Rya'c

Season/Spoilers: Season 7, spoilers for S6 "Allegiance", S6 "Cure", S7 "Orpheus"

The Winds of Change

Orithain & Rina

March 2004

Disclaimers: Not ours or they’d have a lot more fun, and we’d be a lot richer.
Malek

No matter how many times he did this, Rya’c didn’t think he would ever get used to the abrupt change after stepping through the Stargate. He’d left a cold, damp world where it hadn’t stopped raining the entire time he and Master Bra’tac had been there seeking disaffected Jaffa to join their uprising against the Goa’uld. Now, it was bright, sunny, and warm, too warm if anything.

Rya’c dismissed the weather from his consciousness as he looked around, hoping that he might see his father. Though there had been no communication, he knew that the members of SG-1 often visited this world, and it might well be that Teal’c would be there. Instead he caught sight of...

"Master Bra’tac! Are those Tok’ra?"

"Malek."

The Tok’ra in question looked up from the reports he’d been going over. "Yes?"

"There is a Jaffa who wishes to see you. He arrived through the Stargate along with another. We’ve kept them on the surface for now."

"And did this Jaffa have a name?" Malek asked, frowning slightly. They weren’t expecting the SG-1 team, and usually if they did come, the visit included all the members, not just Teal’c.

"Bra’tac, I believe."

Malek nodded, remembering the man with almost reluctant respect. "I will go meet him."

Rya’c watched with interest as one of the Tok’ra finally approached them. He caught Master Bra’tac’s expression out the corner of his eye and turned back to the Tok’ra with increased curiosity. He’d never seen quite that reaction before.

"Greetings, Malek of the Tok’ra," Bra’tac said, nodding to the man who had both watched him nearly be killed without raising a hand to help and assisted in saving all them... after some very pointed orders from O’Neill.

"And to you, Bra’tac of the Jaffa." Malek glanced at the younger man standing at his side. He wore the sigil of Apophis on his brow as well, but Malek knew nothing else of him except that he was young, probably only having received his symbiote within the last ten years. "Have you come with news?"

"We have gained many new Jaffa to our cause," Bra’tac informed him. "Word is spreading, and the time is coming when all Jaffa shall be free. I hope to live to see it."

"You must, Master, for it is thanks to you and my father that this is true," Rya’c put in earnestly before turning to the Tok’ra. "Can you tell me if my father is on this world?"

Malek’s eyebrows rose, and he glanced at the young Jaffa again. "And your father would be?"

Rya’c looked embarrassed as he realized the Tok’ra could have no way of knowing. "Forgive me, I am Rya’c, son of Teal’c." He raised his head to meet the blue eyes, staring for a moment before looking away again.

After glancing at Bra’tac for confirmation of this information, Malek nodded. "I have met your father, but no, he is not here." He looked again at Bra’tac. "This base is still in the process of being completed, but it is livable if you would care to see it."

Rya’c looked eagerly at Bra’tac. He’d never had the opportunity to visit a Tok’ra base, and he was curious to see how they lived.

"I am an old man and weary," Bra’tac replied but smiled in response to Rya’c’s crestfallen expression. "However, Rya’c is young, and it would do him good to see how others live. Perhaps you could show me to a place where I might rest and then show my student your base?"

"Of course," Malek answered after a second’s hesitation. "Several living quarters have been completed, and you may rest there." He was frowning somewhat, wondering just how he’d agreed to take this Jaffa pup around but unable to find a way out of it without insulting Bra’tac.

Bra’tac simply nodded and waited for Malek to start toward the exit from the room, allowing Rya’c to go next before falling in at the rear.

"Everything is so different from the temple of Apophis that I knew," Rya’c said, looking around with interest. "It’s... warmer, somehow."

"Do not compare the Tok’ra to the Goa’uld," Malek said flatly. "We are nothing alike."

Rya’c eyed him oddly. "If no Goa’uld could become Tok’ra, where did the first of you come from? You are the same species; the only difference is philosophical. Which is a huge difference," he added hastily, seeing the deepening frown, "but the first of you were Goa’uld before choosing to fight them instead."

"Our Queen was Goa’uld before becoming enlightened and passing that knowledge on to her children." If anything, Malek’s voice became even colder. "No Goa’uld not of her line has chosen our way; they prefer to live as they are, parasites and dictators."

"But surely if one could ‘become enlightened’, so too could others?" Rya’c couldn’t understand why the Tok’ra was being so stubborn.

Malek gave a harsh laugh. "Shall we start with Anubis? The two of you can escort me to talk to him and convince him of his error in judgment."

"I didn’t say all Goa’uld or even most or many, but surely there must be one or two. If the Tau’ri can find the original device and correct the flaws in the sarcophaguses, it might be possible." Rya’c shrugged. "Surely the possibility of new allies makes the attempt worthwhile? From what I understand, there are not many Tok’ra left now."

"Our losses have been high, thus our wish for caution in our dealings with others." Malek stopped at a doorway and opened the portal. "You may rest here if you still desire to, Bra’tac."

"It is a difficult choice between rest and entertainment," Bra’tac observed, "but I shall rest now to better enjoy the entertainment later." He nodded to them both and stepped inside, allowing it to close behind him.

Confused, Rya’c stared at the blank surface before dismissing his bewilderment and turning back to Malek. "Please, show me everything," he said eagerly. "I have never had the opportunity to see a Tok’ra base."

Malek looked decidedly uncomfortable. "As I said, the base is not yet complete, but I will show you what there is of it."

"Were it nothing more than a hole dug in the ground, it would still be more than I have seen before now. And my father has told me much of the abilities and strength of the Tok’ra. I am honored to be permitted to see it." Rya’c bowed slightly to Malek.

Eyes narrowing slightly, Malek studied the young Jaffa for a long moment, then returned the bow with a nod. "It is not often the case with those who we meet." Unspoken were the words ‘of your kind’. "Do you know how we create our bases?" As he spoke, Malek lead Rya’c down the corridor, deeper into the installation.

"Somewhat. I do not often have time with my father, and Teal’c is one of the few of us who knows even a little of the ways of the Tok’ra. I know it is done with crystals but nothing more."

"That you have any with him is more than many can say." For a split second, Malek’s voice lost its rich echo. "And you are correct," he continued as before, "we grow our bases with crystals."

Rya’c’s head tilted very slightly to one side as he regarded Malek. "If it is not rude, may I ask of your family?"

"My family is here."

"But you said... Oh. I had forgotten that you are in fact two people. Forgive me." He frowned. "I do not even know the name of the host personality. Master Bra’tac and my father would be shamed by my rudeness."

Malek remained silent, apparently in conversation with himself. "None was intended, so it was not taken as such. My host prefers to remain quiet much of the time. He dislikes conflict and, as such, prefers to observe rather than participate."

Rya’c opened his mouth to speak, then appeared to think better of whatever he had intended to say. He did eye the Tok’ra curiously, but he changed the topic, sensing the other being’s discomfort. "Are there many Tok’ra here?"

Malek began walking again, looking over at Rya’c as the Jaffa paced him. "Not as many as there should be, but as you have said, we have suffered many losses."

Rya’c wondered if the Tok’ra ever increased their numbers by having children, the hosts that was, but knowing how Goa’uld reacted to the idea of a Harsesis child, he didn’t dare ask. "But you are long-lived and will be able to rebuild your numbers." Then he frowned again. "You do have a queen?"

"No, we have had no queen since Egeria was lost to us. Still, it is not merely the lack of symbiotes that keeps our numbers low, but more the lack of hosts to join with us when it becomes necessary to pass to a new one. We will not join with a host who does not desire it, and finding beings who will willingly share their life with another is difficult."

"At least in the way you mean," Rya’c couldn’t help but chuckle. "Couples have been sharing their lives in the more common way forever. But I do understand what you mean. We Jaffa are willing to risk our lives to be rid of our symbiotes, and they only share our bodies, not our minds." He shook his head. "I cannot imagine what it would be like to have someone else forever with me in that way.

"Was it difficult," he started to ask before remembering the Tok’ra’s discomfort with personal questions and changing the question mid-sentence, "to build this base?"

"Not once we found a site. Our choices are getting fewer, so it took longer than we had hoped."

"Perhaps..." Rya’c hesitated then continued, "perhaps one day both our peoples may find a homeworld. Or perhaps we can be the answer to each other’s problem."

Malek’s eyebrows rose. "Are you suggesting that Jaffa would be willing hosts?"

"Perhaps some, in time." Rya’c frowned as he considered it. "Better a Tok’ra than a Goa’uld. Even carrying an immature symbiote would be... acceptable with a Tok’ra. I do not know if it would be possible for a Jaffa to become a host once no longer carrying a symbiote, but I would be interested in finding out. I must suggest this to my father and Master Bra’tac."

"I will mention it to the council as well." Malek studied Rya’c measuringly. "You are quite surprising."

Rya’c looked surprised. "Anyone could have thought of it, could have put the idea forward. It is an acceptable alternative to the tretonin."

"Anyone could have thought of it, but the fact that none have says much. Perhaps it is true that children see things more clearly."

"I hardly think that anyone who spent time on Erebus can be said to be a child," Rya’c replied, his eyes far older than his years for a moment.

"I must ask for your forgiveness, I had no idea." Malek studied Rya’c again, this time with a different eye. "I have heard many stories of Erebus, none of them good."

"Whatever you heard is true," Rya’c said, face shadowed with memories. "Bra’tac nearly died there from the lack of tretonin, and my father..." He closed his eyes for an instant as if to shut the image away. "But we all survived, and now there are many possibilities open to us. Even, perhaps, understanding between Jaffa and Tok’ra."

Malek’s expression remained noncommittal before he relented and gave a slight smile. "I believe it was Col. O’Neill I heard say, ‘anything’s possible.’ I would not hold my breath waiting for that to happen though."

"When I was young, I would not have believed that we would meet the Tau’ri, that Tok’ra were real and that I would meet several, that my god and that of my ancestors was no such thing but rather an alien who enslaved us. Life is change."

"That is true but..."

"Malek, there is a transmission from the council; they wish to speak to you."

Malek turned his gaze from the young Jaffa to the Tok’ra coming down the corridor toward them. "If you will forgive me," he said, looking back at Rya’c, "I must attend to this. Ephrin can continue your tour if you would like."

Rya’c inclined his head. "Thank you. I hope we shall meet again and may continue our discussion." He watched Malek until he disappeared around a corner before politely turning his attention to the newcomer.

"It is a very great honor, Rya’c," Teal’c stated, "to be chosen as one of those who will attend this gathering. I know you will bring honor to our family."

"I shall do my utmost, Father. I am honored that I may accompany SG-1 and Master Bra’tac to this meeting with the Tok’ra. I had not thought there would be such a formal gathering."

"The Nox are hosting the gathering, so I doubt that it will be overly formal."

"But there will be tales worth telling of this day," Bra’tac announced as he joined them at the base of the ramp, ready to step through the Stargate.

Tired from the long day of talks and negotiations, Malek closed his eyes and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. Hearing footsteps, he opened them again to find himself looking at the young Jaffa he’d met the year before. "Greetings to you, Rya’c of the Jaffa," he said formally, getting to his feet and bowing shallowly. "I hope you are finding these talks interesting."

"Greetings, Malek of the Tok’ra." Rya’c bowed in turn. "I am most interested and learning a great deal about many different peoples. I was most honored to be permitted to accompany Master Bra’tac and my father. And I am pleased to renew our acquaintance. I have found that aside from Major Carter’s father, very few of the Tok’ra are willing to speak with a Jaffa."

"Our numbers have been decimated by the Jaffa, and many blame them rather than the hand that wields them as a weapon," Malek said carefully, not mentioning the fact that his beliefs had been of that mind not too long ago. "It is difficult for many to separate one from the other."

"As it is for Jaffa to separate Tok’ra from Goa’uld," Rya’c agreed. "It is fortunate that there are those who see further and are willing to bridge the gap between us. Some are good, some are not, as with any other people."

Malek nodded. "Again you prove yourself wise beyond your years, Rya’c. If more can learn to think as you do, perhaps there is hope for all of us."

"And can you think in such a way?" Rya’c hadn’t missed Malek’s hesitancy the first time they’d met, and he’d managed to learn a bit of the Tok’ra’s history through discreet questioning of his father and even Master Bra’tac.

Malek smiled a bit wryly. "I am... attempting to," he said, choosing to be honest in the matter.

Rya’c bowed. "I am honored." He looked around, finally having to ask, "Is there nowhere to eat on this planet?" Aware of his dignity he might be, but he was still a teenager and hungry.

"I believe that there is a dining hall set up in one of the rooms," Malek said carefully, striving not to chuckle at Rya’c’s demeanor. "If you would like, I can show you where it is."

"Please!" Rya’c replied fervently, then smiled sheepishly. "I have learned that it is best to feast when the food is available to make up for the times it is not."

"Just as it is best to rest when there are beds available as they are much more comfortable than the cold ground," Malek stated. "If you will follow me?"

To bed? Rya’c amused himself with imagining the Tok’ra’s reaction if he blurted out what had been his first thought, instead nodding. "I am entirely in your hands."

Malek chuckled again as he led the young Jaffa from the room and into the corridor. "It would be best that you do not admit such a thing to Bra’tac."

Rya’c cocked his head curiously. "Why not? Master Bra’tac has told me of the aid you gave Major Carter at the Alpha Site that helped saved everyone there. I am sure he would approve of anything that encourages me to ‘use my mind’," he finished in the tone of someone quoting something he had heard often.

"That is a story for another time. Suffice to say that I am much more comfortable using my mind than taking physical action."

Surprised, Rya’c resolved to find out more about what had happened during that time. "I am sure that will change in time if you find yourself out of your bases often. My father has told me that Daniel Jackson was once unwilling to use a weapon at all, and now he is a formidable warrior even though he still prefers to use his mind."

