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Fanfiction: Contact Issues

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S6 Cure
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Sam/Jack UST. Jonas/Jack friendship. 
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.  Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Contact Issues


‘Who decided we were any good at this first contact stuff anyway?’ Jack O’Neill complained as he fastened his vest and yanked on it to shift it into position.

His three team-mates exchanged a look behind his back which was part amusement and part concern that they were heading out with a grumpy team leader.

Samantha Carter signalled for Jonas Quinn to reply but he shook his head adamantly and she couldn’t blame him. Jonas’s relationship with the Colonel was embryonic and he wasn’t going to do anything to annoy him. Sam changed the direction of her gaze to Teal’c. Teal’c wasn’t immune to the pleading look she levelled at him and caved.

‘I believe it was General Hammond, O’Neill.’ Teal’c responded.

Jack looked over his shoulder sharply at the Jaffa who stared back impassively. ‘Right.’ He plucked his cap out of his locker and tugged it down onto his head. ‘Because we did so great at first contact with the Pangarans.’

‘Did we not find a way to help them, O’Neill?’ Teal’c replied, apparently missing Sam’s urgent shake of her head to ignore him.

Jack slammed his locker door shut and turned to the Jaffa. ‘Sure. I loved getting the Tok’ra involved, I don’t know you guys. And, oh, let’s not mention your whole breaking and entering act, shall we?’

Teal’c raised an eyebrow.

Jack looked at his watch. ‘You’ve got five minutes.’ He walked out of the gear-up room and there was a collective sigh of relief as he left.

‘So how mad do you think he’s going to be on this trip?’ Jonas asked tentatively.

Sam and Teal’c exchanged a look.

‘He’s not mad.’ Sam offered. ‘He’s just...’ she paused, trying to find a word that properly conveyed the Colonel’s temperament.

‘I believe the word you are searching for is irritable, Major Carter.’ Teal’c said.

Sam smiled fleetingly. ‘I was going to say fractious.’ As a two-year old, she mused. She shut her locker and picked up her rucksack.

Teal’c moved to help her adjust its position until she carried it comfortably. She gave him a nod of thanks and he moved to helped Jonas. They were expecting an overnight stay on P9Y622.

They all left the room together and headed towards the gate room. Sam could hear the spinning Stargate as they neared, the familiarity of it comforting her and easing her own nervousness over the mission.

Teal’c took his Staff weapon from the Sergeant at the door and Sam accepted the P90. She clipped it efficiently to her vest as she went stood beside Jack.

The kawoosh blossomed out.

The Colonel glanced over at his team before he looked back toward the control room where General Hammond stood watching. Sam followed his gaze, glancing behind her.

Hammond leaned down to speak until the microphone. ‘You have a go, SG1.’

Jack nodded. ‘Move out.’ He ordered.

Sam automatically fell into step beside him as they walked up the ramp as a team and into the blue puddle. The disorientation on the other side lasted a moment and Sam used it to get their bearings.

The Stargate was located in a large hall. The opulent curtains and gilded decorations indicated it was a place of worship or importance. She felt a twinge of grief; her Ascended team-mate Daniel Jackson would have known and she missed his presence anew as she acknowledged inwardly that she couldn’t ask him. The artificial lights and the warm heat that surrounded them spoke of technology but whether it was similar to their own or different, Sam couldn’t tell. She couldn’t wait to find out.

An assembly of five men stood in front of the DHD; the same dark hair, pale faces and dressed in long dark red robes covered them from head to toe.

‘Creepy,’ muttered Jack under his breath.

Sam nodded briefly. She had to admit she wasn’t appreciating the way they were looking at her.

Jack took a step forward, pinning a smile on his face. ‘Howdy. I’m Colonel Jack O’Neill,’ he pointed at Sam, ‘Major Samantha Carter,’ he nodded to his left, ‘Jonas Quinn and Teal’c.’

‘Hi.’ Jonas smiled brightly at the gathered men.

One of the men moved from the line and bowed. ‘We of Tohathu, welcome you. I am Katu.’ His dark gaze drifted to Sam. ‘We were not expecting your mate, Colonel.’

Jack shot Jonas a warning look not to speak as he turned back to Katu. ‘Is there a problem?’ He kept his tone polite but the words were clipped.

‘Our females do not usually travel with men even when in the company of their mate.’ Another man answered. His eyes looked disapprovingly at Sam.

‘Really.’ Jack replied tersely.

‘Just one of many differences between us I’m sure,’ Katu smiled reassuringly. ‘I look forward to discovering others. Please; follow me.’

‘We have no proof they are mates, Katu.’ The protester gestured at Sam. ‘If she is not then her presence here in the great Hall is forbidden and punishable according to our laws.’

‘Carter,’ Jack said briskly as he reached inside his jacket, ‘show them your dog tags.’

Sam moved her hand slowly to her neck and dragged out her chain. The dog tags glinted in the light. It was a ruse they had used before on planets with strong patriarchal governments.

Jack held up his pointedly. ‘These say she’s mine on our world.’

Sam darted a look at him but didn’t argue. In actuality the dog tags said the exact opposite; they were a sign of their military ranks and working relationship – the very things that had prevented them from pursuing their feelings when they had been mutual. Sam slipped the dog tags back into her clothing. She still loved Jack but he had moved on and she had accepted that. Almost. Some of the time.

Katu smiled. ‘Excellent. Then shall we?’

Jack didn’t move. His jaw tensed and he cleared his throat. ‘Perhaps if your laws concerning females are very different, it might be better for my...mate to return home.’ He stared at the guy who had requested proof. ‘I wouldn’t want her being somewhere she’s not supposed to because we were unaware of your laws.’

Katu shot a disgruntled look at his colleague. ‘I apologise for any misunderstanding. Patru is our Justice Minister but I am certain that we can agree that your mate is an exception to our usual laws for the duration of your stay.’

