Trilogy 4: Spirits & Ghosts
Summary: Friends and enemies are made while old wounds are opened, and secrets come out.
“… Never free, never me, so I dub thee ‘unforgiven’…”
Then came the image in his mind as he caught hold of an alien mind, an animal mind. Something large and silver, with several razor-sharp teeth…
. . .
Adriann told himself to calm down, that this was no different than dealing with the beasts on his world. Forcing himself to breathe slowly, he brought up the image of a something like a reptile lying below in the dark. Instead of horror, however, there was pity. With the mental ability to kill, he did just that, putting the animal out of its misery… and anyone else’s.
There was one other thing that could kill them, however, and that was the ascended being hovering somewhere in the corridor. Adriann could see the light of it, could hear his people, hear Jack, Jason, and Alex. Others were coming, too.
He ground his jaw, hating the restrictions he could see that would bring this deadly situation to an end. He could simply lift himself and Daniel up in the air and set them on solid ground. He could even get help from Talen if need be. But. That ascended would strike. Still, Adriann had to do something.
He wondered then if his limited hovering ability would still work in a fall. He’d never tested it since he’d regained his strength and health and right now, he wasn’t willing to risk Daniel’s life until Daniel woke up and told him to do it, which Adriann was quite certain would happen.
But he’d better do it soon because even though he could hold on for an hour or so, he couldn’t hang there forever. Pulling Daniel up, Adriann jostled him a bit, hating that it would only make the headache worse once he awoke. But… Adriann could do something about the bleeding. Focusing on Daniel’s head, he concentrated as hard as he could, getting the wound to clot and cease bleeding.
For a second, the effort made him dizzy, but he pushed, concentrating on blood vessels, on muscle tissue and skin. Again, Adriann became dizzy from the effort as the wound cauterized and Daniel’s leg stopped bleeding. But Adriann also realized that part of his dizziness wasn’t from the effort but from the smell.
The intoxicating smell. Of blood. With Daniel’s head wound close, Adriann groaned, wishing it wasn’t such a distraction. It wouldn’t keep him from doing what he had to do, but he hated distractions like that.
Suddenly Daniel groaned and Adriann tightened his hold a little more, hoping it didn’t hurt.
The pain in Daniel’s head and leg was severe, but what was worse was the fact that he couldn’t feel any ground beneath his feet. At first, he thought he was hallucinating till he realized an arm was around him.
“Daniel?” Adriann asked.
“Yes. I know you’re in pain, and I want to help as soon as possible but first, we’re in a kind of predicament.”
Daniel opened his eyes and tried to look around but focusing was too hard. He shut them again. From what he did see, Adriann was holding onto some crevice in a wall. Strangely, the first thing he asked was, “Why are we hanging? Set us down.”
“Daniel, we are hanging off the edge of a cliff.”
“What?” Daniel asked, and opened his eyes again to look around. “Oh, great,” he said, giving out a short, sarcastic laugh. “Can’t you get us on solid ground?”
“See that glow?”
Daniel saw the light and had thought from his blurred vision that it was corridor light. “Oh no, don’t tell me.”
Adriann sighed. “If I rise–“
“They’ll throw us down… wherever that is. Adriann, what’s beneath us?”
“I think it’s a pit. It used to hold some sort of animal but I’ve put it out of our misery.”
“So if you rise, regardless of what’s down there, we’ll fall to our deaths. Swell.” Daniel grimaced at a surge of pain and from the way Adriann tensed, he knew he felt it, too. “What’s the plan?”
“Try and get off this ledge and if we’re shot down, so to speak, then… hopefully I can stop the fall.”
“I’ll need Talen and the others to help, I think, considering that I’ve got both of us to stop, not just you or me.”
“You’d be surprised. I, on the other hand, won’t be. I’m expecting us to fall, Daniel, and I’m going to do all I can to keep us from dying.”
“Well, I hope so, in the meantime, can we get going here?” Daniel said, voice tight as he held his breath against the pain. He was never one to go with the idea of breathing through pain–unless one were in the gym. Daniel’s instinct was to hold his breath and right now, he was far from interested in breathing through it. He just wanted it gone.
“Hang on, gonna see if I can get some help, okay?”
“Ssssure, n’pob’m,” Daniel answered, vision worsening as he slurred his words. He was so sleepy…
Adriann felt panic rising and tried to hurry. He had no idea how bad Daniel’s head injury was but if his speech was anything to go by, he couldn’t afford to risk any more delays.
Talen, I’m going to bring us up. If we are knocked back down, I will not be able to grab anything as I’ll be focusing on the fall. I’ll need all of you to help me stop our descent.
He felt the shock of reception at his plan and waited impatiently for the response. When it came, it was an unusual, though not unheard of, reply. Four voices as one.
We will be ready.
Adriann closed his eyes and concentrated. As he let go, he ‘pushed’ them both to rise. A second later, Daniel’s head fell back and he was unconscious again. Panic began to rise as quickly as their ascent.
In the hallway above, Sam, Teal’c, Kashan and Ghanen had joined the group in the corridor. The ascended being fluctuated in place while Talen looked over Eros’ body, finding only a small head wound at the back of his skull with no bleeding.
“You’ve got a hell of a way of protecting him!” Jack spat at the glowing form. “Stand down! None of us mean him any harm.”
Suddenly the shape began to coalesce into the outline of a human, then grew bright for a moment before becoming a male human in appearance. Sam gasped, startled, and blurted out, “Orlin?”
“It is me, Sam,” he said. His only difference in his previous appearance to her was an aura surrounding him almost like a closely-fitting forcefield.
“Stop what you’re doing! Let us help them, help Eros.”
Jason narrowed his eyes as he looked at Orlin. “You were hoping to kill him, weren’t you? Force him to ascend before he wanted to.”
Orlin stared at him. “No, that would not have worked. He can ascend anytime he wishes. He does not wish it. At our current development, we do not need to die to ascend but it is easier to alter our corporeal bodies if they no longer function.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Jack waved off. “Daniel and Adriann–“
He was cut off when Adriann appeared, rising over the ledge and landing on the floor of the corridor, Daniel’s unconscious body now swept up and carried in both arms.
At that moment, Jack and Jason’s eyes were on nothing else but Daniel’s unconscious body, panic hitting them from his closed eyes and the blood that caked down the side of his face and his calf. Jack grabbed hold of Jason’s shirt sleeve and unnecessarily pulled him with him as they bolted past Orlin, their actions pretty much telling the Ascended, “Fuck you.”
Orlin turned toward them but did nothing. His gaze fixed on Adriann and Adriann stared back at him as he let go of Daniel, giving him over to Jack and Jason as they took him from his arms.
“Fuck,” Jason choked, whispering the word as he thumbed Daniel’s eyelids open to check his pupils and finding them dilated. Jack took one of Daniel’s arms around his neck and Jason took the other and without a word, moved past Adriann, past Orlin, and moved down the hall as fast as they could.
As Alex, Sam, and Teal’c followed, Adriann moved over to Eros and picked him up in his arms. “They’re going to the suite. Let’s go.” Without waiting for Orlin to object or kill him, he moved down the corridor.
Talen and the others were on his heels, expecting Orlin to be there, but when Ghanen looked behind, she groaned. “He’s gone.”
“I do not think he has left, Ghanen,” Talen said.
“Nor do I,” she replied, “but at least he is not trying to kill us.”
They were able to more easily move with the dead weight and soon, they caught up with Jack and Jason.
“Let me,” Talen said to Jack as she brushed past the others.
“We’re fine,” Jack told her.
“Let me carry him, Jack. It will be faster,” she argued back.
Jack and Jason exchanged a quick look, then stopped. “Fine,” Jack said, and Talen stepped in front of them, scooped Daniel up in her arms as easily as Adriann had picked up Eros.
In minutes, the group was in Baal’s suite, placing both unconscious men on the wide bed.
“I’ll get the kit!” Sam said hurriedly and started to bolt from the room but she came to an abrupt halt, finding Orlin standing just inside the door, and in her way. “Orlin.”
“Hello, Sam. You do not need to get your medical equipment,” he told her. “I will take care of them.”
“You can do that?” she asked, looking around the room at the others, then back to him.
“Okay well, is there…” she began, but Orlin was no longer listening. He’d closed his eyes and seemed to be concentrating. “Orlin?” He suddenly grew bright and she was reminded of the time he’d bonded with her. He metamorphosed into the familiar white shape and floated toward the bed.
Jack, Jason, Adriann and Talen moved off just as Orlin reached the foot and hovered. Immediately after, a white light centered on both Daniel and Eros’ bodies, as if coming from within not from above. It grew brighter but Orlin’s light went brighter still, blinding everyone in the room and forcing them to shield their eyes or turn away. It lasted a few seconds, then was gone. When everyone looked at the bed, Orlin was gone.
Jack and Jason went to Daniel while Adriann went to Eros. Daniel’s wounds were gone and both men seemed to be asleep until they opened their eyes.
“Hey,” Jack said, giving Daniel a relieved smile, then covered it with sarcasm. “Not the time for a nap, you know.”
Daniel grinned faintly as he brought a hand to his forehead, feeling for the wound no longer there. “Yeah, but you know me.”
“Yeah,” Jack replied.
Daniel looked at Jason’s worried face. “What’s goin’ on?”
“You were injured,” Jason reminded him.
Daniel tried to remember but the images were fuzzy. He then remembered the crackle of ozone and a sharp, blinding pain in his leg. He reached to feel for it but found nothing. Sitting up, he frowned in confusion, then looked at Eros, who remained prone, eyes flicking to his before returning to Adriann, who sat next to him.
“Who healed me?” Daniel asked, sensing that it hadn’t been Adriann. He didn’t have any memories of having any blood removed or that hot glow Adriann sent through him when he was healed. It was going to annoy him greatly if he found it was memory loss.
Jason sat down and waved at the ceiling. “Orlin healed you.”
Eros sighed. “He risked much.”
“For you?” Jason said, eyeing him. “I don’t think so. He was one of the ones who attacked us.”
“No,” Eros said, sitting up. “He was trying to stop them.”
“No,” Jack argued, “he was trying to stop us.”
“No,” Eros argued back, “He would’ve been trying to protect you.”
“From trying to save our friends? That’s stupid.”
Eros gave him a weak smile. “To protect you from retaliation for trying to save Adriann.” His eyes shifted back to the vampire. “I think my attacking them got their attention, though Orlin may not have understood.”
“Regardless, I offer my thanks in stopping them,” Adriann told him. “Are you healed?”
“I am. Can you not tell?” Eros asked with mild reproach.
“Strangely, no, I cannot. When I sensed your presence before, your mind was shielded. I panicked because of it and pushed harder to find out who you were. I caused you pain as a result and I am truly sorry.”
“You knew he was coming,” Jack told him, puzzled and annoyed. “Didn’t you sense I’d returned?”
Adriann gave Jack a bit of a sheepish look. “I did but… I was so wrapped up in getting information out of the Goa’uld that I completely forgot.” He looked at Eros again and added, “Again, I greatly apologize.”
“There is no need. I was not damaged.”
“Pain is damage, even if it was not lasting.”
“Perhaps,” Eros replied. “And speaking of pain, will you allow me to remove yours?”
Daniel and Jack turned their attention sharply on Adriann. “What’s he talking about?” Daniel asked, eyes narrowing.
“He was injured,” Eros said.
Daniel scooted off the bed and both he and Jack went to Adriann, who put up his hand to ward them off. “I will heal,” Adriann told them firmly, but he knew that determined look on Daniel’s face and allowed the concerned hands.
It would have been overlooked because the burnt cloth matched the color itself, and the fact that Adriann’s black shirt was worn loosely tucked. But Daniel found the hole just along the left side of the belt. Lined to the left of where Adriann’s kidney would be. Rucking up the shirt and pulling it free from Adriann’s trousers, Daniel found the five inch circular burn. Red and raw, it wasn’t bleeding. The wound was cauterized by the burn itself.
“For cryin’ out loud, Adriann,” Jack scolded.
Daniel pressed his lips thin in disapproval. “Lay down. We’ll need the kit–“
“No,” Eros said, finally sitting up.
Daniel opened his mouth to object, then remembered what Eros had said before their examination. “You can heal him?”
“So can I,” Talen said a few feet away, standing with arms crossed, her face clearly saying she was pissed. Her eyes were on Eros, boring into him as if he were to blame.
“Talen,” Adriann said sharply, forcing her expression to melt as she looked at him. It’s not his fault, he told her firmly. She didn’t agree, but said nothing. He was about to say something aloud when he caught another voice, faint but there. In his mind. And it wasn’t Daniel or Jason.
They do not feel flesh and blood anymore.
Adriann frowned and turned his head slowly to rest his eyes on Eros. “Did you just say that?” he asked.
“I did,” Eros said, smiling shyly though it was clear he was proud of himself for gaining entry.
Daniel tilted his head with curiosity, looking between the two of them. “Listen, I don’t mean to be a pain in the ass but…”
Eros nodded as he scooted further on the bed, moving slightly behind Adriann, and without further comment, placed his left hand directly over the wound, making Adriann hiss and straighten his back. With his right, he placed his palm against Adriann’s chest, between sternum and collarbone. “Hold still,” he said quietly, then closed his eyes and began to breath slowly.
Adriann let his breathing match Eros’ and studied the young man’s face. A warmth came from his hands outside of the usual body warmth and it intensified. It wasn’t painful, Adriann found. It was soothing, calming. Healing.
Daniel slowly edged off the bed and stood next to Jack, loosely folding his arms for lack of anything else to do. Jack touched his elbow and chinned behind them to move back, as if to give Eros and Adriann space. Jason copied the elbow gesture with Alex, though he indicated much further away as he nodded at Sam and Teal’c standing at the center of the room. The other residents, except Talen, were scattered round the room, though no more than a half a room’s distance from the bed.
Talen, however, decided that she wasn’t doing her brother any good standing on the sidelines. If she couldn’t help him directly, she’d help in other ways. So, sitting down on his left side, she tried to keep out of the way of Eros’ hands and took hold of the leather thong at the end of Adriann’s tousled braid.
Just after it was removed, Eros moved his left hand away and she glanced down for a look. Her brother’s wound was gone. Surprised and grateful, she began to unbraid his hair and as she did, Talen caught the unmistakable pull of desire between the two men. She grinned as she quickly finished and reached into her boot for a comb she’d sewn a pocket for.
Adriann reached over and stopped her, the action forcing Eros to remove his hand from his chest, but without looking, Adriann took that hand in his own. Grinning at Talen, he said, “I’ll leave it loose for now.” She shrugged and stood up, looking around the room at the others. “He’s finished.”
“I’m not so sure,” Daniel said in a low voice, head cocked, eyes watching Adriann and Eros and getting the unmistakable feeling of vanity and pride from Adriann. Not wanting his hair braided was an obvious statement of, “Here I am, admire me,” and Daniel couldn’t help but grin. Adriann had his flaws and perhaps vanity was among them but Daniel couldn’t fault him. He wasn’t vain to the point of being offensively egotistical.
Jack nudged him, a grin also marking his face. “I don’t need to be psychic to know what that meant.”
Daniel gave him the silent equivalent of a Shush, but before he could say another word, Adriann stood up and needlessly pulled Eros to his feet. With a mischievous grin, he asked, “I know you’ve met Tok’ra, but have you ever met a Goa’uld before?”
Eros’ eyes widened in surprise. “They are here?”
“Jack didn’t tell you?” Adriann asked, eyebrows arching at Jack.
Jack scowled defensively. “What? In all the fuss, it hadn’t crossed my mind to mention it. I asked him here to look at the Ancients’ tech, not see the snakeheads.”
Looking at Jason then Daniel, Adriann said, “Except I think Eros might be able to help Jalen and Camulus.”
Jason’s expression turned to shock. This pity for the Tok’ra was getting tiresome. Why were they wanting to help someone who obviously didn’t want it? “How? He’s gone dark side and likes it! How can you redeem someone like that?”
Eros walked over to Jason, his face a mask of concern. “I know you are upset, but please, do yourself a favor and try to see past your anger at him. If there is something there to redeem, I want to try and help.”
Jason snorted, not understanding him, then threw up his arms. “Fine, whatever. You’re wasting your time.”
“Perhaps. I would like you there, Jason.”
“What? Why? What good will that do?”
“Guilt is a great motivator,” Eros replied slowly, purposely choosing the words that would hit home.
Jason glared at him, hands clenching and unclenching. “Fine.”
“I believe that together,” Eros said, indicating Adriann, “we can both find what you need as well as finding out if he is indeed, as you say, redeemable.”
Jason took a deep breath and gestured at the door. “Then by all means. We’ve already got some stuff on tape that needs transcribing. May as well get more. Do you want to take a look at the Ancients’ things first?”
Eros snorted a little bit, obviously humored, and shrugged. “There is time. I would first like to meet these Goa’uld.”
“I get that, curiosity and all, but why’s that funny?” Jack asked as all of them made for the door.
Eros suddenly stopped and looked around him, but his eyes were on the humans and Teal’c, not the Var’chol’si. “I am used to your naming us Ancients and I have not thought to contradict you since that is the name you have come across and continue to use, but it sounds so odd that I cannot help but find it amusing.”
Daniel blinked, trading quick glances with Sam. Both of them were the ones with the most access to Ancient technology and she was gaining ground on him in her ability to read the language. Jack, though he’d had the language downloaded, hadn’t bothered, leaving it up to Daniel and Sam. Teal’c felt the same. But it suddenly occurred to Daniel that Ancients was probably some nickname given to them by someone else. After all, why call yourselves Ancients? He felt extremely embarrassed now, never once stopping to ask Eros what the name of their race had been. His cheeks colored slightly. “I’m sorry, we never meant offense.”
“I am not offended, merely amused.”
“So what’re you really called?”
Eros took a deep breath. “We are human, though our DNA is vastly more evolved than yours. We adopted two names for our culture, which had split into two divergent paths, like your English speaking countries have. The one I am from is called Alteran. The others called themselves the Orii.”
“Alteran?” Daniel asked, his mind quickly scanning his memory for the word and he came up empty.
Eros stepped through the door and gestured for the others to go ahead of him and lead him where they intended to go. Adriann and his kin went first, Eros following. Jack and Daniel flanked him and Jason, Alex, Sam and Teal’c covered their six.
“Hold on for a second,” Jack started, looking back at Sam in annoyance. “You’re more familiar with the mission visits to Eros’ planet. Haven’t we ever asked the name of Ancients?”
Sam winced, looking apologetic, then gave Eros a blaming look. “Frankly, sir, Eros has never contradicted us, so no.”
Jack shook his head. “Boggles my mind how we could possibly have advanced as far as we have when we pass up simple questions like that.”
“We overlooked it on our first meeting, Jack,” Daniel said guiltily.
“I know,” Jack sighed. Talking with his hands, as he always did, Jack pointed to the ceiling, absently drawing a circle. “Since we haven’t met them, much less heard of them, shall I assume that these Orii are ascended, too?”
Eros closed his eyes. “From what I have learned from Orlin and a few of the others, yes, they have ascended, and thankfully, are residing in another part of the universe, several galaxies away.”
“Thankfully?” Adriann asked, looking over his shoulder as he walked.
Eros waited to answer after the group turned down another corridor, the one that led to the cells. “I said thankfully because the Orii are a group of religious fanatics. After ascension, they believed they had the right to interfere with humans and their lives since they were partly responsible for their existence. But they also learned that getting flesh and blood people to worship them created a type of energy flow, which they absorbed. Since we are empathic beings, that energy flow nourished them, like a drug, and made them more powerful.”
