(See Exile #1 for Disclaimer and Rating)
Author's Notes: Special thanks to Suisan for naming the dog.
The Man Without a Planet
The court-martial was just a show, a slap on the wrist not so much for what he'd done, but for getting caught. He hadn't been bluffing when he told O'Neill that he had no idea how far up the chain of command this went.
Robert Franklin Makepeace, former Colonel Makepeace of SG-3, walked away in the end with a dishonorable discharge and time served. It was all almost worth it to see O'Neill's face, the smile fall off that sanctimonious wingnut. Almost. He knew all the reasons why it had to go down this way, on paper, for public consumption and the history books. Didn't mean it didn't sting. He'd served his country, his world, and his species with honor. Having his name and his record blackened was the price he'd had to pay. Fine. One more secret he would keep.
He'd joined the Corps right out of high school, and had always expected to die in harness. His new civilian status fit like a new pair of shoes, rubbing him raw in all the wrong places. At the end of it, he walked alone into his small ranch-style house in a suburb of Colorado Springs, a suitcase in one hand, a box of his personal effects from the base under his other arm.
Everybody was out of lock-up. He'd stopped at Rocky Mountain Kennels on his way and sprung Boyington. That was the thing about dogs, loyalty. Despite his two month absence, the big black and tan collie/shepherd mix greeted him with a wagging tail, leaping up to lick his chin.
He put down the suitcase and box, shut the door behind him. Erased his answering machine messages unheard. He had a good idea of what they all said, anyway. He stood there in the darkened hall for a minute, a little lost, then looked down at the dog. "Well, Boyington old boy, what next?"
The dog trotted through the house, into the kitchen, to the place where his bowls were usually kept. Makepeace got his water bowl out of a cupboard, filled it at the sink, and set it down. Then opened another cabinet and took out a bottle of Glenbannock single malt.
"Drinking. Excellent idea."
Colonel Harry Maybourne rang the doorbell again with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Little things. The man wasn't answering the phone. The yard was looking a little ragged and overgrown, compared the manicured landscaping he recalled from previous visits. It had been a month since the end... officially... of the SG-Black Ops program. A month since the court-martial of Colonel Makepeace. He had a bad feeling that he was going to have to make an anonymous call to the local police to pick up the body.
But then the barking of a large dog echoed from inside, as well as muffled swearing. The door opened a crack, and then slammed shut. Maybourne patiently rang the bell again. The door jerked, wide.
Red-rimmed pale blue eyes glared out of a stubbled face. The former marine crossed his arms over a threadbare wifebeater-undershirt, cocked one denim-clad knee up to hold the screen door open just enough to talk. The man was barefoot.
"Whatever the hell you want, the answer's no," Makepeace stated calmly, as if the words were written in stone.
"Even if it's to give you a chance for a fresh start? Somewhere very very else?" Maybourne gave him his best used car salesman grin.
Makepeace hesitated, then let him in and heard him out.
Hours later, Robert Makepeace sat considering the offer. For a while, after the court-martial, he'd considered going home... picking up the life he'd thought he'd escaped by enlisting. But he couldn't bring himself to leave Colorado Springs. O'Neill had always been the kind of C.O. that made his teeth itch, someday that man was going to blow it big time.
Goa'uld ships could, at any time, arrive in Earth orbit and toast the human race, but Earth's stargates were still the weakest link. If he was around when O'Neill finally screwed up, when a million heavily armed Jaffa started pouring out of Cheyenne Mountain, then at least he'd still be on the front lines.
He'd already given his life for his country. He might as well die for it too.
He turned the card over and over again in his hands. A plain white business card with a single phone number embossed on it. No name, no logo or insignia.
Ironic. The mirror of his downfall. When O'Neill had been tapped for his internal investigation, the first thing he did after faking a sympathetic act and being recruited, was to ask for permission to retire off-world, allowing him to join the SG-Black Ops base.
Off-world. That's what Maybourne was offering him. They still controlled the second stargate, timing activation so Cheyenne Mountain could cloak their own travels. The team O'Neill busted was free... the base discovered wasn't the only one. Makepeace could rejoin them. Or he could retire off-world.
For the first time in quite a while, he opened his eyes and looked at what he'd become. The carpeting, darkened with ground-in dirt, sucked at his bare toes. A stale smell filled the houseno windows had been opened in a long time, curtains pulled and shades drawn. The kitchen was full of garbage, the TV muttered to itself with reruns of Law And Order, the only light source in the room. Furniture velveted gray with dust.
All he could do here was die for his country. But maybe out there he could find life again. Time to stop wallowing and get his house in order.
He had to go out three times. Once for more cleaning supplies. Once for groceries, after the fridge was disinfected. He couldn't remember the last time he'd bought anything but frozen dinners and junk food. He filled the crisper with fresh fruit and vegetables. He drank a glass of orange juice while running the fourteenth load of laundry. He went out again for a bottle of baby shampoo, brushed heaps of loose hair out of Boyington's coat and coaxed the big dog into the gleaming bathtub for a wash. Letting him run around the freshly mown back yard while he cleaned the bathtub again.
When he was done, he looked around at his work, and breathed in the smell of fresh air, lemon Pledge, and Murphy's Oil Soap. It felt good. He grilled a porterhouse steak to celebrate.
Step Two took a while longer. He had a garage sale and put some things on Ebay. Put the house on the market. Cashed in everything despite early withdrawal penalties, sold his stocks. Took his car to the lot, and finally, settled into a pet-friendly hotel where he called the number on the card and said, simply, "I'm ready."
They sent a car for him. It took him to the airport, where a jet was waiting. The first stop was an otherwise anonymous office in New York where an obviously curious and nervous man with a pronounced accent traded two briefcases' worth of Makepeace's life savings for a single case of gemstones. A few diamonds, but mainly colored gemstones, precious and semiprecious. Faceted. Makepeace approved the selection with a wry nod; watching the jeweler steal nervous glances at the unspeaking, sturdily built young men in suits who had accompanied him on the plane. His bodyguards as long as he stuck to the plan, his assassins if he bolted for a newspaper or television network.
Combined, he knew the three of them looked damn intimidating to the jeweler, and wondered what scenarios were playing in the man's imagination. CIA? The mob? If he only knew the truth...
