Mountains

Daniel sighed softly to himself as he heard Jack’s footsteps echoing down the dark hallway. He still hadn’t made much progress in translating the symbols and text that they’d found engraved on the walls of this particular room. He'd given up on those and was trying to decipher the diagram displayed on the flickering monitor he was currently standing in front of. He looked around at Sam, who was elbows deep in the bowels of the main control unit. Broken shards of crystals were spread all around her. She glanced up at him, and from the look on her face, Daniel figured that she hadn’t had any more luck then he.

The light from Jack’s flashlight heralded his entrance into the room. He switched it off as he approached his two teammates, as the three panels mounted on the walls were weakly illuminating the chamber.

"So, any idea how much longer we’re gonna be stuck here?" Jack asked again for the fifth time in the past three hours. He stopped beside Daniel, who was nervously tapping a pencil against his fingers.

Daniel quickly chanced a look at his friend, his face forming a frown before he glanced away. He blamed himself for their situation, and he was anxious to find a way in getting them out of here.

"Um, no, nothing concrete to report yet, Jack. Although I’m beginning to think that this diagram is some kind of layout for this place." Pointing to several spots on the panel, he continued. "See, if I'm reading this right, then I think we’re here, and this might be the corridor leading to the cave in, this would be the ring room, and this one leads to where all the cubicles are where you and Teal'c have been exploring." He took another quick look at Jack, and saw that his face was exempt of all expression.

Daniel saw Sam look up at him in surprise before she exclaimed. "That wasn’t there before."

"I know, I just managed to figure out how to switch screens."

He pressed a series of buttons below the panel, and the diagrams changed. "I think these are a series of maps, Jack. If I’m right, I think we can follow one of these corridors to another set of rings." He pointed to another blob on the diagram. "Here. So if Sam can’t get the rings in the other room to work, we might have another option for getting out of here."

"You’re sure that that’s another ring room?"

"Um, no, actually, not really. I still need a few more hours to figure out the translation, but the symbols there match the ones for what I think is the ring room here." He changed the screen back to the previous one, pointing to another blob. "If I'm right, we're gonna need to get started copying down the maps. I’m going to need a bit of help, there are quite a few miles of tunnels down here."

Jack nodded slightly and turned to his second. "Any luck?"

"No sir, there’s too much damage. There's no way in hell that I can get the rings to reverse." She raised a hand and rubbed her face, unconsciously spreading dirt onto her cheek. "Any luck out there," she asked, glancing towards the hallway from which Jack had just come from.

"Nope. Everything looks abandoned, just like around here. There's too much damage at the cave in, there's no way we're going to be able to dig our way through the rubble and see what's on the other side. Teal’c’s still looking into a few more corridors, he should be back shortly." He hefted his gun more comfortably in his arms. "Come on, I think you two need a break. How about some supper?"

Nodding, Sam wiped her hands on her pants, getting ready to accompany the colonel back to the ring room where they had set up a temporary camp. She glanced back at Daniel, who hadn’t looked away from his work.

"Daniel," she said. "Aren’t you coming?"

Daniel was aware of his two teammates staring at him. He didn’t even bother looking up as he said, "Go ahead, I’m not hungry."

"Daniel," Jack started. "You’ve been working non stop here for nearly…" he checked his watch, "fourteen hours. I think it’s more than time for a break."

"Jack, I said I wasn’t hungry. I’ll come and join you later," he insisted. Daniel thought that Jack was thinking that he was deliberately being stubborn, but in reality, he really wasn’t feeling hungry. Truth be told, he was a little nauseous, and he'd developed a nagging headache a few hours ago.

"Daniel, you’re not staying here alone. Come on, let’s go."

Daniel knew that when Jack was in this mood, arguing would get him nowhere. A few months ago, Daniel would have opened his mouth without thinking, insisting that he remain here, working. But his faith in Jack's friendship had recently been shattered, and although they were working on reestablishing what they had, it was taking time. He wasn't as comfortable around his friend as he used to be. He'd experienced two blows in a short time, and his old fears of getting close to people had crept back in. He had let himself get close to Jack, allowed him to become his best friend. Something he had never experienced before.

The first time Jack had disappointed Daniel was when Jack had been ordered to covertly mislead his team in order for him to fulfill a secret mission. Daniel had gone to seek Jack out, and Jack had managed to deliberately hurt Daniel, ensuring that the younger man would not endanger himself by trying to find out what Jack was up to.

Once the mission was over, Jack had apologized to his team, and he and Daniel had talked for hours. Even hurt and upset as he was, it had taken Daniel very little time to figure out exactly what was happening while Jack had been off world. By the time Jack had come back with the culprits and had solved the problem of the missing alien technology, Daniel was angry that Jack hadn't trusted him with the truth.

Then, just when things were beginning to get better between them, Jack publicly humiliated Daniel during another mission offworld. That incident several weeks ago had proven to Daniel that Jack would sacrifice their friendship if he deemed it necessary. The progress they had made towards reclaiming the respect and affection they had felt for one another had gone quickly down the drain.

Putting down his pen and paper with a little more force than was actually warranted, Daniel got up and followed his teammates out of the room and into the hallway. He actually felt relief to be moving out of this room, the flickering lights of the panels weren't helping his headache.

- - - - - -

Jack sat leaning against the wall, watching Daniel toy with his food. Both he and Carter had wolfed down their rations, their last meal having been a protein bar eaten while working. Teal’c, having returned a short time ago, had eaten more slowly, his hunger kept in check by his symbiote. Jack surmised that they’d been stuck in the bowels of this mountain for close to sixteen hours now. When Daniel had accidentally triggered the mechanism that had transported them to this underground warren of caves and corridors, they hadn’t foreseen that there would be no easy way out.

At least there’s water, he thought to himself. What appeared to be natural springs running down the walls every 1 500 feet or so ensured that they’d have plenty to drink. Food wasn’t scarce, yet, but he had ordered that they take precautions. He'd seen the expression on Carter’s face when he’d asked her if she thought she could repair the ring mechanism. She hadn’t held much hope. It looked like they were going to have to travel through these caves, and hope that another set of rings could get them out of here, without transporting them too far from the stargate.

He saw Daniel rubbing his forehead, as if trying to relieve a headache. Jack wouldn’t be surprised if he was suffering from one. His friend had been working in a dimly lit room for over half a day, it would be enough to give anyone a headache. Speaking of which, he'd been aware of a faint pounding in his temples for the past hour or two.

"Carter, do you think that the air in here might be a little stale? I feel a little…I dunno, headachy. Or maybe I’m coming down with a sinus headache…"

"Oh, I thought I might be catching the flu... Sir, it is possible that the air isn’t quite pure, we may be suffering from carbon dioxide poisoning."

Jack glanced at Daniel, expecting him to pipe in any second. His teammate remained quiet, to his disappointment.

"How you feeling, Teal’c?" Jack asked his other teammate, finally taking his eyes off Daniel.

"I do not find myself suffering from any pain or discomfort, but my symbiote is slightly agitated."

"Which means…?" Jack asked.

"That it is attempting to compensate for something. As you have stated, it may be the quality of the air."

"Damn, I wish we had the rest of our equipment," Sam lamented. Jack silently agreed with her there, much of their stuff had remained at the base camp near the stargate. They hadn’t brought it along for the quick inspection of the nearby ruins on their first day on P3B 309.

Jack looked over at Daniel once again, he had put his half-eaten meal down, and he was resting his head back against the wall. From where he sat, Daniel appeared to be sleeping but Jack could see the tension in his body that belied that. His face looked pinched and pale, he certainly didn’t look well. Jack resisted going over to quietly ask him how he felt. He didn't think that Daniel would appreciate the gesture, what with their friendship being a little off lately.

He'd been surprised when Daniel had begun pulling back from the camaraderie of the team. He had started avoiding all of them shortly after their return from Euronda. Although Jack had tried talking with Daniel, there still remained a rift between them that he couldn't seem to close.

When Daniel opened his eyes once again, Jack asked, "Daniel, if our only other option is to try and get to another ring room, how long do you figure it’ll take you to finish your translations and copy down those maps?"

"Maybe several hours. I could use a hand getting them down on paper, though."

"Okay, I’m your guy." Daniel made to get up when Jack stopped him.

"Huh uh, we'll draw those maps after we get some sleep. It's been a long day, we've all been up for over 24 hours, and we need to be rested up if we're going spelunking tomorrow." At his two younger teammates' astonished looks to his words, he asked, "What? These are caves, aren't they?"

"Technically, yes. But they're obviously manmade," Carter corrected.

"Still, they're caves, which we'll be exploring. Hence, spelunking."

"Yes, sir," she said with a smile, as she got up and walked towards the door. "Um, I'm just going to, you know…", she said while gesturing towards the area that they had assigned for the latrine.

