Chapter 12: Love, No Love
See Chapt. 1 for disclaimers, warnings, timelines.
Thanks as always for the many kind and stimulating reviews.
Secrets: A Father Goose Tale
A BTVS-SG1 Crossover
Chapter 12: Love, No Love
Colorado Springs, Colorado, October 2007
Sassa was pouting in Ardyce’s kitchen, having been on the wrong side of a three for watching “Voodoo Moon” and one for watching “All Quiet on the Western Front” vote, so she saw them first when they arrived in the back yard.
“They’re heeeere,” she said.
Instinctively she grabbed her stake and braced but Ardyce went flying past her, then seeing that Leticia was there and apparently unharmed slowed and walked the rest of the way at an almost casual pace, the two vampires embraced briefly, then Ardyce asked,
“He decided he wanted to stay on the base.”
“Oh. Is he….”
“Mr. Harris asked me if I would vouch for him.”
“I expect so.”
“Well, that timing sucks rocks through a straw,” Ardyce said.
“Come on girls,” Jennifer said back in the house, “get your stuff.” There was a chorus of complaints.
“Please,” Ardyce said, “let them finish the movie.”
“You’re sure? Okay then, we’ve got a little business to take care of anyway, I’ll be right back.” She trotted out to the car and came back with a slim attaché case which she opened on the kitchen table, motioned for the two vampires to join her.
“Okay,” she said, “here’s your amnesty ID’s. I assume you know better than to be flashing them around, won’t make you real popular with other vamps.”
“Of course,” Leticia said.
“Now, a little disclaimer, we do own part of this company. But you are not required to use it, the status of your amnesty is in no way affected by whether you spend any money with them, okay? It’s just there only two maybe three companies providing these services in North America and we do think this is the best. Now you guys seem pretty set for cash, so you probably don’t need the DoNoHarm
job service, but just in case here’s that brochure…..
“This one is the blood delivery service, you start getting tired of goat and start salivating when the school bus goes by, maybe a little otter will take the edge off. There’s blends… well, you can see. All certified human free. Now, let’s see….”
She dug in the case, “Ah, here it is. Okay, we’ll try to keep the Air Force off your backs, but honestly, we can’t really guarantee it, and, it’s not really a priority. Well, you guys are the ones who picked the Captain. In any case, you may want to relocate or at least consider taking a little trip. DoNoHarm Travel,
they understand the whole no sunlight thing, and they run a number of human-blood-free, vamp friendly hostels and guesthouses. And now, last but not least, Ardyce, I need you to pay attention to this one, please."
“Yes, sure, it’s just Letty usually does…”
“It’s fine. It’s just that I know you two had it all planned out with Ben, but since that didn’t work out, the two of you are going to start itching to make yourself a new boytoy and that, ladies, is off limits. So, this is fairly new, it’s called VHarmony
... well, it’s a dating service for pledged vamps. It’s internet based but there’s also mixers and a safe snailmailbox service…. You two are looking good, I figure the guys will be lining up. Just, you know, have fun. But be careful, no one can guarantee your date is clean, so if he is biting down, if there’s time to sort it out you’ll credit for using the service, but you know how it is, in the moment you can go up in the same dust cloud. And that sounds like the end credits to me, so we’ll get out of your way.”
Leticia walked the girls and Jennifer to the door. Over her shoulder the young watcher could see past the TV room into the den, where Ardyce was booting up her computer.
“Good night. And thank you,” Leticia said.
“You two be good. And stay out of sight for a couple days at least.”
Jennifer herded her charges into the car, “So where….”
Jennifer could hear Xander laughing at her, never ask where
unless you really
don’t care, he’d told her. Ask them if they want what you want, they’ll usually say yes. Unless its sushi. Or sleep, she thought wearily. They never seemed to need sleep.
Stargate Command, Colorado, October 2007
Janet Fraiser looked at the x-ray again.
“You broke it when?”
“Last week, they really need to make those ski jump landing areas longer.”
“Where’d you break it?”
“No, I mean…”
“Oh, yeah, sorry, here, here and here. Look, I know it’s freaky, but it’s part of the package. We heal fast.”
