A Matter of PrideNote: This story first appeared in Yum@'s Foundations 5
Daniel laughed just a little too loudly, motioning clumsily with his hand to the person next to him. Another wave and the spoon from the serving dish beside Daniel's plate went flying. Daniel laughed once more as his uncoordinated efforts caused him to drop the spoon again before finally placing it back into the dish.
He looked over at Jack, his normally clear, penetrating blue eyes glassy and watery, his face flushed - all sure signs of inebriation. The tell-all, though, was the fact that Daniel kept smiling. The genuine, teeth baring grins that Jack wished would grace his friend's face more often were aimed at his eating companions, with an occasional flash at either Jack or Carter. Daniel licked spilled sauce off his fingers as he turned once more to the woman sitting beside him, continuing to recount his story, accentuated by more hand movements.
Jack took another sip of the strong, alcoholic drink, pretending to be enjoying himself at the large, trestle table while continuously watching the people around him. The hall was enormous, the sound of laughter and speech almost painful, echoing off the stone walls of the castle's main dining hall.
Well, he and his team had made it here without encountering any problems up until now. They had avoided the three Goa'uld who co-ruled the planet and their Jaffa. Jacob Carter had been right; the locals were holding a day-long feast of sorts, celebrating some ancient hero's birthday or something, and everyone and anyone had been invited. Since SG-1 had come through the Stargate, they had been given the VIP treatment by the local bigwigs and had been assigned two rooms in the upper levels of the castle, thus avoiding the throngs who had to make-do camping outside.
Now, if only he could get Mr. Party here away from the booze so they could get on with their mission.
"Sir," Carter whispered, leaning close to Jack. "I think Daniel's drunk."
"And whatever gave you that idea?" Jack asked, lifting his own drink to his lips once more and pretending to drink as he watched Daniel reel in his chair.
"Yes, Sir. I mean, he's barely drank half his drink. I think the effects of the alcohol must be aggravated by his antihistamines."
Jack nodded, remembering how Daniel had had to double up on said pills due to his allergies from all the flowers decorating the rooms of the castle.
Jack noticed the background noise had stopped, and he looked around. Some of the people were getting up and moving around. Ah, the entertainment was starting; musicians and singers had entered and were setting up in various parts of the hall. Maybe it was time for them to take their leave� it would also be their best opportunity to try and sneak into the chamber to look for the key. Thank goodness this place was so huge; the three Goa'uld who were sitting at the head table wouldn't notice them amongst the thousands of people in the dining hall. Jack hoped the entertainment would hold their attention, giving him and his team the chance to get on with their mission.
"Come on, Daniel." Jack leaned over the table and tapped Daniel on the arm. His friend was no longer talking but had been sitting slumped in a daze for the past few minutes. He blinked up at Jack, obviously having trouble focusing.
"Gonna make tracks, let's move it."
"We're leaving?" Daniel slurred. He stood up by pushing his palm against the table but fell hard against its edge when his hand slipped. Daniel clumsily wiped the soup splattered onto his chest, then looked at his hand, surprised it was wet.
Jack eyed the long wooden table and sighed. Daniel finally managed to stand and staggering, made his slow, unsteady way past the people still sitting, eating, talking and enjoying the show.
Jack and Carter paced Daniel, keeping an eye out and hoping their friend didn't trip. It came close a few times, but by the time they all reached the end of the table, Jack snagged Daniel's arm, holding him steady.
"Hi Jack," Daniel grinned.
"Hey yourself." Jack hoped they could get Daniel up the three flights of stairs to their room before his friend collapsed. He was off balance, weaving from side to side. Jack shook his head, wishing Teal'c had joined them this evening instead of skulking around the castle, looking for a sign of the elusive key or a hint as to who the Goa'uld here were. That and the fact they'd figured it would be safer to keep the ex-Jaffa away from the local Goa'uld and their Jaffa, with less chance of his being recognized.
Jack and Carter helped Daniel up the stone stairs, holding tightly to their friend as he stumbled every third or fourth step. When they neared the last landing, Daniel suddenly stopped. Jack could see the sweat beginning to bead on the edge of his friend's temple. Daniel stared at a tapestry before them, depicting a large expanse of water with a very narrow causeway leading from the shore to a stone building sitting out in the midst of water.
"You okay, buddy?" Jack asked worriedly.
Daniel closed his eyes and swallowed. He nodded, then took a step forward, and tripped. His stumble brought all three of them down, although Jack and Carter managed to half-control Daniel's fall, getting him seated on the stairs.
" 'M fine, J'ck. 'Cept for the fact I can't see�"
"Try opening your eyes." Daniel was sitting there, his hands lying limply between his legs, with his eyes shut and a silly smile on his face.
"Oh." Daniel opened his eyes and giggled as he looked blearily at Jack.
"Let's get you up, okay?"
"You mean I'm not standing?" Daniel looked around and realized he was sitting. "Oh, okay. Where are we going?"
Jack exchanged a look with Carter and smiled. "Come on, big guy. I think it's time for giddy little archaeologists to go to bed." Placing a hand under Daniel's armpits, they lifted him and got him turned around and up the last few steps.
"Your hair is so pretty," Daniel commented to Carter as he lifted his arm from around her shoulder, passing his fingers through the strands of her thick, blond hair. Jack concentrated on keeping Daniel moving as Carter ducked beneath Daniel's hand, trying to keep his attention focused forward.
It was with relief when Jack found their door, the one with a crow and a hunting dog painted on it. He pushed it open, and they manhandled Daniel onto the large double bed. Daniel looked up at him, eyeing Jack's head with a sappy smile. "Don't even think it," Jack groused when his friend lifted his hand. Jack pushed his hand back down onto the mattress, and Daniel sighed and closed his eyes, immediately falling asleep. As they rolled him onto his side, Carter puffed softly, trying to get the bangs that Daniel had messed out of her eyes. Jack draped a blanket over Daniel, sat on the large mattress and sighed heavily. He glanced out the window. It was barely noon, and one man was out for the count.
"Looks like he's gonna be sleeping for a few hours," Jack said. "Let's go find Teal'c and see if he's discovered anything." With a final glance at the sleeping man, they left the room, heading for the area of the castle which they knew Teal'c to be exploring. They should be back within thirty minutes, an hour at the most.
- - - - - -
The Goa'uld's mutated voice echoed loudly in the barren room. The over-sized Jaffa was slowly squeezing the life out of Daniel, but he loosened his hold on Daniel's throat just enough so that he could take the smallest of breaths. He heard a wheezing sound as the air made its way into his burning lungs. Despite the spots dancing around his head, he saw the green eyes glow briefly as the newcomer glanced around the room. Beads of sweat slid down his sides and back, trying to tease his attention away from the approaching danger.
"What is the meaning of this?" the woman asked. Her eyes glowed once more as she took in the other two warriors surrounding Daniel, one posed to strike him again with the end of his staff weapon. The warriors looked odd with their tattoos painted over with black paint � all three had hidden their affiliations to their god or gods, leaving Daniel in the dark as to who the snakes were. Daniel didn't recognize this Goa'uld, either. He only knew she was one of three who jointly ruled the planet.
"We have discovered this human in the hallowed hall, My Lady," the Jaffa who continued to hold onto Daniel's throat explained. "He had passed beyond the warnings by the doors, and we were beginning our punishment for his transgression."
"I am sorry, My Lady," Daniel managed to say, hoping to be able to talk his way out of the situation. "I was ill and got lost, but when I tried to ask directions back to the common rooms, your men would not listen to me."
Daniel lowered his eyes, hoping she would believe him. Actually, he'd walked into the Jaffa patrol by accident. He'd woken up alone, sick like a dog and with a hangover like he'd rarely experienced before. Once he'd vomited his meal and was sure his head wasn't going to fall off, he'd swallowed three Tylenol and had left his room, searching for his friends. He'd headed towards the area Teal'c had been assigned to search, knowing it had been off limits to visitors and not believing his luck at the time that there had been no guards at the doors.
A glance at his watch had shown that it was barely past lunchtime. He couldn't remember what had happened after sitting down in a large, cavernous room to eat an early meal with what had appeared to be the whole local population.
He'd figured his friends hadn't gone far. He didn't think they'd leave him alone for long, sick as he must have been. He wondered what had happened at the meal; had he been drugged? No, he remembered drinking something alcoholic. Did he get drunk? God, his head was pounding and the lack of oxygen wasn't helping.
Hopefully by now his friends had discovered he was missing and were searching for him. Actually, now would be a good time for a rescue, he thought to himself when he saw the green eyes flash white once more, and her hand came up, bearing a ribbon device.
The Jaffa laughed deep in his throat as he kicked Daniel's feet from under him and grabbed his hair. His head was pulled back and twisted in such a way that Daniel was staring up at the approaching woman. The pain to his scalp brought tears to his eyes, and he blinked them back, irritated at the show of weakness. Damnit, where *was* Jack?
Oh God, what if Jack and the others had been drugged, too? Or had drunk too much along with Daniel? What if they had also been caught trespassing?
A predatory smile slowly spread across the beautiful woman's face. Metallic decorative rings strung on her green gown tinkled musically as she moved. Her long red hair fell forward as she bent over Daniel, caressing one cheekbone with the edge of a metal-clad finger. She charged the ribbon device just enough so that her touch caused him pain, nerves burning along his face and neck as the energy flowed. He tried to pull back, but the Jaffa had too strong a hold on his head.
"I'm sure you could have come up with a better lie than that drivel, given the initiative," she purred. Suddenly she straightened and waved the two Jaffa away.
"Leave us. I shall take care of this one."
"But My Lady," one of the Jaffa protested. "What if he attempts to escape?"
"One can only hope," she said, her teeth flashing white against tanned skin. "Go," she ordered, her eyes hardening as she raised her gaze from Daniel's and stared at the two reluctant warriors.
"As you command," they replied in unison, inclining their heads and tramping out of the room. The Goa'uld turned to Daniel, the ribbon device powering up, its glow already heating his skin where she held it close.
She grasped his hair with her other hand, motioning for the Jaffa to let go. Her grip was harder, more painful, and Daniel gritted his teeth together, mentally preparing himself for the coming pain. He was thankful that the other two had left the room but knew that there was no way he could overpower both a Jaffa and a Goa'uld by himself.
Despite himself, he watched helplessly as her hand came up, circling teasingly before his face. "I have waited many years to do this," she purred, smiling.
Events happened too quickly for Daniel's still-befuddled mind to grasp immediately. The hold on his head disappeared so suddenly he lost his balance, falling hard against the ground. He rolled to his side, clutching his bruised ribs and moved away from the danger before him. The hand device flashed, and the Jaffa beside him flew across the room, thudding loudly as he smacked against the stone wall. Moments later, the twin whines of zat fire sounded in the hallway.
