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Ice Queen

Chapter 2

The sun that beat down on them continued to heat the barren dirt. All of them had peeled off BDU shirts, carefully slathering on the sun screen that would protect their skin. Daniel had on a do-rag. Casey had clipped her braid up off her neck. Jack had insisted that everyone take a swallow of water every fifteen minutes, watching the time, quietly reminding them each quarter of an hour.

Sam had already determined that there was indeed a vein of Orrinite; that unusual ore that had only been found in one other place...Gamma. She frowned as she examined the readings. Was Orrinite similar to naquadria? It was stable enough, unlike that odd variant of naquadah. A few adjustments to the equipment, and she began another scan. If she located an unknown ore, then she just might have her answer.

Casey sat back on her heels. She wiped the perspiration from her face. Reread the section of text that had caused her heart to start pounding. She adjusted the transmitter connected to the ear piece of her radio. "Uh, guys? I think I found something."

Daniel looked up quickly from where he knelt in front of the farthest stele. "What?" he asked.

"According to this particular section of text, this planet...or at least this city...was once a science station; I think I'm translating that correctly. Anyway, this was a large research facility for the Asgard," she replied.

"So? This means what?" Jack asked. He adjusted his sunglasses, looked toward the young woman where she sat in the sand working.

"I'm not sure-" she broke off, closed her eyes as information began to flow into her mind. She tried to sort through the words and images, to make sense of what she was seeing.

"Case?" Daniel asked nervously.

"Give me a minute," she replied softly. So sad, she felt so damned sad! It was a last ditch attempt to protect themselves...she couldn't see the enemy, could only sense that they... whoever 'they' were...were powerful...very powerful. Dangerous. Cruel. Not Goa'uld... Black ships that filled the sky, ominous and terrifying; raining fire and death down upon the lightly armed outpost. An unseen enemy who had refused to acknowledge the messages of surrender...the pleas of mercy for the women and children.

"Casey?" Jack asked, after several minutes of uncomfortable silence.

Tears began to flow down her cheeks, drying quickly on her skin in the hot, arid air. The children had been sent to safety. Along with the most valuable of the scientists. A woman...her work was crucial to the efforts of perfecting the cloning process. She looked...they all looked different than the Asgard Casey was used to seeing. Tall, more humanoid. And...alive?

Daniel had crossed distance that had separated him and his Wife, gently touched her shoulder. "Casey?"

She gave yelp of surprise. "I think she's alive! I'm not sure, but she's in some sort of cryogenic stasis! She was working on the cloning techniques...I don't understand why they decided that it was such a great idea, considering the way it turned out...the children and those most valuable to the...uh...project...were sent into hiding. Into this very secret laboratory. Then it was sealed off to prevent them from getting in."

"Them?" Jack asked. "Them who?"

She shook her head. "I don't know. I just see nearly a dozen huge, black ships."

Daniel frowned. The description sounded vaguely familiar. "I'm assuming that whoever they were, they were enemies of the Asgard?"

"They were enemies of every human or humanoid...which is what the Asgard who populated this outpost were. Humanoid."

Her teammates exchanged glances. Daniel had read the report concerning the mission that occurred just days after his Ascension. A mission etched on each of their hearts, in their minds: the first mission undertaken without their archaeologist. One during which Jack, Sam, and Teal'c had saved Thor from Anubis...just before that snake disappeared again for nearly a year...and one of the Asgard scientists, Heimdall. And a frozen humanoid Asgard. A male humanoid Asgard.

"You say she's alive?" Jack asked.

"I think so," Casey replied.

"So how do we get to that laboratory?" Daniel asked.

"Beam in," the slender blonde suggested.

"We'd need coordinates for that," Sam pointed out.

"Perhaps the Phoenix could be requested," Teal'c said. "From orbit the ship's scanners would be able to locate this cavern laboratory." 

Sam nodded. "That might be the only way to locate it. I doubt that it's far from here."

"Okay, that's the plan then," Jack said. "Sam, get a message to Duncan. Daniel, Casey, see if you can find out anything else about the resident Asgard."

