Chapter Twelve Summary: Kataya enters Devlin's mind to help him cope with his memories and the pain associated with them. Afterwards, when Malek awakens and they are being unwell again, Kataya gives Merdwin the news that Gwennetha has been called to account for her deception of her mates. Malek and Dev overhear what is to happen to her and their kits and find themselves horrified and appalled. Malek especially, as he is the cause of it all.
Amat – Love Amat Wyn – My Love Caruswyn – Dear One, Dearest One “Italics” – Symbiote-Host or Telepathic Communications
“Merdwin, there is a great deal of pain here. Year after year of it.” Kataya sent to him as she gazed at the memories in Devlin’s mind.
“I suspected as much. Do you know where you will start?”
“I am accessing all of his memories pertaining to that time, and then I will decide which ones to decrease the pain of the emotional trauma to first.”
“I am glad you agreed to me entering alone. Devlin will feel better the fewer who see this. Moreover, I believe, from what I am seeing that it would bother him more that you see this than I. Although, the truth of the matter is that regardless of which of us that it is, he will feel despair over it, unless I can help him to accept it and to realize he truly had no choice in this.”
“Merdwin, it is worse than what Lucent underwent. It is - I am surprised he can…dear universe, Merdwin, no wonder he is so attached and loyal to Malek. We must allow nothing to break their bond. I truly mean nothing, Amat, not even our daughter, no matter the cost to her.” Merdwin could hear the deep sympathy in her voice, but no pain, yet. She had not yet begun to absorb it. That state would not last long, he knew. It was her way to absorb the pain of others, a side affect of being an empath.
He heard her gasp and whimper slightly. It must indeed be bad, for her to be hurt that much before she began to consciously absorb the pain. “He had children, Merdwin, and he saw them killed as he stood by and could do nothing. They were the only bright spot in his life. The Jaffa killed them during the invasion. He—he was chained in a room overlooking the street and saw it from the window. He – in a way, he was glad they were dead rather than taken and made slaves, though,” she whispered.
Merdwin became aware of her shielding herself as she began a recitation of facts in a level, emotionless tone. She had cut herself off from what she was seeing, for the moment, to enable herself to see the entire picture, and make logical rather than emotional decisions.
“Malek freed him from that room and inadvertently killed his father-in-law. These two acts are the basis of his loyalty, of course. He has never forgotten the intense feeling of satisfaction that he felt when Malek killed him using Devlin’s own hands. The surprised look on the man’s face, as he realized that the slave was no more, and that the person he was confronting was not who he thought he was is one of his most cherished memories. It is also one of the few good ones that he can claim from his time with that man. He has savored that surprised look all these years since it happened. I cannot blame him, for the man deserved to die, and it is fitting that he died by Dev’s hands, even if they were being wielded by Malek.”
“Then, the years and the care that Malek has always given him have forged the deep love Devlin has for him. It is my belief that although Malek may not “know,” he suspects some of this. Not nearly all, of course, but I am sure that there have been dreams through the years that Malek found unsettling, but which he realized that he could not ask about.”
“The beginning, Kataya? Have you found it?” Merdwin urged her on to the next step. Getting no answer, he tried again, “Kataya.”
“Sorry. Merdwin, there are some other disturbing things here. Devlin has always allowed Malek to hold sway, regardless of his true wishes. He has subjugated his own needs and wants. While Malek has always treated him well and loves him deeply, they have never truly disagreed because Devlin simply puts his own feelings away. Devlin has only been stubborn in small insignificant things. In some ways, he has done Malek a disservice by doing this. It has allowed Malek to become more arrogant and prideful.” She sighed heavily, seeing difficult times ahead before this entire situation would be resolved.
“As for the beginning, yes, I have found it. When Devlin was thirteen, his father became an ambassador from his home world, Austalan, to Spartania. He was a very handsome boy, Merdwin. Polite, well-behaved, and courteous, and as most of the population of Austalan, he had great respect for his elders.”
Merdwin heard her sigh sadly before continuing, “Two years after that posting, there were growing tensions between the two worlds. Jasperon, a senator of Spartania, coveted Devlin and although Dev did not know why, the man made him very uncomfortable. He told his father and his father took him seriously, knowing the marriage habits of Spartania. He made arrangements to leave.”
“Years later, Jasperon taunted him with the fact that he was the one who had Devlin’s parents murdered, in order to get to Devlin. He had a body substituted for Devlin’s, mutilated beyond recognition, and then he returned the three bodies to Austalan. No one ever came looking for him because the authorities had his body. Jasperon had a medical report proving through testing that they were Dev’s remains. They were not, of course, but he had blood and tissue samples taken from Devlin, so what they sent to Austalan in the report was true, as far as it went. The tissue samples were from Devlin. They were not from the body that was returned, and thus his crime was never discovered.” Merdwin felt the tension in her as she made her way to the next memories.
“He was kept confined, beaten, and starved for two years, until he agreed to marry Jasperon’s daughter the day before his eighteenth birthday. At which point we both know what happened. Devlin had no idea. Jasperon kept Devlin completely sequestered, and he had no idea of their marriage customs. He had assumed that turning eighteen and marrying would win him his freedom. Instead, he became Jasperon’s property, as you know, in all ways. Jasperon was a cruel man in many ways, but none so much as in his sexual tastes. The man was completely depraved and without conscience.”
Merdwin could feel that very tight rein she was keeping upon her emotions as she told him, “Devlin suspects that he had his wife murdered he also believes that he gave his daughter to the Jaffa in order to make his own escape when they learned that a System Lord was taking their planet and killing the people. He thinks that the man had a special area where he could stay hidden in times of turmoil. I agree with him, for he is the type that would do that and tell no one else its whereabouts so as to keep it only for himself. He simply abandoned his daughter and Devlin to the Jaffa.”