He lay there, breathing harshly as the Goa'uld stared at the fallen Jaffa with disdain. "Foolish idiot," she spat at the broken body.
"Come, your friends have arrived," she said to Daniel before turning her back on him.
"Wh� what? Who are you?" Daniel demanded, still stunned and lying there, confused.
"You are Tau'ri, are you not?"
Daniel nodded, pushing against the floor and sitting up. Jack, Sam and Teal'c exploded into the room, the two men holding zats before them, Sam aiming her P-90 at the enemy.
"Wait, don't shoot!" Daniel yelled as they all converged on the woman standing proudly before them. Daniel saw them take in the downed Jaffa and then the ribbon device on her hand.
Jack waggled his fingers at the weapon, and she removed it without a word, handing it to him. As he stuffed it into his vest, Sam came over to Daniel and helped him up.
"You okay?" she asked him.
"Yeah, I'm fine, except for� why the hell did you guys let me drink whatever it was that I drank?" he complained as he moved to join his friends. He rubbed his throat and felt his ribs. Nothing broken, nothing cracked, thankfully just a few bruises for his troubles.
"Just can't take you out in public, can we," Jack replied as he examined Daniel carefully. "Who's the snake?" Jack's eyes darted towards the Goa'uld.
"I am Tarelle," she answered.
"Teal'c?" Jack asked their Jaffa friend.
"She is unknown to me, O'Neill." Daniel noted that Teal'c hadn't lowered his weapon, keeping it trained on the Goa'uld even though she was now unarmed.
"As well I should be, Jaffa." She looked scornfully at the large man, even though he made three of her. "I am Tok'ra," she added proudly.
"What?" Sam exclaimed. She approached the woman while watching her carefully. "They said you were dead."
"I had not realized word of my death had left the planet."
"Tarelle," Sam said, as if testing the name on her tongue. "I don't remember you."
"Yes� I sense you were a host at one time. And you are�"
"Samantha Carter. I was host to Jolinar of Malkshur," Sam replied.
"Jolinar." The woman's lips curled, but Daniel noted the smile didn't reach her eyes. "Yes, I have heard of her. Martouf spoke of Jolinar often."
"You knew Marty?" Jack asked as he walked to the door to check the hallway.
"Yes. We were� together for many years. Eventually he confided to me of his attraction to Jolinar. She pleased him whenever I was not available. Did he not speak to Jolinar of me?"
"You're lying," Sam exclaimed angrily, "Martouf would have told Jolinar if he had had someone else in his life." Daniel grabbed her arm, realizing this wasn't the time for the women to get into a catfight. He knew that the Tok'ra could sometimes be as arrogant as the Goa'uld, but this one seemed to enjoy baiting Sam.
"Carter," Jack reprimanded. Sam glared at the Goa'uld before she turned her back on her and joined her commanding officer at the door.
Tarelle grinned at Sam, and Daniel felt a chill go down his back at the sight. "I have kept apart from most of my people," she said as if nothing had happened. "I had no wish to join the war against the Goa'uld. I simply wished to live my life quietly, in a far away corner of the universe. Martouf came to me not long ago and convinced me to join the battle. And this is the thanks I get." She moved closer to Sam. "Have you news of Martouf?" she asked softly.
"He's dead." Sam's words were curt, and she kept her back to the woman for a few seconds longer, then turned to glare at her again.
Tarelle raised a hand to her mouth, then turned around, hiding her face from them. Daniel glanced back to Sam and saw her expression soften slightly as she watched the Tok'ra's stiff back.
"We were told the Tok'ra operative here had been killed a while back," Daniel said, trying to break the uncomfortable silence.
"A necessary evil," Tarelle explained, turning around again to face them. "Information of my whereabouts had been leaked, and I fashioned my *death*. I had no way to get word to my home base I was still alive. I had expected someone to come and retrieve the information I gathered much sooner than this," she said in a huff.
"Well, I guess that's us," Daniel said with a wry smile. "We were sent to retrieve a key," he continued after having introduced himself and the rest of his team.
"Ahhh, the key." Tarelle raised a hand and waggled her fingers at Jack in the same manner as he'd done when asking her to hand over her ribbon device. Daniel could see his friend was reluctant to give it back to her but did so anyway. She didn't put it back on, but instead removed a piece of ornamentation from it, then handed the weapon back to Jack.
"The key," she announced holding a small, golden filigreed spiral, about an inch long. "I assume you also wish to retrieve the information," she said sarcastically. Daniel sighed. Although the Tok'ra had only given them the basics of why the key was needed, Jacob Carter himself had disclosed it would lead to information on the whereabouts of several planets where the Goa'uld had secret starship-building facilities, and that the Tok'ra had been planning to sabotage said planets as soon as they recovered their locations.
Jacob had only known the key was connected to some kind of watery temple. A vague picture flitted through Daniel's mind of a long land bridge leading to the stone building, which was surrounded by water. He mentally shook himself, not able to recollect the image clearly.
"Why did you not leave this planet once you had assured your safety?" Teal'c asked.
"Because were I to leave, the Goa'uld would have known me to be the spy which they believed to have killed and would most certainly have changed their bases. This way they continued to think they were safe and the Tok'ra spy had long been disposed of."
"And you stayed here pretending to be a Goa'uld for how long?" Daniel asked.
"Two years. Two years of pretending to be something I am not, two years of wishing to destroy these parasites as I watched their cruelty, two years of wondering why I had been abandoned here and not contacted further."
"Well, your fellow Tok'ra have run into a couple of problems while dealing with the snakes," Jack said. Daniel winced inwardly at Jack's crudeness as the Tok'ra herself was related to the much-hated snakes. "I don't think you were forgotten, maybe just shelved to the back row for a little while. You can't really blame your people, considering you had them believing you were dead."
"Then perhaps we should deal with a few *snakes* of our own," Tarelle added. "Come, the tide will be right in a short time. We may retrieve the information and leave this hellish planet once and for all."
Tarelle held out a hand to Jack, eyeing his zat which Jack still held loosely in his hand. "If I may, Colonel?"
Jack reluctantly handed her his weapon, and Daniel winced as she triple-zatted the Jaffa, disposing of his body. As Tarelle swept out of the room, Daniel thought she had the Goa'uld act down pat. There definitely was a distinction between the Tok'ra and Goa'uld swagger. He hoped she hadn't remained amongst their enemy for too long, thinking it could be a very unpleasant few hours together. When Sam glared at the Tok'ra as she brushed by her, Daniel amended that thought. It definitely would be an unpleasant couple of hours. Jack cocked his eye at Daniel, who shrugged as he followed the Tok'ra out of the room.
- - - - - -
Daniel winced as he stepped outside, the bright sunlight making his headache worse. As they walked along the beach, he put on his sunglasses and his boonie hat, lowering its brim down to try and cut the glare.
Despite his bruises and lingering hangover, Daniel breathed deeply of the cool, fresh sea air as the four of them followed the red-haired Tok'ra along the beach. They'd had no problems in retrieving their equipment and leaving the castle unseen, using dark, narrow, undecorated hallways and stairwells. Daniel assumed these were for the servants' use, who were all more than likely occupied with the guests still celebrating in the dining hall.
The sand was wet, and they skirted a horse-sized crab-like carcass that had been washed up on shore.
"Tide's going out," Jack said as he strode up to walk beside him.
Daniel nodded, puffing a little as he negotiated the slanted shoreline. Wet seaweed and bits of rocks and shells marked where the tide had turned. Other higher lines of seaweed showed where previous high tides had reached along the shore.
"Headache?" Jack asked.
"You should have slept some more."
"Um, how long did I sleep?"
Jack checked his watch, then handed Daniel some water. "Maybe thirty, forty minutes. Whatever was in that stuff acted fast. Carter thinks it reacted with your antihistamines."
"And it metabolizes quickly too, obviously," Daniel muttered as he took a few sips of water. "I just hope the hangover goes away just as quickly." Jack grinned and patted his shoulder, and Daniel shrugged away from him in irritation before handing back Jack's canteen.
As they strode down the beach, Daniel could make out a smudge in the ocean. At first he thought it was a boat, but as they stopped before a pile of rocks leading out into the water, Daniel realized this was the image that had flitted through his mind earlier.
"I've seen this before," Daniel said to himself as the waves broke over the rocks. As he watched, he saw that the rocks formed a bridge, a causeway, leading from shore out to the� building sticking out of the water.
"Of course you have, Daniel," Sam said as she shaded her eyes, staring out into the water. "There's a huge tapestry depicting this very scene on the main staircase."
"There is?" Daniel couldn't remember seeing it, but then he'd been busy talking with the servants as they'd been escorted to their rooms.
"In a short while, the tide will have receded enough so that we may cross to the temple," Tarelle said as she stood at the water's edge, the waves lapping near her feet. A gust of wind blew her long, green dress against her body, its small bits of decoration making a musical sound. Daniel shivered as the dampness penetrated his jacket. He wondered how the woman was unaffected by the flimsiness of her clothes. Guess the symbiotes were good at maintaining body heat on top of healing their hosts.
"Just who are the Goa'uld in charge here? We searched their private quarters, and there weren't any signs for us to identify."
"They are insignificant," she answered Jack. "They wish only to rule quietly here, away from the attention of the System Lords. Which was why it was very easy for me to insinuate myself into their circle when I murdered one of them to take his place. They have grown lazy, but do not wish to draw the attention of their brethren."
"But why aren't there any identifying signs," Daniel asked. "Why did the Jaffa hide their tattoos?"
Tarelle shrugged. "It is a part of the feast's ceremony." She pointed towards the bridge before them. "You will need to take care. Normally the servants keep the way clean of growth, but with the preparations for this occasion, they have neglected these duties. The stones will be very slippery in places. You will need to watch your footing."
"You heard the good Tok'ra," Jack said to Daniel. "It's a little cool outside to go swimming."
"There are worse things than getting wet, Colonel," she said as she hitched her dress around her legs and tucked the ends into her belt, creating a make-shift pair of trousers. She kicked off her sandals and tied them at her waist with the edges of her dress. "There are creatures in the water which are hungry and dangerous. Please try and remain on the bridge."
Daniel moved to the water's edge, staring out at the slowly appearing walkway. He could make out its slick surface in spots as waves broke over it, the water receding with a bit of foam. He had to turn away; the motion was making him nauseous. He concentrated on removing his boots and socks, packing both away in his backpack and relishing the feel of smooth sand beneath his feet. He stuck a toe in the water and jumped back. God, the water was freezing!