The three teammates nodded, hurried to follow the orders of their CO.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Dark eyes watched from the behind the wall. Three days of searching had uncovered nothing of value. He was nearly out of water. He needed to get to the Chappa'ai, and home. Thankfully, the sandstorm that had blown through the evening before had obscured every trace of his presence, or those newcomers would no doubt be looking for him.

He listened as they spoke to one another. Although their words were strange, he was able to sense that they were excited about something. The soft lilting voice of the one with the long blonde hair, done up in a braid - so beautiful she was! - soothed his weary heart. He was content to listen, even if he couldn't understand her. The tall blonde opened the Chappa'ai, seemed to speak into the...machine...that stood as sentinel beside the ancient stone steps.

When he watched them began to set up camp, he nearly panicked. It was clear that these people...explorers? Or were they treasure seekers like himself? Whoever...whatever...they were, they had no plans to leave soon. He took a sip of tepid water. Shook the flask to make an approximation of how much was left. Not enough to see him through another day.

For the moment, all he could do was watch, and wait. Perhaps these strangers had water...if he could just get a bit of water, he might be able to wait them out. If they didn't stay long, that was. He shifted slightly, trying to get comfortable among the stones of the ruins. He glanced around, wondering just what this building had been. He was no historian. Had no idea what any of the markings meant. Weary from his trek into the desert, he drifted to sleep.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel didn't think it would be of any great loss to use several of the wooden beams that had once been supports for the ceiling of one of the temples as firewood. He, Teal'c, and Jack cut two into manageable pieces, and carried them to the area that had become their camp. Sam and Casey had dug out a fire pit, and surrounded it with stones from a wall that had fallen millennia ago, by the time the wood was ready.

The dried and rotted timbers caught quickly, and within minutes a fire warmed the air as the night cooled the desert around them. The foil wrapped entrees of the MREs were nestled down into the coals to warm. Coffee was started, bottled water used to fill the battered and burned old pot that Daniel carried on each and every mission.

Casey had set up her CD player, and the soft jazz of Gerald Albright surrounded them. With a smile that melted her heart, Daniel had held out his hand, tugged her to her feet, and pulled her close. They were dancing slowly to the music. She smiled when she realized that Jack and Sam were dancing as well.

He smiled against her hair when she snuggled deeper into his embrace. With no nearby source of water, he knew that their lovemaking tonight would consist of oral pleasure only. He had every intention of bringing forth that lovely new sound, that soft whisper of a cry. He also had every intention of hearing her beg again.

When the song ended, the two couples settled onto the ground, and they all began to eat their dinner.

"You know," Daniel said, between bites of what was supposed to be beef stroganoff, "it's possible that any 'entrance' for that laboratory isn't in the city."

Sam frowned, searching her memory of the time on Cimmera. She nodded slowly. "That...statue...that Gairwyn led us to was quite a distance from their village."

"Exactly. So that there wasn't any chance of villagers...stumbling...into that cavern before they were ready," Daniel said. "It's possible that the Asgard didn't want the Cardorians finding their hidden laboratory. I'll even bet that they observed the Cardorians from that lab."

"And this means what?" Jack asked.

"We need to see what lies farther from this city," Daniel replied.

Jack looked at Teal'c. "Looks like we'll be taking a stroll tomorrow, while our scientists do their thing." He gave Daniel a hard look. "Under no circumstances are you to touch anything while we're gone, do you understand?"

"Jack, I don't-" Daniel started.

"Do you understand?" Jack demanded quietly.

His cheek twitching, the archaeologist nodded. "I understand."

Casey giggled. But never said a word.

The general watched her for a few minutes. Decided that the warning had best be issued to the resident seer as well. "That goes for you, too, young lady. Read it. Film it. Do not touch it."

"But Jack-"

"No touching. Do I make myself clear?"

"Perfectly," the young woman grumped.

Satisfied that the two most 'accident prone' of his team had been duly warned to keep their hands off of anything that might possibly hurt them, transport them somewhere, or cause some other unexpected disaster, Jack gave a sharp nod of his head and settled back against what was left of a brick wall.

"What if-" Casey started.