“Devlin was forced to service both his wife and his father-in-law, often. Once the two children were born, he gave his daughter her freedom from that burden, and she became even more vain and uncaring. He allowed Devlin to be with his children as often as he desired, as long as he did exactly as his father-in-law ordered. Consequently, he moved him into a rather sumptuous boudoir, chained, and used whenever Jasperon wished, but as long as he had access to his children, he was obedient. I will not go into the details of the scenes, if you do not mind, Merdwin. Trust me, they are horrendous,” Kataya recounted more of his history and her voice shook with her effort to remain unmoved by the horrors he survived.
“What of his meeting and blending with Malek, Kataya? How did it happen? Was the blending traumatic?” Merdwin asked one of the important questions they needed to answer.
“Malek was an operative and infiltrated the ranks of the Goa’uld that invaded Spartania. Malek was not generally required to go to the surface of a planet in the way he was this time. The System Lord in question was evidently suspicious of him for some reason, but Malek was never able to find out what occurred to expose him. He suspected that there was a spy in the Tok’Ra ranks, but that is somewhat rare, as you know. They are generally loyal for life. For whatever reason, he was dispatched to the planet’s surface and became embroiled in the conflict. Unfortunately, during the fighting, his host sustained an injury that was too severe for him to survive; it was a fatal wound,” Kataya’s voice took on the sadness that Devlin felt for Malek’s pain and loss.
Recovering somewhat, she forged on briskly, “However, that is neither here nor there. The point is that Malek’s host was injured badly enough in the fighting that he was dying. The wound was serious enough that it would eventually cause death, but not immediately. They entered into the house where Devlin was because it appeared deserted. His host was asking him to find a new host, but Malek was determined to try to heal him or die with him, as he felt finding a new host would have been next to impossible in the situation, and, besides that, he felt a great deal of emotional connection to his host. The two of them were together for a very long time, as the host was quite young when they blended, and he was from a very long-lived race. Their joining would have continued for another fifty or sixty years if they could have stayed together.” Merdwin could feel her sadness, but she still was not allowing the pain to flow into her, which was what he wanted her to do.
Taking up the narrative again from where she left off, she stated, “He entered the house and proceeded up the stairs, rather than remain below, where there had been much carnage. He heard sounds from the room in which Devlin was sequestered. Dev was trying to free himself, but, of course, he could not. He had tried many times before. The chain, while not heavy, was still strong enough that Devlin’s strength was not enough to break it; nor could he break the collar that he wore. Malek’s host entered the room and asked him if anyone else was in the house. Dev did not know. They talked and Devlin realized the man was dying; he was getting weaker and weaker. He explained to Dev about the Tok’Ra, and how Malek would die with him without a new host.”
“Devlin told him that he would willingly have taken him, but then he would just be as trapped there, as he was, waiting for the Jaffa to find and kill him, too. The man looked at the chain and smiled, telling him the chain would be no problem for Malek. It was not that strong a chain, and if he was serious, then he assured him that Malek could and would escape from there. He did not wish Malek to die with him, but to live on to fight another day against the evil that were the Goa’uld. After seeing the carnage and the deaths of his children, it was a sentiment that Devlin was in much sympathy with.”
Kataya stoically recited what she was accessing and seeing, “Dev agreed on the condition that Malek never ask him any questions or access his memories of the last ten years. Which tells us that Devlin was twenty-five when Malek rescued him. He was under the torture of Jasperon for ten years, and used by him as a sex object for seven of those. Malek agreed that he would not attempt to access them or ask about his past life. Dev showed a great deal of trust in him even then, Merdwin, for when Malek told him to kiss him, he only hesitated for a moment. He has never regretted becoming Malek’s host. Never. We must see to it that does not change, for their bond is deep and loving.”
Suddenly, Merdwin heard her laugh softly, before telling him, “I am surprised he is as normal as he is, Mer, but there is no doubt that he is a very normal healthy man. The memory of his first time with a woman, which he alone chose, is delightful. He truly loves women, thanks to his own mother and father, no doubt.”
Merdwin could feel the tenderness flowing through her as she told him, “Someone taught him to appreciate the feminine form and virtues, and it was certainly not Jasperon. From what I have seen of his parents, they were lovely people, warm, caring, and full of humor and fun. Therefore, we now know where he gets his outlook on life. He is a very strong individual, Merdwin, to have survived Jasperon and retained his father and mother’s personality traits. It says a great deal about them and him, also. He is everything we could have wished in a son-in-law. If we can just get them beyond this, I believe that we will find both of them quite loveable and worthy of respect. After seeing this, I certainly have a very deep respect for Devlin and I am quite sure it will extend to Malek…when he becomes completely sane again.”
She paused before informing him, “Devlin's memories would lead one to know Malek as a loving, caring mate. While his reaction is not out of line with his personality, the length of time it has continued is very much out of character for him. I am much concerned that the hormones and chemicals are not allowing him to become rational.”
Her sadness flowed down their link before she questioned him, asking, “Do you wish me to begin with the pain from his parents’ death and his captivity? Perhaps in sequence would be the most logical way to do this. It will not dull the most intense of his pain, for that is for the loss of his children, but it will allow him to find out how this works without him having to bring memories that cause him truly terrible pain to the surface. Once he realizes that it works, he will not be so reluctant to look at the more painful memories as he might otherwise be. As a demonstration of what will happen, it might be best. What do you think?”
