Rowaine

Herein lies Rowaine’s Evil Author Day fics for 2015. When you leave her love in the comments section, be sure to mention which fic!

 

Phoenix Reborn

Title: Phoenix Reborn
Author: Rowaine
Summary: Apocalyptic rewrite of SG-1 and Atlantis, starting a few weeks before the expedition leaves for Pegasus.
Warnings: AU, adult language and content, AU, sci-fi psychobabble, AU, and apocalyptic themes
Fandoms: Primarily revolves around Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis, but I wouldn’t hold my breath about others poking around for an honorable mention.
Pairings: Yes, there will be. Consider what my normal pairings are, so don’t be surprised when slash (male/male or female/female) shows up as often as het.
Rating: Mostly PG-13/M rating, but will probably have scenes of nakedness as well.
Notes: This is going to take place approximately the same timeline as SGA first year, SG-1 season 8. Please bear in mind that when I call it AU, it’s really fucking out there. I make no apologies to the original writers who, though they tried, folded under the ideals of sponsors and networks. Also, I’m not trying to completely rewrite anything – some situations couldn’t be avoided, some could, and others wouldn’t have happened without… well, hang around and see.
Notes the second: I have very happily been brainwashed by Keira Marcos – if you see any non-canon characters, they are very possibly borrowed from her stories. Honestly, at this point, I can’t promise the ability to separate her worlds and the original series/canon *lol*
Disclaimer: It is with a great deal of sadness that I must admit to not owning any of the characters or story worlds based off the Stargate franchise. No money is made, no currency of any type exchanged based on the use of their people and places. There would have been a helluva lot more kissing involved if that was the case *nodnod*

Part 1

It wasn’t uncommon for the alarms to wake him from a good night’s sleep. Not that it happened every night, or even on a schedule, but often enough that he wasn’t freaked out about it anymore.

Jack quickly tucked himself into his BDUs, grabbed his go-bag with laptop, games and assorted necessities to keep him occupied, and joined the fray out in the hall. Walter wasn’t announcing an unauthorized activation or warp core breach (And hadn’t that been a fun time? He really needed to have more security overrides in place for his power-thirsty geeks…), so the situation probably wasn’t as bad as it could be.

Stepping into the conference room just off the control center, he took in the occupants: Sgt. Walter Harriman, Sgt. Sylvester Siler, Dr. Daniel Jackson, Dr. Rodney McKay, Dr. Radek Zelenka, Dr. Miko Kusanagi, Dr. Carson Beckett, Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter, Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell, and the recently promoted Lt. Colonel John Sheppard and Major Evan Lorne. His eyes blinked slowly, once, twice, before he asked the most obvious question.

“So, what’s with the geek pow-wow?”

The military sorts snapped to attention. For all of five seconds – the most that newly commissioned Brigadier General Jack O’Neill (with two L’s) would allow. Walter was at his side immediately after, offering a huge mug of coffee doctored to his taste.

“Sir, we’ve had odd readings on the sensors for the last few hours, but what little we’ve gotten from NORAD says it’s serious. As in open Project Phoenix serious. Sir.”

Jack rubbed his eyes, gulped down half his coffee, then took another look at the room. Every person in his inner sanctum was occupied with printouts and lists, most were on phones barking orders, and the tension level was extreme.

“Have we heard anything from the President yet?” he asked, his voice tired and quiet.

“No sir, nor anyone from the White House or Pentagon,” Walter admitted. “Hell sir, even NORAD seems to be running on bare bones. We only got word because of that double-security program Col. Carter insisted on last year.”

Nodding, Jack indicated that he understood the ramifications to that bit of information just fine. Something was either jamming the lines, was taking up every last resource in communications, or had taken out the other sites entirely. He hated being in charge of making the call, but if there was no one else available…

“Alright, folks, I need answers,” he addressed the room. “First, have we been attacked with any known weaponry?” The general consensus was no, nothing detectable had struck any targets. “Second, how many of you are on calls to outside lines?”

“I’m speaking to my sister right now, General.” All eyes focused on Dr. McKay. “She and her daughter are in town, apparently escaping from her loser husband’s drunken streak. She said the airport was kicking everyone out and she needs a ride ASAP.”

Walter appeared at his side without seeming to move, grabbed the appropriate information, and was out of the room calling for an airman to make the trip at once.

Clearing his throat, Sheppard added, “I’ve been talking with some distributors locally. If we’re going into lockdown proceedures, we need to restock around here, and our normal suppliers aren’t picking up their phones.”

“None?” Several voices rang out at once.

He shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. “Not a single one. Also, there’s been no word from Peterson, the Academy, nothing.”

“Sir, you should see this,” Carter broke in.

Arranging themselves around the datapad she’d been studying, everyone but Siler and Harriman saw at a glance what had her troubled. Nearly every satellite in orbit around the Earth was shattered. A few smaller devices, clearly used for cellular phone service, were left intact… but a shimmering halo surrounded each. Spanning further out into space, the haze effect was more noticeable.

“I can’t get clear images with this thing, but I’d be willing to bet that our sister planets are experiencing greater effects. They don’t have the shielding we do with radio waves and various cough projects.”

Zelenka and Kusanagi looked particularly displeased by this info, but didn’t say anything out loud.

Jack sent a hard look around at his top geek squad. “We’ve tried all methods of contact with outside sources?”

“Yes, yes, of course, everything but Morse code…” McKay’s brusk voice trailed off as a light blush spread across his cheeks. “Right, so there’s got to be some old clickers around here somewhere. And someone to use them. Who are we supposed to contact and what questions do you want answered?”

Rubbing the bridge of his nose, Jack shifted his focus. “Siler, would you please dig out the equipment to send a message out? White House or Pentagon would be my first choice, even if that asshat’s got his fingers everywhere. We need instructions and fast, otherwise we’ll have to make our own decisions.”

“Yes sir, but it’ll take a while. For some reason, the equipment was sent to deep storage,” the sergeant said, pointedly not looking toward the scientists. “I’d expect us to dig it out within the next two hours.”

Jack – and the other military officers barring Carter – sighed as they contemplated spanking anyone connected with the sciences. Technology was great and useful, but when it gave out… well, it really gave out. “Understood. Just keep me posted.”

Without pointing fingers, he stared each of the geeks down one at a time. “We don’t have the time or energy right now to discuss this, but let it be known that I am seriously unhappy. Acht!” he held up one hand to stop all protests, “Don’t bother offering excuses. I don’t want to hear it. At this point, we need solutions, folks.”

Lorne and Sheppard, who had been huddled together speaking quietly for several minutes, straightened up and offered a sheet of paper. “Sir, using the Project Phoenix guidelines, we might have something of a plan.”

~ ~ ~

An hour later found Jack kicked back in his personal office chair, popping antacids and tylenol. He would admit, at least to himself, that his younger officers had come up with a workable plan. Sure, it bordered on treason, but only if they failed to reach any of the higher ups for detailed instructions. With their current status, communication with anyone from D.C. didn’t seem likely.

Project Phoenix Reborn was looking like their only option.

It wasn’t that he was afraid to make the call. Hell, over the course of his career, Jack had issued orders that ranged from terrible and traumatizing to extremely weird. But this one… this plan felt like giving up. It wasn’t, not by a long shot, but it certainly felt that way.

They currently had a wide variety of personnel in the mountain. Until this recent FUBAR, they were about to send an expedition off to the Pegasus galaxy in search of the lost city of Atlantis. Actually, they were still going to send folks off – just five times as many as planned, clearing out the SGC and taking as many families with them as they could reach in time.

Most of the men and women stationed at Cheyenne Mountain were long-term military. They moved their husbands, wives, children, dependent parents, and pets into the area. Even their overseas teams shipped over as much of their lives as possible. To say that they were in excellent condition to leave Earth and form a colony would be the grandest understatement of the century.

But Jack really didn’t want to do it.

He jumped a foot in the air off his too-comfortable chair when the red phone rang. Subconsciously straightening his hair, he grabbed the receiver and said, “Sir, General Jack O’Neill at the SGC here. We’ve got a prob-”

“Yes, you probably do,” came the most unwelcome voice in recent history. “Be a good little lapdog and sit down and shut up. We’ve already collected the important people, locked out the peons, and our bunkers are stocked to last at least thirty years. That should be enough time to clear the air of whatever screwed up thing you’ve brought down on our heads this time. And don’t worry, Jack, I’ll take real good care of your precious President Hayes.”

The line went dead. Jack stared at the receiver as if it would miraculously transform into a snake, or a butterfly, or blue jello… anything but the bearer of bad news.

With a deep sigh, he tossed it on the hook and grabbed his jacket, leaving the room in a much worse mood.

~ ~ ~

After a hasty all-call, the combined SGC and Atlantis personnel were assembled (read: crowded together like a tin of sardines) in the mess hall. Jack had taken the time to straighten his uniform, the Class B’s even, and had gotten in a quick shave.

“Ladies and gentlemen, quiet down and stay calm. We’ve had some news from the outside, and it isn’t quite as bad as it could be,” he kept his voice calm and smooth, knowing from past experience that if the commander looks like he has his shit together, his base will follow suit. “The red phone rang not too long ago, and Vice President Kinsey assured me that everyone in charge is already holed up in well-stocked bunkers. President, Joint Chiefs, Congress, Senate, everyone.”

He waited while that news filtered through the ranks, taking a sip of water before continuing, “That’s the good news – though from a nasty source.” Another pause to let the titters pass. No one at Stargate Command liked Kinsey. “The bad news is we’re no closer to finding out what’s causing this mess.” Murmurs rippled across the group, but quieted when he raised a hand in warning. “But, thanks to the combined efforts of our senior staff – military and science – we have a plan in place.”

Sgt. Siler walked calmly up to the table on which Jack was standing, handing him a sheet of paper. He read it once, twice, and a third time to commit it to memory, then gave a short nod and sighed loud enough for those in the back to hear.

“Well, this just confirmed a few things. Thanks to our industrious Sgt. Siler and a few of his buddies in Communications, we have unofficial but very reliable information from the Pentagon. The freaky wave thing that’s destroyed our satellites is the first massive wave of multi-phase radiation coming from the other side of our sun. It is, in effect, melting or shattering all electrical devices… and eventually, that will cover all life on the planet, including humans.”

Such news was greeted with as much dismay and fear as one would expect. He let them have a few minutes to gasp and shudder, then called the meeting to order once more.

“Which doesn’t really change our plans much, folks. We have the next 72 hours to get our shit together, including whatever family we can gather and bring in. This should include clothes, toys for the kids, and whatever odds and ends you just can’t do without. Bear in mind that we won’t have unlimited space, so play it smart, people. We’ve got access to the one Jumper for those farthest out, and about forty pilots who can make trips closer to home. We’ll be starting with the ones with more travel time, and if you can convince them to make the drive within our timeframe, all the better.”

Relief and a growing sense of anger took place of the earlier fear. It wasn’t ideal and could cause some grief with in-fighting, but still better than herding a bunch of weeping people through their tasks.

“We’re going to set up a bank of computers so each person can input the names, addresses, and occupations of whatever family members they can. Don’t get mad or hostile if you aren’t on the first day’s list – that’s already been explained. Col. Carter should have everything in order by the time you get down there. Orderly fashion, folks! We don’t need newly broken bones as we travel to another galaxy.”

Jack slid off the table and into a chair. He kept up the calm, cool, unconcerned facade until the majority of his people had filed out of the hall, leaving behind only Mitchell, Sheppard and Lorne.

“Sir, according to Siler, the news came from Lt. Colonel Paul Davis. He’s trying to get ahold of any family members between Virginia and New York, then whoever is a straight shot from there to here. He’ll bring them on a cargo plane with whatever belongings they can cram together in that time.”

Nodding to his XO, Jack sighed again, nearly folding in on himself. It was a relief to have a pilot on the East Coast already, but that still left so much territory to cover.

Sheppard slouched into a second chair, his hair looking every bit as worn and disheartened as they all felt. “Dr. Weir hasn’t come back from visiting her mother yet. We’ve tried calling her cell and her mother’s home phone, but no luck so far. How much of an effort do you want us to make about that? We’ve got other experienced negotiators and diplomats…”

“I don’t want to see her die or anything, but there’s also the major issue… well, honestly sir, she’s going to expect to be in charge,” Lorne seemed to finish his superior’s thought. “Not that she shouldn’t be in charge of the diplomatic team, but if we’re doing this colony style, at least at the beginning, we need someone people will look up to.”

Mitchell just nodded, sipping at a cup of coffee. All eyes turned to him, waiting for a verbal opinion. “Okay, yes, you need to be the official leader. At least for now, sir. We’re military heavy, and they’re going to need a strong hand to deal with all the changes. The civilians will complain – loudly in some cases – but will appreciate your guidance more than some soft diplomat. Weir’s specialty is getting warring factions to agree on compromise, but we’re going to need firm rules and a firm hand keeping everyone in order. These people know you, respect you, and would follow you to hell.”

Yeah, it was one of those days where Jack really wanted to start over, or just go back to bed and ignore the rest of the world.

~ ~ ~

Vala Mal Doran was a sassy bit of goods. No one could deny how she lit up a room… if she was in a happy mood. In a foul temper, most intelligent people ran and hid. To say her attitude was currently dark would be like calling the Grand Canyon a cute little ditch.

“Dr. Kavanaugh, I honestly do not care about your opinions or suggestions. If you do not get out of my personal space immediately, I will be forced to provide several broken bones to augment the black eye you will be developing shortly.” Having said that, she delivered a sharp right jab to his gobsmacked face. “You have been repeatedly warned that the women on this base shall not be subjected to your particular brand of flirtation. The Taur’i expression, I believe, is back the fuck off!”

The miserable dog ran down the hall with his tail between his legs, whining about having been assaulted to anyone who crossed his path. A wave of laughter followed his childish, cowardly behavior.

A hand on her shoulder nearly provoked a violent response before she caught the unmistakable scent of her newest friend’s light floral perfume.

“Miko, I apologize if you were upset by that piece of offal…”

“Shh, think nothing of it, please. You have done many women a favor this day. Perhaps he will choose not to join the expedition after all, hmm?” The sparkle in the scientist’s dark eyes was enough to calm her alien friend.

“We should find Colonel Sheppard or Colonel Mitchell and file an official report. Far too few are willing to rock the boat, and they need to be informed of what kind of man they are including on this mission.”

Arm in arm, the two feisty ladies took off to look for their targets. In their wake, a line of other SGC and SGA women fell into place a few at a time. When they managed to locate both colonels camped in the mess hall, they had nearly a hundred females – military and civilian – and a handful of men, all ready to file official complaints against the nasty little slug.

John looked to his companion, who just shrugged. Clearing his throat, he addressed the kick-ass alien pirate, “Miss Vala, what can we do for all you lovely ladies, and gentlemen, this afternoon?”

Random mutters shifted through the assembled before she could answer the question. With a quick, quelling look over her shoulder, Vala calmly replied, “It might have escaped your notice through all the craziness of the past few days, but there is a member of the scientist staff who is simply intolerable to be around. He is out there right now, whining and complaining to anyone who will listen that I assaulted him. Yes, I did give him quite the black eye, but only after he refused to take No for an answer. Each of these people have much the same complaint over the same person. Shall we form two lines so you and Cameron can accept our requests to have him forcefully removed from the mission?”

Stepping in front of her team leader, she gently pushed Miko in front of Sheppard. Within minutes, the rest of their entourage had formed two reasonable lines snaking around the outside wall of the mess hall and blocking the doors.

John wasn’t quite sure how to handle a complaint against a civilian, but there were protocols in place for military members who acted outside the moral code. Bringing up the correct forms, he started taking each person’s statement. It wasn’t long at all before he had a very clear picture of how loathsome Dr. Calvin Kavanaugh was as a human being. His vision was shifting to red tones as woman after woman explained exactly how they had been approached or groped. A fleating glance to his side showed Cam in the same state.

A commotion at the doors paused all the quiet conversations. General O’Neill gently moved through the crowd, heading toward their table. “Relax, boys. I’ve been read in on the situation. The little maggot won’t be joining us – matter of fact, I’ve left him with McKay and a squad of Marines with bad attitudes to collect his possessions and deliver him out of the mountain. Last I heard, McKay was explaining to him quite thoroughly how even his lack of social manners were better than Kavanaugh’s lame attempts at flirting. At least that’s what Daniel tells me… half the conversation was in other languages.”

Jack was mobbed by grateful ladies, and a handful of men, with hugs and handshakes.

~ ~ ~

Sitting on the edge of Daniel’s desk, Jack had to ask, “Are there any other predators in the mountain right now? Seriously, we can’t afford to bring anyone else like that with us to another damned galaxy.”

Jackson hummed as he sipped his coffee. Placing the mug away from his best friend’s butt, he grinned up at the older man. “Honestly, I don’t think we’ll have much of a problem with another like Kavanaugh. The two or three who’ve been whispered about are acting really polite at the moment. They don’t want to chance being thrown out into a lingering death.”

“But how did we miss this?” Jack ran a hand over his face in frustration. “Did we really drop the ball that badly on psych evals?”

“Jack, calm down. Most of the problems seem to come from the people Sumner and Weir hand-picked. They were included on the Atlantis roster without being vetted through psychologists or even going through training. The IOA pretty much gave them leave to do it that way, thinking they’d be responsible enough about it.”

They shared an eyeroll, then Jack slapped a hand on his thigh and stood up. “Well, that’s gotta stop right now. Sumner isn’t answering any calls, and I’m not inclined to track him down. If he’s responsible for letting abusive personnel join my program, he can fend for himself here. Weir too, for that matter.”

“Go back to your office, sign off on the hundred-and-one forms you still have to answer, and be seen. I’ll ask around and see if we can’t stomp the rest of the fires out before we leave.” Daniel stood as well, refilling his mug. There was obviously something else on his mind, so Jack waited for him. “What are we going to do about the rules and regs out there? It won’t be practical to maintain the UMCJ or any of the ridiculous bylaws anymore…”

Jack grinned. He should’ve known this was going to come up, but had expected it to wait til the exodus was complete. “Danny, you know I’ve never cared about that crap. Let’s just say that there’s going to be a new code within the colony’s charter. And when it’s finalized, maybe you’ll help me set an example?”

Blue eyes sparkled behind wire-framed glasses. “That’s almost smooth for you, flyboy. And yes, I’ll definitely lend you a hand.”

Intentional Wishes

Title: Intentional Wishes
Author: Rowaine
Summary: “Sometimes I wish my parents were dead, that I had family far away from this place. Sometimes, even though I know I shouldn’t… I say it out loud.”
Rating: Starts out PG-13, will go up to R-ish
Pairings: None yet. Mentions of numerous past relationships. Can’t promise het vs slash, so if you’re picky… just pay attention to these headers. I’ll change it as the situation arises. And don’t bitch if you wanted one but got the other – want it another way, write it yourself (then send me the link! I’m not as picky)
Warnings: Discussion of child abuse and neglect (none sexual), adult language, eventually kids grow up to have adult/sexual situations
Fandom(s): BtVS, Stargate (multiple), maybe cameos from others
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the characters you recognize. They belong to various writers and syndicates, who have tax lawyers to make sure they keep as much of their earnings as possible.

Author’s Note: I’ve got a few WIPs running around out there that I’d really like to finish, but they’ve managed to burrow their way out of range for now. This idea’s been nibbling at me for several days now. It’s not a happy start, but hell, if you guys know my style at all, you know I prefer a satisfying and relatively happy ending.

~ Prologue ~

“Sometimes I wish my parents were dead, that I had family far away from this place. Sometimes, even though I know I shouldn’t… I say it out loud.”

The psychiatrist’s pen stilled, notes abandoned. Giving a long, hard look at her current patient, Dr. Hailey considered her options. This was not the first session she’d had with the ten year old. While the small town had serious problems addressing child abuse or neglect, it always took time to arrange the paperwork and schedules. But young Alexander Harris didn’t look or act like most damaged children.

“It’s not considered a good thing to ask for, no,” she said, thinking through her words carefully. “Why would it be worse to say out loud?”

The curly-haired boy shrugged one shoulder, wincing as he pulled against the healing bones beneath his cast. “There’s people who listen for that stuff. Sometimes they actually do something about it.”

Silence took over for several long moments. Dr. Hailey was no novice in dealing with abuse cases – quite frequently, the children turned violent toward their attackers… or even toward themselves. Anything to escape their situation. Her pen flipped over and over as she thought of the appropriate response.

“It’s hard being a good person when the solution seems so simple,” his high, childish voice whispered. “But there’s got to be a balance somewhere. Hard to believe in the church’s God when all the bad stuff keeps going on and no one’s trying very hard to change things. So yeah, I wish Tony and Jessica Harris were punished, maybe shown how much they hurt each other, and me, and everyone else. I wish I had at least one parent who loved me and had time to show me how to be a good kid. Play ball with, or run around with a dog, or just watch silly movies with. Two parents would be great, but I’m not going to be greedy. I just don’t want to be hurt anymore. That’s not selfish, right?”

“No, that’s not selfish at all.” Her throat felt tighten against the blank, even voice sounding so sad. “Are you sure your parents can’t change? Sometimes it takes something pretty big like going to court to make adults see how bad they’re behaving.”