They were now at the door to the interrogation room and Daniel took Eros’ elbow, making him stop. “Are they a threat?”
“Yes. Be grateful that the Orii and the Alterans have parted ways.”
“Why, exactly?” Jack asked.
“If they do not get you to worship them, they kill you.”
“Whoa,” Jack said in shock. “That’s a little harsh.”
“That’s an understatement,” Jason muttered.
“So what was that Dragornai creature?” Jack asked Eros. “The enemy of the Alterans. Were they enemies of the Orii, too?”
“Yes,” Eros answered, “but they formed an uneasy alliance to get what they both wanted, so the Dragornai became their assassins.”
“Ew, that’s nasty,” Alex said.
“How come we didn’t know this before?” Jack asked.
Eros gave him a bit of a sheepish expression. “I’d been in stasis and I didn’t know about the deal later on. Orlin told me what had happened. I was also in error about the plague. Orlin told me that the Orii were responsible. They caused the plague because we would not join them, considering us evil. They left Dragornai assassins in case any of us survived the plague. The one that came after me was the last.”
“Well thank god for that,” Daniel said. “So if the Orii find out you’re here, are you and the other Ancients… er, Alterans, in danger?”
“Yes,” Eros answered.
They stepped into the room, a little shaken by the mere thought of a bunch of whacked out ascended, when their sight of Baal diverted their attention. Both he and Camulus were permanent residents of the interrogation room and one half of the large room had been converted to their single prison cell, complete with two beds and two chairs.
Six feet in front of their beds, blue laser lines shone from ceiling to floor like new wave versions of jail bars, and before them was a single circle in the floor; a place of interrogation.
Baal adopted a lazy body language as he sat in the chair next to his bed, his feet propped on the bed’s edge while his hands were clasped behind his head. Eight feet behind him, Camulus lay on his cot, hands folded over his stomach, eyes closed, bored expression on his face.
At the sound of the footsteps on the stone, Baal craned his neck back and stared at them with amusement, his eyes lastly settling on a tall, handsome man dressed in clothing unlike the others. Not one of them. An interrogator? he thought. “Is this your new, pathetic attempt to gain entrance to my mind?” He curled his lip contemptuously and sighed. “Typical.”
“Whoever it is,” Camulus said, “they can drop dead.”
“Now, now, Camulus,” Baal said. “You must give these lowly creatures time. They cannot help being inferior.”
Eros was amused as Daniel rolled his eyes and several others did the same. Adriann chuckled, however, surprising Baal. “You have no idea how much information we already have. However, a fresh perspective is always welcome. No one is infallible, as you are most certainly aware.”
Baal narrowed his eyes angrily and said nothing, then flicked them back to Eros. “Who are you and what new tricks do you possess?”
“I am Eros,” Eros told him as he sat on one of the comfortable couches against the far right wall, brought in to decorate the room for the jailers. He stared across the room at the prisoners, detecting their emotions easily. Baal’s malevolence was expected but as he looked at Camulus, what he detected was contradiction.
The symbiote and host were of one mind, there was no mistaking that, but their emotions didn’t mirror Baal’s. There was no angry arrogance or dominant superiority, only the twisted view of pleasure. Eros was a bit confused because instead of arrogance and superiority, there was fear and hatred. Needing to delve into the emotions at a deeper level, Eros got up from the couch and moved to the upholstered chairs that ranged in front of the interrogation circle. He sat down in the center one of three and looked between Baal and Camulus.
Behind him, the Residents–except Adriann–took seats on couches while Alex, Teal’c, and Sam moved to the right side of the room, opposite Camulus. Jack and Daniel sat down the empty chairs flanking Eros while Jason stood just behind Daniel, arms crossed. An oft-viewed expression now, Jack noticed as he looked over his shoulder. Jason tried for a grin but didn’t quite manage it.
Eros looked up, unable to keep from feeling the wave of anger radiating from Jason. He reached up and clasped a hand over Jason’s folded arm and immediately projected calm into him. Startled, Jason unfolded his arms and grabbed his wrist, but as the seconds passed, he slowly released his hold.
“What’s goin’ on?” Daniel asked quietly, having turned with Jack to watch them.
“He’s very angry,” Eros answered.
Jack and Daniel exchanged quick glances and Alex started to walk over but Jason held his hand up, stalling him.
Eros pulled his hand away slowly. “Do you feel calmer now?”
Swallowing, Jason looked quickly at Daniel, Jack, then Alex. “Yeah, a bit.”
“You sure?” Jack asked.
“Yeah,” Jason answered, sternly chastising himself. “I’m sorry, Eros. If I feel it rising again, I’ll leave.”
“No, touch my shoulder,” Eros contradicted, but said it using a warm tone to take the sting out. He kept his eyes on Jason’s, waiting.
Jason was annoyed at how right Eros was and how angry he’d allowed himself to become. He hadn’t yet come to terms with the mirror image of himself on the other side of the forcefield, the one that scared him, reminding him of Indonesia, of the trap he’d been led into, of prison and torture and things he’d done in order to survive and get himself out of it.
Daniel and Jack were watching him, and Jack probably had a good idea what was on his mind, though he didn’t know the details. Jason had never told either of them all that had happened during that failed mission and he never would. He was ashamed of what he’d done, and Jalen forced him to confront the road he could have taken.
“You okay?” Daniel asked, at his left shoulder.
Jason nodded, then glanced at Jack. “Fine. Let’s get on with this.” Adriann touched his back, warm thoughts coming into his mind and Jason couldn’t mistake the concern for anything else. He nodded at him, then turned to Eros. “Thanks.”
Eros nodded to him and turned back to the front, once more placing his attention on Camulus. Flicking a glance at Baal found him glowering and Eros’ gaze rested on him, a bemused smile on his face. “What is it?” he asked.
“You are clearly not among the Tau’ri nor those fanged pets of theirs,” he said, gesturing dismissively at Adriann and the others.
Daniel barked out a laugh while Adriann and his kin exchanged amused looks but he then noticed how slowly Eros turned in his seat, looking straight at Adriann. Daniel suddenly grimaced, then stood, taking Eros by the arm. “Could I have a word?” Eros automatically stood up, going with him toward the door but his eyes were still on Adriann. “Guys, Adriann,” Daniel called as gently and calmly as he could, even though his actions implied stronger emotion at work. The problem was that in all the excitement and fuss, Eros hadn’t been told about the Var’chol’si. Not one jot. Daniel was not about to let Baal do it for them and cursed himself that it had almost happened.
Letting go of Eros as he stepped into the corridor, Daniel said to Jack, “We need some place private so I suggest one of the closest entertainment rooms. Jack gestured, since he and Jason had toured more often than the others, apart from Adriann and his kin.
“What is it?” Eros asked as they walked down the wide hall.
Adriann stepped up next to Eros to answer. “I believe that Baal was going to tell you about us and Daniel didn’t want it coming from him.”
“How astute of you,” Daniel said sarcastically.
“I am good like that,” Adriann responded, lips quirking into a grin.
With quick steps, they were in the first room in a few minutes and when Daniel looked behind, he’d found that aside from Jack and Adriann, only Talen had followed Daniel down the hall with Eros. “I thought Jason was coming.”
Jack shook his head. “He decided to stay behind. Doesn’t need much telling anyway.”
Eros nudged an upholstered foot stool away from one of the couches and sat on it, elbows on knees, fingers in a steeple. “What is it that required privacy?”
Adriann walked over and crouched down in front of Eros, purposely placing himself lower in height. “You’ve sensed we are different, not human, yes?”
“Yes,” Eros said, eyes searching Adriann’s, then he abruptly gave him a lop-sided grin. “The eye color isn’t in the human genome.”
“Correct,” Talen said, copying her brother as she squatted down next to him. “Daniel’s name for us is vampire. Do you know the term?”
“It’s not my name for you,” Daniel argued but Adriann gave him a hush up look. Rolling his eyes, Daniel crossed his arms and stood with Jack a few feet behind Adriann and his sister.
She reached up and took Eros’ hand. “We have many abilities. Humans call it telepathy, telekinesis, and a healing power they don’t have a name for but it does belong to our limited empathic ability.”
“And?” Eros asked, knowing that wasn’t the core of the stress he felt from them. Fanged pets came back to him and he tilted his head, eyeing both of them. “I see no evidence of fangs, but even if you have them, so what? Baal’s words were intended to scare me. Even you seem to think so. Why?”
“We need blood as part of our diet,” Adriann told him flatly, refusing to waste more time on melodramatic nonsense.
Eros stared at them and looked up at Jack and Daniel for confirmation. They nodded back. “And?”
“This,” Adriann began as he opened mouth and took Eros’ hand from Talen. His fangs grew and he brought Eros’ hand up to feel his teeth.
Eros wondered if he was supposed to feel fear, but what he did feel was fascination and intense curiosity. “And you need how much and how often?”
“A small amount every day is preferable,” Talen explained as Eros’ thumb practically caressed Adriann’s fangs, “but we can go a few days without it. It is the human equivalent of mineral and vitamin supplements that our bodies require. We get our sustenance from blood but we need food and water as well.”
“Fascinating,” Eros whispered, and he withdrew his hand slowly, filing away the flicker of disappointment from Adriann’s mind.
“We have cousins,” Talen went on, “called Brethren, who have the golden eyes of an animal. They require meat but like our blood need, it is not all they require in their diet.”
“They are here?” Eros asked.
Talen and Adriann nodded. “In the kitchens and other parts of this place that need to be remade for our own purposes.”
“For instance?” Eros asked.
“Furnishings we prefer,” Adriann said. “Clothing and the like.”
“I see,” Eros said, his eyes drawn to Adriann’s mouth, then his eyes, then his mouth again. Realizing he was staring, he smiled sheepishly and gestured at the door. “Shall we go?”
Daniel and Jack shared a quick look. “That’s it?” Daniel asked.
“Yes,” Eros answered, hesitating. “Is there another reason for our delay?”
“No,” Daniel answered, “it’s just that, I don’t know, I mean, I expected maybe a little more since we kinda overlooked–“
“Actually, Daniel,” Jack interrupted, “it’s my fault. I should’ve told him and it slipped my mind. I’m used to them and I thought we’d told Eros already.”
“You may have,” Eros said, a flush appearing on his cheeks that he couldn’t explain… except that the long he looked at Adriann, the more drawn he felt. Shaking off his unasked questions, he went to the door. “I believe you have to contact your planet soon?” he asked.
Jack looked at his watch quickly and hissed at the time. “Yeah, we gotta get that equipment here so that you can record more than just voice information.”
“We can do that now, Jack,” Adriann told him. “We did that earlier while you were gone. We need only impart it in the best way possible.”
The five of them paused outside the door. “Then do you really want to go back to them?” Daniel asked Eros. “We could go see the machine and monitors first.”
Eros shook his head. “Something is bothering me about Camulus Jalen.”
“Camulus or Jalen?” Daniel asked.
“No, both. Camulus Jalen is easier to say.”
“Okay, so what’s up?” Jack asked, gesturing back the way they came.
Eros’ brow creased deeply as he tried to put it into words that wouldn’t alarm or cause disbelief. “I sensed something different in him.”
“Could’ve been the slimed-up Tok’ra part,” Jack suggested.
“Perhaps,” Eros said, “but what I sensed was not that. I sensed someone afraid.”
“What?” Daniel asked.
“You’re probably picking up the fear of Adriann and the others,” Jack said.
“No, I think it is more,” Eros said.
“He is right, it is more,” Talen agreed. “But we haven’t been able to tell which mind is hiding what. There’s a truth we need but the blending makes it difficult to find out what memory we’re looking for. That is why it is so hard with them.”
“What memory?” Daniel asked.
“The reason Jalen turned to evil,” Eros answered. “I believe he can still be saved. I feel that it is an act he performs for us.”
“What he did to Alex was no performance,” Jack snapped, then cleared his throat in apology, and gave Eros a quick summary.
Eros frowned. “What is it that forces someone to give in to desires they feel are safe to have? The abandonment of hope. That is what he experiences and feels safe with.”
“Safe?” Daniel frowned. “That’s a laugh.”
“Hard as it may be believed, yes, safe. He craves it, and despairs over the loss of someone.”
“Alex,” Talen answered, and at Jack and Daniel’s looks she added quickly, “The other Alex, from his reality.”
“You have mirrors here?” Eros asked.
“Yeah,” Daniel answered.
“They were supposed to have been rendered inactive.”
“Guess someone forgot to turn the lights out when they all left,” Jack cracked just as they reached the doorway to the interrogation room.
“Alex is dead in his original reality,” Talen continued. “There was a bond there but it was broken by an argument or something. We have not looked for that because it was not important. Is it?”
Eros shrugged. “Maybe it is the key to releasing his soul.”
Jack grimaced. “Don’t go getting poetical. You mean it’s the key to straightening his mind back to where it’s supposed to be? ‘Cause I gotta tell ya, his mind has more twists in it than your garden variety psychopath.”
“He is not a psychopath,” Eros told him firmly. “He is damaged. I want to help him, Jack. It’s my nature.”
Jack sighed. “Yeah, okay, but I’m not buying he can be fixed, and you need to take every precaution.”
“I shall,” Eros replied, “but I may not use methods you would approve of.”
“Do they involve harm?”
“Then I have no problem.”
Eros gave Jack an admonishing look before stepping back into the interrogation room. Jack followed, looking at his watch and glancing across at his teammates and Jason and Alex. “We have an hour before we have to contact Hammond,” he said to them. “We don’t have much to update other than our fresh little scare. If you think we need more equipment, that’ll be the time to get it before our next contact.”
“Frankly,” Alex said, walking toward Jack with an eye on Jason to follow, “I don’t see the point in my being here.” He was met with surprised looks. “With respect, sirs,” he added with formality, “there doesn’t seem to be a point to my being here. I’m not doing anything, is what I mean to say.”
Jason sighed. Alex had a point, but it was more likely that he wanted to get back so he could go see Al and Connor. Jason had been thinking about it himself but he wanted to see this situation through to its end, whatever that was. “I’ll give you leave to go back if Hammond has something else for SG-2 to take care of. There is a lot of paperwork to do, and if you go back, that’s probably what you’ll be starting on. We still have our reports to write up.”
Alex cringed a bit, but after another thought, he shook his head. “Unless you really need me here for something specific, I’d rather head back. I don’t really…” He caught Eros frowning, making him pause. “If you’re going to suggest my staying has something to do with Jalen, I don’t see the point in that, either. There’s nothing and no one for me here.” Suddenly Ophius was in view, walking toward him, and Alex felt guilty. “I didn’t mean… sorry.”
Ophius raised a hand. “It is okay, Alex. But I was thinking that if you wanted some breathing space, you could, if you wish, come with us,” and he gestured to Calane and Kashan, “to scout the exterior.”
“There ya go,” Jack said, clapping a hand on his shoulder.
“Grab the PDA from the pack and do a land survey,” Jason suggested. “We do that on our missions anyway, so this’ll be towards something permanent instead of a place we’re never coming back to.”
Alex nodded, feeling a lot better suddenly. Being around Jalen was just too much. He could understand Jason’s need to stay but his anger left him wanting to get the hell out of Dodge. “Done.” He gave Ophius a look of gratitude and with a glance at Jason, left with the others.
Ghanen approached with her hands clasped behind her back, regarding their prisoners with disdain. “I think I shall go help Poul and Sela. Call if you need me.” With a last look, she left as well.
Sam tugged on Teal’c’s elbow they stepped forward. “Sir, I’d like to get back to the Ships. There isn’t a need for us here is there?”
Jack shook his head, actually glad they were leaving, and inclined his head at Teal’c. “You wanna help her or stay here and watch them squirm?” He knew the answer but had to ask anyway.
“As much as that would have amused me yesterday, today the thought is tiresome. I would prefer to do something more useful with my time.”
“I can relate,” Jack said, waving at the door. “I’ll radio with an update after I’ve talked to Hammond. Anything you guys want in the way of rations? Preferences?”
“Actually, if they could send the coolers with fresh food this time instead of the rations, I’d be–“
“Sorry for interrupting, Sam,” Talen interjected, “but the kitchen is close to being fully ready. If you wouldn’t mind the food prepared. That is where I think I shall head, make sure the Brethren are happy with what they have on hand. I believe it is time,” and she shot Adriann a sarcastic look, “to become mistress again.”
Sam shrugged in answer. “I don’t mind,” she said, “but I’d like to have food to go. You know, on hand while I work? Instead of stopping for a prepared mealtime.”
“Workaholic,” Jack accused, but he understood how she worked and appreciated it more times than he could count, even if he did get annoyed now and then. “I know what you talkin’ about, Carter, and I’ll ask them to add turkey sandwiches to picnic basket.” She gave him a reprimanding look and he grinned victoriously. “I know Hammond’s planning on sending a FRED so I’ll have them add a cooler.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said sardonically.
“What else are C.O.’s for? T? Anything you want from the menu or would you rather go out and kill something?”
Teal’c gave a slight shake of his head, mouth slightly turned up at the corners. “Nothing at this time, O’Neill.” As Sam headed out of the room, he gave a last look of disgust in the prisoners’ direction before following her.
Jack made a show of turning around to examine the room, then stopped to stare at Baal and Camulus with a decidedly nasty smirk on his face. “You two really know how to clear a room.”
Daniel choked out a laugh and turned it into a clearing of his throat. Catching Eros’ odd look, he shook his head. “Graveyard humor, Eros.”
“If you say so,” Eros said. He didn’t need a translation and understood what Daniel meant, but he didn’t ‘get’ the joke.
“Our humor is a little weird,” Jason piped in as he crossed his arms.
“Ya think?” Jalen suddenly said.
“Shut the fuck up,” Jason retaliated.
“You first, baby bro.”
Jason ground his teeth together and turned to Eros. “So, what’s the deal?”
“I do not understand,” Eros said, catching the sarcasm but not getting the Earth word.
“He means why are you still bothering with them,” Daniel explained, waving a hand at Baal and Camulus.
“Think we could get something to eat? Drink?” Camulus suddenly asked.
“No, we’re going to starve you to death,” Jack answered sarcastically.
“It is pitiful,” Baal said, “that it is precisely what you should be doing, yet instead, you insist on treating your enemies like guests.”
“Just copying the earlier template,” Jack replied as he started to sit down in the right-most chair, then added, “Except for the drugs and the… whatever that was.”
“What? Can you not say it?” Camulus taunted.
Jack rolled his eyes as Eros once more sat in the center chair and Daniel joined him on the left. Jason turned round, and spotting a foot stool meant for one of the sofas, grabbed it and seated himself next to Jack.
For the time being, Adriann preferred to stand, allowing himself the freedom to pace. Looking at Jack, and seeing without effort what was crossing his mind, he said, “I believe that it would technically be called rape since it happened under narcotic influence and without their prior consent.”
“Yeah, see, that’s the confusing part,” Jack said, meaning it. He was pretending to act as if the drugged sex had been no big deal, even if he told himself it wasn’t possible, but he remembered every action while under the influence and lot of it was pleasant to remember while the purpose of it was not. He knew Daniel, Jason, and Alex felt the same. The only difference was the last time, with Alex. That had been necessary to exorcize the demons Jalen had caused.
