Joy's Fiction Stargate SG-1 Slash Fanfiction

Trinity 20

T


Trinity 20: The Color of Dolor

Summary: SG-1 is declared MIA and after a lot of time passes, Jason is forced to believe the worst.  He doesn’t handle it well.


“Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”


Jason closed the door to his office and was immediately joined by his 2IC. 

“Ready to see what our next mission entails?” Alex asked him. 

“I’d rather find out what’s taking SG-1 so damned long to check in,” Jason sighed impatiently as they walked to the doorway that led to the stairwell.  “Granted, they were given a three-day window, but it never takes them this long to check in.”

“Want me to cross my fingers, sir?” Alex asked as they descended the stairs to the briefing room. 

“Bite your tongue.  Crossing fingers and saying prayers implies something is wrong.  We can’t have that.”

“True, but the Tok’ra–“

“I know, Alex.  I know.  When the Tok’ra are involved, things generally get FUBARed.”

They entered the briefing room and found Al and Connor already there.  They seemed to be having yet another playful debate on something or other.  Jason normally found it endearing, almost comforting.  But today, his nerves were just a bit on edge and he wasn’t in the mood to put up with their nonsense for long.  He sat down across from them, to the right of where the General would sit, and Alex took the seat next to him.  The arguing teammates cast a look at their commander and easily deduced his mood.  Their arguing grew quieter and eventually silenced. 

A minute later, Hammond broke the silence as he walked in and remained standing.  His face was no-nonsense. 

Jason slowly stood.  “Sir, what’s the matter?  Is it SG-1?”

Hammond nodded.  “They’re officially overdue.  I’m ordering a MALP sent to P3R-908.  If things check out, we’ll send you and SG-3 in to find out what’s happened.”

The MALP showed an abandoned area around the stargate on the P3R-908.  SG units 2 and 3 stepped out onto the staired platform and took defensive stations immediately.  

“Major Madison, please check our six behind the gate,” Jason told him as he scanned the flat scrub land around the front and sides. 

“Yes, sir.”

Major Madison was a good man, Jason thought, and a much better commander for SG-3.  After a few choice words from Jack to Hammond, Colonel Terrence Blake had been transferred from SG-3 and Major Douglas Madison had been brought in to replace him.  ‘Maddy’ was a much easier man to get along with and over the months, the members of SG-3 felt they’d finally gotten a decent commander.  Jason had not been surprised by their acceptance of him.  He’d worked with the man before, during special operation assignments in Central America and Asia, and found him to be one of the most respected and trustworthy men he’d ever met. 

Using the skills his grandfather had taught him once upon a time, Jason surveyed the ground as he walked away from the gate platform.  The DHD was stationed in dirt instead of being imbedded in stone so he had to carefully walk around it, giving himself a distance of ten feet from the device. 

After a moment, he stopped.  “Maddy!” he called, and tipped his head sharply.  The Major left his team and walked up behind him and to his right. 

“Jason,” he said in a low tone.  “Whaddya got?”

Without taking his hands from his weapon, he pointed with the muzzle.  “A lot of traffic, so we know someone was here and left.”

“From the report, SG-1 was to go accompany the Tok’ra to some other planet to gain intel on where to go next.  I don’t like the fact that the Pentagon pressured Hammond into sending SG-1 out on so little information.  Our units in Special Operations would never go out on so little intel.  We have no idea where SG-1 and the Tok’ra were going and more importantly, neither did SG-1.  I can’t believe a seasoned commander like Colonel O’Neill would let this sit.”

Jason sighed.  “Politics, Maddy.” When Madison rolled his eyes, Jason smirked.  “Yeah, I know.  It blows.” He then gestured at the footprints.  “At least this proves that there were people here and some of them were SG-1.”

Madison agreed and both he and Jason circled the DHD in an outward spiral, looking for more combat booted prints.  They found none.  Making a noise of disgust, Jason approached the front of the DHD and dropped to one knee.  He opened the panel at the base and removed a small, green crystal. 

“What’re you doing?” Madison asked. 

“Watch and learn, Maddy,” Jason said with a grin.  “Connor!” he called out. 

“Sir,” the man said as he hurried over. 

“You can write the glyphs faster.  Study the DHD for a second, tell me when you’re ready.”

“Roger that, sir,” Connor said as he pulled a note pad from his vest pocket. 

Jason waited as Connor looked the glyphs over and found the point-of-origin glyph.  He wrote that down first. 

“Don’t see any of them that are different so…let’s go.” The others team members from both teams had gathered round to see what was going on.  SG-3 had yet to see this new gimmick but they were one up on their commander in that they knew what Major Coburn was up to.  Their new commander was the only one who had no idea what was going on. 

“Boys, get ready,” Jason said to his men, then slowly replaced the green crystal.  When he did, seven glyphs lit up briefly.  Al and Alex made note of the glyph positions while Connor quickly scribbled them down.  A few seconds later, the DHD went dark. 

“What was that?” Madison asked. 

Jason grinned slightly as he stood up.  “That, Maddy, was the Ancient’s version of redial.”

Madison snorted.  “Who discovered that neat little trick?  Major Carter?”

Jason frowned.  “I think it was someone from her team of scientists, but I can’t be sure.  It may have been Daniel, for all I know, but he and Sam were the ones who showed me and my boys this neat little trick.  Happened about six months ago.  Anyway, now we know where they went.  Let’s take one more look around, gentlemen, then dial home and report.”

The coordinates to the second destination revealed only more footprints.  Retrieving yet another address, they tried a third time, but the gate address would not give a lock. 

For the next twenty-four hours, the third gate address was tried and each time, they received a lock-out.  Hammond knew he couldn’t keep SG-2 at home for long, and the men would need something to do, so he sent them on their next mission. 

Jason kept telling himself that if – no, when – SG-1 was found alive and well and basking on some tropical planet, he was going to kill them.  Well…maybe he’d fuck his lovers stupid first, then kill the entire team for scaring the shit out of him.  As he and his team were greeted by the local population, he put his professional hat on and went to work. 

On the sixth day of SG-1’s absence, and the third day of being declared overdue, the coordinates to their last known destination were finally contacted. 

Jason waited nervously with General Hammond as the MALP was sent through.  Doctor Fraiser hadn’t been called, but Janet was there anyway.  Sam was her best friend, and Cassie’s unofficial Aunt, so she couldn’t help but be worried sick.  Despite her professionalism, she purposely stood close to Jason, touching her shoulder to his bicep.  Her eyes mirrored his silent emotion. 

When the camera of the MALP cleared and focused, what was shown sent the stomachs of everyone in the room to their throats.  What they beheld looked like the aftermath of a war zone.  Smoke and blackened holes dotted the landscape, along with the bodies of a few Tok’ra and several Jaffa. 

“Pan the camera around,” Hammond told Sergeant Davis.  The area, aside from the bodies, seemed deserted.  As the camera zoomed, there was a collected sigh of relief when it was shown that none of the bodies of the fallen Tok’ra belonged to Jacob Carter. 

“Request permission to mount a search, sir,” Jason said quickly. 

Hammond gave him a sympathetic look, but he shook his head.  “I’m sorry, Major.  Not until we’ve scanned the area for a while longer.  We’ll leave the MALP there for another six hours.  If there are no signs of hostiles, then I’ll send you and your men in with SG-3.”

“But sir,” Jason argued, “SG-1 could be there but just not in sight.  And those Tok’ra could still be alive.  If they are, we can’t leave them to die.”

General Hammond hesitated, then sighed.  “I know that, Major and I’m sorry.  I don’t want to risk any more lives.”

“Sir–“

“I’ll make you a compromise, Major.  If there are no signs of hostiles in the next four hours, we’ll send your teams through, but that’s the best I’m willing to do.”

Jason sighed and nodded.  “Thank you, sir.”

“Request permission to join them, sir,” Janet asked. 

Hammond studied her expression, then nodded.  “Very well, Doctor.” He wasn’t up to an argument from her and realistically, if there were injured people on the planet, including SG-1, she would be needed. 

The moment they gated to the planet, designated as P6C-355, the teams fanned out and searched quickly.  Only one of the Tok’ra, Beralt, was left alive. 

Jason kept his game face on but his heart was in his throat the entire time.  As he looked over at Janet, he found a similar look in her eyes. 

Lieutenant Scott was some distance away when he let out a shout.  Crossing the expanse of sparse, almost desert-like sage brush, Jason reached him sooner than the others. 

“Report, Scott,” and he then froze.  Scott pointed to a pair of sunglasses lying on the ground.  Jason picked them up and cautiously examined them.  His breathing suddenly felt very constricted and he swallowed, hard.  From the peculiar scratches along the rubber ear pieces, Jason knew they were Jack’s.  Jack had that tendency to scratch behind his ear and these could only be his.  He put the glasses in a vest pocket and nodded.  “Thank you, Scott.  Continue search pattern.”

“Yes, sir.”

Janet was at Jason’s elbow suddenly, startling him.  “At least it’s not…”

“I know, Janet,” he said quietly.  “I know.”

The local search around the gate turned up nothing – no footprints, nothing.  The bodies of the dead were zatted and the lone survivor carried back to the infirmary.  A UAV was sent out next and for two more days, the small plane ran detailed searches.  No information was gleaned.  SG-1 had now been gone for a week and was four days overdue. 

On pins and needles, Jason walked into the infirmary and sought out Janet. 

“Can I talk to her…to the Tok’ra, um, Beralt?”

“She’s still unconscious.  You’ll have to wait until she wakes up.  The head wound she suffered is severe.”

Jason sighed.  “I’ll wait here then, if that’s okay.  We have to get all the information they have.  The UAV can’t survey the entire planet and the DHD didn’t reveal a fourth address.  I don’t know if it was sabotage or not.  This entire search is taking way too fucking long.”

Janet reached out and touched his arm as Jason ran his hand through his hair.  He sent her an apologetic look.  “I’m strung out.  I can’t goddamn sleep.”

“I know, hon.  I know.” She noticed the tired color around his eyes, the worry and fright within them.  It matched her own.  She watched him walk over to the bed where the injured Tok’ra lay and sit down, wishing she could help. 

Two hours later, Beralt opened her eyes and tried to focus.  She saw Jason sitting in the chair next to her bed.  “You are Major Coburn,” she said through a hoarse voice. 

Jason got up quickly, then brought a cup and straw to her lips, wetting her throat.  “I am.”

“Did any of my fellow Tok’ra survive?”

Jason shook his head.  “I don’t know all the facts, which is one reason I’m here.  Only two Tok’ra were found dead; you were the only one alive.  I need all the information you have about this mission in order to find SG-1 and the more information we have, the better the odds.”

“I have all the information you will require,” Beralt said weakly. 

“Will require?” Jason snapped at her, frowning.  No way was she playing that Tok’ra game of keeping information only to themselves.  “No, I don’t think so.” He leaned forward.  “I don’t give a flying fuck about that weapon’s tech or whatever the fuck it is.  All I care about is getting our people home.  We’re not playing that information game, Beralt.  You want to get back to your fellow Tok’ra, you cough up the information.  So, why the planet hopping?  What the hell is going on?”

She sighed, then coughed and winced at the pain it caused.  Jason had an irrational need to create a lot more pain if she didn’t talk. 

“I do not know the reason for gating to one address after another other than the fact that we had instructions to gate to one of several addresses where it was located.  We received information about a weapon of the Ancients, then learned that the Goa’uld were looking for it, too.  Since none of us reads–“

“I know all that.  Skip it,” Jason told her irritably.  “Who gave you this information?”

“We only received a radio transmission from one of our operatives.” From Jason’s doubting frown, she scowled.  “The message had the proper codes, Major.”

“So all your information is based on a message that you couldn’t confirm?  Have you people taken all leave of your senses?” he asked, his voice rising in further anger. 

She sighed, then gestured for more water just as Janet walked up, frowning at her colleague.  She started to interrupt but Jason frowned back as he held up a finger. 

“Not just yet, Doc.  I’m not done with her.”

“Yes, you are, Major CoburnYou do not run things here.  I do.  If you can’t behave yourself–“

“It is alright, Doctor,” Beralt told Janet, breaking the iron gaze Janet and Jason found themselves in.  With a sigh, Janet looked away and focused on Beralt. 

“Don’t stress yourself, Beralt,” she said kindly, then scowled at Jason. 

Beralt waved a weak hand at her, giving a signal that she was okay.  “Major Coburn, the coordinates were possible locations of planets previously occupied by the Ancients.  Obviously, the last set was a location the Goa’uld had discovered.”

“Obviously.  I need a list of the coordinates.  Have you memorized them?”

She coughed again.  “I know two of the last four gate addresses we were to visit, but I can’t guarantee they went to those two.”

Jason found himself without pen or paper so he grabbed the woman’s chart and wrote on the back of one of the logs.  She dictated the names and from memory, he wrote down the symbols.  Soon after, he left her alone with Janet and raced to Hammond’s office.  He didn’t mean to be short with the woman, or with Janet, but deep down, he resented the crap out of the Tok’ra’s notorious reputation for withholding information.  That reputation could cost SG-1 their lives. 

The first of the two addresses supplied by Beralt yielded nothing.  The second address brought disheartening news.  They found an old abandoned city, similar to the one found on P4X-639, the Ancient’s planet where the faulty time device had been found – along with that lunatic, Malachai.  As Jason searched through the deserted buildings, he couldn’t help but think of Malachai.  The man had been driven mad by grief.  Jason swallowed as the deep fear in his heart began to grow.  Was that going to be his fate?

“Major Coburn!” Madison yelled. 

Jason looked up sharply, spotting the man a hundred yards away or more, at the outskirts of a small, circular temple.  Jason ran at top speed and when he arrived, out of breath, all the blood in his body grew cold.  Major Madison held up a field pack and a GDO.  The field pack belonged to Daniel.  It was open, showing the edge of his journal and some of his archaeological tools inside.  Jason took the pack absently as he stared at the three others on the ground.  SG-1 might abandon their packs but they’d never abandon the GDO.  Plus, the position of the packs look dumped, and carelessly at that.  Either the team was forced to leave them in a hurry or they were taken away from them and left here. 

Connor and Alex walked up behind him and upon seeing the packs, swore.  Jason turned to Alex.  “Did you check the DHD?”

“We did.  If it was used, it was used a while ago.  No last coordinates were stored.”

“Shit.  That means they’re either here on the planet or were taken away by ship.  I personally vote for planet bound.”

“You and me both, sir.”

“Well, let’s bring these back to the gate, check in with the SGC, report what we found, have a UAV sent out while we set up camp.  I’m not leaving here until we’ve searched this place thoroughly.”

“I’m with ya, Major,” Alex said as he picked up one of the packs. 

Later that night, sitting next to the campfire during his watch, Jason opened Daniel’s field journal and went through it.  He sighed heavily as he found only past mission entries.  Daniel obviously hadn’t had the chance to write anything down.  There wasn’t much else in Daniel’s pack, either.  Only field rations and one change of clothes.  Wherever he was, he was without.  Just as Jack was.  And Sam and Teal’c.  The thought gripped Jason’s throat like a vise. 

He rubbed his eyes with thumb and forefinger, then stood up and walked over to the open temple.  Even in the middle of the night, the building’s interior was illuminated; an eerie light from the fire reflected off the polished stone and the metallic pedestal stationed in the center.  The small building reminded Jason of a belvedere gazebo: perfectly situated on a hill, looking down over the small, abandoned city.  The gate stood to the left of the city, and to the right, a dried riverbed.  Crops of trees offered shade here and there, but only the distant mountains showed any alteration in the surrounding terrain. 

Feeling a bit like his absent lover – for in no way was Jason considering him lost – he thought about what Daniel would do as he walked into the center of the structure.  Turning on the flashlight of his P-90, he scanned the walls and ceiling, running the tips of his fingers over the slightly raised surface.  Writing.  Which only Daniel and Jack could read.  And the reason for their damned disappearance.  He ran his flashlight over the pedestal, trying to decipher its purpose.  Basically, it didn’t seem to have one.  The flat top probably held something with a round base as the edges of whatever had been placed there ghosted the surface, as if it had stood there for a long time, but no longer. 

Making a sound of disgust, Jason turned away.  This building would yield nothing to him.  He couldn’t read the writing, there wasn’t any sign that anyone but his team and SG-3 had been here, so what could he find?  He then made a derisive snort.  What he needed were crime scene investigators.  Too bad there weren’t any on the payroll at the SGC. 

Returning to the camp, he sat down and stared at the fire, trying very hard not to see Daniel and Jack in the flames.  He tried not to think of them but no matter what he did, their faces and memories invaded his mind.  When Connor relieved him, Jason thought that maybe sleep would take away the constant fear and worry, but as he closed his eyes, he found that sleep was the only thing that ended up eluding him. 

The following day, further detailed searches revealed nothing.  Aside from their field packs and GDO, there were no other signs that SG-1 had been there.  The teams were recalled and word was sent out to allies.  The only person who could help them at the moment was their injured Tok’ra and she wasn’t being very helpful, even if she was trying.  The frustration and fear were waging a battle within Jason’s mind and he had no idea how to control them.  He had never had to deal with this kind of situation.  With bad break-ups, yes, but not the disappearance and possible death of a lover…or lovers.  Jason knew that their jobs – their lives – were a risk every single day, and he had tried to cope with that knowledge.  But somehow, he never thought that he would ever lose his lovers to the unknown. 

His team kept him grounded and sane for the next few days.  Despite his awkward embarrassments with Alex when at the planet of the vampires, Jason felt reassured by his presence.  Their relationship, personal and professional, hadn’t been injured and for that, Jason was grateful.  He found Alex a grounding force. 

Even so, by the time two weeks had passed, Jason’s grasp on his emotions and ability to think calmly in a crisis were weakening.  His worry and stress levels rose and he couldn’t seem to calm himself down.  He wouldn’t do Daniel or Jack any favors by falling apart, that was for certain. 

Making his way to the infirmary, he heard what sounded like a tiny sob.  Janet’s office.  He paused at the door, thinking to barge in, but what if she had a patient who’d received bad news?  That would be embarrassing, and extremely unprofessional and rude.  He waited a moment, then heard another quiet sob.  That one, however, sounded like Janet.  He’d heard that sound before when Cassie had been dying of that disease.  He knocked and opened the door at the same time.  Before she could berate him, he closed the door and went to her. 

“Janet, what’s this?” he asked, touching her face. 

“I miss them.  I miss Sam.  Cassie’s…upset.”

He pulled her into his arms, and she reluctantly went.  “They’re not gone for good, Janet.  Don’t you dare think otherwise,” he said, rubbing her back. 

“But…they’ve been gone for two weeks!” she said in a harsh, but hushed voice. 

“Don’t you dare, Janet.”

“Don’t tell me that.  I can’t help how I feel.”

“No, you can’t, but don’t you dare think they’re not coming home,” he said fervently as he looked down into her eyes, his own flashing.  “They’re coming home.  They’re just stuck somewhere, unable to gate or get to a ship and fly home.  Come hell or high water, Janet, they’ll be home.  They’ll be home.”

Janet nodded and sniffed hugely, then wiped at her face.  “You always seem to hold up well under these things.  Like when Daniel was injured offworld that time.  How are you doing really?” she asked, searching his face. 

Jason grimaced slightly.  “I’m…not okay, but I’m handling it.  I don’t really have a choice.  But I refuse to think the worst.  I can’t go there and neither should you.” He brushed the backs of his fingers across her cheek and realized his hand was shaking.  He made a fist and put his hand down. 

Janet frowned, took his hand and held it up.  “Uncurl your fingers.”

When his hand shook again, Jason became angry and pulled away, but Janet grabbed his arm.  “Stay right there.” She grabbed the stethoscope and BP cuff that lay on the small medical cabinet and wrapped the cuff around his arm. 

“Janet…”

“Aht!  No arguments.”

He sighed and tried to calm himself as she read his blood pressure and took his pulse.  He knew they were high and waited for Janet to give him that look.  She did…after reading his BP.  She didn’t say anything, but as she took his pulse, she frowned and that look worsened.  She sat on the edge of her desk and crossed her arms. 

“Your pulse is 106, Jason.  Your BP is 140 over 90.  Why the hell haven’t you come to me?”

“Because it’s just stress.”

She sighed heavily.  “You know as well as I do that stress can kill.  You need a stress reliever, Jason.  You can’t keep this bottled up.”

He folded his arms as he leaned against the wall and stared up at the ceiling.  “Truthfully, I was on my way here to ask you for a mild tranquilizer but…on second thought, maybe I’ll just go beat the shit out of something.”

She gave him a half-serious scowl.  “Make sure you beat the shit out of something inanimate, Major.  No people.”

“Damn.  Just suck the fun right out of it, why don’t you?” he replied, trying to smile. 

She shook her head at him as he tried to make light of the situation.  She had no idea how he was coping but if his physical signs were this worrying, his mental stress must be worse.  “Are you keeping this all to yourself?”

He winced.  “I don’t want to let my guys see how bad I am.  Alex knows, but he’s not pushing.  Al and Connor know I’m upset, but they don’t know all the reasons why.”

“Alex does?” she asked, her eyes widening. 

Jason gave her a brief glance before looking at a spot on the floor.  “He knows about me, about Daniel.  Not about Jack.”

She sighed.  “And he’s okay?”

Jason nodded immediately.  “More than okay.  He’s been great, Janet.”

She sighed with relief.  “And Cari?  Have you been able to talk with her?”

He shook his head.  “She knows how I feel, how I’m doing.”

“You have to let it out, Jason,” she said worriedly. 

“So do you, Janet.”

“I know.  I do, at home.  I usually take it out on bread dough.”

He snorted. 

“Hey, whatever works.  So going to the gym is a very good idea.  But…I want you to drink lots of water, and don’t let yourself bottle things up.  And Jason?  Just as a reminder, the tranquilizer wouldn’t be a good idea.  Not while you’re on duty.  I’d have to put you on stand down.”

He frowned, confused.  He knew that.  So why the hell had he just forgotten it?

The following day, Beralt was feeling better and able to think clearly.  Unfortunately, the information she gave didn’t reap good news.  She gave the coordinates to the Tok’ra’s temporary base, but when the MALP went through, it showed that the base had been attacked.  Rubble and debris were everywhere, and several dead Tok’ra littered the ground around the DHD. 

The only good news was that after further examination, there was no sign of Jacob Carter or SG-1.  Several other Tok’ra were also missing so she hoped that they’d escaped to the secondary base.  Unfortunately, she didn’t know where that was.  Its location had been kept secret to avoid revealing information under Goa’uld torture.  The only thing she was sure of was that there was another base. 

Dismissed from his duties until the mission briefing in the morning, Jason left the control room in disgust and made his way for the gym.  Janet had been correct.  It became the only outlet he’d found for his anger, frustration, and fear; his only method for externalizing those emotions properly, making sure that he didn’t take his emotions out on anyone. 

As he changed into his gym shorts and t-shirt, Jason tried to clear his mind as he’d done so many times in the past.  Normally, it was as easy as counting to three.  Not this time.  All he could see, taste, and feel was the hurt in his heart; the anger, the fear.  As he taped up the knuckles of his hands, he let himself be consumed by his anger.  If it was going to stay, then he may as well try to expend it in the most efficient way possible. 

From across the large room, Jason’s teammates, plus Cari, worked out on the weight machines while they kept an eye on their friend and leader.  He landed kick after kick, punch after punch, thoroughly beating the tar out of his enemy: the suspended martial arts bag. 

“How’s he been holding up?” Cari asked Alex. 

Alex frowned as he set his weights down and turned to her.  “As well as possible after losing his best friends.”

Her brows raised in surprise.  “Don’t let Jason hear you say that.  He’ll tell you they’re not lost.”

As Jason landed an especially hard forward sidekick, followed by several hand combinations, Connor paused and shook his head.  He looked over at Cari.  “You want to know how he’s doing?  This,” he pointed.  “This is what he’s been doing.  Every day we’ve been home.  He hasn’t been home to his apartment, he hasn’t gone off-base.  I can see from his face that he’s not getting enough sleep.  He’s taking this like any of us would.  He’s frightened that he’s lost his best friends and angry that he can’t go out and help.”

