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Casey was unaware that the man she had once known as Zinder, who now knew life only as Khusa, watched her as she bathed. He hadn't meant to spy on the woman. He had brought the camels to drink on the side of the lake unused by the people of the encampment, in preparation for the day's journey. When he saw her, he was unable to turn away.
He watched her slip out of the tent in the faint morning light, then strip quickly, and dive into the still warm water. He watched the calm water for several seconds, wondering where she had gone. She surfaced near the center of the lake, pushed her hair back with her hands, and then swam toward the shore. She swam to where she had left a small bag, and reached up and opened it, exposing her beautiful breasts to the morning air. She moved to where the water was shallow, stood and washed her body with the soap in her hand, then splashed the bubbly foam away. She poured something into her hand, worked it into that long, blonde hair. She moved back to where the water was deeper, dove under. She came up, again pushed her hair away from her face. By now her husband had come out of the tent. He was smiling, saying something to her. He stripped and entered the water as well. Khusa watched them kiss, watched as the man bathed quickly, and then as they dried one another. They slipped back inside their tent. Images of her danced in his head. Why did she seem so familiar to him?
The other blonde woman and her husband came to the water, bathed quickly, and returned to their tent. One by one the men of the group did the same thing, until all of the strangers had bathed. The sun was over the mountains now, already warming the air.
Khusa led the camels toward the camp of the strangers. He called out softly. "Dan'yel?"
Daniel opened up the flap of the tent, stepped outside, making sure to keep the 'door' closed - Casey wasn't completely dressed yet, as she sat brushing her hair. He tried not to react to the sight of Zinder standing in front of him. "Khusa, correct?"
"Yes, I am Khusa. Ishram is waiting near the path that we must follow. Jarha has instructed me that you are to use the camels to make your journey more pleasant." The gray eyes flickered from Daniel's face to the ground and back again.
He bit back a grin. The camels would be welcome for carrying the equipment that they would taking, as well as the provisions they would need. How pleasant it would be remained to be seen. He was quite sure that he and Casey would be riding together, she hated riding camels. That would certainly make the journey pleasant for him!
Jack and Teal'c approached the two men. "Daniel?"
"Khusa was just explaining to me that Jarha as offered us the use of camels," Daniel said.
"Sweet. Okay, that's a good thing, right?" Jack asked, frowning slightly.
"Yes, Jack, it's a good thing," Daniel said patiently, trying not to grin. Jack loved to play dumb. Tried to make everyone around him believe that his intelligence factor was one step above a rock and two side steps from a slug. After sixteen years, he knew better. "And so far there isn't any indication that he knows who we are."
"Well, then, let's get packed and ready to go," Jack said.
Daniel hurried over to where the Marines were standing. They were remaining at the site. Mike, who had taken five crates, packed full of tablets and scrolls, back to Gamma, would be returning with Arlen and Susan Whitman, as well as the three grad students, to finish packing up and transporting the tablets and scrolls that remained. The archaeologists would also attempt to finish all of the translating in the library. He wanted to make sure that they had help, and protection if needed. Turk assured him that any assistance the archaeologists required would be rendered.
Casey came out of the tent, her pack in her hand, sat it on the ground beside his. Not seeing Daniel, she stepped back inside and unzipped the sleeping bags, began to roll them up.
"Need a hand?" he asked, coming back into the tent.
"Always," she replied, smiling softly. Within just a few minutes the sleeping bags were ready to attach to the bottom of their packs. The tent came down, and Daniel affixed it to his pack. Vests were pulled on, canteens filled from the bottles of water that sat near the supplies that were being left with Marines.
She was busy checking the camcorders when a shadow fell over her. She looked up…into light gray eyes. She nearly screamed. "W…wha…what do you want?" she asked breathlessly, her heart pounding in her ribs, her body trembling with sudden fear.
The man shook his head, indicating that he didn't understand her, then smiled and squatted down beside her. He pointed to the camera.
"Camcorder," she said slowly. "It takes pictures…moving pictures…here, I'll show you." She turned the camera on, flipped open the viewfinder, then aimed it toward the place where Daniel, Jack and Teal'c were going over the supplies. She let Zinder…Khusa…watch for a few minutes. Then she stopped it, pressed the rewind button, and let him watch the men repeat their movements.
Eyes wide, he backed quickly away from her, muttering under his breath.
'Uh, Daniel, I think you'd better get over here.'
He turned to see his Wife sitting on the ground, holding one of the camcorders, Khusa backing hastily away, his eyes wide with fear. 'What happened?'
'He asked about the camera…well sort of asked, so I filmed you guys for a couple of minutes, and let him watch it. Then he freaked.'