Baal let out a derisive laugh. “What is confusing, O’Neill? I would be most fascinated to hear.”
Jack nearly jumped when Eros’ hand was suddenly over his. A flood of calm strength dissipated the anxiety that had started to build.
“He is not confused about the sex,” Adriann continued, walking to Daniel’s left and approaching the green light of the forcefield. “He is confused about your reaction.”
Baal frowned. “My reaction. I was most pleased with the outcome, though severely disappointed that we had not yet reached its conclusion.”
“There wasn’t going to be any conclusion,” Daniel snapped. “We know you had no intention of releasing us.”
With a nasty smile, Baal said, “You are correct. I discovered how useful you could be.”
“Yeah, shame it didn’t work out the way you hoped,” Daniel mocked.
“Is it not?” Baal mocked back.
“Yes,” Adriann said, with a very disturbing smile on his face. “Would you care to repeat your experience? I would love to see you beg beneath me.”
The words, purposely chosen, hit home and Baal lost his smile, baring his teeth instead in a sneer. “As the Tau’ri would say, in your dreams.”
“No,” Eros contradicted. “In yours.”
Baal blinked at him, momentarily off-guard. “Excuse me?” He then realized that Eros’ comments weren’t directed at him, but at Camulus.
“In yours,” Eros repeated. “Nightmares you wish others to feel if only to release your own.”
Camulus looked away, wishing he could be anywhere else but under that scrutiny.
Jason frowned, hating that Eros seemed to want to help this bastard instead of simply seeking out the information and letting him rot after. “Who cares if he has nightmares?”
“Jason,” Daniel gently chided.
“What? After what he’s done, we should have sympathy? Empathy? It’s a ploy, a means to save his ass. I don’t buy it.”
“They are part of what fuels his desires,” Eros went on insistently, staring at Jalen. “Except he lies. There’s something else that’s caused his mind to twist into what he is now.”
“Jason,” Jack said, echoing Daniel.
“What is wrong with you two?” Jason asked, startled.
“Jason, no offense, but we’re more objective than you are.”
Jason ground his teeth and looked away from them, taking a deep breath so he wouldn’t say something he’d regret.
“He is right,” Camulus told them. “It is nothing more than a ploy and you have been misled, Eros.”
“I am an empath. You cannot mislead me.”
“Cease this line of questioning for it is a waste of time,” Camulus said, knowing it was useless to give orders. He had no power over what others did, but he did have one avenue left to him.
Eros sensed it immediately and cocked his head to one side as he decided his action. He then stood up slowly from his chair, took a few steps, and stepped through the forcefield. Everyone was on their feet in shock, including Baal and Camulus.
“Eros, what the fuck are you doing?” Jack called out. Daniel went for the remote and flipped off the switch just when Camulus made his move.
He grabbed Eros around throat with both hands. Without a thought, Jack pulled Daniel’s sidearm from his leg holster and marched forward quickly. Eros hissed, then choked, hands grabbing at Camulus’ grip.
“Move and he dies,” Camulus threatened.
Jack was two feet away, the barrel end of Daniel’s gun pointed at the center of Camulus’ forehead. “Then so do you.”
“Let me out of here, let me go,” Camulus half-ordered.
Eros gave up on his attacker’s hands and grabbed his wrists. “No need…” he gasped, “…to do this.”
“There is,” Camulus told him with angry resolve.
As the seconds of crisis mounted, Adriann kept his eye on Baal as he stepped to the doorway, blocking the entrance just in case Baal tried something. It was at that moment that he knew that Camulus had no intention of killing Eros. What he wanted was a bullet in the head. Yet there was something else, something that kept niggling at the back of Adriann’s head. Ruse. But what was the ruse?
Jack stared into Camulus’ eyes and recognized the same thing that Adriann was reading. It was familiar. “Shit,” he said softly. “Don’t make me,” he warned.
“Why not?” Camulus asked, purposely sneering. “It’s what he wants, what you all want. Do it.”
“No,” Jack replied, abruptly pulling up the barrel of the gun and shifting the bolt. With his free hand, he held it out in Adriann’s direction to stop him from doing anything.
“I said do it!” Camulus yelled and started to squeeze tighter.
Daniel didn’t take his eyes off Camulus but asked, “Jack, what’s goin’ on?”
“He’s trying to commit suicide,” Jason said calmly, having detected it not long after Jack. He had his own sidearm trained on Camulus’ head–and he wasn’t putting it down.
“Jason,” Jack ordered.
“Not until he releases him, Jack.”
“As long as you’ve got that gun up, he’ll be forced to try something,” Jack told him.
“I know that,” Jason answered.
“Do it!” Camulus ordered.
“Don’t, Jason,” Jack countered.
Eros chose that moment to let go of the right wrist and reach out, touching Camulus sternum.
Camulus sucked in a breath, then held it against the sudden attack of fatigue he felt as his hands loosened. He was suddenly holding on like a lifeline instead of trying to kill. “Please, no,” he told Eros, voice quiet, begging.
“I have to,” Eros rasped, then Camulus closed his eyes and collapsed. Eros caught him easily as he coughed a bit from the rough hold around his neck. To the others, he said, “What none of you understand is that I was never in any danger.” He turned to look at them all. “There was nothing he could have done to me.”
Jack went over, helping Eros place Camulus on his bed. Eros sat down next to Camulus and looked at his face, his hand reaching up to comb his bangs away from his forehead. The gestured looked loving and Jason frowned deeply.
“Eros, what’re you doing?” he asked.
Eros looked over at Baal. “I believe he knows.”
Baal’s eyes narrowed at the vague accusation. “I do not,” he said crisply.
“Knows?” Jack asked.
“Why Camulus tried to get himself killed.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “Like I give a shit what the snake thinks.” Diverting from that, he asked, “So, tell us how the hell you walked through that forcefield?”
Daniel stared at Eros, then remembered who built the fortress in the first place. “This isn’t Goa’uld, is it?”
“No,” Eros answered as he stood up, turning to face them with no concern whether Camulus would wake anytime soon. He crossed his arms and smirked at Baal. “He let you think it was all Goa’uld, did he not?”
“Yep,” Jack said, feeling embarrassed and trying not to show it. “I really hate it when they do that.” He waved the remote Daniel handed him. “Eros, step back out of there now.”
“I can walk back through, Jack,” Eros replied, “and he cannot hurt me.”
“Perhaps,” Baal said calmly, “but you’ll get nothing further from me,” and he suddenly pulled up his sleeve and pressed something in his arm, revealing a small wound he’d made in the skin and muscle. The appearance of blood startled everyone, including Adriann, and caught off guard, Adriann reached out to immobilize him with his mind, but a second later, an Asgard-like beam transported Baal away.
“Shit!” Jack shouted, grabbing his radio. “Carter, where you at?”
“He had to have had a ship in orbit,” Daniel said.
“In the Hatak vessel, sir,” she replied. “What’s up?”
“Baal just beamed out of here while the forcefield was down. Do you have tracking capabilities?”
“We’ve already been scanning the local space, sir, in case of surprises. There’s nothing up there that can be seen so if he’s gone, the ship was cloaked.”
“Fuck,” Jack muttered harshly, then into the radio, “Can we track him?”
There was a pause. “Not cloaked, no, sir.”
Teal’c joined in, Even if we could track him in hyperspace, O’Neill, none of the ships here are manned. By the time I could get to an Alkesh to follow and track him, Baal would be long gone.”
“Fuck!” Jack spat and looked around to kick or hit something, make it break. He sighed, meeting the gazes of everyone else, then rested his eyes on Camulus. “Typical weasel, leaving his protégé to take the fall.”
“Protégé?” Eros asked.
“One who follows in the footsteps of the teacher or mentor,” Daniel answered.
Eros looked down at Camulus’ unconscious face and sat back down. “It is not what you think.”
“Would you stop doing that?” Jason asked angrily.
Looking up, startled, Eros asked, “Doing what?”
“Treating him like he’s unwilling, like a victim. Do you know what he’s done? What he planned to do?”
“No, but I can imagine all too well, given what I felt from Baal,” Eros answered grimly.
Jason shook his head. “I don’t understand why you’re giving him sympathy. You should have let–“
Eros whipped his head round, eyes glaring. “You do not understand.”
“Do you?” Jason asked nastily.
“Jason, stop,” Daniel said with alarm, grabbing his bicep. “Come on, let’s get out of here, go take a walk.”
Jason used all his self-will to calm down, to not yell at Daniel. He closed his eyes and took in several deep breaths. “I should get something to eat. The FRED should be here and Jack’s gotta check in with Hammond.”
“Gotta make another call, too,” Jack added.
“Who?” Daniel asked.
“The Alpha Site. I hope Jacob’s there because I think he’s the only one who’s gonna get anything out of Camulus. Plus, they need to know about Baal.” He winced, hating how that escape was going to make them look. Slapping Jason on the back, he left the room first, with the others following, leaving Camulus asleep behind the forcefield.
Jacob stepped through the event horizon and walked down the steps toward Sam, smiling and giving her a hug. Turning, he shook Jack’s hand warmly and nodded to Daniel and Jason. “Where’s Teal’c?” he asked, looking around.
“Minding the store. Baal had a small fleet of ships,” Jack said with a grin.
“Really?” Jacob said carefully, taking in the look on Jack’s face. Finally, he sighed, knowing it was useless to ask. “So, guess you landed a big one, huh Jack?”
Jack returned the grin. “You have no idea. And yes, Jacob, Hammond will probably lend you one of the big ones.”
Jacob’s eyes grew round. And concerned. “You took his motherships?”
“Just the ones he had here. Whatever he got away in, though, was cloaked, so I’m bettin’ these babies have that capability.”
“Bastard’s been busy,” Jacob said grimly. “Despite your lucky break, this isn’t good news.”
“Well, you’ll be interested in the gravity generators, I’m sure, Dad,” Sam pitched in.
Jacob stared at her. “Okay, you’re gonna have to show me everything, and then I’m gonna have to bring some other Tok’ra here.” At Jack’s opening mouth, he held up a hand to forestall the argument. “Yes, Jack, I know what you’re going to say, but my idea is to bring them here to help, not to take over. Relax.”
Jack twisted his mouth, brushing off the embarrassment at being out-guessed. “Yes, erm… well, then.”
Jacob looked around him. “So, are there a lot of teams out?”
“Just the usual, why?”
“Gate’s unmanned. You can’t spare a few guys to man the gate?”
“Actually,” Jack and Daniel both said together, but were cut off.
“It is unnecessary,” Adriann answered. He’d been standing in the back, waiting, and Jack turned, feeling more embarrassed again.
Clearing his throat and gesturing at Adriann, he said, “Jacob, this Adriann. Adriann, Jacob Carter and Selmak of the Tok’ra.”
Adriann stepped forward and held out his hand, half-bowing at the same time. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance,” he said.
“Likewise,” Jacob said, studying him carefully before he closed his eyes, then opened them again. “Honored,” Selmak said, grinning at the slight rise of Adriann’s brows. “We have heard of your race, but only after SG-1 first met you. Before that, you were nothing more than what the Tau’ri would call a folk tale.”
Adriann grinned, amused and pleased. “Yes, we do seem to have that name. I am not sure how to take it, being considered a myth, or something used to frighten small children as old vampire tales on Earth are used.”
Selmak shook her head. “No, it’s not that. Folk tale, not used to scare but to thrill, like the creatures on Earth called unicorns.”
Adriann considered that, then stepped aside. “The perhaps you’d like to meet a real myth,” and he held out his arm in Eros’ direction, who’d been standing several steps behind everyone else.
At the mention of his name, Eros turned toward them, bowing at Jacob and Selmak. They stepped forward and bowed their head back, then Jacob extended his hand. Eros smiled, almost shyly, and it was so engaging and infectious that Jacob found himself smiling back. “Let me say that of all the so-called gods around the universe, you are the only welcome one.”
To his and everyone else’s surprise, Eros blushed deeply with astonishment. “Thank you but I am an empath, not a god.”
“Even better,” Jacob teased him, then decided that they should move on and not embarrass the man further. When he looked at Jack, it was Selmak who spoke. “Shall we get the first order of business settled? I need to see the Tok’ra calling himself Camulus.”
“He is Camulus,” Daniel said as the group started for the fortress, “just from a parallel universe.”
“So Jack informed me earlier, Daniel,” Selmak told him.
Daniel frowned a little. “You think that’s a lie?”
They’d reached the doors and Selmak said, “No, I believe it’s the truth. It is not as simple as that, however. I am hoping he is the same Camulus in that respect, meaning that I hope the timeline is the same for him.”
As they moved inside, Jack asked, “What do you mean?” He wasn’t answered right away but Jacob gestured ahead, indicating impatiently that he didn’t want to stop.
“I’ll explain momentarily.”
Moving through the main hall and down the next two corridors, they came to the cells and the interrogation room holding Camulus. Ghanen and two Brethren, Sela and Neva, held empty trays, having just delivered food to the prisoners. Adriann nodded at them.
“Any trouble?” he asked aloud for the benefit of everyone else.
“No,” Ghanen said, glancing at Daniel, “though that Loh’tar of Baal’s is extremely odd.”
“Tell me about it,” Daniel answered.
Ghanen nodded and both she and the Brethren bowed at Jacob, then the others, and departed down the corridor.
“Before we go in to see him,” Jacob said, stalling Jack and Adriann as they took a step in that direction. Turning to Eros, he said, “I’m going to need your help.”
Eros could sense the tension and anxiety, and with it, tremendous guilt. Intrigued and puzzled, he nodded agreement. “Very well. In what capacity?”
Glancing at Adriann, Jacob gave him a smile, and a swift disciplinary look at Jack for not telling him about Eros. “I hadn’t expected Eros to be here or I’d be asking for your help, but I think this is rather up his alley than yours.”
“Of course, but if you need me, ask,” Adriann answered, not bothering to ask for explanation because he could read, without meaning to, what Jacob meant.
“What powers of empathy do you possess?” Jacob asked Eros.
“I can receive and transmit all emotions and their consecutive actions,” Eros answered, surprising Daniel and Jack with his words, making him sound rather like a scientist or doctor. Jason, however, wasn’t surprised. He’d been with Eros longer than the others, aside from Alex, and he knew what he was like just a little more than they did.
“If I ask you to pressure him into feeling a certain emotion, can you do that?” Eros nodded and Jacob let out a breath of relief.
“Dad?” Sam asked.
“It means I won’t have to go back for the zatarc machine. I didn’t bring it on the off-chance that Adriann could help, even though a telepath isn’t an empath.”
“I still don’t understand,” she said.
“I’m with Carter,” Jack followed.
Jacob sighed. “The programming given Camulus was in the same way Apophis or the other System Lords have created their Zatarc terrorists. Our programming doesn’t make the person self-destruct, but taken away, the emotional effects do a mind job on them after the code words are delivered.”
Sam raised her brows. “They’re programmed against their own ethics?”
“Sam, they’re programmed to act like Goa’uld.”
“Good point,” she said, frowning at the idea of behaving contrary to her own morals and ethics. “I know that the Goa’uld need to be brought down but this programming goes too far.”
“It’s necessary, Sam,” he told her gently. “They volunteer, by the way, and know fully what will happen. The code words we use aren’t fool proof though. It depends on the strength of the mind and how long the person’s lived with the programming. In Camulus’ case, it was years. The zatarc machine can detect if the code words have worked, whether or not they’re lying, but with your presence here,” and Jacob waved at Eros and Adriann, “I thought I could leave it, going on the basis that you two can detect lies. Is that correct?” Eros and Adriann nodded once. “Good. I’d prefer it this way actually because you can dig into memory without the pain of the machine. This is going to be hard enough as it is.”
“Why?” both Sam and Jack asked.
Jacob sighed again, only Selmak answered. “Because our Camulus was under long-term cover assignment by himself and as an ally with Baal. To learn that this one had been brought into Baal’s ranks and made a slave is disturbing.”
“How’s that?” Jack asked.
“Because our operatives discovered that Baal had somehow found out and killed our Camulus,” Selmak answered solemnly. “Which also means that upon coming into contact with this one, he took advantage of the situation and has probably done some of his own additional brainwashing–providing this one’s life was the same as in the other universe. We shall soon see.”
“How?” Jack asked, growing impatient.
“You will see,” Selmak said and stepped into the room, Eros and Adriann flanking him.
Jack swallowed the retort and moved with the others to surround them.
On the bed behind the forcefield, Camulus lay with an arm over his eyes.
“Camulus,” Selmak called.
The effect was surprising. Camulus sat up in alarm, frozen for a few moments before he stood slowly off the bed. “Who’re you?” he asked.
Jacob turned to Daniel, “Do you have the remote?” Jack grabbed it off the nearby table and handed it to him. Selmak shut off the forcefield and gave the remote back to Jack, then studied Camulus’ face. He looked over his shoulder at Jason, then back to Camulus, commenting, “Amazing.”
“Yeah, barrel of laughs,” Jason answered.
“Don’t be hard on him, Colonel. He did what he had to do,” Selmak corrected him sternly.
“If you say so,” Jason replied.
“Who are you?” Camulus repeated, gaze flickering to the others suspiciously before settling on Selmak.
Selmak took a step forward, only a foot away. “It is I. Selmak.”
Camulus blinked in shock, lips parting. He then shook his head in denial. “That means nothing to me.”
“We shall see,” Selmak answered, then said, “Kal nok, Camulus. Tal shi non, chi kon tu kay es kek.”
Jack glanced at Daniel for a private translation but Daniel had no time to give him one. Camulus’ response was immediate and shocking.
His eyes widened and there came a short gasp, like a severe cry of emotion, then he fell to his knees, whispering, “Kay es. Tek ma tay… Selmak.”
In front of the wide stares of shock, particularly from Jason, Selmak dropped to his knees and placed his arms around Camulus. “It is time to come home,” he said in English, and Camulus’ arms went around him, bowed head trying to burrow like a child to his mother.
Jack cleared his throat in quiet signal and backed away. Daniel, Jason, and Sam did the same, forming a huddle. Jack gave Daniel a queried look and Daniel whispered, “Not a direct translation but essentially he gave told Camulus, ‘Come in from the rain, your job is done.’ I’m guessing it’s some sort of buried signal, judging from the reaction. And you heard the rest.” Jack nodded and they turned to watch the mysterious and strange scene play out before them, saying nothing and leaving it to Selmak.
“This is not my home,” Camulus murmured, head still bowed. “I am not your Camulus.”
“You responded to the pre-arranged code, Camulus. Regardless of where you came from, it is still my duty to bring you home.”
Camulus shook his head, not understanding, and when he straightened, he revealed streaks of tears running down his face. He searched Jacob’s eyes. “I had hoped that Seroush would have lived long enough to see me succeed.”
“I am sorry,” Selmak said, his voice filled with compassion. “She was my dearest friend and I miss her still.”
“How ago?” Camulus asked.
“Six years,” Selmak replied.
“And you are now with…?”
“A Tau’ri by the name of Jacob Carter.”
Camulus blinked, then suddenly remembered exactly where he was… and who else was in the room. He looked over at Sam as he quickly wiped his face with his fingers. “Your Camulus would have known this,” he said, bringing his attention back to Selmak.
“You are here now, with the same mission. Can you go back to your universe and complete it?”
Camulus shook his head, masking his features and bolstering his emotion so that he would not lose it again and cry in front of these people, these strangers. “The Tok’ra are likely dead in my universe. We had an alliance with Earth and were attacked in great numbers. I do not believe we had a chance.”
