Chapter Fourteen Summary: Malek finds himself floating "somewhere". His vow to do anything to undo what he has caused was taken as a request by the All. One that it granted. Mistakes were never harder to face.
Daniel looked at Lantash and sighed before answering, “Yes. At least, there is a chance that it might happen. Please keep in mind that it is not a forgone conclusion. But, yes, odds are that something will be done that will affect them.”
The silence in the room lengthened until Lantash asked, “Do you know what is going on, Daniel? Are Merdwin and Kataya with Malek and Devlin, then?”
“I’m not sure, Lantash, if they are with him or not. Something has happened that concerns Gwennetha and the kits. Of course, it also concerns Dev and Malek, if it concerns them. We probably won’t know much for a while, I’m afraid.”
“What, Daniel?” Lantash insisted. “What has happened?”
Daniel sighed again, loath to tell his friend what had occurred. “I’m sorry, Lantash. Malek has brought charges of deception, against Gwennetha, before the All. She pled guilty. The All will have no choice but to take Malek’s soul-threads back from her.”
Lantash sat unmoving as he assimilated the information, and drew a conclusion. “But, that could kill Gwennetha,” he finally gasped, as the seriousness of the situation came home to him.
“Yes. Yes, it could.”
Lantash closed his eyes in anguish, as the other Tok’Ra looked at Daniel in disbelief. That Malek was being so unreasonable had stunned them all. They had known that he was being irrational and stubborn, of course, but this was beyond what they had expected. Malek simply was not an irrational being. Stubborn, yes, but not irrational, and for him to be acting this way was almost beyond their comprehension.
“The kits,” Lantash gasped. “What of them?”
Daniel shook his head. “I don’t know, but unless something happens to change the course of events, they will be taken, too.”
“Daniel, we cannot allow this to happen. We must do something,” Lantash said urgently.
Daniel shook his head. “From what Kataya told me, they are working on the situation. We can only hope that Malek doesn’t attempt to do anything else, for now. They thought you would want to know, in case, well, in case they can’t get it straightened out. They didn’t want it to be a complete shock if something happened.”
Lantash shook his head in disbelief. “This is so unlike Malek. I should have tried to talk to him. Perhaps I should go try now.”
“I won’t tell you not to, Lantash, but I honestly don’t think it would do any good. He hasn’t responded to any of us. He even refused to see Selmak and he would not even talk to Brialek before he left to go back to the Tok’Ra.”
“I know, and that makes no sense at all for they are quite close.”
“All we can do it wait. The hard part, as you know.”
“Yes. Yes, I do know,” Lantash sighed and then felt Sam’s hand slowly begin to rub his arm in a soothing gesture. He squeezed her hand where it lay on his arm, while giving her a slight smile.
Daniel sighed as he realized his next statement might not go over well, but he knew he should say it anyway, “As callous as it may sound, there is nothing we can do. We may as well continue with our research. At least, we may have some good news for them if - when - this thing is straightened out.”
Wishing to go immediately to his friend, Lantash knew it would be a futile action at this point. He reined his emotions in and forced himself to pick up a scroll, but he stared down at it blankly for a moment, as Daniel’s words sank in. He was right, of course; they could do nothing.
He nodded his head to Daniel in agreement and determinedly opened the papers in his hand. They would leave Kataya and Merdwin to handle the situation between their daughter and Malek. All they could do was hope for the best.
Malek came slowly awake. Thank the universe; it must have been a particularly bad dream. He shuddered at the seeming reality of it. He had found himself facing a tribunal of the All, which appeared to be pure energy. It had questioned his purpose in coming before them, listened to what he wished to say, debated his statements, and then agreed to his proposition. He would take Gwennetha's place; she and the kits would live out their lives with Devlin.
One minute he was standing in the tribunal chamber, the next he was waking up. He wondered why he had never dreamed when Merdwin had given them rest by helping them to sleep. Perhaps Kataya had simply cut him off from Devlin and he had fallen asleep on his own. He had been tired; exhausted by the emotional storms he was in. He frowned. He could not imagine simply falling asleep as upset as he had been. Kataya must have helped him to enter slumber.
