SHOGONATE

 

DISCLAIMERS: ** I started writing this story way before the first serious spoilers on plots for season 8 came out. Although it contains no actual spoilers in itself (or else, I am a psychic!), it deals with a divinity Joe Mallozzi said one episode of season 8 also would. This story by no means infringe upon *their* copyrights, it’s all come from my imagination, and my imagination alone.**

A/N:
- The mythology I based this story upon is the real mythology of Japan I adapted for the purpose of this story (it is really "Goa'uld compatible"!). However, please note that although the descriptions are rather close to reality, this work is purely fiction where actual Japanese mythology and culture are mixed with a lot of imaginary creations.
- The described structure of a Medieval Japanese village is probably not very accurate, my apologies I had to rely essentially on my imagination there.
- The clothing is described in a way so that everybody could understand and "see". I intentionally mentioned only a few Japanese names for the different items, so that nobody would be lost: everybody knows a bit about martial arts and the outfits Judoka, Aikidoka, or Karateka wear.
- Some of the words/dialogues I used are actual Japanese sentences that I simply modified a little bit, taking into account the distance and time.
- For further information about Samurais and Feudal Japan http://samourais.free.fr/ (in French, but lots of pictures and drawings you don’t need to understand the language to see), or http://www.japanese-armor.com/ (in English). Watching the old mini series ‘Shogun’ is also very instructive. The feudal civilization of Japan was extremely violent in military matters, yet particularly refined when it came to their society life. It remained almost the same, at least in spirit, until the Second World War.

Thanks:
- Sue, for agreeing to beta read and doing a marvelous job at it. My writer’s moods did not stop her from being honest and I thank her to no ends for that. She’s herself a wonderful author and that’s the reason I sought her advice out in the first place.
- Morjana, for her on-list technical information on UAVs.

Copyright © Anakin David 2004

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SG1 was gathered at the foot of the ramp in the control room, waiting for Daniel Jackson to put in an appearance. At last, the archaeologist came in through the big blast door, rubbing his glasses with a tissue.

Jack O'Neill nodded to General Hammond up in the control room, indicating he was ready. "All right people! Let's head out to P5Xwhatever and see what kind of trouble SG1 will get itself into this time!" he said emphatically.

"Hopefully O'Neill, we will not encounter trouble on that world." Teal'c replied stoically.

"Oh I don't know, we kind of attract trouble when we're out there... somewhere... beyond the sea..." Jack went on, punctuating his words with waves of his hand.

Teal'c frowned. "There appears to be no sea in the immediate vicinity of the Stargate, O'Neill."

"That's an expression, T'!" Jack replied scowling "It's from a song! Somewhere beyond the sea..." he continued in sing-song voice.

Sam Carter stifled her laugh as Teal'c raised one eyebrow cryptically.

"Colonel O'Neill, you can instruct Teal'c of the wonders of Earth music when you set up camp tonight!" General Hammond's voice came out of the microphone. "In the meantime, I suggest you go through the Stargate now because I'm not sure the American tax-payer would be happy to know his money goes into debating such matters!"

"T', Daniel, Carter, you heard the General, lead the way!" Jack said. Stepping onto the ramp, he turned and beckoned his team toward the shimmering blue of the Stargate.

Up in the control room, Hammond slightly shook his head at his 2IC's antics and watched his flag team disappear through the device.

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The planet they were exploring was quite monotonous, and the weather humid and chilly, just like what temperate countries would be like at the end of autumn. Dark conifers were gathered in a thick forest on the right of the barely drawn path they were following, and the grass was brownish and damp with what would qualify as dew.

O'Neill was walking alongside his major, Teal'c at the rear and Daniel in between, his finger absently stroking the outside rim of the trigger of his P90.
From time to time, Carter stopped briefly to analyze the numbers on the sensor she held in her left hand, occasionally making notations on a small notepad tucked into one of the pockets of her vest.

"So, Carter? What about that Naquada?" O'Neill asked after some time.

"I don't know yet, sir. The readings so far are interesting, but I'm afraid we might have to dig quite deep. I'll take a core sample of the soil when we set up camp. Although I don't have the means to send a probe very deep, it'll at least give us an idea," She replied, smiling briefly at him.

"'Found anything of archaeological interest, Daniel?" he asked next, turning his head towards the archaeologist.

"None whatsoever yet, Jack. But the UAV showed ruins or some sort of buildings quite far from the gate, maybe we should go investigate?"

"Well... that's what we're here for, right? Explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilization, and boldly go where--"

"Feeling bored already, Colonel?" Sam interrupted shaking her head and smiling slightly.

"Oh, no. Actually I'm feeling in a particularly good mood for once."

Sam chuckled softly and then concentrated on the walk.

They hadn't gone ten meters when a troop of armed Samurai-like people rose like mushrooms from holes hidden on the banks flanking the path and surrounded them menacingly. Their dark, shinny armors clang softly, and although they seemed to be rather cumbersome, the men didn't seem to be bothered by it, sharp swords at the ready, and expertly mounting their horses.

Their attack was swift and efficient and SG1 had barely had time to point their weapons at them before Jack and the rest of his team were swiftly disarmed by several men on foot.

One of the attackers, probably the leader, barked a few things in a guttural language Jack didn't understand, and while a few riders guarded the area, a few others dismounted and surrounded the team in their turn. In short they were thoroughly searched for more weapons, rid of them, tied-up, and roughly brought to a wagon harnessed to a draught horse, hidden behind several trees.

The leader, who had remained on his horse, barked a few more orders. The Samurai-like men that had dismounted got back on their horses and some of them went down the bank to hide again as the caravan moved off to an unknown destination.

The attack had been so sudden that despite his sharp military mind, O'Neill hadn't had time to realize exactly what was happening to them. The slow pace of the wagon left time for them to analyze the situation.

Teal'c was the first to recover. He looked around the cart to try and locate their gear and weapons, but the range of vision the bars allowed was not sufficient for him to determine where they were. He looked at his companions, and addressed O'Neill in a low voice. "I cannot see where they put our weapons, O'Neill."

"I know where they are," the Colonel replied sharply, trying unsuccessfully to get rid of his bonds. "I saw a rider with a net bag on his saddle. You got any idea about who these guys are?"

"I do not, O'Neill. They do have a slight resemblance to Lord Yu's Jaffa, but they do not seem to bear any Goa'uld tattoo or markings on their foreheads. They must have been guarding the path for intruders. I do not believe they set up a trap especially for us as SG1, otherwise they would not have left men where they ambushed us."
"I don't believe they did either," O'Neill agreed. "But that means those guys are in a war or something like that... What did I say about trouble?" he groaned dejectedly.

A short silence ensued. Then Daniel sighed, attracting his teammates' attention. He looked at them, furrowing his brow. "From what I gather so far, they look a lot like Samurai from feudal Japan… " he said.

"And just how is that wonderful information going to help us?" Jack quipped.

"Well, it might give us some clues as to how to behave," Daniel replied. "Feudal Japan had a very complicated set of rules and the organization of the society was very complex. Which means that we might find a safe way to get out of this situation if we behave like them."

"So, what do you think we should do?" Sam asked, wincing a little as the cart rolled over a pothole on the road.

Daniel hesitated a second, then resumed. "Look, if it is indeed a feudal Japanese-like civilization, then I suggest we play very definite parts. That'll earn us some time at least. Jack, you would be a warlord traveling with Teal'c, a war monk - that would fit perfectly with your hairdo and your staff - for protection and spiritual purposes. Me, I can be a medicine man/scholar/interpreter of some sort, and..." he turned to Sam with an embarrassed look. "Ahem... Sam, Jack’s wife or concubine. Actually it would be more respectable if she were your wife," he concluded sheepishly.

"What?!" Sam and Jack both exclaimed at the same time.

"Have you gone nuts?!" Jack raged.

But Daniel interrupted him at once. "Look, Jack, if I am right and we don't play their game, then it will be an immediate sentence of death by decapitation or crucifixion for all of us, without any chance to plead our case."

Jack fell silent, as did his other team mates, only to have his thoughts interrupted by Daniel.

"I am not exactly an expert in far-eastern civilizations, but I think that's how we should behave. Show them respect and be honorable. They have a great sense of honor. They might accept a few ‘misbehaviors’ from us, but not much. The Japanese Bushido code is roughly: courage, honor, sincerity, loyalty, respectability/politeness and excellence. Oh and drawing blood when not necessary is shameful."

"'Might as well write that down for us!" Jack mumbled.

"Well, all in all, that's our motto with SG1," Sam said.

"Yeah, but try to think with a Japanese mind..." Daniel sighed, earning a snort from Jack.

"Would O'Neill being a warlord and traveling without any army not appear strange, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked.

"Not necessarily, I might have to think of a story if we get questions about it, but we could be on... say an educational trip? Or seeking allies or something like that."

"What about a treaty? Might I remind you that's what we're here for? Try to find new sources of Naquada?" Jack smirked.

"Why not, yeah..." Daniel agreed.

Jack sighed and then scowled. He definitely hated their present situation, but he recognized Daniel's expertise in foreign cultures. "Okay, Daniel. Then I suggest you talk."

"Well I'm not sure I can understand their dialect, but from the few things I heard it looks like some sort of Japanese-"

"Yeah, whatever." Jack interrupted him, rolling his eyes. "They could have taken these bonds off when they put us in that wagon!" he grumbled.

The rest of their trip was spent in silence, as each tried to think of a way to extricate them from yet another perilous situation. Jack's limbs were beginning to get stiff and he would have killed to be able to stretch his long legs and relieve his knees. He was beginning to wonder how far the soldiers would take them from the gate, when they finally reached a village.

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The first houses they saw were made of trodden earth and straw, and seemed to belong for the most part to people clothed in rags. Some of them were a little better dressed and carried agrarian tools. Their houses had small enclosures near by, containing pigs and other animals he didn't recognize. Then as they progressed through the village, they passed wooden houses of what probably were storekeepers, with attractive window dressings. Finally, they reached big houses with rich designs and patterns, probably the houses of the notables. All the buildings definitely had a Japanese style to them, thus confirming Daniel's initial thoughts.

They exited the village, and headed up to a hill on top of which stood a small fortress. They entered the yard and stopped. Jack observed the riders dismount. Two of them came to the wagon, forcing them out none too gently.

Remembering Daniel's advice, Jack bit back a quip as they were led to what looked like the main building of the fortress. They reached a dimly lit room, where they were forced to kneel down, eliciting a protesting groan from Jack. Two armored soldiers stood on each side of them, hands on their sword, ready to unsheathe, no doubt.

After a moment, a short but imposing man came before them. His hairdressing and general attire reminded Jack of those cheap Asian movies he had gone to at the drive-in when he was attending college and dating Suzy Sandburg, he mused. The man was dressed in a richly adorned sort of Kimono, two swords of different lengths driven into his large belt.

Jack’s thoughts were soon drawn back to reality as the man sat on the throne-like chair in the middle of a small platform.

Their two guards immediately bowed and one of them started speaking in the same guttural language they had heard before.

More attuned now to the situation than he had been when they were captured, Jack looked at Daniel who was frowning in concentration. He switched to Sam who was also helplessly looking at their friend. When the guard finished talking, Daniel looked briefly at Sam, then Jack, and nodded reassuringly.
The man on the other side of the room stood up and came near them, circling them while observing them.

Jack hated that and started fidgeting, earning a warning look from Daniel.

Having finished his inspection, the man stopped right in front of them and asked them something Jack presumed was "who are you" or something like that.
Daniel cleared his throat and started speaking slowly in what sounded like Japanese. The man frowned and came closer, obviously trying to understand what Daniel was saying.

Daniel tried several formulations - so it sounded to Jack - until one of them seemed to cause the man to listen more intently. Daniel went on trying to explain who they were for long minutes, then suddenly, the man barked, interrupting Daniel's speech. The guards straightened and drew their short swords.

Jack closed his eyes, expecting the cold steel pierce his skin, when instead, he felt his bounds loosen and his wrists come free. All four of them were hauled up to a standing position and had to look down to their captor, as he was probably not more than five foot four inches tall.

The man looked at Daniel and started speaking again, his hand extended, apparently beckoning them to follow him.

The two guards followed closely though, escorting them through the corridors and to the upper levels where other guards relayed them.

They were roughly instructed to take their boots off. Now that was something that was getting more and more aggravating! Those people knew nothing about kindness! Jack thought, as they were led to yet another room.

The walls of this new area in the building seemed to be made of a very thin, almost transparent ivory material stretched on wooden frames that could slide open to new rooms, providing the place a hushed resonance.

"I've got to ask them how they did that!" Jack smirked softly.

Before he had time to add more, they were roughly forced to kneel down. Their host entered through a panel on the opposite side of the room and took his place also kneeling on his heels on a cushioned area in front of them. The guards then retreated behind the panels. The man cleared his throat and spoke to Daniel.

Daniel resumed his explanation, then came to a stop, slightly bowing in front of their host. The man smiled and bowed in his turn, and Daniel turned to his friends.

"This is Lord Kyyato - if I understood correctly - apparently an important warlord here. Before we came here, when we were in that other room, he asked where we came from, since he had never seen anyone like us. I told him exactly what I suggested in the cart. Jack, you are a warlord with your wife, Sam, and Teal'c a war monk, traveling to seek out new allies, and I am the scholar that accompanies you for translating purposes, as well as writing down your journal."

"Good," said Jack. "Now what?"

"Well, he made his apologies about mistreating a warlord, and that's why we were brought here. He wants to know what we're doing here."

"And?" Jack said, raising his eyebrows and waving his hand evocatively.

"Well, I haven't told him about the Naquada yet..."

Jack rolled his eyes.

"Jack, I needed a moment to adjust my language, in case you hadn't notice!" Daniel said indignantly. "Besides, I'm not sure he knows what Naquada is, or what he could use it for!"

"All right, why don't you ask him and what he intends to do with us?" Jack said, scowling.

Daniel resumed his conversation with Lord Kyyato. After a moment, Kyyato barked a few orders to the guards who swiftly bowed and left the room. Kyyato then turned to Daniel and said a few more words. He then bowed his head and obviously waited for Daniel's reaction, watching the rest of the team expectantly.

Daniel turned to his teammates. "He says he would be honored if we could join him for dinner and discuss more precisely about that Naquada - apparently, he has never heard of it. He once again apologizes for us being mistreated, and insists on making us comfortable. He also said that all our gear would be returned to us in some quarters he is currently having prepared for us. We can get cleaned, change, and get comfortable."
"Too many apologies..." Jack quipped.

"Jack, I wouldn't start on that track if I were you. It does look like their culture is very similar to that of ancient Japan indeed, and we have to be very careful about how we behave. Apologizing profusely is not that strange when you think with a Japanese mind."

"Okay, whatever. I trust you Daniel, but don't say anything that I would consider a bad move." He raised an eyebrow trying to understand what he had just said, then turned to Carter. "That didn't come out right. Right?"

She smothered her chuckle. "No, sir."

He turned to Daniel, frowning. "Well, you know what I mean. Tell him we accept his apologies and that we'll join him for dinner all right, but don't go into details about anything else."

Daniel smiled almost imperceptibly and turned towards Lord Kyyato to tell him just that in whatever language it was that they both understood.
Kyyato then smiled, clapped his hands, and a team of girls, with dark hair pulled up artistically in an arrangement of buns, appeared. Walking in short steps, they bowed repeatedly to the team, and beckoned SG1 to follow them.

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They were led to another room where all their gear had been stocked. Dismissing the girls with a hand, O'Neill quickly went to check his pack and weapons, as did the others.

"Everything seems to be here, including all of my ammo... what about you, guys?" he asked.

"Same here, Sir," Sam replied.

"Ditto." Daniel supplied.

"It appears these people have not touched nor damaged my weapons either, O'Neill," Teal'c concluded.

The girls had stepped backwards when O'Neill had dismissed them, but were still in the room. One of them spoke in a soft voice.

Daniel replied and said a few other things, before being interrupted by Jack's interrogative look. "She asked if we want to take a bath and refreshments. I told her that refreshments would be fine."

"What about the bath?" Jack asked.

"I didn't think we'd need to take a bath now but-"

"Not me, but maybe Carter wants to..."

"I can speak for myself, sir. With all due respect," she replied icily.

"Hey, don't snap at me like that, Carter! I was just trying to be considerate! After all, I'm supposed to be your husband!"

"Well, sir. Don't. I'm not used to that cra--"

"Sam, Jack!" Daniel warned, raising both his hands and gaining both officers’ attention. "I don't think this is the time or place to have an argument. We can have refreshments, a change of clothes, and we'll decide, okay?"

"A change of clothes, Daniel Jackson?"

"Yes, Teal'c. They insist we wear those kimono-like outfits for dinner."

"All right, I'm outta here!" Jack said, standing up.

"Jack!"

"What?! I'm not wearing that and that's final! I do have a reputation to maintain as the commanding officer of this unit!"

"And you also have a head to keep on your shoulders, Jack!" Daniel countered.

Jack fell silent.

"I told you they might be very strict about protocol, and everything tends to point in that direction. I'm not going to laugh, Sam's not going to laugh, and Teal'c will also have to wear one, so we're all even."

Jack bit his lip in frustration; this harmless mission had turned into a huge mess. They were not due to report in for another forty-eight hours and a lot could happen in so short a time span. His military logic dictated that he completed the mission, and the mission was to find a way to mine for the Naquada. The best course of action would be to abide by their host's code of living and try to negotiate a treaty so they could return home as soon as possible.

He looked at Daniel, in resignation. "All right, Daniel. Tell them we'll change clothes."

Daniel nodded and talked to the girl who seemed to be asking one last question.

"She suggests bringing towels for us to clean up a little. She understands we don't want to take a bath now, although she's insisted a lot - I might add - but she is adamant about being immaculate for supper," Daniel explained.

"Works for me," O'Neill shrugged.

Daniel talked to the girls one last time. The one who had spoken bowed and stepped backwards, beckoning them to follow her, while the other girls did the same, then went into separate directions.

"They're going to show us our quarters," Daniel supplied.

"All right, take your gear and move people," Jack ordered.

They followed the girls through the corridors until they reached a set of four rooms, each opening - through a wooden panel - into a common room with a steaming pool in the middle. The servants were there already, wetting towels and folding them before putting them on some sorts of wicker trays.
The chief of the girls - Jack had decided to nickname her that - showed them their sleeping quarters. Teal'c was first, then Daniel, and at the very end, were Sam and Jack.