Speaking to no one in particular, Jack said, "Is it my imagination, or are we going more often than usual?" He waited impatiently for Carter to come back; he had a pressing need to go himself.

"Now that you mention it, you're right." Daniel said. "Do you think that there's something in the water?"

Jack simply shook his head, he didn't have an answer to Daniel's question.

Sam returned quickly, making herself comfortable in a corner of the room. Jack watched her settle down before getting up and making for the door. He stopped and looked at Daniel, who hadn't moved from his seated position. "Get some sleep, Daniel. Teal'c, you can take first watch, then Carter, myself, then Daniel."

- - - - - -

When Jack nudged Daniel for his turn at watch, Daniel got up with relief. Although he felt tired, he hadn't been able to sleep much. Between his upset stomach and headache, he thought he'd rather be up working than trying to pretend to be asleep. Daniel watched Jack make his way to his pack and curl himself up on the hard stone floor. Teal'c and Jack had discovered what appeared to be numerous sleeping cubicles in several areas of the tunnels, but they were so old that the blankets and mattresses were on the verge of disintegrating. Daniel wished they had at least brought their sleeping bags; lying on stone beds didn't help when one had trouble sleeping.

As he picked up his notes, Daniel thought to himself, he'd done it again. He somehow had managed to engage the device that activated the ring device, transporting the team down through the bowels of the series of mountains that surrounded the stargate. And with Daniel's run of bad luck lately, they had discovered that the machinery had been damaged in what appeared to be a very old firefight. The damage to the ring's power source prevented their using them to return to the planet's surface.

Daniel pondered on the mystery of the people who had lived within these caves and tunnels. Teal'c had confirmed that the damage had been made by staff weapons, but it was centuries old. Everything appeared to have been abandoned quickly. He wondered what had happened to these people. Had they escaped the Goa'uld? Had they all been killed or captured? Had they moved on elsewhere and started another civilization? He had a sinking feeling that he might never know what had happened here.

He squinted as he looked up into one of the few dim lighting panels that still worked. The energy source must be incredible if it still managed to provide power for lights. He wondered if maybe the ventilation system had been turned off. Surely there were fans that pumped air from the surface? He'd ask Sam to look into that tomorrow. And if lights were working here in the ring room, maybe there was a way of turning them on in the hallways.

He reached over for his canteen, taking a sip of water. Which he promptly regretted when a wave of nausea rolled over him. He laid his head back against the wall, stifling a groan. He could feel sweat begin to roll down his face as he fought to keep whatever meager food he still had in his queasy stomach. His head seemed to pound more ferociously now, in tandem with his heartbeat, which made his stomach feel even worse. He had taken a painkiller while trying to sleep, but its effects hadn't been long lasting.

A scraping and scrabbling noise caught his attention, and he opened his eyes reluctantly to see what was causing it. It was coming from near where Teal'c was sitting, peaceful in his Kel-nor-Reem. Putting his notebook aside, Daniel carefully stood up, catching himself on the wall as a wave of dizziness hit him. Swallowing a few times to keep his nausea under control, he made his way towards Teal'c.

The noise was coming from the wall, and as he neared it, he saw something moving inside a large crack in the stone. He bent down and picked up Teal'c's flashlight and shone it into the crack. Something dark was moving inside. As he watched, he saw the gleam of eyes staring back at him, and he swore he saw sharp teeth glisten in the beam. Then another scrabbling sound, and the thing was gone.

He aimed the light around the area, looking for more cracks. To his dismay, he realized that the walls were littered with similar flaws. He hoped that these little critters inside weren't too numerous, and that they weren't this world's equivalent to spiders. Shuddering slightly, he realized that it was a pretty good size, maybe similar to a small rat, or large mouse.

As he replaced the flashlight, he realized that Teal'c was watching him.

"Is there a problem, DanielJackson?" he asked quietly.

Daniel cautiously sat down beside Teal'c, taking care not to move quickly.

"There was some kind of creature in the wall. I think I scared it off." He realized that Teal'c was staring at him.

"Are you unwell?" his friend asked.

"No, I'm okay. Just a bit of a headache," he replied.

Without hesitation, Teal'c reached over into his pack and withdrew a blister pack of painkillers. Offering Daniel the pills and his own canteen, Daniel broke two out of the container and swallowed them with a sip of water.

"Thanks," he said to Teal'c, handing him back the canteen and medication. "You should get some more rest, there's still an hour or so left," Daniel said. He saw Teal'c study him carefully before inclining his head and closing his eyes.

Daniel sat back against the cold wall and waited for the time to pass. Teal'c's compassion just now reminded Daniel how by pulling away from Jack, he had pulled away from the rest of his team. Oh, they still had a good working relationship, but the affinity they used to have was gone.

Or was it? Could he get it back? Did he even want to? By letting himself get close to his friends again, might mean more pain for him in the future. Pain, there was a word that Daniel was familiar with. It had begun with the loss of his parents, his years of foster homes and orphanages, pushing himself through school. Then keeping his theories of the pyramids to himself for years, distancing himself from his friends and colleagues, and finally getting the courage to speak out, then living with the ridicule it had caused.

He thought that his luck had finally changed with the Stargate programme. Katherine had been the first to see his potential. She had found him when his own personal world was at an all time low. Daniel realized suddenly that the military had also known what he, the ridiculed archeologist, was actually capable of. They had assigned Jack to take over the mission on the off chance that Daniel was successful. Which meant that General West, along with Katherine, had also had some faith in Daniel's abilities.

Then Shau're had come along, and had made the world right again for Daniel. After her kidnapping, Jack had been there for him. Daniel didn't think that he could have gotten over Shau're's abduction, if not for Jack. Sam and Teal'c quickly became part of his family. Even General Hammond seemed to have a soft spot for Daniel. Daniel sighed slightly. He admitted to himself that Jack wasn't the one who had pulled away from him, it was Daniel who had distanced himself from his friends and newfound family.

He could blame Jack all he wanted, but he knew deep down that Jack was who he was, and that Daniel couldn't change the man. He couldn’t blame Jack totally for that incident on Euronda, Daniel acknowledged that he had actually instigated the problem by not approaching Jack first. He had pushed Jack’s reaction by possibly being a little too forceful in directing his questions to Alar.

Daniel sometimes forgot that Jack's training caused him to think differently from Daniel, that Jack had standing orders he needed to follow through. Daniel couldn't always expect to get his own way, but at least now he had a better understanding of the military way than when he had first started out with SG1. He thought that maybe when they got home, he'd be ready to talk with Jack once again. Maybe see if they could work on that friendship thing. He was tired of being alone again, and he missed his friends.

- - - - - -

Jack cursed as he erased the lines he had drawn on the paper he held in his hand. The map that Daniel had discovered was even more complex than they had anticipated, and ten hours later, they were just finishing copying it onto paper.

He figured that they had to start moving soon, they were all suffering from headaches and nausea, Daniel more so than himself and Carter. They had all woken up feeling poorly, but as the hours drew by, their symptoms had intensified. Except for Teal'c. Junior, as usual, was doing a good job in taking care of its personal incubator. Jack envied the man his energy and health. Right now, doing nothing more than sitting and drawing felt like a huge undertaking.

"Sir, I think I've found something," Carter informed him. She was looking at a series of what looked like carvings by the door, and as she pressed one, the panels in the room all slowly lit up, albeit dimly.

"Light switch," she said with a grin. "And, I think this one turns the lights on in the corridors." She pressed another button, and stuck her head down the hallway. Jack met her at the door and peered into the hallway himself. Faint light reflected off the stone at irregular intervals. It wasn't much, but it would sure save the batteries in their flashlights.

"Good work, Carter," Jack said with a smile.

He heard Daniel clear his throat and he glanced over at his friend. His face was pinched, probably from the pain of his headache, and he seemed to be breathing pretty fast. Jack made his way over to Daniel, his concern over his friend overtaking the caution of keeping his distance. Daniel had made it clear that he was still angry with him, and Jack had respected Daniel's wish and had kept their relationship at a strictly professional level. But if Daniel was sick, Jack was damned if he was going to sit back and let Daniel suffer by himself.

"Hey, you okay?" he asked. He saw Carter look their way at his softly spoken words.

"Yeah, Jack, I'm fine. I think I just need to take some more painkillers for this headache." Daniel didn't even look up at Jack as he spoke, so intent was he on finishing his tracings.

"How about we all stop for something to eat? I think we could use a break." He didn't feel like eating himself, but he knew how important it was to keep their strength up. He remembered that Daniel hadn't eaten anything at breakfast, and he didn't want his people passing out on him from low blood sugar.

"I'm not hungry, Jack." Before Jack could open his mouth to argue, Carter spoke up.

"Funny, I'm not hungry either. My stomach's a little upset, but you'd think by now I'd be starving."