"No."

"But if we-" Daniel said.

"No. No touching. Period. This is not a discussion," Jack replied firmly.

Grinning ear to ear, Casey and Daniel snuggled close to one another.

Jack looked from one grinning face to the other. "So help me, if I find out you've touched one damned thing while Teal'c and I are gone tomorrow, I'll send you both back to Gamma with my boot up your asses!"

Casey burst into hysterical giggles. "Rather impossible to do, unless you intend to land on your own ass."

Daniel barked with laughter, Sam was laughing out loud, and even Teal'c was chuckling.

Jack glared at her, determined that he would not give in and laugh. Even if he imploded. Not going to laugh, he warned himself. If he did, it would only encourage her, and lord knew she didn't need more encouragement to be so damned insubordinate!

"Better laugh, Jack," Sam giggled, "before you burst a vein."

He snorted. Refused to give into the laughter that bubbled just beneath the surface. With determination in every movement, Jack grabbed his pack. Found the ever present box of toothpicks. Chose five, marked them carefully.

Each team member chose a toothpick, and the rotation for night watch was thus determined. Casey had drawn first watch. Daniel had drawn third. As soon as her watch was over, she knew that he would want to make love. As would she. Her need was as great as his, something that seemed to surprise...and please...him.

With quiet 'good nights', her teammates drifted toward their tents. She started a fresh pot of coffee, then donned the night vision goggles that Jack insisted that they carry. Careful examination of their surroundings showed nothing amiss...everything looked the same as it had before the sun had disappeared below the horizon.

She settled back against the stone. It was the first time since returning from that alternate universe that she had been alone, had had a chance to examine the shadows and fears that lurked in her mind. Memories long forgotten had been pulled forward when Annika moved through them, stripping them of the power they had held over her all of her life. The scars that resulted from the events of those memories were still there, and still painful. But the darkness, that cold fear that had held her in its icy grip, had been pushed down, left impotent against her. She sorted through the memories, shuddered as she examined them. Pushed them back down into the darkness, where she wouldn't have to see them, deal with them again.

Different. She felt different now. Just as the inner darkness had been missing from her conscious mind after Daniel had battled to save her, the memories...all of the things that had happened to her that had given life to that darkness, to those fears, now held no danger. They weren't easy to look at. But they could no longer hurt her. Daniel would be thrilled to know that she was just that much closer to...to what? Sanity? Yep, most definitely. He had battled for her so many times, fighting her fears and the darkness and her memories, trying to keep her from slipping away, from being lost in that haze of blackness forever. It was no wonder he had begged her to allow Annika to help her. He had to be exhausted - and probably damned sick and tired - of taking on the battles that she should have been waging on her own. Did this new feeling of peace - of well-being - mean that he wouldn't be forced to take on her demons, her fears? That at last she was free of the crippling darkness? Oh, goddess, she hoped so! For him as well as for herself.

She shivered again as what she had seen in that alternate universe flashed in front of her eyes. Sam, her eyes glowing from the Goa'uld that infested her, the lovely features of her face cold and angry; Jack, nearly dead as he stumbled down the corridor with the rest of the slaves. She took a deep breath. Daniel had been so young, so full of energy and life and enthusiasm for what he believed. She couldn't help but smile. Her Daniel was still very much like that young professor. He had seen much, had done things that he had never wanted to do; had Ascended - and then become mortal again; had become Immortal, and The Chosen...oh, he had suffered so very much! Had lived through so very much - endured and survived - and had grown stronger, wiser. He had also found so much...had done things that he had never dreamed possible - seen alien worlds, discovered the ancestors of the humans that populated planet Earth; had battled evil and won - had made a difference for so many oppressed people, protected so many people, including the blue and white planet that had been their home.

She sighed. Could she hope that her love had helped him - healed the scars his own bitter memories had left on his heart and soul? Sam had told her that Daniel couldn't survive without her. That his very heart and soul would wither and die without her. That he needed her - as much as she needed him. Two halves of the whole. Two beings who came together and became one entity. Two hearts that beat as one. The smile that lit her face was full of love. She couldn't help but reach out and gently caress him. Felt his sleepy caress in return.

