Scar


"Colonel, I'm reading that energy spike again."

Daniel noted that Jack didn't even bother turning towards Sam as he squinted into the late afternoon sun. "That's what, third time so far today?"

"And four times yesterday," Daniel added as he peered over Sam's shoulder to examine the display readings.

Teal'c stopped beside them and Daniel saw him glance at the analysis also. Of course, now it was reading normal, but for a few seconds, Daniel had seen for himself that it had been spiking.

"I got a bearing on it this time, sir. It came from over there." Sam pointed at a large rock formation to their right. Daniel looked carefully and thought he could make out an opening. "Hey, is that a�"

"Heads up, kids."

Daniel glanced up at Jack's warning in time to see two of the alien creatures slowly floating past them. They were darkish grey, fuzzy, almost the color of the rocks, and just over two feet in length. They seemed to float aimlessly on the wind, but contrary to their idyllic appearance, they could move quickly when they wanted to. As they had the first time Jack had poked one with a stick.

At first they'd thought them to be plants or airborne weed as they just floated lazily above the ground, but by the way they'd all scurried away from them at their approach, it was apparent that they were some kind of sentient creatures. Then one had turned to look at them. It was funny to see how they could float in the air, slither on the ground like a snake or run on what appeared to be tiny protuberances that acted like legs.

As this pair drifted past him, Daniel slowly took a couple of slow steps closer.

"Careful."

Daniel waggled a hand behind him to show Jack that yes, he was being cautious. He just wanted a closer look. One of the two turned part of its body towards him and he made out its little head. Its face was a mix of small cat and fox, and its eyes were a shade darker than its body. It didn't have any visible ears. It blinked, and Daniel saw it even had eyelashes. There was a darker area at the tip of what looked like its nose and he smiled as a small blue tongue came out to lick its lips. Condensation leaked out of its mouth as it exhaled in the chilly air.

The creature seemed inquisitive and it curved its body in midair, moving closer towards Daniel. He stood still, smiling at its curiosity.

"Daniel?"

"It's okay, Jack," he breathed gently as the long, slim shape circled him. It butted his chest gently with its head, the movement pushing it back a foot in the air. Daniel held out his hand tentatively towards it.

"What? Are you crazy?" Daniel glanced at Jack and saw he had his P-90 aimed at the creature. Teal'c also had his staff weapon up and charged.

"Geez, Jack, it's just as curious about us as we are about it." The small tongue flicked at Daniel's fingers, then slid its body alongside his hand. Daniel lightly touched the fur, surprised at the warmth and velvety feel.

"Well, I'm not curious. I'd rather it keep its distance." Jack put his hands up and took several steps backwards as the other creature came towards him. Not to be left out, the alien immediately turned and moved towards Sam and Teal'c. Sam, like Daniel, put out a hand, and the animal, after sniffing and licking her fingers, allowed itself also to be stroked.

The creature appeared to relish the contact, rubbing itself harder against Daniel's hand. There was a small scar about six inches from its face, and it constantly pressed that part of its body into Daniel's fingers. He obligingly scratched the area until it was satisfied and allowed Daniel access to the rest of its body.

"Okay, petting zoo's hours are over. Can we maybe get a move on here?"

With a final caress to the soft body, Daniel stepped away from the creature. Sam also moved away, and as they began walking towards the rock formations, Daniel saw the creatures were following them.

Daniel chuckled as his shoulder was butted from behind. He raised his arm and the creature immediately moved to place its head between his arm and ribs. He petted the soft fur as it moved silently beside him. He took the opportunity to study how it managed to move in the air, and realized that there were several small translucent fins on the bottom of its body, near the back. Okay, that might be how it moved around, but what made it stay afloat?

"I'm reading concentrations of helium around them," Sam said, her thoughts seeming to follow Daniel's. "It must somehow be how they stay afloat."

"Helium?" Jack asked.

"It's a gas that's lighter than air... it's what you put in balloons so that they float."

"I know that," Jack said, giving Daniel a dirty look. "I just meant... how would they get it? It's not like they have a tank of the stuff to blow themselves up with when they feel like it."

"They must either take it from the atmosphere or have some other way of synthesising it." Sam slowed her pace slightly as the other creature began twirling around her. It then placed its head on her shoulder, its body following along at the same pace as hers.

"So, these are just like a bunch of floating balloons?"

"Living, floating balloons," Daniel corrected.

"Right." Jack raised his eyebrows and rested his hands on his P-90.

They walked until Daniel could clearly make out the cave opening he had spied earlier. He pointed it out as they stood in the weak sunshine, reluctant to step under the cold shadow of the looming stone. He preferred the weak warmth of sunshine.

"Sir, I just got another energy spike. It's definitely coming from inside that cave."

"Great. Teal'c, you take point, I've got your sixes."

As they slowly filed towards the cave, the two creatures suddenly began squirming in agitation. Their movements were no longer graceful, but were full of small fits and starts, turning around one another and very obviously blocking SG1's path. They were making small squeaking sounds, and within seconds, several more of the creatures had joined them.

"I believe they do not wish us to approach." Teal'c stopped, reluctant to press ahead of the squirming mass.

"Carter, Daniel? Any guesses as to why they're doing this?"

"Obviously they don't want us to go into the cave." Daniel took two steps forward to stand beside Teal'c, and was aware of the others doing the same. Two of the creatures butted him backwards with their heads and then wrapped themselves around his body, constantly moving. He was surprised at their strength.

"For critters that are full of hot air, they sure pack a punch." Jack was also encircled by the long, slim creatures, as were the others.

"They don't seem to want to hurt us, sir, my guess is that they're protecting something in there."

"The energy reading?" Jack asked.

"Possibly. Or maybe they have their nests inside. Maybe there are young or eggs."

"Let's try to push forward slowly and carefully, and see what else these balloon guys will do."

They moved slowly, despite the small worried squawks and squeaks. By the time they'd gotten a few feet from the door, the animals gave up and moved away, only to hover or lie on the ground. Knowing it was dangerous to place human traits on alien animals, Daniel couldn't help but think they looked like a bunch of dejected, sulking children.

"Daniel."

Jack's gruff call made him realize he'd been staring at the aliens while Sam and Teal'c had already entered the large opening in the stone. With a last glance at the group behind him, he entered the cave, with Jack one step behind.

There was debris all around the edges of the entrance, evidence that someone had forced their way inside at one time. There was lots of dust and dirt all around, and Daniel guessed that it had been quite a while since anyone had disturbed the interior.

"The damage appears to have been made by staff weapons," Teal'c remarked. Even in the dim light from their flashlights, Daniel could see the darkened spots where the blasts had gone through the entrance and had erupted against the far wall.

The place was huge. It appeared to have been carved out of the rock formation, leaving the outside a simple shell to protect the interior. And it was cold and damp inside, the heat of the sun never penetrating far within.

The walls were lined with empty, dusty tables and shelves, and rows and rows of machinery were set into the stone walls. Most of the machines appeared to be non-operational, except for an occasional blinking light. This was obviously the source of the power fluctuations that Sam had discovered.

Even as Daniel looked around, he could hear a hum coming from some of the working equipment. Sam was examining everything, slowly making her way to the back of the cave, her flashlight illuminating more of the same. Daniel glanced back towards the cave's opening, noting that a couple of the aliens were peering inside.

"Holy Hannah. Sir, it's a baby!"

"A baby?" Jack quickly brushed by Daniel, who followed on Jack's heels, only to come to a stop at the end of the cave where Carter stood with her hand out to ward them from getting too close. "It's a baby... balloon."

"Careful, sir, there's a force field. The baby moved and I could see it shimmering."

The baby in question was a much smaller version of those outside, maybe eight inches in length. It appeared to be captured in some kind of force field or clear box, so tightly wedged that it was barely able to move. The box the creature was held in was further contained in a larger force field, big enough to hold two grown men comfortably. Daniel could see it shimmer occasionally in the beam of their flashlights.

There was debris all around the baby's prison, twigs and leaves spread out all around. As they watched, one of the creatures flew by Daniel, passed through the containment field in what appeared to be a painful process, and hovered above the baby.

The baby squeaked pitifully, trapped in such a way that it was only able to move its eyes to watch the adult. The parent, or what Daniel assumed was the parent, crooned down to the child. The little one struggled, and there was a flux of energy which discharged all around the adult. It squealed, but remained there until the baby calmed.

"Oh God, Jack, we have to help it." Daniel turned to his friend. Jack had a grim look on his face while he pointed to the machinery behind him.

"Carter?"

Sam quickly left the containment field and went over to look at the equipment. "I don't know, sir. It almost looks Asgard. It'll take me a while to study it."

Jack reached out a hand and touched the shimmering field. Sparks erupted and Jack yelled out in pain.

"I'm fine," he growled in answer to his teammates' concerned queries. He shook his hand then opened and closed it quickly several times. "Pins and needles," he complained as he moved off to watch Sam work.

Ignoring Jack and knowing there wasn't much he could do to help Sam at the moment, Daniel knelt to get a better look at the baby, getting as close as he could to the force field.

"The infant creature appears to have been a prisoner for a lengthy period." Teal'c knelt beside Daniel, and waved to the debris on the ground beside it. "See how it has grown into the edges of its prison?"

Daniel looked at what Teal'c was pointing at and realized that the baby was so compressed that it was molded to the small rectangular box.

"If these creatures can pass through that force field, then maybe the baby entered it by accident. Once trapped, it was probably too weak to come back out."

"I believe that the adults have been providing it nourishment."

Again, Daniel looked down and saw leaves and twigs in various stages of decomposition. "God, Teal'c. How long do you believe the poor thing been caught in there?"

"From the amount of decay, I would estimate quite some time."

"Damn."

Daniel felt an insistent push against his arm and turned to see one of the creatures floating beside him. It lowered itself to the ground, staring at the captured baby, then lifted its head, nudging Daniel's hand.

Daniel caressed the creature instinctively, like he would a dog or a cat. It wasn't until his fingers came to the small scar did he realize it was the same being that he had approached outside.

"It'll be fine. We'll get him out of there," Daniel said softly to the creature.

- - - - - -

As much as Jack hated dealing with the unknown, there was no way he was gonna leave that little thing stuck in that containment field, if he was able to do something about it. It was strange how these aliens looked so... alien, and were able to project such caring and worry for the little one.

He stuck his head outside the cave to go speak to Teal'c, who he'd placed on sentry duty. There had been no signs of civilization on this planet to speak of, but heck, someone had built this lab at one time, hadn't they? He stopped short when he saw that the handful of balloon creatures had tripled since he'd been inside.

"Everything quiet out here?"

"Indeed. Many of the creatures have amassed, but they appear to be peaceful."

"Maybe they know we're trying to help the kid."

"It is a possibility. We do not know how intelligent these creatures are."

"Yeah." Anything was possible. There had been those beings of light that had befriended Daniel on the one planet... who'd have thought?

"Colonel? I think I know how to free the baby!" Jack turned back to the cave, then motioned to Teal'c to follow him when she instructed them that she'd need both their help. He was surprised to see that the place was now well lit.

"More than half the systems aren't working, so I needed to reroute a few power lines. I'll need you here, sir," she pointed Jack to a console that had several crystals on it, only two of which were lit. "Teal'c, I need you here." She pointed to another console to Jack's right, also with two lit crystals. "These consoles work in tandem with the ones Daniel and I will be working from over there." She pointed to where Daniel was standing, just to the side of the captive baby.

"Daniel and I will manually lower the shields and I'll pull the baby out. I need you two to move this crystal upwards." She touched the aqua coloured ones on both panels. "And I need you to move this one sideways." She touched the orange ones. "You'll need to do this slowly, and match your movements precisely, if you're off by too much, it'll overload, and could kill the baby."

"How slow is slow?" Jack asked. He and Teal'c both watched as she demonstrated. "Okay," he said after a moment.

"Now, when you reach these positions," she said, pointing to two pieces of tape crisscrossed on the panels into an X, you need to hold the crystals down and apply pressure. That'll keep the field off once Daniel and I bring it down. If you let go, it'll start up again, and possibly trapping me inside of it."

"Okay, I understand."

"Daniel, are you ready?"

