Player of Games
"Well this is exciting," Jack muttered under his breath, taking in the flat featureless land spread before them.
"Not enough trees, sir?" Sam asked cheerfully.
Jack heard Daniel's muffled snort, and winced. He and trees were not on mutually friendly terms at the present. "Shall we leave the tree jokes, Carter?" he snapped, a little waspishly.
His second in command shrugged, and smiled sweetly at him. Jack gave Daniel ten seconds...
"You just looked so sorry for yourself hanging onto the willow for dear life, Jack. It's a memory I shall savour for some time to come."
... but only five had been necessary.
"As shall I, O'Neill," Teal'c added.
Jack glanced sharply at Teal'c who lifted his eyebrow fractionally, but said nothing further. Jack sighed, "You're not going to let this drop are you?" he asked plaintively.
Daniel laughed. "Would you if it had happened to one of us?" he asked.
Jack ignored the slur and decided to go on the attack. "How the hell was I supposed to know they were sentient, sapient and mobile?" he snapped.
"Because both Sam and I happened to suggest it to you, Jack." Daniel replied firmly.
Jack sniffed. "Sure, Daniel. I asked for a scientific explanation for what we appeared to be observing, and you started talking about stuff that could have come straight out of the Lord of the Rings. I mean how's a guy meant to keep a straight face?"
"I do not fully understand the reference, O'Neill," Teal'c said frowning.
Daniel jumped in cheerfully. "The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy book about good and evil, full of fascinating characters and written about fifty years ago, Teal'c. It's a classic of its time. One of the characters the heroes come across is an Ent called Treebeard. Basically he's a walking, talking tree, hence Jack's analogy." He glanced at Teal'c and grinned at Jack. "There's an animated film of the book, and a live action one's been filmed in New Zealand. I could rent it if you wanted to watch it."
"That would be most acceptable," Teal'c agreed.
Jack cast a suspicious look at him and glared at Daniel, "You're all heart, Daniel," he said sarcastically.
"I don't think I have ever been so amazed as I was on that planet." Sam added. "Walking, talking trees, or tree look-alikes are a little out of my normal experience."
Daniel nodded. "It was fascinating once we'd calmed everything down a bit. And that younger one was very apologetic to Jack once he understood what we were saying."
"Sure," Jack muttered under his breath, feeling that quite enough humour had been expended at his expense. He stopped and silently surveyed the horizon again, his sixth sense telling him that something wasn't quite right.
"Something wrong?" Daniel asked quietly, coming to stand next to Jack.
Jack nodded. "How long have we been walking?"
Sam answered. "About an hour, sir."
Jack nodded. "And apparently on the level if you look at the path we're taken, so anyone care to tell me why the Stargate doesn't appear to be any further way than when I last checked?" From the look of puzzlement on his teammates' faces the answer was no.
"I don't understand," Sam said slowly, turning a full circle where she stood. "We're in a meadow, almost in a valley if the hills in the distance are any indication. We've been steadily following the path that heads towards the ridge." She checked back to the Stargate and frowned. "We should be at least eight clicks away from it by now, sir."
Jack nodded. "I reckon we're less than a couple of clicks from it."
"But that's impossible, sir," Sam said bewildered.
"Yet accurate," Teal'c confirmed, grasping his staff weapon firmly.
Daniel slowly turned scanning the distance. "You're suggesting we're caught up in some kind of illusion?" he asked.
Jack shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know, Daniel. All I'm sure of is that I feel like I've expended more energy than I should have considering all we've apparently done is take a short walk in the park."
Daniel turned to Sam. "The UAV didn't show anything different from what we're seeing now did it, Sam?"
Sam shook her head. "No."
Daniel frowned. "Then it's unlikely to be an illusion. An illusion can fool our eyes, but it's not going to fool a machine."
"Urgo's planet fooled us," Jack reminded him. "We all thought we were going for sun, sea and surf."
Daniel nodded. "Yes, but Urgo's maker fed that image directly into the MALP, and we knew we'd been deceived as soon as we walked through," he reminded him. "This is different."
Jack nodded. "Right, we're returning to the gate." He watched puzzled as Daniel bent down and swept up a pile of small stones, placing them in his pockets. "What are you doing?" he asked.
Daniel shrugged. "I thought I'd lay a trail."
Daniel shrugged again. "I thought it might be interesting to look back at it once we'd got to the gate," he said quietly.
Sam nodded approvingly. "That's a good idea, Daniel."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Right," he said totally unconvinced. "Teal'c, take point. Keep alert."
They set off silently, all the teasing of the previous hour absent as they hurried towards the gate. He watched Daniel drop stones for a few minutes before returning his gaze to scanning the area. Everything seemed as peaceful as before. The occasional trill of birds and insects, wind in the grass, the tramp of their boots, but otherwise nothing.
He thought back to their entrance through the Stargate. Nothing had seemed different from the information the UAV had sent back, and to be honest, only Carter had been in any way enthusiastic about the mission due to a high level of minerals found in the first soil sample taken. An absence of anything but a dirt path from the Stargate, and little sign of any civilisation, either present or past, had left even Daniel fairly ambivalent. General Hammond had ordered a search and survey, and here they were.
Unfortunately, where they thought they were wasn't necessarily where they actually were. Jack frowned and checked his watch. They'd been walking for twenty minutes, and the Stargate was not getting any nearer.
Daniel stopped abruptly. "We've just crossed over our path," he said slowly pointing at a trial of stones encircling them.
"That's not possible," Jack growled. "To do that we would have to be going in circles."
"I think that is what we are doing," Daniel said patiently. "Look, back up a little and see if we can trace our path."
Jack glared at him before doing as he suggested. He scanned the area they'd walked and didn't like what he could see.
"We've walked in a spiral," Sam said. "But that's just not possible, I kept my sight on the Stargate, and we had it in our view the whole time we walked." She stared accusingly at the stones.
Jack clenched his fists tightly around the barrel of his rifle. "I'm getting pissed off. Someone's yanking our chain and I don't like it."
"I do not know what 'yanking our chain' means, but I apologise for allowing you to become trapped in our defence system."
Jack swung round rifle raised to face the speaker, conscious of the rest of the team doing the same. His angry gaze took in a tall man of indeterminate age with long dark hair drawn back into a ponytail. His features were smiling, but Jack felt no warmth. Jack looked for companions, but could see none. He brought his gaze back to the stranger, searching for clues as to his origin. His clothes were fairly unremarkable, pants and some kind of tunic, topped off with a flowing cloak in dark green. His only obvious ornamentation was a gold clasp keeping his hair back, and wide bracelets around his wrists.
"Who the hell are you?" Jack snapped, unsettled that this man could creep up on them so silently.
"My name is Lord Illus and I was sent by my ruler to request the pleasure of your company." The stranger replied bowing at him.
Jack looked towards Daniel, and gestured for him to speak. Daniel moved forward and bowed his hello.
"Lord Illus, my name is Daniel Jackson, this is our leader, Colonel O'Neill, and my colleagues Major Carter and Teal'c."
The man smiled, baring large teeth and bowed gravely at each of them in turn, his eyes widening slightly as he took in Teal'c. "You are Jaffa." He said curtly. "Who is your god, and why are you with these humans?"
Teal'c raised his chin. "None, I do not follow false gods, these are my friends."
The man smiled again. "Interesting," he murmured.
"You know of the Goa'uld?" Daniel asked quietly.
The stranger jerked his head, in what Jack assumed was an indicator for yes.
"You have seen them recently?" Daniel continued.
The stranger smiled. "No, they have not used the portal since my time, and anyway they would not be permitted to enter our city, our Lord would ensure that."
"How do you prevent them?" Daniel's curiosity was obvious. He was watching the stranger with wide unsmiling eyes, his head cocked slightly to the side, his expression one of deep concentration as he waited for the answer. Jack relaxed slightly, wondering if the man had patience enough to cope with Daniel, who could be like a terrier with a bone when he wanted to know.
"The same way we confused you, my inquisitive friend." The stranger was still smiling, but Jack could sense his irritation at Daniel's questioning.
"And what exactly have you done to confuse us, and how?"
The stranger smiled properly. "You are the seeker, the questioner for your group?" he asked Daniel, not waiting for an answer. "You do your job well young man, but there is a time for such enquiries, and now is not the time." He turned to Jack. "Please follow me as my Lord wishes to talk with you." He turned, holding his wrists crossed in front of him. Slowly, as if a cloth were being pulled off it, a vehicle appeared before them, gliding silently on a cushion of air, rather like a hovercraft.
"Silent and cloaked," Jack said slowly looking over the vehicle curiously, "very handy." The stranger smiled again, gesturing for them to climb aboard. "Is your leader interested in an exchange of goods and information?" Jack asked abruptly.
The stranger's face went blank for a second, and then the smile appeared. "My Lord has many things to talk with you about, and is always interested in information. Please come."
"Do we have a choice?" Jack muttered, receiving a wary look from the man. He looked back at the Stargate, checked on Daniel's trail of stones, nodded his team forward and warily stepped on board.
The vehicle sped silently off across the meadows at some speed. Jack watched the ground beneath them change. Ahead of them, he could see mountains and behind them the Stargate slowly vanished into the horizon. He watched the stranger pilot the craft and wondered whether information on technology would be available to them.
"Do you greet all your visitors personally?"
Daniel's quiet question made Jack sit up slightly.
The stranger looked back over his shoulder and frowned. "No."
Daniel nodded to himself. "What made you decide to do so, how could you be sure that we would not harm you?"
The stranger smiled apparently despite himself. "You are very persistent, young one. My Lord will find you a challenge."
Daniel frowned. "My name is Daniel. I'm not sure 'young one' is particularly appropriate."
The stranger glanced at Daniel, and then around at the rest of them. "You are the youngest of your group?"
"Then you are the young one."
Daniel raised his eyebrows, leaned forwards towards Jack and whispered, "I'm rather intrigued by the adjectives he is going to choose for the rest of you."
Jack gave a tight smile. "At least you didn't get called, 'he who never shuts up'," he said dryly.
Daniel sat back and frowned at him, giving Sam a suspicious look as she coughed, before returning his attention to their pilot. "Lord Illus?" he asked questioningly. The man nodded and Daniel continued. "You were going to tell me why you came alone," he said, smoothly returning to his questioning.
Jack watched a real expression of warmth cross Illus' face. "I think I rather like you young...Daniel." A laugh followed his words. "May I just warn you that my Lord tends to expect to be the interrogator."
Daniel nodded. "I understand, but I am not interrogating you, I am just asking you a few questions. Unfortunately you tend to answer them with questions of your own."
Illus laughed out loud. "I do like you Daniel. To answer one of your numerous questions, my Lord monitors the Portal as we trade frequently with off worlders."
Daniel leaned forward. "Whom do you trade with off world?" he asked.
Jack found himself waiting impatiently for Illus's answer, and was both disappointed and a little disturbed by his response.
Illus shook his head. "If my Lord permits I would be delighted to talk with you at length, Daniel, but until then may I request that you do not ask me about anything other than where you are going and who you are about to meet?"
