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Sand in an Hourglass
Daniel was instantly aware that something was wrong. He could feel it in the trembling of her fingers against his as he held her hand. And in the brief flash of fear that filled her eyes, before she so carefully pushed it back. "What's wrong?"
"Things are going to get...intense. But what we're doing...what we have to do...is very important. We can't fail. There's something..." she shook her head. The poking was becoming stronger. "When I have all of the pieces to the puzzle, I'll be able to tell you more."
General Hammond nodded. So far, Casey's gift hadn't let them down. He had faith in her, and her gift, even when she doubted herself. "That's good enough for me," he said quietly.
"Me, too," Jack agreed.
He looked at her. There was more. He could sense it. She'd never withheld information. Maybe she didn't know exactly what it was yet, but something was bothering her. From the fear he'd seen in her green eyes, it had scared her to death. "You're sure there's nothing else?" Daniel asked softly
He knew her so well, could see...sense...what others sometimes missed. Because he was a part of her, Casey thought. "I've told you everything I can."
The linguist in him perked up. Then there was something she couldn't tell them. Because she'd been warned by Miss Eloise not to tell them...or because she was trying to protect them...protect him? "Casey-"
"Daniel, please, trust me," she begged softly.
Her green eyes told him all he needed to know. There was more. Whatever it was, wasn't good. She'd never allow the team to walk into a situation blind, not if she had any inkling at all about what they'd be facing. "I trust you, Angel," he replied. The rush of love and relief in her eyes made him glad he hadn't pushed.
"Go get a hot meal, team. Be geared up and ready to leave in two hours," General Hammond said softly. He was not unaware the that young seer knew more than she was telling. Like her husband, however, he trusted the young woman. She'd more than earned that faith.
The team walked down the corridor toward the elevator, their close physical proximity to one another a reflection of their entwined hearts. They knew that this could be the last hot meal they'd have for awhile, especially for the three men. The usual chatter and teasing was missing as they filled their trays, and settled around 'their' table. Four other teams were eating in the commissary, as well as several individuals and groups of two or three...supply clerks, or medical personnel, or 'lab rats' as Jack called the scientists. All took note that the flagship team was among them. The mission that the famous SG-1 was about to embark on had been rumored to be dangerous...brutal. The looks on five faces confirmed those rumors.
"Casey, it's not too late," Jack said quietly. "Say the word, and we don't walk through that 'gate."
She shook her head. "This is important, Jack. We have to do this."
He sighed. "Yeah, that's what I was afraid you'd say."
Daniel watched her push her food around the plate. "You need to eat, Case," he said softly.
"I know." She put a bite of food in her mouth. Chewed it. Wondered how one small piece of meatloaf could grow to the size a softball, one that felt as if it were choking her. She managed to swallow. Took a sip of coffee. Goddess, she was going to miss coffee!
As soon as they'd eaten, the team headed for the supply room, the Jacksons stopping off in Daniel's office to lock away their wedding bands.
"Babe, nothing is more important than your safety. If you see anything, anything at all, no matter how insignificant it might seem...we stay here," Daniel said softly, firmly.
"Your safety is important, too," she replied. "Please, trust me. This is so important. Not just to protect Earth."
He raised an eyebrow.
"When I can tell you more, I will," she vowed.
As always, he took note of exactly what words she used, as well as how she used them. Apparently she did know more than she was telling. Which made him very nervous. "Promise me that you aren't...won't be in danger," he whispered.
"I can't do that," she whispered in reply. "Please, please trust me," she begged.
"I do trust you, Angel," he assured her. He did trust her. That didn't mean, however, that he was at all happy about the situation that he...that they were in. If it looked as if she were going to be at risk, he'd take her and 'gate back to the SGC immediately. To hell with the mission. He'd nearly lost her twice, he wasn't about to push his luck.
She wrapped her arms around his neck. "Don't forget the serum," she whispered.
"I won't." Shit! If she was insisting that he take the damned stuff, then she was fairly certain that this mission was going to last longer than three days. He folded her into his embrace, held her tightly. "I love you."
"I love you," she replied. She tilted her head up, accepted his almost frantic kisses.
Slowly, lest he lose control and be unable to take her right here, right now, as his body would demand, Daniel pulled away from her. "We need to get to the supply room. I have to stop by the infirmary on the way."