Another plane trip to an undisclosed location, and then a long drive to the warehouse where the Beta Gate was set up. At least it looked like a warehouse from the outside. Inside was a cargo elevator. Riding down nearly as many levels as at Cheyenne Mountain with Boyington on a leash and Tweedledee and Tweedledum flanking him, Makepeace wondered what the unofficial designation for this place was, Area 53? He also wondered exactly where they were. Not his problem. He did note, with approval, decon and blast doors not unlike the set-up at the SGC. He'd seen enough weird-ass things come through the Alpha Gate to approve of the Black Ops team playing fast and loose with procedure.
It was a bit jarring to have a uniformed kid salute him again. "Colonel Makepeace, sir! Lieutenant Bryson, if you'll come with me."
Tweedledee and Tweedledum peeled off. Bryson led him to a version of the observation room. Maybourne was waiting for him. "Robert," he greeted him with insincere cordiality, and the man's eyes flicked from him to the dog at his side with distaste. "I trust the arrangements met with your approval?"
"Went off without a hitch," he agreed. "Harry."
Maybourne's smile widened but still didn't reach his eyes. "Picked out your own private Florida yet?"
"I'm going to PJX-113." Makepeace had no intention of staying there, but that was on a need to know basis. "No tech, no snakes, and grass skirts." No SGC either. They'd already visited, nothing of strategic value, and General Hammond's pet archaeologist, Jackson, had called a Prime Directive, to protect the natives from further cultural contamination. Made his choice to settle there sound a little more plausible.
Makepeace willed Boyington to lift his leg on either a multi-million dollar console, or better yet, Maybourne. But he'd trained the dog too well.
"Well, I'm sure you're eager to get on your way. Embarkation's through here," Maybourne led him out a door and down a set of concrete steps. As they walked, Maybourne brought out the salespitch again. "You're a good officer, Robert, we hate to lose you. These green kids... you tell them covert ops, they think it's going to be a Tom Clancy novel, I don't know... The work's just beginning here, and what we're doing could really be the difference."
They'd reached the bottom of the stairs, and Maybourne had to raise his voice over the spinning wheel of the stargate. "If you ever get bored," he held out another card.
Makepeace took it. Another plain business card, this one with a stargate address.
"One of our off-world bases. When you're ready to get back in the game."
Makepeace grunted. The stargate stopped its spin, and lit up, as a voice over the loudspeaker announced, "Chevron seven locked."
The wormhole plumed and subsided. Makepeace picked up his luggage, shrugging into his backpack and tightening the straps, then picked up the duffles, took a better grip on Boyington's leash, and led him up the ramp. As he stepped into the event horizon's chill embrace, he heard the words echoing faintly, "Departing traveler en route," beginning his exile.
On PJX-113 he let Boyington off the leash, and sat down on one of the nearby rock 'thrones'. Paranoia was a survival skill in his line of work. He'd boobytrapped his bags, nothing lethal, just a few tricks of the trade that would tell him if his goods had been tampered with. He'd prepared the best he could, along with a fortune in gemstones he'd brought his sidearm and a few boxes of ammo to help make sure he kept them. Basic camping gear and survival supplies.
He repacked, glancing up and whistling for Boyington, grinning when he saw the big dog watering a nearby palm. "Where no dog has gone before, eh Boyo?" he called, then reclipped the leash, setting out on the blind trail of stargate addresses that would keep Maybourne and his flunkies from finding his real destination.
He wandered for a while. For how long, he didn't know. It was hard to keep track of time when each time you stepped through a gate, it changed. Day to night. Spring to winter. He started out with worlds far out of the known Goa'uld sphere of influence. Worlds far down on the dialing list for the SGC. He took furnished rooms and chased rumors of stargate addresses and far-flung worlds still deeper in the wilds of the universe.
Eventually, he came to the Chain Of Twelve Rings, and there he stopped. It was a small empire, twelve core worlds connected by gate travel and trade, and a bunch of ruled colony worlds. Not particularly high tech, but that was changing. The sensible ruler and powers that be of this society were eagerly importing the 'magical' scientific advancements of other worlds.
He'd quickly found himself welcomed at Court after trading a few stones. As he'd surmised, faceted, sparkling gemstones were a rare and treasured commodity on worlds that still had the cabochon cut. At a banquet, he overheard other members of the wealthy merchant class arguing over what technological wonders would earn the most profit, the ruling class discussing what advantages should be introduced next.
At that moment, he knew he was home.
Each of the twelve worlds was ruled by a member of the Imperial family, but there were close to fifty colony worlds being settled, as new, empty worlds were found through the gate. Favorites of the Emperor were named as viceroys of these struggling young worlds. But anyone could buy a land grant and the title that went with it. Six rubies, two emeralds, and a black pearl later, Lord Robert Makepeace found himself in possession of several hundred square miles of a planet called Caidos.
He needed to register his holding somehow, so after a moment's reflection on bad science fictiony names like Earth Two or Belleterra, he wrote New Ohio down in the register. The land had reminded him of the rich farmland in the northeast corner of the state. Good country for soybeans and potatoes. He wondered if they had soybeans and potatoes here. He'd have to look into it.
He converted a few more stones into cash. The currency here was simple. No bills, coins. No small change. Near as he could tell, the gold coin that was the size of a half-dollar was worth about a thousand bucks. A silver coin the size of a quarter was a hundred, and the copper coin that looked just like a penny... except it had a stargate on one side and Emperor Rupert the Seventh on the other, that was a dollar.
He wasn't sure about inflation, or the exact rate of exchange... or if there was a smaller denomination in use by the common folk. Any way you counted the coins, he was a very very rich man.
The first thing he had to do was spend it. Hire a foreman, go to the market. He needed supplies. Food. Tools. Dry goods. Horses. Carts and tractors. And slaves.
That part stuck in his craw. To own slaves. There was a small, growing middle class here... but mostly it was lords and peasants and slaves. It made him sick, but this world was changing as fast as it could, some things need intermediary stages. At least the feudal set-up meant he set the laws on his own land, and he liked to think he was a good man. A fair man. He tried to tell himself it was just words anyway. He was no idealist. Lives were bought and sold every day, everywhere.
Now, the agora was a sight to see. Farmer's market, cattle sale, county fair, craft show, and the world's biggest garage sale all rolled into one. He checked into an inn, and spent several days there, wandering the walled courtyards, the shops and stalls and corrals, just getting a feel for the place.
He picked up a tail a few minutes after dropping a couple of copper coins into a beggar's bowl. He'd seen the two weaselly-looking street kids eyeing him from a sort of beergarden or tavern-tent. He'd been expecting this... a man of his means simply didn't walk around alone here.
