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The Recalcitrant Lo'taur 

 

Chapter 5

Led from Kali's chambers by Jaffa, a young slave appeared, and followed the new lo'taur to the quarters he'd been given. Daniel raised an eyebrow quizzically when the young man entered behind him, an apologetic smile on his lips.

"My name is Nirav," the young man said, dipping his head slightly.

"I'm Daniel." He smiled, noting that the slave's entire face lit up in response.

"I am here to prepare you."

"Prepare me? Prepare me for what?"

"Lord Kali wishes her lo'taur to be dressed in a manner similar to her priests," was the quiet explanation. "I will run bath water, while you remove your clothes."

He closed his eyes for a moment. Remembered the skin tight pants and leather vest and armbands that Lord Yu's lo'taur had worn. Wondered just what revealing attire he'd be forced into this time. "Right," he mumbled.

The young slave disappeared into the adjoining bathroom.

He could fight against the inevitable, or give in, and hopefully find out what Kali knew about the bracelets. He didn't think she knew...yet...where the second of the two bracelets was, and he was certain she had no idea that another Goa'uld was in possession of one of the pair. She needed him to translate something, probably a text that would give a clue to where the 'missing' bracelet had been placed. With a sigh, he sat down on the bed to remove his boots and socks. Once he had stripped down to his boxers, he padded into the en suite. Rolled his eyes when he noted that Nirav was naked, and waiting in the large bathtub. "Uh...no. I can bathe on my own."

"But-"

"No," Daniel said firmly.

Nirav studied the new lo'taur for a moment. Noted the stubborn set of the man's jaw. He gave a slight nod, then stepped from the water, and briskly dried.

It was tempting to empty the water, and draw fresh, but Daniel figured that would be insulting to the slave. After all, the poor kid had just been doing what he'd been ordered to do. While he'd have preferred a shower, and there was a separate compartment for that, Daniel dropped his boxers and crawled into the water. Accepted the square of flannel and flask of oil from Nirav. He bathed quickly, not so much because he was eager to be finished, but because of the appraising...and rather lustful...looks the young man was tossing in his direction.

"Do you wish for me to shave you?" Nirav asked, a bit timidly.

"Uh...shave?" He had visions of his body being divested of every hair on it. Instinctively glanced down at his pubic hair. Casey loved what she called his 'glory trail'...fine, light blonde hairs that led from just below his navel to the thick mat of hair that surrounded his manhood. Shaved...everywhere? No way in hell! That was something he'd never allow!

The young man patted his own jaws in way of explanation.

"Oh...uh...sure." Wrapped in the large bath towel, also handed to him by the much too eager slave, Daniel sat down on a padded, flat bench. Watched as the young man expertly mixed the soap, then carefully sharpened the straight razor against a length of leather strap.

"I was slave to Kalidasa. Now that you are lo'taur, I serve you," Nirav said shyly, glancing at the man, watching his blue eyes.

What an interesting twist...the lo'taur - personal slave to a Goa'uld - who had his own slave. There was something very wrong about that, Daniel decided. He leaned his head back when Nirav pushed his fingertips gently on his forehead. Winced slightly as a steaming cloth was wrapped around his face. He hadn't noticed when or how the cloth had been heated...but damn! He took a deep breath. Now that he was accustomed to the warmth, it felt nice!

"The servants say that you are a man of great learning, and that Lord Kali will be most powerful with you at her side," the young slave continued conversationally.

"Don't believe everything you hear," Daniel replied, his voice muffled by the towel.

"I believe you are a very wise man. And that Lord Kali already lusts after you. She chose Kalidasa because of his unusual coloring. His hair is quite red. Even around his manhood," Nirav said, lowering his voice. "But he is not as beautiful as you are."

Daniel wished the kid would stop being so...informative. The more Nirav talked, the more uncomfortable he was becoming.

"I believe that Kalidasa will be sent to the harem when he recovers," Nirav said.

"Recovers? What happened to him?" Daniel asked.

"He displeased Lord Kali, and she struck him. When he fell, he hit his head. There was much blood."

"Yeah, head wounds tend to bleed a lot," Daniel said.

Nirav removed the towel, carefully swirled the foaming soap across Daniel's jaws, chin, and throat with a soft brush. "I am most glad to be serving you," he whispered.

Daniel raised his head, grabbed the young man's wrist before the razor was close. "Nirav, you're a nice kid. But don't get any ideas. I'm not interested in men."

The young slave's eyes dropped to the floor. "I do not mean to offend you, Dan'yel. As my master, Kalidasa was most...demanding."

And the kid was just trying to keep his 'new master' happy. Not only were the Goa'uld twisted, they managed to warp everyone around them! I hate the Goa'uld! "I'm not offended, Nirav," Daniel said reassuringly. "And I promise to treat you with respect."

"Respect?"

Daniel smiled behind the foam on his face. "I won't ask you to do anything for me that I can do for myself."

The young slave contemplated for a moment, then smiled brightly. "I like you very much, Dan'yel."

