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His Father's Eyes

 

Chapter 7

Tieel Mogba was waiting in the cargo bay. It had been decided that once again his small shuttle would be used to transport the children to the planet that the Daedalus was now orbiting. They would be required to squeeze into the cargo bins, but Casey assured him that the continued game of 'being quiet as a mouse' would see them cooperating. The men and women of the village would be ringed down, as soon as word came from the SG teams on site that the way was clear.

He'd heard many stories about SG-1. Talked to many people who had been freed due to the stubbornness that the team exhibited, refusing to give up until those who were caught by the machinations of evil were rescued. He had listened to families who had been reunited because of the resources of the Tau'ri. He'd shared ale and moonshine with men who had seen their planets, their families, freed from thousands of years of Goa'uld control. Observing them on this day had given him the chance to see the team working: listening as they made their plans to rescue the innocent people taken from a far away village. Watching their faces as they ringed to the ha'tak, determined to save women from the harem, and just as eager to destroy the Goa'uld who had taken them in the first place. From his place just above the Tau'ri ship, he'd been able to see into the pel'tak of the ha'tak. He'd seen Chaahk's face when the missile the humans had fired grew closer. He'd known the moment the Goa'uld had realized, too late, that there was no escape. He'd watched the ship explode into pieces. And he'd even seen the body of the Goa'uld float past him, eyes glowing with pure rage, just before the host died from asphyxiation.

Miracles. That's what the entity known as SG-1 offered to those in need. Hope. Help. And they made it look easy. Mogba snorted softly. He understood just how difficult it was for them. The horrors that they as a team, and as individuals, had suffered was the stuff of nightmares. Yet he'd never heard them dwell on what had happened to them. They faced the universe with bright eyes and wide smiles. Daring evil to try to stop them.

Casey bounced into the bay. "Tieel!"

"My Lady," he smiled, bowing low.

"I just explained to the kids that we'll be taking them down in your ship. And, I told them we'd be pretending to be mice again. Well, they'd be pretending to be mice."

He shook his head. "How confusing this must be for them. Taken through the Chappa'ai, then herded onto an al'kesh…did they separate the captives immediately?"

"From what we've been told," Casey said, "they were all shoved into holding cells on the al'kesh. It landed on Chaahk's planet. That's when they were separated. The women were then ringed up to the ha'tak. The men protested, of course, and were beaten, for the most part, right in front of the children."

"Such a horrible thing for children to witness," he muttered. "Goa'uld! Bah!"

"I agree," Casey said softly. She hesitated a moment, watching him carefully. She noted that his gaze never dropped. "Can I ask a question?"

"Of course."

"Did Ba'al threaten your family every time he wanted something from you?"

He closed his good eye, then nodded slowly. "I had worked for other Goa'uld in the past. Olokun. Camulus. Amaterasu. Kali. Usually it was a matter of collecting information. Or 'pets' that had managed to escape them…women mostly. The pay…I was rewarded handsomely. I had a good life." He paused. Took several deep breaths.

"But something happened," Casey urged him to continue.

"Ba'al required information on what Olokun was doing. He was aware of the fact that I had recently been in that Goa'uld's employee. I returned to my villa to find Jaffa waiting for me. They bid me tell them what I knew."

"I have no doubt they were very…"

"The Jaffa were quite persuasive," Mogba nodded. "For myself, I wasn't afraid of them."

Casey cocked her head sideways. "Ba'al…he…he gave Relinna to you."

The smile on his face was soft, and one of love. "She was so young. So very beautiful. And so full of fire. She fought against me, tried to escape me numerous times."

Images danced in her head. She could see the young woman, determined to escape from this man who, in her mind, was no better than the 'god' to whom she'd been enslaved.

"Then, one day she ran away, and I realized I had no right to go after her…to stop her. She had been stolen from her home, and the only reason she was able to escape was because she was no longer in the harem of a Goa'uld."

"She came back?"

Mogba chuckled, shook his head. "It had been three months, and I missed her so much. I hadn't allowed myself to become…involved…with anyone. I had no friends, no wife…" He shrugged. "Relinna would listen to my stories. Sometimes, she even laughed. I love to hear her laugh," he sighed.

