Daniel looked at the delicate glass bottle hovering menacingly before his face. The hand holding the amethyst-colored liquid was deceptively soft, the long nails well manicured and garishly painted. He shifted his gaze to the display screen affixed to the rock wall where the images of his teammates showed them placidly exploring the circular tunnel, yet unaware of his capture or that the entrance to the cave-like tunnel was now sealed off. When they moved apart from one another, the screen would split its view, maintaining the images of all three.
Crosshair triggers zipped every five seconds among the images of his friends, from one to the other, as if a sniper couldn�t quite decide which to go for first. Daniel couldn�t make out where they were in proximity to where he was being held; the tunnel walls were lined from floor to ceiling with raised symbols, none standing out enough to be a landmark.
"Choose," the Goa�uld repeated, its voice startlingly loud in the quiet of the small room. Daniel stared up at it just in time to see its eyes flash angrily as it became impatient with his wavering. Daniel was still feeling the effects of some kind of stun device, his body tingling numbly and barely obeying his commands, his mind still slow and sluggish. He�d managed to drag himself to a seated position, leaning weakly against the rock wall, directly across from the display screen.
He looked around desperately for another option. There was a small pool of water to his right, flowing into a hole in the stone floor in the far corner. And on his left, the only marking affixed to the wall, was the symbol Nebu, the Egyptian sign for gold.
"Very well." The bottle moved away as the Goa'uld raised its hand to touch a button on an ornate bracelet worn on its other arm. The crosshairs in the image began to blink as they moved quickly from Teal�c to Jack to Sam.
"No, wait!" Daniel yelled. He saw Jack stiffen in the display and look behind him as if he�d heard something. There was a slight frown on his face. His mouth moved, and Daniel saw his name form on his newfound friend�s lips.
"I�ll drink the poison." Daniel spoke softly as he reached a shaking hand for the bottle. The Goa�uld smiled as it brushed the bracelet�s button once more before handing Daniel the fragile container. The crosshairs went back to their former targeting pace, slowly moving from one to the other.
His numb fingers fumbled with the stopper, then finally managed to twist it off. Glaring at his enemy, Daniel raised the bottle to his lips. Taking a deep breath, he downed the contents, surprised at the sweet taste.
"You will begin to feel the poison�s effects soon," the rumbling voice informed him. "Remember well our instructions."
Daniel couldn�t bear to look at the well-coifed visage before him. The tall, slim, nearly effeminate Goa�uld was reminiscent of Ra, except that this host had long, blond curly hair, which reminded Daniel of someone he had once cared for in his embarrassing past.
Instead, Daniel looked at Jack, watching how his team leader turned back and began retracing his steps. SG-1 hadn�t been a team for more than three months, but Daniel had come to know Jack well enough to determine that the man was angry at the moment. And it didn't take too many guesses to figure out at whom. With a sinking heart, Daniel remembered Jack's last words to him to not get too far behind the team.
"You must not leave this room. Should you do so, we shall kill all of your comrades and ensure that you live, knowing you were the responsible for their demise."
Sam was frowning and gesturing at the outer wall behind her while talking to Teal�c, so Daniel figured she knew by now something was wrong.
"You shall not call for help; your companions must not hear or be aware of your discomfort. If you alert them in any way, we shall kill one slowly and leisurely before your eyes."
The inner wall of the tunnel was a fountain of sorts, the water coming down the rock like a velvety curtain, to fall silently into a small raised moat. The water wasn�t that deep, no more than a foot. There had been niches in the wall at various spots, making a tub of sorts large enough for a man to sit and bathe in. Daniel had been in the process of examining one such niche when the watery wall beside him had disappeared, and he�d looked up into the face of a glowing-eyed stranger.
"If this test ends before we are satisfied, we shall take pleasure in killing you all."
Yeah, that was what the Goa�uld had threatened him with earlier. It still didn�t make any sense to him. Daniel tried to focus his attention on Jack, but the Goa�uld�s words began to scare him now that his body was recovering from the effects of the weapon he'd been stunned with.
He needed to do this to save his friends, but at what cost? By now, Sam and Teal�c had joined Jack and they were going around the tunnel, presumably searching for Daniel. He wondered if they�d discovered that the exit was gone.
"Why?" Daniel asked, ignoring the wave of heat that suddenly burned through his body.
"We are curious. We have never met the Tau'ri, having chosen eons ago to live on this world, in isolation from our brothers and sisters. But should you prove to us that the rumours we have heard show the Tau�ri to be the strong, honourable creatures we believe they are, we shall provide you with the antidote and permit you all to leave unharmed."
"Why let us go? You�re going to sit back and watch me writhe in pain, so other than my entertaining you for the next few hours, why would you let us go afterwards, knowing we can just come right back here and destroy you?"
"As you destroyed Ra?" The Goa'uld smiled, and its eyes glowed. "You can try. But remember this. Life is a circle." The Goa�uld straightened and moved away from Daniel, its steps slow and sedate. "Another of our brethren shall rise and take the place of the conquered, as Apophis has done. And there shall come a time when yet another shall defeat him. It is our way, the only life we know. Perhaps your race will destroy us and our kind one day, if you have advanced as much as I believe you to have. But for now, simply know you have entered the mouth of the snake, and have a wearisome and perilous journey before you reach its tail."
The Goa'uld's words were both confusing and logical. But Daniel still couldn't understand why it was offering freedom. "So we just walk out when you�ve decided we�ve passed this test? You'll let us go knowing we might have the capability of eventually destroying your race?" An icy finger walked its way down his spine, eliciting a shiver.
"As is the circle of life, the servant will become the conqueror." The human looking enemy smiled, its face deceptively offering sympathy. "After the test, you will be free to leave, if you are able to decipher its secrets."
There were faint sounds outside, and Daniel could now make out the muffled voices of his team. He felt a strange sensation in his belly, not quite nausea, not quite pain. He kept his eyes on the display and ignored his growing discomfort. He could see Jack and Sam arguing and gesturing, and could almost make out the words. Teal'c was still examining the walls while occasionally glancing towards his friends.
Suddenly Jack's voice sounded in the small room, loud in its suddenness.
"Daniel, do you read me? Damnit, answer me if you're there."
It took him a few seconds before he realized Jack was talking into his radio. He fumbled awkwardly for the small device, almost dropping it in his haste. Quickly he turned it off before his jailer thought he might use it to contact Jack. Or that Jack and the others heard the reception through the stone walls. If he could hear them talking, then most likely they'd hear the radio's tinny sounds.
Heat began in the center of his abdomen, escalating into nausea and cramps. He drew his knees up to his chest and lowered his head to his knees for a moment.
"How long before�" Daniel began, raising his head, only to see that he was alone in the room. He looked around in confusion, trying to figure out where the Goa'uld had gone. For a moment he thought it had been a dream, until he realized he was still holding the empty bottle of poison in his hand. Before he could even think of getting up and looking for a hidden exit, his nausea intensified and he found himself rushing to the small watery hole in the floor.
He hadn't finished throwing up when he was suddenly scrambling to undo the button of his pants as cramps twisted his intestines.
- - - - - -
"We're just going around in circles!" Jack exclaimed as they came to the glowing marker Carter had placed on the floor thirty minutes ago. Not that it was any surprise, the walls were curved, a clear indication that they hadn't been traveling in a straight line.
But the walls all looked alike to him, with glowing pictures on one side and flowing water on the other. The only good thing was that most of the pictures gave off just enough illumination for them to explore without turning on their flashlights. The bad thing was that they had lost their exit, and their archaeologist.
