Of Beasts and Men

By: sharilyn

EMAIL: sharilyn

I don't own the Stargate franchise, the characters, rights, etc. and no copyright infringement is intended.

"It gets old after awhile, I guess," Jack O'Neill drawled laconically, one scarred, graying eyebrow lifting in a gesture of wry self-deprecation. "I mean, how many times can a guy charge in, clean up the godawful mess some damned alien or goofball human has made of everything, then limp home afterwards to TV reruns and leftover take-out, slumped in his recliner like any other nine-to-five Joe off the street? Not that I want any grand recognition or anything, mind you; hell, far from it. Keeping what I do as secret as I can for as long as I can suits me just fine. The world--OUR particular world, anyway--just isn't ready for the truth of what lies out there beyond our very noses. Most people couldn't handle the knowledge of what's REALLY going on in the universe, not at this stage of the game. And I don't mind telling you, there's already too damned much interference with the Stargate program as it is--most of it coming from power-hungry morons with their fat heads so far up their own asses that they couldn't see the truth if it crawled up in there with them and kissed them right on the mouth. So, no, I can't say that I'm in any hurry for John Q. Public to discover what my team and I do for a living. Even if what we do keeps Earth from becoming just another subjugated slave planet for the snakeheads and any other badass creepy-crawlies out there--you and your kind included, of course."

Sighing deeply, Jack shifted his weight from one sore, aching butt cheek to the other and then flexed his tightly bound wrists behind him in a futile attempt to restore a measure of circulation to his numb hands. As he grimly worked at re-establishing some level of blood flow to his near-deadened fingers, he kept his gaze on the silently watchful being perched on a rough wooden stool some five feet away from him.

"You don't talk much, do you?" Jack continued conversationally, biting back a low expletive as a brand new pain started up somewhere high on his left side, its steady pulse seeming determined to overshadow the growing discomfort of his mistreated hands. Damn, I'm starting to recall every single blow these bastards dealt me, he found himself thinking ruefully as this latest hurt throbbed dully along his ribcage and sent warning tendrils of pain around to his back. This old body ain't what it used to be, Jack mused regretfully, and damned if it doesn't insist on letting me know it.

"So...this must be deadly dull for you, just sitting there keeping an eye on yours truly for the powers that be," Jack mused, keeping his tone light as the figure hunched nearby glared soundlessly in his direction. "I figure you're either just some lowly nerf herder at the bottom of this particular food chain, or you did something to piss somebody off and pulled this detail as punishment...how much are you willing to bet that I'm right?" As his silent companion merely continued glowering at him, its yellowing teeth bared in a decidedly threatening manner, Jack smiled and murmured through his own, thankfully much whiter teeth:

"You can't understand a damned word I'm saying, can you, you ugly sack of shit; I could insult your mama and suggest some interesting personal bodily orifices you could insert your own head into, and you wouldn't have a clue. Nope; you'll just keep sitting there looking all constipated and mean till your ass goes as numb as mine, maybe half-hoping I'll try something so you'll have an excuse to whale on me again. Well, sorry, but no can do; I'm gonna just sit here and be a good little boy this time around. And what reason do you have for acting so antisocial, anyway? At least you'll be getting out of here sometime soon and can heave your smelly carcass back to whatever hovel you crawled out of--hell, maybe you even have a hideous hag of a wife and some ugly brats waiting to welcome you home, eh?"

Jack grinned at his mute guard in a friendly way, but the feral light glowing far back in his shrewd brown eyes pulled a warning growl from the throat of the half-human, half-bestial creature watching over him. As his alien captor lifted one huge, menacing fist and shook it in Jack's direction, Jack ducked his head in a token gesture of submission and muttered quietly:

"Okay, okay, already! Touchy, touchy..."

Another grimace twisted Jack's lips as his ribs pulsed a steady beat of burning-cold pain in concert with his breathing, but he forced the discomfort to the back of his mind and focused instead on figuring some way out of this latest 'situation' he'd gotten himself into.

It wasn't anyone's fault but his own that he'd been caught, Jack reflected ruefully as he clutched a small, sharp-sided fragment of rock between clumsy fingers and slowly, laboriously attempted to saw through the cords binding his wrists behind him; he was forced to turn the hand holding the rock upward and back in a decidedly painful contortion of muscles and joints, and he could only hope that the perspiration breaking out now on his forehead from his efforts wouldn't arouse any suspicion in his surly cellmate. Nope, this was one mission disaster that couldn't be laid at the feet of Daniel's misguided scholastic fervor or Sam's overweening scientific curiosity or even Teal'c's tendency to intimidate nervous natives into antagonistic behaviors with his considerable strength and presence and that stony, immutable expression he habitually wore on his dark face.

