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Leather, Feathers, and Garters
"...You gotta squeeze a little, squeeze a little
Tease a little more
Easy operator come-a-knockin' on my door
Sometime, anytime, sugar me sweet
Little miss-ah innocent sugar me, yeah
Give a little more
Pour some sugar on me, ooh, in the name of love
Pour some sugar on me, c'mon fire me up
Pour your sugar on me, oh, I can't get enough
I'm hot, sticky sweet from my head to my feet yeah..."
"Pour Some Sugar On Me" by Def Leppard
Daniel stopped short and stared at the stack of reports that had suddenly appeared on the middle of his desk. Which were sitting on top of the detailed notes he'd spent the morning making, regarding the civilization that had been located and documented on P4X 973. Who, if his assumptions were correct, were the ancestors of the citizens of modern day Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Most probably taken to that planet by one of three Goa'uld: Ba'al, Moloc, or Mot. His money was on Ba'al. There were at least forty photos of the temple walls, which he'd been examining, looking for confirmation to his theory. And now those folders were in his way.
Casey nearly ran into his back as she followed him through the door. "Hey, Stud Muffin, give a girl a bit of warning!"
He stepped sideways, allowing her into the room. "Sorry."
"Yeah. Those weren't there when we left."
"There you go, stating the obvious again," she teased. It was impossible to miss the stack of folders.
He walked toward his desk. Returning from the dead...again...meant he'd be spending at least a week reviewing the work that had been accomplished during his absence. Why weren't these just filed away, and a summary email sent to him? "Remind me why I thought I needed such a large staff...and why can't they file these reports?"
"To help you do all the work that was stacking up because you're only one person, there are only twenty-four hours in the day, and I do need attention occasionally. Might help if you had a filing system that people could actually decipher, rather than just the 'piling system' that you-"
"Smartass." He refused to give credence to Casey's comments regarding his methods of keeping track of needed information. Even if she might be just a tiny bit right. It was a perfectly acceptable system, and it was not his fault if no one else could comprehend the simplicity of said system. Nor would he dwell on the fact that he'd never actually shared the finer points of his 'system' with anyone.
"Well, you asked!" She flopped down onto the chair behind the desk that Daniel had requested for her. Along with the computer that made it possible for both of them to work on reports or do research at the same time.
The additional piece of furniture, which had arrived shortly after his 'death', made his already crowded office even more cramped. But it allowed her to work nearby. That was all that mattered in his mind. If he needed more room, he could work in the lab or in the commons room. He walked past her desk to his own; continued to eye the newly arrived folders with the same regard that one would give a coiled snake.
"I'm betting half of them are for me."
"I hope so," he muttered. Sat his cup of coffee down, and began sorting through the stack. It seemed that while he had been...missing...for three weeks, not much had actually been accomplished. Cam Balinsky had informed him that the archaeology department had been adrift during his absence...that the 'civilians' had been so shocked at the news of his death that they'd been almost incapacitated. That neither he nor Cam were considered civilians, even though technically they were, despite being permanently assigned to SG teams, was a sign of how long, and how well, they had worked with the military personnel of the SGC.
He heaved a silent sigh. It was nice to be needed...and certainly having reports of his death causing such turmoil was great for the ego...but he really should see to it that someone else could run things if he was ever gone for an extended period of time...again. He was part of SG-1. Chances of that happening were pretty damned high.
He shuffled through the last of the folders. With obvious relief, and not a little glee, he dropped over half of them onto Casey's desk, all of the information within them relevant to her research for the database.
Casey moved the folders from the middle of her notes. "I'm so not amused."
"Well, I thought it was funny, and as long as one of us is entertained-" He ducked the wadded ball of paper that sailed toward his head. "Missed me."
She stuck her tongue out at him. Ignored his chuckle. Waited until he was settled in his chair, focused on his work, then pummeled him with four quickly wadded sheets of paper. She hadn't even bothered to see what was on them before turning them into ammunition.
Daniel gathered the papers, tossed them back at her, watched as she carefully smoothed each sheet. "I missed this," he said softly. "I never thought I'd miss the paperwork, but I did."
"You were viewing everything through rose-colored glasses, Stud Muffin. Thinking you're marooned will do that to you," she replied. "I missed this damned database when we were on that ice planet with Bigfoot and his friends...and I was barely getting started at that point, had no idea the headaches I'd let myself in for. It wasn't the paperwork. It was being home...that's what you missed."
He grinned. He'd missed her more than being home, or even his teammates. If he'd faced never seeing the SGC again, if he'd been with her, he would've been okay with that. "You're probably right."
