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Title:   Once Upon a Time
Fandom:  Eureka
Pairing:  Jack/Nathan
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 6:  The Alchemist's Quest

“Alright you scaly beast, come out from wherever you are,” Taggart ordered, standing in a boat in the middle of a dark lake.  “Give yourself up you clever, beautiful coward.”

“Yelling at the fish didn’t work last time,” Jack complained.  “Or the time before that, or the time before that.”

“How long have we been out here?” Fargo asked.

“Three whole days of mind numbing boredom,” Zane said morosely.  “I’m starting to regret coming along.”

“You can always go back,” Fargo offered.

“Hey Jack, maybe you should try going under the water again,” Zane suggested.  “Your gills might come back this time.”

Jack shook his head.  “I’ve tried it five times.  I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

“Yeah, but you didn’t stay under long enough.”

“I’m not drowning just so you’ll have some excitement.”

“Fine.”  Zane stood up, dove off the boat and started swimming ashore.  “I’m going to go talk to Todd.”

“Thank God for Todd,” Fargo quipped.

“Poor Todd,” Jack added.  “He’s probably wishing we’d go away and he could get his peace and quiet back by now.”

Fargo shrugged, “except for the part where he didn’t have any place to stay because his cabin burnt to the ground and he was about to be eaten by that ogre.”

Jack nodded.

“I don’t know,” Taggart added.  “If it was a choice between Zane and an ogre, I’d probably have to think twice before choosing the ogre.  Now will you people please be quiet, I can’t hear her calling me with all this noise.”

“Anyone seen Nathan?”

Fargo shook his head.  Jack sighed and leant back, keeping a hand on his fishing line in case he caught something.

***

“…and that’s when I saved the day and my Queen saw fit to favor me with her praise.”

Todd looked like a wild animal contemplating chewing his own leg off to escape. 

“Oh what a load of BS,” Taggart huffed.

“You don’t even know what I was saying.  You just got back from not catching the Golden Fish.”

“Yeah, but I know horseshit when I smell it.”  Taggart scratched at the fur behind his ears and then sniffed at the air.  “I think I’m going to go hunt something for dinner.”

“I’ll come with you,” Zane jumped up, eager to do something.  “I’ve got a special hunting bow I’ve been meaning to try out.”

Taggart rolled his eyes and started off towards the edge of the forest.  “Fine, but you’re not allowed to speak.”

“I won’t scare off the prey.”

“I don’t care about that,” Taggart said cheerfully.  “You talk and I eat you.”

Jack turned back to Todd, smiling in amusement.  “Sorry.”

“Uh huh.”

“Have you seen Nathan around?”

Todd pointed towards a part of the lake shore a few miles down the beach.

***

“Any luck?”

Jack jumped and stopped in his tracks.  It was Nathan’s voice, but he couldn’t tell where it was coming from. 

“Over here.”

Jack turned his head and had to blink a few times before making him out along the tree line. 

“Haven’t found anything yet,” Jack said, walking over towards Nathan.  “You?”

Nathan shook his head.  “If I sit still long enough, it’s like I’m catching glimpses of a dream or past life.  There are metal hallways and strange rooms.  Sometimes I see people there, but nothing like a passcode has come up.”

Jack sat next to him in the grass.  “Have you seen me there?”

“Sometimes.”  Nathan grew a little tense.  “I’ve seen you talking with the Princess or in danger.”

Jack leaned into his warmth, resting a hand on Nathan’s knee.  “She knew you.  She knew both of us when I saw her under this lake.”

Nathan stretched out his legs.  He wrapped his arm around Jack and Nathan’s hand settled on his hip.  “Strange to think that there’s this whole other life out there waiting for us to get it back.”

“I wonder if we were very different before or if we’ll be other people once the curse is broken.”

“We knew each other before.”

“But not like this, I can feel it,” Jack replied.

Nathan shook his head, “no, but we don’t have to go back to the way it was before.”  He leaned over and kissed Jack.

“Now the arguing, that’s familiar,” Jack said causing Nathan to burst out in laughter. 