He led them into a dark alley, finally deciding to get it over with. Flattening himself against the wall two steps into the shadows, he took out Weasel-Faced Punk No. 1 with a quick and easy arm-bar that caught the kid across the throat and sent him to the cobbles gagging and gasping for air.
Weasel-Faced Punk No. 2 stepped over his fallen comrade and pulled a short-bladed knife. "Gonna gut yer," he threatened in a rasping voice.
Makepeace, without blinking, took one step backward out of the first wild swing, then quickly darted back in, and grabbed the wrist of the kid's knife hand, hard, and yanking straight up.
More than a foot taller than the would-be mugger, he lifted the boy off the ground. The knife clattered to the pavement, Makepeace kicked it away, then delivered a single, calculated to stun, right cross before dropping his sniveling assailant.
He stopped to pick up the knife, and called over his shoulder, "You boys might want to consider going into another line of work."
He'd done some studying before he'd left Earth, while he was liquidating his belongings. No battle plan ever survived first contact with the enemy, though, and after he'd had a look at what the local market had to offer, talked to a few other of the landed gentry, he sat down and refigured his estimations.
It was time to start. And the first thing he had to do was recruiting. Number one, he needed a second in command. Someone with experience, who knew what they were doing instead of just reading up on it.
From the agora inn to a rented house again, and the dizzying social calendar of the idle rich. He let it be known that he was looking for someone to run the farm, and waited.
There was one complication he'd never considered. Things were that different out here. A balding, battle-scarred forty-two year old ex-Marine was considered a good catch... as long as he was a dealer in unusual gemstones.
He hadn't felt so like a slab of beefcake since the early days at the SGC when Doctor Barbara Shore from the physics department used to time her breaks for calisthenics. Some days she packed a lunch and binoculars.
Fleeing from the giggling throng, he hid out in men's territory for the rest of the party, the rooms where you smoked cigars, gambled, and talked business and politics. It was here he learned the Viceroy of Indarko's farm manager's son had just gotten married and was looking to start out on his own. Daric, the young man was called. He passed word along that he was interested to have the young man call on him at home for an interview, and he should bring his wife, too.
He was kneeling by the hearth, brushing Boyington, when one of the hot and cold running servants that came with a furnished townhouse announced the couple. Young. Mid-twenties. Daric, a tall, rangy redhead, his wife Merran bright-eyed and brunette.
They were surprised. This kind of informal interview wasn't exactly what they were expecting. Wives weren't usually invited. The gentry didn't conduct them sitting sprawled on the floor and covered in dog fur.
Throwing them off-balance was part of the plan. He wanted to see how they would react, how fast they could think on their feet, how well they adapted. He had no use for hidebound traditionalists in the world he was building.
He had his maps and notes spread out on the low table in the middle of the room. After a few minutes of talking, it became clear Daric knew more than he did. Merran sat beside her husband, adding her own observations with a growing confidence, and absently scratching Boyington's ear as the big dog curled up with his head in her lap. After two hours of discussion, Makepeace knew he'd found the people he needed to start making this dream a reality, and they were hired.
It was a lot of hard work ahead of them. He hired as many people as he could. Skilled labor tended to be the work of free men. Since he was here to stay and to make a splash, he went whole hog on the house, every bell and whistle they could think of. Modern off-world innovations like electricity and indoor plumbing. The best materials. He had cabinet makers at work on the furniture before the foundation was dug.
He kept a close eye on the books, reflecting wryly that if nothing else, he was boosting the Chain Of Twelve Rings' economy.
Before they could start on the house, he had to decide where the town was going to be. One thing they did here, was plonk a town right around the gate on each new world discovered. Then ran a railroad line in both directions until they hit sea. Land grants and colonization ran out from the central line.
They chose a spot. Not too close by local standards of travel, from the house, but near enough in case of an emergency.
The second thing he built, after the train station, was an inn. Daric argued against it, but Makepeace insisted. He wasn't about to admit his reasoning came from an old Judy Garland movie, even if he could have explained it. Daric just shook his head in amazement, as the other newly landed gentry began getting off at the frontier outpost of New Ohio en route to their own holdings farther off in the wilds... for a night in a real bed, if they were inclined to motion sickness. The project was still a money pit, but now a few coins were trickling back in. It was a start.
He bought his first slaves. Four women. Freni, Lillit, Jennith, and Kaeti, to cook and clean at the inn. Makepeace hated it, but kept telling himself 'When in Rome... ' And at least he knew he'd be a decent master.
He laid down the rules for them as he fastened the symbolic slave collars, a spring-torque around the neck. Fair work, decent living conditions, good behavior. A blue bead strung on the wire for every year of service. He set their freedom price at five beads. "Ridiculously low," Daric grumbled, but there was a glimmer of admiration in his eyes.
The next purchase was farm laborers. He let Daric choose eight of the healthiest and youngest men on the block. They headed out into the hinterland, a few days' ride from where the big house was going to be, and started clearing trees. The first log cabin went up quickly.
Never in his life was his training in leadership, organization, and information analysis as necessary as it was now. There were ten thousand things happening at once, and all of them needed his approval every step of the way. He was having the time of his life.
Before snow fell that first winter, the big house was finished. The various outbuildings as well, sheds, barns, storerooms, and workhouses, plus servant housing and a small cemetery, made necessary when one of the farm hands tried to rape Anyi. Four people heard her cries and came running, Makepeace among them. He'd gathered everyone together, and made the witnesses recount the scene of the crying girl cornered in the storeroom, her torn skirt. The man, expecting a beating and that only if Makepeace had an eye on the girl for himself, confessed what he'd done.
Makepeace put a bullet in his head, and in the shocked silence that followed, made eye contact with every single person in the crowd, and repeated what he'd said when each of them became his property and his responsibility.
"You're slaves, and all that means is that under the law, the only rights you have are what I give you. I'm giving you a chance. Work hard, do the right thing, and you'll earn your freedom. You aren't animals, I'm not going to treat you like you are, and I don't expect you to treat each other that way."
It was a hard winter for Makepeace, used to fiberglass insulation and central heating... and a winter of uncommon luxury for his slaves, amazed to be provided with warm coats and boots, to have fireplaces of their own in their rooms. Makepeace shivered and chattered his teeth, while the servants marveled that noone lost a single finger or toe to frostbite.
In spring, they planted their food crops, bought the first flock, and a couple of sheepdogs. Female. He'd never had Boyington fixed; a guy just couldn't do that, and he planned on a couple of litters of pups. Reserve financial resources, so anything they could produce onsite helped. Sheepdogs and house guards. Along with the inn and station, the town soon gained a store. The days were long, the work was hard, but they were slowly becoming self-sufficient.
