Trinity 25: Haunted
Summary: SG-1 finds another quantum mirror.
Notes: Not your run-of-the-mill clichéd story. (Or maybe it is, I dunno)
Quote: “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin.
There’s a feeling I get
when I look to the West
and my spirit is crying for leaving.
In my thoughts I have seen
rings of smoke through the trees
and the voices of those who stand looking.
“You know, I’m getting sick and tired of gating into the middle of a damned forest,” Jack said irritably as his team stepped through the gate on P5X-256. He looked around, rubbing at his temple, feeling that he really wasn’t up for this today.
Daniel cast Jack a long look, knowing something was wrong even before they’d stepped through the gate. He also knew that what Jack had just said had nothing to do with where they were. Jack didn’t care where they gated to as long as the area was secure. Taking a deep breath, Daniel moved over to him, just barely brushing Jack’s elbow. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
Jack glanced at him as he scanned the perimeter, not looking at anything in particular. “Nothing, Daniel.”
“Jack?” Daniel pushed.
Jack didn’t answer immediately, but after a long minute, said, “I have a headache.”
Which meant that he had a bad headache.
Daniel tilted his head to the side and whispered, “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“It’s just a stress headache, Daniel. It’ll pass.”
“Yes,” Daniel drawled, “I know, but it won’t go away for a while. You knew they’d get you riled up.”
Jack made a noise of disgust. “They take too many risks, especially with our people. It’s bad enough that–“
“Shh,” Daniel interrupted, cutting off the continuing rant (however justified) about the Tok’ra, who were off on yet another joint intel-gathering mission. Their methods in gathering intel always conflicted with the SGC’s. And Jack hated it. It was something he could never leave alone, despite all of Hammond’s assertions that they had no choice but to cooperate. “There’s a difference between cooperation and being boned, sir,” was Jack’s favored reply and he’d used it again that morning.
Neither commenting nor scolding about the reason for Jack’s headache, Daniel simply pulled an ibuprofen packet from one of the pockets of his field vest and handed it and his canteen over to him. “Here.”
“Either take the pills or put up with me nagging you to take them.”
Eyeing Daniel the entire time, Jack took the pills and drank from the canteen. “Happy?” he asked, handing the canteen back.
“No,” Daniel said quietly, “you have a bad headache.”
Jack’s irritation crumbled a bit. “I’m sorry to snap.”
“Let’s just take this one easy till you feel better.”
Jack nodded, then looked over at Sam and Teal’c. He found them concerned. “I’m fine.”
They said nothing as they exchanged glances with each other and Daniel. Jack appreciated it but waved his hand in a gesture of dismissal. “Let’s fan out.”
The four teammates spread out, automatically moving in a tight sweep around the gate. Daniel moved to the right, Teal’c to the left, the two of them circling behind the gate. Jack and Sam moved forward but Sam stopped at the DHD.
“Carter, you locate that energy source yet?” Jack asked as he caught her frowning at her new device, coined an EMED (electro-magnetic and energy detector).
She started to speak, but hesitated, squinting at him.
“What?” he asked, his tone telling her he didn’t want to hear about anything strange.
Unfortunately, she disobeyed. “These readings are weird, sir.”
Jack closed his eyes for a few seconds. “I so didn’t want to hear that.”
“Sir, have you ever been in an energy vortex?”
Jack cocked his head. “I’m in one right now, Major.”
Sam smirked. “What I mean, Colonel,” which translated as Smart Ass, “are those areas where there are electro-magnetic currents that interfere with compasses and electrical equipment. Like those times where you’re flying and the instruments go haywire.”
Jack understood. “Like the Bermuda Triangle, and the one in the Pacific, I forget its name.”
“Yes, sir. Like those. I’m getting similar readings.” She pointed to three of the four digital windows in her palm-sized device. Blue, yellow, and red lights were fluctuating rapidly. “It’s not settling to give me stable readings.”
Jack sighed. “Which means…electro-magnetic interference?”
She nodded. “Possibly, or something like it.”
“And the MALP didn’t detect this because…?”
She shook her head. “There was a detection of a minor EM field, sir, but it didn’t interfere with the other results the MALP’s taken in the last two days. All I can think of is that this is a very recent development.”
Of course, it is, he thought. “Think maybe the gate might have caused the EM spikes?” he asked aloud.
She shrugged. “It’s possible. It didn’t when the MALP first arrived so maybe after a few activations–“
“Jack, Sam,” Daniel called out.
“What?” Jack asked as he and Sam made their way back to the gate, up the steps, and through the inactive ring. They spied their teammates directly across, standing five yards away at the edge of a small, circular clearing that measured perhaps thirty feet in diameter. In the center of the clearing stood a quantum mirror exactly like the one they had at home, with a few variations in shape. The mirror’s normally inactive ‘slate’ appearance was gone. Instead, it reflected the image of the forest.
“Damn it,” Jack growled. “Daniel, Teal’c, get away from it.”
“Yes, Daniel, I know what it is and can see that it’s active. Get up here, now.”
“Jack, I didn’t activate it,” Daniel told him when he and Teal’c reached the top of the steps. “It was already on when Teal’c and I found it.”
Jack cursed under his breath as his weapon came up. “Defensive positions, now. Carter, dial us out of here.”
Clicking the safeties off their weapons and charging staff weapon, the four started for the DHD, moving slowly through the gate’s platform, scanning the area, ready to fire. As they reached the steps at the front of the gate, Daniel felt the hairs on the back of his neck rising, and he wasn’t sure if it was the EM field Sam had mentioned or just the anticipation of trouble.
“Why assume someone came through?” he asked.
“It was activated for a reason, Daniel,” Jack answered as they descended the stairs. “Carter, think that mirror might be the reason for the EM readings and the weird fluctuations?”
“It’s possible, sir.”
Before Jack could say anything else, a Goa’uld stun grenade was launched through the trees to land at the base of the stairs.
“Shit!” both he and Daniel said just as everything went white, then black.
Jason Coburn pushed through his hiding place, his mouth open, his eyes wide. He walked over to the four unconscious bodies and stared. He was just…stunned. The Fates, it seemed, had an extremely perverted sense of humor and irony.
“Why you?” he asked. “Why’d it have to be you?”
He knew he’d screwed up. His mind tried to reason a way out of the idiocy he found himself in. Why hadn’t he thought of this? After all the others he’d intercepted, meeting up with another SG-1 would have been a likelihood, right? Right. So why the fuck didn’t he think of this?
Jason sighed with disgust as he squatted down next to Daniel’s toppled form lying partially on the steps of the gate. He look over, finding Jack beyond them, sprawled on his stomach in the grass next to the stairs. He refocused on Daniel, giving Sam and Teal’c the barest glance. Reaching out, he touched Daniel’s field vest.
“Real,” he said shakily, and quickly cursed himself. Of course they were real. But, they weren’t. His own lover and best friend weren’t around anymore and seeing their twins made this situation very surreal. Jason suddenly wondered why he hadn’t thought that before when he’d met other SGC personnel. After all, he’d cared about his own people, not just his loved ones, so why was this any different?
Because it was.
Jason dropped his chin to his chest. “Damn it.” He was almost out of time. He only needed a little more information about the Asgard before he could plan a strike. That’s all he needed. And Fate gave him the people who’d know. SG-1. But, how could he get information from them in the way he’d gotten information from the others?
The memory of finding Daniel and Jack’s blackened, charred bodies, along with others, came to his mind then. It was the same vision that filled his nightmares and daydreams, and reliving it in his mind, day after day, fueled his resolve, his reason for living: vengeance, retribution. Remembering was always a reminder not to weaken.
Just as now.
Still squatting, Jason remembered something else and abruptly pivoted on one heel, his eyes resting on Teal’c. Was this Jaffa counterpart still compromised? For the team’s sake, he hoped not, but how could he be sure?
It was this reason more than anything else that made Jason’s decision for him. He had to carry on as before, no matter who they were. He had to keep them all restrained, until he was…done. It wasn’t a matter of trust. It was a matter of survival and self-preservation. The SG-1 he gazed at sounded so normal, so like his own, but they might not be like his own. They might be compromised, just as Teal’c had been, but they could also be…different.
Running into the SG teams from three different worlds had taught Jason that. Those men and women had been twisted slightly, their actions dishonorable. Jason had learned that their worlds were NID-controlled, that the mentality of the rogue teams of his own world was commonplace in theirs. It hadn’t been too hard to restrain them then, nor had it been too hard to…obtain the information he needed.
But this was Daniel…Jack…Sam and Teal’c. These people were so much like the others, and they were them in a way. How could he harm them?
Feelings of grief threatened to overwhelm him, which then forced Jason to berate himself. It didn’t matter what he did to them. They weren’t them. They weren’t. And that’s what Jason ordered himself to keep repeating over and over again in order to justify his upcoming actions. He had a mission to fulfill, a promise to keep, before his time ran out.
Standing up, he moved to the edge of the clearing and moved a small fern-like plant, revealing a light grey metallic object, rectangular in shape, protruding perhaps a foot from the ground. Jason pressed a blue oval stone set in the side and the object hummed with power.
One by one, he hoisted the members of SG-1 over his shoulder and entered the clearing. A beam of light flashed and he was whisked away. Once in the room, he placed each person in restraints, fighting with himself as he did. He had to do this. He had to.
The last person to be restrained was Daniel and Jason had a very difficult time with it. After securing the wrist and ankle bracelets, he closed the collar around Daniel’s neck and…froze. A voice inside his head screamed at him to let Daniel go, to let all of them go, but another voice screamed retribution, that he had a job to do. No matter the cost.
No matter the cost.
The words floated in the air and Jason found himself weakening. His eyes travelled over Daniel’s body and he found his hand sliding up along the man’s jaw, as if of its own accord. Daniel looked as if he were simply asleep, his head resting on his left shoulder.
Jason’s fingers seemed to burn as he felt Daniel’s shaved jaw, the soft, warm lips. He expelled a short breath, a soundless whimper, as his bones seemed to ache, to itch, with demand.
The voice was Daniel’s but it was a memory only. A much-missed sound.
He pulled his hand away, making a fist, and his face contorted into a grimace of emotional pain. Placing his hands next to Daniel’s head, he leaned in and kissed Daniel’s mouth. It was light, just a brush, but Jason could feel the heat from the man’s body, could smell the soft fragrance that Jason knew belonged to Daniel’s deodorant. So like his Daniel. So like.
He leaned further, pressing his body against Daniel’s, rubbing his groin against him, nuzzling his face, his neck. “Daniel,” he whispered, kissing along his neck now, licking, needing to bite, to…
Jason pulled back abruptly, his eyes wild with surprise. What the hell was he doing?
