War of the Roses

Chapter One





Rose sulked.

 

It was difficult not to, given the circumstances and she lifted her chin with a defiant little thrust, hiding her eyes behind sunglasses.

 

Jack ignored her. He let his glance sweep over the rest of SG1 and gave a wave towards the gate with a mock-weariness.

 

“No place like home, people—“ he drawled easily. His tone was light enough, but when Rose caught his glance he stiffened and his mouth thinned out with disapproval. She dropped back, moving to speak to him, but Jack deliberately turned away and his body language was so cutting she bit her lip to stop the surge of mixed emotions rising through her.

 

Damn him anyway! It was nothing, MEANT nothing, and if Jack O’Neill couldn’t handle what it took to insure good relations with the natives then screw him. Rose squared her shoulders and marched through the gate behind him, her glare boring a hole between his broad shoulder blades.

 

In the locker room Rose stripped out of her gear and moved into the heated hiss of the shower, letting the water pound the tension in her shoulders. She heard Sam humming in the next stall.

 

“Want to talk about it?”

 

“Why bother?”

 

“Because I care? Because I haven’t seen the colonel this intensely aggravated in ages?” came the patient reply. Rose sighed noisily.

 

“Well I for one couldn’t care LESS about Jack O’Neill’s pissy attitude, Sam. It’s HIS problem, not mine.”

 

“Rose that’s not true. OR fair. The rest of us have to work with him you know, and the colonel is pretty unrelenting about sharing the load when it comes to his annoyance,” Sam warned. Rose didn’t reply for a while and concentrated on shampooing her hair. She sensed Sam’s patience, and finally gave a noisy sigh.

 

“He’s blowing it out of proportion, Sam, and I don’t have to justify anything to him about Maddoc, or the ceremony of Alliance. You four were there, you all took part—“

 

“Umm, true, but not quite to the extent YOU did, Rose,” Sam replied, a strong surge of laughter in her voice. Rose closed her eyes and pressed her forehead to the cool tile, not willing to either agree or disagree with that sentiment. It would be so easy to blame the wine, but that was a cheap and untruthful dodge, and she refused to do it. When the time came to type up the report Rose knew she’d take the responsibility for her actions.

 

On PX6-932, DXS Threat Assessor Rose MacGyver did willfully and repeatedly kiss the T’Jan Leader Maddoc in a protracted ceremony of Alliance, insuring the good will of the T’Jan, and the pissy wrath of her team leader, Colonel Jack O’Neill.

 

And the hell of it was that she hadn’t thought Jack would react this way, never imagined he’d get jealous. In all the time they’d worked together Jack O’Neill had been the master of off-world professionalism. He kept to the regs scrupulously and held up his personal ethics to a tee. Nothing came before team safety, sex least of all, and Rose respected that completely; he might tease, but on the job the man was completely dedicated to the mission.

 

“So he’s ticked off that I had to kiss Maddoc?”

 

“Oh that would be a big YES!” Sam snorted, giggling, “I may be a little obtuse at times, but even I couldn’t miss THAT.”

 

“But it’s not as if I ENJOYED it—it was all part of the ceremony!” Rose protested, fighting down the little rebellious memory. Maddoc had certainly put more into his kisses than mere ritual had demanded, and Rose couldn’t deny he was an attractive man. She rinsed off and stepped out. Sam was already there, pulling on her shirt, her hair wrapped in a towel. In silence Rose dressed, pulling on the fatigues and t-shirt in neat economical movements, glancing occasionally at the lockers and wondering if a note would soften Jack’s annoyance. Before she could decide though, Sam motioned to the door.

 

“Gotta get moving or they’ll start pounding again—“

 

***   ***   ***

 

The briefing was terse and mercifully short. O’Neill laid out the facts of the mission, letting Daniel explain the symbolic nature of the Ceremony of Alliance, both of them making distasteful faces the entire time. Hammond seemed mildly amused, and far more concerned with the outcome of the mission than the means.