‘Katu...’ Patru caught Katu’s stern look and nodded unhappily. ‘Very well.’

‘I hope that is an acceptable compromise?’ Katu looked at them with a mix of hope and fear; hope they would agree, Sam surmised, and fear that they had already upset their visitors from another world.

The Colonel glanced at her and Sam waited patiently. She could tell from the way his lower jaw worked that he was mentally considering the risks. He turned back to Katu. ‘OK but I’m going to have to insist we’re kept together at all times.’

‘Of course.’ Katu said soothingly.

Sam suppressed her wince and followed the Colonel. As much as part of her was delighted in a masochistic kind of way at the idea of spending so much time with him, she wasn’t looking forward to being stuck with him as a bodyguard for the next two days. Her role on the mission was to assess the scientific capability of the Tohathu and establish whether they had anything Earth would wish to trade for. The Colonel had a tendency to get impatient during her scientific assessments at the best of times.

Then there was the small matter of the last mission; Sam believed he was annoyed with her given it had been her suggestion to bring in the Tok’ra. They had clashed throughout the mission regarding the Tok’ra’s motivations and how to handle their ally and the Pangarans. She figured the Colonel was still struggling to find a way to deal with the Tok’ra since his own very negative experience of being a Tok’ra host. He had been used by his symbiote and left to be endlessly tortured by Ba’al. It was no wonder the Tok’ra made him irritable.

Sam ignored the guilt that stirred at the thought. She truly doubted that the Colonel had accepted the symbiote just because she had asked him; just because she couldn’t have borne to have lost him. It didn’t matter, Sam thought tiredly as she tracked their progress through the corridors, mentally mapping the way back to the Stargate in case they needed to leave in a hurry. It didn’t matter because ultimately she was always going to feel responsible for even posing the question and nothing would change her mind on that.

She looked up as they entered a chamber with a long table. SG1 took their places on one side of the room, the five men sat down on the other. She turned her attention back to the mission at hand. First contact was always tricky as their time with the Pangarans had shown.

Her attention caught on a woman entering with a platter of food and another with a tray of drinks. They were as dark haired as the men but dressed in blue robes and Sam saw their quickly hidden surprise as they caught sight of her. She saw Patru’s look of displeasure and lowered her gaze. She couldn’t help feeling that perhaps she should have returned home after all.

o-O-o

Jack took one look at the room they had been assigned for the night and froze.

‘I hope this is suitable.’ Katu said worriedly.

Suitable wasn’t quite the word that sprang to Jack’s mind. The room was large with a bathing area set to the right and the bedroom area to the left. The bed itself was quite small by Earth standards, barely the size of a regular double, but it was covered in bright red satin. There were pictures on the walls of what appeared to be naked people. Jack felt like he’d fallen into a bordello instead of the tasteful room he’d envisaged when Katu had offered to escort them to their married quarters.

‘It’s fine.’ Sam reassured Katu when Jack remained silent.

Jack shot her a look and she avoided his gaze.

Katu made appropriate noises and left. Jack flipped the lock on the door and turned back to see Carter dumping her bag by the bed. There was no discussion about sharing: they both knew they needed the rest and they were adults; they could share a bed without it being a big deal. They had before off-world even though Jack was extremely circumspect about sleeping arrangements when they were with other SG teams or on an off-world base. He would never want to do anything to compromise her reputation. Both of them would report the pretend marriage in their reports as they were only following proscribed protocol for safety on planets with strict laws about women; Gibson on SG17 had been married to Doctor Lerrick three times in the last six missions.

He looked at the bathing area with concern, noting the wooden bench with its round lid which was probably the toilet and the wooden tub sunk into the floor which was evidently the bath. There was no screen; no privacy. The Tohathu obviously took married life to mean complete and total openness which was all well and good except for the fact that he and Carter were not actually married.

Jack ignored the dull ache of disappointment the thought elicited. Whatever his feelings for Carter and whatever she felt for him, they had no place on a mission. He had a responsibility to protect her. He was beginning to think he should have sent her home when he’d had the chance.

‘We can build a screen.’ Sam offered in the tense silence. She gestured toward the bathing area with a ball of string. ‘We can put it up overnight and take it down tomorrow without them knowing about it.’

‘Good idea.’ Jack acknowledged.

She rooted in her bag and brought out a small cloth tool-bag. She handed him a nail before she made her way over to the far wall and began examining it.

‘We’d better make sure we don’t do any permanent damage to the decor.’ Jack said as he turned around and examined the wall behind him, trying to spot a good place to lodge a nail.

‘Yes, sir.’ Sam shoved a small nail into a groove in the wall and tied one end of the string to it. She threw the ball across the room to him and he did the same. She was one step ahead of him, withdrawing a ground sheet from her rucksack and shaking it out. It was thin but its green colour would help obscure everything. Jack helped her position it strategically in place so the bathing area and the toilet were hidden from view.

‘You want first dibs, Carter?’ Jack motioned at their makeshift bathroom generously.

‘Thank you, sir.’ Sam smiled at him softly and he turned away to hide his pleased reaction. He couldn’t let her see how he felt about her. He figured she believed he had moved on and he intended to keep it that way. They were friends beyond their working relationship and he was content to settle for that; he wasn’t certain he deserved anything more and, in his view, she definitely deserved better.

‘Sir?’ Sam looked over the partition at him with concern.

‘Hmmm?’ Jack waved at her. ‘Sorry, Carter. Just thinking.’

She nodded but looked at him suspiciously before she dropped behind the screen. He busied himself unpacking some of his bag as she ran water into the tub. It masked most of the sounds of her making use of the facilities and he reminded himself to do the same when it was his turn. The water was turned off abruptly and he turned his head automatically to check, catching a glimpse of a shadowy, shapely form beyond the sheeting as Carter lowered herself into the water.

