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No one moved, not sure what Mitchell’s reaction was going to be. He slowly walked over to Jessica, and knelt down in front of Aylen. With a gentle smile, he reached out and softly touched her cheek, the happiness the little girl felt reflected in his eyes. After several seconds, he looked over at Janet. "I did not see this. I suggest you get that packed away and double time it to the gate before anyone gets suspicious." Without another word, he got up and disappeared out the back door.
Jessica bit her lower lip nervously. She didn’t regret what had happened here at all, even if it meant she was going to get in trouble. Glancing back at Sam, she had already put the healing device in the box and Janet was sliding it back into her pack. Mira picked Aylen up once more and was hugging and kissing her. Slipping the straps over her shoulders, Janet looked at Jessica. "If he tries to give you a hard time, tell him to come and talk to me."
Jessica bent down and hugged her. "Thanks Janet, for everything." Jessica turned and hugged Sam. "Thanks, girlfriend."
Mira embraced Janet and Sam before they hurried out the door. Mira then hugged Jessica. "I don’t know how I can ever repay you."
Jessica reached out and touched Aylen’s cheek. "This is payment enough. You don’t owe me anything." Jessica glanced at the front door. "I’ve got to get going."
Aylen touched Jessica’s shoulder, causing her to turn back. "Your friend, he’s not mad at you. He wants to make you happy."
Jessica looked at her, startled, and Mira chuckled. "My little one, she has the gift."
Smiling, Jessica reached out and touched Aylen on the tip of her nose, making her giggle. "I hope you’re right, sweetie." With that she headed out the door, hurrying to catch up with Sam.
They sent Janet back through the gate with the report that a compromise had been agreed upon, and that they wouldn’t be in contact until tomorrow afternoon. Mitchell made no mention of their covert activities either at the gate, nor on returning to the square. After arriving back at the main building, they found Ileah and another servant waiting for them.
"We will show you to the guest quarters where you will be able to rest for several hours until the evening meal," Ileah said. The servant showed Mitchell and Jack to one room, with Ileah taking Jessica and Sam to another just down the hall. Once they were alone, Jessica had opened up the package Janet had brought, handing Sam her costume and an envelope. Jessica looked at the envelope with her name on it, written in Casey’s distinctive handwriting. Opening it, she found a note from her friend that simply said...
Although she wasn’t sure what it meant, Jessica knew better than to question the note; just do as it said when the situation presented itself.
Surprisingly they both were able to doze for a while, and by the time Ileah came for them, the sun was low in the sky.
"Dinner will start in little over an hour. It’s time to get ready." As they got up to follow her, she said, "Bring those clothes with you," indicating their costumes. "You will be wearing them to the dinner, as there will not be time to change afterwards."
Sam and Jessica looked at each other, but did as they were told. Following Ileah, they were taken to a private bathing area. Two sunken tubs filled with steaming water were set into the floor, surrounded by stone tiles. Ileah had set up a privacy screen between the two.
"You have time to soak and relax, and you won’t be disturbed. I’ll return when it is time to dress."
Sam looked around the room. "Wow. This would put some of the best spas back home to shame."
Jessica had to agree with her. Done in earth tones, the large room was covered with ornate stone tiles, lit candles lined shelves built into the walls, and pots filled with what appeared to be tall ferns were set in the corners. The water was scented with a blend reminiscent of sandalwood, rose and musk, and a bench with thick towels sat adjacent to each tub. Going to their respective sides, Jessica and Sam placed their outfits on the bench next to the towels. After giving the room a good once over to make sure it was indeed private, only then did they strip off their clothes and settle into the water.
Jessica sighed. She had always been a bath person, and with the water hot enough to be relaxing, but not uncomfortable, this was the most pleasant thing she had experienced in days. Resting her head against the back of the tub, she looked around the room as the steaming water relaxed her muscles.
"I can’t believe this is happening."
"You’re not the only one," Sam replied.
"Please tell me that missions don’t usually take turns like this."
Sam was quiet for a moment. "We’ve had some that have turned out pretty bizarre, but I have to say this one is fairly unique."
"Aren’t we the lucky ones," Jessica said dryly.
They relaxed for a short time before they went ahead with shampooing and shaving. Not wanting any help getting ready, they were already out of the tub, dried and dressed by the time Ileah came back. She showed them how to use the Nandanian version of a hair dryer, and then let them finish getting ready on their own.
Jessica looked at her reflection in the mirror. "I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell hope they have something alcoholic or its equivalent at this damned dinner."
Sam couldn’t help the giggles that escaped when she saw the look on Jessica’s face, who at the moment was busy tugging at her top in an effort to adjust it.
"What?" Jessica asked. "Hey, at least your top covers you all the way across." Another tug. "I can’t believe we’ve got to sit there dressed like this." With a sigh she gave up on the top, and instead started brushing her hair. Glancing over at Sam she said, "You seem to be calmer than you were this afternoon."
Sam looked at her a little sheepishly. "I guess I lost my temper there."
"You’re okay now?"
Sam nodded. "Gen…, uh, I mean, Jack and I had a talk when we went back to the gate. We came to an agreement."
Sam bit her lip. "For tonight, there are no ranks." Sam started fiddling with her brush.
"That’s a good idea," Jessica said. She knew how much of a stickler they both were for the rules and regulations, even to the detriment of themselves. Dropping ranks would make it a heck of a lot easier on both of them.
At that moment Ileah appeared at the doorway. "It’s time."