“And you discovered a mirror and came here?”
“Yes, I used the one hidden away in Baal’s compound, on Bel’alat.”
“So you appeared… where?”
“Here. This is Bel’alat.”
Selmak turned to look at Adriann, then Jack. “Was there a mirror found here?”
“Not yet,” Jack answered, thumbing toward the door, “but we have his First Prime, who just might know where it is.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Camulus said, only to Selmak, not Jack. “I know where it is. I know everything.”
There was silence at that point and Selmak got to his feet, pulling Camulus to his but guiding him to the bed to sit back down. He brushed his hand over Camulus’ hair, repeating the action of parent and child, only in reverse, and spoke to him in a low, soothing voice.
Jason felt a chill, like the proverbial walk over the grave. Ghosts from the past, haunting him since meeting Jalen, were now felt more keenly because of this scene, this unbelievable revelation. Camulus, and Jalen by extension, had been undercover, and from what Jason had seen, deep cover, which meant altering your personality, playing the game so far that you did whatever was necessary in order to achieve the mission objective.
“Jason?” Daniel said, hand on his elbow.
Jason met his gaze, realizing with a horrible feeling that he’d been wallowing in the past and hadn’t heard the conversation around him. “What?” he asked.
“C’mon,” Jack said, indicating they leave. “We’re leaving them to it so let’s go see if we can hunt up any other goodies while Carter meets up with Teal’c, check on his progress.”
“What of them?” Jason asked as they headed for the door, meaning Eros and Adriann.
“They’re staying behind to help Selmak,” Sam answered.
Moving down the hall in silence as they headed toward the suite, Sam parted company and took the route to the hangar.
“Should probably see how Alex is doing on his survey,” Jason said, reaching for his radio, but Jack touched his hand just as he touched the mic.
“Don’t call him in. Give him something else to do.”
“I wasn’t planning on calling him in,” Jason said, “but I also want to update him on what’s going on.”
“Well, we need to talk, Jace, so hold off for a while, okay?” Daniel asked.
Complying, Jason shoved his hands in his pockets and tried not to think about Jalen and Camulus but it was difficult. Arriving in the suite and making directly for the underground chamber, Daniel and Jack started to discuss exactly what Jason was thinking and it irrationally annoyed him. He couldn’t tell if they were thinking along the same lines or purposely discussing it to get him to talk about it–and what had happened so long ago in Indonesia. So long ago, and he wished he could forget…
“Exactly what was Camulus’ mission?” Jack was saying, grabbing Jason’s attention when his thoughts started to wander. “It couldn’t have been knowledge they needed to know right away because his mission was obviously long-term.”
“Why do you say that?” Daniel asked. “I mean, I get the long-term business but don’t they usually pass on needed information?”
“No,” Jack argued, “because in this case, he would have had to break cover to impart it. To go as deep as I’m thinking Selmak sent him, Camulus and Jalen would have had some sort of conditioning and programming to literally become someone else.”
“That I got, but how can you know that?” Daniel asked.
“Because I was almost set up for an op like that,” Jack told him. He sat down behind what looked like a computer console tucked in the far left corner of the room. It was one of the pieces of equipment they hadn’t looked at yet because none of the systems were operating and then entire station was dark. Jack sat forward in the chair, hands folded between his legs, elbows on knees. Daniel and Jason sat on the console itself, touching it beforehand to make sure they didn’t inadvertently turn anything on.
“In Southeast Asia,” Jack went on, “I was part of a hit squad. Me, Burke, and Woods. Our mission was to go in and take out the leaders of terrorist cells. The information we got in order to be able to do just that was from a guy they’d had on the inside. He was American, but of Vietnamese descent. When we pulled him out of there, it took him several months to clean his system from the drug use he’d taken on as part of his cover. Then there were the psychological problems.”
Jack paused, taking a deep breath. “At the end of our last mission, we were offered deep assignment in Central America. I turned it down but Burke and Woods didn’t. Then Charlie died and I was thinking about changing my mind and joining what had become their op. I still had my hair long, looking the part, but I was too torn up about Charlie to think straight.”
“Then they came to you with the mission involving an alien artifact,” Daniel finished.
Jack nodded. “You know the rest. In our second year at the SGC, I found out that Woods had been arrested for turning. He’d started taking the dope to sell himself, setting himself up in the same line as the drug boss down there. Burke hadn’t been in on it but Woods wanted to save his own ass and tried to frame Burke, make him out to be part of his operation. Didn’t pan out and Burke was cleared.”
Jack took a minute, taking a few breaths and suddenly wishing he had a drink. “A few months later, someone was paid to kill Woods in prison but we got to them before it happened. The reason I’m telling you guys this is because I didn’t take that op because of what I’d seen happen to our spy in Asia and I’d seen what had happened to Woods. Had I gone down there, and somehow not managed to get my head blown off, I might have turned out just like him.”
Daniel wanted to argue that Jack wouldn’t have done that, but he remembered how Jack was when he’d first met him. How emotionally vulnerable he was. It could have happened and it was a scary thought.
“I think, Jason,” Jack went on, “that the reason you’re so mad at Jalen is that you somehow sensed that this was what had happened. He wasn’t just someone gone dark side.”
Jason shook his head quickly. “No, I had no idea he was undercover.”
“No, not for sure, but we all thought about it. We found out that Camulus was a Tok’ra, figured that in our world, he was a Tok’ra spy pretending to be Goa’uld and if he’d done that in his world, it was obvious that he’d turned bad. It reminded me of Woods, reminded me of what I could have become, and I think that’s what scares you, too.”
Jason got up from the console and started to walk away but Daniel grabbed his arm and Jack rolled his chair over to block his exit. Jason stared at them pleadingly. “Don’t. I can’t tell you about it.”
“Is it still top secret?” Daniel asked.
“No,” Jason said.
“Jason, for fuck’s sake, if I can do it, so can you,” Jack told him angrily.
“Oh fuck you, too, Jack,” Jason snapped at him and stepped away from them both, ironically heading for the corner, arms crossed, back to them.
Daniel walked up and put both hands on Jason’s shoulders, rubbing, massaging lightly. “It’s eating at you, Jason. Whatever it is, you know damn well we won’t think less of you.” Jason snorted in derisive disbelief. “We won’t.”
Jason sometimes hated that tone in Daniel’s voice. It was one he gave in to. And he did this time, too. Turning to throw a resentful look at him, Jason leaned against the wall, feet braced in front as he partly bent over, looking at his boots. “I was sent out to score information from a drug runner, to find out who his supplier was as well as trap him, get him to put his hands on the money. The only way to gain favor was to take his lieutenant’s place. That meant that I had to become a ruthless bastard.”
Raising his head, he stared at his lovers and they could see the self-hatred and misery in his eyes. “I beat the shit out of people, men and women, and if they needed torturing, I did that, too. I did some shit I’ll never tell you or anyone else, but I will say that I never raped anyone. I was spared that so-called honor.”
“Jesus, Jason,” Daniel whispered emphatically, reaching up to thread his hair and Jason tilted his head, shying away.
“Don’t, Daniel. I don’t deserve pity, sympathy, or forgiveness. I did all that shit for my Special Services bosses and to win the favor of the crime lord so he’d confide in me, so I’d be the one making the money drops and heroin pick-ups and eventually arrange it so he’d do the same. I did my job and I did it well. I got him.”
The dark look on his face said there was something else and Jack and Daniel knew what it was.
“And they found out and got you back, didn’t they?” Daniel said, not needing verification.
Jason nodded. “We’ve all been tortured, brutalized, raped in one form or another.” He looked up at them both and added, “And like both of you, it happened under the influence of a powerful narcotic.” And now, they each knew how, with Jason finally telling them how that had happened. They could only guess with Jack and they weren’t going to ask, leaving it up to him when he would confide.
“If Camulus and Jalen…” Jason began, then shook his head, remembering Jalen’s body over his, pushing him into the floor with brutal, sadistic intensity, enjoying what he’d been doing. “I don’t see how he could suddenly change. Now, I mean. Selmak says a few words and bam, he’s back to normal? I know psychological conditioning can plant control words in the subconscious but…” He shook his head.
“Maybe the Tok’ra have nailed the art of personality alteration,” Daniel offered.
“The only way we’ll find out, Jason, is by asking Jacob about it. Right now, I want you to calm down. You see Jalen as someone who you could have been, right?”
“I was him to a certain point, Jack.”
“No, you weren’t,” Daniel argued. “Jason, this is different.”
“I don’t see how. I hate that he failed himself. It’s hard to watch.”
“And in failing himself,” Jack said, “he’d have failed you.”
Jason blinked at him. “Me? Have you lost touch with your realities?” he asked sarcastically.
Jack hesitated, then said, “Your other self, and by extension, you.”
Jason pinched the bridge of his nose. “Shit, remind me why you hate it when I head shrink?”
Jack grinned, relenting, as he moved forward and put his arms around him, one hand cupping Jason’s head. “Because it’s annoying as hell?”
Jason sighed, taking a deep breath and inhaling Jack’s smell and indulging in the feel of his cheek against his own. Then Daniel’s lips were on his other cheek, leaving a warm, loving kiss and turning his head, Jason reached out and pulled Daniel in, forming one of their three-way hugs. It was a little awkward, considering where they were, so they moved apart.
“Okay, now that the headshrinking is done,” Jason said, “let’s have a look around. If we find a mirror though, how about we not tell anyone and just blow it up?”
“Jason,” Daniel mock-scolded.
“It’s just a suggestion,” Jason replied.
“And not a bad one,” Jack put in.
Daniel rolled his eyes. “Except it’s made out of naquada.”
That quickly put the explosion idea to rest. “Concrete?”
Daniel started laughing, glad that Jason’s sense of humor was returning. “C’mere you,” he said and pulled Jason into his arms for a long kiss. When they broke apart, they found Jack standing there, arms crossed, staring at them. “What?” Daniel asked.
“You done?” Jack asked.
Jason rolled his eyes and walked past, whispering something about jealous pussies. Next thing he knew he was being shoved against the wall, wrists grabbed and pinned while Jack simply pretended to kiss him but kept backing off. “Pussy?” Jack asked. “Do I look like I have one of those?”
Jason looked down, but Jack was so close he got only to his chest and no further. “Not that I can see… or feel,” he said truthfully.
“That’s good,” Jack said, the threatening tone a promise for later. When Daniel suddenly cleared his throat, he pulled away, forcing himself to go slowly, nonchalantly, and turned around to find… no one but Daniel. “Why’d you clear your throat?”
Daniel pointed at the wall, and the two screens print-inlaid into the wall behind Jason. “I think you turned something on.”
Jason and Jack stepped quickly away and the three of them stared at a row of three, two-inch long blinking red lights sitting between the upper and lower rectangular screens. “Could just be ‘improper code’ or something,” Jason suggested.
“Or it could mean, ‘You just hit the bomb switch, dumbass. You’re fucked,'” Jack said. Having given both Eros and Adriann a radio, he pressed the send button. “Eros, this is Jack, come in.”
“We’re on our way,” Eros answered, making Jack look at his radio, then Daniel and Jason in bewilderment. A second later, he caught on and sent out the mental message, The least you could do is tell me you heard me.
I didn’t hear you exactly, but I am sorry for not telling you, came the reply.
Jack rolled his eyes and repeated the message to Daniel and Jason.
Daniel thought about that and said, “You know, Jack, his mental hearing is attuned to me and he probably picked that up. It’s how he knew we were in trouble right after they came through the gate. I don’t think he was invading your space.”
“Maybe,” Jack allowed, “but sometimes he doesn’t exactly tune everyone out, the little eavesdropper.”
“Jack,” Daniel said, gearing up for a scold but then Jack winked at him. Daniel twisted his mouth in a smirk and redirected. Slightly. “That’s sneaky and underhanded and so out of line.”
“Me all over,” Jack answered, giving both men that engaging grin that made Daniel and Jason wish they were at home. A few seconds later, Eros came through the door with Adriann at his heels, bringing any further erotic thoughts to a halt.
“Selmak is staying with Camulus,” Adriann said as Eros looked around with wide eyes. He crossed to their position and noted the dark grey outline of buttons that surrounded the lit ones.
“I thought this stuff was inactive,” Jack said a little defensively.
“Well, we really didn’t want to mess with it,” Daniel said, referring to himself and Sam. “I could read some of it, but that’s all.”
“What did you think this was?” Eros asked, curious, and pressed the three buttons twice. They stopped blinking and shut off, their color returning to the light grey slate of the rest of the wall.
“Well, um,” Daniel said, suddenly nervous at being put on the spot. “A communications center of some sort.” He waved at the walls containing the numerous rectangles. “Combined with these, that’s what some of the words led me to believe.”
Eros nodded absently and crossed the room again, going for the red console that resembled the time machine. Moving to its other side, he looked around the side facing him and touched a nondescript spot. The machine made a humming noise and a yard-wide drawer slid out, forcing Eros to back up. On the drawer’s surface were three rectangular panels; the two on the end were short and the center one, long. Like a keyboard system only the keys were small, colored oblong shapes.
Jason recognized them as similar in design to the room they’d found Eros in. “Control console?”
Eros again nodded absently as he concentrated on the buttons, pressing one, then another, and frowning when nothing happened. With a sigh, he went around to the right side of the machine and touched a spot near the bottom edge. A vertical panel slid out, revealing a set of long, white crystals of various sizes that made everyone think of Goa’uld and Asgard technology. He made a sound of disgust and began rearranging the crystals.
“What’re you doing?” Daniel asked.
“Obviously Baal or one of his people has been messing around in here, trying to get these to work. They’re out of their proper alignment.”
“But wouldn’t the Ancients… sorry, Alterans… have sabotaged this to keep it from being used?” Daniel asked.
“Yes,” Eros replied, but it can be run minimally without all the crystals. One is missing,” and he pointed at a slot much smaller than the others. He switched two more crystals then shut the panel and returned to the keyboard. He pressed the same buttons and the panel lit up. Along with every single panel on the walls. The screens remained blank but their thin grey outlines turned a bright, turquoise blue. He looked up and realized that everyone was looking at him expectantly. “My apologies,” he said sheepishly. “I am so used to working alone.” At the guilty looks, he added, “It was my choice, if you recall.”
“So, what is this?” Jack asked.
“It is what Daniel thought. Its purpose, it seems, was to talk to our colonies in this and other galaxies.” Eyes went round with surprised anticipation but Eros shook his head. “It will no longer function for that purpose since the main power module is missing.”
“That little crystal?” Jack asked.
“No,” Eros said, grinning. “That is only the control crystal for operation of the stones. They would be used for changing galaxy communication but to speak to those galaxies, would require the module I was referring to.”
“Oh,” Jack replied, disappointed. “So in other words, it lights up but doesn’t do anything.”
Daniel traded grins with Jason and Jack said, “What? It’s basically nothing but a pretty set of lights.” Looking at Eros, he asked, “Right?”
Eros shrugged apologetically and then gave Adriann a strangely playful smile. “At least I will not have to move this to my home.”
“And the bad news would be?” Adriann asked, returning the smile.
Eros flicked his gaze between Adriann’s eyes and the show of his canines as he smiled and swallowed against the desire he felt rising within him. He quickly tried to stifle it, lest he inadvertently spread that emotion to others, especially Adriann. He didn’t want to run the risk of receiving attention from the man that wasn’t his idea in the first place.
Swallowing again, he looked away and crossed to the side of the machine, opening the panel again. “I can use these crystals, however, since they are of no use here.”
Adriann moved to his side and held out his hand. Eros looked up, at the offered hand and then Adriann’s face. “Come take a walk outside with me,” he asked.
“A walk?” Eros asked, taking his hand and standing up, but Adriann didn’t let go.
“Yes, outside,” Adriann asked, and tugged gently. His eyes moved to Daniel, almost as if asking permission but more for his blessing. Daniel smiled at him, pleased, and Adriann led Eros out of the room.
Jack smirked at Daniel and Jason. “He moves fast.”
“Doesn’t he just,” Daniel said, “but I don’t think he’s taking Eros for a romp in the grass.”
“Then what?” Jack asked.
Daniel couldn’t help feeling even more pleased. “He’s courting him.”
“How do you know that?” Jason asked.
“I got the emotion from him and I just knew what it meant. Adriann is seriously interested in him. It’s not like he is with me. There’s a connection there. I can’t help but be very relieved and happy for them.”
“Relieved?” Jack asked.
“Yes, Jack,” Daniel said with a tolerant tone. “Relieved. But not because he’ll be interested in someone else and not me but because he’ll have finally found someone who can be there for him. And for Eros, I’m pleased. I don’t like the thought of him being alone.”
“Well, except he’s not, not really, what with those ascended stalking him.”
Daniel made a face. “Yeah, they’re a worry but I think Eros can protect himself, considering what he did to save Adriann’s life.”
Jack looked around him with obvious disappointment. “Well, this room’s a bust. When Eros comes back, he’s gonna have to do something with that mirror.”
“Don’t tell me you want to check out alternate realities,” Jacob said, coming through the door.
“Hell, no,” Jack replied, grimacing. “He tell you where the mirror was?”
Jacob pointed behind him. “In a small room down one these maze-like corridors. He can lead us to it when the time comes. Baal kept the room locked for obvious reasons.”
“Damn thing needs to be buried in cement or something similar. Nasty invention, that thing.” At Daniel’s look, Jack added, “Except for the one time it proved useful, but it nearly cost you your life.”
Daniel jogged his eyebrows, conceding that point. “So what’s up?” he asked Jacob.
“Selmak’s debriefed some of what the Tok’ra need,” and he held up a recording device that looked like a very wide pen. “I’ll give him time to acclimate back into himself, remember who and what he is. In the meantime, I’d like to have a look at those ships. If you’d like to join me?”
Jack perked up, looking smug, then gave Jacob and warning look. “Just don’t get any ideas.”
“Who? Me?” Jacob asked.
“How is he, really?” Jason interrupted suddenly.
Jacob blinked and Selmak spoke, her tone consoling. “He will be fine, Jason, but it will take him a long road before he gets there.”
“Thanks,” Jason nodded, thinking.
Jack gave him a curious look that Jason didn’t see and turned to Daniel. “How about you come with us to look at ships?”
Daniel knew what he was trying to do but he wouldn’t have it. “That’s okay, Jack. You go see your new toys.”
“You haven’t seen them yet?” Jacob asked, surprised. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Funny,” Jack replied, and with a final look over his shoulder, left the room with Jacob.
Daniel watched Jason brood for a minute before asking, “I’ll wait upstairs.”
Jason looked up, startled. “What?” he asked, then looked a bit annoyed at being caught out. He sighed, thinking it over. “I don’t expect you to hang around and wait, Daniel.”
“I would, actually, like you to find Alex and explain to him what’s happened… as much as you can explain, anyway. Doesn’t erase what happened but…” He paused, thinking over his words, trying to pin-point what he needed. “I want you to explain because it can’t come from me. Does that make sense?”
“Actually, it does.”
“And one other thing. I also think he’s more willing to forgive than I am and I know it’s because of his feelings for me.”
Daniel’s brow line went up. “You think he’ll forgive him that quickly?”
Jason nodded slowly, eyes going unfocused as he thought. “He’s surprised me before with his generous feelings. Sometimes he’s held a grudge, stayed angrier longer than he should have.” Looking into Daniel’s eyes, he grinned knowingly. “With you, for instance.”