Brunet curls bounced rapidly as he shook his head. “They spend a couple days a month in jail, and a couple more in court. Drunk driving, dom-… do-mes-tic dis-turb-ance, dis-turb-ing the peace. Just keeps getting worse, cus no one does more than tell them ‘time served, don’t want to see you again this month’.”

Dr. Hailey’s brow furrowed in displeasure. She was well aware of how lax the local judicial system was, and how dirty most of the players were. What irritated her most is that she should have seen young Harris much sooner from the picture he was painting.

Leaning over, she patted him gently on the knee. “I’m going to grab a soda and some chips from the break room. Would you like some as well?” He nodded and gave her the first smile she’d ever seen on his adorable face. “It’ll just take a few minutes, so just sit back and relax, or grab one of the magazines to laugh at. Someone left a copy of M.A.D.D. magazine in the corner,” she said with a wink and mock whisper, then closed the door behind her.

Down the hall to the break room, her heels clicked sharply, anger practically vibrating with each step. As soon as she had the door firmly closed, she hissed out a string of harsh sounds, causing a dim sparkle to form around the door frame. Satisfied that no one could interrupt, she straightened her stance and called on her other boss.

“D’Hoffryn, I need to speak with you at once. Hear me, please!”

~ Chapter 1 ~

Major John Sheppard stared in shock at his father’s attorney. Surely he hadn’t heard what he thought he’d heard!

“There is no way Nancy could have hidden a pregnancy from me,” he ground out through clenched teeth. “I was stateside between our separation and the final court date, seeing her at least once a week for various meetings. We hadn’t had sex for nearly four months before that, so she would have been showing before the end.”

“Major, you’re under the impression that she had the child that late in your marriage. From the birth certificate, it would seem that she conceived sometime in the first month of your union. The child would have been born at some time during your first six-month tour in Afghanistan. In theory, she could have been back in pre-pregnancy condition before your return. As to why she kept it a secret, well, we may never know.”

He’d only been back on Earth for a week due to the IOA demanding he present himself and explain what had caused so many fatalities on his current posting. Being CO of a base was never on his career radar – he didn’t want it, hadn’t asked for it, and had been perfectly happy to have someone else in control. Even if that person hated his guts and kept bad-mouthing him. It hadn’t mattered, not really. He was flying really cool space ships, playing with alien artifacts, and getting paid for it!

“Mr. Jobabba, please… if this is some sort of joke, it’s gone too far. I know my dad doesn’t like me or respect my career choices, but to play a gag like this-”

The squirrelly little man pushed his glasses back into place with a frown. “I assure you, sir, that this is no joking matter! We have a ten year old child in the break room who has need of an immediate guardian. If you cannot take him, or do not wish to do so, custodianship with fall with your brother and his wife.”

And wasn’t that just dandy. John didn’t have the same negative feelings toward his brother, but theirs was hardly a comfortable relationship. Plus how close his dad and brother were, the boy would have more contact with his grandfather than was healthy. But how would he manage to bring a kid with him to Atlantis?

The answer came to him like so many last minute solutions did: a flash of General O’Neill’s smirking face crossed his mind, and he knew the older man would do anything to keep a son with his father.

“Let me make a call, make sure I can have him on base with me,” John’s voice was slower than his normal drawl, coming across like smooth honey. “If you’ll give me a few minutes of privacy?” He looked pointedly at the door.

Jobabba bowed his head with a small smile. “Of course, Major. I’ll be next door when you’re ready.”

Taking a few deep breaths, John grabbed his cell and scrolled down the list. He’d been numb and overwhelmed after the firing squad of questions. O’Neill had placed a hand on his shoulder and ushered him down the hall to his office. He’d chatted away about hockey and the Simpsons and random flying craft, giving John the time to collect himself. Nearly an hour later, he slid a cell across the desk and said, “Got my personal number in there already. You need me, you call. Don’t hesitate, no matter what time of day it is.”

John hadn’t considered that he might actually take the general up on his offer, but now… there wasn’t anyone else who could make the order and make it stick.

One ring. Two rings. Three rings…

“O’Neill here. How ya doing, Johnny?”

“Sir, that meeting with my father’s lawyer, I told you about it just before-”

“Yeah sure, I remember that. What’s going on? Hope no one’s doing the Last Will and Testament thing on ya.”

“No sir, but…” He took another deep breath and just let it all out. “I just found out my ex-wife managed to have a kid in our first year of marriage and hid him from me all this time. He’s sitting outside the lawyer’s office, in the break room eating god knows what kind of junk food, and I can’t leave him with my dad or Dave, they’ll spoil everything about him or ground him into some kind of carbon copy of them, but how am I supposed to take him back with me and he looks just like I did at that age, the same age as when my mom died and the same lost, hurt, angry expression on his face-”

“John, calm down,” O’Neill’s voice was soft but firm, cutting through the hysterical rant. “You get your son, get all the paperwork filled out, then get yourself back here ASAP. We’ll take care of everything. There’s plenty of options, alright? You’ve lost a few years of his life, don’t lose anymore,” he finished, his tone holding a depth of sadness and regret.

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say, though how we’ll get him on base with me…” John sighed, knowing what kind of headaches he was up against. “I just can’t let him stay with Nancy, or Dave or dad, or some stranger!”

“Son, listen to me and listen good. You’re going to keep your boy with you, help him grow into the same kind of strong man his father is, enjoy every moment of his life. That’s not negotiable, got it?”

Another deep breath, finally feeling his mind clear. “Yes, sir. I’ll call you when I’ve got return flight information.”

“You’ll go back to the airstrip and sign out a F-35 or something, wow that boy of yours with piloting a fighter jet all the way back here, then we’ll see about helicopter rides or playing in the simulator,” Jack responded. His tone was teasing but firm, and John reacted to it.

“That’s a great idea, sir! Make sure the field knows I’m coming, then warn those vampires in the infirmary that they can’t take as much blood from the pipsqueak.”

Laughing, the general agreed and tossed a cheerful goodbye before hanging up. John really didn’t feel ready to face it all, but… now he had orders. When the world went sideways, he had orders. Might need to redefine some orders now, make sure I have more of a chance to survive. Wow, a kid. McKay’s going to explode over this one!

~ * ~

Paperwork was, as always, a nightmare. It took nearly an hour to complete all the documents the lawyer threw his way. An hour before John was free to meet his son – his son – for the first time. His stomach was tied in knots, he felt the need to vomit and rant and run screaming into the night. He also suspected that he was channeling McKay’s melodramatic mood swings, but cut himself enough slack to admit he deserved a freak-out of epic proportions.

Every time he tried to stand up and retrieve his son, Jobabba assured him the boy was entertained and as content as he could be for the moment.

Life seemed to love putting him in some seriously fucked up situations.

Finally, the last I was crossed and the last T was dotted. His head ached and his eyes were blurry, and all he really wanted was a few beers and some serious sleep. But there was that piece of him, waiting in a room down the hall…

“Major, before we conclude our business, I should inform you of a few items from the late Mrs. Sheppard’s estate that reference you and the child.”

And John could no longer hold in his reactions. Groaning loudly, he begged, “What sort of hoops is her ghost expecting me to jump through this time?”

The attorney chuckled politely, though with a nasty undertone. “She appears to have had a change of heart toward the end, sir. Just weeks before her death, Mrs. Sheppard sold off the majority of her worldy possessions and consolidated all her accounts into several healthy, high-interest trust funds. You should read the letters detailing each before long. She was hopeful that you would assume guardianship of the child, and made a few specific requests.”

Rolling his eyes, John took the proferred pages. He quickly scanned the handwriting, confirming that it was Nancy’s penmanship, then read the sheet clearly labeled Page 1.

Dear Johnny,

This isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to write. Consider it a death bed confessional, if you like.

I’ve done some things that would anger and disappoint you greatly, but at the time it all seemed so reasonable. You couldn’t have known ~ I made sure to never mention it ~ how the first symptoms of cancer were showing up before we married. The doctors’ prognosis wasn’t grim, the treatments went well… But then something happened to change all that. No one’s sure really, but everything went crazy for a bit.

They told me I probably had less than 2 years to live. This was just before your first tour in Afghanistan, maybe you’ll remember how I came home crying one afternoon? I don’t remember what lie I told you ~ another apology you deserve, but it’s far too late for that one.

I’d studied hard and graduated with honors. I had a good job with terrific prospects for advancement. And I had married a wonderful man from a rich family. The only thing left was a child. Yes, we had agreed to wait until you were going overseas less, but there wouldn’t be time. So… I made it happen.

Oh John, the pregnancy was horrible. My doctor wouldn’t allow my treatments so I got weaker and more prone to illness. What little weight I managed to gain went straight to the baby, sapping me of strength and nutrients. It was a nightmare! And I reveled in every moment of it.

You were still overseas when he was born. Our son, our beautiful Alexander… A nurse stayed with us for the first few weeks. He was born a bit early ~ the doctors said it was a blessing for us both ~ and that gave me time to gorge myself, putting back on the weight I’d lost and fighting to tone my stomach. I wanted to be ready for your return, arms open and in the same shape as you’d last seen me.

I had no intention of keeping him from you, not at first. A random comment from one of those horrible daytime talk shows made me start thinking. The doctors call it Post Partum Depression, but it went beyond that with me. My brain went in extreme directions, causing paranoia and … Oh Johnny, it was awful, and I’m so sorry you caught the lion’s share of it!

I had the nurse take Lex with her the day you were due home. She kept him safe and took care of him when you weren’t on base or on manuevers, and I’m in her debt for that. At that time, I probably wouldn’t have remembered half of the feedings. Most often, during the day when you were on duty, I was at the hospital getting caught up on treatments and being lectured for my horrid timing. The lesson didn’t sink in.

Lex had just turned 2 when everything was shot to hell. Again.

You and I started fighting about everything. Yes, most of it was from my end. The treatments didn’t cause my moodiness, but they certainly didn’t help either. I’m not sure which of us mentioned divorce first ~ does it really matter now? ~ and the paranoia was back, demanding to know who you were leaving me for. Wasn’t I good enough?

You’ll notice that Lex played no part in those thoughts. The nurse was still with us… she never left because I wasn’t improving enough to care for him full time. He was my one joy left in life, and I was greedy. It’s that simple… and that harsh.

He’s been raised with pictures and stories of you. All good, I promise! When my moods went dark, I sent him off with Hailey for the afternoon. He knew I was sick, and that you were allowing me all the time in the world to cherish him. That when my end came, he would have the rest of his childhood with you. I hope you can offer the same.

Please, no matter how justifiably angry you are at me for keeping him from you, don’t resent him or take out your anger around him? I never stopped loving you, but pride and all the deceptions kept me from trying to make amends.

Lex is a wonderful boy, a true joy! He’s bright, funny, and is so loving and compassionate. He has a talent for math like you, and he’s fascinated with flying. I always hoped he would turn to mechanical engineering instead of the service, but never voiced that to him. With you as his father, how could he not feel the need to serve his country as honorably and with as much devotion?

I pray you have it in you to accept our son into your life. I never let your father know about him, not til I made contact with his lawyer. At this point, Lex hasn’t met him ~ I’ve left that up to you to decide. But John? He’s not been well lately. You have every right to hold onto the anger and regret, but as another person who is dying I can say that he might need to apologize.

Love our boy, forgive your father, and… John, please, forgive yourself!

Nancy

A splash of moisture blurred the signature. John reached up to wipe his face, stunned by his ex-wife’s words and his own reaction. Without raising his head, he flipped through the following pages. They held instructions on how to manage the custodial trust, education trust, and lifetime trust for Lex. The pages also suggested that he do nice things for himself from time to time.

A painful hole in his heart slowly closed, leaving him numb and feeling drugged.

The last page was a list of items left in storage that were to be sent to various friends and family members. It was the least traumatizing of the bunch, and he spent several minutes staring at the lists to get his emotions under control.

“She never once lied to him, Major,” Jobabba’s voice interrupted gently. “Your son is aware of all the tours you’ve done. The awards, the missions that weren’t completely blacked out, which country you were in… Whatever information Mrs. Sheppard could gather from the Air Force or your brother. She never told him about the arguments or why you divorced, only that you were needed and that she was doing her best to make him ready to meet you.”

John’s head nodded on autopilot. He’d hated Nancy for so long, this new insight was pulling him apart. But he didn’t have time to mourn the marriage that ended on lies. There was a child – half Nancy, but half himself – waiting for comfort, for a father who wasn’t so consumed by grief that he…

Not going down that road, Johnny. Leave the daddy issues for a drunken night of bitching with Rodney. You’ve got a son to take care of, and to not make the same mistakes as Dad made when Mom died.

“He’ll never heard a bad thing about her from me, Mr. Jobabba,” he promised. “I can’t say I approve or would have done the same in her place, but no child needs to be torn apart by warring parents.”

For a moment, the lawyer’s face seemed to twist into something… inhuman. It passed quickly, leaving a grimace in its place. “I most definitely agree, Major. A debate I’ve had with your father a few hundred times since you joined the service. He’s stubborn, but has made mention of burying the hatchet with you. If you’ve time?”

“Sorry, not soon. I barely have time to get myself and Lex back to base. Calling my CO made sure to clear a path, but something’s come up that needs my immediate attention.”

It wasn’t even really a lie, more a forceful suggestion made by the general. John simply didn’t have the energy or patience to cope with his father yet. Maybe after getting to know Lex, getting home to Atlantis… Well, he’d give it a try on his next trip back to Earth.

“I’ll contact you when I know when my next leave is scheduled, if that’s alright. For now, Lex and I need to get to know each other. It’d kinda suck if my father got along better with him than me, y’know?” he finished with a grin, trying to soften the answer.

Nodding, the attorney said, “You have a point. Of course, I should have considered that you’d want to get things settled with one family member at a time. Please, forgive my pushiness – as I am retainer to your entire family, it places me in an awkward position when its members are at odds with one another.”

John stood, stretching out the kinks. He laughed at the hangdog expression on Jobabba’s face. “Don’t worry about it. It’s nice to know you give a damn about us, cranky and stubborn and all.” He shook the lawyer’s hand firmly, then left the room to meet his son for the first time.

Jo-Ba’ba watched him leave, then muttered the words to seal his room for privacy. “Halfrek! Get your ass down here, woman!”

 

chapter 2 – john meets xander-not-lex, the flight

chapter 3 – xander meets jack, calls him grandpa, jack has breakdown

chapter 4 – dr lam discovers family ties – jack is nancy’s great uncle, rodney comes out of the lab to freak out and be wooed by xander

chapter 5 – mission essential has new definition – shopping for a tween plus education requirements

chapter 6 – meeting of the justice demons (halfrek, jo-ba’ba, d’hoffryn, add carolyn lam aka carolomb, need one more to cover atlantis’ wraith problem)

This one is super Dark (capital D) and was used as catharsis. If I ever write on it again, watch for major catastrophes happening in my life. I won’t be offended if you pass it up, honestly! I can’t reread it unless one of those moods hits.

*** Extra Trigger Warnings are included, DON’T SAY YOU WEREN’T WARNED! ***

Before Time Ended

Title: Before Time Ended
Author: Rowaine (rowained@yahoo.com)
Summary: John spends most of his days in a drunken stupor, trying to relive the happier days with his beloved Mary. Sometimes it’s not enough.
Pairings: John/Mary(past), John/Sam, Sam/Dean
Rating: FRAO
Warnings: AU/AR, Non-con/rape, Non-con/coercion, Dub-con, Underage, Hurt/Comfort, Angst, Tearjerker, Wincest, Emotional/mental/physical abuse — In other words, this is not a happy story!
Disclaimer: The characters and situations surrounding the Supernatural storyworld belong to several corporations and the scriptwriters. The plot to follow, unfortunately, is not nearly as original as it should be.

Author’s Notes: This genre of story – fanfiction or any other venue – is one that I generally avoid at all costs. The sexual assault of a child is the most heinous crime imaginable to me – most especially when it is perpetrated by an adult who holds the child’s trust. I must therefore apologize for the content and place a strong warning for triggers and flashbacks. If you feel uncomfortable with this topic, please don’t feel compelled to read. If you have experienced it first hand… you have my sympathy and empathy, and you are hopefully healed enough to make an informed decision as to whether you should attempt to read this work of fiction. Something is compelling me to write this out, to see it through to the end. You need not join the path with me. The following is a work of fiction and is not meant to reflect any real life people, places, or events, nor do I support the actions/reactions of the characters involved.

Due to the extensive warnings, I will be less tolerant of flames and trolls than usual. It’s very simple, folks. This story is going to set people off, acknowledged and understood, and I fully expect people to be offended for the characters – this does not, however, mean that your ire should be directed at me. You’ve been warned enough, so if any mention of abuse sets you off… just do us both a favor and don’t read further.

Before Time Ended

Mary smiled as she glanced over at her sons. They were set up at the kitchen table doing their homework (or attempting to fake the effort, in the older one’s case), casually stealing triangles of sandwiches and gooey cookies from each other’s plate. My beautiful boys, she thought with a satisfied warmth, growing so strong and bright. Dean’s mechanical aptitude will take him far, and Sammy… my darling Sammy, he’s going to make it through college.

Chopping vegetables to pour in the beef broth bubbling merrily on the stove, Mary Winchester was a very contented woman. She had a husband who adored her and was a wonderful provider, two wonderful sons, and a warm home that she didn’t have to work her fingers to the bone to maintain. At sixteen, Dean was a handful of hormones and spent more time bucking the authority of any male adult than being the delightful child of just two years prior. He was also devotedly protective of his younger brother. The odd combination of rebellion and filial affection was odd, but worked well enough. And Sam, just turning twelve in a few weeks, was like a sponge for any kind of education he could absorb.

She sighed softly into the stew pot, shaking pepper and salt into the broth. Hers was a good life, and she thanked God daily for every moment with her precious family.

“Mary, boys, I’m home,” called a graveled voice from the front of the house. Heavy work boots caused his footsteps to echo down the hall, announcing his presence.

Quickly wiping her hands off on a dish towel, Mary threw her arms around her husband and squeaked as he lifted her off her feet. “You’re back early, John! Why didn’t you call?”

Nuzzling beneath her ear, he whispered, “Couldn’t be without you another night,” before nibbling along the column of her neck. Only after he’d drawn a bruise to the tender skin did he set his beloved on her feet and turn to greet his boys. “Got through with this shipment two days early. Thought maybe we could take a bit of the bonus and take in a movie, go to one of those buffets?”

For boys of their ages, unlimited food was always a winner. They quickly, and loudly, agreed with their father, returning to finish what little was left to their assignments.

Mary grinned at her husband and leaned up to press a soft kiss to his lips. “Give me a few minutes to store dinner. We can have it tomorrow, which will give me time to make cornbread as well,” she tossed over her shoulder as she moved around the room grabbing containers, turning off the burner, and putting things away.

Shortly after she’d straightened everything up and grabbed her coat, the boys shuffled papers into their books and loaded up their backpacks for the following day’s school. Jackets and caps were found, and the foursome trouped out for an evening in town.

We might not be the perfect family, but I wouldn’t change my boys for anything in the world, Mary considered, watching the easy interaction between her sons and her ‘big boy’ John.

~ * ~

John woke, panting and sweating and crying. It was the only way he ever woke anymore. The past week had been a nightmare – one long, continuous night of terror. His mind refused to stop playing a constant repeat of That Night.

~ * ~

Only a week ago, he’d come home from delivering a shipment. Thanks to good weather, clear roads, and no traffic, the trip had taken two days less than expected, and he’d taken his family out to celebrate. They had spent nearly two hours at an all-you-can-eat buffet, then walked down the block to watch a movie. It was all so normal, so innocent. Until Mary needed to hit the ladies’ room after the end credits started rolling.

Keeping his two energetic sons together took most of his concentration, so he nearly missed the frantic glances of the theater employees. Four uniformed police officers pushed through the exiting mass, heading toward the manager with solemn faces. He couldn’t hear their conversation, but he read lips just a bit, and what little he’d gotten from them… chilled him to the bone.

Bloody mess (and not in the British sense), drugs, evidence. The words churned a horrid picture in his mind. His stomach threatened to rebel as the group made their way toward the restrooms. Frantically looking through the crowd, he saw no signs of his wife.

At his side, Dean watched the scene play out, watched the expression crossing his father’s face, and made a decision. “Hey Sammy, let’s hit the arcade games. Who knows how long we’ll have to wait, seeing how long the lines are at the can.” With a quick nod from their dad, he followed the bouncing pre-teen over to Pole Position.

John spared a quick thought of how thankful he was to have a responsible son to carry part of the burden of watching out for the family, before his attention returned to the emergency personnel. Paramedics had been let in through the side exit and were rapidly emptying the area around the restrooms. Anxiety churned in his gut – he hadn’t felt the terrible combination of dread, inevitability, and horror since his time overseas while serving in the Marine Corps.

~ * ~

A swirl of yellow and brown calico drew him out of his thoughts. Mary’s favorite house dress, he remembered with a grin. Following the familiar dress down the hall to the back porch, he stopped before opening the screen door. Glowing in the moonlight, always takes my breath away.

That damned handkerchief she always wore like a scarf to keep her hair from getting in the way of cooking or cleaning, no matter how well it matched the colors of her dress it still annoyed him. Running his fingers through her hair was one of John’s favorite things.