He also realized that he no longer felt nauseated. In fact, he did not feel much of anything at the moment. Why was he able to see Kataya sitting with himself and Devlin? Was he still asleep? No, he knew he was awake because he had felt himself waking up. So why was everything so odd? A shiver traveled up his back. Something was not as it should be. One could not normally see one’s body from the outside without a mirror. Perhaps he was still asleep and only thought he had awakened. Somehow, that thought rang false.
Kataya still sat on the edge of the bed, running her fingers through Devlin’s hair, but she was now comforting a deeply distressed Devlin. At least she had succeeded in coaxing him to come forward while Malek had been off in his dream-world. Kataya had managed to get him to leave that dark place in his mind. He thought she was going to help him deaden some of the pain, but Devlin looked desolate, tears running freely down his face, his eyes, even as he cried, bleak and empty. He looked as if his heart was broken and there was nothing in the Universe that would ever repair it.
“Devlin, you must not grieve so. I am not disgusted, nor do I despise you. You should have known I would not,” Malek told him.
Dev’s sorrow did not abate, nor did he answer Malek. Malek sent all the warmth and love he felt for him, but still got no response. He sighed. He would just have to wait for this overwhelming grief to abate somewhat and try again to get him to talk to him, perhaps to forgive him for what he had done.
Malek frowned. He was beginning to feel Devlin’s sorrow deeply, and it hurt badly, for seeing him this way distressed Malek, but he could not feel Devlin’s distress as Devlin was feeling it. It was battering him, cutting into him, and yet, he could not feel Devlin himself. Had something occurred that had kept Kataya from deadening the pain of them for Devlin? However, if that was so, why was she not returning, seeing him in such distress, and stopping it, changing it, trying again to stop the pain of them?
“Devlin, you must try to overcome some of this grief. Gwennetha needs you now more than ever. Malek made the only choice he felt he could. He chose to give his life for that of Gwennetha and the kits. In a few hundred years, the All will return him to you; when the sentence is up. Until then, he will be in a non-existent state.”
“He should have talked to me about it. We should have discussed it. I would have taken the punishment and left Malek to live with Gwennetha and the kits. We need him here to continue on with the fight; they need him much more than they need me. It should have been me,” Dev replied, his voice harsh with the pain of his loss.
“Devlin, I am here. I have not left you. I am still with you. Can you not hear me?” Malek asked him.
Devlin continued, as if Malek had not spoken, “How do I bear this loss, Kataya? I have never felt so much pain, even – even during the worst of my years of captivity. It is as if they ripped away from me part of my very soul. I have a huge empty space in my heart; my soul is nothing but tattered pieces. My mind is quiet, he is not there, and I miss him more than I ever thought possible. Why? Why is the All doing this? I do not understand.”
“It was Malek’s choice, Dev. That is all I know,” Kataya responded softly, as she gently stroked his arm and the hand she held.
She sighed to herself. How could she explain the All’s decision? Malek placed charges against Gwennetha, very serious charges. When he came to understand and realize what he caused and what would happen to their kits and Gwennetha, what his choices did to Devlin, he offered himself in exchange to live out her sentence. As things stood, the All had no choice, but to make the exchange. Malek would live out Gwennetha’s sentence, which was non-existence for the length of time of Gwennetha’s sentence.
What she could not tell Devlin was that non-existence was worse than death. In death, at least you could find peace in the All. In non-existence, your life continued, but you took no part in it. Malek’s punishment was to see, hear, and take part in everything that happened, but not be able to interact in any way with the people he loved.
He would watch his children grow-up. He would feel every pain that Devlin had, that Gwennetha had, but their joys would barely register with him. He would be able to see them make love, but would be able to feel none of it. He could relive the memories of what it was like at other times, but not when they were making love. He would ache to take part, but would be unable to do so. He was reaping that which he had sown. By his actions, he cut both Devlin and Gwennetha off from him. In his mind, he put Gwennetha away from him and forced those feelings on Devlin, now he would pay the price for what he had sown, nurtured, and grown.