"I'm not surprised that you wound up doing a temple excavation. Only you can be marooned on a planet, spend your time being the archaeologist that you are, and find a way home," she teased gently, having already read his report on what he had found, and the references to Ra he'd located.
"I could go back," he threatened. Well, actually, he couldn't; he had no clue as to where he'd been. He'd simply dialed the Alpha site, knowing only that the point of origin was the top key, due to the fact that it was slightly larger than the others...which was a typical design detail for the DHDs, it seemed. Seeing her head come up, the fire in her eyes, the teasing comment evoking the response he'd hoped for, made that little technicality unimportant.
"Not without me you don't!"
His grin widened. "No, not without you. I'd need you to do all of the hunting and fishing and cleaning and gathering food while I dig."
"Uh huh. Yeah, that would happen. I could sprout wings and fly, too!"
The blue of his eyes darkened for just a moment. "I've seen you with wings, Angel. It's enough to blow my mind."
She blushed, the look of pure hunger he tossed in her direction sending a surge of lust skittering up and down her spine, which settled as a dull ache between her thighs. "Yeah, well, I've seen you in leather. I'd spend my time beating back the local native women."
Daniel paused, thinking about the hides that Maelu and Kiam had carried. "Have you ever studied the process of tanning hides?"
The sudden change of subject caught her momentarily off guard. "What?"
"I was just wondering if you'd ever read anything about tanning hides. I know that there are several techniques that are accepted as how our cave-dwelling ancestors cured the animal skins that they used, but I'm not familiar with the details. The men I met had several hides, some of them as soft as satin," Daniel mused.
"I could look it up," Casey offered, still sorting through the folders.
"Huh? Oh, no need," he said, pushing his glasses up and pulling his wandering thoughts back toward his work.
"If you change your mind, let me know," she replied, turning to her own computer.
She had just started typing when she heard him chuckling again. She glanced over at him. "What?"
"I spent a lot of time looking at my photo of you," he told her.
He grinned. "The one I carry with me on missions."
"I didn't think that was allowed."
"Yeah, well, tell that to all of the guys...and the women...who carry pictures of spouses, lovers and kids."
"True. Which photo?"
"My Fantasy Angel."
One eyebrow went up. "You carry that with you?"
"Keep it near my heart," he replied truthfully.
"Yeah, that's really going to make a difference when some Goa'uld or Jaffa find it. Or even worse, some group of highly superstitious villagers with a fear or hatred of angels or winged creatures. It could get you and me killed!"
"Nah. Anybody looking at it, especially a man, would be too busy lusting over you to be thinking such violent thoughts."
"Lusting after me?" She gave a visible shudder. "I can so do without that mental image!"
"Sorry," he said contritely. Accepted her smile of forgiveness with one of his own. Once again damned the scars left on her beautiful heart and soul that continued to hurt her. His thoughts returned to the young shaman he had met. The grin returned. "Anyway, I spent a lot of time looking at it. Kiam was convinced that you were a goddess."
"Poor deluded kid," she mumbled.
"Then he thought that I had been cursed, and my wings had been changed and put on my chest as punishment."
She thought about his tattoo. Couldn't help but smile. "I suppose, given what he thought he knew, that was a pretty good assumption."
"Never did convince him that I'm not a god," Daniel muttered, still upset that the young native would not listen to reason on the subject.
"I've always thought you of as a god," she replied, her gaze focused on the monitor in front of her.
"Well, I'm not."
"That's a matter of opinion."
The grin went even wider. "You are so good at stroking my ego."
"Not too shabby at stroking something else, either," she said, pretending to be reading the report in front of her.
"Wonder if the supply closet is empty," he said, his voice slightly strained as memories of what those soft hands could do for him flooded his mind, and his senses.
"Keep wondering. You have too much work to do."
"All work and no play makes Danny a dull boy."
"No work done today means Danny will be working over the weekend," she intoned.
He sighed. There were half a dozen reports needed by SG teams that would be going out on missions, and the information was essential. "Good point."
"You two are just sickening," a familiar voice drawled from the doorway. The two Jacksons looked up as Jack walked into the room.
"That's what you get for standing there and eavesdropping," Daniel retorted.
Casey cocked her head sideways. "What's up, boss?"
Jack didn't miss the familiar tilt of that blonde head. "Nothing, why?"
"Oh, I thought you were here because of-" She broke off.
"Because of what?"
"Wait for it."
Jack tossed a glance in Daniel's direction. Wondered if his face reflected the same look of utter annoyance. This was their first day back on base as a whole team. They did not need any unpleasant surprises. Although, he thought with a sigh, at the SGC, those seemed to be the only kind to visit. The klaxons began to wail, the red strobe lights flashing in the corridors. "Oh, hell," he muttered. "Radar?"