“But I can’t even see any signs of a join…”
“Yeah, tell that to Sir Worrywart, would you?”
She found him staring at the two goa’uld they’d brought down from the conference room. He was different, his scars showed. His shirt was pouched a little and between the buttons she caught a glimpse of another thick white ridge.
“She’s fine,” Fraiser said. “If I hadn’t …. seen what I’ve seen today I’d accuse you of making the whole thing up.”
“Nope, she broke it. Good thing too, she was getting to feel a little invulnerable. You’re going to accept it, good.”
“Magic. When scientific people encounter magic there’s two basic reactions… I mean there’s always some resistance and interestingly, anger. But one reaction is to get past the anger and start exploring a new world. And the other of course is to frantically search for a rational, scientific explanation … so the sooner you can convince Major Carter she’s wasting time the better off she’ll be. This one,” he said, pointing to one of the dead goa’uld, “left its host during a fight believing his wound was fatal, but the girls managed to stop the bleeding and save him. They tell me he is quite mad… presumably living with a goa’uld in your head for, we think, a hundred and fifty years would do that. But he does seem neurologically sound.“
He moved around to the second container, “This one was teleported out of its host, it wasn’t able to leave any poison but the brain damage to the host was severe and she died. They had hoped to be able to simply move the foreign material out of the host, but the integration was too complete. They think maybe if we could find some way to force the goa’uld to detach … and then quickly removing it we can save ….”
He stopped, pulled out his cell, opened it and adjusted the screen moment, looked around and found a piece of paper, wrote down a number. “You can call them here, they’ll know who you are… even if you don’t go there or have them come here… maybe you could consult over the phone.”
“One of your girls was taken, wasn’t she?” Fraiser said as the penny dropped. She saw the pain flash across his face and disappear.
“Yes,” he nodded.
“Like….” Fraiser tipped her head toward the closet where Faith was trying to find an acceptable pair of BDU trousers to borrow. He nodded.
“That’s… bad, I take it?”
“You have no idea.”
“But you don’t think her brain would recover.”
“They heal fast. But if the wound is mortal they die. And if they lose a limb, they don’t grow it back. I’d rather not find out about the brain.”
“May I? I’m sorry to be rude, but out of professional curiosity…”
“Of course,” he sat so she could see better, she pushed the eyepatch back, took clean cloth and gave the pouched scar a gentle wipe. “How?”
“Thumb. Very strong, evil thumb.”
“I’ll call,” she told him.
“Thank you. If you do go, take Cassie. She’ll be safe… and see a whole new world.”
Colorado Springs, Colorado, October 2007
Stargate Command, Colorado, October 2007
There was a boy chained to the wall. He was playing with a truck.
Jack leaned against his staff and rubbed the sharpened end against his chin. The warehouse was unheated and the air was cold, but the sweat still ran down his sides. He had spent the last half-hour being schooled in the use of archaic weapons by cheerful blue-eyed blonde girl half his size who was obsessed with either apple pie or seven dollars, he wasn’t quite sure which.
He had aches. It had been hard for him, to swing an edged weapon at a child, and a female at that. It went against all of his instincts, but she had punished him for his hesitation, forced him to escalate the action until finally he was going full out … which had been the whole point of the exercise really, he understood that. Harris had warned them, this was boot camp. Whatever chip on his shoulder Harris had about the military, it wasn’t born out of pacifism, no doubt of that.
He eyed the boy again. How the hell did I get into this? Oh, yeah, I volunteered.
“You want SG1? And Dr. Fraiser?”
“So you just want me to assign my best team to … do what, exactly?“ Hammond said.
“Well, I thought we might start with a little get-to-know-you barbeque and vampire hunt tomorrow afternoon around, say, two… But no, I don’t want you to assign them, I want you to let them. I won’t take them if they don’t volunteer.”
“Oh, well then,” Jack said, “I guess I’m done here….”
He should have gone. But you didn’t see exploding men and disappearing people every day and… well, there was no way Daniel and Carter were leaving so he’d stayed.Why SG1?”
