Title: A Minor Misunderstanding
Fandom: Stargate SG-1/Magnificent 7 Sentinel Fusion
Warnings: Canon-level violence, Discussion Murder, Discussion Child Abuse, Discussion Slavery, Explicit Sex, Homophobia
Genres: Alternate Universe, Science Fiction, Fusion, Crossover, Slash
Relationships: Ezra Standish/Vin Tanner
Word Count: 20,674
Author Note: Credit to MOG for the ATF AU of the Magnificent Seven TV show. The murder, child abuse, and slavery is Stargate canon level violence. This was originally posted as my Rough Trade project in July of 2018.
Summary: It was a new record for SG-1. Five minutes on a new world and they were taken to jail. It’s obviously just a misunderstanding that they’ll have to figure out before the magistrate tries them for their “crimes.” The last thing they thought they would find in these accommodations were two guys desperate to get back to Earth. How did two ATF agents get all the way out here? Well as Agent Standish explains, “This entire debacle began with but a minor misunderstanding.”
“Mr. Tanner, would you stop fidgeting? One wonder’s how you can stay still and silent in a sniper’s nest for hours on end and yet four hours in that seat you become a jiggling toddler.” The very annoyed ATF agent Ezra Standish questioned.
“Ah, Ez, five nights in a row sittin’ here waitin’ for sumthin’ that ain’t never gonna happen is just plumb boring. I wish JD could figure out why the surveillance camera out here keeps flickerin’ out so we can sleep at night.” Agent Vin Tanner replied, pouting.
“I have it on good authority that Mr. Dunne is not working on that particular problem at this time.”
Vin jerked his eyes off the vacant lot ahead to look at Ezra. “What do you mean he ain’t workin’ on it? Chris said we’re stuck on surveillance until it gets fixed!”
“I believe it is Mr. Larabee’s idea of punishment. And I lay that entirely at your feet. I was completely innocent of any wrongdoing and yet here I am, guilty by association. I will enact my revenge at the appropriate moment, you have my promise on that Mr. Tanner. But until then I am serving my time, no matter how unwarranted, with good grace.”
“Come on Ez, it was just a little misunderstandin’. I was just tryin’ to have some fun.”
“Fun using my good name to commit your act of depravity.”
“Weren’t like that and you know it. Just, when I heard ya orderin’ the singer for the Travis party…well, if I’d been right it woulda been funny.” Vin smiled wryly.
Ezra became incensed. “No, Mr. Tanner. Let us be clear. Even if you had been right about the recipient of the entertainment, you still made that change in my name. Mrs. Travis came to me in good faith asking for assistance in arranging a singer to perform at that birthday party.”
“Well, he was singin’.”
“Oh yes, but instead of Woody from Toy Story singing to young master Billy Travis on the occasion of his 7th birthday, they were all subjected to ‘Cowboy Clint’ stripping for Director Travis while singing ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me.’”
“I tried to stop it, Ez. Honest, I did. But, by the time I found out it was his grandson’s party Buck, JD, and I were up at the lake, and there was no phone reception. No way to call it off.”
“I am through discussing this. I would prefer if we just sat here in silence until our term of incarceration ends.”
“Fine. We’ll just sit here wastin’ our time.”
Twenty minutes later Ezra turned in the passenger seat of the jeep once more, “Mr. Tanner, seriously. Can you not sit still?”
“Sorry Ez. Mrs. Rodriguez washed my clothes in that soap again. Makes me itchy.” Vin replied, squirming again.
“Why do you continue to allow the woman to do your laundry if you keep having this reaction?”
Vin shrugged, “She can use the extra money. Carlos made the soccer team but gear costs money, and she’s too proud to take charity. Carlos is a good kid that’s worked hard to stay away from that gang and bein’ on the team lets him be part of sumthin’ positive.”
“I applaud your desire to save the kids in your neighborhood from unwholesome activities, but you must take your own health into consideration. You are developing a sensitivity to the detergent, and if this keeps up, you will develop another rash. If you insist on allowing her to continue, then provide her with the detergent and present it as a way to cut her cost.” Ezra reasoned.
“I did that. But I’ve gone through three different brands this month. They start out fine but then a week or two later this starts happenin’. Nate says I need to see some allergy specialist, but I don’t wanna see no doc that’s gonna poke me with a hundred needles.” Vin shivered.
Ezra commiserated, “ I share your trepidation for the medical arts, perhaps if we but change the chemicals around you to more natural products we could alleviate the issue. You did not seem to experience issues when the team was camping on Mr. Larab…”
Three vans pulled into the vacant lot, and six men got out. Vin reached for the video camera while Ezra double checked that the flash was turned off on his camera. The men stood in a loose grouping, appearing to be waiting for someone. “Do you recognize any of them, Vin?”
“Not certain. The tall guy might be Lou Mitchum. He works for Bobby Finley. But Finley deals in information, not goods.” Vin answered.
Ezra shook his head, “Finley has a lucrative business that makes it difficult to link him to any individual activity or sale. Information, however, rarely requires vans for trade. Perhaps Mr. Mitchum is branching out on his own.”
“No way. If that’s Mitchum, then he’s here on Finley’s say.”
There was a sudden flash of bright light, and it appeared like five large rings moved upward and released four men dressed in some kind of metallic armor. They briefly confronted the waiting men before stepping into a square formation, and the lights returned once more. This time a man dressed in luxurious silk robes stepped out of the light. He wore some kind of crown on his head and jewelry on his bare hand and arm.
“What the hell?” Vin’s shocked question came, and Ezra realized that he had lowered the camera. Quickly he began snapping more pictures of the meeting.
“I have absolutely no idea.”
“I wish we could hear them. Don’t look like the boss is all too happy with Mitchum.”
Without warning the doors on either side of the jeep were jerked open as another of the armored men pulled Ezra from the car. The guy was strong and up close he could see that he had some kind of tattoo on his forehead. Something about him made Ezra’s skin crawl, and he felt nauseous. He could feel one of his migraines quickly approaching. Restrained and unable to gain purchase to fight he was being hauled toward the group when he looked back to see Vin still trying to fight in the car. Suddenly the assailant pulled out a Z shaped weapon and fired. “Vin!” Ezra cried.
He soon found himself pushed to his knees in front of the boss. He looked up to see eyes that seemed to glow while the boss gave orders in a language he had never heard. A jostle to the side had him reaching for Vin who was thankfully still breathing before being struck in the back. He was held down by the hand on his shoulder as the guards suddenly turned on Mitchum and his men. Blasts came from the sticks the men carried that were obviously weapons.
Ezra watched dazedly as two of the guards zapped the bodies with the hand weapons, and the bodies seemed to disappear. A bejeweled hand reached out to grip his chin and turn his head back toward the glowing eyes. “You will make a most interesting pet little empath,” the voice said as Ezra felt the migraine crash over him. The last thing Ezra saw as darkness engulfed him were five rings drop around himself, Vin, and the strangely dressed men.
The sun was setting. Shadows through the windows lengthened, slowly creeping toward the cell door and marking yet another night Colonel Jack O’Neill would spend in an off-world prison. Jack glanced over at his teammates as they all resolutely relaxed around the empty room. The fact they were so calm illustrated that they were becoming a little too familiar with these kinds of accommodations than Jack liked to think about. They had been in here for approximately five hours now and still with no idea why.
PL8-732 was supposed to be an open market world. According to Teal’c, it was a place of trade outside the blatant control of the system lords. Apophis had not allowed his followers to visit, but some of the Goa’uld were not as rich and allowed the trading. While they were curious about the potential, they had actually been here in search of intelligence. Information was as much a commodity here as anything else.
The thing is it was kinda a new record for SG-1. Five minutes on a new world and they were taken to jail. It’s obviously just a misunderstanding that they’ll have to figure out before the magistrate tries them for their “crimes.” Hopefully, someone will tell then what the “crimes” are. They had been trying to decide where to start when guards surrounded them, and they were arrested. No explanation. The only thing the guard would share was that the magistrate would rule on their guilt tomorrow. Until then they were locked up.
A voice carried softly from down the hall of cells. “I swear Ez. It’s hotdogs. I can smell em. I’m so hungry I could even eat that swill Mok was havin’ earlier, but it’s honest to goodness hotdogs.”
“I assure you, Mr. Tanner, your sense of smell is being influenced by your stomach which even I can hear growling from here. There is not a hot dog to be found this side of the galaxy. Now can you just focus and assure me that Mok has finally answered Morpheus’ call?”
“If you mean is he sleepin’ then yes. Snoring loud enough to wake Buck after a weekend with triplets.”
“Finally. Would you like me to unlock that shackle on your ankle?”
“Nah, I did that while ya was sleepin’. Don’t give me that look. Ya need the sleep, Ez. Iffen we’re gonna get outta here all peaceful-like then ya need the sleep first. Don’t worry, I caught some shut-eye too.”
“Thank you, Vin. You are of course correct. We have approximately forty minutes before curfew so we must move post haste in order to exit the market before the gates close.”
The soft sounds of movement and a few curses came down the hallway as Jack motioned his team up.
“What is takin’ so long Ez?”
“That sorry excuse for a correctional officer has been criminally remiss in maintaining the functioning of the locking apparatus.”
“What? Oh, Mok hasn’t oiled the locks again. Do ya want me to try?”
“I am quite capable of picking a simple lock, Mr. Tanner. The day I need….there.”
As two shadows began to move down the hall, Jack softly called out. “Hey, how about giving us a hand?”
“And why would we do that?”
“Well, we’re innocent.” Jack started but was cut off.
“It matters not the world upon which one stands, criminals will always cry out their innocence to those who might listen.” There was a pause, and Jack figured they would move on, but then the voice continued, “Unlike more civilized systems, however, the current magistrate believes in guilty until sentenced guilty. But I suppose if we do not help then you might be inclined to hinder our own escape. Very well. We will assist you in exiting the cell, but then you are on your own.”
Jack nodded his understanding as the shadow moved into place outside the door. He worked on the door for under a minute when Jack heard the click of the lock, and the door started to open. The team moved up behind Jack when suddenly the other man shoved the first out of the way and blocked their approach.
“Vin!” Was the harsh whisper.
The answer came with the timbre of growling deep in the throat, “Jaffa.”
Jack tried to calm the situation quickly. “Let’s just back off a little and calm down. We all just want to get outta here right now. I promise none of us mean you any harm.”
Dr. Daniel Jackson added, “We’re peaceful explorers. Yes, Teal’c is Jaffa, but he works for us now to fight against the Goa’uld.”
“They believe what they say is true.”
“I concur. As our time is quickly slipping away we will take a chance that your motivations are true, but mark my words, if you turn on us you will pay severely.”
They silently, and hesitantly, moved down the hall toward the stairs. They stopped to liberate their gear and then again to slowly unlock and open the front door. Once outside the two men’s demeanor completely changed and they appeared to be townsfolk strolling down the path without a care. It was a sight to behold as they blended into the evening crowd seamlessly. Near the edge of the market space, they paused until SG-1 caught up.
“I take it subtle is not something with which you are familiar? If you wish to avoid prosecution, then I suggest exiting the town before the gates close.” The one called Ezra warned them while Vin haggled for something in the last stall.
“Here, slip this over your clothes,” Vin said while handing out poncho-like garments.
Understanding the intention, they quickly complied before they all moved toward the gate. “Whatever happens, let Ez do all the talkin’. I mean it. Not a peep.” Vin searched each of them, his gaze lingering longest on Teal’c before moving behind and slightly to the side of Ezra.
There were two guards with pikes at the smaller side gate exit. Jack had noted that many travelers were headed toward the main gate as they made their way here.
“Josiur my good man. What indiscretion did you commit to be stuck on the evening duty?”
“Ace?” The two guards jumped up while holding their pikes forward. “You are under arrest awaiting trial. Orders were given in case the two of you try escaping again.”
Ezra kept walking slowly forward, Tanner at his back. “Now if we were trying to escape do you think we would just walk right up to the gate like this?” Jack tensed slightly, ready to take down one of the guards. “You should know better than to listen to rumors in the market.”
Josiur looked confused and, while still watching Ezra, slowly lowered his pike, “Yeah Tigh, we should know better than to listen to rumors.” Tigh nodded.
“We better be moving along before you are ordered to close the gate.”
“You better be moving along before we get the order to close the gate.”
“Is that the gate bell now?”
“That’s the gate bell now.”