Daniel chuckled. "Good thing for me." When Nirav gave him a puzzled look, he nodded at the razor in the young man's hand.

Nirav chuckled. "I must shave you before this dries." He moved the sharp blade with care and practiced ease over Daniel's face and throat, wiping the blade on the towel he'd draped over the lo'taur's shoulder.

"You said Kalidasa might be sent to the harem?" Daniel asked, when the slave had finished. He wiped the remainder of soap from his face, ran a hand across his jaw. He didn't think he'd ever had such a close shave before!

"Lord Kali keeps those that please her, both men and women, in special rooms. Those Goa'uld who serve her are often granted permission to visit those rooms," Nirav explained.

No doubt it would be difficult to go from the position of lo'taur...which meant 'favored human'...to a mere harem slave. With luck, Kalidasa could resume his duties soon, Daniel thought. He had no doubt that Kali would once again prefer her 'unusual' lo'taur when he'd flown the coop. "Well, maybe he'll just go back to being Kali's...er...Lord Kali's lo'taur."

"I do not think so," Nirav replied. "Lord Kali is most...impressed...with you."

"Lucky me," Daniel grumped.

The sarcastic response was even more appropriate when Nirav finished dressing him. Wearing a short kilt made of white silk, which really didn't leave a hell of a lot to the imagination, leather sandals that didn't fit quite right, and the required gold 'slave collar', Daniel was taken back to Kali's chambers.

 

A A A A A A

 

Casey accepted the mug of coffee that Janet put into her hand. "Thanks," she murmured.

"It's only been a few hours," Janet said gently.

"Five hours, thirty-seven minutes, give or take," Casey replied, glancing at her watch. "What if she's beating him...or torturing him?" she whispered.

Janet wrapped her hands around the seer's free hand. "This Goa'uld wants Daniel to do translation work for her, right?"

The young blonde nodded.

"Then there's no reason to abuse him," Janet insisted.

"But snakes are batshit crazy," Casey argued. "They'll beat a slave, or a servant...or a captive...just because it suits him...or her...to do so."

"Positive thoughts, girlfriend," Janet said, squeezing Casey's hand gently.

Wrapping her fingers around her best friend's, she returned the gentle pressure. "Right, positive thoughts." She sipped her coffee, grateful that Janet understood her need to just...to what, sit and mope? To sit and worry myself sick over Daniel. Not talking, not having to put on a 'brave face' for those around her, Casey simply sat quietly...waiting. And did her best not to fall completely apart.

Sam walked into the commissary, spotted the two women, hurried to join them. "Ready to head back out?" she asked her teammate.

"You bet I am!" Casey declared. Looking for Daniel was certainly better than sitting and brooding over his well-being.

"Jack has Ferretti and his team taking a break. We'll head out with 15."

Casey nodded. "Let me stop by the restroom. I don't buy coffee, ya know. I rent it."

Both of her companions dissolved into giggles.

 

 

 

Ten minutes later, the two teams were standing in front of the ramp.

"Mrs. Jackson!"

All eyes turned toward the door, where Doctor Weir stood hesitantly. "I've been reading the mission reports. Starting with the first one. You...you were...you were right. About your husband. Good luck, Mrs. Jackson."

Casey smiled. "Thanks."

"And, um...I'd like to apologize," Weir said, taking a hesitant step into the 'gate room.

Moving toward the political expert, Casey smiled again. "Apology accepted. I was a bit...short-tempered...myself."

"Your husband has been kidnapped by the enemy," Weir said softly. "I can't even imagine how difficult this is for you."

Ducking her head, willing herself not to give in to the tears, Casey gave a slight nod. "He'll be home...but if we can just find him...bring him home sooner..."

"If anyone can do it, SG-1 can," Weir smiled.

"Thanks," Casey replied.

Jack watched the exchange. Gave a subtle nod when Weir's eyes met his. As far as he was concerned, the woman still needed a little 'up-close-and-personal' experience before she really understood what life was like for the SG teams, and those who worked in the SGC. And he'd already figured out the best way to accomplish that. Being a general had some perks, he decided, albeit grudgingly. He'd already set into motion a little 'training exercise' that would bring a dose of reality into Doctor Weir's life. But, he sighed mentally, the fun and games would have to wait. He was going to bring Daniel home or...well, he was going to give it his best shot!

General Hammond was standing in the control room. President Hayes had predicted that once Doctor Weir fully understood what the Stargate Program was about, the reasons it was necessary, and the people involved, she'd be an asset to the program. He was beginning to believe the CIC was absolutely correct. He reached for the microphone that would allow him to be clearly heard in the 'gate room. "General O'Neill, whenever you're ready."

Jack gave a sloppy salute. "We're ready, sir."

