Word Count: 23,000+
Rating: NC-17/ Mature Content
Summary: Eureka plunges into a dark fairytale world where its citizens must figure out the curse of the Red Witch and break the spell in order to get back to their lives. Written for the Marshal Science August Challenge and Musingdarkly/Becca who wanted "anything, hot smut would be a plus".
Chapter 5: The Heart of the Forest
Jack awoke to Stark and Zane staring down at him – the first with worry and the second with barely concealed envy.
“Good morning,” Taggart’s voice cheerfully welcomed him back to consciousness, serving as a much needed buffer to the two men hovering over him. Jack looked over to see him hovering around a small fire and Fargo, who had taken to cooking all their meals.
“Hey Taggart,” Jack replied, easing back and up into a sitting position. Nathan and Zane backed off, giving him room. “Anything interesting happen while I was gone?”
“Not unless you count these two fools going at it all night long while tromping around in the river. Never heard such a ruckus in my life.”
Jack looked over at the two men who had yet to utter a single word and then scooted back further, slowly leveraging himself up until he stood on shaky legs.
“So what happened?” Zane finally asked, eager for adventurous details.
Jack briefly recounted the small adventure he'd had the night before, leaving out nothing. Zane, Fargo and Taggart sat around the morning fire, listening to his story and pestering him with questions while Stark maintained a little distance, sitting on a log opposite Jack. The only time he even reacted to anything was when Jack mentioned the woman behind the glass and Nathan. His head jerked up in surprise at this last part before he once again schooled his features into the blank expression he'd been wearing for the last day or so.
After breakfast, they quickly packed up camp and crossed the river. The trail on the other side was better marked and wider than the one that led from the town center to the river. By midday, they passed the cottage Zane had spoke of the night before. It was huge and looked pleasant enough, but something about it gave off a dark air – like something twisted by magic.
“What's wrong with that place?” Jack heard Fargo ask Stark.
“It belonged to the Red Witch,” Stark answered back, looking at Zane with suspicion.
Zane looked at the cottage and back at Stark, bristling at the insinuation in the other man's eyes. “How was I supposed to know that?”
“You weren't,” Taggart replied, condescension dripping from his voice. “How could a big Hero such as yourself know an evil cottage from a regular one?”
Zane sputtered and reddened in the face, but didn't say anything else.
Once they hit the tree line, the forest once again engulfed them in darkness and the trail vanished. They walked through dense woods with only Stark able to lead the way.
Lulled by the ongoing hike, Jack found himself walking alongside Stark with the others far enough back to be out of earshot.
“I'm sorry,” Stark said softly
“I said I'm sorry. I didn't mean for you to feel used.”
Jack nodded his head, not knowing exactly how to respond.
“It came out wrong – what I said before,” Stark continued, “I do...”
Stark trailed off, seemingly lost for words.
“What?” Jack asked.
“I like having you around.”
Jack sighed and took the other man's hand into his own. Stark looked down briefly at their entwined fingers in surprise, but gently squeezed Jack's hand.
That night they camped out under an outcropping of rock that wasn't quite a cave and was nowhere near any kind of water. Jack sat with Nathan's arm around him while they listen to Fargo and Zane trade wild stories back and forth, each trying to one up the other. Taggart played a flute gently while they all drifted off to sleep on pallets around the fire. Jack awoke refreshed and feeling quite peaceful for lying next to a man with antlers while a werewolf slept only a few feet away and considering he was on his way to see a magician in the middle of a dark forest on a quest to save a whole town and break a witch's curse.
Jack felt the need to lie awake contemplating the turn his life had taken while Stark snored gently beside him and curled closer. He leaned back, enjoying the body warmth on a chilly morning, and drifted back to sleep.
Jack dreamed of the beautiful woman behind the glass under the water. She kept trying to tell him something, but he couldn't read her lips anymore. When he woke again, Stark was still close - awake and sitting up.
“Good morning sleeping beauty,” he drawled before handing Jack some hot coffee in one of the tin cups Zane had brought along. “Drink this and then we should get going. The Hermit's cabin isn't too far away.”
Stark wasn’t lying. About two hours later, Jack found himself standing outside of a huge log cabin that looked more like a small castle, or maybe a large bug if Jack squinted and turned his head just so.
“What are you doing?” Fargo asked.
“Does it look like a cricket to you?”
“What are those large flaps over there?”
“Thermo-reflective, semi-permeable fabric coverings,” Fargo replied and then blinked in surprise.
“How’d you know that?”
“I don’t know.”
Jack looked again at the large flaps. “What did it mean?”
Fargo’s reply was interrupted by the large front doors opening, seemingly on their own.
