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 Whispers From The Past

Chapter 9

Jack dropped onto the bench in front of the metal lockers that lined the wall. It had been five days since Sha’re and Skaara and Kasuf had shown up...and had then been summarily bounced to another reality...where that SG-1 could deal with them. There had been two days of meetings and briefings about the mirror, and whether or not regular ‘intelligence reports’ could and should be exchanged between similar realities. His head was still spinning from all of the facts and figures Sam had come up with regarding the number of realities they could be looking at dealing with. It was a lot, he remembered that much. Alternate realities...oy. He’d been in another one, damned near died there. He, and each member of his team, had begun to feel the effects of being in the wrong universe. Thankfully, full blown ECF episodes hadn’t happened...but they were worse for wear by the time they arrived home. He wasn’t crazy about getting too comfortable with the idea of dealing with other realities. To him it seemed that leaving well enough alone was in their best interest. They had enough to deal with in their own reality! He looked up when Daniel sauntered into the locker room. Sauntered? Did Daniel ever saunter? Yep, the younger man was sauntering! "Daniel."


"So, did Casey get a tattoo?" He still wasn’t sure he liked the idea of Sam having one...even though she had told him that she always thought of him when she saw an eagle. Which was a nice sentiment, actually. He was just old fashioned, he supposed.

"Two actually."

The older man started. "Two?"

"Yep." He pulled off his sweater, folded it neatly Reached for the black tee shirt and blue pants and shirt that was the uniform for the day.

Jack happened to look up again just as Daniel turned around. "What in the hell?"

He couldn’t help but grin. Casey had noted during their shower earlier that morning that his tattoo looked completely healed...just before she had run her fingers over it again and again. He had checked hers, kissed each one gently, and reported that hers seemed to be healed as well. Gotta love Immortality, he thought.

"Daniel, is that a tattoo?"

He glanced down at his chest. "Why yes, Jack, that’s a tattoo."

"Those are wings like-" Jack broke off, glanced around. "Like Radar’s," he whispered.

"I know," Daniel whispered in return, his blue eyes dancing.

"When in the hell did you do that?"


"Oh." Jack frowned. Well, that explained why the archaeologist had disappeared soon after the team had taken their usual afternoon coffee break together. "So I suppose you were there when the Three Musketeers had their tattoos made permanent?"

He chuckled at the very apt and widely used description of Casey, Sam, and Janet. One for all, and all for one. Mess with one of those women, and you’d wind up taking on all three. Each of them boasted a temper that could leave the bravest man quaking in his boots. "Yes, I was. Only they didn’t know that," Daniel replied.

"They didn’t?"

"Nope. I was there getting mine done when they came in."

"So, uh...you said Casey has two?"

His grin broadened. "Sam didn’t tell you about them?"

Jack shrugged. "Only that it was something special for you."

"Like the eagle Sam got for you."

The older man grinned. "Yeah, how about that, huh? She thinks I’m like an eagle."

"Well, eagles are creatures of habit. Pretty mean, too," Daniel teased.

"Ha ha. So what special tattoos did Casey get?"

Daniel sat down beside his best friend. "They’re great, Jack," he said softly. "She has ‘Daniel’s Property’ on her inner thighs. About an inch from paradise."

Brown eyes went wide. "No kidding?"

"No kidding. No trespassing, that’s what it means," Daniel said confidentially, smirking ever so slightly. "Hers are the same calligraphy lettering that this is," he said pointing to Casey’s name. "Same colors, too."

"Wow." Jack frowned slightly. "Wonder if I should get an eagle. Maybe have it holding a ribbon or something, with Sam’s name in it?"

"It’s totally up to you, Jack. But I think Sam would love it."

The older man nodded. "I’ll have to think about it."

"You have all the time you need," Daniel said quietly, patting his friend’s back. He stood up, ready to get dressed. "If you decide to do it, talk to Janet. She numbed all three of them up for the procedure."

Before Jack even had time to process that remark, the door flew open, and Ferretti and several Marines walked in. The major stopped short, stood and stared at the obviously new body art on the archaeologist’s chest. "Holy shit!"

"What’s the matter, haven’t you ever seen a tattoo before?" Jack asked, then looked pointedly in the direction of the Special Ops emblem on the back of his shoulder.

