Chapter Two Summary: Even as Jacob and Selmak heal Martouf and Lantash’s wounds, they become concerned when neither of them regain consciousness. Soon the blended pair on the bed slide into Amek’tel kek’ma’tel, brain fever. Selmak and Malek work for many hours in an attempt to bring them safely through it and are at last relieved as they heal. As they spend time together before the briefing planned, for the next day, the six of them realize how very much like their respective selves they each are. Sam and Daniel return from their off world mission and walk into the briefing room, unprepared for what they will find.
Rating this Chapter: PG-14
Amek’tel kek’ma’tel – Brain fever brought on by repeated use of a ribbon device without time to heal the damage between torture sessions.
“Italics” – Symbiote-Host Communication
Jacob Carter stood beside the infirmary bed and allowed the healing device to shut down. Martouf’s injuries had been serious, extremely so. Janet had started an IV, so they were taking care of the dehydration problem, and he was attempting to take care of the other injuries with the healing device. So far, he had completed healing the rib, the knife wound was almost gone, and the staff blast wound was no longer a mixture of raw, charred, and blistered flesh. While it wasn’t completely healed, it was much better, and it wouldn’t take much longer to finish healing it completely. The multiple cuts, bruises, and minor abrasions, didn’t really concern him.
The thing that had him sighing and frowning down at the figure in the bed was the fact that neither Martouf nor Lantash had regained consciousness, after the last time in the gate room, and he had again thought that they were hallucinations. He could feel Lantash's energy signature better now, so he was gaining strength. That was not as much of a concern, as it had been earlier, either.
However, the fact that they had not regained consciousness again was worrying. Jacob was confident that Lantash had healed some of the concussion, as he had done some healing on all of the major injuries. So he didn’t think that it was the concussion that was keeping him from waking up. Janet agreed, but felt the trauma alone could cause him to retreat, at least for a short time. However, the longer it went without him regaining consciousness, the more concerned they both became. She was as concerned as he was, he could tell. And she didn’t know what he knew.
The damage he was sensing in Lantash’s brain wasn’t from the concussion; it was different, separate, from the concussion’s damage. It was from the ribbon device; Jacob would swear to it. If he had to guess, he’d say that there had been no trip to the sarcophagus, after the last round of torture. And, Lantash had tried to protect Martouf as much as he could, Jacob and Selmak agreed on that. That was just the way that it was. The symbiote withstood, as much as possible, and kept it away from the host as long as possible, without dying from it. Unfortunately, repeated exposure, without recourse to the sarcophagus to heal the tissue, or time to recover naturally, could cause a condition known as Amek'tel kek'matel, a type of brain fever. If that was what was happening, he would know soon, probably within the next hour or so.
As his thoughts followed one another through his mind, and time slowly passed, the man in the bed began to move his head back and forth slightly on the pillow. Jacob grimaced. Yep, here it came, right on time. The next several hours would tell whether the blended pair on the bed would make it…or not.
If they died, Jacob knew he had to get them off the base before Sam returned. Thank the universe, she and Daniel were off world right now, and not expected back until tomorrow. He wasn’t going to open old wounds by having another dead Martouf and Lantash here. It would be bad enough for her, just hearing about it; she didn’t need to see it, too.
Everyone thought that she’d gotten over having to kill them. Jacob knew better. In fact, he wasn’t sure his daughter would ever get over, not just being the one that killed them, but them being killed at all. Jacob was pretty darn sure that his daughter had loved this man. Well, this man from this reality. What having this man from this other reality here would do to her, he wasn’t sure. He hoped it might, if this Martouf and Lantash were as their own had been, give her back the light in her eyes, and maybe allow her to find some love and happiness. Only time would tell that, though.
Reaching out and grabbing Jacob’s arm in a surprisingly strong grasp, Lantash said, “Selmak, we must hurry. If we are to complete our mission before Apophis becomes aware of what is there, we must get there first. It is our only hope,” he muttered.
“We will, Lantash, but first you must rest. The mission is not worth your life. You must rest so you will be well enough to join in the mission and help us with it.” Selmak said, trying to use the advantage of Lantash believing he was ‘his’ Selmak enough to calm him.