Cari exchanged glances with Alex as she got up from her weight bench.  Neither of them were about to correct Connor.  They knew why Jason wasn’t taking it like the rest of them.  His best friends weren’t just his best friends.  At least as far as Daniel was concerned.  “Can we help him, you think?” she asked as she studied Jason very carefully. 

Alex shook his head.  “Only if he lets us.  You know how he is.  We’ll have to give him space, but let him know we’re there.  It’s all we can do.”

Cari hated it.  She was sad, like everyone else, but she couldn’t imagine what Jason must be feeling.  As much as she knew him, she knew that one way or another, he’d try to stomp on his grief, and if she could, she’d try to keep that from happening.  Whether Jason admitted it or not, he wasn’t just missing his lover and best friends.  He was grieving

In the gym’s locker room, Jason tore the tape from his hands before heading to the showers.  He was sweating, exhausted.  His legs and arms felt like lead weights.  A nice, long shower would work perfectly.  Or so he hoped. 

Alex and the others finished their routines and Cari hesitated before walking through to the women’s section.  She wanted to reach out, but she couldn’t bring herself to disturb him.  A sharp movement to her right startled her and she watched as one of the new members of SG-8 came through the double entrance doors.  She sneered.  Sergeant Randolph Garson.  She hadn’t heard anything good about the man and had absolutely no use for him.  Getting him assigned to the SGC was an intergalactic fuck up.  The man was a notorious homophobe, as well as a xenophobe, racist, and sexist pig.  She prayed he would walk on by but upon seeing Jason, he turned right and headed down the row of lockers. 

“Shit,” she whispered.  She moved over and tugged Alex on the arm.  “He’s in trouble.”

Alex look up sharply, just as his teammates did.  “Crap.”

“Well, well.  If it isn’t the famous Major Coburn,” Garson said, his tone just a bit confrontational. 

Jason frowned as he glanced at the rude man.  After taking in his arrogant stance and the mocking look in his eyes, Jason decided that he didn’t like him.  In fact, he was quite sure he detested him.  “Famous.  Huh.  Color me unimpressed.  And you would be the new man?”

“Sergeant Garson, SG-8.  Heard you lost your playmates, Major.  My condolences.”

Normally, Jason would have stopped to question the reason for the man’s comments.  Not today.  Jason felt the anger rising in him quickly and for a tiny fraction of a second, tried to suppress it.  However, the man’s insincere, rude words kept echoing inside his head.  Before he realized it, his hand shot out and was around the man’s throat, pinning him to the wall. 

“Just what do you mean by playmates?” Jason growled.  The man couldn’t answer.  He was choking.  Jason felt other hands on him, and shouts that didn’t seem to register.  He dropped the Sergeant to the floor, readying himself for the unknown attackers.  As he whirled to take care of the others, his anger died immediately as he found himself face to face with Cari and his teammates. 

Sergeant Garson sat hunched over on the floor, coughing.  “You are in serious trouble, Major.  I’m reporting this.”

Cari was suddenly in Garson’s face, picking the man up and throwing him against the wall, only with a lot less force than Jason had used.  “You were out of line, Sergeant.  Have you ever lost your best friends?” she scowled at him. 

“But he–“

“I don’t want to hear it!  Say anything against the Major and I’ll have you up on charges as well.”

Garson found it strange to be staring down a woman who was taller than himself.  He immediately went on the defensive.  “But I didn’t do anything wrong!  And just who the hell are you, anyway?” he spat, trying to get her to release her hold. 

“This is Staff Sergeant Carmichael, Security,” Alex snarled.  “You want a cop?  Here’s a cop.”

Garson realized he’d stepped into a hornet’s nest.  Jason was standing there, staring at him, ready to come after him again, but his friends seemed to be holding him at bay.  He took in Cari’s threatening expression, and Jason’s deadly one, and backed off. 

“My apologies, Major.”

“Get out.  Come back later,” Cari ordered.  “And next time, keep your goddamned inappropriate comments to yourself.”

The man beat a hasty retreat. 

Jason’s teammates let their leader go and stepped back.  Alex glared at him. 

“I know you’re worried sick, but what the hell were you thinking, sir?”

Jason swallowed and pushed away from them.  He moved over to the water dispenser and filled the plastic cup twice, drinking the water down slowly.  What the hell was he thinking?  He had never let himself go off like that.  This had to stop, and it had to stop now.  If he let himself go again, god only knew what would happen.  Using the breathing techniques that he’d learned, he got his momentary anger under control.  In fact, it was fairly easy.  Seeing what he had done, especially after working out the way he had, it was like getting hit with a bucket of iced water.  He couldn’t risk this happening again.  Ever.  With several deeper breaths, he faced his friends and colleagues with a stoic expression. 

“I’m fine.  Thanks for bringing me out of that.  It won’t happen again.”

“You had us worried for a minute,” Cari told him as she walked over and put her arms around him.  He returned the hug, allowing himself to acknowledge her sympathetic feelings even as he fought not to react to them. 

“Thanks, really.  I’m okay now.  But Cari, you’ll have to leave or I’ll strip right in front of you for my shower.” Sounding a bit more like his old self, he actually gave her a tiny smile.  She grinned back, tempted to stay, but in the end, she winked at him, then at Alex, and left for the women’s side.  She had no idea that what she had just seen was an act for her benefit.  

Jason grabbed some towels from the bin and headed back to his locker.  His teammates did the same, all the while keeping a worried eye on him.  He appreciated their concern, but hoped they would let it go.  He really didn’t have the will or energy to talk about anything anymore. 

~

“I’m sorry, Major.  It’s been 30 days.  We have no choice but to officially declare SG-1 Missing-in-Action.”

When the news had been delivered by the General, Cari had been there, as were Jason’s teammates.  Gathered in his office, they held their breaths, waiting for their friend’s reaction. 

At the news, Jason ground his jaw for a moment, ordering himself to remain in control.  “Yes, sir.  I understand.”

Don’t you dare react.  This was inevitable.  Until they’re found, they’ll have to be listed this way.  Just move on, do your work.  Don’t think, don’t react.  Time to put on a show for everyone, Jace, ol’ buddy.  Can’t let this affect you.  You will get through this.  You have no choice.  No choice.  No choice. 

“Do you want to take some time, son?”

“No, sir.  I’m fine.  My team and I are ready for our next mission.” Then the expression in his eyes grew cold…distant. 

Along with the General, his friends watched, stunned, as the man they knew changed right in front of them. 

“Major?” General Hammond called softly from the door later that night. 

Jason looked up from his desk, startled.  He realized he’d been staring at his desk clock’s L.E.D.  display, but for how long, he did not know.  He started to stand but Hammond waved him back down. 

“At ease, Major.”

“Yes, sir,” Jason said, still preferring to stand out of respect.  “What can I do for you, sir?”

Hammond hesitated, then handed Jason two large manila envelopes.  Confused, Jason took them.  “What are these, sir?  Some top secret assignments?” giving the General the same smile he’d been using on everyone that day after he’d received the news about SG-1’s MIA classification.  The sympathy was grating on his nerves but he would handle it.  It helped that the sympathy wasn’t insincere, but even so, he hated it. 

“Open them, Major,” Hammond said gently. 

Jason paused.  “What are they?”

Hammond took a deep breath.  “One is Doctor Jackson’s next of kin package, the other is Colonel O’Neill’s.  According to protocol, I had to go through their Last Will and Testaments.  Each of them has named you next of kin, after each other.  As they are both missing, their estates fall to you.  I’m giving you a few days to set things in order, then as you requested, I’ll have you back on duty and sent out for your next mission.”

Jason set the packages down on his desk, then tightened his fingers into two fists.  He stood there, frozen, staring at his name on both envelopes.  “Isn’t this too soon, sir?” he whispered. 

“I know how you feel, son, but their property needs to be taken care of.  I for one don’t believe they’re gone and would like you to take care of their homes while they’re…away.  Can you handle that, Major?”

Jason swallowed and looked up.  Hammond’s face was sincere and he knew that his Commander didn’t want to think of SG-1 as dead any more than he did.  Even so, they both knew the reality of the situation and Jason knew from Hammond’s tone of voice that he was playing him, telling him a ‘story’ to make this hard, unpleasant task go down easier. 

It was such a bitter pill. 

“I will do my best, sir.”

“I will assume that everything is inside those packets.  If it isn’t, and you cannot take care of their responsibilities in their absence, then you let me know and I’ll clear it for you.”

“Yes, sir.” Jason felt that old familiar heat rise behind his eyes.  The heat that threatened just before tears came.  From the practice over the last thirty days, he took a few deep breaths and willed the heat away.  Clear-eyed, he nodded at the General.  “Thank you, sir.  I’ll get right on it.”

Hammond wanted to reach across the desk and give the man a sympathetic squeeze of the shoulder, but Jason’s body language said it would be a mistake.  “Take the next two days starting now, Major.”

“Yes, sir.”

Just before leaving, Hammond turned in the doorway.  “I’m sorry, Jason.”

“I know, sir.  So am I.”

The door closed and Jason sat down.  With the letter opener, he opened both packets, then dumped them into two separate piles.  Contents were pretty much the same.  Banking signatures, Letters of Affidavit, Notes of Succession.  And the Wills.  After a lot of staring, reading, and the fighting off of tears, he gathered the items up and set to work. 

Jason’s hand shook for a moment as he slid the key into the lock and stepped into Jack’s house. 

“Well, here I am, Jack.  Hope you don’t mind, but I’ve got some stuff to do.”

He double-checked the power and the water, and after that, he set about checking security and making sure the garage was locked up.  He frowned, realizing that Jack’s truck was still at the base.  He’d have to get someone to follow him home…follow him here…so he could lock up the truck. 

Jason found himself walking aimlessly around the living room and kitchen, unsure of what to do.  “Get a grip, dammit.  You know what you have to do.” Grabbing the satchel he’d set on the kitchen counter, he took a deep breath, then set to doing the work he had to do, most of it thankfully mindless. 

He grabbed the checkbook, credit card and the cell phone and proceeded to pay the bills.  Next came the refrigerator and the dumping of spoiled foods.  Then came the cleaning, the vacuuming.  He paused at the threshold to Jack’s bedroom.  With a deep, shaky breath, he turned on the vacuum and set about cleaning.  Once done, he leaned over to strip the bed. 

And froze. 

Semen stains were on the sheets, along with beer and dried foods that Jason couldn’t remember.  But he knew the time frame.  It had been before they’d gone back to Adriann’s planet.  The memories flashed: Jack laughing in hysterics as Jason tickled; Jack moaning as he went down on him; Jack moaning as Jason thrust and penetrated him; Jack moaning as he fucked him slow and easy, then hard and fast; Jack coming, kissing, snuggling, dozing.  Jason wanted to crawl onto the bed and surround himself with the smell and feel of Jack… 

“But you’re not here, are you, Jack?”

Backing quickly away from the balled up sheets, he left them in the middle of the bed and slammed the door shut.  A tiny sound escaped his throat and his fingernails scratched lines down the door as he sank to his knees.  He banged his forehead against the door, fighting off the overwhelming emotion.  He couldn’t do this.  He wouldn’t do this.  Pushing himself up, he quickly put away the vacuum, gathered his things, and started for the door. 

It was then that he spied the answering machine.  He reached out to press play, then brought his hand back as if it were something heinous.  What the hell was he doing?  He couldn’t.  He couldn’t hear him.  He couldn’t hear that…voice.  That voice he longed to hear.  Instead, he shut off the recorder, then unplugged it from the wall.  There was no reason for it…for the time being. 

Without another look back, he left. 

Holding his breath frequently, Jason got through Daniel’s home in the same way he’d gotten through Jack’s: quickly and efficiently.  When he realized that the fish were dead, he had to control his emotions and think of other mundane, stupid things while he gave them the toilet burial at sea. 

When he entered the painting room Daniel had set aside for him, Jason almost lost it again.  He picked up a paintbrush out of the ceramic mug he stored them in, then stared at the unfinished raven within a cliffside setting.  Jason had no idea why he’d painted it, but he’d gone ahead with it.  Daniel had told him that what he was painting was a pictorial representation of Poe’s poem.  Jason had thought he was only half right at the time.  But was he?

“Is this nevermore, Daniel?” He dropped the paintbrush back into the mug, and left the room. 

He checked everything else in the house, then went for the garage.  As soon as he stepped inside, he froze again.  This time, the tears nearly broke free as his face started to crumble.  In the garage, shrouded with a dark gray vehicle cover, sat Jack’s birthday present: A brand new Harley Davidson V-Rod. 

Jason walked over and pulled the cover off, staring at the black and chrome machine.  He realized that the keys were in the ignition and remembered there was a full tank of gas.  He and Daniel had had plans for the unveiling after the camping trip they were going to take Jack on. 

“Happy Birthday, Jack,” Jason whispered.  “It’s a little late, but better late than never.” Jason hesitated a moment, staring at the machine, the suddenly opened the garage door, climbed aboard the machine, turned the key on, roared the engine to life, then backed it out of the garage. 

Just a little ride around the block.  That’s all he had intended.  But Jason couldn’t leave the bike there.  Feeling as if he had a part of Jack and Daniel with him, it was the only thing he could allow himself to touch, to feel.  He parked his truck in the garage, then locked the house up.  Storing his satchel in the right saddlebag, he put on the helmet and special, embroidered leather gloves, and took off. 

It was cold, and Jason was thankful that he’d worn his sheepskin coat.  The truck made him forget about how cold the wind could get in Colorado, especially on the back of a bike.  Even so, the coldness helped.  He rode and rode and rode…until his fingers and legs were numb. 

Stopping off to grab himself Chinese food and espresso coffee, he finally arrived at his last destination before returning to the mountain: his apartment.  Not wanting to leave the bike, he forced himself off and went inside.  As with Jack and Daniel’s homes, he had a lot of cleaning to do.  Except here, he didn’t want to bother with any of it, except for the kitchen spoils. 

After dumping the garbage, he paused in his living room and stared around him.  He then spied the CDs and silly post-it notes Daniel had left on his stereo. 

Clean the CD player

Is there nothing but Led Zeppelin?  Diversify!

Jason started to smile, but the action nearly brought tears.  Sniffing them back, he moved away.  As he passed his foyer table, his hand automatically hit the message play button on his phone recorder as he made for the kitchen. 

You have one message, came the monotone voice.  Jason froze again, panic rising in his throat as his stomach heaved.  He ran back over to shut it off, but it was too late. 

“Hey, Jace, it’s me.  Meet me over at Jack’s in an hour.  Oh, and I hope you got those plans squared away for you-know-what or I’ll have your ass.” A chuckle followed and then the phone machine beeped. 

End of messages. 

Jason felt the heat and fought it off.  He felt the tears and fought them off.  But when the rage came, he didn’t fight it off.  With a howl, his fist came down on the machine, denting it and breaking off a few pieces of plastic.  The machine was then swept to the floor, yanked back by the phone cord in the wall.  The table came next, then the sofa was dumped onto its side.  As he started to smash the heavy coffee table, he found the CD.  The Led Zeppelin CD.  One of the ones that Jack had given him.  In anger, his fist came down, then in complete contradiction, he stared in horror at what he had done.  He picked up the case and it broke away…revealing itself to be empty. 

With a whimper of relief, he realized that the CD was in the player.  He clutched the pieces of the plastic sleeve to his chest, then pressed play and listened for a while.  Though Led Zeppelin was a Blues type of band, the music soothed him…until it changed to a song of sorrow, reflecting his own soul. 

“Close the door, put out the lights…they’re not coming home tonight…”

“NO!” he yelled angrily, shutting off the player.  “They are coming home.  They are…coming home.”

Jason had no idea how long he stood in his shower, but the cold water brought him out of his trance-like state.  As he absently toweled off, he remembered that the Chinese take-out and coffee he’d brought home still sat on the breakfast bar.  He padded out to the kitchen and put the food, plastic bag and all, inside the fridge, then dumped the coffee.  He wasn’t hungry anymore and coffee would only keep him wired.  He surveyed the destruction he’d caused, then turned away from it and headed to his bedroom. 

Unlike Daniel’s and Jack’s beds, his didn’t show any signs of having had any guests recently.  Though it saddened him, he found it easier to crawl inside the clean covers.  He didn’t think he could sleep, but the release of anger earlier, and its leftover emotional exhaustion, brought it to him, though uneasily. 

Jason ran down the SGC corridor, and realizing he could feel the cold concrete beneath his feet, looked down.  He’d come to work in his shorts?  Was he mad?  Perhaps. 

All he knew was that he had to run.  The corridor seemed to stretch into infinity.  The harder he ran, the longer the corridor became.  Then there…at the far end…stood Jack and Daniel.  They had their backs to him, yet they were waving him on.  He ran faster.  The corridor stopped lengthening and he closed the distance between them.  It was then that he saw the blood on their uniforms and the blood forming in pools at their feet.  They spoke with their backs to him, but their voices were gurgling, as if clogged. 

“You didn’t come for us,” Daniel said. 

“You didn’t come for us,” Jack repeated. 

“I can’t find you!  I don’t know where you are!”

“We don’t leave our people behind,” Jack accused. 

When they turned around, Jason saw more blood, fresh – their throats were slit.  When Daniel started to talk, blood poured from his mouth.  Jason screamed.

Jason woke up, his heart hammering in fright.  He hadn’t had a nightmare like that for five years, at least.  He lay there, waiting for his heart to calm, and like he always did, he self-analyzed the dream but it took maybe half a minute.  He knew the dream for what it was; guilt.  Irrational guilt, but guilt all the same.  Pushing away the covers, he got up, knowing he’d have difficulty in getting to sleep without help.  He wasn’t that hungry but he did have liquor in the cupboard. 

Not bothering with a normal glass, he poured himself a shot of whiskey, downed it, waited thirty seconds, then downed another…and another.  Three shots should do him, he thought.  He waited for the momentary rejection by his stomach, and was then reminded that he hadn’t eaten.  Drinking on an empty stomach wasn’t a good idea, so he went to the fridge and pulled the barbecued pork from the bag, even knowing that it was too late.  Eat first, then drink.  Sighing, he leaned against the wall and consumed them all, cold.  Tossing the small bag away, he washed his hands and returned to the bedroom without putting the bottle and shot glass away.  Just in case. 

Water.  He was in water.  Just like in his Diné dream vision.  And just as in his dream vision, he saw two figures on the shore.  Jack and Daniel.  He smiled and swam toward them.  When they started to walk away from the beach, he swam harder, yelling. 

“Wait!” The water seemed to thicken, weighing down his arms and legs, but soon, he was able to stand and run out of the surf and onto the beachhead.  They were nearly out of sight now and not once throughout his frantic calls did they turn to see him; not once did they stop walking. 

“Stop!  Wait for me, dammit!”

They kept going, not looking back, and Jason ran harder, becoming pissed.  “Why won’t you wait?” he panted, not understanding.  Suddenly his foot sank into a hole and he went down.  Swearing, he pushed up… 

…And found himself running down an SGC corridor once more.  He looked down and found himself dry, in fatigues, a sidearm in his hand.  The pistol was cold, with white wisps of smoke floating off of it as if it had been yanked out of dry ice.  He tried to pry it from his hand but his attention was diverted. 

“There he is,” came the familiar resonance of a symbiote.  He turned round and found Jack and Daniel running toward him.  Their eyes glowed. 

“No,” he said.  “This is a dream.  You’re not real.”

“We’re very real,” Daniel said as his hand device came up, firing at him and sending Jason twenty feet through the air.  He landed hard, gasping for breath, trying to get his equilibrium back.  As Jack and Daniel advanced, he looked up and caught hideously evil grins on their faces.  It wasn’t possible.  They never, ever, in a million years could look like that.  It wasn’t them!  It wasn’t them!

“No,” he managed to say as he brought his pistol up.  “You’re not them.”

“Ah, but we are.  Kill us and you’ll kill them.”

Jason whimpered.  “I’m sorry,” and emptied the clip in the sidearm. 

Jason sat up quickly, gasping, then proceeded to pound his fist into the bed.  When his fist connected with the headboard, and made a significant crack in the wood, he calmed…but only slightly.  With a feeling of resignation, he got out of bed and went into the kitchen, staring daggers at the bottle of whiskey.  He’d left it out – just in case.  But that was a mistake.  He should have gotten drunk instead.  This time, he did. 

Jason awoke slowly, reluctantly.  At first, the dream of Jack and Daniel felt real and the smell of his sheets and pillow smelled of them.  As he opened his eyes and found himself alone, he remembered.  He rolled onto his back and closed his eyes.  He didn’t want to get up.  For the first time in ages, Jason didn’t want to get up.  He didn’t want to get cleaned up, dressed, and out for his typical morning run.  He reached and fondled his erection, remembering the last remnants of the dream.  If it weren’t for his bladder, he’d have taken the edge off. 

Grumpily, he went about his morning routine, then changed into his running clothes.  Maybe the cold March air would help take away the uninterested-in-life feeling. 

It didn’t.  That night, when he crawled early into bed, he purposely left the liquor in the kitchen…the liquor that had kept the nightmares at bay for the rest of the previous night.  They wouldn’t be coming back, he ordered himself.  He didn’t need the liquid security. 

Gunfire shot over his head, causing Jason to dive to the ground.  Shouts and screams surrounded him and as he tried to get up, a booted foot came down on his back, pinning him.  A very distinctive voice, filled with the resonance typical of a symbiote-controlled body, spoke above him. 

“Look what we have here.  The failure.  The man who couldn’t save his lovers, his friends.”

Jason tried to scramble away but was roughly turned over by hurtful hands.  In horror, he beheld the faces of his lovers, now changed to malicious visages.  Jack and Daniel stood over him, holding him down with effortless ease.  In one hand, Daniel held a screeching Goa’uld symbiote.  Then Daniel’s eyes flashed as he grinned evilly. 

“Time for you to join your lovers, Jason Coburn.”

“No!” Jason howled. 

Jack’s eyes then flashed and a particularly vicious smile stretched his lips.  “Think you can get away from us that easy?  Look what has happened to your lovers.  You’ve left them to us.  Now, you will become one of us.”

“NO!” Jason spat as he writhed and kicked.  It was of no use.  He was roughly turned back onto his stomach, then his pants were yanked down. 

“First, a little fun,” one of the voices said as his legs were pinned by knees.  The sensation of formerly-familiar fingers now spread his buttocks open, and the unfamiliar scent of a man reached his nose as his body was violated.  Jason cried out and the resonating voice of the cruel symbiote laughed and laughed as it thrust. 

Jason tasted the dirt in his mouth, forced inside as the brutal thrusting continued.  He spit, then tried to push up, to get the creature off him, but he had no strength.  He couldn’t help himself.  And how could he, when he couldn’t even help his lovers?  He heard screams and howls in front of him and looked up just in time to see Sam and Teal’c executed by staff weapon fire. 

“No, no,” he groaned. 

“Oh yes!” came the sickening voice above him.  “Gone.  All gone.” Then the creature above him came, filling him with its twisted seed.  As hands held him down, the other creature repeated the violations, and when he was through, Jason received a savage kick in the balls.  Screaming as the pain lanced through his body, a piece of cloth was rudely forced into his mouth. 

“Now, you reap the rewards for being a good little fuck,” Jason heard as the screeching of the symbiote neared.  He tried to move away, but it was of no use as a sharp, fiery pain lanced through the back of his neck. 

Jason sat up in bed, screaming, grabbing the back of his neck.  A whimper started to escape his throat so he grabbed his pillow and bit down into it, stifling any sounds.  When he was certain that he would not crack, he pulled the pillow away.  With the deep sigh of inevitability, he got up and retrieved the liquor bottle from the kitchen.  After three long pulls from the bottle, he stepped into the shower and washed…and washed…and washed. 

 

~

 

For the next two weeks, Jason’s teammates and friends noticed with heartsick dismay that his appearance and behavior began to alter.  Grief was certainly expected, but along with the pale pallor, Jason became unemotional, cold.  There were no more smiles, no more jokes, no more teasing.  The normally friendly and irreverent SG-2 had been altered because of their commander’s dour change.  Personnel who normally stopped to talk to Jason in the cafeteria began to avoid him.  They didn’t wish to be greeted by the wall of anger and depression that now colored the man. 

