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Trilogy 6

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Trilogy 6: Raven’s Skin

Part 2 of 2

Conclusion of Raven’s Skin


Two days passed without incident and it was driving Jack crazy.  Guilt crept in, with him half-hoping something would happen so the nutcase could be caught and they could return to what passed for normal.  He could tell that vigilance was starting to relax a little and he had to remind people that nothing had been solved, that their guards couldn’t be let down for any reason. 

It was almost lunchtime, and for the last hour, they’d taken a break from the mundane, makeshift work they’d created and gone on patrol, helping out security.  Just in case, Jack had said by way of explanation, though it had been pointless, since Daniel, Jason, and Alex had agreed.  Their two teams had split up, so Al and Connor were once again with Sam and Teal’c, and presently working from the infirmary level and above. 

Jack and his colleagues moved through level 25, having just inspected the locker rooms before heading for the base gym. 

Alex’s stomach grumbled and Jack grinned at him.  “My thoughts exactly.”

“I wouldn’t mind taking a bit of time here,” Daniel said as they walked down the deserted corridor. 

“Yeah, but we’ll have to wait like everyone else,” Jack answered. 

The base gym had been placed off-limits in the mornings, giving security less to worry about.  Jack, however, felt that they could use a break during the lockdown monotony as well as help out security, so he’d volunteered them for patrol duty right before lunch. 

“Well, maybe we can…” Jason said, his words fading as his step slowed.  The hair on the back of his neck stood up and he had no idea why. 

“Jason?” Daniel asked, sensing the alarm from Jason’s mind.  “What’s wrong?”

Jason shook his head as if trying to clear his mind.  He looked over his shoulder, unsettled.  “You guys getting any weird vibes?”

They stopped several yards from the gym’s entrance, looking up and down the corridor, ears straining.  There were no sounds coming from anywhere, which was eerie in and of itself. 

“That raven sense kicking up?” Jack asked. 

Jason had confided his sudden increase of hyper-alert senses the morning after it had happened.  Annoyingly, his senses had returned to normal by the time he’d informed Jack that they’d happened.  He hadn’t experienced a recurrence, either, so at that moment, Jason had no idea what to think.  If the senses weren’t responsible for whatever was alarming him, what the hell was?

“I don’t have a goddamn clue, Jack, and I’m getting awfully fed up with this shit.  Maybe it’s the stress of the murders, Lin’s death, or that fucked up shit with Jalen, I don’t know.”

“Don’t dismiss it just because you can’t explain it,” Jack said as he touched Jason’s left shoulder, squeezing gently.  “Deep breath.” Jason complied.  “Now, we’ll find out when we find out, so just file this under pending.”

Jason grinned, properly placed at ease.  A little, anyway.  “We’ve been doing way too much paperwork lately.”

“That’s a fact,” Jack replied.  He pursed his lips as he felt a dampness in the air, like someone had just turned on a humidifier.  “Anyone feel that?”

“What?” Daniel asked. 

Jack shook his head and gestured they move on.  The moment they were within six feet of the gym doors, however, they felt the air become warmer, more humid–and there was no reason for it because the gym was supposed to be empty. 

“That feels like it’s coming from the showers,” Daniel said. 

Jack answered with a nod, hairs now rising on the back of his neck.  “They’re not supposed to be in use.”

“I hope,” Jason began, “that this’s nothing more than someone disobeying the memo.”

“That’s a helluva disobedience,” Jack said as he assigned himself as point man and slowly swung open the left side of the double doors with his left arm.  Viewing carefully, he took a step in, looked behind the door, then held the door open for the others to enter. 

They entered the foyer and stopped in front of the small towel room that sat before them and separated the gym from the locker room and showers.  To their left, the door that led to the gym and weight room; to their right was the door that led to the locker room and showers.  Both doors were supposed to be closed and locked but the right door was ajar. 

The moment the four men entered, they picked up an additional odor through the humid air.  Semen.  Steam filled the room thinly, thicker near the ceiling and over the tops of the lockers.  It was as if there’d been twenty men in there in the last half an hour. 

“Okay, this is wrong,” Jack said.  “Daniel, you picking up anything?”

“Only that smell,” Daniel said.  “But I’m getting the feeling I should be standing in a gay bathhouse, not the locker room on base.”

The smell of semen became stronger as they closed in on the shower room and its entrance was obscured by thick plumes of steam.  Jason froze, his nostrils flaring as pieces of the dream came back to him. 

“Jason?” Daniel asked, picking up fear from him. 

“In my dream, there was mist in the SGC halls, but what if it wasn’t mist?  What if it was actually steam?”

“Holy shit, Jason,” Alex whispered. 

Jack was suddenly glad of the sidearms he’d insisted everyone be armed with.  He held up a finger before anyone said anything else, then pointed at himself and Daniel, then Jason and Alex, silently signaling they split up and flank the entrance to the showers.  Proceeding accordingly, their noses wrinkled at the smell of watered down, stale ejaculate, stronger as they pressed against the frame. 

Jason couldn’t help but think of what Daniel had said about gay bathhouses.  He’d been in more than a few in his life, places rank with the smell of chlorine, semen, and the only smell not present right then: sweat.  What Jason couldn’t figure out was why the smell was there at all.  No one dared do anything in these showers, so if it wasn’t a couple of irresponsibly stupid men, then it was something far more sinister.  Maybe the semen was meant to cover up another smell?

The moment Jason thought it, another odor was picked up, and only after they’d stationed themselves outside the doorway–close enough now to pick up the scent masked by the stink of chlorine and semen: The sweet, metallic scent of blood. 

“That’s blood,” Jack hissed and he bolted into the shower room, but halted two steps in.  Daniel was right behind and nearly ran into him.  He moved around him just as Jason and Alex came to a halt beside them. 

Their gazes were fixed on the naked man tied up at the far left of the eight-man shower room, hands bound to the shower nozzle.  The shower wasn’t running, but the one next to it was, turned on presumably to mask the smells or to call attention to his presence.  It was hard to tell. 

They didn’t dare walk in further because the blood was everywhere.  The source was the deep slice at the man’s neck, done in one neat and clean cut, and his entire front was painted from neck to feet.  Behind him, the wall was decorated with splashes of color, and the tile floor was stained in a strange arc that swirled to the center drain.  The blood’s edges mixed with the water, making light and dark swirls and streaks. 

Like an artist’s rendering.  Jason gasped, eyes glued to the morbid scene.  Daniel turned to him to ask what prompted the inhalation, but Jack interrupted with sharp command. 

“Everyone out,” he said gruffly and backed away, stopping just past the last row of lockers.  “Don’t touch anything, though I doubt it’ll make much difference, considering there are prints all over the place.”

As he got on the radio and called Pederson, Jason stared at the doorway, gaze still fixed on the blood swirls and watery spatters, remembering his dream.  It wasn’t like his dream, obviously, but the art symbology was the same.  The horror of it made him shudder. 

“Jace?” Daniel asked again, placing a shaky hand on his shoulder.  “What’s going on?”

“It’s just like my dream,” Jason whispered.  Then without warning, his anger rose and a sneer formed on his lips.  “Look at this.  This is deliberate, Daniel.”

Daniel stared at him in surprise, unable to comprehend how or why Jason was feeling such…  hatred.  “What’s the matter?” he asked, peering hard into Jason’s darkly troubled eyes. 

“We have to get this fucker, Daniel,” Jason told him needlessly.  It wasn’t what he was thinking, however, and in a wise effort not to alarm Daniel further, he kept his violent thoughts to himself. 

Jack had heard Jason’s comments even through his conversation with Pederson.  He focused on one word.  “What did you mean by deliberate?”

“This is a staged scene, Jack.  Just like my dream.  A message.  He’s showing us his cards.”

“And?” Daniel asked. 

“It means we can set a trap.” Except Jason wasn’t thinking about capture and prison.  He was thinking about putting him down, not away. 

“Alright, let’s talk about this outside,” Jack ordered, turned, and walked briskly away, expecting them to follow.  In the corridor, he took a deep breath and bent over, hands on knees. 

“You okay?” Alex asked, his own face pale. 

“Fine,” Jack said absently as he straightened back up.  He was thinking about the scene, and what Jason said about a trap.  He mulled it over in his mind, trying to think up the best way to create one.  When he glanced at Alex and realized he was silently freaking, he reached out and took his elbow.  Alex jumped slightly, then relaxed.  “Deep breaths, Alex,” he said quietly. 

Jack regretted the last two nights spent with Alex, as nothing had happened between them and it seemed to him that something should have.  Jack had his book and Alex had given up on his in place of the laptop and headphones, watching DVDs instead.  Jack found it odd.  This type of stress usually brought people closer and Jack couldn’t help but wonder if Jason’s distancing had something to do with Alex’s lack of…  interest.  There was none of that in his eyes now, Jack thought, as he slowly removed his hand. 

Alex flushed a bit, complying with Jack’s suggestion, feeling better for his sympathy and not so stupid and weak for getting nauseated at the sight of that man.  “It’s not like I haven’t seen blood before,” he stammered.  “I don’t get it.”

“Viewing a cold-blooded murder where you expect none is quite different, Alex,” Jack told him calmly.  “We expect to see blood during combat.  Remember what it was like when you saw your first dead body in the field?”

“I heaved then,” Alex admitted.  “Offworld, I mean.  Just went right over into some nearby bushes and tossed my breakfast.  So yeah, point taken.”

Jack shared one of his own first-time experiences with Alex as they waited nervously for security and forensics, but neither Jason nor Daniel joined in.  Jason was too busy trying to analyze what he’d seen, comparing it to the strange dream and his instinct later, and it was bothering him a great deal. 

He was so wrapped up in it, and Jack and Alex so involved with their own discussion, that no one noticed that Daniel had turned away from them, standing apart, looking rather green and wishing Jack and Alex would just shut the fuck up about the grisly subject.  Not that seeing a murdered man was new for Daniel.  It brought back memories of his own experiences, ones he had no intention of sharing, but that wasn’t what was wrong. 

Jack had been about to say something else when he finally noticed Daniel’s demeanor and body language.  He craned his neck, then walked around Alex and went over to him.  When he placed his hand on Daniel’s shoulder, Daniel jumped slightly, then looked embarrassed for having done so. 

“Sorry, what’s up?”

“That’s my question,” Jack said.  Jason realized his own brooding had cut him off from whatever Daniel was going through and berated himself for it. 

He joined Jack, and since no one was around but them, he reached up and brushed Daniel’s hair with his fingers.  “What Jack said.”

“You’re very quiet,” Jack said with worry.  “You okay?”

Daniel nodded.  “Fine.”

Jack and Jason knew better, having heard that answer many times, though Alex had no idea.  “Was this your first one?” he asked, mistaking Daniel’s mood. 

Daniel shook his head.  “No.  Central America.  Long time ago.”

He was grateful he didn’t have time to explain himself to his lovers or Alex because security and their chosen technicians and corpsmen arrived, hurrying out of the elevator at the end of the corridor and coming toward them fast. 

Relieved of their temporary guard duty, Jack gestured at the elevator.  “Let’s go report to Hammond,” he said.  They got into the elevator and as the car moved down two floors, Jack and Jason watched Daniel, knowing damn well that things weren’t fine, and something told them that it wasn’t seeing all that blood. 

When the doors opened, and they made their way to Hammond’s office for the impromptu report, Jack knew he had to get Daniel talking.  Entering the briefing room, they saw that Hammond was on the phone.  The General spied them and held up a hand that told them to stand by, he’d be with them as soon as the phone call ended. 

Jack decided to put the spare moment to good use.  “Daniel?” Daniel turned to him and Jack studied his enlarged pupils, indicating the wrong side of excitement.  “Something about the dead man is bothering you.” When Daniel still said nothing, he glanced at Jason for backup, then gave him a double take because Jason was giving Daniel a peculiar stare. 

“Daniel–” Jason began, but Hammond interrupted them as he came out of his office. 

The General gestured at the table and they all sat down, with Jack and Daniel to his right, Jason and Alex to his left.  Jack gave Hammond a short report on what they’d been doing when they found the dead man, then everyone put in their two cents, including the thought Jason had about setting a trap.  After ten minutes of discussion, it was Hammond’s turn to notice that Daniel was troubled. 

“Doctor Jackson?” Hammond asked, his tone gentle and concerned. 

“Sir?” Daniel asked. 

“You’ve been awful quiet, son.  Is there something on your mind?”

Daniel couldn’t think of anything to add for the time being.  “No, sir.”

“Something’s obviously on your mind,” Hammond prompted.  Daniel didn’t answer and that worried the General.  In fact, it worried everyone else, too, and he could see it in their faces.  Thinking Daniel was shaken up by what he’d seen, he said, “Look, you’ve all had a pretty bad scare, seeing something god knows we should never see.  If you feel like taking the day off, then do so.  I realize that there’s nowhere to go, being under lockdown, but I’m advising you to get some rest, put your mind on something else for a while.” He took a breath as Daniel nodded, still not saying anything. 

“Under the circumstances,” Hammond went on, his voice getting that ‘kindly father’ tone everyone knew, “I’m having some additional weight equipment brought down and set up in the cargo bay on level 23.  It’ll give some of the personnel something to do, at least.  Now, I’d like some input on exactly what we should to do bring this crisis to an end.  Lieutenant Pederson said you had some ideas on the matter?”

Jack pursed his lips thoughtfully.  “An inkling, sir, nothing more.  I’d like to hammer it out first before I hit you with it.”

“I’m not willing to put our people at risk, Colonel,” Hammond told him severely. 

“Yes, sir, but if you’ll pardon me, we’re already at risk.  Sitting around waiting for this bastard to make a mistake is patently doing nothing and I can’t sit around and do nothing.  Colonel Coburn,” and Jack nodded at Jason, “thinks that it’s time to bait the murderer and frankly, I agree.”

“You want to bait him?” Hammond asked Jason. 

Jason gave him a short, serious nod.  “This murder was…” He paused, eyeing Hammond carefully.  Jason looked over his shoulder at the SFs marking the doorway and the stairwell.  “Sir, could we speak privately?”

Hammond considered it, then with obvious reluctance, nodded crisply.  “In my office, all of you.” He turned and strode back into his office, waiting behind his desk until Alex, last one in, closed the door.  “I don’t like the idea that I can’t trust my own security, Colonel.”

“Nor do I, sir, but we can’t talk in front of them,” Jason said, glancing at the surprised looks on the others’ faces.  He’d been receiving a feeling of dread since discovery of the body and he knew Daniel was feeling…  something.  “Daniel, what did you feel when we were up there?  I know you never said but didn’t you feel…  anything?”

Daniel frowned, thinking quickly, and aware that he couldn’t take his time in front of the General.  “I did feel something, Jason, but it was the same kind of warning I felt before so I didn’t think it necessary to say anything.”

“Please explain, Doctor,” Hammond asked. 

“Sir, in my opinion, getting a warning about ‘danger’ is redundant.  It wasn’t anything we didn’t know already and since it wasn’t anything new to report, I said nothing.”

Jack shrugged.  “He’s right, sir.  It wouldn’t have helped.”

“Very well.  Colonel Coburn, explain how you feel that security can’t be trusted?”

“Begging your pardon, sir, but it’s not like that…  exactly.  We can trust Sergeant Carmichael and Lieutenant Pederson, but the others…  I’m familiar with them, yes, would consider some of them acquaintances, but I don’t know them, sir.  This killer is moving about too freely.  That he was able to have the time to trap and stage his victim–“

“Hold on, Colonel.  Do we know who it is yet?” Hammond asked. 

“No, si–” Jack began but Daniel interrupted. 

“His name is Brian Waters.  Was Brian Waters.”

“No wonder he looked familiar,” Jack said quietly, suddenly remembering like a flash of instant memory.  “Sergeant, Signal Operations.  Worked in the Control Room for a while before moving to one of Carter’s research labs five years ago.  He’s been here from the very beginning of the program.”

“That’s him,” Daniel answered with a sigh. 

Hammond’s frown deepened.  “I remember him.” With a deep, regretful sigh, he said, “Sorry, Colonel, please continue.”

“Sir, I’m not an expert and I can only–“

“You’re the best we’ve got at the moment, Colonel,” Hammond told him confidently. 

“I’d say that was a pretty good endorsement, Jason.  Go on.”

Jason had been giving Daniel a long look, wondering why he knew the man’s name.  He had an idea, but would have to set it aside for later.  Clearing his throat, he went on.  “Okay, well, as I was saying, the killer had time to trap and stage.  Meaning he had the time to stalk his victims, set a trap for them, then be able to implement it and stage the scene.”

“Stage the scene?” Hammond asked in shock. 

Jason nodded grimly.  “Sir, he wasn’t just found dead on the floor of the gym showers.  He was tied to one of the showers.  That indicates he was setting a scene, either for us or for his fantasy.” He looked at Jack, wondering whether or not to tell Hammond what they knew.  Hammond would eventually find out the murdered men had been gay, but if Jason let him know now, Hammond might feel compelled to ask why. 

“I take it there’s more than you’re saying,” Hammond said astutely. 

Jason opened his mouth to answer but Daniel took it upon himself to brave the front.  “Sir, the murdered men were gay.” Hammond gave the expected look of shock at the news, and then the puzzled expression wondering how Daniel knew that. 

“Sir, Daniel told us this after we learned about the second killing,” Jack interjected. 

It took a few moments, and as the men watched their commander, they watched the look of annoyance pass to curiosity then reluctant acceptance.  Hammond could ask Daniel how he knew, but it would give him information he’d rather not have.  He knew Daniel was a very open man, given to friendships from every quarter.  He’d also been married and Hammond knew perfectly well that Daniel had loved his wife.  At the very least, it meant Daniel was bisexual.  And did that matter?  Hammond asked himself.  The answer was no. 

“I see.  Are you sure it isn’t just coincidence?”

“Yes, sir,” Daniel answered quickly.  There was no way he’d let Jason compromise himself.  “Sergeant Waters was bisexual, sir.  The killer is targeting gays, or at the very least, men he considers gay.”

“Which means what?” Hammond asked. 

“Which means he has a possible limited resource from which to choose,” Jason answered before Daniel could continue saving him.  When Daniel sent him a stern look, Jason shot it right back and turned back to Hammond.  “Sir, the victims all look similar, so that might be important in the killer’s methodology.  He set the scene in the shower room.” To resemble that of a gay bathhouse, but with a macabre twist, Jason wanted to add, but didn’t. 

But Daniel did, lying right through his teeth.  “I told Jason it reminded me of a bathhouse, sir.”

Jason’s head whipped around, eyes locking on Daniel’s.  “Daniel, don’t–“

“It’s okay, Colonel,” Hammond said, holding up a hand.  “Nothing leaves this room.” He grinned reassuringly at Jason, thinking this was the real reason for his request for privacy.  “Now why a bathhouse, Doctor?”

Daniel cleared his throat.  “Forensics will report it anyway, so we may as well tell you first.” He paused, still unsure about telling him. 

Impatient, Hammond said, “Doctor?”

“Sir, the room reeked of semen.”

No one had ever seen Hammond flush.  Even angry, he was what Jack’s father would have called, “a cool customer.” He didn’t flush, exactly, but right then, his expression was close enough. 

“Semen?”

“Yes, sir,” Jack confirmed.  “And because of that, I agree with Jason.  The room had been staged to send a very specific message.”

Hammond’s lips thinned with the familiar set of angry retribution.  “Then it seems we have a responsibility to answer.”

“My thoughts exactly, sir,” Jack answered.  “We need to set out some bait to catch this bastard.  I’m still trying to think it through, sir, so if you’ll permit me, I’ll have something planned by tomorrow morning?”

Hammond pursed his lips, thinking it over, then nodded.  “Very well.  Report back here at 0800 hours.” He paused, looking around.  “Just the Colonel will be adequate, gentlemen.” Turning back to Jack, he said, “Come up with a plan to implement by tomorrow afternoon.  I don’t want to waste time.”

“Agreed, sir.”

“In the meantime, all of you try to get some rest.”

“We’ll do our best, sir.”

“I know you will, Jack.”

.  . 

The men made their way for the secondary mess hall conveniently located in B-Wing, east of security on level 16.  As they exited the elevator, Daniel still wasn’t all that talkative.  However, instead of letting him alone, Jack, Jason and Alex went out of their way to include him in their conversation, glancing at him whenever they spoke, as they normally would have.  His silence was respected, but they weren’t going to ignore him. 

Daniel felt buoyed by their generosity of spirit though not enough to dispel the sadness in his heart.  The mess hall had some people in it but, to his relief, it wasn’t crowded.  Daniel didn’t think he could tolerate a lot of noise, though the presence of people was comforting nonetheless.  The one thing he’d learned was that people developed a type of claustrophobia after experiencing trauma.  The level and duration depended entirely on the person and the type of trauma. 

Daniel caught Jack glancing around the mess hall as they proceeded down the food line with their trays.  By the look on his face, Jack felt the same about having too many people around, although for Jack it was more likely that he didn’t want any ‘accidental’ eavesdropping.  Daniel could sense it, his empathy not exactly telepathic but his knowledge of Jack led him there. 

Daniel figured that Jack wanted to talk, having easily discerned that he was particularly troubled with the death of Waters.  Daniel had a feeling that Jason had been about to ask him about Waters back in the briefing room.  Daniel was glad for the interruption by Hammond though.  He hadn’t been ready to talk about it.  He might be now, however.  He felt a bit calmer, not so…  panicked. 

Picking out flatware, Daniel looked up in time to catch Jack looking at him over his shoulder.  Daniel gave him a smile and Jack grinned back, in apparent relief. 

None of the men were all that hungry, not after seeing Waters.  They knew they should eat something so they took curious items as they moved down the buffet line.  Jason being first somewhat dictated what everyone else took.  He grabbed a fruit salad, Jack grabbed a regular one; Alex took pie and chocolate milk.  Jason for once chose an iced tea.  Daniel copied Jason, taking a fruit salad and tea. 

They followed Jason to a table at the far left center of the room, away from the majority of personnel eating.  There they could talk privately, at least for a while.  Jason sat down next to Alex and Daniel sat across from them, Jack to his right. 

The others dug in without all that much enthusiasm and Daniel did the same, picking at his salad.  He rested his elbow on the table, propping his left cheek in hand, wishing he was hungry.  Unfortunately, the cold hard lump in his stomach kept his interest at bay. 

Memories were cruel things sometimes, and Daniel’s picked at him like vultures picking at bones.  Daniel didn’t want to remember his friend that way but he was choiceless and resenting it.  He could feel a cold rage building inside and he did his best to ignore it. 

No good would come of it, he told himself, but at the same time vowed that he would do whatever it took to bring down the killer.  It was then that Daniel recognized the anger and hatred was the same that had been building up in Jason.  He sat there wondering what to do to help his lover when he realized that someone was talking to him. 

“Daniel?”

“I’m sorry, what?”

Jack took a deep breath and Daniel noticed the deep worry in his eyes.  He suddenly felt intense guilt for putting it there.  Before Jack could ask, Daniel looked at his salad, then pushed it away from him.  “I knew him,” he said simply. 

No one needed to ask who he meant.  Sitting at his right, Jason laid a hand on Daniel’s forearm.  “I thought that’s why you were silent.  Why didn’t you tell us this before?” he asked gently. 

“Processing,” Daniel answered, and felt a lump in his throat.  Being with his lovers was causing the breakdown of his bravado, the wall he managed quite well to hide behind most of the time.  But Jack and Jason had this knack to get behind that wall, make Daniel relax to the point where all his emotions lay on his sleeve. 

“How did you know him?” Jack asked, but he and Jason knew.  Alex was the only one with genuine curiosity on his face. 

“We went out for about two weeks.”

“Went out?” Alex echoed, then realized that Daniel was talking about dating.  He felt absurdly silly then, not having thought to apply the normal dating phrases to gay couples, too.  “Right, never mind.  Must be slow today,” he covered, then added, “I’m sorry, Daniel.”

Daniel suddenly shook his head.  “Don’t, Alex, it’s okay.  I’m sorry he’s dead, and I’m especially sorry he died that way.  My reaction to his death is simply because I’d…  fucked him.” Jason coughed and next to him, Alex thumped his back for him.  “Sorry, Jace, but that’s the best word for it.  It wasn’t going to work out because he was too afraid of being found out. 

“He was still pretty much in the closet.  I mean, even off duty.  He didn’t even want to sit too close at restaurants, movies, afraid of being found out.  It wasn’t me who ended it, it was him.  I really did like him, but after a while, that attitude wore me down so I wasn’t at all bothered when he said he didn’t want to see me anymore.  I’d been about to do the same thing. 

“After he’d broken it off, I tried to maintain a friendship with him but he retreated to familiar ground and pretended he knew me only professionally.”

“That sucks,” Alex said, unwilling to censor himself.  “Sorry,” he quickly added, “But that’s just cowardly.  I know people don’t like to speak ill of the dead, Daniel, and no one deserves to die like he did, but that was cold, what he did.”

Daniel stabbed at a piece of fruit.  “Still makes me mad, but not the break up.  I get mad at society for making people like Brian run from themselves.”

“So it wasn’t serious at all?” Jack asked carefully.  He didn’t want to encourage Daniel to remember more than he had, but he couldn’t help but wonder. 

“In just two weeks?” Daniel asked, surprised. 

Jason slowly smiled at him.  “It was for you and me.”

For the first time in a few hours, Daniel showed signs of life and smiled back.  “Yeah, but we were already best friends, Jason, and besides, we were meant to be.” He reached over and squeezed Jason’s hand quickly, as if he’d been giving Jason encouragement for something.  He looked at Jack and formed another knowing smile.  “Like you were.  But to answer your question, no way was it serious, but I liked him, thought we could be friends.  He thought otherwise.”

Alex was thinking how similar Brian had been to himself, then something occurred to him, surprising him.  “Were those other men in the closet, Daniel?  I mean, you said you saw them and talked to them at a gay club every once in a while so it’s obvious that they weren’t completely in the closet, but did they overtly hide it outside the job?”

Daniel frowned, thinking about it.  “Well, we hide it,” he said.  “Doesn’t mean we’re in the closet by choice but more out of necessity.  What’re you getting at, Alex?”

“Nothing.  My possible theory just became nonexistent.”

“But what was it?” Daniel asked. 

“Well, I was just thinking that maybe the killer was targeting men who’re denying who they are.  What if the killer is gay, and the dead men were closet gays who’d failed his criteria?”

Jason’s brows rose and he exchanged quick glances with Jack and Daniel before nodding at Alex.  “That’s actually a sound theory, Alex.  Daniel, were those guys out?”

Pursing his lips, Daniel thought about it.  “Yeah, they were, to a point, so sorry, Alex, your theory can’t hold up.”

“It was just a thought,” Alex said, disappointed. 

“But a good one,” Jason said, “and it brings up the question of what they did have in common.  We have to look for something, something besides being gay and serving in or with the military, so we can use that to set the trap.”

“Guys,” Jack put in quickly before Daniel went on.  “I hate to put this thought out there, but it really doesn’t matter how his victims are alike.”

“I think it does,” Jason disagreed. 

“What I mean is,” Jack went on, “it doesn’t seem to me to be the best way to catch him.  The only way we’re going to get the sonofabitch is if he makes a mistake.  Frankly, I don’t want to wait for that to happen.  We need to draw him out.”

“Jack’s right,” Jason kicked in.  “Waiting for him to fuck up means waiting through another corpse.  No thank you.  I’ve been thinking more and more about setting up a trap and using bait is the only way to go about it.  Time to go on the offensive.”

“Hang on,” Alex said, thoroughly confused.  “What the hell’s the difference between trap and bait?  There’re one and the same.”

“No,” Jason said, shaking his head.  “A trap is restricting his sources, like locking down specific levels, not just the mountain, forcing him to perhaps try and kill someone else.  That kind of trap is too chancy.  Bait, on the other hand, is putting one or two people out there, alone, and see if he goes after them.”

Daniel sighed.  “Except I don’t like having someone be the bait, even if I understand why.  We need to be very careful.”

“Yes, absolutely,” Jason agreed solemnly. 

Everyone at the table went quiet, thinking it over.  Then Alex had an idea.  “Who is the right kind of bait?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Daniel told him. 

“What?” Jack said. 

Three pairs of eyes stared at Daniel expectantly.  “It doesn’t matter if we’re the killer’s choices or not.  When we set the trap, the bait, we’ll be his only choices.”

Jack pursed his lips.  “Then you two should pair up this afternoon and tomorrow, let the killer know who you’re partnered with.  Jason can suffer me as his partner.” Jason answered him with a snort. 

“So,” Daniel said, “What’s on the agenda for this afternoon?  I have some work I’d like to do and Alex would probably be bored stiff.  He could spend time with Al and Connor.”

Jack shook his head.  “That puts you by yourself, Daniel, so forget it.”

“Why?  It’d give the killer an opportunity.”

“Because it’s during work hours, Daniel.  We need two things.  To monitor you, and to put you in harm’s way during the most convenient part of the day.  Lunch.”

“So tomorrow then,” Daniel nodded. 

Alex felt a chill run over him and shuddered, and Daniel reached over and slapped his had affectionately.  “Don’t worry, Alex.  I’ve got stuff for you to do that’ll bore you to tears.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Alex argued.  “I wouldn’t mind spending the afternoon in your lab if you wouldn’t mind me asking questions or helping you do your work.”

Jack grinned.  “Careful now, Alex.  He’ll launch into professor-mode and you’ll wish you’d kept quiet.”

“Oh shut up, Jack,” Daniel retorted, then gave Alex an approving smile.  “I wouldn’t mind.  And you could get a glimpse of what Connor’s been up to in college for the last several months.”

“So,” Jason grinned at Jack.  “You and I get to do what?”

Jack gave Jason an extremely filthy smile, then said, “Paperwork.”

Jason made a growling sound.  “It never ends.  May as well bring my own.”

“So what about monitoring devices?” Daniel asked Jack.  “When do we start this?”

“Gimme some time to mull it over,” Jack replied.  “I’ll come up with something.”

.  .  . 

By 1700, Alex was sure Daniel was relieved to have the work day come to an end.  Daniel had never showed any signs of having been bothered by Alex’s presence, but Alex figured he was tired of the questions.  Daniel hadn’t gotten as much work done as he would have without him there. 

They met up with their teammates for dinner and so far, the plan to smoke the killer out and force him to choose another target was still a go.  The only question was when to try. 

