Title: "Character"

Author: silver

Written: December 30th, 2004 – January 2nd, 2005, then March 12th, 2005 – April 9th, 2005

Takes Place: I'm gonna say somewhere in the first half of season 5.

Summary: SG-1 is taken captive by an alien king who needs Sam to perpetuate his bloodline and is prepared to take any steps necessary to possess her. The team races against time to escape before Sam pays the ultimate price for her defiance. J/S

Rating: PG-13 for language and violence, including torture, but nothing more than what you'd see or hear on the show.

Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 belongs to a bunch of people who are in no way related to me. I own nothing but a bunch of tuition bills and a 94 Eagle Vision that just passed 154,000 miles. This fic was written purely in my spare time (hence the two and a half month gap in between sections of writing, due to school), for my own amusement, and I'm making no money from it. More's the pity.

Author's Note: Yeah, sorry…it's one of those "Carter gets picked on by an alien race because she's a woman" fics. They seem to keep getting written because Jack's just so damn cute when he's jealous and / or concerned for her. I am helpless to resist the siren call of writing such a story. ;)

And don't worry, I never post a fic without having completed writing it, first, so there will only be a one-day-delay in between chapter postings. The whole thing (nine chapters plus an epilogue) will therefore be posted over the course of just outside a week, a chapter a day until it's finished. I hate to have to do it this way, but I've learned from experience that when I post a fic in its entirety, I get like…nine reviews and then it's lost among all of the other new updates the next day. I have to do it this way in order to ensure that it gets read by more than one day's worth of readers. Sorry!


by: silver

"Well, this is another fine mess you've gotten us into, Daniel."

Doctor Daniel Jackson's eyebrows drew together like two fuzzy caterpillars suffering under the delusion that they were actually rams at mating season. He cocked an ear and turned as much as the restraints would allow him in order to regard Colonel O'Neill, who was similarly shackled. "Sorry? How is this all my fault, again?"

O'Neill arched an eyebrow sardonically. "Oh, don't give me that look. It's always your fault. You're always the one who wants to talk to the nice natives. And then the nice natives always end up capturing and making off with us."

Daniel frowned and opened his mouth to argue, but O'Neill was going on, "If you'd ever just listen to me, and exercise a little caution, we wouldn't keep finding ourselves in these situations."

"Jack, if we did everything your way, we wouldn't even have the allies we've got now. You can't go around alienating the entire universe."

"Hey!" O'Neill pointed an index finger up in a stop right there gesture. "They were all aliens before I got anywhere near 'em! Besides, with allies like ours, who wants more? Well, except for Thor."

Daniel squeezed his eyes shut, head drooping as he pinched the bridge of his nose, obviously endeavoring not to be drawn into another hopeless argument.

"In Daniel's defense, sir, they didn't exhibit any hostile tendencies until that feast last night."

Colonel O'Neill glanced at the beautiful woman sitting diagonally across from him. She and the tall, silent Jaffa seated next to her were both chained in the same manner as O'Neill and Doctor Jackson. All four were alone in the back of a covered wagon, jostling together as their ride groaned and strained and crashed over rocks and into holes in the earth, being hauled to God only knew where.

O'Neill's second in command had lost her hat somewhere in the scuffle, but the short, almost boyish hairstyle she sported appeared immune to messiness. Actually, she had fared better than all three of her teammates thus far, somehow escaping the natives' impromptu assault with only a few bruises.

Though, escape might be the wrong word to use, O'Neill reflected, since none of his team had, in fact, managed to get away. They'd all been taken by relative surprise when the natives – who, as Carter had pointed out, had been utterly placid up until that point – abruptly rose up as one at the end of their feast and made to abduct the Major.

Nor would it be entirely accurate to claim that he hadn't known something was off, because he had. From the moment they'd arrived on this backwater planet (officially designated P3X-2235, SG-1 had been informed by the natives that its name was Nete. The continent was called Nisia), Carter had been the focus of much fascinated attention from the locals. They'd been in awe of her wheat-colored hair, had reached shy fingers out to touch clothing of a sort they'd never seen on a woman. They had given her the seat of honor at the midday meal, lavishing her with the choicest selections of meat, the most succulent pieces of fruit. For her part, Carter had reacted with her traditional diplomacy-induced politeness, but it was obvious to the rest of her team that she found such overwhelming attentiveness somewhat discomforting.