Moreover, it was not only their pain, for he would see and feel the pain his brethren sent out from themselves. He would soon feel the anguish Lantash was feeling at his loss. Malek had no idea what he had agreed to, she was sure. She could only hope that in the coming years he would learn to navigate the All and at least be able to find some places that allowed him to fall into a meditative state to rest.
No, she would not tell Devlin those things, to do so would increase his pain even more. Unfortunately, the punishment meted out to Malek hurt Devlin almost as much. She sighed again.
Once Malek realized what was happening, he would be in emotional pain with no way to escape it. The only thing she could do for him was to mitigate it by helping Devlin. When Malek said he was willing to do anything to atone for what he had done, the All had taken him at his word.
Now, the rest of them had to come to terms with it. In addition, she hoped that Merdwin would be able to help Gwennetha so that she and Devlin could begin to accept that he had done it out of love for them. Gwennetha at least would realize that he was feeling their pain and that would help her to overcome her own grief. Then she would help Devlin. She hoped. In the end, they might have to explain it to him.
Malek heard her thoughts and felt the panic rising within him. He was dead? He no longer existed? He shuddered realizing that he had not been dreaming. He was dead.
“This was your choice, Malek of the Tok’Ra. You chose to take your Soulmate’s place, that she would be spared non-existence.”
“Then it was not a dream? I am truly not – not there? I no longer exist? If that is true, how can you talk to me? How do I feel their pain? Who are you?”
“You no longer exist to them. You exist in the all and you may travel into it when they sleep. You will find places to rest within the All, but remember that it also is a dangerous place for the untrained. You must hope that you will find a guide who will teach you how to traverse it safely.”
“I do not understand. What is in the All that is dangerous to me?”
“All of your greatest fears dwell within the All, Malek, as well as your greatest dreams. If you are lucky, you will find only the dreams.”
“It seems I am already living a Nightmare.”
“Perhaps, but as with most of the dreams and nightmares that dwell here, you wove them yourself. You will have full access to watch their life, your life, as it would have been.”
“Where do I find my guide? How do I find it?”
“You have much to learn before your guide will appear. Only when you can bear to face the truth, and realize that this is of your own making, will they come to you. This is the life you wished for Gwennetha and gave to Devlin. Good-bye, Malek”
“No. Wait! I do not yet understand everything. I have more questions. Who are you?”
“It is not necessary that you understand everything at once, or that you know who or what I am. Understanding will come through time. For now, observe the hearts you have injured and attempt to absorb their pain.”
“But they do not appear to hear me. How can I help them, if I cannot go to them to comfort them?”
“Yes, that is a problem, is it not? You know of their pain, yet are unable to take it from them. You feel their pain, yet are not sharing it. You are observing it, absorbing it, yet are not lessening it. The All can teach those willing to learn. Perhaps, in a hundred years or so, you will begin to learn.”
“No, please. Wait. Wait! Hello? Hello?” He was alone in the empty place again. Besides that, the pain was intensifying the longer Devlin cried for him, called to him. Dear Universe, how would he bear years and years of this?
Bringing his attention back to Devlin, he saw him open his eyes as Gwennetha opened the door and entered with Merdwin.
“Devlin? My father told me you wished to see me. Is that true or do you want me to leave you?”
"No. No, I do not wish you to leave. I want you here with me, in my arms where you belong, where you have always belonged."
"This is my fault, Devlin. I am aware of that, and you cannot blame me any more than I blame myself," Gwennetha said softly, but firmly, her words heavy with remorse.
Sitting up, Dev reached for her bringing her to sit beside him where Kataya had been a moment before. “No, how could you think that? Malek chose this himself. He should have waited, tried another way, but you are not to blame.”
“I did not tell you of Lun’ak’mat, and it all comes back to that.”
“No, you did not, but it was not a crime or a deliberate attempt to deceive. I love you and what happened between us was a beautiful thing. We will have the kits. Malek – Malek did not understand,” Devlin told her, his voice shaking. "He was so confused, so angry at himself. I should have attempted to talk to him more, instead of retreating into myself. Much of this is my fault, my love, for I should have forced him to listen to me, and I did not. I have done Malek no favors by always doing things his way. I see that now that it is too late. I would give almost anything to have a second chance to show him my love, Gwennetha. I – I am so alone," he whispered, choking on his words.
