– – – –
They reconvened at Jack’s a little after five, and Tony noted that all the Alphas seemed more relaxed than they had been when the group had split up. There had been some late afternoon coordination about dinner, and Jethro was going to make cowboy steaks, so Jim and Blair had hit the grocery store.
Tony was just about to ask if they were ready to get started when he noticed Daniel sipping from a coffee mug with a silver dragon on it. Tony shifted his position enough to see the caption and started laughing. “I take it that’s from Jack?”
“Why do you think I did it?” Jack asked on a laugh.
“Because it seems entirely like your sense of humor,” Tony retorted.
“Hey, now, I didn’t come up with it,” Jack shot back.
Tony just snorted and shook his head as Blair took note of the mug and shot Tony a confused look. “I called Daniel that the first time I saw him shifted.”
Blair pressed his lips into a thin line, clearly fighting back his amusement. “He is rather magnificent when he’s all sparkly in the sun.”
Daniel just glared, but took another sip from his mug. Tony was glad Jack had managed to bring levity to the whole situation. It was a much better place to be starting from.
“Not that any of you,” Jack began, pointing a finger at the Wyverns, “are subtle. Especially in the sunlight.” It was painfully true. Considering their supposed physical vulnerability compared to other dragons, the sparkly was a poor choice.
“Before we get started,” Daniel began, “can I have a look at the scroll?”
Tony made a face, but went to his bag and retrieved the archival tube with the scroll inside. He passed it off to Daniel who carefully set about opening it up on the dining table, as Blair joined him to help. Jack made a face as soon as the scale wrapping was revealed, but Daniel just powered on with little reaction; at least until he unrolled it.
“Whoa! I can’t believe the condition! Blair this is unbelievable… Wait. That’s Ancient!”
“What?” Jack asked, suddenly more interested and looking closely.
Daniel was examining it carefully. “I guess it means they adopted the written language of the…” he trailed off, glancing around and then seemed to carefully select his words. “Language of the first species they met.” He turned his attention back to the scroll and Tony could tell he’d started to read, then Jack prodded him to know what it said.
“And on that note,” Tony said quickly, “I’m going for a quick walk.” He was out the door before anyone could say anything, though he knew his mate would be joining him.
Jethro let him be for several minutes, before saying, “You okay?”
“Sure. Just don’t need to hear it again. And hopefully now we can put it away and not deal with it anymore.”
“You know you can’t bullshit me,” Jethro stated as fact.
Tony snorted. “I know, LJ. I just… I need to not have anyone else reading that; it’s uncomfortable. Plus, I think I should clear the air with… the sender,” he finally said, acutely aware that there were Betas roaming about the property.
Jethro pulled him to a stop. “So when we get back,” he waved vaguely, “there to talk to them take five minutes first so you can get it off your mind.” Tony nodded and let Jethro guide him back to the house, knowing the note reading had probably been done with for several minutes.
Inside, they found the scroll back in its tube and Daniel gave Tony a sympathetic look, but before Tony could react, Jack clapped him on the shoulder and said, “Yep, sucks to be you. Glad my grand-dragon-daddy didn’t leave me any ancient notes,” he said with entirely too much humor.
“Jack!” Daniel yelped, sounding horrified.
Tony glared, but ended up fighting back a grin. He appreciated Jack not tiptoeing around it uncomfortably. Besides, Jack’s approach was certainly the way Tony himself tended to handle things. Shaking his head, he glanced at everyone. “Listen, when we get there, can I have five minutes with Precious?”
Everyone quickly agreed and within a few minutes, they were blipping back to the spirit plane.
Precious appeared almost immediately and Tony moved closer even as the others fell into two groups. Blair was deliberating something intently with Daniel while the Drakes had gravitated toward one another and immediately fell into intense discussion.
Not missing the unsubtle cue, Precious gracefully dropped into a seated position and gestured for Tony to do the same. “Sit, Tony, and tell me what concerns you.”
He picked absently at the blue grass, trying to figure out what to say. “So… the note?” Tony asked, going for casual even as he couldn’t meet Precious’ eyes.
After a long pause, Precious replied, “I had to be certain I could get the message to you if an undesirable future had come to pass. Or perhaps I should say, as certain as possible given the circumstances.”
“So there were a lot of futures where Jethro and I had major problems,” he stated more than asked, more than a little troubled to think how wrong things could have gone.
“Yes. There were paths for the two of you that were quite contentious. There were also futures where even though I left the missive for you, it was never received. I apologize for any discomfort it brought you, Tony,” Precious said sincerely.
Tony finally nodded, accepting there had been no intent to embarrass him, and in fact, Precious had simply been ensuring Tony found the right path. “It’s just… not easy.” Understatement of the year. It was like having all his insecurities aired for everyone to see.
After a moment, he added, “Daniel said it’s written in something called Ancient, so he’ll probably have questions for you about it later.”
“We had no written language of our own, and certainly the Drakes did not. When we first made contact with the Alterans, we…” It trails off as if considering the words. “It’s probably most accurate to say we absorbed their language in such a way that all our people could make use of it if necessary.”
Tony didn’t even want to try to wrap his brain around absorbed languages. He’d let Daniel and Blair sort that one out. Blowing out a breath, he decided to change the subject to something not in any way connected to that damned note. “So, what’s the deal with this thing with Abby? I assume that dream meant something, but calling forth a Beta wasn’t something the ancient dragons would have had to do.”