Malek nodded. "I suppose we are all what our histories make us, though circumstance may change our ways. Here is the dining hall." He pushed open a door and led Rya’c inside.

"I would be interested and honored to know more about you," Rya’c said, following Malek and looking around curiously. "Perhaps while we eat?" he added hopefully.

"About Malek or about Jetha?" the Tok’ra asked, his voice once again sliding into normal speaking ranges.

"Are both of you not present? It seems to me that you... blend more than most Tok’ra, so it is necessary to understand both halves in order to fully know you."

"That is because I wish it that way." The Tok’ra’s movements had become somewhat furtive. "Not because Malek forces the issue."

"I never thought otherwise," Rya’c replied calmly before helping himself to a bite of the food the Tok’ra had guided him to. "Very good," he said after swallowing. "If I have presumed, I apologize," he said, watching the Tok’ra carefully. "You seem... uncomfortable."

"I... dislike conflict." The tense movements made it clear that Jetha was still in control of his body. "Which is why I prefer for Malek to remain in control much of the time."

The tonality in his voice changed again the next time he spoke. "We found Jetha on a scouting mission. His planet had been attacked by Ra’s Jaffa, and the majority of the population had been killed or taken captive. We brought him back to our base, and when he was of age, he consented to be my host."

"I apologize for reminding you of a terrible time," Rya’c said formally, bowing to Jetha from his seat. "Master Bra’tac tells me I must learn to think before speaking," he sighed.

The echo left Malek’s voice again as Jetha spoke. "No apology is necessary. You were not aware of the circumstances that led me to the Tok’ra just as you were not of the Jaffa who destroyed my planet. Jacob Carter reminds me I must put the past in the past, and this happened decades ago."

"Putting aside the past and going on with life is not the same as forgetting," Rya’c observed. "I still remember how the false god Apophis made me believe him a true god and my father a traitor and how I nearly killed him. But I did not, and that is what I must remember as well."

Jetha nodded at that. "You have much strength of will, Rya’c. It will serve you in what is to come."

"Friends are also of great value."

"Especially those who become such unexpectedly."

Rya’c smiled. "Precisely. I would be honored to consider you one such..." He hesitated and laughed faintly. "Should I call you Malek or Jetha?"

"Most know me by Malek, so that would be less confusing." The voice quality changed, and the Tok’ra sat up straighter. "Though it would be well for Jetha to speak as he has been to you more often."

"Most tell me that I talk too much," Rya’c replied wryly, though he didn’t see how anyone who had met Daniel Jackson or O’Neill would think so.

"In comparison to whom?" Malek’s voice held laughter now.

"My father and Master Bra’tac."

Now Malek laughed aloud. "I believe at times a stone would be loquacious compared to those two."

Rya’c grinned as well. "I believe you are correct, friend Malek."

"Friend? Do my ears deceive me? We must make you a diplomat, Rya’c, if you can make friends so quickly." Bra’tac’s comment announced his arrival, and he paused beside their table but did not sit down. He glanced over his shoulder and smiled wryly. "I do not think my companions shall be so entertaining. Laugh for me as well, young warrior." With that he nodded and continued on his way.

"It is true, this has been a welcome diversion from the talks," Malek said, growing serious once more.

"I am pleased to have been of service, though it was pleasure not duty for me." Rya’c smiled. "Perhaps this time you shall not be so eager to escape my presence and leave me to someone else," he dared to tease.

"Now that I have spoken to you as well, that will most likely be the case." It was Jetha who spoke this time.

Seeing that the negotiators were rising from their table, Rya’c stood as well. "Then I shall hope to see you again after this next round of talks. I have enjoyed our time together."

"As have I." Now the voice was a mixture of the two. Malek rose and offered Rya’c his hand. "Until our next meeting, my friend."

"I shall look forward to it." Rya’c took Malek’s arm in a warrior’s clasp before turning away to follow Bra’tac.

"To the Gate. Go!" Explosions shook the base, and Malek ducked as rocks fell from the ceiling around him. The evacuation was almost complete, the majority of the Tok’ra already having gone through the Stargate to safety.

He could feel Jetha’s near-panic and did his best to keep his host calm as the last of the staff vanished into the silvery portal. "Set the coordinates to scramble in one minute," he ordered, leaning against the console as another explosion hit nearby. The countdown began, and he followed the woman toward the Stargate, hearing the shouts as the invading Jaffa raced through the base.

Frozen for a moment, Malek forced himself to the stone circle and dove through only moments before the wheel spun, changing the destination.

At the Alpha Site, once again filled with milling Tok’ra, the Tau’ri and Jaffa normally present were attempting to instill order and slowly making progress. SG-1, currently on planet to help train some of the newest arrivals in Earth tactics, along with Bra’tac and Rya’c, were keeping a close watch on the Stargate in case any of the pursuers came through.

Rya’c gasped and started to step forward when Malek literally dove through the Gate, somersaulting down the steps to land sprawled on the ground. However, he recovered his poise and held his ground until the Gate closed and Bra’tac nodded permission before dashing to Malek’s side.

"Are you injured?"

Malek coughed and sat up, remaining silent for a moment as if in conversation with himself. "Rya’c of the Jaffa, we meet again," he said, slowly getting to his feet. "I am well, my friend." His gaze moved among the milling crowd, looking for his people. "I hope I can say the same for the others."

"All are well," Bra’tac replied as the others drew closer.

"They’re even playing nice with the Jaffa this time," Col. O’Neill added.

"Colonel," Malek inclined his head in greeting. "Maj. Carter, Dr. Jackson, Teal’c." He greeted each member of SG-1 in turn. "I apologize for our abrupt arrival, but Baal’s troops discovered our base, and it was overrun."

"That seems to happen to you guys a lot," Jack murmured before a glare from Daniel silenced him.

"We are always glad of a meeting with our brothers in arms," Teal’c intoned, watching his son discreetly offer support to the Tok’ra.

"Yeah, welcome," Jack interpreted.

"I am hopeful that our time here will be less eventful than the last," Malek replied.

Bra’tac shot him a dry look. "Indeed."

"I’m sure it will be."

"If you have no objection, until quarters can be arranged, you could share my tent," Rya’c offered hesitantly, not sure how Malek would react.

Malek eyed the others, gauging their response, especially that of the older Jaffa, but it was Jetha who answered. "I appreciate the offer, though I must see to the others before taking you up on your hospitality."

The eyes of everyone except Rya’c widened as they heard Jetha’s voice for the first time, and several darted impressed glances at Rya’c.

"Perhaps I might assist you?" the young Jaffa offered, glancing at Bra’tac for permission and receiving a nod.

"I would appreciate the assistance," Malek answered before looking at the others once again. "And again, you have my gratitude for what you have done here."

"It is what allies do," Teal’c replied, putting into words what they all were thinking.

"Most of the Tok’ra have gone to that building," Rya’c said, indicating a large Quonset hut originally intended as a hangar should the Alpha Site ever be fully activated in the event of an evacuation from Earth.

"Then that is where we shall begin," Malek replied, relieved that they had all survived and that Jetha seemed to be calming, in no small part due to Rya’c’s presence.

As the pair walked away, the others looked at each other curiously.

"Okay, is it just me, or was that way weird?" Jack said. "Has anyone ever heard Malek’s regular voice before?"

"Only a very few of the Tok’ra and even among us, Jetha prefers to remain in the background," Jacob answered, having joined them in time to hear O’Neill’s question.

"Weird," Jack repeated.

Inside the temporary refugee station, Rya’c looked around in surprise. The Tok’ra were already settled comfortably, at least for the short term, and they looked up calmly when Malek entered, waiting for him to inform them of their options.

"We will rebuild," Malek stated, once he was certain that none had been seriously injured. "As we have before. To do anything else would be admitting defeat."

There was a rumble of response, but none contradicted his words.

"We are making progress if the Goa’uld are this determined to destroy us," he reiterated.

"Is it progress if we are all dead before the end?" one of the Tok’ra asked, rising to his feet in challenge. "Or are we to tie our lot in with the Jaffa and hope we remain hidden?"

"The Jaffa fight against the Goa’uld," Rya’c retorted, trying to hold down his anger, "and if we face a setback, we return to the battle with renewed vigor. For living under the Goa’uld is worse than death." He glared at the Tok’ra who had spoken.

"The Jaffa are our allies," Malek stated, staring down the other Tok’ra. "As are the Tau’ri. We are alive at this moment because of them, do any here deny that?" He scanned the room before nodding. "We cannot win this battle alone, so do not slight those who would aid us."

Several of the Tok’ra stared at Malek, stunned into silence at the defense of the Jaffa by one who had been among the most vehement in his dislike of them.

"And that is what we’re trying to build," Jack said from the doorway, Jacob and Bra’tac nodding beside him.

"Tell me of your travels since we spoke last," Malek asked as he and Rya’c walked through the encampment.

"So many worlds I cannot remember the names of each," Rya’c sighed. "But on each we find some Jaffa who are willing to listen and to believe that their Goa’uld overlords are not gods. Some come back with us, and others remain to try to convert their brethren. I fear many of those will die.

"We visited the Nox again, and while we were there, I met an Asgard!" Rya’c’s eyes widened with remembered awe. "I could more easily believe them gods than the Goa’uld."

Malek nodded. "It is well for all of us that they do not desire such things."

"Except in the case of primitive civilizations where they plan to reveal themselves when the people reach a certain level," Rya’c clarified, having heard the tales of the worlds where the people worshiped the Asgard as gods. "They, or at least Cdr. Thor, seem to like O’Neill very much."

"Col. O’Neill strikes me as the type of person you either like very much or detest very soon after meeting him," Jetha commented, smiling slightly as he glanced over at Rya’c.

Rya’c chuckled. "You are kinder than Master Bra’tac. Though I will say that aside from enemies, most of those who initially detest him come to see his worth in time."

"That is understandable as all the members of SG-1 are extraordinarily capable." Malek paused at the edge of the forest and looked out among the trees.

"I have met very capable individuals whom I would not regret seeing fall off a cliff," Rya’c stated wryly. "But they are good people. Even their arguments amongst themselves are fueled by their desire to do the right thing. I believe we are all extraordinarily fortunate to have them as our allies. So many things have changed since the Tau’ri rediscovered their Stargate it is hard to remember how short a time it has been."

Malek chuckled quietly. "Some would compare them to agents of chaos, bringing sweeping change wherever they go, but that change is needed."

Nodding, Rya’c laughed as well. "That is perhaps the best description of them that I have ever heard. We should tell Col. O’Neill; I am sure he would like it."

"Somehow, I don’t believe the rest of his team would agree with it though," Malek mused. "Your father in particular."

"True, but the others, even Maj. Carter, have been known to leave chaos in their wake." Rya’c grinned, thinking of some of the interactions he’d observed, especially between O’Neill and Dr. Jackson.

Malek nodded. "And if chaos helps us in our fight, I cannot complain about it."

"The Goa’uld, being unchanging and unable to create in their own right, do not know how to react when faced with chaos, of which the Tau’ri are masters. Adopting some of their tactics has helped us all."

"I suppose that is what made it so hard for us to accept the Tau’ri in the beginning," Malek mused, his voice sounding strained as he admitted this similarity between the Tok’ra and the Goa’uld. "Jacob has done much to teach us of their ways."

"Now if we only convince them to respect our ways that have value," Rya’c sighed, sounding much older than his years. "Master Bra’tac often despairs of it, but it is fortunate that he has earned their respect as has my father. We are becoming more an alliance of equals as time goes on, each bringing value."

Malek reached out and put a hand on Rya’c’s shoulder. "It will come in time, my friend. If a Tok’ra can learn to value the Jaffa, surely the Tau’ri can do the same."

"Indeed. For truly the Tok’ra are a stubborn race," Rya’c dared to tease.

"Unlike the Jaffa, who are very easygoing and malleable," Malek answered dryly before giving in and smiling.

"Exactly! You are coming to understand us." Rya’c beamed at him before laughing. "And will anyone believe me if I tell them that I have seen Malek of the Tok’ra truly smile? You should do it more often; it suits you."

"They would believe that you had been ingesting hallucinogenic substances, just as they would if you told them of Jetha speaking to you," Malek answered, chuckling.

"Yes, I did notice the expressions earlier when Jetha spoke up." Rya’c snickered. "It was much as if someone had hit them in the back of the head with a board."

"Selmak looked as if he was going to fall over," Jetha snickered, sounding much younger than Malek.

"It is a good thing the older ones all have symbiotes, one way or another," Rya’c added. "For I fear their hearts might have stopped otherwise." He laughed again.

"And we are trying to promote peace among our people, not cause more conflict such as the last time I was here." Jetha’s expression turned troubled at that, then went neutral as Malek took over once again.

It was not the first time Malek had reacted oddly to mention of his last visit to the Alpha Site, and Rya’c could not let it pass again. "Something about your last time here seems to discomfit you," he said carefully. "Perhaps speaking of it would help?"

The Tok’ra made a noncommittal sound and clasped his hands behind his back. "I believe I am correct in assuming that Bra’tac has not told you the full story?"

"How can I know?" Rya’c asked logically. "I only know what he has told me, that there was an invisible assassin, that many were killed, Tok’ra and Jaffa first blamed each other then worked together, and in the end Major Carter, with your assistance, found a way to make the assassin visible. My father added that Master Bra’tac had nearly been killed but found his way back to the camp in time to be the one to kill the enemy."

Malek nodded, his expression troubled. "I was with Bra’tac when the assassin struck. He saved my life, then I..." There was a change in tonality, and Jetha finished the sentence. "I let him be dragged off; I couldn’t even shoot at the attacker because I was frozen in fear. I assumed that he was dead and told the others."

