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 wonderful betas, Jess and Monica and to anyone who provides feedback.

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Samantha Carter winced as she dabbed at the fresh cut above an equally fresh bruise on Jack O'Neill's forehead. "So were the daily beatings as much fun as always?" she said briskly, refusing to give in to sympathy.

He turned his head toward her and feigned a hurt little boy look. "Where's the tender part of the TLC?" he asked. "For that matter," he added, reaching for her and pulling her toward him, "where's the loving part?"

She pushed him away and got up to walk across his room and plop down on the bed across from the divan where he was sitting.

"Ah," he said, approving of her change of venue and starting to come toward her, "better idea."

She jumped up like she had been goosed and held up a hand to warn him off. "Jack, I'm tired of this. What's the point of getting yourself slapped around by two or three guards on a daily basis?"

"I'm rather proud that it usually takes at least three of them," he said, tilting his head. When her expression didn't change, he said, "Don't start throwing Daniel and Mitchell in my face again, Sam. They got in bed with our captors. I would rather get in bed with you."

She swept her hand around the luxurious room, "It's not like they treat us that badly. Going along with reasonable requests like we learn the language and respect their customs, be polite to the guards and avoid, oh, punching them, doesn't mean we can't continue to look for a way to escape. That's all Daniel and Cam have done, cooperate and soak up every bit of information they could, make friends with his family so they would let down their guard. They haven't actually assisted these people to do anything against us. Daniel helped us make that one escape attempt, didn't he?" she finished, her hands on her hips, not backing down at all from her insistence that this was the time to talk, rather than do anything else.

"And," Jack said, "he didn't come with us."

"Jack, those Jaffa sympathizers who offered to get us out of here weren't interested in helping Daniel escape and you know it. They wanted him to stay because they want him to inherit the throne. They think he'd be more sympathetic to their point of view than the current regime. There's a really tense political situation going on with the integrated society of Jaffa and humans that's worked for almost 2,000 years about to come apart with the humanocentric movement on one side and the Jaffa who want to return to carrying symbiotes on the other. The Jaffa sympathizers just wanted to get us away so that his mother, the co-ruler, couldn't continue to make him toe her party line by threatening us." Daniel's affection for his friends was one reason for the cooperative path he had chosen. They'd been kidnapped with him to give his real family leverage over him. Because he was royal, no one but his mother had the power to discipline him. This was neatly solved by punishing his friends in his place for any misdeed on Daniel's part.

Sam sighed. "I thought you and Daniel made peace after he had them stock the lake so the two of you could go fishing together."

"Yeah. I'm just feeling pissed off in general." She looked down and he studied her bent head a few moments. He surprised them both when he said, "Maybe it bugs me a little when I think you're comparing me unfavorably to Daniel." She looked up at him wide-eyed. This volunteering of feelings was not a common occurrence.

He moved across the room and put his arms around her, slid his hands down to her backside and pulled her tight against him. He murmured against her neck. "He's going to be the king, co-ruler, whatever, and, I think, maybe he wants you, whether he's admitted it to himself or not. But damn it, Sam, he can't have you. He'll have palaces and God knows what else but he can't have you."

Sam relaxed into his caresses, not bothering to argue with Jack's assumption, founded out of jealousy not fact, that Daniel had any sexual interest in her. She couldn't help but think that Jack was in massive denial, focusing on things like Daniel's fictional attraction to her, so he didn't have to come to terms with the fact that they were never getting out of their gilded cage. He wouldn't stop fighting their captivity tooth and nail but if he truly believed, deep down, that they really had a chance of ever getting back to earth, he would never have finally become her lover.

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When his recently discovered real mother, the co-ruler with her Jaffa counterpart of the six Beatus worlds, dismissed him from her presence, Daniel found Cam outside the audience chamber, leaning against a column and harassing the guards who stood on either side of the 12 foot high, intricately carved double doors. They were light years away from Buckingham Palace but the code for palace guards was universal. Expressionless and eyes ahead, they ignored Cam who was asking them who they liked for the Super Bowl.

"You're a newly minted, official courtier in good standing," Daniel said, speaking in English. "This is beneath you," but he was laughing when he said it and he clapped Cam on the shoulder and steered him down the echoing corridor toward the entire wing of the palace given over to Daniel as the crown prince.

