"I will not be able to assist you today," Carah told Daniel. She stood next to him, hands clasped primly before her, eyes downcast as she assumed the formal stance of presenting information.
Daniel looked up from his work, surprised at her words. Carah had been a huge help in translating the writings and symbols his team had unearthed in an ancient ruin on P4E 334. The discovery had borne excitement to the people of the village and surrounding area, and everyone had been more than willing to help out with the excavation. Now all that was left was to try and figure out what the temple had been used for, which was right up Daniel's line of work.
"That's too bad." He scratched his cheek, felt the grate of stubble which he hadn't bothered shaving this morning in his rush to get an early start with the work. With a glance at his watch, he realized with surprise that it was later than he thought. "I got this wall cleared off earlier and I'd been hoping that we could have started working on it this morning."
He didn't mention that he'd recognized a few of the words on the wall; it spoke of ancient gods and Daniel suspected the references might just be about the Goa'uld. They knew there had been Goa'uld dominion over this world up to just a few short years ago, but no amount of prompting or questioning of the inhabitants revealed concrete answers as to what had happened to them. He wasn't sure they even knew they'd been ruled by parasitical sadists � the Goa'uld who'd ruled here then had done so through veiled edicts from the old priests.
"I guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow."
Carah raised her eyes to look at him, then quickly lowered them. She seemed nervous. "That will not be possible... I may not return for several days... maybe longer."
"May I ask where you're going?" Daniel put down the brush he'd been using to sweep the last of the dirt from the stone wall and looked at her expectantly.
"I have been... selected... to render veneration... on the first day of Imbolic."
"Oh, right. Springtime." The weather was mild and there had been sure signs of the season's change. Young shoots were springing out of the ground, leaves were budding in the trees and the air had that nice, earthy smell on the warm breeze.
"Do your people not celebrate Imbolic and Beltrane?" Carah asked in a shocked voice.
"Not anymore, at least not like yours do." Daniel smiled. "I will miss your help, but I know duty calls. I'll just muddle through this myself if I have to."
"I would have offered a colleague's help," she answered a little hesitantly, "but he has also been chosen. But if all goes well, he will assist you tomorrow." The teenager bit down on her lower lip, chewing it nervously.
"Him... and not you?" Daniel asked carefully.
"I have been told I may... please the gods."
Daniel had noticed her cautious wording while trying to explain her impending absence, but her last statement instantly caused him to worry.
"And that would be a bad thing because...?" he prompted.
"I do not wish to be chosen, Daniel," Carah answered in a rush. She looked around the temple ruins and lowered her voice despite the fact that they were the only two here. "I am afraid. I have heard it to be painful and I do not wish to be ill."
"What? I thought the practice of celebrating Imbolic had to do with the presence of springtime � it shouldn't involve anything that should make you sick."
"It does if you are chosen," she whispered, the last word clearly emphasized.
"Can't you refuse?"
"It is an honour to be selected. My sister was chosen at Beltrane before last, I was deemed too young then. But today... there has been talk and�"
"It shouldn't be considered an honour if it scares you, Carah."
"I know." She shifted nervously, looking about the room as if unable to meet Daniel's gaze.
"What exactly is done at the ceremony? What is it you're so scared of?"
"The Shunnen." She glanced quickly at him, her eyes wide with fright. "It will make me ill. Like it did Cendra."
Carah's sister, a tall, willowy blond who had a quiet, haunted appearance and who wasn't quite right mentally, came to Daniel's mind. "Shunnen... do you mean to say that�"
Bells sounded across the meadow and Carah suddenly became flustered. "I have to go. They're calling for us."
"What if I went with you?" Daniel stood from his crouched position and wiped his hands free of dirt on his pants. "I could make sure nobody hurts you."
"You cannot... only those who have been selected to participate may attend the sacred rites."
"You mean there are never any witnesses?"
Carah bit her lip, then shrugged her shoulders. "I do not know. I have heard my parents speak of strangers who have come from the temple... perhaps they bore witness."
The bell sounded once more and Carah jumped and looked at Daniel in panic. "I must go now."
"That's it. I'm going with you. If anyone asks, I can say I was curious to see the ceremony since most of Earth's cultures don't celebrate it anymore." He stopped and looked at Carah. "Where's it being held?"