"Ah." That explained much. "It is not uncommon for a man to freeze the first time he is faced with a foe, and I would imagine an invisible one is yet more disturbing," Rya’c stated. "You made a mistake, but you realize it. I do not think you would allow it to happen again."

"I have not been in that situation so I cannot say for sure what I will do," Jetha said quietly.

Rya’c smiled. "I have confidence in you."

"I hope I will earn that confidence, my friend."

"I’m sure you will. I do not make mistakes," Rya’c said with a sly grin.

It was Malek’s rich chuckle that sounded next. "Should I ask that of Bra’tac?"

A look of horror crossed Rya’c’s face as he pictured his teacher’s reaction to that. "No!" he exclaimed.

Malek tried not to laugh but found he had to give in to the impulse and ended up leaning against Rya’c’s side to keep his balance. "Forgive me, my friend, but the expression on your face..."

"You are an evil man," Rya’c said, grinning. "Master Bra’tac would double my training to break me of such brashness."

"Then I suppose it is my luck that I am not under his command," Malek answered.

"Why would he want to break your spirit in that way?" Jetha asked on the heels of that comment.

"Break my..." Rya’c stared. "He would not. He would simply remind me that humility better serves a warrior than overconfidence."

"Forgive me, I did not mean any insult; I am unfamiliar with your ways." There was a subtle shift in posture as Malek came to the fore again.

"I took no insult; I merely did not wish you to misunderstand. I am fortunate to have Master Bra’tac as my teacher, as was my father. It is simply that his humor can be... tiring." Rya’c smiled quickly.

"Particularly when it is at your expense?" Malek asked, somewhat familiar with the Jaffa’s cutting remarks.

"I see you have encountered it yourself." Rya’c smiled wryly. "Yet warriors whom he has trained are the best prepared when facing the enemy." He hesitated then suggested, "Perhaps you should ask if he would train you?"

Malek’s sandy brows rose. "That would be quite difficult as you and he travel the planets trying to recruit other Jaffa to your cause, and I will be searching for a new base for our cell."

"And would it not be worthwhile to take a short time to improve your skills? After your new base is established, of course. Or perhaps Master Bra’tac would be willing to stay at your base for a time to train any who were interested. The Tok’ra have advanced technology, but as warriors..." Rya’c trailed off with an apologetic half-shrug.

Malek smiled wryly. "It is not where we excel unless our host has had prior training.

"Which I had not," Jetha put in. "Do you think he would be agreeable to such a proposal?"

"I think so. We have no specific plans for the immediate future that cannot be postponed or passed to someone else. If you ask him, he will at the very least consider it."

"It would ease Col. O’Neill’s mind as well, I am sure, to not have us showing up on his doorstep time and time again."

"Perhaps. I would think it would ease the minds of all Tok’ra more not to be constantly fleeing."

Malek nodded ruefully. "It seems we spend our lives doing that. Standing and fighting would be quite the change."

"I am sure Master Bra’tac would be willing to help. Perhaps even the Tau’ri as well. Shall we find him and ask?" Rya’c was aware of a certain pleasure in the thought of spending more time with his friend as well.

"I believe that is an excellent idea, my young friend." Malek clapped Rya’c on the shoulder as they turned and walked back to camp.

Rya’c frowned at being called young and vowed to break Malek of that by proving himself a man... somehow. He smiled wryly at his own thoughts as they walked. Fortunately, it was easy to spot Master Bra’tac, who stood with Jacob and the SG-1 team not far from the Gate.

"Master Bra’tac!" he called, gaining the Jaffa’s attention as they neared. "May we speak with you?"

"Of course." Bra’tac gave the newcomers his attention, curious as to what they wished to speak of together.

Rya’c glanced at Malek, not sure if the Tok’ra wished him to explain his idea or would want to speak for himself.

"Past events and a conversation with Rya’c has called to my attention the fact that we Tok’ra are... lacking when it comes to training in physical combat," Malek said carefully, ignoring the way O’Neill rolled his eyes at the comment. "It would be most beneficial for us to receive training so as to better defend ourselves."

As Bra’tac’s eyes turned to him, Rya’c explained, "I thought you might be willing to help, Master Bra’tac. You are the best of our teachers and surely the Tok’ra need the assistance."

"Ain’t that the truth," Jack muttered, making Jacob look away before he laughed.

"It’s something I’ve noticed as well," Jacob said, "and I’d be happy to help when possible."

Bra’tac nodded. "Once again Rya’c has seen more clearly than those of us too close to the problem. I shall be honored to help."

"I thank you," Malek said formally, before giving a slight smile. "Perhaps we should give all our problems to Rya’c to solve as he seems to cut to the center of things most efficiently."

Rya’c expression was a mixture of pride and horror, making several of the group choke in an attempt not to laugh. "I think it best that the leaders continue to make the decisions," he said hastily.

"I always knew you were a smart kid," Jack laughed.

"I have been telling him almost the exact same thing," Malek chuckled.

"Perhaps I might believe it more easily without the ‘kid’," Rya’c retorted with a hint of a snap.

Malek’s expression sobered, and he looked at Rya’c closely. "Forgive me, my friend, I had no desire to insult you."

Rya’c sighed and put a hand on Malek’s arm, squeezing it. "I know, and I took no insult. Not much insult," he amended after meeting his father’s knowing gaze. "I am just very tired of people remembering the child I was and not seeing who I am now."

Jacob grinned. "Considering our age, is it a wonder we view you as such?"

"Hey, speak for yourself," Jack exclaimed, "I’m not old!"

"Though Rya’c has endured more than many that we call adult," Malek added thoughtfully.

"I have done what was necessary," Rya’c said, sounding uncannily like his father.

Malek cleared his throat, trying to divert the conversation back to the original topic. "Perhaps we could begin these lessons here as we search for another base?"

Bra’tac nodded. "It is late this day, so we shall begin tomorrow. At dawn."

Malek’s eyebrows rose. "At... At dawn, I shall inform the others."

"You may also want to look into just what time dawn comes at and how long the day is here. I don’t think you noticed last time that this planet has a twenty-eight-hour day. And it’s summer, so the days are reeeeeally long," Jack said helpfully.

"Thank you for that information, Col. O’Neill," Malek said, giving a strained smile.

"Jack, I need to talk to you," Daniel said quickly, pulling the other man away before he could say anything else.

Smothering snickers, Sam and Jacob suddenly found something that urgently required their attention on the other side of camp, leaving the three Jaffa and Malek on their own.

"Perhaps O’Neill should assist," Teal’c suggested blandly.

"It would be most helpful to have different styles available," Bra’tac agreed.

"I shall inform him of your request." Teal’c bowed and went after the colonel.

"It is a pity. I think that request would best have been given at dawn," Malek commented.

"I believe Col. O’Neill sleeps with his gun," Bra’tac observed. "I think I shall assist Teal’c." And as quickly as that Malek and Rya’c were on their own again.

Rya’c eyed Malek’s uniform, which he had never seen the Tok’ra without. "You should probably dress more lightly. No shirt would be best," he suggested.

"No..." Jetha’s voice was clear. "Very well, if that is what the training requires."

"Not requires, but it is more comfortable and less destructive to your clothing. I hope you are prepared to spend a great deal of time on your back, at least at first."

With a groan, Malek climbed back to his feet, rubbing his back and shaking his head wryly at his instructor. "Perhaps you should show me that again?"

Bra’tac nodded approvingly. The Tok’ra was no warrior, at least not yet, but he was willing, and he tried. "Rya’c, come here."

The young Jaffa approached, and he and Bra’tac went through the exercise more slowly, letting Malek and the others see each step. And then Rya’c landed in the dust.

Malek nodded slowly. "If anything, I now know how to fall more gracefully."

"A most useful skill around Master Bra’tac," Rya’c sighed, dusting himself off.

"As the Tau’ri say, ‘Pride goeth before a fall,’" Bra’tac intoned, smirking.

"As falling seems to be all we are learning, are you saying we are prideful?" another of the Tok’ra asked.

"If you are not willing to learn or even to ask why a thing is done, yes." Bra’tac stared the Tok’ra down.

"What Master Bra’tac is too nice to say," Jack said, fixing the offender with a gimlet gaze, "is that he’s teaching you how not to hurt yourself right now. He could have gone straight to combat, but none of you, symbiotes notwithstanding, would have been able to move by nightfall."

"We have come here to learn," Malek snapped. "If you do not wish to do so, then leave." Where Jack’s glare hadn’t effected the Tok’ra, the woman backed down under Malek’s stare. Even Jack looked impressed.

"He may make a leader yet," he murmured to Jacob, watching the Tok’ra with renewed interest.

Rya’c was unaware of the tinge of pride in the smile he gave Malek, but Teal’c took note of it, one eyebrow arching sharply.

"Now then, if we may begin again, Master Bra’tac?" Malek asked, releasing control back to Jetha as his host needed these lessons more than he did.

Even now there was visible improvement... in some of the Tok’ra. Rya’c watched some of the others, and when next Malek was allowed to rest as someone else became Bra’tac’s focus, he leaned closer. "I think some of your people are not well pleased to be learning from a Jaffa," he murmured.

"You are correct, but we must learn to see past our perceptions to appreciate that which is before us," Malek answered, gratefully taking a drink of water from the canteen Rya’c offered. "We have been stagnant for too long."

"Some more so than others. From the tales I have heard of Selmak, he is not one to remain still, even before blending with Jacob Carter. And I believe Maj. Carter would say that Jolinar was also adventurous."

Malek nodded, smiling wryly. "They are more the exception than the rule, I fear."

"Perhaps you have not yet had the right opportunity. Or are you saying that you would never explore something new?"

"You ask this as I sit here covered in dust from being thrown to the ground time and time again?"

Rya’c laughed. "I think you prove my point for me!"

Malek chuckled as well. "Perhaps it simply took the right impetus to make both Jetha and I see another way of thinking."

"I am pleased to have been of assistance." Rya’c took in the sweaty, well-sculpted form beside him and smiled.

"While I am pleased to have you as my friend." It was Jetha who spoke this time.

"As am I to have you. I have few friends thanks to traveling so much, but I look forward to our meetings... both of you."

Jetha nodded and took another drink, wincing as another of the Tok’ra was tossed to the ground. "I too have enjoyed them. I am pleased that we will have more time to talk now."

"Yes, we may have time to have fun occasionally. When Master Bra’tac isn’t having fun tossing you around," Rya’c added with a wide smile.

"And while I am not recovering from it," Jetha laughed, pushing himself to his feet again. "Now then, I believe my rest period is over; perhaps it is your turn to ‘toss me around’?"

"With pleasure." Rya’c gave him Bra’tac’s own smile as he rose as well and moved behind the Tok’ra. "Defend yourself!"

Looking down at Rya’c as the Jaffa lay on the ground, Malek quirked a smile. "Are you humoring me, my friend? I know my skills have improved over the past weeks, but that seemed a bit too easy."

"You surprised me," Rya’c admitted, sitting up. "You have improved more than I expected, but that was entirely your own work. Of course, I shall make you work to do it again!"

"Perhaps you should try sparring with someone who would challenge you," a new voice called, and Malek glanced over to see one of the rebel Jaffa watching them.

"Which one of us is he talking to?" Rya’c whispered, looking amused.

"I believe you, as I doubt I could be considered a challenge to any yet," Malek answered.

"Perhaps I enjoy helping those who can improve rather than those mired in their own pride," Rya’c retorted.

"Perhaps you should listen to your elders, young one," the other Jaffa answered, his eyes narrowing.

"I have. Master Bra’tac, my father, O’Neill, Hammond of the Tau’ri, Selmak of the Tok’ra, Thor of the Asgard. Do you tell me that you know more than they?" Rya’c asked with spurious innocence.

"I know that the Tok’ra view us exactly as the Goa’uld do. It is a lesson you should learn as well." The Jaffa spat on the ground and stalked away.

Malek sighed. "I am sorry if our friendship is causing you difficulties."

"Only with fools like that, and I would not wish to associate with him regardless. I prefer companions more intelligent than a rock."

"You have my apology as well." This time the speaker was a young woman. "My brother has... definite views about the Goa’uld and the Tok’ra. Not that I agree with them," she added hastily.

"You have no need to apologize for another’s actions," Rya’c replied, smiling nonetheless. "Would you care to join us?" He gestured to the ground at his side.

"If it would not be an imposition..."

"I know that I am in need of a rest even if my teacher is not," Malek answered, glancing from one young person to the other.

"Considering which of us just landed in the dirt, I would say that I too require rest," Rya’c chuckled. "I am Rya’c and this is Malek." He would leave it to Jetha whether he wished to introduce himself.

"I know," the girl smiled, long blond braids falling over her shoulders before she brushed them back impatiently. "I am Freita."

"It is an honor to meet you, Freita," Malek said, inclining his head and hiding as smile when he saw how her attention was focused on Rya’c, though part of him felt a definite sadness.

"It is mine to meet you, Lord Malek," Freita replied without taking her eyes from Rya’c, who was beginning to shift uncomfortably.

"It is time to eat," Bra’tac announced, bringing an end to the day’s lesson. "You have done well this day, all of you, so I will expect even more tomorrow!" With that he strode away, not letting any of them see his own aches, though he would be glad of his bed that night.

Malek groaned and lay back on the ground. "Perhaps the two of you would like to go on ahead? I believe I shall recline here for the time being and... catch my breath."

"If it wouldn’t be an imposition," Freita answered quickly, getting to her feet and plainly waiting for Rya’c to join her.

Rya’c glanced from one to the other, torn, but when Malek waved him on, he got up and walked toward the messhall with Freita, though not without a backward glance at his friend.

Sometime later Rya’c went in search of Malek, finding him in his tent. They’d grown familiar with one another during the short time they’d shared quarters when Malek and the other Tok’ra had arrived, so he didn’t hesitate to duck inside.

"Girls are strange," he announced.