"So, she walked back into your life."

"I was sitting in one of the taverns I used to frequent, when I was looking for cargo to haul, or runaways to find. I was quite drunk, and pouring out my heart to the man sitting beside me. He'd passed out, but I wasn't aware of that."

Casey giggled.

"I was telling him how much I loved Relinna. Telling him about her beauty. Her kindness. Then, someone knocked me completely out of my chair."

"She hit you?"

"She nearly beat me to death!" Mogba laughed. "She demanded to know why I hadn't come for her. Then she told me that Ba'al had seen her, and demanded to know why she wasn't with me. She lied to him…told him that she was doing my bidding. Whether he believed her or not…" He shrugged slightly.

"So you took her home?"

"Yes. Shortly after that, one of the young men on my crew decided to test me. I must admit that I wasn't as prepared as I should have been. It had been some time since I'd been challenged. I killed him, but I lost my eye. He did enough damage to my arm that it never healed properly. I retained my status, but at a price." Mogba motioned that she should follow him, and the two went into the shuttle. He waved at one of the empty seats, and sat down behind the control console. "The truth was, none of the men challenged me because I'm good at what I do. We were all doing well."

Casey waited patiently when Mogba took another deep breath, then seemed to study the toes of his boots.

"Relinna didn't mind that I was scarred. She nursed me back to health. Had I been a bit younger, no doubt she could have saved my arm. But I wasn't young, and I'd damaged muscles before. She did what she could."

"There wasn't a healer…someone you could go to?"

He shook his head. "I didn't want word of my injuries to be spread among other bounty hunters. As long as I remained capable, none of them would challenge me."

She nodded her understanding.

"We had many happy years together, Relinna and I. Four beautiful children. Three sons. And a daughter."

"How lovely," Casey smiled.

"Until Ba'al began to demand more and more from me. The first time I dared to ignore his summons, I returned home to find him sitting in my daughter's bedroom. She was beside him, he had a knife to her throat. She was twelve at the time," Mogba said. His eyes had begun to burn with remembered rage. "He…he ran his free hand over her breast, and told me that she would be his most favored. Until he became bored of her, of course."

"Of course. I so hate him!" Casey muttered.

"When he demanded that I bring SG-1 to him, he had Relinna. She was…she was horribly abused by Ba'al and his Jaffa. He knew where my children were."

She cocked her head sideways. "Well, he knew which planet they were on."

The smile he gave was small. "I had hoped that I had hidden them well enough that he didn't even know that much. It would not have been difficult to find them, had he searched for them."

"You know, one of these days, we're going to kill Ba'al."

The matter-of-fact way in which the comment was made brought a wider smile to his face. "I have no doubt that you will. If the true gods will allow, I would like very much to witness his death."

"I'll see what we can do," she promised, reaching over and patting his good arm. She glanced at her watch. "I need to go gather the little ones-"

"Casey!"

Both Mogba and Casey jumped at the sudden shout. The bounty hunter/spy grinned. "I believe your husband is searching for you."

"So it seems." Casey poked her head out of the shuttle. "Hey, Stud Muffin."

Daniel nearly collapsed with relief. One minute his Wife had been at his side, discussing the return of the captives, the next she was missing. Someone had seen her with the children, but when he'd arrived there, she was gone. Then, no one had seen her at all, no one had any idea where Casey Jackson had gone, or where she might be. Just because they were on the Daedalus, in the middle of space, didn't mean that something couldn't happen to her. "Hey, Angel."

"I was just letting Tieel know that we'll be needing his help in getting the kids back home."

"Ah. Well, we're in orbit, so I guess we should get them in here."

"That is just what she said," Mogba said, following the slender young blonde onto the deck.

"There they are!" Jack's voice echoed jovially.

"Just making certain that the nests are nice and warm," Casey said, smiling at the children.

Jack knelt down, and was immediately surrounded by the little ones. "Now, remember…no one can know you're there. We want to surprise your mommas and daddies, okay?"

