HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT BY BIBLIO: PART ONE


Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: PG-13
Category: Character Study. Angst. Drama. Episode Related. First Time. Friendship. Romance.
Season/Spoilers: Season 4.  An episode tag for "Divide & Conquer"
Synopsis: Love and friendship, affection and attraction, all bound up in ambiguity and sublimation.
Warnings: None
Length: 200 Kb Download a printer-friendly PDF version of the story


"You are fortunate in your people."

The President looks around him, thoughtfully regarding the SGC personnel going quietly about their business, his own bodyguards, calm in their vigilance. He smiles then at General Hammond, who stands close by, attentive but in no way intrusive. "Exceedingly fortunate, High Councillor," he agrees.

My gaze returns, as it has so often, to Doctor Jackson, silent, melancholy and again distracted, his eyes dwelling on the Stargate in the room below. He seems alone in the midst of all these watchful people.

General Hammond and the President are aware of my too-frequent observations of this young man, though he is not.

"I was most impressed by the amendments Doctor Jackson made to the Treaty between our two peoples. I found the document inspiring," I confess, embarrassed at the naïveté and romanticism of my reaction.

"Inspiring," the President says dryly, "is not the word most often associated with Earth politics."

Hammond's lips twitch responsively. "Doctor Jackson felt strongly that accentuating the similarities - the bonds between our two peoples - would ultimately prove more productive."

"I am not aware that Doctor Jackson permitted to remain a single phrase suggesting there were two peoples," I counter.

The President sighs. "If I could get away with that in front of Congress."

"He believes, does he not?" I ask General Hammond, nodding to Doctor Jackson. "The force of his arguments was compelling," I hint. "There was - faith." I find it difficult to quantify my own response. Emotion is rarely to be embraced; circumstance does not allow such luxury. I have been both soldier and politician longer than either of these two humans have been alive, I stand in Garshaw's place to lead my people in a war which pre-dates the history of the humans of this long lost world. I above all can least afford to indulge sentiment.

"Doctor Jackson is always sincere," the President replies, surprising Hammond. "Passionate," he admits, "but sincere in his advocacy. That carries weight around these parts. It's a rare enough quality."

"I agree." With some pride, Hammond glances across at the oblivious Doctor Jackson.

"I feel that signing the Treaty was but the first step in the forging of our alliance. The Tok'ra are aware that we are held in some suspicion by those among your people." The crass, antagonistic O'Neill comes immediately to my mind. "We are at war with the Goa'uld and each time we meet with representatives of the SGC, we are in crisis. Would it not be beneficial for us to learn more of each other as people and not as warriors?"

"If we're to honour the spirit of the alliance as well as the letter of the law," Hammond interjects quickly, before his President can speak, seizing the opportunity, as I thought he might, to gather additional intelligence about us.

"That is what I feel," I respond. "Perhaps Doctor Jackson?" I suggest politely. "He appears genuinely interested in our ways and if his word carries weight among your people?"

"That's a good suggestion," the President agrees hurriedly, his eye drawn by a hovering, expectant aide. "Please excuse me."

"Do not stand on ceremony on my account."

Relieved, the President shakes my hand, says all that a politician must on occasions such as these, and withdraws, leaving me to General Hammond.

"The death of Martouf is a difficult loss for us all and one which I am certain is raising tensions." I need say little more. Hammond is as aware as I am that the only one of his personnel who has made a real effort to speak with my brother Tok'ra is Doctor Jackson. His teammates did not attend the Treaty ceremony or the reception. "Major Carter?"

"Was upset," Hammond says firmly.

"Understandably, given the part she played in the death of Martouf," I respond sympathetically. "Though the suspicions she expressed regarding our intentions towards the internment of Martouf and Lantash were unwarranted. Anise does what she can for our people and our cause," I hint delicately, calmly awaiting Hammond's measured acceptance of my offer to lay the minds of his people at rest with regards to our intentions on this one matter at least. The man is no fool.

"If you were to take Doctor Jackson back with you," he suggests slowly, weighing the advantages of the situation and particularly the timing of my offer.

"It would perhaps allay some of those fears."

"Why don't you ask him yourself?"

Hammond could issue an order but he chooses not to and I accept his advice with alacrity, finding this odd courtesy of his towards Doctor Jackson pleasing.

When I reach him, Doctor Jackson looks up at me, smiling a little in that hesitant way of his. Earlier, he spoke easily and naturally with me, his interest in all I had to say genuine and palpable, his questions flowing. I have watched him since our quiet conversation as he speaks with others, the distance he requires, the small, defensive motions of his body. Even when with his colleagues I witnessed subtle signs of discomfort and distancing. I am honoured that he feels no such need with me.

"How is Major Carter?" I ask him sympathetically.

For a moment he seems at a loss and I recall belatedly that he has not been approached by any of his teammates since Martouf tragically revealed himself as the Zatarc agent. "Your friends are with her, are they not?"

Doctor Jackson relaxes. "Sam - Major Carter - is very professional, very dedicated."

"Martouf spoke highly of her," I assure him. "As does Selmak. You may have noticed he at least is far from easy to impress." He flushes with pleasure at this praise of his friend, his eyes lighting. I find myself bemused and staring, wondering when I have seen eyes so intense, so expressive a blue as his. A most foolish fancy, but still, I stare.

"A part of Martouf will always live on in Sam. She has Jolinar's memories of him as well as her own."

Doctor Jackson is a gentle man, a quality for which we Tok'ra have little time. Garshaw spoke of this, as did Kel'tar, rescued so unexpectedly from Sokar by this idealist and his friends. Even the bounty hunter, the 'great' Aris Boch himself, was charmed. If I am no less foolish, at least I am surrounded by fools.

"Major Carter is concerned about our intentions. About possible experimentation," I remind him gently. "I have a proposal for you, Doctor Jackson, which may help to allay her fears."

"Daniel," he invites me, bowing respectfully, curious now.

Gratified by the gift of his name, I too bow. "General Hammond is not averse to you accompanying my party back to Vorash to learn more of the Tok'ra, our customs and our history. We seek to honour our alliance in spirit as well as in letter."

Daniel frowns, glancing down again at the Stargate and the personnel clearing away the debris of Martouf's destruction. When he looks back at me, all hesitance is gone. "Thank you," he says clearly. "I'd like that, very much."

I do not know him well but feel compelled to speak. "Do you think of your friends? We can postpone if you would prefer it?"

"That won't be necessary," Daniel responds firmly. "If I was needed," he murmurs, more to himself than to me, I feel.

"Forgive me for the interruption, High Councillor."

We turn at once to find Anise standing sombrely before us, General Hammond at her side.

"I wish to ask your advice, Doctor Jackson," Anise informs him. "General Hammond. I am most perturbed by the day's events. I did not suspect Martouf of being the Zatarc and because of that, I feel I have contributed to his death."

Daniel offers no platitudes or thoughtless reassurances.

"I am also concerned about the damage I may have caused to Colonel O'Neill and Major Carter."

"Me too!" Daniel says sharply.

