Coterie


Act I

Daniel woke up with a start and found that he was living a nightmare. A fierce battle had been fought right before him. There were over a dozen men lying either dead or severely injured on the bloody ground, a mere thirty feet from him. Three times that number huddled together a short distance away, their attention focused on something in the center of the throng. Several more warriors were walking around the fallen, and as Daniel looked on in horror, one drew a sword and plunged it into an injured man's chest.

Before Daniel could voice his protest, he felt a hand on his arm, effectively silencing him. Looking around in confusion, he saw his team standing beside him, Jack gripping his arm tightly. All had the same look of bewilderment that must have been reflected on his own face.

"Damn," Jack muttered. With a terse command he ordered them all back to the stargate. "Go, before they come after us," Jack added.

Realizing that there was nothing that he or his friends could do, Daniel turned and retreated the quarter mile to the stargate. Daniel dialed up Earth's address on the DHD and sent in their code while the rest of the team stood by, weapons at the ready.

They had �gated to P4X-333 in what they had hoped to be a meet and greet mission but hadn't realized that they had walked into what now appeared to be a civil war. As he stepped into the cavernous embarkation room and down the metallic ramp leading away from the stargate, Daniel wondered what had just happened. They had all been standing there like a bunch of sleepwalkers, right in the midst of a dangerous skirmish. Why had none of the combatants come after them? They had been standing yards away, and had been in plain view. Why was his memory so vague?

General Hammond waved the team on to the infirmary for their post mission medical, scheduling a debriefing with them once they had showered and eaten. As Daniel racked his brain, trying to remember, he absently rubbed his forehead, trying to ease a headache that had been forming ever since he'd woken up to that � massacre. He remembered that SG1 had been approached by a band of men, and had stopped to talk with them. He believed that those men were the ones who had been killed; he now recognized the color of their cloaks. Daniel also recalled a young woman, with long blond curly hair, green penetrating eyes�she had spoken with him, had said something he thought was important. He shook his head, the memory teasing, but finally eluding him completely. That was the last recollection he had before waking to that nightmare.

- - - - - -

Jack leaned his elbows on the table, absently listening to Carter prattle on to Daniel about some doohickey she was working on. The day had been a long one, what with their aborted mission and the ton of paperwork he now had to fill out. He�d convinced his team to join him at the commissary for supper, thinking to get their minds off the bloody slaughter they�d witnessed that morning. Or had caught the tail end of since none of them seemed to remember the actual battle.

Jack knew that although it looked like this morning�s events hadn�t bothered Carter much, turning her focus to her work was her way of dealing with unpleasant things. She was a soldier; she�d seen men die before. Teal�c seemed unperturbed as he sat stoically beside Carter, listening to her explanation. It was Daniel that Jack was more worried about. He�d seen Daniel�s expression when the injured man had been mercilessly killed off, and Jack was planning on asking Daniel to come spend the night at his home. He didn�t want Daniel to be alone with the nightmares that he knew were sure to occur over the coming days.

Jack had had his own share of nightmares since Daniel returned to them. Memories of how he had treated Daniel before his friend had chosen to� ascend� kept haunting his dreams. They�d all been too busy since they�d become a team again to really reconnect; although Jack thought that maybe he and Daniel could talk tonight. At the very least, he could be there for his friend; and maybe mend a few fences along the way.

Daniel didn't appear to be paying much attention to Carter. Jack noticed that he kept rubbing his forehead, as if he was trying to ease a headache. Jack tried to stifle a yawn. There were several cadets in the commissary tonight and it wouldn't be seemly for the team's commanding officer to look bored at the dinner table. As Jack was getting ready to attempt to change the subject, he noticed Daniel stiffen and suddenly sit up straight.

"What?" Jack asked, hoping that Daniel had suddenly thought of a more interesting topic of conversation.

"She gave me something," Daniel muttered.

"Who?" Jack asked.

"The girl, the girl on P4X-333. She gave something to me. I remember�"

"Daniel, what girl?" Carter questioned.

"Don't you remember? She came up to us, she and her men were being pursued by those other guys� she gave me something � and we didn't help her! Jack, we let her be taken by those barbarians!" Daniel pushed his chair away in frustration, towering over Jack in his anger. "Her men were murdered and we just stood there!"

Eyes turned toward them, everyone was wondering what the usually quiet archeologist was getting upset about. Trying to placate his friend, Jack said, "Daniel, I still don't know what you're talking about. We 'gated in, saw the fighting, and 'gated back out."

"No, she gave me something�" His eyes widened as he remembered, "and I put it in my backpack." He turned and ran out of the commissary. Carter, Jack and Teal�c looked at one another in confusion. Jack shrugged, got up and followed Daniel, Carter and Teal�c two steps behind.

They found Daniel in his office, rummaging through the contents of his pack. He found what he wanted with a small cry of triumph, and pulled out a small packet, wrapped in a swatch of shiny grey cloth. Unfolding the soft material, he uncovered a golden brooch. "She gave me this. She told me to keep it safe."

"Daniel, who the hell are you talking about?"

"The girl, Jack. About 15, blond, green eyes. Beautiful green eyes."

A face suddenly appeared in Jack's mind. He turned and looked at Carter. "I think I remember green eyes�" he said.

She nodded at him. "Eyes, I remember her eyes."

- - - - - -

"So you're saying that up until twenty minutes ago, none of you had any clear memory of meeting these men or the girl, or of having seen this brooch before." General Hammond looked at each member of SG1, sitting around the briefing table. Said brooch lay on the table before them.

"That's right, sir," Sam replied. "I still have no memory of the actual battle, just of waking up and seeing the attackers leaving."

"They murdered all the survivors," Daniel said in a quiet voice. He could still see the sword piercing the man's chest in his mind's eye. "And I think they were kidnapping the girl." He turned to Jack, looking for confirmation. To his disappointment, Jack didn't say a word.

"There was an individual of slight stature amongst the men, DanielJackson. I believe you are correct." Daniel glanced at Teal'c and smiled, glad that Teal'c had spotted her, knowing now that she was still alive, or had been when the battle took place.

Jack idly picked the brooch up off the conference table. "It looks like an uncut diamond," Jack said of the stone in the center of the brooch, passing his index finger over it. Turning it over once in his hands, he handed it over to Sam with a shrug. She gave it a quick glance before passing it on to Teal'c. The workmanship on the piece was exquisite; it appeared to be made of solid gold with a large unimposing stone set in the center of a model of a dragon. Teal'c's face remained impassive as he closely examined the writing on the bauble. "I do not recognize the writing, and the stone is not one that I have seen before," Teal'c admitted. Done with the appraisal, he handed it across the table to Daniel, saying, "Perhaps you will recognize the writing, DanielJackson."

"Oh, I have already. It's an ancient form of Gaelic. I think it reads 'We of the Dragons'."

Although Daniel had handled the brooch before, this time as his fingers made contact, he suddenly became hyper aware of his teammates sitting around the table. Jack's impatience with Daniel was nearly palpable; he could tell that although Jack was mildly curious about the pin, he was impatient and frustrated, and wanted to get out of the briefing and go home. Daniel thought that going to Jack�s house was soothing, adding a sense of calm, of friendship and of safety. Teal'c's solid presence beside him felt suddenly larger than life, and Daniel could feel both his physical and moral support. He knew that he could count on Teal�c for protection and encouragement. Sam was also impatient with the impromptu meeting; she had things she needed to get back to in her lab. But she was also feeling an intense curiosity about the brooch that Daniel was now handling and as to how Daniel had come by it.

Overall was the feeling of complete trust and affection they all had in one another. The sensation was overwhelming in its intensity, filling a gap inside of Daniel that he had never even realized was missing. General Hammond's presence wasn't quite as perceptible, but he could still feel that the general only had half his attention on this meeting. His mind was preoccupied with other matters, probably having to do with the running of the SGC.

All of these impressions came upon Daniel within seconds. The shock of it was enough to make Daniel clumsy, and he almost dropped the brooch. As he fumbled with it, his thumb brushed against the stone while he simultaneously pricked himself with the pin. The brooch suddenly warmed in his hands, and the stone illuminated, tiny sparkles radiating from within.

Daniel, unaware of the change in the gem, found himself sitting at an enormous table in what appeared to be a huge, stone room. Looking around in confusion, Daniel could see hangings on the wall depicting various scenes and carpets strewn over the floor. There were plates with bits of food sitting on the table, a meal that had clearly just ended. Movement caught his eye, and he saw a tall, slightly greying man standing beside a large fireplace, staring wide-eyed at him from across the room.

Daniel's awareness shifted again, and he was back in the briefing room. He could still see the walls of the stone room lightly superimposed over those of the briefing room. "What the�" he mumbled. "Did you see that?"

Before anyone could answer, the stranger suddenly loomed before him. "Who are you?" he demanded. "What have you done with Alysse?" The man would have been imposing, even had he not been towering over Daniel. He was taller and heavier built than Daniel, his stance almost threatening. Daniel could feel rage and worry emanating from the stranger. His dark eyes flashed at Daniel as he asked, "How come you by the draconite?"

"Who's Alysse?" Daniel asked, looking up at the man in alarm. He suddenly felt very cold. The only heat he was aware of came from the object clasped tightly in his hand.

"My daughter. What have you done with her? Return the brooch and my daughter, or by the gods you will pay the consequences."

Daniel felt a hand on his shoulder. He started suddenly, and saw Sam looking at him with concern. Her gentle touch was enough to break the spell, and Daniel threw the brooch down onto the table. The light within the stone dimmed, but continued to sparkle faintly. Daniel nervously pushed his chair away from it. He could still feel the man's anger, although his apparition had gone. Daniel looked around, and saw his friends looking at him worriedly.

Sam had stood up as Daniel had pushed back from the table. Jack and Teal'c were also standing by their chairs watching him. Daniel started shivering uncontrollably. He brought his arms around his ribs, trying to stop shaking, trying to stay warm.

"Daniel, what just happened?" Sam asked him worriedly.

"The stone�" his teeth were chattering so badly that he could barely get the words out. "Ddddid you sssee him?"

"Who, Daniel?" Sam asked gently.

"I dddon't know, he was�" He looked at Jack, who was staring at him across the table in concern. "The girl, her name is Alysse. Gggeneral, he wants the stone bbback. We have to gggive it bbback to him."

"Doctor Jackson, please. Who and what are you talking about?"

"I dddon't know, sir. He jjjust said to return the ssstone to him." He waved vaguely at the brooch shining brightly on the table.

"Colonel, please escort Doctor Jackson to the infirmary,� General Hammond ordered. �We'll resume this meeting once Doctor Fraiser has had a look at him.�

As Jack urged Daniel to go with him, Sam gingerly picked up the discarded brooch with the swatch of cloth it had come with, stuffing both into a clear plastic bag. Accompanied by Teal'c, she followed her teammates to the infirmary.

- - - - - -

Jack's hold on his arm helped Daniel stay in focus. He could still see the stone corridors overlapping the halls of the SGC. There were moments when the base totally disappeared, and he found himself in what appeared to be an enormous stone castle. He swallowed a few times to hold back his nausea as the hallway he was walking in suddenly turned into a stairwell. His legs nearly gave out on him when he couldn't tell whether he was standing at the top of a steep set of stairs, or was walking along the underground tunnels of the SGC. Totally disoriented, he finally closed his eyes and allowed Jack to guide him to their destination. By the time he was seated on the infirmary's bed, he was extremely dizzy and nauseous. He had to hold onto the edges of the mattress to keep from tumbling off.

Teal'c had wrapped a blanket around Daniel's shivering form, and a nurse was busy taking his vitals. When Jack let go of Daniel's arm to allow her room to maneuver around Daniel, the infirmary took on even less definition. The nurse informed them that Doctor Fraiser was in the lab but that she would have her paged immediately. She urged Daniel to lie down, but he resisted her efforts and remained seated on the bed. Daniel could sense his friends around him, but he needed to reassure himself that they weren't a hallucination, like the man and the castle. As the nurse left to page Fraiser, Daniel called out weakly.

"Jack?"

"I'm here, Daniel. What's going on?" Jack had seated himself on the bed opposite Daniel, staying out of the way of the medical staff. Sam and Teal'c were standing by the foot of the bed.