She nodded. "I'll meet you there."
He kissed her again before he stepped off of the elevator at level twenty-one. She continued down to level twenty-three, where the supply rooms were housed. Jack, Sam, and Teal'c looked up when she entered.
"Danny stopped at the infirmary?" Jack asked casually.
She could feel the heat in her cheeks. "Yes," she replied tersely. Her teammates understood her discomfort. The fact that Daniel was addicted to her might thrill her privately, but when it...interfered...with their work on the base, she was totally embarrassed by the entire matter.
Not more than ten minutes later Daniel joined them. He'd received a shot, even though he'd taken the time to 'get a fix' of his sweet Angel earlier that morning. Three bottles of serum, and two hypodermic needles were stashed in what had once been a small flashlight shell. Siler had specially designed the insert that protected the serum and needles. Because it wasn't large enough to use as a weapon, the Jaffa weren't likely to try to take it away from him. If they did, he'd have to get word to Casey somehow, so that she could let Sarah know. Which would totally freak his Wife out, he was certain. He sighed mentally. As much as he loved being addicted to her, loved the 'rush' that flowed through him every time he partook of her sweet honey, there were times when it could be an inconvenience. The bad with the good, he grinned to himself. And the good was definitely worth any bad he might have to put up with!
Packs were filled with MREs and water. There was the chance that the supplies would be used by the men as they waited in the holding cell. Daniel double checked to make certain his journal was in his pack. Noticed that Casey's notebook was peeking out of the top of hers. So far, there hadn't been any new poems, at least not that he was aware of, since the poem she'd written the night she'd come home, after being Ba'al's prisoner. He hoped like hell there would be no need for any when they returned from this mission.
General Hammond and General Carter were waiting in the 'gate room when the team walked in. Walter was already calling out each chevron as it locked into place. "According to Bra'tac, M'zel and the others were to arrive at the planet sometime last night. They should be there. Karinda will attempt to signal when she's ready to send Osiris' Jaffa," General Hammond reminded them.
"When Karinda has made certain that it's safe, you'll break out of the holding cell. You'll ring to Anubis' ship, set the charges in the exact locations we discussed earlier. Then the five of you will ring to the cargo ship where I will be waiting. I will be just below Osiris' ship, cloaked, so that Anubis cannot detect me," Selmak added.
Jack nodded. "Then home, sweet home."
"That's the plan," Jacob agreed.
"If at any time you sense that things are going to go bad, abort the mission," General Hammond said firmly. "Casey, if you get any feelings at all that worry you, let Karinda and Sarah know, and pull the plug."
She nodded her understanding. The Stargate opened with its customary splendor. This was it. A sudden feeling of dread washed over her. Before she could open her mouth, she heard Miss Eloise whispering. This was one time that she'd have to put her faith in the old seer, trusting that to follow through with the mission, in spite of her misgivings, was more important than the relative comfort of the team. She understood that something very...important...was about to happen. That knowledge did nothing to ease the pounding of her heart, or the shaking of her hands. She gripped the straps of her backpack tightly in an attempt to hide the trembling of her fingers.
"Take this asshole out, team," Hammond said quietly.
"Yes, sir," Jack replied.
"SG-1, you have a go. Godspeed."
They walked up the ramp. Into the event horizon. Setting into motion events that would have a long lasting, far reaching impact on the entire universe. Luckily, they weren't aware of this fact.
M'zel and his men were waiting for them. They'd set up a camp that gave the impression that they'd been living there for some time. He greeted Teal'c warmly; having met, nearly a year earlier, the Jaffa who'd started the rebellion . "It is good to see you, my brother," he said. Like many of the Free Jaffa, he'd learned to speak in the tongue of the Tau'ri.
"And you," Teal'c replied. "This mission is most crucial, not only to save the Tau'ri home world, but to make certain that the Free Jaffa remain free, and that others are able to join us."
"So Bra'tac has told us," M'zel said. He turned to face Jack. "I have heard many things about SG-1."
Jack grinned. "If it's bad, don't believe it. If it's good, every word is true."
The tall Jaffa grinned as well. "I have heard that the price on your heads continues to climb. There are no doubt many bounty hunters looking for each of you."
