Always Forgiven, Never Forgotten

BY : Kelral_Orlyana
Category: Stargate: SG-1 > Slash - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 497
Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate SG1. I make no profit posting this story. Any relation to person/s or place/s real or imagined is purely coincidental.

Symbiote speaking.” I’m using bold to represent the echoing voice symbiotes have when they speak.

“Host speaking.”

-Symbiote speaking to host.-

Host speaking to symbiote.

Chapter One: Saving a Life.

He could feel the hosts mind battling against his own violently, the human cursed him with every swear and curse word the host could think of. He couldn’t cover up his flinch as the human crashed its soul violently against his own. –This is getting ridiculous.- He thought as the human snarled like a beast and tried to mentally shake him out of its head. –Your fight is pointless, you will not win.- He tried to inform the host but the human rejected his words instantly, screaming its anger and desperation. –Calm down and let’s talk.- He stated, hoping the host would listen but the host’s mind seemed to heat up and ‘glare’ at his own mind with rage and indignation. –I will explain myself if you calm down and listen.- He stated calmly, hiding his irritation for his new host from the human.

The host’s mind seemed to pause and he felt the humans mind fill with irritation before the host finally calmed. I won’t forgive you for this. It snarled. You have no right to do this. None at all. How dare you enter me and then expect me to obey! You damn parasite! I do not want a Goa’uld! Get out! Get out! It snapped. Give me back control of my body!

He could see the host’s thoughts and he could not allow the human the chance to do what he planned to do. –I will not allow you to kill yourself or me.- He answered. –Now listen to me human.- He felt the human grow even more indignant and angry so he quickly continued preventing the human the chance to speak. –I am Malek of the Tok’ra. I am not a Goa’uld. You had been badly wounded in a room full of Jaffa who house young Goa’uld symbiotes. You would have been claimed as a host by one of them at some point. My host was dying and she demanded I take you to save you from this fate.- He explained. The human paused and seemed to consider his words. –I have not completely blended with you, I will get you safely away from here but we will need to find the Tok’ra so I may leave and join a new host.-

So you can leave? The host asked curiously. Malek could see his hosts mind speeding through several different ideas. Malek had to admit this host was amazingly different from most hosts he had previously had. The human was unique, different. He was stubborn, curious and yet somehow intelligent, but most importantly he knew the Goa’uld were not Gods. Not many humans knew that the Goa’uld were frauds, parasites leaching on other sentient beings bodies and knowledge yet this one did and it was clear by the humans memories that he was not the only one. However there was one big problem with this host. He was independent, a natural leader, he didn’t want to sit back and allow another to share his mind and life. It was understandable that the human feared him but this human was so independent it would only take one push to make him violent, as it was the human was considering suicide. So why don’t you leave?

-Because we are still in a room full of young Goa’uld symbiotes, if I left you would simply be claimed by another and they will not be as kind. They would not explain themselves to you and they would not listen to your rants as patiently as I am.- Malek replied. –I will remain until you are safe, once you are and you still wish me gone I will sacrifice myself.- Malek added without regret. He did not fear death.

You will kill yourself because I want you gone? The human asked incredulously, clearly unsure how to take Malek’s comment. Malek knew that the human still considered him to be a Goa’uld and it was difficult for the host to even consider that Malek was not a parasite but a symbiote, a creature that lived alongside his host. The host paused and considered Malek’s words, Malek could see the host’s thoughts and was pleasantly surprised by how intelligent the host was. So you would rather death than to remain in an unwilling host? Then why do you take me when I was unconscious? The host asked curiosity colouring his thoughts.

-You were dying. You would either have died or become an unwilling host. My host is dead and cannot be revived. I made sure her body was gone so she cannot be revived.- Malek explained as he replayed the memory of him shooting his beautiful host three times with a zat’nik’tel. His new host paused as he felt Malek’s saddened thoughts  and Malek felt his hosts awe at the symbiotes feelings. –I’m not heartless, I loved her dearly.- He said patiently. –Her death will haunt me for a long time. I will grieve for her as I have for all my previous hosts.- He added willingly showing his new host images of all his previous hosts. –Now, let’s get out of here, we can talk when we’re in a much safer location.- Malek stated wanting to change the subject.

Yes, I don’t like the idea of remaining in a Goa’uld infested room. Give me back control. The human requested. I want control, besides I am the only one able to handle these weapons. The human added expecting Malek to protest.

-Actually I can use your weapons, I can access your knowledge and learn to use it for myself.- Malek replied. –But I have not because I do not take what I am not permitted to take.- He added as he felt his host’s fear, it was obvious that his host wanted some of his knowledge and memories to remain hidden. . –I will give you control but you must not inform anyone of my existence, I can see what will happen to me if I am found and I will not become some experiment or project for your ‘scientists’.- Malek spat. –Do you vow not to reveal my existence?- He asked, his voice wary and angry as he listened to his hosts thoughts. The host was trying to think of any way to reveal Malek’s existence without actually giving away what he was doing  or planning to Malek. It was clear that the human could not be trusted. –It is clear you will not even consider it, until I can get away from you and your people I will remain in control. I will not allow myself to be experimented on.- Malek continued. He felt his host splutter in indignation but Malek ignored him and focused back on the outside world.

A squeal made Malek aware of how dangerous their environment was. Several Goa’uld young had slipped out of their Jaffa’s pouches and were looking directly at Malek and his new host. Malek knew he had to leave now, he may have taken the human to prevent the Goa’uld from taking him but they could still choose to invade the human’s body and kill him. With that thought in mind, Malek picked up the human’s strange and primitive weapon and raced to the door. He remembered the code from his short time undercover and quickly pressed the relevant buttons. The Gold doors slid open and released Malek and his host before closing behind them keeping the parasites locked inside.

“Major Ferretti! Get a move on!” Malek glanced over to the one who had spoken and searched his host’s memories. ‘Colonel Jack O’Neill’ stared back with dark grey eyes waving his hands enigmatically, trying to get his host, ‘Louis Ferretti’ to hurry. Colonel it’s not me! His host cried out praying the Colonel would see the truth, but the man with greying hair merely smirked as Malek approached and turned his back to Malek. “Our job is done. Let’s get out of here.”  Our job is not done! There is one inside me!

