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Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep 

 

Chapter 4

Sam climbed into the cave. Contemplated the practicality of building a fire. The night before, during the team's trek to get to the ha'tak, had been particularly chilly. The warmth might be needed. The light it would offer would be appreciated as well. However, any smoke would lead the Jaffa straight to the cave...and her. With a sigh, she settled near the opening, using what sunlight remained to work in. She tied five of the longest vines together, tugging and pulling to make certain the knots would stay tight. The others she left coiled, ready to tie the limbs of her friends' bodies into place.

She went over the path she had taken in her flight from the village again and again. She had to trust that her memory wouldn't deceive her, that the 'landmarks' were truly as she saw them in her mind. Well aware of the fact that everything would look different at night, coming from the opposite direction. She sighed. There was no sense worrying about what might or might not happen. She was a trained Air Force Officer. She could do this. She had to do this. She didn't have a choice. She had to protect Casey and Teal'c. They were her teammates. They were her friends. They were family of the heart.

Her task completed, feeling restless with anticipation, her need to finally retrieve Casey and Teal'c, bring them to safety, had her on her feet again. If she laid down a trail or two on her way back to the village, surely that would buy her a few hours. She'd get her teammates here, then she could check out the forest on this side of the mountain. Try to locate a source for water, maybe even something to eat.

The thought of trying to find a bit of food in the village and bringing it back crossed her mind. But taking from villagers who probably had little more than she did wasn't something she would do. Not unless her situation deteriorated. She thought about the villages that SG-1 had visited in the past. Oppressed by one Goa'uld or another, barely surviving half the time, children far too thin to be healthy; adults with wide, fearful eyes full of hunger and despair...no, she could no more steal from them than she could from a charity. Doing so was just wrong. She'd survive. She'd been trained.

On Earth.

Okay, so she was on an alien planet. She still couldn't justify taking food from the villagers. Not unless she was in dire circumstances. She gave a snort of amusement. Her circumstances couldn't get much worse than what they were now, could they? The need to move, her inability to sit still when a task waited to be performed, had Sam slipping out of the cave once again.

Not daring to believe she was alone in the hills, she slowly, methodically made her way to the copse of trees where the dead Jaffa were stacked, hidden by branches and fallen leaves. Still there, nothing had been disturbed. That was a good sign. Maybe there wouldn't be predators of the four-legged variety for her to worry about, either.

Too bad they hadn't thought to bring their night-vision goggles, she thought, as she made her way along the narrow path she had followed before. It would make what she needed to do so much easier. Two round trips from the village to that cave would be all the more difficult moving in the dark of night. She gave the sky a cursory glance. Maybe she'd be lucky, and the moon that had peeked through the clouds the night before would still be bright and full tonight.

She marked the path in random places, making it obvious that someone had passed by, heading deeper into the forest, rather than toward the hills. The silent prayer in the back of her mind, that the Jaffa would follow it, a continued litany of hope. Emerging from the brush near the spot where she had first turned toward the hills, Sam took a few minutes to look around. Would there be another path she could use? One that might leave less of a trail to follow?

The moon was beginning its journey; she was about to give up, struggling with the fear that the path she would make while dragging Teal'c would be enough to bring her more trouble than she alone could deal with, when she spotted it. Just a narrow rut along what looked like a river bed. She backtracked twice, making certain that she'd be able to find the path...determining in her mind that it would indeed lead her to the rough rocky terrain of the hills.

She moved further through the undergrowth. If the Jaffa found this trail, they'd believe she'd follow the easier path. It might only work for a few minutes, but every minute she could get would help. The longer the Jaffa spent during the coming daylight following her false leads, the longer she had to get settled in the cave, and make certain that it appeared empty...if anyone should happen to find it.

The path she was on converged with the path she and her teammates had followed into the village. She recognized the large tree that Casey had pointed out looked like a dragon. That meant she was close. The ravine had been beside the dirt road that led from the few simple houses, to the place where the ha'tak had been resting.

Funny how she hadn't noticed the ravine when the team had been walking right past it. There! She glanced over at the 'loading dock'. Piles of burnt lumber were all that remained of the sheds. A small hole, most likely the result when those explosives had gone up, was filled with debris. With a frown she realized that the exact location of the bodies had been marked in her memory by where she had been hiding. Now, in the dark, it was difficult to remember exactly which shed she had been crouched behind.

Locating a tree that would serve to hold the rope she had made, allowing her to use it to pull herself, and her precious burden, back to the road, Sam tied the longest of the vines around the base of the trunk. Debated leaving it after she'd retrieved the first body. Decided it was in her own best interest to keep it with her. If a Jaffa were to find it, he'd be too interested in knowing why it was there, why it led into the ravine. Even if she left it coiled near the tree, it would only confirm that she was alive, and nearby. No, she couldn't take the chance.

It had seemed prudent to wait until nightfall to even attempt to move the bodies of her friends. The downside of that decision, Sam thought, as she slid into the ditch, stumbling over roots and vines, was that it was darker than hell. It would be almost impossible to see any obstacles in her path as she carried Casey the three miles or so that it was to that cave. She stumbled again, muttered a curse beneath her breath. This was the spot, she was certain of it. She dropped to her knees.

Using her hands as much, if not more, as her eyes, she felt along the ground. Jerked when her fingers came into contact with something cold. Something very...familiar. Pushing aside a group of leaves, she stared down in the moonlight into Teal'c's unseeing eyes. Swallowed a whimper of grief, and gently closed the lids. "I'll be back for you, Big Guy," she whispered.

