Trinity 31: Veil
Part 2 of 3
Summary: The plot continues.
Author Note: Special thanks to Cher for her assistance with the excellent Russian language.
“I look at you all, see the love there that’s sleeping…”
Anna took off in the direction of the stargate like a bat out of hell.
“Lieutenant!” Kane shouted. “Where the hell are you going?” He ran after her and caught up just as she reached the DHD.
“Calling the base, sir, under the standing orders the Major recently issued.” She was beginning to dial when he caught her hand.
“We need to see if we can free them first, make sure it’s not a false alarm.”
She yanked her hand away, scowling at him and continued to dial. “Begging your pardon, sir, but those were not the Major’s orders. I have learned that when one is off-world, there are rarely false alarms.” The gate opened and she sent the signal while moving in front of the MALP. Kane didn’t bother to argue but he started to look a little pale as worry set in. Sweat began to bead on his brow and Anna took a double-take before turning back to the camera.
“Base Command, this is Lieutenant Tolenev of SG-2, do you read?” Anna paid no attention to the fact that in her panic, she used her Russian protocols instead of the SGC’s.
“SG-2, this is Hammond. What’s happened, Lieutenant? Where’s Major Coburn?”
“Sir, he and Captain Wagner have become trapped inside an underground chamber or room.”
“Start at the beginning, Lieutenant.”
“My apologies, sir. One of the three stone slabs we were investigating opened. I do not know how, but it must have been something I did. Major Coburn decided to investigate, taking Captain Wagner with him and leaving myself and Captain Riley to stand guard outside.”
“Understood. How long have they been trapped?”
“Less than…” She looked at her watch. “…six minutes, sir.”
“SG units will be arriving as soon as possible, Lieutenant. Where is Captain Riley?”
Kane moved into view. “Here, sir.”
“Anything to add, Captain?”
“No, sir. We have not had the time to investigate the situation, seeking to inform you instead.”
Anna glanced at him, her eyes narrowing slightly. He was taking credit for her decision. Bastard.
“Is there anything more, Lieutenant?” Hammond asked.
“Sir, I’d like to try to find out what it was that I did to open the stone cover.”
“It was you, Lieutenant?”
“I think so, sir, but I do not know for certain,” she said, her expression suddenly revealing her inner guilt.
“Things like this happen, Lieutenant. Don’t feel guilty about doing your job.”
“I don’t need to remind you to be careful.”
“No, sir, and thank you, sir.”
“The rescue teams will be there as soon as they can. One more thing. If you get the structure open, do not go inside until the other teams arrive, is that understood?”
“But sir, the Major and Captain Wagner could be–“
“Do you understand, Lieutenant?” came Hammond’s stern voice.
“I understand your need to help your teammates, Lieutenant Tolenev, but you need to wait for back-up to arrive.”
The gate disengaged and shut down and Anna sighed with frustration. She gave Kane a look that clearly said he’d overstepped himself as well as lost his mind, but said nothing as she headed back in the direction of the southwestern stone slab.
“What was that look for Lieutenant?” he asked, coming up alongside and to her left. He didn’t even give her a chance to respond as he went on, shoving concern back and fear forward. “And just what the hell did you think you were asking Hammond? We need to stay as far away from that as possible.”
She didn’t answer him and he knew she was mad. He didn’t blame her, really, but he was feeling more than a little out of his league. Kane realized that he wasn’t ready for this, even though he thought he had been. Major Coburn had put too much faith him. How could he expect him to come back from all that bloodshed after only a few months and not be affected by the slightest little emergency? Okay, maybe not a ‘little’ emergency.
Coburn had told him that it would take a while to heal, just as his therapist had said, but Coburn had said something his therapist had not. “Sitting around at home only causes you to brood, and work is the best healer.”
So… here he was, taking the Major’s advice–and freaking out because of it. From what he’d read, heard, and tried to simply fucking believe, this was worse than that hellhole he’d left, and thinking that was making him panic. This was a situation where he had no experience, and all the briefings in the world wouldn’t change that. He wasn’t the only one suffering burnout, and hell, the entire SGC was a walking emotional minefield!
Was he healing while Coburn was trapped underground with Wagner, he asked himself sarcastically. Kane didn’t understand, and felt the panic rise from the fear of the unknown. His nerves were on a knife-edge. He should have asked for more time off when he’d asked but the Major had been so persuasive. His psychologist had warned him, warned Coburn, but Kane had insisted, wanting to prove himself. And it was a little too easy. Coburn seemed to think that he could handle himself just fine, but he was wrong, and Kane should have been more honest with his new commander but it was the fear of appearing weak in front of him that had forced the false behavior.
Something in the Major’s attitude had told him that he hadn’t believed a word, but if he’d let Kane pretend, the question was why? And why let him out into the field where he could get someone killed? Was the Major himself mad or just an optimistic idiot?
Anna still hadn’t given him an answer and he figured he didn’t need one. Her actions were right, his were wrong. She was one who couldn’t hide her feelings and he would always know where he stood with her. He certainly knew now, that was for sure. She was frustrated, pissed, and scared. Those were feelings he shared, but his own felt abnormally magnified.
“I’m sorry,” he said suddenly, a waver in his voice that he tried to contain and failed.
Anna didn’t answer, and only looked up when Kane’s shadow passed over her. She gave him a look that he interpreted as fuck you. He sighed, squatting down to her right, and watched as she opened the butt stock of her P90 and flipped the end piece down. She now had a makeshift tool and tried digging down the side of the cover to see if there weren’t a way to dig down to the stairwell.
“Are you going to stand there and block the sun for me, or are you going to help?” she finally asked.
“I think it would be better to wait until the other teams arrive.”
“I disagree, Captain, and I have authorization to try another approach,” she said, continuing to dig at the hard, compact earth.
When Kane didn’t move, she paused and stared at him harder, taking a better look. He looked pale. “Hui,” she swore under her breath, so low he was unable to catch it, though if he had, would he have understood the level of offense? Probably not. She hadn’t heard that he spoke or understood Russian. It did not matter, and frankly, she didn’t care at the moment. He was obviously not ready for field duty, and she knew that to be dangerous, which only made her own fears sharper… and worse.
Anna did not have any patience for mental fatigue or trauma. She knew it was a personal weakness of hers, but she focused only on her strengths and preferred not to dwell on the weaknesses except in overcoming them. To deal with someone like Kane, she had to do what her mother always told her to do wherever mental incapacity appeared. “Be firm, be in charge, do not allow them to take control from you or you will never get it back. The weak-minded can inflict great damage if you give in to them.”
Setting her jaw, Anna pivoted on her right knee to face him. “Are you going to help me or not?”
“Captain,” he corrected, ignoring the question and falling back on protocol when a reasonable answer was not going to be forthcoming.
“Captain,” she said with obvious distaste. “Then go back to your DHD and wait for your rescue.” She began to dig again and suddenly Kane was adjusting his own weapon to help dig.
“I still do not see the point,” he said.
From her periphery, Anna caught his hands shaking even as he tried to dig. He needed a slap, a bucket of ice water — basically a wake-up call. But she held off giving it just yet.
Kane suddenly stopped and ran a hand through his hair. Anna kept digging.
“What if they’re dead? We could be digging for nothing! What if they’re dead?”
Anna threw her tool down and grabbed his arm. “Mamenkin sinochek hochet k mame? Utri soply i pomogo mne, trus!” she shouted, taking his tool and thrusting it into his hands. “Take this! Pridurok! Dig!”
Kane swallowed and felt a lump go down his throat. He stared at her and could see that she was more capable than he was at the moment. Conceding protocol, he shoved the shovel down into the dirt, hoping and praying that the fears within him would go away, that he’d stop jumping at every loud noise.
Daniel sat straight up in bed, alarm pinging through his bloodstream and sleepy mind as he and Jack answered their cell phones. Jack was quicker than he was and was dressing before Daniel put his feet on the floor. He looked over and Daniel caught the wince as Jack pulled his trousers over his ass. Guilt began to wash over him.
“Hey!” Jack said, holding up a finger when he recognized the look. “Don’t even go there, Daniel.” He leaned over, one fist bracing his arm on the bed, and kissed him lightly. “It was worth it.” He pulled away and strode purposefully down the hall.
Daniel dressed and quickly followed, the smile on his lips fading. His own warning to Jason was foremost on his mind. Jack must’ve remembered it, too, because he corralled Daniel into riding together, taking his truck, and they were out of the house and on their way in under ten minutes.
A few more minutes passed, and Jason had to blink a few times before he was almost certain the lightened rectangular formation on the wall was transforming from opaque to translucent.
“Jace, is the wall–“
“Yeah, I think so, Alex. Was wondering if it was my imagination.”
They looked around them periodically, and took a few more steps back to keep distance between themselves and whatever was happening. But always, their gaze came back to the wall.
The section of wall within the rectangle was now a bluish-white and the translucent appearance increased. So much so that a shadow began to appear from within. It took the form of a horizontal body.
Anna and Alex turned their heads with a mixture of alarm and relief when the gate’s chevrons began to light one by one, the wheel spinning. They kept their positions, watching from a distance. When the wormhole established, Kane’s right hand reached for his radio, ready to answer the call that would be forthcoming.
Five figures emerged from the stargate, but they weren’t SGC. They were Jaffa. Kane dropped down a little, and so did Anna. They couldn’t be seen from the stargate, but there was no reason to take chances. Five more Jaffa appeared, one whose armor was slightly different, and he began arguing with another one when the MALP drone was pointed out. He was probably the First Prime of whomever they served. The gate shut down and Kane and Anna let out a sigh of relief that no more troops were arriving. Yet. Advanced scout. A preparation for troops moving in.
Grabbing their field gear, they moved past the denser, greener foliage to the right of the stone slab, and beyond that, inside the encroaching forest. Stopping perhaps thirty yards inside, they crouched and began to reassemble the stocks of their weapons.
Kane was putting his stock together much faster–and without looking. His wide eyes remained locked on the edge of the forest. Anna turned to him and saw his hands shaking. She reached out and grabbed them, holding them still within her own. “Take a deep breath, Captain, and count to ten.” He did. “Now, do you believe humor eases stress?”
Startled, he nodded, his eyes now on hers.
“Good. Imagine those Jaffa in their underwear.”
He started out a laugh, but it felt hysterical so he covered his mouth with his hand, distrusting himself to keep the laugh voiceless. “Why?” was all he asked.
She grinned at him. “Because, Captain Riley, if you fall apart on me now, I will take care of you. I do not mean that kindly.”
She smiled as she said it, but he knew she was serious. His voice was amazingly steady when he said, “I’m sorry, Tolenev. I thought I was ready.”
She regarded him for a moment, then nodded. “Perhaps you are, perhaps you are not. I hope you are.”
They looked on, seeing nothing, but they could hear the whish of armored boots and the faint shouts of orders from the leader. A few minutes after, they heard the unmistakable sound of the gate dialing and hoped it was the Jaffa leaving to go and inform their master that the Tau’ri had been there. Anna ran to the forest edge, looking out past a slender tree. Jaffa were spread out on the other side of the monument so clearly, they were not leaving. It was likely their rescuers, and they were coming in hot and didn’t know it.
Kane’s voice startled her from behind. “Radio frequencies,” he murmured. “Let me see if I can salvage some of my honor and dignity here.” He pulled his radio from his pocket and turned down the gain to keep the radio from being picked up by the Jaffa. The moment the wormhole activated, he keyed the mic button and kept his voice normal but he had to speak quickly. “SGC, this is Captain Riley, SG-2. Warning! Do not come through! A Jaffa scout party is here. Do you read? Over!”
Time seemed to stretch as no one replied right away. Then, “We read you, Riley. How many?”
It was O’Neill’s voice.
“Eleven, sir. No Goa’uld that I could detect by way of uniforms.”
“Your position and situation?”
“Tolenev and I are in the forest southwest from the monument. The MALP was by the gate so they know someone’s here but we’re out of sight and they’re not searching yet, just looking around the immediate vicinity.”
“Roger that. Stay hidden. Don’t engage the Jaffa until after we’ve come through…or unless you’re forced to.”
“Riley, this is Doctor Jackson. Can you tell who they’re serving?”
“No, sir. We were never close enough.”
“We’ll be there shortly. O’Neill out.”
The gate suddenly shut down and Anna and Kane crept back into the forest, moving deeper than they had. Finding a large tree with a hollow made by two enormous roots that were hidden from the oncoming view, they settled in to wait. Each took a seat on a root, adjusted themselves and their weapons until they were somewhat comfortable, then aimed their weapons in the direction they’d come and began the wait.
“Why do you think Doctor Jackson asked that question?” Kane asked her.
She shrugged. “Perhaps to distinguish the type of opposition they would face. Some Goa’uld forces are far more ruthless and fanatical than others.”
Kane made a sneering grimace at the comment, automatically comparing the situation with his previous one. “That’s something that I at least can deal with, having had to exist in that fucking crap for eighteen months.”
She gave him a long look, nodded, and adjusted her weapon on her shoulder. She hoped this wouldn’t take too long.
“Jesus Christ, if it’s not one thing, it’s another,” Daniel swore under his breath as he made for the gear-up room to change. Ten minutes later, he arrived in the gateroom with Jack, Sam, and Teal’c. SG-3 was already there, but just after SG-1’s entrance came SG units 6 and 16. Major Griff of SG-6 nodded gruffly at everyone, holding a serious look for Jack.
Jack nodded back, then nodded to each of the team members. Griff’s unit hadn’t changed, but Colonel Frank Reynolds of SG-16 was new to Field Ops. He’d recently replaced the seasoned team’s late commander and this was his first hot situation offworld.
“You up for this, Reynolds?” Jack asked, remembering the man who used to work at Area 51. “It’s a bit different from the cloak and dagger of Groom Lake, isn’t it?”
“A bit,” Reynolds replied, giving him a rueful smile as he walked over to offer Jack a handshake. “I’m actually looking forward to it.”
Jack took it as he gave him that crooked grin. “Then let’s get you started, shall we?” He moved up the ramp to stand in the middle of it and turned around to address the teams as a whole. “Listen up,” he called out, glancing at Major Madison of SG-3. “Here’s the situation. Initially, this was a supposedly simple retrieval rescue with my unit and Major Madison’s. Major Coburn and Captain Wagner have gotten themselves trapped underground on that Ancients’ planet we recently discovered. We don’t know anything more than that about their situation, but the overall situation just got a bit more complex. Some Jaffa have arrived on the planet, eleven in number according the latest intel which, experience tells us, suggests an advanced scout mission. So, SG-6 and 16, that’s why you’ve been asked to join our little party. Any questions?”
“Where are the other two team members?” Griff asked.
“Lieutenant Tolenev and Captain Riley were ordered to remain under cover in the forest southwest of the monument.”
“Do they know we’re coming in?” Reynolds asked.
“Not exactly but if their First Prime is smart, then it’s a good guess they’re expecting something. They know that the Tau’ri were there because a MALP is near the DHD.”
Silence and a soft shuffling of movement greeted that information. “So, any other questions?”
There were none. He descended to the bottom of the gate and Sergeant Davis began the dialing sequence. A Sergeant with the armory entered the gateroom and walked up to Jack. He opened a foot-square box, revealing a large round device. Teal’c was at Jack’s shoulder very quickly.
“Sweet,” Jack said.
“What’s the maximum range of this thing, Teal’c?” Daniel asked.
“Within forty yards, give or take obstructions.”
“Hopefully it’ll give us enough time to secure the gate and get under cover,” Sam commented.
Jack held up his hand and addressed the teams again, letting them know the layout around the gate. He issued orders on exit positions, and after the wormhole opened, Jack handed the stun grenade to Teal’c, who armed it and tossed it through.
Jack looked at his watch, counting. After fifteen seconds, he nodded to Hammond.
“Good luck, people,” Hammond told them.
SG-1 took point and ran through the gate.
A faint humming noise began. A first Jason and Alex didn’t notice it, but after a while, it became noticeable. It wasn’t annoying, and was, in fact, easily ignored, but it was interesting enough to make a note of it.
“Is it coming from behind the wall?” Alex asked.
The two men now leaned against the far wall, making sure there were no buttons of any sort behind them.
Alex narrowed his eyes, studying his teammate. “Jason, you’ve been a little quiet for the past few minutes.”
“I’m thinking who or what this might be.”
“An Ancient, I think,” Alex told him.
Jason agreed silently, his face only now showing a bit of worry.
“What’s wrong?” Alex asked.
“If this person is infected with the disease that killed off their race…” He left the rest of the sentence hanging. The repercussions spoke for themselves.
Two seconds later, their eyes widened and they pushed off from the wall. The alcove wall, within the rectangle, lost all opaqueness and became instantly clear, like glass.
“Oh my god,” Alex said, staring.
Jason smiled and let out a soft snort of amusement. “Figures. He’s very…”
“Pretty,” Alex offered.
“Yes, thank you,” Jason replied sarcastically. They edged closer, just to verify their opinions of course, and stopped when they were only a few feet away from the alcove.
The man inside lay face up, with the head of his body at their left. He appeared young, perhaps in his late twenties. His beautiful face was expressionless, reposed; his jaw was wide-set, chiseled, with high cheekbones, a smallish straight nose, and a short chin. He had long eyelashes, dark brown, matching the color of hair that just touched the top of his shoulders. It appeared to have golden highlights, a color that wasn’t a reflection from the lighting in his capsule. His hair was cut short in front yet still touched over his brow line. What set off his features the most was his mouth. It was sensuous; the upper lip shaped with a deep curving bow; both lips were full and slightly pinkish. They were what Jason would call voluptuous if he were referring to a woman. This Ancient man was just as pretty as one without actually appearing girly.
