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Chapter 2

When they reached the Jeep, Daniel handed his keys to Casey. "I don’t think I can make it to the house," he said softly.

With a nod, she accepted the keys. Watched him climb into the passenger side. His head went to the headrest, and in the time it took her to get in the seat, and her seatbelt on, he was asleep. She couldn’t resist reaching out to caress his whisker-stubbled cheek. He shifted slightly, turned his face towards her. She smiled. Hopefully she could get him awake enough to make it into the house.

It had been a long, trying, heartbreaking day. It had started well enough. The mission had actually been going according to plan...until it had gone tits up. Typical for SG-1, she thought. Can’t have the good luck before the bad luck, can we?

When Ba’al had captured them, immediately tearing her away from her Husband and teammates, she'd known things were going to hell in a big way. Apparently the Goa’uld had learned from his continued encounters with SG-1. Within an hour of their capture, she’d been forced to witness the ‘Taking’ ceremony, helpless to stop what was happening. Her heart breaking as she watched the symbiote attack Daniel - slicing into the back of his neck, crawling inside his body...

She shuddered violently as the memories continued to play in her mind, in spite of her desire to just forget it all. The emotions just as strong in that moment as they had been when she'd stood in that hangar bay: the sense of utter defeat; the deep fear that Ba’al had at last won, and that her life would be nothing but hell as his Consort.

With a deep breath, she focused on the positive outcome...the fact that Daniel was sitting beside her, snake-free. She'd sensed there was a reason for what had happened. What she didn’t know was whether the reason warranted what they had suffered, what Daniel had suffered. She couldn’t imagine, not even in her worst nightmares, how horrible it must have been; how utterly terrifying to be unable to control her own body, doomed to be a prisoner in her own mind.

Daniel was the bravest, most incredible man she'd ever known. Part of the reason he had been chosen to be The One, she was certain. A thought...so out of the blue that for a moment she wondered if it was her own, or ‘planted’ by whoever was responsible for her downloads...bounced through her mind. Daniel was ‘set up’ to become a Goa’uld host. There was no denying that fact, not with the knowledge she had of the warning she’d received, and the fact that it had been ‘hidden ‘from her. But had his position as The One been the reason? Was there something he had to learn...to know...something that might have nothing at all to do with the information left behind by the symbiote? She determined to find out, when she took the team and had a little chat with...whoever that woman was. The woman...the Being...responsible for preventing her from warning the team, warning Daniel, of the impending danger they were facing.

Casey sighed as she pulled into the driveway. Pressed the button on the garage door opener. GDO, she thought with a giggle. A little less important than the one she or one of her teammates carried on missions. She parked the Jeep inside the small structure. Pressed the button again to close the door. Reached over and ran her fingertip over Daniel’s lips. "Stud Muffin?"

A snort and a slight snore were the only responses.

She dropped her hand to his shoulder, and shook him gently. "Daniel?"


"Hey, Handsome, wake up."

Blue eyes blinked open slowly. "Huh?"

"We’re home."

He reached up, ran his hand over his jaw. "’Kay."

"Can you get into the house?"


She crawled out of the Jeep, waited next to the side door that opened to the yard, and the sidewalk that led to the back door of the house. Watched as Daniel climbed out of the vehicle, shuffled to her side. She put her arm around his waist. "Come on, Stud Muffin, let’s get you to bed."

"Bed. Yeah. Let’s make love."

Her giggle was soft. "When you’ve had a bit of a nap, I promise."

"Nap sounds good."

Daniel leaned against her as she fumbled with her keys, trying to locate the one she needed. She helped him stagger up the steps. Held him up while she unlocked the door and disarmed the alarm system. It was obvious he’d never make it as far as the bedroom. She turned toward the living room.

As soon as he was close enough to the couch, he crumpled onto it, his head moving to one of the pillows automatically. Casey tugged off his shoes and socks. Gently removed his glasses; put them on the coffee table. Took the afghan from the back of the sofa and spread it over him. Smiled when he began to snore softly.

Whatever had happened in that warehouse, it had exhausted him. At least his temperature hadn’t become alarmingly high...he hadn’t risked death this time, she thought, grateful for small blessings.

