The Persistence of Memory
Part 1: Secret Admirer by sidewinder
Lieutenant Timothy O'Neill stood on the boardwalk, one last time debating what he should do. In a few minutes, he would either turn around and walk away, or he'd venture forth into the neon-lit establishment in front of him.
He was standing there, placed in this dilemma because he had recently found out he had a secret admirer. Tonight he had the chance to find out who it was...he just wasn't sure he wanted to know.
It had all begun about a week ago, when someone had started leaving odd gifts in his quarters on seaQuest. He found a new present waiting for him every evening at the end of his shift, usually sitting atop his bunk, accompanied by a carefully handwritten note.
The gifts had started out innocently enough. A single Hershey's Chocolate Kiss had been the first. He'd almost sat on it before spotting the glimmer of the silver foil, and the small note next to it on his bed that had said simply,
I bet your kisses are sweeter.
He'd believed it to be merely a joke being played on him by one of his crewmates; Tony or Lucas had come to mind as likely suspects. Perhaps even Lonnie, in some misguided attempt to make him feel better after the whole Kimura incident a few weeks ago. He'd figured it best to ignore the gift for now and say nothing to anyone about it. So he'd gone about his business as usual the next day, even forgetting about that solitary chocolate until that evening...
...When he'd retired to his room to find a bucket of ice on his desk, chilling a pint of vanilla ice cream. The note this time, in the same blocky, unfamiliar handwriting, had said:
Chill out a little. And eat some more, will you? You always look peaked.
"This is too weird," he'd mumbled to himself, growing suspicious. He didn't like the idea of someone rummaging around his room when he wasn't there and debated whether he should report it as a security concern. He'd quickly dismissed the idea, still thinking it was all a joke. Besides, a little chocolate, a little ice cream...what harm was that? The ice cream had tasted good, and truth of the matter was, with the long hours he worked, he really didn't get enough to eat most of the time.
On the third night, the gift had been a slightly different...and much more provocative. An old book had been placed upon his pillow, its yellowed pages revealing it to be a volume of very suggestive, erotic French poetry. He'd only made it through the first few pages, and the accompanying note which proclaimed, Je t'adore, Timothy, before quickly putting aside the book and deciding it was time to use up some of his water rations for a nice long, cold shower.
A CD of love songs from the 1980's had followed on the following evening. One song in particular had the lyrics circled in the liner notes:
I'm crazy for you
Touch me once and you'll know it's true
Truth of the matter was, Tim had been the one who was feeling crazed by that point, thanks to this unrelenting wave of attention. It hadn't seemed like much of a joke anymore, and the whole affair was starting to distract him during the day. All he could think about was what might be waiting for him that evening, and who on the seaQuest crew could be leaving these presents for him.
At lunch that day, he'd finally broken down and given in to the need to tell someone about what was going on. Someone he figured he could trust was most likely not involved.
"Someone's been leaving me...strange presents every night," he'd told Dagwood.
"Mmmm...Dagwood likes getting presents. Don't you like getting presents, Tim?"
"Well, sure...usually...but I'd like to know who's giving them to me. I don't know what I'm supposed to do about them."
The dagger had frowned and thought about this for a while, then answered, "Mmm, Dagwood learn that when someone gives Dagwood a present, Dagwood is supposed to thank them. Mmm...give person a thank-you note."
So Tim had decided, what the heck, maybe Dagwood was right. It couldn't hurt. So before returning to his shift, he dashed back to his room, left a little thank-you note on his bed, and waited to see what would happen next. The message had merely said,
Thanks for the gifts. But won't you tell me who you are?
There had been no direct response to the note, but the gifts started taking a turn for the...bizarre.
The red boxer shorts with yellow smiley faces that evening had been one thing. Even the note with them which had said, I'd love to see you in these--and nothing else hadn't phased him too badly. But then the next night's pink frilly nightgown, high heels and feather duster had been way too out there for Tim to deal with. Especially considering the fact that the nightgown and the heels seemed to be perfectly sized for him. The note that evening had been the longest so far, and it had made Tim's pulse race when he read it.
Maybe I'll keep the shorts, and you can wear this. Just kidding...or maybe not. I get so hot thinking about you anymore I can't stand it. I watch you every day on the bridge and I hate myself for wanting you so badly. Sometimes I think I hate you, but then I realize I'm just afraid of the way you make me feel.
I know other people have hurt you before. I can make you forget all of that, if you give me a chance.
"But who are you?" he'd asked aloud, desperate for the answer. The empty air provided none.
This much at least he'd known by then: It was someone on the bridge...someone who saw him every day, the note claimed. Methodically, he'd gone through a list of all the possible "suspects", women and men. Everyone knew Henderson and Ford were an item, so he'd figured both of them were likely out of the question.
Kimura? Yeah sure, he'd thought with a grimace.
Piccolo? No way; Tony was "breeder male" all the way. Go-go girls were Tony Piccolo's type--not quiet, shy communications officers.
Lucas...? The thought of his teenage friend had given him pause...it seemed unlikely, but the kid was the type to maybe play fun and games like this with him. They were pretty good friends, after all, and had spent a lot of time talking and commiserating together--especially over the last year or so, with everything that had happened since Hyperion. He'd put Lucas' name high on the suspect list, unsure of how he felt about the idea of his good friend having this kind of...romantic...interest in him, but decided not to stop until he'd gone through all the other possibilities.
He had, and then had run through the list a second time with no further luck before realizing the one last person he'd forgotten to even consider--Captain Hudson.
Definitely not, he'd decided , almost laughing at the mere thought of the hard-nosed captain being involved in this. But as he'd rested there in bed, reading the day's note one more time, his mind had grabbed on to one line that gave him enough reason to reconsider:
Sometimes I think I hate you, but then I realize I'm just afraid of the way you make me feel.
Could it be? Tim spent most of his days convinced Hudson had it in for him big time, the way he always seemed so quick to jump on him every time he made even a tiny mistake, or wasn't quite fast enough with a translation...Could it really be the captain was only on his case so much, because secretly...
Tim had gulped nervously at the mere thought.
...secretly he wants me?
Impossible, Tim had dismissed the idea quickly, tossing the garments and the feather duster aside and deciding it was time to get some sleep before he let this business keep him up all night.
The next day had been a rough one. He'd felt ready to strangle Hudson at one point--the way the captain was always leaning right over his shoulder, watching his monitors as if he didn't trust Tim to do the job properly himself. It drove him crazy sometimes. seaQuest had been called in to protect another small colony that was being attacked by Macronesian forces, but they'd arrived too late to do much beyond search for escapees' life pods, make threats about what would happen "the next time"...and watch as yet another outpost fell to the growing domain claimed by the UEO's enemy. At least they'd then received orders to report back to their home base for some equipment upgrades, including improved WSKRS technology. Everyone had been happy about the idea of some well overdue R-and-R.
Tim's present that night (even kinkier than yesterday's: a choke chain and a stick of butter?! He didn't want to contemplate the connection) had been accompanied at last by an actual proposition. It seemed his secret admirer had decided he was tired of communicating only through these mystery presents and was ready to meet face-to-face:
Re: these gifts--Use your imagination. I bet you have a good one.
Are you ready to find out who I am? Meet me at Cupid's Cove tomorrow night at ten, near the boardwalk. No more games--except ones we can play together.
If you don't show up, I'll understand. I won't bother you again.
And now, it was a few minutes before ten, and Tim was still trying to decide what he was going to do. He was frightened by the prospect of finding out who had been leaving him these odd gifts and obvious promises of potentially bizarre sexual escapades. He wondered why he was even considering doing anything except ignoring it. His timid side, the one which usually ruled his actions, told him to just forget about the whole thing and to go meet up with his friends downtown, or catch a movie--do anything but walk into that bar.
But his mysterious admirer's provocative gifts and words had stirred another side of him, something...darker, which he usually tried to ignore. Once awakened, he found it was hard to ignore this second voice in his head, the one that told him, Go on, go for it, Tim. What do you have to lose?
What did he have to lose? The question echoed through his mind, taunting him with the challenge of coming up with a satisfactory answer. Not much. What have I got anymore, except my faith, telling me I need to hang on, that everything happens for a purpose, that's it's God's will.
God's will? Was it God's will that he had to lose his best friend in the world, Miguel? That ten years would be taken away from him in the blink of an eye? That he'd have his heart savagely broken by the one person he'd somehow believed could be his soul mate?
No, nothing else left to lose, except maybe my life itself, he decided morosely. Though glancing at the rather seedy-looking establishment across the way, he wondered if that wasn't a distinct possibility.
At ten exactly, he gave in to curiosity and the dark voice's urging and stepped inside the dimly lit bar. The room was too loud, packed solid with people, and he wondered how he was going to find his "date" here amidst all these bodies. Uncomfortable with the heavy crowd right around the bar, he struggled to work his way through to somewhere quieter, until he found a small spot of relative peace along the wall in the back of the room. He stood there, leaning against the ledge that was already overflowing with mostly empty mugs and shot glasses. He'd wait five minutes, he told himself, intensely uncomfortable in his surroundings. Five minutes, and that was it.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a familiar gravelly voice spoke up at his side, "So tell me, was it the chocolate or the choke chain that got you to come tonight? I'm pretty new at this seduction thing."
Oh...no...it is him. O'Neill looked to his right to see none other than Captain Hudson leaning casually against the wall right next to him, a beer mug in one hand, another mug offered in Tim's direction in the other. The captain was dressed down in civvies, though it made him no less intimidating in appearance to the lieutenant's eyes. Tim swallowed nervously, part of his brain refusing to believe his suspicions had been correct. Taking the beer, he innocently asked, "Sir? I don't think I know what you're talking about."
"Cut the bullshit, O'Neill, you know exactly what I'm talking about. That's why you're here," Hudson insisted, pausing to drink down some of his brew. "The question is, are you going to split now that you know it's me. I won't hold it against you if you do."
Tim stood there, feeling numb, wondering dimly what was he going to do? His heart was racing with uncertainty, as his captain calmly waited for an answer, the expression on his hardened but not unattractive face unreadable.
"I...no, I'm not," he found himself saying, without quite knowing why. He'd never--until the other night, at least--imagined Captain Hudson of all people might be interested in him in...that way. He was sure the man could barely stand him! "If you tell me why. Why you did all that...for me."
"Drink your beer, then let's get out of here. This place is too damn crowded. We'll talk later." Tim felt a familiar surge of anger at the way Hudson was still bossing him around, even in the middle of...this...(whatever this was; a date? Some date. Of course he hadn't really had one in eleven years, so maybe things had changed more than he thought) but did as he was told. The faster they got out of here, the faster maybe he'd get some answers.
They stepped out of the bar, Hudson leading him towards the shoreline, which was a good walk away from the busy pier and boardwalk. He didn't say anything the whole time, and now they were way out past the crowds of people, where they were for all intensive purposes alone.
A dark thought crossed Timothy's ever-worrying mind. Maybe this had all been an elaborate set-up by Captain Hudson to knock him off, not to seduce him. Maybe the captain hated him so much he planned on taking him out here, on a deserted beach, and putting a gun to his head and blowing his brains out. One less problem case on the bridge for the captain to worry about.
You've been reading too many bad mystery novels, Timothy, he scolded himself. Watching too many old movies with Tony. But still...
Finally, the captain stopped walking and sighed, looking out to the waves crashing up on the beach just a few feet away. "We shouldn't be doing this."
"Doing what? We're not doing anything but walking along a beach," Tim answered.
"Do you think that's all I have in mind for tonight?" Hudson asked, turning to Tim, an even more intense look than usual in his dark eyes.
"I don't know. I don't know what you have in mind. I don't know why I'm here, why you're here, what any of this is supposed to mean."
"Maybe it doesn't mean anything...except this." Before Tim knew what was happening, Hudson grabbed him and held him in a serious liplock, expressing with lips and tongue what he apparently couldn't say in words. He released Tim's mouth some long minutes later (minutes, seconds, hours...Tim had rather lost track of the passage of time), though his hands crept in dangerous paths along the sides of the younger man's body. "Dammit, Lieutenant, you make me so hard I can't stand it any longer. I don't care about what it means, I just want to fuck you all night. Does it have to mean anything more than that? Does it?" he demanded in an insistent whisper.
I used to believe it did... Tim thought, remembering his old dreams of what love and romance should be like. What he'd innocently believed he'd found with Kimura...what had turned out to be the most bitter, heartbreaking lie he'd ever known.