Ferretti moved closer. "Damn, that’s impressive! Must have hurt like a son of a bitch."

"Actually, about halfway into it I was numb," Daniel admitted, with a sheepish grin.

The Marines were peering over Ferretti’s shoulder. "Nice wings," one of the men said approvingly.

Jack snorted. "You don’t know the half of it!"

Daniel glanced at him, chuckled again as he recalled his friend’s reaction to the portrait of Casey as his Fantasy Angel.

"What made you get a tattoo?" one of the other Marines asked.

"I guess because Casey has one," Daniel replied honestly.

"Mrs. J has a tattoo?" Ferretti asked, eyes wide. Was that what the Three Musketeers had been discussing the day before? Mrs. J’s tattoo? Oh lordy, did he want a peek at that!

"Two, actually," Jack smirked.

Eyes went wider. "Two?" he croaked.

"Tell ‘em, Daniel," Jack grinned.

"Don’t get your hopes up, Ferretti," Daniel smiled. "You’ll never see them."

The older man groaned. "You’re killing me here, Doc."

Daniel debated for just a moment. By telling Ferretti, he would head off any and all speculation on what, and where, Casey’s tattoos were. Then there was the fact that the women of the SGC would see the tattoos while in the locker room with Casey. And no doubt they would discuss said tattoos. He sighed. "Just two words. One on each thigh. Upper, inner thigh. ‘Daniel’s Property’."

"Daniel says they’re the same calligraphy and same color as Casey’s name," Jack tossed in.

Ferretti shivered at the mental image that danced through his brain. "Damn!"

"Doc, you are one lucky man," the youngest of the Marines said, shaking his head slightly.

"Yes, I am," Daniel agreed proudly. He finished pulling on his clothes. It was going to be a long day of translating...he hadn’t been able to devote much time to working on the images of those pillars in the past few days...and he was still no closer to finding a key to translating them than when he had first seen them. "See you for lunch?" he asked Jack.

"I’ll be there."

The men watched the archaeologist leave the room. One of the Marines shook his head. "Damned if that isn’t one of the most impressive tattoos I’ve ever seen!"

"I hear that," his companion agreed.

"Angel wings," Ferretti mused. "Well, he calls her ‘Angel’."

Jack grinned, finished getting dressed himself. That tattoo had just earned Daniel a few more points of respect from the fighting men of the SGC. Let anyone try to tell them that Daniel was gay!


A  A  A  A  A  A


"Oh no! Goddamnit!"

Daniel looked up abruptly from the table where he had the images of the pillars spread out, and several books on Latin and related dialects open in front of him. That cry of despair brought him instantly to awareness. "What?"

Casey slammed her hands down in the desk in front of the computer. "Twenty cross-references. Twenty of the damned things! Gone! I know I saved them...but they aren’t there now! Damn it!"

She had been working relentlessly on that database all day. Had been so wrapped up in it that he’d had to bring her lunch to her, because she’d refused to stop to take a break. He walked over and stood behind her, gently rubbing her shoulders. "Deep breath, Angel."

It had been awhile since she had been frustrated to tears. Well, not counting the whole Sha’re thing. It had been awhile since the database had frustrated her to tears. But she was damned near that point at the moment.

"Do you remember what they were?"

"Of course I do," she snapped. "Otherwise I wouldn’t know they’re missing!"


She shook her head. "I’m sorry, Sweetheart. It’s just that I want to get this damned thing finished, and it seems like something is always interrupting...or else I get blindsided by something like this."

He slipped his hands under her arms, tugged her to her feet, even as his heart did flip-flops, like it did every time she used that term of endearment. "Come on. Let’s go down to the commissary, see if they have any chocolate cake."

Casey turned, wrapped her arms around his neck, pressed her face to his throat. She took a deep breath, let his presence calm her in a way that nothing else could. "Okay," she said after a few moments.

Jack chose that moment to wander in, hands in his pockets, sleeves of his BDU shirt rolled up as usual...whistling slightly. He took one look at the couple, their expressions bringing him to an abrupt halt. "What? What’s wrong? How bad is it?"

