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Chapter 6

Tem paced the pel'tak, the young Jaffa who accompanied him flinching each time his eyes strayed in their direction. Their flight from Thracia had been hurried; there hadn't even been time to locate the High Priest. It was already a well-known fact that their god had lost his 'pet'. Kinsey was now host to the Goa'uld known as Mehen.

"We will not go to Menes," Tem said suddenly. "That will be the first place that they will look for me."

"Where shall we go, My Lord?" asked the First Prime. A youth not quite twenty-one, he had fared better than his fellows during the Jaffa training that they'd been given; thus his rise to lead the young warriors for this maddening, frightening creature who called himself their god.

He smiled lazily. "Engage the cloak. And set course for the First World. There are still those who serve me there. As well as she who will be my consort."

"Yes, My Lord."

Taylor and the rest of the Board Members who'd remained behind would be most pleased to see him. He'd recruit a new army, those with experience in killing, those who killed simply for the pleasure of doing so. To be freed from their confinement in prison, they would vow their loyalty to him. All was not lost, he thought moodily. He would still rise to become the greatest of all Goa'uld.


A  A  A  A  A  A


"My Lord, Tem has taken his ship and fled Thracia," Prochoros reported. "His High Priest was in the city, making purchases for him, and was left behind, as were nearly a dozen of his slaves."

Ares shook his head. "I should have slit the bastard's throat when I first saw him," he said.

Mehen smiled. "But you have learned much, and because of Tem, I am free once again."

The dark haired Goa'uld looked sharply at his companion. "Because of Tem?"

"But of course. He chose to release me from my prison. As well as providing a very...suitable...host." Mehen was certain that there was more to be learned from the interesting man called Kinsey. The host had become quiet, although he occasionally felt the slight 'movement' that alerted him to the fact that the man was still alive. Tem had been most careless, he decided, using far more ker'nish'ta than necessary. No doubt the majority of information Kinsey had once known was long gone, destroyed by the chemical that had been introduced so brutally. Along with the training the man had received, there was little left that could be recognized as any sort of true memory.

Kinsey listened quietly. He'd continued to learn. As Mehen searched his memory, the former senator had learned how to hide every thought, every idea, every image, every bit of information that he could find. Even if he didn't understand it or recognize what he found, he knew that keeping the creature that now 'shared' his mind and controlled his body from finding it was the single most important thing in his existence at the moment.

During the times when Mehen was busy, usually working out, trying to rebuild muscles left to go soft with too much drinking and womanizing, Kinsey would examine the memories. There were faces, images of people that he knew instinctively were important. He'd seen them before, Tem had images of them as well. But what he...remembered...was much different. Tem had considered these Tau'ri, five known as SG-1, to be the enemy. He wasn't certain that was true. They were certainly the enemy of all Goa'uld. It seemed to be their mission to destroy as many as possible. He contemplated that thought. Mehen was Goa'uld. Tem had been Goa'uld. Did that mean that Tem had taken over the body that Kinsey recognized, had loved? He shuddered slightly. If that were true, then that someone, that man, was hiding in his own mind as Tem controlled every movement, knew every thought; that man was trying just as desperately to survive as he was. If all Goa'uld were these...creatures...parasites in need of a host body...

Mehen frowned. For just a brief second, he was certain he'd felt something, a reaction of some sort. He searched, but found nothing. He knew that Kinsey was hiding from him. He even knew where the man had chosen to curl up, trying to remain still and silent. Although...He shook his head. Kinsey had been broken completely by Tem. There wasn't enough of the man left to worry about. Allowing him to exist was nothing more than the lack of interest in tormenting him, destroying him. No Goa'uld wanted to admit that the host was needed to keep the body alive. While the symbiote was able to maintain perfect health, a dead body, one lacking the essence, the very soul of the being, was unsuitable for their purposes. Any symbiote in such a body would not live long if it were unable to withdraw and escape. So most Goa'uld, masters of delusion that they were, convinced themselves that allowing the host to 'remain' was simply an altruistic action. One that provided them 'entertainment'.

Kinsey studied the thoughts that moved past him. Would death be any worse than living like this? Unable to move his own body, being a virtual prisoner in his own mind was a type of death unto itself. He continued to listen.

"The slaves will join mine," Ares sighed. "Find Habib, send him to me."