"Indeed." Teal'c stood there staring at the chemical-induced glow lying on the ground. "And since we are now aware the area is finite, I suggest we search the tunnel again, this time for any traces of a hidden door, or of DanielJackson."
Jack let Carter and Teal'c precede him while he took up the rear. This time they made the circuit much more slowly, examining the walls carefully for any signs of a struggle or of a way out.
Where the hell was Daniel? He couldn't believe how a grown man could constantly disappear as fast as a three-year old in a crowded shopping mall. Even after all these months, Daniel still hadn't gotten the idea of danger ingrained into him, and would rush off at a tangent whenever something caught his eye.
For a moment earlier, Jack would have sworn he'd heard Daniel's voice. The others hadn't heard anything, they'd been too busy talking to one another. He'd called out Daniel's name and had listened intently, but there had been no response.
Jack could only blame himself for Daniel's disappearance, and that made him as angry at himself as at Daniel. He knew of his friend's tendencies to not pay attention to his surroundings; Jack should have been more alert and made sure Daniel never left their sight.
So what could have happened? Had Daniel left the cave and somehow hit a button that closed off the exit? Maybe Daniel was outside, trying to find a way back in.
They had only explored about twenty feet of corridor when Jack realized all three of them were focusing on the wall with the hieroglyphics. He turned his attention to the water cascading over the stone wall and peered inside the fountain-like tub. The water was crystal clear, the cascading flow merging softly with the liquid already inside it. He dipped his fingers into the fountain and found the temperature to be tepid, almost like bath water. The depth was hard to make out, though, and with his stomach lurching sickeningly, Jack realized it was more than deep enough for someone to drown in.
His anger suddenly drained from him, replaced by worry. He followed behind his team, alternating between looking in the water and keeping a sharp eye out behind them. There wasn't as much as a pebble to mar the appearance of the tub's bottom, and further exploration showed the sides to be as smooth as marble.
He wished they could move faster. If Daniel had somehow fallen into the water and drowned� he knew it would be too late to resuscitate him but still, he just wanted to make sure his friend wasn�t floating anywhere in this tunnel. Impatiently, he began to speed up.
"I'll make the circuit once and meet up with you." Carter turned to look up at him and then she looked at the water behind him. Her eyes widened and Jack realized she'd just now thought of the implications.
"You'll keep in touch?" she asked as he began to walk the perimeter quickly.
"Every five minutes." It wouldn't take him long to check the area, all he was looking for right now was confirmation that Daniel wasn't lying face down in here. Soon he began to jog.
He'd passed the area when he suddenly realized he'd spotted something. Coming to a stop, Jack turned and peered into the water. Something white had shone near the edge of the stone lip, catching his attention. Now he could see that it was a bone, the kind that belonged in a person's leg.
Pushing his jacket's sleeve as far as it would go, Jack stuck his hand into the water. It reached past his elbow before his fingers made contact with the grisly remains. He pulled it out, then reached for his radio.
"Carter, Teal'c, I found something."
"Daniel?" Carter asked.
"No, it's a bone of some kind."
"I think so. It's not slimy or anything, it looks like someone picked it up and just threw it into the water a few minutes ago."
"There might be something in the water that prevents any type of bacteria from growing. You said it was warm, maybe the temperature keeps any life forms from developing."
"What I'm more worried about is what happened to whoever this bone belonged to," Jack groused, cutting off the communication. He tossed the bone back into the water and resumed his circuit.
Thirty seconds later he came across the rest of the body, scattered over a short distance. With a grimace, Jack picked up the skull and placed it on the edge of the fountain. He'd have Carter look at it. He wasn't really sure, but he didn't think it was quite human. Something about the cheekbones and forehead�
He spotted one or two more bones a little farther on, and then nothing. He took up his slow jog, stopping twice more along the way. Once was to pluck a shiny brooch from the water, and another time to peer at another set of bones. These appeared older, more in a state of decay than the others. They were grey in color, and holes were apparent in them, as if they were decaying from the inside out.
He continued his trek until he came to their marker, indicating he'd gone around once. There had been no sign of Daniel, for which he was eternally grateful.
"I'm at the marker, I'm coming up to join you," Jack said into his radio as he continued to jog towards his team. He caught up with them soon, and joined them in their search for a hidden exit.
- - - - - -
Unable to stand the silence, Daniel had turned the radio back on and had plugged in his earpiece. His friends' occasional chatter as they kept in contact with one another helped keep him in focus as cramp after cramp assailed him.
He was lying on his side in a fetal position, arms tightly clasped around his abdomen, knees as high as they would go. He was sweating and shivering at the same time, his breath harsh in his ears as he panted with the pain.
He watched as Jack's blurry figure jogged back to join Sam and Teal'c, and he knew they had no idea what they were looking for. There were hundreds, if not thousands of pictures, and although most were familiar to Daniel, he knew they had to make up some kind of pattern.
He tried to distract himself by examining the markings on the wall as the display slowly followed his teammates. A few were glowing more brightly than others and Daniel couldn't understand why his teammates didn't pick up on that. He tried to concentrate on those. He squinted at the figures, blurry because he had removed his glasses earlier on and the effort of reaching over to put them on was too great.
There was Nebu, the same symbol as on the wall beside him which he was certain was the key to exit this room. It appeared a bright golden color. There was also Shen, the symbol for eternity, which looked like a small depiction of a Stargate. It glowed a bright blue. Two staffs, side by side, glowed red, and small golden circles at the bottom of each glowed white.
He knew he should know this particular pattern, and the fact that he couldn't come up with its significance told him he was really sick. There was also a glowing green frog, and he knew it was important� The Goa'uld had said something about snakes� mouth and tail. He was close, so close. He almost had the answer when a familiar cramp in his gut had him frantically pushing his partly pulled-up pants down the rest of the way.
- - - - - -
Jack felt like kicking the still glowing marker, evidence that they'd gone around and hadn't found a single sign of either Daniel or a way out. This time it had taken them three hours to do the circuit, and it was all for naught.
He slid down the wall and took a sip of water. Carter joined him and after a few seconds, so did Teal'c.
"Suggestions?" he asked as he scrounged through his vest pockets for a power bar. He peeled back the wrapper and took a bite. He wasn't really hungry, but it was past lunchtime and he knew they needed to eat something. He only ate a third of the bar, putting the rest away. Who knew how long they'd be stuck here, it might be a good idea to start rationing their food.
"I recognized many patterns," Teal'c said. "Perhaps if we attempted to duplicate them."
"Of the Goa'uld. Several of the symbols combined represent their names."
Jack shrugged. Teal'c stood up and pressed what looked like a standing bird.
"Horus," Teal'c said.
Teal'c pressed a similar sign that had a square surrounding the bird.
Then Teal'c pressed four symbols in succession, one of which definitely looked like a snake.
"Aren't there more symbols that are associated with those gods?" Jack asked. He remembered Daniel mentioning it once or twice. Most of what Daniel said usually went over Jack's head because there was just so much information Daniel tried to impart all at once. But Jack did enjoy listening to Daniel's enthusiasm about his work, the way his voice rose and fell as he warmed to his subject. Jack wondered if the same fervor flavored his words when he spoke about jets.
"Indeed. The sun disk is associated with either Horus, Ra, or Amun-Re." Teal'c pointed to a round symbol with a small dot in the center. "As it does Khepri and Khnum."
"Maybe we need to press everything that's associated with just one of the gods," Carter suggested.