"Ready."

Both Carter and Daniel took positions on one side of the containment field, and on Carter's mark, Jack began moving the two crystals, keeping an eye on Teal'c's panel in order to stay in sync. Several of the aliens hovered around them, and one came down close to Jack's hands, obscuring his view. He'd have liked to wave the creature away, but couldn't let go of his crystals to do so. Ignoring it, he brought the crystals to the marked spots, pressed down on them and turned to look back at Carter.

"It's not working," she said as she strode back towards Jack. He let go while she sat on the ground and opened a section near the bottom and fiddled with stuff inside of it. Jack wrapped his hands under his armpits. The cave was damp and the chill was beginning to permeate through his clothes. He went to stand beside Daniel, noting that several of the alien creatures were hovering close to the panel Daniel and Carter had been working with.

"Okay, let's try this again," Carter said as she closed up the opened section. She repositioned the crystals on the consoles and returned to her own.

This time, Jack could hear a different pitch in the thrum of machinery as he moved the crystals. They began to blink on and off, the cadence increasing as he brought them closer to the marked spots. At the proper time, Teal'c nodded and he pressed down. The lights in the room dimmed noticeably.

"Okay, now!" Jack yelled.

Jack turned and saw Carter move to the edge of the containment field. The shimmer was gone but when she put her hand through, it glistened faintly around it. She pulled her hand back quickly, then looked at Daniel, who had one hand on his console and one on Carter's. Obviously he was holding the crystals down like Jack was.

"The force field's not completely turned off, but I should be okay. I can do this. I'll have to move quickly, though. Just nobody let go of their crystals."

In one swift move, she entered the field and knelt before the box in which the baby alien was confined it. One of the aliens floated right behind her to see what she was doing.

"Sam, you okay?" Daniel's voice sounded worried and Jack could see that the glimmer had turned to loud, crackling sparks sputtering around her body.

"I'm okay. The baby's really wedged in here, I'm having trouble getting him out of it." Her voice was rough, and Jack knew from experience that she was experiencing discomfort, if not pain.

"Carter, can you pull the box itself out of there?"

"No, it's... agh! Stuck to the ground."

"Carter!"

"I'm okay, it just... shit, stings."

Two more of the floating aliens had moved into the containment field and the area around Carter flared brightly.

"Damnit!" she cried. Jack could hear her breathing loudly.

"Sam, get out of there."

"I've almost got him. Almost... Geez, it's okay, stop struggling. Daniel, I can't hold onto him..."

A fourth alien floated into the area and suddenly the whole thing erupted in light. Jack closed his eyes and averted his face, but when he looked back, he could see Carter was lying on the ground, seemingly unconscious.

"Sam!"

Before Jack could react, Daniel let go of the crystals and rushed to grab Carter's foot, which was lying outside the force field area.

"Daniel! Don't!" Jack yelled, remembering Carter's warning not to let go of their crystals. He saw Daniel jerk violently as he grabbed Carter's boot and fall heavily on top of her still form.

Jack turned to look at Teal'c, looked at his console, then at his two fallen team members.

"Damnit!" He hated feeling helpless and he had no choice but to abandon his console and try and pull his people out. The second he let go of the crystals, the power came back up and the lights got brighter.

Teal'c was half a step behind him as they rushed towards their friends. He knelt beside Daniel, who was half in and half out of the force field. Knowing what had just befallen Daniel, he didn't touch him. If there was a current of energy flowing through his teammates, it needed to be turned off before he could touch either one of them, or suffer the same fate.

He could see Daniel's face, it was pale and beaded with sweat. He was breathing, that much Jack could tell, but the inhalations appeared strained and harsh. Carter was faring even worse, with Daniel's full weight on top of her. The baby was curled up in the crook of her arm. It was moving feebly. At least she had gotten it out of its cage, but it was so deformed that it looked like a parody of the adults, all angles and bumps as opposed to their smooth surfaces.

The creatures that had entered through the force field had been thrown clear. Two were lying on the floor and had they been human, they'd probably be sitting up shaking their heads dazedly. The other two were hovering a few inches off the ground near Jack's feet. He wasn't sure, but he thought they looked much paler now in comparison to their brethren.

Jack tore his jacket off, intending to try and grab Daniel's leg with it and pull him out, but the second it brushed Daniel's pant leg, Jack experienced a shock that numbed his arm right up to his elbow.

He dropped the jacket out of reflex and jerked himself backwards. He landed jarringly on his ass.

"Damnit!" He shook his hand, which was now tingling painfully.

"We must attempt to turn the barrier off once more." Teal'c placed a supportive hand beneath Jack's shoulder and pulled him into a seated position.

"We can't. We can't hold those crystals down *and* get them out at the same time."

"Perhaps we can find something to weigh the crystals down. Something with considerable weight, like a rock."

"Yeah, that might work. Can't be too heavy because it'll crush the crystals, but�"

Jack suddenly realized that the lights were dimming and the hum had gotten fainter. He turned around and was shocked to see four of the aliens lying on the consoles, pushing at the crystals with their snouts and bodies.

"What the hell?" He scrambled to his feet to wave them away when he realized that they were moving the crystals in exactly the right sequences. They couldn't have understood Carter's instructions, could they? Then again, he had no idea how truly intelligent they were. Maybe they were simply mimicking Jack and Teal'c's earlier moves but in order to be doing so *now*, they had to have understood the meaning of the actions.

When he spotted movement to his left, he was sure they did understand when two more flying aliens moved to the panels Daniel had been manning. He saw them press down with their bodies and the barrier suddenly winked out.

"Go! Go! Go!" he yelled at Teal'c as he made a dive towards Daniel. Hoping that the beings were intelligent enough to have gotten everything right, he grabbed Daniel's arm and pulled him off of Carter. As he dragged his friend to safety, he saw Teal'c gently pick the baby alien up and place him out of the way on Jack's discarded jacket. Two seconds later, Carter was in Teal'c's arms and he caught up to Jack as he was dragging Daniel out of the damp cave.

They put their fallen comrades down away from the cave's entrance, where they had some shelter from the cold evening wind. It was cold outside, but at least not as damp as inside the cave. Quickly they examined their friends. Both had extremely fast pulses, their breathing was laboured and shallow, their breaths hardly showing up in the cold air, and their skin was chilled and clammy to the touch. They needed to be warmed up, and fast.

Jack dashed back inside for their packs and saw a blur of bodies where Teal'c had put the baby down. He felt a little guilty as he took the packs back outside.

"Here," he said as he handed two sleeping bags to Teal'c. "I'll be right back."

He returned to the cave and carefully threaded his way through the milling aliens. The baby was trying to move at the urgings of the adults, but it was either too weak or too injured to do so. Slowly and gently so as not to alarm them, he stepped through the mass until he could kneel down. He reached over and wrapped the jacket around the baby and picked it up. He carried it outside, accompanied by the surrounding mob.

He looked around for a safe spot to put it down, barely noting an incredibly colourful sunset as he did so. One of the aliens bumped his shoulder. It flew towards a small hole in the rock, and hovered beside it.

Jack hurried over and looked inside. It wasn't much more than a depression in the rock, but large enough to hold one or two of the aliens. He carefully put his burden down, making a nest of the jacket. The second he moved back, one of the creatures went inside and curled around the baby. Two others joined it, while the others flew or crawled about.

When he rejoined Teal'c, both Carter and Daniel had been turned onto their sides and wrapped in their sleeping bags. Teal'c straightened from his kneeling position and turned to look at Jack, his hand holding the edge of the sleeping bag close to Carter's chin. All of them looked strange in the reddish hue of the setting sun.

"I have done all that I could, but they require immediate medical assistance."

"I know." And he knew that the Stargate was a good several hours away, and the sun was setting fast.

"They are hypothermic. They require warmth. We must start a fire and attempt to raise their body temperatures."

Without a word, Jack set off to gather wood, although there weren't any trees nearby except for a few shrubs. He found several twigs and a bit of deadwood, but not enough to sustain a fire throughout the night.

"If I leave now, I can return with help by daylight."

Jack looked at the colourful sky, wishing this was just a normal evening and SG-1 was sitting around their camp, enjoying the view. But instead, he had two team members down, fighting for their lives.

"You know as well as I do that the going is rough and treacherous between here and the 'gate. It's too dangerous. The sky's clouding over and there won't be any stars or moons to light your way."

"It is an acceptable hazard."

True. It was, and Jack himself would take it if that had been the most obvious decision to make. But it wasn't. They needed to get Carter and Daniel stabilized first before going for help.

"I need you here to help keep them warm."

"One of us must return to the SGC."

Jack knelt and snaked a hand into the sleeping bag and felt Daniel's skin. It was cold. Too cold for simple shock. It was if that energy barrier had sucked the heat and life right out of his comrades.

"They won't make it through the night without help." Jack threw the bits of wood he'd been holding in his other hand down in disgust. "This won't help. We need to share body warmth." Teal'c stared at him, and Jack could see the tension in the big man's body as he warred with the urge of running back to get medical aid. Jack knew how he felt and was experiencing the same helplessness.

"I'll take Daniel, you take Carter."

It would have been a cold night for them to get through even under normal circumstances without a fire, and if only one of the two had been injured, he'd have had no qualms about letting Teal'c go for help. But there was no way he'd be able to help both of them by himself - not without a hot fire burning throughout the night.

Decision made, Jack grabbed his sleeping bag, unzipped Daniel's and slid in behind him. He shifted around until he was pressed against as much of Daniel's body as possible, then pulled the second sleeping bag over them both. He could hear rustling sounds as Teal'c did the same with Carter.

Daniel was like an ice cube, his body chilled enough that the cold permeated through Jack. The slight puffing sounds he made as he gasped for air were worrisome. Jack raised the edge of the sleeping bag over Daniel's face, hoping to warm the air that Daniel was inhaling.

He jumped and nearly yelled when something nudged his back. Moving quickly he turned to see one of the aliens trying to prod the edge of the sleeping bag open. Jack waved it away.

"Hey. No. Get out of there."

The flying alien gave a squeak and moved around him and damned if he wasn't trying to find a way inside from Daniel's end.

"Go on, get away." He stuck an arm out and gently but firmly, pushed it aside.

"O'Neill. The creatures' body temperatures are higher than ours. Allow it to enter, they will aid in warming up DanielJackson."

Jack raised his head and saw in the fading light that three of the aliens were wending their way into Teal'c and Carter's sleeping bags.

Reluctantly, Jack raised the edge and it didn't take the creature long to make its way inside. It scampered over Jack's side and curled up against Daniel's chest and neck. It stared at Jack, blinking slowly before it buried its head beneath Daniel's chin. Two others quickly followed, one heading for Daniel's legs and the other nestling against the small of Jack's back.

Teal'c was right, they were like little furnaces.

"You better not be carrying fleas," Jack grumbled as two more snuck in.

Jack soon felt the first small shiver as Daniel's body began to warm up. The shuddering increased in strength until finally Daniel's teeth were chattering and his breathing began to catch. Jack brought his arm around Daniel's chest and held him tightly against him, feeling his friend's body jerk as it worked overtime in trying to raise its core temperature.

He spoke softly in case Daniel was able to hear him. He could hear Teal'c doing the same with Carter. His hand came into contact with the alien that was curled up near Daniel's face and it butted his fingers. He petted it with his index finger and it bumped him more insistently.

It was a soothing gesture, like fondling a pet cat or dog. As he explored he was surprised to find a small scar several inches from its snout. "Had a little accident, didja?" Jack asked the creature.

In reply it shifted and offered the other side of its neck for equal attention.

- - - - - -

"O'Neill."

Jack jerked awake; the warmth generated by the aliens had finally lulled him to sleep in the early morning hours. He was at once embarrassed for having fallen asleep and at the same time worried that Daniel had taken a turn for the worse.

"Daniel? Carter?" he said softly, noting the body lying against him was still once again. He placed a hand against Daniel's chest, then swore when he realized he couldn't make out the skin temperature through his clothes. He pulled Daniel's tee shirt out of the back of his pants and placed a hand against his warm skin.

Warm. Not cold. Thank God.

"His body temperature is close to normal. As is MajorCarter's."