"Will we have enough time to get there and come back before the tide turns?" Sam asked. Daniel suddenly turned to stare at Sam. He hadn't thought of that.
"Yes, if we leave now." The Tok'ra stepped up onto the barely visible rocks.
- - - - - -
"Hold on," Jack ordered as their guide stepped onto the causeway. "Teal'c, take point. Carter, you've got our six." The Tok'ra glared at him, but Jack ignored her. He allowed her to follow Teal'c, then waved to Daniel to take the next position. He clambered up the large stone behind his friend, wiping his hands free of sand and grit on his pant legs.
He ignored everyone's gasps at the frigid water, biting down his own at the almost-pain the water induced on bare skin. Within seconds his feet and ankles had gone numb. But the tide was going down, and the sun beat warmly on his back and legs. He knew within a short time the water would be gone from the rocks, and the going would be more comfortable.
Tarelle was right, the rocks were slippery in spots. At first the seaweed was visible in the water, and since it grew in patchy spots, it was easy to step over it. But soon, as the water receded completely from the stone bridge, the color of the growth blended with the drying rocks, causing them to slip many times.
Hence, the going was slow, too slow for his liking. He hated being out in the open like this. If any Jaffa patrols came down the beach, they were sure to spot five persons walking along the causeway. He wasn't sure what kind of power this Tok'ra had in these parts. He could only hope if they were seen, she'd be able to convince the Jaffa they were simply on a sightseeing tour, 'cause they were certainly sitting ducks out here.
They finally got a break when the sun began to dry out the rocks, the slimy growth showing up darker than the color of the stone. They began to pick up the pace a bit as their footing became more confident.
Jack glanced away from the jumbled stones and up at the temple, then quickly behind him. He estimated they had travelled close to half the distance. He had no way of knowing how much farther the tide would recede, and how long it would stay at low tide. His watch told him they'd been walking for twenty five minutes. He figured another twenty to get to the temple, grab whatever the Tok'ra had hidden there, and another forty to get out. Surely that was more than enough time?
Suddenly Daniel veered away from the path and slid down the moss-covered stones, groaning loudly. Before Jack could yell out to him, his friend was leaning over the water, vomiting water and bile. Damn, Jack had forgotten Daniel's hangover. Although the bridge underneath them wasn't moving, sometimes the motion of the waves was a little disconcerting. It couldn't have helped Daniel's already upset stomach.
He crouched down near Daniel, waiting as Daniel cleared his throat and spat into the water.
"You okay?" Jack finally asked.
Daniel nodded, and Jack put his arm out. Daniel clasped his hand, and Jack hauled him back up over the slippery surface. Daniel looked pale, and his face was beaded with sweat, but his eyes were clear. He looked a little embarrassed with everyone staring at him, and he ducked his head down.
"Sorry," Daniel said as he cleared his throat once more, passing the edge of his hand over his lips. "Got a little nauseous with the�" He made a rolling motion with his hand, indicating the water before them. Jack patted his arm in sympathy. He nodded at Teal'c to indicate they were good to go.
They continued without mishap until they reached the last thousand feet. The causeway began to slope upward, the rocks coming up out of the water towards the entrance to the building, which sat in the water like a stone lily pad. The wind was stronger out here, whipping occasional waves up over the stones and camouflaging the slippery seaweed.
Teal'c used the blunt end of his staff weapon to try and pick out the hidden danger. They moved forward inch by inch, when suddenly Tarelle slipped, her feet knocking Daniel's out from under him. Teal'c caught the falling woman, preventing her from tumbling into the water. Jack lunged for Daniel but was too slow. With his heart in his mouth, Jack watched Daniel fall backwards onto the rocks, sliding head first into the foamy water.
"Shit! Daniel!" Jack cried, falling to his knees and slipping and sliding down the large, round, slimy rocks to where he'd seen his friend disappear. He searched the dark, agitated water, looking for a sign of his friend. Seconds later Teal'c and Carter were beside him.
Something floated in the water, and Jack realized it was Daniel's hat.
"There," Teal'c called out as Daniel surfaced several feet behind the hat.
"Daniel!" Carter yelled as their friend tread water, coughing and spluttering, searching for them. Daniel turned his head and began swimming as soon as he spotted them.
Jack could see Daniel's teeth chattering as he raised a hand to drag himself out of the depths of the water. Strangely, he hadn't lost his glasses. Daniel's fingers caught on the seaweed-covered rocks, and slipped. Jack reached down and caught his arm, Daniel's skin felt like ice beneath his fingers. Between himself and Teal'c, they got Daniel up onto the rocks. He was shivering, and he curled up into a ball, trying to keep out of the wind.
"Well, that was refreshing," he managed to croak between shivers.
Knowing there wasn't anything to be done for Daniel at the moment except to keep him moving until they reached the now-welcoming shelter ahead of them, they got Daniel back up onto the bridge.
They'd barely taken three steps when Jack heard something clattering behind them. He turned at Carter's curse. Some kind of black and blue multi-legged, finned creature was making its way up the rocks towards them.
"Quickly, kill it!" Tarelle yelled. "It will call others to come and feed." Jack slid his P90 forward, seeing the sharp teeth and claws, a mixture of shark and crab rolled into one hideous beast as it moved more quickly than its bulk should have allowed it. Before he or Carter could fire, though, Teal'c's staff weapon blew the creature apart. Pieces fell back into the water in a wet splatter where claws and cartilage had been flung.
"Sushi, anyone?" Jack asked. He grinned up at Teal'c, then eyed Daniel's quiet form as he stood shuddering beside him.
"Let's go," he suggested, a little more softly.
They made it up into the temple with no other mishaps, with Jack leading Daniel. He had Daniel sit at the foot of a wide pillar which managed to act as a windbreak. The temple was simply a large open building, with several stone columns holding up a stone roof. There was a two-foot high stone wall that circled the building, ending at an opening where the bridge connected with the temple. The floor had large holes spaced two feet apart. Jack presumed these holes were to allow the sea water to drain whenever the waves washed over the sides.
The temple had been lavishly decorated at one time, but either the etchings and carvings had been deliberately defaced or the salt and water had eroded them.
"This was done deliberately," Daniel said, his reddened fingers rubbing at gouges in the wall he was leaning against.
Tarelle went directly to the pillar opposite where Jack crouched beside Daniel and placed the spiral key into a small opening in the stone. The piece of adornment slid in halfway, and she twisted it. An audible click sounded, followed by a loud, grating sound. Part of the floor began to split in two, revealing stairs.
"The Goa'uld on this planet are unaware of this chamber," Tarelle explained. "I concealed the information below. This structure was once a repository of valuable information, a library of sorts, if you will. It is empty now, except for what I hid here. I will be but a moment."
"I guess you won't mind if Carter and Teal'c accompany you, just in case there might be other little� surprises waiting for you down there?"
"Come, let us descend," she said imperiously as she glanced at SG-1, then moved to the stone stairs. Teal'c and Carter followed, while Jack remained with Daniel.
"Let's get this wet stuff off of you," Jack said as he began unbuttoning Daniel's vest and jacket. With clumsy movements, Daniel began to strip. Jack removed Daniel's fogged glasses, putting them aside on the floor for the moment.
"A library," Daniel mumbled. "I wonder what happened to all its contents. It's such a waste, all that information�" His voice trailed off as Jack pulled the wet tee-shirt over his head. Jack pulled his own jacket off and wrapped it around Daniel's bare goose-bump riddled chest and arms. He put his vest back on, its weight would be a bit of protection from the damp wind. Daniel sat there with his hands tucked under his armpits, knees bent, eyes closed and chin tucked into his chest. Jack wished they had a spare pair of pants, but at least half of Daniel would be warm and dry.
Jack picked up Daniel's glasses and after wiping the fogged lenses on his tee shirt, he put them on his friend's face.
He then took Daniel's sodden tee shirt and jacket, starting to wring the water from them before stuffing them into Daniel's pack when he noticed that there was more than sea water on the floor around them.
"Damn it," he swore when he followed the stream of blood to Daniel's right leg.
"What?" Daniel asked, opening his eyes as Jack pulled at Daniel's leg till it lay flat on the stone floor.
"You're bleeding," Jack said as he began to examine Daniel's pants for a rip or tear.
"No, I'm not," Daniel argued. Jack found the large hole in Daniel's pants just above his knee and he tore the material, exposing a large, bleeding gash along Daniel's leg.
"Shit." The wound was bleeding, badly enough that Jack quickly dug a pressure bandage out of his pack. Daniel lifted the bloody material of his pants aside, looking bewilderedly at the wound.
"That's strange, I can't feel it. It doesn't hurt."
"You're probably too cold to feel it," Jack muttered as he tore the pant leg all the way down to Daniel's foot, then spread the material aside so he could place the bandage around Daniel's leg. "Doesn't look like you cut it on a rock, do you think that thing out there�"
"I felt something bump into me when I was in the water," Daniel admitted. "I thought it was a rock or a plant. It was simply pressure, no pain."
"With the teeth on that thing, you'd have felt the pain soon enough if it had gotten a proper hold on you," Jack said with a shudder. "What's this stuff?" he asked, eying some sort of clear-colored slime on Daniel's pants and in and around the bleeding wound.
Jack poured some water over the wound, but when he saw that the goo wasn't rinsing off, he took some disinfectant and wiped it off the bloody wound as best he could. As he applied the pressure bandage, he felt his fingers go numb where they had come into contact with the substance.
"I think this is why you're not feeling any pain," Jack explained, rinsing his hands first in a puddle of water before wiping them dry on his pant legs.
Carter, Teal'c and Tarelle came out of the hole in the floor. All eyed Daniel's obviously torn pants and bandaged leg.
"What happened?" Carter asked as she ran up the last steps and moved towards them.
"Something in the water bit Daniel," Jack explained. "Probably that thing that came after us." He lifted his chin at Carter. "You get the info?"
"Yes, Sir," she replied, pulling a small silver disk out of her vest pocket. "That place is weird, it almost feels familiar," she said with a shudder, replacing the disk in her pocket.
"How badly injured is DanielJackson?" Teal'c asked as he knelt on Jack's other side.
"I'm fine," Daniel answered. "It doesn't even hurt."
"That's because whatever bit you also slimed you with something that numbs the wound." Jack looked at Carter, rubbing his numb fingers together. "There was something on Daniel's skin, I wiped it off as best as I could, but it was enough to make my fingers numb." He wiped his hands together briskly and was relieved to have sensation come back to him. "It's wearing off now. I'm thinking that when Daniel gets feeling back in his leg, though, it's gonna hurt like hell."