"I don't know. It's all so fuzzy. I can't keep it here." He kept seeing the infirmary flashing back and forth to a jumble of small rooms, devoid of people. He lowered his head and stared at the floor, seeing it turn from cement to rush-covered stone. His body's quivering shook the blanket off his shoulders, and it fell around him onto the bed.

"Keep what here? Daniel, look at me." Daniel raised his head and turned towards Jack, but he couldn't seem to be able to focus on Jack's face.

Sam placed the plastic bag containing the brooch on the table beside Daniel's bed and sat down beside him, repositioning the blanket around Daniel's shoulders. Teal'c stood beside Jack, looking down at Daniel's trembling body sitting huddled beneath the blanket.

"Daniel," she asked softly. "Tell us what happened in the briefing room?"

"I dddon't know. He was there. I sssaw him�when I tttouched the brooch." His equilibrium beginning to fail him, he slid slightly to his right. Sam and Jack grabbed for him, Sam being slightly quicker than Jack. Feeling Sam's arms around him, Daniel allowed himself to go limp against her, his head leaning on her shoulder. "Sam, help me," he pleaded.

"Daniel, I don't know what to do," she said miserably. As she hugged him against her, Jack kept a hand on Daniel's shoulder to make sure he didn't tumble off the bed. With the touch of both of his friends, Daniel was able to gather a bit of control, and managed to bring an arm around Sam to hold her close to him. He was aware of Jack beside him, but he knew that there was someone missing.

"Teal'c?"

"I am here, DanielJackson." As he spoke, Teal'c stepped forward and placed a gentle hand on top of Daniel's head. The effect was instantaneous, the double image disappeared, the gem in the center of the brooch winked out, and Daniel found himself back in the infirmary. The relief was too much for him to handle. His vision went grey, and his arm fell limply from where it lay around Sam's waist. He felt himself falling, and his friends caught his slack body before it slid off the bed.

- - - - - -

Jack watched from the foot of Daniel's bed as Doctor Fraiser spoke to Daniel, trying to get his friend to answer her questions. Daniel had opened his eyes a few moments ago, but he appeared exhausted. He was having trouble forming words, seeming slightly out of it at the moment. Carter was sitting beside Daniel, rubbing his hand and his arm, careful of the IV line taped to his hand. Jack glanced over at Teal'c, who also was watching Doctor Fraiser and their friend with concern. Carter released Daniel's hand when Fraiser asked Daniel to try and squeeze her hands as hard as he could.

Even to Jack's unpracticed eye, Daniel's grip on Fraiser's hands was tenuous. He knew where he was, but was confused as to the day and time. Jack watched as Fraiser scribbled in Daniel's chart, her face showing her concern.

Daniel was having trouble keeping his eyes open. Doctor Fraiser finally finished her examination and allowed Daniel to rest. With a quick nod of her head, she motioned for Jack, Sam and Teal'c to step away from his bed.

�So far everything is inconclusive. I can�t find anything seriously wrong with him. However, I need to run several more tests, including an MRI and CT. And no, before you ask, I don�t think this syncope episode has anything to do with the Sok�rit EMD device. I can�t explain why he was hallucinating, but my initial diagnosis is exhaustion and low blood sugar.�

Once Doctor Fraiser left to order the tests, Jack pulled up a chair and sat down beside his friend. Jack stroked Daniel's forehead, trying to let him know that they were there for him. Daniel opened his eyes and focused on Jack a moment.

"Sleep," Jack ordered gently. Daniel's eyes closed, and after a moment, Daniel�s breathing slowed and deepened in sleep. There was nothing more to do but wait. Wait for Daniel's test results to come back, wait for Daniel to wake up, wait for General Hammond to hopefully give the order to open the wormhole to planet P4X-333 and send through another MALP.

- - - - - -

Sam contemplated what a difference 15 hours' worth of sleep could make. Daniel was devouring his second breakfast, eating as if he hadn't had a full meal a mere two hours ago. Daniel's latest tests had all come back negative. His first MRI and EEG had shown evidence of unusual brain activity, and his blood sugar had been quite low, but everything appeared normal at the moment.

A snore from Colonel O'Neill caused Daniel to look up at her. They shared a grin, and both looked fondly over at the colonel, who was sleeping uncomfortably in a chair by Daniel's bedside. He had remained there throughout the night, and had dozed off a short while ago while waiting for someone to bring Daniel something to eat when he kept complaining that he was still hungry. Neither had had the heart to wake him.

When Teal'c arrived to sit with Daniel, Sam got up to return to her lab. She had been running tests on both the brooch and the stone it held. She couldn't figure out why the stone had lit up the way it did, nor could she link it to what had happened to Daniel. She had several tests running and she was due to go check on their results. They were also waiting for the results of blood tests after Daniel had mentioned that he had pricked himself on the pin. Janet hadn't yet ruled out poisoning, but she had admitted that nothing had shown up in Daniel's earlier blood tests.

She said goodbye to Daniel, nodded at Teal'c, and looked down at the colonel.

"You really should wake him up," Sam said.

"I'm not sleeping, Carter," Jack grumbled.

"If you say so, sir," she said over her shoulder as she left the infirmary.

- - - - - -

By the general's body language, Daniel knew before he spoke up that General Hammond was dead set against their returning to the planet.

"General Hammond, we have to go back to P4X-333. I need to return the brooch to its owner, and we need to find out what happened to that girl." As the general took a breath to interrupt him, Daniel quickly interjected, "She saved our lives, sir. I'm not sure how, but she hid us from those men who attacked her escort. If we could find out how she did that, we might be able to use it as a defense against the Goa'uld."

Daniel saw the general stop to think upon his words.

"DanielJackson is correct, GeneralHammond. We were greatly outnumbered, and even with our advanced weaponry, we would have been hard pressed to escape had these men attacked us. Apart from the Nox, I am not aware of any others with abilities such as the girl possessed."

"As tempting as this may be, I am reluctant at the moment to permit a team to return to that planet, knowing how bloodthirsty these people are. I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson, but I have to refuse your request."

"But sir�"

"Daniel," Jack interrupted. Daniel turned pleading eyes towards Jack. "Don't push it, okay? We were outnumbered eight to one. We got lucky. We might not be so lucky next time. Besides, we don't know where the girl lives, or the guy who wants that little trinket back."

Without a word, Daniel gathered his papers and left the room. As he walked down the hallway, he heard General Hammond dismiss the rest of his team. They didn't understand, and he didn't know how to make them understand. He had *felt* the man's fear for his daughter's life. Daniel knew that the piece of jewelry the girl� Alysse� had given him was partially responsible for having saved their lives, and also for the communication he'd experienced with her father.

He had had snippets of memory return to him in dreams while he had slept and recovered from the effects of that visual displacement. As the attackers bore down on them, Alysse had handed him the stone, asking that he keep it safe. She had touched all of their hands briefly, and had then returned to her men. The actual battle was a blur, and Daniel wasn't sure if it was due to Alysse's touch or if his subconscious was trying to blank out the slaughter. But his teammates didn't seem to remember anything other than the teenager approaching them.

Daniel stopped at the juncture of two corridors, undecided whether to return to his office to mope, or go to the commissary and get something to eat. Janet had said that he needed to eat to replenish his energy, which wasn't really a problem because since he'd woken up yesterday afternoon, he'd been constantly hungry. He opted to go eat, and as he reached the elevators, he met up with the rest of his team.

He stood beside them, staring at the floor, the walls, anywhere but at his friends. None of them had backed him up, and even though he wanted to be angry with them, for some reason he couldn't seem to drum up the energy to do so. He kept remembering the sensations he'd experienced when the gem had first lit up in his hands in the briefing room. He had sensed his teammates and their emotions, and the feeling of camaraderie, friendship, love, family; it was something that he already knew they all felt towards one another. But he had *felt* it, and wanted to do so again to make sure that he hadn't imagined it all. It felt churlish to hold a grudge now, when what he really wanted was to experience that sensation again.

That revelation shocked him such that when the elevator doors opened, Jack had to push him to get him moving. He swallowed, and admitted to himself that he wanted to be with his friends now, as much as he wanted to yell and rant at them. He opted for their quiet support, and he felt Jack's hand on his shoulder for a moment in quiet empathy.

- - - - - -

Staring out the stone window, Jack could see a fire breathing dragon bearing down on him from the sky. He ducked down beneath the opening in the stone, trying to keep out of sight of the beast. Turning his back on the window, Jack looked around for a way to escape and saw that he was in a small, round room. Four men and a woman were sitting on cushions, forming a circle. All had their eyes on something shiny which one of them held�. As one, they all turned to stare at Jack.

Gasping, Jack sat up in bed, looking around in confusion. It took him a moment before realizing that he was in the barracks at the SGC. He got up quickly and pulled on his clothes. He had an awful feeling that Daniel was in trouble.

- - - - - -

Act II

Daniel yawned and rubbed his face tiredly, staring at the printouts that Sam's latest tests had produced. Try as he might, he couldn't seem to make any sense from them. Sam had given up an hour ago and had gone to bed, leaving Daniel alone in her lab. Daniel had resolutely continued on; this might be their last chance in helping Alysse. If they could only discover something about the stone�maybe then they could change the general's mind.

He had had a very strange feeling for the past several hours, something he couldn't explain away. He kept feeling that someone was looking for him, as if he heard his name being called from afar, but couldn't tell which direction the sound was coming from.

Daniel glanced at his watch, and swore. SG1 was being assigned a new mission tomorrow morning. No, make that later this morning. He swore again as he realized he hadn't prepped for the pre-mission briefing yet. Standing and stretching, he decided that he'd better go and do that before going to bed. He hated to leave; he felt like he was abandoning something very important. He stood over the brooch, which had been encased in a glass container for isolation purposes. Jack and Sam had admonished him not to touch it, but without thought he reached his hand towards the container.

Sparkles deep within the gem lit up as his hand neared. He pulled his hand back quickly, and the flashes dimmed. He could see that they were still twinkling very faintly. Berating himself, he turned back to reach for the phone to call Sam when he suddenly bumped into someone who had come up quietly behind him.

"Jack?" he said, surprised. "Why aren't you sleeping?"

"I could ask the same thing of you, Daniel." Jack glanced at the piece of jewelry, his eyes widening slightly when he noticed the lights shining within. "Actually, I had a strange feeling that you were in trouble. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine." Nodding at the case, he added, "It just turned itself on."

Standing beside Daniel, looking down at the twinkling stone set in the brooch, Jack said, "You sure you didn't do anything?"

"No, I didn't touch it," Daniel said defensively. Then feeling slightly ashamed, he admitted, "I only did this," as he raised a hand again towards the brooch. As his hand neared, the lights began to sparkle more brightly, and suddenly Daniel found himself standing in a small, round room. He could see a window before him, and from his vantage point, saw that he was very high up. A sound behind him caused him to turn, and he saw five individuals sitting on cushions arranged in a circle. All had turned to stare at him. As one man stood, Daniel recognized him from his earlier vision. The others, three men and a woman, remained sitting.

"Hello", Daniel said, backing up slowly as the man approached, coming to a stop against the cold stone wall behind him. He could feel it against his back and his butt, and he realized that he was more firmly inside this reality than he had been the previous time. He couldn't see Sam's lab anymore; even Jack had disappeared from his sight.

"We have been seeking you," the man said. Simultaneously, Daniel heard Jack's voice, very faintly calling his name.

"Oh�um�I didn't know. My name is Daniel Jackson. Where am I?" Jack's voice sounded again, and Daniel could hear the annoyance in the tone.

"I am named Lysere. You have found your way to my home." Daniel watched apprehensively as the man stopped directly before him. The woman rose from her seated position and came to stand beside Lysere. Daniel noticed that she resembled Alysse, the only difference being that her eyes were blue, whereas Alysse's had been green. She had the same blond, curly hair.

"You must return the draconite, it is our only chance of retrieving my sister," the woman pleaded.

Daniel glanced repeatedly from sister to father. "You mean the brooch? I know. I understand. But I�dddon't have permission to return." The cold sensation he'd experienced the last time he�d seen Lysere began to return, and Daniel leaned against the stone wall for support. "I dddon't know where your sister is. The men kkkilled her escort and ggrabbed her. I dddon't understand what happened. They didn't see us. We were ssstanding right there."

Daniel felt someone grip his arm, and suddenly Jack was there in the room with him. Jack's feelings of shock, amazement, worry and his quick assessment of the situation enveloped Daniel, creating within him a feeling of security, support and friendship.