“Where is Malek? He should be here by now. If we do not leave soon, there is a great danger that they will find and catch us. You know, as well as I, that the odds are not in our favor, as it is. The chances of success are very slim. We will fail our Queen yet again.”
“She will know that we did our best, Lantash. Malek will be here soon, I am sure. However, if you do not rest, I will stop the mission altogether. You must be strong enough to go on this mission, or we will not go at all.”
Lantash nodded, and then sighed deeply, seeming to settle into a light sleep. Jacob motioned to one of the nurses who were close by, and said to her as she reached him, “Would you get a message to Malek that I believe he is needed here, please?”
“Yes, I’ll go find him now.”
Watching Lantash and Martouf, he saw a scowl mar his features as he said, “There are more guards than we were led to believe. How are we to overcome that many Jaffa and get through the Chaappa’ai?”
“I don’t know, Lantash, but we’ll think of something. Try not to worry about it for now. Leave it to me. I’ll figure something out, I promise you.” Lantash became quiet once again, obviously trusting his friend’s abilities. It was only a short reprieve, though, as he soon became agitated again.
“Egeria. Egeria, my Queen, I am sorry. I have failed you once again. This time, I have failed you for the last time. I would complete the mission if I could, but I am only one, and eventually Apophis will go there.” His muttering became incoherent, at times interspersed with bursts of speech where Jacob could once again make out what he was saying, “All is lost. I am the last of us; I am the last Tok’Ra. I will not allow them to take me. That much I can do for you, my Queen. Never will they learn of the secret from me, for I will be dead and unable to tell them anything. I am sorry. I am sorry. However, they learned nothing, nothing. Perhaps he will never know, never find out; that is all I can hope. What can I do? Nothing. Nothing. I have failed. I am sorry.”
Jacob greeted Malek quietly, saying, “Amek’tel kek’ma’tel. I’m not sure how bad, yet, but he’s reliving the time before the last mission, and the time that the three of them were captives of Apophis, unless I have something wrong, and I don’t think that I do.”
“Malek? Malek? You did not tell them? You did not divulge our mission.” Lantash grabbed Malek’s arm, but not harshly. “It is better that the truth dies with us, than that it ever becomes known to Apophis. No, of course you did not. None of us would, no matter what they do to us. Nevertheless, it is hard, I know. You have been in the sarcophagus again.”
He began to thrash in the bed and mumble so incoherently that they could not make out what he was saying. As they held him down, waiting for it to pass, Janet came in and asked, “What is it, Jacob? Do you know what’s wrong? Do I need to give him a sedative?”
Shaking his head, Jacob straightened as Lantash quieted, only murmuring softly now. “It's called Amek’tel kek’ma’tel. It’s a brain fever brought on by repeated exposure to the ribbon device, without recourse to either a recovery period or use of the sarcophagus to heal the damaged brain tissue. I would guess that the torture consisted of a lot of exposure to it, as well as all the other little tortures with which you’re familiar. And possibly some you aren’t. At any rate, I’ll be using the healing device on him. A sedative probably wouldn’t help, and might actually hurt. We’ll do what we can for him and hope it passes.”
“And if it doesn’t?” Janet asked, afraid she already knew the answer.
“Then he dies. If it gets to the point that we can tell for sure that the healing device isn’t helping, then we’ll try the sedative route, Janet. At that point, it won’t matter, if it makes it worse. Who knows? We might find something that actually worked to mitigate the symptoms. We could probably use a basin and some cloths with cold water and some ice to keep it cold.”
“Of course. Do you want one of the nurses to bathe him to bring the fever down?”
“No, it’s not that high, and while we call it brain fever, it’s not a fever in the sense you’re thinking of. His body temperature may raise some, but it won’t go up terribly high. However, a cold cloth or ice pack on his forehead and the back of his neck may bring some relief. It’s been known to help, but the truth is that the healing device and time are the only things that we know of that work for sure. And luckily, it either gets much worse quickly and,” his voice trailed off, as he looked at Martouf, then he continued, “Or it reaches a peak and then begins to get better. Either way, it both comes on and leaves quickly.”