Moving thick vines with leaves larger than her hand, Sam searched for the other body. The dim moonlight reflected off Casey's blonde hair. Where it wasn't matted by blood. The wounds on the seer's face had happened when she'd fallen, the staff wound that had opened her chest killing her before she hit the ground.

She reached for Casey's arm, which was laying stretched out at her side. Gently laid it against the cold BDU shirt. Given that the bodies should still be in full rigor mortis, she could only theorize that it was their Immortality that kept their bodies pliable, and probably would remain so until they reanimated. That was a blessing, she decided. Trying to carry a body in full rigor would be like trying to carry a block of wood.

Trying to be as gentle as possible, Sam lifted the dead young woman, laid one of the vines beneath her, then began tying Casey's arms to her torso. Another vine went around her knees, a third around her ankles, which would keep the body from 'flopping' too much as she made her way through the forest. After double checking to make certain the knots were tight, but not so much that she'd have difficulty in untying them, Sam was ready to go. She took a deep breath. Pushed her weapon onto her hip. With a grunt of exertion, she maneuvered the still body over her shoulders. The seer weighed less than a hundred and seventeen pounds on a good day. She seemed so much heavier in death.  Even so, the young blonde wasn't too heavy to hold in the 'dead-man's' carry.

Balancing Casey as much as possible, leaning forward to avoid dropping the seer, Sam began to move upward, using the rope, hand over hand, to pull herself out of the ravine. Her boots slid backward at least a foot for every step she managed to take. Climbing out of the ditch was damned near impossible. Wouldn't have been possible without the rope she'd managed to make. That thought left her shivering. When she'd finally reached the dirt path that served as a road, she dropped her load to the ground with a mumbled apology, panting heavily. She just had to rest for a minute. A glance at the sky spurred her into action. The moon had moved considerably in the amount of time it had taken her to locate her friends, and make it out of the ravine. She carefully untied the rope, coiled it up, and tugged it over her shoulder.

Hoisting Casey over her shoulders once again, giving a soft grunt at the weight that settled on her, Sam staggered forward. She hadn't gone far when her body began demanding that she take a break. No time, her mind insisted. Two thoughts filled her mind as she trekked toward the hill, repeating in a never-ending loop: No time...no time...gotta' move...gotta' move...

It was her dogged focus that prevented her from realizing that the vegetation torn up during her ascent out of the ravine would be a beacon to any passing Jaffa or villager. The thought never crossed her mind. It was one of the small mercies that the major would be granted during her ordeal.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The panic she had felt eased slightly as she passed the dark, silent village. No dogs around, she thought, grateful for that little blessing. Nothing to warn the villagers and the Jaffa who had remained behind that something, or someone, was moving around in the dark. Something or someone who wasn't supposed to be there.

Her mind continued to turn over the details of her situation as she trudged along. The path she'd mapped in her mind, which would leave the least amount of noticeable tracks, would also be a full mile longer, by her estimation. Dragging Teal'c what she estimated to be four miles would no doubt wear her out, and she was already tired. But it was the only way to make certain that as little evidence of her passing as possible would be visible for the Jaffa who would be, no doubt, looking for them come daylight. The need to see her teammates safely hidden away was her driving force. She would run on adrenaline for most of the night, she was certain. Exhaustion would probably see her sleeping most of the coming day. Food and water would be her focus on awaking. It wasn't much of a plan, she admitted wearily. But it was better than none at all.

Putting one booted foot in front of the other took every ounce of strength she could muster. Sam was panting as she staggered as quickly as she could along the path she'd run so early the day before, desperate to keep from being caught.

A soft snap in the bushes just beside the path she followed caught her attention. She froze for a moment, ears straining as she tried to decipher the sound, determine exactly what was out there. The rustle of leaves followed. It was a risk to use her flashlight. But it was better than running into unexpected trouble. She could always blind whoever...or whatever...it was. At least temporarily. Long enough to give her time to get her P90 up and aimed.

Shaking fingers pulled the flashlight from her pocket. She aimed it toward the sound of rustling leaves. And saw what looked like a lizard. It was all she could do to keep from giving in to hysterical laughter. "Check it out, Casey," she whispered. She turned off the light, glanced around, praying that there hadn't been anyone near enough to see the beam. Shoved the plastic cylinder back into the leg pocket of her BDU.

Adjusting the load on her shoulders, Sam began walking again. Memories of another night began to fill her mind, and a small creature that had caused a bit of...concern. She was too tired to be able to recall the planet designation. It had been a routine mission, for the most part. It hadn't been until the third day on the planet that they'd run into those people, who had been convinced that the four light-skinned people had to be demons. And then there had been their absolutely terrified reaction to the sight of a Jaffa. SG-1 had literally run for their lives that day, barely making it to the Stargate and through before they became the sacrifice for some ceremony that Daniel insisted the natives were chanting about. But the first night there...

 

The stars were bright overhead. She was sipping coffee, enjoying the solitude of her turn on watch when Casey had emerged from the tent she shared with Daniel, her eyes barely open, her flashlight in one hand, and the small shovel and toilet paper in the other.

"Too much coffee before bed?" Sam had teased softly.

"Remind me not to drink anything before bed on a mission," the seer had grumped.

 

Sam smiled at the memory. Casey, when she first woke up, was not the same happy, chatty woman she was when she was totally awake. Very much like a certain grouchy archaeologist before his first cup of coffee.

 

She listened as Casey moved among the bushes and underbrush, searching for the 'right' place. Heard the unmistakable sound of dirt being shoveled. Heard rustling among the leaves, although she assumed it was Casey.

"Well, hello there." Casey's voice was soft, and full of surprise.

Sam was on her feet.