He quickly turned away and dropped his head, closing his eyes. Seriously. There were times it felt like the universe was mocking him. He just had to pretend to be married to her; they just happened to put up in the equivalent of a honeymoon suite, and she was barely three foot away from him naked. And wet.

He needed a distraction, Jack thought desperately; a really big distraction.

Alien invasion would be good.

Just a small one.

‘Sir, what’s your assessment of the Tohathu?’

Carter’s question jolted him out of the fog. ‘You mean apart from them being a bunch of misogynists with poor taste in bed sheets?’

She chuckled. ‘Apart from that.’

‘I’m not sure they have anything to offer us.’ Jack kept his eyes on his pack as he took out his toiletries bag and spare clothing. He set his watch on the right bedside table. ‘What do you think?’

‘I think you could be right.’ Sam said. ‘Their technology doesn’t seem to be any further advanced than our own.’

‘So, no big honking space gun?’ Jack checked, teasing her. He sat down gingerly on the red sheets.

‘I don’t think so, sir.’ There was a sound of water rippling. ‘Not unless they’re hiding it from us.’

‘Which is a possibility.’ Jack thought out loud.

‘Sir?’ She sounded startled.

‘Just...’ Jack frowned. He hadn’t really actively considered that the Tohathu were hiding something but saying it out loud, he suddenly realised he believed they were. ‘They are hiding something.’ And he knew it was true like he knew his own name.

‘What?’

Jack grimaced. ‘I don’t know.’ He said with exaggerated patience. ‘They’re hiding it, Carter.’

She laughed again and he let his own smile creep across his face. She couldn’t see him after all.

‘I guess the question is whether we think they’re hiding something dangerous.’ Sam said.

‘That is the question.’ He heard the water splash as Carter shifted out of the bath. He hurriedly ensured he was turned well away from the screen. ‘It could be nothing.’ Or something. He wasn’t sure why he even thought they were hiding something. Maybe because they’d been escorted everywhere, Jack thought tiredly; maybe because they’d only been allowed to speak to the five same men; maybe because there were areas clearly off limits to them.

The question was: were they in danger? And he couldn’t answer that. He didn’t think there was imminent danger. They were being treated like important guests for the most part. He’d sleep on it; make another assessment in the morning.

‘All yours, sir.’ Sam said.

If only she was, Jack thought as his gaze took in the sight of her walking over to the other side of the bed dressed quite modestly in a t-shirt and pyjama bottoms. Of course, she’d meant the bathroom rather than her but he could dream couldn’t he?

She’d left her hair unwashed and Jack guessed it was because the bedding didn’t look as though it would fare well with anything wet. He would do the same, he decided.

Jack grabbed his toiletries and clothing before he disappeared behind the sheet. He ran the water into the tub and made use of the toilet before he sank into the warm bath, suppressing the sigh that threatened to escape as his muscles relaxed with glee.

‘Sir, I’ve been thinking...’

‘I’m shocked.’ Jack replied, reaching for his soap. He pictured her quick smile in his head, the one he always elicited when she found him funny.

‘I think they may be hiding something to do with their society and history.’ Sam said. ‘Every time Jonas asked them a question they were vague.’

She was right, Jack thought washing his body absently as he considered the day’s talks. Any question about their government or history as a people had been quickly glossed over. He hadn’t helped either; every time Jonas had tried a follow-up question Jack had stopped him, redirecting them back to the trade discussion on medicine and technology...

Damn.

Daniel would never have let him get away with it.

Jack missed his friend like he figured he would miss his right arm if he lost it. He shook his head to shake the grief away.

‘Sir?’ Sam asked worriedly.

‘You could be right.’ Jack answered. ‘I think we should probably have Jonas question them a bit more tomorrow.’

He rinsed off and got out of the tub. She’d left the remaining clean towel beside the bath and he picked it up. He dried off, pulled on a clean pair of boxers and a clean t-shirt. He ran a hand over his lower jaw and grimaced. He’d shave in the morning.

Jack padded around to the bed area, only just remembering to duck under the string before it garrotted him. He tried to ignore the red satin lump that was Carter as he stowed his things and sat down on the opposite side.

‘Should we set up a watch?’ Sam asked.

Jack considered the risks. ‘I think we have them fooled we don’t suspect anything on account of us not actually suspecting anything before so...’ he shook his head and swung his legs up, stretching out to lie flat on his back.

‘Lights out then?’ Carter asked.

‘Yeah.’ Jack rubbed his face, refusing to look at her. ‘Let’s get some sleep.’

She pressed a button on the bedside table and the room fell into darkness.

Jack felt the bed dip as Carter settled into position and a quick glance confirmed his suspicion that she had curled up on her side with her back to him. He pressed his lips together and closed his eyes.

The dream sneaked up on him out of nowhere. Ba’al...pain...the sarcophagus...the fear he was trapped...

Jack lurched upwards as he pulled himself out of the nightmare. His heart was beating unevenly in his chest; his breathing ragged.

‘Sir?’ Carter’s sleepy voice had him grimacing with embarrassment and he felt the bed move as she sat up. ‘Are you OK?’

‘Go back to sleep, Carter.’ He ordered tersely.

She hesitated for a moment before she shifted and resumed her previous position. He reached for his water bottle and took a large gulp of the lukewarm liquid. He settled back on the bed and turned his head. He could see the outline of Sam’s back in the dim light; the t-shirt had slipped, revealing some of her creamy shoulder. She was tensed up, Jack realised. Not surprising after the way he had barked at her – and he had been the one to wake her up. It seemed to be becoming something of a habit. They’d both woken each other up at a recent stay at the Alpha site – and they’d had a locked door between them then.

‘Sorry.’ Jack muttered into the darkness. He felt Carter move slightly but she remained silent even though he could almost hear her mind whirring over his bad dream. ‘What?’

‘Sorry,’ Sam apologised quietly, ‘it’s none of my business, sir.’

‘Just,’ Jack stopped himself before he snapped at her; he sighed. ‘Just ask whatever question is bugging you, Carter.’

