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Smooth as a River Stone

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When Jakaj Koneel and Lumar walked into the room, they found their god staring out the window not looking at anything much, or perhaps staring at something very specific that no one else could see. Methos saw many things that no one else could see.

Only occasionally did anyone else learn some of what had been seen. Most of the times it was only evident in his amusement. But both Jakaj Koneel and Lumar were worried because more and more Methos was looking at something else and less and less was there laughter on his face or in his eyes.

Together they filled the highest counselor positions of the empire, the pivot of the counsel, the decision maker when the god was absent, supporting their god in his rule. It gave them access to these rooms of the palace, allowed them to interrupt their god in his musings. But this visit wasn’t about business, not directly. Maybe it was about religion. Maybe it was about family.

Looking at Methos, they murmured to each other that they had been right to worry. They sank to a kneeling position, not the comfortable one-knee position, but both knees down, hands clasped behind themself, in full supplicant form.

As they waited, Jakaj Koneel recalled the time fifty years ago when he had gone to his god like this. It was the only other time he, as an adult, had gone to Methos as a supplicant.

As a child, he had been a presumptuous little brat. He would go to his god as a supplicant to beg his god for a trip to the market or the theater. Methos would laugh and pull him up and declared that he would grant Jakaj his company but if he wanted to go to the market, then he had to sit through a counsel session with Methos first.

It had not been a punishment. Jakaj loved watching the counselors propose their ideas and everyone discuss their strengths and weaknesses and Methos decide what to do.

As an adult, Jakaj had grown into a role where he attended the meetings in his own right rather than a playful observer. As an adult he gave his impressions and opinions as thoughtfully as he could rather than as giggling whispers while walking market streets. As an adult, he had only gone to Methos once as a supplicant.

It had been to ask for permission to bond with Lumar.

Permission hadn’t been necessary, not within the law. But it had been vitally necessary to Jakaj because he knew his own family history.

There were three hundred and sixteen generations separating him from his ancestor Jake O’Neil. At that distance, there must be millions of people who could trace their bloodlines back to the first of Methos’ Primes. There were certainly millions who made the claim. Methos alone probably knew the truth.

But Jakaj’s particular line was unique, because they had followed their ancestor’s desire to remain unbonded and alone in his own head. Three hundred and fifteen of Jake O’Neil’s direct descendants, all in a row, had honored this choice and followed in his footsteps, living their lives alone.

It hadn’t occurred to Jakaj Koneel as a child that he would not do the same. He had grown up, taken up a counselor position, married and had children, all while alone in his own head.

And perhaps he had thought longingly of the completeness that his wife had in being paired. And he had felt lonely at times when joking with his friends, but he was from a noble line. Methos with all his power was unable to bond, so surely it was only right that the family line he stayed with should keep him company in this.

It had been enough.

It had been enough until he had met Lumar.

Lumar had come to the capital from the hinterlands. Out in the hinterlands, the Goa’uld explorers bonded with a lizard race that could climb walls and survive falls but who didn’t have the sentience to be true partners. Lumar had spent a century exploring and having adventures and gaining experiences that Jakaj had never considered, but he had come to the city to make a change. He was ready, he said, to have a true partner, not just a pet vehicle, and he had come to the capital city to interview the university students.

Methos had asked Jakaj to speak with Lumar about the hinterland. And Jakaj had learned about the hinterlands but more, he had learned about Lumar. Lumar who was witty and challenging and comforting and exciting and knowledgeable and naïve all at once.

He had worried every day that Lumar would find a match and bond with someone. That one day Lumar would come to him not in a lizard body but paired and bonded and leaving Jakaj as a third wheel once more.

Then he had discovered that Lumar was no longer interviewing potential bonders. When Jakaj had questioned him about that, Lumar had explained that he would take what he could get from Jakaj. He had known that Jakaj would never bond, but Lamar wouldn’t be bonding with anyone else. It had taken three days of soul searching before Jakaj had walked into Methos’ private office.

He had felt like a traitor sinking to his knees before his god that time, asking for permission to break the long family tradition of living like their god.

