MaraudersNote: This story first appeared in Jmas' Ancient's Gate II
The child's impossibly violet-coloured eyes were as wide as saucers as she stared at Daniel in terror. Her tiny snub nose was decorated with a dusting of freckles, and long black hair framed her delicate face. A fine sheen of mist speckled her hair, thrown up from the angrily-churning rapids nearby. A blood red flower was clutched in the little girl's hand. As water droplets splashed against Daniel's face, the whole situation took on a surrealistic tone as he stared at the girl's incredible beauty.
Realizing the odd sensation was from the shock of the attack, Daniel tore his gaze from the crouching child, half hidden by tall reeds near the water's edge. He'd slid to his knees when the small arrow had pierced his side, and seen the hidden child. Ignoring the feel of blood sliding down his hips and leg, he forced himself to turn, yelling at Jack, whose weapon was trained on the teenager who'd just shot Daniel.
"Jack! Don't shoot!"
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't." Jack's gun was aimed at the boy's forehead.
"He was trying to protect a little girl. She's right here, I never saw her until I fell."
"You okay?" Jack yelled over his shoulder, not taking his eyes off the small group of people they'd just encountered.
"I'm fine." He glanced down at the small piece of wood sticking out of his waist. "Sort of," he said more softly so Jack wouldn't hear. "Don't be afraid. We won't hurt you," he told the terrified child. Her only reaction was to shrink even farther into the reeds.
Daniel thanked whatever gods looked over these people that Jack's reflexes hadn't caused him to start shooting at the dozen women and numerous children when the oldest of the boys had let loose with his crossbow and had taken Daniel down. Jack, in turn, was speaking to the women before them, who continued to quietly stare at him.
The boy in question, no more than fourteen or fifteen, was fumbling in his attempt to reload the crossbow.
"Oh, for crying out loud." Jack's expletive was barely out of his mouth when he'd taken the three steps separating him from the teenager. He pulled the weapon out of the boy's hands and threw it behind him, out of the boy's reach.
Daniel glanced around, most of the women and children who were not carrying young children held knives in their hands, but none made any threatening move. They simply watched, wide-eyed, standing before those who were more helpless. Daniel could tell they were all terrified, and from the bulky bags they were carrying along with the children, he had the impression that they were running from something.
He hoped to God it wasn't a Goa'uld. With Sam and Teal'c probably a few miles away by now searching for the possibility of minerals picked up by data collected by the UAV, he knew they were hopelessly outnumbered if they ran into a troop of Jaffa.
"I don't think they understand us, Jack."
"For that bit of insight, you get paid the big bucks? You're the linguist here, see if you can find a language they do understand. Hey, you," Jack motioned to a middle aged blond carrying a toddler. "Hablas Espanol? Gavareesh pa Rooskee? Parlez-vous Fran�ais? Enti betet kalemi Arabi? Feel free to step in any time, Daniel."
If the situation hadn't been so dire, Daniel would have teased Jack about his accents. Instead, he managed to get one foot under him, the movement pulling painfully at his injured side. He placed a hand on his wound but quickly removed it, the pressure causing more pain as it pushed the barb farther in. For a moment he'd forgotten about the young, cowering child, no more than five years of age, until he heard her slight whimper as he finally got to his feet.
She backed away from him and before he could react, she stepped too close to the water's edge and fell into the swiftly flowing stream.
"No!" Daniel stood frozen for a moment as he saw her small body get pulled into the current. Then, without thinking, he jumped in. After a few seconds of shock to get over the chill of the water, he began swimming towards her. Immediately he banged against a rock and soon he was forced to try and dodge the submerged hazards.
He thought he heard Jack yelling his name over the sound of the rushing water, but he was too busy trying to make his way closer to the small, helpless body being carried along the water.
He couldn't see a thing. His glasses, which somehow had stayed on his face when he'd leaped into the river, were covered with droplets, obscuring his vision. He didn't want to take the time to remove them, every second counted and the little girl was a mass of clothes and hair just out of reach.
He was being pummelled by rocks and branches, and he knew he was going to be one huge bruise in the morning. His backpack was both a nuisance and a lifesaver, becoming water logged and pulling him deeper than he liked into the water, but nevertheless, it protected his upper back from the unforgiving rocks. Still, he was making progress and had just reached for the child when he was slammed sideways into a rock, driving the arrow's shaft deeper into his body.
His pained gasp had him breathing in water as he curled up in agony around the little girl. Coughing and gasping, he somehow managed to keep his hold on the child, holding her high enough so that her head was out of the water and trying to protect her from the worst of the rocks as the current carried them where it would.
She wrapped her little arms around his neck, trusting in him to get her to safety. The pain finally eased off and he straightened as much as he could. With one arm holding the child securely, Daniel began his exhausting fight to the shore.
Luck finally turned their way as the current carried them into a calmer area where he was able to actually swim the several feet to shore. He pushed the little girl onto the sloped bank, holding onto a protruding branch while she climbed up, using tree roots as steps. When she was out of danger of being pulled back into the water, Daniel followed behind, his arms and legs heavy and leaden, his body stiff and sore, his side burning in agony.
Gasping, wheezing and coughing, they both lay in the forested area, too tired to move any farther. When Daniel was finally able to breathe without coughing hard enough to see stars, he realized the child had moved close to him and was huddled against his side. He put an arm around her and she laid her head against his chest. Daniel could feel her shivering, probably as much from the shock of their little adventure as the coldness of the water.
He knew that Jack, and most likely the girl's mother, would soon be searching for them, and it would probably be best to start travelling back in their direction. He made to sit up, and froze when he saw another pair of eyes staring at him mere inches away.
Daniel looked away in anguish when he saw the bullet hole in the little toddler's forehead. He swore silently, wondering if whatever had killed the baby was the reason for the girl's family's flight.
Making sure the child's face was averted from the gruesome sight, Daniel stood up, the girl held securely in his arms. He had to hold onto a tree for support as the world around him tilted, threatening to toss him back into the water. She wrapped her arms around his neck and her legs around his torso. Gently, he nudged her leg lower when it pressed painfully against the still-protruding dart.
Before he'd recovered enough to take more than a few steps from the sight of the dead child behind him, he heard Jack's voice calling his name.
"Over here," he called out, ending the words with more coughing.
"Daniel. You all right?" Jack reached them first, the heat of his hand warm and comforting through Daniel's soaked clothes. The boy who'd shot Daniel had accompanied Jack, along with two women, one of which was dark-haired and had identical eyes to the little girl he still held in his arms.
"Yeah, we're fine. A little wet, but okay." He handed the child to the grateful mother with a smile. "She's not hurt," Daniel said to the woman, who lowered herself to the ground and began examining her daughter.
"But you are," Jack said as he lifted Daniel's tee shirt. The other woman began speaking, motioning to Daniel to sit. Shrugging at Jack, Daniel obeyed and was surprised to see her begin to examine his wound.
"They're speaking an archaic Greek dialect," Daniel said in surprise.
"Can you understand them?" Jack knelt beside them and unclipped Daniel's heavy backpack. Daniel shrugged his shoulders, happy to have the weight off.
"Just a word here and there. It's really not something I'm familiar with." He concentrated on the words the mother was saying to her child, trying to force his tired mind to make sense of them.
Jack upended Daniel's bag, water flowing out along with its contents. He pulled out a pressure bandage from the sodden mess and began stuffing Daniel's belongings back into the bag.
"I think if I can hear a bit more of this, I'll be able to communicate. I'll need to spend more time with�" Suddenly he remembered the dead child. "Jack, there's a baby down near the water�" Daniel put a hand out and caught Jack's wrist as his friend dropped the pack and stood. Jack ignoring Daniel's caution, pulled away from him and descended to the water's edge. "He's dead�" Daniel said needlessly when he heard Jack swearing. "Whoever's after these people have guns, not staff weapons, so their enemy is obviously not the Goa'uld."
The teenager had moved to see what Jack was looking at, and suddenly he began to wail at the women, gesturing wildly. The woman at Daniel's side softly chided him and he quieted. As Jack returned to Daniel's side, pale and stony-faced, Daniel yelled in surprise as his side erupted in agony.
The woman had pushed the small arrow through his skin, forcing it to exit on the other side.
"God! Why'd she do that?" Daniel asked through tightly clenched teeth as she held the gory item before him like a trophy. Jack removed the bandage he'd put aside earlier from its waterproof wrapping and slapped it onto the open wound.
"Look at the edges of the dart, it would have caused more damage if she'd tried to pull it out," Jack explained expressionlessly as he held the bandage tightly against the bleeding holes. "You gonna be able to travel?"
"Yes." At least he would once his pulse stopped pounding and the spots stopped dancing before his vision.
"Carter, Teal'c?" Jack said into his radio.
"I am here, O'Neill."
"Pack up, we're getting out of here."
"No!" Daniel moved onto his knees, ignoring the woman at his side. "We have to help them."
"Sir?" Sam's one word conveyed her confusion. "We just arrived and barely started taking samples."
"Looks like the natives are involved in a civil war of sorts. We do not want to get involved or caught up in it. Pack up and wait for Daniel and me by the Stargate."
"Jack, we can't leave. The women and children are literally defenceless against guns."
"So are we, Daniel. Now, can you walk or do I need to carry you back?" Jack handed Daniel his pack and Daniel took it out of reflex.
"They need our help!"
"Doesn't look like they think they do." Jack tilted his head to the right and Daniel saw that the villagers had left without his noticing.
"Damn it." Daniel struggled to his feet and tried to clip his pack onto his back while walking through the woods. After a few moments, Jack took it away from him and snapped it on. He hurried after the others, hearing Jack following behind him.
The attack was frightening in its suddenness. Daniel was rushing to reach the others when something hit him over one shoulder. He went down, hard. A few more blows and he knew nothing else.
- - - - - -
Sam swore silently to herself as the group of odd-looking men they'd come across headed straight for the Stargate. She signalled Teal'c to move towards the higher ground on their right, where they could continue watching the strangers from a safe distance.
They moved swiftly and silently, stopping often to hide from the men who seemed to be everywhere in these woods. Finally they reached a high bluff overlooking the Stargate where she saw a good two dozen of the strangers, one of whom was busy dialing the DHD. As the Stargate activated, they marched what looked to be a handful of terrified women and children through the 'gate, mercilessly being pushed and prodded. Sam looked through her binoculars and saw that the women had been badly treated, cuts and bruises were apparent on their arms and faces. She didn't fail to notice the rifles the men were carrying, though.
"Are they Jaffa?" she finally asked Teal'c in a low voice, feeling safe enough that their voices wouldn't be overheard. The whole situation reminded her of the harvesting Teal'c himself had performed on Abydos, kidnapping the most beautiful of the people there for potential hosts to the Goa'uld.
"They are not. Although I have heard of a people who gather women and children and offer them as hosts to the Goa'uld. Those who are not chosen are sold into slavery."
"You think these might be the same ones?"
The Stargate winked out as all but three of the people below went through it. Before Sam could suggest they go down and take out the three guards, the 'gate began to redial once again.
"It appears more than likely."