"Not a clue," Casey replied. "Just that someone is on their way...or here...with something important."
"Better not be the damned Tok'ra," Jack grumped.
Daniel didn't say anything as he fell into step beside his Wife and best friend. But his sentiments were exactly the same.
Casey said nothing, but worried that the latest 'disaster' that had been the result of incomplete information from the Tok'ra would undo all of the positive steps that had been taken between the allies. She'd talk to Daniel later, privately. Try to make him see reason. And studiously avoided thinking about the anger that had raged through her, and the grief she'd endured, because of the Tok'ra.
A A A A A A
Jacob and Lorraine stood beside General Hammond at the foot of the ramp. Jack didn't even try to hide his irritation when he rolled his eyes.
"Hello, Jack," Jacob said quietly. His attention moved to Casey and Daniel. "It's good to see you again, Daniel. Casey, I hope you're doing well."
"I'm fine, now," Casey said, offering a sincere smile, even as her hands wrapped around Daniel's arm. The movements were completely unconscious on her part. And not lost on the Tok'ra or their hosts.
"Nice to see you, Jacob," Daniel replied. He could sense the discomfort in both of the Tok'ra hosts. Wasn't exactly certain what had happened during his absence that had caused such tension between the Tok'ra and the Tau'ri. He remembered briefly meeting Karinda's new host in the Tok'ra tunnels, when Jacob had been taking him to talk to Sarah, to find out just what she, as Osiris, had done. Turned his attention to the tiny woman, gave her a shy smile. "Lorraine, it's nice to see you again."
The young woman smiled, though it faltered slightly when she glanced at Casey. Receiving a warm smile from the seer, the Tok'ra's smile widened. "Thank you, Doctor Jackson. I'm pleased that you're safe and home where you belong."
Daniel smiled. "Me, too."
"So, what do the Tok'ra want now?" Jack asked bluntly.
"Colonel." Hammond's voice was low, and held a clear warning.
"Sorry, sir," Jack mumbled. No one believed that he was truly repentant.
Lorraine didn't fully understand the reason that the Tau'ri were so cool in their reception of the Tok'ra. From what she had learned, the Tau'ri, and SG-1 especially, had been saved numerous times by her adopted people. The Tok'ra had, as the Tau'ri were apt to say, pulled their fat out of the fire on more than one occasion. Karinda chuckled quietly at the silent indignation of her host. Then promised to explain the entire situation when the host and symbiote were alone. "We have a bit of information that we were hoping Doctor Jackson could help us interpret," she said.
"Really?" Daniel's eyes lit up with interest.
"We finally have two spies among Lord Yu's household servants," Jacob explained. "The spies we had among his scientists were executed about fifteen years ago. We hadn't been able to get close to Yu again...until now. It took nearly three years to get them into place to be accepted. It's only been in the past two months that they've actually been moved into the palace. What they're reporting has us a bit...perplexed."
"Why don't we take this to the briefing room?" General Hammond suggested.
Sam and Teal'c were hurrying through the door as the group started moving. "Dad?"
"Hello, kiddo." Jacob nodded at Teal'c. "Hello, Teal'c."
The Jaffa remained silent, but gave a regal nod of his head in acknowledgement.
'They're still pissed,' Jacob groused.
'So say it and get it over with,' Selmak sighed.
'Told you so.'
Jacob looked at his daughter. The way she was clinging to Jack's hand. That was a new development. Sam had told him that she and Jack had been trying to keep their relationship as low key as possible. Something had happened to change that. She refused to meet his eyes. 'No,' he admitted.
Settled around the conference table, the two Tok'ra were immediately aware of the 'them versus us' feeling that pervaded the room. The five members of SG-1 were seated together on one side of the table, Jacob and Lorraine on the other. General Hammond was seated at the head, his chair shifted slightly closer to his people.
"What is this information?" Daniel asked, leaning forward, his arms on the polished surface in front of him, fingers linked loosely. In spite of the results of the last mission, undertaken at Tok'ra behest, he was anxious to learn the reason for the unexpected visit. His natural curiosity, and his tendency to quickly forgive those he considered friends, allowed him to focus solely on the new puzzle being offered.
Jacob closed his eyes. When they opened, the flash of light within let everyone know that Selmak had taken control. "We believe that Lord Yu may be dying."
"So you're planning a party?" Jack asked. He was sitting back in his chair, arms folded tightly over his chest.
Selmak shook her head. "No. At least...not yet." The uncharacteristic comment brought smiles to every face in the room. "We have heard rumors that Oshu, Lord Yu's First Prime, has been quietly controlling his Master's holdings for some time."