Daniel remembered Alex’s protective anger a few years before. “Right. So in other words, if it’s against you or someone else he loves, he tends to stay angry, but if it’s about himself, he forgives easier?”
“That’s about the size of it. Doesn’t exactly say much about what he’ll do since Jalen injured everyone, including Alex.”
Daniel took Jason’s hand and pulled him against him, wrapping his free arm around his neck. Taken by surprise, Jason smiled, almost shyly, which made Daniel grin in a secret victory he didn’t bother to keep to himself. “That’s what I wanted,” he said quietly, touching his nose to Jason’s.
“That all you wanted?” Jason asked as he angled his head slightly, brushing his lips teasingly against Daniel’s.
Doing so made Daniel’s pulse quicken. His breath becoming shallow, he inhaled with the sudden shakiness of restrained action as he returned the favor, teasing Jason’s lips with the barest touch and no more. When Jason wet his lips, catching Daniel’s just enough to make him groan his name, Daniel inhaled sharply and lost it, giving in to his desire as he kissed Jason deeply. Seeking out that tongue, he battled with it, lost gladly, and battled again. Winning this time.
Daniel could feel Jason weaken slightly under his hold, a familiar signal that if they didn’t knock it off, they’d be on the floor. Groaning at being in the wrong place, though not necessarily the wrong time, he pulled out of the kiss.
“Do me a favor?” he asked, stealing a quick, light kiss that Jason stole back for much longer.
“Anything,” Jason breathed against him.
Daniel pulled back enough to look him in the eyes without going cross-eyed. “Be careful and keep your anger in check. I’ll be a radio away if you need me.”
“How about we forget everything for the next hour and go find us a bed?”
The image made Daniel’s cock fill a little more and he groaned in complaint. “Jason.”
“What?” Jason replied, giving him a mischievous smile. When he saw that it wasn’t going to work, at least for now, he sighed. “You started it, you know.”
“I know,” Daniel drawled with resignation. “But rain check later.”
“Will you tie me to the bed?” Jason asked, unable to help himself, and chuckled delightfully when Daniel shoved him away and backhanded his chest just before he swept out of the room.
Brought back down to depressing reality, Jason made his way to the interrogation room. It didn’t take him as long as he’d thought and he found himself pausing unprepared, just outside the doorway. “Fuck it,” he told himself and stepped inside.
He’d expected Camulus to be lying down, perhaps asleep from the emotional fatigue, but was surprised to find him sitting on the edge of the bed, elbows resting on his knees and resting chin on closed fists.
Camulus looked up as he took another step. “You are the last person I expected to come see me.”
Taken aback, Jason moved forward, noting with some alarm that the forcefield wasn’t on. He made a mental note to chastise Selmak and Jacob later. Curious, he asked, “Who did you expect?”
Camulus shifted, dropping his hands between his knees. His gaze was on the wall across from him, not on Jason, when he answered. “Daniel. Maybe Jack.”
Jason didn’t need to ask why. Daniel was more open-minded, more curious, and Jack was just the same, only with a little more suspicion. “And Alex?” he asked, deliberately, and was rewarded–if he could call it that and he wasn’t so sure he wanted to–when Camulus flinched.
“On second thought,” he said, “you are the second-to-last person I expected to come see me.”
Jason looked about him, wishing for a regular chair he could sit in backwards and rest his arms over the back. He settled on the large, upholstered foot stool he’d chosen earlier and sat down, unconsciously copying the way Camulus was sitting. When he caught the similarity, he stood up and moved to the wall that bordered Camulus’ bed. He leaned against it, crossing his arms, and realized another similarity. They were both facing the same direction.
He didn’t move again, stubbornly staying put and telling himself to get over it. Jason waited, not saying anything at first as he looked at the floor, the furniture, the empty space and bed that had once held Baal. He was trying to figure out what exactly he wanted to talk about first because the problem wasn’t a lack of topic. It was choosing one to start off with.
He had a feeling that sooner or later, they’d argue, and with the forcefield down, it might just turn into a fight. The memory of both of them holding onto each other’s throats came into sharp relief in his mind. And like it or not, it decided the first question.
“Would you have killed me?” he said quietly, hoping his tone didn’t come across as emotional, despite the turmoil inside.
Camulus shook his head. “No. I could have, I suppose, but there was no wish to.”
Annoyed, Jason asked, “It wasn’t you, Camulus. It was Jalen.” He stared at him, distrust rising suddenly. “Or was it you all along?”
Camulus froze, but still did not look at him. “At no time did I prohibit him from speaking when he wished.”
“Or acting as he wished?” Jason prodded.
Camulus sighed wearily. “Yes.”
“Then have him answer my question. Would he have killed me?”
Camulus was silent a moment, then shook his head. “His answer is the same as mine.”
“Not good enough.”
“What do you want?” he asked, the weariness increasing.
“Atonement,” Jason snapped, and half a second later, gaped in surprise at himself because it wasn’t what he’d intended to say and he had to backtrack in a hurry to figure out where the hell that answer had come from. Did his mean Jalen’s atonement or his own? Or both, perhaps.
“Atonement,” Camulus repeated sadly. “That is not something we can ever have.”
“People forgive, Camulus.”
“Let me clarify. It is not something we can ever give ourselves.”
Jason understood that and knew that Camulus and Jalen didn’t think he did. Still, he avoided explaining by pressing the question again. “Why won’t he talk to me?” No answer. “Too much of a coward?”
Camulus jerked, shifting again, this time enough to look at him. “Yes.”
“Why won’t you look at me?”
“Same answer,” Camulus said quietly.
“That’s too easy an answer,” Jason said, anger rising but not enough to inspire violence. Still, he pushed off the wall and came forward, gently kicking the foot stool across the floor until it rested a yard or so directly in front of Camulus. He sat down, leaning forward with his arms on his knees. “If you want to pull the pity party, go right ahead, but wait till after I’m gone. For now, give me honest answers, not some self-serving shit you’re already good at.”
Camulus stood up quickly, fists bunching as he glared down at Jason. Jason had expected the move and leaned back enough to look up at Camulus with an arrogant tilt to his head.
“You’ve no right,” Camulus accused, voice quiet but seething with outrage. “You have no idea–“
Jason stood quickly, kicking back the foot stool, bringing him face-to-face with Camulus. It was a little unsettling to see how exactly matched they were in height. “And you have no basis on which to assume that.” Camulus was taken aback but the anger in his eyes hadn’t receded. Jason decided to enlighten him instead of playing the game of information keep-away. “I’ve been there,” he said slowly. “I have been undercover and I’ve acted the way I was meant to in order to achieve the mission objective. I know how hard it is to get caught up in the role.”
“You have no idea how different this was.”
Jason inclined his head. “I have some idea, given the code word Selmak used on you. You were programmed and not in complete control of your actions so you couldn’t be found out as a traitor. But are you aware that Baal knew anyway and used your programming against you?”
Camulus looked down, struggling with his words. “I didn’t, not until Selmak told me that Baal had killed my counterpart.” He suddenly laughed, contemptuously, and looked up.
Jason was startled and disturbed to find mist in Camulus’ eyes, not just the anger.
“I was undercover, as Selmak surmised, but I was escaping Anubis, not Baal. Just before I’d found the mirror and escaped here, Baal had gone to war with Anubis. He was killed and I was captured, tortured, and nearly broken. I was to undergo some new interrogation toy that Anubis had gotten his hands on but I found a hole in his lax security and escaped. A lesson in never underestimating your enemy. I came here and Baal’s Jaffa discovered me in the room where the mirror was placed.” Speaking more slowly, with emphasis, he added, “They hadn’t even known it was there.” When Jason didn’t respond, he went on.
“I was thrown in a cell and left for two days. When I never exhibited the effects of entropic cascade failure, I knew that my counterpart was dead. When Baal finally came to me, he gave me a choice.”
“Die or serve him,” Jason said.
“Yes,” Camulus answered quietly. “Maybe you think I should have chosen to die but–“
“I didn’t say that. I’m not judging you for those decisions,” Jason told him, “but on actions made toward us.”
Camulus sat back down without a word and Jason moved back to the foot stool he’d kicked a few feet away, not bothering to close the distance like before.
“How did you know Alex’s counterpart?” he asked. Camulus didn’t answer and Jason sighed with annoyance. “You gave him a lot of your time so you must have known him in your universe.”
“How did you arrive at that?”
“The… familiar way you looked at him. And me, for that matter.”
Camulus dropped his chin to his chest, closing his eyes. “Jason was Jalen’s brother. Alex was Jalen’s lover. Both were killed not long after Jalen became my host.”
“How long ago?” Jason asked, feeling a pull of dread come over him.
“How long has he been your host?”
“Almost three years.”
“Jason, what do you want?” Camulus interrupted, startling Jason as he looked up, eyes filled with something Jason didn’t want to see. He wanted to see the justification for his anger. And it wasn’t there anymore. “Do want me, us, to say we’re sorry? Would it mean anything to you? Would it matter? Well, just in case it does, we’re sorry. Both of us wish we had never done those things to you, Alex, Daniel, and Jack. Most of all, to Alex. But we did them and have to live with it. Neither of us expects your forgiveness or your understanding. Now, maybe you should just go.”
Jason regarded him, stunned. He hadn’t expect that, nor could he explain to himself why. He also couldn’t explain the sudden absence of most of his outrage, his need for revenge. His still felt the urge to smack Jalen for what he’d done, but Camulus… was no longer any part of his anger.
Getting up, he moved over and squatted in front of Camulus, allowing incidental contact and surprising the hell out of Camulus. “Thanks for saying,” he said calmly. “I’m man enough to acknowledge it and accept your apology, but only for myself, not the others. Now, please excuse the rudeness, but…” Jason paused, staring hard into the man’s dark eyes. “Jalen,” he said with quiet emphasis. “Do you agree with what Camulus just said?”
Camulus closed his eyes, as if he were tired, and then opened them again. His expression made it seem as if he were searching Jason’s face for signs of lying. He must have found something unexpected because his eyes widened slightly before he dropped his gaze.
“Yes,” he whispered, voice harsh with emotional edge. He seemed as if he wanted to say more but nothing came out.
Jason watched him carefully, looking for signs of duplicity. It could just be Camulus acting for him, but Jason decided it wasn’t. “Though I’m not the one you should be apologizing to.”
“I know that, but he won’t listen to me… and I wouldn’t blame him.”
“He will anyway, and I think we both know that.”
“Why are you listening?” Jalen asked, lifting his eyes, purposely hardening his tone. “I’m still the same person, whether I’m sorry or not. I’m quite capable of doing those things even now.”
“Yes, you are,” Jason replied. “As am I. But there’s a difference between then and now.”
“What’s that?” Jalen asked, “apart from being rid of the programming?”
“Would you return to that person if the Tok’ra ordered you to?”
“If I do, I want you to kill me,” Jalen said fervently as he looked away.
Jason stared at him, not understanding what he’d heard. Not the killing part but that Jalen had said it. He thought it had simply been Camulus who wanted to die.
“Part of me doubts that, because what happened wasn’t that long past. I want to believe you’re different, that what you feel is guilt and remorse and that you’re not just trying to–“
“Stop psychoanalyzing me,” Jalen said tiredly, “I’m so tired of you doing that all the…”
Jalen cut himself off, grimacing at his words, but as Jason stared harder, he realized that the grimace wasn’t in distaste but in pain. He then realized that for a moment, Jalen had thought he was his brother and had used an oft-repeated complaint. From the past. He didn’t know what to say and pushed away the urge to deny that he was indeed analyzing a patient.
“Promise me,” Jalen whispered.
Jason suddenly moved forward and knelt on one knee, taking one of Jalen’s hands, squeezing it hard. Jalen squeezed back.
“I’m serious,” he said.
Jason didn’t understand what he was doing or exactly why he wasn’t filled with rage anymore, but the overwhelming need to show him that he cared about what happened to him–and had all along–seemed paramount. And to make a promise like that was one step toward forgiveness. “I promise.”
They were silent for a bit then Jason asked, “Why you?” At the puzzled look, he amended, “Sorry, I mean, why did you decide to blend with a Tok’ra? And why Camulus? What happened to his previous host?”
“His previous host, Elkar, was killed during a random ‘cleansing’ attack on one of the worlds that Anubis was taking over. He’d kill everyone and replace them with his own slaves and Jaffa. Elkar was severely wounded with another Tok’ra but they managed to make it to a pre-arranged rescue site and sent a signal through the gate.
“Rescue came while I was talking to the Tok’ra. Elkar died before Camulus could relay his information. I volunteered to be host to get the rest of the information, knowing full well that it was on a permanent basis because Camulus was also injured. He was in no shape to transfer again and would have died if he tried.”
“That doesn’t explain why you were talking to the Tok’ra in the first place.”
Jalen’s jaw started working again as despairing feelings welled up inside. “I wasn’t in the military but I wanted to help fight in the war. My brother and Alex were already going off to fight and told me to stay hidden, to work with the underground in case things went to shit more than they already were. I said I wanted more active participation. I wasn’t going to sit back and do nothing.
“My brother and I had a huge fight about it but he understood why I did it. He just didn’t like the Tok’ra all that well because he’d been betrayed by a rogue. As for Alex and I… well, he was pissed because I didn’t consult him. We still hadn’t resolved things when I blended with Camulus. We were going to get together and talk about it when Jason left on a mission across the mountain and Alex left to join him. We never got together, never got things straightened out. Both were killed two days later.”
“I’m sorry,” Jason told him, meaning it.
Jalen could see he meant it, but guilt and shame colored his cheeks when he said, “Thanks, but it’s not necessary. I’m glad they’re gone so they don’t have to hear about the horrors I’ve done or witness what’s happened to our universe. They got off easy. Me, I’ve been sentenced to life in prison, in a hell of both someone else’s making and my own. I wish I’d…”
“Died with them,” Jason finished.
Jalen didn’t say anything and Jason didn’t push or try to dissuade the thinking. He understood it. All too well.
Outside the fortress, two hundred yards southwest of the gate, Daniel found Alex engrossed in the survey, digital pen in hand, making notes in the palm pilot. When Alex looked up, he smiled in surprise, then frowned.
“Nothing’s wrong, is it?” he asked.
“No, no, relax,” Daniel said quickly as he walked through the ankle high scrub grass, some of it taller but with stems blown flat by the wind.
“So what’s up?” Alex asked. “You get bored?”
“No, I’ve left the others to their preferred tasks,” Daniel answered, updating him where everyone was. “As for Jason… I left him to talk to Camulus.”
Alex stared at him in shock. “He’s talking to him?”
“Unbelievable, I know,” Daniel nodded, “but I came out here to explain why that is and what’s happened.”
“What? That Baal escaped? I know that. Ophius told me.”
“Where is he, anyway?”
Alex pointed to the southeast. “Other side. We split up in sections and I got the west, southwest, and part of the south. So something else is going on? What?”
“I’m going to assume that Adriann relayed information to Ophius. Did he tell you about what happened when Jacob met with Camulus?”
Alex’s eyes widened. “No, why?”
Daniel sighed. “Let’s find a place to sit down and talk.”
Puzzled and worried, Alex pointed to the far side of the field edging the surrounding forest. “There’s a cool-looking set of stone circles over here, with what look like benches, we could sit there.”
Daniel’s brow line rose. “And you didn’t call me?”
Alex snorted with amusement. “Daniel, seriously. You have a real live Ancient here. There’s nothing to decipher or figure out. Besides, there’s no writing on it. It’s looks like a designer park.”
“A what?” Daniel asked, feeling miffed anyway that he hadn’t been called. Okay, it was something less to catalogue and study, but he liked to study the artifacts, not just uncovering the puzzle; it was why he had taken the job. The puzzle might not be necessary anymore but it’d be fun to figure it out anyway and have Eros verify or disprove.
“A designer park. It’s three, wide interlocking rings of stone lying flat, like a cut-out, I guess, and kinda shaped like that three-leaf clover.”
“Yeah, kinda like that. Each circle has a curved bench. In the middle is a depression filled in with stone at the bottom. I thought that maybe it was small pond for fish, maybe a fountain or a set of lights or something. At least, that’s what we’d do, don’t know about the Ancients… Alteran’s.” He rolled his eyes. “It’s gonna take a while to get used to them having an actual name.”
“Tell me about it.”
As they approached the stones, Daniel saw they were exactly as Alex described them, except he’d omitted the size. They were huge, each ring perhaps fifty feet across, though with the interlocks allowing the two bottom rings to cross, the entire stone structure was perhaps eighty feet in all directions. “Nice, Alex,” he told him as he sat down on the nearest bench.
With a deep breath, he said, “Okay, here’s the thing,” and he explained everything that had happened with Camulus, his eidetic memory allowing him to repeat what was said. Alex had been standing at the beginning of his story but by the end, he was on the middle bench thirty or so feet away.
“Shit,” Alex said softly, his voice belying his emotional turmoil. If Jalen had been so screwed up by the undercover personality, but still away and in control of his actions, who was it who had drugged him? And would he even be questioning this had Jalen actually penetrated him and tried that erotic asphyxia on him? The memory of that moment send a shudder through Alex that wasn’t altogether unpleasant and that fact made him shudder again, this time with a horrible guilt. With a deep frown, he asked, “So what’s this mean exactly?”
Surprised, Daniel asked, “I’m sorry?”
Daniel still didn’t get it and got up. Sitting down next to him, he said, “You’ll have to be more specific, Alex.”
“Specific?” Alex asked, partly sarcastic. “Well, okay. Is he guilty? Is he not guilty? Did he do those things to me, to us, to god knows who else, of his own free will? There are several other questions I want answers to. Mostly, I need to make up my mind if the answers are worth talking to him.”
“You’ll never know till you ask, I guess.”
Alex swallowed, nodding. “But what if I want to ask certain questions but… I can’t make myself ask them?”
Again, Daniel was puzzled. “What do you mean?”
Alex waggled the palm pilot. “I could have been done with this inside half an hour. But I’ve needed the air, the space to think. It hasn’t been about getting away from Jalen, but trying to understand what happened.”
“Understand what happened? I think it’s pretty clear, Alex.”
“No, I mean… all of it, including the bit where Jalen had me in his room, what he was doing to me, what he thought would turn me on.”
“Thought?” Daniel asked slowly. “Are you saying he thought you’d like being choked?”
“I don’t know,” Alex said, shaking his head. “Maybe because of the other Alex he knew.”
Daniel watched the color rise in Alex’s cheeks and felt for him. “Wanna talk about it?”
“About Jalen?” Alex asked and Daniel gave him a nod. “Not about him, not really.”
“Okay, then what else is on your mind?”
Sucking in a breath and telling himself to just plunge in, Alex said, “Okay, first, what do you think about this interesting news with Camulus and Jalen?”
“What do I think?” Daniel asked, surprised.
“Yeah, what do you think?” Alex asked.
Daniel sighed. “You really wanna know?”
“It’s why I asked,” Alex replied sarcastically.
With a thoughtful sigh, Daniel said, “It’s fucked up what happened to them. They sent them in without backup and left him to rot. It’s what the Tok’ra do all the time and I’m not a fan of it. I mean, I know why they do it, and why they think it’s necessary, but I don’t think I could ever sacrifice someone like that. I know from the look on Jacob’s face that he and Selmak feel like shit about it.”
“I guess they did what they thought they had to do,” Alex replied.
“Doesn’t make it right.”