After dinner, Daniel and Alex hung back as Jack and Jason entered a half-filled elevator car.  “We’ll grab the next one, Jack,” Daniel told him.  “Talk to you later.” The doors closed and Alex let out a slow breath. 

“You remember our ‘pretend conversation’?”

“Yes,” Alex said, having answered it for the fourth time.  “We’ve gone over this already, Daniel.”

“Just checking, that’s all.”

Alex sighed, and a few seconds passed.  Daniel looked over at him again and caught Alex frowning.  “What’s the matter?” he asked. 

Looking up, startled, Alex shook his head.  “It’s nothing.”

Daniel stuffed his hands in his pockets as he sensed worry from the man.  “It’ll be fine, Alex.”

Alex glanced at him, startled and annoyed.  “I wish you’d stop doing that.  It’s almost like reading my mind.”

Daniel rolled his eyes.  “When I ask a question and I get a ‘nothing’ in response when it’s quite obviously something, then you’re going to get one of two things, Alex.  Me reading your emotions and guessing, or you talking to me about what’s bothering you.”

“Is there a third option?” Alex grinned. 

“Hmmm,” Daniel mused.  “No.”

Alex snorted.  “Fine, okay, and yeah, I’m worried.”

“Worrying over it will do no good, Alex.  Just think positively and it’ll be fine.”

“Just like that?” Alex asked disbelievingly. 

“Well, if we believe it will be, sometimes…” Daniel said, leaving the rest unsaid. 

As they waited silently for the elevator car to return, Daniel heard footsteps behind them when someone else approached.  Probably for the elevator, Daniel thought absently to himself, but he wasn’t really paying attention.  He was thinking of more ways to tease Alex, which led to how it would be sharing his bed with him for two days.  If that.  He started to expand that thought into something more than sleeping when an alarm suddenly went off inside his head. 

Danger

It was the same warning he’d felt on level 15 three days ago.  He looked over his shoulder and an SF, a Sergeant Winston Matthews, stood there waiting with them for the elevator.  Matthews nodded politely to him and Daniel nodded back, but he felt a bit of arrogant superiority from the man–something Daniel had run into before when it came to the military’s attitude toward civilians. 

Daniel tried to dismiss the thoughts, the immediate worry, but that alarms had gone off for a reason.  Daniel then remembered that Matthews had been one of the SFs on guard duty near David Hill’s room.  For a moment, Daniel thought he was simply being paranoid, but he trusted his empathic feelings.  Either Sergeant Matthews knew the killer…  or…  the killer was Sergeant Matthews. 

Swallowing, Daniel turned his head and winked at Alex, his face a mask of deadly seriousness.  Alex recognized the signal at once, and his body went on alert.  He tried to think of a reason Daniel would be suspicious of Sergeant Matthews and could only think that Daniel had gotten a warning of some kind. 

Starting up the pre-arranged conversation, Alex hoped he read him correctly.  The wink only meant this one thing.  “Hey, I got the new pieces and board in today?  Switch with Jason tonight and we can play.”

“That sounds good, actually,” Daniel said, relieved.  “Jack’s driving me nuts.  He may be my best friend and I don’t mind sleeping with him but he’s a cover hog.”

Alex laughed, then purposely flirted.  “Trust me, I don’t steal covers, but I have to warn you.  I do tend to snuggle.”

“Oh no,” Daniel grinned, winking at him.  He then cleared his throat and said, “But truthfully, that won’t bother me one bit.” The elevator doors opened and the three men stepped inside the car, with Sergeant Matthews standing in front of them as they leaned against the back wall.  Daniel reached around him and hit the level 25 button.  “Unlike some others, Alex, I’m not one of those guys who freezes up just because we’re sharing a bed.  I have no problems sleeping with men.”

On cue, Sergeant Matthews looked over his shoulder, smirk on his face and brow lifted.  “That sounds dangerous, Doctor Jackson.  Especially in this place.”

Was it a threat?  Daniel thought.  “Only to homophobes, Sergeant.  Unlike them, I’m secure in my sexuality.”

“That so?” Matthews asked, eyes narrowing. 

Daniel’s intuition about the man was confirmed.  He was one such homophobe.  “It is.  I won’t feel in the least threatened if I wake up with Alex’s arm around my waist.” Or dick against my ass, he thought to say, but didn’t.  Best keep it simple for now, he ordered himself. 

“I’ll try to behave myself during the night,” Alex said, forcing the sarcasm into his voice. 

“Me, too,” Daniel said, using the same tone.  He was still getting the same warning message, but now he was feeling a deep hatred from Matthews.  Part of him started to get angry because he felt like challenging the man right then and there. 

“What’s wrong, Sergeant?” Alex asked, pushing off the wall and standing straight, hand at his sidearm.  “There a problem we should know about?”

Matthews looked him over and his face went from scowling to calm in two seconds.  “No, sir.  None at all.”

“Ah huh,” Daniel said, obviously not believing him, and not bothering to hide it, either.  Then…  something struck Daniel and he didn’t know why he hadn’t seen it before.  And given Matthews’ behavior, Daniel was taking no chances. 

Daniel withdrew his sidearm and with his left hand turned the man around.  He moved quickly, his offworld experiences having given him a considerable edge over the SF.  He pressed the muzzle of his gun into Matthews’ left shoulder, where the clavicle began. 

“What the–” Matthews began. 

“Your sidearm.”

“Have you lost–“

“Alex, take his sidearm.”

Knowing Daniel would never do something like this without reason, Alex trained his own sidearm on the man while he took the sidearm from Matthews’ holster.  “Don’t move,” he warned. 

“You’ve made a grave mistake,” Matthews spat. 

“For your sake, I certainly hope so,” Daniel warned back.  The elevator doors opened on Level 25 and Daniel pushed the SF through the doors, making him walk backwards.  “Alex, got your weapon trained?” He didn’t bother to take his eyes off Matthews to check. 

“Right at his head,” Alex answered tightly. 

Behind them, the elevator doors closed and they heard the familiar hum of the car on the move. 

“You wouldn’t dare,” Matthews told Alex. 

“If you have any doubts that I’ll pull this trigger, then by all means, make a move.”

“You’re both going to the cells for this.”

“I don’t think so,” Daniel said as he lifted his radio from his belt.  “Jack, this is Daniel.  Do you copy?  Over.”

“I copy, Daniel.  What’s your location?”

“Outside the A elevator on 25.  Major Wagner and I have run into a problem with a member of security, Sergeant Matthews.  He’s alone.”

Alex blinked, then cursed himself for not seeing. 

“We’re on our way.  O’Neill out.”

Daniel barely blinked, keeping his body taut and ready for any sudden movement by Matthews. 

“You’d really shoot a member of security?” Matthews asked, acting surprised but with a hint of derision in his voice. 

“Where’s your partner, Matthews?”

Matthews hesitated.  “Still at chow.”

Daniel shook his head.  “Then you should have stayed till he was finished.  You’re in violation of current orders.”

“Who the fuck are you to tell me about following military orders?” Matthews sneered. 

“I’ve been here, at this command, for over eight years, Matthews,” Daniel answered.  He could feel the hate coming off this bigot and wanted to put him in his place.  “How long have you been here?”

“Irrelevant.  I’ve been in the service a lot longer than you’ve been–“

Daniel snorted, cutting him off.  “You’re 30 years old, Matthews.  You’ve been in the service for eight years, Academy time doesn’t count.”

Matthews’ eyes narrowed.  “Been snooping into my file?  Why?”

“If you’d been paying attention, you’d know it was by Hammond’s orders, making myself familiar with everyone involved in the search for the coward who’s killing people.”

“Killing queers, you mean.”

Daniel smiled at him.  “Now just how did you know they were gay?”

“How did you?” Matthews replied.  “Takes one to know one, I guess, right?”

Daniel snorted, surprised at how stupid this man was.  “If I were to go by that qualification, then I’m afraid you just outed yourself.”

Matthews stared back at him and Daniel could see him thinking, working it out, then becoming angry at trapping himself.  “Not by a long shot, fag,” he sneered.  “It’s simply easier to tell who you freaks are.”

“Really?” Daniel asked.  He wondered if Matthews was making himself a suspect on purpose–and if so, did he even have the brains to do such a thing?  It wasn’t likely.  Matthews was a follower, a sycophant.  He followed the killers and did what he was told, not the other way around. 

“Isn’t it tiring, Alex, to come across such stupid people?”

“It’s getting kinda boring, too,” Alex answered. 

Matthews’ face reddened with anger and Daniel could feel it boiling up, coming dangerously close to rage.  Just when he was preparing himself for attack that would force Daniel to shoot him, the elevator’s doors opened. 

Jack, Jason, Pederson, Cari, and two other SFs exited.  When the SFs circled behind Matthews, Daniel recognized them as Sergeants Wallace and Mayfield.  He couldn’t remember their first names but other data came to him.  Both had served at the SGC for four years, and they’d recently reenlisted.  Security and secrecy granted them another tour at the SGC and Daniel figured that since they were still here, they’d been doing a good job and their positions were secure. 

“You can put your weapon away, Daniel,” Wallace said as he handcuffed Matthews. 

Reholstering his sidearm, Daniel told Jack, “He’s not the only one whose partner is missing.  The orders from Hammond for everyone to pair up had already been in effect, so Brian had a partner.  Where is he?” Daniel looked at Cari and Pederson.  “Has he shown up?  If not, then something happened to him so that the killer could get rid of Brian more easily.”

Pederson scowled, mostly at himself, then at Cari, and they moved off to the side, getting on the radio.  Daniel could hear them asking for information on Brian’s partner.  “Colonel?” Pederson asked, and gestured for Jack to follow him and Cari as they walked down the hall, out of hearing range.  They talked about something and Daniel watched them carefully. 

Suddenly done with their chat, they returned and Jack hit the elevator button, glared back at Matthews’ already glowering face.  “Where’s your partner, Matthews?”

“I already told this,” Matthews sneered. 

“That’s Doctor Daniel Jackson,” Jason informed him as calmly as he could, “and while he may be civilian, his comparable military rank is Colonel.  You would do well to remember that.”

Despite Jason’s threatening proximity, Matthews snorted with derision.  “So what.  He’s civilian and a queer, just like the rest.  I didn’t kill them, but I’m not exactly mourning their loss, either.”

“That’s it!” Pederson scowled, smacking Matthews in the back of the head, making everyone smirk–except for Daniel, whose eyes were wide in surprise.  “No one asked for your opinion.  You get asked a question, you answer it, nothing more.”

“You act pretty pissed off, Lieutenant,” Matthews snapped back at him.  “Your queer friends having a tough time of it?”

This time the smack in the back of the head came harder, and from Wallace.  “What the hell did the Lieutenant just tell you, Matthews?”

Matthews tried to turn around but Mayfield had a good hold of his cuffed wrists, pushing down on them whenever Matthews tried to turn.  “What’re you people gonna do, beat me up?” Matthews sneered. 

Jason stared at Wallace, his fists clenching and unclenching, and then turned and walked away, leaving it to the SF to deal with Matthews.  Wallace watched Jason walk several feet away, amazed at his control.  He turned and snorted at Matthews.  “You’re so fucking lucky, you have no idea.”

“What’re you talking about?” Matthews growled. 

Wallace sighed, exchanging looks with Mayfield, Cari, and Pederson.  “We let you get away with breaking a few rules here, being insubordinate.  We gave you time, to adjust, to grow up, but you haven’t learned.”

“You had me patrolling the goddamn garage!” Matthews complained loudly. 

“He has no clue about self-discipline,” Mayfield said to Pederson, rolling his eyes.  He kept a hand on the handcuffs chain, just in case Matthews tried anything else. 

In the meantime, Cari decided to let the prick know that he had no say in what happened here.  She walked over to him, using her considerable authoritarian stare as she peered down at him.  He was a few inches shorter and her thicker soled boots made it worse.  He clearly found this intimidating as well as infuriating. 

“It might be well for you to remember, little man,” she began, “that we police units do in fact police our own.  Keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll find out how far that policing goes.”

Jack pretended he hadn’t heard anything and Cari’s warning sunk in quickly as Matthews peered around at Pederson, Wallace, and Mayfield.  But when his gaze returned to Cari, his expression said clearly that he had no use for women in the military, either. 

“How’d this guy get past the psych evals?” Jack asked Pederson.  SFs were generally screened in-house instead of through Jack’s office.  “We can’t have this sort guarding visitors who don’t meet up to his bigoted standards.”

“My fault, and I take full responsibility,” Pederson said grimly.  “I can only assume he did a damn good job acting his way through the psych eval.  I just wish that we had a heavier screening process, but we don’t.  We have to assume the bastards are telling the truth.”

Matthews said nothing; he simply smirked, appearing smugly superior.  Daniel laughed at him and the smugness abruptly disappeared, replaced with a deep hatred. 

“Just itching to get your hands on me, aren’t you?” Daniel taunted. 

“Not for the reasons you wish,” Matthews snapped back. 

“What am I wishing?” Daniel said, grinning.  “Tell me, please.  I’m dying to be educated by you.”

The elevators opened and Pederson stepped in, pressing the button to hold them open.  “Colonel, you and Colonel Coburn don’t need to come back with us.  We’ve got it handled.”

“I know your people have it covered, but we’ll make a sweep of this floor before settling in for the night.”

Pederson nodded.  “Roger that.”

Matthews glowered at Daniel as Pederson led him in the elevator, and Daniel grinned at him as the doors closed. 

Jack clapped Daniel on the shoulder and shook it as he squeezed.  “Nice observations, Daniel.  I’d only just remembered that Waters had been alone.”

“Did you find out who Matthews’ partner was?” Daniel asked. 

“Pederson said it was Sergeant Hamilton, but we can’t find Hamilton to confirm.  Last report was that he was in the Mess Hall.”

“That’s what Matthews said,” Daniel sighed.  “So who was Brian’s partner?”

“No one,” Jack answered.  “Sergeant Davis said he was supposed to report to security to get a partner.  That was this morning.  Within five hours, he was dead.”

“How could security fuck this up?” Daniel asked, astonished. 

“They didn’t,” Jack answered.  “The person Waters reported to was Matthews.  He was told his partner would be escorted to his quarters by midnight.  Apparently that never happened.  How Waters left his quarters unnoticed and slipped into the gym around 4 am, no one knows.”

“Four?” Alex asked. 

“Fraiser says that the pathologist determined that it was around five or so when Waters died.”

“And the surveillance camera on that corridor?” Daniel asked. 

Jack grimaced.  “The lens was blocked.  Security figured it out when they tried to access the camera and saw only a black screen.  Rewinding it backward, they found that the killer had left elevator 2 but moving behind the camera.  We have one photograph of the killer before he blocked the camera in the leading corridor to the gym from that elevator. 

“He was wearing MOPP 2, so the gas mask and hood were covering his head.  Since we’re all issued MOPP gear upon arrival, we don’t know who it was.” Jack smiled grimly, dangerously.  “But we’ll get the sonofabitch.  Security is currently going through the tapes of the connecting corridors and time periods.”

“Wait a minute.  Doesn’t this mean it was Matthews?” Daniel asked. 

“No, he has an alibi.  Hamilton vouched for him, said they were playing cards in Hamilton’s room during the first two murders.”

Daniel snorted.  “Fucking hypocrite.  How much you wanna bet they weren’t in his room playing cards.”

“Daniel,” Alex protested.  “He’s a homophobe.”

“And a very devout one,” Jason said.  “It’s my experience that the ones who scream the loudest are the ones who seek illicit sex.” His mind went immediately to Hamilton giving Matthews head and the image of that bastard having any kind of pleasure made Jason sick. 

“So now what?” Alex asked. 

“Wait,” Jason stated, his eyes on Jack’s for confirmation. 

Jack agreed with a single nod.  “Pederson will release Matthews to his quarters.  If it’s really him, he won’t do anything right away anyway, so we give him time to stew.”

“Is that a good idea?” Daniel asked. 

“Everything is less than circumstantial evidence, Daniel.  We can’t hold him because the only thing he violated were orders and respect to a superior officer.  Pederson will have his movements tracked, so don’t worry.”

If he’s the killer,” Jason added, “then Daniel and Alex have just given him a reason to go after them.”

“We have?” Alex asked. 

“You embarrassed him.  Killer or not, he’ll want you out of the way.  You’ll need to watch your backs regardless.  If he really is the killer, than you’ve increased the odds in him coming after you both.  So, we need to think up a plan to leave you both alone.  Adam has surveillance wires that you two can wear and we can be nearby.”

Daniel shook head.  “Matthews will know that.”

“Yes, he will,” Jack said, “so we’ll have two methods of surveillance.  We don’t have everything worked out yet.  Other ideas will come to me.  Hopefully Pederson will think up more.  In the meantime, we sleep on it, give us some planning time, too, because let’s face it, the killer could very well be someone else and Matthews is just making himself fit the bill by his stupidity.”

“So we chill till tomorrow then?” Daniel asked. 

“That’s the plan.” Jack inclined his head at Jason.  “Let’s go brief Hammond, then get some rest.”

“Isn’t it a little early?” Alex asked, checking his watch.  It was only 6:30 pm. 

“Rest, not sleep, Alex.  I’m too wired to sleep, and I suspect everyone else is, too.  But we need to relax, rest, store up our energy.”

“And where’s Sam and Teal’c?  Al and Connor?” Daniel asked. 

“In the security offices, helping to go over film.” Jack rolled his eyes, showing he didn’t like the idea himself.  “I’m leaving them to it.  Me, I’m fixing to try and relax, maybe play a game.” He then looked meaningfully at Jason.  “I think we might have a game or two we might play before sack time.”

“One or two,” Jason replied, then winked at Daniel as his eyes rested on Alex.  “Don’t leave marks.”

“You’re hilarious, you are,” Alex smirked back in mock-disdain. 

Jason and Jack walked down the corridor to take the stairwell, and Jason shot over his shoulder, “Be good.”

“I’m always good,” Daniel yelled back, grinning at their rolled eye expressions as they disappeared. 

.  . 

They reached Daniel’s door at the end of the short connecting corridor and after getting inside, Daniel shut the door and slid his card through the interior port, punching in a number to lock the door.  Turning around, Daniel waved at the room.  “Safe and sound in Chez Jackson.”

Alex grinned and sat on the foot of the bed, bending over to unlace his boots.  “What do you think about Matthews?”

“He’s not the murderer.  He’s a typical follower,” Daniel answered, disgusted by the existence of someone like Matthews in the SGC.  Daniel tossed his key card on the desk and unbuttoned his shirt.  “All I want to do is get this solved quickly, and long before the NID get a whiff of what’s going on.”

“Cheerful thought, isn’t it?” Alex said softly, absently. 

Daniel said nothing, leaving him alone.  Lost in thought, his mind eventually opened enough to accidentally pick up on Alex’s feelings.  Daniel didn’t want to intrude to find out what the emotions he felt were about so he started to think about something else, anything else. 

Problem was, Alex seemed to feel a few emotions stronger than the others and Daniel couldn’t help but feel those.  Apprehension and doubt, and stronger still was curiosity and intense arousal. 

Daniel raised a foot to the chair to unlace his boot and glanced over his shoulder to find Alex still sitting forward on the bed, boots off, fatigue shirt held in his hands, staring at it.  He appeared lost in thought just as Daniel had been.  The only difference was that Alex wasn’t being distracted by Daniel’s thoughts. 

As Daniel removed his other boot and pulled off his t-shirt, dog tags jingling against his chest, he wondered if his own sudden interest in Alex was nothing more than a reaction to Alex’s arousal.  It was highly likely, and Daniel had to stomp on the emotion because whatever Alex was feeling, he was feeling it as a normal part of the need for distraction.  He didn’t really want Daniel.  He wanted Jason. 

Daniel looked over at Alex again, and found him sitting in his olive green boxers, watching him, eyes slightly unfocused as if he were daydreaming.  Daniel unbuttoned his trousers slowly and slid them off, taking the time to look over Alex’s body just as Alex’s eyes were doing the same thing.  It was an arousing thing, having someone new give you the eye, the look, the open interest.  Problem was, Daniel knew damn well that he wouldn’t push Alex into something.  Even if the man would say yes, Daniel couldn’t be with someone who disrespected Jason as much as he did. 

Alex would argue otherwise, but the proof lay in Alex’s inability to understand their polyamorous relationship.  There was no such thing as cheating when approval had been given beforehand. 

Daniel laid his trousers over the back of the chair and when Alex blinked and met his eyes, realization hit him that he’d been blatantly staring.  Alex promptly blushed and Daniel grinned indulgently. 

“I’m flattered, if you want to know the truth,” he said. 

“I, uh…  sorry.”

“Why?” Daniel asked. 

Alex bit his lips together and avoided answering as he looked about the room.  Locating the small fridge that Daniel had next to the dresser, he gestured and finally met his gaze.  “Something to drink?”

“Help yourself,” Daniel answered, deciding not to push for an answer just yet.  As Alex got up and went over, retrieving a Coke, Daniel stepped in behind him.  “Would you hand me a bottle of water, please?”

Alex jumped.  “Shit, don’t do that,” he said, quickly handing the bottle over his shoulder.  Alex wished he’d stop blushing, wished his dick would mind itself and go back to sleep.  When he straightened up and turned around, Daniel hadn’t backed up any, eyes bright and mischievous. 

Daniel knew he shouldn’t be doing it, but his rebellious side said to hell with it. 

“What’re you doing?” Alex asked.  When Daniel didn’t answer and simply turned away, a secretive smile on his face, Alex felt his face grow hot again.  Swallowing his fear, he asked, “Is it my imagination or are you flirting with me?”

Daniel opened the water and took a drink, noticing how Alex’s eyes dropped to his mouth, then his throat, and how Alex swallowed after.  “A little,” he admitted, setting his bottle on the nightstand.  At that moment, Daniel actually wanted Alex, but he wasn’t about to do anything, not as long as he could feel that disrespect, that apprehension.  Pulling down the covers, Daniel adjusted his pillow and sat down, reclining against it and the bed’s headboard. 

“Do you wanna play some chess?” he asked, pushing away the arousal.  “I actually have a board in the top drawer of the dresser.” Daniel patted the bed as casually as he could.  “C’mon, Alex.  I won’t bite.” He refrained from stating the obvious follow-up. 

Alex fiddled with the pop top of the can as he knelt on the bed and sat back on his heels.  It was kind of a compromise.  He didn’t want to sit next to him, not yet.  He opened the Coke and took a long drink, liking the burn of it as it went down, making him focus on it, not Daniel. 

“I’m not really into playing chess.  The game puts me to sleep.”

Daniel nodded, watching him carefully, making sure he didn’t look patronizing or belittling.  “It’s a slow game, that’s for sure.” He set his water bottle on the nightstand and slid his legs under the covers, scooching down until he lay on his back.  He turned onto his side, head propped in one hand.  “If you don’t want to play a game, there’s nothing else to do but read, talk, or sleep, and I can tell you’re not sleepy.” He patted the bed again.  “C’mon.”

Alex fidgeted a bit, then told his brain to shut off and stop overthinking.  He set his Coke on the nightstand at his end and settled under the covers, pulling them up to his waist.  The extra pillow Daniel had was not military issue, so it was light and fluffy.  He instantly liked it over the old down pillows made flat and heavy by age and use. 

“These are nice,” he said as he burrowed his head and shoulders into the pillow. 

“When I can, I replace things the military issues.”

That explained it, Alex thought.  And it also explained the two cotton blankets, not thin cotton ones issued by the Air Force quartermaster.  “I never think to do that,” he said absently as he scooted down further, shoulders moving off the pillow as he lay on his back.  The normal conversation was doing its job, he realized.  And he wondered if Daniel was perhaps doing it on purpose.  He figured he could do it, too, but he found himself staring up at the ceiling instead. 

Daniel sensed the nervousness from Alex, knew it was increasing.  He had to do something.  Making up his mind, Daniel reached over and slid his hand under Alex’s, lacing their fingers together.  Alex jumped, turning his head to look at him with wide, surprised eyes.  The rest of his body was frozen still. 

In a soothing voice, Daniel said, “I’m holding your hand because I need to get your attention.” He took a deep breath, certain he had Alex’s attention now.  “Do you want something to happen between us tonight?”

“I…”

Daniel felt guilt from him and sighed.  “Listen to me.  It’s not cheating if something happens.”

Alex frowned, wondering why Daniel had picked that up, then realized he had been feeling guilty, not just nervous.  And it was why he was both drawn to Daniel and afraid to be aroused by him.  Plus…  there was this bit of sexual mystique around Daniel, as if the man could do no wrong.  Alex couldn’t bring himself to admit that in being with Daniel, he’d expose his own weaknesses and problems.  Plus there was the idea that Daniel would never have come on to him if it weren’t for the situation. 

Daniel tugged at his hand.  “Alex, did nothing I say to you at Adriann’s sink in?”

“It isn’t about cheating, Daniel.  It just feels…  I dunno.  Convenient.”

Daniel pulled his hand away and sat up quickly, staring straight ahead.  It had been a while since he’d gotten angry so fast and he hated that this was the reason.  “Convenient?”

“Would we being talking about this if we weren’t paired up?” Alex asked, not looking at him, and not having a clue that Daniel was pissed

Convenient?” Daniel asked again.  He turned and looked down at Alex.  “How fucking dare you think so little of me.”

Alex’s eyes widened and he sat up slowly.  “What?  I didn’t…  I don’t…  Daniel, wait–“

Convenient!” Daniel spat.  “You think I’d use you.  I can’t believe you think I’d use you like some one night stand.  Even worse, that Jason would love someone like that.” His eyes narrowed, smugly satisfied that he was making Alex panic.  “Jesus fucking Christ.” Daniel sighed heavily, and with it, he brought his knees up and dropped his forehead to them.  “Sometimes, Alex, circumstances make you do things you never would have at other times.  And afterward, it changes things.  The circumstances don’t make it wrong and neither do the actions made because of those circumstances.”

Alex opened his mouth to speak, to argue his side, but he wasn’t so sure he had a side anymore.  “I just…  it just felt like this wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t been paired up here.”

“And so the fuck what?” Daniel growled at him, lifting his head to face him again.  “So what?  It doesn’t mean that my actions or your actions are fucking wrong or that they shouldn’t have happened.  It doesn’t mean it would never have happened again some other time, either.”

“But that’s just it!” Alex said.  “You didn’t want–“

Four years ago,” Daniel said between gritted teeth, “circumstances forced the base infirmary to get a face lift, and Jason chose that time to come to me.  Those circumstances then woke Jack up and he stopped pushing me away.  Eventually, the three of us got together.  I don’t know if Jason and I would have eventually gotten together.  Neither of us knows.  I’d like to think that we would have.  What I do know is that a certain set of circumstances made Jason come to me and it changed us forever and I am grateful for that and would never change them.”

Daniel closed his eyes.  “You think that time in Hawaii was wrong, should never have happened?”

“That’s different, that’s–“

“No, it’s not.  You were there, Jason was there.  It was as convenient then as it is now with one huge exception.  I’m not Jason.” Daniel swung his legs over the side of the bed, pulled open the nightstand, found his glasses and took out a book.  “Whatever guilt trip you’re convincing yourself to have, don’t try to make it mine.  I wanted you because I wanted you, not because you’re convenient.” With that, he fluffed up his pillow, put on his glasses and sat back, forcing himself to focus on his book.  Thankfully, it was fiction, with a compelling enough story to capture his attention. 

Minutes went by, and he was just getting caught up in the story when Alex reached out and touched his stomach.  Daniel flinched and folded his book closed.  Alex was still lying down, only his head was now lying on his arm.  He was looking at him, guilty for another reason now.  “I’m sorry.  Me and my selfish mouth.  I didn’t realize…  anyway, I’m really sorry.”

Daniel gave a minor shake of his head as he sat forward and closed his book, finger needlessly inserted to save the page.  “Don’t worry about it, Alex.  It’s probably for the best.”

“Will you at least accept my apology?” Alex asked, afraid he’d created a rift.  He could tell Daniel was still pissed and he hated that. 

Daniel didn’t want to accept it, but he knew from experience that he’d regret it later if he didn’t.  “Fine, accepted.” Alex didn’t look like he believed him, and at the moment, Daniel really didn’t give a shit.  But, he needed this anger to go away and for Alex to chill.  “Listen, it’s gonna be a long night–probably a long couple of nights–and since I have a key, why don’t we get dressed and raid Jason’s office shelves so you can have something to read.  He’s got a bunch of books and magazines.”

“I know,” Alex answered, not really interested but it was a good idea.  He didn’t know if he could concentrate on a book, but it was worth a try to get rid of the guilt.  He wanted to apologize, but he already had and one thing he did know about Daniel was that he hated over-apologizing.  He sat up, rubbing his chin.  “Yeah, I guess it’d be a good idea, especially since I just FUBARed the shit out of…  well, this.”

Daniel left the comment alone.  Mostly because it was true and there was no point in rubbing salt in the wound by confirming it.  They re-dressed and went down to Jason’s office, scanning his shelves, most of which were filled with crime novels.  It was rather spookily coincidental that their main themes were about serial killers. 

Alex took his time, then selected three books.  “We should stop and tell Jason I stole some of his prized books.”

Daniel quickly nixed that idea.  “Alex, I don’t think Jason and Jack are up to having visitors right now.” He noted the blush and would have teased Alex about it had he not been a bit mad at him still.  Although not quite as mad as before, otherwise Daniel might have felt the need to shove Alex’s face in it and embellish what Jack and Jason were likely doing. 

Alex left Jason a note and they returned to Daniel’s room.  Daniel re-locked the door and before too long, both had dressed back down to their skivvies again and were back in bed, books in hand.  The bed wasn’t large enough, even at full size, so Daniel lay on his right side, facing the nightstand and lamp, while Alex reclined against his propped up pillow. 

It took him twenty minutes before Alex realized he wasn’t going to get past two pages.  He’d heard Daniel flip a few pages already and irrationally, he wanted Daniel to be unable to read.  When pissed off, Alex had never been able to read and he envied Daniel’s ability to do it. 

He lay there for ten more minutes, trying to gather his thoughts, his wording, trying to figure out what to say so that he would sound neither incomprehensible nor imbecilic.  With a sigh, he set down his book and pushed up, back to headboard. 

“Daniel?”

“What?”

“Could we take a moment to talk?”

With a sigh, Daniel closed his book.  “Go.”

“We’ve never been together.  I was thinking it was because we weren’t really attracted to each other, but now I know that’s not true.  I didn’t want whatever happened between us to be some sort of situational, one-time thing, and…  yeah, I thought that’s what you were going to have.”

