This story is a sequel to Born to Rule: Too Close to the Throne.

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, and, if you provided feedback but not the information to thank you individually, please accept my appreciation here.


Dr. Daniel Jackson was very grateful for the peace that had reigned so far at the breakfast table on the wide balcony that ran across the length of his suite. General Jack O'Neill and Colonel Cameron Mitchell had sumptuous rooms off one end of the balcony and Colonel Samantha Carter the other, rooms distinctly less impressive than his own but still qualifying as royal apartments on most worlds Daniel had seen. He was the heir apparent to the throne of the six Beatus worlds, with a magnificent suite appropriate to his status, yet a prisoner whose power was still only a promise and did not even extend to his own breakfast table. He could not order his friends released and returned to Earth, much less escape from his own unsought royal destiny.

"What a glorious morning," he thought, reveling in the clear, early morning light and the kiss of the fragrant air at just the right temperature. He immediately felt guilty as he brought his gaze back from the beautiful view to his friends, Cam seated beside him and Jack and Sam facing him at the low, Beatus style table set on a large cushioned mat. They were prisoners here because they had been with him when his real family came to claim him and insist he accept his inheritance, whether he wanted it or not, and remained prisoners because threatening them could ensure Daniel's cooperation. Still, it was impossible not to enjoy the food and the beautiful view, both seemingly very simple and natural, but each benefiting from careful, unobtrusive enhancements that outdid nature.

Jack glanced over at Daniel and Daniel immediately knew that the peace was about to end. "You know, Danny, our teachers are nowhere in sight. You're not going to get extra credit for eating like an idiot." Daniel reflected that Jack called him Danny most of the time now. He wasn't sure whether it was to remind himself that Daniel really wasn't his enemy or to put Daniel in his place. There were times when each explanation seemed plausible. Jack swept his scrutiny to Cam, sitting like Daniel with his legs in a sort of Yoga position, his right hand in his lap, and his left hand holding the two-tined fork favored by the Beatusians with just his thumb and index finger. "So, Mitchell, it looks like you're after a few Brownie points too."

Daniel said, mildly, "It's easier to just adopt one eating style than keep switching back and forth. There's no moral principle involved and the sooner they accept me and quit treating me like a prisoner, the sooner I'll be able to do something to get us out of here."

"Or you could just think of yourself as a performing dog -- your option. You, Colonel Mitchell, are another story. Your cooperation with a captor is not consistent with your military oath. I order you to eat like a normal person."

Sam was looking acutely uncomfortable now, pushing her food around on her plate. Cam just returned Jack's glare blandly and said, "I think not, General. I don't believe I'm under your orders in this situation. I believe Daniel has a good point and I plan on following the course he has set."

Sam very reluctantly said, "He's right Jack. This wasn't a military operation. We were kidnapped in our private lives. We haven't been acting as if we were under your command up to now." Cam gave Daniel a quick look, underscoring his repeated assertion that Sam and Jack definitely were NOT acting as if she was under his command. Daniel studiously avoided acknowledging the look. Sam hesitated and then plunged forward, "I can't stand to see you keep getting punishment. Wouldn't it make sense to be a little selective about how we pick our fights?"

Jack looked at her as if she had betrayed him to capture and certain torture. He stood, paused for a minute, and then said to Sam, "I'll leave you here with the castrati." Sam watched him stalk off. Before he had gotten to the door of his quarters, she was on her feet and running after him.

"Things are going to be a little cold in that bed tonight," Cam said dryly.

"You keep saying that. You don't know that they're sleeping together," Daniel answered, aware he was tilting at windmills but wanting to NOT know if, in fact, Jack and Sam had become lovers.

"Jack and I share quarters, right? Granted we each have our own bedroom but he's not in them. Night after night, we go to bed and if I get up for any reason in the middle of the night, he's not there."

"Which," Daniel said, smiling slightly, "you would only know if you were checking."

"Okay, so I'm a little curious," Cam admitted. "The first time it truly was by accident that I noticed and then, well, I got curious." The discussion ended as the time for their first set of lessons approached with their lead instructor, a tall, unsmiling Jaffa.