Wordlessly, she pointed at the large cliff at the far end of the meadow. Daniel remembered it well. There in the rock wall was a manmade cave that had been dug centuries ago, its interior lined with marble and gold trim. There had been no writing inside; despite its extravagant interior, the only thing other item in the room was a large stone altar made of malachite, and upon which were offerings of dried fruits and flowers.
"You go on ahead, I'll catch up." Before she could say anything else, he strode over to his gear which he'd left nearby and picked up his radio. "Go on." He nodded towards the cliff. "I'll be right behind you."
He clicked the radio on as she left.
"Jack, you there?"
"I'm here. What's up? You already regretting not coming to the beach with us?" Jack's voice was lazy and slow. Given that he and the rest of the team had gone to the seashore so that Sam could check out some of the trinium-tinted rocks they'd learned had washed ashore, Daniel could envisage his friend sunning himself, underneath a palm tree. Daniel squinted out into the meadow before him and realized that there wouldn't be any palm trees here, but still, he smiled at the visual.
"I just wanted to give you a head's up. I'm going to go watch a ceremony to celebrate Imbolic." With one hand, Daniel rummaged through his backpack and removed his zat. While the planet was peaceful, they had kept their weapons close at hand, as per protocol. Daniel had kept his in his backpack, out of sight of the locals but within easy reach.
"Better you than me. I've just about had it watching you blow the dust away from those rocks all day long."
"Jack, we may have a Goa'uld right here, right now."
"You need backup?" Jack's voice had sharpened; that had certainly gotten his attention.
"Yeah, maybe, I might. I'm not sure. I'm going to sneak in and try to get a look, but Jack, Carah was pretty scared and although she didn't come right out and say it, I think she might be in trouble."
"So this is..."
"Just a gut feeling."
"It's the pickles you ate last night. Gave me gas all night long."
"That was you? I thought it was Teal'c."
"Funny. Look, we're packing up... we'll be there in about thirty minutes."
"Okay, gotcha." Daniel grabbed his pack and left the ruins, hurrying across the field towards the edge of the woods. He could see a couple of kids walking across the field, right behind Carah.
"Be careful, okay?"
"Aren't I always?"
As he hurried towards the cave, he fumbled one-handed in his pack for his utility vest. Originally it had been neatly folded inside, but over the past few days it had made its way to the bottom of the bag. There was a cord of some sort caught up around it and the cover to his thermos.
Swearing softly, Daniel followed the cord to its end, only to discover a round piece of wood to which it was attached.
So that was where Jack's yo-yo had gotten to. He bit back a small grin as he stealthily made his way to the cave's entrance. He didn't have time now to untangle the vest so he'd do without and shoved it back into the depths of his backpack.
Daniel peeked inside the cave; eleven teens were standing around the altar, looking slightly bewildered and nervous. He recognized six of them, including Carah, as some of the kids who'd helped out with the dig. He saw Carah glance over her shoulder towards him, but she didn't appear to see him. After a moment Daniel realized the glare from the cave's entrance must be blinding her, hiding him from sight. Even better.
There was quiet conversation between the teens; their emotions ranging from low-level excitement to subdued fear like Carah's. The chit-chat stopped when a portion of the wall behind the altar appeared to melt, exposing a corridor leading deeper into the rock.
Daniel couldn't see who had opened the hidden corridor, but he waited a few heartbeats until the last teen had stepped through, then followed. The way was lit with some sort of artificial lighting built into the ceiling, small round globes that gave off just enough illumination so no one would miss a turn or bump into the walls.
They didn't go far; the corridor emptied out into a large circular room. There seemed to be many corridors leading to the room, with large stone statues placed haphazardly around. Daniel estimated at least two dozen entrances/exits. As the teenagers moved towards some sort of cauldron on a pedestal in the center, Daniel left the safety of the corridor and hid behind a large statue several feet to the left. There was someone with the kids, leading them, probably the one who had opened the hidden entrance to the tunnel. His back was to Daniel but he had the size and shape of a Jaffa.
He peered around the edge of the statue, trying to get a glimpse inside the translucent cauldron. It looked familiar, after a moment one of the teens moved and he got a clear look. He recognized it with a sharp pang. He'd seen a similar one on Chulak when the team had first met Teal'c's family.
There were two lone Goa'uld larvae swimming in the glass container. A quick look around the room showed several more of these containers. And as far as he could tell, two them were seething with Goa'uld symbiotes.