Shaking badly with the shock of his own actions, Jason forced himself to back away. He had to block his feelings somehow if he was going to get through this, and besides, what he’d just done was, well, wrong, and not just for the obvious reason. He had a mission to complete and nothing should stand in its way, his way. He refocused his attention on the rest of them, refusing to look at Daniel any further.
O’Neill was just like his Jack…except he had no scar on his chin. That in itself should help separate things, to help him disconnect. But above the lab, on the surface, the man had sounded just like the one in his own dimension…how could he expect to…
Jason took a deep breath and moved away, chastising himself. He may not like it, but he had a job to do. He left the room to see to the other details, his mind already working on cutting off certain emotions.
Jack’s head was really pounding now. That damned headache he’d had after waking up in that cell on Klor’el’s ship nearly six years earlier was nothing compared to this one. Of course, the fact that he’d already had a headache before getting zapped by the grenade was probably the reason behind the strength of this one. And the fact that he’d probably fallen off those goddamn steps. He didn’t remember hitting the ground, but he must have, considering he also felt sore as hell and had a damn pinch between his shoulder blades. He opened his eyes, squinting carefully, afraid of the light that would sear his brain, but he found nothing but blackness. Just as with six years before, he couldn’t see. He blinked to test that theory and it was confirmed. He was temporarily blinded. Attempting to lift a hand to rub at his temple, Jack discovered something else.
He was also restrained.
Testing his limbs and going by the touch on his skin, Jack determined that he was bound by wrist and ankle, strapped to something metallic. His position wasn’t prone, but neither was it completely standing. He seemed to be lying at a slant. He cleared his throat and the sound echoed, informing him that he was in a fairly large room. He cleared his throat again to double-check and felt something against his throat, something metal. He turned his head to the left, then right, and the knowledge was confirmed. He raised his head, gauging, finding that the damned thing, whatever it was, was snug but not too tight. It felt maybe an inch in width. A collar?
Okay, that wasn’t good. He didn’t even want to know, just yet, what the hell a collar was doing around his neck.
His next thought was Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c. Were they still with him, and more importantly, okay? He stomped down hard on the twinge of panic.
“Daniel? Carter? Teal’c?”
“I am here, O’Neill,” came Teal’c’s voice.
“Me too, sir.”
They were to his right.
Jack breathed a sigh of relief as Daniel’s voice came from his left. “Everybody okay?”
“More or less.”
“Aside from blindness, I am uninjured.”
Jack sighed with relief.
“Are you okay, Jack?” Daniel asked, the worry in his tone clear.
“Well, other than the fact that I’m tied down, with a skull-splitting headache, and the fact that I can’t see, yeah, I’m fine.” Silence greeted his answer, but whether in agreement or because they didn’t want to argue with him, Jack didn’t know. “Did anyone see anything before this enormous clusterfuck hit us?”
A round of ‘no’s reported back.
“Swell.” He sighed again, and as the minutes ticked past, he began to feel edgy. He had the heightened sense that they weren’t alone.
“Teal’c…do you sense…?”
“That we are not alone? I do, O’Neill.”
“What?” Daniel asked, not having heard them as he’d been concentrating on something else.
“We are not alone, Daniel Jackson.”
“Oh, well, I gathered that already,” Daniel replied.
“How?” Jack and Sam asked together.
“I could’ve sworn I heard someone drinking.”
“When?” Jack asked.
“Before you woke up. I think I woke up first, just like on Klor’el’s ship.”
Nothing else was said for a little while. If they were being observed, there was no need to give the opposition any ammunition.
As the time passed, Daniel’s blindness began to abate. He could see light and shadow. His glasses started to slide down his nose, and in annoyance, he kept trying to raise his head to avoid them sliding down further. In the end, he gave up. He did find it rather surprising that his glasses had actually stayed on, considering he knew he’d hit the ground rather hard, even if he didn’t remember it. That assumption was based on the intense soreness on his right arm, shoulder and hip. He also knew it was the kind of soreness that would leave bruises. He told himself to ignore that and focus on his sight returning.
Sam wasn’t doing the same. She could see the same light and shadow, but her pragmatic side told her that since she’d experienced this before, all she had to do was wait. In place of her eyes, she let her ears do the ‘seeing’. She looked over in Teal’c’s direction, imagining his head cocked to one side, listening as she was. Sometimes they did the same things without even knowing, just as Jack and Daniel did.
After another half an hour, the team’s vision began to come back. Though still a bit hazy, they looked around the room. Since he could see well enough, Jack quickly assessed the situation. They were tied up…or rather, restrained by metal cuffs. He couldn’t locate his equipment or his weapon. And…he had no way of defending himself or his team.
Now, what? Well, until his goddamned vision cleared, he couldn’t do squat. Making a noise of aggravation, Jack squinted across the expanse of the room and saw something perhaps forty feet away. He had to blink and refocus several times, willing his eyesight to clear up even more to make sure he wasn’t seeing things, but what he found made Jack stiffen.
There was a figure sitting across the room. Someone was watching them, as he had sensed earlier. Jack remained quiet, waiting for his eyesight to completely clear so that he could better threat-assess. No sense wasting words until he had more of a chance to go on the offensive. And at the first opportunity, he would. After five years, you’d think he would be getting used to his team getting into trouble and being confined. But he wasn’t getting used to it. He was getting sick of it.
After another few minutes, his sight improved even more, and though the figure across the room was still a bit blurred around the edges, Jack could see much better. What he saw was a human male and if his vision wasn’t messing with him, the man was in a combat uniform. He couldn’t lock down the features of his face yet in order to read the man, but that would come. For now, Jack took a look at their supposed captor and his surroundings.
The man sat on the landing of a set of stairs that descended into the room. Behind him was a doorway that was only partially lit from a light (source unknown), making it easy for Jack to guess with decent accuracy the man’s shape and size. From what he could tell, the man had short, black hair, lightly tanned skin, and lightly grown facial hair. He was perhaps a bit over 6-feet tall, strongly built, though that was a guess, if the apparent black combat fatigues and field vest were anything to go by.
Over his lap lay some sort of weapon that Jack could swear was a P-90…but it looked a little different. Maybe a hybrid, but his vision might be tricky there. Another weapon lay next to the semi-automatic and Jack knew immediately what it was. A Goa’uld torture stick. He didn’t need sharp vision to recognize the pronged end and the dark rusty color.
The hands holding the weapons, almost casually, wore the same type of fingerless gloves Jack wore. The uniform and black utility cap didn’t have any markings or patches on it, nor did Jack expect any.
One thing was certain. The man was SGC. Or had been. So…rogue? NID?
Then Jack blinked, remembering the mirror. The man had come through the mirror. Using the mirror to hunt down tech perhaps? Possibly, but this situation didn’t feel like that. The man might be rogue but he seemed…alone. Jack couldn’t pinpoint why he felt that…he just did. He squinted, wishing he could see the man’s face clearly. If he was from an alternate universe and not NID, was he someone Jack knew?
Maybe. Judging from the build, Jack knew it wasn’t Kowalsky and for that he was grateful. The man didn’t seem to be anyone he recognized, yet there was something…
A sharp pain lanced through Jack’s temple just then and he gasped, squeezing his eyes shut, concentrating on getting rid of the pain.
“Jack?” Daniel asked.
“Just a headache pain through my head, Daniel,” Jack said tightly. Soon after, Jack heard Daniel and Sam expel a breath and knew they had just suffered a similar jolt. After a minute, the pain lessened and when Jack opened his eyes, he found his eyesight sharper, clearer, and his headache lessened a little. He refocused and could see the unknown man’s face a bit more clearly now, though the distance was still creating a hindrance. The shape of the man’s face was very familiar and…
Jack’s heart froze.
Daniel had not been focusing on the man sitting across from them but on their surroundings. He figured that Jack and Teal’c would take care of that part while he looked to see what advantages they had…if any. He turned to Jack to say something about his sight returning after that flash of pain but found his lover’s gaze pinned on the man on the steps. Daniel lifted his head up to look through his glasses, finally taking a better look at the man Jack was studying.
Daniel blinked. At first, he saw a soldier in covert ops gear…and very definitely SGC. Well, probably. Daniel was fairly certain that the man had been the one to come through the mirror, and was definitely the one to have knocked them out and imprisoned them. He looked over at Jack again and found his skin had just paled, his expression, alarmed.
“Jack?” When Jack didn’t answer, Daniel redirected his gaze to the man on the steps. The man shifted and tilted his head, his fingers drumming the weapon on his lap. The man then turned his head slightly, the gesture familiar. Daniel frowned, but a second later, his mouth dropped open.
“Oh my God, Jack. That’s–“
“That’s not our Jason, Daniel,” Jack informed him tonelessly. “We’ve either gone through that fucking looking glass…or he has.”
“I’m fairly certain he has…although I have no idea why I think that,” Daniel said in a subdued voice as he stared harder at the man on the steps.
After a fairly heavy pause…
“You’re right,” said the man suddenly.
Daniel was astute as ever.
“You’re right,” he answered Daniel, though not addressing him directly. Their reaction to the sound of his voice was…enlightening…but Jason had dreaded it. It meant they knew his counterpart here.
Sighing to himself, he ordered himself to do what he had to do. He set his weapons on the landing, took off his fatigue cap and tossed it onto the landing. Running his fingers through his dirty black hair, he walked down the steps, moving toward them.
Sam and Teal’c exchanged quick glances before returning their gazes on this man who had captured them. He looked like Jason Coburn but it was very clear that he was not. Sam tried to see behind the face she knew well, but her mind would not, or could not, go there. This person was Jason in appearance but there was definitely something wrong, something she couldn’t figure out…yet.
Teal’c watched the man’s gait, his body language, as he approached and felt a sudden sympathy he did not want to feel. The man was very obviously in mourning and out for revenge, justice. His entire being screamed it. Teal’c understood those feelings very well. However, now was not the time to sympathize with the man. As to how far this Jason Coburn would go…well, his actions would dictate Teal’c’s. If the man caused his friends pain in any way…
Jack had a horrible, sinking feeling as the man walked to within five feet of him and stopped, staring directly into his eyes. This Jason Coburn – if his name was Jason – looked…damaged. Not in appearance exactly, but the man’s eyes showed darkness, pain, anger. Jack easily recognized the signs. This man was fueled by dark emotions and they were all in a lot of trouble if the man was too far gone to be reached. What the hell had happened to him?
Daniel stared as Jason walked in front of Jack. There was something…scary…in this other Jason, something in his eyes. Not evil scary but…something that looked familiar. In fact, the last time Daniel saw his Jason look sort of like that was…
On the Diné planet.