"What will you do with him?" Mehen asked, genuinely curious.

"Habib was quite upset that Kinsey had diverted so much information, turned his own spies against him. I'm quite certain that he'll be more than willing to give up the robes of priesthood to serve you," Ares replied. He would indebt Mehen to himself as quickly as possible. To ascertain that he'd remain loyal.

"Perhaps you would be willing to allow me the slaves that Tem saw fit to abandon?"

Ares nodded slowly. "Of course. Prochoros, gather Tem's slaves. They will meet their new master."

"Yes, My Lord," the High Priest replied. He hurried from the room. Mehen was not much better than Tem, although he didn't appear to think with his cock, and that was an improvement. Ares had been bedding the women of his harem with gusto. That went far to reassure the old priest that all would be well.

"You will take one of my ships. And you will not return until you bring with you the head of Tem, and the crushed body the symbiote."

Mehen shivered slightly. Ares meant exactly what he said. "As you wish," he murmured.

Yes, Ares smirked silently. As I wish. You serve me, and you will never forget it.

Hathor and Seth were dead. A shame really. They'd been most useful allies. There were others, however, who would find what I know most useful, Mehen thought. He would not serve one who could not even garner respect from his own family. He smiled to himself. It would be possible to send a message once he was on board the ship. After a careful sweep to make certain that Ares could not monitor every action he took, of course. No doubt there were those among that group who would be interested to know what Ares was doing. No doubt Zeus would be delighted to have a chance to exact his revenge on his 'son'.

"Go. You have your orders."

Bristling slightly at being treated as if he were nothing more than a Jaffa, Mehen gave a sharp nod of his head. He'd take his newly acquired slaves, the one who would become his High Priest, and he'd set out. On a mission of his own.

Ares settled onto the couch. He'd effectively gotten rid of Kinsey. Set an enemy on Tem's trail. That would keep the two of them occupied for awhile. He would meet with Ba'al, and learn what he needed to know. Then he'd plan his next move.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Ba'al waited in his throne room, a lavishly decorated space, complete with statues that bore a striking resemblance to those found in the ancient Babylonian ruins in what had once been Mesopotamia, on the First World. When he'd left, he'd taken all that he could, including slaves, gold, precious jewels, nearly every stone of the first temple built in his honor. Which was being reconstructed on his newly declared home planet.

Sipping from his wine, he turned the data crystal over and over between his fingers. He had yet to examine the contents, although he assumed that it would contain information pertaining to SG-1, given the source. His heart sped up at the thought of having Casey at his side once again. Confident of his success, he'd dismissed 'Shan'da', and had taken a lovely brunette from the harem to serve as his lo'taur. There was no need to pretend any longer. His Beloved would be at his side within a matter of hours, days at the longest.

Ares strode in, looking like the god of war he claimed to be, his carefully polished armor reflecting the light of the candles that lit the room with their glow. He carelessly pushed his cape over one shoulder. "Ba'al, it has been a long time."

"Yes it has. Please, help yourself to a glass of wine."

The dark haired Goa'uld glanced at the jug of pure gold that sat in the middle of the table. He wasn't so stupid as to drink from what was probably poisoned wine! "I think not," he replied.

"Suit yourself." Ba'al pushed himself to his feet, crossed the room and refilled his cup. When he'd settled back onto his throne, he studied the man who stood before him. "I suppose Zeus has no idea you've left the galaxy to which your family had been banned...by Ra?"

"I have no need of his permission to come and go as I please. Nor do I recognize Ra's authority to banish me from this galaxy."

"Bold words, knowing that Ra is dead," Ba'al scoffed. "You were more than willing to remain in exile while you believed him alive."

Ares refused to respond. He did however, pour a cup of wine for himself. "So what offer have you come to make?"

Ba'al laughed. He was certain that the 'offer' he was about to give would not be what Ares expected. It would be sweet revenge for wrongs done so many millennia ago, however. And would strengthen his own standing. By the end of the day, there would be no more powerful a Goa'uld than he. "I have come to make no offer. Just to acknowledge your return. And warn you that you are not as strong as you pretend."

"Nor are you," Ares retorted hotly. "Do not think to threaten me, Goa'uld!"