"This time I screwed things up myself, without any help from anyone else," Jack muttered under his breath on a sigh of resigned self-castigation. "I guess, if I'm gonna be perfectly honest, I have to admit that I am not always...infallible. I'm as capable as the next guy of using bad judgment once in a great while. But for crying out loud, I'm only human, you know?"

Jack's plaintive pronouncement was met with steely-eyed disdain from his less-than-human custodian, and the commander of SG-1 sighed and briefly closed his eyes.

"No, I guess you DON'T know," Jack admitted grudgingly. "Oops. Forgot for a minute there that you're just a big old, ugly, uncommunicative lump of stinky hair and bad teeth and--"

The big, ugly, stinky lump of flesh guarding him might not have understood Jack's words, but from the way he suddenly leapt to his feet with a low, furious growl and lumbered across the short span between them, Jack figured the other had enough intelligence at least to figure out that the string of words coming from his captive's mouth weren't exactly complimentary on his behalf.

"Whoa, big fella! Steady there, steady!" Jack cried out, hunching down as low and tight as he could and clutching his little piece of rock fiercely in the curve of his fisted palm; even though he tried not to flinch, he couldn't help instinctively pulling back as his captor loomed over him and smacked him so hard above his left ear that he saw stars.

"Note to self...SHUT YOUR STUPID MOUTH ONCE IN AWHILE," Jack groaned, fighting to stay conscious as his head rang and a surge of nausea flooded up from his belly. Digging the sharp sliver of rock into his own flesh till he could feel a trickle of blood welling in his palm, Jack focused his attention on the specific pain in his hand and managed to stay upright, his head tucked protectively into his shoulders in case Old Ugly tried for another knockout blow. But sounds of other life were coming from somewhere just beyond this small, rank cell, and Jack heaved a silent sigh of relief as his irritated captor grunted once and moved reluctantly away from him.

"Friends again?" Jack muttered after the other's retreating figure and then stifled a groan of resigned dismay as the narrow wooden door of his prison swung open to admit two of Ugly's partners in crime. These two were even larger, hairier, and definitely much smellier than Jack's present companion, and they glared at him with a malevolence every bit as strong as Ugly's as they crowded into the cramped, filthy cell and began snarling and muttering incomprehensibly among themselves.

"Somehow I get the feeling that you guys AREN'T planning a celebration in my honor," Jack grumped as he forced himself to sit quietly in their midst, his eyes moving from the six hairy, ominously muscled legs crowding his space to travel slowly up and up to the three hair-covered, rock-hard bodies sitting atop those intimidating legs. God, why couldn't he and his team--just for once--find themselves a planet where the natives were maybe six inches tall and had all the strength and menace of gnats? Why was Fate determined to set SG-1 down time and again square in the middle of some mob of ugly, belligerent primitives who either wanted to beat them all to an unrecognizable pulp or serve them up as the main course at dinner? And why, oh why, hadn't he listened to his own instincts and stayed with the rest of his team back in camp instead of wandering off to take a leak at three am?

"Damned, aging bladder," he muttered disgustedly to himself now as his three captors broke off their rather argumentative conversation and turned to bestow their most menacing glares in his direction. "Give me another couple of years on this job, and I'll be packing Depends along with my usual gear for missions. And you guys don't really care, do ya?" he added under his breath as the largest of the trio looming over him made a threatening gesture in his direction.

"This is me, Colonel Jack O'Neill, closing my mouth yet again, see?" Jack added placatingly, quickly dropping his gaze in a show of subservience as goon #2 drew back a massive bare foot and made as if to deliver what would surely be a painful kick to his pesky captive's midsection. At Jack's show of apparent cowardice, a guttural snort of laughter escaped the Colonel's would-be assailant, and he turned to his cohorts in crime to boast of his prowess in subduing recalcitrant prisoners. The other two hooted in shared amusement as they all cast disparaging glances down at Jack's huddled form, and Jack felt the first slow stirrings of true rage rising up from his gut.

Laugh it up, you stinking hairballs, he snarled silently to himself as one of the creatures reached out and gave the human's salt-and-pepper hair a vicious tug. You'll be laughing out your asses when Teal'c and the others show up to spring me from this dump.

Jack closed his eyes and sighed wearily, forcing away the small frisson of doubt that was trying to snake its way through his nervous system at the thought of his friends' possible condition and whereabouts. He wasn't REALLY worried about his team mates; he'd gotten a fairly good look at his kidnappers' primitive excuse for a village as they'd dragged his ass in here just before dawn, and there wasn't much to this place. Surely if any or all of his team had been captured after him, he would have heard the commotion or picked up on the same restless aura of excitement his own abduction had roused in these barely humanoid natives.