His body was long, so when he stood, he’d be very tall, perhaps over 6’5″. His muscles didn’t look damaged and he was built very well with large hands that looked powerful. He wasn’t overly muscular, but he had the look of enormous strength. Neither Jason nor Alex could figure out why they were given this impression.
“Damn but he’s perfect,” Alex murmured.
Jason couldn’t help it and he started to laugh–albeit quietly. Alex scowled at him, started to respond, but remained quiet instead. He’d get him back later. “Clothing is interesting,” he said instead.
Jason nodded, his eyes still filled with humor as they left Alex and looked upon the man in the wall. Around his black hair was a crown of sorts, gold and with a delicate flow of line that ended in a V shape high on the center of his forehead. In the center of the V was a tiny white stone that looked like clouded quartz, as moonstone did. It was polished smooth. On his right wrist was an elaborately carved gold bracelet perhaps one and a half inches thick, and at its center was the same kind of stone only this one was cut flat and inlaid into the shape of tilted curling V, the point 90 degrees to the right and a single vertical line slashing through it.
His clothing was simple, but looked tailored. He wore an off-white shirt, linen in appearance, and the style was probably better defined as a tunic. It was sleeveless and reached mid-thigh, with the neck collar high. There were no buttons to speak of and the tunic was open to the stomach, revealing a lightly tanned, hairless chest underneath. The pants were thin, matching the tunic in color and texture. They were just loose enough to be comfortable, but snug enough to be able to distinguish strong, muscular thighs. The leg cut of the pants was narrowing instead of flared, and the cuffs hugged his ankles. The young man’s feet, for some reason, were bare.
Under his body, he lay on something that looked like a thin, narrow mattress, perhaps two inches thick. Nothing was seen of what that ‘bed’ rested on as it appeared to float within the wall itself instead of existing as a hollowed out hole in the wall. Above the man’s body was a softly glowing light in an enclosed ceiling, easy on the eyes of a just-awakened sleeper.
Except this man didn’t appear to be sleeping. He was not breathing. It took Jason and Alex a few minutes to really notice and Jason frowned, wondering why he hadn’t. It occurred to him that it was perhaps the beauty of the man had captivated his attention, instead of the man’s health status. It sounded silly to him, even as he thought it.
Whatever caused the lights in the ceiling of the capsule altered in hue, from a dull pale yellow to an amber glow. After another minute, nothing happened.
“Is he even alive?” Alex asked, his voice low.
“I don’t have a clue,” Jason answered, speaking with normal range. He tilted his head slightly and took a step forward, but Alex’s hand appeared on his arm.
“Whoa, buddy, where you goin’?”
Jason gave his friend a smile of confidence. “To take a better look, Alex. If any harm comes to us, I really don’t think it matters where in this room we are. Do you?” Alex didn’t like the thought, but he agreed and released Jason’s arm. Jason moved forward until he was within the alcove, two feet from the wall. “If you ask me, it’s a sleep chamber, or maybe we should call it a capsule. He looks either dead or suspended. There’s no telling what he is until the technology running the capsule has completed whatever it’s doing.”
“Did I activate it?” Alex asked, biting the corner of his mouth as he edged up behind Jason.
Jason looked over his shoulder. “Feeling guilty?”
“Yes,” Alex said, annoyed. “You would.”
Jason conceded that with a nod and turned back to look at the small lighted squares. The large square that had lit up with Alex’s handprint was just over the capsule, just off dead center and to the right. It was still illuminated with the bluish light but the handprint was gone. “Maybe you activated it, but it could just as easily have been our presence. We won’t know anything until this guy wakes up… if he wakes up.”
“Do we want him to wake up?” Alex asked.
At that question, the tiny squares of colored light just above the left end of the capsule began to blink and glow more brightly. Jason and Alex took a hesitant step backwards, their attention divided between the lights and the man in the capsule. Then the young man’s chest suddenly moved upward as a breath was taken in. A few seconds later, the chest lowered. A few more seconds, it rose again. The seconds between breaths shortened and soon, the movement became steady. He was breathing normally.
“Wow,” was all Jason could whisper while Alex swore under his breath. To Alex’s surprise and vexation, Jason turned to him with a goofy grin on his face. “Remember that Space Seed episode on Star Trek? The one that introduced Khan?”
Alex rolled his eyes. “Jace, your associations are one of the things I love about you but you have the most bizarre timing I’ve ever known. Like when you suddenly start singing a song when we’re in the middle of a firefight. I mean, are you ever afraid of these weird experiences of ours?”
Jason shrugged. “Yes, but considering the hell I went through last year, everything else seems like a piece of cake.”
Alex put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “Sorry.”
Jason’s face softened and he covered Alex’s hand with his own. “Everything else is a cake walk, Alex. Everything.”
Alex barely nodded as he gave Jason a tiny smile. He hated seeing what grief had done to his friend and commander. He loved only one person as much as Jason loved Daniel and Jack, and unfortunately, it wasn’t Cari. He’d often wondered if he’d become an emotional wreck over Jason, just as Jason had when Jack and Daniel had been missing for six months.
“Promise me something?” he asked softly.
“If I can,” Jason answered.
“If you ever really lose them, and I pray you don’t, please don’t leave without saying goodbye. Or… at least, take me with you.”
Jason stared open-mouthed at Alex. “Take you with me?” he repeated. “You’re kidding me, right, Alex?”
Alex thought he had been kidding, or perhaps just thinking out loud, but he realized he’d meant what he’d said. When Jason had been gone, a hole had opened up inside him, one he wouldn’t admit to having, dismissing it as merely the mourning of lost friendship. But the words just now, so light and joking, so meaningful…
Jason shook his head as if to clear his thoughts of surprise. “Alex, you… you’re not saying…”
Alex’s fierce blush crept over his cheeks, startling himself as well as Jason. He opened his mouth to issue a denial but his thoughts were choked off when the lighted wall sidelined the conversation. A long horizontal light, purple in color, appeared under the rectangular golden one. It flashed, then settled solid. The two men stared down at the figure in the capsule, and jumped back quickly when the man’s eyes opened, as if from a short nap.
“Holy shit!” Alex exclaimed, a protective hand on Jason’s right arm.
Jason placed his hand over Alex’s, intending to remove it, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the stranger. His actions were suspended; his hand, and Alex’s, remaining where they were.
The handsome stranger turned his head toward them, blinking as if to clear his vision. His eyes were a deep grey-green, with dilated pupils that shrunk to pinpoints as he fixed them with a curious regard. He held Jason’s and Alex’s shocked gaze for several unending seconds, then moved down. His eyes widened when he focused on their P90s and for reasons he couldn’t articulate, Jason immediately backed up a few steps and set his weapon on the shallow shelf to his right.
“Jason, have you lost your mind?”
“What’s he going to do, Alex? Use his Jedi Mind Trick? Put your weapon down next to mine, show him that we’re no threat to him… at least, we don’t mean to be.”
Alex complied and when they looked back at the stranger, his face appeared more satisfied than relaxed. He lifted his right hand slowly, and touched something on the wall in front of him, out of their line of sight. Jason was suddenly struck by the question of how hard it would be to move after having been in a form of stasis for who knew how long. This man made it look effortless, but appearances were deceiving.
Alex tensed, cussed softly, and reached out to grab Jason’s arm again, waiting for the attack. Jason irritably pushed him off. “What’s eating you?”
“He could be getting ready to attack us, Jason.”
Jason stared at him then placed a hand on his chest. “Take a deep breath.”
“Do as I say, right now.”
Holding his breath out of spite, Alex finally did as he was told.
“Good man. Now close your eyes and listen to my voice.”
Alex did so.
Jason leaned in and spoke in a soothing voice. “Good. Alex, if he attacks, there’s nothing we can do about it. We’ll deal with whatever happens, okay?”
Alex sighed resignedly. “Yes.”
Jason returned his gaze to the stranger’s face. “I have a feeling that he’s hooked into whatever runs the technology. If he wanted us confined, we would be, one way or the other.”
Alex didn’t answer; his body was too busy screaming for flight as a soft hiss, barely perceptible, came from the wall. The glass-like window suddenly dissolved in a strange glow of blue light and the mysterious young man carefully rolled onto his side, keeping his eyes on Jason and Alex with the same curious expression he had when he’d first sighted them. With a hand on the top edge of the capsule and another on the bottom edge, he balanced himself as he cautiously swung his legs over the side. The capsule was tall enough to accommodate his sitting position without forcing him to bend over so he sat up straight, regarding Jason and Alex for a stretched silence.
Satisfied with whatever he’d been looking for, he pushed himself off his bed, touched his feet to the floor, and stood. A second later, he wavered unsteadily. Jason sprang forward in an instant, a hand on the left elbow of the stranger, offering a steadying hand.
“Are you okay?” he asked, his expression one of concern that no one could mistake, not even the stranger.
The man felt a sudden shudder, deep as bone, as his body’s energy reasserted itself to living in its current state. His bright, alert eyes gave the room a quick, cursory inspection before returning to his visitors. They were soldiers, that much he’d already discerned. They did not appear threatening, but experience told him that meant nothing. Jason’s voice, however, was gentle, and he wanted to believe these two were good men.
He looked down at his state of affairs and brought his hands up, looking them over, making fists and releasing them, then brushed them over his clothes, smoothing them down. He stared down at his feet, realizing that he was without shoes. Memory told him that he wasn’t supposed to be wearing any, and a flash of impatience told him not to worry, that everything would return to him as soon as his brain came fully alive from the long suspension. At least the computer had done its job and supplied his brain with the appropriate language data. He only hoped he could speak it correctly.
Curling his toes in exercise, he looked around him once more, turning around. He regarded the capsule — his prison, his protector. He never wanted to get back inside the damned thing. If the computer was right and he had been suspended for as long as he had, then he knew he was alone. Grief tried to crowd his mind, but he pushed it away for the time being while he dealt with the intruders.
Jason hastily cleared his throat as he recognized the suspicion on the Ancient’s face. “I’m sorry for intruding and awaking you. It was accidental. We are explorers.” When the young man’s eyes went to the P90s on the shelf, Jason cleared his throat once more. “Yes, those are weapons but they’re for our protection as well as others’. We have a tendency to butt in where we don’t belong, like now.” With a cautious step forward, Jason gave the man his warmest expression. “Hello. My name is Jason and next to me is Alex. I hold out my hand to you in greeting, offering friendship. If you agree, you clasp my hand or bow or…something.” He held his hand out, nervously waiting, hoping the young man would take it or give its equivalent.
The Ancient regarded Jason for a few seconds, and it seemed to him that the stranger was being truthful, honest. It could be a deception and there was only one way to determine that with certainty. He held out his left hand slowly, wrapping his fingers around Jason’s, joining palm to palm, the thumb resting firmly over the back of Jason’s hand.
Jason had never felt a handclasp so complete, and with it, felt a ripple of innocent pleasure as he grasped the man’s hand. It was strong, the long fingers indicating a strength was somehow hidden, though he really didn’t understand how he knew that just now. Jason had the feeling that the man could force him to his knees if he wanted. Instinct made his legs lock and he had to consciously will his body to relax.
The stranger then held out his right hand toward Alex, but Alex hesitated. The stranger let the corners of his mouth curl up, as if in approval.
“S’okay, Alex. Take his hand,” Jason told him as pleasantly as he could and was pleased when Alex did so without hesitation. Inside, Jason was glad that Alex had believed the ruse because he was feeling anything but calm. That tingling sensation against his palm came with a sense of aching loneliness, as if he’d been denied something he’d loved for a very long time. Instinct somehow told him that the feelings came from the Ancient so he tried to fight off the nearly overwhelming emotion.
The Ancient regarded them with a hesitant smile, and when Alex and Jason returned it, his grew. Alex felt a bit silly staring at such white teeth, but they were very white, reminding him of Adriann, most especially the large, sharp canines. He was suddenly confused with a mixture of feelings. Loneliness combined with desire and Alex thought to let go, but in the next instant, he tightened his hand instead, feeling a deep desire to pull the man toward him and have those teeth lock on his throat. He flushed at the sudden image and embarrassment engulfed him. Jason glanced at him, giving him a puzzled look.
“Nothing, just… conflicting emotions. I’m sensing conflicting emotions in him and I don’t know how. The point is that they’re… affecting me.”
“Me, too, Alex, so just try to relax your mind like you would in meditation.”
“I’ll try but something tells me that won’t work.”
“Who are you?” Jason asked the Ancient.
“I will tell you that when I am certain that you are no threat,” the man stated, his voice strong and of tenor quality.
“We’re not,” Jason and Alex chimed.
“If so,” the stranger said slowly, “then tell me, do you love?”
Jason blinked. “I don’t mean to be rude but I don’t understand what you mean. It’s an odd question.”
“Love determines truth.”
“You believe we are lying?” Alex asked, not understanding why the Ancient was asking.
“I do not know. You may be. A good man can lie, and an evil man can hide behind truth. Love also determines purity.”
“The answer is yes, we love,” Jason told him. “But how will you determine that?”
“You will show me that you are capable of it.”
The stranger tilted his head knowingly, a smile creeping upward again. Jason’s eyes widened, as did Alex’s. “Please join your hands.”
Hesitantly, Jason and Alex clasped hands. Jason abruptly felt more of the tingling sensation and it grew stronger in the grip he held with Alex. He looked at his friend, and Alex seemed feverish. He was starting to sweat, his skin getting that ‘glow’ and Jason realized his own body felt the same way. Looking back at the Ancient, he asked, “What are you doing?” only no sound emerged.
The stranger touched under his chin and pushed gently, closing his jaw. Jason had to close his eyes. The touch of the man’s fingers sent a jolt of pleasure through him, and he felt Alex shudder, too. His friend tightened his fingers around his and Jason gave him a reassuring squeeze.
Alex felt a bead of sweat run down the middle of his back and it sent goosebumps rising. He wondered, briefly, if he was feverish, or if he were becoming infected with something — like the disease that killed the Ancients. But the man before him was healthy. Very. Thoughts of illness evaporated and were replaced with thoughts of wellbeing, and those thoughts turned to desire… and Jason. Deeper feelings emerged, ones he allowed to surface only in his dreams. The warmth of Jason’s hand infused him with overly optimistic thoughts: they would be okay; nothing bad could happen because everything he wanted was standing next to him — the man he loved more than anything.
Feelings now warred within him. Love and fear. Alex groaned, feeling anxious about having his hidden feelings exposed. He was being read, like Ophius could read him, only this was different. He didn’t know how he understood what was going on, but he knew what was going on. The love he felt was abruptly transformed into desire and lust; he couldn’t ignore it as it seemed to consume every part of him.
“Jason… I can’t stop…” he whispered, his words choking as both desire and fear of Jason’s rejection welled up. He turned his face toward his friend and lifted their clasped hands. He brushed the back of his hand across Jason’s cheek, then brought Jason’s fingers to his own face. “We’re in deep shit,” he gasped. He said ‘we’ but he meant mostly himself. He closed his eyes against the sight of Jason’s dark eyes burning into him.
“Look at me,” Jason whispered.
Alex shook his head. “I can’t. Don’t you feel it?”
“Yes, Alex, I feel it. Look at me.”
Alex opened his eyes and found himself focusing on Jason’s mouth. He closed his eyes again. “No, Jason. He’s going to make us…make me…”
“I do not create thoughts and feelings,” the stranger interrupted, startling them. “I am only amplifying that which is already there.”
“Then stop this,” pleaded Alex, his eyes tightly shut. “You know we have love and mean you no harm.”
“This must reach its conclusion,” was all the Ancient said.
Then Jason repeated, “Look at me, Alex.”
Alex opened his eyes with a feeling of resignation. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.
Jason saw guilt and shame for what Alex felt, and with it, Jason felt the hurt. He wanted to make him feel better, to soothe him, and it was then that he faced the fact that neither of them could resist what was happening. He tried to keep his eyes from Alex’s face, concentrating on their hands instead, but the sight of Alex’s wrist before his face made him bring it to his mouth. He kissed it and sought a taste of the pale skin.
Alex gasped, feeling his knees weaken. “Jason, no…” he whispered. Jason looked up even as he let his tongue trace tiny designs over the skin. Alex tried to close his eyes, but no longer could. He was rapt by Jason’s erotic attention; the feel of that tongue on him, anywhere, would be devastatingly sweet. Alex knew at that moment that whatever asked of him, he’d surrender willingly.
“Alex…” Jason breathed, shaking himself, trying to fight the feelings. He closed his eyes and mouthed the back of the fingers laced with his own. He knew he was leaning in, that Alex was pulling him in and opened his eyes to find himself closing upon Alex’s curved, very willing lips. He tried to fight it–at least, he thought he did–and failed, the desire exploding inside him, the need and want spiraling about him, making him lose control.
Alex’s tongue slid effortlessly into his mouth by open invitation and Jason reveled in the feel of him, the warmth, the love he knew was there. He wanted more, so much more–and sudden visions filled his mind, coming to him like a rude slap: Alex, lying under him; his bare skin shining with sweat, his breathing shallow and ragged, moving in a rhythm that suggested sex. Jason felt him, as if it were really happening. It was exhilarating to watch Alex gasp and cry out like that as he fucked him. Yes, yes, he wanted it, wanted to show him, be with him, comfort him…
Oh god… No.
This was wrong; he wasn’t free. It was wrong to force his friend into something he couldn’t have, no matter how much he wanted it; no matter how much Jason was willing to give it to him. It was too much like betrayal, to Daniel and Jack, to Alex, no matter who was controlling his actions. “No,” he said, his voice suddenly loud and strong. He pulled away, but Alex pulled him in again with such a force of passion, kissing him deeply, that Jason gave in to him. For just a few more seconds, let him have this, he told himself.