“Oh, Dev, my heart is breaking for you and for myself, and yet, I know that the more pain I feel, the worse it will become. We must attempt to block this pain. It is imperative that we block this pain and attempt to pick up our lives and move on without him.”
Devlin looked at her oddly, knowing this was not how Gwennetha should be reacting to this. “There is something you are not telling me. What is it? I would rather know the worst than to remain in ignorance.” He looked at Merdwin and Kataya as they stood regarding them, waiting to see how things would be before they left them alone. He could not blame them for being cautious with their daughter. He and Malek had certainly given her nothing but pain in the past week. “Please, tell me,” he pleaded softly.
“Malek is feeling your pain, Devlin, as you and Gwennetha grieve for him. He cannot stop it or share it with you, but he can see and feel what he has caused. Gwennetha is correct. The more pain you feel, the more he will feel. The sooner you release him into your memories, the sooner his pain will lessen,” Merdwin told him quietly.
“Lessen, but not leave. He will be in pain as long as he is gone, will he not? This is what you are keeping from me. Not just that our pain makes his worse, but that he will be in pain all the time. His own pain, even without ours, he will have his own pain with him all the time.” Devlin stopped and looked at Merdwin and Kataya, when they did not disavow what he had said.
“How can the All do this to him? He does not deserve this. Malek is a wonderful being. He saved me, cared for me, loved me. One mistake should not cause this severe a punishment. One mistake should not be the cause of that much suffering.”
“No, it should not. However, that is how it is. Moreover, we must live with it, just as Malek must experience it. He chose this, Devlin, because he loved you and Gwennetha so very much. He was willing to do anything to stop the chain of events his actions had set into motion.”
“Please, understand and try not to be angry with him, or to grieve so much. I know it will be many years before he returns to you, but he will be returned. If you can, dwell on that fact, not the one that he is gone. Your negative emotions will continue to impact him and cause him more pain," Merdwin attempted to explain but he knew that regardless of what he said, nothing would stop Devlin's pain. This was not the best solution and he, also, wished Malek had waited before attempting to set things right.
“Please, Devlin, do not. You will only make it worse for him,” Gwennetha whispered quietly.
Moaning, Devlin drew her into his arms as he once again cried for his mate, unashamedly. Placing her arms around him, she nodded to her parents and they acknowledged her request. Gwennetha would care for Devlin now. Only time would heal them of their loss. They would both cry for the mate of their soul, now lost to them.
"Is there nothing we can do, Gwennetha? Can we not travel into the All and petition to have him returned to us? Please can we at least try?"
"I – I already did that, Devlin. Malek refused to trade places with either of us. He is determined to pay the consequences of his actions and mine. I feel very guilty myself, as I truly feel this is my fault for forgetting to tell you. I truly never meant to hurt either of you and I love Malek so much, Devlin. So much that I feel as if my heart and soul are being torn from me, and there is nothing left. I am so thankful that I still have you. Malek has neither of us, and our pain is only making his worse. Much as we wish to mourn for him, we must try to accept and forget for only as our pain lessens, will his pain lessen."
Malek watched as Gwennetha rocked Devlin back and forth soothing him as best she could, as he tried to help her. He could see an aura around her that he had never realized existed. Of course, he had never been in this realm before that he knew of either. Her aura was jagged, ripped, and pale. Something told him it was not supposed to be that way.
As he watched them, he realized once again how very beautiful she was. And, from where he was now, he could see that the beauty was not an outward shell but a deep and abiding beauty. She had a beauty in her soul that reflected outward and enhanced her physical beauty. It hurt him to look on her and yet he could not seem to look away.
Why had he not seen before? Had his eyes truly been so closed? He had thrown away the most beautiful thing he had ever had. He had shut her out; cut her from his life and refused to believe that she had not hurt Devlin. He had forgotten his vow of unwavering faith in her love of him. How could he have forgotten that? His loss was bitter indeed. Bitter and sharp.
