Jack shook another of the village rugrats off his leg. Why did they always have to cluster around him? He wasn't that cuddly, despite what Daniel had been saying the last couple of weeks. Although snuggling with Daniel did have its rewards.
The village was quiet; the biggest threat seemed to be the kids who overran it. They fit in with the lazy farm community feel of Nemsus; not too different from the places of Jack's youth. He imagined the kids spent their time much as he had as a child before the age of 24/7 television and indulgent parents. He'd play army out in the fields, set up traps to catch area bullies, and avoid adults as much as possible.
His gear made a soft noise as Jack swiped at a flying insect that seemed to be closely related to a mosquito, giant Minnesota variety.
Nothing exciting about this mission militarily, but no trip through the Stargate could be considered routine. Every mission brought the possibility of new knowledge and new technology to use in their fight against the goa'uld.
This time they were looking for naquadah, but keeping their ears and eyes open for information on possible goa'uld activity in the area. There appeared to be deposits of the mineral a couple klicks east of this village. The deposits were large enough to have attracted goa'uld, although there had been no sign of any so far.
"Our goddess, Latrabona, gave us all you see," the white-haired Nemsi leader, Princeps Gaius, waved his hands to encompass the village and its surroundings.
Jack politely looked at the simple homes, fields, and woods. Not a terribly generous goddess, if you asked him. But she was goa'uld, if she had ever existed at all.
"Then She vanished through the Portadeus, the Gate of the Goddess, and has not returned for many generations."
Jack exchanged a look with Teal'c, who raised an eyebrow. Absent goa'uld didn't concern them. Not much. They'd have to keep some awareness of the Gate, even if the natives hadn't seen a 'god' in years. Goa'uld had long memories.
"We are looking for a mineral she would have been interested in," Carter said through Teal'c's translation. "We think you may have deposits nearby."
Princeps Gaius adjusted his tunic and robes before nodding assent. "I think I know that of which you speak. Latrabona took rocks and soil when we last saw her, to remember us by. Or so the fabulatum tell us in the stories they spin. The land is precious to Her, as are we, but we have had no cause to collect the mineral bonadeus for ourselves since. We have found no use for it. The Goddess's ways are mysterious." The princeps sighed, spreading his arms wide.
This culture seemed to be based on Ancient Rome. Jack mentally deleted the 'ancient' adjective. Daniel would love to explain - again - that the Roman Empire wasn't long ago enough to be ancient; it was merely old. The language the Nemsi spoke was close to the Latin Jack knew, but he was out of practice and had to concentrate to follow the conversation. Instead, he relied on Teal'c and Daniel's translations.
Jack shot a quick glance at Daniel, who was sitting across the table from him, next to Carter and the princeps' son, Demetrius. Daniel was totally absorbed in what was being said, that intense look in his eyes. He was probably soaking in every detail of the village culture too, and would be able to tell exactly when Latrabona had moved the Romans here from Earth.
He probably knew who the hell Latrabona was too.
Jack shifted again, slouching in his chair, one arm resting on the table, the other near his weapon.
The negotiations seemed to be going well, if body language was any indication.
The Nemsi leader, Gaius, talked with his hands, but it seemed to be the satisfied talking of a man who was proud of his realm. There was a slight smile on his face, his black eyes watching Carter carefully, not distracted by the translating that Teal'c was doing. Gaius' son, Demetrius, was young, but had the same pride in his eyes as he listened to the conversation.
Carter was leaning forward in her chair, describing the deposits they were seeking. She looked relaxed, as if she expected both the Nemsi and SGC to come out ahead in these negotiations. She was best suited to speak of their scientific aims; just had to make sure she didn't let the science become the only objective.
Teal'c sat straight in his chair, his face calm as his deep voice translated between Carter and the Nemsi. He knew the language fluently, and always conducted himself well among other societies. Strangely enough, Teal'c could be warmer than Daniel when it came to the people of new cultures. Daniel's drive to figure things out was sometimes perceived as being cold by its subjects. Teal'c projected a solidity and calm that was helpful in negotiations.
Not that Daniel didn't care about the people; he'd be the first to make sure they were treated fairly and weren't put in the position of violating their own cultures to the benefit of SGC. And Jack didn't mind that his Daniel was so damn smart. He was getting used to being turned on by geeky glasses and unfocused blue eyes.
Jack's restlessness was probably because most of his job on this mission was to guard the negotiations from non-existent physical threats from a man old enough to be his father, and a goa'uld that no one had seen in hundreds of years. Lots of time for his brain to go its own way while he let his reflexes take over for the warrior stuff.
"We would like to see where the bonadeus is," Carter said through Teal'c.
"If that would be all right with you and Latrabona," Daniel added.
"Sis." Princeps Gaius let out a hiss of breath, rising from his carved chair. "There should be no problem. Our Goddess is kindness itself; She would not begrudge our use of the bounty She has blessed us with. I will send my youngest son, Demetrius, and the young woman, Calenda, with you as escorts. Demetrius is very familiar with the system of caverns that contains the bonadeus, and Calenda is most devoted to Latrabona and will be able to answer any questions you may have about the Goddess."
"Thank you for your consideration," Teal'c said, inclining his head.
The afternoon was well-advanced, but they were on a strict timetable and Jack didn't want to fall behind. If they could get a look at the naquadah - bonadeus, the indigenous personnel called it - today, they'd be able to conduct their tests and begin final negotiations with the Nemsi over the evening meal. They were scheduled to report to SGC tomorrow at 1100 hours.
Jack looked around the table; everyone seemed as eager as he was. "Let's go then!"
It wasn't long before the team and the two villagers were on the path to the caverns. Jack grinned when Calenda chased the village kids back in the direction of Nemsus. He didn't mind them tagging along, but the caverns might prove dangerous to some of the younger ones.
"They are curious of you, Colonel O'Neill." Calenda pushed back long dark hair. "But they must learn to be respectful also."
"I don't mind; they're well-behaved." His smile was genuine, but he was thinking of Charlie and how he'd failed with the most important gift he'd been given, his own son.
The party had split into two smaller groups along the narrow track. Trees shaded the way, and vines from the undergrowth clung to them as they brushed through, releasing a scent that was sharp in the air and had Daniel sniffling on the other side of Calenda. He probably forgot his allergy medicine again.
Sam and Teal'c had gone ahead with Demetrius. Jack could see Sam grilling the young man with Teal'c's help, probably trying to squeeze every drop of scientific knowledge he had out of him before they left tomorrow. Teal'c examined the area surrounding the trail, keeping his weapon arm free as he participated in the discussion automatically.
"So," Jack turned back to the girl. "Haven't seen Latrabona in a long time, huh? Not even a peek?" Great conversation starter, religion. Daniel shot him a look as he translated.
"Not even rumors for the fabulatum to tell stories around, Colonel O'Neill. They build and tell many stories, but none of Latrabona visiting that are not centuries old."
"Did they leave any artifacts, any buildings behind?" Daniel asked.
"The Temple of the Goddess was to the south of Nemsus; it is in ruins now. Our ancestors tried to maintain it for Latrabona, but were unable to without Her help. Some villagers feel the disrepair is a sign that the Goddess has forsaken us."
"You should be so lucky," Jack said under his breath, earning another reproving glare from Daniel, who didn't translate this time.