They had been surprised to discover that many of the people they had seen in the palace were, in fact, Jaffa. The Jaffa, descended from the slave masters who had supervised the ancestors of the human Beatus, were considered as much a part of the Beatus people as the human descendents of those Romans, Greeks, and Jews long ago snatched from the Roman Empire. After the humans and Jaffa had united to win their freedom, Beatus Jaffa had dropped the custom of the forehead tattoo. Daniel would rule with a Jaffa co-ruler just as his mother did. Her co-ruler was male and Daniel's would be female. The gender of the human and Jaffa co-rulers alternated each generation. There was a symbolic marriage between the co-rulers that had only been a true marriage on three legendary occasions.

Daniel's family's dynasty supported a blending of the peoples but they were contending with two explosive movements that threatened to destroy that union or alter it in ways that many believed would be destructive. On the one side were those that wanted to find Goa'uld symbiotes for the Jaffa so that they could have the enhanced powers that the symbiotes conferred. The Jaffa were outnumbered two to one throughout the Beatus worlds with the ratio being closer to four to one in some places. The humanocentric movement, strongest where there were fewest Jaffa, had begun to result in racist incidents that strengthened the resolve of the pro-symbiote party to become more capable of defending themselves. There was a respectable minority of humans who believed that the Beatus needed the stronger Jaffa to defend against enemies that had become bolder in the past century. It was extreme fringes of pro-symbiote group that had assassinated Daniel's brother to pave the way for Daniel to take the throne. Daniel's older brother Octavian, the late crown prince, had been a humanocentric sympathizer while Daniel was known to be close to a Jaffa and, it was assumed, more sympathetic to their people.

Octavian had been seduced by arguments from the movement on the other side, the humanocentric group that preached that only the humans were made in God's image and the Jaffa and humans should be separated. This was the group that had tried to interfere with Ruth and Caius when they took Daniel from earth. It was one of their adherents who had kidnapped Daniel as a baby and taken him to the Middle East with the intention of raising him in one of their most sacred places as a fanatical proponent of the humanocentric point of view. Daniel feared that he wasn't getting the whole story but if what he was being told was fundamentally true, he began to wonder if he could walk away from an opportunity to make a difference in maintaining the harmony between the Jaffa and the humans.

Beginning two months after their arrival at this remote palace to be trained as befit their roles, the four Tauri were given the freedom to run about three miles a day outside the palace. Daniel's sister and their chief warden, Ruth, usually joined them but they were grateful that his remaining brother, Caius, seldom came along to bless them with his unending supply of caustic comments.

They had gotten used to their Beatus robes that made them all look like quasi-Jedi knight and were surprised to be presented with hip-length sleeveless tunics and a piece of cloth that ran between the legs and was tied at the hips for exercise purposes. The outfits afforded more coverage than a Sumo wrestler enjoyed but far less than a pair of running shorts.

"Order them to make us something that doesn't leave Sam's butt on public display," Jack demanded after a couple of weeks. Daniel did have the power to order small things to do with their daily life.

Daniel sighed. "That's an exaggeration. She'd be showing a lot more in a bikini. Following local custom is part of my game plan. I'm sorry Jack but I'm not ordering anything."

Jack looked disgusted. "Getting a little too used to power, are we, Daniel? Maybe you've got another agenda here?"

Daniel couldn't resist rolling his eyes. No one was acknowledging what was going on between Sam and Jack but Jack was acting more and more possessive of her. Thinking to himself that he didn't need to deal with the longings tantalizing glimpses of Sam might awaken, he responded, "Cam and I always run in front. You'll just have your own reaction to the scenery to deal with." Jack let it drop at that point.

Daniel noticed another interesting dynamic in their runs. Ruth was typically in the middle of the group, running alone. When he looked back over his shoulder, more than once he caught Ruth's interested observation of Cam. Daniel couldn't decide whether Cam was oblivious to her interest or, in fact, welcomed it. He said nothing to Daniel.

A wide, well-maintained track wound from the near shore of the lake that shimmered in the center of the view from Daniel's balcony, through the woods, to the top of the waterfall that cascaded into the lake's feeder stream, and then back down through the woods on the other side of the lake. As Daniel and Cam approached, startled birds would fly up and little creatures rush off, making small noises in the leaves on the forest floor but there were no large animals in these manicured woods. One day, Daniel thought he saw a flash of something near shoulder height, something he thought had only a plausible human or Jaffa explanation.

He mulled over what he had seen and a few nights later, questioned Ruth as they stood on the balcony, sharing a glass of the Beatus hard cider-like drink. It had a kick but Daniel seemed to be able to handle it better than in his experience with drinking on Earth. Swirling the amber liquid, he asked, studying his glass, "We're watched, right, when we run – at least if you're not with us?"