“No, but it’s not too much of an extension of something the Guardian could do in my time.”
“Which was?” Tony prompted.
“Let’s wait for the others to rejoin us. We have yet to fully discuss the roles of each of the six of you.” Precious seemed to be evading the question.
Frowning, Tony asked, “A lot of the aspects of these roles are archaic, yeah?” When Precious didn’t respond, Tony pushed a bit. “Right? We’re not going to have to rule anything,” he scoffed. When Precious still just looked at Tony blankly, Tony dropped his head in his hands. “Oh, hell.”
When Tony wasn’t feeling like pulling his hair out any longer, he managed to mumble, “So am I really going to need the money?”
“I’m uncertain, but it’s likely you’ll need at least a significant amount.”
“Well, then, thanks for that. I guess it would suck large to need a bunch of money to do this job and not have it,” he offered.
“There certainly were futures where that request was not honored. I’m happy the present has unfolded in this manner,” Precious finally replied.
The others began to return and Jethro settled close to Tony, wrapping an arm around Tony’s waist. “I heard,” he murmured in Tony’s ear. “Don’t borrow trouble.”
Tony nodded even as he quickly assessed everyone. Oddly enough, Jethro seemed the most neutral at the moment. Everyone seemed to be preparing for more shocking revelations. Jack’s crossed-arm posture particularly radiated “on the defensive.”
“These roles,” Jack began, “net it out.”
Precious arched a brow in surprise, but then inclined Its head. “Very well. Let’s start with the Sentinel. All dark blue Drakes were the watchmen, for lack of a more dragon-like term, of the Wing. Unlike the Guardian and the Master of the Gate, who chose a mate of any color, the Shaman always selected their mate from the watchmen. After bonding, he would become the Sentinel, and would be able to extend his senses even beyond his blue brethren. He was also not limited to the corporeal plane. Jim can extend his senses along the spirit plane as well.”
“The purpose of this?” Jim prompted.
“Protecting the triad from overt threats. I can assure you that when Ra discovered our existence, he was disinclined to leave us undisturbed. The watchmen, and more specifically, the Sentinel, were our greatest defense against incoming al’kesh and death gliders.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” Daniel interjected, “Ra went to war with the dragons?”
“Yes. How do you think he was overthrown?” Precious asked, head cocked to the side.
“It’s not in any of the records we’ve found on the defeat of Ra,” Daniel said with obvious confusion.
Precious shrugged one shoulder. “The human rationale behind what they chiseled in stone was of no interest to us. I can assure you, however, if the Drakes hadn’t destroyed the air fleet in the final battle, the humans would not have succeeded in their rebellion.”
Jack looked less defensive and more interested. “So Drakes can take on a death glider?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Precious replied. “It takes several blasts to down an Alpha Drake, and unless the first shot was particularly lucky, Drakes are fairly maneuverable in the air. The best strategy was to take them from above or below. A Drake could physically bring down a death glider and walk away relatively unscathed even as the ship was rendered inoperable. However, despite these advantages, many Drakes were still lost in various skirmishes and the final battle. The point, though, is that our dark blue Alphas, and their leading Sentinel, allowed us sufficient warning to protect the young and the Wyverns every time Ra went on the attack.”
“So the purpose is to protect the Wing?” Jim asked.
“Yes, but in your case, more specifically, to protect the triad. Certainly all three of the Drakes bonded to the triad are concerned with protecting their entire Wing, but the primary obligation of the Sentinel and the Shield was the protection of the three Wyverns.”
Jethro stiffened a bit. “But not me?” he asked intently. Tony could feel a bit of dread from his mate, not that Tony wasn’t feeling a bit of the same. These revelations tended to go badly for them.
“Not exactly,” Precious hedged, giving Jethro a speculative look.
That got Tony’s attention and he leaned forward. “What was the mate of the Guardian’s role traditionally? You said it was something called the Guardian Drake.”
“That’s the term I feel most likely represents how you’d perceive the role today, co-Guardian. That you and Jethro would jointly take up the mantle of caring for your people.”
Tony’s eyes narrowed. “You’re coming close to prevaricating. What aren’t you saying?”
Precious sighed. “You have to understand that we had a long history I knew would not stand up to modern conventions. All dragons respond to the six instinctively as their leaders, but the power that makes the bond possible, comes from the Wyverns. However, Drakes in general were not going to follow a Wyvern as their leader; at least not for several thousand years. So, the Guardian’s mate was,” Precious paused briefly, before finishing with, “King. Jethro would have been King.”
Jethro went rigid and made an odd noise in his throat, while Tony just gaped. “LJ would have been King?”
“Yes,” Precious said completely seriously. “And whether the title is in use or not, now that the triad has bonded, the other Drakes will feel he is their leader, above all others.”
“You didn’t think we needed that information first?” Jethro ground out, and Tony could sense just how blindsided his mate was by the news.
Precious just arched a brow. “You would have denied your mate the destined bond with his fellow Wyverns so you did not have to assume the mantle of leadership?”
Tony sensed Jethro’s emotional landscape switch from something sort of like a freak-out to complete and utter annoyance. And he was pretty sure Jethro’s teeth were going to grind down to nubs.