Devlin, also, was beautiful both inside and out. He had never truly appreciated the being he had inhabited. He had used his body and never appreciated its beauty or the inner beauty of the being to whom it belonged. Oh, he had kept it in wonderful physical shape. He had slowed its ageing, kept it well toned, given it added strength, and felt self- righteous when he let the being use his own improved body.
How many times had Devlin just gone along for the ride, giving his body to Malek at times when, in reality, it was Devlin that should have been using it? Often, Malek was sure, and Devlin had always done it with good humor and grace, telling Malek he was tired and did not wish to be bothered. Malek recognized those statements for what they were now. They were Devlin's way of making Malek happy. Always, in every way that he could, Devlin strove to make Malek happy and content, as if he was afraid that if he disagreed too stridently Malek would abandon him.
Malek could probably count the number of real disagreements between them on one hand. All of them were over mission details, never anything that affected Malek personally. Dear Universe, he never deserved Devlin. Well, his own actions were the cause of his parting from him; he was now living only what he deserved. It was wrong that Devlin felt all of this pain, though; that should not be a part of what was happening.
He realized that he never looked at the body he inhabited as the gift that it was. He had never been thankful for the way Devlin trustingly, freely gave it to him. This was what Egeria was trying to instill in them. It was not their body, and all the added benefits they showered upon it only enhanced it. They should be thankful that its owner gave it to them to share. Never should they look upon it as a machine that they maintained, but a home where their heart could reside in comfort, respect, and love. The beings that shared their bodies with him over the years gave him a great gift, for without them and their bodies, Malek would never have known of the universe beyond his own mind. He would have been alone forever.
Moreover, he had thrown it all away in his arrogance and pride. As the pain coursed through him again, he faced the future that those two traits were giving him. It was not pleasant to contemplate and he wondered, if the pain became too much to bear, what would happen? There appeared to be no escape. He was trapped here within his pain, and theirs.
There was no one to talk to, no one to listen. As he contemplated that thought, a truth suddenly burst upon him, and he realized that he was now facing one of his greatest fears. He was alone. For the first time in two thousand years, he was utterly alone. Furthermore, he was isolated from sensory input other than the pain of his mates. There was no heartbeat to lull him to sleep, no soft breathing, no warmth wrapping around his body. There were no warm thoughts and no love surrounding him. He could not reach out a hand and touch Gwennetha nor could he hug Devlin from within. He could not caress him and kiss him, things he had occasionally done, but not often enough, he now realized, not nearly often enough.
There were no hands. He could not get up and walk into another room. There were no feet and no other rooms that he could tell. How was he to travel anywhere with no way to go? Was he energy? He could see and he could hear them talking part of the time. He had heard Kataya's thoughts earlier, but he could not tell if he could tune in to them whenever he wanted to, or if he could only hear and see only certain things. He wondered if he could he move, and if he did have that ability, how did he use it? He felt the panic again building in him at his realization that he appeared to be helpless to do anything other than observe.
He also became aware that there was no real sound, no light, no anything. It was as if nothing existed outside of himself other than the pain, which was constant, and the room below him. At the same time, it was as if he no longer existed either. Non-existence. So, this was what it meant.
Moreover, he had almost sentenced Gwennetha to this. His beautiful, loving Gwennetha, the light of his and Devlin's life, would have been trapped in this because of him. Thank the All for listening to him and not allowing that to happen. At least Devlin still had her. He deserved her, her love, and the kits. How he ached to be with them now that it was too late. He had wasted precious time when he could have been with them.
However, he had to do something to stop their pain. Perhaps if he tried harder he could break through to them, and they would know that he was all right. That it was all right for them to forget him and get on with their lives. The sooner they did that, the sooner the time would pass for them, if not for him.
He suspected that if they forgot him it would lessen the pain of their grief, but his own pain would increase because he would be even more alone. Nevertheless, that was not what he must worry about now. Now, he needed to figure out some way to stop their pain.
