusiastically, moaning as if he’d just gotten hold of the world’s best lollipop. Steak-flavored. Jack almost laughed out loud, but the slap on his right cheek was keen and aching, and he jerked into Jason’s throat. He grabbed Jason’s hair, stopping his body from lunging forward, and behind him, he heard the sound of Daniel’s jeans hitting the floor. He looked over his shoulder, and Daniel captured his mouth, kissing him passionately. He guided Jack’s free hand to his cock, letting him know that he was hard, too. Meanwhile, regardless of cock and kiss, Daniel’s punishing hand hit again. The pain was keener, hotter, and was followed with Daniel covering his skin with his hand.
It was almost a relief, but it was also maddening. As if Daniel was being gentle. Jack knew he wasn’t, and also knew that Daniel hadn’t hit him full force, either. It was down to Jack, not Daniel, to know what worked and what didn’t. This kink hadn’t been explored.
“One more,” Jack mouthed over Daniel’s lips, then kissed him harder.
Jason grabbed him by the back of his thighs, holding him firmly while he bobbed faster, sucking harder each time he backed out. Jack tightened his fingers in his lover’s black hair, preparing for—
The last slap hit both cheeks, and was lower, almost connecting with the skin of his sac. How the hell had Daniel known? How? Was it his empathic power? It didn’t matter. The slap was harsh, painful, and the moment that knife edge turned up the dopamine, Jack’s balls tightened, his cock swelled, and he came, jerking his hips into Jason’s mouth. Daniel’s kiss swallowed his loud moan, and both his lovers, his husbands, guided him through the ride of his life.
Okay, not the ride of his life, but it ranked up there. As he came down, he was surrounded by Daniel and Jason, who sandwiched him in a hug. Jack didn’t bother waiting for the afterglow to fade.
“Wonderful,” Jason answered.
Daniel smiled, nuzzling Jack again. “Don’t wait so long next time. You know we’ll do anything to get you off.”
Jack gave a breathy laugh. “Trouble is, I never know when I’m in the mood for it.”
“Well, when you are, say so,” Jason said, kissing him softly.
Jack nodded silently, hating that they’d soon separate. He was so very nearly tempted to drag his lovers back to bed and stay there the whole day. And just as he was about to do it, he groaned as his memory intruded. They had a party to hold later. They’d already sent invites.
“Shit,” he said.
“What?” Daniel and Jason asked.
Jack told them and both his lovers groaned in the same way he had. He was keenly aware of two erections, front and back, and didn’t want to walk away and leave them to finish, or not.
“Fuck it,” he said, taking their hands and leading them out of the bathroom. “We have hours of time.”
Jason’s brows shot up and he threw Daniel a surprised grin. “Hours?”
“What the hell,” Daniel said with a laugh, and with his eyes on Jason, he nodded at Jack—who didn’t see it. Jason smiled mischievously and joined Daniel as they suddenly lifted Jack off his feet and ran headlong into their brand new California King, falling onto him like lusty wolves.
Alarm & Wonder
Sam entered the briefing room first, tugging at the bottom of her field vest that fit snugly over her solid black uniform. Her teammates followed, plus Jason and his team. Hammond already stood at the head of the table.
“Welcome back, people,” he said. “Have a good holiday?” He received the usual answers, as well as the usual chagrin from Jack. “Never long enough, is it?”
“No, sir,” Jack replied, adding a grin.
“Everyone remain standing,” Hammond said, before the teams came around the table to sit down. Once he had everyone’s attention, he went on. “No need for a rebrief. Just check in at …” He checked his watch, and the others checked theirs. It was 0900. “What do you think, Jack. 1200?”
Jack nodded. “Did we get the boats?”
Hammond grinned and nodded toward the gateroom. “Packed on the new FREDs designed for them, and one awaits you. Let’s get to it.”
The teams entered the gateroom as the event horizon leveled out. Sam grabbed the FRED’s remote off the top of the machine. “Ready?” she asked Jack.
Jack grinned at her with mischief and was about to reply with the standard wisecrack when the hairs on the back of his neck prickled. He frowned. Why would he be getting a red alert? He glanced at Jason and Daniel to see if they had similar expressions on their faces but there was nothing. The only culprit would be the gate. Or rather, the other side of the gate.
“Weapons ready,” he ordered with a slightly raised voice while switching off the safety of his P90.
“What?” Jason asked, alarmed and looking around. Daniel did the same. “What’s up?”
“Okay, listen up,” he said, making sure he had Connor’s and Al’s attention. “I just got a red alert,” he said, pointing to the back of his neck. “Something’s wrong.”
“Gotcha,” Jason said immediately and without question. Everyone else did the same, trusting Jack’s keen intuition.
Jack looked up at the control room and made a circle in the air with a forefinger.
“What’s wrong, Colonel?” Hammond asked over the intercom.
Jack rubbed the back of his neck. “Hairs went up. Something’s off. I have no damn idea what.”
“Dr. Jackson, Colonel Coburn?” Hammond asked them. Daniel and Jason both shook their heads, so Hammond returned his gaze to Jack. “Any specific intuition or just in general?”
Jack narrowed his eyes and focused his senses inward. He could detect nothing but a general tingling that was fading. “Nothing specific, sir,” he answered.
Hammond pressed his lips together, thinking, and tilted his head for Jack to come into the control room. Jack nodded and went up.
“How do you want to proceed?” Hammond asked, worry in his eyes.
Jack sighed and looked at the FRED for a long second. “We’ll take the FRED. I wish we could keep the gate connection until I’ve cleared the area on the other side, but SG-4 is due to check in soon.”
Hammond nodded. “In ten minutes. I wish we had a MALP or a Tok’ra security camera to send through first, but they’re all in use.”
Jack nodded. “We’ll be careful.”
“God speed,” Hammond said.
Back in the gateroom, Daniel watched Jack as he returned. “We heading out?”
“Yep. Everyone keep your weapons up.”
“What’s going on?” Daniel asked. “What’d you sense?”
Jack shook his head. “I have no goddamn idea. I just got my hackles up for some reason. Jason, take our six. Teal’c, take point.”
The usual chatter disappeared as everyone readied for possible combat and exchanged looks with each other as they walked up the ramp and through the gate.
By the time Jason went through the gate, he had formulated several scenarios while remembering the landscape and where there would possibly be enemy fire. When he emerged on the other side, he took a step and a half before running into Alex.
“Goddammit, Alex, move your …” In front of him, everyone was frozen in shock, looking at their surroundings. “What the hell is going on?” he asked slowly.
The first things that captured his attention were the colors of blue and green. The gate stood in a field of grass. Several yards to the northwest of the gate was an immense, sloped tunnel structure that disappeared underground the further in you went. It seemed to be made of blue-green crystal, but it was smoothly polished. Within it, it was pitch black, so perhaps the crystal refracted sunlight. Ahead of the gate were sprawling lawns of green, sparsely populated with bushes. Perhaps a mile straight ahead of them sat a set of buildings made of crystal and shaped like teardrops. They were immense, at least fifteen to twenty times larger than the tunnel, and of varying shapes, but with tall towers behind them. There were four groups, with each group containing three. They looked like elongated teardrops. Like the shorter, fatter buildings, sunlight refracted in brilliant swashes. There wasn’t an obvious ingress. Behind those buildings was what looked like a large forest, and beyond that, a long range of snow-capped mountains.
Turning around, Jason beheld the scene behind the gate. A single building teardrop-shaped building sat northwest and beyond it, another set of sprawling green lawns. Unlike the straight upright towers, it was twisted, like a flame. Beyond it sat an ocean, with a smudge of grey-blue mountains that disappeared to the right. In the sky, perhaps a third of the way from horizon to horizon, there were twin moons, faded by the sunlight that crossed directly overhead.
He turned back to the massive teardrop buildings. “Wow.”
“Wow is right,” Daniel breathed, taking it all in. Missing DHD aside, this place was beautiful and awe-inspiring. He said a silent prayer that it would stay that way.
“Where are we?” Alex asked.
“No fucking idea,” Jack growled, then keyed his mic to talk to the SGC. “Arrived safe, General. No enemy fire or apparent danger.”
“Good to hear, SG-1,” Hammond replied. “Was your intuition a false alarm?”
“Negative, General, it was spot on. Just not for a life-threatening situation,” Jack said, eyes large, scanning everything in front and behind. “The problem is that we gated somewhere else.”
“Explain that again?” Hammond asked.
Jack shrugged as he looked at Sam and lifted his chin at her radio mic. She nodded and pressed her mic button. “Carter, sir. The gate transported us elsewhere on the planet. There’s no way it would have taken us to a new planet.”
“That you know of,” Hammond corrected.
“Yes, sir. But I’ll be running a scan on the gate’s crystals.” She nodded to Jack to take over the conversation.
“I don’t have to tell you to proceed with caution.”
“No, sir,” Jack answered. “We’ll contact you in one hour instead of three.”
“Confirmed, SG-1. One hour. SGC out.”
During the conversation, Daniel had been nearly overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. And naturally, he wanted to check out the home symbol of the planet. Except he couldn’t, and he sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Dammit. Jack, we’ve got another problem.”
“Great,” Jack said sarcastically. “What?”
Daniel kept the bridge of his nose pinched and closed his eyes, not wanting to see Jack’s expression change to anger. “No DHD.”
“What!?” Sam said, quickly turning in a circle, scanning the area.
“Wasn’t there one at the other place?” Jack asked Sam.
“Yes, sir, there was!”
“Fuck,” Jason growled. “Why the hell wouldn’t they bring it here with the gate?”
“What was that?” Alex asked.
“Well it’s obvious that someone moved the gate. So why the hell didn’t they bring the DHD?”
Sam pursed her lips. “Maybe it’s different, maybe cloaked.”
“How’s that?” Jack asked her.
“If they changed the location of the gate, perhaps they’ve hidden the DHD.”
“So, on purpose,” Jack gestured with a pinched face.
“Maybe,” Daniel said. “Let’s not jump to conclusions, Jack. We’ve been burned when we’ve done that in the past.”
“True,” Jack said, “but this situation almost begs to jump to a bad conclusion, Daniel.”
Daniel shrugged, accepting that Jack had a point.
“Gotta find an energy source,” Al said.
Teal’c pursed his lips. “Indeed, but not here. General Hammond will contact us when we do not check in. At that time, we will need him to send us a generator.”
Sam agreed with a nod.
“In the meantime,” Jack said, turning around and making a broad swipe of his arm. “Let’s see if we can find whoever lives here.”
Jason dropped to one knee and tapped the gate platform surface with a knuckle. “Feels like … glass?”
Daniel copied him. “Quartz, I think. It has the right sound.”
“But it’s finely polished,” Sam said, heading to the gate’s left side. “And that’s kinda hard to do on this epic of a scale.” She gestured at the buildings. “Epic.” She knelt at the base of the gate and opened the drawer with the crystals inside. She removed one and looked at it, holding it up to the sun. “Looks fine.” She gestured at the platform. She tested the next of twelve small cylindrical crystals. “In my opinion, the gate crystals aren’t made of the same material.”
“You may be correct, Colonel Carter,” Teal’c said, frowning at the building behind them. “I have never seen this type of quartz. It most resembles an ice glacier.”
“Oh yeah,” Daniel said, peering over, then over his shoulder at the other buildings. “Weird.”
“But beautiful,” Jason said, walking over to the tunnel.
“Yeah,” Daniel answered.
“Careful,” Jack called over to his black-haired lover, then grinned when Jason gave him a look over his shoulder.
Jason took out his flashlight, then gestured at the crystal buildings. “That’s a ways off. We might find our answers if we use this tunnel.”
Jack took a few steps to the side to see what Jason was looking at. “No light.”
“That we can see,” Jason said, stepping onto the half-moon lip of the tunnel’s entrance. He shone a light into the dark and frowned. He couldn’t see more than a few yards. “Dammit.” He took out his sunglasses and peered again, then took a cautious step.
“Jason,” Jack warned.
Jason rolled his eyes and sighed. “Okay, I hear you, but hello? Leader here, with years of experience. Stop mothering.”
Jack frowned at him and pointed at the gate and the ground. “Hello? Not where we were last time.”
Jason nodded. “Okay, then you come over here and help me look for any mechanisms that would light up the darkness. It’d have to have some sort of illumination. Flashlights or headlights would be a pain in the ass.”
“Maybe, but I’m not so sure about going in.”
Jason pointed his flashlight at the distant buildings. “Wanna walk there instead? Looks about a mile.”
“And the tunnel could be miles long,” Jack argued.
“Good god, you two,” Daniel said, stepping between them to get their attention. “You’re both right. We need to decide which direction we’re going. But I’m not thrilled with the idea of leaving one or two people here when Hammond calls.”
Jack nodded and looked at Carter when she returned from examining the crystals. “Give Jason a hand and look for a light switch.” As she nodded and walked over, Jack quickly added, “No going in, Carter.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, her back to Jack, but she made a face that made Jason smile.
He winked at her, then pointed at the tunnel’s material. “Glossed, even on the inside.”
Sam directed her flashlight at the ceiling. “Interesting. Maybe it’s for reinforcement.”
“Could be,” he said, scanning the floor for a seam but found none. “This lip seems to be part of the floor of the tunnel.” He shone the light inside again, and took another step, passing the edges of the entrance.
Meanwhile, Sam investigated each side of the tunnel along the floor and found no drawers or buttons to push. “Hmmm,” she said absently. “Nothing out here. Yet.”
“Yet,” Jason said absently, scanning the ceiling again. “Gotta be something…”
Daniel and the others walked around the tunnel, looking for anything that might be worth examining, while Jack stayed put a few yards away from the front.
Jason took off his sunglasses, pushing them up on his head. “Hey,” he said casually. “There’s a cross seam in the ceiling. Maybe a quarter-inch in width.”
“Really?” Sam asked, taking two steps into the tunnel to stand in front of Jason. She paired her flashlight with his. “Yeah, there is. Maybe it’s some sort of door that rolls back into the ceiling when it’s open.”
“Given the shape of this tunnel, that’d be one tricky door. How would it seal out the exterior?” He took half a step back to train his light on either side of the ceiling, looking for the edges.
Sam looked down the sides to the floor, then looked over her shoulder at Jack. “Sir, I think—“
At that moment, five grey-blue crystal panels spun outward from the sides, ceiling, and floor, and closed together in an almost exact copy of the SGC’s iris. Except once joined, the surface smoothed until it resembled a solid wall. The entire operation took less than two seconds.
Sam whirled, startled, as was Jack.
“Jason!” they both yelled with panic, and Jack ran forward to join her in looking for a way to open the wall back up.
“What happened?” Daniel asked, tearing around the corner and skidding to a halt.
“The damn door came out of nowhere between us and sealed him in!” Sam answered. She turned and looked at Daniel and held up her hands to about five inches apart. “We were that far apart, Daniel!”
At her words, Jack stopped searching and gave her a look, then Daniel. “This isn’t a coincidence. This was done on purpose. First, we’re gated here, now this. We’re being watched.”
“What the fuck!” Jason exclaimed, and hit the door with the end of his flashlight. The sound was a soft thud instead of the high-pitched ding of metal on metal. “Oh that’s not right,” he growled to himself. He keyed his mic. “Jack, come in.”
No answer. Not even static. Jason turned up the gain, but no reverb echo came with it. “Jack? Daniel? Sam? Alex?”
Jason turned, aiming his flashlight down the tunnel. He still couldn’t see more than a few yards. He sighed heavily. “Well, shit and sonofabitch.” He started walking, slowly following the easy descent. “Whoever you are,” he called out. “You fucked up! Badly!”
After five minutes, the ground levelled and began to turn right. “This better head toward those buildings,” he muttered. Several yards later, the turn straightened out. Jason took his time, hating the dark. He was reminded of the cave he’d trapped himself in back in New Mexico. He’d been exploring the empty homes of the Anasazi and while he hadn’t gotten trapped or injured, the deep recessed walkways in the high mesa had scared him. He wasn’t scared now, but the fear was nearly the same as his alarm: he had no idea where he was going. He’d hated that utter darkness ever since.
A few minutes passed, and the pitch black was clearing. Underneath the surface of the tunnel, circles of white light began to appear along the roof and sides, as if someone was turning up a dimmer switch. As he walked, the lights appeared at five yard intervals. Soon he could see about a hundred feet ahead, well enough to prepare himself if anyone or anything came at him.
Minutes later, the walls began to change in appearance, showing more of the crystalline waves seen on the far buildings. He paused here and there to run a hand along the surface, sure that he would find texture, but they retained their smoothness.
“Mind sharing how you did this?” he asked out loud. “Not that we don’t have polished surfaces of granite, marble, glass, and the like, but crystal? I don’t think so.”
Suddenly another door formed, cutting him off, and a long oval shape was simply faded from the wall on his right. He scowled. “Great. I take it I’m supposed to go this way.” The new doorway didn’t reach the floor, so he had to step over the threshold. Once done, another hallway was illuminated for him by the same sub-surface lights. He tried his mic again, and still it couldn’t transmit. The crystal was somehow deflecting radio waves. That would be something else worth learning about.
Providing they had a chance, he reminded himself. Is trapping him in here a hostile act? Or did he just inadvertently trip some mechanism? Damn lucky he wasn’t standing directly under that seam. Sam too. He visualized the freak accident and grimaced. That was something Jack and Daniel would have had to see, and the thought made him grimace again. It’s his own damn fault, too. He’d dismissed Jack’s warnings. Then to die like that? Better to die of old age with Daniel and Jack as his husbands. Once upon a time, he’d gone by that old cliché about dying with your boots on, dying in battle, etc., etc., ad nauseam. Now that he had Jack and Daniel, he no longer wanted that. Maybe they could find a way to live forever.
Jason grinned at the silly thought and at his own woolgathering as he walked down an alien tunnel. “Pay attention, dumbass, or something will be behind you and you won’t hear it coming.” Jason grinned, knowing he’d just jinxed himself by saying it out loud. Prickly shivers appeared between his shoulders and he growled at himself, then looked over his shoulder. Nothing, of course. With a sigh, he went on, hoping that the tunnel just looked longer than it really was.
“Okay, what now?” Alex asked after the search for a tunnel door mechanism revealed nothing.
“We figure out who did this, I think,” Daniel said dryly.
“How’s that?” Jack asked. “It’s not like there’s a sign.”
Daniel snorted and gave Jack a wry grin. “Look around, Jack. There are signs everywhere. We just don’t know which one to start with.”
“Daniel, start with that,” Sam said, indicating the top of the tunnel where a triple spiral was inlaid into the glassy surface. She then pointed to the gate’s platform, areas of the sprawling grassy lawns, and one faint design on the biggest of the crystalline buildings.
Daniel stared, his gaze moving from one spiral to another. The frown on his face intensified into a scowl. Why had he overlooked the most obvious clue? He wouldn’t have, his mind answered. Which meant … someone or something had purposely steered his mind elsewhere. And his empathic sense wouldn’t have picked up on it. He turned to Jack and expressed his thoughts aloud.
“You’re sure you didn’t just overlook it?” Jack asked, already knowing the answer. When Daniel just gave him a look, he nodded and put up a hand. “Okay. So if something redirected your attention, then it must be because those spiral shapes are a major clue.”
“Possibly,” Daniel said, but shook his head. “Just doesn’t feel right. The redirection, I mean.”
“Why?” Teal’c asked.
“Because I recognize the symbols.” He pointed at the spirals with a broad swash of his hand. “They’re a common design on Earth among Neolithic monuments like Newgrange.”
“I thought they looked familiar,” Connor said.
“Neolithic monuments,” Jack repeated. “You mean like that old mound that marks the Winter Solstice?” Jack asked.
“Newgrange,” Daniel nodded. “That triple spiral symbol is repeated all over the stones in front of it. Which means the people of this planet either built it, or influenced those who did.”
“How old it?” Sam asked. “Newgrange, I mean.”
“The Neolithic era is more commonly known as the Stone Age,” Daniel explained. “Over 5,000 years, around 3600 BCE.”
“What?” Jack asked in surprise. “That long ago? I thought it was maybe 2,000 years old.”
“Stone Age, Jack,” Daniel grinned at him. “Mesopotamia time frame.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Right.”
“It’s important, this time frame,” Daniel went on. “This symbol doesn’t appear any earlier than the Neolithic. It was considered a Celtic symbol, but that’s inaccurate, given the time frame.”
“Why?” Alex asked.
“Because the Gaelic-speaking Celts didn’t arrive in Ireland and Great Britain for another thousand years.”
Jack opened his mouth to say something, but closed it and frowned. After a long second, he asked, “So what do these symbols tell you?”
“That we’re dealing with something mythic,” Daniel answered.
“Okay,” Jack accepted. “Go on and speculate.”
Daniel gave him a dry look. “Okay. I’ll try to be brief.”
Jack waved at him and leaned against one edge of the tunnel’s mouth. “Knock yourself out.”
Daniel knew better. He’d have to distill that mythic history. “Okay, Ireland’s ancient myths start with a series of five invasions. The first of these were the Tuatha de Danann. And in my opinion, the next two invasions were just additional arrivals. Then another race, the Fomor, arrived and they warred with the Tuatha for ownership of the land.”
“What did the natives think of the Tua … ?” Sam asked, unable to pronounce the name.
“Tuatha,” Daniel said, pronouncing it two-ay. “The Tuatha arrived as friends and replaced swaths of forested brambles with immense fields of green. Now the Irish had places to raise their sheep and cattle. So they interacted with the Tuatha, but the aliens were treated like gods because they used magic. However, stories suggest that the Tuatha didn’t demand they be worshipped. They merely wanted to exist alongside the Irish.”
Jack smirked at him. “You buy that?”
“More or less,” Daniel nodded. “The stories don’t have them behaving like Goa’uld, which the Fomor may or may not have been.”
“No, I meant that they’re magical,” Jack clarified.
“Oh, right,” Daniel said, and pulled his cellphone out of his pocket. “Take this, for example. This would be considered a magical tool to people 5,000 years ago. On the other hand, the myths mention types of magic that we modern humans would still consider magic. Like shapeshifting, body part replacement, super strength, speed, telepathy, telekinesis–“
“Okay, okay,” Jack interrupted. “I get it. Is any of that useful at the moment?”
Daniel shook his head, unbothered. “Not until we meet the people who live here.”
Jack turned to the entrance of the tunnel. “Well, I hate to be an asshole, Daniel, but we need to find Jason. I’m not partial to meeting these people until we get him back, so I’m blowing this entrance and going after him.”
Daniel made a face, but he nodded agreement anyway. They could, instead, head toward the buildings in the distance, try to contact the inhabitants. His scientist mind also hated the idea of destroying an alien door. However, if they found nothing at the buildings, then the time it took to walk there and back would be time wasted. Jason was missing, he told himself. Blow the damn door.
A small block of C4 was affixed to the structure’s panel door and after setting the charge, the teams moved away. Jack flicked the switch and the C4 exploded with a deep hollow sound instead of the usual higher pitched one. As soon as the smoke thinned, they found that the door was slightly scorched, but that was it. The C4 had done nothing.
“Fuck,” Jack muttered.
“Now what?” Daniel grumbled back.
Jack growled, audibly. “We stay here till Hammond checks in. After that, we’re heading for those buildings to demand answers.”
“You mean kick ass and take names,” Daniel said, trying to lighten Jack’s scowl.
“Whatever works,” Jack said, raising his P90, then he took a step and kicked a fist-sized stone at the door. The sound of impact, hollow and inaccessible, only made him madder.
Don’t Mess Around With Him
After ten more minutes of walking, Jason’s anger began to rise. He’d have to be very, very careful not to let it dominate. At the same time, it wouldn’t be wise to piss him off, either.
He sighed heavily and stopped, rubbing his eyes with thumb and forefinger. “You’re pissing me off,” he warned loudly, eyes closed.
He tipped his head back, moved it side to side to work his tense muscles, then opened his eyes and continued down the hall. About twenty yards further, he spotted a change in the floor and walls. It looked like a threshold, though pointless since it obviously didn’t lead anywhere new. “Pissing me off,” he muttered and approached the threshold. Stopping a few feet away, he looked at the slight rise in the floor, three inches wide. The walls at that spot seemed just a bit paler. Jason was certain this break in the monotonous hallway hadn’t been there before.
So he was being monitored. Why? Well, the why would be obvious, he was an alien. But he and the others had been invited here, given the change of the stargate’s location. For good or ill, time would reveal, and perhaps for him, it started here. He took a page from his Zen teaching, breathed in deeply, then centered his mind and reached his gloved hand out to touch the line in the wall on his right.
The wall felt warm to his fingertips, even through the leather, but just in case the wall was warm in general, he slid his fingers off the line. It was cold.
“Hmm,” he harrumphed. “And the point is?” he asked the silence.
Jason finally got a reaction to his questions. The line in the wall that led to the bump in the floor widened in front of him, stopping after fifteen seconds, then the tunnel beyond disappeared as a door, or wall, materialized in front of him. A hum began as a circular golden yellow light appeared on the right side, halfway down the door, then stretched and narrowed until it became an ornate solid gold handle. A door knob.
“Great,” Jason scowled. “Alice in fucking Wonderland. Might as well put a little ornate tag on the door that reads, ’Push Me.’ Ha, ha, ha, not happening.” He paused, then added more loudly, “Tag or not, I’m not Alice.” He adjusted his weapon, flicking on the safety. “And threat or not, I’m not taking the first shot, nor am I going to open this door until you show me that it doesn’t contain a needle in the handle that will poison me.” He snorted to himself, wondering why he’d suddenly flashed on the book, The Princess Bride. “I’m no princess, either,” he muttered under his breath.
Minutes passed and nothing happened, but Jason wasn’t going to be fooled. If they were testing his patience, they’d do nothing and force him to open the door just to continue on. He wasn’t falling for it. He’d been in this sort of situation many times. It only took the first mistake to make him tread more carefully.
With a sigh of disgust, he leaned against the right wall and crossed his arms over his weapon. “Well, as Kirk said, ‘So what do we do? Just … talk it over?’
Silence. And more silence. “I can wait it out,” he said gruffly, and he needed to work out what he could learn about these people. He thought of all the times Daniel had been on missions where the aliens had been suspicious of them. Some of them had been wary simply by Teal’c’s presence. A Jaffa with humans. Should he tell these aliens that Teal’c wasn’t working for the Goa’uld, and neither were they?
It should be obvious. Jaffa who were slaves to the Goa’uld never wore another race’s military uniform. Jason and the others were also humans, from Earth. Their language wouldn’t be familiar, unless the aliens had been keeping an eye on Earth. They’d certainly been there before. Those triple spirals on the gate platform and tunnel roof were familiar and given the style of the spirals, the likelihood that another race drew the exact same shape was highly unlikely. Not without inspiration, that is.
So what did all this mean? Jason had to look at all the obvious facts and extrapolate from there.
Fact one: Their arrival had sparked curiosity. Why else move the stargate?
Fact two: That empty town must be some sort of “tourist” show. For what? To fool people like the Goa’uld? That would only work if the Goa’uld came through the gate and not by ship. Unless these aliens had cloaking technology, a ship would detect their existence.
Fact three: the real city—presuming it was real—looked like polished quartz crystal. It reminded him of the Tok’ra’s crystal building technology, only far more advanced.
Fact four: Whoever these aliens were, they weren’t pacifists like other advanced aliens they’d met. The Nox, for example. They’d made the first move, by moving the stargate. Then they’d made their second move by trapping him in the tunnel.
Fact five: They weren’t aggressive, or he’d be dead or in a cell somewhere.
Fact six: They weren’t aggressive so far.
Fact seven: Kidnapping him was a hostile act.
Fact seven: Jack, Daniel, and the others would try to get to him, one way or another.
Fact eight: He’d seen these triple spirals before, at Newgrange, in Ireland.
Fact nine: Carbon dating Newgrange said it was built over 5,000 years ago. Those triple spiral designs etched into the stonework outside the entrance of Newgrange were the same age.
Fact ten: The Celts had migrated across Europe less than 3,500 years ago. That meant that Newgrange and its designs weren’t Celtic, despite society or lazy historians who labeled them that way.
Fact eleven: The spirals here were exactly the same.
So, given all these facts, what was the hypothesis?
The people who lived here either knew the builders of Newgrange or they were the builders of Newgrange. Jason only remembered the name: Tuatha de Danann. Or rather, that was the name they were given. People of the Goddess Danu was one interpretation of the name, but the Tuatha were also known as The People Who Came From The Sea or The People Who Came From Under The Sea.
Aware that all mythologies and old, old stories, tended to use metaphors, sea could have been the name for outer space. It all depended on the perspective of the indigenous people of Ireland 5,000 years ago, and since they had been a people who didn’t employ writing outside the Ogham, there was simply no way to know for sure.
Unless the aliens of this planet could change that.
Secondary hypothesis: Why would an advanced race bring them to this spot on the planet and thus trap the first person who entered the tunnel?
To satisfy their curiosity, to get answers. Obviously. Still, that sort of behavior was odd. The only thing it revealed was that these aliens were curious, but highly secretive and cautious. Hopefully, not because they were guilt-ridden dickheads like the Tollan.
So, now that he’d gone through the mental data, he was ready to meet these people. All he had to do was wait. Sigh.
. . .
Tara wrinkled her golden brow, finding the alien curious and amusing. He wasn’t stupid, like so many others. She plucked a crystal rod from the console in front of her, stuck it in the left pocket of her old deerskin jerkin, and inserted a new crystal for recording. The console hummed slightly as the recording began anew. Tara adjusted the angle of the holoscreen, which hovered a few feet above the back of the console. There were two other holoscreens, smaller in size, which displayed the areas around the stargate and the Harvest Tunnel.
The console’s hum faded, and a bright green circle lit around the inserted crystal rod. Tara touched glyph-inscribed circular buttons, displayed like a half-circle keyboard with the bow at the top. She typed for a few seconds and another holoscreen appeared to the left of the stargate screen. A live image of the “Greek” location appeared: The scene was quiet, and Tara expected it to be since the stargate was no longer anchored there. She touched a button and the holoscreen disappeared in a fade.
The hum of a door opening broke the silence of the security room and she grinned to herself, not bothering to look. Ghanni came by more and more, very interested in these aliens. She cleared her throat needlessly and mentally corrected ‘Ghanni’ to Queen Morrighan.
“You’re smiling,” Morrighan said as she stopped at Tara’s left.
“You’re becoming predictable, Sovereign,” Tara said, and slipped the crystal from her pocket to hold it up. The Queen took it by the narrow, slanted tip.
“Tell anyone and I will send you to ice cave to gather spires.”
Tara giggled and jerked her head slightly at the stool to her right. “Have a seat. I was just determining when to open the door for him.”
“Waiting, huh? Interesting.” The Queen slid the stool to her side and sat down. “How long?”
“Just over an hour.”
Morrighan lifted a mahogany brow. “That long? And he hasn’t even tried the door handle?”
“No, ma’am. He’s extremely wary of it. In his language, he made a reference to poison.”
Morrighan stared at the live image of Jason and frowned. “Poison.”
“Yes,” Tara nodded. “Apparently he’s used to traps.”
“That part of the galaxy has been busy,” Morrighan said, pursing her lips with discontent. She dismissed the emotion and leaned forward, elbows resting on her knees. She waved a finger at the Harvest Tunnel screen. “How have these been doing?”
Tara grinned. “An hour ago, they attempted what everyone else who gets this far has attempted.”
“Tried to destroy the weather shield?”
Tara nodded, then their attention was suddenly drawn to the stargate screen as it connected a wormhole. The humans moved toward the gate and the tall man with pale skin spoke to an antenna device on the wheeled trolley they’d brought with them.
“Interesting,” Morrighan said absently. “Volume please.”
. . .
Jack whipped around as the gate connected. He wasn’t looking forward to telling Hammond about the kidnapping but the General already knew something was wrong since SG-1 hadn’t called in.
“Sierra Golf One, come in please.”
Jack walked to the FRED and turned on the camera. “O’Neill, sir. Apologies on not checking in. The gate changed its location.”
Jack looked at Daniel as he walked over in front of him, and as if on cue, everyone else gathered into a loose circle. “We gated to a different location on this planet, sir,” and he stepped aside slightly so that the camera could catch the grassland and distant buildings. “There’s a solo building nearby, shaped sort of like a Quonset hut.” He paused.
“You look like you have bad news, Colonel. Spit it out.”
Jack sighed. “The Quonset Hut was open and looked like a tunnel that disappeared underground. Coburn was investigating, along with Carter, and at some point, a door of some kind cut him off and trapped him inside. We can’t reach him. C4 was attempted with no positive result.”
“I see.” Hammond paused. “Is there something else?”
Jack gave the camera a look of chagrin. “There’s no DHD here, sir. That’s the reason we didn’t check in on time.”
“Then you’ll be needing a naquada generator.”
“Already on it. What’s your next move?”
“To go to those buildings in the distance, sir, and demand answers.”
“I concur. I don’t think that door came down and trapped Coburn by accident, Colonel.”
“Agreed, sir. And Coburn is a professional with long experience, so I suspect he’s attempting to find a solution as well. If I were him, I’d be following the tunnels until I met whoever lives here.”
“Let’s hope they’re peaceful, Colonel. Even though trapping Coburn would be considered a hostile act, we’re the invaders here. Tread lightly, Jack.”
“Understood, sir.” A naquada generator appeared through the gate, resting on a wheeled dolly. “Received the generator, sir.” He looked at Carter as she examined it quickly.
“Seems to be in good shape, sir.”
“General, the generator came through five-by-five.”
“Excellent. Continue to investigate, Colonel. We’ll contact you in three hours.”
“Very good, sir. SG-1 out.”
The stargate shut down and Jack sighed. “Well, let’s go. Alex, bring the FRED. Carter, bring the generator. We’re leaving nothing here unguarded and we can’t spare guards. We all go.”
As the two teams headed toward the distant city, Daniel said in a low voice, “You think he’s okay?”
Jack glanced at him obliquely. “Yeah. You worried he isn’t?”
“Can’t help it.”
“Yeah,” Jack drawled, then ground his jaws. “He’d better be is all I can say.”
Jason glanced at his watch for the third time when the door to his right hummed. He stood up straight and backed away a few feet. The door handle brightened, then glowed like an ember before the entire door disappeared. Light spilled into the hallway, showing a spacious room apparently made of semi-transparent crystal. There were few hard angles that Jason could see. Like the teardrop buildings, except for their pointed apexes.
Jason breathed in, then walked past the threshold and stopped a foot in. Behind him the door dematerialized, and he found himself in the center of an expansive room made of smoothed crystal. The floor was the only straight plane. Everything else had carved and polished surfaces, including the walls. All corners were rounded. A closed doorway across the room was oval-shaped. Far above him, the ceiling ascended and closed to a point, like the teardrop.
Furniture in the room looked crystalline, but the coloring more resembled opals or oyster shell. There was a large desk to his left, with three chairs that sat before it. A high-backed executive chair was pulled away from the desk, and there were a dozen or so chairs along the wall behind it. To Jason’s right, a benched fountain sat with water pouring from the mouth of an animal that resembled a dolphin and cascaded over carved rocks to settle into a circular pool. All the edges were smoothed.
The oval-shaped door across the room hummed and split in two, each door sliding into its corresponding wall. Through the door came two women who looked human.
The first thing Jason noticed was a scent. It smelled like a flower after a fresh rain, and he couldn’t pin down the type of scent until the women drew closer. Was it … rose? How did they have roses here? Or was the rose actually a more universal flower? Bits of his anthropological education argued that, but he set them aside. As seconds passed, he was more and more certain that he did indeed detect the fragrance of roses, and with it, the underlying scent of a fresh rain.
Both women were tall with pale, even luminous, skin. One was clearly taller than Jack’s height at 6’2”, and she had deep auburn-brown hair that was caught up in a type of fan comb at the back of her head, but its length was left to hang like a ponytail. She wore an intricate silver circlet over her brow, and attached to either side were long silver strands that hung in long loops before fastening to the shell of her ears. From her earlobes dangled a long line of tiny teardrop gems that, from his distance, resembled fire opals.
She wore a blue silkish tunic with a design similar to batik. It draped down her hips in a handkerchiefed hem, with long sleeves that ended in a point over her hands. The tunic’s V-neck plunged only enough to show off a hint of cleavage. Beneath it, there appeared nothing else. She wore jeweled, silken pants that resembled capris, which ended at the top of her calves. From there, delicate silver chains latticed over her legs and rested in a drape over the top of her feet. She wore a type of shoeless sole that had no apparent means to keep them attached to her feet, and they were a kind of Caribbean blue. In Jason’s estimation, the circlet she wore indicated that she was royalty of some sort.
The other woman was perhaps 5’11”, had golden-honey blonde hair, arranged in a similar upswept ponytail, but the circlet across her brow was less intricately adorned. It looked like bronze, with etched spirals worked into it, and it didn’t have the draping chains attached to her ears. She too wore earrings, but they only held a single, small dark blue gem. Her clothing matched, with the colors of bronze for her tunic and capris, but her calves were latticed with leather instead of metal. Her shoe-less soles were the also the color of bronze.
As the two women drew closer, Jason was both startled and fascinated by their eyes. They weren’t a typical overall color, but a blending of many. The auburn woman’s eyes were colored like a rainbow wheel. He could see blue, green, gold, and purple. The blonde’s eyes were amber and blue-green. Both women wore eye makeup, with lashes that were extravagantly long and brown-black. The eyelids of the taller woman were a very flattering mix of color. On her lids, she wore an intriguing blend of lavenders that changed to brilliant green under the brows. The blonde’s colors were green lids blending to pale blue under her brows. As a whole, the effect was certainly beautiful.
As they came closer, the last aspect of their appearance came into view: their skin color also had blends of color. The faces and inner arms were a very, very pale lavender, that blended to peach on the throat and inner arms. Jason figured the same would be true for their legs. The fronts looked lavender. The most interesting part of all of it was this reflection of tiny sparkles, as if ground gems had been brushed finely over the skin. Jason wondered if it was normal or powdered; if powdered, it was everywhere. Regardless, every bit of exposed skin, apart from the blush on cheeks and lips, sparkled like the glamour fairy dust back home. The closer he got to them, the surer he became that they weren’t wearing any “makeup” at all. The colors looked too embedded to be applied cosmetics.
The women wore pleasant smiles that didn’t reach their eyes. There was mischief in those multi-colored orbs, and a generous amount of caution. Jason could certainly understand the need. He looked over his shoulders, wondering why there weren’t any guards or military men. Certainly a place as grand as this had security.
“We are alone,” said the blonde woman and her accent was a bit heavy and its source was unidentifiable. Made sense.
“Okay,” Jason said, and crossed his arms. “Why am I here?”
“That is our question,” said the auburn-haired woman with a touch of attitude. “My name is Morrighan. This is Tara. Do you know where you are? What planet you have come to?”
Jason shook his head. “We’re explorers. We just head out and explore.” He thumbed behind him. “Nice set up you have back at that deserted town. I’d move the sarc up to the main floor, though.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Morrighan said dryly.
“Is it the habit of explorers to be in military uniform and armed?” asked Tara.
“Self-preservation,” Jason answered. “Why bring us here on our second trip?”
“Because you are obviously from Earth,” said Morrighan. “And you travel with a Jaffa who wears your clothing. Are you his master?”
Jason shook his head. “He’s a member of one of our two teams. He left the Goa’uld a long time ago and started a revolution of free Jaffa.”
Tara snorted and spoke sarcastically, with heavy doubt in her tone. “That’ll take a while.”
“Not as long as you seem to think,” Jason answered in the same tone.
Morrighan raised her chin, considering his words, but she looked at Tara before the woman spoke and Tara remained quiet. The Queen said nothing, letting the room fill with a tense silence. Jason wanted to ask questions, but it seemed Morrighan was waiting for something.
“Your name,” she finally asked. “I’ve been waiting. Your Earth manners and protocols seem to be suffering.”
Jason blinked at her, surprised. What did she know about Earth? But that aside, she also seemed to be looking for ways to trip him up. Certainly, aliens had a tendency to stick to polite protocols over straight talk, and it seemed that these people were no different. Jason wondered if perhaps the aliens had a point. No, he decided. Not here. He’d been ostensibly kidnapped. Any attempt to make him feel like an asshole for not being polite would not work.
“Manners and protocols suffer when acts of hostile intent are present,” he answered.
Morrighan showed the hint of a smile. “So they do. My apologies. What is your name?”
“Lieutenant Colonel Jason Coburn,” he said. “United State Air Force, Stargate Command, Earth.”
Tara snorted. “Meaningless to us, using such a long title. A single name would suffice.”
“If this were a formal occasion, how would you be addressed?” Tara continued.
“Colonel Coburn. How do you know Earth?”
“Now is not the time for questions,” Morrighan said crisply. “You are the visitors, and we were not expecting you. Therefore, you were not invited and as such need to be cleared before you will get any answers.”
“I see,” Jason said slowly, frowning. Morrighan was speaking like a leader talking to someone of lower rank. Except she didn’t look military. “How do I address you?” he asked, since that was one way to find out who she was.
Morrighan smiled at him, impressed by his verbal sword work. “How did I introduce myself and my companion?”
“Evasions and games,” Jason said, abruptly filled with disgust. “I withdraw my question.” He took in a deep breath and stared back and forth between Morrighan and Tara. The women exchanged looks and Tara jogged her eyebrows. Morrighan tipped her head, indicating the desk, and without looking at Tara for an answer, walked across the room to the large desk. Her hair swished with her movements, and Jason noted that it was longer than he’d thought. The narrowing tip ended in a curl that bounced against the small of her back as she walked. She passed her fingertips over the desk surface as she sat down behind it, then pointed at the chairs sitting in front. Tara gestured at Jason to sit. He wasn’t in the mood to cooperate, but he was also out of his depth here. He didn’t know how these people would react to repeated stubbornness and lack of cooperation. However, cooperation ran both ways.
Jason followed Tara, taking a moment to examine the chairs. They were high-backed with plush, upholstered seats and backs. The legs curved like the lion legs of those old French styles. What was it named? Cabriole, that was it. Jason filed it away again in his crow’s nest of a brain.
He sat down slowly, matching Tara’s movement. He was only a few feet away from her now and it was a little too intimate for him at this stage of the game. He crossed his arms again, knowing that would silently let his captors know he was unwilling to be here, never mind sitting. What he had to do was try to take them off their game, if that was possible.
“You certainly don’t act like any royalty I’ve met,” he said to Morrighan. He was rewarded with a startled exchange of looks between the women. “I’m used to being threatened by guards and interrogators, then when in front of royalty, there are intermediaries standing between us to protect you.” He purposely let out a laugh. “And I’m never invited to sit in a chair like this, with my wrists unbound.” He raised his hands in a mimic of handcuffs. He didn’t get an immediate reaction and dropped his hands to his knees, ready to push up in a hurry. “Want me to keep chatting?”
Silence. The women looked at each other, conversing in a silent language. Either they knew each other that well, or … more likely, given the circumstance…
“Telepathic communication?” he asked, getting another startled reaction. He grinned to himself, not showing outwardly. “I’m not telepathic, and glad of that, but I have a heightened intuition, a sense of when things are bad or when I’m threatened. I don’t feel that here. I’m rather pissed off at you for your methods of learning about strangers you invite here, but even so, I don’t feel threatened.” He paused, giving them time to answer him. But they just stared at him. “Okay, now you’re just being creepy,” he said, frowning.
Morrighan rested her forearms on the desk and clasped her fingers together. “You have an ability not inherent in humans. Where did you get it?”
Jason’s warning system went up, but it wasn’t a sense of danger, it was his anger rising. “Tit for tat, lady,” he said, being purposely rude.
“It’s fascinating,” Tara said to Morrighan while looking at Jason. Like a bug in a Petrie dish. “To see how much language changes in over five thousand years.”
“Indeed,” Morrighan said, staring into Jason’s eyes and keeping his attention. “Although this language was not part of Eire’s island.”
“No, indeed not.”
Jason hid the frown he inwardly felt. Eire’s island. Morrighan had said that on purpose. Eire was the old name for Ireland. They had been in Ireland? Over 5,000 years ago? He immediately began to scan through his mind for ancient tales. The only thing he could remember was Newgrange, which was more than 5,000 years old. It was said that an ancient race of fairies would rise from the Sidhe mounds to defend Ireland during her greatest need. Thankfully that had never been necessary. At least not yet.
But Newgrange, and fairies. We’re these people connected? Wait. Morrigan. Morrighan. Wasn’t that the name of one of the System Lords? Except this lady was no Goa’uld and she wasn’t outfitted like a domme. Tara was hardly her slave, and Daniel had said that had been a male.
Jason decided to reveal a bit of information. Tit for tat, as he’d said himself. “Do you know who the Goa’uld are?”
Morrighan narrowed her eyes slightly. “We do.”
“Then you should know, Majesty, that—“
“Sovereign,” Tara corrected before she stopped herself. When Morrighan gave her a chiding look, Tara didn’t back down. “I’m tired of him not using your title. Respect needs to be shown.”
“Respect needs to be earned,” Jason snapped at her.
For the first time, Morrighan and Tara gave him genuine smiles of surprise. “Indeed it does,” Morrighan said. She gestured at him to speak more. “Please, finish. I need to know…?”
Jason relaxed slightly, liking these people more and more, despite not knowing them. Was it some sort of genetic memory? After all, Scots traded with the Irish that long ago, even though they’d been pre-Celtic Picts at the time.
“One of the System Lords is using your name, Sovereign.”
Suddenly, the temperature in the room plummeted. Jason was immediately startled into a defensive position as he jumped out of his chair, hand on his sidearm. His breath came out in visible wisps and that just intensified his alarm. But as a minute stretched to two, the temperature returned to warmth, if a little higher to heat the freezing air.
Morrighan sighed and stood up. “Please sit down,” she gestured as she began to slowly pace behind her desk. Only a few steps, back, forth.
Jason sat back down. “I’m sorry to have startled you with that news. We’re just used to the Goa’uld usurping myths from Earth for their own psychopathic needs, and I thought perhaps you already knew your name was being smeared.”
“Accepted. We know the Goa’uld,” Morrighan said. “Parasites who can’t invent anything of their own.”
“Yes,” Jason agreed, but was thinking of something else. “But are you aware of the revolution within their race?”
“Revolution?” Tara asked with a scowl. “Those people are too rigid for a revolution. Dissent is solved with death. Revolution doesn’t last that long.”
“I know,” Jason nodded. “But there’s an offshoot of the Goa’uld who prefer peaceful cooperation with chosen hosts. They will not take a host by force. They’re called the Tok’ra.”
“Tok’ra?” Morrighan said. “Against Ra?” She looked at Tara. “That animal who descended on the Egyptians and stole the name of their sun god.”
“It started with a snake named Egeria,” Jason went on, “who refused to rule by torture and oppression.”
“Huh,” Tara said, frowning as she traded looks with Morrighan. “Maybe that explains the contradictions they’ve demonstrated lately.”
“Lately?” Jason asked.
“By your time-keeping, a few thousand Earth years.”
Jason jogged his brows. “Well, lately, as in the last seventeen years, they’ve been in disarray due to infighting, thanks especially to a nasty piece of work named Anubis, who’d been kicked out as a System Lord and now he’s looking for payback.”
Morrighan scowled, baring her teeth. “Anubis. I would love to eat his heart.” At Jason’s upraised brow, she amended, “Figure of speech. I wouldn’t sully my blood with his.”
“Have a beef with Anubis?” Jason asked.
“The real Anubis was a healer, a helper and guide to the next life. That Goa’uld who’s taken his name needs to be eliminated.”
Jason froze. “Seriously?”
“You disapprove?” Tara asked, frowning.
“Hell no. We’d all be damn pleased by his death.” Jason paused. “Do you war with the Goa’uld often?”
Tara raised her chin. “Not often, and war isn’t the word I’d use. It’s more of …” She paused, then grinned at Jason. “What you would call, ‘an ass kicking’.”
Jason smiled. “I love you already.”
Tara snorted. “The Goa’uld are never able to enter our solar system, but we defend our allies whose numbers are too small to defend themselves properly.”
“How do you know of the Goa’uld?” Morrighan asked.
“Our stargate,” Jason said. “We went exploring, discovered them, and we’ve been at war with them ever since.”
“How exactly do you war?” Tara asked, surprised, and at Jason’s mildly offended expression, she amended, “No offense.”
Jason changed his expression, looking chagrinned. “None taken. We’re out of our league most of the time, but we don’t back down. We started by killing Ra.” At Morrighan’s and Tara’s shocked expressions, he added, ticking off on his fingers, “Then killed off as many as we could after that. So far, it’s Hathor, Seth, Apophis, Marduk. A few others, but I forget their names. The Goa’uld can’t attack our planet, thanks to a treaty with the Asgard.”
“The As—“ Tara started to say, once again surprised, but was silenced by Morrighan’s upraised hand. “How did you earn the Asgard’s aid? They have normally kept their distance.”
Jason smirked. “Apart from passing themselves off as Gods to some of our people.”
Morrighan rolled her eyes. “Still doing that, I see.”
“Yeah, except that Earth doesn’t worship them anymore. They moved on to others. Those old Norse gods are still respected though.”
“And you met them, impressed them … how?”
“We were helping people on another planet who worshipped the Asgard as gods. They were perhaps two thousand years behind us in technology and science. We felt a kinship and helped them when Heru’ur attacked. Daniel, one of our team members, figured out how to contact the Asgard and got their help. Specifically from an Asgardian named Thor. He showed up, destroyed their ships with his, but Heru’ur escaped through the stargate. Haven’t seen him since.”
“How long ago was that?” Morrighan asked.
“About sixteen years.”
Morrighan finally stopped pacing. “Tell me, Jason. Why is there a Jaffa among you?”
“He and other Jaffa have been waiting for a chance to break free of the Goa’uld and live their lives free from slavery. His name is Teal’c. He used to be the First Prime of Apophis.”
“The Jaffa haven’t left their masters,” Tara said, moving to stand by her Queen’s left.
“A lot of them have. They have their own world, designated as their headquarters. They’re not big force right now, but they’re growing.”
“How can your friend and ally be part of your team?” Morrighan asked. “If he is Jaffa, won’t he then join the other defectors?”
Jason shrugged. “He stays with us, I think, out of loyalty. But also because he has a chance to reach distant Jaffa who haven’t heard about their own revolution.”
Morrighan nodded, her eyes unfixed as she thought, then she gestured for Tara to come with her and the two conversed privately far behind the grand desk.
Jason thought they both looked startled, but definitely not afraid. They looked … excited? As if they longed to get into a fight with the Goa’uld. Jason couldn’t blame them. If there was anyone, he’d love a chance to kick in the ass, it’s the Goa’uld. Especially Ba’al.