No, Jack felt certain his friends were still safe and sound and were even now lurking somewhere fairly close by, observing the situation here and setting up some sort of rescue plan. It was a bit worrisome that they seemed to be taking so LONG to actually implement whatever brilliant scheme they might have come up with, but Jack admitted grudgingly to himself that he didn't have all the intel on this particular facet of their ill-fated mission. Right now his main priorities had to be keeping these goons from doing any further damage to his somewhat battered but still eminently serviceable body and to try his damndest to get his wrists free and do his part to save himself. All in all, as screwed-up missions went, this one was about as routine and ho-hum as they came. It was rather monotonous, actually, all this sitting and waiting and chafing at the lack of interesting decor or scintillating conversation to keep things interesting till the others did their thing and swept him away from all this.

"So, let's get on with it, shall we, boys?" Jack muttered under his breath, stealthily moving his cold, stiff fingers and the rock they held back and forth, back and forth, across the tough leather bindings cutting into the flesh of his wrists. The sharp piece of rock was slick with his blood, and several times he almost dropped it. But he was encouraged as he felt a few tendrils of the tightly woven leather cord begin to separate and give way beneath the razor slices of the rock's serrated edge; just a few more agonizing minutes and he'd be able to free his wrists and try for the few precious, fleeting seconds of surprise that would be on his side before the trio of ugliness comprehended that their helpless captive wasn't quite so helpless any longer.

Not that I can do much damage, Jack thought dourly to himself as he eyed his captors' impressively bulked-up muscles. If I'm lucky I might be able to take out one before the other two grind me completely into dust. Based on logistics alone, it definitely seems that the sensible thing to do would be to just sit tight and wait for the cavalry.

But this may be just the element of distraction the others need to come charging to the rescue, another voice argued stubbornly somewhere in his head, and Jack grimaced wryly as he conceded victory to that voice. You know me so well, O'Neill, he quipped silently as yet another bit of leather cord gave way beneath the rock's sharp edge, and the voice in his head retorted that it was only to be hoped that his team mates knew him half as well.

"Whoa, I've gotta stop this whole internal dialogue malarkey," Jack muttered as he realized that he'd begun a silent, rather animated conversation with himself, nattering on as though it was a completely different person he was talking to. See, that's what boredom gets you, the voice snarked peevishly in his head, and for a brief instant Jack found himself nodding agreement before he caught himself with a mute expletive.

Oh, just shut up! he told himself irately and then bit back a low cry of triumph as the last, stubborn tendrils of leather cord separated between his wrists and went slack. It was an effort to continue holding his arms and shoulders taut, to keep pretending that his wrists were still tightly bound behind him; and all three of his captors were glaring at him now with unmistakeable suspicion burning in their black irises. The best Jack could do was to cower even further beneath their scrutiny and hang his head as though afraid to look directly into their fearsome countenances. Come on, don't suddenly develop some actual intelligence, he wanted to snarl at them as they moved in on him and muttered speculatively to each other. Don't mind me, guys, I'm just a helpless little earthling, waiting for the rest of my damned team to get the fricking lead out and HELP me, already...

Oh, yeah, any distraction in a storm, Jack crowed to himself in silent, relieved jubilation as the cell door suddenly swung open again and yet another member of the Ugly brigade poked its head in. This one let loose a harsh string of indecipherable babble, and Jack's three good buddies muttered and grumbled a bit before turning to scowl down at their captive, eyeing Jack as if they'd like nothing more than to pound him into an unrecognizable smear on the dirt floor.

"Is it time for the parade?" Jack piped up cheerfully as his original guard snapped out some sort of order to the other two and pointed them in the direction of the door. "I hope we get a good spot at the curb--I wouldn't want to miss any of the floats," Jack continued as Ugly's two friends reluctantly took their leave, lumbering off after the one who'd come so briefly to the cell door.

And maybe now would be a good time to make your move and get the hell out of here, that snarky voice in Jack's head spoke up as his beloved captor leaned down to haul him roughly to his numbed legs. And just where am I supposed to get the hell TO? Jack snarled back at himself, unable to stifle the groan that escaped him as pain shot up his spine and into his shoulders from his guard's rough, jerking grasp.

Even if I DO manage to knock this one out and leave this cell, I know there's just gonna be a whole mess of his brothers out there waiting, Jack argued silently with himself. No, it's better to play it cool, keep my little secret close to the vest till I see the lay of the land out there. Maybe Teal'c and Sam and Daniel are out there just waiting for a sight of me; if and when they come in, locked and loaded, THEN I'll make with the 'these hands are lethal weapons' business and do what I can.

Yeah, whatever, Jack's disgruntled inner voice sneered and went stubbornly silent as Jack was manhandled--none too gently--out the cell door and into the blinding glare of sunny midmorning on this oh-so-lovely planet. Jack had to restrain himself from raising his now-freed hands to his eyes to block out some of the glare; instead he kept his hands resolutely behind his back, clutching the severed ends of the cord between his fingers to cover the evidence of his cutting as he squinted around him with ill-humored concentration. Grunting some unintelligible order in Jack's ear, Ugly dragged him roughly along a narrow, filth-encrusted dirt strip to what appeared to be some sort of rudimentary town square.

