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Devil in the Shadows
It was seven-forty when the waitress led them to the table where the others waited. Knowing smiles flickered around the table. Emily excitedly told her parents about the sandcastle that had been erected, and how the waves had come and filled up the moat that they had dug. The little girl told them that Auntie Carly had taught her and Evvie how to build the sandcastle, sending adoring looks at the Spanish woman as she spoke. Auntie Carly smiled indulgently. Amber and Nicholas, it seemed, had had more fun chasing the waves back and forth. Both tots were nearly asleep in their highchairs.
The meal was wonderful, made more so because everyone was hungry, and the company was excellent. Daniel was pleased to see Casey eating more than she had in weeks, and Emily followed suit.
It was nearly ten-thirty when the group began to walk back toward their hotel. Emily was asleep on Daniel's shoulder, Nicholas was asleep in his grandfather's arms. The group agreed that breakfast in their rooms sounded the best, allowing each family to eat at their leisure. They would meet on the beach at noon and decide what they wanted to do then. With quiet goodnights, they all went to their own rooms. There were two beds in the Desala's room, Daniel put Emily onto one of them on one side, Aaron put Nicholas on the other side. With a smile and a good night, he closed the connecting door between the rooms.
Casey opened the bottle of wine she had brought with her, filled two of the plastic cups that waited on the counter. "Feel like wishing on stars?"
"Yeah, I do," Daniel replied. There were patio chairs on the balcony that overlooked the ocean. He pulled two of them side by side, sat down next to the railing. Casey settled beside him, then slipped her hand into his. He rubbed his thumb over the ridge of her knuckles.
"I'm feeling better already," she said quietly.
"Do you think the NID will give up trying to capture you?"
"They will when we wipe them out of existence."
"Until then, we're going to be at risk every time we leave Gamma, aren't we?"
He raised her fingers to his lips, kissed them gently. "Angel, we're already at risk every time we go through the 'gate."
"You know what I mean," she insisted.
He sighed. "I know what you mean. I don't know, Casey. I hope not. We know that we're dealing with a much smaller group now. If funding and supplies from Earth are completely cut off, and if all the agents there are apprehended, I think they'll have more important things to worry about than us."
"Like staying in business?"
"Let's hope that Duncan got through to the people on Earth this time."
He raised his glass. "Here's hoping."
She touched her glass to his and took a drink. They sat in companionable silence, watching the night sky, finishing the wine. "Ready to go to bed?" she asked.
He grinned. "Yeah, I'm ready to go to bed."
A A A A A A
It was already the sixth day of their vacation, they were all more relaxed than they had been in months. Nicholas was sitting in his ring, his plump little legs dangling in the ocean, his hands gripping the plastic while he giggled and laughed. Casey kept her hand on the ring, watching her son enjoying his swim. Sam had Amber in her ring just a few feet away.
Daniel and Jack had their daughters out in the surf, holding them up and then dropping them down into the waves that flowed around them. Their little squeals of laughter could be heard all the way to the shore.
Carly and Teal'c had opted to spend the afternoon in their room, as had Aaron and Erin. Mrs. Peterson was doing a bit of shopping.
"This is great," Casey sighed.
"Yeah, it is," Sam agreed.
"Do you realize this is the first real vacation we've all had since these two were conceived?"
"Wow, you're right. We've all had a weekend here or there, but yeah, this is the first time we've had a real vacation. We certainly earned it with that whole Nergal thing," Sam said.
"Not to mention Rheda," Casey said, giving a small shudder.
"Let's not mention her. Or Dovinia Minor." Now it was Sam who shuddered.
"Let's not mention them. Or the Place of the Old Ones."
"Not one of our finer moments," Sam said.
"Not really. Then there was this latest…unpleasantness. Yep, we have earned this vacation," Casey said. The two women watched their husbands and daughters for a few minutes. Casey started getting 'that' feeling. She pulled her lip between her teeth, more than a little worried. She looked around, trying to determine what was the cause of her unrest. "Sam, do those clouds on the horizon look…funny…to you?"
Sam put her hand up to shade her eyes from the bright afternoon sun. "Yeah, they do. That's a storm, and it's headed this way. Looks like a big one."
They both noticed the subtle change in the waves. "I think maybe we should head for the hotel," Casey said.
"I think you're right."
'Check out the horizon.'
'Shit! Head for the beach, Angel.'
Casey smiled. "He said to head for the beach." She could see Daniel pointing to the clouds that lined the area where the ocean met the sky, both he and Jack grabbed the girls and were hurrying toward the shore. She pulled Nicholas into her arms, grabbed the safety ring with the other hand and began to wade to the beach.
A quick glance over their shoulders as they gathered toys, towels and blankets showed that the storm was moving quickly. The lifeguards on duty were using their bull horns to call people back to the beach, urging them to return to the safety of the hotel.
Sandwiches, fruit and pots of coffee were ordered, and everyone squeezed into Jack and Sam's room to wait the storm out. It wasn't difficult to get the four children down for a nap in Mrs. Peterson's adjoining room. The sun, salt water, and fresh air - along with the excitement of being on a vacation - had worn them out. Casey had brought along several card games, UNO being one of them. The group was already engaged in a lively game when the first winds hit the building, making it shudder around them. Rain began to pound against the windows and patio doors.