"Whoa!" Jack exclaimed, looking around in surprise. Releasing Daniel's arm, Jack stood at attention before the two. "Nice place you got here," Jack quipped. Daniel could feel Jack's emotions jumping from relief at finding Daniel, amazement at the transition, and irritation that Daniel had gotten them into this once again. Daniel could actually feel Jack's military training kicking in as Jack pushed his emotions aside and stood backing up his friend. Jack glanced out of the window cautiously, looking up into the sky.

"You have linked to the drag�n? That is not possible!" Lysere appeared shocked, his face paling at his pronouncement. He stared at Daniel, as if he couldn't believe his eyes.

With Jack's appearance, Daniel suddenly started to feel weak and dizzy. He nearly lost his balance, making a grab for Jack. Jack caught Daniel's arm as Daniel leaned against him. The young woman made a move to help support Daniel, but her hand went right through him.

Lysere raised a hand towards Daniel, stopping within an inch of his face. Daniel lifted his eyes, noting a ring on the man�s finger, set with a stone similar as the one in the brooch. The stone was sparkling rhythmically, as if beating to the man's heartbeat. The man's eyes closed in concentration, his hand unwavering before Daniel. Daniel shivered against Jack, and he felt Jack tighten his hold around him.

The older man opened his eyes, and looked at Daniel in alarm. "Quickly. You must return. The span separating us is too great. Without proper safeguards, the draconite will ceaselessly utilize your vitality. You are untrained. The draconite expends too much of your life force. It controls you, as you have not yet learned to control it. You must disengage yourself from the link. Immediately."

"How?" Daniel gasped. "How do I turn it off?"

Glancing at Jack, Lysere said, "Already you have formed a coterie. You must utilize the strength of five and their support. Together you control the stone � the founder, the nurturer, the friend, the protector and the antagonist. Remember this above all - it desires to return home, and will employ whatever means it can to coerce you into returning. You must return it to me or mine. Do not permit it to fall into the hands of our enemy."

"Wait," the woman said. "The men who took my sister, can you describe them?"

Daniel tried to force his thoughts back to the battle, but couldn't seem to focus. He heard Jack say, "They had pennants with a picture of a howling wolf." Daniel wondered when Jack had noticed those details. He couldn't remember anything of the sort.

Lysere waved his hand, and suddenly Daniel found himself back in the lab. He was leaning against a cabinet, with Jack standing beside him, supporting him.

"How the hell do we turn that thing off," Jack growled.

Daniel's mind was spinning. He had to disconnect from the stone. How had he done it the last time? He couldn't remember�he couldn't concentrate. He was so cold and dizzy. His head felt like it was held in a vice. His friends had been with him, in the infirmary. He gripped the cabinet behind him, and said to his friend, "Coterie�Jack, we need Sam and Teal'c."

"Daniel? You want them here, now?" Daniel nodded, swallowing against nausea. "Like before�need all three of you." He felt his friend's arms leave him momentarily as Jack dragged a chair beside Daniel. After helping Daniel sit, Jack ran out the door.

- - - - - -

Jack stopped the first airman he saw, giving orders for him to wake Teal'c and Carter and have them come to the lab, saying that it was a matter of life and death. He rushed back to Daniel, saw that his friend was still sitting in the chair, his hands grasping the arms as if for dear life.

Jack had seen Daniel's face change to bewilderment once again when, by placing his hand close to that trinket, he'd caused the stone to sparkle once again. Daniel had begun talking with someone who Jack couldn't hear or see, and his friend had totally ignored Jack's calls. He�d been staring off into space, not reacting to Jack�s voice.

When Jack had touched Daniel's arm, he'd found himself transported into the medieval tower room of his dream. For a moment he'd thought of wizards and dragons, and had even glanced out the window to make sure the dream dragon wasn't going to make an appearance. The strangers had been sitting around in a circle, and for some strange reason, Jack had expected to see the huge creatures flying around in the sky. When he had studied the strangers more carefully, he had noticed that one appeared to be wearing a ring on his finger, complete with sparkling gem.

Jack knelt down beside Daniel, who sat now with his eyes closed. Perspiration dripped down his face, and his shivering had gotten worse. Jack threw a glance at the brooch inside the glass case, and was amazed to see the stone afire with twinkling lights inside. Daniel's breathing became labored, and Jack grasped his shoulder, letting him know he was there. At his touch, Daniel's breathing eased slightly. Jack could feel Daniel's pain, knew that his head felt like it was being squeezed between the hands of a giant. He was alarmed at the cold he felt flowing through Daniel's veins, and at the increasing weakness Daniel was experiencing.

Jack looked back at the flickering gem, realizing that it was draining Daniel's life force. It kept the channel open, and it was greedily drinking from Daniel, and would keep on doing so until there was nothing left to take. Jack reached over and pulled Daniel to him, supporting his head and shoulders against his chest. Daniel relaxed into Jack's embrace, allowing the older man to take his weight. Jack could feel Daniel's emotions, and his throat choked up suddenly when he knew Daniel felt that Jack would fix things. It was almost like the trust Charlie had had in Jack, that Dad was here and would make things better. Even after everything Jack had said and done to Daniel when his brain chemistry had been out of whack, Daniel still trusted Jack.

Recalling what the older man had said, Jack tried to concentrate on stopping the stone. He stared at it and willed it to turn itself off. The lights inside appeared to dim for a moment, and Daniel managed to take a deep breath. The control was short lived, though, and it quickly overpowered him and he heard Daniel moan slightly as it continued to consume.

He heard the sound of running footsteps, and Teal'c raced into the room. Jack saw the Jaffa glance at the overly bright stone, then at Daniel leaning against Jack. Before Jack could say a word, Teal'c was kneeling beside them, his hand gently cupping Daniel's cheek, while the other grasped his shoulder. At the touch, Daniel opened his eyes, and Jack could feel him begin to rally. His breathing grew stronger, and he tried to push back against Jack to sit up on his own.

Jack felt Teal'c's solid presence surround him, and he was surprised that he was able to feel the man's concern and affection for Daniel. After a moment, he realized that the same feeling was also aimed towards him. Damn if the warrior didn't care for them both.

Carter arrived breathlessly a few seconds later, taking in the scene as quickly as Teal'c did. Daniel tried to stand, and the two men supported him as Sam grasped his waist. As Jack stood, he found that his legs were trembling. He wasn't sure, but he suspected that the alien relic was siphoning his own energy through Daniel.

As Carter joined the link, Jack could tell that the touch was feminine, as opposed to Daniel's and Teal'c's purely male essences. Her feelings of concern overpowered him at first, but he felt her gain control after feeling her way around their bond. Again a feeling of unity and family stretched around him. SG1 was now complete. Jack felt as if he had come home. But as he luxuriated within the emotions of his friends and teammates, Jack became aware of an underlying shadow amongst them. He tried to track it, but it was too tenuous, too slippery to hang onto.

Daniel was still shivering from the cold that was enveloping him, but the drain had slowed considerably with the arrival of their teammates. If they couldn't stop it, though, Jack knew that it would continue to consume Daniel, and them along with him if they maintained the link

"We have to turn that damned thing off," Jack said to them. They all stared at the stone, which was now glowing bright enough that they had to squint in order to look at it. Jack concentrated again at willing it to shut down, feeling Carter and Teal'c doing the same. Daniel was attempting to also, but was in so much pain that he didn't appear to be able to concentrate. Jack thought about easing Daniel's headache, and suddenly he knew that he had succeeded when he saw Daniel blink up at him in surprise.

Carter and Teal'c appeared to have had a bit of success, the stone having started to dim somewhat. Jack turned his attention to it also, and with Daniel joining the group, the light winked out as if a switch had been pulled. The connection Jack felt with his teammates ceased just as suddenly. Jack suddenly felt bereft of his teammates' presence. It was strange. Here he was in physical contact with all three of them, and he found that he missed them. His chest and throat felt choked up. Damn if he didn't feel like he wanted to bawl like some little kid. He looked at Carter's face, saw that she was almost in tears. Teal'c was grinding his jaw like he did when he held back his emotions.

Jack looked at Daniel still trembling under his arms, his breath coming in gasps, and he realized that they needed to get him to the infirmary. As Sam and Teal'c released their holds on Daniel, Jack spoke to him softly.

"Daniel, let's get you to Fraiser, okay?"

Daniel didn't react for a moment, staring at the floor before looking over at Jack. He nodded, swallowed, then took a step towards the door. Jack still had a hold on Daniel�s arm when he felt Daniel stiffen under his hand. Daniel's eyes rolled back with a cry and, as Jack caught him Daniel collapsed, his back arching suddenly. Jack could feel Daniel shaking violently. As he lowered Daniel to the ground, he realized that Daniel was caught in the grip of a seizure.

"Carter, get some help!" Jack yelled as he nearly tore his jacket off his body, rolling it up and shoving it underneath Daniel's head. Teal'c quickly knelt by Daniel's side, placing something in his mouth. Even as Jack yelled out to her, Carter was already rushing for the phone to report a medical emergency. As Teal'c rose to kick the chairs out of the way of Daniel's convulsing body, Jack noted that Teal'c had placed his wallet between Daniel's teeth. They both pushed the heavy table aside where Daniel's foot was jerking against the table leg.

Carter joined Jack by Daniel's side.

"Carter, what else can we do?"

"There's nothing more we can do, sir. We have to wait it out until the medical team gets here.�

Daniel's pant legs darkened as urine flowed freely. At Teal'c's instruction, both Teal'c and Jack placed their hands beneath Daniel�s to try and cushion the shock of Daniel's tightly clenched fists pounding into the cement floor. Seeing Carter glance at her watch, Jack asked, "How long has it been?"

"Not more than a minute, sir," Carter replied.

"Damn." Jack looked up at Carter helplessly, knowing that the medical team still had a few more minutes before arriving. Daniel's body continued to seize relentlessly, his hand pounding painfully into Jack's. If Daniel's hand could be striking into his with this much force, he couldn't bear to think what all of Daniel's body was going through. Jack wondered how long a seizure could last. Damn, where were the medical personnel? Jack swore, and began counting seconds under his breath.

When he reached sixty, Jack thought that this was going on too long. Still Daniel's muscles contracted violently, his body shaking with the involuntary spasms. Saliva frothed around Teal'c's wallet, and Jack could see Daniel's teeth biting into the soft leather. Where were the medics? Jack's ears were straining beyond the sounds of Daniel's soft grunts and the drumming of his body hitting the ground.

"How long?" Jack repeated. Carter glanced at her watch, and replied, "About three minutes."

Was that all? Jack felt like this had been going on forever. Damn, why didn't it stop? And where the hell were those medics? What the hell had that alien piece of shit done to Daniel? Why hadn't that old man warned them sooner? 'Where are they?' he muttered to himself.

After a short time, Daniel's body began to jerk more slowly, finally coming to a complete stop. Daniel sighed, and to Jack's relief, he began breathing normally.

Jack and Teal'c rolled Daniel onto his side into the recovery position, Jack repositioning his jacket beneath Daniel's head. Teal'c gently extracted the wallet from Daniel's mouth, Jack wincing as he saw that it had been bitten through quite deeply. Grabbing a handful of tissues from the table, Jack gently wiped the saliva from Daniel's mouth.

"Danny, can you hear me? Daniel. Are you all right?" Jack spoke softly to Daniel, trying to get him to wake up. Daniel didn't react to Jack's voice, and Jack gently passed a battered and shaky hand gently over his friend's jaw. Jack maintained his gentle stroking, letting his friend know that he was here. He saw Carter wrap her arms around her torso, watching their friend with worry. Teal'c remained kneeling, offering silent support to both Carter and himself.

"Carter, how long since the call?" Jack asked.

"Just over four minutes, sir. They should be here any time now."

"Daniel, it's Jack. Can you hear me?" Jack asked once again. "Danny?" Jack repeated. Jack knelt there for what seemed like interminably long minutes until multiple footsteps sounded along the hallway. Fraiser and two aides appeared in the doorway.

"He had a seizure," Carter said, backing out of the way of the medical personnel. Fraiser made her way beside Jack and knelt beside Daniel. As she began examining Daniel, Jack said, "He's not waking up, doc."