"You're not a scouting party, are you? Just waiting to send a signal to your friends to ambush me?"

Sam had her P90 in hand, was already walking toward the place where Casey's whispered voice was coming from.

"Look, I'm just hanging out here. Literally. Hanging out. You know, it's just not fair. Daniel doesn't even have to expose his balls to piss. Me, the whole south end is just...there. Hanging out."

Shaking fingers flipped the safety off. She'd hesitated when she saw the beam of the flashlight flipped on, then off again.

"Nah, you're too small to cause trouble. Does your mama know you're out this late? Look, here's the deal. I won't bother you, and you won't bother me, okay?"

"Casey?"

"What?"

"Who are you talking to?"

"Looks like a tree frog. He scared the bejeezus out of me. Good thing I was already in the position, if you know what I mean."

 

The chuckle that filled her throat echoed softly with as much mirth as she had felt that night. Only Casey would carry on a conversation with a tree frog.

When the forest began to thin, she felt a rush of relief. Not much further now.

Another memory filled her mind, one that she held precious, because she'd been able to share an epiphany that had seemed to enhance the growing self-confidence that the seer was experiencing.

 

She had just sat down with her lunch when a tray appeared beside hers.

"Hi, Sam."

"Hi, Casey."

"Busy day?"

"Not too bad. You?"

"Database." The seer had wrinkled her nose. Waved and called out hellos to those who greeted her as they came into the commissary. Had looked decidedly embarrassed when she had caught Sam smiling amiably at her. "Can you believe it? Me, with friends? I mean...me."

"Why wouldn't you have friends?" Sam had been perplexed...Casey was the sweetest, friendliest person she'd ever met. Often in a large gathering of people the shyness that was as much a part of Casey as her blonde hair and green eyes was prevalent. She was certainly shy around anyone she didn't know. But in 'familiar' surroundings, with people she knew and was comfortable with, the seer was like a flower, opening to the sun.

"I'm not...I'm not smart or anything. I'm not a good conversationalist. Actually, I either can't say anything at all, or talk too much...except it's mostly just rambling on about something that's not important in the least-" Casey's eyes dropped and her cheeks had turned pink. "Sorta like now."

"I disagree. I think you're a very intelligent woman. You have ideas and viewpoints that make me stop and think about how I see a situation...or an issue. You have a wicked sense of humor-"

Casey's unladylike snort had caused Sam to giggle as well.

"And when you ask questions, you listen to the answers...you listen and learn and ask more questions."

"I tend to be annoying-"

"Says who?"

Casey had frowned. And then green eyes had widened. "I guess...I mean..."

"No matter what that bitch said, it wasn't true." The anger over what Casey's adoptive mother had done to her wasn't something that Daniel alone struggled with. Her closest friends felt the same ire each time they watched as Casey dealt with the pain and insecurity caused by those scars.

"I suppose," Casey had said slowly, her eyes revealing that the truth of the matter was settling into her brain, "that by trying to be a good friend, I'm able to have good friends."

 

Sam would never forget the absolute wonder that had filled those green eyes. And no one could ask for a better friend than Casey Jackson.

The trek up the side of the hill was almost her undoing. Laying Casey down as gently as possible, Sam dropped to her ass. She just needed a few minutes. Tried to avoid looking at the sky, knowing that the moon had traveled much too far, that dawn was much too close.

With a soft groan, giving voice to her body's protest of the abuse she was heaping on it, Sam once again picked up her friend. "Almost there, Case," she whispered.

Forty minutes later Sam was shoving Casey's body through the opening of the cave. "Sorry, Casey. No time to make this easy."

Tugging and pulling, Sam maneuvered the seer into the hole at the back of the cave. Unwilling to leave the woman tied up, she unwound the ropes; resisted the urge to rub cold legs and arms. Even if it did seem like the right thing to do. Wouldn't make a difference, her mind pointed out.

She took enough time to eat another piece of energy bar and to drink a bit of water. P90 in hand, vine ropes over her shoulder, she set out again. This trip would take longer. She was under no illusion that it would still be night when she finally got Teal'c into the cave. But she'd laid out enough trails that it should keep the Jaffa busy - long enough for her to get back and hidden. She hoped.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Nefret paced the small storage room. Tjau'kek hadn't been able to join her the night before. No doubt her lover would be most anxious to be with her this night. She paused. There had been a sound...a muffled noise...coming from...

She looked up at the vent on the wall near the ceiling. Keeping Keku from knowing about the affair between her and Tjau'kek was paramount for her very survival. It was making her jumpy. She shook her head...she was being silly. Apparently there were technicians who were working in the crawl spaces, doing whatever it was that they did there. She had no understanding of the systems that operated - what made the ship move, or gave lighting and oxygen to those inside. But she did know that at 'night', when most of the crew was asleep, there were those who moved through those shafts to keep the ship operating at peak capacity.

Her eyes strayed to the closed door, her heart beating faster with each passing moment, the anticipation as strong an aphrodisiac as any she could mix for the harem slaves. Her breasts strained against the silk fabric of the bra-styled top that left a great deal of cleavage visible, and her midriff completely bare. The silk of the skirt that was wrapped around her hips and caressed her ankles, moved against her skin like the touch of her lover, making her body ache to feel his hands upon her.

 

 

 

The captain left behind on the planet to maintain control of the villagers had reported that there had been an accident...an explosion. Apparently the mining explosives had somehow been set off. Probably by one of the villagers, he thought. That the incident had occurred as the ha'tak had been taking off made him suspicious. The thought that someone might have been attempting to damage the ship was the first to be recognized. He'd sent word that if the explosion had been intentional, he expected those responsible to be in custody when Lord Keku deigned to return. The First Prime had also ordered that the mess be cleaned up, and the loading dock, such as it was, repaired.

