Of Braids and Warlordsby JoaG
"You want us to dress up like what?"
Jacob Carter merely looked at Jack with an expression that was half-amusement, half-tolerance, and one that Jack had yet to perfect. Nobody bothered repeating Jacob's words for Jack's benefit; they had been clear enough and Jack had really only spoken up to make a point at how ridiculous his idea was.
"George, if SG-1 agrees to go to Keacien, I would see this as a personal favor."
Jack rolled his eyes towards Jacob. "Personal favor to Selmak, you mean. You never knew this guy Theron, considering you've only been snaked for—" At Jacob's frown, Jack quickly waved his fingers. "No offence, Selmak." He looked over at Carter, seeing a tightening of the muscles along her brow in a matching frown. "Like I was saying, you and Selmak have been roommates for two years now and you just said this Warlord died seventy years ago."
"Colonel O'Neill, need I remind you that the Tok'ra share one another's memories and—"
"It's all right, George," Jacob interrupted. He leaned forward, hands folded on the tabletop. "Selmak's memories are mine, and mine are his. You know that, Jack."
"Dad, I understand, I remember lots of Jolinar's memories, and I'm not saying I don't understand you and Selmak wanting to help Theron's family, but I don't see how we can—"
"I'll explain it all in good time."
"Phht." Jack lowered his head, knowing all eyes were on him. "Is that you talking, Jacob, or Selmak? 'Cause we both know how the Tok'ra love to keep things from us unless it's absolutely necessary."
"This isn't a Tok'ra matter." Jacob stopped talking and looked at everyone seated around the briefing table, taking a few seconds to look everyone directly in the eye.
Jack took a moment to look at Daniel, who had remained quiet during the majority of Jacob's speech. He was looking intently at Jacob but must have felt Jack's eyes on him because he glanced over at him. There was a sparkle of interest; Jack had a sneaking suspicion Daniel was going to enjoy this mission.
"Theron saved Saroosh and Selmak's lives while risking his own, and they ended up becoming friends. Saroosh lived on Keacien for a couple of years, getting to know the people. It's the least I can do to help his family now. And all you guys have to do..." Jacob turned to Jack this time, knowing the decision lay in his lap... "Is show up and go through with the ceremony for Theron's granddaughter."
"How will they believe we're authentic?" Daniel gave Jacob a small smile. "I mean, the granddaughter could hire just about anybody and pretend they're a long-lost relative and come to back up her family."
"Because you'll have this." Jacob took a small medallion out of a pouch attached to his belt and pushed it across the table. The golden metal shone in the harsh lights.
"Dad. What is it?" Carter picked it up and held it to the light. The gold was intricately worked, formed into an inverted V. That it was a replica of Earth's symbol was unmistakeable.
Jack recalled Daniel's voice from years ago, when he discovered the seventh glyph which had had everyone stumped... "A little pyramid with two funny neat little guys and a funny line coming out of the top..." A small slender coil of gold on either side of the inverted V supported two small forms, and a third led to a tiny circle at the V's apex.
"It's a sign of royalty. Theron was a descendant of the royal family when their people were abducted from Earth thousands of years ago. Somehow they made the symbol into their crest."
"Where'd you get it?" She stopped admiring the medallion and passed it to Daniel, who held it close, examining it carefully.
"Theron gave these with Saroosh when she left, for safe keeping. But since at the time Theron's family's caste was assured, nobody needed the heirlooms as proof of identity. It's only now, with the rise in power of one of the Warlords, that the family's holdings are being questioned. And this Warlord happens to be a relative. By performing the ceremony, you'll assure her of her standing and her right to rule."
"Why can you not simply go to Keacien and hand the medallion to Theron's granddaughter?"
"Because, Teal'c, everyone knows that Theron died and the medallion and sword disappeared years before. By sending an agent pretending to be a long-lost relative living in a far away land, it'll have more authenticity."
"So..." Jack rubbed his hands together, looking forward to playing a warlord. "What are we going to need to get this act together? Am I going to get to wear that thing?"
Daniel gave Jack a look over the top of his glasses as he handed the medallion over to Teal'c. There was tension in his cheek and Jack had the feeling Daniel was trying not to laugh. Jack simply grinned back at him.
"Actually, yes, but you're not going to be the Warlord."
"What?" Immediately Jack bit back the disappointment. Okay, so Jacob was going to play the part of the big bad; he deserved the role, considering it was his friend's – or rather, Selmak's former host's friend – but still, he'd have loved to have gone swaggering in, sword at the side, crown on his head...
"Dad, not you?"
"No, Sammie. Jack and I are too old to portray Warlords; we'll go as your advisers. Teal'c... well, I'm sorry, but your skin color... you'll have to go as a slave. In any case, our hair is too short for royalty, but most important of all, all the royalty have blue eyes."
Jacob turned to look at Daniel, who looked back at him, open-mouthed. His gaze quickly went to Sam, then bounced over everyone sitting at the table, stopping a moment to stare at Hammond, as if he were contemplating asking him to take over the part as Warlord. Finally he simply stared at Jack, his mouth still hanging open.
"Better close your mouth, Milord," Jack said as he placed a finger under Daniel's chin and pushed his mouth closed. "Wouldn't want any flies to sully that royal tongue of yours."
"But... I don't even look like a Warlord, never mind act like one."
"That's true." Jack watched as Daniel reached a hand up and start to finger his short hair, then stop to give Jack a look that would have frozen Netu over. "I mean about the look," Jack quickly stammered. "If you haven't noticed, Daniel ended up going to the barber a couple of years back."
"Which is why I'm counting on Sam to give us the name of a good hairdresser," Jacob said, causing Daniel to grow pale.
Jack punched Daniel on the arm; he was going to enjoy watching the transformation from archaeologist to Warlord. And damn if he might not get some fun in bed with Daniel about this.
"So, George? What do you say?"
"As much as I want to sanction this mission, Jacob, you know that our directives are—"
"There's a Goa'uld."
Jack smacked his hand on the table. "I knew it. It's mighty kind of you to mention this little fact before we actually go through the Stargate."
"If Theron's family is ousted, the new ruler plans on going back to the old ways and contacting the Goa'uld who once ruled Keacien. He must have gotten hold of the 'gate address; Keacien has been free of Goa'uld dominion for centuries. Even if they don't find the original Goa'uld, chances are they'll eventually catch some System Lord's attention and that'll be the end of that. If you back me up, Earth will have gained allies to help fight against the Goa'uld."
"You don't know that." Daniel's voice was soft. Teal'c had put the medallion down on the table and Daniel was tracing it idly with one finger.
"Believe me, Theron's granddaughter wants nothing to do with the Goa'uld."
"You spoke to her?"
"Yeah, Sam. Kallisto had an old communications device that had belonged to Theron. She used it to ask for help, remembering stories about her grandfather's old friend."
"Wait a second. She doesn't know you're a—" Jack bit down on his tongue, realizing he'd nearly insulted Jacob and Selmak a second time in just minutes.
"A snake?" Jacob smiled at Jack, showing there was no insult taken. "No. She was desperate and was hoping Saroosh's family would help. So, George?" Jacob turned again to Hammond and waited.
"Doctor Jackson, Colonel O'Neill. I'll leave the decision to you. If you believe you can pull this off, then you have a go."
Daniel turned to look at Jack, who nodded his agreement. Then Daniel faced Jacob. He nodded, his movement short and precise. "We'll do it."
- - - - - -
The knock on the door was actually welcome. Jack stretched shoulders stiff from poring over maps and lists of supplies required for the mission, and turned to greet the newcomer.
"Sorry to interrupt, sirs." Fraiser entered, holding a piece of paper in her hand. She walked up to the paper-strewn table and placed the paper before Daniel.
"You have an appointment tomorrow morning at eight with Louis Jon-a-thon." She pronounced the name with a heavy French accent. "Here's the address."
"What's this for?" Daniel scrunched up his forehead as he picked up the paper and glanced at it.
"Hair dresser." Fraiser actually rubbed a hand over her mouth to hide a growing grin. Her eyes sparkled as she spoke. "By the way, you're going to have to pay triple the price – he's coming in on his day off. And make sure everyone gets a hefty tip – Louis Jonathon is Cassie's best friend's brother, these folks are doing this as a favor to her."
"Hair dresser? What's wrong with a barber?"
"Honey, this is way out of a barber's league." She winked at Carter before moving away. To Jack's surprise, Fraiser stopped next to him and leaned down to whisper in his ear. "For this, I want pictures."
"Janet, you told them exactly what we needed?" Jacob had the same glint in his eyes as he looked over at Daniel, who was still staring at the paper in his hand.
"Yes, sir. Like I said, it'll cost you, but they are very good at what they do."
"Okay, fine." Daniel pocketed the slip of paper and looked at Fraiser. "Thanks for the early appointment. I won't end up wasting time and we can—"
Fraiser and Carter both started laughing, Fraiser so much so that she began waving a hand in front of her face, trying to get control. "Sorry," she gasped, her face red.
"You'll be there a couple of hours," Jacob said with the air of someone who knew about hair salons.
"Actually, plan on being there most of the day," Carter corrected. Both women burst out laughing even harder at the look on Daniel's face. He turned to Jack, as if expecting help from him. All Jack could do was shrug. He remembered Sara going to the salon and coming back a couple of hours later, looking more or less the same as before she went except that her hair was maybe a little shorter and maybe a little blonder.
Jacob took a small bag out of a pocket and tossed it at Daniel, who batted it awkwardly. The pouch landed on the table with a tinkle and a thud. "You give that to Louis Jonathan, he'll know what to do with it."
Daniel opened the pouch and peered inside. His face grew perplexed as he poured the pouch's contents into his palm. Tiny glass beads of varying colors and gold trinkets vied for brilliance. "What are these for?"
"You'll see tomorrow." The look of mischievousness on Jacob's face matched those of the women. Biting back his grin, Jacob straightened and waved a hand at the papers they'd spent the afternoon studying. "So that it's not a complete waste of time, bring a copy of all of this with you and study it tomorrow while you're at the beauty parlour. That'll give me a chance to get some stuff we'll need and get my hands on a tel'tak."
"We're not going by Stargate?" Carter asked the question before Jack could spit it out. They'd spent two hours going over things and Jacob left out this small detail?
"The 'gate's under Lysander's guard."
Lysander, being the one who was questioning Kallisto authority to hold her grandfather's lands, was their main problem. He'd taken over many small holdings and his power had swelled. If the ceremony didn't convince him of the granddaughter's authenticity, she'd probably have a war on her hands and the loss of her sovereignty, not to mention a possible Goa'uld breathing down her people's necks.
"One last thing." Jacob took the time to look at everyone, waiting until Daniel stopped playing with the trinkets and slipped them back into the pouch. "Does anyone know how to use swords?"
"I'm guessing you mean formal training rather than taking a pointy stick and trying to stab someone with it." Jack turned towards Daniel, waiting for him to answer yes. To his surprise, Daniel remained quiet, while Carter shrugged.
"You have swords."
Daniel made a small face that involved rolling of eyes. "Yeah, they're hanging on the wall in my apartment."
Jack made a rolling motion with his hand, waiting for Daniel to elaborate. It took a second before Daniel's eyes widened.
"I have swords hanging on my wall. Ceremonial swords. For show, Jack. Just because I own them doesn't mean I know how to use them."
Jack shrugged an apology. Somehow he'd never gotten around to asking if Daniel could use the swords; he'd assumed he'd played around with them, at least.
"I have had expertise with these weapons."
"Good." Jacob stood and moved away from the chair. "Teal'c, you're appointed their instructor. You have the next two days to teach everyone everything you know."
"Two days?" Daniel exclaimed. "Jacob, if we're going into a situation where we might have to defend ourselves with swords, two days isn't enough! These people probably have been training with swords since they were kids."
"Which is why you're going to go in armed with zats as well as knives. The swords are for show only, but if you need to draw one, I want to make sure you at least know which end is the pointy one."
Jack kept quiet, rubbing his hand over his chin, knowing what Jacob had said was true.
"GeneralHammond." Everyone turned to look at Teal'c. "MasterSergeantSiler also has expertise with blades – I have trained with him several—"
The words slipped out even before Jack realized he'd said them. "Siler? Our Siler? Siler of the magical wrench? He plays with swords?" Teal'c merely raised an eyebrow in Jack's direction while Hammond gave him an impatient look. Jack immediately glanced down at his hands and tapped his index finger on the table.
"With your permission, perhaps SergeantSiler could be reassigned for the time required. While I am totally capable of instructing you, his assistance would be invaluable in the short time we have."
"I'll have him meet you first thing in the morning, Teal'c."
In reply, Teal'c inclined his head at Hammond.
"I think we've more or less gone over everything, for the time being. I'll be back in two days." Jacob moved away from the table and nodded at everyone.
"I'll walk you out." Carter stood and followed her father out the door.
Jack suddenly had a horrible thought. "Jacob." He pointed at himself when the Tok'ra turned towards him at the door. "I don't need to..." He raised his hand to his hair and pulled a few strands.
"No, Jack." Jacob was smiling again. "We're old. We get to go with dignity."
"Hey, who you callin' old?" Jack yelled as Jacob disappeared through the door. He paused a minute and rubbed his hands, glancing sideways at Daniel. "Okay, anybody know where we can get our hands on some swords so we can go poke holes in one another?"
- - - - - -
The beer would have gone down better if Jack's hands and arms weren't so stiff and sore. Still he wrapped his fingers around the bottle, the tendons in his right hand and forearm throbbing from the hours of holding a sword and endlessly practicing as per Teal'c's instructions. The chill and dampness of the bottle helped the ache, and he kept hold of it once he'd drunk deeply, wondering where the hell Daniel was.