The air was filled with moans of lust, love, and Jason could feel Alex giving in, taking what he wanted, as Alex’s tongue slid down the center of his throat. “Alex,” he inhaled sharply, his cock twitching with heat and pleasure at the way Alex was licking him, the way he was breathing against his skin. Everything was suddenly sharp, heightened–as was the sensitivity given to him by Adriann. The knowledge hit him like a sledgehammer. Alex wasn’t just attracted to him, didn’t just want to have sex. Alex was in love with him. Jason groaned again, the sound mixed with sadness and a need to please. He wanted to give in and let Alex have him, just this one time. One brief moment of pleasure, that’s all.
It seemed to be some sort of trigger or alarm because just as Jason was trying to push away, Alex was doing the same. Their kiss broke and they found each other kneeling before the other, panting, cocks hard, hands still holding desperately.
“Dammit, dammit, dammit,” Alex whispered, leaning his forehead against Jason’s. He wanted to say so much, to explain, but what was the point? Jason knew. “Forgive me.”
Jason let out a short laugh of futility. “Nothing to forgive, Alex,” he answered softly, knowing they were barely past a very dangerous moment that could easily descend on them again. He didn’t know if he could resist a second time but perhaps the guilt that was beginning to grow would help.
The Ancient was watching them intently and when Jason found his breathing returning to normal, he asked, “What sort of test did that prove?”
“Pushing you together showed me that you desire each other and are capable of deception. But it also told me that you love, you care, and refuse to hurt unnecessarily. But there is one more test to prove you can be trustworthy, because sometimes, love can betray.”
He reached out and touched the pad of his thumb between Alex’s brows. Alex grew dizzy and wavered. “Jason,” he said weakly, and began to collapse. Jason caught him in his arms and with effort, slowly lowered Alex to the floor. His friend was now unconscious and Jason frantically checked his pulse, his breathing, then glared up at the Ancient. “What the hell did you do?” he asked angrily.
“I removed some of his energy, only enough to put him to sleep, to make sure he could not attack me.”
“Please stand before me.”
“No,” Jason answered, looking back down at Alex. His friend did seem asleep, but so had the Ancient when he was in that capsule. The sudden image of Alex, locked away, unable to wake, overwhelmed him. Alex looked so vulnerable. A stray, errant thought had Jason wondering if Alex had always looked like that when he’d slept next to him during their many missions, sharing the same tent.
“Please?” the Ancient repeated. It wasn’t a request.
“You say please as if it means something, but I know it doesn’t. If you were a good being, you would not have done this to him.” Jason stroked his friend’s hair, marveling at how soft it was. His heart lurched inside, hurting for himself, for his friend, hating that Alex loved him and would never get it in return, not the way he wanted. Jason pulled Alex up and held him against his chest, burying his face in his friend’s neck. He began to rock him as tears fell from his eyes.
“Damn you to hell,” he said in a muffled voice, speaking to the Ancient. “Damn you to hell.” He felt a hand on his shoulder and shrugged it off violently. “Go the fuck away,” he snapped. “You’ve no idea what you’ve done here! He had these feelings contained and you brought them to the surface, made me aware of them. Now nothing will ever be the same between us. I hate you for that!”
The Ancient squatted down next to him, then reached out and placed his palm on Alex’s forehead. Jason smacked it away, fearful. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“I can take away his love for you. It will take away the pain, yes?”
Jason gaped at him. He didn’t know what the hell to say, but all he wanted at that moment was to kick the shit out of the alien.
“Please,” the Ancient went on. “I am sorry that I harmed him, but I had to know you felt love.”
“Why? You’re obviously quite capable of containing us.”
“Love denotes the quality of mercy in a race. Where there is love, there is kindness, mercy, the ability to give and receive.”
Jason snorted with derision. “Then kill us now because while my planet has those things, it has all the dark, evil things as well.”
“All life has. But you fight them, correct?”
“Yeah, so what?”
“I need to be sure that there are more of you, those who think and feel as you do. I may be able to kill you, but I would rather not. Killing is nightmarish, and brings nothing but sadness. If you are telling me the truth about being explorers, then go through the test with me.”
“That would entail?”
“Opening your mind to me. I wish to become one with you.”
“And what happens to me during this time?”
“You will see what I am. All that I am. You will not receive my knowledge, and I will not receive yours, but the core of who you are is what I seek. Good or evil.” The Ancient stood and held his hand out. “What say you, Jason? Will you open to me?”
Jason took a deep breath, then gently laid Alex down next to him, making sure his field vest supported Alex’s head. He stood and faced the Ancient when he was done, seeing that the man was a good five inches taller. “What’s your name?”
Jason narrowed his eyes. “Excuse me?”
There was something familiar about that name, and when Jason thought about it longer, he snorted with disbelief. “We have an ancient myth about a god named Eros. He was the… god of love. Were you ever on a planet called Earth?”
“Earth?” Airose asked, puzzled.
Jason pointed next to Alex’s body, and to the Earth patch sewn into the pack he’d been carrying. “This is our ‘gate’s point of origin symbol. Is it familiar?”
Airose frowned in confusion. “Yes, but the name is different. Gate?”
“Stargate. Those interstellar transport rings we believe your race built?”
Airose finally understood and nodded. “Stargate. I like that.”
“Yes, I have once called it home.”
When it finally clicked, Jason stared at him, incredulous. He was very likely standing in front of a myth. “Eros, my friend Daniel is going to love to meet you.”
“And he is your lover, I sense,” Eros said with another tilt of his head.
“Well, yes, he is,” Jason fidgeted with a bit of alarm, “but don’t mention that to others. When you meet my people, some will not understand and would be fearful. There’s a lot of hate on my planet, most of it religion-based. There’s quite a bit of fear about men loving other men. There are numerous laws, numerous penalties–“
“Numerous leaders, each giving many freedoms to take the sting from the oppressions they foster?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“That system is ineffective and very dangerous.”
Eros nodded thoughtfully, deep in contemplation, then looked up. “A subject that would be worthy of study, I’m sure, but right now, you are foremost. Please kneel?”
Jason swallowed as Eros slowly dropped to his knees, so he stepped up and knelt before him. He shivered with anticipation and excitement as Eros slid an arm around his waist and placed his other hand, palm flat, over his sternum. “Is there a reason for physical touch?” Jason asked as he tried to find a comfortable position for his hands. He settled on Eros’ shoulders. The man’s long dark hair tickled the backs of his fingers.
“Yes. I have to have contact with the person I open to, which means you.”
“Oh. Um, you have an empathic gift, don’t you?” he asked, feeling a warmth spreading through his body.
“Doesn’t it magnify feelings, too?”
Jason closed his eyes and sighed. “Thank god.”
“You are relieved by that? Why?”
“Alex. If he knows that, then it might help. See, I can’t return his love the way he wants. I have my two lovers to whom I am bonded.”
Eros regarded him solemnly. “I am sorry, then, for what I am about to do.”
Jason’s eyes widened. “Why? What are you about to do? You said you would seek out my mind? What other kind of contact–“
“Your myths call me the god of love, yes?”
“Well, you or someone else like you.”
“I cannot impart hate or simple well-being, Jason. I can only impart love. That is what we will share. It opens the mind.”
Jason closed his eyes and groaned.
“Is there a problem?”
“Yes. And no. Shit, just get on with it.”
“You have other questions?” Eros asked doubtfully.
“Ones that don’t mean anything at the moment.”
“I believe you are an Ancient. Are you?”
“An Ancient?” Airose echoed and he paused to concentrate. “That name sounds similar to the one the Asgard called us. Yes, I was. Once.”
“I am not sure that calling me an Ancient applies since I am likely the last one of my species.”
“What do you mean?”
“Your race, they ascended.”
“Yes, I am aware of that. I chose not to.”
“I did not want to.”
“I don’t mean to be rude, but… why not?”
“Once ascended, one loses the ability to give and receive love and the pleasures and sorrows that accompany it. I did not want that.”
Jason opened his mouth to ask what that meant but Eros’ fingers were quickly over his lips, silencing him. A tingling spread over his skin from his mouth and Jason was suddenly wondering… “Eros, what did you…” He was instantly distracted as Eros’ thumb brushed slowly back and forth over his lips. He tried again. “What are you doing? I thought you were going to read my mind.”
“No, your heart, your soul.”
“Yes, but…” His heart rate began to speed up as Eros pushed his thumb between his lips, but not into his mouth, his eyes fixated on them. “Eros,” he tried to talk but couldn’t. He pulled his head back. “Eros, this isn’t…”
“What?” Eros asked, looking up.
“What I thought you meant.”
“It appears you were not listening.”
Jason promptly blushed. “I…I guess not.”
Eros gave him a gentle, fond look. “You were preoccupied with Alex’s welfare. I cannot find fault in that.”
“You said we would share love. I guess I should have paid attention to what that meant.”
“So you are prepared to participate in this ritual of truth?”
“It’s a ritual?”
“All acts of truth are rituals, Jason, as are all acts of love.”
Jason didn’t know what that meant, but he was suddenly aware of Eros pulling his black t-shirt from his trousers. Without thinking, he grabbed his hand and stopped him. “What are you doing?”
“I need to touch your skin,” Eros answered, perplexed.
With embarrassment, Jason felt his skin tingle in reaction. “Oh.” When he moved to pull his t-shirt loose, Eros placed his hands over his and stopped him. “May I?” he asked.
Jason wished the blush on his cheeks would go the hell away. “You can…assist.” He crossed his arms and grabbed the hem of his shirt–a difficult thing to do since Eros wouldn’t give him any room. His eyes met Eros’ just as the man’s warm hands slid up his back, and the resulting thrumming that flashed through his body sent warring emotions through him. There was a chill of tense excitement mixed with guilt and shame, all battling his need to prove himself to this Ancient.
When he lifted his t-shirt up and blocked his face, he let out a shocked moan when Eros’ palm once more pressed over his sternum. His touch tingled even more and sent many more sparks of pleasure through him. “Jesus,” he exclaimed in a rough gasp as he tossed his shirt to the floor. “Does your touch always do that or are you doing it on purpose?”
“It is natural,” Eros told him absently as he traced Jason’s chest with his free hand. Touching a nipple and watching it pebble and harden, he smiled softly.
Jason realized he was holding his breath when Eros suddenly shrugged his shoulders and the loose tunic over his shoulders slid off with erotic slowness to the floor. Jason looked up at the ceiling, laughing with a frustrated sense of doom prompted by the appearance of golden, tantalizing muscle and skin. He could feel the heat taunting him. “Shit.”
“Beautiful,” Eros said, ignoring Jason’s behavior, entranced by the body before him, tracing his fingertips over Jason’s collarbone before moving to grip the back of Jason’s neck.
Jason was going to ask something but when Eros pulled him forward with excruciating slowness, he simply forgot. He did, at least, try to resist, knowing it was ineffective. He was afraid, not wanting to let this man with such frightening erotic abilities kiss him. He felt himself holding his breath again as Eros’ lips closed over his, but when the man’s tongue probed for his own, he breathed, surrendering to the long, sensual kiss of exploration.
Jason felt the barriers inside himself fall away; there was an overall heat, and his entire body was consumed with it. There was an intense pleasure surrounding his balls and cock, and the source was no longer important. There was a humid slowness to every sensual touch and though his eyes were closed willingly, Jason didn’t think could open them again if he wanted to.
He was no longer thinking; inside his mind, he found himself lost in what felt like fantasy come to life. He did pause to wonder in the back of his mind somewhere if this was what those Gamekeeper machines were like.
He was in a room, though he didn’t know or care what it looked like. It was like a steam room, the air thick with moisture and heat; under his fingers was sweating skin and he let his hands roam. Other hands began to roam over him, returning the favor, then there was the sensation of lips biting, kissing, sucking his skin. Tongues licked, flicked, and probed with merciless delight. They were familiar. They were Daniel and Jack. And Jason never wanted it to end.
Somewhere a voice whispered, “Are you true?” and the reply was, “I am true.” Jason didn’t bother to question if the words made sense. All he wanted was the body that lay under him, the body that knelt behind him, their undulating, thrusting strength filling him, fucking him with such exquisite slowness he felt he would die if it ended. It couldn’t end, this feeling; he couldn’t allow it.
Eros moaned and slid his hand into Jason’s hair before suddenly pulling hard, bending Jason’s head back so that he could lick and bite at his throat. Jason gasped but continued to stay lost within his hallucination, his eyes half-closed, seeing something else entirely. “It is good,” Eros breathed over his throat, then pulled back from his lust to read everything Jason was. He retook his mouth in another kiss, fierce and wanton, clamping a hand over Jason’s ass, holding him firmly as he rocked his body against him. Eros whispered, more to himself, “Yes. Honest, pure, rich, loving.” Satisfied, he centered and melted into Jason’s ‘dream’ sharing himself with Jason before he brought them both to the ritual’s completion.
Jason felt him, joining the touch of his lovers. With the mouth around his cock and the cock inside his ass, the only place he had left to give was inside his own mouth, watering with anticipation. He sucked in the hot, silky flesh, his hands eagerly squeezing the round, firm buttocks of the man he knew was Eros. He expected this to be just as slow and wonderfully torturous as his lovers’ attentions, but the sexual energies altered.
Hands were in his hair, gripping him too tightly, the cock in his mouth sliding back and forth with desperate need. Jason tried to suck, to taste what he had, but in the end, he could only open his throat. Actions below increased with the heavy panting and rough fingers, leading him down a swift, terrifying path of completion. He gripped the ass under his fingers and dug in, screaming with his mind that it was too soon, that the mouth on his cock was urging his hips too fast, the cock spearing inside him was plunging much too hard.
But he wanted it, wanted that acute edge brought on by the hard drive against his gland. He couldn’t stop his hips now, thrusting viciously back and forth with only one aim in mind, and the muffled cries of pleasure that met his ears soon sent him over the edge.
Jason’s inner world exploded with a blinding light of white pleasure, setting off every nerve, until all he knew was that he was falling again, this time into unconsciousness.
Eros gently lay Jason on the floor, kissing him softly before leaning back on his heels to regard both men. Tilting his head to the right, he stared at Alex, then leaned down and briefly held his thumb between his brows before pulling back.
Alex opened his eyes and alarm widened them as he found Jason shirtless and unconscious. He nearly repeated what Jason had done earlier, and scrambled up to examine him. “What have you–“
Eros touched his fingers to his lips, silencing him. “He is resting; there is no harm to him.”
Alex jerked his head away from the tingling fingers. “But he’s out like a light! I repeat, what did you do to him?”
“Look at him. He is breathing, his appearance is calm.”
Alex looked, but his expression still held worry.
“The truth ritual is erotic in nature,” Eros went on. “He experienced a release that left him unconscious. He will wake soon. For you, I want to ask a question.”
“You mean you made him…oh god.” Alex closed his eyes. For himself, he remembered getting dizzy, lying down to sleep, the energy and will to remain awake taken away. “What did you do to me?” Eros repeated what he’d told Jason. “Well, thanks for leaving me out of the loop, asshole,” he said sarcastically.
“You and Jason appear to be distressed by your feelings for him. Would you like me to remove or lessen them?”
“I can alter your emotions.”
Alex gaped in horror at the Ancient’s offer as if he’d just asked if he wanted a hand removed. It took him a few minutes to gauge exactly what the Ancient was offering. “Look Eros. You can’t just take feelings from people. We have to live with what we’ve wrought, no matter…” He looked down at Jason and allowed himself to caress his hair. “No matter what it costs.” He sighed and looked up again. “You said it yourself, didn’t you? With love, sometimes there is pain.”
“So I did,” Eros said, relieved.
“Wake him, please.”
Eros touched Jason’s brow.
Jason opened his eyes and found Alex staring down at him. His brows knotted together in worry and he sat up quickly, opening his mouth to speak. Alex stopped him by handing him his shirt and gruffly saying, “Don’t say a word, Jason. And do me a favor and forget what happened. I can live with that.”
“What if I can’t?” Jason asked sadly. Alex stared at him with such openness that Jason had to resist putting his arms around him.
“We both know why you have to, Jason,” Alex said mechanically and absently rubbed at his lips as if trying to get rid of the memory that lingered there. He suddenly shielded his eyes with his hand and turned away, taking a deep breath. “I wish I’d called in sick,” he laughed, the sound painful.
Jason slid his shirt on quickly and said to hell with caution. He pulled Alex into his arms and held him. Alex returned it, gripping his shoulders almost painfully. “We’ll be fine, you know,” he said over Alex’s shoulder.
Alex nodded, then laughed again, only this one sounded a little better. “You’re such a marshmallow, Jason.”
Snorting Jason stepped back and playfully pushed at him, sniffing as he did so. “I know. I’m beyond all hope.”
He looked past his friend and saw Eros sitting on his heels as before, but his eyes were closed as if in meditation. “I take it I passed out?” he asked the Ancient.
“That…good?” Alex asked, hoping the joke would lighten the tender subject.
Jason snorted. “Oh yeah, but only because of my own mind, right Eros?”
“What do you mean?” Alex asked as he helped Jason sit up.
“Erotic imagery. Daniel and Jack were there, then eventually Eros. I remember a voice saying I was true, then I…well, passed out after.”
They looked about the room, then Jason glanced at his watch. It had stopped. “Shit. Alex, what time is it?”
He looked at his and found it too had stopped. At the same time.
Jason bit his cheek. “How much do you wanna bet that the screwed up magnetic disturbances on Earth around the so-called Devil’s Triangle are due to Ascended Ancients fucking shit up?”
Alex considered it and nodded. “Sounds plausible.” They turned their gaze on the kneeling man, puzzled concern on their faces.
“So…” Jason began, then grimaced at the wet feel of his briefs and knew he’d have one hell of a damn time trying not to smell like he’d just jacked off. “Shit.”
“What?” Alex asked, laying a hand on his shoulder.