***

Fargo had dinner cooked and whatever Taggart and Zane caught roasting over a fire by the time Jack and Nathan made it back to camp.  His stomach growled in appreciation. 

“You know if you told me what you were looking for out here, I might be able to help,” Todd volunteered. 

“Unless you know what part of the lake the Golden Fish is hiding in, I doubt it,” Fargo replied.

Todd shook his head.  “I don’t know about that.”

Jack grabbed two bowls of vegetable stew and settled down in front of the fire next to Nathan.

Fargo nodded.  “I figured.”

“But I do have a fishing rod that’ll bring her right to you,” Todd replied and then took a bite of the bread.

The four of them sat there in shocked silence, looking at Todd eat.

***

“She’s a beaut’,” Taggart crooned at the large, gold fish looking up at him in the bucket.

“And we could have had her three days ago,” Zane complained.  “Three days.  And you gave away most of our supplies to Todd.”

“We could spare them,” Fargo argued.  “I for one am grateful my pack weighs considerably less.”

“I wonder if the Alchemist will let me keep her after he gets his eyesight back,” Taggart pondered out loud.

“You want to eat her?” Nathan asked.

“What?  No. Never!”

“Well she’s not going to be much good to you otherwise,” Nathan explained.  “He’ll have to cut out her eyes to cure himself.  It’ll kill her.”

Taggart stopped in his tracks.  “Well I’ll not give her to him then.”

“What?  It’s a fish!” Jack protested.  “And you need to give her to him to get your cure transmuted so the Queen will give us the key to the Kingdom of the Chained Princess and I can save the whole town!”  Jack took a deep breath.  “You don’t give her up, you’ll be a werewolf forever and this curse will never end.”

“It’s not so bad,” Taggart replied half-heartedly.

“Give me that fish.”  Zane lunged towards him, but Taggart dodged him while somehow keeping the bucket with the Golden Fish out of harms reach.  “I can’t stand this anymore.  Nothing happens in this town and I’m bored to death.”

Fargo ducked behind Taggart, trying to get at the bucket.

“Taggart, I know you don’t want to stay this way,” Nathan tried to talk to him reasonably while the others continued to grab for the fish.  “You’re not even human right now and you have all these animal instincts that you have to fight constantly.  They’re like a clawing sensation in the back of your mind trying to take over and I know you want to go back to being a man again.”

“Nope.  Perfectly happy,” Taggart quipped while dancing away from the reach of Zane and Fargo.  Jack noted that half the water had splashed out of the bucket.

“It’s not going to matter anyway when all the water’s gone from the bucket and believe me, suffocation isn’t fun,” Jack assured him. 

Taggart’s glanced down at his charge and smoothed out his movement so that he didn’t upset what little water was left.  “I don’t care what any of you say, I’d rather live as a half-man in this cursed land than sacrifice this beautiful creature.”

Zane lunged again for the bucket, knocking it out of Taggart’s hand and on to the ground where the rest of the water along with the Golden Fish spilled out.

“We needed it alive, didn’t we?” Jack managed to ask Nathan just before the fish turned into a puff of smoke.

Jack waved his hand in front of his face, trying to clear the air so he could see and stop choking.  When the smoke cleared, the Queen stood where the Golden Fish had been.  She wore an outfit that seemed to be made of the Golden Fishes scales.  The fabric clung to the swell of her breasts and was fastened to two gold chains that traveled over her shoulders and wrapped around her back to secure the sides.  The slit on the almost see through skirt she wore went right up to the waistline and Jack could see generous glimpses of skin and a tiny pair of gold bikini bottoms between the part of fabric.

Jack jerked his eyes back up to her face.  “Ok, fine,” Jack said before she could say anything to them, “we failed.  But we’ve been traveling for days.  We got so close to getting the curse of Taggart and you need the curse on the town lifted too, so couldn’t you just give us the key anyway.”

“I was going to say,” she gave Jack a quelling look, “well done.”

“What?” Fargo asked.

“What?” Jack echoed him.