Stark sighed and then squared his shoulders in determination. “Come on.”
Jack looked over to see Fargo and Taggart already following Stark inside. He raised his eyebrows at Zane and received only a shrug in reply.
Jack didn’t know what he expected the Hermit’s house to be like, but the cozy, warm interior wasn’t it. He supposed he had imagined it to look a little like that world on the other side of the glass window at the bottom of the lake.
The walls were painted a light golden yellow where the wood of the logs didn’t show through. There was soft, padded furniture in the main room and a crackling fire surrounded by bookshelves filled to the brim with volumes of all different sorts. Jack walked over and skimmed some of the titles.
“Ethical Considerations and the Butterfly Effect as Applied to Cross Dimensional Manipulations,” Jack read one of the titles off. “Wonder what that one’s about.”
“You might be more interested in this one,” a friendly looking, dark man appeared seemingly out of nowhere and pulled another volume off the shelf to Jack’s right and handed it to him.
“Let me guess, you’re the Tailor?”
“And you’re the Hermit?” Jack surmised.
The other man nodded. “You can call me Henry.”
“Jack.” He reached out and they shook hands. “This seems familiar, doesn’t it?”
“We probably experienced something similar before the spatial anomaly enveloped the town.”
“The curse,” Stark replied. “Hello Henry.”
“Nathan,” the Hermit answered. “I hope you’ve been well.”
“Nathan? You’re Nathan? The one the woman behind the glass was talking about?”
Jack huffed. “You could have said something.”
“It wouldn’t have mattered. I don’t know the passcode she referred to.”
“Passcode?” Henry looked back and forth between them. “Who was asking for a passcode?”
Jack took a moment to recount his experience with being dragged under the river and then upstream and into the lake. “…so I didn’t know who the woman was talking about, since Nathan wouldn’t tell me his name.”
“I didn’t give you permission to use it now,” Stark argued back.
“You said I could call you whatever I wanted.”
Nathan opened his mouth and shut it again.
“An association of names with power and the resulting prohibition against giving them freely,” Henry added. “It’s a common theme in myths and fairytales.”
Jack looked again at the book and his hands and opened it, flipping through the pages of stories for something familiar.
“You might want to take a look at the Tailor and the Glass Coffin – might be familiar.” Henry instructed Jack. “I think I know what the Princess was talking about.” Henry pressed a button on a strange looking device and glowing blue lights shot up into the air, forming an image.
“Cool,” Zane commented, eyes growing wide.
“It’s the Fortress,” Nathan said.
“That’s right,” Henry replied. “The source of the curse this town’s under. It’s causing us to live out stories like the one in that book. We need to get inside to end the spell and that’s where you come in Jack.”
“Me? Why me?”
“Because it’s the way the story goes,” Henry explained. “Now Global Dynamics has many defenses, all of which are controlled by a central defense intelligence – a machine.”
“And Nathan’s passcode will deactivate this machine,” Jack said, catching on.
The Hermit nodded. “That’s right,”
“But I don’t know what this passcode is,” Nathan protested.
“You do,” Henry countered, “you just don’t remember it.”
“Does it matter?” Taggart chimed in, “either way he doesn’t know it.”
“He can remember it,” Henry replied.
“No he can’t,” Zane argued. “No one can remember what came before the curse.”
“No, that’s not true. Everyone is convinced they can’t remember because that’s how the story goes, but deep in your gut, you know when things are drastically different from the way they were before. You can work with that until you remember more and more.” Henry pointed to the light picture. “For instance, that’s a hologram and the Fortress is really called Global Dynamics. I know, because I stared at it until I forgot that I didn’t know and remembered what it was.”
Nathan shook his head. “We don’t have time to sit around, staring at pictures. Something’s coming. I don’t know what it is, but I feel it.”
Henry nodded in agreement. “I think you’re right. You’re going to have to work on remembering the passcode on your way to getting in to Global Dynamics.”
Jack set the book down on a side table. “About that, the Queen has a plan to get me into the Fortress, or whatever you want to call it.”
“We’re going to go through the Kingdom of the Caged Princess,” Zane replied.
“Yeah, but she won’t give us the key to the kingdom until we prove ourselves worthy by curing Taggart of his curse.”
“Curing the werewolf?” Henry asked.
“Stay right here.” Henry disappeared into another room and then reappeared moments later carrying a vial of something shimmery and silver.
“This should cure him of his infection, but there’s a catch.”
“There usually is,” Jack commented.
“It’s made with a silver base because I don’t have any other resources. You’ll need to take it to the Alchemist so he can convert it into a safer formula for Taggart to ingest.”
Jack took the vial. “Great, where does he live?”