Nodding her understanding, she said, “I’ll get you that basin, some cloths, some ice packs and ice and I’ll see to it that one of the nurses is here to help you. No, Jacob,” she held up her hand, as she saw the beginnings of his refusal. “We aren’t busy today, so it won’t be a problem for us, and I think you and Malek will both be busy trying to talk to him and using the healing device. The nurse can make sure the ice packs or cloths are as they should be. All right?”
“All right. And Janet, thank you. We appreciate it.”
As she nodded and left to get one of the nurses to help them out, she heard Lantash saying hoarsely, “Selmak, Selmak, where is Malek? Where is he? We must go. We must leave this place soon. I hope he has not been captured again.” Two blue-gray eyes stared at Jacob, but they did not truly see him. He was lost in the events leading up to and including the failed mission. They couldn’t tell for sure if he heard them assure him that Malek was there, but he quieted for a moment, before slipping into the next memory.
Suddenly, he said, “We must leave here before they find out that the slave girl, Ria’ta, helped us. If we are found here, in her apartments, she will be tortured and killed.”
“I know, Lantash, and we will go soon.”
“As soon as it is dark. We must leave, as soon as it is dark. We cannot let her risk herself for us like this. She is misguided to honor us so, but I am thankful that she does. She has helped us immensely. The zat’nik’tels alone are worth a great deal. The shelter, too, but still, we must leave soon.”
“We will leave before she is found out and gets into trouble, Lantash, I promise you,” Selmak assured him softly, guessing at what was the correct thing to say.
“Yes, yes, we must go, and then perhaps we can plan a new strategy to complete our mission. We must not fail Egeria. We must not allow the System Lords to win and rule over all the known worlds. We must not. My Queen, my Queen, I am sorry, I have failed you, I have failed you.”
Selmak shook his head, and turned to Malek. “You must talk to him. I’m going to use the healing device on his wounds again, especially the head wound. I’m going to try to work on lessening the swelling and see if it helps.”
Malek nodded, his face grim, as he began to talk to Lantash, trying to soothe him. The nurse Janet sent to them was busy trying to keep the ice pack behind his neck and the cloth on his forehead, as he tossed his head from side to side. As time wore on, she removed the ice pack, at intervals, to allow the skin to warm and at those times, she used it on his forehead, for short periods. Malek and Selmak took turns using the healing device, talking to, and when necessary, restraining Lantash and Martouf, for eventually, Martouf also came forward and talked to them about the mission, how important it was, and how they had failed their Queen. They had lost their last hope and everything, all was lost.
Many long hours later, an exhausted Jacob and Selmak sat beside the bed and rested their forehead on their arms. Malek was in a similar position, across from them. They had told the nurse to take a break, too. Martouf and Lantash had been quiet for almost an hour. There had been no muttering, no murmuring. There was no longer the deep, anguished heartbreak over a mission gone very wrong. No longer were there pleas to Egeria to forgive them, and him. No more bitterness and tears at their failure.
In fact, he looked as if he was sleeping. Jacob certainly hoped so. He had used the healing device until he was exhausted, and Malek was in only slightly better shape. Both had expended great amounts of energy to heal the wounds and the swelling of the brain tissue. They had accomplished much in the last several hours, though.
The staff blast was healed, the stab wound gone, the broken ribs, as good as new. The cuts, bruises, and abrasions had slowly faded, and if not quite gone, they soon would be. The head injury, from what they could sense, was lessening. At least, they hoped it was not wishful thinking on their parts, and Selmak and Malek were pretty sure that it wasn't.
So now, they rested on either side of this man, who they knew, and yet, did not know, and waited for him to wake up and tell them who he really was. They had an idea, from his ravings during the delirium that he was their own Martouf and Lantash somehow brought back to them. Their personalities appeared so similar to the one they had known that, had they not known differently, they would swear they were their own Martouf and Lantash returned to them. And delirium was a great equalizer. What they ranted about were the things important to them…their Queen’s vision of how the Goa’uld should be, their friends, their mission, their deep, intense heartbreak, at the deaths of his friends, the bitterness of their, and his, failure, the desolation of losing everything and everyone important to him. All those things could have been Lantash and Martouf, and were, in fact, Lantash and Martouf. If they were not their own, then they were so close to being them, as to be undetectable.