Busying herself with dinner preparations, Casey glanced at the clock. Just after nine p.m. Fourteen hours ago, they had left the house, heading for the base and the final mission associated with the Ancient Weapon. They’d put in a thirteen hour day. Several of those hours had seemed much longer than others, she thought. The way she figured it, about nine of those hours had been sheer hell. And, considering what had happened, she and Daniel were the luckiest couple in the universe.

She glanced around the room. "I don’t know if you’re responsible for helping us or not," she said softly, addressing the Beings she knew existed, fairly certain those who protected The One were nearby, "but thanks for the assist."


First smiled at the young woman. Wished that she could speak to the Tau’ri, just for a moment.

"We did nothing," Second complained.

"We did as we have been tasked to do," First corrected her young companion.

Second crossed her arms over her chest. "How long would we have ‘observed’ before rendering that creature helpless?"

Third shook his head and smiled. Second was always so emotional! "Until we had been instructed to intercede."

"That could have been days!" Second exclaimed.

"Those whom we serve have their reasons for what happened to The One," First reminded Second.

"Surely allowing The One, and his Guide, to know what was to happen would have given them some measure of comfort while they endured what they did," Second argued.

"Perhaps," First allowed. If The Guide followed through with the threats issued to her Spirit Guide, events could become very...interesting.

"I believe that our Superiors will soon learn that treating The One and his Guide in such a manner will not be tolerated, by either of them," Third mused. "I wonder if They are aware of how powerful The One truly is, or the true potential of The Guide."

"I think not," First murmured. "Or what happened this day would never have occurred."

"I do not believe it will be long until The Guide gives our Superiors a glimpse at what she’s capable of," Second giggled. "Her need to protect The One, fueled by her love for him, and her anger over what they endured, will see to that."

Third and First exchanged knowing smiles. "I wager that there will be changes made," the male said, chuckling as well. And wondered if the Beings in positions above the level of the Triad had any idea of what they were about to face.




Familiar sounds stirred him from his slumber. He opened his eyes slowly; grinned at the yellow ceiling above him. As tired...as exhausted...as he had been, he felt as if he could take on the world now. A glance at his watch told him he’d been asleep for forty-five minutes. Daniel rubbed his hands over his face, then tossed the afghan aside, and sat up. Sniffed appreciatively. If his nose wasn’t lying to him, he’d be eating chicken enchiladas very shortly.

Casey glanced into the living room, surprised to see Daniel sitting up. "Did I wake you?"

"Nope." He stood up, folded the knitted blanket and put it back into place. "Just needed a few minutes to recharge, I guess."

"Dinner’s almost ready."

"Good, I’m hungry."

"Did you get a chance to eat at all today?" Casey asked, a hint of worry in her voice.

"Yeah, I did," Daniel replied. Marveled at the concern in her eyes, proof of her love. "What about you?"

She frowned. "To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember for sure."

His frown matched hers. If she’d eaten, she’d remember.

"I had more important things on my mind," she admitted, her smile a bit wobbly.

"I know," he said softly. He padded into the kitchen, noting peripherally that he was barefoot, pulled her into his arms. "It’s all over, Case."

She wrapped her arms around his neck, clinging to him. Taking comfort from the strength of his shoulders, the warmth of his embrace, the masculine scent that was unique to him.

"Are you okay?"

It was impossible not to smile. "I was okay the minute you walked through the ‘gate, looking like the Hunk of the Month," she replied.

"The what?"

Her giggle filled the air. "The Hunk of the Month. Every month we put a new poster up in the women’s locker room. Sometimes they’re dressed, sometimes they aren’t. When they are...well, let’s just say that none of them looked as good as you looked in those black pants and that red shirt."

He didn’t know whether to be amused at her assessment of his looks, or threatened by the fact that she found strange men attractive. That thought was one he immediately decided was not only a bit hypocritical - after all, he wasn’t opposed to checking out a poster...or centerfold...himself - but it also too closely revealed the pathetic fear that continued to lurk in his heart; the fear that she would find another man, someone ‘better’ than he, and would leave him. "Let me get this straight...the women in the SGC put up a poster of some guy they think is hot?"

"Yep. Last month was a fireman from New York City. Month before that, it was a cattle rancher from Wyoming," Casey said.