“No one passed through this gate after sunset,” Ezra said as the last of them passed out of the gate opening. The guards were already closing it.
“Tigh, I’m glad we didn’t have to deal with anyone trying to leave this way tonight.” Jack heard as the gate was barred from the inside.
“I agree Josiur, they always try to rush at the last moment.”
Daniel opened his mouth to ask a question, but Jack waved him off as they followed their new friends toward the Stargate. They calmly joined the queue of merchants and customers who were waiting their turn to leave. When their turn came bells began to toll in the town behind them, and the one known as Vin quickly dialed an address and started to pull a visibly flagging Ezra through the open gate. Making a decision, Jack followed with his team.
They had barely cleared the chapa’ai into bright light, hot air, and a sea of sand when Vin started dialing again. Ezra was leaning hard against him. As it activated, Vin turned back to assist Ezra and said, “We done held up our side of the bargain. Go where ya want now, but I recommend not stayin’ here long. There’s some critters not so friendly. They stay away when this is open but move in ta feed when it shuts down.”
He didn’t have much time. The migraines hit Ez fast and hard when he pushed this way. He needed to get him to safety. Moving back toward the chapa’ai, the leader of the group that had followed them stepped forward, and Vin finally had the chance to look at them…and stopped. Those were P-90s they were carrying. And the uniform screamed military on the man whose rank insignia showed colonel. He let loose with his sense of smell which he had locked down after sensing the jaffa and recognized the gunpowder and gun oil that he hadn’t smelled in months.
“Who are you…..where?” Vin asked.
“Colonel Jack O’Neill. Air Force, SG-1.” Jack replied, then continued, “Captain Sam Carter, Dr. Daniel Jackson, Teal’c. And you?”
“Agent Vin Tanner…” Vin paused then continued hopefully, “ATF.”
The woman, Carter, jerked then asked, “ATF? Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms?”
Vin went down to his knees gripping tightly to Ezra who was now unconscious. “Oh God, Earth. You’re really truly from Earth?” He drew in a shuddering breath. “Do ya know the way back? Did ya come on a ship or through the chapa’ai? Is Earth ok?”
“Whoa, slow down. Here, let’s help get your friend up and get off this world first, ok?” O’Neill said. “Teal’c, can you carry his friend?”
Vin jerked back holding onto Ezra. “No. I’ve got him. No one touches him like this.”
“OK, you’ve got him” Jack exchanged looks with Teal’c as the Jaffa stepped back with a slight nod. “Can I…help you up? Vin nodded and allowed O’Neill and the one he called Jackson to assist him on rising. He repositioned Ezra into a fireman’s carry and entered the blue pool.
On the other side, he kept walking though he had a hundred questions to ask. Earth, could they truly be this close to going home again? Hope was rising fast and coming close to choking him. He needed to focus on the now. That’s how ya stay alive out here. A short walk brought them to the edge of a pool fed by a beautiful cascade of waterfalls. Vin followed the path he had found when he and Ezra first came to this world and walked behind the waterfall into the hidden cave. They frequently used this location to hide and for storage.
The team followed him into the cave, and the one called Jackson helped him spread bedding so that he could lay Ezra down.
“On that world, he did something to the guards, didn’t he?” Jackson asked.
Vin’s eyes raised swiftly to Jackson’s. “Ez is one of the best people I know. Wouldn’t hurt no one that didn’t need it. An’ only iffin it’s the only way.”
Carter had removed her pack and moved to sit on one of the storage boxes. “You’re from Earth…Where is he from?”
“Earth,” Vin answered confused for a moment. “Ez is human. 100% Earth.” And he saw Jack raised an eyebrow questioningly. “He is. He’s just special. He’s ATF like me, Agent Ezra Standish. We’s taken together.”
Jack leaned forward, “Taken from Earth? How?”
Vin looked down, wishing Ez was awake to answer these questions. “We was on a stakeout. We were watchin’ for someone we thought was sellin’ guns to gangs in Denver when all of a sudden there were these rings and light. Didn’t know it then but the guys were meetin’ up with a Goa’uld named Dyeus. I don’t know what they was arguin’ about because somehow Ez and me, we were spotted. I got zapped with one of those zat guns. Ez tol’ me later that Dyeus ordered his Jaffa to kill everyone else and they zapped away all the bodies. He decided to keep the two of us. Wanted to keep us as pets or sumthin’.”
He looked up into their faces to watch their expressions. “Don’t rightly know if he wanted me. Never did see him up close like. I was in solitary the whole time. But Ez, he had Ez dragged to him day after day.”
Jackson was contemplating, “Dyeus. He was the god of…”
“Nothing.” Vin cut him off. “He’s dead.”
“Really?” Jack asked perking up. “Happy to hear it. How did that happen?”
“He had Ez followin’ him about on that ship like a lapdog. Ez started fawnin’ all over him and who knows why but its like he forgot we were kidnapped or somethin’ and started believin’ Ez means it. Soon enough Ez has a stockpile of weapons and access keys that they’re just handin’ over pretty as you please. Then talked ol’ Dyeus inta stoppin’ on a world ta let us sightsee. While they’re gettin’ ready Ez breaks me out, and then we use those rings ta leave the ship. Only Ez set up those purple explosives to blow up near the crystals in the Al’Kesh’s engine room ta disable the ship and maybe let us get away.”
Teal’c raised an eyebrow. “That type of explosive would do more than just disable a ship if detonated in the engine room.”
“Yeah, we found that out right quick. It was like another sun in the sky for a moment. We’s free but trapped out here. Ez told me that accordin’ to Dyeus, Earth’s chapa’ai is blocked, and there’s no way there but by ship. But Dyeus was gonna set me down on some world without one so’s Ez would behave. No matter what he weren’t ever able ta talk him outta that. So we hadta escape first chance.” Vin shook his head and looked back down at Ezra’s sleeping face with just the edges of pain still tight around his eyes.
“Well, we have a way to go home. As soon as you’re ready, we can dial the gate back to Earth.” Jackson stated.
“Can’t, not yet,” Vin replied firmly.
“We can get Ezra medical help back on Earth,” Carter added.
“He’ll be right as rain in another couple hours or so. But we’ve got us some obligations we gots ta see to first. Would appreciate the help iffin ya don’t mind.” Vin pleaded the path home so incredibly close now.
“What kind of obligations?” Jack asked just as Daniel was agreeing, “Of Course.”
“Daniel,” Jack said warningly.
“Jack,” Daniel replied exasperated.
“Yeah. Sure. Glad to help. What exactly are we helping with?”
Vin lead them to a chamber off the side wherein there were several large sacks and two carts. “We just have to make a delivery ta some people who really need it.”
Jack moved forward to a partially open sack and reached in pulling out a handful of seeds.
It was approximately two hours later when Jack saw Vin pause in loading and redistributing the bags of seeds and other goods. He suddenly leaned his head to the side as if listening to something. He had seen him do this a couple times, but this time the man stopped what he was doing and moved back toward the main cavern.
“Ez is wakin’ up.”
Jack looked at Teal’c who shrugged. No one had called out. They followed and watched Tanner kneel next to Standish’s pallet. The man looked asleep. Tanner lovingly ran his hand through Standish’s hair and the soft smile Jack saw confirmed what he had already suspected about their relationship. Slowly Standish stretched slightly and opened his green eyes. His gaze locked with Tanners and a feeling of love and contentment swept through the area that started to build toward a desire that made Jack suddenly uncomfortable.
“Holy crap!” Carter’s expletive about summed it up for Jack and the lustful feelings disappeared with a snap.
Snickering from Vin had Ezra looking a combination of mortified and outraged. “Better rein that in partner. We’ve got company.”
“Was that some kind of emotional projection? Is it similar to what you did to the guards at the market? Were you able to do that back home on Earth or is that an ability that the Goa’uld gave you?”
“Daniel!” Jack hissed at the man. It’s not like Jack doesn’t want the answers himself, but how can the man go from seriously inappropriate boner to scientific interrogation without having to take a breath and get ahold…scratch that…control of himself? Did that not affect him? No, Jack wasn’t looking. Some things were beaten out of a man in basic and checking teammates for…get it together Jack and stop thinking about it.
“Jack…” And there was the whining.
“I apologize immensely for my lack of control. Suffice it to say I was not immediately aware of your presence and would in no way want to make any of you uncomfortable…I beg your pardon, did you say Earth?” Ezra looked sharply at them then turned to Vin for confirmation.
The beaming smile from Vin was an answer even before he spoke. “Earth! They’s really truly from Earth Ez. We’re goin’ home.”
“I was under the impression that there is a shield over the chapa’ai on Earth and I am unaware of any ships of Earth origin capable of traversing this distance.” Ezra looked at the team before him, evaluating the truth.
“The Stargate on Earth, what you call the chapa’ai, is protected by a shield to prevent the Goa’uld entry. But Stargate Command sends teams out to explore and gain intel. We have a device that…”
“Daniel!” This time Jack’s reprimand was clear.
“But Jack, we’re taking them home,” Daniel responded confused.
“Your team leader is correct in restricting information of that nature. While I personally would like credible proof that what you say is true, it does no good restricting access if you give everyone a key to the lock.” He took a deep breath. “And, while I am anxious to return home, Mr. Tanner and I do have some obligations that must first be met.”
“I’s tol’ them about the delivery already Ez. They’s gonna help.”
“In that case I suggest we complete that task post-haste. I see you have moved almost everything into the main cavern. Is the path to the chap…Stargate clear Mr. Tanner?” Jack watched as he reached out and placed his hand on Vin’s arm in a light grip. Vin cocked his head to the side as if listening and then his eyes glazed over slightly.
“No one here but us. Path is clear. There’s one of those cat-like things about a quarter mile out past the…Stargate, but it’s hunting the hoppers so no threat. Past that…” Vin’s voice started to fade.
“Mr. Tanner, you will pull that back in immediately!” Ezra’s command was felt in Jack’s bones. Tanner seemed to respond instantly and the tense frame relaxed into a slouch once more.
“Sorry Ez. There’s a herd of them horses out there, and I’s just get distracted every time I see them. I miss Peso.” Vin said contritely.
“Be that as it may, you cannot allow yourself the luxury of that indulgence.” Ezra sighed. “Let us load the last bags and depart. The village needs those seeds if they are to survive.”
They finished loading the last three bags and began pushing and pulling the two wagons along the path to the Stargate. While Vin, Jack, Sam, and Daniel sweated over one of the carts, Jack looked longingly at the second cart where Standish seemed to be strolling along with barely a hand on the cart while Teal’c did all the work pulling it. He would complain, but it was obvious the guy had done something to help them escape, so he supposed he earned taking it easy but to watch the two of them steadily pull ahead while the rest of them were sweating.
At the gate, Tanner and Standish stopped to pull out jackets. Tanner’s was some kind of buckskin coat pieced together from hides while Standish’s appeared to be something closer to a well made woolen style. It seemed odd in the current heat but Tanner shrugged, “It’s a might chill this time of day on Sanctuary. It’s early spring.”
They walked through to a day barely dawning in a lush green meadow. Once more Standish reached out and touched Tanner while Tanner did that listening thing. He grinned broadly and pointed toward some bushes not far from the side of the path ahead, then went back to pushing the wagon. As they neared the bushes, Standish reached into his bag and said, “It is too bad there is no one watching for travelers. I would have enjoyed sharing my honey-beads. I guess I must simply partake of them by myself.”
Three small children popped up from behind the bush crying “tutor!”
“Oh my! Vin it appears we did have some diminutive lookouts.” Ezra smiled.
“We did good tutor! You not even see us!”
Vin looked them over seriously then grinned, “You did really good. I see you was practicin’ whiles we’re gone.” The children all smiled at the praise. “Ya think maybe they earned some of them honey-beads Ez?”
The children turned to look hopefully at Standish whose face was suddenly serious, but his body language relaxed, “I suppose dedicated students in the art of surveillance deserve such a reward.” He grinned, and there was excitement as he passed out small squares of paper with amber beads of candy stuck to it. The children eagerly accepted the candy before they ran down the path that Jack assumed was toward the aforementioned village.
The village consisted of several long halls in a row with what appeared to be a barn, black-smithy, and a few workshops. There were signs further out of more traditional small houses under construction. People were moving about completing morning chores. Several waved toward Standish and Tanner before going on with their work, others called out greetings that the duo readily answered in what seemed to Jack to be a smattering of English, Spanish, and something else that he just knew Daniel would explain later…in detail…lots of detail.
