Joy's Fiction Stargate SG-1 Slash Fanfiction

Trinity 23

T


Trinity 23: Blood Brothers

Part 2 of 2 (conclusion)

Summary: There’s something nastier than giant spiders and unfortunately, Jason and Adriann discover what that is.
Quote: “Hotel California” by The Eagles.


Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
‘Relax,’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
but you can never leave.’


Everything looked so normal outside.  So…alarmingly ignorant.  Jack was still trying to clean off some of the worst stuff staining his field vest and uniform.  He gave up on his boots. 

“The fucking things are so wasted,” he grumbled, turning the toes this way and that.  “And it’s a really good thing they’re not spit-shine leather ’cause there’s no way…”

Daniel, with the help of Sam, was still trying to get the sticky spider strands out of his hair.  He winced and yelled when she plucked a few hairs. 

“Ow!”

“I’m sorry, Daniel but this junk is stuck to your hair.”

Daniel rubbed the back of his head where the few hairs had been pulled along with the few strands of thick spider silk.  “S’alright.”

“Stop being a big baby,” Jack teased, his mouth twitching away the smile that threatened. 

“Oh puh-lease,” Daniel replied, snorting.  “You’re one to talk with all that ‘ew, there’s blood on my uniform’.”

The teasing, mildly insulting banter continued, while ten feet away from them, the reactions of Talen and Kashan were about to bring the terror inside the building…out. 

Talen’s eyes grew large with fright, as did Kashan’s.  The two suddenly whirled, facing the building. 

“Adriann!” Talen yelled, startling Jack and Daniel into twisting around, staring at her and her brother with alarm.  She retrieved a dagger from her right riding boot, pushed off the ground, and ran toward the building.  Kashan was at her heels, his own dagger in his hands. 

“What the fuck!” Jack said as he got up and ran after them. 

“What’s going on?” Daniel asked as he and the others ran after Jack. 

Talen and Kashan suddenly halted before the entrance to the palace, forcing the others to skid to a halt behind them.  Jack put his hand on her shoulder. 

“What’s the matter?”

Talen didn’t hear him as she backed up a step, her hands suddenly going to her ears in a futile gesture, the dagger slipping from her grasp.  It fell unheeded to the ground, its metal clanging noisily to the stonework. 

Deep, sinister laughing invaded her mind. 

Mmmmmmmmm…so sweet, came the laughing voice.  So sweet. 

Then more laughter.  A terrible laughing.  Horror filled Talen’s thoughts, along with memories of something she’d thought was a myth.  Kashan staggered backward, his own dagger falling to the grass.  Talen turned to him, her eyes wild with fright and disbelief. 

“Talen, what is it?” Jack asked louder. 

Then the voice came again, filling both Talen and Kashan’s minds. 

It has been too long since I’ve had one of my own…  and the laughter came again.  The only description for it was ‘evil’. 

Talen suddenly let out a blood-curdling scream.  She tried to move but the horrific images communicated into her mind held her frozen in place.  Kashan, his face white, suddenly dropped to his knees.  His mind, filled with the same images and sounds, tried to search, to seek out where Adriann and Jason were.  But there was nothing. 

Jack didn’t need to be told something was deadly wrong. 

“Fan out!” he bellowed, pelting full bore into the structure.  “SG-1, search the building!”

“Scott, Graham, cover the perimeter,” Madison ordered, taking off after Jack.  “Jones, with me!”

The teams searched frantically, going over every nook and cranny of the building but Adriann and Jason were not to be found.  The building was empty. 

Jason groaned, shaking his head.  The action brought a sharp pain through his temples but he repeated it, and again, the pain came.  He felt a stinging wetness under his left ear and tilted his head to the right.  The stinging increased…as did the wetness.  He grimaced.  Blood.  He was bleeding.  He then remembered a sharp pain, and slicing.  His eyes widened. 

A vampire?

The thought was momentarily dismissed as his long years of training took over.  He blinked, taking in his surroundings.  A small candle on the floor illuminated what little he could see.  He was in a dark grey room, and from the look of it, made of the same stone that the palace was made of, which meant he was still there…somewhere underground.  There were no windows, which confirmed his assumption.  The room was empty but for a long, rectangular pad on the floor, presumably a bed.  The air was stale, musty so there wasn’t much ventilation, but there was a doorway to his right, which meant air possibly came from outside…wherever that was.  There was also blood.  It stained the floor and the pseudo-bed.  It was dried and caked, if the color and texture was anything to go by, and none of that helped Jason much.  It only told him that he was possibly the next donor. 

That assumption was strengthened by the fact that he was chained to a wall opposite the bed. 

He felt the manacles pull around his ankles as he looked down, then he examined his wrists, fastened parallel to his head, but a foot away in distance.  Harder to gain leverage, he thought.  He yanked, then pulled hard, straining enough to cause pain in his hands.  The two-inch metal manacles were snug; there was no way to even break his own wrists and pull himself free.  And even so, the snug fit around his ankles would prevent him from freeing himself.  Unless he were to find something nearby to use as a tool.  He looked around, trying to find it, but that was pointless.  He couldn’t get his hands free to use any such tool.  Still, he looked for openings, gauging, threat-assessing every conceivable angle.  At least he was still clothed, he thought drily, though only in his t-shirt and trousers. 

Something moved from the shadows of the unlit portion of the room.  Startled, he swallowed and tried to focus his eyes. 

“Who are you?  Why have you done this?” Jason didn’t care about the answers, but he had to get whomever it was to give him information he could use, whatever it might be. 

His answer came in a low, nasal laugh; it sent a chill down his spine, and from the sound of it, Jason knew for sure that he was in deep shit. 

“I can taste the fear coming off of you,” said the thing in the dark.  “I am so pleased.”

The hidden figure then took two steps out of the shadows, standing next to the bed pad.  It smiled…and Jason watched the fangs grow.  It was a vampire, but unlike any of the Residents.  Whoever, whatever, this was, it definitely didn’t belong with them.  The creature resembled the Residents in that it was built like a man, dressed in some sort of brown cloth.  But unlike the Residents, it was bald, completely hairless…and with light, not dark, grey eyes.  They didn’t seem to have irises, either, they were so small.  That only added to the creepy effect.  Only its fangs told him there was a kinship…well, and its obvious tall height.  But the eyes and that laugh…they were…depraved.  Jason swallowed again. 

“Adriann…Adriann…there’s someone…”

The vampire smiled wider as it took a step closer, catching Jason’s attention.  The candlelight made the creature’s face glow with apparent malevolence, and indeed, the light that reflected in its eyes looked…hungry.  Jason tried to swallow again but his throat had gone dry.  It was the fangs.  They were glistening with saliva, as was the vampire’s bottom lip.  He was drooling?

“Listen, you don’t want to do this.  Let me go or–“

The creature suddenly lunged at him with frightening speed, its hands going round his throat as fangs sank into the dip of his right clavicle.  Jason gurgled, trying twist his face away, to loosen the grip.  But it was strong…just like the Residents.  He tried to scream but the fingers tightened about his throat and his eyes bulged, feeling hot and dry.  He tried to kick but couldn’t so his body bucked wildly. 

And there was the laughing.  The horrible low, deep laughing that permeated Jason’s ears.  The vampire was insane.  Just as that thought entered his mind, Jason was quite sure that this was the moment.  After all he’d been through…this was it.  He was going to die.  His mind frantically searched out for Adriann. 

“Adriann, tell them I love them!  Tell them I love th…”

He started to lose consciousness but the creature abruptly released his throat.  Jason tried to get his breath back, gulping in great amounts of air between exhaling coughs. 

The vampire laughed, then lapped at the wound made above his clavicle.  It then dropped to its knees.  Jason wondered what the hell it was doing and he looked down, still panting in deep, panic-filled breaths.  His eyes widened as he saw the creature pick up an eight-inch rounded metal blade, like an ice pick, from the floor.  It gazed lovingly at it, then looked up at Jason and smiled. 

“No…” Jason said, shaking his head. 

“Biting is so…inadequate,” the vampire said, chuckling now, though the deep tone remained. 

It made Jason’s skin crawl and he shuddered.  “No,” he repeated. 

The creature tilted his head, not hearing him.  “I have devised a much better way,” it said.  “Would you like see?”

“Do I have a choice?” Jason asked sarcastically it as he lapsed into a coughing fit. 

“No,” the man said, then stabbed once, quickly, into the inside of Jason’s right thigh, five inches above the knee.  It just barely missed the bone. 

Jason screamed, his mind calling out.  “Adriann!”

The madman laughed maniacally, the sound as deep and low as the wound he’d just made.  He then bent his head to drink. 

Running back outside, Jack grabbed Kashan and shook him roughly.  “What’s happened to them?  Where are they?  Answer me, dammit!”

Kashan couldn’t answer him.  His mind was still being bombarded by horrible images.  Then suddenly…through Adriann’s mind, he found Jason’s.  “Oh no,” he whispered hoarsely, all the while voices shouted at him.  He suddenly grabbed his stomach and doubled over, his forehead hitting the earth as his other hand clawed deeply into the dirt.  Jason was in pain and the transference of it, through Adriann, caused Kashan’s stomach to heave.  Abruptly, he threw up what little liquid he’d had earlier.  “No,” he whispered, and vomited again.  He knew immediately that if he and the others didn’t get to Jason and Adriann, they were going to die. 

“Dammit, answer me!” Jack shouted but Kashan barely heard him.  He felt Jack’s hands around him, then Teal’c’s.  They lifted him back into a kneeling position. 

“Kashan!  Where are they?” Daniel asked, his eyes wide with fear.  “Kashan!”

“It was supposed to be a myth,” Kashan whispered as he looked over at his sister.  Talen had passed out and in the next second, so did he. 

“Movement!” Lieutenant Scott called out. 

Jack stood up quickly from Kashan’s body as both he and Madison asked, “Where?”

“Inside.  I saw a shadow move.” No one questioned what he saw. 

“Sonofabitch!” spat Jack and he bolted into the building with Daniel stuck to him like glue.  Others fanned out, searching. 

“There,” Teal’c called out and ran down a corridor that held only two rooms and no outlet except past him.  Whatever it was, it wasn’t getting past him. 

“Don’t kill it!” Jack shouted as he rounded a corner and caught up with Teal’c. 

Teal’c raised a brow, then nodded.  “It could give us the location to Major Coburn and Adriann.”

“Yeah,” Jack said, panting from his adrenaline-fueled run.  “Where?” he asked, pointing with his P-90 at the two doorways up ahead.  Teal’c shook his head.  Jack looked over his shoulder at Bra’tac and then at Daniel.  “Bra’tac, with Teal’c.  Daniel, with me.” He looked past them at Sam.  “No one gets past you.”

“Not a problem, sir,” she said as she and SG-2 lined up along the width of the wide hall. 

Jack nodded, then turned forward.  “Since you’re on the left, T, you take the left.”

Teal’c nodded his agreement.  They moved forward cautiously, walking the five yards to the open doorways.  Flanking either side of the doors, the four men slowly moved within simultaneously.  Sam watched and held her breath, her stance ready, her P-90 held at neck height, scanning, waiting. 

Daniel and Jack looked carefully, moving very slowly, but nothing was in the barely furnished room but a table and some sofas. 

In the room opposite, however, Teal’c and Bra’tac found their prey. 

“In here!” Bra’tac shouted. 

Jack and Daniel ran in next to Teal’c and Bra’tac.  Jack was going to step forward but he stopped cold when he saw the look of the…thing…plastered to the corner of the room, hissing at them.  It resembled a Resident…but it didn’t.  It had the eyes and height, but it was hairless, completely.  It did have the fangs, however. 

“A ‘right, you tell me what you did with them and I’ll think about letting you live.”

It hissed at him, and Jack noticed with disgust that the thing was drooling.  Then several thoughts went through Jack’s mind as he threat-assessed ways to get at this creature.  In the end, it was his Indiana Jones approach. 

He pulled out the zat and shot it.  It spasmed and fell to the floor unconscious. 

Daniel nodded with surprise.  “Nice.  I was just thinking the same thing.”

“Great minds,” Jack replied.  “Teal’c, lend me a hand.”

“We need something to tie it up with…if its strength is anything like the Residents’,” Jack said as they dropped the unconscious creature to the ground outside.  “Which reminds me,” he added irritably.  He walked over and looked down at the two unconscious Residents, then mumbled, “Oh, for cryin’ out loud.” He moved over to his field pack and retrieved his canteen of water. 

“Jack?” Daniel asked, watching him carefully.  For a brief second, Daniel thought he was going to shoot them and had to stifle a hysterical laugh.  One he was quite sure he was capable of having at the moment.  Talen’s scream had unnerved him and all he could think of was that Jason was in trouble.  Adriann’s welfare was secondary and it made him feel guilty. 

Jack didn’t answer Daniel as he unscrewed the canteen’s cap, placed two fingers over the opening, and began to sprinkle the water over the Residents’ faces.  After a moment, they roused.  Kashan opened his eyes and coughed, but Talen turned to her side, moaning. 

“Ah, nice to see you back with us,” Jack said sarcastically.  “Now, much as I’d love to give you time to get your bearings, we don’t exactly have time.  So, let’s get down to business, shall we?” He then pointed his P-90 at the unconscious figure lying five feet away from them. 

Kashan inhaled sharply and scooted away, hitting Talen.  She rolled over and looked, then did the same. 

Jack scowled, pointing at the creature.  “What is that?  And more importantly, why’d you scream, and most importantly, where the fuck are Major Coburn and Adriann!” The last question was nearly shouted.  “Talk!”

Talen and Kashan, their faces ash white, sat up. 

“Could I get some water?” Talen asked.  Jack held out his canteen and she took it with a shaky hand, drank, then handed it back.  Jack motioned to Kashan, so she handed it to him, then returned it to Jack. 

Talen took a deep breath.  “It is what you would call a mutant.  I have never met one in my lifetime.  I thought they were stories the others made up to frighten us.”

“Why would they do that?” Daniel asked.  “Your world is the same as ours so frightening children with ghost stories–“

“You misunderstand, Daniel,” she interrupted, her voice lowering.  “It was to keep us from going through the stargate without escorts or without a planned expedition.”

“Oh.”

“Not exactly a good way to keep people from going,” Jack said, then shook his head.  “Never mind.  I don’t care.  What is it?” he pointed. 

“The stories say that it is a mutant of our race,” Kashan said, his voice cold as he stared at the creature.  He got up and went over to it, staring down.  He kicked its arm, forcing it on its back.  He then straddled its waist and sat…waiting. 

“Kashan…” Talen half-asked. 

“It has the answers,” he said. 

“So do you,” Jack snapped, “So talk until it awakes.  It may not even talk so you’re it, pal.”

Kashan looked at Jack in alarm, getting a good feel for the hostility in his voice.  He’d felt it before, but not as intensely as this.  His eyes narrowed as he stared at the man.  “It is what you would call a deviant, and a…serial killer.  I believe that’s the phrase for murderers on your planet that kill their own repeatedly.”

Daniel nodded, the blood filling his cheeks instead of leaving them.  “Then this is one of you who’s gone insane?”

Kashan looked down, examining the features.  He nodded.  Talen stood, took a deep breath, then looked at Jack, then Daniel.  “I am sorry for my hysterics.”

They blinked, then nodded.  She had taken them by surprise with her actions.  She had always been so self-assured and confident.  So ‘cool’ under fire, though she did seem to have a temper. 

“Why did you?” Daniel asked her.  He didn’t want to know…but he had to. 

Talen looked down at the prone vampire, then walked over and knelt at the crown of its head.  She peered down at it, then looked back at the palace.  Her eyes were curious, but alarmed.  She looked back at Kashan.  “Do you not hear anything?”

He nodded.  “I hear a little.  So would you.  Let down the shield, Talen.  Just a little.”

She swallowed and closed her eyes.  She listened.  Only murmuring now.  No screams, no pain.  The two of them stared down at the unconscious captive, moving past the creature’s own telepathic shields…reading. 

“If you’re not talking in two seconds…” Jack threatened loudly, his patience at an end. 

“Jack, give them a minute,” Daniel asked, trying to be considerate.  Truth was, for once, he agreed with Jack.  If they didn’t start talking, he would start shooting someone. 

Jack started to reply with an angry retort but stopped as he saw the fear and anger in Daniel’s eyes, reflecting his own.  “Why?”

Daniel nodded at them.  “Look at them.  They’re reading its mind.”

So they were, Jack thought, so he gave them a few more minutes.  It was obvious when they were finished as their bodies swayed a moment.  They closed their eyes and took deep breaths, before looking up at those around them.  Talen then fixed her gaze solely on Jack and Daniel. 

“There are five others, but one of them is the leader.  This one is just a follower, a parasite,” and with that, she spat in the vampire’s face.  It did not wake him.  “Their leader is called Celev.”

“Where are they?” Jack asked. 

“Deep underground.  A maze of rooms,” Kashan answered.  “But we cannot find the area in his mind that will tell us where the secret passageway is.”