"That's okay, colonel. If he's just had a seizure, then he'll start coming around soon. Can you describe what the seizure was like? Did it affect just part of his body?"

As one of the medical personnel placed an oxygen mask over Daniel's face, Jack said, "No, he collapsed, and then he began shaking all over." Carter brushed her hand distractedly through her hair. "Janet, I think it was a Grand Mal seizure. It lasted for more than four minutes."

Gesturing for her staff to place Daniel on the gurney, Janet stood up and asked, "What was Daniel doing before the seizure?"

"That stone grabbed hold of him again, doc. The old guy said that it would use up his life force. We couldn't turn it off." Jack stood up slowly, his legs seeming to have trouble holding him up. He found himself shivering slightly, and shrugged it off as shock. Teal'c took his arm a moment, offering support. Jack shook his head, smiling his thanks. "We had to wait for Carter and Teal'c to join us to get it to shut off."

"Do you mean you think that the alien artifact is responsible for this?" Janet asked as they walked briskly towards the elevators beside the gurney.

"I don't know. I think so. It all just happened so fast. It had a hold on him, then when I touched Daniel, it grabbed me." Fraiser stared at Jack, and he knew by the look on her face that he was not going to be able to talk his way out of the infirmary before Fraiser had filled several vials with his body fluids.

"Janet, I think that stone is a conduit for telepathic communication. We were�connected. It was amazing." Sam's eyes lit up as she obviously remembered the fleeting moments when they had shared that meld, but she sobered quickly as she looked at Daniel.

"Damnit," Carter cried as they arrived at the elevators. All eyes turned to her. She ran a hand distractedly through her hair. "We left that thing in my lab. If someone should trigger it..." She looked at Daniel, and Jack realized that she hated to leave her friend and return to take care of putting the brooch away. "I better go lock it up."

"I will assist you, MajorCarter," Teal'c offered.

"Don't touch it," Jack warned as he squeezed into the elevator with the medical team.

Looking at Daniel, Jack asked softly, "Is he in a coma?"

Fraiser bent over Daniel, calling his name. She straightened when Daniel didn't react.

"No, Colonel. He should be waking up soon. During the post-ictal period, which is what he's experiencing right now, Daniel's brain is simply attempting to recover from the electrical storm it�s just undergone. Keep calling his name; he'll be disoriented when he wakes up. It'll help him to know that you're there."

Following the doctor's suggestion, Jack continued to speak to Daniel as they made their way to the infirmary. He stood aside as his friend was placed upon a bed and the medical staff efficiently changed and bathed Daniel. Jack leaned heavily on the wall; it felt like his legs didn't want to hold him up any longer.

The nurses took Daniel's vitals, started an IV, set up an EEG and drew blood. Fraiser beckoned Jack over, having him stand by the head of Daniel's bed and calling his name occasionally, trying to get Daniel to respond. Jack took Daniel's hand in his, gently rubbing Daniel's fingers to try and get his attention.

When Daniel's eyes opened after several minutes, Jack grinned in delight. But his elation didn't last when he saw that Daniel wasn't reacting. Daniel was staring blankly, not responding to his calls. Jack gently rubbed Daniel's cheek and jaw, trying to get his friend to look at him.

- - - - - -

Sam and Teal'c had removed the glass case using tongs in order to keep their distance from the brooch. As they placed it into a vault where Sam kept hazardous materials, the brooch suddenly lit up and began pulsing wildly. Both stepped back in alarm, staring at one another.

"I didn't do that!" Sam exclaimed. "Did you do that?"

"It was not I," Teal'c confirmed.

After several more seconds, the gem went dead. They stared at one another before Sam took a step forward and shut the vault door.

- - - - - -

Jack yelled for help when he saw Daniel's back arch once more and his eyes roll back. As the spasms began to take control of his body once again, one of the nurses nearby deftly inserted a bite block between his teeth. Jack gritted his teeth as Daniel's fingers painfully tightened onto his already battered hand.

Fraiser was by his side in a moment. "10 mgs valium," she ordered. Before the nurse could administer the medication, the convulsions slowed and Daniel's body relaxed.

"Wait, belay that," Fraiser said with a slight wave as the nurse arrived with the syringe. "Hang a gram of Dilantin over 45 minutes." As the nurse followed Fraiser's instructions, Jack shook his hand, trying to relieve the ache of his abused fingers before taking Daniel's hand in his again.

Carter and Teal'c rushed breathlessly into the infirmary.

"Colonel, that thing lit up again as we were trying to lock �what happened?" she asked when she saw Jack's face.

"He just had another seizure," he said quietly. As Carter gently carded her fingers through Daniel's hair, she said, "Sir, this second seizure has to be related to the fact that something set off the gem. It lit up for about 10 seconds. The timing and duration are just too coincidental."

Teal'c joined Carter by Daniel's bedside. She and Jack both took turns in calling Daniel's name, trying to get him to wake up. Several minutes later Daniel opened his eyes once again, staring vacantly. Carter grinned up at Jack, but she quickly realized that Daniel hadn't quite woken up.

Twenty minutes later, Daniel grunted softly at Jack�s calls, and his eyes tried to focus on Jack's face. Smiling, Jack encouraged Daniel to look at him.

"Daniel?" Sam said softly. Daniel's eyes shifted and he looked at Sam. His breathing started to speed up as he struggled to speak.

"Whu�what h'ppend?" Daniel asked.

"Shhh, it's okay, Daniel. You had a seizure. Doc says you'll be fine." Daniel started to pant, his eyes darting everywhere. Jack could see that Daniel was anxious, so he bent down slightly so that Daniel could see him without effort.

"J'ck?" Daniel moved his hand, reaching for Jack, not realizing that Jack was already clasping it. Jack squeezed it slightly, letting Daniel know that he was there. Daniel clamped down on Jack's hand, holding on as if for dear life.

Jack's legs were shaking so hard that he finally had to sit down on the bed beside Daniel. He raised a trembling hand and cupped Daniel's cheek. Fraiser joined them, coming to stand beside Carter.

"Where's Sha're?" Daniel asked. Jack looked up at his friends, not sure what to say. Carter looked down, unable to meet Jack's eyes.

"She's not here, Daniel," Fraiser said gently. "Do you know where you are?"

"Home?"

"Yes, you're home. You're in the infirmary. You're safe, do you understand me?"

Daniel nodded, dragging his eyes from Fraiser to look at Jack.

"Teal'c?" Daniel asked after a moment.

"I am here, DanielJackson." Teal'c took a step forward, placing a hand on Daniel's arm.

"Jack? Hurts."

"Daniel, what hurts. Can you tell me what hurts?" Fraiser asked patiently.

"Hurts. Make it go away."

Jack looked at Fraiser helplessly.

"What, Danny? What hurts?" Jack asked.

"Everything. Hurts. What happened � to me?"

Fraiser patted the hand that was clasped in Jack's, taking the opportunity to take Daniel's pulse. "You had a couple of seizures. Your muscles are going to be sore for a day or two. You know, you gave these guys quite a scare."

"Tired," he mumbled.

"That's okay, Daniel. Go to sleep. You're safe,� Fraiser said soothingly.

Daniel's eyes closed, and the hand that gripped Jack's slowly fell to the bed as it relaxed in sleep. Jack looked up at Janet, and she reassured him that he would probably sleep for several hours.

�Okay, mister, hop up,� Fraiser ordered.

Jack glared at Fraiser, and saw her 'no argument' expression on her face. He got up shakily and crossed to the bed beside Daniel�s.

"How are you feeling?" She asked as she began taking his vitals.

"Shaky, weak. Cold sweats. Can't seem to get warm."

"When was the last time the two of you ate something?" Fraiser asked, as a nurse began drawing blood.

"Suppertime. We both ate a good supper. Had seconds, too." Jack realized that they'd both been uncharacteristically hungry, sort of like when they had worn those Tok'ra armbands.

"Daniel came to the commissary with me for some coffee and pie a couple of hours ago," Sam said. "We were starving."

"Well, Colonel O�Neill, both you and Daniel are suffering from very low blood sugar at the moment." She handed him some orange juice, which he downed with a grimace. "In the meantime, I'm going to order some tests for all of you.� She looked at Jack and said, �You'll be joining them after you've had something to eat. If you were under the influence of that � thing, I want to see if there might be any residual effects. Grab a bed, lady and gentleman, while I order the Colonel a very early breakfast."

- - - - - -

Act III

With a sigh of relief, Daniel sat down on his assigned bed in the infirmary. He had just returned from an exhaustive meeting with General Hammond. Janet had granted him permission to attend on the understanding that he return to the infirmary for further tests and observations. Daniel kicked off his shoes but refused to lie down, although his body was clamoring for him to do so.

Daniel had slept for nearly eighteen hours straight while recovering from his seizures. When he had finally roused, he had remained awake only long enough to eat something, then had curled up and had slept till the following morning. He was now feeling almost normal, except for a bit of residual weakness and stiffness. He had to admit that the past three hours of arguing had tired him out, and he was worried that he wouldn't be physically fit tomorrow to join the rest of his team when they returned to P4X-333.

Janet had informed them that her tests had shown significant activity in both his and Jack's brains, and also with Sam and Teal'c, but to a lesser degree. She thought that the portions of their brains that had been stimulated were those that were linked to psychic phenomena, much to Jack's amusement. But they couldn't deny what they had all experienced. That link�just thinking about it had Daniel craving to experience it again.

It also scared him because he remembered his addiction to the sarcophagus, and couldn't help but wonder if the psychic link was actually addictive. Or whether it was the stone itself that was trying to lure him back into it. Lysere had said that the stone wanted to return home�as if it were alive. He kept dreaming about it, how it appeared to be the eye of a giant flame-breathing dragon. And the dragon was dying. He wondered if the stone was alive. Maybe it was dying here on earth. Maybe it had to return to P4X-333 in order to survive.

If Daniel was wrong, though, and if the NID got a whiff of what was happening to him and his team� Daniel shivered at the thought of being escorted to some kind of NID research facility for further study. He was pretty sure he'd end up with his brain being opened and thoroughly examined.

Daniel had finally managed to convince General Hammond to permit them to go back to the planet to return the brooch to its rightful owner. At one point Daniel was afraid that the general would order it destroyed, but Janet feared that because SG1 was somehow linked to it, it might cause more harm than good. Jack and the rest of the team had backed Daniel up, and Daniel figured that they had come to the same conclusion as he. Get that thing away from the NID.

Janet appeared beside Daniel, startling him out of his thoughts. He sighed as she ordered another round of tests, his irritation lessening slightly when he saw Jack enter the infirmary for his own battery of scheduled tests.

- - - - - -

Sam tried to keep from wincing as she opened the door to the vault where she and Teal'c had placed the brooch for safekeeping. She hadn't been sure what to expect, but somehow the dull, unlit stone sitting on a shelf had surprised her. She glanced at her teammates who stood beside her staring into the vault. None of them seemed eager to reach in and remove the case that the brooch had been stored in.

"Sam, I think you should be the one to carry it," Daniel said after a moment.

"Wait a minute, why her?" Jack asked.

"Because I think that she's the 'nurturer' of our coterie that Lysere alluded to. When we're back on the planet, it'll be okay for me to handle the brooch, but right now it's doing it's damndest to try and connect with something over there."

"Okay, can someone please tell me what the hell's a coterie?" Jack asked in an exasperated tone.

"A coterie is a group with a common interest, a clique, a family�"

"A team?"

"Yes, Jack. A team."

"Nurturer, Daniel?" Sam questioned.

"Yeah, Lysere said that there were five to a coterie, um� a nurturer, that's you, Sam. A protector, that's Teal'c." Teal'c bowed his head in agreement.

"Hey, why can't that be me?" Jack exclaimed.

"Because you're the antagonist, Jack."

"Oh, okay. Wait, I am?"

Daniel glanced at Jack a moment, before continuing, "So that makes me the, er� founder; and then there's the friend."

"Why can't I be the friend?" Jack whined. Daniel glared at Jack a moment.

"Fine, be the friend," he said, exasperated.

"That makes five, DanielJackson, but we were four during the link."

"No, I think there was a fifth; I felt something�different. But I couldn�t seem to latch onto it. Then again, I was having a few problems at that point," he said with an embarrassed smile.

"I have also felt a shadow in the link, DanielJackson. I do not believe that it was seeking familiarity."