After a minute or so, Morrighan and Tara returned to Jason, passing the royal desk and meeting him face to face. “I’ve decided that you are no threat to us, Jason Coburn, Lieutenant Colonel of Earth. We will accompany you as we take you back to your peers, who are, at this moment, walking toward the city.”
Relieved, Jason relaxed a little. Experience wouldn’t allow him to relax completely. “Is that where I am?” he asked.
“No, we are in the security tower,” Tara replied. “It’s the building behind the stargate.”
“But,” Jason began, confused, “I was heading in the opposite direction.”
“The door you went through led here, young Earther,” Morrighan clarified with a smile. “It’s a mode of transportation. And you will soon experience another.” She stepped up, and Tara went with her, standing to her left. “Turn around, please.”
Jason was leery, but only because he had no idea what would happen. Then Morrighan touched his right shoulder and the room he was in was instantly replaced with grassland. He dropped his jaw. There’d been no flash of light, no whoosh, no pulling sensation, no dizzying effect, no nausea, no stomach dropping. He was in the room, then he wasn’t. It was just that simple. It wasn’t very often that he was filled with awe, and this moment qualified.
He appeared perhaps twenty yards in front of his fellows. It took a second, then half of one, before Jack raised his fist in automatic reaction, and weapons were aimed. The two teams were hardly green; nearly twenty years of offworld experience kept them from firing their weapons and creating chaos and death.
Jack met his eyes, as did Daniel, and Jason felt the knot in his stomach tighten. They needed to know immediately that Morrighan and Tara weren’t a threat, so he raised a hand, waving once. “So,” he said, raising his voice slightly. “That went well, I think.”
“Sonofabitch,” Jack growled.
“Come on,” Daniel sighed, alarmed by Jason’s sudden appearance but it was overridden by his curiosity. “He would have used the safe word if it had been a trap.”
He resumed walking and Jack followed, taking him by the arm and stopping him. His brows dug deep in a scowl. “Maybe, but they kidnap—“
“And he’s back,” Daniel cut off in a whisper. “Ask first, Jack. Shoot later.”
“That won’t happen,” Sam said sarcastically, nudging Teal’c to agree.
“Indeed. I sense no danger here,” the Master Jaffa said, indicating Jason’s companions.
Jack looked over at Alex, Connor, and Al. “You wanna pitch in?”
Al and Connor shook their heads, but Alex pursed his lips. “He didn’t give the danger password. And since he’d rather die than risk our lives, I think we should take a chance.”
“Do you smell roses?” Sam asked, trying to focus where it was coming from.
Jack turned around, his eyes catching those of the women. “From them. At least they’re wearing something familiar.” He took the lead and headed toward Jason. Daniel matched his stride and moved to Jack’s left while Sam and Teal’c took up Jack’s right. Behind them, Jason’s teammates fanned out.
As Jack reached Jason, Morrighan and Tara took one step back and waited. Jack stepped close enough to rub noses with his dark-haired husband. “Y’alright?” he asked quietly, meeting Jason’s gaze.
“Obviously,” Jason said, and cleared his throat as he took a step to Jack’s left. “This is Morrighan, the ruler here. This is Tara, her … aide, I think. I didn’t learn too much yet, except to know that they’re enemies of the Goa’uld.”
“I love ‘em already,” Jack said, and judging them by their beautiful appearance, he wasn’t just making a joke.
“Wait. Morrighan?” Daniel asked, becoming confused. He met the queen’s eyes, marveling at the multi-colored irises, then he switched his gaze to Tara, then Jason. “Morrigan?”
“Morrighan,” the Queen said. “Jason has informed me that my name has been stolen by a System Lord.”
“I’ve sort of met her,” Daniel said. “I spied on a meeting between some of them a few years back.”
Tara blinked. “You?”
“Oh here we go,” Jack growled. “Look, missy—“
“I meant no offense,” Tara said, raising a hand. “I was thinking of your being human, not someone weak. Although the two go hand in hand sometimes.”
“Hey!” objected several members of the teams.
Morrighan raised her hand, silencing all of them. “Let us talk somewhere more comfortable. I invite you inside. Do you consent to travel there?”
Jack looked around him, didn’t see anyone with a frown of dissent, so he turned back to Morrighan. “Sure, why not.”
“Hold onto—“ Jason winced.
“—your butts,” he finished, and he too joined in the surprised expressions. He’d expected to be taken back to the same place he’d met Morrighan and Tara, but they had appeared inside a large rectangular hall that held what looked like a throne at one end, a conference table at the other, and a massive round dining table in the center. In the place of dining chairs was a solid bench. The center of the dining table itself held another fountain, but this one sat low, obviously so that diners could talk. The fountain was shaped like a water lily with water that rose from the center “stamen” and flowed over dozens of petal tips into a circulating trough that encircled the fountain.
Petal-shaped plates were set around the table, along with silver-colored flatware and bell-shaped goblets. Everything in this hall was like the first room Jason was brought to—everything made from crystal, semi-transparent with reflections of blue and green.
“Please take a seat,” Tara said, gesturing with a sweep of her hand.
“Colonel Carter,” Morrighan said as she sat down, her back facing the back wall. “Sit here please?” she asked, indicating her left.
Sam was surprised and gave Jack a shrug as she walked over to Morrighan. She unclipped her field pack and stepped over the bench, setting it down at her feet. Jack dropped his pack to sit next to her while Tara gestured for Daniel to take the seat to Morrighan’s right. As she took a seat directly across from Morrighan, Jason sat next to Daniel, and next to Jason, moving counter-clockwise, went Teal’c, Alex, Al, and Connor, who ended up next to Jack. The table was meant to seat twenty to thirty people, so the team members were asked to spread out.
“Why?” Jack asked, his tone filled with curiosity mixed with wariness.
“We appreciate symmetry, Colonel,” Morrighan said, and she snapped her fingers, as if she’d forgotten something. “Lugh!” she called out.
A few yards behind Teal’c, a handsome man who looked to be in his mid-thirties appeared. He was tall with long brown hair and yellow gold and blue eyes. He wore green and brown clothing that resembled hunting leathers made from suede and cloth. A bow and quiver was strung across his back, and both were apparently made of the same silvery substance that made up the jewelry Morrighan wore. Like Tara, he too wore bronze circlet across his brow. He wore tiny bronze orbs for earrings and multiple silver rings on every finger. Over his forearms were elaborately engraved bronzed leather gauntlets. He didn’t wear the same shoeless soles the women wore. Instead, he wore engraved suede boots that began just below the knee.
He smiled at Morrighan and gave her a slight bow of respect. “Yes, my Sovereign?”
She lifted her right brow and gave him a smile. “It’s okay, Lugh.”
He grinned back at her. “I understand.”
“Visitors from Earth,” she began, “this is my brother, Lugh.”
He gave the humans a bow of his head, meeting their eyes until his gaze finally rested on Teal’c for long seconds before he looked over at his sister. “What can I do for you, sister?”
She met Jack’s eyes, then everyone else’s. “In the interest of full disclosure, my brother has been observing you since your arrival.” She glanced at Lugh, but watched the humans for their reactions. Especially the Jaffa’s and Jack’s. What she saw impressed her. No one seemed particularly worried, and perhaps that was due to experience. “Lugh, your report, please?”
“Well,” Lugh began, folding his hands in front of him. “They’re obviously far more advanced from the last time we made contact with humans.” He began to walk around the table as he spoke. “But they haven’t grown out of their need to depend on their military for exploration, primarily through the stargate. They have devised a naquada generator for times when a dialing device is not present.” He stopped walking and smirked. “Or when the dialing device is not available.”
He restarted his walk, meeting the eyes of everyone he passed, but not in a threatening way. Finally he stopped between Sam and his sister, and gave Sam a warm smile before looking at Morrighan. “They’re intelligent, curious, but very wary. Despite that wariness, they seem to think that traveling through the gate is worth the risk.” He paused and looked at Jack. “They do not have any idea where they’re going when they go through the stargate.”
Jack narrowed his eyes. “How the hell do you know all that?”
“Jack,” Daniel started, but Jack held up his hand to silence his protest.
“My brother is extremely well versed in the study of behavior and body language,” Morrighan told him. “If you have people who are similarly trained, then you would use them to covertly watch strangers or those under surveillance or interrogation. Yes?”
Daniel gave Jack a micro-smirk. “Yes,” he answered, and looked at Morrighan. “We do.” He looked up at Lugh. “You were there, in person, watching? I sensed something, but couldn’t figure out what it was.”
It was Lugh’s turn to be surprised, and Jack sat back with a smug expression. “He has his own gifts,” he said to both the queen and her brother.
“What kind of tech do you use for that?” Sam asked. “We’ve encountered different methods.”
“Yet you do not employ them when you visit other lands,” Morrighan said, an approving glint in her eye.
Sam gave her an embarrassed grin. “Only because we haven’t—“
“That’s enough for now, Carter,” Jack interrupted. He wasn’t about to share any more information until he knew who the hell they were talking to.
“That was very rude,” Morrighan said, frowning at him.
“Tit for tat,” Jack said, purposely using slang. “You know us, where we came from. Feel like telling us who the hell you are?”
“Jack,” Daniel said tightly.
“For cryin’ out loud, Daniel,” Jack snapped at him.
Daniel raised a hand to stall him. “I agree, Jack!” he said fervently. “It’s just that I wish you’d have phrased it better.”
Jack sighed with annoyance and growled. “Maybe,” he said, then gave the queen, and her brother, a hard look. “Who are you? I’ve been getting just a bit more pissed off as each minute passes while you dither about.”
Daniel rolled his eyes and Sam did the same, and Jason sighed loudly. When Jack looked at him, he shook his head at him. “We’ll have this particular chat when we’re in private, Jack. But for now, let’s just play nice, okay?”
Jack bit down on his intended response, and took a few breaths. Behave like a professional, dammit, he told himself. Matching Jason’s loud sigh, he nodded to him, then met Morrighan’s gaze. “Apologies, ma’am.”
Morrighan exchanged looks with Lugh. “Accepted. We are alike, Jack O’Neill, in that we are wary of those whose truths are stingily withheld.” She stood up. “Therefore, I sincerely apologize for our own bad manners.”
Jack was mollified. “Thank you …” he said, leaving off the end of the sentence for Morrighan to continue it.
“Sovereign,” Morrighan replied, with a half bow. “Visitors from Earth, welcome to the home of the Lia Fail.”
Daniel’s mouth dropped open, as well as Connor’s. “What?” they both exclaimed.
“I mean …” Daniel started, but looked over at Connor. He expected Jack to have the same expression of shock, but there wasn’t one when he looked at his husband. “Don’t you recognize that name?”
“No,” Jack replied, frowning with confusion. “Why? Should I?”
“Didn’t your parents or grandparents tell you the Irish tales?”
“The myths?” Jack asked, his frown deepening as he thought of tales his gramma used to tell him when he was a kid. Unfortunately, he couldn’t recall them. He’d only been six back then, and he’d lost his parents not long after. Sharing those tales hadn’t continued after he was placed with his aunt. “My grandma used to tell them to me when I was six. I don’t remember much.”
“The Lia Fail is the name of an object in Ireland called The Stone of Destiny,” Connor said. “Kings were crowned there.”
“Oh right,” Jack said, the memory vague. He started to ask what the point was, but he refocused, clearing the cobwebs of his sad past to pay attention to the present. “Lia Fail,” he repeated. He thought of all the stone monoliths and the granges. He glanced at Morrighan. “So you were there when Bru na Boinne was built?” he asked.
Morrighan frowned. “I don’t know that name.”
“It’s Gaelic,” Daniel said quickly as facts rapidly coalesced in his head. “The mound of earth with a hole that lines up during the winter solstice.”
“Ah,” Morrighan said, nodding. “Yes, that was one of the structures built by the indigenous peoples there. They needed to know where the solstice would appear, so we showed them. They came up with that structure and attached our seal to it. The triple spirals.”
Daniel thought of those spirals found outside. “You’re …” He blinked. “The Tuatha de Danann?” he asked, looking at Morrighan, Lugh, and Tara. “That’s who you are?”
Morrighan frowned again. “I have heard that name, but it is not from our language. On Earth, we were known as the people who came from the sea when we visited your world over five thousand of your years ago.”
“Uh, say that again?” Jack asked, eyes widening.
“Five thousand?” Sam asked.
“That’s how old Newgrange is,” Daniel said, glancing at her and the others around the table. “What Jack called Bru na Boinne.”
“Ah, yes,” Morrighan replied with understanding. “We are, by human standards, immortal, and most of us today visited your world back then. We were exploring realms to use as additional homes. My mother was Sovereign back then. Her name was Danu.”
“People of the Goddess Danu,” Daniel said. “It’s one translation of Tuatha de Danann. If you weren’t there when the Celts entered Ireland, then how did you find out about the Danann name?” Daniel asked.
“A few of us remained behind,” Morrighan replied. She gave a particularly strange look to Jack, Connor, and Jason. “You three may even share a strand of our DNA.”
“Seriously?” Connor asked.
“Not likely,” Jason said. “My Celtic line was mixed only between the invading Celts and the indigenous Picts of Scotland.”
Morrighan gave him a knowing smile. “Your isle was named after my cousin, Scathach. She was the leader of our military back then. Have you heard of her?”
Jason shrugged and looked at Daniel. “I know you have.”
“Uh, in Gaelic, her name means ‘shadow’ or ‘Shade.’ It comes from a tale where she lived on the Isle of shadow in the Hebrides where she had a school to which the greatest of Ireland’s warriors came to be trained. She was famous for invincible battle methods such as the magical leap and the battle yell. A similar technique was employed by Native Americans and Confederate soldiers thousands of years later.”
As he spoke, Morrighan’s eyes widened incrementally. By the time he finished, Morrighan looked stupefied.
“One of her students,” Daniel went on, “was Cuchulain, a famous Irish hero. She gave her best students magical swords. She didn’t train women because women already knew how to fight, and tradition said only women teach men effective battle skills. She was considered the ruler of the Land of Scath, and was considered a dark Goddess in the Destroyer aspect. She was the patroness of blacksmiths, healing, magic, prophecy, martial arts.”
Jack was grinning his head off. “He does that,” he said to Morrighan for explanation. “Ask him a history question and you’ll get more than you bargained for.”
“I try to be thorough,” Daniel said, giving Jack a mock scowl. “And I just gave you the short version.”
“It’s appreciated regardless,” Lugh said with a sad smile. “She was my wife, and along with my nieces, ruled the tribes we left behind. Rulership is not particularly useful to us, except here, but the humans insisted on treating us as such. It was easier than arguing about it.”
Jack grinned, then chuckled. “You mean you didn’t really mind.”
Lugh snorted. “Our method of rulership was not like that found on Earth. We are matriarchal.”
“Yes,” Morrighan agreed, but somberly. “The tales told of us, however, were retold in patriarchal terms. Our people tried to correct that mistake, but it’s hard to do when a patriarchal culture is in practice. It is very … oppressive.”
“Is that a judgment or …” asked Daniel.
“Judgment does not apply,” Morrighan corrected, rewarding Daniel with a gentle look. “I stated fact, not criticism. Earth had been, and has been, enthralled in patriarchy for over six thousand years. I say enthralled because it also applies. All matriarchal tribes and peoples were eliminated over the millennia. We weren’t colonists. We were observers, and left behind only a handful of people to observe, not rule. But local observances needed to be made. In the end, our attempt at matriarchy was forcibly removed.”
“By war or murder?” Teal’c asked.
“Both, since we consider all killing to be murder,” Lugh answered. “We continued to help where and when we could, keeping our … contamination … to a minimum. In that way we could remain alive as long as possible in order to guide those we befriended.”
“Why Ireland?” Daniel asked.
“Because they hadn’t been interfered with or contaminated by the Goa’uld,” Lugh stated.
“But they were in Egypt over ten thousand—“ Daniel began.
“Yes, yes,” Lugh said, impatient. “But they’d left their stain behind. We tried to eliminate what we could.”
“Along with Amorachus, from Oannes,” Daniel added, referring to the fishlike alien, Nem, who’d kidnapped him back in ’97 in order to find out what happened to his mate.
Morrighan smiled at him. “Yes, she was there, along with the Asgard and members of other races who wanted to nurture the humans, not rule them.”
“Did you guys populate other planets with humans like the Asgard and other races did?” Jack asked.
“No,” Morrighan said. “Earth had been interfered with long before we arrived. With few exceptions, the Goa’uld are responsible for the backwardness of those they deposited on other planets as slaves and hosts.”
“The Norse population on Cimmeria being one exception, since they were fostered by the Asgard,” Daniel said.
“Yes. Along with a people called the Sunan, who removed a village of Salish people from your world about one thousand years ago.”
“Been there,” Jack said. “Got shot by an arrow. Nearly started a war.”
“Over trinium, I take it?” Morrighan asked.
“Yeah,” Jack said, surprised by her quickness and knowledge. He was liking this lady more and more.
“Greed is the destroyer of worlds,” Lugh said. “We can tell you where you will find trinium without endangering the native population.”
“Lugh,” Morrighan chided. “I haven’t decided yet.”
Lugh winced. “Sorry, sis.”
Her narrowed brow lightened, and she gave him a smile behind her eyes. “I cannot be mad at you for trying to help,” she told him, then turned her attention to Jack. “We are a kind people most of the time. This does not mean that we shun war. We just prefer to settle conflicts in other ways.”
A small woman in a purple and red tunic dress hurriedly entered from a door behind the queen and whispered in her ear. “Thank you, Cindal,” Morrighan said, and turned her hand in a waving motion. Several tall pitchers appeared, filled with water. What looked like candied flowers filled several platters placed around the table. “A snack, while we talk.”
“Holy Hannah,” Sam exclaimed, staring at Morrighan. “How in the world did you do that?” she asked, and everyone else at the table had the same question in their eyes.
“I have abilities” Morrighan said. “Your ancestors called it magic. In this particular case,” she said, gesturing at the table, “I used telekinesis. Are you aware of it?”
“We are,” Daniel said, eyeing her carefully. “The Irish myths say you’re a shapeshifter, too. Is that true?”
Morrighan gave him an appreciative look. “What else do they say?” she asked, avoiding his question.
Daniel gave her a pleased smirk. “Okay, you don’t want to answer that yet. Morrighan is known on Earth as The Morrigu or The Morrigan. She is a triple goddess of war, who appears in different forms. Nemain the maiden, Badb the mother, and Macha the crone. You encouraged fighters by giving them the battle madness. You rule rivers, lakes, and fresh water, own a great cauldron in which you replenish your warriors as well as cast incantations. You fought alongside your human warriors, fully armored, and carrying two spears.”
He paused for a moment as he filled his goblet with water and took a drink. “The carrion crow is one of your favorite disguises,” Daniel went on. “And the horse is another. You are queen of the land, called the ‘Sovereignty of Ireland.’”
He paused again, adding with a smile, “Perhaps your title of Sovereign influenced that. Anyway, when the Celts arrived, they furthered the myth by saying that in the shape of a crow or raven, you fly overhead during battle, calling up a host of slain soldiers to continue the fight and scare the shit out of the enemy. After the battle, the soldiers would leave the field until dawn so that you could claim their trophies of heads, euphemistically known as ‘the Morrigan’s acorn crop’.”
Lugh exchanged looks with Tara and Morrighan and the three burst out laughing. Morrighan touched Daniel’s hand, patting it.
“I don’t mean to be rude, Daniel. We’re amused by the honoring of battle, which isn’t us at all but a feature of the Celts, who were a war-driven society.”
Jack traded a small smile with Daniel, then turned it on Morrighan. “So, do you shape-shift?”
She smiled. “One of the few who can,” she replied, watching him and the other humans for their responses. To her surprise, none of them were alarmed, fearful, angry, or disgusted.
Daniel sensed it. Finally. She wasn’t putting up shields. He thought it was simply the time in her presence that eventually tripped his empathic sense. “You’re surprised,” he said.
She turned her head quickly, snapping it almost, as she stared into his eyes. She narrowed her own, examining him. “You’re empathic,” she stated. “How is that possible?”
Daniel nearly blushed and won the battle to suppress it. “A friend from another world bestowed it on me as part of a rite of friendship.”
Morrighan shook her head. “Not quite correct, but that answer will do. Do you also detect untruthfulness or falsehoods?”
Daniel nodded. “I apologize for being vague but it’s a very personal subject.”
She smiled genuinely at him, her eyes sparkling. “I understand.”
Daniel couldn’t help but stare back. Her irises were literally sparkling. “How do you do that?” he asked.
She laughed. “I think I’ll let my husband explain that during another visit. This will be our first of many, I hope.”
Daniel nodded, but his smile was gone. “Are we leaving?”
“Only if you wish,” she said. “I merely introduced the subject because I hear the stargate operating.”
“Seriously?” Jason asked as Jack stood up.
“Can we reach it in here?” he asked.
Morrighan shook her head, but stalled Jack’s movements with a raise of her hand. “Tara? Drop the shield please.”
Tara lifted a flap from one of her gauntlets. “Done.”
At she said that, Hammond’s voice came over every radio. “Sierra Golf Tangos, come in, please.”
“This is Sierra Golf Alpha, over,” Jack replied.
“Report, Colonel, over,” Hammond ordered.
“In contact with residents of this planet, sir. Colonel Coburn is fine. Capture was merely a method of threat assessment. We’re currently in meet ‘n greet mode. Over.”
“That is excellent news, Colonel. What about the DHD? Over.”
“We’re told where it is, sir. Won’t be a problem. Over.”
“Good job. Recommendations? Over.”
Jack began to discuss with the general several possible time frames for remaining on the planet. While he discussed that, he also watched Morrighan’s, Lugh’s, and Tara’s reactions to the communication with Hammond. He expected them to be bored, but instead, they were interested. He didn’t think it was the method of communication, but the language form used.
“Copy that,” Jack was saying, then paused to ask Morrighan a question. “How long are we welcome?”
Morrighan exchanged looks with Lugh and Tara, and judging by their expressions over several seconds, silent communication seemed to be going on. Returning her gaze to Jack, she answered, “It will depend on you, Colonel. We will be happy to accommodate you for a few days.”
Jack was a little surprised, but he merely bowed his head, then contacted Hammond. “Will update in twelve hours, unless we overstay our welcome. Over.”
“Understood. Diplomatic protocols, Colonel. Command out.”
Jack looked at Morrighan as he adjusted his radio mic. “Apologies for the interruption and thanks for making communication easy.”
“No problem, Colonel.” Morrighan furrowed her brow. “Diplomatic protocols?”
“It means that we have permission to discuss any trade or ally relationship with you. It’s also an unnecessary reminder for us to be on good behavior.”
Morrighan smiled. “No offending the aliens, eh?” she asked with a laugh.
“No ma’am,” Jack replied.
“Morrighan,” she corrected.
Daniel was surprised at that and smiled with genuine pleasure as Jack took his cue from Morrighan and reintroduced everyone by their first names. Then Morrighan asked them to try the flowers, which seemed to resemble tiny purple lotuses.
Everyone but Daniel was hesitant. So he asked, “Are these related to our lotus on Earth?”
Morrighan smiled. “Directly related, Daniel. We brought several subspecies back with us.”
“So they’re edible?” Jack asked.
“The Native Americans ate them all the time, particularly the roots. Leaves and flowers were used in teas.”
“Cool,” Jack said with a flick of his chin.
Sam picked up a flower from a nearby platter, admiring the beauty as well as the firmness for handling. Rather than ask more questions, she popped the entire thing into her mouth, and it crunched easily before melting like spun sugar. The flavor of the flower infused her mouth as well as sending a strong sent up the back tube to her nose. It was like eating mild ginger with clover honey as an aftertaste. “Oh my god,” she said with surprise and bit off a piece of another flower. The resulting flavors and scent was milder but just as good.
“They’re addictive,” Morrighan said, popping two into her mouth. Five seconds later, they were consumed with cotton candy quickness.
“I’ll say,” Sam replied. “I’d love a recipe.”
Jason and his team of little boys burst out laughing. Daniel and Jack somehow refrained and since Teal’c was Chulakian, he didn’t get the culture joke.
“Jason,” Daniel said, chiding him mildly.
“What’s the joke?” Sam asked.
“Coming all this way just to exchange recipes, Carter,” Jack explained. “It’s so very girly of you.”
“Oh …” she started, and silently said, Fuck you.
It was Morrighan who burst out laughing this time, and she patted Sam’s arm. “I’m sorry, my dear, but that was loud enough for me to catch, though accidentally, I assure you.”
Jack gave Sam a mock scowl. “What’d you say?”
“I didn’t say anything,” Sam said, giving him a mock smile.
“Think,” Jack corrected.
Sam just gave him that mock smile.
“For what it’s worth, Sam,” Daniel whispered to her, “it really was funny. But not the girly part. Jack’s teasing.”
“I know,” Sam replied. “Not amused with the girly though.”
“I agree with you there,” he said, his gaze rebellious as he looked across at Jack.
Jack looked like he wanted to snap and bite back, but after a minute, he simply cleared his throat and behaved himself. No need to create animosity with Sam while on another planet. He could do that at home, where she could easily escape. Wasn’t very fair here. He redirected his gaze to Jason, silently slapping him in the head for laughing. Jason crinkled his nose in return and Jack rolled his eyes.
“So,” he said, louder than necessary and his gaze on mostly Al and Connor. “No need to behave like juveniles in front of new friends,” he said, enunciating each word for threatening effect. The laughter that had been reduced to snickering stopped, and Al and Connor cleared their throats. Jack’s gaze also demanded apologies.
“No offense meant, Colonel Carter,” they both said.
“None taken,” Sam said, and her tone let them know she meant it. The only person to blame here was Jack. He was the one who said girly. Would be a very long time before she forgave him for that. She was also a professional, so she simply filed the insult away and adjusted her attitude for the here and now.
Morrighan wasn’t ignorant of what had just happened, either. She understood that Jack was the mission leader, but she couldn’t help but look at Sam as the leader, and felt a bit of offense for her sake, despite Sam forgiving the unintentional-but-offensive remark. Again, she touched Sam. “The recipe isn’t mine to share, but I can have Cindal talk with you, if you like.”
“She’s your chef, or cook?”
“One of them,” Morrighan answered. “In your language, they’d be called …” She wrinkled her nose in concentration. “’Food Designers’ is the closest approximation.”
“Designers,” Sam repeated. “I like that.”
“How are you speaking English?” Daniel asked, jumping on the topic. He was extremely interested in how they were doing that.
Morrighan smiled at him. “Telepathy,” she said.
“That well?” Daniel asked, mystified.
Jack jumped in. “Like Adriann,” he told him. Then explained to Morrighan, “He’s one of our alien friends.”
“I see,” she said, curious. “Perhaps I have met them. What are they called?”
Jack and Daniel exchanged long looks, wondering whether or not Adriann would mind. Daniel finally decided.
“They’re called the Var’chol’si,” he said.
Morrighan frowned, not recognizing the name, and it bothered her. “I know about most of the races in our shared galaxy,” she explained.
“They suffered a plague a few hundred years ago and only a small number of them remain.”
“Ah,” Morrighan replied, understanding. “That would explain why I have yet to hear about them from our current allies.”
“Could I ask—“ Jack started, but at that moment, a bright white beam flashed between the dining table and the throne, cutting him off. Every member of both teams recognized that light.
“What the—“ Daniel asked, standing and stepping over the bench, nearly in sequence with Jack and the others.
Left behind the beam of light was an Asgardian. Thor. He looked at Morrighan immediately.
“Sovereign Morrighan,” he began. “I would…” he started to say, then stopped. His eyes went wide as he noticed Jack, then Daniel and the others.
“Thor!” Jack exclaimed with a smile, quickly walking around the table. “How ya doing? Fancy meeting you here!”
“Indeed,” Thor said.
Along with Teal’c.
The dual statement made his teammates grin like idiots.
Thor looked stunned and despite the reason for his appearance, asked, “I am well, O’Neill. How is it that you found the Furling?”
The eyes of Jack and the others widened in surprise, then Daniel asked, “Furling?,” and looked at Morrighan.
Morrighan sighed and gave Thor a decidedly scolding frown. “What have I told you about that name?” she asked. When Thor didn’t immediately respond, she clucked her tongue and walked over to stand beside Daniel, then folded her arms. “The Asgard helped us devise a communication room. But my mother did not want our name used and gave Thor what you would call, a pseudonym. Thor misunderstood and used Furling. He and his people are apparently still using it.” She turned to Thor. “In the human’s language, Thor, I should give you a swift kick.”
Thor actually closed his eyes and bowed. “I beg forgiveness, Sovereign.”
That phrase redirected Jack’s curiosity from the Furling name and onto Thor’s apparent subservience. “Beg?” he asked. “Seriously?”
Thor blinked at him, but waited for Morrighan to acknowledge him first.
“Forgiven,” Morrighan said, but she was still not happy.
“Thank you, Morrighan,” he answered, now apparently able to use her personal name.
“I realize we haven’t seen you in a while,” she said in English, for the benefit of the humans, but you need to be more careful. Others may be a lot less tolerant.”
“Duly warned, Morrighan.”
That seemed to mollify the Sovereign and she nodded. “You can learn about these humans later. Something’s wrong, or you wouldn’t have arrived unannounced. What’s happened?”
“The Aos Sidhe have been attacked by the Fomor.”
“What?” she asked loudly, and Tara and Lugh were at her side in a micro-second.
“Who are they?” Jason asked with an angry set of his jaw.
“An old enemy,” Lugh said.
“And part of the Tuatha de Danann myth,” Daniel added.
“Get my ship ready!” Morrighan shouted unnecessarily at Lugh and Tara, then suddenly screamed in rage before forcibly calming her voice. “What do you know, Thor?”
“We stopped by their planet to visit and encountered the alien ship. We destroyed it, but not in time to prevent their arrival on the surface. Several thousand Sidhe as well as a few dozen Asgard are dead.”
Morrighan swore in her language and touched the base of her throat with a forefinger, screaming, “Fayshee! Aos Sidhe is attacked!” Her words were broadcast in loud echoes that repeated endlessly. Many Lia Fail began running, purposes unknown. Morrighan then snapped her fingers and it produced a very loud crack, as if from lightning. Her appearance then changed. Mist swirled quickly around her and her hair and clothes turned black, mixed with large black feathers. When she turned her attention to her human visitors, they saw that her eyes, sclera included, had turned glossy black. “You will accompany us, but you will not leave the ship.”
“Uh,” Jack said in shock. “No problem.”
They were quickly ushered with the Queen to another room, then as one, they disappeared in a cold whoosh of air and reappeared inside a ship in orbit and onto what looked like the bridge. In front of them was a view window that bowed outward and spanned the width and height of the bridge. Jack and the others were ushered to one side of the bridge and told to sit on backless seats. In the center of the bridge was the Captain’s Chair, and Thor stood next to Morrighan, who sat down and began tapping buttons. Her fingernails had also turned black, and reshaped into thick, long claws. She was yelling orders and she said something to Thor and flicked her chin at the humans. He walked over them, standing in front of them, but with his back to the wall on their right.
“What’s going on?” Jack asked in a soft, wary voice.
“The Sovereign is taking a ship to the planet under attack.”
“You said Aos Sidhe,” Daniel said, pronouncing it ee-shee.
“They are relatives of the Lia Fail,” Thor answered.
“What name did you misunderstand?” Sam asked.
“Fail Lia,” Thor answered. “I was to use the name in reverse. Danu had a thicker accent than her daughter, Morrighan, and I misheard.”
“These Aos Sidhe,” Daniel said. “Isn’t that name Celtic?”
“No,” Thor said. “It is a name the Celts adopted, along with most of the mythological names that permeated the Isles of Eire and Scota.”
“I must apologize, Daniel Jackson,” Thor interrupted. “Please leave non-relevant questions for later. I need to concentrate on the current crisis.”
Daniel didn’t understand, but said, “Okay.” He exchanged looks with Jack, Jason, and Sam. Behind him, Teal’c touched his shoulder and Daniel gave him a thanking nod. As they sat there, watching the view window as well as the Queen, they were simply gobsmacked by what they witnessed.
The Queen continued to change. She wore a floor-length dress with an attached cape and hood. The loosely-fit dress had a high neck and long sleeves that tapered to a point like her tunic had done. It appeared to be made of velvet and feathers. Daniel thought of Maleficent, the fictional evil fairy queen.
The ship was underway, speeding in a flash so that the view window showed only blurred colors. In two minutes, they arrived at the planet in question and the blurred color stabilized, showing that they now orbited another planet. In space around them were pieces of metal that were probably the remains of the ship Thor said he’d destroyed.
Morrighan stood up. “Monitor the progress.”
“I shall,” Thor replied.
She hissed something into a button on her dress collar, then her fingernails grew again, rapidly elongating to wicked-looking foot-long hooked spikes, and she disappeared.
“Holy shit,” Jack said, eyes round as saucers. Everyone copied him.
Thor moved to the Queen’s chair and sat down, then pressed a button in the console pad on the right arm of the chair. The view window turned into a view screen, and Morrighan was shown arriving on the planet. She moved swiftly over the ground but neither ran nor walked: Upright, as if standing on something, she flew. One could have called it floating had she been moving a lot slower. A white light formed from her right hand and elongated into a staff of white energy which then transformed into a solid staff with a white crystal in set in a hole at the arrowed top.
The queen scanned the surface over which she flew, and stared at the bodies that lay scattered over streets paved with material that looked like white veined marble, the veins made of a silver substance. Buildings on either side of her were made of wood and marble, and were marred by large splatters of a dark red inky substance.
“Blood?” Daniel asked.
“Correct,” Thor replied.
Onscreen, Morrighan suddenly stopped moving, hovering off the ground, and her body blurred as something in front of her advanced toward her. She screamed, “Leanansidhe!”
“Len-awn-shee,” Thor translated in a flat tone. “Leanansidhe is her sister by marriage, and queen of the Aos Sidhe.”
“Why are the Fomor attacking?” Jack asked.
“Souls,” Thor said, and he somehow looked horrified.
“Souls?” asked everyone.
Thor nodded. “This action is in violation of a treaty.” He turned to look at Jack. “The Fomor came to Earth over five thousand years ago almost strictly for that purpose, but also for colonization. The Lia Fail arrived on Earth years later, defeated them, cast them out, but they were also required to leave in order to make sure the Fomor did not return. They called us and we watched over the planet while they chased the Fomor across galaxies. A treaty was finally adopted. The Fomor would never again enter this galaxy.”
“I’d say the treaty is broken,” Jack said sarcastically.
“Indeed,” Thor said, blinking. “This attack is unwarranted and irrational.”
Jack narrowed his eyes. “Why these souls in particular?”
“The Aos Sidhe are empaths.”
Blood drained from Daniel’s face. “But I have that power.”
Thor looked at him. “That is why I am here with you on the ship instead of on my own.”
“That makes no sense,” Jack argued. “Why not leave us back on the planet?”
“Because the Sovereign wanted you here.”
Jack looked at Jason and Daniel, then Sam and the others. His jaws ground audibly as he caught the dawning realizations from them that mirrored his own. He turned back to Thor. “What the hell is she doing?” he asked loudly, then growled at the other Lia Fail on the ship. “What the hell is she doing!? She’s using him as bait, goddammit!” he shouted, pointing at Daniel.
Thor just blinked at him without emotion. “Possibly, O’Neill, but that is not the reason she brought you here. Morrighan does not know you and cannot predict your behavior, so she keeps you under personal scrutiny.”
“Except she’s busy at the moment,” Jack spat. “You know damn well this isn’t right!”
“I am aware, O’Neill. If Morrighan wishes to explain, she will. For now, you have no choice but to remain here.”
Jack spun around, hands in fists, and was seriously tempted to kick the window. Jason and Daniel came over and Daniel laid a hand on his arm. “If that alien comes for me, if that’s his plan, and Morrighan’s, then I’m not letting you guys get in the way.” With that he separated himself from them, walking to the far side of the bridge.
“No, fuck that!” Jack said, and he started walking over, but stopped.
“Holy shit,” Alex said, pointing at the screen. “Look at that.”
Morrighan had touched something inside Sam’s thoughts, where the beautiful Earth woman had thought of an Earth reference that would sum up the Lia Fail: superheroes. Particularly, herself. She’d be considered one of these “superheroes” if she ever returned to Earth, so with a sad acceptance, she knew she couldn’t return for another thousand or two thousand years. It wasn’t really Sam’s thoughts that determined that. It was their current stage of evolution. What in the world had stifled it? They should have been much further evolved than the examples that had appeared on her doorstep. One of them, Daniel Jackson, had empathic powers. She’d have to find out how and why. She could tell he wasn’t born with the power so who would have given it to him?
For now, she was only interested in that power as a means to lure Balor out in the open. That creature of the Fomor would sense his presence in orbit, and that’s exactly what Morrighan needed. The leader of the Fomor wouldn’t face her one-on-one. He always used human shields, the despicable coward. Her disgust in placing Daniel in danger only added to her age-old hatred of the Fomor, Balor in particular. This time, she’d get rid of them once and for all, despite the Lia Fail’s personal hatred for mass murder during war. It was time for them to go, to stop the loss of life that served only to feed one race: a race of parasites. They may be humanoid, but they were no better than a creature that feeds off a host body till it dies, then moves on to another.
It might be part of the Great Mother’s efficiency, that all life had a purpose. But some life died out, others advanced, and without any rhyme or reason. If Morrighan would earn punishment for this when she Returned To The Sea, so be it. No more of her people, or anyone else who loved life, would murder with impunity.
To prevent the gore from her cousins from touching her, she enabled her flying stone and battle dress with only her mind as the control. A shiny black stone formed from the soles of her battle boots, looking more like snowshoes. Her dress began to shrink and reform. In seconds, she wore skin-tight black battle armor that covered her from just under the base of her skull down to her soles. Her red hair disappeared under a black leather-like helm that fit over her head like a second skin, with only her face exposed. The helm was inscribed with wings that came down over her ears and a tail that wrapped the back of her head. The head of a raven came down over her brow and the beak formed a sharp widow’s peak that ended over the tip of her nose. Cheek guards shaped like talons fit over her jaws and chin and were more reminiscent of a bird of prey than a raven.
Down her body, the battle skin covered everything, inadvertently pronouncing her voluptuous shape. Down her arms, the skin formed into gloves, and the bizarrely-long finger nails remained. Over her breasts was a cover that looked like a cross between a doublet and breast-shield, which was also etched with the outline of a raven, and its shape was that of a bird of prey coming at you, claws extended. Those claws were laid over her belly, and looked as if they’d come alive at a moment’s notice, for their sharp talon tips were protruding from the battle skin. At her crotch, feathers spread outward over her hips and thighs, and down her legs, more sharp protrusions appeared.
The transformation lasted only seconds as Morrighan flew over the ground. Her eyes, senses, and inner awareness were on hyper-alert. With only a thought, her speed increased as she zipped through the city, and as she came over a tall hill where the planetary library sat, Morrighan met her enemy.
There they were, members of the Fomor, who were no longer just eating souls, but flesh. Morrighan’s eyes flashed, and the all-black changed into purple quartz, the facets of which shone brightly from within. She screamed a high-pitched sound that resembled the scream of an eagle except the sound was longer, much louder, and somehow filled with hatred and terror.
Hundreds of Fomor before her shot upright from their victims, ugly expressions of alarm. The Fomor were humanoid, massively muscular with skin made of smooth scales and the color of muddy green. They wore little clothing, only a form-fitting chain mail that left only their heads, feet, and hands free. Their fingers were long with cone-shaped nails, and feet displayed the same. Their heads were like an upright rounded rectangle, with sunken beady eyes, a hollow nose, and a mouth with flabby lips, hiding a massive set of fangs meant only for attaching to flesh to suck out the souls of their victims through their chests. The Fomor were also sucking in meat and blood and bone while their victims were awake. Their horrified screams, however, were silent; their voices had been stolen upon attack.
When they saw Morrighan, they screamed too, but theirs was a mixture of terror and rage. Their mouths also … grew. The flabbiness of their lips was explained with excruciating clarity: The jaws opened, expanding top and bottom until their mouths formed a rounded diamond, exposing two large fangs that sat at the center of the upper and lower sets of fanged teeth.
Morrighan, with her quartz eyes, suddenly smiled at them, like a mother proud of her young. The Fomor stopped screaming back but their mouths hung open. The queen of the Lia Fail tilted her head, smile widening.
“My children, come to me.”
The Fomor were confused, but those expressions suddenly evaporated, replaced with slack jaws and zombie-like shuffling as they left their victims and began walking toward her.
Morrighan turned in place, calling all of the Fomor to her, her smile as dazzling as her eyes. As the closest Fomor reached her, her grotesquely long, taloned nails lost their blackness and were replaced with polished and sharpened purple quartz. With a smile, she raised her left hand, claws gripping air while, with her right hand, she slowly grasped the first Fomor by the throat, and slowly, viciously, squeezed.
Malicious hatred replaced the benevolent look of her smile, yet the smile remained while her eyes changed once more. The quartz began to glow, the light so intense it turned red along the edges of her skin.
“Balor,” she said, and her voice was no longer local. It was massive, deep, and reached out across the planet as if she were a giant with a toy ball. “You have challenged us for the last time. I am Morrighan, and unlike my mother, I do not tolerate murderers.”
As she squeezed the life out of the Fomor she held, the same thing happened to all of them. She knew it wouldn’t affect Balor, for the coward would leave the surface of the planet and with his ship gone, he had only one place to go.
“Jesus H,” Connor breathed.
All of them watched Morrighan change into her battle dress. When her eyes changed, and she adopted a creepy smile, terror gripped every member of SG-1 and 2. When Morrighan spoke to Balor, the terror intensified, except that terror started to turn to rage within Jack. He stepped away from Thor, backing up until he nearly ran into the view screen, then drew his sidearm along with taking the safety off his P90. He turned his body so he could see what was happening on the planet surface as well as what was happening on the bridge.
Thor’s eyes widened. “O’Neill, what are you doing?”
“She’s just issued a challenge,” Jack spat at Thor, then ordered sharply at his people. “Everyone get up, over here. Safeties off, weapons ready. Daniel, get behind me. Everyone else, in front. We’re protecting him.”
“Uh, Jack?” Jason asked, even as he lined up next to his husband and the others obeyed with him.
“Why?” Daniel asked, resisting Jack’s order.
“Goddammit, Daniel, get behind me. Remember when I said you were bait?” He turned his angry eyes on Thor. “Isn’t he, Thor.” It wasn’t a question.
Daniel turned to look at the Asgardian as he sidestepped over to Jack. “You never really answered that question.”
“I have already answered that, Daniel Jackson,” Thor said. “But as I also explained, it is a tactic of Morrighan’s that she would ex—“
His head whipped to the left a half second before a bright light announced Balor’s arrival onto the bridge. Within another two seconds, lasers shot through every Lia Fail on the bridge … and through the top of Thor’s left shoulder, knocking him backward several feet and into the chairs SG-1 and 2 had been sitting in.
“Thor!” Jack yelled, and he raised a foot to run in Thor’s direction, but he caught himself and dropped to a knee. “Fire!” he shouted. In three seconds, no more, it was clear that the bullets weren’t hitting the Fomorian, but were, instead, ricocheting off the walls. “Stop firing!” Jack screamed as he hit the deck, hoping no one would get hit by the accidental projectiles.
“Stupid humans,” Balor snarled, and with a touch of a wrist device on his right arm, every weapon cracked open, and Teal’c’s staff weapon shut off. Two seconds after that, he whisked across the room, snatched Daniel by the throat, and took him to the far left of the bridge. Daniel clawed and scratched at Balor’s thick hands, trying to loosen of his grip.
“Motherfucker,” Jack hissed as he slowly pushed to his feet. He turned to look at the others to see if they were injured, and his stomach dropped with horror. Sam was frantically covering Teal’c’s abdomen with a bandage quickly removed from a field vest pocket. “Dammit,” Jack swore.
“Not bad, O’Neill,” Teal’c said, his eyes telling Jack that it was a lie. The bullet had hit him next to his symbiote pouch.
Jack ground his jaw, mumbled “fuck” and turned to Balor. “Let him go, asshole.”
Balor said nothing but his expression might as well have been a loud “fuck you.” He turned his attention to Daniel, whose eyes telegraphed an anger that promised Balor’s destruction by any means necessary. Balor smiled at it. “What are you?” he asked rhetorically, “and where can I get more of you.” He leaned in and pressed his hollow nose against Daniel’s cheek and inhaled slowly, then breathed out a sound of pleasure. “Sweet,” he said.
“Fucker,” Daniel said gravelly through clenched teeth, and stomped on Balor’s shoeless foot. Unfortunately, the kick did nothing but make the Fomorian smile. Daniel’s jaw clenched harder and he stomped again, harder, and with his other foot, pushed off the ground to slam the Fomorian into the wall. But like the first kick, he failed in his attempts to do damage.
Balor made a growling sound that sounded like someone who savored their steak before eating it. He then pulled Daniel by his throat and with a hip action, lifted him in the air and spun him around and slammed him onto a console left of the captain’s chair. All the air was pushed out of Daniel’s lungs and he gasped in panic, trying to get his breath back. Balor then made a sickening squawking sound as he opened his mouth wide, the entirety of it larger than his own elongated head.
“No!” Daniel gasped, the sound only made of expelled air. His head swam and despite his need for air, he let out a silent scream when the tips of Balor’s two enormous fangs aimed for his navel and sternum.
“No!” Jason and Jack shouted, echoing Daniel as they launched themselves at Balor.
Disrupted from his meal, Balor pulled Daniel off the console by his throat and shielded him while he struck out with his free hand. Some sort of foul mist erupted from his claws and the stench literally pushed Jack and Jason back, forcing them to gag and vomit uncontrollably. Behind them, the others started to gag, too, and that included Daniel, who was still trying to recapture his breath.
Vomiting onto Balor’s hand didn’t seem to bother the Fomorian and it only seemed to please him, and in the most disagreeable way. Daniel had to squeeze his eyes shut several times, and in between, when he saw Balor watching him, he noticed a slime drooling out of the alien’s mouth. It too reached his nose and caused him to vomit even more.
“Yes!” Balor smiled gleefully, and he literally bounced up and down on his heels, and the motion made Daniel even sicker.
“No,” came a disembodied voice, deep and threatening, that filled the entire bridge.
A few seconds afterward, Morrighan appeared on the raised deck behind her captain’s chair, close to a door that opened to the ship’s transportation lift. She waved a long, clawed hand and the air purified, and with it, tiny jets in the ceiling spewed pinkish smoke. A stiff breeze followed, swirling the now-misty smoke everywhere. The humans stopped retching and recovered their wits, but with a touch from her mind, Morrighan kept them motionless, unable to interfere.
She stepped slowly forward, and Balor snarled at her and still gripping Daniel by his throat, brought his face near his fangs. “Your toy dies should you be closer,” he warned.
The continued stench from his breath made Daniel gag again and unfortunately, the bile that came up stuck in his throat and forced it down his lungs. Daniel began to flail and cough, fighting for breath.
Morrighan snarled and with a twitch of her fingers, she made a pulling motion and yanked Daniel free from Balor. Without touching him, she set him down by Jack and Jason, and the pink mist entered his lungs, immediately calming him and allowing him to breathe.
“Do you think,” she said, continuing her slow walk toward Balor, “that you can win?” She gripped his throat—without touching him. “You are a disease, a thing unfit to live in my universe.” She squeezed him while her quartz eyes shone a purple prism over his face. “You couldn’t be content with your sheep. You couldn’t be satisfied.”
He tried to speak but couldn’t and a mixture of rage and fear filled his face by the time she stopped a few feet away and her long nails literally punctured his throat, interlocking like a Venus Fly Trap.
“Vermin have no other use than to keep us sharp, to allow us to improve. But you, Vermin Balor, have no useful purpose any longer.” She closed in, raising her gripping hand in the air until his feet left the floor. “This will not be quick,” she said, and suddenly her eyes changed color from purple to a brilliant emerald green. “For each life you and your people took, that is how long you will suffer.” She paused and gave him one of those creepy beneficent smiles. “Do remember how long their lifespans are, Balor?” she said, then waited for him to realize what she was saying. When the horror reached his eyes and he gurgled for death, she raised her free hand—the long nails back to normal size—she snapped her fingers and he disappeared.
She touched her throat as she went to each downed Lia Fail. “Leanansidhe!” she shouted, the sound loud throughout the ship.
“I am here, my cousin,” said a woman who appeared on the view screen. She had the same auburn-brown hair, but her skin color was a lavender so pale it made the woman look ghostly. Her eyes were bright blue with an inner ring of bright green. They almost glowed. On her brow was a gold circlet with a differently designed set of chains that draped down over her ears.
“Where have you been?” Morrighan asked angrily.
“Attending to the death of my children,” Leanansidhe said, lips pressed in a tight line.
Morrighan’s expression changed from anger to shock and she said something to Leanansidhe in her own language as she closed her eyes and bowed her head. Leanansidhe bowed hers in return. After a moment, Morrighan raised her head and moved in a whirring snap to the captain’s chair while other Lia Fail appeared saw immediately to their people.
“Ana, I must return home and see to my guests’ injuries. When all have been seen to among the Si, come to the palace.”
“Till then, Ghanni,” Leanansidhe replied and the screen blinked out.
Morrighan checked Thor, then spotted the Jaffa. She sighed and touched her collar again. “Dian, I need you at the palace.”
“I can easily be on the ship,” came a male’s voice. It was Diancecht, her healer husband.
“No,” she said. “It’s Thor and the Jaffa.”
“Understood. I await you.”
Morrighan touched the ship’s main controls and headed home as fast as the ship could get there.
Healings and Revelations
Jack, Daniel, Jason, and the others were transported to a large room with stationery medical beds. As with everything else on Lia Fail, the beds were made of smoothed crystal, with a single thick column underneath that supported beds that rotated. Teal’c lay shirtless on a soft gel-like “mattress” and around it were several control pads, three on his left, four on his right.
Twenty feet to the left of his bed, Thor lay on his own. One of his people, Heimdall, had beamed down to be at his side. The only reason they hadn’t transported Thor back to his ship was due to the extensive damage to Thor’s shoulder. Due to Thor’s cloned body, nothing could be done there, and it was a long flight home. It was up to the top Lia Fail physician, Diancecht. Heimdall reassured Thor, then returned to his ship to make preparations.
First up, however, was Teal’c. Thor’s life wasn’t in danger and Teal’c’s was. His right side of his symbiotic pouch had been severely damaged by a ricocheting bullet. No one knew which gun it had come from so every member of the teams felt guilt along with their worried concern for one of their own.