"You folks all turned out just for ME?" Jack gushed sarcastically as he was pulled through an unruly crowd of huge, hairy, 'fragrant' natives and jostled unceremoniously into place atop some sort of crude wooden platform in the middle of the square. "I don't know what to say, I didn't have time to prepare a speech--"

As Jack rambled nonsensically, his eyes were busy sweeping the area all around him, every extra bit of his energy focused on locating any sign of his friends. He had to bite back a sudden exclamation of bitter dismay when his fiercely roaming gaze fastened on another area of commotion off to one side of the square and absorbed the unhappy sight of both Sam and Daniel being herded in his direction. They appeared to have been lashed together by thick, rough lengths of rope, and two pairs of embarrassed eyes met his in silent chagrin as his friends were pushed and shoved on clumsy, trussed-up legs to join their disappointed commander.

"Well, fancy meeting you here," Jack growled as his team mates' captors rudely shoved Sam and Daniel into an ungainly heap of arms and legs on the ground at Jack's feet. "Dare I ask when Teal'c will be joining the party?"

The Colonel's keen brown eyes bore down into Daniel's as Jack delivered his last line, and Daniel gave the other man an almost imperceptible shake of his head, a tiny gleam of hope sparking to life in his weary blue gaze. So at least Teal'c is still on the loose, Jack realized with an inward sigh of relief, and the small, satisfied gleam he caught in Samantha Carter's clear stare did much to bolster his sagging confidence in a decent outcome for this mission, after all.

"So, I guess it's just the three of us, then." Jack cleared his throat and smiled rather evilly at the unruly crowd filling up every available foot of space in the square. "We appear to be the main entertainment for the day, more's our luck; wonder just what these yahoos have in store for us?"

"I hesitate to take a guess," Daniel mumbled dispiritedly, giving a disconsolate tug at the length of rope winding around his chest and upper arms and leaving angry red chafe marks on his exposed biceps.

"Maybe we've broken some tribal taboo or trespassed on their sacred lands or something," Sam offered helpfully, but both of her team mates merely glared at her, unimpressed with her contribution to the conversation.

"And maybe we're scheduled to become the main sacrifice at some wacko harvest or fertility banquet, Carter," Jack snarked as his alert amber gaze took in the arrival of several natives bearing what appeared to be an ornately carved wooden chair and some sort of leafy rushes. As the laden natives marched importantly past the growing throng of their excited fellows and set the chair and rushes on the ground a mere three feet away from Jack and the rest of SG-1, Daniel observed their movement with a stir of interest and spoke up thoughtfully.

"Actually, Jack, this isn't the proper season for any sort of harvest ceremony OR any sort of fertility rite; it will be two or three months before the growing season begins on this planet. But that's not to say that these beings couldn't be holding some OTHER sort of special cultural ceremony," he mused as Jack glared down at him.

"Look, Daniel, I don't care WHAT fun little holiday this might be for these...people...here today; all I care about is whether or not Teal'c is gonna get us the hell out of this before we all end up naked and painted green or turning slowly over some giant roasting spit, being sprinkled with spices and lemon juice while we turn a delicious, crispy brown."

"Lemons wouldn't grow in this climate--" Daniel began, then snapped his jaw shut in a hurry at the murderous look Jack was directing his way. "Uh...yeah," the flustered archaeologist mumbled instead. "I hope Teal'c is somewhere close, myself. These guys came up on us so fast, neither Sam nor I had a chance to fight or call out; but we never saw a sign of Teal'c the whole time we were being marched away from camp and transported here."

"He might have headed back to the gate to summon help," Sam spoke up, her blue eyes peering somewhat worriedly around her at the unpredictable mob of natives closing in on them in an ever-tightening circle of less-than-friendly interest. "If he escaped injury and was able to move at maximum speed back to the gate, then he should be returning with reinforcements within the next two hours, I would say."

"Lovely. Of course, lots could happen in two hours," Jack replied somewhat fatalistically, and Daniel sent him an agitated frown and began nibbling distractedly at his lower lip. For crying out loud, didya have to open your big yap and make with the 'we might be doomed' scenario? that annoying voice snarled in Jack's head again. You know how Daniel gets on these missions. Shut up, you, Jack retorted, then sighed and forced himself to give Daniel a reassuring half-smile. At least he MEANT for it to be reassuring; but if the expressions on both Daniel's and Carter's faces were anything to go by, Jack decided he must have merely looked constipated instead.

"Oh, ho, what is this?" he cried out suddenly, startling both his friends with the unnatural exuberance in his voice; but the distraction did the trick in that it tore their bemused attention away from their commander and sent their thoughts careening off to the spectacle coming up on them from the sidelines of the packed square.