"Okay kids, we still need to keep our energy levels up. So hungry or not, we're stopping for a happy meal." He watched as Daniel slowly put his pencil down and hung his head. Jack could tell that the man was unwell, but there wasn't much that he could do for Daniel until they got out from these caves and back into fresh air. Daniel gathered his papers, stuffing them into his backpack, getting up slowly from his seated position.

Jack picked up his own discarded papers, stuffing them into his vest pocket. As he turned to check to make sure he hadn't forgotten anything, he saw Daniel stop on his way to joining Carter by the door. He heard Sam's cry of alarm when Daniel grabbed for the wall, his knees buckling. She managed to grab him before he hit his head on the stone floor. Carter eased him down onto her lap, his head was resting against her thighs. Jack rushed over to them. Despite Sam's efforts at making him lie still, Daniel was trying to sit up.

"Hey hey, lie still a minute," Jack ordered as he knelt by his friend. Daniel's eyes were unfocused, but Jack could see that he was trying to look at Jack. At his words, he saw Daniel relax slightly. He reached over to feel his face, checking for fever. Nope, although his skin did feel slightly clammy.

"What happened?" Jack asked.

"Sorry, got dizzy," Daniel answered. He opened his eyes, and Jack could see that his eyes were clearer. As Daniel made to get up again, Jack reached over and helped him sit up slowly. Sam let him go reluctantly, keeping hold of his arm in case he should waver again.

"See, I knew this was gonna happen. We need to get some food into you, Danny."

Hearing the nickname, Daniel glanced quickly at Jack. Jack smiled to show that he wasn't angry or upset. Jerking his head, he indicated that they were to move on to the ring room. Daniel smiled slightly to show that he was ready, and with their help, made his way back to the other room.

As Sam broke out the energy bars and water, Daniel sat down and began sorting through the pages of maps he had traced. Jack handed him his sheets, and Daniel began placing them in order amongst his own.

Jack took his share of food and water, thanking Carter with a nod. They hadn't dared build a fire, not wanting to use up more oxygen than necessary. So they were stuck with cold rations for the time being. He checked on Daniel, making sure that he was eating. Daniel was still rifling through the stack of papers. He had taken a bite out of his bar, and had put the uneaten portion down on top of his backpack. "Daniel, eat," Jack chided. Daniel glared up at Jack for a moment, and when he looked at his partly eaten meal, Jack could have sworn that he'd seen the man shudder.

"Daniel," Jack warned. He saw Daniel's jerky, angry movements as he finally took another bite. Jack polished off his own meal, topping it off with a healthy swig of water. Gathering the rest of the canteens, he went out and filled them up, stopping to take care of a call of nature. Damn, he thought again, this constant need to go couldn't be normal.

Handing Carter and Daniel their canteens, Jack switched on his radio and speaking into the built in mike, he said, "Teal'c, do you read?" He waited a moment, hearing only static. "Teal'c, buddy, come in." He walked towards the hallway, and tried contacting Teal'c again from there. No luck. "Damned signals aren't going very far through all of this rock," he muttered to himself.

Jack checked his watch, thinking to himself that Teal'c should have been back by now. He hadn't liked the idea of the Jaffa wandering around the maze of tunnels by himself, but to be honest, Jack hadn't felt physically up to exploring them with him today. Anyway, Teal'c had proven to Jack that he had an unerring sense of direction yesterday when they'd gone probing into the various rooms and cubicles which had been cut out of the rock.

- - - - - -

Daniel sat with his head in his hands, trying to squeeze his temples and force his headache away. The painkillers that he'd taken hadn't made a dent in the pain, and now his stomach was once again threatening to rebel. He knew he shouldn't have eaten anything, but after that dizzy spell, he thought that maybe Jack had been right. He felt tired, and damnit, his bladder was full and the walk to the latrine felt like such a chore right now. As he waited for Sam to return from a visit to the latrine herself, he wondered if they had secretly been fed a supply of diuretics.

He heard Jack moving around the room, packing things up. They were going to try and make it to the next ring room on the map as soon as Teal'c returned. He felt guilty at sitting here doing nothing, and opened his eyes to see if there was anything he could do to help Jack. Raising his head, he saw movement from the corner of his eye. Something black and furry was moving steadily down the rock face, coming towards him.

He yelled, startled, and scrambled backwards away from it. It stopped momentarily, balancing on its hind legs, beady red eyes staring down at him. It emitted a squeak, and Daniel caught a glimpse of sharp little teeth in its mouth. It jumped at him then, small arms opening to the side, and he saw thin short membranes fold back along its arms as it glided to the ground near him.

Jack, hearing his yell, had come to see what was happening and before he could scramble for his gun and shoot the creature, it had hopped onto Daniel's leg. Daniel kicked it away with his foot, and as Jack grabbed Daniel's arm to help him up, Daniel saw three more creatures coming out of the wall behind it.

"Shit, what the hell are those things?" Jack asked. Before Daniel could respond, several more came out of the cracks, and as he looked around, he saw that all the walls were sporting the creatures. "Let's go," he heard Jack say as the creatures started hopping or gliding down to the floor.

Daniel grabbed his pack, and as Jack reached over to pick up his own, Daniel heard him swear. As Daniel turned, he saw one of the creatures smack against the wall, Jack obviously having thrown it or slapped it away from him. Daniel managed to grab Sam and Teal'c's gear as he rushed by, crushing one creature against the wall when it stubbornly wouldn't allow itself to be shaken off their gear. As Jack grabbed Daniel's arm and pulled him out of the room, dozens more swarmed onto the floor. Several jumped onto both Jack and Daniel.

Daniel could feel their claws catching on the material of his clothes. He used his backpack to brush them off, and as they ran into the hallway, he felt Jack sweep several off of his back. He quickly checked Jack's back, and to his relief it was clear of the creatures. He felt one land on his neck, and with a yell, he swiped at it with his hand.

By now, the walls behind them were dark with the creatures.

They met Sam coming down the hallway, and Jack turned her around quickly, handing her her weapon and pack as they ran down the hallway. They could hear clicks and squeaks coming from the creatures behind them. As Daniel looked back, he saw a dark shadow spreading down the hallway in the dim light as they flowed into the hall.

- - - - - -

Teal'c was on his way back to rejoin his team at the ring room. He had been searching these abandoned cubicles and rooms for the past several hours. He'd noted that most had been abandoned quickly, with many possessions and personal goods having been left behind. Signs of a Goa'uld attack were definite, although very old.

He had found many skeletal remains, most of which, upon close examination, had shown small teeth marks on the bones. He hoped that these scavengers were not numerous, and would not prove to be a nuisance.

More worrisome, though, was the apparent health of his team. DoctorJackson had appeared decidedly unwell this morning, even after consuming medication. MajorCarter had appeared pale also, and had admitted to feeling fatigued. He had been surprised that ColonelO'Neill had opted to remain behind and aid DoctorJackson in drawing out the map. Yesterday he had been enthusiastic about continuing their exploration while the scientists worked. It boded ill that all three members were not at their physical best.

He paused a moment, thinking that he had heard something on his radio. He raised the volume, but heard only static. Lowering the volume slightly, he continued down the hallway. Several minutes later, he turned into a tunnel and was surprised to see that faint luminescence appeared from small sconces set in the stone walls. Perhaps every third or fourth one was lit, but it was enough to illuminate his way without his flashlight. He turned it off as he continued towards the ring room and his teammates.

Several steps later, he stopped, tilting his head to the side in an effort to listen more intently. Soft scraping sounds echoed down the hallway.

- - - - - -

"Which way," Jack asked. Daniel pointed to the right, indicating a side tunnel that would take them away from the main corridor. Jack quickly took point, Sam covering their six as Daniel instructed them when to turn. Jack was hitting the light switches every time he came upon one, illuminating the way ahead of them as they went. Daniel had more or less memorized the first part of the map, he was fairly confident he could get them to the next ring room without having to check the papers. He just hoped that they would meet Teal'c soon, because he sure didn't want his friend walking into those things unprepared.

Jack called a halt several minutes later, and as they waited, he backtracked to see if the creatures were still following. Daniel leaned against the wall tiredly, his breath coming in pants. He felt like he'd run a marathon, but in reality, apart from the mad rush during the first minute after they'd left the creatures behind, they had continued on at a fast walk. They had left the creatures behind; once out of sight, they hadn't seemed very intent on following them. Daniel shuddered slightly at the memory of the feel of claws scrabbling over his neck. He hoped that the beasts weren't taking short cuts through the cracks in the walls. He eyed the wall that he was leaning against, debating whether he should move away.

His head and stomach were painfully beating in rhythm with his pulse, and he wished he could let himself slide down and sit on the floor for a moment. He glanced over at Sam, and saw that she was looking around warily. Upon closer examination, he could tell that she was also breathless, and would occasionally rub at her forehead. So he wasn't the only one suffering from a headache. He realized after a moment that his headache wasn't the only thing bothering him.