-You came here to destroy the Goa’uld?- Malek asked incredulously, before carefully prodding his host’s memories. –You were going to blow up Abydos? That would have done nothing but anger Ra and he would know exactly where you had come from and gone to your planet. What you tried to do was foolish and stupid. The fact you actually managed to destroy Ra is amazing, you have to be the luckiest people I’ve ever met. That or you’re completely stupid! How were a few men supposed to take on the might of Ra? Why did you delusion yourself into thinking that you could succeed? How did you succeed?!- Malek ranted in anger and surprise.

We are skilled. You under-estimate us and when they find out about you, you will pay for taking me as a host. The host threatened but Malek could feel his fear, Louis knew that Malek could hide in him without being found out and he was crying out for any chance of Malek being found. I’m with my people now so get out of me! Louis demanded.

Malek sighed. –I did vow that I will sacrifice myself if that is what you wish- Malek stated softly. –I will kill myself, I will make it so my body get absorbed into your body. It will be as if I never existed, the only evidence that I have inhabited you would be the naqadah in your blood.- Malek explained. –Is this what you wish? Or will you allow me to find the Tok’ra and take another host?-

Naqadah? Louis asked curiously, Malek felt the host trying to copy what Malek had done several time, the host was trying to see into Malek memories. Malek bought up the relevant knowledge and shared it with Louis willingly. That’s what the stargate is made up of? Naqadah? The gate to go to different planets? But we thought it only went to this place?

-You believe that the Goa’uld only inhabit this world?- Malek laughed long and hard. –Foolish human, the Goa’uld would never be happy with just one world, they want power. They want to own everything. The chaapa’ai is a gate way to many hundreds of thousands of planets and many have been conquered by the Goa’uld. The humans on those planets are harvested for hosts and slaves. Those left behind are often monitored so they cannot grow technologically superior to the Goa’uld.- Malek explained. –But you need not know this.- Malek stated after a few moments. –It is better if you do not know this, if you continue to use the Chaapa’ai and cause trouble like you have here then the system lords will begin to notice you. You, your race and your planet will be in danger if the Goa’uld ever become aware of you.- Malek lectured his host. –It is better for you to remain oblivious.-

And I’m going to listen to a parasite. Louis replied sarcastically. How do I know that you’re not just going to pluck out the knowledge you need, take a new host and then invade Earth? He snapped angrily, obviously disgusted about being lectured by Malek. Besides now that Ra is dead they will know someone powerful enough to defeat the Goa’uld are around and they will fear and respect us.

-Do not delusion yourself.- Malek replied. –They will not fear you they will regard you as nothing more than pests and their only aim would be to exterminate you. The Goa’uld are more powerful than you can imagine, they have ruled for thousands of years and just because you’ve killed one of them does not mean you are powerful. Far from it. Your will be regarded as annoyances. You will be destroyed and your people claimed as hosts and slaves, the rest will be monitored to make sure they do not become technologically advanced. Though you’re not that technologically advanced your primitive weapons are effective.-

“Come on Major!” Colonel O’Neill called. Malek ran quickly down the sand dunes joining the humans gathered there. Even though he knew through his hosts mind that they were soldiers, Malek could not quite believe it, their uniforms were not as light as Tok’ra uniforms. He couldn’t understand how the humans survived when it was clear that they could be a violent, stubborn race. He could tell by their postures, actions and expressions that most would ‘shoot first and ask questions later’. –You ‘Earthlings’ have interesting words and phrases.- Malek thought in amusement. –Perhaps you will become more than you already are one day.- He added cryptically.

“Let’s head back. Our work is done.” Colonel O’Neill stated. “Doctor Jackson, dial the gate.” Malek watched as the only non-military personnel approached the dialling device. The brown haired human was interesting, he was clearly a seeker of knowledge but Malek could tell the human was not weak. He’s a geek. Louis replied in annoyance wondering what the big deal was.

-Everyone should be valued equally, Louis. Doctor Jackson may not be a fighter and maybe he is not as strong as you but strength does not count for everything. Great intelligence should be valued as highly as strength, after all without him how would you have gotten home?- Malek lectured. –The Tok’ra value intelligence. All Tok’ra are equal, we all fight the same cause, it matters very little if we are fighters and knowledge seekers. The only difference is that we use different methods to use the same goals.- Louis huffed mentally in annoyance unreceptive to being berated for his behaviour to Daniel Jackson. –You may be a fighter but that does not mean you have to hide your intelligence. You’re smarter than you make yourself out to be.- Malek added after a few moments. –You should not fear using your intelligence, if they are unreceptive to you then it often means they are your enemies and not friends as you once thought. You should not pretend to have less intelligence just to gain friends, in the end you lose what is most important, a sense of self.-

I know who I am! Louis cried out defensively. I don’t need a parasite to tell me about myself.

-I am not a parasite.- Malek replied calmly. –I am a symbiote, I live alongside my host. And you seem to forget that I am sharing your mind, I know how much of yourself you hide to gain the respect of others and it is wrong. You should not hide yourself just for someone’s friendship.-

I have not forgotten that you’re in my mind, it is very hard to forget when you don’t shut up and are still controlling my body. Louis replied emphasizing ‘my’. I don’t need a lecture from a parasitic creature like you.

-Then I will not lecture you, even though it is something that you need.- Malek replied. –However I will not return control until we are somewhere safe. Then and only then will we decide what to do.-

No, you’ll decide what to do, ignoring what I want. Louis replied angrily. Malek sighed, the human did not understand and did not want to listen to his explanations. Even though his human had intelligence his stubborn streak overpowered his intelligence, Malek only hoped he could get through to his host before they finally parted. If humans continued to live with bad thoughts to the Tok’ra then his brethren could be in danger from them, he had to convince his host that he spoke the truth. I want you to leave.

-Do you really think your companions will trust you if they see me leaving you or if you start screaming that you’ve become a host? That friendship that you worked so hard to achieve by denying your intelligence will be gone in seconds. They’d never trust you again. It is best if they never know I exist or existed.- Malek replied. –Until we can talk without being disturbed you will have to accept that you are my current host.-

I do not want to be your host! Louis replied angrily his mind shaking in desperation and denial. He obviously did not want to accept Malek’s words. The moment you leave they will know I am not under your control! My friendship with them will not be lost. He cried out in denial and then he went quiet, which concerned Malek. But you won’t give me control until we’re somewhere ‘safe’ so go ahead, do what you like. I can’t stop you anyway. Louis said sombrely, Malek could feel the host’s self-hatred and sadness.