Teal'c moved from where he knelt beside him and Jack could see the sky was brightening as the sun was preparing to rise.

"I will leave now for the Stargate. I shall attempt to remain in radio contact every thirty minutes for as long as possible."

Jack carefully sat up, trying to keep Daniel covered as much as he could. As he slid out of the sleeping bags, the aliens stirred, then readjusted themselves in the space he left behind. He noted both Daniel and Carter were breathing more easily, although both were still unconscious.

"Hurry back," Jack simply said. Teal'c nodded, setting off at a fast jog. Jack knew Teal'c's endurance, he could probably keep the pace until he reached the 'gate, but the terrain wouldn't permit it. Still, it had taken them four hours to get here from their last camp site, hopefully Teal'c could shave some time off of that.

He got up, stiff from lying in one position the whole night long. He checked on Carter to assure himself she was doing okay also, then got up and moved a ways to empty his bladder. He stretched, trying to ease the kinks from his back and legs. It was going to be a long day.

He sat down close to where he could keep an eye on his teammates, and grabbed an MRE. By the time he finished eating, the sun was high enough for Jack to feel its heat. Soon after, the aliens came out from the sleeping bags, floating lazily. One opened its mouth and yawned, its blue tongue sticking out between its teeth.

One by one, they all took off and flew to the north, where he could see a copse of small trees in the distance. He figured they were off to eat breakfast. He wondered if that small copse of trees might have provided firewood if he'd known about it last night.

Taking advantage of their absence, Jack decided to shift Carter and Daniel onto their other sides. If he was stiff, they surely would be too if they woke up. He worked on Carter and once she was settled, he slapped her face gently, calling her name, hoping to elicit a response from her. Hating to do it, he pinched the underside of her upper arm, but she didn't react to the pain. He made sure she was comfortable and then did the same with Daniel, with the same non-reaction.

He tried placing a bit of water on Daniel's lips, hoping to at least get some liquids into his friend, but the water simply dribbled down his chin.

Feeling helpless, Jack paced the area. He popped into the cave to make sure they had left none of their gear there, then went back outside. He stopped off at the small hole in the stone, checking on the baby. One of the adults was wrapped around the infant, and both were chewing on a small branch, eating both bark and leaves. The baby raised its head and looked at Jack, chewing noisily.

"Got room service, didja?" Jack said as he bent down to pick up part of a branch that had fallen to the ground. He offered it to the baby, who happily began chewing on the tender tip. The adult butted Jack's hand, demanding to be petted. Jack alternated stroking the two, then moved aside as one of the other adults arrived, carrying more food.

As it turned and settled in the small nook with the others, Jack returned to his friends. He found one of the aliens curled up at Daniel's feet, twigs and leaves spread over the sleeping bag.

"You guys always this messy eating?" Jack threw a few twigs near its head and it happily chomped on those. He sat down beside it and helped feed it its breakfast. After a while, he felt movement against his butt. Even though the morning was sunny and the air was warming up nicely, Jack realized that Daniel was shivering again. He quickly checked on Carter and found her condition to be the same.

"Come on, you two, gimme a break." Maybe if he pulled the two sleeping bags together, Carter and Daniel could help keep each other warm through their own body heat? But before he could try his idea, the creature lying at Daniel's feet crawled inside the bag and curled up by Daniel's neck. As if that was a sign to the others, soon the sleeping bags were a mound of moving, shifting lumps. Within a minute, they had all settled down.

Jack didn't know if they had known that Carter and Daniel required heat in order to survive, or if they just liked the nice, cozy niches they had found. Jack reached a hand to pet the one whose head was peeking out of the sleeping bag near Daniel's face and wasn't surprised to find the scar on its neck.

A shadow swooped by and Jack looked up. Hundreds of the creatures were flying overhead, circling the camp. Many came down to have a closer look, and Jack could see several infants in the flock. One young one actually flew into the cave, and before Jack could shout or run after it, one of the adults flew inside. It literally chased the baby out, and Jack couldn't help but smile at the small scolding noises the adult was making. After a short while, the majority of the flock seemed to have satisfied their curiosity and left, with about two dozen remaining behind. He wondered if they were the same ones that had been there keeping them company throughout the night. Maybe they were a family of sorts.

The morning passed by slowly and soon Teal'c was out of radio range. Jack was getting more worried about Carter and Daniel as neither had stirred in the least, and neither had had any kind of sustenance in close to twenty four hours. Maybe he'd made the wrong call, maybe he should have attempted to try and get them back to the SGC himself instead of waiting for aid to come to them. But no, there was really no feasible way to do this, unless he and Teal'c dragged them in the sleeping bags and the ground was just too rough between here and the 'gate.

At noontime, he shared a power bar with a curious alien, laughing when the creature spit out the tidbit Jack had offered it.

"I feel the same way," Jack said as he bit into more of the calorie-ridden meal. "But food's food," he said with his mouth full, "and I'll take this stuff over the sushi that Carter likes. I mean, raw fish is raw fish, no matter what you call it."

He fiddled with the wrapper, feeling idiotic talking to some alien animal. But hearing the sound of his voice helped alleviate the worry just a little bit. It investigated some leaf scraps, and carried over a couple in its mouth before settling down to eat beside Jack.

"Daniel here will eat just about anything you put in front of him. Hell, he'll eat a baked lizard without batting an eyelash." The alien looked up at Jack, swallowed, and took another leaf. "Honest, I saw him myself. Me, on the other hand, like my food tried and true. Give me a steak anytime. Baked potato, small salad � and none of the stuff you're eating, mind you � too much roughage and I'm trying to cut back on bark. Oh, and add a cold brewskie to that and I'm in heaven. Dessert, on the other hand, so long as it's sweet, I'll try it. Never thought I'd eat that sweet almond and pastry concoction again, not after that stint in... but anyway, Daniel loves the stuff so I'll tolerate buying him some whenever he comes over to visit. And we won't even mention chocolate..."

Jack finished his meal and dumped the wrapper into his packsack. He sighed heavily. He felt so helpless. There was just so little he could do for his friends that�

"Colonel O'Neill, come in."

"Ferretti? Good to hear your voice." Jack felt some of the tension leach out of his shoulders upon hearing a familiar voice coming through his radio.

"Same here, Jack. Listen, we're less than two hours away from your position. I've also got SGs 7 and 14 with me, along with Doctor Fraiser and a medic."

"Two hours? Lou, you taking a short cut or something?"

Jack could hear the laughter in the Major's voice. "Well, actually, yes. While we were gearing up, Teal'c took another look at the readings from the UAV and found a better way around."

And that made sense, since they'd first headed for some weird rock formations that Daniel had wanted to explore and so had probably ended up taking the long and hard way across. The rocks had been a bust, but that was when Carter had first gotten that strange energy spike and...

"Colonel?"

"Yeah, doc."

"How are they doing?"

"No change. They're still both unconscious, and unresponsive. They're having trouble keeping their body temperatures up, they keep getting chilled."

"Sir, it's important you keep them warm." Jack could hear the slight breathlessness of her words and could picture her trying to keep up with the rest of her somewhat long-legged companions.

"Got that covered," he said as he glanced towards the lumpy sleeping bags.

"Good. Just keep them comfortable. We'll be there soon."

"Ain't going nowhere." He put the radio back into his vest and suddenly, knowing that help was close, he was imbued with nervous energy. He scrambled to his feet and began pacing restlessly.

He found himself back inside the cave, wondering what the place had been used for. If he were to hazard a guess, he'd say it had been some kind of lab. Why else would there have been varying sized force fields? But why had it been abandoned, and why had the force field been left on? Then again, the Goa'uld could have made this their home for a while, using the Asgard technology for their own use. If this even was Asgard stuff.

Maybe the Goa'uld had been lured here by the energy readings, as SG1 had been. The containment field couldn't have been created for capturing the floating aliens, since they seemed to have the ability to fly in and out of the fields. Unless... someone had been studying the aliens and their ability to do so... and gee, maybe the snakeheads had decided to do the same.

If that was the case, the SGC definitely needed to take their turn scrutinizing the stuff left behind, and the critters' strange ability. If the Goa'uld had figured out their secrets, then they might have a tactical advantage over Earth and their allies. If not, then the Tau'ri could maybe be one up over the Goa'uld.

He left the cave, satisfied that he had a plausible answer to the mysteries of this place, and went to visit mother and baby. He peered inside and found them to be sleeping soundly. He smiled at the sight, and wondered if these creatures spent most of their time napping.

Time passed doubly slow as he waited for the rescue team. He constantly checked on Carter and Daniel, afraid that with help so close, they would decide now to take a turn for the worse. He had to force himself to sit down and patiently wait.

Finally he got the call that the others were close by. A few minutes later, they came into view as they rounded the rocks.

Fraiser went straight to Daniel and before Jack could warn her, she pulled the sleeping bag open and almost jumped into Jack's arms in fright.

"What the hell are those things!" she exclaimed as one of the creatures raised its head and yawned up at her.

"Daniel's own personal heating pad. Don't worry, doc, they're harmless."

She glanced at Jack incredulously before carefully reaching for Daniel's arm. He helped her clear a space so she could take his vitals. Teal'c was doing the same with the medic who was checking on Carter.

"His blood pressure's low, pulse is fast and thready, temperature is 97.2." She placed an oxygen mask over his face and began prepping him for an IV. The medic reported similar numbers to Fraiser, and within minutes, Jack was easing the aliens off of Daniel so that Teal'c and Fraiser could wrap him in several blankets and place him on a stretcher.

He then went to help Ferretti clear the aliens off of Carter. They floated in the air, curious as to what was going on. It was only when a couple of them entered the cave did Jack realize that SG14 was missing.

He got up and followed the aliens inside, noting that there was a hell of a lot of gear sitting inside the door, more than was required for a simple rescue operation.

"Something you forgot to tell me?" Jack asked Major Santini. The blond man turned to Jack and smiled. "General Hammond ordered my team to see if we could figure out what the technology was all about. Teal'c's descriptions of the force fields sparked a bit of interest at the SGC."

Knowing time was short, Jack related his suspicions about the place, and gave the man a warning not to harm the aliens. "They trust us, and saved both Major Carter and Doctor Jackson's lives. Don't go rewarding them with anything that'll hurt them."

"Of course not, Colonel." Santini nodded, a solemn expression on his face. "We'll be careful, I promise."

"Colonel!" Ferretti's voice echoed faintly in the cavern. "We're about ready to leave."

"You do that," he told Santini. Turning, he hurried out of the cave to rejoin the others. As he walked into the daylight, he wasn't surprised to see Teal'c standing by the hole in the wall. Teal'c turned and joined Jack as he waited for him.

"The little one appears to be gaining strength."

"Yeah, I think he'll be all right."

"They are a pleasant sort of creature."

Jack thought back to the way they craved attention, like a dog. But at the same time, there appeared to be more intelligence behind their eyes, as if their lazy demeanour was just an act. "They do kinda grow on you."

Jack couldn't help but smile when he spotted one of the creatures curled up at Daniel's feet on the stretcher.

"We can't get it to leave," Fraiser said, waving towards it. Jack knelt beside it and stroked its head, feeling the small scar.

"Leave it for now. Scar's adopted Daniel, and it's barely left his side since... the accident."

They picked up the ends of the stretchers and between the two teams, slowly made their way back to the 'gate. They stopped often to check on the two patients, and although they never woke, their breathing seemed to have improved greatly thanks to the oxygen being administered.

By the time they reached the Stargate, the little critter had moved up from Daniel's feet and was now curled around his head and neck. Jack had watched it as it had settled itself and it was being extremely cautious not to disturb the oxygen mask. He continued to suspect they had a much higher intelligence than they let on.

While one of Ferretti's men dialled Earth's address, Jack gently eased the alien from Daniel's stretcher. He placed it on the ground, off to the side.

"This is where you get off," he told it as he scratched its head. He turned and watched as both Carter and Daniel were carried towards the wormhole. He felt the small body beneath his hand move and he held onto it, keeping it on the ground.