"Pardon me?" Malek asked, looking up from the system scans he’d been going over as they tried to narrow down the candidates for a new base. "Didn’t you enjoy your dinner with Freita?"

"She asked the oddest questions, acted like she didn’t have a brain in her head, and kept gripping my arm. Yet she claimed to wish to be a warrior, when she seemed... fluttery!"

A strange succession of expressions passed over Malek’s face before he smiled. "It would seem that she likes you and wants to get to know you better."

Rya’c frowned. "She seems pleasant enough, but I would much rather spend time with you."

"Not that I mind that at all, but you should spend time with those nearer your own age, my friend," Malek said gently. "You have been through much; should you not enjoy life also?"

"I do enjoy life. But I have nothing in common with those my own age." Rya’c shrugged pragmatically. "They either want to ask questions about things that are painful to remember or they get excited about things that mean nothing to me. But I enjoy talking to you."

Malek sat aside his work and motioned to the cot as it was the only other place to sit in the tent. "Then we shall talk as both Jetha and I enjoy our conversations and your company."

Looking at the Tok’ra, Rya’c suddenly froze halfway between sitting and standing as something became clear to him. He was not interested in Freita because he was interested in Malek. His eyes widened, and he stared at Malek.

Seeing the surprise in the young Jaffa’s eyes, Malek half rose. "Rya’c? Is something wrong?"

"Nooo," Rya’c said slowly, sinking down to sit on the cot. "No," he repeated more strongly. "I think something may be very right."

Confused by Rya’c’s answer, Malek faded back, and it was Jetha who leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "Are congratulations in order then?"

"I think that depends on you."

"Me?" Now both Malek and Jetha were confused, a state that rarely occurred.

Rya’c nodded silently, a faint smile on his lips, and waited for the Tok’ra to work it out.

"Are you saying," Jetha began. "That you wish us to be more than friends?" Malek finished though there was a long silence between the two statements as host and symbiote spoke.

Rya’c nodded again, waiting for Malek’s—and Jetha’s—reaction. Knowing what he did of Jetha’s past, he knew that pushing would be the surest way to drive them away.

Malek took a deep breath and sat up. "I am not sure that is the wisest course of action for us to take, my young friend," he said sadly.

"Perhaps it would help if you stopped thinking of me as young. No one in this war is young," Rya’c said. "And perhaps not wise, but I think it worth the chance."

Not able to argue that logic, Malek could only try to counter it. "Do you understand what you are asking?"

"How bluntly would you like me to rephrase it?"

Jetha gave a nervous laugh. "There’s no need, but answer me this; which one of us is it you’re interested in?"

"Both." Rya’c shrugged. "Perhaps with others it is one or the other, but I have come to know both aspects of you. I cannot imagine one without the other." He smiled quickly. "Though I shall never know which name to call!"

This time it was Malek who gave a short laugh but Jetha who continued speaking. "Our experiences are very different, so I have no doubt you will be able to tell who it is." He looked away for a moment before continuing. "And what Malek has not said is that we share the same feeling in this matter."

Rya’c let out a sigh of relief and relaxed. "I was afraid..." He stopped, not saying it in case Malek should change his mind.

"Afraid of what? Malek asked, tilting his head to study Rya’c intently.

"That you really did think I was too young," Rya’c admitted.

"You are older than I was when Malek and I first joined," Jetha said quietly. "While you are young in terms of years, that cannot be said about experience."

"I’d like to expand my experience."

Now Jetha’s expression turned wry. "For that you will have to speak to Malek as I have little to offer."

"Then this is something we can learn together." Rya’c leaned closer and kissed Jetha quickly.

Jetha froze, but Malek rose to the fore, reaching out to cup a hand behind Rya’c’s neck and pull him into another kiss, giving the young man a taste of exactly what he was asking for.

Rya’c sighed and opened his mouth, encouraging Malek to show him more. His hands rose to the Tok’ra’s shoulders, kneading the firm muscles as he fought not to pull him closer.

The kiss grew somewhat clumsy as Malek receded, leaving Jetha in control, but the man made up in determination what he lacked in finesse, and he sighed at the taste of Rya’c’s mouth, his other hand moving to the Jaffa’s shoulder to draw him nearer.

"Maybe we should lie down before I fall down?" Rya’c suggested with a self-deprecating laugh after nearly overbalancing and falling forward off the cot. His hands moved over Jetha, exploring his body tentatively now that he was certain the other man would allow it.

"Afraid your pride could not allow me to have gotten you to the ground twice in one day?" Malek laughed, making a soft sound of pleasure as he felt Rya’c’s hands on him. He stood and moved over to the cot, keeping track of both Jetha and Rya’c’s reactions and feeling the tutor but not minding in the least.

"Afraid of the bruises I’d get from your bony elbows when I pulled you down as well!" Rya’c scooted back against the wall, leaving room on the cot for Malek—if they were very friendly, which he hoped they would be.

"And the bruises you’ve given me aren’t to be mentioned?" Jetha asked, a bit of a tremor in his voice as he followed Rya’c down to the cot and they arranged themselves.

"I was training you," Rya’c replied superiorly, then chuckled. "I do not think bruises are to be part of this, except perhaps from an overly excited grip, so we need not consider them further."

Malek chuckled. "That is not quite true, though that is something we can discuss at another time." As he spoke, he ran a hand down Rya’c’s side, feeling the muscles clench under his palm.

"That sounds... interesting. I shall look forward to it. But I’m hoping tonight’s lesson will be more hands on." Rya’c let his hand drift lower, gliding over the curve of Malek’s buttocks.

"I believe that will be the case, because as I believe you have heard before, the best way to learn is by doing." Malek’s hand moved under the edge of Rya’c’s shirt, moving it up to stroke over the smooth skin beneath it.

"My very favorite method," Rya’c breathed, reaching down to grasp the hem of his shirt and pull it over his head. "Do you think I could convince you to get out of this uniform for a second time in one day?" he murmured, pressing kisses along Malek’s jaw.

"That would make things easier." Surprisingly, it was Jetha who answered, though the hands that pulled at his clothes were sure and certain. Once Malek had removed his own shirt, he drew Rya’c closer, feeling skin press against skin. "And certainly feel better."

"Oh yes," Rya’c breathed, trying to get closer. Then his breath exploded from him in a frustrated groan as he heard his father’s voice.

"Malek? Have you seen Rya’c? He is not in his tent, and no one has seen him since dinner."

"This cannot be happening," Rya’c groaned before raising his voice to reply. "I am here, Father, with Malek. Perhaps we can have lunch together tomorrow if you wish to speak to me?" he suggested, desperation audible in his voice.

There was a prolonged silence from outside, then, "Ah. Very well," and footsteps receded into the distance.

Rya’c pressed his face to Malek’s chest, grateful that his dark complexion hid most of the blush.

Malek ran a hand down Rya’c’s back while engaging in another silent conversation with his host. While the symbiote was amused, Jetha was horrified, and Malek could feel the tension rising both in his own body and Rya’c’s. "Perhaps this is not the best place for this," he finally said.

"Another planet would be good," Rya’c groaned. He finally raised his head to meet Malek’s eyes. "They will probably all feel it necessary to give advice in the morning," he sighed.

"As long as they do not offer to provide lessons!" Jetha exclaimed, sounding on the verge of panic.

"No!" Rya’c shuddered at the thought. "This is something we can learn on our own. And I would much rather continue the lesson than think about them any more." Remembering Malek’s comment, he continued, "No one else will disturb us now, if you do not wish to move. My father will have warned them away," he sighed.

The thought of Teal’c standing guard outside the tent, shooing people away, caused Malek to shudder as well, and he gave a strained laugh. "I think it is well I was not planning on venturing much further than this tonight."

Rya’c looked disappointed, but he understood the reasons. "So long as we will continue our explorations another night, this is a very pleasant pastime for now." He would begin seeking a private place for them his very next free moment!

"I assure you that I am looking forward to continuing what we have begun tonight." Malek reached up and ran a hand over Rya’c’s short hair.

"Perhaps we could do a bit more now," Rya’c suggested when the Tok’ra seemed content with stroking his hair. He stretched up to kiss Malek, tongue sliding past his lips to explore his mouth.

Malek gave a soft groan of pleasure and opened his mouth more, encouraging Rya’c’s actions, his fingers tightening against the Jaffa’s head as they pressed closer together.

Enjoying both the taste and the reactions, Rya’c growled his pleasure as he changed the angle of his head. His hands skimmed over Malek’s body, finding the spots that make the Tok’ra shiver.

"You make me doubt my convictions," Malek rasped, once their mouths broke apart. "Though I still believe that things would be better with less of a chance of interruption."

What Malek said made sense, but Rya’c didn’t want to be sensible just then. He just wanted. "You shouldn’t be thinking at all," he rasped, leaving a trail of nibbling bites along Malek’s throat.

"I shall endeavor not to," Malek sighed, bringing a leg over Rya’c’s and drawing their hips together so they could rub together.

With a groan of pleasure, Rya’c thrust sharply against him, then cried out in shock when the cot collapsed under them, spilling them to the floor. Wide eyes stared up at Malek, who had landed on top of him, and he gasped for air.

"It would seem the Tau’ri need to put more engineering efforts into their beds," Malek said dryly.

"Malek? Is everything all right?" the question was posed by another of the Tok’ra who pushed open the tent flap and gasped in surprise at the sight that greeted him.

"All is well," Malek stated calmly, turning his head to look at the other man. "If I am in need of assistance, I will inform you."

The Tok’ra withdrew hastily, only to be replaced by Teal’c, whose initial expression of concern faded into a near smirk.

"Is this some Tok’ra mating ritual of which I am unaware?"

Rya’c uttered a muffled squawk and closed his eyes, hoping this would all go away—all but Malek, that was.

"I believe you know the answer to that question, so there is no point in asking it," Malek replied, getting up and sitting cross-legged on the floor with Rya’c behind him.

Resigned to the fact that Teal’c wasn’t going to conveniently disappear, Rya’c opened his eyes and sat up. "We are fine, Father." He stared at Teal’c, waiting for him to take the hint and go.

Teal’c stared back blandly, not moving until Rya’c started to shift uncomfortably. "Perhaps you might wish to volunteer for a scouting party looking for a site for the new Tok’ra base?" he suggested, knowing the two men would never have any privacy in the camp.

Rya’c’s eyebrows rose, and he glanced at Malek hopefully.

Malek’s expression was incredulous, but he inclined his head at Teal’c, at the same time standing so as to be on a more even height with the Jaffa. "That is an excellent suggestion; it does lead me to wonder if I shall be called to utilize my new training while there, however."

"One can never know the future." Teal’c smiled serenely. "However, I think it unlikely that such will occur. The world I have in mind for you is one which appears to be uninhabited."

Rya’c wasn’t sure he could deal with his father matchmaking, but it did sound perfect.

"I...thank you," Malek said after a long moment of trying to digest the Jaffa’s apparent acceptance of the situation.

Teal’c inclined his head silently and disappeared, pulling the tent flap closed as he left.

"That was... strange," Rya’c said slowly.

Malek nodded, though he was still watching the flap as if expecting someone else to come in. "I am inclined to agree with you. Your father was very accepting of all this."

"I think he was pleased to see me with anyone," Rya’c replied wryly. "Your Tok’ra seemed more shocked than he did." A thought struck him, and he frowned. "Will this cause problems for you among your own people?"

"I am not sure," Malek admitted honestly. "I would like to say no, but I cannot be certain. I believe the situation will be the same with the other Jaffa, do you not?"

"Yes and no. I travel so much that I do not spend much time with the same Jaffa for long periods of time, so it is less important. Also, I travel with Master Bra’tac and gain some of the respect he receives through association. And of course, there is my father. There will not be many who will speak openly against me. Nor do I care if they do."

Malek nodded and shifted to wind an arm around Rya’c’s waist. "I am glad of this, but I do not wish for our relationship to cause strife between our people."

"Perhaps we shall serve as an example of the good relations possible between our peoples."

The laugh that sounded was Jetha’s. "If they follow our example, it will be quite the close relationship indeed."

"Well, they can find their own Tok’ra to experiment with!" Rya’c exclaimed emphatically.

"So it would seem as this one is quite claimed." Malek turned Rya’c toward him and kissed the younger man again.

Rya’c made a sound of contentment and leaned into the kiss, mouth opening eagerly as his arms went back around Malek. Only when their lips parted some time later did he reluctantly sway back. "Much as I wish otherwise, I believe that you were correct in saying anything more must wait for another place." He hesitated before adding, "I would, however, like to remain if you have no objection."

"I would like nothing better." Malek smiled, then looked over toward the flattened cot. "Of course, we shall have to rearrange the bedding somewhat."

Rya’c nodded his agreement. "I think arranging it comfortably on the ground would be best. I’m not sure I could survive another collapse."

"I’m not sure either of us could," Malek chuckled, letting go of Rya’c to gather the bedding from the broken cot to spread it out on the ground. "Eventually we’ll enjoy a comfortable bed."

"Perhaps we should plan an overnight trip to the potential new site. Just to be sure we explore all its possibilities." Rya’c helped Malek spread the blankets, making sure there would be no annoying bunched fabric beneath them.

Malek nodded, his lips twitching as he tried not to smile. "That would be the easiest way to discover all that there is to know."

Rya’c did smile as he sat down on the bedding. "I have always enjoyed learning new things."

Jetha settled down next to the young Jaffa and slid an arm around his waist. "And for once, I am looking forward to new things as well."

"The planet could be of use as your new base," Rya’c observed the next day after several hours surveying the possible site. "However, I am uneasy about the lack of any animal life when there is such lush vegetation. Surely there should be something, insects at the very least?" Although the idea of an entire planet to themselves had a certain appeal to the Jaffa just then, he was trying to concentrate on their assignment first.

