The dirt floor of the open courtyard was steaming. Body heat from the people crammed under an awning combined with the steadily falling warm rain to produce a miasma that everyone was ignoring politely. Or maybe, it was only offensive to the Earth noses.
In the center of the space the entertainment entered its second hour as the children singing were replaced by --
What's he staring at? Catching flies, Daniel. Close your damn mouth, will you? And what's so fascinating about…oh. Daniel, you wouldn't. You're not. Oh, you so fucking are….
The twelve men, stripped down to oil and a thin, velvet-soft length of hide around their hips, whirled and spun and fought in the sea of mud the rain had made. Young warriors, unseasoned and --
They fight poorly, they lack fire -- ah! There! That one. Yes, he knows. He sees, anticipates… I would like to have that one to train. O'Neill does not see him. Why does he not turn to look as Daniel Jackson and Major Carter do? He scowls… yes… that pass was lacking in skill. Bra'tac would have had me facedown in the mud had I …ha! Yes! Good!
The first man down stayed there, his foot whipping out to bring down his unwisely gloating opponent. Mud spattered, splattered --
Oh, great. Water down my neck, mud on my last clean pair of pants… and the Colonel's looking for something to growl at. He's just not good at this sort of thing. Not that I like it any better, but at least I'm not sulking. Daniel couldn't do anything to stop this, I guess, though I'm not sure he tried, damn it, but next time I get honoured, can it involve … oh, hey. Cute…
The first of the six bouts ended and the victor --
He's taking that guy's -- his -- oh, for -- Daniel, put your eyes back in your head, will you! Anyone would think you'd never seen someone use a loin cloth to tie someone up before. Or naked men covered in sticky stuff. Or -- oh, now that's just not gonna taste good…
Around the courtyard, the fighting was winding down, exhausted grunts and the flat slap of fists on skin a background to the reedy, irritating whine of a pipe and a monotonous drum beat.
They submit so easily. As if there lies no shame in defeat. We might trade with this world, but they could never be true allies in our fight against the Goau'ld. A warrior should die before being captured, should spit in the face of one who demands such debasement. And yet -- if the false god had asked it of me, would I have not --?
The rain grew heavier, pouring over the statue-still pairings as they took the applause of the crowd as their dues, one man standing, one kneeling, in each pair, washing mud from skin to show bruises, welling blood.
Ow. That has to hurt. Sorry, cute guy. Guess you shouldn't have gotten distracted. Not that it was my fault. He shouldn't have been looking at me. Not in the middle of a fight. And I know that for a fact after P4X --oh, hell with it. The planet I got knocked flat on my ass because I was staring at --
"And now, we will eat!" the tribal leader said, sounding as if he'd watched one too many ceremonial fights in the rain.
Yeah, good plan. And what would Dr. Jackson like to eat, medium-rare and bloody, as if we didn't all know? Christ, Daniel, it's over! Why are you still staring at him -- them --like that? You want to get off, do it online like the rest of us. Have a little… decorum. Yeah. A little fucking decorum.
Daniel stood, a dreamy smile on his face. "Before we eat, do you think I could just--?" He gestured in the direction of the departing warriors.
Jack's face reddened and Carter winced. "Daniel," she began hastily.
"By all means! The feast will await your convenience."
It was diplomatic, not truthful; the tables were already laden, the guests gathering around them, but Daniel's smile widened and he began to walk quickly, eagerly toward the far wall of the courtyard, stepping politely around a pair of warriors conversing in low, urgent tones, barely registering their nudity, his attention all on --
Fascinating fresco. So vivid against the stone… wonder what they use for paint? Reminiscent of the cave paintings at -- oh, there's an inscription, too! I didn't see that from way back there…
The clouds eased apart and the sunlight spilled down, golden and warm. Teal'c's belly rumbled, the mud on Carter's pants began to dry, and Colonel O'Neill, all smiles now, talked until his voice was hoarse and his host was twitching with barely concealed impatience, casting wistful glances at the spoiling food, and gave Daniel all the time he needed to look his fill at a fresco painted by a drunken man a thousand years earlier with a need to share the details of his wife's infidelity.
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