Sam and Jessie stopped by the room where they had napped and put their BDU’s in their packs. Jessica slipped the CD and the note from Casey into her skirt pocket before they followed Ileah down the corridor and around the corner. Stopping short of a set of opened double doors, Ileah turned to them.
"Everyone is already inside. The dinner will begin shortly." With that, she left them standing outside the doors.
They both stared at each other nervously. "This is something we’ll look back on and laugh about some day, right?" Jessica asked.
"I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to laugh about this. Personally, I’d rather be getting ready to battle the Goa’uld than go through those doors."
They stepped forward just enough to peer into the room. A group of two men and three women were conversing in the back. Jessica recognized the men as the advisors she had met during negotiations. She didn’t know who the women were, but surprisingly they were dressed in a similar fashion to her and Sam. It didn’t take long to find Jack and Mitchell. They had their backs to them, and were talking with Brojorn. Jessica and Sam had the exact same reaction. Oh. My. God. Jessica briefly wondered if Casey had had anything to do with what they were looking at. If she had, Jessica wasn’t sure whether to hug her or pinch her.
The guys were dressed in black—tight black T-shirts that did nothing to hide the fact they worked out on a regular basis, black pants which were snug in all the right places, and black boots.
"I don’t know whether to kiss her or kill her," Sam said quietly, apparently thinking along the same lines as Jessie.
At that moment Brojorn looked right at Sam and Jessica. Stopping a servant who was carrying a tray of drinks, he took two goblets and handed them to Jack and Mitchell, saying something before stepping back with a grin.
When the guys had gotten to their room, Jack had opened the box from Casey.
"What the hell…"
Mitchell saw Jack reading a note. "What is it?"
Jack held it out. "It’s from Casey."
Taking the paper, Mitchell read it as Jack went through the box. "What’s in the box?"
Jack held up the contents. Other than a twitching of his lips, Mitchell managed to contain his smirk.
"I swear, sometimes Casey’s radar…"
"…hits the nail right on the head," Mitchell finished before Jack could say anything else. "She wouldn’t have sent this if she didn’t feel it was significant in some way."
It wasn’t until later, after they had their own turn in the private baths and had gotten dressed did they realize what Casey’s intentions were.
"You just wait until I get back there." Jack was saying as he tugged on his pants in an effort to adjust them. "I’m going to have a little talk with Radar."
Mitchell was grinning as he finished putting on his boots. The black T-shirts were plenty snug, more so than anything he or Jack wore on a regular basis. The black cargo style pants, while comfortable, were definitely cut to show off a guy’s rear to its best advantage, not to mention the front. They weren’t too tight—in fact, they looked damn good.
"Uh-uh," Jack said, shaking his head. "No ranks. Just Jack, okay?"
"Yes S…Jack. Look, given what Sam and Jessie are going to have to do, and Casey obviously picking up on it, she more than likely wanted to even things up a bit."
Jack grunted in lieu of an answer, pulling on his own boots.
Mitchell could tell something was eating at Jack.
"Everything okay with you and Sam?"
At first Jack didn’t reply, and Mitchell didn’t think he was going to. Finally he said, "This is just going to make things a lot more difficult." He finished tying his boots, then rested his elbows on his knees. "That damned non-frat order has kept us within certain boundaries; this is gonna blow it all to hell. I just don’t know if I can go back to how things were once I step over that boundary."
Mitchell was quiet for a minute. "Well, that’s something we’ll have to deal with tomorrow. Right now, we’ve been given carte blanche to do whatever’s necessary to secure the trade agreement. If we only have this one night, wouldn’t you want to make sure it’s one worth remembering?"
Jack looked at Mitchell, taking into account what he had said. Before he had had a chance to reply, the servant had come to escort them to the dining hall.
The room turned out to be fairly large. To the left there was a doorway where people, presumably servants, were coming and going. Towards the middle of the room was a series of low tables placed end to end with large cushions surrounding them, and the servants were busy setting the tables for the dinner. At the opposite end of the room, what appeared to be thickly padded sofas with large brocade pillows as backrests filled an alcove. While the fabrics were rich and the colors dark, it didn’t approach the gaudiness associated with their encounters with the Goa’uld.
Brojorn soon approached them and the guys reluctantly engaged in small talk with their host. Brojorn stopped a servant and took two drinks from the tray, holding them out to Jack and Mitchell.
Both of them shook their head negatively.
"Not for you; for your ladies. Just a little wine to take the edge off their nerves," Brojorn said, looking past them towards the doorway. "You can thank me later."
Taking the drinks, Jack and Mitchell turned around and saw Sam and Jessica standing in the doorway. Poor Jack thought he might be on the verge of a stroke, his blood pressure had shot up so fast. Carter—no, Sam—did those damned BDU’s really hide that much? She had on a little pink lace top cut like a bra, a slightly darker pink skirt that rode low on her hips, and not a damned thing in between. He found himself wondering what it would feel like to run his tongue slowly over that expanse of bare skin, skimming her belly button, before slipping down further…
Mitchell was having a similar problem with the blood flow to his brain. He had always thought Jessica was cute. Her standing there completely destroyed that thought; she was fucking gorgeous. Whereas Sam was all soft pink, Jessica was in exotic gold and orange. He could see the hint of her hipbones just above the band of her skirt, her midsection bared the same as Sam’s. The top, though, was enough to make him lose any coherent thought. He had never seen anything like it before, and couldn’t decide whether it covered more, or bared more.
Mitchell actually groaned, and Jack summed up the situation in one sentence. "Oh, we are so gonna burn."
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