Traumatized. That’s what it was. He’d seen a lot of pain and suffering and was definitely not in the best mental shape. So…what had happened? Why did he feel it necessary to tie them up? Was he afraid of them? How damaged was he? Though his heart was beating fast with fear and apprehension, Daniel was somehow able to get his tongue engaged.
“So, um, do you wanna tell us where we are and why you’ve tied us up?”
Jason didn’t look at or answer Daniel. He simply looked at Jack. Daniel’s brows knotted, wondering why.
Jack’s eyes narrowed. “If you’re not going to tell him, then tell me.” He noticed the nearly imperceptible smile around Jason’s mouth. Approval? Sarcasm?
Jason had to fight that smile, too. Yes, Jack was so very much like his own. No pulling of punches, just got right to the point. He dearly missed that.
“You’re in an abandoned Ancient’s lab underneath the stargate. There’s something similar to an Asgard transportation device in that clearing where the mirror is. I transported you down and put you on those tables.”
“Why?” Daniel asked.
“I need information,” Jason replied, though his eyes remained on Jack.
“Why not just…oh, I don’t know…ask?” Jack suggested with heavy sarcasm.
“You know the drill,” Jason told him with mild annoyance. “I need to be sure that you aren’t a threat, or not too fine a point on it, psychopaths.”
“That we’re not a threat?” Jack asked, his voice now dripping with sarcasm. “Are you cracked or something?” Jason didn’t answer but his expression showed amusement, which only spurred Jack on. “Never mind, I think that question was rhetorical. As for psychopaths, just how different is that compared to the way you’re treating us exactly?”
Jason’s brow arched in answer.
“Okay…let’s presume that we’re not the crazy bad guys. Let us go.”
“And why the hell not?”
“You’ve discerned the situation, you tell me.”
Jason was playing with him. All that did was piss Jack off more than he was already. Daniel’s easier going nature with people may have been rubbing off on him, but he had a headache and was in no mood to make nice. Fuck diplomacy, tact, and general good will. “All I’ve discerned is that you’re one pretty pissed off guy. That your name is probably Jason Coburn, Major, and you are, in fact, in some pretty deep shit because you’ve pissed me off. I leave anything out?”
Jason tilted his head, the tiny smile that had been hovering at the corner of his mouth leaving. “Most of that is correct, except, I was a Major.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed. “Okay, I’d ask what happened but frankly, right at this moment, I don’t give a damn. Let us go. Then we’ll talk.”
“Not until I’ve gotten what I want.”
“And you think this’ll help? I think that point’s moot, don’t you?”
“Maybe not,” Jason replied, looking a bit hesitant.
“Jack?” Daniel started.
“Jack, it won’t hurt to ask what hap–“
“Daniel, forget it!”
Jason gave Jack a tight smile, almost a grimace. “It was war. Specifically, you’re here because I need information I can no longer get from my dimension.”
“Dimension?” Daniel asked.
“You apparently call it a ‘universe’,” he said to Jack. “I call it a dimension.”
“That’s probably more accurate than our word for it,” Sam put in, and suddenly wished – for a brief moment – that she’d kept quiet as the troubling dark eyes were focused on her for a moment before returning to Jack.
Daniel’s frown deepened. Why did this Jason refuse to look at him? Was it because he was dead in this Jason’s universe…dimension? Had they been friends, or better yet, had they been together? Daniel took a deep breath, his instincts telling him that that was what the traumatized look was. Jason had lost him…yet it seemed he’d lost more than just him. His home? His…world?
“Oh my g…your Earth’s gone, isn’t it?”
Jason’s cheek twitched and he almost looked at Daniel. Almost.
“Let us go, then we’ll talk,” Jack said irritably, not bothering to ask if Daniel was right. “We might then be persuaded to help.”
Jason took a step closer to Jack, his eyes emotional for a moment before he forced them to go cold. What that told Jack was that the man was fighting with himself, and if he was doing that, then there was a way to reach him.
“Jack, you should know better. Until I can assess your threat-level, having you confined is prudent.”
“Yeah, I get that, and normally, I’d agree, but look at who you’re dealing with. We’re not exactly the enemy here, and you should have known that right off the bat.”
Jason shook his head. “You have no idea how much I want to believe that, but I can’t.”
Jack squinted at the man, understanding but not understanding. What the hell was the matter with this Jason? “Obviously it’s us who needed protection from you.”
Jason’s smile returned but it wasn’t in amusement. His eyes seemed haunted. “You’re quite right. As for trusting you right off the bat, I couldn’t take the chance and that’s something you understand well. Or rather, your counterpart did.”
“Fine. You’ve assessed,” Jack told him, knowing damn well that Jason had already assessed them or he wouldn’t even be talking to them. “Take the chance now.”
“And take you at your word? You could be lying.”
“Oh, for cryin’ out loud. I think you know I’m not,” Jack told him, letting Jason know that he could not only read the situation, but him as well.
“How would I know that?” Jason asked, showing annoyance. “You’re not my people. You could have been infiltrators, especially because of Teal’c.”
“Teal’c isn’t a rebel in your…dimension?” Daniel asked.
Jason had to control his actions. He’d started to answer Daniel directly and had to stop himself. He looked over at Teal’c, then back to Jack. “He was, but he was brainwashed against us and later…killed.”
“By Apophis or by the zatarc machines?” Daniel asked, feeling a lurching in his chest at the thought of Teal’c never coming back to himself after that horrid brainwashing.
Jason stared at a spot on the table, realizing a second later that it was the back of Jack’s hand. He suddenly wished he’d thought to put a muzzle on Daniel but that would have required more contact. It was bad enough to have touched him, to have carried him down the steps, feeling the arousing weight of the man; to have felt the muscles against his hands as he’d strapped him to the table, to have kissed him. Even unconscious, Jason had wanted to fuck him.
He took a deep breath and answered, keeping his eyes from Daniel.
“Both. It was after SG-1 had used those superhuman armbands and had destroyed Apophis’ ship. Teal’c had gone after them.”
“I remember,” Teal’c told him.
“The ship had been a lure, Teal’c. That fucking snake Apophis had known the Tok’ra would tell the SGC about it. While there, Apophis had Teal’c implanted and brainwashed using technology gained from god knows where. So, behind the scenes, against his knowledge, Teal’c’s symbiote was the one in charge, controlling him during kel-no-reem.”
“That is not possible,” Teal’c argued.
Jason walked over to stand in front of Teal’c, giving the Jaffa a long, curious stare. “Yes, normally Teal’c. But it had happened, nonetheless. You had planted bombs that no one could easily find unless they knew exactly what they were looking for. The bombs were a fallback plan, just in case Apophis couldn’t control what happened. When SG-1 blew up Vorash’s sun, and Teal’c was captured, the final stage was put into place. He was brainwashed to turn against the Tau’ri, then pretend to be deprogrammed. It worked, too.” He paused, then added with a bit of sarcasm, “Too bad the sonofabitch never lived long enough to admire his handiwork.”
“I’m sure there’s a point,” Jack said, tossing back the sarcasm.
“Jack,” Daniel chided.
“What?” Jack snapped back. “So his Teal’c went buggo. I’m sorry, but can we please get on with it?”
Teal’c almost grinned at that. Sometimes there was just no stopping someone like O’Neill. He refocused his attention back to Jason. “Whatever you believe that I am, Jason Coburn, you are very much mistaken. I have never been implanted by any zatarc technology or alternate programming. Apophis used, as O’Neill would say, the old-fashioned method of brainwashing. The sarcophagus.”
Jason paused a moment, regarding him. “You have seen many things, Master Teal’c, but there are many ways of infiltration that you do not know about.”
Teal’c cocked his head. Master Teal’c. Even in another dimension, the man still called him Master. “Did your Teal’c go through the Rite?”
“No. The programming allowed him to fool Bra’tac.”
“Unfortunate. However, I myself went through the Rite of Mal’Sharaan and it would not have worked had there been any programming.”
Jason nodded once, sharply. “Agreed. I’m glad for your dimension, Teal’c. Your people won’t have to suffer any further because of Apophis.”
“You know, this history lesson is all very interesting, but it doesn’t exactly get us anywhere,” Jack interrupted, his tone clearly telling the man just how irritated he was and that he had no qualms about sharing. Jason moved back over, facing Jack, standing only a foot away this time. Jack stared back evenly, hoping the man wouldn’t lose it.
Jason surprised him by grinning at him. “You’re just like your counterpart was. Impatient.”
Jack tried to ignore that. “Well, I tend to get just a little cranky when I’ve been kidnapped,” he said. “So, at the risk of repeating myself, maybe you want to reconsider that we’re not your enemy.”
Jason inclined his head, his grin turning sour. “Really? Then tell me the address to Othalla, home of the Asgard.”
“You don’t know it?” Sam asked.
Jason’s grin disappeared. “SGC personnel don’t generally memorize gate addresses. I have a few stuck in my head from planets I’ve gone to, but the only one we all know by heart is the Alpha Site. I need the Asgard address and I can’t go home to check.”
“The Alpha Site has a computer log of addresses,” Jack told him. “Why couldn’t you go there?”
Jason turned his head slowly to look Jack in the eye. His expression told his captors the answer.
A dark dread climbed around Daniel’s stomach. “Alpha Site’s gone, too, isn’t it?”
Jason’s head whipped around and for the first time since SG-1 awoke, he allowed his eyes to rest on Daniel’s. His gaze was penetrative and highly emotional. The feelings came back whether he wanted them to or not. The other feelings. Feelings of anger and resentment. Ones he’d been trying hard to ignore, to forget. Angry with himself for allowing those feelings to intrude, he ordered himself to maintain composure as he stepped over to Daniel. “Yes,” he replied through clenched teeth. “It’s gone.”
Daniel couldn’t help but feel the anger trained on him and it suddenly struck him that this was probably the reason why this Jason had refused to look at him. This Jason was extremely angry with his Daniel. “Whatever he did,” he said softly, searching Jason’s eyes, “I’m not him.”
Jack turned his head sharply, Daniel’s words sinking into his brain. No wonder Jason hadn’t looked at him. His Daniel Jackson had done something, something bad or unforgivable…or both. The two didn’t always go hand in glove.
“What’d he do?” Jack asked.
As Jason heard the words, he felt pain grab hold of his heart. “Doesn’t matter. He’s dead,” he said with finality. “Now tell me the address.”
“Why do you want it?” Daniel persisted. “If Earth’s destroyed, I don’t think the Asgard could help even–“
Jason stepped back. “I don’t want it to get their help! They helped cause what happened!” he spat.
“Wh…what?” Daniel asked, his question echoed by Jack, Sam, and Teal’c.
Jason looked at all of them with an intense look of hatred. “They sat back and let it happen,” he said in a hard, low voice. “They could have helped…but their ruling council said no.”