"They were loving me," Cam said, in mock protest. "Imagine the boredom. When you're king, you got to let them have Gameboys or something."

They were walking through miles of corridors floored with intricate inlay or marble or sumptuous carpets and lined with framed artworks interlaced with niches holding fragile glass sculpture. "And all this will someday be yours," Cam said, stopping to look at a particularly exquisite piece.

"The part that isn't state property WE CAN'T TOUCH is ours, not just mine," Daniel said, stopping Cam from picking up the piece. "Sharing it with you, Jack, and Sam is the least I can do, given that my real family casually kidnapped you and brought you here when they snatched me." Daniel paused at an intersection of two corridors, and stood studying his options.

"You're lost," Cam chuckled. "Your family has a palace so freaking large that you're lost in it."

"And you're not?" Daniel asked, with about half his attention. He was determined to figure this out. "That way? What do you think?" he eventually asked Cam, pointing to the left.

"Damned if I know," Cam responded. He jerked his head toward the direction Daniel had selected and they set off again.

"Of course, if I can do anything about it, Sam and Jack will be out of here long before I get the throne. I have no choice but to stay now that I understand just how bad things are and the opportunity I have to do something about it." Daniel looked straight ahead and said, "Cam, you can change your mind any time about staying here and helping me try to do some good. It bothers me for you to give up Earth for me."

"Get over yourself. It's a little bit for you but it's mostly because since we got the Ascended to change their minds and fight the Ori for us, I don't have that much to do on Earth and I can do quite a bit here. And, maybe, just a tiny, tiny bit because your sister's starting to get to me," Cam said, giving Daniel a sideways look to see what the reaction would be to that confession.

Daniel looked at him and said dubiously. "Ruth is starting to get to you? You're messing with me, right?"

"Isn't all this 'we all act like we don't know about it but they're together every night stuff' between Jack and Sam making you feel a little like you need to meet a girl?"

Daniel said, warningly, "Stay away from the Jack and Sam subject, okay, Cam?"

Cam stopped, clearly in the throes of an epiphany, and Daniel halted a few paces further and turned back to look at him. Cam said slowly, "I don't know why it's taken me so long to see this but you're in love with her, aren't you Daniel?"

Daniel bit his lip. He and Cam had become so close over the past six months that this was almost the only remaining secret. "I would be in love with her if I let myself," he admitted at last, "but there's never been any hope and I've never allowed myself to go there."

He started to walk again and Cam quickly caught up as they continued to stroll, without any further conversation, along what appeared to be the main corridor, ignoring several opportunities to go down side corridors. At last Cam said, "So what did your mother have to say after she sent me out of the room? Nothing bad about Sam and Jack, I hope?"

Today, Daniel had won the promise from his mother that Cam would be treated as a free man, held accountable only for his own actions and not punished for Daniel's, but she was not ready to extend any privileges to Jack and Sam, still closely guarded prisoners in the remote palace on Paix. "Maybe I can wear her down about Jack and Sam. After all, if she believes I'm totally on board, what's the need to keep them around as a guarantee? There'll be opportunities to work on her since we're not going back to Paix yet. We're here, maybe for weeks, visiting with her for an hour daily."

Cam interrupted to say, "Entire weeks? I don't suppose she'd go for a couple of days worth of all day sessions instead?"

Daniel ignored him. "But to answer your question, she had nothing further to say about Sam and Jack. What she did say was that my brother, Caius, had a surprise for me, someone who would be useful because I would always know I couldn't trust him or her."

"I hate it when I feel like I'm living in a scene from the 'Lord of the Rings,'" Cam said. "People saying deliberately abstruse, quasi-deep things. So, Frodo, what do you think she meant?"

"Not a clue but I really hope he didn't bring me Maybourne," Daniel said, feeling relieved as he recognized the doors Cam was pointing at, located at the end of a corridor intersecting with their own.