“Well, you guys are the goa’uld experts, right? Got the most little snaky notches on your guns? Well we’ve got a bad case of the goa’ulds. And by we I mean, you know, Earth. “
“I don’t suppose you’d care to elaborate on that?” Hammond asked.
“Every since our little experience in Haiti we’ve made the nasty little worms one of our research priorities. Now, up until very damn recently we, being a bit stuck in our ways as we are, thought these goa’uld had come through a dimensional portal called a chappa’ai. But now that we know they are aliens some stuff began to make more sense.”
“Like we were trying figure out how all the talk about a buried ship fit in with a dimensional portal. And what the hell ring transports were and why they need them. A wiccan’s idea of a ring transporter ….let’s just say there was certain amount of disappointment when we realized they don’t fit on your finger…. And some stuff about queens, and a big meeting they’re planning in a couple weeks. But look, I’m not a research guy…. ”
“A what? Goa’ulds? Meeting?” Jack said, “You do know that, just like you have, what is it, a flock of sea gulls and a murder of crows, it’s a war of goa’ulds?”
“You’re the experts. But I’m thinking maybe if these guys were the ones left behind back in the day, maybe they don’t think so big? Maybe they’re like the goa’uld telephone sanitizers or something…. Overall we’ve located somewhere between, say, twenty and two hundred individual goa’uld. Living in various cults, branches of more mainstream churches, some have businesses, though these do tend to have cultish quality.”
“Between twenty and two hundred,” Carter jumped in, “can you narrow that down?”
“I could but I’m not going to … please General,” he held up his hand, turning to Hammond, “Don’t start yelling again, it’s not fun for me anymore. I mean, if it pleases you go ahead, but you know it doesn’t work, right?”
“All right, Mr. Harris …my throat is getting little sore. But two hundred goa’uld, that’s not a debate about who should be in charge of what… that‘s a genuine immediate threat to the human race.”
“Yes, General, I think it is. That’s why I’m here. But if I give you the details, you’ll tell your superiors and I believe they will go in guns blazing and bombs bombing and some of my people will get caught in the crossfire and that’s just not acceptable.”
“If you go with us,” Harris said, standing hunched with cold inside his oversized coat outside a drab looking warehouse, “the goa’uld will be our priority, but we’re not quitting our day jobs. We’ll run into vamps and who knows what else along the way and I just know you’d rather be allies than burdens. Plus I really don’t want to have to explain to General Hammond that you were eaten cause I didn’t give you proper training.” “Mr. Harris, if you don’t trust the highest level of military authority why are you here? Even if SG1 volunteers to assist you, what makes you think they won’t simply report back to me everything you’re refusing to tell me now?”
“Oh I expect they will. It’s just a matter of timing. Look, I don’t really like being here any more than you like having me. There was a time …well, I understand the appeal of the military. You got the cool toys, in theory at least you’re doing something more important than increasing then widget sales for the quarter, and you’re always handy to have around if a fellow needs to borrow a rocket launcher……
“Long story, don’t worry, used it and tossed it long ago… and lets be clear here, just because I’m not too fond of you guys doesn’t mean I love the Chinese or the Russians, military is military …. it’s just a way of life I find unpleasant. You’re all about the orders and chain of command … and I just don’t really see obedience as a virtue. The old watchers…well, long story there too. Point is, power is a corrupting force and it needs to be …dissipated, not concentrated. But the worst thing is, you can never trust a man who follows orders. Cause that means you have to trust a whole list of people you never even meet…… Faith, please?”
There was a sharp crack as the dark-haired woman broke off a piece of her cast, crumbled the plaster to reveal a folded square of paper in a protective baggy which she slid down the table for Harris to open and unfold the paper, referring to it as he spoke,
“But according to your files, Colonel O’Neill is insolent, insubordinate, lax in his observance of proper protocol, tends to interpret his orders to serve his own purposes, files incomplete reports and tends to take unilateral actions without consulting his superiors, yadda yadda,” He paused, grinned at Jack, added, “And that’s just the folks that like you, you understand. And,” he went on, “has been known to lie to protect aliens, and, if I’ve read between the lines correctly, is not above a little blackmail when it suits his purposes. So hey, we have a little something in common...”