Hordes of the primitive-looking men swept through the Stargate, and Sam counted silently until the last came through and the 'gate disengaged. "Fifty," she said to herself, hoping they'd all move away and give them clear access home. Unfortunately, a dozen began making themselves comfortable, clearly intending to camp out near the 'gate.
"We need to warn the Colonel," she told Teal'c, realizing that he and Daniel might be walking straight towards the mass of potential enemies.
- - - - - -
Daniel woke up as he was brusquely dumped onto the hard ground. As he tried to roll onto his back, he realized his hands were tied before him. He'd lost his glasses and he blinked in the bright sunlight, realizing he was no longer in the forest. His body had stiffened considerably, his abused muscles finding it difficult to obey his commands.
Jack was lying still next to him, and as Daniel looked around, he saw they were surrounded by at least a dozen honking huge men. Each one, as they stood laughing and shoving one another good naturedly, would have made Teal'c pale in comparison. Wild eyes peered out from faces half hidden by long unkempt hair and beards, their huge muscular frames giving them an almost apish appearance.
They were sipping something from silver flasks, handing them around. Their speech was guttural and inflected with whistles and grunts, and with a sinking feeling, Daniel knew he would never be able to communicate with these� men, unless they also knew another language common to both.
Jack stirred, coughed, then sat up with a groan, holding his head in his bound hands.
"You okay?" Daniel asked Jack softly.
"Fine." Jack looked up at Daniel, then he swore as his gaze shifted away. "Shit."
Jack was staring somewhere behind him and Daniel swivelled around to see. Huddled together, forced onto their knees, were the two women, teenager and child. For a moment, Daniel wondered if he had actually done the little girl a favour by saving her from the rapids.
"I think these people are who the women were running from," Daniel said, turning back to Jack. "I bet they're not native to the planet. They must have used the Stargate."
Their radios chose that moment to come to life, and Sam's voice filled the area as their captors suddenly quieted.
"Colonel O'Neill. Exercise extreme caution when approaching the Stargate. It's surrounded by�"
Howls of outrage drowned out Sam's voice as their radios were ripped from their vests as their captors searched for the origin of the voice. The radios were angrily smashed while their vests and jackets and other accoutrements were torn from their bodies. Daniel huddled on the ground, nursing more scrapes and bruises. He knew the material of their vests was hard to tear, made for extreme conditions and he'd been a little shocked at the ease that they'd been torn. The strength of these people was frightening. He met Jack's gaze and caught the wariness in his expression.
"Think they'd notice if we just got up and walked out of here?" Jack eyed the broken radios and the spilled contents of their supplies, and Daniel realized that their pistols were within reach amongst their discarded items. But before either could make a move, large hands grabbed them and forced them onto their backs.
A silver flask was brought to Daniel's lips and a trickle of liquid forced between his lips. A hand covered his mouth and pinched his nostrils together. If he wanted to breathe, he had no choice but to swallow the minty-flavoured liquid. Daniel held off as long as he could but finally he forced the liquid down, the need for air stronger than the fear of whatever this drink was.
Almost immediately, the pain of his injuries receded and his muscles became more limber. His vision cleared and his hearing improved. He blinked several times and the sheer relief from his discomfort prevented him from fighting the second sip that was offered. Fleetingly he thought he could make a fortune with this stuff, it was much better than caffeine. He lay still as his hands were released, and he rubbed his wrists as the circulation was restored.
He was allowed to sit up and he saw Jack hunched over on his knees near him. The men standing beside Jack were capping a brown bottle. Daniel softly called Jack's name.
"You okay?" Daniel asked when Jack turned to look at him with an odd expression on his face. Jack seemed confused, staring at Daniel and ignoring everyone else. Recalling the different bottle, Daniel began to suspect that Jack hadn't been given the same... stimulant, as he.
Daniel stood and began moving towards his friend when one of the men shoved Daniel hard and he landed on top of Jack.
To his surprise and horror, Jack yelled and twisted beneath him, managing to get a few good punches in before Daniel rolled away. The men were laughing and cheering Jack on, and when Daniel got onto his feet, keeping a wary distance from Jack when he stood, he realized that the men had moved back, leaving them alone in some kind of exhibition ring.
"Jack, it's me, it's Daniel."
Jack ignored Daniel's words and slowly advanced towards him, a look on his face that Daniel had seen only a few times when Jack had willingly and eagerly engaged the enemy. That the same look was aimed at Daniel terrified him.
"Jack, what are you doing?"
Warily, Daniel backed up, moving in a circular motion, keeping his distance from both Jack and their audience. The slight smile that had appeared on Jack's face told Daniel that his friend was enjoying himself. Pushing the growing panic behind him, he tried to relax and remember everything Jack, Sam and Teal'c had taught him in their attempts to get him combat ready. Despite his efforts, his breathing was rapid and his palms were sweaty. Adrenaline raced through him, making his movements jerky.
He wasn't good at hand to hand combat, he admitted that readily. His best defence had always been speed � he could outrun Jack due to his younger years. He had better knees, better stamina and better wind. But there was nowhere to run here, his escape was blocked by the burly bodies surrounding them. All that he could hope was for the effects of whatever drug they'd given Jack to wear off before he got his hands on him.
Which wouldn't be long, Daniel thought as Jack suddenly lunged at him. Daniel moved backwards, tripped, rolled and managed to get up again while staying out of Jack's reach. The move had reignited the pain from his wound and with one hand held to his waist, he scrambled sideways until Jack stopped advancing. Daniel watched him carefully, the eerie smile still pasted on his friend's face.
Daniel ignored the jeers from the audience, but jumped, startled, when two silver knives flew between them and landed blades first in the soil. Jack pounced on the one nearest him and when he stood, the smile had become feral. There was no way Daniel could get to the second knife, he was too far away and he'd been too slow to react. Jack approached him steadily in a slight crouch, knife held at the ready.
Slowly, Daniel retreated, leading Jack around the circle. He jumped back when Jack moved suddenly, slashing at him. He felt fire along his arm and realized Jack had drawn first blood. He continued to withdraw, ignoring the wet heat that dripped down his arm. When he hoped he'd moved far enough, he turned and ran to the knife behind him, grabbing it and bringing it up in a defensive position. Jack quickly came to a stop, warier now that his opponent was armed.
They circled one another for what felt like an eternity to Daniel, feinting and slashing, always moving, Daniel retreating and Jack advancing. Jack had gotten two more shallow cuts on Daniel, a particularly painful one on his thigh worried him a bit, whereas Daniel hadn't managed to touch Jack yet. Not that he was trying overly hard. Jack obviously didn't recognize him. There was no way Daniel was going to hurt Jack if he could help it.
But he was beginning to tire, maybe the stimulant must be starting to wear off? The pain in his side throbbed, the scrapes and cuts burned, and his legs trembled. Movement was more difficult as his limbs began to stiffen despite the sweat pouring down his body. His pulse pounded in his ears, nearly drowning the sound of the pack of men as Daniel finally realized they were placing bets on them.
Jack's breathing seemed harsher than before and Daniel began hoping that the effect of the drug was also starting to dissipate.
"Jack, we have to get out of here," Daniel said softly, hoping to get a sign of recognition from his friend. "Come on, we're both armed, these guys don't stand a chance between us."
Jack's movements slowed and he straightened out of his fighter's crouch, the grin slipped from his face and he shook his head. He glanced around in confusion until his gaze returned to Daniel. After a moment, he crouched down again and continued to stalk his prey.
Daniel could see sweat dripping down Jack's face and he realized his friend was just as exhausted as he was. Jack must have realized the same thing because he threw himself at Daniel, knocking him to the ground. Jack landed on top of him and despite the pain in his side, Daniel wrestled for several seconds until Jack got the upper hand, bringing his knife down towards Daniel's throat.
He let go of his own knife and tried to get a two-handed hold on Jack's wrist. But his efforts didn't deter Jack. Daniel's arm muscles shook as he tried to keep the knife away from his throat.
"Please, Jack, don't do this," he pleaded, moving his gaze from the hypnotic gleam of the knife to Jack's face. His friend's eyes were squinted in concentration, his teeth bared in the all consuming effort of ridding himself of his supposed enemy.
The knife moved closer and closer until its tip scratched the vulnerable skin of his throat. Daniel thought that this was it and he moved his gaze from his friend's face, unable to look at the stranger Jack had become gloating down at him. He turned his head, unconsciously offering his throat, and met the horrified looks of the other prisoners. The little girl was sobbing, her face hidden in her mother's skirts while the two women and the boy looked on helplessly. "I'm sorry," Daniel whispered to them, regretful that he hadn't been able to help them and that most likely had he not wandered so close to the hidden child, this whole scenario might not have come into play.
The pressure on his throat was lifted and his hands flopped down tiredly as Jack pulled away.
Roars of anger surrounded them when their captors realized they weren't going to be amused any further. Rough hands pulled the two men apart and hauled them onto their feet. Both men staggered, their bodies trying to recover from the fight. Loud voices erupted around them, and Daniel struggled weakly in his captors' hold, trying to get a look at Jack.
There was a sudden outcry and cries of rage erupted to their right. Daniel glimpsed about twenty screaming men descending upon them. For a moment he stood dumbfounded as he was released when his captor went down with an arrow through his throat. Daniel stood staring at the mortally injured man as, despite the blood pouring down his throat from a severed artery, he got up and joined his brethren as they moved to intercept their attackers. His captors had been armed with mere knives while watching their afternoon entertainment, but now were rushing to gather guns which had been piled nearby. As he watched, dumbfounded, the injured man reached for a gun, then collapsed, unmoving.
"Daniel!" He turned to see Jack running for their pistols lying on the ground only yards away, and he lurched after his friend. He fell to his knees and grabbed his gun. Jack was already shooting at their captors, and Daniel motioned for the other prisoners to join him before he added his firepower to the fray. Once the women and youngsters were out of harm's way, Daniel took an uncharacteristic pleasure in shooting the men who had forced Jack to fight with him.
He shot slowly and with careful aim, realizing now that although these muscular strangers didn't wear armour, they simply shrugged off their wounds unless they received a killing shot. Too many got up and continued on despite their injuries, their constitution as strong as that of an Unas. But before long, they had all fallen before the bows and arrows of their attackers and the hail of bullets from Jack and Daniel, lying in pools of blood.
Several of the attacking men had been hurt or killed in their raid and the others began caring for their wounded. Three of the attackers left the group and moved cautiously towards Jack and Daniel. The women got up and ran to the men, one of whom picked up the little girl and hugged her tightly. His other arm went around the girl's mother, and he turned to nod at Jack and Daniel.
"Nice family reunion," Jack said as he waved towards them before sitting down on the ground beside Daniel. With slow, methodical movements, he began packing their supplies into their backpacks, discarding what had been ruined. Too tired to move for the moment, Daniel sat, legs splayed before him, his gun lying discarded by his thigh.
"Here." Jack threw him a clip and with a sigh, Daniel began removing the spent one from his pistol and replaced it with the new. He was so tired and sore, he didn't know how he was going to manage to get up and walk to the Stargate.
"You okay?" He opened eyes that he hadn't realized he'd closed and saw Jack's face right before him.