"Now that's what I'm talking about," Cam crowed triumphantly as they entered Daniel's wing at last.
Daniel and Cam crossed the interior courtyard of Daniel's wing, intent on finding Caius and not paying much attention to the gorgeous beds of brilliant flowers scattered about or the carefully executed herringbone brickwork under their feet. Over the splashing of the fountain and the cooing of birds, they heard a familiar voice ask impatiently, "Where's my Daniel?"

Daniel and Cam exchanged a mutual look of disbelief. Words were unnecessary. They entered Daniel's main reception room and there she was, all black leather and long black hair. She immediately launched herself at Daniel, wound her arms around his neck, and gave him an exuberant kiss. He broke the kiss off but hugged her hard and whispered in her ear, "I'm so glad you're alive. We owe you," before he peeled her off and held her off arm's length. She had, after all, saved their lives and bought the time they needed for the Ascended to change their stance and defend them against the Ori. Until now, he had only had a faint hope that she had lived.

Cam was laughing, Daniel could tell out the corner of his eye. He knew she was about to exasperate him again, it was in her blood, but he was very, very glad to see her alive. Vala didn't look distressed by the whole situation and Daniel surmised she had not been kidnapped but rather paid, and paid well, to come there.

Etiquette required he greet the other royal in the room first before any commoner, guest or not. "Greetings, brother," he said courteously to Caius who returned his greeting and then deigned to recognize Cam. Etiquette required that Cam not speak to a royal like Caius, until the royal spoke first. Obviously Daniel and Cam did not observe this rule in private.

Cam said, "Hello, Vala. You did a really fine thing and I'm glad you made it." Vala gave him an almost dismissive answer, all her attention focused on Daniel, no surprise there as he was the man in the room would end up with most of the money and power.

"Well, Vala," Daniel said, at last. He steered her toward a chair, parked her, and took a chair himself. "what brings you here?"

"I wanted to see you, of course," she answered smiling brightly at him.

"Caius?" Daniel asked.

Caius responded with a straight forward answer instead of the deliberate attempt to aggravate Daniel to which Daniel was accustomed, "Our mother directed that she be hired as a consultant for you." His general cordiality made Daniel wonder if something had changed in the months since he had seen him.

"My thanks brother for whatever she brings to the task," Daniel returned, warmth in his voice. Daniel stood. "I think it would be well to consult with my new consultant privately," Daniel said politely, but with an undertone of command, the way he had learned he was expected to deal with other royals. There was, in fact, nothing that he would not say in front of Cam, but there was no polite way to ask Caius to leave without also dismissing Cam. As Cam went out behind Caius, Daniel exchanged a look with him that signaled him to return.

Vala put her own interpretation on his request for privacy. As soon as they were alone, Vala came swiftly to him and wound herself around him. He allowed himself to enjoy the kiss for a little while. It had been far too long since he had gotten close to a woman but her wandering hands brought him to his senses. He put her away from him again and said, a trifle huskily, "Now that we have that out of our systems."

Vala wheedled, "Why stop? We would both enjoy it."

"Really," Daniel said dryly. "I seem to remember you saying something like 'I haven't been this disappointed since I had sex with Daniel"
She grimaced and gave him a sheepish smile. "I was aggravated with you at the time. I didn't really mean it."

"It's good to see you, Vala, but not because anything physical is going to happen between us. Please sit back down," he requested as Cam retuned quietly to the room. He watched her walk back across the room, putting an extra swish in her step. He ached to take her up on her invitation, knowing it would be very, very nice, but he also knew he would not like himself for it afterwards. Getting back to business, he asked, "Have you had any contact with Stargate Command since we were snatched?"

"No." She shook her head. "I had something of a challenge getting out of Ori-land. Not really been in touch."

"Did you learn anything useful about them?" Daniel asked.

"Not really. I just kept my head down," she admitted.

"You're a real font of information, aren't you?" Cam commented a little sarcastically.

"What part of privately did you not understand, Colonel," Vala retorted, glaring at Cam.

"Vala, listen to me," Daniel said, looking at her unsmiling. "I have no idea how I can use your, um, talents. You'll stay here in this wing with Cam and me until then. I owe you but don't cross me. I'm not the same man you knew. I have the power and the will to make you regret betraying me. Finally, know this. Cam and I are a team. He has my trust and confidence. Anything you hear from him, will be as if it came from me."