"Remember where you are, and to whom you speak!" Ba'al roared, on his feet in a flash. The two Goa'uld glared at one another for several long seconds. "It has come to my attention that you are most interested in capturing one known as Daniel Jackson."

"And you have designs on the witch who is his wife," Ares countered. It would do Ba'al good to know that he was not the only one with reliable sources of information. Nor was he as unaware as he believed Ba'al to think.

"I have no use for Jackson. In fact, having him become the host to your beloved Thanatos would serve my purposes quite well. It would make Casey more...complaisant. To witness the Taking, to know that he who was her husband is no more would put an end to any hope of him returning for her." It would be more...convenient this way. But after careful planning, and swift action on his part, it was no longer necessary.

He considered the offer he could sense was coming. He wanted the seer to guide his own armies against those who stood in his way. But Ba'al was in a position to be able to capture SG-1 more quickly than he was. Probably even knew where the meddlesome group was. The sooner he could free Thanatos, the sooner his best friend and some-time lover would be at his side. The young man had always been a source of good ideas. With the very intelligent Daniel Jackson as his host, the knowledge at his fingertips would be considerable. He frowned mentally. If this seer loved her husband as much as he was hearing, as much as her actions indicated, no doubt seeing him taken as a Goa'uld host, taken by those that she and her cohorts worked to destroy, she would attempt to free him, perhaps even kill him in that attempt. Perhaps it would be better to keep her away from Thanatos, at least for awhile. Until she had time to come to the understanding that she was nothing compared to her gods. Which meant agreeing to whatever scheme Ba'al had dreamed up...at least for the moment.

"When I have captured SG-1, I will bring Jackson to you. Casey and I will witness the Taking, and then we will leave."

"And in return for this...gift?"

"Your sworn loyalty."

Ares frowned. To swear his loyalty...no, that was not something he'd do. He would consider an alliance. He wouldn't bend knee to another. "If I refuse?"

Ba'al shrugged. "There are loyal Goa'uld in need of hosts. I would prefer that Jackson not be near. I can just as easily send whoever receives him as host to one of my outposts."

There had to be a reason Ba'al wanted his loyalty. Keeping Daniel Jackson away from his Consort was not that reason. It was an excuse. "You have need of my talents, I take it."

Another careless shrug. "No, I don't. However, having you serve me would send a very visible message to others. They would cease their tiresome struggles against me."

Aha. Ba'al wasn't as strong as he pretended to be. "I have no intention of bowing to you, or to any other Goa'uld. If you wish to ally yourself with me, then we will discuss a treaty. If not, there is nothing more to say."

"Then I will bid you farewell, Ares. Go with this warning. Serve me now, or be destroyed."

He began to laugh. "If you were capable of such a feat, you would have already done so!"

Ba'al gave a cold, calculated smile. One that his enemy failed to recognize. "Yes, I suppose I would have." He pressed a button hidden on the arm of his throne. The First Prime marched into the room. "Take the ships on which my Jaffa lie in wait."

"Yes, My Lord," Ryk'teal replied. He saluted, then hurried to send the word to the men who'd sneaked upon Ares' ships. Many of that Goa'uld's Jaffa were more than willing to switch loyalties. There was a consensus among them that their lives would be lost in battle when Ares made good the threats he so casually tossed about. They were Jaffa; born, bred, and trained to be warriors. Death was just a part of their lives. It was not, however, something which they longed to embrace so quickly. Especially by those who'd seen nothing more than minor skirmishes. Self-preservation was hard-wired into all sentient beings; thoughts of heated battled weren't...pleasant. Ba'al's own Jaffa were quite convincing, and had assured those loyal to Ares that Ba'al was the greater god.

"Come, it is time for a lesson in humility." Ba'al strode past his 'guest'. Didn't particularly care if the Goa'uld followed him or not.

More curious than alarmed, Ares followed Ba'al to the pel'tak. Of the seven ships left to him, as Mehen already gone after Tem, five of them reported directly to Ba'al. They were completely under his control.

Ba'al's eyes glowed as he looked at his enemy. "Serve me and live. Or I shall destroy you now!"