Malek nodded, his eyes narrowed as he studied the clearing around them. "Testing has shown no known contaminants in the air, soil or water, but the lack of life disturbs me."

"It is odd, as if someone created the world just like this and then left it unfinished," Rya’c mused. "Still, we have been here for some time now, and there has been no sign of danger. Perhaps we might be able to enjoy our night here?"

"It is what I wish, though we would do well to remain alert this evening," Malek sighed.

"We can set up a perimeter," Rya’c replied, not about to give up the one night they would be alone. "Alarms would warn us long before anything could get through, if in fact there is anything on this world to try. We should not waste this opportunity, Malek."

Malek sighed, then smiled. "You are correct of course. It is just that neither Jetha nor I wish for any harm to come to you."

"I believe my greatest danger at present is dying of sheer frustration!"

"Then perhaps we should look into setting up our camp?"

"An excellent idea." Rya’c let his pack thump to the ground. "Here would be good."

Jetha laughed out loud. "Aren’t we a bit far from water?"

"You are being much too practical," Rya’c grumbled, shouldering his pack again. "But now we are looking for a site, not surveying," he warned.

Malek nodded while trying to hide a smile. "I believe there was a stream in that direction," he said, pointing toward the west.

"I believe we could walk faster," Rya’c said pointedly a few moments later.

"Then we shall walk faster," Malek said agreeably, lengthening his stride to keep pace with the almost running Jaffa.

Rya’c eyed him with exasperation. "One might begin to think that you were not interested in what is planned for this night."

Malek’s eyebrows rose. "Of course I am, though I do not wish for either of us to be worn out before it begins."

Rya’c slowed. "Oh." He walked a bit farther. "Do you think me young and silly?"

"Not in the least." Malek paused, and studied the young man seriously. "What I think is that you are intoxicating."

Rya’c smile spread slowly across his entire face, and he walked straight to Malek, slid his arms around him, and kissed him.

Jetha rose to the fore and kissed Malek back hungrily, his hands roaming over the Jaffa’s back and down to stroke his ass. "I take it you are pleased?" he asked.

"How could I not be?" Rya’c gazed into the warm blue eyes, fingers combing into the soft curls. He felt the warmth rush through him, and he wanted to share it with Malek and Jetha, but he was afraid that it was too soon, so instead he tried to show the Tok’ra how he felt with his kiss.

Jetha sighed and leaned into the kiss, pulling Rya’c closer and feeling his burgeoning arousal. "We-we should find a place to camp," he said shakily.

"That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you," Rya’c said with a tiny smile. "Camp, set up the perimeter, get something to eat, and then..."

"Then our patience will be rewarded," Malek murmured, reaching out to run a hand over Rya’c’s face.

"Yes." Rya’c turned his cheek into Malek’s palm, eyes closing momentarily before he forced himself to step back. "And if we do not move now, we may go no farther this day," he said throatily, wide eyes fixed on Malek.

Malek nodded and gave himself a small shake. "Yes, we should set up our camp, and then we shall see what comes about."

"Would you like something to eat, Rya’c?" Jetha asked, glancing at the young Jaffa as he finished setting up the last of the perimeter sensors.

"Not especially, but I would rather have it now than faint for lack of nourishment later." Rya’c moved toward where they had planned to lay a fire, already considering their rations. "I suppose it will have to be stew."

"What can I do to help?"

"Can you cook, or am I best sending you for water?" Rya’c asked warily.

Malek chuckled throatily. "I would say I am best at getting the water," he admitted, bending to reach for the container.

Laughing, Rya’c waved him off. "Then I shall attempt to make something palatable of these rations. One would think that one of our three races would manage to create something that tastes like actual food!"

"I have to wonder if O’Neill sent the rations as an attempt to control our behavior by making us ill."

"If I had not seen him eat them as well, I would be tempted to think you correct," Rya’c chuckled. "However Dr. Jackson provided me with some spices which he assures me will help. They cannot hurt. So as soon as you bring the water, I shall make the attempt."

Malek bowed slightly. "Then I shall go get the water so that we may enjoy your attempt." He grinned and headed off toward the stream they’d found when scouting out their present location.

Eying the silvery packets, Rya’c sighed, not at all certain that enjoyment would be the proper way to describe their upcoming meal, but he would do his best. It would certainly be better than starvation.

When Malek returned a few minutes later, Rya’c had the fire neatly laid and had started the kindling. A few moments later he sat up. "There, the fire will be ready shortly." Glancing at Malek, he stopped, eyebrows rising as his gaze traveled appreciatively over the Tok’ra. "I see you took time to clean up."

"We wanted to make a good impression," Jetha answered, running a hand over his damp hair. "Or I did anyway."

"And you have. I will have to ask you to watch dinner once I have it going so I may go do the same." Rya’c wanted nothing more than to reach for the Tok’ra right then, but he schooled himself to patience.

"I think I can manage to keep it from burning - if you aren’t gone too long," Jetha said, smiling a bit as he spoke.

"Your statement fills me with confidence," Rya’c replied wryly. "I shall be quick." Once he had all the ingredients mixed, the water added, and the whole thing simmering gently over the fire, he started out of the clearing. Glancing back, he hesitated and stole a quick kiss before moving off again, smiling.

Jetha chuckled and stirred the stew, head tilted to the side as he listened for Rya’c’s return.

"I don’t smell anything burning," Rya’c announced as he returned, dropping down beside Malek once again. "As Col. O’Neill would say, you deserve a cooking badge," he chuckled.

"I would ask what that is, but I fear it would only confuse me," Malek smiled, reaching out to brush a hand over Rya’c’s now damp hair. "Of course, you look more appetizing than any meal could."

"Food first," Rya’c said sternly before smiling broadly. "I fear that I will forget all about eating if we touch first."

"Wise beyond your years," Malek murmured, going back to tending the stew and simply enjoying the Jaffa’s company.

"Very hungry," Rya’c replied, the smell of the food having woken his appetite, and he watched Malek’s profile fondly.

"Once this meal is done, we shall do what we can to assuage your other hunger."

"I look forward to it." Rya’c smiled widely as he checked the stew. "And this is ready to eat." He dished up their meal and sat back to let it cool a bit, still watching Malek.

"How is it you have no... partner?" he asked suddenly.

Malek considered the question as he spooned up some stew and blew on it to help it cool. "There has been no one Jetha has been interested in."

"I am honored." Rya’c bowed slightly. "And pleased." He took a bite of his stew and made a face but continued eating. "The spice does help," he said after consideration, "but I still prefer fresh food."

After chewing at his stew consideringly, Malek nodded. "True, it is best, but I will not complain about the meal, though I believe it is the company which makes it flavorful."

"Then perhaps I could have saved myself some effort and simply plucked a few leaves for you."

Malek gave an indignant snort. "Last I looked, Jetha and I were not herbivores."

"So there are limits to what I can make palatable?" Rya’c laughed.

"Yes!" The laughter was a mix of Malek’s and Jetha’s. "Now eat your meal so that we might get comfortable."

Rya’c began shoveling it in, intent on feeding his body so he might explore other appetites with the Tok’ra.

Malek suppressed a smile and ate his own food, washing the stew down with the water from his canteen. Once they were done, he surveyed the dirty dishes ruefully. "Shall I clean up our meal while you check the perimeter sensors?"

"An excellent plan. We shall finish that much sooner. But first..." Again, Rya’c leaned toward Malek for a kiss, absently musing that he liked this new habit of kissing before leaving Malek.

With a sigh, Malek drew Rya’c closer, feeding on his mouth for long moments until all he could taste was the other man. "At this rate, we shall not finish at all," he murmured before reluctantly letting Rya’c go.

"We must complete our duties before pleasure," Rya’c said, though he too was slow to step back. He licked his lips, savoring the taste of Malek, then forced himself to begin the perimeter check.

Malek’s gaze followed Rya’c until the Jaffa was out of sight, then he busied himself with gathering up the dirty bowls and utensils, carrying them to the stream to clean them, working as quickly as he could while still getting the job done effectively.

Like the Tok’ra, Rya’c completed his duties as rapidly as he could without sacrificing thoroughness. Still it was several minutes before he finished checking the machinery and returned to their camp, already unfastening his weapons in preparation for undressing.

"The dishes are done," Malek announced, carrying them back into camp and pausing, awe-struck by the sight of Rya’c backlit by the fire as he stripped off his gear.

"The perimeter is secure. And now I think it is time to settle in for the night." Rya’c laid his weapons aside, though still within reach, and pulled his shirt over his head as he advanced on Malek. "And tonight there will be no interruptions."

The Tok’ra was silent for a moment, and when he spoke, it was Jetha watching Rya’c, an expression of wonder in his eyes. "Perhaps we should lock the Stargate to assure ourselves of that." As he spoke, he ran a hand down Rya’c’s chest, sighing at the contrast of light skin and dark.

Rya’c chuckled, then gasped at the tentative touch. "I think we’re safe enough." He reached out as well, pressing his palm to the Tok’ra uniform. "I think you can take this off now, don’t you?"

"Would you prefer to do this in the semi-comfort of our tent?"

"That’s probably a good idea as I doubt we’ll be moving at all very soon." Rya’c stepped toward the tent, eyes never leaving Jetha’s.

Jetha nodded, waiting until Rya’c gathered up his weapons to follow and sealed the tent behind them, turning up the lantern within to allow him to see the younger man clearly. "Rya’c..." he began, resting his hand on the Jaffa’s chest again before pulling back to work the closures of his uniform.

"Jetha," Rya’c replied, one of the few times he called the Tok’ra by the host’s name, but it was clear to him that it was Jetha who was with him just then. He swallowed hard as Jetha’s chest was slowly bared to his gaze, and it was his turn to place slightly trembling fingers against contrasting skin.

"You are truly beautiful," Jetha whispered, leaning into the light touch as he shed his jacket, shivering as Rya’c’s fingers ghosted over his skin, and he reached out to return the touch.

"You are the beautiful one," Rya’c murmured, fingers gliding upward to smooth over the full lips and sharp features, then pushing into the soft curls so unlike his own.

Jetha smiled slightly and leaned his face into Rya’c’s touch. "Are we going to argue about this?" he asked, catching the Jaffa’s hand and drawing him down to the sleeping bags alongside him.

"I can think of much better things to do with our mouths," Rya’c replied with a faint chuckle before demonstrating one use by kissing Jetha again.

"And our hands," Jetha whispered, running his over Rya’c’s back, a furrow creasing his brow when he felt the ridges of old scars.

"That feels good," Rya’c breathed, copying the motion on Jetha’s own smooth skin. "And you feel good."

Carefully tracing over the scars, Jetha kissed Rya’c again, Malek taking control when the thought of the Jaffa having been hurt caused his host to shake with fear.

Enjoying the kiss, Rya’c could tell when Malek ‘stepped forward’, the feel of the kiss changing as the more experienced symbiote taught him what they both enjoyed. He moaned, hands moving shakily over Malek’s shoulders and back until they reached his pants and tugged fretfully at the waist.

"Easy, easy," the Tok’ra murmured, his own hands going to Rya’c’s waist to open his pants as he kissed his way down the Jaffa’s neck to his shoulders.

"Hard, hard!" Rya’c retorted, smirking as he arched up. His hands were busy trying to find the fastenings of Malek’s trousers, eager to explore more of him.

Malek chuckled softly and arched into Rya’c’s touch even as he pushed the younger man’s trousers down over his hips, his hands stroking the exposed flesh with greedy passion.

Frustrated, Rya’c tugged at Malek’s pants again. "Yours too!" he demanded, chest heaving as he panted, the hands on his erection, the only ones other than his own ever to touch it, making speech nearly impossible.

"Of course," Malek answered, shifting to allow Rya’c to draw his pants off then pulling their bodies together, kissing the young Jaffa again as they ground together.

Rya’c gasped into Malek’s mouth, his hands clenching on the Tok’ra’s shoulders as he felt the full length of their naked bodies press together. He whimpered almost desperately, his body moving of its own accord, and he panted Malek’s name.

Malek ran a hand down Rya’c’s back to his buttocks, pulling them closer and feeling Rya’c’s erection rub against his own. "I want to taste you," he breathed, nibbling his way along the Jaffa’s ear.

Blushing at the thought of it, Rya’c was still quick to nod, eager for anything Malek wanted. And then perhaps he could do the same for Malek, once he’d learned the way of it. He found himself eager, licking his lips with anticipation.

Pulling back enough to smile down at Rya’c, Malek took a moment to assure himself that Jetha was still with him, then rolled Rya’c to his back. He moved to straddle the younger man and run his hands over his chest, following the trail with his lips.

"Oh, gods!" Rya’c groaned, fingers kneading Malek’s shoulders. "So good," he moaned. "So very good."

"That’s how you feel to me," Malek sighed, rubbing his face back and forth over Rya’c’s chest, moving ever lower until he could smell the musk of the Jaffa’s arousal.

Rya’c could only moan, unable to think let alone speak with Malek’s lips just a breath away from his erection. "Please," he managed to gasp out, fingers now clutching the light curls as he tried to urge Malek that last small distance.

Malek nodded and lowered his mouth the few final inches to take the head of Rya’c’s erection into his mouth, suckling lightly on the hot flesh.

"Oooooohhhhhhh!" Rya’c’s eyes fell closed, and he concentrated on the amazing sensations filling him. He tried to stroke Malek, to give him something in return, but he was completely uncoordinated as Malek drove him beyond anything he’d ever felt before.

The sound reached something inside of Malek that hadn’t been touched in centuries, and he moaned in concert, the sound vibrating around Rya’c’s shaft as he suckled on it.

Rya’c wailed as the vibration made him come, pulsing his seed into Malek’s mouth, his body shaking with the deep waves of pleasure. Finally his eyes fluttered open and focused on the rather smug smile on the face above him. Still unable to speak, he smiled and pulled Malek into a kiss.