"I'm sure there are," Jack agreed. Hoped like hell none of these Jaffa would take it into their heads to use SG-1 as a 'get-rich-quick' scheme.
M'zel led the team to the 'pen' that had been built, which would be where they had kept as prisoners. Bra'tac had insisted that it would be better if the 'returning Faithful' already had SG-1 in custody when Osiris' Jaffa arrived. The Tok'ra would give them enough warning that the loyal Jaffa would ring down and find their brethren in the midst of interrogating the 'prisoners'. It would prevent the Jaffa from killing the Free Jaffa in an attempt to take the Tau'ri prisoner first.
"Any word?" Jack asked.
"Not yet," M'zel replied. "It should be any time now."
Daniel was looking around the ruins curiously. They were in what had once been a small, walled city. There weren't any runes, or hieroglyphs, or cuneiform anywhere, at least, not that he could see. It was possible that there were records kept, perhaps in one of the buildings...He stopped when he felt her hand on his arm.
"You have that look in your eyes," she teased softly.
"The look that says your mind is on ancient civilizations, theories on who the people who lived her might have been."
He smiled. "Yeah, well, I am an archaeologist."
"Yes, you are."
"Want to look around with me?"
"I'd love to," she replied.
They hadn't taken more than half a dozen steps when Jack's voice brought them to a halt.
"You two aren't going anywhere. You are not touching anything. You are going to sit down here and wait for the signal," the CO of the team informed them.
"No, Daniel. N-O. No. Get back here and sit down. I don't want you finding something that's only going to cause us grief and screw up this mission."
"What if there are clues to the Lost City? Or the meaning of life?" Daniel challenged.
"We'll come back later and look," Jack replied.
"Not another word, Daniel."
"Not even a little-"
She looked up, expecting to see him sulking. Almost laughed out loud at the light that danced in his eyes. He doubted that there was anything to find, it had been just a way to while away the time as they waited. Had he thought otherwise, not even Jack would have been able to keep him from taking a closer look at the ruins.
"Just five minutes," Daniel said.
He led her back to the camp. Winked at Sam when they walked by her. Which put a wide grin on her face. Teal'c wasn't unaware of what the young man was up to either, his own cheek was twitching.
And so the wait began. None of them entirely sure just how long they'd be required to sit on the desert planet...waiting.
Less than an hour later, the communication orb that M'zel had put on the table beside him began to glow.
"Prepare yourselves," Karinda's voice said softly.
"Okay, kids, this is it," Jack said.
The men climbed into the pen, hastily restrained with steel manacles that held their wrists together behind their backs.
Casey and Sam were quickly tied into chairs.
"Hit me," Casey whispered.
M'zel raised an eyebrow.
"If you've been interrogating us, we need to look the part," she explained.
Daniel gritted his teeth when the Jaffa's large hand came into contact with the soft skin of her cheek, leaving a red mark that would bruise quickly.
Adal and Aron, who, according to the cover story, had yet to prove their loyalty, sat to the side, their own hands tied behind their backs. Both men marveled at the two Tau'ri women who sat stoically as they were slapped again and again.
The sound of rings broke the air, bringing the 'interrogation' to a halt. The Jaffa who ringed down were instantly on guard. Staff weapons began to whine as they charged.
M'zel did a classic double take. Then, with a wide grin, approached the leader, knelt down and lowered his head. "I did not think I would ever see brethren again," he said quietly.
"Who are you, and why are you here?" the leader of Osiris' Jaffa demanded. The Jaffa in front of him bore the mark of his god, as did the others with him. But he hadn't been First Prime for very long, thus did not recognize these Jaffa. He was wary of a trap.
The Shakka launched into the story that would see him, and the others, safely onto the ship that waited above the planet. Explained that he and his squad had been taken in a surprise attack, and that they'd been forced to bide their time before making an escape. They'd been searching for the location of their god ever since. The two Jaffa they'd captured, he said, had seen their own god killed, and had listened eagerly to the stories of Osiris, and his great strength.
"And those?" the Jaffa asked, pointing to the members of SG-1.
"They arrived through the Chappa'ai last night," M'zel replied. "We seek to learn what they know."