"The ruins are how we recognized the Signa Deorum on Master Teal'c." Calenda indicated her forehead. "No one has seen the Signa on a person before, but there are pictures of people with it at the ruins."
Daniel's eyes took on an intense gleam. "Are there writings at the Temple?"
"Yes, although we can no longer read them. They use an ancient script. I think they date back to the time of the Goddess."
Daniel was buzzing now, even without his usual medicinal dose of coffee. His blue eyes were bright, sparkling; his skin glowed. There was an energy rising from him that defied description. "Are they far from here?"
"Not at all," Calenda waved a hand to their right. "That way, not even as far as the caverns. They are very easy to find; we keep them cleared of underbrush in honor of Latrabona even though we cannot keep them from crumbling."
"Jack - "
They exchanged a charged look. How could Jack resist those clear blue eyes? This - thing - between them was so new that it made him feel new too. He didn't ever want to see the light in Daniel's eyes dim in disappointment that he'd caused.
"Yeah, I'm with you, Daniel."
Jack squashed any misgivings he had about the two of them being alone on a mission. Their fledging relationship was at the stage where they were still exploring one another, but they could behave on the job; they were professionals. They'd agreed there would be no fooling around in the field or at the SGC and, with Daniel so focused on his science, surely they wouldn't have a problem.
Jack took a deep breath, looking at Daniel's smile. The information in the ruins might be valuable, and it was a pure pleasure to give Daniel something he wanted.
"Carter!" Jack called, hefting his P-90.
"Yes, sir," she responded as they caught up.
"There are some ruins Daniel wants to have a look at south of here. I'm going to ride herd on him; someone has to keep track of time. We'll meet back in the village - " he glanced at his watch, " - at 1900 hours."
Having assured Calenda that they could find their way, Jack and Daniel took off through the woods.
They walked single file on this even narrower trail, neither talking, Daniel obviously eager and wrapped up in what they might find. Jack contented himself with looking at the scenery. And Daniel.
Jack took a deep breath, scanning the surroundings. No movement, nothing more dangerous than mosquitoes and prickly undergrowth. He relaxed his guard a smidgen.
Lovely planet, this. Fresh air, blue sky, trees. Perfect place for a stroll with Daniel. Jack could feel a new appreciation for trees building. That tree over there, for example - very nice. Smooth trunk, graceful arch to it. Yeah, sex with Daniel up against that tree would work. Jack's eyes wandered. Or even that one.... Trees could be your friends.
"Danny - "
"What, Jack?" Innocent blue eyes looked back at him.
"Nothing," Jack frowned.
Danny's eyes narrowed as Jack caught up with him. "What's up?"
"Guess," Jack bit out, walking a little faster, attempting to brush past the linguist.
Maybe the flush he could feel in his cheeks gave him away.
"Ahh..." A smug grin played over Daniel's face.
"Enjoy it, Danny-boy," Jack bit out. "The tables will be turning and that's a promise."
"What makes you think they need turning, baby? What makes you think it's any different for me right now, baby?" Daniel danced out of Jack's grasp, laughing. "No, no. We're on a mission. We agreed."
"Yeah. Sure." Jack grabbed air again. Daniel would be paying, if only for those endearments. He hated pet names like that. Baby. Humpf.
"Jack," Daniel seemed to be trying, at least, to wipe the grin from his face. "I'm suffering, okay? Make you feel better? I just have years of practice sublimating all that sexual energy into scholarly pursuits. How do you think I got my degrees and learned all those languages?"
"Aren't you the least bit curious about what we'll find in the ruins of the Temple?"
"Rocks, rubble, indecipherable old scribblings," Jack ticked them off his fingers. "What's not to like about that?"
"Come on, Jack," Daniel wheedled, a hand on Jack's arm. "Voices from the past. Other people, not so different from us, speaking through the ages. Commonality and connection. I get excited thinking about it."
"Mmm..." Jack grimaced, but only a bit. He was looking for a different connection, but Daniel excited about anything was hot. And he was right; it wasn't helping any to dwell on something that wasn't happening until they got back home. Better to concentrate on the task at hand.
"How do you come to know the caverns, Demetrius?" Sam asked.
The narrowness of the pathway didn't encourage conversation, but she wanted to put the young people at ease. And get as much information as she could.
Teal'c translated the conversation on both sides, so instantly that Sam could almost pretend that she didn't need him as a middle man.
"Most of us explore the caves as children, Major Carter. They are considered safe for children as soon as the children are old enough to be this far from Nemsus alone. I have always been interested in them, but I have no special knowledge of the caverns. Calenda, however, has dedicated much of her life to the Goddess, the things She touched, and the places that interested Her."
"It was very long ago," Calenda added. "But the fabulatum tell such romantic stories." She smiled, blushing, "I know I am being a silly girl, but - "
"You are not a silly girl!" Demetrius said, and then he blushed, as if he realized he'd revealed something about himself that he hadn't intended to.
Sam hid a smile and glanced at Teal'c, who had raised an eyebrow and quirked one side of his mouth in amusement. Obviously, something was going on between these two, at least in Demetrius's mind.
Giggling erupted in the undergrowth along the trail. Demetrius and Calenda both stopped immediately, forcing Sam and Teal'c to do the same.
"Come out!" Demetrius said, addressing the brush. His hands were on his hips, his voice stern.
The laughter stopped.
"His sisters," whispered Calenda, hiding her own smile.
Sam watched as the trailside branches rustled and parted, and two small girls dragged themselves forward as if the plants were pulling on them like water in a lake. They couldn't have been more than five or six years old, and they were swathed in layers of robes and scarves that clearly belonged to someone much bigger and older than they were. Small hands clutched the clothing close and hems were liberally coated in dust and grime. Dress-up seemed to be a game that children everywhere enjoyed.
Demetrius frowned. "Girls."
Identical faces looked up, smudged cheeks and dark eyes. Sam had to smile as they focused all their attention on their brother, faces bright but wary.
"What am I going to do with you?" Demetrius got down on one knee and held his arms out. The girls ran to him immediately, smiling and chattering, showing their brother stones they had picked up in the woods.
Demetrius looked up. "I hope you don't mind, Major. We'll have to take these two with us; it would take too long to return them to the village, and they are too young to go back alone."
"That will be fine, Demetrius," Sam smiled at the twins. They were adorable. "As long as you think they'll be safe in the cavern?"
"They've been there before; I'm sure that's why they followed us. I'll keep an eye on them."
"We wanna play!" exclaimed one of the twins, the other nodding in agreement.
Demetrius stood up. "You've misbehaved, Julia. There will be no playing."
The faces drooped comically, eyes reproachful.
"Please, Demi?" Julia asked.
Livia stretched over and whispered something in Julia's ear that Sam didn't catch. Teal'c merely shook his head when Sam looked at him quizzically.
"Livi and me sorry, Demi."
Demetrius tousled their heads. "No playing," he repeated. "You'll have to help us now that you're part of our work team."
Julia let out a happy squeal; Livia bounced up and down.
Sam wondered why Livia didn't seem to talk to anyone but her sister. It must be usual between them because their brother didn't comment on it.
"We need to get moving now," Demetrius said. "You girls have taken up enough of our guests' time."