She sought clarification, "You mean we're looking at you every minute?"

"Right, you know, followed," Daniel replied.

She laughed. "Those bracelets you wear prevent you from getting far. The signals are always monitored. They know where you are all the time. Anyway, there's a guarded wall around the entire estate and the air space above is also guarded and monitored at all times."

He persisted, making absolutely sure. "So we would never see anyone out there besides ourselves?"

Cam walked up as she was agreeing with his statement. Ruth smiled warmly at him, a frankly appreciative look in her eyes. Cam smiled back but there was nothing flirtatious in his manner and he immediately turned his attention to Daniel. Ruth bit her lip and excused herself. "She's very interested in you," Daniel commented.

"She's very interested in some dead guy, Aaron, I resemble," Cam responded, annoyed.

"What if she wasn't?" Daniel inquired, curious now.

"If I honestly believed that she was interested in me instead of channeling some dead guy through me AND she wasn't our jailer, I'd be very interested," Cam said shortly. He changed the subject to ask, "Why were you asking her about surveillance?"

Daniel drew close to Cam and spoke softly in his ear, "I think someone was watching us in the woods a couple of days ago."

Cam whispered back in Daniel's ear, "I was waiting for an opportunity to tell you. I noticed something today. I think it was at least two different people. I can't believe Jack hasn't seen anything with his years of black ops combat experience."

They pulled back and looked at each other. Daniel shrugged, "He probably has but he doesn't really trust me any more. Thinks I'm getting seduced by being the prince."

"Daniel, we should stop running. You could be assassinated." The emotion in Cam's voice warred with his attempt to still speak softly. Daniel had been assured that his privacy was respected within his suite but they were afraid to believe that this was true and tried to make sure they couldn't be overhead.

"If they wanted to hurt me, I think they would have done something by now. This may be an attempt to make contact by someone who can do us some good, help with escape." He added silently, "escape for the rest of you." He smashed his fist into his palm. "As soon as we have a run without Ruth, let's see what we can do."

"I'll pass that on to Jack and Sam," Cam offered. "If you don't at least give Jack a chance to veto this…" Daniel knew exactly what he meant. Unlike Cam, Jack and Sam didn't acknowledge a leadership role for him on this planet.

The opportunity arose two days later. As they ran, they all focused intently on the woods around them. Jack alerted Daniel that he had spotted something. Daniel forced himself to stop, his heart in throat, and spread his arms wide. He said loudly, "If you want to talk, we're waiting."

All was quiet. Daniel looked at Jack. Jack jerked his head to one side indicating where he had seen something. They continued to wait, Daniel now focusing on the direction Jack had indicated. One minute, then two, then three went by. Daniel felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up and began to wonder about this wisdom of offering himself up as a stationary target. Suddenly a man stepped onto the path. He had no weapon in his hand but wore one holstered. Jack raised an eyebrow and somehow Daniel he was indicating that there were others not in plain sight.

He addressed Daniel in Beatus, "Prince Daniel, I am Isaac Ben Polonius. My friends and I would know more of you than the managed information available from official sources. We are at a critical place for the future of Beatus and you are key to what will come."

"You take a tremendous risk to simply know my mind," Daniel stated, trying to divine the man behind the words.

Isaac met his eyes directly and simply said, "First we talk, your grace."

They sat in a circle and talked. From the direction of the questions, it began to be clear that Isaac was a pro-symbiote representative. Daniel made it clear that he respected the Jaffa and believed that their proper place as partners needed to be preserved. He was honest about his reservations about restoring the symbiotes. Although he wasn't speaking their party line, his views were evidently close enough to Isaac's expectations and, at last, he said, "As long as your friends are held, you will be far less able to be your own man. We can get them out of here and back to Earth."

"Or perhaps you would hold them and there would be a new source of influence over me?" Daniel countered.

Jack spoke for the first time, using English, taking the chance that this man was not one of those like Ruth and Caius who had spent time undercover on Earth and could speak the language. "If the wrong people have us, then we're forfeit. We have to be. It's our lives, Daniel, and our decision whether to take the chance. We all need to discuss this."

Daniel asked Isaac to leave them alone to talk. Sam said, "I don't like leaving you behind Daniel." He was mildly surprised, given the distance she had put between them ever since their capture and his efforts to make their captors believe she wasn't important to him so that she would be released.