“How could you think that?” Daniel asked him, offended again. 

“I don’t know you.”

“What?”

“I don’t know you.  I mean, I know you, but not completely.  You’re not my best friend, we don’t click.  I find you really…  mysterious.” Daniel’s eyes widened and Alex rushed on.  “You have this way about you that attracts people, gets them to talk, to love, to…  well, fuck.  I wondered what the hell you could possibly have for me, what did I have that you’d want.  And I panicked and stupidly thought that maybe it’s nothing more than getting a piece of ass, that finally, we’re here, so you may as well take advantage of that…”

Daniel sighed and got up, heading for the bathroom.  He turned on the faucet and splashed his face with lukewarm water.  Count to ten, he told himself.  Count to twenty.  He took long breaths, counting with each one. 

“Daniel?”

Daniel kept his eyes closed against the apologetic voice.  He didn’t want to hear it.  None of it.  “Forgiven, Alex.  End of discussion.  Now please, leave me alone.”

“How can you forgive me when you’re still mad?”

“Because I can.  And now, you’re saying things that are pissing me off, so I’m asking you to leave me alone.”

“What’d I say?  I thought you liked honesty!”

“I can’t believe you,” Daniel said, shaking his head.  He turned off the water and turned on the shower instead.  Lukewarm, to start.  He threw off his clothes and stepped into the shower, keeping his back to Alex.  “Please leave it alone.  Go read, Alex.  Please.”

Alex turned around and went back to bed, picking up the book.  He really had pissed Daniel off, and more than that, he understood why.  It had just suddenly sunk in, and now he felt horrible.  But he couldn’t leave it alone.  He needed Daniel to know and understand and he didn’t want to wait till Daniel had cooled off. 

What could he do to make it up to him?  Alex turned and went back to the bathroom, eyes staring at Daniel’s muscular body.  His wide back, narrow hips, longish legs.  Nice ass.  He couldn’t see his cock but he remembered Daniel had a nice one of those, too.  In two moves, his t-shirt and shorts were on the floor, covering the threshold between bathroom and main room.  In five moves, Alex was stepping over the tiled rise that protected the standard floor from the shower floor. 

In two moves he had shaking hands on Daniel’s shoulders, turning him around.  “I’m sorry,” he said as sincerely as he could.  “Please, accept my apology, and accept this for what I wanted to do earlier but was too chicken to do.” He then kissed Daniel, and moaned loudly when Daniel kissed him back.  Hard. 

Daniel used his anger, though it was quickly dwindling now, to feed the forceful actions he was using against Alex.  He’d wanted to scare him, pay him back, till he remembered that Alex liked this sort of thing. 

The unfortunate thing was that Daniel wasn’t hard.  He couldn’t get it up because the anger was still there and Alex’s attitude had pretty much taken away any feelings he’d had for him.  Whether Alex would change now or not made no more difference.  Pulling back from the long kiss, Daniel gestured at Alex’s hard cock while shower water rained down over his head and face. 

“You want me to take care of that?”

Alex shook his head.  “You’re not hard,” he said with clear disappointment. 

“That’s the way it goes,” Daniel told him matter-of-factly.  “I wish I was, but I’m not.  Call it fate, if you want.” He paused, then curled his fingers around Alex’s cock.  “Doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.” He kissed him lightly, then told Alex to close his eyes.  In a few minutes, Alex was coming into his hand.  A few minutes after that, Daniel was drying them off, talking to Alex in calm tones as he talked about the times where he’d learned to jack off another man. 

Alex went to sleep that night thinking that everything was fine.  Daniel slept lightly because everything wasn’t alright.  Jason was gonna break things off, and the sooner the better. 

.  .  . 

SFs Reed and Shears escorted Jack back from the Mess Hall.  As Reed slid the card through the lock port, he raised a questioning brow. 

“Is Colonel Coburn inside, sir?”

Jack lifted a brow and waved them inside his quarters.  The guards stepped past the short hallway and looked to their right.  Jason sat at the far right side of the room, dressed down in t-shirt and shorts, sitting on the room’s single chair with his feet propped up on the desk.  In front of him was his laptop and Voyager was onscreen. 

Jason looked over and grinned.  “You two bring our man safely back from the hunt?”

“Yes, sir,” Shears answered gamely. 

Jack gave the guards a smirk as he dropped his cache of food on the bed and snapped his fingers at Reed, who handed his card back to him.  “Thank you, gentlemen.”

“Uh, sir?” Reed gestured, nodding his head at Jason, meaning he wanted to talk to him. 

“Go ahead,” Jack said, having an idea what it was about. 

“Colonel Coburn?” Reed asked, glancing at Shears for both confirmation and backup.  Shears merely looked nervous and anticipatory. 

Jason dropped his feet off the desk and stood up.  “What can I do for you boys?”

“Sir, could we have a look?” Reed asked, then cleared his throat. 

Jason smirked, looked over at Jack, then back at the SFs.  “Alright, but absolutely no ass-grabbing.”

Reed and Shears rolled their eyes, with Reed muttering, “You wish.”

Jason had crossed his arms, preparing to lift off his shirt, but paused and said, “You’re not my type.”

Jack’s lips twitched.  Considering the circumstances of the murders, it might not have been appropriate humor, but it was a typical and cliched exchange.  Jack wondered just how many men, or women for that matter, had exchanged that banter sequence, and actually meant it when they said, “You’re not my type.”

Jason lifted off his shirt, wincing only enough for him to know it still hurt but not enough for the guards to detect it.  The black tattoo on his left pectoral muscle was very stark against his skin, the black mixed with a reddish color indicating newness.  It was healing nicely but it was driving Jason mad.  The itching had started. 

Shears hissed.  “Damn, that looks like it hurts.”

“It does, and it’s itching something fierce now, too,” Jason informed him. 

Reed asked, “Didn’t think it’d be that big.  Did it hurt much?”

Jason snorted and closed the distance, letting them get a good look.  “Hell yes, it hurt.  A lot.” He then described to them exactly what sort of implement had made the tattoo. 

“But what made it burn?” Reed asked. 

“That, gentlemen, is a mystery.  All I know is that this baby’s a permanent gift from the Diné and my grandfather.”

“Seen enough?” Jack asked, a bit irritated that Jason had indulged their puerile curiosity. 

“Sir,” Shears answered with Reed nodding once, crisply.  They both thanked Jason and followed Jack back out into the corridor. 

While Jack understood their curiosity, he knew exactly what they’d do with the information and had to nip that in the butt right now.  “When you pass this on, boys,” he warned, privately amused at their shocked expressions(mostly because they’d realized their commander was smarter than they were), “give no embellishments.  No whining and complaining, either.  It’s a religious symbol so not only is it allowed, it deserves respect, is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Glad we understand each other.  Now, keep on your toes and let’s have a quiet night.”

“Amen to that, sir,” Shears said, “Goodnight.”

Jack closed the door and locked it, then turned and picked up the box of snacks, putting the sodas into the mini-fridge and the food on top.  “You shouldn’t indulge them, Jason.”

“They’ll gossip anyway, Jack.  Give ’em accurate info and the gossip is controlled.”

“Usually.”

“Usually,” Jason agreed. 

He dropped his shirt on the bed and sat back down, half-watching Jack, half-watching the program playing on the laptop.  “Daniel should’ve thought of this,” he pointed at the computer hooked up to the cable port in the wall behind the desk. 

Jack shrugged.  “He still can.  He first has to think of it, then he has to get up and take Alex for a walk to his office.”

Jason choked on his Coke and started laughing.  “Jack, Alex isn’t a dog.”

“Woof,” Jack answered back, grinning madly.  He was going to say something else when the laptop screen caught his attention. 

Jason looked at the screen, saw Seven of Nine, and rolled his eyes.  “Jack, stop staring at her tits.”

“I’m staring at the whole package, wise-ass,” Jack answered back as he startled unlacing his boots. 

“Hmmm,” Jason murmured absently as his attention diverted to Jack’s undressing.  The moment Jack was in nothing but t-shirt and shorts, Jason settled back on his chair for some satisfied Jack Watching. 

Only Jack wasn’t having any of it.  He leaned over Jason and hit the button to mute the program.  Jason watched him, curious, then stared at Jack’s finger as he gestured Jason to stand.  Jason stayed put so Jack held out his hand. 

“C’mere, stand up.”

Jason took his hand and stood up.  “What’s on your mind, Colonel?”

“Not what you’re thinking, unfortunately,” and Jack led Jason to the other side of the bed and pushed him to sit down.  Jack reached in the drawer and took out a jar of the salve Asatay had given them.  Jason rolled his eyes as Jack sat down next to him, fingers already in the salve, readying for application. 

“It’s not necessary.  I put some on this morning.”

“This morning.  How many times a day did Asatay tell you?”

Jason sighed.  He couldn’t remember the number so he said, “Several.”

Jack smirked at him as he rubbed the salve gently into the skin.  “It’s getting a little better.  Should be good to go in a week or so.”

“That your professional opinion, Doctor O’Neill?” Jason asked archly. 

“It is,” Jack told him.  As Jason sat there, watching his face, his fingers, as Jack applied the salve, Jack thought about the next item up for discussion.  “You wanna talk about where this anger of yours is coming from?” Jason looked startled and slightly suspicious. 

“I don’t know what…” he started to deny, then thought better of it.  This was Jack he was talking to, not Alex.  “…  to say,” he finished. 

“Yes you do,” Jack countered.  “You wanted to rip Matthews’ head off his neck.  While I can understand that because I wanted to beat the shit out of him, I suspect you want to do more than just injure him.  So again, you wanna talk about where this anger is coming from?”

Jason fought against it, but realized that if anyone would understand, it’d be Jack.  “I’ve had clashes with homophobes in the past.”

“So’ve I,” Jack nodded, continuing his ministrations. 

With a heavy sigh, Jason said, “They were bad ones, Jack.  Bad.  Maybe you and Daniel are better equipped to handle those people, but all they ended up doing was bringing out a deep rage in me.  I don’t want them to understand, I don’t want to just hurt them.” He paused, hoping his words would sink in so he wouldn’t have to say it, but when Jack looked at him for more, Jason sighed and fell back on the bed. 

With a scolding look, Jack scooted over so he could continue applying the salve.  “You expect me to what?  Finish that statement?” When his fingers reached the part of the tattoo that circled Jason’s nipple, Jason groaned and closed his eyes.  “Distracting yourself, or me, won’t work.”

Jason opened his eyes and stared up at Jack reprovingly.  “I’m not doing it on purpose, it’s your touch.” He paused, then took hold of Jack’s hand, stilling him.  “I could use some distraction.”

“So you haven’t talked to Daniel about this anger?” Jack asked, ignoring the comment for the time being. 

Jason removed his hand with a sigh, letting Jack return to his job.  “No, and I don’t plan to.”

“You think he won’t understand?” Jack said, surprised, and at Jason’s shrug, he said, “That’s the most irrational thing I’ve ever heard come from you.”

“Do you remember that fucked up mission with the Tok’ra, where Teal’c was killed and brainwashed by Apophis?”

“I’ll never forget it,” Jack said grimly. 

“Before that, Teal’c was angry.  He was beyond angry.  Said the next time he had Apophis or Tanith within his grasp again, he’d kill them.  Daniel told me that Teal’c had asked him that if, given the opportunity, wouldn’t he–Daniel–snuff the life out of Apophis with his bare hands?”

Jack nodded.  “Daniel told me.”

“Did Daniel tell you what his answer had been?” Jason asked, every word emphatically pronounced.  Despite Jack nodding, Jason repeated it.  “He said that he’d considered it but it didn’t mean he’d do it, given a more rational alternative.” Jason shook his head, eyes boring into Jack.  “How the hell do I tell Daniel that I’d gladly murder people like Matthews and our gay killer?”

He swallowed, suddenly remembering Alex’s steadfast determination not to have Al and Connor look at him with disgust.  Jason felt Alex’s fears were unjustified, whereas he felt his own were.  He couldn’t have risk having Daniel look at him the same way Alex had feared Al and Connor would. 

Jack sighed and moved back to the edge of the bed, finishing the spot he’d left undone on Jason’s chest, then put the salve back into the drawer.  “I know that’s how you feel, but would you really do it?”

Jason stared at him.  “Remember my dream, Jalen turning into me?”

Jack tilted his head in thought, nodding as he remembered.  “Meaning that your mind was warning you ahead of time how you’d feel?”

“I think I’m warning myself to find another way to feel,” Jason told him as he rubbed his forehead. 

“Headache?” Jack asked, smirking because Jason had pretty much stressed himself into that headache. 

“Yes,” Jason answered between gritted teeth. 

Jack moved onto the bed and patted the mattress in front of him.  Jason sighed and scooted over to lie down, sliding his right hand under his head.  “You think I should tell him,” he said, caressing Jack’s chest with the backs of his left fingers. 

“Yes, I think you should tell him.  He’s already felt it, Jason.  Denying it will only make him mad.”

“Mad enough to kill?” Jason said sardonically. 

“Jason,” Jack scolded. 

Jason made a face.  “I’m feeling sorry for myself, Jack.  Indulge me for once.”

Jack grinned and brushed his mouth over Jason’s.  “In more than that, I hope.”

“Distracting me again?” Jason asked, smiling around Jack’s lips. 

“Absolutely,” Jack replied as he moved his hand over Jason’s chest, gliding over his nipples and down to his navel, fingering the ring Jason had left in. 

Jason inhaled sharply, pleased and aroused.  “Weren’t we going to get you pierced somewhere?” he asked, then began to chuckle softly as Jack refused to answer and instead, moved his entire body over him.  He settled his weight on top of him, rubbing his half-hard cock over Jason’s. 

“There’s just one little problem,” Jason told him. 

Jack shifted, rubbing his groin against Jason’s as he settled his weight more deliberately.  “Doesn’t feel like a little problem to me,” he said, chuckling, “nor a problem, come to that.  The only problem I see is that we both still have our clothes on.”

Jason sighed, mock-resignation all over his face.  “Yeah, well, we are in your quarters, have limited supplies, and this bed is way too small.”

“That all?” Jack smirked. 

Jason pretended to think it over, then pretended to remember something extremely important.  “Oh yeah!  And it’s been so long since I had any.”

“It was yesterday, smart ass, and not with me, I might add.”

“Exactly my point, smart ass.”

Jack traced the edge of the tattoo, moving to the underside of the design.  Jason’s nipple hardened from the tactile sensations, sending shivers throughout the rest of him, raising up goosebumps.  “Somehow, I don’t think those SFs appreciated this baby as much as I do,” he said, smiling seductively as he raised his gaze to Jason’s. 

Jason mimed biting at him, a signal, and Jack attacked his mouth, kissing him deeply, giving his tongue over for a thorough wrestling match.  Between them, Jack touched the elastic waistband of Jason’s boxers with his deft fingers and slid them underneath to wrap around their prize. 

Jason sucked in a breath and bit his lip around a smile.  “Careful now,” he breathed. 

“Now why would I want to be careful?” Jack asked softly as he pulled up with twist and pushed back down, ending it with a firm push against Jason’s balls that always brought heat shivers to the small of Jason’s back, making him squirm.  The look on his face and feel of his body were too much and Jack kissed him again, harder, continuing his purposeful manipulation of Jason’s cock. 

Before he could let Jack bring him off, Jason needed skin, needed to smell that scent from under Jack’s arms, feel the sparse, silky hairs rub against his skin.  His tattoo.  Breaking the kiss, he pulled his other hand free and pulled Jack’s shirt up, making him release his cock momentarily as he lifted it over his head and arms. 

Before it hit the floor, Jack’s hand was back where it belonged, his free hand cradling Jason’s neck.  Jason reached for Jack’s dick, to return the wonderful pleasure but Jack shook his head.  “Just lie back, Jason,” Jack ordered.  “Grab hold of the bed and give me some of that hip action.”

Jason complied and through shallow, stuttered breaths, fucked Jack’s hand, keeping up with the stroking as it got faster and tighter.  He let out a choked gasp when he felt his orgasm was imminent and Jack immediately bent over and took the head of his cock into his hot, wet mouth.  He sucked hard and greedily and the sight and feel of it brought Jason off like a bottle rocket.  He choked on his groans as he arched back, eyes closed, hands now holding Jack’s head as he pumped shot after shot into his eager mouth. 

Jack let his dick plop from his mouth and fall heavily to his abdomen, wet and spent, and the elastic band tried to spring back up but caught Jason’s pubic hairs instead.  Gasping, Jason rescued himself and pulled his shorts up, then ignored the matter entirely as he reached up and threaded his fingers through Jack’s hair.  “Jesus, you’re so fucking good.”

“Resistance is futile,” Jack muttered. 

In astonishment, Jason stared back at him, then both started laughing.  “Where’ve I heard that before?” he asked. 

Grinning mischievously, Jason pulled Jack into a long kiss as he pushed him onto his back.  “Grab the bed, Jack,” he said, whispering his warning as he moved swiftly down his body.  He seized his own prize as he cupped Jack’s balls and wrapped his lips around his cock.  It didn’t take long before Jack held fistfuls of Jason’s black hair, hips pumping with feral need as Jason took his full length, face red from exertion. 

The sight of him damn near brought him off.  With a guttural warning, Jack grasped Jason’s head and held him against his groin.  Jason growled over his cock, his fingernails digging into his ass cheeks, and swallowed repeatedly, urging Jack to come.  When he did, Jack threw his head back and jerked his hips, thrusting against Jason’s mouth, emptying his balls down his throat. 

A minute later, Jason pulled back, tongue licking around the head, making Jack grab at Jason and pull him up against him.  Kissing him hard, Jack threatened, “I’m gonna fuck you so hard when we get home.”

“Think so, do you?” Jason asked, loving the idea so much he wished that Jack had just done that very thing. 

They shared come-flavored kisses, with Jack accidentally flicking a nail over Jason’s tattoo.  When he winced, Jack caressed him apologetically, then stretched across the bed and retrieved the jar of salve from the drawer. 

“You already did that,” Jason observed, not moving. 

“Yeah, but…” Jack said, applying more.  Going back to an earlier tease, he asked, “So what was that thing about piercing?”

“Just that you should get a nipple pierced.”

“Only if Daniel does.”

“Chicken,” Jason said, clucking afterward.  “You’ll like it, I promise.”

“Not the piercing part, Jason.”

“It’ll be worth it,” Jason sing-songed. 

“Then you do it.”

“I have my navel ring, and don’t change the subject.”

“Jason, I am not having a wire threaded through my nipple.”

Jason grinned his head off, enjoying this.  “It won’t hurt, Jack.”

“The hell it won’t.”

“Only if you want it to.  You get iced down or get injected with lidocaine–or lanocaine, whichever one inhibits bleeding as well as feeling–“

“You forgot?”

“Don’t change the subject, Jack,” Jason warned again. 

“Jason, it’s just not me.”

“Bullshit.”

“I like my nipples the way they are.”

“So do I.  But consider that it’ll get me and Daniel off to be able to play with it,” and he stuck out his tongue, miming the actions that Jack was used to getting on the head of his dick or around his asshole. 

Jack groaned.  “I’ll think about it.”

“That’s my man.”

.  .  . 

After breakfast the next morning, Hammond, Jack and the others met up with Cari and Pederson in the security office. 

“So, what’ve we got Matthews doing this morning?” Jack asked. 

“He’s on this floor,” Hammond explained.  “Standing guard outside the freight elevator in B Wing.”

“With Hamilton?” Daniel asked. 

“Yes, with Hamilton,” Pederson answered.  “Bastard tries anything, we’ll know it was him.”

“Does Hamilton know about Matthews?” Daniel asked. 

“I don’t think so.  We didn’t tell him, at any rate,” Jack replied.  “I’m more worried about him helping Matthews.”

“Would he?” Daniel asked. 

“You never know,” Jason observed. 

“When do we put in the plan to bait the killer?” Hammond asked, not having been briefed yet on the time frame.  He hated having to ask but holding endless teleconference briefings had forced him to give Jack the authority to take over the hunt.  Now, he finally had time to go over the plan directly and he felt a little better. 

Sitting against the edge of one of the tables, Jack pursed his lips.  “Halfway through lunch, sir.  This afternoon, there’re no shipments coming in, no visitors.  We can be safely sure of no additional people.”

“Agreed, sir,” Pederson said after checking his two clipboards. 

“And how will we be monitoring our people?” Hammond asked. 

“Here, sir,” Cari said, retrieving the surveillance devices from a locked safe.  “These are small enough to be hidden and still pick up sound.”

Daniel stared at the round, black disk no bigger than a dime.  “Wow.”

Cari grinned her head off and exchanged quick looks with a smug Sam.  “Got these from the NID a while back, courtesy of Agent Barrett.  We worked on them some more, however, and all the bugs, no pun intended, have been worked out.”

“We?” Jack asked, but he knew as his eyes rested on Sam. 

She held one out to him.  “Their range was 50 yards.  It’s now 200.”

“Nice,” Jack said, turning it over in his palm.  “How do you put them on.”

“Well,” Sam grimaced, “that’s the bad news.  Old-fashioned Superglue.”

“Thank god for that glue remover they came out with,” Daniel said as he and Alex winced. 

Cari retrieved the Superglue from a drawer.  “May as well get it over with, sirs.  You’ll get these under your right ribcage, that way there’ll be no interference from your heart.”

“That really a problem?” Alex asked as Cari lifted his shirt and pressed one against his skin.  He felt the old flush of familiar arousal, then it was gone.  He was almost disappointed. 

“Actually, it is,” Sam answered as she did the same for Daniel.  “The heart can be picked up through the simple microphone so imagine its amplification through a transmitter.”

“Right,” Daniel mumbled as he winced a little, feeling the skin stretch.  “Good thing I don’t have much hair there.”

If Hammond hadn’t been there, Jack would have teased him.  Instead, he said, “Okay, folks.  For our own benefit as well as the General’s, let’s discuss the plan of attack, see if there are any holes.”

“In the middle of lunch,” Daniel recited, “I leave, saying I have something to check on something in my lab.  At that point, people will assume that I’ll be escorted to my lab, but if the killer is watching me, he’ll know that’s not true, that I’ve disobeyed orders and left alone.”

“Same here,” Alex went on.  “A few minutes after you leave, I’ll spill coffee on myself, then head for our locker room to change, alone.  At that point, if the killer’s after me, he’ll have a perfect opportunity.”

“I’ll make a note in my report,” Hammond said wryly, “that your disobeying of orders was actually under orders.” Everyone smiled.  “Now, we monitor the situations of both men using what?”

“We’ll have these on us, sir,” Sam said, holding up something like a palm pilot and gave Hammond one of the two new communication earpieces she held in her other hand. 

Cari handed out earpieces to everyone else, except Daniel and Alex, and placed her own over her ear and positioned the thin listening end over the front to show everyone how they were to be worn.  It looked ordinary, and like something a member of security would be wearing, but more importantly, it couldn’t be seen unless someone looked directly at her ear.  “We’ll be monitoring the both of you with these,” she said, waving the pad, “and I won’t be activating the earpieces until lunchtime.”

“Are they that distracting?” Daniel asked. 

Both she and Cari nodded.  “There’s no way we’ll be able to concentrate on work.  When we activate the pads, we’ll have to monitor them.” The two women exchanged grins.  “Don’t do anything to embarrass yourselves.  Remember who’s listening.”

“Well,” Alex said as blandly as he could, “if I let out a girly scream before getting my throat cut, I’ll expect you to forget about that as you come running to my rescue.”

Sam borrowed Teal’c’s ability to deadpan a delivery.  “By all means, let out a girly scream, Alex.  I’d like to know what one sounds like.”

Alex coughed, looking more embarrassed than apologetic, and said, “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Alright, let’s get to it,” Hammond suggested.  “And remember.  I realize this is interfering with our work schedules, but until lunchtime, no one goes anywhere alone.”

.  .  . 

Daniel checked his watch.  1120.  Ten minutes till the official hour for lunch.  He looked over at Jack, hunched over his lab desk, reading, and found it strangely annoying that Jack could concentrate anywhere.  Daniel also found Jack’s presence distracting, but not because it was Jack but because Jack periodically took a break to stretch and walk about the room.  He invariably made Daniel do the same thing. 

Daniel dropped his pencil to the desk and stood up, picking up his jacket and slipping it on.  “Whaddya say we head out early?”

Jack dropped his pen and rubbed at his face.  “Good idea.” He stood up and stretched, groaning as bones creaked.  “Let’s go.”

On their way up to level 16 and Mess Hall #2, they met up with Sam and Teal’c.  Entering the Mess, they found Jason and his team already going through the line.  Jack smirked at him as they entered the line behind him. 

“Sneaky bastard,” Jack said. 

“And you’re not?” Jason whispered. 

They got their food and settled at one of the larger tables.  Conversation was a bit more active while they ate, mostly to distract themselves from the times their teammates would leave the Mess Hall. 

At 1202, Daniel started a conversation about one of translations he was working on and that he’d been waiting for a download of information from Area 51.  At 1205, his cue came.  “Damn it!” he said, getting up. 

“What’s the matter?” Sam asked. 

“I forgot to leave my terminal open.”

“Daniel, they can wait,” Jack told him. 

“No, their lab’s going to be busy for the rest of the afternoon so unless I get the information now, I won’t be able to until tomorrow.” He picked up his tray, saying absently, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell security,” and left in a rush after depositing his tray and dishes for cleanup. 

Jack shook his head.  “You’d think he’d calm down about research after all this time.”

Everyone else started commenting on it, then at 1208, Alex spilled his coffee.  To his dismay, instead of aiming at his stomach, his elbow bounced off the edge of the table and the mug literally fell into his lap.  “Shit!” he exclaimed, then glanced at Jason and Jack.  “Sorry, sirs.”

“Go change your clothes, Major,” Jason sighed.  “And alert security on your way so they can contact others along your route.”

“Yes, sir.”

Sauntering out, Alex was glad his shirt covered his groin or he’d look like he’d pissed his pants.  On his way, he signaled to Masters, one of the security guards stationed between the Mess Hall and the elevator.  “Going down to the locker room to change, so notify Pederson to alert the detail on Level 25.”

“Yes, sir,” the guard called out, pointedly trying not to smirk. 

.  .  . 

Daniel got to his lab alone, having convinced the guard down the corridor to stay at his post on the grounds that if anyone came for him, the guard would see him pass.  Sitting at his desk, Daniel connected his computer to the special Area 51 modem meant for large downloads/uploads.  He checked his watch, then pulled out his cell phone and text messaged Bill Lee at R&D.  A prearranged file was automatically sent, file size sufficiently large enough to back up Daniel’s story in case anyone came in. 

Getting up to take a piss in his office bathroom, Daniel frankly hoped that the killer was after him, not Alex.  While Alex knew how to defend himself, Daniel figured that those other men did, too.  He also had experience on his side and since talking was one of his gifts–or so he’d been told numerous times in his life–then perhaps he could psych the killer long enough to get an advantage. 

Leaving the bathroom, Daniel next checked the place where his backup was hidden.  In the middle left drawer of his lab desk, Daniel pulled out his keys and opened the drawer.  Inside sat the civilian-owned 9mm that not even Jack knew was there.  Four years before, Jason had given it to him–along with the new lab desk–and told him to keep the gun because of where he worked. 

Closing the drawer and leaving it unlocked, Daniel smiled to himself, fondly remembering how he’d given Jason shit about the gun but not the desk.  He’d never used the gun, mostly because he’d forgotten it was there.  For once, Daniel was glad he did remember.  He only hoped he didn’t end up killing the murdering bastard. 

Daniel heard the musical note that told him the download was complete.  Moving back over to his desk, he clicked on the modem and disconnected, then moved around to the front of his desk and knelt down.  The back of the computer was accessible through the opening and Daniel reached in to disengage the switch Sam had rigged up for him.  Ingenious thing, he thought. 

He glanced at his watch and snorted softly.  1221.  He’d only been in here for fifteen minutes but it seemed longer for some reason.  Lunch would be served till 1300, however, so he figured he had a little time before the halls would be crowded again and the killer lost his opportunity. 

Double-checking the connections on the back of the computer, Daniel began to straighten when a voice inside his head screamed, killer.  His bulkhead door whined shut and Daniel knew he was no longer alone.  Still in a crouch, he pivoted on his booted toes and moved to the lab desk next to him, and to the gun in the drawer. 

Years of practical experience had the gun in his hand in less than two seconds, and one more second when he was standing and aiming at the same time, gun barrel pointing at the source of the intrusion. 

Daniel looked into the face of his visitor: Sergeant Doug Hamilton–the man he’d worried about supposedly being at risk–stood there with a zat in one hand and what looked like a wire garrote in the other.  Daniel could feel unstable emotions under the calm visage, confirming that Hamilton wasn’t a visitor, but the killer.  He didn’t even blink at the sight of a gun sight trained on his face. 

“Hamilton,” Daniel greeted. 

“Doctor Jackson,” Hamilton said with derisive emphasis on the professional part of his name.  With quick, decisive movement, he zatted the door’s controls, fusing them shut.  “I will not tolerate any interruptions.  They’ll have to burn through to rescue your faggot ass.  But, by then, it’ll be too late.”

“And too late for you as well, Hamilton,” Daniel told him, confused by Hamilton’s actions.  The man wasn’t as smart as Daniel thought.  He hadn’t thought ahead, hadn’t realized that Daniel’s office had two doors, and that rear door was open.  From where Hamilton stood, he couldn’t see it, blocked as it was by a conveniently placed locker. 

Months before, Daniel had gotten tired of people glancing in at him as they walked by, so he’d placed one of his lockers so that it blocked the view.  While closing the door would have done that, Daniel felt the need to have it open; sometimes, it got a little too tomb-like inside these offices. 

Daniel made sure that he didn’t give away the unknown advantage he had, keeping his eyes trained on Hamilton, as well as the gun sight. 

“Doesn’t matter if I’m caught or killed.  You’re going to be my masterpiece, the message everyone will get loud and clear.”

Daniel felt a chill go down his spine.  No for the threat, but for the reason behind it.  Hamilton didn’t care if he died, meaning he had nothing to lose, that Daniel had no chance in hell of talking his way out of this one.  Still, he needed to stall till Jack and the others got here.  “What message would that be?” he asked. 

“You would not understand,” Hamilton was saying. 

“You’re a homophobe,” Daniel told him calmly.  “You’re all alike, all of you needing to justify your hatreds, your killings, and all because you know you’re full of shit.”