"Right." Jack eyed the hundreds of symbols before them. Sure they seemed to repeat, but getting the right combination was just as complicated as trying out the various glyphs on the Stargate. It was almost as bad as looking for a needle in a haystack.
Teal'c began pressing symbols, and Jack settled back to make himself comfortable against the wall. It looked like it was going to be a long wait.
- - - - - -
Daniel's stomach was burning and he rued the several sips of water he'd swallowed earlier. The liquid had come back up with a vengeance, filling his mouth with bile and blood. He hadn't made it to the hole this time, lacking the energy and coordination, the pain leeching his strength from him.
He'd soiled himself several times now, his body no longer under his control. He simply lay in his own filth, lacking the energy to even wash himself. He prayed for unconsciousness as he writhed as cramps assailed him.
He wished the Goa'uld had at least left his backpack with him. He had morphine in his med kit� which was probably why the pack had been taken away in the first place. At this point Daniel was desperate for anything to stop the pain, the cramps, the fever� Even a few hours of relief would feel like heaven. He bit back a moan as his body expelled more liquid from his bowels.
- - - - - -
Unable to stand the waiting, Jack finally stood up and slapped the dust from the seat of his pants. Teal'c had been punching buttons for several hours now, the man working methodically and tirelessly. Jack felt helpless, unable to either find a way out, or his missing team member. He needed to work some of this restless energy off.
"Forgive me if I'm wrong," Jack started, "but what if the exit's over that way," he pointed behind him down the corridor, "and Teal'c's punching buttons galore without our knowing the door even opened."
Both Carter and Teal'c looked at him, eyebrows raised.
"So I'm just gonna go take a walk around the block and see if anything's changed." Perfect excuse to at least *do* something, even though he knew he'd probably not find anything.
"I'll go this way," Carter offered, pointing in the opposite direction.
"Sure," Jack agreed. "Just keep in touch and keep an eye out." He really didn't like splitting the team up, especially in view of the fact that Daniel was gone, but then, Daniel wasn't a soldier and he was never prepared for the unexpected. He had full confidence in Carter, she was just as cautious as Jack, and as good a shot as he was.
He started down the corridor, hoping to catch sight of daylight.
- - - - - -
"Carter, any luck?"
Jack's voice sounded muffled and Daniel batted at his ear to adjust the earpiece. When his fingers found nothing, he remembered belatedly that the radio's earphone had fallen out of his ear a long time ago and he hadn't bothered to put it back.
Sam's tinny reply came to him through the rock walls and Daniel realized that Jack was very close to where Daniel was held prisoner.
His stomach convulsed painfully and Daniel, for the first time in hours, fought with all his strength to force his stomach to behave. Jack was sure to hear, and then the Goa'uld would kill Jack. The pain increased, and he knew he wouldn't be able to hold it back.
His throat was raw due to the continued vomiting. His neck and shoulders ached with the effort of dry heaving. He was so weak he could barely lift his head, thankfully he was lying on his side and didn't have to worry about choking on his own vomit.
He tried to listen over the rushing sound of blood in his ears, unable to make out if Jack had moved on or not. He tried to hold back as long as he could until his body took over and bright red blood spewed out of his mouth.
- - - - - -
Jack froze, the sound was familiar and unexpected. It was something he'd heard many times before, in bathrooms of cheap bars, in the prison camps of Iraq, in his own home when someone had gotten sick. It was a sound that usually made his own stomach tighten in sympathy, the tough Colonel holding back his own urge to puke when he heard someone else doing it.
The retching repeated itself, followed by a low moan.
Jack took a couple of steps back, convinced the noise had come from behind the water-covered wall.
"Daniel?" he called softly as he stood listening for an answer. Jack looked up at the cascading water, convinced now there was a hidden door behind the waterfall. He stepped closer, following the stream of flowing water. Out of habit he looked into the tub and his mouth dropped open in surprise.
There, at the bottom, was a pair of glasses.
Immediately he plunged his hand into the water and picked the glasses up. Ignoring his dripping sleeve jacket, he keyed his radio.
"I've found Daniel's glasses." Jack held up the spectacles as he spoke.
"I'm on my way," Carter replied immediately. Teal'c's "As am I" came in right behind.
"Daniel!" Jack bellowed. He thought he heard a low moan again, and he slapped the wall in front of him, water spraying his face and chest.
"Daniel, where the hell are you!"
He pocketed the glasses and began examining the area before him carefully. After a few seconds, something caught his eye. There, behind the pouring water, was a symbol. Jack reached out and put his hand over the water to interrupt the flow, revealing a picture of a frog.
He pressed the button and the stone fountain before him slid soundlessly into the floor while stone ledges rose to stop the water's flow from pooling onto the floor. The water coming from above stopped as the wall slid aside, revealing a door.
A familiar stench assailed Jack� one of sickness and death. With trepidation, Jack stepped over the lowered pool of water and entered.
On the floor was a form, huddled into a fetal position. Oh God. Daniel! He rushed over to his friend.
"Daniel," Jack said as he ignored the filth and vomit his friend was lying in and reached for Daniel's shoulder. To his surprise, Daniel jerked and pulled away from Jack.
"No, no," Daniel muttered, his voice hoarse and cracking. "Stay away. He'll kill you if he knows."
"It's all right. You're safe now, I've found you." Jack reached a hand and wiped a smear of blood from Daniel's chin. He then noticed how Daniel's jacket and tee-shirt were soaked with blood. Oh shit, he was puking blood?
"No, you can't." Daniel batted Jack's hand away. He'd begun shaking, and Jack realized Daniel was using up the last of his strength fighting him. "You can't find me."
"Daniel, stay still. It's all right." Jack looked around, trying to see if there was something, anything that he could use to help Daniel. There was nothing in the small room except a tiny glass bottle near a small pool of water, and Daniel's pack by the door. Vomit and body fluids surrounded Daniel, the trail of filth leading to the water's edge, where Daniel had obviously been using it as a toilet.
"He doesn't want you to find me," Daniel whispered, giving up the fight and huddling into himself. "I have to stay here. You can't be here, you can't find me."
"Who? Who doesn't want me to find you? Who did this?"
"He'll kill you, don't you understand? If you find me, he'll�Aggh!"
Daniel shuddered and curled more tightly onto himself, and Jack realized his friend was in terrible pain. He kept his hand on Daniel's shoulder, waiting for the cramps to ease, letting him know that he was there for him.
Running footsteps warned him of Carter's approach. She stopped at the door, then quickly jumped the watery barrier and came to kneel beside them.
"Help me get him out of here," Jack said when Daniel seemed to be over the worst of the spasm. Carter's face was white and Jack noted she was breathing through her mouth. He didn�t blame her; the smell in the small closed-in room was bad.
They both lifted Daniel onto his feet and Jack took the brunt of Daniel�s weight when his legs gave out. Daniel�s head lolled forward, and Jack was pretty sure he�d passed out, or come close to it.
Teal'c's heavier tread echoed down the corridor and by the time they half dragged, half carried Daniel to the doorway, Teal'c was there to help them maneuver him over the water. They laid him down on his side just outside the exit while Carter ran back inside to retrieve Daniel's pack.
"Sir," Carter said as she knelt beside them. "What happened to him?"
"I don't know," Jack answered as Daniel stirred.
"Gould� poison." Daniel's reply was weak as he turned to look at Jack with pain-filled eyes. Daniel was shaking, his breathing haggard and labored.
Carter stiffened, her M16 suddenly in her hands as she looked around for the enemy. Teal'c stood up and moved several feet away, ready to cover them with his staff weapon.