His appointment had been early this morning. Daniel had been gone more than twelve hours now. Jack was just about ready to call Fraiser and ask for the salon's phone number, when the familiar purr of Daniel's Mustang pulled into the driveway.
Taking a quick chug of beer, Jack climbed slowly up the stairs; calves and thigh muscles twanging, reminding him he wasn't as young as he used to be. His only consolation was remembering Carter's groans of discomfort when she'd left the mountain; he wasn't the only one who was feeling the unaccustomed exercise.
Daniel would be getting a private lesson with Teal'c tomorrow, to make up for what he'd missed today. Not that it would make that much difference in the long run. They sucked. Royally.
Before Jack could open the door, it swung open and Daniel stomped into the house. What he saw stopped him cold – it wasn't the look of anger on Daniel's face, it was the mass of long, tiny braids that surrounded his head, sweeping down past his shoulders, each plaited strand ending in delicate bits of colored glass or gold. The adornments tinkled as he moved, only adding to the oddness of the look.
"Do you have any idea what I've just been through?" Daniel shoved a bundle of papers into Jack's chest and pushed past him, heading for the kitchen.
Jack stood frozen, one hand holding the envelope to his chest, his gaze mesmerized by the shifting braids, until Daniel entered the dining area. By the time Jack followed, Daniel had his head buried in the fridge. He came up with a bottle of beer.
"I had to sit there for twelve hours while two persons weaved someone else's hair into mine, and a third and fourth plaited all these tiny strands into braids. I paid good money for this shit – Jacob owes me, big time." He twisted the cap off the bottle of beer and threw it, hard, into the sink. "Twelve hours, sitting, not being able to move, barely able to even look at any of that." Daniel waved a hand towards the envelope, which Jack tossed onto the table.
The more Jack looked, the harder his dick responded. For some reason he'd always thought braids looked effeminate on men, but on Daniel, it was just the opposite. His cheekbones were more prominent and the light color of the hair highlighted his blue eyes. The way Daniel's eyes were flashing in anger actually made him look fierce, even with the glasses.
"And if this wasn't bad enough—" Daniel grabbed a handful of braids and pulled on them – "they had to bleach everything, including my eyebrows!" He upended the opened bottle into his mouth and drank half of it down, his eyes glued to Jack's, as if daring him to laugh or say something sarcastic.
He pulled the bottle back with a noisy exhalation. "Sam and Janet knew – they could at least have warned me. I couldn't even leave to go eat; they'd barely let me get up to pee! At least they were good enough to bring me some lunch and supper." He took another long drink, nearly emptying the bottle. "How the hell do women stand to do this to themselves? Why would they want to in the first place?" He swept back several strands that fell into his face, then glared at Jack again. "The damn things are heavy, my scalp hurts." He thrust fingers into the plaits and began massaging his head. He turned his back to Jack, finished the beer, and slammed the empty onto the counter before heading for the fridge to get a second.
Jack took the opportunity to move closer. He placed his forgotten bottle of beer onto the table, next to the envelope and approached Daniel, so that when Daniel straightened and turned, he was looking directly into Jack's eyes.
"I like it," Jack breathed softly as he picked up a braid that had fallen against Daniel's cheek. He fingered it; the plaits looked delicate and fine, soft beneath his fingers, but as he tugged gently he felt the strength of the interwoven hairs. He shifted his gaze from the plait to Daniel's face.
Daniel was looking at him, eyes wide, mouth agape, suddenly breathing hard. Jack pushed the lock back and palmed a handful of strands as he cupped Daniel's nape before pulling him closer. He leaned in and kissed Daniel, who responded by thrusting his tongue inside Jack's mouth. Jack could taste garlic from the remnants of Daniel's supper as he answered Daniel's ardour.
Daniel mimicked Jack's hold, pulling him closer as his fingers curled around the back of Jack's neck. His other hand slid down his back and cupped his ass. Jack leaned in closer, until something cold and damp permeated through his thin sweats.
Jack yelped as he jumped back in annoyance, then glared at the unopened bottle of beer hanging loosely in Daniel's hand. Daniel grinned apologetically, and without taking his eyes off Jack, placed the bottle onto the counter. Jack grinned back and without a word, cocked his finger in a "come here" motion. When Daniel prowled towards him, Jack grabbed a handful of hair, careful not to pull as he remembered Daniel's complaint about a sore scalp. They resumed their kiss, lips and tongue and teeth mashing and thrusting, breaths intermingled with sighs and groans.
The thought of Daniel lying before him, braids spread out on the pillow had Jack pulling away. Without a word, he led the way to the bedroom.
- - - - - -
Daniel's slow, even breathing reminded Jack of a cat. All that was missing was the throaty purr. Jack smiled gently as he continued to play with the mass of braids spread out over his chest.
"Don't get too attached to them, they're being chopped off the moment this mission is over."
Jack sighed. "I know." He picked up a plait that had a small, golden ball attached at the end and played the ends of hair that stuck out of it across his nipple. Daniel pushed the plait away and with his fingers, gently teased the hardening nub.
"You're going to give me a complex; here I thought you loved me for my wit and good looks and instead it's somebody else's hair that's turning you on."
"No, it's you wearing the hair that's turning me on. You have no idea how hot you look." Jack reached and grabbed Daniel's hand and brought the fingers to his mouth for a quick kiss. "Oh, that reminds me, Janet wants pictures."
"Now?" Daniel raised his head in alarm and looked down at their intertwined bodies.
Jack laughed softly. "Nah. Tomorrow'll do."
"Good. Because right now I need to take a shower." As Daniel pushed away, Jack reached a hand and caught his arm.
"Shower tonight and tomorrow, but that'll be it until we get back. Minimal washing from now on. Jacob wants us to not only look the part, but to smell the part."
"You're kidding!" Daniel sighed and rolled over until he was sitting on the edge of the bed. "I guess I'll need to wash my hair; I can still smell the chemicals."
"Baby shampoo. Nothing with a strong scent."
"So I guess that means no cologne, no scented soap and, ugh, no deodorant?"
"Got it in one."
"Ah well, at least our own stench will help us acclimatize before we get to the planet."
Jack grinned. If Daniel was in for the same kind of workout tomorrow Jack and Carter got today, Daniel would be clearing the corridors on his way home tomorrow night.
Daniel stood and irritably pushed back a handful of strands that had fallen into his eyes. "Damn, I need to find something to tie this with otherwise it's going to drive me crazy."
"There're some old shoelaces on top of the dresser. Use that for now. We'll get a strip of leather or something tomorrow."
Daniel stood and padded to the dresser and rooted around until he found the laces. He drew the braids into a ponytail and quickly tied it off, Jack enjoying the view from where he lazily lay in the bed. Daniel moved to the door, stopped, and turned around.
"Well, aren't you going to come help me wash my hair?"
Sheets and blankets flying, Jack was running before he hit the floor.
- - - - - -
With a loud sigh of relief, Daniel lowered the sword and knife and leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. He was breathing heavily, perspiration had long since soaked his sweats, leaving them clinging uncomfortably to his body. Teal'c had put him through several hours of practice that promised to leave him aching and stiff tomorrow. But at least he had an idea on how to handle a sword and care for one, although most likely the people of Keacien started swordplay early and a child would have better technique than him.
After a moment he straightened and eyed Teal'c, who had put his sword away. Daniel walked over to his scabbard which he'd left on a bench, out of the way, and slid the sword home. He did the same with the stiletto he held in his left hand, then shook out both hands before slipping them beneath his braids and rubbing the back of his neck.
The sound of metal striking metal still rang in the room, and Daniel finally turned to watch Sam and Jack carefully strike at each other, nearly in slow motion. He'd been concentrating solely on Teal'c the past hours that he really hadn't had much of a chance to view their training except for an occasional flash from the corner of his eye. Siler was standing out of reach of the swords, slowly following their progress as they moved in a slow waltz around the room, giving advice occasionally or stopping to correct one or the other.
Daniel shook his head and glanced at Teal'c. "We're never going to be proficient enough to even dare pull our swords out at the first sign of trouble."
"That's true, Danny."
Daniel turned around in surprise as he heard Jacob's voice behind him. He hadn't been aware of anybody watching; although a few SG team members had stopped throughout the day to watch and offer comments. The sound of swordplay ceased, replaced by heavy breathing.
Jacob was grinning at Daniel. He dropped the large bag he'd been carrying and approached. An airman had followed Jacob in and placed another bag next to Jacob's, looking at them curiously before taking his leave.
Jacob's gaze was on Daniel's hair, which he'd tied back in a long ponytail. Jacob reached behind and tugged on the shoelace. The braids fell free, immediately swinging forward and into his face. "Nice job," Jacob said as he grabbed a handful and examined the handiwork. Somehow, with Jacob's hand in his hair, Daniel couldn't help but glance over at Jack, who was watching them with a little grin on his face. Apparently he remembered last night as vividly as Daniel did.
It was with relief when Jacob let go of him; certain parts of his body was remembering Jack's interest in his new hair and the last thing he wanted was for Jacob to get the wrong idea. He forced his attention back to Jacob, who had walked over to the bags he'd dropped and picked up a scabbard.
"This sword is from Keacien; actually it belonged to Theron, and it, along with the medallion, will be the focal point to our mission." He turned it sideways, showing the fancy etchings on the blade itself. Daniel leaned closer, intrigued with the seven glyphs which had been carved into the steel. It was, without a doubt, a 'gate address.
"Keacien?" Daniel asked as he ran a finger lightly across the design.
"Yes. And see?" He turned it so Daniel could see the pommel, where his hand had been grasping it. An engraving of Earth's glyph was clearly apparent. A clear blue gem decorated the pommel's tip. He raised the sword and handed it to Daniel. "You'll be carrying this. Except I don't want you to draw it until the time is right."
As Daniel carefully took the sword from him, Jacob spoke to all of them. "Actually, the only ones to draw a sword, either in offence or defence, are me and Teal'c. None of you can get away with it; you clearly don't have the skill, which would take years to gain. And in any case, you don't have the scars and calluses to go with having learned swordplay at a young age."
Daniel glanced up at Jacob and nodded. "Yeah, I know. We'd have amassed a ton of scars on our hands and arms."
"So what are we expected to do? Hope nobody gets violent?" Jack leaned back against the wall in obvious frustration and crossed his arms.
"You get to carry knives as well as the swords, as many knives as you're comfortable carrying and using; the swords are only for show. One look at you and everyone will know they're only decorative. All of you will be considered Daniel's bodyguards, but Teal'c and I will actually use our swords if we have to."
Without a word, Jacob took two steps forward and grabbed the sword Daniel had placed on the table a few minutes earlier. He pulled it easily from its scabbard and lunged towards Daniel with it, only to be stopped by Teal'c in a move that had been so fluid that none of them had seen the sword move until it came to a stop, blocking Jacob's.
Daniel stood there, the sword from Keacien held numbly in his hands as he realized if this had been an assassination attempt, he could have died very easily had Teal'c's reflexes not been so quick. Then he realized that if Jacob had misjudged Teal'c, he'd have been dead anyways. And Jacob had moved so fast, had looked so comfortable swinging that sword... a comfort neither Daniel nor Jack, or Sam, would achieve without months, if not years, of practice.
He couldn't help looking at Jack, whose face had gone pale. Daniel swallowed loudly, the two sword points still inches from his neck. "Jack, no offence? But I think I want Teal'c and Jacob to be my bodyguards."
"Dad, since when did you—"
Jacob's eyes glowed as he inclined his head before Teal'c.
"Oh," Sam simply said when it was obvious Selmak had been the one in control of the sword. She gave Daniel a shaky smile as she moved past him to put her sword away. She stopped suddenly and gave the sword in Daniel's hand a hard look. She reached out with a finger and touched the blade.
"Dad, is this...?"
"Trinnium? Yes. And given the fact that Keacien has no technology, it makes the sword even that more valuable. Virtually invincible, it's the only one of its kind."
Daniel picked up the scabbard Jacob had tossed onto the table when he'd first brought the sword out and carefully sheathed the sword in it.
"I've got clothes and armour. You may as well try everything on now, in case we need to make any adjustments. Here, Daniel, this'll look more authentic than the shoelace."
Jacob tossed Daniel a string of leather, which he caught and immediately tied up his braids with.
"I've got something else that you can use for your hair. Let me show you what I brought."
The next hour was spent getting acquainted with the leather pants and tunic, along with the vest-like contraption which fit over the tunic, with bits of metal sewn onto it to act as chain mail. A fitted breastplate went on front and back. It was probably lighter than simple chain mail but was still uncomfortable to wear. Added to that were bracers and gauntlets to protect wrists and arms.
Daniel could see immediately that his clothes were of better quality than the rest. He fingered the metal on his costume and suspected it was also made of trinnium. The leather was soft and supple and fit almost like a worn pair of jeans. The boots, however, were uncomfortable and they finally settled for their regular boots, which were close enough in style to not be commented upon.
"Now, you can choose your weapons." Jacob hefted the bag the airman had brought in and placed it on the table. He carefully opened it up and began removing scabbards of varying sizes, all of which were wrapped in protective leather. "Daniel, of course, you have your sword. I'd suggest a couple of daggers to go along with it. These all look like authentic weapons from Keacien."
Teal'c pulled each sword out of the scabbard and quickly settled on a Scottish claymore. He moved to the far end of the room and with both hands gripping the hilt, made a few experimental sweeps with it. Then he switched to a single-handed grip, easily swinging the heavy sword.