She never loved me...never wanted me this way...no one's ever wanted me this way...I don't know how I'm supposed to react, but I can't deny it...it feels good...
Still, Tim felt he needed to put up a little protest, even if his body was responding to the captain's rough touch in ways he never would have imagined another man could make it respond. "I'm Catholic, Captain. No fucking all night unless you plan on giving me a ring."
"Oh, if it's a ring you want, I'll give you one...but you won't be wearing it on your finger..." Hudson let a hand run against Tim's groin, and he smiled when the touch elicited a whimper from the lieutenant, a twitching response as his hand urged Tim's cock to attention. Casually, Hudson continued, "You know, Mister O'Neill, I believe I owe you an apology for the rough treatment I've given you this year." Still holding Tim's eyes, the captain lowered his other hand to Tim's belt, working to free him of his pants. Tim could do nothing but stand there, increasingly aroused, as his pants softly fell with a soft thud onto a bed of seaweed and sand. The captain continued to grope him, now through the much thinner fabric of his shorts...
Hudson frowned and glanced down, then started to laugh. Tim was wearing the red boxers with yellow happy faces.
"Do they meet with your approval, Captain?"
"Mmm, very nice. Too bad you won't be wearing them for very much longer."
In fact, they stayed on no more than about another five seconds. Then Tim cried out and nearly stumbled back into the sand in shock. Hudson was down on his knees and had taken Tim's erection into his mouth. The captain grabbed him by the ass to keep him in place and proceeded to do incredible things that the young lieutenant had never imagined anyone would want to do to him. Things he hadn't even been sure weren't physically possible until now. Good Catholic boys weren't supposed to think about such things, after all.
Oh well, I can always go to Confession tomorrow.
"Oh...Oh...my...God...Captain...!" each syllable escaped his lips with a gasp, pleasure pulsing through his limbs but focused most intensely in his groin. All too quickly he found the pleasure was going to overwhelm him, and before he could warn the captain he tensed and he came with a cry of release that was barely drowned out by the loud crashing of the waves on the beach.
Hudson drank down Tim's cream gladly, then pulled the shuddering lieutenant's half-naked body down onto the sand. After another long kiss, Tim came up for air long enough to gasp, "That was...wow..." all his advanced language skills escaping him.
"That was only for starters, Lieutenant. You ain't seen nothing yet."
He soon found out just how right his captain was.
Epilogue: Several weeks later...
Captain Oliver Hudson lay tied to his bed, wearing only a raging erection and a gag over his mouth. He was desperately and without much luck trying to evade the excrutiating, tickling touch of the feather duster Lieutenant O'Neill was applying to his bare skin without mercy. He could barely stand it any longer, waiting for Tim to finally decide he'd doled out enough "punishment" and free his hands. Then he could get those hands all over the lieutenant's body, tearing off that not-quite translucent nightgown and revealing at last that delicious, creamy and soft skin...
No one would ever believe it if they found out about the captain and the lieutenant's wild sexcapades, of course. The truth was, Captain Oliver Hudson, so domineering and demanding on the job, wanted nothing more than to let someone else do the dominating when it came to his off-duty activities. And something about the mild-mannered lieutenant had caught his eye from the first day he'd taken command of seaQuest. It was something in the way O'Neill quietly seethed under his harsh command--that dark flicker of anger in his eyes every time Hudson yelled at him or pushed him around--that just made his desire for the young man burn hotter every time he saw him. He'd tried to deny himself the luxury of giving in to his desires, knowing it was usually a bad idea to mix business with pleasure...but eventually he hadn't been able to hold himself back any longer.
Funny how things worked out sometimes...better than your wildest dreams.
The captain's delicious torture was interrupted suddenly by an alert from his communications terminal. He'd turned on privacy, of course, but glancing up he still saw the red alert that announced that whoever was trying to reach him, it wasn't a message he could easily ignore. Tim turned wide, questioning eyes to his gagged companion, who nodded vigorously. The lieutenant quickly undid the gag and the restraints, and made himself scarce from view as the captain grabbed his robe, pulled it on, and with no little agitation answered the alert.
On the screen, he was greeted by Lucas Wolenczak's worried face. He growled impatiently, "This had better be important, Wolenczak."
"Sorry to disturb you, Captain, but I think you need to report to the bridge immediately. There's...a bit of an emergency here."
"What kind of emergency."
"Well, umm...it's sort of hard to explain..." Lucas hedged, looking extremely nervous.
"Try me." The captain's patience was being sorely tested.
"Well, sir, you must have read Captain Bridger's report about how seaQuest was once involved in an encounter with, um, the ancient God Neptune?"
"What the hell does that insane example of mass psychosis have to do with anything?!" Hudson shouted, his anger rising quickly.
"Well, um...we've...just been contacted by another so-called 'example of mass psychosis', sir, but this time it's, umm...Ares."
"Ares," Hudson reported flatly.
"The...uh, the God of War, yes sir. And he says if we don't hand over Lieutenant O'Neill, he's going to destroy seaQuest."
A blast of something suddenly rocked the entire ship as if to emphasize the ensign's statement. Hudson held onto his desk for support, wondering aloud, "O'Neill? What the hell does--whoever this is--want with O'Neill?!"
"It's just like the Neptune case, sir, he um, he says O'Neill is his reincarnated lover. Someone by the name of 'Joxer'."
Hudson felt a migraine headache starting to take seed right behind his left eye. He cast a scowl off screen to Tim, who simply gave him a completely baffled and rather frightened look. No help there.
"All right, Ensign, I'm on my way." He snapped off the communication. "Mr. O'Neill."
"Yes, sir?" Tim stepped forward, still clutching his feather duster.
The captain sighed. "Better get your pants on. Looks like this is going to be one of those days..."
Part 2: Not Forgotten by Rose
"What's taking them so damned long?"
Ares paced, frustration making him irritable. Out of the corner of his eye,
he saw Hercules and Autolycus exchange knowing looks. "You two have something
to say?" he growled.
"This might not be the best approach," said Hercules.
"I don't care," said Ares. "They have Joxer and I want him back."
Autolycus waved a hand in front of his face. "Hel-lo. Olympus to Ares.
That's not Joxer. Joxer died a couple of millennia ago. Remember?"
"Of course I remember; I was the one who killed him." It was an old pain, an
ache in the bottom of his soul that the passage of time did little to dull.
Hercules pushed Autolycus aside. "Ares. I know how much you loved Joxer, but
this is not going to erase the past. Let it go."
He shook his head. "I can't."
"Are you even sure it's him?"
Ares nodded. "He has Joxer's soul. I can feel it. I can feel it,
Hercules sighed. "Ok, ok. I believe you. You still can't just barge in and
carry him off."
"Here we go again," muttered Autolycus.
Ares glared at the thief, wishing for the umpteenth time the man had not
managed to steal one of the golden apples of the Hesperides all those
centuries ago. "What do you propose I do?"
"Talk to them," said Hercules. "Ask to see this man O'Neill and let him make
the choice to come with you or not. If he really is the reincarnation of
"--then you have nothing to worry about."
"Just try not to cut off his head this time," said Autolycus.
Ares glared. "If you weren't immortal..."
"Promises, promises," said the thief.
"That's enough, Autolycus," said Hercules. "Ares, will you let me come with
you? Joxer was my friend, too."
Ares considered. It might be beneficial to have Hercules along; his goody-
goody routine had a way of swaying people to his cause. "Fine," he said.
"What about me?" said Autolycus.
"Go boil your head," said Ares.
"I think two of us is enough," said Hercules. "If we need you, we'll call."
"I never get to have any fun," grumbled Autolycus.
The bridge of the seaQuest was a dim, cramped place, filled with the bustle of
human activity and the steady hum of machinery. Ares did not like these
modern machines of war. They were deadly and efficient, oh yes, but coldly
impersonal. It was cowardice that caused men to kill each other at a
distance. How could you
know what you were fighting for if you never saw your enemy?
Rhetoric could wait; he was here for another purpose. That purpose sat behind
one of the blinking consoles, staring up at him in confusion and fear.
Timothy O'Neill, as he was called now. The clothes were different, and the
corrective lenses that hid the soft brown eyes, but the face was the same and
the soul behind it.
His heart sang. He willed it quiet. "I am Ares, God of War," he said.
"Are you now," said a short, stocky man standing behind O'Neill. "Well, I am
Oliver Hudson, captain of seaQuest. What gives you the right to attack my
boat and make demands of my crew?"
Ares recognized the scent of power immediately. Here was the leader, strong-
willed and determined to fight. Ares smiled, savoring the challenge. Let him
try to keep a God from what was rightfully his.
"I think there's been a bit of a misunderstanding," said Hercules.
"And just who the hell are you?" said Hudson.
"He's Hercules," said O'Neill.
"You remember me?" said Hercules.
O'Neill frowned. "No. Yes. I'm not sure." He looked up at Hudson in
The captain laid a hand on O'Neill's shoulder and a look passed between them
that was unmistakable. Ares went cold and still. O'Neill had a lover, and it
was Captain Hudson. He hadn't counted on that.
"Why are you here?" said Hudson.
"I have reason to believe that your Lieutenant O'Neill is the reincarnation of
someone very dear to me," said Ares.
"Your lover," said the pretty blond mortal he'd spoken to when he'd first made
contact with the ship. What was his name? Oh, yes. Lucas.
"That's right," said Ares, locking his gaze with Hudson's. "My lover."
"We'd like to talk to O'Neill privately, if that would be possible," said
"An hour ago you were demanding that we just hand him over or you would
destroy my ship," said Hudson.
"I tend to get a bit over-enthusiastic at times," said Ares.
"Over-enthusiastic," repeated Hudson.
"Look, we just want to talk," said Hercules. "That's it. If O'Neill isn't
the reincarnation of Joxer, we'll be on our way."
"And if he is?" said Hudson
"That's up to O'Neill," said Hercules.
Hudson did not look convinced. Ares smiled blandly at him. "I understand
your concerns, Captain, seeing how you and the Lieutenant are knocking boots.
You have my word, I will not try to force him away from your side."
Hudson flushed dark red all the way up to his shiny pate. O'Neill looked
mortified. Everyone else just looked stunned.
"Get off my boat," snarled Hudson.
"Good job," muttered Hercules. "Haven't you ever heard of 'don't ask, don't
"Drat this absence of mind," said Ares.
"What are we going to do?"
Hudson watched Tim pace back and forth in his office. "Stop that,
Lieutenant," he said. "You're giving me a headache."
"Sorry. I'm just...I'm a little freaked."
"I can see that," he said. He really did have a headache, a great galloping
monster of one that had started the moment he heard the name 'Ares' and
continued to grow worse as this business unfolded. "Just take a deep breath
and relax. Panicking is not going to help."
O'Neill didn't seem to hear him. "And then that whole thing about outing us
on the bridge. He did that on purpose, I know he did. It is so like Ares
to pull something like that when he's pissed."
Hudson frowned. "O'Neill, are you feeling all right?"
"Huh?" O'Neill shook his head as if to clear it. "Did you say something?"
Hudson studied O'Neill carefully. "Why don't you sit down, Lieutenant.
You're looking a little pale."
"Oh, I'm always pale. Naturally fish-belly white."
Hudson was worried now. "Sit down, Mr. O'Neill. That's an order."
"Ok," O'Neill said cheerfully, and sat on the floor.
Oh, this was just spiffy. It wasn't enough that he'd just been outed in front
of the entire crew by the Greek god of war, now O'Neill was starting to come
unglued. The headache throbbed harder and he rubbed at his temples, wondering
if really amazing
sex was worth paying for like this.
Someone knocked on the door. "Come in," he said.
The door opened and Commander Ford and Ensign Wolenczak stepped inside. Ford
looked askance at O'Neill sitting on the floor and raised a questioning face
to Hudson. Hudson shook his head in warning and beckoned the officers over to
his desk. "What have you got for me, Commander?"
Ford nodded to Lucas who stepped forward, a stack of computer printouts in his
hands. "I did some digging on Greek mythology," Lucas said, handing the
printouts to Hudson. "Apparently, the god Ares took a mortal lover by the
name of Joxer the Mighty, also sometimes called Joxer the Bloody; I even found
a reference to a Joxer the Tidy, but I'm not sure it's the same guy."
At the mention of the name 'Joxer the Mighty', O'Neill began to sing quietly
"Joxer the Mighty,
He roams through the countryside,
He never needs a place to hide.
