AriadneNote: This story first appeared in Jmas' Ancient's Gate VIII
"Hey Daniel, look what we found."
Daniel put down his small shovel and brush, wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his dusty hand as he looked over at Meical and Braith. The young man was waving at him enthusiastically as he knelt beside his sister in the small sectioned off areas where Braith had been excavating. Daniel waved back, took a swig of water from his canteen and got up, wiping dirt from his knees as he tried to unobtrusively stretch cramped muscles.
"What's this *we*? I found it." Braith shoved her brother back good-naturedly. He ruffled her hair and she shrieked as the pins fell out and her hair tumbled around her face.
The sun had been beating mercilessly down on Daniel's head and back all day, and despite the bandana he'd wrapped around his head, he was developing a headache. Then his stomach grumbled, the water hitting the bottom of his stomach reminded him he hadn't eaten in hours.
Daniel walked on stiff and numb legs. His shoulders burned from the hours he'd spent crouched over digging out pieces of a stone wall. He glanced down at the parts of the ancient wall the other University students were slowly unearthing. Hopefully with the help of these archaeology apprentices under Daniel's guidance, the excavation would be finished before their deadline as most of the country's archaeologists were off working on another planet.
The irony was, this wasn't Earth. Daniel was leading the local archaeological students in a dig site on their home planet.
"Look, Daniel. It's a pot sherd." Meical stood to give Daniel room, hopping from foot to foot in his excitement. Daniel smiled, suddenly feeling old beside the young man and he wondered if he had ever been that young. He knelt beside the dusty piece of clay imbedded in the soil and nodded.
"Yes, it definitely is. Good find." He smiled at Braith, who had been working this particular section.
She grinned back at him, tucking a long strand of hair behind her ear.
"But look, this one's different."
Meical leaned over and pointed at the edge of the sherd. Daniel noticed that unlike the other pieces of broken pottery found thus far, this one had a trace of paint. Taking up the discarded brush, he teased the hard dirt from around the edges and after a few minutes, was rewarded with a hieroglyph.
"It's Egyptian," he said in surprise. He looked up at Braith, whose cheeks, nose and back of her neck were sunburned nearly as red as her hair. This planet had a definite Celtic background; the last thing he'd expected to find was something that definitely was not.
"Egyptian?" Braith and Meical leaned over and examined the sherd carefully. "I've never seen anything like this before." Meical rubbed a finger over the edge of the exposed green paint.
"No, you wouldn't have. It's from my home world."
"The piece of pottery is from your world?" Braith scrunched her nose up as she contemplated what Daniel had just said.
He laughed. "No, I mean Egypt is a country on my world and this," he said as he finally dug out the large piece of baked clay, "is definitely Egyptian."
Daniel stood and looked around, wondering now if the accidental discovery of these ruins might help the people on this planet recover some of their forgotten history.
"Should I keep on...?" Braith waved at the other bits of half-buried pottery which had been lying beneath the one Daniel had in his hand and he nodded distractedly at her. He gave the pottery piece to another student and moved to the part of the ancient stone wall that had already been revealed and began searching for any other telltale signs. He walked the length of the ruins, fenced off from the curious by a chain-link fence which allowed passers by to look in at the work, but at the same time prevent the curious from disturbing their finds.
As he walked, he glanced at what the other students had unburied; a few more plain sherds, a few decorative beads and a short length of gold chain.
Daniel looked up at the cry and saw Drystan look around and say something to Jestin, who was working a few feet away from her. Drystan got up and joined her. A moment later Bradwr and Jenifer were rushing over, along with Braith and Meical. Daniel hurried over as all the young people began digging frantically around Drystan.
"Easy, easy there," Daniel cautioned as sand and debris went flying. Hearing his voice, a few of them stopped and then moved aside as Daniel squeezed by. He could see a hole leading into an underground chamber, and he clapped Jestin's shoulder as he leaned closer to see.
"Shall I get a light?" Jenifer looked up at Daniel, excitement making her brown eyes shine.
Daniel scratched his cheek, then nodded his head. "Can you make the opening larger?" As Bradwr and Meical began digging enthusiastically, Daniel quickly admonished them. "Slowly. Take it slow and easy. Remember, we want to get inside there but we don't want to damage anything up here in the process."
They nodded and eased off, taking care to dig around the exposed hole.
"What do you think it is?" Drystan asked.
"I don't know. There's nothing yet to signify what the ruins were. It could be anything, from a temple to a house." He turned to Bradwr, the oldest of the students. "You're sure nothing was ever discovered anywhere else in this part of the city?"
"No, never. Not in any part of the city."
"That's not true." Drystan wiped the sweat from her face and her dusty fingers left a streak of dirt across the bridge of her nose. "There were a few artifacts found in the riverbed before it was diverted underground."
"Arrowheads and flint tools. Nothing like this." Meical waved a hand at the expanse of the stone outline surrounding them. Perhaps the size of a small cottage, the ancient walled enclosure was surrounded by high rise buildings, smack dab in the center of a metropolitan city. And would soon be lost again beneath one of those buildings once the archaeological survey was done; any finds would be brought to the museum and placed on display and the site itself demolished.
"Jenifer, get the buckets; we're going to need to sift through this soil." Daniel fingered the earth being displaced and knew they were moving too fast, but time was of the essence. They only had a few more days before permission to excavate was revoked and the builders moved in.
"We're lucky your people permitted you to come and assist us," Braith told Daniel as he accepted one of the buckets from Jenifer. He and Braith began filling them while two others readied the sieve.
Daniel smiled and nodded. Oddly, SG-1 had met up with another exploratory team on a different planet when the MALP had shown ancient ruins with traces of naquada in the immediate area. Upon going through the Stargate, they discovered an archaeological and exploratory team from yet another planet, kinda like SG-1 but more emphasis on the archaeology aspect, who had already begun excavating those ruins.
SG-1 had remained on the planet for three days, and the two teams had shared their knowledge. Although both Sam and Ellylw, the other team's leader, had soon agreed there wasn't any naquada left to mine, when the call of discovery of these ruins on Ellylw's home planet had come through the Stargate, she had asked Daniel if he would be willing to lead the University students on her home world through the excavation since she and her team were committed to remain on the planet for several more weeks.
"Consider it an exchange of cultures," she'd said with a grin. Jack hadn't been too keen on the idea, but Daniel had jumped at the chance. They hadn't learned a lot in the four days he'd been working with these kids, and although the dig site would soon have to be abandoned, he hoped that maybe the unearthing of the underground chamber might explain why there was Egyptian content in a Celtic culture.
The only reason he could think of wasn't promising.
By the time the hole was large enough for someone to fit through, all of the twenty students had gathered round. The sun was setting and Daniel figured they only had about fifteen minutes of daylight left.
"Let's make this fast, guys," Daniel said as he grabbed a flashlight. "Just a quick look and then we'll call it a day." Daniel took hold of the rope that had been lowered into the hole, and climbed down.
The air was musty, smelling of old dust, earth and stale air. It was cooler down here than up top.
As he looked around, Daniel got the impression of a large chamber with two smaller rooms leading off to the side. There was lots of debris; a portion of the wall had collapsed, partially blocking one of the rooms.
Dust mites danced in the beam of sunlight going through the hole in the ceiling, which disappeared as Jestin lowered himself and climbed down. Meical followed seconds later. As Braith lowered her legs to follow her brother, Daniel quickly flashed his light upwards.
"Stay there. There's not enough room for all of us down here. Plus we don't know how safe the place is. Everyone stay put." He heard groans and complaints from up top, but Braith continued on down regardless.
"There's all sort of stuff in here." Jestin poked into one of the smaller rooms while Daniel looked at the familiar hieroglyphs painted on the four walls.
"Be careful, don't disturb anything," Daniel said automatically. His attention was on the wall before him where there was an enormous depiction of a spider.
"Ariadne," Braith whispered softly from behind Daniel.
"A Greek goddess worshipped by both Greeks and Celts." He glanced at Braith. "If there was never any doubt before, this proves it. Your people originated from my world."
She pointed at the drawing. "But what does it mean?"
"Trouble." Daniel pulled his attention away and spotted Meical trying to squeeze between the mounds of earth and stone partly blocking the entrance into the other room. With an exasperated sigh, he hurried over and caught the younger man's arm and pulled him away.
"The whole thing can come down on you any second. We need to shore up the walls before we go look inside."
"I don't care if there's a gold mine in there. We do this properly or we don't do this at all. You know better than that."
Jestin came to stand behind Daniel while Braith looked down at her feet, shuffling in apparent sympathy for her brother. Already the meager light coming through the hole in the ceiling was fading.
"We'll come back down here first thing in the morning. We can start shoring up that wall and see what's in that room. Right now, I'm hungry and it's past suppertime. And we have work to do cataloguing those items we found today. Let's go." He walked to the rope and held it in one hand, waiting for the first of the students to climb up.
He climbed up last, thinking he'd need to get a message to Jack and the others tonight. They were supposed to meet at the hotel but Daniel suspected he'd be sleeping here with the kids, close to the new discovery on the off chance their curiosity got the better of them and one or more decided to go for a middle of the night exploration.
- - - - - -
"Are you sure you want to sleep out here with us?" Bradwr handed Daniel a cup of tea and sat next to him before the small campfire. "I'm sure you'd be more comfortable in your hotel room and�"
"I told you already, it's not a problem. I'm used to roughing it, remember?" Daniel moved the battery-powered lamp closer to the journal where the day's discoveries were being catalogued.
"There's really no need for you to stay. Rheged and I can keep watch and in any case, Gwallter will be coming to join us a little later."
"He's not scheduled to stand watch, is he?" Daniel examined the small piece of lapis lazuli, noting the intricate carving on the bead and pretending indifference. Somehow Daniel's instincts had been right on; these kids weren't to be trusted tonight, especially with what he suspected was a few feet below them. They'd been just a little too boisterous, a little too happy.
"Nope. But he thought he'd come keep us company. Jestin and Meical, also."
Daniel sipped the sweet tea and frowned up at them. "Any particular reason why?" He tossed the bead into the pile and picked up a few more pieces of jewelry. The amethyst and the onyx beads were also carved, making him think they were part of the same piece of jewelry; probably a necklace or bracelet.
Bradwr looked a little sheepish but Rheged grinned at Daniel. "Well, we had planned on a little celebration over the discovery at my house tonight. But since I'm stuck with night watch, we thought we'd bring the party here."
"Really." Daniel took another sip. "Anyone else coming?"
"Well, now that you mention it, Gwawl and Drystan might be popping in also."
"And who'll be actually standing watch while this party is going on?"
"Oh come on, Daniel. It's not like we're doing anything illegal. And anyways, Meical won't be taking any gwynaern. He'll be sober the whole time." Rheged tossed the contents of his cup aside in frustration. "And it's not like there'll be anyone coming to steal anything here. Who wants a pile of broken pottery anyway and bits of old jewelry?"
"Gwynaern?" Daniel frowned quickly across the fire at the two students.
Rheged simply grinned, his teeth a flash of white in the gloom. "Just a little bliss to help us relax after a long day. And it's not like we're doing anything illegal."
"Drugs are legal here?"
"Beer, wine and gwynaern. Can't go wrong with that combination. And we've been working hard, you can't disregard that."
"No, I can't. I just think it's not right that you do your celebrating here. It's just as well I'm sticking around, isn't it?" Daniel put the beads back into the container, thinking that so much had been unearthed today. A glint of gold in the firelight had him shifting through the other beads and amulets. He picked up the remains of what had once been a gold sheet collar. Detailed filigree depicted the Eye of Horus, but the edges had been melted into a formless lump. "And you're wrong, you know. This is important. These are links to your past; proof that you were brought here by one of the false Goa'uld."
"Really?" Bradwr leaned forward while Rheged looked in away in disinterest.
Ten guesses to one the damage was from a staff blast.
"You can always join us." Bradwr smiled nervously and Daniel smiled back kindly.
"No," Daniel drawled. "I'll just let you guys enjoy yourselves while I keep an eye on things."
"Daniel, it's really not�"
"Yes, it is. If for no other reason than to make sure none of you fall into that hole while you're all getting smashed."
Daniel tossed the piece of jewelry back into the box and stood. "Getting blissed, or whatever you called it."
"Goddess, didn't you ever enjoy yourself when you were young?" Rheged glared up at Daniel.
"Yes, I did. Which is why I'm going to the hotel to shower and change and then I'll be spending the night sleeping over there." He pointed to the cordoned off area where the opening to the underground chamber was. "And I expect you two will do your job properly until I get back. No bliss, understand? Or wine. Or beer."
Bradwr nodded quickly but Rheged continued to stare down Daniel for a moment before agreeing.
"Good. I won't be long."
Thankfully the hotel was only a few blocks away and Daniel managed to shower and change in a short amount of time. The kids were hard workers but somehow he was a little nervous leaving them alone tonight, even for these few minutes. He wished Jack and the others were back; the items he'd spotted in the side chamber made him nervous and the last thing he needed were a bunch of drunken college students stumbling around in there.
He checked the time and left a message for Jack, explaining why he wouldn't be in his room tonight. Jack had warned him that he and the others might be late; they'd gone to yet another city and if the pattern followed through the past couple of nights, they'd be wined and dined until the wee hours by the local bigwigs.
And as much as Daniel had preferred working at the dig site than dealing with pageantry, right now he'd rather be doing small talk with a bunch of diplomats and government officials than going back into that chamber.
He sighed, grabbed a flashlight, checked the batteries, then grabbed a sleeping bag. He remembered to pop an antihistamine from its blister pack and down it before leaving. He was extremely allergic to the weeds growing around the area, and the damned things bloomed at night, making him even more miserable. He stuffed another pill from the pack into his pocket and filled a canteen with water. He added a power bar and a chocolate bar since he never did get to have any supper, and he was good to go.
The party had already started by the time he got back. The boys were sharing a bottle of something, probably wine or beer, and were passing around a small bag. Each would take something from it and chew; then swallow whatever it was down with the several sips from the bottle.
True to his word, Meical was sitting apart from the others. Close enough to share with the raucous laughter and crude jokes, and from the way the guys were looking at Daniel and then turning away to make comments, he was pretty sure he was the butt of their jokes.
Daniel shook his head, both irritated and amused. He really would rather have had some serious help with the job ahead of him and not have to worry about them staggering around drunk around these ruins, but then again, boys will be boys. He continued on towards the hole in the ground, the area clearly lit by streetlights and a few well-placed high wattage lights supported by poles.
He threw his sleeping bag close to Meical's and picked up one of the battery-operated lamps.
"You need any help?"
"I should be asking you that." The lamp's battery was fully charged and he put it aside.
"Hey, Daniel." Rheged stood and made his way over to Daniel, carrying something carefully in his hands. Daniel could smell the cheap beer on his breath as Rheged held out a cup to him. "It's the last of the tea; you may as well finish it off, we're sure not going to be drinking any." He laughed loudly, spilling some of the tea as Daniel took the cup from him.
With a shrug, Daniel took a sip, then realized the tea was tepid. He finished off the brew, thinking he might need the energy. He put the cup down, ignoring the strident laughter, grabbed the lamp, and began walking towards the opening in the ground they'd made earlier that afternoon.
