Title: Emergence – Chapters 33-36 & Omega Interlude
Author: Jilly James
Betas: Elsa Kallan and Naelany
Emergence Main Page
– – – –
Tony was in the middle of gutting a somewhat under-ripe and anemic-looking cantaloupe when his new Council-issued Sat phone rang. With a sticky pinky, he pressed the speaker button. “Hello?”
“Hey, Tony,” Blair’s voice came out a bit tinny over the speakerphone. “Is this an okay time? Your email said any time after eight, but eight-thirty still seems kind early when you’re effectively on your honeymoon.”
Tony laughed as he positioned the fruit on the cutting board. “It’s fine. We got up early for some ‘honeymooning’, and I’ve banished LJ to the basement while I work on brunch.”
“That must be a hardship for Jethro,” Blair remarked wryly.
“Yes, I’m sure he feels hard done by having to spend time in the basement. Tell me how things are going with your training in…” he trailed off not certain how to phrase it.
“I haven’t figured out what to call it yet either. There are a lot of facets to this beyond the spirit walking, and I’m not even sure what they all are at this point. We went through the bonding spiel, got them all bonded and summoned their spirit dragons. I forgot to factor in a break after the bondings, so we lost a bit of time afterward while the newly bonded couples engaged in some, uh, tactile reassurance.”
He was startled into a laugh. “How’s everyone taking the whole thing?”
“Pretty well, especially once they were bonded and merged with their spirit dragons. Everything just clicks afterward, as you know. Since then, we’ve been working on meditation exercises and basic training for spirit walking. Though I’m kind of not sure where to take that. I need to do some more training myself, figure out what I’m doing on the spirit plane before I can take them much further. Still, while I’ve got them here in person, I wanted to get them familiar with the basics, and as I know more, I can pass it on.”
“How many wound up coming?” Tony inquired while his mind started spinning on the underlying question of what Blair’s blue dragons were supposed to be able to do on the spirit plane. He felt the answer just out of reach.
“Well, I wanted to focus on those with five bands or more, because I don’t think anyone with less can spirit walk. So, of the eight who have five or seven bands, seven came. The eighth is the newly emerged Wyvern you met in Colorado and works for Jack. Since they’re in their honeymoon period, they didn’t want to attend, and Vin will work directly with him eventually. Probably in the near future.”
Moving the cubed fruit to a bowl, Tony asked, “How many of you have nine bands?”
“Actually, just me, Vin and Colin, so I’m the only spirit master here now. Colin’s still sort of on probation as far as any of this goes, and he’s not ready to have responsibilities yet anyway. Vin got plenty of training when he was going through the whole thing with me and Richard before the op.
“While we were doing the spirit training with this new group, I thought about calling Precious, but it just didn’t feel right. I think the next meeting with him has to come when we’re together with Daniel and Jack.”
Tony completely agreed with that gut impulse, but before he could reply, Blair plowed on. “Anyway, we’re working on a schedule where the Blue Team, as Jim has nicknamed us, can take care of the bondings for the rest of the Drake-Wyvern pairs. And speaking of, the press conference announcing the whole bonding throat-scale thing will be today at noon your time. Figured you’d want to watch. None of the talking points have really changed over what we discussed with you previously, but I emailed you verbiage of the press release in case you want to read it. The email announcement to the mated pairs will go out right before the press conference.”
“Okay. Glad we’re getting this out of the way. I like turtlenecks in winter, but not every single day,” Tony groused while he began slicing potatoes.
“I hear you. So, your email asked about assistants… I should be surprised that this has come up so soon, but I’m really not. You were thrown in the deep end immediately and I think we’re all playing catch up. In answer to the question, Jim and I have three of them.”
Tony nearly choked and temporarily froze. “Three?”
“They focus on different things. Two of them work closely together dividing up the Council work. They handle the press, reports to the Council, legal matters, coordinating the information flow from the major regions in the US, etcetera. The third handles us, in a manner of speaking. All the overflow stuff we don’t have time to deal with, flight arrangements, appointments, and when we’re out of town, even waters our plants and checks the mail.”
“Was that weird?” Tony inquired, because he had a feeling that was the type of assistant he needed soon.
“At first, but the busier we got, the harder it became to keep on top of basic stuff. I usually talk to Adam a couple times a day. He helped with a lot of the planning for this training session I’m doing now. The last couple weeks were pretty much business as usual for the other two, but Adam has been my lifeline since Jethro’s call to come to DC.”
“Huh. Well, wasn’t expecting that. Jethro told me he has someone at the West Virginia Center he works with… are we going to need more than that?”
“Probably. Susan is great, but considering what we expect for you and Jethro, she’ll get overwhelmed quickly, but it’ll be okay for a bit. And I’m sure you’ve guessed that you’ll need an equivalent to Adam sooner rather than later.”
Tony sighed. “Yeah. It seems rather urgent actually. I don’t want to burn out Abby, and I certainly don’t want to take advantage of her.”
“The Council will pay for the staff necessary to do your job. That’s one of the things we mentioned in passing when the Council position came up. So, I’d get the personal assistant first, and let them screen anyone else you need. We’re working on a plan for the next full Council meeting, and that’s when we’d confirm your position, but between now and then, you have Susan for sure because of your role as Primes for the east coast, so she can help, too.”
Tony snorted a little in amusement. “I think I can afford to fund an assistant.”
“Well, there’s certainly truth to that. Anything else about the assistant topic?”
“One sort of irrelevant question… does Spencer have one?”
“That’s sort of an involved topic, but the short answer is not really. There’s someone at the Center who handles major legal issues and press relations for him, and that’s about it. Anything else goes through Hotch and Rossi.”
“Why is it involved?” Tony asked, wondering why something couldn’t be straightforward.
“Because, normally he would. But it has to do with how territories are split up and how Alphas and Wyverns are ranked in our hierarchy and why Spencer didn’t want to deal with it. And I’m not sure how much time you have.”
“Okay, so maybe we should put that as a topic for another day. Maybe while we’re stuck on a plane with nothing else to do.” Having finished his prep, Tony moved on to tidying the kitchen while they continued their chat.
“Sounds like a plan. It’s definitely not urgent, but you’ll need to know eventually. So, tell me how did your first day home go? Was it nice to finally be alone?”
“Oh god, what happened?” Blair asked, tone laced with exasperation.
“Well, I guess I could have put all this in the email, but it seemed easier to just explain it. One of my coworkers showed up with my father, so that wasn’t exactly made of awesome.”
“Are you serious?”
“That’s seriously fucked up, man. Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. I actually refused to get into it with him, and then LJ and I had a good talk. But that wasn’t the only surprising thing from yesterday. Abby came over, and guess what? She’s emerging… she’s a Beta.”
“Oh, hell!” After a brief pause, Blair said, “Sorry. That came out wrong. I’m sure Abby is happy, and it’s a good thing, but we need to talk about it, I think.”
“Yeah. I had a funny dream last night that we can talk over the next time I see you.”
“Hmm.” Blair was quiet for a few seconds. “I don’t suppose you can spirit walk on your own yet?”
Tony got what Blair was thinking. “No. And wouldn’t it be convenient to be able to meet privately whenever we needed to? I’m doing the meditation exercises every night, and I can almost feel it, but not quite.”
“Well if you manage it, text me or something and we can talk ahead of Wednesday. In the interim, please keep it under wraps for the time being. There are some issues here.”
Reminding himself to talk to Abby and Ducky, Tony nodded, even though Blair couldn’t see him. “I get it. I’ll be sure Abbs understands. And if I make more progress, I’ll let you know.”
“It’s just that it’s a big can of worms and we should figure out how to handle it first.”
“Before you go, tell me if things are going okay otherwise. You two are supposed to be having quality alone time and it sounds like you got chaos instead.”
“Things are good. Very good, even. Yesterday wasn’t what I was expecting, but there was more good than bad, so it’s still a win.” He smiled just thinking about it. “Jethro arranged to get me moved in while we were gone, so the first thing I saw when we got home was my piano.”
There was a brief pause before Blair said softly, “He loves you a lot, Tony, and you’re really good for him.”
Tony felt his face warm and settled for a vague affirmative noise. Tony had spent a lifetime keeping people at a distance, and he struggled with open, real emotions to some degree. It was odd that Jethro was more comfortable with the actual emotions, though not with the verbal expression of them. And Tony could be thick, and sometimes needed the words.
“Okay, I’ll let you off the hook. I’m glad things are going well now. Hopefully there won’t be any more unpleasant surprises. I know you had some other questions for me, and I tackled them in email, but no rush. You really didn’t get the acclimation time, so don’t worry about asking as many questions as you need to.”
“Thanks, Blair. I’ll talk to you soon.”
They wrapped up the call and Tony turned his focus back to finishing breakfast prep. He was ahead of schedule, so he tidied up and headed down to the basement.
Jethro was at his workbench, working on something fairly small, but looked up as soon as Tony started down the steps.
Tony crossed the basement, then gave Jethro a quick kiss, absently noting how good his mate smelled with the wood smell mixing with is normal scent. Jethro put down his project and snagged Tony around the waist, pulling him close for a deeper kiss.
When Jethro finally broke the kiss, leaving Tony breathless, he whispered, “I do love you, and you are definitely good for me.”
Tony couldn’t stop the smile that lit up his face. He pulled his mate into another breath-stealing meeting of lips and tongues. When they separated, Tony buried his face in Jethro’s neck and whispered. “You smell insanely good. We have an hour before they show up.”
“What are you suggesting?” Jethro asked, sounding amused as his fingertips teased Tony’s bicep scales.
“More of a proposition… we haven’t christened the basement yet,” Tony replied hopefully.
In a blink, Jethro had him on the floor and was pulling at their clothes while Tony got his laughter under control.
It was nearly the full hour later before they were back in their clothes, and Tony was trying to get the specks of sawdust off his pants. Jethro halted his fussing and pulled Tony up to face him, a serious expression on his face. “Before we go up… I know you’re trying to get this spirit walking stuff down, and I know you’ll get it soon. But don’t ever actually go to the spirit plane unless I know first. Unless it’s some kind of an emergency.”
Tony blinked a little at the seriousness and gravity. Also there was an element of a serious order in the tone that made him frown.
“You vanish from our bond when you do this, Tony. And you’re completely vulnerable while you’re there.”
Tony was briefly surprised, but then considered how he’d feel if Jethro suddenly vanished from their bond. He’d probably freak. “Okay, Jethro. I’ll be sure you know first.”
Jethro reeled him in for one more serious kiss. “Thanks.” They had barely made it to the top of the steps when the doorbell rang.
Brunch was a lot of fun. Abby was back to her usual bouncy self, and Ducky was at his verbose best. Also, Abby had cleared it with Jimmy and McGee to come over for dinner on Tuesday, provided there wasn’t a hot case.
Toward the end of the meal, Tony brought up the topic of Abby’s emergence. “Abbs, have you mentioned your emergence to anyone yet?”
She shook her head. “No. I wanted to call my parents, but Ducky and I talked and thought it might be best to check with you first.”
“Could you hold off for a bit? Let me talk to some of the Council members and see how they want to handle it. They’ll probably want to spin it as some anomaly in your bloodwork, should anyone actually ask, and that in reality you were latent. We’ve got a couple weeks, so just hold off for now?”
“Okay.” She looked a little forlorn, and Tony could feel how much she wanted to tell her folks.
He gave her hand a little squeeze. “In the interim, can you run your test again, see if the results are different now? Just keep it unofficial.”
After finishing brunch and the cleanup, Jethro and Ducky somehow wound up heading to the basement, which seemed orchestrated by Ducky, while Abby and Tony sat facing each other on the sofa.
She reached out and grabbed his hand, giving it a squeeze. “You okay? I was worried after everything yesterday.”
“I’m fine.” At her look of disbelief, he insisted, “Really, I am. It was unpleasant, but in a way, it put both of them behind me. And there was no yelling and screaming. So… score!” He tried to convince her with the intensity of his smile, if not the sincerity.
Looking like she didn’t really buy it, Abby still relented. “Okay, but if you ever want to talk about it, I’m always available.” She hesitated for a second before asking, “So you think you and Ziva are done? No chance of it getting fixed?”
While running his hand down his face, Tony considered the question. He really didn’t want to talk about this, but it was a fair question. “I don’t know. But I’m done with the abuse portion of the program. It’s up to her to make the next move, Abbs, and if it’s another aggressive one, I really will be done.”