“A vampire,” Harris said, “is shaped by it’s victim. Leticia Kearney was probably a charming, efficient, practical ranch wife who was killed one day in the prime of her life, and her soul moved on. And a demon moved in and slowly became a charming, efficient practical vampire. Perhaps in her fledgling days she went on a killing spree as most do, or perhaps her sire stayed on and guided her and kept her in check until the personality settled and she learned to control her appetites. A day or so before you had your nice civilized lunch with her, Colonel, she and Ardyce quietly picked Captain Werner out of the crowd like a rancher picking out a nice hen for Sunday dinner. And they killed him without feeling a moment’s remorse or even understanding the concept.”
“You’re wondering how I could make deal with her then? Because I believe she will keep her side of the bargain, if only out of fear. Because while we’re not above the odd bit of revenge, our goal is prevention, not retribution. Dusting her would not restore her victims, but her information might save a few lives.
“Still, understand, if she’d offered five hundred or five thousand vamps tied up in the town square in return for letting her make one kill, we don’t make the deal.“
“Now we could have a nice debate, what makes a life? A person? Memories? Intelligence? The ability to love? Because we all know there are humans who seem to lack a conscience or soul, yet we don’t kill them on sight. Vamp love may be little twisted, but it’s real. And I’ve dusted vamps who were great musicians and skilled artists and felt bad about it. But done it anyway. Because that debate, that’s like sheep debating the right of the more beautiful and sensitive and gifted wolves to eat them.”
“And I really really don’t want you to be having that debate with yourself, or thinking of Leticia’s sweet smile or big bad Xander dusting the poor Captain when we go into the Mcartner place. So I’ve arranged a little reconditioning.” “Dr. Jackson, according to the files, while he has increasingly conformed to military protocols, is still stubborn, cannot be relied upon to follow orders he deems wrong, and has been known to place greater value on research goals and alien life than Air Force mandates….. So I think I’m okay with Dr. Jackson.”
There were four of them, chained in different corners against the wall. One rather handsome young man, a plain rather mousy woman appearing to be in her mid-twenties, a dark-eyed beauty who looked to be in her late teens, and the boy. Now Major Carter, well…..,” he turned, gazed at the blonde woman for a moment.
“I’ve met a lot of… things that claimed they’d destroyed worlds, but I think you’re the first person I’ve met who’s actually done it. …., “ he referred to his paper, “Major Carter, bit of a goody-two shoes, with a tendency to blow up planets when she really, really shouldn’t, but she once hit a General over the head with her rifle, so points for that, and she does have her moments of insubordination, and I think we can place some faith in the corrupting influence of the Colonel. And besides I understand you can sense the presence of a goa’uld….?”
“So we need you, regardless. ‘Cause we’re having a little trouble with that. The girls are generally pretty sensitive to the presence of demonic evil, but these guys are different and they don’t show up on the radar so well. A couple of the witches say they’ve learned to recognize a possession by the weak, pale aura of the host but the snakes themselves don’t seem to have one. Or not one we can see.”
“You seemed to pick up on Teal’c fast enough that time by the highway,” Jack said.
“Well, no offense, but dude’s weird,” Faith answered, “He smells different, not bad, dude, don’t worry, just different, plus there’s this whole “other’ presence. I guess maybe I shoulda put it together, but I didn’t. And I guess Junior there isn’t technically evil, right? Thing is, with a vamp or demon, some more than others, I don’t even have to see them, I can just kinda tell they’re around. And a lot of the girls are more sensitive than I am. But we don’t pick up on the snakes the same way. No magic in them I guess.”