-It does not have to be this way, Louis. I do not want to upset you or hurt you, but you know better than I do what they’ll do if they found me. I saved your life back there, I prevented you becoming host to a Goa’uld and promised to leave you when the time comes. You can’t condemn me to torture. Surely that is not honourable? I saved you and now I wish for you to save me, protect me from your scientists, make it so they never know I exist. Then I will leave you, either by death or by finding a host.- Malek pleaded. –I left my beloved host to save you. I could have died with her, she begged me to leave her to save you. Please don’t make me suffer for saving you and obeying my beloved host.-

The human paused and finally sighed. Alright, I won’t reveal you. But please give me control. Malek hesitated, unsure. I promise you that I will not endanger you. You’re right if you had not saved me, I would be hurting my friends right now. Please give me control. Hesitantly Malek receded giving control back to Louis. Thank you. The host replied. “Sir, shouldn’t we be going?” Louis asked curiously as they both watched Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson talking quietly between themselves. “They will be waiting for us and the longer it takes the more annoyed they get.”

“Let them wait.” O’Neill replied turning back to Jackson. The two seemed to glare at each other before O’Neill calmed and turned away. Jackson did not follow O’Neill to them as they gathered at the bottom of the steps leading to the stargate. At the groups questioning gazes O’Neill just stated. “Jackson is not coming.” As if that answered the question. But fortunately all humans had seen Jackson with the Abydonian native, Sha’re. It was not hard to guess why he was staying. “Daniel, bury the gate so they think Abydos was destroyed.”

Jackson nodded. “Sure thing, Jack.” The two men did not say goodbye merely nodding towards each other and then the survivors walked through the gate, leaving Daniel and Abydos behind.

Malek watched through his hosts eyes with open curiosity. The room they were in was obviously some army base, most likely underground. Everything was grey or black but what really caught Malek’s attention were the people. They wore similar uniforms to his host. Their clothes were baggy, obviously made to carry as many weapons and tools as possible, they were also forest coloured, browns and Greens for camouflage. All had large black weapons similar to his hosts pointed at them but the moment they saw who the incoming group were they relaxed. –Not a wise thing to do. They have no idea if you and your team have been compromised.- Malek told Louis in disapproval.

I am aware of that. Louis replied sarcastically. They have no idea you’re here. He added as he stepped off the ‘metal ramp’.

“Welcome back. Where is Daniel Jackson?” Malek glanced at the man who had spoken, the man was rather short and was quite large, not fat but not quite right. The man was also balding and had a serious expression. –I wonder if he smiles at all?- Malek thought with amusement.

Louis sighed mentally as if he was dealing with an annoying child who asked too many questions. This is General Hammond, our superior. Do not disrespect him. The human replied berating Malek though Malek could feel Louis reluctant amusement at what he had said.

“He got left behind.” Jack stated allowing them to imagine what had happened to the man. The humans immediately assumed the worst, they expressions turning grave. “Can we get this debriefing over with?” Jack continued. “I need a drink.” He stated quietly but Malek and Louis heard. The nearest men heard and chuckled.

Hammond sighed. “First of all you have to be checked to see if you’ve bought any contagions back.” Hammond replied. “Once your cleared, we will debrief.”

-A medical exam? They might just find me, is there any way to avoid it?- Malek asked in concern. –If they find me, we’re both in trouble.- Louis didn’t answer, Malek could sense that a part of him wanted Malek to be found but another part was terrified of what his comrades would think of him now he was a host. The human followed his team-mates anxiously and sat when he was instructed. A woman approached and Malek could feel his host tensing but Malek did not understand why. She wasn’t dressed in military clothing, in fact the only ‘uniform’ she was wearing was a ‘lab coat’. The ‘lab coat’ was what scientists and doctors wore on this planet. Which meant this small blonde haired woman held Malek’s and Louis’s fate in her hands. The petite woman did an assortment of tests that Malek did not understand. She poked a needle into Louis’s arm and stole blood, then she tried to crush Louis’s arm with some sort of inflatable machine. –Is she trying to look after you or hurt you?- Malek asked in discomfort.

Louis chuckled mentally. These are tests to ensure  my health is good. The blood taking test is to check that nothing has got into my blood, like viruses, micro-bugs and other things. The arm squeezing test reads blood pressure, it counts my heart beat to ensure that my body is working as it should. The host explained. “Open your mouth.” The lady asked and both host and symbiote tensed. Louis opened his mouth and the lady flashed a light. “Hmm, looks like you have a cut at the back of your throat. Have you eaten anything to cause this?”

“No. Not that I am aware of.” Louis answered warily.

The woman frowned. “Then you may have a virus or disease. But it is more likely you’ve swallowed something hard and sharp. Did you eat anything native on Abydos?”

“Yes, we had a meal there.”

“Then that may be what has happened.” The woman answered drawing her own conclusions. Malek relaxed for once he was very relieved someone was so ignorant, but then again she probably did not know much about the Goa’uld and the Tok’ra. “I will give you an anti-septic for any soreness, but other than that I think we can leave it, it looks like it is already healing.”

“Thank you, doctor.” Louis said standing and accepting the anti-septic spray she handed him. He sprayed once in front of her, which earned him a smile of approval. Once the doctor was appeased he left quickly with his team and sighed once he was safely away from the doctors. That was close. Louis thought. You owe me for this. He added.

-If you wish that to be so. Then I do owe you.- Malek replied, unconcerned that his host seemed to forget the fact that Malek had already saved him once. –But what do we do now? If we cannot leave Earth and I cannot reveal my existence to anyone, which leaves only death. Do you wish me to die?- He asked. If Louis asked then he would willing to die to keep his host happy, he would not continue living in an unwilling host. Louis did not answer, the host was hesitant and Malek did not know why. Whether the host wished to keep him or not would decide Malek’s fate, Malek would wait without prying for the host to decide. – We will discuss this later.- Malek stated. –We cannot afford to become distracted right now, particularly whilst you are being debriefed.-

Louis took a seat at the large table and leant back, happy to let Colonel O’Neill do the talking. “So, Colonel, you’ve come back with less men then what we sent through. What happened?” The General asked in annoyance and curiosity.

O’Neill leant back and sighed. “The mission went wrong from the get go sir.” O’Neill stated bluntly. “Doctor Jackson did not know how to send us back. It turned out he had not thought of working out a return address and had decided to do the research once we were on Abydos. Thanks to that we had very little to do but to look around and wait. But whilst we were wandering around we came across a tame animal. A really ugly tame animal.” O’Neill added. “Turns out there was a civilisation there. They served someone called Ra, some kind of God.”