"No." Too tired to pretend he was fine, he managed to drag himself onto his hands and knees. A hand grabbed his upper arm and helped pull him onto his feet. He swayed and reached out, holding onto Jack while Jack held onto him. He didn't move while Jack gave him a quick once over, noting that the bleeding of his wounds had nearly stopped. It took Jack a couple of seconds to slap a bandage on the cut on his thigh.
"You said these people spoke Greek, any chance you can question them and find out who those... things are, and why they were after them?"
"I thought you didn't want to get involved?" He winced as Jack removed the bandage on his side and replaced it with a fresh one.
"Carter said the Stargate wasn't safe. I don't think we should even attempt getting home, not the shape we're in. If they know of a safe haven, at least for the night�"
Daniel nodded, the thought of trying to muddle through an ancient language with his brain and body so tired was discouraging. He began shuffling over to the group, when he spied a silver flask lying on the ground. He bent down and picked it up, uncapped it and sniffed its contents cautiously. The minty smell told him it was the stuff they'd forced down his throat earlier, and with a glance at Jack to make sure he wasn't watching, Daniel took a quick sip of the stuff.
Immediately his exhaustion lifted, and the pain receded slightly. He understood now why these people had been so hard to kill. The shock of their wounds, which normally would have knocked most people out or at least slowed them down, had been anesthetised by the drug.
By the time he reached the gathered men, he'd been re-energized and was able to push aside his discomfort, and eagerly began making attempts at communicating.
- - - - - -
"So this fortress, or sanctuary we're headed for, was built thousands of years ago so that these peoples' ancestors could hide from their enemy."
"Most likely. It took me close to an hour to just figure out what the place where we're headed for is. It'll probably take longer to get to the history."
"And you say it's been uninhabited all this time?"
"It's become a sacred site to them. They refer to it as Adyton, which means 'not to be entered'. From what I understand, they stay as far away from it as they can. I think it might be an ingrained behaviour meant not to lead an enemy to the sanctuary."
Jack glanced over at Daniel and saw him wince as he climbed over a fallen tree blocking the path. Jack paused to help one of the women carrying a child over the tree before scrambling over himself, then hurried to catch up with Daniel.
"You need something for that?" Jack waved towards Daniel's side, where he held a hand protectively over the wound.
"No, it's not that bad." Daniel lowered his hand as if to show Jack he wasn't hurting.
Jack himself was still feeling the effects of the drug and the beating he'd gotten from those Neanderthals, not to mention the brawl he'd had with Daniel that he didn't quite remember having. If Jack was feeling shaky, stiff and tired, he couldn't imagine how Daniel felt after having endured the same beating, being battered by rocks after jumping into the rapids earlier and getting a further beating from Jack, not to mention the bloody hole in his side. Jack's memory of what had happened during their fight was skimpy at best, but his skinned knuckles were a good enough reminder as to how he'd gone after Daniel in his dream-induced state.
"That's gonna be one helluva shiner." He nodded his head towards Daniel's already darkening black eye, compliments of O'Neill.
Daniel fingered his cheekbone, scowled, and dropped his hand.
"Hope it doesn't hurt half as much as my hand." He took said hand off his P-90 and waved his scraped and bruised knuckles towards Daniel.
"It doesn't. I told you already, it's fine." Daniel reached for his canteen and took several sips of water. Jack was glad to see his friend at least making sure he wasn't getting dehydrated on top of everything else.
"I'd like to apologize for the black eye even though I don't remember giving it to you."
"You were drugged, Jack. It wasn't your fault." Daniel put the canteen back into its holder and picked up the pace. Jack sighed and forced his tired legs to follow his friend. He was feeling his age right now and Daniel's energy wasn't helping any in making him feel any better about it.
"Can you tell the people to be on the lookout for Teal'c and Carter? Give them a general description?"
"I already did. They've been sending messengers to warn all the villages in the surrounding area. Hopefully someone will spot Sam and Teal'c and..."
Jack didn't answer, his thoughts already on the hope that these brutes hadn't caught either of their remaining team members. His fingers closed over his weapon, thankful that these marauders, although knowledgeable in the area of firearms, hadn't recognized Jack's weapon as one, or at the least, hadn't figured out how to take the safety off. He felt better with the gun in his hands, however. At least here he had something tangible which he knew could take the enemy down more quickly and easily than a bow and arrow.
There were signs of passage in the forest, actually they were following the trail of what Jack assumed to be the women and children they'd met earlier. When they'd left the marauder's camp, their rescue team had joined up with another group of women and children, ones that Jack was pretty sure came from yet another village. But other, more disturbing signs crisscrossed this trail, the heavy boot prints evidence that the enemy had been here. And if the refugees' trail was this evident, it was only a matter of time that their adversaries would follow.
"Those Neanderthals will find our trail, they can't be that stupid." Jack knew there was no way to hide the passage of this many people, and with the chance of more coming, he knew their attackers wouldn't be far along behind them. Unless they had circled around and were already waiting for them up ahead.
"I think we're here." Daniel pointed to the men up ahead who had stopped, and they both moved quickly to join them. Across a field of grass, bushes and flowers was a great cliff with a barely visible path leading up to the top. Trees and bushes were abundant on the cliff, roots finding tenacious hold on the soil that had spilled from the top of the cliff over the centuries. The men were gesturing to the cliff's face. Jack looked up and if he stared hard enough, he thought he could make out an opening.
"Wait!" Jack yelled as the men began moving towards the path. "Daniel, tell them to stop. We don't know what's waiting for us up there!" Jack ran to the leaders, with Daniel on his trail, yelling something to the men in halting words.
"Tell them I have a weapon more powerful than the ones the attackers have." He held his P-90 out as he moved ahead of the men and began the climb up the path. Daniel and three men armed with crossbows fell into step behind him, and as Jack glanced back, he saw that Daniel had his firearm out.
The climb was relatively easy, the worn, hand-hewed path covered with centuries of growth, which helped maintain handholds and footholds. Of course, centuries ago when this path had first been made it would have been a much more difficult climb, the steepness and slickness of the rocks making for a slow ascent.
Reaching the top, Jack flicked the safety off his gun and cautiously approached the dark maw before him. All senses alert, he could feel eyes watching his approach. There was movement in the shadows and he twitched his gun towards it. A pale face framed in blond curls peered back at him and he quickly pointed his gun to the ground.
Excited voices called out and the woman came out, quickly followed by several others. Within minutes everyone had made the climb and all were gathered inside. Jack looked around curiously, wondering how such a small cave could support several villages for years on end. Well, okay, it was still pretty big as caves went, but once his eyes got accustomed to the dimness of its interior, it seemed to shrink due to the number of people inside of it. He walked its perimeter, noting some writing on one of the walls. Unable to communicate with anyone, Jack headed back outside. To his disgust, he realized that nobody had been placed on watch. He entered the cave again to look for Daniel.
Jack found his friend leaning tiredly against the wall near the entrance, sipping from his canteen. Jack grabbed his own canteen and took a swig, wondering how many supplies these people had. Water would become an issue fairly soon if they had to barricade themselves inside.
"There's a problem." Daniel's voice sounded tired.
"Isn't there always?" Jack leaned beside Daniel, grateful for the respite.
"There's an inner door, but they don't know how to open it. There's supposed to be an outer door also � this is only a sort of vestibule."
"No one has any idea how the doors work?" Jack squinted up towards the top of the opening and realized that he could see what appeared to be rails in the ceiling. He looked down and thought he could make out faint signs of tracks there, too. Squatting, he found a twig and began digging at the hard dirt, exposing twin rails.
"There's writing on the wall inside. Maybe those are instructions for this?" He'd expected Daniel to rush off to examine the script, but to his surprise, Daniel simply closed his eyes. "Hey, you okay?"
"Yeah, just a little tired. Where's the writing?"
"I'll show you, but first, look, they need a lot of work to make this place defensible, and for starters, we need guards out there, not to mention food and water. Come on, I need you to translate."
Daniel nodded, following Jack as they went in search of the leaders.
"First off," Jack informed the gathered men minutes later, "we need to chop down all the trees and bushes between here and the forest." When Daniel had finished getting through to the men, they began protesting.
"They're saying that by cutting the trees down, the enemy will know we're here."
Jack raised his voice, drowning out the concerned voices. "Understand this. We need to *see* the enemy approach, and every bush, every tree, gives them a place to hide, a piece of cover. They probably know we're here already, we left a trail big enough for a child to follow."
It took Daniel longer this time around to make himself understood, but Jack thought his friend was beginning to get the hang of the language. Within moments, the leaders, including Girgal, the husband to the woman that had been rescued along with Jack and Daniel, ordered men and women to start clearing the growth. Older children were put on duty clearing the cliff's path, and several men were dispatched as lookouts just inside the forest's edge.
"We need firewood, food, water� and ask them if they have containers that could make noise, the kind that might sound like empty cans rattling together."
"This place is supposed to be self-sufficient," Daniel said after listening to the people for several minutes. "If we can get inside, there's water available from underground springs, and there are a few small openings in the cliff where their ancestors had grown vegetables and fruits, places not accessible from anywhere but from inside the caverns. The people brought plenty of seeds, so they're probably set for a long siege."
One man came up to Jack and held several small, carved sticks. He held them loosely in his hands and shook them together, and they made a loud racket.
"Perfect. How many of those has he got?"
"He says they grow in the woods, he can get you as much as you need, and the kids can carve them into whatever size you want."
"Sweet. I need lots."
Daniel instructed the man, who smiled and hurried out of the cave and into the forest.
"Now, we need someone to start clearing the dirt from the rails along the door, both top and bottom." Jack eyed the four-meter wide opening and sighed. He turned his attention to the far wall, now that the cave had been emptied from most but the youngest of children and their watchers. "You're the expert, Daniel. Do you think we need to try and clear the debris from the door?"
"Wouldn't hurt, I guess," his friend answered. His gaze shifted from the door to the writing nearby. "Is this what you were telling me about?" He moved closer to examine the script as Jack illuminated it with his flashlight.
"That's it. Can you read it?"
Daniel's fingers passed over the etched writing. "It's a form of ancient Greek writing, but not one I'm familiar with." He raised a hand to wipe his brow, and Jack saw beads of sweat on Daniel's face.
"So it's Greek. Can't can you read it?"
"Jack, at the time this was written, each city in Greece had its own epichoric alphabet."
He ignored Daniel's raised voice. "But can you read it?"
"No!" Daniel slapped the wall with the palm of his hand. "At least not without a couple of text books sitting in my office." His voice was softer, regretful.
"Yeah." He pointed over his shoulder at one of the young girls babysitting the toddlers. "But maybe� I'll just go see if there are any scholars in the group."
Jack nodded, then motioned towards the exit. "I'll go and see how they're getting along out there." He handed the flashlight to Daniel. "You sure you're okay?"
Daniel nodded, clicked the flashlight off and moved towards the children.
Wearily, Jack walked to the cave's exit. Glancing back at his friend one last time, Jack noted Daniel had one hand clutched to his waist while leaning over to speak with the youngster. Knowing there was much to do before dark, Jack turned and left the cave.