"You're saying a Gould poisoned you?" Jack remained close to Daniel, although he couldn't help looking up and down the corridor himself, half expecting their enemy to make himself known now that they'd rescued their missing fourth.
Daniel nodded. "Drank poison� said he'd kill you� if you found me."
"You drank poison!" Jack exclaimed.
"No choice� kill you�"
"Yeah, you said that already." Damn it. Jack knew Daniel well enough by now that he'd sacrifice his own life willingly for his friends. The snake must really have left him no choice. But then a thought hit him. "Then why did the Gould, or someone, leave your glasses in plain view for me to find?"
"No� took glasses off� in room."
"Nuh huh, they were in the fountain right by the door. I checked the whole length of it earlier. NO glasses." Jack took his jacket off and placed it beneath Daniel�s head, using the wet sleeve to clean smeared blood from Daniel�s chin and neck.
Carter cautiously stepped one foot over the pool into the still-open doorway, peering inside, then hopped back out into the tunnel. "There aren't any glasses in there."
"So the snake put them here because it wanted us to find Daniel. Why?"
"� Not sure� to see� how much pain� I can stand?"
"I think you've already got that won hands down," Jack said softly as his friend shuddered, pressing his face into Jack's jacket as the pain escalated. He felt so helpless, there was nothing they could do, except try and ease his pain and make him comfortable.
"Daniel, we can give you some morphine� it'll help with the pain," Carter said.
Daniel nodded and Jack grabbed the nearest pack. He opened it up and reached inside. Impatiently, he pulled out journals and textbooks, dumping them on the ground as he searched for the medication. A small bottle similar to the empty one he'd seen in the room rolled noisily onto the stone floor. It held a vivid yellow liquid, which glinted brightly in the dim light.
Daniel had raised his head at the sound, and he stared at the bottle, which was still turning slowly as its momentum slackened.
"Jack," Daniel whispered. "I think I need that."
"What is it?" Jack finally found the med kit and handed it to Carter. Teal'c bent down and picked the tiny bottle up and held it up in the air, peering at the liquid.
"I think it's the antidote," Daniel answered.
Teal'c pulled the glass top off and sniffed at the contents. "It is odorless."
"It might be more poison," Carter replied, the pre-filled syringe in her hand, ready to administer.
"It could make you sicker," Jack added.
"In that case, I'll be out of my misery faster. Please, Jack�"
Jack understood the unspoken words� 'I can't take much more of this'.
"I don't know if you should drink anything," Carter said. "You've been vomiting blood."
Jack looked at Daniel, then at the rest of his team, unsure of what to do. The bit of energy Daniel seemed to have gained upon viewing the bottle seemed to have drained from him, leaving him limp and exhausted.
"If a Goa'uld has administered a poison, O'Neill, there is little hope he would provide an antidote except for specific reasons known only to it. CaptainCarter is right. He may be attempting to trick us, a ruse for us to administer more poison without our knowledge."
"No. 'S'a test� was testing me." Daniel took a deep breath and seemed to revive a little. "Threatened to kill you, had laser sights or something on you guys. Maybe I passed, why else would he put the bottle in your pack?"
"It was in your pack, Daniel." Jack made his decision and waggled his fingers at Teal'c for the bottle. "Carter brought it out of the room you'd been held prisoner in."
"My pack wasn't with me," Daniel said softly as Jack accepted the small container and lifted Daniel's head up slightly. "I'd have used the morphine."
Jack gently squeezed Daniel's nape in understanding before tipping the yellow liquid into Daniel's mouth. There wasn't much, really, just two swallows. Daniel looked bad and Jack hoped that if this truly were an antidote, he'd be able to keep it down.
He pulled Daniel's unbuttoned and filthy pants down over his hip to offer Carter some flesh to inject the morphine into. "Don't give him enough to knock him out," he warned as Daniel lay quietly, panting through his mouth.
She shook her head as she administered the drug. "He's so weak that an Aspirin would probably sedate him."
He began pulling up the pants when he realized Daniel had to be uncomfortable with the filth.
"I have an idea." Jack took his boots and socks off, then stood to unbutton his pants. As he pulled them down over his hips, he looked up and saw Carter staring at him as if he'd lost his mind. Suddenly she looked at the basin behind him and her eyes widened in understanding. She went to Daniel and began removing his boots.
"His socks are dirty�" she started.
"Leave them, we'll rinse everything in the water."
Jack didn't bother removing his tee-shirt as it was stained with blood, vomit and other unmentionables.
"Teal'c, give me a hand."
Together, the two men grabbed Daniel's feet and shoulders and raised him over the edge of the tub. Carter stood nearby, keeping watch.
"Jack, what?" Daniel asked, coming more alert now as they lowered him, fully dressed, into the tepid water. Daniel slipped as he struggled on the marble-smooth floor and would have gone under had Teal'c not been supporting him.
"I hate to say this, but you need a bath," Jack teased as he carefully stepped into the basin behind Daniel and pulled him back along his chest.
"Sorry," Daniel muttered, trying to move away from Jack.
But Jack held on tightly and pulled Daniel back. "Stay put," he ordered.
"No, I can�" Daniel's hand came up to rub at his tee-shirt and Jack grabbed it, pulling it back down beside him.
"Daniel, just relax, willya? Let the water do the work for now."
Daniel relaxed but a moment later, he tensed as pain hit him and he pulled his legs up, trying to curl onto his side. Jack let Daniel shift, making sure to hold his head up out of the water. He rubbed Daniel's arm, waiting for the cramp to pass.
Jack noted that there was a current in the water, effectively pushing the filth away from them. Daniel shivered, and Jack asked, "Cold?"
"No," Daniel answered. "Feels good."
Carefully, so not to jar Daniel, he began working the blood and vomit soaked jacket off his friend.
"The antidote must be working," Daniel mumbled as Jack pushed Daniel forward to ease the jacket away from Daniel's back. He threw the item of clothing forward, where Teal'c grabbed it and began to rinse it out.
"Why'd you say that?" He grabbed hold of the tee-shirt and began to pull it up.
"I haven't�" Daniel paused as Jack passed the soaked shirt over his head. "I haven't puked it up yet."
Jack's stomach clenched, and he paused, his hands on Daniel's pants. He took a moment to pray that what he'd just given Daniel *was* a remedy to the poison, and that Daniel's behaving stomach was not just a side effect of the morphine.
The pants were a little more difficult to remove, partly because the painkiller was kicking in and Daniel was half asleep in Jack's arms. He was more of a dead weight and no help at all.
"Teal'c, when you're done with those, get Daniel's change of clothes from his pack, and something to use as a towel."
"I'll get those," Carter offered as she went to rifle through Daniel's pack.
"So, any idea who the snake was? Any clue that might help us get the hell out of this tunnel?" Jack eyed Daniel's filthy underwear and with a grimace, pulled those down, too.
"Yeah." Daniel straightened his legs when the last piece of clothing had been removed. "� figured it out." His body began to relax from his doubled-over position, his cheek resting against Jack's shoulder.
Jack waited for Daniel to continue, then shook him when he realized Daniel's eyes had closed.
"Daniel, the Gould?"
"Oh. Right." Daniel tried to sit up, then fell back against Jack again. "Sorry." He paused a moment, then spoke sleepily. "It was� Heh."
Daniel's head fell limply against his shoulder, his head flopping backwards in a way that Jack knew Daniel had actually lost consciousness, the painkiller and the poison's effects finally taking a toll.
"Teal'c, he's out. Give me a hand here, willya?" He adjusted Daniel's head so his position didn't strain his neck.