“Oh nothing that a good strip and wash won’t cure,” Jason answered, indicating with an indirect gesture at his crotch.
“Oh,” Alex replied, biting his lips together to keep from smiling. It was starting to be amusing now that the first-time stress was over with.
“If you laugh, I’m going to…” Jason began, but left off. He was going to say something overtly sexual, but with the revelation of feelings aired between them, he couldn’t.
“It’s okay, you know,” Alex told him. “It won’t hurt me. I don’t want anything to change between us, and any sexual reference you make won’t make me fall into a sobbing heap. It’s who you are and I don’t want that to change, okay?”
Jason regarded him for a long moment, then nodded. “I’ll try, but it’s already changed, Alex. I’m going to feel strange making those comments around you, thinking I’m hurting you.”
“Continue to make them and let me deal with my feelings. If you stop, it’ll hurt.”
Another long look, and Jason silently agreed. And to prove it, he grinned and asked, “I don’t smell like a hustler’s visit, do I?”
Alex returned the grin with more than humor; gratitude lit his eyes. “No, I can’t smell anything. Just don’t open your trousers: Even though I’m quite sure I can resist you without falling into a faint, I’m not sure others can.”
Jason snorted. Clearing his throat, he slapped Alex’s shoulder before grabbing his vest off the floor and putting it back on. His business face returned as he walked over to Eros, who was still kneeling, his eyes still closed. He crouched down before him. “Well, Eros? I assume we’re okay with you or you wouldn’t be sitting there like a Buddha. What now? There’s hardly a domicile waiting for you upstairs.”
“You are wondering how I will live?” Eros asked calmly, opening his eyes.
“Yes, I’m wondering.”
“I have all I need here.”
“I don’t see that you have much, here or above ground,” Alex said, following Jason’s lead.
“I have more than you see,” Eros told him, wondering at the change in his two visitors. Their now-businesslike regard reminded him what they had originally been doing in his home. He began to feel a bit guilty but shoved it aside. He’d done what had to be done, short of entering their minds and looking. Erotic empathy was much more fun, anyway. “You need not worry. The complex is massive. It is dormant but can be revived.”
“What complex?” Alex asked.
“Revived?” Jason asked.
Eros gracefully stood, giving them a warm smile. He opened his mouth to explain but a whine above them made them pause.
Jason frowned. “That sounded suspiciously like a Goa’uld grenade.”
Rattling and rumbling sounds soon followed. Eros started to accuse his visitors of deception but stopped himself. His truth gift was never wrong. This was something else.
Alex quickly threw on his field vest as Jason grabbed their weapons.
“Weapons’ fire, if I’m not mistaken,” Alex said quickly.
Jason nodded. “Eros, we need to get up there and help our friends. They’re in trouble.”
Eros looked at them, puzzled. “If you are explorers, why is there battle fire?”
“The Goa’uld,” Alex told him, as if that answer were enough.
When Eros looked at them blankly, Jason and Alex paused, staring back.
“God, he doesn’t know the Goa’uld,” Alex said.
“How long have you been sleeping?” Jason asked.
“Suspended,” Eros corrected. He moved to the far wall, tapped a few buttons, and a ‘window’ opened. A completely flat keyboard slid out from the wall and behind it, a short black monitor screen. The screen’s lettering was vivid blue, and in Ancient. He typed in his own language, pausing to attend instructions on the screen, answering whatever the ‘computer’ asked.
“I hope that’s a weapon,” Jason said.
Eros glanced over his shoulder. “You might say,” he said in English. “I am activating the complex.”
“May I ask you a question?” Alex asked, irritated that they hadn’t thought of it earlier… although there wasn’t much time to, what with the shock of seeing a dead man come to life.
“Of course,” Eros answered as he continued to type, though obviously surprised by the formal request.
“How do you know our language?”
“The complex’s computer supplied me with it. There are sensors here and above ground. While it brought me out of suspension, it also tapped into my brain, giving me your language.” With a glance, he grinned at their worried looks. “It did not read your military secrets. Only your language. Your actions proved your intent.”
“I doubt Jack will be understanding,” Jason answered. “But never mind. We really need to get out there.”
Eros shook his head. “I cannot risk your lives. There is another way.” He finished tapping and stepped back, pulling Jason and Alex with him. There was a low humming noise and the entire wall transformed to glass and granite, showing a computerized system of small screens and buttons. Seats pushed out from below a quickly-formed desktop that ran the length of the wall. The far left wall was suddenly converted into a field of monitors, all of them holographic, projecting four inches from the wall.
Alex and Jason felt their hearts in their throats as they saw that their friends were engaged in a firefight with Jaffa.
“Help them!” Jason yelled as a member of Maddy’s team went down with a leg wound and staff weapons’ fire glanced off the platform of the stargate, which Sam and Daniel were using for cover. Jack was behind the DHD and Teal’c was rolling on the ground, taking fire, acting as decoy as Jack’s zat released its energy fire.
Eros spoke to a display that appeared on the computer wall and answers appeared before him in Ancient. He gave it an order and turned to look at the ‘video’ wall.
Viewed from a sensor in one of the columns of the monument structure, Jason and Alex watched as the pyramid cap of the obelisk opened like a flower. Its four sides slid horizontally away from the center, then opened outward, splitting in half. The ‘leaves’ dropped flat against the obelisk’s sides, moving out of the way, as a large, round, crystal resembling an amethyst with hundreds of facets rose from inside the obelisk and rested where the pyramid used to be. The jewel began to glow white from its center, and a second later, a 360-degree amber laser shot out from its center. It covered everyone in the vicinity, near or far, but pulsed as it scanned. Jaffa crumpled to the ground, seemingly without pain, but as the pulse rested on Teal’c, it paused.
“He’s ours,” Jason said in a panic, looking back at Eros.
Eros spoke in Ancient, directing his words to the wall. The pulse winked out, leaving Teal’c stunned but unharmed. All of the other Jaffa were on the ground, unconscious. “It did not understand why one of the symbiotic creatures was inside a person wearing one of your uniforms. I do not understand.”
“He’s a rebel Jaffa, and you can get information about that in a little bit because it’s a long story,” Jason said quickly. He then strode to the bottom of the stairs and looked over his shoulder at Eros. “Well?”
“Not yet. I’m going to raise this part of the complex.”
“But you’ll kill whomever is in the way!” Jason shouted.
“I will not,” Eros said with an irritated gesture, dismissing Jason’s words as if he’d said something ludicrous.
Jason started for Eros, wanting to smack him one, but Alex snapped his fingers as he stared at the monitors. “Jason, look.”
The purple crystal was glowing again, and white flashes appeared around the team members. One moment they were there, the next, they appeared on the floor of the monument, unhurt if a little disoriented.
“It seems you expect me to place faith in you,” Eros said sarcastically, “yet you will not place it in me.”
Jason sighed. “I’m sorry, but we’ve been kicked around a lot by those whom we trusted.”
“Relearn,” was all Eros said.
Looking away from him, Jason glanced at the monitor and found Jack. His lips curled into a fond smile as he heard Jack’s voice clearly. His lover stood and stared up at the obelisk crystal, speaking to it with his usual wit.
“One hell of a way to tell us to move, don’tcha think?”
“I thought it was quite a rush,” Daniel said, with Sam agreeing.
“Very efficient,” Teal’c said with a grin.
“Eros, the Jaffa–“
“Are grouped together near the stargate.”
Through the monitors, Jason could clearly see what the others saw. The men and women on the monument floor slowly rose to their feet as the ground above trembled. Jason searched and found Anna and Kane, separated on either side of the group, with neither looking like they wanted to join back up. He grimaced, wondering what the hell had happened, and wondering if it had been Kane.
His thoughts were interrupted by the quaking of the large room around him. On the screens, dirt kicked up as the ground was breached and split open, the upturned earth eventually displaced by blackness in the shape of an elongated octagon that ran perpendicular to the forest behind it. The structure had slanted, rounded walls, reminding Jason of stucco. Each ‘corner’ was decorated by spires that looked more like crystalline bone. What the structure was made of was anyone’s guess but it was beautiful, opalescent in color, though it shimmered with rainbow reflections from the sunlight.
“Wow,” Daniel’s voice whispered over the monitor system.
“That’s what I said, Daniel,” Jason whispered, holding himself steady as the movement stabilized through the rise of the structure. Metallic closing sounds reverberated through the ground, and on the screen, he watched the surface seal itself with large stone-like slabs, forming a wide walkway or patio around the entire structure. The building seemed to have two levels, judging by the number of upper and lower windows. He’d find out, in any case.
Jason turned to Eros, grinning. “This building is pretty damned beautiful.”
“Thank you. Now if you’ll follow me.” In the far left corner, he pressed a few buttons and a doorway appeared as a section of wall dissolved away. Eros disappeared through it, gesturing for them to follow.
Eros led them through several connecting passageways until they appeared at ground level and into what was probably a front living room.
“Wait here. I will return,” Eros told them. “I need to change.”
Jason smirked as he walked off. “I can appreciate that.”
When Eros returned, Jason was pleased by the blue colors he’d changed into. The clothes were identical to the others, but the tunic’s edges were embroidered with gold thread. The two colors accented Eros’ features perfectly. It took a moment longer for Jason to realize that Eros’ sleeveless blue tunic was completely open.
Staring at the healthy inner swell of pectoral muscle and the line of ribbed muscle down his abdomen, Jason’s smile faltered a little, remembering what had happened not too long ago. Eros’ exposed skin had his dick waking up and Jason took a deep breath, ordering himself to ignore it. A second thought started to relax him. What if Daniel and Jack felt this way toward the Ancient? If they felt what he was still feeling, perhaps it might help when it came round to telling them what had happened.
Eros bowed slightly, a tiny smile on his face. “I am ready.” He read the concern on Jason’s face, and looked down at himself. “What is wrong?”
“Nothing,” Jason answered, shaking his head.
Alex walked over, giving his friend and teammate a careful look. “Jason?”
“Do you still feel that…whatever it is…coming from Eros?”
“Yeah, but I’ve kind of gotten used to it. Why?”
“Eros, will the others feel this… erotic pull you exhibit?”
Jason let out a breath. “Okay.”
“What is wrong?” Eros asked gently, touching Jason’s arm; after feeling him shiver, he released him with a clear pang of regret.
Jason’s concerns started to vanish when he saw the shadow cross Eros’ face. “Does everyone react that way when you touch them?” he asked with alarm.
“Yes,” Eros replied, stepping away from him. A mask of indifference came down over his face like a shroud. “Shall we go?”
Jason wanted to press the subject but pulled his concern back. Eros clearly didn’t want sympathy. “You sure you want to walk up there to the monument?” he asked. “I can always bring them to you.”
“In time. I would like to see the structure first.”
“Then let’s go.”
Once the dust began to settle, Jack went to the DHD and dialed home. After the wormhole was established, he sent his back-up teams home with a heartfelt ‘get well’. Major Griff’s team had come through unscathed but Major Reynolds’ and Major Madison’s teams hadn’t. At least the injuries had been only one member per team.
“General, the site is secure and the Jaffa that greeted us so nicely have been rounded up.”
“Well done, Colonel.”
“I’d like to take the credit, sir, but it wasn’t our doing. We were pinned down after coming through. The obelisk behind us opened up and gave us a really cool light show, scanning everyone like Thor’s Hammer had on Cimmeria. It settled on Teal’c but passed him over, knocking all the other Jaffa out. I think Major Coburn probably had something to do with that, but we haven’t seen him or Captain Wagner as yet.”
Hammond’s voice came over the MALP. “Understood, Colonel.” There was a pause, then, “We’ve received the teams. What Goa’uld do the Jaffa serve?”
“Damuz,” Teal’c said, his expression serious, as usual. “He has had two other names as well. One of them appears in your bible. Tammuz.”
“And the other?” Jack asked.
Teal’c knew he should have kept his mouth shut but he sometimes forgot that when he gave the General thorough reports. He sent Jack a warning look. “Du’uzu.”
Jack didn’t miss a beat. “Bless you.”
“Thank you,” Teal’c replied blandly though his eyes promised retribution.
Jack bit his lips together and decided to move past the joke. Teal’c’s paybacks were murder. “System Lord?”
“One of the many lesser System Lords.”
“Is he tied to Baal?”
“Not unless he has made a pact with him to keep his small forces intact.”
“Should we expect any more visitors to the planet?” Hammond asked.
“I would think not, General,” Teal’c told him. “Scouting parties are a regular occurrence within the Jaffa ranks. If anything of importance comes to the attention of the First Prime, then his lord is notified and more Jaffa are sent.”
“And when these Jaffa return to their master, what then?” Jack asked.
“They will side with their rebel brothers or they will not return,” Teal’c said coldly.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Hammond informed him.
“It is far more likely that a large army will return if the scouting party is allowed to report on the weapon used on them. They cannot be allowed to return,” Teal’c answered.
“Ah, there’s that,” Jack said and gave Hammond, thru the MALP camera, a resigned look.
“Very well. Anything more to report?”
“Well, after the attack was taken care of, a building rose out of the ground.” He reached up and with the manual control switch turned the camera 130 degrees to its left. It showed the white building with the exotic design and the double-wide front doors opening. Three people emerged. Two of which were, from the distance of fifty yards, Jason and Alex. “Seems we’re going to meet the man — or woman — responsible, sir.”
“Report back in an hour, Colonel.”
The contact was broken with the shutdown of the gate. Jack looked over at Daniel to say something but Daniel’s attention was caught on the figures coming toward them. The two in black and green were obviously Jason and Alex, but the third was in blue. Daniel’s heart began to race with excitement, wondering just who their new friend might be. He touched his radio mic but a static pop and Jason’s voice stopped him from depressing the button.
“SG-1, this is Coburn. Do you read? Over,” Jason radioed as he and Alex escorted Eros over the scrub grassland toward the monument.
Jack sighed and clicked the mic. “Coburn, this is O’Neill. I read you fine,” he answered with annoyed relief. “Are you done making the earth move, Major, or do you need more time?”
Daniel bowed his head, trying not to laugh as he keyed his radio. “You okay, Jason?”
“You’ll see for yourself in a few minutes, Daniel.”
“Roger that,” Daniel replied. “Who’s that with you?”
“A new ally, or so I hope.”
“With a weapon like that, I should hope so,” Kane mumbled from somewhere behind. Daniel turned to give him a long look over his shoulder. Keeping his eye on the man, Daniel depressed the mic.
“Kane here says he hopes so too, considering how the person saved us.”
“Kane, report,” Jason said crisply.
Kane cast a suspicious, wary look at Daniel before turning his back to him. “Sir. Lieutenant Tolenev and I have a few scratches but otherwise we’re fine. How’re you and Captain Wagner doing?”
“We’re fine. We’ll meet up shortly. Coburn out.”
Kane fidgeted a little bit as he walked around the edge of the monument’s platform before descending the stairs to stand off to the side, waiting for his commander. He still felt a little shaky and preferred if no one saw it. It was bad enough that Anna had.
Daniel observed him carefully, then turned and grinned at Jack, slapping his shoulder. “Nice one about the earth moving, Jack.”
“Thanks, I do try,” Jack came back with a small grin, but it disappeared as he gestured in Kane’s direction. “He seem okay to you?”
Daniel shook his head. “I don’t know. He’s skittish but that could be because of his first battle with Jaffa. Jason said that returning to combat after suffering a PTSD break is always accompanied by a huge case of stage fright and nerves.”
Anna stepped up to his right shoulder. “Stage fright is the same as taking no action, yes?”
Daniel nodded, but Jack asked, “Why?”
Anna pressed her lips into a thin line, realizing that she should have kept her mouth shut.
“Lieutenant,” Jack started, “As senior officer of this mission, and the Second-in-Command of the SGC, it’s protocol to inform me of any potential problems with personnel under both commands. While you normally inform your team leader first, please, answer the question.”
Kane was too far away to hear what they were talking about, but because he was within reach, she declined. “I’m sorry, sir. It would be more advisable to speak with Captain Riley directly.”
“Okay,” Jack conceded, “but I’m going to require your opinion. Is he stable?”
She took a deep breath and finally nodded. “If what Doctor Jackson has just said is true about this PTSD, then yes, sir.”
“Before the trouble started, was he performing capably?”
“Thank you, Lieutenant.”
“You’re welcome, Colonel.”
Daniel’s attention was now only partly on Tolenev and Jack. Jason, Alex, and their friend were now only ten yards away and as they approached, Daniel finally got a good look at the possible new ally. He jumped slightly as Jack touched his shoulder.
“You and Jason seem to find the handsome ones,” Jack told him with false irritation. “What’s up with that?”
“You’ve had your share, Jack, so stop complaining.”
Jack only harrumphed in reply.
As they closed in, Sam and Anna got a better look, too.
“Wow,” Sam said under her breath. Anna was standing next to her and she nodded slowly.
Teal’c watched the men approach, judging Sam’s comment against the man she was watching. He agreed, then frowned at himself. It would seem that he needed to contemplate his feelings after they returned home from the mission. He’d expected to be a little possessive over Sam’s comment. And he wasn’t. He caught Jack staring at him and lifted his chin. “What is it, O’Neill?”
“That’s just what I was going to ask you.”
“It is nothing, O’Neill.”
“Okay, but if you need to talk…”
“I know where to find you,” Teal’c replied with Jack’s frequently repeated offer.
Jack pursed his lips and turned toward the newcomer.
As they approached the monument, Eros’ attention was not completely on the six visitors but on the building itself. He wanted to walk right past them and investigate the monument built for himself and his parents. He knew the Guild had constructed it. Their handiwork was everywhere, but the crystal, now housed back in its pyramid, was an achievement that could only have been created by Hephaison. He sighed as a bit of melancholy overwhelmed him, knowing that he’d never see his old friend again.