It would have been better if he had never entered their lives. Stopping his thought, he realized that was not necessarily true. It might have been better for Gwennetha, but Devlin had needed him. What would have happened to Devlin if Malek had not found him? True Devlin had saved him, too, but without him, Dev would no doubt have ended up abused and probably dead at the end of a Jaffa's staff weapon or used as a slave, a continuation of the life he was already living, in some ways possibly better, in some ways possibly worse.
Therefore, he could not say that Dev would have been better off never meeting or blending with him. However, he certainly would have been better off if Malek had been a more sympathetic symbiote, a more caring, loving symbiote. One who would have appreciated what he found in him; the uncritical, unquestioning, unequivocal loyalty, trust, and love that Devlin gave to him from the very first.
How he regretted not giving Devlin more love and caring, more of the trust and faith that Dev always gave to him. It was not that it had not existed; it was simply not something he had shared with him. He had sometimes called him dear one or beloved, and he remembered now, how Devlin had gained a soft inner glow as well as a feeling of peace when he did so. He should have told him how much he loved and admired him. How very lucky he felt himself to be to be sharing his body with such a wonderful, caring person.
Why had he not? Arrogance, of course, arrogance, and pride in abundance had kept him from telling him how wonderful he was. Pride in all the things he gave to Devlin in return for his body's use. Devlin needed nothing more from Malek than that. How very wrong he had been to feel that way. Devlin deserved so much more. Much more than Malek ever gave him.
Regret left a bitter taste in his mouth. This then was one of the lessons he was supposed to be learning. Well, it had not taken him long, but he would know the lesson so well after several hundred years he would never ever forget it, he knew. He wondered what the other lessons he was supposed to learn were. Perhaps it was that he took for granted the love of his friends and comrades. Was Lantash aware yet of what had happened? How would he feel about it? They were mates at one time long ago, and the bond between them was still deep and loving. Lantash did come to see him as he lay in that room being such a totally horrible 'Goa'uld'; he could think of no worse word to describe himself.
Had he known that Malek was being impossible and irrational? Did he hate him? Why had he not come to see him? Was he still extremely ill as well? Malek had not even bothered to ask after him. He had been to busy blaming Samantha and by extension Lantash and Gwennetha and the rest of the universe for what had befallen him. Well, that was all as nothing compared to what he was undergoing now, and he had only himself to blame for the mess he made of their lives.
Was his friend and former lover hating him, for not coming to see him? Had he held it against Samantha that he was ill and suffering? Had Martouf? Were they as ill as he and Devlin had been? Did he wonder why Malek had not come to check on him?
Hearing the door to the room open, he gazed back at the scene that he could now see, but not take part in. Lantash and Samantha walked into the room and Malek could feel the waves of pain emanating from him. Samantha looked devastated as well, but he could not tell why. He had not known her well, so she could not be mourning his passing. It took little time for him to realize that her pain was for the other three people in the room, but because he was the cause of it, he could feel it too. Dear Universe, the amount of pain in that room was intensifying beyond bearing.
Lantash went straight to Devlin and Gwennetha and knelt in front of them, reaching out for them. Malek's breath caught in his throat. Lantash was crying. Not sobbing, but tears were slowly making their way down his cheeks. He was not embarrassed about them, either. He was hurting so much. His pain was for them and for himself. He never realized how very much Lantash still loved him. Not as a lover now, of course, but as a mate. Being privy to his emotions, he realized that Lantash still considered him a mate of his heart; someone who was closer than a friend was.
He knew, of course, but he never acknowledged it. He never told him, even after they almost lost him this last time, just how much he still loved him, too. That, too, was his own fault, for he had always known that Lantash still loved him deeply. It was why he allowed Malek to be the only one to comfort him after Kataya left. Furthermore, Lantash told him that he heard Malek calling him back this time, too. He heard them all, but he made a point of thanking Malek for staying with him when he would not have had to do so.
What did Malek say to him? He brushed him off, with a noncommittal remark. He told Lantash that it was not a problem; he would do it anytime. However, he did not tell him that he loved him still. He did not admit to the agony and anguish he felt as he sat watch over him and talked to him. Now Lantash would never know how much he meant to him, because his pride had kept him from admitting it or acknowledging their bond. He thought that they could no longer love one another and admit it aloud or show it to others. Lantash knew better though, and he tried to tell him, but Malek closed his mind to the words.