Even though he’d heard the words, all of a sudden it clicked into place for Tony just what they were talking about. And without warning, Tony started laughing. “King!” he exclaimed between gasps of laughter.
Jethro gave him an incredulous look that quickly shifted into exasperation. “Tony…”
He tried to get his amusement under control, but the aggrieved look on Jethro’s face and the constipated look on Jim and Jack’s just made it worse. Part of the laughter was just a release of tension; Tony had been getting it from every direction since he’d emerged, but at least he didn’t have to be king! And to add to his humor, he remembered that Leroy actually meant king.
Eventually he reined in his amusement and bumped his mate’s shoulder. “Sorry, Your Majesty.”
Jethro gave him the hairy eyeball. “That joke will get old fast,” he said dryly.
Tony’s lips twitched in amusement, but he turned his attention back to Precious. “Okay, so we’ve covered everyone but Jack. You said the primary role of the Sentinel and the Shield were to protect the triad.”
Precious nodded and Tony could easily see It was pleased by Tony’s amusement. “While the Sentinel’s role was to be on the lookout for any threats, no matter how far reaching, the Shield’s role was direct protection. While the King and the Sentinel could go to war for the Wing, the Shield could not. Their role was to always directly protect the triad and any young offspring.”
Tony caught a wince from Jack that was quickly masked, but he also noticed that Daniel edged a little closer. After a beat, Jack asked, “That’s it?”
Tony wondered how Jack would take to being expected to stay behind in dangerous situations? Would instinct play a big role in compelling Jack to stay with the triad in an emergency, or could he push past it and be on the front lines?
After considering Jack’s question for a second, Precious replied, “Primarily, but just as Jethro and Jim receive advantages through their bond to their Wyverns, so too do you, Jack.”
Eyes narrowed, Jack queried, “What advantage exactly?”
“Any authority Daniel has in the ascended plane, you too will have.”
“Which means what?” Daniel immediately asked.
“In point of fact, I don’t entirely know. We never had cause to exert our Gate Master’s reach into the ascended plane. But once you bonded to Jack and merged with your spirit guide, the ability is within both of you. You and Jack will always be able to recognize an ascended being, no matter what form they choose to take, or how they choose to hide. That ability extends to all six. You gifted each other with some of your abilities once the Wyvern bond settled.”
Before everyone could demand more answers, Precious held up a hand. “For instance, Tony’s ability to recognize a Wyvern bond will extend to all three of you. Blair’s ease of travelling to the spirit plane will be shared. Daniel and Jack’s ability to communicate telepathically without the use of the marks will extend to all of you, and so on.”
Blair quickly asked, “Will Daniel and I be able to facilitate the emergence of Wyverns like Tony can?”
“I am uncertain,” Precious replied with a shake of Its head.
“How can you not know?” Jack immediately replied. “Isn’t that what you’re about… being all up in the knowing?” the dry, caustic tone nearly had Tony laughing again.
Seemingly unruffled by the questions, Precious smoothly answered, “I did not look into all aspects of the future. I saw much, but certainly not everything. Emergence didn’t exist in my time. That’s an effect of breeding with humans.”
Thinking that was a rather perfect segue, Tony chimed in with, “And speaking of things that didn’t exist in your time, what’s the deal with Abby emerging? She was considered dormant, so we’re writing it off as a bad blood test and saying she was really latent, but we need to understand what happened.”
“It’s an extension of one of your abilities, Tony.” Precious was giving Tony an intent look, as if carefully evaluating his reaction. “Certainly it was not something that was needed in my time, but the Guardian could call forth an Alpha if necessary, and my assumption is that it’s related to that ability.”
Tony exchanged a look with Blair, who really was Tony’s mentor on dragon matters, but Blair just shrugged. “Call forth an Alpha? How? And for that matter, why?” Tony asked.
“When we first bonded to the Drakes, there were no Alphas. At the moment of the first bonding, the Alpha came into being – stronger, more resilient and more connected to the Earth than the Beta. As we had offspring, the new generations seemed to sort themselves out into Alphas, Betas and Wyverns with no intervention on our part. However, at times, there were not enough Alphas. In this circumstance, the Guardian, and only the Guardian, could choose to pull an Alpha forward. I do not know for certain how this is accomplished, but all of our gifts tie back to our powers from the ascended plane; I assume this to be no different.”
“So you’re saying that this has evolved into me being able to…” Tony trailed off not sure how to articulate it.
“Yes, I’m saying you can pull forth the dragon in someone assuming they have any dragon blood.”
“I… I don’t know how I feel about that.” Tony looked to the others, and they all seemed to be thinking it over but not really reacting. He felt a little disturbed by the notion of having that kind of power.
Jethro wrapped a hand around Tony’s wrist. There was no Alpha intent behind the touch; it was just reassuring. “We’ll sort it out.”
Precious made eye contact with each of them in turn. “The six of you will have to determine the guidelines under which you’ll operate. You’ll have to agree to what degree Tony uses his abilities, on how you’ll use the spirit plane, and if you’ll open the pathway to the ascended plane. But whether it pleases you or not, it is up to you to make those decisions.”
“We have a governing body already,” Blair pointed out, though his tone was matter of fact and without any hint of criticism.
Inclining its head in acknowledgement, Precious simply replied, “And they will instinctually defer to you.” Jim and Blair both seemed set to respond, but Precious waved them off. “Wait and make the decision after you begin to interact with your Wings and the Council. Now that the bond is in place, binding the six of you together, you can’t know or anticipate their reactions.”