When she seemed poised to press the issue, Tony held up a hand. “I really don’t want to talk about it. I got my yearly ration of angst and drama yesterday and I don’t want to revisit it right now. Maybe we can talk about it some other time.”
Chewing her lip, Abby reluctantly nodded. “But you have to promise to talk to someone if you need help, Tony! Maybe not me, but Gibbs for sure.”
Tony couldn’t help but smile. “Abbs, he knows when something is wrong as soon as I do. And we talk. Don’t worry.”
Abby bounced a little with excitement. “Oh really. Do tell me about all the talking.”
Rolling his eyes at her lascivious look, Tony settled back against the couch, determined to direct Abby to a safer topic of conversation.
Gibbs settled on the sawhorse and quirked a brow in inquiry. When Ducky didn’t get the hint, he prompted, “Come on, Duck, you maneuvered us down here. What’s on your mind?”
“I simply mean to inquire after your wellbeing, Jethro.”
“Mine or Tony’s?” Gibbs asked with a slight smile.
Ducky gave him a stern look. “Both. I’ve known you for a long time, Jethro, and you’re not known for paying adequate attention to your personal needs.” He hesitated for a second before adding, “And not to put too fine a point on it, but you’re not known for your delicate handling of Anthony, either.”
Part of him wanted to get offended, but Gibbs just wound up snorting in amusement. “What do you want me to say, Ducky?”
“I want you to say that you’re going to take care of him. That you’re going to talk to him.”
Gibbs sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. Finally, he met Ducky’s eyes. “Taking care of Tony is foremost in my mind. And, believe it or not, we talk. Probably more than either of us are accustomed to, or even comfortable with.”
Ducky chuckled and settled onto another sawhorse, seemingly more relaxed. “Is there anything you can divulge about the chaos that seems to have descended on your lives since your mating? I expected you to be out of touch for a couple of weeks, but certainly not gallivanting all over the world when you should be nearly in isolation.”
Thinking carefully about how to reply, Gibbs cautiously said, “I can’t connect all the dots for you yet, but I can tell you that we found out an Omega was being held captive in Scotland.”
“And for some reason the two of you, newly mated, had to be involved?” Ducky asked with a fair amount of incredulity.
“It’s complicated.” Gibbs hesitated. “I don’t want to give you the run around here, but there are things I can’t tell you yet. Tony and I both want to brief you and Abby on everything, but it’s not solely our decision. After we get back from Colorado, I may be able to tell you more.”
“I’m not trying to press you for information on subjects about which you cannot break a confidence, I just want to ensure two people I care very much about are taken care of. You and Anthony need time to settle into your relationship, and Anthony needs time to acclimate to being a dragon. I’m concerned these other issues are distracting from that.”
Gibbs couldn’t help but laugh. “Believe me, Duck, Tony is getting a crash course on being a dragon.” Amusement fading, he added, “I’m shielding him from things the best I can. You’re just going to have to trust me on that.”
Ducky nodded, but there was clearly something he wasn’t saying.
“Out with it, Duck. There’s something on your mind.”
With apparent reluctance, Ducky finally said, “You know that I have met other Omegas. Even if I hadn’t been squirreled away with two of them in Abigail’s lab during the early moments of Anthony’s emergence.”
Not sure where he was going with this, Gibbs settled for a nod.
“He’s not even the first I knew prior to emerging. There was one other.”
“Not sure what you’re leading up to here, Duck, but you can just say it.” Gibbs had no idea where Ducky was headed with these questions.
“I’m sure you’re aware that Omegas feel good to other dragons? Even to mundane humans. Prior to my rather late emergence in life, I met a remarkable young Omega in–”
Brows drawing together in a frown, Gibbs held up a hand to stop the anecdote. “I’m aware.”
“Perhaps I’m telling you something you’re already cognizant of, but I expected the same from Anthony.”
“And that didn’t happen?”
“No. It did. He just doesn’t feel like any Omega I’ve ever met. I don’t know if that makes him unique, but it’s something to perhaps make note of.”
“How does he feel different?”
“Well, to be blunt, he feels safe.” Ducky seemed flustered by his own admission. “All Omegas feel soothing to some degree, I’ve always assumed it had something to do with their empathic gifts, but it’s different with Anthony. He feels like safety and home and love. What the Ancient Greeks might have referred to as agápe love… a love that is unconditional, such as one might feel for their children. And considering he is beyond young enough to be my son, it’s disconcerting to say the least.”
Gibbs wasn’t sure what to do with that. He didn’t want the dragon community to be able to blindly pick out anything unique about Tony; other than his color, of course. He knew the Wyverns got a maternal vibe from Tony, but he didn’t worry about Wyverns. He hadn’t heard anything from any of the Alphas or Betas they’d been working with. He’d have to check into it. He wondered if Abby was experiencing the same thing compared to her exposure to Blair, Richard, or Reid.
Ducky continuing to speak drew him out of his contemplation. “I only mentioned it, Jethro, because I wasn’t sure if you knew. It could be unique to myself, and of no concern.”
Shaking his head, Gibbs said, “I know the other Omegas feel it, but I hadn’t heard anything from the Alphas or Betas we’d worked with. I’ll ask. I want to know if it’s everyone who picks up something odd from him.”
“It’s not a negative thing,” Ducky asserted with a concerned expression.
“No, but I need to know.”
“Does this relate to these things that you are unable to divulge?”
“Possibly. Likely.” Gibbs could see the burning curiosity, but he knew Ducky wouldn’t press. At least, not yet.
They talked for a while longer, Ducky occasionally dropping a comment that felt like a paternal warning. Gibbs took the comments in stride, grateful that, on some level, there was someone willing to stand in for Tony’s shitty father and make sure Tony was okay. Though another part of him was also a bit amused.
Ducky was in the middle of another veiled warning about treating Tony well when the door opened and Tony called out, “The press conference is about to start.”
They adjourned upstairs, though Gibbs had the distinct impression that Ducky had more threats he’d be happy to issue.
Gibbs guided Tony to sit between him and Abby, then wrapped an arm around Tony’s waist, pulling him close. Abby curled up next to Tony, resting her head on his shoulder, leaving the armchair for Ducky.
The TV was on, but muted, some car commercial running. Gibbs blinked at the display a few times. “Just how big does a TV need to be? Feels like that damned car is about to drive into the living room,” he grumbled.
Tony snickered. “It’s only forty-eight inches. They come much bigger, so don’t whine.”
Before Gibbs could gripe more about the size of the display, the commercial ended and there was a quick segue to the press conference. Jeremy and Richard were in some office, standing in front of several microphones. Notably, Richard’s throat scales were visible and there were several early questions being shouted out. Jim and Blair were standing off to the side.
Jeremy got everyone’s attention by raising a hand and calling for silence. “The Dragon Council has a few brief announcements to make, and then we will take a couple questions. Provided those questions remain tasteful.” He directed a look at someone off screen, and several of the reporters laughed.
“Guess someone has a reputation for sleazy journalism,” Tony murmured.
“At the time the dragons left the world, one of the last dragons entrusted a special artifact to their descendants. The keepers of this artifact were instructed that when dragons returned to the world this artifact should go to the first Omega to emerge in the family line. That family line ultimately led to Britain and became the Paddingtons. With the emergence of Anthony DiNozzo, nephew of Jeffery Paddington, Nineteenth Earl of Devon, and the first Omega of that line, this artifact has finally made its way back to the dragon community.”
There was an outbreak of murmuring amongst the reporters and one shouted question, but Jeremy ignored it. “Mr. DiNozzo’s inheritance has given way to some new information that affects the dragon community at large. We have long suspected that Omegas are a different species of dragon from Alphas and Betas. Now we know the name for the two species. Alphas and Betas are from a species previously known as Drakes. Omegas are from a species known as Wyverns.”
Gibbs found himself smiling at the word play. The press would infer that the information came from the artifact, but when Jeremy referred to inheritance he was speaking of Tony’s status as Guardian.
“The genetic testing available today for dragon blood only ascertains if there is Drake in a person’s ancestry. There is no current test for Wyverns. Many of the Omegas today have an inactive Drake gene, or what is commonly referred to as dormant. This has been a mystery until now, and why we suspected Omegas came from something else. The Council will be working on a test for Wyvern blood, but anticipate this to be a lengthy process as the Omega population is small, and widespread testing would be costly on top of the screening that is currently done for the larger Drake population.
“Another item Mr. DiNozzo’s inheritance has revealed to us is a bonding ritual between an Alpha and an Omega. Previously, the community has used the words mating and bonding interchangeably. This is not so. A bonding is lifelong and results in a ring of scales forming in the partner’s scale color. For example, many of you have already noted the deep blue scales around my bonded’s throat. I now have a ring of his scales on my forearm. This is an outward symbol of our bond, and for the Omega, is the most visible scales they possess. All this information may be reviewed on the Council website. Though we will not now, or ever, reveal the details of this ritual. Please do not ask.”
Abby laughed. “Jeremy can be so stern.”
“We have begun to notify the dragon community about the possibility of entering into a life-bond with their mate, however this is a process the Council will need to oversee carefully, and it will take time to aid everyone who expresses interest. We ask dragons to be patient. Also, we are requesting that the public not inundate the dragons in your community with questions. The vast majority of our population has little, if any, more information than will be presented on our public site.
“We will now take questions.”
A female voice asked, “Is bonding just for Omegas and Alphas?”
Richard was the one who replied, “We have reason to believe it’s possible for all dragons, but Wyverns will bear their partner’s scales on their throat, while Drakes will bear them on the arm somewhere.”
The same voice quickly retorted, “Some Betas are mated to humans. Does this bonding extend to interspecies relationships?”
Still seeming to be on tap for the questions, Richard shook his head. “Not that we are aware of. In time, if there is an interested couple, we will investigate further, but don’t anticipate this being possible as there is no way for a human to form scales.”
This time a male voice yelled over the others. “Will this artifact be made available for public viewing?”
“Not at this time,” Richard replied smoothly. “Perhaps in the future after the Council has finished studying it, and with Mr. DiNozzo’s permission. However, many of the containers this artifact has been stored in were also inherited by Mr. DiNozzo, and are of historical value. These will likely be on loan to the British Museum at some point. Next?”
“What type of artifact is it?” Another voice called out.
“We are not disclosing that information at this time.”
“What’s involved in this bonding ritual?”
With a glare, Jeremy stepped forward a bit. “As I said before, we will not be disclosing the specifics of the bonding ritual, and I will disregard any further questions in that vein and terminate the press conference.”
“Is the Council asking that the public now refer to dragons by these new species’ names?”
Taking the reins again, Richard answered, “No. Alpha and Beta are still necessary designations, but they are both Drakes and may be referred to by either name, or both. Omega and Wyvern may be used interchangeably.”
“What does bonding do? Is there a benefit to it? How is it better than simply being mated?”
Jeremy seemed poised to ignore the question, but Richard quickly replied, “Between Alpha and Omega, the bond creates an empathic awareness of one another. We have not yet seen a bonding between an Alpha/Beta pair, or a Beta/Beta pair, so as yet, we don’t know if that will hold true for all bondings or just Alpha/Omega.”
“Is that the only change?”
“We already mentioned the transfer of scales. We have little other information beyond that at this time.”
“Will bonding be required for mated pairs?”
“No. As I mentioned, this is a lifelong tether to one another, and is strictly voluntary.”
“Aren’t Alphas and Omegas already in a lifelong relationship?”
“While it’s true that, to our knowledge, no Alpha/Omega mating has been broken, we believe it’s possible to do so. That would not be possible if fully bonded.”
The questions continued on, getting more and more trivial in Gibbs’ opinion. After a few minutes, Jeremy called a halt to the press conference, and it switched back to the news commentators, who summarized and postulated some theories.
Tony hit the mute button and sighed. “Well, they did a good job of telling the truth without telling the truth.”
“Meaning what, Anthony?” Ducky asked, brows arched in inquiry.
Gibbs could feel Abby practically vibrating with curiosity.
“Uh… well, it’s kind of complicated, and I can’t tell you all of it yet, but the artifact was really just a letter to me from an ancestor. It has nothing to do with the names of the species or the bonding ritual. That was knowledge I sort of inherited when I emerged. But we really don’t want that getting out, so you’re both totally sworn to secrecy.”