“No, it doesn’t. I guess what I’m getting at, Daniel, is… does it affect your opinion about them? Camulus and Jalen, I mean?”
Daniel chewed at his lip, then gave Alex a guilty look. “I wish it didn’t but yes, it does. It blurs the lines, makes me doubt his–their–responsibility. I want them to take the blame, even though the blame falls mostly on Baal.” He paused then went in an exasperated tone. “However, it doesn’t excuse what Jalen did and said because he wasn’t acting according to a script. What he did to you, what he did to us in that room, what we saw him take from Baal, he did because he liked it.”
Daniel cringed, hating the memory. He felt defiled. “Jalen’s not owning up though. Actually, he’s not saying anything at all. It’s Camulus. He’s admitted responsibility, as he should, and expects punishment. Problem is… Selmak said he’s trying to take the blame because of the immense guilt and because of that, I don’t think the Tok’ra will punish him.”
“Do you think he should take the blame, be punished?” Alex asked, understanding Selmak’s dilemma. And the blurring of lines.
“Not all of it, no,” Daniel answered. “And you? What do you think?”
Alex didn’t know and shook his head to indicate it. “I want to beat the shit out of him but what would that accomplish? It would punish, corporally anyway, but there’s no point now. He’s not the same, right?”
Daniel shrugged. “If he is, he’s pulling a damn good acting job.”
“I can’t even imagine putting myself in his position but right now, I have mixed feelings.”
“So… you said first. What’s the second thing?” Daniel asked.
“Second…” Alex said and cleared his throat. He looked at Daniel, the blush still on his cheeks, and wondered whether or not he should say it. Thing was, if he talked to anyone about this, it’d have to be Daniel since he knew Jason’s sexual likes and dislikes more than he did. “I felt some things, when Jalen and I were alone.”
“That you liked?” Daniel asked slowly.
“Yeah,” Alex admitted. “And I’m confused about them. I don’t want to get into it, Daniel. Not… well, with you.”
Daniel grinned a little. “Okay, I can see that. We’ve been intimate but not physically so…”
“So Jason is the one I want to talk to… experiment with.”
“Experiment?” Daniel asked.
“Yeah, it’s… is Jason open to experimentation?”
Daniel snorted. “He loves bondage and other kinks, Alex. What do you think?”
“I know that, Daniel, but what I meant was whether or not he’s into role play, or would be willing to use it to help me find out some things.”
Grinning, Daniel gave him a secretive smile. “I think so. So why’re you asking me? Couldn’t you have simply asked Jason?”
Alex rubbed the palms of his hands on his knees, annoyed that he was now sweating nervously. “I needed an objective opinion. Jason’s opinion about me isn’t, and it definitely isn’t where Jalen is concerned.”
“Gotcha,” Daniel said with complete understanding.
Alex nodded appreciatively, then copied Daniel’s earlier chewing at his lip, including the guilt. “There is one more thing I wanted to talk to you about.”
Curious, Daniel gestured with his hand. “Go ahead.”
“It’s about you.”
Alex winced. “Sorry, I mean, it’s about Jason being with me.”
Sensing the anxiety, he signaled him with an impatient ‘give me’ gesture. “Out with it, Alex.”
“I don’t know how you do it, Daniel.”
“Allow Jason to be with me. Not just as a one-off but as a continued relationship.”
Daniel’s frown wore deep lines between his brows as he wondered how the hell Alex could come up with that. “Alex, I don’t allow anything. Jason’s free to do as he wishes. He’s a grown man and my lover, not my kid–and ew.” Alex grinned, despite himself and Daniel’s frown lessened slightly. “Listen to me, Alex. If I’m uncomfortable with something, I let him know, but I want him happy. And if being with you does that, then I’ll learn to be okay with it. I thought you knew all this.”
“So did I, and I’ve been trying to understand it, but I can’t, Daniel, I’m sorry.”
“Understanding what? Loving more than one partner?”
“Ah. Well, how do you feel about Jack?”
“I like him, respect him, love him in a way but I’m not ‘in love’ with him.”
“Oh, I see,” Daniel said, the light dawning. He’d thought of all kinds of love, not one specific sort. “You wonder how you can be ‘in love’ with more than one person.”
“Exactly. How’d that happen?”
“I have no fucking clue, Alex, so I can’t help you.”
Alex gave him a ‘you’re not helping’ look and Daniel couldn’t help returning it with a cheeky, if apologetic smirk. “Sorry. I really can’t explain how it happened or why I didn’t question it or make a choice. Fact is, I chose them both. I’ve loved Jack for a long time and have been in love with him, off and on, for as long. Jason I loved as a friend and when we started our sexual relationship, I wasn’t in love with him. That happened a few weeks or months later.” When Alex gave him a puzzled look, Daniel made him grin, saying, “I wasn’t crossing off the days on a calendar. I really don’t know how long, but it wasn’t long. One day, I was just in love with him, like I was with Jack.”
“And were they with you?” Alex asked, suddenly wondering that, too.
“Of course,” Daniel replied. “I don’t know when though. I never asked because it wasn’t important. I just know that they love me.” He suddenly rolled his eyes, shaking his head after. “I also know that each of them thinks that I love the other one more but they won’t dare confront me with it because they don’t want to know. It’s also unfair to ask me and they know that, too. They’re wrong, of course. I love them both and couldn’t possibly choose, because if I could have, I wouldn’t have started this trio in the first place.”
Alex made a face. “I think you hit it on the nose. If I made Jason choose, he’d choose you.”
Daniel frowned with alarm. “Why the hell would you do that?”
Looking off in the distance, he said, “I wouldn’t. I don’t want to hear it, even though I know the truth.”
“Alex, that’s the problem. Stop thinking of who loves who more because it is not a contest and it’s unfair to everyone involved, including me.” He reached out and cupped Alex’s jaw. “He loves you. That’s all you need, because if it isn’t…”
Alex nodded, his eyes unusually bright with emotion. “I know. It’s just that I feel this dread periodically, waiting for our relationship to end and to go back to being just friends. I’m waiting for the day when you have decided that you won’t share him anymore.”
Daniel sighed with regret. “Alex, I’m sorry, but you’re looking at it wrong.”
“Excuse me?” Alex asked, surprised and defensive.
“As long as Jason wants to be with you, I won’t deny him.” Alex made a face and Daniel pulled his hand back. “What?”
“I’m sorry, Daniel, but you’re sounding like a saint.”
Daniel barked out a laugh and at Alex’s scowl, quickly apologized. “I’m very sorry, Alex, I’m not laughing at you. It’s just so funny. I’m hardly a saint where Jack and Jason are concerned. What makes you think that?”
“Don’t you ever get jealous?”
Daniel laughed again, this time with more self-deprecation. “Yes, Alex. I get jealous.” He took in a breath and blew it out slowly. “It’s not often, and when I do, it’s not out of insecurity because I know they love me and would never hurt me. I get… very protective and possessive.” He took another breath and stared at the ground between them, using it absently as focus tool before he looked back into Alex’s face. “See, I don’t want to share them. I want them all to myself.” He gave Alex a long look. “I don’t want Jason spending his time with you because I want him to myself.” When Alex turned red and started to get up, Daniel stopped him. “No, you asked and I’m telling you the truth. You knew it, too, or wouldn’t have asked.”
Alex reluctantly nodded. “I know.”
“Now, hear me again, Alex. Jason’s his own person. What he wants, who he wants, is up to him. Our relationship is based on openness. It has to be. And if I have to share him for a while, with you, to make him happy, I’ll do that. Doesn’t mean I’m crazy about it, but I love him very much, Alex. I’ll do anything for him. Got it?”
Alex nodded tensely, then gave out a loud sigh. “Stupid question, wasn’t it?”
Daniel held his hands in his, giving him a warm smile. “No. Needed to be said. So, are you okay about it, even with what I said?”
Alex stared at their hands thoughtfully, then shrugged. “Time will tell. I’ll try to make him happy is all I can say. Even if I know he’s trying to push me into finding someone else.”
“That’s his ‘I’m only doing what’s good for you’ act.”
“I know, and I wish he’d move the fuck on because it’s getting old.” He gave Daniel a long, measured look. “Daniel, what if I don’t find someone else? At least, not for a long time?”
Daniel closed his eyes and sucked in a deep breath, letting it out very slowly. When he opened his eyes, they were on their hands, and he couldn’t look at Alex when he said, “Then I’ll learn to live with it.”
“Other guys would give Jason an ultimatum or walking papers.”
“Other guys aren’t in a polyamorous relationship.”
“Being in a relationship, in a traditional pairing or not, isn’t a case study of who owns who, but a lot of guys think it is. I’m not perfect but I sure as hell know what love means when I have it, and love does not mean Manipulation 101. It just so happens that Jason and Jack know that, too.”
“You cannot tell me you don’t have possessiveness issues.”
“I won’t,” Daniel grinned, “but you know what I’m talking about.”
“Yeah, I know,” Alex answered.
“Love isn’t a game and I take it seriously, just as Jason and Jack do, just as you do. You just have to learn to open your heart to more in order to accept this, and I think you have.”
“You love Jason, but you’re able to freely love Ophius, right?”
Alex abruptly blushed. “Yeah, I guess I am,” he said, thinking it over, then gave Daniel a look of disgust.
“Do you always have to be right?”
Daniel barked out an incredulous laugh. “No. What in hell makes you think that?”
“Well, maybe because you have this really annoying habit of being right a lot of the time.”
“Maybe, but it doesn’t mean I have to be.”
“Okay, okay, let me rephrase. Are you always right?”
“That’s equally ludicrous.”
Alex rolled his eyes at him. “Daniel, you know what I mean.”
Daniel sighed. “No, you know damn well I’m not always right. Who the hell is?” He then grinned cheekily. “But it helps to get my way when I am.”
Alex laughed and cuffed him hard on the shoulder blade. “Asshole.”
“Yeah, I’m that, too.”
The main corridor of the fortress, which began at the great hall, led through the structure and branched off in all directions. Some went to the entertainment rooms, some to private room, others to the security office, to the immense hangar, to Baal’s suite. Eros and Adriann took their time walking down that main corridor, inspecting where it led, until they found the exit at the south of the building.
It opened onto a large stone-cut veranda, which led to a structure similar in style to the temple on Eros’ planet: a thickly columned rotunda, but without the obelisk at the center. Led to by a long sidewalk, this rotunda–and what Jack probably would have called a rich man’s gazebo, was furnished with plushly padded divans and benches and ornately carved tables. The walls were made of a frosted glassy material to keep out the weather and Eros had recognized it on first sight.
Though not that particular building, he knew what it was and had pulled Adriann along like a boyfriend showing off his home. Adriann had been delighted, and even more so when Eros touched a small panel by the entrance and the partitioned glass enclosure receded, letting in the warm breeze.
He’d listened attentively as Eros talked about his family, about what it felt like going into stasis and waking up several millennia later, about meeting Jason and the others. But as he’d listened, he’d also watched, and the longer he looked at Eros, the more certain he became that he want to see Eros on a permanent basis.
As the minutes stretched into an hour plus, Adriann tried to think up a way to broach the subject. He didn’t try to read Eros’ mind, not wanting to risk hurting him again, but there were things his mind and empathy picked up without trying. Eros was a cautious man. Perhaps overly so. Seclusion and loneliness might force him to resist the offer of a relationship, especially with someone he didn’t know.
Adriann didn’t want to spook him, but that was due to his own wariness of how Eros felt about what he was. While he’d shown interest earlier, that might have been morbid or scientific curiosity and fascination, not genuine erotic feelings. He couldn’t broach the subject of intimacy and bonding without knowing exactly how Eros felt. And therein lay the problem.
Adriann was tongue-tied. He hadn’t felt this way in a long, long time and it was unnerving. He should be able to talk to Eros like he could talk to Daniel, but he was finding out how absurdly self-conscious he was where Eros was concerned. The man needed to understand–Adriann needed him to understand–that blood, and the taking of it, was part of who he was… and part of what making love with him usually entailed.
But how to bring it up? The setting was good, in that they were alone and had privacy, sitting next to each other on a long divan that was tilted for reclining. The divan was so comfortable in fact that Adriann kept wanting to recline and pull Eros down on top of him. If Eros were anyone else, Adriann could do what he wanted; could use his hypnotic tone and make Eros his. But he couldn’t, wouldn’t, use the ways he was used to. Eros was different, so the usual methods had to be, too.
Except one thing stood in the way. Getting to the talking part, where Eros accepted him, accepted his proposal, and then they could get on with the sensations of giving each other pleasure.
Why do you do this to yourself? came Talen’s voice, both startling him then calming him, her constant feeling of reassurance a boon. Ask him, my sweet. Just ask him. He will say yes.
I don’t know. You don’t know.
I know you are afraid, my brother, but worrying about it when you can bring it to an end is silly. Do it, Adriann, and you will know.
Perhaps, but I do not know if–
Do it or I will.
If the conversation had been out loud, Adriann would have barked a short laugh. Don’t you dare, Talen. She didn’t answer him again but he could feel her distant laughter, and that ever-present support.
Eros sensed the mirth, and watching him intently, was confused by the wide range of quickly passing emotions, from amusement to love to apprehension. All tinged with the erotic. He wondered what was going on but quickly surmised that Adriann must be talking to someone. Irrationally, Eros was annoyed and jealous for the intrusion.
Adriann had something on his mind, Eros knew that for certain. He’d learned other things from their long talk, but they were the sort of things left unsaid, left to his empathy ability to discover. What he’d gleaned was that Adriann wasn’t afraid of much, the least of which was sexual rejection. He was extremely confident about himself, which was amusing since Eros was feeling the same way. It seemed that the problem was that Adriann was afraid of his rejection of what he was, which made no sense to him. So, in Eros’ experience, getting to the truth of the matter was the best course.
“Why do you believe I will reject you?” he asked gently. When Adriann didn’t respond, Eros sighed with a combination of amusement and annoyance. He reached out and took one of Adriann’s hands. “Adriann, you are not listening.”
Adriann snapped his head up, realizing that he’d been staring at Eros’ hands, not listening to what he had to say but to his own internal voice. Clearing his throat, he said, “Forgive me. What were you saying?”
Eros smiled forgiveness. “I said, why do you believe I will reject you?”
Ignoring the shock, Eros pressed on. “There is no need, Adriann. I do not fear you, or what you are.” Adriann stared at him in such astonishment that Eros couldn’t help but grin. “Yes, Adriann, you heard me correctly. I do not fear you.”
Adriann felt a knot inside him uncoiling; not completely, because Eros was speaking from assumption, not fact, but his words answered several questions and the most important one had been answered: Eros was accepting him, his promise of love, and at the very least, the end of solitude. Before Adriann would acknowledge and accept the response, he had to make sure Eros fully understood.
“You do not know me,” he said. “Once you do, you may rescind your opinion.”
“I do not believe so,” Eros said confidently, amused even more that Adriann was testing him, trying to frighten him away. “It will not work.”
“What?” Adriann asked, lifting his chin belligerently. “To warn you off?” It was Eros’ turn to look surprised and Adriann smirked expectantly. “I’m a telepath with similar abilities, Eros. I know what you’re doing.”
“Then why do it?” Eros countered playfully.
“Because… how shall I put this… you do not understand who I am.”
“Then tell me,” Eros told him, a teasing tone in his voice. “You purposely showed me those fangs of yours, and were you not surprised when I did not run away?”
“Do not make fun. You need to know,” Adriann growled, tightening his hold in Eros’ hand. He was then surprised when Eros’ returned it.
“I am not making fun of you, I promise. Now, what do I need to know?” Eros asked, his tone remaining playful.
“Do not mock me,” Adriann warned again.
“I am not,” Eros replied emphatically. “And now you are not listening to me. You need to understand that whatever the future brings, I will not fear you. What must I do to have you believe me?”
Adriann frowned at him, confused and alarmed at the sudden intimacy that the decision had already been made without their ever having talked about it. They were going to be together. Except… Adriann felt manipulated, even if he’d been doing it to himself. Some things needed to be spoken aloud, he told himself stubbornly, then tightened his grip on Eros’ hand so much it became painful. Irrationally annoyed that Eros showed no outward sign, he grabbed the back of his neck with his free hand and parted his lips, lengthening his fangs with the suddenness of animal intensity. He expected Eros to recoil at the brute force but what he got instead was excitement and desire.
“I am dangerous, Eros,” he told him forcefully, trying to quell one last time the desire filling them both.
“So am I,” Eros replied, changing his voice so that it rang with a resonance similar to the hypnotic tones Adriann sometimes used.
Adriann heard and felt so many things in that voice that he set aside his fear of rejection. There was an understanding now but he still needed to ask, to place in words the one thing that would change their lives. In spite of his love for him, Adriann had never offered The Bonding Ritual to Daniel because Daniel had his lovers, his life mates. But now, there was Eros, and he was willing. “You understand the risks?”
“There are no risks,” Eros argued.
“Sharing your life with me is not going to be easy,” he persisted.
“And you continue to dissuade me,” Eros chided fondly. “Are you a masochist?”
Adriann swallowed the urge to retort with sarcasm and closed his eyes. “I am offering you a chance to back out because…” He paused, unable to spell it out because they’d been dancing around the issue. It was a sudden decision, this unspoken desire and sudden need. He laughed softly to himself, then sighed and pulled Eros’ hand against his chest. “As Daniel would describe it, this is crazy. We haven’t said a word, yet I’m wanting you. We have known each other less than a day, but here I am, finding myself more than taken with you. I want us to spend our lives together. How much crazier can this get?”
“Perhaps it feels crazy because neither of us has actually asked,” Eros told him seriously. “We can read each other well, Adriann. That gives us an advantage. But you require words spoken, yes?”
“Yes,” Adriann answered, feeling his body heat through Eros’ hand.
“Then I am asking you to be my mate.”
“And I am asking you.” Eros leaned in to kiss him but Adriann stalled him with a shake of his head. “It is not that simple. We want each other. But how much? Once we’ve bonded, it is done. You do not know what that entails.”
“I know. But I do not believe it will be anything that disgusts me. How could it, when you do not disgust me?”
“Yes, I can see that, but you must know this: I will love you till I die, but I will not change myself for you. You will love me as I am, Eros, as I will love you.”
Eros cocked his head to one side. “And I will have to share you?”
“Eros, I am deeply bonded to Daniel. It was not a lightly taken ceremony. I did not have him share my blood because he is with Jack and Jason. They are his life, as his work is his life. You, however…”
“And you love him,” Eros stated, feeling the pangs of jealousy and trying not to. He knew Adriann could sense them, just as he could sense Adriann’s fear. He knew his bond with Daniel was more than it first appeared. The ceremony he spoke of was something Eros hadn’t known about, yet he felt this deep respect for him, for his being, for his choices. It was easier to dismiss the jealousy. Besides. There was Jack. “As I love Jack. Though my love is unrequited, unrealized. We have never been lovers. It is harder to break off a relationship that has deeper roots. Jack and I have never shared each other.”
Adriann reached out with his free hand and cupped Eros’ face. “Another thing you must know is that while I can be jealous, I cannot be where Jack is concerned. I am very fond of him, would die or kill to protect him. He is my friend. I would therefore find it easy to accept if you wanted to be with him. After we have bonded, it would still be okay.”
Eros’ eyes widened a bit. “You are such an unusual man, Adriann. Not many people are so generous.”