"I'm not sure, but I think this must be the ruler of their village," Daniel murmured with rising enthusiasm. "And hey, wow, it appears to be a female of the species. Interesting, indeed, if this is a matriarchal society."

"Oh, yeah, interesting," Jack muttered drily, his brown eyes studying the oddly formal procession of ugly, smelly beings approaching them through the crowd. "Interesting, how the females are even uglier and stinkier than the males," he added as his nose wrinkled against the growing stench heading their way. "Uh, no offense, Carter," he added sardonically, and his 2IC merely rolled her eyes and nodded in reply, her own nose crinkling with disgust.

"She is definitely the leader, Jack," Daniel was murmuring with scholarly fervor, and Jack found himself agreeing with his team mate's assessment. It was obvious from the air of restrained excitement in the other natives that the mountain of hairy female pulchritude trundling their way was somebody tres important in the scheme of things around here, and the low cries of reverence that erupted from the throats of all those she passed lent credence to the assumption that Lady Ugly Extreme was the grand dame of this particular little paradise.

"So, what are we supposed to do?" Jack growled at Daniel, watching as the Queen and her rank, musky retinue headed for the large wooden chair surrounded by its decorative array of rushes. "Do we look her in the eye, drop our gazes, invite her out for pizza and a movie? What's the proper protocol, here?"

"Why are you asking ME?" Daniel retorted somewhat waspishly. "There could be any number of elaborate greeting rituals we should follow; often it's the most technologically primitive societies who have the most complicated list of procedures in cases like this."

"Well, that tells me a whole damned bunch," Jack replied with a tight leer, never taking his eyes from the spectacle drawing near them. "Where the hell would I be without your expertise on this one, Daniel?" he added acerbically as Madame Ugly's vast bulk reached the ceremonial wooden chair and was rather laboriously assisted into it.

"Well, maybe if we were to shut up and LISTEN, we might learn something about what we're expected to do," Daniel returned with a fierce smile that had Jack lifting one graying brow in half-admiring surprise. So, the lion cub did indeed have some sharp teeth hidden in that mouth of his, Jack thought distractedly as Sam sent them both a disgusted frown before returning her full attention to the leader of these beings.

"Excuuuse me, then," Jack couldn't resist tossing out as his own critical gaze fastened on the intimidating behemoth stuffed so precariously into the creaking wooden chair. He thought he heard Daniel snort from his tangled-with-Sam position at Jack's feet, but his attention was all for Madame Ugly now, as HER attention fastened itself onto his friends and himself with a sense of raw, impressive power emanating from her silent perusal.

Distractedly Jack clenched his fists behind him, worrying the frayed bits of leather binding between his fingers and wondering just what good it had done him to free himself; he didn't dare try any slick moves with all these natives crushing around, and since there wasn't going to be any dramatic, gung-ho rescue at this point, he could only hope that his tiny show of defiance wouldn't end up earning him a whole world of extra trouble. Dammit, he hated it when a plan just wouldn't come together.

"Uh-oh, looks like something's up," Daniel murmured now, and Jack realized that Lady Ugly was indeed making disturbing gestures in their direction. Jack's favorite guard had moved over to her side, his shaggy head lowered in abject deference as he listened to whatever it was she was growling into his lumpy, misshapen ear; and as his queen or whatever the hell she was finished with what she was saying, Jack's old buddy nodded emphatically and lifted cold, determined eyes directly onto Jack's face.

"Whoops; looks like I'm gonna be taking center stage," Jack muttered as the queen's lackey headed their way, his black eyes never leaving Jack's face. "Uh, guys...I just MIGHT have done something that just MIGHT make these fellas a bit angry..." he continued as the source of his possible demise drew ever nearer.

"What did you do, Jack?" Daniel moaned quietly, his blue eyes fastening onto Jack's brown ones with hopeless fatalism. "God, where's Teal'c when we need him?!"

"Uh...hi, guy," Jack was murmuring placatingly now to his old buddy from the cell. "Ya know, it's the darndest thing; while I was sitting in that cell with you, my wrists just somehow---came undone--like magic, poof!" he offered weakly, removing his hands from behind his back before the other had a chance to draw near enough to discover for himself the feat Jack had pulled off.

As Jack carefully raised his hands in the air and waggled his fingers to show how very, very harmless he really was, his guard from the cell let out a low, infuriated growl and curled one massive paw into a tight fist, swinging it at Jack with all his might. Jack could hear both Sam and Daniel expel loud gasps of dismay as he closed his eyes and waited for this monster to crush his nose and probably half the bones in his face along with it; but the sharp, peremptory sound of Queen Hideous's voice cut through the air and brought her lackey's powerful punch up short.