Hamilton stepped to his left, placing the desk between them, part of his attention on Daniel’s gun, part of it on Daniel himself.  He seemed indifferent that Daniel’s gun had fucked up the plan to kill him.  He had to know that even if he had the zat, he could get Daniel only once before Daniel took him down. 

“Where’s that partner of yours?” he asked. 

Hamilton’s expression was one of sick satisfaction.  “Matthews has taken one for the team.”

.  .  . 

Having left lunch early, too, Jason was heading with Jack and the others for the security office when he caught something in the air.  He slowed his step, then abruptly stopped in the middle of the corridor.  Annoyed passersby said nothing, considering his rank, but Alex grabbed Jason’s arm and pulled him out of the way. 

“Jason, what’s the matter?” Jack asked. 

Jason breathed in again and it was still there.  Without reasoning it out or second-guessing, he turned back the way they’d come and started running toward B-Wing.  “C’mon!”

With stunned looks, the others followed him, and as they rounded one corridor for another, Jack realized where they were going.  “Jason, why are we…” he started to ask, but they were already there, at the freight elevator.  The question was now moot. 

They looked down at Matthews’ slain body lying in a twisted heap on the floor, a small pool of blood underneath him. 

“Goddammit,” Sam exclaimed. 

Jack turned to her, alarmed.  “What?” he asked, then saw the pad in her hands, and the one in Cari’s, and knew what was wrong.  They’d forgotten to turn on the receivers.  Then Jack checked his watch.  No, they hadn’t forgotten.  They’d just miscalculated the time. 

“Where’s that partner of yours?” came Daniel’s voice through the receiving equipment. 

“Shit, let’s go!” Jack yelled and ran like hell back to the elevator.  Behind him, he heard Cari notifying security. 

Moving aside to get out of the way, Jack waited for the group to get into the main elevator before he punched the button for Daniel’s floor.  When the car began to move, Jack asked Jason, “How’d you know?”

Jason looked around him, then back to Jack.  Embarrassment and alarm was written all over him.  “I smelled the blood.”

“What?”

Jason shook his head, indicating he couldn’t explain it either, and instead of calling Alex over the radio, pulled out his cell, dialing the man’s number.  The elevator seemed to take forever, and so did Alex’s response.  The doors to the elevator opened just as Alex answered.  “Where are you?” Jason asked as the others filed out and he followed. 

“I’m still in the locker room.  No one’s showed up.”

“He’s gone after Daniel.  Get up here.”

Jason didn’t wait for Alex to reply and hung up as he ran after the others, catching up with the group just as it headed around a connecting hallway.  It seemed to take forever to get to Daniel’s lab and Jason cursed the fact that Daniel’s office was so far from the elevator. 

As they got to Daniel’s main door, Jack pulled out his sidearm.  The others followed suit, with Teal’c and Sam turning on their zats.  Jack slid his key card through the port but nothing happened, not even the sound to recognize the card.  He tried again, then punched at a few buttons. 

“It’s jammed,” he said between gritted teeth. 

“The other door,” Jason said and was gone before Jack moved. 

They came to an abrupt halt, finding the back door open.  The locker Daniel had placed to block off his office served his purpose, but it also served Jack’s, letting them listen in on what was going on and determine when would be the time to rush in.  And hopefully not get Daniel killed in the process. 

.  .  . 

Daniel stared coldly at Hamilton.  “So it doesn’t really matter who you kill, does it.  All for the cause, right?  For whatever fucked up reasons you have, you’ll even kill your own.”

Hamilton sneered in distaste.  “He wasn’t one of my own.”

“Yes he was.  He hated gays.”

“Queers!” Hamilton corrected.  “Fags, ass bandits, or as the Bible calls them, sodomites.  You took a perfectly decent word and corrupted it just like you corrupted everything else.”

“Really?” Daniel said, ignoring the ‘you.’ “That’s some kind of power you’ve given them.  Funny how it seems to have escaped their notice.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

Daniel snorted derisively.  “The classic reply of the mal-adjusted.”

“Keep it up, Jackson, or–“

“Or what?” Daniel asked, turning slightly and cupping the butt of the gun with his left hand.  “You’ll kill me?  Please, don’t threaten me with the obvious.  It won’t work.”

“You’ll die a little slower, a little more painfully.”

“I don’t think so,” Daniel said, twitching the muzzle of the gun to prove his point.  “You know I know how to use this.”

“Only because that ass-plower O’Neill had to show you.”

“Really?” Daniel asked.  “Damn, and here it was me thinking it was my combat experience.”

“You’ve never been in the military, asshole.”

“You don’t need to be military to be in combat, dumbass.  And this place makes my case for me.”

“You’re so deluded,” Hamilton spat.  “These people have done everything for you.  Got you a wife, a decent life, then you pissed it away, let her get taken, all so you could hoodwink these people into thinking you’re special.” As his rant progressed, Hamilton’s voice rose.  “You’re a narcissistic prick!  Your ego let those fucking snakeheads know where we live!  You’re directly responsible for every bad thing that’s happened here, but the worst of it all is that you’re a goddamn queer and you did it all so you could get new ass targets!”

“What’s the matter, Hamilton?” Daniel taunted, easily ignoring the accusations because he’d heard them all before.  “Jealous?”

“Fuck you.”

“Sorry, you’re not my type.  But you’re pissed about that, aren’t you?  That I never paid you any attention.  I must be directly responsible for your not getting laid in the last ten years or that you’re so fucking stupid, your reenlistment didn’t go through?” Unlike Hamilton, Daniel had done his homework.  A lot of homework, on everyone. 

“Shut up!” Hamilton screamed. 

“Is there an echo in here?” Daniel asked, taking better aim by planting his feet more squarely. 

“Your unholy, filthy existence in this place is an affront to all decent god-fearing people.”

“Methinks he doth protest too much.  Want to fuck me, Hamilton?  Is that why you killed those men?  Because you couldn’t have me and you didn’t know how to handle it?”

Hamilton was raging.  Spit flew from his mouth like a rabid dog as he talked.  “Your kind need to disappear, Jackson.  And if I had my way, you’d all go the way of that teenage faggot from Wyoming.”

It took all of Daniel’s strength not to shoot the smug, self-righteous bastard right between the eyes.  He still might.  “Yes, it would figure that you’re just like those cowards.”

“They were doing god’s work!”

.  .  . 

Jack rolled his eyes.  “C’mon, Daniel, let’s get this over with.”

.  .  . 

Daniel was tempted, very tempted, to back this man into a corner with all his hypocrisy, but he was dealing with an unbalanced mind and had to stay sharp, ready for the trigger finger that would send electrical discharge his way. 

“God’s work,” he repeated.  “Funny how people use that excuse when they’ve run out of everyone else to blame for their abnormal thinking.”

“I’m going to gut you,” Hamilton glowered dangerously…  and fired the zat. 

Daniel didn’t fire back, but moved just in time to avoid the blast.  He felt a tingling outside of his body, like being near electrical power lines. 

“I’m going to put you in a judas chair,” Hamilton spat. 

“Promises, promises,” Daniel muttered as he rolled onto his haunches and strained his ears.  Movement to his right nearly made him lose his concentration, but his heart soared in the knowledge that he had backup waiting. 

“Stop hiding and face your execution, you sorry son of a whore.”

“Gladly,” Daniel rumbled between clenched teeth.  He counted off three seconds, then rolled past the right side of the lab desk and when he was in the clear, brought his gun to bear on Hamilton.  Whether it was timing, luck, or experience, Daniel fired off two shots a split second before Hamilton fired his zat.  The impacts from the bullets caused Hamilton to fall backward, but his own shot was accurate enough to take Daniel down. 

.  .  . 

Jack lunged through the doorway and around the locker room.  The sight of Hamilton on the floor was a relief but it was muted by his terrified concern for Daniel.  He and Jason reached him, their hearts pumping wildly at the sight of his prone body.  Jack held his breath and touched Daniel’s throat.  He had a pulse. 

“Thank god,” he said, letting out a breath. 

So did Jason, and he sat back on his heels, hand squeezing Jack’s shoulder just as Teal’c moved past to check the body lying next to the door.  Careful not to step in the blood pooling underneath the chest wounds, he stared down at the open, partly-glazed eyes. 

“This man is dead,” he announced. 

Jack twisted his mouth in disgust.  “Saves us from having to house the miserable bastard for the rest of his life.”

“And allow him to spread his hatred,” Jason added.  Teal’c looked over at them, brow raised, but remained silent. 

Pederson and Cari came running in and Jack looked up at them and nodded.  Pederson got on the radio and sent out the All Clear and called for a medical team.  “I’ll be back, sir,” he told Jack and left at a half-run. 

Sam ran into the room, passing him, followed by Al and Connor, then Alex, who’d caught up with them.  “We have it on tape, sir,” she told Jack. 

Jack nodded.  “Thank you, Carter.”

“And when I say ‘all’ I mean ‘all’,” Sam added in an undertone. 

Jack shrugged, and stood aside as the medics came in.  “Fortunately, Daniel can hold his own on the rumor mill over this one.”

“Rumor mill’s a big one, sir,” she said. 

“Then it’s a good idea he’s a civilian, Carter.”

“Yes, sir.  I hope they follow the regs on that,” she said, inclining her head toward to hallway and the group of SFs. 

“Oh, they’d better,” Jack replied, mentally drawing up the memo he planned to post everywhere. 

The medical team came in and they got out of the way, letting the corpsman lift Daniel onto the stretcher.  After they left, the forensics team moved in to take pictures before loading the dead man into a body bag. 

Jack touched Jason’s shoulder, motioning him further away from the scene.  “What was that about smelling blood?” That got their respective teammates’ attention.  “Was it like what happened with your sudden hearing?”

“No,” Jason said, staring at the pool of blood.  With a grimace, he turned and left the office.  Jack and the others followed him and stepped out of the way when forensics moved past them with the body bag now on a stretcher. 

“What then?” Jack asked. 

“I don’t know!” Jason hissed, getting suddenly angry. 

“Hey, hey, calm down, I’m only asking.  There’s no need for you to get tetchy.”

Jason closed his eyes and took a deep breath, knowing Jack was right.  Opening his eyes, he found six expectant faces turned to him.  “I’m just worried about Daniel.  I’m sorry.”

“S’okay, Jason,” Sam said, rubbing his arm. 

Jason gave Jack another apologetic look and Jack finally nodded, accepting it.  “Listen,” Jason told him, and the others by extension, “I don’t understand why I could smell it, but I did.  Just as I can smell the soap you used cleaning up this morning or Cari’s body spray or the fact that I can smell the blood all the way over here and it’s turning my stomach.”

“It’s been several hours,” Cari said with amazement.  “You can still smell the body spray?”

Jason rolled his eyes, wishing he’d kept his mouth shut.  “Yeah, Cari, I can smell it.”

“What perfume am I wearing?” Sam asked. 

“You’re wearing perfume?” Jack asked, arching a brow sarcastically.  “I thought that was just expensive deodorant.”

Sam was going to snipe back at him, but saw the strained look on Jason’s face and instantly decided otherwise.  “Jason, sorry.  I believe you.  I just think it’s…  weird.”

“That’s a word and a half, Sam,” he told her.  “C’mon, let’s get to the infirmary.”

Jack suddenly grabbed his arm, shaking his head.  “We’ll get there soon, I promise, but right now, we can’t.  We have to complete our report first.  Daniel’s okay, Jason.  He’s not going anywhere.”

Jason clenched his jaw but obeyed, admitting that Jack was right. 

Running footsteps caught their attention as Pederson returned with a few SFs.  “We’ve been to their quarters and here’s what we’ve found out so far…”

A few hours later… 

Janet walked into the briefing room and nodded her respect to Hammond.  On her heels were Jack, Jason, Sam, Teal’c, Cari and Pederson.  Alex, Al and Connor had been asked to remain in the infirmary to keep an eye on Daniel–much to his annoyance. 

“How’s Doctor Jackson?” Hammond asked, gesturing for everyone to take their seats at the table. 

“He’s fine, sir,” Janet informed him as she took the seat to his right.  “And in the same condition as anyone else after a heavy zat blast to the chest, but he’ll be fit for duty tomorrow.  However, since his office is now a crime scene, and the attack was also a stressful event–despite what Doctor Jackson says–I’m recommending that he be sent home for forty-eight hours.”

Hammond nodded.  “Very well, doctor, and I tend to agree.  Zat blasts aren’t exactly fun, but having faced down a murderer like Hamilton, that’s definitely not a picnic.” He peered over the table’s occupants, then looked at Jason.  “Where’re your men, Colonel?”

Janet answered instead, trying to keep a straight, professional face.  “Daniel did his usual ‘I’m fine’ routine, General, so I invited Colonel Coburn’s teammates to keep him company until you’ve cleared him to go home.”

“You have jurisdiction, Doctor.”

“Yes, sir, but you may have wanted to debrief him about Hamilton, so I ordered him to stay put.”

“Thank you, Doctor.  I’ll go see him when we’re through here.  In fact, I’m advising all personnel clear of duty to go home and catch up with their families now that the lockdown is over with.” He was met with grateful looks.  “I wish I could give the entire base the next two days off, but I can’t.”

He cleared his throat, hoping to get this done as quickly as possible.  “Let’s have your report, Lieutenant.  Who dropped the ball?  How the hell did Hamilton get down to Doctor Jackson without anyone knowing?”

“Sir, Hamilton wasn’t a suspect,” Pederson informed him with just the right amount of subservient guilt, “so our security personnel didn’t question why he needed to see Doctor Jackson.  As to how it was managed, sir, it seems that Hamilton and Matthews never left for the mess hall.”

Pederson took a deep breath as he handed the General a copy of the criminal report.  “I relieved them personally for lunch, since the area could be freed for one hour, but they never appeared in the Mess Hall.  I assumed, after the fact, that they’d never left their post.  The only one who dropped the ball, sir, was me.  If I had only given orders that the camera in that section be monitored, we would have noticed that it was out of commission.”

General Hammond gave Pederson a more tolerant look.  He had to admit that it was an unlikely place to watch, given the rest of the base.  “You didn’t fail in your duty, Lieutenant,” he informed him.  “You were right to have your people monitor the rest of the base, so don’t beat yourself up about it.  Continue.”

“Over the last couple of hours, our investigation found that both Hamilton and Matthews were involved in the murders, with Hamilton as the leader, and killer, and Matthews acting as his look-out and convenient alibi.  Some of the facts that are coming to light support this, sir.  We also found evidence in both their quarters that alludes to this partnership but doesn’t exactly prove that Matthews helped.”

“What sort of evidence?”

“Emails and photographs.”

“Whether the evidence secures their guilt doesn’t really matter now, sir,” Jack told Hammond.  “Both men are dead.”

“This may be true, Colonel,” Hammond replied sternly, “but the Judge Advocate will need it for the record.  What are the pictures of?”

“The dead men, sir,” Jason answered, clearing his throat.  “Taken before, during, and after the attacks.  Trophies.”

“Does that mean they were serial killers?” Hammond asked, alarmed. 

“No, sir.  There’s not enough evidence anyway to make that determination.  Going by what I’ve seen so far, Matthews was a simple–although there’s nothing simple about it–disciple, a fanatical follower for whatever religious beliefs he felt justified his and Hamilton’s actions.  Hamilton, for all his bullshit religious belief, was sociopathic, but the name for what he evolved into is a Type 3 or 4 Assassin.”

“A what?” Sam asked. 

“An article I read from the medical journals on profiling.  Assassins, those who’ve been assigned to kill,” and Jason glanced quickly at Jack, considering both he and Jack had been in that type of service before, “They aren’t what I’m talking about.  These are sick people who kill on their own.  Type 1 is political, type 2 is ego-supportive, killing to gain favor like the man who killed John Lennon.  Type 3 is a psychopath/sociopath.  Type 4 is a killer who is delusional, who thinks that the victims were a threat.  Whether to the object of their obsession or to themselves.”

“3 and 4 sound the same,” Hammond said. 

“They’re very close, sir, and I’m going only by the limited knowledge of what we have so far.  A profiler could better analyze these deaths and the killer.  From what I know so far, the murders in themselves are not indicative of sociopathy but these two men were definitely sociopathic.  Everything they did was done without guilt, remorse or conscience.  They weren’t insane.  They knew that what they were doing was wrong and were in control of their actions.  They made choices, planned the murders, hid their evidence.”

“Where’s the evidence now?” Hammond asked. 

“Security lock-up, sir,” Pederson answered.  “The pictures as well as the laptops each man owned.”

“Sir,” Jack went on, his expression dark.  “The bad news is that it appears that Hamilton had copies of the crime scenes, and a list of targets.  He sent them out through his email account.”

When he hesitated, Hammond grew irritated.  “I’m not getting whatever it is you’re trying to tell me, Colonel.”

“Sir, it’s highly likely that they’ve been passing this list around to like-minded individuals off and on base.”

Hammond’s face turned angry.  “A search probably wouldn’t do much good.”

“Not unless you plan to search all computers, sir,” Sam informed the General.  “That might find one or two of them, but chances are they were smart and had the emailed copies sent to addresses off-base.  A more intensive examination of every hard drive would take a while.”

Hammond sighed.  “Time we can’t afford to spend on them.  We’ll sort them out eventually since hate-mongers eventually feel compelled to announce themselves to the world.”

“Sir,” Jack said, his tone one of warning.  “The significance of the number of people Hamilton and Matthews were corresponding with…  it makes for extremely disquieting news because…”

“Because it means that they likely had indirect help in order to carry out their plans,” Hammond finished.  “I’ve already been thinking along those lines, Jack.  No one could do what they did without help.  This place is very secure.  For a crime as personal as murder, the cameras should have caught some evidence.  That they didn’t, and there’s no evidence of tampering, leads me to the obvious conclusion.” He sighed and stared at the SFs in the same way Jack had. 

“For this reason, I’ve decided to implement a new psych evaluation for all current personnel as well as part of the new criteria for assignment to this base.  The job in overseeing this evaluation and determining its outcome will be the responsibility of Dr.  Larsen.” He looked over at Jason.  “Colonel, I’d like you to be available to assist if she requires it.”

“Yes, sir, but what exactly is this new psych evaluation?”

“I’ve had her help in drawing up a secondary profile for all personnel, military and civilian, on this base.  It’s one designed to pinpoint possible personality problems that the other psych profiles did not catch.  Direct interviews are too time-consuming so the more in-depth evals will be written tests in the form of questionnaires.  Any problems found in those questionnaires will then be taken to a third level involving an interview.  I’ve already arranged to have the questionnaires delivered.  Your help will be in reading them and comparing the data to her base models.”

“I’m familiar with the drill, sir,” Jason said, nodding. 

“Very well.  Coordinate with her next week and while you’re at the Beta Site.  She’ll have some of the work done already and I’m sure you can work on it while you’re off-world.”

“Yes, sir.  Completed work can be easily sent back during our prearranged check-ins here.  What’s the time frame for the questionnaires?”

“Five days.  Failure to complete the questionnaire will result in automatic reassignment.  Some people will have extenuating circumstances so this isn’t a black and white order, but everyone who can complete the tests, will, or they’ll be promptly reassigned.”

“We start this over the weekend or next week?” Jack asked. 

“The date on the material is Monday, and it’s expected to be turned in to an immediate superior or to Dr.  Larsen’s office by Friday morning.” Hammond paused and looked at everyone.  “I don’t have to tell you people how disappointed I am that this is necessary, but I also feel that perhaps this should have been instituted in the first place.  I don’t like the fact that men had to die in order for us to learn from this mistake.”

“Amen, sir,” Jack said. 

“The suspects’ bodies are in the morgue, aren’t they?” Hammond asked. 

“Yes, sir,” Jack answered. 

“Soon as we can, I want their bodies transferred to the hospital.”

“Working on it, sir,” Janet answered.  “We’ll get them over to the Academy hospital morgue by morning.”

“Very good, Doctor.  Thank you.”

“Yes, sir,” Janet nodded and left smartly. 

Hammond and Jason got up and flanked Jack at the observation window.  A few seconds later, everyone else joined them. 

“I wish I could say that people were different on Chulak,” Teal’c said sadly, “but they are not.”

“Hatred and love go hand in hand, my friend,” Hammond told him and Teal’c bowed his head once. 

“Just wish the hatred was left to an obvious enemy, not the enemy from within,” Sam said, having had to live with her own brand of it for quite a while. 

Jack suddenly sighed with anger.  “The ones here know they’re wrong, know they’re being hunted down, and they’ll lie their asses off on those questionnaires.”

“Are you saying they’re a waste of time, Jack?” Hammond asked. 

“No, sir.  The additional evals will be useful.  What I’m saying is that just like people who’ve learned to fool lie detector tests, people with something to hide will learn in short order how to answer the evals without arousing suspicion.”

“Well, I think that a few questions should be designed to fool the testee,” Jason added.  “When Dr.  Larsen goes over the results, those questions placed with other answers will give us a guide.  Not proof.  Just a finger point, like a guard dog.  Look here.  Sadly, there’s one goal those bastards have achieved, outside of murder.”

“What’s that, Colonel?” Hammond asked. 

“They’ve made us paranoid, sir.”

Hammond looked disgusted, but he agreed.  “As if we needed more of that.”

“We need this time off, sir, that’s for sure,” Jack put in. 

“You have the weekend, Jack.  That’s all I can do.”

“Well, how about an impromptu indoor barbecue?” Jason asked.  “I can’t invite the whole base but our teams plus Janet, yourself, a few members of security,” and he winked at Cari and Pederson.  “I know you have plans, sir,” Jason went on, to Hammond, “but if we may be excused for the rest of the day, you could join us for a bit?”

Hammond grinned, liking the idea.  “Done.”

.  .  . 

Daniel stared at the ceiling of the infirmary room, sighing with boredom, waiting to be released.  In the chair beside the bed, Alex sat, leaning forward, forearms on his knees.  Al and Connor had been dismissed, much to their relief; Daniel hadn’t been all that happy with three of them as babysitters. 

“You’re awfully quiet,” Daniel said, looking over at him. 

Alex sat up and rubbed his palms on his thighs.  “I know.  Was just thinking over a few things.”

“Like?”

“I was really worried about you and Jason.”

Daniel frowned at him, sensing that Alex was holding something back.  “What else?”

Alex glanced up at him, startled.  “I’m sorry?”

“There’s something else.  What?”

“Daniel!” Alex objected. 

“I can’t read your mind, Alex, but I can tell, whether I want to or not, when I’m being lied to or evaded.  You’re hiding something.  What?”

“After you went to your lab, we left the Mess Hall early.  When we found Matthews, Cari realized we’d forgotten to turn on the surveillance equipment.”

“What?” Daniel asked loudly as he sat up, feet over the side.  “Then how’d you know I was in trouble?”

Alex cringed again.  “Oh boy.”

What?” Daniel said, getting to his feet. 

“Jason knew something was wrong, but not necessarily with you.  He ran like hell to B-Wing…”

“Where Matthews was killed,” Daniel finished.  “So what you’re saying is that Jason knew something was wrong before you guys did?”

“Yeah.”

“How exactly?”

Alex glanced around, then lowered his voice to a whisper.  “He smelled it.”

“It?”

“The blood.  From two corridors away.”

“He smelled the blood,” Daniel repeated. 

He remembered their first visit to Adriann’s home planet, and the poisonous bite from Tam.  Adriann had said that Jason might, every once in a while, exhibit something out of the ordinary, but Daniel had thought Adriann had meant the telepathic bond.  Had Lin’s ceremony awakened something?

“I have to talk to him about this.  Typical of him not to say anything.  What’d he tell you and Jack?  Anything?”

“He’s dismissing it,” Alex said, rolling his eyes.  “He says it was nothing.”

“Figures.  Is his sense of smell still hyper-active?”

“It…  was.”

“When?”

“When I stayed overnight with him.  Everything was hyper-sensitive, not just his sense of smell.”

“And now it’s not?”

“No, it went back to normal.  I think he’s relieved.”

“I don’t blame him.” Daniel checked his watch and sighed.  “Great.  How long’s that briefing gonna take anyway?” he asked rhetorically.  “Listen, could you locate a deck of cards?  May as well pass the time easier before I’m sent home for no reason.”

“It’s not for ‘no reason,’ Daniel,” Alex warned him, ignoring the glare he received.  “They shouldn’t be long,” Alex reassured, then added, “and if you must know, Jack said he was planning on asking for the weekend off.  This afternoon, Jason wants to have a barbecue for everyone to celebrate this shit being over.  And then after the barbecue…”

Daniel gave Alex a long, cryptic look.  “And after the barbecue?”

That caught Alex off-guard and he stuttered slightly.  “Just…  you know.  But I didn’t mean…  um…”

Daniel lowered his voice, making sure that only Alex could hear him.  “Alex, I’m not insinuating anything between us.”

Alex blew out a breath of relief, then looked promptly contrite.  “Sorry, but…”

Daniel crouched down next to the chair, pretending to scrape something off the tile with his fingernail.  “Listen, we shared something physically intimate we’ll probably never repeat.”

“I know,” Alex answered.  “It was nice though, don’t get me wrong.”

“I agree, and I won’t take offense,” Daniel said with a tiny smile as he pivoted on his heel, putting his back to the door and pretending another part of the floor needed looking at.  He then stood up slowly, wiping his palms on his thighs before hooking a wheeled stool with his foot and sitting down.  He leaned forward so he could keep his voice low. 

“It was nice enough, and I’m not sorry, but I just wanna be clear that I’m not interested in a repeat.  Relax.”

Daniel couldn’t help but grin at Alex’s flushing embarrassment, but he also began to feel a bit guilty.  He’d been about to discuss Alex’s relationship with Jason, but decided that would be wrong.  It was Jason’s responsibility, not his, to tell Alex that it was time their affair came to an end.  He started to rub at his temple and inadvertently made Alex worry. 

“What’s the matter?  Headache?” Alex asked, standing, ready to bolt for some remedy. 

Daniel stopped rubbing at his temple.  “I’m fine, Alex.”

Interrupting them, Lieutenant Stuart Eilerson walked in, carrying a large box of medical supplies.  He glanced at them and went about placing the items in the box into one of the cabinets.  “Don’t mind me, just restocking.”

Stuart was a handsome man, rather pale but not in a bad way.  5’10”, well-built.  Alex studied his back, his ass, the way the material of his uniform stretched against his body as he crouched down to place supplies in the lower part of the cabinet. 

Daniel watched him watch Stuart and an idea came to him.  He leaned over and whispered, “He’s bisexual and free.” Alex stared at him, flushing brightly.  “Ask him out.” Alex’s mouth dropped open in surprise as Stuart finished and left the ward.  “Go, ask him,” Daniel pressed and pushed Alex in the direction Stuart had gone. 

Alex resisted, pushing off Daniel’s hands.  “Daniel…”

Daniel sighed and shook his head.  “Chicken shit.”

“I am not!” Alex hissed, incensed. 

Daniel ignored him and walked to the adjoining bathroom, stepped inside, and shut the door behind him.  When he came back out and found Alex gone, he hoped Alex had gone after Stuart. 

Daniel knew Alex tended toward commitments instead of the club fuck but he was still a babe in the woods where relationships with men were concerned.  He needed to get some experience under his belt–no pun intended, and Daniel grinned to himself.  He looked down the hall and saw Alex talking to Stuart. 

Ducking back inside the empty ward, Daniel fought the urge to tell Alex never mind.  From what Daniel had heard, the man was a dog, but he was also supposed to be a good fuck, and Alex needed that experience to be able to judge for himself.  What Daniel needed to do next was talk to Jason and Jack about that thought they had about finding Alex someone long-term.  Problem, again, was limited pickings.  They needed new blood. 

 

The barbecue party was winding down by 6 pm and Hammond had already left to make last-minute preparations for his camping trip.  Daniel was almost sorry the party was ending.  He hadn’t had so much fun since they’d been in Hawaii.  He knew Jason to be a personable, charming, and annoyingly flirtatious man.  He was also a natural leader and first party or not, this one was going as well as Daniel had expected. 

It seemed to be a success, Daniel thought.  Al and Connor’s wives, Eileen and Sarah respectively, appeared to have enjoyed themselves, though they seemed nervous for a while till Jack had made them feel at home.  They’d left with their husbands ten minutes ago, arms full of leftovers. 

Sam and Teal’c were currently downstairs, waiting for Janet, who stood next to Daniel in front of the elevator, holding her own leftovers in a sack.  Jason walked over and snuck his arm between them, handing Janet a recipe card.  She snagged it quickly, eyeing Jack, and with pronounced exaggeration said, “Thank you, Jason.”

“Yer welcome, Ma’am,” Jason said in a mock-Texas accent.  “C’mon back anytime.”

She sniggered and Daniel took that moment–just in case Jack had any ideas about arguing over recipes–to kiss her on the cheek and gave her half a hug.  “Tell Cassie she missed out.”

“Oh no,” Janet scoffed.  “Cassie’s going through that phase where she wouldn’t be caught dead going anywhere with her mother, never mind any of my friends.” Daniel exchanged grins with Jack.  “Yes, gentlemen, that means you, too.”

Jack touched his chest.  “Moi?” he said with mock-injury.  “Surely she jests.”

“Sadly, no,” Janet said, pressing her lips together, pretending to be delivering bad news.  “I’m afraid her worshipping days are over.  For now, anyway.”

Jason gasped in mock-shock as he touched the button to bring the elevator back up.  “You mean I’m no longer the object of lust and desire?”

Janet’s eyes locked on his.  “Lust and desire?”

Jason’s mouth twisted into a teasing smile.  “She was sixteen, Janet, not eleven, and now she’s eighteen.”

“Don’t remind me,” she grumbled, rolling her eyes.  “By the way…” and she peered at Jack and Daniel.  “Which one of you paid for her tuition?”

“Wasn’t me,” Daniel said, holding up his hands defensively.  “You told me no.” Jack looked so smug that Daniel backhanded him across the arm.  “You didn’t.”

“I didn’t,” Jack said, then added, “Hammond did, Janet.”

Her mouth dropped open in surprise and Jack was even more pleased.  Saying nothing, and quickly regrouping, Janet decided to devote her attention to Jason’s tattoo.  He’d taken off his shirt at the beginning of the barbecue so he could give everyone an eyeful, even though they’d already seen it.  Except for Al and Connor’s wives, who had looked at it with interest, then abruptly told their husbands not to get any ideas. 

Janet, of course, had gone into her doctor role after showing up, and setting down her addition to the barbecue, proceeded to tend to him with the salve Jason had brought home.  She now slipped back into doctor mode and pointed her finger at him.  “Any signs of infection and you take those pills I gave you.  Otherwise, I’ll gladly give you several large antibiotic shots in the ass.  You won’t be able to sit down for three days.”