Every time a member of SG1 was shown a room, a girl stepped in with him and the folded steaming towels and closed the panel behind her. When Sam and Jack found themselves enclosed in the same room with their servant, they smiled awkwardly at each other: *now what*? their looks asked silently.
The girl quickly came to bow before Sam and indicated that she should follow her. She went to a corner of the room where an outfit was cautiously folded next to the wet towels, and beckoned Sam to kneel next to her. She then moved swiftly in front of Sam and started unbuttoning her jacket. Feeling a flush raising on her cheeks in embarrassment, Sam steadied the girl's hand, not daring to glance at her commanding officer and unbuttoned the jacket herself.

Jack's stomach was doing flip-flops in his belly, and he felt his ears burning, as well as the blood rush to some parts of him that should definitely have been at rest. The scene he had just witnessed held some erotic sense to it that turned his brain to jelly, and he didn't need too much stimulation when it came to his second in command.

Before making a fool out of himself, he turned away from the scene unfolding underneath his eyes, and decided to study the intricate patterns of the panels before him...

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Daniel felt his jacket slide from his shoulders and started. He turned and came face to face with the young girl that had entered his room after him and smiled sheepishly.

The girl bowed her head and beckoned for him to sit on a small wooden bench next to steaming stones in a pan, at one side were the wet towels. Slowly, and almost cautiously, the girl took off the rest of his clothes except for his trousers. Then she started applying the steaming wet towels to his face, his back, his chest, rubbing a little and massaging at the same time.

Daniel felt relaxation sweep through his body at the tender ministrations of the girl. He closed his eyes and let the girl do her job.

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Teal'c had stripped down to his underwear and sat cross-legged while the girl cleaned his large body. Not one to deny relaxing when he was invited to, he had put himself in a deep state of Kel'No'Reem, and didn’t even notice what the girl was doing. The soft fragrance that was emanating from the steaming wet towels, the soft light and the muffled sounds the panels provided were another source of relaxing, and he reached heights he seldom managed to reach now that his symbiote was gone.

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Sam was finished. She was dressed in a metallic blue kimono, her short hair bearing a few ribbons that made it look like it wasn't short. The combination of colors she was dressed in made her eyes appear like sapphires embedded in the fine jewel that was her face, and O'Neill had trouble detaching his eyes from her figure, a lump preventing him from breathing normally. He had seldom seen Sam Carter in formal attire, other than her dress blues, and he had to admit it was a wonderful sight in itself.

He was abruptly brought back to reality as he felt the girl's hands hook on the lapels of his open jacket and start tugging it down his shoulders. His reaction was violent, and if it hadn't been for Sam, he would have knocked the girl out, but Sam's eyes pleaded with him and he regained control of himself.

He shyly nodded to Sam, who understood and faced away from him as the girl, though a little troubled, started her work anew on him.

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SG1 looked like they were shooting an Akira Kurosawa movie, all seated on their heels around a large square table with short legs; except for O'Neill, whose bad knees prevented him from doing that, and who sat cross-legged.

Apart from them, the room was empty.

Daniel wore ivory clothes with black horizontal stripes, and looked perfectly comfortable in them, while Teal'c wore a similar outfit, only the stripes drew different patterns.

The clothes seemed to be made of some kind of thick material like flax. The kimono itself was in reality the undergarment, and on top of it were several layers of thicker clothes. A sort of vest with large shoulder pads covered the chest, bearing the stripes and different patterns, and the legs were covered by a hakama (like culottes), and several layers of long ribbons emerging from the top of the hakama maintained everything in place. They also had some kind of white socks and the lacy sandals they wore as shoes were all aligned at the entrance of the room since they had been asked to remove them upon entering the dining area.

Sam's and Jack's outer outfits were obviously made of a more elaborate kind of material resembling silk, and Sam's in particular, resembled more a long dress than what the men wore. Her outfit was clearly designed in a more feminine way.

Sam sat calmly on her heels listening to Daniel giving her some advice as to how to behave. She was supposed to be a warlord's wife, and there were some things that would be expected from her, as well as things that she should definitely not do.

Jack on his part, looked nervous and fidgety.

Sam couldn't help letting her eyes wander upon him when he didn't look her direction. She had to admit to herself that seeing him in such a foreign outfit put her senses in overdrive. Its colors were black with intricate silver embroideries, which combined with his silver crop gave him a very distinguished look, despite the obvious nervousness that agitated him. Suddenly, she found herself staring in his eyes, and moved by a sudden shyness, bowed her head slightly to avoid looking him in the eyes.

Jack was utterly uncomfortable. The outfit felt cumbersome and incapacitated his ability to react fast, and he hated it, not to mention they made him look ridiculous in front of his teammates. Granted, they were in the same situation as he was, but none of them was the Commanding Officer, the one who had to make decisions, the one who had to be respected for his leadership and his - sometimes - unpopular choices.

The only thing that kept him from bolting up on his feet and escaping this ridiculous scene was the sight of his 2IC whenever his eyes fell on her dark-blue clad silhouette. The colors she wore made her eyes bluer than if she had put make-up on and her hair shone a brilliant gold enhanced by the delicate ribbons the servants had woven into. He damn well realized those thoughts were utterly unprofessional, but hell! The situation was far from what he had ever been trained for! Give him a battlefield and instant strategic decisions to make, give him a P90. Heck, give him a hostage situation, he knew how to react! Here he felt totally helpless and in the hands of a damn archaeologist, albeit a very close friend, but a scientist, a scholar, a bookworm. Oh all right, Daniel was trained in military operations, but his mind would never be military. He hadn't learnt that. He shot a glance at his friend, feeling guilty for having such deprecating thoughts towards him, but no one could blame him for being a soldier, and a damn good one…

Daniel coughed discreetly to draw their attention.

"There are a few things I remember from my three month exchange program with Japan about meals, and they might be appropriate, given the striking resemblance this civilization seems to bear with it."

"What is it, Daniel?" Sam asked.

"First of all, one shouldn't burp--"

"Daniel, I may be stupid, but do you think my mother raised a Neanderthal?" Jack said in an irritated voice.

"These are simply the rules, Jack!"

"Well I'm sick of rules of behavior!" his voice went up a notch.

"Sir!" Sam said in a strangled cry. "I really don't think now is the time to launch such a discussion!" she finished in a low voice.

O'Neill sighed. "All right, Daniel. Go on."

"One shouldn't blow one's nose while attending the meal. Never point your chopsticks - if we're given some - at someone, nor wave them in the air, but leave them in front of you, pointing to the left if you don't use them. Make noise while eating, although not too much," he paused, frowning, trying to remember what he had learnt in his earlier days, then took a deep breath and resumed. "Do not feed anyone with your chopsticks--"

"Daniel!" O'Neill choked. "Do you really think that line was needed?! We're not intimate enough for that, for crying out loud!"

"I didn't mean me, Jack!" Daniel replied in an offended tone.

"I didn't mean you either!" he snapped back, his cheeks suddenly becoming beet red, as he realized what he had just said.

Sam ducked her head to avoid the burst of laughter that threatened to escape her throat. Teal'c raised an eyebrow, and Daniel looked back at Jack blankly, then resumed, clearing his throat.

"Well, anyway, it's also considered utterly impolite not to taste all the dishes that are displayed or offered to you. And although I know you would never indulge yourself in drinking while on duty, alcoholism is more than frowned upon. They'll probably fill your cup, but I'd advise all of you not to drink since they will refill it immediately."

"I have no taste for alcohol, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c reminded him.

"I'm just listing the rules once again, Teal'c."

Jack rolled his eyes. This was getting more and more ridiculous.

"Anything else?" he asked the younger man, smirking.

"Nothing that I can remember."

"Then we'll try to be cautious, won't we?"

Silence settled as they were still waiting for their host.

Jack looked back at Sam, who happened to be looking his way at that precise moment, and their eyes locked, exchanging more than what words could carry. Their silent communication was interrupted by the arrival of Lord Kyyato who came to sit in front of them.

Daniel bowed slightly, discreetly beckoning his friends to do so.

Kyyato smiled and clapped his hands, signaling his servants to start serving the meal.

Suddenly the room was invaded by half a dozen servants, all female, carrying several trays with what was obviously hot and cold dishes.

Each member of SG1 was also presented with a dark wooden tray with a bowl, a kind of rolled wet napkin and chopsticks.

Jack looked at Teal'c, suddenly glad most of their team nights back on Earth had involved Asian food and teaching Teal'c how to use chopsticks.

Teal'c raised his eyebrow slightly, reassuring Jack that he was still on his guard. O'Neill nodded very slightly and then turned to Sam before waiting for Daniel to give them some sort of signal that they could eat.

When the servants were done bringing the food on the table, Kyyato had an inviting gesture towards it, beckoning his guests to help themselves.

Itadakimuh" he said smiling.

"Itadakimuh," Daniel replied smiling, before leaning over the table to pick several items in the dishes.

Jack imitated him as well as Teal'c, and Sam did it last.

Kyyato started talking to Daniel while chewing his food. "I want to apologize once more for treating you the way my guards did," He started.

"We have accepted your apologies, Lord Kyyato," Daniel responded, bowing his head.

"Times of war make things a little tense for me at the moment. We have had several incursions from the enemy, and I have Shomureis along most paths."

"Shomureis? War?" Daniel asked.

"Yes. For several ionkis already, my old enemy Hai-Ri-Ki has been trying to annihilate my lands and me. He wants more power and I stand in his way. My men, my Shomureis, are very loyal and fierce thankfully, and they defend my lands rather efficiently. But we are preparing for a riposte and hope to get rid of them very soon. Some of my scouts are out, seeking something left by my ancestors that could definitely bring me a decisive advantage," he concluded, smiling in a predatory way.

"Oh!" Daniel uttered.

"Yes, we found some evidence in old documents, and your arrival makes me believe that we might not be that far from the truth. But let's put aside those petty problems. You told me you were traveling to find some mineral that is in our soil?" he asked, smiling.

"Yes well, please let me take a moment to inform my Lord O'Neill of your situation," Daniel said, bowing his head. He was beginning to feel uncomfortable about the discussion, but he couldn't actually pinpoint why. He looked at Jack who raised his eyebrows questioningly.

"He apologized once again and told me he's at war with one of his neighbors apparently, just like we assumed back when we were taken prisoners. He thinks he may find something else that will give him a decisive advantage, and apparently, our arrival leads him to think he’s right. Do you really want to proceed on that track?"

Jack frowned a little, then nodded cautiously. "Well, we do need to establish a mining treaty," he started slowly. "But we don't want to get into a war, nor interfere with it either. I trust you to be the peaceful one here, but just keep me posted on what you're talking about," he concluded.

Daniel eagerly turned back towards Lord Kyyato, who had observed the exchange intensely.

"My Lord does indeed need some mineral that cannot be found back where we are from, but which we found in the soil of this land in large amounts."
"May I ask what you need this mineral for?" Kyyato asked, his curiosity obviously piqued.

"Well, it's an energy source that we need to-" he was going to say 'power machines' but stopped himself briefly before resuming. "Heat our houses. It's very cold where we live." He cringed, realizing what a pathetic lie it was.

Nonetheless, Kyyato didn't seem nonplussed. His eyes squinted a little, then he sighed, appearing to be thinking; while Daniel quickly filled his friends in with what he had been saying.

Kyyato looked at O'Neill, then Daniel, before resuming. "As I told you, I want to get rid of Hai-Ri-Ki's threat on my land and my people in a definitive way. Maybe, if you think you can help me with that problem, we can establish a trading treaty so that you can retrieve this source of energy. You have weapons that I would like to see in action."

Daniel now knew why he was getting uncomfortable. He bowed slightly, and indicated he had to translate for O'Neill. Once he was finished, he waited for the man's reaction.

"Oh for crying out loud, why is it that they're always pining for our weaponry?!" he said rolling his eyes.

"Well, sir, the same way we’re always pining over advanced technology when we encounter some!" Carter replied immediately.

Suddenly, a deadly silence descended on the room. Kyyato looked utterly shocked and ready to draw his saber and dispose of her head in a snap of the fingers.

As soon as her lips had closed, Sam had remembered: she was not supposed to talk to her husband without bowing or showing some form of respect. She immediately ducked, her forehead touching the ground.

Jack, remembering too, looked falsely irate at his 'wife's' behavior. "I know that, Carter!" he snapped, keeping the pretense and hoping his tone would sound offended to the ears of the man in front of them.

"The fact that they already know how to light a fire doesn't mean we have to give them matches," he said, raising his eyebrow on a softer tone, eliciting another wave of bowing from Carter.

O'Neill then turned to Kyyato, speaking to Daniel, but looking at the man. "We would like to assess the situation by ourselves in order to help you best."
Daniel translated Jack’s words.

Kyyato nodded thoughtfully. "Of course. You do understand though, that no treaty can be established unless there is some kind of exchange between us?"

Daniel translated back to O'Neill who sighed, frowned and raised his eyebrows, before speaking again. "We don't mean to be impolite, Lord Kyyato. We just need to see for ourselves exactly what kind of weapon we deem appropriate to your needs."

Kyyato smiled with greed. "Very well then, I was about to launch a strategic attack on one of Hai-Ri-Ki's outposts, if you wish to accompany me and my Shomureis so that you can see for yourselves," he offered.

Jack looked at his teammates, silently questioning them.

Teal'c nodded his acceptance imperceptibly; Sam raised her eyebrows indicating that whatever he decided she would follow and Daniel shrugged.

"We accept."

Kyyato smiled and resumed eating.

The rest of the meal was spent with small talk, Daniel becoming more and more tired as he was incessantly translating. As the evening stretched on, and feeling he would pass out from exhaustion, Daniel explained the events of the day had been very tiring, and wiped his mouth, signaling by this gesture, that the meal was over, immediately imitated by his friends.

"Goshiso samah deshitah" he enunciated slowly.

"Gushiseh somoh dishiteh" Kyyato replied, correcting the pronunciation smiling and bowing slightly. He clapped his hands and the same girls as before came in the room, retrieving the dishes and the trays in silent efficiency.

Kyyato stood up, followted by his guests, and the girls came back to guide them to their respective 'rooms'.

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Once O'Neill reached their designated area, he quickly shed his clothes, not caring if Carter saw him in his standard military white briefs, and put his usual fatigues back on.

Carter had turned her head when she had realized what he was doing, but temptation was stronger, and she stole a peek when the Colonel's back was turned. Despite his age, the man was in perfect shape. She became lost a moment in the play of his muscles on the hard planes of his back. Her eyes slowly drifting down, the apparent firmness of his buttocks, the strength of his thighs and the curve of his calves mesmerized her.

"Admiring the view, Carter?" she heard him say in a playful tone.

"Sir!" she said, feeling her cheeks flush furiously like a child caught in the act of stealing from the cookie jar.

He dismissed her. "Payback's a bitch I suppose. I checked YOU out on Hathor's base," he admitted, a small smile still playing on his lips. He had finished putting on his pants and black tee shirt. "I'll go fetch the others, 'think you can manage getting rid of these and put something back on that will keep my heart at a low pace in the meantime?"

"Sir?" She must have heard wrong.

He sighed. "Come on, I'm trying to add some levity to the situation!"

"Yes, sir."

"Yes, what?"

"Yes, go fetch the others, I will put my usual clothes back on. Sir."

"Relax, Carter. I won't press charges on you," he said, sliding a panel to exit the room. She still seemed to be disconcerted, but he decided she would probably go back to normal as soon as he returned with Teal'c and Daniel.

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They were all seated on the floor in Sam and Jack's room, and talking in hushed tones. Daniel looked really tired, and Jack could feel the first signs of an exhaustion headache as well.

"All right, let's not dwell on this. I suggest we follow this Kyyato and see that battle ground, then either we 'get lost', or we 'go check on our supplies' and exit through the Stargate. These people obviously won't let us mine unless we give them weapons and that's something we can’t do, can we? Besides, I'm not entirely sure Hammond would be happy to set up a mining colony on a planet where there's a brewing war ready to explode."

"I agree, O'Neill. But we must be vigilant. Considering the way we were captured, this might very well happen again, and I am not sure we would be treated so kindly next time."

"Except this time they won't have the advantage of surprise. We won’t follow the main paths."

"Jack, maybe we might have something more interesting for them than weapons? After all, considering Sam's readings, the Naquada deposits seem to be fairly important."

"It doesn't smell good, Daniel. We've got enough problems with our usual snakes, we don't need to get our hands dirty with these folks."

"I agree with the Colonel, Daniel. We’re not in immediate need of Naquada. Our Naquadria supplies are enough to fill our present needs. Besides, the mining on P2C991 seems promising, and it's an uninhabited world."

"The more, the better, right? That's why we came here in the first place! What if we send SG12? They’re used to that kind of situation."

"The diplomatic team? No," Jack said.

"But--"

"No!" he interrupted forcefully, glaring at the archaeologist.

Daniel frowned.

Sam put her hand on his arm in a comforting gesture. "Thanks for your efforts, Daniel."

"Yeah, well."

"All right campers, now go to bed."

"Do you have any strategy as to how we can escape out host's vigilance, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked before leaving.

"As usual, we'll improvise."

"Why don't I like that idea?" Daniel wondered out loud.

"Oh come on, we've always made it in one piece… granted a little scorched on the edges maybe, but where would be the fun?" Jack quipped.

Daniel rolled his eyes and was about to reply when a huge yawn tore his face.

"T', your room's next to Daniel's?" Jack asked the Jaffa softly.

"Yes, O'Neill."

"Watch over him, will you?"

Teal'c bowed slightly and dragged the archaeologist along, sliding the panel shut behind him.

Jack and Sam remained alone in silence.

"All right, Carter. Take the bed," he started, indicating the large mattress covered with blankets and other sorts of bed linen, with his chin. "I'll take first watch."

"Yes, sir," She said obediently, too tired to argue. According to her watch, it was 0600 SGC time, so that meant she had been awake for more than twenty-four hours due to gate lag.

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The night was uneventful. At dawn, the girls discreetly announced their presence and stepped inside their room, bringing some food, which they figured was breakfast. They all gathered in O'Neill and Carter's room and ate in silence, warily anticipating the day to come.

The girls returned to retrieve their breakfast and they were led to the courtyard where a whole army of Kyyato's Shomureis were awaiting their Lord.
Daniel watched them greedily. Some were on foot while others were on horse with long bows. The weaponry of the footmen was not always the same, apart from the ever present two sabers that were firmly set in a ribbon belt underneath the armor.