Makepeace passed a second winter, thinking how nice it would be to have a soft someone to snuggle up with at night. Boyington laying across the foot of the bed provided some warmth, but other comforts were lacking. Whenever he was in the city, he visited one of the less depressing brothels, and he'd had to chase off a few of the girls, who weren't talking about a heated brick when they offered to warm his bed.
He found himself staring at the sliding door to the bride's boudoir. He'd just picked out a floorplan for a regular lordly manor, he hadn't thought about it until designs and swatches for decorating his future wife's room were brought for his approval.
It was just assumed that he would marry and have children. That he was building this all as a legacy to pass down. He was seriously considering it. Unfortunately, none of the local ladies appealed. There were a few other settlements around now, near enough that they got together for festivals, and the local ladies were... just that. The biggest bunch of useless inbred airheaded ninnies he'd seen this side of a cheerleader competition.
He was stuck by his own standards. There were the slave girls, who knew how to do a good days' work and had common sense, who he'd put off limits for himself out of respect; no sexual harassment here. They half-worshipped him for the heavenly working conditions he'd set, and other than that there was the fact that he was their lord and master. So deeply ingrained in their psyche he'd never be sure of consent... if the girl was saying yes because she believed she wasn't allowed to say no.
As for the noblewomen... they all felt ridiculously young to him. No women's rights here; frailty as a status symbol. The unmarried women of his new class were kept on pedestals, out of important decisions. Not expected to have a thought of their own, just to look pretty, have pleasant manners, and how to order the servants about. If you were very lucky, she could embroider cloth or play a musical instrument. None of them could read. And they were kept... innocent... until the wedding night. They giggled. And simpered. And batted their eyelashes.
What he needed was a destitute widow. A high-born woman who'd had to scrabble a bit to survive, knock some of the polish off. Who'd been around the block a few times.
There were matchmakers in the Chain Of Twelve Rings, he decided to apply to one the next time he went for supplies.
The agora. Vendors of a thousand and one delights cried out in praise of their wares. He moved through the crowded bazaars, window shopping without windows, idly passing the time, and working up the nerve to head for the matchmakers agencies in another part of town. He wandered among jewelers' stalls, checking out wedding rings. An enameled set caught his eye, a wreath of green laurel leaves on gold.
He wandered for a while, poking through odd lots of pottery, and wooden furniture, carved and painted. Found himself at the livestock pens, checking out the mottled-hide and long-horn bulls and thinking wistfully of steak and double bacon cheeseburgers and thick slabs of roast beef on rye with horseradish.
Found himself wandering back to the slave market and standing still in shock as his gaze fell on Samantha Carter, on the auction block.
Quite a bit of Major Carter, as the auctioneer pulled the potato-sack she was wearing off over her head and pushed her, stark naked, before the crowd, calling out, "Blonde, hair bright as butter! Eyes of lapis blue, skin like rose petals, see how cream blushes pink? The starting bid on this fine female is ten coppers."
Hell and damn his luck. Carter was here. SG-1 was here. He quickly scanned this crowd, expecting to see O'Neill striding forward with an outraged look on his face, the former Jaffa Teal'c aiming his staff weapon, or even Daniel Jackson holding up a polite hand with his own version of a battle-cry, "Um, excuse me..."
Nothing. No comrades at arms rushing forward to the rescue, and hell, there was a bid for her already. Where was SG-1? He'd always known O'Neill was a loose cannon commander, one who was going to go down hard and take his people with him, but Carter was good people, and didn't deserve this fate. Not with the owner of one of the scummier whorehouses bidding on her.
After quickly rebudgeting his supply run, Makepeace called out, "Fifteen coppers." Pushing his way to the front of the crowd, he forced his gaze up, keeping eye contact, searching for a signal.
Wide blue eyes stared back at him blankly, with no signal, no indication of recognition. Shock, he thought sickly. If SG-1 had been killed in front of her... if when she had been taken... she was a helluva pretty woman and although the slave traders were usually careful about damaging the merchandise... rage poured through him.
The bidding was still going on. He stopped it with an outrageous sum for a slave girl, ten silver coins. He paid the man by the steps, and they let Carter put her rags back on and tied a noose around her neck, leading her over to him. Hating it, he took the leash and ducked into an alley where they could talk.
She was trembling a little, looking at her feet. Afraid of him? Hell, did she think he blamed her for O'Neill busting him as Maybourne's courier? Think he was going to...?
He took the rope off, hoping to reassure her. "You okay, Carter? They didn't... uh..." Faced with the woman, he found himself unable to ask if she'd been raped. "Do I have to go back and bid on the rest of SG-1?" he added, as it occurred to him the whole team might have been taken.
She looked up, hopeful. "I am untouched, my lord. I am a carter, the slavers fell upon our caravan three day's travel from Petru. I was separated from my brothers and our trading partner. O lord, if any one of them remained free, he is surely searching for the others and would pay a ransom."
He stared at her in utter disbelief. She wasn't putting him on. In his former line of work, you got a feel for when you were being lied to, or you got dead fast. And Carter wasn't. She honestly believed this gibberish.
For a sudden wild moment, he thought about the old gag that everybody had a double somewhere, that he'd gone to all this trouble for an ordinary native girl who just happened to bear a startling resemblance to the air force physicist. "What is your name? And your brothers'?"
"My name is Samarra. My brothers are Jaq and Daneel, and we trade with Teelik."
SG-1 all right. Samantha Carter. Jack O'Neill. Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c. There was definitely something wrong with her, then. Luckily, there was a bathhouse/clinic using imported advanced tech nearby.
"Samarra, come along," he told her, and led the way.
He paid for her to have the full works, a luxurious bath in a room lined with medical sensors, and arranged for a private room later. The healer checked the readings, and told him there was nothing physically wrong with her. She wasn't in hysterical denial after some horrific act of cruelty. The fact remained that she had apparently adopted a native cover persona and somehow forgotten who she really was.
If this was some kind of ruse, it seemed overly elaborate, and he couldn't see the point. He needed to keep her close, keep an eye on her while he was figuring it out.
Paying for the bathhouse services, including sending a girl out to the clothing shops with Carter's size so she'd have something decent to wear, took the last of the coin he had on hand. Luckily, he'd taken to carrying a black pearl around for luck. A quick trip back to the jeweler's stall to sell the pearl earned the coins he'd need for his supplies and other gear Carter would need. A sudden brainstorm, and he had the man throw in the laurel-leaf wedding rings as part of the deal.