Jason couldn’t help the smile on his face as he grabbed her around the waist and hugged her against his right side.  He kissed her cheek as Daniel had done then he placed a hand over his right pectoral muscle and vowed, “I promise.  Besides, I’d much rather have another reason not to be able to sit for three days.” She rolled her eyes again and stepped out of his hold.  “You had a good time, I hope?”

“Yes,” she smiled, showing relief.  “And thanks.  I needed it.” She paused, hearing Sam through the elevator shaft telling her to get her ass in gear.  “I’m coming already!” she yelled down the shaft.  To the men, she said, “At least Teal’c’s driving.”

“You dropping him home?” Daniel asked, slipping an arm around Jason’s waist.  He’d been dying to do that all afternoon. 

“No, Teal’c’s staying with me and Sam over the weekend.  Cassie’s doing her ‘stay-over’ at her friend’s, so she’ll miss out on seeing him.  For some reason, she doesn’t mind being with Teal’c because he’s supposedly cooler than the rest of us.”

“Well of course he is,” Jack grinned.  “So, what’re these stay-overs?”

“Slumber parties, teenage style.”

“Ah.”

“She’s too old for it to be called a slumber party.  So I decided to take advantage, have Sam and Teal’c over and just chill out.  We’ll take him shopping tomorrow for more of his cool stuff.” Janet then pointed a finger at Daniel.  “Behave yourself.  Any residual side-effects…”

“Janet,” Daniel whined. 

“Daniel, it takes its toll, so humor me…  or I’ll sick these two gorillas on you.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Daniel answered while Jack and Jason made gorilla noises and pretended to groom each other.  Daniel sniggered and winked at Janet.  “Scarily accurate, ain’t they?” She echoed his snicker as Jack stood up straight. 

“Hey, I resemble that remark.”

“Me, too,” Jason objected.  Mildly. 

With an arm around Jason’s shoulders, he said, “We’ll keep an eye on him.”

“Two, please,” she said with mock-severity and stepped into the elevator.  The men chuckled as she altered her expression to the real one.  “Thanks for the party.  It was great.”

“You’re welcome.”

The elevator took her away and Jason turned out of Jack’s arm, looking around for Alex.  He was already in the kitchen, having walked away from the displays and fooling around.  Jason frowned, unable to help thinking that this was an omen.  Alex was already distancing himself, but the question was whether he was doing it on purpose or not. 

Sighing, Jason slapped his hands together.  “C’mon, boys.  Let’s clean up before the second party starts.”

“Second party?” Alex asked as he set the empty salad bowls in the sink. 

“Well, one of a couple,” Jack added, winking at Daniel. 

“So you’re ready to go home then?” Daniel asked him as he moved over and put his arms around him. 

“Damn straight…  so to speak.”

“Funny,” Daniel replied, stealing a few quick kisses.  “Then let’s clean up and get the hell out of here.”

After they’d finished cleaning up, they now stood by the large windows, drinking beer, looking at the whisper of snow coming down outside.  It was February, so snow was still expected.  The camping trip Hammond and his granddaughters had gone on was definitely not in Colorado. 

As Daniel retrieved another beer for Alex, though nothing for himself, he could read that Alex was completely at ease, currently concentrating on Jack and Jason’s argument on the best way to grill over a campfire.  He hoped that Jason and Alex would work out a few things, including the closing in on the end of their relationship. 

“C’mon, Jack,” he interrupted.  “Let’s leave Jason and Alex alone for a while.”

“Awhile?” Jack commented slowly, winking at Jason.  “Is there someone after Jason?”

“I don’t know,” Daniel answered.  “Is there, Alex?”

Alex shifted his feet and glanced at Jason.  “Maybe.”

“Maybe?” Jack said, leaning over to kiss Jason goodbye.  “I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Count on it,” Jason whispered back. 

Taking Daniel’s hand, Jack said, “On that mysterious note…”

“In all seriousness, have a good night,” Daniel said to Alex, then turned away from him and pulled Jason into a deep kiss.  “This was wonderful.  I’ll see you later.”

Jason watched them go, standing there long after the elevator descended, taking them away.  With a sigh, he turned around, going round the apartment, turning on a few lamps, shutting off others. 

He noticed that Alex seemed to be fidgeting as he stood by the couch, holding the plastic bag he’d brought but had never opened.  “What’s on your mind, Alex?” Jason asked as he picked up the throw pillows that had fallen to the floor and tossed them on the bed. 

.  .  . 

Home.  At last.  Once the door was shut, Jack placed his hands at Daniel’s waist and pushed him against the door, lips claiming his mouth, tongue searching for its partner.  Daniel moaned with delighted surprise and threaded his fingers through Jack’s hair.  He knew that Jack had been horny since leaving for the Tok’ra, though Jack hadn’t really needed any encouragement.  That kiss had sent sparks down Daniel’s spine and this one was having the same effect. 

More delight and pleasure came when Jack slid a hand between them and caressed his cock through his jeans.  “Yes,” Daniel replied, kissing him harder, then pulled away and dragged Jack to the living room.  “No, bedroom,” Jack said. 

“This is closer,” Daniel corrected as he threw his jacket off, then his shirt.  Jack grinned at him and said nothing, but copied his movements as Daniel toed off his sneakers while unbuttoning his jeans. 

Before Daniel had a chance to direct any of the foreplay, Jack took his hand and led him to the couch.  Pulling Daniel’s jeans down over his hips, he shoved him down and knelt before him. 

Daniel laughed as he sat down with a hard thump.  “Careful now, you’ll break something.”

“I only care about breaking a sweat,” Jack smiled mischievously, and lunged suddenly, pressing Daniel’s head into the back cushions as he kissed him deeply.  Letting him go, he bit his way down as he pulled Daniel’s jeans over his knees and off each leg, then spread his knees apart.  He paused, taking a look as he leaned over slowly, licking his lips. 

“Eager?” Daniel asked, slightly worried that his cock wasn’t stiffening despite what the inside of his body was feeling. 

“Been waiting to do this for a week,” Jack replied as he licked along the length of warm, musky foreskin. 

“You did it on base,” Daniel corrected. 

“Not the same thing.  I couldn’t take my time,” Jack whispered over the shaft, using only his mouth while his hands removed his own jeans. 

.  .  . 

Alex walked over to him, hesitation in his movements, and handed Jason the plastic sack.  “I bought these a few weeks ago.  Have been working up the nerve to bring them over.”

Jason gave him a puzzled look.  “Does this have anything to do with our little talk about the experiment in submission?”

“Yeah,” Alex replied, looking uncomfortable.  “I figured I’d do this now since…”

He didn’t finish but Jason had an idea what he’d been about to say.  Since he might not get another chance.  On the other hand, Jason thought, Alex might just be extremely nervous about what he wanted to do…  which only made Jason nervous.  He let out a little snort of amusement, mostly to put Alex at ease but to also hide his own apprehension.  “Alex, if you’re that uncomfortable–“

“No, Jason, I’m fine.  There’s no time like the present, you always say.”

“Yeah, I do say that sometimes,” Jason replied, annoyed at being quoted.  Alex hesitated, clearly at odds with what he wanted to do.  “Is there something else?”

“No, it’s just something I remembered, something…  Jalen said.”

“That being?” Jason said, rolling his eyes. 

“You might freak when you see this stuff.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Jason said, irritated, and upended the contents onto the bed.  The bag contained a few metal objects like nipple clamps and cock rings, and five black leather objects: Padded handcuffs, a studded collar, an X-harness with a ring in the center, and a short-handled riding crop. 

They didn’t make Jason freak but they did cause two strong emotions.  Some objects made his stomach knot in apprehension but others caused his balls to warm with desire.  He really wished the contradiction in his feelings would take a fucking holiday.  It was getting tiresome.  “Jalen’s full of shit, Alex.  But.  He meant well, and I know why he said what he said.”

“Care to enlighten me?” Alex asked. 

Jason didn’t want this.  He didn’t want any demands or requests.  He simply wanted to make love with Alex, fuck him for an hour, make him scream with pleasure.  He wanted to tell Alex that things between them had to end soon.  It was time Alex got on with his life and it was time Jason stopped being encouraged by men other than Daniel and Jack.  Ironically, Baal and the brainwashed version of Camulus and Jalen had helped Jason see this, feel it in his bones. 

But right now, the look in Alex’s eyes was hard to say no to.  Jason couldn’t deny helping him; Alex really did think he needed it, that somewhere inside, his sexuality screamed for another reason–for his desires to make sense, his wants and needs to come to a fruition, a certainty.  Alex had felt something during his last attack with Jalen, something that had excited him, not repelled.  Jason had been hoping that Jalen would have been able to help but he knew by the sight of the plastic bag Alex had that the help had been for Jalen, not Alex. 

Jason sighed and stared at the objects on the bed.  They weren’t unusual, just unusual for him–if this was Alex wanted, he was off the mark.  Jason knew how to play submissive to Jack’s rough treatment–the very idea got him hot–but that was one of a kind, different.  Jason turned and gave Alex a long look.  “You need to see someone else to do this for you because I can’t help you with this.  I know next to nothing, Alex.”

Alex sighed.  “I’m not asking you to be a Dom to my Sub.  I’m asking you to go through the motions and let me see if it’s something I actually want or if it’s something else.” He moved over and picked up the leather collar and harness.  “I don’t know if these are the right things, I admit that, and I know that you’re not into this stuff.  It’s just…”

Jason watched him eye the collar and started to feel a bit of comprehension.  “What do you feel when you look at that collar?”

Alex swallowed.  “I’m not sure.”

Jason reached over and gently cupped his face, forcing Alex to look at him.  “What is it you see when you look at this collar?”

Alex stared at the collar, not wanting to look at Jason just yet. 

“Close your eyes, tell me what you see,” Jason urged. 

Alex opened his mouth to explain, but held back, a deep blush rising to his cheeks as the image came to him, as it had before.  Finally, he managed, “I’m wearing the collar…”

At his words, Jason took the collar out of his hands and placed it around Alex’s neck, securing the end through the metal loops.  Alex inhaled sharply. 

“What else?” Jason asked him, aroused by Alex’s reaction but not by the collar. 

“My hands…  are out in front…  restrained.” He opened his eyes and the blush on his cheeks deepened. 

Jason wordlessly placed the cuffs around his wrists and with the interlocking mechanism between them, snapped his wrists together.  “And then what?” he asked quietly, almost seductively.  Alex’s blush spread with arousal not embarrassment and the idea of fucking Alex like this gave his dick a twitch.  “I fuck you?” he asked. 

Alex nodded.  “Is…  is this something you can see yourself doing?”

Jason took a deep breath and let it out.  “Not with these,” he said, and removed the handcuffs and the collar, tossing both into the bag along with the harnesses and setting them on the floor.  Alex looked acutely embarrassed and angry because of it.  Jason cupped his face with his hand, thumbing his lips.  “Listen to me.  I’m afraid of hurting you.”

“Jason, you know I–“

“No,” Jason argued vehemently.  “I don’t know what I’m doing, Alex.  I could so easily break your neck.”

Going by the look on his face, Alex didn’t understand what he meant, so Jason reached around to the back of his neck and mimed holding onto the collar…  and jerking it backward.  Alex’s eyes widened and Jason gave him a wry grin.  “I see you get it now?”

Alex cleared his throat.  “Right,” he said, though he was filled with disappointment anyway.  He picked up the bag, tossing it several feet away to lad on the couch with a hard thump. 

“Alex…  don’t,” Jason told him, hand at his back.  Alex wouldn’t turn around to look at him and Jason figured he was embarrassed, too, not just disappointed.  “I’m sorry I can’t be what you want,” he said softly, meaning it in more than one way. 

Alex’s tone expressed how confused and torn he was.  “I don’t know what else to do.  I can’t go to a stranger.”

Jason thought of Stef, wishing he could get a hold of him, wondering if it’d do any good anyway.  Then suddenly, like an epiphany, clarity came to him and he knew exactly how to help Alex.  He didn’t know how or why he knew.  He just did.  It then occurred to him that the source of this clarity was the gift Lin had given him–a special kind of “knowing.” He now understood how it was that Lin had known to make the rings long before Jason had even asked. 

“Alex?  I think I can help, actually.”

Alex slowly turned to him, looking distrustful and uncertain.  “But you said–“

“I know, but I suddenly just…  knew.  Don’t ask how, I’m not sure I could explain.  Just trust me.”

Alex swallowed, suddenly shy and not ready for…  whatever Jason would show him.  Instead, he prevaricated.  “Not even the handcuffs worked, Jason.  How…”

Jason looked at him for a long minute, guessing Alex’s mind, then walked over next to the bed and toed at the wooden box frame under the mattresses. 

Jason’s idea forgotten for the moment, Alex stared at the drawer he hadn’t noticed before and frowned as he walked over and crouched down.  “Has that been there all this time?” When Jason nodded, interest peaked and Alex squatted down to look, leaving room enough to see what was in the drawer. 

The drawer was lined with a blanket, and on top of the blanket sat three types of restraints.  Two were padded leather and the third was a set of police issue.  Beside them were a few neckties and blindfold masks.  Beside those were four dildos of varying size and shape.  Alex looked up at Jason then.  “Hell of an assortment.”

“Like what you see?” Jason asked, his meaning double since Alex’s gaze right then was on his dick. 

“Yes,” Alex answered with a tiny smile, blushing and swallowing hard when he thought of Jason using one of the dildos on him.  “But why did the stuff I have bother you?”

“Doesn’t turn me on, Alex,” Jason said, crouching down behind him, one knee resting on the floor.  Alex looked over his shoulder at him, refraining somehow from the obvious retort.  Jason distracted him and reached over his right arm and pointed at one of the dildos.  “That is my thing, along with the cock rings, my navel ring…” He paused, inhaling Alex’s scent.  “You should get a nipple pierced.” He chuckled as Alex did as Jason expected and blushed deeply.  “What?  Not your thing?”

“I don’t know…  yet,” Alex said, clearing his throat. 

“Well that harness and collar aren’t,” Jason said confidently. 

“How do you know?” Alex asked. 

“It’s domination and submission gear, Alex.  It’s not me and it’s not you either, only you don’t know that…  yet.”

“I think I know my mind, Jason,” Alex objected, but with a mild voice. 

“If you knew your mind, Alex, you wouldn’t have bought the stuff for experimentation.”

Alex cleared his throat again and lifted a cloth next to the dildos.  There were two bottles of lubricant, one of them a warming gel, and a box of condoms. 

“Condoms?” he asked, his balls twitching from the conversation and Jason’s odor.  He was half-tempted to turn around and kiss him then, but he was enjoying this teasing he knew both of them were creating.  “Excuse the stupid question, but what’re the condoms for?”

“Aside from the obvious?” Jason asked archly.  Alex rolled his eyes, making Jason grin.  “One night stands,” he explained slowly, inhaling the scent at Alex’s nape.  “Before I committed myself to Daniel and Jack.  Now…  they’re for long, hard fucks.” He smiled when Alex visibly shuddered, confirming what Jason now knew. 

His dick swelled with urgency, and with a knowing that he had no logical reason for, Jason slid his arm around Alex’s waist and pulled him against him.  He nuzzled Alex’s neck and up behind the ear.  “You want that,” he whispered.  It wasn’t a question nor was he asking permission. 

Jason pressed his groin against Alex’s ass and the movement pushed them both forward.  Alex reached out and grasped the edge of the bed.  His dick had been filling, not even half-hard, but as Alex’s breath quickened, it began to stiffen rapidly. 

Releasing Alex, Jason reached into the drawer for lube…  and a condom.  He then slammed the door shut, making Alex jump; if he’d been in the mood to smile, he would have, but all Jason could think about was the knowledge he suddenly had–what Alex wanted. 

With his left arm now wrapped around Alex’s waist, Jason pushed up with his legs, bringing Alex with him.  He tossed the lube and condom on the bed, then used both hands to slide up under Alex’s shirt, tweaking his nipples, caressing all the skin and muscle he could reach and massage. 

It was time to enlighten Alex.  “You want what Ophius gave you,” he said quietly, lips browsing his neck before he bit–gently.  “Minus the blood-taking, though I don’t think you’ll mind some hard bites.” He wanted to bite him then, leave a purple bruise that would take days to heal, but he couldn’t do that to Alex, not in a spot that was visible over the uniform. 

Alex thought of Ophius, and the fact that he couldn’t refuse him.  And why was that? he asked himself.  Because Ophius knew what Alex wanted, and he never asked.  In taking control, he gave Alex what he wanted.  Alex closed his eyes, remembering. 

“I thought so,” Jason growled and with experienced hands and urgent purpose, he had Alex’s shirt off and his jeans down around his knees.  Alex kicked off his shoes but before he had time to take off his jeans, Jason pushed him face down on the bed and yanked the jeans off for him.  “You won’t be needing these,” he said, and with a quick, hard rip, Jason tore the briefs off Alex’s body. 

Small red lines appeared at Alex’s hips from the elastic having dug deep, but Alex didn’t care.  He was hard, so fucking hard.  His breathing was coming in ragged gasps already and without looking behind him to see if Jason was following, he pulled himself across the bed. 

Jason quickly threw off his clothes, kicking off the boots and sending them flying who knew where.  When Alex spread his legs, knees bent, ass raised, Jason ripped open the condom and slid it over his straining cock.  The lube was next but instead, Jason crawled over and reached underneath to take Alex’s cock in hand, pulling down and back, his fist stroking quickly just when the tip of his tongue touched the spicy taste of Alex’s anus. 

The wrinkled hole flinched at the same time Alex inhaled sharply.  Alex clutched the bed covers in tight fists and held on, body hard with tension as Jason fucked him with his tongue, jerking him off. 

“You’ll make me come, don’t,” Alex begged, then bit into the bed cover just as Jason pulled his tongue out and licked a stripe up the length of his spine.  When he got to his neck, he took a wide bite, clamping down just as he sloppily spread lube over his hole. 

Alex was loving it, loving every second, loving that he had no idea what was going to happen next.  He tried to guess, but a second after the lube touched his asshole, Jason pressed the head of his cock against his ass and slid his condom-sheathed cock completely inside him with one powerful stroke. 

Alex squirted pre-come at that moment, more than he’d ever had; he’d almost come from Jason doing that and was tempted to say something about it but Jason’s hands were gripping his shoulders, shoving his upper body down hard, holding him there while his hips immediately began a hard, sure rhythm. 

“Oh fuck,” Alex groaned, drooling into the bed, eyes closed.  Any further conversation was out of the question. 

Heaven.  He was in heaven.  He didn’t want it to end.  And true to his word, the reason for the condom proved true.  Jason gave him that long, hard fuck–no explanations, no sweet talk, no asking permission.  For now, this was exactly what Alex wanted. 

He came hard, matching the fuck with equal, perfect intensity.  The only thing that spoiled it for him was Jason hadn’t come.  He fucked him for another minute, pulling more pleasure from Alex’s body, then pulled out and flopped onto his back beside him. 

“I know you liked it,” Alex panted. 

“And?” Jason asked, eyes closed, fingers drawing circles of sweat over his belly. 

“And.  You didn’t come, Jason.”

“Not yet,” Jason told him, pulling off the condom.  He tossed it off the bed, then reached over, touching Alex’s sweating face, sticking a finger in his mouth.  As Alex sucked his finger as would his cock, Jason groaned.  “That’s what I want,” he whispered. 

Turning on his side, Alex moved down and took his cock in his mouth.  Jason watched him suck his cock, staring at Alex’s face, still red and sweaty from the sex.  His balls drew up, orgasm threatening, when he took Alex’s head in both hands and fucked his mouth, hard and dirty.  A few deep passes into his throat, making his muscles constrict around him, and Jason came loudly, gasping for breath as he pumped his load down Alex’s throat. 

He thought he might have overdone it a bit but Alex was over him a minute later, kissing him deeply, rubbing his body against Jason’s, smearing sweat everywhere. 

This was sex, Jason thought.  Wonderful, glorious, and non-committal.  He rolled them over, kissing Alex’s cooling throat.  “Okay?” he asked. 

Alex didn’t answer.  Jason sat up and stared down at his closed eyes.  “Open your eyes.  Are you okay?”

Slowly, Alex opened his eyes.  They were filled with warmth and satisfaction and Jason smiled.  “You know, Jack does this for me,” he revealed–though not bothering to add that it always had the touch of commitment. 

“Does he?” Alex asked, looking thoughtful, contemplative.  “And just how the hell do I find someone who’ll give me what I want?”

“How else do you find anything, Alex?  Search,” and Jason taunted with a gentle shove.  “Don’t worry.  We’ll help.”

“We?” Alex asked, eyes wide. 

“Me, Jack, and Daniel.  If you think you’re alone, you’re very sadly mistaken.”

Alex thought about that for a while, then remembered the way Jack was with him, and the touch of Daniel’s hand.  “You’re very lucky, Jason.”

“I know that,” Jason sighed. 

Alex looked him over, then winced and started to scoot off the bed, taking Jason’s hand while he was at it.  “C’mon.”

“Where?”

“Shower.  We’d better get that sweat out of your tattoo or it’ll get it infected.  I don’t think you want ten shots in your ass, do you?”

“No.”

Alex tenderly administered to Jason, cleaning his skin with slow, loving caresses.  “Are you okay, Jason?”

“About?” Jason asked as he ran soapy hands over Alex’s chest. 

“Everything.  Lin…  Jalen…  me.”

Jason made a show of thinking about it.  “I’m okay.”

“I can’t tell when you’re humoring me,” Alex said, obviously bothered. 

“Then it’s time for more education,” Jason said as he put his arms around him and kissed Alex till he believed him. 

In the middle of the night, Jason got up to piss and upon his return, he stopped at the side of the bed and stared down at Alex, deeply asleep.  Jason felt another dawning realization come over him and he sat down slowly, the pit in his stomach making a large hole. 

There would be no more waiting for Alex to find someone else.  The time had come and it was time to let Alex go.  They’d be together one more night and when it happened, Jason had to make sure it was special.  He didn’t like goodbyes; it was confusing enough because Alex wasn’t actually going anywhere. 

Stretching out, Jason stroked his cock while his eyes looked over every tanned inch of Alex’s body.  He decided he couldn’t wait for Alex to wake up and pushed the sleeping Alex onto his back.  Alex stirred sleepily as Jason lay over him, thrusting gently against him as his tongue sought to wake Alex’s up.  When Alex groaned in partial reprimand, Jason grinned through the kiss as he felt the man’s dick stiffen appreciatively against his leg. 

.  .  . 

Daniel closed his eyes and gripped the back of the couch as he lay there, frustrated for the first time in a long time.  He never thought this would happen, but then again, he had to admit that failing to get a sustained erection shouldn’t be that surprising given what they’d been through.  Still, enough was enough.  It’d been a month, for fuck’s sake. 

“I don’t get it,” he said with disgust. 

Jack lay between his legs, not moving away though he did drop his cheek down on Daniel’s hip.  He looked up at his lover’s frowning face while feeling the warmth of his body, and limp cock, against him.  He took hold of the shaft and stroked slowly, lazily, then turned his face to nose against his cleanly shaven balls.  The smell always excited him, especially Daniel’s and Jason’s. 

Jack figured he should feel guilty but he couldn’t.  Of all the times when his age should affect him, this wasn’t one of them.  The after-effects of Baal’s rapes weren’t inhibiting his erections in any way.  In fact, Jack’s urges seemed to be directly opposite to Daniel’s and Jason’s.  He hoped Jason had solved that problem, and he’d find out in the morning. 

He knew it should worry him, what his lovers were going through–and it did, a little–but Jack was confident that it wouldn’t last.  He knew that it was only a matter of tactics and ingenuity to get Daniel, at least, back on track.  And he would.  He had no doubts whatsoever. 

“It’ll be fine,” he answered, tonguing the soft skin. 

Daniel snorted and reached down to thread his fingers through Jack’s hair.  “Always the confident one,” he said, a note of mock-disapproval in there somewhere.  “Just know that it isn’t you.”

“Oh I know it’s not me,” Jack replied, thinking up new ways to get over this hurdle and restore Daniel’s confidence. 

Daniel ground his jaw and slammed his fist into the cushion, forcing himself to sit up.  “I didn’t even get hard when I was kissing Alex, but I got hard when I was alone with him on-base.  How fucked up is that?”

His tone was alarming.  “Shh,” Jack told him calmly as he stood up and held out his hand.  “C’mere.” With a defeated sigh, Daniel stood up.  He started to reach to pull up his pants when Jack stopped him.  “Step out of them,” he asked, helping Daniel as he lifted one foot, then the other.  Jack set his jeans on the couch, then stood, pulling Daniel’s shirt up along the way.  “Let’s do this all the way, shall we?”

Daniel had no idea what Jack was trying to do.  He couldn’t get it up, it was hopeless.  All Daniel wanted to do right then was hide in the shower till he pruned.  But he did as Jack wanted, for whatever reason.  One of them may as well be happy. 

“C’mon,” Jack said, leading Daniel to the bedroom. 

“Jack, change of location won’t–“

“Don’t be negative,” Jack shot back over his shoulder. 

“Jack,” Daniel said, pulling against Jack’s hand, stopping them in the middle of the hall. 

Jack put his arms around him, feeling the smooth warmth of Daniel’s skin.  “I’m going to get your body to cooperate on matters sensual and erotic, no matter how long it takes.  So you,” and he lifted Daniel’s chin slightly and kissed him, “stop worrying.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and turned around, taking Jack’s hand and leading him to the bedroom.  He felt extremely useless.  “I don’t know where you get your confidence from.”

Inside the bedroom, Jack pulled his hand away and began to undress, watching as Daniel lay down on the bed, absently stroking his cock, his balls.  Jack grinned.  “Keep doing that.”

“What?” Daniel asked unnecessarily as Jack climbed on the bed.  He grinned half-heartedly and spread his legs as Jack maneuvered between them.  “Jack…” he went on to protest. 

“Shh,” Jack said as he moved up swiftly to capture Daniel’s mouth, pressing him back into the pillow. 

The move accomplished something, Daniel thought, because there were tingles of weakness, caused by the desire sweeping through him.  He kissed Jack back eagerly, one arm around his neck, hand in his hair, while the other hand smoothed down Jack’s back.  Daniel moaned at the familiar scent, the familiar touch moving unerringly over his skin. 

Jack rubbed his half-hard cock over Daniel’s balls and breathed a groan over his lips, whispering, “I have plenty of time and I’ll get you this.  Trust me.”

“Really?” Daniel asked irritably, feeling very insecure, unworthy. 

“Trust me,” Jack said confidently. 

“I trust you, but that has nothing to do with this.”

Jack stared down at him.  “Trust me,” he whispered, nuzzling Daniel’s cheek, then his ear.  As he bit the lobe gently, one hand slid down Daniel’s side and under the thigh, lifting his leg.  “Time to get you wet.”

Despite his growing grumpiness, Daniel grinned.  “With what, may I ask?” Jack gave him the type of grin that caused heat to stir deep in Daniel’s belly.  And his balls and cock, for that matter.  He knew he was making things difficult on himself, overthinking his cock’s inaction.  Since Jack was able to engender his desire, that left only himself to blame for the problem he was having. 

Daniel stared back into those brown eyes so filled with emotion and opened his mouth to say something else…  but nothing came.  Jack’s smile faded, but Daniel knew it wasn’t from a lack of humor.  More an override by his testosterone levels, and proving it, Jack suddenly pounced, Jack kissing him again, harder and more passionately. 

“Maybe a story,” Jack whispered gruffly, moving down Daniel’s body, biting at his collarbone, his nipples, making Daniel flinch and twitch with pleasure and anticipation–a reaction that only prompted Jack to increase his efforts to get Daniel properly distracted and motivated.  Not that Daniel lacked the motivation, he mused, but Daniel’s ability to self-analyze himself became a hindrance when he did it in the middle of something that should be enjoyable. 

“Care to elaborate?” Daniel asked, gripping the pillow under his head when Jack’s teeth found a particularly sensitive spot under his left ribcage. 

“Not yet,” Jack told him, mouth busy while his eyes were watching Daniel’s face.  “Just preparing my materials, so to speak.” That made Daniel laugh–and therefore relax that much further. 

Daniel knew it, too, and didn’t mind.  He could sense Jack’s worry, but on top of that–what ruled over it, more accurately–was Jack’s determination.  When the man set his mind to something, not much stopped him.  What Jack was doing right now felt damned good.  And that was the thing Daniel was over-analyzing at the moment.  He could feel the pleasure easily. 

The problem wasn’t his dick’s inability to rise to the occasion.  It was that Daniel’s mind would veer off topic and he’d instantly associate something Jack was doing with something Baal had made him think he wanted, when in fact he didn’t.  Like fucking that dismayingly sexy Goa’uld. 

At first, there’d been no problem.  A few weeks after they’d gotten home, the adrenaline rush with Adriann and Eros and everything else had kept the waking worries at bay.  Then nightmares had started, bringing memories to the surface so they’d crop up at the most inconvenient of times.  Daniel was tempted to go back to Adriann’s new home and take him up on his offer to rid him of the memories.  If Daniel couldn’t get a grip on this emotional block, it’s what he planned on doing.  Soon. 

He lay there, enjoying Jack’s particular attentions, when his traitorous memory started to place a negative picture in his head.  He growled, then felt a nip against his inner thigh.  Instantly redirected, he tightened his fingers in Jack’s hair, torn between reprimand and relief.  Then Jack surprised the hell out of him when he said, “Use your feelings, Daniel.  Let them do the work.”

Daniel didn’t understand at first, then he groaned again, reprimanding himself.  Why hadn’t he thought of that?  He could feed off Jack’s emotions, use them to help him.  He opened his mind to accept the emotions coming from Jack and it was like opening flood gates.  Daniel inhaled deeply, back arching, dick twitching in response. 

Jack had moved back up his body–god, that man was quick–and Daniel’s actions made him lift his mouth from his right nipple.  Daniel’s hand instantly slid around to the back of Jack’s head, pressing him down, wanting that nipple sucked again.  Jack had other ideas and easily escaped the encouraging hand as he moved up and took his mouth again, tongue pumping into his mouth. 

The simulation of sex did its job; Daniel felt the rush of blood moving south.  He moaned with pleasure, relief, passion, spreading his legs wider, accommodating his reach as he grabbed his lover’s ass with both hands.  He opened his mind further, trying to give Jack what he was feeling. 