Tarelle had gone to the hole in the pillar and reinserted the key. The floor began to close with a loud grinding sound. Jack stood, looking out at the now very visible bridge leading back to shore. The tide was probably at its lowest right now and would begin to start coming in very soon. The wind had picked up, though, rifling through the hairs on his arms and causing goose bumps to spread where it touched. With Daniel injured, their going back was going to be slower than it was coming here. They needed to get moving.
Jack reached down and offered Daniel a hand up. Daniel stood, then stumbled against Jack as he put his weight on his injured leg.
"Oh," he said softly. "My leg feels strange." A gust of wind came in through the ocean side of the temple, spraying them all with salty mist. Daniel shivered visibly, and Jack quickly buttoned up Daniel's jacket. Daniel's torn pant leg fluttered in the wind.
"You gonna make this?" he asked him quietly. Daniel looked up at Jack, blue eyes widening in surprise behind salt-speckled lenses.
"Yeah, I'm good." He smiled at Jack, then glanced over towards shore. "Really." He took a step towards the opening in the wall and collapsed against Jack as his leg buckled.
Daniel grabbed Jack's arm, managing to stop his fall until Jack was able to right him. He lowered Daniel back to the ground, alarmed when Daniel didn't object.
"My leg's gone numb," Daniel explained as his three teammates surrounded him. Jack allowed Carter to check Daniel out, keeping his eye on the Tok'ra, who remained standing by the doorway. She eyed them impatiently, then seeing Jack watching her, turned to look out over the water.
"Daniel, can you feel this?" Carter was asking, pinching the skin along Daniel's leg. He shook his head, and she met Jack's eyes worriedly.
"That slime must have gotten into Daniel's bloodstream," Jack said.
"Did you not clean out his wound?" Teal'c asked as he sat down beside Daniel, adding his bulk to cut the wind.
"Yeah, but I did a quick job of it," he admitted. He pulled out more disinfecting materials as Carter cautiously peeled Daniel's bandage. To Jack's dismay, the dressing was soaked through, and Daniel's wound was still bleeding. It hadn't looked that deep. Jack thought it should have stopped bleeding by now, or at least slowed down.
Carter carefully cleaned Daniel's wound again, and Jack noted Daniel was obviously not feeling any pain from her ministrations.
"The sea creatures must secrete some kind of numbing agent in its saliva," Carter said as she worked. "This way it can injure its victim and not alarm it, maybe waiting for it to bleed enough so that it's too weak to struggle, or fight back. You were lucky you weren't in the water that long, Daniel."
She replaced the bandage, and Jack disposed of the soiled materials in a small plastic bag, stuffing it into the bottom of his packsack.
"The creatures do as you described, Samantha Carter. We must leave now," Tarelle said, coming up next to them and looking down at Daniel with disdain.
"Look, he's hurt, and he needs to rest a bit before walking on that leg."
Tarelle grabbed Jack by the vest and pulled him away from his team. He went unresisting, awed once again at the physical strength the snakes could give such a slight woman.
"Resting will not do him any good," she hissed at Jack in a low voice. "The toxin is in his bloodstream. It will prevent the wound from clotting. If you wish to help your friend, you must return him to your world now."
"Damn it," Jack said, turning back to look at Daniel. "How long?"
"It depends on how much of the toxin has entered the wound. If you wish to return home, we must leave before the bridge becomes impassable. The wind will make it difficult now to cross."
Jack nodded, realizing they needed to get Daniel home asap. He returned to his friends, and saw Daniel watching him with worry.
"We gotta get moving," Jack ordered. "Tarelle just pointed out the wind's blowing stronger. That's gonna whip the waves over the edge of the causeway," he lied, skirting over the issue of the toxin. Actually it was windier now than a short while ago. Daniel was leaning against Teal'c, probably trying to absorb as much body heat as he could.
Jack stood up and gazed over the stone bridge. The water was more agitated than before, and the tide was coming up fast. The water wasn't high enough to cover the stones yet, but the continual splashing meant they were going to have to do a lot of fancy footwork before they reached shore.
"Jack, I can walk. I just got caught by surprise before when I couldn't feel my leg. I really don't want to be walking in water with those things swimming around me�"
Jack shuddered at the thought of those creatures in the water. "Carter?"
"I don't know. His leg is numb. He's not going to have much support if he slips on the seaweed."
"I will aid DanielJackson," Teal'c offered. He handed Jack his staff weapon, then raised himself into a crouch and helped Daniel stand. With his arm around Daniel's waist, the two men moved easily to the bridge.
"I'll take point, then follow same order as before," Jack said. He stepped onto the surface, testing for slippery slickness beneath his feet. He only slipped in a few places, the water not quite reaching the top of the bridge at this point.
Before too long, though, the going had become slow and tedious. He heard a gasp and a thud, and balancing carefully on a patch of slippery moss, he turned to see Daniel lying on his side, with Teal'c reaching down to help him up. Tarelle was on Jack's heels, ignoring the downed man behind her and almost pushing Jack forward.
"Everything okay back there?" Jack asked, waiting to see if Daniel was injured.
"Yeah," Daniel sighed. "Sorry, Teal'c," he added as he stood. As Jack turned back to face forward, cold water splashed over the edge of the walkway, coming up to wet his pants almost to his knees.
"Heads up," Carter yelled behind him. He turned again, seeing several large waves heading for them. They broke over the bridge, each one coming up slightly higher than the one before. Jack eyed the temple behind them and the distance to shore. He took several more steps forward, when yet another wave splashed his legs. Jack watched it run its course down along the bridge, which was submerged for several long seconds. Movement to the side showed Jack a large shadow swimming close to the bridge. Claws appeared momentarily on the rocks, then slid out of view as the creature swam away.
"We're not going to make it to shore before the tide comes up," Jack cried, yelling back at the people behind him. "We're gonna have to turn back and wait for the next tide."
"That is ridiculous," Tarelle yelled back. "Our next opportunity will be in fourteen hours from now. We will have to traverse the bridge in the middle of the night, and we will have been missed by then. There will be Jaffa searching for us."
"Sorry, but those odds sound a lot better than trying to cross right now in these conditions. We'll never make it; it's too slippery underfoot, and the waves are going to make the going treacherous."
"You fool. I haven't spent all these years biding my time only to let your weakness prevent me from going home," she almost spat at Jack.
"Lady, if you waited all these years, then you can wait another fourteen hours. There's no use us trying to cross with those creatures sitting in wait for us out in the water. Damnit, they'll take a bite out of you, and you wouldn't even notice. Carter, Teal'c, turn back."
"No, Jack!" Daniel yelled. "Look, I can walk. I just slipped."
"Daniel, go!" Jack yelled back.
"Teal'c, turn him around and head back to the temple!"
"Jack, no! We can't just stay here!" "Daniel, that's an order." He watched as Daniel stared at him with hurt eyes before turning around, knowing he was the reason why they'd been delayed and couldn't chance crossing.
His people made their slow way back up to the temple. Tarelle stood glaring at him, blocking Jack's way back to safety. For a minute he thought she'd try to force her way past him.
"Your friend will suffer for your foolishness," she said.
He exhaled with relief when she turned and followed the others.
Going up was just as bad as it had been the first time. Worse, actually, because Daniel wasn't able to push forward with his injured leg. It took both Carter and Teal'c to help him the last of the way into the temple. Jack grabbed the edge of the wall and pulled himself up, ignoring Tarelle as he went to check on Daniel.
The wind now seemed to be coming from all sides, and there was nowhere to shelter. Daniel was trembling with cold, as was Carter. Jack was too angry right now to feel the weather, but he was sure he would as soon as he stopped moving.
"Can we wait down there?" he said, pointing to the floor where the stairs had been.
With a long suffering sigh, Tarelle keyed the door open once again, and Jack warily descended the stairway, which was dripping with water and was spilling over the sides of the stairs.
Carter had been right, the place did look familiar. Large glass or plastic windows allowed ambient, although somewhat distorted light, to reach them. There was a wall with hundreds of small slots with holes set in the middle of each. Jack assumed they were keyholes, and that Tarelle had hidden the disk in one of them. Each had been defaced, either scored through or painted over.
He turned and watched as Carter and Teal'c helped Daniel down the stairs. He stood to the edge of the stairs and as soon as he was able to reach him, he grasped Daniel's arm, helping to steady the heavily-limping man.
"Hey, it looks like Nem's place on Oannes," Daniel remarked as he looked around. Jack figured that was why it looked familiar, not that he remembered much about that time except for the few flashbacks he'd experienced.
Tarelle keyed the door closed, the controls being on the side of the stairway itself. Jack looked around for the driest corner, then pointed towards the back of the stairs where none of the dripping water had reached.
"Damnit, Jack, you don't understand," Daniel whispered to him as Jack helped him to sit.
"No, you don't understand. Those things were out in the water, Daniel. One good wave and they'd have been all over us. We just couldn't chance it, understand?"
Once Daniel was settled, Jack removed his pack and weapon, setting them off to the side. Carter checked Daniel's wound, pushing the edge of the bandage aside to check on the bleeding, and Jack was dismayed to see it was soaked with blood. While Teal'c removed his jacket and placed it around Daniel's shivering shoulders, Jack asked, "How you doing?"
"I'm still cold, but I think my leg is starting to get some feeling back," Daniel said with a grimace.
"In that case, Carter, maybe you'd better dig out the pain pills now." He looked at Daniel seriously. "That's gonna start hurting pretty bad if feeling comes back to it."
"No, there's no use wasting the meds," Daniel argued. "I don't feel any pain, but my foot and ankle aren't quite as numb as before."
"Listen," Jack said with a heavy heart. "Tarelle said the toxin from that creature is an anticoagulant, so there's a good chance you could bleed to death."
"What?" Carter exclaimed while Daniel simply closed his eyes. Jack shook his head at her.
"You have any of those healing devices?" he called out to Tarelle.
She shook her head. "In my castle, not here," she replied, looking at them.
Daniel mumbled 'my castle' to himself, and Jack wondered why these snakes never always seemed to have the ribbon devices handy, but never the healing ones.
He watched Carter replace the soiled bandage with a fresh one after raising Daniel's leg by resting it on two of their packs. He removed two emergency blankets from their packs, spreading one beneath Daniel and the other around him.
"Sir, if the toxin� we need to at least slow down the bleeding. Fourteen hours is a long time."
"I know," Jack said. He positioned himself on his knees, and placed his hands over Daniel's wounded leg. "This might hurt, Danny," Jack warned before putting pressure over the gash.
Daniel shook his head, and Jack breathed a sigh of relief that he wasn't hurting his friend. He pressed a little harder, keeping steady pressure.