Then he headed back to the slave market. The auction was still going on, but he managed to catch the leader of the slavers between sales, and a small bribe got him to take a break and talk.
Unfortunately, the rest of SG-1 wasn't down in the slave pens, nor had been sold locally. Half the slavers had split off before returning to the Chain of Twelve Rings, taking the men with them to sell along the way. God knows where, and out of reach. Makepeace could only pray they didn't end up back in Goa'uld space. He pressed upon the slaver that he was very interested in purchasing these particular men, and to contact him if he heard anything.
When he returned to the bathhouse, Carter had already dressed and been brought to the private room. He almost tripped over his own feet when he saw her. Cranberry red was a good color on the woman. Her hair was sort of fluffed soft and curly, and she smelled nice. Real nice.
She had a half eaten bread roll in one had and a handful of cheese cubes in the other. She looked at him, fearfully, again. Makepeace remembered a story he'd heard of a kitchen slave half beaten to death for stealing scraps, and quickly reassured her that the food was for her.
"Eat, eat," he told her, settling down on the other couch and grabbing one of those almond flavored mini-muffins for himself.
She did. She ate like she'd been starved for days. For all he knew, she had. She finished off all of the cheese, and two more rolls. Ate all of the cannonball melon, half the grapes, six large briarberries, and then with girlish delight, selected a single chocolate truffle and savored it.
He poured a couple of cups of wine, and ordered, "Tell me about yourself, Samarra."
Remarkably detailed delusion. Carter told him about being a trader's daughter, traveling from world to world through the stargates. Could be a thinly veiled version of her life as an air force brat. Meeting a spice merchant, Teelik, who bought into their company and began traveling with them.
A night raid on their camp while she was asleep, being dragged off to walk through the gates of many worlds, coming here.
This wasn't going to be easy, but he set his shoulders and told her, "While you refreshed yourself, I went back to your slavers, seeking news of your brothers and Teelik. This agora is the largest market in the Chain of Twelve Rings. They had no news of men with those names, but half their troop went in another direction, selling slaves along the way. I'm sorry, Samarra, they are beyond my reach."
She looked down, eyes burning with tears. "Then they are truly lost to me, and I must remain a slave. I thank you, my lord, for making the attempt, and I will serve you loyally and well."
He must have been crazy to think about a matchmaker. It was weird enough to be proposing a marriage of convenience to Carter. He couldn't imagine proposing to a complete stranger for real.
"That's... that's not what I had in mind," he paused, while she looked up not understanding. "I have need of a wife." He put some thought into the words, trying to get her to buy it. "I have no patience for courtship, and the few females of marriageable age on Caidos are prattling airheads," he told the truth, and took out the wedding rings.
She was staring at him in utter disbelief. He watched her carefully. If this was all a put-on of some kind, he didn't think Carter could stay in character for a marriage proposal... a sincere marriage proposal from a man she despised as a traitor and a thief.
"My lord... I..." She was stunned, but he read it as genuine. A slave girl didn't expect to be plucked up from the gutter and made lady of the manor.
"I'll take no offense if you refuse me. I treat my people well, and you'll stay under my protection. But I think you'll have a more comfortable life as a free woman and mistress of the household." He let her digest that. "Be my wife?"
It was very simple. They put the rings on each others' fingers. No vows, no ceremony. Something kept private, to the heart, in the local people's tradition. A man and a woman were married... were husband and wife... from the moment they decided to be.
Makepeace sent Carter back to change into the traveling clothes he'd bought her, and met her at the street door. "I just have a few things to trade for, and then we can be on our way home," he told her.
Carter stayed at his side, wandering over to look at jewelry while he was buying coffee, but came right back. He finished buying supplies for the homestead through the next couple of months. Rice, cloth, sugar. Carter had been silent, until the butcher's shop. She browbeat the man over the stringy and tough-looking meat, taking over the negotiation until he went back into his cold store and produced thick, succulent, and nicely marbled cuts of beef. These, she deigned to purchase.
So apparently the trading skills weren't just in her mind. Back home, Carter must have been the terror of garage sales. Speaking of which...
She couldn't go through life with one dress and practical trousers and a top. He took her to the rag trade part of the marketplace. He couldn't have anything really fancy made to her measure, but they were starting in an off-the-rack shop, and there was a thriving trade in used clothing. He lounged on a bench while Carter had a good shopping spree, found herself a couple of changes of clothes.
With that done, they headed for the stargate. He punched in the code for Caidos, and was about to step through, when Carter suddenly asked him, "My lord husband, by what name may I call you?"
He hesitated, then said, "Robert," and stepped through the gate.
It was just sunset on Caidos. He led her to the train station. Carter was wide-eyed, looking around the town and the train compartment with innocent curiosity. They each stowed the packs they carried and settled in, the supplies were being shipped through the gate and loaded as cargo.
She asked, "How far do we have to travel yet, before we reach your lands?"
"Overnight. It's six hours on the train, then a couple of hours ride from the village."
Carter folded her legs under her, getting comfortable. "Conversation passes the time on lengthy trips. You know all there is to know of me. What of your past, my lord Robert?"
He eyed her, waiting for a reaction. "I was a soldier. Retired from my duty, and I used my pension to buy a land grant and a few slaves. We're a working farm, just beginning to produce for trade."
"The cotton cloth, coffee, sugar, and beef?"
He nodded again, adding, "I'm hoping to branch out into cattle. We don't have the right climate for the others... some things we'll always have to trade for or do without."
"Such necessity provides my people with a living," Carter observed. "What do you send for trade?"
"Wool. We raise sheep. Woven cloth, and dyed yarn. Surplus of our harvest. Not much else, yet." He paused, and decided to see just how deep this trader persona went. "You have the experience, you could look around, maybe suggest fresh sources of income."
She asked about the farm, so he talked for a little while, about the land. Noticed she was curling up like a cat to sleep, and kept talking. Telling her a bedtime story about meadows of wildflowers and shady streams. When she was sound asleep, he looked out the window and watched the trees roll by, wondering what the hell he was going to do.
He still didn't know what was wrong with her. Why Major Carter believed herself to be a trader's daughter named Samarra. What had happened to SG-1. Sending her home was out. Without a Garage Door Opener to send an id signal, the iris would remain closed, and the incoming traveler would splat like a bug on a windshield. Same goes for the Beta Site, Earth's offworld colony. There were a handful of alien allies, but Makepeace hadn't bothered to memorize the stargate addresses for any of them.