What amazed Jack the most were the children. Children were running everywhere, all with a smile for Vin and Ezra. They stopped the wagons in front of one of the buildings, and a bucket line of older children mixed with much older men and women were ready to unload and store the goods. Once that chore was smoothly underway the two men motioned the team to follow them to the largest hall. Inside a kitchen was in full service with people filling up tables to eat. An older woman with grey hair was obviously in charge and broke away with a smile toward the men that became stern upon seeing Jack’s team.
Vin moved forward to great her with a hug that earned him a smile. Standish remained with the team as the two finished their greeting and approached. The woman looked sternly at Standish and waited for him to make a quarter bow before saying, “Well Mr. Fancy. Are you bringing more trouble to my hall?”
“I assure you I never seek to bring trouble, I am often surprised at the amount I naturally attract.” He then turned slightly to introduce his visitors. “May I introduce Colonel Jack O’Neill, Captain Sam Carter, Doctor Daniel Jackson, and Teal’c who we are assured no longer serves the Goa’uld. Lady, gentlemen, it is my honor to present to you the Matriarch of our fair Sanctuary, Neh-Tee of the Four Wells Clan.”
“Do you seek Sanctuary among us?” Neh-Tee asked formally.
Daniel stepped forward, “We are peaceful explorers seeking only an exchange of knowledge, goodwill, and possibly trade.”
“And yet you bring weapons among us?”
Jack spoke up, “Well we don’t always find goodwill.”
She watched Jack closely but spoke to Tanner and Standish, “And you, Tutors, trust their intention.”
“Yeah, we do. We vouch for their safe passage. But Neh-Tee, they’s from our homeworld. We can finally go home.” Vin looked a strange combination of elated and depressed. “You know we been workin’ non-stop ta find us a way home. We just can’t pass up this chance. Might not get another, and…”
“Quiet child,” She looked at Vin with sadness and true affection. “Everyone needs dreams in order to survive. I would never take yours away. If your path is meant to lead you back to us, then it will someday. We have given you what knowledge we had, but Tutors must be free to follow as the spirits lead. You have already repaid us ten-fold. Go in peace. You will be missed,” she hugged Vin and then looked over his shoulder at Ezra with a mirthful scowl, “some more than others.”
Under his breath, but still audible Ezra muttered, “Old crone.” She released Vin before quickly pulling Ezra in for a hug and releasing him. She turned away and walked back to the kitchen without another glance. Ezra watched her leave with a wistful expression before turning toward the door. “She has said her goodbyes, she will not speak to us again.”
Outside they separated to pick up their belongings and say their goodbyes. Jack and team wandered around the tiny village, Daniel engaging several people in conversation while they waited. “There’s something just a little off about this place,” Jack stated.
“Like what, Sir?” Carter asked as several children ran by in the direction that Standish and Tanner had headed.
“I’m not certain.”
“It’s the kids,” Daniel stated, returning to their group. Jack furrowed his brow, and Teal’c just raised that one eyebrow. Daniel gestured at the people industriously at work. “Everyone here is either a child, most just entering puberty, or they’re past child-bearing age. Where are the parents?”
Jack looked around and realized it was true. There were only a handful of adults that could possibly be parents. Before they could discuss it further Standish and Tanner returned with a group of children surrounding them, Tanner had one small child with a splinted leg sitting on his shoulders. Both carried packs. The children did not look happy.
“You’re leaving for always this time?” One small girl with braided red hair and freckles asked, a sad frown on her little face.
“Miss Ani-Leh, it is time for myself and Mr. Tanner to depart and we do not know if we will ever return. But remember what I have told you. As long as you remember and share those memories with others, then your friends and family will always live within you.” He smiled at all of the children then said, “Health and home to each of you.”
Vin repeated, “Health and home munchkins.”
The children responded somewhat together, “Safe travels and happy return Tutors.” Then the older children grabbed the younger and resolutely turned them to walk away.
Picking up their bags the two men faced Jack, “We’re ready to go home.”
Five hours of hell later Vin was starting to regret returning to Earth. OK, regret was too strong. He was on Earth again but who could tell. Canned air under tons of rock, deep under a mountain. And if those vampires came at him again with one more needle, he was going to give it back to them. He heard a small tut and flipped Ezra the bird.
He took a calming breath and looked at Ezra, who was a bit pale. Ez had never liked people ta touch him much, and since they was taken, it had gotten worse. Empath the Goa’uld called him. Ez could shut most of it out, but not when skin met skin. Those latex gloves just weren’t thick enough to block anything, and docs and nurses just never seemed to ask first before touchin’. Suddenly Ezra reached out and grabbed Vin’s hand, and he realized he must have been growling.
“I’m alright. Just tired of bein’ poked and prodded. Just tired, period. It’s been a long day, and I just wanna talk to Chris and the guys again.” Vin changed his grip until their fingers were laced together.
“I too am ready to quit this locale, but I do not believe we will be allowed contact with our compatriots any time soon.” Ezra sighed as he glanced toward the guards that had stood at the doorway to medical since they arrived. “I applaud their efforts to ensure we do not carry anything back with us that would harm Earth. But I believe this extended medical check is a delaying tactic while the powers that be determine the best method with which to contain or control us.”
The short brunette doctor returned to the room, “Considering what you have been through the two of you are in excellent health. I have a few tests that will need to process overnight, but otherwise, I am releasing you both for the night. The airmen will lead you to your rooms where you can clean up and change clothes. Then they will escort you to the mess for dinner. I’ll need to see you back here in the morning so I can finalize my medical report.”
Vin didn’t hesitate to slide off the exam table and pulled Ezra along with him. The airmen tried to split them into separate rooms but Vin was having none of it, and Ezra uncharacteristically was keeping his own counsel. Vin knew from experience that this was Ez trusting him to protect him while he was deep in his mind examining information.
They quickly showered and changed into the clothing provided, in this case, sweatpants and T-shirt. Daniel was waiting outside the door to join them for dinner. Vin could smell the mess from the elevator without trying: pizza, hamburgers, French fries!!! He never realized how wonderful French fries smelled. This was a little piece of heaven right here.
Three plates of hamburger and fries later he slowed down for a moment and realized that the tables around them had become silent. Daniel was just staring at him. “What’s wrong?” Daniel didn’t answer, just continued to stare.
Jack, who had joined them shortly after they started laughed a little. “Congratulations, I’ve never seen Danny speechless. Missed the food, did you?”
“I can’t remember when’s the last time I had an actual hamburger. Not sayin’ the food out yonder is all bad. I mean there’s these wonderful meat pies on Loyion that just make your mouth water and you’d never guess it was from those lizard things. I think I’m gonna miss Midsummer Festival there.” Vin smiled a wicked little smile and shared a heated look with Ezra who began to blush.
Clearing his throat to regain his composure Ezra clarified, “I believe they are amazed over the prestigious amount of food you have consumed.”
“Awe Ez, I need more than that rabbit food ya insist on ta survive. Just finally beat down the holla spot in my belly. Sides, it’s just a few burgers and fries. Not like I really ate anything. Remember the time we had that….wait,” Vin spun around to stare at the door, “is that pie?” A moment later it opened, and a cart was pushed into the room that was covered in three shelves of pie slices on plates. He grabbed his tray from the table and sped over as they were unloading to load up on peach, apple, cherry, chocolate, pumpkin. Then stopped and got an extra slice of apple for Ez.
Sitting back down with a huge smile Vin handed Ez his pie and then picked up the fork while deciding which to try first. He took a bite of the peach, savoring all the flavors. The sweet buttery goodness of the flaky crust, the way the cinnamon blended with the flavor of the peach………
Jack shook his head, “There will be more pie.”
Ezra laughed, “Please feel free to take a slice. He does not need to eat all of that. Though I am pleased to see that his appetite is unaffected by our change in circumstances.”
“This is normal?” Daniel asked. Jack grabbed the slice of pumpkin pie to hide his grin. Daniel had been speechless for four whole minutes. New record. “Um, are you sure he’s ok?”
Jack looked up to see Tanner frozen in place. The empty fork lowered only six inches from his face, eyes dilated and glazed, no movement at all.
Standish reached around to take the fork from his hand pushing back the pies, “Come back to me Vin. Focus on my voice. Feel my hand upon your arm. Fingernails scraping against the back of your hand.”
Suddenly Tanner snapped out of it and looked down to see the pies moved away and Standish holding onto him. Jack watched as a knowing look passed between them before Tanner swallowed and spoke, “Sorry about that Ez. Guess I shouldn’ta started with the peach. But it just tastes so good.”
“Be that as it may Vin, you have lost pie privileges for this evening, and earned yourself an hour of meditation.”
“So ya wanna explain about that?” Jack made a vague motion between Tanner and the pies. “And maybe about what you did with the guards?” Jack raised an eyebrow at their silence daring them to pretend there was nothing.
Ezra looked around at the people in the mess hall, “Perhaps this is a discussion for a more private location?”
Jack led them to the conference room near General Hammond’s office. He took a moment to knock on the general’s door. “Come in.”
“Sir, I have Tanner and Standish here.”
“I thought we were going to wait until morning to debrief?”
“Yes sir, but I believe there is some information that we really need tonight,” Jack said unapologetically.
Hammond sighed and picked up a couple of file folders before joining Jack and Daniel in the conference room with their visitors for introductions.
Hammond began, “Well gentlemen, we have a full debrief scheduled for tomorrow.” He flipped open the files. “Agent Vincent Michael Tanner and Agent Ezra P Standish disappeared just over nine months ago from a stakeout. Forensic evidence was inconclusive. All that was found was Agent Tanner’s empty Jeep. Active search for the missing agents resulted in no leads. The men were listed as missing and presumed dead a month later.” He looked at the serious expressions on the faces of the two men. “We are still gathering information, but Colonel O’Neill indicated you have something to share tonight?” The two men tensed and then Tanner turned his head toward the closed door. He stood up, walked to the door and opened it. On the other side, Teal’c and Carter stood, Carter with a hand just raising to knock.
O’Neill motioned them in before waving his hand around, “Yeah, that. What is that?”
The men exchanged another look before Vin started, “I’ve always had really good eyes, even when I’s a lil’un I could see farther than most. Made me a really good sniper. When I was in the Army, Ranger training my hearing and smell got a little better. After we was taken, all that time alone in that cell, it’s like it all sharpened. All my senses are like that now. Don’t know why or how. But it’s sumthin I was born with.”
Carter asked, “How are you able to use that. In the cave, you talked about seeing horses?”
“That’s a little harder to explain. With Ez’s help, I can stretch really far. So I listened for everything out there. But even when ya hear sumthin’ sometimes ya can’t figure out what it is. So I just used my hearin’ ta give a…well a piggyback ride to my sight so’s I can see what I’m hearin’.”
“You will forgive me if I’m not convinced that this is just something natural,” Hammond stated. “I’ve never heard of anything like this on Earth.”
“Actually that’s not completely true,” Daniel spoke up.
“Dr. Jackson, are you telling me there are some archeological records that indicate super senses?” Hammond asked.
“There’s a grad student in Washington that has published his master’s thesis on what he called primitive sentinels. They were tribal protectors with hyperactive senses.”
“And you’re just mentioning this now?” Jack asked.
“I tracked it down before dinner. I was going to finish reading it and bring it to tomorrow’s meeting Jack.” Daniel replied.
“Doctor, if you could go ahead and share with us what you’ve learned I would appreciate it.” Hammond redirected.
“I don’t know much more than that. He had stories from oral tradition and referenced a book, The Sentinels of Paraguay. I did read that he had case studies and interviews with several people who had one or two enhanced senses to support the theory that someone with all five senses enhanced could exist but he did not have a living example.”
Vin broke in, “don’t know all that history stuff, but among the people there have been stories of warriors blessed by the Great Spirit. Don’t know if I’d say I’m blessed, but I am what I am. Miss Neh-Tee’s people called us Tutors.” He looked to Ezra.
“Tutors roughly translates to protector, guardian, and also advisor,” Ezra stated.
Carter spoke up, “At the village everyone called you both Tutor.”
Ezra tensed then nodded once. “The villagers believe Tutors come in pairs. One to protect from the physical threats and one to advise on the spirit realm. In essence, once with enhanced senses and one with mental gifts.”