Ducky just nodded, but Gibbs could see how much he wanted to know the whole story.
Abby bounced a little. “I promise not to say a thing.” She made cross-my-heart motion. “Now… what’s in the letter? And how the hell did it survive so long? Can I read it? What language is it in? Oooh. Can I run some tests on it?”
Tony groaned and buried his head in his hands. Gibbs just pulled him closer, trying not to laugh.
– – – –
Tony turned over so he could peer at the clock by the bed. It was already 1630, and he needed to get the lasagna in the oven soon. Jethro’s arm came around his waist and pulled him back to lie flat on the bed. He began nuzzling at Tony’s throat scales.
“Those are my scales, you know…” Tony offered blandly, even as he gave Jethro more room to work.
“I’m pretty sure they’re my scales,” Jethro murmured, then licked the aforementioned scales.
Tony shuddered even as he found himself laughing. “I meant it in the ‘those are sensitive and if you keep playing with them I won’t be able to get dinner in the oven,’ kind of way.”
Jethro didn’t reply, just continued his attentions. The touches and licks seemed more teasing than purposeful.
He could feel the conflicted emotions coming from his mate. They’d had nearly two days to just be together and it had been desperately needed. Aside from making a few phone calls and managing email, they’d been alone since Ducky and Abby had left early Sunday. The connection to one another now practically hummed with contentment, and he was reluctant to see outside forces affect that.
It was now late Tuesday afternoon, and the two days had been the best Tony could ever remember having. Tony didn’t want it to end, but they had the team coming over for dinner tonight, and then were leaving for Colorado tomorrow afternoon.
Jethro adjusted position so he was lying next to Tony, peering down at him. “If I let you out of bed…” he trailed off and shook his head.
“I know, LJ,” Tony murmured. It would mark the end of their mini vacation and the return of reality. “Now let me up. My scales are all yours after everyone leaves.”
His mate smirked. “They’re all mine anyway.”
“Possessive bastard,” Tony grumbled wiggling away.
“What time is Connelly going to be here?” Jethro asked as he began to dress.
“Around eight. And you can’t call her Connelly… you frequently call Rick ‘Connelly.’ It’s confusing.”
Jethro got a mutinous expression on his face, which nearly caused Tony to bust out laughing. “Who names their kid ‘Azure?’”
“Your Beta’s parents. Suck it up, Marine. Besides, it’s a nice name.” He stepped up close to his mate and wrapped his arms around broad shoulders. Peering into Jethro’s eyes, he murmured, “I’ve always been partial to blue.”
Jethro leaned forward to capture Tony’s lips and several more minutes were lost to something way more fun than cooking. Eventually, Tony managed to pry himself away to get ready for the team dinner.
The time alone with Jethro had done more for Tony than just allowing him to connect with his mate. Despite some reluctance on Tony’s part, Jethro, of all people, had insisted they talk about the old hurts from the time at NCIS. They hadn’t covered everything, because that would take time, but every day, Jethro made an effort to talk about the painful subject. Tony knew it wasn’t easy for either of them, which made his mate’s insistence have that much more meaning.
Jethro had also been adamant that Tony express how he felt about the shit with Ziva and DiNozzo Senior. In some ways those discussions had been harder because of the sense of betrayal coloring both relationships. And really, Tony was never going to be able to call Jethro functional mute again.
Amidst all the talking, sex and just being together, one of the things Tony had done was to review the list of people Rick and Cassie had sent to possibly fill the role of assistant. He’d talked to several, but the one who’d impressed him the most had been Rick’s older sister, Azure. She was coming by after dinner so Tony could double-check his choice with Jethro’s gut, but also to introduce her to the rest of his NCIS family.
He hadn’t expected to find someone so quickly, but he really hoped she worked out. He feared his life was about to become insane, and Susan, their assistant through the Council, was already completely inundated. When Tony had talked to Susan on Monday, she’d tried to act like she could handle more, but Tony could tell she was at her wits’ end.
Tony had also had a few phone calls with Spence, wanting to make sure he was doing okay. He couldn’t imagine what it had been like to constantly have people’s emotions pressing on you. Just the thought made Tony shudder. He wondered about the lavender wyverns throughout history, living without bonds and having a lifetime of that kind of distress. Did they just learn how to completely shut off their emotions? Or did they start to suffer from depression?
Spencer had been granted access to some of the Council’s records to begin doing some general research, but he had focused attention specifically on the lavender Wyverns. The Council had long recorded history of Wyvern emergences, including color and number of bands. There hadn’t been a lavender Wyvern with seven bands in nearly three hundred years. There were always very few and had never been one recorded to have nine bands.
The younger Wyvern had seemed both more relaxed, and very enthusiastic about his various research projects. Tony had smiled through most of the conversation. Spencer was Spencer – facts and statistics and theories – but he was also just more. More present, more engaged, and certainly happier.
It would have been nice to see Spencer, Dave, and Hotch during their few days at home, but ultimately Tony had felt the time with Jethro was more important. He’d be sure to see the trio when they came back.
Tony had also talked to Blair one other time and exchanged several emails. One thing that occurred to both of them was that if Blair wanted to talk to Tony privately, he could just pull him to the spirit plane the same way he’d pulled Colin. In the end, they’d decided any truly private conversation could wait for when they were together, and that Tony spending time with his mate took precedence.
Once the lasagna was out of the oven, Tony realized he needed a bit of fresh air. As much as he hated the cold, sometimes he just needed to go outside for a minute. He called down to Jethro that he was going outside for a few minutes, and immediately his mate headed upstairs.
Jethro seemed to be okay with Tony going in the backyard, provided Jethro was upstairs and listening in case there was trouble. The ongoing security precautions made Tony grit his teeth, but he had agreed to trust Jethro’s judgment. He also didn’t want to have ongoing strife over it, so he just pushed the annoyance away.
The cold against his face was initially kind of pleasant after working in the kitchen. He stared out over the snowy landscape, breath ghosting in the cold air. It hadn’t snowed in days, but it hadn’t warmed enough to thaw. Tony found the stark white scenery to be soothing. One of the perks of being a dragon was that the cold air no longer hurt his lungs.
He distantly heard the sound of the front door followed by muffled voices. Someone was early. His hearing was way better than it had been, but not good enough to distinguish voices clearly through several walls.
Taking a deep breath, he was just about to head back in when he heard the door open and shut.
He turned and found McGee standing just outside the door, still wrapped in his coat and scarf. “Hey, McGee.” Immediately he got some interesting impressions from the junior agent, but ignored it for the moment. “How you doing?”
“I’m good,” McGee replied a little awkwardly.
Tony hesitated for a second, he could make this easy on McGee and be his same old self… or not. “How are things with Weaver?”
“It’s fine. It’s only been about a week, but he’s a good team lead.” McGee paused to clear his throat. “It’s not the same.”
“No. I don’t imagine it is,” Tony replied vaguely.
McGee pulled his coat a little tighter around himself and glanced away.
“Should we go back in? No point in being cold,” Tony finally prompted.
“No! I mean… I want to talk and everyone got here at the same time I did. I thought I was arriving early,” McGee complained with something nearing a pout.
“Okay,” Tony agreed. “So, talk.”
“You’re not going to make this easy are you?” McGee said and huffed a little, though Tony picked up on some threads of amusement.
“Make what easy?” Tony wasn’t trying to torture McGee, but he wasn’t going to pry whatever it was out of the man. Nor was he going to misdirect and pretend.
“I’m sorry, okay?” McGee blurted out.
Tony blew out a breath. “I know. You’ve already apologized, and I know you said it sincerely. You don’t have to keep on doing it.”
McGee huffed again, then shot Tony a self-deprecating smile. “Even if I hadn’t screwed up, things wouldn’t have been the same, would they?”
Surprised into a laugh, Tony finally managed to say, “No. You had some shitty timing, but I’d have still emerged and still chosen LJ. Even if we were at NCIS, things would have been different.”
“LJ?” McGee nearly squeaked. “You call him LJ?”
“You think I call my mate by his last name?” Tony asked dryly, brow arched.
“No… I guess I hadn’t thought about it. But… isn’t it weird?” McGee said on a whisper.
“It was a little strange at first, but I’m pretty used to not calling him Gibbs at this point.”
“That’s not what I meant! I mean,” he lowered his voice further so Tony could barely hear him, “being mated to Gibbs!”
Tony snorted. “You do know he can hear you even if you whisper?” At McGee’s horrified look, Tony started laughing. “It’s so not weird that it’s the opposite of weird, McGoo.”
“So you’re happy?” McGee looked like the answer really mattered to him and Tony was oddly touched.
“Yeah… I really am. Still adjusting, but happy.” He contemplated his former probie for a few seconds. “And you? You going to be okay, McGee?”
“Yes, I mean, things are a little awkward right now getting used to a new team, but I think it’ll be fine.” McGee looked like he wasn’t sure if that was okay to admit. “Weaver’s good. Not Gibbs-good, but–”
“I get what you mean,” Tony interjected. “He decide to let you be SFA?” He hoped this wouldn’t be a too sensitive topic.
McGee nodded. “He’s giving it a trial run. Vance said I have to prove myself in the job for six months before he’ll make the promotion official.”
“You’ll do it, McGee. I have no doubt,” Tony said with confidence.
Flushing a bit, McGee glanced away. “Thanks. For everything. And I really mean that.”
Tony moved closer, clapped McGee on the shoulder and guided him back into the house. “I know you do. And after dinner, we’ll have a long chat about how to reduce team stress levels with the careful application of pranks.”
McGee groaned, but he was grinning, too.
As soon as Tony was in the living room, he was jumped on by Abby, then he greeted Ducky and Jimmy. It felt good to have everyone together. No one brought up Ziva, but her absence was felt. He wished things were different, but she’d chosen this path and needed to choose a new one if she wanted things to be different.
Dinner was fun and boisterous. Jethro was more relaxed around the team than Tony had ever seen before. It was something Tony was used to seeing, but McGee and Palmer seemed very taken aback by it, which gave Tony no end of amusement.
Everyone had a lot of questions, but Tony deflected most of them. He hoped he’d be able to fill them in at some point, but everything was too uncertain for the moment.
They were in the middle of having panna cotta when there was a knock at the door. Jethro went to get it, with Ducky oddly enough trailing behind.
“Oh, is that your new assistant?” Abby said excitedly, but she also seemed a little nervous. “I hope she likes me.”
“How could she not?” Tony replied tweaking her pigtail. When she went to get up, Tony waved her back down. “LJ’s talking to her first. Just finish your dessert.
The four of them continued chatting, laughing over shared memories and carefully avoiding discussion of how things would be changing in the future.
Tony was getting more cream from the refrigerator when he heard a new voice in the dining room and Abby chattering excitedly. He turned back to find a woman of average height, with the Connelly family coloring of brown hair and blue eyes. He knew she was in her early forties, but looked a decade younger. And she was glaring unsubtly at McGee.
Quickly Tony figured out what was up and head-slapped the younger man for ogling the woman’s rather impressive breasts. “If she decides to make your life miserable, I’m not gonna say a word, McGee,” Tony growled lowly.
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” McGee mumbled, blushing a deep red. Tony could appreciate McGee’s regard, but he wasn’t gonna let McGee screw up the possibility of getting the help he needed.
Ducky skillfully directed things to introductions, while Tony looked to his mate for his assessment. Jethro nodded subtly indicating he had no issues with Azure for their assistant.
A few minutes later, Tony showed her into the den to discuss the details. Jethro stayed with them, but just leaned against the doorjamb silently.
Tony tried to decide where to begin, because this was all new to him, but finally just blurted out, “When can you start?” He already knew she was between jobs but had recently returned from vacation in Rome. Hopefully she’d be able to take over the chaos soon.
She blinked at him, but otherwise her expression didn’t change. “That’s it? No other questions first?”
“Um…” He thought about it for several seconds. “No.”
Azure’s lips twitched. “Okay. I can start in two days if we can agree on the details.”
Tony had no idea what kind of details, but she had no hesitance about diving in and hammering out everything from salary and benefits, to travel requirements, etcetera. Mostly Tony couldn’t answer half her questions. He did okay with salary and benefits, offering her forty percent more than she asked for, but everything else was a mystery.
“Okay, wait,” Tony finally waved his hands in a surrender gesture. “You call Adam Phillips, he’s Blair’s you, ask him what you’re supposed to do, and then you tell me. And Susan Carmody in West Virginia has all the forms you’ll have to sign and… stuff.”