"No, you have to stay." He put an index finger in front of its face, forcing it to look at him. "You have to stay here." It gave a small pitiful squeak as Daniel was conveyed through the wormhole, and Jack could have sworn he heard it sigh. As the men followed through behind Carter's litter, Jack got up and joined them. He and Teal'c were the last ones through.

He entered the Gateroom just in time to see the medical personnel rush his friends out of the room. He walked down the ramp, towards General Hammond, when suddenly all hell broke loose as something flew by him from behind.

"Don't shoot!" Jack cried as he spotted the form circling the room. Too late, bullets flew and Scar screamed in pain as at least one projectile hit him. "Shut the door!" Jack pushed the SF aside, ignoring his cries of apology as he ran towards the injured alien. Obviously confused and in pain, it dove through the closing door and out into the corridor.

"Damn it." He made to rush out after it when he heard General Hammond's voice call his name.

"Colonel O'Neill, what the hell was that thing?"

"It is a harmless inhabitant that has apparently become attached to DanielJackson," Teal'c explained.

"Sir, I'd like to�" Jack waved a hand towards the door and Hammond nodded. He rushed out, ordering several guards to help him search.

- - - - - -

Hours. They'd literally spent the whole night searching for that alien critter and there was no sign of it anywhere. He hoped to God it hadn't crawled into a hole somewhere to die. He had no idea how badly hurt it was. Damn, but he felt bad.

They'd called off the active search but all personnel had been alerted to its presence and ordered to keep an eye out for it.

Jack turned the water off and stepped away from the shower. He was exhausted, hungry and worried about Carter and Daniel. He'd just finished debriefing Hammond and was now heading to the infirmary for a very tardy physical. Afterwards, his plans were to sit with his teammates for a bit, and then go bunk down somewhere for a few hours' of shut eye.

He quickly dried himself off and got dressed. As he walked to the infirmary area, he kept glancing towards possible hiding spaces, hoping to catch a glimpse of Scar, even though the Gateroom wasn't on the same level as the infirmary. But if the alien was intelligent enough to make sense of, or mimic, the use of advanced technology, it surely could have figured out what an elevator was for.

Carter and Daniel were the only patients in the infirmary at the moment and he walked towards their beds.

"Good morning, Colonel," a nurse said as she passed him. "Doctor Fraiser has been waiting for you."

"Morning. I was just going to..." Jack stopped and stared towards where his friends lay, then figured maybe he should get the onerous part of the visit out of the way first.

"How are they doing?" He pointed towards the beds with his chin.

"They're much stronger, sir. Their vital signs have all returned close to normal, except for their core temperatures. They're still in a coma; Doctor Fraiser suspects they've suffered some sort of neural shock, but she's hopeful that they'll start waking up soon."

He thanked her and turned towards where Fraiser was talking to another nurse. He had only taken a couple of steps when he heard a shriek and a loud hissing sound.

The nurse he'd just spoken to was backing away from Daniel's bed, and lo and behold, there was Scar, curled up on Daniel's chest. He hurried to her and pulled her back by the arm.

"Hey, calm down," Jack said to Scar as he slowly approached the bed. The being hissed at him also, moving slightly closer to Daniel's face, as if he was trying to protect him from Jack. There was an angry looking wound near the alien's backend, but from what Jack could see, he'd only been nicked. It wasn't bleeding, and unless it got infected, it didn't look life threatening.

He pulled one of the chairs closer to him and sat down. He heard Fraiser's footsteps and he called out to her to keep her distance.

"Look," he told Scar in a gentle voice, "I know it's a big scary place, with loud noises and people that hurt you. But it was an accident. You spooked the guard, and he shot you out of reflex." Jack edged the chair closer with his feet. "Now, you gonna let us have a look at that wound of yours?"

He put out a hand, offering Scar his fingers. It looked at Jack's hand, then back up at Jack, then slowly inched forward and butted its head against his fingers. Jack scratched the soft head, and Scar slowly relaxed.

"Doc, can you come here and take a look at his wound?"

Fraiser slowly approached the bed, then sat down on the mattress beside Daniel. "It's not infected," she said after a moment, "but I'm not even sure we should treat it. I have no idea how its physiology would react to any of our medicine."

"How about just disinfecting it as a precaution? Here, give me the stuff and I'll do it."

Jack took the pads Fraiser brought him and eased closer to the bed. He tore open one of the disinfectant-laden gauzes and held it close to Scar's face. It sniffed at the wet piece of material, then pulled back at the strong smell and sneezed.

Jack slowly rubbed the pad on the back of his hand to show what he intended to do with it, then opened another and gently wiped the area around the wound.

"It's gonna sting a bit, but it's for your own good."

Scar hissed as the disinfectant hit the open wound, but didn't pull away. It continued complaining while Jack worked, but allowed him to continue nevertheless.

Finally finished, Jack scratched the small head and placed a bandage over the wound. Scar sniffed at the bandage, looked at Jack, and promptly pulled it off with its teeth.

"Okay, fine, have it your way," Jack said with a smile. While Fraiser disposed of the soiled implements, Jack got up and poured some water into an emesis basin. Scar sniffed the liquid and delicately lapped it up. When it finished, it curled up with its head on the pillow beside Daniel.

"Ya gotta be hungry..." Jack put the basin down and reached for Scar...

- - - - - -

"The things I put up with for your friend," Jack complained to the milling aliens as he carried an overflowing armful of leaves back to the DHD. He scattered a few away from the Stargate and once the curious aliens began eating, he entered Earth's coordinates into the DHD. IDC sent, he quickly ran for the wormhole, Scar's dinner in hand.

- - - - - -

"Colonel, I must protest." Fraiser stood with her hands on her hips, eying the twigs and bits of leaves that had fallen onto the floor around the infirmary bed. "This *is* an infirmary and not a zoo."

"Sorry, doc." Jack quickly swept up the errant pieces of bark and wood into a small pile with his foot. "I did try to make him eat over in the corner but he kept bringing his meal over to the bed. He just doesn't want to leave Daniel."

"Then maybe you can try feeding him in another room. Having that creature here in the ward is unsanitary of itself, but enough is enough."

"Look, Teal'c and I both tried to bring it back to the Stargate and it managed to slip out of our grasp every time. I don't want to use force, I'm afraid we'll hurt it and I certainly don't want to zat it. It's not hurting anyone and as to the mess, we'll clean it up." Jack turned to look at Teal'c, waiting for his confirmation, but his friend stared straight ahead, ignoring the conversation.

"Okay, fine, I'll clean it up. I promise," he added when Fraiser opened her mouth to object. "Just as soon as it finishes eating."

"Fine. Just make sure you keep the area clean." As she turned around to leave, she added, "It had better be housebroken, Colonel."

"Oh great. D'ya think Supply might have any litter boxes on hand?"

- - - - - -

"Daniel, can you hear me? Daniel, wake up."

Jack stood at the foot of the bed, keeping a hand on Scar so he wouldn't get in the way of the medical personnel, and was clenching his teeth as they waited for a response from Daniel. He was hooked up to an EEG, and as Jack watched, the small 'slowing' waves, as Fraiser had called them, suddenly spiked into a different form.

"That's not right," Fraiser mumbled to herself. Leaning over Daniel, she gently slapped his cheek and called his name again. The EEG continued to spike erratically, but the dismal consensus seemed to be that Daniel wasn't reacting to stimulus.

Fraiser rubbed her knuckles against his chest and then waited. A spike appeared long after she'd pulled away. "Forty-five seconds, that's abnormal." She noted something in Daniel's chart.

She turned from Daniel and went to Carter, who had been similarly hooked up. Jack remained standing where he was and watched as Fraiser went through the same procedure with the Major, and got the same results. Finally she snapped the EEG monitors off and asked a nurse to disconnect the patients. She turned to face Jack again.

"I don't know, Colonel. I'd like to say that they're reacting to stimuli, but I've never seen, let alone heard, of such a thing. Their earlier EEG showed no reaction at all so yes, it's a definite change, but as to whether it's an improvement, I couldn't say at this point."

"So, what, we wait?"

"There's nothing else to be done, sir. I've run all the tests I could think of and there's nothing more I can do for them."

Jack waited until the nurse had finished, then let go of Scar. It scampered as quickly as it could to Daniel's side, curling up again on the pillow where it had kept vigil all this time.

Its injury seemed to hamper its flying ability. It could fly but would only do so for small distances, preferring to run on the ground if forced off the bed. Like when it had to use the small litter box that Ferretti had gone out to get at Jack's behest. Thank goodness it had the intelligence to use the box; that in itself had returned it into Fraiser's good graces.

Jack moved over to stand between the two beds. He was exhausted, having spent the day in meetings and then going over tons of paperwork. He hated the thought of driving home, but he desperately needed sleep.

"Good night, kids. I'll be back in the morning. Scar," he added, reaching over to scratch the sleepy alien, "watch over them, will you? Teal'c will be along later to keep you company."

With a last glance at his teammates, Jack left the infirmary and made his way home.

- - - - - -

Sipping a coffee, Jack entered the infirmary, feeling a little better this morning than he had the previous night. He yawned a greeting to one of Fraiser's nurses and swallowed the last of his coffee before discarding the styrofoam cup and approaching the beds. As he neared, Scar raised its head and launched itself off the bed. As it flew towards Jack, it made strange high pitched sounds. It butted his shoulder and flew in a circle around him.

"Hey, I know you're hungry, give me a second to get your breakfast." He remembered belatedly that he'd have to go back to the planet and get more soon, what he had brought was pretty dried out and couldn't be very nourishing.

Scar butted Jack again and rushed to Daniel's bed, eagerly clambering over Daniel to reach the pillow. It butted its head against Daniel's face, then yipped.

"Don't do that," Jack admonished as Scar butted Daniel again. To his surprise, Daniel's leg moved, and his eyelids twitched.

"Doc!" Jack yelled as he grabbed Daniel's hand and squeezed. "Daniel, wake up. Come on, Danny, wake up. Doc!" he yelled again.

He heard Fraiser running towards the bed and arrived just in time to see Daniel frown and move his leg again.

"It was Scar, he knew Daniel was waking up." As she neared, Daniel moaned and turned his head away from him. Jack moved out of the doctor's way and Scar dashed away from the pillow, as if sensing this was an important event. It came to join Jack at the edge of the bed, its attention fixed intently on Daniel.

As Fraiser performed a few tests, Daniel suddenly groaned and jerked away from them, turning onto his side. He tried to pull his arm up over his face, and Jack wondered whether he was in pain.

"Okay, we'll let you rest," Fraiser said softly as she smiled at Jack. She turned to Carter and tried to wake her, but there was no response.

"It's a good sign," she said as they watched as Daniel seemed to be trying to wake up. "Talk to him and let him know you're there."

Jack sat on the side of the bed, and gently eased Daniel's hand down from where it had fallen on the pillow. He held it between his own, then smiled as Scar came and butted the lax fingers.

"Don't'cha think it's about time you woke up? You got a friend that wants to say hello, Daniel. The critter even took a bullet trying to stay by your side, don't you think the least you can do is open your eyes and say hi?"

There was no reaction, and Jack sighed. He shrugged his shoulders at Scar, who had turned to stare at Daniel once more. It whined softly just before Daniel began to twitch again. It looked to Jack like his friend was in pain. His breathing increased and he made small, panting moans, and his face contorted into a slight grimace. The whole episode only lasted a few seconds before he seemed to relax again.

Despite what Fraiser had said, Jack wasn't sure if talking to Daniel was doing much good. He let go of his friend's hand and leaned an elbow on the table, his chin propped on his thumb, with his index and third fingers along his face. Still he continued to talk to Daniel, watching as Daniel's eyes fluttered occasionally, with small jerks and moans of pain.

After about fifteen minutes of this, Scar raised his head and upper body and stared over at Carter. It yipped once, and Jack turned his attention to her. After a time, she reacted similarly to Daniel, eyelids fluttering, small movements of her legs and arms. This time he waved Fraiser over and he watched as the doctor performed the same tests on her.

"The EEG will be more conclusive," she said as she straightened from her examination.

Jack checked his watch and realized he was already late for a meeting with SG8. "I have to go... you'll let me know?"

"Of course, sir."

"I'll be back as soon as I can."

- - - - - -

Pain. He could feel it even in the strands of his hair.