Stunned, unable to comprehend how such a thing could have happened, Ares watched as the two remaining ships were destroyed. He was now no better off than the simpering fool who'd taken far too much of his time...and attention. Better to live today, and fight again tomorrow, he thought desperately. It would take time, but he'd reclaim his ships and his Jaffa. And Ba'al would pay dearly for this humiliation! Ares sank slowly to one knee. "I serve thee, My Lord," he said hoarsely. The fire of hatred burned hot in his heart.

Ba'al smirked. It had been so very easy. Almost too easy. He had for a time expected to find he'd walked into a trap. It seemed that his spy had been correct. Ares had been so busy fucking Tem, plotting his revenge, that he'd ignored everything else around him. Convinced that the sheer luck of defeating Zeus had been skill that made him invincible, Ares had set himself up for the very same fall. It had been tempting to poison him, put him in the sarcophagus on his ship, set the autopilot and send him back to the far flung galaxy where Ra had exiled the entire 'Olympian' pantheon. Once Thanatos inhabited the body of Daniel Jackson, that was still very much an option.

Dark eyes watched carefully, listened intently. This was most unexpected. A message needed to be sent immediately.


A  A  A  A  A  A


General Hammond looked up when Daniel rapped his knuckles lightly against the door. "Doctor Jackson, come in."

"Thank you, sir," Daniel replied. Casey followed him, and the two stood in front of the wide, teak desk. "Sir, we think we should send a MALP through to Kelowna. Casey believes it's possible that those people didn't finish the weapon they were building."


"P3X-4C3," Casey offered, handing over the folder she'd been holding. It hadn't taken long to find it, filed away with the other missions her gift had put on hold for one reason or another. It had been one of the first mission reports she'd done a 'reading' for. She'd nearly panicked when she'd seen death so clearly, could still remember the icy cold feeling of dread when she was able to see who would die. "When we first went over this mission file, I saw Daniel's death. So we didn't even send the MALP through the 'gate. I think maybe we should. They have something called 'naquadria'. It's naquadah, but has some unusual properties. Sam would be able to tell us more about that."

"I see. And you believe we should visit this planet now?"

"Yes, sir," Casey replied.

"What brought this particular mission to your attention? An 'information dump'?"

"No, sir." She glanced at Daniel, who smiled encouragingly at her. "During my recent...visit...to that alternate reality, I met Jonas Quinn. He's from Kelowna. A very sweet, very smart man. He...he wanted so badly to see the wars on his planet end, and the people to live in peace."

"I see."

"In that reality, you...well, your alternate self, sent SG-1 through the 'gate on that mission. Daniel saved their lives, their planet, by taking the radioactive core from the bomb they'd built. And died a few days later from radiation poisoning."

Hammond flinched slightly at the news. "How did you meet this Jonas Quinn?"

"He left his world, everything he knew...he became a traitor, according to his people. He brought a case of naquadria, all he was able to carry. You...er...your alternate self put him on SG-1 because of his ability to learn so very quickly. He was studying everything Daniel had ever written, all of his notes, and journals-" she broke off, turned her head. She could still remember racing into Daniel's office, searching for her Husband, finding the young man she didn't know sitting there, reading one of the red notebooks.

"It's possible that the Kelownan's had defeated the Goa'uld as well," Daniel said quietly. "Casey said that Jonas told her that several devices had been discovered in the ruins of an ancient temple. Ribbon device, a communication sphere, two zat'nik'tels, at least one staff weapon, and several dozen data crystals."

The general frowned. "Did these people know what they had?"

Daniel looked at Casey. "No, sir."

"But if the Goa'uld had been there, it's possible that the people defeated them, much like our ancestors," Casey said. "Jonas told me that their history only went back as far as 10,000 years. That there was no sign of any settlements or towns; nothing that would indicate people had inhabited the planet before that time."

"My guess is that they were taken to that planet by Goa'uld, although I'd have to see the artifacts to even hazard a guess as to which one," Daniel added. "Jonas also told Casey that there had been a 'step backwards' in their civilization development, and while there were those who knew the truth, most of the population was left to speculate. He said the most popular theory was that a war had been fought, and technology had been blamed for the catastrophic results. Not wanting people to compare the past with what the leaders were doing at the time, all traces of that part of their history were destroyed."

"Jonas believed that was when the people split into three distinct groups, and became three individual nations. Whatever happened, it was far enough back in their history that there wasn't a lot for the leaders to get rid of. And the caverns and what was left of a temple where the Goa'uld artifacts were uncovered were near the believed sight of that historical battle," Casey added.