"Beautiful," Malek breathed once their lips had broken apart. He ran his thumb over Rya’c’s mouth before giving in to the temptation and kissing him again.

Rya’c wound his arms around Malek’s neck, pulling him closer, and he enjoyed every moment of the kiss until the need for oxygen finally forced their lips apart. "I want to try that," he said when he could speak again.

Malek nodded and rolled to his back, bringing Rya’c along with him. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, it was Jetha looking out. "Rya’c," he whispered, his whole body yearning toward the Jaffa’s touch.

"Jetha." Seeing the other half of his lover, Rya’c had to kiss him again, exploring the differences in how the two reacted.

"You always know," Jetha said, running a hand over the younger man’s face.

"Of course. I may... care for you both, but that just means I know you. You are two different people." Rya’c leaned into the touch, smiling.

"And you are one extraordinary one to care for us so."

"I find it more extraordinary that no one else has seen and claimed you before now."

Jetha shook his head slowly though his eyes remained locked on Rya’c’s. "None ever wished to know me before."

"Fools," Rya’c replied emphatically. "But it is to my benefit." He smiled and kissed Jetha again.

"Perhaps you would show me how?"

"It shall be my pleasure—and yours too, I hope." Rya’c began kissing a path down Jetha’s body, exploring and tasting him, and working his way toward the rigid shaft that he was eager to taste.

Jetha’s voice was strained when he spoke again. "I would say that is a definite yes." He twisted up against Rya’c’s mouth, moaning aloud at the feel of the Jaffa’s mouth on his bare flesh.

Rya’c smiled, pleased that he’d learned enough from Malek to be able to please Jetha. He lipped the shaft tentatively, then licked it, and finally worked up the courage to take the head between his lips and suck. At first surprised by the taste, he decided he liked it and began to work the cock more enthusiastically, licking and sucking eagerly.

"Ahh!" Jetha’s low cry echoed through the tent, and he arched upward toward Rya’c’s mouth, seeking more of the wet heat.

Rya’c accepted him eagerly, only pressing a hand to Jetha’s hip when he felt himself in danger of choking. He curled his hand around the base of the shaft that he couldn’t take into his mouth, stroking it in time with his sucking.

Jetha whimpered, trying to keep from moving too much but almost driven out of his mind by the amazing sensations.

Rya’c’s other hand moved to toy with Jetha’s sac, trying to give him as much pleasure as possible. He bobbed his head up and down, sucking hard as he did, wanting to taste more of Jetha.

Pushed beyond thought, Jetha let his head fall back, and his eyes closed. He ran his fingers over Rya’c’s tight curls and bucked upward, crying out as he came.

Tasting Jetha’s semen, Rya’c only sucked harder, eager for more, and he kept stroking Jetha’s shaft and balls, making sure that he got every drop.

Finally, Jetha could take it no more and clutched at Rya’c, trying to draw him up and off his over-sensitized flesh. "Please, Rya’c," he gasped.

Rya’c sat up, a profoundly self-satisfied smile on his face. "I like that," he announced, stroking Jetha’s belly lightly.

"What?" Jetha asked, blinking in confusion.

"Tasting you. Giving you pleasure. Making you look like that."

"Like what?" Jetha asked, grinning as he tried to get his arms working enough to pull Rya’c up for a kiss.

"All boneless, relaxed, and content. I like seeing you smile." Rya’c braced himself on one arm as he leaned over to kiss Jetha.

"You seem to bring that out in me."

"A good thing since you do the same to me."

Jetha smiled and ran a hand over Rya’c’s chest. "And perhaps we’ll do that again, soon."

"That and more." Rya’c stretched out beside the Tok’ra. "I’m looking forward to exploring everything."

Malek rose to the fore, and the smile grew more sensual. "Once we have both recovered, we shall see just where our explorations can take us."

"I am enjoying these far more than any previous lessons," Rya’c chuckled. "I think it might have to do with the teacher."

"Having seen Bra’tac, I’m going to take that as a compliment."

"Ugh!" Rya’c made a face at him. "I greatly respect and honor Master Bra’tac, but I have never thought of him in this way! That’s horrible!"

Malek laughed aloud and pulled Rya’c into a hug. "That is something I am very pleased to hear."

"I think that I may regret discovering your sense of humor," Rya’c said wryly even as he returned the embrace.

"If I truly believed that, I doubt we would be here now."

Sobering, Rya’c curved one hand over Malek’s cheek. "I regret nothing. And I am glad to be here with you."

"There is something I would like to ask of you," Malek said carefully.

"Anything," Rya’c replied simply.

"I understand that you have your work with Bra’tac, but I would ask you to consider staying with me once our base is established."

Rya’c’s eyes widened, and his mouth opened and closed without anything coming out. Still staring at Malek, he tried again. "Y-you would wish me to?" he finally managed to ask, his voice cracking.

"Yes," Jetha answered. "If it is what you wish."

Rya’c’s smile threatened to split his face in half. "If I wish?" he repeated incredulously. "Yes, oh yes!" Whatever he had to promise Master Bra’tac, he would, not that he thought it would be necessary. He knew, felt to the depths of his being, that this was right.

The Tok’ra beamed in answer and hugged Rya’c tightly. "Thank you," he whispered.

Rya’c laughed almost wildly. "I should thank you for asking me. I never expected that, never dared to hope."

Malek frowned slightly. "Why would that be?"

Rya’c laughed again. "Let’s see, I’m a Jaffa, younger, we’ve only been together a day.... shall I go on?"

"We have known each other for several years, you see and accept both of me, and show wisdom far beyond your years. Shall I go on?" Malek countered.

"Yes, but not with words," Rya’c replied, smiling. "I think I’m ready for another lesson."

Malek chuckled quietly. "They do say the young recover quickly." He ran a hand down Rya’c’s chest. "I am glad to see that is true."

"I had the proper inspiration." Rya’c slid an arm over Malek’s waist, drawing them closer together.

Malek shifted, letting their legs tangle together. "Then we should make use of that inspiration."

"I can’t wait. Each lesson is more pleasurable than the last." Daringly, Rya’c caressed Malek’s back and buttocks, finding how perfectly they fit together.

"You must promise to tell me if there is ever anything that is not pleasurable," Malek cautioned.

"I do not think that is ever likely to be an issue, but very well. As must you. I know I may be... awkward until I learn what you like," Rya’c admitted calmly, though there was a slight flush in his cheeks.

"No more awkward than I was while learning your self-defense lessons," Malek reminded him, stroking his face gently. "Considering your mastery of Bra’tac’s lessons, I have no doubt that you will learn mine just as well, as will Jetha."

"And the rewards shall be far greater." Remembering the many times Malek had landed in the dirt, Rya’c had to smother a laugh. "We shall all enjoy these lessons."

"There will be less bruises," Jetha smiled, surfacing for the moment to grin down at Rya’c and kiss him. "I look forward to the time when you can show me how well you have learned this particular lesson."

"As do I. I have managed to gain two lovers in one," Rya’c chuckled. "One to teach me and one to learn with me. I cannot imagine anything better... or anyone who tastes better," he added with another laugh, tongue darting out to flick over a nipple.

Jetha shivered and gave a low groan before shaking his head. "If you keep that up, Malek won’t be able to continue your lessons, my love."

Rya’c inhaled sharply at the word neither of had used till then, and he raised his head to smile widely down at the Tok’ra. "We mustn’t allow that to happen. Love." His smile widened still more.

Jetha leaned in to kiss Rya’c and in the midst of it, gave control back to Malek who slowly pressed the Jaffa back down onto their sleeping bags. "No, for I would share all with you."

Rya’c blinked up at Malek, momentarily surprised to find himself on his back. "That was... interesting," he decided. "Having you change in mid-kiss is very odd but interesting."

"Is it something you would like to experience again?" Malek asked, not wanting to make the young man feel uncomfortable.

"Definitely. I enjoy kissing both of you, and this way I get both at once in a way." Rya’c raised a hand, carding his fingers through the fair curls. "Nothing about you bothers me," he said fiercely, holding Malek’s gaze with his. "I shall repeat that until you believe me."

"I do believe you," Malek said quietly. "And I trust you, Rya’c, both Jetha and I feel that way." He kissed the Jaffa again to prove the point.

Rya’c wound his arms around the Tok’ra, pulling Malek fully on top of him, and he sighed in contentment when he felt Malek’s weight pressing him into the inflatable mattress beneath them. "Then show me," he urged.

The Tok’ra was silent, eyes closed in silent communication with himself, but when they opened, they burned with desire. "Gladly," he murmured, kissing Rya’c again, his hands skimming down the young man’s sides to his waist and hips where they settled, thumbs stroking circles over the hollows beside Rya’c’s hipbones.

Watching him, Rya’c smiled even as he shifted eagerly. "I often wish I could listen in when the two of you communicate. I think I am missing some very interesting moments."

Malek chuckled and pushed back enough to nip at Rya’c’s throat. "Perhaps later I shall tell you what Jetha and I discussed," he murmured as he moved lower, his hands playing over the Jaffa’s groin and urging his legs apart.

"Yes, later is good," Rya’c agreed breathlessly, spreading his legs and raising his knees to grip Malek’s hips. He watched Malek avidly, eager for what he was certain was coming.

"Relax, Rya’c," Malek said, drawing back to reach into his pack and draw out a tube of cream he’d obtained from the stores at the Tau’ri base. "As much as I desire to be in you, preparations must be made." As he spoke, he squeezed some of the cream onto his fingers and spread it around to warm it. Then, resting one hand on Rya’c’s stomach, he ran the other over the crease of his ass, moving inward toward the tight entrance to his body.

"Relax?" Rya’c laughed. "Do you actually remember your first time?" he demanded around gasps as Malek fingered him. His hips rose sharply, tilting his ass perfectly to take Malek’s finger, and he moaned.

Malek chuckled and nodded understandingly. "To be honest, my love, I have had many ‘first times’ in many hosts, and I know it is difficult, but you must relax, or it will be painful. Recall your training, young warrior; if you are tense when you are thrown to the ground, you will be injured but not if you let your muscles relax."

Rya’c gave him a look that gave him an uncanny resemblance to his father. "I am not afraid, but this is as relaxed as I am likely to get in the current circumstances. I want you, fool of a Tok’ra!"

"I am glad to hear that," Malek answered, clenching his jaw to keep from snickering, aware that bruising his lover’s pride would not be helpful at this stage. "And I want you too, so we shall begin." He kissed Rya’c again and pressed his finger deep within the young man’s body.

Moaning into the kiss, Rya’c’s fingers dug into Malek’s shoulders and he pushed his legs farther apart as he tried to relax, not wanting Malek to stop. It hurt, yes, but it felt good at the same time. Then his eyes widened, and a sharp cry escaped him as Malek touched something inside him that sent a jolt of pleasure up his spine.

Humming in pleasure at the response, Malek continued to move his finger, only adding a second when he felt that Rya’c’s body was loose enough to accept it. His own erection was tight and aching, but he ignored it, wanting only to bring his lover pleasure.

The moment Malek added a second finger, Rya’c noticed it in the increased burning sensation, but he liked the sensation of fullness, and he couldn’t wait for more. "Please, Malek," he moaned, hands restlessly sweeping over Malek’s back and arms, hips twisting as he tried to take more of Malek.

"Soon, beloved," the Tok’ra rasped, managing to squirt more of the cream onto his free hand and coat his own erection with it. That done, he pulled his fingers from Rya’c’s body and set the head of his cock at the loosened muscle. "Breath out as I enter you," he ordered, meeting the Jaffa’s dark eyes and holding his gaze.

Deciding that hyperventilating would not be helpful, Rya’c managed to calm his breathing and nodded at Malek, his trusting and eager gaze never blinking as he waited for the Tok’ra to claim him.

Seeing the trust and desire in the younger man’s eyes, Malek smiled tenderly and kissed Rya’c even as he pressed inside, stilling his motion once the head of his erection was nestled inside Rya’c, wanting to give the other man time to get used to the sensation.

Rya’c breathed out sharply, body momentarily tensing before he relaxed through an act of sheer will. It hurt more than he had expected, enough that he would probably be fighting to get away if this were anyone but Malek, but he trusted his lover, and he panted, breathing through the initial hurt until his body relaxed and accepted the intruder.

"Rya’c?" Malek questioned quietly, looking down at the Jaffa and waiting out the initial shock of penetration.

Gaze warming as he focused again on Malek as the pain ebbed, Rya’c smiled. "Malek," he replied, hands relaxing from where they had been digging into the Tok’ra’s back. "Love you."

"That is fortunate as I feel the same," Malek whispered, slowly beginning to move, pressing forward until he was buried in Rya’c’s body, then drawing back, repeating the cycle over and over.

"Ohhhhh." Rya’c moaned, his legs rising to encircle Malek’s waist as he slowly began to meet the rhythmic thrusts. It felt even better than he’d ever imagined, and the faint, lingering pain only added an edge that made it better still.

"Yes, like that, love." As Malek spoke, he slid a hand between them to circle Rya’c’s renewed erection, stroking it in time with his thrusts. He could feel Jetha’s interest in the proceedings, and though his host had no desire to come to the fore at this time, Malek could tell Jetha was enjoying the sensations they shared.

Tiny whimpers fell from Rya’c’s lips with every breath now, and the pleasure of the hand encircling him and the cock filling him blended together into an overwhelming whole. He arched upward, raising Malek momentarily from their bed, and wailed the Tok’ra’s name as he came, body spasming from the pleasure.

"Rya’c!" Malek growled, driving forward, letting loose some of his restraint in his need for the other man. He thrust into the spasming body a handful of times before he was coming as well, unable to hold out longer in the face of Rya’c’s reaction and Jetha’s amazement at the whole situation.