Lantash learned the lesson before Malek did. He realized while he waited for Samantha to return that he was nothing without his mates; his mates, not just Samantha and Kataya, but Martouf as well as Daniel. They almost lost him, but in the end, he could not do that to Martouf. He could not leave him or refuse to accept his help. Malek shuddered as he realized that he had done it to Devlin. He shut him out, completely abandoned him, cut off his wants and needs, and he neither asked for nor offered comfort…or help. He used his anger, arrogance, and pride as a shield against everyone and everything, and in the end, he hurt everyone he cared about, everyone he loved.
He deserved every slice of pain he was receiving. Why could they not see that? Devlin was insisting he did not deserve his punishment. He had to know that was not true. Malek deserved it all, every bit of it. The ones that did not deserve it were those in that room. They did not deserve this pain and he would do anything to stop it for them. He just did not know what to do to stop it, and there did not seem to be anyone he could ask either.
"So, Malek, I see that you are a little distressed." Malek looked toward the voice, but again saw no one. The voice this time was familiar though. He knew that voice well. It had given him advice one time. Very good advice as it turned out. He had taught him what a toad was, too. He smiled slightly at the memory of walking with this man in a beautiful garden. It had been a walk in which he had told him that if his granddaughter loved him, she would love him forever because that was the way of the women in his family. Once they loved, it was for eternity.
Why, why, had he forgotten that? How could he have forgotten that? The pain sliced a little deeper, and Malek thought that if he could bleed there would be a pool of blood under him by now, as the pain just sliced deeper and deeper. Worse than that, there was no end in sight.
"Not necessarily true, Malek. Well, your pain would not end, but you could end theirs," Artereos informed him, as he walked out of the darkness and into the area around Malek. He appeared to seat himself on a chair that had not been there a moment ago. Malek frowned. Was he sitting then also? Did he have a body?
"Of course you do, dear boy, if you wish to have. You are in the All. You can manifest a body if you wish to. It will take a little time for you to adjust and figure out what you can and cannot do. Of course, you are tied to Gwennetha and Devlin while they are awake, but once they enter a sleep state or meditation, then you may leave them and walk the All. Do be careful though. There be dragons."
"My greatest fears," Malek said, but he did not seem to be talking, only thinking.
"It is not necessary to talk aloud to me, I can hear you. And, I will visit you now and again to see how you are doing."
"My adjustment can wait. I wish to know how to release Devlin, Gwennetha, and Lantash from the pain of my loss."
"You realize it will not release you from the pain? You will feel it still for you will not forget them?"
"I do not care if I remain in pain. I only want to release them from the pain they are feeling. They do not deserve to share in my punishment. I am willing to do whatever it takes to stop it for them."
"Even if it increases your own pain?"
Malek gave that some thought for a moment, but realized that his pain really did not matter at all. He would survive it one way or another. He would do whatever it took to stop their pain even if it meant taking it into himself and living with it forever.
"Yes. Even if it increases my own pain. Is there a way to transfer their pain to me? I will gladly bear it for them, if they can be at peace and happy again."
"Normally the All would not offer this to you; however, they feel that when you said you would do anything to stop what was occurring, that you were not informed of the consequences and therefore, it is willing to mitigate the entire situation for Devlin and Gwennetha. Gwennetha has petitioned on your behalf already, you know, for she feels responsible and she was the one that pointed out that the All had taken unfair advantage, since you do not know the laws or ways of the All. She accused the All of injustice. A very serious charge, you understand, especially to the All, for it tries always to be just. Therefore, after some deliberation it returned a verdict of injustice against itself. Therefore, you are to be offered an alternative.” Artereos paused as he watched the hope blossom on Malek's face.
"I want to take their pain away. If they will give it to me to bear for them, then I am willing to do that."
"Well, that is not exactly how it would work. The All is willing to wipe all memory of you from everyone who has ever known you, so that your passing will cease to cause pain to them. When you return in a few hundred years, you will return with no past. For the next few hundred years you will be put into a lake with others of Egeria's offspring that will not be found until then, so it will seem as if you were never known before. Gwennetha and Devlin will never know you, and you will never be able to claim your children as yours, nor will they know of you for you will not have existed in their world, at the time of their conception. Devlin will be given another symbiote who will love and care for him, and the children will be raised as if they are his."