Maybourne's calling card. No. He'd shown an unhealthy interest in Carter after the Tok'ra Jolinar hijacked her, handing Carter over to Maybourne... especially a confused and helpless Carter... hell, he might as well keep her and torture her himself.
Now there was an idea... keeping her for himself. What if she never got her memory back? Earthside, 'Samarra' would end up doped to the gills in Mackenzie's top secret loony bin. Here, well, they were getting along, about as well as he'd expected from any other arranged marriage. He still had that lonely ache inside, and Carter was a fine looking woman. She might be happy in his life... he pictured growing old together, a passel of kids underfoot.
And they said living well was the best revenge. He was man enough to admit the thought had crossed his mind. Assuming this wasn't the time O'Neill's luck ran out and the man pulled off another miracle and got free, got the others and headed for home... never knowing Carter's fate.
Half of Cheyenne Mountain knew O'Neill had the hots for his 2inC, regulations be damned. The other half of the base was making bets on whether Carter put out and telling bad General's Daughter jokes. Makepeace wouldn't have been surprised if they were, O'Neill's command style suggested it, but he thought Carter was a better officer. Even if she shared the attraction, you keep it out of your chain of command because there were a couple hundred damn good reasons to.
Fact remained, O'Neill cared for Carter more than he should. And there was a certain bitter attraction to the thought of his old enemy mourning her loss, wondering what had happened to the woman he loved... the woman sharing Makepeace's bed and giving him children.
He smiled, a little evilly, at that thought, knowing he wasn't about to do any such thing.
He'd rescued her instinctively. We don't leave our people behind. Found himself turning the ring on his finger, the unfamiliar weight of it. The marriage was a way to keep her with him, safe, while she recovered from whatever had happened, until he could figure out what to do. The Tok'ra were probably his best bet, back in Goa'uld space. He had a few ideas on how to track one of 'em down and get Carter back to her old man. Assuming Jacob Carter and Selmak were still kicking.
Local civilization hadn't reached diner car status yet. The train stopped at a town, and a woman came aboard selling hot meals and cold sandwiches. He slid open the door to their compartment, and waved her down as she came past with the trolley.
Carter started to wake up as he unfolded the table, setting out the lidded bowls of hot stew, the loaf of bread still warm from the oven.
He was glad to see Carter fall on the food less like a starving wolf, but still eating at a good clip. She didn't look underweight, but who knew how long the slavers had her on half-rations?
After they ate, they talked some more. She continued giving him a trader's travelogue of the universe. Describing some podunk city with a couple of skyscrapers like the ninth wonder of the world. He managed to work in a description of Cheyenne Mountain, watching her for a glimmer of recognition in his tale of an army camp in a deep cave, but nothing came of it. He talked about the farm some more, asking her if she was afraid of or allergic to dogs. Boyington and his sheepdog harem had produced two litters of pups already. She wasn't.
The woman came through collecting dirty dishes. Carter was yawning, having trouble keeping her eyes open. Makepeace surprised himself by stretching his jaw, joining her.
"It's been a long day. Longer for you. Ready to turn in?"
Working together, they quickly got the train compartment ready to sleep in, folding the bunks out, and the table away. They took turns in the john, and then he shut off the light. The bunk was about as comfortable as any barracks bunk, but the sound and motion of the train was kind of soothing, and Marines were trained to grab shut-eye whenever they could get it. Within a few minutes of lying down, Makepeace was sound asleep.
He'd never been a morning person, but keeping farmer's hours lately had him trained; his eyes opened at dawn. Carter was still out like a light. He used the can, stepped out into the corridor to stretch his legs. They stopped again. There was a kid selling blue oranges, he bought one, and went back to the compartment.
He leaned back against the padded seat and let himself relax. Carter was still asleep. The burdens he'd accepted would be landing back on his shoulders soon enough. For now, he just sat back and let himself breathe.
Carter started to stir. By the time she sat up, Makepeace was peeling the fruit. "Good morning," he greeted her, and passed over half.
"Morning." She bit into the whole chunk and self-consciously wiped at the juice trickling down her chin.
"We're almost to town," he told her. "We'll stop at the inn and wash up, grab breakfast before we head out to the farm."
It was only a little while before the train shuddered to a stop at the New Ohio station. Disembarking, he lifted Carter down, and nodded to Daric, who was watching them unload his goods into a powered wagon.
"Ho, Robert, did you get the power cells for the tractor, then?" Daric called out, and then did a double-take as he noticed Carter. "Hello."
"I found the power cells, Daric, and I found myself a wife. Samarra, this is my foreman, Daric. Don't mind his manners, he was raised in a barn."
Daric quickly ran a hand over his head, finger-combing his windblown rusty hair into some sort of order. "Milady Samarra, I'm glad to meet you and bid you welcome to New Ohio."
Carter smiled a bit shyly... Makepeace held in a snort of disbelief. Carter and shy were two words that didn't belong in the same sentence. She murmured a thank you.
Daric gave him a sidelong glance, and Makepeace answered the unasked question. "Samarra and I will be breakfasting at the inn here in town. Drive the truck back ahead of us, we'll be a couple of hours."
Daric smirked. "Ah, good. Else I'd ask to ride the backbeyond for a few weeks, did you drop a new bride on Merran with no warning."
Merran. Makepeace winced. Yep, Merran'd be pissed if she didn't have a chance to clean the place for inspection. There'd have been no living with the woman if he'd embarrassed her by bringing Carter into the house before she was ready. He started to lead Carter over to the inn, planning a leisurely breakfast.
"Merran's my housekeeper. Daric's wife. She'll want to be sure everything's just so before you see the place. Not that the house is a wreck, usually, but you know. Women."
Carter laughed. "I've never had a house to be house-proud, but there was one girl of another cart in our caravan... I'd set out our richest goods in a hurry if I saw her coming by. You'd think she invented silk," she snorted.
Lord, and that wasn't taking his new title in vain, but he'd forgotten about snooty neighbors. If he wanted this sham marriage to look legit... "We'll have to host a feast, but I'll try to hold that off until you're settled."
"Yes, please," she sighed. "I'm still afraid this is just a dream I'm having in that cell. None of it seems real."
He looked at her sharply. Damn! Was Carter in there after all? And playing some mind game? Innocent blue eyes looked back.