- - - - - -
Daniel pressed his second and third fingers into his eyelids, ignoring their trembling as he tried to ease the throbbing in his temples. He listened attentively to the sound of Malanka's footsteps as she hurried outside to get Jack and Girgal. The moment he knew he was alone in the cave, Daniel fished the second silver flask that he'd pilfered from the marauders' camp site from his pants pocket and took a long swallow from it. Almost immediately, the headache receded, his breathing eased and slowed, and his vision cleared once more.
Earlier he'd emptied the first flask into his drinking water, wanting to keep Jack from knowing what he was doing. He knew his friend would have taken the drug from him if he'd known about it. But he'd gone this far, there was still so much to do and Daniel knew that without the stimulant at this point, he'd probably collapse and be no good to anyone.
The diluted effects of the first flask hadn't lasted very long. Sipping the undiluted stimulant had at least guaranteed forty to fifty minutes of clear-headedness and a lessoning of pain and fatigue each time. But his body must be getting used to the stuff because now he was lucky if he got twenty minutes of relief.
He knew he was abusing, hell, he could feel his heart pounding in his chest, right into his back. If he looked carefully, he could see his shirt was vibrating by the sheer force of his heartbeat. Passing his hands over his perspiring face, he forced his attention back to the writing.
So far he and Malanka had managed to translate enough of the writing to know that they needed a power source. Which as far as he could tell, was missing.
He started, so deep into his thoughts that he hadn't heard Jack enter the cave. He looked at his friend, noting he was covered with dirt. Girgal arrived a few seconds later with Malanka, as did several other of the men. The all crouched beside Daniel, grateful for the rest.
"Um." Daniel lifted his index finger in the air, then waggled his fingers. "I'm gonna need to say this twice." He rubbed his eyes, then looked at Jack again. "The doors are controlled by a crystal, a power source of some sort. Malanka says she thinks one of the villages used it as a holy icon."
Catching himself nervously toying with the flashlight, he put it down. As he began translating what he'd just told Jack, he realized he was a little too wired. He wondered if he'd taken too much of the stimulant this last time, or else whether its continued effects were beginning to take their toll on him. He wrapped both hands around his knees, hugging himself tightly to control the urge to go out and physically move. He knew the more active he was, the shorter the effects. He didn't have much of the stuff left, he needed to get through the next couple of hours, or at least until the doors were closed and the people safe.
He forced his wandering attention back to Girgal, who was saying that he could take several men to the village Malanka had mentioned. He knew of the crystal, but the village had been destroyed two days ago.
"I'll go with them," Jack offered when Daniel told him the village was less than an hour's walk from here. Jack got up, dusting his backside with his hands. "They can probably use the backup."
"What if the barbarians attack us before you get back?" Daniel stood and accompanied Jack to the exit, ignoring the feeling of light-headedness he was experiencing.
"You have the advantage of height, you can pick them off one by one with bullets and arrows." They stopped at the edge of the cave's opening. "And rocks." Jack pointed to a pile of large rocks by the entrance. "If we can get these people secure inside, then I can get a bunch of these men with me and take back the Stargate�"
Jack's words cut off at the sound of gunfire. It was faint, but Sam's P-90 was unmistakeable, as was Teal'c's staff weapon.
"Which way's the village?" Girgal pointed to the left when Daniel asked, away from the sounds of battle. "Damn."
"Maybe we can send a few of the men to investigate?"
Jack shook his head. "We need everyone here. As it is, we probably won't have enough time to clear everything."
Daniel squinted as he looked around at the work that had been accomplished while he'd been inside. The path down the cliff's side had been cleared; a rope had been lowered to help people climb up and down now that there were no longer roots and growth to hang onto. Small trees and shrubs had been chopped down and brought up, the trees propped horizontally as bunkers to hide behind. The shrubs and branches were layered between the logs, adding both camouflage and a second layer of protection.
"But that was Sam and Teal'c."
"At least we know they're alive." Jack looked up into the sky. "We should be back in a couple of hours, hopefully before sunset. You need anything before I go?"
Daniel wrapped his shaking hands around his torso and shook his head no, staring at the ground.
"Think you can handle the early warning system?"
"Huh?" Daniel looked up at Jack in confusion.
"Those noisemakers. I got the kids to tie them up along lengths of rope. I need someone to figure out the best places to string 'em up."
"Oh. Right. Rattling cans. Gotcha. I'm just gonna check on the progress of the doors and..." Daniel waved at the woods, and Jack nodded before bending down and grabbing hold of the rope. He stood watching as Jack disappeared into the forest before turning to the work waiting for him.
- - - - - -
Damn the luck. Jack squatted behind thick bushes as he watched the Neanderthals examining their trail. There were only four of them. Jack figured he could take them out, no problem. His dilemma was that the sound of his weapon firing would probably attract the larger horde they'd skirted a short while ago, and he didn't think they'd be able to take them all with just arrows.
Getting to the destroyed village and finding the crystal had been the easy part. Well, easy wasn't the right word when he thought back to the dead bodies littering the village. Men, women and children had been murdered, some beaten brutally first. As bad as the Jaffa were, they at least had some kind of honour amongst themselves as opposed to these savages.
Head Neanderthal grunted something and they all began moving towards where Jack and the others were hiding.
"I hate it when that happens," Jack muttered as he stood. It took more bullets than he'd liked, but within seconds, all four were dead. Waving the other two men accompanying him, they began sprinting as fast as they could through the woods.
Weapons fire echoed close behind them, twin to the sounds that had just come out of his P-90.
"Wait, wait," he cried, coming to a stop. He motioned the two men down, trying to tell them to stay put while he backtracked towards the skirmish happening close by. He grinned when he heard several staff blasts combine with the gunshots.
Footsteps behind him told him that the two men hadn't listened and were following him. Cautiously, he approached the second battle scene. Ten savages were lying dead on the ground, and there were his missing team members, accompanied by a good thirty more villagers composed of men, women and children.
"Well, it's about time."
Carter's gun came up quickly at the sound of his voice, aimed towards the tree he was hiding behind.
"Took you guys long enough." He waited until her grin told him she'd recognized his voice and was lowering her gun as he stepped into the clearing. The armed villagers behind her only lowered their weapons when Girgal moved to stand beside him.
"Sir, where's Daniel?" She and Teal'c quickly hurried to Jack's side as he stared at the dead bodies. Some were littered with dozens of arrows.
"He's back at the fortress where the villagers have taken refuge."
"That must probably be the destination of these people." Teal'c glanced towards the woods. "It would be unwise to remain here. The sound of battle will surely attract more of these... individuals."
"Teal'c's right. There are probably close to a hundred in these woods, if not more."
"Girgal!" When the man looked at Jack, he pointed towards the way they'd come. "We gotta go. Now!"
Although Jack knew his words hadn't been understood, Girgal definitely understood Jack's tone of voice. Soon they were all moving past Jack. He motioned for Teal'c to take point, while he took up the rear with Carter.
"No luck in getting to the Stargate?"
"There were at least a dozen camped out around it, Sir." She took several steps before continuing. "We saw them take prisoners through the Stargate. Teal'c and I had hoped to enlist some help in securing the 'gate, but we couldn't make ourselves understood."
Jack nodded. He jogged forward to Girgal and when they came to a small clearing, he had the men stop.
Drawing pictures in the soil, he finally made them understand that he needed their help, and how.
"Carter, you secure the Stargate and bring your men through to the SGC. It's gonna be dark real soon, and I don't want you fighting in the dark. Get Hammond to send reinforcements at daybreak. I have a feeling these Neanderthals are gonna be camped out at the fortress by then."
"Sir, how will you know the way is clear? If you're underground, our radios won't get through to you."
"Ah yes, speaking of which..." With a lift of his eyebrows, Jack plucked Teal'c's radio from his vest pocket. "Daniel said there's some kind of opening in the cliff. I'll find it and I'll be waiting there at daylight."
"Right, Sir. We can launch a UAV and have it circle the area."
"Good luck, Colonel."
"We shall meet up again in the morning, O'Neill."
"It's a date." Jack turned back to Girgal and waved him on towards the fortress, then watched as Carter and the dozens of men who had volunteered to accompany her and Teal'c headed off in the opposite direction.
- - - - - -
"Come on, Jack." Daniel peered into the woods, the elongated shadows promising the approach of night in a very short time. Everything had been prepared as well as could be; all they needed now was the crystal in order to be able to close the door, and to open the second door leading into the mountain.
There had been occasional gunshots throughout the afternoon, including machine gun fire earlier. The last gunfire had been close by, though, and Daniel knew it was just a matter of time before the marauders found them. If they couldn't close the doors, they would all be as helpless as fish in a barrel.
Movement at the edge of the woods caught his attention and he spotted several shadows heading for the cliff. The men beside him stiffened, then called out in relieved voices. Men, women and children began running towards them. Obviously these were more refugees and Daniel hoped to God Jack was among them because they were going to be pretty crowded in the cave if they couldn't get past the second door.
"Thank God," he whispered when he spotted Jack bringing up the rear. His friend peered up towards him, and Daniel raised a hand and waved. After a moment, Jack lifted his hand and waved back, then gave him a thumb's up.
The logs before the opening were pushed aside to make room for the approaching refugees and Daniel stood back, waiting anxiously as Jack stood guard as they clambered up as quickly as possible. Finally, when the last one was on his way up, Jack took hold of the rope.
At that moment, a loud clattering sound came from the woods, along with howls of surprise.
"Hurry, hurry," Daniel and the others called down. Finally Jack was up and the logs were pushed back into position. "Did you get the crystal?" Daniel asked Girgal. The man smiled and pulled out an orange coloured stone from a pocket. Daniel grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the small opening in the stone, near the inner door. He took the crystal from Girgal and pushed it into the hole. Immediately two small lights appeared on a panel above the gap. As he pressed the button that read 'open door', he was surprised to see it was written in Goa'uld. The large door before him began to slowly slide open amidst a great deal of dust and falling debris.
"Go! Go!" he yelled at the people milling uncertainly around the widening gap.
"What about the other door?" Daniel turned at Jack's question to look at the huge stone slab that should have closed off the exterior of the cave. Frantically, he searched for an open/close button near it. He found it buried under centuries of dirt. Hastily he wiped the dirt from it and pressed the 'close door' button.
The door shook, causing more sand and debris to fall into the cave, moved haltingly along the rails for about a foot, then stopped.
"It's stuck!" By now everyone except Jack, Girgal and several dozen men armed with bows and arrows stood ready by the opening. The forest was resounding with the sound of Jack's early warning system, the noise grating on Daniel's already tense nerves. He pushed the open/close buttons again, hoping to get the doors to move.
Jack stepped outside, glanced up at the exterior of the doors, and swore.
"There's something out here jamming the door closed."
Daniel moved to look at what Jack was pointing out and noticed a huge piece of rock wedged into the exterior rail.
"Girgal, I thought people had cleaned the upper rails?" Daniel impatiently pushed the leader out of the way, trying to think if he'd recalled seeing anyone actually clearing the upper tracks.