The leader studied the much taller man. He wasn't wary enough. He walked into the trap, completely unaware. "You have done well, Jaffa. Osiris will surely honor your loyalty." He approached the pen, looked each of the men over carefully. "These are the Tau'ri whom Osiris seeks. You have certainly made our job easier," he said, giving M'zel a smile.
"It is my honor to serve the great and powerful Osiris," M'zel replied, bowing humbly.
"I am K'tar. Come, your god waits to welcome you home."
The team members exchanged glances. So far so good. Everything was going according to plan. And that worried the hell out of them.
In just a matter of minutes the team found themselves on their knees in front of Osiris. Sarah stood and moved away from her throne, walking around them, grabbing their hair, examining each face. She let her fingers move gently over Sam's cheek, repeated the caress with Casey. Both faces still bore the marks of their 'interrogation'.
Her fingers were trembling slightly, Casey noted. Because of the danger of the mission, or because she was touching the wife of the man she loved?
"You are very beautiful," Karinda's voice echoed. "You will be a fine addition to my harem. As will you," she said, turning to look at Sam. She motioned K'tar forward. "Take them. See to it that Mirim prepares them for me immediately."
"Yes, My Lord," K'tar replied, bowing.
She turned to face the three men of SG-1. "I will interrogate these prisoners myself. But first, I must hear how my Jaffa have found their way back to me."
M'zel obediently repeated the cover story for the benefit of the Jaffa who stood guard in the room.
"You have done well. Go, eat, rest. You will return to my service at once."
"Yes, My Lord."
"Because of your loyalty, you will become part of my personal guard," Karinda said, surreptitiously watching the other guards. Not one of them reacted, other than the faintest of smiles. If there any questions about these men being chosen for such duty, she wouldn't hear of it. More than likely the others would assume that Osiris wished to keep these Jaffa nearby, in order to keep a close watch on them.
"You honor me, My Lord."
"Yes, I do. Now go." Sarah turned to Adal and Aron. "Your god was weak, pathetic. Nothing," she hissed. "If you will vow your loyalty to me, I will allow you to live."
Both men fell to their knees, lowered their heads to the floor. "We are your servants, My Lord," Adal intoned.
Karinda made sure that the guards who watched the proceedings with rapt interest could see that she was 'thinking'. "I shall give you a task. A very simple task. Fail me and you will die slowly and horribly."
"Yes, My Lord?"
"You will guard these Tau'ri. If they escape, you will die."
"They will not, My Lord," Adal promised.
Sarah turned to one of the guards. "See to it that they are given proper uniforms. Take these...new pets...to the holding cell." Her smile was absolutely predatory.
Daniel shivered as he continued to translate in a whisper. For just a few fleeting seconds he wondered if they hadn't wandered into a colossal trap, that Osiris had never died, but had simply hidden in Sarah's mind, and was in control once again. Until she turned and gave him a slight wink.
For the second time in an hour the similar thoughts were dancing across five brains. It had been too easy. Things were going too well. They'd either been set up...or the mission was about to go to hell on them. Because plans never worked out the way they were supposed to for SG-1.
Sam and Casey were led into an opulent room. Mirim, they discovered, was a Tok'ra operative as well. It was not unusual, they were told, for Osiris to 'bed' his new conquests immediately. The sooner to break their spirits. Leaving them in the harem for too long without taking them...raping them...might allow them to think of escape. And those thoughts and hopes could infect the other women who waited to serve their god.
Sarah swept into the room. Put a device the size of a cigarette lighter on a nearby table, and activated it. "I have no idea if Anubis has spies among my Jaffa. If so, they might have bugged this room."
"Won't they...and he...become suspicious if all they hear is static?" Sam asked.
She shook her head, smiled slightly. "A Goa'uld expects treachery from another Goa'uld."
Casey shivered. "Damned stressful way to live."
"Yes it is," Sarah replied softly. "But it is a way of life to which they have subjected themselves. I have no pity for them."
"How long before we can plant the explosives?" Sam asked.
"Rather than go to him, as I'd expected to do, I'm to rendezvous with Anubis in just a matter of hours. He's eager to meet with me, although I have no idea why. Because you're new to my harem, it won't be questioned if I bring one of you with me," Sarah said.
"Take Casey," Sam said immediately. "She might be able to pick up something useful."