 

“So we have a coalition with the T’Jan government of PX6-932 as a result of this ceremony?”

 

“Indeed we have,” Teal’c intoned. “Their leader, Maddoc was most enthusiastic in his consent.”

 

“He was also most enthusiastic in his mauling—“ O’Neill muttered in a sotto voice so that only Rose could hear him. She made a moue and tried to ignore him as Daniel continued.

 

“Yes, and tomorrow they want us to participate in the Movolat, sort of a ritual exchange of symbolic gifts to cement the bonds between our world and theirs—What are we giving them?”

 

“A bowling trophy—“ O’Neill suggested. Hammond managed a disapproving frown at this and looked to Daniel, who cocked his head.

 

“I was thinking more along the lines of a solar engine myself—“

 

In the end Daniel’s suggestion won out, and for that he and Sam were given the honor of carrying the thing through the gate and up the seventy-two steps of the Central palace. Both of them were too professional to actually complain, but the back of O’Neill’s neck was getting some pretty hard glares.

 

If the colonel felt them, he gave no sign. Rose and Teal’c brought up the rear of the little group; when everyone reached the top Maddoc and the officials beamed at them, resplendent in their kilts.

 

“An honor and a pleasure to see you again, mighty Tau’rii O’Neill,” Maddoc intoned with a slight bow. O’Neill managed a quick grimace and lifted an eyebrow.

 

“Yeeees it certainly is. We’re here to wrap this up—you know, seal our alliance, and according to your housewarming ritual, we brought you—“ he waved his hand, nearly slapping Carter, “—This.”

 

The major managed a tight smile and turned her attention to Maddoc.

 

“It’s a solar engine that will run off the light of your sun—“ she was off and running, going into loving detail as Rose took a moment to shoot O’Neill a sidelong glance.

 

Still mad. Masking it under an insouciant attitude, but definitely not in a happy go lucky place, that was for damned sure. Rose could see the clench of his jaw line, the slow sweep of his gaze as it took in the ceremonial party and disapproved heartily of Maddoc, who was looking magnificent in his furred vest and black kilt. Rose made it a point not to let her own gaze linger anywhere.

 

“—Wonderful! Our science knights will strive to learn its ways, Tau’rii Carter, and master its power. Thank you for this gift,” Maddoc exclaimed, his sincerity evident. Carter actually blushed, earning a grin from Daniel as she did so.

 

“Careful, they might make you a goddess,” he whispered. O’Neill shifted a bit, not hiding his impatience, but Maddoc merely smiled and turned his attention to Rose.

 

“Tau’rii MacGyver, we have chosen to honor those you represent with this, a string of our most precious minerals—“ he took a long strand from a velvet pillow and held it out to Rose. She bit her lip.

 

The necklace gleamed with polished silky stones of rich color: sea green, cobalt, amber, carmine, onyx, and amethyst. Maddoc’s gaze slid along her neck around the open collar of her BDU jacket.

 

“Jazan, Merilan, Toti, Villiaz, Maruth and Glos--these are but a token of the minerals we will share with our brethren the Tau’rii,” he announced as the officials behind him nodded and smiled. Rose hesitated, but Maddoc was quicker and stepped forward, reaching out to fasten the necklace around her slim throat. He managed a lot of touching in the process, and Rose could FEEL Jack’s grumble, just under the range of normal hearing, faint but menacing.

 

“Thank you T’Jan Maddoc,” Rose replied with a straight face, trying to convey a professional demeanor. “On behalf of the Tau’rii I humbly accept this token of goodwill between your world and ours.”

 

***   ***   ***

 

The feast went late into the night. All around them the aromatic scents of roasting beef and malted mead filled the air. Rose enjoyed the VIP treatment, the graciousness of the T’Jan as they feted and freely gave each member of SG1 personalized attention, going so far as to provide traditional robes and kilts for the banquet. Jack had refused, politely; only Daniel took it upon himself to don the offered black kilt. Both Carter and Rose thought he looked adorable in it.