Noise. His head and chest throbbed as sound bounced through him.

Light. Searing heat that started from his face down through his toes.

Nausea. So bad he couldn't even swallow his saliva for fear of upchucking.

Disorientation. No up, no down. Nothing familiar, nothing to help ground him.

Cold. Chilled right down to the bone, unable to get warm.

Torture. The noise and light continued without cease. The pain followed him no matter where he turned, how much he pleaded.

Fear. Was he alone? Did anyone even care? There should have been someone... he called out for help, but there was nothing but the pain. He followed it down a long, dark tunnel, praying it would lead him home.

- - - - - -

A blur, movement. He was unable to focus, unable to grasp. The light was still there, but muted now, not as hurtful. He squinted, tried to see, but the noise encompassed him and he moaned in pain.

Something was squeezing his hand in a crushing grip. He tried to pull away but the hold on him was too strong. More agony, more torture, lights, sounds, punches, slaps. Would it ever end? Would there be no rescue? Colors formed in his mind's eye, blond and light, dark and glowering, grey and trusting. Somehow he felt they should be here, or should have come and found him. Succoured him from these... snakes. That's it, snakes. The enemy. Glowing... eyes. Sam. Teal'c. Jack. Where were they?

Abandoned. Left to die. Orphaned. Widowed. Friendless. He moaned again, but this time at the memory of sorrow.

Silence now. Small movement near his ear, rubbing against his neck. Peaceful. Soothing. Caring. Welcomed.

Familiar.

Jack?

He opened his eyes, but the blur and the light caused him more pain. There was sound again. Torture.

Tired. Can't stay awake. Soothing movement again.

Need to sleep.

- - - - - -

"They're still not responsive, sir," Fraiser said to General Hammond. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to recommend that Major Carter and Doctor Jackson be moved to the Academy Hospital where they can be provided with better long-term care."

"Hey, just a second. This morning you said that it was a good thing. Now you're saying you can't do anything more for them?" Jack leaned forward, his hands splayed on the table before him.

"I believed they were coming out of their coma. But the EEG shows the same abnormal spikes accompanied by slowing waves. They're not awake, Colonel. And as good as the medical facilities are here, I don't have the manpower to care for two comatose patients on a long-term basis."

Jack glanced towards General Hammond, hoping for help on his end, but was only met with a sympathetic look. He lowered his gaze, staring at his fingertips.

"I'm sorry, sir."

"You did all you could," Jack managed to say.

"If there aren't any improvements by tomorrow afternoon, I'll make the arrangements for their transfer."

"Thank you, Doctor."

Jack heard the rustling sounds as both Fraiser and Hammond gathered their papers and stood. He waited, still not looking up, intending to wait until their footsteps informed him they'd left the room. Unsurprisingly, he felt Hammond's hand come down on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, son. I'm going to have to insist you send the alien back to his planet."

"Yeah, I know." And he also realized he hadn't brought Scar any fresh food. Hell, he hadn't brought him anything at all to eat today. Damn. "The thing's cagey, seems to know when I'm trying to get it back to the Stargate."

"How about setting some food in a cage and luring it inside?"

"How about we wait until tomorrow and see what happens? I'll take it home then. It's just... it seems to need Daniel and it's still recovering..."

"Fine, tomorrow."

"I, um, need to go and get it something to eat," Jack said sheepishly.

"Not to worry, Jack."

He looked up at the amusement in General Hammond's voice.

"Teal'c took care of getting it some fresh food today when we contacted SG14 for an update."

"Oh. Thank you." Okay, one problem taken care of.

"Why don't you go get some rest? You look a little tired."

"I will, I just... I need to go see how they're doing."

"I understand."

Jack continued to sit minutes after Hammond had left the room, hating to go back to the infirmary and seeing his friends lying there, and at the same time, needing to be there in the hopes that maybe his presence might help them recover. It was an egotistic wish, and he knew it, but how many times had he come to with one of his teammates sitting beside him in the infirmary and feeling safe and cared about. He could only do the same for them, and hoped they would feel the same way.

- - - - - -

Daniel lay on his side, staring at the far wall. Carter lay on her back, staring at the ceiling. Jack and Teal'c had been with them for an hour already, talking to them while discussing amongst themselves how to get Scar out of the infirmary tomorrow before they moved Carter and Daniel out to the hospital.

"Evening, Colonel." Jack smiled at the nurse who moved to the opposite side of the bed, obviously preparing to draw some blood. "I'll only be a minute," she said as she quickly and efficiently placed a rubber band around Daniel's right arm and disinfected his skin.

He watched dispassionately as she did her work. But the moment she stuck the needle into Daniel's arm, Daniel moved, and she swore. Scar raised his head and peeked out from where he was lying against Daniel's side.

"Sorry, sorry," she said as she pulled the needle out. She smiled at Jack as she placed a cotton gauze over the pinhole in Daniel's elbow crease, which was already darkening into a large bruise, while untying the large rubber band from his arm. "He moved and I blew the vein."

"Ouch," Jack said in sympathy, glad that Daniel wasn't conscious.

She placed a bandaid over the gauze and picked up her tray containing the vials required to be filled.

"Need a hand? I can hold his arm this time?"

She smiled her thanks as she walked around the bed to come to Daniel's other side. As she put the tray down and was picking the rubber band, Daniel suddenly jerked and pulled his right arm onto his chest, his other hand reaching for the small wound.

"Did you see that?" Jack asked excitedly. "He felt the needle."

"Indeed. It appeared that DanielJackson reacted to the pain." Teal'c had risen to his feet and was leaning over Carter's bed, staring at Daniel.

"He did. He just felt it... later." Jack suddenly realized what those EEG spikes meant. "Go get Fraiser."

"I don't understand," the nurse replied as she reached for Daniel's arm. "He's not awake."

Jack stayed her movement by putting a hand on her arm. "He's reacting, he's just reacting late! I know what's happening." When she didn't move, Jack gave her an order. "Go!"

He bent over the bed and placed both hands around Daniel's face and turned him so he was facing him. "Daniel." He felt Teal'c come to stand behind him as he stroked the raspy cheek beneath his thumb. "Daniel, can you see me? Can you hear me?" He waited anxiously, holding Daniel's head steady, realizing it had taken long seconds before Daniel had felt the pain of the needle's jab. Slowly, Daniel's eyes tracked and focused on Jack's face. A small sound escaped his friend, and his lips silently formed Jack's name.

"Yes, yes, it's me. It's me. I'm here."

Daniel's breathing sped up and Jack felt Fraiser's presence beside him. Slowly, tentatively, Daniel's hand rose until it caught Jack's arm.

"It's me," Jack said around the lump in his throat.

"What's going on, Colonel?" Fraiser asked softly.

"He's reacting. See, he's seeing me. He's just got a... delayed reaction from the time we talk to him to the time he's responding. Those spikes in the EEG, you said they weren't really registering any stimulation. They are. It's just not immediate."

"That's impossible, sir. There's no such thing as a delayed reaction, not unless someone is in a coma, and never with this length of time."

"Then why did he feel the needle almost a minute after he got jabbed? Look, do something, make him feel something so he'll react." As Fraiser grabbed an implement from the table behind Jack, he added, "Just don't hurt him."

"Don't worry, I'll just check his reflexes." She exposed Daniel's feet and lightly ran an implement along his sole. They waited patiently, Jack's attention jumping from Daniel's face to his foot. And just as he'd said, Daniel's foot twitched long seconds later.

"You're right," Fraiser said. "Oh my God! The reaction is there, it's just delayed!" She rushed to Carter's bed. "Sam, Sam, can you hear me?"

Jack looked back down at Daniel, who was still staring at him. "It's okay, it's gonna be okay," he promised his friend.

- - - - - -

Safe. Jack was here. He could see his friend, albeit his face was blurry. He held on tightly to Jack's arm, his skin was warm beneath Daniel's chilled fingers. It was real. It felt real despite the ache in his arm. He wanted to speak, to ask what had happened, where he was, but he couldn't seem to get his mouth to work. He saw Jack's mouth move, sounds floated around him, echoing painfully through his aching head. He realized now the noises he'd been hearing were words, possibly spoken to him, and not understood.

His arm shook, his muscles were protesting and he regrettably lowered his arm. After a while one of Jack's hands left his face and took hold of his hand. His cheek felt cold without the warmth of Jack's skin against him, but his fingers were soon warm.

Something shifted against his side. He started, but Jack didn't move, his smile never faded, so there was no need for concern. He relaxed, and felt something warm wrap against his neck and head. It was comfortable and soothing, and soon he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. He realized that that little bit of heat had been with him all along, warming different parts of his body.
Daniel and 
Scarlett, click for larger picture Daniel and Scarlett,

sketched by Wilma



He wanted to thank Jack for whatever it was, but couldn't muster the energy. Maybe he'd try later, when he woke up. He closed his eyes, feeling safe, like he hadn't in what felt a long time.

- - - - - -

Daniel's eyes closed and Jack felt the tense body relax. He was certain Daniel had *seen* him, had *known* him this time. For the first time since Daniel and Carter had rescued the baby alien, Jack felt a surge of hope.

He turned to look over at Carter and was relieved to see her attention was fixed on Fraiser. Jack saw her smile at the doctor, and he knew Carter was also aware. He leaned back on the chair and rubbed the heels of his palms over his face. He was tired but felt like a heavy load had been taken off his shoulders. He watched and waited until Carter drifted off, then with a quick pet to Scar, who had curled up around Daniel's head and neck, Jack left the infirmary with a lighter heart.

- - - - - -

"Get that animal out of here!"

The shouted words greeted Jack as he entered the infirmary. He stopped in surprise, then ducked in shock as something long and white flew right at him. Streams of toilet paper fluttered around him and Jack clamped down on the fragile tissue, breaking the long stream of cottony cascade. Scar quickly turned and dashed towards the fluttering paper and grabbed a chunk in his mouth, soaring towards the other end of the infirmary with his prize.

That was when Jack realized that there was tons of the stuff scattered all over the infirmary. He had to laugh as one of the nurses jumped up, trying to catch Scar as he flew by, but he zigzagged and outmanoeuvred her. Jack quickly clamped down on his sniggering as she glared at him, red faced.

Jack pursed his lips together and whistled loudly. The noise shocked Scar and he dropped the tissue, turned around and made one fast trip around Jack, then disappeared into the far end of the infirmary.

"That... that animal has been wreaking havoc in here all morning!" Fraiser strode furiously towards Jack, arms full of unravelled toilet paper. Her eyes shone with anger as she stopped to look up at him. "First it decided to have breakfast in the storeroom, knocking over half of the supplies onto the floor. Then it shredded several packages of bandages, and then, it got into this."

Obviously frustrated, she blew a few strands of hair that had fallen out of her bun and had fallen into her eyes.

"Looks like the critter's feeling better," Jack said as he reached over and removed a small strand of toilet paper stuck to the top of her head. She glared at him, and in one quick move, dumped the overflowing tissue paper into his arms.

"There's more back there," she said with tilt of her head. "Get this cleaned up, then come and see me." She bent down and grabbed a long streamer, rolled it up and shoved it into the pile in Jack's arm.

Shaking his head and grinning wildly, Jack dutifully began cleaning up Scar's mess.

- - - - - -

"There's been incredible improvement since last night," Fraiser said softly as Jack joined her several bed lengths away from his friends. Daniel was lying on his side, curled around Scar, and his fingers were slowly rubbing circles on Scar's head and neck. The beast was in rapture, and would occasionally roll its eyes back to look at Daniel adoringly. Jack smiled at the strip of toilet paper still wrapped around Scar's body.

Daniel, on the other hand, was staring off into space, but this time his gaze seemed focused. Whether it was aimed inwards or not Jack had yet to determine. But his fingers never lost their rhythm despite their obvious trembling, moving slowly back and forth, around and around.

"Their reaction time to stimulation has doubled," Fraiser was saying. "I don't know if it's because it was finally time for their bodies to heal, or if it had to do with your breakthrough with Daniel last night. But both of them are aware, although they haven't been able to communicate much as of yet."

"Looks to me like Daniel's communicating pretty well with Scar over there."