Another check around the camp. Nope. Nothing had changed. She hadn't searched around them. It was a dead planet, so there was no need to reach out. So far, there had been no 'feelings' that indicated anything was amiss. Sam's scans had come up with nothing when she had scanned for energy readings. Casey hadn't felt any sort of 'hum' that always indicated machinery of some sort. If there was something in that cavern, it was far enough away, or was masked in such a way that neither woman could identify it, using the tools available to them.

She smiled when the soft whispers coming from Jack and Sam's tent ended in soft moans. When Jack started snoring it was all she could do to keep from giggling out loud. Feeling a bit stiff from having sat in the same position for so long, Casey stood to her feet. She tossed another chunk of wood onto the fire. Watched as the embers wafted skyward.

As she did so often when on guard duty, she studied the stars. No matter where she was in the galaxy, the bright points of light always took her breath away. Every star she could see was a sun. And nearly every sun had planets that rotated around it. So much life in the universe, she thought.

A glance at her watch told her it was time to wake Sam. She called out quietly to her friend. Waited until the tall blonde was pouring a cup of coffee before slipping into the tent where Daniel waited.

He shifted sleepily when she crawled between the sleeping bags beside him. His hands began to move over her; caressing her, arousing her. Mouths and lips and tongues and hands sought...found...teased...tormented...pleased...until both of them were moaning their release softly against one another.

Wet Ones cleansed the traces of their lovemaking from their skin. She settled against him, her head on his shoulder, his hands moving up and down her back. Sleep came swiftly and quietly.

He smiled into the darkness. He hadn't coaxed that sweet new sound from her throat. But he would hear it again. Her soft breath against his neck, the steady rise and fall of her body as she breathed, lulled him back to sleep.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Daniel crawled out of the tent, awakened by Sam at the end of the her watch. He sipped gratefully at the cup of coffee his best friend had poured for him, knowing that only when the caffeine hit his system would he truly be awake.  They spoke quietly for a few moments, then the colonel slipped into the tent to re-join her husband.

The air was cool, the stars bright above them. Just as his wife always did, the archaeologist stared at them for several long minutes. It was a favorite past time of his...an interest sparked from a most unexpected source, one Colonel Jack O'Neill. He had sat on the roof of the man's house on several occasions, looking at the stars, knowing that Sha're was out there somewhere, and all he had to do was find her and take her home to Abydos. He had even learned a few of the constellations and their names. The mythology around each he already knew.

He put on his night vision goggles. Paced the perimeter of the camp. It was a dead planet. The only five living beings on the entire surface were safe around a blazing fire. Four of them sleeping soundly as their teammate kept watch.

Sipping at the coffee, he settled onto one of the huge stones that had probably been the base of a massive pillar. His mind worked on the puzzle that lay before him, around him actually. An unexpected visit with an Ascended Cardorian named Sabni had confirmed Casey's theory that the Cardorian civilization had been 'created' by the Asgard. The little gray aliens had rescued as many people as they could from the Goa'uld, had brought them together. As a result, those people - Egyptians, Mayans, Celts, and Africans from Earth; Terrans, Langarans, even a few Tollan, as well as at least six other civilizations that had yet to be encountered - had learned to live together, work together - had created a society that had successfully reached for the stars within a few hundred years of its birth.

His heart jumped in his chest when he heard what sounded like several small rocks rolling and banging into one another. He shook himself mentally. He was sitting among ruins. Rocks fell and shifted all of the time!  Nevertheless, he donned his night vision goggles, and looked around carefully.

The ruins seemed to whisper to him. All ruins whispered to him, eager to tell him their secrets, if he was willing to listen. He couldn't help but feel his chest swell with pride to know that Casey had heard those whispers as well...had extrapolated a theory that put the ancient, now Ascended Cardorians in this city - their first home as a brand new society. A city already ancient by Earth standards.