“I no longer feel as if the top of my head is about to explode. The pain is gone from my shoulder, my side, and my ribs. Therefore, I must conclude that you are not, in fact, hallucinations brought on by Martouf’s injuries, or mine,” Lantash’s voice spoke quietly from the head of the bed.
Selmak raised his head and smiled. “No, we are not hallucinations. Nor are you, although, at first we thought you must be. It seems odd to think that there are an infinite number of us running around in an infinite number of realities, but so they tell us, and you are proof that there is at least one where the two were very close to being exactly the same.”
“Well, physically, according to my records, he is, for all intents and purposes, Martouf and Lantash, right down to the crescent-moon shaped birth mark on the upper inside of his left thigh,” Dr. Janet Fraiser said, as she entered the room. She was relieved to see him looking better. Stepping to the bed, she nodded a dismissal to the nurse, who had taken up a position at the back of the room, a discreet but functional distance away. Then walking towards the head of the bed, she disconnected the IV, before Lantash could start to complain about it. His dehydration was not severe, and they already pushed a couple of bags of fluids through him. He would be wanting up sometime soon, and she wasn’t going to argue with him. If Lantash was satisfied with his and Martouf’s condition, then that was good enough for her. Lantash knew if they were all right or not. She had learned that much from their own Lantash and Martouf.
“Thank you, Dr. Fraiser,” Lantash said mildly, as she finished disconnecting him from the tubing. “Your help was much appreciated, but, as you have already determined, we are quite well now and are no longer in need of the extra fluids. Martouf wishes me to express his sincere appreciation to you, also.”
“You are both quite welcome. I had a feeling that was going to be what you were going to tell me, Lantash. As for your other injuries, I believe that Selmak and Malek can be thanked for taking care of them.”
“Yes, and we do thank them. It was very kind of them to both rescue and heal us, and it is very much appreciated,” he said, with a soft smile for her. At least, he attempted to smile, but it did not quite reach his eyes, for a deep sadness haunted them. Selmak and Malek were with him, and yet they were not. It was an odd feeling. He was sure it was just as odd for them to be sitting with a man who, to them, at least, was dead.
She smiled back at them, then turned to Jacob, saying; “If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to ask, Jacob. I’m leaving now, but I’ll be back in the morning, and I’ve given instructions to Dr. Nelson, as well as the nurses on duty, to get for which you might ask. So ask, if you need something.”
“Thanks for everything, Janet. We appreciate it,” Jacob replied. “You’ve already been an immense help. Tell Nurse Jamison that we thank her, as well, please. She left before we had a chance to tell her.”
“You’re very welcome, thank you, I will…and Goodnight,” she said, before giving each of them a nod and a smile, turning, and leaving them alone.
“What are the plans for me now, Selmak, Malek?” Lantash inquired quietly.
“For tonight, all you need to do is rest. Although your physical wounds have been healed, both of you are still exhausted. Tomorrow we’ll have a debriefing, and probably go over what’s happened in your reality to see if any of it could pertain to ours. We’ve found, in the past, that we can sometimes use important information that comes out while discussing what had and was happening in the other reality. Of course, you may have had the same experience.”
Lantash shook his head. “We were not aware of the existence of this mirror of which you speak. Alternate realities were no more than theory.”
Selmak nodded his head, “It was only theory for us, too, until Daniel accidentally went through one and back. He brought back vital intel that saved this planet. Another time, a couple of people came through needing help, and the SGC were able to help them, but the Goa’uld in their reality didn’t rule the entire galaxy, they were just working on it.”
Lantash smiled wryly, “I understand what you are trying to tell me, Selmak. I know there is nothing you can do to help my worlds. I realize they are lost for all time, or until something else comes along and wipes the Goa’uld out. Either way, it will make no difference to me, for I will be here, and here is what will be real to me. It must be this way. If I am to be able to function in this reality, and become a viable part of this reality, then it must be my reality. I do understand that, and so does Martouf,” he said firmly.
Selmak nodded and reached up to lower the light, but stopped as something else occurred to him. “Ah, before I forget, just so you know, the Teal’c in this reality is a member of the SGC. He realized that Apophis was not a god, and when the opportunity arose for him to leave him and work to free his people, he took it and came here to become a member of this world, and a thorn in Apophis’s side, I might add.”