Teal'c had gone to help Carter with the packs and he returned with an emergency blanket in hand, pants and two tee-shirts. They got Daniel out of the tub and placed him on the blanket and toweled him dry with what was obviously Teal'c and Carter's spare shirts.
"DanielJackson did not have spare pants." Teal'c laid out a large sized pair of fatigues along with a dry tee-shirt. Foregoing putting underwear on Daniel, they slid Teal'c's pants onto him, his still-damp skin making the material stick to his skin.
Carter had returned to stand guard, trying to both keep an eye out for danger and make sure he and Teal'c didn't need help. Jack figured, if it were anybody but Carter, she'd be using the excuse of glancing over at Daniel to gawk at his naked body rather than expressing genuine worry.
Jack used the damp tee-shirts to dry off after removing his sopping one, and quickly pulled his pants and spare shirt on. They then pulled Daniel into a seated position where Daniel was leaning forward against Jack's chest while Teal'c maneuvered the clingy tee-shirt onto him. Daniel roused slightly and nestled his face against Jack. He felt Daniel shiver slightly and was suddenly worried that his friend might be in a position to catch a chill.
Jack shuffled backwards until he was leaning against the fountain's edge, and pulled Daniel until he was half lying on top of him, sharing his body warmth. Teal'c returned with a dry blanket and covered them both with it.
"Thanks," Jack said as Daniel sighed in his sleep.
- - - - - -
His head was fuzzy, he was cold, there was an awful taste in his mouth. He recalled incredible pain and though he wasn't hurting now, his body was stiff. After a few moments, he realized he was lying on a stone floor. He wondered where his friends were and out of habit, opened his mouth to call for Jack, both to make sure Jack was all right and that everything was under control. He had taken in a breath to utter Jack's name when suddenly he remembered.
Quiet, he needed to be quiet.
"DanielJackson, you are awake?"
No! Nononono. He turned as quickly as his weak body would allow him, staring at Teal'c with growing panic.
"Do not be alarmed. You are safe." Teal'c placed a hand on his shoulder, holding him still. "The antidote appears to be working, You are recovering."
Antidote? Daniel looked around and realized he wasn't a prisoner in the small room anymore. He remembered Jack finding him and being brought out into the corridor. The bath� oh God, how embarrassing! He remembered how he'd been unable to control his body and Jack and his friends had seen him like that.
Thirst made itself known to him, his mouth thick and pasty. In the end, he fought his remembered embarrassment and asked for a drink.
"Water?" His voice came out as a rasp, mouthing the word more than actually saying it. Teal'c removed his canteen from its clip on his belt and held it to Daniel's mouth, raising his head with his other hand. He was only given a few swallows, barely enough to slake his thirst. But it did wet his mouth and throat.
It was then that he noticed Jack and Sam were missing. Teal'c must have read his face because he quickly spoke up.
"They are checking the perimeter. The exit is hidden from us and O'Neill is afraid that should we accidentally key in the correct sequence, we would not even know if the exit had reappeared."
"Oh. Right." Daniel forced himself up on shaky arms. Teal'c was there to help him and made sure he was securely propped up against the edge of the fountain. Daniel looked at the symbol-covered wall behind Teal'c, squinting slightly without his glasses. "It wouldn't be that easy. We need to find the proper set of symbols, and I don't see them here."
"You know the sequence?"
Daniel wasn't sure if Teal'c's voice held a hint of sarcasm. It was hard to tell with Teal'c, he always held his emotions in check, relaxing occasionally only in Jack's presence. Daniel and Teal'c had gotten off to a rocky start at first, especially when Daniel had discovered Teal'c had been responsible for his wife's abduction and subsequent possession by a Goa'uld. But they'd made their peace in their second mission, and things had been easier between them since.
"Yeah." Daniel shivered, and he realized he was feverish. He took hold of the blanket and held it close to keep the heat against his body. Teal'c removed his jacket and placed it over Daniel's shoulders. The kindness caused a prickling in Daniel's eyes, and he cursed himself for his body's weakness while at the same time wondering if he was so dehydrated that he had no more tears left.
"Is there more water?" He had no idea how long they'd been here and Jack surely would have ordered them to start rationing by now.
"There is. CaptainCarter believes the water in the fountain to be harmless, but there still remains a sufficient supply which we know to be safe before we are forced to drink from it. Although I am reluctant to give you too much liquid at this point. I do not wish to cause you further discomfort."
Daniel's stomach was behaving. Actually, it wasn't even burning anymore, nor was his abdomen.
"I don't think I'll throw up over you, if that's what you're worried about." Daniel's attempt at a joke fell flat when Teal'c didn't even raise an eyebrow. "My stomach's feeling better. Honest," he added when Teal'c didn't budge.
To his relief, Teal'c offered him the canteen again and this time Daniel shakily helped guide it to his mouth. He knew better than to gulp the water down, no matter how badly he wanted to. Years of working in the desert had taught him that lesson well.
"You said you knew the identity of this Goa'uld?" Teal'c capped the canteen and put it down near Daniel, and he realized that Teal'c trusted him not to make an ass of himself and gulp the remainder of the water down in one shot.
"Have you ever heard of Heh?"
"Indeed. Heh and Hehet together are the gods of infinity."
"And they're both members of the Ogdoad, existing before the primal world." Daniel cleared his throat, talking was an effort, his voice coming out hoarse and low.
"They are legendary. The eight members of the Ogdoad are the oldest Goa'uld known to us. They have not been seen or heard of in millennia, except for�"
"Amaunet." Saying the name of the monster who had taken over his wife's body sent waves of heat coursing through his body. He felt himself stiffen in anger. Trying to hide his emotions, he reached for the canteen. But his fingers were clumsy and he simply managed to cause it to roll out of his reach.
Teal'c leaned forward and caught the canteen, handing it back to Daniel.
"Thanks." Daniel took a few small sips, and put it back down. The silence between them was awkward, and Daniel thought furiously of a way to break it. He looked at the wall, remembering they needed to get out of here.
"We need to find the symbols of Heh; a man sitting on a golden stool, holding two palm ribs or staffs, with rings attached at the bottom."
Teal'c inclined his head and reached for his radio. "O'Neill." He waited until Jack's voice came through in answer. "DanielJackson suggests you search for the sign of the god Heh." As he went on to describe the symbols needed, Daniel could see Teal'c looking over the walls in the immediate area. Sam joined the conversation, and he wished he could get up and help them search for a way out.
"How's Daniel doing?" Daniel could hear the concern in Jack's voice even through the tinny-sounding transmission.
"Tell him I'm fine." Actually he felt exhausted. He didn't think he'd be able to walk out of here on his own. Hell, he wasn't even sure if he could sit up for much longer.
"He is weak, but much recovered. It appears that the antidote was effective."
"Teal'c, if he's awake, try and give him some water. He's dehydrated and needs to drink as much as he can." Daniel smiled at Sam's words, and Teal'c's reply that he was one step ahead of her. To show his friend that he was obeying, he picked up the water container and sipped some more from it.
His head began to feel heavy and suddenly he had to lie down. He let himself slide along the wall until his back was leaning against it. Teal'c grabbed a piece of cloth on the ground beside him and had it under Daniel's head before it touched the stone floor. It took him a few seconds until he realized it must be either Sam or Jack's jacket, and that he'd been using it earlier as a pillow.
Teal'c had said that the antidote had worked� at least it had stopped the cramps and other less pleasant symptoms. Then again, except for the water he'd just drunk, there was nothing left in his body for it to expel. But he was still exhausted and feverish. He hoped they were just lingering effects of the poison, soon to disappear once he'd gotten a little bit more rest.