The team members stood several feet away and Jack watched with arms folded tightly over his chest. He wanted to do something and hated feeling impotent. Two women were holding Teal’c’s arms down at his sides, calmly telling him to be as still as possible. From underneath the mattress, a scanning light started at his feet and went up his body.
“Looks like a big computer scanner,” Daniel said.
The scanner moved over Teal’c’s body five times before it stopped at his center. Then above the bed, holographic images appeared, with Lia Fail writing next to them. Teal’c looked at them and was horrified. His symbiote was long past maturity and he knew that Jack and the others could see that too. His face twitched, making his right eye blink; it was his version of an emotional grimace.
“Goddammit, Teal’c,” Jack whispered.
Teal’c, of course, heard him just fine. “I’m sorry, O’Neill. There hasn’t been a good time to find a new symbiote.”
Jack started to argue the point but Diancecht walked in. He too was taller than Jack, with long silver hair that fell loosely to the middle of his back. His skin was different than the other Lia Fail they’d seen. While the lavender and peach coloring was still there, and the skin had that sparkling effect, it was overlaid with a medium brown just slightly lighter than Teal’c’s brown skin: The Lia Fail’s version of an Indian or African on Earth.
Over his brow, he wore an intricately designed silver circlet similar to Morrighan’s, but without the draping chains. He wore bicep armbands of gold-inlaid glyphs on silver. His clothing was a thin, dark green leather jerkin with simple black pants that narrowed snugly to his ankles. Upon his feet were the same shoeless soles, bronze in color.
Diancecht read the holographic details and a grimace appeared fleetingly on his face. “I can heal you, Teal’c,” he said, looking down at him. “But it would require permanent removal of your symbiotic pouch. Is this something you would disapprove of?”
Teal’c stared up at the doctor in shock.
“What?” Jack asked, voicing Teal’c’s expression as he came to Teal’c’s side.
Diancecht understood. This would obviously be a heavy decision for Teal’c, and he might need counsel. He detected the aura ‘best friend,’ even without having been told about their friendship.
“Please keep silent when the procedure begins,” he told Jack.
“Okay,” Jack replied.
“How can you heal a Jaffa, doctor?” Teal’c asked. “How can this be possible?”
“I’m sorry for my bad manners. I’m Diancecht, planetary physician. You may call me Dian if you like.” The healer pronounced it dee-Awn.
“You are the sole healer of this world?” Teal’c asked.
“By no means,” Dian replied. “I am the … how would you say it? … head of the healers?”
“That will do,” Teal’c replied.
Dian nodded. “I believe you asked how I could heal you of your symbiote.”
“I was led to believe that once you are made Jaffa, you die as a Jaffa.”
Dian looked down at Teal’c with understanding green eyes, and the Master Jaffa found he liked him for no particular reason than because the man had a handsome, kind face and gentle voice.
“Technically, you will always be Jaffa. But the dependence on the symbiote and its home can change,” Dian told him gently. “The only reason it has not before now is that there are too few healers in this galaxy that have the power, skill, or access to technology.”
“What do you mean by power?” Teal’c asked.
“You observed Morrighan’s power, yes?”
Teal’c nodded gravely. “A terrible and magnificent power.”
“It certainly can be,” Dian said. “As you witnessed. But most of the time, her power is not displayed in that form. Your arrival here coincided with the Fomorian attack. Most unfortunate.” Dian paused, thinking. “Or fortunate, depending on how you look at it. Never mind. The when matters not. What matters only is that I can free you. Do you want that?”
“Does he want that?” Jack interrupted, wide-eyed. “Are you kidding? Do you know…” The startled questions weren’t just from Jack. Daniel and Sam were just as vocal as they approached Teal’c’s bed.
Dian turned partially to watch them, to listen, and for a moment, he found the humans particularly pleasing as well as amusing. They don’t do what they’re told, and they certainly do not wait to be spoken to. An admirable quality, and one the humans had very little of in the distant past. Back then, their lack of wits and knowledge made them easily led and enslaved. Dian held up his hand for silence and the objections abated. At least they know when to keep silent. For now, that is, he told himself. Dian returned his gaze to Teal’c’s.
“Do you want that?” the healer asked him.
Teal’c took a deep breath and looked at Jack, his long-time friend. “You are wondering why I have not immediately agreed to the removal of my primta and its pouch.”
“Well, duh,” Jack said. “You’d be free, Teal’c. Free. No more hunting for baby snakeheads.”
Teal’c shook his head. “I have led a revolt, O’Neill. I have tried to lead by it as well.”
“You have,” Jack nodded.
“But if I do this, I will be the only one.”
“I may help you with that,” Dian said. Teal’c simply looked up at him, waiting. The healer plucked a device from the tray at the foot of Teal’c’s bed and showed it to him. It looked a lot like the Goa’uld healing device, which was a vastly oversized jewelry ring. In the case of the Lia Fail device, a palm-sized gem sat within a polished blue and white crystal setting. The gem resembled an enormous diamond. “This is a Diarcha,” he explained, pronouncing it dee-ark-ah. “It translates as Dragonstone. It cures whatever ailment the healer directs it to do.” He let Teal’c touch it, then showed it to the other humans.
“It looks like a Goa’uld healing device,” Sam said.
“That is because the Goa’uld stole this technology,” Dian said matter-of-factly. “They do not invent, they steal and reverse engineer.” When a few of the humans winced, Dian picked up why. “Let me reiterate. They steal. Your people don’t officially steal what they can otherwise bargain for.” He then winked at Sam and she gave him a small smile. “There are always those in every culture who think stealing what they want, or need is authorized behavior, but I think your Stargate Command does not operate that way. So as I was saying, after they stole a Diarcha from one of our science vessels, Morrighan retrieved it. They had, however, already scanned it and sent the specifications to another vessel. We didn’t blow up either ship because we underestimated their intelligence.”
“Must’ve been a long time ago,” Sam said, “because from what I’ve seen of your people, you don’t let offenses slide.”
“That’s very kind,” Dian said, “but we’re not perfect. We did underestimate them.”
“No offense intended, but some advanced beings have a habit of doing that,” Jack wisecracked, his eyes on Thor.
“Doing what?” Dian asked, though he already knew what Jack would say.
“Underestimating supposedly inferior beings.” Jack paused, then added, “Like us humans.”
Dian snorted softly again. “I can assure you that we have never underestimated them again, or anyone else after that.”
“How long ago was this?” Teal’c asked.
“A few thousand of your years,” Dian replied.
“Right,” Daniel said, clearing his throat impatiently. “What’s next?”
Dian turned his gaze on Teal’c. “This is the device I will heal you with. Afterward, you may have it to heal others.”
“That will take a great deal of time.”
Dian shrugged. “There is one caution.”
“Of course there is,” Jack cracked.
Dian looked down at Teal’c very seriously. “The bed you lie on is capable of infusing your body with energy, replenishing any you may lose during the healing. You won’t have this when you heal others. They will have to replenish another way, and without this bed, the only method is eating and drinking a great deal. They will, in other words, be ravenous.”
Teal’c nodded soberly. “I understand.”
“Shall we proceed?” Dian asked him.
“Yes, but please tell me what to expect.”
“I understand.” Dian took the Diarcha and slipped his right hand through the ring handle and aimed the gem at Teal’c’s abdomen. “You will feel heat.” With his free hand, the healer touched a button on a panel to his left. The bed’s gel pad mattress hummed and warmed as a light turned on within it. “The bed will turn a bright blue during the procedure and will emit a heat that will be slightly uncomfortable. The Diarcha will also light up, emitting a white light that will be painful to look at so you will have to close your eyes. The Diarcha will cause your belly to heat up, and it will be painful. The duration of this healing generally takes one half of your hours.”
Teal’c swallowed and adopted his stalwart and stoic face. “Proceed.”
Dian looked at Jack, Daniel, and Sam, who still remained directly behind him. “Please. Move back and seat yourselves until the procedure is over with.” He pointed his chin at the armless upholstered chairs lined up against the far wall.
Teal’c forced himself to remain silent, staring at the vaulted ceiling, but the pain was evident in the small rivulets of sweat that poured off his face and body. The brightness became too much only minutes before the procedure finished and only then did he squeeze his eyes shut.
From their seats, Teal’c’s friends flinched and tightened their muscles in response to what they could see. The device emitted a low hum that made all of them feel as if they were part of the procedure. It set on their nerves with a minor vibration that became uncomfortable. Jack kept making tight fists and Sam clenched and unclenched her jaw so much that the tendons began to hurt. Everyone else did something similar.
Except Daniel. Purposely, he opened his empathic senses, experiencing Teal’c’s pain. He wanted to understand what his friend was going through, and he got his wish as his body responded with duplicate pain signals. He worked hard to hide what was happening from Jack and Jason, controlling his exterior so they wouldn’t stop him or worry Teal’c about what he was doing. When the procedure finally ended, he let out a long, relieved sigh, and while Jack and the others sort of did the same, Daniel met Teal’c’s gaze and there was a quiet understanding between them.
The light from the bed remained bright blue as Dian ceased activating the Diarcha. “It is done. Now this is important. Do not move until the bed’s light has cooled off,” he told Teal’c. He turned and waved SG-1/2 toward him. “It is safe to approach now. I will return shortly.”
On his back, Teal’c’s nerves were jumping, twitching, itching like mad. The heat underneath him helped only slightly. Jack’s face was the first he saw. “Tell me how it looks, O’Neill.”
Jack looked at Teal’c’s bare torso and his eyebrows went up. There was only smooth, firm muscle under mahogany skin. There was no pouch. “It’s gone,” he said with a half-smile.
“Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c asked, not entirely sure what Jack’s half-smile meant.
Like Jack, Daniel’s brows rose significantly. “There’s nothing there anymore,” he said, and smiled at Teal’c, happy for him.
Sam reached out, then withdrew her hand. She smiled and gave Teal’c a wink as she took his hand in hers. “You have a twelve pack.”
Teal’c squeezed her hand in response. “I do not feel different,” he said, his brows knotting with worry.
“But you can’t feel junior anymore, right?” Jack asked.
Teal’c worry frown turned into one of concentration, then switched to alarm. “I cannot.”
“I think that’s supposed to be a good thing,” Jack said, pressing a forefinger between his own brows and smoothing away a fake frown. “It’s no longer in control. You did it. You’re … free.”
Tears welled up in Teal’c’s eyes but that’s as far as it went. He wouldn’t dare cry in front of Jason and his teammates. “I’m not so sure that this is a good thing, O’Neill.”
“What?” Jack and Daniel asked in stereo. “What the hell are you talking about, Teal’c?” Jack went on.
“The only positives the symbiote gave me were strength and rapid healing. If those are gone, then this cure will not be welcomed by other Jaffa.”
“Don’t worry,” Dian said, returning, a different Diarcha in his hand. This one’s gem had a slight hint of blue in the clear quartz. “Your abilities remain. Keep up your rituals for strength and meditation and they will remain.”
Teal’c sighed with relief.
“Hell, that applies to everything,” Jack said. “Lay on your ass all the time and muscles lose tone and strength.”
“Indeed,” said both Teal’c and Dian, making Sam laugh.
Dian smiled at Teal’c and pressed a button on the panel by Teal’c’s right thigh. The bed light faded. “You may get up.”
Jack, Sam, and Daniel took a few steps back, knowing that Teal’c wouldn’t want help. Jack was also prepared to stop Dian if he should want to assist, but thankfully the healer seemed to already know that Teal’c preferred the solo attempt.
Teal’c pushed with his hands against the side of the bed, bracing himself for abdominal pain. Except there wasn’t any. He pushed harder, nearly sitting up now, and still no pain. Swinging his legs over the side, he looked down at his belly. It was smooth. He flashbacked to the time he’d turned eleven, when he’d been altered forever by the primta ritual. He’d done just the same thing. He’d looked down at his belly that morning, just before, and wondered how his smooth stomach would look. It would take him over a hundred years to see a smooth stomach again and it brought tears to his eyes that he did not blink away. He was, however, too proud to allow this joy to alter his face.
Instead, he looked up at Jack, who stood in front of him a few feet away. “O’Neill.” Jack’s eyes filled up a bit, too, but like Teal’c, he didn’t show it. A tear fell from his left eye, then his right, and Jack acted as if they weren’t even there. He closed the distance and hugged Teal’c fiercely, and Teal’c hugged him back. Daniel was next, his heart filled with relief and joy for his friend. Sam, too, and she tightened her hold about his neck.
“I’m so happy for you,” she said, refusing to allow tears that would make her sniff. It was okay for men to do it, but the double standard still held hotly in her heart and as long as she lived, she would never break down in front of Jack or any other member of the Air Force. Daniel was okay, and so was Teal’c. It was different with this Jaffa warrior, however, since they’d had an intimate relationship for a while. Still, even though they’d gone back to platonic friendship, Sam was okay with him seeing her guard down since he’d already seen it. She resisted the urge to kiss him and stepped back, knowing that Jason would be next.
Jason gave her a wink and stepped over, holding out his hand to grasp Teal’c’s forearm. Teal’c gave him a strange look and pulled Jason in for half a hug, their forearms still clasped. Jason pulled back first, not releasing Teal’c’s grip, and gave the Master Jaffa a sly smile. “Now the fun begins. The next time we meet a Goa’uld.”
Teal’c grinned back. “Let it be soon.”
Jason winked at him. “And without significant protection.”
Alex, Al, and Connor didn’t know Teal’c as well, so they simply traded grips with him with huge smiles on their faces.
Dian looked over at Thor, then at Jack, aware of his worry for his Asgardian friend. “You may stand on the other side of Teal’c’s medical bed, but come no further, please.”
He moved to the opposite side of Thor’s bed and Jack felt he’d done that, so they’d be able to see what he was doing. His good opinion of the healer was increasing every minute.
“Sana,” Dian called, and a small young woman appeared from thin air, carrying a large tray that held strange items. On the wall behind Dian, she opened a sliding table top and set the tray down.
Thor’s eyes had been closed, but he opened them now and looked up at Dian. “Diancecht,” he said softly, and his breath hitched. “Please contac—“ An Asgardian transport beam flashed brightly to Thor’s left, between him and the humans, and Heimdall appeared.
“I am here, Thor,” Heimdall said. Beside him was a stasis pod.
“There is no need for that,” Dian told Heimdall. “You know my skill, do you not?”
“I am aware, Diancecht, and I mean no disrespect. This is a safeguard measure, if your skill is not enough.”
Dian nodded and pressed a few buttons. While waiting for the bed to scan Thor, he brought up a holographic display that hovered four feet over Thor’s legs. The display was a two-foot by one-foot rounded-corner rectangle with full color objects. The edge was a light grey double line, as were text boxes. Other objects like graphs and tables were framed with a single red or green line and a data within them blinked and updated as Thor’s bodily functions were read. Dian was expressionless as he examined the data, but near the end, he pressed more buttons to show additional information and frowned. “Thor, you can be healed, and it is my honor to do so.”
“However?” Thor asked, exchanging a glance with Heimdall.
“I will be restructuring your DNA as I do this. Your clone is deteriorating.”
“We are aware of this,” Heimdall said. “I have been working on using our ancient progenitor to start our cloning all over again.”
Suddenly, Jack said, “Why don’t you fix it, so you’ll reproduce normally? In other words, start having sex.”
Dian and the Asgardians looked at him with surprise.
“Jack!” Daniel hissed, eyes just as wide as Thor’s. “Time and a place.”
“We have no sex organs,” Heimdall said.
“For cryin’ out loud,” Jack repeated as he stepped closer, eyeing Heimdall. “That’s what I’m talking about. You’re advanced as all get out yet you’re dying because you’re frickin’ cloning yourselves. You’ve eliminated that icky sex thing and what has it gotten you?” He then looked down at Thor. “I’m sorry for putting my two cents where it isn’t wanted, but you’re my friend and I don’t want to lose you. The galaxies certainly can’t afford to lose the Asgard.”
The room was now uncomfortably silent, broken by Dian clearing his throat. “That would be the ideal solution, Colonel O’Neill.”
“Jack,” Dian amended. “But for the immediate future, I’m only going to stop the cloning degradation.”
“What?” Thor and Heimdall asked. “How is that possible?” Heimdall added.
Dian looked at Thor as he touched his uninjured shoulder. “Do you consent to let me do what I think will help you beyond healing your injury?”
“Yes,” Thor said.
“Thor,” Heimdall said, objection in his tone.
“My choice, Heimdall,” Thor said.
“You may remain where you are,” Dian said, “and observe.”
With a sigh, Heimdall nodded.
“Very good,” Dian said, and told Thor, “First, you will be sedated. Second, I will heal the wound. Lastly, I will then correct your DNA. That will cause pain that you will experience even in unconsciousness. Preparing your mind for it will not help since your DNA will prevent it.”
“Will this alter who I am intrinsically?” Thor asked.
Dian smiled at him encouragingly. “Your mind and soul will not be harmed.” He touched a button on the holographic display and a duplicate screen formed in front of Heimdall. “You may monitor and record my progress to repeat the process yourself.”
“Thank you,” Heimdall responded. “Will we have the tools?”
“Whatever you lack, I may be able to provide.”
“Proceed,” Thor said.
“I’ll just …” Jack said, thumbing behind him.
“O’Neill,” Thor said. “Stay.”
Surprised, Jack gave him a worried grin. “No problem.”
“May I?” Sam asked.
“You may,” Dian said, then gestured at the others. “You may, as well, but not too close please.”
Sam stepped up, but Jack put up a hand to stall everyone else. “I can see fine from here. Anyone else want to join Sam?”
Daniel shook his head and crossed his arms. “I’m fine.”
Jason looked at his teammates, who shrugged. He looked back at Jack. “We’re good.”
Sam had waited, then she nodded at Jack and pulled her tech pad from her largest vest pocket and held up to record the holo monitor Heimdall was viewing.
The bed lit up as before while Dian released a latch next to Thor’s head and pulled out a white, flat swivel arm which he rolled to sit over Thor’s head. From the underside, a fine mist was released, and Thor slowly closed his eyes. Dian’s assistant, Sana, moved to the head of the bed and released another swivel arm that resembled a small, abbreviated tanning bed light. She swung it up to rest over the Asgardian’s large skull, then released switches on either side to drop down over Thor’s ears. She pressed a button at the base and a blue light turned on, emitting a low hum.
Meanwhile, Dian rearranged the objects on the tray then told Sana, “Give me these in order from the right.”
“Yes, Healer Dian.”
“Very good,” he said. “Let’s begin.”
He didn’t apply a mask to his face or gloves to his hands, as an Earth surgeon would do. He simply took the first tool Sana handed him and held it over Thor’s wound. The tool looked like a toothbrush without the bristles and a laser-thin blue light emitted from the head, healing the wound in seconds. Dian returned the tool to Sana, who handed him the next. This was a small, flat pad with white edges and double-sided black screens. It was placed over Thor’s chest and its screens turned on, emitting a red glow.
Time passed slowly as Sana continued to pass Dian more odd-looking tools, which he’d either hover over Thor’s body or place on his skin. All the while, the pad with the red glow stayed put, the light changing in sequences of brilliance. Forty-five minutes later, Thor suddenly seized and one of the graphs in the holo display altered and the signal it had displayed changed to a flat line.
Jack’s eyes widened and he took half a step forward, but stopped as Dian calmly passed a small device over the Asgardian’s face and Thor quieted, his flat line returning to its previous signal.
“Obviously his heart monitor,” Daniel said to Jack.
“If it is, I hope it doesn’t do that again.”
Whatever had happened, it happened eight times over the next ninety minutes. Each time, Dian calmly reacted as if the flat-lining were expected. His cool demeanor buffeted Jack and he tried to keep his composure as well-handled as the healer.
Another thirty minutes passed, then Dian puffed his cheeks in a slow sigh of relief and waved a hand at Thor’s head. Sana moved over and pressed a few buttons on the swing over Thor’s face and additional mist sprayed down.
Jack looked over at Sam, who continued to record. “You’re done?” Jack asked Dian.
“For now,” Dian responded. “This will take a while.”
“How long’s a while?” Jack asked.
“A few days. Thor will remain unconscious. I have just put him in a stasis sleep that will reduce his bodily systems.”
“Sounds like an induced coma,” Sam said.
Dian lifted his right brow as he saw what Sam meant inside her head. “It is similar.” He walked around the table. “You may return tomorrow, if you wish. Right now, the Queen desires a relaxing meal with you, and she is currently awaiting your arrival.”
Jack shrugged and looked at the others for agreement before he said to Dian, “It would be our pleasure. Let’s not keep the Queen waiting.”
“If you’ll all step closer together,” Dian said.
The medical bay was instantly replaced by a large round room with a single window that encircled it. In the room’s center was a large round table that sat very low. Underneath it, the floor was sunken to accommodate the diner’s legs.
“Reminds me of Busch Gardens,” Jason said.
“What is that?” Sam asked.
“A Japanese restaurant in Seattle. The dining tables have sunken floors underneath. They started doing that to accommodate diners who couldn’t sit cross-legged.”
No other furniture marred the simple beauty of the white-blue walls and floors, all made from the same crystal seen everywhere else. The window flooded the room with sunlight and shadow, and it was obvious that they were in one of the towers behind the teardrop buildings. Three ‘sides’ showed only crystal buildings, and the fourth ‘side,’ to their left, showed another grassy plain. Dotting the landscape were wide, squat crystal buildings, but there was something else there that grabbed Daniel’s attention and he headed to the window, mouth agape. Noticing his reaction, everyone else joined him.
Perhaps a hundred yards away from the tower sat a massive circular hedge maze whose center was clear of hedge, but certainly not empty. What sat there was an undamaged replica of Stonehenge, the monolithic monument in England’s Salisbury Plain. The blue stone that made of the henge on Earth was replaced with the typical smooth crystal, with the variegated blue and white coloring. The striking thing, aside from its presence at all, was that some of the trilithons were glowing, giving off a bluish halo.
“What the hell?” Daniel asked, looking over his shoulder at Morrighan, who had just appeared.
She’d changed her appearance again. Her raven hair had returned to its rich auburn brown color and it was done up in a ponytail that was separated into dozens of thin braids, each one curled into a ring and fastened underneath at the nape of a long neck. Throughout her hair were strands of silver and emerald beads. In her ears were large teardrop-shaped emeralds smoothed to show off literal veins of silver, which had to have been manmade because the two didn’t naturally develop that way. Around her neck was a necklace to match, made of smaller teardrops strung with silver that cascaded in tiers down her throat. They ended in a point over the hollow of her throat, where rested one last emerald teardrop.
The dress she wore matched the silver and emerald theme. Made of silk with silver threading, its dark green color loosely followed her figure and ended in a handkerchief hem over her calves. Her long sleeves smoothed to a point over her middle fingers and the entire neckline, front and back, gathered in folds like a draped cowl. She wore the same sole-only shoes, but over her ankles were more silver-stranded emeralds that draped over her feet.
When Daniel turned to talk to her, he paused, taken in by her appearance and smiled. She awarded him with a micro-wink. Clearing his throat, he asked her, “Is this a copy or the original?”
She smiled fondly at the blue crystal Stonehenge. “It is the original.”
Jack frowned at the creation. “Isn’t Stonehenge over five thousand years old?”
“It is,” Connor said. “Parts of it, like the ditches and chalk mounds that surround it. It’s said that the monument took a thousand years to complete.”
“Not quite accurate,” Morrighan said, gazing wistfully at the monument.
“Why’s part of it glowing?” Sam asked.
“Those are the pieces of it on your planet that are still intact,” Morrighan answered, then looked at Jack with an expression of curiosity. “Stonehenge?”
Jack pointed at Daniel. “He can fill you in better than I can.”
Daniel wrinkled his brow at Jack before he answered Morrighan. “Stonehenge is the name it’s been known as for several centuries. About a thousand years ago, it was given the name Stanenges, and before that, its nickname by the Saxon people was Grim’s Graves, though that doesn’t literally mean grave. It means hanging stone, and Grim was a god to the early Saxons. Eventually, Grim’s Graves evolved into gravestone.”
Jack grinned at Morrighan’s raised brow. “Ask him something and you’ll definitely get an answer.”
“I do not mind in the least,” Morrighan said, pleased. “So Stonehenge was a psychic link between our world and yours. Its purpose was communication, honoring lives, birthdays, marks of the seasons.”
“How’d you use it as communication?” Daniel asked. “Does it have some sort of psychic amplification?”
“No. I suppose you could call it a data stream gatherer,” she answered. “Status reports were sent from my daughters.”
“Intergalactic email,” Connor smirked, making Sam bark out a small laugh.
“Do you know when was it destroyed?” Alex asked.
Morrighan looked at Daniel. “What information do you have?”
Daniel shook his head. “Not much. No records kept in England’s history ever state what happened, although there is evidence that some of the current stones were knocked over by a mixture of erosion and strong gale winds.” He turned away from the window to face Morrighan. “You said it wasn’t quite accurate that it was built over a thousand years.”
She smiled back and gestured at the table. “Let’s sit and discuss it, shall we?” As the group moved to the table, Morrighan added, “Colonel Carter, if you would please sit to my left.”
“Sam, please,” Sam replied.
“Of course. Doctor Jackson, to my right, if you please.”
“Daniel,” he said.
“Daniel,” Morrighan said, and sat at center mark, putting her back against the wall so that she faced the doorway to the room.
“Sovereign or Morrighan?” he asked.
Morrighan looked at Jason and winked at him. “Morrighan. Tara tends to be formal and it’s her place to be. We have certain rules for guest behavior, as well, but initial visits are given a certain leeway.”
“Understood,” Jason grinned back.
Daniel squatted down carefully, pressing his hands against the edge of the table as his legs dropped down into the recessed area. Sam did the same. Then Jack took his seat next to Daniel, and Jason next. Teal’c moved to seat himself by Sam, and then Al, Connor, and Alex finished clockwise from his position, with Alex ending up next to Jason. If he’d sat close to Connor, he’d have ended up with his back to the door and due to their long-held training, no member of the teams would be comfortable with their backs to any door.
“Go ahead and spread out, if you like,” Morrighan said. Her mate, Diancecht, had left the room, but he now returned wearing the same emerald colors and fabric, but he instead wore a knee-length sleeveless tunic and darker green pants with delicately carved green leather gauntlets and a silver circlet. He sat down, taking the placement with his back to the door. “Everything settled?” Morrighan asked him.
“Excellent. How’s Thor?” she asked.
“Stable and asleep. I will continue in the morning.”
“Excellent,” she said, and snapped her fingers, bringing attention to silvery nails of a more typical extended length.
Tara appeared behind Dian, with two plates in her hands.
Morrighan frowned. “Where’s Cindal?”
Tara smirked as she moved forward. “Being harassed by your brother.”
Morrighan sighed. “Please excuse me,” she said, and disappeared.
Sam shook her head. “I can’t get used to that.”
“Take one please,” Tara asked, bending slightly to offer the platter.
Upon the plate were eight thin, translucent slices of something one inch square. They were nearly colorless, yet one side held just the tiniest hint of pink.
“What are they?” Sam asked, taking one. It was wet, like a thin slice of fruit.
“They’re stomach cleansers,” Tara said smiling, moving around the table.
“What do they do?” Jack asked as he took the second to last one, then Daniel emptied the plate.
“This is called the fracha flower,” Dian said. “Its purpose is to cleanse your palate and settle your stomach. It does a very good job of both.” Tara stood next to him and waited while the humans ate the slices.
“Like pickled ginger,” Daniel said.
Jack dropped it into his mouth and was met with a fleeting hint of watermelon. It melted away and produced a mouth-watering response. “Nice.” His stomach growled at the mouth for more and his mouth was yelling back.
Everyone else, including Teal’c, reacted the same way and Tara smiled. “I’ll return with more.” She disappeared.
“I still can’t get used to that,” Sam repeated herself.
Jack chuckled. “No kidding.” He looked at Dian and gestured at Tara’s last position. “You and Tara seem really pleased that we liked that … cleanser.”
Dian nodded at the same time Tara reappeared, this time with much fuller platters. She set one in front of Connor and one in front of Alex. “Pass them up your sides please.” The platters were piled with three inch triangles one-inch thick with a bluish-green rind on the widest end.
As everyone ate, Dian said to Jack, “One of the most common traits of the Lia Fail is a great desire to please when feeding others, whether it’s food or drink.”
Tara grinned. “We feel a measure of sadness when someone doesn’t like what we’ve served.”
“Surely you understand that there are varying tastes, right?” Sam asked.
“Of course,” Tara said. “It still worries the cook and server.”
Sam was taking another bite of melon when Morrighan returned to her seat, and she flinched and set her melon down, looking annoyed. She wanted to tell Morrighan to wear a damn cow bell, as if that would help, and having heard her thoughts, Tara burst into uncharacteristic giggles that made Morrighan and Dian to lift an eyebrow at her—which she ignored.
“I’m sorry, my dear,” Morrighan said, placing a gentle hand on Sam’s arm.
Sam didn’t know if the Queen meant her abrupt appearance or Tara’s giggling. “Thanks, but no apology necessary. I’ll get used to it,” she said, and shrugged it off.
Morrighan frowned with confusion, but it quickly disappeared. “So,” she said, looking around the table. “How’re your stomachs?” Her question was met with grins all around. “Excellent. I’m having dinner prepared. I hope you will like it, but even if you don’t, please do not feel you must say otherwise.” She gave Dian and Tara an upraised brow of warning. “Despite what you’ve been told, the expectation of cook and server doesn’t apply to alien guests.”
Dian gave his wife a sheepish look. “Very true,” he said, nodding to their human guests.
“Indeed,” Tara said, then her pleasant expression died when her left gauntlet issued a faint beep. “Hmmm. Your General Hammond is calling early.” She pressed a button and nodded at Jack. “You can receive him now.”
The mics of every team member hissed with radio wave contact.
“Sierra Golf Leader, this is Sierra Golf Charlie, come in, over.”
Jack swiveled and brought a leg out from under the table, then stood up. “This is Sierra Golf Leader, Command. One moment please. Over.”
“Standing by, over.”
Jack turned to Morrighan. “Can have some privacy?”
Morrighan slowly shook her head and gave him an almost apologetic look. “I’m sorry, Jack. It runs contrary to our society. Please feel free to talk about us as if we weren’t listening. We won’t take offense, truly.”
Jack sighed and walked to the window, his eyes on Stonehenge. “Go ahead, Command. Over.”
“We’re recalling all teams, Colonel. Long-range sensors have detected Goa’uld ships entering our solar system. Their assumed trajectory is Earth. Over.”
Everyone was on their feet, including the Lia Fail. “What the fuck,” Jason said, reaching Jack.
“Understood, Command. Was there any sign of who? Over.”
“Negative. Return immediately. Over.”
“Wait,” Morrighan said, then told Tara to find Heimdall and bring him there. She then walked over to Jack. “We can help if you’ll allow us.”
Jack wanted to kiss her. “Anything you can do will be welcome.”
“Tell your General—“
“Colonel, report, over.”
“We’re getting help, General. Over.”
“Tell your General that we’ll be there shortly, with you on board, of course.”
“As will I,” Heimdall said as he and Tara returned.
“We will be returning via ship, General, over.”
“Negative. We are under a time restraint. Over.”
Jack gave Morrighan an almost pleading look. “How long will it take to get to Earth?”
Morrighan thought a moment.
“Colonel, reply, over.”
“Stand by, sir, over.”
The Queen looked at Heimdall and the two seemed to talk telepathically. It lasted for very long seconds. Finished, Morrighan told Jack, “Less than fifteen of your minutes.”
Jack’s jaw dropped, and he turned to Heimdall, was about to say something, stopped, then keyed his mic. “We’ll be there before the Goa’uld arrive, General. Over.”
There was a pause, then Hammond said, “That is great news, SG-1. I look forward to seeing you. Command out.”
“Okay,” Jack said, turning around to face everyone but his gaze rested on Heimdall. “How is it that your ships seem to take longer when we call you for help?”
“We are two galaxies away, Colonel O’Neill,” Heimdall said.
“So?” Jack said.
“The Lia Fail live in this galaxy, Jack,” Morrighan said. “That which your scientists call The Milky Way, yes?”
Jack jogged his brows, mostly to himself as he reformed his thoughts. “So what do you have in mind?” he asked both the Queen and the Asgardian.
“We will give them a chance to go back to their territories,” Heimdall said.
“And if they don’t?” Jack asked.
“We will be forceful about it,” Heimdall replied.
“And what if they have a lot of ships?” Jason asked.
“It matters not,” Morrighan replied.
“It doesn’t?” Jack asked wide-eyed with surprise.
“No,” Heimdall said, and Jason could’ve sworn the Asgardian was smiling, even if it was facially impossible.
“Right,” Jack replied, having no idea what Heimdall had in mind. So he repeated his question to both the Asgardian and Morrighan. “So, what if they don’t back off and run home?”
Morrighan gave him a grim smile. “Given what you saw today, what do you think will happen?”
Jack’s face broke into a wide, brilliant smile. “I think I love you.”
Morrighan winked at him. “I’m married.”
Jason chuckled and softly smacked the back of Jack’s head. “Come on, lover boy. Let’s go kick some ass.”
With a slight wave of her hand, SG-1 and 2 disappeared and reappeared on the bridge of a different ship. It was of the same design, but there was a hint of red in the ship’s composite. At the captain’s chair, Morrighan looked down at her gown and sighed. “I hate changing again,” and she ran her hands over her head, smoothing her hair. Her appearance changed again, but this time it started from her neck and moved down like someone unrolling a wardrobe. While her hair remained the same, the jewels and earrings were gone.
Standing next to her, Sam smirked at the Queen and whispered, “You’re teasing them.”
Jack cleared his throat. “If I may ask…”
“Patience, Jack,” Morrighan said, then leaned forward and whispered audibly to Sam, “Why aren’t you in charge of the team?”
“Patriarchy,” Sam said with a sigh.
Morrighan made a tsk of disgust and sat back. “My Fae, are you ready?” she asked loudly as people popped in and out of the bridge. Five seconds passed until the bridge crew settled with seven more people sitting at stations that had moved out from the walls.
Morrighan snapped her fingers again and chairs identical to the ones used on the other ship popped into being. “Please sit,” she told her human guests. “Sam?” She indicated a new seat stationed next to her. “Care to join me?”
Sam gave Morrighan the broadest smile ever and sat down. “Thank you, ma’am.”
Several diagonal feet away, Jack frowned with annoyance. “What are we? Chopped liver?”
“No comment,” Daniel said in a slight sing-song.
“Button it,” Jack growled.
“We’re getting help,” Jason said. “Untwist your panties.”
“I can’t,” Jack snarked. “You’re wearing them.”
“Boys,” Morrighan chastened, rolling her eyes.
Sam wisely kept her mouth shut. Patriarchy or Matriarchy, she was still a career officer of the Air Force.
Professionalism meant nothing when the ship knocked them all back in their seats as the ship shot out of orbit and into hyperspace.
“Holy shit,” Sam breathed, wondering where her stomach went.
Morrighan grinned at her. “As your people would say, ‘awesome, isn’t it?’”
“Hell yeah!” Jack said before Sam and the other Earth pilots could. “Can I have one?”
Once in hyperspace, the ship’s motion was smooth. Despite the speed, the only noise came from the consoles the bridge personnel were monitoring.
“You may stretch your legs,” Morrighan told her human charges and Jack immediately got up and went to the window, looking around at the stretched colors that passed them.
“Do you have smaller craft for single pilots?” Sam asked.
Morrighan nodded. “Probably a lot like you’d have, I suspect.”
“Except for the power difference,” Jason said, walking over to them. He gave Sam a knowing smirk. “How’s the view?”
“Almost perfect,” Sam grinned back.
“Ah,” Morrighan said. “Sadly, I can’t let you take my chair. At least, not while we’re on a way to a crisis.” Sam gave her a wide-eyed look and Morrighan winked at her. “Later perhaps?”
“Oh that’d be …” Sam said, words failing her.
“Freakin’ cool,” Jack said, turning to them, and as he did, anger began to well up in him, resurfacing from a holding pattern. He’d kept his peace for too long and now was time to get it out. “And speaking of crisis, I have a serious bone to pick with you.”
From the bridge doors behind Morrighan, Lugh said, “Don’t be childish.”
Jack blinked, annoyed that he hadn’t seen him there a second ago, and scowled at him. “Screw you,” Jack said, keeping his voice down. He pointed at Morrighan while he looked back and forth between them. “Both of you.”
“Jack,” Daniel said, eyes wide with shock.
“No,” Jack said, pointing a finger at him. Turning back to Morrighan, he grew angrier. “What the fuck were you doing, putting Daniel’s life at risk, using him as bait?”
Morrighan stood up and glanced at Lugh calmly before she walked up to Jack and stopped before him, meeting him eye to eye. She crossed her arms. “It wasn’t planned beforehand, Jack.”
“You had no right,” Jason said, feeling Jack’s anger and adding his own.
“I agree,” Teal’c said.
Sam met the gazes of Jason’s teammates, then she held Teal’c’s as he nodded. “We all do,” Sam said, getting up from her chair and walking over to stand by Daniel. Jack gave her a look and she nodded at Morrighan. His brows furrowed, not understanding what she was getting at. “Morrighan, please don’t take this as some sort of patriarchal point of view. It’s not. You put one of our own at risk and you should have asked us first, asked Daniel. We would have been better prepared.”
“Exactly,” Jack said, scowling at Morrighan.
She could feel his love for Daniel coming off him in droves and though she’d sensed it before and ignored it, she couldn’t do so now. In fact, that particular love, a romantic love, spread to Jason as well. She read the three of them now, understanding their relationship, and lifted her chin.
“I had no idea how deep your love is for each other.”
Jack felt a blast of defense crawling up his chest. “I’d feel this way had you risked anyone else’s life.”
Morrighan sighed. “No, Jack. Your relationship with Daniel makes your defense of him all the more palpable. I’m not saying you feel less for Sam or Teal’c or Alex and the other gentlemen, but it’s a lot more keenly hurt because of your relationship.”
“And?” Jack asked, deepening his scowl. “So the fuck what? You did it and I’m pissed!”
“What do you want me to say?” she asked him, keeping her own reactions to his anger in check.
“An apology would be in order,” Jack said with a frustrated sigh.
She looked at Jack carefully, then caught everyone else’s gaze separately. “I apologize for putting Daniel at risk.”
There was a long moment of silence.
“Satisfied?” Lugh asked.
Morrighan snapped her head around and glared at him. “Get out.” Lugh blinked at her, then disappeared. She turned back to her guests, then she walked over to Daniel. “It is not in my nature or position to grovel or beg for forgiveness. When I apologize, I mean it. Do you accept my apology?”
Daniel stared back into those rainbow eyes and blinked away the almost hypnotic effect, as if he were staring at an optical illusion. “I accept,” he said quietly, and shot Jack a hard look not to interrupt. “If there’s a next time, talk to me about it first.”
Morrighan nodded, lifting her chin up again. “I will, and if there is no plan and it happens during a crisis, I will discuss it as long as there’s time to do so.”
Daniel lifted his brows, but he also felt her sincerity and on his left periphery, he saw Jack’s face twitch and raised a hand to silence him. “Agreed,” he told her.
“Daniel—“ Jack started.
“The apology is sincere, Jack. Leave it alone.”
Jack growled to himself, then said, “Thank you,” to the Queen, and Jason copied him, down to the same expression. Apology or not, neither of them felt mollified. The attack had still happened.
The Queen returned to her seat, and did not invite Sam back to hers. She could sense the deep friendship and loyalty in her, as well as in everyone else. They were in the right, being justifiably angry. A beep interrupted her thoughts and she tapped a button on the flat console. “Please take your seats.”
“We’re there already?” Daniel asked, looking at his watch.
Morrighan gave him a tight grin. “We are. What are the coordinates to your base?”
Jack said, “38 degrees, 44 minutes, 1 second North by 104 degrees, 49 minutes, 40 seconds West.”
“Thank you,” Morrighan said as her navigator far to her left input the numbers so that they could fix their orbit over the proper land mass.
The ship came out of hyperspace with a slight forward lean and from the bridge window, Earth appeared. In front of them was Europe and the ship turned toward the U.S. and Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado.
Morrighan tapped another button and above and in front of the console, a holo display formed over it. She waved an index finger over it until a map appeared. When the ship slowed and came to a stop, Sam saw the map zoom in on Cheyenne Mountain.
“How far away are the Goa’uld?” Jack asked, standing.
“Their current position is navigating through the asteroid field between Mars and Jupiter,” Morrighan informed him as her holo screen changed to a stellar radar map. She swiped at it again and the map appeared on the bridge window. A white dot represented the Goa’uld and the map shifted focus to a real time picture of four pyramid ships.
“Huh,” Jack said, chewing at his cheek and folding his arms. “Can you tell who it is?”
“They’re identical,” Morrighan said. “They’d have to get closer. I can’t read them from here.” She stood up and gestured at the teams. “Gather close. No need to transport you into a table or something.” At Jason’s raised brow, she winked at him. “Ready?”
“Ready,” Jack said after a cursory onceover of his people.
Janet entered the briefing room, eyes wide with interest after having been told that SG-1 and 2 were being beamed down from a new alien ship, who’d be defending Earth as well. She certainly had to see who their new allies were. She nodded at Hammond as soon as he was finished to Walter Davis.
“Doctor,” Hammond said.
“General,” she smiled back. “Any word?”
“Just a moment ago. They’re moving into orbit, I would assume.”
Hammond gave her a long-suffering look. “For all I know, they’re parking on the mountain. Colonel O’Neill wasn’t very specific, and given our current situation, I really didn’t have time for a conversation.”
“That’s gonna change, I think,” Janet said. “Given that their transportation is here to help.”
Captain Simmons walked halfway up the back stairs from the control room. “Sir, the new sensor systems are online, tied into the global defense network.”
“Thank you, Captain.” The Captain nodded and returned to his manning the stargate systems.
Janet was surprised. “We have a global defense network? Since when?”
Hammond gave her a fake smile. “Our missile stations have new targeting systems for orbiting and outer-orbiting ships. We also shared that targeting system with the British, Russia, Japan, China, yadda.”
“Understood,” Janet nodded. “Not much is it?”
“We also have our stellar battleships but unfortunately, only one of them is here. Which is why I’m prepared to do anything for our new allies. By the way, Thor’s ship is with them.”
“Oh thank god,” Janet said. “I was afraid the Asgard weren’t going to help. How many Goa’uld ships are out there?”
“Sounds like a party, sir,” Janet said with grim humor.
Hammond snorted. “I much prefer our sort of party.”
“Me too, sir.”
An Asgardian transportation light interrupted them and Heimdall appeared by the window that overlooked the gateroom.
“Greetings, General. I am Heimdall.”
“Pleased to meet you, Heimdall,” Hammond said with a smile. “This is our chief of medicine, Doctor Fraiser.”
“Greetings,” Heimdall said.
“Pleased to meet you too,” Janet said, feeling a little flustered. She was rarely in the position to be introduced to aliens, even those who were allies. Adriann’s people, the Var’chol’si, were the only ones she’d ever developed first-hand knowledge of, and they’d become a special case that led to long-term friendships. The last time she’d done that, she’d adopted Cassie.
“Are there—“ Hammond started, but Heimdall held up his hand.
“I apologize, General Hammond, for interrupting. SG-1 and 2 will appear shortly, with the Queen of the Lia Fail, her husband who is also chief of medicine, and her brother. They will be appearing via the Queen’s power and not by transportation device. The Queen’s method of transport does not precede or proceed with any form of energy. She and others simply appear.”
As soon as he was finished, SG-2, with Jason, appeared next to Heimdall. “Sir,” Jason said, saluting Hammond. He tilted his head, getting his men out of the way as they moved past the General to stand to Janet’s right on the other side of the table by the stairs.
Next, SG-1 appeared, and Jack saluted quickly before he, Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c moved aside a few feet to their right. The Lia Fail appeared the place they vacated, with the Queen in front and her two companions behind. Morrighan smiled at Hammond and stepped forward twice to shake his hand.
“Greetings, General Hammond. I’m Morrighan, Queen of the Lia Fail, whom the Asgard have accidentally misnamed the Furlings.”
Hammond was startled by the physical appearance of the Lia Fail, marveling at the color and sparkle of their skin. His distraction lasted only a second. “It is a pleasure to meet you,” Hammond said, and shook the hands of Diancecht and Lugh as Morrighan introduced them. “How should I address you?” he asked Morrighan.
“By our names, though your protocols may require differently. However, I assure you that using our names will not give offense.” She paused, her eyes settling on the stairs and a frown appeared briefly. “On the other hand, several leaders of your military seem to be on their way to this room and they do seem to be a bit less …”
General Hammond was intrigued by her apparent telepathic knowledge, but set it aside to discuss later. When she paused, he grinned at her, understanding. “Experienced,” he said. “They aren’t often in a position to meet our alien visitors and allies.”
“What is your protocol when they are present, General? I don’t want to give accidental offense, but I should tell you that I will not tolerate deliberate offense given.”
Hammond winced, wondering whom the Pentagon had ordered General Vidrine to bring along. He pressed his lips together for a moment in chagrin. “Perhaps I should apologize in advance.”
Morrighan shook her head. “No need, General. I can’t hold you responsible for the actions of others out of your control.”
“You’re very understanding,” he said, and Hammond found himself just a bit distracted by Morrighan’s rainbow irises. They seemed to reflect the woman’s beauty and to somehow give warning to be careful. While he didn’t get an impression that Morrighan had no control of her emotions, he was almost sure that she would not tolerate any attack on her person, physical or verbal.
“Sir,” Jack said, he and his team coming to stand by the General. “We need to tell you something.”
“What is it?” Hammond asked. “Is something wrong?”
“No, on the contrary,” Jack said, and pointed his chin at Janet. “This concerns you, too, Doc.” He quickly told them about the fight on the Aos Si planet and on the ship.
“Are you alright?” Janet asked Teal’c, eyes wide with alarm, as were Hammond’s.
“I am fine,” Teal’c said, and looked past her to the healer, Dian. “Thanks to Diancecht.” Teal’c then put a hand over his stomach and explained.
“What?” Janet asked, stunned. “But that’s amazing!” She kept looking back and forth between Teal’c and Dian. She desperately wanted Teal’c to show her his stomach, but it wasn’t the right time and place.
“After the crisis,” Morrighan said, “we will be presenting you with several healing devices, along with the device—and one additional—that healed Teal’c.”
“Anything you give us will be most welcome and I cannot express enough our gratitude. I must say that I am surprised by your generosity.”
“No doubt due to other advanced races’ resistance to share technology?” Morrighan said.
Hammond gave her a dark grin. “While I can sort of understand their view, I still prefer to find ways to defend Earth and our friends on other worlds who cannot defend themselves.”
“I agree,” Morrighan said. “And I think that reverse engineering is useful, but hardly the correct means to discover how a certain technology works.”
“Agreed,” Hammond said. “Always gave me the unfortunate feeling of being a thief.”
“Indeed,” Morrighan said. She gestured at Lugh. “That is why I brought my brother. He is in charge of our planetary defense and the abilities of our ships. It would be best for him to inform a few of your people, then they can teach others.”
General Hammond looked at Lugh, then to Morrighan and Dian. He was simply overwhelmed by their good news and their generosity. He paused for a few long moments, gathering his words, but steps heard from the hallway to his right interrupted him. General Vidrine walked in, wearing his Class B’s, which didn’t include the jacket.
“George,” he said, a smile on his face and hand already out. Hammond stepped toward him, shaking his hand as he made mental notes of those who followed Vidrine: Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Paul Davis and Senator Adam Howard—a protégé (aka spy) of Senator Kinsey’s. Hammond guessed that Morrighan had touched Howard’s mind. The Senator wasn’t known for being polite and held a xenophobic attitude besides. Vidrine must’ve been ordered to bring him.
“Colonel Davis, Senator Howard,” Vidrine said by way of introduction, then turned his back on the senator. He started to say something else but froze the moment he saw the strangers. The skin color, their eyes: Aliens. “Introduce us, George?”
“General, may I present Morrighan, Queen of the Lia Fail and—“
“She’s a Goa’uld!” Senator Howard spat. “What the hell is she doing here?”
Morrighan lifted a brow and out of deference to Hammond, didn’t bother squashing Howard like a bug. She intensely wanted to hang him upside-down until the bad manners fell out.
“Wrong,” Jack said, glaring at Howard, with whom he’d had several arguments in the past. “That snake has been impersonating her.”
Howard blinked and backtracked, but he didn’t apologize. Vidrine shot him a look that could’ve melted steel and Howard took a step back and closed his mouth.
“As I was saying,” Hammond said, grateful for Jack’s interference. “This is Queen Morrighan, accompanied by Lugh and Diancecht.”
Vidrine held out his hand and shook theirs in turn, followed by Davis as he introduced him. “That rude person back there is Senator Howard.” He turned to Hammond. “I assume the reason they’re here will be in a report?”
“As soon as possible,” Hammond nodded. “To sum up, SG-1 was making first contact when I recalled them. The Lia Fail then graciously offered their help as well as bringing SG-1 home.” While Vidrine looked on in surprise, Hammond then gestured at Heimdall, who’d actually liked being ignored as he remained by the window. “This is Heimdall, of the Asgard, who has arrived with Queen Morrighan to offer his aid.” Heimdall nodded at Vidrine when the General greeted him.
“So what’s the present position of the Goa’uld?” Vidrine asked.
Hammond started to call down to Captain Simmons for a report when Morrighan answered the question instead.
“They have currently passed Mars.”
“How do you know that?” Vidrine asked.
“My helmsman has just informed me,” she said, privately enjoying the confusion on the new humans’ faces. “They will arrive in just over thirty of your minutes.”
“Why not go out and meet them before they get here?” said Senator Howard, contempt just barely hidden in his tone.
“Because the treaty with the Goa’uld hasn’t been broken until they reach the distance equaling your natural satellite,” Heimdall said.
“Are these people part of the treaty?” Howard asked.
“They are not,” Heimdall said.
“So then,” Howard said, looking at Morrighan. He really did not like her creepy eyes. “If you’re here to help, go meet them before they get here.”
“Jesus H,” Jack sighed, rolling his eyes.
“Watch it, O’Neill,” Howard snapped.
“Senator,” Vidrine said, turned to him fully. “Either be polite to our guests or leave this base. One or the other. There is no middle ground.” With that, he turned away and dismissed him. “What’s your plan?” he asked Morrighan.
She smiled at him and moved to the conference table. She placed a small, round black object no bigger than a clothes button on the table and it beamed a yellow-outlined hologram that spread out to three feet wide and two feet high. In three separate screens within, there was live video of the approaching Goa’uld ships, a view of Heimdall’s ship—which showed Morrighan’s ship arriving at its side, and a wider view of the ships and Earth.
“Holy crap, is that your ship?” Jack asked.