 

“Makes you look lean and Scottishly mean—“ Carter managed with a straight face. Rose nodded in agreement even though Daniel in truth looked far more Harry Potter than William Wallace. O’Neill merely grimaced.

 

“Inquiring minds want to know—“

 

“—Boxers in place—even I have my limits on going native,” came the slightly testy reply. O’Neill arched an eyebrow; Teal’c intoned his head in agreement, neither one mentioning the many hard lessons Daniel had gone through to achieve this level of prudence.

 

And in the courtyard of the central palace, the feast rolled on. Rose found herself wedged between Carter and one of the women leaders of the T’Jan, while O’Neill and the rest of SG1 sat on the other side of the granite horseshoe-shaped table with the men. She was grateful Maddoc was with O’Neill, but annoyed that BOTH were now gracing her with frequent glances. While Maddoc’s were just this side of interested, O’Neill’s held dark promise of a long TALK in the post-mission future. She really wasn’t looking forward to that as all.

 

Rose sighed, reaching up to touch the necklace, fingers caressing the cool stones. The woman next to her smiled and passed the wine flagon.

 

“To the Alliance,” she toasted, and Rose smiled back, lifting her cup.

 

Hours later, after the sixth or so course, Rose shifted uneasily in her seat, and the woman next to her patted her arm.

 

“Let me show you where the convenience is,” she offered gently, intuitively knowing the reason for Rose’s distress. Grateful, Rose and the woman left the noisy table and headed into the Central palace. Night had fallen, and the lights in the long halls flickered and danced. The woman shivered.

 

“It’s spooky after dark,” she admitted to Rose with a laugh, and Rose nodded.

 

“Yes, better to have company than wander alone—“

 

The woman nodded.

 

They climbed a marble staircase. At the top, Rose and the woman passed an alcove with a stone framed mirror and reached a door farther down the hall. The woman gestured to the door.

 

“You first, Tau’rii MacGyver, please—“

 

Once done (and well relieved), Rose stepped out and her guide went in. To kill time waiting, Rose wandered down the hall, studying the pattern of the floor tiles. She reached the alcove and glanced in, expecting that interesting stone mirror again, but when she shifted her gaze to it, she jumped, sucking in a sharp breath as adrenaline shot through her system.

 

Beyond the frame Jack O’Neill stood swaying, blood dripping down the front of his tattered BDU jacket from what looked like a charred hole in his chest. His hair stood in a tangled mess, his hands streaked with gore. Piteously he reached out towards her. Terrified, Rose took a stumbling step forward, driven by panic—what the hell had happened?

 

“Jack, oh Jesus!”

 

 She moved towards the glassine surface, arms out, fingers ramming it, and then—

 

--The faintest of tingles, like biting on tin foil—

 

She was on the other side, and Jack yanked her to him. The acrid smell hit her; she recognized the stench of rotting blood. Rose looked up, terrified to be pulled against that wound, to hurt Jack—

 

“Roooooossssseeeeee—“ he hissed, long and harsh; the sound of it made every hair on her head prickle in primitive fear. Mingled with the decaying blood was the acrid stink of sweat and cordite.

 

 She struggled and as she did so, realized there WAS no wound, that the mess on his chest was merely an artful deception.

 

A ruse.

 

Jack was stronger, as he always would be and in the end trussed her up with ruthless efficiency: a gag, wrists, knees and elbows tied with what she recognized as lengths of phone cord. In their scuffle, the lovely stone necklace slipped to the floor, unseen by either of them. Jack crooned, one big dirty hand coming up to cup her face.

 

“Rose, MY Rose. Come on sweetheart, Jack’s got you now, don’t worry—“

 

His dark eyes glittered.