“What about Thor?” Jack asked. Jason slowly regarded him and for a brief second, the man’s gaze gave Jack a shudder.
“Thor is dead.”
“How?” Jack asked.
“He was killed during a skirmish with the Replicators. Even if he had been there, he’d have been the only one. A ship as powerful as his would not have been able to withstand Anubis’ weapon. That fucking snake fried our planet and those bastards wouldn’t help. The Alpha Site went not long after.”
“Anubis?” Daniel asked, blinking in astonishment. He traded quick glances with Jack. “As in the Egyptian god of the afterlife?”
“I thought that was Osiris?” Jack asked.
“No, he was the god of rebirth and immortality. Anubis is the one who sees to the dead, who guides them to their journey into the afterlife. Without him and his funerary rituals, souls can’t reach their final stage of immortality.”
“Ah. Doesn’t sound so bad.”
“No, but you know Goa’ulds. They twist everything. Osiris was a benevolent god, but…”
Jason stared back and forth between Daniel and Jack. Christ. They did this ‘skewing off-the-subject’ crap even here. In a funny way, this made Jason’s heart ache even more. “Anubis is probably the worst of all of the snakes. Even worse than Sokar.”
“Worse?” Jack and Daniel asked.
“The System Lords believe that Anubis is dead,” Teal’c stated finally, cutting in.
“He is not,” Jason replied, turning his gaze toward him. “At least, not in my dimension, and I’m willing to bet, he’s not dead in yours, either. From what I understand from our Tok’ra, Jacob Carter,” and he shot a brief look at Sam, “Anubis actually committed crimes among the System Lords. For that he wasn’t just banished, he was murdered.”
“Apparently someone screwed up,” Jack quipped.
“Apparently,” Jason answered. “From what I’ve been able to gather, he came back to life, though no one knows how.”
“Swell,” Jack said with disgust. “That’s all we’d need.”
“What about…” Daniel started to ask but Jason held his hand up, cutting him off.
He turned away and walked toward the stairs. They were asking too many questions…and he was answering. He should have known that this would happen, that in trying to get information from these four, he’d fall into his own trap. It’s what he got for missing them so damned much.
Jason pulled a small silver remote from his breast pocket and stared at it, at the two slightly raised grey oval buttons. One of them had a black symbol etched in the center that resembled the letter Q, and the other, a symbol that looked like a scrolling letter A. Next to those buttons was a small crystal resembling a square blue sapphire. His thumb hovered over the buttons, just barely grazing them. He knew that there was a strong chance that he’d have to use the collars. This SG-1 was exactly like his own. Strong, resistant, honorable.
But they hadn’t gone through what he had. This SG-1 was so blind. They believed the Asgard were good beings, saviors. They wouldn’t believe that the little grey bastards would stand by and let Earth fall. But Jason and his Earth knew better. In the time he had left, Jason would pay the Asgard back, even if he had to resort to despicable behavior to do it. He would do that. He could do that. Otherwise, the means he’d used to get information from those others meant nothing more than…torture. Jason closed his eyes. Who was he kidding? It had been torture. He was one sorry-assed individual.
He turned and faced the team, looking directly into Teal’c’s eyes first, then Sam’s, Jack’s…and finally Daniel’s. “My people believed that Anubis was using weapons that belonged to the Ancients.”
“Well, that explains the rise in power,” Sam remarked.
Jack wanted to asked questions about that, but if there was a way to get Jason to open up, he’d have to hit closer to home. “What about your Daniel? What happened?”
Jason turned round and faced him, though he didn’t walk back across the room, preferring to stay by the stairs. “My Daniel ignored my order, my warning,” he replied scornfully. “He ignored what I told him and convinced the others to do things his way. Because of that, they all died.”
“What did he do that was so bad?” Daniel asked softly.
Jason ground his teeth, quiet for a few minutes. He then gave his answer to Jack, not Daniel. “We were on a combined mission. SG units 1, 2, 6 and 11, checking out a planet’s naquada mines to see if they were salvageable. On day four, we were contacted by the SGC. They told us what was happening, and Jack was ordered to take command of the Alpha Site. Then transmission was lost. We tried to establish a wormhole to Earth, so see if maybe communication was merely cut off, but we couldn’t. The Earth gate wasn’t working. So, we went to the Alpha Site, Jack took command, and two weeks later, we were hit.”
“Look…Coburn,” Jack started. He had to use ‘Coburn’ otherwise he’d begin to see this man as Jason. His Jason. Despite the obvious appearance differences, this Jason’s actions were scaring Jack just a bit. He didn’t ever want to see his Jason deteriorate like this, and unfortunately, he knew it could happen. Having seen Jason so fragile when his lover had thought him dead was more than enough, thank you. Jack shot a glance over at Daniel and saw him fuming. Jason’s ignoring him was finally getting on Daniel’s nerves. Oh boy. Pretty soon it would Jason-baiting instead of snake-baiting. “I wanna help, we all do, but the longer you keep us tied up, the less likely that’s going to happen. If you torture us for information, that likelihood becomes nonexistent because if your guys were anything like us, you must know that we won’t tell you anything. Do you understand me?”
Jason turned away, closing his eyes again. He knew he should have just knocked them out and ran back through the mirror, disengaging it from this world and trying elsewhere. But, Fate was Fate. He had no choices anymore. The hardness of futility grabbed him around the heart and squeezed. “If I let you up from the tables, will you give me the information I need?”
“Getting back at the Asgard seems to be the indirect approach. Why not the snakeheads?” Jack answered.
“I’ve been getting back at the snakes, but the Asgard need to be punished for their selective interference, and for being cowards.”
“I still can’t believe they wouldn’t help,” Jack said, though he had a sinking feeling that Jason was right.
“The council sat around debating their own species problems and did nothing to help ours species live. It’s okay for them to come by when they feel like it, to experiment on us in order to advance their own research, but when it comes to actually helping us, they pretty much said fuck you, you’re on your own.” His eyes seemed to bore holes into Jack. “You know what I’m saying is true.”
Jason had Jack there. Jack didn’t like ‘not’ trusting the Asgard but they were turning out to be choice pains-in-the-ass. Except for Thor. He sighed and decided to take a chance. “Let us go and we’ll talk. I promise.”
Jason raised the silver remote, hesitated, and finally pressed the small blue gem. The bands around their wrists and ankles sprung free and Jack immediately hopped off the bed while the others simply stepped off theirs.
“Better,” he said, rubbing his wrists and glared at Jason as he walked toward him. “Now, maybe you want to take these dog collars off and then apologize. I’m still in the mood to accept one.”
Jason backed up to the steps and sat down, his dark eyes growing empty as if willing another persona to emerge. “I’m sorry, but no.”
“What?” Jack asked as he and his teammates froze, standing in the center of the nearly empty room.
“The collars stay on for the time being. You’re free from those restraints but you’re not going anywhere. And should you overpower or kill me, you’ll never get off the planet, much less get those collars off. So, I suggest you sit down and give me that discussion you talked about. Then you go your way, I’ll go mine.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed but before he was about to respond, Daniel did.
He glared at Jason, walking toward him as he rubbed his own wrists. “Excuse me?” His voice was as hard as the blue of his eyes. He held up his hand and ticked off on his fingers. “First, we’re not a goddamn travelling database. We may not have the information you need. Second, you weren’t listening to Jack when he said you’ll never get anything from us through torture. Third and lastly, just what the fuck is the matter with you? Can’t you behave like a rational human being? Take these goddamned collars off.”
“Sit down,” Jason told him coldly as he looked at the floor, refusing to meet Daniel’s gaze.
“What?” Daniel asked, surprised at the answer.
“The floor. Sit down.”
“And if I don’t?” Daniel asked sarcastically, folding his arms. He was baiting the man just as he did the Goa’uld.
“Daniel,” Jack warned though he knew it was a waste of time.
Daniel turned and stared at Jack. “Being nice has gotten me squat. Fuck nice. I’m not going to be nice anymore until he lets us go.”
“You’re just like him, you know,” Jason responded quietly, trying to keep his voice devoid of emotion. His emotions, in truth, were as if balanced on the edge of a knife.
Jack stared at Jason, wanting to hit him. “Oh, for cryin’ out…” Without further thought, he made for Jason, his quick reflexes striking out to grab the remote. Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c moved to surround their captor. Jason quickly ascended the steps, closed his eyes and…pressed the A button.
The collars hummed and became hot. In surprise, Daniel and the others reached for them, trying to pull them away from their skin, but confusion and fear took over as they found themselves being pulled to the ground by the collars, as if invisible hands had taken hold.
“Sonofabitch,” Jack said through clenched jaws as he rolled over, his muscles straining. His body was fine but his head, neck, and shoulders were killing him. The only position any of them could lie in without pain was on their stomachs, with their heads to one side. The collars stuck to the floor, heedless of what got in the way – like the human bodies attached.
“Magnetic…” Sam managed through a grunt as she found herself pinned to the floor, watching as she and her teammates were forced to succumb to the magnetic pull.
Jason squeezed his eyes shut. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, not loud enough for them to hear. When SG-1 stopped groaning and gasping as they tried to fight, Jason opened his eyes and forced himself to look at them.
Daniel. Daniel’s body, lying there, so strong, so agile, fighting the collar, trying not to be angry…vulnerable. His. Jason closed his eyes again, damning his desires.
He pressed the Q button and the collars deactivated, letting them up from the floor. He allowed himself to look as he sat back down on the top step. When they rolled over and sat up, glaring at him, he said, “I’m sorry.”
“The hell you are or you wouldn’t have done it,” Jack said, pushing himself to his feet.
Daniel remained quiet for a moment but he got to his feet and walked toward Jason, raising his hands to show he meant no harm. “I’m sorry, too, but you know why we can’t submit, why we have to attempt escape.”
Jason could tell Daniel was still very angry, but it was now that subdued anger, the sort he kept in check, controlled. “I know,” he answered, glancing at his face before he redirected his focus, blurring it, not allowing himself to see Daniel directly. Only his position, where he was. Jason’s eyes shifted to Jack, finding the anger, the confusion, open and hostile. He looked at Sam, noting that her expression was the same. When he looked at Teal’c, he saw just what he’d expected…and what he hoped actually. Deadly intent. Part of him wished that Teal’c had caught him, had–
“What did you mean that we can’t go anywhere?” Sam asked as she pulled at the collar. Though its heat had dissipated, the skin was still tender.
“I disabled the gate.”
Sam’s mouth dropped open in astonishment. “What? How?”
Jason saw no reason not to tell her. After all, they didn’t know where he’d put the crystals and the small activation device.