"It's all he's offering. If I know that you couldn't be made to pay, I would be freer to try something later on my own. To my mind, the issue here is whether you can trust him."

Jack said, decisively, "I do. Sam?" She nodded. "Mitchell?"

Cam muttered a string of soft curses but finally shook his head and said, "I guess so. I'm in."

Daniel beckoned to Isaac to return. He stood back and let Jack take the lead now. "You'll get in touch with us later?" Jack asked. "How?"

Isaac produced a small device from under his robes. "I can remove the bracelets and we can go now."

Sam said, dismayed, "Like this?" gesturing down at the skimpy outfits that would be less than ideal as evening came, the air cooled, and the voracious nocturnal bugs came out, full force, undeterred by the mechanisms used to keep the balcony bug free. Jack scowled, undoubtedly also thinking of who was going to see Sam so revealed. Isaac smiled and a second man came out of the woods, pulling clothes from a back pack.

One by one the bracelets fell to the ground and his three friends stood awkwardly looking at him. Jack said gruffly, "Watch the swell head without me there to keep it deflated to normal size."

Daniel smiled, his eyes meeting Jack's and the true friendship so often hidden in the past weeks communicated between them without the words that left Jack uncomfortable. "Take care of them, Jack, and yourself."

Sam was visibly upset and looked at him for only a second, not long enough for him to understand what he saw in her eyes. "Be careful. Don't take stupid risks to escape. We'll see what we can do."

Daniel said to her gently, "I'll be fine, Sam, Dedicate a paper to me or something if I don't get back for awhile." She hugged him and Jack followed her example.

Cam then said, "Are you sure you're better off without us?" Daniel nodded. Cam and he embraced and Cam said in his ear, too softly for Jack and Sam to understand, "You're not leaving. I know it. You'll be their best ruler since Antonious the Tenth." He raised his voice, "Take care Daniel."

Daniel said, "You take care yourself, Cam. I'll be thinking good thoughts for you, for all of you." Before he waved Isaac back, he said, "I'm going to tell them you were taken by force, just in case this doesn't go as well as we hope."

When Isaac returned, Daniel said, "Please tie me up and make this look like I wasn't an accomplice. They seem to be reluctant to punish me directly but if something goes wrong and they are recaptured, I don't want them punished for my actions as they have been in the past." Daniel spent a very uncomfortable twenty minutes, trussed up like a turkey. It got even more unpleasant when a light drizzle started and the temperature dropped quickly. He was thoroughly soaked and chilled by the time Ruth, Caius, and a large party of guards appeared. Most immediately peeled off into the woods and began to track the fugitives.

"What happened?" Ruth demanded, removing his gag and beginning to efficiently untie him.

Daniel got out between chattering teeth, "Some people ambushed us and forced O'Neill, Carter, and Mitchell to go with them."

Ruth narrowed her eyes. "To get leverage over you," she speculated.

They helped him to his feet and one of the guard's cloaks was wrapped around him. As soon as Daniel returned to the palace, he went to the baths which were Roman style and communal, although as the prince, he only shared his with the other Tauri and Ruth and Caius. Soaking in hot water, his body began to feel better but Caius joined him and peppered him with shrewd questions about what had happened so that he felt on edge and worried about what would happen if they were captured. He wondered how long he would need to wait before he could relax and be sure that they were safe. Isaac had promised to let him know but he had no idea how long it would be after they were actually safely away before he could get word.

He went to bed, still not knowing and was awakened in the middle of the night by Ruth. Daniel was surprised to realize that he must have somehow been able to fall asleep but still more unpleasantly surprised when Ruth said, "They've found them."

Daniel dressed hurriedly and went to his reception room just as Cam, Jack, and Sam were led in, filthy, wet, and exhausted. They had steadfastly stuck with the agreed upon story and were not being treated as fugitives. Daniel asked the captain of the guards, "What of those criminals who took them? Have they been apprehended?"

The captain answered, "Your grace, we have failed you and I beg your forgiveness. One of them is dead but the other eluded us. We continue our search for him but expect that he, somehow, has managed to leave the estate."

Daniel said, "You have accomplished your most important task, returning my friends unharmed. For that you have my gratitude."