Daniel couldn’t help but grin, a fact he hid by pressing his face against Casey’s silky hair. "It’s bad, Jack," he said quietly. "I’m taking Casey for chocolate cake to help her deal with it."

"Aw, crap," the colonel sighed. If she needed chocolate, it was at least a three-alarm ‘message’.

Casey pulled away from Daniel just far enough to look up into his eyes. Caught his subtle wink. "This so pisses me off," she grumped honestly, playing along nonetheless.

Radar pissed? Okay, not only was that not good, it probably meant that Balls was up to his old tricks again. Damn it, the team needed a break...just a bit of calm. They’d weathered too many storms in the past few weeks. Jack rubbed the back of his neck. "Should I get the team together before we talk to Hammond?"

Daniel nodded. "Meet us in the commissary."

"Right." Jack turned on his heel and hurried out of the room.

Casey shoved her face against Daniel’s shoulder and giggled. "That was so mean!" she said, her voice muffled.

"I know. But after all of his teasing, to be able to get one over on him always makes me happy," Daniel admitted, with a guilty smile. "Let’s go get that cake, shall we?"




Within five minutes, the members of SG-1 were sitting at ‘their’ table, picking at chocolate cake. Three members watched the slender blonde seer carefully.

"Well?" Jack asked impatiently.

"Well what?" Casey asked, licking thick fudge frosting from her fork.

"What’s going on?"



Casey shook her head, still frustrated over what had happened. "Twenty cross-references disappeared. Twenty of them! Do you know how much time it takes to make twenty cross-references?"

Jack let his fork clatter onto the plate, sat back in his chair. "Oh, for crying out loud!"

Sam began to laugh. "That’s what this is about?"

"I thought Case could use a little cheering up," Daniel said unrepentantly, his cheek twitching.

"Indeed. It is most frustrating to have work vanish in such a manner," Teal’c nodded.

Casey looked over at the Jaffa. "You’ve lost work on the computer?"

"I have."

Daniel snorted. "They were levels of Tetris."

"I had achieved an impressive score," Teal’c countered.

She burst into giggles. Reached over and wrapped her hand around the large, square fingers of her friend. "Thanks, Teal’c."

Teal’c inclined his head in acknowledgement.

Jack crossed his arms over his chest. "I am not amused. I thought Radar had picked up something serious!"

"You made the assumption," Daniel shrugged.

The colonel focused his glare on the archaeologist. "You encouraged that assumption!"

"He’s got you there, Stud Muffin," Casey grinned.

"Payback," Daniel muttered.

"What?" Jack looked confused. "Payback?"

"For all the times you’ve teased and harassed me," Daniel shot back.

"It was all in fun!" Jack protested.

"Your fun, Jack," Daniel said. "It wasn’t always fun on my side of the ordeal."

The older man frowned slightly. Everyone knew he was a joker, a prankster. They expected it of him. And he was never one to let down those under his command. Besides, the way he teased Space Monkey was a sign of affection.

Daniel caught the look in Jack’s eyes. "I’m not saying that I resent it when you tease me," he sighed, worried that he had honestly hurt his best friend’s feelings. "I just wanted to get you back. For a change."

Jack studied the younger man. Then grinned. "I guess some of my expertise is rubbing off on you."

"Your what?" The look of surprise on Daniel’s face brought a round of laughter from his teammates. 

"If you were able to come up with this as fast as you did, well then, my panache is rubbing off on you."

Daniel laughed at the look of smug satisfaction on Jack’s face. He wondered if the man had a clue what ‘panache’ actually meant...although it certainly fit. "Right, Jack, I learned it all from you."

Jack grinned from ear to ear. "See? What’d I tell you? You’re pretty smart, for a scientist."

Another round of laughter filled the air. Casey offered to refill coffee cups, her way of saying thank-you to her friends for their willingness to rush to her aid. An offer that was enthusiastically accepted. A pleasant hour was spent catching up, sharing the petty aggravations of the day. When she sat back down in front of Daniel’s computer, she was ready to tackle the database once again.


A  A  A  A  A  A


It had been a long day. There had been a modicum of success, he’d found three symbols on the pillars that were a clue to the particular dialect of Ancient used in the cuneiform. However, that dialect was extremely rare, and he wasn’t at all familiar with it. Nor did it help to discover that there wasn’t a complete listing of the alphabet of the dialect; there were two dozen known symbols at best.