Heads bobbed up and down. "We'll be quiet," one little voice promised.

"Are you gonna ride with us?" another little one asked.

Casey smiled. "Daniel and I will be there, and if Tieel doesn't mind, there's room for one more."

Tieel Mogba looked at the gray-haired man. He knew that no matter what he'd done to atone for his actions, Jack O'Neill didn't trust him. "It would be my honor," he said quietly.

Jack studied the man, then looked at Casey. Daniel had been like a crazed man, looking for her, dashing from the commissary to the bridge and back to their quarters, even checking the medical bay. If she'd been here in the hold, no doubt she'd been talking to the spy. And, knowing that little big-hearted seer, they'd probably just had an in-depth conversation where she'd absolved him of all his crimes. This man had been responsible for Casey being in Ba'al's clutches. He'd also been the one to bring Daniel home when first Kali and then Chaahk had kidnapped him. Granted, Radar had seen that Danny was going to be fine. But, she'd also said that he had to 'trust the ghost'. And today Mogba'd had info for them about the captives in a matter of hours, had taken his ship through a literal war zone to get to the kids…"Yeah, me too," he said.

Taken aback, Mogba went a bit wide-eyed. He'd seen O'Neill's glance light on the lovely young seer. No doubt her trust in him, regardless of their past encounters, colored the way the rest of the team reacted to him. The bounty-hunter/spy gave a slight nod.

"Okay, everybody hustle in. Remember, quiet as mice!" Jack said, shooing the children toward the shuttle.

Just as before, Mogba held open the hatches, and the children wiggled and squirmed their way into the cramped space.

"We'll see you planet-side," Jack said, giving Sam's hand a quick squeeze. "Let 'em know we're coming."

"We'll do that," Sam promised. She followed Teal'c and the adult captives back into the control room of the hanger bay. "Colonel Mitchell, Mogba is ready to leave."

"Roger that," Mitchell's voice replied. "Open hangar doors. Let me know when they're clear."

Sam watched as the shuttle rose slightly above the hangar floor, hovered for just a moment, then moved slowly toward the opening that had just been created for them. When the small ship was clear of the Daedalus, the glow of rocket engines alerted her to the fact that Mogba was ready to move down to the planet. "Clear and on the way down," she reported to Mitchell.

"Roger."

"We're heading to the transport rings. Teal'c will go down with the first group, I'll go down with the last," Sam informed the ship's captain.

"That's fine, colonel. Tech will keep me informed."

"Yes, sir," Sam responded. She turned to the faces that watched her anxiously. "Let's get you home."

"We thank you for all that you've done," one of the men said, his battered face preventing him from being able to fully smile.

"It's our pleasure," Sam said softly. The genuine joy in her voice was reflected in her sapphire blue eyes.

Teal'c led the way to where the transport rings waited. "We will arrive before the children. It is important that you and the other parents be there, waiting for them."

Nods of understanding moved several heads. Murmurs of excitement filled the air as the group stood anxiously. Sam quickly divided the group, and the first of the captives were returned to their home.

 

 

 

Two coughs, threes sneezes, a dozen snorts in an attempt to remain quiet, and at least as many giggles, drifted up to the ears of the adults as Mogba maneuvered his small ship closer to the planet.

"Quiet as little mice, aren't they?" Jack grinned. More giggles ensued.

"Yes, they are," Casey replied, biting back her own giggle. She gave a contented sigh. "I’m so glad everything worked out."

"We all are, Angel," Daniel said, wrapping his fingers around hers.

"We are the good guys, ya know," Jack pointed out.

"Yes, we are," she agreed. "Nutesh and Shanda will be so relieved."

"Ya know, I never would have thought he could lead a village," Daniel mused. "He was so…quiet."

Casey smiled. "I think his experiences as a Goa'uld slave have given him insight that no one else in the village has. He's a survivor. And he's damned smart. He's also a very compassionate person."

"All good traits for a leader," Jack said.

"I think the fact that he returned, even though he'd been just a small child when he'd been taken, impressed his people. No matter what Ba'al did to him, Nutesh was never broken."