"And just where do you find these posters?"

Green eyes rolled with obvious frustration. "From Hunk of the Month!"

"You’re telling me there’s something called-"

"Hunk of the Month," Casey finished. "Yes, there is. Gracie found the website when she was surfing one day. We all pitched in for a subscription, and we get the monthly poster."

"Uh huh."

She arched one eyebrow. "Have I ever once complained about the Playboys in your closet?"

Daniel frowned. Actually, she’d never even acknowledged that she knew about his ‘collection’, or that he had a subscription to that particular magazine. Which, he thought a bit petulantly, he had not renewed! He hadn’t received any of the magazines in almost a year, now that he thought about it. He no longer had a need for photos of beautiful, naked women; not when the most gorgeous, sexiest woman he’d ever laid eyes on was right by his side. And he saw her incredible body naked on a daily basis! "I don’t get them any more," he pointed out.

"And I’m not the only woman in the SGC," she retorted. "There are a few single women there, ya know. And they have every right to have posters up if they want them."

"I don’t deny that. But you didn’t have to contribute."

"Sure I did," she replied easily. "I look, too. Granted, every month I get to point out all of the faults...and remind everyone that I’m married to the most gorgeous specimen of male perfection ever created."

It was impossible not to grin...and not to feel as if he’d just been handed the grand prize of a contest that he’d never believed he could win. The woman did amazing things for his ego. "Really?"

She slid her hands down to his ass. Squeezed gently. "Really."

The timer on the microwave began to beep. Which was probably a good thing, he decided. She definitely needed to eat something, since he had no doubt she’d had nothing since the muffin she’d shared with him in the dining room of the Daedalus. And if they continued to stand there, holding one another, their need would become overwhelming, and they’d head straight to the bedroom. He dropped a kiss onto the tip of her nose before allowing her to step away from him, both of them automatically moving around one another; he gathering the plates and cutlery, she retrieving the casserole from the oven. He poured coffee while she pulled the salad from the refrigerator.

As soon as dinner was over, he’d put on the clothes that seemed to turn her on so. He would seize the opportunity to take what had been part of one of the worst days of his life...of their lives...and turn it into something beautiful. Something memorable. Something special for just the two of them.




Casey glanced over her shoulder as she gathered the dirty dishes. Normally he was right there, helping her. Where had he disappeared to? Probably in the den, working on some translation or another. He’d better work fast, she thought, just a tad grumpily. Because when the kitchen was cleaned for the night, she wanted his attention all for herself! He wasn’t home, safe and sound, until she’d proven it to herself. She finished loading the dishwasher. Wiped the counters and the breakfast bar. Set up the coffeemaker for the next morning. Before she could go looking for him, he stepped into the kitchen. Her eyes moved over him, from the top of his head, to the toes of the black boots on his feet. "Oh, momma!" she breathed.

Daniel stood beside the counter, smiling at her...wearing the black pants and red shirt. The scarf was hanging around his neck just the way it had been when he’d come through the Stargate. Just as it had when he stood there on the ramp, the ends of the scarf pulled her eyes toward his groin...and the barely visible outline of his magnificent manhood.

"Oh, momma," she repeated. She stepped closer, slipped her hands inside the unbuttoned shirt. Ran her fingers over his broad chest.

He hissed a sigh of approval when she rubbed her fingertips over nipples that hardened instantly. If he was remembering correctly, this was where they'd been before Sam had called. He reached for the phone, took it off the hook. "Just in case," he said softly.

She smiled. "The cellphones-"

"Are on the chargers, and the ring tones are shut off. Anyone who calls can leave a voicemail," he said, just a bit breathlessly.

"You look so...delicious," she murmured, pressing a kiss to his throat.

"Glad you approve," he replied.

She wrapped her hands in the ends of the scarf. Moved around to his side, tugged gently. "Come with me," she whispered.

Amused...aroused...more than willing to do whatever she asked, Daniel followed as she led him to the bedroom.

Casey paused in the doorway. Candles were lit...the bed was turned back. The body oil waited on the bedside table. "Oh, Daniel...you read my mind!" she sighed. She tugged again, pulled him into the room. "I’m going to reclaim you, inch by inch, kiss by kiss," she said, repeating what she’d told him earlier.