"This will do."
Both Jack and Sam chose long, thin blades, which were katanas, according to Siler. Once they were all fitted with their getups, Jacob had them take everything off and put it back on several times so they were comfortable doing so. Daniel couldn't help smiling; they all looked like they were going to a Halloween party and the theme was "swashbuckling."
"Here, this might help keep your hair out of your eyes." Jacob had a long, thin strip of embroidered leather with a piece of soft wire weaving through it. He placed it on the crown of Daniel's head, adjusting the wire and leather until it fit snugly, almost like a coronet. And it worked wonderfully keeping his hair out of his eyes. "You can wear this for the formal function; otherwise the ponytail will do."
Jacob leaned back and studied them all critically. "Okay, that's probably the best we can do. You all have one change of clothes – keep those clean for the ceremony; what you've got on you wear to travel in. We'll leave in the morning; it'll take almost two days to fly to the planet from the nearest Stargate."
Everyone gathered their gear and began trudging out. Daniel was looking forward to a shower when Jacob called out – "Remember, water only. No soap, no shampoo, no deodorant. You need to smell like people who've been travelling for weeks."
Sam and Jack's sighs drowned out his own.
- - - - - -
Daniel paused and turned, looking up at the temple looming before him. The sun was just rising; an orange tinge was creeping into the sky, coloring the white walls of the temple.
"Don't worry, I always parked here." Jacob clapped Daniel's shoulder and urged him inside. It was a great hiding place - the tel'tak, in cloaking mode, left on the temple's large, flat stone roof, would be in no danger of accidental discovery. But Daniel was afraid that its weight might eventually bring the temple down. Not that he feared for the cargo ship; it was strong enough to withstand a slight tumble. No, he was more worried about the horrific loss of culture such an event would incur.
He stopped just inside the doorway and took in the splendour. Greenery abounded everywhere; vines and flowering plants were cascading down from the planters hanging from the roof, niches and pedestals. Offerings of food and flowers and golden trinkets lay at the foot of a mighty statue of a woman holding out a hand, either in benediction or... Well, Daniel had seen certain hands held in that position before – and it had always been painful. He concentrated instead on the wall behind her which held a huge depiction of an owl as background. He circled the statue, trying not to trip over his scabbard and noticed there were letters carved onto the pedestal, which were clearly Greek. The word read, Glaukopis.
"Anyone we know?" Jack asked as he wandered the room, hand held loosely on the hilt of his sword.
"Yeah, sort of. This is a statue of Athena, goddess of weaving, metal workings, war—"
"Goa'uld?" Jack stopped next to Daniel and stared up at the statue.
"Oh yeah," Daniel said softly. "Poets referred to her as glaukopis – actually it translates to 'bright-eyed', or 'grey-eyed'. 'Glaukos' means gleaming, or silvery, and 'ops' means eye and of course, we all know what that really reference really means."
"Do you think she might have taught the people here how to work the trinnium?" Sam was walking back and forth in front of the statue, her gaze fixed on its face. Daniel could understand why - the statue's eyes caught the faint sunlight, giving her the look of a Goa'uld. He stepped closer to the statue, examining the white stones depicting her eyes.
Daniel glanced at Jacob, who nodded. "She was a Goa'uld, all right. And no, Jack," Jacob said with a glance behind him, "she doesn't come here anymore. Actually nobody's seen her in centuries. Even Selmak, who'd met her centuries ago, doesn't know where she is."
"I thought you said you didn't know who the original Goa'uld was who ruled this world." Jack stood glaring at Jacob and Daniel frowned, recalling Jacob's words at the SGC a few days ago. Jack was right; Jacob had enticed them here with the idea of saving a people from the Goa'uld. But if she was dead...
"Well, if Lysander's looking for a Goa'uld, he'll find eventually one. So I wasn't exactly lying, I was just a little, premature." Jacob was kneeling beside a small basin on a pedestal to the right of the statue. He dug out a small copper coin, dropped it into a basket beside the basin and dipped a finger into the liquid. He smeared the liquid down one cheek. Immediately a grey, shimmery glow appeared.
"Go ahead. The mark will last about forty-eight hours; it'll prove we came this way when we get to the castle. Just to make it look authentic."
Daniel dug out a small coin and dropped it into the basket. There were a few dozen coins already inside, along with a few carved trinkets and small, colored stones. Intrigued, Daniel poked through the contents, examining each small offering before Jack nudged him. He looked around, annoyed, and realized everyone had a streak down their cheeks and were watching him.
"Sorry." He dipped a finger in the lukewarm liquid, smeared it on his cheek, then wiped his finger on his pants. With a lingering look around the room, he followed Jacob out and they began walking towards the castle.
All of them were carrying sacks which held a few pieces of clothing, a somewhat dirty and smelly blanket and some food along with a whetstone and oiled cloth for their weapons, and a couple of other odds and ends, like the harsh lye soap the villagers used to wash with. Daniel smiled when he recalled Jacob landing the tel'tak on the other side of the continent to trade for most of their belongings. And they had a complete first aid kit and drugs, locked up in a strongbox so that nobody could accidentally discover it should they go through their belongings.
The aim was to look like they'd been walking for days; with the dust on the trail, by the time they arrived at the castle tomorrow morning, they'd certainly look the part.
"One thing I didn't mention yet." They were walking two by two, with Jacob in the lead beside Jack, Sam with Daniel and Teal'c bringing up the rear. "It's probably best that Daniel makes it clear from the start that he's involved with someone; otherwise the priests will almost certainly insist you wed Kallisto to add more weight to her reign."
"Nice of you to mention that now," Jack groused, turning his head to glare at Jacob, "considering your daughter's the only female on the team. If we'd had a bit of warning we could have recruited some other female SG team member to play the part."
"Well, actually, Jack, the customs here are pretty lax about who a man or woman marries. They won't bat an eyelid at same sex couples."
Daniel stared in amazement at the back of Jack's neck, which was slowly growing red.
"So you're saying I should tell everyone that Teal'c and I are married?" Daniel asked with a wink in Sam's direction. He wondered if Jacob knew about them and was baiting Jack, or if this was really said in innocence. With Jacob, one never really knew.
She grinned back at him when Jacob replied, "Actually it's too bad he's considered a slave; it would have been the perfect arrangement – your own bodyguard twenty-four hours a day. No, I guess you'll have to choose someone else."
"It is unfortunate," Teal'c said from behind Daniel. "I would be immensely honoured to play the part of DanielJackson's love interest."
Jack's only answer was to turn and glare at Teal'c. He nearly tripped on a root and quickly faced forward again.
"And don't look at me." Jacob turned to grin at Daniel for a moment. He was obviously enjoying this as much as Sam was. "I'm too old for you and they'll know right away that it's a setup."
"So... that leaves me and the colonel." Sam was trying so hard not to laugh that her words came out muffled. Daniel suspected that Jacob did know about him and Jack and that Sam knew he did.
"He knows?" Daniel mouthed at Sam. Still grinning, she nodded.
"What about the age thing?"
Daniel thought Jack almost sounded worried as he rubbed at his greying hair.
"Maybe I should have colored my hair before left. If Daniel can get braids—"
"Don't worry." Daniel took a couple of quick paces so that he could reach up and pat Jack's back. "You look fine, grey hair and all."
"Well, Jacob, considering we wouldn't want to ruin the major's reputation, I think it might be best if Daniel and I..." Jack rubbed his face in embarrassment before going on. "You know... come out and play the part of a married couple."
"You okay with a few public hugs? Kisses? Tender touches? Because these folks are tactile and don't think twice about public displays. Oh, I don't mean orgies or anything like that," Jacob said at Jack's small sound of dismay, "but they do expect signs of affection."
"Yeah, that'll be fine."
"Great. Then you two can put these on and show the world you're a happily married couple." Jacob stopped walking and dug into his pack and pulled out a small packet wrapped in a piece of cloth. He peeled the cloth back and exposed two spiral pieces of golden metal, engraved with small pictures of birds. He handed Jack and Daniel one each. "Put them on your left arms. That shows everyone your mate is a man. On the right means a woman."
Daniel removed the bracer and gauntlet, and slid the metal coils up onto his bicep. He needed to stretch it and adjust it until it fit snugly. He watched as Jack did the same, the gold gleaming against his skin.
"You do know that you two are now legally married, here, on this planet."
"Oh, come on," Jack began. But Jacob shook his head.
"That's all that's required for a marriage. Buy the matching armbands and put them on in front of witnesses."
"Congratulations, O'Neill, DanielJackson." Teal'c placed a hand across his chest and bowed regally. "I am privileged to have witnessed such a wondrous event."
"Jacob, for crying out loud, this isn't even funny." Jack placed a hand on his armband and looked like he was ready to pull it off.
Jacob immediately turned serious and shook his head. "Enjoy it, Jack. This might be the only time you and Daniel can actually freely show that kind of affection for each other."
"What?" Jack turned to Daniel in shock before rounding on Sam. "Did you tell him?"
Carter shook her head, unphased at Jack's anger. "No sir, I didn't. And congratulations, you two."
"Don't take it out on Sam. Blame Selmak if you want to make accusations. He saw what was between you and Daniel long before I did. I just asked Sam last night for confirmation so I could buy the proper size marriage bands."
Jacob turned and started walking and Sam hurried to catch up with him, leaving Jack and Daniel to walk together. Daniel simply adjusted his bracer, moved his scabbard from between his knees and started walking. A few seconds later, Jack jogged to catch up and they walked silently together, each taking turns glancing at their own and one another's marriage bands.
- - - - - -
Jack stood back and watched the inn's patrons, looking for any potential threat. Most of the folks sitting at benches and tables had merely looked up at their entrance and went back to their drinking and talking. A couple eyed Daniel's finery for longer than Jack felt comfortable, and those were the ones he was keeping an eye out for. Including the hulk of a man who kept staring at Carter.
"Okay, we got two rooms, but it'll take a couple of minutes for the innkeeper to organize things."
"You mean, like change the beds?" Jack kept his hand away from his sword, wishing instead he had his P90 strapped to his chest.
"No, more like throwing the patrons out since I offered triple the price and told the innkeeper who we were. The place is pretty packed, most of them coming from all over in anticipation of the news."
"Is that why there's so many people on the road?" Carter was trying to ignore the staring guy, and she had no qualms about placing her hands on her sheathed knife at her belt.
"Most likely. I wish I knew how the people felt about Kallisto and Lysander. After we get our rooms settled, Teal'c and I can come back down here and try and talk to the patrons."
"Jacob, we can all—"
"Dad, I can—"
Jacob put a hand out, stopping both Jack and Carter's objections as the innkeeper hurried towards them. When Jacob stepped away from them to go talk to him, Jack decided now was as good as ever a time. He moved to a table where three chairs were free and pulled one up. Immediately Daniel and Teal'c joined him, while Carter stayed with Jacob.
"Ale," Jack told the waitress when she hurried over to them. Jack pulled out three small coins, which he'd seen another patron use to pay for the beer, and pushed them towards her. She smiled, pocketed the coins and hurried away. Jack could feel Jacob glaring at him across the room and pointedly ignored him. He turned to the man sitting next to him.
"So, you come here often or are you just passing through?"
- - - - - -
This was the sixth pub they'd gone to and Jack figured it would be the last. It was getting late and although they'd all nursed their drinks over the past four hours, they'd more or less gotten the same reactions from everyone they'd spoken to.
Nightlife was just starting up; there were musicians playing, patrons were singing and everyone in the pub had a pretty good buzz going on. Still Jack's people didn't fail in catching attention as they walked in; including three tables' worth of men and women, dressed in armour similar to what Jack's small group was wearing.
"Jacob?" Jack said softly while Daniel and Carter went to order drinks, Teal'c following behind Daniel not so discreetly.
The man stepped closer and despite the fact that he was still unhappy with Jack, this time his comment wasn't terse and sarcastic like it'd been in every other pub they'd gone to.
"Bodyguards to some other Warlord, most likely," Jacob said in an equally soft voice which wouldn't carry over the clamour of the room. "Just try and stay out of trouble."
"Right." Jack glared back at thin-faced man who hadn't taken his eyes off him since the moment they'd stepped inside. Then he turned his back on the table full of warriors, and went up to the bar to join Daniel, grabbing one of the beers he'd ordered and leaned back against the wall.
Talking would be difficult until the musicians took a break; and from the tray of drinks one of the waitresses was placing on a table before them, he suspected it wouldn't be long.
He glanced back at the thin-faced man and was suddenly alarmed when he noticed the chair he'd been sitting on was empty.
"Care to join us, friend?"
Startled, Jack turned to see the man standing next to him. He motioned towards the table with his head, then looked at Jack's team, including them in the invitation. Jack took a slow sip of ale and pushed off the bar with his heel. He let Daniel precede him and waited a moment while a few of the men and women gave up their chairs. Making sure he stayed next to Daniel, he sat and then pushed his chair closer so that their thighs and shoulders were touching.
Although gathering intel was usually a long, boring process, he had to admit that a part of him had enjoyed this evening. He'd gotten a chance to actually touch Daniel in ways that they'd always kept private, and that in itself felt immensely erotic.
Teal'c didn't sit; he always preferred standing two feet away from Daniel. There'd be little room for him to swing his claymore in such a crowded room if a problem arose, but with the small arsenal of knives he had secreted on himself, Jack was pretty sure he'd do almost as much damage as if he'd brought his staff weapon along.
Carter, to his surprise, approached by two of the women, chose to sit at one of the other tables, already caught up in conversation. Jacob was sitting across from Jack, between Daniel and his daughter. The music had stopped, and Jack listened to the people around him.