Barefoot, leaning against the porch rail, and staring up into the moon’s brightness, John couldn’t remember his beloved ever looking more lovely. His breath caught in his chest as he watched the delicate chin lift, the slender column of throat exposed and so inviting.

Dream Lover

Title: Dream Lover
Rating: R-ish
Fandom: Buffy
Pairing: Spander of course
Warning: Pure PWP with no redeeming social or moral values
Spoilers: Eh, none really. Ok who am I kidding? Starts right after ADAM was defeated, as the Scoobies start discussing their dreams. Specific much?
Disclaimer: If I were making any profit from this sorta crap, I’d have enough cash to take my ex to court and make him pay child support 😛

Part One

Joining the cute little redhead and her girlfriend as they enter the shop, Xander has to suppress a shiver. The previous night’s dream just would not fade away like most. If anything, it kept getting more clear; little pieces of information surfacing the longer he thought it over. With a definite mental scream, he pushes such ponderings aside to deal with whatever new danger his hometown is facing.

“Ah good, you’re all here. Buffy, if you would please join us at the table?” Giles indicates an empty spot to his right, adjusts his glasses, then glances at each person present. “This question may seem a bit… odd. But please do give it your full attention. Have any of you been experiencing disturbing dreams of late?”

Willow pales and gives a soft cry, muffling her face in Tara’s shoulder.

Buffy mutters curses under her breath.

Giles looks uncomfortable. More so than usual.

Xander turns several shades of red, burrowing his head in his arms.

“I’ll take that as a yes then, shall I? Right, we should look for a common theme. Let’s begin with a short summary and work our way from there. Death and betrayal highlighted my experience late last night.”

“I had an encounter with the first slayer. And some guy pushing smelly cheese.” She manages to say it with a straight face, but clearly Buffy is just as nervous as her watcher.

“Umm.. same as Giles, with a heavy dose of rejection.” Willow’s voice is very small.

Feeling all eyes on him, Xander takes a deep breath and hopes he could bluff this one. “Mine started out that way,” with a nod to the Brit, “but it… morphed. And no, I won’t tell you into what. Let’s just say that I’ve never been so glad to be male in my life, ok?”

And once again, the Xanman breaks the tension surrounding his adopted family. Snickers from the girls, and an embarassed throat-clearing from Giles. Not bad for not trying.

Little else was accomplished, other than warnings of ‘be careful and stay alert’, per the course. Xander walks the girls back toward UCSunnydale, then heads back to his dismal basement. At least he has a nifty new lock, so his parents can’t bug him too much.

A hot shower and microwave pizza later, he stretches out on his couch bed and idly flips through channels. Nothing to see really, but it keeps the room from becoming depressingly silent.

Before long, he slips into a heavy doze, and feels the beginnings of a ‘not right’ dream begin.

~ Boy! Get your worthless hide up here before I have to come after you…

Nonononooooo not going there again, know better this time. Just a dream, only a dream.~

Cool fingers grip his arm in a strong clasp, dragging him away from the angry figure of his drunken father. The basement door shuts and locks loudly, then he’s maneuvered back to the bed where strong hands soothe his aches and tensed muscles. Up across his chest, following the lines of his arms down toward his waist, skimming hips to kneed the knots out of his thighs and calves, never pushing too hard.

A little warning in his subconscious flares, reminding him that this is *supposed* to be a dream, but he has valid evidence that it’s so much more. His mind drifts toward the land of the living, though his body refuses to twist away from those talented hands.

It’s been almost three weeks now, since that first (disturbing) dream. Only not so disturbing anymore. He’s grown to enjoy, even look forward to them. His dream lover anticipates when he wants it hard and fast, or when he wants to take it slow, or even when he wants to try a new kink. And isn’t that a pleasant thought to have just before joining the girls for lunch?

Only now he doesn’t have to wait for his own personal incubus to save him from the beginnings of a nightmare. Buffy took care of the problem, fighting the first slayer in the dream world. And how’s that for cheerfully bizar? So now everyone’s free to sleep and deal with standard subconscious messages. He has to wonder exactly what message he’s being sent, loudly and often.

Item one on the worries list: Invisible person macking on him, and definite inviso-hands touching naughty parts.

Item two: Invisible person has a deep rumbling chuckle, very masculine.

Item three: See last part of Item two!

Item four: See Item three!!

Oh sure, he’s been curious a time or two. What guy hasn’t? But he’s never felt the urge to test drive a standard, y’know?

Part Two

Two days after the meeting at the Magic Box, the nightmares are over. Buffy had conquered the first slayer, and is still in a funk over death being her ‘gift’.

Beyond any residual weirdness, life moves on. Xander can’t quite feel displeased that his nightly visitor wasn’t banished along with the dreams.

Thinking back to the first appearance, he sees a pattern forming — one that both unnerves and excites him.

~ First night ~ The terror of his subconscious is halted by soothing hands gently stroking his shoulders and petting his hair, a ghostly hug.

~ Second night ~ The nightmare is interrupted again, with a tender massage to chase away the tension.

~ Third night ~ His dream barely gets started before he’s pulled into a hot shower. A full soap-down massage and hair washing follows.

~ Fourth night ~ His sensual savior runs late, but Buffy’s fight stops the process — leaving Xander’s full attention on a different type of massage. It doesn’t take long for him to figure out that hands have been replaced with a cool, moist tongue.

By this time, most of his reservations about enjoying his invisible lover are surpassed by an intense longing; he’s never felt it quite this strongly for anyone before now. His only problem remains the gender of the entity.

~Fifth night ~ Hands and mouth map his body, culminating in the best fucking blow job of his life, leaving him quietly chanting “bring on the gay sex.”

By the end of the second week, he will happily admit to craving the feelings and sensations of his personal incubus, and at the end of the third, he decides to stop playing passive.

Sunset falls and Xander leaves work in great anticipation of tonight’s visit. He stops by the local discount store and loads a cart, racing through the checkout toward home.

Regardless of his somewhat goofy smile, Xander is far from stupid. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that whatever or whoever his visitor is, it’s not a figment of imagination or dream. And a part of him knows that there’s more to this. Not a haunting, although the hands and lips (and other parts he refuses to acknowledge) are cool. Not a possession — heh, he’d definitely know something about that. So he’s stuck referring to his visitor as an incubus, and isn’t that just too strange? For all of the weird hellmouthy things that have happened to him, Xander has a hard time accepting the idea that a sexual demon chose to attach itself to him, the Zeppo. Not that he’s going to complain.

So, arms laden, he quickly cleans and sets the scene — candles glowing, giving off the faint scent of cinnamon; cold beer and wine chilling in a bucket, with his only two matching glasses nearby; mellow jazz music playing in the background. He showers and slips into clean drawstring pants and a t-shirt, then curls up on his sofa bed to wait.

The sound of glasses clinking together rouses him from a light doze. He has no idea how long he’s slept, but the candles are barely half melted.

Taking a deep breath, he talks to the empty space near the ice bucket. “Hey, I don’t know why you chose me, or what you’re getting out of this — other than the obvious — but maybe we could, I dunno, maybe talk or something? Seems really cold to be enjoying so much of your *cough* time and energy, without getting to know you some. Otherwise it feels like… paying for someone to… like a prostitute. And I’m probably blushing and babbling now, so I’ll just shut up and let you decide.”

For several long minutes, Xander tries to sit patiently, praying he hasn’t royally screwed up. Finally, he feels the barely-there touch of cool, soft lips brushing against his forehead. He turns into the touch, lifting his face, eyes closed, to offer his mouth.

Somehow he knows that his visitor wants him to keep his eyes shut. Doesn’t mean his other senses can’t be used.

The scent of cinnamon fills the air, allowing merely the slightest hint of musk and something vaguely metalic, a fact that is confirmed by his taste buds.

Other than his own rapid heartbeat and breathing, he hears only the glide of fabric as two bodies shift together.

Most overwhelming in the deprivation of sensory input is touch. Each time his hands make contact with flesh, they are diverted. Strong fingers force his hands to his own body, stroking across his thighs and chest in random patterns that are slowly driving him mad with lust.

“Please…” He doesn’t know what he’s asking for exactly, just that there was *more*.

From somewhere just elow his, a soft voice murmurs, “You have but to ask.”

Only he doesn’t know what to ask for. “Anything. Everything.”

Another chuckle, felt more than heard, reverberates against his neck. “You’re leaving yourself wide open, lover. Sure you don’t want to be a tad more specific?”

The low tones used give no indication of accent or age, but do confirm gender. And not even that tidy little fact deters Xander from taking the next step.

“Would you… would you make love ot me?” He’s so far past questions now, rolling in a tidal wave of desire.

A sharp intake of air — the first sign of his lover’s respiration — followed by another quiet chuckle.

“You don’t go for half measures, do you love?”

Gentle hands smooth his t-shirt up his chest, linguring on his nipples before smoothing the thin fabric off his head. Xander tries to assist, but his efforts are stopped with a deep, searing kiss.

Pulling back for the young man to breathe, that honeyed voice admonishes, “Let me call the shots tonight, lover. Your first time should be all about pleasure, for *your* pleasure.”

And through the fog of his lust-riddled brain, Xander knows that’s wrong. “Uh uh,” he gasps, breaking off the latest kiss — incredible, soul-melting, toes-curling kiss — to add, “our pleasure. Should be for us both.”

“Mmm, so it should,” the reply almost purred at his shoulder, while that talented mouth rains kisses across the expanse of his upper body. “Tell me, love, what would you like us to do?”

He’s not so far gone that he can’t answer the question… yet. His voice soft, almost meek, Xander asks, “Can I touch you, please?”

Another one of those pauses that makes him worry that he’s done something wrong. Finally, “Of course you can. Let’s just get more comfortable first, shall we?”

The rest of Xander’s clothes are removed and he feels himself being manhandled onto the bed. Weight shifts beside him, but he’s disappointed when no cool body lays down. Instead, candles are extinguished and more sounds of cloth shifting. He’s just about to ask… something.

The bed dips to his right, and he curls up against a human-shaped mass. And yes, he’s got dozens of questions to ask, his common sense screaming to know just what he’s giving himself to, but when his hands come in contact with marble-smooth skin and hard, sculpted lines of muscle, he just can’t bring himself to spoil the mood.

Opening his eyes doesn’t feel like cheating anymore, and in the absolute darkness of the room he can almost pretend that there’s no invisibility, only the excitement of a first time with his new lover.

Pulling back, he heads to the foot of the bed, feeling his way down the body before him. Strong toes, high arches, delicate ankles, defined calves, all receive his attention. First with long strokes of his hands, then tentative brushes of lips and tongue. Sucking the sensative backs of his lover’s knees gets the first low moan, and he works to repeat that gesture of praise. His hands cover powerful thighs, marvelling at the strength he can feel in such a slight package, but he veers off before landing in unfamiliar territory. He skims lightly across a firm abdomen, dancing his tongue inside dips and across the plains of ribbed muscle. A narrow chest, nowhere near as broad as his own, and small peaked nipples — nipping them provokes another moan, almost a growl. He drags his hands down across shoulders and arms, grasping those hands that have given him so much comfort and pleasure, licking along each finger and sucking them into his warm mouth.

But when he moves to finish his exploration of the other’s body, attempting to map his face, his efforts are called to a halt. “Enough, lover,” comes the gruff response. “My turn.”

Abruptly, their positions are reversed, leaving Xander flat on his back in full body contact with all of the parts he’s just tasted, touched. And isn’t it somehow more… intimate, learning a person by touch alone? Eyes can play tricks, as he’s discovered too many times. Fingers, lips, flesh, these are real. Very hard and very real, if the answering erection pressed to his hip is anything to go by.

This mouth has touched practically all of his body. This tongue has tasted his flesh, his cum. These hands have delivered untold pleasure, and held him so gently when he most needed reassurance. A part of his mind recognizes the danger he’s in, too close to falling in love, without knowing anything about his lover. His heart quickly stamps down on that worry, ordering him to only feel, accept the tender care he’s being offered.

And apparently, his neck is a focal point for numerous nerve endings, because that clever mouth is causing all sorts of spontaneous combustions just from suckling at his pulse point. Fingers lightly pinch and tweak his nipples, grounding him as he floats in euphoric splendor. One of those muscular thighs slips between his own, both an offer and an invitation. He can’t answer fast enough — he spreads his legs, curling one around the cool body above him, pulling and trying to reposition it.

Through his muddled state, he can barely hear the lust-thickened voice. “So lovely, eager and responsive. Want to show you everything. How to play your body so it quivers with desire. See your face the first time I slip inside you. You’re going to welcome me in, aren’t you love? Get you so ready, so needy, that I just slide right in.”

And that, he firmly decides, is exactly what he wants.

“Yes, please. Take me, make me yours.” Where the words come from, he can’t say, just that they seem right. And they must be a trigger of some sort, judging from the reaction of his lover.

A shudder spreads over his entire body, leaving him panting lightly into Xander’s neck. “Love, you’re incredible. And way too trusting. But I’m not going to turn down the offer. Really want me, lover?”

He thinks about that, pushing aside what few worries he has about the unknown aspects, and decides that he truly does want it all. Whoever and whatever is in his bed right now has had three weeks to damage him. Spells and curses and wishes aren’t the only ways of harming someone, especially on the hellmouth. All he’s received at the hands of his unseen lover has been good. With a decisive nod, he answers in a firm voice, “Yes, all of you.”

The building tension flows out of the cool body above him, melting them together in relief.

One brain cell kicks in enough that Xander finds himself asking, “What can I call you?”

Another pause, then, “What would you like to call me?”

“Huh, how bout your name?”

Low chuckle. “Silly boy, don’t you know that to know a demon’s true name is to hold incredible power over them?”

In the dark, Xander blinks, thinking. Alright, he suspected the demon part, no surprise there. But this seems like another kind of test. Inspiration strikes: “Seems only fair, since you hold so much over me already. Meet me halfway?”

Thoughtful silence envelops him as he awaits the crucial answer. At first, it had seemed such a simple question. A name, what you call your friend or neighbor, something you say across the dining room table, a way of greeting someone you know. But he realizes how right his lover is — even for a mortal, knowing a person’s name gives you some power, can be used for or against, good or evil. He’s just about to revoke his request.

“I was first called Jamie, if you would like to use that moniker. It’s been… a long time since I last answered to that, but it suits this situation better.”

“Uh, cryptic much?” Xander snips his confusion. “I understand having different names for different reasons. Hell, all my friends call me Xander, but my co-workers usually use Harris, and my folks scream either Alexander or boy.” He’s pretty sure he could get addicted to that rumbling chuckle. “Hey, would you like to pick a different name for me? Since I’ll be using one you don’t normally answer to anymore…”

Fingers dancing idly along the human’s torso, the demon also known as Jamie hums into his throat. “And more power even in naming something, creating new life in a way. Do you know what you offer, or is it instictive, I wonder.”

That question requires more brain cells than are currently residing in his ‘big head’, but Xander gives it a try. He’s always wondered about it too, since he rarely paid much attention during research parties, but usually got away with only a few bruises or a mild concussion. Was it some sort of survival instinct, directing him toward the correct response? Or maybe just that he’s hellmouth born and raised? Could be that he soaked up some demony knowledge by osmosis during all those naps atop the moldy tomes at Giles’. Whatever, he refuses to worry about it now.

“Probably a little of both,” he finally answers. “You aren’t here to hurt me, that much I know. If you were, you’d have done something by now — spit in my dinner, glued my toes together, called in a wandering band of gremlins to strip me of spare parts. Since you started hanging around, you’ve saved me from nightmares about… bad bad stuff. You’ve held me and comforted when no one else even knew I needed it. And let’s not forget the part about turning me into a large pile of Xander-shaped goo. My body responds better to you than it even does for me, and I’ve known it longer dammit. So I’m not sure what it is that you really want from me besides a body to enjoy, but I think I can trust you not to hurt me.”

A soft sigh. “Oh love, you don’t know how many ways you can be hurt. Psychological pain is much harder to overcome than physical.”

“Speaking from experience? Yeah, been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Welcome brother, we’ve been expecting you.”

“Huh? I mean, excuse me?”

Chuckling, he tries to explain, “Heard it from some Dungeons and Dragons geeks a few years back. When they recognize someone who would fit in with their group, they’d say something like that. Anyways, dunno how much you’ve heard from those two,” he points upstairs to where his parents’ voices are slowly raising along with their blood-alcohol levels, “but I’m no stranger to psycho-warfare either.”

He feels a nod. Silent acknowledgement. “Right, would give you an edge in scoping out others who’d try the same tricks.” Not a question, simply confirmation.

“Exactly. So… whatcha gonna call me? Anything but Alice, please.” Xander bats his eyelashes toward his lover’s face, figuring he can see in the dark well enough.

“Er, no, you don’t look like an Alice, love.” For a few heartbeats, the room is quiet again. Circular strokes of fingertips against Xander’s upper arm keep him from dozing off in warm comfort. “Lexan.”

“Huh, not bad. Never tried it before, but why not.”

Cool lips brush his jawline as Jamie kisses his way up to Xander’s ear, quietly whispering, “Lexan, would you let me make love to you now?”

And somehow, the new nickname makes it all the more intimate. Behind closed doors type of petname used only between lovers. Yeah, his dick likes it too… or maybe it’s just responding to the question. Which he hasn’t answered yet. “Yes please, Jamie.”

Part Three

Instead of picking up where they left off, Jamie rolls off and turns the human’s body so that they’re back to front. “As you wish, my lovely Lexan.”

Xander’s mind stops working as those skillful hands work him back to a fevered pitch of arousal. Fingers plucking his nipples (and when had they gotten so sensative?), one hand stroking along his back, down the curve of his spine. He knows the basics of how two men have sex, but it never looked appealing before. Now, he thinks he just might explode if his lover doesn’t fill him, complete him, soon.

“Please Jamie, please…..” and he can hear the whine in his voice, but can’t seem to care.

Growing up with his best friends being girls, Xander has had ample opportunity to hear how they just want someone to make them feel like they’re the only important thing on earth. He couldn’t quite understand what they meant, until his incubus showed up. And he has to admit that having someone’s attention focused entirely on his pleasure is a major turnon, especially someone as talented at finding all his hidden erogenous zones.

There’s a moment’s pause and some rustling nearby, then those fingers are back, slowly manipulating his left knee to bend, drawing it closer to his body. He feels exposed and tenses a little, slightly worried about what comes next. But those slender digits ghost across his back, counting every vertebrae until he’s melting down into the bed, and he wonders why he’d ever been concerned.

If Xander had eyes in the back of head and could see in the dark, he would bear witness to his lover becoming visible. The pale skin and paler hair, ice blue eyes blurring with gold flecks intent on his task of pleasuring the mortal in his arms, his entire body rigid with barely controlled desire.

Xander moans into his pillow, shuddering and pushing back into his lover’s embrace, trying to get closer and *more*. His tactic seems to have failed miserably, because all contact is removed. “Whaaaa?”

“Love, do you trust me?”

And up until now, Xander would have sworn that Jamie’s voice couldn’t get any lower, any smoother. Those few purred words prove him wrong. Still, he tries to clear his mind enough to formulate a true answer. “Yes, I do.” To his own ears, he can hear the genuine wonder in that simple reply.

Before his smile has a chance to crack his jaws, his body is moved once again. Flat on his back, legs spread and knees raised, he is totally exposed. The bed dips as Jamie shifts, settling between his legs. A cool hand on either thigh, stroking closer to the center of his arousal.

He can’t see his lover, can’t feel which position he’s in, so when he feels moist air against his balls, Xander cries out in both surprise and pleasure. Speaking directly at the drawn sac, Jamie whispers, “Calm down, lover. I’m just going to relax you a bit. If you want to help out, hold your knees up for me, alright?”

Since his brain is no longer online, Xander feels this is a fine idea. Knees in the way. Move them. More attention directed elsewhere. Check!

He has one spare neuron to marvel that his lover understands how little foreplay is needed at this point, before he feels a cool tongue lathing his perineum, feathering the hairs on his balls, then licking one fat line up the length of his cock. That amazing muscle makes the trek a few more times before centering in on his hole. Xander doesn’t mean to tense — he’s enjoying this too much to object over his last ounce of heterosexuality flying out the window — but when the delightful tongue starts circling his asshole, he clenches and relaxes, as if his orifice is trying to wink or beckon it inside.

A throaty chuckle reverberates against his sensatized flesh, making his buttocks tremble. Before he can moan another plea, however, the cool digit slips past his guardian ring and swirls the perimeter of his virgin flesh. So now he does moan, long and loud and with no coherency behind it, urging with his body when his mind can no longer form words.

Jamie doesn’t hesitate in taking advantage of his response, forcing his tongue further inside the delicious heat of his lover. Soon enough, the human’s body is vibrating with impending orgasm, and even though he knows that Xander will protest, he removes his tongue in favor of lubed fingers. The first two enter easily, bringing a shocked gasp that turns into louder cries of pleasure when he gently rubs the young man’s prostrate. Another finger joins the party and almost immediately he’s shouting out his completion.

If he’d thought that things couldn’t get better than the incredible blowjob from a few nights ago, Xander would now happily call himself every kind of delusioned liar. His only regret is that his lover wasn’t inside him at the time. A fact he’s determined to alter. “More Jamie, don’t stop now.” The best he can manage as he floats in post-orgasmic bliss.