“I think that is a logical way to go about it. You are usually very good at doing this, Kat. Follow your instinct, Amat Wyn,” Merdwin softly assured her of his belief in her abilities and the good that she would do for them.
“It is quite obvious that he has accessed the memories of his children lately, Merdwin. I do not think that he delved deeply or allowed himself to dwell on them, but he has touched their memories very recently. He has also been thinking of Gwennetha and their kittdren. He feels strongly that Malek will not allow them to reconcile any time soon. He is—very unhappy about not being there, as they grow up, but thankful that they will receive the same type of love and care that he did as a child. Those thoughts, too, are very recent.”
“I imagine that happened during our discussion. It was probably the deciding factor that allowed him to accept our offer. To ease the pain of his lost children, both born and unborn, would mean a great deal to him. In addition, he is very fearful of Malek finding out about his past,” Merdwin told her what he felt coming from Devlin during their fairly brief talk. Do you believe, from what you have seen of Devlin’s memories of Malek that he would react negatively to finding out any of this?”
She did not reply immediately, as if she was considering something, then she finally said, “I do not know for sure, but let me look a little deeper. Devlin is so very afraid that Malek would despise him if he found out that it is difficult to determine what Malek’s attitude truly is, and what parts are Dev’s fears. If I am reading these memories and feelings correctly, and I believe I am, then Malek would hold none of it against him. He certainly would not despise him,” She hesitated once more, but briefly, before assuring him, “Malek loves Dev very deeply, Merdwin. I do not believe anything would make him love or respect him less. It simply is not in his feelings to do so.”
“I am going to begin, Merdwin. I know what I need to do and I can access it quite easily as none of them are buried deeply. If I begin with the earlier memories and work my way forward, it will be less traumatic on him as he brings them to mind to check the pain levels that are left when I have finished with this session.”
“Do not overextend yourself, Kataya. I have told Dev that we will do it in several sessions, and I expect you to use common sense. I know you, and you would absorb it all at once, if you had your way, but there is no reason to do so,” Merdwin instructed her firmly.
Kataya sighed before reminding him, “If something traumatic happens, it could and very probably would, pull the most agonizing memories forward, and he would be in great pain, Merdwin. I am not sure what would happen to him if that occurred. He could very well retreat beyond what Malek could recall, especially in the mentally unstable condition in which Malek is living at the moment.”
“True, but we will simply have to hope that nothing that traumatic happens until you finish,” Merdwin told her calmly.
She nodded, giving in to him, for in all honestly he was correct, and to take all of Devlin's emotional pain, as much of it as there was, would deplete her very badly. Sighing again, she told him softly, “All right. If you insist.”
“I do, Kataya. You are not yet physically recovered. You will take care of yourself,” He told her, his voice implacable.
Merdwin felt her contact him emotionally. She would not allow the pain to bleed through to him, but he would be able to see her and the amount of pain that she was taking. He would keep a close eye on her and stop her himself, if he thought she was taking too much at once.
Dev opened his eyes and frowned up into Merdwin’s deep blue ones. “I thought you were going to go into my memories, Merdwin,” he said, as he realized that Malek was still sleeping peacefully.
“We are finished for today, Dev. Please access the memory of your parents’ deaths.” Merdwin watched Dev’s eyes darken with fear. “You should be able to access the memory, but most of the intense pain and the other emotions that you usually feel should be very muted now. Please try.”
Dev nodded his head and closed his eyes. Next, he sat up and looked back at Merdwin. “There is still sorrow, but no longer the deep physical pain that I always felt when I thought of their deaths at his hands.”
Merdwin nodded. “Then it was successful. Kataya worked on those memories, and most of the memories from your fifteenth and sixteenth years. She will be working from the oldest of those memories towards the time that you blended with Malek. She wanted me to tell you that nothing she saw has changed her feelings about you, other than to give her even more respect and admiration for you. She is truly amazed that you have retained the ability to see the humorous side of situations and life, and she admires that trait in you. She also wished me to assure you that from what she saw, there was no way you could have done anything about the situation that you found yourself in. You fought long and hard, but you never had a chance to escape, and you should stop blaming yourself for a failure that could never have been anything else.”
“I did not enter with her, Devlin. She felt it would be better if only she went, so that you would know that what she saw and felt was between the two of you. I agreed with her, as I know that the idea of me seeing those things upset you. She explained what she saw, but she did not go into detail.”
“Thank her for me, please, Merdwin.”
“I will. I am going to allow Malek to awaken now, if he is ready to, Dev, if that is alright.”
“Yes, please do. I feel guilty about keeping him asleep for so long, as it is.”
“It did not harm him; he is not resting at all, unless I help him to sleep, so it will actually be good for him.”
Devlin smiled. “While I agree with you, I do not believe that you should tell him that you put us both to sleep for any reason other than to stop the nausea.”
Merdwin laughed softly, “Do not worry, Dev. I will not.”
Dev had no idea how Merdwin managed to put them to sleep or to allow them to awaken. He never appeared to do anything at all. One minute, they would be lying in the bed feeling terrible, usually after having attempted yet again to empty a stomach that held almost nothing, and the next minute they would be awakening.
If they were very lucky and did not move much, they could sometimes go for a few hours without becoming violently ill again. They were managing to keep some water down from time to time, but food was not possible at all, and they did not want any, anyway. However, they were growing progressively weaker. Devlin could feel it when he stood to go and attempt to empty their stomach, and Malek was saying almost nothing to him other than to moan or curse Gwennetha for doing this to them.