“All right,” Jack jumped in, “what can we expect from this bond thingy?”
“To some degree, I am unable to answer because I do not know exactly how the humanity in you will affect the bond. However, based on how it worked in the past, the three pairs will all have the ability to telepathically communicate. This is Daniel’s ability that is shared through the bond. You won’t need to be touching your marks in order to use this ability. Additionally, with time and practice, all six of you will be able to communicate in this manner.”
All three of the Alphas made a face at that, and Tony had to stare intently at his lap to hide his smile. Being able to communicate telepathically would be helpful, though even he thought it was a bit weird.
Precious continued, not acknowledging the Alphas’ obvious discomfort in any way. “The Alphas will always feel the most settled when the triad are together. Jack in particular will struggle with his instincts as the primary protector if they’re apart for too great a time. What the duration of time will be, I cannot say. It’s possible you’ll need to physically be in the same location every few months, to as frequently as every week. Meeting on the spirit plane will help assuage his need to verify their safety, but contact in the corporeal realm will still be required.”
“Joy,” Jack replied dryly.
“So, our lives will change completely?” Blair murmured.
“We don’t know that, Chief,” Jim replied swiftly, watching Blair closely.
Blair nodded, but addressed Precious. “In Tony’s dream about bringing forth Abby’s Drake, he was at Stonehenge. Significant, or dream artifact?”
“Significant but not terribly relevant. The location of Stonehenge was what you might call sacred grounds for us; one of several such areas. The Guardian in particular used that location to call for new Alphas and it was where many bondings in the local Wing were held. It’s also the location where new triad bonds were typically formed. One of our hopes was that by leaving a construct behind that the site would be left intact. So, as I said, no longer relevant, but still significant.”
Daniel had several probing questions about Stonehenge, when it was built and how. Tony, along with the Alphas, sort of tuned out. Blair seemed really into it, though. From there they switched over to discussing Blair’s control over the spirit realm.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Blair blurted out at one point. “You’re saying the appearance of this place was set by the last Shaman? The blue trees and blue grass and the way the viewing pools are mostly nonfunctional?”
“Not the ‘blue,’ no, that is a trait of this plane of existence. But the similarity to our gathering grounds… yes, that’s deliberate. Some elements have to be here, and the Shaman has been empowered via his bond to the ascended plane to determine how those elements manifest.”
“So I could make the place we arrive look like a train station? Is it literally that flexible?” Blair asked, sounding a mix between excited and bewildered.
Precious nodded. “It will take you time and practice to change its appearance and how it’s interacted with, but yes, it is within your control.”
“And what exactly is it we’re supposed to do here?” Blair asked.
“Primarily you can use this plane of existence to determine the health and well-being of your Wing. You can feel for dragons in distress, search for emerging dragons, especially Wyverns. With Tony’s help, you can search for unemerged Wyverns.
“As for the other viewing pools, they were locked by the last Shaman, but you could open them and see other planets and galaxies.”
“We will not be doing that!” Jack interjected. “Keeping life on another planet a big secret is hard to do when there’s the deluxe cable package on the spirit plane.”
Tony snickered quietly and felt amusement coming from almost everyone.
Blair held up both hands. “Fair enough, Jack.”
Precious added, “It will take time to learn to control this plane, Blair, but you may call on me as often as you wish and I will aid you.”
The conversation began to cover a wealth of specific topics, including how to communicate telepathically with their bonded without using their marks, as well as how to reach out to any member of the six. They spent some time trying to get it right on the spirit plane, because, according to Precious, it was easiest on that plane. The Alphas were clearly uncomfortable but all six of them met with some degree of success, even if much practice would still be required.
Things finally ranged back to the ascended plane and that’s where the Alphas had as many questions as the Wyverns. No one wanted to blindly and completely open the pathway between planes, and not even Precious was entirely sure what that would entail. But apparently Daniel could open it enough to send a message, to ask for an emissary to come to them. The Yverians could always choose to not respond, but Precious thought that unlikely. Wyverns had been given the ability to communicate with that plane, so it seemed implausible that the Yverians wouldn’t answer.
From Precious they gleaned how Daniel could go about making that contact, but not much else because it hadn’t been done in Precious’ lifetime, and certainly not since. Though, apparently, Precious had advocated getting counsel from the Yverians when they’d made their difficult choice to merge with humans, but had been overruled by the triad.
Daniel listened intently to the instructions and precautions, most notable that they’d need to call from the tangible plane, but that any Yverian should be able to prevent eavesdropping from any plane of existence. It was quite clear the six of them had a lot to discuss before they even thought about going down that path.
Tony was completely at saturation point by the time they agreed to call it quits to the single weirdest day of his life. He felt concern from Jethro, but he doubted his mate was in any better shape. It was just too much. He thought the world had tilted on its axis when he’d heard about aliens, but this was a whole new level of surreal.
Everyone was visibly relieved to be back at Jack’s place, and the first thing Tony became aware of was that he was starving. He was pretty sure they were suffering the same way, so they got right to fixing dinner.
Jethro, Jack and Tony took lead on dinner, while Blair and Daniel talked vaguely about some meditation strategies. Jim seemed intent on doing an exhaustive security sweep while everyone else was otherwise engaged.
