a thousand petals, a thousand paths

He’d seen it all. Plates in the lip that extended the soft skin to platter-size; plates around the neck that lengthened that fleshly column until it was sinuous and eel-like; rings through the nose, the ears, the eyebrows, the belly, the nipples, the genitalia, the webbing between the fingers, the webbing between the toes, even posts through the tight skin of the forehead.

But nothing had ever turned him on more than just simple flesh. Smooth, unbroken, gentle flesh. Skin that was lucent, tanned, pallid, skin that was warm, cool, dewed with perspiration, or hot with lust-induced fever. Skin that followed the bony swell of hip, skin that pulled taut over shoulder blades, skin that dipped in that sweet hollow at the base of a throat.

And for so long, he had been without skin. His mind, always active, always imagining, always considering the possibilities, had turned from one teammate to another, from one memory to another, gently approaching, never speaking, the blue of his eyes like a hot flame that never burned out. He never spoke of his hunger, it simply was; but sometimes, in the dark of the night, when he stood at a window, his laptop computer open behind him, casting its ghostly pale glow against the ceiling, he would unfetter his thoughts and let them wing free into the sky to play amongst the stars.

He would think of Sarah, her red hair bursting like copper in the sun, her precise British accent as she spoke his name, the clever smile that would curve the corners of her mouth, that sweet mouth, those sharp jaw lines, and the flesh over those oh-so-proper English bones that gleamed with pale lucidity.

He would think of Sha’re, his wife, his love, and think of the cocoa of her skin, like butter melted with cinnamon on a hot summer’s day. Yet her touch had always been cool, her long-fingered hands stroking pectoral muscle, caressing buttock, pulling him close to her so they were breast to breast, chest to chest, heart to heart, and the skin dissolved, leaving only two souls riveted and reveling.

He would think of Jack, his mentor, his brother, the yang to his yin, and he would remember sunlight on that salt-and-pepper hair, that seasoned hair, that seasoned skin, souvenir of a life lived outside of his skin, yet the man underneath had brought a glow to his face that made the wrinkles and weathering fade away until there was nothing but a towering bulwark of strength and a love that could never be spoken.

He would think of Teal’c, so strong, so silent, his muscles merely an intimation of the solid rock that was the Jaffa, the skin without so smooth, so taut, so wrought with years of hardened skills, hiding beneath the heart, the heat, that beat louder than any god’s pulse.

He would think of Samantha, golden, deceptively delicate, lips like a rose out of cliched story, her eyes at once compassionate and calculating, and he knew that that she would fit him curve to curve, mind to mind, thought to thought, her belly-skin pale to match his, her forearms dark to match his, legacy of more trips off world than most people took to their neighborhood grocery store.

And now he thought of Cameron, the cipher, the Tennessee boy, who’s passion and commitment smelled to him of earth and sun-lit leaves. He thought of that neck, rising from the black of his uniform, the eyes that met him stare for piercing blue stare, a stare that encompassed him and his skin and his everything.

And while he stood at that window, his thoughts winging into the Milky Way, he knew that he was shedding his skin, that he was feeling the blood beneath, the sinew and bone and gristle that powered his existence, and he was feeling again for the first time in a very long time.

He was the onion, layered, he was the flower, bloomed, petals tilting to the warming spring sun, and his every fiber blazed with a desire for being that transcended mortal considerations. And yet, he knew, he felt, he was sure, that he would be naked forever, no matter what he wore, no matter what rings he might embed in his flesh, and that, someday, somewhere, from someone, he would find the robe to dress his naked hunger and be complete, within and without, both exposed and protected, an incandescent flame and a hidden mystery, the skin and the heart as one.


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