Daniel glanced at Jack, then returned his attention to Illus. He drew his brows together in thought, looked at Sam, then nodded slowly. "I will try Lord Illus, but it will be difficult, there is so much to learn, and I'd guess that Sam is itching to ask you about this vehicle."
Sam nodded enthusiastically. "It's fascinating. I thought at first it was a hovercraft?"
"Hovercraft?" Illus asked.
"A craft that rides on a cushion of air without any contact with the ground," Sam said succinctly.
"We call it a shuttle, and I am not the person to discuss such things with," Illus said smoothly. He gave Sam an appreciative glance before returning his attention to Daniel. "So begin again, Daniel."
Jack settled back to watch Daniel continue his gentle interrogation of their pilot, exchanging knowing glances with Sam and Teal'c. If Daniel stayed on form, they would know more about the man and his people than he realised he was giving away. Sometimes a 'too clever for his own good linguist', could be worth his weight in gold.
Tuning out the conversation he concentrated on the sights ahead of him, sure in the knowledge that Daniel would keep him informed about anything he needed to know.
They'd reached the boundaries of a city in less than twenty minutes, a city that had somehow failed to show up on the UAV. He attracted Sam's attention and knew from the way her expression tightened as she took in the sights that she was thinking exactly the same thing. It spread for miles, a diverse collection of differing building types and uses. As they flew above the 'suburbs', he could see the houses and streets, shops, and when they entered a built up area, they flew over what looked like a large sports ground, more shops, a church, or more likely a temple, and official looking buildings, all familiar, yet not familiar. Many of the structures looked very old, and Jack wasn't sure what the building materials were. Square and rectangular buildings were vastly outnumbered by round and oval buildings, and generally everything looked well cared for. He couldn't see shuttles or traffic on the streets, but he could see people walking and in the distance he recognised a similar shuttle to the one they were on.
Jack hated to admit it, but he was impressed by what he had seen so far, and despite his sense of unease he had high hopes that something practical might come out of this mission.
Illus pointed something out to Daniel, and with some manoeuvring Jack could see an immense building coming into view. It dominated the surrounding area, and Jack realised he had seen it's towers for some miles. His assumption that this was where they were heading was confirmed as Illus piloted the shuttle to ground level, and waited for them to exit.
Jack sat back from the over burdened table, and observed their host carefully. Lord Florien was a tall, striking man, with a definite sense of power and presence about him, and Jack didn't much like him, mainly because he sensed that beneath all the polite show was a ruthless man used to getting his own way. He had welcomed them to his home, escorted them around it, and talked with them until late. The meal was an unexpected, although not unwelcome, extra. Jack glanced at Daniel who was watching the servants with rapt attention as he continued to eat the meal. Jack couldn't say he had been very aware of them. They were obviously well trained, quiet and very unobtrusive. He wondered what Daniel was thinking.
Lord Florien stirred. "What do you think of my palace, Daniel?" he asked.
Daniel put his fork down, wiped his mouth carefully on the napkin and pursed his lips in thought. "You like circles, ovals, rounded structures Lord Florien. Is there any particular significance in that?"
Florien smiled. "Aesthetics Daniel, I and my fore bearers have always deemed the circular more attractive than the rectangular."
"But less practical?" Daniel added.
"Wouldn't want to buy furniture to fit, " Jack muttered.
Florien remained smiling. "Anything else, Daniel?"
Daniel nodded. "You have many beautiful things, the tapestries are exquisite."
Florien smiled spontaneously. "Our weavers are renowned."
"I'm not surprised," Sam said, smiling at the man. "Who makes them?"
Florien beamed at her. "I am glad that they please you, Samantha," he answered. "Our womenfolk are the tapestry makers, they often record moments of history on them for posterity."
Sam smiled automatically, and fiddled with her meal. She took a deep breath and asked. "What role do women have in your society?"
Florien smiled again. "They are mothers, wives, sisters, mistresses. Admired and loved."
Sam pulled a face. "What else, I mean you said they do the tapestries?"
"They do appropriate work Samantha, as you have seen. Running around as you do in men's clothes would be anathema to them and to their men folk." Florien replied.
"That's because they haven't met Sam," Daniel said gently, and Jack hid a smile. Their host's somewhat patronising attitude to Sam, and his insistence on calling her Samantha after discovering this was the full version of her name, had grated on all of them.
Florien glanced between them. "Do you have many women doing as you do?" he asked.
Sam nodded. "A few."
"So you are somewhat special, Samantha," Florien suggested. "I apologise for not having any other female company such as my wife, but as I intimated our women folk do not involve themselves in business talk, negotiations and such like."
Sam smiled graciously. "I am very comfortable with my team, Lord Florien."
Florien nodded. "And a very attractive team you make, my dear," he said smoothly, but Jack noticed that his eyes had returned to Daniel as his spoke. Jack felt disturbed, and was relieved when the servants, who had discretely cleared the main course, returned with the desserts. The topic of conversation changed, and they were all involved in tasting and asking about the numerous sweets before them.
Daniel licked a spoon, and sighed in contentment. "I must compliment your chef," he said dreamily.
Florien smiled broadly. "I like to mix business and pleasure, I find it makes everything much easier."
Daniel sat up and looked searchingly at him. "I would hesitate to disagree with you, especially after such a wonderful meal, Lord Florien," he said politely.
Jack shuffled in his chair and gave Daniel a warning glance.
"But we don't appear to be getting to the business part. We have told you that we are explorers, that we come in friendship offering our knowledge of the Goa'uld, seeking to exchange knowledge and technology."
Florien smiled and nodded.
Daniel took a deep breath. "I think it would be fair to say that you in return have offered us nothing but pleasantries, platitudes and evasions, and so far absolutely no explanation for the way that you trapped us at the gate."
Jack saw Illus stiffen in his chair, and wished very much for his gun and either a gag for Daniel, or more warning when he finally decided to go on the offensive. Lord Florien stared at Daniel for a few seconds before grinning broadly. "My apologies Daniel, I rather enjoyed the verbal skirmishing and I'm afraid I got caught up in that."
Jack took a deep breath and mentally wiped the sweat off his brow. From the look of relief on Illus' face, he hadn't been the only one concerned at Florien's reaction to Daniel's question. Blackly he wondered if Florien's obvious appreciation of Daniel was the main reason his questions were being treated so tolerantly.
Daniel frowned. "You saw it as a battle of wills?"
Florien laughed again. "Yes, Daniel." He looked at Jack then back to Daniel. "I'd offer you a job as my negotiator anytime."
Daniel smiled, but Jack could see that his eyes remained troubled. "I don't think of my role in those terms, Lord Florien."
Jack shook his head as Lord Florien clapped his hands and the servants brought in the hot drinks. He exchanged glances with Teal'c who looked his normal self, but Jack knew him well enough to know that he was unsettled. Florien stood up from the table and waved them towards a lower table. "Please make yourselves comfortable and we will finish the meal with a drink."
Jack surveyed the area seeing cushions and low armchairs, nothing that he could sit in and remain alert. He tugged his dining chair forward and sat down again, growling, "Knees," when Sam looked questioningly at him. She nodded and relaxed into an armchair. Daniel followed her, nodding his thanks as a servant handed him a hot drink. He sniffed the drink before turning and smiled genuinely at Florien. Jack saw the man's eyes widen in appreciation and wanted to shake some sense into Daniel.
"You have coffee," Daniel said, still smiling.
Florien smelt the cup offered him. "We call it by another name, but yes it is a popular drink. He looked towards Teal'c who had refused a cup with a shake of his head. "You do not like it?"
Teal'c shook his head. "I have been unable to appreciate its finer qualities," he said gravely. "Or so I have been told."
Florien turned to Jack, but was distracted by a cry from Sam. She stood from her chair staring wildly at it. "It moved," she said accusingly. Jack and Teal'c moved as one towards her, but she held up her arm and shook her head. "I'm fine, sir, Teal'c," she added. "It just took me by surprise.
Daniel who had pulled himself forward at Sam's alarm fell back in the chair and closed his eyes. He lay back for a second then slowly moved an arm. "It's moulding to my body," he said, wonder in his voice.
"Amazing." Sam's natural instinct for enquiry came to the fore and she fingered the chair curiously, stroking at the surface, which seemed to want to curl into her hand. "Look, sir, it's responding to the movement."
Jack glanced down at the chair and watched with a sense of revulsion as the chair flowed around Sam's fingers.
Daniel relaxed into his chair and gave a self-satisfied purr of contentment. "This is so sensuous." He snuggled further into the chair. "I could get used to this."
Jack threw him an annoyed glance, and glanced at their host who had remained quiet throughout the excitement. His eyes were glittering with amusement and he was watching both Sam and Daniel avidly. "Don't get used to it, Daniel," Jack said with a note of warning in his voice.
Daniel closed his eyes and relaxed even more, his coffee cup held loosely in his hands, until suddenly his eyes flew open and he looked accusingly at Florien. "It's sentient as well!" he said, the shock obvious in his voice.
Florien laughed. "That is correct Daniel, you must be very receptive to appreciate that." He turned to Sam. "The Relaxors are a community of heat sensitive animals. They are also somewhat telepathic. They enjoy our body heat and skin and we get pleasure from their relaxing embrace."
"So the suggestions 'I heard' were for its comfort as much as mine?" Daniel looked down at the chair and stroked the arm thoughtfully as he spoke.
"What did they suggest, Daniel?" Sam asked as she slowly resumed her seat.
Daniel coloured slightly. "They suggested I was a little overdressed."
Jack couldn't help himself. He laughed at Daniel's response, despite knowing full well that Florien had set them up to experience the Relaxors with no prior warning whatsoever.
Daniel narrowed his eyes. "Why don't you try it, Jack, then you can boast about intimate and friendly contact with trees and armchairs," he said provocatively. "I bet the reports will be fascinating, and the base psychiatrist will be wetting himself trying to find out more."
Jack laughed again, deciding it wouldn't do Florien any harm to see them in action as friends as well as teammates. "Great, can't wait to mess with McKenzie's mind."
Daniel nodded, turning his attention back to Florien. "Why didn't you warn us?" he asked quietly.
Florien raised his hand looking innocent. "For all I know you might have similar on your planet."
"Unlikely," Sam said firmly, still stroking the armchair soothingly.
"But possible," Florien said, his cheerfulness unabated.
"Are you telepathic?" Daniel asked curiously. "Is that what happened to us near the Stargate?"
Florien looked at Daniel and smiled. "My people call me Lord Protector, Daniel. I have certain gifts that I use in our country's defence."
Daniel nodded slowly. "You influence minds?"
Florien nodded. "Something like that."
"But how, Lord Florien? Where do these abilities come from?" Sam asked.
Florien shook his head. "I never discuss the origins of my powers, Samantha."
Jack looked at Teal'c and caught Sam and Daniel's eyes. He shook his head and got to his feet. "We thank you for the hospitality Lord Florien, but we need to check in with our base."
Florien nodded smoothly. "I understand, although do you all need to go? Lord Illus can transport you to the portal and bring you back here before your friends could miss you. I would like for you to stay in my home, and to show you more of my world. I am sure we have much to discuss that could be of mutual benefit." He looked at Daniel and smiled. "Really discuss, Daniel. I am certain that we could both gain from an alliance." He smiled again. "Let Lord Illus and I leave you for a short while so that you can decide what you intend to do." He stood from his chair, nodded at them, and swept out of the room with Illus in tow.