‘Is it...’ she hesitated again before rushing on, ‘does having to deal with the Tok’ra trigger your nightmares?’

‘No.’ Jack denied automatically. He frowned as he thought over her question again. ‘Yours?’

‘Not now.’ Sam said.

Which meant they had once. He felt his anger stir again, warring with his instinctive want to make Carter feel better. ‘The Tok’ra don’t help.’ He conceded.

‘I’m sorry.’ Sam murmured gently. ‘If I’d known on Pangar...’

‘You should have still recommended bringing them on board like you did.’ Jack interrupted her contrite apology. He didn’t want to deal with them but he knew he had to and he needed Carter to understand that. He grimaced. He knew he had given her a hard time over it when things looked as though they’d gone South with the revelation the Goa’uld queen was Egeria.

‘I guess we’re always going to disagree about their motivations.’ Sam turned over onto her back and looked at him through the shadows. ‘I can understand why you don’t trust them, sir.’

‘I don’t understand why you trust them.’ Jack winced; he hadn’t meant to say that out loud but it was the truth. He didn’t understand. Not after what she experienced with Jolinar. Hell, he’d been unconscious when Kanan had procured his body; Sam had been conscious as an unwilling host.

Sam moved again so she could look at him fully. ‘I guess part of it is because of my Dad. I was the one who initiated him becoming one of them and...’ her voice trailed away but Jack filled in the rest. She had to trust the Tok’ra or believe she’d handed her Dad over to an untrustworthy ally at best, an enemy at worst.

‘Dad and Selmak seem to get along great.’ He reassured her.

‘That helps.’ Sam admitted.

‘What’s the other part?’ Jack asked.

She looked at him quizzically.

‘You said Dad was part of it. What’s the other part?’ He was genuinely interested.

Sam bit her lip and for a long moment he thought she wasn’t going to answer him. ‘I remember some of what I picked up when I was wearing the memory device on Netu. I can remember what it felt like when Jolinar was blended with Rosha.’

‘Ah.’ Jack pulled a face.

‘It didn’t seem so bad.’ Sam continued hastily. ‘Not something I’d want but Rosha did.’

And it had helped her, Jack realised. Her second-hand memory from the symbiote’s previous host had helped her understand the Tok’ra in a way he couldn’t.

‘Maybe it’s not a bad thing that we disagree.’ Jack offered. She trusted them; he didn’t; and the truth was probably somewhere in the middle. Sounded like a perfect definition of teamwork to him. ‘Works for me.’

She smiled; he could see the faint curve of her lips. Awareness crept across Jack stealthily. One moment he was smiling back at her, warmed by her friendship and the camaraderie, and the next...

He suddenly knew exactly how many inches there were between them...exactly how little they were wearing underneath the red satin...exactly how far he would need to lean to brush his lips across hers...

Where was a locked door when you needed one, Jack mused; he suddenly found it difficult to breathe.

The knock on the door startled them both. They lurched apart guiltily as though they had been caught doing something vastly more interesting than simply smiling at each other. Jack went for his weapon. Carter stayed back to cover him, her own 9mm in her hand as the knock came again. She hit the lights and Jack blinked as his eyes adjusted.

‘Who is it?’ He asked approaching the door but staying to the side of it, the gun in his hand.

‘It is Katu.’

‘One moment.’ Jack said, he was already tugging on the makeshift screen. He turned and saw Carter doing the same. They pushed it under the bed hastily and Jack placed his weapon down, checked to make sure Carter still had hers even though she hid it beneath the pillow before he answered the door.

Katu stood with two armed men outside. ‘Apologies for disturbing your rest but we have a situation.’

Jack frowned. ‘What kind of a situation?’

‘Your men have been arrested.’ Katu said. ‘They broke into our Archive.’

Jack blinked. Teal’c and Jonas? Arrested for breaking and entering? Again? He fought the urge to react. ‘We’ll get dressed.’ He said shortly. He closed the door and motioned for Carter to begin dressing as he headed to his own clothes. ‘I’m going to kill them,’ he declared succinctly.

Carter looked at him.

‘After we bail them out,’ he amended, ‘then I’m going to kill them both.’

o-O-o

Selmak winced as the volume of debate reached an unacceptable level and looked toward Per’sus. The leader of the Tok’ra High Council let the younger members vent and rant without pause. She felt a wave of disapproval and wondered whether it was Jacob or herself.

He should stop this, Jacob said to her inwardly.

Selmak silently agreed. Per’sus had allowed the discussion to deteriorate into a rabble. The discovery and loss of Egeria, the founder of the Tok’ra was a shock to all of them but the argument on what to do with her body was undignified. She sent another beseeching look to Per’sus but he simply looked away. He seemed defeated. The unrelenting attacks from Anubis on the Tok’ra had taken their toll.

She looked around the makeshift headquarters they had set up in a remote part of the Gallas system. The tunnels were barely formed; the environment sterile. The Tok’ra were in danger of falling into disarray.

‘And I say we must preserve our Queen!’ Delek insisted forthrightly. The young Tok’ra was gaining more and more influence as each day passed.

‘And I say we should perform the ritual of the dead and allow her to rest.’ Bar’ay argued; his older and wiser head apparently not preventing him from raising his voice.

‘If we are to have any chance...’ Delek asserted as more arguments broke out.

Selmak felt her anger bubble up. She sprang to her feet and slapped the table hard. ‘Enough!’

The furious bark of the oldest amongst them silenced the majority and the rest of the mutterings trailed away as Selmak flashed out at them from behind Jacob’s brown eyes.

‘I suggest we take a vote.’ Selmak said tersely. ‘Those in favour of preserving Egeria’s body so we can one day potentially clone a Queen, raise your hand.’

Hands went up around the table.

‘And those against?’ Selmak prompted. Other hands went up as some remained undecided.