The god had turned to him but Jakaj had been unable to look into his face. Methos had said, “Jake O’Neil was perfect in his way. I still miss him, even after so long. And you, Jakaj Koneel, while you bear his name, are actually very little like him.” Jakaj had flinched and wondered briefly how best to kill himself before Methos had continued, “But I have found over the years that there are an infinite number of ways to be perfect. You are not a pale copy of Jake, you are yourself perfect in a way completely unlike him, and I think I will remember you and love you for just as long.”

And Jakaj had finally managed to look up into his god’s face, into the face of the being who had held him as a baby, and played with him as a child, and taught him as a young man. His god who had done each of these things for his father and his grandfather and his forefathers going back hundreds of generations.

“It’s okay then? I’m not betraying you? I’m not abandoning you?” He needed to be certain.

Methos had smiled at him. “You are not betraying or abandoning me. You are outgrowing me.” Jakaj had drawn a breath to disagree that he would never do such a thing, but the god continued. “And that is only right. I have waited for quite some time for your line to out grow me. You have my blessings, you and Lumar both. And Jakaj, my blessings extend to all of your children after you.”

He had worried about what the god had said for a long time, but also could not help but see the relief on his children’s faces when they heard that none of them would be expected to remain alone. He hadn’t even realized that none of them wanted that, that they had looked at each other and wondered which of them would make a sacrifice that wasn’t supposed to even be a sacrifice. Their god had known though, and known to reassure them. And Methos seemed genuinely pleased with him and Lumar.

He had recounted his conversation with the god to Lumar when he asked to bond. Lumar had been as uncertain as he. It was only after they had bonded that Lumar had murmured in the most private way possible that he wondered if the god had introduced them for this purpose.

Methos liked hearing stories of the distance places. Usually when explorers returned to the central areas for an audience, the god would interview them personally, not set it as a task for his prime. So why then, had the god sent his Jakaj to interview Lumar?

They thought these questions together as they kneeled once more, as supplicants, this time to ask a question that no one had the right to ask their god.

Over the years, Methos had been withdrawing more and more from the worlds around him. He stayed increasingly in his palaces, either here or on different worlds, wandering through markets and universities only in disguise. More and more, counsel sessions were left to Jakaj-Lumar, even when Methos was present and observing. He hadn’t taken an acknowledged lover in decades. He sent gifts to the Koneel descendants on their celebratory days rather than attending them himself.

When Methos eventually turned from the window and looked at Jakaj, his eyes were still distant for a moment, before they came slowly into focus, finally looking at him with all the presence the millennia-old diety had at times.

Jakaj was fifty years older than the last time he had knelt like this before his god and yet he was just as terrified and just as determined this time as before.

“What do you ask of me?”

“I ask that you answer a question. And the question is this: what troubles you, my god?”

Methos looked down at him for a moment, his face remained impassive, the face he showed all supplicants as he considered their requests. Finally, he said, “Come, stand with me and look out over the land.”

Jakaj-Lumar rose to their feet carefully and walked, carefully, over to the window. Methos was strong beyond words and ruthless beyond all knowing and yet, Jakaj-Lumar thought, he seemed almost fragile now.

He looked out of the window and over the land as Methos had instructed. Standing shoulder to shoulder with his god, they looked out over the city that stretched as far as their eyes could see.

The city was beautiful.

Closest to the god’s palace were the temple grounds where the impoverished took shelter. They spread out around the palace and were the most beautiful grounds in all the world and the closest to the seat of power. The wealthy who helped rule the land from their own homes must walk with the impoverished and the petitioners for a ways before reaching the temple proper. It was a reminder that those who gave themselves to the god would be cared for and treasured, and those who sought independence from the god could have it but only at a cost.

The homes of the wealthy and the ambitious rose up around the temple grounds, yearning to impress with their learning and their power. The markets and the theaters and all the entertainments that life could offer were in that ground, that ring of land that the god allowed to run independent of his rule, under it’s own independent counsel. A lesson to all that while the god was great, he was not omni-present and he expected those who sought independence to rule themselves in harmony.