"Write up a report. We'll discuss this..." he glanced at his desk calendar, " the day after tomorrow. Brief Major Carter, give her a heads up about what she might find interesting."

The two Jacksons nodded. This was the general's way of allowing them to come up with a convincing argument for going on the mission. "Thank you, sir," Daniel said.

"You're welcome. Anything else?"

"No, sir."

"Very well. Dismissed."

Smiling triumphantly, Casey took his hand and led her husband from the office. "I have a good feeling about this," she said softly.

"Let's go talk to Sam," he replied, suppressing his own smile at her excitement.

"And then we'll check in with Janet one last time. I'm going home tonight, period!" Casey declared.

"Sounds good to me," he murmured. Home. Where he could make love to her the way he wanted to, needed to. They'd held one another, orally pleasured one another the night before. But he wanted more. Wanted to hold her, wanted to feel himself inside her, to know that she was safe and alive and in his arms, right where she belonged.




Janet looked up as the couple entered the infirmary. "Don't tell me. You feel fine, and you're ready to go home."

"No, we bought a couple of lotto tickets and won," Casey tossed back.

"Really?" Janet's eyes went wide.

Casey grinned mischievously. "No, not really. But we feel fine and we're ready to go home."

The petite doctor grinned in return. Then shook her head, the smile fading. "Casey, you suffered cardiac arrest."

"And I'm fine." She glanced around. "You know that as well as I do," she said softly.

"Even if she wasn't..." Daniel waved a hand, "you'd be willing to let her go home and rest, if she didn't present any symptoms for twenty-four hours. And she hasn't."

"Please, Janet. I want...I need to go home. I need to get away from here," Casey pleaded.

"We're taking tomorrow off," Daniel added softly. "We...we need to just...we need time to deal with what happened."

The doctor nodded her understanding. "If either of you feel odd in any way, promise you'll get your butts straight here."

"It's a promise," Daniel agreed willingly.


A  A  A  A  A  A


She sighed when their little gray house came into sight. "Some days, I never want to leave," she said softly.

He reached over, took her hand. "I know what you mean."

The garage door opened slowly, Daniel eased the Jeep into the confines of the structure. Shut off the engine, and punched the button that would close the door behind them. "It's been a long two days."

Casey nodded. "About three and a half weeks too long," she said softly.


She looked over when he broke off. Could see the tears in his eyes.

"Just before...I was in the commons, getting a cup of coffee," he said, his voice low, filled with emotion. "Cam Balinsky was there, complaining about working on a group of Sumerian tablets-"

She smiled. Cam was always so eager to work on anything that had to do with the Ancients. She was certain that the young archaeologist wanted to be the one to decipher the riddles that would lead them to the city of the Ancients that held a weapon with the potential to end the war with the Goa'uld. At least, that's what the clues they had so far indicated they'd find.

"-the TV was on, and the news-" He gasped. "Oh, god, that bastard had killed you!"

Her fingers brushed away the tears that had fallen onto his cheeks. "I'm so sorry you had to see that," she whispered. "Look at me, Daniel."

His eyes focused on her sweet, beautiful face. He reached out, cupped her cheek, felt the warmth of her skin against his palm.

"I'm here, Sweetheart. We're home, and we're safe, and we're together, and that's all that matters. There's nothing we can do to change those realities..."

When she cocked her head in that now familiar way, he bit back a groan. He was not going back to the SGC! Not tonight. No way in hell!

"What we believe is the end, isn't always," she said softly. "And when the time is right, the Daniels and Caseys of those realities will find their way to one another."

"How? She's dead in one reality, and he's dead in the other," Daniel pointed out.

"Never underestimate the power of Destiny...or love."

Daniel frowned. "Unless they come back from the dead, I don't see it happening."

"Miracles happen, Daniel," she said softly.

He contemplated her comments for a moment. Sighed heavily. People didn't come back from the dead. Not beautiful, brutally murdered women. Nor archaeologists who raced in where angels feared to tread, and died from radiation poisoning. How long would the images...the memories...of that alternate reality haunt him...haunt her? How many nightmares would they comfort one another through? "I just want to forget," he said softly.