‘The motion to preserve Egeria is carried.’ Selmak announced. ‘I suggest we find a remote planet specifically to house a stasis chamber. The body can be retrieved at a later date for cloning and will not be in danger of potentially being destroyed in one of Anubis’s attacks.’

‘That is a sensible suggestion, Selmak.’ Garshaw, her old friend, jumped in. ‘Per’sus?’

Per’sus nodded. ‘Fine.’ He sounded so disinterested that Selmak wondered that he had bothered to show for the Council meeting at all. ‘I believe our business is done.’

‘There is still the matter of the Pangarans.’ Delek pointed out, not bothering to hide his exasperation.

‘What about the Pangarans?’ Malek spoke up for the first time. He lifted a hand from the table. ‘There is nothing to discuss.’

‘How about the foolish agreement you made with them?’ Delek shot back. ‘We barely have enough resources to help ourselves never mind the resources to help the people who murdered our Queen.’

‘They had no idea who she was!’ Malek retorted. ‘And it was Egeria’s wish to help them!’

Selmak stared pointedly at Per’sus who again remained silent.

‘It is a waste of resources we do not have.’ Delek said forcefully.

‘The Tau’ri can help.’ Selmak said firmly. ‘They have the necessary laboratories and equipment at their Alpha site. Malek and I can work from there.’

‘You would say that.’ Delek looked across the table at Selmak with an arrogance that set Selmak’s teeth on edge. ‘Your host uses any excuse to spend time with his own kind.’

Selmak’s eyes flashed again angrily. ‘It is my suggestion, Delek.’

‘Then one wonders why we can no longer see the difference between host and symbiote.’ Delek sneered.

Can’t we smack the snot out of him, Jacob asked furious.

Perhaps later, Selmak allowed. She settled for glaring at Delek with a stony expression that made the young Tok’ra squirm and avert his gaze. Selmak turned deliberately to Per’sus. ‘There is another reason why we should help the Pangarans.’ She looked around the Council table. ‘The tretonin that they developed replaces the immune system of those who take it.’

‘I don’t see the relevance...’ Delek began pompously.

‘The Jaffa.’ Malek spoke up excitedly. ‘It could help the Jaffa.’

‘Exactly.’ Selmak smiled at him.

Per’sus stirred. ‘What do you mean?’

‘If we develop a form of this drug for the Jaffa, they would no longer be reliant on the Goa’uld symbiotes for their immune system.’ Selmak explained.

‘They would no longer be slaves of the Goa’uld.’ Malek added. ‘They could choose their own destiny.’

‘The idea has merit.’ Per’sus said as the mutterings began again.

‘Is it not dangerous?’ Bar’ay argued. ‘The Jaffa under the rule of the Goa’uld are dangerous but unleashed? Is that not like uncaging a Serpian Tigera?’

‘The Free Jaffa are led by Teal’c of Chulak and allied to the Tau’ri.’ Garshaw said quickly. ‘I assume Selmak means we would distribute the tretonin through them if we were to be successful.’

‘I do.’ Selmak said. ‘I also think we should consider that at the moment the strength of many Goa’uld is fundamentally based on the Jaffa. If we remove that strength then we weaken them.’

‘I believe we should not spend time and energy on such matters.’ Delek said.

‘You don’t think we should spend time and energy on enabling the Goa’uld to be weakened?’ Selmak retorted sharply. ‘Or delivering something of value to an ally?’

‘The Free Jaffa are hardly that.’ Bar’ay said. He gestured at Selmak. ‘At best they are an ally by association. I cannot envisage that they would even accept such a gift from us.’

‘But this would be an incredible gesture of acknowledgement from us in recognising them.’ Malek responded. ‘It could even help build a bridge between our two peoples. We are fighting for the same aim.’

Selmak nodded approvingly. Malek’s experience at the Alpha site had taught the young Tok’ra a lot about the Free Jaffa and about working with them; Selmak knew Malek was in awe of Bra’tac.

‘We should have done something years ago to help the Jaffa.’ Malek continued. ‘When you consider the Pangarans have created this tretonin in such a relatively short amount of time, if we had set our minds on such a task to assist the Jaffa previously, perhaps we would have weakened the Goa’uld sooner.’

‘But...’

Per’sus held up his hand. ‘Malek makes a good point.’ The High Councillor sighed. ‘The Pangarans have suffered for their treatment of Egeria; they will be helped because we will fulfil the last wishes of our Queen. That is not a topic for discussion.’ He looked around the table and even Delek lowered his head in reluctant agreement. ‘Selmak’s suggestion of helping the Jaffa will be put to the vote.’ He gestured. ‘Those in favour?’

Selmak looked around the table as she raised her own hand. It was going to be tight depending on how many abstained.

‘Against?’ Per’sus asked.

Hands went up; some stayed down.

Selmak breathed out slowly. They had won the vote: just.

‘Then it is decided.’ Per’sus said. ‘Selmak and Malek will attempt to create a Jaffa version of this tretonin.’ He stood. ‘This Council meeting is over.’ He swept out before anything more could be said.

Malek got to his feet. ‘Shall I gather supplies for our return to the Alpha site, Selmak?’

‘That would be appreciated, Malek.’ Selmak agreed. She wanted a quick word with Garshaw about Per’sus. She took a few steps around the table towards her old friend and stopped as Delek stepped in front of her.

‘Delek.’ Selmak said formally. She placed her hands behind her back to remove the temptation of hitting him.

Jacob chuckled inside her head.

‘Selmak.’ Delek bowed his head. ‘I wished to explain that I meant no disrespect.’

‘Then I would hate to hear your words when you did.’ Selmak responded frostily.

Delek smiled tightly. ‘You have to admit you spend a great deal of time with the Tau’ri.’

‘I am the liaison between the Tok’ra and the Tau’ri.’ Selmak rejoined smoothly. ‘Spending time is part of the job description.’

‘Of course.’ Delek said. ‘I will not keep you.’