“Egyptian God, sir.” Louis added.

O’Neill stared at Malek’s host for a moment before nodding and turning back to Hammond. “Yes, an Egyptian God called Ra. They seemed to still follow the rules set down by this, Ra.” O’Neill’s voice was filled with disbelief, he could not understand how strong beliefs could be for some people. “They weren’t even allowed to write! We told them that Ra would not harm them for seeing us write and for writing themselves but they would not listen. But then something happened, at first there was a sandstorm, which meant we could not leave immediately, but when that cleared something happened. It was…”

“When we went through the gate we end up in some kind of temple.” Kawalsky stated. “It’s a pyramid temple.”

“But as Doctor Jackson stated, it is also some kind of wacky space-ship landing platform, thing.” O’Neill stated clearly unsure how to explain what they had seen. “This huge pyramid shaped ship descended from space and landed on top of the temple. The guys we’d left at the temple were killed by soldiers in strange armour and tattoos on their foreheads. Jackson and I were taken aboard the ship to meet this ‘great’ Ra. But he was just a child, his eyes glowed and his voice was really, really weird as if he was speaking through a microphone or a speaker. We tried to kill him, but Ra had young children, slaves who would willingly throw themselves between us and Ra. I would never harm a child.” O’Neill’s voice changed to one of very cold anger and Malek knew he’s been hurt or experienced something traumatising that had to do with children. “I lowered my weapons and was placed in a cell with everyone else. The only one missing were those who died and Major Ferretti.”

“Major. Can you explain where you were?” General Hammond asked.

“Well, whilst they were taken into a cell, Ra seemed to take a liking to me and decided to make me a host.” Louis explained. “I was being held there by Ra’s Jaffa when the bomb went off, the Jaffa holding me stumbled and I used the chance to get a way. I almost didn’t, but somehow I found my way off the ship and found the team.” I almost called it a Ha’tak. Louis thought. I don’t know how to explain, you got off the ship not me.

-My memories are yours.- Malek replied. –You almost called it a Ha’tak because that is what it is called. It is a mother ship, one of many. Now listen to me. The ship exploded the moment you were transported to the surface by the rings. You were not followed.- “I guess I was lucky.” Louis stated out loud. “I must have used those ring transport machines to beam down just before the ship exploded. I have no idea how I survived.”

“You did well.” O’Neill replied. “You got off the ship in time but how do we know you’re not a host?”

“Would the parasite not be in control right now?” Louis asked. “My eyes don’t glow and I know it may not be much consolation but I’m in here alone.” He added tapping the side of his head.

O’Neill nodded seemingly accepting Louis’s words. “Ra took us back to the natives and demanded Jackson kill us as an example to those who would dare defy him. Fortunately some of the native boys found our weapons and led a revolt, rescuing us. We fought Ra and set the bomb. Jackson discovered the address we needed to return and we fled through the gate. In our rush we didn’t realise Jackson was lagging behind until it was too late.”

Hammond frowned but nodded. “Your mission was successful, the Goa’uld threat has been stopped.” He asked warily.

“Yes, Ra is dead.” O’Neill replied. “He will not be bothering us again.” He added smugly before leaning back. “Now, I really need a drink and a shower.”

“You can leave, you will be given guest quarters until the morning when you’ll be returned home.” Hammond stated. “You’ve all been given temporary leave before you return to duty. You are not to speak of this mission or your knowledge of the stargate programme. If you do you’ll be court martialled and will be tried for treason. Is this understood?” A sombre chorus of ‘Yes, sir’ answered him. “Dismissed.” The man stated.

Louis sighed and stood leaving the room. The host followed another armed human from the briefing room and through the tunnels. Malek used the time to watch his environment, he was divided by awe and annoyance at the dark tunnels. –Do you humans like dark places? Why such a dull colour scheme, the Tok’ra tunnels aren’t this colourless and we live underground! – He asked his host curiously.

These tunnels are not for decoration. Louis replied impatiently as he opened a door and entered a private room. Malek wiggled slightly in annoyance at the sight, this was a bedroom, yet it looked more like a prison cell. Louis thought little about it though and instead shut the door and walked over to the dark bed and sat. Alright talk. Why have I been hiding you when I could be getting rid of you?

-Because if they find out I’m inside of you, they’re not going to immediately remove me. They’re going to interrogate me for all the knowledge I hold and the only way for them to do that is if I remain in a host and no one would be willing to take me. They would force you to keep me and torture you as well as me for information and then they would take me out showing no mercy to you.- Malek explained his voice dark with hatred for people who did such a thing. –I do not want that to happen, and I say this is not in self-preservation but for your protection. You will suffer badly, it is best if no-one knows of my existence.-

Then what do you intend to do? If I cannot tell anyone, does that mean I’m stuck with you forever? Louis asked anxiously and Malek could feel his hesitancy. Whilst Malek had not fully blended with the host he was still connected to the host’s mind and Louis was gradually accepting Malek’s presence subconsciously. If Malek continued to live or remain in this man, the man would be absolutely devastated by Malek’s disappearance.

-You are gradually accepting me into your mind, if I remain any longer it will be more difficult for us to part. So you must decide, do you wish for me to permanently blend with you or do you wish me to leave right now?- Malek asked, his voice revealing nothing of his thoughts. In truth he did not really want to die, but he would do whatever made his host happy. His life lay in his host’s choice.

If I choose no. You die. Louis stated bluntly. Normally I’d be jumping for joy but I can feel how connected we’ve become.  I feel like it would be losing a part of me. He thought before blushing at his thoughts. Malek calmly controlled his host’s reactions, lessening the blood flow to his face. Louis’s thoughts were racing as he tried to make a decision. A part of the host still wanted him to go but a small part that was gradually growing larger wanted to keep Malek. If I don’t ask you to leave now, you’ll remain in me permanently but if I choose to ask you to leave, you die. The host thought unaware that he was projecting his thoughts to Malek. Malek could feel the hosts hesitation and fear. The host was terrified of keeping Malek but also terrified of choosing Malek’s death. It was not a decision to be taken lightly. If you were a Goa’uld I’d be happy to kill you but you’re not Goa’uld. You’ve proven that by giving me control and your mind feels ‘good’. The host thought. What do I choose? He asked desperation in his voice. Malek remained quiet, he would not influence his host’s decision. If I do, in theory choose to accept you how would you get back to the Tok’ra?