"Uh, Sam, I'm gonna, um…" he said, indicating that he wanted a little privacy to empty his bladder. She nodded back at him, saying, "Be careful."

Jack came back shortly, saying that they'd lost the critters. That was when Daniel saw the blood on Jack's hand.

"Geez, Jack. What did you do?" he asked, taking hold of his hand and wrapping one of his bandannas around what looked to be a bite wound.

"One of the little buggers bit me," he answered, seeming upset that a small creature like that would have the nerve to take a bite out of his hand.

"It looks like it tried taking a chunk out of you," Daniel answered, as he tucked the end of the bandanna inside itself to hold it in place.

Jack nodded his thanks, and with his gun, signaled that they were to move on again. When they reached a large circular room that had several corridors leading from it, Daniel placed a piece of rubble in a pattern on the floor in the center of the entrance from which they had just exited. This way they would know at a glance which corridor led back to the ring room, and back to the swarm of creatures.

"They looked like bats, didn't they?" Daniel said to Jack. He shuddered to think what would have happened had they tried to fly at them. He was thankful that they seemed happy to hop and crawl instead of fly.

Nodding, Jack thumbed his radio, trying to contact Teal'c again. Before he could repeat his message, he heard Teal'c's answering voice coming from the corridor through which they had just come through.

- - - - - -

Jack was relieved to see Teal'c, thinking how they might have been forced to leave without contacting him. Radio waves didn't travel far through the rock face, they were lucky that he had been on his way back.

"How'd you find us?" Jack asked.

"I followed your trail of lights, O'Neill." Teal'c replied,

"Oh," Jack said stupidly. Of course, they'd left a trail. He wondered if the critters could see in the light, or if they'd be bright enough to follow.

"We had to abandon the campsite, these … things … bats … came out of the rocks," Jack began.

"I have seen them, O'Neill. They have apparently lost interest in you, they did not follow."

As Teal'c took his share of supplies from Daniel, Jack saw Daniel's relief at being rid of the added weight.

"Oh, good," Jack said. "We may as well go on, then."

"Um, sir, I think we'd better hurry," Sam said. He turned to look at her, and saw that she was pointing to the wall beside her. Two red eyes were staring out at them, and as he watched, several more creatures popped up a few feet away.

"Shit," he heard Daniel say.

"I thought you said that they weren't following us," Jack said, irritated, walking backwards and spraying bullets at the creatures. Even as they fell dead on the floor, more quickly took their place. "Let's go!" he yelled, as he quickly took point. He led his team along their forced trek through the underground bowels of the mountain.

- - - - - -

"Daniel, how much farther," Jack asked again. Sam saw Daniel come to a stop before her and exasperatedly make a show of taking out the papers from his vest. He pointed a finger first to outline exactly where they were, and then pointed to the ring room on the map. They had covered slightly less than half the distance indicated.

"Okay, we've been walking for two hours, and we've not gone downhill, so that's a good thing, right? I figure, what, another two hours before we get there?" Sam could hear the fatigue in Jack's voice, and knew that he was probably as tired and short tempered as she felt. Since they'd left those creatures behind, they'd all been on edge, constantly expecting more of them to come crawling, or hopping, out of the walls.

She saw Daniel sway slightly as he took another look at the sheets in his hand. She saw that his face was shiny in the light, indicating that he was sweating. She watched as he put the sheaf of paper away, noting that this time he kept the one that he'd shown the colonel in his hand. Before the colonel could order them on, she spoke up.

"Sir, I think we could maybe use a short break." As the colonel turned towards her, she quickly glanced at Daniel, hoping that he'd take the hint and take a good look at their teammate. She saw the colonel's eyes widen as he finally took in Daniel's exhaustion and pale face.

"Okay, make it fifteen." She gratefully sank down on the ground, watching as Daniel followed suit. He sat there with his eyes closed, breathing quickly. Teal'c remained alert, his staff weapon held loosely in his arms. The colonel sank down opposite her, his legs spread out before him.

"Carter, do you think that there's anything in the control room that might turn on a fan or something. Get the air circulating."

"Oh, I was going to ask you about that," Daniel said quietly. "Sorry, I guess I forgot."

"I thought about it myself, sir. But I didn't see anything that looked remotely like it was connected to a ventilation system. Maybe it's situated somewhere else."

"I did not see anything of that nature in my explorations, O'Neill. Everything was as is here, empty and abandoned."

Sam took a look around, noting that this particular corridor held only small cubicles, which opened onto either side. There had been hundreds and hundreds of these, with occasional larger rooms interspersed in between. She thought possibly that these caves had been dormitories, with larger lounge halls spaced every so often.

Her thoughts were interrupted when Daniel suddenly got up and ran off into one of the cubicles. Before she had time to get up and follow, she heard sounds of retching and coughing. Looking helplessly at the men, she noted the look of disgust on the colonels' face. She put her weapon down and quickly entered the cubicle, going to Daniel and making sure that he was okay.

He was sitting, leaning sideways against the wall, his head resting against the stone. His eyes were closed and he was breathing quickly through his mouth. Kneeling beside him, she asked, "You okay?" He nodded weakly, not opening his eyes. Nudging his arm, she offered him her canteen. He opened his eyes and gratefully took the water to rinse his mouth. A noise beside her revealed the colonel leaning against the doorway, watching them.

"He's okay, sir. Just an upset stomach." She looked up at the colonel and shook her head slightly behind Daniel's back, indicating that she didn't know what was wrong with him.

"You okay to move on, Daniel?"

At his words, Daniel brought his legs up beneath him and stood up. Sam kept a hand on his arm, making sure he was steady. Daniel gave her a slight smile, and they made their way back to Teal'c.

- - - - - -

The next three hours were a struggle for Daniel. He managed to keep up with his teammates, but each step he took was a fight against exhaustion. He was constantly nauseous, but thankfully he didn't have a repeat performance after that embarrassing incident. Probably because his stomach had nothing left to expel. He was avoiding drinking water as much as he could also, taking very small sips to hide the fact. He knew he shouldn't be skimping on liquids, but he felt slightly better when his stomach was totally empty.

When they finally reached the ring room, Daniel took two steps inside and let himself slide down the wall until he was sitting, knees bent, back against the wall. He waited for Jack to come and admonish him, and when nothing was said, he cautiously opened his eyes. To his surprise, Sam and Jack were sitting down in similar poses. Sam's eyes were closed, but Jack just sat there, watching them both. Teal'c was kneeling beside Carter, checking her pulse. She opened his eyes and smiled at him.

"I'm okay, Teal'c. Just a little tired, plus a bit of a headache."

"Jack? What about you?" Daniel asked his friend, as Teal'c walked over to Daniel and checked him over. Jack turned his head slightly to look at Daniel. "Headache. Tired. Head's not that bad, mostly tired."

"O'Neill, it is perhaps best to see now whether the rings can be activated. If they are operational, we may be able to transport up to the surface immediately."

"Good point. Daniel, are the schematics the same here as in the other place?"

For a moment, Daniel didn't understand what Jack was referring to. He looked back at his friend with a frown on his face.

"What schematics, Jack?"

"The map that's sitting in your vest, Daniel." Daniel could hear from Jack's tone of voice that he was beginning to get short tempered. "Is the ring room the same distance away from here as it was from the other control room?"

Remembering suddenly, Daniel took out the paper, glancing at it. Strangely, he couldn't seem to find where they were on the map. He was sure that this was the current map, but it didn't seem to fit with the rooms they had just passed to get here. He quickly went through all the sheets, not being able to find the correct one. Jack had come up beside him as Daniel started going through the tracings once more. Jack picked up each discarded sheet, checking it over.

"Daniel?" Jack questioned.

"Um, Jack?" Daniel looked at Jack in near panic. "I think I lost the page."

"No, it's here. You just put it down," Jack said, holding up a sheet of paper.

Daniel looked at the paper in Jack's hand, and snatched it from him in agitation. He perused it quickly. He wasn't able to make any sense of the map. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he said, "It's still not the right one."

He watched as Jack handed it over to Teal'c, who said, "You are incorrect, DanielJackson. This is indeed the correct map." Teal'c handed it back to Daniel.

Daniel looked at the map again, this time it made sense to him. He was able to distinguish the various rooms, and he knew again where they were.

"Jack?"

Placing his hand on Daniel's shoulder, he answered, "It's okay, we're all tired. Let's go see if we can get out of here and into some fresh air." Jack stood up, holding his hand out to help Daniel up. As Daniel stood, he had to grab onto Jack as a wave of dizziness hit him hard. Jack tightened his grip, waiting for Daniel to recover. Feeling a little better after a moment, Daniel pushed off, making his way towards the control room.

