This story was written strictly for the purpose of entertainment. No attempt has been made to copyright any characters which may not have been originally created by the author, and no profit is made from this work of fiction. Any original characters and the stories themselves are the property of the author.
Thanks to my betas, Monica and Jess, who keep me going. Thanks also to anyone who provides feedback but doesn't provide the information I need to thank them individually.
"Maybe the place changed a lot," Sam said, trying to make Cam feel better about the really sticky situation from which they had just extricated themselves. The bar, Sid's Suds, had looked unexceptional from the outside. Cam remembered it having a pleasant clientele and wonderful onion rings. Daniel loved onion rings and had immediately gotten behind Cam's suggestion this be their destination when Jack agreed to join them for a drink after the three of them had completed their debriefs for him in DC. Sam and Daniel were amazed that Jack had decided to come along. He had been keeping his distance since his promotion, aware as always of the responsibilities of rank and the problems that came from getting too tight with those down the chain of command. He'd been sorely missed and they were grateful for whatever had motivated him to break his own rules. They merely regretted that Teal'c was off-world and couldn't be part of the little reunion.
"There is no such thing as insta-grim," Jack said, referring to the patina of smoke and grunge that had overlain everything. "It takes time for something to get that disgusting. Just how far gone were you when you were in there, Colonel?" he followed up with Cam.
"Look, I apologize to everyone but I swear three years ago that place was totally different," Cam said, unlocking the rental car door.
"You know," Daniel said, making his own attempt to smooth things over, "those were pretty serious looking guys in there. I bet they would be capable of bringing a place down in a week, not to mention three years."
They got in the car only to find out that it wouldn't start. "This is certainly my first choice of a place to have a nonoperational car," Jack said. They all piled out again, it being a humid night not designed to be spent sitting in a car without operational air conditioning.
Cam popped the hood and they stood staring at what was, or rather, was not underneath. In the dim illumination of the nearby streetlight it was clear that several things had simply been removed. "I can see a thief taking some things but a length of hose just seems a little indiscriminant," Sam said, peering in. A small knot of people, the Stargate party assumed were perhaps recently emerged from the bar, stopped to look at what was happening.
Jack was starting to call for assistance on his cell when a burst of energy knocked it from his hands, producing a yelp. "What the hell!" he exclaimed.
Immediately, the woman they had thought was just a spectator said, "Don't move, any of you. You've seen what our weapons are capable of and that was on a low setting."
She came forward accompanied by three men, all holding weapons trained on Cam and his passengers. As they moved into area lit by the streetlight, one of the men was revealed as looking like he could be Daniel's brother, almost his twin, once you corrected for his long hair, lack of glasses, and demeanor dripping with arrogance. The woman looked as much like Daniel as a woman could look and still be feminine and attractive. She moved as if she was the queen of something. The other two men hung back slightly, clearly minions serving as muscle. There was no opportunity to explore this surprising resemblance as she immediately began barking orders.
"We'll start with you General. Take the position against the car," the woman ordered curtly.
Jack's only knowledge of "the position" was from TV. He had never been arrested in his life and, as a succession of commanding officers could attest, he didn't take orders all that well. A bolt of energy sizzled at his feet when he didn't move. "All right, already," he said and awkwardly placed his legs wide apart and went forward with his arms outspread. She commanded, "Janus," impatiently, and one of the burly men came forward and patted Jack down as a stretch limo pulled up next to the rental car and sat idling.
"You next," she said, jerking her head at Cam, then, in turn, at Sam. Finally only Daniel was left, looking helplessly at his three friends splayed over the side, front, and back of Cam's rental car. Janus went to each one of them, leaving them sagging in place, limp and unconscious. "Okay, let's go," she said to Daniel. Her tone was almost deferential compared with the imperious way she had spoken to the others.
"What the hell are you doing?" Daniel yelled. "What have you done to them?" He went to Sam, sprawled against the hood of the car and no one stopped him. His heart was in his throat until he was able to determine that she was breathing normally but definitely out of it.
The woman said again, "We need to go."