Adriann cracked a smile. “As long as you remember that it is I with whom you will share eternity with, because that is what I am asking you. Forever, Eros. Are you willing?” He could feel the elation of his kin, having felt the intensity of his words through their link with him. While they weren’t eavesdropping directly, they could still feel him. Especially Talen, who cheered him with a mental hug. Strangely, Adriann felt both buoyed and annoyed that he could never be completely alone.
Eros didn’t answer right away. He was staring.
“What?” Adriann asked, fearful for a moment until he sensed the curiosity and jealousy in Eros’ mind. He didn’t want to admit it but he rather liked the latter.
“You were talking to whom just now?” Eros asked.
“How did you know that?” Adriann asked, surprised.
“Your unfocused eyes,” Eros replied. “Several emotions flashed across your face. Those others of your race, they are family?”
“Talen’s my sister. The others are not directly related other than being Var’chol’si.”
Adriann suddenly caught a surge of deep loneliness from Eros, so intense it was that it threatened to ruin the mood. He leaned in a little and caressed the man’s cheek. “They will be yours, too, Eros. Providing that you still want me. Are you certain?”
Eros turned his head slightly, enough to touch his lips to Adriann’s hand, returning the caress. “I am certain of you,” he replied, watching Adriann’s eyes close from his touch. “I know it is crazy, as you say. This suddenness. But I want you. It increases with each passing moment.”
Adriann opened his eyes, needing to see the truth behind the words, and found it reflected in deep green eyes. He brushed his thumb over Eros’ lips and was rewarded with a kiss. The heat of arousal spread quickly through him and just as he thought of bringing his lips to Eros’, there was a startling rumble overhead.
They both looked up at the arched ceiling of the rotunda roof, but neither needed to see through it to know that above, clouds had begun to darken and converge. A gust of strong wind blew through the rotunda, sweeping through their hair and ruffling their clothes. Adriann had only seen a fraction of what the Ascended were capable of, and he had no wish to re-experience it, but there was no way he was letting Eros go.
“Eros,” he said, as he felt the unmistakable rise of anger in Eros.
“You will not deter me,” he said, but not to Adriann. Looking up, he added forcefully, yet kept the level of his tone normal. “Leave me to live my life my way or I will turn your existence into a nightmare.”
It took a minute of waiting, waiting through wind gusts and the rising humidity of the air, but the wind eventually died down. Eros looked at Adriann with smug self-assurance and Adriann returned it with admiration.
“Someday, you will tell me what would constitute a nightmare to the Ascended.”
“Someday,” Eros agreed.
“Now, where were we?” Adriann asked.
Eros dropped his head back, exposing the jugular of his throat, eyes still on Adriann’s. “I believe we were here.”
“No, I was going to kiss you,” Adriann corrected.
“We will get to that, but I am ready to make this certain. Are you?” Eros asked, threading his fingers through Adriann’s hair.
“You do not know what this entails,” Adriann argued, giving him one last out.
“I believe it involves blood,” Eros replied softly. “Give it to me.”
Lust overwhelmed him and Adriann pulled Eros’ body against him and brought his neck to his mouth. Desire was climbing so high that he felt as if his entire body were afire. He licked, once, over the pulse point, and Eros gasped–the sound nowhere near negative. He closed his open mouth over warm, wet skin, and licked again, using the tip of his tongue, drawing erotic lines over the vein. He could feel the pulse pounding with excitement, hear Eros’ breathing increase.
“Please,” Eros whispered, closing his eyes and tightening the grip in his hair.
Adriann pulled back just enough, letting his canines lengthen to sharp points. Another gasp from Eros as he scratched the skin, then he sank his teeth in slowly, knowing it would hurt. Eros made a choking sound but the emotions transmitted were still of need and lust and love. “Yes,” Eros gasped, breath hitching. Then Adriann bit down hard, relishing in the way Eros clung onto him, as if through orgasm. He sank his fangs through the vein and a small spurt of hot blood ran into his mouth.
It was impossible to hold back from Eros’ heavy sweetness, from the powerfully old blood. He felt the shared flush of arousal in Eros as the man moaned loudly beneath him, one hand clamping onto the back of his head, fingers twisting in his hair to hold him against his throat.
Adriann longed to stay there, body warm and alive in his hands, blood hot and alive in his mouth. But there would be time. Right now, the ritual demanded conclusion and Adriann slowly pulled back, letting the blue enzyme in his spit seal the wound closed. Without licking his teeth clean, he turned his head and lifted his arm, biting into his own wrist, leaving a shallow, open wound.
Blood welled from the small wounds and Eros didn’t hesitate. He knew what his part of the ritual meant and he brought his lover’s wrist to his mouth, licking up the pooling blood. The sharp tang and heat of it was as shocking as the tingling sensation and he clamped his mouth over the wound, sucking, licking, caressing, making love to that spot.
Adriann threw his head back and gasped with amazement, dizzy with the pleasure Eros sent through him. He slid his hand up into his hair and grabbed a fistful, pulling his mouth away from his wrist and to his mouth for a deep, hungry kiss. The blood in their mouths mingled, blended, and bonded. They were one.
As they kissed, hands frantically removed clothing to get at the warm skin. In minutes, they were nude, enjoying the warm breeze caressing their skin as surely as they caressed each other. Unwilling to wait, Eros made a decision and climbed onto Adriann’s lap, groaning loudly into his mouth as he kissed him hard and rubbed their bodies together.
Kisses became licks and bites as mapped each other, learning. The actions were slow, yet after a while, as Eros undulated his hips in a slow dance over Adriann’s groin, the lust they shared became focused on the one thing Eros focused on. “I want you inside me,” Eros whispered as he messed up Adriann’s hair with both hands, looking down into his face as he spread his knees wider. Adriann slicked at finger in his mouth and removed it slowly, like a striptease.
Eros watched him, fascinated, and kept staring into Adriann’s face till the wetted finger slid down his cleft and over his wrinkled hole, teasing with slow circles before pushing inside. When he briefly touched his prostate, Eros threw his head back, gasping with pleasure and contracting around the delightful invader. “Please,” he said.
“Yes,” Adriann replied through desperate breaths and removed his finger, lining up his cock. He pushed inside, the movement smooth and easy. His mouth hovered over Eros’ throat, licking tentatively, mouth drooling as Eros rode him slowly, arms wrapped around his neck, wallowing in the pleasure of having this once again.
They took their time, with Adriann’s hand moving to Eros’ cock, keeping him aroused and on the edge of coming. It was so hard to hold back but he managed until Eros sped up, his orgasm imminent. The moment he came, he set off Adriann, and with it, Adriann bit him–hard. He growled against his throat, the fine, sweet taste of Eros making him lose control.
Eros cried out, orgasm lasting longer, semen spilling, and he couldn’t help but grind down, circling his hips for more. He gasped again when Adriann pulled his teeth from him, kissing him passionately instead as the intensity of orgasm waned and afterglow began. When Adriann finally ended the kiss, each of them taking a long breath, he smiled against the place his teeth had been and slowly laid back, bringing Eros on top of him.
“I could do this forever,” he said.
At the words, Eros opened his eyes and smiled, then looked up at a hissing sound. It was raining. “It appears they have arrived at a compromise,” he said drily.
“It does at that,” Adriann chuckled, sliding his hands down Eros’ damp back, loving the play of muscles under his fingers. Eros’ response was to snuggle into him, face nestled against his neck.
Eros lifted up his head and sought out his throat, playfully nipping. “I wish I could give what you gave to me.”
“Me, too, but there are lots of other things you can.” At that moment, Adriann wished they were in a true bed. They couldn’t roll over, and he couldn’t do what he wanted to do right then.
Daniel and Alex walked down the corridor, heading for the interrogation room, and Daniel reached for his mic. “Jack, come in.”
“What’s up?” Jack asked.
“Nothing here. Alex and I are heading back to the interrogation room. You having fun with your new toys?”
Daniel grinned at the almost bored tone of voice. “What’s the matter?” he intoned indulgently.
“I want to take these babies out for a spin.”
“I can but it’s just that we need several people to man them. Teal’c says we could get them all out of here with the help of the Rebel Jaffa, but I want our own people with so it’s gonna be a while.”
Daniel shook his head as they turned down the connecting corridor that held the cells. “Don’t trust them?”
“It’s not that, Daniel.”
Daniel could just imagine Teal’c’s eyebrow rising. “Really,” he said, amused.
“Alright, smart ass.”
“So what’s on the agenda? We’ve pretty much sorted things out here. That Alteran device doesn’t work so there isn’t anything here for me to do but nose around.”
“I know. Not much for you to do, unlike Carter and Teal’c.” There was a pause as Daniel traded looks with Alex. “Since it’s daylight back at the base and I’ll be making my next call to Hammond in an hour, why don’t you come with me. He might have some suggestions for an upcoming dig. SG-11 is still heading that research dig, aren’t they?”
Surprised, Daniel keyed the mic, then stopped. Jack didn’t like him spending time with other teams, but he probably knew that Daniel wasn’t keen on walking around, doing nothing. “Trying to get rid of me?”
“No, but both you, Jason, and Alex don’t have much to do here. If there’s something else better suited to your skills, then we should look into that until these ships are squared away.”
“Agreed,” Daniel answered. “And what about Camulus?”
There was a pause, then Jack said, “Jacob says he’ll be going back to the Tok’ra base with him.
Daniel shot Alex a look, knowing that the man should have a chance to talk with Jalen. Alone. “When?”
“In an hour or so. Any problems?”
“No, no. It’s just that Adriann is supposed to get any and all info out of him where Baal is concerned.”
“Adriann said he has, as have the others,” Alex reminded him and Daniel winced, having forgotten.
“Selmak says that whatever else there is to get, it’ll be through a Tok’ra debrief,” Jack answered and Daniel could just see the look of disgust. “That a problem?”
“No, it’s fine. We’ll meet you at the gate in an hour.”
To Alex he said, “I hate it when I do that.”
“It’s easy to do, Daniel,” Alex said, pointing at his formerly injured spots. “You’ve been a little busy.”
Daniel snorted, not bothering to comment on the nature of how busy he’d been. They stopped outside the interrogation entrance and Daniel offered, “Jason and I will make ourselves scarce.”
Alex frowned, having thought that Daniel and Jason would want to be with him. As he thought it over, however, perhaps it was better if they weren’t. He had to admit to some apprehension about being alone with Jalen again but this was one way for him to dispel his anger and dread; to talk face to face, and alone. He also had to admit that part of his apprehension was guilt, guilt in being attracted to Camulus. And sober, there was no confusing him with Jason, especially given the mustache and goatee.
“Okay, done,” he answered, taking a deep breath.
Jason was sitting on a stool barely two feet away, but what rocked them both on their heels was that he was holding Jalen’s hand. At their entrance, Jason let go, slowly, and stood up. “Any progress?”
“No, not really.”
Jason looked behind them, as if expecting someone else. “Where’re Adriann and Eros?”
Daniel grinned as he came closer, pointing to the south. “Having a têté-a-têté out back. Why? Camulus want a chat?”
“No, I was just surprised that they weren’t here.”
“Well… Camulus is a Tok’ra, and so we sort of lost our font of info. He’s going back with Jacob.” At his words, Camulus looked up in surprise. “Adriann’s learned all he can. Everything else is up to the Tok’ra.”
“Figures,” Jason said, standing, eyes on Alex. He looked down at Jalen, who was now looking down at his hands, then back at Alex. Daniel inclined his head, signaling Jason over.
“What?” Jason asked, reaching him.
“We’re going for a walk. Alex wants to talk to talk to Jalen.”
Jason raised a queried brow to Alex and he returned it with a nod. “Okay,” he sighed. “Just make sure that you’re at the gate in an hour.”
“No problem,” Alex answered quietly.
Turning, Jason walked over to Camulus and squatted down in front of him, making Jalen look at him. “Chin up.” With a wan smile, Jalen lifted his chin. Jason then took his hand again and said, “Make me a promise.”
“That would be?”
“Don’t give up.” Jalen nodded, but Jason gave him an impatient look.
“Good man,” Jason said quietly. “It’s a pretty good bet I’ll be leaving soon, so if I don’t see you again in the future, take care of yourself.”
Jalen gave him the briefest of nods, then Jason rose and walked from the room with Daniel beside him, throwing a look over his shoulder at Alex.
“I’ll be fine,” Alex told him as he turned away to face the man who wasn’t, supposedly, who he thought he was. They were now alone. Again. Only this time felt more surreal than the last.
Jalen stayed where he was on the edge of the bed, making no moves toward him, so Alex decided that, despite the flurry in his stomach, he’d do the same as Jason had. Apart from holding his hand. Must’ve been some talk, he thought. He went over and took the footstool Jason had been using, moving it a few feet to keep a bit of distance. He leaned forward, elbows on knees, hands nervously clasped together, and waited for Jalen to say something. When he didn’t, Alex figured he was leaving it up to him. He also wasn’t sure if that was a tactic or just guilt. Jason’s behavior with him, however, suggested guilt. He hoped Jason’s amicability wasn’t misplaced.
“Daniel caught me up on what’s been going on,” he opened. Jalen looked up, then at his own hands, and did it a few times, nodding only in answer. Alex was already getting annoyed. “Look, if you want to have any hope of reconcilement, you gotta talk to me.”
“Why are you here, Alex?” Camulus asked, sitting up straighter and looking directly at him.
“Why are you talking to me?” Alex snapped back.
“We both abused you, Alex. I may have been in the background but I’m every bit as responsible. It’s not like a Goa’uld where the host is blameless. Jalen and I act together, even if we don’t always agree. However, where you’re concerned, we’re both guilty.”
“Fine, but he was in control, so I need to speak to him, unless it was you pretending to be him all this time.”
Camulus shook his head, but when he spoke, it was Jalen. “No, it was me,” he said, eyes on his hands again.
Alex felt a bit of satisfaction, but it didn’t last long. He had to stifle the urge to get up and punch him. “And?” he asked.
After a minute, Jalen met his gaze, eyes dark with emotion. “I’m sorry for what I did to you, though it probably doesn’t mean much.”
“It does if you mean it,” Alex answered, surprised that it actually did mean a great deal to hear the words.
“I mean it,” Jalen said.
Trouble was, Alex couldn’t tell if the man meant it or if he was just feeling sorry for himself. Looking at him was so hard, so confusing. In being angry with him, was there now a rift between him and Jason? Would there be when they got home? Would he hear and feel Jalen when Jason spoke to him, touched him, tried to kiss him? There wouldn’t be a sight problem, as the two were obviously different. Yet… what if Jason didn’t shave during his time off?
Alex shook his head and got up to pace, arms folded, gaze resting accusingly on Jalen. He couldn’t look away for long and was aggravated and annoyed with himself. Wasn’t he supposed to be afraid to look at his abuser? Or did that only apply to rape assaults? Alex was grateful that he didn’t have the personal experience, knowing full well that had that been the case, Jalen would now be dead. Alex also had a feeling that if Jalen had raped him, he’d have killed himself after coming back to himself from that godawful programming.
As the minutes passed into ten, and Jalen said nothing, Alex grew fed up. “Well? Don’t you have anything else to say?” he demanded.
“What else would you have me say?” Jalen asked harshly. “You cannot do or say anything to me that I have not already heard from Jason, and worse still from myself.”
Alex rolled his eyes. “Guess that got you talking.” Jalen sighed, his face a mask of guilt and anger and Alex wondered what precisely the anger was for. “You mad?”
“Yes,” he said through his teeth.
“What the fuck for?”
“Because I don’t understand you!” Jalen shouted, standing up, folding his arms to hide his shaking hands.
“What the hell is there to understand? I’m past angry with you for doing what you did.”
Jalen made a growling sound of frustration. “I understand that. I meant, I don’t understand why you are here. Why you even want to hear an apology or anything else from me? I can’t give you the peace you want. I can only apologize and say I’m so goddamned sorry for what I did to you. I can’t…”
“What?” Alex asked, hating the sympathy he was feeling. This wasn’t the Jalen he’d met.
Jalen closed his eyes and stared at the floor. He opened his mouth to speak, then turned away. “Nothing. It doesn’t matter anymore.”
“Yes it does. It does to me,” Alex replied, voice back to a more normal level. Jalen laughed, a sick, self-deprecating laugh, and Alex took it the wrong way. “Don’t laugh at me.”
“I’m not laughing at you,” Jalen said, turning back to face him. He then closed the distance between them, taking slow measured steps so Alex wouldn’t be alarmed. “I’m laughing at myself, at what I’ve become and how my Alex would have hated me, too. I once deserved him.”
“You told Jason. Tell me.”
“No,” Jalen disagreed. “I didn’t.”
“What’d you tell him then?” Alex asked, bewildered.
“Just that I’d been tortured for a while but saw an opportunity in Baal and I took it to stay alive.”
Alex watched him carefully and knew somehow that he wasn’t telling the truth. He hated the war inside him now. The anger that was there that wanted to return the fear and abuse, and the sympathy and compassion that was growing inside him as he watched a very different man that now took the other Jalen’s place. “And?” he prodded.
Jalen turned around, unable to look at Alex and fixed his eyes on the wall now ahead of him. “I knew what was in store for me, Alex. You may think I took the coward’s way out and chose not to die, but I wanted to live, and I found myself captured. One can safely assume that I was raped.”
There was more confusion in Alex’s mind. “But… you liked it.” At the look of surprised horror on Jalen’s face, Alex’s voice rose in defense. “You make it look that way!”
“It wasn’t me, Alex. Despite how it looked. That Jalen had no morals and ethics. He was a selfish hedonist who got off on control because that’s what Baal got off on.” He paused, then said slowly, “You learn by example, Alex. I learned.”
“But you were sent in originally to report. How could you continue to collaborate and toss aside your mission?”
Jalen sighed and shook his head. “I didn’t continue my mission. I turned evil. The end. You can go now, Alex.” He crossed his arms and walked away from him, facing the bar walls, eyes closed, wishing he had a knife.
With a surge of anger at being dismissed, Alex strode over to him and spun Jalen around, grabbing him by the arms. But when he looked into his face, he saw watery eyes and froze. The sympathy and compassion returned and he reminded himself that despite what had been done to Jalen, and what he’d done in return, he was not the man he’d met.
“What happened?” he found himself asking.
Jalen shook his head, not bothering to pull away from Alex’s grasp. “It doesn’t matter.”
“I wouldn’t ask, Jalen.”
“Why do you want to know?” Jalen asked, frustrated, ashamed and exasperated. He grabbed the backs of Alex’s arms as Alex still had a hold of him, pressing his fingers almost enough to be painful, but not quite. “What good will it do,” he asked, slowly enunciating each word, “to know that I was raped? By many varied means? What good will it do to know that he killed me and tossed me in the sarcophagus? What good will it do to know that he wanted me broken?” Jalen paused as he watched Alex’s eyes search his, as if wishing Jalen had said something other than what he just had. “He got his wish because of that fucking programming. He broke me in the end and made me just like him.”
“But not now you’re not–” Alex started, accepting that fact.
“Wrong, Alex,” Jalen said interrupting him. “I learned a painful lesson to want what he gave me. To crave the violence he liked to inflict on me. By the time you came along, we came to a sort of truce. He used me and I used him. And then I used you.” He dropped his hands from the back of Alex’s arms and stood there, not moving. Waiting.
“Truce?” Alex asked, singling out that one word. “Truce implies you fought, Jalen. Even through the programming.”
“No, truce implies that I was just like him, Alex. I wouldn’t submit completely because I wanted to do to him what he did to me. I wanted to.”