“You speak of the Lazlok’kek,” Teal’c stated.
“The chosen death?” Daniel translated.
“I believe a more correct translation is Death’s chosen warriors” Ezra corrected. “I honestly do not understand all of their euphemisms, but the language is inventive.”
“Lazlok’kek are to be destroyed on sight. The Gods consider them an abomination.” Teal’c smiled slightly. “They are the only hosts a Goa’uld cannot possess. To try is madness and death.”
“Well now, how about that.” Jack grinned.
Carter’s brow furrowed, “But I thought you said the Goa’uld who took you wanted to keep you as pets? Why didn’t he kill you outright.”
“I honestly don’t know. He recognized that I was empathic though I did not know it at the time and took both of us. At first, he was brutal, but after a few meetings, he started to relax around me, then treated me like his favorite lapdog. I would have found it humiliating if it wasn’t for the intel I was able to gather. I did not actually see Mr. Tanner until I engineered our escape.” Ezra explained.
“OK, so you were able to sweet talk a Goa’uld. Was it like what you did to the guards? Because that was some serious use of the Force there Obi-Wan.” Jack asked, and Vin started to snicker.
“I assure you I am not some Jedi misfit. That particular parlor trick does not work on everyone and as you witnessed the repercussions are extremely debilitating.” Ezra huffed.
Carter grinned, “I am still fascinated by how well it worked. Though they seemed to know you. They mentioned you escaping again? So just how did you end up in jail?”
Ezra let out a long drawn out sigh, “I assure you that entire debacle began with but a minor misunderstanding. We were entered into a game of chance, Pocci. It has some similarity to poker but with six suits of cards. I had finally made it into a game with Tiershan, a most odiferous merchant of extremely expensive drive crystals. No one has learned his sources, but he is one of the few with such merchandise outside Goa’uld control. Most let him win to stay in his good graces, but as we had not been able to raise the funds to buy a crystal outright, I raised the stakes until a crystal was his only option for staying in the game. I had the winning hand if Mr. Tanner had not interfered.” He glared at Tanner as he jumped to his own defense.
“He was cheatin’ ya Ez. That crystal was pure garbage. There were microfractures all up inside that thing.” Vin was pissed.
“Be that as it may, we could have leveraged that against his good name and forced him into trading a usable crystal.” Ezra’s voice raised. “Instead you call him on it in the middle of the tavern. The tavern his sister owns. The sister who is married to the Magistrate of that fair town. The same Magistrate that has been looking for an excuse to jail us, again.”
Jack had been watching the explosion with a bit of humor when the question crossed his mind, “Why did you need a drive crystal?”
Vin perked up, “Well, for our tel’tak.”
Carter became excited, “You have a tel’tak? Is it working, how did you get it, where…”
“Carter!” Jack interrupted, “Give the man a chance to explain.”
Vin shrugged, “We been workin’ ta get back from the beginning. They said your chap…Stargate was blocked, so we figured the only way back was the way we was taken. Weren’t really sure what we would find, but it’s amazin’ what’s out there if you’re willin’ to improvise.” Then he smiled at Ezra.
“We would, of course, be willing to share our bounty with you, with some minor stipulations.” Ezra started.
Hammond looked stern, “Stipulations. Bringing you home is not enough?” He raised his eyebrow.
Ezra stared him down, unflinching. “Yes we are back on Earth, but let us not kid ourselves, we are not home yet. You want a debrief, that is reasonable. But how long will we be held here? How long until we are allowed contact with friends and family that surely believe us deceased at this juncture. I am not naïve enough to believe that there are not those who would willingly subvert our autonomy in the name of national security. After all, there is no one out there to question our continued absence.”
Daniel interjected, “Of course you’re going to be allowed to contact your family.”
Ezra continued his unbroken staring contest with the General. Vin was shifting slightly in a way that spoke danger. The silence continued.
Daniel looked back and forth, “We are going to let them go back to their lives, right?”
Jack sighed and rubbed a tired hand across his face and watched as the General broke eye contact with Standish to look at Jackson. The deliberate move saving him face when Jack just knew Standish had him beat in that game. “Unfortunately Doctor Jackson such decisions will have to come from those with a higher authority than our own.”
“You can’t just keep them prisoner. Why bring them back to Earth if we are just going to lock them up?”
“Daniel!” Jack exchanged glances with Hammond. “We are not going to lock them up. But when and how they are allowed out of here depends on decisions we haven’t been able to make yet. It’s been one day. How about we all calm down, get a good night’s sleep, and take this up after tomorrow’s debrief.”
They all retired reluctantly. Jack contemplated how to make this happen. He kinda liked the guys, and though the secrecy of the program was paramount, he really wanted to help them. But, how do you suddenly just reintroduce two people that, let’s face it, weren’t normal anymore?
Five days they’ve been ‘home’ and three long boring days of debriefing. First, ya say it, then they write it out, then they question ya about what’s written out. Then they make ya say it again. This is why he left the Army to begin with. Never did like any of that junk after a mission.
Vin sat at a table in the mess, slowly tearing his latest copy of the debrief into strips and folding them into paper footballs. He had empty plates of food for the goalposts and was about 78 pages in. He scratched at his arm. Damn, have ta talk to th’ doc about getting another detergent. This one isn’t workin’ either. The guard on him today was Martins. Good man, up ta date on all the football scores. Better than that Bates fella, a potential tutor that one but probably too rigid to ever get there.
He and Ez didn’t share everything about what made Tutors a pair. Military thinks it would be a great idea to find pairs that are immune to the Goa’uld and can do recon like he could, but they would run fast if they knew that ya had ta be partners in every way in order for it ta work. Sure he had some senses before Ez, but it was like he was nearsighted and near deaf compared to what he received after they bonded.
Not that he needed the senses to want Ez. He had been stalking that one since they met. Deep down didn’t think he’d get him to be honest. Ez was way outta his league. Truthfully, he was a little worried about how the guys would take it. Not so much Chris. Things were better but still a lot in law enforcement that wouldn’t come outta the closet. He had straight up told Chris he was bi before accepting the job. Better to know up front if there was an issue. Chris had just looked at him like he was stupid and said that as long as that wasn’t the weapon he was firin’ off on the job, then he didn’t care where he holstered it at night.
Thinking of Chris just made him sigh. There were guys here from whatever alphabet, and they all wanted to get their fingers into the mess. Vin and Ez had heard talk. These guys send them to their room like they’re children bein’ put to bed then talk about how they can ‘utilize these resources’ like they’re not even people. Thing is that even though they know they’s been a buggin’ their room, Ez and him gots other ways to communicate. And listenin’ in is easy when there are these vents all over the place.
There was that shimmering vibration of the Stargate activating. No alarms so just one of the teams coming back on schedule. There were three out. Vin had listened to the chatter, standard meetups. They were lookin’ for sumthin’ out there, but Vin tuned out the details. Not his business.
They were bidin’ their time to give the General and Jack a chance to make good. But, if these bozos thought they could actually hold them iffin’ they want to be gone, then they’re smokin’ somethin’ freaky. A couple of those guys radiated corruption and deception. Ez was in Doc Jackson’s office discussin’ some history articles. Boring. Well, he was havin’ some fun discussin’ while layin’ the groundwork for the corruption issue. Daniel was sympathetic, and Ez said he had a mind clear of guile.
Martins took a message from an airman. Vin grinned. At least O’Neill had figured out to write it down if he didn’t want them to know in advance. Looking up, “The Colonel would like to speak to you in his office.” Vin stood up to join him and looked at the mess around the table. Guess he shredded more of that report than he thought. “Airman Harris will be happy to pick that up.”
Vin walked with Martins following closely behind him toward the elevator. “Hey, Martins. Pass the word not ta eat the meatloaf tonight. I think they dumped a ton of salt in it and their tryin’ ta hide it.”
“Thanks, Tanner. I’ll let the guys know.”
Vin pushed the up elevator button, and Martins spoke up, “Colonel O’Neill’s office is down on 27.”
“I know. But Ez is up with Doc Jackson. Gotta go get him.” Vin explained.
“The message didn’t mention anything about Mr. Standish.” Martins started when the elevator doors opened.
Vin smiled as he looked up and saw SG-14 covered in slime. Looks like they discovered the wading pools on Roltear. Hope they wash that off fast. He started to step forward with Martins protesting behind him when a smell hit him hard and fast, he listened to the inner vibrations and without a moment’s hesitation dragged Sgt Shawn Draper off the elevator and pinned him to the floor.
Draper bucked and tried to fight back. Movement and noise exploded around him, but he held fast ordering Draper, “KREE SHAK!” Draper’s struggles increased while he called out to his team for help. Hands that were reaching for Vin suddenly backed off quickly as the growl of an extremely large mountain lion sounded. The sounds of Martins calling for help in his radio blended with the rest of the noise. Vin’s only concern was in holding onto Draper.
Jack arrived on level 22 to see the…ok yes, that is a mountain lion. He paused a moment to evaluate the situation. Tanner had Sgt Draper pinned to the floor. The remainder of SG-14, Martins and six others assigned to security were being kept back with arms at the ready. Further back was probably half the mess. And then there was the huge cat pacing between Tanner and everyone else. Jack started to move toward them, and the cat looked at him with intelligent, evaluating eyes.
Draper was calling for help and Tanner didn’t even seem aware of the firearms pointed in his direction. Draper struggled again, and Tanner ordered, “Shel Kree!”
Wait, Jack knows this one, surrender, he might have heard it a few times. He decided to try to diffuse the situation. “Everyone stand down.” He ordered and reinforced the command with a glare at the armed men. The cat, however, continued to pace. “Tanner, why don’t you let Sgt Draper up now and we can all talk about this.”
“Sir, He’s crazy. Just grabbed me for no reason. You’ve got to get him off of me sir.” Draper started.
“Ha’re Kree.” Tanner ordered and pressed harder.
OK, that’s….be silent. Hey, Daniel would be impressed. Suddenly the elevator door opened and Standish came running off, Daniel at his side. Without hesitating, Standish pushed his way through the armed airmen. When one attempted to grab him the mountain lion growled and suddenly was joined by a large fox.
Standish reached Tanner’s side and lightly touched his shoulder. He tensed, and the Fox let out an angry scream.
“Jack, what’s going on?” Daniel asked. “We were packing up to go to your office when Ezra suddenly insisted Vin needed him.”
Jack just shrugged and waived in the direction of the commotion. Then he called out, “Standish, I could really use your help de-escalating the situation. How about getting Tanner to listen to you and let go of the nice Sargent?”
“Oh, I don’t think that is a very good idea,” Standish replied.
Great. Now there’s two of them. “If there’s an issue here I’m sure it’s something we can all discuss nice and peaceful like.” Jack sighed. “Come on. I don’t wanna see anyone hurt here.” A movement to the side had people making way for Teal’c to join the party.
Standish ignored him and stepped to the side of Tanner before he spoke to Draper. “Tal shal mak?”
Teal’c raised an eyebrow and Daniel translated, “Identify yourself.” Wait. What?
Standish touched Draper lightly, and he started to buck. Teal’c moved forward decisively, and the dang animals parted for him. Jack tried to follow and was blocked. He watched Teal’c help Tanner restrain the struggling man.
All of a sudden Draper’s eyes flashed, and the distinctive reverberation of a Goa’uld voice came from his mouth, “Go’tak Lazlok’kek!” He struggled harder but could not move.
Standish reached once more, “You have taken that which was not freely given. You will leave this vessel of your own free will, or you will be forced from it. I will not allow you to keep what does not belong to you.”
It felt like a weight in the room as Draper began screaming. Suddenly his mouth opened wide, and the snake came rushing out. Tanner abandoned his hold on the now unconscious Draper and in one smooth motion pulled the knife from the sheath on Draper’s boot and threw it at the retreating Goa’uld, severing the head.
The animals faded away, and Jack moved forward just in time to catch Standish as he collapsed. Jack heard Martins call for medics through the radio and helped Tanner lay Ezra out next to Draper.
Hammond joined Jack and the rest of SG-1 in the infirmary. Fraiser finished giving instructions to her people before joining them to report. “First, the rest of SG-14 are clear, and I have them showering now. Sgt Draper is unconscious but stable. We will know more when he wakes up.” She glanced back to the far bed where Tanner sat holding the hand of the unconscious Standish. “As for Mr. Standish, I don’t have an explanation for his state. Mr. Tanner would not allow any of us to touch him. We were able to talk him into allowing us to monitor his progress so I can say that his heart rhythm is normal, but I need more scans to know what happened, Sir.”