"... Lysander has no right to question Lady Kallisto's rule."
"... Many believe he wants the power for himself."
"... Not for the good of the people. Should Lady Kallisto be unable to prove her sovereignty, there will be conflict.
"... Take sides now, before the summit."
"... Treason. Many innocents will be killed."
"... Fight for Lady Kallisto, no matter what."
"... Lysander's army is camped near the Chaapa'ai."
"... Threatens the peace."
Jack allowed the words to flow over him. Although he'd discovered the majority of the people believed in Kallisto's rule, it was interesting to note that most of the aristocrats of the surrounding area also believed she was the best person for the task, and not necessarily through blood right. None had truly mentioned the Goa'uld, although the few comments he'd heard had been laced with trepidation.
Daniel squirmed on his seat, moving awkwardly as the sword caught in the chair's legs. He shifted it impatiently, manoeuvring it so it hung clear. Suddenly there was silence around the table, and all eyes were on the blue gem now clearly visible on the top of the sword's pommel.
The cessation of conversation at the table led to stillness at the other tables next to them. All turned to see what was happening, although only those close to Daniel could actually see the sword.
"Daniel, show them." Jacob's spoke the command softly.
Daniel, as coached earlier, unsheathed the sword only far enough that the Earth's glyph was apparent on the hilt. There were collective gasps around the table as whispers quickly informed those who weren't able to see the symbol. After several seconds, Daniel thrust the sword back in all the way.
"By the goddess, he is the one."
The thin faced man was staring at Daniel in awe. "We had heard you were coming; I cannot believe that fate has led me to you. Please, allow us the privilege of escorting you to Ithaka."
One of the women stood, hands laid flat on the table as she leaned forward. "How do we know he is the true messenger? Many have attempted to trick Lady Kallisto. For all we know, he is another charlatan and he and his friends seek to make a fool of you, my Lord Diokles."
Jack raised an eyebrow at the use of title. The thin faced man was dressed as plainly as his men; apparently he didn't go around looking for attention. Then again, it was likely the people around here either knew him by sight or recognized the small coat of arms that had been beaten onto his and his men's armour.
"The sword isn't a fake." Jacob motioned to Daniel again, and he pulled the sword back out of the sheath so that Diokles was able to lean closer to it and examine the workmanship.
"If it is a fake, it is cleverly made." Diokles touched a finger to the glyph, then grinned up at Daniel, looking him over in a way that made Jack's hair stand on end. "I will take the chance that you are here only in the best interests of Lady Kallisto. My offer of an escort stands. You have a room here at the inn?"
"We have a room, but not at this place, no." Jack reached out and rubbed Daniel's arm, playing a finger along his wedding band. He didn't miss how Diokles' eyes traced the band and then found the matching one on Jack's arm.
Diokles smiled, and to Jack's surprise, the action reached in his eyes.
"I assure you," Jacob said, "we have nothing but Kallisto's welfare in mind. Our Lord has been the safe keeper of the Theron's heirlooms and came as quickly as he could when he heard of Lysander contesting her rule. We have travelled long and hard and are relieved to be so close to our destination. We thank you for your offer of escort."
"If I may ask, how did you come into possession of the... heirlooms? It was thought they had been lost when Lord Myron's mother abandoned her—" At Daniel's raised eyebrows, Diokles added, "Lord Myron is Lady Kallisto's father. His mother left Lord Theron when their child was but two years of age."
"Don't speak harshly about things you don't know about." Jacob's voice was curt and threatening. Suddenly Jack realized this wasn't Jacob speaking; it was Selmak. Daniel seemed to notice it, too, because he gave Jack a quick, concerned glance.
"My apologies if I offend, but everyone knows how much Lord Theron loved his lady. My own father recalls visiting as a child and seeing little Myron crying for his mother. The boy grew up to be a strong leader; his father taught him well. But I cannot imagine a mother abandoning a boy and leaving with the two items that would ensure his and his descendents' rule in the future."
Selmak leaned towards Diokles; his eyes weren't glowing but there was controlled rage expressed there. "And did your father recall the intrigue of the time? How Lord Theron had been attacked by his own cousin? Only to be saved by the intervention of his lady? How young Myron had been abducted and held for ransom for the sword and key?"
Diokles swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down. "Those stories are known only to a few; the one of Myron being abducted is more of a myth among the nobles than fact."
Selmak lowered his head, and when his visage came back up, there was more calm reflected there, tempered by Jacob's intervention. "Oh, it's fact, all right. It's also the reason why Theron's lady left, along with the heirlooms. Theron's rule was solid, they weren't needed at the time."
"So Lady Saroosh did not leave her husband and child willingly?"
Jack felt Daniel start beside him. It took a few seconds for the name to connect and then Jack realized that Selmak's former host was the grandmother of the woman they were coming to help.
"As I said, the heirlooms were removed for safe keeping, to be returned if there was ever the need. The need is now, the items are being returned."
"Then we shall meet you in the morning. Name the time and place, and we will be there. Lysander's men are everywhere and there is safety in numbers, especially if he catches wind of who you truly are." Diokles gazed across the room, his eyes suddenly darting here and there amongst the patrons as if searching for assassins.
Jacob made the arrangements and stood, then bowed to Daniel, waiting for him to rise so they could leave. Daniel, a little slow on the uptake, which might have been Jack's fault because he was still tracing the coils of the band on his arm, rose and nodded at Diokles. "Tomorrow morning, then."
Jack stood more slowly, allowing Daniel time to precede him. He allowed Teal'c to follow directly behind, and then followed last.
Two of Diokles' men accompanied them, and Sam lagged behind to talk with them. Escorts and bodyguards, most likely. He had no doubt they could best him with the swords they carried; they also were wiry and well muscled and he could see more scars on their exposed skin than he himself carried. He hadn't seen them fight but he was glad they were on his side. He suddenly felt exposed without his P90; at least he had his zat hidden on him.
Daniel was quiet, and had been since Jacob's revelation. Carter kept glancing at her father's back, who was walking ahead of them. By rights the ruler here was of Saroosh's family but it also meant that Selmak felt a kinship with her, which meant that Jacob probably felt a connection, too. Jack just hoped the whole mission didn't go down into some weird family stuff that might also affect Carter.
It was with relief when they entered the privacy of their rooms. Jacob and Carter were going to share together, with Teal'c doing his kelno'reem thing just inside their door, in his role of bodyguard. Anyone trying to get to Daniel, would have to go through Teal'c first, then Jack.
- - - - - -
"I can't imagine how Jacob feels," Daniel whispered. "It has to be difficult; remembering the pain Saroosh experienced through his link with Selmak."
"It's a memory, Daniel." Jack's breath tickled his cheek. "It's not like it happened to Jacob. And it was over a hundred years ago. Go to sleep."
Legs and arms intertwined, the two of them were making the most of the freedom they had here on the planet. Sex was out of the question with Teal'c in the room but there was no reason why they couldn't cuddle. Daniel opened an eye and peeked past Jack's chest at Teal'c, who was sitting comfortably, his back against the wall, a couple of candles burning brightly nearby.
He blinked; it always felt odd having clear vision when he wore his contact lenses to bed. Maybe he should wear them more often, just to get used to the novelty.
He yawned, then gave a happy sigh when Jack reached fingers into his scalp and began to massage gently. The weight and tightness of his hair was a constant thing and the sensitivity was bothering him. He nuzzled closer and relaxed into Jack's touch.
- - - - - -
Daniel came awake instantly, raising his head at the same time as Jack to look at Teal'c, who was standing by the door. He blinked at the stickiness of his eyes, wishing he could have brought lubricating drops for his contacts.
"Diokles awaits outside the door."
"Shit." The sheets were thrown off their bodies and Daniel got a fuzzy glimpse of bare ass as Jack's sleeping shirt had risen up past his hips while he'd slept. The shirt fell down to cover his thighs as he walked away from the bed. When he realized Jack was heading for the door, Daniel quickly left the bed, feeling cool air on hips and groin before his own nightshirt slid into place.
The sun hadn't risen yet, the slight easing of darkness in the east just a promise of daylight. Blinking moisture into his eyes, his contact lenses settled and his vision cleared just as Jack opened the door. Diokles looked inside, saw Daniel still standing near the bed, and grinned.
"Lysander's men have entered the village. I thought it best to come here directly and warn you. Perhaps..." Diokles words faded into silence as Daniel approached, his gaze on the medallion hanging from his neck by a gold chain. "By the goddess..."
Maybe he hadn't truly believed they were who they said they were last night, but seeing the Stargate symbol against Daniel's skin seemed to have convinced Diokles. For a moment Daniel thought the man was going to drop on his knees in worship. But he seemed to get control of himself and gave Daniel a shaky smile just as the door on the opposite side of the hallway opened, and Jacob and Sam stepped out.
"Traveling with my party, you will not gather attention to yourselves as you would in a party of five. I am honoured the goddess deemed me worthy to be the one to escort you."
"Ahh, yes, the goddess works in mysterious ways," Jack said, looking uncomfortable in his nightshirt, considering Jacob and Sam were already dressed. "Look, we'll just get dressed and meet you all downstairs?"
"I have taken the liberty of ordering breakfast. You will join us?"
"Give us a few minutes." Jack began closing the door and Daniel turned to gather his clothes. He could hear Jacob and Diokles talking in the hallway as he pulled the sleeping shirt off. The smell of old sweat already permeated the rough cotton underclothes he'd worn yesterday and he wrinkled his nose as he threw them onto the bed. He waited a moment while Jack poured water from a ewer into a bowl and splashed it over his face and torso, rubbing at his armpits before using the sheet to wipe off.
Daniel used the same water; if nothing else it was refreshing enough to chase the last of the cobwebs away. He dressed quickly, slid his armour on and strapped his scabbard to his hip. Once he'd stuffed his sleeping shirt into his bag, he looked around to make sure they weren't leaving anything behind.
- - - - - -
Daniel sat hunched over his third mug of coffee, and Jack silently thanked whichever descendent of these people who'd had the forethought to bring coffee beans with them when transplanted to this planet centuries ago. Jack sipped his own strong brew as he watched as some of Diokles' men entered the inn. They stayed near the door while one came to the table to report.
"Lysander has arrived. He must have received word that he is here." The man quickly looked at Daniel, then his eyes fell towards the sword strapped to his waist. "He is searching for him now."
"Someone must have heard us at the inn last night, or seen the stone."
"Time to go?" Jack ran a finger around the rim of the large mug and made a show of fishing out a piece of ground coffee bean with his index finger.
"The sun is up; it is time to leave regardless. Should we meet Lysander, allow me to speak." Diokles stood and the handful of men who'd eaten at the next table quickly pushed their chairs back and strode to the door with him.
"Daniel." When Daniel looked up at Jack's soft call, he frowned when Jack eased the bag containing his belongings to his other arm so that it would hide the sword's stone. "No use asking for trouble."
Diokles' armed men waited for them, ten strong. They quickly took positions before and behind them as Daniel strode into the street. The populace was watching them curiously, some of them bowed to Diokles; other smiled and waved. Quite a few stared openly at Daniel and suddenly Jack realized that he stood out with his finery. Maybe Jacob had made a mistake and should have gotten him plain stuff like what he and the others wore.
Or maybe he was just being paranoid. Daniel had been stared at yesterday as they met people on the road; Jack had just thought they were curious at seeing armed men walk along it. Now he thought maybe they were wondering who Daniel was, as Diokles was apparently a known persona.
As they strode out of town, Jack noticed a few warriors hanging around who hadn't been there the previous night. Oh, there had been a few of the town's militia and a couple of warriors in the various inns they'd visited, but these men were hanging about in twos and threes, watching them walk by.
"It's gonna be a long four hours to Ithaka," Jack said in an undertone to Jacob.
"We'll most likely be confronted by Lysander long before that. Probably just after we leave the city. We follow the river for a ways – Selmak says there's a perfect spot for an ambush there."
"Great." Jack rolled his eyes at the news. They walked in silence for a few more minutes. Jack kept his eyes on Daniel's back, admiring the swish of the braids as they caressed his leathers and armour. He turned to Jacob, having to take his mind off the visual. "So, how's Selmak taking the fact that he's going to see his... granddaughter? Sorta."
"To be honest, he can't wait to see her."
"He's extremely proud – leaving Saroosh's son was one of the hardest things Selmak ever did. He tried to talk Saroosh out of it but she was adamant. I guess in the long run she was right, it was the best thing for Theron's rule."
By now the path they were following was running alongside a river. Jack looked around suspiciously. He couldn't see anything out of the ordinary but knew there were most likely shortcuts that Lysander's men could have taken in order to get ahead of them. Then suddenly he saw it. The river ran alongside a cliff, large boulders strewn on either side of the cliff could easily hide a small army.
"Be alert." Diokles never slowed but pressed on, despite giving them the warning.
They were well into the trap when Lysander's men sprang up from behind the boulders. Although there were closely matched in number, several of Lysander's men had bows and arrows aimed at them. Jack kept his hand away from his sword, remembering Jacob's warning of not even trying to fight with it. He kept one hand on a knife and the other close to the zat that clipped onto his breastplate as part of the armour's design. They all had one; he just hoped they wouldn't have to use it. Or the swords and knives.
A man descended towards the path, walking the swagger of someone who knew he had the upper hand. His long, dark hair was in braids similar to Daniel's, except he didn't have the fancy end things Daniel did to close the plaits. His eyes were dark and he sported a lot of stubble and a short moustache, which he fiddled with constantly.