The next day, they returned to their training routine as if nothing had happened. In the beginning they had all been instructed together. Jack's lack of cooperation and Sam's solidarity with him had caused the two of them to fall farther and farther behind. Cam, on the other hand, had spent as much of his childhood in other parts of the world as he had in his Southern hometown and was fluent in Spanish. Beatus was a simple language derived from Latin with a few Aramaic words thrown in. Daniel explained to Cam that languages tended to become more complex over time but there was an exception to this rule. Languages that were learned predominantly by adults were simplified. Swahili was a perfect example. Beatus was the native language of less than half the people on one of the six world in the Beatus empire and, therefore, had simplified, rather than grown more complex. Daniel was sure that Jack had learned far more than he let on and was holding his seeming lack of fluency as a possible advantage, hoping perhaps that people would talk more freely around him than they should.

Although Cam lacked the linguistic and anthropological training that made Daniel a natural to learn the new language and customs, Cam had life experience and natural aptitude coupled with a thirst for learning. After the first few weeks, Cam and Daniel had moved on past language and deportment to the history, economics, and geopolitical realities of the Beatus and no longer studied with Jack and Sam. Both Daniel and Cam were utterly fascinated by what they heard. Daniel requested original texts and other sources that he hoped would allow him to get beyond any carefully rehearsed and biased story they might have decided to feed him to shape his thinking. Cam had boundless enthusiasm for anything put in front of him and he eagerly soaked up the information and the techniques Daniel taught him for researching the real story. Once facility with the language was established, there were devices that became available to accelerate their absorption of information.

When they met in the evenings for dinner, Cam and Daniel would frequently be caught up in some idea they had stumbled on during the day and unable to stop talking about it. It affected Jack like technobabble and he was extremely clever at poking holes in their balloons and bringing them down to earth, down to where they were captives, not scholars.

The runs resumed. Although the Tauri continued to scan hopefully for someone in the woods, they never saw anyone and Ruth always ran with them now. One day as they were stretching at the end of a run, scattered about the field at the palace side of the lake, through some trick of the wind Daniel overhead Ruth hiss to Sam, "I've seen you watching him and I'm warning you, stay away from my brother."

Sam looked over at Caius. He hadn't run with them but had watched the end of their run from a bench by the lake. "I'm not the least bit interested in him," she whispered back.

"Not Caius, Daniel," Ruth returned.

Sam sputtered, "He's like my brother."

Ruth said, "Then incest runs in your family. Stick to O'Neill and stay away from Daniel."

Daniel was flabbergasted. He could only conclude that Ruth was overprotective of him and their family's status and misreading what she saw. Sam was looking after Ruth, clearly furious and must have later said something about Ruth's accusations to Jack because of the incident that occurred the next evening. At least once a week, they had an evening meal with all the trappings of a state banquet to make sure that Daniel and his friends, anticipated to later form part of his personal court, could function appropriately in such a setting. That evening as they moved about the vast marbled floored dining room prior to sitting for the meal, Jack drew Ruth aside and told her to leave Sam alone, breaking the rules by initiating the conversation, not to mention the disrespect implied in the order. The others didn't hear the words but could tell visually that something was going on outside the rules. Caius and Daniel moved in from opposite directions. Daniel put a hand on Jack's shoulder. "Ruth, Jack apologizes for allowing his concern for OUR good friend to cause him to be impolite."

Daniel's grip on Jack's shoulder was communicating a clear warning but Daniel had no confidence Jack would pay attention. Daniel knew that although Ruth was his warden, he was to be her sovereign and she had to respect his orders in matters outside their training and security. Speaking in pure Latin, a language all educated Beatus knew but none of friends did, Daniel said to Ruth, "I overheard what you said to Sam and it inappropriate. I forbid you to interfere in such a way again."

Caius said angrily, also in Latin, "He is a liability, brother, to you and to our family. He doesn't know his place and he never will."

"That would be my problem," Daniel said, speaking slowly and with all the authority he could invest in the statement.

"She is my sister. His disrespect to her IS my problem and if you will not discipline him, I will." He slapped Jack across the face with all the force it is possible to put into an open handed blow.

Jack immediately swung in his direction but didn't connect because Daniel grabbed his arm. "Caius, leave us," he ordered, cold fury in his voice.
Caius bowed mockingly and turned to go. He turned back briefly to say, "You need to learn who your true allies are here, brother. This man is not one of them. I will go on to court and give you time to become wise before I give up all hope of you learning what you need to know."