“Hold up,” Jack interrupted. “If you’ve deactivated the gate, then there’s no reason to keep these fucking collars on, is there?”
Jason stared at him. Jack was right, of course. And why hadn’t Jason foreseen this? Again, he closed his eyes, finally realizing that logic had escaped him along with everything else. None of this was rational, ethical, moral, but the reason he hadn’t seen it was because he hadn’t wanted to. The others that he’d questioned, tortured, they hadn’t gotten to him. Or…had they?
Damn this Daniel for coming back, for reminding Jason of his own lover’s thoughts, feelings, damnations. If only he hadn’t run into him again. Jason wanted to release the collars, but if he did that, would they turn? Would they then reveal themselves to be other than what he’d expected? Would they then kill him? Part of his heart lurched, but not in fear. Maybe it would be fitting that he’d die by their hands.
“Why’d it have to be you?” he asked them, not expecting an answer. He didn’t get one.
Jack rubbed the skin around his neck, checking on Sam, Teal’c, and finally Daniel. They weren’t any worse for wear.
“Okay, you know, I think you’ve just passed the point of–” Jack’s words were cut off as Jason stood. He eyed him as the man set down the control device and pulled something from another pocket in his field vest, something long and silver, like a short, four-inch pick. He approached him and Jack took a few wary steps backward, with Daniel, Sam, and Teal’c moving toward their captor.
Jason paused and held up the tool, halting their approach. “It’s the release key,” was all he said.
Daniel watched him carefully as Jason walked behind Jack and held the end of the silver pick over a tiny hole at the back of the collar. Daniel walked over and stood next to them, watching. It looked like a long, fat needle. Jack hated needles. Jason pushed the sharp tip into the collar, turned it and then pushed the tip to the right. The hole elongated and the collar opened. Jack yanked the collar off and was prepared to throw it but Jason stayed his hand. His fingers lingered just a bit too long on Jack’s before he released his hand.
“You may want to take them back with you. Another piece of tech for the SGC.”
Jack turned to regard him as he rubbed his neck. “Kinda impossible if you’ve disabled the gate.”
“After…after you tell me what I need to know.”
Jason didn’t look ashamed or guilty as he said it and Daniel frowned, trying even more to figure the man out. He watched Jason move over to Sam, gently removing the collar from her neck. Sam eyed him, rubbing her neck.
Jason took in the deadly look on Teal’c’s face, watching with careful scrutiny as he moved in behind him, reaching up to insert the tool. As soon as the collar came free, Jason tensed, waiting for it. He wasn’t disappointed. Teal’c turned and took hold of his throat with one large hand.
Without thinking, Daniel and Jack jumped to Jason’s defense, their protectiveness kicking in as they put their hands on Teal’c’s shoulders. “Teal’c,” they said together, asking in that one word for him to let go. Sam’s eyes widened but she wasn’t the least bit surprised. She stood behind Teal’c, her hand on his back.
Jason stared into Teal’c’s eyes, resisting his instinct to fight Teal’c’s closing fingers.
Teal’c couldn’t ignore the touch by his teammates, especially Sam, but he paid it no heed as he secured his hand. He felt Jason swallow, the movement slow and deliberate under his fingers. He immediately knew that Jason wanted him to kill him. In that moment, everything became clearer. The man’s mourning was deep, just as he’d surmised. He heard Daniel and Jack take a breath and hold it, waiting on his actions. Slowly, Teal’c released his fingers.
“You are fortunate, Jason Coburn.”
Jason didn’t massage his throat as Teal’c let go. “I don’t think so. You are one man with enormous strength, Master Teal’c. In both dimensions.”
Teal’c knew that Jason wasn’t referring to physical strength. “You are as well, yet you have lost yourself. What has become of you?”
Jason paused, then said almost too quietly, “I should have died a long time ago. With them.”
Teal’c nodded, understanding exactly what Jason meant. “Yet we survive.”
“Yes. We survive.”
Sam blinked at Teal’c and raised her hand to his shoulder, gripping it when Jack and Daniel let go. “Teal’c?”
“I will explain another time, Samantha,” he told her quietly. She nodded, not saying another word about it.
Jack and Daniel exchanged frowns of worry but their attention was drawn back to Jason as the man stepped over to Daniel. Instead of walking around him, he took Daniel by the shoulders and gently turned him around. Daniel knew immediately that Jason did it for the contact.
Despite himself, Daniel was aroused by it. He swallowed. “What happened to you that you should be…”
“A nasty sonofabitch?” Jack finished.
“I was gonna say ‘suicidal’, Jack.”
Jason let a sad smile flicker across his lips before he forced it away. “You’re both right,” he said as he handed Daniel his collar. “Until you came along, my purpose was clear. I should’ve just let you wake up on the forest floor and stepped back through the mirror.” He shook his head.
“But you had to know what knowledge we possessed,” Teal’c told him.
Jason nodded as he then handed Daniel the pick, then retrieved the control device and handed it to Sam. He looked into her eyes, his expression almost entreating. “I need the address to the Asgard homeworld.”
Sam started to reply but Jack interrupted, almost grouchily. “Where’s our stuff?” he asked, relaxing only slightly as he looked around for their gear, their weapons.
Jason glanced at him, sighed, and went to the wall at the left of the stairs. He pressed his fingers along a seam and the wall opened, revealing a closet where their field packs and weapons were stored. Jason felt Daniel behind him, examining the Runic symbols on the door, and had to firmly hold himself in check to keep from being aroused more than he was. What made it worse was that the arousal was bitter and wanting, knowing it was futile.
“Ancient’s writing?” Daniel asked him, breaking Jason’s thoughts.
Jason cleared his throat. “Yes.”
Something in his tone made Daniel ask, “You know how to read it?”
“My knowledge is not important, Doctor,” he said, telling himself that if he addressed Daniel that way, thought of him that way, it would help him to focus. He hated it. He’d never had an inability to focus, not until after his Daniel died. Damn the man and damn himself.
Daniel stiffened a bit in shock as Jason addressed him formally, but he understood why Jason had done it. “I’m trying to learn it but I don’t have a wide base of reference.”
Jason waved about the room. “You’ll have plenty of references here, once you look around. The walls contain knowledge stores, such as data pads, holoscreen computers…all very fascinating stuff.”
Jack stared at him. “This is your base of operations, isn’t it? In the other universe, dimension, whatever.”
“Yes,” Jason told him as he moved over and sat down on the steps. He rubbed his face in his hands. “Please, tell me what I need to know.”
Jack walked over and retrieved his field pack and weapon, handing the others theirs. He saw Daniel about to answer Jason but he held up a finger. “No. We tell him nothing until…until…he fixes that gate.” He moved up the stairs to stand in the doorway. “This the way out of here?”
Jason nodded. “It is.”
“You going to show us what you did to disable the gate?”
“Are you going to tell me what I need to know?”
Jack was now past being pissed off. He didn’t like being used and threatened, and no matter who this person was and why he did what he did, Jack’s first duty was to his team and their safety. Only after they were free would he cooperate. And he still wasn’t sure he was going to do that.
“Carter, Teal’c, Daniel, let’s go take a look.”
Daniel didn’t move. He’d been studying Jason, thinking about what the man had done…and why. Considering that he had those awful torture sticks, and then the collars, it was clear that he’d gone to despicable lengths to achieve his goals. Daniel couldn’t believe that any Jason Coburn would do something like that just because his lover had died, but having his whole planet destroyed? What would he do in Jason’s place?
“Jack,” Daniel called, staring down at Jason before looking at him.
Jack paused and slowly turned round. He knew that tone. “Daniel…”
“Jack, I’m going to talk to him.”
“So help me, Daniel, if you tell him–“
“Jack,” Daniel frowned, pointing. “For all intents and purposes, this is Jason. His Earth is destroyed and he’s doing what any of us would do…more or less. Are we going to turn our backs on him?”
Jack stared at him. “How do we even know that he’s even telling the truth about that?”
Daniel frowned even more and because of it, he could see that Jack was wavering a bit, that he really did believe Jason. He just didn’t want to. He was about to say something about it but Jason’s growl of disgust stopped him.
“You want to see if I’m telling the truth, Colonel?” he asked, getting up. “Do you?” He moved over to the right side of the stairs and opened another section of wall, this time revealing a set of shelves. On one of them was the mirror’s control device. He grabbed it and ran up the stairs without another word.
They followed him down a corridor, which slowly sloped upward. They could see the end of it, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and exited in a circular room. Passing a hand over a curious crystal in the floor, a light flashed and all of them were transported outside, just in front of the mirror.
Jason held out the device and Daniel noticed that he’d made a notch in a section of the sliding dial. Like a marker. Jason moved the dialer over to a white mark, almost like a crystal inlaid into the device. The half-moon display above the control turned on and taking a ballpoint pen from his pocket, Jason began to tap at symbols on the tiny display.
“What’re you doing?” both Sam and Daniel asked, unable to keep their curiosity at bay.
“Dialing the mirror on Earth.”
“I thought it was destroyed?”
Jason shrugged. “It is.”
Jack frowned and before he could ask further, Sam cut him off. “You can do that? How?” she asked as she stepped up at his left elbow, studying what he was doing.
Jason looked at her. “Each mirror emits an EM field. I’m sure you’ve guess that by now.”
“Each field has a unique frequency, or energy signature. If you know it, you can use one of these control devices to dial up any mirror in any universe. It does not need to be a counterpart in the same space.”
“Are they all in the same time?” Daniel asked.
“Yes. Time is time. It never changes. Events, on the other hand, might proceed or recede depending on what else is going on. I actually gated to a world where the sexual revolution of the 60’s didn’t happen till the 90’s.”
That information was strange but what caught Daniel’s attention was Jason’s knowledge. He would have been at this for a quite a while. “How long have you been stranded, Jason?” he asked, purposely using his first name.
Jason glanced at him but looked over at Sam instead. “Fifteen months.”
Jack blinked. “Alone?”
Jason forced himself to stare back and meet Jack’s gaze. “Except for those I’ve kidnapped, yes.”
“How many times have you done this…just…this?” Jack asked, waving his hand back and forth between them. His eyes were hard and demanding but inside, he was caving, feeling sympathy and he really needed to know.
“Twenty-seven, including you,” Jason said as he dialed. “As for how many times I’ve been in other dimensions other than my own, one-hundred-fourteen.”
“I’m surprised you kept count,” Jack said sarcastically.
“Jack,” Daniel frowned.
“Daniel, he’s been kidnapping people and torturing them for information. Getting on my case for being rude doesn’t exactly bother me.”
Daniel turned away just as Jason found the world.
“Here. Take a look.”