A wave of warmth hit him suddenly and he staggered. The streetlight nearby seemed to waver and expand, a rainbow-coloured halo spread from its center and blossomed there, shimmering slightly.
Daniel blinked, and the halo was gone.
He lit the lamp and placed it beside the hole so at least nobody fell into it in the dark as an extra precaution. He bent down, grabbed the rope and slid his legs over the opening. He tested the rope with several strong tugs. He turned his flashlight on, clipped it to his belt, and let himself slide into the opening. The moment his feet hit the ground, the walls fluttered. He stumbled, suddenly dizzy; the walls moved in odd patterns as his shadow played along them.
He closed his eyes, his breathing harsh in his ears. After a few seconds he tried opening his eyes again, and the walls had stopped moving.
"Damn." Wondering if he might be getting sick or if one of the kids had slipped him something, Daniel looked at the rope leading out of the hole in the ceiling. It twirled in a circle, like a cowboy trying to make a lariat dance.
The dizziness hit him again and he turned quickly to lean against the wall. Bile and tea splashed the stone at his feet. He leaned his forehead against the cool stone wall, feeling sweat begin to pour down his back.
He spun around, surprised to see Gwawl, Drystan and Rheged standing beside the now still rope. Gwawl and Drystan looked around a moment, then moved towards the side chamber. Gwawl stopped to look at the blocked entrance while Drystan continued into the second room.
"You shouldn't be here." Daniel's lips felt numb and thick, his tongue unresponsive.
"We know." Rheged moved closer to Daniel; the smell of beer on Rheged's breath and his vomit began to permeate the stuffy room. "We thought you shouldn't be down here alone. Not when you're smashed. Wouldn't want you to fall over something and break your neck, now, would we?" Rheged baited.
"What did you do to me?" The walls began doing that fluttering thing again and the painting of the spider behind Rheged gave the impression that it was breathing.
Rheged tilted his head to the side. "We thought you might enjoy the gwynaern, Daniel. You've been working hard. You should come back up top, relax."
"What?" He knew he should be angry but somehow he couldn't seem to raise the emotion. He stood there, his thoughts coming fast and clear, hindsight telling him he shouldn't have accepted anything to eat or drink from Rheged. "The tea."
Rheged nodded. "Who's got the beer?" Gwawl walked over to hand Rheged a bottle and he took a long drink. "Actually, it takes the gwynaern about thirty minutes before taking effect." He smiled and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. "You've got a head start on us, my friend. Enjoy the�"
There was a loud crash from behind and Daniel turned quickly, almost tripping over his feet. There was a soft cry and the dim light of Drystan's flashlight blinked off.
"Drystan? You okay, man?"
Despite the thickness settling over Daniel's brain, he knew something bad had happened. He took a step in the direction of the room and the entrance zoomed away from him, its distance nearly three times it was before. Still he forced a heavy leg forward, a second light, airy step followed, then stopped as he spied movement from the side.
The spider was moving, trailing each and every one of his steps. Its many legs shimmered and trembled, the fur on each joint swaying in a gentle breeze. Its many beady eyes turned to stare at him as luminous silk began to pour from its abdomen, towards the floor. It opened its mouth and Daniel saw fangs gleam in the dim light.
"This can't be real. This isn't happening." Daniel turned in horror towards the two men, who were watching him and not the threatening creature preparing to pounce.
More movement from the doorway and Daniel turned his head to see the young man enter the chamber. He stood straight and proud, appearing older and more confident than before. He smiled, his glance going to Daniel and then the others. There was a malachite knife in his hand, held loosely by his side.
Drystan took two quick steps to Gwawl and grabbed him by the throat. Moving faster than Daniel had thought possible, he jabbed the knife into Gwawl's jugular, held him for a moment as blood flowed over his hand, then let go.
Gwawl slowly slid to the ground, but Daniel's eyes were on Drystan. He knew what had happened, knew what was going to happen. A second later, it did.
His eyes glowed.
"No!" Daniel jumped the Goa'uld, surprising him. He could hear Rheged scrambling for the rope and he prayed he could hold off the snake long enough to allow him time to escape.
Daniel's body was heavy and unwieldy, slow at obeying his commands. Drystan managed to shove Daniel away and he landed sprawled on top of Gwawl. Daniel slid off, feeling the warm, wet blood on his hands and arms.
He stared at the young man's terrified face, captivated as the life slowly dimmed from his eyes. Gwawl's eyes caught Daniel's and he reached out to weakly grasp Daniel's shirt. Mesmerized by the blood flowing from the gaping hole in Gwawl's throat, Daniel crouched over the dying man. Gwawl gurgled, his chest spasmed twice, and he died right before Daniel's eyes. His hand flopped onto the ground, making a sickening wet thud as it landed in the pool of blood.
Drops of blood flew onto the wall, landing on one of the spider's legs. It twitched and Daniel pulled back with a cry. He crawled to the rope on his hands and knees. The spider's head seemed to pull away from the wall and sniff at the dead body lying at its feet.
There was no sign of either Drystan or Rheged. Daniel grabbed the rope and used it to haul himself up onto his feet. Despite the numbness of his fingers, he was able to climb out of the hole and flop onto the dusty ground.
There was a soft clatter below him and Daniel scuttled away on his butt. He stared at the hole and a black, furry pincer poked out. He turned onto his knees, stumbled to his feet and ran towards the campfire.
The students were still sitting around, laughing with Drystan and Rheged, who were joking with them. For a moment Daniel paused, confused. Then the sound of claws scraping against stone reminded him of the danger and he continued towards the group to warn them against the impending monster, which at that point appeared more of a danger than the Goa'uld.
"Hurry. Get away." Daniel stumbled, waving his hand, trying to get their attention.
Bradwr leaned forward and smiled up at Daniel. "What's the matter?" His face was clearly illuminated by the firelight and the sight of a spider tattooed onto his forehead brought Daniel up short. The others all stood and turned to face him, all sporting the same mark, except for Drystan. He smiled, showing sharp pointed fangs similar to those the spider below had. Then his eyes glowed again.
"No. Shit. No."
Daniel turned and ran towards the exit of the dig site. Jack. He needed to get to Jack and the others. Their weapons were at their base camp. No, that wasn't right. Hotel. Hotel room. They had been staying at a hotel nearby.
He stumbled over the uneven ground, the shadows making it look like he was running through black-coloured grass. He turned, saw everyone chasing him, and sped up. He fell against the chain link fence and fumbled for the catch, trying to open it. He glanced back to see how close his pursuers were, only to blink in confusion when he saw them all standing around the fire, staring at him in bewilderment. One of them, Meical, Daniel thought, took a few steps forward and called his name.
Then even from this distance, he saw Drystan's eyes glow. Finally getting the gate open, Daniel squeezed through. Then there were footsteps and more cries, his name being called out in challenge this time.
Daniel ran blindly, trying to remember which way the hotel was at. Right, he had to go right. He stumbled again, righted himself, and continued to run.
Then there was a huge creature coming towards him, eyes glowing bright, roaring loudly, mouth agape showing steel teeth. Then a squeal of triumph, and Daniel was flying through the air. He landed hard, pain lancing through his leg and hip where the creature had swiped him, and pain searing through his shoulder and ribs as he landed hard on the concrete street.
He tried to get up but his vision darkened just as the sound of his pursuers neared. Then everything went black.
- - - - - -
Jack unlocked the door to his room, pushed it open then stepped on something which crinkled beneath his foot as he walked inside. He flipped the light switch on and saw a sheet of paper which had been shoved beneath the door.
He picked it up, read it quickly and then stuck his head back out into the hallway, where Carter and Teal'c were just in the process of entering their respective rooms.
"Heads up. Daniel thinks there might be trouble at the dig site."
He saw Carter stare back at him tiredly, saw her push back her irritation and school her features into semblance of a soldier as she stepped back into the hallway. He didn't blame her one bit; it had been a long day and they'd all been looking forward to just relaxing without having to listen to any of those bigwigs yapping a mile a minute. She pulled her door shut behind her and entered his room. Jack handed the paper to Carter.
She read it quickly, with Teal'c reading over her shoulder.
"Do you think we should advise the authorities?" Carter asked after reading Daniel's words a second time.
"I think we better check the place out first and see if that jar Daniel saw really is a stasis chamber before we start crying fire."
"The people on this planet are well aware of the Goa'uld, O'Neill."
"No, they know that the snakes exist � hell, their Druid priests still worship a bunch of those pagan statues, but they've been damn lucky their exploration teams haven't encountered any bad guys yet."
"That's probably because they've only managed to crack a handful of 'gate addresses, sir."
"And that'll all change if we give them a list of friendly offworld places in exchange for those seeds and weeds."
Carter smiled. "They're herbs, sir, and they do have fairly well-documented medicinal properties."
"Yeah, well, there is that. Maybe if Fraiser's happy with some of those, she might take it easy on us next time we go for our physicals." He took the note from Teal'c and placed it on a table, then ushered Carter and Teal'c out the door. "In any case, Daniel might just have stumbled on some of that proof Ellylw's been looking for offworld."
"Obviously not all was destroyed here during the Age of Destruction." Teal'c led the way down the two flights of stairs.
"There must be more ruins buried elsewhere beneath some of these buildings that nobody's aware of." Carter turned to glance back at Jack as she rounded a landing. "Even something the survivors of that era might have written down to tell of what happened."
"Perhaps not, MajorCarter. These people's ancestors were so decimated after that time, their sole priority was survival."
As Jack walked through the spacious lobby, he thought back to what Daniel had told them about the little known history of these people. "All they know is that something happened a couple thousand years ago that destroyed nearly everyone and everything."
"Yes, sir. And they've deduced that it wasn't any kind of natural disaster because only the towns and surrounding area had been devastated. My first guess would be a Goa'uld strike from space, but if everything was destroyed, then how did this one building survive and nobody knew about it?"
"Stranger things have happened. We've lost complete cities back on Earth in the past."
"Yeah, but that was after they were buried under sand or covered by jungle."
"People still forgot they were there. It happens; life goes on."
They turned the corner and found the dig site totally surrounded by a mix of headlights and strobe lights from police cars. "Damn." Jack broke into a jog.
There was a car parked off to the side which had apparently been in an accident. The bumper and hood were dented and the driver was sitting in the passenger seat, talking to a cop. Jack hurried to the gate leading into the dig site where a dozen policemen were either searching the area or talking to a bunch of young men. Probably the students Daniel had been working with. The kids were sitting on the ground, leaning against the fence. One of them was lying on his side, either sleeping or passed out.
"Our teammate's been working with these kids here." Jack waved a hand towards the boys and immediately one left the group and hurried towards Jack. "That's Colonel O'Neill, Daniel's commanding officer," the young man hurriedly explained. He stopped beside Jack, swaying drunkenly.
The stench of stale beer, vomit and blood seemed to surround the young man. He looked familiar and Jack knew Daniel had introduced him, but for the life of him he couldn't put a name to the face. There was something else; dilated pupils, slurred words, sweat beading on his face. This guy was certainly feeling no pain.
The cop looked Jack and the others over, then nodded. "I recognize your faces from the news." He stepped aside to allow them entrance onto the grounds. "Can you tell me where the three of you were during the past two hours?"
"Sitting in Councillor Adara's private limousine being driven from Blodyn City to here. We got back to our hotel barely fifteen minutes ago."
"And you heard the news about the murder?"
"Murder? No." Jack began to have a bad feeling about this. "Who...?" He turned to look at the kid, who blinked stupidly at Jack a moment. "Not Daniel. Don't tell me�"
"Oh no, not Daniel," the boy said quickly. "It was�" His voice broke and he swallowed a few times. "Gwawl," he finally managed, his voice thick. "He went down into the chamber we found with Daniel and only Drystan and Rheged came back up. We didn't know, we thought they were all experiencing the Sight. The gwynaern was exceptionally fresh and..."
"The boy's throat was cut." The cop sighed loudly. "The only good thing is that he didn't suffer long. Unfortunately it didn't give a chance for any of his friends to get help for him in time."
"From the appearance of these young men, it would seem unlikely that they would have been capable of procuring aid in a timely manner."
"That's an understatement," the cop said to Teal'c. "Between the booze and the gwynaern, they're lucky to be standing. Well, most of them, that is." Jack frowned at the one who was very obviously totally out of it as the cop waved towards him. "Your friend, on the other hand, tripped so bad that�"
"Daniel?" Jack interrupted.
"What happened to him," Carter quickly added.
"Seems like the drug didn't agree with him. It doesn't happen often but it always seems to end in tragedy when kids overdose on the gwynaern. He was hallucinating badly, that's probably why he killed Gwawl."
"Daniel killed the kid?"
"DanielJackson does not imbibe in mind-altering substances."
'Oh yeah he does', Jack thought to himself, remembering the potent hooch Daniel had taught Skaara and the other kids to distill back on Abydos. Not that Daniel drank heavily or took any illegal substances at home, but he did enjoy the occasional beer or glass of wine, as did Jack. Of course with what was at stake here he couldn't imagine Daniel even attempting to sample anything that might have put his judgment at risk.
"Your friend was flying as high as a deryn. He yelled at the boys then ran off into the street right in front of the vehicle. The driver had no time to stop and�"
"Daniel was hit by a car?" Great, this was getting better and better. "Where is he? How is he?"
"They've brought him to the Goddess of Caron hospital. He didn't appear too badly injured; he fought the officers who first appeared on the scene."
"Can we go there?"
"Of course. We're almost done here."
There was a commotion behind them and Jack turned. The cops were pulling something out of a hole and after a moment it was evident that it was a body. It was quickly put into a body bag and carted off on a stretcher.
Jack ignored the grisly sight and walked over to the four students, three of whom were watching with looks of disbelief. Jack skirted the one who was unconscious and stood overlooking the others.
"They slipped Daniel the gwynaern." The lanky man stood, his red, unruly hair falling into his eyes. He looked at Jack straight in the eyes, and Jack could tell the man was stone sober. "I had agreed to keep watch. Someone always does, just in case something should go wrong and�" He wiped his mouth with his palm, glanced quickly at the now departing ambulance, and put his hand out to Jack. "I'm Meical."
Jack deliberately didn't shake the man's hand and he saw Meical's lips tighten slightly. Ignoring the slight, the man waved at their sleeping friend with a slight laugh. "As you can see, the gwynaern buttons were a little stronger than what we're used to."
"Which of you went down into that hole with Daniel?"
"Rheged did," Meical said, toeing his unconscious friend's leg. And Drystan."
"Which of you is�"
"He's over there." Meical pointed towards a shadowy corner. Even as Jack watched, the shadow moved, and the sounds of retching could clearly be heard. "He's the one who found Gwawl."
"What about Daniel." Carter stepped closer to the young men. "Did any of you see him get hit by the car?"
"We all did," Meical said sadly. The others lowered their heads, gazing at the ground. "We ran to him and saw he was covered with blood. At first we thought he'd been badly hurt and was bleeding, but we realized it wasn't his. Drystan realized Gwawl hadn't come back up and went back and found..."
More retching sounds could be heard. Jack ignored them and waved towards where Gwawl's body had been carried out of the hole. "Can we go down there and look?"
"Colonel, I don't think that's a good�"
Jack ignored the cop and walked towards the hole in the ground. "You said you recognized our faces from the papers? The local news?"