When he pulled his sweater from the shelf of his locker, an envelope fluttered to the floor. He bent over to retrieve it. It was still sealed. The handwriting on the front was his own...this was the letter the Daniel from the other reality had given him. In the aftermath of that day, his concern focused on Casey, he had completely forgotten about it. No doubt what was contained in it was personal. He carefully pushed the stationary into his coat pocket. He’d read it at home, in the privacy of his den. He loved Jack like a brother. But sometimes the older man could be a real pain-in-the-ass about things...and it wouldn’t be beneath Jack to try and take the letter to read it. Not out of malice, just extreme nosiness. And an overblown sense of protectiveness.

He looked up when the members of SG-7 walked into the locker room. Nodded cordially, the fact that he was still shirtless not registering in his mind. He missed the wide-eyed reactions, the silent looks exchanged behind his back as he pulled on his sweater.

"Nice tattoo, Doc," one of the men said.


"I heard Mrs. J has one."

"Yep." He pulled on his boots. "Just getting in, or going out?"

"Getting ready to head out," the major in charge of the team, Tim Andrews, replied.

"Well, good luck."

"Thanks. Looks to be a simple recon," Andrews replied. "Mrs. J didn’t ‘see’ anything, so we’re looking at a cakewalk."

Daniel grinned. "Hopefully we’ll pull one or two of those missions."

"I hear that," the major grinned in return. It was common knowledge that SG-1 drew the most dangerous, the most important diplomatically, the most difficult, the...oddest...of all missions on the roster.

With a wave, Daniel left the room, crossed the corridor to lean against the wall near the door to the women’s locker room. Normally Casey was ready to leave as quickly as he was.

The men watched the archaeologist during the time it took for the door to swing closed. "Damn! That was one hell of a tattoo!"

"You could see each feather on those wings from across the room. That’s art, my friend," the second man said.

"Had to have hurt like a son-of-a-bitch."

"Yep," Andrews said. "Not surprised to see that he has his wife’s name on his chest."

"I heard that she has his name on her thigh. Inner thigh," the man speaking grinned.

"If that’s true, he’s a damned lucky man," the major said.

"Straight up."

"I hear that!"

The major turned his attention back to his locker. Grinned slightly. Rumors were already bouncing about the tattoos. How much the Jacksons loved each other to have done such a thing. He rather imagined that there were a few disappointed men...those who didn’t know Mrs. J well enough to understand that she was the kind of woman who loved one man, and loved him deeply. If anything were ever to happen to Dr. Jackson, he didn’t believe she would ever love again. Tattoo or no tattoo.


A  A  A  A  A  A


Casey was busy fixing dinner...one of the casseroles and something quick and easy for dessert...smelled good, whatever it was. Daniel leaned back in his chair. Stared for a moment at the envelope. He wondered just what his counterpart had to say that was so important that he felt it necessary to give him a letter. If it was intel, he didn’t think that...Daniel...would have been as careful, making certain that only the two of them knew about the exchange.

There was only one way to find out...and that was to open it. With a sigh, he grabbed the letter opener Casey had given him for Christmas...a ‘stocking stuffer’ she had called it. And it had been in the velvet Christmas stocking that hung from the mantle. It was a very nice letter opener. And he was stalling. With a sigh, he carefully slit open the envelope.

The letter was written in the cuneiform he'd developed in college...a quick way to take notes, and to prevent those around him from being able to copy his work. It had also come in handy when working on projects with Dr. Steven Raynor. That man was quick to steal the work of others, and claim it as his own. He wondered absently if his counterpart had developed the cuneiform for the same reasons.

Whatever this letter said, the Daniel of the other reality hadn’t wanted anyone else to be able to read it. He quickly deciphered the text, not paying attention to the individual words or sentences or the meaning therein. He simply copied the letter over, then settled back, white legal pad in hand. That the handwriting in the original was exactly like his own poked at him for only a moment.



He couldn’t help but smile. Odd, strange, peculiar...downright weird...those were terms he’d grown accustomed to living with, working at the SGC. Like his counterpart, ‘normal’ now worried him. Because it meant they had missed something, overlooked some detail, hadn’t recognized a sign or warning. ‘Normal’ was the true oddity now. Should that in itself bother him?