Shit. And there, standing in full armour, were three Jaffa. At first glance he'd mistaken them for statues; he was glad their head armour was engaged, otherwise they would have spotted him when he'd moved.
Daniel readied his zat, wincing at the slight ping it made as he primed it. He flattened his back against the cool rock, thinking out his options. He had the element of surprise; he could catch one Jaffa, maybe two, before the third could reach for his weapon. But the fourth... the one who'd led the teens to the cauldron and who was definitely Jaffa despite not being in armour, was right there with the kids. If Daniel wasn't fast enough or missed, they could be caught in the crossfire. Even worse, the fourth Jaffa could take one of them as hostage.
He looked again over his shoulder and decided he couldn't take the chance. The Jaffa was intoning some sort of prayer, the words and accent a little different but the gist of it was repetitive... something about nature, and pleasing the gods and�
The kids seemed to be mesmerized, entranced, their eyes were half closed, slowly rocking side to side and none of them were reacting to the Goa'uld. The Jaffa plunged his hand into the cauldron and pulled out one of the symbiotes.
The snake hissed and bristled as the Jaffa passed it before each of the teenagers, then smoothed itself as it neared Carah. God, Daniel knew what was going to happen and he hurriedly pulled back in horror. He heard the crunch of bone and sinew as the creature entered her. He shivered with dread; the sounds all too familiar, reminding him of the time he'd helplessly been witness to Jack being snaked. The soft thud of a body falling signalled that the horror was over for him, but just beginning for Carah.
He heard the hiss of a second symbiote and looked just in time to see a blond boy being chosen. Again Daniel couldn't bear to watch and wished he could block his ears and stop the noises instead of standing there, tense and sweating heavily, until the boy had joined Carah on the ground.
The sounds of footsteps scuffing on stone had him watching once more. The teens were led back to the corridor and Daniel hurried to the far end of the statue. As they passed, he could see their eyes were glassy, they definitely had been drugged.
But then Daniel realized that these kids hadn't all been chosen. Only two of the eleven were lost to them and the Jaffa hadn't killed off the losers. If the teens had been drugged and had no memory of this happening... then maybe they would survive this ordeal.
As the last of the teens entered the corridor, the Jaffa waved a hand over some kind of control and a reddish hue covered the entrance. Daniel squinted at it, wondering if it was some sort of force field. He looked around and noted the same glow covering all of the other exits.
Oh great. This was getting better all the time.
By now the two new Goa'uld hosts were stirring. The Jaffa spoke softly to them then bowed low in obeisance as they stood.
"When will the ship return to this planet?" The Goa'uldy inflection coming from Carah's mouth sent shivers down Daniel's spine.
"The remaining symbiotes are still very young. They will not mature for several months. There is a Stargate on this planet; you may reach it through this tunnel."
Daniel ducked back behind the statue as the Jaffa pointed to the corridor behind him.
Without another word, the two Goa'uld began walking towards him. Again he moved to the far side of the statue and they passed through the red shield with only a brief flare.
Then the sound of Jaffa armour jingled in the room, accompanied by the heavy tread of boots. The noises were moving away from him. Another quick peek showed that all four were heading for an exit opposite where he was hiding. Again a brief flare occurred as they stepped out of the room and into a corridor.
Daniel stepped away from the statue, took a careful look around to be sure he was alone, then headed for the corridor the teens and the two new implanted Goa'uld had taken. If he hurried, he could probably head off the two Goa'uld, zat them before they got too far or tried to hurt anyone.
He ran the few steps to the corridor and met with resistance when he tried to go through. Resistance? Hell, it was like an invisible wall. His shoulder smarted from where he'd bounced.
Okay, the Jaffa had said this corridor would take them to the Stargate... which was only a few miles away from the village. If he took another corridor, would he arrive that much farther? He might not be in time to stop the Goa'uld themselves but maybe Jack and the others would. They had to be close by now.
He met the same resistance with the next opening, although he approached it more slowly. And the next. Okay, Jaffa-guy had obviously locked the doors. Maybe Daniel could find the key. He went back to where he'd seen the Jaffa wave his hand over the controls. Nothing. If there was anything there, it was well hidden within the rock. Most likely the Jaffa had had something in his hand that keyed the controls remotely.