Jack watched them go with suspicion before looking at his team. "Give me your views so far," he said quietly.
Teal'c shook his head. "I am not comfortable here, O'Neill. There is too much that appears hidden."
Jack nodded. "Carter?"
"I don't know, sir, he seems very pleasant and there is so much I would like to know about, but...." she trailed off.
Daniel spoke quietly. "He has been thoroughly charming Jack, and that's what surprises me. Lord Illus was very tense every time I made any attempt to quiz him about Lord Florien's motives. He gave me the impression that Lord Florien was a dictator, total power, the works." He fell silent.
"Your point?" Jack asked with great patience.
"Why does he need to charm us?"
Jack nodded, his thoughts exactly.
"He wants something from us maybe?" Sam suggested hesitantly.
"We want explanations from him," Daniel said uncompromisingly.
Jack shrugged. "They obviously have a high level of technology and I agree with Carter, there is a great deal to gain from contact." He sighed. "I'd be tempted to just leave if it wasn't for the fact that I'm dubious of our abilities to get to the gate on our own." He looked at Sam. "Carter, you come with me, we'll report to General Hammond and get our orders. In the mean time, Daniel, try and see if you can gather any more useful information.
Daniel frowned. "Have we decided then?"
Jack corrected him. "I've made the decision to stay, based on possible tactical benefits Daniel. If you have any reservations I'll duly note them."
Daniel nodded. "Gut feeling Jack, not very scientific I know. I'm curious, don't get me wrong, I'd love to know more, but I'm also apprehensive."
"I concur with Daniel Jackson." Teal'c said unexpectedly. "Any race that appears knowledgeable about the Goa'uld, but unafraid, has both my interest and my fear."
"I'd forgotten that." Daniel acknowledged. "You're right Jack, whatever the worries, and I've got a number, the possible benefits outweigh them." He frowned. "Unless all of this is an illusion of course."
"Ha, ha Dr Jackson." Jack stood up and stretched. "Carter and I'll check in with the General. If he okays it, we'll sleep here, do a 'recon' in the morning and see where we are heading." He grinned, "In the meantime, try not to get too intimate with the chairs, Daniel."
He strode to the door and flung it open, startling the guard on the outside. "Tell Lord Florien we accept his offer of transportation." Jack ordered, and waited for the ride.
Lord Florien's wife conducted them to the baths and bedchambers, chatting incessantly all the way. Jack thought her very attractive, but somewhat empty headed and vain. The looks she had given both himself and Daniel were blatant in the extreme, but it was Teal'c that seemed to fascinate her the most.
Jack watched with amusement as the big guy unbent enough to almost smile at the woman. Whoa, that almost smile would have been a huge grin on anyone else. Yes, Teal'c was interested. Jack caught Daniel's eye and winked at him, pleased at the small smile that curved over his lips as he watched Lady Fyona and Teal'c. Sam in contrast looked a little exasperated.
Lady Fyona ushered them into a huge suite. The centre room was full of cushions, chairs and decorated by exquisite tapestries, drapes and works of art. A fountain tinkled in the centre, the raised walls of the pool wide enough to sit along. Doors to further rooms led from the main area.
"Your suite." Lady Fyona trilled, "With baths this way. You will find towels and robes to wear."
Jack peeped into one of the indicated rooms and caught the longing look that Sam directed their way. He had to admit that the heat steaming off the petal-strewn surface looked inviting.
"Please do avail yourself of anything," Lady Fyona fluttered, giving Teal'c yet another sultry look. "Servants are available to assist you if required. If you have need of me, please ring the bell here and a servant will fetch me."
She smiled at Teal'c, Jack and Daniel, let the expression slip for Sam and sashayed out of the rooms.
Jack shook his head, catching a look of bemusement on Sam's face. He decided that they needed to regroup and exchange information, but Daniel beat him to it.
"What did the General say, Jack?" Daniel asked.
"Check in regularly, look sharp and negotiate hard," Jack said, reflecting that General Hammond had not been too happy at hearing about their experiences. "He's keen on what he's heard, but wants to be kept constantly informed."
"Did Lord Illus listen into your report?" Daniel inquired.
Jack shook his head. "He stayed by the shuttle and talked with Carter, but I suppose we could have been overheard." He turned to Sam. "Did you find out anything?"
Sam shook her head, "Nothing of use," she said, attempting to hide a yawn. We just talked a little about nothing really. He's certainly more communicative when Lord Florien isn't around."
Jack turned back to Daniel and Teal'c. "Did you learn anything more?"
Teal'c shook his head as Daniel pulled a face. "Lord Florien seems to find it more amusing to hide information than offer it," he said wearily. "Honestly, Jack he acts like it's all a game."
Jack nodded. "Fine, then these are the rules. We look around, make nice and don't rock the boat. We stay together, or in pairs, and keep our weapons handy at all times. Agreed?"
His team nodded their agreement, and he relaxed a little. "We'll know more tomorrow, until then I suggest we get a good night's rest and enjoy the facilities." He waved at the baths, amused by Sam's heartfelt sigh of appreciation.
Daniel stood and stretched. "Right, I'm bushed. See you in the morning," he hesitated and looked at Jack. "Are we keeping watch?"
Jack frowned. "Do the doors have locks?"
"Not that it means much." He thought for a second. "No, I'll jam a chair under the handle, or something. Okay?"
Jack watched his team with affection as Daniel headed for one of the bedrooms, Carter scrabbled for a bath and Teal'c turned his attention to the cushions.
"Keep the connecting doors open," Jack reminded them, and headed for bed.
Daniel woke with a start, his heart was pounding and he could feel the sweat running down his back. He sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes before swinging his legs over the bed and standing. His bare feet sank into the carpet and the soothing sensation calmed his panic as he walked to the door. The contrast of the cool of the marble on his feet made him feel a little more alert, and he stood for a while getting his bearings. Collecting himself, he wandered out into the darkened room, and more by sound than sight headed for the fountain. He sat on the marbled edge trailing his hand in the water, losing himself and his worries in the comforting sounds and sensations until a light touch on his shoulder made him jump.
"What's up, Daniel?"
Daniel turned and looked up at Sam blinking sleepily before him. The low light from the high windows flickered across her face, and a solitary beam highlighted her hair in a brief halo. Daniel smiled. "Did I wake you?"
Sam shook her head. "I had a strange dream and couldn't get back to sleep."
Daniel frowned. "So did I, Sam."
They exchanged glances.
"So are you going to tell me?"
Daniel smiled. "I was dreaming about Abydos and Sha're." He sighed gently. "I do that quite often, not as much as I used to, but fairly regularly. But this time it was as if I were a spectator in my own dream. Ra featured quite heavily, someone I normally avoid thinking about. It was as if my experiences from stumbling through the Stargate to Jack leaving were on film." He shrugged. "It disturbed me."
Sam nodded briefly and sat down next to Daniel by the fountain. "Mine was a little like that." She stirred the water beneath her hand.
"And?" Daniel gently prompted.
Sam breathed deeply. "Remember Jonas Hansen?" She ploughed on hardly waiting for Daniel's nod. "Well, I went back to my first meeting with him." She smiled gently. "He was so handsome and charming. We spent some time together before he went overseas on duty. We tried to meet up regularly, and it was great until the operations began to get dirtier and longer. I got on with my life, and Jonas and I eventually broke up." She sighed. "Suddenly I was back on the mission where Jonas went mad and thought he was a god." She shivered. "I relived the whole damn experience, with the rest of you working your butts off to save me."
"Do you think of him normally?"
Sam laughed. "No Daniel. I left Jonas behind a long time ago."
"Whom do you dream about now?" Daniel asked with gentle curiosity. "That is if it's not too personal a question, Sam."
Sam smiled and shook her head. "I've dreamt of Martouf, Narim and even our Colonel at times." She shrugged her shoulders at Daniel's quizzical gaze. "No, Daniel, I'm not mooning over Jack O'Neill. I care for him, I love him, but I feel the same way about you and Teal'c. You're the best team I've ever worked with, I'd be devastated if anything happened to any of you."
Daniel touched Sam's hand briefly. "I feel the same way, Sam." He smiled into the dark. "I never thought I'd feel this close to three soldiers, but you're family."
Sam laughed. "You're not a bad fighter yourself, Daniel. I've been watching you; the training and missions have rubbed off on you."
Daniel laughed softly. "What would my colleagues think of me now? They'd say I've sold my soul to the military."
Sam snorted. "They don't know anything about it."
They sat in comfortable silence for a time, then as one, drifted towards the Relaxors and settled down into their warm embrace.
"These are pretty amazing." Sam murmured, stroking the surface. "I know the Colonel and Teal'c are highly suspicious of them, but I don't get any bad vibes around them."
Daniel nestled into the chair and sighed. "Other than their pretty insistent suggestion that I get undressed, no nor do I."
Sam giggled. "Yeah, they keep suggesting I'd be more comfortable with less on."
"We should ask Jack and Teal'c if they dreamed," Daniel said sleepily, yawning.
Silence gathered between them as they retreated into their own thoughts, and the comfort and gentle lulling of the chairs sent them both into a peaceful, dreamless sleep.
Florien acknowledged the glowing ball, and waved his hand. An image of a handsome, somewhat haughty man flickered into existence, the slight haziness around the edges the only indicator that the man was not actually seated in the room itself.
The man stirred. "The portal opened," he said abruptly.
"So?" He appeared impatient, his hands tapping on the arms of his chair.
"Three humans and a Jaffa came through. They are my guests."
"A Jaffa?" The man sounded horrified.
"He is nothing like we have seen before." Florien reassured him. "He is not the leader of the group, one of the humans is. These people are different."
The man nodded. "My brothers and I wish to see them, Florien. You know the custom."
Florien nodded. "I am observing them. Give me time. I have already begun my probing, and I think I know what I have caught."
"The infamous SG1."
The man stiffened then laughed. "They could be traded then?"
Florien nodded. "But when you see them, you may think them worth keeping for ourselves."
The man looked intrigued. "I will inform our brothers, and expect to hear from you very soon." He smiled. "I am certainly looking forward to it."
Florien nodded. "Till then brother." He waved his hands and broke the contact. Sitting back in his chair he turned back to the monitor the communication ball had distracted from. His finger traced along the sleeping body of one of the members of SG-1, a sly smile on his face. With a contented sigh, he slowly stood from the chair, stretched, and headed for his bed.
The second day was turning out to be far more informative than the first, although Jack felt he could do with a little more action. He smothered a yawn and watched their host discretely. Florien was certainly keen on both Carter and Daniel, but to Jack's continued disquiet Daniel appeared to have the edge. Perhaps it was because Daniel had done the most talking yesterday or maybe Florien felt that Daniel was the person who would appreciate the sights the most. Jack didn't know, but what he did know was that he didn't like it.
The shuttle came to a halt by the large, and to Jack's mind, appallingly gaudy, temple. He watched Daniel's face as they disembarked, amused as he saw the sense of wonder being slowly replaced by a look of shock, quickly hidden.