"Godspeed, people," Hammond said. Casey Jackson had never been wrong. He had no doubt that Daniel Jackson would return to them, safe and sound. There was no definite timeline for that event. But it would happen. Keeping the Goa'uld from learning about their interest in the Ancient bracelets was as important as keeping up the illusion of an all-out search for the archaeologist. The more information the teams could gather...as covertly as possible, under the guise of seeking information on the doctor's whereabouts...the better off the Tau'ri of Earth would be. He bit back a sigh. Waiting was never easy.

 

A A A A A A

 

Jack looked around, stepped down from the low platform the Stargate rested on. "Oh, look. Trees."

"How very observant," Casey teased.

"Such a very green universe we live in," Jack continued, ignoring the seer completely.

"Probably because the Ancients 'seeded' the universe," Sam said, grinning from ear to ear. "They seemed to have used every specimen known on Earth."

"I guess that would account for it," Jack nodded. He looked over his shoulder at Casey. "So, Radar, anything about this place we should know about?"

Once again wishing for the comfort of her Husband's arms, Casey closed her eyes, reached out tentatively. "Small village...but they trade with a group that arrives through the 'gate on a regular schedule."

"So they won't be too surprise to see strangers?" Jack asked.

Casey opened her eyes, shrugged slightly. "I'm not sure. The feeling I get is that it's the same group every time."

"Crap," Jack muttered. He noted that the seer was tugging her lip between her teeth. "What else, Radar?"

"There's something about slavery...but I can't see it clearly," Casey responded. "It just feels...wrong."

Jack glanced at Sam, then Teal'c. "Okay, are the people in this village the perpetrators of the slavery, or the victims?"

"I'm not sure," the seer admitted.

Colonel Mike Thomas, CO of SG-15, stepped closer. "Think maybe one of us should hang back?"

Jack stared down the narrow path. "Take your team and flank the village...come in from the other side. Stay out of sight until we signal. If it looks like we need help, don't hesitate."

Thomas nodded. "Yes, sir. Okay, people. Let's go."

Jack watched the team move into the forest that lined both sides of the road. Hopefully there wouldn't be a wide swath of cleared fields that would need to be circumvented. That would take more time...how long would depend on the size of the fields. Don't borrow trouble, O'Neill. Adjusting the strap of his P90, Jack took point. "Let's go, campers. We're in no hurry."

 

 

 

The village was indeed small. Not more than a dozen small cottages. Two large barns. Half a dozen pens that were filled with goats and sheep. Colorful gardens filled with flowers and numerous, recognizable vegetables were nestled between the cottages, making the setting a pastoral painting come to life.

What marred that painting, however, was found in the center of the cluster of houses. A large barren patch of ground, lined by tall, narrow cages. A large platform spanned the width of the area at one end.

"Slave traders," Casey whispered.

Glancing up at the sun, Jack estimated that it was mid-afternoon. For what appeared to be an agrarian village, it seemed oddly deserted. Granted, there could be some local holiday or some sort of custom which decreed that everyone had to be inside at a certain time. Chances were higher, he knew, that someone had seen them as they hiked up the path, and had sounded the warning.

"We are being observed," Teal'c said quietly, his eyes moving over each of the cottages.

"Yeah, I feel it, too," Jack replied.

"This is when we need Daniel's expertise," Sam whispered.

"I know," Jack acknowledged.

"Hello?" Casey called. She pulled the boonie from her head. "Hello?"

The sound of a door slamming had the entire team spinning where they stood. "Teal'c!" Jack pointed toward the back of the cottage.

With a nod, the Jaffa slipped between the two nearest structures.

Casey marched up to the door of the closest, rapped her knuckles against the wood. "I know you're in there, and right now, I'm not in any mood to put up with anybody's shit. My Husband was taken by a Goa'uld, and if I don't find out which one in the next five minutes, I'm gonna burn this place the freaking ground!"

"Casey!" Jack hissed. Nearly choked trying to bite back his smile when the seer looked over her shoulder, tapped her temple, and winked at him.

A door on another of the cottages swung open and a woman, with long white hair and the leathery skin of one who'd worked in the sun for many years, stepped out. "You would not!"

"In a heartbeat, old woman," Casey replied, her voice cool...firm. She reached into her pocket, pulled out a Bic lighter. Flicked the top.

The old woman gasped as a flame jumped to life on the brightly colored...stick.

"Please," Casey said softly. "I just want to know which System Lord took my Husband."

"And what good would such knowledge do you? Do you believe you can free him?" the woman scoffed.

"We've been captured by Goa'uld several times. And we always manage to find a way home," Casey said.

"You lie!"

"Well, I wouldn't expect a slave trader to believe me. It would be bad for business...wouldn't want any of the slaves to realize they could escape, would you? But even the slave traders know about SG-1 of the Tau'ri," Casey countered.

The old woman took a step forward. "Now I suppose you'll tell me that you are the Tau'ri the Goa'uld seek!"

"Have these Tau'ri been described to you?"

"Uh...Casey? Slave traders? Bounty on our heads? Out numbered, remember?" Jack interjected nervously. Casey had seen something...and was obviously acting on whatever had been revealed. Although he'd prefer that she'd have talked to him about her little rant before she'd started, he wasn't going to quibble about it unless it seemed their asses were sliding into a nasty sling.