When he had reported to his god, there had been little interest in the situation. The goods sitting there had been waiting for the arrival of the First Prime of yet another System Lord. If the Goa'uld had failed to send for the goods on time, what happened to them in the interim was not his fault, Keku exclaimed. He'd been paid, and that was all that mattered to him.

With a sigh, the First Prime marched down the corridor, sending Jaffa bustling out of his way. It was a ploy he used often. When he wanted no one marking his steps, he behaved as if he were in a foul mood, and made his presence known on as many levels of the ha'tak as possible. When he did disappear, it was to the relief of those who served under his command.

 

 

 

Nefret waited nervously, her body taut with expectation. The door slid open, and the tall First Prime stepped inside. He glanced behind him, then quickly closed and locked the door. Smiled when the woman who waited launched herself into his arms. As always, his body responded ardently to her kisses, the touch of her soft hands against his face and neck.

 

 

 

Well, shit. No chance of using this room for a hideout! Daniel signaled, and Jack began to move backwards. At least, he thought with a grin, as he glimpsed the couple now holding to one another tightly, they knew exactly where the First Prime was, and what he was doing. It was anyone's guess who the woman was. One of Keku's favored harem slaves no doubt. Memories of his time with Casey, spent in a storage room similar to this one - where he and Jack had hoped to hide - filled his mind. And now was no time to start thinking about how good she had felt in his arms...the warmth of her skin...how good she smelled...how sweet she tasted. Nope...no time at all for thoughts like that. Which continued to tumble in his memory. Down, boy.

Jack was moving slowly, hoping like hell he didn't inadvertently kick anything behind him. He had no idea what Daniel had seen, but the man had clearly been pissed off. Until he'd started grinning. Hopefully that was a sign that the archaeologist had figured out a way to get them the hell off this tub and back to - whatever the hell that planet was. When were they going to start naming the planets instead of giving them computer designations? Too many p's and r's and x's, and all those numbers...oy!

 

 

 

Tjau'kek pulled away from his lover, held a finger over her lips to stop her protest. Listened carefully. He'd heard something...a sound. Soft, muffled. But something...unusual. He glanced around the room. Walked toward the vent where the noise seemed to have come from.

"What is it?" Nefret asked softly.

"Hush, woman," Tjau'kek hissed.

 

 

 

The whispered comments were spoken close enough to the vent that they echoed in the narrow confines of the space. Daniel froze, his hand reaching for Jack.

The older man caught sight of the movement, realized that the archaeologist had stopped moving. Before he could say anything, Daniel gave a sharp shake of his head. The question he'd been ready to whisper died on his lips. Wouldn't you know it, Jack groused silently to himself, someone would have to be listening too closely right about now.

Afraid to move, terrified of being caught, Jack and Daniel exchanged worried glances. The younger man shrugged helplessly when the older raised an eyebrow in question...what do we do?

 

 

 

Tjau'kek peered into the darkness of the vent. Sniffed slightly. The smell of sweat...and fear...an odor he was familiar with; had smelled before on men who were being punished, or those who battled against him. He didn't know that emotions could cause physiological changes in human body chemistry. He only knew what his senses told him.

Nefret stood on her tiptoes, trying to discern what had caught her lover's attention, torn between curiosity and anger...irritation that her tryst had been so rudely interrupted.

"Remain here," he said softly. He pulled his knife from the sheath on his hip. Began to remove the screws that held the grill in place over the opening to the ventilation shaft.

Oh, fuck! Survival was the only thought on his mind. Daniel shoved the at the grill with all his might, throwing it into the face of the First Prime. Who yelped in surprise.

Still trying to be as quiet as possible, the two men of SG-1 scampered backwards. They had to get out of the shafts and find a place to hide. And it had to be now!

Tjau'kek pushed the metal grill aside. Rushed to the opening and peered in. He could see nothing, but the telltale sounds of cloth moving against the metal of the vent could barely be heard.

"Should you not raise an alarm?" Nefret asked softly.

"And what reason should I give for being in this storage room, at this time?" he demanded. "Would you have me reveal our relationship? Do you wish to be sent to the slave pens?"

She shook her head. "No!"

"Then for the moment, I will do nothing."

"But if someone saw us-"

"Then that Jaffa, or servant, would be unable to speak of what he saw. Or else be forced to explain why he was crawling through the shafts of this ha'tak." Tjau'kek didn't voice the other thought that bounced around in his head. That somehow one of the villagers had managed to slip aboard. A situation that could become...inconvenient...if the fool took it into his head to try to free the slaves who labored and lived in the lowest levels of the ship.

Luckily for SG-1, the First Prime, and his god, remained oblivious to the fact that there had been intruders on the planet. The captain in charge of the Jaffa who had remained behind was determined to capture the woman who had escaped, and present her to Keku personally. Alerting the First Prime of the presence of such infiltrators, as he should have done, was a duty he'd chosen to ignore...in order to garner favor with his god. For the moment, the captain on the planet wasn't concerned about the two dead; whom half of his men insisted had disappeared, and the other half just as certain had been incinerated in the fire that had raged on the earthen dock.

No, for the moment, the First Prime had no idea the of the possible identity of the stowaways. When he did become aware of the captain's plotting, his ire would be greater than Keku's. "For the moment, we are safe."

"Of course," Nefret murmured. She wound her arms around the First Prime's neck. "Then shall we forget the interruption? Shall I ease your mind?"