Alex, Al and Connor were beginning to resent their team leader’s change in behavior, too.  Their easy relationship had always been a comfort, and as they went out on missions, it became almost necessary.  But after two weeks of emotionless, no-nonsense behavior, the team members were getting fed up.  Especially after the most recent display of Jason’s joyless state. 

Al and Connor had been doing what they usually did after the mission area had been secured; joking, cutting up, ribbing each other.  Alex had periodically joined in as the camp was set up.  When the laughter and boisterous teasing had gone on for a while, their commander barked at them. 

“You guys want to cease and desist the bullshit?  I think we’re here to get some work done.  So let’s get to it.” Jason hadn’t known why they had been bothering him, but they had.  Just the sound of their laughter had pissed him off. 

It wasn’t that Jason had put a stop to it.  He always had.  But that time, it had been the way he had done it.  He hadn’t kidded back or gently reminded them that they had work to do.  His tone of voice had been flat, hard; strange. 

When the team returned home and were sent out on another mission, they’d been forced to walk on eggshells; their commander had become a very unpleasant man to be around…and Alex had had enough. 

After returning from the mission, the team was sent home for two days of down time.  Alex was bound and determined to get his team leader and friend out of his self-imposed emotional exile.  The only problem was how to go about it.  With a grim expression, he went to the security level to see Cari. 

Jason didn’t want to go home.  He wanted to keep busy. 

“Major, you need it.  You look awful.”

“Thanks so much, Doc,” Jason replied.  “I’m fine.”

Janet wasn’t thwarted so easily.  “You’re not.  And you’re not the only one grieving.”

“I’m not grieving.  They’re still out there.”

“Probably, but they’re not here and we can’t help but feel as if they are lost.”

“I have to go,” Jason answered as he started out of her office.  Janet ran to him and grabbed his arm.  Jason whirled, a cold set of dark brown eyes meeting warm, compassionate, and fearful ones. 

“Are you getting any sleep at all?”

“With the help of whiskey,” he said flatly.  At her surprised expression, he tugged on her coat’s collar, showing a tiny remnant of his old, friendly self.  “The alcohol helps…most of the time.”

“Nightmares?”

He could see the compassion in her face and it made him want to demand love and warmth from her, to hold him and tell him everything would be okay.  He nearly hated her for it.  “They’re…bad, Janet.”

“Do you want some sleep aids?”

He shook his head.  “They only make me groggy the next day.  The liquor doesn’t.”

As he walked away, she watched him, knowing full well that Jason was slowly falling apart. 

Alex and Cari sat in her apartment, each sharing a beer as they talked. 

“Cari, I need to help Jason.”

“I know.”

“He needs to break this…this…ice cold grip he has on himself.  It’s affecting the team, and everyone around him.”

“You haven’t spoken to him about it?”

“No.  I was hoping it would be temporary but he only seems to be getting worse.  We have to help him, Cari.  And help ourselves, as well.  I can’t work this way.  Always walking on eggshells, wondering when he’s going to go off.”

“And that’s the thing, isn’t it?  I’ve noticed, Alex.  He’s a time bomb, and I have no idea how he’s going to go off, much less when.”

“Then maybe we can set it off in a controlled way.”

She frowned as she watched him silently work out the statement in his mind.  “That won’t be so easy with him.  Stubborn as a bull doesn’t begin to cover it.”

“No, but maybe I can…do something.” He swallowed then and looked at her, a signal to her that he was going to say something she might find uncomfortable.  She tried to prepare herself, but sometimes, there was no way to do that.  “Remember when I told you what happened on the Residents’ planet?  Between him and me?” She nodded slowly.  “So…I was thinking that maybe what Jason needs is someone to…hold him.  Maybe I can…do that for him.”

Her eyes widened in shock.  “You mean by having sex with him, you’d make him thaw out that coldness?  Are you crazy, Alex?” He looked away and swallowed as his cheeks and ears pinked.  Cari reached out and touched his shoulder, making him face her again.  “Granted I find the idea of you and him…erotic, but we’re together, Alex.  Unless you want to break up?” His eyes opened wide and confirmed for her that he didn’t want that.  She relaxed, but only slightly, and tried to understand what it was that he wanted to do.  “I thought you said you would never go there, that you didn’t want to destroy your friendship.”

Alex sighed.  “I don’t want to go there.  I may have those feelings for him, sure, but it’s not where I want to go, and he wouldn’t accept an offer such as that anyway.  Besides, the point’s moot.  I do have you…don’t I?”

She smiled at him gently, touching his face.  “You do.”

“I only want to help him, Cari.  He needs it and we both know that sex isn’t the answer anyway.  He can’t keep holding all that stress in, and the martial arts exercises aren’t helping.  He needs to be pushed into letting go.  I can do that…I hope.  I only want him back, whole.”

“So do I, but you may end up hurt if you push him where he doesn’t want to go.”

“I may end up with a few bruises, Cari, but you and I both know that Jason won’t hurt me.”

“I’m worried.  We don’t know what he’s capable of in this grief of his.”

“I know.”

“So…you plan to do what?  Fight?”

“Goad him into it, I think.” At her deep frown, he rolled his eyes.  “There’s no other way.”

She knew she couldn’t talk him out of it.  Truthfully, she’d had the same idea.  “Promise me to be careful.”

“I promise.”

“And promise to come straight back.  I’ll tend to your…bruises.”

He smiled as he got up.  “I’ll expect you to tend to my…bruises.”  With that she playfully slapped him in the stomach.  “And make some new ones?” he grinned. 

“You bet.”

After a long kiss, she let him go, hoping and praying that Alex could break through Jason’s defenses without too much damage to either of them. 

With two days off, Jason decided that it was time for calzone take-out, his collection of the old Outer Limits episodes on DVD, and his home version of bartender – something he hadn’t done since a weekend bender in college.  As The Inheritors played onscreen, depicting a slight mirroring of his nightmares, Jason took a bite from the pepperoni calzone as he set up rows of small the travel-sized liquor bottles.  He then lined up eight large shot glasses and began to make his drinks.  Three of the drinks were Daniel’s favorite, B-52s, and he raised the tiny glasses in salute to Daniel before downing each one.  Moving on to the tiny Jack Daniel’s whiskey bottles, he added coke and drank two of them down, giving up toasts to Jack along the way. 

After ten minutes, Jason had a fairly decent buzz going.  He started to feel a bit better about things, if only for a brief moment, when someone knocked on his door.  Startled, and without thinking, his heart pounded madly as he ran for the door.  Throwing it open, and finding his 2IC standing there, Jason’s look of hope fell.  Soon after, he felt ridiculous and foolish. 

Alex tried not to look hurt.  He knew who he was supposed to have been.  “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Jason.”

With a deep sigh, Jason stood back and invited him inside.  Alex walked past and his eyes couldn’t help but gaze over him, almost in humor.  Had it been the old days, when Jason was more himself, a derogatory comment would have been uttered.  Instead, Alex remarked upon the weather and Jason’s curious choice of clothing. 

“Don’t you think that’s a bit…minimal…for March?” he asked, referring to Jason’s cutoffs, then his bare chest and feet.  “Aren’t you cold?”

“No.  I’m not outside, Alex.  What do you want?” Jason asked flatly as he closed the door.  Alex sighed and took off his coat, but before he could hang it up, Jason stopped him.  “I’d like to be alone, if you don’t mind.  What is it you want?”

Alex moved around him and hung up his jacket anyway…much to Jason’s annoyance.  “I’m here to get you to get your head out of your ass.”

“Excuse me?” Jason asked, feeling the anger rising like a sudden geyser. 

Alex looked over at the TV, then at the coffee table.  He sighed.  He wanted Jason sober for this, but maybe it was just as well.  Something had to loosen up the man’s heart.  He turned his attention back on Jason as he stuffed his hands in his pockets. 

“I’m sorry, Jason, but we need to talk.  About you.”

“Me?  What the fuck did I do?”

“Nothing.  And that’s the problem.  Nothing.  No smiles, no humor, no–“

“I have a right to feel what I want, when I want.  It’s no business of yours if–“

“Yes, it is!  When you affect the entire team the way you have been.  We’re walking on fucking eggshells, Jason, waiting for you to blow.  You snap at us, give us cold looks as if we mean absolutely nothing to you.”

“That’s not true.  You mean a lot to me.”

“Do we?  It’s how you’ve treated us, Jason.  All of us, Cari included, feel like shit when we’re around you and not because SG-1 is missing, either.  We can handle that.  But this…” and he gestured at Jason’s stern, cold gaze.  “You’re cut off, and I’m here to get you to talk to me, to get you to thaw out that cold heart.”

“Cold heart?” Jason asked, dumbfounded at being referred to that way.  How could he be?  “That’s a fucking laugh, Alex.”

“Yes, cold heart.  You’re cold, distant…haven’t you been listening to me?”

“I heard you,” Jason said, resenting the hell out of Alex being there.  And how could he say he didn’t care?  He did.  He just wasn’t up to showing it lately. 

Lately. 

Jason turned and looked at the calendar hanging over the new foyer desk.  Six weeks.  It had been six weeks.  Clenching his jaw, he looked back into Alex’s face. 

“So…you’re here to…what?  Get me to open up?  Spill my guts?  Wallow in self-pity and remorse?  There’s no need.  Daniel…Jack…my friends…they’re not gone, Alex.  They’re just…lost.”

He started to turn away but Alex gently took his arm.  Jason looked down at his hand, then closed his eyes. 

“Let go.”

Reluctantly, Alex let go.  “I don’t want you to spill your guts, Jason, but I do want you to open up.  You’ve taken yourself away from us.  We’re hurting, too.  Not as much as you, granted, but it hurts us to see you close yourself off from your team, your friends.  From life.  It’s killing us.  Can’t you see that?”

“You done?”

Alex blinked in astonishment.  “You’re not listening to me, are you?”

With an angry sigh, Jason passed a hand over his face.  “I heard you.”

Now Alex was becoming angry.  He knew Jason could be stubborn but this was beyond that.  If he had to risk getting hit, then so be it.  “Talk to me, dammit!” he said in a soft, but demanding voice.  His fingers were around Jason’s bicep once more and this time, Jason pulled himself roughly out of his grasp. 

“How fucking dare you tell me how to…feel.” He was going to say ‘grieve’ but it implied death and he couldn’t go there.  He just couldn’t. 

“I dare because you’re my friend and I care.”

“I’m fine, Alex.  Damn it, can’t you just let me be?”

“No!” Alex said with exasperation, his voice now rising.  “It’s like the life has just been sucked out of you!”

“Yes!  It has!” Jason finally yelled back.  “What do you want me to do?  Pretend nothing happened?”

“NO!  But treating everyone around you like shit isn’t going to help you get through this!”

Jason swallowed, then shook his head.  “Why can’t you just let me deal with this in my own way?”

“I have been.  But enough is enough.  We need you.  I need you.  You’re not there anymore, Jason.  We may as well have lost you along with SG-1.” When Jason’s eyes flashed, Alex held up his hand.  “Please.  Don’t shut me out.  Don’t tell me to go.  I need you to talk to me.  Tell me what’s been going on.  You told me and others over and over that talking relieves stress.  I want you to take your own advice.”

“I can’t.”

“Why?”

“BECAUSE!” The word was loud and in Alex’s face.  Jason was pissed off now.  He didn’t like to be pushed and if Alex didn’t leave, he’d push back.  Hard. 

Alex read him correctly, too.  “You want to hit me for interfering?  For caring?  For wanting my friend and team leader back whole?  Fine,” and he quickly pulled off his sneakers and threw them next to the sofa.  He then shoved Jason in the shoulder, goading as he had said he would.  “Hit me.”

Jason’s eyes narrowed dangerously.  “Have you lost your mind?”

“Probably.  I know you’ve lost yours.  Come on, Jason.  If you won’t talk to me, then hit me.” He shoved him again.  Jason let him, not responding.  Puzzled, but determined, Alex did it again.  Harder.  The shove sent Jason back a step.  Alex advanced.  “Come on, Jason.” He shoved again, putting more weight behind it. 

Jason stumbled backward two steps that time.  “Don’t, Alex,” he warned through gritted teeth.  “Don’t.  You’ll regret it.”

“You won’t hurt me.” Another shove. 

“Stop it.”

Alex paused.  “Not until you fucking talk to me.”

“I can’t.  You won’t, can’t, understand.”

“I’ve lost people I loved, Jason, so don’t you dare tell me I don’t understand grief.”

“This is different,” he said, still gritting his teeth.  “And since when is this grief?  No one has…”

“Died?  No, we don’t know that for sure.  But it’s still grief, Jason, and grief is grief.  Or so you’ve always told me.  Were you wrong?”

Jason didn’t answer.  He couldn’t.  He felt trapped.  Trapped by Alex’s confrontation and by the contradictions he threw back into his face.  “I need another drink,” he said, going for the coffee table. 

“No, you’ve had enough,” Alex said, grabbing his arm much harder now and pulling Jason back toward him. 

That did it.  Instead of hitting Alex, however, he kicked out, taking his legs out from under him.  Alex landed on his backside, slightly winded, and stared at Jason as he got back to his feet. 

“Feel better?”

“No,” Jason replied and did it again. 

When Alex got to his feet again and Jason went to put him down once more, Alex blocked the move – just as Jason had taught him. 

Jason stood there, impressed, and though proud of Alex for blocking him, he didn’t show it.  Alex noticed it, however, even if Jason did not.  He reached out and shoved Jason again, and found himself, as expected, on his ass once more.  He wasn’t going to let that happen again.  Jason was responding to him, and now it was time to make him work.  When Alex got up, he moved to the center of the thickly-carpeted foyer, then beckoned. 

“Come on, Jason.  Next time, you go down with me.”

Jason hesitated, but the sudden desire to put Alex down came over him.  He stepped forward, then took the slightly sideways stance for martial arts.  “Fine.  Let’s see you try.”

Through blocks and hits, Alex proved to Jason how much he’d been paying attention during all those classes in the gym.  Jason also found himself not thinking of anything but the impromptu match.  Until Alex upped the ante and used a move on him he hadn’t suspected that Alex knew and Jason found himself on his ass.  He stared up at Alex from the floor, a bit irritated at being embarrassed. 

“Where’d you learn that move?” he asked, though he had an idea. 

“Teal’c,” Alex said matter-of-factly. 

Jason swallowed and closed his eyes for a moment.  He missed the big man greatly, as he missed Sam.  When he opened his eyes again, he found Alex holding his hand out to help him up.  He didn’t take it.  Not yet. 

“Are you thawing out yet?” Alex asked suddenly. 

Jason frowned.  “Thawing out?”

“I hate to repeat myself here but what the fuck.  You’ve been as cold as ice, Jason, ol’ pal, and that’s one of the reasons I’m here.”

Jason’s frown increased.  Just because he wasn’t laughing or joking, that didn’t mean that he was cut off, did it?  All he’d been doing was trying to protect himself from the hurt.  Was that so bad?  The more he thought about it, and the more he truly looked at his friend hovering over him, waiting, the more Jason realized that maybe Alex was right.  He brought his hand up and clasped Alex’s. 

“Maybe.”

“Maybe what?”

“Maybe I’ve been trying to protect myself.”

When Alex pulled back, using his feet as leverage, and thus, making himself vulnerable, Jason pulled as he wrapped his legs around the back of Alex’s knees.  As the man came down, Jason’s free arm grabbed Alex about the waist and held him securely as he dropped his friend onto his back. 

His mouth open in shock, Alex realized he’d been pinned.  He looked up into the dark eyes staring down at him and could have sworn he saw a flicker of amusement in them, as well as a twitch at his friend’s lip.  He was reassured that his decision in starting a sparring match was correct, even if he was getting a bit bruised for it.  Jason was letting go…a little.  Taking another chance, Alex thought to see if he could tease. 

“I see a bit of amusement there,” he whispered as he reached up and touched Jason’s creased brow with his index finger. 

The very intimate and loving gesture shocked them both.  Jason remained perfectly still, then Alex moved his hand to Jason’s neck, letting his thumb caress his cheek. 

“You need this, you know,” Alex said softly, though his voice quavered slightly at the intense moment between himself and his friend.  “You need to let go.”

Jason felt his heart speed up even as he tried to slow down his breathing from the exertions.  “No, I just need–“

“Jason, don’t.  You need comfort.  Just like anyone else.”

Jason blinked, unsure what Alex was offering him.  “Is fighting your idea of comfort?” he asked warily. 

“Is it working?” he asked, reading Jason’s face.  “Even a little?  You don’t seem to be as angry.”

Jason shook his head.  “I’m still very angry, Alex.”

“Understandable, but please don’t take it out on the rest of us.  I’m only here to offer a shoulder.”

Jason’s brow raised up.  “Is that all?”

Alex gave him a soft smile.  “And a hug, Jason, if you’ll take it.  Nothing more…unless…unless it’s what you want.”

Jason wanted to ask, but he couldn’t make the words come out, so Alex did it for him, silently.  He pulled Jason into a hug, wrapping his arms around him.  Jason couldn’t move, couldn’t relax.  He let Alex hug him as they lay prone, but he couldn’t hug him back.  He was afraid to let go.  There was so much anger. 

“You’re shaking,” Alex said abruptly, worriedly. 

Jason realized it also and cleared his throat several times as he closed his eyes and concentrated.  He started to pull away and Alex saw the coldness begin to return to Jason’s eyes. 

“No, don’t withdraw, Jason.  Please.”

“I’m not.  I just can’t hug you back.”

Making a growling sound of frustration, Alex wound his arms and legs around Jason and promptly turned them over.  He started to say something sarcastic but caught the panicked look in Jason’s eyes. 

“What is it?”

“Let me go,” Jason warned, his voice shaking now.  “I’m deadly serious, Alex.” The fear from his nightmares was taking hold all of a sudden and he couldn’t get rid of the anxiety attack that threatened to engulf him. 

“What’s wrong?” Alex asked, worried as Jason began to breath rather harshly. 

Jason suddenly rolled them over, keeping them locked together.  He found he couldn’t let go, as if Alex were a lifeline.  Alex looked up at him, watching as Jason fought to control his breathing.  He scanned his face, watching the panic fade little by little, along with his own. 

“What happened?  You were scared to death.  Where’d you go?”

Jason realized that Alex had seen something of him that he hadn’t allowed anyone to see.  No one but Jack and Daniel ever saw the haunted or panicked look.  Unfortunately, those looks were now because of them.  He swallowed hard as he looked down into Alex’s face.  “Nightmares.  What you did…I was reminded of them.”

“Bad?”

“Bad enough.”

“Want to talk about them?”

“No.” Jason was aware of the man’s body now, aware of his heart hammering in his chest and the heat coming off of him.  He was aware of his scent – that slightly spicy fragrance Alex had in the soap and shaving moisturizer he used.  He also became aware that Alex’s fingers were on his back and in his hair, moving slightly, almost caressing.  The soft sensation made him swallow as he felt the stirrings of arousal.  The first real arousal he’d had since Jack and Daniel had disappeared.  He looked up and down his friend’s face, as if examining him for the first time.  Then Jason’s eyes widened in alarm as he felt Alex’s fingers pushing his head down toward his own.  Alex looked into his eyes, then lifted his head up, closing the distance. 

“Alex, no,” Jason said softly as their lips drew closer.  “No,” he said more loudly as he threaded his fingers through Alex’s hair, clamping down as he forced his head back.  He looked back and forth between his friend’s eyes and mouth.  He had a million things to say, but nothing came out but one word.  “No,” he said, his voice dropping to a whisper as he brushed his trembling lips over Alex’s.  “No.”

Alex opened his mouth and let his tongue coax Jason’s mouth open.  “Yes,” he breathed.  “Let me.”

With a brief gasp, of both relief and fear, Jason opened his mouth and gently kissed his 2IC.  Their tongues met, tasted, explored, and arms wound around the other, holding on tight.  Only the kiss became their movement.  Only the kiss. 

When they broke apart, Jason looked into Alex’s eyes and though he didn’t smile, his expression was a bit brighter, a bit more emotional. 

“There you are,” Alex said as he closed his eyes and hugged him even tighter.  “There you are.”

Jason felt a little bit of what Alex called thawing out, but his self-protection refused to give up entirely.  He felt grateful to his friend, if maybe a little annoyed, but the anger was no longer on the surface.  Jason pulled away and sat up, then stood and helped Alex to his feet. 

“You know you’re a pain in the ass?”

“I know,” Alex replied, grinning softly. 

Jason fidgeted for a moment, then Alex gently pulled him into a warm embrace.  Tentatively, Jason allowed himself to hug the man back. 

“Thanks,” he whispered against his shoulder. 

“You’re welcome.”

Jason didn’t let him go right away, but when he felt that lump form in his throat, he let Alex go and took a long, deep breath.  “You uh, wanna share this with me?” he offered, waving at the food, liquor, and TV. 

“Um…on one condition?” he asked with a guilty look. 

“What’s that?”

“We invite Cari over?  I’m supposed to…”

“Report back?” Jason asked.  Instead of getting irritated, Alex flashed a pleased smile.  Jason was teasing him. 

~

“Sir, may I speak with you?” Jason asked as he knocked on Hammond’s open door. 

Hammond nodded and gestured Jason to sit.  Jason sat down without closing the door. 

“What is it, Major?”

“Sir, I know that Doctor Fraiser and her staff have been the only ones to visit P5Y-890 since my team and SG-1 returned from there over 7 weeks ago.”

“That’s correct, Major.”

“And that her team’s last visit was 6 weeks ago.”

“That’s also correct, Major.”

“Well, sir, the Residents might be concerned that we’ve forgotten about them.  Were we going to offer them help and an alliance?  I think that what they have to offer would be worth it.”

Hammond regarded him for a moment.  “You’re concerned about them, aren’t you, son?”

“Yes, sir, I am.  I also want to know if Adriann and the others have learned about SG-1’s…MIA status.”

Hammond frowned in confusion.  “Not that I am aware of.  Since they had only been officially missing for four days when Doctor Fraiser’s team last visited, they may not have picked up on the worry.  If they’re as telepathic as you say they are.”

“They are, sir.  I guess my point is, I would like to go speak with them.  Let them know what is going on.  They may be able to help SG-1.”

“Are you sure they can help?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“There’s still a lot we don’t know about them, Major.”

“Yes, sir, I know that, but they also have excellent resources…or rather, they did.  A long time ago, they used to travel and maybe that information is still available, whether in their memories or in written records not destroyed.  We won’t know until we ask, sir.”

“Why didn’t you think of this before, Major?”

Jason took a deep breath.  “Sir, until a week ago, I wasn’t thinking all that straight.”

Jason’s words only confirmed what Hammond already knew.  “I was aware of that, Major.”

Jason blinked, then swallowed, embarrassed.  “For what it’s worth, sir, I apologize.”

“Don’t apologize, son.  I know exactly how you feel.”

“Yes, sir.”

“So, when did you come up with this idea?” Hammond asked, smoothly moving on.  What was said, was said.  There was no need for anything else. 

“Having them help didn’t even occur to me until today.  I was actually thinking of going there to check up on them, to see how they were doing.  Then it occurred to me that they may indeed be able to help.  Although, I have no basis for that reasoning.  Maybe I’m just grasping at straws.”

“You’re not the only one grasping at straws, Major.  Doctor Fraiser is still studying their blood chemistry, trying to determine a way to help them so we are still planning on doing that.  As for an alliance, we need to know more about them.”

“Surely the plants are a start?”

“Yes, they are, Major.” Hammond then nodded.  “Very well.  I’ll let your team go and talk to them.  See what you can find out.”

“Sir, I’d like to leave one of our radios with the Residents before we come home.  If they find out anything, they can dial up and let us know through remote.”

Hammond considered it for a moment, then nodded.  “Very well, Major.  Your next mission is three days from now.  We’re still analyzing data from the MALP and UAV.  I can clear you to go on this impromptu mission later on tonight, if you’re ready to go now.”