He shivered in anticipation. "Do it," he whispered.

She led him to the bed. Put her hands on his chest and pushed gently, until he was sitting on the edge. Stepped back and slowly stripped, watching his eyes grow darker, the need more visible in the blue depths with each article of clothing that hit the floor. When she was standing naked, she knelt down in front of him. Gently pulled the boots from his feet. Ran her hands up his calves to his thighs...her fingers moving toward his groin. The pants were tight enough that they couldn’t hide the bulge formed by the very awake anaconda. She struggled for a moment or two, finding that the pants had buttons, rather than a zipper.

Leaning forward to kiss her, he shrugged out of the shirt. Tossed the scarf to the floor. "Move back," he murmured, waiting until he was able to stand up before working the buttons of the pants open.

Not allowing him to shed the pants immediately, she reached out and freed his erection, felt it throb in her hand. With a moan of sheer need she knelt up, opened her mouth and engulfed as much of his length as she could.

"Sweet Jesus!"

When his hands went to her head, she couldn’t help but smile. She'd held him, made love to him, the night before. It felt as if it had been much, much longer. For several long hours, she had feared that making love to him...the joy of orally pleasing him...would never again happen between them. She'd been terrified that he had been taken from her forever. Once again they’d been granted a miracle. "You taste so good," she whispered, her breath warm against the taut skin of his shaft.

He closed his eyes, his head falling forward, his chin on his chest as she began to work his throbbing flesh with loving determination. Her hands moved over his thighs, his ass...cupped his balls and stroked him as she moved her mouth up and down on him. "Oh, god yes! Just like that," he moaned softly, thrusting towards her.

Time stood still...nothing existed in the universe but them...their love...their desire...their passion. The quiet tick-tock of the clock competed with the sounds of love that filled the air - his groans of pleasure...her soft moans as she continued to make love to him...the wet sounds of her mouth moving up and down over his turgid shaft.

In a matter of minutes her expertise had him at the edge of the precipice, ready to leap into the waves of pristine pleasure. "Don’t hold back," she whispered, then relaxed her throat, taking as much of his length as she could, swallowing as she continued to suck on him.

With a cry of delight, he leapt from the cliff...flew through the clouds...dove into the waves of completion. His body trembled as he gave up the love she had so diligently worked for, his hands caressing her jaws as she continued her ministrations. He dropped onto the bed, his legs too weak to hold him in the aftermath of the climax that had rocked his body from head to toe.

She licked him clean, pressed her lips to his belly...his chest...anointed his tattoo with her kisses...greeted hard, brown nipples with her tongue. Moved to his lips, kissed him gently, waiting for him to work the combination that allowed him access to her mouth. "Better?" she asked when she finally pulled away.

"Unbelievable," he replied.

Giving him a satisfied smile, she settled beside him. "Good."

With a push and a kick, the pants landed on the floor. He stretched out, shifted so that she was lying next to him. "My turn," he said softly, brushing a lock of blonde silk from her cheek.

She smiled at him. Closed her eyes when his lips claimed hers again. Succor for her soul. Whenever she needed comfort...whenever she wanted pleasure...whenever she sought peace, Daniel’s kiss gave her all she could ask for. She in turn gave herself up to him...gave everything he demanded...accepted all that he offered.

Drinking from her sweet lips, he pushed away every unpleasant moment of the day. He would examine what he’d survived...later. All he wanted right now was her...to be with her...make love to her. Journey with her to the garden paradise that existed only for the two of them. He cupped her cheek with one hand, leaning on the other arm as he kissed her. Felt her body against his, the warmth of her smooth skin where it touched him. "I love you," he whispered, planting tiny kisses on either side of her mouth.

"I love you," she whispered in return. She wound her arms around his shoulders, felt him move over her; the weight of his body a precious burden, one she bore eagerly. Lifted her chin when his mouth moved to her throat, sensations of pleasure making her shiver beneath him.