"Let's go inside. I'll do my best to help you," she replied, the promises in her eyes making him shiver with anticipation.

"I can't live without you," he said softly, his thumb moving gently over her lips.

She kissed the pad of his thumb, then smiled. "I can't live without you, either."

"It seems that in at least two realities, we are. Maybe not living. But existing."

A frown creased her brow as she examined the residual emotions, the raw grief that they were both dealing with as a result of their unexpected foray into alternate realities. "I can't believe the Ancients would do this to themselves," she said softly.

His frown matched hers. "Do what?"

"Cause so much heartache. Why would they subject themselves...their own people, to this...torture?"

Torture. Yeah, that was a damned apt description. "Maybe it's a form of punishment."

She nodded. "I can believe that."

The frown deepened. The answer didn't fit with what he'd deciphered from the text on the miniature pyramid. "But if that was what the device was used for, it would have said so. Somewhere. All I could find were references to paths, and time, and choices."

"You did find that passage about 'guides' and 'seekers'," she added.

He nodded. "It's a teaching device. I can only assume that somehow the 'guide' was able to protect the 'seeker' from experiencing the emotions."

"Make it sort of like watching a movie?" she asked

"Something like that," he replied.

"Let's go inside. By now the neighbors are probably convinced we're making love in the backseat."

Daniel chuckled. "Let 'em think that."

She giggled. "Come on, Stud Muffin. I'll make dinner, we'll have a bottle of wine, and we'll forget about the past couple of days."

He crawled out of the Jeep. Waited at the door for her, made sure it was locked before pulling it closed behind them. They walked to the back door arm in arm.

Sitting on the floor beside the dining table were three rather large boxes, and a note from Emma. She'd taken delivery of them, and the UPS driver had been kind enough to carry them into the house for her. Daniel grinned. The artifacts that Catherine Langford had sent to him, knowing that he'd appreciate them more than any museum curator, had finally arrived.

She smiled when he opened them as eagerly as a child opening gifts on Christmas morning. Without a doubt the table and breakfast bar would be cluttered within minutes. Knowing that he'd be anxious to share them with her, to explain what they were, she grabbed a casserole from the freezer, took off the aluminum foil that protected it, and stuck in into the microwave. Best to get dinner started now, before they lost track of time.

He sorted through the miscellaneous pieces of broken pottery. No doubt Catherine believed he'd be interested in trying to put them back together. It would be a nice Saturday afternoon project for the winter. Four tablets, which more than likely had references to the Stargate. A dozen small statues of various Egyptian gods. The heads of the depicted beings had been broken off. He examined one of the statuettes carefully, a likeness of Bast, if the body was anything to go by. No, the heads had been cut off. Very tangible proof of the attitude toward the gods that prevailed among the newly freed slaves. These had probably belonged to those who'd determined to bury the monument in an attempt to rid themselves of the false gods forever.

Casey gently lifted an ornate rose quartz box from among the packing peanuts. It was at least twelve inches long, eight inches wide, and four inches high. "Oh," she said softly. "This is beautiful!"

Daniel glanced at the artifact. "If I'm not mistaken, that's a jewelry box. Probably owned by a merchant, or skilled laborer."

The interior of the box had been carefully smoothed, it felt like polished glass to her fingertips. The outside was covered with carved depictions of alligators, hippos, herons, and several other creatures she couldn't immediately identify, as well as lotus flowers and palm fronds. "Do you think it would be okay to use it?"

"For what?"

"My pendant and earrings and bracelet," she replied immediately.

He grinned. She kept each of those items in the jewelers boxes they'd come in. Which would fit neatly inside the carved stone box. "I think it would look great on the counter."

Holding the box carefully with one hand, cradling it against her side, she reached with the other arm to hug him. "Thank you!"

It never ceased to amaze him that such simple things could bring so much happiness to those green eyes. "You're welcome."

With a wide smile, she hurried to the bathroom to put her new 'treasure' in place. How appropriate that something so special would hold the precious gifts that he'd given her! The dinging of the microwave ended her admiration of the new acquisition. She'd never in her wildest dreams imagined owning the things that were now hers. The night Dr. Daniel Jackson had appeared on her doorstep had been the turning point in her life. She'd thank the goddess every day for sending him to rescue her from the loneliness, and the starkness, that had been her life before his arrival.