Okay, maybe there was another way out, or maybe he was missing something. Daniel took a quick walk around the cave, checking each exit as he walked past. He covered his mouth and nose with his hand as he walked past a brazier still emitting acrid smoke. This was probably what had made the teens susceptible to the Jaffa's actions. And as with his first assumption, only two of the cauldrons were filled. And yes, the Goa'uld inside were babies, swarming around in liquid like a bunch of eels.
Daniel shivered as he passed by them, tempted to zat them all into oblivion. He stopped, raised his zat and aimed it at the nearest cauldron, when suddenly it hit him.
The Jaffa had allowed the children to pass through the exit before locking it. The two Goa'uld had passed through the blockage without a problem, as did the four Jaffa.
He put the zat down and cursed. Why hadn't he seen it before?
Quickly, he rummaged through his pack and took out his thermos. There was an inch of warm coffee inside and he dumped it on the floor. As he thrust the thermos into the cauldron's warm liquid, he felt the symbiotes bump his hand. He gritted his teeth, remembering how he'd been so relieved when Sam had done this very thing a few years ago.
He pulled out the dripping thermos and looked inside expectantly, hoping that one of the symbiotes had been dumb enough to swim into the container.
No such luck, it was empty.
This time, without the thermos, he dipped his hand into the liquid and quickly grabbed one of the Goa'uld. Wriggling and squirming, it hissed at him as Daniel tried to place it head-first into the liquid-filled thermos. After a moment, he changed tactics, allowing it to slide in tail-first.
He quickly screwed the cap on and headed for the exit he'd come through earlier. He could feel the thermos vibrating as the larva inside tried desperately to escape. He held the thermos against his abdomen, hoping whatever scanner there was would think he was Jaffa.
He slid right through the entrance as if nothing was there. He nearly tossed the thermos back into the cave, then stayed the movement. If there were more force fields, he'd need it to get through them.
Walking quickly now, he loosely zipped his jacket and thrust the thermos inside, holding it in place to leave his hands free. Zat ready, he hurried into the cave.
He passed through another force field and into the smaller cave, blinded momentarily by the light coming through the opening. The room appeared to be crowded and he paused, trying to make out familiar faces in the glare.
Then something wet was sprayed into his face. He took a step back, his eyes tearing up immediately, the mist catching at his breath. He tripped over something and felt himself falling. He felt a flash of pain as his hip and shoulder connected with the ground, and the world disappeared.
- - - - - -
The damned natives hit Daniel with that one-two punch concoction that felled the whole teenage contingent before Jack could utter a word. Daniel dropped like a rock, tripping over someone's leg.
"Son of a bitch." Jack began stepping over limbs and torsos, trying to make his way towards his friend.
None of the villagers had made a move to help the teens; they'd shown up at the same time as SG-1, the elders dressed in long, grey robes. Several had waited near the secret passageway, one that obviously wasn't all that secret after all, and had knocked the kids out with a face-full of mist once they'd filed into the room. The people had acted as if this was a daily occurrence. Well okay, Daniel had mentioned a ceremony and if it hadn't been for the fact that he'd suspected a�
Teal'c, who was crouched beside the last two who'd come out of the secret passageway, turned to look at Jack.
"These two are Goa'uld."
"Ah, crap." Jack stopped to look at the pretty teenager who'd had a bit of a crush on Daniel and who'd been following him around for the past week like a puppy. "You're sure?" he asked. Teal'c simply raised an eyebrow and Jack mentally kicked himself. Of course Teal'c was sure.
Carter had skirted around Jack and was crouching beside Daniel.
"Oh my God." She reared back in panic, almost falling on her butt. She looked at Jack in horror. "Sir, he's..."
Jack felt his stomach lurch. Had that stuff done more than just knock Daniel out? "Is he okay?" He nearly tripped in his hurry to get to Daniel.
"No," Carter whispered.
Teal'c reached Daniel's side at the same time as Jack. He quickly put a hand out, preventing Jack from coming closer and aimed his zat at Daniel. "I sense a Goa'uld inside him also."
"God damn." Jack wanted to punch or hit something. "Shit!"
He looked at Daniel, who had fallen onto his side. His face lay against some kid's leg, half hiding it. His hair was spread forward, revealing part of his neck. Jack looked but couldn't see a scar.
The villagers had begun chanting, the sound was grating on his already frayed nerves. "Let's get him out of here." Jack reached down to grab Daniel, but one of the elders yelled out, "No."