This planet was on the far reaches of the galaxy, as far from Earth, and the other planets that the Goa'uld raided and attacked, as it could be. He didn't know what the Asgard had found so fascinating about the place...what had inspired them to build an outpost, a city. No doubt it had been much different...water, plant life, possibly even animal life. Perhaps it had been lush and green and beautiful. It didn't seem that the Asgard appreciated beauty for beauty's sake, but then, the Asgard who had lived here so many millennia ago weren't like the beings he knew. They had been closer to their own human roots. So perhaps they had chosen this place because it was beautiful.

Or, his brain argued, there was something here that interested them...a plant...an animal. Maybe it provided a safe place for them, somewhere that the Goa'uld couldn't reach. He frowned at the Stargate that loomed in the darkness near the camp. The Asgard were from another galaxy. Maybe this was the first outpost...this city...was their first foray into the Milky Way galaxy. Was that why they had rescued so many? Did they not know about the Goa'uld before arriving here? That was a pleasant thought...that the Goa'uld weren't infesting every galaxy that existed.

Whatever the reason, that collection of terrified slaves must had certainly seen the Asgard as benevolent gods. Had the aliens exhorted those people to work together? Or had that simply happened as necessity? Maybe there were only a handful of each group...requiring cooperation. And because they had been willing to work and live together, taking the best from each of their own worlds, they had built a civilization that had been unrivaled among all other human populations at the time.

He smiled when he heard her shifting inside their tent. Couldn't resist reaching out to touch her, caress her gently. A soft, sleepy caress touched his mind, just before she drifted back into deep sleep.

After what they had experienced, it was a wonder that she had been willing to embark on this mission. He would never forget how she looked as she cried in Annika's arms, her tear-stained cheeks lit by the blue haze of psychic power that surrounded the two women. Nor would he ever be able to express his gratitude for what had happened...the healing that had occurred in her heart, her soul. Knowing that at last the painful memories...hidden in the darkness that he had never been able to reach, never been able to banish...were now powerless, would no longer haunt her, made his own heart sigh with relief. It would be interesting to watch as she began to live without those memories coloring every mood, every thought, every step she took.

When he had a fresh pot of coffee boiling, he woke Jack to take the next watch. He stretched, bid his best friend goodnight, and slipped back into the tent for another hour or so of sleep.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

When he had first awakened, he had been unsure of where he was. Blinking a few times, scanning his surroundings brought the information to mind that he needed. He was still on the dead planet. The memory of the strangers flittered across his brain just seconds before his body had begun to rise from his hiding place.

He had watched as the tall woman with hair the color of the sun, cut short, although he had to admit that it was attractive on her, sat alone near that large, very warm looking fire. She had put...something...on her face, and had walked around the camp. Instinct had him ducking when her gaze had turned in his direction. It wouldn't do to have these people aware of his presence. There was a price on his head...although his crimes were relatively few and minor. It didn't matter what he had done, only that he wasn't about to take the risk of being turned in by bounty hunters. Or to bounty hunters.

The tall woman hadn't sat alone long - or perhaps she had been alone longer than he realized. She spoke quietly just outside of one of the tents. The man with the object on his face...they had looked like simple wire and glass, emerged, and the woman had slipped into one of the other tents.

He watched the man sipping something...it smelled good, whatever it was, the aroma from that metal pot wafted on the soft breeze, tickled his nose. Made his mouth water and his stomach growl.

Like the woman had done, he put that - thing - on his face, and walked around the camp. They were keeping watch. Why? It was a dead planet! There was nothing that could possibly harm them! Every movement was done with ease, familiarity. This was something that they did often.

He began to frown as he watched the man. Were they expecting others to come through the Chappa'ai? Was that why they had camped near it? Were they expecting friend - or foe? That would surely explain the need to stand guard.

There were no answers for his questions. He took a sip of water. His thoughts turned to his own survival. He needed water...and food would be pretty nice, too. When he shifted, sending a spray of small rocks bouncing down the path above which he rested, his heart had stopped beating for what felt like an eternity. The man standing guard had looked up, frowned slightly, stared directly at him for several long seconds. He could only press himself further into the shadows, hoping that he hadn't been seen. He remained still, unmoving, terrified of being discovered.  When his body began to ache, screaming that he shift slightly, he did so carefully.  Peeked over the rock wall.  The older man, his hair more silver than gray, was watching now.  A silent sigh of frustration filled his mind when the man stood, woke that large man...a Jaffa. First Prime, if the gold tattoo was anything to go by. Why was there a single Jaffa with those people? He frowned again. Were they in service to a System Lord? He did not want to get involved with the Goa'uld. Crossing the Goa'uld meant one of two things...death, or slavery. Neither were on his agenda.