The twins didn't seem concerned; they scampered off ahead of the adults toward the cavern, pulling at each other and laughing.
Demetrius shook his head. "I am sorry. Those two are always getting into trouble. Julia seems like the instigator, because she talks the most, but I've long suspected Livia is the one who thinks up most of the mischief. She's much bolder."
"They seem like good little girls."
The young man snorted. "You are being polite."
By the time they were at the mouth of the cavern, they had exhausted most topics of conversation. The Nemsi didn't know much about their goddess, the naquadah, or the goa'uld. It had been, by Sam's estimation, hundreds of years since their last contact through the Stargate.
The woods opened up into a large meadow, ankle-deep in grass, and scattered with wildflowers. The smell of sweet greenness filled the air, and Sam could feel the sunshine on her face. Fifty meters away a hillside sloped up, the large opening of the cavern partially hidden by shrubs. It didn't take long to cover the distance.
The moment Sam entered the cavern, she was hit with the dank mustiness of it. The contrast with the fresh air they had just left was startling, almost enough to make her light-headed. The cavern had the smell of dark damp basements and old library books. A breeze swirled around the entrance, and she felt the temperature drop ten degrees from the outside.
Julia and Livia hovered around the opening, darting in and out between sun and shade. Demetrius lit a lantern from several piled inside the entrance, and Sam, Teal'c, and Calenda quickly followed suit, casting the immediate area in light.
"Girls, stay near," Demetrius walked forward into the large cavern, the sound of his voice echoing in the empty space.
"There are a series of caves," Demetrius said, "going back for half a league or more. None are as big as the first. The one you are seeking is through here."
Sam walked with Demetrius and the twins, with Calenda following and Teal'c taking the rear. The passageway wound back into the hillside, narrow and low. The cavern walls were smooth, reminding Sam of the wear visible in shrines on Earth where millions of people had touched the surfaces through the ages. They walked around large stones, and there were sharply broken rocks on the ground, indicating that debris still fell from the walls and ceiling.
The girls were climbing around the rocks, Demetrius keeping a practiced eye on them. Sam was watching them absently when they suddenly stopped and looked toward the cavern's entrance.
"Demi?" Julia questioned, looking at her brother and then quickly back in the direction they had come from.
"It is a staff weapon," said Teal'c. "I must investigate."
Sam and Teal'c inched back toward the main cavern; it was full of Nemsi villagers, several jaffa with staff weapons surrounding them.
"Who are they?" whispered Sam, her hand griping a sharp edge of rock as she tried not to be seen or heard. The jaffa were using well-aimed kicks to indicate to the villagers that they were to load rocks and soil into buckets. Some of the villagers sprang to do the jaffa bidding before they could be kicked.
"The bow and arrow mark is that of Eros," Teal'c said, his eyes never leaving the jaffa. "And I believe he is nearby. He comes for the naquadah and to claim these people."
"Eros?" Sam's brow wrinkled. "You mean Cupid? The god of love? How dangerous can he be?"
"He is goa'uld."
Sam redirected her gaze at Teal'c's expressionless face for a moment. He had a point, yet...
"Love isn't bad; it can't hurt - " Even as she said that she thought of Martouf, Nareem, Jack... Love could hurt a lot. "Er, at least not physically."
"Love is capricious," Teal'c said, continuing to watch the cavern. "It can make us put ourselves in danger, do things we would never do out of its control. Your Earth legends romanticize the reality of the goa'uld." He moved forward, but Sam's hand restrained him.
"Let's see what's going on before we announce our presence. I'm worried about the colonel and Daniel. If they aren't with the villagers, we have to figure out a way to warn them."
Despite her initial reaction, Sam knew that Teal'c was right: any goa'uld was dangerous and had to be dealt with cautiously. Earth legends tended to make the old gods very human-like, when Sam knew them to be very alien. Cupid shooting arrows to make people fall in love was a romantic notion that could hide real arrows and real interference with the thought process. The goa'uld loved to play with their victims.
Sam counted four jaffa. They carried staff weapons, and were stationed around the perimeter of the cavern now that they had the people working. The colonel and Daniel were nowhere in sight.
"There will be more outside, to guard Eros." Teal'c said. "And a couple left behind in the village and more at the Stargate."
"If they used the Gate, and not a mother ship."
"So ten to fifteen jaffa, minimum," Sam mused.
"What is happening?" Demetrius had come up behind them.
Sam had forgotten their village guides and the small twins in her concern for the threat of the goa'uld and the whereabouts of the rest of SG-1. More responsibilities; she had to make sure the civilians were safe before anything else.
"It's a bad guy, or at least some of his servants," Sam replied. "He's come to take you all away from Nemsus as slaves. He also wants the mineral we came here seeking. We have to find a way out of here to warn Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson so that they can help us rescue your people."
Sam turned back to study the large cavern. Most of the villagers were frightened, jumping when the jaffa waved the staff weapons at them. A few, however, had a drugged look. Their eyes were down-cast and they seemed to follow the jaffas' commands without any physical prompting or even interest in what they were being told to do.
As she watched, a couple of villagers tried to escape through the entrance. A commanding goa'uld met them at the mouth of the cavern, raised something that looked like a crossbow and pointed it at them. There was a flash of red light, and the villagers went slack, one falling at the feet of a jaffa who prodded him up and sent them both back to the rest of the villagers, not even touching them.
Her attention swung back to the new arrival. The goa'uld was extremely handsome, tall and blond, with a look of boyish innocence that would be appealing if Sam didn't know what it hid. Afterall, the goa'uld could pick and choose among planets full of hosts, why not be good-looking as well as powerful? The alien surveyed the villagers, nodded at what he saw, and put his arm down to his side.
Sam concentrated on the weapon, trying to identify it. The gold handle was wrapped around Eros' forearm and wrist; the business end was also gold, but shaped liked a small crossbow. Cupid's bow. Sam grimaced.
She needed to get her group moving, away from this place where the jaffa could so easily notice them. And she and Teal'c needed to blend in better if they were seen. She motioned Teal'c and Demetrius deeper into the smaller cave, meeting Calenda and the twins where they'd left them.
"Calenda?" Sam said. "Teal'c and I need to use the children's extra clothing to disguise ourselves. There are some bad people out there. They will recognize our clothing and they must not know that we came through the Portadeus."
"I will not hide," Teal'c shook his head once.
"Think of it as camouflage," Sam reasoned, shoving a head scarf at the big man. "We have to blend in. I don't see Jack and Daniel out there; we have to get past the jaffa to warn them of what is happening."
The twins helped the adults in their game of dress-up, chuckling at the silly grown-ups. Livia reached a shy hand up to Teal'c's forehead to touch the Signa and the big man smiled at her.
"There is another way out," Demetrius indicated the back of the small cave once they were wearing the extra robes.
Sam brightened. "Great! Let's go!"
They all walked back and Demetrius found the opening to the outside. Sam could feel the fresh air and see the sunlight as she peered up the shaft. It was almost vertical and very narrow. "I don't think any of us can fit up there."
"Livia and Julia can. They could carry a message to Colonel O'Neill and Doctor Jackson."
Sam frowned. Not the best solution, but it would at least take the children out of danger. She scribbled a note explaining the situation and put it into Julia's hand.
"Okay," she said, reaching for Julia to help her up.
