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A Vacation of Sorts
When Daniel and Annika let themselves back into the hotel room, it was to find a subdued Jack and Sam huddled over the coffee table trying to piece together fragments of creamy white stone.
"Looks like you found the other jar." Daniel peered over their shoulder recognizing the structure.
Sam nodded and indicated to scraps of material stiff with age. "Bes got to it first. From what we can work out, it looks like it was housing a Goa’uld crystal." The major rearranged the ancient rags and it took the shape of a thin rectangular rod.
"You were right." Annika smiled at Daniel.
At the military couple’s perplexed look he gave a self-depreciating shrug. "I had a theory that Bes disabled his ship and that the second jar held the missing component."
"Bes also had fun with the curator’s brother." Jack’s voice was grim. "We found him strung up in the bedroom with over a dozen stab wounds decorating his body."
So that was the reason for the tension emanating from his friends. Daniel caught the colonel’s hooded gaze and knew he was thinking of when Ba’al had inflicted similar torture on him two years ago. Of course the curator’s brother didn’t have the ‘benefit’ of a sarcophagus, to revive him over and over and over again.
"Did you call the police?" Annika asked softly. She knew from her visions exactly what Jack had endured.
The colonel shook his head, pulling himself out of his reverie. "No point. Besides we can’t get involved in an investigation."
"We just grabbed the pieces of the Canopic jar and left." Sam squeezed her lover’s hand and changed the subject. "How about you? Did you find the ring transporter?"
"We did," Daniel confirmed. "Well, Annika did."
The psychic described her visions. "We also ran into Dana and Mulder."
"They’re getting suspicious." Daniel cleaned his glasses on his shirt. "If we’re going to tell them about the Goa’uld it had better be soon."
Jack nodded. "Okay, we’ll broach the subject over lunch. Although bringing them into the loop may be a moot point."
"How come?" Annika fingered one of the jar fragments.
When the colonel hesitated, Sam answered for him. "The body wasn’t more than a few hours old. Now that he has the crystal Bes could be long gone."
The psychic dropped the shard as images flashed in her mind. "No, he’s still here." She drew in a shaky breath. "He plans on taking two more women tonight before he leaves. He was thinking about them when he reclaimed the crystal."
Daniel felt a jolt through their bond and he paled. "You."
She reached out to him, needing the comforting strength of his embrace. "And Dana. He saw us at ‘Billy’s’."
"That’s just peachy." Jack raked a hand through his hair. "He was certainly a busy beaver last night. Window shopping, a bit of torture and another snatch and grab."
Sam hid her sigh of relief at the colonel’s sarcasm, he was definitely back to his normal self. She slid a printed email across the table. "We got word from General Hammond that another girl was reported missing this morning, a seventeen year old."
"So what’s our next move?" Annika asked, reading the short report within the circle of Daniel’s arms.
"Now that we know where the transporter rings are we could stake out the area," Daniel suggested.
Sam shook her head. "If that crystal was for the landing controls then he doesn’t need the rings anymore. He could land the ship anywhere."
There was silence while they all contemplated the dilemma.
"Annika?" the colonel asked quietly. "Do you have any idea of where or when Bes will make his move?"
"Jack, No!" Daniel burst out before she could respond.
"It’s the only way. We don’t know where Bes or his ship is now. We don’t know what he looks like. The only thing we do know is that he wants Annika."
"You want to use me as bait?" The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. In voicing her hesitant question she could almost hear the gears of fate grinding into place. Shit! Of all times, why did this have to be a defining moment? Then and there she knew that regardless of whether or not she was used as a lure, Bes would succeed in capturing her.
Unaware of her inner realization, the officer grimaced at her tone, but nodded. "If you’re willing."
"No, I won’t let you put her at risk that way."
"She’s already at risk." Jack directed his comment to the archaeologist but his steady gaze never left Annika’s face.
She tried to sort out the emotions coursing through her. It was difficult to distinguish between her own and Daniel’s. Anger at Jack…nope, that was Daniel. Worry…Daniel. A touch of fear…surprisingly that was all his too. Bitter reality…both of them, but Daniel was trying to deny it. Determination…that was all her own. Resignation…this had to happen. She didn’t like it, not one bit, but there was no way around it. "I’ll do it."