He hadn't realized he'd dozed until Jack's voice broke the silence.
Daniel blinked sleepily, needing a few seconds to realize what it was that Jack had found.
"But none of the symbols light up or do anything when I press on them."
"Tell Jack�" Daniel coughed to clear his throat. "Tell Jack that he needs to find an 'on' switch of some kind. Probably something that symbolizes Heh. A frog or�"
"I found it also." Sam's voice reflected her excitement.
"O'Neill discovered this during his search for you," Teal'c said as he walked to the fountain near Daniel's feet. He thrust his hand into the cascading water, revealing the glowing symbol of a frog beneath.
"Mine doesn't do anything either," Sam reported.
"That must be it." Daniel struggled to sit once again, then settled for raising himself on his elbows.
"O'Neill has reported many symbols like these hidden in the water. But they will not activate."
"If that was used to open the door to that room� this place looks enormous, they probably all open up into Heh's palace, but he's locked all the doors. Except, he said he'd let us out so we just have to find the right doorknob." He felt excitement pour over him, causing his heart to pound and throb in his temple.
"That is if this Goa'uld holds to his promise."
Teal'c's words caused his stomach to cramp with dread and for a second Daniel thought he was going to be sick. The moment passed, and he relaxed with relief.
"We just have to hope he didn't lie. What we need to look for is something associated with Heh� the frog is his symbol. Or a Shen." At Teal'c's look of confusion, Daniel explained. "It looks like a Stargate. It's the symbol of infinity."
Teal'c reached for his radio as Daniel lay down again. They listened in disappointment when their teammates stated that none of the hidden symbols in the immediate area were what they were looking for.
"We'll keep looking. If we found two of them, then there are sure to be more." Daniel smiled at Jack's words, envisaging his friend walking determinedly down the corridor. He closed his eyes and wondered how far Jack and Sam were from where he and Teal'c were.
- - - - - -
"Hey, wake up."
Someone was shaking his shoulder and Daniel rolled over to see Jack kneeling over him.
"What?" It took him a few seconds to get his mind working, but Jack's words finished the job.
"Carter found the exit. Come on, we're getting the hell out of here."
Jack helped Daniel sit up, then waited patiently when Daniel grabbed Jack's arm as a dizzy spell hit him.
"I'm good," Daniel said, long before the world stopped tilting sideways. Jack stared hard at him and Daniel met his gaze.
"Here, wouldn't want you to catch a draft." Jack leaned over and looped a belt through Daniel's pants. It was only then that Daniel realized he was wearing someone else's clothes. The pants were several sizes too large, so they had to belong to Teal'c. Jack tightened the belt, and then grabbed two of their packs while Teal'c took the remaining two. "Maybe this will teach you to bring a spare set of clothes next time." Jack held Teal'c's jacket open and Daniel slid his arms into its sleeves.
Both men grabbed Daniel by the arms and pulled him up onto his feet. This time Daniel's knees buckled as everything spun. They kept their grip, supporting him until he was finally able to lift his head and take his own weight.
After several shuffling steps, Daniel was already out of breath. Sweat poured down his body and his legs shook. He resolutely put one foot in front of the other, determined to walk out of this prison. If Heh was watching, let him see that Daniel Jackson was one stubborn son of a bitch.
He'd done as the Goa'uld had asked, he'd kept quiet and hadn't called out to his friends for help. He'd suffered in silence, both with the pain and humiliation of his illness. He'd had no choice afterwards but to let his teammates help him clean up, embarrassing as it had been, but he'd be damned if he'd let that Goa'uld get the upper hand.
His thoughts lent him strength, and so Daniel continued to walk, one step at a time.
So Heh had heard of the Tau'ri, had he? Then he'd better watch carefully, because Earth was a force to be reckoned with. They'd stumbled onto Ra, had thought he'd been the only one of his kind. That was stupid, Daniel thought in hindsight. He, of all people, should have deduced that there were more of them out there.
But now Earth knew, and they were prepared. SG-1 was here, now, and if Heh had tried to trick Daniel into drinking the poison, it would be the only mistake Daniel would allow himself to make. But Daniel couldn't be sure if the threat to kill his friends had been a ruse or not. Even now, the hair on Daniel's neck prickled and rose as he pictured imaginary lasers targeting his back.
Finally, there was light up ahead, and he could see Sam's silhouette highlighted by the sun streaming inside. She moved away from the exit, and Daniel forced himself to walk faster. He was panting now, sweat soaking his clothes, precious fluids he knew he didn't have to spare but at the moment, he couldn't care less. He wanted out, and he wanted out now.
And they were through the stone doors. Daniel blinked in the bright sunlight, taking one, two, three steps, knowing they were finally free. Jack finally brought them to a stop a good distance from the cave, and Daniel leaned heavily against his friend, trying to get his breathing back under control.
"Let's take a breather," Jack said softly as he urged Daniel down. He nodded and let Jack and Teal'c ease his way to the ground. He felt arms holding him up and he allowed himself to relax against someone. "Don't go to sleep," Jack said near his ear. "We're gonna move in a few minutes." Daniel nodded, knowing that if he let himself go right now, he'd probably sleep round the clock.
"Here." He felt a nudge against his shoulder and opened his eyes, not even realizing that he'd closed them. He looked down and saw a water bottle. He followed the arm attached to the bottle and looked up into Sam's worried gaze.
"I'm just tired," he said in way of explanation as he took the bottle from her. After nearly dropping it, she took hold of it and guided it to his mouth. It was nearly empty and he drained it, wishing there was more.
Sam stuffed the empty canteen into a packsack, and in the process, knocked the small bottle that had held the poison's antidote out of the pack. It fell to the ground with a soft tinkle.
"God damned snakes," Jack swore. "Let's get going." He pulled away from Daniel, picked up the bottle and threw it towards the cave's opening. Expecting to hear glass shattering, Daniel was shocked to hear instead the sound of something exploding. He looked up just in time to see four beams of light wink off in the cave as molten pieces of glass flew every which way.
Daniel looked at his friends, seeing the shocked expressions on all their faces. They hadn't believed the threat, at least, not until now. Silently, they gathered their gear and without another word, helped Daniel up and started for the Stargate.
- - - - - -
"This is the third time in as many months that Daniel Jackson has returned from a mission in sorry shape. Are you absolutely certain, Colonel, that he might not be a little too reckless for the job?"
Jack stopped tapping his fingers against the briefing room table, clasped them together and looked up to meet General Hammond's gaze. He'd known this was coming when the General had asked Jack to stay behind after their briefing.
"No, Sir. In every mission, including this one to P3S-336, Daniel performed above and beyond what was expected of him. He acted admirably and even managed to save our sorry asses." Jack smiled. "He may be a civilian, Sir, but he's tougher than a lot of marines I know."
Hammond smiled. "Good. I hope that this predilection to injury isn't something that's going to plague our good Doctor. Thank you, Colonel. That'll be all."
- - - - - -
Carter and Teal'c were standing near the empty spot where Daniel's bed had been earlier, talking with Fraiser. He shoved his hands into his pocket, squared his shoulders back and walked over to join them. A little concerned that Daniel wasn't back from his series of tests yet while Jack and his team had been debriefing General Hammond, Jack tried to quell the small knot of worry that had begun to burn in the middle of his stomach, making his last meal feel like a lead ball.
"Problem?" he asked when they all turned to watch him approach.