- - - - - -

Even with a cursory glance, Jack could tell that the equipment in this room had suffered much more damage than the one they had left several hours ago. Daniel and Carter had played around with the machinery but they couldn’t even get the lights to come on. Once it was clear that they had to go on to the next control room on Daniel’s map, Jack had ordered them all back to the ring room to rest first.

Breaking out some more food, Jack took a good look at both Carter and Daniel as he handed them their share. Both appeared exhausted and in pain. Except for a mild nagging headache and upset stomach, Jack was actually feeling somewhat better now than he had a short while ago. When Daniel had gotten sick, Jack had had trouble keeping his own stomach under control for a while.

Daniel waved the power bar away, turning his head so he wouldn’t have to look at it.

"Daniel, you have to eat," he chastised quietly.

"Jack, please. I can’t." Jack noted how pale Daniel looked.

Jack knelt beside Daniel, seeing his friend swallow convulsively.

"Still feeling nauseous?"

Daniel nodded slightly, looking up at his friend. As Jack stood up to go get his pack, Daniel grabbed his hand.

"Jack, you’re still bleeding," he said, as he began unwrapping the blood soaked bandanna he had used earlier as an impromptu bandage. Jack looked down in surprise, he hadn’t realized that the wound was still bleeding. It wasn’t that bad, just a small bite. As Daniel poured water over the wound to cleanse the blood from his hand, Jack noticed with dismay that Daniel’s canteen was still full.

"Damnit, Daniel." As Daniel looked up in confusion, Jack realized he thought that he’d hurt Jack in his ministrations. "You have to drink water, your headache is probably due to dehydration."

"I can’t keep it down," Daniel answered in a small voice. His hands paused a moment, then continued to wash away the blood. He fiddled in his own pack for his first aid kit, and expertly rewrapped Jack’s hand after disinfecting the wound. Jack could see beads of blood already beginning to seep through the white of the bandage.

Taking Daniel’s first aid kit from him, Jack rummaged through it till he found an ampule of 10 mg of compazine and injected its contents into Daniel’s arm.

"Water, as soon as you’re able to," Jack ordered. Daniel nodded. Jack went to check on Carter, who waved the empty food wrapper and near empty canteen to prove that her stomach wasn’t as rebellious as Daniel’s. Jack picked up all of their canteens and went for a water run.

On his return, he saw that Daniel was curled up in the corner, obviously fast asleep. Carter was leaning against the wall, and he thought that she’d be asleep in moments, if she wasn't already. Teal’c was standing at attention near the entrance, keeping watch for those little sharp-toothed winged buggers. Jack examined the now bloody bandage on his hand. He thought that there must be something in their saliva that prevented clotting. Which wasn’t that dangerous in such a small wound, but if they managed to swarm onto a person, he or she could easily bleed to death without proper medical attention.

"O’Neill, if you wish, I shall keep watch. It is perhaps best that you rest now, before we are again attacked by those creatures."

Jack realized that Teal’c had come to the same conclusion upon seeing his wounded hand. Jack nodded, then told Teal’c, "Three hours. Then we’ll go on again."

He roused Daniel, making sure he drank a good portion of water and downed some painkillers, before settling himself down or a nap.

- - - - - -

Senses alert, Teal’c listened for the telltale scrabbling, scratching sounds of the vermin that had twice attacked them. He would occasionally perceive something moving around in the walls, but nothing indicative that they were gathering to swarm again. He heard his teammates shift occasionally in their sleep, these being common occurrences to which he was used to hearing.

He could also hear DanielJackson's breathing coming in short, near breathless gasps. Teal’c had been aware of his abnormal breathing for the past while. He heard his teammate sigh deeply a few times, and then with a sinking heart, realized that he wasn’t breathing. He quickly rushed over to him. As Teal'c bent down to try and rouse him, Daniel began breathing again. As Teal'c continued to watch, he saw the pattern continue. Short panting breaths, deep sighs and a cessation of breath for ten seconds or so.

Teal’c had seen this pattern once before, but was unable to remember when. He knew somehow that it wasn’t life threatening. He continued his vigil nevertheless, keeping an ear for both the return of the bats, and also to make sure that DanielJackson didn’t go too long without an inhalation.

When he finally woke his teammates, he noted that MajorCarter and DanielJackson appeared to be as exhausted as when they had gone to sleep. He watched as the colonel cajoled the younger man into finally eating something, which he followed with a few more painkillers and the remainder of the water.

As DanielJackson handed over the maps to O'Neill, Teal'c thought that something was wrong here. He couldn't quite pinpoint the problem, but the symptoms that his colleagues were suffering didn't quite ring right. They waited a moment while O'Neill oriented himself with the map, and they set off for the next set of rings.

- - - - - -

After walking for what felt like an interminable amount of time to Daniel, when Jack called for a stop, Daniel was surprised to find that they had been walking for only 20 minutes. The way ahead of them separated into three different corridors. The map showed that each lead to a ring room. One of the tunnels seemed to lead uphill, and Daniel was afraid that that was the one Jack was going to choose. All he could think of was that it meant more of an effort, and his body at this point just wanted to lie down and sleep.

He leaned against the wall, eyes closed, listening to his friends discuss the merits of which path to take. His head was still pounding, and he couldn't seem to think straight. At least his nausea had subsided quite a bit with the shot of compazine. A touch on his arm startled him, he hadn't heard Jack come up to him.

"I'm okay," Daniel said to his unasked question. He pushed off the wall, falling into place behind Teal'c. Jack walked beside Daniel, with Sam taking up the rear. As they started walking up the tunnel, Daniel could feel the ground rising under his feet. He had known that Jack was going to choose the uphill path, and within minutes Daniel was out of breath, having to push himself more against the exhaustion that was threatening to trip his feet.

Jack asked Teal'c to slow the pace, trying to make it easier on Daniel. They climbed steadily for an eternity. As he walked, Daniel could feel himself shivering. It wasn't until Jack called a halt underneath one of the dim lights that Daniel realized he could see his breath when he breathed.

"It's cold," he said, surprised to realize that that had been the reason for his trembling. Jack gave Daniel an odd look, and Daniel realized that he had been a little slow in his observation. He saw wind blowing through Sam's hair, and he shivered convulsively as the cold blast hit him.

"Wherever this air is coming from, it can't be far. Teal'c, you and Carter follow it, see if you can find a way out. Daniel and I will stay here and wait for you."

Jack took Daniel's arm and pulled him into one of the many empty cubicles, out of the way of the chill wind. As Sam and Teal'c continued down the corridor, Jack urged Daniel to sit on the floor. He slid down the wall, and was glad when Jack followed suit, leaning up against Daniel. Daniel could feel the warmth of Jack's body against his arm. He laid his head back against the cold wall, his head pounding more fiercely each time his body trembled.

Daniel came awake with a start when someone shook his shoulder roughly, yelling his name. As he opened his eyes, he realized suddenly that he couldn't breathe. After fighting to inhale for a few seconds, he finally managed to draw in a breath. He could hear Jack yelling at him, heard the desperation in his voice. He raised his head, finding that he had slumped against Jack when he'd fallen asleep.

Jack's hands were squeezing his arms, shaking him. When Jack saw that Daniel was both awake and breathing, he grabbed Daniel in a hug. Daniel fell gratefully into the embrace, his head weakly falling onto Jack's shoulder.

"You scared the shit out of me, Daniel," Jack said quietly into Daniel's ear. "You stopped breathing." Jack squeezed Daniel tightly. "Don't do that again."

"Didn't mean to fall asleep. Sorry, Jack," Daniel murmured against Jack's neck. The heat from Jack's body felt good, he hadn't realized that he was so cold. He felt safe, comforted. He realized that he had missed the small friendly touches that Jack had always been giving him. Daniel sat there shivering, leaning against Jack, his head pounding, his nausea beginning to return. Jack didn't seem to want to let Daniel go so he relaxed into Jack's hold. Jack settled himself more comfortably, taking Daniel's weight.

The next thing Daniel knew, Jack was shaking him awake again. Daniel blinked up at Jack, seeing that he was all geared up. For a moment he thought that he must have fallen asleep at his desk, and now Jack was waiting for him to go offworld. He looked at his friend, expecting Jack to reprimand him because he was late, but was surprised instead at the concerned look on Jack's face. Daniel realized then that he was sitting on the floor, most of his body lying against Jack.

"Are we late?" As Daniel looked around in confusion, he realized that he wasn't in his office at the SGC. His head hurt, and he felt extremely nauseous. As Jack urged up onto his feet, Daniel felt the loss of Jack's body heat and started shivering in the cold air. As they started walking out of the room into the corridor, Daniel finally remembered where they were. He was having trouble putting one foot in front of the other, if Jack hadn't been holding onto his arm, he probably would have staggered into the wall.

- - - - - -

Carter and Teal'c weren't gone long, just long enough for Daniel to drop off to sleep again in Jack's arms. Jack didn't like the way that Daniel had been breathing, he had scared the hell out of him when he'd suddenly stopped.