Tjau'kek smiled, pulled the lo'taur's curvaceous body closer. "It is not my mind that seeks ease."

She pressed against him. "Then I shall see to the needs of your body," she said breathlessly.

"As you do so well," he said softly, just before his lips captured hers in a possessive kiss. All thoughts of any snooping Jaffa, wayward servants, or stowaway villagers fled in the wake of sensations that Nefret's kiss, and her hands, sent pulsing through his body.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel pressed against the wall of the shaft, looked over his shoulder. His heart was pounding, it was all he could do to keep from gasping for breath. Nodded at Jack, who began to climb down toward the cargo bay level.

"Why aren't there alarms?" Jack asked in a hoarse whisper.

"I don't know...maybe he hasn't made it to the pel'tak yet," was Daniel's whispered reply.

"That's the only place to set off alarms?"

"I dunno."

As soon as his feet touched the floor of the lower level, Jack slid down the wall and crumpled into an exhausted heap. "We gotta take a break."

"I know," Daniel replied wearily.

Glancing around, Jack shook his head.  Not one blessed crate.  "Nothing here to hide behind."

Giving a barely noticeable  nod of acknowledgment, Daniel led the way to the other side of the large bay, and the metal grate that covered yet another shaft.  Luckily, this particular shaft was one of the larger work shafts.  They would at least be able to sit upright.  Climbing inside, Jack pulled the cover back over the gaping hole in the wall.  Followed Daniel to a section where the vent turned ninety degrees.  Another access, one that appeared to be a door of some sort, was at the end of the shaft.  One wall was covered with access panels.  No clue what was behind them.  Nor did either of the men have any desire to cause any damage.  Doing so would only alert the Jaffa, and their Goa'uld Master, that there were intruders on board the ha'tak.

He barely had the energy to lift his arm. He tapped the face of his watch. Had it really been that long? They'd only managed a couple of hours of sleep, waiting for nightfall. It had taken longer than they'd anticipated to reach the ha'tak...nearly two hours...because of the number of Jaffa they'd had to avoid. Getting to the computers had taken an hour. Getting off the damned ship...well, obviously that had taken too long, considering what had happened. "We've been on the move for twenty-five hours now."

Which meant, Daniel thought worriedly, that Casey had been on that planet without him for at least seventeen hours. Are you all right, Angel?

"You get some sleep, I'll take first watch."

"Here?"

"We're as safe here as anywhere right now," Jack mused.

"If the First Prime-"

"That was the First Prime?"

"Yep. Anyway, if he's looking for us-"

"Which he should be doing," Jack interrupted. "But there still aren't any alarms. And just curious, what was he doing in that storage room anyway?"

Daniel grinned. "Getting ready to get it on with one of the harem girls."

"Well, that horny bastard." Jack gave a cheeky grin.

His grin slowly faded into a frown as a thought struggled to be recognized. "He can't set up an alarm!" Daniel exclaimed, his eyes full of relief...and a bit of glee.

"Huh?"

"Jack, he was sneaking around with one of Keku's slaves. That's not allowed, she belongs totally to Keku."

"I thought there were harem girls for the Jaffa."

"There are. There's also a group that are used by any Goa'uld in service to the System Lord. Usually the First Prime is allowed access to those women," Daniel explained.

Jack nodded his understanding. "If he's sneaking around, he's dipping his wick where he shouldn't be."

"Pretty much. Right now, he can't do anything but look for us himself."

A slow grin moved over Jack's face. "Wanna bet he's going to do a little sheet shimmy first?"

Daniel grinned again. "I would."

"Me, too. Get some sleep, Daniel."

Too tired to argue, Daniel closed his eyes.

Jack made himself comfortable. He'd let Daniel sleep for an hour or so, and then he'd get a bit of rest himself. He listened carefully, tried to identify every sound, every hum, that he could hear. He would know in an instant if anything changed.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

The moon was hanging low in the sky as Sam made her way back to the ravine. She estimated that she had three hours of darkness left...if she was lucky. She had no illusions that she would be safe in the cave with her charges in that time. Four hours, maybe. Hopefully.

She was nearly careening with each step as she walked, her exhaustion pushing her toward a complete collapse. Her thoughts were doggedly on her task, she wouldn't allow any other thoughts to interrupt. Sam refused to acknowledge her hunger and her thirst. When Teal'c was safely beside Casey then, and only then, would she think about finding the resources she needed to survive.

Sheer determination kept each boot planting itself on the ground...step by step by step she drew nearer to the completion of her task. In spite of her stern hold on her thoughts, they began to wander slightly. How many times had she been in a similar situation? Where her very life, and the lives of her teammates, depended on her ability to do what she was trained to do...rewire or bypass or jury-rig a piece of equipment, or a Goa'uld ship, or some other piece of technology that was all that stood between her, her teammates, and certain death? How many times had a mission gone tits up, and for long agonizing minutes, or mind-numbing hours, did she think that she had reached the end, that no miracle escape would present itself?

"Just one more time," she murmured. Not daring to think about the number of times that prayer had passed her lips. They were SG-1. They had that SG-1 magic. There was always a rabbit to be found, ready to be pulled out of the magician's hat. "Just one more time."

As soon as Teal'c and Casey were reanimated, they could get through the 'gate and back to the SGC. A little sleep, and she could start working on a way to get Jack and Daniel home safely. A smile tugged at her lips. If they didn't beat her back. Both men had proven to be resourceful when necessary. Given that they were on a Goa'uld ship, it was necessary!

The huts of the village were as silent as ever. The brief worry about Jaffa patrols teased at the edges of her mind, but she was too weary to give it ample consideration. For the moment, it took every ounce of effort she possessed to continue moving.