“So that was not a hallucination? Teal’c was actually here? I did see him?” Lantash asked, his voice carrying his shock.
“Yes, he is and you did. I realize it will be difficult for you to put the past behind you and accept him as a comrade and friend, but I assure you that the Teal'c that you will meet here is nothing like the one that tortured you, Selmak, and Malek. I’m not saying he never did that type of thing. I’m sure you are as aware as I am, that in the years when he was First Prime of Apophis, Teal’c did many things as bad or worse, than what he did to you. All I am saying is that the Teal’c that has grown and evolved here, in this reality, is a far cry from the one you knew.”
“I understand intellectually what you are telling me, Selmak. Whether I will be able to control and influence my emotional response or not is yet to be seen; however, I assure you that I will not attack or insult the Teal’c here, regardless. I will do my best to attempt to remember that he is not as he was. And it will help that he is not an exact replica in this reality. In my reality, he had both long braided hair and a braided beard, as you saw in the mirror. So while they are quite similar, there are physical differences that will help me to be discerning.”
“That’s true, there is, and that is all we can ask of you, for now. In time, I hope the memories fade, and you can accept that he is not your enemy. I believe that you will begin to perceive the differences in personality, as well as appearance, as soon as you meet him, and I think it will make a big difference to you, but only time and the meeting will tell that.”
“For now, you need more rest, and I’m sleeping in the bed right next to you. I want to be sure that there isn’t a recurrence of Amek’tel kek’ma’tel, and if you have nightmares, I want to be nearby to wake you, before you raise the entire base. Are you staying in here tonight, Malek?” He turned to ask the other man.
“Not unless you need me to. I have been given a room for the night.”
“Okay. Stop by the mess in the morning and pick us up something to eat. No doubt, they'll bring Martouf and Lantash something, but who knows if it will be edible by the time he gets it. We’ll have breakfast together, and then I imagine if they are feeling up to it, we’ll have a meeting to see what happened in their reality and see how far apart our realities really are.”
“All right. I see no reason I could not manage that. I will see you both in the morning. Should you need me before then, do not hesitate to have me called. Good night, Lantash, Martouf, Selmak, Jacob,” Malek smiled slightly at them and headed for the door. He had agreed to meet a certain blonde Lieutenant this evening in the recreation area, if Selmak did not need him. He was not needed, so he would go in search of her. Perhaps it would be an interesting evening, after all.
Almost out the door, Malek turned back towards Jacob. “Listen, say hi to Lieutenant Donovan for Sel and I, will you? And remember to let Dev talk to her for part of the time. It’ll make you even more fascinating.” Jacob laughed, as he watched the flush rise slightly in Devlin’s cheeks before Malek could stop it.
“Thank you, Jacob, I will,” Malek said, with as much equanimity as he could muster, before stalking from the room, his affronted dignity a mantle around him.
Hearing a chuckle from the bed, Jacob turned towards it, and realized that Martouf had control. There was real amusement on his face, and he said, “Your Malek is as dignified as mine was and as easy to tease about his escapades. He always blamed them on Devlin, but we always knew that behind the dignified façade, Malek had a wild streak, especially when it came to women. After all, not every host he had could have been the same, when it came to women, as he would try to have us believe.”
“Exactly. Moreover, the women appear to find him very appealing, I sometimes think, because he does come across as so coolly dignified and reserved. They want to see if they can cause him to become flustered, raise his temperature, and perhaps lose the coolness that they see. And, of course…” Jacob left his sentence unfinished, as what Martouf had said sank in.
Martouf smiled and finished for him, “And, of course, from the stories Devlin has told us, Malek can, upon occasion, be brought to lose the cool reserve that he treats most people with, and become, ah, somewhat passionate.”
Jacob grinned back at him, “Sounds like we are talking about the same two guys to me, Martouf.”
“Yes. Yes, it does, Jacob,” Martouf responded solemnly, as what they had just said came to him, as well. The same two guys. Would it be that simple? Were they really, even though from different realities, the same men? The same beings? So far, it looked that way, and if so, he would be doubly thankful to whatever fate had sent him here to them.