Two of the men climbed up onto the shoulders of two others and began chipping away at the stone wedge. Howls and cries came closer and Daniel stepped away from the workers, trying to position himself so he'd have a clear shot at the approaching attackers.
It was growing dark quickly, and he realized what he'd taken for shadows were the marauders. As they slowly came out of the woods, Daniel gasped. There were at least a hundred, if not more. They needed to find a way to stall, otherwise they'd be overrun in no time.
"Oil! Girgal, I need oil! As much as you can get!"
Gunshots echoed over the valley and ricocheted off the stone around them. Daniel realized the poor men trying to free the doors were sitting ducks. Quickly he ordered some men to move a few of the logs up around them, trying to stack them as high as possible to provide cover. He could hear Jack's P-90 firing behind him, and the twang of bows as the archers let their arrows fly.
One of the men working on the doors suddenly yelled and fell, falling backwards before anyone could grab at him. He slid down the cliff, right into the arms of the attackers. Howls of glee echoed over them as the marauders tore the man to pieces. Daniel swallowed bile and turned away. The other worker had quickly jumped down and was cowering behind the logs, obviously shaken.
Daniel made to go take the men's place, but Jack was already climbing onto another man's shoulders. By then the logs had been moved, providing him with minimal cover. Jack wasn't completely safe from bullets, but at least he wasn't a sitting duck either.
By now the savages were starting to climb the cliff and Daniel and the others were desperately firing into their midst.
Girzal handed Daniel several small clay pots and Daniel threw one down the cliff's side. The oil darkened the stone as it spread down the cliff. Realizing what he intended, the other men grabbed the other pots and attempted to cover as much of the cliff's surface as possible.
"More! Girzal, get all that you can find!" Daniel threw down the last pot, hoping that the broken sherds and oil would help slow them down.
He watched anxiously as the marauders attempted to climb the slick surface, then breathed a sigh of relief as they were unable to find purchase against the oily areas, many managing to climb up only to slide back down into their brethren, causing all to tumble to the bottom of the cliff. Daniel realized that they'd eventually sop up all the oil over time, but at least it was working for the moment.
A few minutes later Girzal arrived with a few more pots and the men threw those down, too.
"Got it," Jack cried as the door began moving once more. Slowly the men retreated and the savages began to climb more desperately. Out of ammunition now, Daniel watched them clamber over one another in their frenzy. He also knew they'd reach the top of the cliff before the door closed fully.
"I need fire! Get me a torch!" One of the men came running with a burning brand and Daniel held it to several of the branches piled before him. When the flames caught, he began throwing the burning sticks amongst the barbarians.
Their oil-soaked clothes quickly caught, and soon their howls of glee turned to screams of pain. Still, they maintained their position despite their agony. Desperate, Daniel, Jack and the men lit the mass of branches that had been spread before the cave's entrance and kicked it down into the knot of invaders.
Thick acrid smoke began choking them, and the stench of burnt flesh and hair caused them to retch. Slowly, ever so slowly, the door continued to close, until only a meter remained open. The men began to retreat inside. The savages slowly gained ground, climbing relentlessly despite their smouldering clothes.
"Tell them to focus all their shots at just one person. If we can break that living ladder, they'll fall." Jack's voice was clipped but steady, and Daniel felt his friend's hand on his shoulder as he relayed Jack's instructions. Several men squeezed into the still closing gap and loosed their arrows. Daniel couldn't see what was happening from where he stood, but he heard the men cheer when the invaders screamed. The noise as they fell back down the cliff was unmistakeable.
He watched the space slowly disappear as the door slid shut, breathing a prayer that it wouldn't get stuck at this point. Then, with a loud bang, it finally sealed them inside. Daniel's knees turned weak with relief and he stumbled a few steps to lean against the wall for support.
His legs continued to shake and he realized the stimulant had worn off. He reached into his pocket and took out the flask. Trembling so badly he could barely hold onto it with numbed fingers, he tipped it towards his mouth.
"Good thinking, Daniel. Where'd you learn that trick with the oil? That was�"
Too late, he realized he'd forgotten Jack was still in the room with him. He turned in shock to look at his friend, the alien drug sitting heavily in his mouth as Jack stared at him in disgust. He swallowed, feeling the minty stuff sear down his throat and into his burning stomach while he lowered the flask.
"What the hell?" Jack grabbed the container from his unresisting hand and sniffed its contents. "Do you know what this is?" He thrust the flask into Daniel's face. "Do you realize that this... stuff... is what caused those creatures out there to be so resistant to pain?"
"I know." The words were difficult to push past his tight throat, the look of hurt and disappointment on Jack's face also causing his chest to constrict. Or was it simply the pounding of his heart that was making breathing so difficult? His face was burning, although he wasn't sure if it was from shame or the effects of the drug. "It's a stimulant."
"God damn you!" Jack flung the flask against the wall where it tumbled to the ground, the tinkling sound loud in the now nearly empty cave. Jack stormed away from Daniel, only to turn around in anger. "You said there are other places here that open to the outside. Ask Girzal if he knows where they are."
"Daniel, I don't want to hear it." Jack turned from him, and even in the flickering light of the lit torch, Daniel could see the tenseness of Jack's back. He followed Jack out of the cave, found the leader, and asked him Jack's question.
"He doesn't know." Daniel's voice was low, and he moved on strangely shaky legs towards his friend. "Jack?" he asked, when Jack moved away from him.
"Never mind, I'll find it myself."
Jack's footsteps echoed into the cave as Daniel wrapped his arms around his torso.
- - - - - -
Jack stomped into the hallway, ignoring the backslapping and congratulations going on around him, not believing that Daniel could have been so stupid. How the hell could he have taken such a chance and drunk something alien, something he knew could affect him adversely? Hadn't they all learned their lessons when Jack had been drugged by Kynthia on Argos? What Daniel took might have been for medicinal purposes... but it was still an unknown drug!
As he walked down the hallway, which was lit by a few haphazardly positioned torches, he began noting that the structure looked familiar. He passed many people, some looking confused, unsure of themselves. He couldn't blame them; they'd been uprooted from their homes from a danger they obviously had never expected and forced into hiding into a place that had been prohibited most of their lives.
A few families had settled into smaller rooms, and as Jack continued walking he came to realize how huge the place was. There was more than enough space for everyone to settle into comfortably, ten times over.
Soon he left the people and torches behind, and took out his flashlight to light his way in the dark corridor. He continued on along the main corridor until he found a large chamber. He flashed his light inside, the chamber so big that it couldn't illuminate the far side. He was going to bypass it when he spied some paintings on the wall. Hoping that they might tell him something, he entered the room. Most of the paintings were scenes of normal day to day life inside this underground labyrinth. He skimmed them quickly until several scenes caught his eye. They depicted people sitting outside in gardens, with a huge canopy overhead.
Camouflage. So that was how they'd most likely hid from the Goa'uld gliders. And so the gardens did exist. Now if he could only find a map or layout of this place.
He quickly scanned the remaining paintings, but none were helpful. He entered the hallway once more, trying to figure out what was so familiar about the place. He continued walking along, noting many small corridors branching off every so often.
As he passed one such corridor, he felt a breeze on his face, a light perfumed scent evident in the fresher air. He stopped and listened. He could hear the wind soughing through leaves. He clicked off his light. After a few moments, his eyes got accustomed to the dark and he realized there was faint light shining into the corridor.
Treading softly, he moved to the open doorway's edge and cautiously peered outside. He saw an overgrown garden surrounded by sheer cliff walls, and as he stepped into the open space, he realized the place would be inaccessible to even the most skilled climber. The only danger here would be airborne, and as far as he knew, those Neanderthals did not have planes.
The air was warm and sweet smelling and he realized the trees were in bloom, the flowers shining brightly in the moonlight. He hadn't realized it had gotten so late. One of the planet's four moons was full, shining brightly straight overhead. Even overgrown as it was, the garden was beautiful. He thought Daniel would find this place enchanting. Sighing, he walked to a large stone near the cave's opening and sat down on it, shoulders slumped.
Jack shouldn't have stormed out in anger the way he had. He needed to know if Daniel was all right. He knew his friend wouldn't have taken that drug without a need, which meant he had to have been pretty badly off.
And Jack had left him alone back there. Left him at a time when Daniel had probably needed him, if only for his support and understanding. Jack recalled how Daniel had unhesitatingly set fire to the oil knowing those creatures were soaked in it... he shook his head. His friend constantly amazed him.
Jack's heart nearly flew out of his mouth as he stood and whirled around, reflexively reaching for his P-90 and realizing he'd left it behind since he had no more clips for it.
"Damn it, Daniel." He took a deep breath and saw Daniel standing in the entrance to the garden, shoulders slumped. "You trying to give me a heart attack?"
His friend's voice was shaky and hesitant, and Jack took a few steps closer.
"You okay?" He peered at Daniel's face, but the moonlight simply made it appear pale and sickly.
"Yes. No." His friend sighed shakily. "I don't know. I'm just so... I think I overdid the..." Daniel swayed and Jack grabbed his arm.
"Stuff wearing off?" Jack could feel him trembling, and after a few seconds, he realized there was abnormal heat radiating through the material beneath his fingers. When Daniel nodded, Jack pulled on Daniel's arm and led him to the stone he'd been sitting on before. Daniel sat down heavily with a hand held to his side.
Daniel shivered noticeably despite the evening's warmth, and Jack took his jacket off, placing it over his friend's shoulders.
"Th...thanks." Daniel lowered his head, staring at his feet. "I'm sorry. I did what I thought was best. I..." Another shiver wracked Daniel and he pulled the jacket closer around his neck.
"You thought taking an alien version of speed the best thing to do?"
"I was hurting. Afraid I couldn�t... so tired..."
Jack wasn't sure if Daniel was talking about being tired now, or before, but as his friend sat there, slumped, a picture of abject misery and fatigue, Jack realized again that Daniel had to have been hard pressed to succumb to such a choice.
"It's okay." Jack sat down beside Daniel and pulled him close. For a moment he thought Daniel would resist, but with a soft sigh, he allowed Jack the comfort of a one-armed hug.
"Ll...looks like we're kinda stuck here, huh?" Daniel pulled away, head ducking down in embarrassment. Jack shifted so he was sitting hip to hip with Daniel, offering body warmth.
"Not exactly." Jack smiled when Daniel turned to look at him in surprise. "Carter's gone for reinforcements." He removed Teal'c's radio from his pant's pocket. "The cavalry should be arriving over the hill come daybreak."
"You ss...saw Sam?" Daniel turned in surprise, and Jack caught a wince as he placed a hand again to his side.
"Lemme see that." Jack put the radio back into his pocket and took out his flashlight. He lifted Daniel's tee shirt and pulled back the bloody bandage. He wasn't surprised when he saw the swollen, angry-looking wound. "Yes, I bumped into Carter and Teal'c. They're fine, by the way." He slapped Daniel's hand lightly as he tried to touch the weeping and bloody wound.
"That's infected. Damn, we got so caught up in simply surviving that I never got a chance to disinfect this." As he played the light along the injury, he noted the multiple bruises all over Daniel's ribs and back. Understanding a little better now why his friend had needed a bit of a pick me up, he replaced the bandage and stood up.