He hears a soft snick of the lubricant’s cap, then that wonderfully cool body is sliding up his length, soothing over-heated flesh even as it rekindles the fires of arousal.

Placing the head of his erection against the mortal’s tender hole, Jamie pauses to kiss his lover, deep but gentle, trying to communicate what nouns and verbs never seem to say. The message is returned in kind, and his heart almost beats with the swell of emotions coursing through the room.

As prepared as he is, Xander still feels a moment of surprise when his lover’s cock enters him without pain, easily slipping past his sphincter. Surprise turns to waves of pleasure — Jamie angles his thrusts to brush against that sweet gland inside him, bringing his own erection back quickly. He’s almost overwhelmed with sensation, between the slick slide of being taken, the cool lips and tongue worshipping his neck, and the lubed fingers stroking his dick.

Maybe he’s been stupid all this time, turning down the handful of guys who’ve propositioned him. Maybe he should have taken Larry up on his offer of no-strings fun the night before graduation. And maybe he was just incredibly lucky to have waited for this being, who gives his all to love-making and has never broken his promise of insuring his first time is special, perfect.

Jamie’s control shows years of practice, and he’s at once both grateful and jealous of whomever enjoyed it before him. The body above Xander trembles with the effort of staving off his own orgasm, offering a slow ride sure to bring as much pleasure as he can. And Xander is grateful for that too, but he wants more. Wants to feel his wonderful lover lose his iron control, inside his body, using him and filling him. Leaving him with sore muscles for days to remind him of the most incredible experience of his life.

“Jamie…. don’t hold back, please love. Harder, faster, for me?”

And before the last words are out of his mouth, the leash snaps and he’s pumping in hard strokes, speeding up till his hips must be a blur. Xander’s throat arches in a silent scream as he cums a second time, almost blacking out from the intensity. He feels he’s almost reached perfection.

Then Jamie thrusts once, twice more and stills, emptying his heavy balls inside Xander’s ass, growling out his new name before sagging limply across his sweaty chest. And now he knows what perfect really means.

They share soft, soothing kisses, holding each other till the aftershocks pass. Xander doesn’t fool himself. Whatever type of demon his lover is, Jamie never stays past dawn. But he’ll get as much snuggle time in as he’s allowed before the countdown to the next night begins.

A Darker Love

Title: A Darker Love
Author: Rowaine (rowained@yahoo.com)
Fandom: Harry Potter
Rating: NC-17, per instructions. Starts off a pale PG, but will soon join the ranks of pr0n.
Summary: The magical world’s pureblood population have always been very cautious with whom they married and created offspring. But once in awhile, something unusual slips through the cracks.
Warnings: Sexual Content, Adult Language, Character Death, OOC-ness, Spoilers
Genre: Romance, Humor, Drama, Supernatural, AU(Alternate Universe), Who Knows, Smut (Sorry Ahou, I’m not that comfortable writing angsty stuff.)
Pairings: SS/HP primarily, but others may intrude.
Setting: AU, After the Final Battle, Ignores Book 5 up
Disclaimer: Nothing belongs to me except for the questionable plot. Oh yeah, it’s someone else’s bunny… so maybe not even the plot is mine. Guess I’m without plot. I have lost the plot. I am thoroughly plotless. Donate to the Plot Deficient Writer’s Fund!

Prologue : Darkness Falls

The last thing he remembered clearly was being surrounded by the killer green spell-light of a dozen Avada Kedavra’s simultaneously cast.

His position had been perfect : one step behind and to the left of the Dark Lord. His self-satisfied smirk was taken by his fellow Death Eaters as pride in his promotion, and he would hardly disabuse them of their delusion. In truth, he felt more vindicated than proud, by the simple fact that his rise in power had thrown Lucius ‘the Great Prig’ Malfoy down a notch. The look on the haughty blond’s face was well worth whatever anxiety he’d had over the whole insane plan.

When Albus had first come to him with ‘the perfect plan, my boy!’, Severus allowed himself a second’s worth of shuddering fear. It would do no good for him to object, voice an opinion, or offer suggestions. No, once the barmy old coot had an idea lodged in his candy-riddled brain, there was no way to talk sense into him. And so, regardless of his own numerous reservations, Severus marched the boy off Hogwarts grounds, zapped him with a mild stunning spell, and handed him over to Voldemort. That he received the tiniest bit of pleasure from the insolent snot’s outraged expression, well, the gods would forgive him for that. Surely.

Tossing Potter on the ground at the Dark Lord’s feet, Severus bowed deep and deferentially lowered his eyes. “My Lord, I pray you will accept this gift from your humble servant.” With that, he remained kneeling at the serpentine wizard’s throne, his mental shields firmly in place. Everything hinged on Voldemort’s reaction.

He hadn’t waited long for his judgment.

“Oh Severus, what a treasure you are! Not at all the traitor some of your contemporaries would make you out to be, eh?” Clawed fingers beckoned him closer, and a scaled hand landed lightly on his right shoulder. “You have taken a great risk for me, Severus, but the outcome is well worth it.”

Glimmering red eyes lifted from the bowed figure, scanning the hall of his followers. “Behold, brothers and sisters! Tonight we will see the destruction of our opponents’ figurehead. The beloved Boy-Who-Lived, brought to us by none other than Severus Snape.” He paused for dramatic effect, letting the applause stroke his ego for several long moments. “As reward for his efforts, Severus will henceforth stand at my side.”

Pettigrew and Malfoy shared a glance behind the Dark Lord’s back, each wondering which of them was to be replaced; no love would be lost between them. As with any of the Death Eaters, power and position mattered far more than ties of friendship and family. Their eyes shot forward as their Master offered his hand to help Snape to his feet.

“I believe you would be better suited going back to your Ministry intrigues, Lucius. Do move along now, and let Severus get used to his improved circumstances.” Voldemort waved his hand in dismissal at the glowering blond, not seeing the daggers of hatred aimed at his new favorite. But Severus saw, and carefully made note of his friend‘s temper.

As the Dark Lord began his annual “Death to Harry Potter” speech, Severus tapped his wand against his leg. To the casual observer it would seem a simple gesture of anticipation, yet in reality he had activated the homing portkey for the Order to focus on. He then aimed a narrow line of thought at his captive student. Potter, we only have to hold on for another fifteen minutes. As soon as Albus arrives, I shall unshrink your wand and that ridiculous sword-

And since I’m just laying here all comfy, it’ll be a walk in the park to catch them, right?

Merlin’s beard! Even in his mind, the Potter brat whined about everything. I think you shall find that the Headmaster’s appearance will create sufficient chaos to allow you the opportunity to retrieve your belongings. Now, unless you have other pressing issues upon which to complain, let us return our focus to our target for this evening. He paused, waiting until he had the boy’s undivided attention. Can you possibly handle such complicated instructions, Mr Potter?

A soft grunt came from the figure spellbound on the floor, with a louder sound of contempt directed through their thoughts. Severus correctly guessed that there would be no further need for communication, gratefully closing the tenuous link with his most tiring pupil. Nearly a former pupil, this close to end of term. Not that it matters now. I should throw a private, one-man party when this mess is finished. Perhaps retire to a small coastal town, open one of those trendy salon and spa boutiques, hire a half dozen attractive young people to run the place for me. Ah, the possibilities!

With half an ear on the Dark Lord’s ramblings, Severus contented himself with fantasies of a Potter-free life. A life with no babysitting responsibilities. Perhaps he could even find a lusty wench (or wizard) and settle down. He hadn’t dared to hope for such things with the constant threat of Voldemort, but if tonight was the end…

The small copper coin in his pocket flared with heat, indicating that Albus and the Order were on their way. He sent a sharp look at the boy, slowly withdrew the two shrunken objects from his pocket, and resized them as the first pops of Apparation echoed through the Dark Lord’s audience chamber. A single swish of his wand released Potter, whose first move was to raise his hands to receive wand and sword. Maybe the nuisance isn’t a complete imbecile after all.

Even after having played a large part in the boy’s private training, Severus was surprised with how smoothly he moved. Tuck and roll out of his former position, ending up right beside the petrified form of Pettigrew. Two heartbeats later, Albus was in place as well, directly in front of the Dark Lord. Between them, they formed a triangle of Light magic that, once activated with an ancient spell dug up from who knew where, fully bound the formerly human soul of Tom Riddle into his current body.

Screams and shouts surrounded the four wizards as Order members quickly disabled the Dark wizards and witches. Champions for the Light used binding or paralyzing spells, the vibrant yellows and oranges illuminating the dismally dark chamber. Only a small handful of Death Eaters managed to cast at all, and yet the only spells to leave their lips were the more damaging Unforgivables, Crucio and Avada Kedavra.

Voldemort, self-styled Dark Lord, threw every last bit of his power into drawing massive amounts of magic from his followers through their Marks, in the hope that it would reverse or negate the awesome pain being inflicted upon him. Both gnarled hands grasped his throat as if he was choking — which, from a bystander’s point of view, he might well have been. His access to the Dark Mark was closed, blocked off as if it had never been there at all.

As close to panic as he’d ever been, he jumped off to his right to make a quick escape. Directly into the path of Godric Gryffindor’s sword, held by none other than Harry Potter. A series of triggered spells went off at the first touch of skin to cold metal, and within less than a minute, the man born as Tom Marvolo Riddle fell to his knees. Dumbledore’s protective charms forbade him from fighting the disintegration of his latest body. From within his pocket, Snape pulled out a flask of his fastest poison, watching in great satisfaction as it ate through the Dark Lord’s reptilian flesh, down through bone and muscle, dissolving him inch by steaming inch. Finally, Potter grabbed his nemesis’ wand and snapped it in two, then raised his own. Three simple words, softly spoken, drew attention from every conscious person in the room.

Descendo abire Morboniam*.”

Brilliant green light flared all around, blinding Severus even as his body fell lax onto the ground.

~ * ~

Chapter One : Swimming Free of Darkness

For as long as he could recall, Severus had never experienced vivid or memorable dreams. The very few times he woke feeling as if he’d had one, the sensation was fleeting at best, and he pushed it aside in lieu of more important matters.

Laying in the teachers’ wing of Hogwarts Infirmary, his contrary consciousness decided that now was a grand time to alter the normal protocol. Swirls of jewel-toned colors danced across his mind, accompanied by delicious scents and the sweetest music he’d ever heard. His fingers itched to reach out and touch the richness presented for his benefit. What was worse, his long frozen heart gave a great, heaving shudder as it broke through the multiple layers of insulating ice he’d spent years developing for protection.

Potion after potion was poured down his throat, keeping him in a state of partial awareness. He found it quite frustrating not to be allowed the gentle comfort of oblivion, but what could he do? Severus acknowledged his current location, accepted that he had somehow been injured in the final battle, and begrudgingly allowed that there was no better place for him to seek medical attention. Poppy was a strict mediwitch, but her skill was without compare. That he could itemize such things as his surroundings gave him hope for a speedy recovery.

Floating along on deep purple and crimson clouds, he barely felt the passage of time. Hours, days, weeks… what did they matter? He was secure within the bosom of his heart-home; the castle’s thick walls and ancient magics would shelter him from any storm. Deep down in his psyche, Severus knew his calm acceptance to be caused by a potent cocktail mix of potions, but he couldn’t seem to care. He was still alive, ergo there would be plenty of time to wreck havoc on the hospital matron, Albus, and anyone else responsible for his insensate status. Later. Later was just fine.

~ * ~

He woke up hungry, fully aware, and rather cranky at being forced into a hospital gown. Dark eyes opened slowly to re-familiarize his retinae to the glaring sunlight coming through the nearby windows. Almost as visually traumatic was the wizard sitting at his bedside. Or rather, the wizard’s hideous robes.

“Albus,” he croaked, his throat raspy with disuse. There was only one wizard with large enough bollocks (or little enough fashion sense) to wear that. A lime green mass heavily sprinkled with rainbow colored stars and comets, topped by a silver blob of… something. He knew what it was supposed to be, but couldn’t bring himself to care.

“Hush, my boy, don’t try to talk just yet. Let’s get you sitting upright where you can have a few sips of water, and I’ll tell you what has happened in the past two weeks.”

Severus found that he couldn’t quite grasp the glass that was offered to him. He hissed in frustration, earning a raised eyebrow from his employer. The goblet made its way to his lips and cool liquid relief coated his parched tongue. Albus’ other eyebrow joined the first when his Potions Master literally purred in pleasure.

Taking a quick breath to compose himself — for Albus Percival Brian Wulfric Dumbledore was never unnerved by such simple things as odd sound effects from an unexpected source — the wizened wizard refilled his friend’s goblet and began his tale.

“If memory serves, you lost consciousness at approximately the same time that Voldemort’s body collapsed in on itself. A most disturbing sight, I must say.” He tipped the glass to Severus’ lips again, making him slowly sip the water. “We must wait until Poppy clears you to leave the Infirmary, of course, but I suspect you will enjoy watching the full scene play out in my penseive. But for now, a synopsis of the events will suffice, no doubt.”

Severus coughed softly to test his throat, then scolded, “Just get on with it, Albus. Some of us aren’t getting any younger.”

The Headmaster chuckled and nodded. “Yes, of course, we would hardly want you to develop grey hairs while you waited for me to get to the point, hmm?” A weak glare earned another dry chuckle. “Ah well, on we go. As Voldemort’s body disintegrated, melted rather, every Marked witch or wizard fell into a comatose state. As you might imagine, this made apprehending the unknown Death Eaters quite easy for our troops, and even the Minister could not deny the Marks on half his staff when they collapsed during a meeting with the Wizengamot.”

Severus’ startled laughter joined the older man’s, both imagining Fudge’s discomfiture.

“There is, I fear, one other matter that should be discussed prior to your release, Severus.” Albus’ voice was slow and heavy, the ever-present twinkle missing from his eyes. “When Voldemort was destroyed, a… magical surge of sorts occurred all across Great Britain. The reserves of power he had accumulated from each of his Marked followers was released all at once. Including those who predeceased him. It’s a bit strange, don’t you think, that the stolen power did not return to our world’s magic pool.”

At that point, the old man silently summoned a tray of tea and sandwiches. Severus gave in with ill grace, fumbling for a triangle of roast beef and cheddar with hands that were only marginally more stable.

Satisfied by his favorite ‘son’ would continue to eat once begun, Albus continued, “Naturally, this excess had to go somewhere. Harry, with his curse scar acting as a focus, ended up with over half of the surplus energy. The remaining part was absorbed — and I’m not sure how you will take this, nor do I have any explanations for it — by you. This is the primary reason you are only now regaining consciousness, my boy.”

Before Severus could do more than open his mouth to protest, Madame Pomfrey swept in from the corridor, bringing with her a breeze laden with the most wonderful scent he’d ever encountered. He scanned the Infirmary, using every last trick in his repertoire as spy to locate the heavenly aroma, but to no avail.

“Severus, it is good to see you awake.” Poppy sat lightly on the bed next to her patient’s hip, running her wand across his torso. “Almost as good as new, which is nearly unbelievable considering how badly you treat your body.”

He snorted at her — it was the best her comments deserved.

“Poppy, how long do you intend to keep me here?” Severus asked in his most impatient tone. He was mildly perturbed when his audience gave him dual stares of dismissal.

Turning to the Headmaster, Madame Pomfrey firmly stated, “Albus, I should like to speak with Severus privately. You may return after dinner.”

Not even the great Albus Dumbledore dared argue with his mediwitch when she issued orders in that tone of voice. He bid Severus farewell and made his escape.

The Infirmary doors had barely closed when Poppy turned back to face a very bemused Potions Master. “Severus, something quite odd has happened. I have had ample opportunity over the past twenty-five years to memorize your medical scans, to become familiar with your blood type and body mass, to intimately recognize your magical signature. However, since you were brought back from the final battle, there are significant differences in each of those vital aspects of your makeup.”

Eyes rolling toward the ceiling, Severus counted to twenty — in ancient Sumerian — before asking, “Get to the point please, Poppy.”

“As you wish.” She ran nervous hands down her apron. “You no longer register as fully human.”

By the time the mediwitch could cast sufficient silencing spells, half the school had heard their Potions Professor’s tirade.

~ * ~

The Headmaster hurried back inside the Infirmary as soon as Poppy had released the locking spell on the door. He felt that he was the only person capable of calming his Potions Master. And of course, there was the well-known fact of how nosy he was — if there was to be a ‘situation’, he wanted to be in the center of it.

Sweeping through the hospital wing, he swiftly made his way over to Severus’ bed, a soft breeze following his flowing robes. It didn’t escape his notice how the recently revived wizard’s nostrils flared for a brief second, but he chalked that response up to Snape’s years as a spy, taking in every available bit of information via each of his senses.

Poppy made an effort to intercept his course, firmly admonishing, “Albus, now is not a good time for your meddling. Surely you have more important things to deal with than loitering in my ward!”

A harsh snort from the bed seemed to agree with the demand. “Yes Headmaster, please leave at once. Your precarious grasp of sanity is contagious.”

And with that tantalizing hint, Dumbledore was promptly (and forcibly) hexed out of the wing.

Turning back to her rather irate patient , Madame Pomfrey tried once more to speak with Severus. “Really now, there’s no need to take this attitude with me. It would make the most sense that whatever has caused your… remarkable transformation began due to the last confrontation with the Dark Lord.” She gave him a stern glare to rival one of his own. “Therefore, you cannot blame me for this situation, and you would do well to remember that. Honestly Severus, I am doing my best for your welfare. The least you can do is to work with me, instead of fighting every step of the way. The sooner you acknowledge that your circumstances have changed, the sooner we can find out what exactly has occurred.”

Severus sniffed reflexively in disdain, then paused with his mouth open, on the cusp of spewing more vitriol. His eyes darted across every surface of the ward, searching for… some elusive aroma. He wasn’t in the position to witness how his eyes glowed for a brief moment, but the Matron saw and carefully took note of the new information.

“Poppy…” he began, then paused once more to breathe another deep gulp of air. His mind leapt to the only logical conclusion he could formulate on such short notice. “What in the world are you doing with my potions, woman? After all the backbreaking hours of labor to keep your supplies full, here you are adding flavoring to them? Since it appears to have slipped your memory, let me remind you that adding any sort of sucrose-based substance to healing potions will effectively nullify their basic properties. We can only pray that the few remaining days before term will be slow for you-”

“What in this world are you talking about, Severus? I haven’t added anything to your precious potions!” Incensed and ruffled, the mediwitch whipped around the room to apply her own senses. And came up with nothing out of the ordinary. She drew out her wand and prepared to cast more diagnosis spells. “You must have done more damage to your cerebral matter than previously thought. Now hold still and let me-”

From the farthest end of the ward, a soft voice whispered across Snape’s nerve endings, at once calming and heightening his awareness. “Madame Pomfrey, is there a problem?”

Poppy offered an exasperated glare at one patient before making her way to the second. “Well, I see you are finally back amongst the living. Here, sit up and I’ll bring you a few replenishing potions and some juice.”

The blasted woman’s interrogation trailed off as she moved to the other end of the Infirmary, allowing Severus to catch single word responses in that so very distracting voice. Now that he had another focal point, he also realized that the previously confusing scent was coming from the same direction. He couldn’t see who Poppy’s other target was with her full skirts in the way, but he felt… drawn to the shimmering golden-green aura that flickered in a vaguely human-shaped cloud around the bed. He sighed, resigned to yet another puzzle he truly didn’t have the energy to deal with, but was helpless to avoid.

And speaking of energy.

Between the shocking news of his inhumanity, his rather forceful outburst, and the magnetic pull that both baffled and irritated him, Severus’ body made an executive decision : his eyes closed, his body resumed its prone position, and his mind was shut down. Whatever curious ailment or curse had him in its grasp was in charge, insisting that he rest and recuperate before he took on the numerous questions plaguing his recovery.

~ * ~

By the time Madame Pomfrey returned with his meal and medication, Harry had pushed himself into a sitting position and had located his professor’s sleeping form. He didn’t even realize how long he’d been staring at the surly wizard until a softly cleared throat broke through his concentration. Shaking his head to dispel the odd feelings and thoughts that wouldn’t quite surface (but still managed to drive him to distraction), Harry offered a weak smile to the mediwitch.

“I must apologize for Professor Snape’s outburst, Mr. Potter. As long as I’ve known the man, I should have anticipated his reaction and taken proper precautions.”

His lips twitched up into a full grin. “You don’t have to apologize for that, Ma’am. I’ve spent the last six and a half years on the receiving end of some of his “greatest hits of snits”. Besides,” he looked up at her with wide eyes, a trick that almost always worked on Hermione and Mrs. Weasley when he wanted information, “it sounds as if he has a good enough reason to throw a tantrum. Anything I can do to help maybe?”

Poppy Pomfrey hadn’t worked so long for the most renowned magical boarding school without learning a few tricks of her own. She knew the young man hadn’t been awake until after Severus’ tantrum indeed fit was well into incoherent accusations, therefore Harry didn’t have a clue of the subject matter involved. However, she did give him full points for his acting skills, and just maybe…

“Perhaps you can help, Potter. I must attend a meeting this afternoon, and was dreading leaving the two of you to your own devices for the length of time I suspect it will take to decide that nothing new has happened since the last interminable meeting.” Her eyes rested briefly on Snape before focusing back on Harry to give him the same visual examination. “If you are feeling up to it, I would greatly appreciate your efforts. I’ll leave a supply of the appropriate potions and a list of instructions, but it is doubtful that Professor Snape will wake before I return. In the event that he does, you’ll give him the potions and perhaps offer juice or water, then take yourself back to bed for the same treatment. Neither of you are in a dangerous condition at the moment; you just need rest and a bit of quiet. Do you think you can handle the task, Mr. Potter?”