"Then since everyone on this planet knows about the Stargate, you know that we've been around the galaxy a lot more than your people have."
"Yes. It's been debated whether the exploration of other worlds is a good thing. But what does that have to do with�"
"We believe DanielJackson found evidence of Goa'uld occupation of your world in the chamber below. Perhaps there are explanations as to why he would have ended the life of the young man. It may have been self-defence."
Jack turned to look at Teal'c in surprise. Yeah, they hadn't seen the body � maybe there *had* been a Goa'uld and Daniel had been forced to kill it. The nice, welcoming planet suddenly didn't seem so friendly. Another deeper fear instilled itself inside Jack. They hadn't seen Daniel yet either. He just hoped if that was the case, the Goa'uld didn't decide to start body hopping.
"Okay, but make sure you don't touch anything." The cop waved Jack down and he quickly lowered himself down the ladder that had been shoved down the hole. There was a rope hanging to the side and Jack noted it was smeared with blood. Daniel's doing?
The coppery scent of blood and vomit was strong in the room. There were several lights placed around the room, one of them directly underneath a huge painting of a black spider.
"That mean something?" Jack asked the cop who had followed him down. Teal'c and Carter were just a step behind.
"Ariadne. It is said she brought our people to this world."
"I thought you didn't have any historic records." Sam came to stand beside Jack and stared at the painting.
"We don't. But each god or goddess has a story behind them and Ariadne supposedly spun her web across space and brought us here."
"The Stargate?" Jack raised an eyebrow and Teal'c inclined his head slightly in agreement.
"Neither the name or the symbol are familiar to me, but it is possible Ariadne was a minor Goa'uld."
Jack turned his back on the spider and looked around. There wasn't much to see in the room other than some Egyptian hieroglyphs on the wall and the spider. There was a large amount of drying blood on the ground and Carter sidestepped it carefully as she made her way to one of two small rooms.
"Don't touch anything," the policeman warned again as she disappeared from view. He followed right behind her, standing in the doorway.
Teal'c moved off to the partially blocked second room and Jack joined him there. It didn't look like anyone could have squeezed inside; the gap was too small. He aimed his flashlight into the room and caught glimpses of what looked like bits of furniture piled haphazardly against the wall.
"Colonel." Carter popped her head back out and indicated Jack should come join her. He skirted the bloody ground and took a step inside, brushing by the policeman. There was a large stone altar set in the center of the room. A dozen small statues peeped out of niches carved in the rock wall. Even from here Jack could tell that half of them were spiders or had a spider-like form.
"Look. Here." Carter pointed to the center of the altar where a clean circular spot was void of centuries of dust and debris. "Whatever it was, it was moved recently."
"Canopic jar?" Jack made a visual survey of the room, looking for anything with a base wide enough to fit over the dust-free area, but there was nothing, either on the floor or in the niches.
"It is possible. It approximates the size of the Isis jar." Teal'c turned to the cop. "You are positive none of the students or your men have removed anything from this location?"
"They told me they hadn't. What's this Isis jar?" The cop squinted at the altar then did like Jack, searching the area for anything that might have been moved off the table.
"It's a device that kept a Goa'uld in hibernation for a few thousand years. It's just an assumption." Carter passed a finger over the dust-free area of the altar. "Daniel thought he'd seen something similar to it here earlier and was coming back down to check it out.
"But why take it?"
Jack left the room and returned to the blocked entry of the other room.
"Maybe someone cracked the seal and was taken over by the Goa'uld." Carter joined him and as Jack flashed the light into the gap once more, Carter bent beneath his arm to peer inside. "I don't see anything resembling it in here."
"No, me neither. I guess we need to go talk to Daniel." Jack pocketed his flashlight and quickly climbed the ladder. The young men had left, except for two who were trying to get the one who'd passed out up onto his feet. As they lifted his up, even from where he stood, Jack saw something on the man's face that was unmistakeable.
"Teal'c." Jack pointed to the burn mark on the man's forehead.
"A ribbon device."
"Hey." Jack hurried to the students. "You'd better get him to the hospital." He leaned over and turned the young man's face to peer more closely at the red mark covering the bridge of his nose and his forehead. "That could be an indication of brain damage."
"What?" Meical and the other boy looked at Jack in confusion.
"We think there might have been a Goa'uld down in that chamber." Carter pried open the man's eyes; his pupils were dilated and unresponsive. Jack couldn't tell whether that was due to the drug or to the ribbon device. "It has a weapon that... well, let's just say it can use it to kill just as easily as torture. The burn marks are a sure indication that it was used on your friend."
"Did Daniel do this?" Meical gave up trying to wake his friend; instead he cradled the unconscious man against him.
"No, only a Goa'uld or someone who was once host to one." Carter looked up at Jack a moment. "You said he went down into the chamber with Daniel." Meical nodded. "Did anyone see him come up?"
"No." The other boy finally spoke up; his words were slow and enunciated carefully. "We didn't know they'd come out until Daniel began yelling at us and ran into the street."
"What was Daniel yelling?" Jack looked around and noted that the majority of the cops had left, including the one who'd gone with them into the chamber. There were only a couple of police cars parked in the street now.
"He told us to get away."
"From what?" Jack asked.
Meical shrugged. "He never said. He ran off and..."
"You saw him after the car hit him?" Carter stood and looked behind Jack's shoulder. The cop was coming back.
"Yeah. He was knocked out for a little while but by the time the ambulance came, he was trying to get up. They had to strap him down." Meical rubbed a hand slowly along his unconscious friend's arm. "He was tripping bad."
"An ambulance is on the way," the cop announced.
"Thanks." Meical lowered his head a moment, then looked back at Jack. "This Goa'uld? Where did he go?"
Jack shook his head and looked to Carter and Teal'c.
"I don't know, sir, I didn't sense anything."
"Nor did I."
"Maybe Daniel did manage to kill it when he cut... when he..." Jack ran a hand through his hair and took a deep breath. "Damnit, that's just so not Daniel. He'd try to save the host instead of killing him in cold blood like that."
"Sir." Carter took a step closer to Jack. "Maybe the drugs altered his perceptions enough that he wasn't aware of what he was doing. They did say he was pretty confused."
"Was he saying anything when he woke up?" Jack turned to Meical and the other boy.
"Nothing that made sense. He was raving about spiders and javas�"
Meical shrugged. "He kept saying the spider was trying to get out of the hole and... he kept calling for someone named Jack." As Jack's teeth clenched together, Meical said more softly, "That's you, isn't it?"
"Yeah." Abruptly Jack turned and faced the cop. "Can we go to the hospital?"
"As soon as the ambulance gets here." As if on cue, the sounds of a siren cut through the night.
- - - - - -
Jack glanced around the packed waiting room and tapped his fingers angrily on the side of his boot. Sitting back, leg raised with his ankle perched on his knee, he was the epitome of calm, but inside, his patience was quickly wearing thin.
Whining children and impatient parents were grating on his nerves; nurses who had no information to share and no inclination to try to find out were on the verge of being zatted.
Or would have been, if he'd had that particular weapon with him tonight.
He stood in a quick move, startling the lady dozing next to him. Carter looked up as he quickly intercepted the nurse who was passing through.
"Look, my friend was brought in nearly three hours ago and�"
"I'm sorry, sir, I just started my shift and�"
"Fine. Could you please go check and find out what's happening to him?"
She nodded and looked towards the packed room behind him. "Of course. Just take a seat and I'll be right back."
"Wouldn't it help if you asked me his name?" Jack said sarcastically. "Look." He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her away from the hallway, speaking fast and low so nobody could overheard. "My friend was implicated in a murder and the real killer is loose out there. I need to speak to Daniel to find out what happened before someone else ends up getting hurt, or worse. His name is Daniel Jackson. Could you please go ask someone so we can find out where he is and try and talk to him."
"Then you should be speaking to the police, not to me." She tugged on her arm and Jack reluctantly let her go.
"Okay. Are there any cops here? One of them brought us and�"
"Colonel." Teal'c and Carter joined him in the hallway. "Is there a problem?"
"No, no problem. Except for the fact that nobody seems to want to go and find Daniel for us."
"You're them, aren't you?" The nurse was staring at Teal'c's face. "I saw you on the news."
"Yeah, well, one of us was brought here a couple of hours ago and�"
"I'm truly sorry. We've had several emergencies and I was just called in to help because we're short-staffed. I'll see if I can round up some information or�"
"O'Neill. Officer Cadwgan is here."
"Who?" Jack turned and saw the cop who had left them here in the waiting room upon their arrival come around the corner and walk toward them. "How'd you know his name?" he asked Teal'c quickly.
"I inquired." Teal'c raised an eyebrow and Jack acknowledged his question had been stupid. Chalk it down to fatigue and worry.
"Officer Cadwgan," Jack said. "We've been waiting for news about Doctor Jackson. I wonder if you heard anything."
"I've been looking for you. Why are you still here?" The officer looked tired and just as frustrated as Jack felt.
"Maybe because nobody told us where to go," Jack grumbled.
"Your friend's in Intensive Care. This way." He indicated the way he came.
Five minutes later they were entering the hospital's Intensive Care area. They tread softly through the hallway, with beds surrounded by both familiar and unfamiliar medical equipment separated from one another by curtains or half walls.
The nurse's station and supply room was on the opposite side of the bed area where they could keep a watchful eye on their patients. From what Jack could see, six of the eight beds appeared to be occupied.
"They've had to sedate him, not that it's done all that much good," the policeman said as he led them to a cubicle in the far corner of the ward where the curtains had been three quarters drawn, hiding both the patient from the nurses and visitors, and keeping the outside world at bay. "He's restrained, but he's already managed to break free once. Gwynaern-induced highs usually lasts about four to five hours. We figure it's been four, so he should start coming out of it soon."
"What about injuries?" Carter asked in a low voice.
"Nothing broken; lots of bruising. Your friend was very lucky."
Officer Cadwgan pushed the edge of the curtain aside to allow Jack a look inside. Daniel was there, on his back, restraints affixed to both ankles and wrists. A sheet had been spread over him but it had slipped partway off the bed, baring his chest and one leg. A thick strap was visible, girding his hips, holding him securely to the mattress.
Daniel's head was turned away but the back of his head was stringy with sweat. He was breathing fast and even from where Jack stood, he could see the angry welts and blooming bruises around the restraints on his hands and feet. But even more visible were the angry red and blue marks interspersed with scrapes along part of his left leg, ribs and right shoulder. An IV was taped to his forearm with wide strips of adhesive to prevent Daniel from dislodging it in his struggles.
"Is he sleeping?" Carter whispered.
Daniel started at the sound, the muscles in his body tensing visibly as he turned his head towards them.
"Daniel." Carter took a step into the cubicle, but Jack held her back. There was something in Daniel's gaze, something worse than the time he'd been in this very same position back at the SGC when he'd been fighting the sarcophagus addiction. At least then Daniel had recognized his team.
Suddenly Daniel yelled. The words were familiar but Jack couldn't make them out. Daniel struggled violently, baring his teeth at them, a look of revulsion on his face. His body strained as he fought the straps.
"He's been like that on and off. The sedation calms him to a point, until something sets him off. We can't seem to get through to him; no one can understand what he's saying."
Teal'c pressed past Jack and entered the cubicle, stopping beside the bed. Daniel focused on Teal'c, screaming at him in Goa'uld. Jack recognized a few obscenities and it shocked him to hear the words coming from Daniel. Somehow Jack had the feeling that if Daniel were to be suddenly set free, he wouldn't hesitate to throw himself at Teal'c.
The cessation of words was shocking in the quiet that ensued. Breathing rapidly through his mouth, sweat pouring from his body, Daniel focused on Teal'c as the Jaffa spoke to him, then spit back some words before Teal'c finished talking.
"He believes me to be the First Prime of Apophis," Teal'c said after a moment. "He accuses me of taking his wife from him."
"Excuse me." A nurse pushed her way past Jack and moved in front of Teal'c, pressing a hand to his chest. "You're upsetting my patient; I insist that you leave."
She glared up at Teal'c, who stood more than a foot higher than her. "Now," she insisted, reminding Jack of doc Fraiser. When Teal'c complied, the woman glared at the policeman, forcing him to back up out of the cubicle. "You know the rules; one visitor per patient."
"I know, but these are his friends and�"
"I don't care. All of you. Out. Right now."
Daniel yelled more loudly as the others walked away from the cubicle. He fought the restraints violently, the bed rattling loudly with his struggles. Jack was glued to the spot, wishing there was some way he could get through to his friend.
The sheet slipped off of Daniel's body and Jack stepped forward to pick it up off the floor. The material was damp where it had touched Daniel's skin. He quickly draped it over Daniel's naked groin, trying not to look at the catheter affixed to Daniel's penis. This close, Jack could smell the sweat coming off of Daniel's body.
"Easy, Danny," Jack said softly as he adjusted the sheet over Daniel's legs. Daniel stopped yelling. His face was red and beaded with perspiration and he continued to watch Jack warily. "It's me, Jack."
The glare and frown combination on Daniel's face usually was reserved for a Goa'uld or government official. It hurt seeing it aimed in Jack's direction. Still, he pulled a chair close and sat down, ignoring the nurse who was still berating Officer Cadwgan. He placed a hand on Daniel's arm. His skin was hot and wet, the muscles hard as steel beneath Jack's fingers.
Slowly, he felt the tense body begin to relax. Daniel kept his eyes on Jack's face but his breathing began to slow and he stopped struggling.
"Do you know where you are?"
Immediately, the look in Daniel's face turned from hatred to confusion. He looked around quickly, his eyes shifting to the medical equipment before locking onto Jack's face. His pupils were so dilated that Jack wondered if he was seeing halfway clear.
"Infirmary?" The tentative and questioning tone made Jack smile.
"Not quite. You're in a hospital. You've been drugged."
"I don't remember..."
"Someone slipped you a mickey, Daniel. Pretty potent stuff which is screwing with your head."
"It's really you?"
Jack smiled. "Pretty sure."
Daniel took in a hitching breath, and Jack tightened his hold on Daniel's arm.
"Jack, there's a Goa'uld..."
"We know. We figured it out when we went to the chamber�"
Jack stopped talking when Daniel suddenly glanced towards the top of the half wall opposite Jack. He shifted his gaze back and forth a couple of times. Jack could see how agitated Daniel seemed but that he was also actually fighting the encroaching panic.
"What is it?"
Daniel's gaze shifted past Jack's face to the wall behind him. Jack resisted the urge to look. Daniel tracked something that seemed to move past him and up and across the ceiling. Finally, unable to resist, Jack quickly glanced upwards.
There was nothing except water stains on the ceiling.
- - - - - -
The huge spider slowly made its way across the wall, its pincers making skittering sounds on the plaster. It was black and hairy, almost the size of a grown cat. Daniel glanced at Jack, who stared straight right at the creature and then back down at Daniel without any sign of having seen anything.
They'd come to visit him several times. The spiders, not Jack. And despite his best friend now sitting right beside him, Daniel felt no safer than when he'd been alone in this cubicle. He was tied down, at the mercy of the arachnids should they decide to come down off the wall and visit his bed. So far all they had done was walk the walls and ceiling but Daniel knew they were out there; watching, waiting, planning.