"Come on, let's get you back inside."
"Can't we stay here?" Daniel looked at him sideways and Jack wondered whether the request was because Daniel liked the quiet and peacefulness of the gardens, or whether he was too sick to make it back to the main encampment.
"I need to get our first aid kit."
"I'll be fine."
"I won't be long."
Daniel nodded, hunkering down into the jacket. Hating to leave him behind by himself, Jack turned and hurried down the hallway back to the encampment. As he aimed the flashlight's beam before him, he saw his and Daniel's footprints in the ancient dust, realizing that was how Daniel had found him.
The sickening smell of charred flesh greeted him when he got back to where he'd left their gear. He figured there had to be ventilation of some kind in a place like this, if only for cooking fires. Maybe it was blocked, or maybe it would take time for the odor to fade.
He went straight into the vestibule area and grabbed their packs, then managed to wheedle a blanket from one of the women. He asked about water, pantomiming drinking, and one of the teenagers pointed Jack to a fountain with fresh, cold water flowing from it. He filled his canteen and quickly headed back to Daniel. He was more than grateful to get away from the stench of the battle, but at the same time he felt guilty leaving the women and children in its midst.
When he entered the garden, at first he didn't see Daniel. He quickly moved towards the rock where he'd left him and realized Daniel had slid off of it and was sitting on the ground, leaning back against it.
Daniel opened his eyes at the greeting, and Jack could see the pain and exhaustion reflected back at him. He realized Daniel needed to sleep. He handed Daniel water, Tylenol and antibiotics, and then got busy cleaning out his wounds. He wished he could give Daniel a something stronger for the pain but he didn't dare, not with the alien drug still coursing through his veins.
After washing out and disinfecting the hole in Daniel's side, a process that left both men sweating and Daniel gasping in pain, Jack took care of the lesser wounds. The slashes he'd unwittingly given Daniel on his arms and thigh had crusted over and were stuck to his clothing. He could feel Daniel's body shaking and tensing in pain, and he wished they'd had had a chance to do this earlier, before things had gotten this bad.
Finally finished, he pulled Daniel's tee shirt back down, helped thread his arms back into his jacket sleeves, pulled his own jacket close over him, and then covered Daniel with the blanket. The ground beneath them was soft and sandy, and would probably be more comfortable a bed than the stone corridor.
"It's amazing, isn't it?" Daniel asked as he sagged sideways slightly.
"What is?" He waited as Daniel tried to straighten without much success.
"How the Ttt...tok'ra helped these people?"
"What?" Then the picture slid into focus. He realized what he'd found so familiar.
"You had to have nn...noticed the similarities?"
Jack didn't like Daniel's stuttering, and he hoped it was simply a sign of exhaustion. "You mean the early-Tok'ra medieval look?"
"I meant the crystalline structures within the stone."
"Isn't that what I said?"
"Yeah, I guess so." Daniel's reply was soft and he slumped further, his shoulder leaning against Jack.
The moon had moved in the sky, nearly hidden by the cliffs. Pretty soon the gardens would be in the dark. Jack looked at Daniel, noting his eyes were closed.
"Come on, let's get you horizontal." He moved aside and Daniel continued sliding along the stone, hitting the ground before Jack could stop the motion.
"Ow." One eye opened to stare at Jack in recrimination.
"Sorry." He stretched out beside Daniel and pulled his friend closer, shoving one of their packs under Daniel's head as a pillow. He took the second pack and tried to make himself comfortable. He could hear Daniel's quick breaths near his ear, the sound making him a little anxious.
It felt strange lying out here, knowing those savages were camped out in front of the cave's door. He figured he should be able to hear something, being outside, but decided he was too far away, the mountain that surrounded him swallowing up whatever noise they might be making.
Despite his exhaustion and increasing stiffness now that the need to run and fight was over, he didn't expect to get much sleep this night. His worry over Daniel, and for Carter and Teal'c, was predominant in his mind. What if Carter and Teal'c didn't succeed in freeing the Stargate? What if those Neanderthals had captured them? God, what if they drugged Teal'c the way they had Jack and forced him to fight someone... he turned in agitation, trying to rid himself of the picture of Teal'c going after Carter.
That Hammond would send reinforcements was a given, at the least he'd make sure the refugees got home safe if Carter and Teal'c had made it back home.
The various scenarios kept running through his mind, and finally he sat up, frustrated.
He checked his watch, noting he'd been lying here, unable to sleep, for over three hours. Daniel hadn't even twitched a finger while Jack had tossed and turned mere inches away. Daniel's actions today worried him, and the potential consequences of such behaviour continued to trouble him.
Reaching a hand out, he noted that Daniel's fever hadn't abated, and the pulse beneath his questing fingers still appeared to beat too fast for normal sleep. Maybe more Tylenol would help.
"Daniel, wake up," Jack said, reaching over and shaking Daniel with one hand while he rummaged in the pack for the medicine with the other. He'd shoved the first aid kit near the top of the pack earlier, and he pulled it out after locating it by touch. He took out the blister pack of Tylenol and put it by his canteen. "Daniel." He shook Daniel again, harder, when he didn't stir. Daniel's head flopped to the side with the movement, which elicited no response from the sleeping man.
"Daniel?" He clicked the flashlight on and shone it onto Daniel's face. Gently slapping his friend's slack cheek, he noted no reaction.
"Damn it, Daniel. Wake up." He shook him again, this time having grabbed both his shoulders. He took the water and dribbled some onto his palm and sprinkled it over Daniel's face. Nothing.
Jack reached into the blankets and took a good hold of the sensitive skin beneath his arm and twisted. Daniel moaned slightly and tried to pull his arm away. Jack quickly tapped Daniel's cheek again. "Daniel." His concern for his friend made his tone rougher than he'd wanted. "Come on, wake up now."
"M'up." Daniel turned his head away from Jack's relentless fingers.
"Right. Let's try this again, shall we?"
Grateful to have gotten even this much of a reaction from Daniel, Jack put the still-lit flashlight down on the rock, grabbed Daniel by the shoulders and pulled him into a sitting position.
Daniel's eyes flew open in surprise, only to sink shut again seconds later. In slow motion, his head fell forward until his forehead landed on Jack's shoulder.
"Hey. Not so fast." With one hand supporting Daniel's nape, he pulled his friend's head back so it was facing Jack. "Daniel." This time his voice was stern, and when Daniel opened his eyes again, he quickly reached for the Tylenol. Fumbling one handed, he pushed two of the pills out of the blister pack.
"Izzit my turn f'watch?" Daniel blinked owlishly at him as Jack pushed the pills into Daniel's mouth.
"Not yet. I just need you to take these."
"Take what?" One of the pills fell out of Daniel's mouth and Jack picked it where it landed on the blanket.
"Water. Here, swallow." He stuffed the pill back into Daniel's mouth and tipped some water behind it. Jack had to move the canteen along with Daniel's head as it slowly began tilting forward again. He saw Daniel swallow a few times and resisted the urge to ask him to stick his tongue out to make sure he'd taken the medication.
Daniel's full weight fell against him as his friend lost the battle with his exhaustion. Offering a silent prayer that this was nothing more than the results of fever, exhaustion and coming down off the effects of the alien drug, Jack held his friend close a moment before lowering him down to the ground.
"Jack?" When his back touched the soil, Daniel opened his eyes and grabbed Jack's hand. He stared at Jack, looking a little lost.
"Shh, it's okay. You're safe."
"They murdered that little boy." Daniel's voice was full of pain, voicing what he hadn't been able to express earlier that day in the face of his anger when Jack had ordered everyone back to the Stargate.
"I know." Jack patted Daniel's hand with his free one, the one that wasn't being held in a tight grip. The vision of the innocent child with a bullet through his brain would probably haunt the two of them for a long time to come. Jack wouldn't be surprised if he'd have nightmares about his son's death again in the near future.
"We have to help these people."
"We will, Daniel. We have."
Daniel let go of Jack's hand, only to reach for his shoulder. He saw Daniel wince and Jack figured stiff and abused muscles were going to pain his friend for a few days yet. Daniel pulled Jack forward, surprising him. He had to put a hand down beside Daniel's head to keep his balance. The light from his flashlight was shining into Daniel's face and Jack could see how dilated Daniel's eyes were.
"They'll keep coming through the Stargate. We have to stop these marauders."
"We will. We'll stop them. We'll have them bury the Stargate."
"They burned. They were burning alive and they still kept coming. Oh God, Jack, the smell..." Daniel's dread was palpable, his eyes and voice expressing his horror over what he'd done.
Jack swallowed. "You know that was from the effects of the drug they were taking. The drug that you took, remember?"
"I had to..."
"There were other options you could have taken." Damn, if only Jack had kept a closer eye on his friend, noticing how badly off he'd been after their enforced fight. But Jack himself had been woozy from whatever they'd given him and not thinking straight. And by the time he'd been more or less recovered, it had been too late because they were up to their necks simply trying to survive.
"They were gonna get inside. I had to do something." Daniel tried to sit up, only to fall back with a groan, his hand squeezing Jack's shoulder painfully. His breathing hitched up in volume and Jack put his hand over Daniel's again.
"Easy. Your body is one huge bruise. You're gonna be pretty stiff for a while." Stupid. 'Really stupid, Jack', he told himself. Daniel was berating himself about what he'd done to the marauders and here he was chastising him. "You did really good out there. Thinking on your feet, buying us that bit of time so we could get the doors closed."
"For..." Daniel blinked, his forehead scrunching up slightly. "I'm not sure."
"How about you just try and get some rest." He gently pried Daniel's fingers from his tee shirt and lowered his hand onto his chest, bringing the blanket up to Daniel's chin.
"Are you still mad?"
Jack thought it over for a moment. "Mad? No. Disappointed? A little. Worried? A helluva lot."
"Oh. That's what I�m sorry for." Daniel shifted slightly, closing his eyes.
"But I understand why you took the drug."
"You do?" His eyes popped open again, a hopeful look on his face.
"I understand, but I don't necessarily condone it."
Daniel didn't answer except to close his eyes again. A few moments later, Jack realized he'd fallen asleep again.
- - - - - -
The early morning sun was shining right into Daniel's face. Its illumination wasn't kind to him, though, emphasizing the dark bruise around his cheekbone and eye. His face was pale beneath the shadow of his stubble, short breaths were being forced through his partly-opened mouth. Signs of pain were apparent on Daniel's face, from the small furrows along his forehead to the tightness around his lips.
The fever and infection still had a good hold on him, and although Jack had tried again during the night, he hadn't been able to wake Daniel to give him another dose of antibiotics. He placed a hand to Daniel's neck, the skin hot beneath his fingers as he checked out his pulse once more. It was fast, as was his respiration, but had slowed considerably in the past hour as compared to what it had been during the night.
Jack leaned back against the rock, glaring at the too-silent radio. The sun had been up for over an hour; shouldn't someone have attempted to contact him by now? What was going on out there? Had his team made it through the Stargate last night? Were they currently fighting those marauders for possession of said 'gate?