"Big," he drawled as insultingly as possible. "Seen anything like that, Teal'c?"
"Not recently." Teal'c said repressively.
Apparently irritated by the word play, and perhaps aware of the subtle insult, Florien reached for Daniel's elbow and smoothly moved him away from the shuttle towards the temple, waving Sam forward at the same time.
"Very keen on showing Daniel the works," Jack murmured in Teal'c's ear.
"Perhaps he feels that only he will appreciate their true worth, O'Neill."
Jack nodded as Teal'c echoed his thoughts.
They followed the three of them along the elevated path to the temple door and into the dark interior. The décor seemed almost worse inside, if that was possible.
Lord Florien walked them towards the centre of the vast chamber, under the dome, and bowed with reverence before a vast statue.
"Who do you worship?" Daniel asked quietly, after a few moments of respectful silence.
"My ancestors, Daniel."
Daniel frowned at the answer. "In what way?"
Florien pointed to the vast array of statues that stood proudly in their own niches. "We celebrate my great great great and more grandfather and uncles, the first of our kind, who built up this world with their powers, and allowed the people to live in comfort and security. To them and our ancestors after them we give thanks. I too will be worshipped when I leave this plane."
Daniel's expression went blank as he absorbed the information, but before he could ask anything else, Florien ushered them out of the temple and back into the bright light of day. "Come. I will show the wonders of the market," he said brightly, as Jack wondered why the temple visit had been so fleeting.
They walked away from the temple, down the ramp, and along the pathway towards a group of buildings. As they neared it, Jack could see a large, circular expanse, covered in gaily-decorated barrows and stalls full of merchandise. At their approach the noise level dropped and activity ceased, until all of the people were kneeling and bowing.
Lord Florien clapped his hands twice, smiling he said, "Rise up, dear subjects and continue your activities."
The people began to move about again, and Jack watched as the musicians in the centre began to play, the jugglers limbered up in preparation for tossing their staffs and demonstrating their skills, and the buyers returned to surveying the merchandise laid out before them. Despite the hustle and the bustle, he sensed a certain wariness, and wondered if it was directed at them or Florien.
Daniel looked apologetically at his teammates, before wandering over to a stall covered with bric-a-brac. His attempts at gaining information caused the stallholder's young daughter to giggle and smile shyly up at him. Daniel smiled back, and pointed at objects, asking permission to hold, explore, look. Florien moved to stand near him, although Jack thought that Daniel's depreciating smile seemed more effective at obtaining articles than Florien's commands, and wondered at the relationship that the man had with his people.
Jack sighed, glanced at Sam and Teal'c, and gestured at the market. "Might as well explore, care to join me, Carter?"
"I will watch over Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said.
Jack nodded, then meandered off to peruse the market, Sam in tow. No one seemed to take any particular notice of them, although a few looked askance at the obviously feminine Sam in her pants and uniform, and a couple of the very decorative women smiled at him in welcome. He grinned back at them, but his strange attire and his obvious connection with Florien seemed to keep them slightly distant, despite the warm welcome in their eyes. "Love the clothes," he said quietly to Sam.
She glanced at him, her face expressionless. "So I can see, sir," she said, a glimmer of smile in her eyes. "I must admit I feel a little short changed myself."
Jack blinked and looked at her quizzically, but she just smiled and carried on her observation of the market.
They wandered round the gaily-painted stalls for a few more minutes before returning to Daniel, Teal'c and Florien.
Daniel caught sight of them and waved something at them.
"What the hell's that?" Jack asked curiously as they got nearer.
Daniel inspected it carefully. "A gift, I think it's a statuette of our host," he said finally. "Is that so Lord Florien?"
Florien nodded briefly, moving them back to the waiting vehicle.
Jack inspected the statue of Florien carefully; the figure was a rather idealised likeness. "It will make a good paperweight, Daniel," he said snidely.
Florien flashed him a look of irritation and strode off. Daniel looked at him in surprise, turning the statue in his hands. "I guess so Jack," he said uncertainly, a little tentative smile pulled at the corner of his mouth, as he ducked his head.
"Or a target, for the shooting range," Jack added. Teal'c bobbed his head, a small smile curving at the corner of his mouth while Daniel shook his head, glancing at their host.
Florien turned back towards them, waiting impatiently until they caught up with him and entered the shuttle. He smiled at Daniel, inquiring, "Did you enjoy that?"
Daniel nodded. "Thank you, Lord Florien, that was fascinating."
"Good, Lord Illus will show Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c around our warriors' compound, and I will continue to show you and Samantha the sights of my city. We will meet up in the evening for dinner."
Jack stopped in his tracks. This was the first he had heard, but he didn't have any objection if it meant access to military hardware.
"Can we look at your industries?" Sam asked Florien.
Florien looked at her in surprise. "Why would you wish to visit them, Samantha?"
Sam looked amused. "Because I am an inquisitive scientist Lord Florien, like Daniel, but with different interests."
Florien nodded, glancing at Jack. "You have my sympathy Colonel O'Neill," he said obliquely, settling in the pilot's seat.
Jack raised his eyebrow and grinned at both of his affronted scientists. The last he saw of them before Lord Illus whisked him and Teal'c away, was Daniel and Sam talking enthusiastically together watched by a bemused Florien.
Daniel woke with a start, his heart pounding. He lay in the bed for a few seconds trying to get his bearings, and reflected on his dream. That had been one strange promenade of Goa'uld. Starting with Ra, and that was the second time he'd dreamed about a being he'd never given thought to over the years. He hadn't liked to remember being forced to kneel at Ra's feet, the questioning, the feel of Ra's gold covered fingers as they held his chin and ran up and down his face, emphasising his questions. Daniel shivered.
His dream had moved on to Hathor, another Goa'uld he could have lived without ever knowing. He'd relived her seduction, and felt physically sick. He'd been grateful when the dream settled on Setesh, but it had hardly lingered before heading for Cronus, Yu, Nirrti, Her'ur, ending with a flourish with Apophis, Amaunet and finally Osiris.
Just thinking about Apophis' name brought such anger that Daniel occasionally worried for his sanity. Watching Amaunet ribboning him and Teal'c's killing of her, and in a way all his hopes for a life with Sha're, however slight they had become, had not been pleasant.
Daniel was getting suspicious; this was the second time he had dreamt almost against his will. He sighed, struggled out of bed, and padded out into the main area, distracting himself with the sight and sound of the fountain, before heading purposefully for Sam's room. Leaning in he saw her curled in a ball her face relaxed and content, sound asleep. So what ever was affecting him didn't seem to be troubling her.
He peered into Teal'c's room, and was very surprised to see the big guy asleep on his bed. Whenever he went to wake him to take watch, he was always crossed legged in kelno'reem, and he was certain that Teal'c had told him that the Jaffa did not need sleep, nor did they dream. He watched Teal'c's relaxed countenance for a few seconds, and then approached Jack.
Jack had lightening reflexes, and was a very light sleeper, so Daniel was a little unsure that it was wise to look in on him, but he too was fast asleep a small contented smile on his lips. Daniel stood and watched him for a time, pleased to see his friend so relaxed and happy, curious as to what would be making him smile and moan a little, his hands clenching and unclenching against his side.
Daniel sighed quietly; troubled by the feelings he had for his team leader. Friendship, yes, but somehow Jack had become something more, something very important, a buddy, possible even a best buddy. A strange friendship between a 'geek' and a 'flyboy'. One he knew that some at the SGC had put money on would never happen, that SG1's civilian archaeologist would be off SG-1 as soon as Jack O'Neill found the right excuse.
Well they'd lost their money spectacularly he was pleased to say. A grin covered his face, than slowly faded as he returned to his previous thoughts. He was becoming too dependent on Jack, both emotionally and physically. His heartache when Jack was lost for three months, and in the following fiasco over the stolen technology and apparent retirement had shaken him to the core. Their friendship had been strained of late, and he often thought he ought to make the break before Jack inevitably cut him off, but as yet he hadn't managed to.
He retreated from his melancholy thoughts and sat down in the Relaxor, giving into its demands to get unclothed, and covering himself with a robe before drifting off into blissful, trouble free sleep.
Jack glared at the brightly coloured plate in front of him, and at the servant who was offering him bread. He took a roll, pulled a piece off, and chewed slowly, thinking. This was the third day with Lord Florien, and to be honest Jack was getting a little confused about what exactly they were achieving. He yawned, clasping his hand over his mouth, and tried to pull his thoughts together. His sleep here was disturbed by dreams of his past. Initially he had dreamt of his son. Charlie had been so full of life and energy, running around at top speed, hugging him, excited that his dad was home. Jack had snuggled with Sara and Charlie in their big bed, played games, made love to Sara, and generally remembered all the things that had made his marriage so good.
It had been a long time since he had allowed himself to recall those memories
He remembered stirring, waking slightly to see Daniel standing at the door watching him, a smile on his face, but he couldn't be sure if he was awake of still asleep. What he did remember was the dream had moved on, suddenly he was in bed with Daniel, and they were having hot passionate sex. It had been so steamy he woke sweating, the smell and taste of the dream Daniel almost tangible.
He'd stayed still for some minutes, feeling drowsy and satiated, and somehow not in the least embarrassed. He'd recognised the nature of his feelings for Daniel for some time back. Shocked, he'd tried to ignore them at first, and had also attempted to transfer them to someone he considered more appropriate, Sam. He was prepared to admit to feelings for her, in fact he did have strong feelings for her. She was a beautiful, intelligent woman, and he wasn't blind to her charms, but Daniel still remained the focus of his sexual desire. So he'd tried to distance himself from the man, and to a degree achieved some success, although not without managing to harm their friendship in the process.
He sighed, why on another planet, in the middle of a strange and potentially dangerous mission, should he suddenly permit himself to dream about sex with Daniel? All he knew was that the dream Daniel had been so responsive, so exciting, so damn passionate. He ached for him, and he couldn't help wondering if the real Daniel was anything like him.
Jack shook his head in frustration. For crying out loud, he was on a mission, he should not be daydreaming about doing his friend and teammate at their host's breakfast table! Repeating the mantra. 'I will not think of Daniel in that way', he smiled grimly and tried to concentrate on the conversation playing out in front of him.
"What are you interested in today, Colonel?" Florien asked.
Jack blinked, trying to focus, conscious that he didn't feel in control. He rubbed his head, glancing apologetically at his team, before refocusing his attention. "Carter, Teal'c, Daniel?"
Daniel looked up from his plate. "I'd like to study your culture, Lord Florien. I'm also fascinated as to learn how you learnt to speak English."
Jack suppressed a groan, turning to Teal'c and Sam hopefully.
"I'd be happy to see anything," Sam said brightly.
Teal'c nodded. "I also, O'Neill."
Jack relaxed beginning to feel more comfortable and optimistic. "We are in your hands," he said to Florien.
Lord Florien smiled. "Then I will allow Daniel to access our library, and take the rest of you to inspect the barracks and explore a possible exchange of information." He turned to Daniel. "I am sure the library would suit you more, Daniel, as to our language, I have never considered it. It was not our original language; we have books that I am unable to read. Anyway you may discover this in the library."