Harry’s gaze had drifted back over to the supine teacher’s body during Poppy’s instructions, and he guiltily nodded to her. “Yes Ma’am, that shouldn’t be a problem.” A one-shoulder shrug. “And I’m used to being the target of his bad moods, so nothing he can say will really bother me.”

“Very well, I’ll be back in a few minutes with the potions and notes.” She had more to say, but one look at the rather fixated young man made her reconsider. Patting his leg, Poppy wandered back into her office and collected the appropriate vials, jotted down thorough (if simple) instructions, and returned to find Harry in the same state. Staring at Severus as if the boy had never seen his instructor before. How odd. Followed a split second later by astonishment. Oh dear Merlin, please don’t let Harry have developed a crush on Severus! They’re more likely to kill than to kiss… and where did that thought come from? I hope there’s plenty of tea and cakes available — between them, I’m going to need every last bit of my strength to keep from putting them into a deep healing sleep.

~ * ~

Chapter Two :

After Madame Pomfrey swept out of the Infirmary on her way to the staff meeting, Harry waited at least five full minutes to make sure there were no interruptions. No nosy Headmaster. No well-meaning friends. No cleverly hidden house elves. His body protested as he swung his legs over the side of the bed, but that could be ignored… All his instincts told him that something dramatic had happened to his professor, and Harry felt a deep compulsion to investigate.

Yeah, and every other time I’ve had this urge it’s turned out so very well. He snorted softly, only barely managing to muffle the sound before it could awaken the older wizard. Careful there, mate. Bet he sleeps light, wand under his pillow and ready for attack. Not that I can blame him for it. He might be a right bastard, but I have to admit that he’s finally proven which side he’s on. Doesn’t mean he’s likely to ask questions before hexing though.

On bare feet, he crept across the ward to Snape’s bed. The closer Harry got to his target, the stronger he felt that pull to be near the dark wizard. Before he realized how far he’d come, his thighs connected with the foot of the bed. His whole body tensed, waiting for Snape to wake up and yell at him, but nothing happened.

It was the perfect opportunity for a thorough examination of his dreaded professor. Snape, unconscious and probably drugged to the gills, with no one around to forbid the inspection. Only a thin, short-sleeved hospital gown covered the man’s chest, with a single sheet pulled up to his waist. One finely boned foot stuck out from under the white cotton cover, drawing Harry’s attention to the occasional twitch of his toes.

He doesn’t look so mean, so angry, when he’s asleep. Though there’s not much ‘at peace’ about him either. I wonder what kind of dreams he has… nightmares maybe, regrets and what if’s. Has he invented a potion to prevent them? Maybe not a Dreamless Sleep, but something to turn nightmares into more pleasant things? But no, he wouldn’t waste his time on such a mundane project. Snape seems the type to say “learn to deal with your inner demons, Potter” instead of spending months, maybe years, creating a potion to alleviate night terrors.

The fingers on Snape’s wand hand flicked, as if he was casting a spell in his sleep. His lips moved in silent incantation, and his eyebrows shifted into a frown. Afraid of being caught, Harry stepped back toward the supplies left by the mediwitch and collected the appropriate vials. Just as he turned around to retrace his path, a flash of movement caught his attention — Snape’s head swung left and right against his pillow, nearly thrashing into it. Harry sensed a rising panic in the older man that might well herald even worse dreams. He sprinted the dozen steps back to the sleeping wizard’s side in time to prevent the professor’s ill-timed dive off the bed.

“Woah, careful there, sir. It’s a long way to the floor… don’t want you to hurt yourself.” Harry kept his words quiet and calm, even though with a double armful of Potions Master, he was feeling anything but peaceful. He pushed and pulled, trying to convince the limp limbs back onto the mattress, but the blasted man was every bit as stubborn in his sleep as in a classroom. “Work with me here, Snape. I can’t help you get comfortable without a little bit of assistance. And Merlin, what’ve you been eating? You look thin as a skeleton, but you must weight as much as Ron.”

A whispered response halted Harry’s attempts. “Nothing like a Weasley.”

Breathing a huge sigh of relief that just maybe there was still sanity left in the greasy git, Harry snickered and had to agree, “No, thank the gods, you aren’t anything like Ron.” He gave one more shove, finally getting Snape back onto the center of the narrow hospital bed, then stood back to survey his work. “Although… if you had more of a sense of humor, you and the twins would have a fair amount in common. For all their pranks, they’re both brilliant with potions work, charms too.”

“No time to pranks anymore, you daft bugger.” Clearly, he was not yet fully alert. Stern Professor Snape would never stoop to schoolyard name-calling, would he? “Thirsty.”

The gravelly request prodded Harry into action. He retrieved juice and glass, potion vials and Madame Pomfrey’s slip of instructions, and was back at Snape’s side in short order. “Here we go, sir. May I help you sit up a bit? Afraid we might make a mess if you don’t.”

It felt more than a little odd to be manhandling his Potions Master, but even worse was the man’s obvious weakness. Of the seven years Harry had known the man, he’d never seen Snape show any signs of sickness or injury beyond a slight limp or cranky fatigue. To top it all off, the older wizard was utterly silent — and that was enough to unnerve even the most stalwart of Gryffindors.

Given the chance to study his temporary patient, Harry took stock of what he felt were the most suspicious indications of the man’s condition. Slack features (except for a slight frown), where normally a sneer was present. The stiff, upright posture that swept Hogwarts’ halls was completely absent, replaced by this… limp noodle. But beyond those telling signs were the little things that just didn’t add up : Half-lidded eyes that followed his every move, but lacked their standard criticism. Nostrils in the prominent nose that seemed to be sniffing him, almost like a dog scenting some stranger. Fingers that kept twitching randomly, only now they weren’t grasping for a wand; they appeared to be fighting the urge to grasp him. Every little shift Harry made was tracked, documented, and filed away… making the teen feel decidedly uneasy, like an insect under a microscope whose only future was a short engagement on the dissection tray.

Finally Snape was propped up against several pillows, glass of juice in hand, and Harry was free to step away from the bed. He wanted to offer more help, food or fluffing or something, anything to get the man’s eyes off of him! “Sir, Madame Pomfrey left instructions that you are to have these potions when you wake up, and since you’re awake now you should probably do what she says, because you know how she gets when her patients don’t mind, and would you like something to eat, won’t take a minute to call Dobby or one of the other house elves for a tray…”

The hand not currently occupied by a goblet lifted enough to stop the stream of babble. “Potter, unless there is a headache remedy on your list, perhaps you would be good enough to cease this display of inanity. I will accept the Matron’s dubious cocktail of potions, and yes, you may call for a light meal.” Snape laid his head back against the bedframe, visibly exhausted. “And… thank you, for your assistance,” he choked out the expression of gratitude. Accepting each of the four vials, he slung them back with practiced ease, sipped the rest of his juice, and closed his eyes.

Harry was nearly convinced the man had fallen asleep again. An assumption that had him jumping a foot in the air when he was caught staring. Snape opened one eye, took in his student’s position, and asked mildly, “Well, are you planning on standing there staring at me all day, or carry out your offer of calling for food?”

He was half way to Madame Pomfrey’s office before he heard the dry chuckle from a sleepy (but amused) Snape.

~ * ~

Discretion is the better part of valour… I know I’ve heard that somewhere, but it never made much sense until today. What in bloody hell is he trying to pull? Loud and bitchy I can handle. Quiet and bitchy isn’t that uncommon. But this… almost friendly, or at least not antagonistic, it’s enough to make me paranoid.

Harry paced the office while he waited for a house elf to return with his teacher’s tray. Oh, he could return to the ward to wait, but that would force him to see and hear more of this abnormal version of his least favorite instructor. Somehow, between that last meeting in the Headmaster’s tower and the time they’d both been brought back to Hogwarts Infirmary, something odd had happened to Severus Snape.

It wasn’t just that the man had yet to yell at, scream about, belittle, or condemn Harry… His entire aura seemed different. Not that Harry had much practice with reading magical auras, but this was a tangible change. Like adding dark blue paint to pale yellow, and ending up with an odd shade of grassy green. And it’s been how many years since that particular accident in Aunt Petunia’s sewing room? The violent shudder evoked by that memory told him in no uncertain terms that decades would pass before he could forget the harsh words and harsher beating he’d received thanks to that mistake. For pity’s sake, I was only six!

Regardless of how strange and worrisome Snape’s present behavior was, anything would be better than recalling his years with the Dursleys.

~ * ~

Snape was quite willing to admit that he might well be hallucinating. What other reason was there for this new fascination he felt toward the annoying Boy-Who-Lived?

He had woken shortly before Potter arrived at the foot of his bed, laying quietly so as not to alert the young man to his conscious state. Every sweep of those too-green eyes caused a tremor of tiny electrical pulses to run down his spine. And when the boy first touched him it had only gotten worse.

Potter offering comfort hardly set well, especially when every last word out of that impudent mouth had called to him. A symphony of soothing tones, harps and chimes, flutes and strings, combined to wrap Severus in a cocoon of peace that was entirely foreign to his existence.

Another perplexing incident was the distinctive scent that seemed to exude from him. I might owe Poppy an apology… not that she’s likely to hear it. Severus’ first passion was potions, as any fool with eyes could see. The occupation had encouraged his naturally sensitive sense of smell, almost to the point that he no longer needed to visually examine his cauldrons for testing — a quick sniff gave him much of the information on a potion’s status. He had made an honest error in accusing the mediwitch of tampering with his potions, for what else could possibly have such a potent and alluring aroma? Only Potter, of course. He’s been the singular exception to so many rules for most of his life, why not this as well? No human gives off such an intoxicating natural fragrance.

Snape’s head whipped upright so fast that he cracked his skull on the headboard. No human! If the backlash from Voldemort’s final death can cause me to be altered so dramatically, then it is entirely possible for the same to have happened to Potter. His mind leapt from clue to clue, leading him to a series of logical assumptions. He knew full well that there was more information to be gathered before accepting any possible conclusion; however, when A plus B equaled C in so many steps…

I didn’t hear any sort of transformation spell prior to losing consciousness, but that means little. And for the love of Merlin, why would anyone want to turn Harry Bloody Potter and me into non-humans? It’s enough that the boy survived his prophecy. Hell, it’s a sodding miracle that I survived his prophecy! To be somehow connected by yet another set of circumstances with the nuisance… salt to an open wound.

His agitation grew with each passing moment. Unfortunately, he couldn’t decide where to place the blame for this most recent disaster. Albus is the most likely suspect, of course. His sense of humor needs to be pruned with an out-of-control cutting curse. It would be just like him to think it a riot, linking me and the boy, and making us believe there was no discourse but to get along. Oh, there is a slight chance that any random Death Eater could’ve gotten in a lucky shot… but if this is truly happening to us both, the laws of probability are against it. An even slimmer chance is for Poppy to have misdiagnosed the problem. No, not in all the years I’ve known her has Poppy Pomfrey mistaken a single curse, ailment, illness, or other medical condition. Which leads me back to Albus.

Severus contented himself with formulating a wide variety of vengeful acts against his employer while he waited for the boy to return. Only the most clever were kept, with a hastily summoned quill and parchment taking notes. He was a good two feet down the scroll when Potter finally returned with their meal. For they would be sharing, it seemed. Two bowls of soup, a plate of sandwiches, a large jug of juice, and a decent selection of fresh fruit nearly overflowing the tray made it clear that the elves had previous instructions on how much and how often they should be fed.

Exchanging a weary glance with his student, Severus picked up his spoon and began to toy with the slivers of chicken swimming in a thick broth. “It would appear that Madame Pomfrey expects us to gain a stone or more before we are dismissed from her care.” Dazed green eyes widened, but the boy nodded and started tackling his half, as if sheer determination could conquer the mountain of edibles. No further conversation rippled the silence that fell between them, each doing their best to finish their portion.

Much, much later, Severus would realize how… soothing the boy’s presence was.

Last one! Better be… this one’s the crossover from hell. All that’s missing is the kitchen sink *eyeroll*

Some WeirdAss Fusion

Title: Some WeirdAss Fusion (needs title – suggestions welcome)
Author: Rowaine (rowained@yahoo.com)
Summary: Putting together an offworld, out-of-galaxy expedition is much easier than it seems… especially with a little help from an alien busybody.
Rating: FRM
Pairings: multiple, varied, slash (of both varieties) and het
Warnings: AU, AR, Humor, Romance, Smut, and a little bit of everything else thrown in as the situation calls for it
!Verses: Stargate SG1, Stargate Atlantis, The Sentinel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, NCIS, CSI (all/any), Supernatural, etc. More to be added as necessary.
Author’s Notes: Before reading this, please bear in mind that I’m borrowing characters and general ideas from their respective owners. Do NOT expect cannon! I’ll be throwing out so many scenarios from the original series (plural) that you’ll tear your hair out trying to find some semblance of reality. Just go with the flow, have a few laughs and heavy breathing times, and enjoy. This is written more for my own pleasure than anything. Here there be no Mary Sue’s or Gary Stu’s, but the occasional OC will surface where I couldn’t figure out where to steal someone else’s from *grin*
Disclaimer: Gods, where to begin? Let’s put a blanket “I don’t own any character you recognize” in here. Anyone wanting to nitpick about which conglomerates own which series, feel free to email me and I’ll eventually add it to my notes somewhere. If the characters and/or universes belonged to me, I’d be living high and free from bill collectors.

Part 1

Newly commissioned Brigadier General Jack O’Neill (with two L’s) brushed the tiny dust motes off his sleeve for a final time, straightened his cover, and inhaled deeply. He had no interest in political games of any sort, but this was one meeting he couldn’t avoid. Or push off on his Second-in-Command, Lt. Col. Samantha Carter.

An aide opened the reception door, gesturing him toward the President’s private office. “Sir, Mr. President will see you now.”

“Thank you, Mr. Cawlson,” Jack grinned at the rapidly retreating form. Hell, I wouldn’t want his job no matter how much they paid me. Talk about on-the-job stress!

Another cleansing breath. I can do this. I have to do this. Jack strode into the office, closing the door securely behind him. He offered his Commander-in-Chief a crisp salute, dropping into a sloppy parade rest with a grin. “Mr. President, I’ve just got back from a conference with our Asgard allies…”

~ * ~

One week ago

An icy cold beer in one hand, Jack sank into his lounger with a sigh. Not even the best brew could make this day easier. After all the screw-ups, all the black marks and reports of borderline insubordination, and they still promoted him. Against his will, even! Granted, he wasn’t getting any younger, and his knees were a hazard at times. But still…

General George Hammond was by far the best commander he’d ever served with. And the sneakiest son of a bitch at times. He’d been dragged straight out of the infirmary from SG1’s latest FUBAR mission, plaster still drying on his broken left wrist, to an informal ceremony in the mess hall.

It was great seeing Carter’s face as she received her promotion to Lieutenant Colonel. She truly deserved the honor, and having Jacob (and Selmak) there was just the icing on the cake. Tears fell freely, though no one was brave enough to call Jacob on it. It was a father’s prerogative, after all, to get a little weepy over his daughter’s accomplishments.

The other two members of their team stood by like doting old uncles. Dr. Daniel Jackson, multiple PhD and all around know-it-all, the best friend Jack had ever had, did his best to stand at attention in his on-base fatigues. You’d never know it to look at him now, but Daniel still loathed the military establishment. He did the uniform proud, especially for being a civilian contractor roped into this loony bin. At his side loomed their alien teammate, Teal’c, standing so tall and straight he looked to be made of granite. A terribly smug expression (noticed only to those who knew him best) was set firmly on his face as he watched the proceedings with satisfaction.

Patting Carter’s shoulders after the exchange of insignia was complete, Hammond grinned at the assembled masses. “Well, folks, that’s one promotion out of the way,” eyes twinkling, his gaze fell on Jack. “And now for the one that’ll bust Sgt. Siler’s books… Come up here, Colonel O’Neill.”

The volume of cheers and applause threatened to overload eardrums. Daniel pushed Jack forward hard enough that he had to move or be dumped onto his ass. Taking the few steps toward General Hammond, Jack glared at anyone and everyone who caught his eye. He did not want this! They’d take him out of the field, stick him behind a desk, take him away from his kids and his mission…

“That’s right, Jack. Come a little bit closer now,” Hammond’s grin turned into a wicked smirk. “I promise, this won’t hurt me as much as it will you.”

For all he knew the consequences, Jack couldn’t bring himself to bolt out of the room and far the hell away from his fate.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is with a great deal of pride — and more than a little dumb-founded awe — that I have been instructed to promote Colonel Jonathon ‘Jack’ O’Neill to the rank of Brigadier General today. Per our Commander-in-Chief’s orders, Jack has overcome his rather checkered past of not following orders, mouthing off, using entirely too much C4 for the job, heckling our scientists, and baiting snakes. He is most assuredly the finest Second I have ever had the pleasure to command, and he’s done the best job of keeping his team in one piece mostly that I could’ve asked for. Considering his teammates.”

The audience laughed generously, knowing how often SG1’s members had ‘risen from the dead’. O’Neill included. He never left ‘his kids’ behind, often causing his own serious injuries. It was one of the major reasons for the unanimous votes of Stargate Command to promote their favorite officer.

Hammond patted Jack on the shoulder, squeezing it gently. His eyes held all the pride and fatherly affection they could convey, making Jack stand straighter and accept the unthinkable. If George felt he deserved this dubious honor, Jack would take it like the man he’d learned to be under Hammond’s careful watch.

“That’s it, Jack,” the older man said softly, for his ears alone. “Don’t worry about your future. A little grey birdy told me there’s something special on the horizon for you.” Swiftly removing his birds, Hammond raised a small box to Jack’s vision.

George’s voice carried over the soft murmurs throughout the hall, “Attention to orders!” With a snap, the assembled members of the SGC shifted to precise attention. Even the civilians made some effort to achieve the military stance, in honor of Jack O’Neill’s willingness to do anything it took to keep them safe and alive.

“The President of the United States, acting upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Air Force (and the petition of every member of this base), has placed special trust and confidence in the patriotism, integrity, and abilities of Colonel Jonathon ‘Jack’ O’Neill. In view of these special qualities, and his demonstrated potential to serve in the higher grade, Colonel O’Neill is promoted to the rank of Brigadier General, United States Air Force, effective immediately, by order of the Secretary of the Air Force.”

The expression on Hammond’s face was both tender and bursting with pride. Jack’s breath caught from the knowledge that, no matter how often he’d disobeyed this man’s orders, George still felt so strongly about him. How on Earth or any other planet could he refuse this man?

Choking on emotion, O’Neill raised his right hand and committed himself to the Oath of Office. “I, Jonathon O’Neill, having been appointed a General in the United States Air Force, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic… and intergalactic. That I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same. That I take this obligation freely, without reservation or purpose of evasion — though, if Danny and Carter don’t stop snickering, there’s gonna be a spankin’ tonight.” He glared at his twin blond troublemakers, amid laughter from the audience. “And that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office which I am about to enter. So help me, God.”

George cackled at the impromptu changes, especially the last line. A simple pause for inflection altered the original from a pledge to a plea. Slapping Jack on the shoulder hard enough to make the new General stumble, Hammond announced to the masses, “So help us all!” He smiled broadly, aiming at last for Jack’s dumbstruck face and winking. “Cake, pie and punch are ready for the celebration. Any alcoholic libations should be taken off base, please. And no, Jack, you can’t run and hide just yet. Play nice for a little while, then you can have a few days downtime.”

Mumbling to himself about sneaking commanders and unhelpful teammates, Jack grabbed a glass of punch, snagging huge slabs of pie and cake, and made his way to the nearest table. He was soon joined by Teal’c and Carter, each carrying their own tasty burdens.

“O’Neill, ColonelCarter, I must congratulate you both,” the deep baritone resonated pride and satisfaction. “You deserve the recognition of your efforts in this war, as well as the rewards such a promotion will offer to your future.”

Jack coughed into his cup, glaring at his Second. “It’s all fine and well for Carter, but me? Nah…” At Teal’c’s raised eyebrow, he explained, “Look, T-man, it’s just not done for a General to be out in the field. Carter’s ready to lead her own team, sure, but this means they’re gonna move me to a desk job somewhere.”

“Sir-” Sam began, followed by a frown.

“I do not understand, O’Neill. Why would your military take one of its best officers out of combat?”

Someone cleared their throat from beside the table. As one, they looked up to see Sam’s father, Jacob (and his symbiote, Selmak) looking down at them with amusement. “Teal’c, one of the strangest things about the American Armed Forces is that they work so hard to beat rules and regulations into the heads of young, impressionable minds that they often only succeed in beating the individuality out of those who are capable of leading. Eventually, everyone gets promoted — usually for time served more than ability. Those rare few who make it beyond Major are taken out of field service to juggle the ranks of newcomers that will, honestly, never make the grade. It’s not the smartest move at all, but it’s also something that makes a certain twisted sense.”