"Any other way out of here?" Jack asked conversationally.
"That is always a possibility," Teal'c said. The large man stood up and began exploring the room.
"There is only the one exit," Tarelle said moodily.
Teal'c shrugged, and continued to examine the chamber.
"Sam," Daniel said in a low voice. "Did Tarelle take the disk from inside one of those things?" he asked, pointing to the multitude of slots on the wall where the woman in question was resting against.
"Yeah. She wasn't sure which one it was in, she had to open several before she found it."
"Was there anything inside any of them?"
"They were all empty except for one. It had a little bundle in it, all wrapped up in rags."
"Like it had been mummified?"
"Yes, I think so. But it was very small and thin."
Daniel nodded. Jack watched as Daniel examined the chamber carefully. Jack wondered if he was trying to figure out who the ruling gods were. But everything had been obliterated, only small bits and pieces remaining. Jack recognized what looked like a basket here, part of rattle there, he could make out many cartouches carved up high near the ceiling, but they also had been mostly scraped clear of script. Jack thought he could make out what looked like parts of a cat here and there, but still, it was hard to be sure.
Fifteen minutes later Jack eased the pressure and gently peeled back a corner of the bandage. Blood flowed freely through the opening, trickling down Daniel's leg. He put the bandage back into position and resumed pressure.
Teal'c came to sit beside them. "There are no indications of another exit," he reported.
Jack glanced over at Tarelle, and she simply raised her eyebrows as if to say 'I told you so'.
A few minutes later, Daniel gasped loudly. Jack turned his attention to his friend, and saw his face had paled.
"What is it?"
"I think that feeling is starting to� Ow, yes. Shit. Damnit, Jack, do you have to press so hard?"
"I'm sorry, but yes, I do."
"Do you want me to give you something for the pain?" Carter asked. She began rummaging through her backpack, removing a blister pack from their first aid kit.
"No, yes. Jack, it's not working. It's still bleeding. I need to tell you something. Just let it�"
"Daniel?" Jack asked when Daniel's voice lapsed into silence. He realized Daniel was breathing a little heavily. He watched as beads of sweat formed quickly and began to slide down Daniel's face. Daniel swallowed, and Jack noticed his pupils were huge, replacing all but a small sliver of blue.
Carter took Daniel's pulse, and suddenly she was pulling on Daniel's shoulders.
"He's going into shock," she said. Jack let go of Daniel's leg, and he and Teal'c helped position Daniel on the ground, raising both his legs up onto their packs. Daniel was shivering uncontrollably, and while Teal'c took Jack's place and continued to put pressure on Daniel's injured leg, Jack took yet another emergency blanket and wrapped their friend in it.
"J�Jack?" Daniel's hand snaked out from beneath the blankets to grasp Jack's arm.
"Shhh, just try and relax." Jack removed Daniel's clenched fingers from around his bicep and placed both his palms over them, trying to warm up the chilled digits.
"Oh God," Daniel moaned as he writhed suddenly, trying to pull away from Teal'c's hold on his leg.
"Carter, where's that pain med?" Jack snapped.
"Sir, I can't give him anything until he's stabilized."
"Damn," he whispered to himself, watching Daniel pant in agony. "I knew that, Carter. Sorry," he said, realizing he'd snapped at her for something she couldn't help. He felt helpless, unable to do anything for Daniel. What they needed was a fire to help keep Daniel warm, but there was nothing in the room that they could burn. Unless� Jack raised the blanket and slid beneath it, turning Daniel partway onto his side so that he could warm him with his own body heat. Daniel's sodden pants quickly dampened Jack's, and he debated whether they should try and remove the remainder of Daniel's wet clothes. But soon Jack's body heat began to warm the material, so he opted not to.
Jack thought belatedly maybe they should have made a run for the shore, and then remembering the sight of that monstrosity that had attacked Daniel, told himself that he'd made the right decision.
Daniel moaned softly, and Jack hugged him tightly against his chest, trying to comfort his friend. Yes, he'd made the right choice. So why did he feel like he'd just condemned his best friend to death?
- - - - - -
The pain in Daniel's leg escalated quickly, going from a slight burning sensation to intense, searing agony. He felt dizzy and nauseous, and he was having trouble taking deep breaths.
His lungs felt congested, and he coughed, then cleared his throat. Jack had hold of his hand, gently rubbing his fingers between his palms. The warmth of Jack's hand seemed to be the only source of heat Daniel could feel. He tried to concentrate on Jack's hand, see if he could spread the heat down into the rest of his trembling body.
Then suddenly there was heat against his back, warm, wonderful comfort that had him shivering even harder as his body tried to match the temperature of the one lying against it. Hands took both of his and rubbed them once more.
He opened his eyes at another touch of warmth on his neck, and he found himself staring into Sam's face. She smiled at him, but Daniel could see the wet shimmer of her eyes and knew she was worried. He tried to smile back, feeling his lips peel back from his teeth and wondering if he'd ended up looking like he was snarling at her when all he'd wanted to do was alleviate her fears.
"Try to relax," she told him. He closed his eyes and tried to do as he was told, but all he could focus on was the pain. There was something he had wanted to tell Jack, to warn him about, but the more he tried to remember what it was, the more his thoughts scattered.
Despite the pain, he felt himself drifting. He dozed, listening at times to the Tok'ra talking about the lost wonders that had been kept in this library. Something about her words weren't right. His thoughts were so confused. He slept on and off until he needed to cough - a wet, phlegm ridden cough that didn't seem to clear his airways. He felt himself turned onto his side, and he gasped breathlessly for a few moments until his bronchial tubes stopped spasming.
A warm hand was rubbing his back, and he relaxed into its soothing touch. He was suddenly tired, and he dozed off again, only marginally aware when he was placed back into his former position, his legs raised up in the air once more.
- - - - - -
Jack listened to Daniel's wet, raspy breaths as his friend slept. He'd begun coughing suddenly, his lungs quickly filling with fluid which had them all wondering if Daniel was undergoing some kind of allergic reaction to the toxin.
They'd been in this underwater chamber for four hours now. They had at least another nine or ten more to go, but at the rate Daniel was losing blood, Jack wasn't sure if his friend would last that long. They'd at least managed to slow the bleeding somewhat, but Jack was afraid that when they tried to move him, the bleeding would start up again.
Tarelle had been pacing restlessly for the past fifteen minutes, her sandaled feet scuffing along the stone floor in an irritating manner. When Daniel coughed weakly, she came to crouch beside him.
"The toxin will soon reach his brain," she said after a moment.
"What?" Carter exclaimed, sitting up from her slumped position against the wall beside Jack.
"It is affecting his lungs, is it not? It has, or most likely will begin to harm several other major organs, although their decreased performances may not be as obvious." Jack winced as Daniel coughed again, and the rasping sound of his inhalation seemed to grow worse.
"He will become confused, and he may lose his sight. If he survives these afflictions, then he will begin to recover. Unless he bleeds to death first. You erred, Colonel. You should have kept going along the stone bridge. Your friend would have received medical care by now, and I would be amongst the Tok'ra once more. I would be home."
She stood up and returned to the far corner of the room, where she sat separate from the four of them.
"No," Daniel wheezed, his voice hoarse and phlegmy. He tried to sit up, and the movement had him gasping. Jack could see how Daniel was trying to cough up the stuff in his lungs and seemed unable to take in enough breath to do so.
Quickly he and Carter raised Daniel into a seated position, and Jack pulled him close against his chest. Immediately Daniel sounded better, and he finally managed to clear his airways with much difficulty. Daniel leaned limply against him, and Jack raised his hand to support Daniel's head, moving it a bit until it was nestled against his shoulder.
"Jack," Daniel said breathlessly in a low voice. "She's not� Tok'ra."
"Shhh, Daniel, don't talk," Jack said.
"No� need� to know. Lying." Daniel's voice was interspersed with breathless gasps, which scared Jack almost as much as his last coughing fit.
"He's delirious," Carter said softly beside Jack, as she placed her hand on the back of Daniel's head.
"No, 'm not. Jack, please." Daniel raised his head to look up at him. "Some glyphs� not damaged. Bast� Pekhet� Pasht� Ubasti� all variations� name� Bastet."
"Daniel, you can't be sure she's a snake."
"She said� 'my'� castle."
"So she lived there for three years."
"She's� Ra's� daughter." Unable to express himself fluently due to his congestion, Daniel pleaded silently with Jack, his darkened blue eyes boring into his own.
"Damn, that bastard got around. You're positive about this?"
"Sir, he's confused. Tarelle did say�"
"I don't think so, Carter. He might get sick later, but I'm pretty sure Daniel knows what he's talking about right now."
"Why haven't we heard of her before? Why hasn't she made a move against us yet?" Carter whispered.
"If DanielJackson is correct," Teal'c said softly, "perhaps she has been biding her time to plan her revenge. She is known as one of the 'Eyes of Ra', an 'avenger' god who is sent out specifically to destroy the enemies of her gods."
"So you don't think she's a Tok'ra," Jack asked Daniel, glancing at the woman they were discussing. She had her eyes closed and seemed totally relaxed as she rested against the wall. He wondered if she could hear them whispering.
"Never let� host� speak."
"Daniel's right," Carter exclaimed softly. "We've only heard the symbiote speak."
"Sam� the mummy� you saw� was�" Daniel inhaled wetly and suddenly began choking. He stiffened, trying to cough, his eyes wide and scared when he couldn't get air into his lungs. Jack leaned him forward over his arm and began pounding on his back.
The sounds Daniel made were horrifying, and Jack could feel Daniel's chest as he strove to force air past the mucus clogging his bronchial tubes. Finally Jack heard a small rumble, and air wheezed into Daniel's airways. He began coughing and choking, vomit and mucus finally coming out of his mouth.
Jack held Daniel's head steady as Carter cleared firstly the mess from Daniel's chin, then off their clothes. His breathing was still wheezy and rapid, but at least he was getting oxygen. Daniel's hair was plastered with sweat, which was also sliding off his face in fat droplets.
"Cat." Daniel forced the word out.
"What? Where?" Jack asked, looking around.
"I believe DanielJackson means the small mummified object in the slot which MajorCarter and I saw, was that of a cat." Teal'c handed Jack a damp cloth, and Jack wiped the sweat from Daniel's face and neck. "Bastet is goddess of felines�" Teal'c's words suddenly cut off, and Jack heard the sandaled footsteps coming towards them.
"I am hungry. Do you have food in your bags?"
"Yeah, not as fancy as what your friends were serving down at the castle, but it's filling enough."
"Here," Carter said after removing four MREs from her pack. "If you open the door, I'll go get some water so we can heat these up." Jack watched as Carter ran up the stairs, the sound of waves and wind echoing doing into the room. She returned moments later, water filling the MRE heaters, with which she warmed their meals.