As soon as the casserole, an Italian sausage and ziti pasta casserole to be precise, went into the oven, Casey grabbed one of the small boxes that held pottery shards, sat down at the breakfast bar, and began to sort through the pieces.

Daniel glanced up from the floor, where he'd been translating one of the tablets, and grinned. She was wholly focused on her task, a slight frown on her face. His heart swelled with love for her. It warmed him to the core to know that she shared his love of archaeology. He'd never dreamed that his life could be so full...so blessed. After Sha're had been taken from him, had been killed, he'd been convinced that he'd never love again, never be happy again. His heart was overflowing with love and happiness.

Thirty minutes later the timer brought them both back to the modern world. Daniel hurried to grab the mail from the mailbox while Casey cleared her work from the counter, and set up for their dinner.


A  A  A  A  A  A


He leaned back, pleasantly full and feeling mellow from the wine they'd been drinking. The emotional turmoil that had plagued him earlier was fading the longer he was home. Home. This place where her love surrounded him. Where the events of the SGC couldn't penetrate the feeling of warmth. Where they could hide away from the world and all its troubles. Where the Goa'uld didn't exist.

She finished off the wine in her glass, filled it again, then emptied the bottle into his glass. "I don't know about you, but I'm feeling much better."

"I'm feeling better myself," he admitted.

"This is exactly why I wanted to come home," she sighed. "It's so much easier to just put it all behind me, into perspective, when I'm home."

Before he could reply, the phone began to ring. He immediately looked at her.

"Not a thing," she told him, understanding the unspoken question in his eyes. There'd been no 'information dumps'. Nothing to alert her of any problems that would require their presence on the base.

With a nod, he rose and crossed the kitchen, grabbed the receiver. "Hello?"

"Hey. Just checking in on you."

Daniel smiled. "Hey, Jack. We're fine. Just finished dinner."

"Good, glad to hear it. Sam...er...Carter...well, we're getting ready to watch a movie. Just thought I'd call and make sure you and Radar are okay."

"We're fine. Thanks for calling, though."

"Yeah, sure."

"Is there anything you need to talk about?"

"Nope. Like I said, just checking-"

The sudden break in Jack's voice had Daniel chuckling. If he knew his teammate, and he did, he'd wager that Sam's hands weren't busy with the DVD player any longer. "Enjoy your movie, Jack."

"Uh, yeah." The man's voice was strained.

"Enjoy yourself."


He laughed out loud when the connection was broken. He turned to look at Casey. "That was Jack."

"So I gathered."

"He just wanted to make sure we're okay."

A feeling of warmth spread over her. Knowing that they had friends who cared for them, worried about them, left her feeling blessed, indeed. "So he's watching a movie?"

"With Sam."

Casey nodded. "Good. After the scare we gave them, they need to be together tonight. Teal'c will probably meditate for a few hours."

Daniel understood that the Jaffa preferred the silence of meditation to deal with the trauma the team faced on an almost daily basis. He nodded. "Probably."

She stood, began to gather the dishes. "You know what sounds nice?"


"A bath."

He smiled. "I agree."

It took all of fifteen minutes to have the kitchen cleaned, and the dishwasher loaded. While Daniel carefully repacked the artifacts that had been take out of the boxes, Casey lit the candles in the sconces on the bathroom walls. Filled the tub with water, added just a few drops of chamomile bath oil.

He walked into the bathroom just as she was stepping into the tub. He stripped quickly, joined her in the warm, soothing water. Held her close when she leaned back against him. This is perfect, he thought happily. She was safe and warm and in his arms. Yep, perfect.

"Mmm," she said softly, letting her head fall back to rest against his shoulder. "This is nice."

"Yes, it is." Her hands moved gently over his arms as he held her tightly. Each touch was full of love, and he took consolation from the gentle caresses.

They sat silently, letting the last traces of tension drop from them, their souls taking comfort from one another, hearts silently offering comfort with the gentle caresses of their hands. What they'd seen would live in their memories for a very long time. But the emotions left raw by their experiences in alternate realities had been assuaged.

The water was beginning to cool when they began to tenderly bathe one another, the soft touches and caresses lighting the fire of desire in their bodies. Both were ready...needed...to make love, to hold one another.

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