Jason winced. 

“What is it, Major?”

“I’m sorry, sir, it’s nothing.”

“Out with it, Major,” Hammond ordered, becoming annoyed. 

“I sent Al and Connor home earlier, before I’d thought of going to visit the Residents.  We can go after our next mission, if that’s okay with you, sir.”

“Is there something wrong?”

“No, sir.  It’s just that because of SG-1, everyone is trying to spend as much time as they can with their families.  I can appreciate that.”

“If you wouldn’t mind leaving them at home, I can send you and Captain Wagner on your own.  If you think it would be safe to go with just the two of you.”

Jason nodded, slightly relieved.  He really was not up to arguing with his teammates.  “If there’s one available, sir, I’d like to send a MALP through to make sure there are no storms in the area, then Captain Wagner and I can gate through.  The information gathering mission shouldn’t take longer than a few hours.”

“Take your time with it, Major and find out as much as you can.  If you leave before midnight, you’ll get there before their noontime.  Just be prepared to get little sleep when you get back because we do have briefings for your mission tomorrow.  However, I’ll reschedule them for 1300.  You’ll depart, if all things are a go, at 2300 hours.”

“Yes, sir.  Thank you, sir.”

~

Alex walked into Jason’s office and started to speak when Jason held his hand up to indicate he was about to speak into the phone. 

“Hey, Al, it’s me…no, I’m not recalling you, so chill…No, I just wanted to let you know that I got this idea about asking the Residents for help…No, Al.  I’m taking Alex with me…I’ve already told Connor.  We’ll be back in the morning…Yes…No…Yes.  God, was your mother like this?…Ah huh…Okay…Okay.  Goodnight, Al.”

“Was he doing his Jewish mother routine again?” Alex asked. 

“Yes,” Jason said, sighing.  “I wish he’d quit it.  I’m in no mood.”

Alex paused.  “What’s up?  What’s with that thing about Residents?  Is that why you asked me to stay on base?”

“Hammond’s okayed a two-man mission back to the planet at 2300 hours, and as it’s,” he said, looking at his watch, “2234, then we need to go get geared up.”

“Crap.  Cari’s gonna love you.”

“You had a date?”

“Had.”

“Sorry.  You want to back out?”

Alex waved his hand dismissively.  “So, you said something about asking the Residents for help?”

“They might know something, like maybe a planet they’d visited or something.  It’s a long shot, granted.”

Alex studied Jason closely, watching the man fidget with a paperclip.  “It’s the fact that they don’t know about SG-1, isn’t it?”

Jason sighed heavily.  “I don’t want them finding out from anyone else, so yes.  But I also wanted to check up on them and let them know that we haven’t forgotten about them.”

When they stepped through the gate, Jason and Alex found Adriann walking toward them. 

“I thought you had forgotten us,” he called out.  He was perhaps twenty feet away from them when he halted mid-step.  He looked intently into Jason’s face as he started toward them again. 

“Something is wrong.” A split second later, his became a mask of shock.  “No.  They are not gone…are they?  Tell me they are not dead.”

Jason wouldn’t nod or shake his head.  He simply stared at the man as the grief showed through his eyes.  “No.  We have no proof.  They have disappeared.  I wanted to know if you’d ever heard of Ancient’s technology or seen the world that SG-1 last visited.  I brought pictures, just in case.”

Adriann’s face grimaced with grief.  “I am sorry.  None of us have ever been off our world.”

Jason’s heart sank.  “Any records?” he asked pessimistically. 

Adriann shook his head.  “I am so sorry.”

Jason felt his legs wobble slightly.  He grabbed at the MALP and sat on one of its wheel coverings.  Adriann surprised Alex when he moved to Jason and tried to comfort him, running his long fingers through his hair. 

“I do not wish to add to your grief.  If you ever need our help in any other way, such as mounting a rescue, we will gladly offer it.”

Jason gave him a sad smile.  “I only wish we had the opportunity to mount a rescue.  We have no idea what to do, where to go.  We just keep sending out messages, asking people to keep their eyes and ears open, in case some little piece of information should come their way.”

“The Asgard race are unable to help?”

Alex shook his head, not bothering to hide his disgust.  “They are a little busy right now, anyway.”

Jason didn’t know what to do now but go back home.  “Well, Alex, looks like you’ll be able to make your date with Cari.  May as well head on back home.” His sad eyes met Adriann’s.  “We haven’t forgotten you, Adriann.  Janet and her staff are still working on the information they have.  Along with that, General Hammond should be presenting a proposal for an alliance with you, but I cannot say when that will be.  In the meantime,” and he handed Adriann his radio, along with a piece of paper with the Earth address on it.  “Should you need our help, or find out any information, dial the DHD, using this address.  Turn this button here, and you will be able to speak to the SGC.  Also, remember that your time is twelve hours separated.  Right now, it is late night at the SGC, so if you call, it will have to be just past dawn in order to talk to our commander.”

Adriann took the radio gratefully, but his expression mirrored Jason’s.  “I am so very sorry.  I will triple my efforts to reconstructing our histories.  Perhaps there is something there that I have yet to discover.”

“Keep the pictures and the information.  It may help…” Jason then shrugged and walked to the DHD. 

“You cannot stay for a little while?” Adriann asked as Jason started dialing. 

Jason shook his head.  “I wish we could but we have to get some sleep and prepare for other missions.”

“Perhaps another time soon then?”

Jason nodded as he pushed the activation dome.  “Perhaps.” After the MALP was sent through, he looked back at Adriann and caught the man’s thoughts. 

“You are hurting in your sleep.  It is in your eyes.”

“They’re called nightmares, Adriann.  I cannot get away from them.”

“I can help you with them. 

“There is no need.  They will pass.”

“I wish I could comfort you,” Adriann said as his hand caressed Jason’s face. 

“I wish you could, too,” Jason replied, returning the gesture just before he and Alex stepped through the gate. 

~

A week after Jason and Alex returned from their visit with the Residents, Alex and his teammates started to notice that things were wrong with their commander once again.  It wasn’t his behavior toward them.  That had almost returned to normal.  What he had started doing was to begin taking unnecessary risks.  They weren’t overt, not at first, but the risks endangered his life – for the most part. 

The first mission that brought this to their attention was one where they ran into a contingent of Jaffa.  Outnumbered, Jason had ordered Connor to dial home and then ordered the others to go through.  Jason usually gave those orders, but he was normally right on their six when he gave them.  That time, he was furthest away from the gate and could clearly have been blocked from leaving had his teammates not sent out cover fire.  If they had followed his orders, Jason would not have made it. 

Upon returning, Jason said nothing to them about ignoring his orders.  He’d simply reported to the General, then to the infirmary along with his teammates.  Alex, Al, and Connor had let it go. 

Then three days later, a similar situation.  Four days after that, there had been yet another situation, but one where Jason had taken it upon himself to announce his presence to a small squad of Jaffa.  He hadn’t needed to do that, in Alex’s opinion.  They could have slipped quietly back to the gate and gone home to report.  Instead, his commander had started a fight where there was no need.  As a result, Connor had received a glancing staff blast across the shin.  He would be on medical stand-by for two weeks. 

It was time for Jason to be confronted about this.  Behind closed doors. 

“Major, we need to speak with you,” Alex said as he walked into his team leader’s office.  Following him were Connor, on crutches, and Al. 

Jason looked up from his mission report draft and frowned.  “Sure, have a seat.  What’s wrong?” He frowned further as Alex closed the door, then stood with his teammates, not taking the invitation to sit.  This told Jason that whatever it was, it was serious.  His three teammates exchanged glances, seemingly unsure who would start.  Inevitably, the decision was left to Alex. 

“Sir…Jason…there’s a problem we need to bring to your attention and it has to do with our last three missions.”

To say that Jason looked clueless was an understatement, and his teammates had a feeling that this was the case.  Jason’s actions weren’t conscious. 

“Sir,” Al started.  “You’ve been taking risks.”

“We all take risks, Al,” Jason said irritably, wishing they’d get to the point.  “Spit it out.”

They did.  Each cited Jason’s actions and orders, then told him what would have been the logical outcome had Jason not made the decisions he had.  When they were through, they could see that their commander was angry.  He was silent as he folded his arms and sat on the edge of his desk, his head down, thinking. 

Alex, Al, and Connor uncomfortably waited while their commander silently mulled over the information. 

Jason stared at a spot in the carpeting of his office while he thought through what they’d just told him.  He was angry, but more than that, he was afraid.  He hadn’t realized that he was putting them at risk and that was bad.  He also had no idea how to correct this since he had no idea how it was happening.  This made it worse.  But Jason knew the reason for his actions, even if they were subconscious; the nightmares, and the lack of progress in gaining information on SG-1’s whereabouts.  Both were taking their toll on him and Jason finally had to admit it. 

He closed his eyes.  “Truth, gentlemen.  Do any of you think I’m suicidal?” If so, there was only one thing for him to do. 

He looked up into their faces and didn’t need their reply.  Their hesitation and downright sympathetic worry was all he needed for confirmation; he was suicidal.  That thinking had cost Connor an injury, and it could very well have been his life.  The grief and shame welled up but Jason bit them back, just as he had been doing for the last ten weeks. 

“I’m very sorry, guys.  Especially to you, Connor.” He stood up and walked over to them.  He held out his hand to Connor, who took it.  He shook the man’s hand, then pulled him into a brief hug.  Jason then did the same thing to Al, then Alex.  The emotion was bright, wet, behind his eyes as he looked over his teammates.  He finally stepped back, then turned away and went for the door.  Before he left them in his office, he turned to take one last look at his team before making the hardest decision in his life.  “It has been an honor serving with you gentlemen.  An honor.” He held up his hand to forestall the objections he saw coming.  Without another word, Jason left for the General’s office. 

“Sir…”

“Major Coburn?”

Jason closed the door to General Hammond’s office, then stood before his desk with his hands behind his back, his attention focused on a point over Hammond’s head. 

“Sir, I wish to tender my resignation.”

Hammond stared at him, astonished.  “Have a seat, Major,” he said, gesturing.  Jason reluctantly sat.  “What’s brought this on?”

Swallowing hard, Jason went on to tell him what had just occurred in his office.  Hammond listened attentively, a slowly growing frown appearing as he did. 

“I’m a danger to my team, sir.  I have no choice but to step down as their leader, and I cannot guarantee that my behavior, while subconscious, won’t put anyone else at risk, even on base.  I therefore have no choice but to inform you about my intended resignation.”

Hammond sighed as he folded his hands.  “Major…Jason…you’re a psychology major.  You do know why this is happening, don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.  Grief, frustration, and…”

“And?”

“Ramifications from nightmares, sir.”

Hammond frowned further and stared at Jason, studying his face.  He saw exactly what Adriann saw.  Exhaustion and stress from uneasy sleep, caused by grief and guilt.  With another sigh, Hammond picked up his phone. 

“This is General Hammond.  Doctor Fraiser, please.” Jason frowned in confusion.  “Doctor, I’m sending Major Coburn down for a full medical checkup.  I then want you to put him on medical leave…we’ll talk about what to put in the report in a little while.”

He hung up and gave Jason a look that said not to interrupt.  “Major, you’re an excellent officer.  You’ve performed your duties with distinction and I cannot accept your resignation without attempting to find another solution first.  I therefore suggest that you go on medical leave.”

“Sir, I don’t wish to mar my record.  It is better that I leave.”

“You will leave only when your duties have been fulfilled.  I for one can say that you’re not through here yet.  Don’t you agree?”

Jason wanted to argue with him, but didn’t have the heart to contradict the best C.O.  he’d ever served with.  “Yes, sir.”

“Doctor Fraiser and I will think up a reason for your medical leave so that it doesn’t reflect badly on your service.”

“Sir, that is not necessary.”

“I know that, son, but leave that decision up to me.  For now, you need to report to Fraiser, then go home.  We’ll continue this discussion tomorrow after she and I have talked.”

Jason stood up slowly, suddenly thinking of his grandfather.  “I’d like to visit my grandfather, sir, if that would be an acceptable place to take my leave.”

“I understand that you haven’t had time to take care of Doctor Jackson’s or Colonel O’Neill’s property.  You’ll need to do that before you settle your own affairs.”

“I’ll take care of it, sir.”

Janet stared hard at Jason as she sat down behind her desk.  She waved a test paper at him.  “I don’t need this to tell me that you’re depressed, but what on Earth were you thinking?”

Jason shook his head.  “I have no idea.  I didn’t know I was risking everyone’s lives.”

Janet swallowed, set the paper down and rubbed at her eyes.  “I wish you weren’t leaving.”

“I wish I didn’t have to.”

They were quiet for a moment, but when Jason read the stress and grief in Janet’s face, he got up and went to her.  He pulled her up from her chair into a warm embrace, hugging her firmly, while he slightly rocked them back and forth. 

“You can always come visit me.”

She stilled their motions, but didn’t pull her face from his chest.  “I’ll have to, just to keep the medical records straight.”

He grinned and looked down at her.  “Remember, Janet.  They’re not dead.  They’re only missing.”

“Jason, after all this time…”

“No, Janet.  You have to remember that they’re not dead.”

She finally nodded, letting him give her hope. 

After moving his belongings into storage and paying for a year’s lease, Jason made advance payments to the power company for Jack and Daniel’s homes.  He covered everything in sheets, parked the bike in Daniel’s garage, then locked up and returned to the base in his truck.  He met up with Cari in his office and handed her the large envelope packets in his hand. 

“I’ve already called Lyse.”

“What did you tell her?”

“Just that I’m going on medical leave for a while.”

“Did you tell her why?”

“No.  I don’t want her worrying me because of Daniel…or Jack, Sam, and Teal’c.  I just…lied.  I told her that I had to have back surgery but that it was minor and that I’ll be fine.  She argued with me for a while, but I managed to convince her that I’ll be okay.”

Cari pressed her lips together, showing her disapproval for Jason’s leaving. 

“Cari, don’t start.  I have to go.  I can’t be here.  Not the way I am.”

“What about Alex and Al and Connor?”

Jason looked away as he shook his head.  “They’ll be fine.  I’ve already suggested that Alex take lead of SG-2, and Captain Matthews from SG-6 be brought over to take the spot as 2IC.  Hopefully, the General won’t replace Alex with some other idiot.”

Cari smacked him in the back, then pulled him around into her arms and hugged him hard.  “You’re not an idiot,” she said, her eyes tearing up.  She pulled back and glared at him.  “But you’re an asshole,” she sniffed, wiping her face with the back of her hand.  “Making me cry.”

He touched her face, then leaned in and kissed her cheek.  “Thanks for taking care of this stuff for me.”

“Only because you’re coming back home, Jason, even if I have to drag you back here myself.” She tugged on the collar of his BDUs.  “Won’t have much use for these for a while.”

Jason shrugged.  “No.  Not for a while.” He picked up his rucksack, slung it over his left shoulder, then hefted the two duffle bags.  “It’s time to go.”

Jason walked into the gateroom and was stunned.  It was filled.  His team (former team, he corrected himself) was standing next to General Hammond and Doctor Fraiser, and Captain Matthews was with them.  Other SG teams were there, along with a host of security.  Cari took one of Jason’s duffles and walked forward, setting it down on the end of the ramp.  She then took up a spot next to Alex.  Jason walked in slowly, nodded in recognition to everyone.  He paused as he saw Aaron – Major Pierce, standing near the back, with his own team.  He gave the man a soft smile and one of Jack’s two-fingered salutes, then moved over to the ramp to set his other duffle bag down. 

He turned and shook the General’s hand, then gave him a sharp salute. 

“Doctor Fraiser and myself expect periodic reports, Major.”

Jason grinned.  “Yes, sir.”

“Say hello to our Special Liaison will you?”

“Yes, sir.”

Jason looked at his teammates, then gave them another sharp salute, including Matthews.  “Don’t give your new boss a hard time, Matthews.”

“I won’t, sir.”

“And the rest of you, behave.”

They couldn’t talk.  They only nodded.  Alex fixed Jason with an emotional look, then gave him a half-salute.  “Take care of yourself, sir, and come back to us soon.”

“Will do, Captain.”

Jason picked up his bags, gave everyone a final nod before walking up the ramp and through the gate. 

Before Jason had a chance to step away from the platform, he saw his grandfather approaching.  Without needing an explanation, Lin took one look into Jason’s eyes and knew what was wrong.  He gave him a strong hug and a thump on the back before taking one of the bags. 

“Grandfather, that’s too heavy.”

Lin fixed Jason with a piercing look so Jason let the protectiveness go. 

“How long are you here for?” Lin asked as he led Jason toward the hollowed out entrance of the interior Diné dwellings. 

“I don’t know, Grandfather.  I’ll certainly be here long enough to make myself useful so whatever…” His words faded as Lin turned and sent him such a mysterious look that it sent shivers down Jason’s spine.  “What?”

“You will not be doing any work until you have freed yourself of the demons that plague your sleep.”

“What?” Jason asked, shocked.  “Have you received visions about me, even here?”

Lin nodded, then moved left as he entered the great hall.  He went down two corridors, then entered a large room.  It wasn’t the same room that Lin had when he’d come to live there.  “Here,” he said and dropped the duffle into a corner.  “You may share my room for the time being.  But you will also be using the hogan outside for the dreaming.”

Jason groaned.  “I don’t have to do that, do I?”

Lin snorted with laughter, suddenly reminded of a very young boy.  “Yes, Kit, you have to.  They are the reason that you are here.  Nothing else.  You have grieved before and you will grieve again, but for some reason, the bad spirits have decided that you are to be their chosen victim and we must take you through the journeys in order to free you of them.”

Jason groaned again.  He knew what this entailed and it wasn’t going to be pretty.  He had kept the nightmares at bay the last few days simply by getting so drunk before bedtime that he’d passed out. 

He set his duffle bag next to the other and took a look around him, taking in the room’s furnishings: the wall hangings; the decorative pillows and weavings; and the low-set bed at the opposite end of the room.  Lin stood patiently, watching him, then gave his grandson a tiny smile before he headed to the door. 

“I’ll leave you alone to get yourself settled, then I’ll send someone to get you for the dreaming.”

Jason blinked.  “Don’t tell me this is a fasting ritual, grandfather.  I’m starving.”

Lin snorted.  “By the look of you, you are hardly that.” With another snort, he left.  Jason looked down at himself, wondering if he’d gotten fat and didn’t notice. 

“I’m not fat,” he mumbled.  He took another look around then stared at the woven mat under the duffle bags.  “And I suppose this is my bed.” He harrumphed.  “Beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.” He sat down on a nearby stool, then grabbed the rucksack, flipped open the top flap, and unzipped an inside pocket.  Within sat a framed picture of himself, Daniel, and Jack.  Sam had taken it several months back as they’d had a barbecue at Jack’s.  Jason had been the only one not looking at the camera.  His lovers’ eyes stared back at him and he traced their images with his fingers.  “I miss you,” he whispered.  He set the picture down and leaned over, resting his elbows on his knees and ran his fingers through his hair. 

He must’ve been in that position for a while because someone cleared their throat, startling him.  Jason looked up and gave the tall man a sad smile. 

“Asatay.”

“Kit,” the man said as he moved over and hunched down, taking a long look into Jason’s eyes.  He brought his hand up rubbed his thumbpad over the wrinkles between Jason’s eyes.  “You do not look well.”

“No, I suppose not.”

Asatay stood up then and held out his hand.  “Come.  We will make you well.”

Jason sighed as he took the man’s hand.  He wanted to tell Asatay that anything short of having SG-1 home and safe would be a waste of time, but he didn’t.  Instead, he only followed him back outside.  He was led to an empty hogan and Asatay handed Jason a piece of off-white clothing: pants.  Jason looked at them, then at Asatay.  

“Just these?”

“Just those.  No ritual paint, but you will wear this.” He showed Jason a necklace, one decorated completely with long ivory colored claws.  From the center of the necklace, hung a flat, large, white stone, its texture and tiny dark veins reminding Jason of turquoise. 

Jason fingered one of the claws.  “This is some animal.  It lives near here?”

Asatay shook his head.  “I will tell you more about it later.  If you are lucky, it will reveal itself to you during the dreaming, but I suspect your own spirit guide will be there instead.”

Jason swallowed.  The thought of dreaming sent chills of fear down his spine.  “I don’t suppose we could have something to drink?”

Asatay grinned and handed him a gourd filled with water.  “No alcohol,” he said. 

Jason sighed and then took a drink from the gourd’s wide mouth.  “Are we the only ones to perform the ritual?”

Asatay nodded grimly.  “Lin has said that this duty is only for the shaman.”

“Oh.  Lucky you,” Jason said sarcastically.  He quickly undressed, then slid on the thin, white pants.  Their texture and feel reminded him of Egyptian cotton, but the weave was much denser.  Asatay then stepped over and slipped the necklace over Jason’s head, making sure the stone rested between his pectorals. 

“Now what?”

“Sit here,” Asatay motioned.  Jason sat at the back of the hogan, a few feet from the central fire pit that gave off warmth from its deep bank of coals.  He watched Asatay drop incense and herbs onto the coals, and as each one burned, they popped and caught fire before dying out to give off slightly sweet or acrid smoke.  Jason started to feel the effects as he felt his head swim slightly.  “Stare into the fire,” Asatay told him. 

“There is no fire,” Jason said, frowning, just before Asatay poured a red liquid over the coals.  It brought the fire pit to life, bringing up red and blue flames. 

“Stare into the fire,” Asatay repeated.  Jason did as instructed then felt Asatay sit to his right and another gourd brought to his lips.  “It is not water,” he said.  Jason drank and nearly choked at the bitter taste.  “More,” Asatay told him, then forced Jason to take a huge mouthful.  Like swallowing down a mouthful of cough syrup, Jason shivered as he tried to wish away that nasty taste in his mouth. 

“God, that’s nasty shit!”

Asatay smiled and put away the gourd, then handed him the one that contained water.  “Not too much,” he advised.  “The ceremony will take a while.  Do you need to, as Lin would say, take a leak?”

Jason started to laugh, feeling slightly more relaxed.  In fact, he hadn’t realized he’d been so tightly wound and tense, but he realized it now as he started to stand and felt as if he could fly.  Then came the head rush of dizziness and he grabbed Asatay’s shoulder to steady himself.  The man waited, then walked him to a corner of the hogan and pointed to a small squat gourd.  “Here.  You cannot leave the hogan until the ceremony has ended.”

“Oh, damn, that means no dancing under the stars,” Jason said, his sarcasm showing again.  He gave Asatay an apologetic look before he relieved himself.  When they returned to their seats, Asatay told Jason to once more, stare into the fire.  He then heard the soft hiss of a rattle as Asatay began to chant. 

Jason tried to keep his eyes focused on the flames, but his eyelids were drooping and the brightness of the flame hurt his eyes.  He felt his eyes close and his head drop forward and then his conscious self was gone. 

He seemed to be drifting, surrounded by a dark, dense fog.  Then as his feet touched ground, all he was able to feel was something cold, like ice or frozen metal.  He began to pick up his feet as the cold became more and more uncomfortable, and as the temperature became unbearable, he tried to run from it.  It was then that he ran straight into the worst of his nightmares.  He was caught and stripped, then violated by two men who were now possessed by Goa’uld.  Before his eyes, the symbiotes left his lovers, leaving his lovers to see what damage they’d inflicted – but hadn’t inflicted.  Jason was forced to watch as each of his lovers was mutilated and left to die.  Their strangled, gurgled cries echoed through his ears as he tried to reach them.  And as before, Jason knew that when he finally did reach them, they’d turn to smoke…and the dream would start again. 

He stopped running, dropping to his knees.  “No, I can’t.  You’ll only disappear.”

“Coward!  Filthy, stinking coward,” Daniel shouted.  “I can’t believe I let myself love you.”

“You never loved me,” Jack growled as he coughed up blood. 

“I do love you.”

“You can’t love anyone!” Daniel spat, just before he coughed up a large amount of blood and died before his eyes. 

Jason ran toward him, toward Jack.  “I do love you, I haven’t forgotten.”

“You left us,” Jack accused just before he too died. 

