a thousand petals, a thousand paths

Chiaroscuro. Black and white, shattered light, all narrowed to this one moment, fists clenched in Jack’s BDU shirt, face buried in Jack’s soft black t-shirt, light streaming in from the hallway where the light is whole and unbroken. Gods have mercy, but there is no control, no help, no use, no way out, please, Jack, please help me, for all the things I cannot say, help me. Don’t let me go, don’t let me go, don’t let me go, because if you let me go, for even one instant, I’ll be bolting, back through that vertical blue, and no one can stop me.

Except you.


Limbs trembling, shaking in their hard leather bonds. I’m not going to run, where can I go? I’m sweating, I can feel the rivulets trickling down my temples and into my hair, my armpits are wet, the small of my back, the crease between my buttocks slick with sweat. Get me out of these soaked scrubs, get me out, get me out, get me out of these restraints. Janet, let me go, let me go, let me go, let me go, Jack, let me go, let me go, let me go, back there, back there, back there, let me go back there.

Oh, Shau’ri. I miss you so much.


Sitting in this corner, rubbing the abraded marks on my wrists, knees clenched to my chin, crying, crying, I can’t stop crying, where’s Jack? No matter how much I ask for him, he’s not here, they won’t tell me where he is and I’m crying. All I know is that I can feel my bones, every single one of them, the bones in my knees, my elbows, in my ass, cutting through concrete, cutting through my skin, cutting through my heart, cutting me until there’s nothing left but this foul desire and my tears that stain my skin like acid.

Shyla, why did you do this to me?


For once, finally, I hear silence, in my head, around me. No more clamoring of my blood for the sarcophagus. Even the word “sarcophagus” makes me cringe inside, makes me taste something sour in my mouth, like vomit, like bile coughed up after drinking milk that’s gone bad. Everything’s gone bad. Even as I sit on the bed, letting Janet check me over for the umpteenth time, the nurses are looking at me sideways, the guards’ eyes harden a bit. What did I say? I don’t remember. No one’s talking. It must have been bad, though. Where’s Jack been? He came yesterday, I think. Told me that he hadn’t forgotten me. That he’d just been taking care of business. What business? What other business could there be? What else could there be?

Than to hold me?


I think I’m calm. I think so. I almost couldn’t touch Shyla, but I promised I’d come back. I made myself hold her, even though I wanted to fling her from me. I almost couldn’t let her pick up that staff weapon and blast the … the sarcophagus. I wanted it. I wanted it. I wanted to get on my knees and caress the gold hieroglyphs. I wanted to press my lips to it, rub my cheek against it, crawl inside and bask in its pale, corrupting light. And there she was, crying her pretty false tears, and a part of me wanted to slap her, hard, again and again, until she bled from the lip, because she had used that golden box, she knew what it did, and she had trapped me anyway. She trapped me, and because of her, because of her greed, because of her stupidity, Jack won’t look at me. He’s accepted me back on the team, he’s given back to me that much faith, but he hasn’t touched me. And if he won’t touch me, why would Shau’ri? Not that she would have before the sarcophagus.

Because of Jack.


Jack comes to stand beside me later that night, when the torches flare in the village below Shyla’s pyramid, celebrating the crowning of their new queen. I can feel no jubilation. I am empty inside. All I can think is that it’s all about the emptiness, the emptiness when Shau’ri was stolen from me, the emptiness of succumbing to Jack, the emptiness of the sarcophagus. Emptiness and guilt.

His shoulder presses against mine, and I can’t help but feel a frisson of warmth shiver its way into my body, curling around my heart, making the emptiness echo hollowly. Does he even know what he does to me? I think he does, and I think he’s glad. He doesn’t mean to be hurtful, but his presence is so powerful, and all I can think is that I’m a reed before his hurricane. He’s going to break me, and he won’t even know it until I’m gone from his side.

I wish I was back in that sarcophagus. At least then I couldn’t feel everything that I’m feeling now.

But he turns to me, and presses more of himself to me, and the warmth from his shoulder spreads all through my skin, along my arm, down to my hips, through my thighs, to my toes, I’m tingling, and the look on his face … that face, that beloved face, lit by the flickering torches below, reds and yellows, black and gold, his eyes shadowed, I can’t see what he’s thinking. The hand on my cheek, that tells me, though, his palm is warm and dry and he steps close to me until every inch of us is meeting, mated. I close my eyes and sigh, and I feel like there could almost be a loosening of the tension between my shoulder blades.

“Jack,” I whisper, turning my face into his hand, pressing my lips to his fingers. “I’m so sorry … “

“No,” he whispers back, and gathers me in his arms, and finally, finally, oh, thank the gods, finally he’s holding me, and the emptiness, the guilt, that great screaming abyss within me starts to fill, and all that need I had been feeling, the anger, the despair, the loss of Shau’ri, the despising of Shyla, the missing of Jack, all of it is fought back, held back by this circle of Jack’s arms.

I bury my face in his shoulder, snuffling gently at the smell of his military detergent, and somehow, it’s better than any cologne. Jack’s hands are rubbing up and down my back, gently, soothingly, and it hits me: these past few months, when I’ve been in his bed, when he’s been between my legs and I thought I was betraying Shau’ri, thinking that I’ve been helping Jack to sink his career, that it’s not been about those things at all, it all goes so much deeper than that. When I take a breath and force a clear moment for myself, I know that Shau’ri wouldn’t begrudge me this comfort, this love that Jack gives me, packaged in his concern and his uniform, tightly wrapped in slowly silvering hair and eyes that shift in color from whiskey to coffee bean, depending on who’s threatening me, threatening our love, threatening our need for each other.

Shyla must have torn his heart apart.

I lift my face, here on this alien planet, with my mitochondria still yearning for that alien gold box, and his lips meet mine, soft, silky, soothing, he is so soothing, this rough Airforce colonel, he is so warm, he is a balm to my soul, and my lips part, his tongue slips into my mouth, and he strokes my tongue with his, our mouths dancing slowly, lips sliding, hands moving from a slow stroke to something more urgent, more needy. A kind of need that I welcome, with a different kind of desperation.

He pushes me against the rough-hewn stone wall of the pyramid, the dual moons shining down upon us, and he pins my hands above my head, his hips tight against mine, his cock hard and hot against mine, even though we’re both wearing our BDUs, and I feel like all that anguish is draining out of me, pushed forcibly out by the strength of his love, the strength of his kisses, the slow, insistent grind of his body against mine. I lean into the wall and wrap a leg around his hips, and he groans, his kisses growing deeper, more sloppy, his hands around my wrists tightening, and we’re just two halves of a whole, moving, writhing, just our panting sighs filling the air to drift down to the smoking torches below.

With a relief that rocks my soul, I come, whiteness filling my vision, his lips on my throat, his own gulping moans mixing with mine as he comes after me, our BDUs damp and creamy and warm. Even when the initial euphoria has worn off, he still crushes me into the pyramid wall, still pins my hands above me, still nuzzles at my collarbone, trailing his tongue to the dip between the clavicles.

“I love you,” he whispers to my right shoulder, and I rest my cheek on his hair.

“I love you, too,” I whisper back, and I can feel it, finally, the tension, draining out of me, relief, I am relieved, and it’s not because I just came, it’s because he made me come.

He thinks I redeemed him, back on that first trip through the Gate, but tonight, he’s redeemed me. And left me needing nothing more than him.


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