The night before the first mission to gather the pieces of the Ancient weapon, they had gone Around the World, taking one another higher each step of the way. It seemed only fitting that the night that saw the end of their scavenger hunt, and the successful gathering of the components of that weapon, should be the same. They would make love to one another, with one another, again and again, proving to themselves and each other that they had beaten the odds one more time, had succeeded in finding the rabbit...and were alive and healthy and in one another’s arms, right where they belonged. Tonight, there would be no need to rush through the trip. They had all night...all the time they needed to linger, to repeat again and again and again every touch, every caress that brought shivers and moans of pleasure.

Determined to hear the first sweet song of love she would sing for him this night, he slid down, and began to make love to the breasts that always left him breathless with need...with desire. Pink nipples hardened like pearls against his tongue as he teased first one, and then the other...taking his time, suckling until the areolas that surrounded them were puffy and swollen from his attention. Noted with satisfaction that her breathing had become shallow, that she drew in breaths more quickly with each pass of his tongue over her skin.

Her belly rolled beneath his lips as he moved down once again, sliding closer to her warm center. Toying with the tiny platinum ring in her belly button, he continued to torment her until she was begging, breathless with need. Triumphant in his achievement of hearing those sexy whispers, he once again shifted his body lower.

When he began to kiss her hips, nuzzled the soft curls at the apex of her thighs, Daniel sighed yet another prayer of heartfelt gratitude. In spite of his best attempts to push the events of the day completely from his mind, the hours he was certain he would never again make love to his Wife, and the agony of that realization, moved through his thoughts. He could never offer enough thanks for the fact that he was alone in his mind, in complete and sole control of his body...and at that very moment, ensconced between his Wife’s slender thighs, ready to take his fill of the sweet nectar she created just for him.

The swollen nether lips of her womanhood glistened with the moisture that had escaped her sweet well. It never, ever ceased to amaze him...the fact that she became so aroused when she made love to him orally. He carefully licked her from stem to stern, savoring the taste of her. "Watch me, don’t look away," he commanded softly, looking up at her from where he lay.

Green eyes locked with blue. "Love me...worship me...please," she pleaded softly.

Her whisper burned across his brain as he lowered his mouth to her body once again, the love in his eyes flaring as brightly as the lust that burned in the cerulean depths.

He tickled her with his tongue...teased her...touched her in every way, in every place but the one spot she so desperately needed his attention. Trying to force her hips lower on the bed - in an attempt to put that bundle of nerves directly in line with that oh so talented tongue - garnered no satisfaction; although the amusement in his eyes let her know that he was well aware of what she was doing. "Please..." she begged.

That’s it, Angel, beg for it. He concentrated his efforts on drawing circles around that swollen nub; coming close, but not actually touching it. She tossed her head to the side. Now. Gonna send you into orbit...Give it to me, babe!

"Nngg! Yes!" The sensations were nearly overwhelming as the deliberate movement of his tongue took her higher and higher, tendrils of pleasure reaching out to tingle up and down her spine.

He watched her carefully. When the tip of her tongue was touching her top lip, he slid two fingers into her warm well, and began stroking her...found her rhythm immediately. Her hips were moving up and down, her fingers curled in his hair, tugging slightly. His heart sped up with delight when that whimper filled her throat, built up into her dulcet song of love.

After tenderly licking every drop of sweet nectar from her skin, Daniel kissed his way upwards...spending a few moments on her breasts, just like he always did, before kissing her...the signal that for the moment, the journey had ended. Smiled when she curled around him after he stretched out beside her. "How was that?"

"Amazing, as always," she replied, smiling up at him.

He smiled in return, kissed her forehead. Her fingers were sending sensations of pleasure racing through his body as they painted designs on his skin.

She wanted to know...needed to know...what he had endured during the time he’d been a Goa’uld host. Wanted him to know...to understand...her desperation to reach him, to rescue him as he’d done for her so many times. There would be time enough for talking later. When they’d both had a chance to work through the emotions that had been stirred up; to come to terms with all that had happened. For now, she wanted to love him...hold him...wanted to spend the night safe in his arms, spiraling high among the stars.

Watching her face, he noted the emotions...sadness, determination, happiness...that flickered over her delicate features, shone in her expressive eyes. "Casey?"


"Is everything...are you all right?"

Her lips marked his skin...from his shoulder to his chest. "Yep."