“The difference between man and beast isn’t as superficial as fur and claws.  Taggart proved his humanity despite the magic of the Red Witch by defending me against those who would sacrifice my life for their own gain.”

Zane looked like he wanted to crawl under a rock and Fargo didn’t look much better.

“So we get the key?” Jack asked.

She nodded.  “Return to my throne room and you’ll have all you seek,” the Queen announced before vanishing in another puff of smoke.

***

Two and a half days later they stood once again in the Queen’s throne room, awaiting her advice.  A door opened to Jack’s left and the Queen entered, followed by Henry and the Alchemist.  She ascended the raised platform that held her thrown chair and sat down while the rest of them remained standing.

She wore a black dress with an asymmetrical bottom that wasn’t much more than two pieces of fabric secured with laces that ran up either side of it.  Her eyes were painted dark, with a shad of charcoal applied generously to the lids.  Jack shook his head.  This was one of the things in Eureka that seemed like it should be another way.  In his mind’s eye, he saw the woman before him fully clothed, with her hair secured in a bun and little makeup on. 

She cleared her throat and looked over at the Alchemist, who looked as if he no longer had any trouble seeing.

He walked forward towards Taggart and Jack couldn’t help but admire the look of the man just a little.  He wore only a loose pair of golden pants and dark gold boots.  His muscles were well toned and glistened with something shimmery which Jack could only guess was powdered gold. 

He presented Taggart with the same vial Henry had given them, except this time the contents had lost the silver color and were as golden as the man holding the vial.  “Drink it,” the Alchemist instructed Taggart, who looked once to the Queen for approval and then swallowed it down in one gulp.

The transformation was instantaneous.  The fur retreated, the yellow cleared from his eyes and he lost the sense of wildness he’d been exuding since the Red Witch had cursed him.

“Thank you,” he told the Alchemist and then the Queen and Henry.

“You’re welcome,” the Queen replied.  “And now for the key.”

The Alchemist moved down the line, past Nathan who did not look on him favorably, and stood in front of Jack.  “This is the keycard to the Kingdom of the Caged Princess,” he said before holding out a smooth, flat white object with black stripes.  “Good luck.”

“Thanks,” Jack said as neutrally as possible, aware of the hostility coming off Nathan in waves. 

“You’ll need luck,” Henry announced.  “The Kingdom is well guarded and to actually get through to Global Dynamics, you will have to free the Caged Princess so she can guide you.”

“Um, out of curiosity, what’s keeping her there?” Jack asked.

“A Mechanical Witch,” the Queen answered.

“Of course, witches and princesses.  That’s all the women seem to be in this town.”

The Queen cleared her throat. 

“I didn’t mean you,” Jack quickly amended.  “Not that I don’t think you’re a woman, but well…”

She held out her hand, palm facing him.  “Stop.  Just stop.”

Jack swallowed hard.

“Now if I may continue,” the Queen said with a stern voice, “the mechanical witch guards the caged princess fiercely.  Few weapons can disable any of her defenses and none can disable them all.”

“But she’s made of metal,” Fargo objected.

The room turned to look at him. 

“Yes?” the Queen asked.

“The Alchemist transmutes metal.  Can’t he make a weapon that could defeat her?” Fargo continued.

“No,” the Alchemist replied.  “I could make a substance, but not a weapon.”

“I could make the weapon,” Henry volunteered.  “If Christopher will supply me with an agent corrosive enough, I could make a weapon they could use to target the defense system and…”

“…if it acted like a catalyst, transforming not just the metal it hits, but all that’s attached to the infected area, it should destroy her,” the Alchemist picked up Henry’s train of thought.

“Excellent idea,” Nathan praised Fargo, who glowed at the attention.

“Go back to the inn,” the Queen ordered, “to await the construction of this weapon.” 

They all turned to follow her instructions.

“Wait,” she called out.  “The Hero will need to stay behind to receive his punishment.  I am not happy with your performance Zane.”

Fargo and Taggart had the sense of mind to make it out of the throne room before collapsing in laughter.

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December 2009

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