 

Swiftly he dropped, pressed a clavicle into her ribcage and lifted her up over his shoulder; by twisting, Rose could see a stone framed mirror receding behind them as Jack strode away--

 

***   ***   ***

 

“So how much longer before we can blow this joint?” O’Neill managed in a voice only mildly irritated by now. The ingestion of two tankards of mead had dulled the edge of his anger, mellowing it into a mere habitual annoyance. The crowd had shifted from the table and into the courtyard proper, with dozens of people milling about singing and talking. Daniel looked around, slightly puzzled.

 

“Not having a good time, Jack?”

 

“Yeah well, ya been to one goodwill feast you’ve done them all,” came the unenthusiastic reply. Daniel gave a pointed stare at the empty mead mug in O’Neill’s hand. The colonel set it down reluctantly.

 

“Fine, fine—we’ll round everybody up and get going then,” Daniel agreed. O’Neill plucked his radio from his shoulder.

 

“Rose, Carter, Teal’c, time to hit the Gate people—“

 

“Acknowledged,” came Teal’c’s rumble. A second late Carter chirped in.

 

“Yes sir.”

 

Slowly Daniel and O’Neill began striding through the throng towards the foot of the stairs to the central palace. O’Neill clicked his radio again.

 

“Rose?”

 

No answer, and he craned his head around, zooming in on Maddoc, scanning for red hair anywhere near the man. Nothing. Daniel clicked his own radio.

 

“Rose? Please answer—“

 

No reply came, and both men shared a concerned glance. As one they moved through the crowd towards Maddoc, reaching him after a minute or two. O’Neill didn’t return the smile Maddoc flashed at him.

 

“Where’s Rose?”

 

“Tau’rii MacGyver? She is somewhere—“ the man replied, looking around. O’Neill joined him, scanning the crowd once more, clicking his radio as he did.

 

“Listen up people—we’re one threat assessor short at the moment—Rose with either of you two?”

 

“Negative, O’Neill.”

 

“No sir. She went to the bathroom a while ago but I didn’t see her come back,” Carter’s voice crackled over the receiver. O’Neill winced.

 

“Fer cryin’ outloud, don’t tell me we’re gonna have to do a search and rescue in the lady’s john—“

 

But after a few more moments of hunting and frustration, O’Neill was the first one up the marble stairs behind the woman official. She babbled on, clearly fearful as she led the way up.

 

“—And when I did not see her, I assumed she had come back down on her own, Tau’rii O’Neill.”

 

“Apparently not—“ he replied, trying hard not to snap at the woman. They jogged down the hall; O’Neill glanced at the alcove, and then did a quick double take. When the rest of the team reached him, he pointed his p90.

 

“Tell me that’s NOT what I think it is—“ he growled menacingly. Daniel goggled, Carter paled.

 

“It is indeed a quantum mirror, O’Neill,” Teal’c confirmed gravely.

 

 

***   ***   ***

 

Rose groaned. Her limbs were numb since her circulation was cut off by the plastic cords still binding her and she was freezing. From what she could see she was in Cheyenne Mountain, but the aura of wrongness was pervasive and frightening. There were no lights anywhere, just faint glowing lanterns at intervals. The hum of the ventilation system was gone, noticeable only in its eerie absence. The chill damp air was filled with smells that made her shudder. It was like walking through a crypt, or a dungeon.

 

Jack.

 

 Jack was terrifying; a silent dark-eyed stranger who’d dropped her on one of the beds in the VIP guest quarters and left her there, bound and helpless in the dark. The gag made it impossible to yell for help, and all her struggling would only drop her to the floor, so Rose waited, shivering.

 

After a long while, maybe hours, the door creaked.

 

“Rose?” came a familiar whisper. Relief flooded through her at the sound; she rolled to face the door, watching Daniel shamble in. He was carrying a flashlight, turning the beam to her on the bed. Swiftly he sat and tugged the gag off. Gratefully Rose gulped in a deep breath of air but before she could speak, Daniel dropped a rough callused hand over her mouth.

