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A Storm of Shadows
At first she didn’t see anyone else in the room, and she stood there uncertainly for a moment, the women standing behind her.
"Ris’vi he’u." (Close the doors).
Huyana turned to do his bidding. It was then that Jessie saw Kutkh sitting on the far side of the room, feet propped up on the table in front of the sofa, bare from the waist up, black silk lounging pants being his choice of attire. Even though he tried, he couldn’t completely mask his curiosity when he saw the others with Jessie.
"Good evening Miele. I see you’ve brought Zillah, Huyana and Kaminari…interesting choice."
The other women bowed down before their master, but Jessie remained standing. "Lord Kutkh, may I have a word with you before we get started?" When he nodded, she went and knelt before him, leaving her companions at the door. "My lord, the things I have planned for this evening are a little unorthodox. I’d like your permission before I proceed, just so there’s no misunderstanding."
Now he was truly intrigued. What did she have planned? "And what is it you want my permission to do?"
"I’d like to be in control."
At first he grinned at her, before realizing she wasn’t joking. "What?"
"I want to be in control this evening, for you to follow my lead, allow me to do as I wish."
"Really?" The tone of his voice was one of addressing a foolish child.
"I know it’s a great deviation from what normal protocol is, but it’s necessary in order for me to carry out my plans."
A raised eyebrow was his only physical reaction. "And if I refuse this request?"
"If you refuse, most of my plans will be for naught. I will be at your disposal, as usual."
Kutkh rubbed his thumb against his chin, considering her proposal. "And what should I expect if I give you my permission?" Was surprised at the short giggle that escaped from her.
"What should you expect? I’d venture to say something you’ve never experienced before," she replied with a grin.
He looked at her suspiciously. "What if I don’t like what you offer?"
"You hold my life in your hands; the choice would be yours." The complacent timbre of her voice changed completely, and she added in a sultry tone, "I think you might enjoy the different perspective, though."
The thought flitted across his mind once more that Miele was more than she appeared to be, but there wasn’t enough blood flow going to his brain at the moment to hold onto that thought. He decided to indulge her for a little while, long enough to satisfy his curiosity. "All right. For now, at least, I’ll allow you to carry out whatever you have planned. I haven’t forgotten your earlier infraction, however. There will be a price to pay for that."
"Fair enough, my lord." She slipped her hand around the back of his neck, running her fingers up through his hair as she leaned in, pressing her lips against his in a soft kiss. She grinned at the look of shock on his face, playfully brushing his lips with the tip of her tongue before standing. "I’ll offer you the same advice you gave me not too long ago—just keep an open mind."
Up until this time, Jessie had been hiding from the storm, huddled down, trying to protect herself. It was only in the last few days had she considered escape might not be possible, and the thing that had been subconsciously bothering her, flitting around the edges of her consciousness had finally intruded into her reality that morning. She had been in denial, but when it wore off she started losing ground and the hold she had on her sanity. With all the resulting stress of her captivity, this evening was what ultimately cracked that fragile facade. Now, she stood and faced the storm, laughing at the embodiment of it in front of her. It was a strange euphoria, enhanced by the daninha—it just didn’t matter anymore.
As per their plan, the other three women took seats around the room, leaving Kutkh alone on the sofa, after Jessie had pushed the table out of the way. Huyana chose a seat near the port she needed for the flash drive. When Jessie nodded, she activated the first file. Soon, the gritty rhythm of "I’m The Only One" filled the room. The women watched, fascinated, as Jessie began to dance, her hips keeping time with the beat of the drums. They had never seen anything quite like it. Neither had Kutkh, and his attention was entirely focused on Jessie as she danced solely for him, mouthing the words to the lyrics as she did so.
If there was one thing her break from sanity gave her, it was a bravado she would have never normally felt. Not even halfway through the song Jessie could see she had Kutkh hook, line and sinker. With that, she set out to play him like the fool she knew him to be and get a little vengeance in return. Moving within a hand’s breadth of him, she would turn and tease, her body an extension of the rhythm pulsing through the room. Whenever he would reach for her, though, she would step back, not allowing him to touch. She maintained this throughout the first song, with the intention of changing tactics during the second one.
Ba’al was not in a good mood. The meeting with Camulus had proved to be…trying. If he hadn’t wanted the weapon so badly, he would have killed both Camulus and Kutkh before the day was done. He had taken pleasure in delivering a few barbs in Kutkh’s direction, though. Having noticed Miele hadn’t accompanied him, Ba’al had inquired as to her whereabouts. Kutkh wasn’t able to disguise his irritation entirely, even as he informed Ba’al of her intended surprise for him that evening. Once again Ba’al reiterated his opinion that Kutkh needed to have a firmer hand in dealing with his women, especially when his lax technique led to such insubordination.
As he turned down the corridor, a faint sound caught his attention. Stopping, he listened for a moment before following the sound to its source. Found himself standing outside of Kutkh’s chambers. Eyes narrowing, he listened closely, before the realization of what he was hearing hit him. Tau’ri music.