Cam and Daniel started speaking to each other in Beatus all the time except within Jack's hearing. It wasn't worth the clever, oh so clever, one line putdowns Jack could endlessly come up with. Cam observed to Daniel, "He likes to act like he's not all that bright but no one can be that witty on command, day in day out, without being flat out brilliant. He should have become a writer for 'Seinfeld,' instead of going into the military."

Daniel shrugged and said, "He loves his guns. I bet comedians don't really appreciate guns as part of the writing process."

One morning Daniel stood staring out at the lake while Ruth finished updating him on the schedule for the next month. He wheeled and looked at her. "You asked me at the very first what I wanted. You said I could have any luxury, really, except the freedom to leave here. Food, wine, art, performances of theater and music, companionship, clothes, sport."

She chuckled and looked at him fondly, proud of his restraint. "All you ever took me up on was books and the medical procedure to get rid of your need for glasses." She had started treating Daniel as if he were her overachieving favorite son even though he was slightly older than she.

"I just thought of something I want. Are there any fish in that lake? Fish that you could catch?"

"I doubt it," she said dubiously. "It's been cleaned up so much for the eye. I don't know what that did to the natural habitat."

"I want it stocked with fish, as soon as possible. And I want a boat and fishing gear. You know. Rods, lures, whatever you'd need to go after those fish." He looked a little sheepish then and added a "please." This ordering other people around still made him uncomfortable but not so uncomfortable that he didn't request a specific deadline and monitor progress toward completion.

A week later, he sat at mid-day meal with Ruth who had asked to talk with him. He watched as she stabbed viciously at the baked slab of fruit in front of her. The fruit, called mercy fruit by the Beatus, reminded Daniel in texture and taste of coconut and it was served almost daily in one form or another. However, Ruth's attack on it seemed to go beyond boredom with the menu. His sister was a princess and could chuck it off the balcony if she chose and demand something else. "Ruth, what's wrong?" but she didn't look up and just kept mauling her food. "Ruth," he said again with a hint of command. He disliked how easily he found himself beginning to put the power of the throne behind his statements.

She looked up then, let her two-tined fork drop, and sighed. "I just don't want to talk to you about what I have to talk to you about. I wish Caius had stayed here and HE could talk to you."

"Jack did something else?" Daniel asked, leaning back. The steady stream of reports on Jack's refusal to cooperate made him feel as if his former commander was actually his rebellious teen aged son.

"Of course," she said. "I don't even want to get into the details. I think we need to talk about the bigger picture."

"What 'bigger picture'?" Daniel asked, starting to feel uneasy.

"Colonel O'Neill's a liability to you. You understand the custom now whereby the sovereign has a handful of close friends, often of humble background, people who were his friends before he had any power, who hold the title of 'sovereign's friends.' If O'Neill's put in that role, he will cause scandal without even trying. He needs to be sent away."

Daniel was elated. He had tried everything he could think of to get his friends released. "So our mother will agree to his being released?"

"No Daniel. She knows all too well that without the threat of punishment to your friends, you might not cooperate. But he does not deserve to step into the privileges of a sovereign's friend as does Colonel Mitchell."

"So what do you suggest doing with him?" Daniel asked expressionlessly, waiting to see what Ruth would propose.

"Simply imprison him somewhere." She hastened to add, "Somewhere pleasant of course. Daniel, Mother wants you at court next month. We discussed that last week. She is the one person who could order him killed outright. You would not be able to protect him. She won't release him BUT if he irritates her enough, given that she would still have Cam and Sam to threaten you with, she might just do that. At least leave him here. Don't take him to court."

"I might leave him here but I'm not banishing him and he gets whatever the full protection is of a sovereign's friend." Toying with his spoon, he asked, curiously, "I notice you don't recommend Sam either go to court or stay here."

"I'm not sure what to recommend with respect to her. You understand about the arrangement you'll have to have with a commoner to produce your heirs since your legal marriage of record will be to your Jaffa co-ruler. Initially we thought Colonel Carter would be the one you'd want. We didn't plan on taking any of your friends when we captured you but Mother thought it was a stroke of accidental genius that we did. Your children with Colonel Carter would be brilliant and attractive and perfect princes and princesses." Daniel was gaping at her in patent disbelief. "However, she's completely compromised herself with her affair with General O'Neill."