“Secret passageway?” Daniel asked, incredulous.  “This just gets better, doesn’t it?”  He laughed with derision as his hand went over his eyes. 

“I don’t want to ask this but…”

“Why did we pass out?” Kashan finished asking.  

Jack nodded.  “And why’d you throw up?”

Kashan sighed.  “Even as a mutant, or perhaps because he is one, Celev has powerful telepathic powers.  He reached into our minds to taunt us, scare us.”

“He feeds off fear,” Talen added, shivering.  She swallowed, not wanting to tell them.  She glanced at Kashan who simply closed his eyes.  He didn’t want them to know but they had to.  “You want to know where they are and what’s happening to them?” she asked. 

Jack swallowed.  “Just say it.”

With a sigh, she said, “Adriann and Jason are in two different rooms, chained to one of the walls.  Celev’s plan is to intimidate them, to breed fear, inflict pain, breed more fear.  He…it feeds his need,” she added thickly, grimacing.  “He’ll inflict wounds, but they won’t die.  He’ll slowly drain them of blood instead.”

Jack closed his eyes and Daniel’s face when white.  “You got that from this one’s mind.”

“From the images of ones already killed,” Kashan told him. 

“And you passed out because?” Daniel asked, morbidly needing to know. 

“I reached out to Adriann,” Kashan told him.  “Through his mind, I touched Jason’s,” and Kashan’s voice caught in a whispered sob.  “And he was screaming.”

The gasp through the teams was audible, especially from SG-2. 

Daniel’s mind whirled and his own voice caught.  He stomped on the need to let out a tiny cry of empathetic pain and turned away.  he bent over, hands on knees.  Then the anger and fear rose within him.  Hot and fiery, irrational.  Why did Jason insist on going?  Why?  The fear of losing him finally grabbed hold of Daniel and he swiftly turned about, stared hard at Jack, his eyes hot, his heart hammering.  Before he could stop himself, it came out of his mouth, hurtful and poisonous… 

“Why the hell did you have to send Jason with him?”

The moment he said it, Daniel knew it wasn’t true and he wanted to take it back.  He didn’t mean it the way he said it but it was too late.  Daniel found Sam staring at him, her eyes as big as saucers and her jaw dropped open; Teal’c…well, he looked like Bra’tac – marble stone would have been easier to read but the disappointment was plainly evident.  He looked apologetically at the others, then back to Jack. 

“Jack…I’m…” but his words faded as Jack’s back stiffened in that familiar line.  The one that said, don’t talk to me or you’ll regret it

Jack turned slowly and stared into Daniel’s stricken face.  Daniel’s expression was the same as his own: extreme fear.  But right now, Jack was beyond pissed.  He’d already been cursing himself for sending Jason with Adriann, knowing damn well that someone would have gone with Adriann.  If not Jason, it would have been himself or Daniel.  But Daniel’s accusatory voice…he had no damn right to say what he said.  Jack stared at him for a long minute.  For the first time in a very, very long time, he wanted to hit Daniel.  Hard.  He wanted him to hurt, to feel exactly as he did. 

Jack clenched his jaw, then turned away.  “Carter, get back to the gate and call the General, tell him what’s happened and see if we can’t get that sensor net your department created.  If no UAV is available, maybe we could use that.  Take Doctor Jackson with you.”

Daniel stiffened at the words.  Yes.  He was in deep shit. 

“Yes, sir,” Sam said, then gave Daniel a look as they took off in a trot for the gate. 

“Madison, Wagner,” Jack went on, “you and yours get back in that building.  We need to find that entrance underground.” He paused and pointed at them.  “No one, and I mean no one, goes by themselves or even in pairs.  You go as teams.  I want radios on broadcast.”

“Yes, sir,” Alex and Madison echoed as the seven team members switched on their radios and went inside the building. 

“And us, O’Neill?” Teal’c asked, referring to himself, Bra’tac, Talen, and Kashan. 

We,” Jack said slowly, staring at Kashan and Talen, “are going to wake this bastard up and find out what else we need to know.  If he won’t talk, we kill him.”

After informing the General what had happened, and what Jack had requested, the gate was shut down and Sam and Daniel waited for it to reactivate and the requested equipment to be sent through. 

Leaning against the DHD, Sam kept looking at Daniel, who refused to meet her gaze.  She could see that he was miserable but couldn’t understand why he’d lashed out like he had. 

“Daniel…”

“I know, Sam,” he said quietly, holding up his hand to stall her.  “I know.  It came out of my mouth wrong.  I was thinking ‘why did Jason have to go with Adriann’ but I also wished that Jack hadn’t let him go.  The two thoughts mixed up and…” He dropped his hand in futility and sigh.  “I’ve really pissed him off.  Jack will never forgive me for saying something like that…well, in front of others and on a mission.”

Sam agreed with him that he shouldn’t have said it, but she couldn’t believe Jack wouldn’t forgive him.  After all the things Jack had said to Daniel in the past. 

“I think he’ll forgive you, Daniel.  Especially when he realizes how high emotions can make you say things you don’t mean.”

Daniel turned to her.  “Jack’s always been careful about that, Sam.  He never–“

“Daniel,” she said, cutting him off in the same gesture he’d used.  She held up an index finger.  “Remember when Reese was at the base?”

Daniel groaned.  “How could I forget,” and he absently rubbed his right wrist. 

She winced in sympathy.  “Remember what the Colonel said to you, out in the hall.  He got mad at you for–“

Daniel sighed heavily.  “Wanting to talk to the robot, I know.”

Jack had never, ever, seen anything that wasn’t living and breathing as alive.  Reese had looked alive, but to Jack, she’d been nothing more than an extremely intelligent machine.  Machines didn’t have souls.  They may have had feelings, but only those feelings programmed into them.  She was defective, Jack had said, and Daniel had agreed with him.  But it hadn’t stopped Jack from getting nasty with him, for lashing out.  And that was after they had supposedly become ‘friends’ again.  Jason had been at the mountain the day that Reese had been there, and later, he’d seen the end result of Daniel’s argument with Reese and his argument with Jack.  Jason had been so very pissed off at Jack and he’d stayed that way for a long time; long after Daniel’s anger at Jack had gone. 

But Daniel saw what Sam was getting at.  Jack lashed out at him at the mountain because he was scared.  He didn’t like bugs…and he especially hated mechanical ones.  He’d let his fear take over for part of that day and it had served him well.  The only problem was that he’d made a casualty of their friendship in the process.  Daniel had still, to this day, wondered whether or not Jack had meant everything he had said.  But now…he realized that Jack hadn’t meant those words.  He’d simply been scared. 

Sighing again, he dropped his chin to his chest.  “I see what you mean Sam, but…Jack’s more bullheaded than I am when it comes to holding onto his anger.”

“Then remind him of that day with Reese,” Sam told him. 

Suddenly the gate activated and their thoughts became focused on their duty. 

Jack now straddled the creature, with Talen and Kashan sitting at either side of him.  He tipped his canteen over its face, but the water didn’t rouse it. 

“Fine, you little sonofabitch,” he growled.  “Grab his arms,” he told Talen and Kashan.  His emotions were intense, and therefore, easy to read on the surface of his mind.  They knew what he planned and they didn’t have a problem with it.  Jack took off his gloves and pulled on another pair that covered his fingers.  He reached over and pinched the nose closed, then covered its mouth…and waited. 

Thirty seconds later, its skin color changed to red and it finally responded.  Its eyes flew open and it tried to throw Jack’s hands off its face, but Jack held onto him.  As long as Kashan and Talen’s equal strength was able to hold the creature down, Jack could continue to scare the hell out of his captive.  When the creature’s eyelids fluttered, Jack let go.  It gasped, wheezing as it fought to take in breath. 

“Where is the door that leads underground?” Jack asked as he flexed his right hand, smoothing out the leather with his left. 

The vampire spat at him and laughed as Jack wiped the spit from his shirt.  The next thing that happened was Jack’s right fist impacting the creature’s left jaw, whipping its head to the right.  There was an obvious crunch and Jack massaged his knuckles.  That punch had been hard and now his hand hurt like a sonofabitch. 

“A nice tactic, O’Neill,” Teal’c said, observant as ever.  “Allow me to try.”

Jack got up and though the vampire tried to get up, Kashan and Talen held him down easily.  It hissed and spat at them, too.  And with that spit, came a few pieces of teeth. 

“Nice to know my hand doesn’t hurt for nothing,” Jack said to Teal’c as the man took his place. 

Teal’c didn’t punch though.  He stared. 

Kashan and Talen didn’t get it but Jack did.  He grinned, picked up his canteen and walked toward the river.  “I’m refilling my canteen.”

“Very well,” Teal’c answered.  Bra’tac wanted to follow Jack, to talk to him, but he wouldn’t leave Teal’c.  He also knew that getting between Jack and Daniel was none of his business.  If they would remain friends, then they would.  If their friendship was strong enough, that is. 

Bra’tac stood next to Teal’c, looking down at him, then at the creature.  He grinned with sarcasm.  “If it is your wish to die today,” said slowly, “then you have succeeded.  But not right now.” He looked into Talen’s face then.  “Have you been attempting to reach his mind once more?”

“I have,” she said through a sneer.  “He has a wall built.  I am slowly removing it, but it will take time, if I am able to do it at all.”

“I have faith that you will succeed,” Bra’tac told her.  She looked up, studied his face, then gave him a brief smile. 

“I hope so.”

Their attention was briefly diverted as SG-2 and 3 exited the building.  They didn’t look happy.  To Bra’tac and Teal’c, it meant they hadn’t found a way inside. 

“Where’s the Colonel?” Madison asked. 

Bra’tac nodded at the river.  “Refilling the water.  I take it you have not had any success.”

Madison shook his head with disgust and just then, Jack returned through the sparse edging of trees. 

“Nothing?” he called out. 

“No, sir.”

Jack spit in disgust.  “Suggestions?”

Alex cleared his throat.  “We request more ammo and begin spot shooting every goddamn wall, floor and ceiling in there…sir.”

Jack sighed.  “Probably couldn’t hurt, either.  I take it you tapped on the walls?”

“Not all of them, sir,” Madison told him.  “Only the ones that weren’t load-bearing.”

“I hate to say this, Major, but…” and Jack gestured at the building. 

Madison nodded and turned around.  “Let’s go, boys.” The seven men returned to the building. 

Movement to Jack’s left alerted him and he found Sam and Daniel heading toward him, carrying a large, green metallic box.  He looked at Sam but refused to look at Daniel.  “Report, Major.”

“This will be its first field test, sir, and will have to be repositioned constantly.”

“Why’s that?”

“It measures mainly depth, not distance, so it will have to be moved every ten feet and reset.”

Jack tilted his head.  “Where do you think we should start?”

“At the entrance, sir.”

“Need any help?”

“No, sir.”

“Then get started, Major.”

“Yes, sir.”

He ignored Daniel completely. 

“Sir?” Sam asked hesitantly. 

“What is it, Carter,” Jack asked, staring at her. 

“These were the only things I could get on short notice.” She handed him two pairs of handcuffs and a roll of yellow plastic twine. 

Jack took them and nodded.  “Thank you, Major.”

She stared hard at him, then looked at Daniel who made a point of looking elsewhere.  “Sir–“

“Not now, Carter,” Jack told her. 

She sighed, letting him know she wasn’t happy with him.  “Daniel?” she asked as she picked up one end of the green box.  He turned, nodded, and picked up the other end.  When they set it down just in front of the double doors of the palace, she looked at him sympathetically.  “There won’t be any readings to look at for at least an hour, Daniel.”

“I figured.”

“Why don’t you take the time to go wash off in the river.”

He sighed, nodded, then walked off. 

Jack watched him then, an irritable frown on his face.  “Where’re you going?” he asked. 

Daniel didn’t answer and threw his field vest to the ground next to pack before he continued on. 

“I don’t need his help, sir,” Sam called out.  “He’s going down to the river to wash, sir.”

Jack looked at her, then back at Daniel, watching the man’s gait as he walked.  Daniel was upset but not with him.  Jack’s anger dissipated somewhat, but he still hurt.  He turned round and went back to the business at hand. 

“Turn him over, folks.  It’s time to cage this creep.” He waved the handcuffs and twine. 

Jason?

Jason?

Jason, wake up?

“Adriann?”

Yes, Adriann said with relief.   I was afraid he had killed you. 

“No, but it felt like it was going to.”

I know.  I felt the pain. 

“You felt it?  How?”

Through your mind. 

“But not the actual pain, right?”

Yes…I did. 

“Damn this telepathy.  I’m sorry.”

Don’t be.  We are fortunate, Jason.  You are fortunate. 

“I’m not feeling very fortunate, Adriann.  And Adriann, who the fuck…what the fuck is that thing?”

It used to be one of us, Jason.  Its name is Celev if that’s of any use to you.  I thought it was a legend, like your Earth vampire or werewolf.  But apparently, it is not. 

“What is it?”

In your world, it would be like that of one of your most heinous serial killers. 

Jason suddenly started to laugh and Adriann felt it. 

What is so funny?

“I’m sorry, Adriann, but this situation keeps getting better and better.”

Jason, how could it–

“I’m kidding, Adriann.  That’s sarcasm.  Plus, there’s something else I never noticed before.”

What is that, Jason?

“You have an accent in my mind.” A Russian accent, actually.  It was so clichéd that it made Jason laugh again.  “Sorry, Adriann.  I’m not laughing at you.”

Adriann was thoughtful for a moment.  I understand.  It is the situation. 

“It is,” Jason told him, sighing. 

That’s good. 

“Why?”

It will be easier. 

“Again, why?”

You must listen to me, follow my instructions.  If you do not, that creature will be able to destroy your mind. 

Jason sighed.  “What are you talking about?”

I need to set up a protective barrier in your mind so he will not know I am talking to you. 

“And how do I do that?”

You simply allow me to read deep into your mind. 

Jason was quiet for a second, thinking.  “That why I couldn’t hear you before?”

I am so sorry, Jason.  I wanted you to know I was there, but I couldn’t risk him finding out that you could hear me. 

“I understand.” Jason was quiet for a minute. 

Jason?  What is wrong?

“You will then be able to read my mind no matter what, yes?”

That bothers you. 

“Right now, Adriann, I don’t care.  But what I want to know is…how much will this hurt?”

Adriann hesitated, then asked, Why do you think it will hurt?

“Because anything worthwhile does, Adriann.”

Jason hadn’t intended the statement to be that philosophically deep, but it was.  He couldn’t help but yearn for his lovers. 

“Can you call out to Talen and Kashan?”

Yes, why?

“You know why.  Just in case, Adriann.  I want them to know.”

Adriann knew Jason wasn’t talking about his siblings.  

They know, Jason. 

“Yes, but I want it sent out anyway, okay?”

Okay.  You ready?

“As ever.  Are you sure that creep hasn’t been reading us?” Jason asked. 

I am sure.  I can sense him. 

“Then begin, Adriann.  Before the sonofabitch comes back.”

Their captive neatly trussed and tied to one of the few small trees that dotted the edge of the palace, Jack let Kashan and Talen go to work on him…it.  He was already thoroughly disgusted.  SG-2 and 3 hadn’t been able to find anything but they were still at work, tapping on walls and floors and ceilings.  There were a lot of them.  Carter had her gadget working, but so far, it had detected very little.  Jack knew they were running out of time, even though Talen and Kashan hadn’t said anything.  If what they had said was true, and he had little reason to doubt them, then he knew that Jason and Adriann had little time left.  Maybe a day, if they were lucky. 

He picked up his P-90 and decided to make his own patrol when Talen came up to him and gently took his arm. 

“Something?” he asked.  He knew he was on edge and had to force himself to be polite. 

“I am sorry, Jack, but you must go talk to Daniel.  Make peace.”

Jack clenched his jaw, grinding his back teeth.  “It’s not your concern, Talen,” he told her as he started to move away. 

She grabbed his arm again, forcing him to stop and glare at her.  “No, it is not.  But he feels badly.  He did not mean to say the words he said.  They came out wrong.”

Jack sighed angrily.  “He said it.  He meant it.”

“No.  I could not help but hear his thoughts.  Loud and angry and afraid for Jason.  Do not take what he said at face value.  Go, talk to him.  Make peace.  If this ends badly for Jason, you will need him.”

Jack didn’t want to hear that.  He knew she meant well but he just wanted her to go away.  “Fine.  In the meantime, do all you can to make sure it does not end badly.”

She nodded and went back to Kashan’s side.  He watched her, then turned away, deciding to go on his patrol…as he’d intended to. 

Daniel stood at the edge of the river, his bare feet in the water, his trousers rolled up slightly.  He dunked and re-dunked his boots, watching the dried blood and muck wash away downstream.  Though he tried to keep his thoughts on trivial things, his worry for Jason kept returning.  He worried for Adriann, too, but he could not help the stronger feelings for the man he loved. 