Selmak inclined her head and moved past him.

His words bothered you, Jacob noted.

Selmak didn’t reply but Jacob was right. As much as she hated to admit Delek’s words nagged at her.

Don’t let that upstart get to you, Jacob advised.

I won’t, Selmak promised, but...

But, Jacob questioned.

But I can’t help wondering if his words are not symptomatic of something else, Selmak sighed. She shook herself inwardly. Perhaps she was worrying about nothing. She focused on Garshaw and put Delek’s words aside. There were more things to worry about that than Delek and, at least, she had secured the agreement to work on freeing the Jaffa. That was the important thing.

o-O-o

‘He’s going to kill me.’ Jonas declared into the stifling silence of the stuffy office in which they’d been detained.

Teal’c concluded his review of their holding cell, determining there was no way out; no window, a concrete floor and a large, thick wooden door locked securely and no doubt with an armed guard beyond it. He looked over at his Kelownan friend. Jonas sat in the wooden chair next to him, his hands restrained behind his back. There was a faintly panicked look in Jonas’s eyes; not at being caught, but at the thought of having to face O’Neill.

‘He will not be pleased.’ Teal’c conceded.

‘You’ll be fine.’ Jonas said as though Teal’c hadn’t spoken. ‘He likes you.’

Teal’c raised an eyebrow.

‘And when he learns that this was all my idea.’ Jonas gave a short colourless laugh. ‘I’m telling you, Teal’c; I’m dead.’

‘It was not your idea.’ Teal’c felt compelled to point that out. It had been his idea to make a covert visit to the Archive. He and Jonas had settled into their sparse quarters with little complaint but he had been able to tell that something had been bothering the other man.

Jonas had confided his suspicions that the Tohathu were hiding something and his frustration at O’Neill continually preventing him from asking the questions he wanted, to get to the bottom of what he believed was a deception.

They had spent a short time discussing the matter before Jonas had commented it was a pity that they couldn’t make an unaccompanied visit to the Archive they had seen on their tour. He was certain the truth would be found there.

It had been Teal’c who had suggested they attempt a scouting mission using the pretext of getting some air if they were questioned. They had been unobserved on their way to the Archive and once there...it had been easy to acquiesce to Jonas’s suggestion that they make the most of their opportunity.

They had entered without attracting attention and made their way through the main room to the locked chamber Jonas had noticed during their tour. He had found what the Tohathu were hiding but before they could make their exit, they had been discovered.

Teal’c was chagrined.

The guards had chased them through the Archive but they had known the maze of corridors better and, in the end, he and Jonas had been easily cornered. Too easily. His pride smarted. They had been marched into the office and restrained.

Katu had been called for. He had declared he was going to find Colonel O’Neill for an explanation of their behaviour despite their protest that their team leader had been unaware of their actions. An hour had passed since Katu’s departure.

Teal’c knew one thing: Jonas Quinn was right; O’Neill was not going to be pleased. And he was going to be most displeased with their newest team member. In Teal’c’s view, the Kelownan had already done much to prove he had earned his place on SG1 but Teal’c knew Jonas worried that O’Neill would change his mind. Given the number of potential team-mates that had come and gone in the period between Daniel Jackson’s death and Jonas’s assignment, Teal’c could understand his concern, although he believed O’Neill had accepted the young man.

‘How much longer do you think we’ll have to wait?’ Jonas asked, moving restlessly beside him.

Teal’c tilted his head; footsteps were approaching down the corridor outside. ‘Not long.’ He murmured.

The door flew open.

Katu entered and ushered their team leader with Major Carter beside him inside the room. Both looked rumpled as though disturbed from sleep. There was a dark shadow of rubble on O’Neill’s lower jaw.

Jack’s eyes ran over his captured team.

‘Colonel...’ Jonas began awkwardly.

Jack held up a finger effectively silencing him. He motioned at Katu. ‘Think we could get them out of the restraints, Katu.’

Katu looked unhappy but he nodded. A guard sprang forward with a knife and Teal’c felt the bonds around his wrists loosen. He shifted them forward, rubbing them slightly to renew the circulation. Beside him Jonas followed his example.

‘Could we have a moment?’ Jack asked brusquely.

Katu frowned but he left with the guard and SG1 was alone.

Jack looked from Teal’c to Jonas and back again. ‘So. Anyone want to tell me what the hell you were doing?’

Teal’c raised an eyebrow. ‘We were attempting to ascertain the nature of the secret the Tohathu are hiding.’

Jack exchanged a look with Sam.

Teal’c’s eyebrow rose further; they did not look surprised.

‘You figured it out too.’ Jonas realised.

‘Yes, Jonas.’ Jack waved between himself and Sam. ‘We figured it out too. Only our plan didn’t involve sneaking into strange Archives in the middle of the night and potentially offending our hosts. Our plan was going to be for you to question them tomorrow – today – whenever.’

Jonas flushed.

‘It was my idea to visit the Archive, O’Neill.’ Teal’c said firmly.

Jack stared at him; Teal’c stared back.

‘Well, you’re old enough to know better.’ Jack admonished exasperated.

Sam looked away and Teal’c considered that she was trying hard not to laugh.

‘Haven’t I told you before that if you insist on sneaking around strange buildings not to get caught?’ Jack continued. He sighed and rubbed his hand through his hair. ‘Tell me it was worth it.’

Teal’c shared a look of satisfaction with Jonas. ‘Indeed.’

‘It’s fascinating...’ Jonas stopped as Jack raised his finger again.

‘Is it a big honking space gun?’ Jack asked hopefully.

‘Uh, no,’ Jonas shifted in his seat.

‘Then it can wait until morning.’ Jack determined.

‘O’Neill.’ Teal’c said forcefully. ‘I do not believe this information can wait until daylight.’

Jack looked at him quizzically. ‘And why not?’