"Look at that! We’re so fortunate to be able to witness this display! It's a dream come true! Asia was not my main field of study, but I was always fascinated by the complexity of the culture, and so far, it fits almost entirely all we know about Medieval Japan!" he stated excitedly.

"It appears they have different colors depending on their status," Teal'c noted.

"Yes! The riders have mahogany plates with what would be golden rivets and hats rather than helmets. Their armor is probably lighter and less protective than that of the footmen, given the fact that they're on horse, therefore faster, and they have to shoot arrows fast. The footmen have black and red colors with a heavier armor, ready to sustain saber blows, and there are even some without armor, probably not Kyyato's Shomureis for that matter."

"So, who do you think they are?" Sam asked, genuinely interested.

"Probably Ronins or mercenaries. In Feudal Japan, Samurais that left their Daimyo, their Lord, became Ronins and sold their services to whoever would pay them enough. You see, they all have their sabers, but some of them also carry long bows, or Yari - the spears."

"And what are the ones in black?" Jack asked.

"Ninjas. Ronins that are trained to be spies and assassins. At least I guess, given their weaponry."

"They don't seem to have any, Daniel Jackson."

"Oh, I'm sure they do," he replied casually, "only you don't see it. The weapons Ninjas used were small and efficient, like Shuriken."

Teal'c raised an eyebrow in an interrogative fashion.

"Small weapons that look like stars. The branches of the star are actually very sharp blades, they throw them," Daniel explained.

"These appear to be very sly weapons," the Jaffa frowned.

"Well, they're meant to be silent and efficient. So I guess you could say that. Which brings to mind another question: why are there so many of them? I mean the regular army doesn't include many soldiers, while there are a lot of Ronins. This is strange."

"Maybe most of his regular troops are already fighting?" Sam suggested.

"That's a possibility. There's something even more troublesome though: I can't see any equivalent for the Sohei - the war monks - nor any Yamabushi. There should be some spiritual guidance. But then again, that might be a difference between what we know of Feudal Japan and this world. Still, there are way too many Ronins and Ninjas for my taste."

"I didn't know you were interested in Japanese soldiers and ways of war!" Sam said.

"Oh well, if you want to understand Japan, then you'd better study that particular field. It was a very warlike society, and that even went on until World War Two with the Kamikaze. They were the direct heirs of that philosophy. It's fascinating to see how accurate the observations were--"

"You know what?" Jack interrupted. "The more I see them and the way they're playing their games, the more I want to get the hell outta’ here!"

"You have my full support, sir!" Sam added.

"Uh-oh… Not yet at least." Daniel cringed. "’Looks like our host is here." He said indicating a direction with his chin.

Lord Kyyato appeared in a dark red armor with a red helmet. He saw his guests and waved to them, indicating they should come to where he was.

"Okay, campers, let's go see what Kyoto wants…" Jack said.

"Kyyato." Daniel corrected.

"What?" Jack asked, looking at him with raised eyebrows.

"Kyyato. Lord Kyyato."

"Whatever." Jack said dismissively.

Sam chuckled, earning a warning glance from her CO. She sobered immediately.

"Sorry, sir," she murmured.

They reached Kyyato's side and bowed, imitating Daniel.

"You shall travel at the back of the column with a troop of my best footmen," Daniel translated.

"How convenient!" Jack muttered. "That way he can keep an eye on us."

"What shall I say to him, Jack?"

"Tell him we’re ecstatic, Daniel!" he smirked.

Daniel sighed, turned to Lord Kyyato, and spoke.

What he said apparently satisfied the man for he smiled, nodded and mounted his horse.

One of his men came to beckon SG1 to the rear of the now moving columnA dozen foot soldiers immediately surrounded them.

The column exited the fortress and started down the hill to a large plain on their right.

O'Neill's eyes darted incessantly from his team to the soldiers and possible ways of escape. His 2IC was discreetly checking her Naquada readings, he noted, while Daniel seemed to be studying their guests' armor and equipment with the interest of the scientist he was. Jack sighed. This was not going to be easy. He cast a worried look at Teal'c who nodded silently. Jack discreetly hand-signaled to him to wait for a nice opportunity to present itself to them. No need to alert the others yet.

Daniel was intently studying the soldiers' armor and once again, was amazed at how much this civilization resembled Feudal Japan's. The armor was truly that of a sisteenth century Samurai, with tiny pieces of metal articulated one onto the other. From afar, the armor appeared cumbersome, but up close, Daniel could tell that they were far easier to move in than any of the European armors from the same period. Underneath the armor, they all had some sort of coat of mail, and the two sabers of different lengths invariably stuck out of their belt. The helmet was different, depending on the specialty of the soldier. Daniel thought it was purely for convenience matters.

He was interrupted by Jack's sharp poke in his ribs. He looked at his friend raising his eyebrows.

Jack discreetly pointed to the battlefield ahead of them.

The battle had already begun and seemed to have been going on for some time already, judging from the state of the wounded and/or dead that lay scattered across the field.

Kyyato held out his arm and barked an order to one of the soldiers surrounding them.

The man sharply turned to them and barked something that Daniel understood as ‘move over there’ indicating a somewhat protected area close to the battlefield. Escorted by only a few soldiers, they did as asked, while Kyyato barked orders to his horsemen and footmen.

O'Neill squinted at the area they were directed to and noticed a small embankment along one side. He still silently beckoned for his team to follow him, despite the angry looks of their *escort*. They all crouched just underneath the top of the embankment and O'Neill drew his macro binoculars to assess the situation. He frowned. Something wasn’t right. Kyyato was not respecting the elementary rules of war and his means were obviously sly. He gave his macro binoculars to his 2IC.

"Tell me what you think, Carter."

Sam grabbed the instrument and observed the battlefield in her turn.

"His ways are not the most orthodox I've seen, sir, and I don’t know if I’m becoming too sensitive, but there are way too many decapitations in my opinion," she said in disgust. "Wanna have a look, Daniel?" she said, giving the macro-binoculars to the archaeologist.

"Just what I thought," he said while observing the field before him. "Mostly Ronins and Ninjas, very few Shomureis, that means he recruits his army with cash, not honor. Quite a contrast with the character he showed us last night."

"I thought so too--" Jack was interrupted by the cold feel of a sword's blade on his neck. He slowly raised his arms and turned, feeling the blade scraping at his skin.

A quick glance at his team confirmed what he was suspecting: they were all in the same position as he was, a *shomurei* - for what it was worth - poised above each of them with his sword threatening their throats. The only thing was-- these were not their captors. The latter lay on the ground, their heads a few feet from their bodies.

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They were roughly pulled up to a standing position, and quickly led to yet another cart, disarmed, and shoved inside.

“If that’s the welcome tradition here, then I swear to God I’ll never advertise the place!” O'Neill cried indignantly, earning a menacing look from one of the soldiers.

At his order, the driver of the cart flicked the reins and the cart started moving at a rapid pace, sending the team to the far side of the wagon.

“And I’m in for a chiropractor’s session to top it all!” O'Neill grumbled, trying to accommodate his limbs. They were free of any bounds, but the cart was going fast, and the bumps in the road made the trip utterly uncomfortable.

“What did you say about not being surprised, sir?” Sam quipped.

“That’s so *not* funny, Carter!” he said sharply.

Teal'c was as stoic as usual, which unnerved O'Neill tenfold.

“Can you see where we’re headed, T?”

“The exact opposite direction to the one from which we have come, O'Neill,” the Jaffa replied.

“I think they’re bringing us to the enemy, sir,” Carter added. “What’s his name again, Daniel?”

“Hai-Ri-Ki, I guess,” Daniel replied.

Silence ensued, each concentrating on his or her position in the cart. The latter was going at a maddening speed, sending the team in all directions, even if they grabbed at the bars and tried to remain as still as possible. About an hour and a half later, they finally slowed down as they reached a camp, and they were abled to relax a bit.

O’Neill’s knees were killing him, and at some point, Sam had bumped her shoulder which, according to her grimacing face, was starting to hurt. Teal’c and Daniel didn’t seem to be in any pain except for lightly sore limbs. Jack stretched his legs, trying to relax his muscles as much as he could.

A soldier came near them to examine their condition, then barked an order and several minutes later, another one came carrying some water in a bucket. The first soldier took a ladle, plunged it into the bucket, and held it for O’Neill to take, which he did, but he gave it to Sam who drank eagerly.

After the much needed, but too small drink, O’Neill wanted to relieve his bladder and tried to make it known. “You know, those things go both ways!” he cried, gripping the bars of what he hoped was only a temporary prison.

“Jack,” Daniel warned.

“Well, sorry to be that trivial, Daniel, but I need to pee, and I’m sure at least one of you needs to, too!” Jack replied irritated.

“We do, but please, let me ask and we might get a chance to actually do it!”

Jack sighed in irritation, then dismissed Daniel with a wave of the hand.

Daniel sighed, then turned towards the outside of the cart and hailed the nearest soldier.

The man seemed a little surprised that Daniel was speaking an understandable language, but he came closer and Daniel spoke slowly.

The man frowned in concentration, obviously not used to Daniel’s accent or phrasing, but after a while, he nodded and called a fellow soldier. Then went to open the cart and beckoned Daniel to come out.

Daniel held his finger, before turning to the others.

“I think I can go, I’ll try to explain that we all need to, but please, Jack, don’t do anything rash.”

“Yeah, yeah, don’t worry about it, Daniel,” Jack said reassuringly.

Daniel exited and disappeared with the latter soldier for a while before returning with his escort.

After each member of SG1 had relieved both their natural needs and their cramped limbs, they were given what resembled dry meat and some sort of bread, then locked up in their small prison again.

O'Neill winced as he massaged his knee.

“You’re all right, sir?” Sam asked, concern lacing her voice.

“Yeah, I guess,” He replied. “All right, people,” he said all business again, “did you see anything useful?”

“Apart from the fact this is probably a temporary camp, no, sir,” Sam said tiredly.

“Teal'c?”

The Jaffa shook his head negatively. “The camp is very well guarded O'Neill. I could not see anything that might be of any assistance to us in the foreseeable future.”

Jack sighed. “I don’t suppose you saw anything, Daniel?”

“Actually, Jack, the only point I made – I guess - was trying to speak to them. I vaguely heard one soldier say that he should report to his superior that I spoke their language so they could decide better what to do with us.”

“Looks like we’re stuck here for the night anyway,” O'Neill stated. “The sun’s setting and so seems to be the army, or whatever it is they--”

He was interrupted by the arrival of the soldier they had seen before, accompanied with several others, and probably his superior, according to his posture and attire.

The latter stepped forward and approached them.

Daniel straightened.

The man looked at him and started speaking.

“He wants to know where we came from, he’s never seen anyone like us and… Well, you get the picture, same old, same old,” Daniel translated tiredly.
“Tell him we were Kyyato’s prisoners,” Jack said.

“But we weren’t--”

“Tell him. That might get us outta here and we’ll decide later what to do next. And if you need to, tell him what you told Kyyato about us. That seemed to do the trick back then.”

“Okay, Jack.”

After a rather long exchange and some deep frowning and thinking by the man in front of them, the latter finally barked an order, and a soldier came to open the cage.

They slowly got out, and bowed to thank the man.

The latter spoke again to Daniel, who turned to his friends and translated. “We’re still prisoners, but he will allow us to sleep in a tent rather than the cart. We are to be brought to his master, the Shogonate – I believe it’s the supreme lord, like a king or something like that – tomorrow morning.”

“Well, thank him for his kindness,” Jack said sarcastically, earning a dark look from his friend.

Six soldiers came to encircle them and they were escorted to a small tent. A few cots covered the ground, and they were roughly showed they could lie down on them and sleep.

Once they were alone, Jack summoned a war council. “The tent is probably heavily guarded,” he stated in muted tones. “So I don’t think we can escape tonight. These guys don’t seem to be the types that sleep on duty.”

“What do you suggest we do, sir?” Sam asked.

“Stick to the same story, which is not entirely false regarding our search for allies.”

“Then what?” Daniel asked.

“We’ll improvise, as always.”

“That’s the plan? Improvise?” Daniel smirked.

“How long have you known me, Daniel?” Jack frowned. “Has it ever been a problem?”

“No--”

“Then don’t look like you don’t trust me!”

“Sir, Daniel, once again this is hardly the time or the place to have an argument.”

“I know, Carter! Daniel, you’re the damn expert here, you’re the one who thought about that story, and it must have been good or we wouldn’t be here!”

A heavy silence settled.

“We still have to report in twenty three hours forty two minutes, sir,” Sam stated.

“I know. I hope we’ll be outta here by then. But if we’re not, knowing Hammond, he’ll give it another day or so before sending in the cavalry, which might not be at our advantage.”

“’care to explain how?” Daniel asked.

“I’m not thinking about *us* specifically, but if several SG teams were to go through and find themselves in the middle of a battle, given how those guys captured us as easily as if we were cadets, there might be some casualties. In any case, if one of us manages to escape, the first priority is to get to Hammond, do not attempt to rescue the rest of us on your own, got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I’m not sure I like that, Jack,” Daniel said, raising an eyebrow.

“I’m not asking you to like it, I’m asking you to do it.

“All right.”

Jack simply exchanged a look with Teal'c, words unnecessary between them.

Silence settled once again, then the deep baritone of Teal'c resonated in the tent. “I believe we should get some rest, O'Neill. If we are to travel again in the morning, maybe we should spare our forces.”

“Good thinking, T’.”

They all lay down on the cots, and tried to sleep.

After a while, Sam crept nearer O'Neill, who was the closest to her, her back facing him.

“Got something to tell me, Major?” he murmured.

“Sir I…” she paused.

“What?” he breathed.

“I’m cold,” She said matter-of-factly.

Jack was silent a second or two, then reached for her shoulder and drew her body to his. “Come here.” He simply said.

Sam snuggled up to him while he draped his arm across her waist.

“Better?” he asked.

“Yes, thank you. Sir.”

“Now sleep, Major. I’m keeping watch.”

“Yes, sir,” She said as sleep quickly overtook her. It may not have been the safest situation, but the comfort of his warm body pressed against her back and the weight of his arm on her waist were doing wonders to relax her.

Jack softly nuzzled her hair when her regular breathing confirmed she was asleep. ‘Totally inappropriate’, he thought, but exceptional circumstances brought exceptional actions, and this was definitely an exceptional situation; after all, he was supposed to be her husband. Besides, they were not naked and in a private room, he reasoned. ‘Yeah right. And that’s what makes it appropriate.’ He sighed, breathing in the faintest trace of shampoo her hair still bore, and tried to relax, his body registering perfectly her unusual presence in his arms. ‘Oh Crap!’ he thought, trying to stretch discreetly, so as to not wake her, while getting more comfortable.

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When they were all roused from their sleep, it was still dark outside. They were escorted back to the cart and locked up inside. They waited there for a few minutes, during which Jack observed the silent efficiency of the soldiers as they packed and erased any trace of a camp. Soon the cart was set into motion at a rather quick pace, but slower than the day before, which they were grateful for.

They traveled all morning, and eventually reached the outskirts of a big city. In contrast to when they had encountered Lord Kyyato, this one was lively and bustling with colors. The poorest quarters had humble buildings, but they were beyond reproach when it came to cleanliness, and any animal, even the equivalent for dogs, were kept into neat pens.

“Quite a difference from what we saw last time we went through a city!” O'Neill quipped. “You’d swear you saw the buildings glowing!”

“Well, if this is the city the Shogonate rules over, it may be the reason.” Daniel said.

“Let’s hope this is a good sign,” Sam concluded.

They were brought to the fortress and freed from their cage.

The same ‘important soldier’ - for lack of a better word – came to lead them inside, and they were asked to wait, sharply, but not brutally.

After a short while, an elderly man in a lighter armor came and studied them before turning to ‘important soldier’. He exchanged a few words with him, but as much as Daniel strained to hear, he couldn’t make out exactly what they were saying.

The elderly man turned to them and invited them to follow him with a sharp gesture. O'Neill shrugged and stepped forward, imitated by his team and an escort of six soldiers.

They walked through the corridors, following the elderly man in silence, and like in Kyyato’s fortress, they were led to a room, where they had to kneel down – much to Jack knees’ dismay – and wait. The elderly man kneeled down by a panel on the side of the room.

After a few minutes, a very soft sound alerted the elderly man, whom still on his knees, turned and slid the panel open, bowing in the process.

Another elderly man stepped in, and with a stately walk, came to kneel in front of them. He was short, as were his soldiers and/or servants, but on the contrary to Kyyato, who was rather pot-bellied, this man was very thin and looked as dry as a stick, although a certain strength emanated from him.

Daniel bowed respectfully, imitated by his friends.

The new elderly man studied each of them carefully without saying a word, then suddenly addressed them.

When he finished speaking, Daniel bowed slightly and replied to him.

Sam was beginning to get used to Daniel’s intonations and speech after hearing it three times and she understood that he was repeating the same story once again. She discreetly looked at her commanding officer and nodded slightly at his questioning look.

O'Neill nodded back.

Daniel talked a little with the man, then turned to Jack.

“Okay, I gave him the same story and apparently he bought it, but he wants to know what we were doing with Kyyato.”

“Who is he?” Jack asked.

“Well, obviously, the Shogonate,” Daniel replied.

Jack rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I had managed that, Daniel! Does he have a name?”

“Why is that so important?” Daniel asked, surprised.

Jack looked up, biting his cheek to avoid screaming at his ever too confident friend. “Well Daniel, if this is the guy that Kyyato fought so much, that might give us a clue about our fate.” Jack explained slowly, as if he were talking to a child.

“And just how do you think I should ask him?” Daniel replied, equally sarcastic.

“Nicely,” Jack smirked.

Daniel sighed, frowned, and turned to the elderly man.

“My Lord O'Neill is much honored by your concern, Lord?” He left the question hanging in mid air.

The elderly man frowned, his eyes sharpening, then replied. “Hai-Ri-Ki.”

Daniel looked at Jack, raising his eyebrows questioningly.

The latter had perfectly well heard. “Tell him the truth,” Jack said simply, resigned to his and his team’s fate, whatever that would be.

Daniel proceeded to tell him the short version of their adventures so far. Hai-Ri-Ki seemed particularly interested in Kyyato’s whereabouts and projects.

hen Daniel finished speaking, Hai-Ri-Ki bowed his head thoughtfully and remained silent a moment.

Then he straightened himself, and looked sharply at Daniel.