With Gabby as his sidekick
Fighting with her little stick,
Righting wrongs and singing songs,
Being mighty all day long,
He's Joxer the Mighty!"
Hudson, Ford and Wolenczak all exchanged looks. "Commander," said Hudson,
"why don't you take Mr. O'Neill down to Medical for a little visit."
"Good idea, sir," said Ford.
He waited until Ford and O'Neill were well gone before turning his attention
back to Lucas. He found the young ensign looking at him oddly. "Something on
your mind, Mr. Wolenczak?"
"Well, I just never would have guessed that you and Tim--."
He glared. "You really want to finish that sentence, Ensign?"
"Ah, maybe not. Sir. Um. To continue what I was saying before, Joxer the
Mighty was the lover of Ares. They were together for many years, one of the
rare instances of faithful love and devotion in Greek mythology."
"That's fascinating, Ensign, but it doesn't tell us anything we didn't already
"Well, yes and no. See, it seems that Joxer was eventually killed by Ares."
Hudson's brows rose. "He murdered his own lover?"
"Not murder; an accident. Ares was fighting with a former pupil named Xena.
Joxer tried to get between them and Ares killed him. Chopped his head clean
off his shoulders."
"Ouch," said Hudson.
"Yeah. Ouch. Anyway, all the myths say that Ares went mad from grief,
walling himself up in Thrace until Hercules, Iolaus and Jason brought him back
to his senses."
"Why didn't Ares just go down to the underworld and bring him back? I
remember enough from Edith Hamilton to know that's possible."
"I wondered about that myself. Something to do with Joxer having been 'sained
as a Celt', whatever that means. Maybe he went to the Celtic underworld where
Ares couldn't reach him."
"Spiffy," Hudson muttered.
"Nothing, Ensign." He rubbed his eyes again. "We know why Ares wants
O'Neill, but that still doesn't tell us what to do about it."
"Captain," said Lucas quietly, "have you considered the possibility that maybe
Lt. O'Neill really is this Joxer person?"
"Wolenczak, if you had asked me that question an hour ago, I would have sent
you down to Medical to get your head examined. Now...now I'm not so sure."
"Life's a bitch, sir," said Lucas.
Hudson had to agree.
Part 3: The Arrival and the Reunion by Rose & sidewinder
In the mess hall later that day, Tony Piccolo finished his dinner and
shook his head in disbelief. "Jeez...you think you know somebody, and
then something like this happens. Can you guys imagine it? Tim and
"I'm trying not to, Tony, if you don't mind," Commander Ford responded.
Lonnie wiped her mouth with a napkin to try to hide a fit of giggles.
"I'm just trying to figure out how we're going to get ourselves out of
this mess. And get rid of them." Ford nodded in the direction of one of
the other tables, where one of Ares' associates was trying to chat up
Lieutenant Commander Kimura. Ares and his other friend were nowhere to be
"Mmm...Dagwood is confused."
"Join the club," Tony muttered under his breath.
"Mmm...why does that strange man keep saying that Tim is some other man
named Joxer? How can Tim be anyone but Tim?" Having quietly observed the
confusing events of the day, Dagwood was now full of questions. "And why
did Captain Hudson get so mad when that man said Captain Hudson and Tim
were, mmm...'knocking boots'?"
"'Cause that ain't all they been knockin'," Tony answered. When Dagwood
looked to him to elaborate, Tony quickly stood up and announced, "Gee,
will ya look at the time? I gotta go. Lieutenant Henderson and Commander
Ford can explain it to ya, Dagwood. Catch you guys later!"
Dagwood turned puzzled, innocent eyes on the couple, just as Lonnie
turned to Jonathan for help. Ford, for his part, decided Tony had the
right idea. I'm not touching this conversation with a ten foot pole.
"Yeah, Tony's right, I'm sure I'm...overdue...somewhere right now.
Lieutenant, I'm sure you can brief Dagwood on the, um...finer details of
the current crisis."
Lonnie sent him a look that promised he was going to have serious hell to
pay for this later.
Autolycus watched the command staff get up and head for the bridge one by
one, until only Henderson and the golem--dagger--Dagwood, were left. He
smiled to himself and turned his attentions back to the lovely lady across
"So I left her there," he said. "I thought about staying; they offered me the
chance to lead them, to teach them, to be King! But my place is here, so
I swallowed the juice, said the words, and here I am."
Kimura folded her arms deliberately and calmly stated, "You really expect
me to believe any of that?"
Autolycus was clearly offended. "It's the truth! That's exactly the way
She narrowed her eyes and said nothing.
"...Basically..." he amended.
Still no response.
"Okay, okay, maybe I didn't get every single tiny little detail right,
but you get the idea!"
Kimura picked up her tray with a disgusted sigh and took off, muttering
"Wise-ass" just loud enough for Autolycus to hear.
"What's the matter; the old charm not what it used to be?" Hercules
chided his friend, coming over to the table to join him.
"The 'old charm' is working just fine, thank you very much. It's these
uppity women in this so-called modern age." With a wistful twinkle in his
eyes, he sighed, "Ah, for the good old days, when men were men, and women
were, well, not like men!"
"We're supposed to be here keeping an eye on Ares, not trying to make
time with the crew."
"Speak for yourself, buddy. I'm here the same reason I'm ever anywhere."
"What could you possibly want to steal on this ship?"
"Like I'm going to tell you." Before Hercules could protest further,
the thief changed the subject, "Speaking of your hot-to-trot brother,
where is he? I thought you were keeping an eye on him."
Hercules sighed. "I was, but you know how he is. He disappeared on me a
while ago, that's why I came to find you, to see if you'd run into him.
But obviously, you were...otherwise engaged."
"Oh, this is just great. He's probably off scheming up something
devious in that twisted mind of his."
"No doubt about it."
"So what're we gonna do?"
"I want you to try to find him. Or at least keep your eyes open for
trouble. I'm going to have a talk with Captain Hudson." Auto raised his
eyebrows. "I want to understand how he fits in with all of this, try to
convince him were really not here to cause trouble."
"Hah! Good luck. I think you're definitely going to need it."
Captain Hudson returned to his office after a visit to Medical to check
on O'Neill's condition, and also to finally get some relief when his
headache wouldn't go away on its own. The monster now hovered, barely admitting
defeat, on the edge of his consciousness, where drugs had relegated it for at
least the next few hours. While the beast licked its wounds, Hudson tried to
focus his dulled senses on the stack of documents on Greek mythology and
history prepared by Lucas, but he was finding little in those pages that
the young ensign hadn't already told him.
A knock on his office door interrupted his brooding. He looked up to see
the man who claimed to be Hercules standing in the entryway. "What is
it?" he barked, not pleased by the intrusion.
"I'm sorry to disturb you, but could we talk?"
Hudson had surmised that this one seemed to be the mediator in the trio
of immortals, the most levelheaded of the bunch. He supposed it wouldn't
hurt to hear what he had to say in private. He waved him in.
"I know this whole situation must seem...unbelievable to you, Captain."
"Unbelievable seems to be the word of the day for this boat every day,
"So I've heard. Believe me, we're really not here to cause trouble.
Ares...gets a little hot-headed sometimes, true, but that's why Autolycus
and myself are here, to make sure he doesn't do anything...too rash."
"Like threatening to destroy my ship?" And outing me in front of the
entire command crew? he added silently. The monster roared weakly at his
temples. He took a deep breath and tried to remain calm.
"If it wasn't for us, it wouldn't have been merely a threat," Hercules
responded gravely. After a brief pause, he continued, "Captain, do you
mind if I ask you...how serious is your relationship with Lieutenant
O'Neill? Is it...love?"
"It's none of your damn business, that's what it is," was the sharply
spoken answer, though the question was one of the same ones Hudson had
been asking himself all day. The fact that he couldn't clearly answer it
was one of the reasons it bothered him so much.
It was never about love, just lust. Sex. I never asked him for his
heart. I love the way he makes me feel, but that doesn't mean I love him.
Damn it all. But I would miss him if he was gone.
Hercules, politely enough, did not push the matter. He looked instead at
the papers on the captain's desk. "May I?" he asked, and he picked them
up for a more careful look when the captain nodded distractedly. After
glancing through them quickly, he shook his head. "These old stories
aren't exactly complete and accurate, you know. Record keeping back then
wasn't what it is today. And even those of us who were there sometimes
have a hard time remembering things clearly, after this many years."
"So what part of the story am I missing? Ares didn't lop off Joxer's head
"It wasn't an accident, not the way they say in there it was. You have
to understand this, Captain: Joxer's death was payback by several other
Gods for Ares' betrayal of them, during the early battles with a powerful
dark god, Dahok."
"Dahok? Never heard of that one before."
"For very good reasons. Just be thankful he was defeated, and never had
the chance to leave his mark upon this world the way he wanted to.
"Ares had feared that Dahok's coming signaled the fall of the Olympian
Gods' reign, and he was determined not to go down with the rest of them.
So he made a deal to betray them in order to earn favor and a place in
Dahok's circle of power."
"Sounds like a charming guy."
Hercules shrugged. "Yeah, he's always been a bit of a jerk, and was
especially a pain in the ass in those days. After Dahok's defeat, Ares
managed to weasel himself back into favor with the other Olympians...most
of them. A few never forgave his betrayal and vowed to wait and take
their rightful revenge when the opportunity presented itself.
"It did; Ares soon after fell for Joxer. It...changed him, in so many
ways I can't even begin to describe. Oh, he was still Ares, God of
War, but he finally seemed to have learned a few things that never
were important to him before: compassion, patience...and love."
"This is all very touching," Hudson grumbled.
Hercules ignored him and continued. "The other Gods waited and watched,
until they were certain that this affair was no mere fling, but the one
way they could hurt Ares and never let him forget how he betrayed them at
one of their most vulnerable moments.
"Finally the Fates were called in, and they agreed to the Gods' request.
Joxer would die by Ares' own hand, and they would not be reunited until
it was decided Ares' debt had been repaid.
"If Lieutenant O'Neill really is Joxer reincarnated, that means Ares
has finally earned forgiveness. He's waited for this reunion for
centuries, never knowing how long he would have to wait for it to
come...if it ever actually would. Can you understand now why he may have
seemed a little...excited about the prospect of possibly finding Joxer,
after all this time?"
Hudson found himself rather at a loss for words. His was a rational,
logical mind, and this entire situation seemed to be the universe's way
of laughing in his face, of pulling the rug out from underneath his
entire structure of beliefs. Carefully choosing his words, he responded,
"If that's the case, then I...sympathize. But you and Ares have to
understand this: so far, all I really know right now is that one of my
men has apparently undergone some kind of mental breakdown. And that
breakdown corresponds precisely with your arrival here. You could be
who you say you are, and all your stories could be true. Or you could be
agents for anyone from Macronesia to even some new alien race with
advanced technology that makes you appear like Gods to us. I don't know
what the hell O'Neill could have that you would want, if that's the case,
but that doesn't mean my suspicions are necessarily wrong."
"Fair enough," Hercules acquiesced. "But answer this for me, if you can:
If it turns out we are who we say we are, that O'Neill really is
Joxer, and he decides he wants to go back to Ares...what will you do? Will you
let him go, where his heart tells him he needs to be?"
The answer came without doubt, but not without a stinging pain of regret.
"If I was certain it was truly what he wanted...I would never dream of
O'Neill was beautiful when he slept.
Ares stood at the foot of the white medical bed and watched the slow rise
and fall of Tim's chest. It had been the simplest thing to render himself
invisible and slip unnoticed into the bowels of the ship. Lucas was
working on some kind of scanning device to detect his presence, but that
was easy enough to circumvent for the time being.
They'd given O'Neill some kind of drug to make him sleep. Ares heard the
doctors talking, something about "stress-induced psychosis" and "possible
MPD", whatever that meant. It sounded bad.
O'Neill shifted on the narrow bed and rolled onto his back. His eyelids
fluttered, then opened.
He looked directly at Ares and smiled sweetly. "Hi, lover," he said.
Ares' jaw dropped. "What did you say?"
"I said, 'Hi, lover'."
Oh, Hades, it couldn't be. "Joxer?"
"Well, duh. Who else would I be?"
Ares shook his head. "You have no idea."
"Lieutenant?" One of the doctors walked over to the bed, alerted by the
sound of O'Neill's voice. "How are you feeling?"