Daniel nodded, then glanced at Jack, his expression puzzled. "I thought you wanted us to stay together?" he said quietly.
Jack blinked, a little uncertainly.
"Your teammates will be safe with me, Daniel," Florien said in amusement. "Isn't that so, Colonel?"
Jack felt reassured and grinned at Daniel. "Wouldn't want to spoil your fun, Danny. You trot off and worry that clever brain of yours in the library, Carter, Teal'c and I will check out the technology and stuff on offer, and discuss everything in the evening. Okay?" He ruffled Daniel's hair and smiled at the cute, pole-axed expression on his face.
"Are you feeling all right, Jack?" Daniel asked him even quieter than before, and Jack had to lean towards him to hear him.
"Sure, Danny-boy," he laughed.
Daniel's face closed up, and he abruptly moved away. Jack looked after him puzzled. He was about to go after him when Florien distracted him and began discussing the plans for the day. Caught up in the excitement of what was on offer he didn't notice as Lord Illus escorted Daniel from the room.
By the end of the day, Daniel felt completely off balance. Halfway through the day Lady Fyona turned up and escorted him back to the palace quizzing him about Teal'c on the way, which had caused him some amusement. He had an intimate and friendly meal with her and Lord Florien, and discussed a few of the burning questions that his research had uncovered. Then he had been dismissed, returned to the library, and was left to his own devices. Questions about his team elicited little in the way of help. They were apparently inspecting the barracks, discussing weapons, and enjoying themselves. Florien had said, correctly, that as Daniel was not a soldier he assumed he would not be interested in the display, which is why he had arranged for him to be in the library.
Daniel sighed, while he couldn't fault the man's assumption, Jack's easy acceptance of them continued to gnaw away at him. Something was wrong. Despite his work he had not been able to dismiss his anxieties, and now, at yet another meal with Florien, Illus and Fyona, his concerns were making him jumpy and slightly fractious. His teammates were all just too relaxed and happy. Teal'c was flirting with Fyona. He'd never seen Teal'c flirt, and at any other time the experience would have been a Dear Diary moment, but here and now it just seemed so totally wrong.
Illus was absorbed in Sam, and apparently vice versa, and Florien was talking guns with Jack. Big guns, bad guns, honking huge guns, oh joy. Well Jack was happy, and he seemed to have wrung some kind of agreement from Florien regarding them.
Daniel sat back and watched, his worries deepening. He had found no explanation for Florien's powers in any of the books he had read, just numerous allusions to the power of the four, a phrase that appeared to have an almost religious significance. He looked at Florien and felt his thumbs prickle with apprehension.
"Should we contact General Hammond, Jack?" He asked quietly. "This is the third night we will be spending here."
Jack shifted in his chair, and smiled brightly at him. "Yeah, okay Daniel, you do it."
Daniel looked at him thoughtfully. "Don't you think he would prefer to hear from you?" he prompted gently.
Jack grinned and patted him exuberantly. "He'd love to hear from you Danny boy. Make his day, make my day, make everyone's day."
Daniel shivered, and ground his teeth slightly at the second use of the hated 'pet name'. "I think he'd rather hear from you as our leader, Jack," he said firmly. "You can tell him about this agreement you and Lord Florien have come to."
Jack looked at him with what Daniel recognised as fond affection, and patted his head again. "Just go, Danny." He swirled his glass, tipped the contents down his throat, burped slightly and looked closely at the bottle. "I think I'll be discussing the possibility of importing this rather fine wine with Lord Florien."
Daniel closed his eyes in frustration, glanced at Florien's amused and slightly mocking features. He felt an unusual impulse towards violence, and stood up abruptly. "Fine, Jack. Lord Florien, could I have transport to the Stargate please?"
"Of course, Daniel." Florien was smooth and gracious. "I will arrange for my guards to accompany you."
Daniel frowned before nodding slowly. "Thank you, I will be some time."
"Take all the time you want Daniel, just don't forget to come back here to join your friends."
Daniel looked suspiciously at Florien as he smiled at him. "What do you mean by that, Lord Florien?" he said quietly, glancing at Jack for support.
Jack continued to twirl his glass seemingly oblivious of the conversation in front of him.
Florien smiled. "That is for you to determine, Daniel."
Daniel frowned, said goodbye to his oblivious teammates and left in a whirl of confusion. The flight to the gate was mainly silent, as the guards appeared to be wary of getting into a conversation. He did manage to get one of the guards to talk to him about piloting the shuttle, which he counted as a minor success. However, they had obviously had orders not to let him out of sight, and remained at his side throughout his conversation with the SGC.
His talk with General Hammond left two people unhappy. He was circumspect in his description of his team's, and in particular Jack's, behaviour, while acknowledging that Jack appeared to be on very good terms with their host. He gave him a brief resume of everything that had occurred, and hoped that the General could pick up what he wasn't saying. He couldn't see General Hammond's expression, but he could sense his frustration from his voice.
"Inform Colonel O'Neill that I expect to hear from him, Dr Jackson, and look after yourself." Were the last words he heard before the wormhole collapsed. He turned to face the guard, and felt very alone.
He estimated he'd been away for about two hours. Apparently he could have been gone for the whole day for all the difference it made. Teal'c was still absorbed with Lady Fyona, while Sam was necking, he had to check his facts twice, with Lord Illus. Fortunately Jack was present and not otherwise occupied. He looked drowsy and content, holding a wine glass close to his face, and twisting the stem as he looked happily over the room.
"Danny," he said effusively. "Missed you, come sit here." He patted the chair next to him.
Daniel sat slowly down, looking at Jack as he spoke. "I reported directly to General Hammond, Jack."
"Colonel Jack here got a little fidgety until he tasted the wine, but I'm afraid your other friends hardly noticed your absence." Florien said softly.
Daniel nodded, wandering what exactly was going on. He was thoroughly confused and angry, a state of mind he had no doubt that Florien would be happy for him to remain in, but not conducive to sensible reasoning at all. He stared at Florien considering what, if anything, he should say, jumping slightly as Jack moved nearer and threw a companionable arm around his shoulder.
"So, Danny, George got anything interesting to say?"
Daniel sat still, as a finger gently traced a path along his neck. "Nothing that can't wait, Jack," he said somewhat repressively.
"Good." Jack grinned. "Got other things on my mind."
Daniel nearly squawked as the hand that had been holding the wine glass settled on his thigh and stroked his BDU clad leg. He moved sharply, placing his hand on Jack's and firmly stilling it.
"Shall we get you to bed, Jack?" he asked as steadily as possible. "Seems like our host has been over generous with the wine."
"Bed." Jack beamed at him. "Sweet! Can't think of a better place." He stood unsteadily, using Daniel's shoulder as a prop, and pulled Daniel up after him, wrapping his arm round Daniel's shoulder, and nuzzling into his neck.
Daniel turned him gently towards the door, casting an angry look at Florien. He glanced at Sam and Teal'c and sighed. They were totally absorbed in their respective partners and no use to him whatsoever.
Florien smiled. "Take care, Daniel."
Daniel ignored him, and slowly walked Jack to their rooms.
Getting Jack into bed proved difficult as Jack wanted to kiss and cuddle. Daniel thought long, hard, bitter thoughts about Florien as he kept up a gentle patter, teasing Jack into bed, kissing him lightly on the forehead, and permitting himself to be tumbled on the bed and hugged. Slowly the grasp relaxed as Jack fell into a drunken stupor. Daniel slowly eased out of Jack's embrace and stood looking down at his friend.
He could kill Florien. He might have lowered Jack's inhibitions sufficiently for Jack to actually demonstrate that he wanted Daniel, but knowing Jack, he would be so embarrassed when he sobered up that he'd keep further away from Daniel than he had been of late.
Daniel felt tears start in his eyes, and clenched his fists. If Jack had offered him a tumble in the sack, stone, cold sober, he'd have taken it, damn the consequences. Nothing though would allow him to take advantage of Jack in this state. He ignored the relaxor, and stumbled towards his bed, wondering briefly when, or possibly, if Sam and Teal'c would be joining them. Shrugging, he stripped, covered himself with a blanket and fell asleep.
A feeling of déjà vu flickered across his thoughts as he awoke in the bed, hot, sweaty, and very breathless. Blinking wearily he rolled to the side of the bed, conscious of aching. Lowering his head in his hands he tried to compose himself. That had to be one of the most erotic dreams he had ever had, and when Sha're had first been taken, he'd had a number of very wet dreams about her.
Daniel shivered; damn his sub conscious. Just because Jack got drunk and friendly didn't justify a trip into wish fulfilment. He rubbed his neck tiredly, obviously he was suppressing a lot of very blatant desires about his friend, and right now, he'd like to take the damn desires outside, line them up against a wall and shoot them. He'd thought he was going to have enough trouble facing Jack post drunk fumbling, but post coital dream was even harder to contemplate.
Slowly standing, Daniel looked down at his semen-stained torso with disgust, and headed wearily for the baths, and the luxury of constant steaming water. Lowering himself into the bath he gave himself up to the soothing heat, and tried to relax, but although the heat was comforting he remained tense.
Sam and Teal'c were acting way out of character. Neither one would flirt so obviously, or possibly even sleep with an alien on mission. Not after Jack's unfortunate experience of accelerated aging, or his own almost terminal screw up with Shyla. It was neither safe nor professional, and when all was said and done, all of his team, himself included, were committed professionals who would never risk their career on the Stargate programme for a casual fling.
Therefore logic dictated that Florien had drugged them into loosing their inhibitions. Putting it crudely, Florien was raping their minds, and by default their bodies.
Daniel shivered as he realised the only explanation for his own continued state of normality was that Florien desired an audience.
The fourth day tried Daniel's patience and forbearance to the limit, and he was finding Florien's need for audience participation more than he could stomach. He bit his tongue, raised his chin, and returned Florien's amused look with studied indifference. The man was enjoying himself far too much at their expense. He had Teal'c, Sam and Jack eating out of the palm of his hands. Literally, as the sickening little display of power had just demonstrated. His refusal to taste food offered to him by Florien had resulted in Florien turning his attention to Jack, who did just as he was ordered.
Daniel gripped the arms of his chair and screamed internally. The whole day had been an exercise in power. From the wrestling that all of them, in his case very reluctantly, had performed, to the cat and mouse word play between him and Florien.
Any attempt on his part to talk, really talk, to Jack was foiled by Florien who had hardly left his side throughout the day. Lord Illus and Lady Fyona were also with them, and had Sam and Teal'c following their every word. Daniel's patience had been stretched to the absolute limit, and he could not remember ever hating anyone, other than the Goa'uld, as much as he hated this man. He tried to keep his face expressionless, but from the continued look of glee on Florien's face he knew he was failing. Jack always told him he made a lousy poker player.
Florien reached forward, and held Daniel's chin, tapping Daniel's face with his finger. "Stop fighting me, Daniel," he said, and moved forward to plant a kiss on Daniel's cheek.
Daniel held himself still, disturbed by the man's actions, and conscious of a growing desire to strike out. Florien trailed his finger down Daniel's neck before removing his hand. Daniel closed his eyes briefly, and took a deep breath. "I would like to retire now," he said quietly.