Daniel snorted. "Maybe Ba'al isn't as good at creating slaves as he thinks he is."

"Maybe that's why he relies on that damned drug," Casey responded. "He can't intimidate captives. So he has to wipe their minds completely in order to control them."

"Pretty sad for a Goa'uld, don'tcha think?" Jack asked, a crooked grin on his face.

"Rather pathetic," Daniel agreed.

"Oh, please, we're talking about Ba'al," Casey huffed. "A photo of his face is next to 'pathetic' in the dictionary."

Both men chuckled loudly. Even Mogba, who had only a rudimentary grasp of the Tau'ri language, grinned broadly.

Casey turned to watch out the view port. "Oh, how pretty," she sighed, as the ship swept over a colorful valley.

"Yeah, it's a nice place," Jack said.

"Nice to know that the Goa'uld won't have an easy time of it if they ever return," Casey sighed. "I figure Nutesh and Shanda alone would beat the crap out of any Jaffa walking through the 'gate."

"Or at least they'll send for help," Daniel said. "Like they did this time."

"Maybe we should leave a few weapons with them," Casey said, obviously thinking out loud.

"Not a bad idea," Daniel agreed. "Staff weapons and zats, at least."

"Very doable," Jack nodded. "I'll send a message to General Hammond, have him send a few through the 'gate."

"If any Goa'uld decide to show up again, they'll be able to defend themselves," Casey said. "Why didn't we think about this before?"

Jack shrugged. "Dunno. You're the seer, ya know."

"I can't see everything," she argued. "Common sense should have had us giving those people a way to defend themselves."

Jack frowned. How many other villages would be safer for the possession of a few staff weapons and zats? "Too bad we didn't find that stash of weapons Chalk had."

Mogba started slightly. Information that he'd nearly forgotten about raced forward in his mind. "I happen to know where Bastet hid most of her weapons. I don't believe anyone has found them yet," he offered quietly.

"A planet with a Stargate?" Jack asked hopefully.

"Yes. From all that I have been able to learn, Bastet was destroyed during the battle with Ba'al that she and several other System Lords fought. I also know, from reliable sources, that she hesitated to share any knowledge of her holdings even with her own High Priest or First Prime. No doubt they are unaware of the bunker," Mogba replied.

"That's good news for us," Daniel said.

"While you take the children to their parents, I will find the location of the planet. I have it here, somewhere," Mogba offered, pointing to his navigational system.

"We'd so appreciate that," Casey beamed.

Mogba cleared his throat, and glanced at Daniel. "It is my honor to help the great SG-1."

"If we're great," Casey said, putting one soft hand on the spy's good arm, "it's because we have help from some very special people."

His cheeks went crimson, and he ducked his head. "I'm just a bounty hunter," Mogba muttered.

"No, you're far more than that," Casey countered. "You're a warrior in the battle against evil."

His head came up, and he stared at her, his good eye wide with surprise.

"It's the good men who never fully realize that they're good men," Casey said softly.

"If I am a good man, it is because you have offered me a chance to become such," Mogba replied.

Jack cleared his throat. "We appreciate all the help you've given us."

"It is I who am honored," Mogba insisted.

"Just don't get any ideas about turning us in for the bounty," Jack said sternly.

"I would never-" Mogba stuttered.

"Until we've worked out a fool-proof get-away plan. Then we split the reward."

Mogba stared at Jack for just a moment, then nearly doubled over with laughter. "My friend, we will all be rich beyond our wildest dreams," he rasped, breathless.

"Might be better to wait until we're worth a bit more, if we're gonna split it six ways," Casey suggested.

"Good point," Jack grinned.

Mogba, his attention returned to piloting the ship, sat the shuttle down in a small clearing just outside of the village. The residents were already gathered. They could see the bruised faces of the rescued men, so all of the adults were on the planet. As soon as the engines had been shut off, the spy opened the door.

"Now why do I get the feeling I'm forgetting something?" Jack asked, winking at his companions. Immediately a dozen muffled giggles filled the air.