"Excuse me," Daniel said, using the Rodney Dangerfield form of the term, not like he thought he had something that needed pardoning. "Go where and why should I? Who ARE you people anyway? They are going to be okay, right?" he added, gesturing at his friends.
Suddenly Janus' partner came forward and said something quietly but urgently to the woman and the Daniel look alike. "No more messing around," she said, worried. "There's about to be a major problem." The minion pointed down the street and Daniel saw another car three blocks away and moving quickly toward them.
Janus and his cohort picked up Cam and Jack and threw them in the back of the limo. The Daniel look alike spoke for the first time while the larger of the two musclemen picked up Sam. "You need to come. They'll hurt you badly and your friends too. You want to save your friends? Then we need to go." From now two blocks away, there was a long bolt of light that struck the car next to Daniel. He made a quick decision, or more accurately bowed to the one made for him, and followed the woman and the man carrying Sam into the back of the limo. It immediately roared off with bolts of light dancing all around them.
At first, they were all jumbled together in the back of the limo which was not designed to hold eight people, at least not when three of them were unconscious. Cam, Jack, and Sam were draped limply across the beefy heavy lifters who tried to straighten them up into more reasonable positions. Daniel's look alike said, "I'm Caius."
The woman said, "I'm Ruth and you, of course, are Daniel." She looked at his three unconscious friends and said, "I regret that we had to involve your friends but time was critical. We've spent hours waiting for you to separate yourself from them," she added, aggrieved.
Caius chimed in, "Don't you ever even go to the restroom?" He looked at Ruth, "Clearly born to rule. A good bladder may be the single most important character trait during those looong state banquets."
Daniel fought down panic and anger and focused on the banquet comment which sounded rather benign even if it had been made in a tone of voice that implied that good bladder control was about all he had going for him. He managed to say in a calm, reasonably pleasant tone of voice, "Caius, Ruth, I really would like an explanation of what's going on here."
Ruth said, "I'm your sister and Caius your brother. Our oldest brother was just assassinated and our mother ordered that you be sent for." She paused, "At last."
Daniel put up a hand. "Wait just a minute. I don't have any siblings and my mother died a long time ago. I think you have me confused with someone else," realizing as he did so that most of the people who issue that line know damn well there is no confusion at all.
Caius said, "You wish," and laughed. It wasn't a friendly laugh. "The Jackson's weren't your parents. They were simply the people who took you after your kidnapper died unexpectedly. It took years to track you down. When our mother's agents found you ten years ago, they snipped a few hairs from you on a crowded elevator and had them tested. There was no question. And frankly, brother, look at me. Do you truly doubt that we are related?"
"We'll stipulate, just for the sake of discussion, that you are actually my siblings. Would you care to explain the bolts of light?" Daniel said, maintaining his cool. He was, in fact, not unaccustomed to this sort of weaponry but had to maintain the fiction that he was.
"Come now, Daniel. You are familiar with the zat. This is just a variation of the weapon," Ruth said, sounding amused. "We know all about the Stargate so you need not try to hide it."
"Sooo you're claiming to be aliens. Claiming that I'm an alien?" Daniel said slowly, feeling like he had wandered into an X-Files episode. Weird things were supposed to strictly be on the other side of the gate, leaving Earth his personal no-weird zone. He had based a lot of his peace of mind on this concept although there had been occasional violations.
"Puleese," Ruth said. "Of course. Let me guess. Your next question is going to be 'Who is in the other car?'"
"Kind of," Daniel agreed, watching Sam out of the corner of his eye. Was it his imagination or did she seem to be regaining consciousness?
"Not everyone is anxious for you to ascend to the throne," she said, matter of factly.
"For me to do what!" Daniel exclaimed.
"Ascend to the throne. You are our mother's oldest living child," Ruth said very prosaically as if the average American discussed his place in the royal succession over breakfast when, in point of fact, most Americans were thinking white porcelain if the subject of a throne came up at all.
"Hey," Daniel said, beginning to think this was maybe something he was about to wake up from and feel really stupid about. "I give it to you or Caius here. You guys can flip a coin. Just release my friends and me."
Caius said with a tinge of bitterness, "It doesn't work like that. You'll find out. As to your friends, we don't need three extra commoners but we are aware that they matter to you. We'll have to keep them with us until there is a way to release them that will keep them safe."