-Your race has just found a super-technological device that will take you to other planets. Through you I know enough about your race to know that you will not be able to resist the temptation to use it again. And just like today only the military would use it meaning you and I, in theory, could find the Tok’ra and continue to fight against the Goa’uld. But if you do choose to accept me it will be inadvisable and dangerous for me to take another host, it could cause complications or death for either or both of us.- Malek explained.

Louis considered Malek’s words seriously. How long have I got to decide?

-Not long, a day. A few days at most.- Malek answered. –Eventually our growing bond will be so strong that we might as well blend completely.- He explained. –If you wish to have a longer period of time I will go dormant.-


-I will go into a deep sleep where I will be separated from your mind. I will be awake just enough to keep your health in check and if you need me you merely call for me.- Malek replied. –Is this what you wish? By having my mind separated from yours, your decision will not be influence by my presence at all since I will not be fully present.-

I need a little while to think. Louis thought clearly overwhelmed by everything he was learning. I need… I need some time.

-I will leave you to decide my fate.- Malek stated. He slowly withdrew his mind back into his small, serpentine body. The human could reach him whenever he wanted and could feel Malek’s presence. Louis seemed to go into shock at the loss of Malek’s overwhelming presence and instinct fully reached for Malek, Malek carefully prodded the humans mind, reassuring the human that he was there. Louis relaxed and then seemed shocked that he had relaxed. Malek backed off again and gently caressed his hosts mind to let the human know he was still there.

Malek waited as his host considered his options. What if you remained dormant until we used the stargate? His host asked anxiously, Malek could tell he wanted to get out of making the decision. Louis didn’t want to keep him but at the same time he didn’t want Malek to die. Is there a way for you to remain alive without blending with me?

-No.- Malek replied bluntly. –I could slip into dormancy for a couple of months but I will still be connected to you and that connection will naturally grow until we’re blended. You need to decide as soon as possible.- Louis began to panic not able to handle what Malek was asking of him, Malek eased his host, releasing calming pheromones. Louis took a few breaths trying to make a decision but Malek knew the man was having difficulty deciding. The host’s mind was telling him to kill ‘the parasite’ but the host was growing fond of Malek’s presence and so now he wanted Malek to stay. –If I was to remain your symbiote you will have double the life span of your race, you can access the knowledge I hold and you will never suffer from illness again.- Malek stated. –And to get all of that, you only have to choose to share your body with me. I will never abuse your body or mind, as a Tok’ra I value my host above all else, you would become my beloved, my other half.-

But in return for allowing you to share my body, you’ll have to share my life. Louis replied nervously. You’d want to take control and make decisions for yourself.

-No, I would make decisions for us.- Malek corrected. –If we were to blend we would be one person, my choices would affect you and vice versa. We would live as one.- Malek explained keeping the hope he felt out of his mental voice. If Louis was asking, there was a chance he would accept Malek. –You would be the same person but with another soul living alongside you and I would not behave like I have done previously. You do not trust me and for a time I did not trust you, but our blending would mean absolute trust. I would never take control without your permission unless it was absolutely necessary.-

How can I trust your word? After all whether you try to deny it or not, you are a parasite. You live in another’s body. How do I know you won’t just take control and keep me a prisoner in my own mind? Louis asked fearfully.

-You do not know. I could be lying, but tell me honestly would a true Goa’uld have asked for your permission to share your body? Would a Goa’uld even offer to die if it made you happy?- Malek asked. –You are a part of me as I am of you, look into my thoughts yourself and tell me if my intentions are as cruel as you’d like to believe.- Malek felt Louis try to look but the host was inexperienced. Gently, Malek nudged his host in the right direction. –I will never harm you. It will make me as bad as the Goa’uld and I will never become like them! I hate the thought of upsetting in or harming my hosts, I love them all dearly just like I would love you, if you chose to keep me.-

But if I choose to keep you, it’s forever. If you chose to turn on me in the future, there will be no turning back. Louis stated thoughtfully. I don’t know what to do.

Malek sighed softly. –I think I know a potential solution where we both win. Allow me to blend with you, when your race finally decides to use the travel device we shall find the Tok’ra. The Tok’ra possess the technology to remove a symbiote from a host without any harm to the host. If you still want me to leave by then, I will.-

You mean that if I blend with you now, I can remove you later. Louis asked, hope seeping into his ‘voice’.

-Yes it is possible to blend with a host and then leave, but it is a very dangerous procedure that could spell death for both symbiote and host. It is often used on our Goa’uld prisoners to free their unwilling hosts but sometimes a blending between a Tok’ra and host will be ineffective, one or both parties may request the removal of the symbiote. But it is only done when symbiote and host are at full health, by the time we find the Tok’ra we will both be at optimum health and I will offer you the opportunity to have me removed then.- Malek explained. –If you choose this option I will live and share your body and life for some time but in the end I would leave happily. Or you could choose for me to die here and now, which I am also willing to do if you ask.-

How do you know they will ask me to join them if they choose to reuse the stargate? Louis asked anxiously.

-You were one of the first humans to use it, the one thing I do know for sure is that they will be scared and nervous and they will need someone like you, someone experienced to lead them.- Malek answered. –That time will come sooner than you think, humans are a curious race that often like to poke and prod something new and then judge it. Your race will use the gate and it will be soon. In no time at all we will find the Tok’ra and I will be gone.-

T…Then… I want you to promise you won’t ever take control against my will and you won’t try anything with my life, either by putting down my friends or making decisions without my input. Louis stated. I don’t want you talking to anyone but the Tok’ra whilst you’re in my body.

Malek was not upset by Louis’s conditions, the man obviously didn’t want Malek potentially messing up his friendships and love life. Malek would not be alone, he would still have Louis. –I accept the conditions, I will not take control whilst you’re talking to anyone and I definitely won’t take control without your acceptance. Does this mean you will accept me as your symbiote until we find the Tok’ra?-

Y…Yes. Louis stated nervously. I…I’ll blend with you but please don’t try anything.

-I promise that I will not try anything. Now are you completely sure? I don’t want you to have any doubts before I begin the blending.- Malek asked.