Jack broke off the kiss, gasping with astonishment, lust in its wake.  He could feel intense desire from Daniel, more than the small telepathic bond they shared.  “I feel you,” he whispered, staring into those darkening blue eyes as he slid a hand between them and wrapped his fingers round Daniel’s cock. 

Daniel gasped and bit his bottom lip, eyes closing slowly; he thrust experimentally into Jack’s hand, then again with more intent.  “Feel that?” he said, not wanting to stop and explain. 

“Yes,” Jack said and kissed him again.  Leaving wet trails and red bite marks, he returned to the nipple he’d abandoned, now rigid and tempting.  “Remember the time loop?” he asked suddenly, pulling Daniel’s nipple taut before letting it go. 

“You can’t be serious!” Daniel groaned.  He was grateful that he could feed off Jack’s feelings because his own regarding that fucked up mission weren’t pleasant.  “Isn’t there something else?”

“We’re at the blackboard,” Jack went on, ignoring Daniel’s protest.  “Teal’c left and we’re alone.  You’re writing on the board, consumed with the translation, only instead of continuing like I’m supposed to, I do what I’d been wishing I could do.”

“What?” Daniel asked, pulling Jack’s face up from his attention on his navel.  “For real?”

“For real,” Jack admitted.  “I wished we’d had more time, because I wanted to rip those trousers off you and…”

“What?” Daniel asked heatedly as images flooded his mind. 

“Fuck you,” Jack whispered, reaching frantically for the lube on the table.  He squirted a mess of it over his cock, over Daniel’s ass.  “I shove you against that blackboard,” he whispered harshly, pushing up to kneel back, surrounding Daniel’s cockhead with his fist, pumping and squeezing.  “It falls back against the wall, but I don’t care.  I need to be inside you, so I lift one of your legs, hold it to my chest and…”

Jack’s followed his words with action and lifted Daniel’s right leg to his chest, exposing his ass in the process.  His right hand continued to fist Daniel’s cock, now slick with lube, and Daniel groaned and thrust into his fist, cock hard and straining, pre-come lubing the head messily, and the odor filled Jack’s nose. 

When he realized Jack had stopped talking, he opened his eyes just in time to see the look on Jack’s face as he growled and entered him.  One push, unerring and deep, and Daniel let out a moan with an expelled breath. 

“God.”

“Yes,” Jack answered, voice gruff but quiet, eyes half-lidded as he concentrated on the rhythm he wanted.  He circled his hips, searching for that marvelous little gland.  “Where is it,” he said, over and over, till Daniel arched.  “Found ya,” Jack smiled. 

“Yes you did,” Daniel strained, lifting his head to look down at Jack’s body: his pubic hair glistening with sweat; his thick, red cock swelling with urgency; to watch his hand–those strong, talented fingers as they stroked him harder and more quickly.  Daniel grabbed the short headboard over his head, his breathing coming in great gasps and pants.  “Jack.”

“That’s the blackboard you’re holding,” Jack told him, eyes bright and feverish.  “And I won’t fuck you till you come in my hand.  We have to be quick, you know that.  We’re tempting fate.  I want to see you come first, make you come…”

“No, Jack,” Daniel urged.  “A few thrusts, fuck me…”

“This is too good to stop,” Jack panted, increasing the pumping of his fist, the slick sounds erotically charging. 

“Please,” Daniel begged as he lifted his hips. 

Jack couldn’t resist and he thrust, cockhead rubbing the gland, exciting the muscles of Daniel’s asshole.  “Yes,” he choked, pumping faster…  faster…  watching with rapt fascination how Daniel arched back, white-knuckling the chalkboard.  He hadn’t realized he’d already begun thrusting, not until Daniel tightened his muscles around him. 

“God yes,” he growled again, then slammed into Daniel once, hard, rocking his body forward, and with a new rhythm, went back and forth between Daniel’s ass and his cock, using Daniel’s body as the conduit.  Thrust in, fist down, pull back, fist up.  Again, and again. 

Unable to hold off, Daniel grabbed Jack’s hand with his left and squeezed, fucking his palm, ass clenching his cock.  “Now, please!”

“We’re gonna get caught!” Jack yelled. 

“Fucksogood…” Daniel shouted, slurring his words as he came hard.  Jack didn’t wait; he plowed into him as hard and quick as he could and when he felt his cock swell and spurt, he pulled out and shot his come all over Daniel’s balls and cock. 

“Jesus,” Daniel panted, eyes closed, breath coming in great gulps. 

Jack laid down beside him, rubbing their come together with his fingers, leaving trails and designs over Daniel’s skin.  He leaned over him and kissed him, gentler now and less hurried. 

Daniel sighed and wrapped his arms around him.  “I love you,” he whispered. 

Jack grinned and bit Daniel’s neck.  “I love you back.  So, I take it you used the empathy?”

Daniel bit his lip and rolled on top of Jack’s body, wiggling until he had himself settled properly–ignoring Jack’s grunting.  “What do you think?”

Smugly, Jack said, “I think you did good.  Only…”

“What?”

“Wasn’t that cheating?”

“What?” Daniel exclaimed, pushing up and staring down at Jack in surprise.  He then picked up that Jack was teasing, so perhaps payback was in order.  He narrowed his eyes in return and said, “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t have been necessary if someone had been doing his job prop–“

The rest of what he had to say was cut off by Jack’s hand.  And mouth.  And nasty, tickling fingers. 

~

Jason paused at Daniel’s front door and needlessly combed his fingers through his hair.  He knew there was no reason to be nervous or apprehensive, but every time he spent the night with Alex, then returned to Daniel and Jack, he felt like he’d missed something, that they’d shared something without him.  More and more, Jason’s desire for Alex lessened and his need to have Alex find someone else increased.  It was also becoming apparent that as long as Jason was seeing Alex, Alex wouldn’t search too hard. 

Jason had woken that morning with the usual urges but they’d been for Daniel and Jack and hadn’t included Alex.  He regretted refusing Alex’s offer of love, of sex, and he felt bad–but not enough to say yes.  He’d refused as lovingly and politely as possible, telling him that he wanted to be with Daniel and Jack.  With his husbands.  They’d talked for a while, and while Alex had understood, Jason saw the loss in Alex’s eyes and hated himself for it. 

Standing there, at Daniel’s door, Jason knew this was where he belonged.  And always would.  Stepping inside, Jason hung up his coat and tossed his keys on the bureau, his self-denigration over Alex at war with the anticipation he was now feeling. 

“That better be you, Jason,” Daniel called out from the kitchen. 

At the sound of that voice, Jason’s dick did a little dance and he cupped himself and squeezed.  “Who else,” he called back. 

The smell of bacon, butter and maple syrup hit his nose and his stomach growled appreciatively, beginning a war with his cock for domination of his mind.  Dressed in a plain white t-shirt and his old, loose-fitting jeans, Jason entered the dining room, boot heels clicking on the tile. 

“Smells good,” he said absently, his attention riveted on Daniel, on the white muscle shirt and Air Force issue gym shorts.  Food was forgotten as his dick won the war.  He crossed to Daniel, took the spatula out of his hand and set it on the counter, turned the heat off the pan, then backed him up until Daniel hit the wall next to the fridge. 

Smirking, but with eyes reflecting the same sudden desire, Daniel asked, “Hungry?”

“Fuck yes,” Jason murmured before kissing the hell out of him.  He didn’t care about food, though.  When he let Daniel come up for air, he whispered, “Good morning, have you had sex yet?”

Daniel breathed heavily, dick now half-hard.  “I knew there was a reason we didn’t do anything this morning.”

Loving him more than he could say, Jason smiled and kissed him again, hands sliding down Daniel’s arms to meet his hands, fingers linking together. 

“Where’s Jack?”

“Showering,” Daniel replied slowly, thinking about how long the eggs could sit half-cooked in the pan before ruining, then deciding that he didn’t care.  He looked around Jason, apprehensively searching for Alex. 

“He’s not here.  I dropped him off at Lysa’s,” Jason told him, guessing why Daniel was looking around.  He put his arms around him, and with their hands still linked, Daniel’s were now trapped behind him. 

“Lysa’s?” Daniel asked, several questions needing to be asked.  “Why Lysa’s?”

“First and foremost, I wanted to be with you and Jack,” Jason said.  “Second, Lysa’s having one of her brunches, and since she and that asshole husband of hers are now getting a divorce, she can freely have her gay friends over.”

Daniel smiled.  “And you figured to take advantage of the opportunity?”

Jason suddenly sobered, his smile fading.  “We had a talk, Daniel.  This morning.  About us, about his needing to find someone else.  I love him, Daniel, but I love him more as a friend.  Alex isn’t…”

He grimaced, disgusted with himself, and to Daniel’s surprise, let him go and turned away.  He sat with a thump into one of the dining chairs.  Concerned, Daniel went over and knelt before him.  “What’s the matter?  You knew this was coming, so did he.”

“I…  it’s so hard, seeing the sadness in his eyes.” He looked away, eyes on the table top but not seeing it.  “I shouldn’t have given in, shouldn’t have invited him to Hawaii.  Forgive me.”

“For what?” Daniel asked irritably.  “We’ve been through this, Jason, so don’t go back to feeling sorry for yourself.  None of us have regretted what happened, or having Alex in our lives.” He paused, grabbing Jason’s dimpled chin between thumb and forefinger, forcing him to look at him.  “I love you.  I want you happy.  You wanted Alex, needed him, so Jack and I thought you needed to see where that led, if anywhere.  I couldn’t keep you from doing what you wanted, even if that meant risking losing you.”

“You’ll never lose me, Daniel.  Never.” He leaned over and kissed Daniel deeply.  “I love you.  I don’t use that word lightly.  For me, it implies forever.”

Daniel grinned at him.  “It goes both ways, you silly shit.  Don’t apologize, as if you’d put us at risk.  Got me?”

Jason nodded.  “I’m…  going to see him one more time, Daniel.  Make it special, because he is.” He swallowed and looked at him warily.  “What I was wondering if maybe it should be all of us.”

All of us?” Daniel asked, amused. 

Jason shrugged with a tilt of his head Daniel found endearing.  “He was with Jack, too, and I thought it should be with him, too.  Then I figured that since you’d also…” He grinned.  “Been intimate with him…”

Daniel took a deep breath.  “Whenever you want, Jace.  Jack won’t mind, either.”

Jason swallowed convulsively, feeling the desire for the foursome but placing it against the coming loss.  He was ready, but he wasn’t.  Mostly because he didn’t want to lose Alex completely.  “It’ll be fine,” he said with a confidence he didn’t feel. 

“I hope so,” Daniel replied.  He looked down at Jason’s shirt, his chest, catching the black outline from the tattoo.  “How’s the tat?”

Jason rolled his left shoulder.  “Itches.”

“You’ve been keeping it moist, right?  Using the ointment?”

Jason winced.  “I forgot this morning.  Wanted to get here.”

Daniel rolled his eyes and with a sigh of exasperation, took Jason’s hand.  “C’mon, Mister.”

“Daniel,” Jason half-protested as Daniel led him to the bedroom, where he kept a jar of the ointment in the small drawer of his dresser. 

“Take your shirt off, delinquent boy,” Daniel mock-scolded. 

Jason complied, and silently amused, watched as Daniel rubbed the salve into the healing skin.  But after a few seconds, Jason’s smile disappeared.  He remembered the difficult subject he wanted to talk about.  Hamilton.  He’d left the subject alone, giving Daniel a couple of days to deal with it, but Jason still couldn’t help but be dismayed over his rather negative feelings about the dead man.  And himself. 

“What’s the matter?” Daniel asked, breaking Jason out of his thoughts. 

Jason suddenly realized that Daniel had been picking up on his emotion.  He suddenly chickened out on the direct approach.  “My raven’s skin.”

“What?” Daniel asked, confused. 

“Before he died, Grandfather said something cryptic.  He said that the Raven would wear me if I let it.”

Daniel took a moment to consider the words.  “A warning, obviously, but was he talking about the gifts he supposedly gave you?  I can’t call those whacky senses you’ve been having a gift.  They’re far from being controlled, even if you did find out I was in trouble through them.”

“Last night, I figured out what that gift was.”

“Really?” Daniel asked wide-eyed, stopping his attention on the tattoo.  “So what is it?”

“A type of ESP.  I know the answers to things before they happen.”

Daniel frowned in confusion.  “So what the hell did those heightened senses have to do with that?”

“I’ve been thinking about that and I think that they were…  doors opening.”

“Doors opening?” Daniel asked, perplexed, but two seconds later, it made perfect sense.  “Oh wait, I get it.  Like getting your mind used to the openness around you?”

“Exactly, and it’s selective, like that voice you get sometimes.  Last night, without me having to go through an experimentation with Alex, I knew what he needed.  I was certain of it.  I wasn’t guessing.  I knew.  And it reminded me of the time Lin made those rings.  He’d made them before I asked.  Did I tell you that?”

“Not exactly,” Daniel answered, thinking back.  “Just that he’d made them.  You pulled them out and handed us ours.  You never said Lin had already made them.”

“It wasn’t a secret, Daniel.  It’s just that I was so used to him doing that, knowing things about me before I told him.  I thought it was the shaman’s gift he possessed.”

“It is, Jason,” Daniel told him meaningfully. 

Jason shook his head.  “No, it’s more than that.” Daniel nodded, but it seemed to be absent-minded as he stared at him, examining his face.  “What?” Jason asked warily. 

“What else were you going to talk to me about?” Daniel asked, suddenly very sure there was something else on Jason’s mind.  Was it his anger?  Jason didn’t like it when he was angry about something, anything.  Felt it was beneath him to feel something his enemies did.  “There is, I can tell.  What?”

Surprised, Jason cleared his throat.  “Maybe it would be best if we wait for Jack.”

“Jason, you’re dissembling,” Daniel told him as he resumed the application of the salve.  “Spit it out.”

Jason sighed, wishing Daniel weren’t so fucking observant.  “How’re you doing about…  Hamilton?”

Daniel frowned, confused.  He could feel worry and fear coming off Jason in droves.  But about Hamilton?  No, that didn’t make sense.  “Clarify.”

“Having to kill him.”

Daniel rolled his eyes, muttering, “For cryin’ out loud.” Jason was sometimes a trial, he thought.  “I am not sorry I killed him, Jason, if that’s what you mean.  Am I sorry I had to kill someone?  Yes.  Am I sorry it was him?  No.  Now, end of discussion.”

Had Jason not been so concerned, he would have grinned at Daniel’s use of Jack’s catch phrase.  “No, it’s more than that.  I know you.  You always try to talk your way out of sticky situations.”

“Did you just hear anything I said?  Or would you like to believe whatever you want and have me agree?”

Jason scowled at him.  “That’s unfair.”

“Well, you just did that, Jason!  What the fuck do you expect me to think when you do that?”

Jason sighed heavily and thumbed the spot between his eyes.  “I’m sorry, Daniel.”

“When I think there’s a chance to, Jason,” Daniel told him, gently, taking his chin between two fingers, “I’ll talk.  But this wasn’t one of those times.  What’s really bothering you?”

“You could have wounded him, Daniel, and you didn’t,” Jason said softly. 

Daniel could see the pain in Jason’s eyes, the worry, and he finally figured out–hopefully figured out–what was wrong.  He twisted his mouth to the side as he focused on dabbing the ointment on the tattoo.  “You’re so sure about that, are you?” Jason started to interrupt but Daniel shook his head, telling him he wasn’t finished. 

“If I’d had the camera turned on in my office, you’d see why I had to kill, not maim.  Why are you worried about this?  You’re acting severely over-protective and it isn’t your job to protect me from the big bad men.  Besides, you know I hate it, and you also know that I’ll do whatever it takes to stay alive.  I may risk myself for others, but when it comes to self-preservation, don’t worry about me.”

Jason peered at him.  “I know you enough to know that you labor over your decisions, that when someone dies and you’re involved, you blame yourself.”

“Yes, I prefer to save lives and I take on entirely too damn much on my own head.  And I also know it exasperates you and Jack to no end.” He smiled, as if he were revealing a secret.  “It’s necessary to save lives whenever possible.  And that also includes killing someone or several people to ensure that other lives are saved.  I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again.  Stop worrying about it, Jason, or you’ll end up pissing me off.”

Jason nodded, understanding, but Daniel didn’t get what he meant–and mostly because Jason hadn’t explained himself yet.  “Daniel, it doesn’t bother me that you killed him.  What bothers me is why it happened.  It’s only a matter of time before more like Hamilton show up, threatening our lives.  I’m afraid that soon you’ll end up…”

“End up…  what?  Retaliating instead of defending?  I’ve been dealing with that bigoted shit for a long time now, Jason.  I’m not about to go bounty hunter on you.”

“That’s not what I mean!  You can’t end up–“

“Stop it!  I won’t end up–“

“Like me!”

Daniel blinked at him.  That wasn’t what he’d expected Jason to say.  “What?”

“Like me,” Jason told him. 

Daniel closed the jar and put it back in the drawer, then gave Jason another piercing look, only this one had nothing to do with chastisement.  “What the fuck are you talking about?”

At the sound of Jason’s voice, Jack hurried his shaving in anticipation of showing Jason how much he missed him.  The water muffled what he and Daniel were talking about but when their voices rose and the sound indicated stress, Jack hurried faster.  They were obviously arguing and Jack started to get annoyed. 

He had an idea what they were arguing about and he sighed heavily, wanting to smack Jason for his timing.  Couldn’t he have waited till after they’d fucked each other’s brains out?  Maybe Jason was subconsciously arranging a kiss-and-make-up scenario. 

Shutting off the water and drying his face, Jack didn’t pick up Alex’s voice so hopefully that meant the Jason hadn’t brought him with him.  While Jack liked him, he didn’t want him around right now. 

He opened the door and sauntered into the room, clad only in the navy bath towel.  He spotted his two lovers, both with arms folded defensively.  That wasn’t good.  When they were both defensive, things never got settled right away. 

Jason looked over at him and Jack saw the worry and stress there, saw the same stress in Daniel’s eyes.  He made a growling noise and moved to Daniel first, reaching out to push his folded arms apart as he leaned in slightly and kissed lips thinned with tension.  When Daniel’s lips didn’t respond, he did it again, and again, until they returned to their normal pliable state. 

“Better.” Turning to Jason, Jack narrowed his eyes.  “Couldn’t you keep it zipped for just a few hours?”

“Guess not.  Mornin’ Jack,” Jason murmured, his voice unintentionally sexy, reaching down into Jack’s balls. 

“Come here, errant husband,” Jack growled at him, the word ‘husband’ only making his dick twitch more.  He pushed Jason’s arms open the same way he did with Daniel, then took him in his arms, tattoo be damned, and claimed his mouth for a proper hello.  To his relief, Jason responded immediately. 

As he was kissed until he needed to come up for air, Jason cursed himself.  Why hadn’t he kept his mouth shut?  They could be having sex right now.  But Jason knew that Jack would have this settled before anything else.  The problem was that Jason no longer knew exactly what was bothering him.  Was it Daniel’s killing?  Or was it his own wish that he’d done it instead?

Jack reluctantly let him go, murmuring, “Do you have a fight fetish or something?  You want everyone riled up so we can all then have make-up sex?” When Jason stared at him, speechless, he asked, “Now, what the hell are you two arguing about?

“Jason thinks I’ll turn into a killing machine,” Daniel said caustically. 

“That’s not what I said, nor what I meant,” Jason growled.  “I just…” He sighed in disgust and sat down on the bed. 

“Sit down,” Jack told Daniel, but when Daniel was reluctant to move, he adroitly guided him to sit.  Jack turned to the dresser and pulled out a set of shorts, eyeing his lovers as he slid them on.  Draping the towel on a drawer knob, he turned to them and ran a hand through his hair, making the cowlick on the back of his crown stick up even more.  “Well?” he asked Jason.  “Explain yourself better so we can all make nice and have a proper morning together.” It was he who then crossed his arms and stood staring at them both, waiting. 

Feeling terrible for making Daniel angry, Jason took the hand nearest and enclosed it between both of his.  He stared down at the strong, callused fingers and had this nearly irresistible urge to suck on them. 

“There’re two things.  First.” Jason swallowed convulsively.  “It’s my own guilt, Daniel, and I apologize for making you think I don’t respect your ability to take care of yourself however you see fit.  I know we have dangerous lives and that we do what we have to do in order to save our own skins or others. 

“It’s just that I worry when you end up having to kill like that.  We all know it was self-defense but I’m talking about the reason for it.  You could have just maimed him, but you didn’t, and I’m wondering how you’ll try to punish yourself for that later.”

Daniel closed his eyes, sighing.  “I’ll be fine.  And the reason I will be is because I couldn’t have done it differently.  You weren’t in the room, you didn’t see his eyes.  I didn’t even have the camera operating so you can’t check it out later.  He was going to kill me.  Our positions made it impossible for me to get out of there without injury, so I had to make sure that I had the kill shot, not him.  It’s that simple.”

Both Jack and Jason nodded in agreement, looking relieved, which Daniel found really annoying.  He left that alone, however, because he didn’t feel like getting into a separate argument.  He threaded his fingers between one of Jason’s hands and squeezed.  “You said the reason for it.  You mean hating someone, right?” Jason nodded.  “I already hate the Goa’uld, Jason.  I hate others, too, those who do nothing but destroy people’s lives.  I’m just better at hiding it.”

“Internalize is more like,” Jack commented, earning a dirty look.  “Well you do, Daniel.”

“I wanted to be the one to take him down,” Jason finally admitted, and both Jack and Daniel looked at him, not sure of what he was saying.  “I didn’t want you to kill him,” he said to Daniel.  “I…  wanted to do it.  I wanted the chance to look him in the eye, give him a few parting shots before I put a bullet in his brain.”

“Jason?” Daniel drawled, “That’s not exactly a secret.”

Jason was thoroughly confused. 

“I felt it, Jason.  You can’t hide that hatred from me.”

“But…  then why the fuck aren’t you shocked or disgusted, Daniel?  What I just said goes against everything you believe…”

Daniel gripped Jason’s hand tight enough to make Jason wince.  His voice was hard and low.  “Listen to me, right fucking now, Jason.  You know me, but somehow, you’re trying to tell me you don’t.  That I don’t know you.  That about the size of it?”

Jason blinked several times, realizing that was exactly what he was doing by telling Daniel he wouldn’t understand, by acting surprised by Daniel’s actions–which he was.  The more Jason thought about it, the more he realized how his fear and anger had blinded him to some things.  Like his knowledge and love of Daniel–and vice-versa. 

He closed his eyes in acceptance, then slowly opened them.  “I’m so sorry, Daniel, I…  I’m…  fucked up.”

Jack snorted and Daniel gave him a warning glance.  “You both have seen what I can do when I have to,” he said, his gaze switching back and forth between Jack and Jason.  “What I did, I had to do.  It’s no different than your methods.”

“Wait a minute, Daniel–” Jack began. 

“I’m not finished, Jack.  Wait till I’m finished, then you can contradict me.” Jack looked at him impatiently.  “It isn’t any different,” Daniel went on.  “It doesn’t matter if you wouldn’t have waited to kill that bastard.  Your motives are the same, you have the same guiding principles I do. 

“You may think you don’t, having been ordered to kill, but if you’d had a huge problem with killing whomever you were sent to kill, you wouldn’t have done it.  Doesn’t matter if I would have approved or not, then or now.  The fact is that you need a moral and ethical reason to kill, just as I do.  You’d have killed that bastard right off simply because he deserved it.  And this is one time where I can’t argue with you.”

“Christ, Jack, call Guinness,” Jason murmured, the tension in his shoulders relaxing. 

“The World Record keepers or the Brewery?” Jack asked.  

“Guys,” Daniel admonished, looking at the ceiling.  When they desisted, Daniel decided to give them both a reminder.  “Seven years ago, I was standing in front of a Goa’uld temple on Chulak.  I aimed the M16 I had at the container filled with larval Goa’uld and I shot the shit out of it.” He paused, seeing the sudden knowledge on their faces.  While Jason hadn’t been there at the time, he’d read the report. 

Jack hadn’t seen him do it, and Daniel hadn’t told him.  Sam had, because Daniel had freaked her out.  When Daniel had put it in his report, Hammond had kindly left any questions over it unasked and Daniel had been grateful that Jack had left it alone too.  He had never once talked about it, either, because he’d never thought it necessary.  But, it appeared that now, it was. 

“Everyone assumed that I did it out of revenge,” Daniel revealed.  “I did.  And I didn’t.  I’d been thinking how many lives those symbiotes would have destroyed.  I saw Shau’re in my mind, her eyes glowing…  Two seconds later, I felt my finger close on the trigger and I was blasting that fucking container to bits.”

He was quiet then, feeling no further urge to explain himself.  There wasn’t any need because he could feel the sympathy and understanding coming from his lovers.  “So, Jason,” he said, saying no more about it and hoping his lovers got the hint, “you wanna tell me why you hate Hamilton so badly?  It’s not just because he killed those people.  I can feel it.  It’s the same cold rage you have against Baal and had against Jalen.  Or rather, Jalen’s alter ego.” He paused, then added because he suddenly felt hypocritical.  “If you want to talk about it, that is.  Except I’ve been getting the idea that you do.”

Jason nodded, slowly, but it took him a minute before broke the silence.  “First, I wanted to tell you about why I had that dream, and about my feelings for Jalen.  You were both right.  He reminded me of those feelings about myself that I don’t like.  Grandfather reminded me, as you would have, that it’s okay to have those feelings as long as I feel bad about them, as long as I don’t let them take me over.  The raven,” and he looked down at his chest, “is a messenger.  He’s here to remind me who I am.”

He paused, touching sections of the tattoo.  “Through some bizarre act of fate, I was given a brother.  It scared me that he could’ve been a psycho.  I think I’m fine about him now, especially considering he wasn’t acting under his own volition.  His existence here still freaks me out a little but I’m willing to get past it to see if I can’t help him.”

Jason paused, laughing nervously. 

“What’s funny?” Jack asked. 

Shaking his head, Jason said, “Nothing.  My own dark humor.  What he’s going through is more than what I went through, but the similarity and the fact that he’s a twin has my sense of the ridiculous tweaked.  Because I understand him, it’s one reason I really didn’t want to discourage Alex from seeing him.”

When Jason looked at them, he found them looking at him with approval, which confused him.  He’d expected them to react negatively, especially Jack.  “It doesn’t bother you that I say that I understand him?”

“He bothers me,” Jack said honestly, “but not because he’s your brother.”

“Can you say why?” Jason asked. 

Jack made a face.  “To see a man with your face have glowing eyes.  It gives me the idea what it’d be like if you ever took on a Tok’ra, or worse, and I’m sorry–Daniel–if this bothers you but I really hate that idea.  It creeps me the fuck out.”

Jason felt relieved.  He could relate with Jack’s feelings one hundred percent.  “Daniel?” Jason asked. 

Daniel made a face, too, but mostly because he was about to go in the opposite direction.  “Well, my compassion has overridden my anger at Jalen.  I find him fascinating in an odd sort of way, but it’s not the sort of fascination that makes me wanna spend time with him…  around the other Tok’ra.” He paused, giving Jack and Jason a significant look.  “I’d like to get to know him, Jason.  Help him in some way by bringing him here, having him spend time on Earth again and just try and feel normal for a while.  Do you see what I mean or do you think I’m full of it?”

Jack exchanged looks with Jason.  “I get that,” he said with a sigh.  “But let’s not invite him over tomorrow because…” He gave each of his lovers a long look as he walked around to the foot of the bed and climbed on, stretching across, propping his head in his hand.  Daniel and Jason broke apart and turned to face him, receiving a mischievous look they knew well.  “I have plans.”

Daniel and Jason both smiled to themselves.  “How about you talk to him before we go to the Beta Site next week?” Daniel offered Jason.  “He can stay here, providing Hammond says it’s okay.  We’ll pick him up on the way back to the base.  Think he’d go for that?”

Jason ran a hand through his hair.  “I guess, though I suspect he’d like to stay with Alex.  And I don’t know how willing he is to accept me as a substitute for what he lost.”

“Guess we’ll see when you talk to him,” Jack shrugged.  “So what was the second thing?” He resettled himself, as if getting more comfortable for something he wanted to hear. 

Jason cleared his throat.  “My hatred.  Most people think hatred is based on fear.  Maybe it is, but my hatred is just that.  Hatred.  I can’t pretend it’s just anger or rage.  Not to you two, anyway.  From now on, when you hear me refer to my anger, you’ll know I mean hatred and know also exactly what I mean by it.”

Jason suddenly got up and paced the room, staring about, looking down at his boots.  He stuffed his hands in his back pockets and stopped by the bedroom’s bay window, contemplating sitting on the thinly padded bench seat.  Two seconds later, he did, and began to talk as he removed his boots. 

“Remember when I told you about my first time, when I was fifteen?” When they nodded, Jason said, “Grandfather warned me to be discreet.” He took a huge breath.  “But I didn’t listen.  I understood but I didn’t understand.  The Navajo boys weren’t too thrilled seeing me walk into the movie theatre, holding hands with my boyfriend, but they didn’t do or say anything about it.  They simply gave me that disapproving look we get. 

“Well, there were these white boys who were raised on the local ranches outside the Rez and they used to come riding through in their trucks, drunk, throwing empty beer bottles.  We were walking back to my Grandfather’s along that long road.  You remember it?”

Daniel nodded but Jack pushed up and sat with his arms draped over his raised knees.  “How many of them were there?”

Jason stared at the bottom edge of the bed while images of fists and boots came back to him.  “Four.  I gave what I could, earned several dozen bruises that took weeks to heal and a couple of broken ribs and a broken nose that took longer.  Colton…” Jason felt the anger and loss still burned bright after all these years and he looked up into Daniel’s face, saw clearly that he could feel it. 

“I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.  They’d broken his neck.” Jason held up his hand when Jack made to come over to him.  “No, Jack, stay there, please.  It’s easier for me to talk about this shit with the bit of distance between us.”

“You never mentioned what happened to him when we were talking about our first times, Jason.  You led us to believe you two parted company when you went into the Air Force.”

“It’s an easier fantasy to believe sometimes,” Jason answered solemnly.  “I started working out after that, and just before I signed up and went to the Academy, I had another run-in with those motherfuckers.  I lost, again.  The only fights I’ve ever lost were those two.  After I got into the Air Force, I studied extra hand-to-hand training and earned a spot in the advanced classes.  In those advanced classes was a loud-mouthed homophobe. 