O'Neill looked at Ares, his eyes wide and confused. "Tell her you're
fine," said Ares. "And don't look at me; I'm supposed to be invisible."
"Right," said O'Neill.
"Right?" said the doctor.
O'Neill looked back at the doctor. "Uh, I meant 'all right'."
The doctor smiled placidly. "What were you looking at just now?"
"Um, nothing. My eyes are kind of blurry."
"You should probably put on your glasses," the doctor said gently.
"Glasses?" said O'Neill.
"The gold wire things in the chair by your bed," said Ares.
"Glasses," said O'Neill. "Right. I knew that. Gotta put on my glasses."
He fumbled for the slim wire frames, dropped them twice, put them on
upside down, then finally figured it out and settled them properly on his
The doctor continued to smile blandly and scribble copious notes on her
clipboard. "Do you know where you are, Lieutenant?"
"You're on the seaQuest," said Ares.
"I'm on the seaQuest," said O'Neill.
"Very good. Do you know who you are?"
"Tim," said Ares.
"Tim," said O'Neill. He frowned, then looked back at Ares. "Tim?"
The doctor followed his glance. "Do you see something at the foot of the
O'Neill focused his attention back on the doctor. "Uh, no. I'm just, um,
groggy. You know, tired." He gave an exaggerated yawn. "I really think I
should rest some more."
The doctor nodded, scribbling more notes. "That's a good idea. I'll leave
you to it, then."
"Ask her to close the curtain," said Ares.
"Would you mind closing the curtain?" said O'Neill. "The light is, uh,
bothering my eyes."
"Sure," said the doctor. She reached up and pulled the white privacy
curtain into place so that it surrounded the bed. "If you need anything,
just push the red button above your head. I'll be back in an hour to
check on you again."
"Ok," said O'Neill. He waved as she walked away.
Once she was gone, O'Neill turned back to Ares and opened his mouth to
speak. Ares put a finger to his lips and shook his head. "Wait until I
put a ban up," he said.
Ares closed his eyes and focused his power. He laid a sound barrier
around them first, then a protective shield. When both were in place, he
added a small enchantment. It was nothing, really, just a trifle, but it
would make anyone who came near the bed forget what they were doing and
leave. It had been Joxer's idea, many years ago; he'd called it the "what
did I come in here for?" spell. Joxer had been good at coming up with
weird little magics like that, even if he couldn't cast them himself.
Ares opened his eyes and looked at O'Neill. The man was watching him
closely, knees drawn up to his chin and a soft smile on his face.
Ares sat on the edge of the bed. He reached out, took one of O'Neill's
hands in his own, raised it to his lips and kissed the delicate fingers.
O'Neill continued to smile.
He couldn't stand it anymore. Ares grasped O'Neill's narrow wrist and
tugged, pulling the slender body against his own. O'Neill came willingly,
his thin arms wrapping tightly about Ares' neck.
Ares pressed his face into the man's short, dark hair. He even smelled
like Joxer. "I've missed you."
"Have I been away?" Soft that, barely above a whisper.
He answered in kind. "Yes."
"Where am I? This place, it's so strange. I feel strange, like I'm not
really myself. What is going on?"
Panic in the voice that time, and something else; Timothy O'Neill, trying
to come back from wherever he'd gone. Ares soothed him with murmured
nonsense and gentle caresses down the long back. Please, he willed the
Fates. Give us just a little longer.
Ares kissed the silky hair, the pale cheeks. He pulled off O'Neill's
glasses and kissed each eyelid; the tip of his nose; the cleft of his
chin. Finally, he kissed the soft lips, felt them open under his,
O'Neill's tongue sliding into his mouth.
They fell back on the bed, all pretense of restraint fled. This was pure
lust, no art to it at all. None was needed; they both knew the steps to
this dance and how it would end.
He willed their clothes away, covering O'Neill's trembling body with his
own. His heart was singing again, a high white joy that touched the edge
of madness. He had his lover back, if just for this one moment. It was
more than he'd ever dare hope.
He drew back, silencing O'Neill's protest with a stinging kiss as his
hands parted the long thin legs. O'Neill shuddered and drew up his knees.
Ares lowered himself back down between them, entering O'Neill with one
swift, fluid stroke.
It was almost too much, and he fought the urge to come immediately. Too
long, much too long since he had done this last; longer still since he
had felt a sense of completion in the act. That was for Joxer alone.
He began to move, then, hands gripping O'Neill's narrow hips, face buried
in the graceful curve of the man's neck. Time stretched and lost its
meaning. There was just the dance; two bodies moving in unison; blending.
Ah, Gods, how he'd missed this!
The end came too swiftly, a shout that was half name and all prayer. When
Ares came to his senses again, he found O'Neill unconscious beneath him.
He kissed the sweaty brow and sighed, knowing he should leave but unable
to do so just yet. A few moments more, then he would go.
But not forever.
The dreams were unlike any he'd ever experienced before. Forced by the
sedatives into an unnatural sleep, he now found himself lost in a
whirlwind of remembrances of a life that was not his own.
Decades compressed into a blur of sights and sounds, sensations and
emotions. This world was unfamiliar to him: harsh and cruel, yes, but at
the same time so vivid and somehow, he felt, a much better place than the
world he'd known for all of his own life.
Childhood and coming of age passed in a heartbeat. He traveled the
countryside with new companions, setting out to find his place in the
world, to find adventure. There was a raven-haired warrior woman,
sometimes harsh but other times a mentor, one of the only people he'd
known that truly seemed to care about him. And there was a
strawberry-blonde girl, who stirred his heart now as he saw her image,
her smiling, beautiful face. Through all of this, he knew heartache and
pain, triumph but mostly many discouragements and defeats...
And then he knew Ares, the God of War.
He knew the fulfillment of a love so strong, millennia could come and go
and not dim its fire. At one point, this world seemed to dissolve back
into his own, but Ares did not fade away; no, quite the contrary, in
fact. Timothy O'Neill struggled, yet he was too weak against the
overwhelming presence of the God and this other...Joxer. Their passion
drowned out his protests, and he was carried with them into a moment of
ecstasy so sublime, he wondered briefly how he could had ever wanted to
stand in its way...
And suddenly, returned to his strange dream world, he found himself
standing alone in a darkened temple. It looked as if it had been deserted
eons ago. A thick coat of dust covered everything around him: the altar,
the floor, an eroded statue that bore some fleeting resemblance to the
God of War. Candles had long before burned down into dark pools of wax,
then crumbled, blown away on the wind through cracks and holes in the
once strong, stone walls. He shivered instinctively against the cold
chill that seemed to permeate this empty, silent place.
He wandered around, somehow drawn to a chamber behind the altar, closed
off by a grayed, ragged old curtain. This separate room seemed to have
once been living quarters, though the bed had long ago fallen to pieces
on the dirty ground, and the rest of the remaining furnishings were in
similar states of decay. Except for one thing.
He noticed a full length mirror resting against one wall and he
approached it, wiping away the dust until the image reflected shocked
him, forcing him to take a step back. The person he saw was him, but
not him at the same time. In the mirror, he was dressed in leather and
armor, looking like a warrior prepared to go into battle. Yet when he
glanced down, he saw he was, as he had suspected, still wearing his UEO
uniform. He felt his face; the glasses were still there, but not in his
His reflection, even more shockingly, suddenly took on a life of its own.
"Hello, Timothy," it greeted him in his own voice.
"What's going on here? What's happening to me?"
The reflection only smiled at his confusion. "I know this must all seem
pretty weird, Tim, but trust me, everything's going to work out just
"Just fine? I'm having a nervous breakdown and you tell me--whoever you
are--that everything's going to be fine?!"
"I'm you, and you're me. We're just different facets of the same soul."
"What is this place?"
His vision shifted; suddenly, the dust and damage were gone, and the room
was as it once had been. Still dark, lit only by the flames of candles,
but filled with warmth, life...
"Ares' Temple. The bedroom we shared."
Somehow he already knew that. The feeling of deja vu was overwhelming.
Tim turned back to the mirror and demanded, "Why now, why are you coming
"Ares called to me; I had no choice but to respond." Brown eyes so much
like his own--they were his own, he reminded himself, as strange as
that was to believe--darkened with great sadness and pain. "I didn't know
I had been gone for so long, or why. Not until now. Please, Tim, you've
seen it now, you've felt it; you have to understand how much he needs
me. How much we need to be together."
"But this is my life, my body you're trying to take over! What's going
to happen to me if I let this happen?"
"You can't stop what has already begun. I'm sorry, Tim. Everything is in
the hands of the Fates now."
"Wait, you can just leave me here! Wait--!"
But the reflection was fading, and Tim felt darkness descending, the
already dim world of this dreamscape folding in upon him. Fear propelled
him into one desperate action, the only thing he could think of doing.
Screaming his own battle cry, he threw himself at the mirror. He heard it
shatter, felt the pain of the shards cutting into his skin as he fell to
the ground. Warm blood seeped out of his wounds, enveloping him like a
blanket, and the strange ringing in his ears began to sound like a
Soon after, the darkness claimed him.
Part 4: The Terrible In-Between by Rose & sidewinder
"'Look for Ares, Auto.' 'Don't steal anything, Auto.' 'Old charm not what
it used to be, Auto'." Autolycus made a face. "We'll see about that."
First things first. He'd promised Hercules he would look for Ares. Fine.
He'd do that. And if it just so happened that he cased the ship while he
was at it, well, that was no-one's business but his own.
Medical was high on his list of places the War God would choose to go;
O'Neill was there. Autolycus shook his head. He felt sorry for the poor
schmuck, dumped into the middle of this mess will-he or nill-he. The
Fates could be such bitches sometimes.
He looked up at the ceiling. "I didn't mean that," he said.
"Didn't mean what?"
Autolycus found a slender dark woman in a doctor's white coat standing at
his side. "Nothing," he said. "Just talking to myself."
"There seems to be an epidemic of that on this ship," the doctor said
"Uh, yeah. Whatever." He held out his hand. "Name's Autolycus. I'm
looking for Ares. Have you seen him?"
The doctor ignored the proffered hand. "I'm afraid not."
"Well then, would you mind if I had a word with O'Neill? We're old buds,
go way back. Haven't seen him in, oh, centuries it feels like."
"Access to Lieutenant O'Neill is restricted to seaQuest personnel only."
"O-kay. Maybe you could give him a message for me?"
"Access to Lieutenant O'Neill--"
"--is restricted to seaQuest personnel only. I got it, I got it. No need
to get snippy."
He and the doctor both turned to find O'Neill standing behind them. The
young officer looked flushed and more than a little unsteady on his legs.
The doctor rushed to his side, Autolycus following in her wake.
"You shouldn't be out of bed, Lieutenant," said the doctor.
"I'm fine, Dr. Perry," said O'Neill.
"I'll be the judge of that," Perry said. "Now, back to bed."
"You look a little wobbly," said Autolycus. He grabbed one of O'Neill's
arms. "Just lean on me if you need to."
O'Neill's mouth quirked into a lopsided smile. "Thanks, Auto."
Autolycus couldn't help but give Perry a triumphant I told you so look.
The doctor frowned but allowed him to assist O'Neill back to bed.
Once there, the doctor pulled out her clipboard. "Name?" she said.
O'Neill responded briskly. "O'Neill, Timothy. Rank, Lieutenant. Serial
"Say something in German," said Perry.
"Ich bin ein Berliner. I'd like to speak to Captain Hudson as soon as
Perry smiled. "I think that can be arranged, Lieutenant. Wait here." She
started to walk away. Paused. Turned back and glared at Autolycus. "Upset
him and I'll shoot you so full of thorazine you won't be able to do
anything but drool for a month. Got it?"
"Loud and clear," Autolycus said.
Perry nodded and headed for her office to place the call. Autolycus
looked back at O'Neill. "Did you just tell that woman you were a jelly
O'Neill smiled slightly. "It seemed appropriate."
"Yeah, well, you're lucky she doesn't speak German."
O'Neill shrugged and looked down at his feet.
Autolycus frowned. "You ok?"
"What do you think?"
"I don't know, that's why I'm asking." He sighed. "Look, not to change
the subject but have you seen Ares lately? Herc's looking for him."
O'Neill flushed bright pink. "He was here a little while ago."
Autolycus' eyebrows rose. He knew that blush. "Well, well, well. Played
doctor a little, did we? No wonder you looked so shaky."
"Why don't you just leave me alone?"