“You okay?” Jason asked softly, noticing the somber mood.
Jason briefly touched his back in a comforting gesture. “You can always ascend and join the others.”
Eros shook his head. “My mind hasn’t changed on that subject, Jason.”
He forced his gaze from the structure to meet the eyes of the silver-haired man who stared right back. A man of command, Eros decided. A man he’d love to take to bed sometime. A tiny smile quirked his lips and disappeared just as quickly.
It didn’t go unnoticed by Jack but he said nothing as he took a few steps back to give the men room.
“Colonel, this is Eros,” Jason introduced.
Jack gave the handsome stranger a friendly but restrained grin as he extended his right hand. “Colonel Jack O’Neill. Pleased to meet you.”
“And you, Colonel.”
Jack didn’t escape the tingling he received by the handshake, even through the fingerless gloves he wore. He frowned and rubbed his hand on his hip before gesturing at the obelisk. “Were you responsible for the light show?”
“I was, yes.”
“Then I thank you. Now, if you don’t mind me asking, what the hell was that tingling?”
Jason snorted through a quiet laugh. Leave it to Jack to just up and ask.
“I am an empath, Colonel. I have a natural chemical designed to put others at ease. It seems to be having the opposite effect with you.”
At that bit of information, Daniel took his moment and stepped forward, offering his hand. “In that case, let’s test that. I’m Daniel Jackson.” Eros shook his hand warmly and Daniel didn’t miss the warm tingly feeling. He felt a flush rise and cleared his throat. “Wow, that’s amazing.” He looked down at his hand and flexed his fingers. “Is it always like that?”
“And extended contact does what?”
“It produces pleasure,” Eros replied, liking the look of this man. At hearing his name, he quickly deduced that Daniel was Jason’s lover. Taking in their interaction, Colonel ‘Jack’ must be the second lover. Risking too much input with so many around, he opened his mind to ‘touch’ Daniel, and liked even more what he found. He cocked his head to one side and gave Daniel a brilliant smile. “You must be the lovely ‘Daniel’ Jason has mentioned.”
Jason cleared his throat and hastily said, “Um, I didn’t say ‘lovely’.”
“You sure?” Jack cracked.
“Yeah. I was actually talking about you,” Jason told him tersely and walked over to Sam. “Eros, this is Major Samantha Carter, our resident science genius.”
“Sam,” she said, quickly shaking his hand, her smile fading through the tiny body shudder. “Wow,” she said, repeating Daniel’s actions.
Jason introduced Anna and Kane next, saving Teal’c for Daniel to introduce. “Eros, this is Teal’c. The Jaffa were humans who were genetically altered to carry the Goa’uld larvae to maturation and serve as warrior slaves for the Goa’uld.”
Teal’c bowed once. “I am honored.”
Liking the change in greeting, Eros smiled and bowed. “Jason and Alex have not had the time to tell me about the Goa’uld. Perhaps you would tell me about them later?”
“I would be honored to do so,” Teal’c replied.
“So…are you an Ancient?” Daniel asked, unable to help his curiosity.
“I am,” Eros said, flashing him another brilliant smile.
Daniel didn’t miss the flirtatious manner and decided to play along. It could very well be a game, but even if it wasn’t, he liked the man enough already to go ahead with it. “After you’re brought up to date about our…combatants,” and he gestured at the unconscious bodies lying behind him near the DHD. “I would love to talk to you about your culture and your language. We’ve only been able to guess and I’m sure most of it is wildly inaccurate.”
“Oh, here we go,” Jack grumbled. “Daniel, perhaps you could save that for another time.”
“I said after he’s been brought up to date about the Jaffa.”
“It is all right, Colonel,” Eros told him.
Daniel’s eyes didn’t leave the Ancient for long, but glancing at Jason, he found his lover looking positively smug. “What?” he asked.
“I just knew you’d attach yourself to his hip, if you’ll excuse the expression.”
Daniel gave him a puzzled look. His lover was brimming with news, something that had happened underground.
Eros suddenly frowned and placed a palm over his stomach. “Excuse me, but my body is waking up enough to tell me I need something to eat. If all of you would join me, you can then fill me in on the history of these intruders.”
Questions were kept unasked until they reached Eros’ new home. Taking seats on two long, curved couches that were arranged facing each other in a wide horseshoe, the guests separated themselves, with SG-2 taking the couch closest to the door and SG-1 taking the couch that faced it; neither position was an advantage strategically, but it would have to do.
Eros moved to a tall table stationed along the rear wall by the door that Jason and Alex were led through earlier. Speaking softly as he touched a few colored squares on the wall, the complex’s computer system quickly dissolved a wall that released its true appearance, revealing a kitchen of sorts. Opening a drawer, Eros snatched a piece of fruit, blue in color and resembling a peach, and ate hungrily as he retrieved a tray and filled it with brightly colored fruits, seasoned breads, and something that looked like blue cheese.
He set the tray down on a low table that sat between the couches and returned to the kitchen.
“Do you want some help?” Jason asked, rising as he set his weapon down.
Eros looked over his shoulder and after a slight nod, had Jason quickly at his side. Jack and Daniel exchanged looks of concerned curiosity, then looked across at Alex.
Alex shrugged. “Eros is bringing out the protector in him, I guess.”
The explanation was plausible but neither Jack nor Daniel bought it completely. They’d find out later what had been going on underground.
Jason set down a tray next to its twin, this one containing tall, crystal glasses and matching pitcher, which was filled with a slightly bluish liquid that looked like water with a hint of dye. “Eros says this is fruit juice and from what I can tell, it smells like it.” He poured a glass and handed it to Jack. Jack gave him a careful look as he sniffed, then sipped the liquid. It was thin and the taste reminded Jack of a thinned down lemonade. It was, however, refreshing and what they needed. He nodded as he took a larger mouthful.
As Jason poured Daniel a glass, he looked around at the others. “You guys thirsty?”
“Sure,” Sam said, and was about to get up and take the pitcher from Jason but Anna beat her to it, taking over Jason’s serving duty. With a glass of juice and a piece of fruit, Jason resumed his seat at the end of the couch occupied by SG-2. Taking a bite of the emerald green fruit, he saw that Kane’s hands were empty.
“You’re not hungry, thirsty?” he asked.
Kane stopped himself from fidgeting. “Yes, sir, but after my…behavior…perhaps it’s not a good idea for me to eat anything.”
Jason scoffed at him. “Starvation doesn’t work as a cure for nerves, Kane. Besides, I need my teammates healthy, understand?”
“Yes, sir,” he said, wondering how Jason knew about his attack of nerves. Perhaps it was just a guess?
“You, too, Anna,” Jason went on. “That’s an order.”
The two new team members felt strange in their first offworld experience as guests, but did what they were told. Kane took a piece of blue fruit and accepted a glass of juice from Anna, then gave her a questioning glance aimed in Jason’s direction. She shook her head as she poured herself a glass of juice and sat down after gathering up a small slice of cheese. Kane sighed, then looked at the fruit dubiously, then nibbled as he looked around him at their newest surroundings with wide, untrusting eyes.
“What’s wrong, Kane?” Jason asked.
“Nothing, sir, it’s just this,” he said, waving his hand around him. “One moment Lieutenant Tolenev and I are hiding in the forest waiting for back-up, the next we’re getting shot at, then the next minute after that, we’re getting scanned and the fighting is over. Then…this,” and he gestured again. He shook his head once more. “It’s…”
“Cool?” Jack suggested.
Kane reddened a bit. “Unsettling, sir. Later on, it will probably be cool. Right now, my stomach is still back there on the field.”
“You’ll be fine, Riley. Trust me,” Jack said in a knowing, comforting voice.
Oddly, the last two words were one hell of a comfort to him. He was fully aware of Jack’s record, and his time spent in Iraq. “Thank you, sir.”
“No problems.” Jack switched gears and focused on Eros.
The Ancient was finally done with whatever he was doing and was currently carrying a large chair with effortless ease across the large room. He stationed it at the opening of the ‘horseshoe’ the couches created. He sat down on the soft, rounded chair with a relieved sigh and took a long drink of the juice.
“Feeling any better?” Jack asked.
Nodding with relief, Eros took another drink. “I am, thank you.”
Even in this obviously weakened state, Jack felt strength coming from him. His very presence seemed to ooze confidence, vitality, and a rather strong sense of virility. He wondered how it was that a people could communicate that, but had to remind himself that he’d thought the same about Adriann and his kin.
Daniel was about to ask Eros a question when he suddenly realized the significance of the name. He almost dropped the glass in his hand and heard Jason snigger. He looked across and scowled at him. “Hush up, you. Why didn’t you say something?” Jason shrugged.
“Y’alright?” Jack asked.
“Yeah,” Daniel answered, taking a quick gulp from the glass as he stared at the Ancient. “Eros? Your name is the one mentioned on the obelisk? Air-ose?”
“Yes, my name as well as that of my parents, Aphordine and Airses, is listed there. It was probably commissioned just before their departure.”
“Daniel?” Jack asked, hoping he wouldn’t go too long without clarifying himself.
“Airose is Eros, the same name for the Greek god of love.”
Eros smiled. “So Jason tells me, but as I told him, I am no god.”
“Obviously,” Jack quipped. Eros looked at him and Jack felt a particularly warm flush at the flash of his smile.
“Then Aphordine and Airses are…” Daniel’s eyes grew to enormous circles. “Oh my god. Aphrodite and Ares?”
Eros frowned, not understanding. “Were they part of the myth that involved my name as well?”
“Yes, in one myth they’re listed as your parents,” Jason told him.
Sam let out a groan of relief. “At least your name and theirs weren’t usurped by the Goa’uld like almost every other mythic name we’ve come across.”
“Interesting,” Eros replied, finding it amusing that the Earth culture kept the names of Ancients and transformed them into deities. “On Tellusea, we kept only marginal records. I find it strange that my people went back, as Ascended, and influenced yours.”
“Wait…Tellusea?” Daniel asked.
Eros tapped Daniel’s upper right arm and the Earth patch there. “Jason tells me that this is Earth, yes?”
“It was called Tellusea when I lived there.”
Daniel paused. “Huh. Tellus is Latin for earth, as in earth mother. Which reminds me, have you ever heard of someone named Oma Desala?”
“No, why?” Eros asked.
“She’s an Ascended being who resided on a planet we call Kheb. She helps non-Ancients ascend.”
Eros shook his head. “Never heard of her. But then, I didn’t know all of my people, just as you do not know all of yours. After I was moved to Eratos, that possibility became even more remote.”
“Eratos?” Sam asked, exchanging amused looks with Daniel.
“Yes. The name of this planet. Is the name familiar?”
With a wry smile, Daniel explained, in summary form for Jack’s sake, Earth’s vast cultures and their numerous mythologies. After describing Greek mythology, and the Muses in particular, he said, “One of the Muses is named Erato and one of her disciplines, or creative centers, was love poetry.”
Eros smiled. “Love poetry,” he murmured. “Interesting.”
“What was the Ancient meaning for Eratos?” Daniel asked.
Eros paused a moment before answering. “Immortal Love. How ironic.” The room grew uncomfortably silent and Eros suddenly shook his head. “No matter. Onto things of more import. From what I have heard and surmised for myself, the Jaffa who arrived on my planet were an advance guard sent by a Goa’uld to determine the planet’s viability for conquest?”
“That is very likely the reason,” Teal’c answered, and soon, he, Daniel, and Sam were giving Eros a thorough history of the Goa’uld, including that of the Tok’ra. The history ended with the current visit by Delek and the story of the lost group of Tok’ra, and the hidden messages supposedly planted on a planet once occupied by the Ancients.
When Delek was discussed, however, Eros seemed to be the only one to notice Daniel’s change in body language. Something was wrong. His empathic nature picked up Daniel’s nervousness at the mention of Delek’s name, and he also picked up Daniel’s own form of empathy. It made him even more curious about him. Eros was already aware that it wasn’t a strong ability among humans, yet Daniel had gained that ability somehow. He was eager to know how Daniel had acquired the gift but unfortunately, that information would have wait. First, the Tok’ra.
“Daniel, I have a personal question to ask of you. You do not need to answer.”
“Ask away,” Daniel told him.
“It might be regarded as an intimate because I detect something of a secretive nature around the subject.”
Daniel frowned at the implication but tried to prepare himself anyway. “Go ahead.”
“As Jason and Alex learned personally, I have an empathic sensitivity where the emotions of others are concerned.”
“I know. Where mostly love and truth are concerned, right?” Daniel suddenly wondered why that comment should cause Jason and Alex to fidget, and wondered if that had anything to do with Jason’s attentiveness toward Eros.
“Yes, and I can sense that ability in others,” Eros said slowly. “In you, specifically. You have a small amount of empathy, but I suspect it is not a gift you were born with.”
“You’d be right,” Daniel replied slowly. “It’s only recently manifested itself,” and he caught the surprised looks from Sam and Teal’c, and gave them an apologetic look. “I was getting around to tell you but I was waiting to see if it happened again, although the first time this happened, it wasn’t empathic, it was telepathic.”
“First time?” Jack exclaimed, and Jason straightened. “It happened again?”
“Why didn’t you mention this before, Daniel?” Jason asked.
“Because I didn’t want to say anything until after I’d thought about it, just in case it was just heightened instinct or something.”
“May I ask what happened? I sense it has to do with the… nervousness… you exhibited when the Tok’ra, Delek, was mentioned. I do have a very specific reason for asking.”
Daniel tried to contain his slight flush of embarrassment and failed. Unless he handled this carefully, Jack and Jason would go ballistic and he’d get Sam and Teal’c pissed off at him for not telling them what had happened. He took a deep breath, held it, and slowly released it.
“Yesterday afternoon, Delek came into my office to ask me about the translation. During his visit, I felt something. A warning.” Jason cursed under his breath, his alarm mirrored on Jack’s face. “Um, anyway, before that, I was getting pissed off at Delek for not leaving me alone to work–“
“Oh god,” Jack said and leaned forward onto his knees, scratching his head.
Daniel winced. “He then insulted my translation ability–“
“Oh shit,” Jason cringed.
“Daniel, you didn’t,” Sam said, looking like she’d just eaten a lemon. Next to her, Teal’c merely smiled, finding the situation humorous.
“Yeah, I did. I told him to go find… something better to do.”
“Define ‘better to do’?” Jack asked, wishing and praying he didn’t have to.
“Well, he was a little confused with–“
“He didn’t threaten you, did he?” Jack asked.
“No, Jack, he didn’t threaten me,” Daniel answered, rolling his eyes as he looked briefly at the high ceiling.
“So? What did you say?” Jack prodded.
Biting the side of his bottom lip, Daniel said, “I suggested that what he needed to do was get laid.” He gave Anna and Kane a cautious look as everyone else gave a groan of reaction to his words. “Anna, Kane, I haven’t reported what happened, so I’d appreciate it that if you hang around to listen to the rest of this, you keep it to yourselves.”
Jack’s eyes widened, then tucking his possessiveness in, he looked at Jason and nodded at his teammates. Jason cleared his throat. “You heard him. If you feel it’s necessary to report whatever you hear, then leave now.”
“Would it help if I vowed that nothing I hear will leave this room?” Anna asked.
“It might,” Daniel said, surprised.
“Then I make that vow.”
Jack gave Anna a curious but no-nonsense look. “You’re breaking regulations, you know.”
Anna ground her jaw for a moment. “I know, sir. If Delek — and please excuse me for assuming, Doctor Jackson — but if Delek made a pass at him, that won’t bother me. If I serve with anyone gay, they have the right to know that I am no threat to them.”
Kane suddenly touched her shoulder, then looked at the others. “What she said.”
Daniel turned his attention back to Eros when the Ancient cleared his throat, and realized that he’d gotten off-topic and the man had been sitting there waiting. “Sorry.”
“Is this fear of male intimacy typical among your people?” Eros asked.
“I’m afraid so,” Jack told him.
“It’s been that way for hundreds of our years,” Daniel informed him.
“What is the basis?”
“Religious belief that homosexuality is unnatural.”
Eros snorted, then bent over and began to laugh, shaking his head. The humans around him looked at each other with amused confusion. Eventually, Eros rested his head in his hands, elbows resting on his knees. “My apologies. Hatred is such a paradox,” he finally said.
“Amen,” Daniel said dryly.
Sighing heavily, Eros straightened in his chair. “This gives me another reason not to visit your planet. I would not like the feelings I would sense there. Hatred is an emotion that makes me physically ill.”
“Seriously?” Jack asked, his brow line rising.
“In what way?” Daniel asked him, concerned.
Eros pointed to the center point just above his brows. “Pain, here. Sometimes it is mild, but sometimes it is so bad that the pain renders me unconscious.”
“Whoa,” Jack replied.
“You should not leave your planet if that is the case,” Teal’c advised. “There are plenty of species out there that hate.”
Eros shook his head. “I have learned to manage it but I will avoid it whenever possible. But that is not a close concern as I have too much to do here before I can consider visiting my old home.” He turned his attention back to Daniel. “Would you explain a word you used?”
“Laid,” he said, puzzled.
“Ah. It’s a colloquial expression. ‘To get laid’ means to have sex.”
“I see,” Eros said, clearing his throat, still missing the reason for the laughter. “I trust this was a joke on your part?” Daniel nodded. “What happened then?”
After a healthy pause, Daniel said, “Delek took what I said the wrong way. A classic case of cultural misunderstanding.”
“You said he didn’t lay a hand on you?” Jack asked, sitting up straight with alarm.
“I never said that. I said he didn’t threaten me.”
The room grew quiet, and when he glanced up, Daniel saw that Jack was fuming while Jason looked a bit worried. He was about to tell Jack to stop behaving like a cavemen, but Eros interrupted.