"Not his High Priest?" Daniel frowned. It was highly unusual for a Jaffa, even the First Prime, to take on such responsibility, especially when the High Priest was more of a political office than a religious one. Maintaining control of villages and planets fell to the First Prime, but he was never responsible for the actual administration of those holdings.
"It seems that Lord Yu became convinced that his priests were plotting against him. He ordered them all executed. Those in training were suddenly thrust into positions for which they were ill prepared," Selmak replied.
"Were they?" Daniel asked. "Plotting against him?"
Jacob's shoulders moved up and down in a casual shrug. "We have no idea. What we do know is that Yu has an excellent...aide...in his First Prime. Oshu is a very bright, very capable man."
"Indeed," Teal'c said, nodding slightly. It had been years ago, and Oshu had been new to his position of First Prime when Apophis and Yu had met to discuss the actions of Cronus. The two Jaffa had spoken only once, Teal'c commenting that Oshu was an obedient Jaffa, a high compliment to be paid from one First Prime to another. Oshu had replied that he served his Master in the way that he believed was best, even if he did know the truth. A comment that could have held hidden meaning, given the current intelligence; though at the time Teal'c, who had been doubting the true nature of his 'god' for some time, had suspected a trap, set possibly by Apophis himself, had said nothing. "He serves his Master well. I do not believe, however, that he is unaware of the true nature of Lord Yu."
"You believe that Oshu knows Yu to be a false god?" Selmak asked.
"I do not know if his feelings are that...strong. He is not unaware of the limitations of the Goa'uld," Teal'c replied.
Selmak nodded, obviously accepting this tidbit of information completely. Turned her attention to Daniel. "You served Lord Yu, spent more time with him, you were closer to him than any Tok'ra has ever been. We would like your opinion on how much control the Goa'uld actually has over those around him, and how much Oshu might actually command."
Daniel frowned. He had, in fact, been Yu's lo'taur for less than thirty hours. "I never saw Oshu, although I knew he was on the ship. Yu never left his chambers...at least, not while I was there. He spent a great deal of time in his sarcophagus. He-"
Casey could sense the flood of emotion; the shame, the embarrassment. The revulsion that filled him. She laced her fingers with his, squeezed gently, reassuringly.
He spared a grateful smile for his Wife. "He seemed more taken with plotting revenge on those who had wronged him; whether those wrongs were real or imagined, I have no idea. And...and lusting after his lo'taur and using his harem slaves."
Selmak nodded again. She understood the discomfort that Daniel was experiencing; knew the reason behind the flush of red on his cheeks. "Then it is possible that Oshu is indeed in control."
"I'd say so," Daniel agreed. "I didn't actually see anyone come to Yu for instructions or orders."
"These are transcripts of what has been overheard," Selmak said, offering a data crystal to Daniel. "To our ears, it sounded as if Oshu was telling Yu what he should, or shouldn't be doing. While it is not unusual for a Goa'uld to consult with his High Priests, or even listen to the military advice of his First Prime, it is unusual for that Goa'uld to be so blatantly led. Under normal circumstances, the Goa'uld will call forth his or her advisors, and then let them argue among themselves, choosing to follow whatever advice fits most closely with his...or her...plans."
Daniel nodded as well. "Exactly. They would never allow anyone to even consider the notion that he or she wasn't truly an 'omnipotent god'."
"How will this affect the Goa'uld empire?" General Hammond asked.
"At this point, we're not certain," Selmak conceded. "So far, everything that Oshu does is in the name of Lord Yu. Who, by the way, is confused more often than not, according to our spies. He will never admit that he doesn't know what's happening on his own ships and planets, so if questions are raised, he insists that Oshu is indeed following his orders. However, there has been a significant shift in how Lord Yu is dealing with the other Goa'uld."
"Because Oshu is the one calling the shots?" Jack asked.
"Yes," Selmak replied. "Oshu seems more...aggressive...than Yu has been in many years. He's begun raiding and conquering planets that have been free for centuries, taking slaves and conscripts. He's ordered counterstrikes against any who dare to attack Yu's holdings. This has mostly been Amaterasu and Morrigan. Oshu is an impressive tactician. He moves in quickly, takes over completely, leaves none of his enemy's advisors, Goa'uld or not, alive on whatever planet he takes. His attacks seem random, as if he's striking out blindly. However, if you look at all of the attacks as a whole, he's moving with precision toward the heart of Amaterasu's territory."
"Which means?" Jack asked. His arms were on the table now. He wasn't leaning forward...yet. Radar and The Brains, however, were showing obvious interest in what they were hearing. Teal'c's hands had gone from fists to fingers loosely laced in front of him.