Trying to keep his attention on both the bug and Jack, Daniel moved his head and quickly glanced Jack. His friend appeared calm, so Daniel tried to take his cue from him and relaxed. His vision was blurry, his perceptions shifting constantly. Colors were off, shapes didn't appear right.
His body was a huge aching mass of hurt, when he didn't move the pain wasn't quite so bad. He wondered if Jack untied him, whether he'd actually be able to stand and run from the...
The familiar, high pitched whirr of a moving replicator body sent a frisson of fear through him. The spider, no longer flesh and blood, snapped its metallic-looking wings forward and then folded them against its back as it surveyed him from the wall.
"Jack." He spoke low and quick so as not to alarm the creature. "Untie me." He kept his gaze on the replicator.
"Daniel, there's nothing there."
"Jack, Get your gun. Hurry." Daniel pulled at the straps around his right wrist, trying to ignore the stiffness along his arm and shoulder and the bruises and pain around his wrists. He tried to bring his hand closer to Jack's, hoping Jack would get the hint and untie him.
Jack leaned forward, moving his hand away from the strap and closer to Daniel's bicep. "Try and relax."
"You've got to be kidding me." For a moment Daniel couldn't seem to catch his breath as the replicator leaned forward again. It moved up to the top of the half wall, jumped the gap between the wall and the ceiling, and scuttled across the ceiling till it was right overhead.
"Jack..." Daniel strained again at the straps. The replicator was going to drop down on him and Jack any second now.
"Daniel, do you trust me?"
"What?" Daniel asked, not taking his eyes off the artificial spider. He could hear more whirrs and clacks behind the wall, approaching quickly. The replicator hissed, and impossibly, its eyes glowed with Goa'uld presence. "Oh God, this can't be happening."
"Do you trust me?"
Daniel couldn't be the only one who was seeing this, could he? Jack was too calm. He hated the replicators. If Jack were seeing and hearing them, he'd be yelling for backup and... Sam, Teal'c. Had they been here earlier or had he dreamed them. There were vague images of Teal'c and�
Jack's command had Daniel tearing his gaze from the threatening creature and looking at Jack's calm face. His friend was here. He didn't feel threatened by the replicator. Maybe the problem was with Daniel. Maybe...
Jack's eyes glowed brightly but his expression remained one of concern. Experiencing d�ja vu, Daniel forced himself not to give in to his growing panic. He hadn't lost control the first time he'd seen a symbiote enter through the back of Jack's skull - he'd been hallucinating then, playing cards, trying to act like everything was normal. Maybe, just maybe, this was something similar.
"M... most of the time."
"Then close your eyes and try to relax."
"Jack, I can't. They're�"
"All in your head. There are no spiders�"
"There are no replicators anywhere on this planet. You have my word on that."
Swallowing a lump of fear in a dry, pasty mouth, Daniel did as Jack asked. The approaching bugs were close now, he could hear them brushing against one another, the metallic sounds jingling like coins in a pocket. He was shaking; he couldn't help himself. Jack's hand was cool on his arm, the only thing grounding him. Any second now he expected the sear of acid on his skin or the pinch of claws to rip his flesh.
Then the noise stopped. Daniel waited with apprehension, tense with fear. When nothing happened, he opened one eye and looked up. The replicator was gone. He glanced around in surprise, but the walls were clear of bugs.
He breathed deeply, relieved, relaxing against the mattress. He turned his head into the pillow, seeing the nap of the material's fiber for the first time, how the threads intermixed together creating an interestingly complex puzzle. He followed each little square, trying to trace each strand as they intertwined. There were tiny variances in the white threads, some even had shades of pinks or blue caught within the filaments.
That was when he felt it. A quick tickle across his foot, beneath the sheet. Then another.
Daniel raised his head and looked at his feet. There was a tiny, black spider sitting on his big toe. It ran down his foot and beneath the sheet. A second one joined him.
Then suddenly hundreds of the tiny spiders scampered up his bed, beneath and over the sheet. His skin crawled as their tiny feet touched him. His bed was black with them. The walls were covered, as were the ceiling. Hundreds more were descending along silvery threads of silk.
Daniel tried to shake them off but the strap around his hips prevented him from moving around enough. He shook his legs and arms, jerking forcefully, trying to turn his arms to crush them against the bed.
Jack was covered with them as they ran over his face, his neck, his arms. And each and every spider's eyes glowed.
Daniel screamed, feeling a couple of spiders fall into his mouth as he inhaled. He tried not to choke on the spiders that scrabbled into his mouth as he drew breath to scream again.
- - - - - -
Jack clenched his jaw as Daniel's screams carried across the Intensive Care Unit. The tiny office they were in barely had room for all five of them; Jack and Carter were sitting across from the doctor's desk, Teal'c and Cadwgan were standing against the wall near the door.
"Your friend Daniel has been like this since we brought him in. The sedation does help quiet the bouts of delirium, but when something sets him off, it takes a long time for him to calm down again."
Jack had thought he'd managed to reach his friend; he'd been pleased with himself that Daniel had actually spoken to him after he'd insulted Teal'c and ignored Carter. That Daniel had followed Jack's instructions and had actually tried to relax and ignore whatever he'd been hallucinating.
Then came the look of abject terror in Daniel's face. Something had spooked him so badly that he'd become a writhing, screaming, pitiful soul who Jack couldn't recognize anymore.
When he'd first seen Daniel strapped to that bed, he'd vowed to himself he wouldn't leave Daniel alone like they had back on Earth when Machello's toys had affected Daniel. But seconds after seeing his friend like that, Jack had stood and booked as fast as his legs could take him. Even now, he couldn't face Carter or Teal'c's looks of sympathy so he focused on the wood grain of the desk.
"Doctor," came Carter's voice right above his head. "We were told that the drug would start wearing off after four or five hours. Shouldn't he start getting better?"
Jack looked up quickly at her words. She was staring at several sheets of paper laid open before her.
"But?" Jack couldn't help but ask.
"First off, it's rare we see this kind of reaction with gwynaern. Most times a patient is like this is when it's been taken in combination with a few specific illegal drugs. But this isn't the case here." She sighed as another loud scream broke the quiet of the ward. "Gwynaern isn't a harsh drug. It induces feelings of well being, relaxes the user, it's not addictive and there's no hangover to go with it. Colors and shapes are enhanced, sounds become more melodic, odors become intense and pleasant. Occasionally there are hallucinations, but very rarely are they of a threatening nature. The main reason the drug was made legal is that its effects don't usually inhibit a person's reflexes as does, say, something alcoholic. Which is why most people use it in conjunction with beer or wine; the two together means less drinking overall since gwynaern enhances the alcohol's effects."
"So what DanielJackson is experiencing is not a normal reaction for this drug?"
"No, it's not. And I think I know why. The gwynaern is filtered through the liver; normally by five hours the drug will be broken down enough that the user just has a feeling of well-being. Pleasantly relaxed or tired. A lot of people will take it after work to ensure a good night's sleep."
"Sounds too good to be true." Jack was beginning to wonder if he was dealing with a gwynaern-addicted world here.
"Of course you have those who are substance abusers," the doctor replied. "Alcoholics, drug addicts. And not everyone uses gwynaern. I'm sure not everyone on your planet drinks beer or wine every night. It's not a perfect world we live in, Colonel, but we do our best." She tapped the page before her with her pen. "Blood tests have shown an abnormally high amount of antihistamines in Daniel's system."
"His allergy pills," Carter quickly explained.
The doctor looked at Carter with a horrified expression. "You use antihistamines to treat allergies?" Jack heard the unspoken 'how barbaric' in the tone of her voice, and his hackles went up.
"We do the best we can on our world, doctor."
She stared at Jack a moment, and then blushed. "I'm sorry." She gave Jack a quick, lopsided smile. "We have herbs that..." She shook her head. "I'm sorry," she repeated. "The antihistamine molecules in his body have fused with the gwynaern. There's also increased liver enzymes in Daniel's blood, which means there's a problem with his liver functions."
"So if the liver normally filters the drug, but the liver isn't working properly, then Daniel's gonna stay like this for a longer time than normal?"
The doctor nodded at Jack. "I think the antihistamines are acerbating the effects of the gwynaern, causing the hallucinations. And its side effects are the liver problems."
"So how much longer..." Carter shuffled restlessly behind Jack, which made him realize that Daniel had been quiet for a short while now.
"It's hard to tell. A couple more hours, at least. We're monitoring him carefully; his blood pressure and heart rate become highly elevated when he's in the throes of delirium. We've sedated him and had some partial success, but his body is burning off the sedation more quickly than normal."
"Is there anything else we can do? What if we took him home, maybe our medicines could�"
The doctor was interrupted by a nurse, and she quickly excused herself and hurried out of her office.
"I'm sorry, but even if your doctors could help your friend right now, I couldn't permit you to take him out of the hospital."
"What d'ya mean?" Jack turned around and stared at the policeman.
"Doctor Jackson has been accused of murder, Colonel. Once he's recovered, he's to be taken into custody to stand trial."
"There is no evidence DanielJackson murdered the young man. There were two others in the chamber with them."
"Proof? You all saw how your friend is acting? Even if he murdered Gwawl because of the drugs, our juridical system needs to prove his innocence."
"You gonna accuse Daniel of hurting the other kid, too? The one that the Goa'uld got to?"
"Rheged Knethell?" The doctor returned just in time to hear the question and went through a pile of files on the side of her desk and chose one. "There was another young man brought in tonight with gwynaern in his blood. Although he's suffering from brain injury which resulted in coma."
"He's the one," the cop answered.
"Daniel didn't hurt him." Carter leaned forward intently. "The device used to inflict the type of wounds can only be used by a Goa'uld." She shifted to look at Jack. "Sir, I never sensed a Goa'uld in Daniel, or in any of the other students."
"Neither did I. Although�"
"Sense a Goa'uld?" Officer Cadwgan looked at Teal'c in confusion, then to Jack for an answer.
"It's too complicated to get into but yeah, Teal'c and Carter were exposed to something which allows them to sense a Goa'uld nearby." He tilted his head at his teammates in apology for the slight mislead.
"But there was one whom we never approached near enough to be certain."
"The guy who was throwing up." Carter's voice was suddenly full of excitement. "We never talked to him either."
"Drystan Bebb. He and the others were sent home. And anyways, the kid was in shock over finding his friend's body."
"That's true. A Goa'uld would have neutralized the effects of the gwynaern, in any case." Carter ran a hand through her hair and leaned against the desk.
"Unless it deliberately pretended to be sick and used that as an excuse to keep its distance, knowing Teal'c, at least, would recognize it."
"But if it was in stasis for all these years, wouldn't it want to approach a Jaffa?"
"I wear the mark of Apophis. Although he was Ra's sworn enemy, if Ariadne was placed in stasis by either of these System Lords or their allies, she would not wish to have her presence detected."
"So you think this snake is scoping out the place?"
"She wouldn't know how much time elapsed, sir."
"She might try to make it to the Stargate."
Jack turned to the cop. "You need to get the Stargate secured. Don't let anyone approach it. And tell your people that the Goa'uld is extremely dangerous and armed. Teal'c, I need you there, they won't know it's a Goa'uld until it's too late. And I need you to tell Hammond what happened."
Teal'c nodded in understanding. The cop went to say something but also nodded after a moment.
"Carter." Jack looked at Officer Cadwgan to include him in the instruction. "It might be a good idea for you two to go and talk to those kids again, including the Boba Fett one."
"Drystan Bebb," the policeman corrected.
"My assignment is to stand guard duty over Daniel," Officer Cadwgan began hesitantly. "But if you give me your word not to take him away until a replacement can arrive�"
"Where the hell would I take him? You saw how he was? I don't think I'd get him out of this ward, let alone the hospital."
"That's why I'm going to trust you," Officer Cadwgan replied with a grin.
"We need our weapons back. You know, the ones your people locked up for safety reasons?"
"That I can do but it'll take time. I can have someone meet Major Carter and me with them at the first house on the list."
"What about Teal'c?"
"I will be able to procure a zat'nik'tel from the SGC when I contact them."
"Fine. I'll just stay here and watch Daniel. Oh, wait," Jack said as everyone began filing out of the doctor's office. "What about the other kid? Rheged... something?"
"He is here. I will show you." They all followed the doctor to the other end of the ward were a young man lay unconscious in one of the beds. He was so pale that the burn mark stood out angrily on his face. "Perhaps if he wakes up he can tell you exactly what did happen but until that time, I'm sorry..."
"Yeah, well, hopefully Daniel will come out of this thing and tell us himself."
Jack stared at the young man for a while, then as everyone left the ICU, he went back to Daniel's bed. His friend was staring at the heart monitor, his eyes half closed, as if it held the secrets to the universe. He seemed to be relaxed, his body lax on the bed. His breathing was slow and deep. It finally looked like the sedative was doing its job.
Jack felt a tap on his shoulder. The doctor was standing behind him and she motioned him to follow her. They walked to the nurses' station before she spoke.
"He has short periods of lucidity but they don't last. Don't expect too much from him."
"You said he'd be like this for a few more hours?"
"That's just a guess, but yes, although I expect that his bouts of delirium may either come less frequently, or be less severe as the drug begins to break down. Most likely he'll end up with simply experiencing the bliss of the gwynaern and fall asleep. Your presence here may help him remain calmer." She smiled sympathetically. "Although it may not seem like it from the previous episode. He has been calling your name at times so you may end up doing some good."
Jack stifled a yawn and looked at his watch. It wasn't even midnight yet but it felt like he'd been up all night.
"Would you like some tea?"
"Yes, please." Although the sweet tea that served as a caffeine drink on this world wasn't exactly to his liking, at this point he'd take just about anything.
"There's a pot on over in here." She led him to a supply room behind the nurses' station. "Help yourself."
"Thanks." Jack poured himself a cupful, took a sip, and smacked his lips at the overly sweet taste. Then, walking carefully so as not to spill any on the pristine floor, he returned to Daniel's cubicle.
Daniel remained relaxed, still staring at the heart monitor. Jack wondered what he saw as the green blips went up and down with an accompanying soft ping. Jack took another sip of tea and made himself comfortable watching Daniel.
When a nurse came in to check his vitals some twenty minutes later, after she stepped between Daniel and the heart monitor, Daniel turned his head and looked at Jack. His face looked sleep-relaxed, his lids heavy over his eyes. He didn't say anything but there was definite recognition in his face.
"How you doing?" Jack asked softly. Daniel smiled and blinked sleepily.
"Why am I...?" Daniel shifted his hand, raising it as far as it would go, bringing Jack's attention to the straps around the bruised wrist.
"For your own safety." Jack leaned over and placed his fingers over Daniel's open palm. The skin was hot and damp. Daniel closed his hand, grasping Jack's fingers. "You've been drugged and until the stuff is out of your system, we can't take a chance of untying you."
"Not... not a sarcophagus?"
"No. Nothing like that. You're just having a bad reaction to a recreational drug not mixing well with your allergy pills."
"Oh." He licked his lips and blinked sleepily. "Thirsty."
"Okay." Jack looked around and spotted a pitcher of water on a table behind him, along with a plastic glass. "There's some water." He tugged his hand from Daniel's grasp but the fingers tightened around his. "Hey, I need my hand back if you want me to get you something to drink." He tugged again and Daniel turned to look at their hands in surprise.