“I didn’t, I didn’t.”

When he reached them and dropped on his knees again to grab hold, they did as they had done before; they turned to smoke and disappeared.  Jason dropped his head to the ground. 

“No, no, no, no.”

“Ah, look, Daniel.  It’s the coward.”

Jason froze as he heard the resonating voice.  He turned and saw Daniel and Jack standing behind him.  Their eyes flashed. 

“Nonononono,” Jason said as he scrambled backward.  They came toward him with vicious smiles.  “Daniel, Jack, fight it!  Don’t let them!”

They laughed at him and kept up their approach until the image of Daniel reached down and grabbed Jason’s left ankle.  He kicked out, but Jack grabbed the offending foot and twisted.  Pain lanced through him as Jason heard the unmistakable sound of bones breaking.  He screamed as the image of Jack twisted his ankle further, making him turn onto his stomach.  He clawed at the ground, trying to get away, but the twisted and breaking of his other ankle had him attempting to curl up into a ball. 

As they reached for his arms, Jason heard a new sound.  A sound which put the expression of fear into his attackers’ faces.  It was the sound of cawing.  A crow?  No, its call was deeper.  Jason looked to his right and in the distance, coming toward him, was a raven. 

This was different, new.  He’d never seen a bird, much less a raven, in his nightmares.  From what he remembered, the raven was a messenger, a magical animal. 

The raven flew down and came to a halt several feet away from him.  Its eyes seemed to be fixated on him and its call, angry, scolding.  It kept up its call, trying to tell him something. 

“What?” he yelled at the bird.  When he looked to his attackers, he found them afraid.  They dropped his legs and backed away.  For a moment, Jason didn’t want them to go.  They were the faces and bodies of those he loved.  He started to reach for them but the bird’s scolding stopped him.  “Would you please cease that damned bitching at me?” The bird abruptly stopped its scolding, then waddled over to him.  It made a curious warbling in its throat as it seemed to look him over.  “Well?” Jason asked.  He almost laughed as the bird appeared aloof and smug before it flew off.  “Huh.  Well…thanks,” he called out, then realized that he did owe the bird his thanks.  It had scared away his attackers. 

Jason’s surroundings slowly changed then and he soon found himself on his stomach, before the fire in the hogan.  He felt a warm hand between his shoulder blades and jumped. 

“It is only I, Kit.”

Jason let out a sigh of relief and dropped his head to the straw-matted floor.  He found himself curiously distracted by it as Asatay put his hands on his shoulders and guided him back into a sitting position. 

“You must drink,” Asatay told him. 

He was given a mild fruit juice, which calmed him somewhat but really, it only reminded Jason that he was hungry.  Shoving the thoughts away, he focused on the matter at hand. 

“How many times do I do this?”

Asatay let a smile show.  “How do you know there is more?”

“Because I don’t feel any different than when I came in here.”

“Then we shall continue until you do.”

“Swell,” Jason grumbled, then saddened as he was reminded of Jack.  Again the fire was reignited and the bitter liquid was brought to his lips. 

Once more, Jason entered his nightmare.  As the two Goa’uld fought him, getting ready to violate his body, Jason heard the cawing again.  As before, the raven flew down, scolding, interrupting his tormentors.  Reaching out a shaking hand, Jason touched the black feathers of the bird’s breast. 

“Thank you.” The bird made a curious chirp, then took off. 

Jason’s nightmares returned three more times.  With each successive turn, the bird showed up earlier and earlier.  When Jason entered his dreams the fourth time, there was only the bird.  He looked around him and the fog dissipated and revealed a beautiful serene lake, with its water an unusual blue.  The bird launched into the air, then called to him as it flew over the lake.  With another call, it dived into the water. 

“Wait!” Jason cried as he ran for the lake and dived into the water.  It’s coldness hit him immediately and the only thing that cold was… 

Jason opened his eyes.  “The stargate.” He looked at Asatay.  “It flew into the stargate…but it was a lake.” He frowned and stared into the fire.  “What was it?”

“The animal you saw in your dreams was your spirit guide.  From now on, whenever you meditate, it will appear.”

“Huh.  Cool.”

Jason rubbed at his eyes and slowly stood up.  “I need to walk, Asatay.  My legs are asleep.”

“The sun is now setting so the heat of the day is cooling.  Change back into your warrior clothes before you go out.”

“Do you think that I could get some new clothing?  I brought my own but…maybe I can trade?”

Asatay grinned.  “We will see what you have to offer tomorrow.  For now, take your walk, then come into the great hall.  Dinner is being served now.”

“Will I miss it if I’m out too long?”

“Yes.  But there is always something to eat.” Asatay gave him a long look.  “The fear in your eyes is now gone.  Now, we need to work on the sorrow.”

Jason shook his head as he stripped and dressed back into his BDUs.  “Not until Jack and Daniel, Sam and Teal’c come home will that ever go away.”

Asatay nodded and left the hogan. 

~

Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face
With stars to fill my dream.
I am a traveler of both time and space
To be where I have been.
To sit with elders of a gentle race,
This world has seldom seen,
With talk of days for which they sit and wait
When all will be revealed.

Kashmir, Led Zeppelin

~

For the next several weeks, Jason attempted to carve himself a place with the people of the Diné.  His easy use of their language was picked up once again and he found himself interested in every facet of their lives.  He traded his clothes and belongings for things that held more permanence – except for his framed photo.  That he would never relinquish.  He helped them build new lodges or hogans, and learned their methods of hunting and fishing.  It was at those times that Jason found himself feeling his grief the most.  The fishing would forever remind him of Jack.  He couldn’t help but feel alone, even amidst a group of people. 

When work was finished or there was nothing else to occupy his time, Jason went off by himself.  He took long walks and arduous climbs over and around the stone mesas beyond the boundaries of the village.  It hadn’t taken him long to find a favorite spot atop a large, squat, flat-topped mound of stone.  Its smooth surface stayed warm long after the sun set so he would lay on top and listen to the sounds of the night, wishing fervently that he could share such warmth with his lovers.  Jason became more and more aware of his loneliness at those times, and even though he allowed Asatay to comfort him, he could not, would not, accept more.  It felt too much like betrayal, and that feeling remained inside him like a beacon; Don’t forget us

The nightmares had ceased, but in their place came strange, realistic dreams; dreams where he was visited by Daniel or Jack, sometimes both.  Their visits always left Jason feeling euphoric; their touches, their kisses, their words of love and lust whispered in his ear.  Their simple conversations always began the visits and lovemaking always finished them.  But after the euphoria faded, along with the afterglow of orgasm, Jason would feel more alone than ever before and he found himself ambivalent in wanting to experience their return. 

Janet came by every few weeks like clockwork.  She’d visit with him for a while, tell him how Cassie was doing, fill him in on the exploits of SG-2, as well as letting him know that they were okay.  Her visits were a treasure but Jason found himself wanting them to end.  With the SGC’s ties to the planet, he knew he couldn’t cut himself off from them completely, but at least their connection was a half a mile away and on the other side of the stargate.  Their presence was a constant reminder to him of what he had lost and sacrificed and he had no idea how long it would take for the melancholy that gripped his heart to fade. 

There were times where Jason wished for death, and in death, peace.  In that, he wouldn’t hurt anymore.  But he always fought off those thoughts, arguing the more rational reason to stay alive; there were people who loved him and they would be saddened by his loss.  Even so, Jason didn’t think that his own loss was comparable to the loss of SG-1 and because of that counterpoint, the thoughts of suicide continued. 

~

Jason sat atop the warm mound of stone that became his sanctuary and watched the sun set – the sun that warmed his new home.  Four months had passed since he’d last seen his lovers, and Jason knew now that the only way he’d ever return to Earth again would be with Jack and Daniel beside him.  Unfortunately, all the rituals and wishes could never bring the dead back to life. 

 

Todral quickly returned to the battered teltac and handed Jacob Carter a slightly damaged data pad. 

“It has the address.  There is also information about the Tau’ri but I didn’t read it.”

Jacob sighed with relief as he read the information on the first screen.  He pressed a digital button and another screen came up.  He took a few minutes to read, then nodded and set the pad down.  “We go.”

“It could be a trap,” Todral added.  “I suggest caution.”

“As always, Todral,” he said flatly.  “Looks as though they thoroughly evacuated the secondary base here.  This must have been left behind on purpose.”

“That is likely,” Ja’lin joined in. 

“SG-1 may not be alive,” Todral told him. 

“I’m aware of that, but we have to find out,” Selmak said, then switched to Jacob.  “I have to find out.  Sam’s my daughter and Jack, Daniel, and Teal’c are my friends.  I’m not abandoning them until I know for sure.  Besides, they need our help and we need theirs.  We need them to get to the Alpha site because they know the coordinates and I don’t.”

“The Alpha site?” Todral asked.  “We cannot gate there anymore than we can the SGC.  We have no GDO and very likely, SG-1 has lost theirs.”

“Probably.  We’ll fly there directly, using the teltac.  Besides, with Sam’s help, hopefully, the four of us will get that damned thing up and running a lot quicker.” As the gate opened, he saw the doubtful faces and sighed.  “Look, it took us long enough to get to this secondary base after we escaped that fire fight and we’re not going anywhere fast.  We have a possible location for SG-1 and they’re our only hope of getting to the Alpha site and then the SGC.” He sprinted through the gate with his two fellow Tok’ra right behind. 

When Jacob exited the gate, he and his companions found themselves in a vast, dimly lit room.  The floors and walls seemed to be made of a semi-opaque substance which made Jacob think of frosted glass.  As they stealthily left the room through a door at the opposite end, Jacob also came to the conclusion that they were underground.  Deep underground.  The empty rooms they passed had no windows and the air smelled recycled.  In that way, it reminded him of the SGC.  With a hand motion, he silently ordered Ja’lin and Todral down the long corridor, with himself taking point. 

Through corridor after corridor, they searched, finding nothing but empty rooms.  As they rounded an L-corridor, Jacob saw a blue light emanating from the doorway at the end.  Cautiously, they made their way, picking up sounds that told them that someone or something was on the other side.  Listening further, the sounds seemed to fade, then start up again.  The closer they got, the more certain Jacob was that the sounds were metallic, but what kind and for what purpose he didn’t know…yet. 

Holding their breaths and preparing for a fight, they stepped through the doorway and found another large room, very clearly a laboratory.  The lighting from the ceiling gave an eerie glow, but it wasn’t where the blue light came from.  It came from four vertical stasis pods along the closest wall, all of them empty.  Their construction reminded Jacob of the Asgard, but these pods were clearly not for Asgard.  They were designed for larger, taller beings, very likely human. 

Jacob looked to his left and sucked in his breath.  Along the far wall was SG-1, housed in four stasis pods.  The noise Jacob and the others had heard before started up again and as he looked across the room in front of him, he saw the back of a short, black-robed figure, hunched over a table.  It’s covered head prevented Jacob from identifying its race, but its right arm was moving back and forth in a sawing motion.  It was then that Jacob saw part of the body lying on the table in front of the hunched figure.  The legs of the body wore the leggings specific to Tok’ra dress, and the legs were twitching violently.  Without further thought, he ran forward, firing his zat. 

The hunched figure crumpled to the floor, spasming from the jolts of blue electricity that crawled over it.  Jacob took a long look at its face and recognized it.  The alien looked human, except for its white eyes and hair and greyish complexion. 

When Jacob saw the bloody metal blade in its hand and the bleeding wounds from the abdomen of the Tok’ra, he became enraged.  He fired again, killing the alien torturer.  The room appeared to be empty and the torturer alone, so Todral and Ja’lin examined their comrade while Jacob ran to the stasis pods.  He recognized some of the controls and began to punch buttons. 

“Dallin is dead,” Ja’lin said solemnly as she came up behind Jacob as he examined the first pod containing Jack.  Jacob sighed and paused a moment before continuing.  The time for mourning would come later. 

“Let’s hope SG-1 isn’t.”

Ja’lin looked around the room and found four more empty stasis pods, one of them open, indicating that it was likely where Dallin had been kept.  “It looks as if Dallin and SG-1 were this creature’s last subjects.”

“Yeah, well, that goddamned Tra’dica scientist isn’t concerned with subjects anymore.  Help me with these, will you.” He punched a few more buttons, then waited as a hum grew.  The pod’s cover moved outward, then lifted straight up.  Jacob held his breath again as he reached over to touch Jack’s body.  He was warm.  Jack then surprised him as his eyes flew open and he grabbed out blindly, readying for a fight. 

“Jack!  It’s Jake!” Jacob yelled. 

Jack blinked in shock and immediately let go of Jacob’s collar.  Trying to get his bearings, he stumbled out of the machine.  Jacob caught him and leaned him against the frame. 

“You’re okay now, Jack.”

“Daniel?  Carter?  Teal’c?” Jack asked after his teammates.  He frowned, wondering what the hell was the matter with his voice.  All that came out was harsh air. 

“We’re getting them out now,” Jacob told him.  “Don’t try to talk.  I’ll explain things in a minute.”

When they opened the other three pods, Teal’c’s fight response kicked in and Ja’lin found the big man’s fingers around her own throat. 

“Teal’c!  Let go!” Jacob yelled again as he pried the man’s hand off Ja’lin.  Teal’c relaxed and looked around him in bewilderment as he stepped out of the machine. 

Sam and Daniel’s pods were opened next and Jacob and Ja’lin immediately called to them, telling them who they were.  Stumbling out of the machines themselves, Daniel and Sam looked around. 

“Sam,” Jacob said as he grabbed his daughter and hugged her, hard. 

“Dad,” she croaked, unable to speak.  “What’s wrong?” and she tapped at her throat. 

“My guess is that you haven’t used your voices in a while.  None of you can speak.  I’ll explain things later, but we have to get out of here, right now.”

“Jack?” Daniel gasped as Jack walked over to him.  He couldn’t help but grin when Jack made a funny, finger-waving gesture at his throat.  Daniel nodded with understanding. 

As they looked around them, they caught sight of the white-haired alien on the floor.  Jack and Teal’c moved over to his body, then Jack raised a brow at Jacob.  Jacob nodded. 

“That’s right, Jack.  Dead as a doornail.  But we didn’t get here fast enough,” and he pointed to the dead Tok’ra on the table.  Jack winced and sent back an apologetic look. 

Running footsteps were heard and as they braced themselves, Todral came running in from one of the corridors. 

“The other Tra’dica are coming!” he warned. 

“Come on, we have to go,” Jacob told them. 

Confused but compliant, SG-1 followed Jacob and the others out of the room.  They ran down the corridors and reached the gateroom, where Ja’lin started to dial immediately. 

Jack mimed the question, “Where?”

“A secondary Tok’ra base, Jack.  It’s abandoned, but we have supplies there.”

Sounds of running met their ears just as they sprinted through the gate.  As they reappeared through the other gate, Jacob ran to the DHD and removed three crystals from its control panel at the base.  The gate immediately shut down.  He then ran around to the base of the gate itself and removed three larger crystals from another control panel.  Sam tapped him on the shoulder, giving him a questioning look. 

“To keep anyone from following.  The SGC doesn’t know about this base so we won’t be cutting them off.  Only a few of us at the first base knew the coordinates for this one, and of those that were here at this base, only a few of them knew the location of a third base.”

Jack started to speak but Jacob held his hand up as he walked over.  “Don’t try to talk yet, Jack.  You could damage the vocal chords.  Wait until we get inside the teltac,” and he pointed. 

Jacob/Selmak had planned ahead, Jack thought proudly as he sat on one of the benches in the rear of the teltac.  There were enough food and weapons on board to keep them going for weeks, if necessary.  One of the supplies included a healing device which was used for a few seconds on each of them. 

Jack rubbed at his throat as Jacob finished with him last. 

“How you doin’, Jack?” Jacob asked with a fond grin. 

“I’m compost menthol.”

Sam snickered and Daniel rolled his eyes.  “Compos mentis.”

“I knew that, but since I also feel like the wet end of a cigarette, that fit.”

Sam and Daniel exchanged amused glances with Teal’c.  Sometimes Jack made the strangest sort of sense. 

“Here,” Ja’lin said as she walked over and handed a black bota bag to Jack.  “This will help with the dryness of your throats.”

Jack took a drink of the bland tasting liquid, then passed it on.  Teal’c declined when it came to his turn, but Jacob gave him a paternal look. 

“Teal’c, your symbiote could use it, too, so drink up.”

With an arched brow, Teal’c complied.  Jack couldn’t help but grin and he cast a side-long look at Daniel.  Daniel gave him one of his classic deadpans. 

“What?” Jack asked. 

“What?” Daniel asked back. 

They each knew that was coming and smiled.  Jack then looked up at Jacob as the man studied the central column of the teltac’s power supply. 

“So, Jake, how long have we been missing?  The guys back home must be worried by now.”

Jacob glanced over at Ja’lin and Todral as they examined a few of the crystals in a panel by the cargo door.  All of them had rather alarmed looks on their faces as they hadn’t realized that SG-1 had no clue about the passage of time. 

Jacob nodded solemnly.  “You could say that, Jack.  Truthfully, we have no idea what they think as we’ve been cut off from them as long as you have.  In fact, we only just arrived at this base three days ago.  Fortunately, they had information we could use.”

Jack frowned as he stood up.  From the way the Tok’ra were looking, he suddenly had a bad feeling.  “How long have we been missing?”

“What’s your watch say, Jack?”

“February 3rd.”

With a heavy sigh, Jacob said, “It’s May 6th, give or take, considering we’re not on Earth’s time rotation.”

Daniel’s mouth fell open.  “Oh my God.”

“Three months?  We’ve been missing for three fucking months?” Jack asked, shocked. 

None of them, including Teal’c, could wrap their minds around that just yet. 

“Jason,” Daniel whispered as he closed his eyes. 

Jack nodded slowly.  “I’d say it’s a fair bet that he thinks we’re dead.  The SGC has probably declared us MIA.  Great.  Like I need that status again.  No GDOs or radios.  This fucking sucks.” With a heavy sigh, he placed his hand over Daniel’s shoulder squeezed.  Daniel moved away, arms folded, and walked to the front of the ship.  Jack watched him, knowing exactly how he felt, but he needed answers from Jacob first. 

From what Jacob explained, the whole thing had been a set up by the Goa’uld, designed to get rid of the Tok’ra and the Tau’ri’s lead team.  By eliminating Selmak, they would effectively eliminate one of oldest Tok’ra as well.  The ruse of an advanced weapon was too big a lure for the Tok’ra and information had been leaked.  An alien scientist, who delighted in the experimentation of other races, was employed to kidnap SG-1 and any Tok’ra with them.  While the Tok’ra base was hit, SG-1 would be undergoing their own deaths. 

“So this whole thing has been a big waste of time?” Jack asked angrily.  “We were handed over to some intergalactic version of Dr.  Evil?”

Jacob snorted.  “Worse.  The race is called Tra’dica.  They like to play with their…victims.  They were planning on studying you, like lab specimens.  The closest thing to describe them is that they’re like Etymologists, only substitute sentient life forms for insects.  I’m just glad we got there when we did but we were still too late to save Dallin.”

“So who found out where we were?” Sam asked. 

“According to the data pad,” Jacob said as he handed it to her, “the information entered says it was one of the Jaffa put on the so-called hunt.” Jacob smiled at Teal’c.  “It seems he was on your side, Teal’c.  He leaked information back to the Tok’ra so they were able to evacuate at least half our people from the first base.”

Jack gave his teammate a slap on the shoulder.  “Seems your efforts are paying off, Teal’c.”

“It would seem so,” Teal’c said solemnly.  “Does it say what has happened to the Jaffa?”

Jacob shook his head.  “No, Teal’c.  I’m sorry.”

“Okay, so what’s the plan then?” Jack asked. 

“Well,” Jacob sighed.  “We get this bucket of bolts running, then fly to the Alpha site.”

Jack closed his eyes, knowing they didn’t have GDOs.  “How long will that take, Jake?”

Jacob winced.  “Considering where we’re located…and barring any difficulties, six weeks.  Give or take.”

Jack stared at him.  “Jake, we only have enough supplies to last us maybe three weeks.”

“Once Sam tells me where the Alpha site is, I can chart us a direct course there.  We can stop on habitable planets along the way and resupply what we need.”

“And weapons?” both Jack and Teal’c asked. 

“Only our zats, guys.  We haven’t taken the opportunity to properly survey the area yet.”

“Great,” Jack said as he became thoroughly disgusted.  “Any chance we’ll find any?”

“Most of the tunnels will have been collapsed.  There won’t be much to search over.  All we’d found so far was the data pad, and that was left on purpose.”

Jack turned round to Sam.  “Why don’t you see what you can do to help Ja’lin and Todral here.  Teal’c, Jake, and I will take a look around the complex, see if there is anything to salvage and take with us.  We’ll probably need to stock up on water.”

“Yes, sir.  And Daniel?” she asked, indicating their friend, who was still by himself at the front of the ship. 

Jack looked over at him as they walked out of the back room and opened the ship’s main door.  Daniel had their back to them and didn’t bother turning round as he stared out of the front windows. 

“We’ll leave Daniel to guard the ship while you guys are working.”

Sam smiled a bit.  “Yes, sir.” Daniel turned his head slightly, showing that he’d heard, but he still didn’t turn around. 

“Let’s go, Jake, Teal’c.”

“Good luck, sir.”

“Backatcha, Carter.”

Sam watched them go, then looked over at Daniel.  She sighed and folded her arms, then walked over to him, bumping his arm with hers. 

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

“Worried about him?”

Daniel knew she meant Jason.  He nodded.  “I can only imagine what he’s going through, thinking that we’re dead.” He turned to her, showing the pain behind his eyes for the first time.  “I don’t know what I’d do if I thought he was MIA, Sam.  I can’t help but worry about him.”

“We’ll get home, Daniel,” she said touching his arm. 

“I know.  But in the meantime, another month and a half will go by, maybe more.  Janet and Cassie are probably worried sick, as well as everyone else.  General Hammond must be out of his mind.  But Sam…none of that compares to what I know Jason’s going through.  He’s just lost his lovers.”

Sam closed her eyes.  She hadn’t even allowed herself to think about that and the thought of it made her as sad as Daniel.  The thought of losing Teal’c scared her.  She stood with him for a little while, staring out at the landscape, before finally joining the two Tok’ra to determine what they had to fix in order to get home. 

~

Daniel woke up sharply and looked around, then remembered where he was.  On the teltac, heading to the Alpha site.  He looked around the room he shared with his teammates, then realized that Jack wasn’t lying on his bed pad.  Rolling his eyes in disgust with himself, he remembered that Jack was at the controls of the ship.  Like a kid in a candy store, Jacob had said, and he’d been right.  Jack had become proprietary when it came to the ship, and the possessiveness that came along with that was starting to annoy Daniel. 

Actually, he really didn’t mind those traits of Jack’s.  He was rather fond of them, even if they were sometimes annoying.  What bothered him was his lack of contact with Jack.  They hadn’t dared risk even a kiss, not with Jacob and the other Tok’ra around.  Then there was the decorum factor of not ‘doing anything’ while on their bed pads, which Jack started to call peds for short, not with Teal’c and Sam in the room.  Daniel was also beginning to resent Sam and Teal’c’s freedom to openly show each other affection.  When they got home, it would have to stop of course, but here, in space, they touched each other on the back, stayed close.  They didn’t overtly hold hands within Jacob’s eagle eyes, but they’d had their brief little moments that Daniel was jealous of. 

They’d been in space for 8 weeks now, and had had to land on six planets in order to grab water, fresh fruit or vegetables and if they were lucky, some sort of animal meat.  The first two planets yielded water and vegetables; the third planet yielded only water, which forced them on to the fourth planet, which Sam took to calling Red Rainbow simply because it had red rainbows.  They lucked out on that planet for they’d found water, fruit and several birds resembling pheasants.  The fifth planet yielded only water and tiny root vegetables, and the sixth planet…well…they’d had to find one that was inhabited. 