"No!" the child struggled out of Sam's grasp.
"Julia, we need you to help," Demetrius knelt down by his sister.
Livia pulled Julia to her, hugging her and whispering in her ear.
Julia pushed away. "Livi go first. I go after Livi." She heaved, looking flushed.
"All right," Sam said, boosting Livia up the shaft. The little girl scrambled to the surface.
"Stop!" came a deep goa'uld voice from the direction of the main cave.
Sam let Julia slide back down to the ground. The note drifted out of the little girl's hand, and beneath her feet.
"Hardly a ruin at all, Jack."
"Sure, Danny. This place is ready to set up housekeeping in. Find anything?"
Daniel checked his notes, and studied the writing again. Jack was leaning against a taller part of the crumbling wall, dark glasses concealing his brown eyes, his P-90 at the ready. Protecting him. Daniel smiled. That had taken on new meaning lately. It had a cozy feel to it, too.
"It looks like Diana brought the people here originally."
"And Diana would be...."
"Goddess of the Hunt. See the bow here?" Daniel pointed to a glyph of a long bow that looked like a jaffa mark. "Her sign. She was a goa'uld, of course."
"Mmmm..." Jack scanned the surrounding woods, obviously thinking. Well, maybe thinking. Daniel could never tell with Jack. But he suspected that Jack thought a lot more than he let on; the man was more intelligent than he'd admit. "Why hasn't she been back in generations?"
Daniel shrugged. "It could be as simple as not interfering with the people here, wanting to protect them by not drawing attention to them. Or she could have died or been killed. Teal'c would probably know, unless it was recent."
"I don't trust those snake-heads," Jack frowned.
"This is news?"
Daniel met Jack's stare for a moment and then continued. "According to the stories here, Diana was quite benevolent. She brought them to this planet, taught them to live off the land, and then disappeared."
"They don't do anything without a reason, Daniel."
"The villagers said they hadn't heard from her for a long time." Daniel wasn't sure why he was playing devil's advocate; Jack was probably right.
Jack looked around the trees again, as if he were uneasy about something. "If there isn't anything else, let's find Carter and Teal'c. There doesn't seem to be any recent goa'uld presence here. If the naquadah pans out, we should be able to come to an agreement."
Daniel put a hand on Jack's arm as he turned away. "What's wrong?"
Jack sighed heavily, taking off his dark glasses. "Probably nothing. I'm edgy. It's just - " Jack seemed to shake off the mood, smiling some. "Maybe I'm just horny as all get-out."
Daniel blushed at the look in Jack's eyes. It was taking some getting used to, being so desired by someone other than Sha're. Especially when it was another man. Especially when that man was Jack O'Neill.
His tentative grasp on Jack's forearm was suddenly reversed, and his body was pulled hard against his lover's. Daniel gasped.
"You okay, Daniel?" Jack kissed his forehead and then held his shoulders so that Daniel could see his eyes.
"Very okay," Daniel replied, his hands snaking around Jack and settling a little low. He could smell the soap Jack used, could almost taste it, he was so close.
Jack ground into him. "Yeah, me too. I'm very okay like this."
"Nothing smartass to say?"
"Not at the moment."
Jack wasn't letting go of his eyes, and Daniel felt himself falling into them. They were the most compelling eyes, dark and expressive and looking deep into him whenever they were together. Like he knew everything Daniel was, even the dark parts, and liked it all.
Daniel felt Jack's hands move over his shoulders, bringing their upper bodies as close together as their lower parts already were. Then he wasn't aware of anything but Jack's lips on his, their tongues meeting and stroking. Perfect. Gentle, but insistent. Soft, but firm. Patient with him, but not patient for him.
Jack's kisses were nothing like Sha're's except that they could take Daniel out of himself the same way his wife's had. They were strong and forceful. Masculine. Their lips met and everything else, the entire world, faded into nothingness. Time vanished.
Jack separated them a little, resting his forehead against Daniel's as they both caught their breaths. He straightened Daniel's glasses, smiling, running his fingers up behind Daniel's ear.
"Not on missions," Daniel whispered, shivering.
"Yeah, sure, Danny. No one around now, anyway." Jack's hands ran over Daniel's sides persuasively. "Who's to know how professional you can be?"
Daniel was about to grab those maddening hands when he heard giggling from the other side of the ruined wall he'd been studying. "What - Who's there?"
A small dark head with even darker eyes peered over the wall. Daniel smiled wryly. "No one around, huh, Jack?"
Jack let him go with one last squeeze.
"What's your name?" Daniel asked the little girl, walking over to the wall. The girl's eyes seemed riveted to Jack's. Daniel understood the attraction to those eyes, but was afraid that Jack might be thinking of Charlie. He seemed to draw children and he enjoyed them, but he didn't get too involved - too much grief, despair, and guilt, Daniel had always thought.
Daniel moved to block her view of Jack. "What's your name, sweetheart?" he repeated and reached out to her. She didn't shy away and Daniel picked her up and sat her on the wall so she'd be more on their level to talk with.
She looked four or five, but that was the speech of a much younger child. Daniel wondered why she was in the woods by herself; she seemed too young to be this far from Nemsus without someone older with her. Maybe something was wrong.
"Well, hello, Livi. I'm Danny and this is Jack."
"Nee?" She reached out and touched Daniel's arm.
"Where are your parents? Your mother and father?"
Livi opened her mouth, but didn't speak, only shaking her head. Daniel waited for her to answer. She was able to speak; she didn't seem shy. Finally, just as he was about to urge her to answer again, she whispered something that sounded like 'pea-bell.'
"What was that, honey?" Daniel cocked his head to hear better.
"People," she said a little louder, but didn't elaborate.
"What people is she talking about?" Jack asked from behind him.
"Gee, Jack, I don't know. The village people, maybe?" Daniel turned his attention back to Livi. He heard Jack humming 'YMCA' and frowned as he continued. "The people in Nemsus, Livi?"
He was rewarded with an affirmative nod from the girl. At least he thought it was an affirmative.
"Ask her what's happening in the village."
"Great idea," Daniel murmured, smiling at Jack's impatience. He asked the girl. She didn't answer.
"Come on, Livi. We need to know what's happening, sweetheart."
"Demi-sigde-tiat." The words, if they were words, slurred together.
"What was that?" Jack asked, leaning closer to the two of them.
"Demi sigde tiat," the girl repeated several times, looking at them as if they should understand her. She seemed to understand them. Daniel sighed in frustration, mentally trying to re-group.
"What's she saying? What's it mean?"
"I don't know," Daniel admitted. He wracked his brain for something similar, but this wasn't like any language he'd heard. Not that he had a large sample to work from; Livi wasn't saying much. The language didn't resemble Latin at all, other than its basic sound system. He'd conclude it was baby talk, babbling, but she was obviously repeating words and thought she was communicating with him, so there was some chance he could figure out what she was saying. Maybe she was from a different village. He had a bunch of hypotheses right now, and no real answers.
"You're the linguist!"
"Thanks for your support." Daniel hated to disappoint Jack when he was counting on him, but he couldn't come up with the answers out of thin air. "This might be easier if we just went back to the village, Jack. At least we'd know if things were okay there or not."
Livi jumped down, grabbed Daniel's hand, and started to pull him out of the Temple. "Viré!"