Sam agreed with Teal'c. "Maybe the colonel is the friend, and the unknown person is the antagonist."

Daniel rubbed his forehead in frustration. He motioned for Sam to remove the stone from the case. They all tensed while she picked it up, but slowly relaxed when nothing untoward happened. She wrapped it carefully in the cloth that Alysse had provided, and placed it in her backpack.

- - - - - -

Twenty minutes later SG1 was ready to step through the stargate and return to P4X-333.

�Got your pills, Daniel?� Jack asked for the fifth time in the past hour as they stepped up to the ramp leading to an active wormhole.

Daniel nearly snapped at Jack, and then realized that his friend was simply worried about him. Fingering the bottle of Dilantin in his vest pocket, Daniel simply nodded at Jack. Janet had refused to let him go through the 'gate unless Daniel took the anti-convulsants. He knew that his seizure had scared his friends. Hell, he�d have been terrified to see any of them go through what he�d been told had happened to him.

They stepped through the stargate and were spit out onto another world. As they walked away from the stargate and towards the area where the massacre had been held a few days ago, Daniel was relieved to see that the bodies had all been removed. Sam pointed in the direction of the nearest village which was to the south, but as they�d walked for a minute or two, Daniel stopped, staring off towards the west. Jack called a halt, and walked back to Daniel.

�What is it?� he asked.

Still staring off into the distance, Daniel answered, �We have to go this way, Jack.� He glanced over at Jack quickly. �That�s where Alysse is being held. I can � feel her.� He turned abruptly and stared at his friend intently. �She saved our lives, Jack. Somehow she hid us from her attackers. We have to do something � we have to rescue her.�

Turning to Sam, Jack asked, �Carter, what did the UAV show to be in that direction?�

�A smaller settlement, sir, about 10 clicks away. The castle you and Daniel saw in your vision is by the village to the south.�

Jack stood weighing the decision a moment, balancing back and forth on the tip of his toes. �Okay, change of plans. Reconnaissance first. Let�s see how much manpower these people have. Zats only for now.� Jack looked at Daniel and said, �We�ll try to do this with as little bloodshed as possible.� Daniel nodded his gratitude, realizing that if the people on this world all had such primitive weapons such as swords and knives, zats and guns might be enough to simply frighten them away and permit the team to rescue the girl without unnecessary killing. But Daniel knew that if their aggressors chose to be as merciless with them as they had with the people they had killed, Jack wouldn�t hesitate to gun them down.

They made their way west without coming into contact with anyone. They finally saw their first lookout about a mile from the village. Sam took him down with her zat, and they tied him up securely before continuing on. They did the same with three more before finally approaching the small town.

Jack ordered Sam and Teal�c to scout the surrounding area.

After taking out the last two sentries just outside the town, Jack ordered them to stop at the top of a small hill overlooking it. Daniel was drawn towards a compact barn-like building that was set slightly apart from the largest building in the town. He was certain that that was where Alysse was being held. None of the others experienced the pull; Daniel surmised it was probably because Alysse had given the stone to him, thus creating a weak connection between them.

Jack surveyed the area with his binoculars, pointing out several spots where men were obviously hiding from someone.

�Looks like they�ve set up an ambush,� Jack commented as he passed the binoculars on to Sam.

�Could they have known we were coming?� Daniel asked as Sam surveyed the area.

�It is likely that this trap is not meant for us, O�Neill,� Teal�c stated as he pointed off beyond the village. Sam quickly trained the binoculars on the dark mass that was slowly approaching through the trees. She handed the binoculars to Daniel when he nudged her arm. He could make out about 100 men, both on foot and riding horses, making their way slowly towards the small town. Daniel wasn�t sure, but he thought that Alysse�s father was riding at the head of the company. The crest flying on pennants was one of a dragon in mid-flight.

�Jack, we have to do something. They�re going to kill one another,� Daniel said, placing a hand on Jack�s arm and speaking quickly. �We have to stop them, get the girl out of there before she gets hurt. Maybe if we can get her back to her father, they�ll turn back before it�s too late.�

�Daniel�s right, sir. We have the element of surprise. If we could sneak in there and get the girl out�� She took the binoculars from Daniel, looking at the town once more. �Their attention is focused on the approaching men; they wouldn�t expect an attack from this end. If we came in from the back, we might be able to prevent a lot of bloodshed, sir.�

Jack sighed, agreeing that Sam�s plan was probably the best. He had them fan out as they descended into the town. They managed to get fairly close to the structure without attracting attention. As Teal�c, Sam and Jack began zatting the few guards placed around the barn, Daniel rushed to the door. Jack joined him several seconds later. While Sam and Teal�c stood guard outside, both men barreled through the door, zatting the two guards who were inside the building.

Daniel quickly went to the girl, who was lying curled up in a pile of straw in a corner. He gently swept aside the thick blond hair that hid her face. Checking her over quickly, he saw that she was unconscious, and that she felt slightly feverish. He didn�t find any obvious marks or broken bones, so he surmised that she hadn�t been too badly mistreated. Or so he hoped.

Daniel removed his jacket, taking the time to wrap her slight body in it. As he gathered her into his arms, she opened her eyes, staring at Daniel. He expected her to start struggling or screaming, but she merely smiled at him and laid her head against his shoulder. He stood up easily, her weight nearly negligible. Together with the rest of his team, they made their way back into the woods.

They stopped momentarily at their previous hiding place, noting that the approaching contingent of armed men were almost upon the village. Daniel suspected that they were getting ready to charge the village. Teal�c took the girl from Daniel, handing him his staff weapon instead. With Sam on point, they wound their way through the trees as fast as they could, heading for Alysse�s father.

As they ran, they could hear cries from the village announcing that their foray had been discovered. They sped up and nearly burst upon the small army of men, surprising them as they broke through into their midst. Daniel quickly demanded to be brought to Lysere, and within seconds, the man himself was galloping towards him.

He jumped off his horse before it came to a full stop, rushing towards his daughter who was still in Teal�c�s arms. Teal�c laid her on the ground as Lysere and another man examined her. Daniel recognized the second man from his �virtual� trip into the castle with Jack a few days ago. Teal�c stood up, reaching out to take his staff weapon from Daniel.

�She is much weakened, but does not appear to have been harmed,� the man told Lysere. They watched as Lysere opened a small bottle, urging his daughter to drink its contents. The young girl obediently did so. She was then wrapped up in a blanket, and Daniel�s jacket was returned to him. Alysse was then carried out of sight, probably away from the oncoming battle.

Daniel heard yelling coming from ahead, and realized that the town�s militia, or whatever formed their armed forces, had discovered Lysere and his men. With a jerk of his head, Jack indicated that they should move towards the front. As the two small armies stood facing one another, Daniel recognized the crest on the pennants of Lysere�s enemies as that of a wolf, belonging to the men who had attacked Alysse and her men near the stargate.

As Lysere began to organize his men in order to attack, Daniel yelled out. �No! You can�t kill them. We�ve returned your daughter to you. Hasn�t there been enough bloodshed?�

�They murdered my daughter�s men, and they slew her coterie.� Lysere mounted his horse and kneed it towards Daniel. �The only reason Alysse is alive is because they wanted the draconite. Their leader has always coveted the stones. He and his men do not deserve to live.�

Daniel grabbed the horse�s bridle as he looked up at the man. �The important thing is that Alysse is alive, and she�s safe now. Take her home. They don�t have the stone�the draconite� I do� you know that. Don�t do this. Please!�

�We have no alternative but to do battle. They would not permit us to leave uncontested,� Lysere said with regret.

Daniel looked at Jack, and saw Jack grin slightly as he said, �Carter, give them a warning shot,� Jack suggested. She grinned back as she hefted her automatic weapon and aimed for the ground before the enemy. The sound of her weapon firing caused horses on both sides to panic. The enemy retreated several dozen feet back, watching Sam warily. Daniel shot one man with his zat as he came out from behind a tree with a bow and arrow, ready to let the arrow fly. At the sight of the man dropping without any apparent wounds and energy flitting around his body, half the enemy dropped their weapons and ran back towards the village.

Sam sent another round of bullets, dirt and bits of shrubbery flying everywhere. The remaining men, thinking that they had been safely out of weapons� reach also turned tail and fled back towards their homes. Daniel was astounded that Lysere�s men remained where they were, although he could hear some muttering unhappily.

Lysere watched with open-mouthed amazement. �Alysse must have believed that you were peaceful callers come to visit when she imparted the draconite to you,� he said accusingly. Daniel heard the disappointment in his voice.

As Carter changed the clip in her gun, she told him, �We are peaceful explorers. But we won�t hesitate to defend ourselves if we have to.�

Daniel stood before the man, arms held away from his sides. �Lysere, these weapons are for our protection, but we don�t go around attacking people. Alysse saved our lives the other day. Somehow she hid us from her attackers; and even with these,� he patted his sidearm, �we might not have survived because we were greatly outnumbered.�

Lysere turned his back on Daniel, riding away from SG1. Daniel looked at Jack helplessly. Jack shrugged, knowing that they had done all that they could. Soon two men leading four horses came up to the team, saying that they had been invited to return to the castle.

As they kicked their horses forward, Lysere rode up to them, his daughter mounted before him. She was still barely awake, bundled thickly in blankets and leaning heavily against her father�s chest.

"How is she?" Sam asked.

"She has been weakened by the shock of the loss of her coterie, and from the loss of the draconite. She has not been beaten or violated, but has been too ill to partake of nourishment. She is young and strong. Our healer is confident that she will recover."

"Will giving her back the stone help?" Daniel asked. He was surprised by the look of shock on Lysere's face. The man reined his horse suddenly, staring at Daniel unbelievingly.

"The draconite is yours, my friend. It has chosen you, and you have linked to it. There is no obligation for you to bestow it upon another."

"But we can't keep it, Lysere. I think it wants to be here, on this world."

Lysere urged his horse forward again, but he kept looking sideways at Daniel as he spoke.

"Yes, I sensed that the distance separating us was great. I had heard stories that the stone ring was a stepping stone to other worlds, but I had never believed the stories. I suspect that is where you came from, is it not? Alysse believed the ring to be a doorway for souls to travel through. She had been on her way to pray for her departed friends when she and her men were attacked. We know now it had been a ruse by our enemies, who had intended to force her to turn the draconite to them, knowing she would come to the ring. We were lucky that you had arrived at that same moment."

"You would prefer to have this stone in the hands of total strangers to those of your enemy?" Teal'c asked.

"It chose you willingly, else it would not have permitted you to link with it. It must be given of a free will, or it will die."

"So it�s alive?" Sam said.

"It is. It forms part of a greater being, which we call 'the drag�n'. The draconite is actually part of its essence. The drag�n enjoys sharing our lives, and in gratitude, permits us to form coteries. It chooses only those of the gentlest of natures as the founders, but the remainder of the coterie are then selected by he or she. The draconite may also be passed from one unto another, which is what occurred when Alysse asked you to safekeep it.�

The road they were following split, and Lysere chose the path leading uphill. As they climbed, they could see a largish town spread below them. As they crested the hill, they came upon an enormous castle which overlooked the town. Lysere led them through gates and into the bailey, their horses� hooves echoing on the uneven cobblestones. As they approached the main door of the keep, stable boys ran up and took their horses. Soon Lysere had them seated around a large table. Daniel recognized the room as being the one where he had spoken to Lysere after first touching the stone.

Food and drink were offered, and the team continued to question Lysere. Daniel wanted to return the brooch to Alysse as soon as possible but was told that she was resting. Once they had eaten and rested, Lysere offered to show them the home of the drag�n.

They walked through what felt like miles of corridors, Daniel realizing that they had long ago left the castle proper and were now in underground tunnels. At first Lysere had lit the way with a torch, Sam and Jack using their flashlights. After a while Lysere extinguished it. There was some kind of phosphorous growth on the walls that gave just enough light to see by. The tunnel led into a cave, and the team came to a halt, looking around in wonder.

A gigantic stone sculpture of a dragon lay curled up in the center of the cave. It was as long as a city block, as high as a ten story building. It sparkled brightly, the stone glinting with multicolored hues.