Hammond shook his head slightly, “I think they have earned the right to make that decision themselves. For all intents and purposes, Mr. Tanner is Mr. Standish’s next of kin. He has the right to make that decision.” Hammond moved forward to Standish’s bedside.“It appears we owe the two of you a debt. How did you know Sgt Draper was infested?”
“Could smell’em. Goa’uld has a pretty bad, two-day-old fish smell up close. It’s hard to describe. But smell one, and you’ll never forget it. Once I knew there was one in the group, listened for them. Lotsa sounds in the human body, but the little snakes kinda shake from within. Once I had’em, called for Ez ta take care of it.”
“What exactly did Mr. Standish do? I’ve seen the security video, and it just looks like he touched him.” Hammond inquired.
“Don’t rightly know it all myself. Accordin’ to Ez the Goa’uld like the feelin’ of power takin’ a host gives em. They kinda feed on the fear of the host. But see, even though they like that, they really can’t take bein’ on the other end. He kinda turns all the fear and pain back on them, and they either go mad or die. Either way, they just have ta get outta the body they’re in ta make it stop.”
Daniel motioned toward the unconscious Standish, “Is this like the guards at the market?”
Vin shrugged, “Kinda. What he did with the guards takes a lot outta him, but they’re human. It puts him down hard, but Ez bounces back pretty quick. This, he’ll probably be out the next couple days. Last time he evicted one of those things he was out for three days, and it took him a week before he wasn’t plumb exhausted all the time.”
Hammond’s eyes widened, “So he’s done this before?”
“Yeah. But the longer one of them Goa’uld’s been in someone, the harder it is to force em out. Most times it’s just easier to kill the host with them. Don’t like killin’ innocent people, but won’t lose sleep knowin’ the snake won’t be hurtin’ anyone else.” Vin looked back at Standish. “Ez wants to be able to save them all, but he can usually be practical. It’s my job to protect him, sometimes even from himself.”
Hammond gazed for a moment at the two of them then concluded, “You haven’t shared everything about what you did out there.”
Vin shrugged, “We answered every question ya asked.”
Jack considered Tanner’s words, “You two were out there about nine months, exactly how many Goa’uld did the two of you kill?”
Tanner grinned, “Well that one makes number seven. It’s the third one Ez has evicted. Once we knew what they were, just kinda felt compelled to take out as many as we could. Most were lower ranked, but whenever we could we made sure to…how did Ez put it…redistribute the wealth to those who were most oppressed.
Even Teal’c looked impressed, “A worthy goal.”
Carter grinned, “You’ve been out there playing Robin Hood.” Vin gave a matching grin and winked.
“What about those…animals?” Jack asked.
“The fox and cat? That’s Ace and Scully. They’re Spirit guides. They come and go as they please. Most times only Ez and me can see them. They’s just energy, but they can be solid as they want. They’re our connection ta the spirit plane. Serious though…they won’t hurt anyone unless someone tries ta hurt us. I know it seems odd, but I’s been seein’ visions of Scully since I was a lil’ un.”
Carter looked like she wanted to ask a thousand questions but what came out was “I understand Ace, but Scully?”
Vin grinned sheepishly, “Who else is gonna follow a fox around lookin’ for aliens?”
“Well, if there is anything we can do for the two of you just let us know,” Hammond stated.
Vin took ahold of Ezra’s hand once more then turned to Hammond, “Just let us go home, please. We just wanna go home.”
Hammond stared for a moment then nodded. “I believe you have earned it. Let me make some calls and see what arrangements can be made.”
Vin and Ezra sat in the back seat of the black SUV that was driving from Cheyenne Mountain to Chris Larabee’s ranch outside Denver. Vin watched the scenery fly by and sighed with relief to finally be out from under the mountain. He wasn’t sure exactly what strings General Hammond had to pull to get them released, but he was thankful to the man.
The General had offered them a place at Stargate Command. He and Ez had discussed it. They knew a project like this never really let ya go once you were in the know, but since they did know what was threatenin’ their world out there, they couldn’t just walk away. They just weren’t sure about signin’ their lives away. They, of course, signed the NDA but they need ta see how much of their own lives they still have here before they can make plans.
Ezra squeezed his hand, and he looked back. Ez seemed nervous and still a little tired. Six days since they saved Draper and Ez still tired easy. But he’s sure that Ez’s nerves will get better once he’s able to sense how the guys really feel about him. It’s the part of the empathy that really sucks in Vin’s opinion. Deep down he understands Ez has always worried that the guys only tolerated him. Vin knows otherwise but will just have to wait for them to prove themselves. He let himself give in and feed Ez all the love he was feelin’ for him right now and saw him relax.
Jack and Daniel were traveling with them for moral support and let’s be real, to make sure they didn’t immediately spill the beans. It was one concession Vin would gladly make. They were still deciding what could be said about their “gifts,” but it wasn’t the kinda thing Vin could stress over. Frankly, since the bonding, he had plenty of control over the senses as long as he and Ez stayed in sync. They had done that meditatin’ thing this morning that Miss Neh-Tee’s people taught them. Helped them stay in sync and was real soothin’ to Ez.
He was glad they were meetin’ the guys at Chris’s ranch. Didn’t know who all would be there but was hoping it would just be the fellas. Let em kinda ease back in with the cover story the government had built for them. Vin hated lyin’ to Chris but how exactly did ya say, ‘Hey we was kidnapped by aliens’ and not end up in the loony bin?
They saw the turnoff toward the ranch and Ezra tensed. “It’s gonna be OK Ez, you’ll see. The guys’ve had three days to wrap their heads around us bein’ alive, so they’s just gonna be glad to see us.”
“I’m not worried, Mr. Tanner.” Ezra started. “They will, of course, be glad to see us. I am slightly concerned about the level of emotion, but I will persevere. I am not certain how they will respond to our relationship.”
“I’s already tol’ ya Ez, I chose you. Even before we ended up out there, I always wanted ya. Just didn’t think I was in your league. Now I gotcha, well ya don’t get rid of me so easy. Iffin the guys don’t understand that, then the hell with them. I may want them in my life as friends, brothers. But you are my life. Simple as that.”
Ezra smiled broadly, and Vin leaned in to kiss. The kiss going deeper and Ezra responded so beautifully that Vin just wanted to lay him out.
“Ah guys now’s not really the time for this,” Daniel said, his face flushed.
“Yeah, about that. Think you can keep that locked down? I don’t think the highway patrol would be too happy with an orgy in the car.” Jack stated.
Ezra groaned under him while Vin gave him one last kiss before leaning back in his seat. “I don’t know if we can live in the city full-time Ez. When ya get all worked up like that the cork just kinda pops.”
“Let’s just not have anything popping today.”
“Jaaaaack, you had to go there?”
The SUV pulled into the drive of the ranch and Vin saw all the vehicles lined up. All the guys were here and only one extra. Not too bad. He gave one last squeeze to Ezra’s hand as the door to the house swung open, and the guys came barreling out. The car door was opened before Vin was practically dragged out by Buck.
“Whoo-wee! Sure is good to see you guys!” Buck started.
JD’s hug was over Buck’s, “When we got the call you guys were alive and coming home everyone just lost it. We searched everywhere; there wasn’t a peep of you anywhere.”
“JD, give the boy a chance to get a breath.” Vin smiled a thanks to Josiah just before the man picked him up off the ground in a crushing bear hug.
“Good ta see ya too ‘siah. I’d like ta breath some.” Vin croaked out.
Nathan pounded him on the back before setting him down in front of Chris. The two men stared at each other for a long moment then Vin offered him his arm to shake. Chris knocked it aside and pulled him in for a hug. “Welcome back.”
Vin felt an internal tug and turned to see Ezra backed up against the side of the car with the guys all trying to touch him. He swiftly made his way beside him and spoke up. “Hey guys, give Ez a little room will ya. He’s getting over one of his sick headaches and travel didn’t agree with him so much, ya know?”
Immediately the guys were clearing a path to get them into the house out of the sun. Vin motioned SG-1 over to introduce them as they walked to the house. On the front porch was Director Orin Travis and his wife Evie to welcome the men home. Once inside he placed Ezra at the end of the couch so he could sit next to him.
Introductions complete all around and drinks handed out there was a moment of awkward silence before Director Travis stepped in to fill it. “Well boys, it’s not every day that I get a call from the President of the United States thanking me for the service of my men. Especially when I honestly believed those men to no longer be with us. I was informed that the work you were doing was classified and that for the safety of your mission it was decided that it was best to allow us to believe that. I want to say on behalf of the ATF, the teams in Denver, Evie and myself, welcome back. You were sorely missed.”
“Your sentiment is highly appreciated, Director Travis. If there had been any way we could have alleviated your distress, we would have certainly taken action. Unfortunately, that decision was out of our control. We were completely incommunicado.” Ezra started.
“That fact was made clear to me. I am just relieved that the two of you are ok. Evie and I aren’t staying long. This is a time for you boys to reconnect. We just wanted to see with our own eyes you were fine. I know you’ll need to take a few weeks to try to get your lives back in order. So give yourself the time then make an appointment with my office so we can review what is needed to get you re-certified.”
“Thank ya, sir, ma’am,” Vin said.
Travis shook their hands again, while Evie gave them each a warm hug. Then they made their goodbyes.
There was a return to awkward silence after the Travis’ left until JD finally burst out, “So where were you guys all this time?”
“That’s classified” Jack spoke up.
“Classified huh?” Buck asked. “What the hell were they doing that was so classified that you couldn’t even let us know they were still alive?”
“Now Buck, calm down.” Chris started.
“No Chris, I think we deserve to know what happened.”
Jack shook his head at Vin’s pleading look. “No. Classified means classified.”
“Classified is just another way assholes like you use to cover up bullshit.” Buck started to rant.
“Mr. Wilmington. I would appreciate it if you refrained from derogatory remarks.” Ezra commanded.
“Buck, guys, don’t be attackin’ them. Jack and Daniel are friends. They’s the ones that got us home. So don’t go blamin’ them for any of this. They’s not the ones that started this.” Vin pleaded.
Daniel interjected, “Vin’s right. Rather than pushing for information we just aren’t allowed to share with you, shouldn’t you be celebrating having them home?”
JD spoke up, “Buck you are so full of crap. You promised you wouldn’t fly off like that and what is the first thing you do.”
Buck opened his mouth and then closed it. Then he sighed. “You’re right JD. Guys, I’m sorry. That’s just been building up since we found out you were still alive.” He stepped in front of Jack and held out a hand, “Peace?”
Jack stood and shook, “Peace.”
Jack and Daniel left soon after pulling the two aside for a quiet chat reminding them that they will have daily check-ins for the next couple weeks to ensure everything is in place for their cover story.
Dinner was still a little tense with the guys watching their every move. While everyone was cleaning up, Vin accompanied Ezra out to visit the horses. Peso perked up as soon as they entered the barn. Chaucer didn’t wait for them to approach. Opening the door, he came charging toward Ezra pulling up short at the last moment to gently lay his head on Ezra’s shoulder.
“Oh my dear friend, I never meant to abandon you for so long.” Ezra just held on and soaked up Chaucer’s goodwill.
Peso stamped in his stall and Vin came over grinning, “Calm down ya ornery ol mule. Did ya miss me as much as I was missin’ you?”
They spent a while giving attention to their four-legged friends. Vin found a bag of Chaucer’s favorite peppermints in the box with his grooming supplies. A fresh newly opened bag. Seems Ez wasn’t the only one “spoiling” the horse.
They stayed out until Ezra calmed. The emotions of their friends had been a bit overwhelming and sometimes bittersweet. It would take some time before everyone relaxed around them again. Vin laced his fingers through Ezra’s as they finished putting everything away. “Don’t worry none. Everything is gonna be just fine. You’ll see.”
Ezra nodded, and Vin moved in for a kiss. The sound of the door opening wide interrupted them. Josiah was standing in the doorway watching them with a pensive look on his face. He came in and stood in front of Ezra. Ezra looked away, and Josiah careful reached out and took his chin in hand and turned his face back toward him. Vin tensed, ready to defend if needed but held his tongue to allow this to happen.
“Does he make you happy?” Josiah asked Ezra, not letting go of his chin.