"What? No!" Daniel’s eyes pleaded with hers.
"Jack’s right." She gripped Her Love’s hand. "This is our best shot at catching Bes."
"But…" he broke off, taking in the stubborn set to her jaw. "This plan really sucks."
"Can’t argue with you there," Jack agreed, "but it’s the only one we’ve got."
"And with Annika’s premonition we have the heads up." Sam tried to sound positive.
The psychic frowned. She had to warn them that their plan would fail. "He’s going to get me…"
"Hey, have a little faith," Jack protested.
"Faith has nothing to do with it." She tapped her forehead. "This mission ends off-world, we already know that."
"I will not just standby and let him take you," Daniel said fiercely. "We’re always changing the outcomes of your visions."
"Some things can’t be changed."
"Ah…Annika," Jack interrupted. "If you don’t mind we’re not going to leave your safety in the hands of fate. We get antsy twiddling our thumbs."
"You can stick to me like glue if you like." She eyed the two men. "But I don’t want either of you to feel bad if your plan goes ass up and you have to chase Bes around the galaxy."
"Well, on that note of confidence let’s go meet with Mulder and Scully, see if they want to join our little play group."
A A A
When they made their way to the café they were greeted at the entrance by a pacing Scully.
"Something wrong, Dana?" Annika asked taking in the agent’s frustrated frown.
"That depends." She came right to the point. "We know that you’re somehow connected to the killings and abductions that have been happening. Are you here to bring us into the loop or to pump us for information?"
"The direct approach. I like that." The colonel exchanged a quick look with his teammates. "Let’s say that we have some tidbits to share with you."
Some of the tension eased from the woman’s shoulders. "Okay, but I should warn you that Mulder’s pretty pissed at the moment. We’ve had a lot of negative experiences and it’s jaded his judgment of government organizations, especially top secret organizations."
"Need to blow off some steam, does he?"
"Maybe I should do the talking," Daniel suggested, not liking the gleam that lit up the colonel’s face.
"Nope. I can handle it." Jack waved his concerns away. "Been a while since I’ve had a good sparring match."
"Jack, do you really want to antagonize him?"
"Who? Me? Don’t know the meaning of the word." When the others began to protest he flapped his hands for quiet. "Now you lot stay here and I’ll handle Mulder." He sauntered off towards the corner table where the agent was sitting.
"Oh, boy." Sam cringed, watching the spring in Jack’s step and the mutinous glare from Mulder. "This is going to be just awful."
"Tell me about it," Scully sighed.
They all listened uneasily to the two men.
"Have a nice hike?" Jack asked taking a seat.
"Oh yes, it was very interesting." Mulder kept his voice neutral. "Though Doctor Jackson didn’t seem impressed."
"Well, if you’ve seen one bush, you’ve seen them all. See any unusual wildlife?"
"So far it’s not too bad," Daniel whispered. "They’re playing nicely."
"Only if you count the snake that crossed our path."
They all winced at the innuendo.
"Had much experience with wildlife, Jack? Get a lot of that at Cheyenne Mountain do you?"
"Oh, you’d be surprised at what burrows its way in."
"How about you? Did you have a pleasant morning?"
"It was just peachy. Went for a stroll, caught some sun."
"Don’t suppose you see much of that in your line of work."
"Nope, tend to see more stars than sun."
"I guess you would studying deep space telemetry."
"It’s quite fascinating you know."
"It must be, considering you came out of retirement twice to continue the work."
"Oh, enough already!" Scully couldn’t stand it any longer. She strode up to the bickering men. This inane pissing match could go on forever.
The others joined her, agreeing that some referees were definitely needed.
"We’re just making conversation, Scully." Mulder’s voice was innocent.
She kicked him under the table and turned to Jack. "Why are you in Australia?"
"Same reason you are." Jack was still hedging.
"You are not here for a wedding," Mulder contradicted.
"And neither are you," Daniel answered before another round could begin. "Let me rephrase that. You’re not here just for a wedding."
Jack had had his fun and in the process had caused Mulder to release some of the hostility that had been festering inside him. Now they could get down to business. "Unofficially, we have been sent to eradicate a bug problem of the glowing variety."