To O'Neill's annoyance, a small cult of unbonded men with no apparent purpose but to worship his 2IC had assembled almost immediately. So yeah, he could tell that the natives were infatuated with her, but it was hardly as if this were the first time. It seemed that many of the cultures they encountered at the other end of the wormhole not only existed under patriarchal rule, but retained some significantly different views of women and their role in society. Even a few of the more advanced civilizations they'd met were genuinely surprised by the equal status that Tau'ri women possessed.

O'Neill sighed, trying to focus on the big picture. Trying – and failing miserably – to ignore the mild case of jealousy that afflicted him every time another man noticed his Major. "I should never have let you guys talk me into letting them have their little hootenanny for us."

"Colonel," Carter protested, "Daniel's right. We can't afford to be aloof with people we're trying to negotiate trade with. The amount of mineable naquada on this planet alone is more than enough reason to motivate us to foster an alliance."

"Yeah, yeah," O'Neill brushed her off. "You know, you're right. It's not Daniel's fault; it's yours."

Her blue eyes registered surprise. "Mine?"

"Oh, you," he waved his hand at her, "and your little fan club of alien suitors."

He was peevishly gratified to see faint color heat her cheeks. "Sir, I hardly think - "

"It's not like this is an isolated incident," O'Neill continued. He held up a hand, ready to recite the lengthy list of men under Carter's spell and tick them off on his fingers, one by one. Then he paused as two things occurred to him. Firstly, most of the names he'd been about to spout off belonged to men who were now dead, and it just seemed a little…crass to use them in such context. Secondly, it probably wasn't such a great idea to let his 2IC in on the fact that her commanding officer was keeping a tally of all the men who'd been interested in her. "It happens everywhere we go," he finished lamely. "I'm just saying – "

"I do not believe Major Carter did anything to indicate that she would welcome the advances of the men who attacked us, O'Neill," Teal'c interjected.

The Colonel raised an eyebrow in surprise at the Jaffa's uncharacteristic interruption. "Well no, but you're missing my point."

"And ah, what is your point, exactly?" Daniel wanted to know.

"That we should have been on the lookout for something like this."

Daniel inclined his head and squinted dubiously at O'Neill. "Because…we've…been kidnapped by men interested in Sam so many times before…?"

"Because they all lulled us into a state of complacency!" O'Neill declared. "Just because the situation isn't abnormal doesn't mean we shouldn't be on the alert. We let our guard down because this whole thing is commonplace."

"Colonel, with all due respect, I think you're exaggerating just a little," Carter said uncomfortably.

"You just wait," he replied vaguely, irritably sinking lower against the stiff seat back and wishing he could cross his arms. The manacles around his wrists, however, bound them effectively to the wooden beam across his lap.

In an attempt to change the subject, thereby saving Carter from further mortification, Daniel cleared his throat. "So…let's think about this rationally for a minute. Did we maybe do something that could've been perceived as threatening?"

"We did not." Teal'c's tone was, as usual, flatly factual and brokered no argument.

Carter shook her head in agreement. "Everything was fine."

"Okay, uh, did anyone notice anything out of the ordinary just before they attacked?"

For several moments the interior of the wagon was silent save for the sounds of horses and people talking that intruded from outside as they all contemplated the events from the evening before. O'Neill tried to catch a glimpse of their location through a slit in the canvas that covered their wagon, but although there was sufficient lighting from the early morning sun, all he could make out were trees. He scowled at a memory from just before the attack. "What about the guy?"

Everyone looked at him. "The…guy." Daniel said.

"Yeah, you know."

"Oh yes of course, that one. Thank you for elaborating."

"Don't be smart," O'Neill commanded. "There was a guy. The smarmy one acting like Carter's personal assistant."

"Raynaal," Teal'c supplied the name.

"Yeah, that guy," O'Neill said, then looked over at his 2IC. "He brought you something, didn't he? Right before everybody spazzed out?"

Carter's eyes unfocused, giving the impression that she was looking inwardly for the answer as she thought back. "Yes, sir. It looked like a stone but it was very smooth and symmetrical. Actually, now that I think about it, it looked similar to an Asgard communicator, but without any symbols. He indicated that it was some sort of technological device"

"With what purpose?" Teal'c asked, suddenly looking interested.