Jack took the lead as they got closer to the village. There was no telling what they'd find and Jack needed to protect Daniel and Livi. If everything were all right and Sam and Teal'c just needed them back at the village, Princeps Gaius would have sent someone other than a little girl who could barely talk. Of course, it could be a childish prank to get adult attention. He could remember Charlie doing things like that.
Jack crouched low as he approached, and was gratified to see that Daniel automatically did the same, taking Livi with him. The village was visible now, and seemed to be deserted.
Except for the honking big jaffa visible in the gathering dusk.
"Hole poplum," Livi whispered, wedging between the two of them and pointing past the village.
Jack lifted her into his arms, and they retreated down the trail until they were out of earshot, Daniel following.
"What happened, Jack?"
"Damned if I know, Danny. Livi, here, probably does. Still can't figure out what she's saying?"
"It isn't Nemsi language, for the most part. Just a few words. What she's saying is in a language that's unrelated to any language I know or have studied. Not Latin-derived. It sounds totally alien."
Livi looked up at them, her head going back and forth as they spoke as if she were watching a tennis match.
"Well, " Jack caught his eyes, speaking carefully, "I wonder if that's the case. Maybe the snake-heads brought her. It's not like this would be the first time they've used children. Cassandra..."
"Jack - "
"Listen, Danny. She led us right to them, with no warning."
"Maybe we didn't understand the warning."
"What are we going to do then, Mr. Cautious?"
"It's going to be too dark to be running through unfamiliar terrain soon." Jack looked around. "We'll travel as far as we can toward the cavern and then camp until light. Shouldn't take us long to get there in the morning."
"Sam and Teal'c - "
"Are big kids and can take care of themselves." Jack reached up and touched Daniel's arm. "Yeah, I'm worried, too. We'll get to them as soon as we can."
They finally gave up walking the second time Jack caught himself on a rock in the trail. Living in cities, it was easy to forget how dark night could really be. Broken bones wouldn't help anyone. Jack led them off the trail, beyond a small rise that would shield them from the view of anyone else on the trail.
Jack checked their perimeter while Daniel built a ring of rocks that would hide a fire from the goa'uld. It was already getting cool in the woods.
By the time Jack returned, Livi was huddled up close to Daniel. It was unlikely that she was allied with the goa'uld. She'd had the opportunity to reveal them to the jaffa in the village and hadn't. She looked sad and frightened right now, very small.
As he watched, Daniel reached down and tickled her.
She laughed, petite fingers grasping at Daniel's. "No giggle Livi!"
Jack had to smile at the picture Daniel made with her as he pulled Livi into his arms. He settled down next to them in front of the glowing fire, listening to the story Daniel told the little girl snuggled against him. Livi went from laughing to sleeping as only a small child can. She was limp in no time.
Something stirred in Jack, seeing his lover holding a child. Not exactly like Sara and Charlie, but the feeling was almost the same. Protective, tender, loving. Even with another guy, there were the feelings of family and domesticity. God. Danny looked so beautiful now, holding Livi in the warm glow of the firelight.
Danny should have a chance to have his own children. Not only did he have genes that would be a shame not to pass on, but he deserved to have that feeling of protectiveness, of overwhelming love that came with knowing you had some part in producing the small, dependent bundle in your arms. That wasn't something Jack could ever give him. Even if there were some way over the biological hurdle, Jack just couldn't emotionally. It was easier to devote time to other people's children than to contemplate having another of his own. But Danny's -
A girl with brilliant blue eyes and baby soft skin who could be cherished and spoiled. A boy with geeky glasses who Jack could teach hockey so that the other boys wouldn't make fun of him. Both of them beautiful, just like their father. Jack smiled, staring into the fire.
"What?" Daniel's quiet voice broke into his thoughts.
"Ever think of having children, Danny-boy?" Jack looked up, aware of a mist in his eyes. The night and this little cocoon of light were the place for honesty and to share confidences. Better than a bed, in some ways. No distractions.
Daniel glanced down at Livi, smoothing a strand of dark hair from her cheek. "With Sha're, yes."
Jack looked into the flames again and took a deep breath. "If you want - "
"No," Daniel said, so firmly that Jack looked up from the flames he was studying.
"You could, you know," Jack's voice was soft. He didn't want to let Daniel down in this; didn't want him to lose a chance at something important. He didn't want Daniel to look back on him as a mistake; didn't think he could bear it if Daniel were disappointed with him. "Maybe even should."
Daniel chuckled. "I don't think so. It's not like I haven't thought of having children before."
He reached behind him to lay Livi's limp body on a bed of tree boughs covered with an emergency blanket.
"Yeah, but Daniel, you don't know what you'd be missing. Babies - "
"Jack." Daniel held up a hand to stop him. "My work, especially since Catherine contacted me about the Stargate, takes up almost all of my time. And I like it that way. I might be able to fit in one demanding colonel," Daniel's hand caressed Jack's knee, "but I don't want to spare the mountains of time a child would take. There are exciting things out here in space and I want to be part of it. I know it's selfish of me, but I'm the proverbial absent-minded professor." He shrugged. "It was different on Abydos with Sha're. There was more time there."
"Don't say this just because we're together, Daniel." Jack wondered why they hadn't talked about any of this before they became so involved, before they both acknowledged that their feelings went beyond friendship.
"I'd understand - " Jack began again.
Daniel shook his head. "I thought this through before you and I got together. I knew what I was doing; you weren't a mistake and I accept everything that goes with you. Or doesn't."
Jack sighed, content with that, as they settled down, hands touching, for some rest.
Up close, Eros was tall and blond, his hair wavy and perfect. He was dressed in a white tunic belted with gold chain, and gold-leafed sandals. Sam thought the mind-control weapon looked like some jewelry gone wild on his arm.
He shot Teal'c and Demetrius with it first. Demetrius fell in a crumpled heap at their feet.
With a cry, Calenda dropped to the ground next to Demetrius, holding him close. He began to recover almost immediately, and Calenda helped him up. She tried to shield him with her body, but he thrust her aside, and walked away wordlessly to join the villagers who had been put to work mining the cavern. Calenda tried to follow, but the jaffa barred her way. She let out a whimper as she clutched Julia.
When Teal'c didn't seem to have any reaction to the weapon, the jaffa sprang into action, pulling at the robes covering Teal'c and revealing Apophis' sign. They held him by the upper arms and dragged him to the goa'uld.
"Who do we have here?" Eros asked, running the end of his bow over a dark cheek.
"I am Teal'c."
If anything, Eros frowned even more than the typical goa'uld. It gave him a rakish look. "The renegade who fights side-by-side with the Tau'ri against the system lords? The Shol'va? Quite a catch, indeed. I hear that you are inciting the jaffa to rebellion. You can try your best with my jaffa, but you will not be able to shake their confidence in their God."
He looked disdainfully at Sam and Calenda, raised the weapon, and shot them both.
Sam fell to the ground, even though she felt nothing. The weapon hadn't affected Teal'c either, so it must be the naquadah in their systems that prevented it from working. She'd have to pay close attention to Calenda and follow her lead to make Eros think she was under his control.
It was barely light when Jack shook Daniel awake. The heavenly scent of coffee wafted in front of him. "C'mon, Danny, we have to find Sam and Teal'c."