Daniel smiled. He hurried over to where Khusa stood. The man was shaking. "There is no need to be afraid. It's not magic, or witchcraft. It's a tool that we use."
Gray eyes went from the camera to Daniel and back again. "She is a goddess to have such power!"
He chuckled. "No, this is a simple tool in my homeland. Let me show you." He squatted down beside his wife, motioned for Khusa to do the same. Hesitantly, the dark haired man complied. "Let me see it, Angel."
Casey handed the camera to her husband. When he aimed it at her, she waved and smiled.
Just as Casey had done, he hit the rewind button, and then showed the playback to the still frightened man. He pointed to the picture, then at Casey. "No magic." He popped out the disc and the batteries, showed them to Khusa. "It's called technology."
Khusa frowned. That word was…familiar. So many things about the strangers seemed odd, yet…familiar. "Tek-now-le-gee," he repeated slowly. Technology. He should know this word! He was sure of it! For the first time in all the time he had been here, something about his past began to flicker to life in the back of his mind.
"That's right," Daniel smiled. "We're ready to load the camels, and leave," he said calmly.
Khusa nodded, glanced at the camera again, a frown on his face, then went to bring the camels to the camp.
A A A A A A
Casey hated camels. They were foul smelling, nasty-tempered beasts, and getting onto one was an exercise in frustration. Daniel grinned at her, climbed onto the saddle, and held out his hand. "Come on, Angel, you can ride with me."
Better than riding one of the damned things alone, she thought, grabbing his hand and throwing her leg over the back of the animal. "Should have brought the ATVs," she muttered.
"I dunno, it's kind of nice to just sit back and let the camel worry about where he's going. Leaves my hands free," he teased. To demonstrate, his hands went around her waist, one sliding between her thighs, the other up over her breast.
"Daniel Melburn Jackson, behave yourself!" she hissed, pulling his hands away from her body. She settled them safely against her waist.
He laughed. "Relax, Angel, nobody was looking." He would never know how wrong he was.
Khusa watched the man touching his wife, his own body going hard as his memory flashed what her naked body looked like across his brain. So familiar! He shook his head. It was there. Everything that he had forgotten was there. If he could just reach it! He took the reins of the camels, which were tied one to another, and began to lead the strangers to the valley filled with the oddly shaped hills.
The swaying of the camel relaxed her, to the point she was leaning back against that strong, hard chest. Her head hit his shoulder, and she jerked upright.
"It's all right, Angel. Sleep," he said softly. She snuggled against him, and in spite of the heat, it felt good to have her near him. She put her head on his shoulder, closed her eyes and gave a little sigh. He leaned his cheek against the side of her head, and before he knew it, was dozing as well. The thought occurred to him that they would get more sleep if they didn't make love on nights when they had guard duty. He smiled. He'd rather make love, and then find a way to cat-nap during the day.
Casey turned her face toward his neck. Yes, much better. She could feel him, smell him. She was safe. Nothing could hurt her as long as she was in his arms.
The room was large, somehow she knew that, in spite of the blackness surrounded her. She could sense that it was not empty, knew that something…horrible…lay hidden in the shadows. She reached out, touched the walls. Stone. Cold stone. She moved forward slowly, keeping her hand on the wall, fingers searching for something, anything that would give her a clue as to where she was.
Suddenly a single light began to glow, above a table where a young black woman was strapped down.
"Tie!" she whispered hoarsely.
"Don't let him hurt me any more, please!" Tiesha begged. "Tell him what he wants to know, give him what he wants from you! It's the only way to save me! You have to save me, Casey! You have to! You're the only one who can!"
The young woman's words cut her to the quick. Tears began to fall down her face. "I can't do that, Tie, you know that! I'm sorry, but I can't do that!"
"Casey! I am so glad to see you again!" The warmth in the voice caused shivers to run up and down her spine.
She turned slowly. Nergal stood before her, dressed in light-colored linen slacks, and a deep blue silk shirt.
He held out his hand. "Come, we'll share the midday meal."
She shook her head. "No."
Nergal stepped closer, lifted his hand and gently brushed her hair behind her shoulder, his fingers tenderly brushing away her tears. "Why do you fight me? Why do you continue to cause such pain to others?" he asked softly. "So selfish, my beautiful one, to not think of the consequences of your actions." He turned and began to drive spikes into Tiesha's hands and feet, nailing her to the table. The woman's screams echoed around them.
"No! Damn you! No! Leave her alone!"
Daniel stirred, looked around. A glance at his watch told him that he had been asleep less than ten minutes. What had awakened him?
"No! You bastard!" Casey hissed.
Oh, hell! "Casey? Angel, wake up, you're having a dream. It's just a dream," he said softly, shaking her shoulders gently. He kissed her forehead. "Come on, Case, wake up."