"If Oshu manages to take over Amaterasu's holding's, it would lead directly to the holdings of Lord Camulus and Lord Morrigan. Neither are major players at this time; both suffered heavy losses when Anubis attacked them. Which makes their positions vulnerable at best, and certainly unable to defend against Yu's much larger fleets and armies. If Oshu were to take those two, he would effectively split the Goa'uld Empire. His, or rather Lord Yu's, territory would literally stretch through the middle of what is known as the Goa'uld Empire," Selmak explained.
"Making it difficult for the others to band against him," Teal'c said quietly.
"If Oshu is successful, it is possible that several minor System Lords will fall into service to him...to Lord Yu, in an attempt to remain in a ruling position, even if it is in appearance only," Karinda said, joining the conversation.
"Which minor System Lords are we talking about?" Hammond asked.
"Lord Morrigan, and Lord Camulus, obviously. Lord Zipacna, and Lord Olokun. They have suffered losses at Ba'al's hand," Karinda replied.
"I ask again...this means what?" Jack said, rather testily...even though the news of Zippy kowtowing to yet another System Lord had a nice sound to it. Arrogant bastard. Lucky for them Lya'd had more heart than the Tollans had expected, and had voted in favor of releasing Skaara from Coral Snake's clutches. Daniel had a way of charming the Nox woman, that and his diplomatic way of laying out the facts of the matter had saved the day. He pulled his wandering thoughts back to the business at hand.
"Oshu could split the Empire," Selmak was saying. "And then reunite it under his control."
"But, if it's Oshu who's doing this, then we're dealing with a totally different entity than if we were dealing with a Goa'uld," Daniel mused. Someone who understood that the Goa'uld weren't gods. Powerful, yes. They had impressive technology. But they didn't have any magic or supremacy over other civilizations. They were just sneakier; masters of lies and half-truths and manipulation.
"Precisely, Doctor Jackson. As long as Yu lives, the deception will continue. However, if Yu should die, and Oshu continued to control Yu's holdings, it could cause all of the Goa'uld to unite to defeat a Jaffa who dared to take such liberties."
"And a united Goa'uld empire is not a good thing," Sam murmured.
"No, Samantha, it is not," Selmak agreed.
"So what do you want from us, exactly?" General Hammond asked. He was already forming his refusal.
"If Doctor Jackson could provide a report on this information, give us his insights, we might be in a position to...recruit...Oshu."
"Wow," Casey said, her green eyes wide. "That would basically give the Tok'ra control of a 'major' System Lord."
"Precisely," Selmak replied. "We could guide Oshu, prevent him from causing an all out war, perhaps help him to turn several of the Goa'uld against one another."
"That could be advantageous," Sam said. "If they're focused on each other, we can continue to weaken them by taking away...freeing...more planets from their control."
"It would take time, several years we predict, but we could bring about the end of the Goa'uld Empire."
"Well, the Empire in this galaxy," Daniel pointed out.
Selmak started, then nodded slowly. "Yes, in this galaxy."
"Gotta start somewhere, might as well be our own backyard," Jack said.
Selmak smiled. "Indeed, Colonel O'Neill."
"There are also references to Lord Zeus," Lorraine said. "We do not know if Oshu sees Zeus as an enemy, or as a potential ally."
"But you're not expecting us to go anywhere...no blowing up ships or anything?" Jack asked pointedly.
"No, Colonel O'Neill. We only ask that Doctor Jackson offer his opinion on the conversations that were overheard by our spies," Selmak responded quietly.
Jack leaned forward, looked over at the archaeologist. "Got a little time to spare for a report, Daniel?"
Daniel nodded. "Sure. This could change everything!"
Selmak couldn't help but smile at the young man's enthusiasm. "Yes,
Doctor Jackson, it could."
"Haven't we heard that before?" Jack grumbled. Just before Daniel had been captured by Osiris, if memory served. Damned fine mess that had been!
"A couple of times," Daniel admitted. "But this is different. We're not trying to start a war between Goa'uld, or influence an alliance between several Goa'uld. We're not actually dealing with a Goa'uld at all."
"The only thing we would like to achieve, is an alliance with Oshu, against the Goa'uld," Selmak explained.
"Might not be so easy," Jack replied. "This guy may not be a Goa'uld. But he certainly thinks like one!"
"As far as we can tell," Daniel argued. "For all we know, he might be setting this up to take out the Goa'uld."
"Indeed," Teal'c said. "If he is convinced of the fallibility of all Goa'uld, if he no longer views them as gods, he may be seeking retribution for all that has been done in the name of those false gods."
"But why not just join the Jaffa rebellion?" Sam asked.