Fraiser chuckled. "I don't think that beast gave him much of a choice. He was insistent, constantly batting at Daniel's hand until Daniel began petting him. He also spent time with Sam earlier when he wasn't making a nuisance of himself, and she responded well with him also.

"We're trying to keep the noise level down so as to not overwhelm them with too much stimulus. Of course, Scar had other plans."

She patted Jack on his shoulder, leaving him so he could go and sit with Daniel. He pulled a chair so that he could place himself in Daniel's line of sight, and after several seconds, Daniel raised his eyes to Jack. His fingers stilled on Scar's body, and a slight smile graced his lips.

"Hey." Daniel's voice was low and husky, but the simple greeting had Jack grinning.

"Hey yourself." Jack pulled the chair closer so he could reach over and pet Scar in order to still the constant nudging for attention. He had a feeling Daniel would have a problem concentrating on both himself and Scar at the same time. "You doing okay? Do you need something? You thirsty? Hungry? Are you hurting?"

Daniel frowned, his eyes losing their focus for a few seconds. Jack realized instantly that he had bombarded Daniel with too much information.

"You okay?" he said slowly.

Daniel blinked several times, then licked his lips before replying. "Head... head..."

"Headache?"

When Daniel didn't react, Jack repeated the word, saying it a little more slowly. A faint nod was his answer.

Jack could see that concentrating on talking was already tiring Daniel as his eyes lost focus again. When he looked at Jack once more, Jack simply said, "Fraiser." He waited till Daniel nodded his understanding and pressed the call button.

When a nurse arrived, he explained Daniel's discomfort and before he knew it, the doctor was there with an injection. He knew as soon as the drug hit Daniel's system because faint lines of pain relaxed around his eyes.

"Tank...sss."

"Welcome." Jack placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder, predicting that he'd fall asleep shortly. He was right. Daniel's eyelids fluttered and his breathing deepened. He got up and went to see if he could coax his Major to talk.

- - - - - -

Jack stopped by his office to grab a couple of Tylenol for his pounding head. He'd been in a meeting for most of the day with several diplomats from two planets, with Earth trying to form a three way trade agreement. He'd sorely missed Daniel's input and had lost his patience with their nitpicking several times. Finally they'd come to some kind of understanding and their "guests" were off eating supper, hopefully discussing where to dot the T's and cross the I's on the agreement, if there even were letters similar to T's and I's in their alphabet.

Damn, he missed Daniel. And truth be told, Jack's mind had been more in the infirmary than in the conference room.

He rubbed the back of his neck, feeling the tension there, and in his shoulders. The stress of the past couple of days was catching up to him. He ignored the piles of paper in his in-tray and closed the door on the work waiting for him, and headed for the infirmary.

To his surprise, both Carter and Daniel were sitting up in bed with trays of food before them. He approached slowly, wondering how much progress they'd made today.

Scar launched himself from beneath Daniel's blankets and almost barrelled into him, flying circles around him to finally land on his shoulders with his head on top of Jack's. He tried to extricate Scar from the awkward position, but the alien simply tightened his hold on his neck. He made soft chuffing noises as he rubbed his snout against the side of Jack's face.

By the time Jack approached the beds, both Daniel and Carter were grinning up at him. "He's feeling his oats today, isn't he? Looks like he's recovering pretty well."

"Janet said... was sick?"

Grinning at Daniel's halting but clear voice, Jack sat at the foot of his bed. "Scar got shot by one of the SFs when he came through the wormhole." Jack spoke slowly, and was relieved to see that the two seemed to understand his words. The alien slid down Jack's chest and made his way onto the bed, then butted his nose at something under the covers.

"Scar?"

Jack turned to Carter, explaining.

"Yeah, he's got this little scar right here so..." Jack stretched a hand and felt the small blemish on the beast's neck. "Now he's got a matching one near his butt."

"You brought... Scar... here?"

"No, he followed us... you, actually."

Daniel frowned. "Why?"

"I don't know. I think he took a liking to you from the first."

"Think... Janet... mad at... Scar." Carter was grinning down at the beast, who seemed determined to get at something hidden beside Daniel's leg.

"Well, he did make a nuisance of himself earlier this morning."

Both Carter and Daniel laughed.

"What?"

With an awkward, shaky movement, Daniel lifted the blanket to expose what Scar had been trying to get at, and Jack saw a stethoscope, several Q-tips, several empty vials, one not so empty and Jack wasn't even going to ask what was in it, some shredded tissues, a scrub top and three wooden sticks, one of which had been gnawed.

"Scar's a packrat?"

"He's... stealing... Janet's angry," Carter explained with a grin as Scar scampered to the exposed treasures and settled down amongst them. Daniel covered the little alien, leaving only a slight lump underneath the blanket.

Jack rubbed a hand over his face, knowing he'd have to send the alien home in a short time.

"Fraiser's not going to forget this soon, is she?"

"Nope."

"Damn." He looked at both his friends carefully, noting the slight glassy look of pain medication reflecting out from their eyes. But they were conscious and alert.

"So, you guys seem to be doing pretty good."

"Better." Daniel lowered his gaze and petted Scar through the blanket. The lump squirmed.

"Still suffering from headaches?"

Carter nodded, then picked up a spoonful of jello and put it into her mouth. She chewed slowly, obviously not relishing the food.

"Anything else?"

"Dizzy... sick..." Daniel put a hand to his stomach.

"Does Fraiser know?"

"Yes... sir." Carter had swallowed her jello and put her head back against her pillow. "Said... eat... help."

"Doesn't look like it's helping much," Jack said sympathetically. She rolled her eyes towards Jack and smiled.

"Look... tired."

"It's been a long day and we really missed your input with the Shlidians and Tortons today." At Daniel's confused look, Jack added, "Treaty, two planets, Earth as intermediary? Trinium as payment for our services?"

"Oh." Daniel adjusted the covers as Scar popped his head out from underneath. "I remem...ber. Did... use my... notes?"

"Notes? What notes?" Jack knew Daniel had been working on the agreement and they had used what he had written so far, but it hadn't been finished.

"Didn't... finish..."

"I know. We used what you had and they seemed pleased with it, but they've gotten stuck on the last paragraphs."

"Notes... computer... might help."

"Great. I'll go have a look." Jack got up and then stuck his hands into his pockets. "I'm glad you two are doing better. I was... worried."

"No need... sir."

"I'll let you know if I have problems with the notes. Thanks, Daniel."

Jack left the infirmary and went to Daniel's office. As disorganized as his office appeared, Jack knew he had a system and within minutes, he had pulled out and printed the relevant information from the computer.

"Well I'll be a monkey's uncle," Jack said to himself when he saw that most of what they'd discussed today was actually there, and worded in such a way that he was sure would please the representatives from both worlds. He folded the sheets of paper, intending to bring them home to read over that night before bed.

He turned the computer off, and was getting ready to shut the light when he heard a scuffling sound coming from a dark corner.

"Hey, who's there?" Jack moved towards the sound, wondering if it was a rat. They'd had a slight infestation a few weeks ago that had come through some supply crates but Siler had said he'd taken care of the problem.

Some books had toppled onto the floor and as Jack bent to pick them up, Scar popped his head out of the small space he'd created in the bookcase. He chirruped at Jack, before pushing another book out.

"Oh no, you don't." Jack reached down and grabbed the light body, allowing it to coil itself against his chest as he held it securely. He noted something else in the small space and pulled out a jacket. He threw it onto Daniel's couch, wondering if Scar had scavenged it from inside the office and had dragged it with him to make a little nest to sleep on. "How the hell did you get here? Did you follow me?"

Scar twittered, then laid his head on Jack's shoulder, seeming perfectly happy to be carried around. Since he had Scar in his arms, he wondered if he should take this opportunity to try and get him home. Decision made, he strode out of Daniel's office and down to level 28.

"Any chance of dialing this fella's home planet?" Jack asked Technician Davis as he climbed the stairs into the Control Room.

"I'm sorry, Colonel. We're in the middle of a diagnostic. The Stargate won't be available for dialing out for another ninety minutes, unless it's an emergency. Um, it's not, is it?"

Jack sighed as the small body squirmed against him. "No, thanks. Not an emergency. I'll try again tomorrow."

Instead of returning Scar to the infirmary, Jack brought him back to his own private quarters. He figured he might as well spend the night here, and give Fraiser a break. As he shut the door, Scar uncoiled himself from Jack and flew off to investigate. Jack toed off his shoes, took his jacket off and threw it on a chair. Making himself comfortable on his bed, Jack unfolded the sheets he'd printed from Daniel's notes. With pen in hand, he began studying the text, aware of Scar's investigation and keeping an eye out so that he didn't get into any mischief.

- - - - - -

Jack came awake, hearing something scuffling in the dark. It took him a second to realize where he was and who was making the noise.

"Scar, will you settle down," Jack grumbled. When Jack had finally turned out the light, the little alien had been curled up on the pillow with Jack. Now it seemed to have decided to go play in Jack's bookcase. Jack swore as he heard a book thump onto the floor.

He waited it out, hoping that Scar would settle. Finally, after much shuffling and snuffling sounds, Scar seemed to quiet. Jack turned in the bed, hoping he'd be able to fall back asleep.

- - - - - -

"Come on, lazybones, time to eat." Jack yawned, wanting to get a shower and shave and a change of clothes before visiting Carter and Daniel, and then hitting the commissary. He pulled his pants on, then looked for his jacket. Not seeing it at first glance, he grabbed his boots and put them on.

He got up and circled the bed, and noted a green sleeve hanging from the lower shelf of his bookcase. Several books were strewn on the ground, evidence that Scar had made himself a little nook. Jack stacked the books as he got down on his knees, intending to pull Scar out and carry it back to the infirmary.

As he put a hand into the bookshelf, he thought maybe he should leave Scar here. It was a secured area and they'd have less trouble catching him and bringing him back through the Stargate than the wide-open space of the infirmary.

He felt a warm touch and scratched the soft skin beneath his fingers. He lowered his body to peek at Scar, and what he saw had him pulling his hand back in shock.

Three heads looked up at him; one was familiar and looking pleased with itself, the two miniature versions of their mother were curled up against her body.

- - - - - -

"Doc," Jack said, carefully shifting the box in his arms so she could see inside. "We have a problem."

"Oh my," Fraiser said as she placed a careful finger along one of the small, squirming bodies nestled amongst the folds of Jack's jacket. "I think Scar was trying to tell us something yesterday."

Jack looked up at Fraiser, confused.

"Nesting instincts, Colonel. She was trying to find a safe and comfortable place to have her babies."

"So, what do we do? We can't just shove them out through the Stargate now."

"You're absolutely right, sir. We don't know how the wormhole will affect these little things. Yes, you're a good girl," she crooned as Scar licked one of the babies.

"But what about feeding? She doesn't seem to have any..."

"Any what?"

"Breasts... tits... Um... milk ducts."

"You're assuming she's a mammal. Her kind might feed their young in different ways. Have you fed her yet?"

"No, I just... came here straight with them."

"Then let's give her something to eat and see what happens. The babies must be starving, and she needs something to keep her strength up."

"Where should I�" Jack looked around for a spot to put the box down.

"How about sitting with Daniel and Sam? I'm sure they'd love to see the babies."

Jack looked at her, his worry over his friends forgotten for a moment over the confusion of the babies. "How are they?"

"Doing better this morning." She grinned at Jack. "Go on, I'll go get some of her food and meet you there."

As Jack walked through the infirmary, Scar started to squirm in the box. By the time he got near to the beds, he was almost running as she tried poking her head over the box to peer out. The babies squealed as they were dislodged from the cozy little nook her body made and Scar moaned in distress. Jack figured she was torn between her children, and Daniel.

Teal'c was standing between Carter and Daniel's beds so Jack simply dumped the box on Daniel's lap.

"What's this?" Daniel asked. He looked up at Jack inquisitively before looking down at Scar, who was ecstatic at the attention Daniel was giving her the moment he saw her. In the one quick look Daniel gave him, Jack could see that Daniel was almost himself. His movements were sure, not jerky or shaky like they had been yesterday.