He continued to watch as the sun broke over the horizon. He worried that he might be seen, then quieted the fear with the fact that he had been in the same spot, nearly the same position, for hours, and they hadn't noticed him yet!

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

Teal'c continued to scan the ruins. O'Neill had quietly told him to keep alert, that it felt as if he were being watched, and that Daniel Jackson had reported hearing small rocks moving...or shifting. The Jaffa had felt the prickle of being observed during his time on guard duty.

His eyes could see nothing, there was no movement to give away the presence of a potential threat. There were many places where a possible enemy could hide among the shadows.

Casey was the first to emerge from the tent. She stretched, yawned, headed straight for the coffee.

"Casey Jackson, you must reach out and tell me if there is an intruder nearby. Daniel Jackson, O'Neill, and I all experienced the feeling of being watched," Teal'c said quietly.

She nodded, closed her eyes. Reached for Daniel, gently woke him, waited until he was holding her tightly before moving above their camp. The ruins were extensive, she strained to see as far into the distance as she could. Something...white...at least she thought it was white, it was reflecting the early morning light, whatever it was. That was where Jack and Teal'c needed to go. Another glance as she moved through the ruins...There! A man! He was watching them, all right.

She reached toward the man gently. When he moved slightly, his beard shadowed face catching the sunlight, she gasped out loud. Oh, momma, he was good looking! His dark hair was long, and pulled back in a ponytail. His dark eyes were full of life and glee. Pirate! She nearly giggled out loud at that thought. He was like the pirates of old...this man lived exactly as he wished to live, doing what pleased him, rather than what might be expected of him. Just as good looking as those Hollywood pirates, too, she thought fleetingly. Feeling no threat from him, although she did pick up his discomfort, his thirst...his hunger...she moved back to the meadow. Kissed Daniel soundly. Then opened her eyes. "Got him," she said softly.

Teal'c stiffened slightly, reached for his Beretta.

"He's not a threat, Teal'c," the young woman said softly. "He's tired, he's thirsty, and he's hungry. But he's not a threat."

"Why does he not show himself?" Teal'c asked. If the man was hiding, there was a reason, and it was probably something bad for the team.

She smiled. "We're armed. We've been keeping guard all night. There are five of us, and one of him. Would you just come waltzing into a strange camp and introduce yourself, if you were alone?"

"I would not."

"Neither would he." She grabbed a bottle of water, and an energy bar. She'd offer him oatmeal, if he was interested in joining them. Before Teal'c could stop her, she was trotting toward one of the fallen buildings.

 

A  A  A  A  A  A

 

When he realized that the slender beauty was heading directly for him, he was tempted at first to run. But when he saw her gentle smile, watched as she slowed to a walk, holding out what looked to be water...or something similar, and another object in her hand, he hesitated. Knowing full well that he was caught, there was no way that he could defend himself against all of them...especially since they seemed to be heavily armed, and he was carrying one zat'nik'tel...he stood slowly to his feet. He held his hands at shoulder level, to let her know he meant no harm.

Tall, dark, handsome...and a build that would make most women stop and stare. His close fitting leather pants left very little to the imagination. Not that she was looking. Really. Just a quick glance. Couldn't exactly not see, now, could she? She could tell by looking at him that he had spent several days in the desert heat. She opened the bottle of water...took a sip, then held it out toward him.

He watched her eyes move over him...stood a bit taller. Grinned when her gaze dipped to his crotch and her cheeks reddened slightly. He watched her take a sip of the water, her elegant neck making him think of starlit nights and making love. Need overrode caution, he took the bottle, and emptied the contents in half a dozen gulps. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Thank you," he said softly.