"He said it was a type of medical diagnostic tool; offered to show me how it worked."

"I'll bet he did," O'Neill muttered.

Carter didn't acknowledge the remark, either choosing to pretend as if she hadn't heard, or was just genuinely concentrating on her memory. "He said that just by placing it on a patient's skin, healers can tell all sorts of things about them."

"And you let him put it on you?" O'Neill asked incredulously. "What were you thinking? You don't just let strange people come up and…put rocks on you."

"It seemed perfectly harmless, sir," Carter defended herself. "And it didn't do anything to me; I'm fine."

"But he learned something from it," Daniel said thoughtfully. "Something that changed the way they were acting toward us."

"Perhaps they have discovered the protein marker left behind by Jolinar," Teal'c suggested. There was a slightly perplexed expression on his face, as if something Carter had just said was familiar to him, but he couldn't quite recall it.

Carter pursed her lips, thinking. "It could be anything, really. We have no idea what they might be reacting to. It's possible they just don't like the location of my appendix, for all we know."

O'Neill sighed melodramatically. "I'm sure we'll find out."

They traveled for the better part of the day; the wagon containing them was apparently part of a larger caravan on some of sort cross-country trek. Since the team had been deprived of their weapons and gear ("At least I got to keep my glasses, this time," Daniel had remarked), O'Neill appreciated the several rest stops staggered over the course of the trip. SG-1 was served water, bread and dried meat, eating in the wagon under the watchful eye of a guard armed with an impressive-looking blade. They were permitted to leave the wagon briefly – under escort of guards, of course – only in order to use the facilities of the woods.

Several hours past the last rest stop, the light shining into the wagon had taken on an orange cast and O'Neill figured they were nearing the planet's nightfall. All of their watches had been removed at the same time they'd been divested of their vests and weapons, but if he had to guess, he'd place it at twenty hours since their capture the night before, and around twelve since being loaded into the wagon that morning.

"We've gotta be at least nine hours overdue," he commented.

Daniel looked at him. "They'd have sent reinforcements by now."

Carter sighed in frustration; for the past hour she'd been attempting to pick the lock on her shackles with a sliver of wood she'd managed to smuggle back from her last foray into the forest, but it just wasn't strong enough to spring the heavy metal lock. She gave up after it snapped into pieces too small to utilize, and flicked them to the floor of the wagon. "That's assuming there were no hostiles at the gate when they sent the M.A.L.P. through. General Hammond won't have authorized a rescue mission if it puts another team in danger. And I haven't heard the UAV."

"Nor have I," Teal'c added. "However, the interior of our conveyance has not at all times remained silent."

O'Neill glanced at him, then at the other members of his team. "What're you all looking at me for? I wasn't the only one talking."

"No," Daniel admitted, "but you were the one who insisted we play 'I Spy' and 'Twenty Questions'."

"Oh come on," O'Neill said. "Don't tell me you haven't been just as bored out of your skull as me."

The archaeologist wisely remained silent, and so it was that they all heard a shout in the distance, outside. Moments later the wagon ground to a stop. At first O'Neill wondered if they were under some sort of attack, but the level of conversation outside remained constant, lacking panic. O'Neill craned to see out through the slit in the canvas. "Teal'c, can you see anything?"

The Jaffa was leaning forward as far as he was able, examining things from his viewpoint. "Indeed. We have come to a fortified structure. There is a large gate with guards. It appears that the convoy will gain entry."

His words were prophetic. Not two minutes passed before the wagon started moving again. They could all tell when they'd entered the structure Teal'c had spoken of, for the light that filtered through the canvas immediately became much dimmer. They eyed each other apprehensively in the gloom, realizing that the end of their journey was near.

Moments after the wagon came to its final stop the canvas was opened by Raynaal, the same man who had instigated their capture the evening before. He and an escort of four guards removed SG-1 from the wagon and led them away from the group of people who had traveled with them this far. O'Neill assessed their surroundings as they walked, seeking any information that might help them escape. He noticed that his team was doing the same. Teal'c and Carter, he was sure, were also looking for ways out. If he knew Daniel, though, the archaeologist was observing the architecture, the artwork, and anything else that might give him insight into the culture.