"They are Scunian. You must not touch them," another ordered.
"Yeah, yeah, I know. But we can help these kids." He looked first to Carter, then Teal'c. "Only the three of them got snaked?"
"I'm pretty sure it's only these three, sir."
"They are the only ones."
"Then we can take them to Cimmeria and�"
"No, he must not be moved. The Shunnen has already begun. You must not interfere."
"Like hell I can't. That's my teammate you're talking about here."
"The Ti'isa we have administered is powerful." Bacon - or was it Bagon - the guy in charge of the village, indicated the container of knockout juice he was holding in his hand. "If it is the will of the spirits, our children will return to us whole and healthy." Bagon moved away from the doorway and approached Jack.
"If you haven't poisoned them, then nine of them will be whole and healthy. Two of them... well, let's just say they won't exactly be themselves from now on. And Daniel," he added softly.
"If any of the children have been chosen by the gods, then the Shunnen will return them to us. Interference in the rite will only make them worse. I am sorry Doctor Jackson became involved; he is now also Scunian."
Carter had stood up and also had her gun aimed at the two Goa'uld who still lay unconscious on the stone floor. She glanced at Bagon quickly before speaking. "Are you saying that this Tea...?"
"...will cure these three of the parasite that's inside of them?"
"There is a ceremony�"
"Of course there is," Jack drawled.
"Then the fever will come on them. It will burn the gods' traces from them. If they are pure of heart and strong of will, they will recover."
"Bagon, the girl Cendra was once Scunian, was she not?"
Jack tried to put a face to the name Teal'c just mentioned but came up blank.
"She was. But the Shunnen was discontinued; her parents were unable to commit and the girl became addled."
Jack remembered; the tall, blond woman who wouldn't talk and seemed to be off on her own all the time. He'd believed she was mentally challenged; but it was obvious, now, her deficiency was some sort of side-effect from the drugs they'd given her. And whatever it was, Daniel had just been given a face full. "Look, I don't know what you�"
"Colonel." Carter's voice was apologetically insistent. She rarely interrupted and talked over him unless it was important. "These people may have found a way to destroy a Goa'uld without harming the host."
"That woman, Cendra... I wouldn't say she wasn't harmed."
"Cendra would have been fine if the Shunnen had not been discontinued while she was still Scunian. If you wish your friend to return to himself, you must allow the Shunnen. If you do not, he will never recover."
"No. There's a planet we can bring him that'll help him. The people there have this Hammer... well, it's not really a hammer, but it's�"
"It is too late. The Shunnen has already begun. When he wakes, you must do as we say. Or else he will never be the person you knew."
"But we can get the damned Goa'uld out of him!" Shit. They had Cimmeria. Thor had fixed the Hammer. They could free the hosts.
"He is Scunian. The Ti'isa is now purging his body. Patience and courage on your part is now necessary."
- - - - - -
"You want us to what?"
Jack winced as Hammond's voice roared through his earpiece. Instead, he leaned closer to the video camera and tried to explain.
"We have to totally ignore Daniel when he comes back on base. Act as if he's not there. We can't talk to him, look at him, touch him�"
"Colonel, first you tell me that Daniel Jackson has been taken over by a Goa'uld and now you want me to allow him to roam around the SGC, not to mention give him free access to everything on the base because we can't even talk to him?"
"Sir, it's... well, when you put it that way... yes. That's what I'm saying."
"I can't allow that." Hammond had been leaning forward and he straightened up, the action putting him farther from the camera in the control room.
"Sir, we can't... I mean, he's going to wake up in a few more minutes and we have to�"
"I certainly hope you have him under restraints, Colonel."
"He's... no, sir. The people here won't let us touch him... but Carter and Teal'c have him and the other two Goa'uld covered."
"I certainly hope so. I'm going to send SG-7 for backup. I want those Goa'uld sent to Cimmeria immediately."
"Sir, with respect, I think we should follow Bagon's instructions and give this a try. Carter thinks these people have a way of killing the Goa'uld without hurting the host."
"So do we, Colonel. On the planet Cimmeria."
"But what about those times when it's impossible to get to the Stargate. If this stuff works, teams could carry some with them for emergencies and�"
"I thought you said there were ceremonies involved."
"Well, yes, but I don't think chanting and burning incense is really gonna do much in scaring the Goa'uld away. Unless it doesn't like chanting and incense."