He knew that a crisis was coming. He could feel it within himself and the tension he was becoming aware of that was emanating from Merdwin. Strange that he could feel it, for to look at him was to see the same calm unflappable demeanor that was always there.
Something would have to be done soon or, he assumed, they could die. He had realized it on a subconscious level for several days now, and today he knew it to be true. Malek wanted to die, much as he had said that Lantash had when Kataya left him. In a way, it was the same thing. Gwennetha, as far as Malek was concerned, was gone. Contrarily, while he would not forgive her, neither did he wish to live without her.
Dev sighed to himself. It was all so complicated, but it did not have to be. If only Malek would remember their vows to her and the unwavering faith that they had promised her, he could get over this. He was refusing to even think of it, though, so talking to him about it was pointless.
He did not want to live without Gwennetha either, but if he knew she was somewhere in their universe and raising their children, he thought he could bear it. But, if Malek wished to die, then he would die with him, for he had no wish to live if neither of them were in his life.
Moreover, he did not know how to snap Malek out of his slow slide toward that very end. Somehow, he did not think that the Furling would actually allow him to starve them to death, but so far, they had taken no definitive action against that. He was puzzled and somewhat surprised. Perhaps, they were waiting to see if he would come around on his own, feeling that it would be better if he did.
Dev realized that he, himself, was feeling deep despair, and as he had done all those years ago when his entire life consisted of things that threatened to overwhelm him, he slipped into the back of his own mind, distancing himself from everything going on around him.
He was only vaguely aware of Malek getting up to go to the bathroom. The tea that he had drunk earlier when he had been talking to Merdwin had worn off. They were feeling quite ill again. He allowed Malek to take his body and attempt to empty his stomach.
Waves of anguish washed over him from Malek as he finished the first round of heaving, so he forced himself to leave his seclusion in the back of his mind. Pushing his own despair away, he came forward, put his arms around Malek, and hugged him as hard as he could, sending mental caresses, caring touches, and all the love he felt for him.
Malek had been everything that was good for him, he would not let him down when he needed him, and he needed him now. Malek was a part of his soul, his heart, and never would he desert him or allow him to mourn so, without going to comfort him, no matter the cost to himself.
Thirty minutes later, as they leaned weakly against the wall after the passing of the last wave of nausea, both of them became aware of voices in the other room. Normally, by now, Merdwin would have been checking on them, perhaps offering Malek some of the tea that he would again refuse.
It sounded like Kataya was with him, but she and Merdwin were speaking in whispers, obviously having no intention of being overheard, and assuming the two of them were still being vilely unwell and therefore safely out of hearing range. Even so, both of them were aware of the grief in her voice and the aching tones in which Merdwin answered her. It was obvious that something was very, very wrong.
Getting up quietly from the floor, they made their way toward the door until they could hear what they were saying. Symbiote-enhanced hearing allowed them the increase in range that they needed to stay out of sight, yet still be able to hear what they were saying. Suspecting that whatever it was concerned Gwennetha, and possibly, themselves, they felt no guilt for eavesdropping. However, neither was prepared for what they heard.
“When did he petition the All? Was it specific or general?” Merdwin was asking, his pain evident in the ache in his voice.
“Father believes that it was unintentional from the wording. Whether he meant to or not, the result is the same. Moreover, Gwennetha pleaded guilty to all counts. There is no recourse for her after doing that, Merdwin; you know that. There will be no trial, the All will judge and pass sentence, unless…but it is pointless to think of that, for if Malek was going to forgive her, he would have done so by now, and you know, as well as I, that it may even be too late for him to forgive her. The charges were made and recorded.”
“Why, Kataya? Why did she give no defense, and why did Artereos permit this?”
“Father tried to convince her to ask for a stay, for time to prepare a defense, but she would not. He could not stop her, Merdwin; she is an adult and must make her own choices. She feels that she deserves it, for she did forget to explain it to them. She feels very strongly that she is the one at fault in that part, and this is the only way that she can atone for what she has done.”
“However, I believe there is another truth, Merdwin. I am not sure she wishes to live. She is so disillusioned and hurt by Malek and Devlin turning on her in this way, when they had promised her unwavering faith as part of their vows to her that I believe she simply wishes to leave the world and not return anyway.”
“While she is guilty of not telling them, she also knows that it was not deliberate on her part, and that she would never have willingly hurt them in any way. They are her light and her life, and without them, she feels she has nothing. In addition, although, I do not wish to lose my daughter in this, or any other way, I know the feelings she is having all too well, for I lived them myself with the death of Dayillon and the loss of Lantash when we had to part. I cannot fault her for not caring if she lives or not.”
“Malek has repudiated her, to him, she is already gone, and as you know, he has not even asked Devlin what his wishes are, so as far as Gwennetha knows, Devlin has also turned from her. She feels that she is dead to them already, so she should give them that which they so ardently desire.”
“When? When will it be done?”
“Seven days,” Kataya answered dully. “Seven days, and if Malek and Dev do not begin drinking the tea and gaining some strength in that time, then the sentence is a foregone conclusion.”
“The All will not accept the trading of the kits’ life for Malek and Dev’s, so unless they begin to gain strength, all that can be done is to sever that tie by eliminating the kits. Even if we take Malek and Dev to Avilion and put them into a living death for the term of her pregnancy, the All will still take her life, although, there would be a slim chance that it might allow the kits to be born.”
“Perhaps Malek would agree to that, but I have my doubts. I believe that he wishes to die, and I believe that you are aware of that, also. He can forgive neither himself nor her, and I am not even sure he realizes that he is as furious with himself as he is with her. I doubt it.”