Hammond frowned at him. “You flew home in it. Didn’t you know what it looked like?”
Jack shook his head. “We were just popped in and out.”
“It’s beautiful,” Sam said with awe.
The Lia Fail warship didn’t necessarily look like one. Its colors were muted by space, but it was easy to see that some crystal had been involved in its construction. The ship was shaped like a recurved bow lying on its side. The wings were as realistic as metal could get to imitating a bird’s, and they split into three flights of ‘feathers’ on each side. In the center, it had a curved mound with a tiny slash that indicated the bridge window. To Jason, it sort of looked like the single ‘eye’ of a Cylon, or the Kitt car, except no red light moved back and forth. Just beyond the head was an obvious ship design of a bird tail. The end of it pointed like an arrow and as the ship moved, the tail rotated like a bird in flight.
“That is so cool,” Jason murmured.
“It is a raven?” Daniel asked Morrighan. Her myth on Earth said her totem animal was the raven, and earlier, during the fight with the Fomor, part of her wardrobe had black feathers.
Morrighan smiled at him. “It is.” She gestured at the holoscreens. “You may observe the events as they happen from this display,” she said. She then jerked her head at Lugh, who disappeared. “Diancecht will remain here,” she said, and nodded to him before she too disappeared.
Vidrine stared at Hammond. “That’s how they …” He corrected himself and looked at Dian. “That’s how your transportation device works?”
Dian shook his head. “No, that’s our Queen’s particular power. Our transportation beam is a bright white plasma-like ball that expands and contracts, depending on the direction of travel, arriving or departing.”
“Why didn’t you use it, if I may ask?” Davis asked.
“Because when Morrighan is present,” Dian explained, “she prefers to use her power. It’s quicker.”
Vidrine was puzzled. “Power?”
Daniel cleared his throat. “Magical power, in a way, though we’ve already tried to put that into scientific terms. Basically, Queen Morrighan and the Lia Fail are the people on whom the Irish Celtic fairies were loosely based.” He paused, letting that sink in. “They visited Earth over five thousand years ago. Their Earth descendants were the builders of Stonehenge.”
“Okay,” Vidrine said. “But that doesn’t tell me anything.”
“As Daniel said, they’re magical folk,” Jack said. “Or near as they appear to us.”
“Morrighan specifically,” Sam elaborated, “is telekinetic as well as a telepath. I can’t come up with the words that describe her other abilities, but they’re considerable. Shapeshifter is a possibility, though that’s a guess.”
“And Fairies?” Vidrine asked, looking skeptical.
“They’re what the ancient Irish wrote their myths about, calling them the Tuatha de Danann,” Daniel answered. “Long before the Celts showed up.”
Dian only looked on expressionlessly as he met Vidrine’s reaction. “She is the most powerful person among the Lia Fail. It is why she is Queen.”
“And you, sir?” Vidrine asked.
“I am Morrighan’s mate and the Chief Healer,” Dian said. With a glance at Hammond, he clarified, “Or perhaps, it is better to say that I am Chief of Medicine.”
“What’s your purpose in visiting us?” Vidrine asked.
“To share healer technology,” Dian answered. “If all goes well, then we may be able to share weapons’ technology.”
Morrighan reappeared. “It will start shortly. On the screen, information about the battle will appear at the bottom.”
“Wish I could help,” Jack said. “I’m not used to watching active battle scenes, screen or no screen.”
She gave him an understanding but grim smile. “I understand exactly what you mean, Jack.” She then gave everyone a reassuring smile, but then winked at Hammond and leaned in slightly toward him. “Won’t be long. In fact, this really wouldn’t take long at all, but I’m in the mood to …” She winked at Sam, too. “Play with my food.” With that, she disappeared.
“What the hell did that mean?” Howard asked, who’d taken a seat at the conference table and as close to the door as he could get.
Jack crossed his arms and grinned at Jason and Teal’c. “This should be fun. I wonder …” He looked at Dian. “If there’s fighting in their ships, will we see that?”
Dian nodded. “As soon as it happens, additional screens will appear.”
“Is this a normal part of your battles?” Vidrine asked, pointing at the holographic display.
Dian nodded. “It appears before every member of our world. We have no secrets.”
Vidrine jogged his brows, but said nothing in response because he was still trying to decide if he believed this Queen was as powerful as he was told, and if she was, she might be considered a threat.
Hammond was about to suggest they sit down at the table and get some coffee or something, but Sergeant Davis beat him to the punch when he came in with four other airmen, set five trays down on the table, then departed. They’d brought in coffee, water, fruit, and pastries, and Hammond snorted with amusement. “Have a seat,” he said.
“Can I steal him from you?” Vidrine asked with a smirk as he went to the table to pour himself a cup of coffee. He and Hammond began to talk quietly between themselves, leaving everyone else to relax and do the same. That would end when the fighting clearly started.
Jack was waiting to get a better picture of Morrighan’s ship and when the screen showed one, he asked Dian, “Is that like the ship we were on before?”
Dian nodded. “But that was Morrighan’s personal ship. This one is her main war ship.”
“Isn’t that a little contradictory?” Daniel asked. “I mean, a matriarchal society having war ships.”
Dian stared at him for a long moment, obviously frowning in thought. “No. I mean no disrespect, Daniel, but you’re making assumptions from a patriarchal point of view. You’re just not capable of understanding a type of society that’s never successfully existed on Earth, so assumptions would be skewed.”
Daniel stomped on the defensiveness he was feeling. “I’d love to spend time with your society so I can learn.”
“From that perspective, we would love to have you,” Dian replied with a pleased smile.
“Well, well, well,” came Morrighan’s voice from the hologram. “Stargate Command, I believe you’ll recognize the names of the Goa’uld who captain these ships: Nirrti and Anubis. Two others are Qetesh and … Morrigan. I think I’ll pay her a personal visit.”
“Oh shit,” Jason said, beginning to laugh. “That snakehead’s in for a nasty treat.”
Vidrine ignored the cuss word.
Hammond didn’t. “Language, Colonel.”
“Yes, sir,” Jason said, looking pleased anyway.
“We need more video screens,” Jack said, though his words weren’t a complaint.
“I can adjust that,” Dian said and moved over and slid the hologram’s button to the far side of the table, then touched a few spots along the top edge of the hologram. The rectangular window expanded its length to nearly fit the entire length of the table to allow for four more smaller screen ‘camera’ views.
“That’s cool,” Vidrine said. “Could you share this technology?”
Dian shrugged. “You will have to discuss that with Morrighan.”
“So,” Jack said, half-crossing his arms so that his hands cupped his elbows. “Nirrti’s here. Guess that means she and Anubis aren’t with the other system lords.”
“And Morrigan,” Daniel said with a general wave of his hand. “She’s one of the system lords. She was at the summit that Jacob and I infiltrated.”
“She was?” Jack asked, frowning. “I don’t even remember.”
“I do,” Daniel said, smirking. “She was the worst-dressed of the lot, wearing a dominatrix outfit.”
“Seriously?” Jason asked. “I don’t remember her in the report either.”
“She was there,” Daniel said, having written the report.
“Who’s Qetesh?” Jack asked Teal’c.
“A Goa’uld System Lord who used to co-rule a system with Ba’al. But she last ruled a single agrarian planet called Candaol.”
At his words, a 2nd row camera was fuzzy with noise before it cleared up and showed a beautiful woman sitting on her bridge throne. She had long black wavy hair with a stripe of white on the right side. She wore a gold dress, if it could be called that. The top was a winding affair that looked like a revealing halter top that connected at the back to a low-slung skirt. It was just by a hair that her nipples and pubic hair didn’t show.
Jack cleared his throat. “They sure do keep classy, don’t they?”
The close-up of Qetesh dissolved into a close-up of Nirrti, who looked the same, including the ancient Indian-styled clothing, though she’d gone to black and gold today. She still wore a circlet over her brow. The view fizzled again and Morrigan appeared, wearing the same tacky bondage dress she’d worn at the Goa’uld summit over ten years before. The view changed at last to Anubis, and it would be the first time the SGC had gotten a look at him. Even Teal’c didn’t know what he looked like.
The view showed a man with a young thirtyish face but with very long silver hair. He wore a belted short skirt straight out of an Egyptian mural. It was colored papyrus with blue and red designs along the waist and hem. Around his biceps were several curled gold rings and around his forearms were gauntlets that looked like his skirt. Over his brow was a tall circlet with the painted head of a jackal. His face was painted with the same kohl-colored eyeliner designs around black eyes.
“Nice,” Jack drawled with a curled lip. “This is the guy terrorizing his fellow snakeheads?”
“Doesn’t look dangerous, does he?” Hammond said rhetorically.
“More like a movie extra,” Vidrine said with a grin.
“They all look like that,” Jack said, his experience coloring his tone. “Overblown, tacky, and full of sh—“
“Jack,” Hammond warned.
“That’s alright, George,” Vidrine said, grinning at both him and Jack. “I think we’re all adults here.” He then shook his head and said to Jack, “Man, I do not envy your job.”
“Right backatcha, sir,” Jack replied, and was rewarded with a grin.
“It’s like watching a movie inside the edit room,” Jason said as he scanned each camera. “Is there sound?” he asked Dian.
“There can be, but only one camera at a time,” Dian said, “and it can be confusing so it’s generally not activated.”
“How did she speak then?” Hammond asked.
“Because she’s running the cameras, so to speak,” Dian answered.
In the third camera on the top row of views, Morrighan made a sweeping gesture and the view changed to the exterior of her ship. She joined Heimdall’s ship, which had been the fourth camera, but after joining together and swerving about to line up facing the Goa’uld, the 3rd and 4th cameras combined to one widescreen view.
Jack turned to say something to Heimdall, but the Asgardian waved at them and beamed back to his vessel. “Short but sweet,” Jack quipped. “Go get ‘em.”
“Which one’s which?” Vidrine asked, referring to the Goa’uld ships. He was met with silence in the room, but three seconds later, text overlaid the top of the screens showing the names of the Goa’uld. Vidrine gave Hammond a grim look. “I take it she’s listening?”
“She is,” Dian answered. “Though it’s incidental. It would be similar to …” He paused and looked at Daniel for help.
“Like reading a book while riding one of those exercise bikes,” Sam said instead. “Your legs are moving without you having to think about doing it.”
“Yes,” Dian said and smiled.
“Crap, here we go,” Jack said and couldn’t make up his mind where to stand behind both Hammond and Vidrine. He hated when someone crowded him so assumed they did as well, so he kept his distance. From the hallway and stairway, other members of the SGC crowded in to watch.
Morrighan watched as the Goa’uld ships lined up and stopped before her ship and Heimdall’s. She gestured with hand signals to the crew, an old habit. “Would you believe there’s a Goa’uld on one of those ships who’s using my name?” She was pleased by the resultant outrage and grinned agreement. “Time for a lesson, although I don’t know what good it will do if it’s dead.” After her crew tittered darkly at her words, she touched her forehead and her battle helm formed over her head. “Shouldn’t take long,” she said, and dis-apparated, reappearing on Morrigan’s ship.
She stood several feet away from the Goa’uld and naturally, the enemy’s Jaffa rounded and fired on her, including her First Prime, a tall dark-skinned man who stood in front and just to the right of his master. The shots hit her but did no damage. Her armor was protecting her with its skin shield, a defense that she didn’t bother using with the Fomor, but here on the ship, the energies of the staff weapons activated the shield automatically. The hits spread over her shield like a wave, and were eventually absorbed into the shield instead of being repelled or destroyed.
“What is the meaning of this?” the Goa’uld shouted, getting to her feet. Her surprise at the lack of damage to the invader was mixed with fear and it gave her face a maniacal look.
Morrighan was disgusted by it, as well as the appearance of the woman before her. The imposter wore a heavy black dress with a deeply plunging neckline that was supposed to accentuate the breasts. It did the opposite, in Morrighan’s estimation. The breasts were too large for the style of dress she wore and made her look weak, relying on her sexual assets to get what she wanted. An age-old game in Patriarchy, Morrighan thought.
“You have stolen my identity, thief,” she told the snake with a deadly gaze.
“What are you talking about? I am Morr—“
“No! You. Are. Not.” She paused, dropped her chin, and stepped toward the pretender. “I am Morrighan, Queen of the Lia Fail, and you have greatly erred. For the crime of impersonation and staining the name of the Lia Fail, you are sentenced to death.” She paused again to let that notice settle in the brains of the Jaffa. She then added, “Do you wish to release your Jaffa, so they won’t suffer with you?”
The Goa’uld remained silent but her First Prime didn’t. “I serve my lord!” he spat. “I will never leave her side!”
Morrighan turned in a circle, glancing at the other Jaffa on the bridge. With a mental focus, she broadcast her voice throughout the ship. “Your master is about to die. You will be given a second chance to decide your own fate. Join her in death or go free and do no further harm.” Morrighan walked forward and snatched the Goa’uld by the neck before the snake could do anything but call on her Jaffa. Staff weapon blasts were unleashed upon the Queen, but she easily ignored them.
The Goa’uld raised her right hand, trying to use the golden hand device, but as the light hit Morrighan, she laughed, purposely making it echo—not just in the room but throughout the ship. To the Jaffa, the sound was scarier than their lord had ever been.
“We invented that little toy, my dear parasite. Do you know what it was created for?”
“Punishment,” the Goa’uld snapped.
“No,” Morrighan sighed. “Such a limited creature. How have you spread throughout the galaxy? It’s mystifying.”
Morrighan narrowed her eyes and telepathically invaded the mind of the host and silenced the Goa’uld. She searched and found the host’s soul, and was saddened to find it very, very old. There would be no coming back. “Vana,” she whispered. “You are free. Peace be with you, child.” There was a faint voice saying, ‘thank you’ and then the bluish light of the soul left her body and faded into the universe. Morrighan closed her eyes and controlled her temper after instantly reading everything the Goa’uld had done since taking over the host. It was evil.
With her free hand, Morrighan changed the color of her nails to black, then lengthened and narrowed them until they resembled deadly cones. She drove them into the back of the Goa’uld’s neck and yanked the snake from the spine of her host. The host fell to the floor, rapidly aging into dust and bone within black cloth.
“Hello, parasite,” Morrighan smiled and while the snake tried to hiss at her, she moved her thumbnail and speared it through the head. With a satisfied smirk, she dropped it to the floor, then crouched down and wiped her hand off with the hem of the dress.
“Foul creatures,” she growled in a low voice as she stood up and glared at the First Prime. “Still her servant, Jaffa?”
The First Prime was frozen in shock, but at her words, he dropped to one knee and placed a fist over his heart. “I serve you, my queen.”
Morrighan made a disgusted face. “Get up, you idiot. I’m not your lord. You are Jaffa. Act like one.” She turned away from him, then gave a happy sigh and disappeared, returning to her ship. She gave Lugh a wicked grin. “One down.”
Having seen what had happened to the Goa’uld Morrigan, the other ships started to move away.
Morrighan touched the lobe of her ear. “Heimdall?”
“I am aware,” he said into her ear. “What do you suggest?”
“Wrap a field around them.”
“I thought you had a capture field.”
“We use our transportation beam.”
Morrighan muttered to herself something no one could hear and directed her ship in the path of the other three. “Then cripple their propulsion.”
“Where do you think you’re going?” Morrighan asked the Goa’uld, her voice a deep reverberating power that transmitted through all ships as well as to the holo display in the SGC’s briefing room. Her crew flew the ship around the enemy, and along with Heimdall, they prevented the ships from escaping.
Jack let out a whoop. “That was awesome!”
Hammond and Vidrine agreed, as did Daniel, Jason, and every other member of the SGC.
“What’s next, I wonder?” Janet asked, mostly to herself. This Queen was too good to be true. But then, she thought the same thing about the Thor and the Asgard once upon a time.
Morrighan next appeared on Nirrti’s ship, getting the same reaction from the Jaffa. However, this Goa’uld reacted differently. It was nice to have someone give her a challenge; it didn’t happen often.
“Queen Morrighan,” Nirrti said, giving her a crocodilian smile. “Let’s come to an arrangement.”
“What did you have in mind?” Morrighan asked.
“Seriously?” Jack asked. “Kill that bitch!”
“This isn’t happening,” Daniel said, taking off his glasses and rubbing the bridge of his nose as he stepped away from Jack, moving closer to Hammond’s office.
Jason shot him a look. “What’s not happening?”
Daniel flinched, mentally. “Nothing, nothing,” he told him, waving at the screens. “Watch the spectacle.”
Jason frowned and walked over to him. “What’s wrong?” he whispered, concerned. “Getting a headache?”
Jason’s question caught Jack’s attention and he too frowned and walked over. “What’s wrong, Daniel?”
Daniel gave his lovers a plaintive look. “Too much violent emotion in this room. It’s … loud.”
“Shit,” Jason said, exchanging looks with Jack. “I’m sorry.”
Daniel shook his head. “No, don’t be,” he said, gesturing at the holo screen. “She deserves far worse. It’s just that, for some reason, I’m not blocking th …” His voice faded away and an inner voice screamed that something was wrong. “Wait,” he whispered, and closed his eyes. He could feel Jack and Jason’s emotions and the deep hatred wasn’t coming from them. They hated Nirrti as much as he did—although Jack probably hated her more, given his hatred of people who harm children—but the feelings he was getting were hideous, vicious things from a mind so utterly without conscious or remorse and …
Daniel flinched, and he suddenly knew. He didn’t know how or why. He just knew. He looked over at Senator Howard. “It’s coming from him,” he hissed, and saw that Howard was texting. Texting? “What the fuck are you doing,” he growled and strode over and snatched at Howard’s phone, but the senator quickly moved it behind his back.
“Get away from me, freak!” Howard said, wiping at his sweaty upper lip with the back of his hand. “Whole goddamn mess is your doing!”
Vidrine’s and Hammond’s heads snapped to their right and they stood up. “What the hell are you doing?” Vidrine echoed. “This is classified, Senator!”
“He’s updating his boss,” Jack said, grabbing the man’s tie and yanking him to his feet. “Hand it over.”
Daniel grabbed the phone from Howard and looked at the screen.
“Boss?” Vidrine asked.
“Don’t touch me!” Howard said, trying to get loose from Jack’s grip.
“Kinsey,” Jack said, holding him easily.
Hammond looked at Daniel. “What did you say about violent emotions?”
“Hatred,” Daniel said. “I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t block the emotions in this room.” He waggled the smartphone. “Now I know why.” He handed the phone to Hammond. “I couldn’t block them because I was in danger. I was getting a warning signal from my empathic sense.”
“What’s the phone say?” Jack asked Daniel, then Hammond.
The text message read:
Howard: “They’re getting their asses kicked by some alien bitch and an Asgard. How can I talk to them if they’re dead?”
Kinsey: “Get them to stop. Make something up. Use the weapon if it doesn’t work.”
Daniel looked at Howard. “You’re as bad as the Goa’uld.”
“Screw you, freak.” He broke a hand free and reached into his pocket. When Jack attempted to get it from him, Howard fired whatever he had in his hand and it gouged a three foot hole in the wall by the stairs. Before he could fire again, Jason was there, grabbing the Senator’s wrist in one hand while striking the man’s nose with the other. The sudden pain made Howard drop the weapon and Jason retrieved it.
“Guards!” Vidrine called, and two SFs stationed outside came in, weapons drawn. “Search that bastard,” Vidrine ordered, while Daniel, Jack, and the other officers aimed their sidearms at him.
As Howard was dropped to the floor with a boot on his back while the other guard searched his pockets, Jason held up the device he’d taken. It was a Zatarc weapon, a small arrowhead shaped device easily concealed in the palm of a hand.
“What the fuck?” Jack asked, taking it from Jason. “Get him up,” he told the SF. As soon as Howard was up, Jack grabbed his shirt collar and held the Zatarc weapon up in his face. “What was your mission? To kill all of us or just those helping us.” Howard spit at him and Jack wanted to slam his fist into that smug face.
“Take him to a cell,” Hammond ordered. The SFs perp-walked Howard out of the room.
Meanwhile, Daniel still had the phone, and he started to text back, but Vidrine grabbed his wrist. “What’re you doing?”
“Lay a trap of some kind, or get Kinsey to incriminate himself further.”
“There’s no need. What we have is enough to toss him in prison for the foreseeable future.”
“We’ll need to make a call to put Kinsey under arrest,” Hammond said. Vidrine nodded and he and Davis followed the General into his office.
“Jesus Christ,” Jack scowled. His eyes were back on the holo screens, but he then turned abruptly to Diancecht. “Get her to hold the other Goa’uld. We need to interrogate them.”
“No need,” Dian said. “I’ve already informed her on what’s happened. She’ll scour their minds before they die.”
Jack gave him a grim smile. “You guys are damned handy.”
Dian returned the grin. “I think that was a compliment.”
Jack held out his hand and Dian took it. “It was. Thank you.”
Onscreen, Morrighan had Nirrti on her knees, holding onto her right wrist.
“So, what’d we miss?” Jack asked Dian.
Morrighan crushed Nirrti’s wrist bones along with part of the Hand Device she wore. “What was the agreement you made with Kinsey? How did it start?” Her only answer was the glowing of Nirrti’s eyes. “Fine.”
She pushed into Nirrti’s mind. She didn’t like touching the memories of evil beings like the Goa’uld. And then there was the status of the host. Like Morrighan’s host, an old host couldn’t be saved. Their mind was gone after several thousand years and they tended to focus on the last thought they had before being taken over. Once the Goa’uld was removed, the host’s physical health deteriorated fast and it was heartbreakingly painful to see. It was therefore a mercy to kill them with a gentle touch and free the soul.
Morrighan was glad to discover that Nirrti was old, as was her host, so once she pressed past the initial block, all of Nirrti’s thoughts were an open book. She peered into the mind of the host and received a faint reply to her soothing call. With a sense of loss, like all the others in the past, Morrighan released the little bluish light from captivity.
Once Morrighan had done what she needed to do, she switched her grip on Nirrti’s wrist and with her right hand, once more snatched the snake out of the human host and speared it with her thumbnail. Morrighan then turned to Nirrti’s Jaffa and offered them a choice. The next moment, she’d disappeared, but instead of going to the next ship, she returned to the briefing room—while cleaning her hand off with a bit of cloth torn from Nirrti.
It was good timing; Hammond and Vidrine had just finished their phone call and were walking out of the office. Their attention—as well as everyone else’s except Jack’s and Jason’s—was on her hand, half covered in blood and gore. Although Morrighan was nearly finished with her cursory cleaning, her hand was stained.
“Nirrti was the Goa’uld who was in contact with your humans,” she said, and waved the dirty cloth into oblivion.
“Did you get what this business was about?” Jack asked.
“And why they’d sell out their own country over this damn crap?” Vidrine added.
“They’re Goa’uld,” Morrighan said.
“Sonofa—“ Jack started but Sam cut him off.
“How is that possible?” she said, confused. “Teal’c and I would have sensed it!”
“Not from Goa’uld who haven’t any naquada in their system,” Morrighan explained.
“How the hell did they get taken over?” Vidrine shouted angrily, though his question wasn’t directed at anyone in the room.
Morrighan looked at Vidrine and Hammond for five very long seconds, trying to sum up what she’d read there about the U.S.’s brand of security.
“Your means of defense and security are effective for humans but seriously ineffective against aliens. This situation will not change until the people of Earth are informed about aliens and the Stargate Program. I’m extremely surprised that your whole world hasn’t been taken over by now.”
“We’re an Asgard-protected planet,” Jack told her.
“And we’re indebted to you for your help now,” Daniel added. “The general’s question wasn’t aimed at you, by the way.”
“I know,” Morrighan said. “And you’re very welcome. We help our kin, and that happens to include Earth.”
“How’s that?” Hammond asked.
Morrighan glanced at one of the video screens and unfocused her eyes past it. She raised her chin and looked at her husband. “Would you like to wait here or aboard the ship?”
“The ship,” Dian said, and he sighed and gave Jack an apologetic smile. “No offense. I would like to leave. I’m not a fan of battle.”
Morrighan flicked her hand at him and Dian disappeared, then she directed her attention to Hammond. “A few of my people stayed behind after we left Earth five thousand years ago. There are traces of our DNA within many on this planet, and we consider Earth to be part of our family. We defended it five thousand years ago and we are back to defend it again. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some battle considerations to make while you round up your …” She smiled at Jack. “Snakeheads. I will return when the battle is over in order to establish proper ties.”
After she disappeared, Vidrine and Hammond monitored progress of Kinsey’s capture via tele-conference in Hammond’s office. Jack told one of the SFs to get up to the confinement cells and post additional security on Howard and to explain why.
Onscreen, there weren’t any changes and Daniel frowned. “Seems we’ve lost what’s currently happening.”
“She said she had battle considerations to make,” Jason reminded him. “Whether or not she does that verbally or mentally, it tends to take the same amount of time. She’s powerful, but she ain’t a super computer. It’ll take a bit.”
“Yeah, I know that,” Daniel said, annoyed. “I just assumed that we’d see everything, even the boring battle planning.”
“I’d like to see her kill the other two snakeheads,” Connor said, his arms folded while he leaned against the stairwell railing. “I can’t tell you how goddamn satisfying it is.”
“Me too,” Jack said. “Makes me wish all the bastards we killed were here right now.”
“Especially Hathor,” Daniel said darkly. Even after all these years, he could still clearly remember how she smelled, touched, and sounded while she manipulated his mind and terrorized his body and soul. She had been one nasty piece of work. It wouldn’t be easy forgetting her.
Jason hadn’t been assigned to the SGC then, so he only had the report and Daniel’s few explanations about what had happened. He rubbed Daniel’s back between the shoulder blades, saying nothing because there wasn’t anything to say.
“I sympathize, Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c said. “I wish for Cronus to be here.”
“Not Apophis?” Sam asked.
“He would come in a close second,” Teal’c said, giving her a grim look. “Who would you wish to be here?”
Sam thought it over.
In the meantime, Janet said, “I’ve just gotten my wish. Nirrti.”
Sam met her satisfied grin and matched it. “Apophis.” While Teal’c had been his First Prime, Sam had blended with Jolinar and been hunted by the Ashrak, been brutalized by Bynar, and lost friends to Zatarc mind control. All thanks to Apophis. “For Martouf.”
“Agreed,” Jack said. “For Skaara.”
Onscreen once more, Morrighan was on Qetesh’s ship. Again she was fired upon and again, it did nothing. Qetesh’s throne wasn’t like the other Goa’uld. She sat in the center of the room, so no more than five feet away from where Morrighan appeared. It allowed the Lia Fail queen to walk around her, studying her like some strange animal. She was pointlessly attacked again and again, and when Qetesh’s First Prime jumped her, his body rebounded with terrific force while the contact with the force field burned his flesh.
Returning to stand in front of Qetesh, who didn’t show one speck of concern for her First Prime, Morrighan held up her hand, palm up, and her fingernails began to grow as they’d done before. “Do these look familiar, Goa’uld?” she asked.
“What is the meaning of this?” Qetesh shouted angrily, but there was fear reflected in her eyes.
Morrighan shook her hand and her fingers transformed into long metal spikes. She stared at her hand in disgust. “I’m now wearing one of the torture methods you used on your young host.” She paused then and tilted her head to speak with her husband and brother.
Dian and Lugh both reappeared in the briefing room. “You may want to look away,” Dian said.
“Why?” Jack asked.
“She will not hide this from you,” Lugh answered.
“Hide what?” Jack asked, confused. “Killing another snakehead? So what?”
“She’s angry,” Dian said. “Angrier than she was at Balor. The Goa’uld is one of the cruelest she’s ever come across. Morrighan intends to make her suffer before she dies.”
Jack crossed his arms. “I can handle it.” He turned to look at Sam, then Jason’s teammates. “Feel free to leave the room.”
Morrighan snarled and bared her teeth, growing her incisors into deadly fangs for a few seconds before she returned them to normal. Qetesh vaulted out of her chair but Morrighan rushed in and thrust the spiked nails into the Goa’uld’s chest and forced her to sit back down.
“Vala. Your host. You don’t like to fight for control, so you subjected her to extreme torture before you took her as host. You vivisected her soul. She can’t come back from that, never to be free of you.”
“No,” said Qetesh through gnashed teeth. “She can’t. The host dies when I need a new one.”
“But she’s still in there and I can give her peace and set her free.”
“What are you talking about? Only I can do that.”
“Really?” Morrighan said with a smile, then steeled her eyes and pushed past Qetesh’s mind. The Goa’uld screamed in anger but it was easily silenced. Morrigan could hear the host’s soul whimpering and she whispered soothing words before she released it. Qetesh stared at the bluish light in panic.
“No, you cannot—“
Morrighan’s entire skin turned black, including her face. There was no reflectivity, as if she wore coal dust. Her eyes turned black as well, but her rainbow irises remained the same. She withdrew her spiked fingers slowly and with her unspiked hand, grabbed Qetesh around the throat. The Goa’uld lashed out, clawing and kicking with its abnormal strength, but it accomplished nothing. Morrighan slowly brought up her free hand and aimed her spiked fingers at the side of Qetesh’s face.
“No, I beg you!” Qetesh yelled in horrified panic.
“That’s exactly what Vala said,” Morrighan said in a light, airy voice. She tilted her head, stared at the Goa’uld as if she were a bug she’d caught. She looked insane. The entire effect was on purpose for the Jaffa around Qetesh. Morrighan already knew that they wouldn’t surrender so her terror display was for them as well as their master.
She held Qetesh firmly and pierced the skin of her cheeks with her spiked fingers, penetrating the flesh until one of her fingers nearly skewered Qetesh’s eye. Holding her there, Morrighan leaned in, nose to nose, opened her mouth, and transformed her front teeth to tiger fangs. “Give us a kiss like you did her,” the Queen said, and engulfed Qetesh’s mouth, nose, and bit down. Slowly.
“Shit,” Janet said and put a hand over her eyes.
Sam forced herself to watch, as did every member of the SG teams. Even to Jack and Jason, who’d seen carnage on Earth, this was a horror. But they watched, fighting down bile. Daniel did the same, holding his arms over his stomach.
The torture went on until Morrighan had effectively ripped off the Goa’uld’s head, taken the snake inside the neck, and punctured it with the black spike on her thumb. Her face returned to normal, but she was covered in blood. She then altered her hair, turning it black with a white stripe, and faced the First Prime. He started to run for the exit, but she moved fast as lightning before two steps were even taken. She grabbed him by the throat with her normal-fingered hand and lowered her spiked one until it was level with the First Prime’s groin.
“You joined in the fun, didn’t you, Ravell? Was it good for you? Did your master watch?”
He spit in her face. “Every minute.”
“Oh good,” Morrighan purred. She leaned in and rubbed her bloody face over his, then kept her nose and lips pressed to his cheek. “You did so many things, Ravell,” she continued, keeping a sultry purring tone. “So many filthy, disgusting, horrifying … I’m just staggered by the level of your brutality. If I were your master, I’d be really turned on.”
Then she touched the points of her spiked fingers against the mailed cloth that covered his groin and he hissed in surprise. She was simply in awe that he actually hadn’t considered what she was about to do. He’d gotten away with this sort of thing for so long, it was no longer a consideration in his mind that he’d ever be punished. Even now.
“What are you doing?” he asked, trying to sound threatening.
Morrighan laughed. “Not too bright, are you?” She bared her teeth again, but instead of fangs, they transformed into shark’s teeth. A long-ago fear triggered Ravell’s memory and he struggled to get away. “What’s the matter, boy?” Morrighan asked, her shark teeth mumbling her crisp speech. She scratched at his covered groin. “Wouldn’t you like these teeth on your private parts?”
Ravell abruptly pissed his pants.
“No?” she asked, sounding innocent. “Oh dear. Well, I’ll just have to make do.” Just as abruptly, she plunged the spikes into his balls and spoke tightly and harshly. “Let’s just see what a mess we can make of you.”
Every male turned away from the holo display, unable to watch. By that time, Hammond and Vidrine had returned, but they suddenly made an about-face, returned to Hammond’s office, and closed the door. Every other male would have to suffer hearing what happened. What Morrighan did to Ravell lasted only two minutes, but it seemed an eternity. Suddenly, the display screens went quiet, and when Jack, Jason, and Daniel turned around to view them, the Queen had appeared in front of Anubis. She didn’t kill him or torture him. Instead she wrapped him with some kind of net as two of her people appeared, and taking him in hand, they disappeared. Morrighan reappeared in the briefing room, clean and back to normal.
“That was …” she said, pausing. “Bracing. Been a while since I could punish evil creatures.”
“Including Balor. What happened to him?” Jack asked.
“Oh, he’s snug and safe, awaiting years of torture. Anubis will be, as well.” Hammond and Vidrine came out of the office. “And trust me,” she said, continuing. “Anubis isn’t going anywhere anymore. He’ll be my prisoner until he’s dead.”
“Execution?” Vidrine asked.
Morrighan half laughed. “Oh no, General. We don’t execute. We torture, then put them out of their misery.”
“That’s the same thing, isn’t it?” Jack asked, perturbed by her attitude. “We witnessed executions on those ships.” No one objected to Jack’s statement, not even Hammond and Vidrine.
Morrighan looked at Jack with studied calm. “You’re correct, Jack. We certainly do execute people. The difference is that I am the sole executioner. The reasons for execution are solely based on the active aggression by an individual or individuals. For example, if you threw something at my head out of anger and that object killed me, you would not be executed. It would be clear that you need help handling your anger and the reasons behind it. But someone like a Goa’uld, who murders out of hand for no other reason than they feel entitled to do so, then those people are a clear danger to society and no amount of punishment will cure them of their defective mindset.”
“Execution is punishment,” Vidrine stated.
“No,” Morrighan replied, brows narrowing. “It is not. Punishment is for the living. You cannot punish someone who will not be alive afterward in order to benefit from its application.” She gestured above them in an airy way. “On my planet, we have jails and prisons and rehabilitation centers. No one stays in our prison for very long and only the violent go there in order to hold them prior to treatment or execution.” She paused, then said to Hammond and Vidrine, “Since I have telepathic abilities, I would be happy to retrieve any information you need from your traitor upstairs.”
“How is it that a matriarchal society tolerates torture?” Daniel asked, disturbed.
Morrighan frowned at him. “First, I’m not planning torture here. Second, how is it that you think we shouldn’t? You seem to view Matriarchy from a romanticized state of mind. It isn’t the opposite of Patriarchy, Daniel.” She then ended the discussion by holding her hand up to him as she turned to Hammond. “You may do as you see fit with their ships. I have no use for them.”
“You’re not fighting for the spoils?” Vidrine asked.
“What would I want with that,” she said, pointing to a pyramid ship, “when I have this?” She pointed to her sleek glider-like ship. “Mine’s better equipped and much prettier.”
“You are one strange woman,” Vidrine said.
Morrighan grinned back. “I am not greedy.” To Hammond she said, “I would like to establish formal relations and discuss the gifts I’d like to bestow. Starting with that criminal you just locked up. May I see him, please?”
Vidrine was hesitant and Morrighan altered her to smile to a reassuring one. “General Vidrine. I am prepared to form an alliance. Do you wish that or should I … take my toys and go home?”
“Well,” Vidrine said, smirking at her. “I’d definitely love to receive your gifts, and that generally comes with a formal alliance.”
Morrighan winked at him. “You could always call them Christmas gifts and send me on my way afterward.”
“Not even I am that stupid, Queen Morrighan,” he said, giving her a smile of appreciation. The woman had a sense of humor. “I think I’m hesitant only because of the power you displayed,” and he too waved an airy hand.
She nodded and stepped back from him, taking in the whole room. “I apologize for frightening all of you. It was not my intention in any way. When I go to battle, that is generally how I fight if the enemy is one that ignores our politely-phrased request to go away.” Knowing chuckles spread throughout the room and the tension she’d felt melted away. “With the Goa’uld, there is no going away unless there are threats applied. They were here to kill, so that’s what they got. Anubis will certainly wish he was dead. As for the Jaffa, I too know that most were not given a choice to serve. They need to be given a chance.”
Grim smirks spread throughout the room and Vidrine gestured for Hammond to take over the conversation. “It’s your facility, George.”
“Howard is on level 16,” Hammond said to her. “Eleven floors above us. We will need to be present.”
“Naturally,” Morrighan said with a gentle smile. “As Vidrine said, this is your facility. I don’t plan to meet you there. I plan to walk with you.”
Hammond nodded. “Appreciated. There is an elevator at the end of the hall. If you’ll follow me, please.”
“One moment,” she said. She turned to her husband and brother. “Dian, Lugh, please wait back on the ship?” They bowed their heads and disappeared. Then Morrighan swept her hands from her face to her neck and her appearance changed, returning to her normal clothing. Her silver circlet was back, along with her opal and silver jewelry, and she wore her tunic, capris, and the silver mesh calf guards and shoeless soles. “Shall we go, gentlemen?”
“Let’s go see what Howard spills,” Jack said, but everyone but Teal’c and Jason’s teammates didn’t follow. He paused in the doorway. “Not coming?”
“No,” Jason said. “I’m fine here.” Truth was, he was worried about Daniel.
“I’ll stay,” Daniel told Jack, who nodded and disappeared down the hall with Teal’c. Daniel crossed the room and rubbed the space between his brows with a thumb.
“Another headache?” Jason asked, brows turning to worry knots.
“Same one,” Daniel said and sat down in Hammond’s chair.
Jason moved behind him and began to massage his husband’s head, neck, and temples.
“How long’s this been going on?” Janet asked with a frown.
“A while,” Jason answered. “It happens whenever he can’t block emotions. At home, he’s mostly fine, but he’s losing his ability to block.”
“Time to go visit Adriann, I think,” Sam suggested.
“Maybe,” Janet said, waving Jason off so she could shine her penlight in Daniel’s eyes. He grimaced and swept her hands away, startling Jason and Sam. “Dammit, Daniel. How long have you been light sensitive?”
“Only a few days, Janet. As long as I don’t look at anything bright, I’m fine.”
“I didn’t even notice,” Jason said, staring at him as he squatted next to him. “The sun’s bright today, so shading your eyes just seemed normal to me.” He paused and took Daniel’s hand. “Don’t hide this shit from me and Jack.”
Janet took his wrist and sighed when she found it normal. “What are you taking for the pain?”
“Mostly nothing. Just before the mission, I swallowed a few naproxen.”
She nodded and gestured for Jason to return to his massage. “Don’t bravely put up with the pain, Daniel. When things settle down, I want to run an MRI, okay?”
Daniel merely nodded, keeping his eyes closed, as Janet shared a worried look with Jason and Sam.
The security team came to attention when Hammond and Vidrine appeared in the open reception area and Hammond ordered them At Ease. “Bring Howard to the interrogation room.”
“Yes, sir,” said Sergeant Cari Carmichael as she looked at Morrighan.
“Sergeant, this is Queen Morrighan,” Hammond said, “She’ll be talking with the prisoner.”
Cari’s brow did an imitation of Teal’c. “Yes, sir,” she said and moved to a cell across the reception desk and opened it. “Time for your interrogation, Senator.”
“You can’t interrogate me! I’m a United States Sen—“ His tirade abruptly went away when he spotted Morrighan. “Keep that creature away from me!”
“Shut it, Senator,” Cari said and yanked him out of the cell by his bicep and pushed him down a hall past the reception desk and entered an open doorway on the right. The interrogation room was large and easily allowed more than ten people. A plain steel desk was stationed in the center of the room, with a chair for the person questioned and two for the interrogators.
Morrighan waved away the offering of a chair and after Howard was shoved into his chair, Hammond sat in the chair across from the senator.
“Do you want to question him and have me tell you if he’s lying?” Morrighan asked as she stood at the end of the desk. “Or would you rather I get the information myself?”
“For legal purposes,” Hammond said, “we’ll need the Q and A.”
“Of course,” she answered and crossed her arms, knowing that her cleavage just increased. Howard stared at it along with frequent glances at her thighs.
“Fucking Amazon,” Howard spat. “You can’t do anything to me!” Howard yelled. “I have rights!”
“You’re a snakehead, Howard. So, no, you don’t,” Cari said, leaning over his left shoulder, making him shy away. “Special rules.”
“Get away from me, bitch,” he said.
To Morrighan’s surprise, the questioning went quickly, and Howard confessed, implicating himself, Kinsey, and a few civilian businessmen who’d been paid to arrange the safe getaways of both politicians.
Back in the briefing room, Morrighan sat in the chair to Hammond’s right while Vidrine sat to his left. As everyone took a seat, Davis ended up standing by the window and shook his head when Hammond offered to get another chair.
“So,” Hammond began, but Morrighan lifted a finger to interrupt.
“Forgive me, General. Now that I’ve helped with the traitor issue, I would request that we handle our formal agreement on my planet.”
“For what reason?” Hammond asked.
“First, our agreements with other races take ceremonial form. Second, some of the gifts require ceremony, which is why we didn’t bring most of them with us.”
“Most?” Vidrine asked. “What did you bring?”
Dian reappeared beside Morrighan with the healing device he’d cured Teal’c with, then handed it over and stood behind her. Morrighan set it before Hammond. “This is a healing device. We call it a Diarcha, which translates to Dragonstone.”
Hammond picked it up. “Looks like the Goa’uld healing device.”
“They found one of our devices and copied it,” Morrighan said. “It doesn’t function with the same healing power our device contains.” She gestured toward Dian, then Teal’c. “You know its special properties.” Hammond nodded. “This one may stay with the SGC. One other will be given to Teal’c, and it would be rude of you to take it away from him.”
“Pardon me, Morrighan,” Vidrine said. “I don’t intend to offend you, but why only two?”
Another healing device appeared on the table next to the first one. It was smaller but still big enough for most hands to fit into. The setting ring was clear polished crystal and the gem was a deep blue, smooth star sapphire.
“This is a Diocha, or moonstone. It is also a healing device, but its purpose is to heal regular wounds or broken bones without altering the genetic code. Teal’c was healed by adjusting his DNA as well as his flesh and that can only be done with a Diarcha.”
“How does it work?” Hammond asked as he gave it to Morrighan to pass to Janet, who had taken the seat opposite Hammond at the other end of the table.
“The operator uses their energy force to heal someone else. It is not dangerous unless they’re trying to resurrect someone from the dead. That will only lead to their own demise and the person they wanted to bring back will also stay dead.” She paused, then added, “We have the ability to resuscitate someone who has died, but only within ten minutes of their demise. Longer and the injured will revive, but with brain damage. And the dead need to be placed on one of our bio-beds that are housed in a separate medical building. Your exploration teams have not seen that particular hospital. I should add that the Goa’uld healing device uses the naquada in the bloodstream as its power source. While Sam can use the device, it wouldn’t be as effective as using the original one from us.”
Hammond nodded, clearly pleased, but Vidrine looked a bit surprised. “What is it, General?” Morrighan asked.
Vidrine shook his head. “I must apologize for how this may be received, but your willingness to help us seems a bit …” He paused.
“Suspect?” Morrighan finished for him. “I am aware. But did the Asgard require what you call a ‘quid pro quo’ when they shared their ship technology?” Her tone made it obvious that the question was rhetorical. “They did so out of a willingness to help. While Earth has not advanced enough to invent the technologies they’ve discovered on other worlds or given to them by the Asgard and others, you are traipsing about the galaxy and calling attention to yourselves. This invites scrutiny from immoral people. Thor shared the technology because you’ve pretty much, as you say, opened the bottle and let the genie escape. You’re traveling, helping others—for the most part—while acquiring new technology to help you defend your race from attack.”
“For the most part?” Vidrine asked. Hammond and everyone else in the room cringed. “What?” the general asked.
“Trinium and Native Indians ring a bell, sir?” Jack asked.
Vidrine scowled at him, but said nothing about the sarcasm. “Understood,” he said to Morrighan. “But you’ve just proved my point about my wariness of your motives. How do you know about that particular event?”
Morrighan gave him a level look. “I do not know about that event, but I am a telepath. While here, I’ve detected a particular motive among all your people within this installation: Greed. Most have that in their thoughts only because the general standing order of this facility is to obtain alien technology that will help you in your fight against the Goa’uld. Your superiors put pressure on you, and General Hammond, in particular, to come home with tech the United States Government can use. They are not happy that altruism exists among you and your teams. You help others, but those who control the funds demand justification to keep this base operational. Howard’s mind furnished me with that bit of information, along with his kind’s particular brand of extortion.”
“So you’re just going to help us because we need it?” Vidrine asked.
Morrighan laced her fingers together, calling attention to her long green-marbled fingernails. “We Lia Fail are the race that the Asgard had inadvertently referred to as the Furling. We were here, on Earth, over five thousand years ago, and we defended your planet then and have done so again. We will continue to do so if it is so wished. Earth has a place in our hearts. For that reason alone, we would share much of our technology with you, though not all of our abilities are shareable.”
“If that’s the case, why were you gone so long?” Vidrine asked.
“Because you humans needed to, how shall I say it … grow up? Do you know that your people weren’t very attractive to other races until you reached what you call the information age? For the Lia Fail, the reasoning is the same. You needed to achieve a level of education without alien help.”
“Why do you say that not all of your abilities are shareable?” Hammond asked.
“Because we have special abilities, as you have seen with me, that have nothing to do with technology. My daughters remained on Earth five thousand years ago and their DNA spread through half-human children. It is possible that any paranormal ability in humans today can be directly traced back to my race.”
“That’s not likely,” Daniel interjected. “The blood has thinned to a point where it would be difficult to locate anyone with your DNA. Unless you’ve developed scans that can detect your DNA among a different race.”
Morrighan smiled and gestured at Jack. “Jack possesses a strand of our DNA.”
“I do?” Jack asked, surprised.
“He does?” Daniel echoed.
Morrighan smiled. “Didn’t you get any sort of alert when you returned to our planet?”
Jack blinked and traded glances with Sam, Teal’c, and Hammond. “Before we went through the gate.”
Morrighan smiled. “It is due to shared DNA. I should have asked you when we discussed Scathach and my daughters, but we’d moved on to other things.” She paused, then regarded Vidrine. “The point is that Earth is considered special to us. Still, we had to stay away for a measure of time and, as I said, due to your level of education.”
“But surely some of us would have been a hint at our evolution. Why wait till we came to you?” Daniel asked.
“Because you’re world is patriarchal. Patriarchal cultures have an inherent hatred of women,” she said, and pointed at Sam. “Where are the other scientist warriors like Sam? The answer is that your society treats them less equal. We are matriarchal and we don’t feel the need to pound our chests and take what others have by force, nor do we force people into class and gender hierarchies.” The men at the table started to argue and Morrighan waited till their protests went silent. She met Sam’s and Janet’s gazes and smiled at knowing in their eyes. “You have your answer, Generals. Do we proceed with an alliance agreement or not?”
Without a word, Vidrine, Hammond, and Davis went into Hammond’s office for a private discussion. For five long minutes, no one said a word out in the briefing room. Morrighan looked at Jack, Daniel, and Jason, then Sam, Teal’c, and the others. Then without a word, she made another swish of her hands and she changed her attire again, this time back to the tunic and capri pants she’d been wearing when she’d met Jason.
“I think I’m done making my point,” she told them all with a conspiratorial wink.
Hammond’s door opened and the three men exited. Vidrine stopped a moment to give Morrighan a calculating look, and then grinned and walked out, Davis following. Hammond nodded at Morrighan.
“We would be glad to have you as a formal ally, your Majesty. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to join you on your planet. Perhaps another time.”
Morrighan nodded, a bit let down, even though she’d already known about the decision. “That would be nice. May I instead perform the ceremony here?”
“No, aboard my ship.”
“How long would that take?” Hammond asked, surprised.
“No more than half an hour.”
“Very well. You may proceed.” Janet stepped back, away from the group, but Morrighan turned to her and gestured for her.
“You too, Doctor.” Morrighan gave Janet a smile. “If you so wish.”
Janet shook her head. “I’m afraid I can’t leave. I have a few critical patients to look after.”
“Very well, Doctor,” Hammond said. A second later, everyone was on Morrighan’s ship. In front of the viewing window on the bridge, two women stood on either side of Diancecht, holding small trays. On each of them was a single fluted glass filled with a liquid that looked like water.
“Welcome, General,” Dian said, and Morrighan took the General’s right elbow and led him to stand three feet from her husband. “Do not speak until the ceremony is concluded.”
“In the name of your ally,” Dian began, “the Lia Fail, and our Queen, Morrighan, we bestow upon you long life and peace of mind from illness and injury.”
With a long golden wand only a quarter-inch thick and engraved with glyphs, Dian waved it in over Hammond, starting at his right hand, moving up, over his shoulder, over his head, and down to Hammond’s left hand. Trailing the wand were sparkles of white light. They remained where they were, flickering in the air while Dian handed him the glass on his right, and took up the glass on his left. He raised his glass and indicated that Hammond do the same, then he tapped the edge of his own glass with his wand.
“In the light, we are born.”
The water within the glass shimmered with gold particles, cleared away, and returned to stillness. He tapped Hammond’s glass, repeated his words, and the same effect happened.
“In the dark, we are seen.”
He tapped the glasses again, and the water shimmered silver, cleared, and went still again.
“We are children of the sun and moon, of the universe, of all life and death. Bless this man with the charity of all souls and bring him joy and wisdom until the end of his days.”
One last tap on both glasses in succession and within the water of Dian’s glass, dark blue ink spilled from the center as if coming from a tiny invisible spigot. Clouds flowed, then gathered in swirls and shrank down into the solid shape of a tiny deep blue and purple orchid. Dian then poured its contents into Hammond’s glass. The flower melted, turning Hammond’s water pale blue, then Dian tapped Hammond’s glass three successive times.
From the center of blue water Hammond’s glass came the same sort of ink, but this time, it was red. It flowed, then swirled, and when it shrank to solidity, a white and red orchid formed. Its petals were white with red streaks and the lip and anther were blending of deep blue and purple.
“Drink the favor of the universe,” Dian said.
Hammond stared at the glass with a smile of amazement, then tipped the glass to his lips. The flower within the water melted into the water as the General drank it down. It left behind the fresh taste of mint, at which Hammond smiled.
“May you share your peace with others,” Dian finished and bowed to Hammond.
The General didn’t know quite what to do so he bowed back.
“Wonderful!” Morrighan exclaimed, and came forward to give him a hug.
“That’s it?” Hammond asked, a bit bewildered.
“That is it,” Morrighan said.
With that, Morrighan whisked General Hammond back to the briefing room, bowed, and disappeared one last time. Hammond sighed deeply and turned, but froze for a moment. A three-foot-square crate sat before the window of his office. The cover was partially open, split in the middle, and when Hammond pulled one side back, he found healing devices cradled in a type of grey foam. He snorted softly through his nose and shook his head in wonder. He called a few airmen to move the crate to the infirmary’s storage room, then went to his office and picked up the phone.