Jonas was the one who answered. ‘Because we think the Tohathu could be an offshoot of the Goa’uld like the Tok’ra.’

o-O-o

The Colonel transformed in front of Jonas from a fairly normal, if tired and grumpy, man into a warrior in a blink of an eye. ‘What?’

‘The scrolls I managed to read say this planet was once ruled over by Hathor.’ Jonas quickly explained. ‘There was a rebellion called the Tok’Hathor. Obviously, their name has become distorted with the passage of time but its roots are very definitely Tok’Hathor.’

‘Get to the point.’ Jack ordered. ‘Are we dealing with Goa’uld or not?’

‘It’s not clear if they are actually Goa’uld,’ Jonas admitted with a shrug, ‘or a human rebellion but it’s definitely what they’re hiding.’

Their team leader looked over at Sam questioningly. ‘I haven’t sensed any Goa’uld, sir.’

Jack pulled a face. ‘Me either.’

‘Nor have I,’ admitted Teal’c, ‘but the Goa’uld larva Hathor created during her attempt to take over Stargate Command did not contain naquadah.’

‘OK,’ Jack muttered, ‘that so wasn’t an image I wanted in my head.’

‘Sir, if Jonas and Teal’c are right, then the Tohathu could be a potential ally in the same way as the Tok’ra.’ Sam said.

‘You mean a massive pain in the butt?’ Jack remarked. He glanced apologetically at the Major and something passed between them that Jonas couldn’t make out; an apology, an understanding...

‘If they are Goa’uld it may help explain why they’ve kept it secret.’ Sam finished.

‘Have you ever heard of the Tok’Hathor, Teal’c?’ Jack asked.

The Jaffa inclined his head. ‘I have not.’

‘They could simply be the remnants of a human rebellion.’ Jonas pointed out.

‘Then why the secrecy?’ Sam asked.

Jonas grinned and gestured at her. ‘Women.’

‘Excuse me?’ Jack asked.

‘Their society is heavily based on strict rules regarding their women, Colonel.’ Jonas said. ‘Probably it was a reaction in the immediate aftermath of the rebellion to guard against any other female gaining power here. But, think about it,’ he dragged himself back on topic as he registered the flare of impatience in his team leader’s eyes, ‘Hathor’s rule has probably been lost in the mists of time to most of the general population. That they were once ruled by a woman has become their darkest secret for a government of men.’

‘And public knowledge of that could undermine their society.’ Sam mused. ‘There is probably some form of feminist movement here, sir.’

‘Well, we’re not here to start one if there isn’t.’ Jack said caustically.

Sam’s blue eyes flashed indignantly but she didn’t say anything.

‘There’s something else, Colonel.’ Jonas said, folding his arms together. ‘The scrolls indicated that the Tohathu created an antidote to nishta.’

‘That drug Hathor and Seth used?’ Jack checked.

Jonas nodded. ‘It prevents it from being effective.’

‘That would be worth trading for, sir.’ Sam said. ‘Electric shocks are only viable after infection.’

The Colonel rubbed his hand through his hair and gestured at Jonas and Teal’c. ‘OK. Patru has some trial thing organised for tomorrow morning because you’re not’ he mimed quotation marks, ‘exempt from their laws.’

A frisson of alarm ran through Jonas.

‘Katu says it’s just for show so...we should be fine.’ Jack looked disgruntled. ‘Look, let’s go and get some sleep. Keep your boots on; take watches and don’t leave your quarters.’ He glared at them. ‘Understood?’

‘Yes, sir.’ Jonas said quietly as Teal’c bowed his head.

Jack marched them out of the room and they were separated in the corridor as Jonas and Teal’c were led away by armed guards. They were escorted back to their assigned quarters.

The room was small with a sink in one corner and a shower room through a separate doorway to the back. The beds were in a bunk formation – one placed on top of the other. Teal’c had taken the bottom bunk on entering the room and Jonas had been happy enough with the top.

‘I will take first watch, Jonas Quinn.’ Teal’c said as he sat on the edge of his bed.

Jonas rubbed the back of his neck. ‘I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep anyway.’

‘You should try.’

In other words, Teal’c had it covered and Jonas should shut up, Jonas translated. He hoisted himself into the top bunk and stretched out. He placed his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling.

‘Teal’c?’ Jonas cleared his throat. ‘Are you worried about this trial tomorrow?’

‘I am not.’

‘Really?’ Jonas’s face creased in puzzlement. ‘We don’t even know the punishment for breaking into the Archive.’

‘I am confident O’Neill will not allow us to be subjected to any form of punishment.’ Teal’c replied, his low voice drifting upwards.

Jonas felt his own nerves about the trial ease up and he stroked his belly absently through the cotton t-shirt as though to soothe it even further. He thought back to his earlier frustration at the Colonel not listening to him; not taking note of the questions he was asking. He’d thought his team leader had simply dismissed the Tohathu’s history as unimportant.

He sighed.

‘Something troubles you, Jonas Quinn?’ Teal’c asked.

‘I just don’t think Colonel O’Neill trusts me yet, Teal’c.’ Jonas confessed into the darkness. ‘He shut me down all day.’

‘You should discuss the matter with O’Neill.’

Yep; he was really looking forward to that conversation, Jonas thought wryly. He closed his eyes and willed himself to get some sleep.

Somewhere between closing his eyes and dawn, Jonas managed to doze in fits and starts. He was tired when they were eventually escorted back to the same negotiating room that they had used the day before.

Jonas sat down tentatively beside Sam, acknowledging her smile of encouragement with a grateful nod. He held his tongue while the five men sat down opposite. He raised his hand as Katu went to speak.

‘I’m sorry; I thought there was going to be a trial?’ Jonas asked bluntly.

Jack glared at him.

Katu cleared his throat. ‘In the circumstances, we believe it would be best to put the matter behind us...’

Patru harrumphed loudly.

‘...and perhaps conclude that this relationship was not meant to be.’