“There’s no Leticia here,” Harris said, “these vamps are young and dumb and doomed and they know you’re their very last chance to make a kill and feed…
“You don’t have to do this,” Harris said. “This is not a punishment or an initiation. This is…. practice.” He tossed Jack a small black box. “The red buttons release the chains, number one is the guy, number two the woman and so on. Release them, don’t release them, dust them as a group, one on one, up to you.” “You can sense them too, right?” Harris asked Teal’c, who nodded. Harris referred to his paper again, “They don’t know quite what to make of you, Teal’c. They don’t trust you. They think you have a code of honor you may place above your orders, so, points, and they note you are, their word, fiercely loyal to SG1 and willing, even insistent on risking your life to protect theirs, so that works for me.”
He turned to Hammond, “General, I’ll let you make what you will of the irony that what you describe as your best team is the team least likely to follow orders. As to your own record, well, you seem to be a bit more by-the-book than I would like, but I don’t suppose you get to be General if you aren’t. On the other hand, again if I’m reading between the lines right, you nearly let the world be destroyed because you were protecting your granddaughters … and I admire that. And it also says here you’ve been known to bend, even break the rules to rescue your people. So I don’t suppose we’ll ever go on a cruise together, General, but maybe we can find a little common ground.”
“So, that’s the pitch, folks. I’m a little worried that this time saving the world’s going to come down to activating the Acme SnakeWhacker 2000 in the nick of time, and I won’t know how to turn it on. But maybe Major Carter will. … Come to the party, I’ll tell you what I think you need to know, and I fully expect Colonel O’Neill to sneak around and spy and report stuff, but I’ll put up with that in return for what you know of the goa’uld and goa’uld technology.”
“Well, why the hell didn’t you just say so?”
“Well, where’s the fun in that? Look, I was gonna be all polite until you decided to get into my business and start pointing guns at my girls and putting them in lock-up. That kind of behavior needs to be discouraged. But I figure it’s just as well, if I just walked in and said, ‘Hey, I know where umpty-umpty goa’uld are but I’m not gonna tell you,’ we’d still have a big fight. I needed your full attention. Which I do believe I have. I don’t think a quiet memo would have quite got the job done.”
“So, if we did this … party thing,”Jack asked. “Will you be expecting me to follow your orders or…”
“I know it’s hard, Colonel, but really, we don’t work that way. SG1 can obey you if they want to. Just don’t come crying to me if they don’t. We take it as it comes. Generally Faith or I will be in the lead but that can change, if we end up assaulting a spaceship, I’m kind of counting on you making the plan. Jennifer will be in charge of tomorrows little vamp hunt … and any time you have a thought I’ll be happy to listen to your suggestions…. But I figure most of the time you’ll just be trying to keep up.“
“I’m sorry, what?’ Jack said.
“Sometimes when the hunt is on we move pretty fast, and, well…. I know you’re getting up there in years, Colonel, and Dr. Jackson’s really just a bookworm at heart, Carter’s just an ordinary female, physically anyway, and an egghead at that and Teal’c looks strong as hell, but could just be gym muscles, so if you guys don’t think you can hang with us, I understand.”
“You don’t really think that’s going to work, do you?”
“Yeah. I think it might, actually.”
“And if we say no?”
“Then we suck it up and try do it without you and hope I’m wrong about the SnakeWhacker. We’ll probably pull it out in the end, we always have before.”
“And our files, Mr. Harris,” Hammond said. “What happens with our files….”
“Fuck!” Harris leapt to his feet and pulled out the cell phone, dialed, spoke,
“Sorry, youngster, take it down a notch, think it’s gonna work out. Just like we planned, I’m gonna dare’em. Then I’m gonna double dare’em with sprinkles. Yeah? Really? Both of them? Duct tape? Well be sure and take a picture. Ciao, baby.”
He turned back to Hammond. “Okay, General, you’re off the countdown clock. If they don’t hear from us for too long they’ll start escalating back up, but for the time being the big safety’s back on the tell the world gun…. But that’s not the deal. This conversation just bought you a month, whether you come with or not. After that, I don’t know. There’s one faction that believes governmental secrecy is fundamentally wrong, and in this case, spectacularly stupid, and wants to release everything. There’s a second faction that thinks we should stay of it. Render unto Caesar and so on. We don’t take money or orders from governments, in return we shouldn’t interfere. After all, there’s always some human-on-human badness going on that we could interfere with …. And that’s a slippery slope if ever there was one… And a third option where we don’t squeal on you and you keep us up to date on the latest alien gossip….. “
“But aside from the whole not mattering because the goa’uld blew up the world thing, whether you come with or not will have no effect on your files. The blackmail portion of tonight’s program has come to an end.”