Daniel snorted, "She's not for me but I don't understand this compromised bit. She's around 40, a little old for producing a passel of royal heirs, I might add. Surely you didn't expect that she would be a virgin?"

"Of course not," Ruth said, "but to have slept with a close subordinate of yours, with a sovereign's friend, would make you lose an incredible amount of face if you were to then take her after it was over between them." She remembered the other part of his question. "We have medical techniques that would make it possible for her to have enough children but, as I said, we won't be needing them."

It was just two days later that he found himself sitting with Jack out on the lake in a brand new boat painted a bright blue and trimmed in a darker blue, the colors of his house. Jack had actually been speechless when Daniel had asked him to take a walk with him and they had arrived at the lake and the boat. Now Daniel struggled with his rod and Jack took it from him and untangled things. "I'm actually touched," Jack said, sounding like he meant it. "You must really want to get me on board to have arranged all this."

"Jack, this isn't about turning you into some sort of Beatus booster," Daniel responded.

"Nice alliteration," Jack interjected, "really rolls off the tongue."

Daniel ignored him and continued. "I just want to repair whatever is wrong between us. You have to do what you have to do, what your sense of duty and your own perspective tell you are the right thing. I worry about what might happen to you but I can't honestly ask you to stop."

"This is some sort of a trick, right?" Jack asked, looking at him speculatively. "You can't ask me to stop but…"

"I do have a request but it's not a trick. Quit picking at Cam all right? Quit picking at me. We honestly believe that a different strategy will work. If we can respect you, can you respect us?"

Jack shook his head. "Do you honestly think I don't respect you or Mitchell? Okay, I've been picking. I haven't found one meaningful thing I can do about our situation and it makes me feel impotent."

Daniel thought about one aspect of Jack's life that seemed to definitely be flying in the face of the whole impotence thing and something must have showed on his face. Jack O'Neill, cultivator of his image as thick and, in truth, a very, very smart man, basically read his mind. "What's going on between Sam and me is bothering you, isn't it?"

"I don't know what you mean," Daniel said innocently.

"Okay, we'll leave it there. When we get back, and we will, ALL of us since I'm not leaving you behind again, I know I can count on you to still be unaware of anything between Sam and me." He handed Daniel's rod back to him. "Can I depend on you to ensure Mitchell sees it the same way? I promise to lay off harassing both of you for turning yourselves into Beatus court fops."

Daniel looked at Jack and thought with great fondness, "You, sir, are quite a piece of work." He had no idea what had caused Jack to finally give in to an attraction he had fought for years and break the rules with respect to the chain of command. He suspected that Jack actually doubted deep down that they would ever get back, no matter what lies he told himself consciously, and knew that the regs no longer mattered.

Ultimately Daniel did leave Sam and Jack on Paix and took only Cam with him to court which suited everyone just fine. Daniel was nervous and knew he couldn't show it. He had to project utter confidence for the rest of his life except alone with Cam, Jack, and Sam and perhaps a few other close confidants he might acquire. Cam was nervous too but his brash enthusiasm was carrying him along without revealing his feelings.

Their tracking bracelets were removed but they were under escort the entire way. It may have appeared to be an honor guard or bodyguards to onlookers but they were really just plain guards who never gave them even the slightest chance to take advantage of the trip to gain their freedom. After arrival, Daniel and Cam walked alone in the garden courtyard in the entire wing of a palace they had been given to stay in, killing time until the audience with Daniel's mother and her co-ruler. "Didn't see any opportunities to escape," Daniel said, glumly. "I'm beginning to be afraid I'll never get you out of here."

Cam put his hand on his arm and stopped him. "Get ME out of here. Not US?"

"I don't know, Cam, we'll see. I may have an opportunity to do more here, help more people than I could ever hope to on Earth. I need to at least play it out far enough to be sure."

Cam nudged a dirt clod back and forth that the normally meticulous gardeners had somehow overlooked. He seemed to find it completely absorbing. "Here's the thing," he said, at last, still manipulating the dirt. "If you stay, I think I should stay, at least if there is any way it can be balanced against them using me to threaten you."

Daniel was stunned. "I can't let you do that. Why would you even want to?" He hadn't had enough true friends in his life to really comprehend what Cam meant.

"Maybe I'm on a power trip," Cam shrugged. "I've been reading in the histories about sovereign's friends. Most men in that position have welded great influence, far more than I can as a Colonel or even a General."