Watching him closely and knowing that he, too, had just realized how similar they appeared to be, Jacob nonetheless changed the subject, not wanting to delve too deeply yet. He would let Martouf bring it up, if he wished, as his was the more recent loss. “How are you really feeling, Martouf? I know Lantash wanted the IV out, but are you really feeling okay?” Jacob asked, now that Malek had left the room and they were alone.
Martouf smiled slightly, as he said, “Compared to how I was feeling when you found me, I feel very well indeed. I am going to get up shortly and walk around to see if I am as steady on my feet as I feel I will be. I feel sure you have already guessed that Lantash asked me to take over, for a while, and that he is resting. He did his very best to protect me. I have been trying to get him to rest, since we woke up, and finally he has agreed to do so.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured he was, and I’m glad because he needs the rest. As far as your ‘walk’, the facilities are over there,” Jacob grinned at him, and was rewarded with another short laugh, as Martouf realized that Jacob had once again seemed to know him well enough to read his thoughts.
“I thank you, Jacob,” he began and then sobered as he looked closely at the man who was getting comfortable on the next bed. “You are very like him, you know. It is amazing how much alike you are; it could be our Jacob and Selmak lying there, just as our Malek and Dev just walked out the door.”
Jacob nodded, “Yeah, we had the same feeling, while you were out of it. Your entire focus was exactly as our Martouf and Lantash’s would have been. It’s a little disconcerting, but at the same time, it’s a good feeling. As if a part of us that was missing is back in place. Odd, I know, but there you have it.”
Nodding his head in agreement, and then wincing at the pain that still occasionally made itself known, Martouf sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. Grimacing at the flimsy gown, he looked up, preparing to ask Jacob if there was anything else he could have to wear, only to find him already up and rummaging in a cabinet close by. He came back with a pair of scrubs.
“Here, you’ll be more comfortable in this. I’m gonna go see about getting you some BDU’s for tomorrow. Be right back.” After arranging for Martouf to have privacy getting into the ‘facilities’ where he could change, he went to the door and asked one of the nurses to get some BDU’S and anything else Martouf would need for tomorrow. They should have his sizes on record from before. Turning back, he straightened the bed, all the while alert for any signs or sounds that would indicate that Martouf was having trouble. He was relieved to see him stick his head out the door.
“Jacob, there is a small shower in here. If you do not mind, I believe I will take a quick one. Even though I am tired, it sounds very good to me right now, and everything I would need seems to be in here.”
“Go ahead, Martouf. I’ll be out here, if you should need me,” Jacob answered. He then went in search of a nurse to get clean sheets. Martouf had been in pretty bad shape, when they found him and brought him in, and now that he was up and around, they could easily put clean sheets on the bed for him to come back to. While listening to be sure he was not having problems, they changed the bed sheets and blankets. As the nurse left with the soiled linens, Jacob heard the door open, and Martouf emerged looking tired, but clean, and very much more comfortable in the scrub pants and top.
He said as he approached the bed, “Thank you for thinking of that also, Jacob. The clean sheets will be a nice change. Our more recent accommodations did not boast of such things.” Sighing slightly, he gave a brief, small smile and continued, “I believe you are correct and sleep might benefit both Lantash and myself. Sleep uninterrupted by the need to keep watch or move to a new location is most welcome.”
“Perhaps going to sleep knowing you are safe and well will allow you to rest all night, something I’d guess you haven’t been able to do for quite some time.”
Having stretched back out in the bed and covered himself, Martouf now murmured sleepily, “I believe that is true, Jacob. I do not believe I will have trouble either going to sleep or staying there tonight.”
“Good. We’ll see you in the morning. Good-night.”
But they were already asleep.
Malek brought fresh doughnuts and pastries, coffee and hot chocolate to them in the morning. “I got your favorite ones Martouf, glazed yeast with chocolate and cinnamon twists.”
Martouf smiled, “I haven’t had those in a very long time. Not since Earth fell to Apophis. Thank you for remembering that I favored them.”
Suddenly becoming aware of the intensity of the silence, he looked up at the two men staring at him. “What is it?” he asked quietly.
Jacob and Malek both shook their heads, as they assimilated yet again, how much alike they were to their own Martouf and Lantash. “I never even thought about the fact that you might not like those pastries. Our Martouf loved them and evidently, so do you,” Malek said.