Casey looked over at her friend and commanding officer. "Boss, these people don't capture slaves. They just provide a neutral place for selling them."

"Ah. Okay. What would prevent them from putting us in those not so pleasant looking cages, and selling us?"

"We have P90s. They don't."

Okay, she'd picked up more info on the villagers; apparently the team could intimidate the locals long enough to escape.

"If they know anything about Daniel's capture, I'm going to find out," she said...not quite snapping at him.

Jack bit back a sigh and a smile. Casey Jackson was nine kinds of pissed off at the universe in general, and at the Goa'uld in particular. She was in a 'take no prisoners' frame of mind. Staying out of her way was just common sense. It might be worth it to find out where some of the snakes were hiding, and let her have at it. Bet she'd clear a path through the Goa'uld like a hot knife through butter, he thought. A grin tugged at the corners of his mouth.

During their discourse, Teal'c reappeared, the collar of a thin man in one hand, his staff weapon in the other. The man's feet were barely touching the ground as the Jaffa pushed him toward the center of the village. "This man was attempting to flee."

Jack looked over at the man. Noted that the villager was shaking visibly. "Let 'im go, T. I don't think he'll be a problem. Grandma Moses here is more of a threat. Well, her and the others who are still hiding behind their doors."

The old woman looked from one of the strangers to the next, taking in their appearance. "You are not SG-1," she huffed after several moments of tense silence and scrutiny.

"What makes you so sure?" Casey challenged.

"Where is the one with hair of the sun, and eyes as blue as the summer sky? A man of great learning?"

"Did you hear anything I said? I just told you my Husband was taken by the Goa'uld. My blond-haired, blue-eyed husband, who happens to be an archaeologist," Casey retorted.

The old woman frowned. She didn't understand the word 'archaeologist', but the way the slender woman had spoken, it was significant. "If you are the Tau'ri known as SG-1, we have no quarrel with you."

Jack relaxed slightly at the declaration. Apparently their reputation was going to keep them out of those cages. That was a good thing.

"And we have no quarrel with you," Casey replied gently. "I just want to know if you've heard which System Lord captured Doctor Daniel Jackson."

The old woman shook her head. "There has been no one here in several days. Any news of such a capture has not yet reached our ears."

Casey slumped visibly. "Thank you," she murmured.

Sam looked over her shoulder, caught sight of Colonel Thomas and his team hovering near the far edge of the village, standing half-hidden among the trees. She gave a wave, and the team jogged into the village. The man, whom Teal'c had released, and the old woman both stepped back in obvious fear.

"We'll go now," Casey said. No one could miss the sadness in her eyes, nor the slight catch in her voice.

"If we should hear news, how would we get word to you?" the old woman asked cautiously.

Glances were exchanged between the members of SG-1. Casey looked at Jack. "Well?"

"You've been running this since we got here, might as well keep on," he said, his voice revealing just a hint of his amusement.

Her cheeks flushed pink. "I'm sorry," she said softly, "I heard the whispers...and I just reacted."

"We'll discuss it later," Jack replied. "For now, I need to know how trustworthy this woman is."

"I think it would be the safest to have her send word to one of the trading posts that we control...the one where we keep badgering Olokun," Casey suggested.

Jack nodded. "Know the coordinates?"

"I have them," Sam said, pulling her hand-held computer from her pack.

Casey opened her pack and searched for her journal. Tore a sheet of paper from it, then carefully copied down the glyphs for the 'gate address from the computer screen. "If you hear anything, send word to this place. They'll see that the message gets to us."

The old woman accepted the slip of paper. The offered a small smile. "It is said that the great SG-1 has freed many slaves."

"We've helped many people," Casey replied.

"Then there is always hope." With a slight nod, the woman turned and shuffled back inside her cottage.

"Well, hell," Casey muttered.

"Things aren't what they seem here, are they?" Sam asked, glancing around. By now, there were faces appearing in the paneless windows of the houses, although there were no smiles, and no one offered to come out to speak with them.

"I'd say not," Jack replied. "Next time you get more info, think you could let me know about it before you start a fight with the locals?"

Casey blushed once again. "Sorry, boss. It was just that...well...I had to do it then...or we wouldn't have been able to talk to that old woman. Well...I had to carry on like a crazed wife...or so that little voice in the back of my head insisted."

"Maybe I should have a little chat with whoever sends out the intel. Let 'em know that leaving your CO in the dark is not acceptable," Jack said.

"Might not hurt. Might not make a bit of difference," Casey smiled. "But I promise, I'll try to give hand signals, or smoke signals, or something the next time."

Jack's grin broke free. "Good enough. Okay, folks, let's head back and see if any of the other teams have had any luck."

Colonel Thomas handed a slip of graph paper to Sam. "We took a couple of readings as we went by a large outcropping of rocks. Looks like there might be a bit of naquadah there."