"Hey, hey, ease down, thundercloud. I'm on your side."
"My side?" O'Neill looked up. "And which of me would you be referring
"I only see one person sitting here," said Autolycus.
"I feel like I'm in pieces," O'Neill said. "I don't know who I am any
Autolycus pulled up a chair and sat down. "We've got a while before the
captain gets here. Talk to me."
Despite the late hour, Captain Hudson was still in his office when the
doctor found him. Just because the seaQuest was in the middle of a
personnel crisis didn't mean the rest of the world's problems were going
to go on hiatus. Commander Ford was doing a fine job handling the routine
matters of running the ship, but there were still certain issues he felt
the need to take care of himself. Beyond that, the paperwork gave him
something else to think about besides O'Neill, Ares, and the way his
private life had suddenly come under definitely unwanted attention.
"I thought you would like to know, Lieutenant O'Neill is awake, and he
has asked to see you," the doctor explained.
"How is he doing?"
"Well, it's difficult to say with any certainty yet. Physically he's
fine, and he responded coherently to me when I asked him basic questions
about himself and his surroundings just before when he woke up. It's
possible that his earlier confusion and agitation will not be repeated
and was merely a one-time reaction to a highly stressful situation."
"But..." Hudson prompted.
The doctor sighed, tapping her pencil against her notepad as she glanced
back down at O'Neill's records. "But, it's possible that we were only
seeing the first signs of an impending breakdown, especially if the cause
for his stress is still present. However, I don't think there's
sufficient reason not to stick with a more hopeful prognosis at the
current time. I would recommend he be allowed to rest and stay under
observation for at least the next forty-eight hours, but preferably at
least a week, if possible. And bringing in a Psi counselor might not be a
bad idea, especially if we're worried about a possible MPD developing.
Sometimes they can quite quite helpful in those cases."
They discussed the situation and possible courses of treatment for a
while longer, then he thanked her and said that he would be down to check
on O'Neill as soon as he was finished with the report he'd been working
on when she entered. He found himself thinking that this whole situation
would be a lot easier to deal with and resolve if the lieutenant was
just cracking under stress. Dealing with a reincarnated soul and an irate
God was an entirely different matter.
If I'm going to believe their crazy stories. Which I'm still not sure I
do. But even he had to admit it was becoming increasingly difficult to
ignore all the evidence that pointed in that direction.
"Is he still awake?"
"Yes, he had another visitor with him who left a few minutes ago. You can
go on ahead, Captain--just try to keep it fairly brief, please. I'd like
to see him get some more rest."
"Of course. Thank you, Doctor."
Hudson stepped past the privacy curtain isolating O'Neill to find the
lieutenant wide awake, sitting on the edge of his bed. The captain had
seem him looking better--much better--before, but O'Neill did seem to be
back in this reality. For the moment, at least.
Tim looked up from the floor and managed a weak smile when he recognized
his visitor. "Captain, sorry, I...didn't realize it was so late when I
asked to see you."
Hudson shrugged. "Your condition is more important to me than a few hours
sleep I wasn't getting tonight anyway, Lieutenant. Feeling better?"
"Better, worse, I don't know. Just confused. Tired and confused." He
looked back down at the ground beneath his dangling feet, then shook his
head, laughing a little.
"What's so funny?"
"This. Us. Everything." Glancing up at Hudson, he asked, "What are we to
each other? That's what I can't figure out. Here we've been screwing like
mad for weeks, and we're still 'Captain' and 'Lieutenant' to each other."
He paused and sighed. "Never mind. I don't know what I'm talking about.
It's hard to think straight when suddenly your head is filled with
someone else's memories."
Hudson waited patiently to see if O'Neill was done venting. When the
lieutenant stayed quiet, he walked over to the bed and took a seat next
to him. Being this close, even in the middle of all of this insanity--or
perhaps, because of it--it was hard not to take O'Neill into his arms and
try to make him forget about his problems the one way he felt he could.
Instead, with admirable restraint he stuck to a firm hand on his lover's
shoulder, and tried to find the right words to explain.
"You asked what we are to each other. I've spent most of the last
twenty-four hours trying to answer that very question to my own
satisfaction. And damned if I managed to figure it out.
"Tim...I like you. A lot. You know that. Hell, I pulled some crazy shit
to get into your pants, didn't I?" O'Neill grinned, obviously remembering
the events that had led up to their first night together on the beach. "I
think, given time, maybe we could have something...more than what we've
had the chance to explore until now. If you wanted anything more than
that. I wasn't certain."
"I didn't think I did. But now, after knowing--feeling--what Ares and
Joxer had together, a part of me feels empty without it."
"Then you want to go with Ares?" He tried to keep his voice neutral.
"No, I mean...I'm not sure. Joxer wants to go with Ares. Ares wants
Joxer...but does he want me? Where do I fit in, in all of this?"
Hudson wished he knew.
Autolycus found Ares on the sea deck. The God stood at the edge of the
moon pool, hands on his hips and staring pointedly at Darwin. The dolphin
stared back. Neither moved.
"Hey, Ares," he said.
"Quiet," Ares said. "I'm talking to Darwin."
Autolycus raised an eyebrow but kept his mouth shut. Ares and Darwin
continued their staring match. After a moment, Ares nodded his head and
turned away from the pool. "What do you want?" said the God.
"Hercules is looking for you," said Autolycus.
"He can wait," said Ares.
"Fine, play Doctor Dolittle if you want, but do us all a favor and stay
the hell out of Medical for a while, ok?"
Ares frowned. "What?"
"You heard me. I just finished talking to O'Neill. He told me about your
little bump 'n' grind earlier. If you're trying to drive the poor kid
permanently over the edge, you're doing a real fine job."
Autolycus felt his anger kick up a notch. "Joxer? News flash, Sparky,
Joxer is dead. D-E-A-D, dead. Pick up the pieces of your shattered life
and move on."
"I wouldn't expect you to understand."
"Understand this insanity? Who'd want to?" He sighed. "Look, Ares. You
loved Joxer and you miss him. Fine. I understand that, I really do. But.
That is not Joxer; that is Tim O'Neill, who happens to be a very nice
person in his own right. You might want to try getting to know him for
"He still has Joxer's soul."
Autolycus threw his hands in the air. "Well whoop-dee-fucking-do. I had a
gypsy read my palm once and tell me I was the reincarnation of Ramses II.
You don't see me rushing off Egypt to reclaim my throne, do you?"
Autolycus was just warming up to his subject; he'd had about all he could
take of Ares' obstinacy. "Did you know that Tim paints oils in his spare
time to relax and he thinks Kafka is hysterically funny? Granted, I don't
get the last one, but he spent the better part of half an hour trying to
explain it to me--in Old High German, I might add. Unlike Joxer who had
an I.Q. two points above bean-dip, this guy is fucking brilliant. He's
fluent in six different languages and can read and write in a dozen more.
But you wouldn't know anything about that, would you."
Autolycus found himself toe-to-toe with the God, glaring into Ares' black
eyes. Ares' face was immobile, unreadable and, as Autolycus' anger wound
down, he found himself wondering if he'd just made the biggest mistake of
his immortal life. Ares did not take kindly to other's pointing out his
short-comings. No, the only one who could do that with impunity was Joxer
and, as he'd been trying to explain in the first place, Joxer was so much
Actually, Autolycus was surprised that Ares hadn't out-and-out flattened
him for the bean-dip remark. He'd never really believed Joxer was that
stupid-- well, ok, sometimes he had and he'd the examples to prove
it--but that was beside the point. The point was Joxer and Tim were
very different people no matter who had whose soul and the sooner Ares
woke up to this fact, the better.
"You're going to kill me now, aren't you," he said.
Ares' lip quirked into a small smile. It was not a comforting expression.
"I'm considering it," said Ares.
"Look, all I'm saying is get to know O'Neill before you do anything else
stupid. For all you know, the guy recites bad verse in his sleep. Murders
have been committed over less."
"I know, I know, you don't want to hear this, but you just said I'm
right, didn't you."
"Yes. I made a mistake earlier, being intimate with Tim while he wasn't
himself. I hope it's not too late to undo the damage."
Autolycus sighed in relief. "I think we should go find Herc and let him
know what's happened. Maybe he'll have some idea about what to do next
because I have no clue."
"Color me so surprised."
Autolycus relaxed. Things were back to normal, he and Ares trading barbs
like old times. "Oh, bite me."
"I would, but I don't want to get blood in Darwin's pool."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. That reminds me, do your lovers ever have problems
with hairballs? I've always wondered...."
Ares just shook his head.
Morning came, and Tim managed to convince the doctor that he was well
enough to leave Medical and go back to his own quarters to continue
catching up on the rest she insisted he needed. Left to his own devices,
he quickly decided that what he desperately needed was some time
alone--and preferably off seaQuest. Hudson had seemingly anticipated his
request, because when Tim went to the captain's office to talk to him
about it, the paperwork granting him a leave of absence had already been
The seaQuest's assigned patrol route was scheduled to take them past a
major colony in the Atlantic, not far from Bermuda, later that evening.
Tim planned to disembark there and then catch public transport on to his
final destination. The image of where he wanted to go had come to him
almost as soon as he had decided to take the leave. He was anxious to get
out and spend some time above the surface, away from the dark, confining
walls of the ship. For some reason his old claustrophobia had been
threatening to return amidst all his other problems at the moment and he
was feeling a strong yearning for open skies and non-recycled air.
As he was working on packing that afternoon, his mind preoccupied with
travel plans, someone knocking loudly on his door startled him. He looked
up and his mood brightened a little at the sight of Lucas' face peeking
through the small window. The ensign was far from the first person to
drop by to check in on him that day. It had been nice to know his
colleagues were concerned about him, but more often than not the
conversations had been awkward, strained. Still, he was glad to see
Lucas--especially considering it might be the last time he would for
quite a while.
"Come on in," he called.
"Hey, Tim. You busy? Jeez, this place looks like a warzone." Lucas
stepped carefully to find a clear path through the clothes, books, and
other odds and ends scattered all across the floor.
"Sorry. I'm trying to pack, but it's hard to figure out what I should
bring when I don't know how long I'm going to be gone--a week, a month..."
Tim looked into his friend's questioning eyes, then nodded. "Maybe. I
don't know, Lucas." He turned his attention back to one of his bags on
his bunk and began carefully folding away his shirts. "I just know I need
to get out of here for a while, try to figure out what's happening to me
before I end up packed off permanently to the nuthouse."
"Anyone would be feeling messed up after what you've gone through in the
last two days."
"You have no idea."
"So enlighten me." Lucas sat down on the bed, and Tim found it hard to
evade the young ensign's imploring gaze this time. "Tim, come on. I
thought we were good friends."
"We are good friends!"
"Then don't shut me out, okay? Talk to me; let me know if I can help.
Don't I deserve at least that much, before you walk out of here, maybe
"Yeah. Yeah, you do, I'm sorry."
"S'okay. C'mon, let's get you out of here for a while, go for a walk
The walk led them to a favorite, quiet place, somewhere they'd had more
than a few heart-to-hearts before. They sat on the edge of the moon pool,
watching Darwin swim in lazy circles and occasionally prompt them to
play. Not many people just played with him these days; not like before,
so Darwin seemed doubly excited to have two of his friends visiting.
Lucas picked up the large ball and tossed it out, and the dolphin darted
away to retrieve it. "So just how long have you and the captain been, you
know...If you don't mind me asking."
"Not that long. Maybe a month or so."
"Huh. You know that's just plain...weird. Henderson and Ford were hard
enough to get used to. I thought you thought that Hudson hated you."
"Obviously I was mistaken. And 'weird'? I'd have figured 'perverse' is
more what you'd call it. Or even call me."
"What? Why? Because you were getting it on with a guy?" O'Neill flushed.
"Oh, come on, Tim!"
"So the Catholic Church hasn't caught up with the rest of the world in
accepting homosexuality yet."
"True. The military hasn't either. Are the two of you gonna get in
trouble because of this?"
"I don't think anyone is going to dare report any of this, so I doubt
it. Besides, a dishonorable discharge is about the least of my worries
Darwin came swimming back, splashing both men with an impatient whip of
his tail. "Tim worry too much. Play with Darwin. Play better than worry."
"Okay, okay." Tim took the ball and tossed it back out to the dolphin,
then sat watching the carefree animal dart about as he tried to compose
his jumbled thoughts. "But I can't help but worry. Worry about my sanity,
worry about my career, worry about whether I should stay here or go with
"For real?" Lucas' eyes widened. "You're really considering it?"