"Our understanding of the Zatarcs is limited," Anise reminds him, her manner surprisingly conciliating for one noted among us for her forthrightness. "I have made a promise to Major Carter which I intend to keep. Martouf's death must have meaning. His loss must be of help to others. My judgement was faulty but my methodology - my technology - is sound." She turns to General Hammond. "I must request that Colonel O'Neill make himself available to me for further testing," she demands abruptly.

"Excuse me?" Daniel snaps, glowering. "After what happened to Lieutenant Astor? After what could have happened to Jack? And to Sam?"

"Easy, son," Hammond advises him, placing his hand on Daniel's shoulder. They exchange a look and Daniel's face softens.

"That is exactly my concern!" Anise steps forward, her urgency unmistakeable. "General Hammond, you must understand the opportunity we have here. The Colonel and Major Carter are the only subjects I have been able to test who have generated false readings and yet have not been Zatarcs. I must refine the device's analysis of false recall to protect future subjects. The data I can gather from further testing would prove invaluable!" she argues passionately.

I notice that Daniel's scientific interest has been caught. He appears, reluctantly, to agree with Anise. Hammond notes this as well as I.

"A control subject," Daniel acknowledges unhappily.

"I do not ask that Major Carter submit herself to further testing," Anise assures him. "She has been through enough. My host is in agreement."

"And of course in her emotional state, the readings might be false," Daniel suggests sweetly.

I am forced to hide a smile at this unexpected evidence of his astuteness, as is General Hammond.

Anise has no such difficulty. Nor does she deny she has considered this possibility.

"You're sure the colonel would be in no danger?" Hammond challenges.

"I am positive," Anise responds confidently. "He is not a Zatarc."

"Scientists here used similar techniques when they were designing lie detectors," Daniel muses aloud. "Which, ultimately, is what the Zatarc detector is, albeit a very advanced one. Control questions can be used to identify particular emotional responses and their charting by the device and whether they read correctly if the answer was false. Of course, that requires a co-operative subject," he suggests mischievously.

Once more, Hammond is forced to look down quickly to hide his amusement.

Even Anise appears daunted.

"I could - er - break the news. If you'd like," Daniel suggests blandly, the gleam of mischief more pronounced.

It is long since I have felt such an attraction. I would know more of this intriguing young man.
 



"You want me to what?" Colonel O'Neill howls indignantly, abruptly ceasing his restless pacing of General Hammond's office. "Martouf isn't cold and you want to strap me back in that thing?"

"Colonel!" the general warns him, low-voiced and grim.

This very awkward. It is rare my symbiote and I are so at odds with one another and it is the first time in our long history together that Anise is as interested in a man as I. She has never failed to respect my desire to share physical intimacy and affection with another or to accommodate any of my wishes, making many generous compromises only because it would please me. We were ill-prepared for each of us to be attracted, and to a different man. It is most upsetting.

"Look, Anise," Colonel O'Neill addresses me, his manner a trifle more conciliating.

"Freya," I correct, hurt by his careless look. Am I so very unimportant to him that my feelings do not matter? Reassurance whispers from my symbiote and I cannot help but acknowledge in turn to Anise that were her Doctor Jackson here, Colonel O'Neill would not behave so. Anise's presence comforts with a gentleness she shares only with me, and I understand that her withdrawal here was not meant to give me pain. It was intended as an acknowledgement of my feelings, not hers. "I am Freya."

General Hammond silences me with a sharp look and proceeds to relay to the colonel all that I had previously explained to him and High Councillor Per'sus.

Anise and I are surprised and pleased by the High Councillor's desire to return with Doctor Jackson to Vorash. He appears to me to be one who will learn as well as teach. His knowledge impresses even Selmak and I am sure we will each gain much from sharing further scientific encounters. I do look forward to the opportunity. It is rare for Anise and I to find an individual who shares our passion or one who is so challenging both in his beliefs and of ours.

"Daniel knows about this!"

Another eruption of outrage draws my attention again to Colonel O'Neill's handsome, infuriated face. "He in fact suggested a number of questions I might ask," I point out helpfully. The colonel is speechless. "Control questions," I elaborate, mindful of Doctor Jackson's explicit instructions on how I was to proceed on this point. "Questions to which Doctor Jackson had the answers."

"He's added mind-reading to his impressive list of accomplishments?" O'Neill glares at me. "Oh. I forgot," he says with great sarcasm. "That's your job."

His opinion of my abilities is apparent to all but he nevertheless feels the need to vocalise at length. I withstand the storm which breaks over my head, conscious of Anise's careful withdrawal. General Hammond offers no further assistance as O'Neill rants. We must simply wait until he has calmed himself again.

Doctor Jackson suggested that when Colonel O'Neill asked which questions, his participation was assured. It appears he was right. At least, the colonel offers no further voluble protests as I escort him to the isolated medical room Doctor Fraiser made available to us.

She and Major Carter are sequestered somewhere, no doubt angrily commiserating over our refusal to allow them to examine Martouf's body. He was taken through the Stargate immediately. There are scientists on Vorash more skilled than we in such medical matters. There is some small hope we can save Lantash at the least, and if Martouf is in stasis, perhaps in the future we may help him too, though Anise and I both acknowledge that it is more likely it is he who will once more serve his people. There may be answers imprinted in his physiology, markers we may use to search out other Zatarcs.

I feel no need to share this information with either of the two women and trust that on Vorash, High Councillor Per'sus will distract Doctor Jackson as he must.

"O'Neill."

The Jaffa Teal'c greets us as we enter the medical room, his demeanour suggesting he will not be moved from his watchful position, close by my side. I glance to Colonel O'Neill and see that he has no objections to Teal'c's presence. He appears more relaxed, making a number of jovial comments to which Teal'c reacts with seeming indifference as he helps O'Neill into position, attaching the memory recall device at my direction. Only then does he explain his presence. General Hammond sent him to assist. It is not clear whether the Jaffa means to assist me or to assist O'Neill.

I feel excluded. Much is communicated between the two men which does not need words. O'Neill was perhaps more likely to question Teal'c's absence than his presence. It is at once familiar and strange. Anise and I share such a bond yet we do not value it as we should in humans. Their diversity and individuality is no less or more a weakness than our mutual dependence, the loss of one as devastating to the whole as the loss of Anise would be to me or I to him.

It should be easier for us to communicate. We cannot always be at odds.

"I will begin," I announce, activating the device. "Please direct your vision here." O'Neill sighs loudly but gazes obediently at the laser.

"What is your favourite colour?"

"Pink."

Teal'c inspects the monitor with some interest. "You are a Zatarc, O'Neill," he observes solemnly.

The colonel appears to find this very amusing.

"Peridot."

"Who is your favourite actress?"

"Mary Steenburgen," the colonel responds eagerly, smiling as if at some pleasing thought. "She seems very nice."

"Remember to be as specific as possible," I warn him as my monitor indicates he is not being truthful with me. "We are seeking to help others in the future who may be Zatarcs, Colonel. I do not wish them to share the fate of Lieutenant Astor and Martouf." O'Neill is silenced by this merited rebuke. "I must learn from you what I can in order to enable me to adjust this device to differentiate as accurately as possible between a false memory caused by inadvertently faulty or inappropriate recall and that which is caused by Zatarc programming. I would appreciate your co-operation."