“You said he was interested in your weapons?” the archaeologist translated.

“Yes, my Lord.”

“My scouts didn’t spot any army following you.”

“No, my Lord, we are on our own.”

“Then, their power must be huge or you wouldn’t venture into hostile territories.”

“Like I told you, my Lord, we’re first and foremost peaceful explorers. We only carry weapons for our safety, not for attack. Like I said, we were unwilling guests of Lord Kyyato, and from his attitude during the battle, we think he was not entirely honest with us,” Daniel explained.

“I see.” Hai-ri-ki sighed, once again assuming a pensive stance for a moment. “I have decided to believe you for the time being, but know that you will remain under the surveillance of my best men,” he warned, then resumed. “Lord Kyyato is a traitor. He used to be my first Shokonh – the man I educated for my succession – but apparently, the lure for power was too strong for him to handle and he treacherously tried to rob me the title and function of Shogonate. He was banished but since then he has been trying to weaken my power and has launched several attacks on key posts. So far we have been able to counter his attacks, but they become more and more difficult to parry. He is rich and he recruits a lot of ronans and nonjeis.”

“That explains a lot.” Daniel agreed, after translating for his friends.

“My scouts have warned me Kyyato was preparing a decisive attack, but I do not know where or when, so in the meantime, you will remain here and be my guests.”

Daniel once again turned to Jack and explained the situation.

“Oh for crying out loud!” Jack muttered, his shoulders slumping. He took a deep breath and looked at Sam. “What’s your assessment of the situation, Major?”

Sam winced slightly shaking her head. “Frankly, sir, I don’t know. If I go by my military training, then I’d say we shouldn’t trust them. We’ve been set up once, it could happen here too. But if I listen to my guts, then I’d be inclined to trust them. The little we saw on the battlefield, during our trip, and the city down the fortress, tends to show that what he says is the truth.”

“T’?” Jack asked the big man, not revealing his thoughts before every member of his team had voiced his or her opinion.

“I am inclined to think like Major Carter does, O'Neill. They could very well have not spared our lives like they did. Lord Hai-Ri-Ki looks like a fair Lord.”

“You think we should help them?”

“If our aim is still to seek a treaty between our two worlds, then providing our assistance to help solve a conflict that might endanger any future mission, is something that I would recommend,” the Jaffa said.

Jack frowned, bowing his head thoughtfully. “All right, Daniel. Tell him we are willing to try and help him get rid of Kyyato. Try to gain his trust so that at least one of us can contact Hammond and let him know of our situation.”

“How do you think we can help them, sir? They got us twice!” Carter said.

“Carter, you know the flying machines that we have and that we call UAVs? I don’t think those folks over there have projectiles able to get them down!” he replied sarcastically. “They can help us assess the situation without us having to use our big honkin’ guns. Then we set a trap and the good guys defeat the bad guys, end of story, we can go home and toast to our success while the mining teams get muddy.”

“Yes, sir.” Sam said wincing. *That* was why she still had a few tricks to learn before getting a command. She may be *the* expert on the Stargate – according to Hammond – but she had yet to progress in military tactics and strategy. She was once again amazed at how fast her CO had thought of an alternate plan.

Daniel nodded his assent and started talking.

Hai-Ri-Ki’s interest was instantly piqued and he listened carefully to what Daniel was saying. Jack trusted his friend to negotiate and follow his suggestions.

After a long moment of intense verbal exchange between the two, Hai-Ri-Ki seemed satisfied and nodded affirmatively.

Daniel turned towards Jack. “He agrees. He said tomorrow a few of his men will escort one of us to the Stargate while the others remain here.”

“T’, you’ll go.” Jack said immediately. “Daniel, you might find some interesting things about those people here, I have to stay to think of a plan given what we already know, Carter obviously cannot go, so--”

“Because I’m your *wife*?” she interrupted bitterly.

O'Neill looked at her, obviously not amused. “Exactly. And Teal'c is the perfect candidate for seeking partnership from our ‘people’, don’t you think?”

“Of course, sir.”

“We’ll discuss this later, Carter,” he warned, then looked at Daniel. “Anything else, Daniel?”

“From me, nothing.”

“Then tell him our response and let’s move from here.”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

They were led to another part of the fortress, obviously the residential area, and showed to their ‘rooms’ exactly like when they were at Kyyato’s: Sam and Jack together, Daniel and Teal'c into separate rooms.

Sam and Jack didn’t have time to exactly register the situation. Again, an army of servants came in their room and started asking questions O'Neill could not understand.

“Sir, if I’m not mistaken, they’re offering us a bath.” Sam said, recognizing the same manners as when they were at Kyyato’s, rather than actually understanding their words.

This time, O’Neill didn’t even think of refusing the offer. A bath or any way to relax his tired limbs and sensitive joints sounded really good, but he was still a gentleman, and Carter had priority. “Carter, you go ahead, I’ll wait here.”

“Thank you, sir,” she said. She didn’t have sore knees, but her bruised shoulder needed pampering, and if the only way to achieve that was a bath, then she would take it.

She bowed her head, now used to showing her agreement this way, and two servants led her outside the room. One remained with O’Neill, quietly sitting on her heels by the sliding panel where from Sam had disappeared.

He considered for a moment getting rid of his boots, but he was sure the smell of his socks would kill any insect in his immediate vicinity. Out of respect for the young woman, he decided instead to sit down and leaned against a wooden beam in the center of the wall.

After a moment, the girl turned a ninety degrees and opened the panel, letting in another servant carrying what appeared to be towels. She came to O’Neill and reached for the buttons on his jacket.

On impulse, he steadied her and gently indicated that he would undress himself.

The girl looked a bit troubled, but she slid back a little on her knees and waited.

O’Neill reached for the top button, then stopped as the girl kept staring at him.

He frowned.

The girl didn’t move, and the other one, although not looking his direction, was still in the room, stoically staring in front of her.

He raised an eyebrow: ‘was it the custom on that planet to be an obvious voyeur?’ he thought.

He stood up sharply, causing the girl in front of him to give a startled jump. He smiled briefly, waving his hand to show the girl he was all right, and strolled to a side of the room that was hidden by a small panel made with the same material as the walls.

It appeared it was probably what was the equivalent of the restrooms. He rolled his eyes. ‘How humiliating!’ then thought better of it and quickly shed his clothes, draping a rather short towel around his lower body.

He took a deep breath and stepped out of the secluded area.

The girls didn’t look at him, but bowed and the one who had been kneeling in front of him quickly led him out of the room, apparently undisturbed by his almost bare body.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Bliss. Pure bliss, he thought as his body slid deeper into the warm water.

The girl that had led him here was kneeling behind him. She lathered her hands with some scented lotion and started massaging his shoulders.

He sighed in contentment. After the tiresome trip in the cart, he was really grateful for the bath. He saw Teal’c meditating nearby, some cloth hiding his mid body, while his upper body was shining with the massage oil the servants had used after his bath.

He closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling.

Suddenly, Daniel jerked awake. He didn’t know how much time he had been sleeping, all he knew was that the girl he had left previously massaging his shoulders, was now naked in the warm pool next to him.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Jack was really uncomfortable. Sam was nowhere to be seen, and that girl was starting to get on his nerves with her continuous need to touch him and rid him of any kind of covering cloth he wanted to keep! After one last attempt, the girl seemed to finally get it into her mind that he wanted to keep something draped over his groin, and let him cautiously enter the water.

Once he was seated inside the small, warm pool, the girl started lathering his upper body. He had the urge to resist at first, but soon relaxed as the girl expertly eased the tense muscles of his lumbar region. She gave him what was probably the equivalent of the soap for him to tend himself in the areas she couldn’t reach, then rinsed him and led him to another room.

There was a thick cot on the floor, and the girl beckoned him to lie down on his belly on it before she disappeared, only to be replaced by another woman, far older this one. The woman knelt and straddled the back of his thighs, once again causing him to jump, but the firm grip of the woman on his shoulders pinned him down on the cot, and he finally decided to relax as he understood the woman’s intentions.

After massaging his back, the woman took care of his limbs and gently probed at his joints. When Jack flinched as she touched his left knee, she grabbed a pot containing some dark greasy mixture and applied it on the sore joint.

Apparently satisfied with her job, she gathered her things and exited the room, closing the panel behind her. Jack was left wondering what to do next, but only a few seconds passed before the first girl returned and led him out. He was then brought to a small room full of steam.

He sat on a wooden bench, his body entirely relaxed, and let the relaxing scent fill his nostrils. Some essential oil had probably been thrown on the hot stones he saw steaming in the center of the room and it completed the state of deep relaxation he seldom achieved. He closed his eyes, deciding for once to let his vigilance drop at its lowest. When he opened them, the steam had dissipated a little. Coming slowly to his senses, he suddenly realized a hand was reaching for a ladle in a wooden bucket and throwing some liquid over the stones, in front of him.

He unwillingly gave a little yelp.

“Sir?”

He heard the unmistakable voice of Carter. “Carter? What are you doing here?” he asked panicked, fumbling with his towel to check it was still in place.
Sam squeezed her eyes shut. She was *not* naked in a steaming room with her probably as naked CO!

Searching quickly for whatever could cover her, she was horrified to realize that the towels were definitely out of reach and if she remembered correctly, neatly folded by the place where the Colonel sat.

“Err... Carter?” she heard him say.

“Yes, sir?”

“Look, I am going to leave the room--”

“Sir,” she interrupted.

“Yes?”

“The exit to our room is right behind me.”

“Oh.”

A small silence ensued during which Sam realized the steam was getting thinner and she could start discerning the form of the Colonel. Once again, she reached for the ladle and sprayed liquid on the stones, but to her dismay, they must have been getting cooler since the steaming effect was far less impressive than previously. She put one arm across her chest.

“Carter?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Why don’t you go inside the room, then?”

“Good idea, sir. Only the steam is getting thinner.”

“So?” he asked, not understanding.

“So, you’ll see.”

“Oh!”

“Sir?”

“Yes?”

“The folded towels are just by the bench you’re sitting on, can you throw me one?”

“Sure!” he said, relieved that she had thought of that. Either his brain was far too relaxed, or it was fogged with whatever essential oil it was they had put on the stones, or worse: he was losing the battle over his feelings and the idea of a naked Carter just a few feet from his highly receptive body.
He forced his mind to concentrate and threw her the whole pack of folded towels, one after the other.

Sam grabbed one and unfolded it with one hand, realizing with horror that the ‘towel’ was in fact a succession of square cloths, about fifteen inches large, folded one with the other. She unfolded all the linens that had landed next to her, but they were all the same. What purpose did the servants leave these for was beyond her. Her panic went up a notch as she realized the steam had almost completely dissipated.

“Sir,” came her strangled voice.

“Yes?” Jack’s breathing was becoming increasingly ragged. Now he could clearly make out the form of his naked 2IC, clutching desperately at her chest in an attempt to cover herself.

“I… I’m going to ask you to keep your eyes shut.”

“Towels not good?” he managed to ask.

“Not ‘exactly’ towels,” she replied.

“Oh.”

“Sir?”

“Uh-yeah?”

“Please?”

“Sure!” He squeezed his eyes shut.

“I trust you, sir.”

“What?” he asked, opening his eyes.

“Sir!”

“Sorry!” He squeezed his eyes shut again. “Just… Call me when you’re safe, okay?”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“No sweat, Carter.” ‘Oh! Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!!’ he thought ‘Carter + sweat = don’t fucking go there, O’Neill!’. Although his groin had other ideas, he managed to keep his eyes tightly shut until he felt she was not into the room anymore.

He called softly before opening them. “Carter?”

Hearing no response, he cautiously opened one eye, then the other. ‘Nope: definitely no Carter in the steaming room.’ He relieved the breath he didn’t know he had been holding.

He slowly stood up. The steam had now completely cleared of the room. He crossed the small space that separated him from the panel leading to their room and entered. And froze.

His very naked major was fumbling with the bed linens – or at least what stood for a bed - desperately trying to cover herself and failing.

“Sir!” she shrieked, when she realized he had entered the room and was currently doing a nice Bass imitation.

Jack once again tightly squeezed his eyes shut, grasping at his own towel on his hip, but only succeeding in making it slip as the knot became loose. ‘Oh Crap!’ he thought.

Unable to take more, Sam stood in bewilderment, thinking about the succession of embarrassing events of the past minutes and suddenly broke into a hearty laugh.

O’Neill opened his eyes frowning.

“Hey! What are you laughing *at*?!” he exclaimed.

Which only prompted another fit of laughter.

There they stood, both in their birthday suits, and his Major was ‘laughing’?

Suddenly, her laughter subsided and she refrained from trying to cover herself once more: what was the point now?

“Sorry, sir.”

“May I know what you are laughing at, Major?” he asked icily.

“Oh! It has… it has nothing to do with *you*, sir.” Realizing he might have misunderstood, she quickly explained, “It’s just the absurdity of the situation. I mean we’re seasoned officers, and here we are both--”

“Stark naked,” he supplied.

“Yes.”

His foolish feeling that she was laughing at what was definitely defining him as a man had disappeared as it had come-- in an instant, and he felt highly embarrassed for thinking that. But he had little time to dwell on that thought as realization dawned upon him.

“And that’s a situation neither one of us has been trained to deal with,” she concluded in one breath.

They stared at each other in a heavy silence. Was it O’Neill or was it her? They couldn’t say, but suddenly they were in each other’s arms kissing like their lives depended on it.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Daniel awoke slowly, as his body registered the chill caused by the empty space beside him. He drowsily opened his eyes, and saw that the girl who had been with him since his arrival back in the room, was putting on some kind of robe.

He blinked. ‘What just happened?’ he thought, trying to rid his mind from the last foggy remnants of sleep.

The girl saw him rise from his lying position and smiled shyly, before bowing her head and stepping backwards towards the door.

“Wait!” he said, raising his hand. He started sitting up, but realized his state of undress and quickly grabbed the sheets, draping them over his lower body. “Wait.” He repeated in the girl’s language.

The girl had stopped moving and looked at him questioningly.

“I… I don’t even know your name,” Daniel stuttered in her language.

The girl smiled faintly and once again, bowed. “Shimikko,” she replied.

Daniel smiled. “Why did you do this?” he asked gently.

“Isn’t that a custom, honoring a guest where you come from?”

“Of course we do, just…” he hesitated “…not like that.”

Shimikko looked at him with a confused expression.

“You…ah… was surprised and extremely relaxed. Normally I wouldn’t have--”

“Maybe you would prefer a man?” she asked, seeming genuine.

“What?! No! Absolutely not!” he shouted, making Shimikko back a little. Then realizing his outburst must have frightened her, he calmed down and smiled gently. “This has absolutely nothing to do with you. Nor with the fact that you are a woman, but where I come from this kind of service is… well… professional.”

“What do you mean?”

“People usually pay for that kind of service.” He felt his cheeks becoming redder by the minute.

Shimikko seemed even more confused. “You have to pay to be honored?”

“No, that’s not what I meant.” Daniel winced, then took a deep breath. “Where I come from, most people have that kind of relationship with long term partners, significant others.”

“Oh! Wife or concubines?”

“Yes.”

“I understand. You are betrothed, then?”

“No.”

“Then you are dissatisfied with the way I tried to please and honor you?”

“No! It was great, really, but-- I’m not used to that, that’s all.”

Once again Shimikko misunderstood. “Oh! You should have told me it was the first time!”

“No! It was not!” Daniel exclaimed.

“Your people are strange.”

“Our customs are certainly different than yours. I feel like I used you.”

“You did not.”

“Oh, wait a moment! Did the other servants do the same with my fr-- with Lord O'Neill and Teal'c?” His tongue had almost slipped.

“O'Neill-sohn is with his wife, we showed them the proper way to bathe and relax. As for the Sehai, we respect his vows.”

“The Sehai?”

“The black man. Isn’t he a war monk?”

“He is.”

“Then we respect his vows.”

“So when you have guests you all offer this kind of-- err-- service?” Daniel asked, trying to comprehend.

“Not all of us. It is an honor to be introduced to the ways of the Gaisheruns. I was rather young when I entered Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn’s service. Servants have no right to marry or have concubines, but some of them may become Gaisherun. Gaisheruns are educated in the art to entertain, converse, are masters at the Tô ceremony, we also know the art of massage, and are educated in the arts of love, so that we can give the most pleasurable experiences to our guests.”

“I see.”

“Do you not have such traditions where you come from?”

“Ah-no. Not like this anyway.” He smiled. “Will I see you again?”

Shimikko smiled. “If you request it.” She replied, bowing her head.

“Not for… err… this” he said, gesturing around him. “I would be most interested in learning about your history and your traditions.”

Shimikko smiled again. “Then I shall remain in your company. Maybe tomorrow you would like to share the Tô ceremony, or learn more of our ways?”

“Oh, yes, why not?” Daniel said, wondering a brief moment what the Tô ceremony was. “But I’m not sure we’ll have time if we want to help Lord Hai-ri-ki with the war.”

“Then I shall retire now. Have pleasant dreams--?”

“Daniel,” He supplied, smiling.

Shimikko bowed her head.

“Daniel-sohn.”

“No, just ‘Daniel’.” he said thinking she had misunderstood.

“’Sohn is a mark of respect, Daniel-sohn.”

“Oh.” He bowed his head. “Good night, then.”

Shimikko then slipped backwards on her knees, slid the panel open, and exited the room, leaving a slightly bewildered Daniel.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤

Sam felt Jack’s tongue gently brush against hers. She must be dreaming. But was it a good or a bad dream? Oh, definitely good! His hands were on her hips and the gentle massage they were exerting on her skin put her in a daze, her logical mind reduced to mush as well as her military sense.

Jack gently probed the sweet recesses of her mouth, stroking the velvety texture of her tongue, enjoying her taste, and loving the contact of her silky skin on his own. In a perfect world this would have been so right. But…they were not in a perfect world.

Jack suddenly realized where they were headed – the bed. A previous situation popped up into his mind as well as the thoughts he had had then: ‘not naked in a private room’. He was - naked in a private room - with his 2IC, his 2IC, Major, military, regulations.

He shuddered and gently, but oh-so reluctantly pulled away.

Sam was breathing heavily and her eyes were closed.

Jack squeezed his own shut not to be tempted by the nude body displayed before him.

He rested his forehead against hers and framed her face with his large hands. “Sam,” he choked.

She looked at him with surprised eyes.