He so hated being out of the loop.
Ears straining for the sounds of battle or the whir of the UAV's motors, he shifted over to Daniel's side to try and get out of the sun's glare. Strangely, the shimmer remained and he realized suddenly that he'd been facing opposite Daniel, and both of them had gotten a face full of sun.
"What the�" Jack glanced up, and although he could see an expanse of clear blue sky, there was no shining orb. It was then that he realized the rocks at the top of the cliff were reflecting the sunshine down into the small opening. It made sense; for any sort of life to flourish like this garden had, it would have needed much more sunlight than what the surrounding rock face would have permitted through into the small opening.
Forcing himself to relax, he shut his eyes and enjoyed the reflected morning heat on his skin. That was when he heard the UAV overhead.
"�nel O'Neill. Come in. This is Stargate Command. Do you read?"
Jack grabbed the radio, Davis' voice music to his ears. As he answered the summons, he breathed a small prayer of thanks that his team had made it home safe. He smiled when Carter's voice joined the communication.
"Colonel. We have got control of the Stargate. We're on our way to engage the enemy near the sanctuary. Preliminary data shows the enemy's number close to a hundred or more. ETA forty minutes."
Her voice sounded a little breathless, and he could picture her striding through the forest, determination on her face.
"Understood. Good luck. And be careful." He stared up at the circling UAV, thinking how such a flimsy looking thing could be such a useful tool.
"Piece of cake, Sir."
He smiled as he put the radio aside, wishing he could get out there and join the upcoming battle. He looked at Daniel and saw a frown on the man's face.
"Daniel?" He reached down and placed a hand on his friend's cheek. Daniel's eyes scrunched tight for a moment, and with a breathy exhale, he sighed Carter's name.
"She's safe. Believe it or not, she's on our way to rescue us."
"Jack?" Daniel turned his head towards him, but didn't open his eyes.
"The one and only." He patted Daniel's cheek lightly before removing his hand.
Not knowing if Daniel meant him and Jack, or their missing team members, he tried to reassure his friend. "We're good here, and I'm sure Carter and Teal'c are bringing half the mountain back with them. Don't worry, they know what they're doing."
Realizing that this might be his best chance to get more antibiotics and fever medicine into Daniel, he grabbed the pills that he'd put aside earlier just in case Daniel woke up.
"Here, can you swallow these?" He readied the water container, placing it between his knees while he lifted Daniel's head slightly. He grabbed the water and tipped a bit into Daniel's mouth before following with the pills. Daniel swallowed, a soft sigh escaping from him when Jack pulled the canteen back.
"How you feeling?"
Daniel opened his eyes a crack and looked up at Jack. "I've felt better."
"I don't doubt it. You must be pretty stiff."
His head moved up and down almost imperceptibly before he looked around. "Where are we?"
"Gardens. I think they need a new landscaper, though. The country look is so outdated."
"Smells nice. Lilacs?"
Jack looked up at the large frilly blooms dangling overhead. "Nope, but they do remind me of lilacs."
"My mom wore perfume sometimes. Smelled like this." A faint smile appeared and Daniel relaxed a little.
"My grandma used to grow lavender, and she sent some to Sara one year. She put the herbs in her lingerie drawer... every time Sara opened that drawer, I'd have visions of grandma O'Neill watching us. It got so bad Sara ended up putting them in with my old sneakers.
Daniel chuckled, the sound suddenly turning into a moan as he grabbed his side.
"Hey, easy there."
Sweat beaded Daniel's forehead and upper lip as he shut his eyes against the pain. Feeling useless in the light of his friend's discomfort, Jack put a hand to Daniel's shoulder. He waited till the muscles beneath his fingers relaxed before squeezing gently.
"Shouldn't be long, we'll get you home soon."
"What about the people here? They'll be facing a threat as long as the Stargate is operational. That is, if these marauders came through the Stargate in the first place."
"Carter said she saw them using the Stargate to bring prisoners over, so I'm sure that�"
His words were interrupted by a slight sound near the corridor's entrance. Jack spun on his knees in alarm, only to see the young child that Daniel had saved from drowning staring at him from the cave's opening. She held an oil lamp in her hand and when she caught sight of Jack and Daniel, she smiled.
Placing the lamp on the ground, she ran to them, jabbering the whole time. She came right up to Jack, then stopped, looking at the ground shyly.
"She said she thought we were lost, and she's happy she's found us and brought us breakfast." Daniel spoke a few words to her and she smiled again, nodding. She handed Jack a piece of bread, wrapped in cloth. When he took it, she dropped to her knees and began picking flowers.
"Someone's bound to be looking for her." Jack watched as the child gathered the blooms. He pulled off a bite of bread and found it good, full of nuts and something akin to raisins. He offered Daniel some but his friend shook his head.
The little girl got up and ran to gather some red blooms a few steps away while Jack ate his breakfast. Not satisfied with the multitude of flowers around her, she started running towards the far end of the garden.
She froze at Jack's bellow and Jack saw Daniel jump out of the corner of his eye. He realized belatedly that Daniel had been close to dozing off as he motioned to the girl to come back. "Daniel, tell her to stay close by, we don't know how safe this place is."
She was already on her way back as Daniel spoke to her. Chastised, she settled at Daniel's feet, dumping the armload of flowers on her lap and began to happily sort through them.
Daniel dozed off again and Jack kept an eye on both child and friend. He debated leaving Daniel alone to bring the girl to her parents and he had actually been on the verge of getting up and doing so when Carter called in to report that the enemy had been engaged.
By the time Girgal showed up, the radio crackled almost non stop with the sounds of battle. Jack followed it as avidly as he would a hockey game, able to piece together the strategies as orders were given and carried out. Daniel slept on, oblivious to the war being played outside their door as he was to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The girl's father, obviously relieved to find his daughter safe, entered the gardens with a look of awe as he stared at the luxurious growth around them. The radio squawked as the UAV moved slightly out of range, and Girgal bent to examine the small, unfamiliar piece of equipment.
Grabbing a twig, Jack drew an outline of the Stargate in the soil and a replica of their sanctuary, complete with refugees and enemy. He showed his men going through the 'gate, then coming back a hundred fold and engaging the enemy.
Girgal caught on when Jack pointed to the little figures he'd drawn standing outside the replica of the sanctuary being overrun by the good guys coming from the Stargate. Jack pointed to the radio and mimed giving orders. He didn't know how much the Girgal understood, but he sat quietly beside Jack while Jack continued to try and explain things through pictures and mime. All the while, they listened to the sounds of gunfire and shouted orders and the occasional cries of pain that came through. When Carter reported that the enemy was on the run, Jack was surprised to see that the battle had barely taken an hour.
"You can open the doors now, Sir, although it'll take us a while to get all the stragglers," she added.
"Understood. It'll take me about fifteen minutes to get to them open."
"That'll give us time to do a final sweep."
"We'll need a stretcher up here when you get a chance," Jack said, looking at Daniel.
There was a pause, and Jack heard her give the order for a medic to stand by with a stretcher.
Jack drew a picture of the doors, and them mimed opening them. He stood, and pointed to Daniel and the child. Girgal spoke softly to the little girl and she nodded, moving to sit closer to Daniel. Jack understood that he'd asked her to stay with his friend while they went to let the people out.
Using his flashlight to illuminate their way, Jack and Girgal hurried to the doors. People watched them go by, calling out to Girgal. Soon they had a huge following as they continued down the corridor.
Without hesitating, Jack walked to the vestibule and hit the button to open the door. Slowly, the large slabs lumbered open, allowing daylight into the cave. People blinked and placed hands to cover their sensitive eyes. Without waiting for his eyes to adjust, Jack stepped outside.
Teal'c stood near the entrance, apparently waiting for the door to open. Two men stood beside him, one of which Jack recognized as a medic. A stretcher leaned against the cliff walls.
"It is good to see you. MajorFerretti reports that most of the enemy have been defeated. There may have been one or two who escaped. They will not get far."
"Good job, Teal'c." Jack clapped the Jaffa on the arm as he surveyed the carnage at the foot of the cliff. SGC personnel were in the process of moving the dead bodies to the far side of the woods, clearing a path for the villagers. Ferretti and Carter were down there in the thick of things.
"Many of our men have received injuries. Two were wounded fatally. They are all being conveyed to the SGC."
Girgal stood beside Jack, and after a moment he called out to his people. The men descended and within moments they were helping with the cleanup process.
"Let's go get Daniel," Jack suggested when he saw everything was in order. Inside the cave, the women were busy packing up their belongings. There were smiles and laughter all around, a change from the frightened, quiet faces he'd seen the previous night.
He returned to the gardens with a lighter heart, knowing that both his people and the villagers were safe, and they'd soon have Daniel home and in Fraiser's clutches.
The little girl was sitting crossed legged by Daniel's head, a hand playing in his hair. She turned to Jack and said something that sounded like a scolding. He knelt beside her and placed a gentle hand on Daniel's still hot face. "Yeah, sweetie, I know he's not feeling too well." He wished he'd asked her name as the frown on her face intensified out as she watched the medic check Daniel out.
Daniel stirred and tried to pull his hand away as an IV was started.
"Easy, Daniel." Jack placed a comforting hand on Daniel's shoulder, squeezing gently as Daniel relaxed. "We're taking you home, it won't be long now."
Teal'c and the medic lifted Daniel and placed him onto the stretcher, covered him with the blanket and then strapped him in. As they each took an end and stood, Jack put a hand out and the little girl grasped it after picking up her large bundle of flowers. He and the child led the way back to the doors, the girl dropping his hand and running to her mother as soon as she saw her, showing off her colourful and sweet-smelling find.
Most of the women and children had left the cave and by the time ropes were tied to the edges of the stretcher and Jack had enlisted the aid of four marines to help lower Daniel down the side of the cliff, they found themselves the last to leave. The medic went down first, waiting for Daniel while Teal'c went down with Daniel, easing the stretcher over rocks.
The descent was jerky and rough in spots, and that must have been what finally roused Daniel. Halfway down, Daniel began to struggle. Maybe it was the fact that he was strapped down, or maybe he'd caught a glimpse of the cliff 's bottom because at the moment, the stretcher was tilted sideways in order to allow it to pass over a large protruding piece of rock.
Teal'c called up to the men to stop lowering the stretcher and Jack was on the verge of rushing down when Teal'c caught Daniel's flailing hand and leaned over him. Teal'c's deep voice was gentle, the words too softly spoken to reach Jack, although the tone was evident. After a moment, Daniel quieted and Teal'c tucked the hand back beneath the blankets. He waved to the men to continue lowering the stretcher, and Jack heaved a sigh of relief when Daniel was finally on solid ground. Carter was there talking with the medic by the time Jack descended, feeling his stiff and tired body protesting every inch of the way.
"Sir." She was grinning at him, and he smiled back. "We're pretty sure we've gotten all of them, but we're continuing to sweep the woods, just in case. Major Ferretti's assigned a few SG teams to accompany the people back to their homes." Jack nodded, listening as she added further details while he kept an eye on the men preparing to take Daniel back home.