They ate silently, the room interspersed with only the scrape of forks on plastic, and that of Daniel's agonizingly painful-sounding breaths and coughs. Jack had little appetite but forced the food down anyway. He ate one-handed, the other supporting Daniel's weight steady against him.
Supper finished, Teal'c offered to hold Daniel upright so Jack gathered the remains of their meal and stowed most of the detritus away inside one of the packs. He stretched his legs, going to stare out the nearest window. He looked up towards the surface, noting that the daylight was waning. He checked his watch. Sunset would be soon, they'd be in the dark in a short while.
As if reading his thoughts, Tarelle came to stand beside him and said, "The lighting is automated; they will activate when motion is detected once the daylight fades."
Jack nodded, watching the almost-sickening sway of seaweed in the current. A school of small multi-colored fish swam by, moving gracefully as they darted among the seaweed in unison. A dark shadow appeared, and Jack jumped back with a yell when one of the shark-crab creatures rushed towards the window. A boom resounded, and Jack anxiously searched the window for leaks.
"Do not fear," Tarelle said, not having moved from her position before the window. "The glass is reinforced by a force field. Dozens of these creatures throwing themselves at one window would not be enough to damage it."
The same couldn't be said for the creature, though. It appeared dazed, and was moving away slowly. Jack grinned, and planting his thumb on the tip of his nose, he got perverse pleasure out of giving one of those sea-thingies a four fingered wave.
He returned to his friends, placing a hand to Daniel's throat and noting the fast, thready pulse. He went to lift the bandage but didn't bother, the blood seeping from its side enough to tell him the wound was still bleeding.
"Carter, do we have anything in our packs that we could use to cauterize Daniel's wound."
Jack saw her looking inwardly, categorizing all their gear. She came to the same conclusion as he had. "No, Sir. There's nothing to create a hot enough fire. Unless�" Her eyes lit up as she looked at Teal'c. "Could you activate your staff weapon long enough without firing it so we could get a knife's blade red hot?"
"Indeed. It is feasible."
"I hate having to do it, but there's no other way I can think of to stop the bleeding."
"I wouldn't recommend you attempt it now, Sir. With his respiration compromised and who knows what else is being affected, the shock of pain might be too much for his body to take."
"What about morphine, wouldn't it dull the pain?"
"And it could stop his breathing. I certainly wouldn't recommend either until Daniel begins to show signs of recovering from the toxin."
"Damned if we do and damned if we don't," Jack mumbled.
At his words, Daniel opened his eyes, blinking rapidly as he looked around.
"I'm here, Daniel." Jack pulled his friend to him, and Teal'c supported Daniel's head carefully until Jack was able to reposition him comfortably against him. Daniel shivered at the movement, and Carter tucked the blankets around Daniel's body.
"Can't see. All blurry."
"It's okay. You're sick. Don't worry about it. It'll clear up in a little while."
"Yeah, I know," Jack sighed. "Just hang on, okay? It's gonna get better soon."
"They died for nothing," Daniel moaned. "Linea, stop them."
"Linea?" Jack queried. "You think he's�"
"DanielJackson must believe himself on the prison planet."
"Stop him. Please, I can't breathe," Daniel said, struggling in Jack's arms.
"Daniel! Stay still; you're making it worse," Jack ordered, shaking his friend. Daniel quieted, coughing as he fought for air. Soon he was sleeping again.
The room quickly dimmed as the sun went down, and small hidden lights in the ceiling began to glow. The room was darker, but still lit well enough to see clearly. Tarelle opened the stairway once more and they all took turns going outside to take care of their body's needs, then they settled down to rest, sleep if need be. They had just over six hours before the tide would start receding.
"O'Neill," Teal'c said softly beside Jack. Carter lifted her head from where she had curled up on Jack's other side, beside Daniel.
"If the Goa'uld is indeed Bastet, then the other two would be Ptah and Nefertum. The three form a triad and often rule together."
"So they know we're in here." Jack glanced at the sleeping form of the Goa'uld/Tok'ra, wondering now if she really was asleep or merely eavesdropping on their whispered conversation.
"It was a trap from the start," Carter whispered.
"Yeah," Jack said.
Daniel coughed, then gagged when he was unable to swallow the dislodged mucus. Knowing it was going to happen, Jack grabbed one of the empty plastic containers that had held their food and placed it beneath Daniel's mouth while Teal'c turned Daniel's head towards Jack. Daniel vomited more bile and mucus, then coughed up some more gunk and spat it out.
Jack wiped the saliva from Daniel's mouth, then held Daniel tightly as he coughed again. To Jack's relief, Daniel managed to get in strong gulps of air, finally clearing his throat and lungs of the congestion. He vomited again, purging his body of the accumulated muck.
"Oh, God," Daniel moaned when he finally was able to breathe without coughing or puking. Daniel's lungs sounded almost clear, a slight wheezing sound being the only sign of residual congestion. Jack lay Daniel back down on his side on the hard floor, using a pack as a pillow.
"Better?" Jack asked as he kneaded Daniel's shoulders and chest, knowing how hard the tight muscles had just been worked. Daniel simply nodded.
- - - - - -
It was an intense relief to finally be able to breathe easily once more. The pleasure of pulling air into his lungs was almost enough to push aside the pain in his leg. He let Jack ease the tension in his chest and back while trying to gather his thoughts. The past few hours were a little confusing, with bits of conversation spoken and heard, mixing up with his dreams.
He was so sleepy. He knew he needed to speak to Jack before he fell asleep. He cleared his throat once more, and said, "There's something I need to tell you."
Jack leaned over and whispered close to Daniel's ear. "About our friend over there?"
"Bastet," Daniel said in an equally soft whisper. He nodded. "This is all a trap."
"We figured as much." Daniel closed his eyes in relief. Jack believed him. "If she's not really a Tok'ra, we're gonna have two other snakes waiting for us with a bunch of Jaffa on the beach when we leave this place."
Daniel opened his eyes and looked at Jack's still-blurry face in surprise. He didn't remember telling Jack about Ptah and Nefertum, Teal'c must have been the one to figure it out. But they had a way out, Plan B, so to speak. He just needed to tell Jack so his friend could figure a way to make it work. He shrugged off his fatigue and began talking.
"That's what I wanted to tell you. There should be another way out of here. This isn't a library. She lied. It's a� a� an in-between place, a limbo of sorts, for the bodies of her cats. They remain here for a time before they're entombed. Which means there has to be an underground passage or a way of controlling the causeway so the priests can come and go whenever they need to and not have to rely on the tides."
"How do we find it?" Sam asked. "Teal'c already checked the place out." Her bright blond hair was a beacon for Daniel in the dim room, and he turned towards her.
"It's probably controlled by the key of hers. There must be a hidden opening somewhere."
"Which means we need to get our hands on that key, one way or another. And before we attempt anything, we need to get this bleeding stopped. Danny, I'm sorry, there's no other way, and this is gonna hurt like hell."
- - - - - -
Carter injected Daniel with morphine, intending to have some of the pain-killer inside Daniel's system before they inflicted more agony on him. As Teal'c was preparing the necessary supplies needed for their procedure, Jack walked up to Tarelle/Bastet. She opened her eyes at his approach. Jack doubted she had been sleeping as he crouched down beside her.
"We've been talking," he said, a ruse to cover up the earlier whispering. "We need to stop the bleeding in Daniel's leg. We're going to try to cauterize the wound, but I think you should open those doors first. It's gonna stink pretty bad in here in a few minutes, and I think we'd all appreciate some fresh air."
"As you wish," she said as she stood up lithely. She first came to watch them finish prepare before walking to the staircase and inserting the key. She gave it a twist, and the ceiling separated.
It all seemed surreal to Jack as he felt the damp, salty air blow down his neck. He wrapped Daniel's still-damp tee shirt around his knife's hilt to protect his hand, and then held the tip of the blade to Teal'c's powered-up staff weapon. It only took seconds for the metal blade to get red hot. With an apologetic look at Daniel, Jack bent down and placed the flat of the blade against the still-bleeding wound.
Despite the morphine in Daniel's system, he bucked strongly from the pain, unable to hold back a yell. Teal'c held Daniel's leg down securely, making sure Jack didn't injure him needlessly. The stench of burning flesh reached Jack's nose, and he breathed through his mouth, all the while ignoring Daniel's pained gasps and the sizzling flesh.
"Oh God," Carter moaned, her hand coming up to her mouth as she began to retch. She ran for the stairs and leaned weakly beside Tarelle/Bastet, trying to drag in fresher-smelling air. Jack spared her a glance before he repositioned the knife. The Goa'uld had looked at her with disgust before she took several steps away from Carter's dry-heaving form.
Jack looked back at his handiwork. The bleeding had stopped. Daniel lay with his head turned away from Jack, his hands clenched tightly at his sides, panting heavily. Jack tossed the knife away from him and pressed a hand gently to the back of Daniel's head.
"It's over," he said softly as he moved to Daniel's neck to take his pulse.
"Perhaps some more morphine," Teal'c volunteered, holding the half-empty pre-filled syringe.
Jack nodded, and waited quietly until Teal'c administered the drug. Carter returned, and as she knelt beside Daniel, she wiped her lips with the back of a fisted hand. She opened her fingers slightly as they faced Jack, and he caught sight of a flash of gold. He winked at her when she caught his eye.
Teal'c then spread some antibiotic ointment over the burn, and they rewrapped Daniel's leg in the last of their bandages. Daniel lay listlessly, the blood loss, shock and pain taking a toll on him, not to mention the medication they had just given him.
"He's not going to be able to walk," Jack stated.
"I will carry him. I have done so before." Jack nodded at Teal'c. Hopefully the way home would be clear of surprises if they left early enough.
The enraged screech came just as he was expecting it. As the Goa'uld reared around the stairs, her hand came up to tear what looked like a ring-like decoration from her dress. As she was slipping it onto her finger, the sound of a zat echoed in the room. Carter stood up, her eyebrows raised as she looked at her downed target.
"Good shooting, Major," Jack applauded. Carter removed the weapon the Goa'uld had been in the process of arming, and then began to pat her down for more.
Daniel stirred, his heavy-lidded eyes trying to focus on the scene before him.
"Wha�?" he questioned.
"It's okay. The Goa'uld just noticed that Carter stole her key and wasn't too pleased. Any idea what we're looking for here?" Jack said as he stood up and looked around.
"A keyhole?" Daniel supplied before closing his eyes again.
Jack shook his head and began to search the nearest wall. Teal'c was examining the floor carefully and the surrounding area.