Daniel really hated seeing them resort to stealing, but Sam had had to get menstrual provisions.  Her cycle was out of whack when they went into space anyway, and though she’d only menstruated once…that one time took her fifteen days and she needed cloth supplies.  Daniel hadn’t understood her at first until she’d explained it to him…and to Daniel’s amusement, she did it in front of Jack, Teal’c, and her father.  All three of whom were strangely squeamish about women’s cycles.  Daniel had learned in his field studies not to be.  What was the point?  It was a natural bodily function that shouldn’t be treated as if it were the plague or some dirty little secret.  Even so, at least Sam didn’t force them to do the intergalactic equivalent in sending the boys to the store to buy tampons.  She went and got the cloth supplies herself, though Daniel knew it was mainly because she didn’t trust them not to get her cloth that would scratch and itch. 

Fortunately, the sixth planet also produced a five-fingered harvest of dark blue fruit and a few more birds.  Although the food was great, Daniel had wanted to spend some of that foraging time alone with Jack.  Yet every time he turned around, there was Jacob, Ja’lin, or Todral.  It was getting on his nerves.  So much so that he was getting ready to form a back-up plan.  Aside from the fact that missing Jason was like nine kinds of hell, missing Jack was the tenth.  Jack may be with him in the flesh, but that’s all he was.  It was bad enough that Daniel had had to go without coffee for two months, but both he and Jack had had to go without each other.  And if Daniel knew Jack at all, he knew damn well that Jack was using the excuse of flying the ship as a way of taking his mind off of their…situation. 

He sheepishly remembered the snapping he’d done over the first weeks’ worth of mornings-without-coffee and told Jack he’d make it up to him when they got home. 

Daniel sighed and turned on his side.  Teal’c was sitting cross-legged, facing to his left, obviously in deep meditation.  But Sam wasn’t around.  Frowning, he started to wonder where she’d gone off to when she appeared in the doorway, then padded over and sat down cross-legged in front of him. 

“Hey,” she whispered. 

“Hey.”

“I brought you some of that blue fruit,” and she handed him an oval fruit that could have passed for a nectarine if not for its shape and color. 

“Thanks,” he said, then nibbled at it distractedly. 

“What’s the matter?” she asked. 

Daniel sat up and brought one knee to his chest where he rested his chin.  “Nothing.  I’m just…it’s nothing, Sam.  Are the others asleep?”

She nodded.  “Except for Dad and Jack.  Dad’s just getting up to relieve him.”

Daniel suddenly got an idea.  Not a great one, but it would tide him over.  And Jack.  “Okay.  I’ll see you later,” and he got up, then suddenly turned back.  “You don’t have to go to the bathroom or anything?”

She frowned.  “Um…no.  Why?”

“No reason except I may be a while,” and he disappeared down the short hall. 

Sam grinned to herself, wondering how long it would take Daniel and Jack to make use of that bathroom, small as it was.  She also had a feeling that the good Colonel was about to get ambushed.  She peeked around the corner, then saw Daniel grab Jack’s hand and lead him into the bathroom.  She bit at her thumbnail, smiling to herself.  She had half an idea to go stand guard but Teal’c startled her. 

“What are you doing?” he whispered. 

She turned and looked at him.  “Daniel’s finally taken Jack into the bathroom,” then she suddenly put her arms around Teal’c’s neck and pulled him away from the door. 

“Jack?  Could you come here please?” Daniel asked as he nearly ran into the man. 

“What?  Why?  I’m hittin’ the hay, Daniel.”

“Not yet.”

“Why?”

“Just come on, dammit,” and Daniel grabbed his hand and pulled him into the bathroom.  When the door shut to the small, confining room, Jack started to protest.  His protest died as Daniel pulled his shirt off and dropped his trousers.  Daniel never took his eyes off of him, either.  “Clothes, Jack,” he said as he pulled Jack’s shirt up over his head and dropped it next to his own on the floor. 

“Daniel, we can’t do anything.”

“Not that, no,” Daniel told him, then without arguing further, he locked his lips onto Jack’s and thrust his tongue into his mouth.  As he kissed him fiercely, Jack quickly got into the mood and demonstrated it by opening his own trousers.  He was hard before his pants dropped past his hips.  Through a breathy moan, Daniel pressed Jack back against the cold wall, rubbing his body against him, craving contact.  The biting cold had Jack turning the tables on him and Daniel found his ass was the one against the cold wall.  He didn’t care. 

Breaking apart, gasping, they fought to stifle the sounds they wanted to make as they wrapped their fingers around the other’s cock. 

“I want to fuck you so badly,” Jack whispered heatedly in Daniel’s ear.  Daniel’s response was to tighten his hold on one very firm upstroke.  Through strong, massaging strokes, and needy, burning kisses, they brought each other to a quick, powerful release.  Their hips jerked into the other as they rode out the spasms, clasping their free hands onto the other’s shoulder.  When the afterglow faded, they took their time cleaning up, kissing softly.  They were also reminded that someone was missing. 

When they laid down next to each other for sleep, Jack pulled Daniel to him as he turned on his side. 

“What about Jacob?” Daniel asked. 

“Fuck it.  As long as we don’t flaunt it in front of him, I’m not hiding anything while we’re supposedly alone in this flying tub.”

Daniel gave him a short kiss, then pulled his blanket up and went to sleep.  Jack watched him for a while, then closed his eyes and dreamed of their reunion with Jason. 

As Jacob passed the room assigned as SG-1’s quarters, he paused.  Not for the first time had he wished for there to be doors on the room, if only to give Sam privacy.  He found himself staring at her while she slept, with Teal’c in kel-no-reem next to her. 

They’re a couple, you know, Selmak told him. 

“They are not,” he argued. 

You have eyes, Jacob. 

“Yes, and I wish I didn’t.”

Don’t you want her to be happy?

“Stupid question, Sel.”

He looked across the room and froze.  Jack and Daniel were sleeping, but Daniel was spooned behind Jack, with one arm draped over Jack’s chest – and Jack was holding onto that arm.  They looked peaceful, happy. 

“When the fuck did that happen?  How the fuck did that happen?”

Jacob, there are times when you still surprise me. 

“Don’t start that sexual thing again.”

You’ve never noticed the way they look at each other?

“No.  I thought they were only best friends.”

They were.  This is only recent.  They were not like this last year. 

“You’d think I would have noticed.”

I think that maybe they did not want you to know. 

“Until now.”

Yes, until now.  Do not begrudge them, Jacob. 

“Don’t nag.  I have no intention of begrudging them.  Just give me time to…get used to it.” He watched them for a little while in silence, then, “A year ago?”

Perhaps.  Certainly after the asteroid business. 

Jacob frowned and looked at his watch.  It read July 3rd. 

Yes, Jake, Danny’s birthday is in five days. 

“I missed Sam’s in April,” he thought sadly. 

We will make it up to them when we get to the SGC. 

“I’d rather find them something beforehand.”

If it is possible.  But Sam likes cakes, so we should wait until we get home.  In the meantime, maybe a little private time on some planet would be nice. 

Jacob rolled his eyes.  “You’re a romantic.”

Yes. 

Ja’lin walked by just then and saw where Jacob was staring.  She smiled teasingly.  “Did you finally notice, Jacob?”

Jacob glowered at her.  “Don’t you start.  I’m getting enough from Selmak.”

Ja’lin shook her head in disgust as she walked back to the bridge to take her shift. 

~

Jack stuffed his hands in his pockets and kicked at a small stone.  He winced, scolding himself that he shouldn’t be kicking at rocks with bare feet.  

“Daniel…?”

“Jack?” Daniel asked as he looked up at him.  He grinned.  “What?”

“Why’d Jacob set us down on this planet?”

“You heard him, Jack.  He said we needed R and R.  Told us to kick off our boots, walk in the sand, a chance to relax…” and he waved at their surroundings. 

“Staring at palm trees, an ocean, yeah, yeah, I got that.  I get that.  It’s a nice place granted, but…why?”

“Jack, I think he wanted to give us some private time…along with Sam and Teal’c.” He looked up again to find that knotted brow of confusion.  He grinned again.  “I think that because we haven’t bothered to hide anymore, at least while we’re sleeping, that he’s figured things out.  Probably with a bit of a clue from Selmak.”

Jack’s brows went up in surprise for a fraction of a second, then back down into a frown.  “So…”

“So…that means that when he said they’d be busy for a few hours…” He reached out and grabbed Jack’s pant leg and tugged.  “That meant that we would be left alone for a few hours.” He pushed up to his knees and ran his hands up Jack’s legs, past the knees and up the inside of his thighs.  Jack gave him that you’re a very naughty boy look before he placed his hands over Daniel’s.  He looked down into the darkening blue eyes.  He wanted Daniel so badly. 

“Can’t very well disobey the orders of a General, now can we, Jack?” Daniel whispered as his hands slid upward to open Jack’s trousers. 

“No, I s’pose not,” he whispered as Daniel pulled his trousers and briefs down, exposing him to the warm air.  Jack stepped out of them, then slowly dropped to his knees upon the woolen blanket Daniel had thought to bring.  “I don’t suppose you have any lube?” he asked with a wicked grin as he pulled off his tee. 

“Not…traditional…lube, no,” Daniel replied as his own t-shirt joined Jack’s beside them. 

Jack’s eyes wrinkled with knowing amusement as Daniel stood up and opened his trousers.  Jack ran his hands over his lover’s thighs, pushing the trousers down his legs and off his feet.  He gave Daniel a mischievous, almost lecherous grin. 

“Jack?”

“Perfect height, Daniel,” Jack breathed as his face zeroed in on its target.  Daniel gasped and ran his fingers through Jack’s hair as the man nuzzled his cock and pubic hair.  “God, I love your smell.”

Nothing was said for several minutes.  Not by Jack anyway.  He wanted to take his time, but he was hungry.  Hungry to taste, to feel, to swallow.  He held onto Daniel’s thighs and buttocks as he tasted the hot, silky skin of his cock.  When he took him into his mouth, Daniel’s fingers carded through his hair repeatedly. 

“Yes, Jack.  God, yes.”

Jack looked up and watched Daniel drop his head back and mouth open, giving himself over to Jack’s expert skill.  With delicious intent, Jack sucked and licked, reaching under to caress his lover’s balls.  Two fingers slid between his buttocks to probe and stimulate Daniel’s sphincter and in reaction, Daniel moved his feet wider apart. 

“Yes, Jack.  There, touch me.”

Jack wet his fingers and as he took Daniel’s cock back into his mouth, his fingers slowly pushed inside.  Then Jack moaned – hummed – and Daniel’s legs started to shake. 

“Now, Jack,” he whispered in warning.  Jack wrapped an arm around him and held Daniel tightly as his fingers and mouth moved quickly, in and out, up and down.  Daniel started to gasp, loud and fast.  “Oh my god,” Daniel choked.  His cock stiffened and twitched as he clasped Jack’s head tightly and came into his mouth. 

Jack didn’t swallow.  As the semen spilled from the corners of his mouth, Jack removed his fingers from inside Daniel to catch the milky substance in his hand.  He coated his cock, careful not to bring himself off from the touch, then pulled Daniel’s cock from his mouth, sucking hard as he did so.  Daniel was still half-erect and he gasped and jerked at the sensitive pleasure. 

Spitting the come into his hand, Jack brought it to Daniel’s sphincter and began to prepare him.  Daniel very willingly accommodated him, then dropped onto his back, pulling Jack on top of him.  His mouth latched onto Jack’s, shoving his tongue inside as he wrapped his legs around Jack’s waist.  Jack’s fingers continued to probe and loosen until Daniel pulled them away. 

“I need you,” he whispered harshly. 

“You got me,” Jack replied as he pushed Daniel’s knees to his chest.  With their long months of going without, Jack nearly came as he slid inside his lover. 

“God, you feel so fucking good.”

“Yes,” Daniel agreed as his fingers clasped onto Jack’s buttocks, forcing him to move and move deep.  Firm, even thrusts made them both gasp in pleasure and when Jack’s cock hit his lover’s gland, Daniel began to thrust upward. 

“Daniel, slow…slow down,” Jack panted, feeling his orgasm near. 

“No.  I need you, now.  Fuck me hard, Jack,” Daniel demanded as he threw his head back.  “Hard and fast.”

“Daniel,” Jack breathed, trying to fight it, wanting to slow down.  But it was of no use.  Daniel’s movements made him let go, hammering into him, throwing his full weight down.  From the look of pleasure on Daniel’s face, Jack knew the man loved it.  “You love this, don’tcha, Danny?” Jack gasped as he plunged deep and hard. 

“Yes!”

Watching the sweat roll off Daniel’s brow, Jack felt the man’s hands slide over his own sweat-soaked ass, encouraging him for more.  Jack couldn’t hold back.  He felt the heat, that all-over tingle.  Grabbing Daniel into his arms, he held onto him tightly as he pounded his orgasm into him.  Daniel closed his eyes and smiled as he came a second time, then grabbed Jack by his hair and kissed him hard.  Through their rapid panting, Jack slowly released his tight hold, then relaxed against his lover as he withdrew.  Daniel dropped one leg, then turned them both on their sides. 

Opening his eyes, he found Jack’s closed.  He smiled and leaned forward to kiss his damp face.  “That was good,” he said. 

“Yes,” was all Jack was able to manage.  It was that deep voice, the relaxed one.  Daniel loved hearing that when they finished, nearly as much as he enjoyed making love. 

They lay together for a while before they got up, sticky with dried sweat and semen, and made their way to the cool ocean to wash.  Daniel looked up at Jack’s hair as he combed his fingers through it.  He pulled a lock down, stretching it.  It reached Jack’s brow. 

“Your hair’s getting long.”

“So’s yours,” Jack said as he ran his fingers through the different lengths.  Daniel’s hair grew slower than his own but Daniel’s hair was also a bit thicker.  Jack pulled at wet strands that reached his lover’s eyes.  Daniel smiled. 

“I need a haircut.”

“So do I,” Jack replied. 

Daniel’s smirk told Jack what he thought of that idea.  “I also need a proper shave.  Using those blades of Jacob’s are all very good, but…I miss my razor.” He ran his fingers over Jack’s face, and the stubble that grew there, then reached up and carded his fingers through his hair.  “I like your hair the way it is.  But…there’s something to be said for that eagle’s nest you have when your hair’s shorter.”

Jack pretended to be offended.  He knew what Daniel meant.  “What?  You don’t like my spiky cowlick?” Daniel laughed as he touched the crown of his head, then with a mischievous grin as warning, he tweaked the back of it.  “Ow!” That earned Daniel an abrupt dump into the water, with himself following.  They both sputtered and laughed, then made their way back to the makeshift bed.  As they dropped down and sat next to each other, keeping in intimate contact by lacing their fingers together, Jack suddenly dropped his head to Daniel’s shoulder. 

Daniel noted it as a change in mood and immediately knew why.  He’d been thinking the same, even as they’d made love.  “I miss him, too.”

“How do you think he’s going to react when he sees us?” Jack asked as he moved his fingers over Daniel’s. 

Daniel shook his head.  “I have no idea, Jack.  He’ll be shocked at first, unless someone tells him before we get to him.”

“That’s a fair bet.  He’ll know before we see him.  Unless he’s off on a mission when we get back.”

“Yeah, there is that.  I’m hoping we don’t reunite in the gateroom.  It could be embarrassing.”

Jack snorted.  “Making out in front of the entire base is not something I relish, Daniel.”

Daniel grinned, then snuffled the back of Jack’s damp hair.  “No, but you’ve always wanted to make love at the top of that ramp.  Admit it.”

Jack didn’t.  But his grin did. 

~

Three weeks later… 

“We’re approaching the planet,” Jacob called out.  SG-1 walked in and stood behind Jacob and the two other Tok’ra piloting the ship as they made their way through the atmosphere.  “How many people are at the Alpha site, Jack?”

“Coupla hundred, give or take ten.”

“Well, the sensors are detecting over five.”

“Hundred?”

“Yes.”

“God, I hope nothing bad’s happening on Earth,” Daniel said, becoming alarmed. 

“Don’t panic, Daniel,” Jack told him and he folded his arms.  “There can be many reasons for this many people.”

“Wait a minute,” Jacob said, frowning in confusion. 

“What?”

“Didn’t someone say that the Alpha site was going to also be a base for the rebel Jaffa?”

“That is correct,” Teal’c stated as he leaned forward to the read the sensors.  “Those readings appear to show many symbiote life-signs.”

Jacob nodded.  “But that doesn’t mean they’re friendly, so we go in with caution.”

Everyone agreed with that judgment and as they cleared the clouds, Jack pointed to the left of the main camp. 

“Over there, by the embankment.  There’s level ground there.”

“Roger that,” Jacob replied as he flew the ship in the suggested direction.  As the miniature buildings grew in size the closer they approached, they were able to make out the SG force on the ground. 

Jack allowed himself a moment of pride in watching them do their job, then cleared his throat.  “No arms, folks.  They have no idea, at this moment, who we are.  So, it’s best not to get shot by our own guys.”

“Good idea,” Jacob replied. 

“This thing have a PA system?”

“You mean to communicate outside while inside the ship?”

“Yeah.”

“No, Jack.  We have to go outside to do that, unless one of them has another one of these,” and he pulled out a communicator similar to the one Daniel used on the Goa’uld space station and Naetu and handed it to Jack. 

“Cool.”

As the ship set down, the SG teams approached cautiously, their P-90’s raised.  Several Tok’ra were with them. 

“Jack, I think we’ve found out where the missing Tok’ra went,” Daniel told him. 

“How the hell did they get here?”

“I’ve no idea,” Jacob said, “but I suppose we’ll find out.  Probably by ship, same as us, only one with better hyperspeed engines.”

“Some folks have all the luck,” Jack groused.  “Do we know who that is?  Looks like Major Pierce from here.”

“They were assigned permanent rotation to the Alpha site, along with a few other teams,” Sam answered. 

“Oh, well, let’s see if this thing works and they remember us.”

“It’s not like they’d forget you, Jack,” Jacob cracked. 

“Ha, ha, very funny.” He adjusted the controls on the communicator, then pressed the mic.  “SG-one-five-niner, this is SG-one-niner.  Do you read, over?”

Outside, Pierce frowned and held up his hand to stop their cautious advance.  He looked over at one of the Tok’ra.  “How can the Goa’uld have an SG frequency?”

“They can’t.  They have to know your frequency.”

“Which means they’ve figured it out or the people inside that teltac aren’t Goa’ulds.”

“They may be Tok’ra.”

“Maybe.”

Inside, Jack became impatient.  “Pierce, do you copy?”

Pierce blinked, then his eyes went wide as he keyed the mic.  “Colonel O’Neill?”

“No, it’s the fuckin’ tooth fairy.”

“Jack,” Daniel snickered, then started to laugh.  Sam quickly joined him.  Even Teal’c couldn’t resist smiling at the joke. 

Jacob shook his head.  “You had to say that?”

“What?  It worked.  Look.”

Outside, Pierce and his teammates bit their lips to keep from laughing while the Tok’ra looked confused.  They lowered their weapons slightly. 

“Come on out and prove it, sir.  Over.”

Jack snorted.  “I’ll go first.  If they can’t trust me after that…” He left the sentence hanging.  The doors opened and Jack walked outside, shading his eyes from the sun as he didn’t have any sunglasses.  Pierce took in the longer, silverish hair and the slightly grizzled face.  He smiled warily, then signaled his men to stay back – with weapons trained – while he walked forward with one of the Tok’ra. 

As they got closer, the Tok’ra cocked his head, then shook it.  “I sense no symbiote,” he said. 

“That’s good, ’cause I think your radar’d be off if you did,” Jack cracked.  “Now, mind if I bring everyone else out?”

Pierce stared.  “Everyone else?  You’re all okay?”

“And in one piece, Aaron,” Daniel said as he stepped out of the ship, followed quickly by Teal’c and Sam.  Jacob, Ja’lin and Todral were last and the Tok’ra next to Pierce smiled hugely. 

Daniel walked forward and shook Pierce’s hand, then slapped Jack in the stomach for just standing there.  “Well, stop grinning like an idiot and start barking out orders, Colonel.”

Jack frowned at him.  “You’re having way too much fun with this.”

“Hey, I’m not the one with the fairy crack.”

Jack’s eyes widened.  Sam grabbed at Daniel as she fell about behind him, then Daniel realized what he’d said and started to laugh with her.  Jack reached up, grabbed Pierce’s cap off his head and slapped Daniel and Sam with it as they doubled over in hysterical laughter.  Teal’c merely smirked as he stepped aside and watched. 

Jacob bit his lips closed and walked past them to shake Pierce’s hand and his fellow Tok’ra’s.  “Before these three get out of hand, let’s contact the base, shall we?”

“Soon as I get my hat back, General.”

Alex adjusted his field vest as he walked into the gate room, his teammates right behind.  Just as the gate started to dial, its sequence was cut off by an incoming wormhole.  Alex took up a defensive position with his teammates just as the designation came through. 

“It’s the Alpha site, Captain,” Hammond told him from the control room.  “Stand down for the moment.”

“Yes, sir.”

Hammond turned on the monitor that brought in the special frequency from the Alpha site.  Major Pierce’s image was quickly visible through the clear signal. 

“What is it, Major?  More Tok’ra or Jaffa?”

Pierce grinned.  “Neither, sir.  I have five people here who’d like to see you if you’d allow them to come through?”

“Who are they, Major?”

“Sir, it would be better if you just saw them.”

“Major, just tell me.”

“Sir, I’m sorry, sir, but please, trust me on this one?”

With a heavy sigh, George berated himself for the millionth time as he indulged yet another member of his command.  “Very well, Major.  The iris is opening.  If this is a joke, you’ll be a lieutenant by the end of the day.”

“No, sir.  No joke.  They’ll be on their way shortly, sir.” With a mysterious smile, the video signal ended and George made his way to the gateroom.  When he got there, he dismissed the defensive unit, then moved in front of the ramp. 

“General?” Alex asked as he moved over to stand next to him. 

“Major Pierce is sending someone over from the Alpha site, but he wouldn’t say who.”

Alex raised his eyebrows in surprise, knowing that Pierce wasn’t given to do such a thing without a very, very good reason.  And for the life of him, Alex had no clue what it could be.  “Well, sir, if you don’t mind, my team and I will…guard you.  Just in case Major Pierce has lost his mind.”

Hammond smirked.  “Very well, Captain.”

They stood waiting for only ten more seconds, but it seemed like an eternity.  When SG-1 and Jacob stepped through the gate, time suddenly stood still. 

Hammond blinked several times while his jaw dropped off. 

Alex’s eyes widened in shock, along with his teammates.  “Well, fuck me stupid.”

General Hammond was so shocked that the remark from Alex didn’t even register a scold. 

“I insist on a steak dinner first, Captain,” Jack grinned fiendishly as they reached the end of the ramp.  Several hysterical laughs followed Jack’s sarcastic comment. 

“Colonel O’Neill?” Hammond asked.  Thousands of questions swarmed his mind as his eyes travelled from Jack to Daniel, Sam, Teal’c, and finally Jacob.  He noted with amusement that all of them looked in need of personal grooming, but still, they were heaven to George’s eyes.  He tried like crazy to keep his pale blue eyes from misting, but in the end, he gave up.  “Are you a sight for sore eyes, Colonel,” he said gruffly and shook Jack’s hand, then pulled the long-missed man into a strong hug and a hard thump on the back. 

“I’m sure you’d like to know everything, General,” Jack started, “and I’m sure Jacob could fill you in, but I’m fairly certain that we need to get cleaned up and presentable.  Ol’ Doc Fraiser probably can’t wait to stick a needle in my–“

“Point taken, Jack.  It’s good to know you haven’t changed.  Hell, I don’t think that’s possible.  I’ll look forward to hearing your reports in the briefing room in ninety minutes.”

“Ninety, sir?” Daniel asked as he shook Alex’s hand, and then his team’s. 

“Time to see the doctor and get cleaned up, Colonel.”

“Yes, sir,” Jack grinned as both he and Daniel rubbed at their whiskers. 

“I could really use a hot shower and a shave,” Daniel remarked as Hammond shook his hand off his arm, then gave him the same treatment he’d given Jack.  After similar greeting to Sam, Teal’c, and Jacob, Daniel and Jack suddenly realized that Alex being there meant SG-2 and they quickly looked around for Jason.  When they spotted Captain Matthews and no sign of Jason, their eyes went wide in alarm. 