As if in answer to that statement, more light played around the car. The car clearly wasn't an average car and the people chasing them had also clearly not given up. They careened into the suburbs and then into the Virginia countryside and the pursuit continued. After several minutes three cars approached and pulled up to flank them. Their occupants took on the pursuers and Daniel's car was able to pull away.
The limo pulled up to a small airstrip and the two goons along with the limo driver removed Jack, Sam, and Cam from the limo. No one touched Daniel. Ruth and Caius got out and Ruth leaned back in to say, pleading in her voice, "Please come with us or we will be forced to make you come. Your friends are already being placed aboard."
Daniel clambered out and saw that dark forms carrying limp bodies like sacks of mail were entering the Lear jet. He followed his supposed siblings, not seeing what other choice he had. A few moments later he was in a compartment at the rear of the jet with Ruth, Caius, and his unconscious friends. Cam, Jack, and Sam were searched, divested of everything in their pockets, and strapped into seats with some sort of restraining devices used to secure their hands to the arms. Ruth asked, "Do you wish to stay with them or do you wish to come up front with us?"
Caius said, "Why do you even ask Ruth? As we speak, he's looking for a sword to fall on or some other noble gesture to save them." He looked at Daniel, "I'm sure you feel like staying with your friends."
"Please," Daniel affirmed immediately.
Caius made a face. It made Daniel feel like an out of body experience, yet again, to essentially be watching himself acting like a pompous ass. Ruth said with considerably more sympathy than Caius had shown, "Daniel, you have no way out. But a few more hours of not knowing the details of your destiny won't make any difference. Enjoy them." She patted his arm and followed Caius out of the compartment.
Within an hour, the sleepers had awakened. Daniel had been completely unable to free them from the restraints which wasn't helping anyone's mood. Jack was the most vocal about his unhappiness. Sam and Cam were more interested in trying to figure out what was going on. Daniel got rather tired of answering the same questions the same way over and over again. When Daniel took inventory of his own feelings, he was a little surprised to find that the strongest one was embarrassment. Why was he the one always singled out for mating with aliens or whatever? Always different because of his brilliance, he yearned deep down inside not to be all that different but life never cooperated.
Twice Caius, Ruth, and the guards had entered and given each of the prisoners an opportunity to use the bathroom and eat something. As the door was opening the second time, Jack demanded, "If you're some sort of royalty, Daniel, then order them to let us go." Daniel had tried. He was treated with great respect but his wishes ignored. When Jack continued to insist, he was backhanded. Cam learned by example and kept his objections to himself. Cam's reaction to the whole experience fascinated Daniel. He was used to Jack but they had only been working with Cam for a short time and he didn't know what to expect.
Ruth and Caius seemed to have very selective rules about the questions they were willing to answer during these contacts. They refused to say anything about the family circumstances or the royal succession but readily explained that their people, apparently Daniel's people, had been Goa'uld slaves who had joined with their Jaffa slavemasters and thrown off the Goa'uld yoke almost two thousand years before. The Goa'uld had a superstitious fear of them as the only subjects, according to Ruth and Caius, to ever successfully revolt and left them alone as long as they did nothing to provoke them. They had been coming to Earth for centuries because Earth had a special religious significance for them.
After the second visit by their captors ended, Cam said, very matter of factly, "This is going to sound a little conceited but I've caught both your siblings giving me the eye."
Daniel seemed to be saying "Excuse me" ala Dangerfield a lot. He said it again.
Cam said, slightly embarrassed, "I'm just saying it's happened. I'm mentioning it because it may be something down the line we can leverage."
Jack exploded. "Forget your hotness rating, Mitchell. Danny, this wasn't any fun the last time when you were some sort of a king and addicted to the sarcophagus while the rest of us were in the mines. This is NOT happening."
"What do you suggest we do, Jack?" Daniel asked reasonably. "They've had superior weapons on us the entire time. We stay alert and if there's an opportunity for escape we take it. However our best opportunity may be when they stop treating me like a prisoner and accept me as one of them. I may be able to simply order that you be released." Jack subsided but barely.