“Sam, ‘he reiterated. “We--” he tried to swallow the lump in his throat, hating what he was going to say. “We can’t. Not now, not here, not as long as we’re both in the military or the same chain of command,” he murmured to her ear, his lower body betraying his words as he spoke them.

She took a deep breath and nodded slightly. “I know,” she breathed, “but can’t we just for once forget about it?” she said in a strangled voice.

“No,” he said gently, yet firmly. “That would take out all the purpose for doing it and the beauty of it, and when I make love to you, I want to do it right. I don’t want the consequences of it to tarnish your name or your reputation,” he said in a soft voice. “I want Sam Carter and Jack O'Neill to be, but I want them to be out in the open, which right now, isn’t possible.”

She took a deep breath. “I understand,” she simply said, trying to calm her inner storm of feelings.

“We’ve already crossed the line, Sam,” he stated.

“We haven’t ‘actually’--”

She started to protest, but he interrupted her. “Yes we have. Not just now. A long time ago, when we allowed ourselves to care for each other in a way that is forbidden in our positions.”

“But we couldn’t help it!”

“Yes, we couldn’t. But I should have done something about that then.”

She took a step backwards, distancing herself from the warm comfort of his body. “By retiring?” she asked defiantly.

“I don’t know,” he replied honestly. “But if that’s what it takes, then so be it. I know Hammond wants to retire and he’s asked me not so subtly on many occasions, if I would take over after him.” While he answered, he looked around, trying to spot some kind of garment he could cover himself or Sam with. But the room was bare of extra clothes, except for the ridiculous “towels” they had before, and theirs had mysteriously disappeared, including their underwear.

He then stepped towards the bed. “But I’m not sure I want to take over,” he resumed, “if it means we’re still in the same chain of command, I don’t want to.”

“You’re the best person for the post!” she exclaimed, walking towards the bed too.

“So they say,” he said dejectedly, slipping underneath the covers.

“Jack.”

He jumped a little: she had put her hand on his arm. He looked her in the eyes. Her oh-so beautiful large, blue eyes, which held some kind of ingenuity that always moved him to the core and an honesty he had seldom witnessed.

“I might have another solution,” she resumed.

“I think I’m not going to like it,” he said, chuckling bitterly.

“Let’s not talk about it yet, okay? We should try and get some sleep and we’ll inquire about some clothes tomorrow,” she said calmly. “Think you can manage with us both naked in the same bed?” she asked, wiggling her eyebrows to lighten the mood.

He chuckled and pulled her swiftly into his embrace, before placing a kiss on top of her head.

“It’s going to be hard- Oh, bad choice of words!” he said, raising his eyebrows, cringing.

She chuckled against his chest.

“Hey, if you go on like this, we won’t sleep and I’ll definitely cross the line!” he reprimanded her mockingly.

“Sorry, sir,” she said, straightening herself and looking him in the eyes.

He let go of her regretfully.

“I promise we’ll sort it out when we get back, sir,” she said honestly, putting some emphasis on the word ‘sir’.

He smiled bitterly. “Yes we will, Major. Now scoot to the farthest side of the bed, I’ll do the same, and let’s sleep,” he said authoritatively.

“Yes, sir.” She obeyed dutifully.

O'Neill blew the oil lamp next to him out and tried to relax as much as the presence of a naked Carter beside him would allow. He didn’t know if it was the combined effect the sweet scents the essential oils still gave the room and the massages, or the nervous tension leaving his system, but he fell asleep mere seconds after having closed his eyes.

Sam noticed his regular breathing and was content that he would be able to sleep at last. The past two days had not provided enough calm for him to do just that. She put herself in low vigilance mode and started going over the previous events in her mind.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Jack woke up wondering where he was, then he remembered, and the more he remembered, the less he wanted to. He opened his eyes cautiously, Carter was already up and putting her boots on.

The clothes had miraculously reappeared.

She turned her head and saw him. She smiled faintly. “I would have woken you up after I was dressed.” She said gently.

“Err… Thanks, but… Oh for crying out loud!”

“You could say that, yeah,” she said in a soft voice, blushing slightly.

“You managed to sleep?”

“A little, yes. I kept watch though.”

“You should have woken me up.”

“You needed your rest.”

He sighed. “Yeah, I guess so.”

She had finished tying up her boots now. She stood and faced the wall. “If you want to get up, sir, I won’t peek, I promise.”

“There’s nothing you haven’t seen anyway,” he grumbled.

“That is… to avoid temptation, sir,” she said, a lump in her throat.

“No jumping your CO on mission-eh?” he said bitterly.

She sighed. “Sir?” she said, exasperated.

“All right, I’ll get up and dressed.”

He picked up his fatigues and noticed they had been cleaned up. He dressed in less than five minutes and coughed discreetly. “Carter?”

“Sir?”

“s’okay, you can turn around, I’m decent.”

She stood up and turned to face him. Their gazes held each other for a while, conveying all the longing both had had to fight the previous evening.
O'Neill closed his eyes painfully, then bent his head in a resigned gesture. “I thought a bit about what happened last night while I was putting on my clothes.”

“That was fast!” she smirked.

O'Neill looked at her arching an eyebrow, then his face softened. “It… We broke regulations yesterday, Major.”

Sam flushed. “We were not respon--”

“Yes, we were!” he interrupted her sharply, then resumed more softly. “Yes, we were, Sam. I am responsible for letting my feelings interfere with the mission. I kissed you, for crying out loud!”

“As I am! I kissed you back, remember?” she exclaimed, fury in her eyes.

“Major!” he warned.

She fell silent and stared at her boots.

He stepped forward and stood before her. “Sam,” he said, reaching for her arm, gently. “We can’t go on like this. It’s endangering not only your career, but also our missions. Teal'c and Daniel wouldn’t mind if we got on with it – I think – but the regulations are there for a reason.” He took a deep breath. “I’m not sure my judgment wouldn’t be impaired by my feelings. It has to stop.”

She looked sharply at him. “I told you I had a solution.”

“For crying out loud, Carter!” he cried out in frustration. “I *know* your solution and I don’t like it! As a military, you have a promising career ahead of you, while I don’t. I’m an old soldier, Carter, and my insubordination track-record doesn’t allow me to go much higher on the promotion scale!”

“That’s not true!”

“What do you know, that’s not true?” he asked defiantly. “I’ve made some pretty big mistakes and being an ex-retired colonel doesn’t look good in a military file. Hammond lets many things rest, but they’re all in my record, and when Hammond’s not there to protect me anymore, I’m not sure the new guy will be as forgiving.” He calmed down. “Major, as soon as we’re off this God forsaken planet, we’ll go see Hammond together, and tell him about what happened, and what almost happened here last night.” He stroked her arm. “We didn’t get intimate, Sam. But the feelings we have for each other are already a breach in the regulations, and have been since we first started having them.”

“Yes, sir,” she simply said, defeated.

“Let’s check out on Daniel and Teal'c, shall we?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you know where they are?”

“No, sir. But I think the servant who brought us our clothes is right behind the panel over there.” She gestured towards what passed for the entrance of their room.

O'Neill stepped forward and slid the panel open. A servant was indeed sitting on her heels behind it. She bowed respectfully and stood up wordlessly, beckoning them to follow her. O'Neill looked questioningly at his 2IC who shrugged, and they stepped in gear behind the servant.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

They arrived in a dining room, much like the one they had seen at Kyyato’s, and found Daniel and Teal'c already eating.

“Jack, Sam!” Daniel exclaimed, smiling.

“Daniel, Teal'c” O'Neill replied casually.

“How long have you been here?” Sam asked.

“Apparently Doctor Jackson arrived much sooner than I,” Teal'c started. “I have only been here a short time, O'Neill.”

Jack and Sam sat down cross-legged next to Daniel and started picking through the various dishes that were displayed before them.

“Any news from our host?” O'Neill asked while helping himself in front of him.

“Shimikko said--”

“Whoa! Shimikko?” O'Neill looked at Daniel, surprised.

Daniel blushed slightly. “Yes… Well, anyway, she said lord Hai-Ri-Ki had a war council to attend to, but he would be here soon to keep his word about what we said yesterday.

“Yeah, that would be nice. We need to contact Hammond, we’re thirteen hours late.”

“It’s not that much considering our record through the years,” Daniel smirked.

“Very funny, Daniel. Teal'c, if Hai-Ri-Ki decides to show up and keeps his word, you go to the Stargate and ring Hammond. Carter and I are going to try and help regarding the Kyyato situation, and Daniel… Well, Daniel can see with whatever-her-name-is what he wants to do to help.”

“Shimikko said she would show me the archives.”

“You seem to know that Shimikko rather well,” Sam teased.

Daniel blushed. “We-err. She gave me the bath and a very nice massage and… Well, one thing led to the other and--"

“We get the picture, Daniel!” O'Neill rolled his eyes. “I once said you were bound to have a girl on every planet, I should have taken bets-- I’d be rich by now!”

Daniel coughed, obviously rather embarrassed while Sam chuckled discreetly and O'Neill shook his head sighing.

Their musings were interrupted by the swift arrival of their host. Daniel bowed respectfully, imitated by his friends.

Hai-Ri-Ki sat on his heels in front of them. “I trust you had a good night.” He stated.

“Yes, my Lord, and we thank you for all the attention.” Daniel replied.

“Good. As I told you, Lord Kyyato is about to launch a great attack and I have been busy with military preparations this morning. I recall you had a request about going to the dark stone circle. I will send four of my best men to accompany the one you choose to go, but we must be careful. Although I doubt he sill set a trap to capture you, since he must know you were caught by my men, the dark stone circle is at the northern border of his territory.”
“Teal'c will go.” Daniel relayed Jack’s word.

“Very well, let him know my men will wait for him in the courtyard.”

Daniel translated for his friends.

“Ask him where our gear is, Daniel. If Teal'c goes to the Stargate, we’ll need our radios and other equipment,” Jack said.

Daniel turned to Hai-Ri-Ki and translated.

Hai-Ri-Ki frowned. “Aren’t these the weapons Kyyato spoke of?”

“Not entirely, my Lord,” Daniel replied. “There are communicating devices that would help us talk to our friends on the other side of the dark circle of stone.”

“There’s nothing on the other side of the dark circle of stone!”

“Ah… yes. In some way. The dark circle of stone is actually a kind of portal to our world.”

Hai-Ri-Ki frowned even more. “If you intend any treachery upon me I will have your head!” he suddenly exclaimed.

“No! My Lord! Please! The three of us will remain here as a proof of our good will, remember? Only Teal'c goes.”

Hai-Ri-Ki seemed to relax a little bit. “Tell your friend that if he intends any treacherous action against me or my men, all he will find when he comes back will be headless bodies.” He said, very coolly. “In the meantime, my men will lead him where your equipment is and he will retrieve what he needs. You shall remain here until your friend comes back.”

“Ah… My Lord. We need our radios too! Err… Communication devices that--"

“You still have your honesty and your honor to prove, and with what that bastard Kyyato is preparing, I’d rather be cautious, you shall do as I say!”

When he heard Daniel’s translation, Jack sighed and shook his head in a resigned attitude. Then he turned to Teal'c. “Let Hammond know our exact position, Teal'c. Tell him we are prisoners, although he says the contrary, until further notice. We’ll try to show our good will and see what we can do.”

“Understood, O'Neill.”

“Tell him about the UAV too.”

Teal’c bowed his head in understanding and stood up. A servant led him outside. The three others remained with Hai-Ri-Ki.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

The Stargate was a good four hour walk away from Hai-Ri-Ki’s fortress and Teal'c walked fast. If his companions were suffering from his quick pace, they didn’t show it.

Finally, they reached the device. The first thing Teal'c noticed was that the UAV had disappeared. He puzzled over that for a short while before he went to the DHD and started punching the code, then the numbers on his GDO. While he waited for contact with the SG, he hoped the proximity of the Stargate would allow the small device to transmit his words.

“SG1 you’re reporting-in seventeen hours and twenty two minutes late, and why don’t I have a visual?!” came General Hammond’s voice.
Relieved that it worked, Teal'c responded:
“That is because we encountered belligerents and were taken priso

ers by one, then a second, General Hammond. I believe that the first retrieved the MALP, that is why I can only contact you through my radio.”

“Oh! You managed to escape, then?”

“We obtained permission from our second captor, General Hammond. But I do not have much time.”

“All right, I suppose they can understand what you say?”

“No, General Hammond. I can speak freely. We are not held exactly prisoners, but are kept in a watched residence. Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter and Doctor Jackson had to remain with our host. Doctor Jackson believes he is some man of high importance, but he needs our help to defeat his enemy.”

“I am not going to help someone who is keeping my people against their will!”

“Lord Hai-Ri-Ki is very cautious, General Hammond, and with reason. Apparently, a lot of spies have infiltrated his troops, for his enemy is most treacherous. In his position I would have done the same and not trusted us.”

He could hear General Hammond sigh in the microphone.

“Teal'c, you know of our policy not to interfere when we can avoid it.”

“I am aware of that, General Hammond, but Colonel O'Neill thought of a way for us to help them without actually exchanging weaponry of any sort.”

“What is it?”

“He suggests you send a UAV through the Stargate and survey the area in order for us to know where and how the enemy is moving. Then we can offer a strategic advantage to our host for him to win the battle.”

“You really think he has the means to do that?”

“That is how Colonel O'Neill assessed the situation, yes.”

“All right, Teal'c. You tell the Colonel I have agreed to his plan, I’ll send a UAV in exactly twenty hours. Will that be enough for one of you to be by the Stargate to retrieve the data it will collect? I’ll send another MALP along; it would be nice if Major Carter were there to read the results with Colonel O'Neill.”

“I understand, General Hammond. I will try and convince Lord Hai-Ri-Ki that we need to be here when you send the UAV.”

“You do that, Teal'c.”

The wormhole shut and Teal'c looked at the commander of the small team that had accompanied him. At that moment, a group of a dozen men suddenly emerged from nowhere, their sabers drawn, obviously coming in for a kill. Teal'c quickly drew the zat he had managed to retrieve and zatted a few of their assailants, while his companions fought savagely. One of his escort was killed before his eyes as he zatted his opponent.

Soon, only dead or unconscious bodies were scattered around the place. One of Teal’c’s escort looked down at the fallen ones, and conversed a little with his fellow soldiers before looking at Teal'c and pointing to his zat. He said something to Teal'c, but the latter shook his head, not understanding what the other man said.

The latter bowed his head swiftly, then showed the path they had come from and said one thing more.

This time, Teal’c bowed his head and they headed back.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

After Teal’c’s departure, O'Neill, Carter and Daniel were led back to their ‘quarters’.

Daniel was fidgety. He hated being stuck in a room with nothing to do, and so did Jack, as his pacing back and forth indicated.

“Stop it, Jack!” he finally exclaimed, causing the other man to look at him, raising his eyebrows.

“Care to suggest anything else to do?” Jack quipped.

“Sir, Daniel!” Sam sighed, obviously exasperated.

A servant entered the room, approached them and started talking.

Daniel replied to her then turned to Jack. “She’s offering refreshments.” He said flatly.

“Water would be nice,” Jack replied.

Daniel turned to the girl and spoke to her. The girl nodded and disappeared to bring a tray with their refreshments.

“May I see Shimikko?” Daniel asked the girl as she was about to exit the room.

The girl looked at him a bit surprised.

“She said she was going to show me things about your people,” he supplied.

The girl seemed to hesitate then bowed her head and disappeared through the panel, closing it behind her.

“Ah crap!” Daniel exclaimed his hand clutching in his hair.

Jack smiled. “You’re spending way too much time with me!” he joked, earning a dark look from his friend. He resumed his pacing.

A few minutes later, the panel opened to reveal Shimikko. She stepped in the room and walked towards Daniel. “Daniel-sohn, if you would follow me, I will show you where the library is.”

“What she say, Daniel?” Jack asked.

“She’s going to show me the library. Want me to ask something?”

“Yeah, tell her we need to see the important guy – what’s his name Carter?”

“Hai-Ri-Ki,” she replied.

“Yeah, Hai-Ri-Ki.” Jack conirmed.

“Well, Jack, I can, but wouldn’t that require my presence? I’m the only one who can understand their language.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Daniel, I may not be the brightest man, I know that. You don’t need to understand the language when planning strategy.”

“How?” Daniel asked, bewildered.

“Daniel, that’s *my* field of expertise we’re talking here. Go read your books and learn whatever you can about those people, I’ll do the military thing, okay? Don’t worry about the language, I’ll manage.”

“Sir?”

“Yes, Major?”

“Where would that leave *me*?” she asked sarcastically.

“With me, of course!” O'Neill looked at her raising his eyebrows as if it was obvious.

“And what about the pretense of me being your wife?”

“Well, my ‘wife’ is also a damn good officer, my best ally, and my best asset, end of story.” He spoke firmly, surprising both Daniel and Sam.

“So, Daniel? Do I need to poke you in the ribs?” Jack asked, growing impatient.

Daniel swallowed and turned to Shimikko before speaking to her.

“She says you have to wait here while she will go and ask her Master,” He translated.

O'Neill sighed. “All right. You go and we wait.”

“I’ve never seen you that patient, Jack. Don’t do anything rash, okay? We’re walking on eggs here.”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Well thanks, *Mom*! Do I need to remind you who’s in command here?”

Daniel chuckled. “No, Jack. Just a friend’s advice, that’s all.”

Daniel then followed Shimikko and Sam and Jack remained behind, Jack resuming his pacing, Sam staring in front of her with blank eyes.

She opened her mouth, but Jack interrupted her before she had a chance to speak.

“We’ll talk about it when we’re home, Major. Once and for all, let’s put this behind us and concentrate on the mission.”

“You’re right, sir,” she said, “I was just gonna say thanks for the compliment”.

“Oh!” He stopped pacing then and sat cross-legged next to her.

She sat staring in front of her, silence descending upon them.

“Penny for them, Major?”

“Sir?”

“You’re doing that ‘over thinking things’ again.”

“I do not.”

“Do too.”

Sam sighed.

“You doubt my ability to convince Hai-Ri-Ki?”

“Sir, I have no problem with your commanding and military abilities, otherwise I would have asked for a transfer long ago.”

O'Neill chuckled bitterly. “I’m too damn good for my own good, then!”

“Sir?”

“Nothing,” he said, eluding her question. “I damn well know you have no problem with my leadership, what I meant was: what would you have done in my position?”

Sam looked at him a little intrigued. He had never asked for her opinion about something military, although he had always trusted their silent understanding regarding these matters. “I am not ready to be in your position, sir.” She simply said.