‘That would be a shame.’ Jack gestured with his pen. ‘Because it would seem from what we learned of your history that we have a great deal in common.’

The five men shared anxious glances.

‘You read our scrolls?’ Patru leaned forward outraged.

‘How is that even possible?’ Katu asked. ‘The dialect is...’

‘A very old form of Goa’uld.’ Jonas asserted. ‘I have a working vocabulary.’ He subsided at Jack’s hard look.

‘You rebelled against the Goa’uld Hathor.’ Jack stated. ‘So did we.’

‘You...’ Katu leaned forward across the table. ‘You know of Hathor?’

Jonas nodded. ‘She was once allied to the Goa’uld who ruled Earth a long time ago, Ra. However, he exiled her and when she was found a few years ago, she attempted to take over Earth.’ He nodded at Sam. ‘Major Carter was instrumental in stopping her.’

The men across the table stared at Sam and a flush stole across her cheeks.

‘She was also instrumental in killing her when we ran into her again.’ Jack said proudly.

‘You actually killed her, sir.’ Sam pointed out.

‘After you rescued me from her.’ Jack rejoined.

‘This is incredible.’ Patru said. ‘Are you telling us Hathor is dead?’

‘Yes.’ Jack said. ‘That’s what we’re telling you.’

‘But our histories say she was a God!’ Katu said in disbelief.

‘A False God.’ Teal’c corrected. A smug look entered his gaze. ‘A dead False God.’

‘If this is true,’ Patru began.

‘And it is.’ Jack inserted.

‘Then you understand why we cannot allow the truth of our origins to become public knowledge.’

Jack darted a warning look toward Sam and gestured at Jonas to answer.

‘We’re not here to tell you how to run your government or society.’ Jonas said passionately. ‘That clearly is a matter for yourselves although I can’t say I agree with your views on restricting how much your women can contribute. As you’ve heard, Major Carter played a key part in helping defend Earth from Hathor.’

‘You know you folks could have told us.’ Jack added.

Katu lifted a hand from the table. ‘It is a taboo subject in our society. It is not something we discuss among ourselves let alone with strangers.’

‘I guess I can understand that.’ Jack said. ‘So, there was a rebellion here among the humans?’

‘Yes.’ Katu said.

Jonas saw a flicker of relief cross Jack’s face; the Tohathu were not Goa’uld.

‘Our ancestors long ago rose up and banished Hathor by becoming immune to her.’ Katu added.

‘Actually we’d like to consider trading for that.’ Jack said. ‘Hathor isn’t the only Goa’uld who uses nishta to seduce humans.’

‘And so because we have something you wish you are content for us to forget your criminal behaviour.’ Patru snapped.

‘We suspected you were keeping something from us.’ Jack spoke before Jonas could get the words out. ‘My team acted without my authority but they believed they needed to find out what that something was. I don’t condone their behaviour but as I said: you folks could have just told us.’

‘If we’re both willing to look beyond what happened last night,’ Jonas jumped in, ‘I’m sure we can move forward.’

‘Because if we don’t trade with you, you’ll inform our populace of the origins of our society?’ Patru accused them boldly.

‘No.’ Jack stressed the word emphatically. ‘As Jonas says we can’t agree with the restrictions you place on women in your society but whether you trade with us or not, we won’t reveal your secret.’

Jonas held his breath. He knew the Tohathu were interested in Earth’s medical technology if they believed the Colonel.

Katu looked across at his companions and slowly nodded. He turned back to SG1. ‘Very well. Then let us trade.’

A few hours later, Jonas found himself stepping onto the ramp of the SGC with the successful news of a draft trade treaty with the Tohathu. The debrief was mercifully quick; Jonas listened as the Colonel outlined the treaty which covered an initial exchange but recommended that if no natural changes took place in regards to the equality of women in the Tohathu society that the treaty not be renewed.

It was an acceptable compromise, thought Jonas. It allowed them to secure what they needed but it also allowed them to discontinue trading with a planet whose values were so at odds with their own. He headed back to his office to begin writing his report and froze in the doorway when he saw the Colonel already there, examining an artefact – a Mayan fertility statue – with a bored expression.

‘Colonel.’ Jonas looked at him puzzled. ‘Was there something you wanted?’

‘Teal’c said you wanted to talk with me.’ Jack said.

Jonas felt his stomach drop away as though he was in free fall. He hadn’t intended to speak with the Colonel about the events on the planet at all despite his words to Teal’c the night before.

‘So?’ Jack prompted, motioning with the statue.

‘I wanted to talk to you about what happened with the Tohathu.’ Jonas said slowly.

Jack’s eyes remained guarded but he gestured again for Jonas to continue.

‘I don’t understand why you didn’t allow me to question the Tohathu yesterday.’

‘Jonas,’ Jack sighed heavily and placed the artefact down, ‘if you feel that I’m shutting down an area we need to explore, I need you to speak up.’ He hesitated. ‘I mean, in a break.’ He rocked back on his heels. ‘Or after.’ He gestured. ‘You know; just not in the actual negotiations.’

Jonas prickled defensively. ‘With respect, Colonel, I haven’t felt you’ve been particularly open to my opinions.’

Something flashed in Jack’s eyes. Acceptance: annoyance. Jonas wasn’t sure which.

‘Consider me open.’ Jack said eventually.

Jonas nodded.

Jack stuffed his hands into the pockets of his BDUs. ‘You did a good job with the Tohathu.’

‘Thank you.’ Jonas said surprised at the praise.

Jack pointed at him. ‘Only next time...’

Jonas grinned. ‘Don’t get caught.’

‘I was going to say ‘don’t let Teal’c lead you astray’,’ Jack remarked with amusement, ‘but that works.’ He looked at Jonas. ‘We good?’

Jonas nodded. ‘Yes, Colonel.’ He watched as his team leader sauntered away before he breathed out.

It was a small step forward but it was a step forward.

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