Hammond leaned back in his chair, drummed his fingers on the table a moment then reached out and grabbed a beer, said,
“Colonel, you want to push those sandwiches down here a little, what is that, ham and cheese?”
“I can deal with the child, O’Neill,” Teal’c volunteered.
“No, T, thanks. I think that one’s mine. Here, push the button when I give the signal.” He went over to the weapons table, picked up the staff he’d been using to spar with Renee. He walked over to the boy’s corner of the warehouse, paused a moment rubbing his chin with the sharpened end. Not Charlie, doesn’t even look like Charlie.
Not even a boy, really. Demon. Vampire. He approached, the kid looked up, came lightly to his feet, watching. Jack braced himself, lowered the staff to point at the vampire’s chest and nodded. There was click, the manacle on the vampire’s ankle clicked open and he was free. Okay, this is where I have a problem. See, because we're talking about magic. We're having a meeting with magic in it,” Carter said after they reconvened. Fraiser had taken Harris and Faith off to the infirmary, and they’d all taken a short break while Hammond took care of some base business.
“He didn’t do anything Thor couldn’t do,” Jack said.
“Yes, I’m sure there’s an explanation. Well, obviously, we have to go,” Daniel said.
“Why obviously?” Jack said, but his heart wasn’t in it. Two hundred goa’ulds. Or was it just two hundred goa’uld, without the s. Whatever. Normally he’d call bullshit, but since Harris had brought two of them along it gave the claim a certain credibility.
“Much as I dislike the entire situation,” Hammond said, “I have to agree. Obviously we’ll monitor your progress and bring in the necessary force when we have enough information. But I have a feeling these people will be hard to find if we turn them down.”
“I believe Mr. Harris’s request is genuine, General Hammond,” Teal’c said.
“Actually, Teal’c, I tend to agree. But that doesn’t mean he truly understands the gravity of the situation.”
“Does that mean we’re all volunteering then?” Jack asked.
“Yes, Colonel, it does. At least go on this vampire hunt tomorrow and we’ll make a final decision.
“Please, Mister, I didn’t do anything,” the kid said, walking slowly toward him. “I was just out riding my bike and these people just came along and grabbed me. Please, mister, you gotta get me outta here. My mom’s gonna be worried…”
Just for a moment it was Charlie there, that time they’d had the flat tire on the way back from a baseball practice that had already gone late and he ‘d been upset thinking Mom would be worried … it was just a moment, but it was enough, he felt the staff swatted aside and the thing was on him, legs clamped hard around his waist, his arm held down, his head forced back, damn the thing was strong….. and then it was gone and Jack stumbled a moment and regained his balance and whirled to find Faith standing a few feet away, holding the yellow eyed, fanged vampire up by the neck where it was spitting and snarling like a cat held over the bath.
“Try again?” Faith said.
Jack nodded. She dropped it and the thing came again. It slowed, the fangs receded, the eyes went to normal, he started wheedling again,
“Please, mister, just let me go, I won’t hurt anybody, this isn’t my fault….”
Jack let his shoulder drop, the staff wavered slightly, but when the vampire went to swat it aside and brush past he used a little circling motion Renee had shown him to avoid the vamp’s hand and he thrust forward hard, catching the surprised vamp in the chest, there was a moment of resistance, he saw the eyes turn again, felt that same innate horror he’d felt when Werner had first changed…. and he thrust again and there was whoosh and he was waving the staff in the midst of a small cloud of dust.
“Atta boy,” Faith said.
He straightened and took a breath and walked steadily over to the weapons table and laid the staff down, and turned to where Harris was waiting, the single eye steadily meeting his gaze.
“I don’t love you for it,” Jack said.
“Didn’t think you would,” Harris answered. -30-