"Easy, careful," Jack quickly cautioned to both the over-eager new mother and Daniel, who was unknowingly exciting her more. "Look." He shifted the edge of his jacket to show the newborns.

"Scar had babies?" Daniel exclaimed.

"What?" Carter was out of her bed in a flash and leaning over the box. Teal'c peered over her shoulder.

"They're so cute." Carter reached a hand and gave a tentative pet to the mom, who had calmed down once more. Scar happily accepted her caress, then reached down to nudge her children, who were barely bigger than Daniel's index finger. Daniel gently stroked the babies, and they responded to his touch by seeking his fingers when he withdrew them.

"When did this happen?" Daniel looked at him in awe, then back down at the babies. Jack moved aside so Carter could sit beside Daniel on the bed.

"Sometime during the night. I kept Scarlett with me in my quarters and hell, if I knew she was planning this. I'd have at least kept the lights on for her."

"Scarlett?" Daniel frowned at the name.

"Well, she is a girl, for crying out loud."

He ignored the way Daniel rolled his eyes at him and concentrated instead on how his friends were doting on mother and babies.

"Here we go." Doctor Fraiser handed him several choice twigs and leaves and he offered them to Scar. She quickly began eating and to their surprise, once she'd masticated the pulp, she fed her babies with it. All of them stood around watching, sappy grins on their faces.

"So, what are we going to do with them," Daniel asked as one baby squirmed over the other in an attempt to get more food.

"Well, we can't just keep them. We'll just have to wait until they're big enough to go through the Stargate without any lasting effects. Maybe a couple days." Jack fed Scarlett another leaf which she happily accepted for herself. "Hey Squiggle, let Squirt have his share." Jack gently pushed the more energetic of the two back onto his jacket.

"You named them?" Daniel looked up at Jack, confused.

"Why not?"

"Squiggle and Squirt?"

"What, you'd prefer Spot and Rover?"

"Now that you mention it..." Daniel dangled a piece of twig in front of the babies and one reached up for it. He laughed, then gave it to Scarlett, not wanting to tease the babies. "They're beautiful, Scar... Scarlett," he amended while looking sideways at Jack with a small grin.

In turn, Scarlett gave a happy chirrup and continued eating her meal. The babies settled down to sleep, bellies full.

"If you don't mind, Colonel. I'd like to take momma and her babies and see if I can make out more of their physiology."

"You're not gonna hurt 'em, are you?" Jack trusted Fraiser but he knew some of the tests they'd performed on Teal'c's symbiote weren't exactly what he'd call a walk in the park.

"Of course not." She looked up at him with a hurt expression. "I've already examined Scar as much as she'd let me�"

"Scarlett."

"Scarlett," she amended with a grin, "but her anatomy is so different that I couldn't even tell she was pregnant. Maybe by examining the babies and comparing them to their mom..."

"Yeah, okay, as long as she doesn't get upset over it," Jack conceded. He brought the box containing the three aliens to a quiet corner where Fraiser could watch and examine to her heart's content, but not too far away that Scarlett wouldn't be able to keep an eye on Jack and the others.

"So, how are you two doing?" Jack asked as Carter moved back to her bed. He sat down beside Daniel where Carter had been sitting earlier.

"Good. Janet said she m...might release us tonight or tomorrow to our quarters."

Jack narrowed his eyes at Daniel's slight stutter. Obviously he wasn't fully recovered yet.

"How's the headache?"

The look Daniel didn't quite give Jack told him plenty. Which was probably one of the reasons why Fraiser was still insisting on keeping him in the infirmary.

"Comes and goes," Daniel finally admitted.

"Along with the dizziness, disorientation and nausea," Carter added. "But at least I'm not cold anymore."

"It's just hard to concentrate sometimes." Daniel removed his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose and forehead. "But the headaches *are* better than they were."

"And the dizziness and�" Jack made a twirling motion with his finger.

"Nausea and disorientation. Better, yes. Just... frustrating because one minute I'm fine, the next minute I can't make out what I'm looking at, and then I can't find my way back to my bed. But Janet says that at the rate the symptoms are abating, we should be over this in three days, tops.

"Good. Maybe you'll be back to normal by the time the kids are old enough to travel through the Stargate."

"Colonel, I'm sure transporting them through the wormhole isn't a problem. I can easily adapt a container that'll protect them from the cold�"

"I believe O'Neill is aware of that. He simply does not wish to remove the alien being from DanielJackson's presence at this point. Is it not a well known fact that new mothers are prone to fits of melancholy?"

Daniel smiled and ignored Jack's enthusiastically whispered 'thank you'. "It's an alien, Teal'c. We don't know how she'll react. And you're talking like she has a crush on me."

"Doesn't she?" Jack knew he was smirking but he couldn't help himself, considering the look Daniel gave him. He watched his teammates carefully for the next couple of minutes as they discussed Scarlett's obvious attachment to Daniel. Both seemed fine but tired; there were moments that were very obvious when they suddenly lost their train of thought, but after a short period, they'd seem to shake it off, and join the conversation again.

He could see they were running out of steam. As did Teal'c because he caught Jack's eye and after a short lull in the conversation, they both excused themselves after coaxing the two to lie down and take a nap.

- - - - - -

There were hands furtively touching him, whispers echoing all around. He jerked awake, disoriented, but ready to come up fighting. He opened his eyes and the room blurred around him as he tensed against the hard bands that bore down on his shoulder and hip. Pain flared in his head as he struggled to rise.

"Easy, no sudden moves." Despite the familiarity of the voice, he fought against the hold that kept him pinned to the bed.

"Damnit, Daniel, lie still."

The words and voice suddenly became familiar and Daniel now strained to focus on Jack's face. He realized his friend was holding him still and he forced himself to relax back onto the bed. Jack's face grew into focus, only a few inches away from his.

"Good, that's good." He eased his hold and squeezed Daniel's shoulder before pulling back. "Didn't mean to wake you but we didn't want you squashing the kids." Jack waved towards Daniel's chest and he suddenly became aware of the small bundle of heat against his abdomen. "Here, let me move Squiggle." Daniel felt Jack's fingers against his neck and chin, and suddenly he had a small, squirming white shape in his hands.

"Scarlett sneaked the kids out of her box and came to cuddle up with you," Jack explained as he put the baby alien into the shelter of its mother's body. Scarlett opened sleepy eyes, raised her head and gave the baby a lick before nestling against Daniel once more.

"Where's...?" Daniel raised his head and looked for the second baby.

"Squirt?" He's here." Jack raised the corner of Daniel's blanket that covered Scarlett's lower body, exposing the small tightly curled circle lying between Daniel and Scarlett. Again Jack picked up the baby and laid it down, unresisting, beside its sibling.

Squirt yawned and promptly went back to sleep.

Daniel remembered vague impressions of the hot little body pressed against his during his illness. "She spent a lot of time with me, didn't she?" The memories were comforting, a constant for the most part when he'd woken up confused and in pain.

"Yeah, well, she seemed to know you needed to be kept warm. She and her kind did help keep you and Carter nice and toasty back on the planet during the night, and then throughout the day while Teal'c went to get help."

Daniel placed his hand on her head, surprised as always at how much the shape of it felt like that of a small, short-haired cat.

"Anyways, she'd been hurt, I did tell you one of the SF's shot her?"

Daniel nodded.

"So I guess she was looking for a friendly body to curl up with while recuperating."

Daniel shifted on the pillow and drew the blankets up to cover Scarlett and her babies.

"I don't remember much of what happened on the planet, but wasn't there a baby we were trying to rescue...?"

"Yeah, last time I'd checked, it was fine. Teal'c pulled it out after Scarlett's friends turned off the containment field and we managed to get to you two."

"They what?"

"Got right down on those panels and pushed the crystals into position. Seems like they had been paying attention to Carter. I think they're a lot more intelligent than they're letting on."

"Scarlett must have trusted us to come through the Stargate knowing she was pregnant." Daniel yawned, the medications in his system forcing the headache to recede were making him sleepy.

"Or else she was just attracted to those baby blues of yours," Jack said with a grin.

Daniel smiled and closed his eyes contentedly while Jack explained more of the aliens' intelligence through their antics.

- - - - - -

Scarlett whined pathetically as Daniel leaned wearily against the infirmary's cold cement wall. He closed his eyes as the room blurred sickeningly and swallowed down the bile he could feel rising in his throat.

He felt her bump his shoulder but he needed to rest for just a moment. But he could feel her worry, could sense her hovering close by, waiting for him to continue helping with the search.

Resolutely he opened his eyes and forced his sight to remain in focus. Scarlett flew off, circling the infirmary and calling for her missing child. Daniel continued looking, peering under beds, inside drawers and in any other likely spots that Squiggle could have squeezed into. Hardly a day after their birth, both babies, it seemed, had the ability to fly and were blessed with ten times the curiosity of a kitten. He hoped these little creatures had at least double the number of lives of a cat.

He could hear Sam and Janet's nurses helping with the search, but he knew they'd have to go back to their duties pretty soon.

"I know you're worried," Daniel said to Scarlett when she flew back to him. "We'll find your baby, don't worry."

But Daniel was worried. If Squiggle had made his way out of the infirmary, there were so many places that he could get himself locked up inside of and they'd never find him for weeks, if not months. Hell, even the infirmary had too many hidey-holes, places too tempting for a curious baby alien to stay away from.

He straightened up and swayed, caught himself on the wall, then took a step forward. He looked at the table in front of him, not remembering if he'd searched it yet. Everything was a jumble, had he been going left, or right? He stood there, confused, unable to figure out where he was in relation to his bed, until he felt a touch on his shoulder.

"I think it's time you got back into bed." Janet tugged insistently at his arm.

"Scarlett's baby," Daniel argued, finding himself holding onto Janet, hardly able to keep his balance.

"We'll keep looking. You need to rest."

"I..." Too tired to argue, Daniel lowered his head and allowed himself to be led back. He ignored Scarlett's small squeaks and twitters, the desperate sounds breaking his heart.

They stopped before a rumbled bed and Janet gave him a gentle shove. He climbed onto the bed gratefully, not realizing how much he'd been shaking. Janet pulled the blankets up to his chest, and he turned his head to watch Scarlett continuing her search.

"Found him!" An excited voice called out from across the room and within seconds, one of the nurses rushed to Daniel, Squiggle squirming in her hands. Scarlett was flying around the two, yipping excitedly. She placed the terrified baby onto Daniel's chest and it immediately scurried towards his neck and made its way underneath his scrub top. Scarlett landed beside Daniel and nudged the tiny bump beneath the material, crooning gently. A moment later, Squiggle popped its head out and called pitifully to its mother.

Scarlett climbed onto Daniel and curled around her baby. Her weight was almost negligible, her body heat and presence comforting. Daniel saw Janet take Squirt out of the container where they'd placed him for safekeeping while they'd initiated the search. Both babies cuddled up between Daniel and their mother, both safe, and everyone relieved.

- - - - - -

"Just a second!" Daniel lowered the book he'd been reading down onto the bed and eyed the two babies, who were swooping excitedly around the room. He eased Scarlett off his chest, got up and cautiously moved towards the door. But Squirt and Squiggle followed him, darting around him in a frenzied aerial dance in anticipation of seeing the person behind the door.

Jack was right, these aliens were smart. They'd recognized Jack's voice.

"Daniel, open up!" Jack's muffled voice sent the babies hovering at the point where the door met the jamb.

"Just a minute, I have to..." Daniel turned to Scarlett, who was eyeing him lazily from his pillow. "Do you mind?" he asked her sarcastically, waving towards the babies.

Scarlett rose languidly and herded the two back to the bed, but Squiggle, twice as energetic as Squirt, escaped her and rushed back to Daniel. Maybe it was coincidence or simply an accident, but Daniel instinctively put his hand out and caught Squiggle as he moved back and forth in anticipation. He quickly held the small form against his shoulder, holding it gently but firmly.

Daniel reached out with his free hand and unlocked the door. He stood back for Jack to enter. "Hurry," Daniel urged when Jack simply poked his head through the door. Squiggle struggled fiercely against him and a white streak zipped across the room as soon as Jack slipped inside. Daniel slammed the door shut and let go of Squiggle, glad that for the moment, both babies' attention was on Jack.