"No, Sir, not at all." Fraiser smiled at him, then turned to include Carter and Teal'c. "I was just saying that Doctor Warner has finished with Daniel and they should be bringing him back in a few minutes. So far, all the preliminary results show few signs of damage from the poison. His throat is irritated, that's to be expected from all the vomiting. His stomach is slightly swollen and inflamed, but there's no sign of lesions or bleeding. His intestines look good, and even though he was dehydrated when you got him home, he's responding well to treatment. He's still feverish, but that's probably due to the dehydration and not an infection, but we are keeping an eye on it."
Jack felt the small knot begin to relax and his stomach started feeling a little more normal. Still, he wasn't quite convinced things could be this easy, so he turned to watch Teal'c's near expressionless face while Fraiser continued speaking.
"So unless something unexpected shows up in the next twenty four hours, I think the antidote to the poison has actually done the trick, and Daniel should be fine."
"That's great news, Janet."
He glanced a look over at his 2IC's grinning face, then turned back to Teal'c. Aware that Jack was watching him, Teal'c inclined his head slightly. "It is indeed good news."
Fraiser and Carter continued talking and Jack inclined his head to indicate that Teal'c should follow him away from the women. "What do you know of these kinds of poisons?"
"The Goa'uld employ many types of poisons. Some kill very rapidly, others will cause the victim to suffer horribly, as did DanielJackson. Others will simply make one ill, and can be administered over a period of days, even weeks. But if you are inquiring whether DanielJackson is truly cured, I believe that yes, the liquid he drank was truly an antidote. I do not believe that Heh would have gone to the trouble of making him appear to recover, only to have him relapse. There is no advantage to this type of trickery."
"Ah, but that's where you're wrong." Jack pursed his lips together as he recalled all the vile things his own people had played on one another over the centuries. "There's psychological warfare. Hurt one, and the rest suffer."
"Indeed, the Goa'uld excel at such tactics. But somehow I do not believe DanielJackson was the victim of such an attempt."
"I hope you're right," Jack said as he turned at the sound of something heavy being pushed down the hall. A few seconds later, Daniel was wheeled into the infirmary.
Making sure to not get in the way of the medical people around the bed, Jack still managed to get a good look at his friend as they pushed the bed into the vacant slot. Daniel was lying on his side, his eyes closed. His face was still pale, but he didn't look quite as bad as when they'd come through the wormhole. Hammond had taken one look at Daniel and had immediately put out the call for medical aid.
It didn't take long before all the wires, tubes and monitors were sorted out and soon only Fraiser and Warner were standing nearby, quietly conversing and going over several sheets of paper attached to a clipboard. Jack moved to stand next to the bed, with Teal'c and Carter opposite him.
"He'll be sleeping for several hours." Fraiser had come up quietly behind him, causing Jack to jump. "He's still sedated from the procedures, and in his weakened condition, I can guarantee he won't wake up for at least eight hours, probably more like twelve. So�" She brought the clipboard she was holding up against her chest. "I suggest you all go get some sleep and come back in the morning. There's really nothing more you can do here, except make sure you're all well rested and give Daniel nothing to worry about when he wakes up."
As reluctant as Jack was to leave, he was exhausted and he knew the rest of his team was also. They hadn't had any rest since they'd left Earth for their mission and had been either caught up in medical tests, paperwork or briefings since their arrival several hours ago. Jack caught Carter staring at him, dark circles beneath her eyes accented by pale skin. He figured she was waiting to take her cue from him, expecting him to disagree with Fraiser. But if she felt as tired as Jack was feeling, he knew she needed rest as much as he did.
"He's comfortable, and isn't in any discomfort," Fraiser informed them, confirming what he could see for himself. Daniel was truly out for the count, sleeping deeply and peacefully, obviously making up for the torment he'd gone through at the hands of the Goa'uld.
Jack nodded when he saw Carter look up at him again. "You're right. We're all tired. How about we meet for breakfast and then come down to check on him together?"
For a moment he thought Carter was going to object, but she finally dipped her head in assent. Teal'c said nothing, but as they turned from Daniel's bed and made their way towards the hallway, he followed quietly behind them.
Since Teal'c didn't require as much rest as the rest of the non-Jaffa did, Jack was pretty certain that Teal'c would be by Daniel's bedside in the early morning hours. So they had everything covered, it seemed. Daniel would sleep peacefully at least through most of the night, and if he should wake early, it wouldn't be to an empty room.
- - - - - -
Jack glared at the cards laid out in a pattern on the small roll away table. He had two red eights showing, and only one of which could be moved onto an available black nine. He looked over the matrix before him once more. Yep, this was the last move he could make before calling this hand quits.
Intent on his game, he reached over and peeked at the card hidden beneath the first red eight. It was a black three. Then he peeked under the second red eight� a black seven. Immediately, Jack knew he could move half the cards in succession if he chose the seven, and thus most likely win this round of Solitaire.
Working quickly, he moved the cards around until they were neatly stacked into four separate piles. He snorted with pleasure and quickly gathered the cards together in order to shuffle them.
"That's cheating, you know."
Jack hid a grin, glad to see that Daniel was awake. He looked over at the amused blue eyes twinkling at him and continued to nonchalantly shuffle the cards before laying them down in the all too-familiar pattern.
"Is too. It's a game of chance. You're not supposed to look at what's underneath."
Once the cards were laid, Jack reached over and pressed the call button, then handed Daniel a glass of apple juice that a nurse had brought over earlier. "So it was a win or lose scenario. I won." He shrugged as he leaned back in his chair.
Daniel looked at the glass in his hand and pushed himself up until he was sitting, sipping the golden liquid. He drank half the glass before he stared at it and announced, "I'm hungry."
"I'm glad to hear that," Fraiser said as she approached Daniel's bed, obviously having overheard him. "Considering you've hardly eaten anything all day, it's not surprising."
"I wasn't hungry earlier. I'm hungry now."
Fraiser did a quick check of the monitors then smiled at Daniel. "Fine, I'll see what I can whip up for you from the commissary."
"Jello," Daniel sighed as he finished the juice and placed it on top of Jack's cards. "Juice and jello. Why can't I have a ham and cheese sandwich with a coffee instead?"
Jack picked the empty glass up and moved it aside, continuing his game of Solitaire. "Maybe because you were looking a little green around the gills a few hours ago when Fraiser put a bowl of jello under your nose?" He recalled how Daniel had simply turned away from the offered meal and had gone back to sleep minutes later.
"Maybe. But I do feel better."
Jack looked up at Daniel and smiled. "And you look better. Considering you've been sleeping for nearly twenty-four hours."
Jack ignored Daniel's frown and occupied himself by drawing the cards into a pile and shuffling them once more. He began to lay the pattern out again.
"Couldn't find any work to keep you occupied?"
Jack smiled to himself as he pictured the pile of files sitting on the bed behind him. He didn't want to admit to his friend that he hadn't been able to concentrate on work, so instead of sitting in his office worrying about Daniel, he'd brought the work to the infirmary and had managed to whiz through the onerous tasks while listening to Daniel breathing.
At one point Carter had come and kept him company, a large printout and pen in hand; and they had worked quietly on either side of Daniel's bed for a couple of hours.
"Here we go." Fraiser handed Daniel some broth, said bowl of jello along with more juice and what looked like weak tea. She watched, hawk like, while Daniel drank the broth, ate the jello and sipped the juice and tea. When a nurse came to take the tray away, Jack realized he'd been holding the deck of cards in his hands, watching just as carefully as Fraiser had.