A soft sound of contentment rumbled in Rya’c chest as he lay prone beneath Malek’s weight, arms and legs wrapped around and holding the Tok’ra to him. "When can we do that again?" he demanded, holding back a grin.

Malek’s echoing laughter sounded through the small tent. "I believe the Tau’ri have a saying, ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’? That is sadly the case at this moment, my love."

Rya’c laughed as well. "Much as I might wish otherwise, I must agree. But as with any lessons, I shall have to practice often to ensure full mastery of the new skill. And of course, in time I shall reciprocate." He hugged Malek tightly even as his legs fell back to the bedding, stretching out.

"We are looking forward to that time," Malek smiled, brushing a hand over Rya’c’s forehead even as he shifted and slid out of the other man. "Perhaps now, though, we should clean ourselves and rest."

Rya’c nodded even as he gasped slightly as Malek pulled out of him. "I think sleeping with you will be almost as good as this was."

"Though that is something we have done before," Malek murmured.

"It’s better without the clothes."

"True." The voice changed, and Jetha looked down at Rya’c. "It feels closer."

"It is, quite literally," Rya’c replied, again sounding like Teal’c, "but yes, I know what you mean. I have often slept with companions for warmth or the simple sense of another living being, but this is... more."

Jetha nodded and moved to the side, relaxing on top of Rya’c. "Much more."

"And wonderful." Then Rya’c smirked. "But you can explain to my father and Master Bra’tac—and Col. O’Neill if it comes to that—how we left to investigate a potential base and came back married."

Malek was deeply asleep, curled around Rya’c, when the proximity alarms went off, startling him to wakefulness. "It appears this planet is not uninhabited," he said quietly, all the while cursing the fates.

Rya’c groaned and refused to open his eyes at first. This couldn’t be happening. The continued cacophony, however, finally convinced him that it was, and he sat up with a growl. "Do you ever think that the universe is sentient and having far too good a laugh at your expense?" He grabbed for his clothes and weapons, hastily dressing and arming himself.

"I have found that is a question it is better not to ask," Malek answered honestly, pulling on his own clothes and trying to calm Jetha at the same time. "Hopefully whatever has disturbed the sensors will not be hostile."

Rya’c gave him an incredulous glance, his experiences leading him to expect the worst at all times. However, as they came out of the tent and he looked toward the perimeter, he stopped and stared. Apparently solid ground was opening, showing well camouflaged burrows, and coming out of them were... pink rabbits. They were a very pale pink and the size of small ponies, but pink bunny rabbits as Col. O’Neill called the Earth creatures, nonetheless. And they were inspecting the perimeter sensors with every evidence of interest.

Malek’s eyebrows rose, and he watched the natives. "Thus far they haven’t done anything hostile."

"Which doesn’t necessarily mean anything," Rya’c pointed out. "However, I must admit they do not appear dangerous. The question is, are they intelligent?" He moved closer to the perimeter, toward one of the rabbits who was watching him.

While Malek watched, the being rose to its hind legs and snarled, exposing long, sharp fangs. It snarled and dropped down into a crouch, the others mimicking its posture.

Rya’c stopped in his tracks. "Perhaps I’ll stay back here," he decided, eyeing the fangs warily. "I don’t think this is going to be a good place for your base, Malek. And I hope the natives are completely nocturnal so we don’t have any trouble getting back to the Stargate in the morning."

Malek nodded, unable to speak as he was trying to calm his frantic host, leaving them both frozen out in the open.

The native creatures slowly relaxed out of their offensive postures when neither of the two bipeds moved any closer, and the one who seemed to be the leader raised its head, sniffing at the air.

"I don’t think those perimeter shields will stand up to a concerted attack," Rya’c murmured, still watching the natives. "They’re meant more as a deterrent than a true defense. We have to hope that the natives don’t decide to attack."

Taking a deep breath to establish control again, Malek murmured an agreement. "We had best not make what they think of as aggressive moves then."

"It is unfortunate that we should continue to observe them," Rya’c observed. "Because I could think of a great many non-aggressive ways to pass the night." Sighing wistfully, he sat down, knowing that he would have time to rise if the ‘rabbits’ did decide to attack and that it would be better to rest while he could.

"Should we perhaps split the watches?" Malek asked, sinking down to the ground beside Rya’c.

After a glance up at the sky, Rya’c shook his head. "It is not very long until dawn now. He leaned his head on Malek’s shoulder, not noticing the native leader’s increased interest. "Despite everything," he said, glancing up to meet Malek’s eyes, "I’m glad we came here. I... enjoyed today."

"As did I," Malek said quietly, turning his head to kiss Rya’c’s brow. "And both Jetha and I are looking forward to more days to come."

"Many more," Rya’c agreed. Both Tok’ra and Jaffa had long life expectancies, and he planned to spend all of his days with Malek. He smiled, tilting his head back so he could kiss Malek properly while he kept a small portion of his attention on the native creatures only a short distance away.

The creatures growled again, and Malek sighed. "This is going to be a long night."

As the first faint light appeared on the horizon, the rabbit-like creatures all suddenly reared up as one, snarled at the sky, and vanished back inside the borrows that seemed to seal up behind them.

Eyes wide, Rya’c stared at the suddenly vacant space around them, then up at the brightening sky. "I don’t think this would make a good base," he finally repeated his statement of hours earlier.

"I must agree with you in that matter," Malek said quietly. "It also seems we will have quite the report to give back at the Alpha Site."

Rya’c rolled his eyes. "I can already imagine it. Col. O’Neill will have a great deal to say about snarling rabbits," he sighed. "Perhaps Dr. Jackson would be willing to distract him."

"It seems that Dr. Jackson is required to do that quite often," Malek observed, slowly standing and stretching, grimacing as tight muscles in his back pulled.

Staring at Malek, Rya’c lost track of the conversation, his mouth partially open to speak the words he’d forgotten. He finally recovered himself enough to lick suddenly dry lips and swallowed hard, shifting uncomfortably. The sense of Malek’s last remark eventually came to him, and he smiled faintly. "I don’t think Dr. Jackson minds."

"Probably not, as he has known Col. O’Neill for many years." Malek looked around the campsite and sighed. "It is a shame. This planet would have made a good base, and it holds fond memories for me now."

"And for me," Rya’c replied, stepping close and sliding his arms around Malek’s waist while tilting his head up for a kiss. "But I will enjoy anywhere that we can be together."

Malek reached up to brush a hand over Rya’c’s close-shorn hair. "Even if that place was at the Alpha Site? It seems to me that this searching is fruitless when there is a place with our allies that is already complete."

Rya’c thought about that and nodded slowly. "It is reasonable. Though I must say that I do not know whether to be glad or not that it will allow me to see more of my father and his friends." He smiled wryly. "Under the circumstances, that may be a drawback. I am not certain that I can bear any more advice."

"Perhaps we shall have to design our quarters so that the only way someone can get to them is by ringing in, and then keep the code to ourselves."

Starting to laugh, Rya’c let his head fall to Malek’s shoulder. "A wonderful idea in theory, but I fear they would take it as a challenge," he chuckled.

Malek nodded slowly. "And would then terrorize us as much as they could."

"Exactly. My father has told me tales of Col. O’Neill... and Master Bra’tac has told me of my father. We must hope that something else will distract them soon."

"Only if that something is not the Goa’uld," Jetha said quickly.

"Of course," Rya’c agreed, hands moving soothingly over the Tok’ra’s back. "Perhaps the Asgard will visit again."

Jetha nodded and leaned his head against Rya’c’s shoulder, turning his face to kiss Rya’c’s neck. "And we can use the time for privacy."

"Privacy is good." Rya’c shivered. "Now that the rabbits are gone and the sun is up, do we really have to go back right this instant?"

Malek rose to the fore and raised his head, smiling. "Is there something else you would care to do if we stayed here longer?"

Rya’c’s teeth gleamed against his dark skin. "Our night was somewhat interrupted. I was hoping for a chance to practice some of what I learned."

"I believe your Master Bra’tac would berate me for depriving you of a chance to practice."

"Indeed. A lesson is only fully learned after much practice. I should not wish to be ill-taught."

Malek raised his eyebrows. "I would never believe such a thing of you, my love, so you had best practice."

Smile widening at the endearment, Rya’c made short work of the fastenings of Malek’s uniform. "I see I remember that much at least."

"You’re doing admirably," Malek murmured, sighing in pleasure as Rya’c ran his hands over his chest. "Shall we go into the tent or move our bedding out here?"

"Oh, out here, I think. I want to see you in the sunlight, my love," Rya’c replied, pressing a kiss to Malek’s collarbone.

Malek wrapped his arms around Rya’c, hugging him close. "Stay here and I will get the things we will need," he murmured, kissing Rya’c’s temple and stepping back to duck into the tent.

Rya’c looked around, wondering where exactly Malek thought he might go. Chuckling to himself, he removed his clothing while waiting for Malek to return.

Malek emerged from the tent, his arms full of the sleeping bags. He set them on the ground and held out the bottle of lubricant to Rya’c. "Something you might need, love," he murmured.

Rya’c accepted it, placing it on the ground next to the sleeping bags before moving into Malek’s arms. He gasped as the Tok’ra’s uniform trousers scratched against his bare flesh, and his hands tightened on Malek’s upper arms.

"Beautiful," Malek whispered, ghosting his fingers over Rya’c’s hips but letting the younger man remain in charge.

"Didn’t we already have this conversation? You’re the beautiful one," Rya’c murmured, fingers gliding down Malek’s chest to his waist where they quickly unfastened the garment and pushed it down over Malek’s hips. "So beautiful," he breathed, sinking to his knees and nuzzling the hardening shaft.

Malek sighed and cradled Rya’c’s head in his hands. "I don’t believe this is the time to argue over this." He managed to step out of his low boots and his trousers, then dropped down to his knees alongside Rya’c, drawing him down onto the sleeping bags alongside him.

Rya’c pressed close, sighing in pleasure as their naked bodies touched from chest to knees. "No, arguing is not how I want to spend our remaining time on this world," he agreed somewhat breathlessly, hips rocking slightly.

Blue eyes closed, and when they opened, Jetha peered out at Rya’c. "Show me how you want to spend it, then," he said quietly.

Rya’c desperately hoped that he would be able to make it as good for Jetha as Malek had for him the night before. "With you," he murmured. "In you," he added. He tangled his fingers in Jetha’s curls, drawing his head down so he could kiss him, tongue gently tracing Jetha’s lips before slipping inside.

Jetha moaned and opened his mouth wider, pulling Rya’c closer to him and curving a leg over the younger man’s thighs, rocking their hips together.

Gasping, Rya’c caught up the small tube he’d put down earlier, quickly coating the fingers of one hand and letting them rub gently along the crevice between Jetha’s cheeks.

"Rya’c..." Jetha sighed, relaxing and spreading his legs wider, his hands running over Rya’c’s back and moaning when the tip of the other man’s finger pressed inside.

"Love you," Rya’c whispered, slowly pushing inward, sucking his breath in as he felt the tight grasp on his finger.

"Love..." Jetha sucked in a breath and swallowed hard before pressing back against the digit in him. "... you too."

Moving slowly and carefully, Rya’c slid his finger back and forth before adding a second, twisting and curling them inside Jetha to loosen and arouse him. "You feel so good," he panted, watched Jetha’s face, his chest swelling at the thought that he put that look of pleasure there.

Jetha nodded and twisted almost violently when Rya’c’s fingers brushed a spot deep inside him, causing pleasure to course through him. "More, please," he gasped.

"Oh yes." Liking the reaction, Rya’c repeated his motion, so hard he was aching. "Need you," he groaned, shifting to lie over Jetha. His fingers slid free, gliding along Jetha’s leg to his knee, and he slowly pushed forward, his cock pressing against the resisting muscle until it yielded and he sank into Jetha.

"That is..." Jetha took a deep breath and forced himself to relax more, gasping when that caused Rya’c to sink deeper into him. "Amazing."

"You are," Rya’c agreed, fighting his body’s urge to start thrusting, holding still to allow Jetha to grow accustomed. This was even better than when Malek had been in him. He lowered his head to kiss Jetha, licking at his lips until they parted to let him in.

Jetha shuddered and reached down to grasp his legs, pulling them back toward his chest, opening himself fully to Rya’c as their tongues slid together.

Rya’c moaned as he sank even farther into Jetha, and he reared up, hips starting to move. He stared down at where they were joined, watching himself slowly appear and then disappear inside the Tok’ra again, and he groaned harshly.

"What is it?" Jetha rasped, arching up to meet Rya’c’s thrusts, not sure what the younger man was staring at.

"You. Us. Look," Rya’c groaned, bracing himself on one hand so he could lightly press his fingertips to the stretched opening that clung to him. "I never imagined..."

"Nor did I, but we are beautiful," Jetha whispered, letting go of one leg to cup the back of Rya’c’s neck and draw him down into a kiss, giving a low whimper when Rya’c’s cock rubbed over his prostate.

Rya’c murmured unintelligible words into Jetha’s mouth, his hand sliding forward over Jetha’s sac to curl around his erection, wanting to give him every possible bit of pleasure.

Jetha cried out and shuddered, moaning his climax into Rya’c’s mouth as his fingers dug into the younger man’s skin.

Gasping at the incredible tightness, Rya’c kept stroking in and out of Jetha, erratically now, until he cried out in turn, body shaking as he came.

"Malek taught you well," Jetha murmured, smiling slightly as he recovered, stretching his legs out around Rya’c’s thighs and stroking his hands down Rya’c’s back.

"I take pride in learning my lessons thoroughly." Rya’c slumped over his lover, pressing kisses to the exertion-dampened shoulder and chest.

"And I am more than pleased to reap the benefits of your learning." As he spoke, Jetha continued to run his hands over Rya’c’s body, calming them both with the action.