“Jason?  He’s not…?” Daniel asked. 

“No, Doctor Jackson,” Hammond told him.  “Major Coburn has taken an extended medical leave.”

“What?” both Jack and Daniel asked.  “How badly was he injured?” Jack followed quickly; the worry on their faces was plain. 

“We’ll talk about that elsewhere, gentlemen.”

“Yes, sir,” Jack said, as their excitement was quickly deflated. 

Before departing, Hammond looked at Alex and his team.  “Captain, under the circumstances, your additional input would probably be needed so your mission is put on hold for the moment.”

“Yes, sir.”

“In that case, Captain, perhaps you’d like to escort us to the infirmary?” Jack offered as a way to get Alex to spill on the way. 

“Yes, sir,” and he turned to his team.  “Chill out for the time being, guys.  I’ll meet up with you in the cafeteria.”

“Yes, sir,” they said together.  “It’s good to have you back, sirs, ma’am,” Al told them as they exited the opposite door. 

SG-1 and Alex made for the infirmary, while Jacob joined Hammond in his office.  Hammond shut the door and pulled the blinds, then opened up the antique hutch in the corner and brought out the bourbon.  After pouring a glass for them both, Hammond sat down and sighed. 

“Well, Jake, where the hell have you been?”

Jack and Daniel both knew that something was wrong.  The moment they got into the elevator car, they turned to Alex, just as Alex expected. 

“Where is he?” Jack asked. 

Alex told them, and why.  By the time they reached the infirmary, SG-1 was upset, but Jack and Daniel were greatly worried and disturbed, even though they hadn’t yet heard all of the details. 

Fortunately, that distress was put on hold for a moment as they walked into the main part of the infirmary.  A few dropped trays were suddenly the only sound.  Janet came walking out of her office, prepared to hand someone their head, when she halted and stared, mouth agape. 

Jack smiled.  “Hello, doc.  Miss me?”

“Hey, Janet,” Daniel and Sam said together. 

“It is good to see you, Doctor Fraiser,” Teal’c said quietly. 

Janet’s eyes travelled from Jack, then Daniel and Teal’c, then she walked up to Sam, who was conveniently closer, and hugged her – hard. 

“Janet…” Sam gasped, “leave some ribs intact.”

When Janet released her and stepped back, her eyes were watery.  She then punched Sam in the shoulder. 

“Ow!” Sam shouted as her hand came up to rub the sore spot.  “Janet!”

“That’s for making me worry and think you were dead.”

“How’s Cassie?” Sam, Daniel, and Jack asked simultaneously. 

“She’ll be fine…now.  She’s been a wreck, like the rest of us.” Her eyes went wide then as she thought immediately of Jason.  Jack and Daniel knew exactly what she was thinking. 

“Alex told us a little bit,” Daniel informed her, “but not a whole lot.  Was he okay the last time you saw him?”

Janet nodded.  “He seemed to be, but he’s not all there, if you know what I mean.  He’s going through the motions.” In a much quieter tone, so that those in the corridor couldn’t hear, she added, “He misses you terribly.”

Jack sighed.  “Well, let’s get checked out, Janet, so that we can report to Hammond and go bring our missing boy home.”

Janet shook her head.  “You’ll have to be careful, Colonel.  Seeing you will be a shock…to say the least.”

Daniel washed his face clean of the shaving cream, then took a comb through his recently cut hair.  He smiled at Jack’s reflection as the man tried to comb down the cowlick at the crown of his head. 

“Forget it, Jack.  Just resign yourself to looking like an eagle.”

Jack snorted.  “Better than eagle’s nest.”

“Only just,” Daniel sent back. 

“You ready?”

“Yep,” Daniel replied as he tossed the towel in the hamper, then grabbed his jacket.  “You?”

“Been waitin’ on you.”

“Well, let’s go then,” Daniel replied as they started for the door.  Jack grabbed his arm and held him up for a moment.  “What?” Daniel read the look in Jack’s eyes.  It mirrored his own.  “I know.  There’s no way to prepare him.  All we can do is go.”

After giving their reports, Jack and Daniel remained in the briefing room.  As Sam and Teal’c hesitated in the doorway, they nodded to their teammates, a silent wish of luck that things would go well, then they left for the cafeteria. 

“Colonel?” Hammond asked.  “I take it you want to go offworld…to the Diné?”

“Correct, sir.  I know it won’t be easy, and Doc Fraiser said she’s due to visit him tomorrow, but she also says it’s just a courtesy visit.  That Major Coburn could have returned already but chose to remain on the planet.”

“That’s right, Colonel.  Do you think you and Doctor Jackson can convince him otherwise?  I know his former teammates could use him back and frankly, I’d like to send Captain Matthews back to SG-6.  Their team is now healed from their skirmish with the Goa’uld four months ago and I’d to get things back to normal…if that’s at all possible around here.”

“Yes, sir.  But give us a day or so to get him settled down…and a little time to work on him.”

“Jack, of course, means bully, sir.”

Hammond grinned. 

“Very funny, Daniel.  I’ll have you know I have a very calming effect on people.”

Daniel nodded, then started to laugh and was quickly joined by Hammond. 

“By God, it’s good to have you home.  Colonel, Doctor…you have a go.  Bring our boy home.  Hopefully, no additional downtime will be required.”

Which reminded Daniel… 

“Um, sir?” he asked hesitantly.  “I hate to blow this out of the water but Jason and I were planning on a week’s leave before all this came up and–“

“I remember, Doctor.  Getting back here was by no means a vacation so you may take a week to reacclimate.”

Daniel gave a hesitant look Jack’s way, making the man look warily at him.  “General, um, Jason, too, sir?  We were both going to…you know.”

“I know that, Doctor Jackson.  Don’t worry,” Hammond went on as he smirked at Jack.  “You can still spring your surprise on him.”

Jack’s brows shot up as he gave Daniel a look of suspicion.  “Surprise?”

“Jason and I were going to take you somewhere for your birthday.  As it’s nowhere near your birthday and actually nearer to his, maybe we can celebrate both and still go where we were planning to go.”

Jack snorted and shook his head.  “We missed yours too, Daniel.” Daniel started to dismiss that but Jack held up a finger, silencing him.  “Let’s go get Jason first, then we’ll discuss birthday…surprises.” Daniel smirked at him as Jack turned to Hammond.  “Thank you, General.”

“Not a problem, Jack.  Give our boy my best and bring him home.”

“No problem’s there, General.”

* * *

 

If the sun refuse to shine,
I will still be loving you.
When mountains crumble to the sea,
There will still be you an’ me.

Thank You, Led Zeppelin

 

~

The moment that Daniel and Jack exited the stargate, they didn’t bother walking.  They sprinted.  Up ahead, they saw a few young people running, disappearing around the bend of the tall cliffside, very likely announcing their arrival.  Before they reached the bend, Asatay came sprinting around the corner himself.  He stopped and stared, eyes wide. 

Jack and Daniel stopped before him, aware that their presence must’ve been a surprise.  They smiled, then held out their hands to greet the man.  Asatay slowly took them by their forearms in greeting. 

“It is very good, and very surprising, to see you,” he said in English. 

Jack and Daniel blinked, thinking that Jason couldn’t have taught him that much, then they remembered Jason’s grandfather and deduced that he must’ve been the man’s teacher. 

“And you, I’m sure,” Jack said kindly, “and I don’t mean to be rude, Asatay, but…”

The shaman nodded.  “Kit is currently building his own lodge and is almost finished.  This way,” and he proceeded to lead them left, instead of right, toward the cliff dwellings. 

“So far away from the rest of you?” Daniel asked, noting that Asatay was also leading them away from the other lodges they’d visited on their previous visit. 

Asatay nodded solemnly, but didn’t explain.  He stopped short of the lake, then pointed at some of the large boulder formations.  “There.”

Three men were putting the finishing touches on a square, wooden building.  One of the three stood on the ground, his back to them, staring up at the two men on the roof.  All three were speaking in the Diné language. 

“Where is he?” Daniel asked. 

Asatay frowned and pointed.  “There,” he repeated, almost annoyed.  Daniel and Jack looked again, thinking that Jason wasn’t in sight.  But as they stared at the man on the ground, they recognized the wide, muscular back, now tanned dark, and the unmistakable narrow waist.  His black hair had grown out, just barely touching the top of his shoulders, and he wore nothing more than tawny leather pants.  Suddenly his voice rose slightly and he gestured with two fingers for the men to come down off the roof.  It was a gesture that Jason had subconsciously mimicked from Jack.  That action confirmed his identity. 

“Oh my God, Jack,” Daniel whispered as they started to close the distance between themselves and their separated lover.  “Look at him.”

“I know, Daniel.  I wonder if that tan is an all over one.”

“Jack,” Daniel mildly admonished even as he let himself smile. 

“Daniel, don’t tell me you weren’t thinking the same thing.”

“Okay, I won’t tell you,” Daniel replied and tried not to laugh.  Asatay suddenly moved ahead of them a few paces. 

“Kit?” he called out.  “You have a surprise.”

“What?” Jason called out, not turning round.  “Janet’s not supposed to be here for one more day.”

One of the young men helping him, Kelqwana, touched his shoulder, getting Jason’s attention.  He frowned, wondering why the man looked pleased and shocked as he pointed behind him. 

Jason looked over his shoulder…and found himself unable to move. 

There…standing next to Asatay…were Daniel and Jack. 

Panic started to set in and it clouded his judgment.  All he could think of were the visions of Jack and Daniel that had started to plague him during his waking hours.  He’d seen them, without warning, while he was eating, working, and most of all, trying to meditate.  Yet for the past three days, they had gone and he had thought that he had finally let go of them.  But now, here they were again.  Why?  How?

“You’re not real,” he whispered as he moved away, backward. 

Daniel frowned and his own panic started to set in.  He exchanged alarmed glances with Jack and they both looked accusingly at Asatay. 

“What the hell have you done to him?” Jack asked angrily. 

Asatay sighed.  “I have done nothing, Jack.  It is all Kit’s doing.”

Daniel and Jack studied Jason carefully as they walked toward him, closing the distance further until he was no more than ten feet away. 

“Jason, I promise you, you’re not seeing things,” Daniel told him gently. 

Jason’s hands went to his ears, trying to block the sound.  He shook his head as he backed away, his calves hitting a small stool.  He absently moved around it and continued to back up.  “No.  Not again.  You’re not real.” To everyone’s horror, he drew the long knife from the sheath tied round his thigh, holding it up at them as if it were an amulet. 

“Kay-te-na-wa-yay…haz-ne-to…col-ta-shen-wa.” He repeated the words, again and again, as he continued to back up.  Asatay’s eyes grew wide with fear. 

“No, Kit!  They’re real.”

“What’s that mean?” Jack asked. 

“It’s a chant designed to dispel evil,” Asatay whispered, frowning in confusion.  “Kit, they’re not spirits nor are they evil.”

“Kay-te-na-way-yay…haz-ne-to…col-ta-shen-wa…” Jason spoke, staring at the men he thought he was hallucinating.  His voice broke suddenly as his face showed the deep grief.  “Asatay, tell them to go.  I can’t take this…” He looked away as he turned the knife inward, preparing to strike. 

“What the hell are you doing?” Jack barked at him as he closed the distance and grabbed Jason’s wrist to keep the blade at bay.  Daniel ran forward and wrestled for the handle, trying to be careful of the blade, but with Jason’s constant movements, he was nicked in the palm.  Fortunately, only a drop of blood showed, but the sight of it on him brought Jason up short. 

He stared and his jaw dropped in shock as he looked into the faces of his lovers.  “I tried,” he said, his eyes reflecting his pain.  “I tried.  But they had you and I couldn’t save you.  I’m so sorry.  Please forgive me and…let me go.”

“Dammit, Jason, come on!  Snap out of it!” Daniel shouted.  He’d never seen Jason like this and frankly, it scared him.  In scaring him, it made him angry.  Not knowing what else to do, Daniel suddenly slapped his lover across the face, hard. 

Jason’s head shot to the left with the force of it.  He blinked in shock, as did Jack, then slowly worked his jaw as the stinging pain reddened his cheek.  He stared at Daniel, then Jack, and it started to sink in…barely.  But what if he was still hallucinating?  He was so tired of this.  Tired of the grief and the pain, the nightmares, the hallucinations.  Why couldn’t they just leave him alone?  In anger, his emotions let loose, only not the ones everyone expected.  He struck out, his fist intending to impact with Daniel’s jaw, but Jack was quick and he grabbed Jason’s fist, blocking the punch.  Daniel’s eyes went wide in greater shock as he realized that Jason really was going to hit him. 

“What the fuck is the matter with–” he started to say but the look on Jason’s face stopped him.  It was the look of recognition…and the refusal to believe. 

“You’re…alive?” Jason whispered. 

“Yes, Jace.  We’re alive,” Daniel said gently, trying to understand the pain of losing not just one lover, but two.  He reached out to touch Jason’s face but the man flinched and stepped back. 

“You…you’ve said that before.  Stop taunting me.”  A tiny sound released from Jason’s throat.  He closed his eyes and suddenly dropped to his knees, wrapping his arms around himself and bowing his head.  How could they be alive? he asked himself.  After all this time?  He suddenly wondered why that should mean anything, but it did. 

“Jason,” Daniel whispered as he started to go to him but Asatay touched him on the shoulder, stopping him. 

“Take him inside, to his room, where it is private.  He’s going to need it.”

Daniel turned to him, confused.  “Why?” both he and Jack asked, confused and worried. 

“He has never cried for you.  Not once.  But I think,” and Asatay paused, staring down at his disbelieving friend, “he will now.  If you help him.  Come.”

Jason heard Asatay speak, then felt hands pulling him to his feet.  He was aware that he was being led to his room inside the enormous, hollowed-out cliff, but he concentrated on only a few things at the moment.  The racing of his heart and the fact that Janet was going to kill him for letting his pulse and blood pressure go up again.  As he looked ahead of him, he suddenly felt very small, frowning at the sympathy aimed at him from the faces he passed.  What was the matter with these people?  Hadn’t they ever seen a man lose his sanity before?  And that’s was he was doing, wasn’t it?  Jason was now sure he’d hallucinated.  He didn’t dare look around him, or at the hands – seemingly familiar hands – that guided him to his room.  They couldn’t be Jack’s or Daniel’s.  They couldn’t be. 

And why the hell did everyone have to be so…nice?  When he saw his grandfather’s face, he looked down, ashamed to have the man see him this way.  It wasn’t fair.  Why couldn’t he just skip the breakdown?  That’s what this was, wasn’t it?  The final, unpredictable straw?

When he got to his room, Jason pulled away from the hands on him and sank to his knees once more, his back to his companions.  He brought a hand to his face, shielding his eyes as he forced himself to see only the floor.  He hugged himself with his other arm, feeling himself start to crack.  He had a feeling that Asatay was still in the room.  The man had become his protector, even when Jason never wanted him to be.  Like now. 

“Asatay, leave me alone.  Don’t interrupt.  You have to let me go.  I can’t go through this again.”

“You are not going through it again, Kit.  You have to listen to me.”

The words made his lovers stare at each other, then at Asatay.  Die?  Go through what again?

“What the hell does he mean by again?” Jack asked the shaman. 

“He has had visions.  They stopped coming three days ago.  He thinks they have returned.  His greatest fear is losing his mind.  He has told me before that if the visions came again, he wanted to die so that he would not frighten others…or himself.”

“Leave us with him,” Jack said quietly.  Asatay looked back at him for a moment, then finally nodded and left the room, closing the door that Jason had built especially for the room. 

“Jace,” Daniel said as he hesitantly dropped down in front of him and pulled Jason’s hand from his face.  “Look at me.”

Jason shook his head, keeping his eyes closed. 

Daniel lifted Jason’s chin with his fingertips.  “Open your eyes, Jason, and look…at…me.”

Jason prepared himself, giving in to his vision.  Just one more time.  If he was going to die soon, he may as well let the vision win, having whatever it wanted from him.  After all, it would soon have his life, wouldn’t it?  He opened his eyes, staring into the blue eyes he so adored.  He tried to keep his expression emotionless, but Jason started to grimace, his eyes reflecting the sorrow so easily. 

“No, Jace,” Daniel said urgently, hating to see his lover in pain.  “I’m real.” He pulled Jason into his arms and held him tightly.  He exchanged fearful looks with Jack as Jack dropped down behind Jason, caressing his hair, his back, his arms, trying to soothe. 

“We’re real, Jason,” he whispered, unable to grasp the pain Jason was feeling.  He didn’t know what he’d do if his position was reversed, but he did understand the suicidal feelings.  “You have to believe we’re real.  How can we prove it?”

Jason shook his head.  “I’m so tired of fighting you,” he whispered. 

“Oh no,” Daniel groaned, hugging Jason tighter.  “We’re real, Jace.  We’re real.” He pulled back and kissed him softly.  “Believe me.  I’m real.  Jack’s real.  Feel me.” He kissed him harder then, holding his lover’s face as he pushed his tongue between his lips and into his mouth. 

Jason drew his tongue back, afraid to touch, to taste.  He didn’t reach for Daniel nor recognize that Jack was behind him but as he reached out to grab hold of something, all he could find was them. 

Daniel was very persistent, just as he remembered.  As was Jack.  Their touches, their smell, finally reached Jason’s senses.  They were far more real than any of his previous visions.  He could smell that musky scent of Daniel’s, which was only slightly different from Jack’s.  And Jack, behind him, warm, vibrant, smelling of sandalwood.  He was…so alive. 

Jason’s awareness was abruptly brought back to the kiss, and the tongue in his mouth.  A sudden showering of flavor hit him as he realized that Daniel’s tongue tasted of coffee. 

Coffee. 

Another whimpering sound, filled with aching belief, escaped his throat.  Alive.  They were alive.  This was real?  Jason didn’t dare hope but there it was, bursting to the front of his mind and inside his heart.  Jason’s eyes welled up and the hot tears he’d held back for months finally started to flow. 

Daniel felt Jason’s face contort through the kiss, then felt the wetness.  He pulled back, licking the salty water from his lips as he stared at the tears running down Jason’s face.  He gaped at Jack in shock, then pulled Jason even tighter into his arms as he pressed his lips against his ear.  “No, no.  Don’t cry, baby.”

“No, Daniel, he has to,” Jack whispered on the other side of Jason’s face.  “Jason, we’re real.  We’re home, baby.”

The words broke the sound in Jason’s voice and deep sobs now matched his tears, sobs of relief.  He reached up and gripped Daniel’s back with his strong fingers.  “Daniel…Daniel…Daniel…” He turned his face to Daniel’s, kissing him repeatedly.  He reached up to grab hold of Jack as he turned to kiss his jaw, whatever he could reach.  “Jack.  Jack.” Grabbing him around the neck, Jason held him tightly.  “Jack.” The sobs became louder, wracking his body, and his lovers held him, afraid to let him go.  Sounds of soft crying joined Jason’s, along with more repeated words of ‘baby’. 

After what seemed an eternity, Jason cleared his clogged throat, then sniffed several times.  The release seemed to make him more aware, reminding him who was holding him.  He blinked rapidly, trying to clear his eyes, then brought his hand up to wipe his face.  He was suddenly reminded that Daniel and Jack had called him ‘baby’ – outside of the bedroom.  Even knowing it was a hysterical reaction, he couldn’t help but laugh. 

“You okay?” Jack asked behind his ear. 

Jason closed his eyes at sound.  “Say that again.”

Jack exchanged puzzled glances with Daniel.  He cleared his throat several times.  “You okay?”

Jason frowned and opened his eyes, finally taking a longer look at his lovers.  He brought his hand up, touching their faces.  Jack’s eyes were moist, as were his cheeks.  Surprise made him blink a few more times, then he looked back at Daniel and found his face just as wet. 

“Oh no, don’t do that because of me.  I’m–“

Daniel brought fingers to his lips, silencing him.  “No apologies.”

“We had cause and so did you, don’t you think?” Jack asked. 

“Jack’s right.  I think we had cause.  We missed you so much.  We’re so sorry,” Daniel said, then sniffed and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. 

Jason shook his head.  “Not your fault.”

“Not yours, either,” Jack told him. 

Jason leaned into Jack and hugged Daniel against him, needing to feel their heat pressing into him.  He closed his eyes again as he made a half-sob, half-laugh sound.  “I love you,” he whispered, then pulled their faces to him, raining them with rapid kisses.   “I love you.  I missed you so fucking much.”

“Love you, too, baby.  Missed you badly,” Daniel said as his kisses tickled Jason’s ear. 

The word again made Jason laugh.  “You’re calling me, ‘baby’.”

“What would you have us call you?  Pumpkin?” Jack asked as a smile tugged at his lips.  Somehow, he knew it was the right thing to say. 

Jason dropped his head back onto Jack’s shoulder once more and stared into his eyes.  “We’re not in bed, and if you call me pumpkin, we never will be,” he replied, then grabbed the back of Jack’s head and pulled him into a fiery kiss.  Jack also tasted like coffee…and those girl scout mint cookies he stashed in his desk. 

Arousal, deep and strong, and so long missed, rocketed through Jason like a bomb going off.  With a groan of need, Jason deepened their kiss, trying to taste everything within Jack’s mouth.  Then Daniel’s tongue ran below his ear, setting off shivers down his spine.  He growled, deep in his throat, and with his free hand reached around to clamp down on Daniel’s ass.  The tactile sensation was nearly overwhelming. 

Jason broke the kiss, gasping, “I need you,” before he plunged his tongue back into Jack’s mouth.  His hands tugged at clothes, nearly ripping out of urgency.  He found Daniel’s jacket was already off and his shirt was quickly following so he ran his fingers over the firm, warm skin, sliding upward from a nipple to Daniel’s throat. 

Jack broke off, and with Daniel helping, the two of them pulled Jason to his feet.  Boots were quickly, desperately removed; trousers discarded; Jack’s shirt hit the floor, joining the other bits of clothing.  Jason hastily removed his leather breeches, and when they moved back together and knelt on the padding Jason used for his bed, time slowed down. 

Daniel took Jason’s face in his hands and teasingly nipped over his jaw, his lips.  Jason opened his mouth and pulled Daniel in for a deep kiss, then moaned as Jack slid his hands over his hips and down to his groin, his cock pressing against the cleft of his ass.  Jason trailed his tongue down Daniel’s throat, finding a collar bone to tease and bite. 

Daniel tipped his head back as his hands laced tightly through Jason’s hair.  “God, Jace, I missed you,” he breathed. 

“So did I,” Jack murmured as his teeth worried the sensitive spot under Jason’s ear.  He reached down and pulled his hand up the shaft of Jason’s cock, making him bite down over Daniel’s throat.  Jason clutched Daniel to him, thrusting through Jack’s hand, then gasped as Daniel pressed their cocks together, rubbing, thrusting, sending shockwaves through them both. 

“Daniel, Daniel,” Jason whispered. 

“You feel so good.  So hard, so hot,” Daniel whispered back, the sound of his voice sending further shivers down his Jason’s spine.  “I have to taste you.”

Jason gasped at the words.  “Yes, Daniel, yes.”

As Daniel laved his way over his nipples, Jack pulled him back against him and spread his knees apart.  The action increased Jason’s need times ten.  “Lube, Jason?” he asked. 

Jason thought frantically for anything he could use.  “Over…there,” he panted as Jack’s fingers toyed with his balls and rectum.  He started to move but Daniel stopped him just before his mouth reached his groin. 

“Don’t you move.  Jack, grab it, please.”

“Where, Jason?” Jack asked as his teeth grazed the back of his neck. 

It wasn’t fair.  Jason was asked to consciously think about something while Daniel took his thinking processes away.  His lover pushed him down, holding him around the waist as he took the head of his cock in his mouth. 

“Where, Jason,” Jack asked again, shakily, as Jason’s mouth was now tantalizingly close to his cock. 