Daniel had not been able to tell much of anything about where they were going as they flew high above the clouds and they stayed ahead of sunrise. At last they began to descend and he could see dark sea and an island approaching. As soon as they touched down, Ruth and Caius and the two guards returned. Daniel said, trying to hold onto his patience, "Surely you can release them somewhere now without their being endangered. There's no need to continue to hold them."
"That's what I thought," Caius said, "but our mother in her infinite wisdom feels that they may be very useful in securing your cooperation and ultimately your happiness. You will need friends you can trust at court and most sovereigns find the only way to do that is to keep friends from childhood with them, friends who were their friends before they had great power."
Daniel was dumbfounded. "They have lives. You can't expect them to give everything up for me."
Cam chimed in, "Besides we just met." He shrugged apologetically, not looking at Daniel.
Daniel, of course, didn't blame him but instead picked up on the theme, took a mental deep breath, and let it rip, hoping he could be convincing enough. "He's right about that. Colonel Mitchell and I are little more than acquaintances. General O'Neill's a self-centered bastard who has seldom found the energy to give me the time of day for years and when he does, it's usually to call me a royal pain in the ass. As for Colonel Carter, she and I have had a lot of tension in recent years because she's jealous of my scientific abilities. She's laboring under some sort of delusion that I have a thing for her and has gone out of her way to shut me down to discourage me."
When he paused for breath, Jack, Sam, and Cam were all staring at him dumbfounded. Daniel thought, "Surely they know I'm lying," but he knew that everyone thought he was a lousy liar and that had been really good lying. Although he wasn't admitting it to himself, down deep he knew he'd been able to pull it off because there was a tiny kernel of truth there. He had once felt so close to Jack and Jack's increasing coolness and unwillingness to give him much credit at all over recent years had hurt. He had allowed Jack to become a surrogate big brother/father in his mind and the distance in their friendship had felt a little like loosing his parents again. As for Sam, he didn't even want to go there in his own mind with no one but himself looking on. He hadn't enjoyed watching her go from a strong independent woman to someone who seemed obsessed with relationships, dressed more and more provocatively, and acted like her biological clock had gone off and she had to snag a mate. It seemed like everybody but him was a potential candidate. The decision to go to Atlantis hadn't felt like he had been leaving anyone. Everyone had already left.
Caius and Ruth exchanged a very significant look whose meaning was opaque to Daniel. Caius said, "You've been watched, very carefully, for ten years with the exception of the period when you were ascended. Even when you were on Abydos, we had an eye on you, primarily from orbit. Ruth and I both spent time on Earth, part of that time watching you. Don't waste any more energy lying."
"Just what are you planning next?" Jack demanded.
"Brother," Caius said, speaking to Daniel. "Teach your friend that you don't demand things of royals. In fact, someone in his position should not even be speaking to me until he is recognized. Our mother is not a tolerant woman and there are several others in the family who depress pretensions harshly." Daniel listened to Caius' words but he also watched what was going on in the man's eyes. Perhaps his brother, and he had stopped fighting that reality, was not as much of a jerk as he had initially appeared. The warning seemed sincere.
Daniel merely nodded, ignoring Jack's almost inaudible muttering in the background, and asked, "What happens next?"
"We have a ship here with technology that allows it to leave orbit undetected by your governments. We go to the nearest friendly gate which will take about a day and from that gate to another and then home from there," Caius answered. "Right now your friends will be taken to a holding area." He nodded to the guards who released the restraints from their hands and gestured to Sam, Jack, and Cam to stand. Ruth's expression was unapologetic but Daniel noticed that she avoided the prisoners' eyes. Caius' face was unreadable, but damnit, they both did seem to look at Cam a lot.
Daniel was taken to a small building where Caius changed to unfamiliar clothing and insisted that Daniel do likewise. When he saw himself in the mirror, his first thought was Qui Gon Jin. Could George Lucas be one of these people hiding in exile on Earth because these clothes sure looked like the cast of a "Star Wars" movie? Caius hadn't said more than 4 words to him, namely, "Put these on" with a very belated please tacked on. Daniel was confused by the man. Most of the time he was sarcastic and unfriendly, but every once in awhile Daniel surprised something in his eyes that could have been interpreted as sympathy.