Mulder eyed the group. "An unusual bunch to catch a serial killer. An ex-black ops commander I can understand. But an astrophysicist, an archaeologist and a cake decorator?"
Jack smirked. "Oh, we all are uniquely qualified for this assignment."
Sam continued. "We’ve been authorized to inform you of what we know to achieve that end."
"But?" Scully knew there was a hidden catch coming.
"There are formalities that need to be taken care of before we can discuss anything."
Jack butted in, "Oh, just an ordinary, everyday confidentiality agreement to be signed."
"So you can cover up the truth."
The major refused to flinch at the accusation. "It’s in the best interest of everybody that the reality remains hidden."
"I’m sick of that turn of phrase," Mulder sighed. "I’ve been hearing it for years now."
"Believe me, I felt that way too." Daniel heard the frustration in Mulder’s voice. "But the average Joe really doesn’t want to know this particular truth. They’re not ready for it."
"You know that too, Mulder." This time it was Annika who interceded, using her visions of what the FBI agent had experienced to make her point. "Despite all the evidence you collected, who really believes that Tooms could stretch himself to fit into a drainpipe or that he hibernated for decades with only the livers of people for sustenance? Or that Darin Oswald could control lightning, or that Brother Andrew could change his gender at will, or that Mrs Paddock was the devil?"
Both agents let their surprise show at the X-file cases she rattled off.
Annika blinked innocently. "I can keep going if you like?"
Scully gave a wry grin. "Seems you have some pretty good insider information yourself."
"The point that Annika is trying to make," Daniel hurried on, seeing that Mulder was considering the question. "Is that you’ve witnessed first hand that most people don’t want their perceptions of reality to change. They’re happy in their cocooned world where the…er… unusual can be explained away as one too many drinks, a bad trip or a dream."
The FBI man was silent, the indecision clear on his face. He studied the four people before him. They seemed earnest in their desire to share their knowledge. And on an instinctive level he knew that despite Jack’s nonchalant sarcasm, the colonel would hold nothing back. According to Frohike they were the good guys, which was quite the recommendation. Even Scully was willing to hear them out and she’d put up with just as much crap from government cover-ups as he had. But to learn the truth and not be able to tell anyone…was that worse than not knowing? Eventually he spoke, honestly voicing his dilemma. "I’ve spent my whole life trying to expose the truth. I don’t know if I could keep this secret even if I did sign the confidentiality agreement. It goes against everything I believe in."
Everyone including Scully, looked disappointed, but Jack nodded in understanding. "You know, beliefs can change in a heartbeat. I’ve had my world rocked a few times."
"I need time to consider your offer." Mulder rose and Scully reluctantly followed.
"Sure. You know where to find us." Jack held out his hand. "No hard feelings either way?"
Mulder took the proffered token of friendship, and shook his hand. "No. You’ve got your job to do, and I’ve got mine."
"I guess we’ll see you at the wedding." Scully waited until her partner started walking away then lowered her voice. "I’ll work on him. I know Mulder, he won’t be able to stand not knowing."
Annika let the redhead get halfway to the door before her conscience demanded she warn Scully about Bes’s plan. She jumped to her feet. "Dana, wait…"
Jack grabbed her hand to stop her. "Annika." Though his voice was quiet, the command was clear.
"I have to let her know she’s a target," she whispered fiercely.
"You can’t tell her specifics until she’s signed that paper."
Annika searched for a way to tell Scully without actually explaining anything. "Dana, keep your gun with you tonight. You never know who may be lurking about."
Scully nodded, catching the warning. "Never leave home without it." She gave a brief wave goodbye then hurried after Mulder.
"So now what do we do?" Annika asked resuming her seat.
"Lunch is sounding pretty good," Jack said reaching for the menu.
They all rolled their eyes.
"Since when are you so literal?" Sam asked exasperated.
"Oh, you mean what do we do about Bes?" Jack feigned surprise then turned serious. "We should probably leave that discussion until we’re back in our room. Let’s get our orders to go."
Within half an hour they were sitting around the lounge, the remains of their meals scattering the table. Annika had barely touched her salad and she noticed that Daniel had almost as much food left on his plate as she did.