�Our forefathers tell of a time when the great drag�ns roamed our world. We believe that there may be more, but we have not discovered any signs of such as yet. She has settled here in the cavern to rest,� he said, and pointing to his ring, he continued, �and gives of herself so that she may readily interact with a chosen few.�

Daniel couldn�t take his eyes off the dragon. The glimmering of the stone gave the illusion that she breathed. He took several steps towards her head, and he swore that her nostrils flared with the exhalations. Daniel understood that the stone sitting in the centre of the brooch was actually a small piece of the dragon. He looked around on the floor, but it was swept clean. There were no rocks, pebbles or stones anywhere that he could see.

"Take out your draconite," Lysere suggested. Sam removed her pack, and took out the wrapped packet. She handed it to Daniel, who removed the brooch from the cloth. The stone glinted brightly in unison with the gigantic dragon.

The call was too strong. Daniel closed his eyes, feeling the dragon pull him in. He felt Jack touch his arm in worry, and *felt* Jack join him in the link. Friend.

Teal'c touched his other arm, Daniel *felt* him standing over him in a guarding stance. Protector.

Sam touched Daniel's back, and he *felt* her support flow over the three. Nurturer.

They stood there together, linked by physical touch; linked by mental melding; linked by their affection for one another. Their breathing deepened. Their heartbeats beat in unison, slowing until they beat in tandem with the pulsing of the great beast. Time flowed; time stopped. They became one in body, in heart, in mind. Physical bodies totally at ease; their minds enthralled in the presence of one another, suspended within that of the dragon. The sensation was akin to orgasm, straining for more, until the pleasure was unbearable.

With a gasp, Daniel dragged them out of the link. The aftereffects of the meld left them all shaking and sweating. They looked at each other, slightly embarrassed, but closer to one another than ever before. Daniel began to wrap the now quiescent stone in the cloth. As he made to place it in his backpack, he felt the air around him change suddenly. The hair on the back of his neck prickled, and he looked around in alarm. He could see the stone pulsating wildly through the cloth. Daniel stuffed it into a pocket, freeing his hand to draw his gun.

Both Sam and Jack seemed to sense the same thing, they were searching for an enemy. Daniel noticed Teal'c staring ahead blankly, and Daniel approached his friend worriedly. As he touched the Jaffa's arm to get his attention, Teal'c grabbed him by the throat and began squeezing. Daniel raised his hands, dropping his gun, trying to break Teal'c's grip. Jack and Sam yelled at Teal'c, trying to tear his hands away from Daniel. Daniel knew that Teal'c could break his neck without difficulty. He could feel the tension in his friend's arms and knew that Teal'c was holding back. Teal'c's eyes were haunted; Daniel could see that he knew what was happening, and was unable to stop himself.

He stared up at Teal'c, and saw the grimace on his friend's face as he tried to fight the compulsion. Daniel wanted to say that it was all right, that he didn't blame Teal'c, but he couldn't speak. His friend was squeezing just hard enough to allow Daniel to draw sufficient air to keep from losing consciousness. Jack was pounding on Teal'c's back. His efforts weren't doing anything to dislodge Teal'c's hands, and Daniel knew that Jack was holding back, not wishing to injure their friend unduly.

Daniel saw Jack step back and point his zat towards Teal�c. Daniel tensed, preparing himself for the pain and shock that he knew was coming.

�Colonel, don�t,� Sam yelled out. �We don�t know if the shock might cause another seizure.�

Jack threw the zat down and resumed pulling at Teal�c�s hands. The vice around Daniel�s throat tightened a bit more, and Daniel's lungs began burning. Spots danced around the edges of his vision. With a shudder, Daniel realized who the fifth member of the coterie was. The antagonist. The other being who had been present when Daniel, albeit unknowingly, had chosen his coterie�Teal'c's symbiote. Junior was now attempting to take control of the stone, forcing Teal'c to dispose of Daniel. Teal'c was fighting the Goa'uld's control, but Daniel suspected that the symbiote might be too strong for Teal'c alone. Somehow it had linked with Teal'c through the stone, and was controlling Teal'c's body with its mind.

Fighting against his instincts to continue to struggle, Daniel stopped trying to pull Teal�c�s hands away from his neck. He released his grip, one hand reaching into his pocket for the stone, his fingers awkwardly trying to free it from its wrapping. His other hand reached for Jack, who at this point had both hands around Teal�c�s right hand, trying to force the fingers away from Daniel�s neck. Daniel grabbed one of Jack�s hands, attempting to relax his body as much as he could, a difficult feat when he was wheezing for air.

Jack looked at Daniel, and as his fingers finally fumbled through the cloth and onto the stone, he instinctively reached for Jack through the link. Together they sought to *push* and, Daniel *felt* the equivalent of a thunderclap in his brain. His body tumbled through the air. Daniel thought for a moment that he was dreaming of flying, until he hit the ground hard.

- - - - - -

Act IV

Gasping and wheezing, Daniel was aware of being cold, wet and in the dark. After a few blessed but painful breaths, he realized that he was lying in cold water. Sitting up, shivering, he brought a hand to his bruised throat as he looked around. He had no recollection as to how he�d gotten here. He was in another cavern. It looked as enormous as the one that housed the dragon. There were wet spots on the stone wall behind him, indications of his hard landing in the water. He couldn�t make out a door or opening in the wall, but as he squinted in the dim light, he could see faint tracings of a dragon beneath the moldy phosphorous growth. The walls and ceiling, glowing faintly, permitted him to make out a dark shape lying a dozen feet away from him. As the light glinted off the short hair, Daniel realized that the person lying unmoving in the water was Jack.

Forcing himself to his feet, Daniel stumbled the few yards separating him from his friend. He felt extremely dizzy and lightheaded, similar to what he�d experienced after he�d linked with the stone on Earth. He tripped over the uneven floor, partly because he was unable to see his footing due to the water and the dim light, and partly because of the way everything was spinning around him. Throwing himself to his knees, he realized that Jack was lying on his side, his nose and mouth dangerously close to the water. With cold fingers, Daniel felt for a pulse. Yes, Jack was alive.

As he felt along Jack�s limbs testing for broken bones, Daniel realized that Jack�s torso was clothed only in his short-sleeved tee shirt. His jacket and vest had disappeared, as had his weapons and backpack. Belatedly, Daniel realized that his own jacket and vest were missing also. Daniel reached to support Jack�s head before turning him gently onto his back. As he carefully placed his under the water, he discovered the large rock which had connected with Jack�s head as he had landed in the water.

Daniel realized that he had to get Jack out of the cold water and to get him medical help. He looked around, shivering. He wondered where Teal�c and Sam were; why hadn�t they appeared here with Jack and himself? How had he gotten here in the first place? He peered into the distance. From what he could see, the cavern had one opening, which was at the opposite end. Ensuring that Jack wasn�t in danger of drowning at the moment, he managed to stand up with a bit of difficulty, and started sloshing towards the exit. Maybe he�d find his friends along the way.

- - - - - -

Sam slowly opened her eyes, finding herself flat on her back. She sat up carefully, taking stock of her body. Other than a painful headache, she couldn't find any other injury. As she looked around, she saw Teal'c on his hands and knees, his head hanging between his shoulders. Lysere knelt beside Teal�c, a hand on his shoulder. She rushed to her teammate, placing a hand on his arm. There was no sign of the colonel or Daniel. The dragon was pulsing very quickly, and if Sam were to hazard a guess, she'd say that it was very agitated.

"Teal'c, are you okay?" Sam asked. She could feel Teal'c's body shaking beneath her hand. He slowly pushed himself to a kneeling position, one hand resting against the opening to the pouch where his symbiote dwelled. Sam could see that his face was shiny with sweat. Lysere left them and walked to the stone dragon, resting a hand on its side.

"I am uninjured, MajorCarter." He looked around dazedly, looking for their teammates. "DanielJackson, did I�?"

"I don't think you hurt him, Teal'c. But both Daniel and the colonel have disappeared. There was a flash or something, and �" She looked around, and noted several articles of clothing lying on the ground behind her, along with the colonel's P-90.

She picked up a vest at random, revealing Daniel's gun underneath. Sam began searching through the pockets. "Your symbiote, will it�?"

�I do not believe it will attempt to join with the dragon again. It has been severely�chastised.�

Sam looked up at Teal'c, noting that he appeared to be regaining his strength. Searching another pocket of the vest, she pulled out a bottle of medication. Reading the label, she saw that it was Daniel's Dilantin. In another pocket she found the brooch.

- - - - - -

Weaving and stumbling on the uneven floor, Daniel fell heavily to his knees after taking a half dozen steps, ignoring the cold water that splashed onto his face as he tried to stop his fall. Trying to disregard the vertigo that assailed him, he pushed off once more, aiming for the wall so that he could use it for balance. He managed several more steps, and found himself on his knees again. Daniel looked down the length of the cavern, realizing that he didn't have the strength to make it there by himself. Plus he didn't know how far he had to go beyond the cavern itself before he found help.

With difficulty, Daniel stood up again, using the wall for leverage. He made his way back to Jack, who hadn't moved during the few minutes that Daniel had left him alone. Daniel bent down and grasping Jack by the shoulders, dragged him back towards the wall. Daniel's arms and legs were shaking so badly that he could hardly hold onto Jack. He had to push and pull Jack the last few feet, hoping that he wasn't making any injuries worse.

Daniel sat against the wall and pulled Jack up to his chest, trying to raise him out of the water as much as possible. He carefully placed Jack's head against his shoulder, and wrapped his arms around his friend's chest, hoping his own body heat would keep Jack warm. Daniel was shivering non-stop, the cold from the water chilling his legs and backside, his bare arms sporting goose bumps.

He sat there in the dark, wishing for his radio. He hoped that Sam and Teal'c were searching for them. Shit, Teal'c! He hoped that Teal'c was okay, that the symbiote hadn't harmed his friend in any way.

Daniel wanted nothing more than to lie down and sleep in a warm, dry bed. He closed his eyes a moment, and opened them when he heard Jack groan. Jack's hand suddenly twitched, and Daniel leaned his head down, trying to see Jack's face.

"Jack, can you hear me?" Daniel asked softly. He raised a hand and laid it on Jack's cheek, turning Jack's head towards his face so he could see him better. Jack's eyelids fluttered slightly, and then opened.

"Jack?" He kept his hand on Jack's face, stroking his jaw gently with his thumb.

"Daniel?" Jack croaked. Daniel felt him try to sit up and he tightened his one handed hold on him.

"Don't move, Jack. You hit your head; you probably have a concussion."

Jack turned his head slightly and squinted up at Daniel.

�It�s dark,� Jack mumbled.

�Yeah, I know. We�re in a cave. How�s your head?�

�Hurts,� Jack said, letting his head fall back against Daniel�s shoulder.

�I�m sorry, we lost our gear. I don�t have anything to give you for the pain,� Daniel said gently.

�What happened? I remember a dragon�� Jack shifted slightly, stirring the water and causing it to splash over the top of Daniel�s legs.

Shivering again, Daniel replied, �Yeah, there was one, actually. We sort of got transported to this place. It might have been my doing, but I�m not sure exactly what happened. I think you hit your head when you landed here.� Daniel looked down at Jack when he didn�t reply, and saw that his eyes were closed.

�Jack?� he said worriedly.

�Huh?� Jack muttered.

Daniel felt Jack start; obviously he had been on the verge of falling asleep again.

�Jack, stay with me. Stay awake.�

�Sorry,� he mumbled. �Sleepy.�

Daniel felt Jack�s body go limp, and he realized that Jack had either fallen asleep or passed out again.

Daniel laid his own head back against the rough wall, shifting his head slightly to find a smooth spot of stone that didn�t dig into his scalp. He lowered his hand onto Jack�s chest, trying to keep his hands from falling into the water by his side. Even with Jack lying across his chest and legs, Daniel couldn�t get warm. He was shivering even harder now, and was having trouble keeping his eyes open. He figured his blood sugar level was crashing; if what he was feeling right now was anything remotely similar to his two earlier attacks at the SGC. He wondered if maybe Jack was experiencing the same thing on top of his concussion.

He needed to eat something, and soon. He wondered vaguely if he would experience another seizure. The thought worried him, but not for his own sake. If he were to become incapacitated now, he wouldn�t be able to take care of Jack. He laughed softly to himself. Right, like he was able to do something for his friend right now. He settled himself as best he could, trying to latch onto Jack so the two of them could share body heat.