"Between that, and what the old woman said, maybe we should come back here, and see if we can't set up a mining operation," Sam said.

"Radar, did you pick up that those villagers are being coerced?" Jack asked, as the two teams made their way back to the Stargate.

"No...but I know they don't participate. They literally just offer a neutral place for the slave sales to take place. Well, maybe 'offer' isn't the right word," Casey mused. "I don't know if they're threatened by the slave traders. I don't know if they make any money off the deals."

"But it would seem that they wish to be free of the traders," Teal'c remarked.

"I agree, Teal'c," Jack said. "We'll let General Hammond know. A team can come back and do some negotiating."

"It's rather odd that an old woman was the spokesperson for the entire village," one of the members of SG-15 mused. Doctor Susan Daly was a sociologist who had been a part of the SGC for over three years. She'd been assigned to the team not quite a year after her arrival. "It's rare for a society to leave greetings and negotiations to a single elder, at least as far as leaving her alone to face strangers."

"Unless she's considered expendable," Colonel Thomas suggested.

"Possible," Doctor Daly replied. "Whatever is going on in that village, it seems to have created a very unusual dynamic. It would be fascinating to learn more...study these people. Just from this encounter I believe they're totally matriarchal, which is very uncommon among Goa'uld held planets. Well, there are a few exceptions... there are half a dozen cultures that have been found, where women are the leaders; three of those societies had few men left-"

"So, how long to get back to the 'gate?" Jack asked, interrupting the scientist's musings.

"About thirty minutes," Sam replied. She was grinning as broadly as her teammates.

"I'll put in for the mission to return here," Thomas told the sociologist.

"Thanks, Colonel!" Doctor Daly beamed.

Jack grinned. Apparently he wasn't the only team CO who would do whatever he could to keep his scientists happy. In spite of the fact that he really didn't like scientists. And he so wasn't going to examine that incongruity!

 

A A A A A A

 

Daniel, with Nirav's help, loaded a tray with Kali's favorite foods. With a sigh of resignation, he carried the tray back to her chambers. Taking the young slave's advice, he arranged the platters of fruit, vegetables, and pastries on the table so that they were within easy reach.

When Kali walked into the room her skin was still rosy from her bath. The scent of her perfume filled the air. Daniel found the smell cloying and totally disagreeable. It almost reminded him of the heavy scent that Hathor had used. While hers had been similar to the sweet scent of his Wife, it certainly hadn't been as light, or nearly as pleasant... He shook himself mentally when he realized the turn his thoughts had taken.

"Turn around. Let me look at you," she demanded.

He barely resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He did as commanded. Stood still as a statue when she moved to stand in front of him, then ran her fingertip from his throat to his navel.

"Very impressive, Daniel," Kali said seductively.

"Whatever," he grumbled.

"Do not anger me," the Goa'uld warned, her eyes flashing.

"Or what? You'll hit me, like you did Kalidasa?"

Amber eyes glowed gold. "What happened is none of your concern."

Back off, Danny. Don't piss her off. Daniel lowered his eyes, bowed his head slightly.

Dropping into the chair beside the table, Kali looked up at him, and nodded.

Taking her look as an indication that she was ready to be served, Daniel filled the chalice with wine, then held the platter of fruit toward the her.

"Very good," Kali murmured. "I knew you would make a wonderful lo'taur. With your knowledge, you will be most useful to me."

"Just thrilled to know that," Daniel replied sarcastically.

Kali raised one dark eyebrow.

"I'm not lo'taur material," Daniel said bluntly. "I hate all Goa'uld, and I'll fight to my last breath to see every one of you dead."

"And just what has made you hate your gods so much?" Kali asked.

For a moment, Daniel thought he saw a spark of actual interest in the amber eyes of the host. He'd probably just imagined it. Snakes were too damned self-absorbed, too arrogant to give a shit about anyone but themselves and their own plans and schemes. "You're not a god," he said, his voice cold. "You're a parasite. The same as the creature that took my wife from me. My wife...my first wife...was taken by Apophis. Made host to Amaunet."

She chose to ignore his declaration regarding her status as a god. "That your wife was given such an honor-"

"Honor? To become a prisoner in her own mind? Tortured by that...snake...day in and day out?" Daniel raged. He took a deep breath. "Death is better than being a host. We killed Apophis. And Sha're..." He paused. "Sha're was set free from the hell she'd endured as a host."

Kali fluttered her fingers at him, indicating that she wished him to move away from the table. She rose gracefully to her feet, moved toward the wide sofa and its collection of silk and satin pillows. "You poor, deluded man. Goa'uld are gods, Daniel. We are so far advanced from mere humans, that you simply cannot comprehend us. Humans were created to serve their betters...they were made to be subservient, and Goa'uld are the mightiest of masters!"

Daniel snorted. "Believe your own propaganda much?"

The Goa'uld frowned. Once again Daniel Jackson was proving to be insolent. She should punish him for daring to speak to her the way that he was. Yet she found that she'd not been so entertained in a very long time.