Carter had just contacted Jack via the radio, requesting that they come and join them. She had thought it best that he see for himself what they had found. He urged Daniel along the corridor, noting how the man was almost staggering. Jack thought that at least they were still walking in the right direction, towards the ring room. He could feel the cold wind blowing through the hallway, his hands, ears and nose felt frozen.

"Carter, if this air is fresh, why do I still have a damned headache?" he grumbled into the radio, "and why isn't Daniel any better?"

"You'll see in a minute, sir," she answered. True to her word, as they rounded the next corner, Jack could see a huge hole in the wall from which the wind was blowing with cold ferocity. Through the hole he could see blue sky and clouds. Thinking that they had finally made their way to ground level, Jack came to a stop in utter confusion as he peered down at the top of mountain peaks nestled amongst puffy clouds. It was then that he realized that they weren't underneath the mountains, they were inside the mountains. Way up on top of the mountains.

As he looked out at the vista before him, he estimated that they were over 12 000 feet up. Over two miles high. As Daniel suddenly sagged against him, Carter confirmed Jack's sudden realization that they hadn't been suffering from carbon dioxide poisoning all along.

"Sir, it's altitude sickness. Damn it, I should have recognized the symptoms…frequent urination, the headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, ataxia…" She was staring at him, almost wild eyed. "We have to get Daniel out of here, sir, we have to get him back down to a lower level."

Jack was trying to keep Daniel up on his feet, but the man's knees didn't seem to be functioning properly. Daniel was holding a hand to his head, and Jack could feel him shivering convulsively. Wrapping an arm around Daniel's waist, Jack led him out of the cold and along the corridor.

Teal'c called out Jack's name in warning. Turning back towards the Jaffa, Jack froze when he heard the telltale sounds coming from the walls around them. Jack forced Daniel on, nearly dragging him as they waded through the oncoming tide of hungry, sharp teethed bats. Several jumped onto both Jack and Daniel, crawling over them, looking for exposed skin. Jack batted them away, noting that Daniel didn't even attempt to rid himself of the creatures.

"Where the hell do they come from?" Jack said to mostly to himself. He could hear Carter swearing behind him as he attempted to keep the bats off himself and Daniel while trying to get ahead of the influx of the swarm. Daniel was having trouble keeping his footing, and Jack realized that Daniel was fiddling with something in his hands. Before he could see what Daniel was doing, his friend turned around and awkwardly threw something into the black oncoming mass of fur, claws and teeth.

To Jack's surprise, the bats suddenly rushed past him and swarmed over whatever Daniel had tossed down the corridor. Taking advantage of the momentary respite, Teal'c grabbed Daniel's other arm and helped Jack support the ailing man to safety. Jack heard Carter fire her P-90 into the horde, wishing he had a free hand to do the same thing, just for the satisfaction of killing a few of those critters.

Having forced Daniel to walk at a quicker pace, Jack hated to hear his friend's breathing now coming in panting, wheezing breaths. They quickly outpaced the creatures, and finally after several minutes, Jack ordered them to stop for a moment to rest and to make sure that they didn't make a wrong turn.

Setting Daniel down on the ground, Jack kept a watch down the corridor while Teal'c surveyed the map. Carter sat down tiredly beside Daniel, coughing slightly. Jack eyed her critically. She seemed to be slightly breathless, her face pale, and she was obviously exhausted. She looked up at him, aware of his scrutiny.

"I'm okay, sir," she said in response to his unasked question. "Slight headache, nausea, fatigue. No worse than when we first got here." She looked worriedly at Daniel, who was still having trouble catching his breath. Jack turned to look down the hallway, making sure none of those bat wanna-be's were following them.

"Daniel, what did you…?" Sam asked.

"Radio," Daniel answered breathlessly. "They came every time you used the radio."

Thinking back to each time the bats had come out, Jack swore when he realized that Daniel was right. Daniel must have jammed his radio to send mode, and had thrown it at the bats. Jack passed a hand through his hair, amazed that ill as he was, Daniel still managed to think circles around him.

"What do you know of altitude sickness?" he asked Carter as she nudged Daniel gently so that his head was resting against her shoulder. She gently ran fingers through his hair, trying to ease the pain in his head. He curled up on his side, seeking warmth from her body.

"Something about there being less oxygen molecules at higher altitude causing an increase in blood pressure, and the higher pressure forcing fluids to leak into the brain and lungs. And that it's imperative that we get Daniel down to a lower altitude pronto, or else the pressure can be fatal."

Looking down at Daniel, she continued, "If the rings here don't work, we should try and take him back to the first room where we were transported to. His symptoms weren't as severe there."

"O'Neill, I must apologize. I should have realized what DanielJackson was suffering from when I observed him sleeping. I have seen these symptoms before at high altitudes. Unfortunately, at the time, I also believed that we were under the ground."

"Yeah, well, staying with those broken rings wouldn't have done us much good anyway. Teal'c, how much farther to the next set of rings?"

"Not far, O'Neill, we are almost there."

Jack bent down to help Daniel up. Carter grabbed Daniel's other arm, aiding her commanding officer in getting their friend to his feet. Daniel moaned slightly as he leaned weakly against Jack.

"Danny?"

"Head hurts," he whispered.

"I know. Hold on, we'll be out of here soon."

Jack prayed that these rings were in working order, because if he was reading the map properly, the nearest set of ring rooms were at an even higher altitude. He glanced at Carter as she coughed. Not a good sign.

- - - - - -

Sam forced herself to follow her teammates, trying to remember to keep alert. She was having more problems breathing than she had admitted to the colonel, and her head was starting to pound. She realized now how Daniel must have felt ever since they'd been transported here. She glanced at Daniel, he was still moving with the colonel's help, but she thought that he looked just about ready to collapse.

As they entered the ring room, she went directly to the control mechanism and opened up the housing for the energy crystals. With relief, she saw that all of the crystals were undamaged. Grinning, she tapped the now familiar controls, and saw a display pop up. As she examined the display, her elation at finding a working ring control unit quickly disappeared. She could see where she wanted to transport to, but wasn't quite sure as to the proper key sequence to make the rings work. There appeared to be close to 30 different destinations.

"Sir, I think we may have a bit of a problem." She glanced over at Colonel O'Neill, who was trying to make Daniel comfortable on the ground. Teal'c came to stand beside her, examining the display.

"I can get us back to the stargate," she said, pointing to the blob representing the rings situated near the stargate. "But it's going to take me some time to figure out how to set the sequence."

"How long, major?" the colonel asked.

She winced slightly. "A couple of hours, maybe."

"Is there anything we can do for Daniel in the meantime?"

She saw that the colonel had propped Daniel up so that his head was lying on the colonel's chest. She thought back to the various medications they carried around in their packs.

"Maybe some morphine, it might help with the pain. If we had some Dexamethasone, it would help with ridding some of the fluids that must be causing pressure in his brain and lungs." She thought that they could all do with a dose of Dexamethasone, if the pain in her own lungs were any indication as to what Daniel was going through.

"He's having trouble breathing already, do you think the morphine is a good idea?"

"I think a small dose would be okay, sir. It would at least help with the pain." She coughed again as she bent down to pick up her pack. She realized that time was running out for herself also. She needed to get them out of here before she succumbed to the altitude sickness. She quickly rummaged through her pack until she found her first aid kit. Taking a prepackaged syringe of morphine, she quickly swiped Daniel's skin with an alcohol wipe before injecting 4 mg of the drug into a vein. She kept an eye on his pulse rate and breathing, and after several minutes, injected him with 2 more mg. When he showed no adverse reaction, she gave him another 2 mg.

She was relieved to see that Daniel had relaxed somewhat in the colonel's arms. The morphine was at least relieving some of the pain that Daniel had been experiencing.

"That's 8 mg, I think that should be enough." She wiped the needle down with the alcohol wipe, and recapped it. It was safer to be cautious with the remaining medicine, she didn't know for certain how much more Daniel would need before they could get him back to Earth.

Before putting the first aid kit away, she changed the colonel's bandage on his hand. She was relieved to see that the wound had finally stopped bleeding. She hated to think what those bats could do to a person if they managed to inflict a good number of bites. She thought that they had been lucky to have escaped that last attack with nothing more than a few scratches.

- - - - - -

Jack was relieved when Daniel's body relaxed as the drug swiftly eased the pain. He could see Daniel's eyelids begin to close, and he shifted slightly against Jack to make himself more comfortable. Jack could still feel Daniel shivering occasionally, so he carefully took his jacket off, trying not to jar his drowsy friend. He wrapped it around Daniel's torso, and heard Daniel murmur "shokran" as he settled himself against Jack.

"You're welcome," Jack answered, playing a hand through Daniel's sweaty hair. He glanced up at Carter and Teal'c, who had their heads together, working on the panels. As he watched, a hum started up and the transport rings quickly rose out of the floor, stirring up a small cloud of dust.