"Jack, do you really want to take a chance with Doctor Jackson's life?"
General Hammond's words filled Jack with dread. Whatever was decided, Daniel wasn't Daniel anymore. Sending him to Cimmeria would probably cure him; but that also had its share of dangers � the Goa'uld'ed Unas trapped in Thor's caves had proven that. Who knew what other Jaffa or Goa'uld were roaming the caverns at the moment, too wary to attempt to exit through Thor's Hammer. And if the Goa'uld accessed Daniel's memories, it might never try to leave the Hammer.
"Sir, we could give this a try. If it doesn't work, we just have to zat Daniel, dial Cimmeria and throw him through the Stargate."
"We could do that right now."
"But if that poison works�"
"Do you understand the logistics of having to inform everyone on how to act with regard to Doctor Jackson? From security right down to the cleaning personnel?"
"We could limit his access to the base, sir. You can change his security clearance to strictly his office and maybe the infirmary."
"There's nothing to prevent him from getting on an elevator with another passenger. If we have to ignore him, we can't stop him."
"There's always passive actions, sir."
Hammond stared at Jack without understanding.
"Moving to block a doorway without physically acknowledging that he's there. He could try to push his way through but he's going to find that painful pretty quick."
"O'Neill. Daniel Jackson is regaining consciousness." Teal'c's voice crackled in his radio. Time was running out fast.
"Very well, Colonel," Hammond said after a moment. "We'll do it your way. On the condition that he's not a threat to the base. We can lure him into one of the VIP rooms and lock him up until the poison has run its course. In the meantime, I will advise all personnel to treat Doctor Jackson as per your recommendation."
"Remember the no touching, sir. Bagon did say that for the next few days, human touch will hurt him like crazy."
"I hope you know what you're doing."
"Me, too," Jack mumbled under his breath. He hurried away from the Stargate and jogged back towards the caves. He could see the priests and elders standing outside, their chanting coming to him over the wind. Carter and Teal'c had left the cave and were outside, waiting for him.
And waiting for Daniel.
- - - - - -
Oh God, his head! Awareness had come slowly, but not the pain. One minute he was drifting, trying to discern what the noises he was hearing were, the next he'd been hit with a migraine.
And that sound he'd heard was someone sobbing.
He groaned, unable to stop himself. He raised a hand to his throbbing temple, only to hit his fingers against something warm and hard. A few tentative touches and he realized it was someone's leg, which his cheek was resting on.
When there was no reply, Daniel attempted to open his eyes but could only see the vague outline of the cotton-clad leg from the edge of his left eye. He moved his head to try and get a better view and realized he'd have to raise his head to see over the leg.
He tried to lean forward but something was pulling at his shoulder. He eased his arm away from the weight with some difficulty and rolled forward, bringing his arms beneath him. He pushed himself up just high enough to look over the person's limb, groaning again as the world faded into a red haze for a few seconds. Then his vision cleared but the action left his pulse whooshing in his ears. He looked around and was confused to see not his team, but a dozen or so teenage kids.
Most were sitting up; one of them was sobbing into the arms of another. They all looked sick; they probably were all suffering the same way he was. He should get up and see if he could help them. Instead, he let himself fall back onto the ground, then grabbed his head as he landed a little too abruptly.
They were in a cave, that much he'd been able to glean. There was incense burning somewhere; the scent was acrid and strong, beginning to add to the calamity that was his head. The room was too quiet � except for a few soft moans and the quiet sobbing � for a while Daniel thought there might be something wrong with his ears until a bird sang out outside.
The leg next to him moved, material rasped on stone and their foot grazed his shoulder. He felt the person sit up with a soft exclamation when the sounds of chanting began.
"We're Scunian," someone whispered, breaking the spell. The cave erupted in sound as someone began to wail while several others began speaking at the same time. Daniel winced as the noise hurt his head. He managed to sit, recognizing Carah as the person whose leg he'd been using as a pillow.
The sounds lasted only a few seconds, the room quickly quieting as someone stepped into the cave's entrance, blocking the sunlight that was streaming inside. All turned to watch the robed man as he rang a small gong.
"Cast thee oust; from herein thee will be known as The Shunnen."
The man turned abruptly and left the cave. Daniel wondered what the hell was going on. Why had he just woken up with a splitting headache after being obviously knocked out with a dozen or so teenagers? Where was his team and...