Sarah nodded, although her heart fell. She'd prefer to interact with Daniel's wife as little as possible, if only for the fact that Casey was still struggling with the knowledge of what had happened between her and Daniel. "Of course," she said softly.
"It's okay, Sarah, really," Casey said, understanding the woman's hesitation.
"He called out for you, every night. Reached for you. He was desperate to find you, get to you," Sarah whispered.
The woman inside her did a happy dance. Even knowing that while Daniel was calling her name, Sarah had been a bit desperate herself, needing him to fall back in love with her in order to implement her escape from the Goa'uld who possessed her. Not knowing that the Goa'uld was using her own hope of freedom against her. "Nothing that happened during that time can hurt us," she said softly.
No, it can't, Sarah thought, smiling sadly. She'd seen the anguish Daniel had suffered when Casey had been missing, the devastation that had filled his very soul at her absence. She'd seen the love in his eyes at the birthday party his wife had arranged for him. His concern when he'd raced after her, when her psychic abilities had exposed the secret that Karinda had tried to help her hide. He'd never see any other woman. Her, especially. Not after what she'd done. He'd made that abundantly clear in the briefing room. Whatever they'd shared in the past had been totally destroyed that day. She sighed mentally. And admitted to herself that even friendship with the man she loved...still...was not going to happen.
"You will ring to Anubis' ship while I meet with him," Karinda said. Hoping that her host understood that right now was not the time for 'tea and sympathy', as Sarah referred to it.
"Then we might be able to have this done in a matter of hours, rather than days!" Sam exclaimed. That was always good news. The faster they could get a job done, the sooner they were all home, safe and sound.
"Other Goa'uld have held SG-1 for even less than a few hours," Karinda smirked. "Why should Osiris be any different?"
Casey shook her head. "I don't think it's going to be that easy," she said softly.
Sam rolled her eyes. "I knew it! I knew things had been going too well!"
"Hey, we wouldn't be SG-1 if things didn't go tits up halfway through," Casey replied, smiling weakly.
"True." Sam sighed. "Any insights?"
The slender seer shook her head. "Not yet."
"In the meantime, what do we do?" Sam asked.
"Perhaps we should all rest," Sarah suggested softly, glancing that the huge bed that spread across one side of the room.
"The others will expect Osiris to...take...you," Mirim nodded. Like most of the Tok'ra, and the Free Jaffa, learning the language of the Tau'ri had been not only necessary, but a way to honor those who fought so valiantly against the Goa'uld. She could see the surprise in two pairs of eyes when she spoke.
"Go make certain that Colonel O'Neill, Doctor Jackson, and Teal'c are as comfortable as possible," Sarah instructed her companion. "Ladies, it's a big bed, and I really am a bit tired."
"Remember, appearances," Mirim said.
"Right," Sarah replied.
"Which means?" Sam asked.
"Naked," Casey said, instinctively understanding what was expected of them. Oh, Daniel won't be happy about this! She had to bite back a nearly hysterical giggle. She and her husband would share in common the fact that both of them had been naked and in bed with his former girlfriend. No doubt he'd fail to see the humor in the situation.
Sam grimaced. Being naked on a Goa'uld ship, even if the said Goa'uld was in reality a Tok'ra agent, was never a good idea. "I don't know..." she started.
Sarah reached out and touched the major's arm. "I understand your hesitation. But should something happen, and any of the Jaffa loyal to Osiris were to come in, suspicions would be raised to find us not in bed and..." She blushed, lowered her eyes.
"And it's possible that any of those Jaffa could be working for Anubis," Casey added softly.
She heaved a sigh. It could be worse, she supposed. At this moment she wasn't able to come up with such a scenario, but she did know that there was the chance of finding herself in an even less agreeable situation. "I will not take my panties off," Sam declared defiantly.
"That won't be necessary," Sarah smiled.
The three women disrobed, and slipped hurriedly into the bed. It would not be unusual for the two new 'slaves' to be huddling on the edges of the bed, away from one who could be a brutal master, after that master had satiated all lustful desires. So they were able to actually make themselves comfortable. In spite of the danger of the mission, and the stress that accompanied it, the women were able to fall into light sleep rather easily.
A A A A A A
"I hate this," Daniel grumbled, tugging at the lace of his boot.
"Figured that out," Jack replied easily.