Rinsing once more, he stepped onto the bank, set his boots on one of the fallen logs.  He sat down in the dirt, letting the running water glide over his toes.  Sam’s words kept drifting back to him, and with them, the memory of those angry events long passed.  Jack was a very stubborn man, but so was he.  That incident with Reese had almost brought them to an end.  And now, here was another incident, and it was personal.  It shouldn’t be, but it was.  If Jack couldn’t forgive him his ill-spoken words, then Daniel knew he’d have to accept it, and very likely accept that their relationship was over. 

Silly that.  Weren’t they above such things?  Weren’t they capable of mending harsh words and bad feelings?  Yes.  But the real question was…what if Jason died?  What would they do then?  Could they heal the wound he’d created earlier?  Would Jack then blame himself because of Daniel’s words?  Daniel hoped he wouldn’t and cursed himself again for putting his foot in his mouth. 

If Jason died… 

It was a real possibility now, wasn’t it?  And what could he do?  Nothing.  Nothing but sit here and wash his fucking boots off.  Jason was so close, but so far and Daniel couldn’t get to him, couldn’t help.  He felt useless, powerless. 

Powerless. 

It suddenly dawned on Daniel that this was exactly what Jason had said he’d felt for all those months.  Powerless.  He couldn’t find them and he couldn’t help.  There was nothing for him to do but get on with it…and he couldn’t. 

Daniel knew that if Jason did die…if they couldn’t reach him in time, the guilt would eat both him and Jack alive.  He suddenly understood Jack a whole lot better, too, and was quite simply in awe of him.  The man had such strength.  He’d tried to go on after Charlie but he couldn’t.  Abydos had been his ticket out of his guilt. 

But he had stopped him, hadn’t he?  He’d interfered, and why?  Because he couldn’t understand the awful guilt.  He certainly had an inkling of it now, though didn’t he?  But it all depended on IF. 

  1.  

Daniel sighed and bent over, resting his elbows on his knees as he ran his cold, damp and slightly wrinkled fingertips through his hair.  He closed his eyes and forced himself to try and think of…something.  He went back through his memories of the other Goa’uld palace, hoping he’d find something he could use.  Anything. 

The sound of tearing cloth echoed through the small room.  Jason squeezed his eyes shut, breathing in and out slowly as his t-shirt and pants were ripped open to expose his skin.  The creature didn’t remove his clothes.  His intention was merely to expose the skin. 

Another hard rip, yanking across his thighs.  “There.  Blood is so much harder to drink through cloth.”

The teachings that Adriann gave him had helped.  Combined with his special military training, he knew that he could withstand the pain inflicted by his torturer.  It had been a long time since he’d had to use that part of his training, but he found himself falling back into it quite easily.  He concentrated on his breathing and found a spot to stare at across the room.  His eyes became unfocused then, willing away the figure in front of him.  He barely saw the glimmer of metal twirling before his eyes. 

Celev stared at him, then growled.  He slapped Jason over the forehead with the back of his left hand.  “Pay attention.  I cannot have you falling unconscious.  You need to hear what I have to say.  To see what I have for you.”

“You have nothing,” Jason told him…then spat in the face of the insane man. 

Jason, do not provoke him.  You are not dealing with a terrorist or a guerilla leader.  You are dealing with a madman. 

“Shit.  I forgot.”

Don’t forget it again. 

Jason cleared his throat, readying himself for whatever punishment would come, but none came.  Celev started to laugh. 

“Yes, fight me.  Fear me.” His words made Jason look at him worriedly. 

“Except for one thing, Adriann.  He may be mad, but I think I can control him.”

You are playing a dangerous game. 

“It means to kill us, Adriann.  I am going to do what I can to make sure that we stay alive.”

Then you will have to do things that are contrary to what you have been taught. 

Adriann whispered them into his mind and Jason almost shook his head.  Fortunately, his eyes were on Celev and the creature misread his expression as fear.  Celev smiled and stepped back, absently twirling the pick through the fingers of his right hand as he seemed to be reassessing Jason. 

Jason found himself staring at his hand and he winced without bothering to hide it.  Celev’s fingernails were gone.  They had once been there, but in their place was scarred and healed over tissue.  Jason absently wondered what had happened, but the thought was dismissed as Celev reached out and slid the tip of the cold metal pick over his pectorals and down his sternum.  Jason inhaled, then remembered what Adriann had told him.  He couldn’t do it.  He couldn’t. 

He cringed as Celev brought the sharp tip over one of his nipples…then pressed just hard enough to draw blood.  Jason bit his lip, feeling the blood drop make a tiny trail down his skin.  He forced himself to breathe through the fear and pain. 

“I will have fun with your friends.  Jack and Daniel are their names?”

Jason scowled at the creature.  The bastard didn’t have them.  He couldn’t.  Adriann would have sensed it. 

“No response?” Celev asked. 

Jason continued to scowl, then hissed as the pick was twisted against his nipple.  It hurt.  Lighter pressure and it would feel good, but right now, it hurt so damn badly. 

“No response,” Celev pouted.  “Very well.”

Jason suddenly cried out as the fingers of Celev’s left hand reached down and grabbed his exposed balls, squeezing hard. 

“Stop!” Jason heard himself cry out, hating himself for it as the panic set in. 

“It makes such a lovely shade of pale on you,” Celev said, the deep laugh returning.  He dropped to his knees, then drew the tip of the sharp pick through his pubic curls.  “Lovely hair.  Lovely, lovely hair.” His hand released Jason’s balls and suddenly snatched some of the dark curls, ripping them from the skin.  Jason barked out a cry, forcing himself to take control of the pain. 

“Nice meat,” Celev said, and to Jason’s horror, he took his cock into his mouth.  Celev sucked greedily, and very hard, confusing Jason’s body and getting him hard.  Jason kept willing himself to not succumb, not to respond, but his dick betrayed him.  His only consolation was that his stomach was ready to heave. 

Before that could happen, the creature backed away, looking at his handiwork.  “Nice shape.  Different.”

Swell, Jason thought sarcastically.  I’m so glad I could amuse you.  Celev stood, staring, his gaze intent.  Jason knew then that the man had read his surface thoughts, just as Adriann had said he would.  Any surface thoughts, so he must be careful.  The metal pick was drawn over his other nipple and as the point pushed in and drew fresh blood, Celev dipped his head and lapped up the drops of blood coming from the first one. 

“That’s what you like them to do to you, isn’t it?” Celev asked.  He nipped his nipple, drawing out a gasp from Jason’s throat, along with another drop of blood out of the tiny wound made earlier. 

Jason swallowed, ignoring the current pain as he focused on telling his cock to go back to sleep.  The feel of that disgusting mouth on his nipple made it quite easy, too. 

“They are mine, my sweet meat,” Celev said against his nipple.  “Jack and Daniel are mine.” Jason tried to ignore his words but…the next ones froze his blood.  “I think I will experiment with them.  They might make good pets, useful for when I get those urges.”

Jason didn’t want to know what he meant, but he was forced to realize it when Celev’s free hand ran over his ass cheeks and squeezed.  The terror within Jason rose. 

“No,” he said angrily, glaring at Celev.  “Don’t you touch them.”

Celev suddenly stepped back, laughing, clapping his hands together like a child.  Jason half expected the idiot to jump up and down.  “You are so delicious.  So many things to love about you.”

Jason didn’t answer.  What could he say?  He wasn’t in the mood to be sarcastic.  And how was Adriann handling his…torturer?  And who was with Adriann?

“Adriann, are you alone?  Are you okay?”

I am not alone. 

He did not say if he was okay.   “Adriann.”  The sound was so forlorn, full of pain. 

Focus, Jason.  Do not worry about me.  Worry only about yourself. 

“Like that’s gonna happen, Adriann.”

Do what you have to, Jason.  I will protect you as long as I can. 

As long as he could?  Adriann was going through something possibly worse, and Jason did not want to know what could be worse.  Unfortunately, he could probably think of a few things. 

“Mine, sweet meat.  All mine,” Celev abruptly said.  He stepped up to him and without a pause, dropped to his knees again. 

He knew it would happen and he tried to prepare, but just as before, Jason screamed. 

Talen felt it, as did Kashan.  Their captive, whose name they discovered was Woulan, started to laugh. 

Talen’s hand snatched out and grabbed the creature’s throat.  “You waste our time,” she sneered, letting her fangs grow as her rage climbed. 

Bra’tac and Teal’c were still with them and Bra’tac’s eyes grew wide with alarm.  He’d never seen their teeth and now fully believed what Teal’c had told him.  He crouched down across from her, staring.  She looked at him, and though her rage did not subside, she allowed her teeth to retract.  After all, she wasn’t about to drink from this…refuse. 

Bra’tac nodded at the creature.  “Are you sure there is nothing more to learn from him?”

“We have been at it for forty-five of their minutes,” she said, motioning in the direction of the humans in the building.  “We will no longer learn anything of value.”

Her hand squeezed tighter and she twisted rudely to the left, breaking its neck.  She stood up, sneering still, as if killing this creature were beneath her.  With a heavy angry sigh, she turned away and headed for the building. 

“Where does she go?” Bra’tac asked Kashan. 

“To help Sam,” he said.  “I am glad she killed him.  Saved me the trouble.”

“There was something else,” Teal’c said suddenly. 

Kashan looked at him in surprise.  “What do you mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean.  You felt more torture or heard more suffering from Jason Coburn and Adriann.”

Kashan didn’t confirm this.  He simply tilted his head, regarding Teal’c solemnly.  “Would telling Jack or Daniel or the others be of any good to them?”

Teal’c’s jaw clenched, the muscles flexing.  “No.”

Jack walked along the top of the slope that paralleled the river when Sam broke the silence, and his thoughts. 

“Colonel, come in.”

“What is it, Carter?”

“I’m in the back corridor, sir.  I’ve finally gotten some readings.  I think the underground maze, or whatever it is, is underneath the ground behind the palace.”

“How long will it take to check out and get some readings?”

“Unfortunately, about forty-five to fifty minutes, sir.”

Jack sighed.  “Well, then get on it, Carter, and get Teal’c to help you.”

“Yes, sir.  Where will you be?”

“I’ll be…at the river.”  He could just see her smile, that smug pain in the ass. 

“Roger that, sir.”

“Very diplomatic, Carter,” he grumbled as he continued his walk.  Up ahead, he spotted Daniel sitting along the riverbank, his head resting on his forearms.  Jack sighed and continued on, weaving a path down the slope so he could walk along the quieter grasses at the river’s edge.  He didn’t exactly want to sneak up on Daniel, but he didn’t want to walk up behind him, either.  And right now, he didn’t want to set either of them off.  He was still smarting from Daniel’s words, but he’d had time to think…and think. 

Daniel heard footsteps to his left and looked up.  Jack.  His face didn’t look angry, either.  Well, not angry as in pissed off.  He still looked scared and worried and pissed off about being scared and worried. 

“Hey,” he greeted softly, an apologetic tone coloring the word. 

“Hey,” Jack replied as he sat down next to him.  “Carter thinks she’s found something behind the palace.  Will know in about forty-five.  In the meantime, we should probably…” He left the sentence hanging, shrugging his shoulders. 

Daniel nodded and hugged his knees to him.  “I know.  Teal’c and the others okay?”

“Yeah.  I called them earlier.”

“Called?”

“I went on patrol.”

“Ah.  Your mini-walkabout in other words,” Daniel replied as he stared into the water. 

“Yeah.”

“So, they okay?”

“Talen killed the crazy vamp.”

Daniel’s eyes widened.  “Why?”

Jack shrugged.  “Teal’c said he was no longer of any use.  That whenever they asked him questions, he’d laugh and gloat.  So, she didn’t want to be taunted and killed him.”

Daniel ground his jaw and looked away.  “I don’t blame her.”

They were silent for a few minutes, then Jack nudged his arm, making Daniel look at him.  “I’m sorry for getting so pissed off at you.”

Daniel shook his head.  “It’s okay, Jack.  You had every right.  I didn’t mean for it to sound the way it did and I stuck my foot in it one more time.”

Jack stared at him for a long time and Daniel did the same.  They let their eyes speak for them, saying ‘I love you’.  The silent exchange held hugs, kisses, and other comforting words; things they couldn’t say or do where they were. 

After about five minutes, Jack ever so slightly leaned his right knee against Daniel’s thigh.  The gesture was another ‘I love you’; another ‘I’m sorry’.  Daniel moved his leg, pressing it against Jack’s. 

They both breathed in deep sighs of relief.  They were okay…relatively speaking. 

“Jack…”

“Yeah, Daniel.”

“You know…about what they said?”

Jack nodded.  “Yeah.”

“I won’t let that bastard destroy him,” Daniel whispered in a low, furious tone. 

“I know.  Me neither.”

Daniel looked into his eyes, communicating a thousand feelings.  “Just as I promised you…remember?”

Jack swallowed.  “I remember, Daniel.”

He remembered it clearly, too.  Daniel had been angry with him for weeks.  After they’d gone back to work from their brief vacation after Naetu, Jack had made up his mind.  He hadn’t understood why he’d never really thought about possible implantation.  They lived with that threat every time they went through the gate.  But after Naetu, and after seeing Apophis had been resurrected…Jack knew that if he was ever snaked, he couldn’t wait to be rescued and have it removed from him.  He’d told Daniel…ordered him…”If I get snaked, I want you to promise me that you will do everything in your power…to kill me.”

Daniel had not been a happy camper, that was for sure.  But in the end, after they’d helped Skaara return home, snake-free, and Jack had reminded him about what had happened to Apophis, Daniel had made his own decision.  “Whatever happens, Jack, I’ll do as you ask.” Jack hadn’t thought it possible, but he loved Daniel all the more at that moment. 

“I can’t let Jason suffer at that hands of that freak,” Daniel told him, breaking Jack’s reverie.  “If he’s…if he’s too far gone to be saved, I’ll have to–“

We will, Daniel,” Jack interrupted and his voice dropped to a whisper.  “If it has to be done, the we will do it.  I don’t want either of us carrying the burden and the other one becoming resentful.”

“That would never–“

“No, Daniel.  We’re human.  We’re fallible.  We say it won’t happen, but it does.” Jack’s words reminded Daniel of Sara and Daniel sighed, nodding. 

“We.”

“But…”

“Jack?” Daniel asked, wondering. 

“What about the healing device?  Carter could use it–“

Daniel shook his head emphatically, cutting Jack’s words off. 

“Why not?”

“Has Jason ever told you what he wants?” Daniel asked, suddenly finding himself mildly irritated at Jason. 

With disappointment in his face, Jack shook his head. 

“Damn him,” Daniel muttered, looking back into the water. 

Jack felt the need to defend their lover.  He touched Daniel’s shoulder.  “It’s just one thing we’ve never got around to talking about.  Don’t be mad at him.”

Daniel shook his head.  “I’m not, Jack.  It’s just…he doesn’t want to be revived, Jack.  By any alien means.  Janet or someone from Earth has to do it.” Jack suddenly snorted and Daniel joined him, smiling at the irony, considering Jason’s knife wound had been healed by the Asgard.  “Okay, the Asgard are one thing, but the others…essentially, he wants no part of anything connected to naquada.”

Jack could understand, but he didn’t like it.  It almost equaled the “no life support” clause in their medical release forms. 

“So, he prefers to be resuscitated by us or Thor, but no one else?  But that’s…I don’t know that I can do that, Daniel.”

Daniel levelled Jack with a hard gaze.  “It was hard, knowing I had to fulfill that promise to you about the snakes.  When Hathor put that snake in you, I shut down.  I now know exactly what Jason was going through when he said he’d shut down.  Except in my case, I was preparing myself.  I had to find a way to get to you…so I could…”

Even now, Daniel couldn’t say it.  He knew he could do it, whenever the time came again.  But he couldn’t ever bring himself to say it unless he was forced to.  Jack wouldn’t force him. 

Jack’s eyes softened and reached out, rubbing his back.  He tried to make sure the touch looked ‘safe’ but at the moment, he really didn’t care if any of the members of SG-3 walked up and saw it or not. 

“I’m scared for him,” Daniel said softly.  “For both of them.  We’ve got to get them out of there before…” Daniel’s eyes misted a bit, but Jack watched him swallow them back, steeling himself for what might come.  He understood that all too well. 

“If it happens…we’ll deal with it.”

Daniel looked down, hating everything at the moment…except Jack.  He suddenly got up, grabbing his boots.  He turned to Jack, his eyes hurting, pained.  He swung his arms out, gesturing, the water from the boots spraying everywhere.  “How, Jack?  How?  I don’t know how Jason did it!  I don’t know…” He shook his head, as if clearing it.  “I can’t stand it.  What the fuck that bastard might be doing to him!  Or his cronies!” His voice hitched at that moment and for the second time, Jack watched him bite it down and swallow the emotion.  Daniel stood there, literally shaking, and Jack wanted to grab him and hold him until it stopped. 

With defeat, Daniel dropped his arms and lowered his head.  “I don’t know what I’ll do if I lose him, Jack.  I really…don’t know.”

Jack heard the warning tone, the desperation, and it scared him.  He suddenly grabbed Daniel by the shoulders and shook him.  “Don’t go there.  Don’t you dare.”