“Oh. Delek kissed me,” Daniel answered, so not looking at his lovers, especially Jack. What the hell was wrong with him? He never let his anger show this much. The response to his words from everyone else surprised him, and when he took a quick look around, he was greeted only with wide eyes.
“He kissed you?” Eros asked, wondering what the big deal was.
“Uh, yeah. See, I started to push him away but that’s when I felt something. So… I let him go on kissing me, thinking I wanted it.” Daniel immediately shot Jason and Jack a warning look. “I know you’re my best friends and you have this protective streak a mile wide, but right now, I don’t think it’s the least bit endearing. My virtue, or lack thereof, needs no defending.”
Jason swallowed his protective attitude and nodded. Considering what had happened earlier, even if it wasn’t exactly his fault, he felt extremely guilty and couldn’t object, no matter how much he wanted to. He gave Eros a long look before he turned his attention back to his lover. “Go on.”
Jack, on the other, hand wasn’t looking furious, but he was still mad. “Yes, Daniel, do go on.”
“What made me stop pushing him away was something I heard in my head. I received a warning. There were words, spoken inside my head, as if Adriann or you were talking to me. But no one was. They were coming from me.”
“What’d they say?” Sam asked.
“In order, that Delek is a liar, that he’s mad, and to beware of him. I don’t know why, but the message clearly said that the Tok’ra’s dangerous.”
“And you didn’t say anything before we left the mountain because you were afraid of my reaction?” Jack asked carefully, hating himself for ever causing Daniel to feel he couldn’t talk to him. This required major adjustment in his attitudes.
Daniel regarded him for a moment, knowing him well enough that Jack was having issues with something other than what he’d just revealed. “I’m sorry, but yes, Jack. Sometimes your possessiveness is flattering, but at times like this, it’s harmful.” There it was. Open and out there and confirmed. Daniel suddenly looked over at Alex, Kane and Anna. “Um…that sounded bad and it doesn’t mean anything, um, Jack and I aren’t…”
Alex shook his head, waving him off. The other two nodded in agreement, but Daniel still wasn’t happy about slipping up in front of them.
“Couldn’t you have just said that in your office?” Jack asked.
“No. Delek is an arrogant asshole most of the time, but I’d never thought of him as dangerous. I was trying to process what happened, what the messages meant, thinking that maybe I’d overreacted. It wouldn’t have been the first time, so… I had to analyze.”
While neither Jack nor Jason liked that, Daniel was right. Make the analysis first, then find a solution.
“Thank you, Daniel,” Eros said, breaking the focus of the subject and getting everyone to stare at him. “I did not meant to bring up something sensitive, but I need to impart another piece to this… equation.”
“What is that?” Daniel asked.
“You mentioned that your inner sense called Delek a liar?”
“Yes, it did.”
“And he was one to bring the rumors about a lost group to the SGC?”
“Yes,” Sam answered. “He was the one who first told the Tok’ra about them. To my father specifically.”
Eros tapped his lips with a forefinger, thinking. It had been a while, but it was not inconceivable. “Perhaps he is a liar, of a sort, but if I what I fear is true, then it is not his fault. If my own deductions prove true, he is not Delek, or more accurately, he is possessed.” Eros had to wait for the loud questions to die down. “I will explain momentarily. But first, what you all have failed to understand is the time frame his story is talking about.”
Daniel had been staring at his hand and the drink he had picked up to moisten his dry throat. At Eros’ words, he looked up, startled, and his mind rapidly made several conclusions. He closed his eyes, feeling like an idiot. “Of course.”
“What?” Jack asked.
“Yeah, what?” Jason pitched in.
Eros gave them a sobering look. “At the time of their physical existence, my people had no dealings with the Goa’uld symbiote race. From what you have told me, 10,000 years ago was long past the time my people had ascended. We could never have known of the Tok’ra except as Ascended ones. I do not believe they would have created message markers on the planets my people inhabited, unless they somehow passed on the information to physical beings. Still, it does not explain why.”
“Why do you say that?” Teal’c asked.
Eros looked a bit sheepish. “Because I am afraid that my people were just a bit too xenophobic, and were rather aloof. We never misused our knowledge, but we never shared it, either.”
“Not everyone is perfect,” Jack noted, not believing what Eros said was possible. “There had to be some willing to interfere. Orlin did.”
Eros was startled. “Who?”
Sam carefully relayed the tale Orlin had told her, mixing it in with what had happened with her. Eros’ brow line crept into his hairline when he learned how Orlin had followed her home, enamored with her.
“Love was always so easy for him,” he said more to himself than anyone else.
“You knew him?” Daniel and Sam asked.
Eros nodded. “No matter how much pain it caused him. It is probably why I loved him.” He shook himself after an awkward silence, taking a deep breath. Sam used it as a cue to move on.
“Is it possible that someone, like Delek, might have received those messages through dreams?” she asked. “Orlin and Oma used to communicate to Daniel and me through dreams.”
“It is but I do not believe it the method here. How long ago was Delek ‘found’?” Eros asked.
“Roughly fifty Earth years.”
“Could Delek have faked his injures?” Jack asked her.
“No, according to Dad. The host, Talin, as well as Delek, was almost dead when they found him.”
“Where did he come from?” Eros asked.
Sam looked a bit sheepish. “Sorry, Eros. It had been a long night and I forgot to ask.”
“No apologies, Sam. It really does not matter what or who Daniel’s warnings were alluding to, it would be prudent not to ignore them.”
Eros’ tone hadn’t meant anything derogatory but Daniel took offense anyway and bristled at the words. “I never planned on ignoring them, Eros,” he said with clear objection. “I just haven’t made up my mind what to do about them yet.”
Eros felt the offense he caused and became upset with himself. Going to Daniel, he squatted down in front of his and took Daniel’s hand in both of his. Caressing the back of his knuckles with his thumbs, he said softly, “I did not mean to offend and my words were not chosen well. Please, forgive me.”
Daniel felt his stomach flutter, though not in a nauseating way. It was more like the flutter of giddiness. It was quite difficult to ignore, especially when he realized that this amazingly handsome man could incite this reaction in him or anyone else. As Eros’ thumbs continued to stroke, his eyes looking imploringly into his for forgiveness, Daniel felt a deep heat stirring inside. It began below the waist, his dick beginning to harden, and spread until he felt his nipples harden. He found himself staring at the man’s sensuous mouth and had the sudden desire to find out what it tasted like, what that tongue would feel like inside his mouth; he wondered what it would feel like having that mouth between his legs, around his cock; what it would feel like as he thrust, holding onto that thick mane of hair–
Daniel stood up abruptly, nearly knocking Eros over.
“Daniel?” Jack asked, alarmed, as was Jason, but Jason was standing up, taking a step toward him.
Daniel began to sidle away from the group, going to the window. He bunched his hands into fists, trying to stop their shaking. Finally folding his arms tightly around himself, he took several deep breaths.
Eros’ face was a mask of honest guilt as he walked over to Daniel. He started to put out his hand to touch his arm but pulled back. “I’m sorry. I did not mean for that to happen. Please forgive me.” He was startled by his actions, forgetting for the moment that unless he concentrated, he couldn’t touch anyone without creating the same reaction.
“There is nothing to forgive, Eros,” Daniel replied wanly. “You cannot help what you are, and you can’t possibly blame yourself for my reactions any more than the sun can be blamed for shining.”
“What the hell is going on?” Jack asked Jason, but Jason shook his head, not answering him. His eyes were on Eros and Daniel. He wondered now if he should feel as guilty as he already did, because if Daniel was affected just by a simple touch, then he’d know for certain that he never stood a chance at resisting the empath.
At the window, Daniel turned away from Eros and gazed through the window at nothing in particular. He laughed nervously while he opened and closed his fists, the motion useless. The truth was, he wanted something to grab. To possess. He was so wound up that given any opportunity, and a little free time, he’d show his lovers exactly how he felt. He was more certain than ever that Jason was quite familiar with how Eros’ touch could arouse. He wanted to know even more what had happened. He tensed when Eros didn’t move away, standing too damn close. One long look now, after that erotic touch, and Daniel was almost certain that he’d lose control and molest the man in front of everyone. The sudden shock of lust that had gone through him had been amazing.
“If you can influence Delek with that empathic power of yours, I think you’ll be able to find out whatever the hell you want.”
Eros smiled softly, though he knew it wasn’t a full compliment. “If only it were that simple. Do you accept my apology?” he asked sincerely.
Daniel brought his head up sharply. “What? Yeah, I do. I know you didn’t mean to do anything. You just…” He shook his head. “Damn. That’s some gift you’ve got there.”
“Some might call it a curse,” Eros told him sadly. “It’s another reason I did not mind going into suspension.”
Daniel started to ask for an explanation but Jack’s voice called across the room. “Okay, you wanna share with the class, Daniel? Eros?”
“Colonel, I think Daniel just experienced some of what Jason and I went through underground,” Alex said, standing up, his hand on Jason’s shoulder. “Except that Daniel got off lucky. No pun intended.” He looked just in time to see Jason wince.
Jason’s gaze finally fell on Jack’s. “I’ve been thinking about this, from a scientific standpoint.” He let a sidelong grin slip Sam’s way. “Daniel was the recipient of what I think is a rather large dose of pheromonal power backed by some sort of emotional charge. Eros has it in abundance. It’s his gift, or power, or whatever. Even now, you have to feel it.” He turned his eyes on Kane and Anna, then Sam and Teal’c. “Do you guys feel it?”
They nodded, but Teal’c was the one who spoke. “A strong presence, yes,” he said, nodding once.
Even though he knew he hadn’t been imagining it, Jason felt a knot inside him loosen. “I’d wondered if it was just me.”
“It’s not,” Alex told him.
Jack wanted to ask–had wanted to ask ever since Jason and Alex came out of the ground–but he hadn’t yet had the chance to get Jason alone and there was no way in hell he would have that discussion in front of Sam and Teal’c, and definitely not in front of Riley and Tolenev. He wasn’t inclined to wait much longer, however and if he had to take Jason for a walk, he would. Screw the mission.
Eros gestured to the couch for Daniel to return, but Daniel shook his head. “I think I’ll stand for a bit,” he said, clearing his throat again. Not with the state his cock was in; there was no way he was sitting down in the next ten minutes. At least. “You go ahead though.”
Eros wanted to touch him, even knowing what it would do. Daniel was so attractive… He clenched his hands to remind himself not to, and wished he wasn’t so tactile; it was frustrating and very depressing.
Daniel let out a long breath and walked away from the window, facing everyone. “So, anyway, what do we…um, Jack? You okay or…”
“I’m fine, Daniel. Tell me about this later,” Jack replied calmly as looked back at him.
At any other time, Daniel might have believed him. In fact, he wanted to believe him now, but the voice inside his head wouldn’t let him.
: : Liar : :
Daniel blinked in shock and his mouth dropped open. His mind frantically grasped at what had happened, and three seconds later, he clapped it shut.
“What?” Jack asked.
A hard, resentful anger began to fill Daniel. Was no one allowed to keep secrets around him, not even his lovers? His face reflected the intensifying anger he felt as he turned around to face his friends. His mouth twisted in a hard, thin line.
“Daniel, what’s wrong?” Sam asked, standing up, with Teal’c joining her a second later when he caught the look on Daniel’s face.
“I repeat, what?” Jack asked as his own anger rose. It was bad enough that his lovers were keeping things from him, especially Jason. Now he was feeling jealous and ignored. A pit of fear began to rise as he realized that the anger within him was growing at a rate that would make him explode. He looked up and recognized the hard, angry light in Daniel’s eyes as his lover glared at him for a moment before focusing on the floor. His white knuckles didn’t escape Jack’s notice, either. For a moment, Jack’s anger cooled.
“The next time we meet up with Adriann,” Daniel began in a low, gentle voice–the danger sign that Jack, Jason, Teal’c, and Sam were well familiar with, “will all of you do me a huge favor and keep me away from him, just so I don’t kill the bastard?”
Kill was said much louder than the rest, insuring that they knew just how pissed he was. He felt everyone’s eyes on him, waiting for the explanation… or the explosion.
“I know that look, Daniel,” Jack said, trying to keep his voice neutral. “Something just happened. What?”
Daniel lifted his head slightly, but looked up through his lashes, letting Jack see how pissed off he was. “Well, the same inner voice that warned me about Delek just told me that you were lying to me.”
“What?” Jack asked, getting to his feet, his eyes wide. His attention may have been on Daniel, but he was also acutely aware of everyone else in the room. When had he ever been so… sensitive …to the people around him? It was as if they were intruders on a private discussion.
“Oh yeah,” Daniel drawled, his eyes narrowing for Jack’s benefit only. “Even though I figured you weren’t okay, and even though I figured that you were probably processing because I hadn’t told you about Delek, and even though I figured that you were getting annoyed with Jason for not telling you about whatever happened below with Eros, I had to ask… like I always do. So thanks to Adriann, I now have this little gift to tell me whenever anyone lies to me, fucks me over, goes insane, whatever. Frankly, I’d rather not know when my friends lie to me, but hey, maybe that’s just me.”
“Unlike you, I can keep my emotions to myself without going overboard,” Jack snapped, unaware how he’d just contradicted himself. “Seems you and Eros have this thing, and you know what? I’m tired of seeing that.”
Daniel stared in disbelief, then looked over at the handsome Ancient, frowning with suspicion. “Eros,” he said, pursing his lips, “why don’t you give Jack here a demonstration of what that touch of yours actually does. It’s clear that he didn’t get that from the handshake earlier.”
Jack took an immediate two steps backward before he’d made the conscious decision. “No, that’s okay, I’m good.”
“You’re lying, remember?” Daniel informed him.
“Daniel, give it a rest.”
“What? I’m not the one behaving like a horse’s ass–“
“Hey! This whole thing is unsettling. Yes, I’m ticked off that you couldn’t tell me about that fuckhead kissing you or the messages you got. And yes,” he added, giving Jason a hard stare, “I’m pissed off at him for not telling me that something went on between himself and Eros.” He returned his attention to Daniel. “If you’d told me right away, none of this would be happening.”
“But Jack,” Daniel said slowly, “nothing is happening. You have a right to be disappointed in us for holding back things, but we haven’t lied. In Jason’s defense, he just hasn’t had a chance to talk to us yet. I have no idea where this bizarre anger of yours is coming from but maybe Eros can enlighten us. And you.”
Jack’s startled reaction had him glancing at Eros while he put a hand up. “No, that’s okay.”
“Why? Are you afraid of him?”
“Not funny, Daniel.”
“No, it’s not. We were talking about Delek and I think that Eros has something in mind, but you’d rather focus on me and Jason and stomp around like a jealous suitor.” That seemed to break the tension as well as divert Jack’s strange possessiveness. Daniel had a feeling that it was a temporary reprieve because Jack’s eyes were still glittering.
“We shall discover what the Tok’ra is hiding,” Eros stated, his eyes only on Jack as he attempted to break the man’s mood, calling out his duty-bound rational mind.
“And you’ll do that how?” Jack snarled at him as if Eros couldn’t possibly help.
“Bring the Tok’ra here. That is the way to find out the truth.”
“Wait a minute,” Jason said with a sudden panic, thinking that Eros would employ the same truth ritual he’d used on himself and Alex. “You can’t do that, Eros. You can’t let a creature like that near you. If he’s a Goa’uld spy or something else, he could leave his body and enter yours when you kiss him. I’m sorry but I can’t allow you to put yourself in danger like that.”
Jack slowly turned to face Jason, eyebrows arched meaningfully. “Is that what happened?”
Jason lifted his chin and refused to be intimidated. “Yes. He needed to know he could trust us, and well, I wanted him to trust me, so I went ahead with his small truth ritual. Which means that he placed his hand here,” and Jason indicated his sternum, “and then kissed me. I’d tell you the rest but,” and he looked at Kane and Anna, “not in front of my team, no offense.”
“None taken,” Kane said, wondering when he’d wandered in on the surrealistic soap opera.
“He was not in a position to refuse, Jack,” Eros added with a soothing tone, hoping that the jealousy would disappear on its own but he feared it was too late. Jason saw it, as did Daniel and their teammates.
Jack’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “Tell me the rest. Was that all there was to it?” he asked as his imagination went on a tour.
“Later, in private.”
“How about now?” Jack demanded. He had to call Hammond soon, and get Delek here, but fuck it. Not right now.
While Jason actually liked Jack’s occasional surges of possessiveness, this was not one. This sort of jealousy was hateful. That Jack was displaying it–especially in front of others while on a mission–said that something was horribly wrong with him.
Eros sensed the confusion and alarm and gestured that the three men follow him. Jason started, and Jack stalked after him, unaware that Daniel was studying him as he followed. At the other end of the long living room was another doorway and they followed Eros into the room beyond. To the left of the doorway, there was a blue square and Eros touched it. A second later, a door whooshed out from the wall and sealed them in. He then leaned against the wall and clasped his hands in front of him. Jack barely paid attention to his presence.
“Let’s hear it,” Jack demanded, scowling at Jason.
“Now, please don’t interrupt until I’m–” Jason began.
“Just you wait one goddamned minute–” Jack began.
“If you interrupt, I won’t say another fucking word.”
Jack folded his arms and took a deep breath. “Fine. Out with it.”
Keeping hold of his tightly controlled anger, Jason told his lovers exactly what happened; what Eros had done, causing the kiss with Alex, then the kiss with Eros that became a dream fantasy that eventually involved Eros. When he was finished, the tension in the room and the expressions on his lovers’ faces told him all that he needed to know.
In contrast to Jack’s bizarre smoldering, Daniel was understanding and sympathetic. And why not? Daniel had done more with Adriann during their first visit to the Residents, so he was hardly in a position to be judgmental. Besides, it wasn’t Daniel’s way. Jason hadn’t thought it Jack’s way, either, but current behavior said otherwise. He still sensed there was something wrong with him, and unfortunately, it was affecting his own mood.