"Sometimes, it is more effective to work from within," Teal'c replied. "The Jaffa rebellion has weakened the Goa'uld. It will continue to do so. If we strike from without, and Oshu, and those like him, strike from within, the Goa'uld Empire will not be able to withstand the attacks."
Daniel looked over at his large friend. How much had Teal'c done as First Prime that had weakened Apophis, had prevented him from becoming as powerful as Ra had been? He was aware that the Jaffa had taken great risks in allowing slaves to 'escape'; in positioning troops so as to cause the least amount of damage to a village. Not from anything Teal'c had said, but from the proof of what he'd done.
Selmak nodded. "What we need to do, is find out just exactly whose side Oshu is on."
"What if he's doing this for his own reasons...to be the most powerful?" Casey asked.
"Exactly," Jack said, nodding. "Oh-shoe could just be power hungry."
"Then we must consider what his...position...will mean for the Tok'ra resistance. And our Tau'ri allies," Selmak added.
There were far too many unknown variables. Trying to base their actions on random guesses was never a good thing. Typical, Daniel sighed mentally. Just when it looked like things might actually quiet down for a bit! Come hell or high water, he was taking his Wife to that bed and breakfast for their anniversary. The SGC...and the universe...could just get along without them for seventy-two hours!
A A A A A A
The data crystal contained carefully encrypted messages, which had already been decoded. That was a surprise in and of itself. The Tok'ra were usually very careful to remove any encryption before sending copies to their allies. What Daniel didn't know was whether or not the decoded messages were the same as the originals. He knew of one person who could find out for him. He watched from the doorway into her lab for a few minutes, to make certain he wouldn't be interrupting anything that required a delicate touch and complete concentration. Unlike Jack, who had a tendency to just burst in on whomever he pleased, regardless of what they might be trying to do, Daniel understood how frustrating such intrusions could be.
Satisfied that she'd be able to talk to him when she put down the tools she had been holding, he stepped into the room. "Hey, Sam."
Her smile was as welcoming as the warmth in her eyes. His return smile was automatic. "I need to ask a favor."
"Ask away," she replied.
He pulled the crystal from his pocket. "I need to know exactly what this says."
Sam frowned slightly. "I thought Selmak said that it included the transcribed notes."
"It does," Daniel replied. "I don't know how much might have been left out, intentionally or not." He paused. "They've left the encrypted messages on the crystal as well."
Her eyes went wide. "Let me see it."
He put the clear crystal into her hand. "I know the Tok'ra use a sophisticate code-"
"Which we cracked about six months ago," Sam interjected. She shrugged at the surprised look on Daniel's face. "We need to know. They don't always tell us everything."
"That can't make your dad very happy."
She took a deep breath, blew it out slowly. "He doesn't know. And I have no intention of telling him. I understand that he...can't...share everything. Even if he wanted to, Selmak would prevent him from giving away too much. But lately..." she shrugged.
"Yeah," he said softly. Lately it seemed that whenever the Tok'ra withheld information, SG-1 took the brunt of any fall that occurred. Even though the Goa'uld Resistance had held a ceremony, giving the team members the highest award available among them, and even though they had arranged for a very pleasant three day vacation for the team, the Tok'ra were still the Tok'ra. And couldn't be trusted to be completely honest and forthcoming with what they wanted, and what they knew. He'd just returned from three weeks on a distant planet, declared dead after his teammates believed his escape pod had been destroyed in the explosions that took out Ares, and his pyramid ship. A mission that hadn't achieved the desired results, from what they were hearing. Something that the Tok'ra had suspected would be the final outcome. And something that hadn't been shared with the Tau'ri who undertook the very risky mission.
Sam took the crystal to her computer, pulled a small device from a shelf nearby, connected a cable from the device to her laptop, and began to type instructions. "I wrote the code into a program," she said. "Let's see if it works like I want it to."
Daniel grabbed a nearby chair, pulled it close and sat down beside Sam. They began to go over the encrypted message, line by line, Daniel comparing it with the 'decoded' version he'd already reviewed. "Wait a minute, back up," he said, when Sam had scrolled down the page.
The two stared at the three distinct sets of numbers that seemed to have been added on as an afterthought at the end of one of the reports.
"That's totally weird," Sam muttered.
"They look like...they almost look like 'gate addresses," Daniel said.
"This wasn't part of the original message," Sam informed him.
"How can you tell?"
"It wasn't encoded. It's just...there."
Daniel frowned. "So someone...a Tok'ra, I presume, had to have added them. Which would explain why we have copies of the original messages at all."
"So it would seem. And it's at the end of the second report, in the middle of the entire document. Only in the original message."