No, it doesn’t, he thought grimly. He'd been so shocked at Sha’re’s arrival that his brain had refused to be of any help at all...he'd been reacting on autopilot to her presence. Not such a good thing, in hindsight.



It was reassuring, in a strange way, to know that someone, somewhere understood what his intentions had been, why he had acted the way he had. Someone who understood, really understood just how unnerving it had been to see Sha’re, and then to have her behave as if she was the Sha’re he had known and loved, as if there had been no heartbreaking separation, no soul-wrenching death.

No, Casey certainly wasn’t a mind reader. And yes, he had assumed that she would understand. Because they were always so in tune with one another’s thoughts...‘simpatico’. But that harmony had been disrupted, the result of his jealousy, and her own feelings of...well, if not abandonment, then certainly she'd been feeling ignored. Would she have reacted differently, would his motives have been clearer to her, had they been ‘tuned in’ to one another? He’d never have the answer to that question.



Exasperating? Gee, ya think? He shook his head. He’d been hanging around Jack too much. And - Daniel - was a mind reader, he thought That was exactly how he’d been feeling...what he'd been thinking, what he’d been trying to do. He supposed that given this was a letter from...well, himself...it shouldn’t be surprising that this ‘other Daniel’ understood. True, he would have done his best to see that anyone who stepped through the mirror was as...comfortable...as possible, even under the extreme circumstances. When Dr. Samantha Carter-O’Neill had arrived, along with Kawalsky, he had spoken with each, offering his assistance to them in any way they might need. Samantha, as she had preferred to be called, had hugged him tightly, thanked him for his concern. Kawalsky had thanked him as well, noting that after learning about the archaeologist, maybe he'd look up the Dr. Daniel Jackson of his own reality. Something that had pleased him, as he recalled.

He ran a hand over his jaw. Sha’re had always been...focused...on what she wanted, not necessarily what was best for her or anyone else. Or even close to reality at times. Not that she wasn’t firmly entrenched in the ‘real world’. She just believed it should automatically rearrange itself to accommodate her desires. That certainly hadn’t changed, or been any different in the counterpart who had stepped through the mirror.

Frustrating...what an understatement. Infuriating, that was closer to how he'd often viewed Sha’re’s behavior. Certainly had been how he felt the day her ‘double’ had shown up. Kasuf and Skaara...the two men who should have known better...who should have understood, had chosen instead to allow Sha're to continue in her...mistaken...belief that he was, or could be her husband; her desire to be with ‘Dan’yel’ driving all of them, it seemed. He certainly didn’t believe that the Kasuf and Skaara he knew, that he had lived with, would ever have allowed Sha’re to behave the way her counterpart had behaved at the SGC that day.



Daniel closed his eyes. Nor had he ever wanted to dwell on the more brutal customs. He had chosen to cling to the peaceful memories, the private moments with Sha’re. Those were the memories he had nurtured. As peaceful as the Abydonians were, and appeared, there was indeed a very brutal side to their life. Perhaps it was the result of living in the desert, of being slaves to a Goa’uld for so very long. His counterpart was correct...only those who lived among the Abydonians understood. How many times had he seen the fights, fought out in a circle of onlookers, the winner declared by simple fact of being able to remain on his...or her...feet. He’d been lucky, he supposed...he'd never been challenged. His position as ‘leader’ had been cemented when he returned to the village from Ra’s ship, alive and unharmed. Those simple people never knew what he had endured...what he had sacrificed. He'd never been able to explain it to himself in a way that he understood, let alone to those who had no concept of the technology involved. Not even Sha’re had been able to explain what she had seen when he used the sarcophagus to bring her back to life, unwilling...unable...to lose her so soon after finding her.

Would it have made a difference if his teammates had known...if Casey had known? Even if the thought to explain had crossed his mind...which it hadn’t...just exactly when would he have done so? No, there hadn’t been time, no chance to explain that Sha’re was trying to establish her dominance, her position, with her actions...her behavior. That in her mind, she was doing what was expected as the daughter of a chief, and the wife of the man who had become the nearly god-like leader. He frowned. He'd always tried so hard to make them understand that he was just a man, a simple archaeologist. But, other than Sha’re...who had often treated him like a lumbering buffoon...they never seemed to get it. Casey had once told him...as he had explained that aspect of his life on Abydos...that to those people, he was far more than just a man. He was the man who had freed them from a malevolent god. There was nothing simple about that, she had noted.