 

Daniel looked--gritty. He wore his prescription sunglasses low on his nose, and his hair had grown out in the long lanky style she remembered from his early days with the SGC. His BDUs were shockingly scruffy, and Rose noted that he wore both a Zat and a throwing knife at his belt.

 

“Don’t say a word. Voices carry a hell of a long way down these halls, and you don’t want the others to know you’re here. Didn’t he put a blanket on you? You’re freezing—“ Deftly Daniel tugged, pulling a thick comforter over Rose’s shivering form. She made a muffled noise against his palm.

 

“I can’t untie you. I WANT to, but if I do Jack will make me pay the consequences, and frankly I’m the only person he’s willing to cut some slack with.”

 

Rose’s eyes focused on Daniel and she took in the sight of him as the flashlight beam swung over his thin frame. Moving quickly, he flicked off the light with his free hand and sighed.

 

“Okay, long story short—I know Jack grabbed you through the quantum mirror. Don’t worry about the entropic cascade effect, because in this world you’re dead. That’s actually the problem.”

 

Rose made a soft noise that he took an encouragement and continued.

 

“See, in this world, this reality, Apothis won. He had a little help though from Nirtti in the form of a nasty airborne virus that they released about a month before the invasion started. It was called KoKalah in Goa’uld but on Earth it was more commonly known as Ladykiller, because that’s what it did. This mutagenic plague wiped out almost every woman on Earth by seeking out only the hosts with the double X chromosomes and then moving into her lungs, rotting them from the inside out.”

 

Rose struggled, and Daniel pressed his hand harder on her mouth, making shushing sounds.

 

“It’s been two years, and from what Sam projected, that’s long enough to be fairly safe now. Sam was one of the last to go,” Daniel added. “She and the other women at the SGC were holed up here and doing all right because of the ventilation system until Apothis sent in his First Prime to blow it up. He and his Jaffa stole the Gate then left us to die under the rubble.”

 

Daniel was almost babbling now in a low rapid-fire way, and Rose realized he was straining his hearing, listening as much as he was speaking.

 

“Fortunately they never found the emergency access tunnels, so we’ve managed to survive, sort of—listen, Jack’s coming, so bear with me. He’s probably not like whatever Jack O’Neill you may know from your side of the mirror. The only thing I CAN promise is that he isn’t going to hurt you.”

 

The swift swing of another flashlight beam cut through the room and the conversation only to be followed by a mild voice.

 

“Daniel—whatcha doin?”

 

O’Neill lounged in the doorway, in a cleaner but still tattered BDU jacket and pants. His dark eyes swept the room and locked on Rose.

 

Daniel stiffened, and pulled his hand from Rose’s mouth, shooting her a warning look.

 

“Covering her up—she’s half frozen. Did you bring another blanket?”

 

“Got the bath going—Siler’s heating the water. And now if you’ll excuse us, I’d like to be alone with my wife.”

 

“Right,” Daniel sighed. Rose’s head snapped up as Daniel stood reluctantly. O’Neill strode across the room with menace, and Daniel shrank back a bit, circling around him to reach the door.

 

“Shut it—“ came the order, although Jack never turned his head. Slowly, Daniel did, closing it behind him. Rose renewed her struggles, drawing in a sharp breath.

 

“What the HELL is—“ she never got to finish. Moving swiftly, Jack slid onto the bed and straddled her supine form, pinning her down and peering into her face.

 

“Geez, stop looking like you might wet your pants at any minute—“ he ordered gruffly. Rose shuddered, but kept her eyes on him, waiting tensely. Jack sighed. With a gentle touch, he ran his fingertips over the side of her face.

 

“It’s good to touch you again Babe. You’re LIKE a rose petal, ya know, but warmer. Anyway, I’m here to let you know the way things are. Right off the bat I can tell you’ve got a Jack on the other side of the mirror, correct?”