"Like someone wanted us to find it," he murmured.
"Like someone was counting on us finding it," Sam corrected softly. "Whether or not they know that we can decode their encryption, or just suspect it, or simply know that we'd at least try if we had the original code, someone placed those...numbers...where they knew we'd find them."
"So what are the symbols and coordinates?"
Sam turned to the desk top computer, pulled up a copy of the dialing program that she used to tweak and experiment with. "I'm not getting any matches," she said, a frown creasing her forehead. "Wherever they are, they're not on any of the address lists that we have."
"Maybe taken from Zeus?"
"The Tok'ra don't have any spies there," Sam corrected.
"Maybe they do," Daniel countered.
"These are for our galaxy, there are seven symbols."
"No, if that was the case, there should be six. The point of origin is always the seventh symbol," Daniel reminded her. "As I recall, the seventh symbol on the addresses from Abydonian cartouche were all the same...and had to be removed from the dialing program-"
"Because the last symbol had been for Abydos. All of those addresses have six symbols." Sam turned a wide-eyed gaze on her teammate. "The only time we've used eight symbols was when the colonel managed to get to the Asgard and have the repository of the Ancients removed from his brain."
Daniel nodded slowly. "Something tells me we should at least check them out."
She nodded her agreement. "If they weren't important, they wouldn't have been here."
"We should tell the general what we've found. Might not be a bad idea to let Casey know. She might be able to sense something."
Still a bit stunned at their discovery, the two made their way out of the lab and down the corridor. Daniel slid his ID badge through the reader to activate the elevator. Glanced over when Sam sighed softly. "Are you okay?"
She smiled shyly. "I missed you. Casey was devastated when you were declared dead, but-"
He slid his finger beneath her chin when she looked down at her boots, gently raised her head and held her gaze with his. "But?"
"I missed you, too," she whispered. "I'd lost one of my best friends. I missed...this. Working together. Figuring things out together. I...I really didn't accomplish much while you were gone."
Without a word, nor a worry about who might be watching, Daniel gave Sam a hug, pressed a kiss to her temple. "I missed you, too, Sam."
She pulled away slightly, looked up and him and grinned cheekily. "Something you only noticed when you weren't busy missing your wife."
He grinned in return. "I won't bother to deny that."
She sighed happily a second time. "SG-1 magic. May it continue to be strong."
The doors to the elevator opened, revealing that Casey was waiting there, leaning against the back wall, her ankles crossed, arms wrapped around her waist. She gave the two a wide smile. "I turn my back and you're after my man. What a friend."
Sam chuckled. "I'm the best you've got."
"So you keep telling me, although at times like this I have my doubts," Casey replied dryly, although her eyes reflected her inner laughter.
"You just have to trust me, girlfriend."
"Right." She raised an eyebrow, taking in the two, who were still standing close together, arms around one another.
"You betcha," Sam retorted, stepping into the elevator car.
"Where are you headed?" Daniel asked, grinning over the exchange. The banter between the members of SG-1 often confused those who listened; it wasn't easy for an 'outsider' to know if the comments were to be taken seriously or not...something that the team used to their advantage whenever necessary.
"Commissary. I so need chocolate cake. Do you know how many cross references I had to do for Ptah? Seventy-two. And I'm not even finished with his entry yet! Can we please hurry up and kill these annoying pests so I don't have to worry about keeping the damned thing updated?"
"We're doing our best," Daniel replied. "Cake is going to have to wait though, Angel."
Green eyes moved from one face to the other and back again. Focused on the cerulean blue depths that held her world, noted the excitement, and the hint of worry. "Oh, no! I'm not doing any searches. I don't care what happens. I'm not leaving this planet for at least a month! And neither are you! My anniversary is coming up, and I'll be damned if I'm going to risk missing it! If we leave, somebody will get lost or misplaced or stuck or something. SG-1 is not going!" She hadn't stomped her foot, but the implication was the same as if she had.
Both Sam and Daniel were snickering loudly by the time the rant was over. "Sorry, Casey, this could be important. One of the Tok'ra slipped three gate addresses to us. For another galaxy," Sam said.
"You're kidding!" she exclaimed, her eyes going wide.
"No, we're not," Daniel replied. "We're on our way to let the general know what we've discovered."
"Just one cake walk," Casey grumbled. "Just to know what it's like. Or better yet, nothing more strenuous than working on that damned database for a month or two! I'm so tired of walking through that 'gate and straight into hell!"
Daniel and Sam exchanged worried looks. Casey rarely complained about their missions, not seriously at any rate. They all grumbled, but it was just a part of working through what needed to be done. If the slender seer was really upset...