A loud splash startled Daniel, and he jumped, his hands slipping into the cold water as he tried to orient himself. His body was stiff, attesting to the fact that he�d fallen asleep, his legs and butt numb from the weight of Jack�s body lying across him. He listened carefully, peering into the dark to see what had made the noise.

After several minutes of silence, Daniel attempted to shift around, turning Jack slightly onto his side so as to change the placement of his weight. As he moved around, Daniel realized that the water was lapping over his legs now. The water level had risen close to an inch. Daniel�s arms shook so badly that he barely had the strength to shift Jack around. As he repositioned his friend, he felt him move.

�Jack? You awake?� Daniel asked. He was surprised to hear how weak his voice sounded. He could barely hold onto Jack, who was now lying sideways across Daniel�s chest.

�Yeah,� Jack groaned. �It�s dark.� He sounded surprised.

�We�re in a cave. You hit your head,� Daniel answered, his exhaustion beginning to take its toll.

�S�why I got a headache?� Daniel felt Jack lift his head and look around, then lie back against him. �Daniel, are you okay?�

�Yeah, m�fine,� he answered. Even to his own ears, his voice sounded pathetically strained and weak.

�You�re cold,� Jack stated, raising his head again.

�We�re sitting in water,� Daniel explained. He felt lightheaded, almost drunk.

�Oh,� Jack replied, moving his own legs around in the water. �Why am I lying on top of you?�

�Keep us warm,� Daniel murmured. He wished Jack would keep quiet. Daniel just wanted to sleep, and Jack was keeping him awake.

�Daniel, where are we?� Jack was beginning to sound more alert, and Daniel cursed silently to himself. Why was it Jack always wanted to talk when Daniel wanted to work, or read, or sleep?

�Dunno�� It was too much of an effort to try and explain again that they were in a cave. Daniel closed his eyes, leaning his cheek against the top of Jack�s head.

�Daniel, shouldn�t we try to get out of here?� Jack shifted away from Daniel, forcing Daniel to lift his head. He saw Jack raise a hand to his own head, and mumble �ow� to himself as he looked around.

�Tried�couldn�t make it out. Didn�t want to leave you.� Daniel had a difficult time focusing his thoughts, and getting the words out. �Sam and Teal�c�must be looking for us.�

�Teal�c�Daniel, what the hell�happened up there? Did Junior�? Did he do this? Send us here?� Jack slumped back against Daniel. He could hear the pain in Jack�s voice.

�No, think I did that. Or the dragon�tried to get away�from the symbiote� remember?� Daniel rested his chin once again on top of Jack�s, closing his eyes. He could feel Jack also shivering in tandem with himself.

�Water�s cold,� Jack stated. Daniel nodded slightly, not mentioning the fact that the water was rising.

- - - - - -

Teal�c stopped walking at the same moment as Sam did. They stood before a tunnel that branched off to the right. Lysere turned to look at them when he noticed that they weren�t following. They had been searching for their missing teammates for more than five hours now. The tunnels and caves were all interconnected, and only a select few of Lysere�s people knew them well enough not to get lost.

Teal�c knew that Lysere was in contact with his coterie via their stone; they had separated and were accompanying the other two search parties. So far none had found their friends.

Somehow Teal�c knew that this tunnel was the one to take. As he took a step forward, Lysere said, �That direction is useless. The cavern at its end floods incessantly, we no longer service it.�

�They are in that direction,� Teal�c stated just as Sam said, �They�re there.�

Teal�c was relieved to know that his teammate also felt the pull in direction. She was carrying the stone; although his symbiote remained strangely silent, he had no wish to go near its influence at the moment. It had become quiescent after O�Neill and Daniel had disappeared. Lysere had told them that he assumed that Daniel or Jack had instinctively used the stone to transport themselves away from Teal�c�s symbiote. The dragon had not permitted them to take what it perceived as weapons. The act had been one based purely on instinct. Not certain where the threat came from, the dragon divested them of everything but the clothes on their backs as they transported themselves away. Lysere also informed them that there were over a dozen areas that they might have been sent to from the main cavern. All were underground, some within miles of each other. As it was, Teal�c estimated that they were several miles from the castle, having already searched out three of these caverns.

Lysere was worried that the men had taken too much of themselves in the transportation. He kept telling them that they were all virtually untrained, and had no knowledge on how to ration their energy when utilizing the stone. Time was of the essence; Teal�c remembered how ill Daniel had become and was afraid that his friends would require medical assistance when found.

The tunnels were very wide in most places, and he believed that Lysere�s story of the dragon having lived here millennia ago could very well be true. The passages were large enough for the dragon to travel through unhindered, and the walls appeared to have been smoothed almost to a shine beneath the growing fungus. He could well imagine the enormous beast lumbering up and down these corridors, its skin wearing down the stone as it brushed by.

The path began to cant downhill slightly, and after traveling for thirty minutes, the floor beneath them grew wet. Soon they were splashing through ankle deep water. Teal�c gazed at the walls, noting with relief that the watermarks on them indicated that the water rarely rose much higher than two feet in depth.

They came to a stop at the opening of the cavern. It was as immense as the one in which the dragon was housed, and Teal�c was unable to make anything out, even with the illumination of their flashlights. The water here reached nearly up to their knees. Teal�c felt drawn towards the other side of the cave, and as he took a step in that direction, he noted that Sam did so also. Silently they walked shoulder to shoulder, aiming towards a distant spot that they couldn�t see, but could definitely *feel*.

Soon their flashlights illuminated something in the distance. They sped up, the water slowing down their efforts at their attempts to hurry. Both their teammates were huddled together against the rock wall, unconscious. Water lapped against the lower portion of their bodies. Jack was leaning against Daniel. Daniel�s arm lay over Jack�s ribs, as if he was trying to make sure his friend didn�t slide onto the flooded floor.

As Teal�c played his flashlight over his commanding officer�s face, he saw dried blood smeared near his ear. Teal�c searched for a pulse while Sam did the same for Daniel. Both men were wet and appeared chilled, shivering in the cold water. Teal�c gently pulled Jack away from his teammate, allowing Sam easier access to Daniel. He leaned Jack against his shoulder, keeping him from sliding down the wall and into the water.

Lysere crouched down beside the unconscious men. He examined them both in turn, and then urged Sam and Teal�c to try and rouse them. He pulled out two small bottles from a pocket and handed one to each.

�What is that?� Sam asked, looking at the bottle suspiciously.

�It is a restorative; it will prevent them from reaching crisis. They have overtaxed themselves greatly, their bodies require energy and sustenance. This tonic will sustain them until we are able to return to the castle.� At Sam�s continuing uncertain look, he continued. �It is what I gave to Alysse when she was returned to me. It is also what we give to the newly linked. Like Daniel here, too often they are unable to gauge their limits, and take too much of themselves into the link. They must drink this, or else their bodies will seize and soon it will be impossible to awaken them.�

Sam nodded and attempted to wake Daniel. Teal�c was able to rouse Jack after a few attempts, and managed to get him to swallow the potion.

�Geez, that�s awful,� Jack said thickly as he raised a shaky hand to wipe his mouth. Teal�c offered water from his canteen, which Jack drank with relief. Teal�c was reassured to see that his commanding officer was not seriously injured. The Jaffa glanced over at Sam, who hadn�t yet been able to rouse Daniel. Lysere had moved several feet away and was busily scraping mold from the wall.

When Jack roused himself enough to realize that Daniel wasn�t awake, Teal�c helped support him upright as he reached for Daniel. When Jack touched his friend, the link was suddenly reawakened. Teal�c felt his symbiote join the link, but it remained passive, simply experiencing the sensation. Teal�c was able to sense both Jack and Daniel�s weakened bodies; was able to tell that Jack�s was rallying somewhat with the concoction he had just imbibed. He could also tell that Jack�s head injury wasn�t serious; he was suffering more from the loss of energy Daniel had leeched from him in his effort to transport them to this place.

Teal�c could feel Daniel trying to join them in the link; his awareness appeared to be just beyond a curtain that he couldn�t cross. Teal�c took Daniel into his arms, allowing his friend�s shoulders and head to rest against his own massive chest. There was something strangely ominous to Daniel�s awareness, and Teal�c suspected it might be the onset of another seizure.

Sam felt it also, and she took a risk by pouring a bit of the Lysere�s liquid into Daniel�s mouth. They all encouraged him to swallow. Slowly, sip by sip, Daniel drank the potion. By the time he�d finished it, he�d opened his eyes and they could see and feel how the medication had strengthened him.

Lysere had finished clearing off mold from a portion of the wall, revealing the form of a dragon carved into the wall. He came over and helped Jack stand up while Teal�c and Sam supported Daniel. They moved to the impression in the wall, Daniel sagging against Teal�c. As Sam kept a hand on Jack, Jack reached over and grasped Daniel�s arm. Still linked together, Lysere reached a hand to Sam and joined their meld.

They all felt Lysere concentrate and reach out to the dragon. With a twist of his mind, he enveloped them all and suddenly they found themselves standing between the huge stone paws of the dragon, blinking in the brightness of the room and dripping water onto the stone floor. Teal�c guided Daniel to the floor, placing his head and shoulders on his lap. He removed his jacket and wrapped it around his shivering teammate. Jack fell heavily to his knees beside them, obviously exhausted. Teal�c was very aware of Jack�s headache and intense fatigue, as well as Daniel�s fight to remain awake. Sam removed her jacket and covered Jack with it.

�Aid will arrive soon,� Lysere offered. �It will take them a few moments to make their way here.� He knelt beside Daniel, placing his hands gently on Daniel�s temples. After a few seconds he announced, �He will not go into crisis, but he is very weak.�

The stone dragon behind them began to glow, turning a shade of vibrant green. Lysere informed Teal�c that the drag�n wished to commune with him. He instructed Teal�c to simply walk up to the beast�s head and place a hand on it. Sam traded places with Teal�c as he stood up, sliding Daniel�s head onto her lap.

Teal�c approached the beast warily, remembering what his symbiote had attempted to do earlier. He touched the stone, and was surprised to find it warm. He stood there, contemplating the fact that there was no heat source to warm it. He saw the beast turn its head and look down at him. He started, then realized that he saw the dragon in his mind�s eye. Through pictures and impressions, it showed a Goa�uld approach, and then communicate with her. A name came into his mind�Egeria. The Goa�uld had come with the intention of conquering the inhabitants of this planet, but had left with all of her values shaken to her core. The Goa�uld returned to her people, and then founded the Tok�ra. Teal�c raised an eyebrow in astonishment.

Teal�c could feel his symbiote�s curiosity, and realized that the dragon was also communicating with it. The infant Goa�uld probed at the memories, wanting more. Teal�c sensed when the dragon�s attention turned solely to the symbiote. Part of its attention remained on Teal�c, but part of it was immersed with the symbiote. After several moments, the dragon pulled away, closing the connection. As Teal�c returned to his friends, he saw several people approaching the cavern, carrying what appeared to be stretchers.

- - - - - -

At first Jack refused to be carried out, but after walking several steps and having his legs buckle embarrassingly beneath him, he finally gave in. Jack could see his friend as he was carried down the corridor beside him. Daniel had either passed out or had fallen asleep. Jack realized that they had just circumvented Daniel experiencing another seizure by the medication Lysere had administered. It was eerie; he had *known* that it was coming. He�d been able to feel the change in Daniel, and he knew that Carter and Teal�c had also felt it.

The litter swayed sickeningly as the men carried him along. He closed his eyes against the dizziness and headache, realizing that it was probably due to the low blood sugar in his body. He felt himself drift, and suddenly the effort to remain conscious was too great.

- - - - -

Sam walked beside her teammates, worrying over their continued weakness and unconsciousness. Lysere wanted to put them up in the castle, but she wanted to rush them to the stargate and into Janet�s care. However, she realized that taking them directly to the stargate wasn�t a wise decision. They were too fragile at the moment, and she had to put her faith in Lysere�s experience with this type of outcome from the use of the stone.

- - - - - -

Daniel woke up slowly, coming out of a pleasant dream where he�d been walking along a beach, feeling the warm sun beating down on him. The sound of the waves was soothing, rhythmically lapping at his feet. He felt at peace.

As he became more wakeful, Daniel realized that he was bundled in warm blankets and lying on something soft. It wasn�t his own bed; but he�d become accustomed to waking up in strange places from all the time he spent offworld. Whether he slept on the ground or on a pallet, he usually was very much aware of his surroundings upon awakening.