Daniel swallowed, his expression frightened.  “I’m not…I’m…not.  I just…” He schooled his features and they became hard, angry.  “We have to find him, Jack.”

Jack nodded as he breathed out slowly.  “We will.  What we need to do is figure out what other possible ways there could be to getting into that building.”

“I’ve been trying that already!” Daniel replied heatedly, then dropped his voice.  “Sorry.”

Jack moved over to where they’d been sitting and sat back down.  “C’mon.  Sit.  We’ll think of something.”

Daniel sighed and joined him.  “I don’t know what, Jack.”

Jack took a deep breath.  “What we need is a schematic of that other palace.  They seem to have been built the same.”

“And the schematic would show all possible ways out of that place.  So, if Sam discovers those underground rooms in the back–“

Jack blinked, wondering why he hadn’t thought of it.  “Suppose they’re there.”

Daniel stared at him, puzzled.  Jack’s eyes were brightening.  He had an idea.  “Okay.  Let’s suppose.”

“C’mon.” Jack got up and started down along the riverbank. 

“Jack, what?”

“We’re looking for the hidden entrance to the maze, Daniel.”

Daniel grinned at his lover’s back and didn’t answer.  Jack looked over his shoulder.  “What?  And don’t smirk at me.  You know I like puzzles.”

“Okay, yes, but those maze puzzles you do…you always cheat.  You do them back…” and he stopped moving when he thought about it.  “…wards.” His grin suddenly widened.  “You want to look for a way in?”

Jack grinned.  “In a normal house, other than the usual doors and windows and other ‘obvious’ entries, what is the only way in – and forget size here, for the moment.” The double entendre was saved for later. 

Daniel thought about it then his lips spread into a smile.  “Drainpipes…and water sources!” He snapped his fingers.  “That’s it, Jack!  They had an ocean.  Here, there’s a river!”

“Exactly!”

Adriann’s legs hurt.  He knew that Jason’s did as well.  The creature that called itself Eindo had just left him in a huff.  Adriann hadn’t given him the satisfaction of seeing him suffer.  Oh sure, he’d let out a scream, but after that, nothing. 

He could feel Jason in his mind, working through the pain and the fear…especially the fear for his lovers and teammates.  Celev was very good at instilling that fear.  He was roused from his thoughts as a figure appeared in the doorway.  Celev. 

“You are very naughty, Adriann.  Or should I call you pet?” he asked as he approached and stood so close to him that the smell of blood from his breath was keen.  Jason’s blood.  Adriann swallowed.  If it weren’t for his contact with Jason’s mind, he would have thought his friend dead. 

“You will call me Adriann,” he said with vehemence.  “And you, you are diseased.  What has happened to you that you should be this way?”

Celev’s hand was quickly, angrily, around his throat, squeezing…squeezing.  Adriann felt the life and breath beginning to leave him and he panicked.  Shouldn’t have pushed him, he thought, then he felt something in his mind.  Jason.  He tried to call out, but the fingers squeezed his throat tighter.  His last thought was telling Jack he loved him. 

Jason caught the panic in his mind.  Adriann?  “Adriann?” he called.  No answer.  Oh no no no no.  This can’t be happening.  He’s not dead.  He’s not. 

His thoughts were broken and brought back to what was happening to him and he felt teeth slicing into his abdomen.  Two pairs of teeth.  He closed his eyes and used the tools Adriann had quickly taught him.  His mind floated, finding the sandy beach.  Jack and Daniel were there, waiting for him.  Their warmth surrounded him, bolstered his resolve.  He feared nothing and nothing could harm him.  A slap, far away.  He felt it, but did not feel.  He knew someone had just struck him, but he didn’t feel the pain.  That part he had finally taken care of.  After the fourth stab into his leg, he was now immune. 

But Celev didn’t know that he was.  He’d begun his pretense.  The one Adriann had told him.  He’d resisted the idea.  It was foreign to him to feign weakness and grovel.  He’d only ever been trained otherwise.  But this situation was different.  This creature fed off pain and suffering, not just his blood.  And so, the only way to soften its resolve was to strengthen his own and act against his instincts. 

The slap repeated, harder, and though he didn’t want to leave the peace of his lovers’ arms, he did.  Slowly, he opened his eyes and found a hideously smiling Celev, standing before him.  Blood stained its lips. 

Don’t show your backbone, Jason, ol’ buddy.  It’s time to kick this play up another notch. 

“What have you done?” Jason asked, his voice trembling as he stared at the blood. 

“Adriann is strong, but I will break him eventually,” it leered. 

Jason didn’t allow the relief to show, on his face nor in his mind.  Adriann was still alive.  That was all that mattered. 

“Please…” he uttered, allowing a whimper to sneak through. 

“Please what, my fine young pet?”

“Please…my arms, my ankles…they…they…” and Jason began to cry, showing the pain in his eyes. 

Celev’s face was practically gleeful.  It stepped back.  “Very good.  Very good.  We shall see, my pet.  We shall see.”

Jason allowed a gust of relief to be heard and watched Celev leave the room before he allowed himself to contact Adriann. 

“Adriann?”

I am here, came the weakened voice in his head. 

“I thought you were dead.”

So did I.  Choked unconscious.  This creature likes his games. 

“I know.” He paused a moment. 

What is it?

“I want to thank you.  The dream place is working.  And so is the pretense.”

Good. 

Adriann’s voice was relieved but he still sounded weak.  It will get worse, I’m afraid. 

“I know.”

Adriann sensed a question in Jason’s mind and rather than wait till later, it would be good to talk. 

What is it?

“Have you found out how they survived here, living with those spiders?”

Yes. 

Jason couldn’t have sworn he felt Adriann grimace.  What he did feel was the nausea transmitted to his mind.  He swallowed hard.  “Tell me.”

Adriann took a deep breath.  They formed a symbiotic relationship. 

Jason tried to think of what sort of symbiotic relationship one could have with a giant spider…unless you treated it like a pet, like people kept ‘pet’ tarantulas and snakes, feeding them live prey. 

Live prey. 

Jason’s stomach churned and he was suddenly glad the spiders were dead.  Very, very glad.  “I suppose that the feeding went both ways, whenever those freaks couldn’t find food.”

Some of it, yes. 

Jason’s alarm went up then.  “How did the spiders find food?”

First, they set traps around the stargate.  Second, there is prey on this planet, in the form of small animals, but they have to travel far to get it.  The local…wildlife…has been decimated. 

Jason knew the answer but he just wanted it confirmed.  He hadn’t heard or seen anything around them, not even near the river, where there would have definitely been signs or noises of life.  Like birds. 

Suddenly his ‘bird’ spider memory came back to him and his stomach churned again.  As did Adriann’s when he caught Jason’s emotions. 

“Sorry, Adriann.”

Do not worry……someone is coming.  Prepare yourself. 

Jason closed his eyes and willed himself into his role.  Sooner or later, the plan would work.  It had to. 

“I found them,” Celev said in his ear, following it with one of his mad laughs. 

“Found who?” Jason asked dutifully. 

“They will make a fine addition to my walls,” the creature remarked, gesturing at the walls.  He looked at Jason carefully for a long time, studying his body.  His ran a cold fingertip over the blood streaks that colored Jason’s belly.  “I should like to see how your species mates.”

Jason frowned, knowing damned well that the creature was only baiting him.  So, why not play the game and see where it led?  “Why?” he asked, putting fear into his voice. 

“Curiosity,” the creature replied, and suddenly stepped forward and grabbed Jason by his hair.  “I do not believe they would like it my way, but…” It let Jason go, then stepped back, tapping its mouth in thought.  “The female will find out first, I believe.  Then your pitiful loved ones.” Celev suddenly pushed out its lip, pouting.  “I wish I could make use of the Jaffa, but since you killed all my pets, I will just have to dismember them myself.  I particularly like those snakes.”

Going solely by body language, Jason knew that the bastard didn’t have anyone but himself and Adriann.  He couldn’t put a finger on why he knew.  He just…knew.  It may have been supported by Adriann’s mind, but Jason preferred to think that it was his own powers of observation.  It made him feel stronger…especially as it was time to play along again. 

“Please…”

“Please what?” Celev laughed, eyeing Jason like a piece of round eye steak. 

“Don’t hurt them.  Please.”

“Please…what?” Celev asked again, backhanding him across the jaw. 

“I don’t understand.”

“What am I?”

“What?”

“What am I?”

Jason closed his eyes.  Damn, the creature was the whole nine yards, wasn’t he?  One twisted, perverted control freak.  The phrase Serial Killer suddenly sprung to mind. 

“My captor.”

“More than that, pet.”

Pet. 

“My master?”

Celev laughed deeply.  “Yes.  Beg me.”

“Master, please don’t hurt them.”

Celev suddenly grabbed Jason’s face and kissed him firmly.  It surprised Jason so much that he didn’t stop himself from twisting his face away in revulsion.  When he looked back, afraid that Celev had seen through him, all he saw was delight and hunger.  The creature surprised him again as it clapped its hands together and laughed, deep and sinister, plotting.  It then ran quickly from the room, its sounds echoing down the dark hall. 

“Please, master!” Jason screamed after him.  “Don’t hurt them!  Please!”

He continued to cry out while inside his mind, he whispered his secret chant:  “I’m going to twist that sonofabitch’s head off if it’s the last thing I do.”

“Madison, this is O’Neill,” Jack said as he keyed the mic. 

“Madison here, sir.”

“Where are you?” Jack asked as he and Daniel stared smugly at the large pipe that emptied itself into the river.  It was big enough for a human to crawl through, which meant that it was probably a drainage conduit, probably for waste, and to their relief, it was obvious from the dust and cracks in the metal that the thing hadn’t been used in a very, very long time. 

“Twenty yards behind the palace, sir.  With Major Carter.”

“Retrieve the twine we brought, Major, and then follow the river until it parallels your current position.”

“Sir?” Sam asked, cutting in. 

“We found a drain conduit, Carter.  I’m going in.”

Jack and Daniel heard whoops of encouragement in the distance and smiled. 

“Do you want me to continue, sir?”

“Have you found anything other than a layout of rooms?”

“No, sir,” she said with disgust.  “It will take a while to map this.  At least I’m getting readings, sir.  I wish we had a modified UAV.”

“You and me both, Major,” he said, pausing.  He gave Daniel a careful look. 

“What?”

“Um…when we’re in there, and I slow down, don’t question it, just wait.”

Daniel studied his lover’s face carefully.  “It’s Iraq, isn’t it?”

Jack gave a heavy sigh.  “It was the only way I could escape, Daniel.  Only that pipe was at least eight inches narrower and filled with sewage.”

Daniel winced.  “You gonna be okay?”

“No problem, Danny,” he replied.  He meant it, but Jack was scared.  Daniel knew it by the use of his nickname. 

They heard a noise and looked up the slope to their left, finding Sergeant Jones running toward them, coil of yellow twine in hand. 

“Damn, you’re quick,” Jack told him. 

“Champion sprinter, sir,” he panted as he made his way down the incline and handed the rope to Jack. 

“Still champion, Sergeant.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Jack and Daniel soon found themselves surrounded and Sam frowned at her C.O.  as he sat down at the lip of the conduit and tied the end of the rope around his ankle. 

“Sir?”

“In case I get into trouble, Major.”

Daniel stated, his face very serious.  “Jack, I need to follow you in there, so if you get into trouble, so will I.”

Jack stared at him, seeing the determination, same as his own.  “Can’t convince you to be a good civilian and stay out here, can I?”

Daniel grinned, knowing Jack said that specifically for the benefit of SG-3.  He reluctantly said, “If you order me to stay, I’ll stay.”

Jack sighed, untied the rope from his ankle and handed it to Daniel.  “Fine,” he said softly, then pointed his finger.  “Stay three feet behind me, Daniel.”

Daniel nodded and bent down to tie the rope. 

“Wait five minutes,” Jack ordered as he looked at Sam, Teal’c, and Madison, “then follow us in, giving each other moderate distances.”

“Yes, sir,” Sam and Madison replied. 

“Carter, Teal’c, I want you guys last, on our six.  Just in case.”

“Yes, sir,” Sam replied. 

“Will you be well, O’Neill?” Teal’c suddenly asked. 

Jack stared at him, then grinned slightly.  “Sure, why not?  Piece o’ cake.”

He slipped his P-90, sans flashlight, over his back and crawled inside the two-foot diameter pipe, turning onto his stomach.  He reached behind him as Daniel handed him his flashlight, then crawled forward.  The heavy weight of his P-90 was going to become cumbersome and Jack fervently hoped that the drainage pipe didn’t weave too much. 

Daniel, equipped the same as Jack, waited until he was ten feet inside and then followed.  Teal’c frowned, watching them disappear, then took a deep breath, puffing out his chest with pride at his Commander.  He knew Jack had been covering up a fear.  He knew that experience firsthand so it was easy to recognize it in others.  He exchanged knowing glances with Bra’tac, then stepped aside as Madison and his team prepared to go in next. 

Jack had been low-crawling easily for five minutes when the first return of the fear manifested itself.  A damp chill ran down the back of his head and neck, then followed his spine.  It was, to coin a phrase, as if someone walked over his grave.  He paused, the images of long ago – feeling suddenly as if they’d happened yesterday – filling his mind.  The fear tried to take hold, making him feel more than a little claustrophobic.  He grit his teeth, angry at himself. 

Five feet behind him, Daniel paused with him and waited.  After thirty seconds, he saw Jack shudder. 

“Jack?  What’s wrong?”

“Just catching my breath, Daniel.”

“No, I don’t think so, Jack.”

Jack took a deep breath, closed his eyes, attempting to force the fear away. 

“I’ll be fine in a minute.  Just…just wait.”

“No problem,” Daniel sent back quietly. 

The images and feelings Jack had thought he’d mostly gotten over resurfaced.  The beatings he’d endured, the burning, the enforced opiate addiction, the escape through the small waste pipe, barely wider than his shoulders… 

Then there came the look on Frank’s face.  The hurt, the guilt, the fear.  Cromwell had wanted to be forgiven but Jack…he couldn’t forgive him.  “No one gets left behind, come hell or high water.” That had been his special ops mantra, their oath.  No one got left behind.  Jack knew the rest of the team had been in danger, but damn it, they’d had time to go back and get him.  He’d broken his ankle after being shot in the leg, jumping off that short ridge, and his team had seen.  They knew where he was.  But Frank had been in charge, as second in command, and with Jack down, he gave the order.  To run.  Run like a fucking scared rabbit. 

No, Jack couldn’t forgive him.  No matter what Frank had said, Jack’s anger wouldn’t allow it.  Seeing Frank had also brought everything back, including the anger.  Then there, at the end, with Frank holding onto him from their position over the open gate, the man had made his decision.  He’d let go.  Of Jack.  Of the past.  Of his guilt.  And he’d died.  It had taken Jack a few weeks to come to terms with that.  But it had been a hell of a lot easier than it had when he’d learned to come to terms with his imprisonment, escape, and subsequent withdrawal from the opium.  Strangely, the escape through the tunnel had taken the longest to get over.  Jack had developed claustrophobia from that and the months of nightmares had only added to it. 

Jack took a deep breath.  And another.  And another.  Forcing himself to calm down, he looked back over his shoulder.  “Okay,” he whispered, and started to crawl again.  At least this pipe’s much bigger, he told himself.  And it wasn’t filled with decay and raw sewage. 

When the claustrophobia started to creep back in, Jack thought of ways to distract himself.  He could hum something, but that wouldn’t be a good idea.  One, it would rob his needed breath and energy, and two, sound would travel very well through this pipe, and it would alert the creatures holding Jason and Adriann. 

So…other distraction methods needed to be used.  He began to count, to multiply, but that didn’t work for long.  He tried going over the controls and flight pattern of the last Earth aircraft he’d flown.  He was surprised when that didn’t hold his interest for very long. 

What ended up catching and holding his interest was thinking of places for Jason to live, remembering the FOR RENT signs he’d seen on the way to work.  A house or an apartment?  Jason could find an apartment easy, but wouldn’t he prefer a house?  If the connotations weren’t so dangerous, he’d formally ask General Hammond’s permission to have Jason move in with him.  After all, his house was plenty big enough and the spare room could hold as much as a normal bedroom.  But…Daniel would probably have something to say about that, considering he had converted his office into Jason’s art room.  He grinned, then knitted his brows together as he realized that his fear had abated somewhat. 

Accepting that without pausing for analysis, Jack moved on, letting his mind think about how he’d convert his own house into a two-person home again.  Just in case Hammond should lose his mind and say yes. 

Another five minutes in, the pipe turned left, at ten o’clock, and dropped downward fifteen degrees.  For five more minutes he crawled, experiencing only periodic chills in the back of his neck.  The good thing about those chills, or slight panic attacks, was that they kept him moving, and at a brisk pace. 

The pipe suddenly levelled, widened and ended at a large – and fortunately inactive – fan blade mechanism.  What this meant was that he was in an air recycling duct, not a water or waste conduit.  What it also meant was that if it wasn’t running, the air below would be stale.  He sighed.  They wouldn’t have time to screw around, either.  They’d have to find Jason and Adriann and then find the door or passageway that led to the palace. 