Wait. Cave. Imbolic. Carah. Goa'uld... Daniel looked around, remembering warning Jack there might be a snake in the vicinity and following the kids into a passageway, but his memory after that was a little fuzzy. Had he dreamed seeing Jaffa? Symbiotes? He rubbed two fingers beneath his glasses; his eyes felt dry, his eyelids like sandpaper. There was an oily residue on his face; he could taste something on his lips when he licked them.
By now all but two of the kids were standing, and they began filing out. Daniel got up onto his knees and saw that some of his belongings had fallen out of his pack and onto the ground. He picked them up and shoved the zat and thermos into the bag which he clutched beneath his arm. With a groan, he stood, using the wall for support. Carah stood, along with the last of the boys, and together, all three stepped into the sunshine.
The priests, seven of them, stood in a semi-circle several feet from the cave's entrance. They were all staring at the ground, waving some sort of incense-burners.
One of the girls had approached a priest, reaching out a hand as she neared him. To Daniel's surprise, the priest turned his back on her and began walking away. A moment later all the priests followed.
The teen stood there, a look of horror on her face. To his relief, several of the teens surrounded her, comforting her in hugs and soft murmurs. Carah went to join them, leaving Daniel standing alone. When the group began walking towards the village, Daniel debated following them or returning to the ruins. He realized belatedly he should contact Jack; his head was still fuzzy but at least the pounding had eased considerably.
Before Daniel could do either, he spotted his team waiting for him underneath a large, shady tree. With a barely concealed smile of relief, he began walking towards them. "Hey guys," he said when he got close enough that he didn't need to shout to be heard. "A funny thing happened to me on the way to the�" Daniel's words faded when all three team members turned their backs on him and began walking away.
He faltered a moment, then increased his pace, trying to keep up. Okay, he'd done something stupid again; Jack was probably pissed and Sam most likely was the one who'd gotten the brunt of his anger so she wasn't about to give him any sympathy in public. Teal'c... it had been nearly three years since they'd been a team and Teal'c usually didn't let Jack's fits of temper affect him but then again it was possible that he wasn't happy with Daniel either.
"Okay, what'd I do this time?" he asked breathlessly. He tried to walk quickly while not quite managing to make his head feel like his brain was bouncing inside his skull. "Look, I told you I was going in... there... there wasn't a Goa'uld, but there were Jaffa." Definitely Jaffa. And one of them, right smack in there with the kids. "I would have gotten the kids out of there sooner but they'd have gotten caught in the crossfire if I tried to shoot."
If anything, Jack was walking faster. Daniel slowed, unable to keep the pace with his head hurting so much. He realized they were heading back for the village so he allowed them to get ahead of him. He kept trying to remember what had happened after he'd pulled out his zat and decided he couldn't shoot any of the Jaffa, but everything was hazy.
His friends turned down the street where they'd been lodging, and Daniel followed a little more slowly now that he figured he knew their destination. His backpack was heavy, the sun beat down on him mercilessly and he was dying for a drink of water. Despite it being early spring, the sun was strong. But what little water he had on him was warm and would taste of plastic, at least he knew there was cool, fresh spring water in their room.
He stepped into the building they were staying in. It was a one-room house; kitchen in the back, living area to the left, four cots to the right. Daniel went straight to the kitchen and pushed the pump handle down several times until the water ran from its spout. He grabbed a glass, filled it, and drank deeply.
Daniel noticed his friends were packing. Without a word spoken between them, they were quickly gathering their belongings and getting ready to leave. Actually in the few minutes' head start, they'd almost cleared up the room, except for any and all of Daniel's belongings.
"We're leaving?" He leaned against the sink, trying not to give in to the urge of sitting on any of the beds because he was afraid the sitting would turn into lying down. "We can't leave now. Something happened over there. Something bad."
Nobody answered him, nobody looked at him and he watched incredulously as Sam gathered her pack and handed it to Teal'c to attach to the clips on the back of her vest.
Daniel stepped away from the sink and marched straight into Jack's face. "There were Jaffa in that cave," Daniel said, beginning to get angry at the silent treatment. "You can't just�"
Jack sidestepped Daniel and picked up his P-90. He turned his back on Daniel as he clipped the weapon into place, then picked up a water bottle and began filling it at the pump.