This time when he woke, he had no idea where he was. But the fact that he was warm, comfortable and relatively pain-free didn�t push his panic button. He lay there, savoring the sensation. He had a vague memory of having been wet, cold and in pain. He wondered idly where the rest of his team was. He woke up a little more, and realized that the sound of the waves he�d heard in his dreams was actually somebody snoring nearby. It was a very familiar snore; he�d heard it often enough when he�d shared a tent with his best friend.

Not bothering to open his eyes, he straightened his legs, stretching gently. He turned onto his back, feeling the mattress beneath him give as he moved. He inhaled deeply, settling down to sleep once more.

�Daniel?� He turned his head towards Sam�s soft voice near his ear. A gentle touch on his cheek, and he opened his eyes to look at his friend, sitting on a chair by his bed. He noted that she looked tired. Dark shadows decorated the skin beneath her eyes. She smiled at him, then grinned when his stomach rumbled. The look of relief on her face erased many of the signs of exhaustion that marked her attractive features.

�Hey,� he said, surprised that his voice sounded raspy. He cleared his throat, and at the sound, Jack snorted. Daniel felt the bed move as Jack shifted around. Daniel turned his head lazily to look at his friend, and was surprised to see that they were sharing an enormous bed. Daniel figured that all four of them would easily have fit in it, with room to spare.

�What happened?� he asked in a low voice, not wanting to wake Jack.

�Teal�c�s symbiote attacked you,� she answered, in an equally soft voice. Daniel stared up at her in confusion. He didn�t think that the symbiote would try and leave its pouch to possess him. Teal�c had assured everyone that it would be another couple of years before it was old enough to do so.

�I�ll get you something to eat, Daniel,� she offered. He nodded, realizing that he was starving. He pushed himself onto his elbows, having a bit of trouble finding purchase on the soft mattress. She helped him sit up against the wooden headboard, pushing several plump pillows behind his back. He looked around curiously. A fire was roaring in a huge fireplace opposite the bed, and several pieces of furniture decorated the large room.

Sam poured something into a cup from a container sitting near the fireplace. As she handed it to him, Daniel could smell the rich aroma of soup. She sat beside him on the bed and helped him hold the cup; his hand was shaking so badly that he thought he would spill it. He took a sip as his stomach complained once more. He was surprised when his throat nearly seized up as he swallowed, his other hand coming up to massage it instinctively. His skin felt sore and bruised, and the memory of Teal�c and Junior came to him in a rush.

He took another sip of the soup, which tasted vaguely familiar. He tried to make sense of his memories while swallowing the soup with a little more ease the second time around. Everything that had happened after the attack was very hazy. He recalled Jack having hit his head, and he turned back towards his friend, trying to see if he was all right. When he indicated that he could handle the cup by himself, Sam got up and walked over to a table by the fireplace.

�Is Jack okay?� Daniel asked. He would have reached over to touch Jack to check for himself, but his friend was lying on the other side of the bed, out of reach.

�He�s fine,� Sam answered distractedly as she fiddled with something on the table.

�Jack hit his head, Sam.� He was worried by the fact that Jack was still asleep. Hearing the concern in his voice, Sam looked up at Daniel, pausing in her work.

�I know, but it�s not a serious injury. He woke up about 90 minutes ago, cranky and hungry. He ate something, and then went right back to sleep. He�s going to be fine. Both of you managed to totally exhaust yourselves when you used the stone to transport yourselves to the cavern. And sitting in cold water for several hours didn�t help you any either. Lysere says you need to eat. We gave you some food when we put you to bed, but that was a good twenty hours ago.

Daniel remembered swallowing something that had been nauseatingly sweet; and he recalled feeling very cold at the time. There were hazy memories of a warm bath and some soup, which was probably why it tasted familiar to him. He drained the cup, and accepted a hunk of bread slathered with some type of cream cheese.

�Are you and Teal�c all right?� Daniel asked with his mouth full. He was worried at Sam�s tired countenance, and at the fact that Teal�c wasn�t in the room with them.

�We�re fine, just a little tired from worrying about the two of you. Teal�c went down to meditate with the dragon after the colonel woke up. As soon as you�ve finished eating, I�m going to get some sleep.� She indicated the enormous bed, and he nodded as he stuffed the last of the bread into his mouth.

�Want some more?� Sam asked. Daniel nodded yes, but indicated first that he needed to go to the bathroom. She helped him to the washroom, which was a small room situated across the hall from his bedroom. He was grateful for her help as he felt extremely shaky and weak. After emptying his bladder and washing his hands and face, he returned to bed. He ate another helping of soup and bread, and smiled when Sam procured a chocolate bar for dessert.

Daniel moved over in the immense bed, making room for Sam. By the time she�d removed her boots and belt and had climbed in beside him, Daniel was fast asleep.

- - - - - -

Teal�c opened his eyes and contemplated what he had just learned. The dragon had linked with both himself and his symbiote, creating a three-way link; separate from the one that he and the symbiote had shared with the rest of his team. The symbiote had showed keen interest in the story of Egeria, and was eager to meet with the Tok�ra once it was mature enough to leave Teal�c�s pouch.

Teal�c had reservations about the ideals of his Goa�uld larva. He remembered how a symbiote had managed to trick Sho�nac, and she had died at its hands in the end. The dragon had assured him that it was impossible to lie whilst linked, but Teal�c recalled the feelings of hate it had given off, and the mastery of its will it had tried to impose on Teal�c just a short while ago. Teal�c assumed that it was possible that it had had a change of heart, but that didn�t mean it would still feel that way when it was ready to go forth and take a host.

The dragon had suggested that Teal�c return prior to that time, and they attempt the link again. If the symbiote had truly attained a change of heart, then this could be the salvation for his people. The Jaffa wished to be free of the rule of the Goa�uld, what better way to choose freedom than to carry willing symbiotes of the Tok�ra? If this were true, if the symbiote had truly changed its principles; then there was no time to waste.

He was eager to speak to Master Bratac of this. If his friend and mentor agreed, then the rebelling Jaffa could be brought here before the dragon, and hopefully their symbiotes could be swayed to join the Tok�ra. There was a shortage of immature larva for those Jaffa who chose freedom over dominion, and this new development could mean the continuation of their existence. Teal�c smiled to himself. There was hope for his people.

- - - - - -

Feeling almost like a new man after sleeping another eight hours, then having a bath and a shave, Daniel followed his teammates down to the main living area of the castle. Lysere and Alysse rose to greet them, before leading them to the table where an assortment of food was laid out. They helped themselves to a late breakfast, with both Jack and Daniel eagerly taking seconds.

Daniel felt strangely shy around the teenager, he�d only met her twice before. The first time he barely remembered when she had requested his aid in keeping the stone safe. The second time was when he�d rescued her from her kidnappers. Because of her he�d had the opportunity to experience the link with his teammates. He knew that it was something he�d never forget and even with the ill health it had caused him, he was eternally grateful for having gone through the experience.

As he ate, he contemplated how to approach the subject of returning the brooch to Alysse. The others carried on the conversation, giving him odd looks now and then at his unusual silence. He empathized with her at the moment. She had lived with her coterie for over a year, and their loss must have been devastating. Daniel knew that he was closer now to his friends than he had ever been, and he didn�t know if he�d be able to survive losing of any of them. And now here he was, preparing himself to give up this incredible gift they�d all received.

When the conversation waned, Daniel looked over at Alysse and caught her eye. He took the brooch out, and laid it on the table between them.

�Alysse, this � has been an incredible experience. I don�t have words to express my gratitude for having been given the opportunity to share this gift with my friends.� He glanced over at Jack, and then quickly looked at Sam and Teal�c. He was relieved to see that they had no resentment in his decision to return to stone to its rightful owner.

Staring at the piece of jewelry, with two fingers, he pushed it towards her. �This belongs to you. I don�t � we don�t have the right to keep it. Tell me what to do so that I can make it yours again.�

He looked over at Alysse when there was no response to his offer. Tears were streaming down her face, and the hopeful look soon turned to sadness. �I no longer have a coterie, Daniel. It is useless to me.� She wiped the tears from her face as if in irritation.

�But you can find another, can�t you? There must be others who could �� Daniel bit his words when he realized that the coterie was such an intimate part of himself that not just anybody could jump in and become �part of the team�. He�d been lucky to have his friends for his coterie. Lysere had said that it sometimes took years to find the proper members to complete the contingent. Alysse had been part of such a group, and they had all been taken from her.

�You�re young,� Jack said. �You can form your own. There�s no hurry, you have your whole life ahead of you. You can take your time, meet new people. It�s not like there�s a time limit, is there?� Jack looked at Lysere worriedly. �Is there?�

�No, there is no limit. They speak words of wisdom, Alysse. You can take back the draconite, if it wishes to return to you, and start a new coterie.�

�Um, excuse me? What did you mean by �if it wishes to return to you�? You mean it might not want to join with Alysse?�

�No, Daniel. It may not want to leave you,� Alysse said sadly.

�But I can�t keep it. I have to return to Earth, and we all know that that�s too far away to maintain the link to the dragon. I can�t stay here, and I can�t bring it with me. It has to return to you.�

�You are most likely right,� Lysere said. �We will not know until we perform the formal ceremony. If you are agreeable, we may do so this evening. That will give you time to prepare.�

�Prepare for what?� Sam asked.

�There are many ritual words to speak,� Alysse explained. �You will need time to learn them.� �I don�t think that�s necessary,� Daniel mumbled, playing with a glass of water before him. �I assume that part of the ceremony involves handling the stone and maybe pricking your hand with the pin?� He was still tired, and the thought of having to memorize line upon lines of flowery text was just not appealing.

�Yes,� Alysse said, surprised.

�Well, ceremonies and rituals usually first start out very simply when they�re invented, but then throughout the years, bits and pieces are added on until most of it becomes superfluous. Since I linked to it without any embellishments, maybe we should try that tonight. Just perform the bare necessities.� He rubbed at his forehead, feeling a headache start to form.

�Daniel, are you all right?� Sam asked.

He nodded. �Just the start of a headache. I think I�m still tired.� He looked over at Jack, and saw the pain reflected in his eyes too.

�You are both still not yet recovered from your ordeal. I would recommend you return to your room and rest. Then perhaps you would wish to return to the drag�n for a final union before relinquishing the stone?�

Daniel looked at his friends, and they all agreed. One final chance at this incredible link. He regretted having to return the stone, regretted that it had to remain on the planet to maintain a link to the dragon. He thought that the Goa�uld wouldn�t have stood a chance at a dragon-ited SG1.

- - - - - -

There, it was done. The stone had chosen Alysse, and now Daniel stood before the colossal beast feeling strangely abandoned. The teenager was looking up at the dragon in awe, the brooch in her hand beating in sync with the beast, clearly linked. Daniel swallowed, his throat feeling tight and choked up. He couldn�t bring himself to look at his teammates, and so he turned to walk slowly out of the cavern.

Jack took three quick steps and placed a hand on Daniel�s shoulder. Daniel stopped, his eyes glued to the floor. Jack�s hand squeezed tightly before pushing him gently, urging him to turn around. Daniel turned obediently, not really caring about anything at the moment. Jack stood before Daniel, and then drew an arm around his shoulders, pushing Daniel�s face up against his neck with his other hand. Sam came over to them and slid her arm across Daniel�s back, resting her chin against his shoulder. Teal�c wrapped his strong arms around all three of them, adding his strength and support. Daniel held back the ache he felt at the loss of the link.

Daniel breathed in deeply, wondering belatedly if he had done the right thing. He felt Sam shaking against him, and realized that she was crying. He turned slightly, wanting to comfort her. Jack let Daniel go and allowed him to take Sam into his arms. Jack kept his arm around Daniel, as did Teal�c. As his own tears began to flow freely, he realized that he hadn�t really lost anything. He had lost his coterie, but he still had his friends, his family.

Tears of sorrow soon became tears of happiness. He smiled, kissing Sam gently on the cheek. He put his own arms around Teal�c and Jack, hugging them close, pulling them against Sam. He let go, took a shaky breath, and said, �Let�s go home.�

 

FINIS!


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Author's Comments: As the links to the Virtual Reality site no longer seem to be working, I've simply reloaded the story without any of the graphics (26.06.05)

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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.