They were conducted through a maze of candlelit corridors by their armed guard: Raynaal led the way followed by two of the guards, and the other two remained behind SG-1 to ensure their cooperation. O'Neill could feel the temperature shift subtly as they moved deeper into the structure; the air became marginally cooler the farther away they were from the warming sun.

Finally, they came to a set of high wooden doors illustrated by paintings and covered in alien symbols worked in iron. A large matching ring was also affixed to each door at the center. When their guards paused before the doors, O'Neill glanced at Carter out of the corner of his eye. She had schooled it from her expression, but her tense body language revealed anxiousness about the motivations of their captors. She was the one who had been singled out the night before, and she no doubt believed – as he did – that their abduction had little to do with the team, and everything to do with her.

O'Neill nudged Teal'c, who was standing on his other side. "Check out the size of those knockers," he said, indicating the iron rings. Predictably, Teal'c merely cocked an incurious eyebrow and returned his eyes to front. On his right, however, O'Neill was gratified to see Carter press her lips together in attempt to stamp out the small smile she could never quite suppress at his bad jokes. Observing the lilting curve at the corners of her mouth, O'Neill considered his mission accomplished and returned his own attention to the doors.

They opened, and SG-1 was escorted into the room beyond. Daniel's head whipped back and forth as he tried to take in everything at once. The furnishings were opulent. Gilded mirrors, thick, embroidered tapestries and colorful decorations adorned the walls of the chamber, and there were several plush divans festooned with enormous, overstuffed pillows. At the far end of the room there was also a throne resting atop a dais, framed by gauze-like sheets of silk held back by thick, tasseled ropes.

Upon the throne was seated a man clad in a white robe and what O'Neill could only regard as a skirt, no matter how many times Daniel tried to educate him about the reasons behind the dress customs of more primitive cultures. The dark-eyed man looked to be of about forty years of age, and atop his long brown hair he wore – surprisingly – a Pharaoh's headpiece.

Raynaal bowed. "Basileus," he said respectfully.

The seated man rose and approached immediately. Daniel took the opportunity to step forward, launching automatically into his usual spiel. "Hello. I'm Doctor Daniel Jackson. We're peaceful explo – "

"This is she?" the stranger inquired of Raynaal, walking right past Daniel. Raynaal nodded enthusiastically, and the robed man's gaze settled hungrily on Carter. "I have waited a lifetime for you," he told her.

Carter's wide, intensely blue eyes reminded O'Neill of a cupie doll. Her mouth opened to give reply, but she had obviously not been expecting to be greeted by such a statement. "Uh," she said, and if the situation hadn't been so tenuous O'Neill thought he might've laughed. He didn't think he'd ever seen her so lost for words, before. To her credit, she finally blinked and recovered quickly. "I think there's been some sort of mistake. My team and I have come in peace to negotiate trade with your people."

The man – 'Basileus', Raynaal had called him – smiled at Carter, obviously entranced, and the bad feeling in O'Neill's gut began to blossom into something uglier. "Of course," the man said, freeing Carter from her bonds. He immediately took one of her hands into both of his own in a possessive gesture. "I look forward to many years of friendship between our peoples."

Daniel's eyebrows rose in tandem with Teal'c's. O'Neill forced enthusiasm. "Well that's great, isn't it, kids? Years from now we'll all be sitting around, knocking back the brews, laughing about the time our good pal Basileus stole our weapons and had us taken prisoner. " He raised his own shackled wrists to the guard nearest him, who remained unmoving and impassive. "Yep," O'Neill continued, "good times. Just as soon as you…you know…let us go." He hopefully shook his clanking wrists for emphasis.

Finally, the robed man took his eyes from Carter and looked at O'Neill. "I apologize for the methods necessary to bring you here. But I could not risk missing this opportunity. The rest of you will be released as soon as the ceremony is complete, and I hope that there will be no ill will between us."

Daniel's eyes narrowed a little. "What ceremony?"

"Uh…the rest of us?" O'Neill asked.

"Forgive me," the man said. "I've gotten ahead of myself. My name is Polytus; I am the Basileus of this land, called Nisia. The ceremony I spoke of is my bonding..." Here he again turned his attention to Carter, "…to this remarkable woman. She will remain here with me, of course."