Then realizing what else he had said, Jacob and Malek said together, “Earth fell? Are you telling us that in your reality, Earth fell to Apophis?”
“Yes. Yes, I am.” Rubbing his forehead, he continued, “It has been three years ago now, give or take. I cannot be sure, but that sounds correct.”
Shaking himself out of his daze, Jacob said with a slight smile, “Well, there’s no point of going over it now. No doubt, General Hammond will want to hear all of this, too, and there's no point in making you repeat it more often than absolutely necessary. It’s going to be bad enough the way it is. Let’s have our breakfast. After that, you can get dressed. I got some BDU’s for you last night; they’re in the locker over there.”
Throwing off the heaviness of his thoughts, Jacob smiled at Martouf, “Really, there’s no point in dwelling on something like that. For now, let’s just try to relax and enjoy our breakfast. Speaking of which,” he added, turning to Malek, “How did you manage to get fresh doughnuts on base?”
“Ah, well, perhaps someone brought some in this morning,” Malek answered, refusing to look at either of them.
“You are lying to us, Malek,” Martouf said. “Give up and tell the truth. Where did you get them?”
Seeing the change come over him, his friends knew at once that Devlin had taken control, “A gentleman does not boast of his conquests, and Malek is always a gentleman. I, on the other hand, according to Anise, am somewhat rude and crude, so I will tell you. Lieutenant Donavan asked if there was anything special I would enjoy, and I wanted some of those twists myself, so,” he shrugged, “There you have it. They were a gift from a, ah, friend. Ow! Malek, stop that, if I want a thump on the head, I will walk into a door or fall down a mountain. Stars of Fire, it is like I have my own private censor.”
As the three laughed at Devlin and Malek’s domestic squabble, Martouf said, as soon as he was able, “I do thank both of you. I appreciate everything you are doing for me. That includes not only these doughnuts, but also the laughter shared,” he sighed slightly, but shook off the melancholy feeling, “It has been such a long time, since we were safe enough to simply sit and enjoy each other’s company,” he said, and it was obvious that he was indeed enjoying both them and the doughnuts. They watched as he held an internal conversation and then grinned again.
“So you never managed to cure Lantash of griping about the sugar and caffeine, either?” Malek asked, after taking control back from Devlin.
“No, he is still griping about the extra…” Martouf stopped and looked at them. “We really are the same, are we not? I mean, not just our looks, but in almost every way. The same likes and dislikes, the same jokes, the same feeling of knowing one another so well that we can tell what the others are thinking. It is very…odd,” he finally finished his sentence.
“Odd, but comforting in a way,” Malek said, quietly.
Thinking this over, Martouf said, “Yes. Yes, it is. Lantash and I both agree with you.” He sighed, this time with pleasure, before he said, “I think I could eat a box of those by myself.”
“The last time you did that it was all Lantash could do to keep you from getting sick,” Malek responded, without thinking.
“I know,” Martouf replied, “He was so aggravated with me that he almost let me be ill, but he hates it when I am sick to my stomach. He says the heaving gives him a headache.”
“I know,” Malek said softly, as he gave him a gentle smile, an expression not often seen on the somewhat stern visage with which the symbiote often faced the world.
“Yeah, me too,” Jacob agreed as he, too, sent him a kind look and smile.
Martouf stared at them, for a moment, and then said, “Yes, of course you do. I am glad, actually. It just seems right somehow that you both know me so well, and that I appear to know you so well.”
“Yup. However, if you’re done stuffing yourself, you need to get dressed. I hope I got a big enough size,” Jacob teased him, as Martouf left the bed to do as he suggested.
Martouf grinned at Jacob, refusing to rise to the bait, and soon they were ready to head to the briefing room. Martouf was not looking forward to this, but he felt that it was important that he share what he knew with these Tau’ri. Perhaps he could stop the catastrophe that had befallen their other selves in his reality. Nodding to Jacob, he said softly, “I am ready. Let us get this meeting over.
General Hammond stood and greeted him, as he walked into the briefing room. Familiar, yet not exactly, as Martouf had remembered the one in his reality, the General was, however, as polite and quietly authoritative, as the one he had known.