“Doctor Fraiser, I’ve just received a crate of healing devices. I think you’ll be able to heal our critically ill.”
“Yes, sir!” Janet said excitedly.
Jack, Daniel, Jason, and the others were beamed to the surface instead of whisked down by Morrighan. The sensation was a bit more tingly than the Asgard method, but Jack was glad to finally transport somewhere normally. They arrived on a wide thoroughfare, the road several lanes wide and made of a marble composite. It was currently quiet, no traffic. Underneath their feet, they found themselves on a large circle, within which was etched another triple spiral.
“Where is everyone?” Jack asked Morrighan and Dian.
“It is midday,” Morrighan said as she led them on a walk toward a teardrop building close by; it was immense, now that they were close. “On your world, you call it lunch.”
“It was sunny when we left. What time of day was it when we arrived?” Daniel asked, rubbing his right brow.
“Morning,” Morrighan said. “Our days are long, compared to Earth.”
“Right,” Daniel said absently. He was getting sick and tired of these goddamn headaches. “Jack?”
“I noticed,” Jack said with a frown.
“Not that exactly, but we’re gonna need to visit Adriann when we’re done.”
“Are you sure it isn’t your glasses?” Jason asked. “You’re due for a new pair.”
“I’m losing the ability to block, and I get headaches whenever I can’t block. So. Adriann.”
“I wish you’d never gone through with that ceremony,” Jack said.
“What’s done is done, Jack,” Daniel said. He took out a small bottle from his vest pocket and tossed three pills into his mouth.
“What’re those?” Dian asked as Daniel swallowed them with water from his canteen.
“Pain pills,” Daniel said. “I have a headache.”
“I can examine you, if you like.”
“No, that’s okay. The pills will work. Always do.”
“If you’re sure?” Dian asked, troubled.
“I am, thanks,” Daniel said, trying out a smile.
Dian nodded as they reached an arched doorway and entered the teardrop building. Inside was just like everything else they’d seen, except that people were traveling around on two-foot wide white disks that flew in the air.
“Magic carpet ride,” Jack grinned. “On dinner plates.”
Morrighan grinned. “Here we go,” she said, taking them aside to their left and by the archway, white disks were piled in columns. “Take one, then step onto it, in the center.”
They did so and the disk movement was surprisingly smooth, not allowing them to lose their balance.
“This is cool,” Jack said as he held his hands out.
Morrighan grinned. “You don’t need to balance yourself, Jack. The disk is attuned to your center of balance. The only way you’ll fall off is if you jump.”
Other Lia Fail paused in the travels to stare at the humans and it made Jack a bit nervous. “Don’t get many visitors?” he asked Morrighan.
“We do, just not human.”
She led them through a room that held twin grand staircases that curved and twisted far up into the seemingly ceilingless building. The stairs paused at intervals where it met up with floor tiers. On the fourth tier, she turned left, flew through three archways and stopped within a massive round room with mosaic flooring. A triple spiral sat at the center of the room and its edges blended into other images. Many of which looked like creatures from Earth fairy tales: winged horses, dragons, unicorns, and lithe children with dragon wings. The creatures were shown playing within a forest.
“That’s gorgeous,” Sam said.
“It’s a beauty,” Morrighan said, coming to a stop. “Everyone? Say ‘stop’ and step off.”
They did and the disks stopped without overbalancing anyone. Jack stepped off his disk and it flew up and settled by the room’s archway. “Cool. Can we have some of these?”
Morrighan shook her head. “Not unless your entire planet gets them and I’m afraid you’d have to explain where you got them.”
“Right,” Jack said with a sigh. “About saying ‘stop.’ What do you say when no English speakers are around?”
“Etu,” Morrighan said, pronouncing it ay-too. “’Stop,’ in our language. It matters not who uses the disk. It attunes to the rider and understands their meaning, not their language.”
“Cool,” Jack said, looking around.
To their right was another grand staircase but this one led only to a second level within the room with a walkway that made a complete circuit of the room. Along the walkway were additional arched doorways. Above the walkway were pointed arch windows seven feet wide and several yards tall. They bent inward, following the shape of their walls.
To their left sat five curved rectangular tables that ran along what might be considered the far left wall, despite the room’s circular shape. The tables were set up like altars, with unlit cascading candles that met in the middle of each table with the tallest candle. In front of the candles were round metal containers that resembled incense burners. The center, or third, table held a tall, pointed arch centerpiece made of faceted mirror pieces. The entirety of which curved inward from its sides. Before the mirror sat two tall fluted glasses like the ones during Hammond’s ceremony.
Morrighan walked to the center of a dragon mosaic that sat a few yards out from the center table. She bent over and waved her hand over the dragon’s eye and the windows above gradually darkened until the room was entirely shaded but not dark. She snapped her fingers and the sound was like a loud bell that echoed around the room. Over their heads appeared dozens of tapered candles and Connor was amused, thinking of the dining room in the Harry Potter movies.
“Please sit,” Morrighan said.
Without having noticed their appearance, everyone looked around them, finding a semi-circle of plush round ottomans arranged in a horseshoe, the opening of which faced the mirror table.
Daniel sat down on the ottoman located at the left ‘horseshoe’ opening, and Jack sat next to him. Jason set next, then Sam, Teal’c, Alex, and Connor, with Al sitting in the right opening of their horseshoe circle. Morrighan stood in the center while Dian went to the center ‘altar’ and picked up a flat tray that held the two glasses. He turned and brought them to Morrighan, who waited while Dian lit the candles with a snap of his fingers and plucked sticks of incense from a ceramic dish that sat behind the left edge of the mirror. He lit the incense and set them down in their bronze-colored holders, then pulled his gold wand from an inside pocket in his vest and bowed to Al.
“Captain Albert Kaufman, would you please rise and stand in front of Morrighan, facing me.”
Feeling a bit out of his depth, Al blushed a bit as he stood up and went to Morrighan. “Is this going to be like General Hammond’s ceremony?”
“Exactly the same,” Morrighan said. “Hush now. Do not speak until after the entire ceremony has been concluded. This means after everyone has been blessed.”
“Okay,” Al mouthed silently to her and she grinned at him, taking him by the shoulders and gently turning him around to face her husband.
Dian began. “In the name of the Lia Fail, and our Queen, Morrighan, we bestow upon you long life and peace of mind from illness and injury.” With his wand, he waved it in over Al and the sparkles appeared. Morrighan came to stand at Al’s left and Dian lifted a glass from her tray and handed it to Al. He closed his eyes and tapped the edge of the glass with the golden wand.
“In the light, we are born.” The water did the same as before: it shimmered with gold, cleared, then returned to stillness. He tapped Al’s glass, repeated his words.
“In the dark, we are seen.” He tapped the glasses once again and the water shimmered silver and went clear.
“We are children of the sun and moon, of the universe, of all life and death. Bless this man with the charity of all souls and bring him joy and wisdom until the end of his days.”
Dian tapped both glasses and once more, an invisible ink spigot released a blue cloud within the center of Dian’s glass. Again, it swirled and eventually formed into a blue and purple orchid. The healer poured its contents into Al’s glass, turning the water pale blue. Dian tapped Al’s glass three times. From the center, instead of the red ink that had appeared in Hammond’s glass, Al’s was orange. It flowed, swirled, and solidified into a pale pink orchid with gold edging the petals.
“Drink the favor of the universe,” Dian said with a fatherly smile.
Al tilted the glass to drink and the pink and gold flower melted into the blue water as he drank. It tasted of coconut and he smiled.
“May you share your peace with others,” Dian finished and bowed to Al. After Al took his seat, Dian waved the wand at the glasses and any residue left inside evaporated, leaving behind a clean glass. Following clockwise from Al, the ritual was repeated, and as with Al, the only changes were the colors of the clouds of ink and flowers within the blessee’s glass.
For Connor, the ink was deep yellow, with his orchid blending the colors of yellow and magenta; the water tasted of licorice. Alex’s ink was dark blue with an orchid of varying shades. The taste was peppermint.
Teal’c realized that he didn’t have to consider how the symbiote would react to the ritual. It was gone. With a grateful, peaceful expression, he stood before Dian. When it was time for his glass to be filled, the cloud of ink turned a bright electric blue and the orchid changed its shape, looking more like a Slipper. It too was electric blue but with fine wispy veins of silver. They shone brightly for a second when Teal’c tipped the glass to drink, then they melted into the water. As the water passed over Teal’c’s tongue, it felt tingly, as if it were alive with electricity, but the sensation dissolved a few seconds after as the flower water went down. The taste it left behind was the taste of a Chulakian pastry he hadn’t had in over fifty years.
It was Sam’s turn and she kept reminding herself to stop holding her breath, but she couldn’t seem to help it, transfixed with awe when the ink in her glass was so brilliant a silver that she thought of it as platinum. The ink swirled and formed into a tiny orchid so dark purple that it looked black, with veins of silver that shrank toward the center. The tiny lip was scarlet with curly white edges and the anther was peach. When she drank it down, it tasted like a navel orange.
Jason came next. When he looked up from the refreshed glasses, he caught Dian looking at him strangely. Jason furrowed his brows in query and Dian shook his head as if clearing cobwebs and gave Jason a smile.
“In the light, we are born,” he began again.
Jason made a mental note to ask him later about that look. Right now, he focused on the ceremony and the water within his glass. At the proper time, the ink that spilled forth in his own glass was bronze, shimmering as if it really had bronze particles in it. After it swirled into a tiny ball that would from the orchid, it paused first, the bled a new color from underneath. Red washed over the ball, then solidified and unfurled, revealing the inside color of the orchid to be turquoise. The lip and anther at the center of the orchid turned into a copper so realistic it no longer looked like a living flower.
After speaking the final words, Jason drank the contents of his glass and the taste left behind was that of the green aphrodisiac paste used by his distant relatives, the Diné. The first and last time he’d tasted it was over ten years ago, when he’d thought Daniel and Jack were dead and they’d come to the planet to fetch him. The lovemaking that had followed had been one of the most intense experiences of his life, thanks in part to that green paste. Wondering why he was getting that flavor, he returned to his seat. He caught querying looks from Jack and Daniel but shook his head in a way that said he’d explain later.
Jack was next. When the ink issued from the center of his glass, it was translucent. As the light hit it, it reacted like gassy oil does within water, refracting tiny rainbows. When it formed into the ball that would unfurl into an orchid, the color began on the outside first, spreading over the ball like an ink stain on cloth. It was emerald green that shimmered with flecks of bright spring green. When it opened into a slipper orchid, the interior revealed varying shades of blue and green, with the lip and anther turning a brilliant white. After he tipped the glass and drank it down, the taste it left behind was two-fold. As he exhaled, he tasted blood. When he inhaled, he tasted chocolate.
“What the hell?” he thought to himself, and wondered who else had tasted blood.
When he returned to his seat, Daniel was staring at him. Jack shrugged, still frowning in thought, and gestured for Daniel to get up.
Daniel sighed, wishing he could feel Jack’s emotions, as well as Jason’s. His blocks were down, but the empathy he was so accustomed to feeling was no longer there. Instead, the headache over his right brow had spread to include his temple and behind the ear. A migraine was coming, and he’d have to rest in a dark room soon.
He got up slowly and walked to Dian, but he found both him and Morrighan staring at him in alarm. Suddenly a knife stabbed at his temple and he blew out a hard breath and closed his eyes to refocus the pain away. It took only seconds and he straightened up, feeling relief that the pain had suddenly gone away. He wondered if Dian had anything to do with … A razor slashed behind his eyes and Daniel crumpled to the floor like a puppet with its strings cut.
“Daniel!” yelled Jack and Jason and they were beside him like a shot.
“Daniel!” Jack called to him as he took Daniel’s face in his hands. Jason’s hands were below his, checking Daniel’s pulse. “Daniel, dammit!” Jack called again. He opened Daniel’s right eye to check for dilation and sucked in a breath when he found it filled with blood. From under Daniel’s left eyelid, a blood-stained tear rolled toward his nose.
“Jack!” Jason said in a panic. “I can’t feel his pulse!”
“No!” Jack screamed. “No!”
Dian knelt at Daniel’s head, his fingertips pressing firmly over Daniel’s carotid artery and jugular vein. The healer stared at Morrighan, horrified, and picked Daniel up in his arms. Jack and Jason tried to stop him but Morrighan snapped her fingers.
When Jack saw her do that, it sounded like a gunshot. Abruptly, they were back in the medical bay. Thor was still there, unconscious. Dian laid Daniel on the bed and touched many buttons without looking.
Jack’s heart filled with dread and he saw the expression he wore mirrored in Jason’s face. “What’s happened?” he asked Dian and Morrighan.
Dian cleared his throat and began pushing more buttons on a console beside him. “He’s dead.”
Color drained from Jason and Jack, then Sam and Teal’c.
“What the fuck do you mean he’s dead?” Jack shouted. “How the hell is he dead?”
“We’ll find out,” Morrighan said as she switched on colored buttons and maneuvered overhead lasers.
“How!?” Jack screamed, knowing it wasn’t helpful.
“I’ll tell you in a moment,” Dian said as he set the bed to scan Daniel’s head. Two seconds later, the cause was plain to see as the scan results were shown in a holo display. There was an inch wide dense sphere in Daniel’s brain. “It’s a tumor,” Dian told them. “Now please move back and let us work.”
“Work?” Jack said, stunned in horror and grief.
Jason was his exact copy and without giving a shit about keeping appearances, he took Jack’s right hand in his left and gripped hard. “This can’t be.”
“But it is,” Jack said.
“No shit!” Jason snapped.
“Don’t be an asshole!” Jack tossed back.
“Gentlemen!” Morrighan scolded as she came around to their side of the bed and stood in their way as she worked other controls and brought out strangely lighted dime-sized discs, placing them on Daniel’s forehead, eyes, and cheeks. “If you want to argue, leave the room.”
“We’re fine,” Jack said more rationally as he and Jason stepped to the left so they could see better. Seconds passed like hours and despite the calmer sound of his voice, Jack wanted to punch something to death.
A second holo display appeared over Daniel’s head, with bar graphs displaying things none of them understood.
“He can’t be dead,” Jason blurted out. His voice was steady, but his cheeks were flushed, his mouth dry, and a pain settled in his sternum. “He can’t be.”
“When I see Adriann again, I’m going to tear his fucking head off,” Jack said in a low growl.
“I’ll join you,” Jason said, gritting his teeth.
“Why do you think Adriann’s at fault?” Sam asked.
“Because Daniel’s been having problems,” Jack said, “with blocking people and the result has been headaches. If he’s … “
“He won’t stay flatlined,” Sam said, forcing her words defiantly. “He won’t!”
As Dian and Morrighan worked on Daniel with alien scanning tools and strange laser lights, Jason and Jack were unable to think of anything positive. Jack saw himself yelling at Daniel, hitting Daniel, putting down Daniel’s ideas. All of that had happened over ten years ago but he couldn’t help thinking about all the damn pain he’d caused and time he’d wasted.
Jason berated himself for not telling Daniel he loved him sooner than he had. Sense memory followed, remembering how Daniel felt, how he touched him, the taste of his tongue after a steak dinner, the sound of his laugh during a comedy movie. Memory moved to Daniel’s face as pleasure suffused his body, the inevitable arch of his back, the taste of his cock. That he’d never feel him again filled Jason’s eyes with tears. He heard Jack say “Fuck” between clenched teeth and Jason met his eyes; the motion loosed a tear from them both. Almost as one, they angrily swiped the tears away, but their eyes continued to fill anyway.
Sam thought of Daniel’s smile and the way he laughed at one of her jokes. Beside her, Teal’c’s thoughts transferred from personal moments to the places he knew with accessible sarcophagi. If Daniel relapsed, that’d be okay because he’d be alive to go through the withdrawal. Guilt then swam over his thoughts and Teal’c berated his feelings of desperation.
Suddenly Diancecht turned on a large blue light shaped like a dentist’s light and aimed it between Daniel’s brows. Two seconds afterward, he let out a relieved sigh and enlarged the scan of Daniel’s brain. The tumor was shrinking as if something was eating away layers. After thirty seconds or so, Daniel’s heartbeat returned, audibly.
“Jesus Christ,” Jason blurted out as his knees gave out. He dropped to a kneeling position and bowed his head, weeping silently. Sam was at his side, arms around his shoulders. Teal’c started to walk to Jack, but he paused, alarmed by the whiteness of Jack’s face. Something wasn’t right.
Jack couldn’t have helped his situation any. He was frozen, unable to move. Something in his brain said Daniel was alive and he should be with Jason, both relieved and unburdened. But another part of Jack’s mind told him that Daniel was dead. It whispered dour, dangerous thoughts that hadn’t been active since the death of his son, Charlie, more than twenty years ago.
All he could see now were memories: Daniel speaking Ancient Egyptian on Abydos; Daniel sneezing into his shirt-tail during an overnight stay on their second mission as SG-1; breaking down in the storage room, suffering sarcophagus withdrawal; losing Shau’ri; making love to him for the first time; somehow having the strength to crawl into a sarc, get healed, remember coordinates for SG-6’s mission, and coming home. Coming back from the dead.
Following the memories, dark feelings flooded his brain, short-circuiting common sense.
Daniel is dead
Daniel is dead
You can’t live without him
Daniel is dead
You won’t live without him
His jaw hurt and his eyes were dry, as if the water had left his body. Was he already dead and just needed to carry out the action? Jack spun on his heel and bolted out of the room.
“What the … Jack!?” Jason called, and ran after him.
Morrighan turned her head sharply at the moment Jason followed Jack, then jerked her head at Teal’c. “Help Jason,” she said. “Something’s not right with Jack’s mind. Don’t let him destroy anything, including himself.”
Teal’c took off and needing no urging, Sam was right behind him.
Jason ran down the hall, unable to see where Jack had gone. A few Lia Fail, however, pointed in the right direction: UP. Jack had taken the grand staircase they’d passed when entering the building. Jason followed, taking two steps at a time, and soon caught sight of Jack speeding up the stairs as if he had a jetpack.
Jason tried to speed up and considered grabbing a flight disk, but he might fall behind, and he couldn’t risk it. His muscles complained after a minute, but his adrenalin charged him up the stairs as if his muscles had nothing to say about it. He saw a light appear at the top near the ceiling and realized it was sunlight. Jack was on the roof. But … weren’t the roofs pointed? When Jason reached the door, he realized that the roof was nothing more than a walkway with a railing. Above him was the enormous tip of the teardrop-shaped building. Jack was still several yards ahead, but as Jason closed in, his husband stopped and grabbed the railing … as if he was about to jump off it and commit suicide.
“No you’re not!” Jason shouted and closed rapidly, tackling Jack like an NFL safety. They hit the deck, the air from their lungs strangled for a moment. Regardless, Jack elbowed Jason in the chest and shoved him off.
“Get away from me!”
Teal’c and Sam weren’t too far away but they stopped, waiting to see if Jason could calm him down.
“Jack!” Jason shouted at him and found that Jack wasn’t listening. He slapped him hard across the face and Jack slapped him back—or intended to, but Jason was ready for it and ducked. “Who am I?” he shouted with fear and anger. “Who am I, Jack?”
Jack stared at him, tears pouring silently down his face while he gripped the thin railing, turning his hand over it as if he was trying to twist the metal. He blinked at Jason uncomprehendingly for a minute until he finally said, “Jason.”
Jason nearly sobbed but instead he grabbed his husband by the shoulders and gave him a sharp shake on nearly every word. “What the fuck’s the matter with you? Are you out of your mind? Daniel’s alive, Jack.” He did it again. “Daniel’s alive.”
“Jason,” Jack said, and for the first time in their long relationship, he sank to his knees and wept against Jason’s neck while his husband held him tight.
Jason didn’t make a sound as he cried too, as most of his tears had already been spent. He focused on holding Jack tightly against him, never intending to let him go.
“Alive,” Jack said after a few minutes, swallowing the emotional waterfall and regaining control.
“Yes,” Jason said over his shoulder. “Remind me later to punch you dead in the face for scaring the fucking hell out of me.” Jack’s apology came in a tighter hug, and he turned his face to Jason’s head, kissing his hair. Jason turned to look at him and Jack kissed him fiercely. For a second … just for a second … Jack would have fucked him right then and there.
Only then he caught sight of Teal’c and Carter and their drawn, worried faces. Far behind them were Jason’s teammates. “Shit,” he breathed, squeezing his eyes shut. “What the hell was I doing?” Jason only hugged him harder.
The room was white with light, but there was no color or sound. It gradually began to darken, with a myriad of colors gradually building until they became a candle-lit room. Daniel sat on a soft round sofa that encircled the entire room. A padded coffee table matched the plush sofa fabric and sat at the center of the room. Candles hovered in the air over the back of the sofa and white wax dripped onto the cloth.
He wondered where he was and seemed to be thinking about it for the longest time until he felt a thrum of pleasure behind his balls. It traveled upward into his belly and he was suddenly aware that he wasn’t alone. With that knowledge came the feeling of a mouth around his cock and he moaned aloud.
“Yes, yes,” he said, and somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew this was a dream. But another thought lingered there too. He’d been dead. It was just an awareness after the fact. He’d been dead. But now he was dreaming, and so he was alive.
Jack! Jason! He tried to look around for them, but he couldn’t move. He’d been wearing his uniform when he’d opened his eyes—or rather, when the white turned dark and colorful—and now he was naked. The cloth of the sofa had changed from an overstuffed cloth to softer plush cotton, and it was now white. So bright, he thought, sliding his hand over it; so soft. Wasn’t it harder before? Then in his hand was a stiff cock, leaking with demand, and Daniel was suddenly hungry. He sucked it into his mouth and began to feed, licking and sucking, bobbing over it quicker and quicker. He pulled back to take a satisfied sigh, and fell forward into the white plushness. The cock he’d sucked was no longer in his mouth and instead, someone was sucking him again. He tried to turn over, to see who it was, but a hand held his hip and kept him where he was.
It was odd, being held there. Below his body, at his hips, the sofa wasn’t there. He felt the hot wet lips of a mouth, the brush of soft hair and the gentle but coarse rubbing of an unshaved face.
Jason, he told himself with relief. He knew the feel of that mouth. He knew the touch of those hands, too: Jack’s. Then Jack’s cock was inside him, fucking him so slowly that Daniel ached to have him move quicker. He didn’t ask though; didn’t know why.
He concentrated on the pleasure, bucking his hips for more … always more … on and on and on …
Suddenly he was hanging by his wrists, tied with red silk to a wooden beam, and his head had fallen back. He couldn’t raise it, couldn’t look down. A mouth was still around his cock and a cock was still in his ass. But he knew that Jason and Jack had switched places. The moment he made himself aware of this fact, they sped up. Daniel no longer wanted that; he wanted it to go slow and last forever. But whoever guided his dream decided that he should orgasm.
It was a strange feeling, like the orgasm was a living thing, waiting to be freed so it could be locked away and brought out again. And again. And again.
Daniel felt it, felt each one. But they seemed to have names attached to them. Each orgasm was named after the person who gave it.
“No!” he shouted, and suddenly the other names departed, leaving Jack, Jason, and … Adriann.
Adriann, Daniel breathed. Teeth sank into his neck while Jack’s and Jason’s arms and hands caressed him, held him, fucked him. All too sudden, the feel of Adriann disappeared and only Jack and Jason remained.
As it should be, he told himself.
As it always will be.
He sighed and sank into them, melding, bonding, coming over and over and over…
Daniel opened his eyes and the dream faded fast, leaving behind its arousal effect. Replacing any attempt at remembering the dream—as he usually does upon waking—he instead remembered the pain at the ceremony and then nothing else except the dream. He knew somehow that he’d died. And now, he was obviously alive. Focusing on what was above him, he saw another vaulted ceiling, but it closed in toward the top, tapering to a point. Was he in a tower? The walls were blue, and the room was in shadow. Tall, gothic-like windows were shuttered.
He felt comfortable and sat up to look around. He was in a large round bed, the bedclothes pure white. The blanket was airy and plush, like a comforter, and the sheet was sheer, and felt silky and cool. He was naked, too, and Jack and Jason were beside him, seemingly asleep.
“What’s going on?” he mentally asked, the question meant for whatever telepath was listening. If they were listening.
He turned his attention to the idea that he’d died. Again. He felt fine though. Dian must’ve healed him. In fact, he felt perfect, and that included his eye sight. He looked at his palm, finding that he could easily see lines and prints. Frowning, he looked up and he could see the apex of the ceiling clearly, with every detail. How? Was that part of his healing, a by-product? Had Dian done it on purpose? Daniel had always meant to get laser surgery, but he’d never found the time. Or rather, it’d be more accurate to say that he’d never made the time. Now, he didn’t have to bother. With a soft sigh, he huffed out a silent laugh.
So. Dead. He’d been dead. For how long? Not very or he wouldn’t feel so fine, would he?
Wait! What would Jack and Jason have …!?
He turned slowly, twisting around to look at them both; Jack was on his right, Jason was on his left. They lay on their backs and looked … well, hotter than was fair. He smiled to himself. They were all in a bed. Was this a room they were assigned during their stay, or was it because he’d been dead? Was this some sort of near-death after-ritual? There was something in his thoughts that told him the latter was correct, but he couldn’t bring up the reason for this surety.
There weren’t any signs of stress on his husbands’ faces. That might change when he woke them. At the moment, he didn’t want to. He brought his knees up and hugged them, resting his chin on them while he stared at Jack and Jason. How handsome they were. Gorgeous and edible. Damn that dream; it was making him hornier the longer he looked at his husbands. Time to do something about it.
“Jack? Jason?” he called softly. They didn’t stir. He called their names a little louder.
Both men jerked awake and stared at him; they’d done that exactly the same and it was a just a teeny bit creepy. Daniel ordered himself to keep that a secret. “Hi,” he said with a smile. “Why are we in a bed?”
“Daniel!” Jason cried as he rose to his knees, pulled him into his arms, and kissed him passionately.
Daniel wrapped his arms around his neck and gladly returned the kiss, forgetting why they were naked in a bed. All that mattered was he was naked with his husbands. He needed to consume them, exhaust them, to make them come so hard they’d sleep for a week. To hell with Sam, Teal’c, and Jason’s teammates. Wherever they were, they could bloody well wait.
Daniel kissed Jason back with hungry demand. He felt electrified and didn’t care why. As his dick pressed and rubbed against Jason’s groin, he ground against him, loving the zing in his balls. It was somehow keener than it had been in a long time; not since their first time together, including Jack. Daniel felt … different. It was as if he had new senses. Jason tasted amazing and he battled his tongue, delighting in his matching desire.
Kisses over his ear and hair distracted him slightly. It was Jack. Without thinking about it, he reached for him and was engulfed in Jack’s arms as well as Jason’s. He broke the kiss with Jason and sought out Jack’s lips, his tongue. He could feel the emotion in him, the conflicting fear and elation that he’d gone through while Daniel himself had been dead.
Oh my god, he thought. What must they have gone through? With that thought, he felt them both, knew what they’d gone through. The ability to read them had come much easier than it ever had before. It was as if his empathic ability had been smoothed out somehow. Had Dian adjusted it? Had it been the problem in the first place? Daniel pushed aside the questions and just sank into the feelings of his lovers, sharing his own love and arousal with them and feeling them respond with dozens of kisses over his face, neck, and shoulders. He tried to return the favor, but his husbands were so demanding that it was nearly overwhelming. It didn’t matter though; he’d love them both so fiercely that no one would leave this bed until their fears were gone.
Their hands caressed and molded skin, and simple sensation turned into teasing, creating new erogenous zones that dimpled nipples and strained the nerve endings of their cocks. Jack felt an ache filling him from head to toe that had nothing to do with loss. With that ache came a demand from Daniel so strong that only a bomb would stop him from meeting it. Energy consumed his nerves and muscles and he felt as if he were twenty years old again. It was magnifying, keen enough to hurt, and he loved it.
“I love you,” he murmured into Daniel’s neck, over his chest, down his belly. Daniel echoed it, threading his fingers through his hair as Jack kissed his way to his cock. He tasted amazing and Jack’s mouth watered as he sucked the head into his mouth and savored the sharp tang of pre-come. Daniel cried out, yanking Jason over him to devour his mouth.
Jack committed that sound to memory. He watched the kiss for a moment, smiled around Daniel’s cock, then closed his eyes and succumbed to the taste and smell of his long-time love. When hands teased his inner thighs, he knew they belonged to Jason. He opened his eyes to see that Daniel had turned Jason around to suck his cock and make his balls ache. In return, Jason’s mouth now followed his hands when he finally sucked Jack’s cock into his mouth, Jack cranked up his intensity on Daniel, as if the fevered taste under his tongue had been increased by Jason’s hungry intentions.
He sucked harder, drawing away from Daniel’s cock until only the tip of the head remained, then he plunged down, sucking again in rhythmic bobs. Daniel clutched his hair and thrust into him, his voice shut off by Jason’s cock, but the breath he expelled through his nose kept hitching with every bit of Jack’s attentions. Jack smiled and grabbed one of Daniel’s hands and one of Jason’s, pinning them to the bed. His husbands’ cock-filled mouths matched his own breathing and the three of them made begging sounds, growling sounds, and hips moved with synchronous thrusts.
When Jack felt the vein of Daniel’s cock tingle against his bottom lip, he pulled off, and took Jason’s mouth off his own cock. That broke up Daniel’s attention on Jason’s cock and he and Jason sat up, wondering what Jack wanted.
“What do you want?” he said to Daniel, kissing his lips. “I want to fuck you, but I’m leaving it to you.”
Daniel turned on his knees, his left hand grabbing Jason’s waist to pull him over, pushing Jason to lie on his back. He then rubbed his own ass against Jack and leaned back to lay his head on Jack’s shoulder.
“Fuck me,” he whispered, even as his hand slid down from Jason’s waist to take his cock in hand. “Jason?”
“Yes,” Jason said, closing his eyes as he spread his legs and raised his knees, displaying himself. “Fuck me.”
“I love you,” Daniel said, eyes half lidded. “I love you. Fuck me from both ends.”
Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel’s chest, caressing him as he said, “Get inside him first,” and then he pushed Daniel down toward Jason.
Daniel smiled at Jason and laid over him, rubbing their cocks together viciously while pinning Jason’s hands by his head. He looked down at Jason’s sweaty face, at the smile on his lips, and attacked him, kissing him with rough intensity. Thrilled by the wrestling match between their tongues, a chill shot down his spine and lodged in his balls and the backs of his thighs.
Then Jack was upon him. Spit-slicked fingers moistened his hole, his balls, and the keen spike of arousal demanded to be doubled. He tried to match Jack’s timing, and he lined up over Jason’s opening. Teasing his cockhead over the puckered hole, he then slid into him in one go and Jason threw his head back and cried, “Yes!” Then it was Jack’s turn, and he rubbed his cock against his hole just as Daniel gyrated his hips into Jason. Then Daniel was filled with heat and pain, lust, and pleasure. Jack didn’t bother matching his rhythm. He ploughed into him with hard, needy strokes that were punctuated with the sound of their skin slapping together. Daniel forgot all about control and let go.
Jason loved the sight of Daniel’s pupils dilating, relished his weight, the strength of him holding his hands down. Daniel slid in and out of him with wonderfully rough heat, punctuated by Jack’s thrusts. He freed one of his wrists to take his own cock in hand. He stroked in time to Daniel’s rhythm, with Jack’s, and so adored the sound of Jack’s hips slapping against Daniel’s ass, that his orgasm was suddenly imminent. Warning tingled his balls and he cried out, “No, not yet!”
Daniel smiled down at him and grabbed Jason’s hand, taking it away from his cock and lacing their fingers together. He rode Jason, rocking him back and forth while copying Jack’s hard rhythm, and just adored the way Jason’s cheeks flushed.
“Jack,” Jason whispered, his gaze on Daniel’s face. His balls were tightening and whether he had his hand on his cock or not, he knew he couldn’t hold out. Regardless, he had to hold this lust higher, farther, faster, harder. “Fuck. Him. Stupid!”
Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel’s chest and held him fast while he pushed his legs further apart with his knees. Kissing and biting Daniel’s neck, he then slammed into his ass, making the slapping sound louder and harsher.
“Shit!” Daniel said in a strained whisper, squeezing his eyes shut and dropping his head to Jack’s other shoulder, exposing more of his neck. With his hands on Jason’s hips, he yanked him hard, letting him deeper inside his lover’s body. He forgot about thrusting and just let Jack take control. He succumbed to the sensations of his body, his nerves screaming from the double assault.
“Yes, let go,” Jason said breathlessly and reached between his own spread legs to grip Daniel’s waist, his hands placed above Jack’s, and began to do the thrusting himself.
“Shit!” Daniel gasped and grabbed Jack’s hair with left hand, reached out for Jason’s with his right. Jason leaned as far forward as he could without dislodging Daniel from him. Daniel looked at him through hooded eyes and clutched a handful of hair. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” Jason gasped, enjoying the slight pain from Daniel’s grasp; it wasn’t hard to do. His ass was getting far more rough attention and it felt wonderful, sending shocks throughout his body. Watching Daniel made it even better.
Against Daniel’s neck, Jack inhaled deeply, drinking in his smell, his sweat. With it, he could smell the spicy musk coming from Jason’s body as he sweat around Daniel’s cock. Blending that with Daniel’s and he couldn’t help but be overpowered. He scraped his teeth over Daniel’s skin and it goose bumped against his tongue.
“Do it,” Daniel whispered, his voice creaking. “Jack.” Jack sucked the skin under his lips, then bit down firmly. It sent a shock of pleasure throughout his body, forcing him to arch his back and grind his hips back and forth with furious frenzy. His fists white-knuckled and his breaths turned to hitching gulps of air. “Fuck,” he said, voice strained and fading.
“That’s it!” Jason cried and he took over the thrusts, slamming upward hard and fast.
Two more breaths and Daniel inhaled sharply and held his breath as he came and with him was Jason as he pulsed and jerked. Jack quickened then too, loving the warmth that passed over him while he jetted into Daniel’s body.
Daniel felt massive amounts of heat rippling over his skin from head to toe. Jack was kissing him now, removing his hand from his hair. Daniel drank him in, his hips jerking now with the keen aftershocks of his orgasm. “Love you, baby.”
The endearment wasn’t used often, but when it was, and from Daniel, it was special. Jack had long ago lost his dislike of the term, thanks to Daniel and Jason. He pulled from Daniel’s body to capture his mouth more deeply, kissing him hungrily.
“I love you,” Jason freed himself from Daniel and knelt, leaning in to wrap his arms around both his husbands while he kissed the side of Daniel’s mouth as well as Jack’s while their kiss continued. They broke apart with exhausted grins cracking their faces and they each gave him a proper kiss that threatened to restart his arousal. It would be okay with him. He felt as if he could fuck them both for another twelve hours.
The room was warm, despite the cooling of their skin, and it lulled them into an after-sex snuggle. All three were still kneeling, arms around each other, limbs spread, half-wrapping around others. Daniel closed his eyes, loving how Jason’s cheek stuck to his right one, and Jack’s cheek stuck to his left. Drifting on the edge of sleep, he didn’t move an inch. Whether it was ten minutes or an hour later, it didn’t matter. Their love and closeness flooded into Daniel’s mind and he returned the favor without thinking. It wasn’t a deliberate effort. He’d simply thought about it.
Jack and Jason opened their eyes and unstuck themselves from Daniel’s face with a laugh and stared at him.
“Did you just tell me how you were feeling?” Jack asked.
“Ditto,” Jason said.
Daniel blinked a few times. “I didn’t say anything.”
“No,” Jack said. “Did you … feel it … at us?”
Daniel thought about it. “Yeah,” he said, surprised. “I guess I did. You felt it?” He looked at Jason. “Seriously felt it?”
Jason nodded slowly and stared at his husbands. “Wow. I think Dian did more than heal you.”
“I think you’re right,” Jack agreed.
“Huh,” Daniel replied, thinking it over. His body felt sticky but there was no uncomfortable cooling. He was warm and snug and didn’t want to move. But he also wasn’t tired, which surprised him a little. He then got a very lovely idea. “Can you feel this?” he asked and sent them a wicked little feeling of sucking their cocks.
Jack dropped his mouth open, so did Jason, and their dicks twitched against Daniel’s skin.
“I guess so,” Daniel said with a seductive smile and dropped onto his back between them and greedily sucked the spongey, sticky tips. It took thirty seconds of doing that before everyone was hard again and Daniel teasingly scooted away from them. With a dirty smile, he folded an arm under his head and stroked his cock. “This is awesome,” he said, just as amazed as his lovers obviously were.
“How the hell is this possible?” Jason asked, stunned by the energy in his body. “I’m not eighteen anymore.”
“Me either,” Jack said, slightly touching his cock as it pointed north.
“Who the hell cares,” Daniel said, and moved the hand under his head to grip the bedclothes over it. “I think a suckfest is in order.”
Jack and Jason grinned at him, at each other, and they lay down in a three-way sixty nine, with Jack at Daniel’s cock, Daniel at Jason’s cock, and Jason at Jack’s. It was slow and furious, repeatedly. Back and forth, bobbing and fingering until sweat and come poured once more over taut, rippling muscles and contractions.
“… because I’m fascinated with how you do things,” Sam was saying as Daniel, Jack, and Jason walked into the infirmary to see Thor. She hadn’t seen them yet. Her friends grinned and remained where they were, watching. The only things missing were chairs and popcorn. To their right, Jack spotted Teal’c sitting in a chair, a smirk on his face. He traded nods with him before he looked behind him at Alex, Al, and Connor, who looked bored. Jack exchanged a smirk with Teal’c and turned his attention back to Sam and Diancecht.
Dian crossed his arms and gave Sam a slightly amused but tolerant smile. “Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, of the United States Air Force defending the United States of America and planet Earth.” She frowned at him. “A thousand years ago on your planet, if you introduced yourself to a peasant or King in Britain, do you think they’d understand a word you said, even if technically what you were speaking was English?” She opened her mouth, but he cut her off. “If you were to talk to someone from the 4th century, BCE or CE, would they have any clue what you were talking about, even if you weren’t trying to explain how … say, an internal combustion engine … worked? Or how about the Internet? Satellite TV?”
Sam’s frown deepened to a scowl of annoyance. “I’m not a hick from the 4th century, CE or BCE.”
“No. You’re a highly intelligent Earth woman, far smarter than most around her. And even so, it is impossible to … I beg forgiveness but … dumb down the workings of magic. You won’t recognize the words I’d use explaining it.”
Sam growled deep in her throat. “Then try to be brief and I’ll try to understand you,” she said with heavy sarcasm.
Jack looked over Teal’c again. “How long’s this been going on?” he whispered.
Teal’c signed ‘five minutes’ in their combat hand signal language. Jack grinned and returned his attention to Sam.
Dian withdrew his ten inch gold wand from the pocket of his tunic. “Look at this. What is it? What does it look like to you?”
“A gold wand with symbols or glyphs inscribed on it.”
“To us, it’s called a Wynd Star,” he said, and grinned. “In your language, wynd, spelled w-y-n-d, makes no sense and it’s obviously not a star.”
Sam thought about that and gave him an understanding nod. “Point taken. Still, can you give me something other than ‘a formula of energies’ to describe whatever it was that came out of the wand when you tapped the glasses during the ceremony?”
He sighed again and then spotted Jack, Daniel, and Jason. He gave them the look of a man who’d been spared the gallows. “Gentlemen!” he said, walking over. He gave Daniel a doctor’s look. “How’s your head?”
“Great,” Daniel said, then grinned at him. “How’d you save my life?”
Dian snorted softly. “Magic.”
“Ah huh,” Daniel said and winked at Sam as she walked over. She gave him a hug.
“Don’t start with him,” she said. “He’s not giving it up. We’re too stupid, apparently.”
“That’s not what I said, Sam,” Dian said with a touch of real annoyance.
“It’s implied,” Sam sighed. “Never mind. I just used a word that you diplomatically did not. Hint, hint. So. When does Daniel have his ceremony?”
Dian looked at Daniel. “As soon as Morrighan returns from Aos Si. She’s helping Leanansidhe with the ceremonies of the dead.”
“Oh,” Daniel said, smile fading. “That’ll take a while.”
“No,” Dian said, and touched his arm. “It’s not a sad moment. We honor our dead with celebration as soon as possible. It keeps our culture from dwelling on death.”
“Sounds like we could use that,” Jack said with a jog of his brow.
Dian gave him, Daniel, and Jason a fond and caring smile. “How was your reunion time?”
“Reunion time?” Daniel asked, looking at Jack and Jason.
“It was great, thanks,” Jack said, with just a hint of blush. “That’s what they call it, Daniel. Apparently whenever someone has a brush with death, they’re healed and then left alone with their loved ones to rejoice in their continued relationship. Or something like that.”
“Good enough,” Dian said. He glanced over his shoulder. “Thor’s doing well. He should be awake some time tomorrow.”
Jack gave a glad sigh. “That’s great news.”
“Now, let us make our way to the ceremony room and wait for Morrighan. She won’t be long.”
“Walking or those little flying disks?” Jack asked, wanting to ride one again.
“Disks, of course,” Dian chuckled, as if Jack had said something funny.
“What name do you call this hall?” Daniel asked as they re-entered the large ceremonial room and stepped off the disks.
“Deo Trone Tell,” Dian answered. “In our language. In yours, it would translate to ‘the hall where souls meet to challenge the body in love and wisdom’.”
Sam laughed and shook her head. “No wonder you can’t discuss anything with me,” she said.
“Indeed,” Dian said, turning to wink at her. “But I’ll make an effort to try later today. If that would be satisfactory?”
“More than,” she answered with a big smile. “Thanks.”
“How’re you feeling?” Teal’c asked Daniel as they walked over to the altar.
Daniel nodded at him with a smile of wonder. “Amazing, actually. I’ve got all this damn energy. I haven’t felt this way since I was in my twenties.” Teal’c gave him a puzzled look, and Daniel didn’t know what that meant. He also realized that not long ago, he was dead. Was Teal’c still freaked out about his … “I’m sorry,” he said, wrapping his arms around Teal’c. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
Sam came over to hug him with Teal’c. “You scared the shit out of us.” Alex, Al, and Connor joined in the grand hug and soon they were all asking Daniel questions about what he remembered.
Jason had been looking at the ritual designs on the table when he froze at Sam’s statement. He wasn’t bothered by what she said. Instead, he was brought up short by remembering that Jack had thought Daniel was permanently dead and had … tried to commit suicide. Jack hadn’t thought one jot about leaving Jason alone. His first instinct was to leave him, that Daniel’s death was all that mattered to him. He hadn’t even turned to him for comfort. Sam had, instead.
Jason’s mind raced as he tried to find excuses for Jack, not willing to believe that Jack no longer loved him as much as he loved Daniel.
Dian turned his head sharply in Jason’s direction at the same time that Morrighan appeared by the altar. Something was wrong and though he wanted to read Jason’s mind to find out what it was, he decided to ask him after the ceremony. With a deep breath, and a last quick glance at Jason, he turned to his sister.
“Everything settled down?” he asked her, referring to the aftermath of the attack on the Aos Si.
“It is. I’ll explain later,” she said. She held out her right hand and beckoned Daniel to take it. Daniel walked over and did so and she squeezed him gently. “How’re you feeling?”
“Strangely amazing,” he answered. “You’re gonna have to explain a few things later, if you don’t mind.”
“How about over dinner,” Morrighan suggested.
“Done,” Daniel said with a nod.
She let go of his hand and picked up the plate holding the two glasses. “Let us proceed.”
Dian picked up one of the glasses and told Daniel to do the same. He tapped the edge of his own glass with his wand.
“In the light, we are born.”
When it came time for the ink to spill into Daniel’s glass, he stared in fascination when the ink spewed forth in two separate colors: deep blue and deep green. They swirled around each other, never blending, until they formed a striped ball. When the ball unfurled, it didn’t resemble any of the familiar orchids. It looked like a snowy egret. The petals had deeply fringed edges, like feathers, and one petal-like part formed the body. The anther and lip formed a hood that covered the head and beak of a bird. The beak was light yellow, but the rest of the flower was a crisp, clean white, and no sign was left of the blue and green stripes.
Daniel mouthed ‘wow’ and after his glass was tapped, he regretfully tipped it to drink its contents. When the orchid melted, it turned the pale blue water white and it reminded Daniel of coconut water as he drank it down. It didn’t taste like coconut. But the flavor the water left behind was that of a ‘scent,’ not a real taste: it was the ocean. It was that soft breeze that forced your nose to detect the sea, and to never mistake that clean, salty, and slightly fishy scent with anything else. The taste-scent made Daniel blush slightly; the sea breeze wasn’t just the scent of the sea. It was, to him, the same scent he detected when tasting the head of a man’s cock.
“It is done,” Dian said, giving Daniel a curious smile. “How’re you feeling?”
“Fine,” Daniel said, as he worked out that sea scent. It only reminded him of cock because he’d just been with Jason and Jack. Whenever he scented the sea, the first thing he thought of was Alexandria, in the western part of the Nile delta.
“You sure?” Jack asked as he walked up to him and fondly patted his upper arm.
“Yeah, yeah,” Daniel said. “I didn’t have a taste so much as a scent.”
“Oh yeah?” Sam asked. “Of what?”
“The sea,” Daniel said. “Particularly, the coast of Alexandria.”
“That figures,” Jack teased.
“What’d you guys taste?” Daniel asked, ignoring him. Mostly.
“We, uh,” Jack said, looking around, “didn’t actually talk about it yet.”
“We need to see to something,” Morrighan said. “We’ll be back shortly.” The two Lia Fail disappeared.
“Okay,” Daniel shrugged, then asked Jack and Sam about what they’d experiences since they were closest.
Behind the group, Jason crossed his arms and took a few steps backward. Then a few more. He’d been paying attention to Daniel’s ceremony, but underlying his thoughts was an anger that simmered. Now, it was at a soft boil. He was mad and it was quickly boiling to rage. With it was the type of grief and betrayal one felt when a partner cheated on them. Or left. Like Jack had tried to leave by way of suicide. Jason needed to leave. He needed to be by himself. If he didn’t get somewhere else—
“Hey,” Jack said, touching Jason’s shoulder.
Jason jumped and spun around, his hand curling into a fist as he moved, and he connected with Jack’s cheek. Hard.
Jack stumbled backward in surprise and fell onto his ass. “What the—“
“Jason!?” Daniel yelled, stunned. “What the hell was that for?”
Jason couldn’t talk, couldn’t figure out how to tell Daniel that Jack had considered suicide instead of going to him for comfort. Jason held up his hands at Daniel and shook his head. “I need to be alone,” he said, then turned on his heel and strode out of the hall. Alex started to follow but Daniel waved him off.
“Let him go,” he said, then turned to Jack, who was still on floor, holding a hand to his face. His expression was that of someone completely bewildered. “What did you do?” Daniel asked him.
“I didn’t do anything!” Jack said, scowling at Daniel defensively as Teal’c gave him a hand and pulled him to his feet.
“Jason doesn’t hit people for no reason, Jack,” Daniel said, shock in his tone.
“I believe I have an answer,” Teal’c said, giving Daniel a look that said something did happen.
“What is it!?” Jack asked angrily. He had no idea what he’d done wrong and he wanted nothing more than to go after Jason and knock him on his ass.
“A few years ago,” Teal’c began, speaking to Daniel. “You were talking about one of the positive benefits of a three-way relationship was that if one of you died, the other two could comfort each other.”
“Oh fuck,” Jack whispered, closing his eyes and shading them with a hand. He turned away from Daniel as he recalled the moment on the walkway. “Remind me later to punch you dead in the face for scaring the fucking hell out of me,” Jason had told him. Except the problem wasn’t about having scared him.
“Yeah,” Daniel said, frowning at Jack as he answered Teal’c. “I remember. And?”
Teal’c looked at Jack and said nothing, waiting for Jack to confess.
“Jack?” Daniel asked, walking over to him so that Jack would face him. “Hey,” he said, pulling Jack’s hand away from his face.
Jack kept his eyes closed. “I abandoned him.”
Dread with a pinch of anger filled Daniel’s body. “What do you mean?”
Jack hugged himself. “I thought you died. I saw Jason drop to his knees, weeping, and I thought that meant you were dead. Instead of going to him I …” He took a deep breath and turned to Daniel. “I ran out. I don’t know why I did it. Maybe I panicked, I don’t know. It still doesn’t make sense to me. All I could think of was your loss. I didn’t think of Jason at all. I tried to … I was going to …” Jack waved a and at nothing in particular.
The dread in Daniel dropped like a stone. “Suicide?” he asked. “Suicide?” Daniel lost it and yelled, “What the hell’s the matter with you? I thought you loved Jason!?”
“I do, dammit!” Jack yelled back.
Daniel scowled at him and ran for the door. “Something’s wrong with this picture,” he said as he left the room to go after Jason.
Jack looked up at the ceiling while no one came over to comfort him, not even Teal’c. He took a deep breath and walked toward the door.
“No, O’Neill,” Teal’c said, getting in his way. “Let Daniel handle it.”
“He’s my husband, not yours,” Jack said, going around him.
Teal’c blocked him again. “Correct, but you need to let Daniel calm him down before you apologize.”
Jack’s stubborn half told him to tell Teal’c to mind his own business. But his more reasonable side nixed the idea. Instead, he thought over Teal’c’s words and wondered why he hadn’t thought of that. What the fucking hell was the matter with him? There was even more guilt and he walked away to sit on the edge of the ritual table. He crossed his arms and brooded.
Unable to leave Jack alone, Teal’c walked over and sat next to him. “Talk to me,” he said, then waited.
Daniel caught sight of Jason easily but by the time he caught up with him, they were outside and between two teardrop buildings. Sunlight passed down only so far and the buildings’ shade dominated. Jason walked further into the shadows and put a hand on the smooth quartz material and leaned against the building as he bowed his head. Daniel rushed to him and Jason turned around in surprise.
To Daniel’s surprise, tears were in Jason’s eyes but not on his face. Yet. He took Jason in his arms and held him in a long hug. “I know what happened, but I want you to tell me anyway.”
Jason held Daniel in return and rested his chin on his shoulder while he stared at the deep blue crystal shapes under the smooth surface of the building. “I didn’t even notice that Jack wasn’t next to me. He was apparently standing apart from us and closer to the door. When Dian revived you, when your vital signs returned, I was so relieved I fell to my knees. Jack wasn’t paying attention. He misread my reaction and instead of coming to me, he ran.”
Jason pulled away slightly and gripped Daniel’s shoulders. With blurry eyes, he said, “He took off, Daniel. He left me. I didn’t leave him. Couldn’t. I went after him. He’d gone out on the outer walkway and stopped, looking like he was actually going to jump! I didn’t let him. I told him you were alive, then I told him to remind me to deck him for scaring me.”