Florien turned to look at Sam and Teal'c. Your friends look comfortable where they are," he said.
Daniel really didn't want to look. He'd seen quite enough of Sam and Teal'c's behaviour to know that Sam at least was going to be mortified by her apparent loss of control. "That may be so," he said calmly, "but I am tired." He turned towards Jack, who was staring down at his wine glass. "Are you ready to leave?" he asked Jack hopefully.
Jack turned, squinted up at him and nodded pushing his chair back to stand.
"Sit down, Colonel O'Neill." Florien ordered. "We have things to talk about. Go Daniel, Jack will be with you later."
Daniel clenched his fists tight, rose from his chair, and strode from the room.
Jack had enough experience and training in dealing with mind control drugs to know when he was being subjected to them. Unfortunately in this case he'd not been expecting it, and the knowledge had come after he'd been drugged, and was not enough to prevent him from succumbing.
He felt disconnected, as if he were floating above himself. He knew what he should do and say, but was instead compliant, obedient, submissive, passive and deferential to Florien's' suggestions, and totally open to his subconscious desires.
He was also well aware that Sam and Teal'c were similarly affected, while Daniel was not. Daniel's alarm and fear for them all had been obvious almost from the beginning, almost as obvious as Florien's amusement.
Jack gripped the arm of his chair and fought to get beyond the fog that surrounded his thoughts. He'd totally let go with Daniel, and wasn't sure if that was part of Florien's game plan, or more a response to his long suppressed desires. Part of him had been able to monitor Daniel's reaction, and he now had the answer to whether Daniel reciprocated his unspoken feelings. Daniel was essentially an honest person. He was learning to dissemble, but his eyes and his body language gave him away, and what they told Jack was that the attraction was mutual.
Jack sighed, rubbing at his head. If they got out of this damn situation intact he was going to stop fighting his desire and discuss things with Daniel, but at the present moment he had a very bad feeling that all they had done was offer Florien more opportunity to screw with their minds.
He rubbed his head again, and felt a little more in control of himself. Checking on Teal'c and Sam he found it difficult to restrain his shock at their behaviour. Sam and Illus were entwined and absorbed in each other. A beautiful and sexy woman had replaced his efficient and capable colleague, and while he might appreciate the woman, what he needed more than anything was his second in command.
He turned to Teal'c, gaining evidence, had he needed it, that Teal'c was very much a lady's man given the opportunity. Lady Fyona looked totally besotted, and very clingy. It seemed obvious that both Illus and Fyona were more than happy with their partners, and had probably needed no encouragement to play their roles.
Florien said something to both couples, and escorted them to the door. He waved away a servant and walked towards Jack. Leaning forward he stared unblinkingly into Jack's eyes, nodded to himself, and sat down.
"We will talk now, Colonel. I have given you the antidote and it has taken affect." His voice rose sharply, almost barking out the next sentence. "You will stay seated and listen to everything I have to stay."
Jack contemplated flipping him the bird, but, wary as to how the man would react, he satisfied himself by remaining totally impassive. Florien's first words came as something of a surprise.
"May I congratulate you on your team, Colonel. Such a superb group of individuals, so fascinating, so delightful, I cannot tell you how pleased I am that you came to my world."
"The feeling is not mutual," Jack said simply, feeling that unblemished truth might serve him better than smart-ass remarks.
Florien smiled, "Do you know how old I am, Colonel O'Neill?"
"Haven't given it a thought," Jack replied truthfully.
Florien smiled again. "Over two hundred of your years, Colonel O'Neill."
Jack kept his face impassive with an effort.
"Do you know how bored one can get playing with the same people, fighting the same fights? The Goa'uld, their Jaffa and their servants are our main trading partners. We may trade with them, but will not have them in our cities, much to their frustration." He smiled at Jack. "I think were it not for what we can supply them, they would have ceased trading with us eons ago. In fact Teal'c is the first Jaffa we have entertained in person in living memory."
Jack wondered where this was all leading, who the 'we' were, unless Florien was using it collectively to include his people. He wasn't sure that he liked this open Florien any more that the power mad dictator they had already been shown.
"Your point?" he said as casually as possible.
Florien glowered at him for a second, before beginning to smile in a way that made Jack feel very uncomfortable.
"You are an impatient man, Colonel, are you not?" he said with a note of warning in his voice. "The point, as you so succinctly phrase it, is that we intend to get as much entertainment from you and your team as possible."
Again the 'we', thought Jack with some puzzlement. What I want to know is what the hell is going on, and how I can kill you, he thought angrily. He looked stonily at Florien and waited.
"Congratulations, Colonel O'Neill." Florien was amused. "I was expecting an angry response and from watching you face I'd say I achieved one"
"I doubt that you have any idea as to what I will do," Jack said Carefully, aware that anything he said fed into this man's game plan.
The question was yet another challenge, but with effort Jack managed to ignore it.
Florien laughed again. "Superb, I have played with Daniel Jackson like this, and he
also surprised me with his control." He looked searchingly at Jack before continuing.
"Do you know why I chose to allow Daniel his freedom of thought and movement?"
"Surprise me?" Jack challenged.
Florien smiled nastily. "My initial reaction was to force you to watch your teammates, Colonel, as you are their leader, then something about Daniel made me reconsider. I chose him for two reasons, firstly because he is not a warrior. I wanted to see how he would react to the three apparently stronger members of his team becoming seduced into my world."
Jack remained silent, determined not to ask what Florien so obviously wanted him to.
Florien laughed in his face, and proceeded to act as if he had asked the question. "He acted with anger, restraint and great anguish," Florien said. "Very controlled, very rigid and polite in his dealings with me, and so heartbroken at seeing his friends so compromised. It was fascinating and very enlightening."
Jack swallowed his angry reply, but decided that he might as well ask the man what he wanted to know. "You underestimate Daniel, he has both courage and tenacity. But you gave two reasons, Florien?"
Florien smiled again. "Samantha is a beautiful woman would you not agree?"
Wondering where the hell this was leading, Jack nodded his head.
"I was taken with her, so lovely, so clever and so potentially lethal. I thought I would take her for myself, then I decided to give her to Illus and watch your reactions."
"Give her? Take her?" Jack was furious. "What is she, some kind of pet?"
Florien smiled ignoring Jack's angry response. "I had assumed that you might be jealous, but you weren't. Neither were Daniel or Teal'c, but that surprised me less."
"So?" Jack asked, barely keeping his fury under control."
Florien smiled. "Then there is Teal'c with whom my wife is completely besotted. I gave her permission to chase him. A proud man this Jaffa, with strong moral standards. I have enjoyed feeling him fight his attraction for my wife." He laughed. "I have given both Samantha and Teal'c the antidote I gave you, but theirs will take a little longer to work, long enough for them to 'misbehave' yet again with their partners."
Jack's desires to take Florien out were threatening to overwhelm him. He took a long, deep breath and tried very hard to remain impassive.
Florien smiled neutrally. "Getting uncomfortable, Colonel?"
"The company is offensive otherwise I'm fine," snapped Jack.
Florien's smile broadened. "Then we turn to you, my handsome, charming and slightly rakish Colonel."
Oh shit, thought Jack, is this a come on or something?
"Oh don't worry Colonel." Florien's eyes were sly. "You are not quite to my taste, although I can well appreciate you, and know someone who will very much enjoy your manly charms."
"Somehow, I don't find that very reassuring, Florien," Jack snarled.
Florien laughed. "Nor were you meant to."
Jack clenched his fists and wished very hard that he could just get up and walk away.
Florien stood and moved round to stand over him. Jack refused to look up, so he kept his fists clenched on the table, eyes fixed on the remains of the meal.
Florien appeared content to address his back. "When I first looked at Daniel I saw what he projects, an apparently restrained, quiet, inward looking man, someone it would be fun to crack open, to loosen his inhibitions. That was before I watched him with the rest of you, and walked in his dreams."
Jack jerked his head up. "Walked in his dreams?" he said stunned. "What in the hell do you mean by that?"
Florien grinned down at him. "What I said, Colonel. I walked in his dreams. I walked in all your dreams, but Daniel's intrigued me the most, and I realised that I very much wanted to get to know him. And that is the second reason I left him conscious and aware, so I could play with him more openly."
Jack flinched, closing his eyes momentarily at the feelings of nausea in his stomach.
"You're sick," he said emphatically. "You're worse than the Goa'uld. They treat us like dirt, having no concern for our freedom, thoughts or desires. They truly see us as beneath them, of use only as potential hosts and slaves." He took a deep breath. "You know we are human beings, with free will, ambitions, hopes and needs, yet you chose to ignore that, and use us a playthings. You've done it to your own people for Christ's sake, look at your wife and Illus, puppets, doing your will, however much they may enjoy the benefits. Quite honestly, you make me want to puke."
Florien was silent for a second. "Have you quite finished Colonel O'Neill?" he said icily.
"Give me time and I'm sure I can come up with more," Jack said tightly.
Florien nodded, a slow smile playing along his lips. "Your behaviour with Daniel, since I lowered your inhibitions has been very interesting. You want him, Jack O'Neill, you want him, and I believe from Daniel's reactions that up to now you have tried to deny that to yourself." He smiled again. "I would like to see you lose control and give into your baser instincts, I'd rather enjoy watching you try to seduce him." He laughed at Jack's gasp of outrage. "However, I have other plans for Daniel that do not include you, so..." he trailed off, smiling.
Jack looked at him with hatred. "Daniel is my friend, my teammate and my responsibility. I will not stand idly by and watch you play with him, or with Carter and Teal'c."
Florien walked away towards the door. "You will Colonel O'Neill. If you don't..." He left the sentence unfinished, and smiled once more, before pointing his finger at Jack. "You can leave now."
Jack picked up a plate and threw it at the door just as it closed. Regretting that he had missed Florien, he stood, left the room, and made his way towards their suite and Daniel.
Daniel was asleep on the relaxor. Jack stifled his distrust of the thing, and bent down to watch him. He was relaxed, breathing easily, his face serene, although Jack could see the trace of tears down his cheeks. He ran his fingers along their track, bringing his fingers to his mouth to taste the salt. He traced along Daniel's jaw, up his cheekbones and around the orbit of his eyes, taking time out to run his fingers along the arched eyebrows. He then ran his fingers along the soft, full lips, and bent down and gently kissed them.
Daniel hummed in his sleep, and moved a little, dislodging the blanket covering him, to display a bare shoulder. Jack leant forward and lifted the blanket, confirming his suspicion that Daniel was totally naked under the blanket. He remembered Daniel saying that the relaxors kept telling him he was over dressed.
He sat back, looking long and hard at the man asleep before him, his acceptance of his desire for Daniel conflicting with his knowledge that what he wanted went against both regulations and all of his known boundaries. He wanted this man, pure and simple, and Florien's threats made him more determined to sort things out between them. What they needed to do was to talk.
He knelt by the side of the relaxor, and knowing Daniel's reluctance to wake, held Daniel's shoulders and shook them hard.
Daniel grunted, attempting to turn over. Jack shook them again, leaning down to whisper. "Wakey wakey, rise and shine, Daniel."
An eye cracked open and glared at him, before closing again.