Daniel propped himself up on one elbow to take the cup and start drinking. No revelations as he slept about Livi's language. Maybe she was behind, developmentally delayed. That didn't satisfactorily explain some of the words she used, but it was all he had right now. He couldn't help but think he was missing something.
Jack was making breakfast, a fascinated Livi by his side. Daniel watched as Jack set her to stirring some oatmeal. Her tongue was between her teeth, her lips pursed, as she concentrated on the task, but she looked up for Jack's approval. Jack smiled at her and she grinned in return.
Daniel thought back to their fireside conversation last night. He'd been so concerned, reassuring Jack that he didn't need children, that he'd missed the fact that Jack might like more children himself. Might even regret being with Daniel because of it.
That was one of the problems with the two of them together. They'd been friends and co-workers for years, but those positions called for some personal distance. Not that being lovers meant they had to share everything, but there were things they needed to discuss and even decide on eventually. The last thing he wanted to do was disappoint Jack unintentionally.
He didn't think Jack wanted children, but he'd never asked either. Jack was great with kids - Teal'c's son loved him, and so did Cassie. On the other hand, Daniel could still see the pain in Jack's eyes on Charlie's birthday or the anniversary of his death. He didn't think Jack wanted even the potential of getting hurt like that again. Not only was Jack heart-broken about Charlie's death, but he had the added feeling of having let Charlie down, and Sara too.
The truth was that they'd both had committed relationships with women where children were expected and wanted. It was an adjustment to change that thinking, not to expect children from a relationship, but they were both in love. They could always adopt after Jack retired if that's what they wanted.
Jack took the lead as they headed out after breakfast. Travel was faster in the daylight, and they reached the cavern without incident. Crouching low in the brush, Daniel watched some of the villagers come out of the cavern and empty buckets of rocks and dirt onto nearby pallets. A single jaffa guarded the docile villagers in their work.
Daniel took out his binoculars to get a closer look at the jaffa's forehead. A bow design, but not the one that he'd seen in the temple. It had been a long time; maybe Diana's mark had evolved. He trained the glasses on the villagers' faces. They didn't look as if they were joyful that their beloved goddess had graced them with her presence; that argued for the jaffa belonging to another goa'uld. Teal'c would know who once they connected with him again.
A blond goa'uld stalked out of the cavern, the villagers giving him a wide berth. He was carrying a weapon that Daniel had never seen before. It looked a little like a crossbow wrapped around his forearm, although Daniel was certain that it wasn't that low tech. The sun glinted off the gold. Probably a compact staff weapon or something similar.
"Who is it?" Jack whispered next to him.
"Sigde Ju." Livi said.
Not Diana, at least not the Diana who had brought the Nemsi here. So, who? Daniel looked around, grasping for inspiration. Who else in Roman mythology, in any mythology, had a bow?
Livi tugged at his hand, "Arrows, Nee. Arrows."
"Cupid?" Jack stared at him. "The little guy with the wings, and bow and arrows? Hearts? Valentine's Day?"
"Mmm... Obviously a little different in the goa'uld incarnation," Daniel replied, looking for Sam and Teal'c in the group of Nemsi. "Might be better to call him Eros - won't make you think of the little winged fellow."
"Leave it to the goa'uld to take the joy out of everything," Jack sighed. "We have to find Carter and Teal'c and get the villagers out of this. Hell, we'll have to check the cavern to make sure they weren't caught themselves."
"Sounds like a job for the Marines to me." Jack took too many chances, and Daniel had to at least suggest a less dangerous alternative.
"After we get Carter and Teal'c out," Jack repeated. "Wish there was another way into that cavern so we could talk to them."
Livi tugged on Daniel's sleeve, and pointed into the distance behind the hill. "Revsus."
"Jack - "
"Huh?" He turned to face Daniel.
"I think Livi knows how to get back in there."
Jack looked resigned rather than enthusiastic. "Lead the way."
It didn't take long to reach a small shaft in the hillside. Livi pointed to it, and Jack pulled her away and knelt down himself.
"Carter! Teal'c!" he hissed, and sat back on his heels, his head cocked to listen for a response.
Daniel watched with Livi by his side as Jack tried a couple more times.
Finally Jack stood up, a look of frustration on his face as he joined Daniel. "Nothing. And the shaft is too small for either of us to get down. I think you should wait here and I'll try to reach them through the front."
"Maybe we could tie a note around a rock or something." Daniel looked for one on the hillside. He didn't want Jack anywhere near the front of the cavern unless it was absolutely necessary. "Wait - where's Livi?"
Jack scanned the hillside. "Damn! How could we let her get away?"
"She was over by the mine shaft. I hope she didn't fall in."
Jack was already by the tunnel, kneeling. "Livi! Livi!"
"Kay, Jack," the light voice wafted up.
Daniel's hand grasped Jack's shoulder. "I don't think she's going to the goa'uld, Jack."
"Sorry, Danny," Jack covered Daniel's hand with his own. "Just worried about the little monkey. She could get hurt crawling around in there with the snake-heads. I should have been keeping a closer eye on her."
Daniel squeezed Jack's shoulder. Shades of Charlie.
"All right," Jack stood up, dusting off his knees and wincing. "Let's assume that Livi's going to Carter and Teal'c, and they're able to communicate with her more successfully than we have. Carter's going to try to get in touch. If she doesn't, that means she can't. I want you to stay in case Carter gets here or Livi comes back up. I'm going to see if I can get into the cavern." Jack scowled. "Past the jaffa and - Eros."
"Jack - "
"I'll be okay, Danny. Just make sure you are, too."
A stinging kiss to his lips and Jack was gone.
Sam waited for another bucket to be filled so she could take it outside to the pallets. Calenda was doing the same next to her, although she was still looking dazed. She didn't respond when Sam spoke her name, and Sam was afraid to draw attention to them by touching her. Demetrius was filling buckets on the other side of the cavern.
The weapon seemed to provide some level of mind control, and Sam tried to act like she was under that control while gathering more facts about Eros and his jaffa.
Teal'c was being guarded by a couple of the jaffa and was trying to convince them to forsake Eros and join the Tau'ri. They looked as stalwart as any jaffa Sam had ever seen; Teal'c's arguments didn't seem to be making a dent in them. Eros appeared to be right about the loyalty of his jaffa.
Julia sat huddled nearby, both the jaffa and Eros leaving her alone. She'd looped a bright scarf around her knees, and sat rocking back and forth. She hadn't even tried to go to her father, Princeps Gaius, who was in the crowd of villagers, but she darted anxious glances to the back of the cavern where they had last seen Livia.
Sam hoped Livia had made it to the colonel and Daniel. She also hoped that the child could communicate sufficiently without a note or her sister.
Sam was doing the best she could now, hiding among the villagers so that Eros was only concerned about the renegade jaffa he'd found, and hadn't even noticed the Tau'ri who had been with him. As soon as she could, she'd be outside in the open, looking for a way to escape.
Sam heard some sound from Julia and looked in her direction, careful to make sure the jaffa didn't suspect she wasn't under their control.
Livia was back. She and Julia were having an intense whispered exchange. Sam wished she could go over and talk to the girls. She didn't know if Livia had reached the colonel and Daniel, but, either way, Sam would like the girls out of the danger here.