"Any plan we have will have to be flexible," Sam started, scrunching up her napkin. "We don’t know when Bes will make his move…unless, Annika any more premonitions?"
The psychic shook her head.
"We have to let Bes take Annika, don’t we?" Daniel’s voice was pained and he reached out to Annika, needing to hold her. Without hesitation she moved into his embrace.
Reluctantly Jack gave a brief nod. "Besides the fact that we can’t take him out in a crowded restaurant, not without risking the general public, we need to know where his ship is."
"The ship could be hovering above our heads and we wouldn’t know it," Sam agreed. "If we’re to have any chance of rescuing the women we’ll have to let Bes lead us to it."
"Sam and I will position ourselves near the entrances to the restaurants to read anyone walking through the doors for a Goa’uld presence. I want you two to check in with each other every few seconds with your bond thingy in case he gets by us. When Bes snatches Annika we’ll follow and take him out before he can board his ship."
"That’s a pretty shaky plan," Daniel frowned. "We’ll only have a few seconds, if that, between him decloaking the ship and boarding."
"I know." Jack wasn’t too happy about it either. "The timing will have to be spot on."
"Perhaps we should have a plan B," Annika suggested.
"Oh, ye of little faith," the colonel groused.
Annika managed to smirk at him. "This has nothing to do with my premonition. I’ve read your mission reports. Since when has plan A ever worked?"
A snort of laughter escaped from Sam’s lips and Jack shot her a dirty look. "There is a first time for everything. However, Teal’c is already standing by in the Tic Tac ready to give chase should the need arise." The colonel eyed the psychic. "Now I know your visions told you this is going to end in space, but as soon as you identify Bes, contact Daniel…"
"Jack, do you really think I want to be kidnapped?" Annika demanded. "Believe me, I’ll do everything I can to make plan A work."
With a strategy (no matter how wobbly) decided upon, there was nothing else to do but wait. Jack and Sam, accustomed to the seemingly endless delay between plans and action were able to relax, however, Annika couldn’t sit still. Eventually Daniel led her into the bedroom and ‘ordered’ her to lie down.
"Did you bring your vanilla oil?"
She nodded. "It’s in the bathroom."
He fetched it. "Now, let’s see if we can’t ease some of that tension."
"Daniel, in a few hours I’m probably going to be Bes’s latest harem girl. How can you expect me to relax?"
Tenderly he cupped her face. "Whatever happens tonight, if we don’t get Bes on the ground, you know that we won’t stop until we get you back. You just keep repeating that over and over." His lips gently brushed her mouth. "One thing I’ve learnt is that the most dire circumstances can be reversed in a second." He touched his forehead to hers and their eyes locked. "Promise me that you will always look for that rabbit to pull out of a hat."
Daniel eased her shirt up and urged her to roll on her stomach. Pouring a generous amount of oil on his hands, he began to massage the tight muscles across her back. Under his gentle kneading touch the tension slowly seeped from her body.
They spent the rest of the afternoon simply cuddled on the bed, drawing comfort from each other’s embrace. There wasn’t much talking, words weren’t necessary. Though they felt trepidation about the coming evening, they purposefully pushed it aside. There was no point in thinking about what ifs; they would deal with each moment as it came. When Jack rapped on the door, announcing they only had an hour until the wedding they reluctantly started to get ready. Forty-five minutes later they were almost set.
"Sam, that’s a great dress." Annika admired the strapless dress that hugged the woman’s figure with a touch of envy. There was no way she could ever wear that style. She was too top heavy to go without some sort of strap for support.
"That’s what I said," Jack grinned, tucking a zat’ under his jacket.
"Thanks," the major replied. "No where to hide a weapon though." Jamming her own zat’ into her purse she glanced up. "Wow, that’s some dress yourself."
Annika’s black halter neck emphasized her impressive cleavage, before the slinky material fell into soft drapes to her knees. She was busy adjusting her shoe and missed the envious look from the blonde.
The men who’d seen the identical looks from both women stifled grins.
"Ladies, you both look wonderful," Daniel assured them, making sure the bulge of his weapon was hidden beneath his jacket.
"Right, campers." Jack held open the door. "Let’s move out."