“Which we always say but never really mean,” Daniel said, caressing Jason’s cheek.
“Exactly,” Jason said with a sad laugh. He stepped back slightly, still keeping Daniel’s hands on him, and ran a hand through his black hair. “I … I was fine, I thought,” he said, looking down slightly, his gaze on the zipper of Daniel’s field vest, then looked up into Daniel’s eyes and for a few seconds, indulged in his love of his husband’s bluer than blue eyes. “Dian and Morrighan did some other stuff I didn’t understand while they healed you.”
“Like what?” Daniel asked.
Jason sighed and looked down at the grass. He took Daniel’s hand and dropped to the grass to sit, knees up. Daniel sat close, keeping their bodies touching, and laced his fingers though Jason’s.
Jason rested his free arm over his knees and ‘talked’ with his hand without raising his arm. “Wand waving is all I can remember. Blue light from a medical lamp, wand waving, and Morrighan held a disk of gold or something over your forehead, then set it on you. More wand waving.” Jason shook his head. “I sort of don’t remember much else. When they were done, they put you on a flying disk the shape of a stretcher and brought you, me, and Jack to a special bedroom. Dian then told us to keep you in physical contact and stripping down would likely be best. So after he left, we got naked, got you naked, and waited. We eventually fell asleep.”
Daniel nodded, thinking about what happened while he stroked Jason’s fingers within their clasped hands. “How did Jack act?” he asked with a worried frown.
Jason shifted his gaze, thinking. “He acted like I did. We kept you close between us.”
“Did he touch you? Hold your hand? Anything?”
Jason’s face grew sadder. “No.”
Daniel sighed and leaned his forehead against Jason’s cheek. “Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I don’t know what’s the matter with him.”
“I do,” Jason said. “He just showed us that he loves you and not me.”
Daniel shook his head fervently. “No, Jason. I know he loves you. I can feel it. Something else is going on here.”
“Like what?” Jason said dejectedly as he closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against Daniel’s. “He seemed like Jack to me.” He paused a few long seconds and raised his head, looking at Daniel as a few tears escaped his eyes. “Except for what he did. He was going to leave me alone, Daniel. That was his gut instinct. To leave me alone.”
Daniel shook his head, unwilling to believe that was the core of the problem. He unlaced their fingers and stroked his lover’s face. “Something else is at work here, Jason. I know he loves you. I know. What happened sounds like fear took over. That is not like him. We need to talk to Dian and Morrighan and ask them to investigate.”
“What?” Jason asked, confusion on his face. “What’re you thinking?”
Daniel shook his head and sat straighter, then he got to his feet and pulled Jason to his. He rubbed at his chin, letting tendrils of thought reach out for connections in the idea he was forming. “It wasn’t gut instinct, Jason. Something made him run.” He took Jason’s hands. “What he did wasn’t gut instinct. Are you listening to me? I know his mind and so do you. What he did wasn’t normal. He does not freak out and try to kill himself, not since Charlie. He knows better.” He paused and stared hard into Jason’s dark eyes. “Think about it, Jason. You know him just as well as I do. Is he someone who’d run off to die just because I was dead?”
“I didn’t believe it of him, no,” Jason said, frowning. “That’s why I didn’t haul off and hit him after I caught up with him. But during your ceremony and then afterward, I just got angrier and angrier.” He sighed and threaded his hair again. “I … “ He dropped his voice to a whisper. “I’m pissed off, Daniel. Seriously pissed off. He betrayed me. I can’t clear my mind!”
Daniel took his hands again and squeezed them hard as he brought them to his chest. “Think, Jason. Let the intuition that Lin gave you suss out what’s wrong here. Think.” Jason tried, but his anger and sorrow were too strong. He shook his head and tried to move away but Daniel held him fast. “Okay, then let me. I think I can let you share what I’m seeing.”
“How?” Jason asked, puzzled.
Daniel shook his head. “I don’t know how I know I can do this, but I’m certain I can. Maybe it’s the way Dian and Morrighan healed my empathic ability.”
Jason lifted his brows and sighed. “Okay. Go for it then.”
“Look at me,” Daniel said, and returned Jason’s gaze. Internally, he thought of Jack’s mind, his emotions, back in the ceremonial room. There came a melding between them, and Jason felt what Daniel felt, only it wasn’t Daniel’s emotions, it was Jack’s. There was a strong fear that Jason had never felt from Jack. Ever.
Jason’s eyes grew big. “That’s not Jack,” he said, certain.
“No,” Daniel said and looked back at the door they came from, then back at Jason. “We need to find Dian and Morrighan and ask them to find out what’s happened. Jack didn’t run away on his own. He was pushed.”
“By someone else?” Jason asked, and surprise quickly changed to defensive anger and he scowled. “Whoever did this to him is gonna die.”
“Well, not really, right?” Daniel said, expecting a smile from Jason. He didn’t get it. Instead Jason growled loudly.
“I’m not kidding, Daniel.”
Daniel took a deep breath, containing his own rising anger, took Jason’s hand. “C’mon, Godzilla, let’s go find Morrighan.”
When Daniel and Jason returned to the ceremonial hall, they saw Jack and Teal’c sitting against the ritual table and Sam talking to Alex, Connor, and Al. Dian and Morrighan weren’t there.
“Shit,” Daniel said and headed for Jack. He looked over his shoulder at Jason. “Concentrate on his body language and expression, Jason. Not your anger.”
As Jack stood up, his gaze bouncing between Jason and Daniel, Jason did as Daniel told him. But he still couldn’t bring himself to forgive and forget and he moved around to Daniel’s right, placing as much distance from him and Jack as Daniel would allow.
“I think someone’s messed with your emotions, Jack,” Daniel told him.
“What?” Jack asked, mystified. “I didn’t feel anything like that.”
“You wouldn’t,” Daniel said. “Did you feel me forcing something on you when I purposely sent images back in that bedroom?”
Jack blushed for a moment, pointedly ignoring Teal’c’s eyebrow. “No.”
“Okay. So. Think about what you were feeling when I was on the medical table.”
“I have already informed O’Neill that what he did was not natural.”
Daniel nodded quickly. “That’s right, Jack. It isn’t.”
“So?” Jack said, defensive despite himself, but he was more in a self-flagellation mood than anything else. “Remember Charlie? What I told you?”
Daniel sighed. “You didn’t immediately run off and try to kill yourself. It took a while. When you were told I was dead, you waited, Jack. You waited while Dian and Morrighan worked on me, got my vitals going.” Daniel stepped closer, aching to touch Jack but was forced not to give in to that desire. Gay or straight, the frat regs were the frat regs. And besides, they were a military team—and on mission—so they had to behave appropriately. Even though Sam, Teal’c, and Jason’s teammates knew about their relationship, it wasn’t kosher to hold each other while on a mission. “Listen to me. Think about what you were feeling just before Jason dropped to his knees. What were you thinking?”
Something dirty scanned Jack’s consciousness and he shoved it aside to pay attention. He tightened his crossed arms and focused on what Daniel asked. “I was scared out of my mind.”
“And then?” Daniel asked searchingly.
“And then what?” Jack asked. “I misread Jason and ran.”
Daniel shook his head. “No. Think carefully.”
Jack looked at some random spot on Daniel’s vest, blurring his vision. “I was … afraid … grieving …” He thought harder. “I remember the beeping of the machines changing and …” Jack snapped his head up, eyes wide. “I knew you were alive! I recognized it!” He walked away from the table and paced while he raised an index finger to hold off comment. “I started to … thought about, I mean, to go to Jason, but … a huge sorrow filled me … and I thought you were dead. The only thing on my mind after that was to end my life and I just bolted.”
“Not something you’d normally do, Jack,” Daniel said with a deep frown. “Someone fucked with your head.”
Jack began to grow angry. “How do you even know that?”
“Because I know you, Jack, goddammit,” Daniel scowled at him. “You’re not the same guy I met a long time ago. You have me and Jason. We made a pact. If one of us dies, the other two carry on. Do you remember that?”
“’Course, I do,” Jack said. “It was my idea.”
“Exactly!” Daniel said, a smile starting to appear at the corners of his mouth. “Exactly!”
Jack blinked at him. His jaw dropped, then he said softly, “My idea.” He turned then to catch Jason’s gaze, but Jason was looking away. He walked over to stand before him. “Hey,” he said, and when Jason looked at him, Jack took him into an embrace, hugging him hard. Fuck the regs this one time. “I love you,” he whispered. “Believe me.”
Jason hugged him back, controlling his emotions so he wouldn’t cry or even kiss Jack in answer. “I know.”
Jack let him go, eyes glancing at Jason’s teammates, then back at Jason so that his husband would know why Jack was moving away. He then turned to Daniel, Teal’c, and Sam. “So the question is, who the hell made me run off?”
“Fuck you,” Jason growled, getting everyone’s shocked attention. He started to back up. “You bastard,” he said in a low, angry voice, unsnapping the strap over his sidearm. His expression then turned to anguish. “You ran off and left me!” he accused, then hitched a breath and withdrew his sidearm, flicking off the safety as he backed further away. “I’m spare change, aren’t I? No reason to live!” Jason started to raise his gun hand toward his head.
“Jason! No!” Daniel screamed as he, Jack, and Teal’c rushed at Jason to stop him, but the gun was already to his head. Daniel and Jack screamed as Jason pulled the trigger…
“No,” came a loud, reverberating voice, and Morrighan appeared behind Jason, her left hand on the nape of his neck and her right around the gun. The gun had clicked even though it was loaded, and Morrighan flicked the safety on and tossed it to Jack, who deftly caught it. She then moved around Jason to face him and framed his face in her hands. He was frozen, his eyes glazed over, while she stared at him with scary focus. After a few seconds, she broke her locked contact with him, and Jason relaxed into unconsciousness. Morrighan held him up as Daniel and Jack rushed over and took him from her arms, lying him on the floor.
“Who the fuck’s messing with us?” Daniel demanded, looking up at her with a fierce scowl.
“Whoever it is, they’re a dead man,” Jack said, getting to his feet. “Who messed with me and Jason?”
Morrighan held up a hand to stall him and said to the air, “Dian? Have you found him?”
“Yes,” came Dian’s loud voice, permeating the room like Morrighan’s had. He appeared a few yards from Jason, with Lugh and Tara on his left, both of whom held another man between them. The stranger was dirty, thin, and dark-haired, wearing clothes similar to the tunics and slacks everyone else wore except they were rumpled and clearly unkempt.
Morrighan lifted her chin. “Ferwyn,” she said slowly, and he snapped his eyes to hers. “Explain yourself.”
“No,” he said, his upper lip curling in a disrespectful sneer. “You already know. Explain it yourself.”
Morrighan expelled a noisy breath of disgust. “Get him to the prison to await trial,” she told Lugh and Tara. They nodded with satisfaction and disappeared.
The room was silent as Dian moved to Jason, touching the crown of his head and petting his hair. After the fourth caress of his hair, Jason opened his eyes. Dian then moved to Jack and raised his hand. “Stand still,” Dian ordered softly, then placed his hand over Jack’s head, palm on his forehead.
Jack felt a faint, warm tingling, and after a few seconds, Dian removed his hand.
“I’ve removed all traces of Ferwyn’s tampering,” he said.
Jason got to his feet, threading his hair as confusion colored his face. “What the hell happened?”
“More importantly,” Jack interjected. “Why?”
Morrighan tilted her head slightly and Dian nodded and disappeared. She then clasped her hands in front of her. “Come. The banquet is ready. I’ll explain there. You could all use sustenance.”
The group was transferred back to the tower room with the low table and sunken underside. The two team members returned to the positions they’d been in before, with Sam on Morrighan’s left and Daniel on her right.
“Please, have some of this,” Morrighan asked as an amber liquid was poured into short, fluted glasses. “It’s called Thracin. It acts as a stress reliever.”
Jack smelled it and it reminded him of a good brandy. He took a sip, then a larger one. Daniel, Jason, and the others copied him, although Teal’c had to decline. Morrighan understood and held her hand out to his place setting. Another short, fluted glass appeared, this one containing water. “Please.” Teal’c bowed his head and drank.
Morrighan sighed and sipped at her own drink. “We drink this after an emotionally draining event. It replenishes our psychic energy and will do the same for you, replacing whatever energy was lost during the upset.”
“Psychic?” Sam asked.
Morrighan gave her a wan smile. “Not the paranormal form but the life force energy. Your people have, if memory serves, a name for people who suck the life out of others: Psychic Vampires.”
“Ah,” Jack said. “Yeah, we call those people that because they seem to rob others of their positive emotions.”
“Exactly,” Morrighan said and raised her glass, admiring the amber liquid. “This replenishes the energy taken.” She took a drink and smiled. “It does very well.”
“Could just be the alcohol,” Sam smirked.
“No,” Morrighan said. “The alcohol doesn’t enter the system as it is consumed. It evaporates, leaving behind the medicinal effects of the plant used to make the liquor.”
“So I gather you don’t get drunk with it,” Daniel said.
“No,” Morrighan said, setting the glass down. “Now, while we’re waiting to be served, I’ll explain what happened. Ferwyn is part of a radical group of Aos Si who have strange, fundamental views on relationships. They believe that having more than one mate is evil. They’ve made it their business to interfere. They’ll influence people to break up those relationships. Somehow, they found out about your relationship.” She looked at Daniel, then Jack and Jason. “Because of your humanity, the influence was harder to detect.” She gave Daniel a brief smile. “He couldn’t mess with you because of your empathy, especially after we fixed its defects.”
“How?” Daniel asked. “What went wrong with my empathy to begin with?”
“Simply put,” Morrighan said, “the friend who gave the ability left an imprint on your mind that wasn’t compatible with your human brain. Only your strong will and stubborn behavior kept it from killing you sooner than it normally would another human. After we removed the tumor, we detected in your memory that you didn’t mind the empathy, so we rebuilt it. Adriann’s imprint is still intact, too, so you won’t be susceptible to people like Ferwyn.”
“Right,” Daniel said with a nod. “So this radical went after Jack, and when that didn’t work, he went after Jason. How the hell did he do that?”
“By skulking in the next room,” Morrighan said, “and forcing his own feelings onto Jack and Jason. What he did is a high crime in the Aos Si and Lia Fail societies, punishable by death when the invasion is meant to kill.”
“Death?” Sam asked. “What if someone does it by accident?”
“The Aos Si never invade by accident, and neither do we,” Morrighan said.
“What is the difference in punishment between lethal and non-lethal invasion?” Teal’c asked.
“Those who push their feelings on others do so under high stress situations. If the person is suffering from emotional abnormality, then the sentence is rehabilitation. If the person purposely manipulates in order to cause death, then death is their sentence.”
“And how will Ferwyn die?” Jason asked, still feeling horrified at the way he was so easily manipulated.
Morrighan lifted her glass of Thracin. “Quickly.”
Jason grit his teeth. “Shouldn’t be.”
“Drink,” Morrighan suggested.
“My anger is a result of finding out that I was attacked, not coming from that rat bastard Ferwyn.”
“True,” Morrighan allowed. “But drink anyway. Your energy is severely depleted. I can see it in your nimbus.”
“My what?” Jason asked.
“You mean his aura?” Daniel asked.
“Ah, your word for nimbus,” Morrighan said, nodding her head mostly to herself. “Yes, his aura.” She raised her glass to Jack as well. “Yours too, Jack.”
“What do our auras look like?” Sam asked.
“They appear as a foggy glow that spreads outward from your body,” Morrighan said, holding up her forearm and measured distance with her other hand about eight inches away from the skin. “When you’re calm, it’s white because it contains all the psychic energies within you, influenced by your emotions. If you’re upset, it generally turns the color assigned to that emotion.” She looked at Jack and Jason. “Their auras are in shades of dark grey. Jason’s is darker because his attack happened not long ago. Grey is the color of a clouded mind, like sorrow, anger, or rage.”
“Huh,” Connor said. “I thought it would have been red.”
“Sometimes,” Morrighan said. “If you’re in the midst of violence that generates rage and fear, it fluctuates between red and orange. If your anger or rage is influenced by something not life-threatening, it’s generally gray.”
“My life was being threatened,” Jason said with a deep frown.
“It was, but you were feeling anguish and severe depression forced on you by Ferwyn. Had you been in physical combat with him instead, your aura would have been red.”
Jason sighed and looked into the glass of amber before taking a drink. He hated the idea of a gray aura.
“What about the rest of us?” Daniel asked.
“Yours is deep purple,” Morrighan said, then looked at Sam. “Yours is lavender. Alex’s is dark purple, and Al and Connor’s are lavender. Teal’c, yours is deep, dark red.”
Jack smirked. “You’d think you want to kill someone.”
“I do, O’Neill,” Teal’c said, and his poker face was so unreadable that Jack couldn’t tell if he was serious.
“You’re Chulakian and a Jaffa,” Morrighan said with a reassuring smile. “Your aura will be different than a human’s. Or mine, for that matter. Red means you’re under moderate stress.” She got up and poured him a glass of Thracin. “Please, Teal’c. Drink. You won’t suffer any alcoholic effects.”
Teal’c sighed and took a drink. The Thracin tasted bland to him and that was part of the problem, but he finished his glass as Morrighan went on to talk about auras of different races.
In sharp contrast to the pleasant conversation, Jason felt uncomfortable and it was increasing by the second. He had a tremendous urge to leave the room. He fought against it, pretending to look interested in the food that was now being served and the lemonade-like drink that was poured into their glasses. A song about a relationship break-up ran round and round in his head and it was driving him nuts. He hated the goddamn thing. He purposely ran Led Zeppelin through his head just to get that stupid song out of his mind, but every time he stopped thinking about it, the damn thing came back. It must have been love but it’s over now. It must have been good, but I lost it somehow. He even hated the movie it came from. Grinding his teeth, he thought of the movies he wanted to see when they got home, and the operative word there was they. When they got home. Who’s they? He wasn’t involved anymore, was he? No, just an appendage. He looked up without raising his head and saw Jack in his periphery. He wanted to kill him. Kill everyone here. They made him so mad, just sitting here talking when his heart was in pieces. Stupid fucking …
Stop it! A more reasonable side of him shouted for him to tell Morrighan what he was thinking. He remembered that Jack had not meant to do what he’d done, but despite Morrighan supposedly taking the suicidal influence from his head, she had not removed the doubt, the feeling of betrayal, or the rotten certainty that Jack no longer loved him.
It’s wrong, he told himself. He does love you. He does. He thought back to the last time he’d felt this grief. It had been, what? Twelve years ago? He’d turned forty and Daniel and Jack had arranged a fun birthday for him out at Jack’s cabin. It had been wonderful. Until he’d watched Daniel and Jack together. They’d strongly objected to his remorseful feelings, telling him they loved him. And Jason believed them.
Still believed them.
No. Not them. Daniel. He believed Daniel.
Jason closed his eyes and screamed at that damaging voice in his head.
NO! He loves me! Stop thinking he doesn’t! Stop it!
Jason set his elbow on the table and leaned his head against his hand, rubbing his temple with thumb and forefinger. Suddenly his elbow was knocked into and pushed off the table. By Jack. Making him look bad.
“Shit, Jason, I’m sorry,” he said, touching Jason’s arm.
It was bad timing, that’s all it was.
“Yeah, watch what you’re doing,” Jason snapped. At Jack’s (and everyone else’s) surprised reaction to his tone, he shook his head and rubbed at his temple. “I’ve got a headache. Sorry.” He got out from the bench and stood up. “Morrighan, I need some air. How do I get out of here?”
She stared at him, narrowing her eyes, and walked over to him. She peered into his eyes and Jason felt a bit odd, not used to a woman looking down at him.
“What’s wrong, Jason?” she asked, needing to calm him down without doing it herself. “Maybe you’d like to lie down?”
“No, I don’t need to lie down,” Jason said, his anger skyrocketing. Between clenched teeth, he said, “Let me out of here.”
“Why?” she asked, hating that she hadn’t detected this.
“Jason?” Daniel queried, alarm on his face as he felt a flood of negative emotion. He got up and tagged Jack to do the same. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing!” Jason said, backing further away from everyone. “Keep away from me, you arrogant, egotistical bastard. Keep him!” He pointed at Jack while staring daggers at Daniel. “Fucking good riddance, the both of you.” He looked at Morrighan. “Let me out of here, you stupid bitch!”
“What the fuck?” Jack asked, standing up from the table.
“Shut up, Jack. You’re just as bad as he is,” Jason shot venomously.
“I’m so sorry, Jason,” Morrighan said and she suddenly moved quicker than anyone could see and snatched his gun hand and yanked him to her. “Rest now, Jason.” He slumped in her arms, his eyes half-lidded, and she carried him easily to the floor.
Daniel and Jack were there in an instant, kneeling in front of her and Jason. “What’s happening to him?” Daniel asked, truly frightened.
“I placed him in a hypnotic state,” Morrighan said as she touched Jason’s brow. “It’s to relax his mind.”
“Why? What happened?” Jack asked.
“Something interfered with my healing. There’s a separate aura, or separate grounding of energies. Do you carry talismans or amulets of any kind?”
“No,” Jack said with a look of disdain. “We don’t believe in that—er, stuff.” At her uplifted brow, he amended, “I mean, it’s not really in our belief system anymore.”
“Maybe not in yours,” Morrighan said. “What about Jason’s?” She brushed Jack away when he tried to take Jason from her lap. “Don’t move him and answer my question. Does Jason believe or carry them?”
“There’re his Native American rituals,” Daniel said to Jack. “But I don’t think that qualifies as a talis—“
Jack interrupted. “His tattoo might.”
Daniel dropped his mouth open. “Would it?”
“Tattoo?” Morrighan asked. “Explain.”
“Take off his vest and shirt,” Jack told her.
Morrighan let them do it and when that was done, Daniel raised Jason’s t-shirt to show the raven tattoo over his husband’s left pectoral muscle. It was her turn for her mouth to drop open. “A raven?” she asked. “That’s my personal talisman. How did he acquire this skin art?”
“In a ritual with his grandfather,” Jack answered. “Jason took him to live with his ancestors on another planet. They aided his grandfather in a ritual for Jason. I forget what it was for, but ever since, Jason’s had periodic instances of intuition, warning him when something bad was happening.”
Morrighan opened Jason’s eyes, staring hard. He watched her. “Beauty,” he mumbled. “Not my type though.”
Daniel and Jack couldn’t help but grin, feeling relieved that Jason sounded more like himself.
“His ability isn’t working anymore,” she said, “or it would have alerted him to the empathic attack.”
Daniel shared a look with Jack. “I don’t … do you recall Jason having used his gift lately?”
“Not since we were stranded on that planet,” Jack answered.
Morrighan laid her hand over Jason’s tattoo, then pulled it away. “Feel him,” she told Daniel and Jack.
Daniel laid his own hand there. Jason was extremely warm. “He’s running a fever.”
“What?” Jack asked, feeling the tattoo, then Jason’s forehead. “No, I don’t think so.”
“You’re right,” Morrighan said. “He’s not.”
“Get it out of him,” Jack told Morrighan.
“What do you mean?” Daniel asked.
Jack ran a hand through his hair. “I don’t know how I know, but something’s in his tattoo.”
“Something?” Daniel asked.
“Like a possession?” Sam asked.
“Exactly!” Jack nodded.
Dian appeared several feet away and walked over. In his right hand was a silver knife with a short, wavy blade and what looked like an antler handle. “It’s been purified,” he said, handing it to his wife. She nodded and told Jack and Daniel, “Hold him fast and do not let go, no matter what happens.”
“What’re you going to do?” Daniel asked her, touching her knife hand.
“Jason’s tattoo had magical properties. But those have faded, leaving his tattoo vulnerable to … how shall I say it?” She looked up at her husband.
“Other magics,” Dian said. “Our ceremony with him cleansed his body, healed whatever flaws there were. In so doing, I think it also took away the tattoo’s protection.”
“Protection?” Jack asked, puzzled. “He tell you it was magical?” he asked Daniel.
“No,” Daniel said, shaking his head. “I don’t think he knew it was.”
Morrighan raised her hand for silence and looked at Jack. “There is something trapped in the tattoo. It’s some part of Ferwyn, like a curse. I didn’t know about it because I didn’t know about Jason’s tattoo. Otherwise, when Dian touched him to remove the melancholy, his magic would have worked.”
“So what can you do?” Jack asked.
“I’m going to kill the influence,” she said. “And I demand that you hold him down and don’t interfere. Do I have your promise?”
Jack and Daniel nodded, staring into Jason’s face.
Morrighan closed her eyes and brought the blade of the knife to her lips. She whispered words in her own language then laid the flat of the blade over his tattoo. Jason abruptly arched his body and screamed.
“Jesus!” Daniel cried out, holding Jason while he stared down at him in horror. “What’s he screaming for?”
“He’s in pain!” Morrighan said as she kept the blade on him. She began to whisper again, the words almost like a chant or incantation and Jason abruptly stopped screaming. In seconds, the color of the tattoo changed from black to an unflattering yellow-green. He thrashed within his husbands’ firm grasp while his eyes kept their half-lidded state.
“Is he aware?” Jack asked, creeped out by Jason’s strange stare.
“Yes,” Morrighan said, “but it’s like a dream you’re just waking up from. “You see, you hear, but your mind is floating.”
Morrighan lifted the blade, then suddenly set the sharp point against her palm and cut a long gash. She made a fist, then placed the blade’s sharp edge over Jason’s tattoo and drew a long slice over it. Before Jason could react, she slapped her bloody palm over his wound. Sweat began to fall in rivulets down Jason’s face, which quickly soaked his skin and t-shirt.
When blood began to seep out from under Morrighan’s hand, Daniel and Jack reacted with fear, on the edge of moving to staunch the flow of blood, but Dian came near and touched their shoulders. “Don’t let him go and don’t interfere. He’s in no danger of dying. She won’t allow it.”
Daniel looked up at him, shocked. “He could die?”
“Not as long as she’s here to protect him.”
With her eyes still closed, Morrighan suddenly began chanting in the language of the Anasazi, and slowly her voice deepened, sounding more like Lin, Jason’s grandfather. Just as abruptly, she returned to chanting in her own voice and language. Over the next several minutes, she went back and forth between languages until a yellow-gold nimbus appeared over her entire body, and from her, it spread to Jason, then to Jack and Daniel. At last, she was quiet, and a minute later, she murmured a few more words. Jason relaxed and closed his eyes. When Morrighan withdrew her hand from his tattoo, the blood was gone, the wounds were gone, and Jason’s tattoo had changed from black to a dull gold.
“He’s okay, right?” Jack asked.
Morrighan nodded, looking exhausted. “He is. He’ll need another ceremony though.”
“Tomorrow,” Dian said. “He’ll need to rest for now.”
At his words, there came a collective sigh. Not giving a shit about regulations and duty protocol, Jack gently took Jason from Morrighan’s lap and into his arms. “Don’t do this to me again, dammit,” he whispered at his sleeping husband and bent to kiss him softly.
Daniel reached over to thread his fingers through Jason’s hair, brushing it away from the sweaty skin of his forehead, then he met Jack’s gaze. “First me, then you, now Jason. I think we’ve had enough scares to last us a while.”
“No shit,” Jack concurred.
“You two need to retire with him,” Morrighan said. “I’ll send food and refreshment. But I’m going to have my husband perform a health check first.” With a wave of her hand, Daniel, Jack, and Jason disappeared, and Dian went with them. She stood up and looked at the remaining humans. “Would you care to finish the meal, or would you rather retire?”
“I’d like to be with Jason,” Alex said, and Al and Connor nodded in agreement.
“Me too,” Sam said. “Barring that, I’d like us to stick together.” She met the men’s expressions, looking for a yeah or nay, and received full agreement. “Then let’s finish dinner and talk while Jason’s getting looked over. I’d like a report before we’re shown our rooms.”
“Very well,” Morrighan said and waved invitingly at the table. “What would you like to talk about?”
Sam gave the Queen a half-smile. “Magic.”
In the medical bay, Jack and Daniel hoisted Jason onto the same patient bed they’d seen last time. Dian turned on a few lamps and pressed several buttons and three different types of holo displays appeared in front of his face, arranged like a three-section mirror on a vanity table. Without looking at the touch console under his fingers, he read information while he tapped on buttons and manipulated sliders. Jack and Daniel wanted to question the healer but didn’t want to distract him. They stepped away and stood with crossed arms and knotted brows.
Jack looked like he had something on his mind and Daniel lifted a brow at him. Pressing his lips together, Jack inhaled deeply. “How’re you feeling? Any negative thoughts?”
Daniel shook his head, then made a face and nodded. “I’d like to get that bastard who did this, personally.”
“Me too,” Jack nodded. “But what I’m getting at is that you have that tat that Adriann gave you. In a ritual.” Daniel’s brows rose. “Yeah. He’s not human, just like the Anasazi aren’t exactly human.”
“I’m not feeling anything weird though,” Daniel said as he searched within himself. He shook his head after a long minute. “I don’t sense a thing, Jack.”
Jack nodded. “I’m not getting a bad vibe, either.” He suddenly grinned, remembering their time in the white bedroom. “You certainly found some new and interesting things about your empathy, though.”
Daniel grinned back but it faded quickly as he looked over at Jason. “I’m not sure I could test it at the moment. I’m seriously tired.”
“Tell me about it,” Jack replied. “We’ve been through a lot worse though, so I kinda feel guilty about being tired. Does that make sense?”
“Can’t be my age. I felt great before this empathy attack by that psycho.”
“Me too,” Daniel said. “Tired, but good otherwise.”
“So did Jason,” Jack said, then tapped the back of Daniel’s arm as he walked back to Jason. While Dian was busy reading something Jack didn’t understand, he brushed his hand over Jason’s hair. “He scared me, Daniel.”
Daniel leaned into him slightly. “Me too.” He suddenly snorted. “When he wakes up, he’ll probably tell you ‘payback’s a bitch’.”
Jack gave Jason a wan smile. “Let’s hope so.” He took Jason’s right hand in his, then gave Daniel a worried look. “Do you think he really felt that stuff?”
“What?” Daniel asked disbelievingly.
“I mean, before the attack.” He looked up at Dian. “Did that asshole build on what was already there or did he invent it?”
“I can answer that in a moment,” Dian said, bringing up a holo chart on one of the screens. Reading it, he shook his head. “Jason doesn’t seem to suffer from depression, but he does have a chemical arrangement that suggests that he can fall into despair more easily than others.”
Jack sighed in relief. “He hasn’t dropped into a depression for a while. It’s been about seven years or so, I think, when we went missing, then declared killed in action.”
“That would have been grief, not depression,” Dian said with a nod.
“For Jason, it was bad,” Daniel said. “His grief consumed him.”
“Understandable, and not abnormal. Outside of that, I see nothing else here.” He tapped a few places on the console and all the holo screens disappeared. “As far as I can tell, he’s fine.” He looked at Daniel. “Where’s your tattoo?”
“The small of my back,” Daniel said, unconsciously reaching his hand toward it.
Dian nodded and picked up an instrument that looked like half an oyster shell. “Show me, please,” he said, coming around the table. Daniel handed Jack his field vest, then lifted up his shirt and t-shirt. Dian crouched slightly and pressed the shell device against Daniel’s skin, making Daniel flinch because of its cold touch. That quickly changed when his tattoo area grew too warm for comfort and he grimaced.
“Hurt?” Jack asked.
“Hot,” Daniel said with a small shake of his head.
“Sorry about that,” Dian said as he stood up and patted Daniel on the shoulder.
“Well?” Daniel asked as he redressed.
Dian showed them the shell device. The rounded side held a digital display that covered the entire surface. The concave side resembled the interior of an oyster shell, except that its hues went from white to deep blue. “The concave part was against your skin. The other side is the readout. Your tattoo is definitely giving off an energy field, but it seems to be okay otherwise.” He set the clamshell on a shelf over Jason’s head and gave Daniel a reassuring smile. “If there was going to be any conflict between it and my healing, it would have shown up by now. From what I can tell, the tattoo’s energies are adapting to the changes I made in your amygdala.”
Daniel and Jack breathed sighs of relief.
Dian shared their relief, but he had questions. As he tapped the screens away, he asked, “Who gave you that tattoo, Daniel?”
“A friend from another race. Why?” Daniel asked, a bit defensively.
“Nothing wrong, Daniel. It’s just giving off energy patterns I’ve never seen before.”
“Oh,” Daniel replied, relieved that there isn’t anything else to make Adriann feel guilty about. “His name’s Adriann and he’s the leader of a nearly-extinct race of people called Var’chol’si. He wanted to share his soul with me and that included the giving of tattoos. He’s wearing one from me, although I didn’t do the skin art myself.”
“What kind of race are these Var’chol’si?” Dian asked.
Daniel exchanged looks with Jack. “They’re a very long-lived race who have telepathic ability and super strength.” Daniel paused, wondering if he should tell Dian that Adriann was a vampire. Sort of one, anyway. “Is there something specific you’re looking for me to answer?” He’d decided not to volunteer anything else unless Dian asked. People had a tendency to react badly when they see inch and half fangs.
Dian tilted his head and a secretive smile spread over his face. “The energy your tattoo gives off, Daniel, is sexual.”
“Ah,” Jack said, and chuckled after.
Daniel fidgeted with embarrassment. “Adriann and I have an intimate relationship.”
Dian’s brow rose up in a Teal’c mannerism. “You’re okay with this?” he asked Jack.
Jack nodded. “So’s Jason. Periodically we have intimate relations with other such friends, but they’re not that often.” He gave Daniel a warm, fond look. “Besides, none of it would be possible if we weren’t sure of each other.”
“I’ll never leave Jack and Jason,” Daniel said firmly.
“I’ll never leave Daniel and Jason,” Jack followed, just as firmly. “And Jason would say the same.”
Dian stared at them, looking a bit surprised. “Amazing. It explains the mental image I get when thinking of your relationship with each other.”
“What image?” Daniel asked, highly curious.
“The triple spiral,” Dian answered. “Just like the sacred symbol for my people. You’ll have noticed that everywhere.”
“I did, yeah,” Daniel said, nodding. “It’s all over Earth, too, especially on ancient rock. Look at this and you might understand why you see a triple spiral.” He removed his pinky ring and showed it to Dian.
“Jason’s grandfather made them for us,” Jack said, twirling his matching ring on his pinky. “We all wear one.”
Dian frowned, but out of puzzlement, not negativity. He turned on a device that sat on a table beside the bed Jason lay on and examined the ring. “That is extremely interesting,” he said. “I’d like to visit these Anasazi.”
“Yeah? I don’t think they’d mind. They’re a magical people, too. Is there something you see in the ring that we don’t?” Jack asked.
Dian jerked his head to beckon Jack and Daniel over. The examination device looked like it was part microscope and part magnifying glass. Jack leaned over, peering through a large round glass. The ring gave off a bluish halo.
“What the hell?” Jack said, and took off his ring and set it next to Daniel’s. The halo appeared on his ring, too.
“Lemme see,” Daniel asked, nudging Jack. As Jack put his ring back on and stepped aside, Daniel took a long minute to examine the bluish light. “Is there any danger from it?“
“No,” Dian reassured them. “The energy is what I would call a protective energy incantation. Do you know what Jason’s grandfather would call it?”
“Sorry, no,” Daniel said with a shrug. “We were too happy about having the rings made for us.”
“Pretty much,” Jack grinned. “We don’t even think about energies or spells because it’s not part of our lives.”
Dian grinned at him and Daniel. “Yes, I’ve already gathered that.” They turned their attention to Jason and Dian continued. “For right now, I suggest you eat and rest, providing you’re staying the night. The room has a hidden bathing and toiletry area. Look for a small gold button in the shape of a triple spiral and press it. The door will slide into the wall.” He then handed Jack a thin, quarter-sized black marble-like disk. “This is a communication call button. If you need anything, tap the center twice, and on either side. If you should be needed, such as getting a call from your home base, you’ll get a signal beep.”
“Excellent, thank you,” Jack said. “If you could tell Sam and Teal’c, as well as Jason’s teammates, that we’re just—“
“About to join them,” Jason croaked, trying to rise.
“Jason!” Daniel said, and he and Jack helped him sit up.
“How do you feel?” Jack asked as Jason swung his legs over the bed.
“Foggy,” Jason said, shaking his head. “Embarrassed.”
“You’ve nothing to feel embarrassed about,” Dian told him. “Now don’t stand yet.” He moved to another part of the bay and came back with a cup of water. “Here.”
Jason drank the cup in a few seconds and sighed with satisfaction. “Thanks. What happened?”
“What do you remember?” Dian asked.
“Why, don’t you remember me acting like a fucking asshat?” Jason asked, his words dripping with guilt and sarcasm.
“Not your fault,” Jack told him firmly.
“I’m getting that, considering where I am,” Jason said, looking around him. He then looked down at himself, with his rumpled shirts. He scowled. “Don’t remember messing with my clothes, though.”
“Look at your tattoo,” Jack told him.
Jason detected the happy edge to Jack’s voice and grinned at him before he lifted his shirts and stared, running fingertips over the new gold color. “What the hell?”
“Your tattoo had magical properties,” Dian informed him. “But it hasn’t been active. It was ready for renewal, and unfortunately, the orchid ceremony cleansed any fading magic. So your attack by Ferwyn’s emotional control was soaked up by the tattoo. I’m terribly sorry that I missed this when I healed your mind.”
Jason nodded, remembering images and feelings. “I had an idea that was happening, but I couldn’t take control.” He shivered with disgust. “So,” he said, looking at his tattoo, then up at Dian. “Why’s it gold?”
“Morrighan healed you. In so doing, it turned gold.”
Jason frowned, trying to remember, but he could only pick up on one thing. “I remember her saying that her totem animal was the raven. So why isn’t this black?”
“You remember that?” Dian asked, surprised. “It’s not an animal totem for her. It’s her magical symbol.”
Jason shrugged. “For her. For me, it’s my animal totem. Do you know what that means?” Dian shook his head. “It means you take on the characteristics of that animal, learn from it, and it stands as your protector for as long you live.”
“This is what is believed by your Anasazi?”
“Not just the Anasazi but most if not all Native American peoples on Earth. The raven is a messenger bird and also embodies mischief on occasion. An old tale says that Raven stole the sun and gave it to humans.”
Dian grinned crookedly. “Here, the raven is the symbol of magic. We have a story that Raven guards new souls on their way to their new homes.”
“I like that,” Jason grinned back. “But why is my tattoo gold?”
“It is a talisman, Jason,” Dian informed him. “Ask Morrighan to explain it. She can do much better than I.”
Jason curled the corners of his mouth upward. “Okay,” he said, then looked at Daniel and Jason. “Scared the shit out of you two, I imagine.” With a sad grin, he added, “Payback’s a bitch.”
Daniel burst out laughing and Jack looked chagrined.
“What?” Jason asked.
“I told him you’d say that,” Daniel said, gaining control of himself. “And we’d know you were back to normal.”
Dian snorted. “I’d say your raven’s mischief is still intact.”
“That’s just his personality,” Jack said, gently punching Jason’s shoulder.
“Are you sure about that?” Dian asked with a raised brow.
“Always been like that,” Daniel said, “long before he got the tat.”
“Then perhaps the tattoo has always been there,” Dian winked.
“Probably,” Jason snorted as he slid off the bed and found his feet steady. He then tucked in his t-shirt and straightened his fatigue shirt. “Okay, we’re done. Let’s get back to the dinner, shall we?”
“Are you certain?” Dian asked. “I would have expected you three to be too exhausted.”
“Actually, we are,” Daniel said. “But I think we should get back to our friends, so they know Jason’s okay.”
“Ditto,” Jack said.
“Same here,” Jason added.
“Okay,” Dian smiled. He closed his eyes, and the four of them blinked out.
When they appeared in the dining room, Alex scrambled out of his seat. “Jason!” He walked over and hugged him.
Jason grinned. “I’m fine,” he said, yet he was still hugged within an inch of his life by his teammates, then Sam grabbed him and kissed his cheek.
“You scared the—“
“Crap out of you,” Jason finished for her. “I know. I’m sorry.”
Teal’c was next and he gripped Jason’s forearm. “I am glad to see that you have returned to yourself.”
“Thanks,” Jason told him. “Can’t keep us down, eh Teal’c? We warriors are a hardy folk.”
“Morrighan,” Jason said, walking over to her as she got to her feet. He held out his hand. She took it in hers. “Thank you. I don’t know how else to thank you except to say that I owe you one.”
“Ditto,” Daniel said, walking over and extending his hand. Morrighan took it firmly.
She squeezed his hand and did the same with Jason’s in her free hand, then held them fondly. “To help and heal others is part of our blood, our culture. There is no need for repayment because we don’t think that way.”
“Precisely,” Dian said, touching Jack’s shoulder and squeezing it.
“If we ever need your help, it would because be you are in a unique position to give it.”
“Well, just know that we’ll be there for you when need us. I can’t speak for everyone back at the SGC, though. Politics,” Daniel said seriously. “There are too many people on our planet who don’t trust people who give of themselves freely.”
“Some of that,” Jack added, “is due to being burned too many times, and some of it is simply because they demand something in return when they give favors or charity, so they expect that from everyone else. There’s a motto on our planet. ‘If it’s too good to be true, it usually isn’t.’”
Morrighan exchanged a sigh with Dian. “I was hoping you were typical of humans now, not atypical,” she said.
Jack sighed too. “Unfortunately, no. Those of us who are assigned to Stargate teams are intended to represent the best of Earth.”
“Intended?” Morrighan asked with a quirky smile.
“We’ve …” Jack began.
“Learned how to weed out the problem people,” Daniel finished.
“Weed out?” Dian asked. “You mean to discover how to recognize problem personalities?”
“Yeah,” Jack said, then frowned slightly. “Don’t you have people who don’t follow the cultural norm?”
“Ferwyn,” Morrighan said, wrinkling her nose. “And those like him.” She gestured at the table and everyone retook their seats.
When Jack sat down, he noticed that the meal appeared to be over. “Damn, missed the food.”
“I’m sorry,” Jason said automatically.
Morrighan wagged a finger at him. “No need.” She tilted her head for a moment, her eyes unfixing, then she straightened and nodded. “It’ll be ready in a few minutes.”
Jason’s stomach growled and it made everyone laugh, including Morrighan and Dian.
The healer sat down at the end of the table, across from Morrighan. “Lugh or Tara joining us?”
Morrighan shook her head. “They’re busy for the moment.”
“Ah,” Dian said.
“To answer your question,” Morrighan said to Jack. “Yes, we have dissenters. Lugh and Tara are among them, but they follow my lead and my rules, so they don’t offend. They’re not attending because they had other things they’d rather be doing than sitting with a group they’ve … heard enough from.”
“Aren’t they curious?”
“Yes,” Morrighan said with a nod. “But they decided to sit out the rest of this meal, just in case someone else here is attacked.”
“Right,” Jack said, nodding. “She’s security and he’s defense. Makes sense.”
“They’re not happy,” Dian said, and his tone made it plain that he was largely understating the matter. “I feel I should elaborate on what Morrighan terms ‘dissident’.” Morrighan was taking a drink from her glass and she winked at him over the rim, granting him permission. “While I’m not a telepath on the same level as my Queen and mate, I do sense things rather accurately, though not in words. I sensed something very negative from all of you when she used the word ‘dissident,’ and it’s not like our definition. Jack, what does dissident mean in your culture.”
“Dissident is used as a political term to describe those who protest or work against the ruling body, usually a tyrannical one.”
“The dictionary definition, however,” Daniel added, “simply states that a dissident is someone who disagrees with the majority or any higher authority.”
Dian pointed his hand at him. “That is what it means here. Someone who disagrees with the majority. Tara and Lugh are curious about visitors, but that’s as far as it goes. They don’t believe we should be sharing anything significant with you.”
“They’re entitled to their opinion,” Morrighan said, “but I cannot have anyone undermining my authority, no matter who they are. So, they say nothing until they think up a good reason not to participate.” She smirked. “Ferwyn gave them a good reason to be excused here.”
Daniel nodded and gave Morrighan a smile that said he was about to say something indelicate. “I sensed they were rather angry, but I didn’t know about what.”
“Ferwyn,” Morrighan said with a lift of her chin. “He’s being interrogated, then he will be put in a cell until I decide what to do with him.”
“Do you suspect he’s part of a group?” Jack asked.
Morrighan grinned. “Very astute.”
“Dissidents—or radicals, as we call them—don’t generally work alone,” Jack said with a knowing distaste.
“Crazy people,” Daniel added, looking at Jack. “Mad people, sad people, inventive people … we always find others like ourselves.” Jack grinned at him, recognizing that Daniel had just pulled him away from something too unpleasant to think about.
“Very true,” Morrighan said, nodding. “We’re currently attempting to locate who else is willing to break the law because the world isn’t being run the way they want it to be.”
“What do you do with traitors?” Sam asked. “On Earth, treason tends to get the death penalty in the country where we’re from.”
“It always depends on the nature of the treason,” Morrighan said. “We can’t have blanket laws. Doesn’t matter at what level the crime is, laws have to be fair to everyone.”
“There’s a saying on Earth that generally gets ignored by all those in authority,” Daniel said. “It says, ‘so long as laws are absolute, there can be no justice.’”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said, nodding. “Until I met the Tau’ri and lived among them, I did not experience fair rule. Under the Goa’uld, there is only one punishment: death. While I have learned that the Tau’ri are by no means a perfect people, I have come to respect the leader of Stargate Command. He is a fair man, as are most of those who serve under him.” He grinned at Jack and bowed his head.
“Backatcha,” Jack said, lifting his glass. “If I hadn’t met you or Bra’tac, I would have thought every Jaffa was a blind, murdering robot.”
“Unfortunately,” Teal’c said with a humorless grin, “too many Jaffa are. Hundreds of years’ worth of servitude and mind control.”
“’Til now,” Daniel said, raising his glass to Teal’c. Teal’c returned the gesture.
“That is why,” Morrighan said, “I gave the Jaffa who served those Goa’uld the chance to decide their own fates.”
“I think we’ll have some busy time back home,” Jack said, “bringing the Jaffa to the SGC and sending them home through the gate.”
“Or Dakara,” Teal’c said. “I’d prefer it if they were taken there first.”
Jack nodded. “I agree. Just the man to oversee their transportation. I’ll speak to Hammond, although he’s probably already thought of it.”
The table was quiet for a bit while Morrighan’s unfocused expression made it obvious that she was talking to someone telepathically. She cleared her throat and tapped her glass with a long fingernail. “I’ve just had a small chat with Lugh and Tara, requesting that they join us, and to bring things that will help build common ground.”
Daniel looked around, at Jack, Jason, and the others. “Lugh and Tara are security conscious. I suppose anything to do with that would interest Jack and Teal’c.”
“Or me,” Connor said.
“And me,” Sam joined in.
“Depends,” Jason said, then shrugged it off when he remembered something. “Morrighan, why did you change my tattoo gold?”
“Dian told you it was a talisman, yes?” she asked.
“Yes, but the Diné, the true name for the Anasazi, would never call it that.”
Morrighan lifted her chin, pointing at his chest. “Gold is a mineral of protection, like silver. Some of my people have tattoos, though they’re called body talismans. All of them are either silver or gold, never any other color or composition.”
“Literal silver or gold?” Jason asked, “or just the colors of silver and gold?”
“True metals. Your tattoo was reformed with real gold, and mixed with the melanin of your skin so that it would bind properly without infection. This is a form of protection. Should you ever lose your enhanced instincts, the tattoo will guard against possession of any kind.”
“I think we all need those tattoos,” Alex said.
Morrighan raised her brows in surprise. “I thought most of you disliked them?”
“It isn’t that,” Jack said. “Our military has regulations against body art. The only reason Jason was allowed to have his was because it was part of a religious ceremony with an ally. Daniel isn’t a member of our military, so he wasn’t bound by the same rules.”
“Since Jason was able to keep his, shouldn’t you be able to keep protection tattoos given by us?” Morrighan asked.
Jack looked around the table and found that Al was the only one who had a negative expression. “Captain Kaufman?”
Al made a face and exchanged a look with Jason. “I don’t think I can. It’s prohibited and my rabbi would have a fit, regardless of the reason it was put there. I wouldn’t be able to explain the purpose of the tattoo.”
“Damn,” Jason said, shaking his head.
Morrighan narrowed her eyes at Al, thinking about what he’d said. “Your rabbi. What does that mean?”
“That I belong to a specific religion that has rules we must follow.”
“Ah,” Morrighan said, but her expression clearly showed that she found the idea distasteful. “I will, of course, respect your wishes.”
“What about a physical talisman, like a necklace or pin?” Dian asked Al.
Al shrugged. “I’m not sure. There would probably be times where I’d be forbidden to wear it. And I’d still have to ask permission but not explain why I’d have it or where it came from.”
“Well, there goes that,” Jack sighed.
Dian sighed too, but said, “Perhaps only while you are at work, visiting other planets?”
Daniel sensed from Dian that it was important. “Is there a reason you’d like to give us these tattoos or necklaces?”
“To protect you from becoming hosts to the Goa’uld,” Morrighan said. “Or any other parasite.”
“Seriously?” Jason asked, stunned, and everyone else said practically the same thing and with the same state of shock.
“Sign me up then,” Jack said with a raise of his hand. “Anyone else?” Everyone raised their hands, even Al. Everyone except Teal’c. “T?”
Teal’c frowned, eyes unfocused as he thought. Finally he said, “It would put me at a disadvantage with my mission to free all Jaffa.”
“Crap, it would,” Jack said, nodding as he understood where Teal’c was coming from.
“Why?” Morrighan asked.
“Because those Jaffa—“ Daniel began, catching on.
“And others, too,” Jason interjected.
“—would feel like we got something special and refused to share it,” Daniel finished. “If we went around the galaxy, helping people fight and defeat the Goa’uld, they’d wonder why we weren’t concerned about becoming hosts. They’d ask how we can risk our lives and yet promise to help others.”
“Are you sure of that reception?” Morrighan asked.
“Unfortunately, yes,” Jack said, then looked at Daniel. “Worth the risk, in my opinion. I’d rather not worry about being snaked, wouldn’t you?” After a beat, Daniel nodded in agreement. Jack looked at Sam, who nodded, then Teal’c, Connor, and Alex. “So, raise your—hold on …” Jack looked at Morrighan and Dian. “Is this offer an either-or? Tattoo or talisman?”
“Either one,” Morrighan said, getting a nod from Dian.
“Okay, then,” Jack said, turning his attention back to the teams. “Amulet, er, talisman … or tattoo?”
“Tat,” Daniel said.
“I don’t need one, obviously,” Jason said when Jack looked at him.