“Summer of my fourth year, I went down to Vegas and hooked up with a couple of guys who worked at one of the casinos as valets.  We had a nice weekend,” and Jason grinned fondly.  “I started doing that every couple of weeks, usually seeing the same guys but finding someone else if they weren’t available.  One weekend, that phobe bastard was in Vegas and saw me going into the gayest club there, with my arm around a guy.”

“Shit,” Jack said between clenched teeth. 

“You weren’t kicked out,” Daniel stated.  “Why?” He looked at Jack and Jack seemed to have a look of understanding on his face.  Had he been there?  Daniel wondered.  Probably. 

“No.  The bastard tried to blackmail me.  Told me that if I didn’t suck his cock whenever he wanted, he’d turn me in.  I told him to fuck off, that we’d see who they believed.  He laughed at me, then tried to kick the shit out of me along with two of his friends.  Except I put him and his friends in the hospital.  Special Ops read that in my file when I applied and after I told them the size of the men involved, they assigned me to a unit.”

“Did he tell the Dean?  Er, Commandant?”

“General,” Jason smiled, “and yeah, he did.  In the hospital.  I told the General that the reason he was making the claim was because I turned him down, that I saw him entering a gay club in Vegas and he threatened to kill me if I narked.  The General believed me, though I don’t know why.  Generally accusations of that sort don’t tend to go away, but since this repressed phobe was one of their big time athletes with a history of bullying people, I was believed. 

“A few years later, I was in Tokyo and ran into some men beating the shit out of a young gay man.  I tore into them like white on rice.  I never looked to see who they were or what they were wearing, but apparently one of them had ties to the Yakuza.”

“Christ,” Jack hissed and dropped his head down on his knees. 

“Needless to say, I had to get the hell out of there before I became someone’s sushi delicacy.” Jason paused, remembering that night, and the curious lack of followers.  “I think the gay man I helped had friends, because realistically, I shouldn’t have gotten off that island intact. 

“Since then, I’ve taken on three more groups of those phobes.” He raised an eyebrow, remembering.  “One such fight I came across wasn’t on a gay man but a transgender.  Not that that matters.” Jason stood up, rubbing his hands over his jeans and turned around to stare out of the window. 

She couldn’t even fight,” he went on.  “Not at all.  Poor woman was getting the crap beat out of her and unable to give anything in return because the three men kicking her weren’t giving her an opening.  I left several broken bones before I got her the hell out of there.” He looked over his shoulder.  “And I didn’t pause to see if I’d killed any of them so don’t ask.” He suddenly smiled wanly.  “Makes me seem like some vigilante or sicko who thinks he’s a superhero.”

“Jason,” Jack warned, the tone telling him not to put himself down. 

Jason crossed his arms and turned back to the window.  “Anyway, this shit’s happened all my life.  When I saw those men with Makepeace, I recognized they weren’t just goons helping a buddy.  They were there to stand by and let Makepeace rape you while they considered doing the same thing to me.  Homophobes they weren’t, not in the strict sense of the word.  They reminded me of those men in prison, ones they nickname bull queers.” He paused then turned around and looked Daniel in the eyes.  “I had no problem breaking their necks.”

“I suspect you don’t mean physical prowess,” Daniel said blandly, though his emotions were far from bland. 

Jason took in a slow breath.  “Whenever there’re phobes around and they’re looking for a fight, I’ll give it to them.” He shook his head.  “While I don’t purposely start the fights, I lose all objectivity when challenged and I will strike first if I think that’s what they want.”

When he saw their worried looks, he amended himself.  “Don’t worry.  I can’t afford to be careless enough to get my ass thrown in Leavenworth.  Just that you need to be warned now because if we’re out somewhere and we come across these people, if I think I can get away with it, I’ll take care of them.”

“Consider me relieved,” Daniel said just as blandly as before. 

Jason glanced at Jack and they both stared hard at Daniel.  Jack seemed amused, Jason thought, but for himself, he was alarmed.  Why was Daniel mad at him?

“Jason,” Daniel drawled, the tone doing more than any scold.  “C’mere, sit down.”

Suddenly depressed and angry that Daniel didn’t seem to sympathize, Jason sat back down on the window seat instead, thoughts of flight on his mind.  He had no intention of hanging around and risking saying something that could cause more damage.  “Say whatever you have to say, then I gotta go.”

“What?” Daniel asked, sitting up straight, then getting off the bed and moving around to Jason.  He could feel the emotions and automatically knew Jason had misread him.  He sat down, a hand on Jason’s tattooed shoulder.  “No, no, Jason, it’s not like that.  Christ, I wish you had this empathy.  There’d be no misunderstanding.”

“I don’t have it and I understood you fine,” Jack said, earning himself a hard look. 

“You’re not Jason,” Daniel told him, then turned his eyes on his dark-haired lover.  “And you’re not feeling vulnerable,” he added, his eyes expressing warmth.  “I am not upset with you, Jason,” he went on, threading his fingers through Jason’s hair, his expression one of admiration.  “On the contrary, I’m in awe.  I was flippant because I’m hiding my concern.  I understand fully your need to defend people.  I’d do it myself, in an instant, and you know that.”

Daniel leaned in and kissed Jason lightly.  “Stow that flight response.  I’m not mad.  I can’t possibly be.” Jason visibly relaxed and laughed abashedly.  With his fingers still in Jason’s hair, Daniel tugged and pushed in mock-punishment.  “You really are blind and sensitive when it comes to this subject, Jason.  You should’ve known better then to think I’d be mad.”

Jason grimaced and said nothing while he looked over at Jack, who’d moved across the bed and now sat on the edge, facing him.  “You’re a right horse’s ass, Jace,” Jack told him, shaking his head. 

Jason sighed and cleared his throat.  “You’re both right,” he said, grinning at Jack.  To Daniel, then Jack, he said, “Because of what happened to me when I was fifteen, and every time since, I’ve not been rational when it comes to homophobes or hate-mongers of any kind.” With an apologetic look at Daniel, he added, “It’s why your flip answer caught me off guard and I…” With a sheepish look he said, “misinterpreted it.”

“Yep, horse’s ass,” Jack said, grin on his face. 

“Jack,” Daniel scolded, but he was trying and failing to suppress a grin. 

“I though you guys would get it, you know?  Understand where I was coming from because I know damn well you both have had to put up with this same shit in your lives.  Either personally or having to witness it.”

Daniel shrugged, removing his hand from Jason’s hair.  “I never thought it was worth talking about, Jason.”

“Because it brings up emotions you don’t like, doesn’t it?”

Daniel grinned at him, then poked Jason hard in the chest, making him bat Daniel’s hand out of the way. 

“Daniel!”

“And you say you don’t know me?” Daniel scolded gently. 

Jason twisted his mouth sardonically.  “Proves your point about the subject matter, too.”

Sighing deeply, Daniel told him, “I get angry when I think of all those times where I’ve come across someone being hurt because they were different.  In my case, it’s not just homophobia but misogynists and racial bigots.  I’ve come across it all, Jason, and that’s the hazard of being an archaeologist who travels all over. 

“I learned how to use a gun and observe guerilla tactics while in Central America.  In the Gansu province in China, I learned how to make gunpowder.  I don’t like to think about the worst things I’ve seen because it just makes me extremely angry.  I don’t see the point in getting angry over something that’s history.”

His tone was kind so Jason didn’t take umbrage.  Instead, he wished he was more like Daniel.  “Just…  be warned, Daniel.  I’m not like you.  I can’t talk my way out of situations that I think deserve a bullet instead.”

“Promise me to think first, kick ass later,” Daniel told him, grabbing his hand, letting Jason see the concern in his eyes. 

“I promise–providing someone isn’t getting their ass kicked.” Daniel started to open his mouth and Jason shushed it with his hand.  “Daniel, don’t worry.  I won’t land my ass in jail unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

“Jason…” Daniel objected. 

“If I can keep from doing that, I will.  Trust me.  I’m not there yet, am I?”

“Hear, hear,” Jack echoed.  He regarded them solemnly, then turned his focus to Daniel.  “I agree with Jason, Daniel.  It’s one of the reasons I’m still a Colonel.  I’ve had what they call disciplinary problems, and what that really means is that I won’t tolerate hate in my presence.” He smirked.  “Some might consider that an oxymoron or contradiction, hating something that spreads hatred and violence.”

“Only intellectuals without a grasp on reality would consider such a bullshit view valid,” Daniel said angrily.  At the looks of astonishment he received, Daniel swallowed his anger and explained.  “Having been tied to Academia most of my life, I’ve seen and heard my fair share of that crap, Jack.  Still ticks me off when I hear it–and from scientists on the base, no less.  It’s one thing to debate the effects of bigotry.  It’s quite another to endure them.” He paused and gave Jack a significant look.  “It’s one reason I keep telling you the geeks need to be sent out on missions.”

Jason shared a surprised grin with Jack.  He knew Daniel had to work with some rather obstinate people, and Jason always considered science to be the one discipline in the world that demanded a prejudice-free mind.  But then he remembered reading about the people who scoffed at Oppenheimer, Galileo, Marie Curie.  “I take it you’ve corrected the speakers?” he asked Daniel and Jack sniggered. 

“He has,” Jack answered, waiting to see if Daniel would finally talk about it.  All Jack knew was that he had and the science lab was notoriously tight-lipped.  While good for Top Secret issues, it wasn’t so good when problems arose.  Daniel tried to fix things when he could but he wasn’t in charge of the entire science division.  Just archaeology and linguistics.  A very small sub-division of the SGC. 

“I risk only getting my ass fired, not being dumped into the dungeons of Leavenworth,” Daniel told them both, his expression pretty much telling them not to risk that. 

Jason cleared his throat and shared a cryptic smile with Jack. 

“I hate it when you two do that.  What now?” Daniel said. 

“We’re taking risks just being together,” Jason reminded him, and when Daniel was going to argue, Jason forestalled him with an upraised hand.  “But I take your meaning.  No unnecessary risks.  Ours,” he added, eyeing Daniel, then Jack, “is necessary.”

“Amen,” Jack said, standing.  “Now…  I suggest continuing this discussion in the kitchen because I’m hungry.” He then held out his hands, pretty much telling them that the kitchen suggestion wasn’t really a suggestion. 

With Jason, Daniel took Jack’s outstretched hands and followed him out to the kitchen.  Jason remained shirtless and Jack didn’t bother with a shirt to go with his gym shorts.  They were a bit of a distraction but Daniel didn’t mind.  The musky smell from his lovers made him feel at peace.  At home.  Any further thought on it though and that peace would change to something more energetically-inclined. 

As Jack helped him make breakfast, Jason went out and got the paper.  Opening the paper, he sat down at the table to look through the entertainment section and made humming noises. 

“Whatcha reading?” Jack asked. 

“You guys feel like going to see movie?”

“What’s playing?” Daniel asked. 

Jason’s grin was ironic.  “Brokeback Mountain.”

Daniel grimaced.  “Another time.  I’ve read that story and I’m in no mood for tragic endings.”

Jack grinned and winked at Jason.  “He’s a sentimental romantic.”

“I’d really rather stay home,” Daniel told them, “but if you two wanna go see something, go ahead.”

Jason twisted his mouth.  “Jack?”

Jack shrugged.  “How about we go out to dinner instead?” Daniel and Jason nodded agreement.  Jack then made a face as he wondered how to tell Jason that he didn’t want Alex joining them.  “Jason?”

“Hmmm?” Jason asked absently as he looked up from the movie review he was reading. 

“I’d like it to be just us three.”

As Jack busied himself with buttering the English muffins, Jason got up and stepped in behind him, kissing the back of Jack’s head before leaning on the counter beside him.  “Don’t worry.  He’s not coming.” Jason then repeated what he’d told Daniel earlier, including his decision about Alex. 

“Except for spending one more time with him, which I want to be special.  I’m at a loss how to go about it though.”

Jack snorted.  “You’re at a loss?”

Jason threw him a dirty look.  “I don’t just want a simple fuck.” For reasons beyond him, Jason suddenly blushed.  He had no Earthly reason why it happened.  He felt a little embarrassment in mentioning the fuck but it wasn’t worth blushing over!

“Daniel, look, he’s blushing.”

“Shut up,” Jason rumbled at him as he went past him to sit down.  But Jack had other ideas and grabbed him around the waist, snuffling the back of his neck. 

“It’s so cute,” Jack teased. 

“Jack,” Jason protested and when Jack didn’t stop, he yelled for help.  “Daniel!”

“Don’t look at me, Mr.  America,” Daniel answered with a gentle gibe. 

Jason couldn’t respond because the comment had Jack falling back to the dining table, laughing his ass off.  Jason leaned against the opposite counter and crossed his arms, waiting for Jack to stop laughing.  He tried to be mad, but Daniel was smiling and Jack rarely laughed out loud like that.  It was always nice to see that smile, regardless of the cause. 

“You done?” Jason asked when Jack finally subsided. 

Jack gave him that charismatic smile of his and moved over to slide his hands around Jason’s waist.  “C’mon, Jace, it was funny.”

“Hmmm,” Jason grumbled, unwilling to admit it only because Jack would goad him further.  “Anyway,” he pressed on, returning to the subject of Alex.  “Once more, to say all I have to, and not in words.” He paused, grinning.  “Well, not conversational ones anyway.”

Jack didn’t reply but nodded his acceptance.  He rather liked the idea of one more time himself, but this was probably something he could do without.  This was Jason’s goodbye, after all. 

Once breakfast was served, the three men sat at their traditional three sides–long ago established for much needed elbow room–with Daniel at one end, Jack on the other, and Jason in the middle, his back to the French doors. 

As he ate, Jason caught Jack eyeing him periodically, and at first, he thought Jack was worrying about him, thinking of his anger.  But when he shoveled some bacon and hash browns into his mouth at the same time Jack looked at him again, Jason suddenly knew.  Jack hadn’t given anything away, but Jason knew. 

Having observed the looks Jack was giving Jason, Daniel felt the sexual desire from Jack and grinned.  “Something on your mind, Jack?”

Jack looked down the table at him and assumed a serious expression.  Not a foreboding one, but contemplative and intense.  “Something.”

“Care to elaborate?” Jason asked, thinking he knew the answer as his dick began to stir uncomfortably in his jeans.  Jason cursed himself for not wearing the baggier ones. 

Jack cleared his throat and gave Jason a more intense look.  “While I’d love to go back to the bedroom after breakfast, I think I’d like to wait until after dinner.  I don’t know about you two, but I had a pretty…  potent…  evening last night.  Refueling is in order.”

His words, matched with a sexy grin, made Jason and Daniel nod with soft laughter.  “So the only question is, what restaurant?”

.  . 

Halfway through dinner, Jason suddenly raised his glass of draught over his plate.  “Here’s to my Grandfather,” he said with an odd smile on his face.  Jack and Daniel stopped eating and raised their glasses.  “May he get into all sorts of mischief in his new life.”

“Hear, hear,” Jack and Daniel saluted together and clinked their glasses with Jason. 

After letting a few respectful moments of silence go by, Daniel asked, “Didn’t think he got into mischief.”

Jason grinned.  “Not like we usually think of but when he was back home in New Mexico, he was constantly arguing with the council or the Rez police.”

“Over what?” Jack asked. 

“Human Rights for Native Americans.”

“That I can see,” Daniel nodded as he ate another bite, then leaned back in his chair and patted his stomach.  “No more for me.”

“Full?” Jack asked, a little surprised. 

“No, but getting there.  If eat more, I won’t be able to move.” He then awarded Jason and Jack with a significant look.  “And I’m gonna need to be able to move.”

Jason looked down at his half-eaten lobster and mostly consumed steak, thought about what Daniel said, and after a swift look at his lovers–mostly for visual appreciation and encouragement–he set down his knife and fork.  “I agree.”

“Well,” Jack said, setting his napkin on the table.  “Guess that means we’re done.” Anxious grins met his and Jack raised his glass.  “Jason, make a toast.”

Jason thought it over, then studied Jack’s body language.  The man was definitely up to something, so he said, “I’ll do the serious one.  To healing.”

Jack grinned.  “You know me so well.  To getting into mischief.”

“And not getting caught,” Daniel added, tongue between his teeth.  The three clinked their glasses and drank. 

After paying for the meal and tipping generously, they walked out of the dining room heading for the main entrance.  To their left, the cashier and reception desk.  To their right, the entrance into the lounge, and a loud derisive shout came from inside. 

Jack wrinkled his nose.  “There’s a such thing as having a good time and there’s a such thing as not being able to hold your liquor and acting like an ass.”

“The two aren’t always exclusive,” Daniel added, looking at Jason for confirmation. 

Jason nodded absently as he followed them out the door, wishing he could have seen inside the bar better. 

“What’s the matter?” Jack asked. 

They were just stepping off the sidewalk to head across the lot for the truck when the owner of the loud mouth came through the doors, goading his friends about something or other. 

Jason followed Jack and Daniel but his gaze over his right shoulder was frozen in place.  A car could have hit him then and he wouldn’t have known to get out of the way. 

“Jason?” Daniel asked, standing by the passenger door as Jack started up the truck. 

“It’s not him,” Jason whispered, trying to convince himself, shaking his head as his eyes fixed like magnets, watching loudmouth and his compatriots head for a Lexus sedan.  The pricey object pissed Jason off.  No homophobic fucker should drive a car like that, he thought, then abruptly halted that train of thought.  He had no idea if this man was the phobe never mind a phobe.  What was wrong with him?

Lin’s oft-repeated quotation during his teen years suddenly came back to Jason:  When you become obsessed with the enemy, you become the enemy

“Jason,” Daniel called, then walked over and touched his shoulder.  “Jason?”

Jason watched them approach the Lexus and he memorized the license plate.  He walked backward, watching.  “Get in the truck, Daniel,” he said, then hurried behind him, got in after Daniel and slammed the door shut. 

“Do me a favor, Jack.  Follow that Lexus.”

Jack put the truck in reverse and waited as the Lexus drove past them before he backed out and followed.  Jason got a good look at them out in the open, but still, he wasn’t sure the apparent leader of the men was the one he recognized. 

Jason reached into the glove compartment and pulled out the pad and pen he knew Jack kept in there.  He wrote down the license plate number and then stared at the silver car in front of them, tapping the pen on the pad nervously.  Anxiously.  Angrily

“You still friends with that neighbor woman who works with the DMV?” he asked Jack. 

Jack glanced over at the pad, then up into Jason’s face as his lover stared out through the windshield.  “If you need the ID, Jason, then we go through other channels so no questions are asked.  And no, Delores moved last year.”

“Oh.”

“Who was it you saw?” Daniel asked, placing his hand on Jason’s thigh.  “I didn’t recognize any of them.”

“You wouldn’t.  And I don’t know if it’s the guy I’m thinking of.  He’s driving, so it might be his car.”

“And how long am I to follow them, Jace?” Jack asked as the car moved off in the direction opposite to where they wanted to go.  He didn’t need to get an answer, however, because the car suddenly turned into a Hooters restaurant and lounge. 

Jason’s mouth set grimly.  “Fucking figures.  I hope those women know how to defend themselves.”

“Who is it?” Jack asked as he pulled into the parking lot and boldly parked to the left of the Lexus.  The men were still in the car, arguing, voices so loud that everyone knew it was about money. 

“I’m not sure if it’s him,” Jason hedged, “and the last time I saw this person, I was 15 years old.”

There was a significant pause before Jack said, “If it’s him.”

Jason’s jaw clenched, eyes boring a hole through the window as he looked down into the driver’s seat, watching a man in his late 40s, out of shape, beer gut, with a blond crew cut.  He sort of looked like the 19 year old murderer from New Mexico, but Jason couldn’t remember.  He only had a bad feeling, but his deep hatred of that 19-year-old might just be clouding his feelings now.  While he wasn’t getting that feeling of falseness, he still had to keep it in mind. 

“Yes, if it’s him.  I wish I could be sure.”

The men poured out of the Lexus and for a frozen moment, Jason silently dared the bastard to look at him, to recognize him.  The driver glanced at Jack’s truck, then at the cab, but he didn’t look long enough to see inside.  He turned away and gestured at one of his buddies about something as they headed toward the entrance. 

Jack snapped his fingers and held out his hand for the paper with the plate number.  Jason wrote down the man’s name and tore off the page, handing it to Jack as he returned the pad and pen to the glove compartment. 

“Dwayne Carlson?” Jack asked. 

Jason nodded. 

“I hate to ask a stupid question,” Daniel drawled, “but if he’s out on parole now, wouldn’t he be breaking that parole by being in a different state?”

Jason changed his jaw clenching to grinding.  “Justice was never served back then, Daniel.”

Daniel stared at him disbelievingly.  “What?”

Jack grimaced as he folded the paper and stuck it in his shirt pocket.  “Why am I not surprised?” he said darkly. 

Jason took a deep breath.  “Let’s get the fuck out of here, Jack.  I want to get home, forget about this for the time being.” He grimaced as Jack backed the truck out and headed back on the main road.  “I should’ve just ignored them but something just…  wouldn’t let me.” He shook his head in disgust to accent the grimace still on his face and Daniel abruptly took his hand in his. 

“Maybe it was that raven sense, as Jack so eloquently nicknamed it.”

“Maybe,” Jason answered. 

“What happened?” Daniel asked, then cursed himself because Jason had just said he wanted to forget it.  “Shit.  Sorry.  Never mind.”

With another breath, Jason said, “Okay, one more thing, then we’re done with this topic till next week, yes?”

“It’ll be after that, Jace,” Jack reminded him.  “We have two weeks at the Beta Site.”

“Crap, I forgot.”

“If it’s him, he’s obviously not going anywhere,” Jack added for insurance. 

Jason awarded him a satisfied look.  “True.” He remained quiet for a few minutes, watching the familiar roads go by.  Finally, he said, “He and his buddies were never charged, Daniel.  Rich rancher daddy made up a story and bribed the cops.  Because the cops were phobes and non-reservation, it worked. 

“If this had happened on the Rez, then those bastards would have received justice.  But Lin refused to live on the reservation because he didn’t like the government telling him where his boundaries were.  Lin was pissed off for a good long time.”

Jason thought back, remembering Lin’s constant phone calls, his bitching to the Tribal Elders to get involved.  But Jason had two things going against him.  He was a half-breed and he was gay.  All the superior morality in the world didn’t make the council any more sympathetic toward him.  In fact, until Jason had made up with Lin, he’d believed his being gay had always disappointed his grandfather.  Jason took a deep breath and thanked the Great Spirit that he’d had a chance to find out otherwise. 

Daniel squeezed Jason’s thigh, pulling him from his thoughts.  “I love you, you know that?”

Jason couldn’t help the smile growing on his face.  “I know.” His anger began to ebb away as he felt the support and love from Daniel and Jack, their presence a major source of strength for him.  “I love you back.  Both of you.”

Back at Daniel’s, they pulled off their coats and hung them up, and as Daniel fixed up drinks, Jack thumbed at the bathroom.  “I’m gonna have a quick shower.  Feeling kinda sticky.”

Jason smiled.  “In that tub, we could all fit in.”

Jack grinned.  “We could, but I want that big bed, so just give me ten and I’ll be back.”

“We’ll meet you in the bedroom, Jack,” Daniel said, altering the plans.  Jack nodded with a grin and disappeared, a little spring in his step that made Jason snicker.  “Here, put ice in these as I make them up,” Daniel said, and handed Jason a tall glass of what looked like chocolate milk. 

Jason knew it wasn’t chocolate but coffee liqueur.  He added ice to his, then Daniel’s and Jack’s, all the while sipping on his drink, making yummy noises. 

Daniel smirked at him as they went down the hall toward the bedroom, then began to mock-complain.  “You never make those noises during sex.”

“That’s because those’re tummy noises, Daniel,” Jason clarified loftily.  He set the glass down and shucked off his shirt before his boots came next. 

“Tummy?” Daniel grinned. 

“Yes.  Quite different from the dick noises.”

Daniel started laughing, fumbling with the buttons of his jeans and since Jason was already naked, having stripped quickly, he moved over and helped Daniel out.  “Having trouble?”

“Dick noises?” Daniel asked as he pulled off his jeans, then shorts. 

“Well, think about the moaning types.  When you’re eating yummy food, you make a slightly different sound to match the feeling you have.  When sucking cock, on the other hand…  totally different.”

Daniel snickered but agreed.  “Right.” Sprawling over the center of the bed and onto his right side, he patted the mattress.  “Here.”

Jason handed Daniel his drink first, then lay down on his stomach, forearms holding him up so he could drink.  His dick twitched from the contact with the blanket and was already beginning to stiffen from anticipation.  The sexual need combined with the innuendo was serving as good foreplay and quickly dispelling his dour, angry mood.  Daniel was purposely avoiding the mood-destroying subject, too, which Jason appreciated no end. 

“Dinner was nice,” he said, meaning it.  “We should plan a trip to Oz for our next month-long leave.  I’d like to go diving around those reefs.”

Daniel beamed.  “That’s an excellent idea, Jace.” Then for some reason, he thought of Jalen.  “Do you know how different Jalen’s Earth was to ours?  Before the Goa’uld, I mean?”

Surprised by the sudden mention of his alternate twin, Jason’s brow furrowed in concentration.  “I have no idea, Daniel.  I never got around to comparing notes about the mundane.” He paused, eyes narrowing.  “Why?” he drawled. 

Daniel shrugged one shoulder.  “Thinking of Australia made me wonder, that’s all.  Did they even have an Outback Steakhouse and that sort thing.”

“Your mind is a weird place, Daniel Jackson,” Jason said, shaking his head. 

Amused, Daniel replied, “So’s yours, Jason Coburn.”

“My point is, why did you suddenly think of him?” Jason asked as he reached over and set his glass on the end table. 

Daniel scooted closer, then teasingly reached across Jason to set his glass next to his.  Pulling back, he remained close and snuffled Jason’s hair.  “No, Jason, I’m not asking for him to join us.”

Jason was relieved, but the reason why he’d been bothered disappeared with Daniel’s closeness.  He turned, bringing his face in contact with Daniel’s, inhaling Daniel’s mild aftershave, the slight smell of musk coming from one of his underarms.  With his nose and mouth at the jaw line, he whispered, “Have I told you today how much I love you?”

Daniel slowly pushed Jason’s shoulder backward, putting him onto his back, and as he brought his face up close to Jason’s, his hand slid down ever so lightly across his abdomen.  And dangerously close to his cock.  He didn’t answer Jason’s question.  All he did was look into his eyes.  In the background, the shower turned off.  Jack would soon be joining them. 

Jason grinned.  “He certainly likes to be clean, but he can’t hide the reason he’s really taking a shower.”

Daniel’s mouth curved upward, his eyes bright with humor.  “You mean that he’s purposely taking advantage of the fact that we adore him when he’s wet?”

“Yes,” Jason breathed.  “Or you.” He lunged suddenly and put Daniel on his back, and somehow managed not to fall on top of him.  Which he so desperately wanted to do.  Staring down into Daniel’s face, listening to him chuckle, Jason bit his lip and slid his finger along an inner thigh, watching Daniel as he stopped laughing.  “I love you.”

Daniel answered by snaking his fingers around Jason’s neck and pulling him down, claiming his mouth for several hungry kisses.  Letting him go, Daniel called out, “Jack, hurry the fuck up!”

“I’m already here,” Jack said, grinning his head off.  Wet, naked, he walked over next to the bed.  “Been watching you.”

Jason gave Daniel a knowing smirk, then adroitly stretched across the bed and grabbed Jack’s arm, yanking him down on the bed.  Daniel moved quickly and Jack soon found himself on his back, bookended.  And still grinning his head off. 

“Looks like he didn’t dry himself,” Daniel told Jason archly, but his eyes were on Jack’s face, his upper lip…  where a few water drops had not yet dried. 

Jason reached over and nudged Daniel.  “You go this time.  I had him last.”

Daniel chuckled mischievously and stared down into Jack’s eyes.  “Should I go first?”

“You’re asking?”

Daniel’s eyes abruptly darkened.  “I don’t need to, do I?” he said rhetorically as he bent and kissed him, loving the combination of cool top skin and water and the heat of his flesh underneath.  Daniel plunged his tongue inside his mouth as his hand met Jason’s and caressed Jack’s wet chest, abdomen.  His cock. 

Jason smiled mischievously, right hand curling around the shaft, caressing him, jacking him the way Jack liked.  Jack grabbed his hand, guiding him, enjoying him, making a pleased sound as he broke Daniel’s kiss. 

He pulled Jason down for a kiss, and whispered, “I can’t wait till I can give that bird a thorough going-over.”

“Me, too,” Daniel said, winking at Jack. 

Jack grinned, then returned his gaze on Jason.  “Before we get to anything else…” Jack peered into his lover’s face, searching for any residual anger or stress.  He didn’t find any, but before they continued, he needed to find out how Jason was doing with everything.  He’d kept himself from asking over the last couple of weeks, leaving it to Jason to heal in his own way.  But right now, Jack needed to know.  And he needed Jason to feel confined in order to answer his question correctly.  “Switch places.”

Confused, Jason lay down between them, though he certainly didn’t mind a damn bit.  “What?”

Jack stared down at him, asking, “We’ve both been wondering how you are doing,” and emphasized the question by skimming the back of his hand up Jason’s belly, over his chest and shoulder, then down his arm–where he gripped his wrist. 

Jason understood.  “About bondage?” He looked up at Jack, then Daniel, and swallowed.  “I’m getting better,” he told them, but truthfully, he’d hoped they wouldn’t ask.  He wasn’t in the mood, which in itself told him something because before that nasty incident with Baal, Jason never refused the idea. 

“But?” Daniel asked, running his hand over Jason’s abdomen, his ribs. 

Even without the previous foreplay, the touch drove Jason crazy and his skin goose bumped under Daniel’s fingers.  “I’m…  getting there.  It all depends.  Right now, I think I can manage this,” and he held up his arm, Jack’s hand still gripping his wrist. 

“Meaning you only want one thing or…?” Jack asked as he moved his hand to Jason’s belly, caressing the line of dark hair that ran to his pubes. 

Jason was about to answer when Daniel interrupted by flicking at his navel ring with a pinkie nail.  “Daniel,” he scolded. 

“Sorry,” Daniel said, lips curling with amusement. 

“Y’are not.”

“So, it all depends on what?” Jack reminded. 

Jason hitched a breath when Daniel messed with his navel ring again so he grabbed Daniel’s hand so he could answer.  “It means,” he said, his tone a warning aimed at Daniel’s guiltless, grinning face, “I don’t want anyone else but you tying or holding me down.  And for a while, I’ll probably have to be facing you so I don’t get the image of those bastards in my head.”