“Martouf, Lantash, welcome to Earth. Jacob has explained what he believes happened. We know this will not be an easy thing for you to discuss, but we feel we should delve into your reality to see if there are things we need be concerned with in ours. It has proved to be helpful to us in the past, when information came to us through the mirror,” the general said, as he shook hands with him and indicated a chair next to his. The other Tok’Ra seated themselves close to him on the side of the table near the door. Teal’c and Jack O’ Neill were ranged across the table, and Anise and Jorlin at the end, facing the door.
Teal’c spoke up, his voice calm and firm, “If my being here is uncomfortable for you or Lantash, Martouf, I will leave. I understand from what General Carter explained to us, that in your reality, I was still allied with Apophis. I am sorry to hear that, as it means my people are still slaves to the false gods.”
“Yes, I am afraid they are, Teal’c. I am sorry. As for being uncomfortable with you here, it is true, I may have some difficulties; however, you neither look, sound, nor act like the Teal’c in my reality. Which, I admit, I find odd actually, because both Jacob and Selmak, and Malek and Devlin, could be the ones from my own reality. Had I not killed them myself, I would swear they came through the mirror with me.”
“Yeah, well, they didn’t, they belong here,” Jack broke into the conversation abruptly, his voice almost challenging, insinuating that Martouf and Lantash, therefore, did not belong there.
“Very true, Colonel O’Neill, they do. However, if I understand correctly, I may very well be making my home here, also,” Martouf replied, neither angry nor subservient. O’Neill had never cowed him in his reality. He would not be intimidated in this one either.
Turning back to General Hammond, obviously dismissing the Colonel as unimportant, he said in a firm voice, “What would you like to know, General? I will tell you what I can, what I know. I do believe though, that while most of the people I have met seem to be very similar, the events apparently are not, otherwise you would not be here.”
“What do you mean, son?” Hammond asked quietly, knowing that this would be a very trying ordeal for the man before him. To relive every bad thing that had happened to his worlds would definitely be stressful. Martouf and Lantash’s entire world had apparently almost ended, scrambled, and then been put back together in a very short space of time, and he wanted to make this meeting as painless, as he could for the two of them. He would be as patient as needed, and if Colonel O’Neill didn’t back off, he’d kick him out of the meeting. This Martouf might have important Intel, and he wasn’t going to let Jack’s dislike of the Tok’Ra ruin this for them.
Lantash came forward to speak to the General, “From what little time I have had with Selmak and Malek, I believe that I am seeing very different happenings. Obviously, the Tok’Ra are not extinct in this reality, whereas in mine, I am the last survivor of my race. Apophis did not destroy the Tau’ri in your world. In mine, he did. You still have a viable alliance. In my reality, the alliance fell through after…” Lantash stopped speaking and his head lowered as Martouf came forward.
“I apologize for Lantash. It is a very hard subject for us to discuss. The consequences were far-reaching, as I am sure you will understand. Had we not…” Once again, he stopped speaking, as the door opened.
“I’m sure we can figure it out later, Daniel,” Major Samantha Carter was saying quietly, as she walked into the room. The sudden, intense silence caused her to look around to see what had caused it. She found herself looking into the most beautiful blue-gray eyes she had ever seen.
“Martouf? Lantash?” she whispered, as she stared at them.
Lantash took control and surged to his feet. “Samantha. Dear Universe. My Samantha.” He reached her in two steps and stood staring at her, as if he could not believe what he was seeing.
Sam reached out slowly and placed her hands on his chest. Feeling his heart beating beneath her fingertips, the warmth seeping through the shirt, she grasped it in a fierce grip. “Lantash, oh, God, Lantash, Martouf. I…” her voice broke on a sob, her voice suspended.
She got no farther anyway, as Lantash pulled her into his arms and lifted her high against his chest. As her arms wound around his neck, the fingers of one hand wove into his hair to pull him closer yet; his kiss became deep and thorough as he drank in, the sweetness of her kiss, as a man dying of thirst slakes his thirst with water. As they became lost in the taste, scent, and feel of one another, the wonder grew, and the room and everyone in it disappeared.
Neither of them heard the enraged roar from Colonel O’Neill.