 

“Y-yeah—“ Rose agreed, wanting to flinch away from his fingers. He dropped his face lower; the dim light made it hard to see his expression even though his warm breath was on her face.

 

“Married?”

 

“No.”

 

“But you sleep with him—“ Jack smiled; she could tell by the amused sound in his voice, and that familiar tone reached her as nothing else had. She closed her eyes.

 

“Yes I sleep with him. With YOU in another reality I suppose if it comes to that. WHY, Jack? Why the hell did you lure me here, pretending you were wounded?”

 

“Because I know you wouldn’t have come if I asked. I’ve gone through some trial and error, Babe, and I know you pretty well,” he confessed mildly as he nuzzled her cheek. Rose hated herself for relaxing into it, savoring the welcome heat of his big body on hers. He shifted, and she felt his erection, padded by layers of cloth, stroke her thigh.

 

“You act without thinking when it comes to wounded people, and when it’s ME, you REALLY move. Even the Roses not hitched up with their Jacks still try to save me. A bunch of rat blood, a shirt charred up by a staff weapon, and tadah—Rose bait.”

 

As he spoke, Jack slid his left hand up, undoing buttons around the phone cords. Rose shuddered again, her pulse speeding up at his touch. Jack sighed, a great chuffing sound that gusted her face.

 

“God I want you, but first things first. My Rose liked a bath and dinner before anything else.”

 

She felt him reach down, and a moment later her bonds parted as the knife sliced through them while he continued speaking. Rose flexed her hands, trying to get the circulation back in them.

 

“The accommodations probably aren’t what you’re used to, but it’s home. Down here we have running water and enough shelter to keep out the rain, but it does get damn cold, especially in the winter.”

 

Reaching up, Rose surged to grab Jack’s neck but he moved faster and caught her wrists, pinning them over her head on the mattress. He gave another sigh, this one slightly pained.

 

“Same old, same old—God I trained my kids well. Okay, the answer’s NO. I’m not nuts and you aren’t going to escape despite what you’re thinking. Get real, Rose—you have no advantage here. Not only am I bigger and stronger than you, I also have the added bonus of having DONE this scenario before. You’re freaked, you’re trying to assess the threats of your current situation, and you’re wondering if you could actually KILL me if it came down to it, right?”

 

Jack’s calm words chilled her to the core and Rose began to buck, thrashing to and fro frantically as he grunted, pinning her down with his frame. Rose felt sick as her hips reacted to the weight of his, her struggles steadily shifting into a more familiar, rhythmic clash of their bodies. All the more despairing was the warm fragrance of his neck, his subtle scent of musk and soap that she knew as well as her own name.

 

“Damn it, calm DOWN,” Jack groaned. Rose could sense he was reacting as much as she was, and she felt a sense of déjà vu, fueled by desire. With a growl, Jack rolled off of her and dropped his ass to the floor, his back against the side of the bed.

 

“Don’t push me Rose—you of all people ought to know better!” came his hiss.

 

“No I DON’T know!” came her fierce reply. “You are NOT my Jack, you’re some psycho copy in a dimension straight out of a Frank Herbert novel! I’m sorry your Rose is dead, but I have NO intention of staying here and playing Eve to your Adam, Jack!”

 

He laughed. It was a low sound, tinged with humor and sorrow and certainty. Rose’s scalp tingled at the sound of it.

 

“And what exactly are you going to DO, Rose? First you’d have to find the mirror and THEN you’d have to dial it, hoping like hell to be able to locate the precise dimension. You’re a smart woman with a lot of patience, but get real—you’re here to stay.”

 

She shuddered.

 

“Just like that—“ came her bleak whisper. Jack got up and leaned over. His knife came out, whicking through the bonds around her body. He smirked.

 

“Just like that. Welcome home, Honey.”

 






                                                                                                                                                War of the Roses 2




     
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