For a moment Ezra just stood there unmoving, until he just let the mask slide from his face to show Josiah all the love and happiness and contentment he felt within. Josiah’s hand dropped as he reached around and pulled Ezra into a full hug and Vin felt him finally let go of his fear of rejection.
They strolled back to the house together, Josiah’s arm around Ezra while Vin held his hand. Words weren’t needed until they reached the porch. From within they heard Nathan’s voice call out, “Buck you owe me $50. They are shacking up.”
“Oh Lord” Ezra blushed as Josiah and Vin laughed.
They stayed up late, talking over old times. The guys catching them up on some of the people they knew. Buck catching them up on all the girls he knew. Current events and cases blended with sports scores. The ebb and flow of conversation working harder than it should to find that natural rhythm they had before their adventure. There wasn’t even an eyebrow raised when Vin joined Ezra in the guest room behind the kitchen. Vin smiled when he saw his bag already in the room.
The next morning Vin woke up just before dawn. It was his favorite part of the day. Everything fresh and new like a canvas waiting to be painted. He fixed his coffee and wandered outside to enjoy the view. He had seen dawns on so many planets now, but there was something about Earth that just spoke to the soul. This was the real homecoming.
The door creaked, and Chris came out with a cup to join him. For a moment there was a look like he was afraid he was seeing a ghost before he smiled. “Never more glad to smell this roofing tar than I am now.”
Vin chuckled softly, “Just cause you guys don’t know good coffee when it sits up and slaps ya.”
They sipped their coffee in silence before Vin finally spoke again. “How are things really goin’ around here, cowboy?”
Chris let out a long shaky sigh. “Hell Vin. That’s what it’s been. We were sure we lost you. The first few weeks we were breaking down doors and busting heads to get anything that might be a clue. After that, well, you know the statistics. And there was nothing but your Jeep and some prints that were crap. The video camera and digital camera were fried, and no one can figure out how that happened. Thought maybe a taser?” He looked to Vin.
Vin shrugged, not a question he could answer. Chris seemed to realize and nodded.
“You would have been proud of JD. Really stepped up and showed us the man he is. Wouldn’t let us give up. Said you would have knocked us on our asses just before Ezra ruined our reputations if we gave in. He left no stone unturned. Had programs looking for info right up until Travis got the call. Shoot, a couple months after you disappeared he was even hitting up crazy sites with UFO sightings.”
Vin choked on his coffee and Chris grinned while he slapped his back. “I told you he looked everywhere.”
Vin coughed a little and said hoarsely, “I guess he did.”
“You really can’t say what you were doing?” Chris asked.
“You were a Seal. You know how it is. Ez and I just fell right into it and had to make the best of the situation. Wrong place, wrong time.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry about that. Should have never done that to the two of you. If I hadn’t taken Travis’ temper out on you two then…”
“No just don’t go down that path Chris. Weren’t all bad. If I had to do it again, I would if it got me Ez.”
“So you and him huh?”
“You know I’ve always had a thing for Ez, Chris.”
“Yeah, I remember some drunken poetry about eyes like green glass and the curve of his ass that headed deep into limerick territory.”
“Now we had a deal never ta bring that up.” Vin grinned softly at Chris’s mischievous smile and relaxed. “I sure missed you too Chris. It’s good to have my brothers back.”
It took two days before the subject of their belongings came up. An offhand comment about missing his favorite boots had Chris pointing Vin to the attic. “Your landlord called me when your rent was due. The boys and I packed everything up and brought it out here. Hell, I figured it was one way to get you outta that death trap when you came back. About three months ago I kinda hit bottom and just couldn’t look at it anymore, so I hauled it all up there.”
“Thanks, cowboy.” Vin smiled.
The guys exchanged worried looks, and finally, Chris spoke back up. “Ezra, I’m sorry. We didn’t even think to check on your place until we were hauling Vin’s. By the time we got there, well…”
“Shoot Ez, Hurricane Maude hit it like a category 5.” Buck blurted out. “She took everything that wasn’t nailed down and pulled up some of the things that were.”
JD was shaking his head mournfully, “She even took the jag, Ez.”
Nathan added, “She would have gotten control of the money except for that power of attorney you gave Chris before that last op was never revoked. Your lawyers contacted him, and he put a halt on it. She threatened to take him to court, but the attorney’s made it clear that missing and presumed dead was a far cry from missing and declared dead. She’s been trying to find a judge that would work with her ever since.”
Ezra raised an eyebrow and looked to Chris who concluded, “Travis has been pulling strings with every probate judge he knows. We figured if we couldn’t find you within one year then we would let her have her way.”
Ezra started to laugh, and Vin joined him. They had discussed this once while they were gone. He does have to admit that Ezra knows his mother.
“Mother would have been appalled if she had won. I left everything to the six of you to be split evenly.” Ezra continued to laugh as the men joined him.
Four days with the guys was wonderful, but every time they turned around someone was there. Vin could tell by the tone of their voices that they guys were still They had been back on Earth over half a month and Vin felt like he hadn’t been alone with Ezra in forever. The need to bond was growing and getting harder to resist. It was Sunday, and the guys all had errands to run before going back to work on Monday, so they had encouraged them all to go.
Vin led Ezra up to the hayloft where he already had a blanket spread out with supplies. Ezra grinned as Vin wrapped his arms around him. He slowly turned, and Vin captured him in a gentle kiss that deepened.
“No one is home. We could do this inside with a nice soft bed.”
Vin shook his head and grinned, “Nope. Right here. I’s been fantasizin’ about takin’ ya here in this hayloft for almost three years now. It’s one of those bucket list things ‘siah’s always goin’ on about.”
Ezra chuckled, “You want to talk about Josiah then you won’t be touching me this way.”
“Only one I want ta talk about here is you.” Vin slipped his hands under Ezra’s shirt to find skin as he kissed him again with a desire to taste and touch every inch.
Ezra helped him remove the shirt and then slipped off his pants and shoes. “Then talk to me, Vin. Tell me.”
Vin stared at Ezra standing there, his skin glowing in the sunbeams while dust danced around him painting a picture Michaelangelo would have envied. His smile was relaxed and carefree while his eyes spoke of deep love. When Vin spoke it was a whisper.
“Green is my world
Reflected in his eyes.”
Ezra reached out and pulled Vin back against him, devouring him with a kiss as they slowly lowered onto the blanket.
Vin pulled up his own shirt, breaking the kiss only to pull it over his head while Ezra’s talented fingers worked on his belt. He could feel the heated flush spread across Ezra’s skin. Moving back momentarily to rid himself of the restricting cloth he saw Ezra’s eyes lock onto his hardened cock with want.
Vin moved beside Ezra to renew the kiss. As Ezra reached for Vin’s cock, Vin intercepted his hands and forced them over his head. “Not yet.”
“But what if I want it now?”
“Nuh-uh, my turn, my fantasy.” He began kissing and tasting the silky skin. Down Ezra’s throat, pausing to breathe in that unique scent at the base of the neck before nipping and sucking his way down to the nipple. He swirled his tongue in ever decreasing circles until it was a hard sensitive bud then sucked in hard. Ezra arched upwards, and Vin’s lips curled as he continued to lick.
He worked his way downward, tongue dipping briefly in the navel before letting his breath ghost over Ezra’s swollen cock. Breathing the scent of arousal teasingly before moving upward to the other nipple to repeat. As Ezra groaned his frustration, Vin released his hands and reached for the lube.
“Too slow,” Ezra complained with glassy eyes begging for Vin’s touch.
Vin smiled again, “Don’cha worry none, I’ll give you everything you need.”
Ezra eagerly spread his legs as Vin shifted between them. Vin sucked hard on the pebbled nipple, and as he arched again off the blanket, Vin inserted a slicked finger into his hole. He moved lower and began to lick and suck the shaft while keeping pace with his finger. Ezra’s hands reached for Vin’s head, and once again he intercepted them, forcing the fingers to clench on the blanket beneath them. “Now, Vin, please.” Came the breathy plea.
He grabbed the lube again to coat his penis. Placing his hands under Ezra’s hips, he lifted, and his eyes met Ezra’s. The feeling of want and need washed over him, and Vin slid in. He held in place, feeling Ezra clench around him and waited for him to adjust before pushing in further.
He withdrew until only the head of his cock was in that wonderful warm channel and then pressed back in, and the sensation started to overwhelm him. Not wanting to blunt his feeling he reached out with his senses. The scent of hay, sweat, and sex mixed with that vibrant tartness that was Ezra. The reflection of light off Ezra’s green eyes. The sound of Ezra’s breath was coming in gasps below him. He started again slow, building a soft rhythm with the head of his cock brushing against Ezra’s prostate at every inward and outward stroke. He existed in this moment of perfection. His whole being surrounded by Ez.
“Damn it! Stop treating me like glass and Fuck Me!” Ezra growled causing Vin to grin at Ezra’s language. Eyes met eyes again, and he pulled out, urging Ezra over so that he could ease in behind him. He adjusted his grip before setting a brutal pace. Balls slapping against balls. The feeling of sex and need grew, but he held on.
Finally, finally the barriers dropped, and Ezra wrapped his mind around Vin’s. Vin could feel the passion pulsing between them with every stroke. He felt Ezra start to peak and rushed to meet him. “Hold on, hold on, just a lil more.” Vin came hard, gripping Ezra as the sensation flooded his body.
Seeing spots, he remembered to breathe and heard Ezra’s breath catching below him. Vin carefully slid out and down. His hands white-knuckled in the blanket, Vin turned him to lay on his back, eyes glazed and begging for release. “I got ya.” Vin breathed deep, then pressed down on his thighs before he swallowed Ezra’s cock in one move. He flexed his throat and swallowed again and pushed down hard as Ezra tried to arch off the blanket and came in a rush.
With the salty, bitter taste in his mouth he was breathing hard as he softly ran his hand’s up and down Ezra’s sides, grounding him as micro-tremors continued to rock Ezra’s body.
When their breathing finally synched, and the tremors calmed, Ezra pulled Vin up to lay next to him. Sleep started to overtake him when he said, “I believe I need to let you fantasize more often.”
Vin relaxed next to the sleeping Ezra. His senses were singing, and the bond throbbed strong between them. He sent everything out for a sensory sweep and felt someone on the property. Chris, damn. He gently slid out of the hay and slipped his clothes back on before climbing down and heading to the house.
Chris came out of the house freshly showered and looking wrecked. He saw Vin and looked away. Vin sighed, “Sorry bout that cowboy, Ez and I thought we had the place to ourselves.”
Chris looked to the left then the right then ran his hand through his damp hair. “What the hell was that?”
“That was Ez. He normally keeps all that locked down.”
“That’s not normal, Vin,” Chris growled.
“Hell Chris, what is normal? Just ‘cause people don’t understand sumthin’ ain’t a reason to turn against it.” Vin started.
“I’ve never heard of anyone that can do something like that!” Chris started pacing. “He’s why you were taken for that classified op, isn’t it? This was his fault.”
“NO! Just hold it right there. Ez isn’t the reason we was taken. He’s the reason they didn’t kill us on the spot. We’re alive today because of that. So don’t go blamin’ Ez for everything.”
“Look, just give me a minute to think. Are you sure he’s not making you…”
“You’re gonna stop that question right now. Ez and I, we’s partners through and through.” Vin sighed and walked over to pick up the binoculars Chris kept on the porch. “Ez isn’t the only one that’s different Chris.” He handed Chris the binoculars. “Out by that fence post on the far side of the pond, there’s a hawk sitting on the post that’s eyein’ a hare.”
Chris stared at Vin a moment before lifting the binoculars. Before he could say anything, Vin spoke again, “The phone in the house is ringing.” A moment later the secondary ringer in the barn that he installed in case he wasn’t in the house to hear the phone went off. The phone stopped ringing while Chris was still staring at Vin.
“See I’s always had good eyes. Made me a good sniper. But the rest of it, it was there but kinda on idle until me and Ez hooked up. Same for Ez. He always had a little bit of sumthin’ special. You always wondered how he could talk the craziest SOBs into trustin’ him? How he always seemed to know who he could con and who he couldn’t? Well, it’s just sumthin he’s born with. But together we can do so much more. It’s not sumthin one of us did to the other. It’s what we are. What we’re meant to be together. In olden days the tribes woulda called us Spirit Blessed. It ain’t sumthin new cowboy. It’s sumthin very very old.”