“So, if Daniel and I were to hold your wrists down,” Jack said as he slowly moved Jason’s right arm over his head to illustrate, “As we took turns fucking you, that would be okay?”

Jason swallowed, taken off-guard by the sudden eroticism of Jack’s idea.  “God yes.”

“That what you wanna do, Jack?” Daniel asked, leaning over to tease Jason’s ring with his tongue. 

“Whatever you plan,” Jason stated, “I need to taste the two of you.” They looked at him, waiting for something more, and Jason added, “Together.”

“This could be interesting,” Daniel murmured.  He got to his knees, his hands stroking Jason’s skin from hip to collarbone, and sucked in a groan when Jason’s left hand grasped his cock. 

Jason grasped Jack’s cock, getting a groan from him as well, and gave them both a look before firming his grip and tugging.  He grinned as they both shouted in surprise and flailed to catch each other from falling. 

“Brat,” Jack accused and pulled at Jason’s arm.  “Let’s get a little more comfortable, shall we?  Up against the headboard, Jason.”

Reluctantly, Jason let go of Daniel and scooted around quickly, sitting up with his mouth now at the more appropriate level.  He reached out again with both hands, tugging once more, and Jack and Daniel grabbed hold of the top of the headboard, leaning their hips in toward his face. 

“Yes,” Jason breathed as the scent of both men flooded his senses.  He snaked out his tongue, moving from Daniel to Jack, taking a wet swipe across the heads of their cocks. 

“C’mon, open up,” Daniel teased, making Jason laugh against his flesh.  Daniel flicked a sensual look at Jack, then pressed their cockheads together, rubbing. 

“Smell so good,” Jason moaned as he indulged himself, temporarily allowing himself to forget if they wanted anything else.  His hands continued to touch, fondle, caress, but mostly, he held them close, not wanting to let them escape for any reason.  Best of all, they didn’t mind. 

With their cocks pointing at each other, Jack was immediately reminded of something.  “Hold still,” he told Daniel and held his cock head to Daniel’s.  He gently pulled the foreskin over the head, then over the head of his own cock.  It didn’t quite cover him because they weren’t close enough–they’d have to kneel directly onto Jason’s legs for that.  However, it seemed to be good enough for Daniel. 

He groaned, biting his lip as Jack clumsily docked their dicks together, stroking the foreskin over them.  It wasn’t done as completely as he’d have liked, but it was definitely enough for Jason, who leaned in and wrapped his lips over both heads, tonguing the foreskin and teasing not just them, but himself as well. 

He groaned with pleasure while both Jack and Daniel threaded fingers through his hair, encouraging him, petting him.  Jason looked upward, watching Daniel lean in to kiss Jack; their chests rose rapidly, bellies moving in such a way that made Jason’s cock ache.  The sight of them both forced Jason’s arousal higher and he pulled them apart, rubbing the heads of their cocks across his skin, the pre-come smearing onto his lips, his cheeks. 

Opening wide, he took both heads into his mouth, sucking as best he could, but what he lacked in accommodation, he made up for with enthusiasm.  He moaned, wanting to speak, to rub, to do everything at once.  Pulling back, Jason whispered, “Tastes so good,” and rubbed his face against them both. 

“Time for three-way,” Jack suggested under his breath.  He moved away, jacking himself to maintain the level of pleasure, loving how the act of it excited a look of desire on his lovers’ faces.  He moved down over the bed, head toward the foot, and lying on his side, with his legs open wide, he thrust through his fist several times.  “Jason, lay here,” he said, then patted the bed in front of him.  “Daniel, take mine.”

“No problem,” Daniel echoed as both he and Jason lay down, making sure each could touch the other, creating a triangle of limbs and torsos and hungry mouths.  As Jason sucked Daniel’s cock into his mouth, Daniel took Jack’s and Jack took Jason’s.  They went at it fervently, hands playing with balls, fingers playing with puckered holes, sliding in just enough to tease. 

Feeling the scratchy edge of plastic against the back of his thigh, Daniel reached behind him and found the lube.  With another inspired idea, he squirted lube onto his fingers while he continued his attention on Jack’s cock.  Before inserting his fingers into him, he tossed the lube in front of Jack and Jack broke off his attention to stare at it, confused for about two seconds.  Daniel hinted by applying lube thickly to his hand.  Jack got the hint. 

Both he and Jason groaned with need and pleasure as he prepped and played with Jason’s ass and Daniel played with his.  Fingers entered and probed, fucked and caressed, and Jack’s desire ratcheted up another notch at the thought that he’d be the center of this train. 

Loving the attention, Jason decided that Daniel shouldn’t be left out; though he was the only one who wasn’t getting fucked, he was about to have the next best thing.  Jason lubed a finger with spit, took nearly all of Daniel’s cock into his mouth before sliding his finger deep into his ass.  Daniel bucked with surprise and pulled off Jack’s cock. 

“Holy shit,” he breathed, spitted onto Jason’s finger, engrossed in riding him as Jason sought out his gland.  “Jason, don’t…  make me…”

Jason groaned around his cock, ignoring Daniel’s warning, rubbing his gland even more as the luscious torture began, making Daniel lose his concentration completely, which made Jack lose his.  Jason kept at it, however, furiously and with obvious intent, bringing Daniel nearly to orgasm before he abruptly backed off, removing his finger and pulling Daniel’s cock from his mouth. 

“You bastard,” Daniel breathed, cock now an angry red with the need to come. 

“Got you primed,” Jason said, looking down to wink at Jack. 

Daniel needed no more of a hint and said, “Jack, it’s time.”

“Yes.  It is,” Jack replied softly, his dick leaking profusely now. 

Jason got up on his knees, grabbing the lube and quickly slicking up his cock for his own jacking off.  As he got onto all fours, he jacked faster, making his asshole contract.  Wet with lube, his body ready, he gruffly demanded, “Jack, I need you.”

Jack maneuvered behind him, but before plunging in, he turned and grabbed Daniel by the neck and pulled him in for a searing kiss.  “I love you,” he whispered. 

Daniel smiled, “I know,” then playfully but forcefully, pushed Jack forward.  “Take him, Jason.”

“Yes,” Jason breathed, spreading his knees and raising his ass. 

“Not yet,” Jack interrupted, and pulled Jason up, turning his face to the side so he could kiss him.  “You ready?”

“You done kissing me?” Jason asked, opening his mouth for another kiss.  Stroking himself again, he said nothing more as he promptly dropped onto his forearms.  He didn’t get the chance to grab handfuls of blanket before Jack buried his cock inside him in one long, hot stroke.  “Shit!” Jason gasped and dropped his head down.  Jack began to thrust deeply and Jason needed no encouragement or guidance.  “Daniel?” he asked when he didn’t feel the extra weight thrusting in behind Jack’s. 

“I’m getting there,” Daniel said, his eyes closed momentarily as he rubbed his cockhead against Jack’s ass, moving entirely with Jack’s rhythm, waiting for the right moment.  It was so good, teasing himself like this, but it would be even better when… 

“Daniel,” Jack breathed, one arm around Jason’s waist, the other straight-armed on the bed. 

That was what Daniel had been waiting for.  That impatient command he preferred to hear only during sex.  “In a minute,” Daniel lied, and in the next beat, the next thrust forward into Jason, Daniel chose that moment instead of the withdrawal he knew Jack expected. 

He slid home completely, groaning almost silently as he buried his cock in that deep, enveloping heat.  Jack clutched around him, groaning a lot louder, Daniel watched him bite into Jason’s shoulder, smiled as Jason turned his head and looked at him peripherally. 

“That’s it, Daniel,” he panted. 

“Liked that?”

“Oh yeah.”

“You guys wanna be alone?” Jack cracked. 

Daniel slid both hands over his back, caressing him, enjoying him.  “No,” both he and Jason replied. 

Jack licked at the wound he’d made, then made another and another, covering Jason’s broad shoulders with gentle red marks that would disappear by morning.  Maybe.  “You know it’s never a good idea to ignore me,” he warned. 

Jack proved his words, building up a sweat as he cranked up the pace faster than his lovers did.  Backwards, forwards, he got off on the dual pleasure and the sounds they made as he heard their breathing quicken and grow raspy.  Just as his own did.  When Jason tightened around his cock, Jack knew he’d go first, and aided that wonderful grip on his cock by sliding his hand down and pinching the ring on Jason’s navel. 

Gasping loudly, Jason squeezed his eyes shut as he reached behind him and grabbed Jack’s arm.  He raised his ass and froze, coming hard as Jack hammered into him. 

With Daniel matching his rhythm, moving with him as he fucked Jason’s ass, the tight grip around his cock was nearly too much.  Jason tried to keep that grip around him, but Jack could feel him relaxing as his orgasm waned.  Jack reached down and jacked his sensitive cock, making Jason’s ass spasm around him. 

“Jack!” Jason protested, grimacing from the acute pleasure and pain. 

“A little more,” Jack breathed, thrusting faster. 

“Yes, that’s it,” Daniel said, and abruptly withdrew, shoving two lubed fingers inside Jack’s ass while his hands took hold of his balls.  “Squeeze yourself, Jason,” Daniel ordered. 

Jason fell onto his chest, spent, but did as Daniel asked.  Grabbing hold as Jack had done, he thumbed the head instead, making his asshole flex.  “Fuck me,” he growled. 

Jack tried, but his climax was coming with Daniel’s fingers strategically rubbing his gland.  Come started to spurt from him and he made the hitched sound Daniel and Jason were very familiar with.  Daniel chose that moment to remove his fingers and thrusting in hard, fingers bruising Jack’s hips, Daniel held him fast and pummeled his ass with his cock. 

It was almost too good, the acuteness of it as he fucked him, the heat riding over his cock, pulling the orgasm slowly from him.  When Daniel finally came, he threw himself over Jack’s back, feeling not just Jack’s hands reaching back but Jason’s hand on his arm.  Daniel clasped his fingers and pumped himself into Jack, feeling as if he were pumping into both of them.  And in a sense, he was. 

Slowly, they dropped onto their sides, relaxing onto the bed, though they didn’t move far away from each other.  Jason didn’t feel like turning around, so he set the direction, with his head at the foot of the bed.  Behind him, Jack spooned against him, and behind Jack, lay Daniel.  He wrapped his arm around them both, inhaling the odor of sweat from Jack’s skin and the scent of sex that filled the room. 

“Now that’s what I call dessert,” he murmured before succumbing to the usual nap, Jack and Jason absently moaning agreement having already started to doze off. 

.  .  . 

Over the weekend, Jason asked Hammond–through Jack–for permission to pack up a large version of a care package.  For Jalen.  His request had surprised Jack and Daniel.  For about five minutes.  Then they realized that they should have seen this coming.  Jason rarely kept a grudge against someone who wasn’t an enemy. 

He spent time packing items in a shoulder bag, a duffle, and a large cooler.  New clothes like jeans, a leather jacket, boots went into the duffle along with a portable DVD player with several films.  Saturday night, he spent a considerable amount of time uploading songs from his music library into an iPod.  On Sunday afternoon, he packed food.  Fresh food, packaged food, an ice cream in a mini-freezer container, and lastly, homemade chocolate chip cookies. 

Finished, he took the last batch from the oven and moved over to the cold ones to pack into the plastic container.  One he had set aside for Hammond as a thank you. 

A noise behind him told him Jack and Daniel entered the kitchen and Jason smiled even though they couldn’t see his face.  “You two done fooling around in the bathtub?”

Daniel snorted.  “Oh, we broke it up.  Didn’t seem fair to have all that fun while you were slaving away, so…” He pressed up against Jason’s backside.  He brushed his lips against his neck.  Jason felt the wetness against his t-shirt, his shorts, and looked over his shoulder to find Daniel, and Jack, wearing nothing but a towel. 

Jack reached over and stole a warm cookie.  “Yummy,” he moaned. 

“There’re more,” Jason rolled his eyes.  “I made a huge batch.” He pointed with his spatula at the three other containers, all filled. 

“So that’s why you got up early this morning,” Daniel said as he reached down Jason’s arm and took the spatula from his hand.  “Now, you can leave these be for a while.”

Jason could definitely feel something hard against his ass and knew precisely what it was.  He squirmed slightly, rubbing back against Daniel.  “That for me?” he asked. 

“Well, I’ve had him three times,” Jack said with a mouthful of cookie.  “It’s your turn to get pounded.”

Jason snickered as cookie dust flew from Jack’s mouth.  “You’re so eloquent.”

“C’mon, baby,” Daniel teased.  “Time to put down the toys and get to bed.”

As he spoke, Jack took one hand, Daniel took the other, and they led Jason down the hall.  “What happened to the bath?” Jason asked. 

“Oh, we’ll have one,” Daniel told him as he turned around in the middle of the hallway, then shoved Jason against the wall. 

His eyes glittered with mischief and lust and Jason felt his dick hardening, his body thrumming with anticipation.  “After…  what?” he astutely asked.  Daniel leaned in and slowly kissed him, deeper and more insistently until they were both panting. 

“After several other things happen first,” Jack answered, and for emphasis, he lifted the hand he held and pinned it against the wall next to Jason’s head. 

Daniel did the same with the other, then slipped his fingers under the waistband of Jason’s shorts, taking firm hold of his cock.  He made a groaning, satisfied sound as he stroked, pleased when Jason’s eyes half-lidded.  “Any objections?” he asked. 

Jason couldn’t think of why there’d even be any and gave in to Daniel’s hand, Jack’s tongue, and several other body parts. 

 

On Qalar… 

.  .  . 

Jason walked into Jalen’s quarters and grinned sheepishly when Jalen stared stupidly at him. 

“What’s all this?” he asked as Jason set down the cooler and the duffle. 

“Well,” Jason said, setting the shoulder bag onto the half-moon desk nestled into the wall.  “I thought I’d bring you a care package.” He paused and stared at Jalen, noting how his hair had grown longer in the last five weeks, though he’d trimmed his mustache and goatee. 

Jalen returned the long look, then eyed the huge cooler.  Jason could see his mind working out what could possibly be in there and he gestured nervously.  “Everything that’s in there and in the bags is designed to bring you a little of home as it used to be in your universe.”

Jalen sighed. 

“What’s the matter?” Jason asked, wondering how in the hell he’d guessed wrong.  He’d been so sure… 

This is my universe now, Jason,” he answered.  Then smiled.  “And thank you.  I never thought I’d get to go back to Earth unless I stole a ship and snuck my way back.”

“What’s kept you from doing that?” Jason asked carefully. 

“If I went back, I’d have to steal what I need and want.  I’ve lived like a thief long enough, Jason.”

Jason nodded with understanding.  “I’d thought of that, actually, so I decided to bring you some stuff.  Some of which you can eat.” He opened the lid to the cooler.  “I know you drink, or did, anyway, but I didn’t know what so I guessed.  I grabbed some Guinness and Becks, then stashed a bottle of bourbon.”

Jalen came up next to him as he talked and gasped when he peered inside.  “You brought fruit!”

“Including some proper flatware to eat it with.  My next visit, I’ll bring some cooking stuff.”

“I have those here, Jason, so there’s no need,” Jalen said, waving the offer away as he reached in for a banana.  He reverently peeled the skin back and took a bite, exhaling with pleasure.  “God, it’s been ages.”

“I brought some clothes, too.  They’re in the duffle.”

“Clothes?” Jalen asked, confused. 

Jason grinned.  “Jeans, jacket, boots, underwear, that sort of thing.  Thought you might like some.”

Jalen walked over to the duffle and opened up the top to peer inside.  He slowly turned around, suspicion on his face. 

“What’s the matter?” Jason asked. 

“Why?” he asked back. 

Jason needed no other explanation.  Fortunately, he’d prepared himself for Jalen’s reaction.  The last time they’d seen each other, Jason had been forgiving but not accepting.  Now suddenly there was all this…  stuff.  As if he were buying his way into Jalen’s life. 

“If you don’t want any of it, then zat it out of existence.  I won’t take offense.”

“Answer the question, Jason,” Jalen asked quietly. 

“Because…  I treated you unfairly.  Because I owe you.  Because you’re…  my brother, no matter the reality.”

“Even if he shares his existence?” Camulus asked. 

“None of this is conditional,” Jason assured him.  “It’s not a bribe to keep you silent.  I won’t pretend I understand what it’s like to want to be blended or share my body with someone.  But it was his choice, Camulus, and I have to respect that or I don’t belong here.  And I’m asking you for your patience over my ignorance.”

Camulus shook his head, raising a hand as he kept his eyes locked on Jason’s.  “You are not ignorant, Jason.  Ignorance is someone presented the availability of knowledge and they refuse it.  You have the knowledge.  You just don’t have the understanding.  Until you blend with a Tok’ra symbiote, you never will.  But that doesn’t mean you lack the respect and compassion.”

“Thanks,” Jason said, embarrassed by the compliments.  “May I ask a great personal favor?”

“Go ahead,” Jalen answered. 

Startled but undaunted, Jason took a breath and plunged into it.  “Well, um, forgive me the audacity but…  it would be a good idea if you didn’t sleep with Alex any more.  We’re ending our relationship and I’m trying to get him to–“

As he’d been speaking, Jalen had frowned a bit, then to Jason’s annoyance, smiled just a bit.  “Jason, we’ve never had sex.”

Jason blinked at him.  “But he said…” Jason suddenly replayed all his conversations with Alex about Jalen.  “No, he never said.  He let me believe.  Why would he do that?”

“To ease your mind about me, I suspect,” Jalen answered thoughtfully.  “Despite your anger at us, at me, I mean, I figured that you would feel responsible for my well-being, rationalized or not.  So I told him that only if you asked him should he tell you the truth.  It was better to let you think we were.”

“Why?” Jason asked, his annoyance increasing. 

“Because you liked the fact that he was willing to help me, especially since you didn’t feel you could do that yourself.  In your mind also was your relationship and therefore…  his inevitable attraction to me.”

Jason jogged his eyebrows.  “Point.  Did you even talk about his worry about what happened between you two at the fortress?”

To Jason’s surprised, Jalen looked at him in shock, his face flushing.  “You mean when I tried to rape him?”

Jason studied his face and took Jalen’s hand.  “Alex said there was part of that which excited him, got him off, and he said he was either going to talk to you about or he had.  I kinda forget which now.”

“He never brought it up,” Jalen answered, pulling his hand from Jason’s.  “Possibly because he knew it hurt me to bring that up.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” Jason told him earnestly. 

Jalen’s eyes widened.  “I didn’t mean to imply that you did.  I’m just saying…” Mid-sentence, Jalen changed direction.  “No, he never talked to me about it.  Did he talk to you?”

Jason gave him a shrug.  “He did, and we determined that it wasn’t S & M that attracted him, but force.  Not rape.  Just force.  It isn’t complete submission, but it’s quite close.  Why?”

“Just wondered.  There’s a big difference between you and I that I don’t think Alex has grasped yet.”

“What’s that?”

“I’m bisexual.”

Jason stared at him for a very long, silent minute.  “No shit?”

“No shit,” Jalen said, smirking.  “You’re gay, like my Jason was.  We used to tease each other endlessly.” He paused, realizing the digression.  “Um, about that other thing.  Is S & M something you like?”

Jason shook his head.  “It’s not my thing.  And I’m neither a dom nor a sub, since I have needs for both, in bed, but never as a lifestyle.  I am, however, a huge bondage fan.” He paused.  “Erm, well, I was.  It’ll take a while for that get back in the repertoire.”

Again, Jalen flushed.  “I’m s…” His eyes flashed suddenly and Camulus sighed and gave Jason a weak smile.  “That bothers him a great deal, just as it does me.  We both hope you’ll talk to us, help you if you need it.  We’re partly responsible and need to do something about it if we can.”

Jason swallowed, hard.  “You are, trust me.”

“I think the fact that we’re able to talk to each other about it is a good thing.”

“I think so, too.”

“I also believe it is Alex’s doing.  He did nothing but listen to me.” With a strange smile, Camulus added, “And that’s all he did.”

Jason shook his head.  “I shouldn’t have brought it up–“

“No, you cannot walk on eggshells.  We need to deal with this.” Camulus paused, closed his eyes, and when he spoke, he was Jalen again.  “Jason, you also need to deal with something.  Do you remember my telling you that I was involved with my Alex?”

“I remember,” Jason said, cringing.  “It’s why I didn’t…  I fucked up, didn’t I?” He shouldn’t have said anything and mentally kicked himself. 

“I wasn’t just involved, Jason.  He was my husband.”

Jason stared at him, stunned.  It now made much more sense why Alex and Jalen were so unusually close.  But was it healthy?  More than that, Jason had no right to ask Jalen to stop seeing Alex, and he had even less right now.  “Oh god,” he whispered.  “I’m…  such an asshole.”

“You’re not,” Jalen said kindly.  “I can put the shoe on the other foot.  I can see how you’re trying to protect him.  But Alex doesn’t need protecting.  He’s quite a bit different than the Alex from my universe, too, so there’s really no danger of my confusing them.”

“How’re they different?” Jason asked. 

“My Alex was gay, and had been out since he was 16 years old.  He wasn’t in the military, and was a medical doctor.”

Jason stared and found he had absolutely nothing to say. 

“You okay?” Jalen asked. 

“Fine,” Jason said, shaking his head.  “I’m just…  feeling very stupid and selfish.” He turned away from Jalen and crossed his arms.  He’d been so worried about himself, so goddamn selfish, that he couldn’t see Jalen’s pain.  The man was suffering a lot more than Jason had, that was for certain.  Turning back around to face him, Jason said, “I withdraw my request about Alex, even if it didn’t apply anyway.  I had no right and I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay, Jason.  As I said, I do understand.  Now…  may I ask you some personal questions?”

Jason rolled his eyes.  “It’s all personal, you silly shit.  You don’t have to ask permission.  Just ask.” Jalen suddenly blushed again, but this time, his eyes welled up.  “What’s the matter?” Jason asked, touching his shoulder. 

“You just reminded me of your other self,” he said.  “You were very similar.”

“Oh,” Jason answered.  “I guess that’s a good thing?”

“It is,” Jalen answered. 

“So, what’d you wanna ask?”

“Are you still angry with me?”

“I wouldn’t be here if I were.”

They stared at each other in silence, then Jason walked over to the table and opened the bag.  Jalen watched curiously, nibbling at the banana he’d been holding.  Jason moved to the bedside table and set down small black squares. 

“Oh my god.  Are those speakers?” Jalen asked with excitement, picking up one of the tiny things. 

Jason was filled with sudden, inexplicable happiness at being able to make Jalen smile like that.  He indulged in it, grinning evilly, conspiratorially, and connected the MP3 player.  He showed Jalen the menu, the playlists, then selected one.  He grinned and looked at Jalen. 

“Oh that’s evil,” Jalen whispered admiringly. 

“You had these guys in your world?”

Jalen snorted.  “I think every world has these guys,” as the opening music started for Nirvana’s Lithium

“For whenever that Anise comes at you,” Jason grinned.  “This is guaranteed to make her run for the hills, never mind our enemies.”

Jalen rocked his head in time with the music, grinning ear to ear.  “Don’t know why, either.  I love this music.” He paused and turned, giving Jason a long look.  “How’d you know?  How’d you know to bring any of this?”

Jason shrugged.  “I had a feeling.”

“Yeah?”

Jason grinned at him, and as one, they both sang…  loudly, and started laughing as passing Tok’ra stopped and gawked at them. 

“Camulus like it?” Jason asked. 

“I like it,” Camulus answered, “but then I’ve always been an odd Tok’ra.”

As he picked up the MP3 player and looked through the list of songs, his eyes widened and grinned as mischievously as Jalen had.  “I especially like this one.  Jalen calls me a 60s hippy.” In a Gadda Da Vida began to play.  He looked up and shook his head with disbelief.  “Seriously, Jason, how’d you know?”

With his right hand, Jason tapped his tattoo.  “A little knowing gift.  I can’t control it, either.  I just know stuff.  Not everything, but when it seems I need to know something, my instinct cranks up high and I seem to know what to do about…  whatever the subject is.  Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s my own simple intuition or something I’ve gained from the gift.  My intuition has always been high so maybe I not only inherited it but had it enhanced by the ritual.”

Jalen appeared then, asking, “Is the intuition the reason you’re trusting me?”

Jason swallowed.  “It happened after Lin’s ritual.  This past weekend, it was weird but I just…  accepted.  I’d been trying already but it hadn’t been working then suddenly, it fell into place like a key in a lock.”

“How did that go?” Jalen asked emotionally.  “Did he die well?”

“Like he thought he would, quietly, surrounded by family,” Jason managed. 

“He say anything, besides the gift thing?”

“You mean like advice?” Jason asked, grinning. 

“If our grandfathers were the same, then I’m quite certain he did.”

“You’d be right,” Jason told him, then described the ritual in detail, giving Jalen every nuance of it right down to the incense.  As he spoke, repeating everything that Lin had said, Jalen started to look at Jason strangely, cocking his head to one side.  “What?” Jason asked. 

“There’s something else,” Jalen stated, not guessing. 

Jason narrowed his gaze.  “You sure you don’t have this gift?”

“It’s not me, it’s Camulus.  He says there’s something else.  What happened when you were fifteen?”

“You never had a boyfriend named Colton?”

“I did but he moved away.  Things were different with me, Jason.  You and I were inseparable.  We did damn near everything together, including…  well, you know.  When I was a teen, I wanted guys more than gals.  And we’d go to that one place together…  you know the one.  You’d be the lookout or I would be.”

Jason knew immediately what Jalen meant.  That one public toilet on the edge of the national park land.  “There were so many times I nearly got caught.”

“Helps when you have a lookout.”

Squashing the resentment and the useless waste of dwelling on what he never had, Jason took a moment before explaining what had happened when he was fifteen.  He was surprised by his own positive, needy reaction to Jalen’s touch when he petted his hair, his head, as he talked about Colton’s death.  He then told him about how he’d thought he’d seen the killer only a few days before. 

Jalen sat down on the bed and pulled Jason down next to him.  Another long moment later, he looked over at him.  “Be careful, Jason.”

“I can take care of myself, Jalen, but thanks.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“What then?”

“I don’t remember the exact quote, but I remember enough.  I’ve been thinking of it a lot lately.”

“What?” Jason asked. 

“Confucius.  He said that when you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Jason stared into that strange, familiar face.  “I’ve no intention of risking myself just to get back at him.”

“I figured as much, but the warning is there just the same, Jason.  Be careful.”

“I will,” Jason assured him quietly, wondering why he didn’t feel defensive about getting advice from Jalen.  Surprising both of them, he suddenly reached out and touched him back, stroking Jalen’s goatee.  “Are you my lookout, Jalen?”

Jalen took in the meaning and looking at Jason carefully, nodded very slowly.  “Yes, Jason.  Just as I hope you’re mine.” When he put his arm around him and hugged Jason tightly, Jason found himself returning the embrace. 

“Can anyone join this party or do you two wanna be alone?” Jack said from the door. 

Jason half-laughed and rolled his eyes as he pulled away.  “You really need a door, Jalen.”

“It’s on the list,” Jalen cracked, not looking at Jack but standing up and turning his back to him, pretending to fuss with the cover on his pillow. 

“You ready to go?” Jack asked gently, watching Jalen, then Jason. 

“Yeah,” Jason said, then touched Jalen’s shoulder.  “I’ll send more goods soon as I can.  I also want you to come stay with me for a while.  If you can be spared and if you won’t be bored.”

“And if the SGC allows a Tok’ra to roam free in Colorado Springs,” Jalen answered glumly. 

“I think we can make arrangements, considering Jacob’s got some pull,” Jack offered. 

Jason smiled at him and whispered, “I think I love you.”

Jack winked.  “You’re sure?”

“I’m quite sure.  Can I show you later?”

“We’ll see.”

Jalen stared, wide-eyed at their interaction.  For some reason, he’d thought they’d been putting on an act at the fortress.  “You guys really are…” and he gestured at them. 

Jack snorted.  “Yes, we are but,” and he held up a finger, “you may not tell anyone.”

This time, it was Jalen’s turn to snort.  “I think I can manage to keep a secret.”

Jason was reluctant to say goodbye, but he gave Jalen a hug and said, “We’ll have to find the time, soon as we can, okay?”

“Deal.” Again, Jalen hugged Jason, briefly this time, then shook Jack’s hand.  “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Dialing the Beta Site, Jack said, “I’m glad you worked things out, Jace.  Really.”

“So’m I,” Jason answered as he stooped to pick up his second duffle, stashed after arrival, and stepped around the DHD.  He suddenly frowned at Jack.  “I thought you didn’t like him?”

“I’m mellowing,” Jack grinned.  “In all seriousness, I can’t condemn someone for doing what they were ordered, like he had been, and having no control over their actions, like he had none.”

Jason sighed knowingly.  “Been there, done that?”

“Exactly.”

“Well, thanks.  I appreciate it, Jack.”

“I love you, too, Jason.  I can’t hate your mirror image no matter how hard I try.”

Jason cringed.  “That’s a creepy thought.” As they ascended the steps to the gate’s event horizon, Jason halted, eyes wide as he rounded on Jack, pointing a finger. 

“What?” Jack asked. 

“You’re getting only one warning, Jack.”

“What’d I do now?”

Jason’s eyes narrowed.  “One hint of a twin fantasy from you and you’re a dead man.”

“Hey, it’s not my fault you look hot with a goatee,” Jack answered just before he dashed through the event horizon. 

On the other side, Daniel was waiting and when Jack dashed past him, Daniel called out, “What’d you do?”

Jack didn’t answer.  Just made a beeline for the doors leading to Command. 

“Nothing to the Tok’ra, Daniel,” Jason said as he walked down the steps and hugged him hello. 

“What then?”

Jason opened his mouth to say, then paused, eyes narrowing at Daniel.  Pointing at him too, he warned, “You, too, Daniel.  One hint of a twin fantasy and you’re just as dead as Jack.”

“Who me?” Daniel replied, slapping his hand on his chest melodramatically.  “I would sooner perish.”

“I’m serious,” Jason said severely, shoving the duffle with all the goodies in it into Daniel’s arms.  “One whiff and I’ll truss those jewels up so tight you’ll have to have Janet untie them.”

Daniel cringed and made a mental note to tell Jack that Jason’s uncanny instincts were becoming a pain in the ass.  So it probably wasn’t a good time for teasing.  Maybe later.  Maybe.


 

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