"Oh. Sorry." Daniel loosened his grip and Jack squeezed the sweaty fingers before standing and pouring some water into the glass. He placed his hand beneath Daniel's head, feeling the soaked strands beneath his fingers. The pillow was drenched.
Jack raised his friend's head and put the glass to his mouth. He let Daniel drink half the water before pulling it away. He set the glass down and still supporting Daniel's head, quickly turned the pillow around before putting him back down on the drier side.
The sheet slid off Daniel's shoulder, exposing the mass of bruises. "Do they hurt?" Jack waived at the injuries and Daniel looked down at himself.
"Where the car hit you." Jack pressed down on the darkened skin and Daniel winced.
"I don't remember a car. There was a..." Daniel frowned, then looked at his sheet-covered leg. He moved it around, trying to dislodge the covering, but his movements were hampered by the strap around his ankle.
"What? What did you see?"
Daniel liked his lips again and avoided Jack's gaze. "I'd like to say a monster but that kinda sounds a little silly."
Daniel shook his head.
"Well, describe it to me."
"Um... I don't remember much. Its eyes were two very bright lights. It made a loud screech when it saw me. It came right for me... it just happened so fast."
"Headlights. You saw headlights and heard brakes just before the car hit you."
"It didn't look or sound like a car."
"Well, you've been hallucinating," Jack explained, feeling awkward. "A little. Stands to reason you might think you saw something different from what actually happened."
"Does the word spider ring any bells?"
Daniel's eyes opened wide as he stared at Jack. His breathing sped up and Jack hurried to put a hand on Daniel's arm as he swore silently to himself for bringing the subject up. "Hey. Easy, easy." He squeezed the tight muscles. "We saw the painting of the bug in the chamber. Teal'c figures she was a minor Goa'uld. There are legends she brought the people here to this world, so it sorta fits."
"I saw... I saw..." Daniel couldn't seem to catch his breath. He began looking wildly around the room. Jack leaned forward and caught Daniel's face between his palms, forcing him to stay still.
"I know. But whatever you saw, it wasn't real. It. Wasn't. Real. Trust me on that."
"There was a Goa'uld..."
"Okay, maybe that was real," Jack said hurriedly. "But the rest, the spider, whatever you saw, it was just your overactive imagination playing tricks on you."
"My imagination isn't�"
Jack lifted his chin in silent disagreement.
"Okay, maybe it is... sometimes... but... God," Daniel gasped, "it felt so real."
Jack let go of Daniel's face and gently patted his uninjured shoulder before pulling the sheet back up. "I know. I can imagine."
A nurse entered the cubicle and with a nod at Jack, began taking Daniel's vitals.
"So, do they hurt?"
"The bruises where the car hit you?"
"Your shoulder, ribs and legs. Do they hurt?"
Daniel looked at Jack and he could have sworn he saw the lights go off behind Daniel's eyes. "Yeah, it hurts. I didn't realize... before... you know?"
Jack turned to the nurse. "Did you give him anything for those bruises?"
She shook her head. "Something to prevent blood clots, but we can't give him anything for his discomfort at the moment. Not until the gwynaern wears off." She looked at Daniel and smiled. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I... ow. Why didn't I notice this before?" He looked at Jack, seeming to tense up again. "It hurts. Why didn't it hurt before?"
"Adrenaline, most likely, Doctor Jackson." She wrote some figures in a chart and picked up the half-empty glass of water.
"He was thirsty. It's okay, isn't it?"
"Of course. He should drink as much as he wants." She held the glass in front of Daniel, and he nodded. She raised his head and helped him drink the rest of the water.
Jack waited until she finished before leaning close to Daniel.
"Can you tell me about the Goa'uld?"
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head.
"Daniel. It's important. He killed someone."
"Gwawl." Eyes still closed, Daniel fisted his hands tightly. "He took a knife from... somewhere, malachite. I can still see it, dripping red from the green stone..."
"It happened so fast, Jack. Everything was... off. I was dizzy. He grabbed Gwawl and cut his throat. I couldn't save him. I couldn't... then the spider... oh God, Jack, the spiders!"
"Daniel, there are no spiders."
"I can hear them. Keep them away from me. Please." Eyes opened wide, pupils still dilated so that no blue was evident, Jack thought he'd never seen such fear in his friend's face. The heart monitor sped up, the green blips now playing a fast beat.
"Danny, we've gone through this once before, remember? The Linvris? You heard them, saw them, but they weren't real. Remember?"
"I... I..." Daniel's hand strained upwards and Jack grabbed it, holding it tightly in both of his.
"There are no spiders. Just like the Linvris. Just one fucking Goa'uld who's gonna pay for what he did."
"No spiders." Daniel clutched Jack's hand tightly and squeezed his eyes shut. "No spiders."
"That's right. Just you and me."
Jack heard footsteps approaching fast and figured some kind of alarm must have gone off at the nurse's station. Jack pushed his chair back to allow the nurse room to get between him and Daniel, but kept his hold on Daniel's hand. She took his blood pressure and Jack could see that the numbers were far too high.
She injected something into the IV and came to stand beside Jack, watching Daniel as he repeated the litany to himself.
"I've just given him another sedative. Hopefully it'll have a bit more effect now. His body isn't only trying to fight the drug, but he's also battling exhaustion and the shock to his body due to the injuries."
A minute later Daniel's pulse began to slow. "There we go," she said softly. Soon Daniel's words began to slur and there were longer and longer pauses between the words. The muscles of his face slackened, and finally his jaw dropped loose as he slid into sleep.
He was still tightly gripping Jack's hand but as Jack waggled his fingers, Daniel's hold loosened.
"Hopefully he'll sleep for a little while this time." She glanced at the monitors, made a few notations in Daniel's chart, and left Jack alone with the softly snoring man.
- - - - - -
The spider was biting into the soft flesh of the interior of his arm. The pain had stung a little at first but now it burned as the venom was injected deep into his body. Daniel yelled and tried to swat it away, but it pressed its body down against his arm.
He tried to scramble away but couldn't move. His body erupted in pain and he realized, somehow, that he'd been captured and tied to a giant web. He could hear the rapid patter as more spiders approached, the loud jingle of metal against metal when their claws scraped against the steel girders as they climbed up towards him.
Someone was calling out his name and he yelled loudly, warning his team to stay away. He couldn't endanger them; if they tried to rescue him, the spiders would get them. There were too many, he could see them moving around him, hissing and clacking as they spoke to one another.
"You have to leave me, Jack. Get away!"
"Daniel, look at me." Claws grabbed hold of his face and held him steady. He tried to turn his head but their grasp was too strong. He closed his eyes, afraid to see the fangs come closer.
"Daniel. Look at me." The voice was soft, insisting. Nearby. The claws shifted and he expected to be scratched, but they were warm. Solid. Something brushed against his cheek, rubbing gently. Like a finger.
Fearing the worst, he squeezed one eye open, expecting to get a faceful of venom. Instead he saw brown eyes and a worried, pale face staring down at him. Daniel looked around in surprise. He'd expected to see himself hanging from a steel girder which had once supported a building, in the middle of a jungle, until that civilization had been overrun by the creatures. Instead he found himself inside a building, in what looked like a hospital.
"You back with me now?"
Daniel nodded tentatively. He vaguely remembered talking to Jack earlier. Here. Or had that been a dream? He looked back at his friend's face, seeing the web of wrinkles and scars bisecting one another. They pulsed slightly as blood flowed through the veins. A small nerve ticked at the corner of Jack's eye. He stared at it, mesmerized, until Jack pulled back.
"What...?" Daniel licked dry lips with an equally dry, pasty tongue. Then miraculously a glass of water was held to his mouth and his head lifted. He swallowed the water eagerly, draining the glass. The liquid flowed easily into his stomach, wetting his parched throat in the process.
"You were sleeping peacefully, until someone decided to come take some blood." Jack's voice was derisive and for a moment Daniel thought it was aimed at him, until he realized there were others around his bed. He continued drinking, afraid the glass would be taken away before he'd had his fill.
"It was necessary. We need to do another blood series." The woman, a nurse, Daniel guessed, had a blood-filled vial in her hand.
"He was sleeping," Jack repeated to someone standing opposite him as Daniel slurped the last drop of water. He licked his lips again as Jack took the glass away and he turned to look at who Jack was talking to.
"I'm sorry we woke you, Daniel." The woman smiled at him. "I'm Doctor Teague. Try and relax. You're safe here." She gave Jack a strange look before walking out with the nurse.
"Hospital?" The word was barely out of his mouth when he yawned.
"Yeah. You remember anything?"
"I was dreaming about�"
"Spiders. Yeah, it's been a recurrent theme lately."
"Someone died." There was an odd look on Jack's face that Daniel didn't like. "What? What is it?"
"One of the students you were working with was murdered."
"Gwawl," Daniel said softly. He remembered the blood, the look of horror on the young man's face, the flash of the green knife and the eyes. "Oh God, there's a Goa'uld!"
"I know. Daniel, do you know who it was? Who the host was?"
"I saw something that looked like a canopic jar. It looked like the Isis jar, remember? That Dr. Jordan found among the artifacts from the Steward Expedition?"
"Who did the Goa'uld take, Daniel?"
"I shouldn't have left. I should have checked it out right away without going back to the hotel." Waves of guilt spread throughout Daniel and he suddenly felt very, very tired.
"Daniel." He jerked back to the present at the tone of Jack's voice.
"Drystan. It was�"
"Drystan Bebb." Sam slipped through the half-closed curtains and smiled at Daniel before handing Jack his utility vest, P-90 and handgun. "Sir, we can't find hide or hair of him. Nobody's seen him since he left the excavation site."
"How certain are you about this, Doctor Jackson?"
The strange voice belonged to a stranger, who stepped into the cubicle behind Sam.
"Um..." Daniel glanced at Jack, who was strapping on his holster. He nodded permission for Daniel to speak, then leaned his P-90 against the side of Daniel's bed, near the head where nobody would see unless they walked into the room and around the bed itself.
"He's a cop."
As if it wasn't embarrassing enough that his thoughts seemed to be jumping all over the place, Daniel just happened to be strapped down to a bed for all and sundry to see. "Pretty sure. I heard his voice and his eyes�"
"But no one else seems to have seen this proof that Drystan Bebb is one of these parasites you've been talking about since you arrived on our planet. You're certain it wasn't part of your hallucination?"
"I know what I saw," Daniel spit out.
"And you saw spiders and according to reports, you were struck down by a monster which incidentally, witnesses confirmed to be a car."
"I saw him kill Gwawl." Daniel looked to Jack. "I didn't imagine *that*, did I?"
"You were covered with blood when you were brought to the hospital. Tests have proven the blood belonged to the murder victim. Are you sure you didn't imagine Gwawl to be this Goa'uld and tried to stop him yourself?"
"Are you saying *I* killed Gwawl?" Heat flowed into Daniel's face and for a moment he forgot where he was and tried to get up. Pain shot through his arms and chest and he fell back against the bed. "I didn't kill anyone. The Goa'uld murdered Gwawl, then he went after Rheged and I tried to follow, but..."
"Things are a little... confused... after that." Memories of the giant spider caused Daniel to shudder and there was no way he was going to bring that subject up after what the cop had just accused him of. "You can ask Rheged. He saw what happened."
"The kid got ribboned, Daniel." Jack's voice was gentle.
"He's here in ICU. He's holding his own but..."
"That couldn't be me. Even if I did what he thinks I did, and I didn't," Daniel said with a glare towards the cop, "I couldn't use a ribbon device."
"Nobody's said you killed him�"
Daniel interrupted the policeman, his anger mounting when nobody jumped to his defence. "But nobody said I didn't either. None of you believe me. Hell, even I don't�"
He bit his lip, stopping before he said more and incriminated himself. He wished his head wasn't quite so fuzzy. Thankfully after several long seconds of uncomfortable silence, Jack changed the subject.
"If the snake's been out of circulation for a couple thousand years, he's�"
"She," Daniel amended automatically as he tried to concentrate on what his friends were saying while trying to make sense of the jumble of his memories.
"She," Jack emphasised, half-rolling his eyes towards Daniel, "would probably be staying out of sight and bide her time while she figures out where she is, what happened and�"
"Excuse me. I have to ask you to leave." Someone else joined their little party and Daniel recognized the doctor. "I've gone beyond hospital policy to allow you to stay with your friend but I must insist you all take your discussions elsewhere. This is neither the place nor the time to be disturbing my patients. Plus it IS the middle of the night."
Jack looked sheepishly at the doctor, then glanced towards Daniel. "You gonna be okay for a few minutes while Carter and I got grab some coff� tea?"
Daniel nodded. "I'm not going anywhere considering I'm sorta tied up."
"Can't you release him?"
Daniel tensed in anticipation at Jack's question, only to be let down when the doctor shook her head. "Not after his reaction a little while ago. Maybe when the blood tests come in we'll reconsider." She smiled again at Daniel, and he began to hate that little patronizing smirk.
"I won't be long." Jack tweaked Daniel's toe as he stood, then Daniel was lying there helplessly watching his friends' backs through the gap in the privacy curtains as they walked down the room. When they disappeared from view, Daniel gave a futile tug to his bound wrists in a small fit of temper. He hissed in pain when the bruises around them hurt. He closed his eyes and tried to figure out how much trouble he was in.
These people had never seen a Goa'uld, although they knew they existed thanks to the exploration of the offworld teams. Someone was dead, a young and promising student who was guilty of nothing except being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And Daniel was accused of having murdered him. The cop didn't have to tell him that; it was more than evident in the man's tone of voice and the way he had worded his questions.
Hopefully Rheged would wake up soon. When he did, he could help prove what had happened. He'd been there with Daniel. He'd been a witness to everything.
Daniel opened his eyes and looked down the corridor, wondering how long Jack would be gone. As he watched, his eyes played those weird tricks on him as everything went out of focus and the colors got brighter. He tried to force his attention back but the light was reflecting off a metallic pole and it scintillated enticingly, making little rainbows if he moved his head just so.
After a while something moved within the rainbows. Daniel frowned and try as he might, he couldn't figure out what it was. Finally he managed to look away from the rainbows and noticed a man looking past the curtains of the first cubicle at the far end of the ward. It had been his reflection in the rainbows that had caught Daniel's attention.
There was something familiar about him that Daniel couldn't quite place. He squinted, but without his glasses he couldn't make out the man's features clearly enough. Then the man backed away from the cubicle and walked to the next.
A memory superimposed itself over the man's face; his eyes had glowed as he'd looked at Daniel. He'd held a knife in his hand and had sliced it through Gwawl's throat as carelessly as swatting a fly.
"No," Daniel whispered softly to himself. "No." A little more loudly. "This is a dream. I'm not seeing this. He's not here."
Drystan moved another cubicle closer and Daniel realized he was in trouble. Why would the Goa'uld come here, to the hospital, to the ICU, for crying out loud, unless it was to trace either Daniel or Rheged. Or both.
With fear from his vulnerable position giving him added incentive, Daniel strained at the bindings. He ignored the pain as the slow footsteps echoing down the corridor seemed to get louder and louder, stopping for a short time as he paused to peer inside another cubicle. Daniel didn't know if what he heard was real, imagined or hallucinated but he continued to try and free himself.