Jason was now pissed off and indignant. He was only just realizing that Jack held him to a different standard than Daniel. It seemed that Daniel could get away with sexual liberties offworld while he himself could not. For a few minutes, he fumed silently, telling himself that this was his imagination, that he was badly misinterpreting Jack’s conduct. But the more he thought about it, the angrier he became.
“What the hell did you think you were doing?” Jack suddenly asked Eros.
“What I had to,” Eros replied as he slowly pushed away from the wall and walked over to face him, standing a foot away.
“What you had to do?” Jack asked as he tried to read Eros.
While Jason had told his tale, Eros had read the men in room and found out that Jack’s behavior wasn’t normal. In a sense, he was relieved, but he also felt guilty. He knew what was causing the jealousy and rude behavior was his own ability.
People felt a sexual power emanating from him and were usually influenced in a favorable way–aroused by it. But every so often, there was one who reacted destructively. Eros was becoming more certain by the second that Jack was behaving like a jealous bully, not because he was jealous, but because Eros was inadvertently making him feel that way. Jack was already the possessive and protective type, and Eros’ empathic nature blew it out of proportion.
He knew what he had to do to stop it, but first he had a few things to say. Standing before Jack, he reminded the man that he was a great deal taller, more heavily muscled, and as such, was not intimidated by bully tactics.
“I am not as young as my appearance leads you to believe, Jack O’Neill. I’ve learned through experience not to take people at their word when I’ve only just met them, regardless of the circumstances,” he told him in a carefully modulated voice, designed not so much to soothe, but to sway. It didn’t always work with the difficult ones like Jack. “I used my unique abilities to determine what they were doing in my underground chamber. Opening my eyes to the sight of military uniforms and weapons was not pleasant.” He noticed with a sense of accomplishment that Jack understood.
“No, I suppose not.”
“I spoke with them, and they gave me assurances, but there was no foundation of trust and blind trust is not only foolish, but dangerous. I am quite certain that a man of your experience understands this.”
Jack leveled him with what Eros felt was a grudgingly respectful gaze. “You’d be right.”
“However, despite their apparent sincerity, I needed the truth and I had only one way to get it. You do not approve of my methods, but your approval is not needed nor required. I have nothing to be ashamed of and neither do Jason and Alex. Your over-emotional jealousy is also not required.”
“I am not–“
Eros cut off his denial. “Do not embarrass yourself or your lovers by lying about feelings that are very clear to everyone around you but yourself.”
“He’s right, Jack,” Daniel spoke up, his voice gentle but no nonsense.
Jack turned a disbelieving eye on him. “You can’t be serious. I’m pissed off that Jason allowed himself to be compromised. Who the hell knows what this guy found out by poking around in his head!”
“I did not read his thoughts.”
“Perhaps not, but what about what Jason told us about that computer of yours. I understand that scanned his mind as well as Alex’s. Might it have secreted away any information you deem usable sometime in the future?”
Daniel hated it, but Jack was right. He gave Jason a sympathetic nod but he didn’t get one in return. Was Jason mad at him?
Jason also understood Jack’s point, but it wasn’t the reason for his behavior and they all knew it. “That’s bullshit.”
“Excuse me?” Jack spat back.
“It’s bullshit. You’re making that excuse up now because you know you’re behaving like an asshole. Everyone but you sees it.”
“So I’m an asshole for saying you’ve been compromised?” Jack asked, laughing with disbelief.
“There was no compromise,” Eros told him. “The computer achieved language skills for better communication. That is its first job upon contact. It had no need to read who the intruders were, where they were from, or what military secrets they were holding. They mean nothing to the computer and they mean even less to me. Had your men been there to kill me and possess the chamber, it would have acted accordingly.”
“So you’re saying it didn’t learn anything other than language?” Jack asked, clearly not believing him.
“Yes. As for myself, I read Jason’s deepest emotions and transmitted my own. I read his soul, if you will. I was able to see inside who he was. Again, anything of a military nature is of no value to me.”
“And again, so you say.”
“Jack,” Eros said soothingly, as he would speak to someone who needed calming, “consider my level of technology compared to your own. Is there any benefit I might gain from your military knowledge?”
Jack didn’t answer as he knew the answer was a humbling, ‘no.’
“You see. While I appreciate your protective duty for your fellow warriors and your planet, what you argue bears no relevance here.”
“No?” Jack asked, the snarky, sarcastic tone heavy.
Eros only smiled sympathetically at him and Daniel saw Jack flinch. His anger was building and if Eros didn’t watch his step, Daniel was quite certain that Jack would lose it and attack him. Never before had he seen Jack so… unglued.
“You must know,” Eros went on, “your feelings are not of your own making.”
Jack fumed, his thoughts in turmoil. Part of him wanted to shoot the fucker and part of him knew that he was right on every single count. But the last bit had him confused for the moment and he didn’t like that, either. “What do you mean, ‘not of my own making’?”
Eros looked over at Jason and Daniel. “What all of you sense from me is a side-effect that I cannot completely control. And there have been a few rare instances where my abilities have created negative feelings.” He returned his focus on Jack. “I believe that your jealousy is artificial, caused by a reaction to my empathy. The others here feel desire, a natural sexual response. You, however, do not, and I believe that the arousal is there, under the surface of your mind, but you fight it like a warrior would fight an invasion, even if that invasion is unintentional.”
“Are you saying that whatever chemical your pheromones are releasing is having an adverse reaction on Jack?” Daniel asked.
Jack shook his head, unwilling to listen. “This is bullshit. The fact is you seduced him, and for all intents and purposes, I’d call that rape.”
“What the fuck is wrong with you, Jack?” Jason protested. “I told you before. I said yes.”
Jack turned to him, his eyes filled with such fury by the admission that Jason recoiled, taking a step back. He didn’t know who this man was. It couldn’t be the man he loved.
“Yes,” Jack drawled on the sibilant, his voice bitter with venom. “You say that too goddamned often, don’t you? Ready to spread your legs for anyone. You certainly have a predilection for offering up your ass for every alien we come across, not to mention everyone else who grabs your dick.”
“Jack, what the fuck!” Daniel shouted in shocked anger. He turned to find Jason’s face drained of color. “Jason, he didn’t mean it, there’s something wrong with him!”
“Shut up, Daniel,” Jack spat.
“Don’t you tell him to shut up.” Jason’s voice was guttural, filled with icy-cold anger. He glared back at Jack as his feelings spun around in his head like a nest of angry wasps.
“Jason, he’s not himself,” Daniel was saying, but that defense of Jack also made Jason mad. He didn’t need this and turned to leave when Eros went after him and grabbed him by the wrist.
“Jason, stay. Please. You won’t regret it.”
“I already do,” Jason replied tightly, frozen in place by Eros’ touch. This time, he only felt a brief tingle and wondered if his anger held the arousal back. “Let go.”
Eros complied, then slowly turned to Jack, approaching him once more. “You spoke of rape. Perhaps that is already happening to you, behaving the way you are, contrary to both our natures, or what Jason calls pheromones. I can remedy that problem by giving you first-hand experience.”
“What the hell does that m–” Jack started to say.
Daniel and Jason were startled as Eros reached out like a bird of prey and pulled Jack to him, against him, and kissed him hard, and very thoroughly. Once more, Daniel was struck by how eerie it looked. Jack’s head bent back at a slight angle as he was kissed by a man taller than himself. Adriann had been taller but he’d never kissed Jack like that. Well, not exactly. Daniel couldn’t explain it, but then there really wasn’t any comparison; the two men were quite different. And… Jack hadn’t been struggling with Adriann.
This time, he was definitely struggling but it was plainly, embarrassingly, futile. Eros held him as if he weighed nothing. And at this moment, Daniel and Jason were at slightly different odds as they watched. Daniel wanted to interrupt, even if Jack wasn’t in any danger; Jason, on the other hand, didn’t want to stop Eros.
“I’m sorry,” Jason told him, feeling guilty over the tension created.
Daniel sighed and took Jason’s hand, clasping his fingers with his lover’s. “This feels really weird, Jason.”
“Agreed,” Jason told him, averting his gaze from Jack and Eros. Daniel glanced up at him with worry. “Yes, Daniel, I’m pissed. Just stop worrying about me and worry about him… and hope that Eros can help fix what he caused.”
Unaware of anyone else but Eros, Jack tried to push away, experiencing thoughts of actual murder; a second later, those thoughts were beat down, replaced with affection, mercy, consideration, and compromise. He was gripping the man’s dark hair, kissing Eros back with a fervor before he realized what he was doing. Like Jason, Jack couldn’t have stopped Eros if he’d tried, and like Jason, he didn’t want to.
Jason finally looked over at Eros and Jack. He swallowed hard as watched them, feeling the sudden warmth flow through him as he remembered being in Eros’ arms… and experiencing Alex’s seductive kiss. He glanced at Daniel, saw him staring at him with a tiny smile on his lips, and blushed with embarrassment. “What?”
“You feel it, Jace?”
There was déjà vu, and Alex asking him the same question. Jason tried to pretend he didn’t know what Daniel meant. “Feel what?”
“Jason,” Daniel gently chided. “You know what.” He couldn’t help the desire that rose, nor the layer of light sweat that surrounded his skin. His t-shirt began to dampen as well as the briefs beneath his trousers. For some reason, the back muscles of his thighs began to twitch. “I can feel Jack from here, Jace. I can feel them both.”
Jason shifted uncomfortably, attempting to ignore the edgy feeling that wouldn’t go away. He felt his body react to Jack’s arousal and tried to fight it. He was still deeply angry with him and didn’t like the feeling mixed with his arousal. He looked away from Eros’ continued attentions as his hands roamed, seeking firm muscle, arousing moans from Jack’s throat. He shivered and cleared his throat, glancing at Daniel and the door. “Don’t you mean, what Eros is forcing him to feel?” he said, purposefully shutting himself off from what he witnessed.
Daniel gave him a puzzled, almost angry look as Jason’s question dislodged his emotions from what he was also watching. “What do you mean?”
“You can feel what Jack is feeling. It’s genuine, right?”
“Yeah,” Daniel drawled.
“But it wasn’t Jack’s idea, was it?”
“Neither was it mine. Even though I agreed for the right reasons, underneath it all, I felt that man’s… heat.” He turned away, moving a few steps toward the door then halted. “I wanted him.”
“You don’t have to convince me or justify anything, Jace,” Daniel told him softly, going to him and forcing him to turn around. Jason’s eyes looked guilt-ridden. But there was something else Daniel saw but couldn’t identify yet. “I already believed you. Besides, this is a type of jealousy that comes from that sort of possessiveness that feels ownership. I don’t own you, neither does Jack. I can no more control what you feel than I can control what Jack feels.”
Jason ground his jaw, struggling to say the words without shouting in anger. “Not exactly, Daniel. You can’t control, but you can influence. Yes, we have our own free will, but we influence each other constantly. It’s the positive form of manipulation. Then there’s the vicious, twisted side of things, like what Jack said–” He cut himself off abruptly and closed his eyes, resisting the urge to leave the room. He didn’t want to offend Eros or worry Daniel.
“He didn’t mean it, Jace. It’s normal for you to feel what Jack is feeling now. I felt it.”
“But it was different with Alex, now wasn’t it?” Jason replied with self-deprecation.
Daniel took a deep breath. “I have to confess that I felt… a little threatened but–“
“No, listen to me, Jason. Past tense. I also felt aroused and I’m not sure why. But you do have to admit it to yourself, and to me and Jack, that you’re more than attracted to him. I know he’s your friend and you love him a great deal as your friend. If you ever decide that you want to pursue something with him–“
“No, Daniel, don’t,” Jason said, kissing him to stop the words.
Daniel grabbed fistfuls of his hair, pulling him in, needing to touch. When his hands reached Jason’s ass, Jason gasped and pulled away, staring down at their feet. “We shouldn’t be–“
Daniel placed his hand over Jason’s mouth. “It’s Eros, and Jack. We don’t need to fight it, you know.”
“Except it’s not by Jack’s choice, Daniel.”
“Okay, but then if you believe that, then believe the words he spoke weren’t by his own choice, either.”
Illogically, Jason disagreed, shaking his head. “Except he didn’t get angry with you, did he? Only me.”
“Well, I didn’t willingly kiss Delek for the same reasons that you kissed Eros. Alex is a different thing altogether.”
Jason wouldn’t meet his eyes. “Look at me,” Daniel ordered as two fingers lifted Jason’s chin. His face was filled with affection when Jason pulled away in annoyance but met his gaze anyway.
“Don’t do that to me,” Jason finished.
“Why? If I held you back from what you wanted, wouldn’t that be wrong? You’re not bound to me like some perverted Faustian contract. Love, ours anyway, doesn’t work that way.”
Jason sighed and gave a weary, sad laugh. “I love you and Jack more than my own life. I can’t leave you any more than I could kill you. I don’t understand what is happening. I love Alex as a friend, and only that, but there are times when we’re put together, offworld, and I just want to… Maybe it’s the exotic nature of it, or the forbidden. I don’t know. Maybe if I didn’t actually care for him I wouldn’t…”
Daniel suppressed the small spark of jealousy, recognizing it as fear of losing Jason–something he knew in his heart would never happen. “I think…” he began, speaking slowly and glancing over at Jack, smiling and clearing his throat when he heard his lover groan.
“What?” Jason prompted, his eyes on Jack for an instant before he looked away. He couldn’t look at Jack, not right now.
“You feel protective, and I think maybe you feel this sort of responsibility toward him.”
“Responsibility?” Jason asked, puzzled.
“For his bisexual awakening.”
Jason grimaced and tried to turn away but Daniel wouldn’t let him. “Daniel, for fuck’s sake,” he whispered.
Daniel gauged his words carefully, feeling something like a mixture of arousal and jealousy that took a twisted turn into need. “Maybe you want to teach him what he needs to know? Maybe you should.”
Jason let out a quiet laugh of disbelief as he covered his eyes, feeling his cheeks burn. “You’re not serious.”
Why he was, Daniel didn’t know, but he was suddenly very serious. “I am.”
Jason gave him a scared look. “You’re asking me to betray you.”
“No, I’m asking you to investigate the feelings you have.”
There was another laugh, this one was even sadder than the first two. “You’re one of a kind, you know that? No wonder Jack loves you so much.”
Daniel frowned. “And you don’t?”
Jason shook a finger at him. “Don’t twist it, Daniel.”
“Then don’t speak that way as if the implication were there, or more likely, as if you think I don’t want you to love me as much as Jack does. I know you do, Jason.”
“I do. But don’t tell me to leave, Daniel.”
“I don’t want you to leave. I’m only reminding you that if you have to, you know, investigate your feelings, then you should tell me and–“
“Goddammit, Daniel, shut up,” Jason replied desperately, grabbing him and kissing him hard. “I love you,” he said between kisses, pulling him down so that both of them were kneeling, pressed hard against each other. “You don’t get it,” he said against his throat, his arms wrapped tightly around him. “You don’t have any idea what kind of message that attitude sends to me.”
“What? What’d I say?” Daniel asked with alarm.
“Sub-text for ‘I don’t want you anymore’.”
“Oh shit, Jace, not in my case,” Daniel told him, tightening his own arms around him. He kissed him slowly, letting a moan escape past his tongue before pulling both back. “There’s no sub-text other than ‘I want you happy’.”
Jason took a shaky breath. “Okay, I believe that. But then there’s Jack. He’s obviously been harboring some serious anger toward me. I know he loves you more; you’ve had more together.”
“Jason, I thought you put that insecurity to rest?”
“Jack had other plans, it seems.”
“No, Jason, no. He wasn’t himself. Don’t blame him for something that he’s not responsible for.”
“Blame? No. I blame myself for putting those words in his mouth. Sparked by Eros or not, they came from his subconscious, Daniel.”
Their argument was halted by movement as Eros released Jack. Daniel stood up, pulling Jason to his feet. “Jack?” he whispered. Eros kept an arm around Jack’s waist to keep him steady but one look at his face told Daniel something that made him grin. The Ancient’s lips were kiss-swollen, his face flushed with open, barely-controlled desire. He wanted to take it further than kisses and caresses and he understood that quite well where Jack was concerned.
Or Jason. Daniel turned and found that Jason wasn’t looking at them. “Jason?”
Jason faced the window, arms crossed, and wouldn’t turn around. “Just see that he’s okay, Daniel.”
Eros pulled back his energies slowly, making sure that Jack’s arousal wasn’t brought to a conclusion. He’d been tempted to send Jack into the same sexual dream state that Jason had fallen into but that would have required skin-to-skin contact and he didn’t feel Jack would care for that under any circumstances. He didn’t want to invade Jack’s protective walls, ones built thicker and higher, the result of having lived a life of distrust and pain. Eros wished he could take it from him, but instead, he kept to the task of the moment. Moving slowly away, he made sure that Jack felt his arms around him, that the lips pulling from the kiss belonged to him.
Jack opened his eyes and swayed a bit, but got his bearings quickly. Eros’ hand was still on his waist but he didn’t move away, nor did he lean against it. Rubbing his forehead, he risked a look over at Daniel and Jason. Daniel’s eyes were gentle, amused, his brows expressing curiosity. Jack grinned shyly at him, letting him know that the jealous emotions were gone. His eyes flicked to the man behind him, facing the room’s window. Guilt filled him, but an argumentative inner voice told him the fault lay with Eros, not himself. He didn’t like that voice. That was the voice that ducked the responsibility of his feelings, the one that caused Daniel all that pain. He ignored it.
“Jason?” he called.
Grinding his jaw, Jason turned his head slightly. “Jack. Feeling better?”
“Um, weirdly, yeah. Look, Jace, I’m sorry.”