He gestured with his hand as the slate cleared and a new view appeared. The mirror was not inside the mountain and appeared to be on its side, showing a horizontal view instead of a vertical one. From what they could tell, there was no foliage around. The immediate vicinity of the mirror was nothing but rock and debris and it seemed as if it was stationed in a crater. It was raining, the color of the rain clouds dark, nearly purple. A flash of lightning streaked across the mirror just then, causing the ground to shake. The scene did not look good, but Jack was still suspicious.
“How do we know that’s your Earth, or that what we’ve just seen is Earth?”
Jason shut off the mirror and walked away, shaking his head. “Doesn’t matter anymore.”
Jack’s anger asserted itself and he went after him, grabbing Jason’s arm painfully. “How many people are you going to do this to?”
Instinctively, Jason grabbed Jack’s hand, twisted and swiftly put him down on his back. Teal’c’s staff weapon was charged, Sam’s P-90 was aimed, and Daniel’s automatic reflex was to take out his sidearm. The entire sequence happened in less than four seconds.
Though three weapons were trained on Jason’s head, Daniel was amazed that the man didn’t even flinch. In fact, he looked remarkably unconcerned…except for the fact that he had his hands on Jack’s chest, staring down at him. Then…something seemed to change. Jason’s body language altered and Daniel had no idea what it meant…but it became clear a moment later.
Jason stared down into Jack’s surprised face, his fingers clenched in the lapels of the man’s jacket. He heard the weapons train on him, expected it even. But they mattered not. What suddenly came over him was the fact that he was staring into the likeness of a man whom he dearly loved and missed.
And the next thing that happened ended all of his plans.
He began to tremble violently, shaking back and forth. Jack suddenly wondered if he were having an epileptic seizure until he realized that it was the entropic cascade failure.
“Sir, he’s having–“
“I know, Carter,” Jack said, scared but holding onto the man as he trembled and shook, vibrating so badly that his body seemed to blur. Jack’s fingers began to grow numb holding onto him, but for some reason, he couldn’t let go. Wouldn’t let go.
The seizure stopped and Jason fell off Jack and onto his back, gasping. He felt Daniel’s hands on him, supporting his upper body and he held him against him.
“Jason, how long have you been here?” Daniel asked.
Jason frowned at the faces. They were acting as if all his transgressions had been forgotten for the moment. These people really were like his own. Lying there in the dirt, with Daniel holding him, the only thing that came to Jason’s mind was hope…hope that in whatever afterlife there was, his Daniel and Jack wouldn’t be too angry with him for what he’d done to survive and find retribution. Justice. Once more, he wished he’d died with them.
It was then that Jason knew he’d run out of time. He also knew couldn’t have really harmed any of them, no matter what he had thought he could do. Fate had stepped in and taken his last chance away, teaching him a lesson perhaps. He closed his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
“Jason, how long have you been here?” Daniel asked again.
Slowly, Jason looked down at his watch. His countdown was still running. It was just passing fourteen hours. Damn.
“Fourteen hours? You’ve only been here fourteen hours?” Daniel asked, incredulous.
Jason shook his head. “Ten. Ten hours. I thought I had 24 hours here. Guess it was a lot less.”
Sam frowned. “Why are you affected so early?”
Jason shook his head and pushed himself away from Daniel, getting to his feet. “No time. Follow me back, I’ll give you the devices to the gate.”
Jack kept his eyes on Jason as they made their way back down the corridor and into the lab. The man had been a walking bundle of contradictions: confusion and clarity, doubt and conviction. All he was now was crestfallen, dejected. He seemed resigned and had completely given up. No matter his and his team’s circumstances, Jack hated seeing it.
“Is it because you’ve visited so many worlds and stayed too long?” Jack asked him.
Jason did not answer as he went to the right of the stairs and opened up another section of wall, this one much smaller. He took out three small orange crystals and a small, greyish blue metallic square, one inch in diameter. Its thickness was perhaps a quarter of an inch. He handed it and the crystals to Sam, then opened up another section and pulled out a duffle bag. He went back to the stairs, putting his weapons and cap inside before heading back down the corridor. The others followed, confused.
On the surface, Jason dropped his duffle by the mirror and proceeded up the stairs to the gate. He knelt down to the right of the gate with Sam kneeling next to him. “You find Orion and turn the symbol to the right. A small door will dissolve open.” The symbol for Orion just happened to be resting near the third chevron and he turned the symbol. A small square dissolved and within sat three holes, octagon-shaped, as well as a long narrow hole, obviously meant for the metal square Jason had given Sam.
“Wow,” she said, astonished.
Jason pointed to one crystal she held, then pointed to one of the holes. “That one first, blunt end down, then the bigger one here,” and he pointed to the third hole, “and the last one in the middle. You then insert the metal square.”
She nodded and did as told. Jason then turned the Orion symbol back to the right and the small door rematerialized, becoming solid once more. “That’s it.”
“I’m amazed you found it. I looked forever.”
He shrugged. “I found it by accident.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he said dismissively. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, please,” he said, turning away from all of them, hurrying down the back stairs, heading for the woods.
Daniel was puzzled and he ran after him before he reached the edge of the clearing. Reaching him, he touched Jason’s shoulder. Jason pulled away as if stung.
“I’m not Jason, Doctor.”
“Yes, you are,” Jack told him, taking his arm. “Why go through all this trouble? Why not just take us back to your dimension? You wouldn’t have suffered through any of this.” It was morbid curiosity mixed with concern and Jack hated that.
Jason gave him a resigned, melancholy look. “I’m afraid I would have suffered. There is no longer a difference between realities.”
Sam frowned as she and Teal’c joined them. “What do you mean?”
“After all the travel I’ve been through, the cascade failures I’ve suffered through, something inside me broke along the way. My time in each reality is getting shorter. Vengeance, it seems, has its own price to pay.”
“That makes no sense,” Jack told him. “If you just go back, you won’t suffer those tremors.”
Jason stared at him. “Yes, I would. I was warned. I ran into a scientist on one world. Told me about entropic cascade failures. He said that when the timing reached less than ten hours, it’d be over with, no matter what dimension I was in.”
Daniel closed his eyes.
“You’re dying,” Jack said simply. Jason nodded. No one said anything. What could they say?
Struggling with a decision, Jack hesitated for a few moments before acting. He pulled a piece of paper from a small note pad in his jacket pocket and wrote symbols on it. “The first address is Asgard. You can’t see the Asgard from there, but you can talk to them in their…” He looked at Daniel.
“Hall of Wisdom.”
“That. I know it won’t do any good, because I’ve had a few conversations with them that made me want to strangle their scrawny grey asses but honestly, Jason, it’s the only address we have for them that could do you any good. The second one is for the Nox.”
Jason had no idea what to say. None. For the first time in his life, he was positively speechless. Okay…except for the day his Daniel had told him he loved him. Instead of being able to say thank you, he blurted out, “The Nox? Their gate is buried, Colonel.”
“Yes, I know. Do you have any subspace communication devices?”
“Then send them a message. Tell them what’s happened. Ask them if you may go live with them. If you’re anything like my Jason, you’ll be at home with them. And if you’re as bad off as I think you are, you’ll need them to heal you, both inside and out.”
Daniel wanted to hug Jack so hard his bones would break. The man’s capacity for compassion always amazed him. One minute Jack could be hugely pissed off and the next, saying things that would make a Marine Corps drill sergeant melt.
Jason found himself focusing only on one thing Jack had said. My Jason. It was as if he’d meant it in a non-platonic sense. He searched Jack’s eyes, trying to find the answer unasked, but as usual, Jack’s eyes were guarded. As usual? No, that was his Jack, not… Jason swallowed, hating himself. He didn’t know who was who anymore, it seemed. “I…I need…need some air,” he choked, turning round abruptly and taking off at a run through the forest.
Daniel dropped his mouth open. “What the…” Not finishing his thought, he ran after him.
“Hang tight. We’ll be back,” Jack said to Sam and Teal’c as he followed Daniel and Jason.
“No problem, sir,” Sam called after him. She looked up at Teal’c, he eyes reflecting concern. “Does this seem like one of our strangest days to you?”
“I don’t ever want to see our Jason like that.”
“Neither do I,” Teal’c told her soberly.
Jason grabbed his right side as he broke through the forest, stumbling out onto a beach. He hadn’t had a muscle pull in his side since he was fourteen years old. Reaching the edge of the tideline, he sagged to his knees in the wet sand, his eyes half-focusing on the low tide and the faraway surf. He heard running and heavy breathing coming up behind him and wished they would just go away.
Daniel dropped down beside him. “Why’d you run?”
Jack burst out behind them, his eyes taking in the beach. “Damn,” he said, unable to keep silent about the beauty of the scenery. “Nice vacation spot, Jason,” he said, using the man’s first name now.
“Thanks,” Jason said, still holding his side, his fingers digging in under his ribs. He didn’t answer Daniel’s query. He couldn’t find an explanation, not one that made sense anyway.
“You want to talk about it?” Daniel pressed, even though he sensed Jason didn’t want to talk.
Jason closed his eyes. “You really are just like my Daniel. Listen, we don’t really need to talk about anything. I’ll be…”
“Fine? I don’t think so,” Jack interrupted. “If you do want to talk about anything before we…you know…”
“Leave?” Jason asked, frowning in confusion, not understanding this change in mood from Jack O’Neill. It couldn’t because he’s…oh, of course. His Jack was the same. Jason cleared his throat. “Just because you’ve found out that I’m dying, doesn’t mean that I need coddling or handling.”
“If you get to the Nox, then you won’t be,” Jack told him. “Dying, that is.”
“From what I know of them, they’re highly picky.” Jason watched Daniel’s brow rise. “Okay, they like everyone but they’re also practically xenophobic, you know? So…”
Jack sat down at Jason’s other side, bringing his knees up and crossing his arms over them. “So…talk anyway.”
Jason wanted to, but frankly, the only thing on his mind was what Jack had said. Not about the Nox, though, nor the Asgard. He adjusted his legs, sitting down fully and resting his chin on his knees, his gaze on the ocean. “You said My Jason. You didn’t just mean your version of me, did you?”
Jack watched Jason’s face for the reaction. “No.” He then gestured between them. “We’re together here.” Jason gave no visible reaction, to Jack’s surprise.
“I guess that means that you and your Jason aren’t…” Jason said.
“We are,” Daniel replied, a tiny curve forming at the corner of his mouth.
To that, Jason did react. He frowned in confusion as he looked Daniel in the eye, then Jack.
“We’re all together,” Jack elaborated, making a circle with his finger.
Jason’s right brow seemed to cock higher than Teal’c’s. It made Jack smile.