"Do you want to talk? Need to talk?"

"Later," she murmured. "Right now, I need to hold you...feel you holding me."

A gasp of surprise blew from his lips when she slid down, began licking his still firm shaft, teasing the sensitive tip with lingering kisses. "Oh, god," he moaned. It seemed that they’d be making that first stop twice; not that he was complaining!

One look at his face - the joy...the pleasure...that was reflected there - made her heart flutter in her chest. She watched him as she began to lick him in earnest, as if she were licking a melting ice cream cone.

His hands filled themselves with long blonde silk, threaded the tresses around his fingers. It was impossible to lie still as she continued to taste him...make love to him. He couldn’t help but smile at the sheer glee that filled her bewitching green eyes. "That feels amazing," he whispered, his voice catching in his throat as he spoke.

"Really? I was going for incredible," she teased.


"But you love my ass," she retorted.

"Plan to love it well, after while," he returned, grinning down at her. He moved his hips, an attempt to return her attention to his now throbbing flesh. Groaned with unadulterated pleasure when her warm mouth wrapped around him, taking as much of his length as she could.

She was bobbing up and down on him, eyes closed, enjoying the sensations of having him in her hands and mouth. Knowing that she was the only woman to ever have made love to him this way...the only woman who had ever given him this pleasure. Her body shivered from the impact of the knowledge, the flames of her passion burning hot.

"C’mere," he whispered. "Let me taste you."

It wasn’t easy to move...turning her body around on the bed, settling her hips over his face...and maintain the rhythm she had established, but she did her best. Shivered again when his hands pulled her closer, and she felt the first of his intimate kisses.

The little minx was bound and determined to kill him, he thought with a silent chuckle. He would not, however, go over the edge until the slender body above him was trembling in sweet release. It was a matter of pride. She fell first, that was just the way it was.

And the race is on, she thought, giggling mentally. Whenever they made love in this way, it was always a contest of wills - each of them determined to give the other the most pleasure possible, each determined not to fall into the abyss of release first. She’d only ‘won’ the contest twice...the victories had been sweet indeed, listening to the deep groan that came from his belly as he gave her that creamy white love. Tonight, she was resolute in her desire to win again.

Sweet Jesus! The movement of her hands and mouth, and that talented tongue...how in the hell did she do...that! His entire body shook as she suckled on the tip of his shaft as if she’d never get the chance to do so again. It took concentrated effort to keep up his own loving assault on her body...laving her womanhood with the flat of his tongue again...and again...and again. He thought about the poems and sonnets he knew, lyrics to love songs that he could write against her skin. So many memories stirring in his mind; a result, no doubt, of them being disturbed in his frantic attempts to hide as much as possible from Rihat. A song that had been a favorite of his played in his head. He began to write the words...his tongue the stylus, her sweet honeyed skin the papyrus...


...When it's love you make
(I'll be the fire in your night.)
then it's love you take.
(I will defend, I will fight.)
I'll be there when you need me.
When honor's at stake,
this vow I will make:
that it's all for one and all for love...


She had no idea what he was doing...but the way his tongue was moving against her was driving her out of her mind. She increased her efforts to bring him to his climax, even as her hips dipped and wiggled against him, every touch sweet torment.

He wrapped his arms around her hips...her body was practically dancing above him. Must be doing something right, he thought with a contented sigh, and a bit of unadulterated male pride. He had been so focused on making love to her that he'd lost track of what she was doing...until he felt his length slide just a bit deeper, the tip of his shaft rubbing against the back of her throat, a special sort of stimulation that always signaled...Oh hell...

She could feel his chest begin to heave, brushing against her abdomen with each breath; his belly was rolling, grazing the sensitive tips of her breasts. He was close. When his fingers slid into her aching well, began to stroke her in time with the movement of his tongue against her clit, she nearly cried out.

Give it up, he thought...a bit desperately. She was swallowing...he took that swollen nub into his mouth, teased it with the tip of his tongue...oh god....

Her hands never left his shaft, she didn’t stop swallowing, even as she felt herself hurled over the edge of the precipice...Let me have it, she thought, just as the whimper she could never control filled her throat.