Almost finished. As soon as she had Teal'c, she would get him back to the cave, and she could sleep...almost finished...

It took less time to find Teal'c the second time. She put her vine rope around the tree, but didn't tie it into place. She would use it to pull lift Teal'c's body out of the ravine, then to climb out herself. Sounds good in theory. Let's see if it works in practical application.

Just as she had with Casey, she tied the Jaffa's arms and legs. Worked the end of the longest vine under his arms, around his torso. "Okay, Big Guy, help me out here," she whispered. Began pulling the rope. Watched as slowly, ever so slowly, Teal'c's body began to slide up the embankment.

Her arms and shoulders ached. Her legs were shaking as she continued to tug on the rope. She nearly cried out with relief when she watched his body slide onto the narrow lane. Hand over hand, once again her boots sliding backward as often as they found purchase and moved her forward, Sam pulled herself out of the ravine.

The moon had disappeared, dawn would be breaking soon. As much as she wanted to lay on the dirt and rest, she knew it wasn't an option. Not if she didn't want to get caught. Trembling fingers pulled the rope from around the tree. She wound it around Teal'c's torso. Began to pull. God, he was so heavy!

When the sun did finally arrive, the evidence of her nocturnal activities would send the Jaffa in all directions, looking for the escaped intruders. For the moment, however, she and her teammate were safe.

The incline that led up to the hill where she had run the day before, escape the only thought on her mind, seemed so much steeper now. Panting - sweat pouring off of her, steam rising around her in the cool of the night as she worked her body past the point of exhaustion - Sam slowly, ever so slowly, made progress.

She watched carefully, looking for the trees she had memorized, which marked the path where she would veer off, and follow the dry stream bed. As she continued to trudge along, the fear that she had somehow missed the turn began to poke at her. She paused, ran her hand through her hair. Shook her head. No, she hadn't passed it. Not yet.

It was difficult not to cry out with relief when not more than five minutes later the trees came into sight. Not much farther now. A mile maybe, she thought. Hope flared hot and sweet in her chest. She was going to make it! She would get Teal'c into the cave, and she could rest!

Her mind began to wander again. Images of Teal'c...the way he looked as he worked out in the gym...his smile when the team was eating together, sharing the details of their day...the absolute glee in his eyes when he and Casey were chasing each other through the SGC with water pistols...

 

She had just stepped out of the commissary when Casey dashed by. There was enough time to see the bright pink plastic gun in her hand before the blonde was sliding around the corner. The elevator door opened, Teal'c peeked out, then noticed her. Sam could still remember the conspiratorial grin they had shared. And then she had pointed in the opposite direction from where Casey had disappeared. Girlfriends were girlfriends, and men would never come between them...or so Casey had declared. She wasn't about to break that sacred trust.

Curious to know what was going on, she followed Teal'c...not too closely, she had no desire to be part of the 'game'. If she was right, Casey should be coming along any moment, through the cross corridor which the Jaffa had already determined to be empty of any threat.

Almost as she had the thought Casey reappeared, peeked around the corner, gave a sharp whistle, and then drenched Teal'c when he whirled around. Then like a shot the slender blonde was off and running again, heading for the stairs, her laughter echoing off of the walls.

"You were mistaken, Major Carter," Teal'c said, wiping the water from his face.

"Sorry about that."

 

Even now, she wasn't so certain that Teal'c had believed her. She'd tried to look contrite, but wasn't sure she'd been able to pull it off...not with the grin that had been tugging at her lips.

 

"Do not concern yourself. I shall prevail."

"I'm sure you will."

Teal'c had run down the corridor, following Casey. And she had returned to her office, and giggled over the antics of her two dear friends for the remainder of the afternoon.

 

If she was remembering correctly, when she'd seen Casey the next time, the slender blonde had been dripping wet from the top of her head to the boots that left puddles on the floor. Teal'c certainly had prevailed that day! It still amazed her that the Jaffa was so...playful. Something that Daniel had hinted about, given the large man's love of children, but that she'd not witnessed personally. Until Casey had come along.

He was so different now, so much more...relaxed, than he had been when he'd followed her, Jack, and Daniel through the Stargate, after sending all of those who had been marked for death to the safety of the SGC. His actions made him a man without a people, a traitor among Jaffa. Teal'c had taken a risk, left behind all he knew, and those he loved, and had saved forty-seven innocent lives. Three of which belonged to the first members of SG-1.

In spite of his acts of heroism, the fact that he willingly gave every bit of information about the Goa'uld that he knew; in spite of the fact that he had vowed his allegiance to General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill, (a fact not missed by his interrogators,) Teal'c had been treated as a prisoner of war. His symbiote had been examined, and she remembered the fury in the colonel's eyes when the representatives from the Pentagon had decided that studying the Goa'uld was far more important than Teal'c's life. Her voice had been one of four, as the general had stood with her, the colonel, and Daniel, in opposing the action.

She could remember approaching Daniel, asking him if he'd be willing to help her secret Teal'c out of the SGC. To anywhere, she'd said. It had been Daniel who'd pointed out that as long as Teal'c was on Earth, he was in danger. The archaeologist had then suggested sending the Jaffa to a different planet. Even though Daniel found it difficult to be around Teal'c, after all, as First Prime he'd been the one to pick Sha're to take before Apophis for the 'choosing', he'd still been willing to help her search for a planet that would be safe. It wasn't until almost a year later that Daniel learned, from Teal'c himself, that the Jaffa had held out the hope that Sha're wouldn't be chosen, and that he could send the simple tribal woman back through the Chappa'ai to her home. Something that Sam was certain had helped to cement the friendship between Daniel and Teal'c.