Annika checked her almost empty purse and grimaced. It seemed silly to worry about things like lipstick when Sam was trying to find room for a zat’. (They’d agreed that Annika couldn’t risk being caught by Bes with a Goa’uld weapon.)
Daniel clasped his hand in hers. "You’ll be fine."
She gave a light tug on their bond. "I would believe you if I didn’t feel your own anxiety."
He waved it away. "That’s just adrenaline."
They all headed down to ground level and headed for the beach where the wedding ceremony was to be conducted. Even though they were relatively safe while the sun was up and amongst the dozens of guests, the team was on guard. When Scarecrow spied them hovering on the outskirts he beckoned them over.
"Blue, don’t you scrub up good?"
"Never thought I’d see you in a tux." Annika smiled, trying to hide the tension that had come back in full force.
"Only Clarisse could get me to imitate a penguin." The wild haired man yanked at his bowtie. He squinted at the aura surrounding the four friends. "Is everything alright? You all look…worried."
"We’re fine, Scarecrow," Annika assured her friend, pasting on another smile. "The only thing you need to worry about today is remembering your wedding vows."
"I’ve got them all written down just in case my brain freezes." He yanked again at his collar.
After giving warm well wishes to the anxious groom SG-1 headed for their seats.
Daniel leant close, keeping his voice low, "We look worried?"
Annika nodded. "I didn’t notice it myself, but now that Scarecrow mentioned it, all of your auras are tinged with yellow. I guess mine is too."
"How come you didn’t notice?" Jack asked curiously. "I thought our ‘light’ was too bright to miss." Even though he didn’t quite understand how the ‘aura thing’ worked, he sounded offended that Annika hadn’t picked up on the alteration.
She gave him an exasperated look. "Jack, I work with you everyday, I have to block all your auras, they were almost blinding me."
The opening strains of the wedding march began and they focused on the ceremony. While Annika listened to her friends recite their vows, she pushed all thoughts of the mission away. Their declaration of love shouldn’t be marred by the Goa’uld. Unconsciously she gripped Daniel’s hand. Tenderly he brought her hand up to place a soft kiss to her fingertips. She sent her love to him, only to have it entwine with his own. Sneaking a peek at Jack and Sam, she saw that the two officers were also holding hands, their eyes on each other as the loving words echoed in their ears.
When the ceremony finished they followed the other guests to the first reception venue. Getting down to business, Sam and Jack began mingling with the guests near the entrance, making sure they passed within a few feet of any new arrivals.
Daniel and Annika kept to the middle of the room. Every few minutes he played the dutiful lover, constantly fetching drinks and finger food from the tables along the back wall. The idea was to give Bes the chance to approach Annika when she was alone waiting for Daniel’s return with some new morsel for her to try.
It didn’t quite work out that way. Old friends and workmates from Annika’s year long stay were constantly recognizing her and were eager to chat and catch up. She was never actually ‘alone’ for more than a few seconds at any given time.
When they moved on to the next destination Jack grumbled, "Annika, you didn’t mention that you knew every single person in town."
She gave him a weak grin. "Sorry, guess it slipped my mind."
Settling into their assigned seats they saw the two FBI agents at the next table. Daniel caught Scully’s eye and tilted his head in question. She shook her head, indicating that Mulder was still making up his mind.
They changed tactics. This time Annika was the one doing the roaming. She wandered around the crowded restaurant, not stopping long enough to be drawn into any one conversation. It was a pointless exercise. There was no sign of the Goa’uld.
When the speeches began the team regrouped at the table. She gratefully leant into Daniel’s arms. For the moment at least they were able to take a break.
"How are ya’ holding up?" Jack sat down beside her.
Annika gave him a tight smile. "Oh, I’m doing just great if you don’t count the herd of elephants playing football in my stomach."
With a straight face the colonel asked, "Would that be gridiron or AFL?"
She gave a low chuckle that loosened the bundle of nerves within her. "Considering we’re in Australia it’s definitely AFL."
They turned their attention to the speeches. When it was the bride’s turn, Clarisse had an unusual request.