Suddenly his wrist sprang free and he almost smacked himself in the face before he managed to stop his arm's momentum. He quickly began unbuckling his other hand, fear and desperation making him clumsy. He peered into the corridor but there was no sign of Drystan.
Then his other hand was free and he tried to sit up, intending to untie his ankles until he realized he was still strapped to the bed. He found the buckle and forced the heavy leather open with difficulty. He tried to sit up but his ribs and back were bruised and wouldn't hold him up and he fell back onto his side. He bent sideways, snaking his body towards his feet.
Then the footsteps were close. Too close. Daniel was out of time.
With a last ditch effort, Daniel threw himself back onto the bed and reached back. His fingers met empty air and he inched backwards until they hit cool metal. He grasped the barrel of the weapon and pulled it forward until he grasped it in his hands.
The footsteps were right outside. They paused a moment, then the curtains were roughly pushed aside.
Daniel flicked the safety off and aimed the gun at Drystan. He tightened his grip and began to squeeze the trigger.
A startled, blond haired nurse stared back at him.
Daniel jerked the gun sideways and the bullet flew into the wall.
- - - - - -
The tea and sandwich had helped; Jack hadn't even realized how hungry he'd been until he'd started eating.
They hadn't really solved anything except to try and figure out where the snake would go next. There were no strongholds on the planet for her to occupy, no Jaffa, no adoring worshippers.
Jack had bet that she'd scramble to the Stargate as soon as she discovered all of this and look for a planet that was susceptible enough to be overruled by one lone Goa'uld.
Carter had suggested she needed allies and Jaffa and would try and shack up with another minor Goa'uld. Which still pointed to the Stargate.
But she hadn't gone to the Stargate yet, which meant the snake was still reconnoitring. Jack just hoped there wouldn't be a string of dead bodies between wherever she was and the 'gate.
He'd just stepped out of the elevator and was heading into the ICU when he realized something wasn't right. There was a helluva lot of yelling going on, and although he could hear Daniel, there were other voices yelling right along with him.
Jack ran through the ward, sliding to a halt on the slippery linoleum as he reached the far end where Daniel's cubicle was.
It was crowded. He spied the doctor, a nurse and three beefy guys who, if Jack were to hazard a guess, moonlighted as bouncers in the roughest nightclubs in town and spent their day jobs patrolling the psych ward. The three men were holding Daniel on his side while the nurse was in the process of buckling a straitjacket along his back.
"What the hell? What's going on?"
"Jack, tell them!" Daniel tried to struggle despite the fact that he was pinned pretty damned solidly to the bed. He kicked and that was when Jack noted that one foot was free of restraints. His face was mashed against the mattress where one huge hand held him down and what Jack could see of his face was red, probably from his exertions. Sour sweat filled the small space.
"Colonel, I must ask you to step back." Doctor Teague pushed Jack back forcibly with a hand to his chest but he inched his way forward the moment she turned her back.
"She was here, Jack. Ariadne was here." Daniel's words were muffled as he was forced to speak into the mattress but his eyes rolled back, trying to catch a glimpse of Jack.
"He tried to shoot my nurse." The doctor pointedly looked at something lying far against the wall and Jack recognized his weapon. "He somehow got loose and took a shot at her as she came in to check on him." She then pointed at the bullet hole an inch away from the opened curtain.
The nurse finished with the last of the buckles and as the crotch strap was pulled down, Jack couldn't help yelling, "Hey, watch the merchandise." He hoped this wasn't the nurse the doctor was talking about because she was in a very good position to exact some sort of revenge. She finished and threw the sheet over Daniel to cover his lower extremities.
"Damn it, Jack. She's here. Here! In the hospital."
Daniel was manhandled onto his back and his flailing foot easily caught and re-buckled to the bed by one of the men. The other two nodded at the doctor and filed out of the small space. Immediately the space appeared bigger and the air fresher.
Daniel thrashed on the bed as the nurse threaded a leather strap through a metal loop in the center of the jacket. She quickly tied him down to the bed.
"Is all of this really necessary?" Jack moved closer and put a hand on Daniel's shoulder. He squeezed it and immediately Daniel calmed. Jack couldn't help noticing blood on one of the sleeves of the straitjacket and as he suspected, the IV had been ripped out and was now leaking on the floor. Twin sets of adhesive tape lay discarded beside it.
"I should bring you both up on charges." Doctor Teague dismissed the last of the aids and the nurse. "But considering the circumstances, he could just as easily have grabbed a scalpel as your gun. And I should have considered the possibility that he'd manage to break the restraints a second time."
Daniel lifted his head and thumped it back on the pillow, hard. "Will you listen to me!" he yelled. "Ariadne was here. She might still be in the building. Get the cops here and have them start looking for Drystan."
"Danny." Jack winced as Daniel glared at him. "You've been seeing a few things that weren't really there and�"
"I know that. But I saw him. This was real."
"You almost shot a nurse. You imagined the Goa'uld and mistook her for it."
"I did not mistake her for Ariadne." He squirmed and writhed a few times as he fought the new restraints. "I saw and heard the Goa'uld coming this way. I managed to get my hands on your gun and just when the curtain pulled back, I saw it wasn't her so I deliberately pulled the gun aside just as it went off." Daniel lay back, slightly out of breath and looking more than a little angry.
Jack looked at the doctor. "He has a point. Daniel's a pretty good shot and at this range, I don't think he'd have missed if he'd been deliberately aiming for whoever was coming through that door.
"How'd you get my gun?" Jack grabbed the chair that had been shoved to the corner of the cubicle and brought it close to the bed.
"I panicked when I saw him coming this way. The metal ring must have snapped or something."
Teague leaned close to the bed and fiddled with something. A moment later she had a metal loop in her hand. It had been forced open, allowing the leather strap holding Daniel to the bed to slip through the gap.
"For argument's sake, Daniel, let's say that the Goa'uld did come�" Jack quickly raised his index finger in front of his face when Daniel opened his mouth to interrupt. "Why would she come here? How would she know to come here? I'm sure there are plenty of other more interesting spots she could visit, including the Stargate itself."
"She has Drystan's memories. She knows SG-1 is here on the planet, and that we have the latest information on System Lords and where their strongholds are. What easier method of getting up-to-date than grabbing one of us for a new host?"
A frisson of fear suddenly went down Jack's spine. "Doc. You have any of those fancy machines that'll give you an image of what's inside Daniel's body?"
The doctor nodded.
"We need to see if there's anything wrapped around his spinal cord. Specifically here." Jack pointed to the back of his neck going down towards his shoulder blades.
"She didn't... I'm not... Jack, I'm not a Goa'uld."
"I could get Carter or Teal'c back here, I guess. Might be faster that way."
"I can put in a call for your friends, but I can get the machine in here in five minutes." She hesitated a moment. "You think that this Goa'uld might have infected Doctor Jackson?"
"It's always a possibility."
"But he just said�"
"You can never trust a snake. Never."
The doctor gave the nurse an order and the other woman quickly complied. "Would there be any outward signs?"
"They can heal very fast, but yeah, a scar, here." Again Jack pointed to the back of his neck. "Or an irritation at the back of his mouth."
Immediately the doctor turned Daniel's head and checked his neck. Jack could see the unblemished skin for himself but wondered how long before the scar would heal if Daniel had been taken. At her request, Daniel opened his mouth and the doctor shone a penlight into it. "There's no sign of irritation."
The squeak of wheels signaled the approach of something heavy, and a moment later a contraption of sorts was wheeled in and positioned beside Daniel's bed. Jack stood aside as the two women wiggled a transparent plastic sheet underneath Daniel. They positioned another larger one over him, supported by rounded rods, until the whole thing resembled a huge tube.
The machine was powered up and within moments, they could see Daniel's innards on a screen. The doctor made some adjustments and Daniel's spinal column showed up clearly. She panned along the spinal column until his head and jaw were evident.
No sign of a snake.
"It's clear," he sighed in relief.
"Now will you please let me out of here?" Daniel begged as the machine was disassembled.
"You're a danger to both yourself and�"
"I didn't shoot your nurse. I'm sorry I scared her and for the hole in the wall but I'm not on the verge of flipping out again."
She stared at Daniel a moment, made a face, then nodded. Immediately Jack was unbuckling the strap from the loop and then had Daniel sit up so he could reach the back buckles. He could feel Daniel shivering slightly and he figured that was due to the adrenaline rush leaving his system.
He pulled the edges of the jacket back and Daniel pulled his arms out. Jack stepped back a moment and waved to the crotch strap which he'd just unbuckled. "You can take care of that bit yourself."
Daniel's neck flushed red as he raised his butt and threaded the strap from beneath him. Jack grabbed the jacket and pitched it into a corner as he moved to untie Daniel's feet. Daniel shifted his legs with a heartfelt sigh as he lay back down. Jack took one of the chilled feet in his hands and gently massaged the area above and below the bruising as Daniel pulled the sheet up to his chest.
"You sure did a number on yourself."
Doctor Teague grabbed a blanket and spread it over the sheet covering Daniel. Now that the fight had gone out of him, Daniel looked exhausted. She told the nurse to clean up his arm, which was still bleeding slightly where he'd ripped the IV out and then take another sample of blood. She smiled as she took his vitals. "Maybe you'd like to rest a little now?"
"No." Daniel pushed up onto his elbow, then sat up again. The blanket pooled around his waist, exposing the scrapes and dark bruises covering his body. "We have to find the Goa'uld, Jack."
"You're not going anywhere, Doctor Jackson. I'm pretty confident that the gwynaern is beginning to wear off but you're also pumped full of sedatives. I'm sorry, but I will not release you for several more hours, minimum."
"The doc's right. You're not up to going anywhere. You promise me you'll stay put and I'll go see if I can round up Carter and some of those cops and we'll search the hospital."
Daniel rubbed a hand over his face and Jack didn't miss the fact that he was still trembling. "Okay." Daniel lay down, wincing as he did so. "But remember that either you or Sam can serve as a host just as well as I can."
"I'll get security to contact your friends," the doctor offered.
"Can you please take this out first?" Daniel waved at the Foley catheter and shifted sideways, staring at the bullet hole and trying not to wince as the doctor removed the rubber tube from Daniel's penis.
"I'll get you something to wear." Doctor Teague nodded at Jack when he turned around and left the two of them alone.
"How sure are you that what you saw was really Ariadne?"
"I'd be lying if I were to say I didn't have some doubts about what I saw, but�"
Daniel's eyes seemed clearer, more focused than the past several hours. Jack could see blue within the bloodshot whites, and in his opinion, that meant the drug was losing its hold. Daniel had been lucid for a period far longer than since Jack had entered the hospital. Even being pinned down by the goons, Daniel had been angry rather than hysterical. That layer of fear was gone, replaced by exasperation and willingness to act. Jack quickly made his decision.
"Here." Jack removed his pistol from its holster and handed it to Daniel. "Just� don't shoot at everything that moves, huh?"
Daniel held the gun in his hand a moment, then shoved it beneath the pillow. "Thanks," he finally said, look at Jack with relief evident in his face.
"I'll be back as soon as I can. I'll ask for a guard to be posted here. The only good thing about this situation is that the snake has no Jaffa to back her up."
Jack watched as Daniel nodded at his comment, his eyes heavy and his body relaxed.
"Try and rest in the meantime," he said softly. Daniel nodded again, blinking sleepily. Jack picked his P-90 up off the floor and clipped it onto his utility vest. By the time he was done, Daniel had closed his eyes. A moment later Jack was pretty sure his friend was sleeping.
Just outside the cubicle, Jack met a nurse carrying what looked like a pair of deep blue scrubs. "He's sleeping," he warned her before she went in. Then he hurried off � he had a Goa'uld to catch.
- - - - - -
"Colonel." Carter's loud whisper greeted Jack and she jogged quietly down the empty hallway to meet him halfway. "We heard something had happened here and turned back."
"Yeah, Daniel almost shot someone."
"Daniel?" But how did... no, sir. I meant that one of the guards in the lobby has been attacked. From the sounds of it, it's from a ribbon device."
"Concussion and lots of bruising. Teregud is assembling his men to search the hospital."
"So Daniel didn't imagine it when he said he saw the Goa'uld."
"He saw Ariadne?"
"He saw something. And Carter... Teregud?"
She blushed. "Officer Cadwgan."
"Ah." Jack followed her down into one of the offices on the main floor and nodded to the policeman. He was briefing a dozen or so officers and Jack leaned against the wall near the door, waiting for him to finish.
"I'd like to make a suggestion, Jack added when Cadwgan told the men they were dismissed. "Don't send them out alone. You don't know what you're up against and a Goa'uld is faster and stronger than you expect him to be."
Cadwgan stared at Jack a moment, then amended his orders, rearranging the search pattern.
"Another thing. Can you spare at least one of your men and send them to ICU so they can watch Daniel's back?"
"Why don't you or Samantha�?"
"We've had experience with the Goa'uld. We'll be more of a help out here looking for her�"
"Than babysitting your friend. But still you want me to take one of my men and take him off the search and�"
"Colonel O'Neill is right. We're more useful to you helping with the search but if you think your men are better than we are, then, sir," she turned to Jack, "I'll go sit with Daniel because if she went after him once, she might try again."
"Very well," Cadwgan said. "I'll assign one of my men to sit with Doctor Jackson."
- - - - - -
Jack had thought doing a thorough search of the SGC was bad enough. But this building had so many nooks and crannies that despite their caution, he was sure there were hundreds of hidey-holes the snake could conceal herself without effort. Add to that the fact that he wasn't familiar with the structure and the care they needed to take in order to not overly disturb the patients, especially since it was still the middle of the night, made for a long and frustrating search.
The man he'd been teamed up with was good and they'd quickly worked out hand signals that both could readily understand. He hadn't really expected to find the Goa'uld here in the building and the fact that there was no sign of her didn't really mean she hadn't come here, or wasn't still in the building.
At least Daniel hadn't imagined things; that was one small consolation.
The last of the searchers walked into the conference room with the same conclusions. No sign of an intruder.
Jack checked his watch as his stomach rumbled. He noted that they'd been searching for more than five hours. "How about we get some breakfast?"
"I'd like to look in on Daniel first," Carter whispered to Jack as the men reported.
"Sounds good to me."
While Cadwgan gave everyone new assignments to search the blocks around the hospital and in the direction heading towards the Stargate, Jack caught the man's attention and made eating signs. He nodded his understanding and Jack let Carter lead the way back to the ICU.
- - - - - -
Daniel heard a noise. For a moment he lay there listening, more asleep than not, until the throbbing in his leg got bad enough that he had to give in to using stiff and sore muscles to shift his position. He groaned softly, but the change in position eased the battered limb.
Then he heard the noise again. No question about it. There was something about the whine of a ribbon device that set his teeth on edge. Of course most of the times he'd heard it, the device had been aimed at him. But that didn't mean that in the very near future, this one wouldn't be either.
"Shit, shit," Daniel panted as he sat up and tried to kick the blankets away while reaching for Jack's gun beneath the pillow. Every inch of his body hurt, from his toes to his neck. Still he slid off the bed and walking as best he could, he hobbled his slow way towards the exit.
Then he heard that despicable whine again. It was coming from the room right before him. He looked around, saw a desk and monitors, figured that was the nurses' station. There was a room behind it where Ariadne was probably dealing with the nurses and doctors, and freedom lay in the path between both rooms.