Azure looked both bemused and amused by the entire situation, but she also seemed to handle Tony’s style quite well.
Jethro’s quiet chuckles at Tony’s discomfiture earned him a glare. To some degree this wasn’t strictly necessary right at that moment, but Tony and Jethro had discussed it several times and both felt it could become pressing very quickly. Better to be prepared. Tony didn’t want logistical headaches to be the bottleneck in him doing whatever it was a Guardian had to do. And he sure as hell didn’t want to waste time he could spend alone with his mate.
After they showed Azure out, Tony hesitated before going back to the dining room to join the others. “Still think this was the right time and right person?”
“Yep. Something is going to happen, and we’re going to need the help soon. As much as I hate the idea of having someone underfoot all the time,” Jethro grumbled.
Tony shot his mate an exasperated look. “She’s not going to be ‘underfoot.’”
Jethro just tugged him toward the dining room. “Let’s finish up. I want to enjoy our last evening home.”
Things went a little later than Tony would have liked, but he didn’t want to break up the fun. By the time everyone had left, he felt like he was back to where he should be with everyone, especially McGee. He had confidence that the younger agent was going to be okay.
Once they were alone and ready for bed, Tony decided to broach the issue he hadn’t wanted to raise while everyone was in the house. “McGee’s going to emerge soon,” he offered as soon as they were settled into position.
Jethro’s hand which had been sliding along Tony’s spine, stilled. “He’s emerging?”
“Not yet. He doesn’t feel like he’s already past the tipping point, but it’s close.”
Blowing out a breath, Jethro resumed stroking Tony’s sensitive spine scales. “How long do you think?”
“Maybe a couple weeks before he starts sprouting scales?” Tony hazarded as a guess. “But I don’t really know. I’m not sure how to fully articulate the impressions I guess. It feels like he’s a few weeks behind Abby.”
“So, more evidence that when a Wyvern emerges, there’s a rise in Beta population. Seemingly from the people closest to them.”
“We’ll have to keep an eye on who emerges in the area in the next few months. See if most of them knew me in some way.”
“Hn.” Jethro was quiet for a moment, then he made a face the likes of which Tony had never seen before. It was a little scrunched up and very un-Jethro. “In the future, let’s not talk about McGee while we’re in bed.” He sounded completely aggrieved.
Tony froze and then started cracking up. When he couldn’t seem to stop, Jethro rolled them so he was hovering over his laughing mate. “Glad I can amuse you,” Jethro said dryly, eyes bright with his own good humor.
Still fighting chuckles, Tony pulled his Drake into a kiss. When they broke apart, Tony was still smiling.
The next morning was languid and unhurried. They needed to pack and be at the airport by 1330 hours, but that left plenty of time for sex; sleepy morning sex followed by lazy shower sex. Plus quiet conversations and being close as they drew out the last moments of time alone with each other at home.
After managing various logistics and handing things off to Rick, Jethro and Tony arrived on the tarmac just as the plane was finished refueling. They said a quick goodbye to Cassie and Rick, then boarded. Blair gave them both enthusiastic hugs, though Tony took note that he looked a little tired.
“Busy few days?” Tony asked after they got seated.
“Oh, man, you have no idea,” Blair replied, slumping a bit. “It seems like half the dragon community has been in touch with the Council since the press conference. And, yeah, that’s hyperbolic, but it’s been a mad house.” Jim just grimaced a bit in response.
Blair and Tony discussed how the last few days had gone from the Council perspective, with Jethro chiming in with the occasional question. They also got an update on the situation with Dr. Ames. Apparently preliminary investigation pointed to straight up theft, and not any kind of kidnapping attempt, although the inquiry was ongoing.
After a few minutes, Tony asked, “Are we seeing Daniel and Jack tonight?” The plan as Tony knew it was for tomorrow, but they’d be in by 1700 local time and he wondered if things were changing.
Curls bouncing from his emphatic headshake, Blair replied, “We’re resting, because I have a feeling tomorrow is going to be intense. But, for you two, I wondered if you might enjoy going out to dinner?”
Tony would really like to get out, so he shot a look at Jethro, who was frowning at the notion. He bit back a sigh, reminding himself not to fight about it.
Jim chimed in. “Jack recommended a restaurant he and Daniel like to use when they want to go out. The owner has a private dining room, you can enter through the back, and, as Jethro already knows, some of Jack’s Betas volunteered to provide covert security.”
Tony showed no reaction at the mention of security, but looked hopefully to Jethro about dinner. Tony loved going to a good restaurant, and he rather desperately wanted to do that with his mate.
After a couple seconds, Jethro nodded, giving Tony’s hand a squeeze. Tony was so excited he almost vibrated in place. It would be like finally getting a date with the man he’d been in love with for nearly a decade. Dragon relationships started with the sex, but because they were forever, you were guaranteed dating… eventually.
Blair continued reviewing the plans for the next day. “Jack and Daniel think we’re coming to discuss all the new Wyverns, and then meet the new pairs later in the day. So once we tell them why we’re really there, we can adjust the plans.”
It was likely they wouldn’t get around to spending time with the other Wyverns tomorrow. That would be later; probably over the weekend. “I assume they don’t know anything about the planned sojourn to the spirit plane?”
Blair made a so-so gesture. “Jim and Jack worked out extra security for while we’re there. Jack is pretty quick to pick up subtext, so he probably inferred it.”
Jim snorted. “Considering how grumpy he got during the phone call, I’d say that’s a given. Jack has less tolerance for the mumb–” he broke off at Blair’s sharp look. “Um, he has less tolerance for the spiritual stuff than I do.”
After reinforcing his glare toward his Drake, Blair added, “And even if Jack wasn’t sure, Daniel would totally get the message.”
“I take it they do not know that we have some insight into what they do?” Tony wondered.
With a rather gleeful look, Blair shook his head. “Nope. I’m so looking forward to their expression.”
They discussed not springing that on Jack until they were on the spirit plane. Not because they wanted a captive audience, but rather they didn’t want there to be any chance of it being overheard, and there would be other dragons on site for security. They didn’t need someone jumping the gun and reporting a breach in security.
“Tony,” Blair interrupted Tony’s musings, “what can you tell me about the situation with Abby?”
He’d already discussed the situation with Jethro, and his mate was supportive of however Tony wanted to handle Wyvern matters. “Well, I guess it started right before we left for London. Abby and I were talking and somehow the conversation drifted to her blood status.
“I asked how long she’d wanted to be a dragon and we chatted about it for a bit. But what I think was important was I was feeling something odd… I don’t know how to describe it. I faced her and said something along the lines of ‘you have the heart of a dragon, and I’d give this to you if I could.’”
Blair’s brows shot up. “Oh boy. And considering what we now know about intent with our gifts, I’m going to assume you really meant it.” At Tony’s nod, Blair added, “Okay, so, tell me about this dream you had.”
Tony let the images rise up in his mind, uncertain how to piece together what all they meant. Maybe talking it out would help sort it out. “In the dream, we were actually somewhere else, though I’m not really sure if that’s significant.”
“Where?” Blair prompted, looking curious.
Tony hesitated, because the dream felt overly dramatic, but finally decided to answer. “We were in the middle of Stonehenge, which seems very bad movie script to me, and I half expected a bunny riding a coat hanger to appear.”
Blair blinked a few times. “A bunny on a coat hanger? I don’t even want to know why you’d expect that.” His brow furrowed. “I think the location has significance, but Stonehenge was likely built after the dragons went into hiding. Though it could have been close to the same time… Do you think dragons built it?”
“Um…” Tony had to ponder that for a bit. “Maybe? At least, they had something to do with it. I think the site was special in some way. I’m sure Precious would know for sure.”
“Hmm. Okay. We can table that for now, though we shouldn’t even mention that to Daniel until we’re in a position to get answers,” Blair commented wryly.
Jethro snorted a little and even Tony was amused. Though he didn’t know Daniel all that well, he knew it was a mystery that would tantalize the archeologist.
“So what happened in the dream?” Blair asked.
“Well, in the dream it was night and Abby and I were there. I sensed Jethro nearby, but it was just the two of us visible. I took her hands and said, ‘Because you have proven to have a dragon’s heart, I summon the dragon within you to the service of our people.’ And it sounds so ridiculous when I say it out loud.” Tony scrubbed his hand over his face, fighting back his frustration at getting all this knowledge but having so little understanding of what it actually meant.
Blowing out a breath, Blair absentmindedly fiddled with his hair, twisting it around a finger. “That’s intense, man. Yet another thing we have to talk to Precious about, because this has to be something new. Dragons and humans hadn’t merged when Precious lived, so there’d be no need for this kind of ritual.”
“So you think this dream was legit?” Tony asked, really wanting Blair’s opinion.
“Yeah, I really do.” He gave Tony a look. “And I think you know it, too, Guardian.”
Tony felt a physical jolt at being addressed that way, then something weird sort of settled in him. Both Blair and Jethro were looking at him in concern. Jim just looked confused.
“What just happened, Tony?” Jethro prompted quickly.
“I… I don’t know. When Blair called me ‘Guardian,’ something kind of slotted into place. It was strangely unsettling, yet felt right at the same time.” He could feel the concern coming from his mate, but Jethro didn’t say anything for the moment.
Blair cocked his head to the side. “We’ve called you the Guardian before.”
“Not like that. Not seriously, and with some kind of intent. You addressed me directly and it felt different.” Tony considered for a second. “I think it makes a difference, don’t you, Shaman?”
Looking startled and pressing a hand to his chest, Blair managed to reply, “Oh, that was weird. What did we just do?” Jim looked concerned now, but also didn’t interfere.
“I have no idea,” Tony replied. Before Blair could ask anything, Tony continued. “But I wish we hadn’t done that until we were with Daniel.”
“Why?” came from the two Alphas even as Blair just looked thoughtful.
Tony tried to figure out how to put what he was feeling into words. “Because it feels half done… like I’m half-baked or something.”
Jethro snorted in amusement. “You’re definitely half-baked.” Tony elbowed his mate for the smart remark.
Blair was nodding. “So you think this is a triad thing, not something that would happen if anyone called you Guardian?”
Tony felt the answer rise up in him as soon as the question was asked. “It’s a triad thing. I think we need to formally acknowledge each other… or maybe just each other’s role? It’s something like that. We stumbled into it, but now we need to do it with Daniel. Hopefully this not-quite-right feeling won’t get worse between now and then.”
With an expression of frustration, Blair nodded. “This job should come with a manual.” He shot a worried look at Jim. “You okay with this? I know you’re at your limit with the weird stuff.”
Jim shrugged, looking resigned. “I have a feeling it’s just going to get a hundred times worse tomorrow.”
Tony forced himself to have no reaction, but he was pretty sure it was going to be much worse than that. There was something major just out of his reach and it had been driving him crazy every time he stopped to focus on it. He’d tried very hard not to focus on it for that very reason. Not like it was a hardship to let Jethro thoroughly distract him.
Jim rolled his shoulders, looking like he was trying to work out some frustration. “Did Abby run her blood work again?”
“Yes. She’s testing latent now,” Tony replied. Until she actually emerged, her blood tests wouldn’t look anything beyond latent.
Blair and Jim exchanged a quick look, before Jim responded, “That’s good. It will look like a false negative on her last test. It’s the best scenario for us. It’d be harder to explain current blood tests showing dormancy when she’s sprouting scales.”
“Are we good to let her start releasing the info?” Jethro asked.
“Sure,” Blair replied. “Provided she doesn’t mention that this had anything to do with Tony. We don’t want to field those questions right now. Probably never.”
“I prepared her for that,” Jethro replied quickly. From there, conversation drifted over a ton of topics from Council business to how things went with hiring Tony’s assistant, to the logistical aspects of tomorrow’s meeting.
The relatively short trip to Colorado Springs seemed especially short, and they were already landing while Blair and Tony still had stuff to discuss. The city had apparently experienced a thaw since Tony’s last trip, so while it was cold, it wasn’t as freezing as DC, which was odd. There were two Airmen Betas in plain clothes waiting with an SUV.
Their hotel was as close as they could get to Jack’s place; only about a twenty-minute drive away. The two-bedroom suite was huge, and Jim set about scanning it for bugs even as he also used his super dragon hearing to see if he detected anything. Even though the room came up clean of listening devices, they’d still be circumspect of anything they said.