“It is irrelevant as well, for as long as he repudiates her, the All will see to it that he is freed. You know, as well as I, that breaking the soul-threads will be enough to kill her, and since she was the one that deceived them, and the kits must die to save them, she is at fault for their deaths, and not just death, but there is every chance she would be forced into non-existence as her penalty.”
“The kits will be taken from her and she will die during that, unless something happens to change it. The only thing that will not be known is whether or how long she will be put into non-existence. It could be for hundreds of years, as you know. Minimum will be non-existence for two hundred fifty years. More than likely, it will be much, much longer, for the death of the kits will be on her hands, unless Malek and Dev…but we have already gone over that,” she murmured despairingly.
“Merdwin, Devlin must never know what has happened. We must let him believe that Gwennetha returned to Cadwaellon to have the kits. If he finds out that her life and that of the kits were forfeit for his and Malek’s…” Her voice trailed off and taking a deep breath, she added, “He must never know that he lost a second set of children.”
They could tell that Kataya was crying softly. Malek was in shock, asking himself questions to which he had no answers. He became aware of Devlin huddling in their mind, moaning in anguish, as thoughts of what Gwennetha must have been feeling because of her belief that he, they, no longer loved her.
Then, as the remainder of the conversation forced its way into Devlin’s mind, scenes from his past rolled over not only himself, but Malek as well. In addition, he kept repeating two words, names, over and over. Marisa and Janison. Along with the names came flashes of two beautiful children, playing on the floor in the room where Malek had found him. Dev was playing with them, the love he felt for them overwhelming them both. Both of them looked so much like Devlin that there could be no question of whose children they were.
Then came the pain and the scenes of that long ago day, when Malek had found and freed him. He saw those same two children killed by the Jaffa, as he watched. The pain was so intense that it took Malek’s breath away, and he leaned against the wall as he slowly slid to his knees, unable to stand under the onslaught of pain-filled memories.
Forcing himself to try to push through the pain, he began to try to call to Dev, to bring him out of that dark place in his mind. However, Devlin did not seem to hear him. Instead, this last trauma had released every memory that he had buried and kept away from Malek for all the years that they had been blended. Memories of Dev’s life, before Malek had come into it and freed him from the prison that he had been in for ten long years, flooded their shared consciousness.
Malek found himself fighting to keep from screaming as wave after wave of emotional pain, so intense that it manifested physically, coursed through them until he reached the blending with himself. Then there were years of gratitude, love, and unwavering loyalty, so deep they seemed bottomless, before he was thrown into the vortex of emotional pain again, this time, over what was happening with Gwennetha.
He braced himself as it washed over them. The remorse was so deep and bitter that he could taste it, and the pain was so deep that he felt as if he could not breathe. How did any being survive such intensely painful emotions?
In addition, for the first time, Malek saw the night Gwennetha conceived through Devlin’s eyes, not as an attack and forced sexual acts, but as a night full of love and erotic playing. A night where they had been pleasured beyond their wildest dreams, and loved until they thought they could stand no more, only to prove that they not only could, but wished to continue. A night so erotic and pleasurable it was more than they had ever dreamed was possible. He saw himself bite her until the blood ran down her neck and her shoulders, as his fingers clenched her tightly, leaving marks upon her skin, in her flesh, and still, she welcomed him joyfully and loved him long and sweetly.
He felt the slight sting of the raking of her nails that was then replaced by the sweet feel of her body closing around them, bathing them in silken moisture that soothed, and aroused all at the same time. He felt her nails rake his back, buttocks, and thighs, but it was erotic, not painful, the scratches light, not deep, and she continued to love them until utter satiation claimed them. Then Merdwin and Valynara had awakened them from their temporarily sated sleep and moved them apart, explaining that they would exhaust each other if they did not separate, for Gwennetha was too young to have control over her cycle or her pheromones yet. Too young, too young, the phrase kept repeating, until the next memory pushed that revelation aside.
He recalled that rush of intense gladness and joy at the news that they would be fathers, happiness that he had discounted as unimportant. Devlin had been ecstatic. However, as Malek had become angrier and angrier, he had buried his feelings about it and retreated, never interfering, never questioning Malek, simply agreeing with him, because this was the way that Malek wanted it.
Moreover, what Malek wanted, desired, or needed was important to Dev. More than important, it was everything. He would gladly subjugate himself, and his needs and wants, if it made Malek happy and content. How many other times, Malek wondered, had Devlin put his own wishes and desires aside for Malek’s? How many times had he not voiced an opinion or changed his mind, simply because Malek wanted something different? At least Gwennetha had not been one of those. Devlin had been thrilled when Malek had wished to mate eternally with her. At least he had not had to give that up.
And now, it seemed that Devlin had retreated so far into his own mind that Malek could not reach him. He could not reach his other half, the other part of him that was forged to his soul, and which, together, became one whole from two separate beings. If what he heard was true, they were about to lose the mate of that forged soul. Somehow, he knew that he was the reason, and he had to set things right, but he did not know how.
Well, he had never lacked courage and he would need it all right now, for he had to face the parents of the woman, who, if he had understood what there were saying correctly, he had just condemned to death. Giving up on reaching Devlin for the moment, Malek dragged himself to his feet and stepped into the doorway.
The couple stood, oblivious to his presence as they mourned what was happening. Merdwin enfolded Kataya in his arms, her hands clasping the front of his shirt, as she cried quietly. The anguish on Merdwin’s face matched that in Malek’s soul. He had no idea where to start, what to say or do.