I am still doubtful and nervous but I have said yes and I won’t change my decision because I’m scared. Louis stated clearly trying to be braver than he actually felt. I don’t understand why, but I don’t want you to die, you did save my life and you’re not like how I imagined a Goa’uld. I want to take you to the Tok’ra, I owe you that much at least.

-You owe me nothing Louis, but I am honoured that you would choose this to keep me alive. I owe you a debt.- Malek replied. –Then I will begin the blending. It will be easier if you slept. I will help you go to sleep when you awake we will be completely blended, you will know what I know, see what I see, feel what I feel and I will know you just as completely.- Louis was unsure and afraid, Malek gently ‘hugged’ his new host wrapping his essence and mind around Louis’s. –Do not be afraid, you will understand when you wake. For now, rest.- Malek instructed as he slowly released the right hormones to push the host to a restful state. Louis relaxed in Malek’s warm mental embrace and was soon sound asleep. With Louis asleep Malek could make the necessary changes and adjustments without Louis being aware, when the man awoke he’d be a brand new person.

Malek felt Louis’s mind shift lazily and knew his host was slowly awakening, he withdrew back into his own small body to allow Louis to awaken as he normally would in his own body. He had already completed the blending but he had to wait to see how Louis would react to their deeper bond. –Good morning, my dear host.- Malek greeted quietly.

Louis twitched, not quite awake but he seemed to remember Malek at least. Morning. He mumbled before yawning and stretching, as if a switch had been flicked he was on his feet and staring at his body as if it was alien to him. I feel so much stronger! I feel different!

Malek chuckled at Louis’s amazement. –Of course you do, I have adjusted your body to my presence. With me inside you your body has twice the strength a normal human has. You will need to be careful not to ‘showcase’ it however, it may raise some suspicion.-

You’ve been learning more of Earth’s slang. Louis stated.

-Yes, your thoughts are most intriguing, you are very unique.- Malek replied. –I believe I have much to learn from you and your race. You may be primitive but you do know how to get things done and you often succeed in your aims. If only we could use your ‘sheer dumb luck’ for the Tok’ra, we would defeat the system lords for sure if we had luck like yours and your races.- Malek thought happily sharing his thoughts. Louis cautiously ‘read’ Malek’s thoughts and smiled. –Of course we don’t have as many people to ‘throw’ at the Goa’uld so we could not use your blunt methods. We use subterfuge, sneaking into a Goa’uld’s fleet and turning them against each other. Fighting them head on would be suicidal to the Tok’ra.-

There are not many Tok’ra left? Louis asked but he didn’t wait for an answer, instead he poked at Malek’s memories and Malek supplied the information freely, the only think Malek would not reveal were where their bases were, what planet’s they preferred and who their operatives were. There is no Queen. Does that mean you are a dying race?

-Yes.- Malek confirmed. –That is why I cannot show you who my brethren are or where their hidden, what I’ve told you about us is already way too much. If we chose to separate in the future you will retain the knowledge I’ve shared with you and that could be a huge risk, so I must beg you to never reveal what you have learned.-

Not even if we could help?

-Not even then. Your kind see us Tok’ra in a less than favourable light. Yes we may be creatures that need to inhabit another creature to survive but we are ‘symbiotes’ not parasites. We live with our host and love them with everything we have. The Goa’uld are parasites, they take what they want without a care for who they harm along the way. Your kind cannot see this, you only know what I speak of because I am here and you can read my thoughts and emotions, but they do not have that. They only see a creature inhabiting another, it matters very little if that creature is ‘good’, they class any creature like me an ‘evil’ creature because I need your body to survive.- Malek ranted. –They cannot know of me or my brethren. It is not safe for us. If the humans decide to kill us then we will be fighting both humans and Goa’uld and I am not sure that is a battle we can win. The Tok’ra do not need any more enemies, you must promise to never speak of what you learn from me about the Tok’ra.-

I promise. Louis promised easily as he sent Malek’s honesty, concern and fear. I will not reveal anything that relates to the Tok’ra. Louis paused obviously debating how to say what he wanted to say. You were telling the truth, you share with your host. I didn’t really believe it before but I can see it now.

-Yes I share with my hosts as do all Tok’ra. I know you still fear what I am capable of but be assured that I have never and will never abuse the trust my hosts bless me with. I will never betray you this you can be assure of.- Malek vowed. –Now, how about we get something to eat, you will be hungry as I’ve had to use some of your energy and my own to complete the bonding.-

Yes I am hungry. Louis thought quietly. But I will need to shower and change. He added moving over to a set of draws. Malek watched curiously as he pulled out strange clothes. The trouser were ‘thick’ and ‘heavy’, they were also stiff. Malek could not see the use of them why wear such stiff trousers when they needed manoeuvrability. They seem heavy now but they are very good protection and last a long time. Louis explained. They’re what we call jeans. Malek ‘nodded’ his understand and continued to watch as Louis pulled out a black shirt made of thinner material. Malek knew this was a shirt but what got his attention was the small path of fabric that Louis picked up last. The material was flimsy and not very protective, Malek could not understand the purpose of them. They are briefs, they are classed as underwear. We don’t like walking around naked in front of company so we wear several layers including underwear. The underwear basically ‘cover’s the body and the clothes ‘protect’ the body.

-I see.- Malek replied understanding the basics of what Louis was telling him. Malek’s previous hosts had been modest and shy of exposing their body as well but several years of living in the Tok’ra tunnels quickly changed all that. –So these are your clothes? What is a ‘shower’ is it a method of cleaning?-

You’ll see. Louis replied as he piled the clothes he had collected. The host walked over to one of the doors and opened it up to reveal a white room. Malek sighed relieved to see that not all rooms were touched by the human’s crazy obsession with Black and grey. Louis placed the clothes onto a pillar built onto the wall. This will keep them out of the way until we’re finished. Louis told Malek before turning to face an ‘alcove’ of some kind in the far corner. The alcove was merely a rectangular box covered with transparent glass, there was a white ‘tray’ at the base with a hole at the bottom and a ‘spout’ of some kind higher up along the tiled wall. This is a shower. We climb in, close the see-through doors and turn on the water. The water then seeps down over our body and then down that hole there.

-Do you control the temperature and volume of the water?- Malek asked curiously.

Yes. Louis replied as he stripped. Malek waited patiently as his host removed their dirty clothing and threw it into a corner and out of the way. Louis stepped into the rectangular space and shut the doors before turned to face some strange devices in the wall. These are what we call ‘knobs’ or ‘handles, they twist or turn. One is an on and off switch, right now it is on off, the other is the temperature gage. The red represents ‘hot’ and the blue represents ‘cold, I can adjust these to get just the right temperature.