"Diokles. We meet again."
"Lysander. Is there a problem?"
"No. I just thought we'd come and see who your friends were." Lysander began circling the group and nodded towards Teal'c. "I never knew you to collect slaves before. Changed your outlook?" He stopped before Daniel, looking him up and down. Daniel did the same, jaw clenched as he gave him look for look. Lysander's eyes fell on the marriage band and he casually scanned the arms of the others, stopping when he found the matching band on Jack's arm.
"Found yourself a grizzled warrior to sink your manhood into, eh? What's the matter, can't find a woman you like?" He flashed white teeth at Daniel while Jack clamped his own together to stop from retorting. Lysander stepped away from Daniel to run a finger along Carter's jaw. Within seconds she had a knife in her hand and held it flat against Lysander's fingers in warning. The man's eyebrows went up and he lowered his hand, gave her a grin and stepped away. But Jack had seen the momentary surprise in the man's face; he'd obviously dismissed Carter as someone dangerous because she wasn't carrying a sword.
Jack held back a grin when the two women of Diokles' band also held up knives threateningly as he circled close to them.
"I have no problems with women," Daniel said curtly. "Obviously, you do."
Diokles and his men burst out laughing, causing Lysander's face to turn ruddy. He stomped over to Daniel and motioned to the sword hanging at his hips, partly hidden by Daniel's bag. "Pull it out."
"Why? I have no reason to fight you." Moving slowly, Daniel crossed his arms. Jack could see his fingers curling around the zat's handle.
"Because I want to see your sword. What, are you that dense?"
Daniel's eyebrows rose, causing little furrows of lines on his forehead. "It's a sword. What more is there to see? You've got one, they've all got one. Go look at theirs."
"Draw. Your. Sword." Lysander had his hand on the hilt of his sword, his knuckles white attesting to how hard he was gripping it.
"By the goddess!" Lysander roared. He pulled his sword out, swinging it towards Daniel. Before Jack could pull the zat from its hiding place, two swords reached out and blocked Lysander's swing. Teal'c's claymore and Jacob's toledo clanged loudly as the two men held their defensive stances on either side of Daniel.
Daniel held his ground, which was more than Jack could say. He'd taken two steps forward before he realized Daniel was in no danger. He took a deep breath and let it out loudly, proud that Daniel had had the courage to trust in the others to guard his life.
Jack knew short-tempered men like this. They usually didn't live to a very old age. And at this point Lysander may have thought he had the upper hand; if Jack gave the word, the tides could change very easily. And he was so tempted to unclip the zat and give these guys the shock of their lives.
But Jacob and Teal'c had things under control. Lysander attempted to swing again, only to be blocked by one or the other. Daniel stood, unflinching, as Lysander tried to reach him. Jack was pretty sure Lysander hadn't really expected to injure Daniel, only to force him to draw his sword. He probably hadn't anticipated the quick response by the Jaffa and Tok'ra.
Diokles and his men had drawn their swords but hadn't engaged Lysander's men. Diokles stood laughing softly and his men were grinning. Even Lysander's men appeared somewhat amused. The sword Lysander was swinging was badly notched, attesting to the amount of use it had gotten. And from Jack's inexperienced eye, the man appeared skilled. By now Jacob had pulled back and only Teal'c and Lysander were sparring.
"Call your slave off before I kill him!"
"Why?" Jack called out. "It doesn't look like he's in any danger."
"Teal'c," Daniel said softly. "Enough."
With a twist of his wrist, Teal'c used his word to disarm Lysander. The sword went flying, landing at Daniel's feet. He bent down and picked it up, then stepped over to hand it, hilt first, to Lysander.
The man took the sword in one hand, glaring, then grabbed the edge of Daniel's leathers with his other and pulled him closer. "This isn't over."
Daniel merely raised an eyebrow in response.
"We'll meet again at the castle. The old gods will rule once again, and you will be exposed for the charlatan you are." Thrusting his sword into his scabbard, Lysander walked past them, going back the way Jack and the others had come.
"Well, that went well," Jack announced to nobody in particular.
- - - - - -
The rest of the journey had Jack on edge; Diokles had said Lysander wouldn't bother them again, but Jack's back kept itching, expecting an arrow or knife any second. Then again, he kept telling himself it wasn't exactly Daniel who was the enemy, it was what he was carrying. They'd have to kill all of Diokles' men to get to the sword and medallion; and he wasn't sure Lysander truly believed Daniel was actually carrying the heirlooms. Hell, even Diokles hadn't been absolutely certain until this morning. This had been more of a test than anything else.
The castle loomed high up on a hill, overlooking the city of Ithaka. Diokles took them directly there, using a path that circumvented the city. The guards let them onto the grounds without any hassle; obviously Diokles was someone well known here also.
It was odd seeing Earth's glyph everywhere. Flags, armour, shields, all displayed Kallisto's crest.
Only Diokles entered the castle with them. His men waved to them as they made their way to some other part of the grounds. Once inside, Diokles spoke to a young boy, who scampered ahead of them.
They walked through the castle until they entered a small, comfortable chamber. A man wearing loose cotton pants and a tunic came to meet them. He stopped in the center of the room and bowed to Diokles.
"Lady Kallisto will see you in a moment. Please, there are refreshments." He waved towards a table where there was water, juice and some ale. There was meat and flatbread, some fruit and cheese. Jack helped himself to some bread and meat, folded the meat into the bread and began eating.
The servant must have been keeping a watch outside because the moment everyone had scarfed down their meal, he came back into the room. "Please, follow me."
The chamber he brought them in was large and luxurious. Tapestries hung on the wall, cushions adorned the chairs, expensive-looking rugs decorated the stone floor. Jack hated to walk on the rugs but realized these were for use and not for show.
Standing at the far end of the room was a young woman, in her early twenties. She was wearing a floor-length, fancy gown decorated with beads and embroidery. Her long, dark hair was piled high in a complicated set of braids and buns. All in all, the hairdo made her look top heavy. She was short and pudgy, her face spotted with a couple of blemishes. But her smile made her look like a princess and made her blue eyes shine.
"Lady Kallisto." Diokles went down on one knee before the woman. "I was blessed with the honour of happening upon Lord Daniel on my way to the castle. He is the man you were waiting for."
Kallisto looked the group over quickly, then her gaze settled on Daniel. Jacob stepped forward and bowed, causing surprise to flutter over her face. She collected herself quickly when Jacob spoke.
"Lady Kallisto. I'm Jacob Carter; I'm the one you spoke with via the long-range communicator."
"Jacob." Kallisto smiled at him. "Thank you for coming to Ithaka so quickly. The... communicator..." she stumbled over the word... "one of my grandfather's legacy, is an amazing thing to behold."
"My... father promised Saroosh that he would return the heirlooms if and when required. I stand behind my father's word." Jacob bowed his head slightly when he'd finished speaking.
"You have the sword and medallion?"
"We do. We're ready for tomorrow's ceremony."
"You have no idea how relieved I am. Lysander—"
"Will no longer be a problem after tomorrow." Diokles stepped forward and to Jack's surprise, reached out and took Kallisto by the shoulders. She looked up at him dreamily.
"This is surely an omen from the goddess. That you meet the one who is carrying my people's salvation, is opportune." She smiled at Diokles again, then seemed to remember Jack's merry little band waiting patiently.
"But please, my apologies. I will have someone escort you to your rooms so that you may rest." You must be exhausted. Jacob, do you wish to see the chapel where the ceremony will take place tomorrow?"
"Yes, please. If it's no bother."
"Of course it's not. I'll send someone after you've eaten and rested to escort you there." She wagged a finger at the servant who'd escorted them to her and he quickly left the room. She smiled at them again, and her eyes flitted over each of them until they fell onto Daniel's sword. She gave Daniel a slow nod as the servant came back in, accompanied by a woman.
"Euclid will show you to your rooms. I cannot begin to tell you how I now look forward to tomorrow's ceremony," she added with a happy sigh.
- - - - - -
"Theron explained the ceremony one day to Saroosh when she asked him about it." Selmak was walking around the chapel, examining the intricately carved altar situated beneath an enormous stained glass window. The altar sat upon a dais, where five steps led up to it. "The sword and amulet are keys, used to open a hidden chamber inside the altar which contains the instruments of sovereignty."
"Sceptre and staff?" Sam asked as she stood beneath the stained glass window.
The chapel's high ceiling caused their voices and footsteps to echo. The altar was at the far end of the enormous room, the majority of the space before the altar was open, allowing the worshipers to stand. To the right of the altar, on the dais, were two gilded chairs which Daniel suspected was for the ruler and his or her consort.
"Theron said it was something that was worn, or so his father told him. Most likely it's a crown or coronet. Actually the last person who handled it was Theron's grandfather, at his coronation. The fact that Lysander is questioning Kallisto's validity to rule Keacien is nothing more than his trying to force her hand and take the sovereignty from her."
"Ya know, I hate to bring this up." Jack leaned back on the high altar, leaning his elbows back onto it.
Somehow it felt sacrilegious to Daniel seeing Jack using the altar that way, so he hurried over to him, grabbed his armour and tugged him away from it. "Don't."
"What?" Jack looked around in confusion.
"Just don't... lean, okay?"
"Fine." Jack pulled away from Daniel's grasp and stepped away from them, looking up at the decorations on the ceiling. "But seems to me another one we might be a little suspicious about is Diokles. I mean, there was definite sparkage between him and the... what exactly is she? Queen? Princess?"
"I guess princess is a close enough guess. Tomorrow she'll be queen." Selmak walked around the altar a second time, then stopped and knelt to examine a small slit in one of the marble steps before it. "Even if they should marry, Diokles will not rule Keacien. He doesn't become ruler simply by right of marriage. The lineage is through Kallisto and the only others who can rule is through her bloodline. A child would inherit, as Kallisto did from her father. But if she dies without producing an heir, the heritage will go to a close relative. In this case, from what I could understand from the servants, Lysander is a first cousin and he's next in line if she fails to produce the crown."
"That doesn't make sense." Sam turned to look at Selmak.
"What doesn't make sense?"
"How by proving the crown is really in there seals Kallisto's rule. If by chance it's not, then who gets to rule?"
"Lysander, most likely, because Kallisto failed to safeguard it. Any other Warlord of royal blood could step up and contest his claim, but Kallisto would still be out of the running."
"Then shouldn't we at least try and open that thing tonight, just to make sure it's there?" Jack had moved back up to the altar and his shoulder and arm brushed Daniel's.
"No, Jack—" Daniel began, only to be interrupted by a familiar voice.
"That would be blasphemy." Diokles stepped out of a side door which Daniel hadn't noticed before. He had a hand on his sword, and he approached them a little stiffly. "How dare you even suggest such a thing?"
Jack thrust his hands out to his sides. "I'm sorry, I was just thinking of your girlfr— queen's... princess's... best interests."
"Diokles." Daniel hurried to his side, hoping to distract him. Thankfully the man slowed and finally stopped when Daniel reached him. "Do you have any idea what the ritual for tomorrow entails?" Without thinking Daniel reached to push his glasses up. Realizing at the last moment he was wearing contacts, he changed the movement so that he rubbed his mouth instead.
Diokles grinned at Daniel and clapped him on the back. "Kallisto believed you might require assistance. I see she was right." He walked to the front of the altar and pointed to the slit on the top step. "You walk here and draw your sword." Diokles drew his sword in a graceful move that ended only when the sword was pointing straight up. "Then you thrust the sword into the opening." Bracing the hilt with two hands, Diokles reversed his hold and plunged it towards the gap, stopping the tip just an inch above it. "You continue your thrust until it stops; if it is not the true sword of Aegis, it will shatter."
"Aegis?" Daniel asked, surprised. At Jack's raised eyebrows, Daniel quickly explained, talking fast because he wanted to hear Diokles' answer. "The Aegis is supposedly Zeus' shield which was made for him by Hephaestus—God of blacksmiths—" he added as Jack's eyebrows rose even higher. "The interesting thing is that the shield was said to have golden tassels and bore a Medusa's head in the middle. Actually some say the tassels were really..." Daniel slowed down so that the next word would make an impact... "Serpents."
"You are correct, Daniel. It is said that the sword was made from the shield of Athena, melted down and remade as it is now, and given to the first sovereign, Pankratios, to seal his rule."
"What will occur once the sword has been engaged?" Teal'c stood next to the altar, hands clasped behind his back.
"There are two more steps. A spy hole will become apparent, where the medallion must be inserted. This in turn will trigger a third, where the sword must be inserted, thusly." Holding the sword horizontally, Diokles pushed it forward, as if to thrust the hilt into something. Then he twisted it. "This will reveal the secret pocket inside the altar."
"Got that, Danny?" Jacob, who had been watching carefully from a kneeling position on the steps, looked up at Daniel.
"Yeah. I'm thinking a lot of this is for show, huh?"
"Nothing wrong with drama."
Daniel simply rolled his eyes at Jack's comment.
"What? I'm just saying."
"Fine, you take the sword and do the plunging-into-the-hole thing."
"You cannot." Diokles hurried to him and placed a hand on his arm. "You are the bearer of the sword. It must be you, and no one else."
"Don't worry, I was just teasing Jack." When Diokles relaxed, Daniel leaned over and fingered the opening on the marble step. "I keep thinking it's gonna hurt if I miss that slot."
"Remember, the sword's made of trinnium. Chances are you ram that baby hard enough, it'll make a new opening."
Daniel gave Jacob a tight smile. "I guess I better make sure my foot's not in the way, huh?"
"I wouldn't recommend it."