“A threesome?” Jason asked, looking at Daniel. Daniel nodded. Jason expelled a short breath, like a laugh. “Wow.” How could that have worked and…and…had his Jack thought of him that way? The idea had a curiously arousing effect on him, and one that was just added to the bittersweet pile. “Why’d you tell me? You could’ve just dismissed it. In fact, I have no idea why you’re talking to me at all.”
“Just…sharing,” Jack told him. “It might help to, you know, say something you didn’t get to say before. You could say it now, if you want.”
“That’s…amazingly considerate, Jack,” Daniel said, a loving look filling his eyes.
“Hey, I’m not a total bastard all the time,” he answered irritably. “I wondered if maybe he wanted to, you know, say goodbye.”
Jason didn’t reply. He flushed, not knowing what the hell to say and his emotions warred within him. Say goodbye?
Daniel, in the meantime, let his mouth drop open. “Jack, you didn’t want to…?” On second thought…
“Never mind. I’ll tell you later.” He couldn’t say it in front of Jason because it might be insensitive, but Jack had kissed that alternate Sam goodbye because he’d known that she’d needed it. He was such a sap sometimes and Daniel couldn’t love him more for it. Perhaps Jack’s feelings for Jason were coming into play here regarding this Jason.
“What?” Jason asked.
“Nothing, Jason,” Daniel told him. “Jack is just being…well, I’m sure you’re aware of how sentimental he can get…on occasion.”
Jack didn’t bother to send Daniel a warning glance. Daniel was right. Jack could get sappy. Even if now wasn’t exactly the right place or the right circumstances and everything was feeling just way too weird for words.
Jason gave a weary sigh. “Listen, I appreciate that but I really don’t need to. It’s been fifteen months. I don’t really have anything to say.”
Daniel knew that wasn’t true but decided to alter the subject, maybe giving Jason a way out so he could speak when he wanted to instead of being pressured. “Mind if I ask a question?”
Jason laughed sadly and waved his hand in the air. “Sure, go ahead.”
“Why were you really mad at your Daniel?”
Jason turned his head, startled. He stared into Daniel’s blue eyes and without thinking, reached up and brushed the back of his fingers along Daniel’s left cheek, moving down over his lips. Daniel had to check himself to keep from leaning into the touch.
“I asked him to stay with me. I thought that we could gate to that pleasure palace and use it for a base of operations. But he wouldn’t. He and Jack were so sure that the Alpha Site was secure. Something just told me…”
“You had a premonition, didn’t you?” Jack asked. He’d had plenty of them himself so he wasn’t about to knock it.
Jason nodded once, staring down at the curious dried red seaweed in the sand. “He wouldn’t believe me. I shouldn’t have opposed him. What I should have done was die with him.” He glanced at Jack. “With both of you…them.”
Deflecting away from the words, Jack asked, “So, you never saw anything between yourself and…the other Jack?”
Jason blinked at him. “You looking for similarities, Jack or are you hunting to embarrass me?”
“Are you telling me you never felt anything?” Jack asked.
Daniel frowned. “Jack?”
“I’m asking because sometimes it helps to get things out,” Jack said. The truth was, it was more than that. Like a dying man’s confession, but Jack couldn’t say that out loud and didn’t want to be made to.
Jason shook his head. “It’s okay, Daniel,” he said, knowing where Jack was coming from. He didn’t want to say anything about confessions, either. “Jack was my best friend. I never felt anything more than that for him.”
“Are you sure?” Jack asked. “‘Cause you could say it to me if you wanted to. I wouldn’t be offended.”
“Oh.” Again, Jason swallowed…then blushed. “I didn’t, Colonel. I mean, you’re a damned sexy man and so was mine, and I loved him dearly. Um, I still do but…I didn’t want to, you know, sleep with him.”
A slow smile spread across Jack’s face. Throughout all the things he had done, Jason was still an honest man. He could have lied, saying what he thought Jack wanted to hear.
Jack patted Jason on the shoulder and stood up. “I’m gonna head back. Don’t take too long.”
Daniel nodded but Jason did nothing. He simply stared at the sea. The two were quiet for some time, and Jason knew Daniel had things to say. He wished he’d say them and leave him be.
“Just spill it,” he said softly.
Daniel cleared his throat, then quietly said, “What you did was wrong, Jason, and I know you know that.” Jason nodded. “BUT,” Daniel went on, “I understand it.”
Jason frowned and turned to look at him. “You understand it? How? I can’t even understand how I did what I did. I didn’t care, Daniel. I did not care. That phrase, seeing red? It’s literal. I saw it. For months. If it hadn’t been you and your team through that gate…” He shook his head.
“I understand hate and the thirst for revenge. I never acted on my feelings, Jason, concerning Apophis, but it doesn’t mean I don’t know a little about what you’re going through. I can only imagine it. Your Earth is…gone.” Daniel shook his head. “That’s the real reason we backed off, Jason. Not because you’re dying.”
Jason’s fingers twitched with the need to touch, but he kept his hands to himself. “Thanks.” He turned his eyes back to the rolling waves, sighed and stood up, brushing the sand off his ass. He held out his hand and helped Daniel to his feet. The warmth shot through him and butterflies invaded his stomach. “I…I guess we should get back.”
“Not just yet, Jason,” Daniel told him.
Daniel slid his arms around him, tightly grasping his jacket and vest and pulling Jason against him. The man gasped, then whimpered, as Daniel kissed him, at first lightly, firmly planting his lips. But Daniel opened his mouth and Jason felt himself falling inside. Daniel’s tongue gently searched his mouth, tasting him deeply and the moment that happened, Jason couldn’t take it anymore. A sound escaped his throat as he broke the kiss and fell to his knees again. Daniel dropped down, too, holding him in his arms, rocking him as the man’s tears soaked into his collar.
After showing Sam the correct order in which to place the crystals and then the metallic chip, Jason went to the mirror and began dialing. It didn’t take him long before he’d found his forest. One of the trees in the distance had an X carved into it, something no one would notice unless specifically looking.
He turned and looked at Daniel and Jack, Sam and Teal’c. He nodded silently at them, too ashamed to say anything. Reaching for the mirror, he paused and looked back.
“If something like what happened to my Earth should happen to yours, do your Jason a favor and make sure he stays with you.” With that, he touched the mirror. Once on the other side, he immediately shut it off.
Daniel stared at the grey inactive slate, placing his hand on it. Jack touched his shoulder, squeezing, and turned round and headed for the DHD. “Let’s get home.”
No one said anything as Sam dialed but as the gate came to life, Daniel suddenly asked, “He’s not going to the Nox, is he?”
The muscles of Jack’s face flexed as he worked his jaw. “No, Daniel, he’s not.”
After the debriefing, General Hammond issued science teams to be sent out the following day. The post-mission check-ups were a little longer than usual, making sure that the stun grenade hadn’t left any residual damage to their optic nerves. X-rays were taken of their spines to make sure no damage had been done by the collars.
Cleared for duty, Hammond gave them a day’s downtime.
Undressing in the locker room, Daniel felt as if he were moving in slow motion, almost as if he were waiting; as if somehow, he should feel the other Jason’s death across dimensions. He didn’t, of course, and he knew he was acting irrationally. Pulling on his sneakers, he looked up as Jack pulled on his jacket.
“You wanna have some dinner at my place?” Jack asked. Like Daniel, things seemed to progress in slow motion.
Daniel nodded silently. Jack wanted to say something about the other Jason’s death, but really, what the hell was there to say? What had happened to the man had scared the piss out of both of them. Jack and Daniel had also, privately, vowed to themselves to take the other Jason’s advice. If something bad happened, Jason would stay with them. Jack wanted to tell Daniel; Daniel wanted to tell Jack. In the end, neither said a word and just left it unspoken.
Daniel shut his locker and grabbed his jacket and satchel just as Alex and Connor came through the doors, laughing about something or other.
Jack and Daniel frowned in confusion and alarm. SG-2 was supposed to be offworld.
“Aren’t you guys supposed to be on that trinium mission?” Jack asked warily.
Alex and Connor exchanged glances, grinning at each other. Their demeanor put Jack and Daniel a little more at ease, though not by much.
“We had to come back early, sir,” Alex told him.
“Why?” Jack drawled.
“Um, Major Coburn was um, a little over-exuberant.”
Daniel and Jack’s brow lines shot up. “And that means what?” Daniel asked.
“He tore a ligament above his calf. He’s gonna be out for a week.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “For cryin’ out loud.” He turned to Daniel so say something smart-assed but his smile faded slightly. Daniel had a very serious look in his eyes. One might call it smoldering. “Daniel?”
“Um, I’m making a pit stop to see him,” was all Daniel said as he rushed out the door.
Jack glanced at Alex and Connor. “Thanks,” he said as he went through the doors. “Daniel, wait up.”
“You took the words right out of my mouth. It must’ve been while you were kissin’ me…”
Jason hummed to the music in the background as he surveyed the floor of his new large one-room apartment. The hardwood flooring was looking good and he nodded to himself in satisfaction. He grabbed his glass of coke and took a healthy drink. The cold soda refreshed him slightly through the heat of the late September day but the sweat from working in his new home still had him feeling a bit grimy and sticky. It was a good idea that he’d thought to put the blinds up on the windows first. The wind outside barely moved through the blinds, and the large fan was the only compensation. Without it, he’d be swimming in sweat instead of just dampened with it. He looked around, cursing himself that he hadn’t thought to buy an air conditioner. The next thing on his long list of items for his new place.
Jason moved across the large expanse of the room to his bedroom area. Not for the first time, he was very glad to have found this place. Walls were great – ‘rooms’ were great – but this openness was exactly what he needed. And the occasional noise from the old printing business below him was never going to be a bother. After all, how much time would he actually be spending here? Well, except when he needed his space, or when he wanted Daniel and Jack over. In fact, he had yet to break in his new apartment.
He’d been home for only one day but missed Daniel and Jack something terrible. He couldn’t explain why, either. He was used to being away from them for days at a time, but for some reason, he was antsy. He hoped their latest mission was going better than okay and that they came home in one piece.
As the heat of the day would increase by mid-afternoon, he threw off his jeans and pulled on a pair of shorts. He looked down at the wrap on his calf. Of all the things to down him, a damned ripped ligament. He sighed with disgust. Looking back, maybe he shouldn’t have jumped over that boulder. At least he could walk on this injury and moderate exercise with frequent breaks were allowed so he could heal and get back to work. One good thing came out of this, though. He got the time to work on his floor.
He looked around his bed, wondering if maybe building a raised floor for it would be a good idea when he heard the motor for the elevator humming to a stop at his apartment’s freight door. He wasn’t expecting anyone and only a few people had been to his new apartment, and all those people were working. His training had him reaching for the electric staple gun before he realized it.
The elevator door opened, then the wooden, slatted secondary door slid upward. It was Daniel. Jason smiled.