Daniel knew he had to try something while he was still on the planet. As they were about to leave the building, he lunged at Caius and they scuffled briefly. Daniel got in a punishing uppercut and knocked him out cold. He opened the door into the muzzles of three guns. "You can't touch me," Daniel said, but rather than trust that fact, he slammed the door in their faces. Before he could even turn around, he felt a cold barrel pressing on his neck. Ruth said, sweetly behind him, "You are vastly outnumbered and watched at all times. Every time you do something like this, they will hurt one of your friends. It makes me feel like a monster but I can do nothing to stop it. That's your responsibility."
The new ship was similar if not identical to those that the Tok'ra used and probably came from the same source. When Daniel came aboard, he saw Sam and Jack laid out on padded benches. Both were unconscious and both were bruised. Cam was slumped on a third bench, his face drawn with pain. All were now appropriately attired for dinner on Tatoine. Daniel crossed to him quickly. "Mitchell, what happened to all of you?"
"Jack decided to try something and Sam backed him. I would have joined in but I was standing between two of their beefiest and they had me in a hold before I could make a move."
"So, if you didn't do anything, why are you in such pain?"
Mitchell laughed ruefully. "I now understand the definition of 'whipping boy.' You tried something, right? Well, they can't go medieval on your royal ass so they gave the three of us your punishment. That was right before Jack tried the escape."
Daniel felt a roaring in his ears and as sick to his stomach as he had ever been for actual physical causes. "God, Mitchell, if I'd had any idea…"
"I know, Jackson. Now you do. SO the next time, be damn sure you have something pretty foolproof in mind," Cam said, clapping Daniel briefly on the shoulder.
Sam and Jack had been heavily sedated, apparently as an alternative to tying them up, and only had a few brief bouts of woozy consciousness before they reached the allied world that would allow them to use the gate. Cam's pain subsided slowly but he wasn't feeling very chatty.
Daniel spent time with Ruth and Caius but they were still dealing out information piecemeal. Ruth said, "We will go through to one of our remote residences and your training will begin there as will your friends. Someone in our position can cause enormous problems by not knowing the right protocols. And your friends can be a tremendous liability to you and to all of us, if they don't learn their place and how to behave in it."
Daniel said curtly, "There's a simple solution for that. Just let us all go home."
"We can't," Caius said simply.
"Look, this sovereign thing, it's just a figurehead, right?" Daniel asked. "You talk about teaching me protocol. You don't talk about teaching me the politics, history, or economics. The laws. Anything that would really make me a ruler," Daniel asked, bitter at the waste of it all. It reminded him of how much he thought he could do for good when he ascended and how little he actually had the power to affect.
Ruth looked at Caius, but he shook his head. It was left to her to say slowly, "It's what you make it. You'll learn the rest but the protocol is the first hurdle. Our mother is a very strong ruler. The question is can you stomach what it takes to become more than a figurehead?"
Caius said, "You think I'm jealous of you. I can tell. I'm not. Not in terms of the throne anyway. I don't want it." He started to turn away.
Daniel put his hand on his arm, to stop him. "Then what is it because there certainly is something?" Caius shrugged and removed his hand.
After he was out of earshot, Ruth said quietly, "You're him before he made a lot of decisions he couldn't undo. Burned a lot of bridges. He resents all your options."
Daniel looked at Ruth and decided to go for broke. "Is he gay? Is that what he's talking about?"
Ruth looked at him puzzled. "What makes you think that?"
"He seemed to be interested in Colonel Mitchell," Daniel answered stammering just a little.
"Probably was for the same reason I am," Ruth said. "Aaron looked a lot like your Colonel Mitchell. I'm not ready to talk about Aaron yet and, take my advice, don't mention Aaron to Caius until he mentions him to you. Aaron's death nearly destroyed both of us."
Daniel had one final question, "Why aren't we going directly to wherever our mother is?"