They all stood around a little uncertainly after that, until Diokles spoke up. "If you have finished here, Lady Kallisto asks that I give you a tour of the castle and then ask you join us in the main hall for refreshments. Many of the officials are there and she thought it you would like to be introduced."
"Ah. A party." Jack moved closer to Daniel and wrapped an arm around his shoulder. "I could eat."
- - - - - -
Daniel was getting a headache. It wasn't so much the crowd of people as it was the tension in the air. From what they'd gathered while talking to folks in the village, the commoners were all for Kallisto's rule. But right now, a power struggle was in the making, and everyone was vying for the best possible position, making deals and promises to cover their asses whatever happened the next day.
He was tired of all the speculative looks he'd been getting, the veiled comments that could be interpreted either way, and the way one or more of his team constantly dogged his every step, acting as his personal bodyguards. The food was rich and he'd only taken a few bites, enough to satisfy his hostess.
Worst of all, Lysander was here, sitting on a bench in the far corner of the room and watching him with an odd smile. Every time he met Lysander's gaze, Daniel kept feeling that the man knew something, and had an ace up his sleeve.
Daniel had caught Jack frowning in Lysander's direction a couple of times. He finally found himself relatively alone with Jack and quickly asked him what he thought.
"Dunno, but the guy's starting to get on my nerves. He hasn't taken his eyes off you since you got here."
"Something's up. He's got something planned." Lightning flashed, illuminating the room in quick, successive flares. The windows were shuttered closed against the approaching storm; huge chandeliers filled with candles flickered, causing moving shadows. Thick, oily smoke was moving down from the rafters, driven down by the gusts of wind that found their way through cracks in the casements, adding fuel to Daniel's headache. "I wish I knew what it was."
"Other than trying to assassinate you..."
"Oh gee, thanks."
"Not gonna happen. And you know, I think I'd rest a helluva lot easier if we got out of this crowd. How about going back to our rooms?"
"Please. Let's." Daniel glanced to where Kallisto and Diokles were sitting and talking, and couldn't even see them due to the mass of people surrounding them. Maybe making a quiet exit was the best way to go about it.
Jack caught Carter's eye and motioned that he and Daniel were heading to the right. She was to circle around to the right. Teal'c was watching, and Jack signalled him to circle left. Jacob got the job of watching their sixes.
They were almost to the door when Daniel caught sight of one of the small pages leaning against the wall, looking bored. He motioned him forward.
The boy came quickly, looking at Daniel curiously.
"Would it be possible for you to tell the Lady Kallisto that we're retiring for the night?"
The boy nodded, eyes huge as his gaze slid down to Daniel's sword.
"Thank you. I wouldn't want her to worry when she sees we're not in the hall."
"I'll tell her straightaway, Milord." With a last glance up at Daniel, the young boy quickly ran off towards the other end of the room.
- - - - - -
"I've got first dibs on the tub." Even before Daniel could protest, Jack slid the lock on the door shut and hurried into the small bathing chamber off of their bedroom.
"That sounds like a plan." Sam exited the communal living area and headed for her room. A moment later both Teal'c and Jacob excused themselves, so Daniel followed Jack into the bedroom.
Daniel smiled and sat down wearily on the bed. He couldn't wait to get out of the armour; a few hours was okay but by the end of the day he was aching with the unaccustomed weight. He unbuckled the chest plate and as he pulled it away, a long, golden chain fell to the floor.
For a moment Daniel stood there staring at it, not quite sure where it had come from. Then realization hit. He thrust a hand into his leathers, searching for the medallion which should have been hanging snug and secure against his skin. There was nothing.
He reached down and picked up the chain. Somehow the delicate yet strong golden links had been cut through; and without him realizing it. And then it hit him.
Someone had stolen the medallion.
The look of enjoyment on Lysander's face suddenly made sense. And he'd grabbed Daniel this morning. The man must have the skills of a pickpocket. "Damnit." He began to make his way angrily to the bathing chamber to tell Jack when he realized he now had the perfect opportunity to go and search Lysander's rooms since he was still at the party.
The rooms weren't far; Diokles had pointed them out on his tour, stressing that maybe they'd prefer to stay away from that wing of the castle. There had been a couple of guards near the hallway leading to Lysander's suite. And Daniel had an idea how he could get past them.
He put his chest plate back on and grabbed one of the capes with a hood that Jacob had provided for wet weather. With the storm outside he wouldn't look out of place, even with his head covered by the hood. If he was lucky, he might get the medallion back and return to his room before Jack finished his bath.
Luckily the servants were all busy in the main hall and he managed to make it to his destination without meeting anyone. He stopped at the corner leading to Lysander's suite of rooms, peeked quickly around and verified that there were three guards lounging by one of the windows. Perfect.
He pulled his zat carefully from his chest plate and activated it. When a loud crash of thunder sounded, Daniel leaned around the corner and shot all three guards. When they woke up, they'd think they'd been hit by lightning.
Daniel hurried into the rooms and found Lysander's bedroom. By the light of a single lit candle, he spotted a small cloth bag near the bed similar to what he'd carried his belongings in. He crouched down, dropped the zat next to it and began searching. Daniel had barely begun rummaging through it when he heard a soft sound behind him. He went to stand and turn when his shoulder exploded in pain.
He gasped loudly and fell to his knees, trying to escape his assailant. Working on instincts, he grabbed the zat and fired blindly. Lightning blinded him, rendering the zat's brilliance to low wattage. Thunder boomed, shaking the castle. Lysander fell to the floor, sparkles dancing around his body as the zat's energy bled off.
He could feel the blood dripping down his arm. Somehow Lysander had stabbed him at one of the few vulnerable areas of his armour. With his uninjured arm, he groped the front of Lysander's clothes and pulled the vest aside. There, against his chest, was Daniel's medallion.
With a shaking hand, he put the zat back into its hiding place and pulled the thin piece of leather that had replaced the chain away from Lysander's head, and closed his fingers around it. Then he slid his hand beneath his cape and bunched the cotton underclothes in a fist and pressed it against the stab wound, hoping to prevent a blood trail. He stumbled to his feet and hurried out.
The guards were still unconscious but were showing signs of stirring. He walked as fast as he could, his balance slightly off as the edges of his vision began fading towards grey. He knew he was experiencing shock at the suddenness of the attack and his first priority was to get to his room without collapsing. He realized he was lucky, had he not been moving, the downward plunge of the knife could have been through his neck.
When he reached the door to his room, he stopped and leaned his uninjured shoulder against it and looked back. The stone floor appeared clean, free of blood. He reached for the latch when suddenly the door opened. Jack stood staring at him, a frown on his face. He didn't say anything, just stood blocking the door when suddenly his face cleared. "Danny?"
Realizing he still had his hood up, Daniel brushed past Jack as he released the pressure against his wound to lower the hood. Jack slammed the door shut as he reached for Daniel's bloody hand.
"Where were you and what the hell happened?"
There was a piece of thin leather hanging from his fist and Daniel relaxed his fingers to reveal the medallion. "Lysander stole it earlier this morning. I went to get it back." He swayed as the room spun momentarily.
"Are you crazy?" Jack grabbed Daniel's arm and led him to a wooden chair, all the while yelling for Carter, Teal'c and Jacob. Daniel sat heavily in the chair, trying to push the cape away and hissing at the pain the movement caused. Jack grabbed the material and threw it to the ground, then eased back the leathers and underclothes to look at the injury.
"Colonel, what happened?" Suddenly everyone was crowding around Daniel and he swallowed hard. He hated feeling like this; shaky and dizzy from the fading effects of adrenaline along with the shock of the attack.
Daniel opened his hand again, revealing the blood-covered medallion. "Lysander pick pocketed it this morning."
"And Daniel decided to go do the martyr thing and went out without telling anyone." Jack straightened and plucked the medallion from his hand. "It doesn't look too bad." Without another word, he handed the medallion to Jacob, then began unbuckling Daniel's armour.
"I'll get the first aid kit." Sam moved away from his line of sight and hurried into her room.
Jacob looked up from the piece of jewellery to Daniel. "Daniel, who—?"
"Lysander. He came back early from the party... surprised me."
"Zatted him. Zatted his guards. And no, he didn't see me." He gritted his teeth together as Jack pulled the leather tunic down off his shoulder.
"It is very likely Lysander will raise the alarm."
Daniel tried to look at the injury, but Jack's arms were in the way. All he got to see was blood that had dripped down his arm and chest. He leaned forward, trying to see how bad it was.
"Why, Teal'c? He stole the damn thing, why would he admit that someone stole it back?" Jack put his palm on Daniel's forehead and pushed him back before he could get a good look.
"He discovered a thief in his chambers. If nothing else, if he can prove DanielJackson attacked him, he may discredit him and halt tomorrow's ceremony and turn it in his favor."
"He didn't see my face. I had my hood up... and if I'm lucky he'll think he got knocked out by a lightning strike."
"The zat'nik'tel will not erase his memory of discovering someone inside the room."
Then Sam was there, crouching in front of him with a pressure bandage in her hand. She examined his injury carefully before pressing the bandage against his wound.
"It's deep but it's not bleeding too badly so I think you'll be okay. You'll probably be pretty sore for a few days."
"That might be a problem." Jacob began picking up the discarded pieces of armour. "It's your right arm – and you need to be able to swing that sword tomorrow."
Daniel groaned and squeezed his eyes tightly shut. Jacob was right. He made a fist and sighed heavily when there was no apparent weakness. He'd be able to hold the sword, but wasn't sure if he'd have full range of motion in his shoulder. Slowly he flexed his shoulder, moving it around, feeling slashed skin and muscles burn in pain.
"Stop it." Jack gave him a gentle cuff on the side of his head.
"And Teal'c's right. If Lysander reports this, they could start searching all the rooms. We have to get this cleaned up, fast." Jacob raised Daniel's bloody armour and leathers.
"I have an idea. I need all of the clothes we wore today. If we dump them into a tub, it'll look like we were rinsing them out, so not only Daniel's would be in the wash."
"Do it." Jack waved towards their room. "Mine's in the bathing chamber. There's still water in the tub. Use that."
Within minutes, the room was cleared of any evidence of blood; even Daniel was carefully cleaned and dressed in only his cotton underpants. Sam pulled back the edge of the bandage and nodded in satisfaction. "It stopped bleeding. You know, I could try and stitch it..."
"Oh geez, I've seen how you sew..." Daniel said in mock fright. The shakes had more or less gone, leaving him feeling tired and slightly nauseated.
"I'll do it." Jacob gave Daniel a gentle pat on the shoulder "Believe me, I've had years of practice out in the field and so has Selmak."
While Jacob took out the implements he'd need, Jack handed Daniel a glass of water and three pills. "Antibiotics and Vicodin." Without hesitation, Daniel plucked the pills from Jack's hand and tossed them into his mouth. As he gulped down the water, one of the pills stuck momentarily in his throat.
Then Jacob was there with the needle and thread. Daniel took a deep breath and tried to relax as Jacob began to disinfect the skin around the cut, concentrating instead on Teal'c, who was standing with his ear to the door.
When Jacob finished, Daniel was left weak and dripping sweat. Jack helped him up and guided him slowly to their bed. His armour, which glowed without a trace of blood, was scattered between the door and the bed, as was Jack's.
When he sat, Jacob knelt and began unlacing his boots, while Jack took a damp cloth and wiped the sweat from his chest and back before he lay down.
His shoulder was throbbing and his head was pounding. He realized how lucky he'd been and how stupid he'd acted. He may have just jeopardized their whole operation just because he'd been overconfident.
He could hear Jacob and Sam talking and moving around in the common room, as he presumed they were cleaning up any evidence of his injury. Then Teal'c's "They come" had everyone scurrying into their rooms.
Jack got up and shut the door to their bedroom, then quickly pulled off his nightshirt. Naked, he then climbed onto the bed and straddled Daniel's hips. "Just play along," he whispered in Daniel's ear as he carefully leaned his length along Daniel's body, being careful to keep his weight off Daniel's injury. Jack reached for the embroidered leather strip that kept Daniel's hair out of his eyes and pulled it off, then grabbed a handful of braids as he lowered his mouth onto Daniel's. There was a loud knocking on the door leading to the common room.
Caught between the pain in his shoulder, the commotion going on in the other room as Teal'c and Sam began arguing with the guards, and Jack's mouth gently kissing him, Daniel was a little light headed and his cock had decided to sit this one out. Still, he raised his good arm to reach around Jack's waist and slid his hand down to his butt as Jack began rocking slowly against him.
There was a loud bang on the door to their bedroom and Jack took his mouth from Daniel's and growled, "Not now."
Regardless of Jack's words, the door burst open as three of Kallisto's guards, along with Lysander, entered the bedroom. Daniel made a moaning sound as Jack stopped moving, trying to play the part of interrupted sex. Jack maintained his position, bare butt sticking in the air, lying carefully against Daniel to hide the bandage and turned only his head back towards the door. "Do you guys mind? We'd rather finish this without an audience."
A loud crack of thunder filled the room. Lightning flickered convulsively as the thunder rumbled loud enough to make the walls shake.
"Apologies, my Lord," one of the guards stammered as his eyes took in the trail Daniel and Jack had supposedly left on their way to the bed. Another guard stammered something about "Zeus' fury." The first guard motioned for Lysander and the others to leave the room, and when Lysander began to object, the guard took him by the arm and forcefully pulled him away before shutting the door gently. Jack stayed his position as they listened to the guards search the other rooms. It didn't take long, and they left with more apologies.
This time the knock on the door was soft. "Colonel?"