“Hey, you’re back,” he greeted enthusiastically as he set the stapler back down on the floor. A bit of confusion passed over him as he wondered what Daniel was doing back so early. “What happened? Something go wrong on P5X-256?”
Daniel didn’t answer him as he strode purposely toward him. Jason took in the very determined walk and as Daniel got closer, he recognized the look in his eyes, on his face, the tension in his muscles. Holy…
Daniel walked toward Jason, looking over the man. He watched him take a step and there was barely a limp. He examined the ace wrap and breathed a sigh of relief. However, being careful with Jason wasn’t on his mind. In fact, the only thing that had been on his mind the entire drive over was his need to feel Jason…everywhere. To make sure he was alive, to feel skin pulsing warm beneath his fingers, to feel muscles twitch and tense, to see the look in Jason’s eyes as he made him come as many times as possible. Daniel simply needed. When he reached Jason, he grabbed him and pulled him into his arms, kissing him fiercely as he maneuvered them both onto the bed.
As Jason fell backward, Daniel’s body over his own, his teeth along his throat, Jason started to push Daniel firmly away for a moment to ask him what the hell was going on.
But the ripping of his thin sleeveless shirt stopped him. The sound of tearing cloth sent a thrill down his spine, bringing out a reaction Jason hadn’t felt in a long time, since before his thigh injuries. It was obvious that his ardent lover was restless, impatient, and didn’t care that clothes were in the way of his objective. Not that Jason minded. Not in the least. The fabric was torn again, downward, and Daniel’s lips and teeth latched onto his nipple. Jason inhaled sharply and arched into the hard caress, his fingers reaching up to comb roughly through Daniel’s hair.
“God, Daniel, what–“
His words were cut off as his shirt was ripped to the side, Daniel’s mouth settling hungrily onto the other nipple. He pulled the nub just a bit too hard and Jason sucked in a breath, arching up again into his lover’s demanding touch.
“Jesus, Daniel, what’s got into you?”
“I want you,” Daniel growled as his tongue wet a single trail over his sternum to the hollow of his throat.
“I…I got that, and I’m not objecting, but why don’t you slow down and–“
“I want you right now,” Daniel growled louder as he grazed his teeth roughly over the pulse point of Jason’s neck. He bit hard and Jason inhaled sharply, closing his eyes.
“Oh God.” His fingers clawed at Daniel’s back, ripping the cloth of his shirt from its collar. As he began to get into the rough animal lust, rubbing his groin against his lover’s hard body, he felt a dip in the bed and heard someone clearing their throat.
Jason opened his eyes and looked to his left, swallowing as Daniel tore his shirt wide open. “Hi, Jack,” he said breathlessly. “Jesus,” he said as Daniel’s teeth raked across his throat over the pulse point; fingers slid inside the waistband of his shorts and he lifted up so Daniel could slide them off. “What the hell’d you put in Daniel’s cornflakes this morning?”
Jack didn’t answer but he felt his hand combing gently through his hair. The action made Jason open his eyes. Jack gave him a strange smile and Jason suddenly felt something wet against his jaw. It startled him and he pulled back, lifting Daniel’s face.
His cheeks were wet.
“Daniel?” Jason asked, startled, and cast a worried look up at Jack. Daniel was shedding silent tears. What the fuck was wrong?
Jack furrowed his brow, understanding exactly what was wrong. He placed his hand on Daniel’s back to get his attention, but Daniel wouldn’t relent quite yet. He kissed Jason again, hard.
Jason kissed him back, but he was alarmed at Daniel’s behavior so with reluctance, he rolled them toward Jack, pulling back to take Daniel’s face in his hands. “Daniel, what’s wrong?” he asked, running his thumbs over Daniel’s cheeks, wiping away the tears.
Daniel closed his eyes, his fingers gripped tightly in Jason’s torn shirt, afraid to let go. He felt Jack rub his arm.
“He’s okay, Danny,” Jack told him softly, though as he said it, he ran his fingers through Jason’s hair, as if reassuring himself as well.
Jason frowned as he leaned into the touch. “Would either of you like to tell me what the fuck is going on?” He was very scared, and honestly, irritated as shit that Daniel had started something he couldn’t continue.
Daniel slipped his arm around Jason’s waist and held him tightly against him. “I’m sorry,” he said, sniffing loudly as he nuzzled Jason’s neck, “It’s just that…”
Jason tightened his arms around Daniel, his fingers clutching his shirt. “What happened?”
“We had a bad mission, Jace,” Jack told him quietly.
Jason’s eyes widened fearfully. “Is Sam or Teal’c–“
“No, they’re okay,” Jack assured. “We kind of met up with one of those quantum mirrors.”
Jason blew out a breath. “Okay,” he drawled, preparing himself. “Who was it? Shau’re?”
“No,” Daniel said, wincing. “Thank God.”
“So…what could possibly–“
“You, Jace,” Jack told him bluntly. “We met up with…you.”
Jason listened in shock as his lovers explained everything that had happened. Daniel then told him what Jack couldn’t. That he’d kissed the other Jason goodbye. Jack hadn’t shown surprise.
“You’re not surprised?” Daniel asked.
Jack shook his head. “It’s why I left you two alone, Daniel. If he wouldn’t say goodbye, I knew you would.”
Daniel worked his mouth silently. “Um, wow,” he said finally.
Jason ran a finger over Daniel’s brow. “I know it wasn’t me, but…thanks.”
Daniel was confused. “You’re okay with that?”
“Yeah,” Jason said slowly. “I can’t be mad at you for that, Daniel.”
Daniel pulled Jason in for another hard kiss. He let him go when Jack cleared his throat.
“Not to interrupt or anything,” Jack said, giving them a short grin before his expression grew more serious, “but there’s something else.”
“What else?” Jason asked.
“Jack?” Daniel asked warily.
“I think you know what I’m going to say, Daniel. It’s the reason you’re so upset.”
Daniel looked down, his jaw working. “Right.”
Jason looked back and forth between them, becoming irritated. “What?”
“Your counterpart isn’t with the Nox. He’s dead.”
The knowledge didn’t bother Jason. He understood exactly why that Jason would’ve taken his own life, and he also understood why he’d held out so long before doing it. He finally nodded, showing his lovers in that action that he understood why that had happened. He gazed at Jack for a moment before he asked, “How’d you know?”
“I just knew. I may not have known him, but he was a lot like you.”
Daniel’s brows knotted in deep thought. He reached up and stroked Jack’s chin. “You told him that stuff about the Nox to give him an out, didn’t you? An option that you knew damned well he wouldn’t use.”
“Sometimes a person needs to be given a choice, Daniel, especially when they feel they don’t have one. I gave him a choice, knowing full well that he wouldn’t consider it. It was just the fact of it, so he wouldn’t feel trapped. It’s a release, you know?”
Daniel swallowed hard and nodded. Jason looked down at him and lovingly stroked his face, the skin long since dried of tears. “I’m alive, Daniel. I’m not planning on going anywhere.”
“I know,” Daniel said softly. “It’s stupid, isn’t it?” he asked, feeling a bit embarrassed and vulnerable.
“No,” Jason said, shaking his head, leaning down to kiss him, at first gently, then with more urgent need. Jack’s fingers in his hair caught his attention and slowly parted his lips from Daniel’s to look up. He reached over and grabbed the collar of Jack’s shirt, pulling him over Daniel’s shoulder to kiss him hello.
The smell of Jason’s clean sweat sent Jack’s arousal through the roof. He grabbed the back of Jason’s head and deepened the kiss, groaning into his mouth. When he let go, his eyes were most definitely dilated.
Jason took a slow, shaky breath and let it out. “Jesus Christ. I think we need to prove something to each other.”
“Like what?” Daniel asked as he leaned up to nip along Jason’s jaw.
“That we’re alive. Clothes, off.” With that, Jason tossed the remains of his t-shirt to the floor and quickly pushed off his shorts and briefs. Jack smiled and quickly joined him, as did Daniel. As trousers and jeans, boxers and briefs, hit the floor, the three lay together, touching and rubbing, feeling every measure of exposed skin.
Jason bent his head, rasping his teeth over Daniel’s unshaven face. “I love you,” he whispered, and thrust hard, sliding his cock deliciously against Daniel’s.
Jack whispered it next as his dick rode down between Daniel’s buttocks, his hands running over the smooth hard muscle of his chest, tweaking and pulling at already-hard nipples. He thrust quickly, with urgent need, pressing as much of his body against Daniel’s as he could.
“I love you,” Daniel replied to them both, closing his eyes and feeling the heat, the sweat, inhaling deeply the scents that sent his senses flying. “God,” he whispered as he clenched his buttocks around Jack’s cock and thrust against Jason’s. His lovers groaned and body motions increased, racing ever quicker toward the precipice. Seconds later, three voices called out, filling the room with the sounds of deep, hungry release. They surprised even themselves as they came quicker than they had thought they would, their semen shooting thickly over slick, salty skin. Their bodies slid against the other, shaking through exquisite tremors.
Lying on their sides, panting, waiting for their bodies to calm, the men held each other closely, not willing to let go until something forced them to.
Five minutes later, that something was Daniel’s stomach. It growled in protest. Jason chuckled into Daniel’s neck. “I take it that means you didn’t eat your Wheaties this morning?” Jason asked, lifting his head to give Jack an admonishing look, as if it was his job to see that Daniel was fed.
“Not my job,” he said, leaning over and kissing Jason’s sweat-sticky forehead. He licked his lips, tasting the salt. Soon after, his own stomach growled.
Daniel sniggered between them. “You got that phone of yours hooked up yet? We could call for pizza.”
“Fuck that,” Jason replied. “I bought steak this morning.”
Jack made a hungry sound. “Steak,” he growled. He looked down and smiled against Daniel’s shoulder as he kissed his damp skin. “Daniel?”
The tone of his voice spoke volumes. Daniel looked at him, reaching up to card his fingertips through the silvering hair. “I’m okay now.”
Jason watched them, worried and saddened that they’d had to go through what they did. He wanted to take their minds off it, pushing the memory back as far away as he could. Giving them each a quick kiss, he pushed off the bed, looking down at the drying semen on his belly. Purposely giving his lovers an intense scrutiny, he ran the tip of his middle finger through the thick, wet fluid and brought it to his mouth, sucking seductively. Jack and Daniel groaned at him.
Jason smiled around his finger. “Guess what’s for dessert?”
Daniel gave him a filthy smile. “Have I ever told you that I sometimes prefer dessert before dinner?”
Jack leaned over him and tongued his nipple. “Have I ever told you all the delicious things I can do with steak juice?”
Daniel inhaled deeply. “Um, okay. Dinner first.”