There was idle chatter through dinner, but everyone was fairly distracted, or simply more interested in eating. They agreed to reconvene the next day after lunch, Blair and Daniel both wanting the morning to do some focused meditation exercises. Tony probably would, too, but mostly he was glad to be out of the loop on this particular series of tasks. All three pairs also needed to talk privately about the day’s events.
When they got back to the hotel, they said goodnight to Jim and Blair and retreated to their room immediately. Tony slumped against the door, wanting to be home. His fingers twitched, wishing he could play the piano to burn off the stress of the situation. Normally he’d be all about teasing Jethro about being Royal, but that could wait for morning. He just needed to shut off for a while.
Jethro stepped close and took his hands, probably recognizing the tell after Tony had retreated to the piano several times over the weekend to decompress; particularly if they’d had a difficult or revealing discussion. Pressing a kiss to Tony’s hand, Jethro murmured, “Let’s get ready for bed. We can go over our to do list tomorrow. Nothing else needs to be done tonight.”
Tony nodded and let himself be prodded into the bathroom. Jethro was first in bed, and Tony shut off the lights, sliding in next to his mate, immediately settling into Jethro’s arms.
Strong fingers began carding through Tony’s hair. “I wish you could play right now,” Jethro whispered.
Absently stroking his mate’s firm chest, Tony sighed. “I know. It’ll keep.”
They lay quietly for a long time, touching gently and letting the tension slowly bleed away. Eventually, Jethro tipped Tony’s face up and kissed him softly. His Alpha pulled back, running his thumb along Tony’s cheekbone. After a long moment, Tony leaned in for another kiss. As the kiss deepened, he twined his arms around his Alpha.
Jethro pressed him gently onto his back, lips drifting along Tony’s jaw, to his ear and down to his neck. Arching his head back, Tony reveled in the feeling of lips and tongue playing along his skin and scales. He trailed his fingertips along Jethro’s shoulders, feeling the texture change and relishing in his mate’s shiver.
His mate moved lower, exploring his chest and sensitive nipples before moving on to his waist scales. Tony closed his eyes, lost in sensation as Jethro tormented him exquisitely. His knees were nudged apart and Jethro settled more firmly over Tony’s body as he mouthed at Tony’s hipbone.
–You’re perfect,– Jethro said across their bond, causing Tony to gasp at feeling his mate’s touch both on his body and in his mind. Before Tony could gather his wits to reply, Jethro turned his attention to Tony’s cock. All rational thought fled as his erection was engulfed in Jethro’s hot mouth without any further warning.
Tony’s breath caught and he trembled, fighting the urge to fuck into that glorious heat. Dexterous fingers teased his slippery opening, three sliding in to press firmly against Tony’s prostate. Shuddering, Tony came apart, pulsing into Jethro’s mouth.
“Jethro,” Tony whispered. Even as the post orgasm tremors racked his frame, Jethro slid up his body, lips and tongue marking a reverse path. Tony’s legs were guided around Jethro’s waist and his mate’s cock pressed in, thick and heavy, causing Tony to gasp at the acute sensation.
All Tony could do was hold on as Jethro began to move slowly. It was too much and yet not enough. Sharp sensation raced over his body and he clung to his lover, his mate… his everything.
Jethro patiently brought Tony back to full arousal, then began moving with more urgency, bodies straining together, seeking climax. Just as they reached the peak, their minds seem to connect in a way they never had before, and Tony sensed Jethro. Everything that he was, everything he felt. Their lips met frantically as the orgasm washed through their bodies and along the connection to one another.
Long minutes later, Tony was gasping, still clinging to his mate and absorbing the increasingly lax weight. Jethro finally pulled back enough to press a nearly chaste kiss to Tony’s lips. Tony held on tighter, refusing to let go yet, and Jethro gave in to Tony’s silent demand.
He wasn’t sure how much time passed before they disentangled their bodies. Jethro grabbed a cloth and got them cleaned up, then slid back into bed, pulling his bonded close. And bonded was how it truly felt. Irrevocably joined and it was the best thing that had ever happened to Tony. No matter how crazy all this became, they’d have this, have each other.
–I love you, Tony,– Jethro sent mentally just as Tony was about to fall asleep.
Tony squeezed his eyes shut and held on to his mate a little harder. –I love you, too.–
In the morning, they lay in bed together reading, and not dealing with any of the many things they could be doing. When Tony had made moves to tackle his list of tasks, Jethro had just pulled him back to bed, kissed him soundly and handed him his book.
By the time they had to reengage with the real world, Tony felt entirely re-centered. He knew they would likely contact the Yverians today and everything could go pear-shaped again, but he also knew that Jethro would again be there when the world didn’t make sense.
They gathered at Jack’s after lunch, everyone seemed to be less tense than the previous night, but there was a weight of expectation in the air. They talked briefly then made the transition to the spirit plane to have the real discussion.
Precious had said It would only come if one of them called, and they didn’t make the call on this trip. They needed to sort this out amongst themselves.
“All right,” Jack quickly began, “straw poll… who’s in favor of just getting in contact with the Yver-ee people and getting the answers?”
Blair answered first, “I think we should at least ask the questions and see what they can do to help, if anything. Because I don’t understand why they haven’t done anything yet.”