"If given half the chance, I'll kill you," Daniel said, his voice low.

She jerked and looked up into blue eyes filled with hatred. "You would not dare!"

"In a heartbeat, toots," he sneered.

"But you will not do so. Because you know that you would die...most horribly, I assure you. You amuse me, Daniel. You use words to do battle, just as my warriors use their staff weapons," Kali said lazily. If she continued to pretend to be amused, there would be no need to discipline her new lo'taur. Whether she would admit it to herself or not, she feared that any physical attempt to reprimand the human would result in a struggle she wasn't prepared for.

He wasn't sure what had prevented the Goa'uld from hitting him. He'd seen in her eyes that she wanted to do so. Maybe he should just back off, before she did strike out. Casey's tear-choked voice echoed in his head.

"Don't do anything to get yourself killed."

"Nothing to say?" Kali taunted. "Does my amusement offend you? Anger you?"

The bitch was toying with him now. He folded his arms across his chest. "Your 'amusement' means nothing to me," he replied coolly. He studied the Goa'uld for a moment. Was conscious of the fact that her gaze was moving languidly over his body. He barely repressed a shudder of revulsion. There was something nagging at the back of his mind. Something he'd read...or heard...no, Teal'c told me!... Kali was in a talkative mood, he might as well take advantage of that fact, he thought. "Why did you really choose me to serve as your lo'taur?" he asked.

"Because it suits my purposes," Kali replied.

Well, that was a candid response. One that he hadn't expected. A conversation he'd had with Teal'c during one of their evenings of meditation echoed through his head...

 

"A Goa'uld will always keep his...or her...lo'taur nearby. The human serves the Goa'uld as a personal slave."

"How personal?"

"It is not unusual for a Goa'uld to expect sexual gratification from his lo'taur. A lo'taur serves his or her master in every way. But there is a more important reason that the lo'taur is never far from a Goa'uld's side."

"And what would that reason be?"

"If the host of the Goa'uld is fatally injured, and too far from a sarcophagus, the Goa'uld will simply leave the dying host, and take the lo'taur as host."

 

"Don't you choose a human who would make a suitable host...in an emergency?" Daniel asked.

"It is one of the...requirements, yes. Which is why you are such a wonderful candidate," Kali replied. "Your knowledge would be quite...useful...to me."

"Think so? Hate to break it to you, toots, but I can't be infested. I think we already had that discussion."

"I do not believe you," Kali insisted.

"Yeah? Want to jump into me right now to find out?" Daniel challenged, spreading his arms, letting his head drop back, offering his throat. In spite of the intense pain of having his body invaded, and the freaky way his body refused to obey his commands until the symbiote was too ill to control him completely, the memories of Kali could be damned useful to him! No doubt she had more information about the goings-on of the Goa'uld Empire than the SGC could ever hope to gather through their spies and off-world missions.

The Goa'uld hesitated. The human was too eager to see her do just that. What if...what if the Tau'ri had found a way to 'protect' themselves? Had they learned of a way to prevent a symbiote from being able to take, and control, a host? The thought sent a shiver up her spine. How difficult could it become to find acceptable hosts if such a thing were true? The System Lord had no doubt that the Tau'ri would spread this ability to other groups of humans...they were notoriously noble, and irritatingly altruistic. "I am quite content with this body," she replied, running one hand up her thigh, over her belly, her fingertip moving in a circular motion over her breast. She was hoping to arouse the Tau'ri...she was most eager to sample the talents of her new lo'taur. His response, however, was less than enthused.

"No accounting for taste, I guess," Daniel shrugged. The host Kali had taken was a beautiful woman, he wouldn't deny that. Being controlled by a Goa'uld, however, left her facial features cold and arrogant. There was no warmth or friendliness in her amber eyes.

"If you serve me well, perhaps I shall reward you with a sample of what this body can do," Kali retorted. With the flick of her wrist, she opened her robe, revealing her naked body.

Daniel didn't look away, or avert his eyes. Wasn't even sure that was expected of him. Nor did he bother to hide the fact that he was appraising what was being offered to him. Kali had exotic, almond shaped eyes. He could feel the amber depths watching him as he continued his assessment. Her hair was long, longer than Casey's he noted, and as black as the feathers of a raven. He'd already noted the small waist and wide hips. Her breasts were full, the nipples small and dark. Thick, pubic hair covered her mons, the glossy black curls hiding her womanly secrets. Her long, shapely legs were smooth...she obviously shaved them. His eyes moved back up to her face, stopped for a moment on pouty red lips. My Wife is more alluring than you'll ever be, bitch. "I've seen better."

She would never admit that the reaction of the human left her more than a bit frustrated. Most men were eager to have her...to sample her charms. Kali curled her hands into fists. While the words the archaeologist spoke were infuriating enough, it was his expression of boredom that fueled her ire. "Insolence!"