Jim and Blair retreated to their room as soon as they could, both obviously in need of some recharge time. Tony made idle conversation with the two Betas who’d be staying for the first shift while Jethro made some calls back home. On the flight, Jim had mentioned that he generally preferred to travel with Betas in his own Wing, but with Rafe and Henri on loan to the dragons in Denver, they were relying on Jack for security.
Eventually, it was time for Tony and Jethro to go to dinner. The restaurant was supposed to be nice, but not terribly fussy, so Tony dressed in slacks and a green sweater. Jethro was atypically in a blue button down under his jacket. He looked so good, Tony briefly reconsidered dinner; but ultimately, getting to venture out his mate won hands down.
Two new Betas helped them get out of the hotel undetected by the media lurking around. The restaurant was a steak house, the atmosphere very comfortable and warm. The owner personally waited on them, and no one else ever entered the private dining room.
Jethro seemed indulgently amused by Tony’s enthusiasm for the date. Conversation was easy, but they carefully stayed away from anything related to the future. It was frustrating and difficult not to be able to make plans. But they both knew at a fundamental level that tomorrow was going to change things.
Tony had a feeling these moments would be rarer than he would like, so resolved to stay in the present. Tomorrow would come soon enough.
– – – –
The next morning, they all piled out of the vehicle at Jack and Daniel’s place, the air cold but not biting. Tony assessed the area quickly, noting a few Betas patrolling the property, which is about what they expected.
Daniel met them at the door, ushering them in, and Tony instantly felt the desire to complete the triad bond. He had to fight down his urge to just acknowledge Daniel and get it over with, to fix this incomplete sensation he had rolling around inside.
Blair twitched a few times and Tony could feel part of Blair reaching out just like Tony was. They exchanged a quick sympathetic look. Hopefully it wouldn’t be too long.
After basic greetings, everyone got coffee and settled in the living room. Tony and Jethro were on the couch, everyone continuing to be very considerate of the newness of their bond.
Before they could really even figure out how to dive in, Daniel was leaning forward, peering intently at Tony. “Did you bring it?”
Tony’s brows shot up. “It?”
“The artifact? The mystery object referenced in the press release. Blair has been tight-lipped on the subject but thought you’d likely bring it.”
“I brought it, but,” he held up a hand when Daniel seemed poised to interrupt, “it has some information in it that would raise questions about what we’re here to discuss, so can I show it to you later?”
Daniel was frowning. “It has information? What was it exactly?”
“It’s a scroll,” Tony replied, somewhat resigned to going down this path. When the time came, he was willing to let Daniel read it because of the role the three of them had together, but he really wanted to stop showing that scroll to people. It was just too damn personal.
“You have a scroll that’s over four millennia old? What the hell is it written on? You said it has information… what language is used? And how legible can it be after all this time? What is it even stored in? You only brought the one bag, and–”
“Daniel, wait,” Blair interjected. “I know you’re not going to be fully satisfied until you see it, but I’ll give you the rundown on it and then we can look at it later. Okay?” At Daniel’s reluctant nod, Blair added, “It’s on papyrus and the text is very clear. We don’t know what language it’s written in, but the Wyverns all seem to be able to read it, though the Drakes cannot. It came wrapped in a sheet of dragon scales, which seems to be an incredible preservative because the whole thing is in beautiful condition.”
Daniel looked torn between disgust and interest. “Dragon scales?”
“Yes. Wyvern scales to be precise,” Blair answered. “Tony has it in an archival quality tube in the bag.
All of the Alphas shifted uncomfortable, but Jack especially seemed to be struggling with the notion of a sheet of dragon scales. Jim and Jethro were a little more inured to the idea.
“And who was this scroll from and was it to anyone specifically?” Daniel quickly asked.
Blair shot Tony a look and nodded for Tony to take the question.
Tony sighed. “The note was from Precious, and it was to me specifically. Since I was here last, we discovered that I’m a direct descendent, and It foresaw my emergence and left me some information in the event a particular set of futures were what came to pass. Most of it is rather personal in nature, though I will share it with you and Jack. After that, my preference is that it not see the light of day again.”
At the face Daniel was making, Tony plowed on. “I think you’ll understand why I wouldn’t want it passed around after you read it. But that stuff about me isn’t why we don’t want you to read it yet.” He hesitated a second, then said. “The scroll mentions you and Jack as well as Jim and Blair.”
Complete shock passed over Daniel’s features. “Wait… what?”
Jack’s expression was a little stonier. “So that’s why you’re really here… whatever’s in this scroll,” he stated with certainty.
“Well, it’s a little more complicated than that,” Tony hedged.
“Oh hell.” Jack scrubbed his hands over his face. “Are we talking like newlyweds-level of complicated, or open relationship-level of complicated?”
“Uh…” Tony was trying not to laugh at the analogy. “Open threesome-level of complicated?”
Jack winced, but before he could reply, Daniel said, “No, you can’t have a beer, Jack.”
Blair leaned forward, catching Jack’s attention. “We’d really prefer to have the rest of the discussion on the spirit plane.”
Groaning, Jack slumped into the sofa. “I knew it!” He huffed, fairly radiating frustration. “No way around it?”
“I think you’d regret it if we talked where there was even a remote possibility of being overheard,” Blair answered quickly. Jim and Jethro both nodded emphatically, which seemed to sway Jack more than anything else.
“That’s fine with us,” Daniel said, nudging Jack firmly. “Just tell us what we need to do.”
Tony was happy to get the show on the road because the pull to complete the triad bond was getting annoying. After discussing the logistics of the situation, Jack called in two of his most trusted Betas to keep an eye on them while they were on the spirit plane. All the rest of the security was strictly ordered to remain outside. If anything were to happen, the Betas were to summon Colonel Mitchell from Cheyenne Mountain.
They got seated on the floor, the Alphas all radiating various levels of I-don’t-trust-this-spiritual-mumbo-jumbo. While Tony didn’t share Blair and Daniel’s enthusiasm for hopping to the spirit plane, he wasn’t nearly as bothered by it as the Drakes.
It took a few minutes of everyone meditating, and Blair using Tony as a battery, before Tony felt the shift and opened his eyes to find them in the same clearing in the land of blue.
“Oh look. Trees,” Jack said with an amused snort. “Blue ones.”
Daniel rolled his eyes and Tony sensed some sort of recurring theme there, but the Wyvern was easily diverted by the novelty of the spirit plane.
While Jack and Daniel were looking around, Blair asked Tony, “When do you think Precious will put in an appearance?”
He pondered for a second before giving his gut response. “When we call for It, or when the bond is complete.”
Blair rubbed at his chest a bit and whispered, “The pull feels stronger since we got here.”
“Hmm.” Tony thought about it for a second, analyzing how he was feeling. “It was stronger for me there.” There was something in their swap of symptoms that made sense, but Tony wasn’t quite seeing the whole picture yet.
“Let’s get on with this,” Jack suddenly said. “That way we’re closer to getting it over with. What did this ancient, yet creepily-wrapped note say that brought the four of your haring back to Colorado?”
As much as Tony didn’t like it, everyone had felt Tony needed to run point on the explanation, because he was the source of the information so far. Everyone else, especially Blair, would step in and help where necessary. They all sprawled out on the grass, because this wasn’t going to be fast.
Blowing out a breath, Tony quickly ordered his thoughts. “First, I want to clear the air because we all know something, and it’s going to come up so we might as well lay our cards on the table.”
Jack and Daniel looked confused, but both nodded.
“Look,” Tony finally managed to say, “we know that your project here in Colorado has to do with aliens. And that sounds so weird every time I say it.”
The pair didn’t react other than to look at each other, before Jack said, “I can’t imagine how you could come to a conclusion like that.” He made it sound like they were off base without flat out saying it.
Tony just waved it away. “Seriously, Jack, Precious can see everything that goes on in the tangible realm if It chooses to. And for all we know, our corrupt Alpha in Scotland could have known as well. We’re working on plugging the security hole that is this plane of existence, but you’re not going to persuade me that I’m imagining it. And, truthfully, right now, what you do isn’t even the point. It just makes it easier when I tell you that way back in the beginning, Wyverns didn’t come from Earth.”
Jack looked like he was gearing up to refute Tony’s knowledge, but at the last statement, he just blinked. “What?”
Daniel’s looked like his brain was running a mile a minute. “All the powers. The shapeshifting… they were an alien species. Huh. What about the Drakes?” he asked intently.
“No. They were a native species to Earth. Apparently whatever planet Wyverns were originally from, they were shapeshifters and assumed a form presumably compatible with the Drakes. Although Precious said they first encountered a race called the… Alterans, I think he said.”
Jack and Daniel exchanged a sharp look, but neither said anything.
“So, anyway, I had some suspicions about things, I confronted Precious about it and Wyverns come from another planet. But that’s not why we needed to see you. Precious said in ancient times there were three Wyverns who had a special role. There was a Shaman, a Guardian, and the Master of the Gate.”
Daniel suddenly choked on air and Jack gaped at Tony.
Tony exchanged a look with Blair, and then said, “Precious did say there was some irony in the title.”
When Daniel seemed to have recovered himself a little, he asked, “So you don’t know why that’s ironic?”
“No. Figured it had something to do with your alien program, but not exactly sure what.”
The Colorado duo exchanged another look, before Daniel asked, “And what does ‘Master of the Gate’ mean in this context?”
Tony shrugged. “Not sure yet. Precious will explain it. I keep getting odd pictures in my head that don’t make much sense, and there’s nothing to connect the dots. I don’t even have a full grasp on my role, much less what all Blair is supposed to do. Precious had said it would come to me, and it is slowly, but like I said, dots are not connecting yet.”
Before Tony could say more, Jack held up both hands. “Whoa. Why don’t we just call this ‘Precious’ and get some answers.”
“Because you haven’t heard the weird part yet,” Jim said dryly.
Jack dropped his head in his hands. “Hell,” came out muffled.
“That was mean,” Blair said, lips twitching with amusement.
Tony looked to Jethro to see how he was doing. The bond had felt solid and steady thus far. Jethro just gave him an encouraging nod.
“The Drakes bonded to these three Wyverns also had a role,” Tony continued. “The Sentinel, the Shield and the Guardian Drake.”
“And that makes me, the Shield, I take it?” At Tony’s nod, he asked, “And you don’t know what that means either?”
Tony shook his head. “Sorry, Jack. Hopefully we’ll get answers, but it’s a mystery for a little longer. The point of this is that the dragons filling those six roles were the ruling body. The Wyverns specifically had a bond together, something Precious calls the triad bond.”
This time is was Daniel who blurted out, “You want the six of us to take up ruling the dragons?”
“Okay, seriously,” Tony said trying not to laugh, “you guys need to not jump to conclusions. What Precious said is that there would be a great threat coming that could affect all the dragons and people of Earth, and that it was vital that the triad bond be reestablished to protect everyone.”
“Threat from where?” Jack asked, expression serious.
“We don’t know yet. We hope to find out today,” Tony offered.
“And why aren’t we already on to that portion of the programming?” Jack grumbled.
“Jack,” Daniel admonished, nudging his mate.
Tony sighed. “Because I think we need to complete the triad bond first. I think Precious is going to continue to be cagey until that’s done.”
“And what’s involved in that?” Daniel asked before Jack could say anything.
“I think you and Blair need to take care of your own Wyvern bond first, and then we just have to acknowledge each other’s role. There may be more after that, but that part I’m pretty sure about.” Tony touched his chest, remembering yesterday. “Blair and I sort of stumbled into the last part. But it feels sort of off… I think it will continue to feel that way without you in the bond.”
“Hmm.” Daniel looked thoughtful.
“Danny, tell me you’re not really thinking about this with so little information?” Jack said, a little bit exasperated.
“It feels right, Jack. Like it’s the next step.” Before Jack could reply, Daniel hopped to his feet. “We’re going to step away for a second so we can talk about it.”
“No privacy among dragons, Danny,” Jack groused.
Jim leaned back, resting his weight on his hands. “We’ll do our best not to listen. I’ve never felt a threat here, so I can try to keep it dialed down.”
Jethro added his agreement, so Jack let himself be pulled away, quickly falling into whispered conversation with Daniel. The remaining four talked idly for several minutes.
Eventually, Jack and Daniel returned, but remained standing. “Can we do the Wyvern bond here, or do we need to go back?” Daniel asked determinedly.