Daniel nodded. “I agree. We need to get more information before we can make any decisions. It feels like there’s a big piece missing.”
When Jack looked his direction, Jim just shrugged. “I’m on the fence, truthfully. Leaning toward not doing anything yet. That said, if all three of the Wyverns think it’s a good idea… I trust their instincts.”
“What about your gut, Gibbs?” Jack asked.
“Quiet on the subject. Like Jim, I’m ambivalent, but willing to go with Tony on this.”
Jack finally looked to Tony, who nodded. “We need to know.” If his mate’s gut wasn’t pinging over this, then Tony definitely voted for getting all the info so they could make informed decisions.
Jack rubbed his hands together. “All righty then. I’m in favor. Normally we’re bumbling around trying to feel our way through the weird and unusual, so having someone on tap to explain things is such a novelty, I have to go with it.” Tony snickered a little even as Daniel shot Jack an exasperated look.
“I figured it was going to go this way, so I widened the perimeter security, only Betas, so they shouldn’t be able to hear in the house. I know this Y-whatsits is going to be able to make the conversation private, but just in case, all the Alphas, especially Jim will keep an ear out for anyone getting closer than a hundred feet.” Jack glanced around at everyone. “Any questions? Don’t answer that. I know there’s lots of questions, but let’s just get this show on the road.”
Daniel took the reins. “Right, so we know we do this back home and the three of us are going to meditate, and supposedly I’ll be able to draw on Blair and Tony to help stabilize my call to the ascended plane. Let’s make sure we understand exactly what we’re doing before we go back.”
They discussed precisely what would happen for several minutes, then returned to Jack’s living room. Tony had another one of his this-is-too-strange-to-function surreal moments as they blipped back and forth between planes of existence just so they could have private chats.
The three Wyverns settled in a circle on the living room floor, within touching distance, and all quickly dropped into a meditative state. Tony pretty much hated meditation, but he was certainly getting a lot better at it, whether he liked it or not.
Tony seemed to instinctively know how to channel his focus and energy at Daniel through the bond they shared. Every time the three meditated together or used it, the bond seemed to mature a little and become more defined.
Tony kept focused entirely on Daniel, feeling the other Wyvern pull at Tony in an odd way. He assumed Blair was experiencing the same thing. Time seemed to stretch, but at the same time, it seemed like barely a second had passed before he felt an odd rushing sensation. His world suddenly felt like it expanded and he was aware of so much more. He couldn’t quantify it, he just felt connected to something huge and different.
When he opened his eyes, he realized he was gasping for breath and holding on to Daniel and Blair like a lifeline. The other two were in similar condition, with Daniel looking especially pale. He was aware of the Alphas watching with concern, but so far they weren’t interfering.
After a minute, there was a strange feeling in the air, like air currents moving, but not. Then the room started to glimmer and blur for a moment. A second later a glowing shape appeared behind Daniel and seemed to touch him. The glow materialized into a tall being with the same androgynous appearance as Precious. It was about 6’6 with pale skin, dark hair, and black eyes. While Its lips were lush and feminine, the brows were heavy and masculine, and overall appeared young’ish. Even as Tony watched, Its garments shifted into trousers and a white shirt. Tony felt such an instant connection to this being that he knew this was a Yverian.
The three Wyverns got to their feet, keeping a careful distance. Jethro grabbed Tony by the arm and pulled him back, coming just short of forcing Tony behind him. He realized that his mate was growling almost sub-vocally. Tony nudged him to get him to stop. The same thing was playing out with the other two pairs.
The Yverian gave them all appraising looks, then glanced around carefully. After a moment, It reached out to touch one of the chairs, and then moved to touch the blinds and the wall. “Strange…”
“Have you never been to this plane before?” Blair asked cautiously.
It turned to look fully at Blair. “No. I’ve had no reason to.” It took a seat in one of the armchairs, bouncing once or twice while stroking the fabric-covered arms. Finally It glanced up at them. “I know all of your names, and, as you were told, no one will be able to monitor what transpires here; with the exception of the one you call Precious, who I am allowing to watch. You may call me,” It paused, head cocked to the side as if in consideration, “Alrick.” It gestured for them to sit.
The Alphas insisted on the three Wyverns sitting together on the couch, while they remained standing, flanking the sofa. Tony noticed that for Its first visit to Earth, Alrick had the imperious nature down quite well.
Daniel was the first to speak. “We were unsure of who would come. What is your role? Are you a leader of the Yverians?”
Alrick inclined Its head. “There are eight who govern, I am the leader of the eight.” Tony kept his surprise off his face. The imperious might be justified. If Alrick led the Yverians, then it was likely that the most powerful being in the universe was sitting in Jack’s armchair. It was beyond surreal.
Daniel seemed poised to say something, but Jack, who was standing rigidly with his arms crossed over his chest, jumped in with, “We could make nice all day or we can just ask if the Ori are going to be a problem for us? Or are they already taken care of?” Tony could appreciate Jack getting to the point, but Daniel winced a bit.
Alrick raised a brow, but smoothly replied, “They will come.”
Ah hell, Tony thought immediately. Was any part of this going to be easy?
“How and when, and I take it you already knew about them?” Jack said barely politely.
“They will come soon. I will not tell you how, for if you knew you would seek to circumvent the precipitating events and yet they would still come.” It pinned Jack with a look. “We certainly knew of the Ori. There is very little we do not know.”