-Show me.- Malek requested. Louis obliged happily, easily turning the ‘handles’. Malek gasped as the water came rushing out of the spout above them and now Malek knew what Louis meant by shower. They were literally being ‘showered’ by water, it was like rain but controlled. –You humans are very inventive.- Malek thought, -not many human civilisations have reached this level of technology.- Louis smiled taking the comment as the compliment it was meant to be. The host adjusted the handles and the water became a more comfortable temperature. –What do you use to clean yourself?- Malek asked curiously barely restraining himself from wiggling with excitement.

Louis chuckled at Malek’s childish excitement and reached for a shelf full of some bottles. This is shampoo and conditioner. Louis stated pointing out two bottles, one of the bottles lid was up but another was down. They clean hair and this is body scrub, used to clean the body. Louis stated before grabbing the shampoo. The host foamed his hair and then washed it back out before repeating himself with the conditioner. Then Louis quickly repeated the process a third time with the body scrub. The host was quick and efficient. Malek respected the hosts efficiency but times like this when they could afford to relax, there was no need to rush and besides Malek liked to bath and feel the water around him. Perhaps he could persuade Louis to relax and take a little longer the next time they ‘showered’ or bathed.

-That was quick.- Malek thought with pride and amusement as his host dried himself and dressed in record time. The ‘jeans’ still feel restrictive.- He added as Louis moved. Louis just smiled and left the wash room. –But you were right, they are quite tough. Perhaps I was too hasty in judging your taste in clothes.- Malek added. Louis’s mind felt ‘smug’ at that. The host left their quarters and wandered down the hallways, Malek knew where they were going from his host’s memories but knowing and actually doing it were two very different things. Everyone glanced up as Louis entered the room, but looked back down once they had seen who it was. –Hmm, do they all know you?- Malek asked curiously.

No, but only permitted personnel are allowed in the base so they know I am here because it had been permitted. Otherwise they would have reacted negatively. Louis explained. Besides if any strangers were here, the alarm would already be raised. Of course, they aren’t aware you’re here because there is no proof, no signs of your existence which works in our favour.

Malek agreed but he knew if the humans were more ‘in the know’ they would check for him, but as it was they only knew the Goa’uld were parasites and had not even prepared for a potential invasion. If it didn’t put Malek in risk, he would have taken control and ranted at them for being so foolish. As it was Malek could only mumbled about their stupidity to Louis who agreed ‘whole heartedly’. –What is this?- Malek asked as he watched the ‘chef’ splat a spoonful of brown liquid onto a plate, the liquid had strange lumps. Then the chef put something white on the plate, which almost looked like a paste.

This is chicken curry.

-It doesn’t look very appetising, but I’ve eaten things that have looked much worse.- Malek replied, Louis mentally shied away from Malek’s mind not wanting to see what Malek had to eat before. –What is it like?-

I enjoy it and to be honest I don’t want to give it up. Louis answered as he walked over to an empty table, he did not want to talk to anyone when he was mentally talking to Malek. If anyone looked at him they’d think he was lost in thought, but if he actually said something that gave Malek away it could mean big trouble for them both. Louis picked up a ‘fork’ and mixed the chicken and sauce with the rice onto it before putting the fork full of food into his mouth. What do you think? He asked Malek as he chewed and then swallowed.

-It is rather good.- Malek replied, ‘tasting’ through his host before analysing the food’s contents. –However the chef has sacrificed a lot of the nutrition to make it tastier.- He added. –I would like to have this again. It is ‘enjoyable’.- Louis immediately felt happier and Malek knew the host had feared him stopping them from having it again. –I would also like to try some of your other native foods as well. Is there anything particular that you enjoy?-

I quite like coffee. It is a warm beverage full of caffeine. Louis replied. Perhaps we can try some later? But how about we eat breakfast and then I can see if we can get off base? We could relax there and you can try some of the food and drink I have at home. He asked Malek, the host felt shocked at himself, obviously Louis hadn’t expected himself to become use to Malek so soon. Malek agreed silently and allowed Louis to gather his thoughts. The host wasn’t sure that leaving the base with an alien life-form in his head was a good idea, but at the same time he didn’t want them to find out about Malek. Finally Louis decided to leave the base, when he remembered that he was very likely to return as the ‘expert’ of the stargate in a few years.

General Hammond had already signed the papers, returning them to their original duties or jobs but before the gathered personnel left, he reminded them of the non-disclosure form. They took a few moments to grieve Daniel Jackson’s loss, pretending he had died. The moment they left the base, everything they had been through did not exist. Daniel Jackson vanished, the stargate programmed never existed, and Louis and his team had been on vacation.

Malek once again found himself admiring his host’s world as Louis left the base. –So you were not underground but inside a mountain?- Malek asked in awe. –Look at all this life! If the Tok’ra lived on such a world we would be found out! This is beautiful. What is that?- Malek rambled much to Louis’s amusement. The host was approaching a strange object, it almost reminded Malek of a cart, it was an odd metal shaped ‘box’ with several ‘gadgets’ inside and it was on wheels. –Is this some kind of transportation device? How does it work?-

You’ll see. Louis replied with a smirk. The host pulled out a small strangely shaped metal object that he mentally called a key, the key fit into a special slit in the car door. Louis turned the key once it was fully sheathed, a loud noise was heard and then when he pulled the ‘handle’ the door opened. Malek watched as the host climbed in sitting on the seat, Louis grabbed a long black belt and pulled it over himself. A metal ‘tongue’ slipped into another sheath and locked into place securing Louis to the seat. This is an important safety measure. Louis informed Malek as he played with three mirrors, one in the car and two either side of the car. The mirrors gave Louis and Malek and large view of the environment behind them, which Malek assumed was important. Malek wiggled in discomfort as the machine vibrated, he could feel every single vibration through his sensitive body and whilst it was not painful, it was also not comfortable. The host seemed to focus on some flaps on the floor, he moved a large stick or handle beside him and set it on a strange symbol before pushing down the ‘pedal’. The transportation device surged forward and Louis effortlessly turned the big wheel before him, turning the large transportation device easily. Malek cried out in surprise not expecting the device to move so fast, he did not feel safe at all.