"Here," Teal'c called out, pointing to a portion of floor near the stairs. They all converged around him, and Jack could see a small hole had been bored into the stone.
As Carter made to insert the key, Jack called out, "Wait." He moved to Daniel and began stuffing their gear into their packs. "If that thing opens like the one upstairs, it'll pull Daniel right into it."
"You're right," Carter said as she helped him repack their belongings. As Carter folded the blankets, Jack helped Daniel sit up, pushing his legs to the side. The Goa'uld's hand twitched, and Jack knew she would be reviving very soon.
"Okay, go for it," Jack told Carter. She grinned back at him and inserted the key. The floor parted smoothly, indications that this entrance was often-used and well maintained. A low moan from the stirring woman caused Jack to reach for the zat that Carter had placed beside their packs. As he charged and aimed the weapon at her, Daniel placed a hand over his fingers.
"Don't kill her, Jack."
Not taking his eyes away from the enemy, Jack said, "I'm not planning on dragging her along with us."
"I'm not asking you to bring her. I'm asking you to spare the host." Daniel's voice was soft. "She can't leave until the tide ebbs, and she can't follow if we close the entrance behind us. And she won't be able to warn the others."
Knowing he'd probably be sorry for this sometime in the future, Jack disengaged the zat and tucked it into its holster.
"I know this isn't the best way to ride," Jack said as he and Teal'c lifted Daniel to his feet. He held Daniel tightly as the weakened man wobbled. "But it's probably the fastest and easiest on the both of you." Jack laughed softly at Daniel's look of surprise as Teal'c took him into a fireman's hold.
Jack saw Daniel tense up and squirm around as Teal'c began descending the stairs. "Please try to relax," Teal'c advised. Jack picked up the extra packs and shouldered them while handing Carter Teal'c's staff weapon.
"Don't move around so much; you'll throw his balance off," Jack said as he followed them. Carter was waiting at the bottom of the stairs, the key already in the keyhole which she'd found on the side of the staircase. Jack turned his mag-lite on when the ceiling began to close.
A long stone tunnel seemed to lead in a straight line. Water dripped continuously, echoing eerily in the long channel. Occasional side tunnels would branch off, and Jack flashed his light down one or two. He could see dark openings on either side of these smaller tunnels; he guessed they were rooms. He stuck his head inside one and found it to be a small cave with tiny grottos containing linen-like wrapped packages. Mummified cats, if Daniel was right. Gross.
He hurried and caught up with his team members. Daniel was limp now, his arms swinging slightly with each step Teal'c took. Jack placed a hand to Daniel's neck. His pulse was still fast but his breathing was deep and regular, although there was still a slight rasp to it. Jack quickly flashed the beam of his mag-light over Daniel's face, his friend's eyes were closed, his mouth slightly open.
They made good time, following the tunnel until it split in two. If the tunnel truly ran in a straight line, then the left fork led in the direction of the Stargate, and the right, towards the castle. They opted to go left.
Soon the wet, dripping stone walls were replaced with roots and hard-packed soil. They continued along for several minutes until they noticed the floor beginning to incline upwards. After several minutes, they arrived at a thick, wooden door. Jack squeezed beside Carter and examined the exit, and quickly pointed out the keyhole.
Teal'c placed Daniel down gently on his side several feet inside the tunnel, away from the door. Daniel didn't stir. He was either unconscious or deeply asleep. Jack placed a pack beneath his head as a pillow, then checked his P90 before taking hold of his zat. Carter had handed Teal'c his staff weapon, and she stood ready beside him.
After unlocking the heavy door, Teal'c pushed it aside cautiously, and Jack peeked out. They were in what looked like a heavily-wooded area. Jack cautiously stepped outside, listening intently.
Carter and Teal'c followed, fanning out and keeping their eyes and weapons trained on the area they were facing. Their lights revealed a well-worn path laid out before them.
"Sir, the Stargate would be this way," Carter said, pointing to their left.
"I concur. I do not believe we are more than a few kilometres from it." Teal'c added.
"Do you think this trail meets up with the one that goes to the Stargate?" Jack asked. He looked at the heavy growth of the woods and thought they'd have a difficult time walking through it in a direct line to the 'gate, especially Teal'c with Daniel as extra baggage.
"I believe it does," Teal'c said as he turned to go and retrieve Daniel. Jack helped Teal'c place Daniel into position while Carter stayed outside. He saw her glance at him and with a tilt of his head, he silently ordered her to move ahead and take point.
They walked quietly over the dirt path, the only sounds being their footsteps and the occasional swish of cloth on leaves. Within fifteen minutes they found the cutoff leading to the left, and they turned onto it, heading for the Stargate.
There was no sign of Jaffa or inhabitants; it seemed all the revellers had decided to camp around the town, close to the action. However, when the Stargate was finally in view, Jack motioned to Teal'c to put Daniel down. As the Jaffa crouched, Carter was there to ease Daniel to the ground while Jack kept a wary eye out.
They needed to check the perimeter before attempting to dial Earth's address. It would go faster if the three of them were to scout around, but Jack didn't dare leave Daniel alone. He looked at Daniel's vulnerable form lying on the ground before he gave a whispered command to the two others to go. As Carter and Teal'c moved off, he went to sit and wait beside Daniel.
It was brighter out here where the trees didn't hide the sky. He could clearly make out Daniel's face. While checking his friend's pulse, he noted his temperature was up, which wasn't surprising. At his touch, Daniel stirred and opened his eyes.
"Where?" he asked sleepily.
"We're almost at the 'gate. Teal'c and Carter are making sure the Goa'uld aren't playing hide and seek."
When Daniel pushed himself onto his forearms to try and sit, Jack grabbed his arm and pulled him up. Daniel straightened and then wearily leaned against Jack.
"It won't be long now. We'll have you in Fraiser's care in no time."
"Funny, I usually dread her needles, but right now I'm sort of looking forward to her sticking some into me." Daniel smiled crookedly at him.
"Better your butt than mine."
"Geez, I'll remember that next time the tides are turned," Daniel said as he let his head fall against Jack's shoulder.
"Hey, don't go to sleep. We'll be going in a couple of minutes."
"Going where?" Daniel asked, raising his head.
"To the 'gate."
"We're going home?"
"Yes, Daniel," Jack said patiently, realizing Daniel's questions were because of his confused state. "We're going home."
Daniel's eyelids began to close and his head dipped forward. Jack placed a hand to his friend's warm cheek and caught it before Daniel's head jerked onto his chest.
"Stay awake," he chided.
"I'm awake," Daniel sighed.
Before Jack could answer, Teal'c stepped into view. He signed the all clear as he approached, so Jack clapped Daniel's shoulder and crouched beside his friend. Between them they got Daniel upright again, and this time Teal'c simply folded Daniel over his shoulder, his hand resting on Daniel's lower back to help balance Daniel's weight. He kept hold of his staff weapon with his other hand.
Jack grabbed their supplies and walked beside Teal'c as they joined Carter at the DHD. As Carter began dialing Earth's address, Daniel suddenly twisted, trying to get free.
"Sam," Daniel cried, lifting his head and shoulders up while pushing off Teal'c's back with his hands. "Wait, don't!"
"Oh fer crying�" Jack mumbled. A confused Daniel was one thing when he was quiet, but if there were any Goa'uld or Jaffa in the area, the sound of the rotating chevrons were sure to attract attention. Carter stopped pressing glyphs and was looking at Daniel.
"Daniel, we don't have time for this," Jack grumbled.
"Jack," Daniel said in that oh-so familiar tone that indicated he was going to be heard no matter what. "Sam, the information, the disk that Tarelle, I mean, Bastet gave you, the one that was supposed to contain what the Tok'ra were looking for. Do you still have it?"
"Yes," Carter replied, her fingers fishing the item out of her vest pocket.
"We can't bring it back home," Daniel said as he tried to squirm off of Teal'c's shoulder. When the Jaffa allowed Daniel to regain his feet, Daniel's legs gave out, and he made a curiously graceful descent to the ground.
"Daniel," Carter cried, coming around the DHD to crouch by his side. Jack continued dividing his attention between watching the area and Daniel's antics, knowing that the glow of the Stargate-on-standby was a beacon to anyone nearby.
"I'm fine. I'm fine," he said, wincing as his hand came up tightly clenched, hovering over his injured leg as if he were afraid to touch it. "That thing, it's probably some sort of� of� booby trap. Bastet was planning on coming through with us. She had to have something planned once she continued on to the Tok'ra base. We need to leave that thing here, or destroy it."
"Teal'c?" The Jaffa had had the most experience with the snakes; he knew how their minds worked.
"It would be logical for her to bring a weapon hidden in something we would not readily suspect. I agree. We should destroy it."
"Fine," Jack said, holding his hand out for the small piece of metal. He closed his fingers over it once Carter handed it to him.
"Carter, finish dialing and Teal'c�" Jack cocked his head towards Daniel, indicating he should pick him up again.
Daniel uttered a soft 'ow' as he was raised onto his feet once more. Jack moved closer to the Stargate, waiting for it to activate as Carter finished the dialing sequence. As the backsplash erupted out of the large Naquada ring, Jack casually tossed the little piece of metal into the pseudo water whirlpool.
The next thing he knew, he was flying through the air as the loud boom of an explosion resounded in his ears. He hit the ground hard, landing on his butt then ignominiously falling heads over heels, totally disoriented and struggling to regain the breath that had been knocked out of him.
Carter was running towards him, her mouth moving, but Jack couldn't hear her over the ringing in his ears. What the hell?
He rubbed a shaking hand over his face, then inhaled deeply. Nothing hurt. Well, okay, he would have bruises on certain unmentionable parts of his anatomy tomorrow, but he didn't think anything was broken. Except maybe his ears, he thought to himself as Carter's mouth continued to move silently as she began patting him down, looking for injuries.
"I'm fine," he said, trying to shake her off. He looked over at Daniel and Teal'c. Daniel was struggling against Teal'c's hold, trying to go to Jack, and Jack was sure if Teal'c let go, Daniel would end up falling flat on his face. "Daniel, I'm fine," Jack said loudly, hoping to calm his friend. Hey, he'd heard that. Daniel stopped struggling, breathing hard.
Gathering his feet beneath him, Jack stood up a little unsteadily with Carter's help. As he glanced at the now active Stargate, he uttered, "What the hell happened?" The ringing was beginning to abate, and although his voice sounded strangely flat, he found he could hear.
As Carter opened her mouth, he raised his hand, index finger pointing up. "Um, wait, let me guess. Bomb? Booby trap? Big bang?"
Carter laughed nervously. "Looks like Daniel was right."