“Can you tell us why you haven’t dealt with the Ori? What we’ve heard is that they’re clearly in violation of their agreement with you,” Daniel quickly interjected.
Alrick shook Its head and Its lips turned up slightly in something that was more sneer than amusement. “Not any agreement with my people. The Yverians who wished to experience a mortal existence came to this,” Alrick poked at the chair, “corporeal plane and became Wyverns. It was they who made such an agreement. And while we consider the Wyverns our offspring after a fashion, we do not consider ourselves bound by their agreement.”
“But the Ori are using the power they obtained through ascension to subjugate millions,” Daniel replied with a bit of heat. “Anubis killed an entire culture when he destroyed Abydos!”
“We care very little for the concerns of this plane. While I find the Ori and Ancients…” It trailed off as if searching for the word. “Annoying… it does not change the fact that we have no concern over what they do on the lesser plane. Provided they remain away from the true Yverians, and do not involve us in their petty power struggles, they matter not.” It cocked Its head to the side. “The Abydonians are far more tolerable.”
Tony exchanged bemused looks with Daniel and Blair. What were they supposed to do with that?
“So, you won’t help protect our people against a threat stemming from your plane of existence?” Daniel asked carefully.
“Certainly not.” Alrick leaned forward. “Although I will provide you what you need to do it yourself. Just as we always have.” It pinned Tony with a look, nearly making him jump. “Our power manifests most strongly in you, in the abilities you have on this plane. You are the closest to what we are. Tell me, do you understand how we have helped you?”
Tony felt more on the spot than he ever had in his life. He wasn’t stepping into this one, but just before he was about to deny anything, he felt a wave of steadying support and a whisper in his mind. –I’ve got you, Tony. Just go with what you feel.–
He could tell by the subtle twitch of Alrick’s expression that the communication between he and Jethro was closed to everyone except the Yverian. “You provided our abilities – the three of us and our mates,” Tony said abruptly, “and you gave Precious Its gifts when there was a critical choice to be made.”
Alrick dipped Its head in acknowledgment. “And what would you ask of me, Anthony?”
Tony was again on the spot, and he felt like there was something major in this question. “We want to protect the people of this plane of existence, especially from threats from a higher plane. How do we do that?” He wanted to add, ‘since you won’t do it,’ but decided to keep that bit to himself.
Alrick actually smiled faintly at him and Tony found it very disconcerting. “The three of you,” It paused and gestured to the three Wyverns, “will have to ascend.”
“What?” was shouted from all three Alphas, even as the Wyverns seemed struck silent. Then the questions started rapid fire. Tony was just floored. He glanced at Blair and found he wasn’t much better. Daniel was a little pale and stared wide-eyed at Alrick.
The Yverian simply leaned back in the chair and waited for the furor to die down before continuing. “It was always the purview of the Wyverns to enforce their treaty with the Alterans as they are the ones who made the agreement. The three of you will ascend, you will assume the authority that is your birthright as Yverians and the triad rulers of the Wyverns. Your mates will provide the tether you need to live on this plane of existence to enable you to remain the ruling triad. It will be just as it was for the first Yverians to come to this plane.”
Tony didn’t even know what to say to that, but Daniel seemed to have some clue how to proceed. “Assuming we were willing to do that, wouldn’t that break our agreement with the Alterans?”
Alrick frowned. “An agreement you were never required to make, and they have repeatedly broken the terms of! As if the Alterans had the right to deny you access to any plane of existence. The intent of your ancestors was that if the path to ascension was taught that the ascended plane and the temporal plane would exist separately. The Alterans never intended to honor their bargain. Watching the lower planes is the only thing they do!
“The Alterans chose to not war with their brethren, and in doing so absolved you of any responsibility to honor that agreement. However, if the pact is dissolved, the only way to assert authority over them is as Yverians. If you wish to stop the Ori, you will be unable to do so without the power and authority you are entitled to.” He looked specifically at Daniel and then Jack. “If you wish to do anything in regards to Anubis, this is also the only way.”
Daniel and Jack exchanged a look and Tony could sense they both felt pained in some way, but Daniel simply asked, “There’s no other way to manage the Ori?”
“Of course there are other ways, but all paths will exact a price. Only you can determine how much, and how many, you are willing to sacrifice.”
Tony winced and felt the same reactions from the other two Wyverns, but the Alphas were stony-faced. “Why just the three of us? Why can’t the other Wyverns who have gone before and already ascended do this?” Tony asked.
“They could have,” Alrick agreed, “If they had asked before a new triad was formed. The authority you have is granted to the three. Beyond the eight of us who rule Yveria, the three of you – and by extension on this plane of existence, your three mates – are the only ones we’ll allow this power. If you accept ascension, you may choose not to use your power for anything but enforcing your agreement with the Alterans. Or you could use your power broadly. I care not.
“However, if you choose not to ascend, when you die and come home, the next triad will have the opportunity to make the same choice.” It gave them a speaking look. “Provided there is anyone left to choose.”
“You knew this would happen,” Jethro said seriously but almost softly to Alrick, and Tony gave a start of surprise. “An untold number of years this governance structure has been in place, seemingly innocent to any Ancients or Ori who cared to pay attention, having no impact on anything they might do.”