"I think we are both fortunate that Malek had experience. I preferred having the pleasure without awkwardness."

Jetha closed his eyes and allowed Malek to take control of their body. "It is well for all of us," he murmured, raising a hand to brush the back of his fingers over Rya’c’s cheek. "And I believe that asking you if you enjoyed this experience is unnecessary?"

Rya’c chuckled softly. "I think I like it even better this way, though I enjoyed you in me very much as well." He turned his head into Malek’s hand, enjoying the caress.

Malek gave a quiet laugh as well and kissed Rya’c’s other cheek. "I somehow believe that Jetha would not mind repeating this experience as often as you are able."

"And you? What do you prefer? For there are three of us here, not two."

"My pleasure lies in yours and in Jetha’s," Malek began before smiling at the look that statement brought to Rya’c’s face. "Truly, my love, I enjoy both aspects of being with you and look forward to more experiences together as well."

"And teaching us everything else you’ve learned... from previous hosts." Thinking about that made Rya’c realize how old Malek might be, and he frowned slightly. "Do I bore you?" he asked suddenly.

Malek frowned. "Why would you believe such a thing?"

"You are so much older. How can I seem anything other than young and uninformed?"

"How can you seem anything other than refreshing and intoxicating?" Malek countered, looking into Rya’c’s dark eyes.

Rya’c smiled slowly. "I think I prefer your description. I shall have to do my best to live up to it."

Malek smiled as well. "You do that each time you open your mouth, my love."

"You are very easy to please. It is fortunate I found you before anyone else realized it." Rya’c rubbed his cheek against Malek’s shoulder.

"Are we going to get into another discussion as to which of us is the most lucky?"

Laughing, Rya’c shook his head. "No, we will agree that we are both lucky. It’s much too soon to begin arguing."

Malek nodded. "Would it be construed as arguing if I reminded you that we still must clear the camp and return to the Alpha Site?"

"No," Rya’c sighed, sitting up, "it would be construed as an unwelcome but necessary reminder of our duties. I shall console myself with the thought that tonight we will have our own private quarters."

"With no interruptions from—as you called them—the bunnies." Malek sat up as well and stretched, then smiled. "And hopefully none from any others as well."

"We shall enlist Dr. Jackson and Maj. Carter’s assistance. I might have to shoot anyone who interrupts."

"No, if you did that, they would place you in the stockade, and that would be counter-productive." After cleaning up, Malek rose and got dressed again. "And we also must speak with Bra’tac about you remaining."

"Yes, I’m sure there will be no difficulty as everyone would like to learn more about the Tok’ra, but I must formally request permission of my teacher." Rya’c too dressed and began gathering their equipment as they talked. "I truly hope Dr. Jackson does not tell everyone about some obscure mating ritual he knows and insist upon performing it."

Malek’s eyebrows rose. "With us or to us?"

"Is there a difference?" Rya’c rolled his eyes, his opinion of the archeologist’s frequent tangents remarkably similar to Col. O’Neill’s. "He can be very... enthusiastic."

"As I’ve noticed. My question was regarding the thought that he might want to join in with us." Malek smiled slightly as he spoke.

"That is not an option!" Rya’c practically growled. "Not that I think he would be interested or that Col. O’Neill wouldn’t stop any such thing."

Malek leaned in and kissed Rya’c. "I believe you are correct in that. Now, shall we clean up and return?"

"Yes, we should. I want to be long gone from here before the sun sets again, and I wish to share our joy with our friends." Rya’c looked around to be sure that they hadn’t left anything behind.

"Any luck?"

Malek shook his head though he smiled slightly. "No, it seems that the planet was occupied after all, Dr. Jackson, and as such, it is unsuitable for our base."

Before Dr. Jackson could ask, Rya’c hastily added, "Not by anything with writing or other evidence of civilization. The species is completely nocturnal, appeared rather unfriendly, and resembled very large rabbits. Pink ones."

"You found the Energizer Bunny’s home world?" Jack asked.

"I am unfamiliar with that species," Malek mused, frowning slightly.

Even Daniel snickered slightly while Jack smirked. Sam overrode him before he could add anything. "The colonel was just relating the description to a marketing gimmick on Earth."

"Hey, the ad guy could have been an alien who encountered these bunnies."

Malek opened his mouth, then closed it again, deciding that this was something he didn’t need to know more about. "Be that as it may, the planet is not suitable for a base." He paused and looked toward the Tok’ra who were gathered nearby. "I would speak with my cell to pass on this information."

Rya’c glanced up at him, wondering if he had changed his mind about setting up his base on this planet. He would have thought this would be the appropriate time to mention the possibility.

Malek gave Rya’c a reassuring smile. "And once I have spoken to them, I wish to speak to yourselves and the Jaffa leaders as well."

Rya’c returned the smile with relief. When he looked around and found them the focus of several knowing gazes and smiles, he suddenly found his hands fascinating.

"We shall await you," Bra’tac stated calmly, eyes moving from his student to the Tok’ra.

Malek bowed shallowly and looked around the assembled Tau’ri and Jaffa. "You have my thanks." He looked at Rya’c then and raised a hand to touch his cheek. "I shall see you soon," Jetha added.

"I too shall be here." Rya’c briefly leaned into the touch and smiled before turning his head to press a kiss to the palm. He watched the Tok’ra retreat before squaring his shoulders and turning to face the others again.

"Well, I think I’d better check on the naquadria generator," Sam said quickly. "Daniel, Colonel, I could use your help."

O’Neill started to object, but the look Daniel gave him silenced him, and he got to his feet. "Fine, whatever," he grumbled. "Good luck, kid."

Once the Tau’ri were gone, Rya’c watched his father and master warily. "I wish to remain with Malek," he said baldly.

Teal’c’s eyebrows rose, but his expression remained impassive. "Does he wish you to remain with him as well?"

Rya’c nodded. "He has asked me to. I believe he intended to speak with you both, but I felt it was my place to do so."

"And are you asking for permission or telling us that you are planning to remain with him?" Bra’tac asked.

"Both. Malek—and Jetha—is my chosen mate, but I wish your acceptance of my choice," Rya’c replied with dignity.

Bra’tac met Teal’c’s gaze and nodded. "I will miss traveling with you."

Rya’c nearly slumped in his seat as relief washed through him. "I hope you will remain for a time, Master Bra’tac. Malek still requires much battle training, and the other Tok’ra are even more in need. I truly do not understand how they have survived so long with so few skills."

"They have other methods, my son," Teal’c stated. "They have superior weaponry and are more open to innovation than the Goa’uld."

"As well as sheer stubbornness," Bra’tac added. "And yes, I will stay for a time, though I feel that you will do well in assisting the Tok’ra with their training when I am gone and they have found a planet to set up their base."

"Thank you." Rya’c bowed slightly. "If that is true, it is thanks to your teaching." He wanted to tell them that Malek planned to remain here on this planet, but that was for the Tok’ra to do, and he waited impatiently for his lover to return.

"You wish us to remain here? With the Jaffa?"

Malek’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the aghast Tok’ra. "This planet is unknown by the Goa’uld, and we would have the support of our allies. As we have not found a suitable site, I offer it up for your consideration."

"And what of the Tau’ri?" one of the others wanted to know. "Will they not object to the possibility of their escape site potentially becoming known to the Goa’uld who hunt us?"

"Hamen has a valid point, but if we choose to do this, surely some arrangement similar to that used at Stargate Command might be established, with an iris and a signal," another suggested. "And we will all keep watch for another useful planet to be used as an escape.

"I believe this is a good plan, one that will allow us the base we need and permit fostering closer ties with our allies... though Malek seems to be handling that part quite well on his own," the female Tok’ra added dryly.

"I do not deny that, and Rya’c has agreed to stay with me. Are there any who have issue with that situation?" Malek asked.

"He is a Jaffa," someone said from within the crowd.

"He is my love," Jetha stated, meeting the gaze of the other Tok’ra with strength that he had never shown before. "If you cannot accept that, I will go where he goes."

"We would be happy to accept anyone who makes you happy, Jetha," one of the others stated firmly. "We share your joy at finding him. And I would be pleased to remain on this world. It fulfills all our needs. And perhaps it might become a permanent base for us rather than a transient one."

Malek surveyed the gathered Tok’ra, gauging their mood. "Are we in agreement then?"

Though there were some dissenting voices, the overall decision was clearly affirmative. It was time to speak to the Tau’ri.

Leaving the Tok’ra, Malek walked back to the hut where he had left the Jaffa and the Tau’ri, Col. O’Neill returning at nearly the same moment, having escaped from Maj. Carter and her attempts to waylay him. "Col. O’Neill? I would speak to you, and to Master Bra’tac, if it is convenient." As he spoke, he moved to the chair Rya’c was sitting on and rested his hand on the young Jaffa’s shoulder.

Raising his hand to cover Malek’s, Rya’c looked up searchingly, anxious to know the Tok’ra’s decision. He would go wherever Malek went, but it would be pleasant if they could remain here with friends.

"We’re all ears," Jack replied, watching Malek curiously. If he wanted to talk about Rya’c, it would make more sense to want to speak to Bra’tac and Teal’c. Jack had nothing to do with the boy’s future.

"As you know, our attempts to find a planet for our base have been so far unsuccessful. That being the case, I would like to base our cell here, on the Alpha Site, if that is agreeable to those already here."

Having expected something entirely different, it took a moment of mental gymnastics before his listeners reacted. "Here?" Jack exclaimed.

"That is not an ill idea," Bra’tac mused. "A shared base, a permanent shared base for all our people to work together and learn to live together.

"Yes," he said, rising to his feet to clap a hand on Malek’s shoulder, "I like this idea."

Not daring to allow the excitement Jetha felt at this reaction show, Malek nodded. "What remains to be seen is if your people feel the same way."

"Some will, some will not. Some will be convinced by my eloquent arguments, and others will never be convinced and will leave. It is perhaps time to spread our forces somewhat so that we cannot be wiped out by a single attack. I believe most of our people will agree to remain. This is a good day for us and a bad day for the Goa’uld. Finally we are true allies."

Rya’c tried to hide his smile at Malek’s expression listening to Bra’tac’s sudden exuberance.

Malek gave a slow smile as well. "I am pleased to hear that, and I hope you have the same reaction when I tell you that I have asked Rya’c to stay with me and he has agreed."

"Rya’c has already informed of us your request and his decision," Teal’c stated.

"Sweet," Jack said absently, most of his attention devoted to planning how he would present this to Gen. Hammond. "Congratulations."

Rya’c glanced up at Malek. "I felt it was necessary for me to tell my father and my teacher."

"I expected no less, my love," Malek murmured, tightening his fingers around Rya’c’s and smiling down at him. "I appreciate your understanding," he added, looking at the others.

"Rya’c is old enough to make his own choices," Teal’c stated. "But I do not disapprove."

Malek nodded again. "Thank you. I suppose now we will have to wait for approval from SGC before advancing the plans."

"I think you should come back with us and meet with Gen. Hammond. This would be best coming from you. Both of you," Jack added, nodding at Bra’tac. "This is going to be something new for all of us, and I think the general should hear it from you."

Rya’c shifted closer to Malek, frowning slightly, and Jack grinned. "You’re included in the invitation, kid."

Malek looked around the grouping of Tau’ri and Jaffa and smiled. "Arrange your meeting, Col. O’Neill, and we shall be there."

Gen. Hammond stood at the base of the ramp to greet the visitors, nodding or shaking each one’s hand and smiling at Rya’c, who remained close to Malek’s side.

"Welcome back to Earth, gentlemen. Col. O’Neill has given me an idea of what you’d like to discuss, and I must say that I’m intrigued. Would you like to be shown to your rooms first, or shall we begin our meeting?"

"If we might ‘stow our gear’ as you say?" Malek answered, wanting to get his people settled and comfortable before the meetings started.

"Of course. The airmen will show you to your quarters and then conduct you to the meeting room when you’re ready." Gen. Hammond glanced at Rya’c but didn’t comment on the arrangements for his housing. He had decided it was best not to ask and let the Tok’ra and Jaffa work that out for themselves.

"Thank you, General," Malek said, resting a hand at the small of Rya’c’s back as they followed the Tau’ri to their room, seeing the other Tok’ra to their quarters before going to theirs.

Malek set his bag on the bed and smiled over at Rya’c after the airmen left them. "I never imagined I would be here, even in this situation."

Rya’c smiled. "I think this will be an important day for all our peoples. And personally, I am glad that it will work out so well for us. It seems that Gen. Hammond is inclined to agree to your proposal."

"I will wait until the end of our meeting to agree with you, my love, but I am hopeful." Malek crossed to Rya’c and took him into his arms. "It will also make it more simple for you to see your father."

"That will seem very strange," Rya’c admitted. "I have never seen much of him. When I was very young, he was often away performing his duties as First Prime of Apophis. Then he rebelled and fled with the Tau’ri, and I did not see him for two years. After that I saw him infrequently, the next time after I had been taken by Apophis and was nearly responsible for my own father’s death. In truth, I barely know him. I think I will be glad of the opportunity to change that." He leaned against Malek, taking comfort from the Tok’ra’s strength.

Jetha surfaced and leaned his head against Rya’c’s. "I am glad you will have that chance. My people had a saying that all things happen for a reason. I am inclined to believe it as without our pasts, we would not be here together now."

Rya’c made a soft sound of agreement. "If the Tau’ri had not discovered the Gate system and begun using it when they did, none of us would be here, and the lives of many people of many races on many worlds would be very different." He laughed slightly. "They are the winds of change."

"All I care is that they blew us together." Jetha kissed Rya’c’s temple and straightened, receding to allow Malek control once again. "Shall we see what the future holds for us?"

"I look forward to it." Rya’c took Malek’s hand and squared his shoulders as they moved toward the doorway.

END

  since 02-03-07

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