"Do I even have a choice? That's what I wonder. Who am I to refuse a God
if he wants me--or this person who I apparently used to be."
"But you hardly know him."
"Oh, I know him, all right. I think I know him better than anyone." He
watched the ripples in the pool, lulled by their almost hypnotic beauty.
When he looked up, he was startled to find the world around him had
shifted again, as it had the night before his dreams. The pool before him
was now a sparkling lake, where he sat on the shoreline with Ares. The
god was stretched out lazily on the grass, allowing himself a rare moment
of pure relaxation. Joxer found his troubled mind would not grant him a
"What's bothering you, Joxer. Your thoughts are buzzing all over the
place and it's giving me a headache just trying to ignore them." Ares'
tone spoke of mild annoyance but more of concern.
"They're mad at me for wanting to stay with you."
"Xena and Gabrielle?"
"Who else? I ran into them in town this morning, while you were off
checking in with your generals. They said you had to be using me for some
reason, maybe even to get to them. They said I was only going to end up
getting hurt if I didn't leave you."
Ares sat up, and began running one strong hand down along Joxer's spine.
Joxer shivered at the touch that was enough to rekindle his desire,
minutes after Ares had just finished taking him--already for the third
time that day. Sometimes he wondered how he managed to have the stamina
to keep up with his immortal lover.
"And what did you tell them?"
"That they were wrong, of course! I know you'd never hurt me--well, ok,
there was that one time with the whips and the hot wax, but I know you
just got carried away and all and--"
"Joxer," Ares stopped him, turning the young warrior's head towards his
own. The expression on the God's beautiful face was very serious, and
Joxer knew that meant he should be quiet until Ares was finished. "You're
right. I would never hurt you. But you do realize that if you stay with
me, there will always be some danger. You're under my protection, yes.
Still, there are those who might see you as a way to get to me."
The idea gave Joxer pause--but only for a moment. He was not about to
give up the best thing to ever come into his life simply because there
might be a little risk involved. "I'll take my chances," he said, leaning
in to kiss away the worried frown on Ares' lips.
"Tim? Tim, are you ok?"
"Yeah, I was just...thinking."
"You seemed like you were a million miles away for a minute."
"A million miles and a couple thousand years," he sighed.
Invisible to all mortal eyes, Ares watched from a distance as Tim boarded
the transport, casting one last weak smile back at his friends who had
come along to see him off. The young ensign, Lucas, had hugged him
affectionately; Captain Hudson had stiffly acknowledged the lieutenant's
crisp salute. Ares didn't doubt that more intimate farewells had been
The War God had kept his word to Autolycus--as loathsome an idea as it
was to admit the irksome thief had been right--and had not made his
presence known to O'Neill since the previous night. He had no regrets
over their far too brief encounter, not when he'd never before had the
chance to say good-bye to Joxer the way he should have. Perhaps that one
night was all the Fates ever intended to let them to have again. He knew
well enough just how ambiguous and usually deceptive the promises of the
Gods usually were. In his prime, he'd been known to be quite the master
of deception himself.
Still, he felt as if his own soul was finally beginning to heal. He could
go now and find some degree of peace, simply knowing that something of
Joxer lived on in this man O'Neill. Keeping an eye on him from afar,
helping him where and if he could and seeing that he had a good life, it
would be enough.
Or so he was trying to tell himself.
Autolycus had been right--once again, a most bitter pill to swallow--in
reminding him that he did not truly know this man O'Neill yet, the part
of him that was not Joxer at all. He sensed there was a darkness in
O'Neill's spirit, an enigmatic complexity that his beloved Joxer had
never had. The dolphin Darwin had been trying to tell him this through
sharing what he knew of the reserved lieutenant, having been a mostly
silent but very alert observer of this vessel's crew for several years.
Self-important mortals, Ares laughed to himself. If only they knew
what wise and intelligent souls shared this Earth with them.
Perhaps expecting to find what he'd had with Joxer--even if O'Neill
decided he was willing--would lead only to more pain than happiness.
Could he accept, and come to love, Tim for who he was, and not for who he
had been centuries ago?
A difficult question, to say the least. 'Dite would probably know the
answer. But damned if he was going to make *her* day by visiting his
flighty sister for advice on his love life.
"Are we ready to go?" Hercules asked. Ares had been aware of his
brother's presence behind him for several minutes but had been determined
to ignore him as long as possible.
"I'm ready," Ares answered him.
"Great!" Autolycus ran up and clapped them both on the back. "Then let's
make like a hurricane and blow this joint."
Hercules turned a suspicious eye on his out-of-breath and rather
anxious-looking colleague. "What's your rush?"
"Rush? Me? No rush. No rush at all." Autolycus slid his hands in his
pockets and did a miserable job of trying to appear disinterested. "I
just figured, now that O'Neill's heading off, so should we. Right, Ar?"
"Call me that again and the sharks will be eating well tonight."
"Okay, okay, let's get out of here," Hercules interrupted. "I'm sick of
playing chaperone to both of you."
"He started it..."
"Go take a flying fu--"
"Oh, knock it off!! If I have to listen to this all the way home..."
Official and unofficial business completed at the UEO colony, the
seaQuest was now preparing to depart for her next destination.
"Any further signs of our...special visitors?"
Lucas checked his console and waited for the sensor scan to be completed.
"Negative, sir." He shook his head. "I could never get the sensors to
read their locations better than within ten meters, but as of right now
there's no indication that any of them are on board."
"Very good." One headache was behind them, at least. "Then we can proceed
as ordered to--"
"Wait a minute," Lucas interrupted.
"Something the matter, Ensign?" Hudson asked, knowing he probably didn't
want to hear the answer when he saw the distressed look on the young
"Yeah, something's the matter." Lucas' fingers were flying across his
keyboard. "Something's seriously the matter. My files! Someone's hacked
into my console and copied half my programs! The rest are just gone!
Encryption and decryption codes, cracks, hacks, passwords...years' worth
of data, half of it classified by the UEO! I can't believe it!"
One headache down, one all new one ready to go. "Can you track down who's
responsible?" Hudson asked.
"I'm trying, but every time I try to check the access logs, I just get
the same message." Lucas glared in frustration at his console screen,
unable to believe what he was seeing: a single line, scrolling down over
and over again:
>HAIL TO THE KING, BABY.
Part 5: A Dialogue Between Self and Soul by Rose
Connacht Province was an area of Ireland most known for its rocky granite cliffs, harsh terrain and wind-swept beaches. In ancient times, this had been the seat of the wild Queen Maeve, whose deeds and adventures were immortalized in the Táin Bó Cuailgne. To Tim O'Neill, Connacht was sanctuary; for on the coast of County Sligo, in the northernmost corner of the province, was the birthplace of his mother and home to many of his relatives.
It was over twelve years since he'd been here last, and that for his cousin Máire's wedding. He'd always meant to come back, but there never seemed to be time. Later, he would say to himself. I'll make time later. He'd never expected to have ten years of his life taken away in the blink of an eye.
But he was here now. The open, rolling countryside was a blessing after so long in the confines of seaQuest's narrow corridors. He stood on the pier and breathed in the fresh sea air with a sigh of relief.
He turned and saw a small, white-haired woman in her late seventies standing to his right and a little behind him. It was a moment before he recognized her. "Aunt Dubheasa?"
She placed a hand over her mouth. "We had your message, but it's still--my god, Tim, you haven't aged a day!"
He stooped and gave her a gentle hug. She was fragile in his arms, and he felt another twinge at this further reminder of the passage of time. "It's good to see you, Aunt Dubheasa."
"Likewise, my boy. Likewise." Dubheasa straightened abruptly and once again became the fierce old harridan Tim remembered from his last visit to Connacht. "You're too pale, lad; your mother would have a fit if she could see you. It's fresh air and sunshine you're needing, and a few decent meals to put some meat on your bones."
Tim smiled. "That's why I'm here."
"And a good thing, too," she said, scowling.
Tim gathered up his bags and followed Dubheasa down from the pier and into the narrow streets beyond. The town had changed very little over the years, which was just the way the locals wanted it. Dubheasa caught him up on all of the family gossip as they walked; Máire, Dubheasa's youngest daughter, had given birth to two children since he'd last seen her, and was expecting a third. She and her husband, Padraig, had named the oldest boy Tadhg, which was Gaelic for 'Tim', in his honor.
"Eight years old now, and a proper hellion from the cradle," Dubheasa said. "He's thrilled you're coming; not many lads his age can claim to be named for a relative who's come back from the grave."
Tim winced. "I'm not a ghost, Aunt Dubheasa."
"That remains to be seen," she said calmly.
Tim took a nap when they finally reached Dubheasa's house, jet-lag and the events of the past few days catching up with him with a vengeance. When he awoke again, it was mid-afternoon. He took a long shower, luxuriating in the freedom to spend as long as he liked under the scalding spray. Back in his room, he exiled his rumpled UEO uniform to a dark corner and put on a pair of jeans and his favorite t-shirt.
Máire was waiting for him downstairs, along with Padraig and the children, and the next hour was spent in hugs and tears and the wide-eyed stares of Tadhg and his sister, Fiona, who were not quite sure what to make of this tall, pale stranger whom they'd grown up believing was dead.
He wound up on the sofa next to Máire, with the six-year-old Fiona sitting in his lap; she'd finally decided that, changeling or not, he was much preferable to playing with her brother. "When's the baby due?" he asked Maire.
"Two months," she said. "If it's a boy, we'll call him Brendan, after Paddy's father. If it's a girl, she'll be Dubheasa."
"She will not," said Dubheasa. "There are enough doubles in this family as it is."
Máire gave Tim a long-suffering look; this was apparently an old argument. "Would you like to have dinner with Paddy and me tonight, Tim? You haven't seen the new house yet."
"Plenty of time for that later," said Dubheasa before Tim could even open his mouth. "Tim has other business to attend to."
"I do?" said Tim.
"Yes," said Dubheasa. "You're going up to Knock-na-rea tonight, if I have to drag you there kicking and screaming myself."
Tim's mouth fell open. Dubheasa just smiled.
"Knock-na-rea," snorted Padraig. "You've been reading too much Yeats."
"That's where the faeries live," said Fiona.
"There's no such thing as faeries," said Tadhg and thumped his sister smartly atop the head.
Tim put a protective arm around the girl. "Dubheasa, how did you know I wanted to go there?"
"It's in your eyes," she said.
Máire was staring at him. "You don't mean to stay the night up there, do you?"
Tim nodded. "It's one of the reasons I came to Sligo."
"Are you daft?"
Tim shrugged. "Probably."
"Runs in the family," muttered Padraig.
"There's naught but ghosts on Knock-na-rea," said Máire, ignoring her husband.
"I know," said Tim. "That's why I'm going."
"I don't believe I'm doing this." Tim shivered and pulled his jacket more firmly about his shoulders. "I should just turn around, find the nearest hospital and commit myself."
From his perch atop the hill, he could see the lights of the town glowing in the distance. It was late, just shy of midnight, local time. Máire would be checking on the children before going off to bed herself. Padraig would be ordering that last pint at the pub, probably telling his mates about his wife's mad cousin spending the night atop Knock-na-rea. Little Fiona was convinced he was a changeling, seeing how he'd disappeared without a trace and then showed up ten years later without having aged a day. He found it kind of funny, like he'd suddenly become one of the legendary heroes his mother used to tell him about when he was her age. His mother would have understood, being a little fey herself; his father would have just rolled his eyes, said, They warned me this would come of marrying an O'Shea, and instructed him to go talk to the parish priest.
He'd considered that, actually, and dismissed the notion quickly. A priest would think him mad at best and a heretic at worst. Tim wasn't really sure where he stood on the matter himself. He'd been raised a good Catholic, and good Catholics didn't believe in pagan gods.
Good Catholics didn't have sex with said gods, either. He had. It had been great sex, too. Actually, it had been amazing. Tim wondered how many Hail Marys that would earn him at confession. The thought made him giggle. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I have taken it up the ass from the Greek god, Ares, and I liked it.
"Yup. Stark raving bugnuts," he said to the hills around him.
He heard footsteps approaching up the hill, turned and was suddenly clobbered by a large, furry shape that appeared out of nowhere in the dark. He landed on his back with a thump while the hairy thing commenced slobbering all over his face, and Tim realized he was getting licked to death by a dog. A big dog, grey and shaggy and quite enthusiastic with its attentions.