Sam wondered what they were up to when Julia sneaked away to the back of the cavern, leaving Livia with her bright scarf.
Sam edged toward the girl, hoping she'd say something. Livia ignored her but she was quietly chanting, "Jacknee, Neejack." It sounded like she'd met the colonel, anyway.
Teal'c was still talking to the other jaffa; Sam could hear the gentle rumble of his voice. She met his eyes and chanced the minute lift of her chin, indicating the entrance. She picked up her buckets as Teal'c made his way to the front of the cavern, followed by his guards.
Daniel's fingers pressed across his lips, as if to keep Jack's last contact close. They'd get out of this. Daniel had every faith in SG-1, and in Jack O'Neill. Jack wouldn't let him down.
Daniel listened at the mine shaft. Not for the first time, he wondered if he'd been given a job just to keep him out of harm's way while Jack risked his life. Daniel frowned at the thought.
"Sam?" he whispered into the darkness of the mine shaft, repeating her name at intervals. It was several minutes before he heard anything; his heart began racing. Maybe everyone was all right.
A small hand reached out of the mine shaft, followed by the rest of the body.
He waited while the small figure straightened her tunic and rubbed at her smudged face. She looked around as if taking stock of her surroundings.
"Livi, what's happening down there?"
"No. Juli. Me Juli! Not Livi!" the girl protested, staring at him. "You Jack? Nee? Livi say Nee tickle. She like him. You Nee?"
Daniel sat back on his heels as a few things fell into place.
Twins. Livi was part of a set of twins.
"Who you?" she demanded, pointing a finger. She was much more verbal than her sister.
"Uh, I'm Danny."
"Nee!" The little girl flung herself at him, almost knocking him over. "Bad man hurt Lenda," Juli said indignantly, stepping back and twitching her tunic into place. "Demi not there. Eyes nol. Sigde tiat."
At least Daniel could understand Juli better than he could Livi. Her language was more developed, a little more mature, although it still didn't seem to match her physical age. 'Lenda' had to be Calenda. 'Demi' was Demetrius. But Juli was using some of the same strange words Livi had used. Nol? Sig-de?
"Juli, what is happening in the cave?"
"Bad man shooted in hole," Juli demonstrated dramatically. She was definitely a different personality from the quiet Livi. More like her father, Gaius. "And poplum do what he say. Major Sam say - " she scrunched up her face the way some children would to think.
"What did Sam say?" Daniel prompted. Finally, this must be the message Sam and Teal'c were trying to get to them with Livi.
"She says, 'the gould got mine can troll,'" Juli enunciated carefully. "Want me and Livi tell you. But bad man catched me."
"Did the bad man hurt you?" he asked sympathetically, stroking her arm to calm her.
Julia shook her head.
Daniel turned Sam's words over a few times and came up with 'mind control,' but still wasn't sure what it meant.
"Mind control, Juli?"
The girl nodded vigorously, "Shooted Lenda and Demi - do what he say. Master Teal'c not do. Major Sam do, but - eyes - " she stamped her foot, her face scrunched up in frustration.
"What, Juli? It's okay. Take your time."
"Demi eyes," she said, staring out into the distance, a blank expression on her face. "Major Sam no like that."
"Is Major Sam playing a game with them? Pretending to do what they say?"
Juli jumped up and down, and nodded.
The naquadah in their blood must be keeping this mind control gun from working on Sam and Teal'c.
Jack didn't have that kind of protection.
Daniel grabbed Juli and started running around the hillside to the front of the cavern.
Sam blinked at the bright daylight as she came out into the open. Teal'c was making his way, with his guards, into the nearby bush. Sam didn't know what excuse he'd used to get them to escort him out of the cavern, but she wasn't going to worry about it. A former First Prime could take care of himself.
Teal'c waved a staff weapon at her from the woods, indicating he had dealt with his two guards. He disappeared back into cover. That meant that she had to slip away so they could find Daniel and the colonel, and call in some re-enforcements to aid the villagers. Looking sideways, head still downcast, she checked the area in front of the cavern. A single jaffa now, the others in the cavern itself. Casually, Sam walked in the direction of a nearby pallet, but angled off toward the woods. It wasn't far...
"Stop!" came a commanding jaffa voice.
Sam came to a halt, looking back, judging distances. She decided to make a run for safety.
The jaffa shouted again, but Sam was already diving into the undergrowth. A shot knocked a branch loose over her head. Then there was another shot aimed a little lower. Nothing more after that, but it could be a trick. A couple of minutes ticked by and she carefully peeked to see what had stopped the jaffa from shooting again or pursuing her.
Colonel O'Neill had to pick now to be a hero. He was facing Eros, P-90 held slack at his side, and he moved as Eros indicated. The jaffa was on the ground, crumpled into an undignified heap. Apparently Colonel O'Neill had shot the jaffa, but been shot in turn by Eros' mind control weapon. As she watched, the colonel kneeled at the feet of Eros.
She jumped at the sound of Daniel's voice behind her; a stilling hand ran up her arm. Juli was with him, and Sam hoped that Livi was back in the cavern with Calenda, and that they were both safe.
"What's happened?" Daniel peered past her to the meadow where the colonel and Eros both were. Sam held him back as he made an instinctive move to help. A few of the villagers had run when the shots were fired, but most continued in their work as if nothing had happened.
"Apparently Eros is laying claim to Latrabona's people. They're mining naquadah and I'm sure he'll take some of them as slaves. The colonel was hit by Eros' mind control weapon trying to cover my escape."
Daniel nodded, frowning, "I thought he might do something like this. I came to warn him about the weapon. Livi didn't tell us anything, so we came after you blind. Why didn't you send Juli in the first place?"
Sam stared at him for a second and then turned back toward where the colonel stood. "Later."
"Greetings, Daniel Jackson." Teal'c joined them.
"Eros sumus. Ad nocendum potentes sumus," boomed the goa'uld, scanning the woods where Sam had gone to ground.
"We are Eros. We have the power to harm," Daniel translated for Sam.
"That's an understatement," she muttered. Teal'c had a staff weapon, and Daniel might have his P-90. Eros had Jack O'Neill.
"You will show yourselves immediately," Eros continued. "Or Colonel O'Neill will suffer the consequences."
Two jaffa had come out from the cavern and had weapons trained on the colonel now. Sam didn't see that they had much choice; the team had to stick together, buy some time for another plan.
Jack dropped the jaffa aiming for Major Carter with a short burst of his P-90.
He didn't count on being nailed by the jaffa's boss who suddenly appeared in the mouth of the cavern. He braced himself for incoming, a new flavor of zat, most likely.
Usual snakey gold handle, vaguely bow-shaped, but like a crossbow, not a long bow. These guys always got jewelry and weaponry confused. The energy beam was a dull red.
Jack was startled when it didn't hurt. Much. Not like the staff weapon, not like the zat gun. Just a strange kind of tingling that pulsed out through his limbs, did a wicked turn at fingers and toes, and then back again, finally settling in the base of his skull. Heavy pressure there; it brought tears to his eyes and made his shoulders ache. He fought to stay upright against the onslaught. His eyes felt like they were being gouged out, like they were hot bare sockets.