"Let's see, we were going to…oh, no!" Casey said, playing along. "We didn't forget the children, did we?"

More giggles, snorts, and muffled movement could be heard.

"Better check and see," Daniel said, lifting one of the floor panels. He grinned broadly. "Well, look at that. They've been here the entire time."

"Quiet as little mice," Jack said, grinning down at the faces that beamed up at him.

The same certainly couldn't be said minutes later, as cries and squeals of happiness split the air. Children ran into the arms of waiting parents, tears falling freely as hugs were given and received, again and again.

The members of SG-1 found one another amid the reunited families. Jack dropped his arm around Sam's shoulders. Daniel and Casey were standing beside him, arm in arm as well, and Teal'c was beside Sam, his large hand on her back. "Yep," Jack murmured, "this is one of the good days."

Nutesh, Shanda's hand firmly in his own, pushed his way to where the team stood, smiles on their faces, as they watched the villagers celebrate. "I knew you would do it!" he declared, his smile as wide as those on every other face.

"We owe you a great debt," Shanda said, her eyes glistening with tears.

"No, you don't owe us anything," Casey replied, shaking her head. "Friends help one another. You and Nutesh certainly helped Daniel and I."

"We'll never forget that," Daniel added.

Nutesh smiled. "It was my-" He broke off, glancing at his wife. Shanda smiled up at him, apparently aware of what he was about to say. "It was our honor to help Lady Ca'see."

Daniel smiled in return, and tugged Casey closer to his side.

Jack rubbed his hands together. "Since everyone is back where they should be, I reckon we should head on home."

"Hockey game?" Casey asked immediately.

"Simpson's marathon," he retorted.

She couldn't help but giggle. She turned to the two people who had prevented her from completely losing hope while she'd been Ba'al's prisoner. "We need to return home."

"You cannot stay and celebrate with us?" Shanda asked, plainly disappointed.

Casey glanced at Jack. Just as a poke in the back of her head caught her attention. Odd, she could only see General Hammond. And…Beth Meyers. Okay, what's that about? she wondered. She tipped her head to one side. "Shanda, as much as we'd love to stay, there's…something…we have to do back at the SGC. It's important. I think," she added, offering a guilty smile.

Shanda nodded. "We understand. Please, you must return to us soon, and we will celebrate together."

"We'd like that," Daniel said.

"We will look forward to your visit," Nutesh said.

Mogba stepped forward, just a bit shyly. "I have the location of Bastet's planet," he said to Daniel, offering a slip of parchment paper. "I do not know if anyone else has located the bunker or not. My informants have insisted that it remains untouched."

"Thanks," Daniel said, accepting the note. "We'll check it out as soon as we can."

With a nod, Mogba started to turn away. "If you need my services again-"

"We have your number," Casey grinned.

The spy frowned for a moment, then smiled. "I look forward to working with the great SG-1 again." He touched his forehead in salute, then strode back to his ship.

"That man worked for Ba'al," Shanda murmured.

"Only because Ba'al was threatening his mate, and his children," Casey said gently. "He rescued Daniel from Chaahk, when he'd been captured."

"You trust this man?" Nutesh asked, watching as the ship rose, then slowly gained altitude.

"With my life," Casey replied.

Nutesh nodded. "Then he is most welcome here as well."

"I'll let him know," Daniel smiled.

Jack pulled the radio from his shoulder. "Daedalus, this O'Neill. SG-1 is ready to ring back."

"Copy that, General. Waiting for your signal," Mitchell's voice replied.

With nods and smiles, the team gathered where the rings had left their mark. Waves and calls of thanks continued, even as the clanking sound of the rings, and the bright, white light of transport filled the air.

"What about the teams there in the village?" Daniel asked, as soon as they were standing on the Daedalus.

"Went home the minute we sent word to the SGC that Chalk was dead," Jack replied.

"Why didn't we just go through the 'gate?" Daniel asked.

Jack looked at him. "Spaceship. Ours. Ride home, no favors required."

Daniel chuckled loudly. "Right."