"Ah, crap." Quickly Jack rolled off of Daniel. "C'mon in, Carter," he called out once he'd pulled the sheets over himself.
"They're gone." Dressed in her nightgown, her hair mussed, Sam looked like she'd been just dragged from bed. "Lysander wasn't too happy – the guards got a good look around but didn't find anything suspicious. Actually there were a little embarrassed and apologetic when they saw you two..." She made a face, then smiled uncomfortably.
"We're lucky they bought the act." Jack rearranged the blankets, fiddling with the edge of the comforter.
"I'll let you get some rest. I just wanted to make sure you don't need anything?"
"Maybe some water? And leave the first aid kit here, just in case." Jack pulled the blanket up over their chests, being careful of Daniel's shoulder.
"Okay." She glanced at Daniel, who smiled weakly at her. The moment she left, Jack jumped out of bed and slipped his sleeping shirt on. He was back under the covers by the time Sam brought in the first aid kit, which was hidden in an elaborately carved box that opened to specific pressure points. She placed it on a small table beside Jack, and then walked around the bed to put a cup of water on the table next to Daniel. "Good night. Call if you need anything."
"Night, Sam." Daniel yawned suddenly. The pain in his shoulder seemed to be easing. He tried to relax, and once Sam shut the door, he turned to Jack.
"What I did earlier—"
"Which was incredibly stupid, if you ask me."
"When I found he'd stolen the medallion without my realizing it—"
"Totally understandable. You felt like you'd been duped."
"I thought I could pull it off." A second yawn mangled the last word.
"You didn't stop to think you might need backup?"
"Yeah, but I could picture your face when I told you I'd lost the medallion so I—"
"Thought the expression on my face when I saw you'd been stabbed couldn't be any worse?"
"I let Jacob down."
"You got the medallion back."
"I may not be able to pull the ceremony off tomorrow."
"How about we worry about that tomorrow? You try and get some sleep, while you can."
Daniel nodded and closed his eyes. He felt Jack finger the hair by his temple, stroking gently, and he fell asleep to his soothing touch.
- - - - - -
Jack was aware of Daniel's restlessness; it was still too early to give him another painkiller and despite his restiveness, he was sleeping, as he'd done most of the night. Jack figured one more hour and he'd wake Daniel up for another dose of Vicodin.
The ceremony was scheduled for mid-morning. Jack had no idea how Daniel was going to get through it. Maybe they could offer the sword and medallion to Kallisto; she should have the right to wield it on her own behalf.
Jack realized the sun was rising as the room had lightened considerably. Daniel snuffled and turned towards him. Jack shifted so he was facing Daniel and watched the growing sunlight play over Daniel's features. Gently he pushed back two plaits which hung across Daniel's face, causing Daniel to twitch his cheek in annoyance. He fingered the soft hair between his fingers a moment before letting go when he realized the skin under his fingers was warmer than normal. He cursed Lysander once more under his breath, then mentally chastised Daniel for heading off alone.
"Whazza matter?" Daniel opened his eyes briefly when Jack put the back of his fingers first against Daniel's stubbled cheek, then his forehead.
"You've got a fever," Jack said softly.
" 'S'not your doing... this time." Daniel licked his lips. "Sorry."
Jack leaned over and kissed Daniel's temple. "I'll give you fever when we're back home and you're feeling better."
"Mmm. Promise?" Daniel's query was mostly an exhalation of air, and Jack knew he was asleep even before he whispered his "Promise" close to Daniel's ear. Then he noticed some darker spots on some of the plaits, and realized it was blood. They'd have to wash Daniel's hair before going to the ceremony. This was getting better and better.
- - - - - -
"I can't give the sword and medallion to Kallisto; the ceremony calls for the keeper of the sword to be the one who presents the crown to the ruler. Isn't that right, Jacob?" The glare that Daniel had fixed Jack with after he'd proposed withdrawing from the ceremony was now aimed at Jacob. "You set me up as the keeper of the sword," Daniel continued at Jacob's nod. "I'm stuck with the role."
Carter continued to gently pat the braids dry, and Daniel shivered. With his good hand he pulled the blanket they'd wrapped around him closer. Jack refrained from checking for fever; the Tylenol Daniel had taken earlier seemed to have brought the fever down. But he was pale and shaky and in pain since Jacob's suggestion meant no more Vicodin.
"I can do this," Daniel said, repeating it for the fifth time.
"One look at you and everyone's gonna know there's something wrong." Jack thrust his chin out when the glare turned his way. "You look like shit."
"I feel like shit, but there can be other reasons for my feeling shitty other than having been stabbed."
"Perhaps DanielJackson can imitate someone who has imbibed excessively. From what I have seen, the Tau'ri are able to function the next day, to a limited extent."
"A hangover?" Carter flashed Jack an inquiring look. "There's alcohol in the cabinet over there." She freed a hand from the towel to point to a piece of furniture on the right. Jack got up and went to check. There was a large bottle inside with a fancy piece of metal used as a stopper. He pulled the stopper out and took a whiff.
"Whoa!" Jack pulled back quickly, his eyes watering at the potent smell. He poured a shot into a mug and took a sip. Immediately his mouth and tongue exploded and he coughed as the stuff went down his gullet.
"God, this is worse than Daniel's moonshine." He flapped a hand in front of his mouth.
Jacob took the cup from Jack's hand and took a sniff before taking a tentative sip. Then he downed the alcohol in a swift gulp, staring at Jack the whole time. "It'll do the trick."
"You want me to get drunk?" Daniel looked as if he wasn't sure whether to blame Teal'c or Jacob for the new scheme.
"Not drunk, hung over. If we spill a little of this on your clothes, everyone will assume this is the reason why you're a little unsteady and pale." Jacob poured more of the alcohol into the mug and dribbled some of it down Daniel's shirt. Immediately the room smelled like a bar.
"Great, and if I puke, they'll blame it on the booze and not the morphine."
"And speaking of which, it's probably time we get ready to go." Jacob opened the first aid kit and removed one of the morphine syringes.
Carter dropped the cloth and took the syringe from her father. She injected Daniel with it and placed the spent syringe back into the first aid kit. "Let me check your bandage." She pushed back Daniel's shirt and exposed the bandage beneath it. There was no sign of blood.
They were all dressed in brown pants, shirts and vests that felt like a soft cotton. The brown color highlighted the blue of both Carter and Daniel's eyes and the blondness of their hair. Carter had pulled the plaits closest to Daniel's face to the back of his head, held there by the wire and leather contraption that fit like a coronet.
"Here, gargle with this." Jacob handed Daniel the remaining booze in the mug. "Don't swallow."
With a wary look first at Jacob and then Jack, Daniel tipped the alcohol into his mouth. Immediately his eyes widened and his cheeks turned red. He quickly swished the liquid in his mouth and then spat it back into the cup with a harsh cough. He glared at Jack, tears streaming down his face.
"Hey, it was his idea." Jack pointed at Teal'c with his thumb. In reply, Daniel continued to glare at Jack as he wiped his face with the back of his hand.
"We better make this look authentic." Carter took the jug and poured half of it into the toilet. As she flushed, Jack wondered at how such a backwards civilization could have such things as running hot water and flushing toilets.
"We better go before they come looking for us." Jacob grabbed the sword and when Daniel stood unsteadily, he strapped it onto Daniel's waist.
"I do not like that we go unarmed." Teal'c picked up his claymore and fingered it longingly.
"Those are the rules, Teal'c." Jacob adjusted the sword and gave Daniel an apprising look. "Ready?"
Daniel nodded slowly.
"How about our zats?" Jack grabbed the chest armour with the hidden weapon. "Would they object to our putting our armour—?"
"No armour, no weapons. It's a sign of trust that Kallisto won't allow harm to her fellow royals."
"It's not Kallisto I'm worried about, Jacob, it's Lysander." Reluctantly, Jack dropped the armour and walked to the door. He opened it and checked to see if anyone was outside.
"Teal'c and I will keep an eye out for him, and his men." Behind Daniel's back, Jacob signalled that Jack should keep an eye on Daniel. Jack nodded, and waited until everyone had left the room before following.
- - - - - -
Daniel stood before the altar, hands on his sheathed sword, waiting for Kallisto to finish welcoming him as a long, lost cousin who'd come to her from a faraway land, answering a promise given years ago to her grandfather.
Jack and his entourage, along with Diokles and several others Jack had met at the party the previous night, stood behind and to Daniel's right, while Lysander and several other royal relatives stood on the opposite side, watching. When Daniel swayed, Lysander muttered something to the men closest to him.
Kallisto sat on the throne next to the altar, and when she finished her speech, she thanked them all and welcomed Daniel to relinquish the custody of his guardianship.
Jack tensed, praying that the morphine was enough to ease the pain of movement and that the ceremony wouldn't start the wound bleeding again. They'd doubled the bandages, just in case. He saw Daniel take a deep breath, draw the sword and smoothly raise it up towards the ceiling. Just as Diokles had shown him, Daniel raised his other hand, changed his grip and reversed the direction of the sword. He brought it down in a controlled descent and stopped just prior to pounding it into the marble.
Jack could see Daniel's arms shaking as he aimed the tip of the sword into the opening in the step. Then with a quick thrust, he plunged it down, nearly to the hilt. A dim light glowed within the hole momentarily.
Okay, not quite as dramatic as Diokles' version but it seemed to work because a panel on the wall behind the altar slid down, revealing a small, pyramid-shaped space within.
Daniel straightened and slowly ascended the steps. He went around the altar and stopped before the panel. With his left hand he reached into a pocket in his pants and removed the medallion, wrapped within a piece of silk.
He picked it up with his right hand and placed it in his palm, then extended it towards Kallisto for her inspection. Jack immediately shifted his gaze to Lysander, who was whispering angrily. Then he caught movement as Daniel placed the medallion into the panel and pushed it in.
Directly before them, a hidden part of the altar separated at the front, exposing a hole deep within the marble stone. Daniel must have heard the mechanism but hadn't seen what had happened. He looked around, obviously at a loss as to what to do next.
It was more than apparent that Daniel wasn't well. His face was pale and beaded with sweat. Jack wasn't sure if it was the morphine, fever or a combination of both, but it was clear that Daniel had lost his focus and didn't know what to do next.
When Daniel's confused gaze passed over him, Jack made a covert come hither movement. Daniel frowned, but stepped forward slowly, towards the front of the altar. For a moment Jack thought his legs were going to give out but then Daniel recovered and made it down the steps. Thankfully he saw the sword and began walking towards it, and must have caught sight of the exposed part of the altar, because he finally turned towards it.
Kneeling before the altar, Daniel fingered the exposed space.
"Is he ill? He appears to be confused," Diokles whispered in Jack's ear.
Put the sword's hilt into the damn hole, Jack willed Daniel. "Nah, he's just not feeling so great." Jack could smell the booze Jacob had poured over Daniel from where he stood.
"Ah, the driran is a fairly potent drink." Obviously Diokles could smell it, too.
Diokles' instructions must have trickled back into Daniel's mind. He turned to the sword, grabbed it with both hands, and pulled. The sound of metal grating on stone was loud in the room. He held the weapon horizontally and slowly inserted the jewel and pommel into the opening, and twisted. There was an audible click, and the altar split apart. A section swung wide, as if on hinges. Again Daniel mounted the steps and looked within.
He reached in and removed an intricately carved golden box. He held it up to display it and then walked towards Kallisto. With a short, unsteady bow, he handed it to her.
She smiled up at Daniel, took the box and placed it on her lap while Daniel stood to the side. She fiddled with the box, and it became apparent that she didn't know how to open it. Daniel leaned over, pointed to something on the box, then moved behind the altar once again and removed the medallion. He placed it on top of the box in what must have been yet another keyhole, and suddenly the top sprang open.
"Thank you, cousin," Kallisto said clearly as she removed the contents of the box. To Jack's disgust, he recognized the object immediately.
Five golden finger caps held together by a central stone. A friggin' hand device.
With a bit of difficulty, Kallisto managed to figure out the placements of the caps and held up her hand in a manner similar to the statue they'd seen in the temple yesterday where they'd landed. "Behold."
Lysander began to laugh, then applauded loudly. "Yes, cousin. Thank you for proving to us all that our beloved Kallisto is not our true ruler." He swaggered up the steps and strutted past the altar. With an overly put on air of patience, he held his hand out for the hand device.
Kallisto stared at the Goa'uld torture weapon, her face twisted in concentration.
"Cousin..." Lysander's voice grated on Jack's nerves. Even Daniel, despite the fact that he had one hand on the throne to support himself, was frowning at Lysander.
Kallisto sighed and her shoulders slumping in defeat, slid the device from her hand and handed it over to Lysander.
"I am Athena's heir," he proclaimed loudly as he quickly slid the caps onto his fingertips. He then stared at his open palm. "I shall bring back the old gods, and we shall rule Keacien, side by side."
When nothing happened, Jack began to grin. This had to be a left-over from the Goa'uld who'd ruled here centuries ago. And since neither Kallisto nor Lysander had the Goa'uld markers in them, it would be impossible for them to actually use the device. Throughout these folks' history, it had probably simply become associated with the ruler of the times and whoever had access to it, had been deemed the sovereign. In place of the Goa'uld. Until the idiot now standing before everyone decided to usurp the throne and take it for himself.
But Jack knew two people in this room who had the proper markers to use the hand device.
"Jacob, do you think you—"
"No, my eyes aren't blue." Immediately the two of them turned to Carter, just as Daniel called out her name.
"I... I don't want to rule," Carter said quickly, looking embarrassed and a little scared.