"I'm still hungry." Daniel looked around, spotted a glass of water, and reached for it. Fraiser held a hand out, stopping him.
"Wait and see how your stomach feels in an hour. If you're still hungry and not experiencing any discomfort, I'll see you get something more to eat."
Daniel's stomach gurgled, and Jack couldn't help but snort in laughter. Daniel glared at him, then at Fraiser, daring her to laugh too. She grinned, and reiterated, "I'll be back in one hour, okay?"
Jack gathered the cards, quickly shuffled them, then dealt ten cards to both himself and Daniel, flipped the last card over, and placed the remaining cards face down.
"What?" Daniel picked the cards up, fanned them and looked at Jack expectantly.
"Oh. Okay, but I have to warn you, I�m not good at Gin."
"Sweet." At Daniel's frown, Jack smiled again. "I'll bring a chess set later," he placated, knowing Daniel wasn't quite alert enough for the more complicated game. Jack pointed with his chin at the cards on the table before them. "You're the invalid, you go first."
Jack smiled as Daniel stomach gurgled again as he plucked the top card from the deck. He would make sure his friend was entertained, it was the least he could do.
- - - - - -
Daniel's eyes slowly drifted shut, the fanned cards falling onto his chest, held loosely in his hand. Jack smiled as he watched his friend doze off for the third time in the past hour.
He looked at the cards laid out on the table before him. No Ace had yet been played, and here he was holding two in his hand and needing a third. Ah, what the heck, he thought, looking at the cards resting against Daniel's chest. Figuring Daniel probably positioned his cards in similar fashion as him, in order of lowest to highest, left to right, Jack reached over and gently tugged the first card on his left
"You're cheating again."
"You were sleeping. And anyways, you don't need this..." Jack kept his voice neutral, trying to show no guilt at getting caught. He glanced at the stolen card in his hand, expecting to see an Ace. "�Five?" He stuck the card deftly back into the fanned cards still held in a slack grasp. "Since when do you keep a five at the end?"
"I was resting my eyes. And I have my own system, to prevent people like you from knowing what I've got." He pushed the cards together and placed them face down on the bed. "You were cheating," he accused again.
"Yes, I was," Jack admitted. "And you've been resting your eyes for nearly five minutes."
Daniel shook his head. "I never took you to be underhanded."
Jack shrugged. "Everything I know, my son taught me." He swallowed the pain talking about Charlie always brought him, and was pleased to see a smile curl at the corner of Daniel's mouth.
"And who taught him to play cards?"
"Isn't it?" Jack put his cards down as Fraiser came into the room.
"How's your stomach?" she asked matter of factly.
"I'm fine. And I'm still hungry."
"Good, then you can have half of this for the time being." She handed Daniel a half a popsicle, then with a tilt of her head, offered the other half to Jack. Daniel looked at the frozen treat warily, whereas Jack began relishing the orangy taste.
"I was never crazy about these." Daniel took a tentative lick, then carefully bit the tip off.
"Charlie loved these. Sara could never keep enough in the house. Between me and him�" Jack smiled at the memory. They ate their popsicles in silence, Jack finishing his quickly, nibbling the bits still frozen to the wooden stick while Daniel slowly sucked at his. When Jack threw the still sticky stick into the trash, Daniel spoke up.
"Earlier, you said something about winning and losing� about taking advantage of a situation. Do you think Heh picked me because�"
"�Maybe I'm the weak link � it must have been obvious to him that I'm not military. You guys were walking around with your guns out and there I was on my knees, oblivious to the danger while examining the fountain, so when he came at me, I didn't have time to react."
"Hey, you're not to blame for any of this!" Jack leaned forward, seeing the worry reflected in Daniel's eyes. "If anything, we let you get out of our sight. It was our job to protect you, and we're all guilty of one unpardonable sin� and that's assuming that the place was unoccupied. We learned our lesson, and I'm sorry you were the one to suffer for it."
"So why'd he do it? Why put me through all of that shit, no pun intended by the way, and then hand over the antidote and let us go."
"I don't know. Reconnaissance?" Jack leaned back in his chair, thinking over Daniel's question, which had been a matter of discussion between himself and his teammates earlier, and none of them had come up with any kind of satisfactory answer.
"Wouldn't that be considered stupid� letting a potential enemy escape."
Daniel was right. If this snake had heard of Ra's killers, he must surely be curious enough to want to know what they were like. "From what Teal'c's told us, the snakes are overconfident. Either this one didn�t think we were that much of a threat to him, or he has adversaries out there and is hoping we'll do more damage to them."
"That could be true." Daniel seemed to have forgotten about the popsicle in his hand and suddenly found himself with a sticky, dripping mess. Holding one hand under the melting treat, he quickly slurped most of the moisture away and then ate it quickly.
Jack poured some water onto a couple of tissues and handed them to Daniel, exchanging the tissues for the wooden stick. "You're worse than Charlie was at eating those," he teased as Daniel wiped his hands clean then tossed the damp tissues onto the corner of the table. Daniel stared at the cards, appearing deep in thought.
Jack picked up one of the discarded cards and began playing with it, bending it back and forth between thumb and middle finger.
"You're not a weak link, Daniel." His friend looked up at Jack, his expression hopeful. "We're a team. We compliment one another, we work together. Just because you were the unlucky one this time around, doesn�t make you any less useful or vulnerable than the rest of us. Some other villain could have gone after Carter because he thinks women are weaker�"
"Wouldn't he be in for a surprise," Daniel said dryly.
Jack grinned, having seen the captain in action quite a few times. "Yeah. But you're getting there� you might not be the marksman that the rest of us are, but you're a good enough shot now to hit your target�"
"Most of the time."
"You've learned not to run off half cocked�"
"I do not go around�"
"But you haven't quite gotten the art of ducking yet."
"Well, you're right there. But getting hit with some sort of weapon at close range is a little hard to duck."
"What did he get you with?"
Daniel shrugged. "Felt like some kind of electrical charge." His words were muffled by a yawn.
"No, I'm fine."
"Bedtime." Jack picked up a half-empty glass of juice from the corner of the roll away table and handed it to Daniel, who took several sips before handing it back. Jack keyed the controls to lower the bed and picked up the cards Daniel had put aside while Daniel slid down, pulling at his pillows and laying them flat.
"You need anything?" Jack asked as he watched Daniel pull the sheet up to his shoulders. Daniel shook his head, his eyes already closing. "Hey." Daniel opened his eyes to look at Jack. "I didn't get to thank you back there. You saved our butts, at the expense of your own. So� thank you."
Daniel smiled sleepily. "Just tell Janet to make sure she packs some heavy duty Imodium next time, okay?"
"Already done." Jack pushed the roll away table aside, then out of curiosity, opened the cards up to see which ones Daniel hadn't yet played.
"Hey!" Daniel was looking up at Jack. "You're cheating again."
"Tell you what, you learn to duck, I'll stop cheating."
"Deal. By the way, the Ace you're looking for is on top of the pack." Daniel's mumbled words were evidence that he'd be asleep in a few seconds.
Quietly, Jack picked up the top card of the pack, and there was the Ace. Shaking his head and smiling, Jack gathered the cards and put them aside for later.
This fic is dedicated to the sweet and innocent (haha) Wilma, as a thank you for her kindness and friendship.
And thanks to my heartsisters, as usual, who have kept me on the straight and narrow, informing me with no holds barred if our Daniel isn't quite whumped enough. Thanks, guys! And who have made me laugh and smile, and who I have come to rely on so much in my writing, and will always hold a special place in my heart.
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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.