“You damn well are!” he exclaimed. “I thought *I* was the one doubting my abilities!”

Sam snorted.

“What makes you think you’re unfit for command, Carter?”

“When we were brought here, and we were faced to Hai-Ri-Ki, you instantly knew how to react. I didn’t.”

He shook his head. “That’s because like I said sometimes you over think things, that’s all. But *I* for one never doubted your ability to command, Carter.”

She smiled faintly. “Thank you, Sir.”

“It’s true, Carter.”

They lapsed into silence for a minute before the panel opened to reveal the same old man who had introduced them to Hai-Ri-Ki the previous day. O'Neill and Carter stood up swiftly. The man looked at them, then barked something, beckoning them to follow him.

They went through several corridors and were led to the ‘throne room’ where Hai-Ri-Ki awaited them.

He was surrounded by several men in arms, obviously still in that war council. He looked upon them and beckoned them to sit down, which they did, bowing – as Daniel had showed them.

Hai-Ri-Ki started speaking but O'Neill quickly showed he didn’t understand what was said. Jack winced a bit, frowning in concentration, then he smiled, raising his finger, earning bewildered looks from the other people in the room, and mimed writing.

Hai-Ri-Ki frowned, then understanding seemed to dawn upon him and he barked something to one of his servants.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

When Teal'c arrived, the sun was setting. He was greeted by O'Neill and Carter who were smiling. He was surprised to see that no guards surrounded them and that they had all their gear back on.

“Hey T’! D’you manage to contact Hammond?”

“Yes, O'Neill. General Hammond was most displeased with SG-1 being detained against our will, but he agreed to your plan and he will send the device in fifteen hours and forty two minutes.”

“How many seconds?” Jack joked.

“Twelve, O'Neill. But it does not appear to be relevant,” The Jaffa said with a straight face.

O'Neill rolled his eyes. “Twas a joke, T’. Let’s go find Daniel. We have many things to tell him, your gear is in your quarters, and we need to elaborate plan A.”

“O'Neill!”

“What?”

“Back when I was at the Stargate, I noticed our MALP had disappeared and several men attacked us. I believe I recognized one of those who surprised us upon our arrival on this planet. I assumed these where Lord Kyyato’s men.”

“And you said the MALP had disappeared?”

“Indeed, O'Neill.”

“George’s gonna have my head,” he sighed. “All right folks, let’s move and the quicker the better.”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Daniel had learnt enough to understand the why, where, and when. His discoveries were exciting and proved once more that the Goa’ulds, powerful as they were, could be overruled by simple humans and more than simple means.

He was still absorbed in some parchments when the panel of the room he was studying into, slid open and the rest of his team stepped in. He stood up, eagerly calling them. “Jack, Sam, Teal'c! This is amazing!”

“What?” Sam asked.

“These people are the descendants of Ancient Japan!”

“Well we kind of established that already, Daniel,” Jack quipped.

“No, no, I mean listen to this.” He took his notebook and read from his notes. “This is this planet’s mythology, and history – sort of.” He cleared his throat. “In the beginning, a witch, Pimiko, ruled over the people. She had only one male servant, and a thousand female ones -- thus the essentially female staff here. That civilization was almost destroyed when Hun-like warriors invaded the land and established a new empire, and the first emperor of Johpôhn,” he pronounced carefully, “-- see how it sounds like Japan -- was enthroned: Jimmu Tenno. He was believed to be the son of the Sun Goddess Amaretasu.”

He paused. “See? This indicates that Pimiko was a probably a minor Goa’uld that was overruled by a more powerful one. I mean, ‘witch, sun goddess’ is too much of a song we’ve already heard, right? Anyway, Jimmu Tenno’s first vassal, Tiranu (a descendant of the original people, and most probably a minor Goa’uld too) tried to overcome his master. The revolt was subdued, and Tiranu was expelled to this world, where he was to remain in exile with all the servants and people that had helped him, thus creating a medieval Japanese-like culture thousands of light years from Earth.” He paused to moisten his tongue and take a breath. “What is interesting here, is that this is almost the same history as Japan’s until the revolt! Not only Egypt, and other places on Earth, but Japan was also ruled by the Goa’ulds!”

“Boy, are these folks intrusive or what?!” O'Neill snapped.

“Wait, it’s not finished!” Daniel resumed. “When they were settled here, the people grew tired of Tiranu’s tyrannical abuses and bloody war games. They revolted, and much like Earth Japan’s peasants, they used their agrarian utensils as weapons and killed him, creating the basis of the present society, and defining new rules/codes to prevent such a thing from happening again. A new leadership was established with the Shogonate. So basically, these people have not changed much in centuries,” he concluded. “What is strange though, is that we didn’t find any evidence of Goa'uld technology.”

“We didn’t go everywhere,” Sam stated.

“True, but I don’t believe they have remnants of Goa’uld technology, or else, they’d have already used it in that war. Besides, from what I’ve gathered, the people did not have access to Goa'uld technology, even when they were ruled by the Goa'uld. The means they used for the revolt were their agrarian tools, remember?”

“Indeed,” Teal'c acquiesced. “They appear to have great knowledge of their weapons and their use, but they are rather primitive.”

“You could contact General Hammond?” Daniel asked, changing the subject.

“Indeed. As I told O'Neill.”

“Yes, and Carter and I also have some interesting news,” O'Neill interrupted, smiling proudly. “We managed to get an overview of the military situation here. It wasn’t easy, since there was no actual oral communication, but Carter understood when I didn’t, and vice versa. I’ll bet when we stepped into this mess, what Kyyato was preparing was his final attack, and that’s why he was so interested in our weapons, why we were guarded so closely despite our ‘guest status’, and probably why the MALP was stolen. He must have thought it was a weapon. Carter and I explained what we wanted to do through drawings and Hai-Ri-Ki seemed quite amazed by our plan. He agreed to let us go to the Stargate whenever we need, with a military escort of course. Now, from what Teal'c said, Hammond should send a UAV soon. So Daniel, I suggest you talk to your lady friend so that we can all go to see Hai-Ri-Ki and finalize our plan.”

He turned towards his 2IC and frowned as he realized she was silent, obviously thinking hard about something. “Carter?” he asked.

“Hey, wait a second!” Daniel exclaimed suddenly.

“What?” O'Neill asked, annoyed.

“I’m remembering something I should have paid more attention to when we were at Kyyato’s. He said something about his scouts searching for something his ancestors had left—"

“And you think it could be a Goa'uld cache?” Sam interrupted.

Daniel shrugged. “I’m not a hundred percent sure, but with what we know, it’s highly possible, don’t you think?”

O'Neill nodded.

“And right after that, he spoke of our arrival and weapons,” Sam went on.

“Hiding weapons when threatened would not be unusual of the Goa'uld,” Teal'c added.

“Well then, if Daniel’s right, we’d better get that UAV flying over the area quickly, because if that bastard puts his hands on that, then one, there’ll be no mining treaty for sure, second, we’ll have one hell of a problem in our hands!” O'Neill said, heading towards the exit.

“Sir!”

“Carter?”

“He may find them, all right, but he may not be able to use them at least immediately,” she said.

“I wouldn’t bet on that, Carter. Come on, SG1, let’s go find Hai-Ri-Ki and explain what we have.”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

A few minutes later, they were all seated on their heels, save O'Neill, facing the small platform where Hai-Ri-Ki would be seated in a few moments.
The panel slid noiselessly, and the servant entered, sitting instantly on her heels and bowing as her master and his suite of generals - or whatever they were called here - entered and seated themselves in front of SG1.

After the usual salutes, Daniel started explaining their fears and how they thought they could help them. “Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn, we fear that Lord Kyyato may be in search of a weapon cache left by the people who enslaved your ancestors. If that is indeed the case, and he finds this cache, this could give him a serious advantage over you, for there may be weapons more powerful than what you imagine.” Daniel paused, observing Hai-Ri-Ki’s impassible face. He turned to Jack, raising his eyebrows in a questioning manner.

Jack nodded, encouraging Daniel to go on.

“We may have a way to predict exactly Kyyato’s move. Teal'c-sohn managed to contact our lord at the great stone circle. We should go back there and wait for their response.”

Hai-Ri-Ki nodded. “What makes you think Kyyato is seeking that cache you told me about, and how do you know about it?”

“We don’t actually know anything about it. But we suspect. After reading about the history or your people, and knowing what we know from our own exploring experiences, we have suspicions about what said Kyyato on our first meeting.”

Daniel cleared his throat before resuming. “O'Neill-sohn told me you both managed to agree on a plan?” he asked.

“O'Neill-sohn was expecting some information before he could tell me exactly his plans. I suppose it is the information your war monk went to seek,” Hai-Ri-Ki replied.

“Well, not exactly, but let’s say he asked permission for this information to be given.”

He paused, and O'Neill talked to him calmly. Daniel acquiesced to what his friend said, and turned to Hai-Ri-Ki, once again bowing respectfully.

“Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn, if we may insist. We must act quickly or our help will be of no use.”

Hai-Ri-Ki frowned and seemed buried in his thoughts for a moment. He turned to his right and spoke with the elderly man they had seen on their first day here, but Daniel couldn’t quite catch what they said. Then Hai-Ri-Ki turned towards them as he rose from his sitting position. “We have trust in you. Go sleep, my servants will wake you when we are ready to move to the great stone circle and set our camp in the vicinity.”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

Hammond was pacing in the control room. He checked his watch once again, then stopped, stood behind the gate technician, and said, “Dial P5X-748.”
“Yes, sir,” Walter Davis replied, his fingers already typing the coordinates on the keyboard.

“Chevron 1 engaged…” he started his litany.

After a short while, the familiar kawoosh resonated in the gate room.

“SG1, this is Hammond, do you copy?”

“General! Good to hear you!” the unmistakable voice of his 2IC came through the speaker.

Hammond smiled faintly. “Good to hear you too, Colonel. Teal'c told me of your situation, has it evolved?”

“Sorta, I guess. We’d be very grateful for that UAV survey, though, and the MALP has not-so-mysteriously disappeared, as you might have guessed,” O'Neill replied.

Hammond sighed, he had already thought about the hiccups he would most certainly hear when he would have to present the bill for this year’s explorations in D.C..

“The UAV is ready, Colonel, a MALP will be coming right afterwards.” He turned to Sergeant Siler. “Is it all geared up?”

“Yes, sir!” replied the man, disappearing down the stairs. “I’ll position it on the ramp, sir!”

“Launch the UAV,” Hammond ordered into the microphone to the gate room.

The reactors of the small plane sprang to life and its binders were freed, sending it through the shimmering pool.

“MALP ready, General!” Siler said stepping into the gate room beside the automatic device.

“Send it through, Sergeant,” Hammond said calmly.

“Colonel, I’d suggest you keep an eye on the MALP this time.”

“Yes, sir! We’re setting camp in an area not far away anyway. We’ll keep you informed of our progress, O'Neill over and out.”

“Shut the gate dow,.” Hammond ordered.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

While SG1 started to collect information from the UAV, Hai-Ri-Ki’s troops did not remain idle and constructed a small, fortified camp at the edge of the near-by forest, where they were.

O'Neill and Teal'c were on guard as Carter analyzed the images the UAV transmitted to the lap-top wired into the MALP and piloted the flying device at the same time. Daniel was trying to see if he could spot something remotely Goa’uld from the readings.

After four hours of an extensive survey of the area, up to about fifty klicks from the gate, they had enough data to plan a strategic counter attack. The survey also showed an unusual concentration of Kyyato’s troops retrieving things from a small cave.

O'Neill and his teammates quickly realized it was probably the Goa'uld cache.

“He found it, sir.” Carter said, nonplussed. “What are we going to do?”

O'Neill seemed deep in thought, for a while then he spoke. “Actually, what Kyyato found is not a problem.”

Daniel turned to Jack, bewildered. “It isn’t?” he asked his friend.

“No, Daniel. If we have to, we’ll destroy it.”

“Without getting our hands on Goa’uld technology?!” he exclaimed.

“Sir, I have to agree with Daniel. You know what our policy is when we find advanced technology, or evidence of it!” Carter chimed in.

“Daniel, Carter!” O’Neill said in an authoritative voice. “Since Kyyato has indeed obtained those weapons, or whatever it is they found there, how much time d’you think he’ll need to figure it out? You said yourself that he might need time to work them out, but I think that if he has intel about the ‘where’, he’s also likely to have intel about the ‘how’!”

“Jack, you want to blow it up despite the people that are around it?” Daniel asked.

“Daniel, I don’t want to enter a philosophical debate on whether it’s good or bad to kill people in a war. That’s what soldiers do, and that’s what I am. I don’t know how long, these people have lived here, but they seem to have managed very well without those weapons. From what we saw, it’s a rather violent civilization. I don’t want to interfere or anything, but for starters if the bad guys have found these weapons and they learn how to use them, how the Hell are we gonna get a mining treaty with them? Second, how long d’you think it might take them to figure out how to use the gate?”
“We don’t know that they’ve found all this in that Goa’uld cache, sir,” Sam said.

“Exactly, Carter. We don’t know. And given the stakes, I wouldn’t bet on it, once again. See my point differently: we destroy the cache, there might be casualties in the immediate vicinity, but we prevent even more casualties and other really unpleasant things.”

“I see your point, O’Neill, and I believe it is a wise decision.” Teal’c said.

“Thank you, Teal’c!”

Daniel sighed. “If we can’t do otherwise.”

“I don’t think we can. Carter, now can you, from the UAV’s readings, determine what kind of warhead we need?”

“I haven’t extrapolated the infrared analysis, sir, but I can get it done in an hour. That should give us the approximate depth of the cave, and thus the fire power we’d need.”

“Good. Teal’c, you stay here with Carter. Daniel, you’re with me, we’re going to tell the light version to Hai-Ri-Ki and show him where to put his troops.”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

At Daniel’s request, a meeting was called upon in Hai-Ri-Ki’s tent.

O'Neill and Daniel entered. Hai-Ri-Ki and his generals were seated on the small platform in the center of the tent, using camp chairs.

The most difficult part was to explain to Hai-Ri-Ki that the images he saw were images of his world seen from above. Jack set to explain where his enemy was, and what his advance was, with the help of Daniel as a translator.

“Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn, the situation regarding your enemy is both complicated and simple. We’ve drawn a map of the area, and where you should position your troops if you want to counter-attack efficiently, and sever all his ties to attacking troops. Now, we fear it is too late to prevent him from reaching that cache.”

As he was speaking, O'Neill had unfolded the map he and Sam had drawn from their observations, punctuating his explanation pointing at dots on the map that indicated Kyyato’s troops.

Hai-Ri-Ki frowned. “What makes you think this cache exists, and why does it appear hopeless to reach it before Kyyato?”

“From what we see here,” Jack pointed on the map, “Kyyato’s scouts have already begun extracting devices from that small cave, there.” He pointed on the map. “We will be taking care of that,” he said firmly.

Hai-Ri-Ki frowned. “How?”

“We plan on destroying it,” he said, looking the man straight in the eyes.

Hai-Ri-Ki observed him a long time, frowning, then finally sighed. “Is that the only way? These weapons could be useful.”

“Lord Hai-Ri-Ki,” Daniel jumped in, “their power is great and very destructive. We fear that by using them you might set fire to the entire planet, and that the peace you are obviously seeking would be definitely out of the question for a very long time. *We* are not even ready to use them.”

Hai-Ri-Ki nodded. “Like I said before, we trust you, and so far, our trust has not been misplaced. Do what you have to do.”

“Thank you, my lord.” Daniel translated, both men bowing.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

The night was falling when they fin ally established a strategy.

While Hai-Ri-Ki’s troops set out in various directions, SG1 returned to the gate to contact General Hammond and instruct him of their plan. After much discussion and convincing by Colonel O’Neill, George Hammond finally agreed to send the UAV loaded with a conventional warhead, finding nothing to actually say against his 2IC’s arguments.

The day had just started when a first UAV hit its target, causing a large crater where there once was the entrance of a cave and a small encampment. It killed about twenty of Kyyato’s scouts along with it, as a second UAV confirmed the success of the first. The few remaining men appeared too shocked to move or do anything else and O’Neill considered his job done, while several mounted soldiers of Hai-Ri-Ki’s set out to capture them. They could now concentrate plainly on the other battles and on capturing Kyyato.

As it appeared, O’Neill’s strategy succeeded in almost all situations, but one, where Hai-Ri-Ki’s soldiers were caught in an unexpected ambush. Fortunately, with a UAV still hovering above the battle field, they could evaluate the situation fast, and reinforcements could be sent quickly. Soon, Kyyato’s troops were overwhelmed.

SG1 and Hai-Ri-Ki’s staff had moved along with the troops, and they now surveyed several battles from a hill.

The man-to-man combats were raw and violent, and more than once, Sam wondered, as an observer, if they had done well in helping those people.
“It’s all relative, Carter,” O'Neill said as if reading her thoughts. “Like I said to Daniel, we’re soldiers, we do what we have to do. We use bombs and guns where they use sabers and spears. The only difference is the distance with the target.”

“I know that you’ve probably seen really ugly things in your career, sir, but this-- Is indescribable. It’s what I would call a slaughter,” she paused.
“Would you prefer staff weapons and death gliders, Carter?”

She shrugged. “No. But I’d rather not see a field of cut heads and limbs.”

“Yeah,” O'Neill acquiesced. “Actually, I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to recommend establishing a mining facility here.” He sighed. “All right, Carter, let’s move out to where Teal’c and Daniel are and see how the troops are doing.”

As it turned out, the ‘troops’ were doing well, and were rapidly taking the upper hand over the situation. Hai-Ri-Ki had yet to find his rival though. As the messages of victory or surrender of the enemy troops began to arrive, Hai-Ri-Ki’s excitation grew proportionally.

O'Neill was also fidgety, but not for the same reasons. He had a feeling, and it kept bugging him. “Carter?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Are there any troops left by the Stargate?”

“I’m not sure, sir. Why?”

“Why do you think Kyyato had troops in the vicinity of the Stargate?”

“Watch, probably. Unless-- you think it might have something to do with his discoveries, sir?”

“I have a bad feeling, and I’m generally good at that. Having bad feelings that are bad, I mean.”

“What’s your guess, sir?”

“My guess is that we’d better get our asses to the gate quickly because I have a hunch that Kyyato might be trying to go through it, now that it’s unguarded by Hai-Ri-Ki! I’ll go with Teal'c, tell Daniel to talk to Hai-Ri-Ki, and join us as fast as you can and with as many reinforcements as you can!”