Terran. This man was Terran. At least, that's what he was speaking! "You're welcome," she replied softly.

He jerked slightly when she answered him in his native tongue. "You speak Terran."

"A bit," she replied. "Come join us for breakfast. Here, this should help until the oatmeal is ready." She opened the energy bar, held it out to him.

He took it hesitantly...looked at it, sniffed it cautiously.

"It's safe, I promise," she smiled.

A smile like that could be a man's undoing, he thought briefly. He had been asleep when the two couples had danced...he had no idea that this beautiful woman was spoken for. He only knew that he would do whatever it took to see that smile again. "I would be most obliged to join you for the morning meal," he replied, flashing his own smile, his brown eyes twinkling. Three bites and the bar was gone.

Good looking and a charmer. She couldn't help but return that incredible smile. It was almost as sexy as Daniel's. Almost. "Well, come meet the rest of the team."

"Team?"

"Mmmhmm. We're from Gamma."

Gamma. Home of the Immortals. Where a place called the SGC existed. The place from where warriors battled against the Goa'uld. Good Lord, he had stumbled across a group of soldiers! For a few seconds panic gripped him. Soldiers were always bad news! They were sticklers for the law, and obeying it. He had never actually broken the law. Bent it. Twisted the hell out of it, strode right up to the line and dangled his toes over it...but he had never broken laws...which was the only reason he wasn't already in a holding cell. He had, however...liberated...a few Goa'uld artifacts from abandoned sites. And it seemed that the Goa'uld to whom they had once belonged wanted them back. He had long ago sold the items, and none of the money he had earned remained. Wine, women, and song. That's what he had spent every blessed credit on. And it had been worth every second!

"I'm Casey Jackson," the beauty said, flashing that breathtaking smile yet again.

He looked at her, so bewitched by her smile that his brain was slow to realize she was waiting for him to tell her his name. "I am Marcus Tiberius," he replied.

He was from the southern continent. Those who had not followed Unlinkil to Terra had eventually founded the Roman Empire. Those who had followed the First Immortal had founded Terra...and split into three groups, one group taking up residence on the lush southernmost landmass. And their society had paralleled that of their brethren back on Earth. "It's okay, we have a treaty with the Terrans. We're allies," Casey said, when he hesitated.

"Yes, so we are," he murmured. With little choice but to follow her, he watched the sway of those slender hips as she led him back toward the camp.

Daniel had gotten dressed as soon as she had moved away from him. He watched as the man followed his wife. Could see even from the distance just exactly where...at what...the man was looking.

"Hey, everybody," Casey said brightly, taking Marcus by the hand, "this is Marcus Tiberius. That big guy with the great tattoo is Teal'c. The guy with the baseball cap on is General O'Neill, our CO. That beautiful woman over there is Colonel Carter. And the guy with the coffee mug in his hand is Doctor Daniel Jackson."

Daniel noted that she hadn't introduced Sam as Jack's wife. Or him as her husband. He frowned slightly.

It didn't take a genius to figure out that the beautiful blonde shared the same last name as the good doctor. And that that man was not at all happy that his wife was holding the hand of another man. Her skin was soft and warm, her touch so gentle that he couldn't force himself to pull his fingers away from hers. The thought that perhaps the marriage wasn't a happy one toyed with his brain. He lifted his chin, tightened his hand around the woman's.

He could see the challenge in the brown eyes. Just who in the hell did this Terran think he was? Not caring how obvious the move would appear, Daniel stepped forward, tugged Casey close to his side, put his arm around her shoulders and held her close.

She glanced up into blue eyes full of distrust...and anger. Disquieted by the emotions in his eyes, unsure why Daniel would be so upset; her actions had been so natural she hadn't even thought about them, didn't consider them even now. She ducked her head quickly to hide her unease.

Marcus frowned. She was afraid of her husband! That was the reason she looked away so quickly, stood so stiffly! Oh, he would take care of this! Any man who abused a woman was nothing more than an animal, not fit for civilized society! He hadn't seen any bruises, but then again, most of these types liked to hit where the marks would never be seen by 'outsiders', didn't they? And their words left wounds not visible to the eye.