Jack suggested closing all of the curtains, just in case. It would offer some protection if the windows were to break. An hour later the power went out. Emergency lights flickered on, and they continued to play their game. They could hear agitated voices in the hallway. Jack, Daniel, Teal'c, and Aaron went to find out what was happening. They returned a few minutes later, telling the women that several guests had become panicked, demanding to leave. Until the storm was over, no one was going anywhere. The manager assured Jack that the hotel wasn't even half full, and that there was plenty of food and fresh water to last for at least three days. Storms were frequent during the 'off months', which was what made them 'off months', and the man had assured his VIP guests that there was nothing to worry about.
By evening it seemed that the worst of the storm was over. There was still no power, but the water was still running, so they were able to clean up, albeit with cold water. The dining room was open, offering a variety of cold foods. With nothing else to do, the group called it a night.
The next morning the sound of silence seemed odd after the long hours of howling wind. The beach was covered with seaweed and a multitude of sea life that had been washed ashore. Daniel and Casey took Emily and Nicholas for a walk, rescuing any creatures they found that were still alive.
They made their way back to the hotel, telling the disappointed Emily that when the beach had been cleaned up, they would come back out and she could build more sandcastles and swim again. She was content to play in one of the playgrounds that the hotel provided.
Casey glanced at Daniel, then pulled her notebook from the beach bag that she carried. "I… um…would you be interested in reading a couple of my poems?"
Surprise filled his eyes when he looked at her. The only time he'd ever read any of her poetry was when he found her journals by accident. "I'd love to read them, Angel."
She shyly opened the book to the page she wanted, and handed it to him. "That's the first poem I wrote after we were married. Right after our honeymoon," she told him her voice soft. "I know it's…bad… I just want you to know…need you to know how much I love you."
He smiled at her, and began to read.
The Pathways of My Life
I run down a path, the world so big around me.
He looked at her, his eyes wide, full of love. Cleared his throat before he tried to speak. "It's…it's great, babe. I'm…blown away by this…and so damned glad that it was my arms you fell into," he said softly. "It's beautiful, Case."
She blushed. "It's nothing," she murmured. She took the journal and opened it to another page, one obviously not original to the book. "I wrote this one right after your birthday…celebration …I…um…" she shook her head, and put the book in his hand again.
He winked at her, and again began to read.
He is the Master, I am his Slave.
"Damn, Casey," he whispered. "I…I don't know what to say…I'm the one enslaved, Angel." He reached for her, pulled her into his arms. "I love you, Casey Renee Jackson."
She wrapped her arms around him, held tightly. "I love you Daniel Melburn Jackson. I just wanted you to know," she whispered.
"Thank you," he whispered in reply. "You don't know what this…what these poems…mean to me. I…" he shook his head, kissed her gently. "I wish I had your way with words so that I could tell you what a…gift…these are." He pulled away, looked down into her eyes, the love he saw reflected there making his breath catch in his throat. He pushed her hair behind her shoulder, let his fingers move over her beautiful face. Her smile dazzled him, bewitched him.
"You liked them?" She searched his face, looked into blue eyes filled with love, let that love wrap around her like a soft, warm blanket.
He laughed. "Oh, yeah, Angel. I liked them. I love them!"
"Good." She took the journal and stuffed it back inside the bag at her feet.
He watched Emily and Nicholas playing in the sandbox, then glanced at her. He couldn't hide his grin. If he was the 'drug' that she craved, then she was certainly the 'drug' that he was addicted to. Not just metaphorically, either. That thought made his grin all the wider. He'd had an incredible…fix…this morning.
"I guess you really did like them," she teased.
He caught her hand, lifted it to his lips and kissed her fingers. "More than I can say. More than I'll ever be able to put into words."
"I think it's just the 'Master' part that you like."
He laughed again. "I do like that, Angel. A lot. You're my sweet, Beloved Little Slave."
She giggled. "As long as you love me, my sweet and gentle Master."
"Always, Angel. At my side forever."
"At your side forever," she agreed.
Sam and Jack approached the bench where they sat, Evvie and Amber running to join Emmie and Nicholas in the sandbox. "You're looking particularly happy today, Danny," Jack said, settling his tall frame down on the ground beside the bench.
Daniel glanced at Casey. "Yeah, well, when your wife writes incredible poems about you…"
Casey blushed, turned to look out at the ocean. "They're not incredible," she mumbled.
He put his arm around her shoulders, pulled her to lean against him as Sam sat down beside her. "Yeah, Angel, they are."
"So are you ever going to let us read any of them?" Sam asked playfully.
Her blush deepened, and she looked down at her hands. "Maybe someday, if I ever write anything worth reading."
Sam studied her best friend for a minute or two. "I have a feeling that all of them are worth reading."
Casey pulled her lower lip between her teeth, then pulled the journal from the bag. She opened the book to Pathways, then let both Sam and Jack read. Her fingers shook as she waited in silence while they read her words.
Sam looked up, tears standing in her eyes. "Casey, that's…wow," she said softly.