“The River? Again?” Jack whined loudly.
“We’ll have to walk upstream to get to the Alchemist,” Taggart shouted back at him. “He lives in a cave not too far from the lake.”
This time Zane and Taggart led the way with Fargo close behind while Nathan and Jack kept a little ways back.
“Are you alright? You’ve been quiet.”
Nathan looked over at him and then grimaced when his antlers caught on a low lying tree branch again. “I’m trying to remember.”
“Henry seemed happy to see you. I know we didn’t get to spend a lot of time back there…”
“I don’t want to talk about Henry.”
“It just…it’d be easier if he were angry,” Nathan confessed. “I know it sounds strange, but I wish he’d hate me for what I did.”
Jack could sympathize, but he didn’t really know how to respond, so he remained quiet.
“And now we have to go see Dactylos and I can’t stand him.”
Nathan nodded. “He’ll want something or he won’t help at all.”
The day was going to be hotter than any of the ones Jack had experienced before in Eureka. Beads of sweat were starting to run down his face and neck. He reached up and scratched at the skin around his collar.
“It’s bothering you? It shouldn’t be,” Nathan said with concern, reaching over and rubbing Jack’s skin around the delicate metal.
A wave of sensation washed through Jack, leaving him feeling aroused and high. He wavered a little on his feet. Nathan’s hand dropped down to Jack’s side, drawing him closer and steadying him.
“Careful,” Nathan stopped and the voices of the others drifted off into the background sounds of the woods. “I think you need to rest and eat something.”
Jack turned closer to Nathan and slid to his knees, hands reaching up to undo the fastening’s on Nathan’s leather pants.
“What are you doing?”
“Resting,” Jack replied, while nuzzling Nathan through the smooth fabric until he could pull it down.
“Alight, but…” Nathan stopped midsentence when Jack ran his tongue up the underside of his cock. “…or we could do this.”
Jack took the semi-soft member into his mouth, tonguing the head and relishing the feel of it growing harder and larger in his mouth. Nathan’s hands dropped down to Jack’s head and when his fingertips brushed the collar again, Jack moaned in pleasure. He pulled off a little, wrapping a hand around the base and then sucked Nathan’s cock back into his mouth until Jack’s lips touched his fist.
Nathan moaned and Jack could feel tremors course through his legs as he fought to keep standing. Jack pulled off again and Nathan’s hands ghosted over the collar again. Ecstasy radiated out from the warm metal. Jack sucked him back into his mouth, this time swallowing until he could feel Nathan in his throat.
Nathan bent over, one hand resting on Jack’s right shoulder and the other stroking the collar with sure, firm strokes, massaging the skin around it gently. Jack lost himself in the sensation and the rhythm of sucking Nathan off until the other man shouted and shook like he was coming apart and salty liquid filled his mouth.
Jack pulled off and Nathan managed to get his pants back up before collapsing on the ground in front of him. He pulled Jack to him and kissed him until his lips felt bruised. Then he kissed the side of Jack’s jaw and moved down to his neck and, gently sucking and tonguing the area around the collar.
“Oh God,” Jack pressed in tighter against the other man, straddling his lap. “Stark, don’t stop.”
The other man chuckled and moved his head to whisper in Jack’s ear, “it’s Nathan, remember.”
“Nathan,” he half-whispered, half moaned as he wiggled, badly needing to come. “Please.”
“Suck my fingers.”
Jack happily did as he was instructed, feeling Nathan’s other hand untying the front of his trousers. The fingers left his mouth just as Nathan’s tongue went back to his neck, tracing the skin around the collar and Nathan’s left hand wrapped around Jack’s hard shaft. The right hand worked itself into the back of Jack’s pants and Nathan pressed first one finger and then two inside of him.
Bliss engulfed Jack and he felt like he was floating in between waves of pleasure.
“I want you to come on me,” Nathan told him and Jack climaxed on cue, coating Nathan’s chest with sticky strands of white.
They managed to make it down to the river, wash up and catch up with the others just as the Alchemist closed the door in their faces.
“Took you two long enough,” Taggart complained when he saw them.
Zane gave Jack a knowing look and smirked until Jack felt like his face was on fire.
“Did he transmute the formula?” Nathan asked.
“Not until we get him the Golden Fish that lives in the lake.”
“He got what was coming to him, if you ask me.”
“Aye,” Taggart agreed. “If we didn’t need his skills, I’d say we should just leave the bugger blind as a bat.”
“He’s blind?” Nathan asked.
They all nodded.
“They Queen took away his sight after he tried to trick her into serving him,” Fargo explained. “He needs the Golden Fish in order to restore his sight.”