“Yes, sir!”

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

They were running too fast for Jack’s knees, but he ignored the pain. He was not sure if Kyyato was indeed trying to go through the gate, or even if he had the sufficient knowledge, but the hair at the back of his neck had been standing at attention ever since he’d first thought about the possible whereabouts of Kyyato.

At last they arrived in sight of the Stargate. O'Neill stopped abruptly, signaling Teal'c to crouch beside him. He took his macro binoculars and inspected the area. “Well, seems like our birdie’s not there.” He murmured.

“Do you believe he activated the gate, O'Neill?” Teal'c asked.

“I’m not sure, we left the gate about six hours ago, so that left him a rather short time to figure the DHD out and dial a working address. Unless his intel was real good, I will opt for ‘no’, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to try.

They watched the area cautiously, until Carter, Daniel, and a dozen of Hai-Ri-Ki’s men arrived. Silently, O'Neill ordered them to secure a perimeter around the gate and keep watch there, hidden in the bushes or the high grass.

They remained still for a couple of hours, until some movement attracted O'Neill’s attention: a small party of five men was heading into their trap from the west. O'Neill observed them through his macro binoculars. At first sight, they appeared anxious and wary. The second look confirmed what he thought: Kyyato was among them.

He tried to look more closely. The man was carrying some sort of leather book, and was limping heavily, obviously wounded. After a while, they finally reached the DHD. The four men who accompanied him stood on guard around the device, facing the outside, while Kyyato was fumbling with his book. He set it on the DHD and studied it a short while, then punched a key.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

O'Neill had been monitoring every one of Kyyato’s moves from his hidden spot. As soon as he punched the first key, he launched the attack.
Kyyato’s men were quickly and definitively taken care of by Hai-Ri-Ki’s men, while SG1 had their guns trained on Kyyato himself. With a haunted look, the latter finally surrendered. Teal'c quickly tied him up while Daniel inspected the book Kyyato had been holding. They remained vigilant until Hai-Ri-Ki’s main guard finally reached the Stargate.

Sam realized they had very little prisoners and didn’t want to think of where their comrades were. She was getting tired of all this violence, and it was actually a striking contrast between the refinement they had experienced in both Kyyato’s and Hai-Ri-Ki’s fortresses. It was all black and white, no gray in that civilization.

As Hai-Ri-Ki approached Kyyato, SG1 opened the circle they had formed around him. Kyyato was kneeling, his head bowed.

Daniel started translating for his team.

“Your treacherous ways did not lead you to victory, Kyyato!” Hai-Ri-Ki stated, looking down on him in the position of the winner over the defeated.
“You received help from the strangers, what kind of honorable victory is that?!” Kyyato spat back in anger.

“How can you accuse me like that when you wanted to trick them into your sly plans lying to them?! They are quite honorable! They did not help us in actual battles, only to locate your troops of ronans and nonjeis! Few Shomureis would accept to do combat for you!”

“And who caused the destruction of the digging my scouts had found!”

“Kyyato, your honor is so low that you wouldn’t even tell us what this digging was about! They destroyed it because they knew you would find powerful weapons that would destroy all that our ancestors worked for when they revolted against those who had enslaved them!”

“Ask them why they took the book I was carrying?!” Kyyato’s attempts at saving his life were getting more desperate by the second.

“Even if they take the book with them, they have proved to be trustworthy and honorable enough in my opinion! Now prepare for your death!” Hai-Ri-Ki said, drawing his saber.

“Hold on a minute!” O'Neill said, interrupting Hai-Ri-Ki and causing looks and growls of anger.

Daniel turned to Jack with a warning look. “Jack, don’t!”

“Daniel, he’s probably going to cut his head, you of all people--”

“It’s their culture, Jack. I don’t like it anymore than you do, but that’s the way they are.”

“Can you at least talk to him?”

Daniel sighed. “I’ll try, but you may not like his response.”

“Just-- try, okay?”

Daniel cleared his throat and looked at Hai-Ri-Ki. “Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn, O'Neill-sohn asks what you are going to do with Lord Kyyato.”

Hai-Ri-Ki frowned. “He shall receive the punishment we give traitors!”

“Can we at least give him the choice of his death?” Daniel asked.

Hai-Ri-Ki thought for a few minutes, then sheathed his saber. “You are the ones who captured him and brought him to me, it’s only fair you should choose his death.” He stepped back.

Daniel explained the situation to his team.

“Isn’t there any other solution than kill him?” Sam asked.

“No, Sam. That’s the way they are. It’s a violent way, I agree with you a hundred percent, but we’ve already interfered enough, we have to abide by their rules.”

“Then what to we do? Shoot him?” Jack quipped.

“I will suggest seppuku.”

“What’s that?” O'Neill asked.

“It’s a way of dying with honor for them. He will basically commit suicide.”

“Not much of an alternate solution,” Sam snorted.

“No, but it’s a far more honorable way to die.”

“Oh, for crying out loud, I’m so sick of their honor code!”

“Jack!” Daniel warned.

“All right, Daniel. You go and try to suggest that, we’re outta here.”

Daniel sighed, resigned, then turned to Hai-Ri-Ki. “Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn, we think Kyyato should be given a chance to redeem himself by committing seppuku.” He stated.

“Sippukho?!” Hai-Ri-Ki exclaimed in anger.

Daniel bowed. “Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn, you said we could choose. We choose to offer him a way to get his honor back. If he refuses, then we will relinquish our right to choose, and you can do whatever pleases you.”

Hai-Ri-Ki frowned, deep in thought once again. Then he nodded cautiously. “You are wise people, and magnanimous.”

“Thank you, Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn.”

Daniel turned to Kyyato. “Lord Kyyato, as the ones who captured you, we offer you to redeem yourself by committing Sippukho. Do you accept?”

Kyyato was obviously surprised and stared at Daniel with fierce eyes. “I underestimated you, strangers, but since the only way for me is death, then I accept your offer. I will die honorably.”

Daniel turned to Hai-Ri-Ki, but Kyyato continued. “I want Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn to assist me.”

Daniel looked at Hai-Ri-Ki with questioning eyes.

Hai-Ri-Ki nodded his assent.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

The ceremony was ready.

Only SG1 - who had and obligation to be there, much to Sam’s dismay - Hai-Ri-Ki and his best men were assembled around Kyyato who was naked from the waist up and sat on his heels.

A dagger had been set before him, the blade turned to his right.

Hai-Ri-Ki positioned himself behind him, his saber drawn, as one of his soldiers came to rinse the blade carefully with a small ladle full of water, on one side, then the other.

Kyyato took a piece of his discarded upper garment, and rubbed the blade with it, before rolling it around the handle and part of the blade. He took a deep breath and nodded to Hai-Ri-Ki who raised his arms, holding his saber, and ready to finish the ritual, as Daniel explained to his teammates. Once Kyyato had driven the dagger twice into his abdomen, Hai-Ri-Ki would end his sufferings.

Sam wanted to retch. O'Neill also looked particularly disgusted, and Teal'c, well Teal'c looked as impassible as always.

Kyyato took the handle of the dagger and pointed it to his abdomen.

Like in slow motion, Jack observed the man’s hands contracting around the handle.

He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and in a swift movement, brought the weapon close to his skin, but at the last moment, he changed directions and stabbed Hai-Ri-Ki instead.

Acting purely on reflex, Hai-Ri-Ki’s arms lowered his saber in a swift gesture and Kyyato was no more a problem.

Everyone gathered over the fallen Hai-Ri-Ki, but Daniel pushed them away.

Sam felt his pulse: still strong but fading. She looked straight in the eyes of her Commanding Officer who nodded, understanding. “Daniel, tell them we have to bring him home with us, we have the medical supplies we need to save him there.”

Too stunned to argue, Hai-Ri-Ki’s men opened the circle as Jack and Teal'c grabbed the fallen man and carried him to the Stargate, where Sam had already dialed and was punching the code of her GDO.

As they were about to leave, two if Hai-Ri-Ki’s men grabbed Daniel and Sam.

“You stay here!” one of them said.

O'Neill turned to Sam with a haunted look.

“No, sir!” she said, understanding he was going to offer to stay instead of her. “You go, we’ll be fine!”

O'Neill nodded imperceptibly.

“Damn well you will be!” he shouted. “And that’s a direct order!” he said before disappearing through the shimmering pool.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

On the other side, Hammond welcomed them.

“Medical emergency!” O'Neill shouted. “Doctor, you don’t leave the infirmary until that man is saved!” he barked at the medical team.

“Yes, sir!” The new CMO replied. “What’s the damage?”

“Nasty stab in the abdomen, don’t know much more,” O'Neill replied as Hai-Ri-Ki was wheeled away.

“Surgery!” The CMO shouted to the orderlies as he followed them down the hallway.

“Colonel?” Hammond finally asked.

“Sir, they’d better sew that man up because Carter and Daniel are still on the other side!”

“What happened?” the General asked calmly.

“We won, but they—they’re slaughterers, General!” O'Neill exclaimed, unable to quench the churning of his stomach. “I have seen horrors in my life, but nothing reached that!”

“We managed to defeat the enemy, General Hammond,” Teal'c chimed in, “our ally was about to kill him, but Daniel Jackson suggested we do it their way and allow him to redeem himself. Lord Hai-Ri-Ki accepted and that is when the treacherous man stabbed him instead of stabbing himself.”

“Stabbing himself? Like in those cheap Japanese movies?” Hammond asked, clearly shocked.

“According to Daniel, that’s the way they lived and the way those people are now.” O'Neill resumed.

“I see. Go and clean up yourselves, we will await what we hope will be good news from Doctor Stevenson.”

“Yes, sir.”

A while later, Teal'c, Jack and General Hammond were gathered behind the screen glass as the doctors operated Hai-Ri-Ki.

After what seemed hours, the CMO finally joined them and explained the situation. “You brought him here in time, Colonel. But he would definitely have not survived if you had waited another hour. His condition is stable. He lost a lot of blood, but since his physical characteristics are human, we managed to make a transfusion and his body accepted it well. We had a lot of sewing to do mostly, but the cuts were sharp with no extensive tissue damage, so all in all, the prognosis is good. He should awake in a couple of hours.”

“Thank you, doctor,” Hammond simply said.

“General, permission to go back to the planet and inform his men, along with checking on Carter and Daniel? We’ll check with you regularly.”
“Granted.”

O'Neill and Teal'c quickly picked their gear back up and returned to the planet, where they explained the situation both to Hai-Ri-Ki’s men and their teammates.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

The night was falling and SG1 had been assigned a tent.

Sam was sitting alone next to the DHD, observing the sky distractedly. She heard a familiar voice.

“I was wondering where you’d gone.” He came to sit next to her.

“I needed to be alone for a while. These last days have been pretty intense, and I needed to calm my insides a little bit,” She replied calmly.

“Ha!” he snorted. “Tell me about it!”

A comfortable silence ensued.

“Where are Teal'c and Daniel?” she asked, looking at him.

“Teal'c’s meditating, and Daniel’s already sleeping. His ‘encounter’ with Shimikko apparently drew all his physical strength away,” he smirked.

“At least he got a little satisfaction,” she said bitterly.

She jumped as she felt his hand on her arm.

“Sam,” He spoke softly. “I haven’t forgotten and nothing’s changed.”

“That’s just it, sir; ‘nothing’s changed’. In either way,” she replied.

“Let’s not go back on that track, shall we?” he warned.

“What if I want to?”

“Carter?”

“You’re not willing to risk it?”

“No. Not with your career in the balance.”

“Damn my career! I’m also a woman!” she said, standing up, her anger rising.

“Sam!” he warned, standing up in turn.

“Why do we have to choose one over the other?” she asked defiantly.

“Because that’s what we are, soldiers!” he replied, looking her up and down.

“Then I don’t want to be a damn soldier anymore if it prevents me from having the life I want!”

“Carter, that’s nonsense! You’re tired, I’d rather not remember what you’ve just said!”

“What? That I love you?” she said defiantly.

As they realized what she’d just said, their anger dissipated in an instant and he crushed her to his chest, his mouth seeking hers in a searing kiss. They kneeled together and started tugging at various items of clothing, until O'Neill stopped, panting and sat, taking his head in both his hands.

“God, Sam, you’re intoxicating!” he murmured, trying to slow his breathing.

Sam said nothing, just tried to keep a semblance of decency and put her uniform back in place.

“Sam, I don’t want to fight anymore than you do on this issue.” He paused. “I have to contact Hammond in about an hour, let’s hope Hai-Ri-Ki will be fit enough for gate travel, and we’re through, I’ll let SG-12 deal with them if Hammond thinks it’s worth it. Then we’ll sort this mess. One way or another, we’ll sort this mess, I promise, Sam. I too am tired of that job where a man can’t express his feelings to the woman he loves,” he said in a tired voice.
He stood up and looked at the now dark sky. “The first stars are starting to show. It’s going to be a cold night.” He sighed. “Goodnight, Carter, don’t stay up too late.” And he headed to the tents.

With one last glance to the stars, Sam also stood up and walked to the camp.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

O'Neill punched in his code and waited for the connection to be made.

“Colonel O'Neill, is that you?”

“Yes, sir. How’s our guest doing?” he asked a bit impatiently.

“Doctor Stevenson just gave him the green light for gate travel. Doctor Jackson will have to relay his instructions though, but as soon as you dial out, we’ll send him through.

“All right, sir. O'Neill over and out.”

The shimmering pool disappeared, only to be replaced a few minutes later by the familiar kawoosh. Two SFs carrying a stretcher, on which Hai-Ri-Ki was lying, came through a few moments later, and Jack led them to the camp.

Once Hai-Ri-Ki’s personnel were assured of his welfare, the two SFs were sent back to the SGC and SG1 prepared to depart, too.

Hai-Ri-Ki called for their presence by his resting ‘cot’ - for lack of a better word. “You were loyal to the end and saved my life, strangers. Whatever alliance you are seeking is granted and I hope we shall meet again for I will be forever indebted to you.”

“Err-- Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn,” Daniel started. “Actually, another group of people like us might come through the stone ring and talk to you about this, but I’m afraid we will have to depart shortly.”

Hai-Ri-Ki frowned. “Why is it so?”

“Like we said, we are merely explorers. We are the ones who seek out new allies, not the ones who actually establish treaties. Our lord back where we’re from is the one who decides all that and we must abide by his will.”

“I see. Know that your people will always be welcome though, and that one day I would like to thank that lord of yours.”

“Oh, but I believe you have met him.” Daniel said. “He was the man who authorized your return through the great stone circle.”

“Ah! The bald man!” Hai-Ri-Ki exclaimed, causing Daniel to smile involuntarily.

“Yes, that would be him.”

“I should have known he was your Shogonate, he looked like a fair ruler.”

Daniel nodded then showed the book they had taken from Kyyato. “Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn, we have one request.”

“What is it?”

“We took this book from Kyyato. He probably found it when he investigated the cave we destroyed, but from what I already read, it is in a language unfamiliar to you. Kyyato probably didn’t understand much himself, and only based his desperate attempt to use the great stone circle from a few drawings that are in the book. We would like to take it with us for it would help us fight the same enemy who enslaved your ancestors a long time ago.”
Hai-Ri-Ki nodded thoughtfully, then looked Daniel in the eyes. “You may take the book. We will remember this day, and the help you and O'Neill-sohn provided us. You are a strange people, who draw your women at war, but we are indebted to O'Neill-sohn’s wife as well as any of you.”
Daniel bowed, imitated by his friends. “Thank you, Hai-Ri-Ki-sohn, we shall leave now.”

“Farewell, strangers, may Amaretasu watch over your lives.” Hai-Ri-Ki said, making Daniel shut his eyes briefly.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

The Stargate shut down as SG1 walked down the ramp to meet Hammond. “Finally!” O'Neill exclaimed, looking up and raising his hands in a silent prayer.

“SG1, welcome back, debriefing in three hours, go get showered and medically cleared.”

“Yes sir!” O'Neill said, with a renewed enthusiasm.

:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:¤:

The debriefing was long and each member in his/her turn gave his opinion.

“General, these people are just like feudal Japan,” Daniel stated.

“Even after all this time?” Hammond asked.

“Feudal Japan and the rules governing it did not evolve for millennia. The last famous act of Seppuku was committed in 1912, and the famous Kamikaze in 1945 was the direct consequence of about two millennia of the same discipline, and the same Samurai spirit. In the Japanese culture, life and death were exactly the same and there was no question about faithfulness to one’s lord. If the lord was defeated or dishonored, all his vassals would commit Seppuku. According to our Western standards, it may appear rather barbaric, but on the other hand, they were well educated in hygienic and medical matters, had a very rich culture, and their complicated set of rules defined a very strict, but very refined way of life. They were far more advanced than our Western civilization. When our ancestors ate with their fingers and bathed only once a year, they had chopsticks and the equivalent of saunas because not only was it healthy, it was relaxing. I could go on and on again, the list is long, but it’s almost point by point what we encountered on P5X-748.”

“Thank you, Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said and turned to Sam. “Major Carter, do you have anything to add?”

“Apart from the fact that from the readings I got the first time around, the Naquada deposits seem to be rather important, no, sir. In a strictly scientific way, establishing a mining facility on P5X-748 would guarantee a constant source of Naquada for years.”

“And what about on a personal way, Major?” Hammond asked, sensing the Major’s discomfort.

“It is not for me to say, sir. But off the record, it might prove to be a dangerous thing to do.”

“Thank you, Major. Teal'c?”

“All has been said by Daniel Jackson and Major Carter, General Hammond. My only comment would be that these people vanquished the Goa'uld who originally settled on P5X-748 from Earth, using agrarian utensils. We should not underestimate their capacity of fighting with the rawest instruments against high technology.”

Hammond nodded then eventually turned to Jack.

“General, I would be the last person to recommend establishing a mining facility on that planet. As everybody told you, it’s a very violent civilization, and like Teal'c said, they got rid of the snakeheads by themselves with spears and pitchforks. Right now, their leader loves us, we saved his butt -- no pun intended -- and helped him get rid of the bad guy. But we haven’t stayed long enough on that planet. We don’t know how long he’s been the king--
“Shogonate,” Daniel supplied.

“-- yeah whatever. We don’t know if he will remain the chocolate for long, and we don’t know what can happen if another war explodes there and another guy takes his place. What if he doesn’t like the color of our uniforms and decides to have a feast of SG units heads? You do what you have to do, General, but my answer to the question: ‘do I recommend a mining treaty between Earth and P5X-748’, is no, plain and simple.”