"Very nice and very sexy. Er, Mary Steenburgen, I mean," he reiterates uneasily and unnecessarily.

Satisfied by the accuracy of this response, I consider the list of questions. Naturally, Doctor Jackson is unaware of what transpired in the second test which cleared his friends, but he did suggest a mix of questions to ensure the widest possible range of responses for the device to measure, some of which he was sure his taciturn friend would be reluctant to answer.

"What is your second favourite sport?"

"I wasn't aware Daniel knew which was my favourite sport," O'Neill retorts, disconcerted.

"Colonel!" I snap, exasperated as the reading shows his recall is false. "Once again, I remind you that I require your co-operation. I will ask questions which allow you to dissemble but this is not one of them. Please answer correctly."

"Curling," he responds in a more quiet tone than any I have yet heard from him.

"That is better."

He continues to co-operate as I ask each of Doctor Jackson's control questions in turn, the readings consistently measuring true and reasonably accurate recall of facts and events. I am pleased by our progress.

"In this next phase of the testing, I will ask questions which are more specifically about your feelings. I leave the choice to you whether to lie in your answer or not." I glance at him to be sure that he understands. "It is vital that in the event of a memory reading as false, you are then absolutely honest when I question you about the veracity of your answer. Please be prepared for that. Some of what I ask may be difficult for you to answer. In that event, you must be honest with me if you genuinely feel confusion over what you are able to recall. We will refine the line of enquiry as I attempt to quantify the device's ability to predict true and false recall of feelings."

"As hot as Mary Steenburgen is, I think George Hammond is hotter."

I believe he is signifying assent. Smug amusement at his inappropriate irreverence ripples from Anise.

"You said earlier that you would rather die than lose Major Carter."

O'Neill's face goes stony. "Yes," he snaps.

I did not intend that to be anything more than an opening statement to my line of enquiry, but a swift glance to the monitor shows his answer to again be accurate even though he is angry with me. I am heartened by this evidence that the device can measure reiterated recall with some degree of consistency, at least.

"You also said that you care for her far more than you are supposed to."

"Yes. Can we move it on?" he commands impatiently.

"Would you have left Teal'c alone behind that force field?"

"No."

Teal'c smiles benignly.

"Would you have left behind Doctor Jackson?"

"In a heartbeat!"

The reading is emphatically false.

Both the colonel and the Jaffa find this very amusing.

I find it intriguing that whereas O'Neill can answer questions about Teal'c straightforwardly, he feels the need to obfuscate and bluster regarding Doctor Jackson. My curiosity is piqued. I had thought to enquire more closely into his feelings for Major Carter as it is this matter of which I have most knowledge, but perhaps questions about Doctor Jackson will prove easier for him to answer without having to sacrifice the complexity and perhaps ambiguity of emotion I require to trigger for this experiment.

"Have you ever left Doctor Jackson behind?"

"Yes."

I see at once this is the truth and look at him, startled. It is quite opposed to what I know of his personal beliefs.

"We had false memories implanted in our minds," O'Neill tells me dryly.

"I am sorry. It must have been difficult for you."

"Piece of cake."

I am unsure of his exact meaning but his recall is false. "Please verify the accuracy of that statement."

"I beat the shit out of General Hammond's car."

"I was present at this event," Teal'c confirms.

The reading does not wholly reflect the accuracy of this. "Please be more specific. What were your feelings when you 'beat the shit' out of-"

"Frustration," O'Neill interjects hurriedly. "Anger. The usual."

"Because you had lost Doctor Jackson?" I frown as the reading continues to be ambiguous.

"Because Duluth beat out Bemidji in the finals!" he retorts sarcastically.

"That statement is false," Teal'c observes unnecessarily.

"Throwing in a little curling reference, big guy, as requested," the colonel points out insouciantly.

I attempt to recall his attention. "Did you feel that you had failed Doctor Jackson?"

The colonel's humour evaporates. "Yes," he replies curtly.

"Your response is ambiguous," I note. "Please be specific about your feelings over your loss of Doctor Jackson."

"I was upset, okay?" the colonel snarls.

"Your explanation is not adequate."

"Dontcha mean your device isn't adequate!"

"That is what we are attempting to determine," I remind him. "You spoke of damaging General Hammond's vehicle. Why did you do that?"

"I already said. Anger. Frustration."

"You were in pain?"

Colonel O'Neill is at a loss to respond to this, inappropriately or otherwise.

"I did warn you some of the questions might be difficult for you to answer," I remind him.

"Yes," he admits slowly and with extreme reluctance. "I was in," he hesitates, grimacing, "pain."

"Is there more that you are unable or unwilling to recall?" I ask. The monitor once again indicates to me that he is not telling me the truth.

O'Neill looks at Teal'c for a long time, and then his resistance fades.

"I was ready to quit the team," he confesses resentfully. "Retire."

"Had you not lost men before?" I attempt to clarify, puzzled by this seeming over-reaction.

"This was different. Daniel was my friend."

"Was Kawalsky not also your friend?" Teal'c asks, his curiosity genuine.

"Sure he was!"

The monitor glows blue, confirming the colonel's veracity.

"But he did not mean as much to you as Doctor Jackson does," I suggest, again attempting to clarify. I have discovered that accurate recall of events and factual data is a difficult process for humans, but I begin to feel that the complexity of emotions of which they are not always even aware may simply be too imprecise for my device to quantify with any degree of accuracy.

I feel compelled to do all I can to remedy what may be a fundamental flaw in the testing of humans. We have no other technology with which we can detect Zatarc programming and I will not willingly witness the needless death of another such as Major Graham or Lieutenant Astor. Their realisation of what they had done as they turned their weapons upon themselves is not something I can or will forget. It is a calculated cruelty on the part of the Goa'uld responsible for this insidious threat.

"They're both friends," O'Neill stresses.

"Are you attempting to dissemble, Colonel O'Neill?" I enquire, frowning at the monitor. "It is not an appropriate time for that. The analysis of your recall once again indicates that you are lying or that your recall is faulty. I require you to be completely honest."

"I believe O'Neill is attempting to be honest," Teal'c observes as the colonel sits brooding, his expression most unpleasant.

"I will accept your judgement, Teal'c." I bow politely to the Jaffa. "Very well, Colonel. I will re-phrase the question. I am still hopeful that we will gather pertinent data in this trial. It was equally difficult for you to quantify your feelings for Major Carter, yet you were able in the end to recall accurately with prompting."

"Are you being sarcastic?" O'Neill demands incredulously. "Prompting?" he complains to Teal'c.

"I am not. The analysis the device made of your responses to those earlier questions may be a suitable base to judge the ambiguity of these feelings also." Colonel O'Neill has nothing to say in response to my comment, so I go on. "Do you care more for Doctor Jackson than you are supposed to?"

"No. He's my friend." O'Neill appears to realise at once this is not enough and rushes to elaborate. "My best friend, okay? How can you care more than you're supposed to for a friend?"

"Is Major Carter not also your friend?"

"Yes! No! It's not the same, no!"