"General Hammond requests that you return to the SGC immediately. Once we've cleaned up here and given what aid we can, the General wants a team to go and get mineral samples."
"Gonna be hard to guard the 'gate against these Neanderthals."
As Teal'c, the medic and two other marines picked up the ends of the stretcher, Jack took up position behind them. Carter followed beside him, still talking.
"Maybe we can get these people to set up some kind of militia. Teach them how to defend themselves. We have plenty of the firearms and ammunition." She waved her hand at the piles of dead invaders.
"So Hammond thinks the effort will be worth the price?" Seeing a bright flash of silver, Jack detoured and picked up a flask, opened it and sniffed its contents. The minty odour from the half full bottle confirmed what he'd suspected, and he placed it in his pocket.
"It'll all depend on the results of the mineral samples but one of the few that I managed to bring back shows pure grade trinium. If it's as plentiful as I suspect it might be�" She looked at him sideways, as if gauging whether he were still listening as he rejoined her. "Maybe these� Neanderthals," she said with a smile as she used Jack's description for them, "might give up on the planet if they realize it'll be too much trouble once we're situated here."
Yeah, Jack thought, and maybe they'll just go tip off their allies and inform them that the Tau'ri are here protecting something they want and they can't give them any more slaves. If Teal'c were right and they sold the people they took to the Goa'uld, it might be best to forget this planet once and for all. Let them kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.
Carter dropped back once they reached the wooded area and Jack stopped a moment, looking for Girgal. He waited till he caught the man's eye, and gave him a short salute. The man nodded back, and Jack turned and began the long trek back to the 'gate. Daniel continued to sleep throughout, his condition both worrying Jack and at the same time, he was grateful that if Daniel was asleep, he wasn't in pain or discomfort.
- - - - - -
Jack forced his eyes open, peering between his spread fingers at the display on the wall monitor behind Hammond's chair. Despite the few hours' sleep, he was still tired and was having difficulty concentrating on Carter's geological report. What he had been able to grasp, though, was that the planet was a treasure trove of raw materials.
He'd been fine throughout the debriefing, adding his bit to Ferretti, Griggs, and Jordan's reports. The villagers were back home safe and sound, plans to rebuild the destroyed homes in the works, the last of the marauders hunted down, their guns and ammunition distributed to the villagers with instructions on how to shoot and maintain the weapons. The soil samples had been taken and now the preliminary reports were up for all to see.
As Carter's voice droned on, he rubbed his hands tiredly over his face, then breathed deeply as he forced himself to sit up and try to wake up. He caught Ferretti looking at him and his friend rolled his eyes at Carter's enthusiasm. Jack bit back a smile, thinking that if Daniel were here, he'd be glaring at their antics.
He thought back to Daniel, who up until the start of the debriefing some three hours ago, had still been sleeping the sleep of exhaustion. Fraiser had said that the stimulant he'd taken had put his body through what would have been the equivalent of running three marathons back to back. Not to mention the infection, blood loss and bruises he'd suffered, she admitted she wouldn't be surprised if he slept another day or two.
Hammond had waited until the teams had returned from '982 before calling for the debriefing, allowing Jack time to eat, shower, and get some sleep after his post mission medical. His test results had come out clear, thankfully there was no sign of whatever drug had been given him. He just wished Daniel had been so lucky.
When Hammond proclaimed his decision to send back a team to start mining negotiations with the people on P3R 982, Jack didn't bother raising objections. He still felt that doing so would bring more strife to those people and to the SGC in the long run, but he was too tired at the moment to care. All he wanted to do was get out of this room, stop by and check on Daniel, then go get some more sleep. When Hammond brought the meeting to a close, that was exactly what Jack set out to do.
- - - - - -
"Well, his fever's coming down, the antibiotics are doing their job now that his body is starting to recuperate."
The voice filtered down into Daniel's dream state, the words echoing around his mind until they finally made sense. He tried to think who had been sick or injured, his thoughts going in circles until he felt a cool hand press against his cheek, then move down to his neck.
"He's been asleep for three days now, he gonna wake up anytime soon?"
"He'll wake up when he's ready, Colonel. His body's been through the wringer and sleep is just its way of healing." There were rustling sounds nearby, and he felt the blankets over his body being adjusted.
The more he concentrated on the voices, the more alert he became. When the hand moved away, he felt strangely abandoned.
"Even if he hadn't been injured in the first place, it's a good thing Daniel didn't take much more of the stimulant. The sample you brought back showed it to be very close to methamphetamin, but its effects are much more powerful, but without its addictive qualities. Another dose or two would have put too much stress on his heart."
"But he's okay?"
He recognized Jack and Janet's voices now, and the worry evident in Jack's voice had Daniel fighting the last remnants of the lethargy that enveloped his mind and body.
"The infection from the puncture wound is under control, and although he'll be pretty stiff and sore for a few more days due to all the bruising, he'll be fine. And he'll be waking up soon, his latest EEGs showed signs that his sleep isn't quite as deep as before. I expect it shouldn�t be long now."
By the time he heard Janet walk away, Daniel managed to turn his head towards where he supposed Jack was sitting. He forced his eyes open, surprised at how blurred his vision was. His side throbbed, his head was heavy, and his mouth was dry.
Daniel raised a hand to wipe the sleep from his vision while trying to look up at Jack's smiling face leaning close to the bed. He was surprised at how hard it was to move his arm.
"Hey yourself." His voice sounded hoarse and he cleared his throat, dropping his arm back down onto the bed.
"Welcome back, sleeping beauty." Jack leaned back, a grin plastered on his face.
"Three days. Three and a half if you count the night you finally crashed back on the planet." Jack leaned forward again and somehow a glass with a straw had appeared in his hand. Gratefully Daniel took several sips of the liquid when Jack put the straw to his mouth.
"What happened?" he asked the moment he relinquished the straw. "Sam? Teal'c? The people... the marauders?"
"Carter and Teal'c are fine. She's giving SG-4 last minute instructions before they leave to undergo trade negotiations back on the planet in," he checked his watch, "oh, five minutes ago, actually. And Teal'c's going along to keep them company."
"They hit the mother lode with those minerals Carter's always searching for. Pure, easily accessible, and in honking huge quantities."
"Oh. Did they...?"
"Yep. Carter and Teal'c came back with the cavalry, rescued us, ended up taking all those bastards down. The people over there are now well-armed and standing guard at the Stargate."
"Oh. Wasn't I supposed to...?
Daniel realized that he and Jack had agreed to tell the people to bury the Stargate to prevent more of the invaders from returning. But as Janet had just told Jack, he'd taken too much of the alien drug and his body had burned out too quickly, long before he'd been able to caution them.
"I didn't get a chance to warn Girgal how to..." Daniel realized that due to his mistake, the people on P3... something... would be at the mercy of those savages when and if they decided to come back. Damn, he hated the fuzziness due to drugs. Although he had a fragment of memory, or had it been a dream, of Jack drawing pictures in the ground, explaining about Stargates and...
"Hey, it's okay, I took care of everything."
Frustrated, Daniel squirmed on the bed as he tried to remember the little things � the dream, the planet's designation, hating that he'd lost the opportunity to speak to Girgal, then gasped when his abused muscles violently protested the movement and cramped painfully.
"Easy, don't move. You've got tons of bruises all over your body." Janet was suddenly leaning over him, trying to hold Daniel still while the cramps in his shoulders and back brought tears to his eyes. A nurse was suddenly hovering on his other side and when she fiddled with his IV, Daniel knew his clarity of mind, as fuzzy as it was now, would be deteriorating even more when whatever she was giving him hit his bloodstream.
"You'll be feeling better in a few minutes, Doctor Jackson," she said with a smile.
"What?" He licked his lips, wishing for more water while sweat poured down his face. "What did you just give me?"
"It's just a muscle relaxant, Daniel," Janet answered as she straightened, watching him carefully.
"It'll make me sleep again." But at this point sleep was looking better all the time if it meant no pain. His body began to relax as the medication eased the cramps.
"Probably, but just for a little while. Your body is still recovering." She smiled at him and obviously satisfied with what she saw, nodded at Jack before she returned to wherever she'd come from.
"Jack?" His friend raised his chin, waiting expectantly. "Water?"
"Oh sure. Here." The straw was immediately placed to his lips and he drank the remainder of the water greedily.
"Thanks," he sighed. His body was beginning to feel light and fluffy, and he felt like he was floating. The residual pain disappeared, and he closed his eyes, the effort of trying to keep them open too much for him at the moment. "I think I'll just... rest... for a little while."
"Yeah, you do that." Jack's voice seemed to be coming from far, and Daniel concentrated on the touch of his friend's hand on his arm as he drifted away.
- - - - - -
"We've been trying to contact P3R 982 for the past two hours, but the Stargate won't engage."
Daniel turned to the voices as he woke up, recognizing Sam's, and then Jack's.
"No, Sir. We've tried other 'gate addresses and they all worked fine. If I didn't know better, I'd say that the people of P3R 982 buried their Stargate."
He cracked open his eyes and saw his teammates talking quietly near the foot of his bed. Sam's hair was mussed, a sure sign she'd been running her hands through it in frustration.
"How would they know to do that?" Jack looked at Teal'c, then at Sam. "Daniel's the only one who spoke their language." Jack shrugged. "And he sure never got a chance to give them that little tidbit of information."
"You're sure, Sir? General Hammond isn't very happy and he wanted to know if maybe one of you had..."
"Not me. You know me and languages. I even lose playing charades, for crying out loud."
"And Daniel never..."
"We were too busy fighting those goons off for the subject to come up. Then when Daniel crashed, he could barely string three words together in English, let alone in that Greek dialect the spoke in."
Daniel heard Sam sigh, then look over at him. She didn't notice he was awake, and he saw her run a hand through her hair. Yep, definitely frustrated. The General must be really upset, if Jack hadn't been exaggerating the extent of the mineral find on the planet.
"I need to get back to the Control Room, Sir. We'll keep trying to contact the planet."
"You do that. I'll just go sit with Daniel for a little while."
He closed his eyes when they both moved closer to his bed. He felt Sam's fingers on his hand and resisted the temptation to squeeze them and tell her everything was okay. She touched his face, and the drugs were keeping him relaxed enough that he didn't startle at her touch.
"I'll be back later," she said. Daniel waited until her footsteps, followed by Teal'c's, faded before he opened his eyes. He saw Jack staring after her.
Jack turned to look at Daniel. "What for?"
"Playing charades over there. There are more ways than one to get a message across, and not necessarily with the use of words."
"Yeah, well, I think those people suffered enough, don't you think?" His friend stared at him with haunted eyes which reminded Daniel of how he'd looked when he'd checked on the dead child with a bullet through its forehead.
"I think you did good, Jack."
"I had a good teacher." He smiled at Daniel, the tension flowing from his face and body. "Yeah, I had a great teacher."
Author's Comments: Many thanks to Jmas for trusting in me and publishing this story in her E-zine 'Ancients Gate II - Jack and Daniel'
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:
Sending Daniel to devra for a bear hug for the wonderful alpha. And hugs to my Heartsisters, who are, and have always been, there for me
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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.