The vibrations of that beautiful moan of pleasure heralded the end of his endurance. With his own groan of completion, he drank his fill from the honey that rained down on him as she climaxed; his own body throbbing, sending his warm seed down her throat.

Her body was shaking as she licked him clean, then collapsed at his side. She could feel the tremors in the strong body beside her as she ran her hand over his hip and side, even as his hand moved over the leg still across his chest.

"Now that was incredible," he murmured.

"I totally agree," she replied. Sitting up, she glanced at the clock. Not quite midnight. It had been awhile since she’d performed any of the rituals that Miss Eloise had taught her. Even though she didn’t actually have the specific items that she should use, the sandalwood and jasmine candles would suffice. She didn’t think the God and Goddess of All would be offended in her meager attempts to offer her heartfelt thanks for surviving the day. "Would you mind doing something with me?"

"Always," he replied softly.

"I’d like...I want to say a proper ‘thank-you’ for the miracle of getting you home safely today," she said shyly.

"We can do that," he allowed.

"I’d prefer to do it outside, but it’s still so cold at night...and I’d rather not have the neighbors see me worshiping sky-clad."

‘Sky-clad’. He knew that Casey considered herself to be Pagan when it came to her religious preferences. Understood that the term was common among Pagans and Wiccans. And, if he was remembering correctly, the term 'sky-clad' was most likely derived from Hindu usage, where the Sanskrit word was 'Dig-ambara'; which literally translated as 'sky-clothed', and described naked mystics, mendicants, and holy men. "Okay. What do we need to do?"

There was no way she couldn’t reach out for him, allow him to pull her into his arms. His quiet acceptance of what she wanted, what she needed, to do was so typical of him. "We’ll just carry the candles out to the dining room, set them on the floor in a circle. I’ll get two new candles for the God and Goddess. I promise, this won’t take long...I need to hold you, Stud Muffin."

He smiled. "I need to hold you too, Angel. Let’s say our thanks, shall we? Better to keep the God and Goddess happy, don’t you think? Just in case we need Their mercies again sometime."

She dropped a kiss on his lips. "I’ll go get the new candles."




Within a matter of minutes, two dozen candles were burning, creating a wide circle, large enough for the two of them to sit in comfortably. Casey walked around the circle, murmuring the blessing she had learned from her mentor. She placed two new, white candles between her and Daniel as they sat cross-legged on the floor.

"Miss Eloise told me that when I worship the God and Goddess, they aren’t particular about the words used, or any of the ‘trappings’ that go with rituals. The emotions and thoughts are what’s important. That we need to approach Them with open hearts and minds; and pure, positive thoughts and love and forgiveness and gratitude," Casey said, as she lit the candles.

"I think Miss Eloise is right," Daniel replied. "I’ve always thought that the rituals were more for man, or woman, to prove to those watching, or even to themselves, that they’re doing something special, something important. I figure that God...the God and Goddess...are more interested in the spiritual, not the physical."

"Exactly," Casey nodded. "I remember the first night I prayed to the Goddess alone. I was sitting on Grandma Rose’s patio. I was sky clad, and had just one small white candle...didn’t want to give the neighbors a peep show if I could help it," she smiled.

Daniel smiled as well, nodded that he was listening.

"I was just talking...said what was on my heart. Then, I just sat there beneath the moon, listening to the sounds of the night. It was beautiful. I clearly remember thinking, ‘I’m doing this all wrong’, and just as clearly as I’m speaking to you, I heard a soft voice say, ‘Says who?’. For a minute, I thought maybe it was Grandma...I looked around, but I was still alone. This feeling of peace washed over me, and I ‘heard’ the voice tell me that what happened between Her and I was not for anyone else. That our relationship was to be...discreet; not something to be discussed like it was something...something ‘common’. That the time I spent with Her and Him was special and private and for the three of us alone."

He nodded. "I’ve always wondered about that. From what we can find, what we’ve been able to learn about our ancient ancestors, it was common practice for groups of people to worship together...but each person was also to worship alone; that the most important revelations came when an individual was alone with his or her god or goddess. I think modern religions like to play up to the pride and arrogance in human nature."