Jack both felt and heard the ominous whistle of air mere inches in front of his face as his guard's abruptly halted punch evaporated into enraged impotence on the late morning air. Rather queasily Jack squinted one eye open and forced himself not to recoil from the look of sheer murder blazing out at him from his would-be attacker's dark eyes. That one's expression plainly revealed that Jack had publicly humiliated him by freeing his hands in secret like that, and Jack felt a cold chill of dread tremble like ice water down his spine as he realized that the native looming over him would love nothing more now than another chance to take a swing at him. And it was pretty definite that if that chance arose, it would spell a very messy and extremely painful death for one doomed Air Force Colonel.

"Jack? You okay?" He dimly heard Daniel's anxious query down by his feet, but his lungs seemed strangely bereft of air, and he found himself unable to answer in the affirmative. Not that his would-be murderer was giving him the opportunity; with a muffled oath Jack felt himself being yanked off the low wooden platform by the enraged native and almost bit his tongue half off as his escort came close to dislocating Jack's shoulder while pulling him roughly across the small space separating the humans from the Queen.

"Hello...lovely day, isn't it?" Jack found himself babbling idiotically as he was forcefully shoved down onto his knees before the fearsomely malodorous hulk of the village's female leader. "I--uh--I'm Colonel Jack O'Neill, pleased to make your so-fragrant acquaintance...OUCH!" he groaned out as his guard lifted one foot and dug sharp-pointed toenails very painfully into the middle of Jack's back.

"Maybe you should just be quiet, sir," Sam called out worriedly from behind him, and Jack dipped his head and mouthed, 'ya think?' against his collar. A sudden, breathless silence had fallen over the massed throngs of thick-pelted, wet-wool-smelling natives crowded in on every side, and for a brief, panicked moment Jack thought he might just pass out and suffocate from the terrible stench of so many unwashed alien bodies. God, haven't these people ever heard of Safeguard? he found himself lamenting silently as one huge, inquisitive hand suddenly reached out from the Queen's chair and latched onto his chin.

"Uh, careful there, these old bones are fragile..." Jack muttered with a tight half-smile as his head was forcefully tilted back and he was made to stare directly into the leering face of the Grand Lady Herself. Oh-my-God-if-I-only-had-some-Tic-Tacs, Jack heard himself thinking in mute despair as breath that could only be quantified as eye-wateringly foul wafted from the royal Queen's open mouth full into his face. On second thought, there's not enough breath mints in the universe, Jack decided grimly.

Sheesh, I should've let Mr. Ugly bash my head in after all, he gritted as a terrifying array of huge, half-decayed teeth split the Queen's moustached face in a voracious grin mere inches from Jack's own tightly-sealed lips. It seemed that Queenie was quite taken with this newest addition to the population of her village, and Jack felt his heart sink into his combat boots as the regal ruler suddenly jerked her head toward Jack's body and issued a sharp order.

"Hey, wait, can we talk about this--" he started as he was abruptly yanked to his feet and held immobile between two natives he hadn't had the pleasure of meeting before now. As their hands gripped his upper arms in a crushing vise, Jack could only draw in a stunned breath as other hands suddenly grabbed the back of his shirt and ripped it completely off his body. His regulation black t-shirt quickly followed, and before he could utter a hopeless plea for mercy, he found himself being rather savagely deprived of his pants, as well.

If those two EVER say ONE word about this to ANYONE back onEarth...Jack thought ferociously as he heard twin gasps of shock from Sam and Daniel somewhere behind him. Oh, great, this WOULD have to happen to me, Jack ruminated morosely as the asinine voice in his head reminded him that Teal'c and a whole regiment of rescue teams just MIGHT pop up at any second and see him like this...

"Okay, okay, you're curious; I can understand that," Jack began, then sucked in another shocked breath as the Queen reached out and began to run her long-nailed, partially furred hands up and down his bare chest. A shrewd gleam of lascivious pleasure shone out at him from her coal-black irises, and Jack couldn't control the involuntary shudder that wracked his body as the Supreme Bitch of the village leaned forward and regarded the tension-hardened nubs of Jack's nipples with absorbed interest.

"Uh...those don't do anything, really, they're just for show..." Jack began and then let out a yelp as the Queen reached out and pinched his left nipple HARD between two dirty fingers.

"Don't move, Jack!" Daniel called out helpfully from behind him. "I think you're right, she's just curious; let her check you out, see that you're not all THAT different from her own kind..."

"Bite your tongue, Jackson," Jack gritted out in reply, his eyes narrowing with foreboding as Queenie's gaze began to travel leisurely down his torso to the pathetic coverage he had remaining to him in the form of his still-intact boxers.

"No, no, not THOSE, too," he groaned, just as invasive hands gripped the back of his shorts and relieved him of them with one loud, rather painful rip.