Daniel had been watching Jack carefully and was very concerned about him.  He knew and recognized the signs when Jack was hit with something from his past.  Daniel had never learned all the details and pretty much accepted that Jack never wanted to talk about the bad stuff, but he didn’t like seeing him in pain.  About anything.  Daniel wanted to ask, but now was definitely not the time so he’d wait till they got home, and then he’d have to judge Jack’s mood.  Sometimes, the man would just bury his past again and forget about it, until the next time something would reach out and bite him on the ass. 

Looking around him and realizing the tunnel had widened, Daniel pushed off and sat up.  Daniel reached out and tapped Jack’s boot. 

“What?” Jack whispered as he looked over his shoulder.  Realizing, to his disgust, that the pipe was big enough for him to sit up in – just as Daniel was doing – he sat up. 

“Windpipe?” Daniel asked, waving at the pipe. 

Jack nodded.  He reached over and tested the edge of one blade.  Dull, but sharp enough to cause a nasty abrasion.  He grabbed the blade and tried to move it.  It moved, but slowly…and it creaked.  Jack winced and shook his head as he took his hand away.  “We’ll have to crawl over the seven o’clock blade,” he whispered, gesturing at the two that were positioned at four and seven o’clock.  The third was at eleven.  “Be careful,” he added. 

Daniel jogged his brows.  Sometimes, it seemed as if Jack couldn’t help but state the obvious.  From the look on his face, Jack seemed to guess what he was thinking.  Daniel grinned as Jack rolled his eyes and shook his head slightly before he carefully slipped his P-90 between the seven and eleven positions and laid it down to the left of the opening.  The two-foot lip in front seemed to be sturdy and Jack hoped it would hold a man’s weight.  The room beyond the pipe and the blades was open, filled with old machinery.  Jack hoped that there was nothing nasty under that lip in front as he crawled through, leaning his hand upon the dusty old metal.  Gritting his teeth and hoping the blades between his body didn’t snag or catch, he moved forward. 

Daniel watched, his heart beating too fast he thought, as Jack’s knees slipped through, one at a time, and the metal shelf held.  Jack looked over the edge, then back through the blades at Daniel.  He nodded.  Daniel let out the breath he’d been holding, and waited as Jack eased himself over the shelf and dropped six feet to the floor below.  Jack grabbed his weapon and slipped the strap over his chest, letting it rest in its usual position.  He reached up and took Daniel’s from him, then waited for Daniel to slip through and drop down next to. 

“You’re right.  Piece o’ cake,” Daniel whispered.  Jack couldn’t resist and he framed the left side of Daniel’s face in his right hand before turning around and looking for an exit. 

Weaving to the left and through pieces of square, boxy machinery, they found a wide open doorway.  It had Goa’uld controls and the door would have been closed a long time ago.  But there was no telling how long the place had been vacant.  Daniel guessed longer than the other Goa’uld palace, but he wasn’t sure.  They’d never found anything underground…but then, they hadn’t looked.  And it wasn’t exactly a mission, either.  They’d been stuck there.  For three weeks.  The one good thing he could say about the place was that it had been clean.  Where he came up with the idea that it had been deserted for a few hundred years though…it seemed ludicrous to Daniel and he attributed his guess to the effects of that damned endorphin machine…or whatever it was. 

Directly in front of the machine room, they moved out, silently making their way down the dark corridor, their flashlights reattached to their weapons.  The hallways came to an end with a connecting corridor to the right.  With no other choice, they followed it.  In the distance, they could see lights, which told them the corridor was long, though sparingly lit.  Jack removed a thick piece of white chalk from one of his zipped vest pockets.  He had a feeling he’d need to use it, and sure enough, the first branching corridor came up on their left.  It was dark. 

That told Jack one thing.  It wasn’t in use.  He drew an arrow, pointing ahead, and they pressed on. 

Jason was reaching his limit.  The freaky bastard was certainly testing him, trying to see just how scared and compliant he was.  Two of Celev’s pony boys had just left him, after a rather nauseating feed on the back of his calves.  He wondered if the creep knew, if it was just playing him, seeing how far Jason would play this game.  Or did it really have no clue?  Was it really shielded from his mind, just as Adriann had said?  Jason hoped so, but he’d learned a long time ago to never underestimate your opponent.  Clichéd but very true. 

So…how to deal with this…this… 

Jason had to use all of his inner strength not to laugh.  Though the laugh would have been a hysterical one, based on fear…and not exactly out of the ballpark with what he’d been able to achieve with the lunatic.  But still…a laugh would be bad.  There was no telling how this freak would perceive it. 

Don’t you dare, whispered Adriann, a tiny amount of humor in his thought.  The humor, Jason knew, was tightly held, meant to ease the strain and he appreciated it, but he also knew it for the warning it really was.  Don’t you dare lose focus. 

He didn’t answer.  He simply let Adriann listen to him, reassured that Jason was still playing their game. 

“Master…” Jason breathed, allowing his eyes to tear up, to show fear – which was there, but controlled now.  He let the trembling show through his lips, his jaw, pretending his fear.  Just let this bastard believe him.  Just give him the out. 

“You actually want something of me?” it asked him, laughing as it twirled the pick in its right hand.  It stared at Jason, allowing the drool to slide from its fangs, keeping its chin perpetually glistening.  Jason allowed himself the luxury of swallowing down the bile that wanted to come up.  No, he told himself.  Focus.  It can do whatever it wants, look however it wants.  All you need is the blind, trusting moment…and you’re almost there.  Almost. 

Almost counts for nothing, though, and the creature stepped up and drew the point of the pick across his left arm.  It stung, making the muscles twitch.  The red welt created rose quickly, and the stinging increased.  Jason closed his eyes.  Big mistake.  It moved forward and ran its tongue across his chest, making Jason hiss. 

Shit. 

More fucking torture games. 

The welts across his chest already had ceased stinging, but with that action, their pain was renewed. 

“Master please…” Jason said, forcing more tears.  “Please let me go.” The pick was drawn across the length of his right arm next and he allowed himself a cry.  “Master…no…”

A deep sickening laugh followed his plea, the pick tapping against its right fang as it seemed to study and think. 

“I should have chained you facing the wall.  Much more fear.  Much more pain.” It suddenly dropped the pick and pressed itself against his body, its long, twisted fingers gripping his buttocks painfully, laughing as it watched his face. 

Jason showed terror in his eyes.  “NO!”

The sickening laugh began anew as the thing began to hump against him.  “Yes.”

“No!  Stop!”

It shook its head.  “No, my pet.  You are mine…” it said, opening its mouth and drawing the sharp points of its fangs across his throat, making him bleed.  “Mine…forever.”

Jason allowed himself to whimper and cry, to whine and beg, feeling rather smug as the creature ate it up.  Soon, motherfucker.  Soon. 

They heard a sound and stopped, straining to hear another.  It sounded like a cry, but through the echoing corridor, they couldn’t be sure if it was Jason or Adriann.  They quickened their pace and came to the end of the corridor, forcing them to turn left down another.  Round and round they’d gone, all the while, Jack drew the directional arrows. 

As they went down the new hall, they heard a panting sound followed by sick laughter.  Jack turned back to Daniel and his face went white.  Moving faster, they saw two doorways up ahead, facing each other.  The sound repeated.  It came from the room on the left. 

Suddenly the laughter grew louder and a loud cry followed. 

“No, Master…please, master, I’ll do anything, please…”

Jack looked at Daniel, his face a mask of disbelief.  Jason’s voice…begging?  Oh God!  Jack’s jaw clenched and a murderous look appeared in his eyes.  It matched Daniel’s. 

A whimpering cry came from the room on the right.  “No.”

Adriann. 

A chill went down both their spines and their intent to kill became clear.  With two fingers, Jack motioned for Daniel to go right but Daniel shook his head.  He didn’t want to.  Jack’s eyes widened and pointed at the two of them, then at the two rooms.  Daniel ground his jaw, knowing Jack was right.  They both couldn’t cover one room.  He moved over, edging the right doorway.  When Jack ran into Jason’s room, Daniel went into Adriann’s. 

Unfortunately, there was the sound of gunfire in only one room.  Adriann’s. 

In Jason’s, Celev was waiting. 

Daniel clicked the single fire button on his weapon and rounded the doorway.  His blood ran cold.  Four of the creatures were there, two at Adriann’s spread and manacled feet.  Two standing at either side of his outstretched arms.  All were feeding. 

Adriann’s eyes met Daniel’s and Daniel read the instant relief mixed with fear for Daniel’s safety.  Daniel raised his weapon and the fear evaporated. 

With a surge of hate and anger that Daniel rarely allowed himself to feel, he used the training he’d never thought to use in a million years.  Training that Jack, Jason, and Teal’c had instilled in him.  He raised the P-90 to eye level and aimed.  The creatures turned to him, blood leaking from their mouths.  One bullet fired, hitting the creature standing to Adriann’s right.  Another bullet fired, hitting the one to his left.  The two on the ground lunged, as one, and two more bullets fired, hitting the one on his left first.  The one on the right was nearly to him so when that bullet hit the thing’s skull, the impact from the armor-piercing bullet shattered its skull, spraying outward.  Some of it hit Daniel, dotting his arms and t-shirt. 

Daniel let himself breathe.  In…out…in…out.  His gaze went from first one body to the next, making sure that each was dead, with a bullet in the head.  Looking at the blood and brain matter spilled, Daniel felt his stomach roil, the nausea trying to take hold, but he fought it down and stepped quickly up to Adriann.  He met Adriann’s eyes again. 

“You’re safe now,” he whispered as he let his weapon drop to his chest, looking over his chains. 

Adriann shook his head and nodded at Jason’s room.  “Go.  Help him.  I will be fine,” he mouthed tiredly. 

It was then that Daniel realized he hadn’t heard any other gunfire.  What he had heard was a crashing thud, Jason’s pleading voice, and sick, maniacal laughter.  He turned and ran. 

Jason had no idea what Celev was doing as it went to the right of the doorway and plastered itself face first against the wall.  For an insane moment, Jason thought the nutjob was going to hump the wall. 

But then Jack came running in and three things happened at the same time: Jack’s weapon was ripped off him and tossed to the right; Jack was grabbed by the collar and thrown to the left; and Jason screamed an ineffective warning. 

“Jack, lookout!”

Jack’s shirt ripped as the thing let go, flinging him through the air.  His back hit the left wall and he fell to the floor, stunned.  The creature actually looked amused.  As it took a step toward Jack, Jason let out everything he’d been holding back. 

“NO MASTER!  I’ll do what you want, I’ll be your slave, I’ll feed you and feed, you can have endless days of pleasure with me, just please, please don’t hurt him!”

It laughed and took another, teasing, step toward Jack, eyeing Jason’s reaction. 

Jack looked up, eyeing the creature.  He swallowed, feeling sick to his stomach at the sight of the thing, then reached down and unsnapped his knife sheath. 

“Master, forget him!” Jason begged, his voice trembling in panic.  “Fuck me!  You’ll like it, it’ll hurt me, you won’t be disappointed…but my arms, my legs, they’re going numb!”

That little tidbit was the only thing in Jason’s rambling that caught the creature’s attention.  Numbness meant no pain. 

“Letting them go will produce pain,” the creature said, its voice filled with curiosity.  “You are weak and there is nowhere to go.”

It dropped to its knees and used the key it held in its clothing.  As the manacles came off, it roughly grabbed them, moving Jason’s legs.  That did cause pain and Jason couldn’t prevent the howl that followed.  The creature laughed, delighted by the sound.  Eager, it unlocked the manacles on Jason’s wrists, then let him go.  Jason cried out and dropped to the floor, whimpering again at the pain.  The terrible pain. 

“Master, stop…” he whispered, he face turned away.  He tried to get up but there was no strength and he fell forward onto his face. 

The creature laughed, delighted at the look of the back of his prey.  Very nice.  Very nice indeed.  Fresh skin, fresh flesh.  Plenty of spaces to create pain, inside and out. 

As the thing looked over at Jason, Jack withdrew his knife and turned it, grasping it firmly, readying for a strike.  Jason’s tears and coughing were more than he could take and for his well-trained friend and lover to be acting that way…it was too much. 

“Jason, don’t!  Fight it!” he called out. 

“Jack, get out of here!” Jason cried, his voice muffled. 

“Oh, I forgot,” Celev said matter-of-factly, turning from Jason to study Jack.  “Another one.  Your Jack.  Come to rescue you.”

Jason didn’t dare look.  He concentrated on flexing his fingers and making fists.  The pain was negligible.  He turned his head and saw the creature staring at Jack, its back to him. 

Jack watched the thing approach him and he forced himself to his knees, relieved that he wasn’t harmed as much as he’d feared.  Just the wind knocked out of him was all.  He glared at the thing, waiting for it to get closer, then his eyes flickered to the left, watching as Jason moved. 

Jason pushed up, the jolts of pain coursing through his arms and legs spurring him on.  He turned on his knees, readying to spring just as Jack looked from the creature to him. 

The creature stared at Jack’s eyes, now on its pet.  It grew angry, fearless.  “You will watch him suffer, I think.”

Jason grimaced at the words, baring his teeth with hate.  “Live and let die, you sonofabitch,” he said in a deep voice. 

From the floor, Jack stared, mouth agape as Jason, blooded-streaked, his clothes shredded, moved toward his torturer. 

From the door, Daniel ran in, weapon-ready, and halted as he saw Jason in just the same way Jack did – clothes ripped and streaked with blood – stepping up behind the creature.  Jason’s expression was of pure hate. 

Daniel’s appearance distracted Celev just long enough.  Jason wrapped his hands rapidly around Celev’s head and jaw, and with a move that would have made Teal’c proud, he twisted its head to the left.  A loud snapping of bone filled the room.  Jason had never associated that sound with satisfaction.  But he did now.  A very satisfying sound it was, too.  The body in his hands crumpled to the floor and Jason stepped away.  If his ankles and thighs didn’t hurt so much, he’d have kicked it.  He looked over at Jack, then at Daniel.  He said nothing but let the look of relief show in his face.  His eyes then caught Jack’s, then Daniel’s. 

“You okay?” he asked as they stared at him, incredulous, speechless. 

They nodded. 

“Good,” he said, and suddenly collapsed, falling onto his back. 

“Jason!” Daniel and Jack both cried out.  Jack pushed up from the floor and went for him just as Daniel ran.  They reached him at the same time, and both saw the fresh blood oozing from two holes in his thighs. 

“Fuck!” Daniel hissed as he removed his weapon and followed it with his t-shirt, ripping it in two.  He handed Jack one half and they tied them around Jason’s wounds. 

“Do you have any others?” Jack asked hurriedly. 

Jason blinked, trying to focus.  The wave of dizziness and weakness that had hit him suddenly was also impairing his hearing.  Jack’s voice sounded slow, watery.  “Other what?”

“Wounds, dammit!”

“Wounds,” he repeated.  His head started to clear, letting him think properly.  “No, Jack.”

“That’s a relief, at least,” Daniel said.  “Where’s the key to those manacles, Jace?  I need to release Adriann.”

“Front pocket of that scum-sucking bastard,” Jason replied. 

Daniel grabbed the key and headed to free Adriann.  Jack leaned over Jason and cupped his face.  “Jason, we bandaged your legs as best we could.  Do you think you can walk?”

Pushing himself up, he took Jack’s hand.  “For you, I’ll do anything.”

Jack stared at him, knowing exactly what Jason meant by that.  “Sap,” he whispered as he helped Jason to his feet. 

“Yeah.  Tell anyone and I’ll kill you.”

“Goes both ways, pal.”

In the next room, Daniel unlocked the manacles, then checked on Adriann’s wounds.  He hissed again and looked around for something to tie them up with. 

“I will be fine, Daniel.  I am not bleeding.”

“Not now, but when you walk, Adriann, you will be.”

“Use one of their tunics,” Adriann suggested, pointing as he rubbed his sore muscles. 

Daniel finished tying off the make-shift bandages when Jack, supporting Jason, stepped into the hall and looked inside. 

“You okay, Adriann?” Jason asked. 

“I am fine now,” Adriann whispered back. 

“Daniel?” Jack asked. 

“Yeah?” he asked, turning. 

“Could you remove another shirt?  I think we should cover Jace up before the rest of the cavalry arrives.”

Jason gave Jack a look of thanks.  He hadn’t forgotten how exposed he was but it had become of secondary importance.  Now, however, he really wasn’t in the mood to be showing Sam his family jewels. 

Daniel pulled off the cleanest shirt he could find from the other three bodies and moved over to Jason.  He knelt, tying the long sleeved tunic apron-style around Jason’s waist, covering his crotch. 

“Thanks,” Jason said in an undertone. 