"I wrote that right after we got back from our honeymoon," Casey said.
Jack handed the book to her, cleared his throat. "I never was into poetry. But that's something, Case. I mean…it makes me…I can feel…like Sam said, wow."
Daniel smiled, his eyes full of pride. "Told ya so, babe," he whispered. He planted a kiss on her temple.
Later that day, when Teal'c, Carly and her parents had joined them, they were also given the opportunity to read the poem. Erin's eyes were full of tears when she handed the book back to Casey.
"You have suffered so, my darling daughter. Instead of becoming angry, or bitter, you let the hurt flow out, use words to purge that pain from your soul. You are an incredible young woman," Erin said softly.
Casey blushed, shrugged her slender shoulders slightly. "It's no big deal."
Daniel shook his head. "Maybe not to you. To those of us who can't use words like that, It's impressive, Angel."
"Can we talk about something else, please?" Casey asked, clearly uncomfortable with the conversation and the praise she was receiving.
Jack cleared his throat. "Let's talk about the three goons who've been watching us all afternoon," he said quietly. "Don't look or react," he warned quickly.
"Erin, why don't we take the children inside," Aaron said softly. "We'll see about having a snack sent up to our room."
Erin nodded. "Emily, precious one, let's go inside and take a nap. You don't want to fall asleep during the play tonight. Nicholas, come to Meemaw, my darling."
Emily bounced to where Erin was sitting, Nicholas toddling happily behind. Aaron grabbed him up and began to tickle him. The little boy squealed with delight.
"Evvie, you and Amber go with Meemaw and Peepaw Desala," Sam said, smiling at her daughters. "The play will be long, and you don't want to miss any of it."
The hotel had hired local talent who put on plays depicting Langara's history, and the group had agreed that they didn't want to miss out on the experience. The children were thrilled that they were going to be allowed to attend with the grown-ups. So much so that if a nap were required, it was a small price to pay in order to stay up past their normal bedtime.
"I'll contact Mrs. Peterson, and have her join us," Aaron said quietly.
Jack nodded. "We'll check in with you in a few minutes. Don't answer the phone. One of us will come to the door. Have Erin…make sure…that it's safe before you open it up."
The Ancient nodded. He led his wife and the four little ones back inside the hotel. Carly and Teal'c followed after a few minutes.
"Let's take a walk, see what we can see, since the newlyweds want to be alone," Jack said loudly, sounding as if he were teasing the departing couple. He stood up and took Sam's hand, led her toward the outdoor dining room where the three men, dressed in what looked like brand new shorts and tropical print shirts, all matching, were still sitting.
Daniel stood, pulled Casey to her feet and into a hug. "Angel, see what you can feel," he whispered in her ear.
She looked up at him, smiled, waited for his comforting presence in her mind. Holding tightly to him, she reached out toward the men. Shivered violently. She found one who seemed to be… weaker…than the other two, carefully pushed forward. She tightened her arms around Daniel's neck, kissed his chin, then slowly pulled away. When she was safe again, she took his hand and led him to where Sam and Jack were waiting.
"Shall we have a drink?" Jack asked, noting the look in Casey's eyes.
"Good idea," Casey said. She walked boldly beside the table where the men sat, actually faked a stumble and reached out to steady herself, one of the men reaching out and offering a hand. "Thank you," she said, flashing a smile. "Maybe I shouldn't have a drink if I'm already falling over my own feet," she giggled. The touch confirmed what she had seen. It was cold. Dangerous.
All three men smiled automatically at her. Two of them exchanged knowing looks.
The teammates sat down at a table close to the door of the hotel. "Okay, what did you get?" Daniel asked.
"NID. From what I could get from one of them, they're with the group that broke off when Ptah took over those that Kinsey was leading. With Ptah's little organization exposed and being pulled apart, this group, I couldn't get any idea of who the Boss is, anyway, they thought it would be easy to 'stay in business'. That ship we just blew up was a big part of their operation. Must have been more than just a flying mad scientist's laboratory. Anyway, they're getting desperate. And they want Daniel in the worst way." She took a deep breath. "They want him working for them… sort of like a breathing weapon."
"And they'll use you to keep him doing what they want," Jack finished.
She nodded. "They're getting desperate enough that they're getting sloppy. I got the sense that none of them want to be here. The one I could…get into…thinks being here is too risky. He certainly doesn't like the idea of trying to take us from here. But those seem to be the orders. How they knew we'd be here I haven't a clue."
"Unless they have another agent on Gamma," Sam said, a frown on her lovely face.
"Not necessarily," Daniel replied. "Every time we come here, there's always a big write-up in the newspapers…remember, we read it the morning after we got here?"
They all smiled, remembering the headline: "Langara's Tau'ri Heroes to Relax at Local Resort".
"All they have to do is monitor communications, and newspapers," Daniel continued.
"Daniel has a good point," Jack replied. "I didn't notice them until yesterday. They followed us all day yesterday. They didn't come down to the dining room last night during the storm, so I thought I was just being paranoid. Until I noticed them following us again today. I'm thinking they just got here."
"So now what?" Casey asked. The four looked at each other, the question hanging in the air.
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