"Because she is your subordinate? Is not Daniel Jackson your subordinate also?"

"Yes! Technically, yes."

"It appears the correct response is technically 'no'," Teal'c observes dryly as he watches the monitor with me. "Do you not consider him to be your equal, O'Neill?"

"Yes! Thank you!" the colonel responds with a sarcastic tilt of his hands. "Yes! I'm glad someone's making sense here," he grumbles, scowling at me.

"That person is not you," Teal'c informs him.

"I'm too close to all my team. You've all become friends," O'Neill insists, his aggravation apparent as he transfers his scowl to the Jaffa. "I've never had a posting that was like this in my career. Normal S.O.P. does not apply."

Of this at least, O'Neill is confident. I confess I am fascinated by his inability to quantify and express his deepest feelings, particularly for Major Carter and Doctor Jackson. How can any individual have so little self-awareness?

"Do you love Major Carter?"

"Define love," O'Neill retorts.

"Do you feel affection for her?"

"Yes."

"Attraction?"

Once again uneasy, the colonel mumbles an affirmative, then looks appealingly to Teal'c.

"I make no judgements, Colonel," I assure him. "My discretion is assured. I seek only to quantify these emotions of which you speak. Do you feel affection for him?"

"Teal'c?"

"Doctor Jackson."

"Er, sure. Sure."

The device indicates that he is once again being evasive in his reply. I am growing frustrated because I am unable to determine from my readings whether he does this deliberately or if his confusion is genuine. "Do you love him?" I ask sharply.

"I -"

We wait, but O'Neill can make no further answer. He stares back at us, his brow furrowing deeply as his strain becomes more evident.

I think he does not know why his responses are unsatisfactory, only that they are.

If I wish to elicit specific memories, perhaps it is I who should be more specific in my questions. I think it would be wise to consult Doctor Jackson when I return to Vorash. I feel certain he will offer valuable insight into the framing of questions which will help the test subjects to recall and express their thoughts and feelings appropriately. Positive reinforcement is vital if I am to avoid once again triggering the self-destructive programming of the Zatarc. My questions must not be perceived as threatening. It would be advisable to test out those limits on subjects I know to be in no danger. My own subjective powers of observation will have to play a greater part in the analysis than I had previously determined.

"Are your feelings for Doctor Jackson deeper than the affection you feel for Major Carter?" I elaborate, trying to help Colonel O'Neill to attain some measurable clarity of thought.

"No." His already strained face pales as he waits for my reaction. "Yes?" he demands disbelievingly.

"Why do you ask if you already know the answer?" I query, curious, as the monitor again glows blue.

When we spoke privately earlier, I asked if there was someone to whom O'Neill was loyal. I assumed this person was Major Carter but it now appears I was wrong. Though I am disappointed personally that there is little hope of engaging in Lo'machen with the colonel, I must acknowledge that this data is proving very valuable. It may still be possible with sensitive questioning to differentiate the programmed memories of a Zatarc. The orderly recall of such memories may itself be an indicator I had not previously considered. I fear I was too simplistic in my initial approach. Rephrasing the same question and asking it again for the purposes of comparison may be another useful strategy I could employ. This appears a most fruitful line of enquiry to pursue.

"Are you attracted to Doctor Jackson?"

Colonel O'Neill's eyebrows soar.

"No!" he sputters in shock. "Hell, no! He's my friend," he emphasises. "Plus, he's a he!"

"I ask you again not to dissemble at this time."

"I'm not!"

I look significantly at the monitor. "Then your recall is faulty."

"What?"

"I will rephrase my question. Can you recall any incidences where you exhibited physical attraction to Doctor Jackson?"

"No!"

"We have discussed the stigmas and inhibitions with which the people of Earth surround physical intimacy, Colonel. I assure you of my understanding of the difficulties of such an admission. However, to gain an accurate reading, I must ask that you do so."

"I am not attracted to Daniel Jackson!"

If Colonel O'Neill is not lying to me, then he is lying to himself. I sense that his bewilderment is genuine. Instead of glaring at the detection device or at me, he appears to be staring at nothing and his face is grey and pinched.

"Are you alright, Colonel O'Neill?"

"You're saying that even if I'm lying," he answers in a rush, "I mean, even if I don't even know I'm lying, the machine can tell? It can tell?"

"The subconscious mind will not lie though the conscious mind can and seemingly does. You did not know you were lying about your feelings for Major Carter either until this was pointed out to you."

"But you’re insisting my feelings for Daniel are deeper!"

"It is not I. The memories are yours, Colonel O'Neill. Specifically, there are incidences of sexual attraction to Doctor Jackson which you are unable or unwilling to recall."

He looks helplessly to Teal'c, unable to respond directly to me. The Jaffa offers no comment, staring back inscrutably at his friend.

"Are you in love with Doctor Jackson, Colonel?" I ask directly, careful to employ the common human usage of this terminology to describe profound emotional and sexual intimacy, both of which I begin to feel, from the ambiguity of his responses, to be applicable to his relationship with Doctor Jackson.

O'Neill's gaze focuses at once on the device, a look almost of fear on his face.

"No."

"You must answer again, O'Neill," Teal'c informs him gravely.

The colonel closes his eyes, his knuckles clenching on the arms of the chair in which he sits so rigidly.

"I'm not in love with Daniel Jackson."

"You must answer again," Teal'c repeats.

Colonel O'Neill sits in silence for so long, I do not think he will answer, though his friend is as insistent upon it as I.

"Yes?"

Though it is more a question than a statement, O'Neill's hesitance does not affect the accuracy of my reading and the screen at last glows blue.

"We may proceed," I advise, satisfied with his veracity.

"You must speak with DanielJackson," Teal'c orders O'Neill sternly, ignoring my instruction as he walks over to release his friend.

"Are you out of your mind?" the colonel argues vehemently as he jumps to his feet, shuddering as he momentarily glances at me then turns away. "That's the last thing I should do!"

"I do not agree."

"You don't have any say," O'Neill warns Teal'c angrily.

"I am your friend," Teal'c contradicts him flatly. "As your friend I must tell you that you can no longer conceal your feelings. You have much to answer for in your behaviour to him."

"I beg your pardon?" O'Neill says furiously, his face thunderous.

"I had previously considered the difficulties you were experiencing working with DanielJackson would be resolved in time. I was not aware that your behaviour was a consequence of your sexual frustration," Teal'c informs him coldly, barring his way when he attempts to barge past. "You have given me cause to doubt your continuing respect and regard for DanielJackson. How much more cause have you given him?"

Colonel O'Neill has no answer to this.

"I have seen how he has become more withdrawn and more insecure in the acceptance of his judgement and his place on SG-1 than at any time since I first knew him, O'Neill," Teal'c insists. "This cannot be permitted to continue."

"I am not talking to him about this," O'Neill insists with dangerous finality.

"You cannot speak with Doctor Jackson," I point out, annoyed at this inconvenient disruption. "He has gone to Vorash with High Councillor Per'sus. Your presence there is not required, Colonel. Please resume your seat so we may continue."
 