Sensing his presence, Merdwin turned slightly toward him, his expression wiped clean of emotion and pain, showing nothing of the inner turmoil that was lurking there. Malek could tell that they would come up with some reason for Kataya’s tears unless he stopped them.
“There is no need to think up a reason for your tears; we heard you. Devlin is – he,” Malek swallowed convulsively before trying again. “He has closed himself off from me in a corner of his mind and he will not answer me. I – I do not know what to do for him, or – or for myself,” he finished on a whisper. “I am – lost.”
Kataya stood away from Merdwin as he went toward the man standing in the doorway looking so lost and frightened.
“I am sorry that you overheard us, Malek. It is unfortunate that Devlin had to hear this. Come sit on the bed before you collapse. You do not look well. I assume you are still feeling nauseated. Would you like some of the tea for it? It will help, I assure you.” Merdwin asked quietly, injecting the situation with a mundane and common question to try to diffuse it and keep things as calm as possible. It would also be interesting to see what response the question received this time. Another refusal did not bode well for the future.
“I – I don’t know.” As he stared at the floor, his mind trying to grapple with the information that he had just received, he realized that this was important. His refusal of the tea and their weakening condition was important in the situation. They had said that his refusal was why the All would take the kits. He could feel the panic building within himself. He looked at Merdwin, confusion, pain, and awakening fear in his eyes, as he said haltingly, stumbling over his words, “Yes. Y- yes, please, I-I would. Thank you.”
“I will get some for you, Malek. Please try to stay calm, for if you panic, it will only make things worse on Devlin,” Kataya said, as quietly as Merdwin had.
She watched him nod his head, but it was a jerky motion, indicating that his control was tenuous at best.
This was a beginning. Malek was beginning to realize that this was serious. He could lose everything and he cared too much for Gwennetha to lose her in this way. She and Merdwin would do what they could to encourage his response. Perhaps the week would prove long enough to bring about a change. Time alone would tell.
She truly hated that Devlin had to live through the pain of those memories. There was no doubt that they had broken loose and swamped both Dev and Malek. They had barely been below the surface in Dev’s mind as it was; any trauma would release them. Malek looked completely stunned, almost traumatized by the scenes that had no doubt played out in his mind.
What's more, as much as she loved her new sons, Malek deserved this pain, and if it took this trauma to make him realize what he was throwing away, then she would inflict it with little remorse. Except for Devlin, but Dev she would help soon. She hurried to the small transport area and it whisked her to the kitchen area in order to procure them some fresh tea.
In the room she left behind, Malek shakily pushed one hand through his hair while the other clenched the linens on the bed, his emotions chasing one another across his face. Despair seemed to be there most often, and Merdwin allowed him a few minutes to think before he went to him and placed his hand on his shoulder, calming his agitation.
“I suggest that you relax against the headboard, Malek. Kataya will return soon with the fresh warm tea, and it will help your nausea.”
“The nausea has suddenly become the least of my problems, though, has it not, Merdwin? I have lost both of my Soulmates through my own carelessness. Is there anything more bitter in this universe than to know you have lost everything you hold most dear, and you have only yourself to blame?”
“No, there is not, that is true. However, we do not know that you have lost them permanently, only that they are lost within their pain, as you are, and that the future does not look promising. We do not know that it is unchangeable.”
“I am the one that has caused this, am I not? I am the one that has caused the All to call Gwennetha before them. I do not know how I did it, or how to stop it, Merdwin. I do not want anything to happen to Gwennetha or the - the, kits."
Thinking, searching his mind for an explanation, he finally asked, “My anger has caused this, has it not? My stupid, irrational ravings and inability to forgive her for something that truly was not her fault have caused this to happen.”
“I thought that she hurt Devlin, but she did not, at least not in his eyes, and it is his body; he has the right to view what happened any way that he wishes to. I refused to allow him that right. I took that away from him, as I believe that I have taken so many things away over the years. I am surprised he has stayed blended with me.”
“I am not. Devlin loves you deeply. His loyalty to you runs even deeper than his love of Gwennetha. That is how it must be, Malek. You and Devlin are two halves of a whole and you must support each other before all others. I doubt that Gwennetha has considered that, for she is not thinking clearly, either. Her refusal to put up any defense against the charges is proof that is so.”
“I do not know what to do, Merdwin. Please, tell me what to do. I never intended to petition for anything, I swear. I want to revoke it. I must find out how to do so.” Malek said, anguish plain in his voice.
Merdwin looked back at him and internally breathed a sigh of relief. Smiling wryly to himself, he thought, trust the All to take the strands and untangle them. He just wished that it had waited another day or two, so that they could have spared Devlin most of the pain he was going through. Then again, perhaps the All wanted Malek to experience Devlin’s pain, and that is why it chose today to put the chain of events into action. By this time tomorrow or the next day, Kataya would have absorbed and muted a great deal of it.
Malek would not be let off lightly, for he had broken his vows to his mate. He had not yet realized that, of course, and at the moment, he was overwhelmed. His realization would come soon enough. In the meantime, Merdwin knew that he needed to contact Artereos to be sure that his suspicions were correct as well, before he said anything, if he said anything. Kataya, too, would have realized by now that the seven days had been given with this result in mind. Moreover, the two of them had played their part. Symbiote hearing was enhanced, but then, so was a cat’s.
He hated allowing Devlin to suffer, but Malek must realize the seriousness of what had occurred. “I wish that I could tell you, Malek, but I do not know. Since you overheard so much, then you are aware of what has occurred. Gwennetha was summoned, for you placed charges against her, which she answered, pleading guilty to all counts.”