"But you're not on a power trip, Cam," Daniel said. "You are the least 'I'm in charge and everyone does what I say' officer I have ever met."

"Okay, here are the things I am about that are in play here. I love to learn, to experience new things. I want to make a difference. And in my entire life, I don't think I've ever had a better friend than you. My friends matter to me."

"I'm not asking this of you, Cam," Daniel said, still trying to grasp what Cam was willing to do.

"That's one of the reasons I'm offering it," was the response.

Daniel was ushered in to a huge audience room where his mother and a tall Jaffa sat on adjoining thrones on a dais. Cam followed behind him at 5 paces. The room was completely empty except for the two sovereigns but Daniel knew there were monitors and people watching. He approached the thrones and stopped 6 feet away. Daniel bowed deeply and he knew that behind him Cam was on one knee. His mother spoke in a dry voice that sounded vaguely approving. "You may approach us."

This was his signal to straighten from his bow and approach the bottom step of the dais and Cam to stand, but remain where he was. "I present to you my son, Prince Daniel," the Queen said. Her Jaffa partner was white haired with lively brown eyes that seemed to find some cause for amusement in the situation.

Daniel thought, "He's had some 40 years or more of this woman. He has to find something to laugh about or he'd end it all."

The Co-Ruler said, "I met you when you were a baby. You were a very solemn enfant. Are you a solemn man?"

Daniel answered carefully, allowing the slightest of smiles, "I take life seriously but I have found much in it that is a cause for joy."

Daniel's mother said, "Look at me boy," and he turned his attention back to her. She had the big blue eyes that Ruth, Caius, and he shared but her features were unlike his and he suspected that everything but the eyes had been contributed by his father, a man no one ever mentioned. She nodded, seeming satisfied. "I have had excellent reports of you and of your friend, Colonel Mitchell." She lifted her chin and looked toward Cam. "Come here," she directed imperiously.

Cam walked unhurriedly toward the throne and stood next to Daniel. She presented him to her Jaffa partner and then commanded, "Both of you, come up where I can reach you," and they climbed the steps. She grasped first Daniel's chin and then Cam's in her long fingers, almost clawlike but surprisingly strong. "You have the look of your father," she said to Daniel. "All my children do but I don't see him in the back of their eyes, in their smiles. Perhaps you are his child as none of the others were." She muttered softly to herself, "Perhaps, perhaps."

She lifted her head and said to Daniel, "Do you swear allegiance to this throne or must I continue to treat you as a captive?"

"You have my pledge to be loyal to the throne as long as I am given an opportunity to do good," Daniel responded. She looked at him consideringly for a long time and then nodded smiling slightly.

She looked at Cam. "Do we have your allegiance?"

"My allegiance is to Daniel," Cam said, returning her piercing stare unflinchingly.

"Do you accept his allegiance?" she asked Daniel and he took the opportunity to make Cam's situation one that his conscience could allow.

"I would have your word, your grace, that he will no longer be punished for my deeds but only for his own. If I do not have this assurance, I cannot allow him to pledge his loyalty."

She smiled, more widely, and said, "He is no longer assurance for you but do not ask this for O'Neill or Carter because I will not grant it." Daniel hated this division between the team but knew he had to win the war one battle at a time. She gestured to Cam without looking at him. "Leave us and wait for Prince Daniel in the antechamber. I would speak to him alone."

Cam bowed and stepped down the stairs backwards. He continued to walk backwards until he reached his initial place and then he turned and walked out. His mother said, "There are many things a sovereign must know but first and foremost, he must know how his true friends are." Her eyes bored into his. "Do you understand me?"

"Yes, Ma'am," Daniel answered and waited silently for whatever else his mother would say.

"Sometimes people you are absolutely sure you cannot trust can be very useful as well," she added surprising him. "The important thing is knowing where you stand." She exchanged a look with her partner and he laughed softly.

"You are to stay here and visit with me for an hour every day until I feel that we know each other well enough. My Chamberlain will inform you of the times." She leaned back and closed her eyes. "You may leave us now."

Daniel backed down the stairs and turned to go when she spoke again, causing him to turn back. "Your brother, Caius, has brought you a present, someone you absolutely cannot trust who I think will be most useful to you. Remember what I told you."

Months passed before Daniel understood everything that had gone on under the surface of that conversation or even that anything of note had been under the surface at all. It was the beginning of understanding what a Beatus ruler must know.