Daniel looked up at him, his lips in a half-smile.  His eyes became more serious when they finally took in the welts over his abdomen and chest…and two dried blood spots over his nipples.  Jason’s somber eyes told him not to ask, so Daniel left it alone…for now.  Jason passed him a soft smile, but it faded when he finally registered the four dead bodies.  He looked back over his shoulder at the room he’d been in, replaying Jack’s entrance in his mind.  Only Jack.  That meant that Daniel had been in here, saving Adriann, and… 

Jason’s jaw dropped open.  He saw the haunted look in Daniel’s eyes as he pointed at the bodies on the floor.  “Did you…?”

“Yes,” Daniel replied tonelessly. 

“Daniel,” Adriann said, “I sense how hard that was for you, but…thank you.”

Daniel shrugged, then shook his head.  “You’re welcome, Adriann.”  He had only done what he had to do in order to save Adriann’s life.  He had to remember that. 

The silent moment was interrupted as several pairs of boot heels sounded down the hall. 

SG-3 came to a halt and took in Jason and Adriann’s appearance.  Madison wanted to say something sarcastic to lighten the mood, but he couldn’t think of a damned thing.  “Damn, it’s good to see you, sir,” was all he managed. 

“And you,” Jason replied, and suddenly grimaced.  His head swam and his legs lost their strength.  “Oh shit,” he said as he felt his stomach turn.  “Jack, I need some help…”  Madison came over and both he and Jack held Jason firmly as he bent over and threw up…nothing.  The others looked at him, and Daniel stretched his hand out, touching Jason’s back.  “Damn,” Jason breathed, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth.  “Sorry,” he said sheepishly. 

Jack sighed.  “It’s the adrenaline wearing off.”

“I know,” he said, taking a long breath.  “So…we need to find a way out of here.  I’ll assume the way you came in was—”

“Not the way we should be taking you out, no,” Jack told him. 

Suddenly, Sam and the others were running round the distant corner and quickly meeting them.  Talen and Kashan were there too and they ran up, quickly relieving Daniel of Adriann. 

“Hey,” Sam breathed, staring at Jason, then Adriann.  “You guys okay?”

They nodded, but Jack added, “More or less, Carter,” Jack replied. 

“Right, so…I’ll assume, Colonel, that we shouldn’t take them out of here the way we came in?”

“Good assumption, Major.”

“Okay, so how do we find a way out of here?”

“Not a problem,” Adriann said, his voice sounding weaker.  “I know where the hidden passageway is.”

“How?” came a chorused question. 

Except from Jason.  He knew how.  Instead, he asked, “Which way?”

~

Daniel looked on worriedly as Janet adjusted Jason’s IV.  He stepped around his bed in the two-man room, moving out of the way as the monitoring machines were set up.  His arms were folded in their worrying language as his gaze rarely left the sight of his lover.  Jason was unconscious, still out cold from the pain relievers and anesthesia from surgery.  That walk, even supported, to the hidden passageway that led up to the palace had been arduous for him.  By the time they’d reached the gate, Jason had lost consciousness, passing out from a number of things, the main of which was blood loss.  Daniel was very relieved that Jason hadn’t been on the transfusion machine that long, and though he was grateful to Janet for all her help, he wanted Jason to open his eyes, to look at him, to tell him things were okay.  Really okay.  Daniel trusted Janet and her nursing staff, but he needed to hear and see it from Jason.  Until then, he wouldn’t believe completely. 

Across the room was Adriann.  His siblings were also huddled in a corner, watching, waiting for the staff to leave.  Adriann was also asleep, but because of his recuperative abilities, he hadn’t needed surgery.  The man had been right about his wounds.  Adriann had also tried to insist that he hadn’t needed any medical help, that all he had needed was rest, but Janet had shown Adriann and the others just how much of a tyrannical mother hen she could be. 

Daniel smiled fondly, remembering.  “They can take me home,” Adriann had complained as he’d been forced on a gurney. 

“I’m sure they can,” Janet had said with her soft, patronizing doctor tone.  “But right now, you’re mine to look after.”

Adriann had tried to argue.  So had Talen and Kashan, though to a lesser extent.  They felt the care and security that Janet gave off in spades and they’d quickly backed off. 

Jason had grinned, just before being whisked off to surgery.  “Told you,” he’d said.  “She likes to be the boss.”

Daniel observed Talen and Kashan, smiling at them when they’d take a moment to look across the room.  They appeared nervous and worried, but not as much as they had been a few hours before.  Janet had, with their reluctant permission, put Adriann on the transfusion machine.  His deathly pallor had been replaced with a healthier glow almost immediately and Daniel had a feeling that from now on, they wouldn’t have a problem receiving blood that way. 

He looked away and back to Jason, studying his features, his body.  When the nurses left, he walked up to the bed and took hold of Jason’s right hand.  At that moment, he didn’t give a good goddamn who saw, though there was little chance that anyone of significance would.  He gazed down, trying to will Jason to wake up, but Daniel knew he wouldn’t.  Not for a while.  He hated this.  Hated it when Jason appeared vulnerable.  He knew Jason hated it, too.  In fact, the only place Jason didn’t mind that vulnerability was in bed…or rather, during sex.  Bed wasn’t exactly a requirement.  Daniel smiled to himself as he thought of ways to make Jason properly vulnerable when they got home. 

Janet was setting Adriann’s chart in the slot at the end of the bed, eyeing Daniel carefully.  She wondered what he was smiling about, yet had a feeling it was probably about that incorrigible Major.  She walked over, slid Jason’s chart into the slot at the end of his bed, then folded her arms and stared at Daniel. 

When he didn’t look at her, she asked, “Daniel?”

Daniel didn’t reply, obviously lost in his intensely focused thoughts.  She hated it when he did that and sometimes felt that if an earthquake happened, Daniel wouldn’t realize it until the rubble had crashed at his feet. 

“Hello?” she asked. 

Daniel blinked, coming back to the present.  “Sorry, Janet.  How’s he doing?”

“As well as can be expected.”

“Janet…”

“He’ll be fine, Daniel.”

“Adriann?”

“Him, too, but he’ll be healed faster because of his unique physiology.”

“How long till Jace wakes up?”

“About four hours, Daniel.”

Daniel sighed heavily.  “And the post-op test results?”

“You’re much better as a patient, you know that?” she told him with light sarcasm.  Daniel rolled his eyes.  “Blood work will be back soon.  There was no sign of infection, as I’ve already told you, and I’m hoping the lab results will back that up.”

Daniel pointed at Jason’s legs, though they were covered with the usual off-white blanket.  “His right ankle is swollen, Jan.  Is it broken?” He’d wondered how the hell Jason could walk on it if it was. 

“No, it’s just sprained, but if he’d walked on it any more than he had, it probably would have caused a small fracture.  I’m going to have the portable x-ray brought in to take a series, just to make sure.  I’m also going take pictures of his wrists, just to be on the safe side, but there’s no signs of fracture there either,” and she pointed to the hand he was holding. 

Daniel looked down at the covered wrist.  As his fingertips touched the gauze, his anguish over the pain Jason had gone through started to rise again.  Janet saw it reflected in his eyes and rubbed his arm comfortingly. 

“He’s in good shape, Daniel.  If he hadn’t been in such excellent shape before this happened, his injuries would have been much more severe.”

Daniel breathed out slowly.  “I know.  What about internal bleeding or damage to his legs?”

“None, Daniel.  The wounds in his thighs didn’t hit anything…though if they’d hit an artery, he’d have bled to death.  The blood loss itself was bad enough.  He’ll have a bit of a recovery as the muscles heal, but he’ll be fine.  He’s very lucky.”

“Thanks,” Daniel said tightly.  The blood loss had been the worse to think of because Daniel knew where the blood went.  With a severe frown, he stared at the sleeping man, wondering how on Earth Jason had withstood any of that torture.  But then, he’d really had no choice, had he?

“When can I take him home?” he asked then. 

Janet blinked.  “Daniel, he has on-base quarters.  He doesn’t have an apartment any–“

“I know, Jan.  I’m having him move in with me until he recovers and finds a new place.  When can he be released?”

She sighed and looked at his worried, tired face.  “Day after tomorrow.”

Daniel looked at his watch, though he didn’t know why.  It was 6:43 pm, Tuesday.  So…Thursday.  Shit. 

After watching him for a minute longer, Janet squeezed his arm.  “I’ll get you a chair.”

“I can’t just crawl into bed with him, can I?” he asked in an undertone, a tiny smile on his lips. 

She smiled back and didn’t bother to answer that.  When she passed the two Residents, she beckoned them to follow her outside.  “C’mon, you two.  I have machines waiting with your names on them.”

“But…” Talen started to say. 

“Aht!” Janet cut off.  “You know as well as I do how much you are in need of the blood supplement.” With a bit of reluctance, they finally agreed. 

Jack had been standing against door frame the entire time, his own arms folded, watching, listening, smiling slightly.  As he observed their injured sibling, Jack realized that his feelings for the man, his attraction for him, seemed to have lessened.  It wasn’t so much the passage of time as it was the impact of nearly losing the two men he loved more than anything.  He could have lost Daniel to the madman that had kidnapped them and held them in stasis.  Then there was Jason.  He nearly lost him this time and unlike Daniel’s case, this was no case of ‘could have’.  When Jason had been seriously injured before, Jack had been afraid.  But that fear was now magnified a thousand times.  When he looked at Adriann, he felt compassion and sorrow, and only a little bit of fear.  He wouldn’t like to lose him, but…Adriann wasn’t as important to him.  The thought made him sad and guilty.  He knew how much Adriann cared about him but there was no way that Jack could return the feelings.  Even if he didn’t have Daniel and Jason, it would be difficult just having a relationship and… 

Jack stopped that track of thought.  It was pointless.  Though he couldn’t help but think of things from all angles, he sometimes hated it when he threat-assessed the shit out of everything.  The point was, he loved someone else.  There would never be anyone else.  As much as his attraction and dalliance with Adriann had been good, he knew – and he was sure Adriann did – that they really couldn’t be anything more than friends.  Good friends, very likely, but still…just friends. 

He stepped out of Janet’s way, not asking her anything as she passed him.  She didn’t say anything, either, as she knew he’d heard her conversation with Daniel.  After she and the Residents left, Jack closed the door, looked at Adriann’s sleeping form, then walked over to his lovers.  Daniel looked up, tried to smile, then looked back at Jason. 

He tried not to let it happen but with the relief for Jason’s life and Jack’s comforting presence, his eyes misted.  He opened his mouth to speak, but he didn’t, afraid his voice would crack…that he would crack.  Without a word, Jack moved to him, damned the protocols, and held him in his arms.  Daniel took the momentary chance and kissed Jack’s ear as he returned the hug. 

“I love you, you know,” he whispered. 

“I know,” Jack replied.  “Me, too.”

Daniel took several deep breaths, and when he felt himself calming and those damned tears abating unshed, he stepped out of Jack’s arms. 

Jack reached up and touched his cheek before he stepped back, creating just a bit more distance.  They’d had a semi-public moment and it was all they were willing to risk.  For the moment. 

“We should try and get some sleep,” Jack suggested, though his heart wasn’t behind the words.  Like Daniel, he didn’t want to leave, preferring to keep Jason in his line of sight.  That thought rudely hit Jack between the eyes. 

“What?” Daniel asked, his brows knitting together. 

“We don’t want to leave him,” Jack said quietly. 

“No, we don’t,” Daniel drawled, waiting for the rest. 

“That’s what Jace said he was…is…going through.”

Daniel sighed, looking at their sleeping lover.  “Now we all are.”

Jack heard Jason’s breathing change slightly, then even out.  His eyes also said he was dreaming.  Another thought – realization – smacked Jack in the head. 

Nightmares.  After what Jason had been through… 

Jack placed his hand against the small of Daniel’s back, guiding him toward the door but Daniel resisted, shooting him a puzzling, if not annoyed, look. 

“What were we saying about leaving?”

“I know, Daniel,” Jack replied, staring back at their sleeping lover, “but Janet said he’ll be out for a while.  We should go catch some z’s, just so we can be a bit rested.  We’ll need to be there for him.”

“Jack?” Daniel asked, only just realizing what Jack meant.  Jack’s hesitation in the tunnel suddenly came back to him. 

“He’ll need us, Daniel.  Trust me.”

Daniel wanted to ask but he was too damned tired.  Jack was right.  They needed to rest.  They moved for the door but stopped at Adriann’s bed.  Daniel moved over to the man and reached out, touching the long, dark honey-blond strands of hair.  “Jason said he saved his life,” he whispered. 

“Yeah.  Why am I not surprised?”

“I’m certainly not.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Daniel looked up sharply.  “What do you mean?”

“Why am I not surprised that Jason gave the credit away?  That he thinks he should have done more.  And I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that he blames himself.”

“What?” Daniel asked, lowering his voice.  “How could he?  That’s just stupid, Jack.”

“Maybe, but you know Jason.  He’s like me…and you.  We all have reasons to blame ourselves for things that others tell us aren’t our fault.”

Jack’s astute words rang very true.  He and Daniel stared at each other, each stubbornly refusing to let go of the blame they held onto, always regretting the past, wishing they could fix it. 

“This is different,” Daniel finally said. 

“Of course it is, Daniel.  I’m just sayin’.”

“I know.”

“Jason was and is astounding,” Adriann suddenly said, opening his eyes. 

Daniel and Jack looked properly startled and apologetic, not having meant to wake their friend.  “Sorry,” Daniel whispered. 

Adriann gave them a tired smile, then gestured at the door.  “Go.  Sleep.  As I have heard it said by you and others, ‘you two look like shit.'”

Daniel let out a quiet bark of laughter and quickly covered his mouth.  Jack bit his lips together to stifle his own laugh.  He nodded to Adriann, and with one last look at Jason, he and Daniel left to catch a nap. 

Jason’s eyes flew open as he bolted awake, nearly sitting upright.  The pains in his body were minimal, except for his legs, but the quick action caused him to hiss.  His heart hammered inside his chest and he fought to control it, breathing deeply.  The nightmare had been bad, but fortunately, very short, and he couldn’t remember having others.  That was a blessing. 

Lying back down, he found himself flat and grimaced, not liking it.  Finding the cord to the bed control, he pulled until he had the control in his hand and raised the head of the bed about a foot higher.  He sighed, feeling better.  He hated lying flat in hospital beds even when he was sleeping.  At home, it was different.  But in the hospital, Jason felt that lying flat was for two things, death and surgery. 

As he pushed on his hands to sit up a little, he suddenly realized that his arms were bandaged.  He had an IV in his right forearm – deliberately placed above his bandaged wrist, and he was wearing pink scrubs. 

Pink scrubs.  He rolled his eyes.  “Way to be subtle there, Janet,” he mumbled, though he knew better.  The scrubs weren’t actually pink.  They were more of a salmon color.  He actually liked them.  The thought made him laugh at himself and the action made something pull at his neck. 

Reflexively, his left hand flew up, but found only a soft gauze bandage.  It had been the tape that had pulled.  There was no maniac biting at him. 

Sighing at himself for being stupid, he looked at his arms, then pulled up the shirt and found more light gauze covering the other welts.  Gingerly, he touched his nipples and the tiny wounds made from the pick.  He winced at the soreness.  Pressing the bed controls again so he could sit up better, he leaned forward, pulling aside the sheet and blanket.  Some crazy fear made him hold his breath, as if his legs wouldn’t be there. 

They were, and he let out his breath.  Through the scrub pants, he could see his thighs were thickly bandaged, just as he’d expected.  He saw the wrapping over his right ankle and frowned, wondering what the hell he’d done there.  He couldn’t remember.  When he moved his foot, the pain lanced through his leg, and therefore exacerbated the pain in his thigh. 

“Shit.”

He lightly touched the places where the stab wounds had been and anger began to boil up inside him.  He suddenly covered his legs back up, leaned back, and lowered the head of the bed back to where it had been in its slight recline. 

He was angry.  Angry at that fucking lunatic, certainly, but he was angry at being injured.  Again.  He’d just barely gotten over the mind-fuck he’d done on himself, and now this?  “Let’s just add this to the fucking list of weaknesses, shall we?” he mumbled morosely. 

“Stop that.”

Jason blinked.   “Adriann?”  He was too far away to move the dividing curtain out of the way.   “Adriann?” he asked again just as the curtain drew back and Adriann appeared.  He was bandaged, as Jason expected, and…wearing the same scrubs.  Jason couldn’t help but get sidetracked from his anger for a moment as he sniggered fondly.  “Now you know what it’s like to be laid up in here.  How do like your hospital clothes?”

Adriann looked down and passed his hand over them, giving Jason a curious smile.  “I like them.  I may keep them, yes?”

Jason snorted.  “Yes, you can keep them.  I’ll see what I can do about getting you different colors, too.  You just don’t want the shoes.” He paused, looking at him.  “How’re you doing?”

“I am well.”

“Good.  Hungry?  Soon as someone comes in here, I’ll see about getting us something–“

“Jason, please.  Do not avoid the subject.  I heard you.  Please do not, as you say, ‘beat yourself up’ over something you had no control over.”

Jason looked away from him, wishing the man couldn’t read him so well.  He was almost as bad as Jack and Daniel.  “I can’t help it.  I hate feeling weak.  I’ve already been…”

“Fearful, vulnerable?”