"Casey, what's going on at the SGC?" Sam asked, grinning at Jack's reasoning for taking another hour or so to get back to Earth.

The young seer shifted a bit nervously. "To be honest, I'm not sure. Just something to do with General Hammond and Beth Meyers."

"They're still seeing one another, aren't they?" was Sam's immediate response.

"As far as I know," Casey replied.

Daniel gave a sigh, then smiled at his teammates. "General Hammond approached me this morning-" He frowned, it is still the same day isn't it? he thought. So much had happened…no, it was no doubt late, but still the same day as when they'd left the SGC.

"This morning?" Jack frowned.

"Yep. He…he wants the team at his house at six-thirty on Friday," Daniel said quietly.

Casey grinned from ear-to-ear. "He's going to propose!"

"That's what he said," Daniel confirmed. "But he wants her to be able to make a fully informed decision."

"About what?"

Daniel glanced at the transporter tech, who was doing his best to appear not to be listening.

The team filed into the corridor, and huddled in the first corner they could find. "Okay, Space Money, give," Jack demanded.

"General Hammond is going to tell Beth about his Immortality. He doesn't want her to accept his proposal unless she knows about it, and is okay with it."

"And we can help explain it to her," Casey surmised.

"Yep."

Jack nodded. "Okay. Do you think she can handle it?"

Daniel shrugged. "I have no idea."

"For the general's sake, I hope so," Casey sighed.

"Me, too," Sam declared.

 

A A A A A A

 

Each of the team members looked rather pleased with themselves, the general noted, as SG-1 settled around the conference table. He'd expected them a full fifteen minutes ago, having told them to report directly to the briefing room. The fact that each of held a mug brought a smile to his face. Daniel and Casey Jackson especially had quite an addiction to caffeine. Rumors were told of the number of pots of coffee that the two could drink each day. Although he noted that neither Colonel Carter, nor General O'Neill were often seen without mug in hand. Teal'c drank tea, and supposedly decaffeinated tea at that, but his large hand cradled a mug at most briefings as well.

"SG-1," he said, entering the room. He nodded, indicating that they could return to their seats. That he'd waited just long enough for all of them to settle the first time was his prerogative. A small price for the fact that he worried more about them than any other team in the mountain. He gave a silent 'harrumph' at his own temper. He was closer to this team than any other on the base. And, truth be known, he cared much more for each of them than he should. His gaze went to Jack, who was busy listening as Casey discussed what she wanted for dinner.

"I care about her a lot more than I should."

Words that had been uttered in an attempt to clear both himself, and Sam Carter, of being accused za'tarc's. Words that Jack O'Neill would never have admitted to, if the circumstances hadn't been so dire.

So much had happened during his tenure as the CO of Stargate Command, Hammond thought. And most of what he'd experienced had been with these people. Jack was his second-in-command. Sam was the head of the astrophysics department, she worked closely with him regarding the powering of the SGC. Daniel was the head of the archaeological department, and a brilliant mind in his field. He depended heavily on the young man's ability to translate alien artifacts, and give him an idea how each Goa'uld should be dealt with. Teal'c…a man who had turned his back on his own people, in a bid to free them all from Goa'uld tyranny. He couldn't help but smile at Casey. A young woman whose gift had made running the SGC significantly less painful since her arrival.

I care about them, each of them, a lot more than I should.

As the base commander, it was his duty to view each and every person who worked for him in the same light. It's just not possible. I'm too close to them, he thought. Whether it was a flaw in his own personality that wouldn't allow him to keep those he worked closest with at a distance, or the fact that at the SGC, he'd faced death with the individuals of SG-1 on more than one occasion, he couldn't say.

His attention was drawn to the sudden laughter from the control room, just down the spiral stairs at the end of the room. There were certain people among those assigned to the SGC that he could name immediately: Sergeant Harriman, Sergeant Siler, Colonel Reynolds, Doctor Fraiser, Doctor Warner…people he interacted with on a daily basis.

He dared to search his heart. No, the feelings he had for SG-1 were unique. He felt part father and part doting uncle to each of them.

"Sir?"