As the days wore on, and Teal'c was questioned again and again - his patience with his interrogators impressing the men and women of the SGC, particularly as they learned the details of his life, that he was as much a prisoner of the Goa'uld as any slave - Daniel began to spend more time with him. Teal'c had vowed that he would do all in his power to assist Daniel in finding Sha're. A fragile friendship had been born.

Then the four of them had been sent on their first mission together, and had found themselves depending on one another for their very lives. Once again Teal'c had proven that he was a man of his word, that his loyalty was to Jack O'Neill, and his teammates.

Was it even possible to pinpoint the moment...the place...the reason...the catalyst...that had changed them from four unique individuals into that entity known as SG-1? Or had it happened so gradually that it hadn't been noticeable?

There was the mission where those villagers believed that the Unas - who'd come to 'claim' the unlucky few who were chosen as sacrifices to Satan - was a demon, and that SG-1 were demons as well. 'Satan' had turned out to be Sokar, a Goa'uld System Lord of the most demented type. The village Canon, an asshole if she'd ever met one, had determined that Teal'c was a demon. He'd demanded Teal'c subjected to a series of 'tests', and had drowned him. When they'd killed the Unas who had been chasing them, the symbiote had taken that man as host. It hadn't bothered her a bit to see him killed. Casey would have been the first to point out that Karma had caught up with the Canon.

Sam stopped for a minute, wiped her face with the back of her hand. Thinking about the awful morning Teal'c had been tossed...bound hand and foot...into that lake, still brought a lump to her throat. Thinking Teal'c to be dead...the sense of loss...she'd never forget the unadulterated joy that had flooded her when his symbiote had revived him.

Teal'c's faith in her knowledge, her skill, her abilities, never ceased to amaze her. To humble her. If the team was facing something where her expertise was needed, he calmly stood by, watching her work, offering his assistance whenever she needed an extra hand, never doubting that she would be successful in her endeavors.

When Jack had been marooned on Edora, the Stargate covered from falling debris when a meteorite had struck the planet, Teal'c had been the one who had assured her that she would find a way to bring their commanding officer and teammate home. Telling her that the answer was within her, all she had to do was reach for it. She'd meditated with him for the first time, searching for that answer. She'd been instrumental in pulling off that 'miracle'. Thanks to Teal'c's faith in her.

Nor would she forget the way Teal'c had held her, letting her cry on his shoulder on those cold, lonely nights when Jack was with Casey, trying to keep the seer from slipping away from them completely, her grief over Daniel's death almost more than she could bear. The Jaffa's quiet insistence that Jack loved her, and that his love was strong and true...

Jack O'Neill, if you get yourself killed on that ship, I'll kill you as soon as you reanimate!

The path was getting steeper. From this side, the assent was nearly straight up. She stared dully at the rocky hillside...which seemed more like a moonscape than a mountain on a lush, almost tropical planet...with fatigue-dulled eyes. Oh, God, I can't do this!

Dropping onto her knees, Sam leaned forward, her hands on her thighs, her chin on her chest. So tired...she was so tired. When she looked up, she realized that she could see the trees. Dawn was breaking, and she was still too far from the cave.

With a low grunt of exertion, Sam rose to her feet, and began pulling the heavy body of her friend. Once she made it to the top, it would be a piece of cake. She just had to make it to the summit of the small mountain...

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Jack nudged Daniel slightly. "Danny?"

"Mmmph..."

"Shh...don't give us away."

Daniel opened one eye.

"I can't keep my eyes open, you're going to have to take watch for awhile," Jack explained.

He was, Daniel noted, leaning against Jack. He sat up. "How long have I been asleep?"

"Couple of hours."

Daniel nodded. Tried to stretch, which was impossible to do in the confines of the narrow shaft. A couple of hours of sleep was better than none at all, he thought, trying to force the last vestiges of his dreams from his mind - dreams that had been filled with green eyes, blonde hair, and a warm loving smile. Usually on a mission, a couple of hours here and there was about the extent of the sleep the team got.

"There haven't been any alarms. No sounds at all," Jack reported.

"Right."

"I just need a couple of hours."

"Right."

Jack closed his eyes. So damned tired...What's Sam doing?...lousy damned day...is Sam okay?...Just need a bit of sleep...

Daniel shifted slightly. Pulled his pack closer. Searched for and found his journal. He'd spend the time writing down the hell that this mission had become, write out his fear and his anger, his frustration and his worry.

Casey's photo was clipped to the inside of the red-bound book. His finger traced the curve of her cheek. Her sassy smile brought one to his own lips. "Love you, Angel," he whispered softly.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Tjau'kek gave Nefret a final, loving kiss; his body sated from the love they had shared, his heart full of her soft whispers. Ran the back of his fingers over her cheek. "Carry my love in your heart," he whispered.

"And carry mine in yours," she murmured softly in reply. After a careful check of the corridor, she slipped into the shadows created by the support structures, and made her way to her quarters for a bit of sleep before she was called upon to serve her Master.

The First Prime looked around the room. Frowned when his eyes came to rest on the vent that had been shoved at him with such force. He put the piece of perforated metal back into place. As First Prime, he could do whatever he felt necessary for the protection of the ship, and his god. If he determined that a scan of the ship's air vents was called for, he could order it done. However, the Jaffa who performed the scan would undoubtedly tell his friends about it. And those Jaffa would discuss the action, and would deliberate on just why the First Prime would order such a search. Such discussions could be overheard by servants, by slaves...and there were those willing to divulge every word of rumor and gossip they heard to Keku, always while seeking to better their own circumstances.