There was a dull thud, and the sound of footsteps.
Immediately Daniel ducked into the nearest cubicle, noting peripherally that someone lay in a bed hooked up to a bunch of machinery and wires. What he did note was the oxygen tent surrounding the bed. Then his attention was on the shadow that slowly walked past him and continued down the ward. Towards his cubicle.
He hefted the gun in his hand and realized he couldn't take a chance shooting it here. Not with so many helpless sick people who might get in the way of his bullets if he missed his shot. The way his arms were sore and heavy, Daniel didn't trust his aim from this distance.
Walking as softly as he could, Daniel held his breath as he padded behind the unsuspecting Goa'uld and crossed the ward. He couldn't believe he'd made it without being seen as he looked for a way out.
There were elevators but he knew in a second that he'd never make it before she discovered he wasn't in his bed.
Stairs, there had to be stairs. He saw them to his right and made for them, but even as he put his hand to the doorknob, he realized there was no way in hell he'd get down one flight, not the way his legs were protesting from simply walking.
Grinding his teeth together, Daniel hurried away from the ICU, looking for a place to hide.
- - - - - -
They walked in through the nurses' station and Jack noted there was nobody on duty. Right away his spider sense began tingling. "Daniel," he whispered, then motioned for Carter to move to their friend's cubicle quickly but prudently. She nodded, her weapon already in her hands and set to fire.
He glanced inside each cubicle as they hurried towards the last one, but each one held only a patient and no medical personnel. Jack and Carter flanked the partly opened curtain to Daniel's little home away from home, and with a nod of warning, he pulled it back and they both rushed the room.
It was empty.
The blanket and sheet had been pushed back as if Daniel had left in a hurry. Jack picked the pillow up and found that his gun was gone.
He hurried back out and this time headed for the supply room. Inside he found three nurses, crumpled on the floor. Carter ran to the nearest, who moaned softly when Carter touched her. "She's alive." She checked the second and third. "I think they're just stunned, sir."
"There's no sign of the host so there's a good chance Daniel's gotten away."
"I don't think this happened more than a couple of minutes ago."
"Go get Cadwgan, tell him what's happened. Get some help for these people. I'm going to see if I can find Daniel."
"I don't know. If Daniel's on the run, he's probably hiding somewhere in the hospital. If not, he's making his way to the Stargate. Get word to Teal'c."
"You don't think that Daniel�"
"I hope not." Jack hurried out into the hallway, trying to think where he'd go if he were running away from someone. He glanced at the elevators; too long a wait and too far a walk. A couple of feet away was a stairwell. Jack made for that.
Up or down. Figuring Daniel would head for safety, Jack headed down the stairs, but stopped at the first landing. This was too obvious. If Daniel had escaped without being seen, the Goa'uld would know and he'd be following on Daniel's heels, expecting him to make a run for it.
- - - - - -
Daniel never heard the Goa'uld. He'd shifted the gun to his left hand for just a moment to give his right arm a break, and then there was a heavy weight descending on him, pushing him deeper into the room. Instinctively he fought back, swinging the hand holding the gun and feeling a satisfying crunch just as he hit the wall. Hard.
He fell to the ground, dazed. He tried to get up. Knew he had to get up. Knew he had to get away, but his body wouldn't do anything but shake and twitch painfully as he tried to get his legs beneath him.
- - - - - -
Jack backtracked up the stairs and looked up and down the hallway. There was nothing for the length of the ICU but there had to be other supply rooms and treatment areas. He hurried down the corridor and glanced into the first room he passed.
He scored big with the second room.
"Hold it right there." Jack aimed his gun towards both men, who were lying on the ground. The snake looked up at Jack in fear, blood smeared against his mouth. Jack's heart plummeted to his feet.
"Help me," the man whispered as groped his way to the wall. "Please, what's going on?" The ribbon device was half hanging from his right hand and he shook it away in disgust. It landed on the floor with a light ringing sound.
Drystan leaned against the wall, bringing his knees towards his chest and hugging them. Jack followed the man's progress with his P-90 but kept his attention between him and Daniel.
Daniel shuddered, opened his eyes and rolled away when he saw who was sitting a few feet away from him.
"Shoot him," Daniel yelled as he staggered to his feet.
"Daniel, stay where you are."
"Jack, we caught him. Shoot..." Daniel lurched and then fell heavily against the wall. He was pale and for a moment Jack thought he was going to pass out.
Daniel raised a hand and pressed the heel of his palm against one eye. "Headache. I'll live." Then, still leaning against the wall, he slid closer to Jack and away from the man cowering before them.
"Daniel," Jack snarled. The tone of voice finally caught Daniel's attention and he looked at Jack, wide-eyed. "Stay right where you are."
"Why?" If Daniel hadn't become snake bait, then that simple questioning word explained exactly how scrambled Daniel's brains were at the moment. It took him a few seconds, glancing between Jack, who had backed up to keep his distance from both men, to Drystan, who had passed a hand over his mouth and was looking at the blood coming from it. "No," Daniel whispered. "He didn't... he caught me by surprise and I hit him with the... where's the gun?" Daniel glanced around and both he and Jack spied it lying on the ground near where he'd fallen. Daniel took a stumbling step towards it when Jack yelled his name again.
"Daniel, for God's sake, don't move."
Daniel stopped, his bare feet slapping loudly on the tiled floor. He backed up, shooting Jack a hurt little glance as he leaned wearily against the wall. "Carter," Jack said softly to himself, "where the hell are you?"
"I'm not, you know," Daniel said conversationally after a moment.
Jack contemplated his words, knowing from experience that the Goa'uld could imitate a friend well enough to make everyone think he was himself.
"I'd know it if I was."
"I know. But on my end, it all kinda depends on who's doing the talking. You? Or it."
"It's me. He never got to me. I mean, yeah, he jumped me but I managed to hit him with the barrel of the gun and... just have a look and see � he's probably healed by now."
"He's bleeding, Daniel. That could be from a split lip you gave him, or from the damage the Goa'uld could have done busting out of his throat."
Daniel made a show and turned around to face the wall. "My neck's clear." He pulled the back of his shirt down, making sure Jack got a look at the unblemished skin. He waited a few seconds, and turned to face Jack again. "I can open my mouth and prove to you that my throat's not sore."
Jack pulled two sets of plastic ties from the bunch in his utility vest and threw one to both men. "Maybe you gentlemen would do me the honour of tying your hands together?"
Daniel slowly bent down to pick one up, wincing as he did so. He stood and wrapped the plastic restraint around his bruised wrists. Jack did note that the bruising seemed to have gotten worse, and not better. "This is so getting old." He pulled the end through the tie and tugged it tight with his teeth. He made a show, raising his bound hands together, and looked towards Drystan, who hadn't moved.
"Hey." Jack inched closer to the man who had his forehead up against his raised knees. "Hey, you." Drystan looked up at Jack with haunted eyes. "You wanna put that around your hands?"
Drystan looked at Jack, then to Daniel, who raised his hands again to show that he'd complied. The man slowly unfurled himself and reached for the plastic piece, but then held them in his hands and looked at them dazedly.
"He's putting on an act, Jack."
"Maybe. Or maybe you are."
"Yeah, well, just remember what we talked about earlier."
Jack shrugged, trying to act like he didn't remember.
"Trust. You gave me your gun despite thinking I might have imagined everything." Daniel laughed self-consciously. "Obviously some of the things weren't all in my head?" He glared down at Drystan. "Are we going to wait here until the sun comes up?
"The sun's up already. We're just going to wait here until Carter shows up."
Daniel nodded, and smiled, visibly relaxing.
A moment later, there were voices and shouts down the hallway, and Jack waggled a raised finger between both men. "Don't move, either of you."
He took two steps back and chanced a look down the hallway. He spotted a cop, and yelled to get his attention. "Get me Major Samantha Carter."
Carter popped out of the ICU and began hurrying towards them, followed by Officer Cadwgan. She stopped in the doorway and looked from Jack, to Daniel, to Drystan.
"Hi Sam." Daniel raised his bound hands and stiffly waggled his fingers.
"You caught him?" There was more than a little surprise in the policeman's voice as he stepped inside beside Jack.
"Not sure exactly who we caught. Carter?"
She moved closer to Daniel, looking at him intently, then took a step towards Drystan. "He's the Goa'uld," she said without hesitation, bringing her gun to bear.
Jack immediately went to Daniel and sliced through the plastic with his knife. "Sorry," he said softly. Daniel looked at him and the side of his mouth curled up slightly.
"It's okay. You're entitled to be a little confused after the day I had."
Jack took another plastic tie and with Carter backing him up, began to approach Ariadne, who was still looking at the plastic tie in his hand. He glanced up at Carter in surprise, and probably realized the gig was up. His eyes flared angrily, giving him away.
He moved fast; faster than Jack had anticipated, and grabbed Jack by the throat. Carter, bless her heart, pulled the zat gun she'd had tucked into the back of her pants and fired. His body exploded in pain, but even as he collapsed, he felt a feeling of triumph.
- - - - - -
Daniel watched as Sam quickly wound three of the ties around Ariadne's wrists before she could recover from the zat blast. Jack was still curled up on his side, breathing heavily while his body jerked to the electrical currents flowing through him.
Daniel winced; he knew exactly how that felt. He'd experienced it enough times to make him thankful it wasn't him at the other end of the zat blast, for a change.
Then again, his body was so stiff and sore that he wasn't sure who'd gotten the better deal. In a few minutes Jack would be feeling the residual effects of the zat, and the stiffness of his body would have dissipated by tomorrow, at the latest. Whereas Daniel was pretty sure by tomorrow, he'd be lucky to get out of bed to take a piss without a crowbar to help him up.
Finally Jack recovered, rolled onto his back and swore, loudly. He rubbed at his throat, then swore again.
Cadwgan looked stunned, but he stepped forward to give Jack a hand up. "What the hell was that?"
"That, was a zat." Jack moved to lean unsteadily against the wall beside Daniel. Ariadne opened her eyes and they glowed brightly with anger once again.
"And that, is a Goa'uld," Jack said with a flourish as the snake sat up. "Ack," Jack warned as Ariadne stood, moving much more gracefully than Jack had. "Slow and easy, unless you want another taste of the zat, and then we can test to see exactly how much time has to elapse before the second shot kills."
Jack turned to Daniel and placed a hand behind Daniel's neck. "How you doing?"
"Better, now. For a few seconds there I wasn't so sure."
"Can't complain about our timing, that's for sure."
By now there was a scurry of activity in the hallway, and several more cops entered the room, along with Doctor Teague. As Ariadne was surrounded by policemen, the doctor came to stand beside Daniel.
"You do amaze me, Doctor Jackson." She looked at him carefully and with a hurried "Don't go anywhere," she left the room.
Before Daniel could think of a rejoinder, she was back with a wheelchair. "Here, sit down before you fall down."
The two steps he took to orient his butt with the chair felt like torture. For a moment he didn't think he'd be able to get into the chair, his body was just too stiff and sore. But with Sam and Jack holding onto his arms, Daniel managed to lower his weight into it with a grateful grunt.
"Was anyone badly hurt?" Daniel asked as she wheeled him outside the now-crowded room and into the hallway.
"The nurses were pretty shook up but other than bruises and strains, they'll be fine."
Jack moved near the doorway and Daniel felt a little self-conscious when he realized Jack had changed position to keep an eye on him.
Doctor Teague leaned down close to him. "How are you feeling? Other than being stiff and sore?"
"Shaky. Headache. Thirsty."
"Okay, those are normal side effects from the sedative you were given." She smiled at him, her eyes crinkling in pleasure despite the fatigue shadowing them. "Your last blood tests, by the way, showed that the gwynaern was breaking down. I bet you're head is a little clearer right now, too, huh?"
"Oh yeah. No more spiders." He glanced into the room, past the wall of policeman, and caught a glimpse of Ariadne's impassive face. "Except that one."
"How is he?"
Daniel started, not realizing Jack had moved out of the room and into the hallway. A moment later Sam and Cadwgan joined him.
"Better. The drug's wearing off. He's going to be stiff, not only from the bruises where the car hit him, but from the muscle strain of struggling against the restraints. But a few days' rest should have him as good as new." She straightened. "I can get you something to help ease the stiffness, if you'd like."
Daniel looked up at Jack, who turned to look at the policeman.
"Is Daniel free to go?"
Cadwgan nodded. "There's no doubt that Daniel was telling the truth about who killed Gwawl."
"So you believe me now?"
Cadwgan grinned. "Actually, Rheged woke up an hour ago and told us what happened."
"Well, I'm glad my word is worth a little something around here," Daniel said dryly. "You know, Doctor Teague, in celebration of that, I think I'll take that painkiller now."
As the drug the doctor gave Daniel began to take effect, he sat sleepily in the chair and listened to Jack and Officer Cadwgan volley back their ideas on what to do with Ariadne. They'd seated her on a stool in a corner of the room where they could keep an eye on her.
Cadwgan wanted to keep the Goa'uld here and make an attempt to free the host. A couple of doctors had joined the group and they added their assurances that their technology was different than Earth's and could most likely make the difference in making a successful separation of the two. Jack and Sam kept trying to explain that the Goa'uld would kill the host before allowing itself to be taken but the policeman and doctors were sure it could be done.
In the meantime, Ariadne simply sat there and watched them with a small, complacent smile on his face.
Daniel personally didn't think the Goa'uld should remain on the planet; these folks had never had experience with one and would most likely end up lowering their guard. And unlike most Goa'uld they'd met, this snake had already proved it was willing to play-act in order to get its way. Daniel shuddered when he thought what could have happened had Jack believed it for even a moment.
"How about we let Gairwyn and her people take care of Ariadne for a while?" Daniel finally said during a lull in the shouting match. He was surprised at the effort it took to speak.
"Who's this Gairwyn?" Cadwgan asked Daniel brusquely.
"Someone we met on another planet. Her people have a place that is secure enough to hold her for a while," Daniel added, deliberately being vague, not wanting to alert Ariadne of her possible fate.
"Right." Jack moved a step closer to Daniel and put a hand on the wheelchair's back handle. "That way there's no danger to your people and we can keep the snake in a secure area until we come to a solution on who's gonna try and free the host."
Daniel caught Sam grinning at Jack and he turned his head to look up at his friend, whose eyes were shining with the idea of pulling one over the Goa'uld.
"This place, we need to travel through the Stargate to get to it?"
"Yeah, and once there we'll need to walk a ways to get to it but it'll be worth the trouble in the long run."
"You're sure this place is secure and the Goa'uld won't harm the people living there."
"Very well. I'll make the arrangements to take us to the Stargate."
Officer Cadwgan must have had pretty highly-placed superiors because what felt like minutes later, they were all whisked into a van. The soft seat cushions felt good against Daniel's abused body and he leaned his head back, fighting sleep. Instead he watched Jack watch the Goa'uld. Sam was watching Cadwgan and the snake was ignoring everyone.
The van stopped and Daniel jerked awake, not remembering falling asleep. He waited while Jack and Cadwygan pulled Ariadne out of the van, then reached for the door handle. To his surprise, Sam opened the door before he could do so. She helped him out and he was grateful; his legs were wobbly, but at least he could move with minimal pain. He leaned against the van as the other police vehicles pulled up and the security force got out.