Jason nodded but before any of them could say another word, he was out of the room. He strode quickly into the living room and retrieved his weapon. Making for the front entrance, he said to his teammates, “I’m taking a recon walk. Join me at your leisure.” He then passed through the front door without so much as a single backward look.
Alex cringed. “Dammit.”
“What is it?” Anna asked.
“It obviously didn’t go well.”
Sighing with understanding, Sam stood up from the seat she’d taken on the arm of the couch. She’d grown to know Jason well enough to guess his moods. “He’s pissed. Jason will stay that way for a while. He rarely speaks unless he has to.”
“Do we follow him?” Anna asked. “I did not understand the meaning of what he said.”
Alex shook his head. “Sam’s right. And I know him well enough to know that he wants to be alone for a little bit before we join him.” He shrugged and looked over at Jack, Daniel, and Eros and had to stifle the urge to stare. It was obvious that Eros and Jack had shared one of those kisses. They both had that look. Deciding to defuse as much of the tension as he could, he walked over, meeting them halfway across the room. “How’re you feeling, Colonel?”
Jack cleared his throat. “Like a lab rat, but better.”
“Good to hear, sir.”
Jack grinned, appreciating the effort. “The sooner we get that Tok’ra here, the sooner we can go home. I need a shower.” He looked through the open door and watched Jason march off toward the monument. His posture and body language were stiff with anger and invisible signs that warned people to stay away. “Shit. I also need a gag.” He turned to Eros and gave him a sad smile. “Too little, too late, but thanks anyway.”
“I did what I had to do to break you of those negative emotions. What resulted from the earlier behavior is now for you to fix.”
With a deep breath, Jack did the same as Jason. He retrieved the weapon he hadn’t known he’d left on the couch–god, he really had been out of it–and strolled through the front door. “Well, fans, let’s go talk to the General.”
Getting the preliminaries out of the way, as well as the Jaffa, Jack introduced Eros to General Hammond, via the MALP feed of the camera. It was still only a one-way video and Eros found it disconcerting. The first ten minutes were a bit rough, with General Hammond trying to establish a means of security, wanting to trust a man he’d never met. It didn’t help that to him, he was talking to someone no more than twenty-eight years old.
After another ten minutes, the General was given assurances that his people hadn’t been compromised beyond a need for establishing a language base, and that Eros had no need of military secrets. Giving Eros his support, they discussed the Tok’ra, Delek. The situation was explained and Eros’ request given.
“And what assurances do I have that none of my people will come to harm? Hell, for that matter, will Delek be harmed?”
“I cannot give you assurances on the outcome of something that hasn’t happened yet, General Hammond. I can give you my promise that I will do all I can to ensure their safety.”
“How do you propose to touch off this encounter, Eros?” Hammond then asked.
His answer was given immediately and the plan laid down. A few changes were made and after those were agreed upon by Eros, he and the General began to talk more easily with each other. Eros politely refused the invitation to visit Earth on the grounds that he had to stabilize his own life first.
Daniel watched the conversation between Eros and Hammond with great interest. If he hadn’t already known that Eros’ empathic nature couldn’t cross a wormhole, he’d think the General beguiled.
“Give us twenty minutes, Colonel,” Hammond told him.
“And Eros, I expect to hear more about this enemy of yours in Colonel O’Neill or Doctor Jackson’s report, and whether or not we can ever expect a visit from them.”
“Of course, General.”
Minutes after the gate was shut down, they waited at the monument as Eros suggested. Daniel kept to Eros’ side, entertaining him with stories and facts about Earth that Eros seemed to find endlessly fascinating, although not always pleasantly so. After a ten minute discussion on the rise and fall of Rome, Daniel paused, chewing at his lip while silent questions about their current situation tumbled over and over in his mind.
“What is it?” Eros asked him after watching the knotted brow tighten.
“Two things,” Daniel said with a deep sigh.
“Then ask,” Eros invited.
“What are you expecting to happen once Delek sees you?”
“It will not be Delek, Daniel.”
Shaking his head with impatience, Daniel waved his hand. “Whatever that is in his body, what will he do?”
“I will expect him to try and kill me.”
“What?” Jack and Daniel asked with an alarmed shout, while the others turned to Eros with dismayed expressions.
Except for Jason, who stood as far away from Jack as the monument platform allowed. He wasn’t surprised by Eros’ information. If there were another entity, and its goal was to seek out Ancients who might have been left in stasis, this was one way to go about it without having to do much of the work his or herself.
“Why would this being try to kill you?” Daniel asked with concern. “Who is it, or… what is it?”
Eros frowned in thought. “I do not know your word for what you might call him or her, but we have named them the Dragornai.”
Daniel frowned, thinking. “There’s no Latin base. What’s it mean?”
“It means the beast that eats souls. Other Ancients called them Mors Abominai.”
“More or less. It means evil and corrupt.”
“And mors is the same here, I think, meaning death, so ‘Abominable death’?”
“The words translated closest to your language would mean Evil Death, which means to die by evil means. Not the greatest translation. The Dragornai is closer to the truth. The beast that eats souls, because souls are pure energy and that’s what they feed on.”
“Sounds to me like we actually found Adriann’s Nosferatu,” Jack commented, his tone devoid of humor. He cast a surreptitious look across the platform. Jason was in profile, head down, arms cross. His listening stance when he wasn’t directly in the conversation. Jack felt a twinge over his chest, an emotional pain that began to thud loudly. If only he hadn’t spat out those words! If only he could take them back. But he knew damn well that they scored a deep wound in his lover. He wanted to apologize and show Jason that he didn’t mean what he’d said, but now wasn’t the time to mend fences. They had a job to do, and Jack knew that wounded anger or not, Jason would do his. Besides, short of calling Jason over and giving him an order, Jack knew his lover would steer clear of him. Jason had a god-awful temper when he was insulted and hurt, but at least he didn’t stalk around and break furniture. His was one that was usually quiet, involving solitude, liquor, and stewing in his own anger for days, if not weeks. Jack hoped it was days.
“What exactly do they do with this energy eating?” he asked, turning back to Eros.
“The Dragornai literally feed upon a person’s energy. Once they consumed nourishment like other humanoid mammals, but at some point, evolution mutated their genetic structure. They now require energy as well as food. The type of energy they require cannot be synthesized by science, and trust me, our scientists tried. It is, unfortunately, the natural energy specifically found in my people, those you call the Ancients; we carry an abundance of it.”
“Why is this one hunting Ancients if all of your people have ascended?”
“It was probably left behind to finish what their sickness could not.”
“And this sickness was 100% fatal?”
“Where it was in contact with my kind, yes, as well as to anyone who shared our genes. I would guess, by your physiology, that you share our genes. If you come into contact with it, you will die. The only way to kill the organism created by the Dragornai is by fire.”
Daniel pondered what he’d said for a moment. He’d already hypothesized most of it. “Why did they create the plague?”
“They wanted complete control of our domains, and since we would not give them what they wanted, they took vengeance. They made sure that they seeded the disease throughout all our planets. Except for the ones we hid in this galaxy.”
“Malachai’s planet,” Daniel whispered.
“What?” Jack asked.
“The time loop planet.”
Jack made the combination of a grimace and a sneer. “May that place rot in hell.”
“Time loop?” Eros asked with wide eyes. As Daniel quickly explained what had happened, including the translated story on the writings of the ‘temple’, Eros covered his eyes with a hand. “Fools.”
“They were only trying to stop the plague from ever happening,” Daniel said with the urge to protect them.
“That is not the problem, Daniel,” he said quietly. “They left a dangerous device that could be eventually used–and what’s worse, a device that was faulty.” He heard murmurs of agreement, then asked, “What is the disposition of the device?”
“Our scientists, by order of our whacked government,” Daniel told him, “were ordered to study the device, but they found it inoperable instead.”
Eros smiled. “Sabotaged?”
“Who knows?” Jack said with a small, secretive grin.
For a moment Daniel paced and thought, then shook his head and returned to Eros. “It doesn’t make sense. Why destroy a valuable — and forgive me, please — food source?”
“They had others.”
“Other food sources, those that contain soul energy.”
“Oh,” Daniel replied with a small voice. The answer made him cringe.
“We haven’t met up with anyone that fits your description of what they do,” Jack told him. “We still don’t know what they look like.”
“That is hard to gauge because I do not know the current evolutionary status of the creature within the Tok’ra. I would guess energy in the form of a half-ascended being. They never could master Ascension, something they had known for many, many millennia.”
“They needed hosts. Like the Goa’uld,” Teal’c intoned.
“Precisely,” Eros agreed. While Daniel thought this over, Eros asked, “What is the next question on your mind?”
Glancing up, startled, Daniel cleared his throat. “Oh. Yes, well, I was wondering what happened to Delek, the Tok’ra symbiote, if this enemy is inside of him. I mean, the Tok’ra or Goa’uld can silence their host easily, but what happens when a third personality, such as this Dragornai, invades? Does it kill off the symbiote or suppress it as easily as the symbiote can suppress the host?”
“Delek is still there,” Eros answered solemnly. “The Dragornai don’t care who’s in charge when they enter the body. Where Delek and his host are concerned, they’re both in the position of being suppressed.”
“Getting a taste of the bitter wine,” Jack said dryly.
Daniel shook his head and instantly changed subjects so that Jack would have less to snark about. His mood was still, on occasion, snappish, but he was much better than he had been. Daniel looked over his shoulder and found Jason talking with his team across the platform. He wistfully wondered if he’d be intruding, and decided that the anger Jason felt should not be directed toward himself. And perhaps Jason needed to be reminded.
But there were two more things that he needed to ask Eros first. “Eros… what is going to happen when Delek comes through the gate and sees you?”
“If he’s the Dragornai, he will probably leave the body if he cannot find a weapon to kill me.”
“And how would he kill you then?” Teal’c asked. “Do the Dragornai possess powers similar to the Ascended?”
“I am sorry, but I don’t know the answer.”
“And you’ll defend yourself how? Will a zat or P90 work?” Jack asked.
“Only if he remains in the body.”
“I have a sneaky suspicion that the Tok’ra will want Delek and his host back,” Jack told him, not liking this plan much. “If he stays inside the Tok’ra and goes after you with a weapon of some sort, can you defend against it?”
“I believe so, yes.”
“With what?” Daniel asked.
“I shall stand close to the crystal. When it comes at me, it will act.”
“Nice defensive system.”
“We’d like to order a few hundred… thousand. If that’s okay.”
Eros didn’t answer because he knew that Jack was well aware of what he would say.
While they waited for their arrivals to come through the gate, Jason decided that he’d take the time with his team, instead of trying to be a member of both his own and SG-1’s. Getting to know his new teammates was a much better project to pursue than standing around stewing and boiling over a situation he had no control over. Or so it seemed, anyway. He gathered his crew around him, sitting down in a small circle in the ‘back’ of the circular platform, and took the time to fondly interrogate his new teammates on being a member of SG-2, asking their opinions about where they were, and the situation with Eros and Delek.
It didn’t help that Jack was observing them. Jason felt him and whispered to Alex, “Is he watching?” Alex gave the barest nod, and Jason sighed and continued. Five minutes later, to his surprise, Teal’c and Sam wandered over and asked to join in after listening to the new perspectives from Kane and Anna. The circle widened to accommodate them. Jason had started to talk again when Daniel came into view, standing off to their right, leaning against a support pillar. Jason’s teammates looked over at SG-1’s archaeologist and linguist and Jason had the distinct impression that his teammates were about to test him by inviting Daniel over… and therefore, Jack and Eros.
With a sigh, he nodded to Alex, but went on with the next subject for discussion as they widened the circle once more. Fortunately, Daniel, Jack and Eros took their seats to Alex’s right.
His tone sobered a little when he approached the subject of Anna and Kane keeping their distance from each other. He didn’t care if the others heard because several perspectives would help the two new folks, plus Kane might get a better understanding of his own trauma by listening to the veterans. Besides, Jason hated secrets, especially his own, and was determined not to have any more. What was strange was that he wasn’t so much angry at Jack any more than he was depressed. Hoping Kane and Anna would help him forget about his depressing thoughts, he gave Anna his best grin.
“So Anna, why are you and Riley determined to stay as far from each other as possible? What happened?” He crossed his arms and waited for their explanations.
Anna hadn’t realized their distance was noticeable and after looking over at Kane, trying to determine if he’d whined, she realized that he hadn’t. Especially because she was a girl. “It was nothing, Major,” she sighed. “When we were trying to find a way to open the stone cover, I lost my composure and insulted the Captain.”
“Really? Why is that?” Jason asked.
A few feet away, Daniel observed them, and read Anna’s expression. Whatever she’d said had to have been colorful. Russian phrases were so much better than American ones and there was nothing he loved more than breaking cultural barriers. Hell, that bullshit with Delek, warning notwithstanding, was a perfect example.
“Do you want to tell them, Captain, or shall I?” Anna asked.
Kane cringed. Gods, he was going to have one hell of a time living this down. Anna seemed to relax a tiny bit but the looks she focused on him made him want to hide under the nearest bush.
“In a nutshell, sir, I was freezing up. She got pissed at me and dressed me down six ways from Sunday, and all of it in Russian.”
“What’d you say?” Daniel asked her, but it was Kane who answered, to everyone’s surprise except Jack’s.
“‘Mamenkin sinochek hochet k mame? Utri soply i pomogo mne, trus!’, except she was yelling it at the time.”
To Anna’s astonishment, Jack grinned widely as he silently translated the words; Daniel covered his mouth, stifling a guffaw. Meanwhile, Anna’s eyes were growing wide with astonishment that the people in the room–who weren’t Daniel–understood Russian. She didn’t think that many people at the SGC could speak it, never mind understand it.
“Which means?” Teal’c was forced to ask.
“Well,” Kane began, startling Anna even more, “she pretty much told me to stop whining for my mommy, and to grow up and help her. But literally, it means, ‘Mama’s boy wants his mommy? Wipe up your snot and help me, coward!’“
Anna tried to relax but she was extremely embarrassed. “My apologies, Major.”
Jason eyed her with approval. “None needed, Lieutenant. You’re not in trouble,” he said, grinning broadly. “If you can stick up for yourself like that as well as knock some sense into him when he’s gone flashback, then you hereby have my leave to cuss at him in Russian.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, not quite hiding the grin of satisfaction. She might just like it with this commander.
A second later, they turned as one when they heard the unmistakable sounds of the stargate dialing up.
“Show time,” Jack said as the entire group stood up.
“I hope they got a hold of my dad,” Sam conveyed as she checked her weapon.
“Me, too,” Daniel answered her.
“I’m still wondering what he could do to help,” Jack told her.
“It’s Selmak we need,” Daniel told him, “since he’ll be the best judge to help Delek later–that is, if Delek’s actually the one housing the Dragornai.”
“I guess we’ll find out,” Sam said.
“Yep. Okay, everyone at your usual stations. Eros, stay out of the line of sight until we bring him up here.”
“I’m well aware of what I have to do, Jack,” he answered, not bothering to mask the fear in his eyes.
Jack stared at him for a brief moment, wondering if the Ancient could do what he had planned. Switching tacks, he then looked over at Jason, who glanced at him briefly and nodded before moving to one of the pillars with Alex. Jack sighed. At least Jason was the consummate professional. Although, he probably wouldn’t have fallen in love with him if he weren’t. He felt a tug on his sleeve and turned to give Daniel a nod before joining him on the side that faced the gate.
Sitting in the largest of the VIP rooms the Tau’ri called an entertainment room, but nicknamed (for some mysterious reason) a den, Delek sighed as he flipped a page in the book he was reading. Across the room, the other Tok’ra didn’t seem to be restless, as he was, but they had to be unbelievably bored, playing what the Tau’ri called ‘cards’. He knew he would be bored if he were playing, which was why he declined the invitation. At least the book he was reading was somewhat interesting.
He looked up as the base alarm went off for the second time in five Earth minutes. The previous one had announced an offworld activation, with Delek noting that the voice over the communication system had not said unauthorized. This one had no announcement of any kind, which Delek had learned was the signal that the gate was being activated from the Control Room. He sighed again. Someone else was leaving and it wasn’t him. Just how long was he going to sit here, waiting for word from SG-1 about that Ancients’ planet. They’d found something or they wouldn’t be keeping him here. Delek hoped it wasn’t anything useful and returned to reading the book in his hands.
An SF entered the room a moment later, looked around, spotted him, and motioned for the other Tok’ra to retake their seats as they stood. “Council Member Delek is requested in the stargate embarkation room.”
Delek pretended to be engrossed in reading just one more sentence as he rose from his chair. The guard waited patiently, and finally, Delek made his way to the door. Dropping the book onto one of the couches by the door, he said with a smirk, “Fascinating literature you Tau’ri have.” He made his way through the door, not bothering to wait for the guard.
The guard looked down at the book as he turned and paused. Shrugging to himself, he went after the Tok’ra.
The worn paperback cover showed a darkened silhouette of a streetlamp with a lone figure standing underneath. The title read, The Exorcist.
When Delek appeared in the gateroom, he slowed, then warily approached the Tok’ra talking with General Hammond.
“Selmak,” he greeted. “Did the council send you?”
Selmak bowed his head, showing that it had been Jacob speaking to General Hammond. “No, they did not,” Selmak told him. “My presence was requested to join you offworld to see what SG-1 has discovered.”
“They did not tell you what is going on?” Delek asked, his dark blue eyes flickering over at Hammond.
“Colonel O’Neill felt the less said over the radio system, the better, and I agreed,” Hammond answered instead.
There was no more time to discuss the matter as the wormhole was already open and waiting for them to go through. “Shall we go?” Selmak gestured. Delek nodded to the General and walked up the ramp with Selmak. Side by side, they entered the event horizon.
Cont. in Trinity 32