Sam, Jack, and Teal'c took note of the silent challenges that were being passed back and forth. They exchanged amused glances. This could get damned interesting, Jack thought. About the time Daniel lit the guy's ass up with a cool blue fireball, it would be all over.

Casey looked up at her Husband. "I've invited Marcus to have breakfast with us. Would you mind getting the bag of oatmeal packets from my pack?"

He looked down at her. Grunted a response. Turned around and walked toward the tent. Cringed when he looked back over his shoulder. Casey had stepped closer to the man, offering him a cup of coffee.

"Here," Casey said softly, offering Marcus the cup she usually drank from. Filled it with the rich, dark brew that was the mainstay of her diet. Refilled Daniel's mug, took a sip.

He raised the cup to his lips. Blew gently. Took a careful sip. He had had the Tau'ri beverage before. It did amazing things for one struggling to wake up!

"Be careful, Casey," Sam said gently. "You're playing with fire. Literally."

Her head flew up, she stared at her best friend. "What?"

Jack chuckled. Casey had been...well, she was just being Casey. "Danny is jealous as hell."

"Whatever for?"

All three of her teammates began to chuckle. "Just be careful," Sam warned gently. They had all seen the fire in Daniel's eyes when he watched his wife and their visitor. Had seen the slight scowl, the determined set of his jaw. Only Casey had missed the signs of a man battling his anger.

A frown on her delicate face, she looked over at the tent. It was certainly taking him long enough! She tossed a reassuring smile at Marcus, put her mug down on a nearby stone, then disappeared into the vinyl dome.

Marcus was frowning as well. He had spent most of his life learning to pick up on subtleties...nuances that most others missed, signs and sounds that could win or lose a game. Being the gambler, the adventurer that he was, it had been a necessary skill to develop. He might not understand the words, but the tone of voice was unmistakable. Her friends had been...warning her. He was certain of it.

Daniel was sitting on the sleeping bags, her pack in his hand, her clean tee shirt clenched in his hands.

"Is it dead yet?" she asked softly.

He looked up. "Huh?"

She nodded at her shirt. "You're wringing it to death. I was just wondering if it was dead yet."

In spite of his anger, he grinned. "You're a smartass."

"And you're being an ass," she retorted. "I love you Daniel. You, only you, always you, forever."

"And your new friend?"

"Is just that. A friend. Well, maybe. I don't know him well enough to call him a friend yet. I was just supposed to let him sit out there and die from thirst?"

"I guess not."

She huffed a sigh. Reached down and grabbed him by the front of his shirt. Tugged until he was standing in front of her. Rising up on her toes, she wrapped her hands around his head, claimed his lips with her own, and kissed him until she was breathless. Luckily, Daniel was breathless as well when he finally lifted his head. "Get the message?"

His grin turned wicked. "I dunno. Might need it repeated."

"Gladly."

When they finally moved away from each other the second time, they were both in danger of spontaneously combusting. "That was a really bad idea," Casey muttered.

"Ya think?" Daniel replied, fighting to regain control over his body. They hadn't made love yet...they always made love the first thing in the morning! She had been awake and out of the tent before he had stirred...

"After breakfast, Stud Muffin. We find a nice quiet, shady spot in the ruins."

"And do what?"

Her eyes twinkled. "We blow each other's minds."

He couldn't help but laugh, not caring that the sound echoed to those who were now sitting around the fire. "It's a date."

Casey found the ziplock bag, winked at her husband, grinned as her gaze lingered on the obvious erection he was struggling with, and left the tent.

Marcus watched silently. There had been anger in their voices...but then there had been delighted laughter, her soft giggle. What an intriguing sound that was! She had managed to appease the doctor...for now. He would watch this man called Daniel Jackson. And see to it that he wasn't allowed to be alone with the slender young woman who looked like an angel. If the man wants to hit someone, Marcus thought, he can hit me!

Jack and Teal'c exchanged a glance. Marcus was looking damned protective. Why, Jack hadn't a clue. The only thing he did know was that this man was going to cause trouble. He could feel it in his bones.


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