"You will spend the next few hundred years in this lake, and when the time is right, you will be found and implanted into a host willing to take you. You will receive the knowledge of Egeria's latter born young, but you will keep the knowledge of your previous life. Those memories will be locked away from anyone or anything else and no one, but you, will ever be able to access them even with the memory recall device."
"The reason this will be done, is because your new host, will be your son by Gwennetha and never will any of them be allowed to know how much you love their mother. That will be your eternal cross to bear. The knowledge that the woman you love, and the host you truly felt was the mate of your soul as much as she was, will never know you, but you will know them."
"So what do you say? You may think about it. The offer will stay open for a few days. However, think carefully about it. It will change the length of time for your pain to last from a few hundred years to eternity, but you will not have to watch them be happy together without you for several hundred years and the passing of time will lessen your grief. It will fade in time, not as quickly as it normally would, of course, but it will fade. The first hundred years will be much as it is now. After that, it will begin to lessen. However, never will you have them back. On the other hand, if they continue to feel this pain, and you can endure it for the period of time of your punishment, you will be reunited with them. You must think on this."
"If I agree to them forgetting my existence, will Gwennetha and the kits be alright? Are you sure that neither she nor Devlin will grieve any longer? Or Lantash? It will truly be as if I never existed in their world? There will be nothing to grieve over, is that correct? I will simply not have existed to them. Only I will still feel this pain?"
"Neither they, nor Lantash, will remember you. Only you will feel the pain."
"What of all the missions I was on that succeeded in helping the cause? Will they not have happened? Will the Goa'uld be in a better position because something I did will not have happened?"
"You are looking well beyond yourself and your family now to the bigger picture and your affect on the universe. Nothing in that way will change. Someone else will have taken the missions and succeeded in your place. Just as the symbiote who found and released Devlin from his bondage will now be the one that loves and cares for him and Gwennetha. At least, that is how it will appear to everyone. In reality, of course, you were there and did do all those things, so nothing has really changed. Even the fathers of Gwennetha's children are you and Devlin, Malek. Only they will not know that."
"In that case I do not need to think about it. I want you to wipe me from their minds. I want them to have no memory of me, and I will gladly take every bit of their pain with me. Nothing must happen to Gwennetha, the kits, or Devlin. I want them to be happy more than I have ever wanted anything. I am ready to go as soon as the All wishes to send me," Malek said firmly. He could feel the tears he was aching to shed, which was odd, as he had no way to cry. Perhaps Egeria's later children had developed a way to experience that outside the host’s body. He would know soon he was sure.
"As you wish, Malek. It will be soon, I am sure."
"Artereos," Malek stopped, sure, that Artereos would not be able to do as he asked.
"Yes, my son? What is it that you wish?"
"Before they take the memory of me from them forever, will the All allow you to tell them something for me? Even though they will forget?"
"I am sure it would. What do you wish me to tell them, Malek?"
"Tell them, tell them that I will love them both forever, - and that though they will not know, I swear to them that I will take very good care of our son. I will love him, honor him, and respect him, as I should have Devlin. It is a promise I will not fail to keep."
"I am sure I can tell them that for you, Malek. Why do you not rest now?"
How strange. Artereos was fading, so they must be taking him right away. He would not be here when Artereos told them he loved them. He would have liked to be there, but as long as they removed their pain, he would accept that he could not be. Moreover, he trusted Artereos to see to it that they knew, even if they would not remember it.
Moreover, someday, far into the future, he would get to meet his son, join with him, and love him. And he would love him fiercely, as he never had loved another, he swore to himself. That would soothe some of his pain. Yes, he would remember that and hold onto it. The young man would never know, but that did not matter because he would know.
The haze was becoming thicker now. He could no longer see the room below him. Goodbye, my loves, my dearest loves, he said silently to them as the Mysts gathered around him. Soon now, he would not even be a memory.