"Good call, Daniel," Jack said as he clapped the exhausted man on the arm. Carter turned and pointed the GDO at the Stargate, sending in their code.
"Come on," he said, placing a shoulder beneath Daniel's arm and ignoring his own aches. They half carried him to the Stargate, finally stepping through towards home.
- - - - - -
"Colonel, I will permit you to attend the debriefing this afternoon," Warner said as he scribbled something in Jack's medical chart, "but I'm afraid I want you back here afterwards for continued observation."
"What?" Jack said innocently, sticking a finger in his ear and shaking it.
"Exactly," Warner said as he replaced the chart on the hook at the foot of the bed and walked away.
Jack sighed. He hated being stuck in the infirmary, but Warner had begun pulling out all the stops when Jack had admitted to his hearing giving him a few problems. He glanced towards the far doors, wishing Fraiser would finish with Daniel so he could go see how his friend was doing. Jack had been kept separated from his team as he underwent a variety of tests and checks and hadn't had a chance to check up on him since they'd returned home. He cheered up when he spotted Teal'c approaching his bed and sat up.
"Any news of Daniel?" Jack asked.
"DanielJackson is currently undergoing a procedure which DoctorFraiser calls a debridement."
Jack grimaced. He could barely stomach the thought of the doctor cutting away the burnt crust on Daniel's skin which Jack himself had inflicted while trying to stop the bleeding.
"Although DoctorFraiser is pleased at DoctorJackson's progress. She has dealt with the anticoagulation problem with something called vitamin J."
"Vitamin K," Jack corrected automatically, wincing mentally as his mind pictured Fraiser reopening the wound Jack had so painfully closed.
Hearing footsteps, Jack looked up and saw General Hammond approaching, accompanied by Jacob Carter and his daughter. The general smiled at Jack, including Teal'c in his welcome.
"I hear you're going to be fine," Hammond said as he stopped by the bed.
"I will be as soon as someone turns the volume down in my ears."
"Jack," Jacob said. "George has just filled me on what happened. I'm really sorry. We thought our information was accurate. It sounds like Bastet has been planning this for a long time."
"Well, like father like daughter, I always say."
Jacob's eyes flashed, and Selmac's gravely voice came out of the man's mouth. "We cannot even estimate the amount of damage she could have carried out had she come through the Stargate to Earth, or to the Tok'ra base. Your team was very lucky."
"No, not us. Daniel's the one who got lucky," Carter said as she looked at her father. "He's the one who realized the disk could have been a weapon."
Jack popped his jaw, trying to see if that would relieve the pressure in his ears. "See, that sharing thing is something Daniel also caught. The snake never let the host talk with us."
"How is Daniel?" Jacob asked, his voice sounding normal now that Selmac had given him back control.
"Daniel is going to be fine," Janet Fraiser announced as she entered the room in time to hear Jacob's question. Two nurses were wheeling Daniel's bed into place behind her. They pulled the privacy curtain closed, but not before Jack got a look at Daniel's pale, sleeping face.
"I've just finished debriding the wound on Daniel's leg. We're replacing the blood he lost and treating him for shock," Fraiser continued. "The toxin from that creature you described has started to wear off, and we're counteracting its anticoagulant properties with plasma and Vitamin K. He'll be on strong antibiotics for a while, as a preventive measure. He's got a fever at the moment, but it might simply be from his ordeal and not from an infection. We'll know for sure in time."
She looked at Jack, losing her smile as she turned serious. "You may have just saved his life by cauterizing that wound, Colonel. At the rate he was losing blood and the still considerable amount of time remaining before you returned home, there would have been serious repercussions had you not stopped the bleeding when you did."
"Nothing we tried seemed to help. It was the only thing I could think of," Jack admitted. "Although using Teal'c's staff weapon to heat the knife was Carter's idea. Can we see him?" he asked tentatively.
"Just for a minute. He's still under the effects of the drugs I gave him and probably won't be too coherent."
"Great," Jack said as he gingerly got off the infirmary bed. He led the procession to where Daniel lay, all six of them surrounding the bed and silently staring at the sleeping man.
Jack could see the bulge of the heavy bandage on Daniel's leg under the slight cover of the blanket. Two plastic tubes led to Daniel's hand, one obviously blood and the other probably saline solution. Another tube snaked under the blankets which Jack surmised was a Foley catheter. A nasal cannula fed him oxygen, and an oximeter was affixed to his right pointer finger.
Well, these might not be the needles that Daniel had wished for earlier, but they definitely were feeding Daniel life-giving nutrients.
Daniel's color was better, and he was breathing deeply, without the raspy sound Jack had become accustomed to hearing since the toxin had affected his breathing.
As if feeling all their gazes on him, Daniel opened his eyes. He looked around his bed sleepily, smiling when he recognized them all.
"Got some of them needles, didn't I?" Daniel slurred to Jack.
"Not feeling any pain, are ya?" Jack quipped.
Daniel shook his head slightly, gazing back fondly at him. His eyelids closed, and Fraiser finally shooed them all away.
"Except for you, Colonel. I understand Doctor Warner only cleared you for the General's debriefing."
Jack stopped, hoping she'd missed Warner, and he could have made his escape from the infirmary. Before he could complain, though, her next words had him returning eagerly.
"If you'd prefer, I can arrange for you to have the infirmary bed here beside Daniel."
"Thanks, Doc," he said as he sat bruised muscles onto the hard, uncomfortable mattress.
"He really is going to be fine," she added before she left him alone with his friend.
Jack sat back against the wall, watching Daniel sleep. He'd gotten into the habit of keeping an eye on the younger man, and even though there were nurses around whose job it was to do just that, Jack figured it was a way to pass the time.
But soon his attention lapsed, and he grew bored. He checked the time, only twenty minutes had passed. He felt fine. Sort of. Nothing a hot soak in a tub wouldn't cure. And maybe a couple of Tylenol. And a feather mattress.
He shifted uncomfortably, his butt and lower back beginning to ache.
The soft voice near his head startled him; he hadn't heard the nurse approach. She was holding a small paper cup and a glass of water. "Doctor Warner prescribed these for you. They'll help a bit with the pain. And if you'd like to take a shower, I have some clean scrubs put aside for you."
He accepted the clothes and the pills, which he tossed back with a grimace. He slid off the bed, trying to act nonchalant but knew he wasn't fooling the nurse's keen eye. With a last look at his soundly sleeping friend, Jack limped to the showers, intended to let the hot water soothe abused muscles until the pills did their trick.
- - - - - -
Jack gratefully climbed into the bed, unaware of blue eyes watching him until he heard Daniel's voice.
"Are you all right?"
"What?" Jack said while holding his nostrils closed and blowing air through them. When that didn't seem to unpop his ears, he stretched his jaw, hoping to stop the damned ringing that kept following him around.
"You look like you're a little stiff," Daniel said.
He turned to look at Daniel, who seemed to be wide awake. Of course, Jack had been sitting in Hammond's office for the past three hours, with each passing hour taking a toll on his stiffening seat.
"Remember that little device you didn't want us to bring home? You know, the one that sort of blew up in my face when I tossed it into the wormhole?"
"Not one of your best moments, if you ask me," Daniel replied, a small smirk curling his lips.
Jack wriggled on the mattress, then decided to turn onto his side, facing Daniel. Once the pressure was relieved, he was much more comfortable.
"That I wholeheartedly agree with. Let's just say I've injured my pride. Nothing a bit of rubbing alcohol and a couple beers won't heal."
He saw the smile fade from Daniel's face, his brow furrowing slightly.
"You feeling okay? Are you in pain? Do you need anything?"
"Thanks, but I'm good. A little nauseated, but Janet said that was from the medication she gave me."
"Oh, okay. Good."
But something was obviously bothering his friend. The worry lines deepened as Daniel stared at the ceiling.
"You heard me. What's bothering you?"
"There's nothing bothering me." Daniel turned to look at Jack.
"Daniel, we just saved the Tok'ra base and probably Earth from a rat-ass Goa'uld who was seeking revenge for her father's death. Fraiser said you're going to be fine, I'm fine, so why the long face?"
"Well," Daniel finally said, "I can't help but feel if I'd not been indisposed earlier in the day yesterday, I might have caught onto what was happening a lot sooner. And none of this," he said with a sweep of his hand towards his knee, "or that," he said, waving at Jack, "would have happened."
"So you're blaming yourself for getting shitfaced? Is that it?"
"Ummm," Daniel replied. Jack could see Daniel's face reddening as he blushed. "Yeah."
"You don't get it, do you?" Jack said with a knowing smile. Mr. Archaeologist here had figured out the Tok'ra was really a Goa'uld, and she was planning on creating havoc wherever she went in order to avenge her father's death. And still, Daniel hadn't seen the very first move the snake had made.
"That your drink was probably spiked."
"It was? How do you� Why?" he finally demanded, raising his head and shoulders off his pillow in his frustration.
"Because Bastet wanted us to leave the party early. Teal'c told me those celebrations can last all day and all night, and she was anxious to get her plan in action. Because she knew you were the only person there, if given the opportunity to talk to people, could end up putting two and two together, and coming up with three. She knew she had to put you out of commission, and by doing so, ensured that we were available for her to play out her little ruse."
"Oh," Daniel said, letting himself flop back onto his pillow.
"They concealed every trace that might identify them inside the castle. Teal'c searched and couldn't find anything. I didn't know the drug or drink would wear off so quickly, or else I wouldn't have left you alone in the room. She probably was counting on that also."
"It's kind of scary to think they know us that well."
Jack sat up with a groan, then slid off the bed to perch, very gingerly, on the edge of Daniel's bed. He placed a hand on Daniel's uninjured leg.
"No, it's actually a compliment. Just think about it. We've got them worried enough that they've taken the time and effort to know our strengths and weaknesses. We're a force to be reckoned with, and they know it."
"You're right, of course," Daniel agreed. "But they still have the greater numbers and the better technology," he argued morosely
"True," Jack said, patting the leg beneath his hand. He squirmed, the discomfort becoming painful once more. "But we've got people like you, Teal'c and Carter on our side, people who can recognize the threats and eliminate them. We've got something worth fighting for, Daniel. Our home, our friends, our allies."
Jack stood painfully, his hand massaging his butt.
"It's all just a matter of pride."
Author's Comments: Many thanks to Yum@, who trusted me enough to add this story in her wonderful zine, Foundations 5.
Thanks also and hugs to Mira, who beta'd this fic for me and who squeeled just as loudly as I did when we both spotted the zine at the 2004 Toronto Trek in the Dealer's Room.
And hugs to my Heartsisters, who are, and have always been, there for me
to contact me
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.