"I agree. Even Pagans and Wiccans are guilty of making what was meant to be a very personal relationship into a voyeuristic experience. There are religions that put a priest or a minister between an individual and the God and Goddess. Well, most religions don’t even recognize the Goddess, and there are Wiccans who go to the extreme in the other direction," Casey said. "There’s a reason that everything in nature comes in pairs...male and female. God and Goddess."

Daniel looked at the candles. "So what do we do...what do we say?"

Casey smiled softly. "What’s in our hearts."

"I’ll let you go first," he said softly.

She gave a slight nod. Closed her eyes. "First of all, welcome to the spirits of wisdom, kindness, hope, charity, love, and all things positive. Your presence is most appreciated, and lights the path to our hearts, guiding our gods to hear our prayers. Goddess of Light, God of Strength, I know it’s been awhile since I’ve spoken to you. I’ve felt your love, your guiding touch so many times. And I want to thank you for that. I know that you created Daniel just for me, and that’s the most amazing, incredible blessing I could ever receive in my life. I just want to say ‘thank you’ for not taking him from me, for not allowing him to be taken from me, by powers of darkness and negativity. I’ll be grateful for the miracle you granted me for the rest of my days."

When her green eyes opened, and focused on him, Daniel realized it was his turn. "Goddess of Light, God of Strength," he said, echoing the greeting she had used, "I’m a simple man, and even though my life has been filled with words, and the study of languages, when it comes to speaking what’s on my heart, I’m not always the most eloquent. But I’ll do my best to share what I feel. In all of the words of thanks and gratitude that exist, not one can fully convey the depth of my joy that Casey was created for me, and me alone. That her beautiful heart and soul, her beautiful body and mind were made for me. That she was created to comfort me, please me, complete me as I journey through life. Nor can simple words relay my relief...my gratitude...at not having lost her, not being taken from her when that Goa’uld symbiote took over my body...and tried to take my mind as well. I’ll be indebted for eternity for the miracle that released me from that hell, and thankful for twice as long to be back home with my Wife."

Whoever had told Daniel he couldn’t speak eloquently had never heard him speak, Casey thought. Tears formed in her eyes, and clung to her lashes, as she listened to the words that filled the air, and her heart; the sentiment as beautiful as his gentle heart. When he stopped speaking, looking at her expectantly, she knew he was finished. "Our hearts speak for us, Goddess, you need only look at the love and gratitude that fill us."

Daniel reached out, took her hand, held it tightly. "Goddess, I believe our love was destined by you and the God of Strength," he said softly. "Whatever reasons you have, whatever tasks you expect us to fulfill, we’ll do our best. Together, you’ve made us strong...undefeatable."

"Together, we offer our thanks, our gratitude," Casey added softly.

Fingers laced together, their eyes sending messages of love, they simply sat in silence for several moments, feeling the peace that settled around them...on them. When the candle that Casey had lit for the Goddess flared slightly, then settled back down into a small, twinkling flame, the young seer smiled.

"I think She...They...heard us," Casey whispered.

"I think so, too," Daniel replied in kind. He wondered briefly if he’d ever felt such peace as he did in that moment. Without a doubt, Casey’s ‘link’ to the universe gave her insights that not everyone was privy to. And he was certain that her method of worship was the closest thing to what the gods and goddesses of the universe truly wanted than anything that had been contrived in all of the ages since the first man had looked at the stars and perceived the gods among them.

"Blessed spirits of light, go in peace, and thank you for your presence." Casey began to put the candles out, one by one, until they were sitting in total darkness.

"Feel better, Angel?"

"Yes, I do. Did this help you?"

"It really did," he replied, a note of awe in his voice.

"Let’s take the candles back into the bedroom, and relight them."

Daniel turned the light on over the kitchen sink, giving them enough illumination to move the candles, each of them careful not to drip any of the wax onto themselves or the hardwood floors.

Both knew that there would be a long discussion covering the details of what they’d endured on Ba’al’s ship...that was just a given because of who they were, the fact that they discussed everything in their lives. But the emotions left so raw by the events of the day were less jagged now. They had reassured one another that they were alive, safe, and together. They had temporarily satisfied the passion that burned in their hearts and their bodies. Their souls had found peace in giving thanks for the miracle that had kept them together. Now...their night of love was just beginning...

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