"Hey, Yeff, what you got there, boy?"
Someone hauled the dog away, and Tim found himself staring up at the face of a young man. "I think I ruptured my spleen," said Tim.
The man grinned sheepishly and offered him a hand. "Sorry. He got away from me."
Tim took the proffered hand and let the stranger pull him back into a sitting position. "What is he, anyway? Part horse?"
The man sat down beside Tim, the dog lying obediently at his feet. "Yeff's an Irish Wolfhound. I take him out to the hills to run at night. There's usually no-one up here. Haunted, so they say."
"So they do." He held out his hand. "I'm Tim."
"Fáilte, Tim. I'm Arawn."
The man had a strong grip. "Fáilte, Arawn."
It was hard to see in the darkness, but Tim guessed Arawn to be about his own age--his physiological age, not his chronological one, and did that ever mess with his head at times like these. He looked like any of the young men who worked about the docks and fisheries; beat-up jeans, black sweater faded to grey with age, battered work-boots. Fair skin and pale hair, probably blonde though it looked almost silver in the moonlight. Dark eyes; again, Tim couldn't make out the true color because of the night.
"What brings you up to Knock-na-rea at midnight?" said Arawn. "If it's a vision of your future sweetheart you're after, you'd be better off someplace else. This is no place for idle daydreams."
Tim smiled. "I know."
"So, why are you here?"
"It's a long story."
"Ah." Arawn reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled pack of herbal cigarettes. He offered one to Tim; the label said comfrey and coltsfoot. Tim declined. Arawn shrugged and lit up. "All Irishmen love a good long tale," he said, blowing smoke rings into the damp night air. "I've a mind to listen if you've a mind to share."
Tim shook his head. "You'd never believe me."
"You might be surprised."
Tim thought about it. "Ok," he said at last, "but don't say I didn't warn you."
"Would never cross my mind."
He took a deep breath. "I met someone recently. Someone special." Tim couldn't quite bring himself to name Ares, not to mention the fact he wasn't too sure about bringing up homosexuality to a stranger who was probably Catholic as well. "This person says that I'm the reincarnation of a former lover, someone who died a long time ago. Ever since then, I've been having these dreams. And feelings, memories of things that I know never happened to me but feel like they did. And sometimes I find myself zoning out, like sleepwalking, only I'm awake but it's not really me walking around and talking. Except that it is me, this other me. The one that died years ago."
"Your riocht," said Arawn.
Tim looked up, startled. "My what?"
"This other self, it's your riocht, your double." Arawn smiled at Tim's confusion. "It's an old Celtic tradition, the idea that the soul has a double which only appears after death or in times of great emotional stress. When a man receives a great shock, sometimes it causes a piece of his soul to shake loose and become a riocht. In this case, your riocht is who you used to be in another life. Rare, I'll grant you, but not unheard of."
"What are you, some kind of druid?"
Arawn seemed to find the notion highly amusing. "Hardly," he said, laughing. "Just well steeped in the folklore of these isles."
"Ok, presuming you're right--and at this point, I'm prepared to believe anything--what do I do about it?"
"You have to call your riocht back to you, reintegrate it into your soul."
"I sort of figured that out myself. How?"
"Well, that depends on your riocht. Talk to him. Ask him what he wants."
"I already know what he wants. He wants to get back together with his lover."
"His lover being the person you're so careful not to name. Who is it, another man?"
Tim stared. "Do I have 'gay as a tree full of monkeys' written across my forehead?"
Arawn chuckled. "I miss very little," he said.
"Yeah, so I noticed. Ok, I talk to my riocht and ask him to go back where he belongs, as just another part of me. What if he says no?"
"He doesn't have a choice." Arawn looked serious. "He fulfilled his fate a long time ago. This is your life now; you earned it. If he tries to take over your body, he's upsetting the balance and risks bringing down the wrath of the Gods on you both."
"Great. It was pissing off the Gods that got me into this mess in the first place."
"That wasn't your fault, or Joxer's."
"I know. I--." Tim stopped. "How did you know his name?"
Arawn smiled. "I know a lot of things, Tadhg Uí Neill."
Tim stared. "Who are you?"
"I told you. Arawn."
"Arawn." Tim wracked his brain. The name was familiar. There was a story in the Mabinogion about two kings; he could still hear his mother's voice, reading it to him on a stormy night when he'd been sick with a cold. One had been Pwyll of Dyfed. The other was Arawn, king of-
Oh, hell. Arawn was king of Annwn, the Celtic underworld. He was sitting on top of a faerie mound in Ireland at midnight, talking to the Celtic God of the Dead. Well, it was certainly no stranger than anything else he'd experienced so far.
"Aren't your hounds supposed to be white with red ears?" he said.
Arawn grinned and patted Yeff's shaggy head. "Artistic license," he said. "Tim, I want to help you. I was more than a little irritated when the Olympians decided to muck with one of my own all those years ago."
"I don't get that. How could Joxer be one of yours if he was born and died in Greece?"
"His grandmother was a Celt. Damned stubborn woman, too; I liked her. She had the Sight and foresaw what was to come between Joxer and Ares. She tried to protect him by having him sained--dedicated to the Celtic Gods--as a child. That is the only reason Joxer's soul did not go straight into Tartarus to languish as the Olympians saw fit as punishment for Ares' crimes against them." Arawn bared his teeth in a snarl. "They actually dared come to Annuvin and demand his return."
"Shocking," Tim said sarcastically. Arawn raised an eyebrow. "Sorry. Please, finish your story."
"No-one disturbs my kingdom. I was ready for war; Babd and Macha, also. And Brigid. Gwydion calmed us; war between Gods--any Gods--is always hard on mortals no matter how much fun it is to us."
Fun. Tim shivered; he'd forgotten how bloodthirsty the Celtic Gods were. "So, what happened?"
"We reached an agreement: I keep Joxer's soul from returning for a certain number of centuries, and they stop meddling in my affairs from henceforth. The time elapsed and here you are."
Tim put his head in his hands. "I don't know what's worse; the fact that I'm either completely insane, or that my life is one big cosmic circle-jerk."
"I'm sorry if this upsets your Christian sensibilities, Tim, but facts are facts."
"Do I have any say in this at all?"
Arawn looked shocked. "Of course you do. I may have seen you through the Gate, but you choose the path your soul travels in this life. You and Ares have a bond; that was fated long ago and cannot be changed. But to keep it now or sever it is your decision alone."
Tim looked at him sharply. "I don't have to be with Ares?"
"Not unless you want to." Arawn stood, his hound rising with him. "Make peace with Joxer, Tim, and live your life as you see fit. That is my gift to you, for the pain that you have suffered at the hands of others."
Tim nodded. "Thank you," he said.
Arawn smiled. "It was my pleasure," he said. Tucking his hands into the pockets of his jeans, he headed off down the hill, Yeff trotting placidly at his side. Tim half expected them to disappear in one of those bright flashes Ares employed, but Arawn just seemed to fade, growing hazy and insubstantial with each passing step until he and Yeff vanished entirely upon reaching the bottom of the hill.
Tim leaned back into the grass, staring up at the stars overhead. It was peaceful here, and quiet. He closed his eyes and let his mind drift. After a while, he became aware of a presence at his side. "I was wondering when you'd show up," he said.
"I'm never very far away," said his other, his riocht.
"Yeah, I noticed." Tim opened his eyes and raised himself up on one elbow. He didn't know why he accepted this all so calmly. Perhaps it was Arawn's doing, or some special property of Knock-na-rea. Either way he felt no fear or even anxiety. If anything, he felt a little sad.
Joxer did not look at him. "You're going to make me leave," he said.
Tim sighed. "I can't make you leave; you're a part of me, an important part. But this is my life now. I want it back."
"It's not fair." He looked at Tim then, and his eyes were bright with unshed tears. "I was only a little older than you when I died. There was so much I never had the chance to do. All I wanted was a little more time."
"We all want more time, Joxer. And you did a pretty good job of living life to the hilt while you had the chance, which is more than I can say for myself. Do you have any idea how much I envy your carefree nature?"
"Yeah, well I wish I had your brains. You know so many different languages and I can barely read and write in my own."
Tim smiled. "I always did have trouble with Greek."
Joxer looked sheepish. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it."
They fell silent for a while, just watching the stars. Finally, Joxer spoke up. "What do we do now?" he said.
"I don't know," said Tim, "but I have a feeling that together we'll be more than we are apart."
Joxer grinned. "Your brains and my spirit?"
The grin was infectious and Tim found himself smiling broadly in return. "Something like that," he said.
Tim reached out and gathered Joxer against him in a firm hug. Joxer hesitated a moment, then hugged him back, his thin arms wrapping tightly about Tim's waist. They lay back in the soft grass, still holding fast to each other. Tim could feel the rightness of it, the acceptance of a part of himself too long denied.
Joxer trembled. "Tim, I'm scared."
Tim pulled him closer. "I know. It's going to be ok."
"That's all right, then."
Tim closed his eyes. When he opened them again it was morning. He lay on his side, arms folded tightly across his chest as though he was hugging himself. There was no sign of Joxer.
Tim flexed and stretched, trying to work out the kinks that had formed in his back from sleeping on the ground. It occurred to him that he may well have dreamed the events of the previous night, but somehow it didn't matter. How could it, when the sky was such a lovely bright blue and the sun so warm on his face? He folded his arms behind his head, crossed his feet at the ankles and watched the clouds drift by.
Life was good.
Author's Note: Knock-na-rea is a real place in County Sligo, Ireland.
According to legend, it is the home of the western branch of the Daoine
Sidhe, and the burial ground of Queen Maeve of Connacht.
Arawn Annuvin is actually a figure from Welsh myth, not Irish. Dubheasa
and her family are my own invention.
Written under the influence of Adiemus ("Songs of Sanctuary"),
Lorenza Ponce ("Imago") and the Cocteau Twins ("Love's Easy Tears").
Part 6: The Moment of Clarity by sidewinder
And the moment of clarity
Faded like charity does
I opened one eye
And I put out my hand just to feel your soft hair
To make sure in the darkness that you were still there
And I had to admit
I was just a little afraid, oh yeah.
I had a little bit of luck
You were awake
I couldn't take another moment alone.
(Roger Waters, "5:11 AM")
Lucas' eyes had grown weary from too many hours chasing down flickering
data trails on the computer 'nets. Regardless, his blurry vision, aching
back, and grumbling stomach trying to remind him of a long-overdue dinner
weren't going to stop him. His electronic quest for whoever had violated
his sacred computer database had practically possessed his every waking
moment for the past few days.
"You're out there somewhere, you bastard. And I'll find you," he vowed,
for not the first time. No one out-hacked Lucas Wolenczak and got away
with it. No one.
He'd lost track of how many hours he'd been sitting there, consumed with
his single-minded pursuit, when a gentle ping announced someone on one
of the net channels was requesting to talk. He almost dismissed the
request without thinking, until he suddenly recognized the individual's
username and quickly accepted the transmission. Fumbling to turn on his
microphone, he called excitedly, "Tim?!"
"Hey, Lucas, glad I caught you."
"Hey! What are you doing on-line? I thought you swore off the Interex
"Yeah, well, I was hoping I might find you or someone else out there
"How are you doing? I've been worried about you."
"I'm doing fine, Lucas. Actually, I'm doing great. I think everything is
straightened out now."
"Really? So what happened?"
"Oh, nothing out of the ordinary. Had a chat with the King of the Celtic
Underworld, then another little talk with my former self. I managed to
convince Joxer to get back inside me where he belonged. And that was all
on my first night here."
"I don't know what's scaring me more: what you just told me, or the fact
that I believe you."
"Ha ha. Don't worry, one of these days I'll tell you all the details."
"I'm gonna hold you to that."
"So what's up on your end?"
"Man, you don't want to know. Someone trashed my system and I've been
spending every minute off-duty trying to recover what I can, and find the
son of a bitch responsible. And on top of all that, I probably don't have
to tell you that Captain Hudson has been royal pain in the ass since you
"I can imagine."
"Have you talked to him yet?"
"No. I'm...still trying to decide what I'm going to do."
"Have you seen Ares?"
"No. And, actually, I think I'd kind of like to."
"Well, well, well..."
"To talk! I just want to talk to him. After everything
that...happened...on seaQuest when he was there, I don't understand why
all of a sudden he just disappeared. Was he only interested in me when he
thought he could bring Joxer back?"