"Whatever," Daniel said, bracing himself for an attack from his captor, most likely in the form of getting hit with that damned ribbon device. He'd been pushing her since she'd entered the room. He'd seen the flash of absolute wrath that had filled her eyes when he'd dismissed her as if she were nothing. Which, he thought, was exactly what she was to him. Well, that wasn't exactly true, was it? She was a Goa'uld. A parasite. His sworn enemy.

The Goa'uld raised her hand. She had no doubt that Daniel knew about the device which was wrapped around her hand. Hesitated a fraction of a second, waiting for the new lo'taur to beg forgiveness and mercy. When blue eyes continued to stare coldly at her, she aimed the power of the device toward him.

Daniel could feel the heat that coursed through his body become hotter, and focused on his forehead. The second thing he noticed was that the beam of the ribbon device, the visible result of the mental attack of the Goa'uld, was hot where it came into contact with his skin, but didn't seem to be as painful as usual. He tried to remember if he'd been hit with a ribbon device since he'd become The One. Was fairly certain he had been. Just what had changed? Was this simply a result of the fact that his...power...continued to grow? Or was this a result of being infested by a Goa'uld? Was his mind able to recognize Goa'uld thoughts...which were what caused the actual pain...and protect him from them? Should he pretend to be affected, or would Kali already be aware of the fact that her 'punishment' wasn't anything at all like she intended it to be?

The Goa'uld gasped, rose to her feet, swaying slightly. She'd used enough force to render the human unconscious...yet he continued to stare at her as if she were nothing more than a slave. She'd felt as if she were receiving feedback, her thoughts echoing back to her, the malevolent images of pain causing discomfort to her own body. Somehow this Tau'ri was able to repel the beam of a ribbon device. Could she now doubt that taking him as a host would mean her death? Even more worrisome, how many human settlements had the Tau'ri given this 'protection' to?

He watched as she stumbled toward the bedroom, refusing to offer her support of any kind. Kali was a System Lord. Just as Hathor had been. That thought left him shuddering from head to foot. Without a word, and without permission, Daniel turned and left Kali's chambers. He would finish reading that scroll, and try to piece together the mystery of where the second Ancient bracelet had been hidden.

 

A A A A A A

 

Casey was sitting on the bed in the quarters she shared with Daniel, her knees drawn up beneath her chin, her arms around her legs. Ten hours and counting. Teams continued to come and go, the klaxons seemed to go off every hour or so. As of yet, there had been no word on just which Goa'uld had sent Jaffa to kidnap her Husband. A conversation with Jonas and Cam had her agreeing with their theory that one of three female Goa'uld had taken Daniel: Amaterasu, Kali, or Morrigan. As far as the Tau'ri were aware, they were the only three females left in the galaxy. They'd recently been informed by the Tok'ra that Bastet's ha'tak had been destroyed during the attack on Ba'al, and Bastet herself hadn't been seen or heard from since. It was assumed that she was dead. There was still no definitive word on whether Ba'al was dead or alive.

She sighed, pressed her cheek against her knee. She wondered if the frustration...the fear...that she was battling was what Daniel had experienced when she'd been kidnapped. Are you all right, Stud Muffin? Is that bitch hurting you? Please don't piss her off so much that she kills you!

A knock on the door brought her from her worried thoughts. "It's unlocked," she called softly.

Jack peeked around the open door. "Radar?"

"I'm okay," she sighed.

Okay, huh, kid? According to Daniel, that was Casey-speak for damned near falling apart. "Uh huh."

"How did he do it?" she asked, her voice low.

"How did he who do what?" Jack asked.

A small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. "How did Daniel deal with me being gone, and not go insane? I mean, I know where he is...well, not exactly where he is, and we still don't know which bitch has him...but..." She took a shuddering breath. "I'm not strong enough, Jack. I can't do this! I can't live for two weeks without him! I can't stand not knowing if he's okay, or if he's hurt-" She covered her face with her hands and gave in to the tears that had been so close since the moment they'd heard the sound of the energy weapons.

Jack crossed the room, sat down on the bed beside the young seer, pulled her into his arms. He guided her head to his shoulder. "Cry it out, Radar," he whispered.

Sobs tore at her throat, escaped in wails of heartache. She clung to her friend, taking the comfort he offered, and that she so desperately needed.

When Sam peeked into the room not more than ten minutes later, Jack worried that she would feel threatened...it had taken time, but he'd finally realized that the way he'd ignored her, even if it had been unintentional, in order to take care of Casey when Daniel had been declared dead, had left its mark on her heart.

Without a word, Sam crawled onto the bed on the other side of her husband and best friend, and put her arms around both of them. "It's all right, Casey. We're here for you. Daniel will be home soon. Maybe it won't take a full two weeks for him to grab those bracelets and come home."

Casey sat up, wiped her cheeks with her hands. Shook her head slightly. "He hasn't even started translating yet."

"He hasn't?"

"He who hasn't what?" Casey asked.

Sam snickered softly. "You said Daniel hasn't started translating yet."