Jack sighed, somewhat exasperated, before repeating his efforts. This time Daniel opened both eyes glaring suspiciously up at him. "What!"
Jack touched Daniel's cheek. "We need to talk, Daniel."
The eyes widened and the suspicion increased. Daniel raised himself on one elbow, reached for his glasses and sat up, blinking furiously. "Talk, Jack, in the middle of the night?" He looked round the room, and back at Jack. "Anyway, isn't that normally my line?"
Reassured that he had Daniel awake and liable to remain that way, Jack sat opposite him on another relaxor, waiting tensely for the thing to move. It stayed still and he relaxed, causing the very effect he tried to avoid, although he had to admit, the shaping around his buttocks was very comfortable. "Yes, Daniel, we need to talk now."
Daniel nodded. "Okay, I assume you wouldn't wake me up for nothing, I..." He trailed off, looking closely at Jack. "You're you," he said, mounting excitement in his voice. "Jack, you're not under his influence, you're back with me again."
Jack nodded, reaching forward to clasp Daniel on the shoulder, and squeezing him affectionately. "Yeah, Florien's drugged us, and has just given the three of us the antidote. He wanted to talk to me so mine kicked in first." He rubbed his eyes wearily. "The guy's an arrogant, overbearing prick, Daniel, and we have got to get out of here."
Daniel nodded. "I know that, Jack, I've been waiting for you to see it too."
Jack grimaced. "I couldn't fight his control," he said quietly. He took his courage in his hands and looked directly at Daniel. " I came on to you when I was not in my right mind, Daniel, didn't I?"
Daniel went silent, his face blank, he nodded quickly.
"Florien noticed, he said he'd find it entertaining to watch me seduce you, but he had other plans for you himself, and they didn't include me." Jack felt bile in his mouth as he said the words.
He waited for Daniel to respond, but Daniel remained still although his face paled.
"I think he gets his kick from controlling people, and that quite honestly, he would get his kicks from, you know, watching us do stuff." Jack grimaced, god he was so eloquent, 'stuff' for crying out loud.
Daniel raised his head slowly and nodded. "I can see that Jack, he wants to manipulate us like pieces on a chess set. Look at his use of Sam, I bet you he enjoys watching Illus with her. He certainly made sure she was dressed as provocatively as possible tonight. I've never seen so much of Sam's flesh on display." He smiled slightly. "Not that Sam doesn't look great, but none of it is by her choice or with her consent. The same can be said for Teal'c."
Jack nodded his head silently and waited for Daniel to continue.
Daniel licked his lips, sighed and carried on. "He was very charming, but essentially he implied that he could make you do things you would all regret if I didn't make the effort to be a little more cooperative and conciliatory. He is ruthless in getting what he wants, Jack, and what he wants is to be in control. I think he's a voyeur really and he's getting his kicks from that rather than actually doing anything. He strikes me as asexual. It would certainly be easier to remain in control if you don't get too close to your subjects." He went very silent and pensive.
Jack felt a desire to fidget, but ruthlessly suppressed it. He waited for Daniel to continue. Daniel remained quiet for so long Jack wondered if he'd gone to sleep sitting up. "Daniel?" he asked impatiently.
"Yeah?" Daniel's voice was quiet and thoughtful.
"Aren't you going to say anything more, ask me anything?"
Daniel actually laughed and Jack relaxed. "I suppose so Jack," he looked at him contemplatively and blushed slightly. "Would you want to seduce me?"
The question surprised him; he looked up quickly into Daniel's apparently calm but slightly reddened face, feeling a little apprehensive. "Would you want to be seduced?" he prevaricated.
Daniel smile wavered slightly, before returning to half strength. "I wouldn't say no, Jack," he murmured.
Jack gulped, looked Daniel straight in the eye as he reached towards him, and kissed him gently on the mouth. "Then the answer is yes, Daniel." He smiled slightly at Daniel's expression of surprise. "When we get home and have some time to ourselves, I'd like to show you how much I want you when I'm in my right mind."
Daniel sighed, leaning forward to run his thumb over Jack's lips. "I look forward to that day, Colonel," he whispered, slowly dropping his hand.
Jack slowly let out the breath he hadn't realised he was holding, and tried to relax. He attempted to sound normal as he said. "Right, we need to get out of here and get Carter and Teal'c."
Daniel nodded. "He may have set us up, Jack," he warned, grabbing at his robe, and slipping it on "Why else give the antidote to you?"
Jack sighed. "I know, but we have got to try, we can't stay here."
Daniel nodded, slipping into his room and dressing. Jack checked over their equipment. They still had their weapons, a fact that had Jack feeling more trapped than anything else. He was certain that Florien was playing a game with them, but come what may, he wasn't going to roll over and die for anyone.
Daniel returned, dressed and tense. He took his sidearm, flipped it in his holster, and picked up Teal'c's staff weapon. Jack nodded at him and they headed for the door.
He opened it cautiously, inch by inch, catching sight of two guards posted in front of it. He beckoned Daniel over, pointed to himself, jerked his thumb to the left, and drew a line under his chin. He repeated the performance with Daniel indicating the right. Daniel's eyes remained wide and fixed, but he nodded, setting the staff weapon aside.
They had the element of surprise on their side. Jack had his man, down and out, and turned to see Daniel dispatch his man with the butt of his pistol. They pulled the unconscious men into the room, hauled them in the beds, and shut the door on them.
Jack glanced around him, nodded, and gestured Daniel forward.
The feeling of being set up became worse as they continued. Everything was just too easy. They had found Teal'c, on the floor of Fyona's room, attempting Kelno'reem. Teal'c's habitual calm expression was missing. He looked almost embarrassed and very unsettled. His eyes snapped open on their greeting, and he silently rose and accompanied them, taking his staff weapon from Daniel with a small bow.
Sam had been found in very similar circumstances, but her shock and shame were less well hidden. Jack wanted to reassure her, but they didn't have the time. He heard Daniel murmur a few words of comfort as she dressed in what she could find that was decent.
He waved them forward again, keeping Teal'c at the rear, taking point, and leaving Sam and Daniel to cover the sides. "Which way is out?" he asked quietly.
Teal'c pointed in the direction they had come. Jack looked at Daniel who shrugged, and Sam who nodded her agreement.
"Fine, we go that way," he decided. "Anyone know how to drive those shuttles?"
Daniel nodded. "You need the bracelets as a kind of key, and after that I think any of us could manage."
Jack raised an eyebrow.
"I watched when they took me to the gate and asked a few questions," Daniel answered the unspoken question.
Teal'c raised his arm abruptly and Jack looked enquiringly at him. "I hear movement up ahead, O'Neill." Teal'c murmured.
Jack waved them back, and they hid in the darkness of the hallway. He caught sight of three guards up above, and then counted three more as they moved forward. He held up five fingers, then one.
Jack could hear muted talk ahead, then footsteps approaching. He waited until the guards were next to them, allowing them to get a few paces ahead before he raised his hand and jumped the last one. A small gasp alerted the man's nearest companion, but as the guard turned, Teal'c grabbed for him and he went down. Out of the corner of his eye Jack could see Daniel and Sam dealing effectively with their opponents, all the while in near silence. The last two men turned to help their companions and Jack found himself fighting hand to hand with a skilled opponent. He had begun to get the upper hand when he stumbled over the legs of the guard he'd first attacked and hit the wall, hard. Momentarily breathless, Jack blinked as his opponent grinned and threw a punch, but before it connected a stunned look came over the man's face, and he collapsed, chopped at the knees by Teal'c's staff weapon.
Jack took a deep breath, looked up and down the hallway checking that all six men were down and that his team were okay. Satisfied, he hunted for something to tie and gag the stunned body, using a belt and ripping the man's garment in half to provide sufficient cloth. He rolled the man to the side and behind some drapes, and assisted Teal'c with another body. He checked over the men he could see and turned to Sam and Daniel.
"Any of them got bracelets?" he whispered.
Daniel and Sam held up a pair, snapping them on their wrists.
"This way." Jack pointed in the direction the guards had come from.
Their journey through the palace after the initial fight was simplicity itself. They reached the front entrance and took out the solitary guard with practised ease.
"We need a shuttle. Where do you suppose they get the damn things from?" Jack growled, before noticing two familiar shapes some distance away.
Daniel cleared his throat next to him. "Isn't this all a little too easy Jack?" he said slowly. "We've not exactly had to work too hard to get here."
Sam murmured her agreement.
"I don't know, and I don't care," Jack whispered harshly. "We need to get away from here now."
"So do we just stroll up to the shuttle and take it then?" Daniel continued.
Jack ignored him. "Follow me and keep to the shadow," he ordered.
The two guards standing by the vehicles were something of a relief. Jack nodded to Teal'c, and they flowed from the shadows and had the guards down and out within seconds. Daniel and Sam helped them move the unconscious bodies into the other vehicle before all scrambling into the other.
"Does anyone remember the route?" Jack asked, looking at Daniel and Sam.
Daniel nodded, looking troubled.
Jack sighed, and touched him briefly in reassurance he didn't actually feel himself. "Carter, can you pilot this thing?"
Sam nodded, moving forward to the pilot's seat with Daniel in tow. Jack removed his cap and scratched his head, looking over the interior of the shuttle.
He turned to look at Sam questioningly.
"Florien's not going to leave these shuttle's unmonitored, sir. We need to check out for surveillance."
Jack grunted. "We've never seen any of his devices, I wonder what they look like."
Teal'c had been looking the shuttle over ever since they had scrambled into it. He moved slowly towards a small decorative whorl on the ceiling, and began picking at the small section of upholstery near to it. Jack looked over curiously. "Seen anything?"
Teal'c nodded. "I believe I have located a device O'Neill." He carried on picking, until he had uncovered a small orb, stuck to the shuttle wall. "It appears to be of Goa'uld design," he said warily. "It will be booby trapped, and will detonate on tampering."
Jack sighed. "So as we thought, the bastard probably already knows about us."
"Then we need to move fast," Daniel said firmly as Sam steered the shuttle up from the palace.
The journey was conducted mostly in silence, all of them keeping their thoughts to themselves. Once they had left the city Daniel continued to murmur directions to Sam, the vehicle headlights appearing surprisingly efficient at illuminating vast tracts of the countryside before them. Jack scanned the horizon, his frown of concentration becoming more fixed.
"Daniel," he half whispered.
Daniel took his gaze off the land and gave him a brief smile. "It's harder at night, but I think the gate's over this hill, Jack."
The shuttle skimmed the hill and settled over the side, the circle of the Stargate glowing palely in the starlight. Jack gazed at the shuttles surrounding it in frustration.
"What do you want me to do, sir?" Sam asked.
Jack shrugged in angry resignation, "We've played his game and lost, Carter."
"I don't think we ever had a chance at winning Jack." Daniel said quietly. "This was meant to happen. We're meant to be feeling exactly how we are feeling, and it's all part of his game plan."
It came as no great surprise to any of them when their vehicle stopped responding to their controls and they were left hovering about three yards above the ground.
"Can we open the doors, Teal'c?" Jack asked desperately.
Teal'c pressed the button and shook his head.