With a concentrated frown, the alien’s eyebrows lowered in thought. “Such a decision would only make sense to the political ‘pencil pushers’ who have never served in any meaningful duty.”

Jacob nodded in total agreement. “Unfortunately, there are more of them than there are of us.”

“Indeed.”

The atmosphere was getting entirely too tense for Jack. Regardless of his opinion of his own promotion, this day should be cause for joy and happiness and all that junk for Carter and her dad. “Whatever! Come on, kids, let’s eat up. It’s not every day the mess serves quality pie. Carter, Jacob, dig in and spend some time catching up. T, make sure they aren’t bothered, okay?”

The table’s occupants agreed with smiles (and in Teal’c’s case, a simple nod). Jack scooped up his last mouthful, waved a cheery goodbye, and escaped. He only hoped it looked more dignified than it felt.

It took much longer to get out into the hall than he’d expected. Every single soldier and civilian he passed had to shake his hand, salute, hug, and sometimes a combination of the three. Eyes pealed, he searched for the missing member of his team. Ever since his Oath of Office, he’d lost track of where Daniel had gone. Now he was on a mission of mercy. Leaving his somewhat scatterbrained archeolinguist to his own devices was usually a bad thing. And often required either C4 or medical backup.

Pushing through the throng of well-wishers, Jack finally made it to the relative quiet of the hall. He still didn’t see Daniel, but there were few places his buddy would retreat when he was in need of quiet. A long elevator ride down to the social sciences’ floor gave Jack enough time to formulate a plan of attack.

Making his way down the hall, quietly so as not to spook his prey, Jack saw the light on under Daniel’s office door. Uh huh, so he understands the ramifications as well as I do. Maybe Dannyboy will have a better idea than I do about ‘what now’.

Jack softly turned the doorknob, forcing just a crack of light to open. What he saw was… much worse than he’d expected. Daniel Jackson, multiple doctorates and bestest buddy, had his face in his hands and his shoulders shaking, harsh sobs only somewhat muffled by the fingers clenched tightly to his face. Jack wanted to rush in at once, to pull his friend into a close hug and tell him everything would be alright. But he couldn’t lie worth shit when it came to Daniel. Everything would most certainly not be alright. This damned promotion was going to break up his team, his family, the only family Danny had to count on.

Ignoring the little internal voice that told him Daniel wouldn’t want Jack to see him like this, the older man took advantage of his friend’s hidden eyes. In three silent steps, he had the trembling body held close, rocking and petting and offering what little comfort he could. Evidence of Daniel’s upset: it took several long minutes before he seemed aware that he was no longer alone. Oh yeah, this is so very bad.

“Jack?” His voice was garbled and clogged from sobs. Daniel didn’t bother trying to straighten himself out anymore — over the years he had learned that a Jack-hug couldn’t be dodged. He simply burrowed his face into the strong, comforting arms around him and sighed.

“It’ll be okay, Danny. Promise. They can’t force me anywhere I don’t want to be, not anymore.” O’Neill’s heart ached with the childlike cuddling. He’d only seen Daniel act this way a handful of times. Usually when someone died. “Hey, I can always retire again. Practically got the paperwork memorized by now.”

Frantic headshaking and a babble of “nononono” came from the hollow of his throat. So apparently, Dr. Jackson was displeased with that notion.

“Well, how about… George keeps yapping about spending more time with his grandkids. Maybe they want me to take over the SGC.”

And now that he thought about it, that sounded like a pretty likely scenario. Wish they’d consulted me about it first. He didn’t want to take over Hammond’s job. Not that he wanted to leave the SGC either, but still…

Still locked in thought, Jack nearly missed the hand moving stroking? across his chest. It felt damned good. Too damned good. Hadn’t he spent years locking away the need for human touch? The occasional hug and pat on the back was one thing, but this, nah. It was too… intimate. Lover-like. Oh? Oh!

“Danny?” he whispered, as if too much volume would break a spell.

Lifting his head, tear tracks glossing his cheeks, Daniel’s stubborn courage forced him to meet his best friend’s enquiring eyes. Every thought, every feeling shone in that one intense stare. With an audible gulp, he took a breath and swallowed hard. Then made a pledge of his own to follow Jack’s new rank. “Where you go, I go. You aren’t leaving me behind, Jack.”

And what was he supposed to say about that?

~ * ~

The short drive from base to home was made mostly in silence, punctuated by a few soft snuffles as Daniel tried to clear his sinuses. Jack drove through the light evening traffic, taking the opportunity to think about how he should handle the emotional minefield he was walking into.

It wasn’t that he was unaware of a certain amount of crush, maybe even hero worship coming from the younger man at his side. And God knew he found Daniel attractive. Who wouldn’t? He was a strong man, mentally and physically. Beautifully expressive eyes, firm convictions, equally firm muscles from his time in the gym and field. And if an interesting dream starring his linguist’s agile tongue had him waking to wet boxers from time to time, no one need speak of it. Even after the repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell, it just wasn’t smart to venture there. Besides, he was forty-five years old, for cryin’ out loud! He was too damned old to turn his sexuality on its end, even if the object of his nocturnal hormones wasn’t under his command.

Quickly glancing in Daniel’s direction while stopped at a red light, Jack gave an internal sigh. The double doctor smarty pants was never under command. His or anyone else’s. Plus, with this damned promotion, it was unlikely that he’d be allowed to keep his team. Was it maybe time to allow someone close again? And yeah, alright, Danny had snuck under the radar and gotten under his skin from the first trip through the gate. Doing what no one — not even his ex-wife, no matter how hard she tried — could do. Daniel Jackson was his best friend, confidante, comrade-at-arms, better half in so many ways. Just how his Granny O’Neill used to define the best marriage.

Several horns honking jerked him away from the uncomfortable line of thought he’d been stuck in. There would be plenty of time to avoid… or think about and hide from… Cut the crap, Jacky-boy. You shoulda known this subject would eventually come up. Daniel, for all his clueless behavior at times, has more balls than the combined units of the entire USMC. He wouldn’t let you run away. Which is… good. Something Sara never managed. Danny’s gonna sit you down and give a bullet-point presentation on the pro’s and con’s of whatever-the-hell’s going on here. And you’re gonna let him, just like you always do, no matter how talky or sappy things get.

Pulling into his garage, Jack turned off the ignition and clicked the doors to close before turning to his buddy. Who was peacefully asleep. With a loud snort, Jack unbuckled his seat belt, grabbed keys and jacket, then slid out of the truck and slammed the door. For effect, natch. His passenger jerked awake with a glare.

“Up and at’em, Dannyboy,” Jack called cheerfully. “Time for all good little linguists to be in bed. We’ll cook up a big breakfast in the morning, fortify ourselves for this talk you think we have to have.”

Grumbling as he gathered his things and shut the truck door, Daniel followed the older man into his home. Bleary eyes absently noted that the landscape hadn’t changed, making his forward movement easy as he staggered toward the guest bedroom. Minutes later, soft snuffles turned into the low, droning sounds of sleep.

Jack turned on his security system, shut off lights, and made his way to bed. Whatever tomorrow might bring, it would take all his wits to keep up with the genius in his guest room.

~ * ~

The delicious aromas of fresh brewed coffee and frying bacon combined into a glorious eye-opener for Daniel. He rarely slept as well on base, or at home, or anywhere that Jack wasn’t. Waking up to his favorite fry-up and the gourmet coffee he kept at his friend’s home was the best feeling in the world.

He staggered into the bathroom for the necessaries: emptying bladder, a quick shower and brushing of teeth. Feeling somewhat more human, he threw on fresh boxers and a t-shirt that always miraculously appeared whenever he slept in Jack’s guest room. It felt good, to be cared for, to be the one who could lean on another’s shoulders. There had never been any thoughts of Jack-as-Daddy — the very idea had Daniel cringing. Jack was his friend, his very best friend. And over the years, the closeness enforced by field operations and a closed society had brought them to here, now.

Pushing such serious thoughts to the back burner of his brain, Daniel went in search for his long-term lover. Feelings and inappropriate erections aside, his first and truest love would always be…

“Mornin’, sunshine!” Jack’s too perky voice called from the kitchen. Holding up one hand in a peaceful gesture, he offered the younger man a full, steaming cup with the other.

Carefully grabbing the mug, Daniel inhaled the fragrant steam with a half-lidded expression most often seen in pornographic film, as did the low moan of pleasure he emitted at the first gulp. Coffee, the nectar of the gods, the most perfect substance to ever grace mankind with its presence. And Jack, wonderfully considerate Jack, had gone to the bother of grinding a bag of fresh beans bought recently from his favorite specialty shop. Since he couldn’t very well reward such thoughtfulness with the kiss it deserved (yet? ever?), Daniel forced himself to make tender love to his personal deity. Sip by sip.

It never failed to amuse Jack, watching Daniel go through the stages of his morning cuppa. Bliss, sensual intoxication, devoted passion. Who’d have thought anyone could put that much dedicated emotion into a simple beverage? But somehow, this morning’s entertainment was more intense than usual. It’s not that much of a leap, picturing Danny’s face as he’s spread out on the bed, ready and eager to be taken apart one orgasm at a time. And that thought is definitely his fault!

“If you’re done giving head to my pottery,” Jack tried for stern but merely succeeded with playfully scolding, “breakfast is ready and on the table. I was just coming to wake you when the shower started.”

Daniel slumped into his chair, still tonguing the lip of his mug. “You are a god, O’Neill.”

Jack felt his whole face, down his neck and across his upper chest, flush for a moment. Combined with his previous thoughts, Daniel’s slouch and breathy statement had sent a flame of arousal shooting through his body. And that’s so not fair! He’s not even trying right now. When a linguist gets started using his massive vocabulary, no man can… Ah hell, O’Neill, you’re sunk!

Oblivious to how his actions were viewed, Daniel finished off his first cup of java, looking for more before he’d swallowed the last sip. He grabbed the nearby carafe and refilled his mug, humming in satisfaction as his eyes closed once more. Only after another mug was emptied did he become human enough to pick up his fork and start in on the spread Jack had so thoughtfully provided.

Waving a triangle of buttered toast in his host’s direction, Daniel took a moment in between bites to say, “Jack, thanks so much. For bed and breakfast, coffee, and… y’know, just being you.” He quickly ducked his head for another bite, missing the pleased but surprised smile his words caused.

“Aw, you know it’s never a trouble, Danny,” Jack muttered into his own mug. It was always the simple things that his friend appreciated the most. As if his childhood had been so… But it had. Being pushed from one foster home to the next, he never got used to what everyone else takes for granted. Stability, the feeling of ‘home’, having someone care that he’s fed and watered and groomed. Not like a pet, but as a human. Damn, what I wouldn’t give to be able to track down some of those useless wastes of perfectly breathable air and teach them how to treat a kid.

Eyes closed on his last bite of scrambled eggs, Daniel hummed as if in agreement. He washed it down with the remnants of his coffee, placed utensils and mug on the table, and leaned back in the chair. A feeling of complete contentment flowed over him, as it often did in Jack’s home. Warm, fed, and loved — it would be impossible not to be attracted to the person who offered such whole-hearted hospitality with no strings attached. Not that those were the only things he liked about Jack. Far from it, actually. But they were surely the first crack in his wall against personal relationships.

Replete in practically every way, Daniel finally opened his eyes to find Jack watching him closely. The expression on his friend’s face was one he couldn’t immediately place, a cross between soft amusement and longing and a hint of anger lurking in the shadows. Daniel knew Jack’s views on his former foster parents, knew how much it hurt the father part of O’Neill to see kids not treated well. Daniel tried not to say much about his childhood simply to avoid the righteous anger that was sure to follow.

“Alright, now that we’ve stuffed ourselves, how about finishing last night’s talk?”

Daniel blinked slowly. Once. Twice. Then had to admit the question had come from his ‘I don’t talk about feelings’ best friend. Well then!

“You walked into a… pity party. Simple as that,” Daniel said, knowing he couldn’t derail Jack’s Special Ops training. “Feel free to ignore the waterworks. I plan on it.”

Oh yeah, like that’s gonna work, Dannyboy? Sneaky little shit thinks he’s gonna let me off the hook. And I don’t want that, not this time. Mid-life crisis of sexuality, what do they call it? Identity crisis. Not something I’ve ever had to worry about, but if this is going where I think it is… Yeah, not letting you off the hook, bookboy.

Jack stood, grabbing plates to start the dishwasher. He looked back at the table and waited til Daniel brought the last few things. The machine started, he gently propelled the younger man into the living room, plopping him down on the sofa and joining him.

“Daniel, last night… you made this enormous promise to me. More than maybe you realize or understand.” Taking a deep breath, he reached out and grabbed the other man’s hand, stroking his thumb along the palm. “Pretty sure you’ve read the passage, somewhere in Ruth-”

“Ruth chapter 1, verse 16.”**

“Right. I was raised Catholic, Danny. And that’s one of my Granny O’Neill’s favorite verses. The whole thing, it’s not about being family and staying family… Our priest, he’d always gloss over it, but Granny was convinced. I’ve always thought that verse should be required in wedding vows. Danny…” Jack’s voice started breaking.

Daniel’s fingers gently squeezed Jack’s hand, not letting the connection go. He took a breath and let his eyes close briefly, gathering courage to continue. “Jack, you and me, we’ve always had this really weird, intense relationship. Most of the time it’s so easy to be around each other that everyone else is confused, because they only see how we’re different. But there’s passion too, all the arguing and fighting, not seeing eye to eye on missions.” Another breath, fortifying himself for the hardest confession he’d ever try to make. “There’s always been this spark between us, something unique that wouldn’t make sense to any other person, and maybe that something is the start of… closer than friends…”

Hearing his linguist run out of words was so very hard on Jack. He knew what kind of strength Daniel had within him, how often he would stand up for other people but rarely himself. There were so many wonderful, even noble qualities in the younger man, qualities he’d often felt envious of or mocked as being inconvenient. But when it all came down to them, Jack and Daniel, this was the way it was always supposed to be.

“Damn, we’re both kinda slow on the uptake, huh?” Laugh crinkles framed his eyes and the sides of his mouth. Jack raised their combined hands slowly, letting Daniel know his intent so the other man could stop what was sure to be the biggest change in their friendship. But Daniel just watched, transfixed, as Jack brought their hands to his mouth and softly brushed his lips against each knuckle. Every touch sent warmth flushing through his body.

“Feel free to join in anytime, Daniel,” came the quiet admonishment. Jack’s eyes held Daniel’s in place. Every inch of fear and conviction was laid bare. “You’re usually right about these things, so I’m not going to fight or argue… but new territory, y’know?” With a twinkle in his eye, Jack fluttered his lashes and said with a terrible Southern drawl, “Be gentle with me.”

Daniel’s unoccupied hand raised toward Jack’s face, stroking gently across the beloved features for a moment, then raised and thwacked him against the back of his head. “You’re no more or less used to this than I am, you ass. And it’s not like we’re rushing anything. Seven years of foreplay!”

Watching his partner-in-crime laugh until he choked was usually a good time, but not when they were getting their first romantic groove on. And the smack had actually hurt. A tiny bit. Putting on his best kicked puppy eyes, Jack leaned over until he was pushing Daniel back onto the couch, both men laying lengthwise and holding his buddy in place. “Hey, I’ve seen Siler’s books on that, thank you very much. I’d say more like four years. After Shauri and-”

Daniel nodded, looking haunted for a moment. The expression cleared up but remained serious. “After Shauri, I was a mess. I wanted to lean on you for everything, and that made me mad, like I wasn’t adult enough to handle my own problems. And you were pulling back, which made it easier-”

“Yeah, cus we’re guys. Talking about feelings is for chicks,” Jack agreed, again with a grin. “Except this thing? It’s gonna take talking. Lots of it. And probably an instruction manual.”

Snickering, Daniel agreed. “There’s plenty available, but maybe we can start out simple.” He lifted his head, tilting it just a bit, and offered his lips in blatant invitation.

Jack’s breath caught in his chest. Whatever he’d first thought last night about Daniel’s interest in him, he hadn’t really gotten to this part. But now his body was catching up with the plan, and oh boy was it interested! He leaned forward that little bit to let their lips connect, and the world exploded behind his eyes.

~ * ~

Hours of making out on the couch later, Jack’s lips were still tingling and his cheeks felt a little tender from Daniel’s light facial hair. Couldn’t really call it a five o’clock shadow, it never got that far. Just enough friction to cause a light burn. He thought he might cherish that sensation just a bit.

They never got beyond kissing and some timid petting, all above the waist, but it was… a revelation.

Now here they were in the kitchen again, throwing together the ingredients for tacos as a late lunch. Chatting and teasing and bickering just like they’d always done. And if every so often one of them would brush a quick kiss on some part of the other’s body? It felt like just another act in the play that was their life.

Halfway through the clean-up of their impromptu meal, both men felt the beginnings of an Asgard transport graze their skin. Jack grabbed Daniel’s hand just before the beam took them into orbit, face to face with their favorite alien ally, Thor.

“Greetings, O’Neill and DanielJackson,” Thor said with a blink. “I had hoped to find the two of you together for this discussion.”

Smiling widely, Jack patted the tiny alien on his shoulder. “Hiya, buddy! How’re things going for you?”

After accepting greetings from Daniel as well, Thor answered the question, “Better than we had anticipated, thanks to the advice on simplifying our methods of attack offered by DanielJackson and SamanthaCarter. This has given us much time to look through our records for mentions of the Ancients, as you asked.”

Daniel’s eyes widened, looking hopeful. “Whatever you’ve found will be wonderful, I’m sure. Thank you, Thor.

The bulbous grey head nodded in his direction. “Of course, you are our friends and allies. It is our hope that you can make use of one tome in particular.” With a few short keystrokes to a nearby data pad, a slim volume appeared at Daniel’s feet. Its cover appeared metalic, each page felt plastic — a wide difference from what they had found written on or by the Ancients to date. “Perhaps you should send a group out to research,” Thor’s fingers flipped quickly through the pages, stopping at one with a star map, “here. I believe it would be most advantageous to your people and mine.”

Scanning the page, Daniel began to feel light-headed. He slumped to the floor, still reading and doing a fast translation. “This is… Thor, is this…? Jack!”

Concerned, Jack’s hand sought his friend’s shoulder for support, while he looked questioningly at Thor. “Something you want to explain to us less educated types?”

If Asgard were still capable of smirking, Thor certainly would be wearing one at that point. He clicked a few more keys and watched a suitcase-sized crate appear next to the humans. “You will require this to successfully accomplish your goals. And O’Neill? We have written a proposal for your leadership to ensure this endeavour has the most chance of success.”

Jack and Daniel shared a glance. It was not normal for the Asgard, even a good friend like Thor, to get involved in missions of any type. Unless they were begged for assistance. In Jack’s opinion, it would seem that his good buddy had specifically tapped him for this. Which lead back to Hammond’s comment of a ‘little grey birdy’. Which meant… what, exactly?

“You have much to do. I should bid you farewell for now, my friends.” Thor made ready to beam them back to Jack’s house.

Daniel hopped back to his feet. “Wait please, Thor. This is really a map and instruction manual on how to open-”

With uncommon rudeness, Thor interrupted the linguist, “Yes, and you should make sure your leaders place you both in charge of the expedition. It is… vital, to Earth, the Asgard, and humans across multiple galaxies.”

So saying, he pressed the correct sequence of keys to send them back home.

** The quote is from the Book of Ruth in the New International version of the Bible. Ruth 1:16-17 — “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Part 2

“Mr. President, I’ve just got back from a conference with our Asgard allies,” Jack began, the grin stretching his face. “And you won’t believe what sort of gift they’ve given us this time.”

Considering that any information or ‘gifts’ from allies that came out of the SGC had a tendency to backfire, the Commander-in-Chief was suitably dubious.

“Aw, come on! Show a little enthusiasm!” Jack goaded, nearly bouncing on his toes in excitement. “Fine, if you won’t guess… They dropped by to pass off new information about the Ancients, and handed Daniel a little book with maps and instructions and all, plus the batteries to light’er up!”

It was always heartwarming for a man as stressed by his job as the President of the United States to see one of his upper level commanders this enthusiastic about, well, anything. Granted that newly dubbed General O’Neill was something of a child in his offhand interactions, especially with politicos. A little treat that often kept the President amused during closed-chambers meetings. Making a ‘go ahead’ motion with his hands, he sat back to be filled in on the details.

O’Neill took the hint with a manic grin, whipping out a PDA from his jacket pocket that really shouldn’t have gotten past security. He quickly punched a few buttons before turning it around and sliding it across the desk.

Moments later, after scanning the document and map included on the device, the President looked up to send a searching stare at his General. “This has been verified?”

His head nodding like a bobble-head doll’s, Jack’s grin spread across his face. “By several independent sources. Plus they sent a case with four tiny power supply thingies that Carter swears will power a spacecraft or large city for hundreds of years. The catch is that the Asgard put a trigger on them so they can only be used for this, but since we really want to go,” he bounced on his feet like a small child needing the toilet, “well, we’re just fine honoring their wishes. So! Can we go? Pleasepleaseplease!”

Being the leader of the greatest nation in the free world could be trying at times. So many people felt the need to suck up, play games, just to receive his ‘hello’. And then there was Jack O’Neill — one of a kind, something of a maverick, and begging like his daughter had at six years old for a pony. Of course, he should consult with his advisors before offering any sort of response. And naturally, the IOA would be beyond upset about the restrictions placed on the donated energy sources.