“Oh right,” Jack said and looked at Sam.
“Tat,” Sam said.
Everyone agreed to a tattoo, then Al raised his hand. “A talisman, if you please.” He paused and looked at Jack. “I’m willing to endure guilt rather than risk getting snaked. So I’ll wear the talisman.”
“You’ll forget to take it off when you get home,” Connor said in a slight sing-song and a knowing glance. The two of them were best friends, not just teammates and he knew Al would wear it all the time, like he did his dog tags.
“I won’t care,” Al responded in the same sing-song, then explained in a regular tone, “I’d rather have the guilt than worry about getting snaked. So guilt means me wearing it at home and lying about what it is.”
“I thought you told your wife everything?” Jack asked, frowning.
“He did,” Jason said. “He means everyone outside his wife and kids. That means his parents, brothers, rabbis, et cetera.”
“Dammit,” Jack sighed.
“Besides,” Al said, “There’s no way I’d keep this job and lie to my wife and kids.”
Connor comfortingly slapped him on the shoulder. “So what does the talisman-tattoo look like?”
Morrighan grinned at Dian before telling him and the others, “We’ll have to design it. We Lia Fail are automatically protected due to our bloodline.”
“Handy,” Jack quipped.
“Isn’t it?” Morrighan said, returning the sarcasm.
“So who would design it?” Daniel asked.
“I would,” Lugh said, appearing with Tara. They sat at the table on either side of Dian. “I’d also apply it.”
“Makes sense,” Jason said with raised brows. “Security.”
“Artist as well,” Lugh said. “I make everything, and that includes all physical magic, even the naquada.”
Every human went quiet with shock as they stared at him.
“What?” Jack asked.
“What did I say?” Lugh asked, frowning.
Morrighan held up her hand, staring at Jack and the others, then turned to Sam. “Did you only learn about its existence, not where it came from?”
“Only what Teal’c knows,” Sam said. “He knows only what he’d been allowed to know, or been able to find out while serving as First Prime.”
“Of course,” Lugh said with an eyeroll and a look of disgust at his sister. “Here is yet another reason to wipe them out of the galaxy, Ghanni.”
“You know the laws,” Morrighan told him severely. “They will never change.”
“What laws are those?” Sam asked.
“The Lia Fail are forbidden to interfere with the existence of lesser races,” said Morrighan, Lugh, and Tara, in unison.
“But,” Daniel said, confused, “you already have with us.”
“The existence of lesser races,” Morrighan clarified. “It means no genocide, regardless of any overwhelming need to do so.”
“Not that I’m for genocide,” Jack said, “but why would you have that sort of law against lesser races, which I’m assuming includes humans?”
“Lesser races deserve the chance to improve themselves,” Tara said.
“There is, however, an exception,” Morrighan said. “If the race has no chance of surviving a sickness, or if it is spreading a sickness that would threaten the lives of other races, then we elder races would, together, put them to sleep.”
“You mean kill,” Jason said to her.
“No, I mean put to sleep,” Morrighan corrected him. “To put the entire race on one planet and place it in a state of hibernation.”
“How would you do that?” Sam asked her.
“I’m not sure you’d like the answer to that question,” Morrighan said.
“Well now you’ve done it,” Jack said. “Now we’re curious, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a curious human.” Daniel and Sam grinned at him.
The Queen took a breath, then said, “The entire planet is frozen.”
Sam blinked. “But what about the core? Wouldn’t it kill the planet?”
Morrighan gave her an admiring smile. “How wonderful it is for you to ask that instead of freaking out about what kind of power that would take.”
Jack snorted. “I think we’re well past the freak out stage about planetary powers.”
“You created naquada?” he asked Lugh skeptically. “I thought it was a naturally-created substance, like marble or granite.”
Lugh shook his head. “I created it for my late brother, Nuada. He was trying to help another race create the stargate system and they needed a material that required it to contain and withstand powerful applications. So I created the stone through methods once known on Earth as alchemy. When deposited deep in the ground where marble collected, it spread out, like veins of crystal. Then Nuada and those he worked with seeded the new material on dozens of planets.”
“Why not Earth?” Sam asked.
“Earth retained far too much uranium. Naquada and uranium are highly explosive in their pure forms. Too dangerous for a young race to fool around with.”
“Would this race Nuada worked with be the Ancients?” Daniel asked.
Lugh raised a brow and grinned at Morrighan. “You were right. They know a lot.”
“Yes,” Morrighan said. “Though their true name is the Alterans.”
Daniel’s eyes grew big. “Alterans?”
“Uh oh,” Jack said, waving at Daniel—who ignored him.
“I’d really love to—“
“Give him some books or something to read and learn about the Ancients,” Jack said, talking quickly, “Or we’ll be here all day.”
“Jack—“ Daniel protested.
“Daniel!” Jack said, holding him off. “I get it, okay? But let’s put the anthropology on the back burner for now. Just for now. You’ll get plenty of time to visit, I promise.”
Daniel sighed loudly, knowing it was useless to argue. Besides, Jack was right. He’d get the time.
“Okay, so all that’s fascinating, but could we please get back to the discussion about tattoos?” Connor asked.
“You in a hurry to get somewhere?” Jack asked him.
“Actually, yes,” Connor said, jogging his brows. “My little girl’s birthday is tomorrow. I’d rather not miss it.”
“I understand,” Lugh said, getting up with a fond smile at Connor. “I too have children. In deference to your little girl’s birthday, I’ve some designs to make.”
The Last Ride Home
Lugh created the design within an hour’s time, but Hammond had called his teams home, though he allowed them to return home via ship. Therefore, the implementation of the tattoos would have to be performed onboard. The teams plus Morrighan, Lugh, Tara, and Dian were gathered in the oval medical bay. Upon entering, four beds lined the walls, with a round console in the center of the room. From the ceiling were swing-armed devices with varying tools on the ends that resembled differing shapes of cut crystal. Regardless of what the medical room contained, everything within it was in soft shades of purple and blue, including the slight give in the flooring, which to Jack felt like soft silicone.
Lugh presented Al with his removable talisman and everyone got to see what Morrighan had described while her brother had been working. On a fine gold chain hung a one-inch carved disc of burnished gold. The design was of a sun with a circle around it. The sun had a small sphere in the center and had twelve wavy rays whose tips touched the circle’s inner edge.
“That is cool,” Jack said. “Are the tats going to be the same size?”
“Yes,” Lugh said, “and while I’d like to put them in the same place on all of you, it’s not necessary.”
“Why the same place?” Sam asked.
“Just for symmetry,” Lugh said. “It’s a preference of mine, but not mandatory. Sometimes the same place on all people is not possible.”
“Okay,” Jack said, combing a hand through his hair. “Guess I’ll be first. How’s it done?” Lugh pulled a disc from the shoulder bag he’d brought onboard. He handed it to Jack, who turned it over and over. The only difference between this disc and the one Al now wore was that the tattoo version was half an inch thick, made from metal, and there was no sphere in the center. It was simply a flat, filled circle. “And you put this on a person and …?”
“Sit,” Lugh said, patting an armless pedestal chair as he sat down on an old wooden stool next to it.
“Woof,” Jason said with a crooked grin.
“Arroooo!” Jack howled quietly, getting chuckles from everyone except Lugh, who smiled at the idiocy, not the howl.
“What was that about?” he asked.
“Don’t have wolves or dogs on your planet?”
“No, those were Earth specific. But why did you howl?”
“You told him to sit,” Jason smirked, “in the same way we train our dogs to sit.”
“Oh,” Lugh said, grimacing. “Sorry.”
“No sweat,” Jack grinned.
As he sat down, and everyone gathered to watch, Lugh removed a few tiny jars from his bag, then tossed the bag beside him where it hit the wall by the door and landed on the floor.
Sam watched, utterly fascinated by what Lugh was doing and the jars he removed reminded her of tiny cosmetic jars, the type that usually held eye shadow.
Lugh pulled a swing arm tray from the ceiling and set the objects onto it, then pulled another swing arm down which held something that looked like a ceramic palette knife. Attached to the swing arm were six tools with various tips which apparently attached to the knife. He removed the lids of the jars and in one of them was something that looked like gold paste. In three others were substances colored clear, white, and indigo blue. Lugh attached a round blunted tool tip to the palette knife and showed it to Jack. It was black and resembled the tip of a touch pad’s stylus.
“This heats up,” Lugh said, referring to the palette knife itself. “Then I’ll rub each of these compounds into your skin where the tattoo will go. Meanwhile …” He took the steel tattoo disc and pulled down another swing arm. It held a three-inch wide, two-inch deep, blue crystal jar. He dropped the disc into it and pushed the swing arm up out of the way. “The tattoo disc will sit in a prepared solution and when it’s ready, it will have changed from metal into a type of crystal blend that will embed the gold into your skin.”
“So it’s like a branding?” Jack asked, a bit leery.
Lugh shook his head. “No, it’s a method I term ‘imprinting.’ It’s best described by watching it, I think, or I’d start speaking phrases that would likely make your eyes glaze over.”
“Nah,” Jack dismissed. “Only Daniel does that.”
“Bite me,” Daniel muttered, a smile at the corner of his eyes.
“Maybe later,” Jack replied blandly, making Jason cover his mouth to stop himself from retorting. Instead, he just cleared his throat; Jack toe-kicked at him but Jason moved out of the way.
“Alright, settle down,” Lugh said with a grin. “Traditional places for this type of tattoo are on the right shoulder blade. Is this okay for you?”
“Absolutely,” Jack replied and took off his outer shirt, revealing his H-back tank top, which easily cleared the shoulder blades.
“That’s fine,” Lugh said, stopping Jack from taking off his black tank, then took the stylus and dipped it in the clear-looking paste, which turned out to be more like beeswax in its consistency. About six inches down from the spot between shoulder and upper arm, Lugh began to rub the circle pattern onto the skin using tiny consecutive circles, over and over. As the stylus moved, Jack’s skin turned a pale lavender. After three turns of the circle, he switched tool tips, replacing the stylus with a white cone that had an extremely small bristle brush on the tip. He dipped it into the white salve and repeated the circular motion, and then moved into the circle to draw the sun.
He repeated the pattern five times and Jack’s skin turned a dark red under the white paste and the sensation began to feel like a cold burn. He grimaced, sucking in a hiss, but the pain didn’t get worse. Lugh changed the tip again to another cone, but with a tip that looked like a tiny brass ball. He dipped it into the indigo blue paste and began the procedure all over again, this last time going over the pattern thirteen times. When he was finished, he pulled down the swing arm cup with the disc in it and with a needle nose plier-type tool, withdrew the transformed disc. Pushing the arm away, he picked up the small jar with the gold paste and pushed the new disc into the paste jar, submerging it.
“I love this part,” Lugh said, winking at Sam. He picked up a tool that had been sitting in a hook under the pedestal chair. It looked like another stylus, but was connected to the chair by a thin, black, rubber-like hose. He pressed his thumb along the side and the stylus was revealed to be a type of gas torch, except the “gas” was bright white with a blue halo and tendrils of “flame” reached out from the sides as well as the tip. He hovered the “flame tip” over the gold jar and waited.
“What type of light is that?” Sam asked, having her own idea.
“Plasma,” he said, making Sam grin.
Jack started to turn around and look but Lugh kept him still. “You will be able to see the light when the next person gets their tattoo.” Jack grumbled, but good-naturedly. “One more minute,” Lugh said, getting close to the plasma as if it wouldn’t hurt him, and looked into the gold jar. After the long minute was finished, he put the torch away and picked up the disc inside the jar with the pliers, then looked around him. With a growl, he spied his bag. “Sam, could you grab my bag there and bring me the remaining jars.” He moved jars already on the tray to make room as Sam set down six black cosmetic jars. “Would you open one of them, please?”
Sam did so, saying, “Don’t you usually have an assistant for this?”
“Usually,” Lugh said, and dropped the disc into the open black jar. It hissed. “But she’s back on the planet,” he said, waiting for the hissing to stop. “Besides, that’s all I needed, so thank you.”
While the disc continued to hiss, the cold burn of Jack’s skin grew worse and made him flinch and grimace repeatedly. “Nearly done,” Lugh said reassuringly, and not long after, the hissing stopped. “Now this will hurt like hell for five seconds.” He picked up the jar with his fingers and dumped the disc onto the tray. It was now a brilliant gold. With two fingers, he aligned it over Jack’s skin, then set it down.
The disc was even colder and hotter, and Jack squeezed his eyes shut as he gritted his teeth through the pain. When it abruptly ended, it was almost like a drug in itself. Lugh lifted the disc and set it on the tray. On Jack’s shoulder was the perfect impression of the sun tattoo, colored a deep, rich gold no Earth tattoo could match without using metallic paint. Lugh dabbed his pinkie tip into the clear salve and rubbed lightly into the tattoo.
“Done,” he said. “Please don’t touch it for another ten minutes.”
Jack got up, trying to see over his shoulder. “How’s it look?” he asked, and Daniel and Jason smiled at him.
“Perfect,” Daniel said.
“Ditto,” Jason followed.
“Pull down that swing arm over your head, Jack,” Lugh said.
It was a series of three circular mirrors and Jack got a good look. “It’s so small,” he said, unsure if he should be disappointed.
“It packs a punch, as you humans would say,” Lugh replied.
“How long will this last?” Jack asked.
“For as long as you have that shoulder,” Lugh answered with a grin. “Okay, people. We have a few more hours to get to Earth, but let’s not waste time. Who’s next?”
“I am,” Teal’c said, having already removed both his shirts. “Did we not arrive much sooner when we travelled to Earth the first time?”
“We did,” Lugh said. “But we were in a hurry. We’re taking the slower way home so that the tattoos will be finished before we get there.” He picked up the stylus tool and began the procedure over again. As he drew the pattern onto Teal’c’s skin, he asked, “May I ask you a personal question, Teal’c?”
“You may,” Teal’c said, turning his head slightly.
“Why do you still wear the mark of Apophis on your forehead?” Lugh asked as he switched to the next paste application.
Teal’c was silent, meeting Jack’s eyes. It was a subject that came up periodically, always broached by Jack. The Master Jaffa dropped his gaze, staring at nothing while he considered the question. After a few silent minutes, he said, “At first, it was because I needed an emotional reminder to fuel my revenge. Later, I believed that if I removed it, I would no longer have the same physical reminder that other Jaffa carry.”
Lugh nodded. “You needed that connection.”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said, brows furrowed as he mused over his decisions.
“Do you still feel that way?” Lugh asked.
Teal’c caught Jack’s gaze again and the SG-1 leader lifted his brows slightly. “We haven’t talked about it lately,” Jack said with a shrug.
“No, we have not,” Teal’c said, then cautiously looked over his shoulder. “Why do you ask?” he said to Lugh, answering the question with a question.
“Cautious,” Lugh surmised. “I like that.” He switched tools again and began rubbing the indigo paste into the Jaffa’s skin. “I ask because you are now without the parasite. Would you not want to be rid of the much more obvious statement of slavery on your forehead?”
“I would enjoy even less the scarring that removing the tattoo would create,” Teal’c decided.
“What’re you getting at?” Jack asked Lugh, his eyes wide with surprise. “Are you offering to remove it?” he asked, looking into Teal’c’s equally surprised eyes.
“Yes,” Lugh said, and he detected some strong emotion from Teal’c, so he added more sensitively, “I understand honor, Teal’c. As an honorable Jaffa, perhaps you feel bonded to other Jaffa by all that you have in common. And perhaps removing the tattoo would take that away.”
Teal’c’s shoulder burned coldly, but Lugh’s offer made him easily ignore it. To be free of the tattoo. How many times had he looked in the mirror over the last eighteen years and wished to have that foul reminder of Apophis removed? And how many times had he told himself that even if it were possible, it would distance him from other Jaffa? Wasn’t he telling himself a comfortable lie to make him tolerate the tattoo? He was first free from Apophis, now he was free of his symbiote without the loss of power the symbiote gave him. Could he now be free of the tattoo he hated without disconnecting himself from other Jaffa? Yes, but only to a degree. Would it still be worth it?
“Teal’c?” Jack asked.
“I am thinking it over.”
“It’s time to place the tattoo,” Lugh said, touching Teal’c’s bicep.
“Proceed,” Teal’c said, and though it burned badly, it wasn’t anywhere near as searing as the branding of his forehead tattoo had been. That had been a mutilation of the flesh and he vividly remembered the satisfied smirk on Apophis’ face when he’d appeared in front of him after the ceremony had been finished. And now here he was, getting a tattoo that contained a power that would prevent the Goa’uld from taking him over. But it wasn’t enough. He’d have to ask Lugh to help him, to help the SGC, to help the galaxy in protecting them against the Goa’uld. Teal’c needed to spread this protection. Suddenly it was no longer just about freeing the Jaffa. They had a chance to free everyone.
Lugh tapped him on the shoulder and Teal’c stood up and looked into the mirror. It was unbelievable that so much power could be contained in so small a thing. He turned to Lugh and held out his hand. Lugh gripped his forearm fiercely and the two warriors held each other’s gaze for a long moment.
“Thank you,” Teal’c said. “I would like to know something about the … magic … that is used in this tattoo.”
“Yes?” Lugh asked.
Teal’c took a big breath. “Do you think it could be possible to … weaponize it?”
Lugh blinked at him while Jack whooped and slapped Teal’c’s other shoulder.
“Teal’c, you have the most awesome ideas!” Jason said, laughing and slapping Teal’c’s back too.
“Weaponize?” Lugh repeated. “How do you mean?”
“He means,” Jack said, “to be able to spread this protection throughout the galaxy so that the Goa’uld could never again take a host.”
Lugh narrowed his eyes in thought as he turned to the next person sitting in the chair. Daniel sat with his shirts in hand and gave Lugh a raised brow. “Lugh?”
“Yeah,” Lugh said absently as he set up the preparations for Daniel’s tattoo. He looked over at Teal’c and nodded. “It’s possible, but I will have to think about it for a while, to devise a new method of delivery. So far, this is the only method I have ever used since it was enough.”
“Along with Morrighan’s,” Jason said, tapping his own chest.
“True,” Lugh said, “but our Queen can’t spend the rest of her life moving throughout the galaxy and protecting everyone. We’d be without our leader and we can’t have that. So I’ll think about how to devise some other kind of system and I’ll let you know how it goes.” He paused and looked at Teal’c and Jack. “Is that sufficient?”
“It is,” Teal’c said, smiling. It looked so odd on him that everyone who knew him couldn’t help but smile too.
“Excellent,” Lugh said, loving the idea of weaponization the more he thought about it.
“By the way,” Jack asked, looking at Daniel’s shoulder while Lugh worked. He suddenly wondered what the tat would taste like on Daniel’s skin and had to abruptly order his mind back on business. “Do the Lia Fail have these tattoos?”
“Oh no,” Lugh said, concentrating on his work. “We’re immune.”
Jack made a face and growled, “Figures. But then why have the tattoos in the first place?”
Lugh paused and looked up at him. “Because our friends and allies aren’t immune.”
When the tattoos were finished, Lugh asked Teal’c, “Have you decided?” He nodded at Teal’c’s Jaffa tattoo. Teal’c looked at Jack, then made a decision that would affect the rest of his life.
“Yes, remove it.”
Jack slapped him on the back as Lugh beckoned Teal’c to a bed along the far curved wall and had him sit on the edge. Another swing arm was brought down, its tool end holding a ten inch magnifying glass. Lugh walked to the center console and retrieved something from a drawer below, and returned to Teal’c.
“This is called a Purity Filter,” he said, showing the Jaffa—and everyone else who gathered on either side of him—a hand tool whose body was eight inches long, one inch wide, and sculpted in a long wave that narrowed at the business end in the shape of a surgical hemostat. It wasn’t a clamp, however. At the end, a tiny silver ball bearing lodged there, and Lugh pointed at it. “An energy beam will come out here and burn away the tattoo. As it does, it will replace it with skin that I’ll sample beside it. As so …” Lugh pointed the tool’s tip at a blemish-free area of Teal’c’s forehead and quickly tapped a button under his thumb. The light blinked once and that was all. “Done. Ready?”
“Yes. How much pain do I need to prepare for?”
“Minimal,” Lugh said seriously. “It will be a mild burning and then it will itch as the skin is replaced. I’ll attend to that after the tattoo is gone.”
“Very well,” Teal’c said with a curt nod.
Pressing a button under the placement of his middle fingertip, Lugh looked through the magnifier and began the removal. Jack, Jason, Daniel, and the others stood around with open mouths of astonishment as the old scar of filled gold was replaced with new, unscarred skin.
“Amazing,” Daniel murmured.
In five minutes, Lugh was finished. He returned the tool to the console drawer and came back with another jar. He removed the lid, revealing a translucent pink gel, and handed the jar to Teal’c. “Dab a moderate amount on your pinkie finger tip, like so,” Lugh said, dipping his into the gel. “Then rub like so.” He started at the center of where the tat had been and worked in circles moving outward. The itch Teal’c had been trying to ignore disappeared. “You may touch your forehead while it heals,” Lugh explained. “Nothing will prevent it from doing so. However, anything that interferes with the normal state of the skin, like the ravages of the average day, should be washed away and the gel applied. This includes bathing water. Dry the skin, apply the gel. The gel acts as a stabilizing agent for the skin, as well as removing the itch. Basically, carry the gel with you wherever you go. When your skin itches, clean it gently and use the gel. When the gel is gone, you will need no more.”
Teal’c started to touch his forehead with his free hand, then paused. When Lugh nodded, he felt his forehead. He expected bumps and residual scarring and when he didn’t feel anything, his eyes widened. “Mirror?” Lugh grinned and pulled one down from a swing arm. Teal’c stared at himself, mouth agape. “This is true magic.”
“Or perhaps just Lia Fail technology,” Lugh said with a wink.
“Wanna share?” Jack asked, not really kidding despite the humor in his tone.
“I would if I could,” Lugh said regretfully. “While we can share weapons, and I could give you this device I used, the actual healing technology is quite literally, ‘magic.’ You couldn’t see it, but the healing energy comes from within us. We project it outward, as I did through the tool. The tool is simply the catalyst that helps concentrate the energy.”
“Damn,” Jason said, disappointed. “I was gonna ask if I could learn how to do that. Would come in very handy in the infirmary. Janet would just love you.”
Sam chuckled, as did the others. “She would.”
“I’ll see what I can share with her,” Lugh said. “First, however, we will be installing effective defensive weapons in one of your ships. They’re not easily copied but it can be done. I imagine that with minds equal to Sam’s, it could be a doable challenge.”
Sam beamed at him. “Thank you.”
“You’re most welcome,” he answered, giving her a very quick wink. A soft beeping interrupted the moment as it spread throughout the ship. “Finished just in time,” he said with a clap on Jack’s shoulder. “Shall we go?”
Hammond was in the control room talking to Captain Simmons, Sergeant Siler, and Colonel Ferretti when a shimmering light glowed in the middle of the gateroom, over the spot in front of the ramp. A second after, SG-1, SG-2, Morrighan, Lugh, Diancecht, and Tara appeared, surrounded by several crates like the one left in the briefing room after Hammond’s orchid ceremony. Hammond immediately left for the gateroom and when he appeared, he was smiling his best diplomatic grin.
“Welcome home, SG-1 and 2.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Jack and Jason, saluting quickly.
“Welcome back,” Hammond said, extending his hand to Morrighan. “I must apologize for not knowing how to call your people when referring to you as a group.”
The Queen had on the same clothing she’d been wearing when she’d met Jason: a tunic, capris, jeweled calf guards, fire opal jewelry, and the silver circlet with draping chains. “Lia Fail will be fine, General,” Morrighan said. “For generalities, refer to us with the Earth name, Fay, since it’s as close to defining our people as you understand us.”
“Very well,” he said, and looked at the crates. “What have you brought with you?”
“Many things,” Morrighan said with a mischievous wink. “I would like Lugh to take this item and install it in your newest ship.” She touched the crate closest to them. “Sam would probably be best suited to join him.”
“I agree,” Hammond said, and paused to consider a few seconds, then said, “Colonel Carter, proceed to the Athena with Lugh and once finished, report to the infirmary for your post-mission exams.”
“Yes, sir,” Sam said with a brilliant smile. A second later, she disappeared with Lugh and the crate.
“I would like to join them, General Hammond,” Teal’c said, but he wasn’t really listened to as Hammond stared at him.
“Your tattoo is gone,” he said with astonishment.
“Yes, sir, it is,” Teal’c said with a grin.
Hammond shook his head and nodded. “I look forward to your individual report. Report to Colonel Carter.”
“Thank you, General.” With a nod to Morrighan, he disappeared.
Hammond turned to the Queen. “Let’s discuss what you have here while my people report to the infirmary.” He looked at Jack, who nodded and walked out of the gateroom with everyone else behind him. “Now, your Majesty,” he said, gesturing at the remaining four crates. What have you so generously shared with us?”
In the infirmary, only two beds were available, so the two teams divvied up and sat on the mattress sides. Two nurses came over to start up charts and take vitals while Janet finished with SG-12 and 21 on the other beds.
Daniel frowned, looking somewhat confused as the nurse took his blood pressure.
“What?” Jack asked, sitting next to him.
“Feels weird, coming back to this …” He raised his arm. “Normality.”
Jack nodded as he looked across the space between beds and grinned at Jason. “Feels …”
“Like a step down,” Jason said. “We’ve just seen Teal’c get his tattoo removed by what looked like advanced medicine.” He nodded to Daniel’s BP cuff and the thermometer reader the nurse held. “And then we come home to this. It’s an evolutionary step down.”
“Was it that far above us?” the nurse asked Daniel as she wrote his vitals down.
“You would have adored their medical bay,” Daniel told her quietly.
“Felt more out of your depth though,” Jack said. “We did.”
The nurse sighed. “We’ll get there eventually,” she said, moving to take Jack’s vitals as another nurse came over to take Daniel’s blood. “At least our labs don’t take all day anymore.”
“There’s that,” Daniel nodded. “Used to take a while and we’d be stuck here till we were cleared.”
“God,” Jack said, rolling his eyes. “I do not miss those days.”
“I wanna see the new ship,” Jason said as another nurse took his blood.
“Not the new tech Lugh and Carter are installing?” Jack asked.
“That too,” Jason said, “but the Athena is supposed to be our first Asgard-Earth hybrid. Sam said it was cool as hell.”
“She’s in candyland,” Jack grinned, looking upward.
“I wasn’t paying that much attention when she mentioned it several weeks ago,” Daniel admitted.
“It looks like …” Jason began, pausing to consider.
“Remember the Battlestar Galactica?” said Ferretti, who came limping in, leaning on the cane in his left hand. He was all smiles and came toward Jack with a shit-eating one.
“Goddamn, it’s the man with a plan,” Jack said, slapping a handshake with the head of base security. “How’s things?”
“Same shit, different day, Jack,” Ferretti said.
“I hear you,” Jack nodded. “See the new ship, did you?”
“She a beaut, Jack.”
“But Battlestar Galactica? Really?” Jack asked.
“I was kidding about that part,” Ferretti said, grinning. “She looks almost like Thor’s ship, except she’s bigger. She had to be because we’re physically bigger than the Asgard.”
“Ah,” Jack said, smirking at him. “What about the inside?”
“Asgard consoles everywhere. Bridge design is a sloping, step down, half-circle. Wall-to-wall main viewer.”
“We’ll have to have a tour,” Jack said, and looked at Daniel, who seemed bored all of a sudden. It made him chuckle. “Well, some of us will have a tour, and some of us will be doing something else.”
Daniel elbowed him in the ribs. “I’ll be doing something useful while you guys measure your dicks.”
“Ow!” Jason laughed. “Snap!”
Janet came over at that point and put up both hands as if Jason’s exclamation was deafening. “Whoa there, cowboy. Lower the volume.” He sniggered. Quietly. She just smiled at him, then said to him and Jack. “You guys are done, but hang around till the results come back, as usual these days.”
“Copy that,” Jack said, getting to his feet.
“Let’s go shower,” Daniel said, “and meet back up in the briefing room.”
“Got mission reports to write, too, kids,” Jack reminded them all. Groans followed.
“Thankfully not due today,” Jason said, checking his watch as he headed for the door. It was 3 p.m. “Never get used to the fact that most of our day is shot whenever we gate home.”
“Sucks,” Connor agreed as the teams exited the infirmary.
Down the hall, Jack took another longish look at Teal’c’s forehead.
“O’Neill, it is not going to grow back.”
Jack smirked. “Good one. I was just thinking that you won’t need to hide your tat anymore.” He slapped him on the shoulder and squeezed. “You look like any old human now.”
Teal’c frowned, though he was doing it for effect to tease Jack. “Maybe I should draw in a black tattoo.”
“You’re cracking a joke! Oh my god.”
Behind them, Daniel said, “Watch it, Teal’c. Pretty soon you’ll be using contractions and calling me Daniel.”
Teal’c grinned, and as they walked further down the hall, he suddenly started thinking of other changes. “I believe I will let my hair grow out, too.”
Jack’s brows lifted as he tried to imagine Teal’c with hair. Then his eyes grew wide. “Tell me it won’t be blond.”
Teal’c made a face. “It will not be blond.”
“Phew. We would’ve shaved your head.”
“Who is we?” Teal’c asked with a dangerous grin.
Jack wisely kept that answer to himself.
In the briefing room, Hammond sat at the head of the conference table with General Vidrine on his left, back facing the observation window, and Morrighan and Dian on his right. Thankfully, no other nosy senators were brought along with Vidrine’s return.
Morrighan hadn’t said much beyond describing the weapon currently being installed on the Athena, and she was mostly waiting for SG-1 and SG-2 to join them. At present, she was simply making small talk with the Generals, comparing Earth as it was 5,000 years ago to the present day. She liked talking to them, though she could tell Vidrine was more no-nonsense than Hammond and decided that being honest with him would be far too dangerous for the program at Stargate Command. Some Generals seemed to forget they were once at the bottom of the power rung.
Plus there was something about these humans that created a blind spot in their thinking. They were so arrogant in their beliefs that they could defend themselves against everyone that it was simply mystifying … and at times, humorous to watch. Did they even understand how far down the evolutionary scale they were compared to the Lia Fail or the Asgard?
“—we would be without the stargate,” Vidrine had been saying.
Morrighan adjusted herself in her chair and leaned forward, resting her elbow on the table and offering her hand to Vidrine. “Would you care to arm wrestle?”
Vidrine blinked at her. “What?”
She smirked and withdrew her arm. “You keep talking about how strong you are, as a country, as a planet. I wondered if maybe you’d like to arm wrestle in order to put this to the simplest of tests.”
Next to her, his back to the stairs and doorway, Dian grinned and said nothing.
Hammond nodded, a conceding expression on his face that forced Vidrine to do the same. “I admit that we do a lot of chest-thumping and saber rattling. Perhaps I should offer our apologies.”
“No need,” Morrighan said. “I’m just wondering why it was necessary.”
“Habit, I think,” Vidrine said. He wasn’t amused.
Morrighan sighed, and pointedly turned her gaze back to Hammond. “There is no need to chest-thump, as you say. I am here to offer our help. The only thing I expect in return is friendship. I also understand that this is not the typical way you’re used to doing business, but I need to reiterate: we are no threat to you until you become a threat to us. And that is never going to happen.”
“Because we are so far beneath you?” Vidrine asked defensively.
Morrighan stared at him. “Would you feel better if I said, ‘yes’?”
“No,” Vidrine answered honestly.
“Did you behave this way with the Asgard?” she asked, and both Hammond and Vidrine had to think about that.
“No,” Hammond said, realization in his face.
“The Asgard are superior to you, in technology if not in maturity. Yet you treated them well. Why change that with me?” Again there was silence. Morrighan took a deep breath and sighed. “I scared you, I think. I look like you, but I defeated the Goa’uld as easily as you could step on an ant.”
Vidrine frowned, but he didn’t look as if he disagreed; Hammond looked the same. “Yes, it’s the power you possess.”
Morrighan nodded. “I am not here to conquer. That is not our way.” She gestured at the observation window. “Would you prefer it if we had no contact and simply sent you weapons?” When Vidrine looked a bit embarrassed, she sighed. “I thought so. Generals, you’ll have to put up with contact if you want us to share our weapons with you. Perhaps in two thousand years, you’ll be better mannered.”
Before Vidrine could retort, Jack and the others arrived. Jack assessed Hammond and Vidrine quickly, recognizing that Vidrine didn’t look all that happy. Morrighan was probably scaring him, the pansy.
“Want us to come back?” Jack asked, thumbing at the door.
“No, no,” Hammond said as he and Vidrine stood up.
“In fact, George, can I have a word?” Vidrine asked.
“Certainly,” Hammond said, and gestured for Jack and the others to take a seat as he followed Vidrine into his office and shut the door.
Jack sat in Vidrine’s vacated seat and gave Morrighan a teasing look. “Did you scare poor General Vidrine?”
Morrighan threw him a smirk. “He’s a very … difficult … man.”
“Difficult? You mean intransigent, war-mongering—“ Daniel started but Jack cut him off.
“Daniel,” he said.
“Sorry,” Daniel mouthed, though by the tilt of his mouth it was obvious that he wasn’t sorry.
“So,” Jack said, waiting till everyone had sat down. “What’d we miss?”
“Nothing,” Morrighan said. “I decided to wait to discuss what I brought in the crates until you and your teammates arrived.”
Jack smiled at her. “Bet the Generals weren’t happy about that.”
“Not really, no,” Morrighan laughed. “I’ll show them to you now while General Hammond is busy laying down the law to his superior.”
Jason snorted, disbelieving that assertion, but Morrighan didn’t respond. Instead, she waved her hand at the table, and in a line down the center appeared what looked like sidearms—or rather, what may be sidearms. The only recognizable part was the handgrip on each one.
“This is a hand weapon called a Centris,” she said, pronouncing it cen-trees.
“Huh,” Daniel barked out a laugh. “Like sentry.”
Morrighan narrowed her eyes in thought. “Oh, s-e-n-t-r-y?” She let out a laugh. “That’s beautiful coincidence. Mother Universe has a splendid sense of humor.”
The gun was made of blue polished crystal, with a large orbed reservoir in the center above the grip and small ‘beads’ dotted the rounded piping that spread around the gun like clay ‘snakes’ did when making a piece of pottery. Where the trigger was on a normal gun was another smaller orbed reservoir with a soft give; like a water balloon, but thicker. The firing tip was a cone shape made of tiny piping coils, separated down the center by a vein of white pearlescent material. The very tip held what looked like a tiny ball bearing made from something like black glass.
“What’s its power source?” Jack asked.
“Plasma,” Dian said. “I designed it myself. It contains a plasma that is so concentrated, you won’t need to refill it for several years, even under constant use.”
“So it fires plasma?” Jack asked, worried. Plasma wasn’t a stable energy.
“No, the plasma follows all these channels,” Dian said, indicating the piping. “The easiest translatable word would be filters. As it passes through them, the plasma is converted to a type of process that mixes flame with light. The color is medium blue.” He pointed to the button beads above the trigger orb. “These are the variable settings. You’ll have to memorize them because the weapon, as you can see, is not marked.”
Jack nodded. “Could you draw out a quick diagram?” He paused, then added, “In English?”
Dian grinned. “Something to write with and on?”
“Here,” Daniel said, pulling out his notepad and pencil from his field vest.
As Dian wrote down the weapon specs, Jack said, “I’d like to live fire test this before you leave.” Hammond and Vidrine had heard him as they excited the office.
“Outside the Groom Lake Facility,” Hammond said, eyes on the weapon Jack held. The Colonel handed the weapon to Hammond for inspection.
Morrighan stood, holding a Centris in her hand as she looked at Vidrine inquiringly.
“I’ll be returning to D.C.,” Vidrine told her. “George here will speak for me, if that’s amenable?”
“It is,” she said, and held up the weapon for him to inspect. “This is a plasma weapon with several settings. You may take one with you. But I advise that you test it on things you don’t care about.”
Vidrine hesitated, then shook his head as he held up a hand. “I’ll return at a later date.”
“Very well,” Morrighan nodded. “Have a good flight home.” She paused, narrowing her eyes. “I would welcome a chance to take you home instead. Skip the hours it would take the normal way.” Vidrine looked ambivalent and she added, “You’ll get to see my ship.”
Vidrine smiled at her. “Done.”
She smiled at him and asked Hammond, “Come with us, General. It won’t take long.”
Hammond looked down at Jack, who nodded. “Go ahead, sir. We’re not going anywhere.”
Hammond grinned, then nodded to Morrighan. She tapped a button on her right jeweled gauntlet. “Finnargh, transport myself and the two gentlemen standing with me.”
A second later, a blue-white shimmering light took them away. Daniel stared at the spot they were in, watching the leftover sparkles that looked like fading gold dust. Fairy indeed, he thought to himself.
“I can’t wait to fire these,” Jack said, looking over the weapon.
“Like the Queen said,” Dian followed, “fire it only on things you don’t care about.”
“What happens?” Jack asked excitedly. “What type of settings does it use? Are they for intensity, like the Zat the Goa’ulds use?”
Daniel grinned and bit the side of his lower lip, ordering himself not to tease Jack in front of Dian. “Can you tell he’s excited?” he asked Dian instead.
Dian returned the grin, looking at Jack. “There are two settings for intensity and the buttons are next to each other.” He pointed to two white spheres next to each other on the side of the grip where the thumb would be. “You can quickly tap these with your thumb. They will produce a two-foot wide, about, spray. The first orb here is less intense, meant for stunning your target. It’s meant to disable, not warn, and it hurts. The second orb, to the first one’s left here, is the kill setting. It will atomize the target.”
“Sweet,” Jack and Jason said in stereo.
“And these others?” Connor asked, as he pointed to the other side of the grip.
“These are for the type of beam. The one closest to where your first knuckle would be on the grip?” Dian said pointing. “This is for a wide angle shot and generally designed for close quarters. Perhaps …” He looked around then walked over to the observation window. “If you stand below this window, your targets will be where the gate is.”
Jason nodded. “About a hundred feet.”
“The next orb setting is sort of difficult to explain,” Dian said and walked to the center of the room. He pointed the gun at the floor. “If you need to get in somewhere, or get out of somewhere, the setting is meant to create a circle. Listen carefully. An outline of a circle, not a filled one. The beam can cut thicknesses of …” He silently, quickly, calculated in Earth measurement. “Perhaps six meters, or yards, depending on what you prefer.”
“That’s awesome,” Jack said.
“The third orb setting is a pinpoint.” He looked at everyone in the room. “Aim this and you get a laser. The distance is …” He thought a moment, looking at the window. “Perhaps twice as far as we are to the stargate. Whatever this laser touches, it disintegrates. You can use this to kill or cut through.”
A transport beam appeared behind Dian and Sam and Lugh appeared.
“Hey Carter!” Jack said, surprised. “You done already?”
“It was surprisingly easily to adapt!” Sam said, and her eyes immediately tracked to the Centris Jack was holding. “Oh my god, that’s beautiful.” He handed it to her.
“We’ll explain the functions later,” Jack told her. “What does the new ship weapon do?”
“First, it’s a weapons array,” she said excitedly.
“And that means …?” Daniel asked.
“That it’s not just a single firing gun. We had to do a spacewalk to install part of it, too.”
“Sweet!” Jack said, and turned to Lugh. “Hard?”
“Not really,” Lugh said. “Just needed some adaptations that didn’t require taking the ship apart. I’m familiar with Asgard systems and our weapons designs are compatible, so it was relatively easy to install.” Sam snorted and he grinned. “With a few alterations. Your non-Asgard ships would have presented a problem.”
“So it’s installed, or do you need to work on it?”
“It’s installed,” Sam said. “On the belly, where the old guns were. Lugh actually sliced though the decks with something much smaller than this gun in order to bring up a connection line in the bridge. He suggests we call him when we’re building the next one so the array can be installed with it.”
“Done,” Jack said with a broad smile and held his hand out for Lugh to shake it. “Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome.” He tipped his head sideways just a bit, listening for something. “Morrighan is back.” She appeared with Hammond right behind him. “Figured I’d warn you since she wasn’t using the transporter.”
“That was different,” Hammond said with a look of awe.
“What was?” Jack asked.
“The difference between their transportation device and Queen Morrighan using teleportation.”
“Ah,” Jack said.
Hammond looked at the gun Jack held. “Is this the new hand weapon?” Jack handed it to him and explained, with a bit of help from Dian, what it did. When finished, Hammond nodded. “Colonel, get with Ferretti and come up with a schedule for live fire testing.”
“I’d like to join you out on the range, too,” Hammond said. At Jack’s grin, he gave him a mock-frown. “I’ll need to be proficient myself.”
“Of course, sir,” Jack said, still grinning.
Hammond indicated the table, and everyone sat back down. “Well,” he said with a happy sigh. “You folks have some post-mission reports to write, and I’ve got some things to discuss with Queen Morrighan about a formal alliance. For now, I need to hear about the—“
At that moment, Janet came walking in. “I apologize, General,” she said.
“Not at all, Doctor,” Hammond said, standing. “Is something wrong?”
“I’m not sure, sir,” she said, and gave Morrighan one of her raised brows. “It’s just a change.”
“What do you mean?”
Janet saw Sam across the table, and she waved two fingers at her. “I need to get your blood work done.”
Sam nodded. “I’ll be down after the briefing.”
“Well, you all will,” Janet said with a look at being a bit overwhelmed.
Hammond frowned. “What is it, Doctor?”
At her hesitation, everyone stood up from their seats, including the Lia Fail.
“Let me begin with a lead-in, sir. Human blood changes over time. When we’re born, and during our childhood, it’s in a fresh, clean state. As we age, oxidants and free radicals contaminate it.”
“Yes, I understand,” Hammond said. “Go on.”
Janet thought, Get to the point, in other words. “The members of SG-1 and SG-2 have had their blood … cleaned of all oxidants and free radicals. I suspect that your blood may have changed too, and believe the ceremony may have had a cleansing effect, although I have no idea how.” Hammond looked surprised and so did everyone else. “There’s something else. Without going into technical jargon, there are other changes in their bodies that I’ll need to confirm via x-rays.” Jack groaned and she gave him an understanding smile. “I know, Colonel, but I need them done. Just be thankful I’m not ordering CAT or MRI scans.”
“What do you suspect?” Daniel asked her as he came over to her. “Should we be worried?” He then glanced at Morrighan with his own raised brow.
“Well … I suspect that I’ll find that everything that’s wrong with you and everyone else here has …” She frowned at him. Daniel wasn’t wearing his glasses. “How’s your eyesight?”
Daniel pulled his glasses from his vest pocket. “Um …” He looked at Jack and Jason, then Hammond. “I can see better.”
“I thought so. You’re not wearing those because you don’t need them anymore.” She turned to Hammond. “I think everyone has something like this. If you had problems with your system, it’s suddenly gone. Healed.”
Jack and Jason exchanged looks of surprise. “Holy crap, I didn’t even notice,” Jason said to Daniel. “I thought you were just getting one of the headaches that you get when you need to update your prescription.”
Daniel shook his head. “I woke up after that near-death thing and I could see perfectly.”
“Near death thing?” Hammond and Janet said, alarmed.
“I’ll explain in my report, sir,” Daniel said. “It had to do with the empathic power Adriann gave me a few years ago.”
“He’d developed a tumor because of it,” Dian told Hammond and Janet. “It killed him, more or less. We removed it and brought him back.”
Hammond and Janet just stood there with their mouths open, then Janet found her voice first. “Anyway, sir,” she said to the General, “I’m pretty sure that everyone needs new x-rays. I’d also suggest you get them done, too.”
“What are you looking for?”
“Everything. Healed bone breaks that aren’t there anymore. Organs suddenly working better. Stomach issues gone.” She looked at Daniel with a disapproving frown. “Why didn’t you tell me about the tumor?”
“I didn’t know!” Daniel said.
“No, I mean, dying, Daniel.”
“Oh. Um …” He didn’t have an answer.
“Are you okay?” Hammond asked.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m sorry, I just …” Daniel shrugged. “It slipped my mind.”
“Daniel!” Janet objected.
“I’m sorry! I just …” He gave Janet and Hammond a sheepish look.
“What exactly happened?” Hammond asked him.
“We were attending our ceremonies, or orchid ceremonies as I call them. I was last and when I went over, I just …” He shook his head, not remembering much. “Jack?”
Jack quickly explained what had happened and Hammond’s brow furrowed deeper. He looked at Dian inquisitively. “Is Doctor Jackson’s eyesight improvement part of what you did to help him or was it the result of the ceremony?”
“Before the ceremony,” Daniel answered for Dian. “I could see clearly when I woke up.”
At Hammond’s disapproval, Jack said, “Sir, it’s my fault for not checking in, but Daniel turned out to be fine and I didn’t think it necessary to report something that was no longer an issue.”
“Agreed,” Hammond nodded.
“Daniel, you’ll need more than an x-ray. I’ll need an MRI.”
“Seriously?” Daniel asked, even though it was a reasonable request.
“Seriously,” Janet said. “There may be residual damage.”
“There isn’t,” Dian said, “but a scan to verify would be helpful.”
“Okay, people,” Hammond said. “Everyone back to the infirmary. I’ll be busy with Queen Morrighan and we’ll resume the briefing afterward.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack said, and he reluctantly left the room, with everyone else filing out after him.
Hammond was in his office, typing up the details of his arrangement made with Morrighan, when Walter’s voice came over the intercom.
“Unscheduled Incoming Activation.”
There were teams out on missions, so one of them must’ve returned before they were expected. He continued to type, hoping that Walter wouldn’t call him to the gateroom so he could finish his draft. He was pleased but cautious concerning the Lia Fail. They didn’t want anything in return. But hadn’t the Aschen been like that? Perhaps, except the Aschen had been suspicious from the start.
The Lia Fail may be too good to be true, and there wasn’t anything Earth could give them in return that would equal the gifts they’d received, but Hammond had to go on his instincts on this one. Despite the awesome and frightening power of the Queen, all Hammond could think of was that SG-1 and 2 must’ve charmed the hell out of these people. Or perhaps it was that the Lia Fail felt a kinship with Earth, a place they’d intended to colonize until they’d been forced to leave by chasing an alien race called the Fomor off the planet. Morrighan had compared it to protecting a tropical rain forest.
The power this woman held was truly what people would consider god-like. Goddess-like. Yet she was the only one on her planet with so many abilities. It was admirable, using her powers to protect her people and others by jumping into the fray, as she’d explained when talking to Hammond about the Fomor’s attack on the Aos Si. The last time a leader did that on Earth was … Hammond couldn’t remember precisely. It was either the King of Sweden or Henry the Fifth, although hadn’t the King of Sweden ruled after Henry’s timeline and …
Hammond was lost in thought when he heard someone enter the briefing room. Looking up, he saw Colonel Dave Dixon, now leader of SG-3, coming toward his office. With a sigh, Hammond closed his laptop and met Dixon at the door.
“You’re early, aren’t you, Colonel?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. My team’s on the way to the infirmary for routine checks, nothing serious. I thought I’d check in with you first. I decided to return early because we had nothing left to do. It’ll be in my report. Anyway, some of the townsfolk returned through the gate, all excited about some group of strangers running off the Goa’uld on a neighboring planet.” Dixon paused and gave Hammond a knowing grin. “The townsfolk said they were called pirates.”
“Same ones we’ve been hearing about?”
“It would seem so.”
“That’s the fifth time, Dave.”
“Yes, sir, it is. If you’re going to assemble a team to hunt down these pirates and form an alliance, I respectfully submit a request to join. My team’s had more contact with people who’ve seen these so-called pirates.”
“I’m fully aware, Colonel,” Hammond said seriously. “I’d already decided to put SG-1 in charge, with SG-2 backing them up. If I put you in, your team would be backing up SG-2, despite Colonel Coburn’s rank.”
Though obviously disappointed, Dixon nodded. “Understood, sir. I’ll still be glad to join in on the hunt.”
“Good,” Hammond said, nodding. “SG-1 and 2 are currently in the infirmary and are due for debrief shortly. I’ll fill them in at that time.”
“Yes, sir. Have you decided on a start date?”
“Not for a few weeks, Colonel. I’m going to recall all teams by the end of this week. All teams will be taking classes and qualifying at the gun range.”
“Sir?” Dixon asked, huffing out a laugh.
Hammond went back into his office and returned with the Lia Fail handgun. At the expression on Dixon’s face, he knew the leader of SG-3 would now relish time at the range.
“SG-1’s doing, sir?” Dixon asked, referring to the acquisition.
Hammond grinned. “And SG-2’s.”
X-rays finished and read, Janet prepared her report and headed up to the briefing room. By the time she reached the elevator, she’d begun to wish she’d taken part in the ceremony with General Hammond.
It was difficult to say goodbye to the Lia Fail. Jack found it confusing. What was it about these people? Was it their power? The fact that they’d saved Daniel’s life? The fact that he was distantly related to them? Jack couldn’t decide and by the time it was his turn for hugs and handshakes, he decided that the ‘why’ was unimportant. He’d simply miss them—and their planet. He shook hands with Lugh and Dian, murmuring “See you later,” instead of goodbye. He’d always hated goodbye anyway; hell, even with the Goa’uld, although that was generally a goodbye said in another language and very sarcastically.
Morrighan stood in front of him, taller by a few inches. Jack still found it odd because it was so rare to look at a woman taller than he was. She smiled and raised her hands, showing him a necklace. It was a silver linked chain and strung on it was a triangular object no bigger than a dime. The triangle was thin silver engraved with the triple spiral on both sides.
“This is my amulet,” Morrighan said as she held it up for him to put on. “Feel free to add it to your dog tags and keep it with you at all times.”
“What’s it for?” Jack asked as he went ahead and removed the amulet from the chain and started putting it on his dog tag chain. He hadn’t even waited to tell him what it was for. He’d just done what she suggested as if she was an old friend he’d trusted implicitly.
“If you get into trouble,” she began, then winked at him and smirked. “Scratch that. When you get into trouble and it looks as if your life, or someone’s you care about, is in danger, close your eyes, hold the amulet, and whisper my name.”
Jack’s brows rose. “Seriously? Just your name?”
“What will happen?” he asked, though he was pretty sure everyone around him was silently asking the same question.
“I will bring you and those around you to me. If you have an enemy with you, that will be fine. They’ll be dealt with.”
“Thanks,” Jack said, overwhelmed.
“You’re most welcome, distant cousin.” She kissed his cheeks and stepped back.
“If I may ask …” Hammond began.
Morrighan grinned at him. “Why Jack?”
“I beg your pardon, Jack,” Hammond said, then to Morrighan, he answered, “Yes.”
“He’s related to us at the DNA level. That’s enough of a tie for me to hear him if he’s in trouble. He doesn’t really need the amulet to call for help, but it would take longer for me to sense him and by that time, he’d be dead. So the amulet will amplify the call.”