Teal'c grabbed his staff weapon and attempted to prise the doors apart, achieving very little. He stopped, stiffening imperceptibly. "I smell something," he announced, his eyes flickering up to the monitoring advice.
"Gas," Sam gasped, backing away from the doors. She looked blankly at Jack.
"We're trapped," Daniel said quietly. "Looks like this round is over."
Sam covered her mouth ineffectually as the gas swept into the cabin. She slumped down on the floor, followed by Daniel.
Jack slammed his fist into the walls "Bastard!" he snarled. He hammered at the glass with the butt of his rifle, but as he expected nothing was breakable. He desperately wanted to shoot at the glass, but was too worried that the bullets might rebound to attempt it. Teal'c fired his staff weapon at the glass, but made no impression whatsoever. Sam and Daniel were coughing violently, and Jack was beginning to feel the effects of the gas. "Bastard," he whispered again as he slumped down the wall to join his teammates.
Florien contemplated the men in front of him silently for a moment before speaking.
"Greetings, brothers. As custom dictates, we meet to discuss, inspect and finally to divide up the latest spoils to come through the Stargate."
"Well Florien, where are they? We've seen their pictures, I want to see Samantha in the flesh." The speaker looked amused and relaxed, unlike the two other men.
"You will see them soon enough." Florien said briefly.
A pretty looking man seated next to the first speaker pouted and inspected his fingernails closely. "I want to see the Colonel," he said sulkily. "He sounds very exciting."
Florien nodded, smiling, "You will, Rufus," he assured the man.
A larger man sitting to the left of Florien snorted. He was huge, with unruly hair and narrow eyes, his skin suntanned and slightly wrinkled. "I am interested in the Jaffa. I gather he is a mighty warrior, and would make a superb wrestler."
Rufus tutted, drawing his eyes away from his fingernail. "What a waste of a man, Sardan."
Sardan frowned. "Fortunately we don't all have the same tastes, Rufus.
Rufus giggled. "Well I certainly don't go for your type, too uncouth," he said, raising a plucked eyebrow at Sardan's snort of derision.
The first speaker yawned. "Please, let us discuss the woman, Samantha, far more to my taste."
Sardan looked in disgust at the speaker. "Caleb, you and Rufus think of nothing but your groins. How many damn women do you have?"
Caleb looked thoughtful, "Thirty at the last count."
Sardan snorted. "Women are for riding hard, producing sons and looking after the house. You waste your time playing with them when you could be outside with your horses, overseeing your lands, inspecting your men, watching sports."
Caleb laughed lazily. "I like to view my collection, and spend time with my current bevy of beauties, Sardan."
"Collection, Caleb, oh pray do tell?" Rufus sounded amused.
Caleb smiled. "I keep over half of my beauties in suspended animation. It's a wonderful sight to see the glorious creatures floating in their capsules. Makes them very frisky when I let them out to play."
Sardan snorted again, shaking his head in apparent amusement. He looked towards Florien. "We're keeping them?"
Florien nodded. "For the time being at least, brother. The Goa'uld would pay well for them, but as we all know, the Goa'uld are not to be trusted."
Sardan inclined hid head. "Then as tradition dictates we state our interests. As is custom, you have the first choice, Florien."
Florien smiled tightly. "My first choice is for Daniel Jackson."
Rufus pursed his lips and gave Florien a quizzical look. "Why, dear brother?"
Caleb leant forward, "My choice is the woman, Samantha Carter."
Sardan waved his hand. "Mine the Jaffa, Teal'c."
Rufus giggled, "And I will chose the mighty Colonel O'Neill."
Florien nodded slowly, "Good, we are settled without dispute. However, do not fool yourselves into thinking that these humans will be easily tamed."
Caleb smiled. "Samantha is a woman, what else do I need to know."
Florien smiled to himself and kept quiet.
Rufus giggled. "I am sure I will have the good Colonel eating out of my lap before much time has passed."
Florien shook his head, a small satisfied smile crossing his lips. "I doubt it Rufus, you will also find that the good Colonel is in love with another."
Rufus looked up intrigued. "Who, the lovely Samantha?"
Florien smiled. "No, the delightful Daniel."
Rufus sat back frowning. "He is very handsome, this Daniel, I must admit," he said slowly. "He appeals to me, his physique is very good, but somehow he looks a little too," he frowned, "soft isn't the right word."
"Daniel is an academic, Rufus," Florien reminded him. "He lives by words, but he is most certainly not soft."
"And you say that this O'Neill is in love with him?"
"Watch their interaction with each other while we wait."
He flicked a switch giving them edited highlights of the past three days.
Caleb frowned. "Samantha can wrestle?" he asked incredulously.
Rufus leant back and sighed. "That was very exciting, the Jaffa is magnificent, and Daniel is very sexy, especially when he is angry." He licked his lips. "The Colonel too is magnificent, but I'm disappointed that he has already considered loving another man."
"You mean you only want those you can subvert, who have to be forced?" Caleb asked him surprised, a slight sneer of distaste on his lips. "Surely interested and willing lovers are more exciting?"
Rufus pouted, "I like them implacably straight," he said petulantly. "They are such fun to debauch."
"You're sick," Caleb said in disgust.
Rufus glanced at him angrily, his body tensing, until a small nasty smirk crossed his lips. He giggled, inspecting his fingernails closely again, glancing up at Caleb as he stretched out his left hand. "I think I will have to beat Deccus somewhat severely. He hasn't quite finished with the polish on this little finger."
The atmosphere in the room became very still and menacing.
"Deccus?" Caleb asked sharply, turning in his chair to face Rufus. "My former General? You have my former General?"
"Such a sweetie too," Rufus said, liking his lips. "Quite my favourite, such an appealing face and body, I keep him close by me nearly all the time."
"You stole my Deccus?" Caleb's voice had risen. He stood, fists clenched, his face white with shock and anger. "He has wives and children. We searched many time cycles for him, and you tell me he's in your little harem. Painting your nails?" His voice ended on a shriek of fury.
"Not well enough it would appear," Rufus said absently. "Do sit down Caleb, you see he crashed in my lands. Once my healers had restored him to health and I could see what he looked like," he smirked and licked his lips again, "I decided to keep him rather than ransom him back to you."
Caleb's breathing became loud and tortured. Through tightly clenched lips he spat.
"You sick, perverted, despicable, little bastard."
Two sets of eyes viewed Rufus with disgust. He looked up in amusement and shrugged.
"Rufus, your father would probably be amused by you, he certainly had some questionable tastes. However our dear mother would be horrified at how you have turned out," Florien said evenly.
Rufus smiled at him, baring straight, white teeth.
Florien gave him no time to reply. "Let me remind you, Rufus, that these four people are valuable as much for who they are, as what they represent. If you insist on breaking Colonel O'Neill you destroy his potential use, and benefit no one but yourself."
Rufus glowered at him. "It is my right to do as I wish," he said petulantly. "You know my tastes."
Florien nodded. "I know," he acknowledged. "But in this case your methods are probably not practical." He looked Rufus firmly in the eye, "Tell me, how long has Deccus been with you?"
Rufus smirked. "Two delicious cycles of the planet."
"And what is he fit for now, Rufus?" Florien glanced over at Caleb as he spoke.
"A sex slave, and a very responsive one too," Rufus licked his lips slowly. "He's delicious and so obedient."
"And no longer the man he once was." Florien said simply.
Rufus laughed. "Most certainly not, I beat that out of him a long time ago. He lives to serve me, and for no other reason."
"You bastard," Caleb snarled at the amused Rufus, sinking his head in his hands.
Sardan looked grimly at Rufus. "You disgust me also," he growled. "I don't care about your sexual preferences, but the more I hear about your methods the sicker I feel you are."
Rufus shrugged his shoulder. "I couldn't care less for your opinions. I rule my lands, and treat my subjects and slaves as I want. And please don't try and convince me you are lily white in your dealings."
Sardan nodded grimly. "Perhaps not, but you..." He turned away in disgust.
Rufus looked at him with active dislike before transferring his gaze to Florien. "Are you going to go all sanctimonious on me, dear brother?" he asked with a sneer. "You want Daniel, don't tell me you don't want him in your bed?"
Florien looked at him briefly. "What I want with Daniel is between me and him."
Rufus sneered. "You want a pretty love slave."
Florien shook his head slowly. "I want no such thing, Rufus, and I question your description. Daniel is most certainly not 'pretty', he is many things, but I will not demean a handsome, masculine man like him with such an adjective."
Rufus sneered again. "You're hypocrites all of you. Yes I beat, drug and break my slaves to my will. What about the rest of you?" He glared at Sardan. "You act all self-righteous yet happily watch slaves get hacked to pieces in the blood bath you term a sporting arena." He ignored Sardan blustering, and turned his gaze to Caleb. "And you treat your women just how you please, never mind their wishes." Caleb shrugged. Rufus glared at Florien. "You can enter their dreams and learn of their desires. You drug them to force them to do things they don't want to. Tell me what is the difference?"
Florien looked at him unsmilingly. "We all have our methods of persuasion," he agreed. "Some are just more palatable and less destructive than others."
"Too damn right," Caleb snarled. "If you weren't my brother, and I wasn't honour bound by the code of the four, I would kill you with my bare hands."
Rufus smiled provocatively. "Did you have a yen for Deccus, my dear brother? He is a very attractive man; I could have him brought to his usual position, kneeling at my feet, would you like to see that? "
Florien watched Caleb as the man battled to control himself, distracted almost immediately by a knock on the door.
"My Lord," Lord Illus walked into the room and bowed, ignoring the figures next to him.
"Yes?" Florien looked away from Caleb and Rufus.
"My Lord, SG1 have escaped and are even now heading for the Portal."
Florien nodded. "Has everything been taken care of?"
Illus nodded. "Yes, my Lord."
Florien relaxed. "Good." He nodded his dismissal, returning his attention to his brothers. "I believe I mentioned that SG1 should not be taken lightly, neither individually and most certainly not together. They have taken the bait so shall we attempt more cordial relations for this viewing, brothers?"
He waited for nods from each of the seated men. Sardan gave his easily, while Caleb and Rufus glowered at him, Caleb fiddling with something on the desk in front of him before giving a sharp nod. Florien waited for Rufus' acknowledgement, and turned the monitor on and waited for the recapture.
The image of Colonel O'Neill slumping to the floor of the shuttle in defeat brought a self-satisfied smile to his lips.
End of Part One
|Genres:||Action/Adventure, Angst, Drama, Team|
|Summary:||SG-1 find themselves victims of a cruel and devious mind|
Author's Chapter Notes:
This is, as usual, a SG-1 team story with special emphasis on Jack and Daniel. I borrowed the title from Iain M Banks, a SF writer I cannot recommend too highly, and no, his book is nothing like this story. I must also thank him, and other writers, for the inspiration for the Relaxors. My thanks go to the usual suspects. Sarah for her incisive and ever useful beta, David for his usual great criticism, but not for asking me whether I'd ever considered writing a short story (they start out short, David):-P, and Selenay, reading it totally fresh, who reassured me that she had enjoyed it, had not got bored and yes it did make sense. Last, but most certainly not least, thanks to my great Americaniser, quercus, I really appreciate all of you guys.