"As most of you know, my husband’s one claim to fame is that he won the annual dance competition a few years back. Scarecrow has often lamented, at great length, the fact that I missed his crowning achievement because I was called away to work. It turns out we unexpectedly have the chance to recreate that moment I have heard so much about." Clarisse paused, her eyes landing on Annika. "Annika, as your wedding present to me could I humbly ask you to dance with my husband so I don’t have to listen to him bitch and moan about it anymore?" Laughter erupted from the other tables.
She glanced at Daniel who shrugged. "It’s entirely up to you."
After a moment’s hesitation she nodded. "I’d be happy to."
While the tables were cleared away to make room, Annika waited nervously on the outskirts with her teammates.
"Daniel, are you sure you’re okay with me doing this?"
"As I recall, I did mention wanting to see the final." His blue eyes sparkled at the thought then he became serious. "But if you’re uneasy about it, I can have a word with Clarisse and Scarecrow, I’m sure they’d understand."
She sighed. "I’m supposed to be bait. It’d be a sure fire way to attract Bes’ attention."
Jack awkwardly cleared his throat. "I’m glad I didn’t say it."
Daniel shot the colonel a filthy look before returning his attention to the woman he loved. "Annika, do the dance for you, or for me, or Scarecrow and Clarisse. Don’t do the dance just to lure Bes. Don’t let him tarnish something that brings you joy."
"Okay." She gave him a gentle kiss, then whispered in his ear, "But pay attention to the steps, I may want to try them out with you."
He grinned. "Jack’s promised to get me dance lessons for Christmas."
"I can recommend an excellent teacher," she giggled. "My prices should be within his budget."
When she took her place next to Scarecrow he gave her a tight hug. "Thanks for doing this, Blue."
"How can I turn down an offer to dance with you?" She nervously took the sheer scarf borrowed from one of the guests. Glancing around the sea of faces she saw Jack and Sam position themselves towards the back of the crowd at opposite sides of the room.
"Blue, what’s going on?" Her friend followed her look and his brow creased into a frown.
Annika dodged his question. "Everything is fine."
"That’s bullshit. I know you."
"I can’t tell you," she sighed. "But we may have to leave in a hurry."
Daniel found a place at the front of the crowd next to Mulder and Scully.
She felt him tickle their bond with a mix of anticipation and desire and she managed to temporarily banish her worry about the Goa’uld. Daniel was right. Bes shouldn’t intrude on her love of this particular routine. "Come on, let’s dance. Sure you remember the steps?"
"Hey, I’ve never forgotten a step in my life." He smiled, relieved to see the yellow mostly disappear from her aura.
When the tune of Frank Sinatra’s ‘Sway’ began echoing through the speakers, it became very clear that this dance was completely different from the qualifier. While ‘Throb’ had had the dancers practically plastered together, this time there wasn’t any physical contact. The scarf took the place of hands, being twirled around hips and waists. The way they used the prop to caress their bodies, almost making contact between them but pulling away at the last second, left the audience with an erotic sense of foreplay. On the last note Scarecrow tugged on the scarf wrapped around Annika’s wrist, and she finally spun into his arms. There was a moment of silence then a crescendo of applause and wolf whistles from the guests.
Clarisse came over and embraced both of them. Pulling away she announced with a grin, "Well, I don’t know about Scarecrow, but I’m ready for the honeymoon."
Laughing Annika made her way back to Daniel, who immediately pulled her onto his lap.
"Maybe you shouldn’t have done it," he murmured against her ear. "How can I concentrate on the mission after watching that?" The evidence of his arousal pressed against her thigh. "Where did you come up with the concept?"
She leant into him, loving the wonderful tingle that erupted inside her from his touch. "It started as a joke regarding my aversion to touching people. From the reaction of the others practicing with us, we worked out that the anticipation was more of a seduction to the audience than the ‘together’ moves."
"Oh, I would have to agree with you on that one." His lips descended on hers and that tingle turned to fire.
There was a loud cough behind them and they reluctantly drew apart.
"In case you didn’t notice, everyone’s moving onto the next pit stop," Jack smirked. "That was a knockout dance by the way."
Heading out into the street, Sam slid a sly look at the colonel. "Annika, perhaps you could show me some of those moves."
"Anytime." Annika accidentally bumped against an outside bench. Her smile instantly faded. "We had a voyeur."
"Bes?" Jack instantly began scanning the street.
She nodded. "I guess break time’s over."
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