"God..." he muttered dejectedly as several hundred pairs of native eyes zeroed in on his now-fully-exposed male attributes. A growing buzz of incredulous laughter began to rise all around the square, and Jack was mortified to feel a red-hot flush spread across his face as he stood before the Queen wearing nothing but socks and combat boots.

"I will KILL you if I hear even ONE hint of a snicker!" the leader of SG-1 hollered furiously back over his shoulder to his team mates. "Is that understood?"

"Um...understood, sir, yes," came Carter's rather choked reply, and Jack decided then and there that in order to preserve his dignity, he would simply HAVE to find something completely humiliating in his team mate's private lives to hold over them. Geez, he was never gonna live this one down...

"Whoa, whatcha doing, there?!" he cried out as Queenie suddenly dipped a massive paw down toward his nether regions. "Stop, wait, DON'T...!" But as rough fingers closed over his most precious piece of personal equipment and gave an experimental squeeze, Jack's voice climbed to near-falsetto range and his legs began to tremble beneath him.

"Gaaahh!" he squeaked out weakly, then almost passed out in relief as the royal ruler gave a disappointed cluck and released him. But she was far from finished; critical eyes moved up and up till they were studying his head full of short salt-and-pepper hair, with renewed interest sparking to life in her gaze. This time she lifted both dismayingly strong hands to Jack's head and grasped several strands of his hair between her fingers, twisting and pulling at them and then tugging his head down so that she could sniff questioningly at his scalp.

"Ouch, ow, yep, hair...hair, just like yours," Jack muttered awkwardly, ordering himself NOT to think about how he must look to his team mates right now, bent over toward the Queen with his bare ass pointing right at his friends. Oh, yeah, it's gonna take BIGTIME dirt on those two to keep their mouths shut, he despaired grimly, and then all thoughts of his team mates vanished as Queen Mother suddenly grabbed Jack by both ears and crushed his face right up against her very nude, very hairy chest.

Jack had no time to even breathe first before he found his nose being pressed suffocatingly into the wiry matt of stippled brown-and-black hairs covering the Queen's more-than-ample chest; a smothered cry of revulsion got stuck in his throat as he realized dazedly that the Lady of the village was trying to force his mouth onto a hard, knobbly protrusion that was most definitely--that just HAD to be--a nipple. Oh, God, we're being molested by a sasquatch! that voice in his head howled in outrage, and some small, worried part of Jack's mind decided that maybe it was finally time to make that appointment with MacKenzie.

"Ulp...gack...umph..." he tried, hands reaching up to claw helplessly at the Queen's hands holding his head so tightly against her bosom. That amorous Lady was making strange, disturbingly erotic noises as she rubbed Jack's face more deeply against her, and Jack dazedly counted a grand total of six taut, bulging nipples gliding roughly past his mouth and cheeks before the suffocating matt of coarse hair and the overwhelming stench of his new admirer's body odor sent him careening down, down, into a place of stifling but still-blessed darkness. I'll never be able to look at breasts the same way again, was the Colonel's last, mournful thought before all reason left him and he slumped, mercifully unconscious, in the Queen's tenderly protective grasp.

"Oh, yeah, we had quite a fight on our hands," Ferretti's voice rang out in the mess hall, his tone one of barely-restrained mirth. "That was one strong, hairy woman-beast, and she had a BIG crush on Colonel O'Neill. We had to fight like demons to get him out of her clutches and carry him to safety."

"Tell us about the naked part," Nurse Chatham urged delightedly; and a chorus of animated chatter started up as half a dozen female members of the SGC circled their chairs at Ferretti's table and leaned in close for the umpteenth recitation of each and every detail of Jack O'Neill's state of undress when the S&R teams--led by Teal'c--arrived on the scene to rescue the kidnapped members of SG-1.

From his place in the serving line, Daniel Jackson sighed with empathy for his friend as he reached for a plate of spaghetti and listened with half an ear to Ferretti's ever-more-embellished description of naked Jack. In THIS version of the tale, Ferretti had Jack swooning like some fragile Southern blossom in the depraved, possessive embrace of the Queen, who had herself become something of a legend among the female population of this base.

Poor Jack; he might never leave his office again, Daniel mused sympathetically as he snagged another plate for his lying-low friend and made his way toward the exit.

"Hey, Daniel! Are you taking Jack some lunch right now?" a voice called out, and Daniel heaved a resigned sigh as he turned to see Colonel Jacobson heading his way. The leader of SG-12 was carrying some sort of flat package in his hands, and a wide smile stretched the corners of his mouth as he came up to Daniel.

"Mmm, spaghetti," he grinned, and Daniel merely scowled impatiently at him and waited for whatever bit of nastiness the Colonel might have planned.