“And that cold shower I just had to take?” Chris asked.
“Hell Chris. Ez can keep that locked down so tight ya don’t even know he has it. He just can’t do it when he gets all worked up like that. Everything just kinda breaks loose and explodes.” He grinned.
Chris just shook his head, “Well if the two of you could just not explode in my house while I’m around I would appreciate it.”
“You want us to leave?”
“Hell no. Just give me some time to wrap my head around it. I just came back to tell you I got ahold of Travis. You can come with me tomorrow to pick up the paperwork to get your Jeep out of storage. That call was probably Josiah. He said he should be able to drop Ezra off at the lawyers before he heads into work.”
Jack stood next to General Hammond watching SG-6 walk toward the doors, dripping wet. Captain Jones looked up at the observation window and gave the negative sign. Mission a bust. Jack just shook his head. “That’s the fifth team that’s been forced off-world after inquiring about the Fox. Whoever this guy is, people refuse to talk about him. Can’t tell if they’re afraid or loyal.”
Hammond sighed, “We need that naquadah Colonel. Are you certain the people on P91-42J refuse to trade for anything less?”
“Oh, they were crystal clear on that Sir. They want to prosecute the Fox for the murders of their people. It’s the only thing they will trade us. We find the Fox for them, and they will open free trade for their naquadah mine.”
“Well, there is nothing to be done tonight. Enjoy your evening with the team. I believe I heard Captain Carter speaking to Dr. Jackson about movies.”
Jack gave a small ‘whatever’ wave of his hand and left the General to pack up and leave for the evening himself.
“So what’s on the agenda for tonight?” Jack asked as he pulled some beers out of his fridge for the team.
“Well, Teal’c was asking about Robin Hood, so we figured we could watch the movie. Then I have a western, The Magnificent Seven which has similar themes.” Daniel explained.
Jack picked up the DVDs then looked up, “Disney Danny?”
Carter cleared her throat looking a little flustered, “Well sir, it was the only version available in the base library tonight.”
Daniel helped Jack pull the pizza’s out of the oven and carry them in to watch the movie that was just starting. Daniel explained the history and symbolism to Teal’c in detail…so much detail. Jack phased it out while enjoying the film, even if it should have Errol Flynn instead of a Fox. A sly fox playing Robin Hood. The fox on the screen winked, and Jack froze with the pizza halfway to his mouth.
Jack met up with Standish outside his attorney’s office. Ezra was looking pale and stressed. His offer to treat the man to lunch had been genuine, but the lunch was going to be a picnic away from curious ears. He listened to Ezra complain for a few minutes about the lengths his mother had gone to while attempting to access his funds during the time he was missing. Wow.
At an isolated park bench, he pulled out the deli sandwiches and tried to determine how to broach the subject.
“I am quite certain you did not come all this way to listen to my complicated relationship with my mother.” Standish looked at him askance.
“So,” Jack began. Ah, he hated all this dancing around crap. “Look, you know when we first met up in that jail? Well, you never did ask why we were in there.”
“It seemed of little consequence once we learned of your origin,” Ezra stated.
“Yeah, well we were thrown in jail for asking a question. Never did find out why that got us arrested.” Jack replied.
“And you are hoping I might provide insight?”
“Maybe. We were looking for intel. See, a couple weeks before that we were on P91-42J. Little world on the edge of nowhere. Not much to say about it except it has a rich little naquadah mining operation. The program is desperately looking for supply lines. So we were trying to strike up a trade deal with the local leadership there, but they kinda drew a line in the sand and said they would only trade with us if we could bring them this guy they called the Fox.”
Jack watched Standish and got nothing off of him except that same interested face. “They told us how the Fox led a group of mercenaries to kill their workers and then carried off the women.” Nothing. He sighed.
“See, I didn’t put it together at first, but we were trying to explain Robin Hood to Teal’c and showed him the movie. You know the Disney cartoon? Well it clicked, and I remembered your spirit fox…so” Jack ran his hand across his face a moment. “Ah hell, Are you the Fox?”
Ezra picked up his napkin to clean his fingers, “If I knew who the Fox was, what would you do with the information?”
“Look, Standish, I haven’t known you and Tanner that long but I’m usually a good judge of character. Dangerous? Hell yes. Willing to do what it takes? I’ll believe that. Cold blooded killers? No, I just don’t buy that. So if you knew who the Fox is, well, I’d like to hear his side of the story.”
Ezra stared at him, and he had the distinct feeling that the man was reading him. Finally, he glanced away. “The world you are speaking of is called Vrddhi. It was one of Dyeus’ supply worlds and one of the few addresses I had seen at the time. I possessed some access keys so Vin and I decided to take a chance to see what we might be able to acquire. No one was aware of his death yet, so it seemed worth the risk.
“He had some sycophant young Goa’uld running the operation as a lesser god. Those cretins capture tribes from unprotected worlds to use as slave labor in their mines. Ms. Neh-Tee’s clan was the last taken in this manner. But they did not take well to slavery. They follow the way of the Spirits and do not bow to false gods. They rose up against their oppressors but miscalculated the response. Most of their men and women were slaughtered in front of everyone as a lesson.”
Ezra took in a shaking breath, obviously pulling in his feelings that had started to broadcast near Jack. “When Vin and I arrived they were forcing the elderly and older children to work themselves to death in those damnable mines while holding the youngest hostage. We did not murder their workers, we rescued them. We saved every one we could and killed that bastard Goa’uld. The ones seeking us are the remaining priesthood who still wait for Dyeus to return.”
“Well, shit.” Jack cursed.
“If you are only concerned about the naquadah, Sanctuary has untapped deposits. Vin and I could assist you in approaching Ms. Neh-Tee, but I warn you that there would be stipulations. They respect the land and would not see it defiled so you would need to employee ecologically friendly mining practices to have it approved. They could benefit from the trade as long as you do not try to take advantage of them.” Ezra offered.
Jack smiled, “I think we’re going to take you up on that offer.” He pulled the pie from the bag and handed Standish a slice.
Vin followed Chris into the office. The crowd that had gathered as he made his way in past security was a little overwhelming. Not just the well-wishers and the looky-loos, but the smells: perfumes, cologne, industrial cleaners. He wished Ez could have come with him, but he understood the need to get the lawyers out in front of Maude.
He hadn’t realized how bad the air quality was in Denver. He probably should have checked to see if it was a red day, but he’d honestly never given it a thought before. Finally, the doors closed and Vin looked around. His and Ez’s desks were empty. But he already knew from the guys that they had cleaned them out so no one would mess with the stuff.
Nathan gave him that look, the one that said I wanna poke and prod ya. “Vin, you catching something. You sound a little asthmatic. Maybe I should see if you are running a fever?”
“I’m alright Nate. Just a little allergy thing.”
Nathan grabbed Vin’s arm and pushed up his sleeve, “You’re getting another one of your rashes. You have a lot of trouble with that while you were away? I’ll get you an appointment with a good allergist.”
“Aww, stop your fussin’ Nate. I’s perfectly fine when I’s gone. Just not use ta all the stinky perfumes and stuff around here. Ez and I figured out I just need soaps and stuff that are all natural.”
“Well, natural products are better for you and for the environment. I know of some good stores where they make the products themselves, so you don’t have to worry about things slipping in. I’ll take you there.” Nathan was reaching for his keys.
“Hold on. I’m here ta get my Jeep back, remember?”
“Sorry, just carried away. Let me know when you wanna go and I’ll show you where the best places are.” Nathan said.
Vin smiled at him, “Thanks, Nate.”
Chris stuck his head out of his office. “Travis said to give him twenty minutes, and he’ll meet us downstairs with the paperwork.”
“Great, nature’s callin’ so I’m gonna go answer.” Vin motioned out toward the restrooms.
Vin scrubbed his hands brusquely through the water while he looked at the cheap soap in the dispenser. His skin was stinging just from the residue on the outside of the bottle. He dialed everything back the way he and Ez had worked on his senses. The air freshener in here was overpowering, along with the industrial strength cleaners.
He wasn’t sure about the paper towels, but he was afraid of standing too close to the blow dryer. His hearing kept spiking up out of his control. He was debating just leaving without drying his hands when the door opened and in walked Ben Mason and Derek Greer, two guys on team 4 that Vin’s had trouble with before. They were supposed to get a shot at Team 7 before Vin and Ezra were hired.
“Well, Tanner. Guess you really are alive.” Greer started.
Mason gave a fake smile, “Welcome back to the living. You were missed around here. Wasn’t he Derek?”
“Sure was Ben. Guess rumors around here are true huh?” The two men exchanged looks. “So this means Standish is back with you? Is he here today?”
“Thanks for the welcome, I’ll share it with Ez, but no he’s not here.” Vin started to push past them.
“See Ben, rumors are true. Heard tell you’re keepin’ Standish as your pet now.” Greer grinned.
“That true Tanner?” Mason asked. “Bet ya keep him just begging to suck your cock.”
Vin started to growl deep in his throat.
Greer’s grin turned nasty, “that’s all cocksucking little queers like you and him are good for. Should have just stayed wherever you two fags ran off to, instead of coming back here to pretend you can cut it with real men.”
Vin tried to move forward again and get a grip on himself when Mason made a move to grab him. “You’re too bony even to try, but you tell Standish he shows his head around here and maybe we’ll just show him his place. The way he uses that mouth of his, bet he’s an expert at it.”
Deep inside all Vin heard was the threat to Ezra and a dark part of himself that he had only released a few times broke free, and he attacked. He had Mason down with a broken arm and dislocated knee before Mason realized his aggression had been returned. Greer panicked and tried to push past Vin toward the door. The primitive fighter within Vin that was moving on pure instinct took the move as a new aggression and determined to eliminate the threat.
It was only when Tanner had him pinned to the wall and was moving toward a debilitating move that Greer remembered the pepper spray in his hand that he and Mason had been preparing to use on the man. He sprayed it in Tanner’s face, and the moment the hold was released he ran out the door.
Vin’s senses were on fire. It burned his sight and touch spiked out of his control while his hearing shut down. He tried desperately to get a grip on it but it was beyond his control, and his touchstone was not with him to help him regain it. He could not even register the men that entered the restroom and called for help. He couldn’t tell when individuals were touching him, it just felt like knives laced with acid stabbing him repeatedly. The ambulance ride and the ER medical staff were one long pain filled blur.
Scully suddenly appeared in front of Ezra and Jack. He was growling and pacing. Ace appeared next to him, and the fox was trying to comfort his companion while releasing a scream of his own. Jack looked around to see if anyone was close enough to notice.
“Vin’s in danger. I need to go to him now.” Ezra started to move toward the parking lot.
Jack jogged to catch up with him. “I’ll drive, where is he?” He looked back, and the spirit animals were gone…he hoped.
They were in the car when Ezra’s phone rang. “Chris, where’s Vin?” Fear appeared in his eyes.
“Where?” Jack demanded.
“Denver Health” Jack put the car in gear and sped out into traffic. He felt waves of fear coming from Ezra and gripped the steering wheel tight. “You got to pull it together Standish. I can’t take you into a hospital if you’re bleeding off like that.”
Ezra pulled in a shuddering breath. “He’s afraid.”
“Then you need to be calm for him. Come on. Work on that breathing thing I’ve seen the two of you do in the gym.” Jack changed lanes and flipped off the two cars that honked at him.
By the time they reached the hospital, Ezra was expressionless, but Jack had a feeling that it was a very fragile mask. They rushed into the ER, and the team was waiting for them. Everyone was trying to talk at once until Chris finally just said, “Enough! One at a time.”
Ezra was staring at the doors separating him from the treatment rooms, his body shaking slightly as if in a breeze. He was quiet, and that seemed so out of place in the short time Jack had known him.
Jack asked, “What happened?”
“There was some kind of fight in the men’s room at the office. Don’t know what happened but Agent Ben Mason was down, and Vin had a face full of pepper spray.” Chris started.
Ezra spun to look at Chris, “Pepper Spray?”
Chris nodded. “He’s having some kinda reaction to it.”
Nathan jumped in, “We think he became hypersensitive to it with his allergies and he was going into anaphylactic shock.” He looked sympathetically at Ezra, “Don’t worry, last I checked they were stripping him down to flush everything off his skin. And they have the best drug therapies now to find something he will respond to.”