-This is dangerous and crazy!- Malek stated his small body tightening around his host’s spine in terror and fear. –Your race travels around like this? It is a wonder there are no collisions and deaths!-

They do happen. Louis replied making Malek’s ‘blood run cold’. But as long as we follow the laws set we will be fine, it is most often happens when drivers go against the law or bend the rules that bad things happen. You don’t need to worry. He stated trying to soothe Malek but Malek would only relax when their feet would be touching solid, reliable ground and they were as far away from these machines as possible. Malek poked around Louis memories of operating the transportation device, he wanted to collect every little bit of information. If anything happened he wanted to be in the know and prepared. Louis sighed at Malek’s nervousness but obligingly ‘handed’ over the information Malek wanted.

-This can’t be safe!- Malek mumbled agitatedly as he cautiously watched every move his host made. Louis sighed again and again at Malek’s ranting but said nothing in reply because he knew the only thing that would comfort Malek was being as far away from the ‘car’ as possible. Louis finally pulled to a stop and turned off the vehicle, Malek sighed in relief as the human stepped out of the car.

Welcome to your temporary new home. Louis stated as he walked up to a building.

-Now this is more like it.- Malek stated. –More colour!- He cheered as he looked at the neat lawn framed by flowering plants. A cobbled path led to a small, two floored building. The outside walls were white and the roof tiles were a nice reddish brown. –I hope the inside is as nice as the outside and not like that dull, dark base.- Malek continued as he relaxed, his body loosening from Louis’s spine. Louis said nothing, instead he approached a door and pulled out another piece of metal similar to the ‘key’ used to unlock the ‘car’ but this one unlocked doors. The host stepped into the doorway and shut the door securely behind him. The room was welcoming, the walls were a soft creamy brown, the floor was covered with a soft fur of some kind that Louis recognised as a ‘carpet’. –This is much better.- Malek thought.

The host allowed Malek to take in what he was seeing without disturbance, but Malek’s attention was immediately drawn to his host as the human picked up a piece of technology. It looked like a jug but it was made out of a much stronger material than just crystal, in fact it looked similar to metal and it had a switch at the base. Louis walked over to a metal tub built into a table top, his hand moved over to a long metal spout, he placed the jug beneath the end of the spout and turned a handle. Malek watched as water poured out filling the jug, the host then placed it on a stand and flicked the switch. The switch lit up in red and Malek followed the stand noticing that it somehow plugged into the wall, which meant there must be a power source of some kind in the wall. Louis collected a cup placing it on the side before reaching into a cupboard and pulling out a glass jar filled with dark brown granules. Malek watched intrigued as his host made his ‘coffee’. The coffee did not look like a drink until the boiling water was added and even then Malek thought it looked unappetising.

This is coffee. Louis stated before taking a good sniff.

Malek didn’t say anything to the smell, it was strong an aromatic but he would judge only once he had a taste. Louis obliged and took a big gulp of the hot liquid. Malek paused before growling, the drink contained a drug that was dangerous to the human body. It keeps hosts awake and was incredibly dangerous, the drug could kill bugs and small animals in small doses, given enough of it, a human could die as well! It could also cause infertility! –Why are you drinking this?!- Malek snapped surging forward and stopping Louis from drinking anymore. –Do you know how dangerous this stuff is? Are you trying to harm yourself?-

It’s just a hot drink! Louis replied. I thought you said you would not take control against my will or stop me from doing what I want to do?

-I won’t take control unless I believe there is a danger to your health and this ‘drink’ is a danger to your health. I do not want you to drink this anymore.- Malek stated.

You said you wouldn’t do something like this!

-I said I would get involved if I thought it was a risk to your life.-

This is not a risk to my life!

-How much of this do you drink?-

A few cups a day.

-How much is a few?-

Err…I’m not sure, three or four. Perhaps five or six.

Malek blinked his host’s eyes in shock. –Is this what you humans drink? No wonder you crazy! No wonder you would challenge the might of a system lord, you’re all hyped up on this drug! What are you thinking! You’re addicted to this drug!-

I like that drink, it helps me wake up in the morning and gives me energy. Now give me back control so I can drink it before it goes cold.

-This drink is not safe!- Malek replied angrily. –Why do you not understand that? You should not be drinking this!-

I’ve been drinking this for years, there is nothing wrong with it! Let me out! Louis demanded.

-I do not want you drinking this.- Malek replied unable to understand why Louis was so furious. Malek was protecting his host’s health, why did the host react so negatively to it? –I’m trying to protect you, it is my job to protect you as your symbiote. Why are you fighting me. It is just a drink you could find something else less dangerous, like herbal teas. They can be just as satisfying as this stimulation drug your drinking.-

I want the coffee not some weak, herbal tea.

-It tastes so strong because it is a drug! – Malek replied trying to make his host see sense. –Herbs would be much better for you then this drug, you don’t need to live off coffee!-

But I want to!


Because it tastes good and hits ‘the spot’.

-The spot?-

As in it is satisfying.

-But any number of herbs could ‘hit the spot’, you do not need to rely on this drug.- Malek lectured. –Besides the drink is bitter and does not taste good. It is disgusting. We can have something just as satisfying that tastes far better than this bitter drug.-

Fine. Louis conceded unhappily. Malek emptied the cup into the metal bowl built into the table top and watched it sink into the hole before he receded control to his host. Louis huffed angrily and dumped his cup into the sink, before stalking over to another room. The host sat and switched on one of the machines. The screen lit up and the host switched frequencies until he found something he liked. The screen filled with violence and at first Malek thought they were watching a real fight and real murder, but finally he realised it was all fake. The humans liked to watch violence. Malek ignored the screen and focused back on his host. The man was furious with Malek simply for banning the beverage and obviously didn’t want to speak to Malek. You didn’t keep your promise after all. Louis thought angrily. You didn’t even give me a choice.

-The only reason I did this is because the ‘coffee’ negatively affects your health. Trust me you do not need it.- Malek replied, but Louis merely huffed in annoyance. –Please don’t be upset with me, I’m just looking out for your health.- Malek pleaded but Louis was determined to ignore Malek. The host determinedly ignored him. Malek sighed. –I am going to rest for a little while. Just ‘reach’ or call for me if you need me, I’m attuned to your needs so I will be aware if I am needed.- The host hummed his ascent but did not speak. –Alright then.- Malek mumbled before withdrawing into his small body. He shifted gently, he moved his small fins, stretching carefully before relaxing and slowly dozing off.

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