"If anything happens to her-" he broke off, shook his head. "There is so much work piled up in my office, and more coming in every day. It could keep me busy for years."
Jack and Teal'c exchanged a worried glance. "And you mention this because...?" Jack asked.
Blue eyes looked up and locked on brown ones. "Because if something goes wrong, I won't stop until I find her, and get her home. And when I do, I won't go through the 'gate again. Nor will she."
Well, there it was. He'd suspected that the younger man had been thinking about this very thing, ever since the team became separated on the mission to find Tem's fleet. Daniel had lost one wife to the Goa'uld. He wouldn't survive losing another to the snakes as well. And that had damned near happened when Ba'al's Jaffa had captured Casey. Only the legendary SG-1 good luck, and the tenacity of five other SG teams, had brought a happy ending to that particular mission. "Good thoughts, Danny. Only good thoughts."
"I mean it, Jack."
"I know you do."
"Don't try to change my mind."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
Satisfied that his commanding officer...his best friend, understood exactly where he stood on the subject, Daniel gave a sharp nod of his head. For a man who could sit for hours working on a translation, or painstakingly removing an object from a millennia of dirt and mud, the inactivity of sitting in the cell was driving him crazy. He jumped to his feet, began to pace the length of their prison.
Jack leaned back, crossed his arms over his chest, closed his eyes. Teal'c was sitting on the floor as well. Both men had their legs stretched out in front of them, forcing their pacing companion to step over them. "Don't wear yourself out, Daniel," Jack said quietly.
The comment brought him to a temporary halt. He checked his watch. An hour. They'd been here for an hour, and not a word. They hadn't seen Adal or Aron, and that was a bit disconcerting. Without the rebel Jaffa to help them escape, chances were that they'd be unable to do so. Sam's understanding of circuitry and force fields had been the key to their escapes from holding cells in the past. Without her...Daniel shook his head mentally. Without Sam and her brilliant brain, they were truly prisoners. They were a team in every sense of the word, and without any one of them, the rest of the team was unable to function as efficiently.
A A A A A A
M'zel watched the other guards carefully, clandestinely. No doubt Anubis had at least one spy among them, Master Bra'tac had warned them to be extremely cautious. There were two so far who would bear further observation. If they were spies for Anubis, it would be to the benefit of all if Osiris...no, what was the woman's name?...Sarah...if Sarah knew.
He and his brethren had been welcomed back; several of their comrades...Jaffa they hadn't thought to ever see again...expressed feelings of relief that they were back among the faithful of their god.
One of the reasons M'zel and his friends were chosen for the mission was that they hadn't betrayed their god in the presence of others. They'd mutinied as a squad, simply walking away from the task they'd been given. L'mak had heard whispers of the Free Jaffa, and where it was possible to learn of safe places to hide. When Osiris had sent them on a scouting expedition, they'd seized the opportunity, and had used the Chappa'ai to gain their freedom. There were other Jaffa who had fled from Osiris, but they'd done so with witnesses to their acts of betrayal. Death would have been their reward had they attempted to return to the service of their god. Even if Osiris lived no longer, but was instead a Tok'ra operative. The loyal Jaffa would have seen to it that the punishment was meted out.
Osiris' First Prime approached. "Our god has chosen to honor you by giving you the status of personal guard. It is no doubt reward for your faithfulness."
"Osiris is a great god. It is an honor to serve him," M'zel replied.
The Jaffa sat down beside the Shakka. "Tell me, did you hear of the rebellion in your time away from us?"
M'zel frowned. Was the First Prime interested in joining the rebels, or was this a test, to learn if M'zel and his men were still loyal? "We heard of the shol'va."
"Did you speak to any of these shol'va?"
He shook his head. "None of the cowards would dare approach the Jaffa of Osiris. For all know that Osiris has only the most faithful in service to him."
The First Prime nodded slowly. "This is true. No doubt your loyalty did indeed terrify those who would so foolishly turn away from their gods."
"Finish your meal. Take a bath. You will be given new armor to wear. Then you will assume your new position."
"As you say," M'zel said, deferring to the man's rank of leader.
The First Prime patted the broad back of the returned warrior, stood and left. If he had doubts concerning M'zel's loyalty, he kept them to himself.
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