The inn had a handful of people in already. Freni came bustling out to greet them, and he left Carter and their luggage in her capable hands while he ran over to the livery stable and made sure they had a ride out to the farm, then came back to the inn, scooping up his bag, and heading for his reserved room for a quick change of clothes. Freni had provided a pitcher of hot water and shaving gear, so he slicked up a bit, changed into his riding clothes, peeled off the face-fuzz, and somewhat self-consciously slapped on a bit of Bay Rum. Stupid, when he was gonna get all sweaty again.
He froze for a minute, seeing Carter in a dark blue jacket and split-skirt. Looked good on her. She was staring back at him in a way that made him casually check that he hadn't left his fly undone and pulled his shirttail through the gap or something. Nope.
He let the rumors start circulating as a certain lord's younger son stopped him. His family's holding was quite a bit farther out, and they usually stopped here for breakfast or supper when traveling. He wanted to know about Makepeace's charming companion. He firmly dropped the news that Samarra was his wife, quelling the lout's planned advances before they got off the ground, and joined her at their table.
Freni put on a good spread, sausage, eggs, bread, butter, honey and jam... almost all of it local grown.
"Can you ride or should I rent a carriage?" he asked, picking up a slice of bread and slathering it with briarberry jam.
"I can ride. If it's a gentle horse."
That'd be something to see. He wished he knew if Carter could ride. If she couldn't... and Samarra could... it made his head swim. Might tell him a little more. He'd never heard anything about Carter and horses, though. Daniel Jackson getting dragged halfway to Nagada by a mastadge that first recon to Abydos.
After they ate, the livery stable fixed them up with horses. A gentle bay gelding for Carter, and Makepeace's own stabled-in-town dapple grey mare, Jeep. Carter could ride, after all. At least, she wasn't falling off the horse at this gentle trot. Early bloom was coming up for the wildflowers scattered along the road. Spring. One of the two busiest times of the year for a working farm, and he was going to have to settle a lot of his share on Daric's back, if he was going to find a way to get Carter home. There were a few things here he'd have to see to before he could go, the lambing, clearing that northern tract of land, and getting the irrigation system working in the fields...
He started mentally organizing what needed to be done, how to do it, and who could be trusted to get it right. In this pleasant pastime he whiled away the ride until they reached the country lane leading to the house.
He led Carter through the gate in the perimeter wall, Daric must have left it open when he came through with the truck. Pointed out the little orchards, apple and peach. He was hoping to get some decent cider from the apples, eventually. Wouldn't be the same as a cold beer, but a man makes do.
He glanced over his shoulder at Carter as they rode up to the house. She looked kind of shell-shocked, eyes wide, as she took in the Roman-style villa. Makepeace grinned to himself, figuring she hadn't expected anything so grand.
Merran was waiting for them on the porch, embroidering something. She jumped up and called a greeting.
"Here we are," Makepeace said, satisfied, as he dismounted. "Home sweet home."
He helped Carter down, as Merran came over to them. Carter was still gaping at the house. Trader-girl awed by grandeur.
"Samarra, this is Merran. Keeper of the house, the new lady of the house. I'll see to the horses, give her the five coppers tour while I'm away." He gathered up the reins and headed for the stables. Hans and Daoud, the stableboys, took over caring for the horses once he got there. He gave Jeep a final pat, and the stable mule he'd named after Maybourne brayed a hello.
He walked out to the equipment shed, where Daric was wrestling a new power cell into the tractor. The foreman looked surprised to see him. "Lady Samarra?" he inquired with raised eyebrows.
"Merran's showing her the house. How's it going?"
"Fair and fine, m'lord. Lambing's started. Looks like a natural increase of the flock." Daric nodded with satisfaction. "Fields are ready to plant. Naught to fret over while you bed your new bride."
Makepeace couldn't resist a snort. He leaned against the open doorway. One of the pups, Patches, came running up with a stick. He took it with an ear-scratch, and threw it out into the yard.
"There's something I have to take care of off-world," he informed Daric. "Soon as I can be spared and Samarra's settled, I have to leave. I'm not sure how long it will take. I know I can leave the place in your hands, I just have planning to do."
Daric, staring at him, stopped work on the tractor. "Sounds serious. Need a hand?"
Makepeace shook his head, hesitated over what to tell his friend, then decided the truth couldn't hurt, just not all of it. "I didn't just marry Samarra, I bought her at the slave market. She's from a trading caravan. The slavers got the rest of her family, I promised her I'd see what I could do about finding them."
Daric blinked once, took a deep breath, and blew it slowly out. "You know you'll never find them. Slavers trade out beyond the Chain, who knows where."
Makepeace sighed again. "I know. But there's no harm in looking, and I might strike luck." The truth was that he was going to go see if he could find out what happened to SG-1 and thus what was wrong with Carter, as well as a way to get her home.
Daric just shook his head. "Best for the lady to let go of the past. Give her a baby to fuss over, she'll forget the family that's lost."
Makepeace didn't comment on this pragmatic advice, but asked about the new loom instead.
After checking on everything and making sure nothing had gone wrong in his absence, he headed back to the house. He came in through the kitchen. Merran was stirring a large pot of soup, and Anyi was kneading dough at the table. Makepeace opened the coldbox and pulled out a jug of iced tea, reaching out for the cup Merran was handing him. He poured out a portion, and drank, then filled the cup again before putting the jug away and shutting the door.
He took another sip and asked, "Where's Samarra?"
Merran tasted the soup, and carefully added a sprinkle of pepper. "I think she's waiting for you in the boudoir."
Merran set the stirring spoon down, and wiped her hands on her apron. "I showed her the house and she was right impressed. She seems a sweet girl, Robert, I'm glad for you."
Makepeace took another sip. He hated having to lie to his friends who thought Carter was his happily ever after. "I think I'll see if she wants to go for a walk around the grounds before lunch."
He found her in the bride's boudoir off his bedroom, all right. She was sitting on her bed, sobbing. He stood, helplessly, in the doorway. He'd never been much good at tears. His own breath caught, suddenly sure she was remembering an Earth invasion, something sufficiently terrible to put her in hysterical denial of her very self.
"Sam?" he called softly, not moving. "What is it?"
She wiped at the tears flooding down her cheeks. "This... you... I thought you were poor!"
He grinned at that and glanced around. "We could move into the sheep barn. Would that help?" He'd never told her about the gemstones that founded his fortune, or the size of the place. She'd been expecting a smallholding, not a manor house.