"Yeah, well, you see, we all feel really bad about what happened to Jack, and we just wanted to get him a little gift; you know, something to lift his spirits. I know this whole...ordeal...must have been really rough on him. So, Dr. Jackson, Daniel...since you're his close friend, could you see that he gets this?"

Jacobson seemed to be on the verge of outright hilarity as he thrust the wrapped package onto the overloaded tray Daniel was carrying, and Daniel held back the irritated frown struggling to break out on his face and merely nodded politely. As he turned and started out the doors he heard a wave of laughter from Jacobson and his cronies and knew that whatever was in that package was NOT going to find its way to Jack, not if he could help it.

"Got your hands full, son?" General Hammond's voice broke into Daniel's bemused thoughts, and the harried archaeologist looked up to see the commander of Cheyenne Mountain smiling paternally at him in the corridor.

"Oh, um, hello, General," Daniel murmured, a small but genuine smile curving his lips as he greeted Hammond. It was a relief to finally run into someone who WASN'T still chortling about the whole Jack incident on P4T-989; and as Hammond's eye fell on the ominous, brightly-wrapped flat package lying on the tray, Daniel sighed and offered resignedly:

"Another 'present' for Jack--this one's from SG-12."

Both men stared down at the gift as if it contained some deadly poison or ticking bomb, and Hammond copied Daniel's sigh with one of his own.

"I guess I'd better take that one, too," he offered glumly, and Daniel merely nodded. Reluctantly the General reached out to pluck the package from Daniel's tray, and as his rueful blue gaze moved up to meet Daniel's, some unspoken spark of curiosity flared between them. With a short nod Hammond gestured Daniel to call for an elevator, and when the doors opened he ushered the archaeologist on ahead of him and then sealed them in, pushing the button for the level where Jack's private office could be found.

"Okay, let's see what it is this time," Hammond murmured as they rode, and his fingers tore into the package to reveal a framed 8X10 photograph underneath the wrappings. The photo was a computer-created image of a very large, very hairy Abominable Snowwoman, complete with exaggerated breasts, and written across the upper left corner were the words: To Jack--Missing You Terribly, Lover.

"Oh, charming," Daniel sighed, one eyebrow lifting slightly as he looked at the picture. George Hammond merely heaved another, bigger sigh and tucked the photo under his arm, making sure that only the back of the frame was visible to anyone looking.

"I believe it's time I called a meeting," Hammond bit out sternly, and Daniel merely nodded and chewed on the inside of his cheek. Things were definitely getting out of hand with the whole joke, and Daniel feared that Jack was about to go completely postal if the merciless ribbing didn't stop.

"Sir, maybe we need more than just a meeting to clear the air," Daniel began carefully now, then gave the General a rueful half-smile as Hammond lifted inquiring eyes to his. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but maybe--maybe--SG-1 needs to be given the mission to JS-G58."

"Dr. Jackson, you do realize that the current situation on JS-G58 has been classified as highly dangerous at this time?" Hammond interjected, then halted with a dawning look of comprehension on his face. "I see," he finished, and Daniel nodded.

"Jack needs...SOMETHING...to restore his credibility around here, to give him back his own sense of dignity," Daniel murmured persuasively. "And I know you're concerned that he might over-react and put himself and the rest of us into unnecessary danger if we DID pull the mission to Uzana; but I think you and I both know that he wouldn't do that. He's still the complete professional, and no amount of teasing and stupid practical jokes is going to change that."

"You'd trust Colonel O'Neill to lead the rest of you on this mission, even with the...delicate...state of his mood right now?" Hammond questioned, and Daniel nodded, absolute conviction strong in his steady gaze.

"I do trust Jack, sir," he stated quietly, and Hammond gave him a slow nod as the elevator doors whooshed open.

"Well, Dr. Jackson, I'll certainly give your suggestion some serious thought," the General murmured, and as Daniel stepped off the elevator with his tray of food, Hammond gestured at the photo tucked under his arm and smiled grimly.

"But first I have a little ass-chewing to do," Daniel could have sworn he heard the other man say with a disturbing glitter in his eyes just before the elevator doors closed again. And as Daniel made his way to Jack's office to coax the mortified and still-skittish Colonel to unlock the door and let him in, he comforted himself with the notion that perhaps in a day or two all of SG-1 might be on a deadly dangerous planet, fighting grimly for their lives...which, come to think of it, would definitely be a nice change from HERE, he thought sardonically to himself as he balanced the tray on one hip and reached to knock on Jack's tightly closed office door.

"That had better be you, Daniel," came Jack's warning growl from the other side of the door, and Daniel sent up a silent, desperate prayer for God to PLEASE PLEASE send them a terribly dangerous mission SOON.

"And NO hairy beast women," he added under his breath as his glum-faced c.o. snicked the office door open a crack and yanked Daniel quickly inside, leaving a messy trail of spilled spaghetti on the floor just outside his office.