The Tok'ra are a very, shall we say, studied people? Their formality and courtesy appears ingrained, so much so I'm beginning to see it as another conscious rejection of their Goa'ulded state. They're very deliberate in all that they do and say, excruciatingly careful to recognise the equality of the host, and any miscellaneous humans about the place, in all things. That gesture of theirs, dropping the head to signal the change in - what? Consciousness? Or simply which one chooses to speak at a given time? I wonder if the host sees it as a courtesy or as a constant reminder of what the symbiote is capable of yet chooses not to do?

I'm getting distracted again.

It's not that I'm not completely fascinated by ritual, or filled with innumerable questions about Tok'ra history and culture, about them as a people and as individuals, host and symbiote, it's just - well - the formality. I'm excited. I suspect it shows. I've been on Vorash about an hour and a half and I feel like a hyperactive toddler.

High Councillor Per'sus appears bemused. Or is that amused?

The bodyguards aren't.

"High Councillor?"

"Your presence is not required," he repeats patiently. "Your time will be better employed by examining the records of recent missions in order to determine those who may have been exposed to Zatarc technology." He glances across at me. "There is no doubt now that all of our operatives are potentially vulnerable to this programming. Martouf was one of the best among us."

"I take it you have no doubt now that Anise was correct in her assertions about the existence of the Zatarcs?" I ask.

"None," the High Councillor responds heavily. "The evidence appears incontrovertible." He nods absently to his bodyguards and they unhappily disperse with the kind of unquestioning alacrity Jack often volubly wishes I had. "I will show you to your quarters."

"There's no need, High Councillor," I respond, a trifle disconcerted. Surely one of the bodyguards should've been assigned such a menial task? I hesitate to ask about it as he falls into a brooding silence, confining myself to watching the reactions of the few other Tok'ra we meet as he leads me through one dark, anonymous tunnel after another. It isn't difficult to see that he's held in complete respect and not a little awe. I'm intrigued by this. The Tok'ra I've met haven't exactly struck me as impressionable.

"Please, Daniel, call me Per'sus," the High Councillor invites me suddenly, his rather stern face relaxing.

As a matter of courtesy, naturally I will.

"You are my guest," he assures me warmly.

I realise he means this literally when we turn into a space which apparently isn't another corridor because it has some personal belongings scattered here and there on the angular outcroppings of crystal. Sadly, the, king-sized, er, slab which adjoins a particularly spiky bit of wall doesn't strike me as being the last word in comfort.

Per'sus gestures to an opening tucked away behind another spiky outcrop and I see I have a slab of my very own.

"You're taking my safety very seriously," I comment dryly as I release my pack and carry it through into the small sleeping chamber. Anyone trying to get to me will have to get through Per'sus and his bodyguards first. Jack would be proud of my threat assessment. If he was paying attention, he would be.

"I like this about you," Per'sus responds, startling me.

I hadn't realised he'd followed. He moves silently for such a big man, a trait he shares with Jack and Teal'c. I'll have to ask him sometime if he's been a soldier.

"You do not dissemble. I find your sincerity pleasing."

"Um, thank you," I mumble, flushing at the unnecessary compliment. Feeling awkward, I busy myself with my laptop. A zippered bag isn't much of a security measure but I'm not overly concerned about leaving it out on display. For one thing, there's no knowing when I'll need it and after falling over Jack, fielding his complaints, finding the zippered bag and then extracting my laptop from it and booting the darned thing up, sometimes I've forgotten what I wanted to write. Jack lives for moments like that. Plus, the Tok'ra didn't know the symbiote Cordesh was a Goa'uld spy because going through his things would have been considered rude.

If I have anything important to write, I have my journal and a really peachy flashlight Jack gave me when I complained the Air Force issue one was no good for sneaking a quiet chapter when I was supposed to be sleeping in my sleeping bag. My journal is an excellent security measure. Jack can't install games on it and my handwriting is allegedly more impenetrable than one of Sam's really-easy-equations-for-fun, the ones Jack is always…

I really think about Jack a lot, don't I?

I've never been off-world without Jack knowing. It isn't, or rather I should accept it wasn't, conceivable. I don't want to think about that at all.

"Tell me why the Tok'ra have so little regard for personal privacy?" I invite Per'sus instead.

"I could, but I would much prefer to hear your own deductions." He smiles at me, his green eyes warming.

"Regard is the wrong word," I respond readily. "I see it more as another of your checks and balances to maintain equality between host and symbiote. Living in a space without walls and doors makes it that much harder for symbiote to abuse host."

"You are very perceptive, Daniel," Per'sus says softly, not arguing with my interpretation.

"The fundamental difficulty all Tok'ra face is imposing a state of equality on a mutually dependent relationship which is inherently unequal," I go on, warming to my theme and frankly amazed no one has told me to shut up yet. "The host's mind can be suppressed by the symbiote at any time and so you work at maintaining both the independence and interdependence of both." This strikes me as being a tad harsh and possibly even tactless. I feel that as Mr. Inspirational Intergalactic Diplomat, I should say something nice. "I appreciate that you work at it." I don't know that I sound terribly convincing.

"I look forward to spending time with you, Daniel," Per'sus confides charmingly. "I wish very much to learn more about you. It is long since I have been so attracted to another. Longer than your lifetime."

"Attracted?" I sound like Minnie Mouse.

"You are very beautiful, of course," Per'sus smiles warmly, his eyes gentle as they roam appreciatively over my flaming face, "but your intellect challenges me as much as your character engages and appeals. Though I do not know you well, I feel," he adds with great dignity, "much for you."

I have no idea what to say to this. Absolutely none. I'm usually drugged to the eyeballs when people say this kind of thing to me. At least, that's what my friends tell me later. I emerge from pink fogs and find my DNA spattered all over the communal shower room. Or people just do stuff. "I'm not used to anyone asking!" I blurt out in piteous confusion.

"You are not?" Per'sus has no difficulty interpreting this pronouncement. He's horrified. He would be. The exertion of that kind of force over another individual is anathema to the Tok'ra. They prefer to manipulate you.

I'm glad we're in a space with no doors and the Tok'ra are so studied. I might be fairly freaked by this declaration of his, otherwise.

Naturally, I stupidly have to ask myself why.

Because someone is interested? A man is interested? A parasitic life form I've been getting along with quite nicely wants to get to know me a little better? And is apparently interested. Why am I panicking? I'm kind of assuming that he wants to have sex with me. I could ask.

"When you say attracted, do you mean you want to?" Instead of being explicit about what Per'sus might want to, I find myself vaguely waving my hand between us.

"Do I desire you?" Per'sus suggests helpfully. "I wish very much to lie with you, Daniel, if this is what you wish also."

Okaaay. Just clarifying. He does want to - Jeez. Oh, Jeez. "You haven’t had sex longer than I've been alive?"

There's a very disturbing light in Per'sus' eyes.

"I desire you greatly," he promises me, all low-voiced and husky.

I can't tell this very large, impossibly powerful man how much I appreciate the respectful distance he's careful to keep. He might want to pounce - he really, really wants to pounce - but I think he won't, any more than I think he'd stifle the voice of his host.