Again he ran a hand over his face. He'd already gone over that day in his mind a hundred times, every detail he could recall. How he should have reacted, what he should have said, what he should have done. How he should have realized that his Wife was on the verge of falling apart because of his actions...because he hadn't tried hard enough to explain to her, to assure her of his love. He hadn’t even suspected that she'd been so crushed emotionally. Angry, yes. He had been aware of her anger. But not her heartbreak. Not her - devastation. Every tear Casey had shed that day was his fault...nothing would ever change that fact. He could only hope that in time he could make it all up to her.

He re-read the last line...gave a small smile. Very good advice, Daniel, he thought.



Daniel gave a quiet snort. You’re welcome, he thought sourly. Sure as hell would have been nice to have had a bit of warning myself! Certainly he had learned a lesson or two from his experiences with the mirror. For one moment he wondered just what his counterpart meant about being ‘technically’ able to turn back time. It was obvious that his counterpart had ‘technically’ done so just dealing with his reality. What could that Daniel have encountered to make the prospect of ‘turning back time’ so unappealing?




Feather? Blindfold? Scream with delight? Oh, he did like the sound of that! Hearing Casey’s soft, throaty scream of ecstasy always sent shivers of pure pleasure up and down his spine. His imagination began to run wild...he could visualize Casey restrained to the bed, a blindfold over her eyes, her beautiful body gloriously naked...writhing...oh yeah, this had definite potential! He closed his eyes, created a fantasy image of Casey in a skimpy little French maid outfit...oh, god that's just beautiful! He wondered briefly where he could locate such an outfit, and how he would go about asking her to wear it for him...

Wait a minute...he re-read the first part of that section again. Planet that wasn’t Earth, impressive powers...Could it be? Could it honestly be...He threw his head back and laughed. Just what were the chances of he and this counterpart meeting the same...counterpart...in yet another reality? He wondered why the ‘other’ Daniel hadn’t seen fit to offer this advice himself, when SG-1 had been trapped in that reality for those long, terrifying hours...Because, his mind informed him, you weren’t married at the time!



Perhaps, he thought, tossing the pad onto his desk, he’d have a letter of his own to give to his counterpart the next time they met. A thank you...and a little ‘update’ about his own experience with a feather.

"Just what are you laughing about?"

He looked up to see Casey standing at the door, hands in the hip pockets of her jeans...an action that thrust his beauties forward, and made his hands itch to cup them. "Nothing."

"Uh huh. Well, whatever it is, put it on hold. Dinner’s ready."

He stood to his feet, tossed a folder casually on top of the legal pad. He’d take care of the letter later...he wanted to read it at least one more time...just to make certain he hadn’t missed anything. "Case, have you ever thought about a French maid’s outfit?"

Green eyes went wide. "What?"

"You know, one of those sexy little French maid outfits."

She glanced at the computer. Yep, it was on. Just what in the hell had he been looking at? As far as she knew, he’d never been to porn sites...that just wasn’t Daniel. He read Playboy...he’d had a subscription for years, according to the dates on the magazines she'd located in his closet. He bought them for the articles, he claimed. Ha! But porn on the web? Nope, not his style. It was too...trashy...for his taste. "No, I’ve never thought about it. Why?"

"Oh, no reason."

"Uh huh." She studied him carefully. The worry lines around his eyes, which had been so pronounced since Sha’re’s sudden appearance, had lessened considerably. "What’s going on?"

It was his turn to study her. Keeping things from his Wife wasn’t a good idea. Especially when she was a seer; a gifted seer who had a proclivity for twisting what she thought were the facts of a matter into something that fit the low self esteem with which she viewed herself. He glanced down at the legal pad. "I was just reading a letter."

"Oh? From whom?" She'd been the one to check the mail that day upon arriving home. There hadn’t been any letters!

"From Daniel. Annika’s Daniel," he explained.