Which meant, he sighed, that any search he did would have to be done...quietly. At least for now. He could never reveal where, or when, he'd come to the conclusion that such a search was necessary, and if Keku learned of any such scans, he would demand to know all.

For now, the best that he could do was to keep his eyes and ears open. If there were stowaways on board, they would be found. If he was very lucky, then it would be a lower ranking Jaffa who would stumble across the interlopers.

He decided to make a tour of the cargo bays. He could always claim to be doing a random inspection, making certain that all of the boxes and crates were stored the way Keku expected the supplies to be. Keeping the Jaffa on their toes was always a good thing.

Walking with deliberation, his expression carefully guarded, Tjau'kek made his way to the lower levels of the ship. He couldn't help but wonder just who he would eventually learn had been in the ventilation shaft near the storeroom. And how much that...person...would demand in return for his silence regarding what he had seen. And whether or not a single servant or Jaffa would be missed by Keku if...when...he broke the neck of the voyeur.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Ba'al looked over the list of goods that had arrived. Ten pounds of naquadah...ten pounds? His demand had been for one hundred! "What is this?" he asked, pointing to the listed item.

The First Prime shifted nervously. "Naquadah, My Lord."

"How much?"

"Ten pounds, My Lord."

"And what were your orders?"

"To return with one hundred pounds, My Lord."

"Where is the rest?"

"I do not know, My Lord. This is all that we were given. Lord Keku's First Prime refused to speak to me when I inquired upon the amount. He sent a message through one of his Jaffa that it was what Lord Keku was sending."

The Goa'uld studied the man who stood before him. Chosen from the highest officers of the Jaffa to fill Ryk'teal's place as First Prime, Ba'al had found Laqip to be much better suited for the position. Or perhaps he had simply not been First Prime long enough to have developed an attitude of insubordination. The 'new' First Prime served with enthusiasm and loyalty. There had not, so far, been reason to doubt Laqip's words. He would not do so now.

"My Lord, if I might speak freely?"  

Ba'al gave his consent with a nod of his head. 

The First Prime took a deep breath. "I believe that it was meant as an insult. Lord Keku, if his Jaffa are to be believed, fancies himself a great strategist. Apparently he has plans of purchasing a fleet of ships with the profit he makes from you."

Well, well, well. The little pipsqueak would dare to roar? It wasn't a secret that Keku provided several System Lords with needed supplies...and more...for a price, of course. It certainly was no stretch of the imagination to believe that he had gathered a sizable amount of tribute and compensation. If Keku was determined to buy a fleet, then his coffers must be full indeed. Ba'al's lips pulled up into a cruel smile. And wouldn't that fleet be a most welcome addition to his own? He would learn from whom Keku intended to make such...impressive...purchases. With Keku's treasury in hand, he could do the same. What a perfectly delightful development! "Prepare to return to the planet."

"Yes, My Lord."

"This time, however, I will follow."

"Yes, My Lord."

"I do not wish for Keku to escape."

"No, My Lord." Laqip bowed low, then hurried from the pel'tak.

Let's just see how prepared for battle you truly are, Keku, Ba'al smirked.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Fingers of orange and gold began to push away the black and purple of the night. Sam was more than halfway up the side of the mountain, coming in from the back side, opposite of where she had been the day before.

Her hair was clinging to her cheeks and neck, sweat pouring off her as she resolutely forced her way forward, barely able to lift one foot to put it in front of the other. Streaks of black marked her face where she had used dusty hands to wipe at her damp skin.

Her eyes searched for the two odd-shaped rocks that marked the opening of the cave. It was no easier to see from this direction than it had been from the other. Another small blessing for which she'd be forever grateful. A tiny smile tugged at her lips. Almost there. "Just a little further," she mumbled out loud.

Dawn was well on its way to giving over to early morning when she collapsed beside the small opening. For a moment, she wondered if Teal'c would fit through the narrow hole. Too weary to be able to continue for much longer, well aware that with the light would come Jaffa, searching for her, Sam began to push Teal'c toward the mouth of the cave. The broad shoulders refused to go through.

Frustrated, she pushed him aside far enough to crawl in, then began to tug from inside. Again, his broad shoulders caught on the rocks. "Come on, Teal'c, help me out here," she grunted.

For just a moment she sat and contemplated the problem. If she could just get him to 'hunch' a bit...

Again she pushed him out of the way, clamored to his side. She untied the vine ropes from around his knees and ankles. Stretched them out on the ground, then rolled him to his side, one shoulder on the ropes. Just as she had hoped would happen, his shoulders sagged the tiniest bit. Using the vines to hold him place, she tied them as tightly as she could. All she needed was an inch of clearance. Not even a full inch...just enough to get him inside...

She maneuvered herself into place, and once again began to tug. It was tight, and one sleeve of his BDU shirt ripped slightly. But he was coming through. She gave another pull, and another, and he tumbled down the steep entrance, rolled slightly.

"Sorry, Teal'c," she murmured. Another tug...a push...a pull, and he was soon lying in the recess beside Casey. Just as she had done with the seer, she carefully removed the ropes, and again barely resisted the urge to rub his arms and legs.

Exhausted, unable to even sit up any longer, Sam collapsed beside her cold, silent teammates. Sleep overtook her before she had a chance to even move, the vines still curled and laying beside and beneath her. She had already tucked her backpack behind a group of small rocks toward one side of the cave. A fact that would save her life before the day was out, although she would be blessedly unaware of that fact. For the moment, three-fifths of SG-1 were as safe as they could be...given the circumstances.


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