"I do like you," I admit breathlessly. "But I'm not, I mean, I don't." Um.

"I do not feel you are the kind of man who would condemn a pleasure you have not experienced."

"I've read a lot." I highly doubt this inanity adequately expresses my abhorrence of bigotry, which is what I was going for. It does however, sound like a come-on. I'm not good at this stuff. No one is more aware of this than I am. "Can I talk to your host?"

Per'sus at once bows his head and when he lifts it, he's smiling again.

"Hello?"

"I am Geryon." He takes my hand and lifts it to his lips, kissing me with practiced, lingering ease and courtesy. "Per'sus and I will not harm you, if this is what you seek to know."

"Partly."

"Do not fear us, Daniel."

"I don't," I admit shyly. "Do you, um?" I can't actually say 'want me'. It's too ridiculous.

"My symbiote and I are as one in our desire for you," Geryon assures me. "We wish to give you such pleasure as you have never known before."

Honestly, that would not be difficult. I don't get out much, not even out of my own head. I never have. I've always been somewhat obsessed with more cerebral pleasures, something to which my one and only ex-girlfriend could attest. She broke up with me before I actually realised we were together, as in together. All I knew at the time was she spent a lot of time hanging out with me while I worked and when I absolutely had to fuel up on coffee and carbs, she'd trail along with me willingly enough.

And that was me when I met my wife. My complete sexual history. A few kisses and, now and again, Thai food.

"I am glad that we do not offend you, Daniel," Geryon says softly.

"No, I'm not offended," I admit honestly enough, trying without much success to pull myself together. "I'm just surprised. Confused" I add, "and surprised." Not that confused does my current chaotic state of mind justice.

"May I kiss you?"

"Kiss?" My voice climbs half an octave. Think Minnie Mouse on speed.

Geryon interprets this as permission and gathers me into his arms for the gentlest, warmest whisper of lips imaginable. Of course, we are talking about my imagination, so this isn't saying much.

I'm kind of glad he's holding me up. My brain has fused along with my knees. I cling giddily to him as his mouth moves softly over mine. When he sets me back down, I know at once I'm looking at Per'sus. His thumb brushes over my shaking mouth and then he takes my hand comfortingly between both of his.

"My host is more forward than I, Daniel. I did not mean to make you uncomfortable. I give you my word-"

"I'm not," I interrupt.

He gestures for me to go on.

"Uncomfortable."

I don't know what I am and for the first time, it hammers home that I have nobody to talk to about it.

"Not with you, Per'sus."

His face lights up.

Uncomfortable with myself, maybe. Excruciatingly aware that I need to be very, very careful here. While I don't believe Per'sus would hurt me or force me to do anything against my will, I am concerned about how he'll react if I can't give him what he wants from me. Will the alliance we've spent months patiently, painstakingly building, for which Martouf gave his life, and for which Sam hurt herself so deeply, fall apart if I don't put-out for the Tok'ra High Councillor?

"We can talk," I offer, feeling my wince of a smile in a very stiff face. "I'd like that. To talk."

"I would be honoured."

"I've never," I announce determinedly in the general direction of the rather attractive chain he wears as part of the High Councillor's official regalia. "You're, um." This is very, very difficult. "I haven't spent a great deal of time getting to know men who want to make love to me. In fact, I haven't spent any." I nod obscurely, really quite intrigued by the intricacy of the carving on Per'sus' heavy gold chain. "I'm not sure of the etiquette."

"All that is required is that you speak freely if any word or action of mine makes you uncomfortable," Per'sus assures me kindly. "Allow me to show you some of the objects my host and I have gathered through our travels."

"Please," I agree eagerly, practically desperate to see and touch something that makes sense.

Per'sus puts his arm around my waist. "Is this acceptable to you, Daniel?"

"It's fine," I mumble at my feet, flushing. And oddly, it is.



I didn't get to be an Air Force colonel by being anything but smarter than the average bear. I'm certainly smart enough not to act like it, which is why I can do stuff like dodge Carter, Teal'c and Anise with effortless ease. I'm taking a rain-check on my sexuality crisis and imminent nervous breakdown because I have a far more immediate problem.

My C.O. let my boyfriend go off-world without me.

General George Hammond does nothing without a reason and I've known the wily old bastard since he was a pissant lieutenant. I have no idea why he didn't choose to let me in on the fact he let the biggest snake of 'em all spirit Daniel back to his lair for a cosy tête-à-tête, but something tells me I'd better find out, and quick.

George does not do this. Not without damned good reason.

Charging into his office and ranting hysterically until he lets me go after Daniel may feel good, but all it will get me is my ass in a sling and possibly in Psych.

I think my C.O. is waiting to see what I'll do. I'm sure I'm losing points for the amount of time it's seemingly taking me to figure out my team is coming up short one linguist, but I won't get a second shot at this so I'm taking a timeout to plot. It's apparent something went down while Daniel was schmoozing and glad-handing with our nation's finest, something of sufficient magnitude to make George let one of our most prized and carefully guarded assets waltz off all alone.

I missed all of it. The stuff that was supposed to 'stay in the room' got ugly and spilled blood all over the gateroom. I cleaned up the mess while Fraiser scooped up Carter and the snakes what was left of Marty, then I bailed with the big guy and left them all to it while I hid out and licked my wound.

Did I even talk to Daniel? I don't remember.

I think he needed me to. I can tell, here, by the look on his face. The camera loves him, even the security kind. He's framed perfectly by the blue of the curtain behind him, looking anywhere but at the guy trying to attract his attention. He looks kind of lost.

The guy is good-looking, the guy is Hollywood leading man good-looking, and now he has Daniel's attention. He has Daniel in his space and he watches every move Daniel makes. That’s what went down. It's right there, on every tape of the treaty shindig the SFs brought me. The guy never stops watching. He makes his play and George sees how Daniel gets in this guy's space. That's all it takes. Daniel likes the guy and wants to go and that's enough for George. I don't think he sees how much the guy likes Daniel. I know Daniel doesn't.

Telling myself I do not have a problem with or over Dr. Daniel Jackson is kind of moot, huh? Because it sure looks like Daniel has a problem with me. I should have talked to him. I should have been, not to put too fine a point on it, nicer. I've seen that lost look on Daniel's face a few times recently. Maybe it's time to face facts. That maybe I'm the one who put it there.

I get from A to Z with no fuss, from Daniel's office to Hammond's. George isn't thrilled to see me but he'll makes the time regardless. He's good that way.

"What can I do for you, Jack?" he asks straight-forwardly.

"Permission to gate out to Vorash, Sir."

George sits back, folding his hands neatly on his desk, eyeing me thoughtfully. "Any particular reason?"

"I'm not comfortable with Daniel being alone out there with the Tok'ra."

"Go on."

"Frankly, Sir, I'm surprised you allowed it. The recent events with Tanith are still fresh in my mind at least."

"High Councillor Per'sus has personally guaranteed Dr. Jackson's safety."

Per'sus? That's the guy who was all over Daniel? I forgot, or wasn't paying attention in the first place.