Ruth shook her head. "Get it in your mind that our mother doesn't love you. She doesn't love any of us. She wants you brought up to speed to succeed her as quickly as possible and can stand to wait to see you. In any case, she has absolutely no intention of dealing with you until you can speak correctly in our language, use the right tableware, and generally not embarrass her in front of the court."
Before they disembarked to progress through a sort of airport to the gate, a stimulant was administered to Sam and Jack and they were quickly alert. The lock was open but Daniel was allowed time to draw the group together and tell them what he had learned from Ruth. "I'm supposed to learn my place?" Jack said. "Not going to happen. I've been a prisoner before and it didn't agree with me."
Sam surprised the men by taking Jack's hand and saying, "None of us want to be prisoners. It's part of your duty, Cam's, and mine as military officers to try to escape." Daniel noticed she had cut him out of the equation. "But, Jack, you can't risk your life again. These people have made it clear they value Daniel." Daniel winced at the way she pronounced his name. She seemed to have circled the wagons with him outside the circle. "They have made it equally clear that they don't value us at all. Please be careful."
Jack looked down at her hand as if it puzzled him, covered it with his own for a matter of seconds, and then removed it from contact. Daniel said quickly, "You all know that I was lying when I said those things about you. I was hoping to persuade them that you weren't particularly useful bargaining chips with me."
Jack laughed, "I knew. I was proud of you. You may have reached the place where we can let you play poker."
Sam said, "Yeah, we knew." And Daniel immediately realized that she either hadn't known or didn't believe he hadn't meant it. Wonderful.
Jack looked at Daniel then and Daniel saw no hostility in his expression, only determination and their old friendship. "Daniel, I know this isn't your doing and I know you are going to do whatever you can for us but your circumstances and ours have diverged. You may end up co-opted in ways you can't imagine. We're still a team but I want you to understand and not take it personally if the time comes when we have to be careful." He gave Daniel a quick hug that felt more like a farewell. Sam stood awkwardly to one side, not meeting Daniel's eyes. Jack and Sam then walked toward the lock.
Cam looked at Daniel and shook his head ever so slightly. "I don't think anything can make you disloyal Jackson." They exchanged a look that affirmed a mutual pledge of support and then Cam went after Sam and Jack.
Three hours later and 48 hours after walking out of Sid's Suds, Daniel stood on a grand balcony half the length of a football field that ran across the front of his suite. The suite was big enough for an entire football team but Daniel, of course, wasn't making football comparisons but, instead, awed when he compared it the palace at Crete or Versailles. He had a pristine view of a crystalline lake, woods, and mountains in the distance. The untouched character was an illusion since gardeners had to have been at work to clear the underbrush out of the woods and the debris off the shore of the lake. The balcony was dotted with beautifully shaped trees in pots and groupings of comfortable furniture. At the extreme ends of the balcony, were the doors to the luxurious quarters allotted to Sam at one end and Jack and Cam at the other. Jack and Sam were sitting in the sun in front of her rooms. Cam was leaning against the balustrade next to him, taking in the mountains.
"If I had any doubts about what sort of power you were walking into, Jackson," he observed, "I'm rapidly losing them." He turned and leaned back against the warm stone. "You're feeling damned awkward, aren't you?"
Daniel nodded and Cam continued, "Three military officers, all programmed to be in charge and all previously your commanding officer, and you are now on a whole other plane above us. I bet you never really wanted to tell anyone what to do, just to be given full rein to explore your ideas."
"It's absolutely miserable," Daniel confirmed. "No one wants to be ignored – I haven't enjoy the amount of it I've experienced at times -- but I hate being the center of attention. The sooner I can get us out of here," he looked at Cam and corrected himself, "the sooner we can get us out of here, the better I'll like it." He laughed ruefully. "Although there doesn't seem to be much of a 'we' as far as they're concerned," he added gesturing at Sam and Jack.
Cam blew air out and studied the other two, his hands on his hips. "Yup. There do seem to be some issues. I had better go and talk to them for a while."
Daniel nodded, acknowledging Cam's need to not be seen as having picked a side. He watched him stroll down the balcony and sighed. Daniel stood alone, as he had been for most of his life, studying the empty wilderness in front of him as if it held the answers when he knew would have to come from his own mind.