Instead of the relief he expected, Ezra became disturbed and moved quickly toward the doors. “I need to get in there now. I have to stop them.” Nathan tried to block him, and Ezra pushed him out of the way. Security saw the commotion and moved in to contain it, so the team quickly moved to surround Ezra and pull him away from the doors.
“Now, son, I know you and Vin are together, but the doctors are doing everything they can. They won’t let anyone in with him until they get him cleaned up because they’re afraid of introducing new allergens.” Josiah said while trying to wrap an arm around him.
“Yeah Ez, if ya keep this up security will just throw you out.” Buck reasoned.
Ezra started pacing back and forth in front of the wall. He ran a shaking hand through his hair then looked at Jack. “It’s called a sensory spike. It’s out of his control. When it happens, he needs something to focus on to set a baseline. That’s me.” He looked at the team and saw understanding in Chris’ eyes. “It’s high, it’s low, it’s out of his control. Drugs that are supposed to stabilize could make it worse because it takes the control further from his hands.”
Jack looked at Chris who was listening intently to Standish and saw understanding and determination. Chris turned away and marched toward the admissions desk to speak to the nurse. Five minutes later he returned and led Standish through the ER doors. Jack followed.
A nurse spoke to them briefly before having them scrub and gown up to enter the room. Vin was lying on a bed, a sheet draped for modesty his only cover. His face was swollen and seeping hives spread across his hands, arms, and chest. His muscles were twitching randomly. A doctor in the room was examining initial lab results and ordering more tests.
He broke away to speak to them. “Mr. Standish?” He asked. At Ezra’s nod, he continued, “I want you to know that we are doing everything we can for Mr. Tanner. We are examining everything now to determine the correct drug therapy.”
“No drugs,” Ezra stated firmly.
“Mr. Tanner’s condition is progressing rapidly. We need to get ahead of this, or it could become life-threatening.”
“I said no drugs. He reacts very strongly, drugs could kill him.” Ezra insisted.
The doctor sighed. “I’ve been informed that you are partners, so I hate to ask, do you have his medical power of attorney?” Ezra shook his head. “Do we know who does?”
Chris grimaced. “I had it, but he put an expiration date on it when he first signed it, and that was up while you were missing. So right now, no one.”
The doctor nodded. “I’m sorry but without a directive and seeing how he cannot make these decisions for himself, we need to make the best choice for him.”
The doctor left them in the room, and Ezra moved to take Vin’s hand while whispering to him.
Chris looked at Jack. “Anything your classified op can do?”
Jack returned his stare, “What have they told you about it?”
“Nothing about the op, but he told me about his senses.” Chris glared at Jack daring him to deny it.
“Now why did he go and do that?” Jack muttered.
“Because you don’t have to walk in on them having sex to ‘walk in on them having sex’ if you know what I mean.”
“Ouch. Yeah, that’s the truth.” Jack looked back at Tanner and Standish. “Let me see what I can do. Ezra.” He called out, and they watched as Standish began to shake before gripping the sides of his head. They ran next to him to catch him just before he collapsed on the floor in what seemed to be a seizure.
Jack ran to the door to call for help. When he opened it screaming could be heard as patients from a multi-car accident were rushed into the ER. He looked from the screaming patients to Standish and suddenly realized his error in bringing an Empath into a trauma unit.
A nurse stepped through the door then called for help. Soon they were swarmed, putting him on a gurney. They started to wheel him away, and both of the men’s vitals began to drop. “Hey, you don’t have more rooms right now, why don’t you just leave them both in here?” Jack left Chris in the room while he went in search of a quiet place to make a private call.
Forty-five minutes later an air force helicopter set down, and Jack was never so glad to see Doctor Janet Fraiser as he was at that moment. He could see that she came armed with every possible form to take possession of “her” two patients. The argument was brief but Janet is a fighter, and the others had no chance. Jack supplanted one of the airmen on the helicopter and gave him orders to drive his car back. There was one last nod to Larabee before the doors closed.
Back at the Mountain, she rushed them into an isolation room. She had learned a lot about their individual situations while they had stayed here and the test results had been fascinating. Jack listened to her speak with her staff and was impressed with how often she over-road her standard treatment procedures to accommodate what she knew.
Almost a day later and they weren’t improving. They were holding steady, but it was a fight to keep them stable. Janet sat in the room with Jack, Hammond, and SG-1 giving her report. “I’ve exhausted everything I know,” she concluded.
“What I don’t get is they were locked in a prison cell, moved between desert, forest, and field climates in a matter of hours, and adjusted just fine,” Jack stated.
“Janet, you said they started to crash in the helicopter and then improved and stabilized once they were in isolation. What’s different between here and there, that consequently doesn’t exist on the planets we were on?” Everyone looked at Carter. “Pollution. Tanner is hyper-reactive to everything right now. Standish normally can help balance him, but he’s not available. We know from experience that when Standish goes down, Tanner is the only one who can touch him. So we need to get Tanner up so he can bring Standish out of wherever he’s trapped in his mind, right? Then Standish can help bring him back the rest of the way.”
Daniel suddenly interjected, “Symbiosis! That’s the reason they’re immune to the Goa’uld. The Goa’uld is a symbiote, but bonded Tutors already have a symbiotic relationship with each other.”
Everyone looked strangely at Daniel, “And that helps us how?” Jack asked.
“It…doesn’t” Daniel shrugged.
Carter refocused on Fraiser, “What if we try taking them back to Sanctuary. Vin said that the people there knew about their gifts. Maybe they know a way to treat this.”
Fraiser considered a moment. “General Hammond, I would like the chance to try. At this rate, we are going to lose them anyway.”
Hammond nodded, “Alright Doctor, you have a go. SG-1 will accompany you.”
The men were carried on stretchers into the village. Villagers lined the way whispering. Outside the main hall, Neh-Tee approached them. “What has happened to the Tutors?”
“There was an incident. Vin was sprayed with a chemical that affected him badly. Ezra was overcome in the hospital where they were trying to treat Vin.” Jackson tried to explain. He motioned to Janet, “This is Dr. Janet Fraiser, she is a healer among our people.”
Janet stepped forward and explained, “I’ve tried everything I know to help them. Our world has not had Tutors in a long time, so I am still learning how to care for them. I am hoping you might know how we can help them.”
Neh-Tee gave orders for the Tutors’ lodgings to be readied and many ran to comply. They reached a small three-room house on the edge of the village and brought the men inside.
“Tutors live and die as one. They must not be separated when their health is threatened.” Several villagers helped strip the men down. First, they lay Ezra down on the bed. Then they lay Vin over him so that his head was resting over Ezra’s heart. “He must hear that his bonded’s heart beats, feel the breaths he takes so that his own may match. If the spirits will them to live, they will.”
“There’s no medicine to help them?” Fraiser asked.
“Tutors are not like you and me. The Guardian side lives in harmony with the world. The best medicines are those taken directly from the world around us. Artificial substances can be detrimental. His body will not know how to react. You have already cleaned him of contamination. In that, you did well.”
Neh-Tee motioned toward Ezra, “His bondmate is his advisor and guide, to keep him balanced so that one sense does not overwhelm the others. He uses the sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch of his mate as a focus to align his senses. That is why they must not be separated when his senses are out of his control.”
Janet nodded, “OK, I can understand that. Artificial means of controlling him just made it harder for him to adapt.”
“But, what of Mr. Standish? We removed him from the place that overwhelmed him, but after a small initial improvement, he grew worse.”
“Yes. As he provides a focus for Vin, so does Vin provide an anchor for Ezra. He closed himself off to protect his mind from the emotion he could not control. Right now he is lost upon the spirit, and his anchor has withdrawn, unable to tether him to the physical world.” Neh-Tee looked at them all as she could see their struggle to understand.
“The spirit plane is as real as this one. It is a source of education for those willing to walk the path. My father was one who could walk it at will, though he never met his mate. Have you seen their spirit guides? Ace and Scully?”
Jack shrugged, “They’ve made themselves known, though not since they were injured.”
“Their bodies are safe and protected. They will remain on the spirit plane with Ezra to protect and guide him until he once more can find his way home.” Neh-Tee stated, and Jack just hated all this metaphysical mumbo jumbo…even if he had seen the damn things in action.
They kept watch over the men through the day and night. Fresh food and water were brought regularly while Janet and Neh-Tee held long conversations on the gifts and perils of the Tutors and how to spot those that might emerge with gifts. Just before dawn, Ace and Scully appeared in the room and curled up together to watch and wait. Neh-Tee smiled, “They will live.”
It was four days later at Stargate Command, and Jack was meeting with General Hammond regarding the trade negotiation they were preparing for Sanctuary mining rights. There was a knock at the door and
Carter entered. “Sirs, we have a problem. There’s been a data breach in our system.”
“What information was accessed? And, do we have any idea who is responsible?” Hammond asked.
“Yes sir,” She looked at Jack briefly before turning back to Hammond. “The breach came from the Denver ATF offices.”
Jack cursed. “Sir, that’s Tanner and Standish’s team.” He sighed and continued before the general could say anything. “They’re close. We should have expected that they wouldn’t take another disappearance of their friends well, especially how we took them from the hospital.”
“Well, breaching national security is a little more than not taking this well, Colonel,” Hammond stated angrily.
“Yes sir, but we are in a bit of a bind. There’s no way they will believe we sent them back out on an op as sick as they were. And while Fraiser is convinced the men can eventually build up a tolerance to living on Earth, it’s going to take them a lot of time to get there. I think our best option to contain this is to read their team in on the mission sir.” Jack looked hopefully at Hammond.
“Oh my god, this is so cool! I can’t believe we are on a whole other planet. Can you believe we’re on another planet Buck? When they said to walk into a wormhole, I thought it was some sci-fi story, but it was real! Did you get the feeling you were moving really fast before you suddenly came through here? Is it always like that? Do ya think maybe we can go to other planets too? I bet Vin and Ezra have been to lots of planets.”
“JD! Breathe boy.”
“Have they determined if there are any health repercussions from traveling through that thing?”
“Brother Nathan, didn’t you hear, these devices have been in use in our galaxy for thousands of years. Imagine the cultures spread throughout the stars, traveling to another world like you might take a plane to another country.”
Vin listened to the men approach the village and smiled. He nudged Ezra who was reviewing trade demands with Neh-Tee and pointed down the path. Ezra grinned and stood with him as the men rounded the path into the village. Buck and JD yelled their names then raced ahead to pull them both into hugs. Josiah, Nathan, and Chris quickly joined them.
Trading places to hug the men and wonder at their renewed health, Nathan stepped back and knocked the basket out of the hands of a young woman who was passing near. “I am so sorry,” He began and stopped to stare.
“The polite thing to do after apologizing would be to help me pick up what you knocked over.” She stated with her eyes blazing.
“Of course” and he quickly helped her load the basket before she gave a disgruntled huff and stalked away.
“That fair young flower is the honorable Miss Raine. She is an apprentice of the apothecary, a most prestigious profession.” Ezra explained with a grin.
“Uh-huh,” Nathan responded still looking in the direction she left.
Buck slapped Nathan on the back, “So what is there to do around here?”
“Oh there is much work to be done, everyone is quite enamored with hard labor,” Ezra said with innocent eyes.
Buck sighed, “That’s all.”
“Well, there is the Midsummer Festival on Loyion in about four weeks.” Vin started.
“Really?” Buck perked up. “Lots of lovely ladies?”
“Oh, a most extraordinary gathering of young beauties,” Ezra stated.
“Yeah, they come from all over lookin’ ta partner up during the festivities,” Vin added.
“Loyion artisans make the best selections of wine and ale to be found,” Ezra added.
“Whoo-wee, that’s my kinda fun.” Buck grinned and followed the rest of the guys toward the lodgings they would be staying in.
Chris strolled up behind them, “So what is it you didn’t tell Buck about that party?”
Vin snickered and shared a look with Ezra, “Well, it might just be a marriage market. Take the ale and your fine, taste the wine and you will be in for more than just a good time.”
“It’s a good lesson to learn out here Mr. Larabee. Nothing is quite what it appears to be and always be willing to accept the strange and unique as commonplace.”
“I just can’t believe that you two could send a stripper to Travis and end up kidnapped by aliens.”
“Excuse me, Mr. Larabee, let us just get this one thing straight…mrphmmmm.” Ezra started before Vin kissed him into silence. As the kiss deepened, grew hotter…
“For cryin’ out loud! Can’t you two keep a cork in that?”