"With all due respect, Sir, he couldn't guarantee his own!" I argue forcefully. "Graham shot him right in front of me! Hard as it is to believe that Anise can be right about anything, she's right about the Zatarcs. Vorash could be infested with them for all we know."

"Your presence didn't make a difference when Graham's Zatarc programming was activated," Hammond argues mildly.

"It did in the gateroom," I remind him. I may not be able to help some snaky Zatarc, but I can sure as shit stop one. Dead.

"Your cogent arguments aside, Colonel, I'd always planned to send you through to Vorash," George observes mildly, his eyes twinkling with amusement. "At this point in time, I have no idea whether the Treaty we just signed with the Tok'ra is worth the paper it's written on."

"But you plan to find out," I retort, a tad annoyed he caught me out so easily. Too damn busy obsessing over Daniel. I don't like what that says about me. I can live with it though, because I like the way Per'sus was looking Daniel over even less.

"I thought I'd leave that to you," George replies humorously. "Just be yourself, Jack."

"I plan to."

"Without endangering the alliance," George add firmly.

"It never crossed my mind, Sir." There's an art to obnoxiousness. Naturally, I excel. George is the latest in a long line of baffled C.O.'s who can attest to that. I tend to get promoted instead of court-martialled and none of them have ever quite worked out why. As long as Jacob isn't around to rain on my pissy parade, Per'sus and I will get along just fine.

"Major Carter and Teal'c?" George hints, his eyes keen.

"Better off here," I say firmly. I don't need Carter at Anise's throat or Teal'c at mine. If I do have a problem with Daniel - and despite what Anise's stupid-assed machine insists, I'm not convinced I do - I do not need Teal'c doing his over-sized Jiminy Cricket act, insisting I get off my ass and do something. Daniel, presumably. Plus, there's the whole Jaffa revenge thing to consider. Daniel may be really cutting to Tanith if he runs into him but he's not likely to beat the loveless bastard to death with his own symbiote.

"You can gate out to Vorash tomorrow, Jack. I don't see any need to give them advanced warning, do you?"

"Tomorrow?" I bark. What? That gives Percy the Perv a whole night alone with Daniel! "With all due respect, Sir!"

"It's dark, Jack," George patiently reminds me. "Vorash isn't safe after dark."

My point exactly! There's a good reason I'm climbing the walls, here!

"General, I'm not comfortable with that kind of delay." My head has been up my own ass too long as it is.

"I am."

I just want to go. I don't want to be alone in my own head. I don't want to think about Daniel, I want to be with him. Things make sense when he's round. I make sense.

That's friendship, right?

Friendship.
 



I'm feeling ever so slightly outnumbered here. The only one not taking an interest in me on any level is Freya, and she's on some well-deserved down-time after the grilling she apparently gave poor Jack.

"The human mind is chaotic," Anise announces with infuriating finality.

"Thank you," I acknowledge sarcastically on behalf of my species.

"I am merely reporting a fact, Doctor Jackson. No insult is intended."

While I'd be the first to admit Jack has the attention span of a student at the start of a five o'clock lecture on a Friday night, especially where I'm concerned, I'm not about to say so. Anise is smug enough, thank you. "If the results are variable, the responsible scientist will look again at the methodology employed, not the alleged inadequacies of the subject." Insult very much intended.

Per'sus takes refuge in a sip of the rather nice fruity, fizzy, sherbet drink he produced in my honour at the start of the council meeting. There are nibbles, too, small dishes of fruits, nuts and pastries. Someone must have told him humans need feeding and watering at regular intervals. Despite the attentiveness of my host, I can't tell if my lowly, invasive presence is casting a pall, if they're upset about Martouf or if they're just always like this. I'm the original anti-social animal and I still feel like the life and soul of the party.

The spirit of Jack, I'm sad to say, is still very much with me. The urge to shake things up a tad is impossible to resist.

I turn abruptly to Per'sus. "If it isn't an imposition, High Councillor, may I witness the burial rites for Martouf and Lantash?" I ask respectfully. "We know so little of your customs."

I wonder if this is why I do so badly at parties? Bringing up burial rites unprovoked?

Per'sus looks disconcerted. "There will be no rites at this time."

"You'll be performing an autopsy, then?" I enquire. "Examining the bodies to determine what you can physiologically about Zatarcs?" I'm almost positive they'll make sure he's dead and stuff first.

Per'sus seems grateful for my understanding.

"You are certainly more reasonable regarding such a necessary scientific endeavour than your colleagues," Anise comments dryly.

Sadly, I think most of the fuss was because Janet and Sam wanted to examine the bodies of Martouf and Lantash themselves. We don't doubt the scientific competence of the Tok'ra but they've given us nothing but cause to doubt their veracity. They'll only share partial truths, and those grudgingly. Anything they tell us willingly, we worry about.

"We share with you all that you need to know," Anise goes on.

"That's the problem right there," I retort quite sharply. "You determine what we need to know and so far, in every instance, we've needed to know more! You control the flow of information but expect full disclosure from us. It's a fundamental inequality between us and where you have such an inequality, trust is hard to build."

"I do not doubt the justice of what you say, Daniel," Per'sus replies, "But it is our way. Secrecy has long served us. Our numbers are few and the Goa'uld are many. We have not the forces to engage in war as you have known it in the brief, turbulent history of your world. Our operatives work from within to undermine, to seed dissent and foster rivalry among the ranks of the System Lords. It is in this way that we seek to maintain balance."

"I understand the concept but I also see the contradiction," I argue.

"Your country has allies on Earth, does it not?" Per'sus knows the answer to this. The President was very amusing about some of his livelier experiences abroad. "How many of them know of the existence of the Stargate?" he asks me straight-forwardly.

"None," I say stiffly.

"No doubt you keep from them other secrets of state, so ultimately our ways are the same."

"That doesn’t mean I can't question it!" I retort with as much dignity as I can muster.

"Were we to deny such questioning, that would be a crime indeed," Per'sus observes seriously.

It's nice of him to let me off the hook. He could have a field day with our 'do as we say, not as we do' double-standards. He's more generous than I actually deserve at this point. Certainly more generous than I would have been. I'm a naturally gifted treader of toes.

My sherbet drink seems very appealing. I crawl into it for a while and let the Zatarc talk ebb and flow around me. The zesty taste lures me into a second cup and then Per'sus slides over a dish of deliciously crunchy candies which had previously escaped my attention.

I munch away, listening with half an ear while someone reports that they're pulling together a list of all operatives who could have been vulnerable to Zatarc programming, which appears to be a very long list.

Per'sus assigns Anise and Aldwin to grill them. I reach for the sherbet again in self-defence. I know Aldwin. He tried to blow us up and then had to share a Pel'tac home with Jack, after. Jack had been shot in the leg. He took this very personally. It made for a uniquely horrible experience.

I think I'm lousy at being covert. Here I am at the dark heart of secret Tok'ra operations and the uppermost thing in my mind is the operative opposite eyeing up my sherbet.

Unless he's eyeing up me.

I think I need to lie down. The sherbet is going to my knees.

"Would you like to take a walk with me on the surface, Daniel?" Per'sus asks me invitingly. "The moons are full tonight."