Green eyes rolled heavenward. "I so am not in the mood for that shit!"

Jack chuckled. "You tell 'em, Radar."

"I suppose you're here because I screwed up today," Casey said softly, looking at Jack as she leaned back against the wooden headboard.

"That had crossed my mind," Jack admitted. He held up a hand when the seer took a breath, ready to speak. "I know you're upset. That you're worried about Daniel. We weren't under fire, and we weren't hiding from Jaffa this time. But if you're gonna make threats, let me know first, okay?"

Once again the corners of her mouth turned upward slightly. "Right. As long as you promise not to stop me if I have to carry out the threat."

Jack grinned from ear to ear. "You got it."

It was the magical connection between the teammates that had Teal'c knocking on the door frame at that moment. "I thought perhaps you might require companionship," he said quietly.

"You bet I do," Casey declared gratefully "I can't get through this without you guys."

Teal'c joined his friends, settling his large frame at the foot of the bed. "When did you last eat, Casey Jackson?"

"Um..." She frowned slightly. She'd had an MRE for dinner on P3R 214, that had been a couple of hours before she and Daniel had made love. She sighed silently at the memory of being in his arms, the joy of being with him, melded into the unique entity that their love created. They hadn't had breakfast before Daniel had been taken... She remembered eating a sandwich, but not exactly when that had been.

"Oy," Jack muttered. "Let's go, Radar. You need to eat."

"Now that I think about it, I'm hungry too," Sam declared.

"I really don't want commissary food," Casey sighed.

"How about going to Mama Trino's?" Jack asked.

"I could do pizza," Sam nodded.

"I would also enjoy a pizza," Teal'c said.

"Radar?"

Casey looked into brown eyes filled with concern. "A Mama's Special sounds pretty good."

"Let's go."

"When are we scheduled to go back out?" Sam asked.

"Not until tomorrow," Jack replied. "Plenty of time to get a pizza, and maybe watch a movie. Or a hockey game."

"I dunno," Casey started, looking around the room, as if the answer to her dilemma would be found laying on the floor. "I should be here, just in case..."

"In case what?" Jack asked gently. "Danny isn't going to be back for a few days at least. You can't stay here, watching the 'gate, wishing him to walk through it."

 

"I promise to try to be brave when...when it happens."

"I know you will."

 

Another deep, shuddering breath. She had to be brave. For Daniel. "Okay. But I'm not buying."

"Neither am I," Sam declared.

"Why is it that I always get stuck with the tab?" Jack grumbled good-naturedly.

"Because you make more than we do," Casey replied flippantly, a spark of her usual indomitable spirit shining through her fear and worry.

"Indeed."

"It's a conspiracy, I tell you," Jack muttered. He bit back his grin as he led the way to the elevator.

 

A A A A A A

 

Casey had returned to the base. The house was too empty...memories of other nights spent without Daniel had plagued her, until she'd fled just to escape them. She'd been on her way to the quarters assigned to them, when the need to be with a friend became so great that she'd stopped by Teal'c's quarters. She wasn't sure he was even there, although Janet had mentioned something about having pulled the night shift...

She tapped lightly on the door. Wrapped her arms around her waist as she waited for a response. Sitting in the dark, in the relative safety of her own living room, she'd dared to reach out, to ascertain that what she'd seen, the information she'd been given, hadn't changed. The images were all the same. Those of the ghost had been 'replaced' with her memories of Tieel Mogba. What Daniel would say to know that the bounty hunter was about to become his rescuer, she had no idea.

"Casey Jackson."

Lost in her thoughts, she gave a start, looked up into dark eyes filled with concern. "I couldn't stay there...not alone...not like...not without him," she whispered.

Teal'c held the door open so that she could enter his quarters.

The multitude of candles the Jaffa owned glowed softly. For one brief moment, Casey wondered how he could burn so many and not set off the fire alarms. "I've disturbed you! You were meditating."

"I was meditating," Teal'c confirmed. "However, you have not disturbed me."

"May I join you? Maybe I'll be able to find enough peace to get a bit of sleep."

"I would be honored to have you join me." Teal'c tossed another large pillow onto the floor, opposite of where he'd been sitting.

Casey settled herself, and closed her eyes. It had been awhile since she'd meditated alone with Teal'c. The team had taken to meditating together every Tuesday afternoon, if they were on base; and most Thursday evenings found her and Daniel meditating with their Jaffa friend. Centering herself, forcing herself to concentrate, she began to breath slowly. Clearing her mind of all thoughts...all worries...all fears. Not an easy task. But one that took her full attention.

Teal'c watched from beneath his lashes. Nodded mentally in approval. Casey Jackson was fully focused on her meditation. No doubt she would be able to calm the fears that haunted her. She had seen the safe return of her husband. She needed only to endure the few days he would be away from her side. She had survived much in her time at the SGC, and as the wife of The One. He had no doubt that she would weather this particular storm with her usual courage and aplomb.


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