If Annika and her Daniel were anything like she and Daniel, the redhead had shared everything she'd seen and heard that day. Probably even that little...visit...that an apparition of Annika had paid to Daniel. And, being Daniel, he...that is, the ‘other’ Daniel...would be inclined to offer comfort; even if it was to ‘himself’. A bit of understanding. Who else would know exactly what her husband had been thinking and feeling? Casey smiled. "He was able to offer a bit of solace, wasn’t he?"

Again his eyes went to the legal pad. "Yeah, he was," Daniel admitted softly. "No one knows...no one understands exactly what life on Abydos was like...exactly what Sha’re was like...or even what my motives were...except...well, me. I guess ‘hearing’ that I did the best I could, that I was dealing with bizarre circumstances and trying to-" He broke off, shook his head. It sounded as if he were trying to excuse his behavior of that day, and he certainly wasn’t doing that. "It helped."

She walked into the room, slipped her arms around his waist. "Good. I hate seeing you so upset, and hurting. I didn’t know what to say, what to do to help, how to make it...better."

His arms were around her, pulling her close. "You did far more than you realize," he said softly. "You forgave me...you still love me, that’s all I need or want."

Snuggling into his embrace, Casey closed her eyes and sighed. "You still love me, and that’s all I’ll ever need or want."

Just for a minute, he told himself. He just needed to hold her for a minute. His eyes drifted closed, he pressed his face against the silky softness of her hair. Breathed deeply of her sweet scent. Grinned when her hands patted his ass.

"Dinner, Stud Muffin. I’m hungry."

"What are we having?"

"Tater Tot casserole and brownies."

"Hope it’s a big dish, I’m famished," Daniel replied. He gave her a quick kiss on the forehead before relinquishing his hold on her.

"Did you hear the latest rumors going around the mountain?"

He bit back a groan. "What is it this time?"

"Well, according to scuttlebutt," she replied, her green eyes dancing as she led the way to the kitchen, walking sideways so that she could continue to look at him as she spoke, "you went out and got this awesome tattoo because I have a tattoo of your name...which is very accurately described; at least the location of said tattoo is very accurately described."

Damn it, Ferretti! "And?"

"And everyone is amazed by yours! I heard a couple of Marines saying that it was the most intricate tattoo they’d ever seen...well, seen in person. And that it must have hurt like a son-of-a-bitch."

"It did," he muttered.

"Oh, Daniel!" Her hand went instantly to his chest, her fingers caressing the shirt above his tattoo. "I’m sorry!"

"Angel, there is nothing for you to be sorry about! I was actually numb for most of it." He did groan out loud when he saw the tears standing in her eyes. "I’d do it again in a heartbeat," he said softly. "I love having your name on my skin. I love the way you touch it, the look in your eyes when you run your fingers over it."

"I love it, too," she said softly. "It is an amazing tattoo." She sat down at the breakfast bar beside him, dished up the piping hot casserole. "Wanna bet that there will be at least a dozen people sporting new tattoos by the end of the month?"

"You’re on. Not more than ten. All Marines," he replied.

"Ha! Fifteen at the least! And half of them will be women!"

"No way."

"Yes, way! Everyone is also talking about Sam’s and Janet’s tattoos."

"How do they know about those?"

"Ever heard of a locker room?" she asked drolly.

He chuckled. "Yours aren’t so visible."

Casey giggled. "Nope. But they sure are being talked about!"

He laughed at the smirk in her voice. "Think we’ve started something?"

"I know we have. Thus our bet," she teased.

He took a bite of the casserole, which was very good, as usual. Chewed slowly. Wondered just how much of a difference the tattoo had made in his ‘geek’ reputation. Then just as quickly decided that he didn’t give a damn. The only opinion that mattered was Casey’s, and if her reactions were anything to go by, she was very pleased with his tattoo. If she liked it, and he liked it...well, who cared what anyone else said or thought?




Later, watching her as she settled on the bed beside him, reaching for him, ready to make love, he once again thought about the images of her...bound, blindfolded, skin glistening in the soft light from the lamp...the murmurs and cries as he teased her with a feather...oh yeah, this was something he had to do! Something very special...maybe for their anniversary...A plan began to form in his mind...

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