Casey shook her head. "I'm sorry," she said softly, cringing mentally. She hadn't intended to ever voice her fears.
He caught her chin with his hand as she lowered her head. "Talk to me, Angel," Daniel said softly.
Casey sighed. "Let's just get this over with, shall we?"
Tears filled her eyes. "It seems like every time we go on a mission, either I'm snatched by some freaking Goa'uld, or daemon, or a chieftain with control issues, or you're kidnapped or wind up dead..."
Pressing a kiss to her forehead, Daniel wrapped his arms around her. How did he comfort her? What could he say? Her fears were based on experience. And chances were, whatever was waiting for them probably wasn't good. It was what they did...part of the job. It was a fact of life for SG-1. She was as aware of that as he was. At the moment, her emotions were still too raw, her grief over his 'death' still too close to the surface.
"No one says we have to go anywhere right away," Sam said quietly, her arm around Casey's shoulders as well.
The young seer shook her head again. "We'll talk to the general. Send the MALP. And I'll look and see what we'll be facing," she said wearily.
"Casey, if you don't want to go, we won't go," Daniel said firmly. He could feel Sam's eyes on him. He silently strengthened his resolve. If his Wife needed time away from the SGC, or at least time off of the team, off the mission roster, then so be it. There was no way he'd force her to do something she didn't want to do...especially after what she'd just been through. That this was something that apparently the Tok'ra, or at least one Tok'ra, wanted them to do was enough to give him pause. There had been too many missions taken on for that group that had gone badly.
"We're SG-1," she replied.
"We can request a leave of absence. Maybe stay on the base and work for a month or so," Daniel told her.
Sam took a deep breath. "There's a lot of work I could be doing, I'd sort of like a break myself."
Jack just happened to be walking by the elevator when the doors opened. He did a double take, seeing Daniel holding Casey, Sam standing with her arms around both of them. Uh oh. Something was going on. Not good if Radar needed comforting. "Hello, campers," he said quietly. "What's up?"
Sam held up the data crystal. "We found a secret message."
Jack studied sapphire blue eyes, waiting for the punch line. Realized the major was serious. "And just what was this 'secret message'?"
"Three 'gate address. Seven symbols," Daniel replied.
"The final symbol is the point of origin," Sam pointed out. "Listed address have six symbols."
"I thought if you used eight symbols, it sent you-" Jack's eyes went wide. "Oy!"
"Yeah," Daniel agreed.
Jack waited for the three to move closer. Reached out and tugged on a lock of Casey's hair. "What's wrong, Radar?"
"Don't try to kid a kidder," Jack said softly. His gaze swung to his best friend. "What's wrong, Danny?"
"Casey is a little...battle weary."
"I think we all are."
"We should check these addresses out, but maybe another team could do the initial recon," Daniel said quietly.
"We were on our way to tell General Hammond," Sam said, moving closer to Jack. Noted that he shifted slightly toward her. Nothing overt, just a simple half-step that put them closer as they stood talking. She smiled when he reached out and put his hand on her back. Neither she, nor Daniel, were aware that for a moment, their eyes had betrayed their feelings of insecurity when Jack and Casey stood face to face, his finger wrapped in a lock of the seer's hair. Neither were consciously aware of how that simple, innocent act poked at their hearts.
"Then let's do it."
"Think we should call Teal'c?" Casey asked, forcing a smile to her lips. Stepping closer to Daniel when he draped his arm around her shoulders, as unaware of her movement as Jack had been when he shifted closer to Sam.
"Nah. The Big Guy will show up. We're all connected at the hip," Jack replied casually.
Her smile became genuine. "True."
This time, however, his assigned duties prevented Teal'c from seeking out his teammates, even though he did have the urge to do so. He was aware that Daniel was working on a report for the Tok'ra. He was curious to know what, if anything the archaeologist had found. And knew that if his presence was required, he would be notified.
Jack and Sam started up the corridor. Daniel caught Casey's arm when she turned to follow. "Say the word, Case, and I put in for a leave of absence."
"I'm o...I'll be fine."
He rolled his eyes. "Right. So, do we want the time off completely, or just off the roster for a week or two?"
"Time off the roster?"
Casey sighed, studied him for a moment. Took in the stubborn set of his jaw. Her 'slip' would make him determined to protect her. Something that warmed her to the very core of her soul. "Time off the roster works for me," she finally replied.
He gave a sharp nod of his head. Jack was right, they were all still 'battle weary'. The entire team could use a break.
She slipped her hand against his, felt his fingers tighten as they closed around hers. The comfort of that simple touch gave her the strength to face the meeting that was about to take place. Something told her that they wouldn't be off the roster for long.
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