Alrick smiled broadly, and it kind of freaked Tony out. “Yes. Those of us who govern, we also see. The one you call Precious was granted this gift to help our children here choose their path, but we kept some things shrouded even from our chosen. We care not for the peoples of this plane of existence. We only care for those our people have merged with, who will one day return to us. If you care for others, it is up to you to shield them, just as we have protected you.
“And, yes, we knew the breadth of authority we had infused into the triad would sit dormant and unknown for many hundreds of millennia. The last triad, before they merged with humans, could have opened the Gate to Yveria and asked for aid and I would have given them the same answer. The enemy then was humans. They chose not to ask. They chose the path that has brought us to now, to the six of you. You will have to determine if you will abdicate your responsibility to the next triad.”
Tony flinched a little at that. Seemed like it was hitting below the belt. He also thought it was more than a little ironic that Alrick had effectively done to Precious and Its contemporaries what Precious had been doing to them.
Daniel leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his knees, and asked, “And if we choose not to ascend?” Alrick had already hinted at it, but Tony could see the need to fully understand the ramifications.
“That is your decision to make. You cannot expect anyone in Yveria to interfere in matters on this plane, and no other being can take up this mantle for you. Choosing to not act is certainly in the realm of possibility.”
Blair held up both hands. “I’m not saying we accept, because we haven’t discussed it, but if we did, how would that work?”
“The rules by which you govern yourselves are a matter for you to decide. As long as you don’t annoy me, you may do as you please,” Alrick replied casually. “You may give yourselves as much freedom to act, or as little, as you desire. These are not matters for which I intend to concern myself.”
Tony found the utter casualness of the way Alrick approached such phenomenal power to be completely bizarre. It was so unreal, he kept wanting to pinch himself to make sure it was really happening.
“And what would annoy you?” Blair prompted again.
“I doubt you could easily conceive of how to annoy any of the eight of us. That said, we would be quite vexed if you failed to care for our descendants.”
“You mean the Wyverns?” Tony asked to clarify.
“Yes. A part of us exists in every Wyvern on this planet. We could summon all of you home, but the agreement I made when I let the original group of Yverians come here was that I would let you self-govern for the duration of time you lived on this plane. I have never seen a reason not to abide by that agreement.”
“Doesn’t the three of them ascending,” Jim broke in, “inherently mean they exist beyond this plane and therefore you are not held to those terms any longer?”
Alrick shook Its head in the negative. “As long as they have the triad bond, and are tied to this plane, nothing will change. If they break the tether to here and choose to exist fully in Yveria, then a new triad would be called and we begin again.”
“You said Tony was the closest to your abilities,” Jack said. “But Daniel has been ascended. One of your triad was on your plane. You didn’t intervene.”
Alrick’s brows shot up. “With what? The triad was not formed yet, Daniel was not bonded to the Yverian spirit guide that links him to our plane, and the Ancients were deliberately manipulating the situation. And they were never going to keep him on the ascended plane, because he would have eventually found out the truth.”
Before they could ask anything further, the Yverian stood gracefully, sweeping them with Its intense gaze. “I will offer you nothing else. If you choose to ascend, you may call me and I will show you the path.” Then there was that shimmer in the air and Alrick was gone, and with him that sense of being tied to something much bigger than himself.
Almost unanimously and simultaneously, everyone blew out a breath.
“That wasn’t what I expected,” came from Daniel.
Blair shook himself. “Did anyone else find that bizarre?”
Jim snorted. “I think we’re all with you, Chief.”
“I need a beer,” Jack intoned rubbing at his forehead.
“I need coffee,” Jethro replied dryly from his position now leaning against the wall.
“Why do I feel like we’re in an episode of Star Trek and contemplating violating the Prime Directive?” Tony asked suddenly.
Daniel, Blair and Jack all made some sort of amused noise, and Tony felt amusement from the other two, even if they seemed stoic.
Tony hopped to his feet, set to ask a question about next steps, but found nothing was coming out. He just opened his mouth and couldn’t make himself say the words.
Jethro straightened up, giving him a concerned look. “What’s going on, Tony?”
“I’ve hit the wall,” Tony replied, suddenly realizing he really could not have any more discussion on this. “I need to think… ponder, percolate, absorb… whatever you want to call it. I don’t think I can string together anything cogent at this moment.”
“Oh, thank god,” Jack mumbled, but looked to Daniel.
Daniel nodded. “I agree… let’s just take some time to think. There’s a preserve about an hour from here where Jack and I go when we want to fly. We could go there, burn off some energy?”
Everyone quickly agreed, because flying right now seemed fucking perfect. As they were getting ready to depart, Jethro pulled Tony into the kitchen and gave him an intense look. “Whatever comes, I’m not losing you. We’ll figure this out.”
Tony gave a jerky nod, but almost immediately relaxed when Jethro pressed a quick, hard kiss to his lips.
A little over an hour later, everyone was in the air and Tony finally was able to push the crazy couple days away and let the sense of peace that came with riding the air currents saturate his every cell.
He knew nothing was ever going to be the same again, no matter what they decided to do about Alrick’s choice. But as Jethro flew beside him, he also knew they’d come through it. Tony was finally starting to really accept that he wasn’t alone any more. He had a new community, new friends, and most importantly, he had Jethro, who would be with him always.
There were a lot of decisions to be made and life would be different, but for now, he was content to just fly.
– – – –