Hammond started, realized that all eyes were on him…and each face registered concern.

"Are you all right, sir?" Sam asked.

He managed to rein in his wandering thoughts. "I'm fine, colonel. Tell me about this mission."

"Total success, sir," Jack said immediately, his customary crooked grin only accentuating his cocky attitude.

"And in just a matter of hours. That has to be a record for us," Casey added, her green eyes twinkling.

"None of us were captured, hurt, or even threatened," Daniel added.

"Uh oh," Casey said.

Hammond felt his heart drop. "Casey?"

"Well, if we walked away totally unscathed on this one, chances are Fate is gonna double whammy us next time," she sighed.

It was impossible to keep from smiling. "Perhaps Fate realized that SG-1 deserves an easy mission once in awhile," the general replied.

"Oh, I hope so, sir," Casey responded.

"The only thing that I know about on that planet was the castle," Daniel said, turning the conversation back to its purpose. "I can't say one hundred percent that it was empty when we left, but we sure didn't see any Jaffa around."

"Any slaves left there will be able to survive," Teal'c pointed out. "There were already gardens in evidence, in order to feed Tem and his men. No doubt other supplies were left behind as well."

"Without a Stargate, they won't be able to refresh those supplies," Sam pointed out.

"True, but if they can garden, and possibly hunt, then they'll survive," Daniel insisted.

"We could always have one of the ships swing by there in a week or so, scan for any survivors who might be there," Sam suggested.

Hammond nodded. "I agree, colonel. I understand that all of the hostages were returned?"

"Yes, sir," Jack nodded. "We were lucky, Chalky hadn't even bothered with the women, other than to have them slapped around a bit, and dressed like harem slaves."

"That's welcome news," Hammond said.

"Yes, sir. The men weren't so fortunate, my guess is there was a bit of a struggle between those fellas and the Jaffa. No doubt trying to protect the women and children," Jack continued.

"I'd say that's to be expected," Hammond allowed.

"Yes, sir. The kids were scared, but not hurt. Gotta give 'em credit, they were laughing and giggling within minutes of being taken out of that dungeon. Radar says they played the quiet game all the way to Mogba's ship. But once they were hidden, I guess it was a little harder to remain quiet," Jack grinned.

"There were a few giggles that came from the floor - we had the kids hiding in the cargo holds on Tieel's ship. The areas were small, and a bit cramped, but the kids were willing to crawl in and snuggle together." Casey explained. "The fact that they could giggle is a good sign."

"I agree. Being rescued as quickly as they were should reduce any long-lasting consequences," Hammond nodded.

"They'll all probably have nightmares for awhile," Daniel said. "But if that's the worst they have to deal with, then they're all very lucky."

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed. "It was only because Nutesh and Shanda appealed to us so quickly that we were able to conduct such a rescue."

Jack nodded. "If they'd waited even an hour or so, things might have gone differently."

"I'm not going to worry about what might have been," Hammond said firmly. "The rescue was made, all hostages returned, and in reasonably good condition. I'd call that a success."

"Yes, sir," Jack grinned.

"Very well. I don't believe SG-1 is on the roster until next week."

"No, sir," Jack replied.

"Have your reports written and in my office by the end of the week. Dismissed." Hammond rose from his seat. He caught Daniel's eye. The younger man nodded his understanding. The general hurried into his office, though he remained standing when the archaeologist followed him.

"Uh…sir, Casey sorta saw…well, the team knows about Friday night," Daniel said immediately.

Hammond's face went from red to pale, and then slightly flushed again. "I understand."

"Sir, we're all happy for you, and we're willing to do whatever it takes to help Beth understand."

The general relaxed visibly. "I appreciate it, Doctor."

"So, see you on Friday night?"

"At six-thirty," the general confirmed.

Daniel nodded, then joined the rest of the team, who were waiting for him at the elevator.

Hammond sat down. He opened the drawer of his desk, and took out the small, jeweler's box. He opened it, stared at the diamond solitaire for just a moment. Sent up a prayer that Beth would accept both his proposal, and the 'gift' of Immortality.


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