He laughed at the picture his friend presented. Squiggle was sitting on top of Jack's head and Squirt was perched on Jack's shoulder. Both were butting their heads against him, demanding their share of attention.

They had grown quickly in the three days since Daniel had been released from the infirmary, having more than doubled in size and width. They were full of energy and curiosity, and both of them, including Scarlett, had since been confined to Daniel's quarters to keep them out of trouble.

General Hammond had said it was for their own protection, but Daniel was sure it was more to ease the nerves of Janet and her nurses, who were constantly being startled by one of the babies poking their heads out of wherever they'd gotten into to investigate. Of course that maddening search through the infirmary for Squiggle hadn't helped matters any, nor had it taught Squiggle a lesson of any kind.

"Hammond says we have a go for tomorrow." Jack picked Squiggle off of his head and held him against his cheek.

"We? So that means..." He nervously petted Scarlett as she made her way onto his lap.

"Fraiser gave the okay, just as long as you and Carter don't overdo it. Our window's for 0600 hours, so just make sure you get a good night's sleep. We got a long walk ahead of us."

Daniel grinned. Not that he wouldn't miss the attention from the aliens once they'd brought them back to their home world, but he was getting a little fed up of being holed up in his room. Even the short time he took to go eat in the commissary ended up in bedlam whenever he'd return. The kids, and he didn't put it past Scarlett to add her share to the mess, tended to take pleasure in knocking everything off his bookcases and bureau and ripping up half his papers. And the reason he suspected Scarlett was that some of the drawers had been opened, and emptied. The children didn't have the physical strength to do so, but she obviously did.

Still, if he hated being cooped up in this room; he could imagine she did, too. Daniel was grateful for General Hammond being so patient and allowing the aliens to remain on the base until he was strong enough to accompany SG-1 in returning them to their home. He was curious to how the babies would be received by their brethren, and also what SG14 might have discovered about them.

And he wanted to see how the baby they'd rescued was doing. If it was still alive, then everything he'd gone through would have been worthwhile.

"So, you hungry? Feel like a little dinner?" Jack sat on Daniel's bed, leaning against the wall. He crossed his feet at the ankles and allowed the babies to crawl down to his chest.

Actually Daniel was starving since he'd skipped lunch, considering the amount of time it had taken him to pick up the mess Scarlett and company had made of his room.

"Yeah, I am, actually, but..."

"But?" Jack grinned at him and Daniel was tempted to shift the beasts to Jack's room for the remainder of their stay.

Daniel looked around his quarters, sighing heavily. Maybe this would be the last time he'd have to pick up after them. "Okay." Daniel straightened. "What's on the menu?"

"Actually," Jack said, not moving from where he lounged. "Chinese."

"Oh. What else?" The fake oriental dishes they served here were barely palatable; maybe he'd be lucky and they'd have meatloaf or pasta.

"That's it. Chinese."

As if on cue, someone knocked at the door. Daniel kept a wary eye on the babies until Jack placed a restraining hand over each, then rushed to open the door. Sam quickly entered with Teal'c right behind her holding an enormous paper bag.

"Hi Daniel." She smiled at him a moment before making a beeline for the bed, and the babies. Squirt and Squiggle happily left Jack and greeted Sam and Teal'c as heartily as they had Jack.

"Good timing, kids," Jack said, sitting up to take the bag from Teal'c. Daniel recognized the name of his favourite Chinese restaurant and grinned at Jack, who grinned back. "So, fancy some Chinese?"

They quickly doled out portions onto plastic plates and sat on bed and chairs, eating and talking. Scarlett showed interest in their meal and to their surprise, took a piece of broccoli from Daniel's plate and ate it. Soon they were all sharing their meal with her and the babies, laughing.

- - - - - -

The babies weren't happy to be boxed up in the insulated container Sam had whipped up for them. He could feel them butting against the box in his hands, and wished the computer could dial the 'gate addresses faster.

"Chevron four encoded."

The voice boomed over the intercom and Daniel turned to glance at Jack, who had a tight grip on Scarlett. She, in turn, was watching the activities in the Gateroom with avid interest, and Daniel saw her constantly glancing towards the SFs relaxing in the back of the room.

He took a step closer to her, hoping to reassure her that everything was going to be okay. Sam adjusted her pack, which reminded Daniel at how much heavier it felt today. He wondered if maybe they weren't truly fit to go out in the field yet. But all they were doing was going for a walk, albeit a long one.

Then again, he and Sam could always ride on the F.R.E.D. if they got tired since it was mostly empty.

"Chevron seven, locked."

The Stargate exploded in a wash of blue, and Daniel realized that most of the people in the room now barely glanced at the wonder that it was. Strange how over the years something as incredible as the Stargate could become so mundane.

Scarlett, on the other hand, was staring at it and to Daniel's surprise, seemed to be stretching towards it.

Yep, she knew she was going home.

With a jaunty wave towards the Control Room, Jack led them up the ramp and out into the waiting wormhole behind the slow-moving F.R.E.D.

The moment he was through, Daniel looked for Scarlett. Jack let her go and she was soaring through the air, and within seconds she was joined by several others of her kind. Daniel went to open the box to allow the babies out, but decided to wait until their mom finished greeting the others, afraid that they might be a little overwhelmed by the open space and might panic.

His team came to stand around him as they watched the aliens twirl around one another mid-air. It was apparent that their kind enjoyed touch, which explained a lot why Scarlett and her babies constantly sought their company.

Finally Scarlett and two others came to hover near Daniel and he slowly opened the box. Two angry babies sped out, only to come to a screeching halt when they realized they were no longer underground. Immediately they sought their mother, but again coming to a standstill when they noticed the other aliens. Daniel and the rest of his team were grinning like loons as they watched the babies introduced to probably what were family members, and Daniel guessed the one that constantly twined itself around Scarlett must be their father.

"Shall we?"

Jack's voice brought them all back to why they were here and Sam got the F.R.E.D. moving. They began walking towards the rock formations in the distance, a trek that Daniel knew would take a few hours.

To their surprise, Scarlett and a handful of the aliens began following them. The babies began to get over their reticence and were interacting with the adults. Their antics kept them entertained as they travelled along.

Two hours later found the two exhausted youngsters curled up in one of Daniel's vest pockets. They had enthusiastically explored everything they could see and find, much to the amusement of SG1 and the adult aliens. Finally too tired to fly, they had come and perched on Daniel's shoulder for a while, then had begun looking for a niche to curl up inside of. Daniel had emptied a pocket and they two had gratefully climbed inside.

Scarlett would occasionally come and coil herself around Daniel as if to say hello, and to check on the sleeping babies. At one time another of the aliens followed her down and both had peeked into the pocket.

Daniel found it odd how he could always pick Scarlett out of the bunch. Even now, simply a shadow set against the late afternoon sun as she languidly flew by, there was something about the way she moved, the angle of her tilted head, the small sounds she made, which were plainly her. He noticed his teammates also had no difficulty identifying her. He was curious how SG14 was faring with the aliens and if they had been able to find anything out about them. Janet had examined them as much as she could and both she and Sam still couldn't explain exactly how they managed to fly.

The other SG team was glad to see them and greeted them enthusiastically. Jack excused Daniel from helping unload the F.R.E.D. on the pretext that he had the babies in his pocket, but he suspected Jack knew how tired he really was. He noted also that Jack sent Carter inside to talk with Lt. Sloan to learn whatever discoveries SG14 had made.

Soon they were sitting around a campfire eating supper, and Daniel found himself hard pressed not to nod off. The walk had really tired him out, more than he liked to admit. He noticed Sam had trouble keeping her eyes open also.

The babies had long since woken up and had disappeared with their family. Jack had pointed out the trees in the distance where they might have gone to eat. Daniel remembered seeing small groves of them all over the place, including near the Stargate. He wondered if that was where Jack had collected the food for Scarlett and her babies over the past few days.

He stood, hoping that activity would keep him alert. He decided to explore the area, as much of the time he'd spent here, he'd been unconscious. He walked around the rock face, noting that many of the aliens had made small nests of sorts in depressions all over the rock. A few flew down to greet him, butting his arms and shoulders gently before they flew back to where they'd been resting. It wasn't until he made the full circuit of the rock formation did he come across the baby they'd attempted to rescue.

There was no mistaking it. Instead of a smooth, sleek body, it was deformed, part of its body pushed into an unnatural angle due to the time it had been stuck in the box. Daniel had no idea how long the poor thing had been trapped; it must have suffered terribly.

The parent that was with it swooped down excitedly when it saw him, twirling around him and chirping non-stop. Finally it hovered near him and rubbed its head against his face. The baby came to see what its parent was so interested in, and Daniel slowly put a hand up. It butted against him, then rubbed its head also, begging to be stroked. Daniel smiled, admitting to himself that having gone through the pain of the last few days had been worth it just to see the little fellow before him now.

"Made another friend, didja?"

Daniel turned to look at Jack, who was now stroking the baby's mother. "I wonder how old it was when it got trapped inside the containment field."

"I bet it wasn't much bigger than the twins."

"What I don't understand is that if that machinery in there is as old as Sam says it is, you'd think there would be remains of other aliens caught inside of it. It can't just be the one that got too curious and went a little too close."

"I know, I've seen Squirt and Squiggle in action myself, remember?" Jack leaned over and gave the baby a pet. "Maybe these guys somehow got the power turned on, or maybe they migrated here recently. I doubt it's something we'll ever know for sure."

Daniel shivered as a cold wind suddenly picked up.

"Come on, night comes fast in these parts, and I know you're tired."

"Have SG14 discovered anything?" Daniel began walking towards the camp, and the two aliens returned to their nest.

"Not yet. Carter says most of the systems aren't working and what power there is was diverted to keep the force field operational."

"So, another of those scientific mysteries we'll never solve?"

"Most likely, although they feel there's still some advantage in continuing to examine it. That's why they're gonna take it apart and bring it back to Earth."

"Well, at least that way there won't be any more accidents with babies getting stuck inside." He wouldn't admit it to Jack, but he had harboured the fear that one of the twins would suffer the same fate as the other baby.

"The strange thing is that Santini said these aliens here have no fear of interacting with them, but if they met up with other... families, although they showed curiosity, they wouldn't get close enough to allow to be touched. Seems that by saving the little one, we gained their trust."

"Didn't they let us pet them before we saved the baby?"

"Okay, then, *you* gained their trust." Jack punched Daniel lightly on the arm.

"Do you think Scarlett went through the Stargate to get intel on us?"

Jack laughed, removed his cap before threading his hands through his hair and replaced the cap. "You know, it wouldn't surprise me one bit."

Their sleeping bags had been rolled out around the campfire and Daniel gratefully took his boots off and climbed into his. Before he could manage to zip it up, Scarlett and the babies suddenly appeared beside him and burrowed inside. Three more aliens squeezed in and his sleeping bag became a large, squirming container of aliens and human trying to get comfortable.

He heard Major Santini chuckling and he raised his head to see everyone watching him. Scarlett made her way near his head and curled up against his chest, the babies curled within the coils of her body.

As the rest of the crew settled into their sleeping bags, they were all joined by more aliens. "Better than a heating blanket, anyday," Santini said.

He caught Jack's gaze as Jack lifted his head to look at Daniel. He caught Jack's wink in the firelight, and smiled back. He lowered his head and relaxed, knowing he wouldn't feel the cold that night.

And, he admitted to himself with a sigh, he was going to miss Scarlett's warm little body when he went back home tomorrow. And the twins' antics. But as he fished out a small rock that one of the babies had brought into the sleeping bag with it, he thought, maybe he wouldn't miss everything.

 

FINIS!


Author's Comments:

 A heartfelt Thank You to devra for the alpha, and to DebA for the medical.

A rib-crushing HUG to Wilma for the wonderful sketch she did of Scar/Scarlett, and doing this from only a few descriptions. You're incredible, hon.

The gang, as usual, has kept me on the straight and narrow, informing me with no holds barred if our Daniel isn't quite whumped enough. Thanks, guys!

My heartsisters, who have made me laugh and smile, and who I have come to rely on so much in my writing, always hold a special place in my heart.

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DISCLAIMER:The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.