One touch of the device on his wrist activated the camera he had secreted away in Kutkh’s room, and it just happened to be immediately behind Kutkh, so the vantage point Ba’al had was that of Kutkh’s. His eyes widened as he watched the small 3D hologram projected above his arm. Kutkh’s slave Miele was dancing, and given the angle of the camera it gave Ba’al the appearance that she was dancing for him. The music from "Similar Features" was playing, and as the slave danced she sang with the music:
You never had to wait for nothing in your life
I guess wanting me must have been a steel blue knife
And when night after night the scent of passion would linger
You had to have the jewels wrapped around your finger
Now you keep running down the road in your midnight state of mind
Curiosity kills if you can't read the signs
It was an unfortunate choice of music. Ba’al’s interest was much greater in Jessie than he let on—Tau’ri or Goa’uld, there were those who always wanted what they couldn’t have. Unfortunately, the words from the song were the equivalent of rubbing salt in a wound, especially since the hologram gave the impression she was looking directly at him as she danced and sang. What didn’t help matters was the fact lately Ba’al had sought out slaves resembling Miele, indulging by proxy in some of his darker fantasies.
Jessie was lost in the haze of the moment, the rhythm of the music blending with the effects of the daninha, and she was actually enjoying taunting the Goa’uld who sat watching her. That Kutkh was interested was evident to anyone who had an unobstructed view of his lower body. The occupants of the room were so engrossed in the music and the young woman dancing, they didn’t hear the door open. In fact, they didn’t even realize someone else had entered the room, watching the tableau from the shadows.
As the song continued with, I'm sorry, dear, my hands are tied, Jessie raised her arms above her head, her wrists together in a visual expression of the lyrics. A vice-like grip closed around her wrists from behind, jerking her out of the haze. She was spun around, and when the world righted itself again Jessie found herself being restrained by Ba’al. Huyana quickly killed the music as Kutkh came to his feet.
In a deceptively pleasant voice, Ba’al asked, "How is it that a gedikli from Neowe would have music of the Tau’ri, much less know the words to the song?"
Jessie had always thought if she were this close to Ba’al, she would be frozen with fear. Instead, she found herself angry. Green eyes narrowed, she met his piercing gaze. "You’re hurting me," she growled. "Let go."
Ba’al’s response was to raise his arm higher, holding her suspended by her wrists, her feet no longer touching the floor. "I’ll hurt you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine," he growled back. "Now, answer my question."
Huyana was the first to move, rushing to Kutkh’s side and kneeling before him. "My lord, the music isn’t Miele’s; Akari gave it to her, said it was obtained from a trader a long time ago. Miele thought the rhythm would please you." She didn’t dare address Lord Ba’al directly, so she did the next best thing.
Ba’al was staring intently at Miele during this exchange. "That does not explain how she knows the words."
Jessie’s shoulders were starting to ache from being dangled in front of Ba’al like a rag-doll. Through gritted teeth she replied, "I know the words because I listened to the music beforehand and practiced dancing to it. I would not disappoint my master, Lord Kutkh, with a less-than-perfect performance."
Kutkh stood with his arms crossed, a slightly amused expression on his face. Sometimes it was best not to say a thing, letting one’s adversary demonstrate his foolishness. And at the moment, Ba’al was doing a stellar job. Watched as he slowly lowered Jessie back to a standing position, releasing her wrists. Had to bite the inside of his mouth, though, at the next thing that came out of his consort’s mouth.
"Huyana, why don’t you get your flute and play something, since the other music apparently grates on Lord Ba’al’s delicate senses."
Ba’al reached out, grabbing Jessie by her hair, jerking her close once again. "You will pay dearly for your insubordination," he hissed.
If anything, Jessie found it funny that when Ba’al was pissed, he lost his command of the language. "Actually, insubordination means deliberately disobeying a lawful order from someone who has the scope of authority to issue that order. Since I am Lord Kutkh’s consort, and I have not disobeyed him, insubordination is the incorrect word to use." Jessie continued on as if she were giving an academic lecture. "If I have disobeyed my master in some fashion, then I humbly submit myself to him for the proper punishment."
The snort that came from behind Jessie drew Ba’al’s attention and he released her, turning a glare on Kutkh.
"Since we have determined there isn’t an invasion by the Tau’ri in progress, I would really prefer to get back to my evening’s entertainment. Is there anything else I can do for you, Ba’al?" Since Ba’al did not yet possess Camulus’ weapon, Kutkh felt certain he still had a measure of safety from Ba’al’s wrath. That would soon come to an end, but at the moment he wanted to get back to what Miele had planned for him.
Ba’al’s jaw was so tight, Jessie briefly wondered if his teeth would shatter. When he spoke, he had his emotions under control, for the most part. "I will deal with you later."
Even though he was addressing Kutkh, the look he gave Jessie left no doubt he was also including her. She watched as he turned and left the room without another word. Thankfully they were too far away from Ba’al’s chambers to hear the screams from the ones he summoned later that evening.
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