“The deception charge is a serious one, for you became bonded mates with it between you, but it would not have been so serious as it is now. The complication is the kits. You and Devlin are getting weaker by the day. You have refused the tea, which would enable you to begin to eat and gain strength. The All will not allow the kits to live at your expense. It will not take your lives for theirs.”
“For that, she will be put into a state of non-existence, probably for hundreds of years. The kits will be taken, unless you agree to go into a living death until they are born. The All might agree to that, to save them, then they will take her, and the sentence will be lighter. No more than a few hundred years probably.”
“But, she did not do it deliberately,” Malek whispered. “I did not understand. It cannot be allowed to do this to her.”
Then, his voice getting stronger, he added, “I cannot allow this to happen, Merdwin, no matter what it takes, it must not be allowed to happen.” He added bitterly, “I thought the All was goodness. This is a terrible, evil thing that it is going to do.”
“The All is being neither good nor evil in this instance, Malek. You petitioned to have your soul-threads returned due to deception on Gwennetha’s part. That is a legitimate reason to ask to be freed from your Soulmate. She pled guilty to the charge, therefore, the All must pass sentence on her word and yours.”
“She gave no defense, so while the All might have mitigated the sentence due to the circumstances, because Gwennetha felt so deeply that she had indeed harmed you both, and knew from your attitudes to her that you truly no longer loved her, she refused to defend herself, choosing instead to accept the full punishment permitted under our laws."
"The easiest way for her to return your soul-threads is to die. It could take them from her while she lives, but since she is not a First-born, it would no doubt kill her anyway. Morgasha barely survived it when I requested my soul-threads, and the only reason that she survived was the fact that she had the regenerative power of a First-born.”
“Then how do I stop it? Surely, if I am the one that petitioned, then I can recall it - stop it? Tell me how.” Malek pleaded.
Merdwin shook his head slowly. “If I knew how, I would tell you, Malek. Until I speak to Artereos, I will know nothing, for I was not aware of the summons until it was over. Artereos attended with Gwennetha. Kataya will return shortly, and I will go and talk to him, then.” He soothed him slightly. “I suggest that you attempt to make some type of contact with Devlin, and see if you can calm him. You may have to allow Kataya to approach him through your joined minds.”
“I will do anything, whatever I have to do, to stop this, and to help Devlin.”
“And what of my daughter, Malek? What are you going to offer to her to make up for your lack of faith and trust?” Merdwin asked, as he looked deeply into Malek’s eyes. Watching the pain flare there, he was satisfied with the response. It would be painful for him, but Malek had much for which to make up to both Devlin and Gwennetha. For not only had he lost faith in the mate of his soul, he had not allowed her other mate to go to her, as he truly wished to do. He looked at him steadily, waiting for the entirety of the situation to hit him.
“It is not just a matter of the All stopping it, is it, Merdwin? Even if I can get that accomplished, I still have to convince Gwennetha that I still love her. Moreover, she will not believe me. The only thing that she asked of me, I failed to do. Unwavering faith in her and her love, and part of that was trust that she would never intentionally hurt either Devlin or myself.”
“I have failed them both. And, I have no way to win either of them back.” He looked at Merdwin with eyes full of bleak, black despair. Then moaning from the pain of his realization, as well as the acute nausea bringing the bile into his throat, he headed for the bathroom again. This time, the nausea was not from the pregnancy, he could tell. This time, it was from the feeling of disgust that he felt with himself.
Kataya entered the room and raised an eyebrow at Merdwin, who nodded his head toward the bathroom.
“Has Devlin recovered at all, Merdwin?” She asked quietly.
“Not that I know of.” He frowned. “You may get your wish. I had hoped that when the crisis played out, he would have been better able to handle it. Unfortunately, it came upon us more suddenly than I had anticipated.”
“Do not blame yourself, Caruswyn. I will go in and see what I can do for him. Have they been back in the bathroom long?”
“Not really, and I do not think that this nausea is from the kits. I believe that it is from Malek’s realization that he has no one, but himself, to blame for what is happening. The kits are simply making it so that he cannot control it and in his present state of mind, I am not sure he would try, anyway. What better way to punish himself?”
She sighed deeply, saying, "We both hoped that he would realize what he was doing on his own. That he did not is no one's fault. We knew all along what Malek's response to this would be. He is a wonderful being in many ways, with many, many loveable and admirable traits, but his Goa'uld genes tend him to see the world in an arrogant, self-centric manner. They cannot help it, for the most part, and although most Tok'Ra do learn the lesson at some point, it is not an easy lesson for them to learn and often entails much emotional pain."
She turned and went to the doorway, calling to Malek, “Your tea is here, Malek. Are you well enough to come and try to sip some?” Hearing him retch again, she sighed again. “Evidently not,” she remarked to Merdwin before entering the room, wetting a cloth, and going to kneel beside him.
“Malek, you are making yourself more ill. You must start to get better, and if you allow your despair to do this to you, it will not help you, Devlin, or Gwennetha. Come, let me wipe your face, then we will go and relax on the bed and slowly sip some of the tea. Then, if Devlin is still not responding, I will go in to him and attempt to bring him back to you. All right? Now, come.”
She coaxed him as if he was a small child, and Malek surprised himself by relaxing against her for a moment as she used the cloth and talked soothingly, and then by doing as she suggested and following her into the other room, the nausea at least muted for the moment. “As I told Merdwin, the nausea seems to have become the least of my concerns," he said quietly.
“That may be true up to a point, but it is necessary for you to overcome it, in order for you to gain strength. Once you begin to do that, we may find that we have more time to work through all of this, but, first, the All must know you do not intend to allow yourself to die. Only then will it not take the kits from you.” She pointed out softly.