Hammond observed his 2IC and signed at the bottom of the sheet on top of the folder that lay in front of him. “Then the case is closed and you’re dismissed. SG1, from now on, you are officially on a seven day leave, thank you.”

As Daniel and Teal'c raised form their seats and headed to the door, Jack and Sam exchanged glances, and remained sitting.

“Something I can do for you, Major, Colonel?”

Once again, Sam and Jack exchanged glances. They started speaking at the same time.

“There’s--” “We--”

They stopped at the same time and Jack took the initiative. “Let me, Carter. Privilege of rank.” He said, with a half smile.

She bowed her head in frustration.

“Was there something you wanted to tell me?” Hammond asked, starting to get a little annoyed at their behavior.

“Sir,” Jack began, “back on the planet, we were put in a situation where we--“ He took a deep breath. “I broke AFI36-2909. We-- ah-- I kissed Major Carter and well we-- we were both naked. Nothing more happened, I swear. I managed to stop before I did anything more, but nevertheless I broke the frat regs.”

“Sir! If I may!”

“No, Major, you may not!” Jack interrupted.

“Colonel O'Neill tries to put the blame on himself but we’re both--”

“Carter!” Jack once again interrupted, standing up.

“Colonel O'Neill, Major Carter!” Hammond shouted.

A sudden silence fell. After a moment, Hammond sighed, stood up, then grabbed the top of his chair and looked at both his officers. “AFI36-2909 is there for a reason, but in your particular situation, I have encountered nothing less than a highly professional behavior. I have known of your respective feelings for a long time now, probably even before yourselves, but history proved that it didn’t impair your professional behavior time and time again. I don’t believe it impaired your professional behavior on that mission either. This won’t appear in your record.”

“Sir--”

“Colonel,” Hammond raised his hand. He rested his elbows on the top of his chair, then once again looked at both officers carefully.

Carter was staring at the wall in front of her, and O'Neill was doing the same with some invisible spot on the table.

“If we are having this conversation, I suspect there’s some ulterior motive,” Hammond resumed in a soft voice.

O'Neill sighed. “Actually, sir--”

“I’m willing to resign, sir, and if you deem my request acceptable, continue as a scientist at the SGC.

“Carter!”

“Colonel, that is MY decision!”

“And you’re gonna hate me for it faster than you believe, as your CO, I refuse!”

“If your brilliant solution was to retire, sir, then you’re not my CO anymore and I only report to General Hammond!”

“Carter, you’re way over the line!”

“Which line, Jack? The one we crossed on that god-forsaken planet, or the one we crossed the day we realized we cared for each other more than we were supposed to?!”

“SILENCE!” Hammond said in the most authoritative voice they had ever heard him speak with.

Once again, a sudden silence invaded the briefing room.

“SG1 is on leave for the next seven days. I suggest you two talk about what you want to do and come back to me about it. No resignation will be accepted, from either of you. You are both too important to this program, and right now, we need professionals, which you are, despite anything you might say.”

“Sir, you don’t understand--"

“I think I understand perfectly, Jack.”

“What kind of professionals does it make us, General? Even if we don’t act on our feelings - and that is an act of pure will, how we managed so far is still a mystery to me - we’re breaching the regulations simply by caring. Do you think I would leave Carter behind--”

“Not anymore than you would leave Teal'c or Daniel, son.”

“No, General. That might have been true until even last year, but-- It’s changed now. I’ve changed.”

“I have changed too, General.” Sam joined the conversation. “I think we both realized we had changed when Janet--” her voice caught in her throat. She took a deep breath. “When Doctor Fraiser was killed in action, and Colonel O'Neill was seriously injured, there was a moment, between us and-- I realized maybe it was not worth it,” she admitted softly.

“I love my job, I love my career, but I am in love with my Commanding Officer, and nothing is going to change that now. I know there are higher stakes than our own personal lives but-- how high can a soldier’s spirit of self-sacrifice be if he or she questions his/her personal life? I’ve never thought I would say that, but I do now, General. I want to fight the Goa'uld, but I also want to be able to enjoy the peaceful life our victory will grant us, and after seven years-and more, I want it now. That’s why I want to resign.”

“Carter, I’ll retire!”

“No, Jack!”

“I’m too old for the field now, it’s time I leave younger, fitter people do the job, and you have all my recommendations for that!”

“I’ll make it easy for both of you!” Hammond suddenly interrupted, exasperated. “*I*’ll retire!”

Both stunned officers looked at their superior. “Sir you can’t!” they chorused.

“Oh yeah?! I sure as hell can! With the both of you it’s becoming impossible to have a sensible discussion, much less give you orders! Major Carter, you resign your commission if you like, I have Colonel O'Neill’s first star in the right drawer of my desk and was about to promote him to the rank of Brigadier General right after your leave, but Jack, if you want to retire, I won’t be the one to stop you! This--” he retrieved a sheet from another folder on the briefing table “-- is *my* request for retirement, I think I have earned it! So basically no-one can stop you from doing what you want, only you and your conscience! My heart condition is already not so good, I don’t want to worsen it, I am out of here now!” he stood up and took his folders before heading for the door. “Good night!” and he slammed the door shut.

Jack and Sam were too stunned to say anything for a long moment.

Then Sam whistled softly. “Brigadier General!”

The corners of O'Neill’s mouth turned slightly upwards. “Yeah, who would have believed?” he commented half ironically.

“I always knew you deserved it, sir.”

“Whatever happened to Jack?”

She sighed. “He’s locked himself into my heart.”

There was a short silence, then Sam spoke. “Do you think Hammond was serious?”

“I think he was dead serious.”

“So, what do we do?”

“Frankly, I don’t know, Sam. I sill want to retire myself too.”

“You can’t. Now that Hammond’s on the verge of leaving, you can’t.”

“So we’re back to square one. Even if I become the commander of this base, you remain under my command.”

“Jack, hear me out.”

“I don’t want you to give up your career.”

“I’m not giving up my career, I am merely reassessing my priorities and I’m concentrating on my scientific career.”

“I won’t accept your resignation, Carter.”

She sighed in frustration. “So what, you don’t want to give us a chance anymore?” she asked, her anger rising.

“Don’t talk nonsense, Sam, of course I want to give us a chance!”

“Then why won’t you let me resign my military commission?!” she said, standing up and leaning over the table.

O'Neill imitated her. “Because that’s who you are! That’s what you love!”

They were face to face. For a moment, O'Neill was compelled to crush her face between his hands and kiss her hard, but he restrained himself, and could see the same battle/frustration in the eyes of his 2IC.

“Ah crap!” he exclaimed, “I’ll be at my cabin, good bye, Carter.”

He exited the room, leaving Sam trying to understand what had just happened. After a while, she finally exited the room too, went to the locker room, and right out of the mountain.

She needed advice, and now that Janet was not there anymore, she had to talk to someone else. She was not a hundred percent sure if the direction she was headed was the best place for that, but she had to try.

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Jack was not happy. He couldn’t even find peace in the only place he knew he could recharge his batteries. Not catching fish didn’t have as much appeal as before, the beer was either too cold or too warm, and those pesky mosquitoes seemed to be more annoying than usual.

He knew what was not right, of course, but he had no solution. He had tried to find one, but had always come to the conclusion of one of them resigning or retiring. His sense of duty prevented him from retiring, now that Hammond had made it clear that he had priority over him. And he didn’t even want to think about Doctor Samantha Carter -- which she was already, of course, but she was first and foremost *Major* Samantha Carter, *his* Major Samantha Carter.

He sighed and took a swig from his long neck, still buried in his thoughts. He almost fell into the water when he felt a warm hand on his shoulder.

“Jeez Carter! I almost had a heart attack there!”

She couldn’t prevent her giggles.

O'Neill was trying to clear his mind and breathe normally. Once he had enough control over his heartbeat, he asked. “Whatcha doin’ here?”

She drew a sharp intake of air. “I think we have to talk, Jack.” She said, pressing her lips tightly together once she finished talking.

Jack sighed. “Talk. Well, that’s not my field of expertise, but if you do the talking for the most part, then I think I can manage.” He smirked. “I’ll get you a deck chair, wait a sec’.” He disappeared behind the house for a minute and came back with the promised deck chair.

Once they were seated facing each other, she pointed to the cooler by his chair. “Can I have one?”

“Sure,” he said, giving her a beer.

She opened it then took a swig before looking him straight in the eyes. “I went to see General Hammond when you left.”

“Oh. I hope he wasn’t too pissed.”

She cringed a little. “Actually he was. But not directly at us. He was pissed because he had planned on revealing both your promotion and his retirement after our leave.”

He nodded, pulling on his beer.

She took a deep breath. “I asked him for advice. He came up with something, and made a few phone calls.”

O'Neill looked at her raising an eyebrow. “I bet I’m not gonna like it.”

She smiled briefly. “Well, you’re not going to be able to give me direct orders anymore, so you might not like it but I’m not complaining.”

He closed his eyes, sighing. “You resigned!”

“No. I transferred.”

“What?!” he said, jumping from his chair.

She was laughing now. “Let me explain, before jumping to conclusions.”

O'Neill resumed his position in his chair.

“When he requested permission to retire and was asked about his possible replacement, General Hammond thought of you at once, but he also knew your tendency at not being very good when it came to ‘desk matters’. The direct involvement of Nellis in the Stargate program has always been kept at the minimum. It was a common decision from the president and the joint chiefs that there should be a minimum team of Nellis personnel at the SGC. Your assistant will be Colonel John Smith, especially detached from Nellis and very efficient when it comes to paperwork, procedures, and stuff that you don’t particularly like. I thought about our conversation back on the planet, where you joked about me saying I would have transferred long ago if you weren’t a good commander. Long story short, I was transferred to Nellis as the head of the alien technologies department and assigned to the SGC as Colonel Smith’s Second in Command, and liaison officer between the two bases in scientific matters. He will help you prepare the missions. And while you will be monitoring the possible alien threats, exploration missions, mining, settlement of the Alpha site, and so on, Colonel Smith and myself will overlook the missions where we might encounter and use alien technology. I am also assigned to SG1, and given the command, too. That is if you’re not bothered by the fact that a Nellis officer will be leading your flag team, I’ll be happy to follow in your steps, sir.”

“Wow.”

She chuckled.

“That was about the same reaction I had when he hung up his phone.”

They kept silent a moment.

Jack finished his beer. He watched a bird of prey circle over the lake before taking its plunge to catch whatever it was it had seen, then turned to the woman who was still sitting in front of him. “How did you get here?” he asked nonchalantly.

“Plane then cab from the airport,” she answered nervously.

Then he noticed the small carry-on under the shed.

“That yours?”

“Yes.”

“D’you plan on staying?”

She sighed in frustration. “I have my cell, I can call the cab company.”

“Don’t, I’ll drive you back,” he said, sitting up and beckoning her to follow him.

Sam closed her eyes, and fought the wave of nausea that had suddenly invaded her insides. She had done all this for nothing. She stood up and followed him to the house.

He picked her carry-on and let her lead the way. When he saw her go around the house to where his truck was parked, he finally decided to put her out of her misery. “Where are you going?”

His voice stopped her. She turned to him, he was standing in front of the entrance door to his cabin. “To where your truck is parked, I--”

He was smiling cockily, obviously very proud of himself.

She rolled her eyes. “I am so going to kill you for that!” she roared before stomping to where he was standing.

He threw the carry-on inside through the open door, and caught her as she prpared to swat him with all her might. He enfolded her in his arms, merely trapping her in the vice of his strong arms, while she wriggled to get free.

“I hate you, Jack! I so hate you!” she was struggling and trying to hit him.

He laughed wholeheartedly. “I’ll believe that when pigs fly, Carter!”

He then picked her up and carried her through the corridors of the house to his bedroom, dropping her unceremoniously on the bed.

She was about to counter attack, but before she had time to realize, she felt his body press her into the mattress and his tongue seek entrance to her mouth. All spirit of revenge flew by the open window and she opened up to his questing lips and tongue, throwing her arms around his neck and crushing his chest against hers.

Jack was overwhelmed by his feelings for the blonde woman squirming underneath him. When he had heard her words, a heavy weight had lifted from his shoulders and seven years of repressed needs had come out in a raging fury, preventing him from even trying to control them. He felt her finally relax, and abruptly stopped kissing her.

She opened her eyes, panting, with a questioning look.

“Before we go further,” he managed to choke. “I want you to know--“

She interrupted him by putting a finger on his lips. “Shh. No declaration now, Jack.”

He looked her in the eyes.

“We know how we feel, right?” she asked, gently, but he shook his head.

“No. I’ve never said it aloud, and I want to.” He took a deep breath. “The only thing I can offer you, Sam, is my love. It’s all I have, but I give it to you unconditionally. I’m an old man, and I can be quite an ass, but know for sure that even if I sulk, even if I don’t say it often enough, I love you. I have for a very long time, and nothing’s gonna change that now,” he said humbly.

She looked at him, caressing his hair softly, and smiling. “You’re not an old man, Jack, and you’re the man I want, you’re the man I need. And you know, I can be a bit bitchy sometimes too, but I’m sure that we can make it work.”

He smiled softly and once again captured her lips with his, his hands sneaking underneath her blouse, lightly tracing patterns over her skin.

Not wanting to be left out, she slowly started unbuttoning his shirt , sliding it down his arms.

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He smiled against her mouth, leaving her blouse to deftly undo the button and the fly of her jeans, sneaking his hands under the denim material and sliding it down caressing her legs in the meantime. He quickly unlaced her sneakers and let the jeans pool down on the floor. He was all too aware of her hands gliding over the naked skin of his torso, and it sent tingles of anticipation down his spine.

She reached his waistband and teased him through his trousers, eliciting a groan from his throat.

Before they even realized it, they were both naked and slipping underneath the sheets.

Jack’s hands were everywhere, igniting a fire she had never known a man could ignite in her. The urgency of their last highly frustrating encounter had nothing to do with what was happening now.

Jack took his time in memorizing her curves and what she liked or disliked. Treating her like a sacred object, with all the reverence he could muster. He gently cupped and kneaded her perfect breasts, gently circling both dark pink buds with his tongue, eliciting deep sighs from Sam as she arched her neck back in pure bliss. He stopped his oral ministrations, leaving his hands gently massaging where his tongue had been only instants before, and looked her in the eyes.

“I’ve waited so long for you to do this to me, Jack,” she murmured.

He smiled. “I wanna take my time, now if you want fast, just ask and I can do fast too.”

She chuckled. “I want you, Jack.” She said, her eyes full of lust.

He smiled again, humbled by the fact that this bright and beautiful woman would want a man like him, but decided he had better things to do than dwelling over this. He kissed her again, his hands drifting low and finding their already damp target. He carefully explored her most intimate area, guiding himself with her squirms and moans. He gently probed, kneaded and stroked her inside, until she couldn’t stand it anymore.

She grabbed his head and made him look in her eyes. “Jack, now!” she urged.

He smiled cockily. “What?” he teased.

“I want you, all of you, now.”

“Oh really?”

“Jack, if you are not inside me in the next two seconds, I am going to do something rash!”

“Tsk, tsk tsk, you wouldn’t--"

He was interrupted as she swiftly took the initiative and reversed the roles, pinning him to the mattress beneath her. She then grabbed him and slowly let him penetrate her soft depths.

He had been so surprised by her earlier movements that he only had time to merely register that they were joined. She had closed her eyes, her face flushed, her hair tousled, she had never looked more beautiful. He put his hands on her thighs in a gentle caress and brought her eyes back to his.

“Now what?” he softly teased.

“Now you just wait and see.” She answered in a sultry voice.

She started rocking her hips, causing him to close his eyes in concentration. It had been a long time, and the seven and more years of waiting had done nothing that could remotely put some hold on his overwhelming physical needs. If she had planned on doing that as a tease, there soon would be nothing left to tease - well, so to speak.

He was so engrossed in his thoughts, that he barely registered her breath was ragged and irregular, when he could hold himself no longer and his release took him full force.He squeezed his eyes shut in deep frustration: that was *so not* like he had planned their first lovemaking. He was no better than a hormone driven teenager!

As Sam disengaged herself from him, he groaned and turned on his side, facing the window. He felt her hand reach for his shoulder but pushed it back.

“Jack? What’s wrong?”

He kept silent. She knew him all too well: he was berating himself. For what? She had no idea but was determined to find out.

“Jack.” She put her hand on his shoulder once again, and pulled him so that he lay on his back. Despite his primary resistance, he complied, and to prevent him from facing away from her again, she lay her head on his chest, idly playing with the smattering of hair. “What’s wrong?” she asked again.

He sighed finally, and stroked her arm. “I’m sorry.”

She raised her eyebrows, remaining in the same position. “For what?” she asked, genuinely surprised.

“For acting like a sex crazed teenager and--” He tried to turn on his side again, but she held him in position, raising her head and forcing him to look her in the eyes.

“Jack, what are you talking about?!”

“ I couldn’t hold myself, I’m sorry.”

She laughed wholeheartedly, earning an angry frown from him. Before he could express his anger, she put a finger on his mouth to shush him. “Jack, if you’re talking about my orgasm, I had the quickest I could imagine, I was surprised myself, and that had not happened since I don’t know when! Sorry to disappoint, Jack, I *had* a sexual life before I came to the SGC!” she giggled

He looked at her with round eyes, then blinked and replied. “And you managed to say all that in one breath? Wow! I’m impressed!”

She chuckled, then lay her chin on his breastbone, looking him once again in the eyes. “You’re okay?” she asked gently.

“You’re sure you’re not saying that to satisfy my male ego?”

“Oh, definitely not, Jack O'Neill! After all these years of bordering insubordination more than once, you should know that I speak my mind, and I mean what I say!”

He enfolded her in his arms, smiling. “Then I guess we’re in for a hell of a ride.” He murmured, softly kissing the top of her head.

She snuggled closer to him and resumed stroking his chest, reveling in the aftermath of what was the start of a new life, with the man who made her feel complete. He probably couldn’t match her regarding astrophysics and alien technologies, but he had been her lead in life in every aspect ever since she had met him in that briefing room seven plus years ago, and he was the man she loved.

She sighed in contentment and closed her eyes. “I love you, Jack.” She murmured before succumbing to a blissful sleep.

His hand stilled on her arm as he heard her words. He smiled and he too closed his eyes. All was now in its right place…

THE END

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