"Just show them that the hand device is the real thing. Then give it to Kallisto and tell her that it's her heritage."
"Lysander." Daniel stepped away from the throne just as Carter ascended the steps. She joined Daniel as Lysander raised his hand in a threatening motion. If he'd had control of the hand device, Jack had no doubt that Daniel would be on his knees, gasping in pain. The look of hatred on Lysander's face showed what he thought of Daniel.
"You aren't the heir. Give it to me." Daniel put his hand out in the same manner as Lysander had done moments earlier. He waggled his fingers when Lysander continued to try and force the device to work.
By now the crowd gathered in the chapel were murmuring loudly. Most appeared displeased with Lysander's boldness, and some began calling out to him to give it up. His face red with anger, Lysander tore the hand device from his fingers and threw it at Daniel.
"It is not the genuine item."
His reflexes too slow, Daniel fumbled for the golden weapon. It fell to the floor by Daniel's feet.
"You are attempting to trick us, cousin. Both you and this charlatan should be put to death for your deception."
The crowd gasped and quieted, Lysander's words having shocked everyone.
"Jacob?" Jack growled under his breath.
"Just sit tight."
Teal'c moved slightly so that he was between Jack and the crowed, but nobody made any threatening moves, all of them caught up in the drama happening onstage.
Wordlessly, Daniel crouched down to pick up the hand device. As he stood, his face suddenly paled and he swayed.
"Daniel." Carter grabbed Daniel's arm to help support him, and even Kallisto stood and crossed the few steps to him.
"I'm fine, just stood a little too fast." He gave Kallisto a shaky smile. "I'm sorry, I overindulged in your hospitality last night." He gave the hand device a little shake, bringing her attention back to it. "Trust me."
Kallisto gave Daniel a hard look, but nodded and retook her seat. Daniel looked at the weapon in his hands a moment, before straightening to address the crowd.
"Just as some of you are warriors, not all excel in swordplay. Some learn easily; they are naturally agile, strong and adept. Others struggle to wield their swords; they understand the moves, their bodies simply do not react as well. It is the same with this." Daniel raised the hand device, allowing the caps to hang from his palm.
He stood there a few seconds, then turned to give it to Carter. Without a word, she took it and positioned the finger caps. Then she raised her hand, outward towards the crowd and aimed above their heads, and activated it. The jewel glowed brightly.
Lysander backpedalled quickly, his eyes glued to Carter's hand. Jack couldn't hold back a grin and saw that Jacob was grinning just as widely as him, a glow of pride in his eyes as he watched his daughter.
Carter lowered her hand and disengaged the device. She slid it off her fingers, turned to Kallisto and handed it to her.
"Just as one may hold the instrument of sovereignty, not all may master it." Daniel turned to Kallisto and as she stood, the hand device once again adorning her palm, Daniel ended his speech by stating, "Long live Kallisto, Sovereign of Ithaka, Ruler of Keacien."
The crowed erupted in cheer. While Kallisto stood and received her accolades, Carter grabbed Daniel's arm and steered him off the dais. Jack placed his arm around Daniel's waist when he reached them. He could feel the fever heat coming off Daniel and the mild tremors along his muscles.
"Good job, you two." Jacob placed a hand on Carter's shoulder and patted Daniel's back with the other.
People began approaching the throne, wishing to speak to Kallisto. Immediately Teal'c and Jacob surrounded Daniel and eased him closer to the wall, away from the jostling crowd.
"Come." Diokles motioned for them to follow him and led them to a nearby door. There were people amassing in the hallways but within a short time, Diokles guided them to smaller corridors, probably used by the servants. Teal'c took up Jack's position in helping Daniel so Jack walked ahead, beside Diokles, to make sure the way was clear.
"It will not be long, we shall get you into bed shortly so that you may recover from your wound."
"Ah..." Jack began, but Diokles simply flashed him a grin.
"Lysander spread the word a little too loudly last night that he would oppose my Lady during the ceremony. He has never been trustworthy, even as a child. When word came to us of his boasting, we suspected he would attempt to discredit Kallisto somehow.
"When Lysander reported an intruder in his rooms and that he had injured him in their struggle, I immediately suspected he had taken something from you and one of you had come to retrieve it. This morning, upon seeing Daniel's condition, I knew it was he who had been injured."
They went through a door and Jack recognized the hallway to their rooms.
"I trust the injury is not severe?"
"No, it's not, just damn painful."
"Shall I send our healer?"
Jack immediately shook his head. Nothing these people had would help an infection. They'd have to trust on the antibiotics in keeping it from getting worse. "No, thanks. We've got things under control. Bed rest and plenty of fluids and good food."
"Ah, that we can provide."
Diokles stopped before their door and opened it, then stepped aside to let them through.
Teal'c led Daniel straight for the bedroom, with Carter right behind him. Jack grabbed the first aid kit and followed them into the bedroom, already rooting for the Tylenol, leaving Jacob to deal with Diokles. Antibiotics weren't due for another two hours and the morphine was probably what was making Daniel woozy right now.
Carter tugged at the belt holding Daniel's shirt closed and eased the shirt off his shoulders while Teal'c removed his boots. Then Daniel stood while Jack pulled his pants off, and moments later he'd been medicated, hydrated and tucked in.
"Go on, I'll stay with him." Jack sat on the side of the bed, negating any chance of objections.
"We'll be outside if you need us."
As Jack nodded, Daniel was the one who began objecting. "You don't have to—" He quieted when Jack put a finger against Daniel's lips.
"Ack. I'll stay till you fall asleep. You want me out of here, you sleep."
When Daniel closed his eyes, Jack got up and pulled the curtains closed, cutting off the sunlight. Then he sat on his side of the bed, leaning his back against the wall, and put a hand onto Daniel's good shoulder, waiting.
- - - - - -
"He's finally sleeping." Jack eased the door shut behind him and went to join the rest of the gang who were sitting together in the communal area. To his surprise, Diokles was still there.
"He is better?"
"Fever's down. Yeah, he's better."
"I have returned to invite you to the celebrations." Diokles glanced quickly towards the bedroom. "He will be forgiven for not attending," he said with a small smile. "I fear many tomorrow will resemble the way he does now."
"I don't think—"
"I think it's a great idea." Jacob clapped Jack on the back, silencing him.
"You will all be deeply honoured. My Lady wishes you to be seated at her table."
"We can take turns sitting with him, sir, if that would make you more comfortable."
"I would stay behind, O'Neill, and remain with DanielJackson so that you may represent him at the Lady Kallisto's table."
"Ah, thanks, T." Jack passed a hand over his face. He was tired; he hadn't slept much the previous night due to worrying over Daniel and the upcoming ceremony and the last thing he wanted was to join in revelry. But Teal'c was right, Daniel had carried out the hard part, the least Jack could do was show his face for a little while. For Daniel.
"Okay, fine. I'll go for an hour or so. I just need to bring you up to date with his meds—"
"Antibiotics in approximately one hour, Tylenol in four. Water, should he waken. Will you send food for DanielJackson?"
"He sleeps. I will request a light soup and bread be brought within an hour, if that is acceptable?"
Jack nodded at Diokles. "That's fine. Food, antibiotics, rest. Just give me a second to splash some water on my face, and I'll be good to go."
- - - - - -
Daniel felt like crap. His shoulder was throbbing, his head ached and his stomach wasn't happy with the light supper he'd eaten earlier. He'd slept fitfully, tossing and turning as much as his shoulder would allow, sleeping the twilight sleep of fever.
He opened his eyes and blinked. His contacts felt sandy and dry on his eyeballs; his eyes burned and he remembered how uncomfortable they could be when he was running a temperature. He blinked again and decided he wanted them out.
Moving slowly and carefully so as not to jar his shoulder, he sat up.
"Hey, where d'ya think you're going?"
Daniel turned, surprised at hearing Jack's voice. The last he remembered, Teal'c had been here in their quarters with him. When he'd asked, Teal'c had told him everyone had gone to the celebrations. He glanced out the window behind the chair Jack had been sitting on. It was still daylight out. So he'd obviously slept deeply enough for the changing of the Daniel-sitters, but not long enough to have made a lasting difference in his injury.
"I need to take my contacts out."
"Okay, don't move. I'll get your stuff."
It was finally a relief to get rid of the things; his vision was fuzzy without his glasses but at least his eyes were just dry and didn't feel like sandpaper rubbing over them every time he blinked.
"Need anything else?" Jack packed up the lens case and solution in the first aid kit and tossed it onto a nearby table. Daniel shook his head and slid his legs back onto the bed.
"Wait a sec." Jack slipped behind Daniel and eased him down so that Daniel was lying against Jack's chest.
"Mmm," Daniel said as Jack's body heat enveloped him. He turned his head so he could hear Jack's heart beating, and sighed as Jack's fingers began moving against his aching scalp. "Can I cut these off now?"
The fingers stilled a moment, then resumed their gentle massage. "They bugging you that much?"
"Yes," Daniel said fervently. "I've got a headache and they're always in my face." Daniel irritably pushed back a couple of plaits that fell forward when Jack's kneading dislodged them.
"I can cut them off for you, if it'd make you feel more comfortable..."
"Can't promise to give you as good a chop as old Harvey, but I'm sure he'll be happy to set things straight when we get back home."
"No, Jack, it's okay. I'm just feeling cranky right now." He knew how much the long hair fascinated Jack and he'd vowed to keep the weaves for a few days after the mission ended, just to indulge him. Still, he'd be happy to get rid of the weight.
"Yeah. Just... don't stop what you're doing, okay?"
He felt Jack's lips and nose nuzzle the edge of his ear and the back of his neck. "I won't."
Daniel relaxed as his headache eased slightly. "Weren't you supposed to be at some celebratory party?"
"I was. Stayed just long enough to be polite. Carter, Teal'c and Jacob are doing the hobnobbing for us."
"You gave up the opportunity to learn more about these people, maybe make an alliance with them, not to mention free food and drink, to stay here with me?" Daniel lowered his head as Jack's fingers worked into his nape and down along his neck.
"Wouldn't trade this for the world," Jack whispered against Daniel's ear.
"Mmmm." Fingers moved from his neck to his temples. "Neither would I."
"Think you can sleep now?"
"No. Want more." He turned his head, angling so that Jack's fingers could reach spots he hadn't gotten to yet.
"Greedy, huh?" Jack took the hint, fingers working over his scalp.
"We leaving tomorrow?" If it weren't for the constant throbbing in his shoulder and the fever, Daniel would have been content at that moment.
"If you're up to it. Jacob said he think he can land the Tel'tak on the rooftop here. Save you the trouble of walking to the Stargate."
"We can use the 'gate?"
"Yep. Lysander had to yield control when Kallisto was sworn in."
"I can walk there." He really hated the idea of getting out of bed and having to walk any distance, but he'd do it if they had to.
"I know you can. He's doing you a favor. Go with it."
"I'm gonna miss this." He meant to wave his hand to mean himself and Jack, together, but lacked the energy to do more than flap his fingers.
"Believe me, I'm gonna miss this also."
Daniel smiled. "I'm probably gonna be stuck in the infirmary for a couple of days."
"Yeah, most likely. But if you let Fraiser play with your hair, she might let you out early for good behaviour." Jack picked up a handful of plaits and let them fall, slowly, onto Daniel's chest.
"What is it with you guys and my hair?"
"It's just... different."
Daniel huffed slightly. "You owe me."
"Owe you? For what?"
"Fever. You promised me you'd give me fever when we got home, remember?"
"Yeah." Jack's voice was a gentle breath in Daniel's ear. "I remember."
Jack grabbed the handful of plaits lying across his chest and held them in front of Daniel's face. "I want you to save me some of these when you get them chopped off."
"Wha... what?" Jack's request surprised Daniel.
"Just a dozen or so, okay?"
"Yeah, okay." Daniel reached for one of the tiny plaits and brought it close to his eye. Funny thing was, this wasn't even his own hair, and Jack seemed fixated on it. He pushed his head back so he could look at Jack, and smiled. "You can have them all, if you want."
"Nah, only a few."
"What do you want it for?"
Jack mumbled something and Daniel asked him to repeat it.
Chuckling, Daniel asked, "You're not gonna sleep with the hair under your pillow, are you? Tied with a ribbon to remind you of me?"
He got another kiss to the temple in reply. "Not when I have you sharing my pillow."
"So you think the braids are, umm, sexy?" Daniel tried for an exaggerated flip of his head, but exhaustion and medication tempered the movement, sending hair falling into his face. As Jack pushed the strands back, Daniel settled comfortably against Jack's shoulder.
"Maybe not sexy... different. Yeah, it's a different look for you."
"I've had long hair before. You never considered that different" Daniel yawned, fighting to keep his eyes open. "You considered that geeky and annoying." Lethargically, Daniel tickled Jack's nose with a tip of a braid. "How come this isn't—?"
"Geeky?" Jack tugged at the braid. "No way in hell. Okay, I concede defeat... ya look sexy."
"So cutting off the braids and saving them is more in the line of fantasy?"
Rolling his eyes, Jack sighed. "What? You're going to deny me a fantasy or two?"
Daniel slid closer to Jack, hiding his moan of discomfort behind a forced yawn. "Who am I to deny you a fantasy? Or two."
"So you're saying that you'll do this again... these braids?"
Daniel opened one eye and stared at Jack. "Not on your life. Fantasize away."
Author's Comments: Many thanks to Jmas, for trusting in me and publishing this story in her E-zine 'Ancients Gate XI - Horizons'
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:
Author's Note: The idea of a sword with glyphs etched onto it came to me long before the episode aired in Morpheus.