She managed a wan smile. "It's just... you know what that man was, who bid against you when I was on the auction block. I expected to live the rest of my life in the lowest ring of Hell. You bought me, gave me my honor back by marrying me, giving me the protection of your name and more status and standing than I have ever known..."
She was getting all weepy again, voice shaking with the force of emotion, and she reached down to touch her wedding ring, as if she was checking that it was still there.
"You cannot know what this means."
The corner of his mouth turned up. "Sam... Samarra. The one thing I learned as a soldier is that you can't save everyone, but you do what you can. I wish I could have bought all of the slaves from your caravan, and freed them. Found your brothers and partner, and given you back your life. I can't. All I can do is promise to look for Jaq, and Daneel and Teelik... and offer you a new life here until I find them. That's the least I can do."
She shook her head, stood, and came over to kiss his cheek. He took a step backward. "Come on, I want to show you the farm before lunch." He took her out front, to the herb garden, and showed her the complicated, separated plantings of kitchen and medicinal herbs. Around the corner of the house, to the small vegetable garden in the back. Off toward the stables.
He pointed out the servant's quarters, visible in the distance. Telling her about the sheep barn and weaving shed, the pond where they watered the livestock. Other mundane things.
"It's beautiful here," she said suddenly.
He'd never thought of it that way. Comfortable. Functional. But not beautiful. It did give him a feeling of pride... near awe... when he looked around and thought that nothing would be here without him. That he was creating something here.
He couldn't put that into words, so instead he said, "I like it. I hope you'll be happy here." Then they went back into the house and had lunch.
Time passed. Samarra... it was getting harder to think of her as Carter. The only Carter-ish things she did was have a fascination with the engines, how electricity worked. Gathering eggs from the henhouse, working in the garden, cooking, cleaning, sorting seed sacks, hanging laundry out to dry... they weren't very Carter-y things.
She was really throwing herself into life on the farm. You wouldn't think one more set of hands around the place would make a difference, but it did. When he came in from clearing scrub, bone tired, she was there, full of news about what she'd done that day, what she'd learned, funny stories. The night he and Daric were out at the stables until nearly dawn, praying the mare and foal both survived and doing what they could to help, when he finally came in, exhausted but successful, and caked with drying blood and other veterinary detritus, she had a hot bath waiting for him, a cold supper/breakfast, and she put her foot down about him going back to work without a few hours' sleep.
"You're not wielding an axe when you can barely stand up straight!"
It was kind of nice, being fussed over like that. It was becoming a cozy routine. Pleasant dinner conversation with Merran and Daric, then they'd retire to their quarters. Sitting in the comfortable chairs in his library, going over plans for the farm, the work they were doing. Boyington at his feet, Samarra learning how to knit a sock.
She'd leave the boudoir door open while she did girly things, brushing out her hair, which was growing out. Rubbing cream into her face and hands to keep her skin soft. Then say good night before sliding the door shut. He'd call out a good night, climbing into his bed, turning off the light. It had been a month. The work was slacking off enough that he could go soon.
He was dreaming. A warm, lithe body pressed against his. Silken rosepetal lips brushed his mouth, his throat, his chin. Hands stroking, caressing, exploring. Slipping downward. Loosening the knot of the drawstring pants he wore for pajamas, teasing... Oh yeah. This was gonna be a good dream. He lay pliantly accepting the attentions of this dream-lover... and slowly realized he wasn't dreaming, that he was, in fact, awake, and very aroused, and not alone.
"Sam!" he gasped hoarsely, turning his head to escape another kiss. "What the hell are you doing?!"
"Do I not please you, husband?" she was kissing, biting lightly, at his earlobe between the words she breathlessly whispered.
"Yeah, baby, you're pleasing me, that's the problem," he groaned, catching her wrist and pulling her hand up out of his waistband. "Samarra! Cut it out!" He was fighting off her continued sensuous assault, and fighting down the force of his own desire, shouting down that little voice inside telling him it wasn't fraternizing with a junior officer since his court-martial, that it was okay 'cause they were married, she must be into it since she started it...
He managed to pull away enough to turn on the light. Samarra was leaning up on one elbow, looking rumpled, and vulnerable, and naked. Confusion and hurt were just coming into play.
"Robert?" He was too busy trying to catch his breath to respond right away, she continued, "We haven't consummated our union... I thought you were waiting for me to come to you. Did I do something wrong?"
"No," he licked his lips. "You didn't do anything wrong. I just... wasn't expecting it."
She smiled and moved closer.
"I don't think we're ready," he blurted, trying to think of an excuse. Wondering what he'd done to deserve this. As much as he wanted her right now, he couldn't. They couldn't. Carter wasn't in her right mind. He couldn't take advantage of this and face himself in the mirror the morning after.
"You seemed ready enough," she purred, then stopped, seeing his face. "I see. You only married me out of pity, I don't please you, I shouldn't have..."
Aw hell. Now she was starting to tear up. "Samarra... it's not you. It's, uh, you're beautiful, I want to, it's just..."
The honest confusion in her eyes told him this was just as humiliating and frustrating for her. "Do you prefer the company of other men?" she asked, hesitantly.
"What!? NO! Not that there's anything wrong with that, I like women, I like you..." He stopped, and scrubbed a hand over his face, wishing he could go get drunk after this conversation. "I'm not used to arranged marriages. Where I come from, a man and a woman get to know each other socially before they get together."
Lines from a romance novel of Doctor Fraiser's, that he'd read out of boredom while confined to the SGC infirmary once, came to his rescue. "We'll have the rest of our lives together. I want to be friends before we become lovers. Our first night together... that should be special."
She was buying it... but she was also snuggling closer in a really disconcerting way. "I know you well enough. You are a decent man, kind, noble and good," she kissed him, and he responded to it this time, not pulling away. "desirable," She was pretty convincing. "and if you wish to wait for love and not passion, so will I." One more sweet kiss, and she slipped out of his arms and his bed.
He squeezed his eyes shut, listening to the pad of bare footsteps, and the sliding door. "Well... wasn't that a surprise," he muttered softly. He should have expected it. Samarra... Carter... she didn't know who he was. Just knew he'd rescued her. The life of a woman without a male protector was pretty bleak. The life of a slavegirl even worse. Taking care of her, treating her with respect, and common courtesy, and she was starting to mistake gratitude for something else. It had to just be gratitude.
He decided. He was leaving tomorrow to look for the Tok'ra. The sooner he found help for Carter, the better. Before they did something he'd regret.
Continue on to Exile #4: Meanwhile...
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Page last updated 8/15/03.