“I have no idea what to say to that,” Alex admitted, feeling sick at the possibilities Jalen implied. What he felt most was hatred, knowing damn well that if he ever had the chance, he’d kill Baal.
“There’s nothing to say. You wanted to know. Now you do.” He felt Alex’s grip tighten on his arms and he flinched and stepped back to pull from his grasp. He looked away, staring at the floor, the walls, anywhere but at Alex. “You have no idea how hard it is to look at you. After what I’ve done, I deserve to die.”
Alex suddenly saw something terrible, an inkling of what Daniel had told him–when Jalen (or rather, Camulus) had grabbed Eros. “Suicide is the coward’s way out.”
Jalen moved further away, his back to him. “Then that is exactly what I am. Now you know everything. Leave.”
“Why? And make it easy for you?” Alex demanded, going after him. He swung Jalen around and with his weight behind his shoulder, gave him a right cross across the left jaw. Jalen stumbled back several steps and lost his balance, falling onto his ass, hand on jaw. Alex expected to see fury or defiance but Jalen only started laughing. Except his laughter was tinged with the choking sound of tears.
Jalen drew his knees up and wrapped his arms around them, dropping his forehead to his knees as he continued to laugh. Alex was unnerved and while he felt Jalen wasn’t playing for sympathy or forgiveness, he still had the urge to hit him. To make him stop. To make everything stop. “What’s wrong now?” he asked tightly, trying not to feel the forgiveness welling up inside him. “Get up, hit me back. Don’t just sit there and laugh at whatever it is that’s so fucking funny.”
Jalen lifted his head slightly and shook it. “Nothing is funny, Alex. Not anymore. Not since I lost you… him. Please. Go. I have nothing whatsoever to say that will take away what I’ve done to you. Nothing to make up for it.”
Alex squatted down in front of him and reached out, pulling Jalen’s head up. He saw the tear streak and without thinking, rubbed his thumb over the cheek to wipe them away. Jalen leaned into his touch without thinking and froze a second later. It was then that Alex also realized what was going on. Why there were the tears and Jalen telling him to leave. He’d heard him about the other Alex, but with all that had happened, Alex hadn’t allowed it to sink in. Jalen was remembering his own world, his former life, and a dead lover whose doppelganger was before him.
With a sigh, Alex sat down, imitating Jalen’s posture. “I forgot.”
“I didn’t,” Jalen said, swallowing hard.
“Why are you so angry with me then?” Alex asked. Jalen said nothing, not looking at him. “Did you take your grief and anger toward him out on me? Is that what that was about?”
Jalen shook his head. “It wasn’t…” he started to say, to contradict that it hadn’t been him, but he didn’t believe that, not really. “Yes, that’s why.”
Alex rolled his eyes. “I’m not leaving it alone till you start telling me the truth.”
“What am I doing? Talking to a wall? I just told you,” Jalen said, finally looking at him. “It was me, whether or not I was programmed. It was still me.”
“So out of grief and misplaced rage, you wanted to fuck with my mind and rape me, my friends, torture us–“
Jalen suddenly grabbed Alex by the shoulders. Hard. “No!” He surprised himself by saying it and grew angry at the smug look of victory on Alex’s face. Without thinking that this wasn’t his Alex, he pulled Alex to him and brought their lips together in a hard kiss.
Alex didn’t think either and kissed him back, opening his mouth and searching out Jalen’s tongue as his own hands grabbed the front of Jalen’s frock coat. Jalen’s kiss softened somewhat but increased in passion, a soft moan escaping his throat.
The sound seemed to break the moment and Jalen jerked a bit, separating from the kiss awkwardly. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, looking downward, away from Alex’s face as he moved back and slowly relaxed the grip on Alex’s arms before letting him go completely. Alex opened his fingers, releasing his hold, and stared at Jalen as his cheeks went a bit pink. He was aroused, though not enough for anything else to happen. But still, aroused.
“No you’re not,” he argued, annoyed that Jalen would say it though Alex had an idea why.
Jalen didn’t contradict him. Instead, he swallowed hard and admitted, “It’s hard to be without him. The truth is, Alex, when I was under that programming, it lessened my grief. It’s why I allowed it in the first place.” He looked up then. “It had nothing to do with being loyal to the Tok’ra or going after the Goa’uld. I wanted to escape.”
Alex frowned. “But I thought… Jalen, spill the truth about him.”
“Not long after I blended with Camulus, Alex was killed in a raid. We’d hit the Goa’uld invasion force set up outside Cheyenne and he was with my brother on the other side of it. I was talking to him through the radio when there was an explosion. Then Jason came through and said he was dead, that he was going to be soon and told me to blow the target. I did.”
“And that was?”
“Cheyenne mountain. We’d rigged a detonation device to a stockpile of naquada. I took off in a cloaked ship and blew the mountain from orbit. There’s a big crater where half of Colorado used to be. Fucked a lot of shit up, but it took out the main landing force trying to get into NORAD.”
“And the fighting was fifty-fifty when the council called us back in. Said they needed to get me into Baal’s camp, to find out where he was keeping his own invasion plans as well as the location of his secret technologies. The only way for me to get close enough for that was to become a Goa’uld. And it just so happened that Camulus had already installed himself as a System Lord, even if he was a small one. But he’d also been warring with Lord Yu and during an attack on his home planet, his host was severely damaged. His slave took him to a cargo ship and headed out into space, looking to hook up with the Tok’ra. They did and months later came this opportunity. I jumped at the chance.”
Pausing, Jalen reached up and took hold of Alex’s neck for emphasis when he said, “So you see, we might have lost something during the programming, but a lot was already lost, and so it was still me who did those things. Things I will never forgive myself for.”
Alex stared at him as Jalen stepped away and moved back to the bed. He laid down and dropped an arm over his eyes. “Now, please, Alex. Go. Don’t come back.”
Alex didn’t want to leave but he understood why Jalen needed him to. And really, he knew he had to leave. There was something to be said for distance and there were too many conflicting emotions going on between them.
Without a word, he turned around and walked out the door.
A minute later, Adriann walked in, Eros leaving him to follow after Alex. They’d heard the talk between Alex and Jalen and they wanted to help.
On his bunk, Jalen jumped when he realized he wasn’t alone. His arm came down swiftly and he pushed up, eyes on Adriann as the man walked slowly toward him. “What do you want?” he asked, hating how hard his heart was pounding.
“To talk to you for a moment,” Adriann said and sat down on the side of the bed, waving Jalen to lie back down. Jalen leaned back on his elbows instead and Adriann grinned because it reminded him of Jason.
“About?” Jalen asked.
“I heard you with Alex,” he revealed.
“Ah huh. And?”
Adriann reached out and laid his hand on Jalen’s chest, speaking gently. “I can take away the pain for you, if you wish, without you killing yourself.”
Jalen’s eyes narrowed with suspicion and embarrassment, then abruptly flashed as Camulus came forth. “How?”
“I can alter your memories or take them from you completely.”
Camulus considered him quietly, and Adriann figured that the man was trying to determine if he was being truthful or not. “This is part of your telepathic ability?” he asked.
“It is part of it, yes, but it is also part of what I am.”
“Why would you offer us this?”
Adriann gave him a sardonic look. “I felt deception from you the moment I met you. I now understand why. I offer it because you are not an evil man, but that evil has been forced to become a part of you. And because there are people who love you.”
“Not any longer,” Camulus argued. “Those that resided in the alternate universe are now dead.”
“In this universe, Alex cares for you, despite what has happened.”
“What?” Camulus asked, wide-eyed.
“And Jason does as well or he would not be so angry with you. If you died, most especially by your own hand, it would hurt them both.”
Narrowing his eyes again, this time with an almost possessive frown, he said, “And you do not want them hurt.”
“No, I don’t,” Adriann answered. He waited patiently as Camulus considered the proposal, but when the answer came, it was from Jalen.
“Thanks, but I’ll have to pass on the offer,” he said dispiritedly. “I find I don’t really want to die, so in making that decision, I’ll just have to live with what I’ve done. If I can make up for it somehow, I will, though I dare say it won’t be in helping these men here.”
Adriann cocked his head to one side. “You don’t think they’ll accept it?”
“Would you?” Jalen asked.
“I cannot answer that, Jalen. I am not in that position.”
“Well, I am, and I’ll never forgive Baal for what he did, or forgive myself for running away into this universe.”
“I thought you didn’t have a choice?” Adriann half-asked, seeing the memory clear in Jalen’s mind.
“I always have a choice,” he answered glumly. “I should have died with the others.”
“I for one am glad you did not,” came Selmak’s voice from the door. He was alone, and as he walked in, Adriann stood and Jalen sat up. “If it is peace you seek, you might be able to find it helping us as your counterpart did.”
“My counterpart is dead,” Camulus answered angrily. “He didn’t help you.”
“On the contrary,” Selmak argued. “He was our brother, and did his best to be of great service to his people. He reported many things back to us before he was found out and killed.”
Camulus grimaced. He hadn’t known what had happened till the Tau’ri had been kidnapped and he wished he was still ignorant of that particularly nasty bit of information. “I am no longer in a position to help you,” he said finally, trying to rid the imagery in his head.
“On the contrary, you are greatly needed,” Selmak told him. He blinked and looked at Adriann, with Jacob continuing. “I’ve got to get back to the Tok’ra and I’ve left Jack, Sam, and Teal’c in the hangar. And if it’s okay with you, we’d like to negotiate for one of the motherships now in your possession.”
“I’ve already told them–“
“Sorry,” Jacob said, raising a hand. “What I meant was that the Tok’ra would like to negotiate. Earth is already building ships with the aid of the Asgard. A mothership would be a great catch but the Tok’ra have a greater need for it.”
Adriann smirked. “I’ll just bet Jack argued with you about that.”
“He did, till I reminded him that humans aren’t the ones becoming extinct.”
“Quite,” Jacob said smugly, then held out his hand to Jalen. “Are you ready to go?”
Jalen nodded and shook Jacob’s hand as he stood up. “Yes.”
As they left the room and headed down the corridor, Jacob asked, “Don’t you have anything you need to pick up here?”
Jalen shook his head. “There is nothing here that either of us wants to keep.”
When they reached the great hall and crossed its expanse on the way to the main doors, Jacob paused again. “You don’t want to say goodbye then?”
Jalen looked at Adriann. “You can read me easily?” he asked.
Adriann nodded. “Then give them the message in my head.” A second passed and Adriann nodded. “Then let’s go,” Jalen continued and gestured toward the gate. After Jacob dialed and walked through the event horizon, Jalen followed and stopped at the edge. He turned to Adriann, but instead of asking forgiveness or for one more message, he said, “If you meet up with Baal again before I do, do me a favor.”
“Give him your regards just before he dies?” As Jalen nodded, Adriann gave him a dangerous stare that promised many dark things. “That I will do.”
Jalen nodded to him and without looking back at the fortress, disappeared through the event horizon. A few seconds later, the gate shut down and Adriann walked back, grinning to himself as he caught some of what was going on inside the building.
Nerves raw and his emotions all over the place, Alex headed for the hangar. He was fervently wishing he could get Jason alone, tell him what had happened, but more than that, he needed his arms around him. Problem was, he didn’t think it was appropriate because he had no idea if it was Jason he wanted. That fact bothered him a great deal and as he turned around the corner and into the corridor that lead to his destination, he suddenly slowed, not so certain he should see Jason right now.
Hesitating, he stopped, then turned sharply when he heard a voice call behind him.
“Alex,” Eros said softly as he approached. He suddenly wished he was telepathic and hoped that Ophius would feel what was happening and come to Alex.
“Eros,” Alex greeted nervously. “Something wrong?”
“Not with me, but you are unsettled,” Eros said, reaching him and touching his shoulder comfortingly. “Let us go to the suite that now belongs to Adriann.”
“Why?” Alex asked, resisting as Eros tried to usher him in the opposite direction.
“If not there, where would you suggest?” Eros asked, looking up and down the connecting corridor.
“I…” Alex started, not knowing what to say. He gave Eros a look of appreciation, knowing what he was doing, and turned with him into the previous corridor. “I guess it doesn’t matter.”
They started for the suite and had gone no more than twenty yards when Ophius appeared from another side corridor. Alex looked at him, again startled, but upon further thought, knew that right now, the vampire was the only one he could be with. Jack and Daniel were busy and he really didn’t think he could talk to them constructively anyway.
“I will leave you,” Eros stated and turned back toward the hangar.
Watching them disappear, Ophius took Alex’s hand and led him not to the suite but to the first empty room that held comfortable furniture. It was another entertainment room, but fortunately, not one Alex had been in before. This one was square, for one thing.
Sitting down on the large, comfortable sofa, Alex dropped his head against the back and closed his eyes. He kept his hand in Ophius’ and knew the man was watching him. He squeezed his fingers in gratitude and opened his eyes to look at him. He started to speak, but nothing came out. Embarrassed, his cheeks pinking slightly, he closed his eyes again.
“It is okay. I know,” Ophius told him, “and I believe I can help take your mind off it until you are ready to talk with your mates.”
Alex winced. “They’re not really my mates, Ophius,” he said regretfully.
“They are,” Ophius corrected. “Your mind reveals your talk with Daniel. I know what he said to you. Were you not listening? Why will you not believe?”
“Because it’s not permanent,” Alex said with exasperation. He wanted to get up and pace but he was too emotionally and physically drained to get up the desire to move. He gave Ophius an imploring look, asking him not to argue with him.
“But I am,” Ophius answered, sitting closer and sliding an arm over and around Alex’s waist. “I will always be yours.” He leaned in then and kissed him slowly, giving Alex the time to make up his mind, and when Alex accepted him, Ophius pulled him prone and laid on top of him, kissing him harder and more passionately until Alex spread his legs and received him without thoughts of anyone else.
There was nothing more for SG-1, Jason and Alex to do, though Alex elected to stay at the fortress and help guide the SGC technicians around until they learned the lay of the land.
At the gate, it was time to say goodbye. For now.
Jack, Sam, Teal’c, and Jason had already gone through, but Daniel took his time. He turned to Adriann and grinned as the man pulled him in his arms.
“Do not stay away,” Adriann asked softly as he framed Daniel’s face in his hands.
“I’ll try,” Daniel answered before delivering a passionate kiss. “You stay out of trouble.”
Adriann grinned wolfishly. “I will try.”
Daniel made a growling noise, a mock-scowl on his face. “And please, don’t corrupt Eros.”
Pretending affront, Adriann sniffed, “He needs corrupting.”
A secretive smile appeared on Daniel’s face. “As you have corrupted me.”
“There was nothing for me to corrupt,” Adriann grinned. “You have always been a fractious man.”
Daniel laughed softly. “Perfect pair we are. But please, stay safe?”
“I will try.”
“No, you will promise.”
With a sigh, Adriann kissed him again. “I promise.”
With a sigh, and a swipe to his lips at their leftover warmth, Daniel hugged him and stepped into the event horizon.
Home now, and at Daniel’s, the three men had a day off till they had to return to work for the next batch of missions. Setting up the grill in the kitchen, Jack periodically grumbled because it was raining. For him, you couldn’t do a grill right indoors. Standing to his right, Daniel reached over him with the seasoning shaker and shook it out over the steaks, smirking at Jack’s critical eye.
“I’m getting it right, stop playing Uber-chef.” Receiving a raised eyebrow made him laugh and he set the shaker down and put his arms around Jack from behind. “What, not a scathing rebuttal?” he asked, murmuring against Jack’s jaw as he pressed in.
Jack made a soft growling sound. “Don’t start or the steaks will burn.”
“How’s that?” Daniel asked.
“Don’t be coy,” Jack chided, but was unable to keep the grin from spreading across his lips.
In the living room, they both heard Jason beginning to hum to the music he’d started playing in the background as he searched for DVDs to play. Daniel sighed, resting his chin on Jack’s shoulder.
“I know,” Jack said, not needing to be told what the sigh was for.
“He’s being maudlin. I wish he’d stop it,” Daniel murmured.
“Can hardly blame him. The past few days have brought the mind-fuck beyond all mind-fucks.”
“I don’t know how I’d be feeling having done what he has and having to live with it.”
“He’ll be fine,” Jack said, purposely not agreeing with him. “It could have been worse had he never come into this universe.”
Daniel held his breath. Images from that horrible dream Shifu had given him flashed through his mind and he shuddered. “I’m glad he’s normal again. I’ve seen that road, Jack.”
Jack turned in his arms and gazed back, almost unblinking, wishing he could send his knowledge into Daniel’s without giving him the pain that went with it. “Sometimes, Daniel… dark is an ally.”
Daniel started to respond but closed his mouth and nodded. Jack was right, as usual. They all had their dark sides and those sides were useful. It was a scary fact. He turned his head slightly, listening to Jason and the song and he started to pull away but Jack kept him in his arms. “Leave him, Daniel. Let him grieve for him.”
“You and I hold our own council when we grieve but that’s not the right thing to do anymore.”
“Maybe,” Jack said reluctantly.
“Besides, no one’s dead here. It’s post-traumatic stress and that’s definitely not something to allow brooding over.” He pulled gently from Jack’s arms and strode into the living room.
Jack agreed as he followed. He and Daniel might have once preferred to grieve alone, but it wasn’t Jason’s way. Besides, Jalen wasn’t dead and Jason couldn’t be left alone to dwell. He needed to be reminded that they were there for him, that there was something else they could do to help him realize that. Jack also had a feeling Daniel was on the same wavelength.
Daniel shut off the CD and turned to Jason, sitting on the couch, staring at his hands. Jack sat down next to him as Daniel dropped between Jason’s knees and took his hands. “He’ll be fine, Jason.”
Jason nodded robotically, mind far away, reviewing the past events. He didn’t think he’d see Jalen again and leaving him in the hands of the Tok’ra wasn’t much of a relief. Would they ask him to be a spy again? Even if he wasn’t their original, how could they ask that of him?
After a few silent minutes, he pulled his hands from Daniel’s grip and looked up into his eyes, then Jack’s. “I’ll be fine. I’m just…” He sighed deeply. “Pissed.”
“At Jalen or the Tok’ra?”
Jack slid an arm around his shoulders, hugging him tightly. “You wanna go find the Tok’ra so you can smack them around?”
Jason took his hand, then Daniel’s. “Maybe later.”
Jack pulled, taking Jason’s hand and placing it against his groin. “Wanna get sweaty and naked?”
“You’re getting warmer,” Jason answered, suddenly deciding that this was a much better way of getting rid of his depressive thoughts.
“What else am I getting?” Jack asked as he rubbed Jason’s hand up and down his stiffening cock, the cloth of his jeans showing a very definite outline.
“I don’t know yet,” Jason evaded.
“This maybe?” Daniel asked, reaching out to caress Jason’s cock through his jeans, feeling him stiffening under his touch. “Yes, definitely this.” He wrapped his arm around Jason’s neck and pulled him in for a deep kiss while Jack leaned in and nipped at Jason’s ear, flicking the shell with his tongue.
Jason groaned and gave in happily, pulling his hands free to unbutton his jeans. He hissed through Daniel’s kiss as Jack slid his hand inside and took hold of his erection.
“How about this?” Jack asked, pumping slowly.
“Steaks’ll burn,” Jason gasped against Daniel’s lips.
“I haven’t turned on the grill yet,” Jack said as his hand got down to business.
Song quote at the top is from “Unforgiven” by Metallica.