Blair hopped to his feet. “Let’s try here and see what happens.” The two moved far enough away to shift, and then did their face rubbing thingy.
Tony felt something when the Wyvern bond settled and sat up straight.
“What was that, Tony?” Jethro asked leaning forward so he could look Tony square in the face.
“I… I don’t know…” He hopped to his feet and went over to other Wyverns, who were just shifting back, and both watching Tony intently.
“Guardian,” Daniel said as if the word was pulled from him. He looked to Blair. “Shaman.”
“Master of the Gate,” Tony immediately replied, and Blair said in quick succession. There was a sharp shifting and settling sensation and everything seemed to swim before his eyes. He blinked a few times, trying to get oriented again and found himself on his hands and knees, gasping for breath, Jethro kneeling beside him.
“I’m okay,” Tony gasped even as Jethro pulled him up to his knees and framed Tony’s face, with careful hands. He was aware of the other pairs whispering to each other.
“What happened, Tony?” Jethro asked, watching Tony intently.
“The bond between settling between us was…” he trailed off unsure how to describe it. “It was disorienting.” He could feel Blair and Daniel like they were a part of him. Not like Jethro who was part of Tony down to his marrow, but rather like being a part of something bigger than himself.
“The first triad bond in many millennia,” Precious intoned. “You had to pull forth a great power long left dormant. You’ll feel well in a few moments.”
“I take it you’re Precious,” Jack said with a little bite as he pulled Daniel to his feet. Jethro and Jim helped Tony and Blair up as well. Tony still felt a little wobbly.
Precious shot Tony a somewhat baleful look over the name, but then just shook Its head and answered Jack. “I am known as such. Welcome, Jack O’Neill, I have been waiting to meet you. And, Daniel… welcome.” It looked to the other Drakes. “James, Jethro… well met.”
The Drakes seemed hesitant, but all nodded. Daniel was smiling, looking enthused. Blair seemed to already be back to normal, and Tony wondered if it was because they were on the spirit plane, which Blair seemed to have control over.
Precious gracefully folded down into a seated position. “Please sit. We have much to discuss.”
With a glare, Jack crossed his arms over his chest. “And why is it that we couldn’t get the information before the bond?”
Tony went ahead and sat, not interested in being in a pissing match, plus he still felt unsteady. Jethro joined him.
Precious cocked Its head to the side. “Because this will ease the way for what I have to tell you. I could have answered your questions first, but with the triad bond in place, each of the Wyverns will have knowledge and certainty around the areas of their dominion. They’ll share that certainty with each other and with their mate. It will make a difficult truth easier to understand.”
“That was the kind of clear that isn’t,” Jack nearly growled.
Daniel plopped down. “Jack, sit. We’re not getting answers by being adversarial, so let’s talk it out. I do feel profoundly connected to Blair and Tony, and I want to know more about this Master of the Gate stuff. What does that mean exactly?”
“If you’ll allow me to start at the beginning, it will be much easier to explain. If I answer your question, I fear it will just create more.” Precious gave Daniel and Jack a searching look. “The first thing that must happen, is that you and Jack must tell the rest about your work with the Stargate.”
Jack groaned and shook his head. “We cannot tell them that. It’s classified.”
Precious looked amused. “Jack, I assure you the knowledge was mine long before it was classified. Please remember that dragons were on Earth when the Goa’uld were using the Ancients’ Stargates for their own vile ends.”
Tony was totally lost in the discussion, but he was getting some odd mental pictures as Precious spoke; human-looking beings and a big flying city, a ring with what looked like water in it, and snakey-looking things with fins. He felt concern and confusion from Jethro, but his mate seemed content to wait things out.
Precious waited for several moments, the stare-off between It and Jack going uninterrupted. Finally, the elder dragon sighed. “Very well. I’ll tell the tale as Jack and Daniel know it to be, and then explain what I know to be true.” It looked around at all six, making careful eye contact before finally offering, “There was a race of beings known as the Alterans, who originated in the Alteran Home Galaxy. They evolved for millions of years, attaining a high level of technology, including interstellar space travel.
“They travelled to a galaxy they called Avalon and seeded it with life. Avalon is what you have named the Milky Way. In addition to spreading human life throughout Avalon, they created a network of what Jack and Daniel refer to as Stargates, which creates stable wormholes between planets, allowing instantaneous travel from one planet to another.”
Tony was listening intently, feeling like he was listening to someone reading him a story rather than hearing the origins of the human species – because that was too surreal to wrap his head around. He was also getting more pictures in his head as Precious spoke, but was still unable to fully grok what they meant.
Precious hesitated briefly before continuing. “What Daniel and Jack believe to be true is that the Ancients eventually moved on, leaving the network of Stargates behind. A parasitic race called the Goa’uld–”
“Wait,” Daniel interjected, “You said it’s what we believe to be true. Is that not true?”
“It’s true after a fashion,” Precious retorted a bit testily, “but it’s not the entire truth. They need to understand what you believe to be true before I expound upon the actual truth. If I were to answer your questions as they occur to you, the others will simply be more confused.”
Daniel looked to his mate. “Jack, they’re going to know. Let me just explain what we know already, so Precious doesn’t have to tap dance around whatever It knows.”
“Danny,” Jack said on a sigh. The two shared a long look, seemingly a silent conversation. Finally he blew out a breath in clear resignation. “Go ahead.”
So Daniel began a long spiel about the rise of the Goa’uld named Ra, and alien parasite who lived in a human host, and how he subjugated the people of Earth. How there was an uprising and the Earth Stargate was buried in Egypt. It was subsequently found in 1928, and in 2000, Daniel figured out how to actually use it to travel to other planets.
Tony was wide-eyed like a little kid as he heard the stories of them travelling through the ‘gate, as Daniel referred to it. Daniel mentioned the names of many Goa’uld – using the names of Earth gods – that had been defeated. He mentioned other races, like the Asgard, and the Tollan and the Nox. And more recently, an expedition that set off for the lost city of Atlantis far off in the Pegasus Galaxy.
He was so enraptured by the tale, wrapped up in the highs and lows, the danger and discovery, that he was only vaguely aware that anyone else was even present. The whole thing was so surreal, so… so much more than anything Tony could have imagined.
The part about Daniel ascending, in which Tony heard died, and had left Jack, completely horrified Tony. Even though Daniel eventually got kicked out of the ascended plane and sent back for trying to interfere, it was still shudder inducing. No wonder Jack was so twitchy about Daniel getting involved with the unexplained.
And these ascended beings, most of which were the Ancients, seemed like a royal pain in the ass. But not as much of a pain as the ascended Goa’uld named Anubis, who had only recently been dealt with. Daniel and Jack practically radiated relief that Anubis was handled, but Tony could feel a deep well of suppressed anger at the Goa’uld for all those he’d killed, and the destruction left in his wake.
Daniel finished telling the tale of Anubis, as well as Oma Desala’s most recent attempt to get Daniel to ascend. Tony noticed that Precious’ hands clenched at the mention of Daniel ascending.
Since they were up to the present in Daniel’s account, Tony asked, “So, where did the Yverians come into it? Was Yveria a planet the Ancients found?”
“Yveria?” Daniel queried, perking up a bit. His mood had seemed a little darker after the recounting of their time in the Stargate program.
“The planet Wyverns are from,” Tony answered, keeping most of his attention on Precious.
“That’s not precisely true,” Precious began, and Tony’s brows shot up in surprise. “I allowed you to infer that, Tony.”
Tony was taken aback, mind racing over the conversation he’d had with Precious. “I don’t understand. You said Wyverns weren’t from Earth, but were from Yveria instead. What could I have inferred from what you said that’s incorrect?”
“That Yveria is a planet. It’s a logical conclusion, and I knew you had made that leap, but it was too soon to reveal the truth of what Yveria is,” Precious said, watching Tony carefully and ignoring the rest for now.
Frowning, Tony thought back through what had been said, and realized Precious was right; It had never said that Yveria was a planet. “So what is it?”
“Yveria is another plane of existence. What Daniel and Jack know as the ascended plane.”
“What?!” came from Daniel and Jack simultaneously.
Precious held up a hand asking for patience. “Allow me to explain. Yveria is a place of nearly limitless existence, but existence that is unbounded lacks depth. There are no highlights or shadows… no contrast. Yverians eventually began to give attention to the events in the corporeal plane. Some, many in fact, desired to expand their knowledge and experience by attempting a mortal existence.
“The risk was minimal; if anything happened, we would return home. After carefully considering the options available, we eventually made contact with the Alterans in their home galaxy. So the first tangible form we adopted was very much like theirs.” Precious paused and seemed to be considering for several seconds.
Tony felt compelled to mention, “You speak of this like you lived it.”
Precious smiled faintly. “One of the aspects of the seer’s gift is the ability to see what has gone before. When I still lived, when looking into the past, it was indeed very much as if I’d lived it.” It seemed lost in memory for a moment before resuming the tale. “One thing we discovered quite quickly was that a bond to the tangible plane of existence was necessary, otherwise we felt continually pulled to return to Yveria.
“We had thought to develop this bond with the Alterans, and they were quite agreeable to the notion, but they were more interested in where we had come from, and attempting to attain it, rather than living the mortal life they had.”
Tony had to wonder how frustrating that must have been to the Yverians. They sought a mortal existence, and their first contact wanted to shake off mortality.
“In exchange for aiding us in finding a compatible species to create this bond with,” Precious continued, “and a new place to call home, we agreed to teach them the path to ascension. We created what you might call a treaty or an accord that detailed how they could interact with the tangible plane after they achieved ascension. I’ll explain that more comprehensively as we move further along in the story.
“Suffice it to say, many, many things occurred on our journey to meet the Drakes, much of which isn’t relevant to this discussion; however, one thing of note is that before the Alterans left their home galaxy, they split into two factions. One became the Ancients that Daniel and Jack have mentioned and who built the Stargate system, the other was more interested in religion than exploration, and they became the Ori. They will be relevant later as well.”
When Precious seemed lost in thought, Tony asked, “So you eventually came to Earth and discovered dragons?”
Precious’ smile took on a nostalgic quality. “Yes. The memories I have of their first encounters on Earth… This was the first planet the Alterans found with such aggressive and interesting life. The Alterans initially thought to not settle here because dragons dominated this world, but in the end they were able to reach an agreement with the various dragon species.”
Jack snorted. “That worked out well for the dragons in the long run.”
“Painfully true. If they had but known that humans would eventually be their downfall… well, things might have gone differently,” Precious said with almost no inflection.
“I take it they didn’t have their own version of you at that time?” Tony asked, wanting clarification.
Precious shook Its head. “No. The leaders of the Yverians in our home dimension felt we needed to find our way without such certainties. Our goal was to craft an existence to learn and enjoy and live, not to craft a perfect existence. In fact, I’m the only gold Wyvern ever to exist. There was always the possibility of it, but I was the first.”
Tony puzzled on that for a second. “That almost implies some kind of intervention from the Yverians.”
Inclining Its heads in agreement, Precious replied, “I think it likely, though I don’t know for certain. The Yverians felt it important that we function independently of them, but that if there ever came a pivotal moment, we would have the tools we needed to make an informed choice.”
Frowning, Tony asked, “You consider yourself a tool?”
“I consider myself a gift to my people,” Precious replied carefully. “I allowed us to see the repercussions of the various possibilities and make the best choice.”
Tony knew there was more there, more to why Precious’ gift suddenly appeared, but he was pretty sure Precious didn’t even know. He decided to get the discussion back on track. “So, why’d you choose the Drakes?”
“Of all the dragon species, Drakes were by far the most interesting. You must realize that we had seen many animal species in our travels with the Alterans, but dragons were nothing like the animals we had encountered. They were sharply intelligent and clever. And, in the case of the Drakes, more than a little arrogant.” Precious smirked a bit. “Mind you, not all dragons were intelligent. Certainly the Zomok were, as you might say, dumb as a box of rocks.
“But the Drakes… we could feel how profound their connection to Earth was. A bond with them would allow us the experience we craved without the constant pull to return home. Negotiations were lengthy, but we eventually came to an accord.”
“So,” Jack piped up, leaning forward with interest, “if you took the form of the Drakes, why do Wyverns look different? And what’s with the fruity colors? All that shiny can’t possibly be advantageous! You stick out like a disco ball in the sun.”
“Jack!” Daniel yelped, looking horrified, but Tony was shaking as he tried not to laugh.