But watching his General do a ‘potty dance’ in excitement? Was worth the censure he’d surely get from the committee types.

“O’Neill, you have a go. Just… watch your expenditures, please?”

For a moment, it appeared as if O’Neill would reach over and hug him. Then the moment passed, he received a crisp salute and watched a cartoon cloud be left behind as the clearly insane commander left dust in his tracks.

~ * ~

One of the items in the crate had been a funny little device with a short set of instructions: Press to test. Release to read. It reminded Daniel of an in-joke from role-playing games when he was a teen — release led to detonation, always fun for the hulking dumb warrior types who thought it’d be fun to beat up on their scholars. Huh, real life could be much the same.

What the device did, in actuality, was to determine who had the genetic ability to utilize Ancient equipment. Not that everyone who showed positive could, but with the right activator… All he had to do was to find a geneticist with the security clearance for the task.

Daniel sighed. The whole idea would be only a pipe dream unless the President approved it. Still, he could spend a few minutes dabbling with the trinket. It lit up for himself, which was terrific, but when Jack touched it oh boy the whole thing went up like a beacon. Daniel took this to mean that he would need the gene therapy to activate any Ancient gear. Only a little disappointed, he knew it was possible and kept a positive outlook.

On the down side, so far neither Sam nor Teal’c had shown up. If what he’d read of the Asgard’s proposal was true, that meant neither should be allowed to join this expedition. The fact of the matter was that Teal’c really wouldn’t want to anyway, because it would mean leaving the fight with the remaining Gou’ald — or his son — for a mission of indeterminate length to another galaxy. Sam, unfortunately, was desperate to join… and equally desperate to stay, to lead SG1, to maintain contact with her father.

And Daniel knew that as much as he would miss them both, he and Jack were going to step through the gate and venture into the Pegasus galaxy. So long as the President gave permission.

Depressing thoughts begone! I’ve got a tentative okay from General Hammond to scan everyone here at the SGC. Armed with his toy and a PDA, he made his way from top to bottom of their base, taking notes on who lit the machine and to what degree, plus their rank and/or profession, as well as their country of origin. At least this should keep me busy til Jack comes back with the news. Damned tease refuses to call or email or even text!

~ * ~

Before lifting off to head back to Colorado, Jack had been called back to the President’s office. He prayed to every deity he’d ever heard Daniel speak of that this wasn’t a ‘sorry, can’t do it, we tried’ speech.

He never saw it coming.

“General O’Neill, I truly believe that you need to at least test a few before saying no. They would be invaluable to the safety and overall security of the expedition.” The President’s voice held a firm tone, daring defiance. “I’ve managed to sweettalk the Joint Chiefs and derail the IOA for a bit, allowing you time to get your leadership established. All I’m requesting is that you try, talk with them before you say no. And remember that they won’t be part of your budget.”

Arguing with his Commander-in-Chief was no new thing for Jack, but this was such a small request. Small, which generally translated to deadly. It just wasn’t worth the hassle though. Who knew — he could be wrong. It’d happened before.

“As you wish, Mr. President.”

He also didn’t see the headsmack. Maybe the President wasn’t a fan of ‘The Princess Bride’?

~ * ~

It had taken most of the four days that Jack was gone for Daniel to make his way through the entire base with his gizmo. All told, he had an interesting list of people and mix of skills. Some might even be willing to join the party.

They had decided that recruiting for this expedition would be on a voluntary basis only. It just wasn’t fair to ask anyone (especially the military who could be stationed anywhere for any reason) to head to another galaxy where the chance of seeing their families again any time soon was practically nil. This wouldn’t stop most of the scientists; people like McKay and Zelenka were all about the discoveries, and they could pick and choose among the ‘lit’ numbers. At least that part of the project was out of his hands.

Of course, he still had to cover the so-called soft sciences, medical, and start on the support staff. Pity, neither Walter Harriman nor Sly Siler were hitting positive. They could really use the multitude of talents the SGC’s two wunderkind were made of. Daniel made a note to himself to ask them for recommendations; even the lowest on the list should still be close to superhuman.

Making his way toward the mess hall for a snack, he checked off the SGC’s lead personnel who had already volunteered to send feelers out for people to fill the necessary slots. Dr. Janet Fraiser was certain she knew of at least four or five physicians who could use Ancient technology, plus a dozen or more nurses and assistants. McMahan, down in the Armory, had a single name on his list for War Master — only one, which made Daniel certain they absolutely needed him. McKay and Zelenka had an enormous wish list, and were happily arguing who was least incompetent to narrow it down.

He grabbed a slice of key lime pie that actually almost looked like key lime pie, two cups of coffee, and an apple before making his way over to SG1’s preferred table. Teal’c was already sitting there with the mutilated corpse of a meal. Daniel eyed his tray warily, then shrugged, not wanting to know.

“Greetings, DanielJackson. Have you made sufficient progress on your tasks today?” Trust Teal’c to show interest in something other than discoveries (Sam/Daniel), weapons (Sam/Jack), or infestations (all combinations).

Daniel grinned a bit, then looked down at his notes. “I’ve got our people here looking for folks in their areas. Medical, Armory, the hard sciences — I’ll have to make my own list for the humanities — and Walter and Siler will give me a list for their areas I’m sure. But that leaves support staff, pilots, ground support, and engineers… and I have no clue where to begin. Anyone in the military should go through General Hammond first, just so we don’t get yelled at by the brass.”

Teal’c’s eyebrow twitched in humor. “Indeed, that would be wise. Have you considered going to the Stargate team leaders regarding suggestions? Many of them would be invaluable for knowledge of warriors who have yet to find a place here with the SGC.”

He felt like smacking himself on the forehead. “Of course! Excellent idea, thanks so much, Teal’c.”

The massive alien looked smug without ever having changed his facial expression. “You are most welcome.” He eyed Daniel’s snack briefly, then asked, “Have you heard from O’Neill?”

“No,” Daniel groused. “Sorry bastard hasn’t bothered to tell me a thing. He’s bound to be on his way back by now.”

Without looking, Daniel could tell his friend was trying not to smirk. Teal’c had known about the budding relationship between himself and Jack before either of them had. It was disturbing, and frustrating that their ‘blood brother’ hadn’t bothered to clue them in.

Scraping the last bite of his almost key lime pie off the plate, Daniel fumbled it into the air in surprise when his cell phone went off. He dug frantically through his pockets, finally managing to locate and answer it before the sixth ring.

“Hello? Jackson here.”

“Spacemonkey! How’s it hangin’?”

“Jack, don’t start with that stupid nickname again. And it’s going well enough, considering I don’t know what all I’m authorized to do or say. Want to let me in on the details?”

“Aw, you missed me.” A soft chuckle, nearly overridden by the noise of a plane’s engines. “Listen, I need you to meet me at the air strip ASAP. We’ve got a Presidential errand to run.”

“Are you already here? How long should I pack for? Damnit, Jack, some details would be great.”

“Will land in about a half hour. Pack for overnight, and grab me a set of BDUs or civies from my locker. Definitely bring the doodad. Say hi to T and Carter for me. O’Neill out.”

The line went dead. Daniel growled something very uncomplimentary and quite rude. Teal’c’s eyebrows nearly went off his forehead and three passing airmen scuttled to the far corner of the room — they weren’t stupid enough to tangle with a pissed off archeologist.

“Well, I suppose we’ll see you in a few days, Teal’c,” Daniel ground out. “Seems Jack had decided we’re running errands for the President before we can get down to our own planning.” With that, he tossed his tray into the washing bin and stormed down to the locker room assigned to SG1.

Grabbing Jack’s street clothes and a spare set of BDUs for them both, he slammed locker doors hard enough to draw the passing attention of Lt. Col. Lou Ferretti. Lou knew him well enough to get away with interrupting a good rant. “Hey Daniel, seems you finally heard from Jack, eh? What’s the cranky old fart up to?”

“That…that…that O’Neill!” Daniel’s spluttering nearly sent Lou into giggles, but he manfully held it in. Good friend or not, he had no desire to get decked over a set of chuckles. “According to him, Mr. President is sending us to do his errands. Jack’s supposed to be picking me up at the air field in less than half an hour. Want to give me a lift? God only knows how long my car would have to sit there if I drove myself.”

Lou nodded, giving in to a short burst of snickers. “Yeah, sounds like Jack needs to sleep on the couch tonight.” At Daniel’s paling face, he just patted the younger man on the back. “Don’t stress it, Daniel. I’ve seen it coming for some time. DADT out of the way, so he finally made his move, right? Actually, don’t tell me details. I’m glad you’ve both found what you deserve.”

With that unlikely compliment in the air, Daniel just sighed and zipped his duffel. He was running low on time and had no desire to be teased for always being late. Even if this time it was definitely Jack’s fault.

~ * ~

Jack was just finishing his pre-flight checks when Daniel climbed onboard. “Timing’s everything, Danny. Strap in and let’s go. I’ll tell you what little I know on the way.”

Without argument, Daniel followed instructions. He was still steamed by the last minute call, no news from Washington, and the almost key lime pie. Still and silent, he waited for his partner to speak.

Jack knew he was in trouble long before seeing his buddy. It’d been fun, stringing him along long distance, but now it was time to pay the piper. Especially if he ever wanted to get cuddly with his Spacemonkey again.

“Alright, Mr. President has offered us a group of people who would be — in his opinion — ideal for security personnel. He’s made it a polite order for us to stop off at their HQ and test them for the gene, plus get a feel for their personalities. See who could handle it, and who we wouldn’t hang in the first week.”

Ungritting his teeth, Daniel let go of some of his ire. “So at least half of your time in D.C. was spent not-arguing with your CIC? Dear gods, Jack, you’re insane. Did he approve the expedition at least? I’ll put up with however many slags we end up with just to get there.”

“Easy, Danny. And yes, he approved it. Before talking with the Joint Chiefs or IOA board. He’s nearly as excited as you and I are. Which is why it seems important to follow his hunch about this group.” Jack shrugged in his flight harness, glancing back in the mirror at his friend. “Sorry ’bout the silent treatment. It’s been kinda hectic, and did you know the Secret Service will confiscate cells? Okay, so I shouldn’t have been playing Bejewelled in the Oval Office’s reception area…”

Finally, he chuckled, the last of his anger bleeding away. Jack was just so… Jack. “I’ve missed you, goofball.”

“Missed you too, babe.”

Blink.

Daniel waited ten full heartbeats, hoping his ears were playing tricks on him. “Babe?” Jack’s neck flushed, his face dipping below the mirror’s line of sight. “Really?”

In a very low voice, so low Daniel had to strain to hear it above the jet’s engines, Jack said, “Sorry, still getting used to this side of us, y’know? Daniel’s what everyone uses, and Danny’s what everyone else hears me use. I wanted something that was just for you and me.”

Well, when put that way… Daniel figured he was off the hook. For now. “Just when it’s you and me.” Smirking, he added, “Sugar.”

The nose of the jet dipped dramatically enough for air traffic control to ask if they needed emergency assistance.

~ * ~

“Cleveland? Why in the multiple layers of hell are we headed to Cleveland?!”

Chuckling, Jack replied with a unrepentant grin, “That’s what I said!”

Daniel hurmphed. “And what was the most esteemed Commander-in-Chief’s reasoning?”

“Eh, he said it was their job to monitor the gateway to hell on Earth.”

They shared a telling glance through the mirror. Even the airspace above Cleveland was gloomy. It wasn’t a true stretch believing hell lived there.

“It makes a certain amount of warped sense that the ‘perfect protectors’ for our security force in another galaxy would be found guarding a gate to hell in Cleveland of all places.”

Daniel could only nod in agreement.

~ * ~

Landing and unloading themselves took nearly two hours. The demonic air traffic controller probably had something to do with their delays. Nevertheless, they eventually made their way to the car rental office and checked out a shiny black SUV. Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack’s obvious alpha male statement.

Finally on the road, Jack passed a sheet of paper over and requested his partner play navigator. Daniel looked it over, then read it again. Clearing his throat, he choked back the laughter that threatened to escape. “Jack, are you sure this isn’t some kind of joke on you?”

“Danny, we’re talking about the President here. Remember the line? ‘We in the whatever service do not have a sense of humor that we’re aware of’ — they modeled that after the White House staff, I’m sure of it.” Jack nodded to himself.

Daniel snickered at his friend. That would fit with what he’d heard of the Big House’s staff, but still… “Fine, but what else could explain our destination as the Jenny Calendar School for Gifted Girls?”

Fortunately for our Stargate duo, there was no motorist version of air traffic control to call for emergency vehicles when Jack swerved off the road. His incredulous look at Daniel only amplified the hysterical giggles the linguist was caught in.

~ * ~

The massive gates surrounding the Jenny Calendar School for Gifted Girls looked every bit as imposing as what Daniel imagined engulfed Fort Knox. It was just a bit… unnerving. But just maybe the President had the right idea. If there were people here who had the skills necessary to maintain security for over a hundred acres and untold numbers of teenaged girls, then just maybe they would do well shepherding a bunch of scientists bent on the discovery of a lifetime. Everyone knew that teenaged girls were hell on the nerves — the movie ‘Mall Rats’ came to mind.

Sitting behind the wheel, Jack checked the gate, both twelve foot brick columns, and the surrounding area for any type of entry box. Nothing. So how was he to get inside for this doomed interview?

He turned to ask for Daniel’s opinions and/or suggestions and nearly jumped out of his skin. Standing right next to the passenger side door was a man, nearly six foot tall with dark hair and an eyepatch of all things. His dark eye showed no emotion, but his lips twitched toward a frown.

“Evenin’, gentlemen,” he said in a husky voice. “Have business here? We normally ask for scheduled appointments only.”

Daniel’s breathing slowly evened back out. He wasn’t embarrassed to admit that he’d been startled — it was easy to see that even Jack was surprised. Turning his full attention to this strange man, he offered his most diplomatic smile and said, “We were instructed to speak to the security group here by a very high source. Who should we ask for?”

The twitching lips raised into a smirk. “That would be me. And what ‘high source’ referred you?”

Jack showed his hands were empty, then carefully pulled an envelope from his jacket’s inner pocket. He didn’t offer it, but read the names on the sealed exterior. “Unless you’re one of the folks listed here, I can’t give you that information,” he said with nearly an apology.

The younger man — he couldn’t be more than thirty — shifted his stance and lowered the weapon he’d had hidden below the door’s window. Daniel started in surprise; who in this day and age used a crossbow for security patrol?

“Alexander, or Xander, Harris. Faith LeHane. There’s probably a few more, but we’re the oldest and more likely to know how to answer you.” He looked around, then made a gesture toward one of the lower hedges down the fence line. A curvy brunette in leather stood up, brushing a few twigs and leaves from her hair, then walked over to join Harris. “This is Faith, I’m Xander, and you guys still haven’t introduced yourselves. Maybe we should get on with that, hmm?”

On impulse, Daniel turned on the little gizmo and aimed it at the two young people. Both lit up the screen as brightly as Jack had. He turned to his friend, eyebrow raised, and then dropped the gizmo into the floorboard. He made exaggerated movements in unbuckling his seatbelt, then slowly opened the door. Stepping outside the vehicle, he watched the two warily step away. At least they’ve dropped their weapons. The ones I can see… Oh my, they’re miniature versions of Jack or Teal’c! Well, this shows some promise. If they can be civilized.

Jack made an unhappy sound from inside the SUV, but quickly caught up with his buddy. These two moved like trained commandos, which while that was what they wanted for the expedition, was more than a little unnerving to be faced with in the ‘burbs of Cleveland, Ohio.

He carefully made his way around the front of the SUV, joining Daniel against the passenger side and leaning against the frame. “I get the impression that you folks aren’t much for shaking hands, so let’s just get on with the introductions. I’m General Jack O’Neill, and this is my friend, civilian contractor Dr. Daniel Jackson.”

Daniel watched the reactions of the young people as Jack spoke. Both stiffened at ‘General’, then got even twitchier at ‘Doctor’. Weird. He elbowed Jack and took over speaking, “I’m a doctor of linguistics and archeology, and recently anthropology as well. We’re part of a team that studies ancient cultures.”

The young people relaxed only a tiny bit at his explanation, sharing several glances that seemed to hold entire conversations at a time. Finally, Xander reached his hand out toward Jack. “The envelope please.”

Jack grinned and made an awkward curtsey, passing off the plain white envelope. “Why, maybe I can audition for Vana White’s job when I retire.”

Daniel choked back his laughter, then gave in when the younger folks snickered. “You’ll have to forgive Jack’s sense of humor. We don’t let him out much, and certainly not unattended. He definitely needs a leash… and a muzzle.”

Growling a bad imitation of Lon Chaney’s werewolf, Jack snapped his teeth in Daniel’s direction. If he was hoping for more than rolling blue eyes, he must’ve been disappointed. The young folks just laughed louder.

“Whatcha got, X?” the brunette asked, trying to read over his shoulder.

Xander read through the single page, handwritten draft quickly, then started from the top and took a better look. He saw the familiar code phrase given by the Council to the President and his advisors, nodding just a bit. “It’s legit, Faith. We should give them time to tell us what this trip was for at least, okay?”

Faith’s eyes narrowed until she’d finished reading the letter through a second time. On seeing the same code, she nodded and grinned at him. “Sure thing, Boytoy. Wanna take this somewhere less public? Be easier to hide the bodies if there’s no witnesses,” she finished with a wink toward Daniel.

Jack laughed out loud, liking the spunky little thing. He was surprisingly starting to like them both, approving of their caution and unspoken communication. Daniel wasn’t sure what to make of them yet, but seemed fascinated by their interaction. All in all, not the worst first contact they’d ever made.

“Alright, campers, how about a quiet little diner somewhere. Danny, didn’t we pass one just a few blocks away? I’m sure they have pie,” he finished with a dreamy expression.

Before his partner could respond, Xander shook his head. “How about my apartment? I don’t have pie, but there’s brownies one of the girls made, and beer. This visit sounds like we might want a little lubrication to keep calm.”

Faith’s hand slipped onto his forearm. “X, you sure? We can use the groundskeeper’s house-”

“They’re here to see us, Faith. No need to subject them to the horde of yapping girls,” he replied in a tight voice.

Daniel was sure he’d missed some subtext, somehow. It was apparent that multiple conversations had taken place in just a few sentences… but nothing that made sense to him. A glance at Jack showed he was just as puzzled.

Xander’s attention returned completely to their visitors. “My truck’s half a block back down the road. Follow me?” he asked, but didn’t wait for an answer. He and Faith loped off in a quick jog down the drive, making the older men hussle to get back in the SUV and turn around before they lost their escorts.

Jack wasn’t terribly surprised when Xander got into the driver’s seat. Whatever injury had happened to his eye didn’t seem to slow him down in the least. He drove… like a normal person. Not too careful, not erratic, no overt speeding or missing stop signs. That in itself was a comfort. He’d spent too many years cussing at reckless drivers to not be appreciative of the courteous ones.

Several blocks, turns and more blocks later, they stopped outside a small frame house on a quiet but slightly run-down street. Jack made sure to park at the curb so as not to hem in their hosts, which was met by a smile of approval from the younger man.

Xander unlocked the front door, letting Faith in first and stepping aside to give passage to his guests. He pointedly did not invite them in, but made it seem like a formal thing with his slight bow and small smile. With everyone inside, he instructed them to find seats and offered beverages, using ‘company manners’ that were seldom needed.

“X, sit down and stop flitting around,” Faith finally told him. “We need to know what’s the what here. Not going to find out anything if you won’t sit still, yeah?”

With a sigh, Xander nodded and sat on the arm of Faith’s chair, which kept his back to the wall, the front door and kitchen in his line of sight, and their visitors no room to twitch without his notice. Jack approved, even as part of him worried about the kid’s natural threat assessment.

“Alright, I don’t know what Mr. President wrote for you guys, but we were told that our new mission needs you. He didn’t specify names to us, just that we should see if you’ve got a specific gene and certain skills.” They both stiffened at his wording, so Jack quickly admitted, “I’ve got the same genes, kids. So’s Daniel to a lesser degree. We’re talking about really strange crap, ‘Twilight Zone’ or ‘Outer Limits’ style.”

Daniel’s eyes rolled, and he elbowed Jack before taking over. “See, we’ve got permission from the President to put together a group of people for a really… out-of-this-world expedition. But each person needs to have this gene sequence or they won’t even get inside where we’re going-”

Faith snorted only a split second before Xander. They exchanged another one of those looks and Xander nodded at the young woman. “Yo, let’s drop the nice words and just talk straight. Whatcha need with us, why us, and do you expect to take some of the girls as well? What’s this gene do, how do you tell if someone’s got it, and-”

“And how far are you willing to go to make sure we cooperate,” Xander finished, his eye gone completely cold and flat.

Daniel was worried. Not in the traditional sense, but he knew fear reactions and learned behavior. These two had obviously had a traumatic experience with the military in the past, probably related to their skills in ‘security’. A quick glance at Jack showed he felt the same way, with an underlying layer of Daddy thrown in for good measure. The last made Daniel pause. It wasn’t unheard of for his friend to champion children, but these two were certainly adults. What was making Jack throw down the paternal gauntlet?