“That is so awesome,” Jason said, slapping Jack on the back. “But what if Jack’s out of it? Can one of us use the amulet to call for help?”
“You can,” Morrighan said hesitantly, “but it would take longer to get to me, so you’ll need to repeat my name several times while holding the amulet.” She then hugged Jack, kissed him again, and stepped back to join Lugh and Dian. “Until another day,” she said, and the transportation beam took them away.
“Now that that’s done,” Hammond said, gesturing for everyone to retake their seats. “Onto other matters. Doctor Fraiser, you have the test results?”
“Yes, sir. All flaws found in the skeletal structures of SG-1 and 2 have disappeared. I’d say they were healed but that would imply that there’s a healed line. There isn’t one. As for the results of the blood tests, I’ve written up a report,” and she nodded at the stapled papers in front of Hammond. “Any organ tissue damage, ulcers, old scars—although I haven’t personally checked—have disappeared. The members of SG-1 and 2 are, to put it … shockingly … reborn.”
As that sunk in, she stood up to leave. “Mull on that one, gentlemen. Sam. General.”
After she left the room, Hammond shook his head. “I think it’s time for full physicals by our personal doctors, or Doctor Fraiser.”
“Today?” Jack asked.
Hammond huffed. “No, Jack, of course not. Just as soon as you can get them done. Within a few weeks’ or a month’s time.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack and Jason said for their respective team members.
“Now, the next order of business. I’m changing your standing mission orders.”
“Sir?” Jack asked.
“Remember the reports about a new enemy of the Goa’uld?”
“Yes, sir,” Jack said.
“They call themselves pirates,” Daniel said, finding that word particularly odd. It was an Earth-only word.
“Colonel Dixon’s team returned early today. He told me of yet another report. That’s the fifth time we’ve personally heard about these so-called pirates. So I’m tasking SG-1 and SG-2 with the mission to hunt these people down and make an alliance. SG-3 will provide support.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack said, surprised, but he figured that Dixon had second-hand knowledge, instead of the third-hand every other report listed. “What if these pirates don’t want an alliance?”
“We’ll try harder,” Hammond said. “Reports from the Tok’ra say that Ba’al is increasing his territory. It’s affecting Asgard-protected planets and while the Asgard will defend those planets, it would be easier if they had help.”
“Understood. So we’re to head out when, sir?” Jason asked.
“In a few weeks. Before that, we’re going to learn and get proficient with the weapons Morrighan and her people have given us.”
“Yes, sir,” came pleased responses in multi-stereo.
“Right now, since it’s Wednesday, you’re dismissed until Monday. I’d like all of you to take a rest and report back to the infirmary on Monday to let Doctor Fraiser know if there have been other changes.”
“Sir?” Jack asked, frowning.
Hammond looked a bit embarrassed, but he spoke up anyway. “I’ve noticed an increased amount of energy. My arthritis has disappeared. I’m looking forward to finding out what other improvements there are. So I imagine the rest of you will notice things. I’d like it reported to the Doctor on Monday.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack said while everyone else gave the General a nod. “Meanwhile, I’d planned on a barbecue at the new house on Saturday. I’m extending an invitation, sir. It’d be great to have you.”
“If I can be there,” Hammond smiled. “I will. Dismissed, people.”
Janet sat at her desk, writing up the x-ray notes on the charts for SG-1 and 2. She was just finishing up the fifth file and rested her head on her closed hand. She’d never, in all her years as a doctor, written the same report for several people. They said different things in their addendums, such as “evidence of healed rib fractures is no longer seen” and other similar stuff. Both she and radiologist had written the same repetitive entries for the new x-rays: “No evidence of any medical issues.” None.
Janet shook her head and sighed. She wanted a drink. Wanted to more easily accept that SG-1 and SG-2 had been healed of all medical problems, from eyesight, allergies, healed fractures, healed organs, healed bowels. Even Sam’s throat and spinal scarring from Jolinar was no longer present. In fact, Sam was an anomaly compared to the others. Despite her blood being clean, there was still trace evidence of naquada. Given the fact that the blood had been cleaned, the only explanation Janet could come up with was that the naquada had purposely been left in her blood. Why?
She had no clue and only Dian would be able to answer the question. Janet had lots of them, but she kept them to herself. There was also one fact she hadn’t told Hammond or her friends. Their blood wasn’t the only thing changed. She hadn’t yet run tests to check her own hypothesis, but she was pretty sure something else was gonna change. The bloodwork wasn’t just clean. Under the microscope, she’d watched as an unknown cell attacked an invader and in seconds, the invader was gone. The invader had been part of a cold virus introduced to a blood slide. The result had simply been astonishing.
But what was that unknown cell? Was it the cause of the cleaned blood? Was it the cause of the renewed state of healed fractures? Another assumption formed in her mind about what would happen to her friends now that they’ve gone through these cellular changes. It would take time to discover, perhaps, but if this other thing happened that she believed would happen, then she’d have to have a sit down with the Lia Fail’s chief healer. For now, she’d have to find out if the unknown cell could be artificially replicated and—
Her thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the door. Janet looked up and her eyes grew wide; she stood up just a shade too quickly and nearly knocked her latte cup over.
“I thought you’d left already,” she said to Dian, who stood in the doorway. He held a tray in his hand and Janet dared not hope it was what she wanted it to be.
“We’re seeing to weapons’ storage and double-checking the weapons array installed on the Athena ship. Since I’m not needed for that, I decided to come down and offer you a chance to experience the ceremony.”
Janet beckoned him inside and closed the door behind him, locking it, then went to her corner windows and closed them so that hallway passersby wouldn’t see, and therefore interrupt.
Still, despite the wish she had in her heart, she wasn’t so certain she could accept Dian’s offer because of her job. “I am very flattered and honored that you thought about me,” she said.
Dian set the small tray on the empty side of Janet’s desktop. “But?” he asked.
Janet noticed the scent of him, like a cinnamon but with more muskiness somehow, and felt suddenly flustered. Through years of experience, she shut down the unwanted feelings, quickly, efficiently, and said, “I’m a doctor, too, though admittedly far below your advanced state. I have no idea how your ceremony has changed my people, and not knowing that means that I’m in the dark regarding what consequences may present themselves down the line.”
“Hmmm,” Dian said, gesturing that she sit down. He then moved to a chair in front of her desk and sat down, crossing a leg over. “Sam and I had a similar discussion on how to explain our magic in terms of science she could understand. It proved difficult because I’ve never had to …”
“Dumb down?” Janet asked with a smirk.
Dian winced. “I hate that phrase, but it is applicable. As such I have no idea how to explain this to you.” He pulled out his golden wand and leaned over to hand it to her.
She took it from him. It was heavier than it looked, and looked like gold, but didn’t feel like a metal. There was a tingling sensation when she moved her hand, but it that went away when she held her hand still. She handed it back and it tingled again.
“Tingles,” she said.
Dian nodded. “The universe has magical properties,” he said, and he moved the wand in a straight line from his left to his right. Following the wand was a diffuse stream of glittery particles. “My people can see them, touch them, use them.” He moved the wand back but this time, no particles followed. “To you, it’s a science that hasn’t been explained. To us, it’s magic. We can explain it, but your language has no words with which to understand. Not yet. It’s what I was trying to explain to Sam. It’s similar to, say, going back in time to the sixteenth century. They speak the same language but not quite in the same way. Their world is different, their culture different, their perceptions are different. They’d hear English words come out of your mouth but not know what you’re saying. Now imagine trying to explain the Internet to them. You’d have to dumb it down to the combustible engine first, then move on to electricity, then TV, computers, chip conductors—“
“I get it,” Janet said. “But don’t underestimate us, especially Sam and Daniel. They’re genius-level smart people.”
Dian nodded and pulled out a small packet of paper. It was a book, thin, and bound along the spine. He handed it to Janet. “Give this to Sam. It’s been translated. I hope that the next time we see each other, she and I will have time to argue and discuss.” He smiled broadly. “Tell her that I enjoyed that. I’ve gotten so accustomed to being seen as miraculous by lower societies that it’s refreshing to come across someone who’ll argue with me.”
Janet smiled. “She loves discussing science. She can go on and on with technical terms that leave me at a loss. Colonel O’Neill teases her about it, just as he does Daniel—although with Daniel, it’s more about subject matter than language so Daniel will sometimes start prattling off in a dead language just to change things up.”
Dian laughed and nodded with understanding. He then pointed at the tray. “Ask me. I’ll endeavor to make sense.”
Janet informed him of the results of the medical tests, explained what she’d found under the microscope, and then told him about her untested suppositions. “So my question to you is, what will happen to them? To me?”
Dian nodded. “I understand, and thank you for explaining the tests. It’s good to know, though mostly for statistical purposes. As for what has happened. For those not on our evolutionary level, the ceremony heals a person of all their inflictions, and for those over a certain age, it will … repair the aging damage.”
Janet blinked. “What’s that mean? What part of the aging damage? Wrinkles, gray hair?”
Dian nodded. “And cellular damage.” He paused and looked at a lock of hair that had separated and hung down his chest. He picked up the lock to show it off. “This color is an anomaly. A mutation. I should have been born with brown hair, like my family has. It’s grey, but it’s not prematurely grey. It’s just a mutation. I could have changed it by altering my DNA, but I chose to keep the color.”
Janet blinked at him. “That’s one thing that explains your healing powers. You can alter a person’s DNA. We’re only just now understanding that it can be altered, but we’re nowhere near capable of doing that without buggering up the process.”
Dian nodded. “It’s aggravating, I know.” He paused, then went on. “The ceremony is designed to bring physiological and psychological peace. The orchid is a symbol of that change. When it appears, it takes on the shape and colors and eventual taste of your DNA and life experience. Everything is particular to whoever is doing the ceremony. I have learned how to read the flowers and the essence of its scent and taste, but it is only useful to me, for I would only be telling you what you already know about yourself.”
Janet nodded, but with a frown. “What does it do?”
“Heals,” Dian said, returning the frown. “Repairs physiological and psychological processes. Just as your tests have already shown.”
“And what else?” Janet pressed. She knew he was keeping something else to himself.
Dian sighed and stared back at her. “It … will continue to heal you. It … inhibits … cell and synaptic destruction.”
Janet blinked at him, stunned.
“While that may seem miraculous to you, it isn’t. I cannot do the same thing to the whole of your planet. I can, however, leave you a sample of the ceremonial process so you may study it.” Janet still looked stunned. Dian gave her a smile. “Do you know how old I am?”
“The tales of the Tuatha de Danann date roughly to 3500 BCE. We are currently at 2014 CE. That means you’re supposedly 5,014 years old.” She looked skeptical.
“6,000, give or take a hundred. Hard to, as you say, wrap your head around. Only my people are used to the concept since that’s how we’ve matured over a few million years or so. How old is your race?”
“Classified as homo sapiens,” Janet said, finding her voice, “the oldest known bones are dated at 195,000 years.”
“Comparatively speaking, your race is getting there,” he said with a gentle look. “No offense intended. You’re a young but smart race, even if your evolutionary pattern is still in its destructive stage.”
“Stage?” Janet asked. “Does that mean that there were others like us who’ve grown out of it?”
Dian nodded. “Or killed themselves off.” Janet winced. “Don’t worry. We, like the Asgard, are going to look after you. Given the threat level you pose to the rest of the galaxy, particularly the Goa’uld, it’s the wisest choice. We fell in love with this planet a long time ago, but decided to keep the Fomor away from it, so most of us have never returned.” He cringed. “Given how your planet has evolved, I sometimes think that leaving was a really bad idea. But species have to evolve to a certain point, have to make bad choices and suffer through harsh penalties.”
“Penalties?” Janet asked.
“Plagues,” Dian said. “They are nature’s … what is the phrase … balancing act.”
“How’s that a balancing act?” Janet asked.
“All life needs to be in balance, whether on this planet or my own. If it isn’t, nature takes steps to restore it. From what I have read of your history, a lot of damage was done by the Romans and other conquering nations who cut down millions of acres of forest. When that sort of thing happens, and continues to happen, nature will find a way to restore the balance. The same thing happens when the growth of a particular species becomes too large. It over-balances. So whether by destruction or overpopulation, nature will attempt to bring balance and usually, that means wiping out the problem in some form or another. Like antibodies who go after a foreign object in the body. But the plagues didn’t destroy you, diseases haven’t destroyed you, weather and planetary disruption haven’t destroyed you. Another angle needs to be taken, since humans have proven to be a hardy folk.”
Janet laughed. “What angle?”
“You,” Dian said with a grin. “It’s you who needs to restore the balance. Nature can only do so much after humans reach a particular stage. So either you fix your planet and yourselves or something else will take you out.”
“Ah. Like an asteroid or a comet.”
“Or another species.”
Janet nodded, but her brows knotted again. “I have to admit that I don’t believe the healing properties of the ceremony will increase our life spans.”
“I understand. But what it will do is heal all you have wrong inside your body.” He winked at her. “Everything else is up to you.” He stood up and picked up the tray and set it in the middle of the desk between him and Janet. “Please. I would like to make sure that your friends have you around for a long time. I think your selfless duty deserves to be rewarded. Don’t you?”
Janet decided to throw caution to the wind. She’d worry about doing so later. “What do I do?”
When the water in Janet’s glass turned pale blue, Dian tapped its edge three times. The ink flowed white and formed a white orchid, whose interior parts formed the shape flying dove. Janet recognized the species as a moth orchid. The only exception was that the “dove” looked like it’d been carved from the skin of a red delicious apple, her favorite. When she drank, the taste of apple left her smiling broadly. Dian smiled back and took the glass and set it next to his own.
“Does the shape and taste have a meaning?” she asked.
“Only to you,” Dian said.
“Yes, it’s apple, a favorite, but what I mean is, are there specific definitions for color or taste?” Before he could answer, she felt a tingle start from her ears and like the strangest case of hives she’d ever heard of, it passed down her neck. “Oooh,” she said, shivering as it continued over her body, down to her toes, and ended. “That was weird.”
“What happened?” Dian asked. “A shiver?”
“Yes,” she said, frowning a bit. “Was it normal to do that?”
He grinned. “Yes, but it feels different to those who experience it, and not everyone who goes through the ceremony immediately feels something. I’d say you were blessed.”
She shivered again. “By what?”
He smiled. “The universe.”
Daniel cracked open his eyes and blinked sleep from them, focusing on the large window and the slanting sunlight that came through, warming his face. It was still new, this view from the bedroom. Their new home was only a month old; how long would it take, he wondered, to automatically expect to see this upon waking?
He turned his head and saw only the side of Jack’s face. He smiled wistfully, and matched it when he looked at Jason, who lay on his left, face snuggled against Daniel’s shoulder. They’d been in their master bedroom for two days. No, scratch that. Two and a half. They’d come home late Wednesday, and now it was Saturday morning. Judging by the sunlight, early morning.
Muscles began to notice that he’d awakened, and Daniel felt the need to stretch. He wished the ache he felt had come from sex, but it had come from inexplicable exhaustion instead. The moment they’d come home, a deep weariness had overtaken them. The only thing they’d done for nearly three days was sleep, wake up for a quick snack, go to the bathroom, and then back to bed. Rinse and repeat. He felt the stretched-out tank top rucked up around his chest and shook his head slightly. After day one, there’d been an attempt at love making, but the gentle stroking of cocks had turned into sleep aids. They hadn’t even gotten naked. Lying here now, the memory of it made him sigh.
He stretched his legs first, then rolled to his left and easily climbed over Jason without waking him. He was foggy-headed as he headed to the bathroom and as he relieved himself, he heard the sound of sheets moving. By the time he flushed, Jason wandered in half-blind, murmured a ‘morning,’ and took his turn at the porcelain throne. Daniel pulled off his tank and dropped it in the hamper, his briefs following suit. After putting on a fresh pair of boxer shorts, he kissed Jack between his brows then headed downstairs for the kitchen. No coffee in five days. How the hell was that possible?
A few minutes later, Jason shuffled into the kitchen with a dirty plate and glass and sleepily set them in the sink. “Morning,” he said, a little less sleepily than he had before, and grabbed his mug out of the cleaned dishwasher. “I think I’ve slept myself out.”
“Me, too,” Daniel said, leaning against a bottom cupboard, waiting for the coffee. “I’ve been wondering if maybe the changes in our bodies are to blame.”
Jason nodded. “Sounds reasonable. Plus all that stress and anxiety.”
The coffee was mostly done, and Daniel poured a cup, fixed it up with creamer and sugar, and headed to the main bathroom. “I’m up first.”
Jason chuckled and called after him, “There’s more than one bathroom in this joint!”
Once more, Daniel marveled at the newness of their home. In the glass-enclosed shower stall, he was able to stretch his shoulders out while he shampooed, all without hitting his elbows. It was glorious. He planned to take his time—he said that every time he took a shower, too. Hell, he’d even brought his toothbrush in with him and currently chewed on its paste-covered bristles while he rinsed his hair. Once the soap was washed from his hands, he brushed while he let the water finish the job of rinsing out the rest of his hair. It wasn’t that long, but it was thick at the back and always took longer to rinse than the rest.
He spat toward the drain and rinsed a few times before he set his brush on a caddy shelf. He grabbed the body wash and stiff sponge and half-smiled as he began to thoroughly wash away the last five days. Eyes closed, he didn’t see Jack heading toward him as he turned to face the back corner of the shower, but the moment slightly cool air brushed over his back and ass, he groaned. “Goddammit,” he said as he started to turn around and scold whoever it was that ruined the moment for him.
Jack grabbed him from behind and rubbed against his backside, getting the body wash soap all over his skin. Daniel couldn’t mistake the morning wood and wondered if that was what was on his mind.
“Morning,” Jack murmured deeply, and pushed Daniel’s face to the left so he could kiss him from behind.
Daniel tasted coffee. “Good morning,” he said. “Did you forget to piss?” he asked, chuckling. The chuckle was choked off the moment Jack lined up and pushed his cock inside him. “Jack!” Daniel protested softly, but Jack was all over him, rinsing off the soap and kissing the clean waterdrops from his skin.
“Been dying to do this,” he said in a deep growl and spooned against him, arms crossed over Daniel’s chest, and the only thing moving was his hips.
Before today, Daniel had let Jack enjoy himself, even if he hadn’t quite been in the mood. Husbands and lovers did that. Today, however, was turning out to be quite different. The moment Jack thrust a few times, lust from deep inside exploded outward and Daniel was hard in seconds. The last time that happened was … the first time Jack kissed him. A long, long time ago.
Twisting the front of his body, he grabbed Jack by the back of his hair and kissed him harder, meeting his thrusts with perfect precision until Jack was slapping madly against him. Lust and desire ramped skyward and the only thing Daniel wanted was that wonderful orgasm. “Fuck me!” he cried out, and Jack slammed faster.
“Good! Good! Good!” Jack said, thrusting with each word. “So! Goddamn! Good!”
He then kissed him hard and held him tighter as he jerked against him and stopped. Daniel dropped his head back to rest on Jack’s shoulder and he came too, leaning his forearms against the tile. This was glorious, too.
For Jack, this was what he needed. He’d woken to an empty bed, heard his husbands moving around. He’d remembered a kiss that had brought him out of sleep and after blindly getting coffee, he’d searched out Daniel, found him in the shower, and had immediately gotten hard seeing his naked, wet body. He hadn’t gotten that hard in years. Not without foreplay, no sir. It was a great feeling, almost as good as sliding into him and then coming after. He held him now, the afterglow shrinking him down, and he slid a hand down to Daniel’s softening cock and gently caressed him. “Good morning,” he said against his neck.
Daniel smiled and turned around, making Jack groan as he was pulled out. “That was almost new,” he said, biting his bottom lip. “What’s put the kibble in your bits this morning?”
Jack laughed and kissed him softly, then said, “Woof.”
Daniel growled at him and handed Jack the firm sponge. “Make yourself useful.”
“Thought I was,” Jack said with a wicked grin, then proceeded to finish Daniel’s shower without thinking of having sex again. Almost.
Jason was shaving by the time Jack found him in the master bathroom. And with one look, Jason knew what Jack had been up to. For some reason, Jack felt embarrassed and blushed.
“What?” Jason asked, laughing at the pinking of Jack’s cheeks.
“Shut up,” Jack sang, trying not to smile as he grabbed his electric razor from the drawer on Jason’s right.
“Seriously though?” Jason laughed as he washed his face. “You frequently have sex in the morning with one of us or both of us. What’s with the blush?”
“Hell if I know,” Jack said, annoyed with himself. “Maybe it’s just being home and really horny.” He paused. “And you weren’t there. Now I’m …” and he gestured at his flaccid evidence.
Jason laughed and kissed him thoroughly. “I’m not in the mood anyway,” he said, letting him go.
“What?” Jack asked, surprised. “How the hell is that possible? You’re never not in the mood.”
Jason shrugged as he dried his face. “Too hungry for food maybe.” He gave Jack a quick kiss and left. “See you downstairs.”
Upon seeing Daniel in the kitchen, Jason laughed and said, “Jack’s blushing because he fucked you and not me.”
“What?” Daniel asked, brows going up again. “Blushing? Are you serious?”
“Yep. But I told him not to be embarrassed. I’m not in the mood.”
Daniel stared at him as Jason got the eggs and bacon from the fridge. “Okay, now that’s even weirder. How in the hell aren’t you in the mood?” Truth was, Daniel had been in mood since he’d gotten home and only the intense desire to sleep had overridden it.
Jason paused and stared at him. “Well, I mean, I’m just …” He paused again, thinking about it. “I’m just really hungry maybe? I don’t know.”
“Hmmm,” Daniel said, making Jason flustered, and he laughed and hugged his shoulders. “I’m teasing. It’s weird, Jason, but not really weird. It’s not like we’re all in sync all the time.”
“True,” Jason accepted with a jog of his brows and returned to making breakfast. “How many eggs you want?”
“Three. Jack’ll probably have three.” Jason nodded and then added four for himself. The entire carton was empty now and Daniel laughed. “Guess someone’s going to the store today.”
Jason laughed, too. “What? I’m hungry.”
It was even funnier when Jack and Daniel found their appetites and ate most of the bacon, toast, hash browns.
“So you guys ready to go to the store?” Jason called out later, after dressing in jeans and a t-shirt. He grabbed his keys and went looking for his boots. When he didn’t get a response from Jack or Daniel, he had an idea why. From the bedroom, he could smell burning charcoal from the stone barbecue pit, which sat to the far left of the patio doors and directly under the bedroom. The bedroom had doors that opened up to the wrap-around deck and he found his boots there as he made his way down the side stairs. He didn’t bother with a coat. It was unseasonably warm and most of the snow had melted off. A perfect day for a barbecue.
At the barbecue area, Daniel sat on one of the expensive deck chairs, watching Jack fool around with the support struts that would hold the large, rectangular iron grill grate.
“Ready for the store?” Jason asked. When neither Daniel nor Jack replied, he said, “Okay, so that means I’m picking out your cuts of meat?” That got a reaction and he smirked as he waited for Jack and Daniel to get their shoes on. Picking his phone out of his pocket, he called up Janet. “You and Sam bringing your meat, or do you want me to pick it up?”
Janet started to chuckle. “I haven’t heard that one in while.”
“Hardy har, har,” Jason grinned. He walked to his truck while Janet talked to Sam, then Sam got on the phone.
“Could you pick it up? I’m waiting on a cake and Jan’s getting the liquor.”
“Remember? We forgot it at housewarming.”
“Oh right. Okay. What kinds of beef do you want?”
“The best, of course.”
Jason grinned. “Of course. See you guys in a couple of hours?”
“We’ll be there.”
Jason hung up the phone, but it rang again just as Jack and Daniel came out the front door and Jack was also hanging up his phone. “What?” Jason said, thinking it was Janet. It wasn’t. It was Alex. “Are you sure?” he asked as Daniel and Jack paused before getting into the truck. “Okay, have a good one,” Jason said, and hung up. He looked at Jack. “Teal’c?”
“Hammond,” Jack said as he and Daniel climbed into the cab. “He’s catching the next barbecue. His grandkids want their grandpa. Since we’re having booze at the party…”
“Ah, no kids,” Jason said.
“Who called?” Daniel asked him.
“Alex. My entire team’s bowed out. Alex says he’s staying home, and he said that Al and Connor are having home time with their families.”
“Alex is staying home?” Daniel asked, surprised.
Jason made a face. “That’s Alex Speak for wanting to go have sex with someone who isn’t Stuart.”
“Oops,” Jack said, wincing.
Jason climbed in behind the wheel and started up the truck. “Doesn’t matter. Six is enough people for a winter party. And at least we don’t have to confiscate as many keys by midnight.”
Daniel snorted. “Just as well. Teal’c is getting sick of driving everyone home. At least this way, there’s enough room at the new place for him, Sam, and Janet, if they wanna stay over.”
Jack snorted. “You know, without Junior, Teal’c can start drinking.”
“He may not have Junior,” Daniel said, nudging Jack’s need with his own, “but he still won’t drink.”
“Twenty bucks says you’re wrong,” Jack grinned.
On the way to the store, Daniel had been thinking about the sex they’d had in that all white bedroom on Lia Fail. Or more to the point, why he’d been naked when he’d woken up. “I have a question for you two,” he said, sitting between them.
“What?” Jack asked.
Daniel paused, then asked, “Why was I naked when I woke up in that white bedroom?”
Jack and Jason looked a bit embarrassed but there were also smiles on their faces. “Dian’s suggestion, actually,” Jason said.
“What?” Daniel asked with an incredulous laugh.
“He didn’t tell us to get naked with you in the bed,” Jack clarified. “He just hinted at it.”
Jason nodded. “He said, ‘You should be intimately close with him when he wakes up. The contact will reassure his subconscious.’”
Daniel snorted, though he was blushing a tiny bit. “Should’ve just said, ‘Get naked in the bed with him’.”
Jason started laughing. “Yeah, right. Can you imagine that colloquialism coming out of his mouth?”
Jack shook his head, joining in the laughter. “No way in hell.”
“Was that bothering you?” Jason asked as their humor died down.
“Well, no, I hadn’t actually thought about it till now.” He cleared his throat. “Speaking of that, sort of. I’ve been feeling a bit different since we woke up this morning.”
Jason and Jack frowned. “How?” Jack asked.
“It’s the empathy,” Daniel confessed. “I can feel you two without purposely thinking about it. I can’t really seem to shut you out unless I put some effort into it.”
“That isn’t like before?” Jason asked.
“No,” Daniel said, shaking his head. “Before, it was the other way around. I had to put a little effort into opening up to you. And there’s something else. I’m feeling a bit flustered, not wanting to inadvertently share with you how I’m feeling. Remember when I thought those feelings and projected them?”
They did, and the cab was silent for several seconds.
“I can see how that might be a problem,” Jack said, thinking about having their friends over. “But I’m not gonna worry about it happening at work.”
Daniel snorted indelicately. “No,” he said, and started chuckling. “That would be …”
“Hilarious,” Jason said.
“Disastrous,” Jack said.
They’d said it at the same time, turning Daniel’s chuckle into full laughter.
“Wasn’t that funny,” Jack said.
Daniel’s laughter continued as he thought about having a new way to distract Jack from having a bad day. “It’ll come in handy when you’re in one of your moods.”
“Oh god,” Jack said, shading his eyes.
Jason snickered. “Now that’s what I call a handy gift.”
“Remind me to punch Dian when I see him again,” Jack said with a sigh.
Jack stood at the kitchen island peeling carrots into its sink when he glanced up briefly as Janet walked in. “Hey, Janet,” he said.
“Hey, Colonel,” she said back, making a face when he paused in peeling. “I know, I know, we’re off duty, but I can no more call you ‘Jack’ than Sam can.” She stopped at the other side of the island where there was an ice machine and a pitcher of ‘power punch,’ as Daniel had called it. “What are you doing?”
“What’s it look like?”
“I know, but I thought you’d have bought the frozen peeled ones to save you from kitchen duty during the party.”
“I know. Jason can cover me at the grill.” Jack paused and then asked, “You starving?”
“Yes,” she admitted with a smile.
“Won’t take long,” he said, as he started on another carrot.
Janet nodded and watched the peeler for a few seconds before she looked up at him. Something caught her attention then and she snorted a short laugh. “Did you dye your hair?”
Jack scowled at her, mystified. “Hell no. Why? Does my hair look dyed?”
“No, it’s just …” She touched her own left temple. “The grey’s not as pronounced.”
“It’s probably the lighting in here,” Jack said dismissively.
“Hmm, maybe,” Janet admitted.
Jack finished and grabbed another carrot, but he hadn’t rinsed the peeler, so it slipped slightly. The peeler’s blade caught him under the cuticle of his left index finger. “Dammit!”
“Hold it under running water,” Janet said, and reached across to turn on the faucet.
“I know,” Jack said, rolling his eyes. He moved the peeled carrots out of the sink and set them on the cutting board. “Stupid.”
“Yeah, I do it, too,” Janet said, then pulled his finger out of the water to look at the cut. Except, it wasn’t a cut anymore. She’d seen the tiny flap of skin and blood, but now the tip of his finger was just a dark pink sore spot.
“What the hell?” Jack asked, looking at it. “I thought I cut it.”
“You did,” Janet said, coming around the island to take his hand.
Jason and Daniel came in from the front door and Jason teased, “Hey, Janet, hands off my husband.”
“What’d you do?” Daniel asked as the two of them reached Jack and Janet.
“I sliced my finger peeling carrots.”
“Must’ve been just a bit of a scrape,” Daniel said, looking.
“No,” Janet said, looking up at Jack. “He cut himself enough to bleed.”
Jason frowned as he took Jack’s hand from Janet. “Where’s the cut? This pink part? It’s not a cut.”
“It was,” Jack said in a tone of surprise that Jason and Daniel picked up immediately.
“He healed,” Janet said, her eyes still on his. “You healed. Almost immediately.”
Jack suddenly grabbed the chef’s knife and created a tiny cut on the top of his forearm.
“Are you insane?” Daniel asked, rushing to grab the knife but was too late. He stared at Jack, as shocked as Jason and Janet.
Jack stared at the new cut, no worse than a moderate cat scratch, as tiny balls of blood welled up. He rinsed it off, patted it dry with a paper towel, and stared at his arm again. In front of everyone, the cut clotted and sealed without making a scab.
“Guess where you’re going on Monday?” Janet said, frowning. “The lab at Peterson. It’s quicker. And I’m joining you.”
“No,” Jack said, running the new cut under water and drying it again. It was now just a pink healing scratch.
“Colonel,” Janet began, sternly.
“No,” Jack repeated. “You’ve got all the blood you need from me. Use that.”
“It’s used, Colonel. We don’t keep samples at the SGC.”
“Fine, then I’ll report to the infirmary.” When she looked at him, he said quickly, and more quietly, “We have to keep this in house, Janet.”
She grimaced, knowing he was right. “Agreed.”
“What’s going on?” Sam said as she joined them, Teal’c right behind.
“Jack’s got magical healing powers,” Daniel said as he met Jack’s gaze with a grin.
“Funny,” Jack replied, making a face.
At the curious looks from Sam and Teal’c, Daniel explained to Sam and Teal’c what had happened when Jack had cut himself, twice.
Teal’c frowned, but not from disgust or disapproval. “I believe your Lia Fail ceremony had far more effect than it did for the rest of us.”
“So did yours,” Jack replied, thinking as he stared at his finger. He looked up and clarified. “I think it gave you Junior’s healing abilities instead of what Dian did in getting rid of the snake.”
“Possibly,” Teal’c said, lifting his chin as he considered the idea.
Sam stared at Jack, but her expression intimated a different sort of surprise. It started from a knotted brow, which she usually formed when finding something different. Then it melded into something else. As Jack and Teal’c discussed junior, her attention wasn’t on Jack’s hand but on his hair. It was … less gray, as if he’d used that spot dye made for men, but she knew that Jack hated the very idea of dying his hair. Besides, he’d joked about it several years ago when he’d begun to grow grey during their second year at the SGC.
Everyone loved to joke-blame Daniel, but Jack had said it ran in the family. Still, even nowadays, he loved to blame Daniel anyway, just to get his husband annoyed at him. Once, Jack had confessed to her that he loved the fire in Daniel’s eyes whenever he was teasing him.
“Carter?” Jack asked, knocking her out of her reverie.
“Sir?” she blinked.
“You’re staring,” Jack said, smirking.
“But not at your hand,” Daniel said slowly, looking from her to Jack and back. “What’s up?”
“Not sure,” Sam said, staring at Jack’s hair. She finger-combed her own hair at the temple. “Look at your hair, sir.”
Jack growled at her, then stared at Janet. “There’s nothing wrong with my hair.”
Janet stared back. “No, there’s nothing wrong, but I was right.”
“About what?” Jason asked.
“His hair is less grey,” Sam said, then tapped her temple. She looked at Daniel and Jason. “You guys don’t see it?”
Jason and Daniel frowned as they inspected Jack’s hair and Daniel reached up and threaded his fingers through both temples of Jack’s hair. “I’ll be a Sonofabitch. Some of the grey’s gone.” For some reason, just the thought of it made his dick twitch, especially when he thought, Is Jack getting younger?
“What?” Jack asked and went to the oven to look into its reflective door. “I don’t see it.”
“Because you’re looking in an oven door, dumbass,” Jason smirked as he too thought Jack might be getting some youth back, and he looked at Daniel with a private ‘Do you wanna fuck him right now too?’ look. Daniel jogged his brows.
Jack was watching them and growled, “Oh for cryin’ out loud.” He headed around the kitchen to the home’s downstairs bathroom and looked in the mirror. He blinked and stared. Everyone was right. “Sonofabitch.” He returned to the kitchen and beckoned everyone to follow him out to the barbecue porch. “Okay, folks, I know damn well this isn’t just me,” he said, marching up to the bar. He passed around glasses filled with ice and fingers of Jack Daniel’s. “Everybody sit ‘round the grill fire. Let’s talk about how we’ve all been doing since we got home, including any changes you’ve dismissed out of hand.”
Teal’c still stood, staring at his glass of whiskey before he handed it back to Jack. “Thank you, but I cannot.”
“Why not?” Jack asked. “I thought you were banned from drinking because of the snakes.”
“It is true,” Teal’c admitted. “But I believe that my first taste of alcohol should be less strong.”
Jack grinned. “You want me to get you some of Daniel’s power punch?” Teal’c shook his head and sat down next to Sam, so Jack disappeared and came back with a bottle of water. He handed it to Teal’c, then sat down in the chair that backed the bar.
First and foremost, everyone agreed that they felt a renewed level of energy they hadn’t felt since they were in their early 20s. Then Sam had something to offer that no one else had yet to notice.
“Scars have started to fade,” she said. “Including birthmarks. I’ve this tiny strawberry mark on my hip that’s light pink now.”
“That tracks,” Daniel said, nodding at Janet. “All our imperfections are disappearing.”
“What else?” Jack asked everyone.
Jason cleared his throat. “There’s the private stuff we’re not comfortable talking about in front of each other.” He then gestured two fingers at himself, Daniel, and Jack. “Except us.”
“What private stuff?” Jack asked, momentarily puzzled.
Daniel cleared his throat this time and gave Jack a slightly enigmatic smile. “Increase in libido.”
It was Jack’s turn to clear his throat. “Yeah, okay. Anything else?”
“What, you don’t want to talk about that?” Janet asked him.
“Well …” Jack considered, then said sarcastically, “No.”
Teal’c lifted an eyebrow at the same time as he gave Jack a crooked grin. “Would you not be pleased about that, O’Neill?”
“Well, duh, but I’m not talking about our sex lives in mixed company.”
“Prude,” Daniel teased.
“Yeah, whatever,” Jack said, his cheeks pinking slightly. “You guys get that bizarre need for sleep like we did?”
“Indeed,” Teal’c said with Sam nodding. She looked at Janet, who grudgingly nodded.
“You aren’t sure?” Daniel asked her, “Or you didn’t get much sleep?”
“I got sleep,” Janet said. “I’m just annoyed that I needed it and my new physician, taking Warner’s place, wasn’t happy having to fill in for me.”
“You’re the boss,” Jack said, feeling defensive for her. “You needed the sleep, Janet, regardless of why.”
“I guess,” Janet accepted reluctantly.
Sam rolled her eyes. “Why’d we have that need to sleep so long?” she asked everyone.
“If,” Janet began, brows nodded in thought, “our bodies are healing, then sleep would be mandatory.” She smirked. “In the end, it was lucky we were given four days off.”
Jack raised his glass. “Let’s promise to keep an eye on things and let each other know about stuff we’re actually comfortable talking about.”
“Or you can come see me,” Janet smirked, raising her glass.
“Hear, hear,” Jason said, standing. “Now let’s get the food on. I’m starving.”
After his second steak, Jason felt mostly full, and almost satisfied. He wanted something else, but it wasn’t more food. Working on his second glass of ice-watered whiskey, he mulled absently on what the hell he was feeling unsatisfied about while he was entertained by Daniel and Sam pleasantly arguing about how Dian explained the Lia Fail “magic.” Jack chimed in, and Jason watched him, but after a few seconds, he lost interest in what Jack was saying. He was too interested in looking at Jack, following the lines of muscle over his arms, the nice angle of his neck, the play of his hands as they added emphasis to Jack’s speech.
Jason looked lower, knowing what lay under Jack’s shirt; the firm muscle and subtle strength of the six pack there, most often flexed during workouts. Or sex. Jason suddenly felt a surge of heat that spread from his pecs to his cock. The latter began to take over his brain, too, and images flooded his mind, made up from all past lovemaking with Jack and suddenly settled into a single scene where Jack had surprised him with a role play scene between a prison guard and his charge. The image was so intense he felt the sense memory on his wrists and over his entire back, including the nipping and whispering at his right ear.
“’Scuse me,” he said to no one in particular and went inside, heading upstairs to the master bathroom, where he knew he wouldn’t be disturbed.
Three seconds before Jason excused himself, Jack felt a sexual pull, a knowing directed by, or coming from, Jason. He’d always been pretty good about guessing Jason’s moods, but that had always been while talking to him or lying next to him in bed. This sort of calling was different. It was like the old joke about being led by your dick, only it came from his mind as images of sex with Jason flooded his thoughts. Surprised by it, he still accepted and welcomed it, yet by the time he looked over, Jason was disappearing into the house. Jack excused himself and followed, and by the time he was in the house, his dick was hard.
“Holy shit,” Jason whispered, his dick aching for friction as he quickly dropped his jeans and briefs. He blindly put a hand against the wall, not noticing or caring that he was in front of the towel bar. He had his cock in hand, firmly stroking himself while his mind replayed the memory of that role play with Jack.
Then there was the sound of movement, the door slamming shut, Jack coming up behind him, and the sound of his belt buckle hitting the floor. It was seconds, then Jack was pressed against his back and his cock was pushing roughly inside him.
“Goddamn, I want you,” Jack growled and tugged Jason’s ear between his teeth.
“Fuck me,” Jason whispered with an aching whine at the end, and that’s exactly what he got. Jack held him, pinning his arms down. It was role play, where he was bound. The only thing moving would be his hand, Jack’s mouth, and Jack’s blessedly wonderful hips. The grinding inside him burned, but Jack’s voice made it damn good.
“Did I give you permission to leave your cell?” Jack growled, taking more of Jason’s ear between his teeth.
“No, sir,” Jason said, his eyes rolling back in his head.
“Didn’t I tell you there’d be punishment?” Jack asked, biting just a bit harder as he circled his hips.
“Yes,” Jason rasped as he stroked himself harder and faster.
“Cocky little bastard,” Jack said through clenched teeth and … he gave up controlling himself. He slammed into Jason, thrusting rapidly, needfully, heading down that road his cock and balls demanded. “Take it!” he whispered, his voice now gravelly. “Take it all!”
Jason dropped his head back to Jack’s left shoulder and whined deep in his throat as his balls began to tighten almost painfully. “Fuck!” he cried out and leaned forward again, this time resting his head against the wall and squeezed his eyes shut. The world turned red, with stars and patterns, and the screaming need of his body clenched around Jack was almost too much. Faster, the friction like fire now, and suddenly he inhaled sharply and held his breath, rocking savagely back and forth as Jack gripped his shoulders and annihilated his mind.
The hot, painful friction was unbelievably good around Jack’s cock and his balls jarred violently through his wildly, nearly distraught, rhythm. The deep kidnapping of his mind by his body took Jack on that familiar rollercoaster ride, but it was heading off track and the pleasure savagely attacked him, tightening his balls and robbing his vision. Thin spurts of warm need shot down his body down to his thighs, then there was blackness, with the always-present demand to make the orgasm last longer, which swarmed and wallowed in the comfort and feel of Jason.
There was easement in their bodies while their muscles remained wired to the fading orgasm. No words were needed or wanted, but by the time they sank to their knees to hold each other, Jason whispered, “I love you,” before taking Jack’s mouth for an afterglow cruise.
When Jack returned the ride, cradling Jason’s head in his hands, they heard movement in the hallway two seconds before the bathroom door opened. In those seconds, Jack and Jason decided to remain exactly where they were. It was too nice to break this apart and if that person barging in wasn’t Daniel, then they’d better be prepared for getting an honest-to-god, unabashed eyeful.
Daniel was frozen for a few seconds before he shut the door, locked it, and walked over to his husbands to hug them. He remained standing, just having his legs touch them, and caressed their hair. “I thought so,” he said softly. Jason reached around to the back of his thighs, caressing him in return, and the touch sent chills through his jeans.
Jack was having none of that, however. He turned just enough to undo Daniel’s jeans and yank them down far enough to expose his crotch. He didn’t care if Daniel was hard or not. He would be. Jack found a willing subject and with a hungry moan, he took the warm flesh into his mouth. Beside him, Jason found their husband’s balls and sucked them gently inside while his fingers made their way to Daniel’s rear opening. A short muffled laugh went up from the both of them when their hands met, and in cooperative effort, each index finger probed inside their target.
Daniel inhaled sharply and let his head fall back, eyes closed. Their attentions were lazy, at first, but it was only a minute later when they clearly intended on driving Daniel toward his own derailment. Clutching fistfuls of hair in both hands, Daniel thrust at their mouths and fingers, increasing his rhythm until he suddenly jerked to a halt and let the exquisite friction inside him bring him to a close.
Jack sucked him hard, swallowing the pearls of orgasm he’d drawn, and slowly eased his finger from Daniel’s body, leaving the drawing down to Jason. Pulling back, he kissed his way over a damp bare hip to the belly and the fine trail of hair. With a growl, he yanked Daniel to his knees and captured his mouth, relishing in the way Daniel’s fist still clung to his hair.
Jason slipped his finger from Daniel, and caressed the inner thigh. He wanted Daniel’s mouth, too, and nosed Jack away to kiss him and relish the sated coolness of Daniel’s tongue.
The three of them had to endure some measure of teasing after they returned, but they didn’t care much. They could only be grateful that this hadn’t happened with more guests in the house.
Sam, Teal’c, and Janet ended up staying overnight in the guest bedrooms, so there was a sense of a having a full house when the husbands retired to bed. As always, Daniel lay bracketed with their soft caressing hands and tangled legs. Drawing designs on the forearms of his husbands, he stared at the ceiling, thinking of all the things that had happened during the week. And what was happening afterward.
His body was resting but he still felt wired, as if at any moment, he’d be required to spring into action for something. It didn’t matter if it was for fighting or sex and there didn’t seem to be a difference in the energies. Possibly his mind was trying to stand down from all the crises in the last six days, but he didn’t feel that usual overwhelming sense of exhaustion.
One of the things he could feel was the restful emotions of his lovers’ minds. He was tempted to project images of mad, jungle sex, but it would’ve been a tease with no arousal to support it. And such teasing would be better saved while christening each room of their new home. After Sam, Janet, and Teal’c left, of course. There’d be a wonderful breakfast, then they’d leave. And Daniel pictured what porn would look like from that honkin’ huge TV in the living room.
“Stop thinking,” Jack said, murmuring in Daniel’s ear as he reached to still Daniel’s drawing finger.
“I can’t help it,” Daniel said softly. To his right, Jason started his soft snoring, making Daniel laugh—though as quietly as possible. “Too much has happened this week.”
“Go, stop … make … that up when … we go …” Jack said, his voice fading.
Daniel grinned and turned his head toward Jack’s while he closed his eyes and followed him into sleep.
Daniel walked into the briefing room carrying a latte cup instead of his standard mug and smiled at Sam and Teal’c who were already sitting down. He opened his mouth to say something sarcastic when Walter’s voice came over the intercom about an unscheduled incoming activation. With Sam and Teal’c following, he made his way to the gateroom and found that Hammond was already there.
“Morning, sir,” he said. “How’d you know to be here?”
“I didn’t,” Hammond said, then indicated Siler and a UAV prepping for launch.
“Ah,” Daniel said. “So who’s coming?” he asked, waving his cup at the gate.
“Jacob,” Hammond said. “We received an inbound transmission twenty minutes ago from the Tok’ra homeworld, telling us to expect a dial-in from Jacob from another gate address.”
“Must be intel gathering.”
“That’s my guess,” Hammond said as Jack came in through the other door, Jason beside him.
“General?” Jack asked, not needing to greet him since he and Jason had gone to work earlier than Daniel had.
The wormhole settled and Jacob came walking through with a large leather satchel draped over his shoulder.
“Jacob!” Hammond smiled, shaking his old friend’s hand. “Been too long.”
“Indeed it has,” Jacob said smiling. He turned to Sam and walked over, kissing her on the cheek. “Hey kiddo.”
Jacob headed out of the gateroom. “Come on, folks. Interesting stuff to show you.”
After sitting down at the conference table, Jacob started to explain his visit.
“Over the last month or so, we’ve been hearing interesting things on the Goa’uld network.”
“’Scuse me, Jacob. The what?” Hammond asked.
“Sorry,” Jacob said, wincing. “I sometimes forget who knows what.” He pulled a few touch panels from his satchel along with a communications orb. “The Goa’uld have a type of communications frequency, one that this orb is attuned to. It’s like a radio frequency but it can’t be picked up by standard Earth methods.”
“Why haven’t we heard about this before?” Jack asked.
Jacob blinked and Selmak took control. “What good would it do since you can’t access it?”
“Hello, Selmak. Nice to see you. But I’m at a loss here. Colonel Carter would have figured out a way to access the frequency.”
Selmak bowed out and Jacob returned. He gave Hammond a long-suffering sigh. “We’ve been arguing about that.” He handed Sam the touch panels. “Here’s our data on the frequency. You’ll think of something, I’m sure of that.”
“Thanks, Dad,” she said, pleased.
“Okay, Jacob, continue,” Hammond said.
“The chatter on the frequency was about the destruction of several Goa’uld outposts, and then just after an actual Goa’uld planet was hit, the frequency was bombarded with the same message played over and over again, overriding the Goa’uld’s usual transmissions. They’ve basically put the Goa’uld on notice.”
Surprised, Hammond said, “Sounds like we have a new potential ally.”
“It does,” Jacob admitted. “We’ve been trying to find them, but we’ve only been able to take witness reports so far.”
“What do they say?” Jack asked.
Jacob sighed again, then reluctantly said, “That shadows have rescued them from the Goa’uld.”
“Shadows?” Daniel asked.
“That’s what they’re being called because the oppressed peoples were behind shuttered or curtained windows. They’d see a silhouette of a person chasing Jaffa, wearing what looked to be a hooded cape, underneath which was a long silver sword.”
“Sword?” Jack asked.
Jacob shrugged. “Beats the hell out of me how a sword can make enemy Jaffa run like hell, but that’s what’s being said.”
“Have they seen this shadow use the sword?” Jason asked.
“No. They’ve only seen the running Jaffa, this shadow person, and then screaming. Most reports are the same, heard by people too scared to look out of their windows. Mind you, they’re scared of this shadow, too, since they don’t know what it is. However, they’re all grateful for what this person did.”
“Regardless of whose side they’re on,” Teal’c said, “a Jaffa would not run unless they were ordered to do so.”
“Then something’s obviously scaring the crap out of them,” Jack said, and he wore a smile of satisfaction. “I like the sound of that.”
“What else, Jacob?” Hammond asked.
Jacob set the orb down at the far end of the table so that everyone could see it. “They’re calling themselves the Es Bai Ka’ren. “We have no idea what that means. It’s not in any dialect of the Goa’uld, it’s not Chulakian, or any other species we know of, including all current and past languages on Earth.”
“Let’s hear the message, Jacob,” Hammond said.
Jacob touched a button on his wrist band and the sphere projected an orange light that showed the silhouette of a strange black ship with spiky protrusions as part of its design. Goa’uld words appeared over the image while a voice recited them in the same language, so Jacob touched a few more buttons and the message replayed, this time in English.
“Attention all Goa’uld. This is Es Bai Ka’ren. It is long past time for you to pay for what you have done. Prepare for your deaths.”
“A single person with that ship?” Sam asked.
“We don’t know,” Jacob said with a shrug. “We’re stumped. You can see the ship’s sha—“
As Jacob spoke, Daniel was suddenly seized by an old memory: he’d been going through old dusty, water-faded tomes. Where had he been? Whose language was that?
Es Bai Ka’ren, Bai Ka’ren, Ka’ren, Bai Ka’ren, Es Bai Ka’ren, Es Bai K—
Daniel blinked. “It’s Ancient,” he said suddenly, startling everyone. “I mean, the Alterans, who we call The Ancients.”
“I beg your pardon?” Jacob said, turning to look at him. “How do you know that?”
“I remember,” Daniel said, brows knotted in focus. “It’s from the archive I was reading the last time we visited Bel’alat, the Alteran planet Eros gave to Adriann, who now shares it with Tok’ra.”
“So what’s that name mean in English?” Jack asked.
“The Black Wolf.”
“Interesting,” Jacob said. “I’m now wondering why my fellow Tok’ra stationed at Bel’alat didn’t tell us about the Ancients’ language archive there.”
“Sounds like a mission to me,” Jack said, grinning at Daniel—who kicked him under the table.
The room went quiet while Hammond thought, then he nodded. “Jack, I think I’ll change SG-1’s standing order for a while.”
“Find this Black Wolf and make an alliance.”
Hammond looked at Jason. “You too, Colonel. Your team has been a great addition to SG-1 so I’d like you to join them.”
To Jack, Hammond said, “I’ll also assign SG-3 as back-up.”
Jack said, “The more the merrier, sir.” He turned to ask Jacob a question when he found the man was staring at him, a frown on his face. “Here we go again,” he sighed, waving a hand.
“You get some work done or something?” Jacob asked.
Jack sighed over the soft titters at the table. “It’s a long story.”
TBC in Trilogy 17