Precious’ lips twitched with amusement. “It was important to the Drakes that we not appear exactly as they did. We assumed a less threatening form and bore their mark when in shifted form so we would be easily distinguishable from the Alterans, though we quickly separated entirely from them and lived solely with the Drakes.”
“And you taught the Drakes to shift?” Daniel asked, and Tony could tell his brain was buzzing with many more questions.
“In time, yes. As for our coloring… the sheen seemed to just occur no matter what we tried; the colors were in part an expression of the Drake’s variety in coloring, combined with our inherent gifts.”
Daniel looked like he was mulling something over. “So you didn’t all have ascended powers in your mortal form?”
“The answer isn’t terribly straightforward, but the easiest way to explain it is that some gifts we found to be inherent to us in any form, and they varied from Wyvern to Wyvern. In order to use our ascended powers we had to effectively reach out to that plane of existence. Our agreement with the Alterans was that we would not do so. We had access to gifts that transferred into a physical form, but anything that required us to breach the ascended plane we agreed to surrender. At least until we died and returned home.”
Daniel shook his head in obvious confusion. “But I ascended. Why didn’t I know any of this?”
“Of all the dragons on Earth, Daniel, the Ancients could not afford to let you die a natural death. It is also why Oma Desala persists in attempting to persuade you to ascend.”
Jack was the one who quickly and sharply responded, “And why is that?”
“Because if Daniel ascended in the manner of the Ancients, they could shield him from the Yverians, unless the Yverians were expressly looking for him. In the general course of things, the Yverians pay the Ancients no mind whatsoever. They exist completely separate from one another, but the ascended plane is our home. The Yverians have the power to choose who is allowed to exist in that plane.”
“And why was I special?” Daniel asked, radiating concern and frustration.
“When we began to have children with the Drakes, our offspring were never a combination of us. Some were born Wyverns, and some were born Drakes. But even those who were Wyverns had a more profound connection to this plane than the ascended plane. The Wyverns were uncertain if upon death, these new generations would be able to ascend, and the Drakes had little interest in learning the path to ascension.
“So we exploited a loophole in our agreement with the Alterans. Yverians can interact with all planes of existence, not just the higher plane and the lower plane.”
“You mean here?” Blair asked, seeming to be the first to grok what Precious meant.
“Yes. The spirit plane, as well as the ether between planes. We found that from the spirit plane, we could pull forth a tangible connection to the ascended plane. And when that connection merged with our descendants, be they Drake or Wyvern, upon death, that connection would lead them home.”
“The spirit dragons!” Blair blurted.
“Exactly,” Precious replied, smiling genuinely. “They’re called forth from the ascended plane and dwell here until they’re needed. Ultimately, they return us home. Because the spirit dragons dwell here in this plane of existence, they can’t be considered interacting with the ascended plane.”
Before Daniel could ask another question, Precious held up a hand. “Patience. I’ll explain how this relates to you, Daniel. When a Wyvern not bonded to a spirit guide dies, they come here. There are hundreds waiting for the opportunity to move on.”
“They don’t merge with the spirit dragons when they come?”
Precious quickly shook Its head. “No. The pool of spirit guides would be dangerously depleted if they had. So if Daniel had died a normal mortal death, he would have come to this plane and he would have learned all that I have told you. And he would discover everything the Alterans have done against our treaty with them.”
“And that’s significant, why?” Daniel asked. “Why does it matter if I found out compared to any other Wyvern who has died?”
“Because of all dragons in existence, you have the power to affect them.”
Frowning, Daniel just shook his head, as if in some type of denial. “How is that possible?”
“Because you are the Master of the Gate.”
“Meaning what exactly? I keep hearing that, but I don’t know what it’s supposed to mean.” Daniel sounded utterly confused.
Precious looked to Tony. “Have you discerned the truth, Tony?”
Tony was pretty sure he had. Different pieces of the puzzle had been clicking into place. “Each of us has some sort of dominion over one plane of existence. Mine is the tangible, mortal plane. Blair’s is here on the spirit plane. So Daniel’s must be the ascended plane.”
Precious nodded. “In Daniel’s case it’s more the path to the ascended plane. His gift allows him to bridge the barriers between planes call upon our ancestors and the leaders of the Yverians.”
“Oh hell,” Daniel blurted and Tony noted that Jack looked distinctly sour. “So they didn’t want me to find out what was happening and alert the Yverians. But aside from a bit of interference, what is so awful?”
Tony suddenly got that piece, too. “The Ori,” he whispered, but still got everyone’s attention. “You mentioned them earlier. The Alterans split into two factions… the Ori stayed behind. Did they ascend as well?”
“Yes,” Precious immediately replied. “And unlike the Ancients, they most assuredly did not keep to the treaty. They’ve subjugated an entire galaxy and feed on the power of worship. Daniel could have opened the pathway to the ascended plane, and called upon the Yverians to intervene. The Ancients, while not directly violating the treaty, failed to tell the Yverians what the Ori have done. Or, rather, that’s what I have inferred based on the actions of the Ancients, and the lack of action on the part of the Yverians.”
“Guilt by association?” Jethro asked, surprising Tony a bit, though he shouldn’t have been. Jethro had always been insightful, even if he rarely spoke it aloud.
“The Ancients no doubt fear the Yverians will treat them all as Alterans, rather than as two separate races, and they’ll be subject to the same punishment as the Ori,” Precious answered.
“In your note,” Tony mused out loud, then looked up to glare a bit at Precious, “and don’t think I’m not annoyed about it, but you had said that there was a great threat coming. Is that the Ori?”
“It is. Without the intervention of you six, they’ll threaten the Earth, as early as this coming summer. But I believe they can be handled without grief and bloodshed.”
Tony shook his head. “If in your future visions you saw the Ori as a problem, why didn’t you send a message along with the last of you able to ascend? I mean, those of you who first went into human form had to have ascended eventually, right? You were the last to have spirit dragons to guide you there.”
“And you are correct that the message would have been carried, but until the gate is opened and the question asked, we won’t know the response.”
Daniel shook his head, looking a little overwhelmed. “You saw the future, so you know how they’re going to respond.”
“No. I’ve seen thousands of futures. And there are many possible futures that could stem from today. Since I no longer can see potential futures, I can only advise you from memories of a likely future.” Precious was quite emphatic.
Jack’s eyes were narrowed calculatingly. “So for all you know, the Yer-ee-whatsits could have already dealt with this?”
“That’s possible. But the Ancients’ interest in Daniel seems to indicate that the problem is not fully resolved. Regardless, you – all six of you – need to walk your path and make your own future. You must decide if you’re going to open the gate, and if so, what you will say. You will have to decide what path to take.”
Precious stopped any more questions by holding up both hands in a clear stop gesture. “I will readily advise you on what has been, but the six of you must be the ones to determine what will be.”
– – – –
Spencer fired off a text to Hotch and waited anxiously for a reply. It came within seconds and he grinned at the phone. It’d been so long since he’d been able to go out in the field without Aaron or Dave. Not only had they been over protective, but Spence hadn’t desired to with how out of control his emotions had felt to him. His Alphas had always been at least something of a buffer for him. Now the bond took care of it and he wanted to get back to feeling like an agent again.
“Good news?” Derek asked cautiously.
“Yes. Let’s go.” Spencer was already grabbing his bag and his notes about the person he wanted to interview for their latest serial killer case, which had brought them to a suburb of Los Angeles. He didn’t fool himself into thinking he would ever go into the field again without a dragon present, but Hotch had said he could go with just Derek this time.
Derek looked surprised, but didn’t say anything. At least, not until they were situated in the SUV and on the road. “So, what’s going on, Reid?”
Spencer blinked at him. “In what way?”
Derek shot him an incredulous look. “I was there for the beginning of all this nearly three weeks ago. Then you guys took off for England, and now you’re… different. And Hotch just let you go in the field without him or Rossi. So, what’s going on?”
He fidgeted with the strap of his messenger bag a bit, then finally said, “Tony helped determine that my empathic gifts aren’t like other Wyverns; they’re much more intense. I don’t just read others’ emotions, I experience them myself.”
Morgan shot him a wide-eyed look before focusing back on the road. “Why didn’t you say something?”
“I didn’t know. I thought that’s just the way it was supposed to be. But the bonding we told you about… It filters all that emotional noise out so I can concentrate again.”
“So it was the bonding… not something that happened in London?”
Spencer quickly shook his head. “I thought Hotch was going to tell you about our trip. At least in part. Though it has been busy since we got back,” he mused out loud.
“What happened in England?” Derek prompted.
“Corrupt Alpha. I don’t know how long the Council is going to keep that under wraps.”
Derek whistled lowly. “Damn. So that’s completely messed up, which means all this better you’re doing is really about the bonding?”
Nodding emphatically, Reid replied, “Yes. I… you can’t know how much better this is.”
“I’m happy for you, kid.” Derek gave his arm a quick squeeze and Spencer found himself smiling. “So, what happened this morning?”
“Yeah, when you were working up the geographical profile, you suddenly froze and dropped your marker. And you zoned out pretty hard for about a minute. I was about to call Hotch when you shook it off.”
Spencer nodded. He’d refused to talk about it, and since they were in a crowded police station, Derek had let it go. “I don’t know how to describe it; I just felt weird all of a sudden and all I could think about was Tony and Blair. It was unsettling.”
Derek shot him a sharp look. “You think something’s wrong with them?”
“No. I think they’re okay, though I sent Tony a couple texts. I know he was meeting with the pair in Colorado Springs this morning.” Spence felt confident things were okay, but there was definitely something… different.
He began telling Derek what he’d found in his research on the case, but his mind was partly on all the changes in his life. He felt like more were coming, but he now felt like he could meet those changes head on and be okay at the end.
Richard bemoaned the pile of paperwork he still had to sort through before he could call it a day. His top priority for the day had been to fast track the background check and security clearance for Tony’s new assistant. In part because the woman was rather assertive and Richard dared not make her wait, but also because he already knew that having Tony as organized as possible would be quite vital to their future plans. Even though those plans were rather nebulous at the moment.
His other main task had been ensuring that there was a schedule in place for all of the mated Alpha/Wyvern pairs to either visit a Center where they could be bonded by one of the pale-blue spirit Wyverns, or to have one visit them. Though it was already the eleventh of February, the schedule he’d finalized just moments ago had all the bondings complete by the end of the month.
He nodded in satisfaction that his two most important tasks were finished. As he turned his attention to lesser matters, his mind drifted to the six meeting in Colorado at that very moment. Earlier in the day – what would have been morning where the newly forming triad were – Richard had felt something odd. His instincts said it had something to do with this mysterious triad bond.
For himself, Richard was quite content with the way things were changing, but he knew his Alpha was experiencing a fair amount of worry over the situation. Not that Richard wasn’t curious about what was happening, he just wasn’t worried about it.
Regardless, he’d sent a vague email to Blair explaining that he’d felt something peculiar and the time it had occurred. He had great confidence Blair would respond to him as soon as possible.
He was another two hours into his paperwork when Jeremy sat across from his desk and cleared his throat unsubtly. Richard glanced up and lifted a brow in inquiry. “It’s past supper, Richard. Enough for now.”
Richard frowned and glanced at the clock. Time had indeed gotten away from him. He gently set down his pen. “I apologize; I was unaware of the hour.”
They had dinner in their suite, neither feeling an inclination to be sociable. Richard could tell Jeremy had a lot of concerns about the evolving situation with the six. “Jeremy, all will be well.”
Jeremy gave him an intense look. “You’re certain of this?”
He adjusted his chair so he was right next to his mate, and reached for his hand, gently tracing the strong elegant fingers. “Yes. I feel certain things will change, but that it will be for the best.”
Jeremy just stared for several long moments before he leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Richard’s temple, whispering, “Of all the things in this world, what I have the most faith in is you. I’ll follow where you lead on this matter, love.”
Vin slowly and methodically ran the brush over Peso’s flank, making sure he stayed relaxed. Peso had always been an ornery horse – though Vin wouldn’t admit that to anyone – but he loved the foul-tempered beast, and had feared Peso wouldn’t be able to adapt to Vin being a dragon. His horse had been reluctant to let Vin near for several days, but his patience was beginning to pay off.