She jerked, opened her eyes, looked around. She was shaking. She felt his arms tighten around her. "Oh god, not again," she groaned.
"Can you tell me about it?" he asked softly.
"I think so," she replied, her voice just as soft. She pulled his arms tighter around her waist. She took a deep breath, blew it out slowly. "I was in a room, like a dungeon, and Tie was there, strapped to a table, begging me to tell him whatever he wanted, give him whatever he wanted. I told her I couldn’t, and…" she broke off.
There was no need to ask who 'he' was. Nergal. "It's okay, Angel. Take your time," he said. He kissed her forehead again.
"He said I was selfish…that I was selfish because I didn't care what pain my actions caused others, and then he…he nailed her hands and feet to the table."
"Oh, babe, I'm sorry. It sounds like you're still trying to blame yourself for Tiesha, and that girl that he killed in front of you. Casey, there was nothing you could have done any differently."
"I know. At least, my head knows…most of the time. I guess just knowing he's still out there has me shaken up."
"I don't doubt it. We will get him, Case. I promise."
"Don't make promises like that, Daniel. We might never get that monster," she whispered.
"Yes, we will! One day. Soon. We'll get him." His voice was full of determination. If she started having…episodes…again, he was making a trip to the planet that had once been Ashnan's home, and he would find that snake-headed son-of-a-bitch and kill him…slowly. One inch at a time!
A A A A A A
It was nearly midday. Ishram and Khusa stopped the camels, let the riders dismount. Khusa continued to watch the woman with the beautiful green eyes. She was the key to his past, to his memories. He was certain of it.
The two teams sought shade among nearby rocks. Jack watched as Ishram and Khusa settled together to rest. "He's been watching you and Casey a lot," he said calmly as he settled beside Daniel.
"I noticed that, too," Major Parker nodded. "The way he keeps watching her…like he's trying to remember."
Casey groaned. "Great. It would be our luck to be the ones to trigger his memory! What do we do if he remembers?"
"Depends on what he does," Jack replied. "I wish Darr Morgan had sent a reply through before we left. It would help to know what happened."
"Considering the circumstances," Sam said, "I think it's a safe bet that when Darr left, he believed Zinder to be dead."
Daniel nodded. "There's a chance that one or more of the Bedouin were hiding on that ship and managed to get out, with Zinder, before it blew. I think they knew he was Immortal."
"Whatever happened to him, it wiped his memory," Tony said.
Jack nodded. "Yeah. Or it was done deliberately."
Sam looked at him. "Like a drug administered to him before he regained consciousness? I've heard that there was a drug like that, the Tollan used it on any criminals that they had; erased their memory, then set them up with a new life in a different place. It's possible that the Bedouin managed to get some of it, or something similar."
"Why?" Casey asked. "Why wipe his memory?"
"To protect him," Daniel replied.
"Or to protect themselves. Maybe he knew something about them, something that they didn't want known, maybe they worked for him because he was blackmailing them," she speculated.
"That's an interesting theory," Jack said. "Right now, anything is possible. Let's just hope our luck holds, and that he doesn't remember anything. Keep an eye on him though, just in case. If he does remember something, chances are he's going to remember that Casey is the one who helped bring him down."
She shivered, reached for Daniel's hand. He squeezed her fingers reassuringly.
"I'm here, Angel," he said softly. He didn't vocalize the rest of his thought. If Zinder - Khusa - whoever he was, so much as looked at her wrong, he would have no qualms about killing him. Never again would he stand by and allow his Wife to be frightened...hurt...tortured...brutalized.
Jack watched the eyes of his young friend. He'd seen that look before. When Daniel had announced that he was going to kill Nergal, slowly. There was life, and light, and Fire there this time, rather than the cold emptiness that had been in those blue eyes when he'd thought his wife was lost to him. Jack knew without a doubt that if Zinder tried anything, he wouldn't live long enough to regret it. "We're all here, Case. This time we're with you, rather than you being on a ship alone with him."
"You got that right, general," Tony said softly.
Daniel smiled. There were six other men who were watching out for his Wife. She would be safe, as would Sam, if the bastard tried anything with her. He'd be just as quick to protect his friend and teammate. "We should be to the valley within a couple of hours after we get moving again," he said, noticing that their guides were stirring.
Ishram and Khusa were on their feet. They checked the fittings on the saddles, made sure that the supplies were still securely fastened, and then nodded toward the waiting strangers.
"Well, campers, let's head out," Jack said, pulling himself to his feet. He held his hand out for Sam, pulled her into a quick hug when she stood up, then walked hand in hand with her to the camel they had been riding together.
When they were all mounted once again, the guides urged their animals forward, tugging the reins of the other camels. Casey leaned back against Daniel; let his love, and his arms, surround her.
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