"Just how much 'happened' when he was here that you haven't told me
"Nothing for your innocent young ears to hear about--at least, not over
an unsecured communication line like this."
Lucas laughed. "Some other time, then, along with the rest of the story.
Listen, if you want to talk to him, maybe he's just waiting to hear it
directly from you."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, he's a god, right?"
"Well, don't you pray to a god when you want something, when you want to
talk to one?"
"Yeah. I guess so. You know, I have sort of had this weird feeling that
maybe he's watching me. That someone's been following me around, but I
figured I was just imagining it. "
"Would it be the weirdest thing to happen to you lately if it was him?"
He heard Tim laugh, and the sound made Lucas smile. It had been too long
since his friend had sounded so happy. "No, it most certainly wouldn't.
Hey, I gotta go, I'm getting called down for breakfast. I think I'm gonna
put on at least twenty pounds before my aunt lets me leave."
"Ok, I'll let you go. Promise you'll let me know what happens, all right?"
"Absolutely. Take it easy."
"You too." After cutting off the communication, Lucas sat back and
stretched his weary muscles. Hearing from Tim had thrown off his train of
thought regarding his quarry, and he supposed that was a good thing. If
he didn't give it a rest and get some sleep now, he'd be falling asleep
on duty tomorrow--and he didn't particularly care for the idea of bearing
the brunt of the captain's worse-than-usual ire if that happened.
Turning off the lights and climbing wearily onto his bunk, he found
himself thinking, I certainly can't blame the captain for being in a
bitchy mood, though. His lover's off in Ireland and he probably figures
he doesn't stand a chance against a god in winning Tim back. Not that
he's so bad himself, really. I wonder...nah...but then again...
Before he gave in to his body's need for sleep, a final thought passed
through the young ensign's mind. Somewhere I heard a rumor that Hudson
has a thing for Hershey's chocolate kisses. Maybe I'll have to look into
The beach was deserted, with the sun nearing the midday peak. The
fishermen who crowded this shore casting their nets before dawn had long
since departed, and with school in session it would be several hours
before any children came down to play or try their own luck fishing.
Tim's morning walk had led him to this rocky shore, as it had most every
morning for the past few days. He'd done a lot of exploring and wandering
during his days here in the country, and for some indefinable reason he
found this place particularly pleased him. Perhaps it reminded the part
of his mind that still held Joxer's memories of somewhere he had been
long ago. And he wasn't sure why, but it felt like as good a place as any
to try to reach Ares.
Should he try a prayer, as Lucas had suggested earlier? Despite
everything, it still seemed an odd idea to pray to anyone other than
the God he'd been raised believing in--even if he now knew that
particular God apparently had a lot of company in watching over the
affairs of mortal lives.
So not a prayer, then. Simply a summons, short and sweet. Glancing
skywards and feeling only slightly silly, he spoke. "Ares, are you here?
Can you hear me? I'd like to see you, to talk to you, if you are."
Scant seconds passed before a bright flash of white light erupted only a
few feet before him. From within the storm, a familiar figure emerged. "I
was wondering when you were finally going to call on me," the god said, a
wry smile only slightly softening his imposing appearance.
"You have been following me around," Tim remarked, finding the ease and
speed at which he'd summoned the god rather unnerving. Either it was
that, or simply having Ares this close was making him edgy. The War God
was a sight to take one's breath away; all black leather and muscles,
practically oozing a dangerously potent sensuality. For not the first
time, a self-conscious voice inside Tim's head wondered what someone like
that could ever see in someone like himself.
"So sue me for having an interest in what happened to you after you left
seaQuest," Ares said, his tone softening slightly as he added,
"Especially considering it was my fault."
"Well, it's over now, I think."
The god nodded. "I'd gathered as much, though I wasn't able to follow you
to Knock-na-rea to see what happened. Arawn forbid me to. He believed I
would interfere." Ares stepped closer, resting a hand firmly on Tim's
shoulder, his dark eyes locked on the lieutenant's. "Understand this much
about my intentions, Timothy. I never meant to hurt you. But I went
about this the wrong way. In my haste, I nearly sentenced you to madness
and myself to an eternity filled with more guilt than I already carry for
"I do understand," Tim assured him, hearing the sincere regret in Ares'
voice, the flicker of pain that revealed itself for a moment at the
mention of Joxer's name. Tim's initial intimidation was fading, and he
found the words he'd been meaning to say coming back to him now. "That's
why I needed to see you.
"You and Joxer had the kind of love most of us will only ever dream about
finding. You know, before all of this happened, I was at a point in my
life where I'd even stopped dreaming about it anymore. But being able to
feel what Joxer felt for you--to share, if just for a while, what you had
together--that's a gift I'll never forget." He felt a flush rising to his
cheeks, remembering that incredible encounter with Ares while he was in
the Medical bay that first night. "It's like I'm looking at everything
from a completely different point of view now. A better one, and I know
that's because I've accepted Joxer's spirit, the way he enjoyed life,
into my own."
"What about his memories?"
Tim closed his eyes, trying to find the words to describe what it was
like. "They're still there, vaguely. In my dreams, sometimes, but I can
never remember them very clearly in the morning. Well, some of them, I do
He opened his eyes again to look to the God, wondering if he really knew
what he was getting himself into. "I've had a lot of dreams about you."
He reached up, curious if the god's ebony hair felt as luxurious as it
had in his dreams. The world seemed utterly still and silent around him,
and he found he was holding his breath, his hand trembling slightly until
he made contact. His fingers brushed the soft curls and he left out a
shuddering sigh, the sensation and the weight of Ares' piercing eyes
staring into his own making him dizzy.
Ares, perhaps sensing his impending loss of balance, increased his grasp
on Tim's shoulder, his other hand reaching for his waist. The strong
hands on his body felt somehow...so natural, so right. The strange way
Ares' touch felt completely familiar and made his heart ache didn't
distress him now, for he knew the danger of losing himself was past.
Ares' normally commanding voice was barely more than a whisper. "For
millennia, dreams have been all I've lived for. They were the only place
where I could still be with him."
Tim nodded, but before he left himself give in completely to what was
quickly becoming inevitable, he insisted, "I'm Timothy O'Neill. I'm not
Joxer, and I'll never be exactly like him. Am I really the one you want
right now? I have to know that much."
"You are a different person, I do realize that--though several people had
to rather bluntly remind me of that fact. But you both share the same
soul, even if it has found a different song to sing in this life. I can
only imagine that I will find yours as compelling as I did his."
Tim grinned. "You know, you're pretty romantic, for the god of war."
"Yeah, well, just don't spread it around."
Tim offered no protest when Ares pulled him closer for a kiss, one that
started softly enough but soon threatened to utterly melt down Tim's
overwhelmed senses. If not for the strong arms holding him firmly in
place, he was certain his knees would give out and he would collapse to
the ground in a boneless (but quite happy) heap of quivering limbs. His
fingers trailed through the silky hair, then clasped tightly onto the
god's neck for support. Nothing else mattered to him then, except his
desire that this moment would never end. The touch of those full, warm
lips first against his own, then treating his cheeks and his neck to a
generous sprinkling of light kisses left his skin tingling, a warmth that
spread down from his face through the rest of his body. He arched back
into Ares' arms, sighing breathlessly, "Oh god, mon dieu..."
"Yes, your god. Pour l'eternite, Timothy."
Ares pulled him roughly to the ground and sought out his mouth once more,
kissing him again and with fiercer intent than before. Tim idly realized
that a soft blanket that had not been there a moment ago cushioned the
rocky ground beneath him, and he supposed there were indeed more than a
few advantages to having a god for a lover. But he wondered, when Ares
finally gave him a moment to catch his breath and when his head had
stopped spinning, "Out here in broad daylight? What if someone--"
"We're shielded. I took care of that before. Now quiet." A finger pressed
against his lips when he tried to speak again. The dark eyes sparkled
with mischievous intent as Ares growled, "There's a time for talking, and
a time for...other things."
When the finger on Tim's lips was replaced by Ares' mouth, any words he'd
had posed on the tip of his tongue were quickly forgotten. Trapped
beneath Ares' large body, he felt helpless and lost on an ever building
sensation of pure bliss, and love. The sensation increased exponentially
when their clothing suddenly vanished and his hands grasped at Ares'
naked flesh. He trembled, partly from the sensation of the bare skin
pressing against his aching groin and partly from the chill of the strong
sea breeze blowing against him.
"You're cold," the War God observed, whispering against his ear.
"A little," Tim admitted. Ares was still for a moment, and Tim found the
chill was gone. "Thanks."
"I forget how sensitive you damn mortals are to the elements," Ares
dismissed as he returned to torturing Tim by nibbling on one sensitive
earlobe. Soon even the god could stand it no more. "Oh Hell and Tartarus,
I need you. I can't wait any longer."
"Then don't...please..." Tim begged, wanting nothing but to feel Ares
inside him once again, to experience that incredible joining of their
bodies that had taken him to a plane of ecstasy he hadn't known was
possible. Ares kissed him hard once more, then wasted no time positioning
himself between Tim's spread legs. Tim shuddered in expectation as he
felt a warm wetness filling him in preparation, then clutched desperately
at the ground seconds later as the union began.
Ares held him tight as everything around them simply seemed to fade away.
Tim rode upon the cresting waves of pleasure that Ares caused inside him
with every thrust, every movement of the god's body against his own. He
cried out in delight in every language he knew, and even a few new ones
he invented when nothing else seemed capable of describing what he was
feeling. The sensations soon overwhelmed him completely, and he found
himself nearly blacking out as his nerves went into an overloaded spasm
of delight. Ares' triumphant cry of completion followed moments later.
Slowly, dimly, Tim started falling back down to Earth, realizing all of a
sudden that he could barely breathe. The god's collapsed body was too
much weight on his light frame and he gasped, "Need...air...help!"
"Hmm...? Oh, sorry." Ares slid gently off Tim, pulling the slender man on
top of him instead. Running a hand lightly along Tim's back, he asked,
"Mmm..." was about all Tim could manage, resting his head on Ares' broad
chest, trembling still from incredible, orgasmic aftershocks. He fought
against the urge to just curl up against this wonderful warm body and
fall contentedly asleep for a good week or two. There was so much he
wanted to say, so much to try to understand...
"Rest, my love," Ares said softly. "There will be time for all that
Yes, Tim agreed silently, his eyes closing, Ares' soft touch guiding him
off gently to peaceful sleep. For now, finally, it seemed as if time
would be on their side.
It is strange, Ares noted pensively. I think I've missed these moments
more than anything else.
Tim was still sleeping lightly against him, one arm snaked tightly across
the god's waist as if to make sure Ares wouldn't go anywhere while he
dosed. Which was something the god had absolutely no intentions of doing.
True, they should probably be moving from this particular spot in a
while. The hours were passing, and he knew Tim's family would start to
wonder where he'd disappeared to shortly. Besides, he knew of much more
comfortable places than this rocky beach where they could continue in
Tim stirred slightly against him, muttering something in some odd
language or another under his breath. Even in his sleep, this one can't
keep his mouth shut. Ah well. At least he's not so damn clumsy. I wonder
if a pair of glasses was all that kept Joxer from becoming a good
warrior. He knew it didn't matter anymore and dismissed the thought,
drawing Tim more snugly against him. The warmth of his body, the press of
his smooth skin against his own, was enough to reawaken desires that had
barely been satisfied earlier. He hoped Tim would wake up soon; he could
force the issue but felt guilty of interrupting the man's rest. No doubt
he needs it after all he's been through. It's easy to forget how much
frailer these mortals are and how quickly they tire.
They also, someday, die. He wasn't sure he could take losing this one
particular mortal soul again. I'll have to see about getting on
Hesperides' good side again, I suppose. Either that, or perhaps I'll find
a use for that irritating thief Autolycus yet.
Ares' increasing restlessness--and arousal--finally seemed to stir Tim
out of his sleep. Stretching cat-like against his lover, the young man
let out a soft yawn, then lifted his head, looking a little disoriented.
"Mmm...how long have I been out of it? Feels like I just slept for ages."
"A few hours. We should go soon."
Tim nodded in agreement, though after a moment he grinned slyly and
asked, "Just how soon?"
Ares recognized that look in his lover's eyes and laughed. One lifetime
to the next, some things apparently didn't change at all.
And there was nothing that could make him happier.