Daniel couldn't help laughing softly at the look on Ariadne's face as Teal'c walked past her without even glancing her way. She spat out a few more words.
"Not happy, eh?" Jack leaned beside Daniel, his hands on his P-90. He looked totally relaxed but Daniel knew from experience that Jack was alert and ready to move if Ariadne made a break for it.
"She wants Teal'c to bring her to Apophis so together, they can bring down Ra."
"Ah. A little too late on both counts, don'tcha think?"
"Guess we know now who stuck her in the jar all these centuries ago." Daniel was watching Teal'c as he hurried towards him, a huge grin spread on his face.
"DanielJackson. It is good to see you well. I trust you are recovered?" Teal'c placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder as he looked at him intently. The heat from Teal'c's hand was uncomfortably warm in the growing temperature of early morning, but the warmth of Teal'c's smile was reassuring.
"Thanks. If being recovered means seeing snakes rather than spiders, I guess I am." He smiled back and raised a hand to grasp Teal'c's bicep. He squeezed a moment and dropped his arm. He might be pain-free but damn, his limbs felt as heavy as lead.
"You are still unwell." Teal'c removed his hand but his gaze continued to hold Daniel's.
"Just tired, Teal'c."
"Doc gave him some muscle relaxant and pain killer combo so Daniel's a little woozy. Not to worry, he'll be in Fraiser's clutches in a few minutes." Jack grinned evilly and Daniel rolled his eyes.
"C'mon." Jack pushed away from the van when the police contingent had surrounded Ariadne. "Let's get this over with."
Jack and Sam led the way to the Stargate, with Daniel bringing up his tired rear. Teal'c kept pace with Daniel as he made his way up the slight incline to the Stargate. Funny how he hadn't noticed the slight hilly area before. Now his legs were screaming *mountain*, *mountain*. He headed for the DHD as everyone else stood off to the side of the 'gate.
"Carter, after we bring spidey lady here through the Stargate, you dial Earth and take Daniel home."
Sam nodded and moved closer to Daniel while Teal'c approached Ariadne. Daniel could hear her appealing to him once more to help her get to Apophis and he began punching the glyphs while she was distracted.
When the wormhole was established, Jack turned his back on the prisoner and walked to Officer Cadwgan. He held out his hand and the policeman shook it.
"Thanks for helping get Daniel off the hook."
"Believe me, after seeing how ruthless the Goa'uld can be, it didn't take long to convince my superiors that he was innocent."
Even though Daniel had half expected Ariadne to make a break for it, when it happened, it caught him by surprise. She broke free of her restraints and ran for the wormhole, disappearing through it before anyone could reach for their weapons.
Cadwgan yelled and began running for the Stargate but Jack quickly grabbed his arm. "Let her go."
"But she's escaping."
"Actually, no, she's going exactly where we wanted her to go."
With nobody following, the Stargate shut down several seconds later.
"Daniel, dial it up again."
Daniel did so, and Jack invited Cadwgan to step through with him with a tilt of his head and a raise of an eyebrow. "We should go leave word that there'll be a confused young man looking for a way home in a couple of days. Wanna come with?"
As the policeman moved forward to stand beside the fluctuating wormhole, Jack turned to the array of policeman who were watching them.
"I'll have him back in an hour, give or take thirty minutes." Jack waved to Daniel, Sam and Teal'c, then stepped through the wormhole while in the process of turning around.
When the wormhole winked out, before Daniel could attempt to do so, Sam began dialling again, this time for home.
- - - - - -
"Perhaps DanielJackson did not answer our hail because he is sleeping? Should we not allow him to sleep undisturbed if that is the case?"
Teal'c's voice was low and soft, but still carried into Daniel's bedroom.
"And we told Fraiser we'd check up on him and made sure he ate and that was taking care of himself." Jack's loud whisper was getting closer.
Even as Daniel slowly woke up, he knew it wasn't his friends' voices that had disturbed him. He lay still, curled on his side with the blankets pulled up to his chin and tried to recapture a few more moments of painless peace before his abused body decided to remind him it was no longer medicated. But even as Daniel lay there, the throbbing in his leg that had woken him forced him to shift around restlessly. And that woke up the bruises on his ribs and shoulder.
There was no position that was comfortable; lying down, sitting or standing for more than a few minutes at a time gave him no relief. The only thing that did was Janet's meds, and those knocked him out without fail.
"If he is sleeping, is he not taking care of himself?"
"If he's uncomfortable enough to be taking Fraiser's pills, he won't feel up to doing anything else. And that includes eating properly."
The voices were right outside his bedroom door and Daniel turned his head to look at the door at the same time Jack peered around the partly opened door.
"Hey, sleepyhead." Jack grinned and stepped inside. "See, I told you Daniel wasn't sleeping." He smacked Teal'c's arm as the Jaffa joined him inside the room.
"I apologize if we disturbed your rest." Teal'c appeared uncomfortable but Jack continued towards Daniel's bed, then flicked the edges of the drawn curtains open, allowing sunlight into the room.
"You didn't. It was time for me to get up anyways." He cleared his throat; his voice had been thick and raspy.
Daniel squinted up at Jack, who was standing with hands in his pocket, balancing back and forth on his feet. Teal'c, on the other hand, stood rock-still. Jack's movements acerbated the woozy feeling the drugs left him with so he turned his head away and stared at his ceiling. "What time is it?"
"Almost suppertime. You hungry? We got Greek and Mexican. Carter's picking up the Chinese."
With a grimace, Daniel rolled onto his side and then forced himself up into a sitting position once he pushed his legs over the edge of the bed. He sat there, curled forward, unable to quite straighten up at the moment. He couldn't believe how sore he still was. Janet had told him that other than his bruises from the car accident, the main discomfort he was experiencing was from his struggles against the restraints. If his adrenaline-laden body could break the straps that had held him down, it certainly would also have taxed his muscles to their limit. She had even admitted she was surprised he hadn't pulled or torn anything and wasn't suffering from more than a few mild strains.
"You okay? You need some pills?"
Daniel shook his head and slowly stood. His leg muscles wouldn't straighten either. He held onto the bedside table and took a shuffling step forward. Then Jack was there, holding onto his elbow while Daniel walked the stiffness out of his body. By the time he reached the bathroom door, he'd managed to straighten his back a little.
Jack let him go and he shut the door behind him. By the time he came out of the bathroom, his knees weren't quite so bent as his calves and shins had eased up. He squinted at Jack as his friend handed him his glasses. Right. At least it would save him the trouble of having to hobble back to his bed to get them.
He stepped into the kitchen area and spotted a couple of bags sitting on his kitchen table. As he passed by them on his way to the fridge, the smell of garlic teased his nostrils. He grabbed a bottle of water, able to finally move a little easier. Except for the twinges coming from his bruised leg, the rest of his body, although still stiff, at least had limbered enough for him to get around with only an embarrassing shuffle.
He took a sip of water and then raised an eyebrow at Jack when someone knocked at his door.
"It's open. Come on in," Jack called out.
"Hey everyone." Sam breezed into Daniel's apartment, arms laden with yet another large paper bag. She grinned widely when she spotted him. "Hi Daniel."
"Hail, Hail the gang's all here," Jack sing-songed as Sam, with her arms still full of food, hurried over to Daniel and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Let's eat." He reached for the nearest bag and ripped it open.
"Guys, you didn't have to do this." Daniel waved at the expanse of food that was coming out of the bags.
Jack looked at Daniel, two large cardboard containers in his hand, with which he pointed at Daniel's stove. "You gonna tell me you've been cooking meals for yourself?"
"Um, well, no." Daniel wouldn't admit that supper last night had been toast and peanut butter and this morning was a bowl of dry cereal because he'd run out of milk. He didn't remember eating anything else today, which might account to why his stomach had suddenly begun grumbling in earnest as more tantalizing scents came his way.
Sam laughed and pulled out a chair for him while Teal'c stepped to the table laden with plates and cutlery. Before long Daniel was enjoying the food in front of him, although at one point he had to laugh sheepishly when he realized he was eating as if he hadn't eaten all day.
"You guys bought way too much," Daniel said as he accepted seconds.
"Nope, the way it looks, we didn't get enough," Jack said with a laugh as he spooned more General Tao Chicken onto Daniel's plate. "Figured we'd get enough so you could enjoy leftovers for maybe a day or three."
"Thanks. But I'm sure I'll be feeling better by tomorrow. It *has* been three days." And Janet had said he'd be feeling worse before he'd feel better, and today he'd managed to get out of bed with less difficulty than yesterday so that was somewhat encouraging. "Any news out of Cimmeria?" he asked after a few minute of silence.
"If you mean has Drystan shown up yet, nope, haven't heard a thing. But on the other hand, a couple of the kids have gotten permission to go to Cimmeria and camp out near the exit to wait for him."
"Really?" Daniel's interest was piqued. The students had all shown interest in joining their people's offworld exploratory teams and they'd be tickled pink to have finally managed to do so. "Which ones?"
Jack looked blank for a moment, then pointed to his head. "The brother and sister with the red hair."
"Meical and Braith?"
"Yeah, them. And the one with the..." Jack pointed to his upper lip.
"Bradwr." The only one of the students sporting a moustache.
"He asked us to tell you he was sorry," Sam said. "He admitted to being the one who slipped you the drug and feels it's all his fault."
"Of course it's not his fault. It was Ariadne's fault." Daniel put his fork down, finally feeling full.
"He feels if they had been sober at the time, the others wouldn't have followed you down and none of this would have happened."
"I disagree." Jack's face tightened as he looked at Daniel. "The kid was wrong in slipping the drug in your drink. For that, he should have been punished. Instead they send him offworld and�"
"To meet his friend who was taken over by a Goa'uld. Maybe it's not punishment," Daniel said, "but at least this way he can offer some comfort to an innocent victim. Anyways, if there hadn't been a Goa'uld in storage, this wouldn't have happened in the first place. If anything, I'm the one to blame. I should have called in reinforcements or something."
"How?" Jack fiddled with a fortune cookie, breaking the brittle concoction into tiny shards. "Leave them alone to party while you trudged to the Stargate for backup? By then you'd already been drugged so it wouldn't have done anyone any good. The kids would probably have gone into the hole, one of them would have opened the jar and we might have had more deaths instead of just the one. You did the best you could, under the circumstances."
"I didn't do that great, considering I was running like hell to escape from an imaginary spider." Daniel shivered at the memory; despite knowing it wasn't real, the feelings the image of the spider coming to life still caused him occasional feelings of uneasiness, like a bad nightmare haunting him for a few days afterwards.
"Yeah, about that." Jack picked up another fortune cookie and Daniel plucked it out of his hands before Jack could shred that one too. "I'm sorry I didn't believe you right off the bat when you said you didn't kill the kid."
Daniel laughed. "Jack, I was so out of it I'm thankful you didn't lock me up in a padded room and throw away the key." Although a lot of what Daniel remembered was blurred and jumbled, what he did remember above all else was Jack's voice talking to him. "Thanks for sticking with me through all of that... shit." He couldn't hold Jack's gaze so he concentrated on breaking open the fortune cookie and grasped the small slip of paper holding his fortune.
"What's it say?" Jack pushed away the mess that had been his cookie and leaned close to read Daniel's fortune.
Daniel kept the paper folded in half and quoted something he'd read in a joke book. "Confucious say, man who drops watch in toilet have shitty time."
Sam snorted, then quickly put a hand to her face. "Confuscious say, man who run behind car get exhausted," she giggled.
"Man who run in front of car get tired," Daniel quickly replied.
"Man who sit on tack get point," Jack added.
"To prevent hangover, best stay drunk."
"Man who eats prunes get good run for money."
"Man with hand in pocket is having a ball."
"Passionate kiss like spider web � soon lead to undoing of fly." Daniel laughed as he looked at Teal'c, who was staring at them as if they'd lost their minds.
"I do not comprehend these sayings," Teal'c said as all three of them laughed. "My fortune does not state anything of these wise sayings."
"They're jokes, T," Jack laughed. "And those are just the tamer ones." He waved to the paper still in Daniel's hand. "What does it say?"
Daniel unfolded the bit of paper and before he could read it out loud, Jack's cell phone rang.
"Hold that fortune," Jack said, still laughing as he answered his phone. They all fell silent around the table, Daniel and Sam still smiling, Sam still trying to stifle an occasional giggle. They waited as Jack listened to the person at the other end of the line.
"Thank you, sir. I'll tell them." He hung up the phone and placed it on the table beside the cookie remains. "General Hammond says they got word from Cimmeria. Ariadne got fried, the kid's okay."
Some of the tension that Daniel hadn't even been aware he'd been holding onto finally seeped out of him at Jack's words. "Thanks," he told Jack, nervously playing with the small strip of paper.
"So, what's your fortune say?" Jack picked up one of the discarded shells of Daniel's fortune cookie and popped it into his mouth.
"Oh. It says, 'A true friend is someone who thinks you're a good egg even though he knows you're slightly cracked'."
"No it doesn't. Gimme that." Jack grabbed the paper from Daniel's hand.
"So, what does it say?" Sam leaned her elbows on the table, cupping her chin on the back of her fingers.
"What he said. A true friend is someone who thinks you're a good egg even though he knows you're slightly cracked." Jack turned the paper over a few times and looked at it in bewilderment.
Daniel shrugged his shoulders and batted his eyes playfully at Jack. "I never knew you thought of me as being cracked. Oh wait, that means I'm a true friend." He grinned at Jack. "Nice to know that." Ignoring Jack's glare, he turned to Teal'c. "What does yours say?"
"Help! I'm being held prisoner in a Chinese bakery!" Teal'c looked at his friends a moment, then glanced at the fortune once more. "Should we not attempt to render assistance? It appears to be a call for help."
Daniel snorted while Sam started giggling again. "It's a joke, Teal'c," Jack said as he picked up his own discarded fortune amidst the broken shards. "You love Chinese Food." Jack threw it back down onto the table. "Well, no duh. I wouldn't be eating it if I didn't like it."
"Now is the time to go ahead and pursue that love interest." Sam sighed. "If only I had a love interest to pursue, I'd be after him in a flash."
"Well at least you're not a cracked egg." Turning serious, Daniel looked at his friends over the meal's remains. "You think Drystan will be okay?"
"Yeah, he may not know it, but he's a cracked egg, too. His friends will help him get through whatever bad things the Goa'uld left in his psyche."
"I could go back and talk to him, sir. I do have some experience with Jolinar."
"Fine. We're scheduled to go back as soon as Danny-boy here is fit."
"We... we are?" Daniel stammered in surprise.
"Sure. Some big shindig on our behalf for having identified a problem that could have gotten out of hand. And for having helped identify a bit of their past, unsavoury as it might have been. But I swear, Daniel, you start seeing spiders again over there, egg or no egg, I'll crack you one myself.
A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.
Author's Comments: Many thanks to Jmas for trusting in me and publishing this story in her E-zine 'Ancients Gate VI - Legends'
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:
I have to give credit of the idea of human waste materials causing havoc on an alien planet to Dr. Stephenson and Hugh Gregory during a discussion panel at the Concept 2004 convention. Of course I lost track of the discussion as I evilly plotted SG-1 trying to fix the problem.
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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.