“Yes,” Jason said, gritting his teeth.  “I’m fucking sick of it, Adriann.”

Jason threw aside the blanket, swinging his legs over the side, wincing as the soreness reminded him of his previous thoughts. 

“Where are you going?” Adriann asked as he started for him. 

Jason waved him off.  “Nowhere.  I need some water.” He reached for the plastic pitcher and cup that sat on the hospital dresser placed between the beds and poured some of the iced water into the cup.  He purposely ignored the pain, and Adriann’s admonishing gaze as he drank the entire glass.  He poured another glassful and handed it to Adriann, who peered at it. 

“It’s just water, Adriann.”

Jason watched him as the man sat down next to him and drank.  He set the empty cup back on the table, then looked down at Jason’s IV. 

“That will help you heal?”

“Supposedly,” Jason replied, staring at the man, and his obvious lack of IV.  It suddenly reminded him that Adriann might be…a quart low, so to speak.  Not bothering to beat around the bush, he asked, “Have you had any blood?”

Adriann nodded slowly.  “Apparently Janet hooked me up to one of those machines.  Talen and Kashan’s doing.”

Jason grinned.  “Don’t be mad at them.”

Adriann shook his head.  “I am not.”

“You would have refused had you been awake?”

Adriann wrinkled his nose with distaste.  “I…needed it, so…no.”

Jason sighed.  “It is more efficient, Adriann, and despite what you think, faster.”

“Yours certainly was.”

“What’s that mean?” he asked, alarmed. 

Adriann pointed to Jason’s left arm, at the elbow.  Jason looked and around the bandage, found the puncture mark. 

“They gave you blood while you were out.  Janet said you had lost a lot of it.”

“Fuckin’ figures,” Jason replied caustically. 

Adriann frowned with worry.  “Have I angered you?”

Jason gave him an immediate apologetic look.  “Of course not.  I’m just…”

Adriann held up his hand, stalling him.  “I know.  I heard your self-deprecation.  It is most annoying because it is not true.”

Jason rolled his eyes.  “I wish you hadn’t heard me.”

“I cannot help it now.  Our contact is stronger because of the manner in which I touched your mind.”

“Yes, I know,” Jason told him, “and why’d you ask if you’d angered me?  You knew you didn’t.”

“No, I did not know.  I purposely try not to read you out of respect.”

“I appreciate that, Adriann, really.”

“Are you angry that our bond is closer?”

Jason frowned.  “Where do you get such ideas?”

“I sense that you are uncomfortable.”

“Uncomfortable is a far cry from angry, Adriann.  What you did was…necessary,” Jason told him, then added in a whisper, “I owe you my life twice now.”

Adriann gave him a confused look.  “Your life is not subject to trade or worthiness,” he said.  “I did what I had to do because there was no other choice.”

Jason had no idea what to say to that.  He stared back, trying to gauge what Adriann was thinking.  As they looked, there was a palpable tension, a static charge, between them.  Jason’s brows wrinkled with confusion. 

“Something’s different,” he said cautiously. 

“Our bond,” Adriann nodded.  His head tilted and his expression looked wistful, sad.  “I did warn you.”

“Yes, you did,” Jason replied.  “I just did not expect this sort of reaction to it.  It’s…”

“Strange?”

Jason looked at him guiltily.  “Yes, a bit.” He was going to add something else but a voice interrupted, startling them. 

“Major Coburn, what are you doing out of bed?” Janet asked as she walked in. 

Jason couldn’t help but grin at her as she arched that brow at him. 

“Don’t rupture a kidney, Janet.  I needed a drink of water.  Which reminds me, since you’re here, I need to know how to remove that contraption from the bed without setting of the medical alarms.” He pointed his thumb behind him, referring to the IV stand which was connected to the head of the bed. 

She smirked at him and walked around his bed, lifted the medical bags off their stands, then held them up for him to take.  Jason rolled his eyes at the simplicity of it, then gave her a ‘payback’ stare as her smirk grew. 

“Very funny, Janet.”

“You’ll see hooks between the sink and toilet.  I’m sure you’ll figure those out?”

“I think I can manage that, yeah.”

“Okay, now when you stand–“

“I know the drill, Janet.  No weight.” He hadn’t been paying attention to his ankle until that moment, though he’d had a feeling that he’d done something when he’d come off that wall. 

Adriann stood up and out of the way as Jason eased off the bed, taking the bags from Janet.  She moved up to him and put an arm around his waist to steady him. 

“Gonna hold it for me, too?” Jason asked, feeling a bit embarrassed. 

“If I have to, you brat.”

“Me?  Brat?”

“You.  Brat.”

“Nah, you’ve mistaken me for someone else.”

“No, I don’t think so,” she said. 

With a step, Jason winced, pausing.  “Fuck.”

“Hold on,” she said, pushing him to sit back on the bed.  “I’ll get you the walker.”

Jason grimaced again but didn’t argue.  He looked with offense at his right ankle.  “Bastard.”

“I could help you,” Adriann offered. 

Jason looked up at him and almost, almost, took him up on his offer.  “No, Adriann.  Thanks, but I need to do this myself.”

Janet returned and held the bags for Jason as he walked into the bathroom, his level of embarrassment rising as he went.  She watched him carefully as she hung up the bags. 

“Jason…”

“No, Janet,” he said through a laugh he didn’t feel, “I really don’t want you to hold it for me.” When she gave him her doctor look, he added, “We’re not even dating yet.” She snorted and left the bathroom. 

“Holler when you’re done,” she told him before closing the door. 

“Yeah, right,” he said under his breath. 

“I heard that,” she replied through the door.  When she turned back and saw Adriann staring at her, she arched her brow again.  “What?”

“Did you really hear him?”

“No, but I know him.  He said something.”

Adriann gave her a tolerant smile.  “He only wants to do for himself.  He feels helpless.”

She nodded.  “I’m quite aware how he feels.  The last time he was here, and at our hospital, he was just as difficult.  I can’t blame him for feeling the way he does, but he needs to understand that this condition is temporary and he should accept help.  But…” and she waved her hand in the air, “…he won’t.”

He regarded her a little more seriously, sensing something.  “Is it because you are not Daniel or Jack?”

“Probably,” she nodded. 

“Does that not bother you?”

“No.  I’m used to it.” She took a longer look at him, then gestured for him to sit on his bed.  He complied, then watched her carefully as she took his vitals. 

“Talen and Kashan.  Are they well?” he asked, sensing them on her mind. 

“I’ve just convinced them to take the transfusion.  Just a small one.”

Adriann smiled softly.  “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“And for me, as well.”

“Not a problem,” she replied. 

“You like this work as a doctor?” he asked her suddenly. 

She looked at him, surprised.  “Yes, I do.  I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do.  Why do you ask?”

He shrugged, studying her.  “It suits you.”

Her brows furrowed.  “You’re not reading me, are you?”

“No, Janet.  I only sense emotion, right now.  Caring, concern.”

She wanted to ask him about that ability but from inside the bathroom, they both heard, “Okay, Janet.  Come rescue me from myself.”

She grinned and moved over to open the bathroom door, taking the bags as he held them out for her.  As he walked back to his bed and sat down, he felt a little bit relieved.  Doing something for himself, even if it had been difficult, was a tiny boost to his ego.  It wasn’t so much that he’d done it without help as it was a sign that he wouldn’t take that long to heal.  Physically anyway.  A bit of resentment flared within him at that thought. 

After hanging up his IV bags, Janet returned to Adriann’s bedside, her next object being to check his wounds.  She cast Jason an evil grin, then took hold of the curtain and isolated Adriann’s bed.  Jason grinned widely as he heard, “Okay Adriann, I need you to drop your pants and lie down so I can check your wounds.”

Jason sniggered. 

“Hush up out there,” came Janet’s voice. 

Jason couldn’t help it. 

“You’re getting a good dose of what we have to put up with all the time, Adriann.”

It does not seem that bad to me.  She is a gentle and caring doctor. 

Jason’s face sobered a bit.  “She is.  And hell to cross.” Adriann didn’t reply but Jason could have sworn he felt him smile. 

“Well, well, well,” came a familiar voice at the door. 

Jason looked up and saw his friend Cari walking into the room.  He smiled with warm affection.  “Hey, look what the cat dragged in.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” she sent back, then waggled a finger at him before crossing her arms.  “Shouldn’t you be lying down or something?”

He shook his head just as Janet’s voice filtered out from behind Adriann’s curtain.  “He will be soon,” she warned. 

Cari bit her lip, then bent forward and whispered, “Can’t wait to get your pants off, eh?”

Jason snorted and pulled her in for a hug.  “Missed you,” he whispered back. 

She squeezed him gently, and when she pulled back, Jason caught the mistiness in her eyes.  He shook his finger at her, then touched her face. 

“Hey, hey, what’s this now?” he asked softly. 

“Scared me again, is all,” she told him, sniffing back the urge to cry.  “Stop doing that, dammit.”

“I’m sorry,” he replied, then pulled her down and kissed her quickly on the mouth. 

“Better be,” she replied as she pulled away.  She was going to sit down but decided to take a longer look at him instead. 

He watched her and grinned.  “Do I pass muster?” he asked. 

She arched her brow, looking quite like Mr.  Spock.  “Barely,” she replied, pointing at the bandages. 

Behind the curtain, Janet and Adriann listened to the banter between Cari and Jason while Janet finished her examination.  She patted his knee. 

“Done.”

As he pulled up the drawstring pants, she watched his face for any sign of pain.  There was none.  “How are you doing overall, Adriann?”

He looked in Jason’s direction, even though the man couldn’t see him.  “I’m fine,” he said, giving her a serious, truthful expression. 

“Okay,” she mouthed.  She turned and drew the curtain all the way back, then smirked as she headed for Jason. 

“Uh oh,” Cari said.  “Time for me to bail.”

“Rat,” he accused fondly, sending her a thanks in his eyes.  “Oh, um, Cari, before you leave…this is Adriann.  Adriann, this is one of my friends, Cari.  She works security.”

“Hello, Adriann,” Cari said, holding out her hand after Adriann sat up on the edge of his bed. 

He took her hand and held it for a moment before reluctantly letting go.  “A pleasure to meet you,” he said. 

“And you,” Cari smiled, then winked at Jason as she made her way to the door.  “I’ll see you later, okay?”

“If I can make it out of here before you do, just call me,” he told her just as Janet sent him a wicked grin and pulled the curtain round his bed. 

“I will,” Cari replied, leaving the room. 

Jason looked at Janet guardedly as she pushed him gently onto his back.  “Janet, you’re having way too much fun with this.”

“Just be glad I’m not putting these things on for another reason,” and she snapped on a new pair of gloves. 

Jason flinched.  “Trust me.  I’m glad.”

Daniel opened his eyes, his heart racing.  He brought a hand to his eyes and sighed heavily.  A short nightmare.  They’d already begun.  It had been the room, and those four vampires.  But instead of just Adriann, Jason had been beside him, and instead of killing the vampires, Daniel had shot Adriann and Jason. 

He pushed himself off the couch in his office, went to his small fridge and retrieved a coke.  He drank a third of it, then belched as he went back to the couch and sat down.  He looked at his watch.  9:33pm. 

“Shit!”

Realizing that Jason could be awake, he jumped up and ran for the door just as it opened.  Jack walked in, took one look at Daniel’s eyes, and closed the door. 

“Jack,” Daniel objected, pointing.  “Jason…”

Jack held up his hand.  “He’ll still be there, Daniel, but um…” and he pointed.  “We should probably…”

“Talk?”

“Yeah, that.”

Daniel sighed, knowing exactly why Jack had shut the door.  The nightmare was still reflected on his face.  He ground his jaw and stared at him.  “I’m fine.”

Jack searched his face.  Daniel put on a pretty good pretense, but he didn’t fool him.  “Bad?” he simply asked. 

Daniel sighed.  “I knew I’d have nightmares about shooting them,” he said, then after a moment of silence, he added, “tell me it doesn’t ever get easier.”

Jack recognized the conflict in Daniel’s eyes.  “It doesn’t.”

Daniel nodded.  “Good,” he said, and meant it.  He didn’t ever want it to get easier, and if the nightmares were proof of that, he’d endure them gladly.  He took a deep breath and blew it out.  “I’ll be okay, Jack.  Now, c’mon.  Let’s go see what we can do about Jason.”

“Nothing to do but be there for him, Daniel.”

Daniel didn’t look at him as he nodded.  “And let him know that he’s not at fault, that he’ll be okay.” He reached for the door, then paused and turned back to look at Jack.  The look in his eyes was unreadable. 

“What?” Jack asked. 

“When he killed that…creature…”

Jack gave Daniel a stern look.  He knew what Daniel was getting at.  Or thought he did.  “It’s a look I’ve seen before, Daniel.  So have you.”

“Not like that, Jack.  He hadn’t been tortured by that Goa’uld.  This one…his expression was one of…”

Jack gazed at him carefully.  “Satisfaction.”

“Yeah.”

Jack didn’t see disgust or fear in that response, but he asked, “Does it bother you?”

Daniel winced a little.  “I suppose it should…but…”

Jack reached up and touched Daniel’s cheek.  “It doesn’t.  I understand it, Daniel.  All too well.”

“Actually, so do I, Jack,” he replied.  “So do I.”

Having seen their lover derive satisfaction from killing his tormenter was somewhat of a mirror image for Daniel.  So many times he’d imagined himself doing same thing to Apophis, but he’d never had the chance – and still wondered what he’d have done if he had.  Teal’c had asked him on Chronus’ hatak vessel that if he’d had that chance, to crush the life from Apophis, would he have taken it?  Daniel remembered telling Teal’c that he couldn’t say he’d never thought about it, but that given a better, more rational option, he wouldn’t. 

At the time, he had meant it.  But given what Jason had gone through, if he had gone through the same thing, Daniel knew he wouldn’t have behaved any differently.  He just wasn’t sure if he’d have felt satisfaction. 

Jack watched Daniel work through the dilemma he knew his lover felt.  “If it makes you feel any better, Daniel, Jason was defending me.”

Daniel blinked several times, letting that sink in.  He replayed the scene in his head and whether he liked it or not, knowing it wasn’t in cold blood did help a little.  He finally nodded.  “I know I would have done the same, Jack.”

He was about to leave, but Jack stopped him.  “Daniel…there’s something else.”

“What?” he asked, moving away from the door. 

Jack hesitated, then stuffed his hands in his pockets and took a deep breath. 

That body language told Daniel the subject was back to Jason.  And it wasn’t good.  “What?” he repeated. 

“You saw all the wounds on him?”

Daniel nodded slowly, remembering the blood on Jason’s nipples.  His eyes widened and he rapidly searched his memory.  He hadn’t seen any blood around Jason’s balls or cock and hadn’t… 

“You don’t think he was…?”

“No, but I think that fuckwit messed with him.  I don’t know for sure, but just in case, I think you need to be prepared for some moodiness from him.”

Daniel took a deep breath and nodded.  “Think he’ll talk about it?”

“Only when he’s ready, Daniel.  We’ll be there for him, but he won’t talk about it until he’s ready.”

Daniel knew and understood.  But he didn’t like it.  It was just one more thing to add to Jason’s list of self-doubts and deprecations.  “So, what how do you want to…act when we get up there?  If we hover, he’ll get mad.”

“Well…” Jack started, taking a breath to think about it.  “Tough shit.”

When Daniel and Jack pushed open the door to Jason and Adriann’s room, they weren’t expecting to find anything amusing.  But amidst the seriousness, it was welcome, if irreverent.  Both men were sitting up in their beds…with hospital trays positioned in front of them.  Adriann was poking at his food in a very suspicious manner while his siblings, in chairs next to his bed, looked on in disgust. 

Daniel couldn’t help it.  He started to laugh.  “I see you’ve been fully indoctrinated, Adriann.”

“Is this supposed to be food, Daniel?” Adriann asked with disgust. 

“It is,” Jack replied as he walked over to investigate what he had.  He wrinkled his nose, staring at the meat patty (no gravy), mashed potatoes (no butter), shriveled green beans, and the chocolate pudding cup.  “It’s edible, but bland as hell.  You have to be starving to eat it.”

“I think that’s the point,” Daniel sniggered.  “To get you motivated to get the hell out of here.”

“How can one possibly get well if they feed you this…this…”

Crap is the word you’re looking for Adriann,” Jason replied through a mouthful of applesauce, the only slightly tasty thing on his plate, and though he wasn’t hungry, he had to appease Janet or listen to her nagging.  It was better to just appease while in her…care. 

“Thank you, Jason,” Adriann answered sarcastically.  “I did not need that image from you.”

Jason started to laugh, then grimaced.  “Please don’t make me laugh.”

Daniel walked over and looked at Jason’s plate, then copied Jack and wrinkled his nose.  Jack walked up behind him, raised his brow and snagged the breaded chicken patty off Jason’s plate. 

Jason snorted but Daniel stared at Jack as his lover sat down in one of the two chairs by Jason’s bed.  He crossed a leg, then bit into the patty and chewed.  After a moment, he nodded. 