At the sound of the rings' appearance, with a cry, Daniel bolted upright, surprising Jack. He grabbed Daniel before he could move away, observing how his friend was looking around wildly. Just as quickly as they appeared, the rings descended into the floor, leaving a round imprint in the dirt, marking where the rings were situated in the ground.

Daniel tried to scuttle away from Jack, fighting against Jack's hold on his arms. Carter and Teal'c both moved towards them, and when Daniel saw them approaching, he began yelling at them in Arabic.

"Laa, ana mesh momken akhali Ra yasmah le Shau’re temout. Ra da ilah ghalat!" // No, I won't let Ra to allow Shau're to die. Ra is a false God! //

"Daniel, it's okay, Ra's dead, remember?" At the sound of Jack's voice, Daniel turned wide eyes towards him.

"Jack, ehna lazem naktel Ra…el kombola…." //Jack, we have to kill Ra…the bomb…// Daniel grabbed Jack's hands, bringing their clasped arms together.

"Daniel, we used the bomb to destroy Ra on Abydos." At the confused look on Daniel’s face, Jack realized that his friend wasn’t comprehending what he was saying. He tried again, this time speaking in Arabic.

"Daniel, Ra mat. Enta faker? Ehna ramena el kombola men bein el halakat" // Daniel, Ra's dead. Remember? We sent the bomb through the rings. //

"Sir, what's he saying?" Carter asked as she knelt by the distraught man.

"He thinks Ra is still alive. He's confused. I think that the sound of the rings must have triggered that particular memory."

"Mat?" // Dead? // Daniel looked around, seeming to realize that they weren't on Abydos.

"O'Neill, this is surely a sign that the illness is worsening. We must hasten and bring DanielJackson to safety."

"Fein Shau’re? Sam? Teal’c? Ento betaamalou eh hena?" // Where's Shau're? Sam? Teal'c? What are you doing here? //

As Daniel stared at his friends, Jack could see and feel the man begin to weaken. As he swayed slightly on his knees, Jack pulled on his arms gently. This threw him off balance and he fell against Jack, who managed to extract an arm from Daniel's hold. He wrapped it around his friend, trying to get him to relax again.

"Go to sleep, Daniel," Jack said as he looked at Daniel, who was staring up at Jack in bewilderment.

"Ehh?" // What? // Daniel asked.

"Danny, you need to relax, everything is all right."

"Jack, ana mesh fahem…eh eli beyehsal?" // Jack, I don't understand…what's happening? //

"Rouh nam, Daniel. Enta aian, enta mehtag tenam," // Go to sleep, Daniel. You're sick, you need to sleep, // Jack said gently, stroking Daniel’s head again.

"Aian?" // Sick? //

"Aian. Enta mehtag tenam delouakt, mafhoum?" // Sick. You need to sleep now, okay? //

Jack could see Daniel's eyes begin to droop. Carter picked up the jacket which had fallen onto the floor, wrapping it around Daniel once again. The drug took over once again, leading Daniel into a pain free slumber.

"Sir, I should go…" she waved at the controls, and Jack nodded. He thought to himself that if Daniel reacted this way again to the sounds of the rings, they'd have to move him into another room. He didn't like the thought of separating the team at the moment, not knowing if the bats had a way of following them around.

As Carter worked at the control panel, she said conversationally, "I didn't know you spoke Arabic, sir."

Shifting slightly to try and prevent his legs from going numb underneath Daniel's weight, Jack answered, "Well, I had a few covert assignments in the Middle East. Not speaking the language would not have been a good thing at the time." He saw Carter look up at him, giving him a short, understanding smile.

- - - - - -

Pain and nausea greeted Daniel as he groggily became aware of his surroundings. He opened his eyes a crack, relieved to see that the light in the room was dim. He found that he was lying on a cold stone floor, his head had been cushioned on a backpack, and someone had covered him with their jacket. Everything appeared very blurry, and he was seeing double. He blinked a few times, trying to clear his vision. Hearing voices, he gritted his teeth against the pounding in his head, and rose up slightly on his arms to see where he was.

He could see hazy shadows moving several feet away, but before he could call out to them, waves of nausea overwhelmed him. He tried to turn onto his side before his stomach succeeded in ridding itself of whatever was left in it. Strong hands were suddenly supporting him, turning him, while he retched and coughed and gasped for breath.

The pain in his head was so severe that once his body had finished trying to expel his internal organs, he could only lie there limply, panting. He felt those same hands prop him up, and he knew by the warmth beneath his back that he was lying against someone. Something cold and wet brushed his arm, and a familiar sting told him that he had been given an injection. A second sting soon followed, and Daniel almost panicked, wondering if he were being given medication, or if this was all a huge plan to torture him.

He felt softer, smaller hands on his neck, then moving onto his forehead. At the same time, rougher, larger hands slowly ran through his hair, and he could feel the individual strands of hair catching on the callouses on the person's fingers. The gesture calmed him, and as he relaxed, the pain in his head began to dissipate. As the pain became more tolerable, he opened his eyes again. He saw three familiar pairs of eyes staring down at him worriedly.

Jack spoke to him, but Daniel couldn't make out the words. He looked at his friends in confusion, wondering when Jack had learned to speak another language which Daniel wasn't familiar with. Sam and Teal'c were speaking also, but he couldn't make anything out. He realized that he should know what they were saying, should be able to understand them.

He took a deep breath, wanting to ask Jack what had happened. Before he could get the words out, a fit of coughing shook him. He was held tightly in Jack's arms while he struggled to force air into his lungs. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the coughing abated, leaving him gasping for air.

"Daniel, eshrab," // Daniel, drink, // Jack coaxed.

He felt something placed by his mouth, and he opened his eyes, seeing Jack holding a canteen. Obediently he opened his mouth and swallowed some water.

He wasn't able to take more than a sip at a time; he was struggling too hard to breathe, and just taking the time to swallow those small sips was making him more breathless. Over the next few minutes, Jack encouraged him to take in more water, but the effort was too exhausting, and Daniel finally pushed the canteen away.

As awful as he felt at the moment, Daniel was glad that Jack was there with him. Jack had remained by Daniel's side throughout this nightmare trip, and Daniel realized that Jack had always been his friend. Smiling slightly to himself, he closed his eyes, feeling that he could sleep.

- - - - - -

Jack stroked Daniel's hair as his friend nodded off again in his arms. Jack, Sam and Teal'c had been working diligently on getting the rings to transport them back to the gate when Daniel had woken up violently ill, after sleeping peacefully for the past three hours. Carter had just given Daniel some more morphine and compazine, hopefully these would keep him comfortable for a few more hours.

The damned ring machine had developed a hitch. Every time they tested a new location, it would take close to twenty minutes before the system powered up again. Carter said she thought that she would hit on the right combination in another two or there tries. Jack hoped that she was right, because Carter was going downhill pretty fast. She wasn't quite as bad off as Daniel was, but her breathing was laboured, she was coughing continuously, and although she wasn't admitting it, Jack thought that she was suffering from a pretty bad migraine.

He contemplated the fact that he was the only one who wasn't being that badly affected by the high altitude. Carter had told him that nobody knew why some people suffered severely from the illness, and others didn't. He thought it ironic that he was the oldest of the three, and his body was handling the ailment better than his two younger team members.

Daniel coughed slightly in his sleep, and Jack tensed slightly, thinking that Daniel might go through another coughing fit. But Daniel simply shifted, burrowing into Jack's shoulder. Jack saw that Carter was ready to try another destination, and he mentally crossed his fingers, hoping that this time they'd find the right one. He saw the rings come and go, and carefully watched Carter's face as she traced their progress on the display panel. He saw her face crumple. Shit! Another miss.

He watched as Teal'c leaned in and discussed something with her, and her face lit up suddenly. She looked up at him, and smiling, said, "Sir, I think we just found the right sequence." She walked over to sit beside him, coughing into her hand as she leaned back against the wall. "I'll only need to power this thing up two more times; once to test, and another to send us through." She smiled at him again, and as she looked down at Daniel, the smile faded from her face.

"Less than an hour sir, and we'll get Daniel home."

She leaned her head back against the wall, resting. Jack hadn't realized that she'd fallen asleep until Teal'c activated the rings, startling her from her nap. She got up, using the wall for support, and made her way over to the display. She closed her eyes, leaning on the panel, while Teal'c said, "We have found the proper combination, O'Neill. We may leave within the next cycle."

"You hear that, Danny," Jack said quietly to the man sleeping in his arms. "We're going home soon."

- - - - - -

Jack tuned out Fraiser's voice as he sat beside Daniel's bed in the infirmary. She had been nagging him for the past several hours to go get some rest, and the words had become repetitive. For the past two days, Jack had divided his time sitting beside Carter and Daniel's bedsides. Carter was going to be fine, she had developed a slight case of pneumonia, but Fraiser had caught it in time, and was going to be releasing her in another day or two.