And finally the university grounds in a giant ring around even that, such that it took an hour's flight to get from the palace to the university. Dedicated learners spent years traveling the university circuit to visit every college.

It was impossible to see from this palace window the lands beyond the university, and even if he could, it would be impossible to see the other worlds, the other galaxies that all circled around this one temple, this one palace, this one god.

It seemed to them that the whole universe was stretched out before them. But looking out at it, it also made him realize that they were completely surrounded.

Jakaj-Lumar thought they were beginning to understand what had troubled their god.

“It is time for me to go wandering again.”

“You feel caged.” Lumar spoke their thoughts aloud. Jakaj added, “We can come with you in your wanderings or hold the government and the church for you. Whatever you need, for however long you need.”

They weren’t even sure which they’d prefer. To wander again with their god would be a treat beyond all measure, but they also loved this city running the government as their god’s proxy.

“You are, Jakaj, my first prime, the chief priest of the state religion. You are, Lumar, a respected lecturer at my central university of galactic learning. And you are, Jakaj-Lumar, my proxy on the government counsel, the pivot point and decision-maker.”

“Yes,” they said. So they would stay in the city then, and rule while their god wandered. He had wandered before, and Jakaj-Lumar wondered if the first primes and pivot points in those days had felt as bereft as he did at the thought.

“You can hold the government and the church for as long as is needed.”

“Yes.”

“And I know you are able to break with tradition at need as well.”

Jakaj-Lumar paused longer in answering this time, not because what their god said wasn’t true, but because the implications of the statement were devastating. After all, what traditions of Methos’ were worth breaking? “Yes.”

“I have been a god for thousands of years, even in my wanderings, even when I married and raised children. I have been a god and ruled all the lands and have risen so high that it is hard to see the ground. When I first came from Earth to conquer the galaxy, I came like an avalanche, fitting nowhere and changing everything I touched, demanding that the universe change to my will. It was a time of deep emotion and high emotion, force and trickery, delight and despair. I would not return to that, and yet, now I find my days are worn smooth as a river stone.”

“You can wander for as long as you need…” Jakaj whispered, trying to hide the nervous horror at the thought that maybe as long as Methos needed was forever.

Methos looked at Jakaj, and must have known that Jakaj had already guessed.

“I once spent a thousand years as a god of death, back on Earth. When I finally left, one of my brothers spent the next three thousand years searching for me, to bring me back. But I had moved on. And not even brother-love could stop me from eventually arranging the death of someone who would force me back into a position worn too smooth.”

“You won’t be coming back.”

“No.”

“What can I do?”

“You can do whatever you deem best for the land, for the people, for the government, for the church. You are the pivot point, after all. Look out over the land.”

Methos hugged them and then turned them so they still stood in his arms, but now looked out the window once more. Jakaj-Lumar strained to look out over the land, struggling to see through the wavering water collecting in his eyes.

Methos kept his arms wrapped around Jakaj-Lumar as he continued to speak. “I love you, and I will love and remember you always, but I am no longer your god. Go forth and do great things with this land that is now in your keeping.”

And then the arms fell away and Jakaj-Lumar could hear Methos turn walk from the room. They knew that, from this height, they wouldn’t be able to even identify Methos if he left with the other people walking from the palace to the temple grounds. Or he might be taking one of the jumpers or the rings or some other means of travel to get away. They did not doubt that Methos would be gone from the palace before they’d be able to find him again.

“If you are not my god,” Jakaj finally whispered aloud in the empty room, “then you cannot command me. And I say that you are my god, for as long as I live and breathe.”

Lumar actually yelps but entirely in Jakaj’s brain. Then he whispers, still inside so no one else can hear, and even then he doesn’t manage to ask the whole question, “You’re not planning to….?”

“No,” Jakaj reassures his bonded, just as quietly. “No, never. He is my god and I would never hunt or cage him. I just, I will not stop worshiping him.”

In a few hours, or maybe in a few days to allow Methos more time to go wherever he wants to go and change however he wants to change, they’ll announce that Methos has gone wandering. Then, for the next few years and centuries, they will work to make the universe a place that does not need their god to come back.