It probably helped that his bond with Chris was settled and content. He wasn’t sure how much of that kind of thing the horses picked up, but all the chaos so early in their mating had left them a bit out of sorts when they’d returned from England. Not that there’d been anything wrong, they had just really needed time alone where they could shift when they wanted to and do as little or as much as they’d liked. And mostly what they liked was spending a lot of time in bed really getting to know each other.
Buck and Ez had been out a couple times to shift and fly, same with Josiah and Colin. He was happy at how well Buck and Ezra were doing together, and the other pair were settling in faster than Vin had expected. Colin still had some bad moments, but there was no one better than Josiah for helping him through it.
Vin and Chris had driven down to Colorado Springs just yesterday to meet up with Colonel Mitchell and his Wyvern Kegan Hughes. The other Wyvern had needed to have his spirit guide summoned, and Vin didn’t think that would ever get old. He felt incredibly honored he’d been chosen for that role.
He’d done some simple training with the other blue Wyvern, who could now summon the spirit guides for the rest of the dragons in his Wing. They had plans to meet up in the future to train him to spirit walk.
And that was something that blew Vin’s mind every day. He got to go to another plane of existence. All of this was something he’d never conceived for himself, and he thought of it as the most amazing gift.
With regards to the spirit plane, he’d felt something odd earlier in the morning. It was like something shuffled and settled differently. It wasn’t wrong or anything, it was just different.
It felt like something to do with Blair and Tony, and he also felt something from that bit of himself connected to the spirit plane. Blair had told them all to stay away from practicing the spirit walking until Blair gave the go ahead because he’d be using the spirit plane for something. And Vin was absolutely certain something had happened on the spirit plane this morning. He’d already called Ez and confirmed that he had felt the same thing. He’d also learned that neither Drake had felt it.
And speaking of Drakes, he sensed his approaching the barn with slow measured steps. No doubt to give Peso time to accept another dragon coming close. Vin spent a few more minutes finishing up, aware of his Alpha leaning against the barn door. Giving a last pat to Peso, he carefully moved away.
When he approached his mate, he got a smile; one that Chris reserved just for Vin. He felt the warmth of that all the way to his toes. There had already been so much good, but the best part most definitely was Chris.
Ezra glanced up from his newspaper as Buck appeared with plates laden with traditional brunch fare. His brows shot up in surprise. “I fear you have overestimated my appetite.”
Buck winked at him and retorted, “No worries… I promise to get you hungry enough to finish it all today.”
The situation with them, while comfortable and very desirable, was still new enough that Ezra was easily affected when Buck expressed such overt interest. He felt his cheeks warm, hating that he was so transparent; not that Buck couldn’t feel Ezra’s pleased discomfiture through the bond.
Ezra had eschewed long-term relationships for many years, though he had been rather hopelessly enamored of his teammate the moment he’d met Buck. With suddenly having his heart’s desire combined with the newness of not often being alone, he felt entirely wrong-footed more frequently than he cared to admit.
Buck settled next to him, not saying anything about Ezra’s obvious blushing. “You hear back from Tony or Blair yet?”
Ezra shook his head in the negative even as he took a careful bite of the poached eggs Buck had prepared. He’d learned over the wonderful days of isolation that he and Buck shared a passion for cooking, and Buck was quite skilled in the culinary arts.
Wiping his mouth carefully, he eventually replied, “His last communiqué indicated that he would be unavailable most of today. I rather think we won’t hear from him for quite some time yet. However, Vin called and indicated he experienced the same odd sensation at the precise time as myself. I assume Tony will make contact when he has the opportunity.”
“’Course he will. Tony likes ya, Ez. He won’t keep you hanging.”
Ezra smiled faintly but covered it with a quick bite of toast. The future certainly promised to be much better than years past. And when his Alpha’s arm came around his waist, pulling him close, he let himself sink into it.
Kegan Hughes carefully checked the last of his translation. He could practically feel Cam tugging on their bond, wanting him back in their quarters, though he doubted Cam was doing it on purpose. Today was technically their last day of leave for their bonding, but their next off-world mission wasn’t scheduled until next Tuesday.
Despite the fact that they had a few low-key days in front of them, they’d wanted to milk today for every last minute, but Kegan had been needed to look over some Ancient translations. No one was as good with Ancient as Daniel, but Daniel was unavailable today, so Kegan was the next best choice. Except that Kegan wasn’t having any problem with his Ancient all the sudden. Which was odd, because it wasn’t usually this easy for him.
He wasn’t sure what to connect it to. There were lots of pieces to the puzzle that didn’t quite line up. He’d met Tony DiNozzo, emerged abruptly, mated to his own team leader, had wild sex for many days, met with Vin Tanner, learned about spirit walking, and suddenly he could read Ancient like it was as easy as English. Plus, to cap off the oddities of the day, he’d had the weirdest feeling earlier in the morning. He knew it had something to do with Daniel or Tony, but he couldn’t imagine what.
He’d immediately texted Daniel, despite Cam’s grumbling, and just recently heard back that everything was fine and Daniel would explain later. Somehow all these pieces were interconnected, he just wasn’t seeing the connecting threads yet.
Resolutely, he put it out of his mind and quickly sent off the translation to SG-11, and hotfooted it back to their quarters on level 25. He found Cameron hunched over his laptop, smirking about something. His mate immediately swung around, a troubling grin on his lips.
“What horrors have you unearthed on the Internet?” he queried even as he began to remove his BDUs in order to change into sweats.
“Hugh Hughes,” Cam intoned, lips twitching.
Kegan froze, then finally blurted out, “You asshole,” even as he started to laugh. He’d always thought his parents must have been high on something to name him ‘Kegan,’ the Anglicized version of which was Hugh. He was, indeed, Hugh Hughes.
Cam got up and prevented him from tugging on his sweats. “Those really won’t be necessary, Hugh.”
“Oh, so you think you’re getting laid, eh?” Kegan asked dryly.
“I think,” Cam began, leaning down to lick Kegan’s dark throat scales, “that I’m pretty damn irresistible.”
Kegan snorted in amusement even as he shivered from the sensation of having his throat scales worked. “I say you’re entirely resistible, and you shall remain resistible, if you ever call me ‘Hugh’ again.”
Cam nuzzled behind Kegan’s ear. “But I like ‘Hugh.’”
He wound his arms around Cameron’s shoulders, teasing the scales behind his mate’s ears. “More than sex?” he whispered.
Abruptly, he was picked up and then dropped on the bed, Cameron quickly following to blanket Kegan’s body. “I have no idea who this Hugh is that you speak of.”
Kegan tipped his head back, giving his Alpha room to explore his throat scales. “I knew you were more than a pretty face.”
Blair and Jim tromped through the wooded area surrounding Jack’s property. They’d agreed to take a break from the crazy revelations and reconvene before dinner. Then they would go to meet with Precious for another session of hopefully less shocking disclosures.
Daniel and Jack were at the house, Tony and Jethro had gone back to the hotel, but Blair knew when his Alpha needed to burn off energy, so he had asked if they could take a long walk around Jack’s place. It helped that there were Betas on site, so Jim wouldn’t worry so much about safety.
Because they were on the move and out in the open where others could listen in, they couldn’t talk about the day’s events, which Blair thought was for the best. They needed to not try to sort it out yet. He wanted all the info first and then they could figure things out.
Right after they’d returned from the spirit plane, they’d found that all three of the triad had texts from various Wyverns, who had all felt something during the morning that seemed strange to them. The blue Wyverns – Kegan, Vin, and Colin – had specifically been able to identify that it came from the spirit plane, but had already known Blair was going to be there so they hadn’t investigated. After a quick round of “everything is okay,” texts, they’d split up.
The assumption was that the Wyverns had felt the triad bond snap into place. None of the Drakes reported feeling anything odd, so it seemed to be only the Wyverns who were affected. And thus far they’d only heard from Wyverns who had a direct connection to the triad. It was yet another thing to “sort out later.” And there sure was a hell of a lot of stuff that fell under that category!
Jim’s pace told Blair a lot about the Alpha’s mood; he was tense and troubled by all they had learned so far. Blair couldn’t say he was exactly okay with it, but he’d always been able to go with the flow more than Jim. But Jim always got there eventually; he just needed time to process things in his own way. Although, the big guy would give him the hairy eyeball for even putting Jim and process in the same sentence.
They walked in silence and Blair could both see and feel that his mate was starting to unwind. Abruptly, Jim came to a halt, blew out a breath and rubbed his hands over his face, shoulders now much more relaxed. He grabbed hold of Blair’s wrist and pulled him close, breathing in the scent of Blair’s hair.
“Everything is going to change,” Jim murmured against Blair’s ear.
“Yeah.” Blair wrapped his arms firmly around his Alpha and held on tight. “But I trust you. I trust us. And I know it’s all going to be okay.”
Daniel adjusted his pillow, trying to get a bit more comfortable as he read. The pillow grumbled out of habit, but began carding fingers through Daniel’s hair, though most of Jack’s attention was really on the hockey game.
They had been deliberately avoiding any discussions about the morning’s revelations on the spirit plane, but Daniel’s brain was definitely churning on it. He knew Jack’s was, too, though Jack was happy to not have to discuss it.
Daniel really, really wanted time to sort this out with Blair and Tony. Not that he and Jack didn’t need to discuss things, too, but he had a hunch the Drakes were waiting for the Wyverns to come up with a preliminary plan before they chimed in. Plus the security stuff was a nightmare for Jack. Four people unconnected with the SGC knew way too much about what their top secret project actually did. Of all of them, Jack was the most divided in his loyalties at the moment, and Daniel was worried about his mate.
He managed to refocus on his book, but after a few minutes, Jack got up to get more coffee and obligingly brought back another mug for Daniel. Though, oddly, he brought a new mug rather than refilling the existing one, and he had a bit of a smirk.
Suspicious, Daniel sat up to take a sip and belatedly noticed there was a dragon on the side of his mug. A silver dragon, with the caption, “Silver Wing the Magnificent.”
Daniel vaguely remembered Tony calling him that the first time he’d seen Daniel in his dragon form. He wasn’t sure whether to laugh or glare. He settled for glaring even as his lips were twitching. “I can’t believe you were paying attention that. We were outside and you were in the back on the phone.”
Jack’s expression shifted to something a little more serious. “I’m always paying attention, Daniel. To everything about you.”
He felt a constriction in his chest. Jack didn’t talk about feelings much. Daniel could feel that Jack had strong emotions, and Jack had always been demonstrative, but talking about “squishy stuff” made Jack uncomfortable. Moving closer and swinging to straddle Jack’s lap, Daniel gave his Alpha a gentle kiss.
“I love you, too, Jack.”
Tony closed the door to their bedroom and watched Jethro pace briefly before sitting on the edge of the bed and giving Tony a thoughtful look.
“You okay, Tony?”
“I’m… as good as can be expected, I suppose. Seems like my life can’t decide which network it wants to be on. First it felt like it was doomed for Lifetime dramas, then a special on Comedy Central, but now I discover I’m moving to Syfy, and frankly, their programming sucks.”
Jethro blinked at him. “Was that English?”
Amused, Tony moved close and began tugging at his Alpha’s shirt.
“Tony… what are you doing?” Jethro asked, sounding a bit bewildered.
“Getting you naked.” Tony dropped to his knees and began working on Jethro’s pants. “I really thought that’d be obvious. Now stand up so I can get these off.”
Eyes narrowed, Jethro got to his feet and let Tony strip him. Then Tony peeled off his own clothes and knelt on the bed behind Jethro, letting his hands rest on his mate’s shoulders and starting a gentle massage.
“What are you doing?” Jethro asked, then groaned as Tony began to increase the pressure.
“And again, I’d think that’d be very self-evident,” Tony remarked dryly, even as he was mostly focused on the difference in texture between the scales on the tops of the shoulders and the surrounding skin. He’d always wanted time with those scales, but every time he’d tried, he’d barely get in a lick before Jethro had him flat on his back and he was being thoroughly fucked stupid.
Jethro slumped a little as Tony worked a little deeper, letting out a long breath. “What brought this on?”
Tony dropped a quick kiss on one shoulder. “Since I emerged, you have been my rock, Jethro. You’ve done everything you can to make this easier on me. I know you’re struggling with all of this, even though I know you’ve still got my six. Just let me help make it a littler easier on you for a while.”
Jethro was still and silent for several beats, he then grabbed one of Tony’s hands and pressed a kiss to the inside of his wrist. “Thank you, Tony.”
– – – –
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.
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