“But unless I can find a way out of this, it will still take Gwennetha. I do not think that I could bear that to happen.”
Ignoring his last comment, she said, “Sip this. Very small sips until you become somewhat accustomed to the taste, and then you can take slightly larger sips. You will find that the nausea will recede. It will still bother you on and off, but you can keep most of it controlled with this. And once you have stopped fighting it, your body will begin to assimilate and learn to control the hormones until they finally leave your body.”
“Do they leave it?” Malek asked, obviously surprised.
“Yes. It takes time, but they do leave, and in the meantime, your body adjusts. Two months at the most, then you will be quite well again, I promise you.”
“How-how long before the, our, kits are born if - when, when I get this situation stopped?”
“They come in four to five months, Malek. It will not be long.”
“Gwennetha, has, is,” Malek swallowed hard before continuing, “has she been very ill, too?” He finally managed to whisper.
Kataya did not answer at first, but as she saw the panic begin to grow again in his eyes, she brought herself to say calmly, “Gwennetha has been quite ill, also, Malek. The emotional strain has taken a toll on her, and her health is precarious at the moment. In the end, it may not matter, however, so there is no point in dwelling on that now. You must begin to take control of your own physical health. When she knows that you are beginning to recover, it will help her. So, since your health is important for her well-being, perhaps you will do better at controlling your nausea.”
Nodding, he said, “Yes. I will. It is imperative that I begin to do what must be done for her and for Devlin, and I will do so.”
Looking around, Malek realized that Merdwin was gone. “Has Merdwin gone to talk to Artereos to find out how I can stop this from happening?” He asked quietly.
“I do not know, Malek. Possibly, however, he may have gone to check on Gwennetha. She and her father have always been very close and he will perhaps be able to give her some much-needed comfort. She is very distressed at the thought of losing the kits. She was - pleased - about the kits, regardless of how she conceived them. Your kittdren and hers.” Kataya said, softly and gently, as she watched Malek’s eyes darken even more with the pain of that thought also, before saying, “I wish to enter your mind and talk to Devlin, please, if you do not mind. I will do it as soon as you finish your tea, but I prefer that you not be awake. I assure you that I wish to talk to Devlin only. I will not be going through any of your private thoughts or memories; you have my word.”
Malek looked startled, then he grimaced as he realized that she wished to talk privately with Devlin. He nodded his agreement. Both Merdwin and Kataya were being kinder than he deserved. If she had said she wanted to see every memory and delve into every corner of his mind so she could put them up in the most prominent place she could find for all to survey, he would probably have agreed. “Kataya, why do you not berate me as I deserve?”
“Tell me, Malek, do you believe that I could improve on what you are telling yourself? Could I cause you to feel differently in any way than you do? Will allowing my anguish and pain at what you have done to the three of you, allow either you or I, to feel less pain, or more? I believe it would gain nothing, but it would cause you and possibly myself, more pain. I believe you are suffering as it is; you do not need me to prod the injury and cause more.”
“Now, if you have finished your tea, I will help you to sleep so that I may try to help Devlin with his pain. He never wanted you to know what was in his past. I believe that this has released those memories, though, and that is why he will not respond to you.”
“He is embarrassed, humiliated, and in great fear that you will despise him. He has always feared you would despise him, for what was done to him and, for what he allowed to happen so that he might keep his children. I neither know nor care at this point, if he was right or wrong, I simply wish to help him to live through his pain, and perhaps, to take as much of it from him as I can.”
Reaching forward, Malek grasped her hand tightly. “You are correct, and I had no idea that his life before I found him was like that. It explains some of the odd dreams he has had from time to time. I always assumed that he was a slave that kept trying to escape, or that he was perhaps the toy of the mistress of the house. I never thought - it never entered my mind that…dear universe, Kataya,” he whispered urgently, “how has he lived with those memories? He was so very young when it happened. I never once thought about his position there as being that kind of slave, but I would never have blamed him for what happened to him. The memories that I saw told the story plainly. He could not have escaped, and I do not blame him for wanting to keep his children safe and cared for, or for wanting to be with them.”
"He is not answering or communicating with me in any way. It is as if he has shut himself off from me completely, as if I am no longer here, and I will not force him to acknowledge me. Please, tell him - tell him that there is nothing in this universe that could cause me to despise him. I love him deeply, and I would never hold the things I saw against him. He did what he had to do, and I understand that. Please tell him,” he pleaded softly. Then looking at her, his eyes bleak and his voice full of self-loathing, he said, “Assure him that I have learned my lesson well. There will be no wavering on my part, no lessening of my love or faith in him, no matter what, ever.”
“They are brave words, Malek, but only words, after all. I will do my best to reassure him.”
“It will not be easy. That is what you are thinking. I promised Gwennetha unwavering faith, and I failed her. Devlin knows that, and he will no longer trust me,” he mourned, feeling all the bitterness of his situation.
“Whatever it takes, Kataya. I will do whatever it takes, to stop this and to bring them back together, to relieve Devlin of the hell that he is in, to stop the All from sentencing Gwennetha. I swear to you and to them. Anything.”
She nodded and looked down at him. She settled on the edge of the bed next to him and began a rhythmic combing of his hair with her fingers as she gazed steadily into his eyes, letting him fall into the violet mysts in hers.
Whatever it took, he did not care. He was willing to do anything to release Devlin from his personal hell and stop this sentencing against Gwennetha. The last thought he had as he drifted off was that same litany. He would do anything to atone for what he had done, no matter what it took. Anything.