“We are not forcing anyone to join us,” Jack said with as much conviction as his voice could convey. “Hell, we aren’t even stationing our military guys and gals. This whole expedition is volunteer only, no arm twisting involved.” He paused, a thoughtful expression on his face before continuing in a softer tone, “Sounds like you kids crossed paths with the NID, huh?”

Xander blew out a harsh breath, his hand falling onto Faith’s shoulder to quell her automatic response. “Shh, it’s cool, Faith.” His attention went back to their guests. “Yeah, something like that. You know, secret military project doing wacky experiments with civilians who didn’t volunteer, usually without sedatives or painkillers. Torture and blood and dismemberment, oh my. NID was funding it though, we found that out much later.”

His single eye pierced first Jack then Daniel, then he nodded again more firmly. “You aren’t responsible for their methods, or the fallout. We’ll hear you out. Tell us as much as you can, whatever’s not classified out the wazoo.”

Daniel watched the young people as they slowly relaxed for the first time. Knowing they’d been hurt by those assholes from the NID — however peripherally — made his job just a little harder. And now he understood a tiny bit of how Jack was feeling. He wasn’t as accustomed to feeling protective toward anyone on Earth, but these two seemed to bring it out.

“A… foreign ally — yes, that’s classified — offered us information and a map to a long lost archeological site. We’re putting together a group to visit, study, and learn whatever we can find. We’ll need people from every field, or at least those with sufficient skills to crosstrain, to set up an independent ‘colony’ of sorts. We’ll be isolated for long periods of time, cut off from all civilization, and have to rely on each other and whatever combined skills we can put together.

“In theory, the expedition is classified as a scientific outpost. In practice, we’ll be studying everything from culture to science, from customs to… gods know. Whatever we can find.” Daniel paused to grin, then nudged Jack out of a faked doze. “This sterling specimen of military leadership will be our commander, sort of. He’ll be in charge of the military half, certainly, but won’t be in charge unless it’s an emergency. I’m doing the same duty for civilians, though I plan on splitting the duties with a couple other people.

“You two would nominally be under Jack’s supervision, only because of your job description. You won’t be drafted or conscripted, nothing like that. You will receive top wages and hazard pay, but it might be up to a year before you can get back to civilization to use it.”

This time it was Faith that huffed, but Xander spoke for them both. “Alright, this is a lot to take in, but not many facts to back it up. Let’s see if we’ve got what you aren’t saying, hmm?”

Taking over, Faith made the first leap of logic, “You got given a nifty scroll or tablet or something really old that shows the location of some great hidey-hole that’s only a myth to us now. But this place, it’s not human history really. Connected maybe, but not really. Thing is, we are connected, I mean, we are. Cus it takes that gene you first talked about to activate stuff. Which means high tech shit-”

“High tech, long gone to myth, probably alien instead of demon in nature,” Xander carried through the train of thought, clearly amused at the older men’s reactions to their summary so far. “This place is so far away, it might as well be on a different planet, or maybe worse… the other side of the galaxy? Hmm, and this gene, probably some long ago ancestors knocked boots with-”

“Not a picture I wanna see, X,” Faith interrupted. “If there’s an alien in my background, I’m okay to leave it hidden.” Her attention swiveled back to their guests. “And you need us as guard dogs, cus you’re not sure who or what is out there, possibly wanting the same stuff you’ll be after, and we’ll have to look out for the geeks who are too busy unraveling the secrets of the universe to mind where they step.”

Jack forced his facial muscles into not letting his jaw drop. It was mild consolation to see Daniel in the same situation. For all their veiled descriptions, these two young adults — so hardened by pain and constant vigilance — had seen through and connected the dots in leaps of logic that would make Carter’s head spin. So yeah, maybe his Commander-in-Chief wasn’t quite nuts yet. He poked Daniel in the side, making his buddy jump and glare at him.

“Jack, we can’t-”

“Screw protocol, Danny. These two, we gotta have them. Whatever they need to understand how important they’ll be to the success of our project. We’ll find non-disclosures for them both, no problem. If the Pres suggested them, they’ve probably already got the right security clearance anyway.” Jack couldn’t believe that he was trying to talk Daniel into bending the rules. Normally the reverse was true. It was kinda fun.

Daniel closed his eyes for a moment. Mentally counting to twenty didn’t help, but it let him calm down a little. He still wanted to strangle his best friend. “Okay, in for a penny…” Making sure he had both young people’s attention, he took a deep breath and prayed that he wasn’t making a huge mistake. “We found Atlantis, and it’s a couple of galaxies away. There’s no telling how often we can send people back home, or how long we’ll need to set the contract times. Hopefully a year at a time, just to give folks a vacation and shopping for necessities. Since we’re sure we aren’t alone out there-”

“You need people who can take care of themselves, have enough common sense to take care of the ones too busy with their noses in some interesting piece of alien tech to watch where they’re walking, and maybe meet-n-greet with natives who think spears are a great fashion accessory,” Xander finished with a smirk. Faith was grinning as well, nearly ready to laugh out loud at the older men’s flummoxed expressions.

Jack huffed out something that sounded like a wolf’s chuff of amusement. “Y’know, we need these two to meet Teal’c. They’d get along great,” he grinned at Daniel.

“Yeah, I can see that actually,” Daniel agreed with a shudder. “As long as they don’t encourage his bad taste in daytime talk shows, jello sports, or ‘Wormhole Extreme’ fanfiction, the world should be safe enough.”

Xander’s whole face lit up in a smile, but Faith rolled her eyes and groaned dramatically. “I love that show! The possibilities of wormhole travel… Omigod, that’s how we’re getting there? Sweet!”

Faith dragged him down from orbit, forcing his butt back on the arm of her chair and casually holding him in place with one arm. This was not missed by Jack, who raised an eyebrow at her strength. “Geek wranglers usually need to not be geeks themselves.” She looked straight at Jack, subdued mirth dancing in her eyes and asked, “You sure you’ve got the right guy? X here, he’s real deep in the sci-fi crap. You’ll need a shock collar to make sure he can do his job.”

“Hey!”

Jack cackled, holding his stomach against the twitches of muscle spasms. Daniel merely shook his head. “We’ve got worse. One of our coworkers gets the same way about power sources, and Jack drools over beam weapons and big booms.”

“Hey!”

Faith and Daniel shared their own look of understanding, and suddenly Daniel could really picture these two fitting in perfectly with their group.

Part 3

The previously offered brownies and beer came out and were passed around. If any of the quartet were unnerved about how easy they fit just chatting and getting to know each other, well, it went unsaid.

Xander spent several minutes quietly thinking while the others laughed over one of the SG1 stories that was fit for public consumption. He kept reaching toward his jeans pocket and the cell phone residing within. Faith eventually called him on it, “Hey X, if you think it’ll work, give them a yell. They finally got rid of Ol’ Yeller, probably bored outa their minds, yeah?”

Looking to Jack for permission, he shrugged at the group. “Yeah, I’m thinking this is something that Sam and Dean would be good for. Dean’s a wizard putting together weapons, but no formal training. Sam’s got some serious language and research skills, plus he was pre-law at Stanford, full scholarship even. And they don’t freak about most strange stuff.”

Daniel considered it, then looked at Jack. “We don’t need to tell them anything until we check for the gene, but what could it hurt?” He faced the younger ones again, asking, “Are they in the same job as you two?”

Faith grinned, amused by more than the obvious conversation. “Yeah, pretty much. They move around more, doing jobs here and there. We don’t have to roam as much. But I’d have them at my back any time, they’re solid guys.”

Such praise coming from the suspicious young lady, Jack felt he could at least give these new ones a chance. “Well, give them a call. If they don’t light up Daniel’s gizmo, we’ll excuse ourselves so you can visit or whatever, and come back tomorrow to hash out details. If they do… we’ll start slow like we did with you kids, see how long it takes for them to put it together. That was a neat trick, by the way. Sound like a plan?”

Xander made the call, greeting Dean as he answered, “Hey man, you and your brother in town?”

“Almost. Had a haunting down in Canton, only about an hour away. Whatcha got goin’ on?”

“Nothing much, just visiting with a couple of new friends,” Xander smirked at Jack’s snort. “Wanna stop by and make their acquaintance? Always handy to have another contact.”

“You said the magic words, dude. We’re headed that way now. Want us to stop off for a few pizzas?”

Faith’s stomach growled loudly at the mention of real food. “Sure, sounds like a plan. See ya soon.”

Neither man said goodbye — a superstition, but one that worked for them. Cell clicked off, Xander shoved it back into his pocket and grinned. “Dean’s a little rough around the edges, Sam not so much, but they’re both good guys.”

The next ninety minutes was spent with more generalized talk, the atmosphere fairly relaxed and pleasant for all. When Dean’s Impala pulled onto the street, it got everyone’s attention. Faith snickered and muttered something about helping him fix his muffler again.

Xander whapped her on the shoulder, then got up to help the guys with their tasty burden. “Mmm, pies! Now see, Jack? This is the kind of pies that really matter. Cherry, pecan, peach, they’re all good but sometimes too sweet. Give me a pepperoni with all the fixin’s any day.”

He stepped aside for the Winchester brothers with a grin, waiting to see their reaction to the obvious military commander in their midst.

Sam offered his hand to the older men, then gave Faith a hug big enough to pull her off her feet. “Hey, nice to meet you.” He looked at Xander and guessed, “Not in the same business, but something related?”

Xander made a so-so move with his hand. “Or something. Wait a sec, okay?” He watched Daniel check a calculator-sized object, seeing it light up when pointed at both Winchesters. Dean saw as well, and he scowled before heading to pull his brother toward the door. “Hold that thought, Dean. They’re no danger to either of you. This widjet, it’s just saying that you guys have a specific gene that makes some special tech stuff work. So do me and Faith. They’re… hell, better leave the splainy to Daniel.”

The linguist snickered and grinned at the new men. “We’re putting together a group to go looking for and researching a really ancient place, the thing of myths. Seems that this gene will let us in, let us find all their history and inventions. Every person we hire has to have it. And yes, it’s entirely voluntary, no coercion of any type.”

Being the skeptic, Dean’s eyes narrowed. He knew and trusted Xander and Faith — as far as he could trust anyone that wasn’t Sammy. But these guys were obviously military. Okay, the older one was, but the younger worked with him. Whatever. A glance at Sam showed that he was deep in thought already. Mentally shrugging, he decided to at least hear them out.

Daniel went through the same basic sketch he’d given the first time, silently pleased when Dean jumped in to start putting things together before his college educated brother. Not that higher schooling meant you were more intelligent, but it said many positive things that the ‘dumb grunt’ act was just as opaque as Jack’s.

Sam finished with a flare, “So we’re going through some sort of portal, since space travel hasn’t jumped that far and you’re talking about hundreds of people, which would require extra large cargo and passenger capacity for longterm travel. Meaning instantaneous, or nearly, transport… wormhole theory, which is so flawed it wouldn’t hold jello, let alone water… but that’s only what humans have come up with. So, alien transport via wormhole… where have I heard that before?

“Hush, Dean, I’m thinking. And Xander, stop smirking. Faith, smack him for me.” Sam’s eyes went vague while he searched his memories for the brief mention that was tickling his brain. “Oh! A Chappiya?”

Daniel’s jaw dropped, but he quickly recovered. “It’s pronounced Chapp’ai, but yes. Where’d you hear about this?”

Jack tuned out the geek speak, his attention centered on the older brother. “So Dean, what branch was your dad in?”

Shaken from his intense study of the man with too much interest in his brother’s geek rant, Dean forced himself to look at the military guy. “Marines, got out before I was born though. Still thought and acted like one,” he finished with a shrug.

Nodding thoughtfully, Jack agreed. “Seems like he raised you like one. Ever thought about joining up?”

“Not for a second,” Dean snorted out a laugh. “I got enough of that bullshit before Sammy was walking.” He kept half an ear on his brother’s conversation, but didn’t find anything really harmful so far. “You aren’t trying to recruit, right? Gotta say, it’s a waste of time.”

Jack chuckled, an easygoing smile on his face that disarmed Dean’s paranoia. At least a few notches. “Not a chance. Honestly, I need folks who <i>don’t</i> salute me every time I walk into a room. Here’s what we’ve got so far: We got Danny’s science geeks who’ll be figuring out the secrets of the universe, even in their sleep. Then we’ve got my military people — some grunts, some pilots, some weapons or explosives, all following orders. But we’ve gotta have people who’ll take security seriously on their own, take the initiative, to keep our geeks safe and the military folks from walking off a cliff.

“We’re looking at around three hundred people here, Dean. And half of them won’t be able to identify a hand gun from a bazooka. Plus meeting the natives, who very possibly won’t be thrilled with our presence. I’m not gonna expect you to play lawman or peacekeeper, just keep an eye on things. Tinker around with gadgets, since I’ve heard you have a way with that stuff. Watch out for your brother, since it looks like he’s going to be hooked up with the linguists from the way Danny’s talking. And once in a while, throw your two cents in when it looks like we’re missing the obvious. Your brother’s got book smarts, but you’ve got common sense. I’m going to need that desperately.”

Leaning back, Jack took a long pull from his beer. He hadn’t talked that much without being interrupted since Charlie’s ‘why’ stage. It was… nice, even if the memories moved toward the edges of his thoughts. He could push them aside, focus on the present task.

Dean’s hand on his shoulder shook Jack out of his thoughts faster than any mental scolding. “Going for a fresh brew. Want another?” he asked, something like empathy in his voice.

Jack shook his head. “Thanks, but I’ve gotta be able to drive soon. Nearly time for all good little linguists to get to bed,” he raised his voice a bit, hoping to get through to Daniel, who gave him the finger and continued to chat with the younger Winchester.

Commiserating, Dean said the words for him, “No respect, huh?”

Jack fully agreed.

~ * ~

Like all good things must do, the evening came to an end. The brothers accepted Xander’s offer to use his spare room. Faith winked and wiggled down the hall after saying good night. Jack and Daniel made plans to return the next day with packets they had yet to print with heavily censored information and W-2 forms.

Driving toward the nearest motel, Jack watched his friend falling prey to exhaustion finally. His hand reached over and squeezed the lean, runner’s thigh. “Hey, don’t fall asleep on me yet. We’ll be checked in soon enough. Going over the rough draft and printing can wait til morning, right?”

Daniel nodded, his neck loose enough to show how tired he was. “Yeah… uh, how are we doing the sleeping arrangements?” His eyes flickered toward Jack so quickly it could be dismissed unless you knew the man. And Jack knew his friend very well indeed.

“Up to you, Danny. We’re going to sleep tonight, nothing more. I’m beat, you look like death warmed over, and we still have to do a little research. No matter how much I want to learn about what feels good to you…” Even Jack’s leer was tired. He gave up the effort. “Nothing’s happening beyond sleep. I’d like to spend the night holding onto you, or vice versa, but whatever you want.”

Hearing the hope of such simple touch made Daniel warm inside. “Sounds like a plan to me.” He smiled sleepily. “Sugar.”

“Ach, I’m never going to live that down, am I?”

“Not a chance in hell, flyboy.”

~ * ~

Waking up with his arms full of warm General was definitely the new first on Daniel’s list. It figured that Jack was a cuddler — not that he was complaining, not at all. Feeling pleasantly rested and… loved. It was an experience he had tried so hard not to miss. After Shauri was taken- Not going there, Jackson. Past can’t be changed. Look what you’ve got right now. Warm, furry… He snickered with the thought. Definitely a furry Jack-bear.

The Jack-bear’s arms closed tight around his middle, the only warning he got before soft lips pressed against his chest and bpthpthptpthpth!

“Dammit, Jack! It’s too early for you to turn into a toddler.”

Jack laughed, a true belly chuckle that curled Daniel’s toes. “It’s never too early for raspberries, sweetheart.”

“First babe, now sweetheart? How much of the time you’re supposed to be doing paperwork do you spend thinking up new and improved ways to annoy me?”

The laughter came to an abrupt halt. Peering down, Daniel saw his friend’s ‘thinking face’ in full effect. The answer when it came was stunning.

“At least 60%. I tried for more, but Walter told on me to Hammond.”

Daniel’s mouth dropped open in surprise. Which apparently was exactly what Jack wanted, since he pounced in a heartbeat and tried to excavate Daniel’s tonsils with his tongue. Oh, now I could get used to this kind of wake-up call. Even with the raspberry.

Neither man bothered to check the time. It was barely light outside their room’s single window, but with it facing east, they knew it was too early to rush their morning’s tasks. They let themselves enjoy simple touches and wet kisses til the call of nature broke them apart. Between Jack’s stomach growling and Daniel’s bladder demanding to be emptied, they separated to take care of necessities.

It was all so domestic that Jack couldn’t keep a smile off his face. Daniel was no better, nearly purring as he hummed his way through a line of ‘We Will Rock You’ while he made use of the facilities.

At the flushing of the toilet, Jack called out, “We both need a shower before heading out to breakfast. Wanna share?”

It was offered so casually that Daniel stayed calm about the proposition. Or not a proposition… more like a suggestion. And it sounded so tempting. They could touch and look, without the urgency of acting. “Sure, I’ll start the water.”

They tried being calm, playing at nonchalance that neither felt. The flush running down Jack’s neck told on him, as did Daniel’s pinkened ears. Showering in the same room was commonplace at the SGC, but this was personal. Intimate even.

When the water finally turned off, they took stock of the experience. “Well, no new bruises, but I think we need some practice.”

Jack laughed through his light blush. “Yeah, been ages since I’ve tried a two-person shower. And never with someone the same size as me. Makes a difference.”

They dressed while teasing each other about their lack of gracefulness. It was an easy, fun-filled morning, topped by the motel’s little breakfast counter serving massive amounts of coffee and hearty food. Replete and happy with the company, they went back to their room to work on the necessary documents.

“Gotta say, I like these kids more than I expected. It’s not every day that the President makes a suggestion that actually works in practice… and if you tell him I said that, you’ll never find another reference book that wasn’t written by Budge.”

“I know at least thirty ways of jamming a gun’s barrel.”

“Stalemate then. Retreat and regroup.”

Leaning into the warmth of his love, Daniel placed a tender kiss to Jack’s lips. “I think we’re a good group.”

“Sappy,” warned Jack. “Though I gotta agree. Can’t imagine anyone else I’d rather be teamed with.” He nuzzled beneath Daniel’s ear, whispering, “For life. Where you go-”

“I go,” Daniel finished, leaning into the beloved touch. “You, General Jonathon ‘Jack’ O’Neill, are addictive.”

“And lucky for me, there’s no twelve step program to help ya.” He sounded so smug, Daniel had to shut him up. This kiss ended up with both men panting and hard, startling them into separating. “Yeah, too fast. Only… I’m almost ready. How ’bout you?”

Jack looked so hopeful, like a teenaged boy praying for his prom date to put out. Daniel giggled, then looked contrite. “Soon, okay?” He glanced down at the tent in his trousers. “Really soon.”

~ * ~

Shortly after noon, the new couple arrived at their hosts’ home bearing gifts. When the door finally opened to a bleary-eyed Faith, she nearly took their hands off grabbing the burdens they brought to the party.

“Guys,” she shouted toward the bedrooms, “foods here! Oh, and Jack and Daniel are too.”

The general elbowed his friend. “At least we rate a runner up position.”

Snickering, Daniel just went back to the SUV for the case of soda they’d thought to bring. Not every meeting could be accompanied by beer, after all. He took his offering into the kitchen, and stared. The four younger people were silently… ravaging bags of burgers, fries, and onion rings. It was a masacre! Not even twelve hours after the pizza feast.

Jack was standing in a corner, looking on with fascinated horror. He gave a stage whisper to Daniel, “If we put them in the same buffet line as Teal’c, we’ll bankrupt some poor restaurant. Wanna start a book and sell tickets? We could fund our bon voyage party at the least.”

14 Comments:

  1. *snuggles Jill and Rowaine*

    Bwahahahahaha!

  2. This, i like this. Love 5he budding romance between Jack and Daniel. Meeting Xander, faith, sam and Dean is great.

  3. I really like how you started this out. John as xander’s dad is great.

  4. Whoops, posted on wrong story. Same sentiments though.

  5. I loved all of them, really, but my favorites were “Some WeirdAss Fusion” and “Phoenix Reborn”.

    I hope you put somewhere where we can read more of your fics or the continuation of these ones.

  6. Really enjoyed all you shared with us! I’d love to see more of “Some WeirdAss Fusion” especially. The story with John as Xander’s Dad is great,too!

  7. Squeeeee!

    I love it, Ro!

  8. *fanning myself over Dream Lover*

    The Squee was for Phoenix. \o/

  9. Ro, they’re all awesome, but damn, the weird ass fusion had me doing chairspins!

  10. This is excellent. Well written, funny, and interesting 🙂

  11. Where can I find more of Rowaine’s work? I have tried my best google-fu to no avail!

  12. Phoenix Reborn is brilliant.
    I love that they are managing not to take some of the less useful people from canon, because whoever decided that an expedition anywhere should be led by a diplomat whose only experience (other than an even weirder spot leading the SGC) was in negotiating between leaders, not dealing with practical issues, had no idea of what would be required.

  13. I love the potential for Some WeirdAss Fusion, although I’m only familiar with Stargate.
    Jack and Daniel leading the expedition to Atlantis, well it’ll certainly be interesting!
    Great story.

no matter where you go, there you are...