Daniel, on the other hand, had lapsed into a coma by the time they had reached the Stargate. Doctor Fraiser said that this often happened with Acute Mountain Sickness, but that his body was responding well and he should be waking soon.

Jack looked down at the limp hand that he was holding, and with his eyes, followed the snaking line of the IV leading from Daniel's forearm up to the nearly empty bag. On cue, the nurse arrived to replace the IV solution. Jack stood up and allowed her space to check on the catheter and oxygen feed. He walked restlessly down the corridor, going to check on Carter. He noted that she was asleep, and so he went back to Daniel's bed.

Jack was exhausted. He had slept for a short while in the hyperbaric chamber, secure in the knowledge that Daniel was now in good hands. He had expected to wake up and find that Daniel and Carter were doing better after their stints in the pressurized chamber, but was surprised that Daniel hadn't yet come out of his coma. Jack had dozed on and off since then, mostly while sitting on the chair beside one or the other's bedside.

He sat back down beside Daniel, lost in his thoughts, until the sound of footsteps broke his musings. Teal'c and Fraiser were standing on the other side of Daniel's bed, staring down at Jack.

"Colonel, Teal'c is here to relieve you. You are now going to hop onto the bed behind you and get at least eight hours' worth of sleep, or I am going to sedate you and make sure you sleep for eight hours. The choice is yours."

"Janet," he started, but upon seeing the determined look in her face, said instead, "Okay." He thought it might be easier to at least pretend to sleep, it would get Fraiser off his back for a while.

As he went to stand up, Jack felt a sudden pressure on his hand. He stopped in mid rise, staring at Daniel's hand.

"Danny?" he said quietly. His raised his eyes to Daniel's face, and he could see Daniel's eyes fluttering. He squeezed Daniel's hand slightly, and was rewarded by seeing Daniel turn his head slightly in his direction.

"Hey, welcome back," he said. Daniel's eyes focused on Jack for a moment, before slipping shut again. Jack looked up at Fraiser, who was busy taking his vitals. She had a huge grin on her face.

"Jack? Where…?" Daniel asked weakly, struggling to open his eyes.

"You're home, Daniel. Safe and sound." He squeezed Daniel's hand, relieved at hearing Daniel speaking English again. Daniel's fingers squeezed back and as Jack watched, his eyes closed, and his friend fell asleep.

"He's going to be fine, colonel. He's sleeping now." Fraiser said. Her face grew serious once again. Raising an eyebrow, she pointed to the bed. Jack dutifully hopped on, kicked off his boots, and lay down. Teal'c walked over and seated himself in Jack's vacated chair. Jack lay on side, watching as the nurses came by and checked on Daniel periodically.

The next thing Jack was aware of was the sound of Daniel's voice. He cracked his eyes open and was delighted to see Daniel sitting up in the bed beside him, talking animatedly with Teal'c and Carter. There was a tray with the remains of a meal pushed off to the side of the bed.

As Jack stretched, three pairs of eyes turned towards him. Carter grinned at Jack. He noticed that she was in civilian clothes, he figured that she had been discharged from the infirmary.

"Carter, Teal'c," Jack greeted. Teal'c nodded solemnly at Jack, while Daniel gave Jack a shy smile before averting his eyes.

"Daniel, I see that you're feeling better," Jack said as he sat up, rubbing his hands briskly over his face.

"Yeah, I feel a lot better now," Daniel said, glancing over at Jack quickly.

Jack checked his watch, and realized that he'd slept for nearly 15 hours.

"Sir," Carter said. He looked up, and she was putting on her jacket. "Janet said I could go home now, I just stopped by to say goodbye to Daniel. I'm on medical leave for the next 7 days. I'll see you later?"

"Right. Take care, Carter. Call if you need anything."

"Yes sir, thank you." She reached over and kissed Daniel on the temple, before leaving the infirmary.

"I shall also take my leave now, O'Neill. SG1 is on stand down for the next week, I plan to go visit my family in the Land of the Light."

"Say hi to Ryac for me, Teal'c." Teal'c inclined his head at Jack's request, and reached over to clasp Daniel's arm before leaving.

Jack hopped off the bed, standing beside Daniel, who was staring at Teal'c's departing back.

"I'm glad that you're better, you really had me scared there for a while," Jack said with a smile. He was alarmed when Daniel suddenly couldn’t seem to look him in the eye. "What's the matter?" Jack asked.

"Nothing, I'm fine."

"Daniel," Jack chided, watching his friend fiddle with a frayed piece of blanket.

"It’s just that…I thought that I was in pretty good physical shape. I’m sorry that I got sick."

"Didn’t the doc. tell you?" At Daniel’s confused look, Jack explained. "Altitude sickness has nothing to do with how healthy or physically fit you are. It can hit anyone, regardless of age, sex or health. There’s nothing to be sorry for."

Daniel looked up at Jack, looking slightly more reassured.

"When's the doc releasing you?"

"Um, tomorrow, hopefully."

"Home?" Jack didn't think that Janet would let Daniel stay home alone.

"No, babysitting." That meant he was being released, but only if someone was willing to stay with him. Jack noted the hopeful look Daniel gave him.

"Good, then that gives me time to get a few videos and stuff for your convalescence."

"Videos?" Jack smiled as he heard the interest in Daniel's voice.

"Yeah. Look, I’m gonna go have a shower and get something to eat. I think I also need to see General Hammond."

Jack saw the slight grin spread over Daniel’s face. "Oh, you know, I didn’t want to say anything, but from over here, that shower might be a good idea."

"Brat," Jack said over his shoulder, as he left the infirmary.

- - - - - -

Jack watched as Daniel slowly made his way to the kitchen, keeping his hand against the wall to maintain his balance. Janet had warned that his coordination was going to be off for a few days, and that he was to take it easy until the symptoms went away.

As Daniel sat down at the kitchen table, Jack went over the fridge and took out two soft drinks. As Daniel opened the pizza box, Jack handed him an A&W root beer.

Grinning, Daniel took a sip of the soft drink. "I haven't had one of these in ages," he said, smacking his lips appreciatively.

Helping himself to the pizza, Jack grinned at Daniel, saying, "I remembered you saying you liked the stuff."

Supper was eaten in companionable silence, but when Jack cleared up the kitchen table, he noted that Daniel had removed his glasses, and was rubbing at his forehead in agitation. When he noticed Jack's scrutiny, he put his glasses back on, looking up at Jack, wide-eyed.

"I'm sorry. I just realized that I nearly got us all killed back there. I managed to trigger that device and we all got stuck up in those mountains. And it was all for nothing…we didn't find any answers…where the people went, what Goa'uld attacked them. We didn't even get to figure out their power source, which must have been incredible. I'm betting that General Hammond doesn't send another team out there."

Jack thought that the look on his face must have been answer enough, and Daniel ducked his head.

"Damnit, Jack. Why don't you just put me on a leash."

Jack laughed, because there were so many times he would have loved to have done just that.

"Daniel, I know that you think you're to blame, but we had no way of knowing that the transport device was damaged. Hell, had you waited to tell me that you found the transport rings, I probably would have sanctioned the team through anyway. I just wish you'd be a bit more careful, huh?"

Jack watched as Daniel averted his eyes, his cheeks burning red as he blushed. Jack was taken aback when Daniel suddenly turned to him and said, "Jack, I didn't know that you spoke Arabic."

"Oh, well, I guess I never mentioned it."

"Uh huh, so you were going to tell me some day, maybe?"

"Actually, we've spoken Arabic together, several times."

"Huh?"

"Your nightmares, Danny. Sometimes you cry out in Arabic, and you'll calm down faster if I answer you back in the same language."

"Oh."

Jack smiled widely, thinking that he hadn't thought that Daniel's cheeks could have gotten any more red. Thinking that he had teased his teammate enough, he decided to change the subject.

"So, are you up to watching a video, or do you want to go upstairs and rest some more?"

"No, a video would be good. Do you have any popcorn?" At Jack's nod, Daniel asked, "More A&W root beer?"

"Coming right up."

"What are we gonna watch?"

"I thought, maybe Batman would be nice…"

"Jaaaack."

 

FINIS!

Author's Comments:
My thanks to devra, who made sure I was kept busy writing this story, constantly asking for "more". With encouragement like that, how can I say no?
My thanks to Deb, for so patiently answering my multitude of questions, and looking over things with a very recalcitrant computer. Ya better shoot it and put it out of its misery soon, girl.
My thanks to Pamela for coming up with the idea of bats. And dear Pamela, whom I haven't yet been able to convert into a Stargate fanatic, but at least now knows the difference between Jack and Daniel.
And finally, my thanks to Moona, who once again so kindly provided me with the Arabic text. You're a sweetheart.

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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.