“Oh God…uh…it’s…” Jason panted, his eyes closed as he pointed at the corner table.  “Small pot…cocoa butter…Daniel, Jesus!” he said as his fingers clasped Daniel’s hair.  Daniel then hummed as he sucked, driving Jason mad.  Jason couldn’t hold back and Daniel knew it, but he wanted to delay it, to prolong his pleasure.  He withdrew, nipping up his abdomen. 

“Daniel…no,” Jason complained. 

“I have another idea,” he murmured as his tongue teased Jason’s navel.  He wanted to make Jason come, but he wanted to feel him inside him first.  “Just wait.”

Jack found the small ceramic pot and brought it over, then knelt before his lovers, gazing down wickedly as Jason panted in frustration. 

“Did you guys come back from the dead just to kill me?”

Jack gave Jason an intense stare.  “No…we’re keeping you alive for a very, very long time.” He scooped out a good amount of the cocoa butter, then handed the pot to Daniel.  He stared down at Jason as he purposely slid the slick cream-colored substance over his cock.  Jason looked up and watched him, finding his mouth watering.  He swallowed.  “Want me inside you?” Jack asked seductively.  The look Jason gave him told Jack everything.  Jack leaned over and kissed him softly.  “Then…on your knees, flyboy.” Jason growled at him as he waited for Daniel to move, then he pushed up and knelt.  Jack moved almost panther-like behind him and ran buttered fingers between his ass cheeks.  Jason gasped at his touch, then moaned with heavy desire when his eyes rested on Daniel, lying in front of him.  Daniel taunted him, teased him, as he lay before him, slicking the butter substance over his cock, masturbating ever so slowly. 

“I missed that,” Jason breathed, making Daniel smile wickedly at him.  He reached out.  “Give me some of that,” he asked and Daniel scooped some of the slippery stuff into his hand.  Jason leaned over, then slid two fingers over Daniel’s balls, down over his perineum, then smoothly into his ass.  When he did, Daniel spread his legs.  Jason could have come then and there…just from the scent of his lover…just from the look of him.  Then Jack slid two fingers into him

“Ah God,” he whispered in shock and need as he spread his legs further apart, wanting more from those wonderful, tormenting fingers.  He looked down and found those perfect nipples of Daniel’s at his disposal and latched onto one of them, sucking hard.  Daniel arched up, loving the feel of Jason’s mouth and tongue, so long missed.  He moaned with encouraging approval. 

Jason moved over to Daniel’s other nipple, then felt Jack nudging the head of his cock against his opening.  “Yes,” he mouthed.  “Yes, Jack…yes.”

Jack groaned at the feel of his cock pushing inside his lover, then again at the sight of Daniel jerking off, his legs spread, Jason’s fingers inside him.  “God.” He pushed his cock harder, groaning at the tightness.  “Goddamn.”

Jason agreed.  “Jack,” he breathed as his concentration inside Daniel’s ass became secondary for the moment.  Going without for such a long time had him forgetting Jack’s size.  He gave out a long moan as Jack buried himself completely and paused, letting Jason become accustomed to him. 

Daniel suddenly reached up and curled his slick fingers around Jason’s cock as Jason tried to relax.  The touch distracted him and he gasped.  “Daniel, Jesusfuck!” he murmured, trying not to cry out too loudly. 

“Like that?” Daniel asked teasingly. 

“Yes, dammit,” Jason breathed, and as looked down at his lover, he couldn’t help but want more.  “I want to feel myself inside you,” he said as he slowly withdrew his fingers. 

Daniel moaned at the thought and turned over, then again as Jason grabbed his hips and teasingly nudged the head of his cock inside.  A ridiculous image came to Daniel then and he couldn’t help it.  He laughed. 

“Daniel,” Jason complained as he repositioned his cock and pushed. 

“Sorry,” Daniel panted, trying to contain his laughter.  “I have thoughts of Jack being in the driver’s seat.  Think you can handle that, Jack?”

With a wicked grin, Jack pulled out, then thrust home…hard.  The move pushed Jason forward, and in so doing, buried his cock quickly into Daniel. 

“Oh fuck, I’d say that’s a yes,” Daniel groaned loudly.  Jack only smiled and repeated the thrust. 

“So much for being quiet,” Jason breathed as he pushed himself back to his knees and took hold of Daniel’s hips again.  The next thrust from Jack buried him completely into Daniel’s body.  “Jack…jesusfuckingchrist.” The dual sensation was amazing…and he’d missed it more than he thought he had.  Their voices lent only to moans and gasps for the next few minutes as Jack thrust harder, which in turn, controlled Jason’s thrusting into Daniel.  They moved effortlessly, back and forth, sometimes undulating, sometimes grinding, and all the while, Jason realized that nothing had been lost.  They were the same as they’d always been, with only the knowledge that they’d ever been apart marring their reunion.  A small voice inside Jason told him that if this was a dream, he was never waking up. 

Jack closed his eyes and dropped his head back, relishing in the feel of his absent lover’s body.  He wanted more, so much more, and suddenly picked up speed.  He heard Jason’s moan of approval, which cascaded down into Daniel.  Realizing that he was, in effect, in charge, he decided to put Jason there for a moment.  He grabbed Jason’s hips, angled deep, then pushed and pulled his hips, making Jason gasp in astonishment as his gland was massaged as equally well as his cock. 

“Jack.” Jason firmly held onto Daniel as he went with the motion, rocking back onto Jack’s cock, then forth into Daniel.  Again.  And again.  And again.  It felt glorious.  He felt his body heat up, the sweat pouring down his back, his chest.  He felt a drop of it tickle his nipple, then drop.  Just when he thought of speeding up, to finish and bring himself and his lovers off, his lovers took over.  Without a word, they started to move against him, creating shorter, harder thrusts.  Jack thrust forward and Daniel gripped the bed and thrust back. 

“Got it, Jack?”

“Oh yeah, Daniel.  Let’s give it to him.”

Harder and harder, they gave it him. 

“Come for us, baby,” Daniel urged. 

“Come for us,” Jack repeated.  The movements were rapid, skin slapping skin.  Jason felt as if he were on fire, then suddenly…his balls tightened and that pleasure crawled up his cock. 

“Oh…God!” Jason arched back and cried out, coming with an amazing intensity as he pumped his release into Daniel. 

“Yes, Jason,” Daniel gasped as Jason’s hot fluid massaged his sweet spot.  He thrust back, quickly, matching Jack’s movements.  “Do it, Jack.”

“God, yes,” Jack replied as he pistoned into Jason with several strong thrusts before he came explosively inside him.  When Jason cried out, combined with Jack’s rapid strokes, it was enough for Daniel.  He clutched the bedding, tensing, shaking, as his orgasm ripped through him. 

Jack held Jason to him as their bodies shuddered through the aftershocks, then gently, slowly, he remained inside him as he lowered them carefully onto their sides.  Jason clutched at Daniel’s hips, making sure that he stayed inside him.  The three of them lay spooned, languishing through the afterglow, listening to the sounds of each other’s breathing.  When Daniel felt Jason soften inside him and withdraw, he turned over to face him, and smiled.  Jason had fallen asleep.  His eyes met Jack’s and they shared a soft kiss before pulling up the blankets to nap with him. 

Jason cleared his throat.  It felt dry.  He should get something to drink.  Then he remembered where he was and who was with him.  Panic set in and before registering that his lovers were still next to him, he started to sit up in alarm, afraid they’d gone.  It was then that he realized that he couldn’t move; they were sandwiching him, even in sleep.  His body relaxed and he dropped his head back down. 

Jack stirred and snuffled the back of his neck-length hair.  “Thought we’d gone, didn’t you?”

Jason jumped slightly at the sound of Jack’s deep voice.  He turned his head toward him, covering Jack’s face with the black strands.  “Yeah,” he said very quietly.  “Bit of a panic attack, I’m afraid.” He sighed deeply.  “I think I’m going to have them for a little while.” Jason felt his emotions welling to the surface again and knew that he was unable to stop them.  He turned his face away.  Jack reached down and with fingers on his lover’s chin, turned Jason’s face back toward him. 

“It’s okay, you know.” He leaned down and kissed him softly.  “I can understand it all, Jason.”

His gaze was so intense that Jason frowned.  “What?”

“Alex told us you’d been having nightmares.  That they affected you badly.  He wouldn’t tell us what they were.”

“Because I wouldn’t tell him what they were.  I couldn’t,” Jason said, pausing.  Jack saw the watery shine in his eyes and brought a thumb up to wipe the tear that escaped. 

“It’s okay.”

Jason grimaced with embarrassment.  “I’m gonna be such a basket case for a while.  I hate it.”

“It’s understandable.  Don’t dismiss it just because you think your feelings aren’t important.”

Jason blinked at him.  “That was…deep, Jack.”

Jack smiled tenderly at him.  “I can do deep.”

Jason smiled back, then nuzzled Jack’s chin at the double entendre.  “Yes, you can.” His mood then changed to somber just as quickly as before.  He sighed, irritated with himself.  With the whole situation.  “You know, Janet thinks I’m fine to come back to work but–“

“Physically, you are.  But you’ve been fooling her, haven’t you?”

Jason frowned at him.  “Damned observant as ever, I see.”

“I can’t see it, Jason.  I just know you…even in a situation like this.”

At that moment, Daniel stirred, having been listening for a moment.  He turned around and snuggled against Jason, his face showing worry.  He exchanged a look with Jack before leaning in to give Jason a soft kiss.  “I’m sorry we put you through this–” he started to say but Jason brought a finger up to hush him. 

“No, Daniel.  No reason to be sorry.”

“I still am.”

“I know.”

“So…you’ve been fooling Janet?”

Jason grimaced again.  “I had to.  She cares so much…about all of us, and I couldn’t keep adding to her worry.”

“We so know that one,” Jack told him, “but we don’t fool her easily.  That must’ve been some performance.”

Jason closed his eyes and sighed.  “Sometimes it wasn’t a performance.  We had long talks.  I guess because I talked so…normally…she thought I was fine.”

Daniel kissed him then.  Softly at first, but he soon edged his tongue between Jason’s lips, then kissed him with more passion.  Jack’s lips joined in, then his tongue, touching him behind his ear. 

“Want you again,” Jack whispered just as Jason felt his cock thicken and lengthen against his ass. 

Jason reached back and curled his arm around Jack’s neck.  He couldn’t answer verbally as Daniel’s tongue was still in his mouth, but his action spoke for him.  He raised his knee invitingly.  Jack found the lube and quickly prepared himself once more.  He didn’t need to prepare Jason, but he slathered more of the cocoa butter over Jason’s opening.  At the touch of his fingers, he felt Jason’s muscles twitch in anticipation. 

“Do you want?” he asked against his ear. 

Jason moaned deeply.  Daniel smiled through their kiss and broke away.  “I’d say he does,” Daniel whispered as he nibbled Jason’s lips. 

“I so want,” Jason replied, then grasped Daniel by the hair and pulled him into a torrid kiss.  Daniel reached down and brought out another deep moan from his lover as his fingers wrapped around Jason’s solid erection and firmly stroked, once…then twice. 

Jack bit at Jason’s neck and shoulder as he pushed his dick slowly past the initial resistance of his lover’s sphincter.  As he sheathed himself inside, a breathy moan came from his throat as well as that from his dark-haired lover.  He moved his hips very slowly, grinding gently as he felt Jason’s body fit snugly, reassuringly, around his cock. 

“You feel so good,” Jack told him as he reached between him and Daniel to run his hands over Jason’s chest, pinching and twisting his nipples. 

Arousal spiked through Jason at the touch to his nipples, and he broke the kiss, gasping.  He let his head fall back against Jack’s chest, then found Daniel looking at him…staring open-mouthed, alarmed. 

Jack stilled his movements, wondering what was wrong, until he looked down at Jason’s face…and saw the tears falling. 

Daniel took his hand from Jason’s cock and cradled his face instead, making Jason stare at him in confusion.  “Jason, what’s wrong?”

“What?” he asked as he cleared his throat, wondering why his lovers stopped their lovemaking. 

Daniel and Jack frowned.  Did Jason not realize?

Jack started to withdraw but Jason held him still.  “No.  What’s wrong?” he asked quietly as a measure of panic started to settle. 

Daniel touched his face, then kissed at his tears.  “That’s our question, Jace.”

“You’re crying, Kit,” Jack told him as he nuzzled his cheek and kissed his temple. 

Jason closed his eyes.  “God, I didn’t even…nothing’s wrong.  I’m just…so fucking happy.” He’d been feeling so overwhelmed; the lump in his throat as Jack entered him, the touch of his fingers, the touch of Daniel’s fingers and the tongue in his mouth…the fact that his lovers were there, making love to him, holding him, pleasing him.  He had felt so overcome by it, but didn’t realize that he’d been shedding tears because of it.  He now felt awkward, stupid.  How could be not be aware?  Shame for his state of mind started to color him then and his erection began to soften. 

Daniel noticed and wrapped his fingers around him again.  “It’s okay, Jace,” he whispered.  “It’s okay.  Let us make you feel better.”

“You already ha…ve,” he said, his voice hitching as Daniel stroked his cock back to life.  He felt Jack’s cock softening slightly so he tilted his head back and brought Jack’s lips to his own.  “Love…” he said before he thrust his tongue into his mouth.  Jack moaned in agreement and cupped Jason’s jaw, kissing him back more forcefully. 

Daniel nearly shed his own tears from the tenderness which Jason exhibited.  “No more tears, baby,” he said as he ran his tongue over the hollow of Jason’s throat.  “We’re here.” He then gasped as Jason’s fingers found his cock and curled themselves around the shaft. 

Jason thumbed with familiarity over the head and though the rest of his body was distracted, he had no problems in sending shudders through Daniel’s body.  He broke Jack’s kiss, staring into his eyes, almost in apology.  “I need to taste him.”

Jack smiled.  “I know that feeling.” As he moved his hips in a gentle rocking motion, he reached down and replaced Daniel’s hand on his lover’s cock.  “Let him taste you, Daniel.”

Daniel swallowed with hungry anticipation, then moved up, kneeling.  Jason looked up into his eyes, then with shuddering breaths as Jack massaged his sweet spot, he ran his hand lovingly over Daniel’s chest and abdomen, pulling him close.  He kissed, then laved over his navel, sending shocks of pleasure through Daniel as his tongue stiffened and teased the sensitive skin within. 

Moving south, he reached back to clamp his hand over a buttock as Daniel’s heavy cock bobbed under his chin.  “You smell so good,” he breathed before he searched out and claimed his victory; the head of Daniel’s cock.  Daniel gasped as his lover’s hot, wet mouth engulfed him.  He laced his fingers through the semi-long, dark hair, jerking occasionally as Jason’s tongue moved over sensitive spots. 

Encouraging Daniel to thrust a bit, Jason moved back and forth, sucking gently at first. 

“Jason, Jason,” Daniel whispered.  His half-lidded eyes met Jack’s and they stared at each other in lustful arousal as their bodies began to glisten with sweat. 

“You like his mouth on you, don’t you?” Jack taunted, trying to get Daniel wound up more than he already was. 

It worked.  Daniel’s eyes nearly closed as he kept his gaze locked on Jack’s.  “Yes,” he whispered…barely.  Jason tried not to smile as he expertly encouraged Daniel toward the brink.  Daniel’s fingers clutched his hair suddenly and he head fell back.  “Jace, Jace,” he whispered, then dropped his mouth open, panting harshly.  Jason was so fucking good at this, he thought.  So good.  So good.  The pleasure spiked through him, then suddenly his words and cries were choked off as he came explosively down Jason’s throat. 

Jason held him tightly, sucking hard, drinking all of him down.  The feeling was so intense that Daniel nearly lost his balance as he reached out, grabbing hold of Jason’s arm and shoulder.  “Oh my God,” he whispered as his body jerked through the tremors.  When he finally stopped spurting, he tried to pull away, but Jason wouldn’t let him go.  The acute pleasure made him jerk his hips into Jason’s face as the man lovingly sucked at his softening cock. 

“Jason, too much, too much.” Jason hummed and Daniel cried out again, falling forward to grab Jack’s shoulder.  “Jason…oh god, please…stop.”

Reluctant to let him go, Jason did.  Slowly, gently, he pulled Daniel’s softened cock from his mouth, then licked and sucked the firm, damp skin over his abdomen.  “Good.  You taste so good.”

Breathing with relief, he caught Jack’s sarcastic grin as he pushed himself back up.  Daniel shoved at him.  “Well, don’t just lie there,” he taunted, then bent down and nipped at his shoulder.  “Fuck him into the floor, Jack.”

“Daniel,” Jason mildly scolded, “come here.” He pulled Daniel downward until he lay in front of him once more. 

“I love you, Jace,” Daniel told him softly. 

Jason kissed him.  “Love you more, you wonderful bastard,” he said smiling.  Daniel chuckled softly.  “Now, no more encouragement.  Jack doesn’t need…”

The rest of Jason’s attention was no longer available to anything but what Jack did to him.  His sweet spot had been nailed with one powerful stroke, making almost all of his limps go numbs.  Except one.  Then Jack was lifting his leg and pushing him onto his back.  He repositioned his legs over his arms, then Jason gazed up into Jack’s hungry, lustful eyes as the man began to swivel his hips in exquisite torture. 

“Jack,” he whispered. 

“It’s good, isn’t it, baby?”

Jason smiled, then bit his lip as Jack adjusted and thrust hard.  “Yes,” he breathed.  “Yes.”

Jack leaned forward then, placing Jason’s long legs around his neck.  “Ready?” he asked as he paused. 

“For?” Jason asked, knowing exactly what Jack meant. 

“This,” Jack replied, letting his hips drop to slam them against Jason’s ass. 

Jason dropped his mouth open, panting.  “Yes, Jack…  oh God, yes.”

Daniel lovingly caressed them both as Jack brought them toward the brink.  Then as he saw the signs of release impending, he reached between them and took hold of Jason’s cock, running his thumb over the head.  Squeezing and pulling just under the glans, he watched Jason open his mouth and arch back, closing his eyes. 

“Yes, yes, YES!” Jason came hard, his semen spurting thickly over Daniel’s fingers and across his own chest.  Jack watched him and the sight made him come like the proverbial rocket. 

His body went rigid as he pumped his release inside Jason’s body, jerking through the tremors that ran through him.  “Oh God,” he breathed as he slumped down, taking Jason tightly into his arms.  He felt Jason’s fingers combing through his damp and buried his face against his neck.  “I love you so damned much, you know.”

Jason smiled and held him tighter.  “I know.  Backatcha.”

As before, they spooned up together, dozing through the afterglow, not really sleeping.  Eventually, one of them had to break the spell of post-orgasmic euphoria. 

Jack kissed the back of Jason’s neck.  “Jace, pumpkin, sweetie pie, I gotta piss.  Where’s the nearest bathroom?”

Jason laughed softly.  “Asshole.  Take a left out of the door.  It’s at the end of the corridor.”

“Okay, thanks.  Think they’ll mind if I go down there wearing only my underwear?”

“No one will care, Jack.  Besides, there’s no one to see.  This corridor is short and my room’s the only one in it that’s occupied.”

“How come?”

“I wanted the privacy so they left me alone.”

“Ah.” Jack hesitated a moment, then leaned in and kissed him between the eyes.  “Back in a minute.”

Jason watched him slip on his briefs, then steal out of the room.  As he laid his head down, he felt Daniel stir, then felt him open his eyes as his lashes ghosted over the skin of his cheek.  Daniel looked up, searching Jason’s face, concerned after hearing that Jason had wanted to be isolated, even here. 

“You’re not alone, Jace,” he said softly.  “Not anymore.”

“I know.” He nuzzled Daniel’s nose, then frowned as he saw a sparkle of amusement in Daniel’s eyes.  “What?”

Daniel reached over and flicked a strand of hair out of Jason’s eyes.  “Your hair grows fast.  I never noticed that because you’re always getting it cut.  Janet and the others said you’d been here two months.  In just that period of time, look at this,” and he pulled a strand from Jason’s bangs straight down.  It reached his nose.  He smiled, then moved his hand to the curve in Jason’s shoulder, fingering the ending length.  “You should’ve seen mine and Jack’s hair.  In space for three months.”

Jason blinked.  “Three months?”

Daniel nodded.  “Jacob found us, rescued us.  We repaired a damaged teltac and had to fly it straight to the Alpha site because–“

“Because you had no GDO, I know.  I found it on the Ancient’s planet, along with your gear.”

Daniel looked at him silently for a few very long seconds before replying to that news.  “That must’ve been hard.”

Jason swallowed, then looked away.  “You’ve no idea.  Well, actually you do, just not…in this situation.”

Jack came back in at that moment, looking at Jason with a frown.  He’d heard what had been said just before opening the door and was now worried.  He removed his briefs and laid back down, slipping an arm around Jason’s waist. 

“I do know about that, Jace, but you’re right.  We don’t know what you’ve been through.  Do you think you can tell us about it?”

Jason wanted to.  He saw the looks in his lovers face and knew they only wanted to help.  Problem was, he didn’t want to talk yet.  Not now.  Not yet.  He shook his head.  “Not right now.  I…can’t.  Not here.”

Jack nodded.  “Think you can come back home and…” Jack paused.  He didn’t know how to say it without sounding indelicate. 

Jason knew what he meant, though.  “Heal?”

“Yeah…that.  Come on, Jace.  We’ll go home, get laid some more, watch some baseball.  Football season’s starting.”

Jason’s lips twitched, along with Daniel’s.  “Ah, yes.  My reason for living.” The words were a mistake to say, given the intensity of the conversation.  He winced, but he relented.  “You’re…here.  Alive.  There’s no reason why I can’t go back home.” He felt small again, silly, foolish.  He wanted to grab them and make sure, yet again, that they were real.  He never wanted to let them go. 

Jack thought he recognized the look, as did Daniel.  They grabbed hold of him, hugging their bodies to him, and Jason let out a deep breath as his anxiety seemed to diminish.  “Thanks,” he whispered. 

“Janet and Wagner said you had nightmares,” Jack told him softly.  “We can help with those.  Are you still having them?”

“No,” Jason replied, grateful that his voice didn’t waver. 

Daniel touched his face, then leaned in for a kiss.  “How about we take you home and give you something better to dream about?”

“You already have, Daniel.” He paused, then whispered to them both, “I know I said it already, but…I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Daniel told him as he stared unblinkingly into Jason’s emotional face. 

Jack tilted Jason’s face up, then moved back so he could see his eyes.  “I love you, too.”

The space between Jason’s brows wrinkled, showing an increase in emotion, then he sniffed dramatically, fighting the approaching lump in his throat.  “Here I go again,” Jason laughed at himself.  “I may as well warn you.  I’m going to be an overprotective sap for a while.  Probably for as long as I keep waking up expecting you to be gone.” His lovers said nothing.  They simply ran their hands through his hair, over his body, comforting him. 

“We won’t mind that much, Jace,” Jack told him as a smile started to form. 

“We might even expect it,” Daniel teased. 

Jason both hated and loved it when they ganged up on him in a tease.  He was relieved to be able to tease them in return.  He gave them both a slowly growing smile.  They recognized the tease in it, becoming wary. 

“Jace?” Daniel asked. 

“Well, at least the over-protectiveness will be real enough,” Jason told them.  “Both of your estates are in my name.” His smile grew as they registered what that meant. 

Jack dropped his face into Jason’s neck.  “Fuck.”

Daniel started to laugh as he shook his head.  “Figures.”

“Don’t worry, guys,” Jason went on.  “I’ll just move in with one of you.  I gave up my apartment before I came here so I’ve nowhere to stay when I get home.  I am not living in my quarters on base.  Did that enough while you were gone.”

His lovers looked at him, then at each other. 

“Okay, we’ll flip.  Who’s got a coin?” Jack asked as he grabbed his trousers and searched through the pockets. 

“We’re broke,” Daniel told him.  “Jason’s got all the money.”

“Fuck.  Okay, rock-paper-scissors.”

“Jack, don’t be an ass.  He’ll stay with me.”

“No, with me.”

“No, with me.”

“No…”

Jason winced as they went round and round.  He really should have known that they would do this, but in all honesty, he didn’t mind.


 

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