“Not bad.  Needs a little salt, pepper, maybe some mustard.”

Daniel wrinkled his nose further…but he looked at Jason’s plate, passed his finger through the mashed potatoes.  and put the scooped dollop into his mouth.  Jason watched him with amusement as Daniel’s expression agreed with Jack. 

“They run out of food in the cafeteria?” he asked, taking another bite from the seasoned applesauce cup. 

Daniel sat down on the edge of the bed.  “Don’t know, haven’t been.  I only just woke up from a nap.”

Jason looked over at Jack, who’d just devoured the patty.  “Explains everything.  Why don’t you two go get something decent to eat?  I’m not going anywhere.”

The statement was colored with emotion.  Jack got up and went into the bathroom to wash his hands.  When he returned, he drank some of Jason’s water and refilled the cup.  He exchanged glances with Daniel then the two of them focused their attention on their lover. 

“We’re not going anywhere, Jason,” Daniel told him.  “Not until we’re forced to.”

Jason sighed and set the applesauce and spoon down.  “I’m fine.”

Jack shook his head and pulled the chair closer to the bed and sat down.  He leaned forward, resting his arms on his knees.  “We know that’s not true, Jace,” he told him.  “And you know what?” he asked just as he saw Jason about to argue, “it doesn’t matter, because you will be.”

“Jack,” Jason started, shaking his head. 

Jack raised his brow, looking almost paternal.  “Don’t give me that attitude, Jason.  I know better.  I know exactly what you’re feeling, too.”

Jason dropped his head back and closed his eyes.  “Jack, not now.”

“No, you don’t have to talk now.  But me, I’m saying this so suck it up.  You’re not at fault.  There wasn’t anything else you could do.  You have every right to feel weak and useless – but…I repeat…but you’re not useless.  Yes, you feel weak and nobody likes to feel like that, especially guys like us.”

Without moving or opening his eyes, Jason replied, “Is that the end of the pep talk, Jack, or is there more?”

Jack fought off the nearly overwhelming urge to tell Jason exactly the same thing he’d told the Tollan, Narim. 

“That’s not fair, Jason,” Daniel said, frowning. 

Jason opened his eyes and stared at Daniel.  “I don’t want to hear it, Daniel.”

Alright, enough was enough.  “Hey!” Daniel whispered vehemently.  “Excuse me?  We love you, you irritating sonofabitch, or hadn’t you fucking noticed?”

Jason’s eyes went wide.  So did Jack’s, but he agreed with Daniel. 

“We know you’re hurting, for fuck’s sake!” Daniel went on. 

Jason’s eyes narrowed just as his teeth began to grind.  “Maybe you should leave–“

“Call the corpsmen and have me forcibly removed from your room because that’s the only way you’re getting me out of here voluntarily.  Got me?”

Jack knew what Daniel said was on purpose, to make Jason think.  He only hoped it worked.  “What he said, Jason,” Jack added, giving Jason a hard look. 

Jason sighed and closed his eyes once more.  He realized that he was taking his anger out on his lovers, and he shouldn’t be.  It wasn’t their fault.  They couldn’t have gotten to him any faster than they had, or prevented what had happened.  He’d had the entire saga of it described to him by Janet, and Adriann, as she’d changed his bandages.  He now knew what had happened while he and Adriann had been chained underground. 

Jason sighed deeply and opened his eyes.  “I’m sorry for being such a petulant little prick.  You guys know how much I hate this, that I’m so fucking sick of it.”

“We know, Jace,” Jack told him.  “We know.”

As he took in his lovers’ tired eyes, it finally dawned on Jason that they understood what he had gone through when he had thought them dead.  That shoe was now on the other foot.  Though he didn’t want them in any emotional pain and hated seeing it in their eyes, he was glad.  Misery, as well as understanding, loves company. 

~

Late Wednesday night, Adriann stood with his siblings in front of the gate, his mind on Jason, but his emotions on Jack.  They hadn’t talked about anything.  Words hadn’t been necessary.  Adriann understood and damned himself for falling for someone unattainable. 

Dismissing the pointless subject from his mind, he shook hands with Hammond and took his copy of the written alliance.  Armed with promises of medical updates and continued help, Adriann, Talen and Kashan bowed to everyone in the gateroom, then walked up the ramp. 

Adriann turned, looking at Jason sitting in his wheelchair at the base of the ramp, and gave him the salute he’d copied from Jack – using only the first two fingers.  With a bit of a wistful smile, he turned back and disappeared through the event horizon, going home. 

After the gate shut off and Hammond dismissed everyone, Jason remained in the room, Daniel and Jack waiting just behind him to take him home. 

Jack touched his shoulder.  “We’ll see them again, Major.”

Jason nodded.  “I know that, sir.” He looked up at Daniel, then waved at the door.  “Home, James.”

Daniel exchanged a smirk with Jack, leaned over Jason’s shoulder and whispered, “If you’re looking for trouble, Jace, you’ve come to the right place.”

“Don’t I know it,” Jason replied. 

His reply wasn’t what bothered Daniel and Jack.  It was normally teasing.  But the tone had an edge to it. 

~

Jack tossed a few bags into the back of his truck and headed back inside his home.  Making sure any food items were safely out of harm’s way, and that all the windows were locked, he went to the back door and locked it.  He looked around and paused, going through the checklist in his head.  Nope, he had everything he needed for now.  He made his way to the bedroom, made sure the square box stationed on the cardboard was steady, and pulled the release valve.  He moved back to the living room and pulled the valve there, too.  As the gas started to release, he went to the door, set the alarm, looked around, and closed the door. 

On the way to Daniel’s, Jack’s worry for Jason nagged at him.  He knew there was something wrong and he hoped that if it was what he thought it was, he could help…or rather, he hoped Jason would let him. 

Jason was quiet, subdued, when he entered Daniel’s house.  Daniel watched him do for himself, knowing he’d want to.  So he left him to it.  After putting the few groceries away, he walked out to the living room and stopped.  Jason wasn’t there.  Frowning, Daniel turned and went down the hall.  The bathroom was open so he wasn’t there, but when he looked into the bedroom, he saw the crutches on the floor.  Jason’s ‘one’ sneaker lay next to them, and Jason…he was lying on the bed, seemingly out like a light.  He hadn’t even taken off the scrubs he was wearing, teal blue ones this time. 

Daniel stood there, watching Jason’s tired face, his chest rising and falling with the deep breathing that indicated sleep.  He argued with himself about what to do.  Leave him by himself or join him?  He wasn’t surprised that Jason had chosen to lie down, but it was the silence that worried him.  Jason hadn’t said a word to him – and it wasn’t like him.  Daniel went back out to the kitchen and put away the food he’d been about to prepare.  ‘Guess Jason can eat later,’ he thought.  Daniel started to go into the living room but stopped.  He didn’t like this.  He didn’t know what to do.  He turned and looked down the hall, and with a puff of irritation at himself, he made his decision.  Toeing off his sneakers, he started for the bedroom when the front door opened and Jack came in. 

Jack cocked a brow at him.  “What’s up?”

Daniel tilted his head toward the bedroom.  “He didn’t say a word, Jack.  He just went into the bedroom and laid down.  I think he’s asleep, but I didn’t check.  I was about to–“

“Join him?”

“Yeah.”

Jack hung up his jacket, then slipped off his shoes and overshirt.  “Good idea.  I could use a short nap.”

Daniel unbuttoned his own shirt as he made his way to the bedroom.  He turned the lamp on low, slipped off his jeans and draped them over the chair by the dresser.  Jack did the same.  In only their t-shirts and boxers, they moved as quietly as possible onto the bed and lay down, framing their lover.  Jack lay behind Jason, Daniel in front, facing him.  They carefully laid their arms over his waist, overlapping, closed their eyes and forced themselves to doze.  After ten minutes, the two were asleep. 

Jason felt warm, heavy.  Arms lay over him.  He opened his eyes and found Daniel lying in front of him, Jack behind.  He felt a gamut of mixed emotions from their presence.  Love, happiness, and relief that his lovers were there for him; then there was the guilt, shame, and embarrassment – none of which were real, he knew.  They were only the natural reactions to trauma.  But he felt them, nonetheless.  He swallowed, remembering what had brought these emotions on.  How the fear and self-doubt had been reinforced. 

That morning, he’d woken up, needing to piss.  But instead of waking up to his usual morning erection, he’d been flaccid.  Not normally something to be worried about, but combined with how he’d been acting the last two days, it worried him.  He had no sexual feelings.  None.  It was as if that bastard freak had robbed him of them.  And in a way, he had.  Jason had never felt so revolted and repulsed by sexual touch…which hadn’t been a real sexual touch.  It had been the creature’s need for power and control, and the twisted desire to feed off fear. 

Jason had no idea how to handle the after-effects.  He had no idea how to get control of his body back.  His psychological training told him what he needed to do.  Problem was, Jason couldn’t allow himself to simply ‘wait it out’.  He leaned forward and kissed Daniel’s left brow, testing how the intimate touch made him feel.  He didn’t feel that lurch in his stomach and was bolstered by that.  He moved to kiss his nose, and saw Daniel open his eyes. 

Those beautiful eyes.  Jason moved his lips to the right one and kissed the lid as it closed.  He felt Daniel’s face move to a smile.  When he pulled away, Daniel moved his arm from his waist and framed Jason’s face with his hand. 

“I love you,” Daniel whispered.  Before Jason could reply, Daniel covered his mouth with his own. 

Jason let himself be consumed by Daniel’s kiss, at first light, then deep and sensual.  He loved the way he kissed, and it always seemed that no matter how out of it he felt, Daniel had always managed to spark a fire under him.  And that’s just what he was doing.  With surprised elation, and for the first time in two days, Jason felt himself growing aroused. 

He reached up, cupped Daniel’s jaw, and kissed him back passionately.  Jason was startled for a moment when he felt Jack’s lips kiss his shoulder and his arm wrap more firmly around him. 

“I love you,” Jack whispered.  He hesitated but decided to add, “We understand.”

Jason wondered why the words had such a healing effect on him, but they were the words his subconscious apparently needed to hear.  He broke his kiss with Daniel, turned and looked behind him, then grabbed Jack by the back of the neck and pulled him down for a long, fiery kiss. 

Daniel watched him, them, but he wasn’t sure what to do, where to touch – where it was safe.  He understood those feelings all too well.  All too well.  Hathor.  Her abuse of him had screwed him up for a while and he hadn’t even been able to take Jack’s friendly touching gestures for a week. 

Lying next to Jason now, not knowing yet knowing that something had happened… 

Daniel couldn’t take the initiative.  He wanted to touch him, to kiss, to lick…to suck.  But it had to be under Jason’s specific permission now.  Daniel would not assume.  Not right now. 

Jack had similar thoughts running through his mind.  He had no idea what Jason had gone through specifically.  He could guess, and that was enough.  Jason would take control.  Just as he was doing now. 

Jason needed them badly.  His desire mounted and though he wasn’t sure what touch he’d shy away from, there were certain things he couldn’t do right now.  Penetration, unfortunately, he amazingly wasn’t in the mood for.  Nor was he in the mood for having either of his lovers go down on him.  Hopefully, that wouldn’t last.  He so loved that. 

He broke Jack’s kiss just as he took Daniel’s hand and placed it over his covered erection.  “Touch me, Daniel,” he said huskily.  When Daniel touched his cock through his pants, the sensation of it sent shudders through Jason.  “Touch me.”

Daniel caressed him with his fingers, feeling his lovers cock completely harden from his touch.  He slipped his hand under the waistbands of both pants and boxers, and took Jason’s smooth and very warm flesh in his hand.  He pumped slowly, thumbing the glans and rubbing the pre-come into the silky skin. 

“Jack,” Jason whispered, moving Jack’s hand under his shirt. 

“What do you want?” Jack asked, very aware of his half-hard cock rubbing against Jason’s ass. 

“Just…touch me.  I need to feel you,” he asked, his breath hitching from Daniel’s caress.  He reached behind him to find Jack’s cock, but the angle was wrong for him to do it properly.  From the sound in his throat, Jack could tell he was getting frustrated.  He moved Jason’s hand back up to his neck, guiding the fingers through his hair. 

“Not necessary,” Jack said against his ear. 

“Then rub against me.  I need to feel you.”

“I need to get us out of these clothes, Jace.”

Jason groaned, not wanting to move.  He wanted their touch, to feel them in return.  Damn clothes anyway. 

Daniel’s lips moved over his jaw and he turned his head back, his tongue seeking and finding its way into Daniel’s mouth.  He didn’t want to stop and take off clothes.  He was momentarily afraid that if the clothes came off, the distraction would wilt the mood – and his arousal.  He took his hand from Jack’s hair and slid it under Daniel’s boxers, feeling Daniel’s warm and wanting cock.  Daniel moaned into his mouth and broke off their kiss, panting. 

“Rub against my ass,” Jason asked, closing his eyes. 

“Too tempting, Jason,” Jack answered as he kissed under his lover’s ear. 

“I’ll risk it,” Jason replied, his breath catching again. 

Jack moved slowly, pulling Jason’s pants down over his hips, then slid his cock between Jason’s buttocks.  Daniel’s caresses altered slightly as they were now unconfined.  Jason tried to give back but found that he wasn’t in a position to.  He wanted everything, yet nothing specific.  He only wanted to touch and feel.  He moved backward, undulating his hips, guiding and trapping Jack’s cock.  Jack growled against the side of his neck and Jason smiled. 

“Touch my nipples,” he whispered as he dropped his head back.  Jack’s eyes widened a bit but he slid his hand under Jason’s shirt and gently brushed his fingers around the nipples, making sure his touch couldn’t be confused or mistaken for anything – or anyone – else. 

Jack’s worry was gratifying to Jason, but unnecessary.  Jason closed his eyes and shuddered from the sensitive feel of his skin.  His hand on Daniel’s cock increased in speed and strength, wanting…wanting… 

“Come for me, Da–” he started to say but Daniel was kissing him fervently, his hand matching Jason’s.  Jason moaned loudly, amazed at how quickly the heat inside him rose.  He knew he’d come soon now and he squeezed his ass cheeks, still moving his hips in a tight rocking rhythm. 

Jack gasped, grazing his teeth over the top of Jason’s clothed shoulder.  He wanted to fuck his lover so much, and the thought of pushing his cock inside him did it.  With a loud groan, he came, shooting the warm, sticky liquid against his lover’s skin. 

Jason broke Daniel’s kiss, gasping because of Jack’s orgasm and Daniel’s hand triggered his own. 

“Yes,” he said, arching his body against Jack’s, his hips and cock forward into Daniel’s hand. 

As his semen pearled over Daniel’s fingers, Daniel puffed several breaths against his cheek and came over his hand. 

The three men rested against each other, listening to their panting, feeling the tension flow and unwind through their bodies as their pleasure flowed through them and waned. 

Minutes passed, things cooled…and got more than a little sticky.  With a silent order for Jason to remain where he was, Daniel and Jack got up and removed their clothes.  While they washed up and returned with warm washcloths, Jason gingerly pulled his shirt over his head. 

His orgasm wasn’t particularly strong, but it was sweet.  He’d needed it.  He passed his fingers over the come that had dried against his skin – the come from his lovers.  It was almost like being re-baptized he thought.  Having been cleansed.  It was a strange thought, he knew, but he didn’t care.  It’s how he felt. 

Jack and Daniel returned, and as Daniel moved onto the bed and handed Jason the cloth to wipe his hand, Jack took care of Jason’s pants.  He removed them carefully over the slightly swollen ankle, now wrapped only in a stretch bandage, and dropped the pants into the same dirty laundry pile on the floor.  Running the cloth up the back of Jason’s thighs had him gasping, but through a smile.  As the cloth passed between Jason’s buttock’s, Jack leaned down and kissed his lover’s hip, his waist.  His mouth then ran into Daniel’s as they’d both had the same idea…or rather, the same need to touch. 

Daniel smiled and kissed him, sitting up to toss the washcloth to the floor.  He looked down and as Jason regarded his examination, he looked down at the bandages that covered Jason’s thighs.  Two thick strips of self-sticking gauze circled each thigh and extra squares covered the wounds.  Daniel reached down, but didn’t touch.  He simply passed his hand over them. 

Jack observed, tossing his washcloth to the floor, and brought his hand to Jason’s hip, leaving it there as he lay behind his lover once more. 

“It’s gonna take some healing,” he said, purposely using the double meaning. 

Daniel nodded agreement and lay down, pressing a light kiss between Jason’s pecs.  He licked his lips at the salty, drying sweat. 

Jason bit his lip, thinking.  “Physical Therapy’s going to be a bitch, but it’ll be short.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Jason,” Daniel told him as he traced his fingers from where he’d kissed up to the hollow of Jason’s throat.  “I think you’ll have twice the physical therapy.”

Jason smiled at him, then looked over his shoulder, receiving a slow, enigmatic grin from Jack.  He knew exactly what it meant.  “You two are so dead when I’m better.”

“Can’t wait,” Jack and Daniel told him, their eyes daring Jason to act upon that…promise?


 

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