Can my knees take it? More importantly, can I take the sherbet?

"Is this an alcoholic beverage?" Jack has painstakingly trained me to be suspicious and, as far as possible, less co-operative with people trying to zap me, drug me or get in my pants.

"It is not. We do not ingest fomented liquids of any kind," Anise responds. "It is merely the chilled juice of the jolian fruit."

Aaah. That's okay, then. I'm not really giddy. I must just be tired. "I'd love to, Per'sus," I agree happily. "A walk will do me good." I achieve an upright position under my own steam, but when Per'sus gallantly offers assistance with achieving actual locomotion, I generously decide not to brush him off. He seems to like holding me, even my elbow. As lust-crazed looming lovers go, he's very undemanding.

The crystalline tunnels are very beautiful and very alien, glowing richly blue wherever my slightly glazed gaze falls as we walk. "Are you still growing new tunnels?"

"Is this a way to discover our numbers, Daniel?" Per'sus queries, smiling down at me.

Um, it probably should be. Yes. Thanks for that. Plus, you know, I saw them use the crystals one time and it's really cool!

"You are delightfully innocent, Daniel," Per'sus announces amusedly as he rings my ass right out of there.

I resemble that remark.

The night sky is vast and shivering with stars, the sands drenched in silver light. I close my eyes for a moment and drink in the aching familiar chill of clean desert air.

"Tell me something of yourself, Daniel," Per'sus invites me, his tone warming to intimacy.

"What would you like to know?"

"Some small thing," Per'sus responds after a moment's reflection. "A private thing another man might not seek to know."

Small and private? "There's nothing much to tell. I put so much energy into my researches." I shrug, knowing that by the standards of most men, especially men who are Jack, I'm a bit of a loser. "I love language," I offer tentatively, not at all sure this is anything he wants to hear. He looks encouraging so I stumble on through an explanation. "It's more than losing myself in reading, in the challenge of ideas or the images unfolding in my mind. I love words. I have favourites," I admit bashfully. Words which make me feel.

"Tell me."

"Langorous." The way the syllables glide, I always want to close my eyes and feel this word fill my mouth as I speak it.

"Another?"

"Blithe."

Per'sus strolls comfortably at my side, listening attentively as I ramble on about my passion for the written word, the smell and other quiet pleasures of books and the magic of a pen. "I find language beautiful," I apologise at last, a trifle stiffly, feeling I've bored him quite long enough. "Written or spoken, it has the power to affect profoundly the hearts and minds - the souls - of others."

I think I owe him something for his patience, so I allow myself to be drawn down to sit for a while, hugging my knees and staring up at the stars. Per'sus puts his arm around me and I ask him to tell me something of himself, something he wouldn't normally say.

"Is there not equality in love?" he asks as last.

"There must be or it isn't love as I understand it."

"Then know this, Daniel. I love my host, Geryon. We chose one another and we would do so again. We live to serve our cause, but in our service is a love more complete than any the unblended can know."

"Cordesh," I blurt.

"The traitor?" Per'sus asks, his brows snapping together.

"His host - he took his own life, but before he did, he told us he didn't act alone." I'm babbling but Per'sus gets my drift.

"Host and symbiote are as one," he agrees. "Both are free and yet both are bound, by our choice, by our cause and by our love. To be anything less is to be Goa'uld."

"Yet Jolinar took Sam as a host against her will."

"And she gave her own life to save that of Major Carter," Per'sus reminds me at once. "I do not condone nor do I condemn her choices. I was not in her place and I cannot judge."

"Do you think it was as painful for Jolinar as it was for Sam?" I ask, genuinely wanting to know.

"Of that I have no doubt. She was a warrior among us and she took great risks, but she and Rosha were as one for centuries and in Martouf and Lantash they found their soulmates. The loss of her host," he begins and then stops. "Perhaps Selmak is a better one to question on this. He and Jacob still mourn for Dayaene. It was not easy for Selmak to leave her, knowing that she would die. His choice was as difficult as Jacob's."

I feel ashamed that I've thought so little about the Tok'ra and made so small an effort to understand them. Jacob would have answered any questions but I had none to ask him. I'm as prejudiced as anyone because I'm as human as anyone. Still, I thought I was a better man than that. An arrogant assumption. The Tok'ra are not Goa'uld and it's wrong of me to judge them by the same standard. Very wrong.

"If the bond between host and symbiote is so deep, how can there be room for anyone else? Can you both feel for another person?"  Would Selmak ever care for Sam as much as Jacob did? I've never seen any extraordinary signs of affection from the symbiote for his host's daughter. Perhaps for Selmak, all Sam will ever be is a necessary encumbrance of Jacob's life.

"We can."

I look up questioningly and Per'sus' hand cups my face. It occurs to me then that as he can't read my mind, all he has to go on mood-wise is what I just said and what I just said - damn. I'm bad at this. He leans in slowly, giving me plenty of time to react in some way. I don't bleat in abject horror or anything so he keeps coming and then his mouth is on mine. Both his arms are around me and his mouth is one mine. Just touching. Maybe seeing how we fit. I don't know.

He's very warm and very certain and when his lips rub against mine, very gentle in his insistence, I surrender gracefully to the pressure and he glides into my mouth, delicately touching, tasting, his tongue fitting to mine. Savouring and then stroking sensuously into me.

I think he's been kissing way longer than I've been alive. My toes are curling at the extraordinary, contained eroticism of it all. He's holding me and kissing me and I'm quite content to bask for a time in this warm flow of feeling. It's been so long since I shared anything of myself. It's good to let go, even for a little while, and with this man, with all he's capable of, I'm safe.



Daniel is sleeping peacefully at my side. I do not believe I have ever kissed a man into unconsciousness before, but I am able to see the humour in this most inconvenient accomplishment. I fear nothing he does will ever be ordinary.

I find that there is much pleasure to be had simply from watching him. The moon bathes his face in light and he seems to me even more beautiful than before. I am restless with need for him. Daniel is filled with a need all his own, though he does not seem to know it.

He is more alone than I knew. If I could be sure it would be the right thing for us both, I would wake him and pleasure him here among the dunes. I believe it is what his body needs and desires, but of his mind, his heart and his will, I am less certain. He returned my kiss but I do not know that he was truly with me.

Still, I am more hopeful than I was that in time Daniel may return my feelings. The intimacy he allows me is more than he has ever granted to any man.

It is better to wait and to be sure than to risk all for mere physical gratification and lose him.

Now that Daniel has so unexpectedly entered my life, I do not want him to leave me.

On to Part Two

Feedback makes the difference between writing and posting; please contact me at biblio@jd-divas.com

  Copyright
Biblio, PhoenixE, babs, Brionhet, Darcy, Devra, Fabrisse, JoaG, Kalimyre, Marcia, Rowan and Sideburns, 2001-2008.
Disclaimer
Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate Productions, Sci Fi Channel, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. These stories are for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. These stories may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author. Copyright on images remains with the above named rightsholders.
Click here to visit our sister site Stargate SG-1 Solutions for the latest news, views, interviews, episode guide and transcripts, and the Stargate Wiki  

[an error occurred while processing this directive]