He heard some Latin his brain wasn't translating right now fade in and out. He couldn't understand what was being said, but he could almost taste the sound, the flavor of it. Then Eros' demand for someone to surrender. That he understood.
"Relax. Submit." Eros' voice did that goa'uld thing that they do, like a hokey sci-fi movie. It didn't seem like anyone else could hear the voice; but Jack could feel it slithering through his body.
Against his will, Jack felt himself do what the voice told him, to go further as if the voice had told him how to submit, what submission really meant. Somehow it had, but not all in words. Images, sensory impressions, a complicated language that he instinctively understood. Like when his mother had crooned to him as a baby, always knowing that she wanted only the best for him, understanding that above all. The voice caressed him. It knew his name, called him Jack. He could trust the owner of that voice to do him no harm, to want only good for him.
His P-90 came down, although he didn't let go of it. That was part of the voice's intent, too. His head lowered as he turned to the goa'uld. He fought; this wasn't right, but he did what he was compelled to do. He knelt before the goa'uld, and felt a hand, physical, he thought, at the back of his neck. The voice continued to talk to him, the hand gripping tightly, but caressing like a mother bathing an infant. The thought came that it would only take a twist and his neck would snap. That easily, he could be dead. There was no doubt in his mind.
Ad nocendum potentes sumus skittered across his brain, echoing obscenely. We have the power to harm.
Once the words, and their truth, were acknowledged by the surrender of his mind and muscle, he was released and could stand up. Jack belonged to the voice. He turned, and saw Daniel and Sam and Teal'c making their way across the meadow, weapons held out in surrender.
Jack wanted to yell at them to run the other direction, to escape. He could sense the goa'uld's next command. But he did nothing but smile slightly, staring at them.
"Are you all right, Colonel?" Sam's voice as if through a deep fog. The only things that came clearly to him were the wishes of the snake.
Bring up the weapon...aim at the Tau'ri
At least it had stopped with the Latin.
Jack struggled, mentally fighting his muscles. But the result was still the P-90 leveled at his friends. He had to fight harder.
Only a raised eyebrow indicated that Teal'c thought anything was unusual about Jack's behavior. Carter's eyes were skittering, trying to come to grips with the situation and replay her options.
Jack's finger wanted to squeeze the trigger. It was almost as if his finger were in control of his entire body now. His mind, the part that was still him, protested, but the voice over-rode his thinking. He couldn't do this, his mind revolted at the very thought, but the compulsion was so strong -
Daniel. Wildly, Jack fastened on Daniel's face. Danny was just looking at him through blue eyes and glasses. Danny was the only one who ever really saw him, past the sarcasm and irritability, down to the core of him.
He'd forgotten how good it felt to have someone always, deep-down, on his side. Like when his mom had understood why he had to join the military, and his dad hadn't disowned him when he'd found out how close he and Tom were. Even if Jack's choices weren't theirs, they supported him.
Daniel's look gave Jack the strength to fight harder. Finally he had another chance at love after Sara and Charlie, and he wasn't going to let anyone, let alone a goa'uld, ruin it for him. Jack grappled with that voice lodged in the base of his brain.
The weapon was up and pointing at the team; it took all his strength and Daniel's to turn it on Eros. The goa'uld's eyes widened in surprise and affront as Jack pulled the trigger.
When the goa'uld's hand came down on the base of Jack's neck, Daniel could barely breathe.
It took a shove from Teal'c to get him moving, although he had the presence of mind to tell Juli to hide.
Teal'c, Sam, and Daniel walked out of the woods, weapons held up and at arm's length. Daniel couldn't take his eyes off what was happening in the meadow. Jack stood up without a trace of protest. Sam called out to him, but there was no reaction to her voice as Jack turned around like a robot.
Daniel couldn't stop looking. Hard, fast, electric. Daniel bit his lip, wanting to do more. It was obvious that Eros didn't have total control of Jack's mind; his dark eyes held a tinge of panic as he began to lift his P-90. All Daniel could do right now was let Jack know he was there to support him.
Their eyes held; it was as if neither of them could look away. Daniel tried to keep all his fear out of his stare, focusing on his feelings for Jack. They had been friends for years, lovers for weeks, and their bonds had always been strong. If this was the last time they ever looked at each other, it wouldn't be in fear.
Jack's pupils dilated and he suddenly broke eye contact. Daniel felt lost for a moment, as Jack swung around to Eros. The sound of the P-90 startled him, but he saw the look of surprise on the goa'uld's face, saw the jaffa fall.
All hell broke loose then. Teal'c was firing the staff weapon at the jaffa who came pouring out of the cavern. Sam grabbed the P-90 that was hanging useless in Daniel's hand and set up harassing fire in the direction of Eros.
The goa'uld's shields had come up almost immediately, and he looked around at his dead jaffa. Casting a penetrating glance at them all, as if memorizing their faces, he made his escape in the direction of the Gate.
"Giggle me! Giggle me!" Livia and Julia both shrieked, snatching at Daniel and Jack. They obliged for a few minutes before the girls pulled away, screaming, to play with Demetrius and Calenda.
The villagers, and Jack, had recovered from the mind control once Eros had left the area.
"I tried to warn you, Jack," Daniel said quietly, sitting next to Jack on a rock, legs touching. "Julia and Livia are twins. Maybe things would have been different if I'd figured that out sooner. Julia's the talkative one and she came up the shaft after you left. That language of theirs is unique; twins sometimes make up their own languages that they only use with one another. Once Julia gave me Sam's message about the mind control weapon, I tried to get to you."
Daniel thought he could read more into those words, into Jack's eyes, and he glanced over to where Sam and Teal'c were making arrangements with Princeps Gaius to return to Nemsus. It hadn't taken SG-1 long to fight the few remaining jaffa and return the Nemsi to their village. Eros had made it to the Stargate and off-planet.
"You did good, Danny. You were there when I needed you."
Daniel's eyes settled back on Jack. He wished he could risk more. A touch, a caress. More. Jack had done something pretty spectacular, fighting against the goa'uld mind control weapon to save his friends. Daniel met Jack's eyes again and smiled.
"That's what stopped me, you know."
"What?" Daniel asked, a little startled.
"That look in your eyes," Jack said. "It was like an energy circuit, feeding me the strength to fight that snake's voice in my head. You trusted me to take care of things and I couldn't let you down. I hope I never let you down, Danny."
Daniel thought of Charlie, and even Sara. Jack couldn't go through that again. He nodded. "You won't, Jack. I won't let you."
Jack gave Daniel's shoulder a shove, a guarded look in his eyes that Daniel realized wasn't for him.
"Colonel," Sam interrupted, Teal'c at her side. "We've made arrangements that are satisfactory to the Nemsi. We should be able to make it back in time now to meet General Hammond's schedule. I'm sorry that bastard got away."
"I'm sure we'll have another opportunity, Major. We'll keep an eye on the Nemsi for a while, and move them if we have to. Dial us out of here, Daniel!"
Daniel walked over and pushed the glyphs. The event horizon formed, and Sam and Teal'c went through.
"I know we won't let each other down, Danny. Let's go home," Jack put his hand on Daniel's shoulder as they stepped through the Stargate together.
|Summary:||The team runs afoul of a new enemy while examining naquadah deposits off-planet, On their first mission since becoming a couple, Jack and Daniel strive to remain professional.|