"What the hell did they do to you guys?" Daniel asked worriedly. When nobody answered, he angrily began gathering his toiletries, odds and ends and dirty clothes. By the time he'd done a quick once-over of the room, Jack, Sam and Teal'c had left, still without saying a word.
He followed in their wake, wishing they'd slow down and let him catch up.
- - - - - -
"DanielJackson still follows."
Jack wished he could think of an excuse to stop or slow down to allow Daniel to catch up without him realizing they were doing it on purpose. They hadn't even been sure if he'd followed them out of the village until the path had curved and they'd seen him out of the corner of their eyes.
Jack didn't know if whoever had been talking to him back in the room had been Daniel or the snake pretending to be Daniel. He'd looked sick, though. His face pale and sweaty, he'd held himself as if he'd had a migraine or a hangover. Still, it didn't make sense that he was really sick; wouldn't the snake have taken care of any lingering effects of whatever knockout drug the inhabitants had hit him with?
Unless the drug was actually working and making the snake sick, therefore making the host sick. Jack patted his vest pocket, fingering the small sample bottle Bagon had given him through the material. Maybe Fraiser could identify this stuff and figure out if it would have any kind of effect on the symbiotes.
"Sir, I see the Stargate. Should we try and slow down? At this rate we'll have dialed Earth and gone through before Daniel reaches it."
"Yeah, well, he can dial home after us."
"What if he does not dial Earth's coordinates? What if the Goa'uld attempts to flee to another Stargate address?"
"Shit, T, you're right. Okay, Carter, see any plants or flowers or anything around that might catch your fancy?"
The look she gave him wasn't quite appropriate for a subordinate. "Sir, I have to fix my boot. I'm getting a blister."
She stopped and leaned against a tree. She untied her boot and made a show of fixing her sock.
"There is still nothing preventing DanielJackson from not going through the Stargate with us. If we must continue ignoring him, we cannot force him to follow."
"Can we shepherd him in with us?" Carter asked, putting the boot back on and lacing it slowly. The minute she'd taken had allowed Daniel to close the gap between them. He was looking at them curiously until Carter pushed off the tree and began walking purposefully towards the DHD.
"We can try," Jack replied softly as he waited for her to dial home. She fiddled with the GDO strapped to her wrist, allowing Daniel a few seconds more to get closer, then hit the code. She took a step forward while Teal'c and Jack hung back a few seconds longer, allowing Daniel to precede them. They flanked him, ready for him to bolt, but he marched right up and through the flowing puddle.
"Welcome back, SG-1." Hammond was in the Gateroom waiting for them. Jack unclipped his P-90, handing it to the waiting airman. Daniel simply stood at the bottom of the ramp, looking a little silly with his zat and 9 ml held out in his hands. The personnel did a good job ignoring Daniel, walking around him to gather Teal'c's weapons once they'd taken Jack's and Carter's.
Daniel blinked several times, looking at Jack for an explanation. It was difficult to continue ignoring his friend, especially with the wounded looks he kept giving him.
Jack squared his shoulders and obeyed Hammond's instructions to report to the infirmary. Daniel continued standing there waiting while Jack and the others hurried out. Once safely in the elevator, Carter sagged visibly.
"Oh God, I don't think I can do this."
"We must." Teal'c took a step closer to the captain, as if to give her physical as well as moral support. "It may be DanielJackson's only hope for survival."
"I think I'd rather have zatted him and sent him on to Cimmeria," she said softly. Jack had to agree with her, he wasn't sure anymore whether this was worth the pain they were putting Daniel through. He still couldn't figure out why the cold shoulder treatment was necessary; the only answer he'd gotten was that it was important and mustn't be disrupted.
Fraiser was waiting for them when they arrived; General Hammond must have sent word ahead of them. She hurried to greet them and them and whispered hurriedly, "Where is he?"
"He's probably on his way up now." Jack sidled past her and took his usual bed, with the rest of his team spreading out. Normally Daniel would take the bed to his left so Jack sat on the opposite side so he could sit with his back to Daniel when he came in.
Jack felt Fraiser stiffen as she examined him; a moment later he heard footsteps and saw Daniel pass by the foot of his bed. Daniel looked shell-shocked, still carrying his backpack and leaning slightly to the side as if it were too heavy for him to carry. Jack quickly lowered his head as he listened to the footsteps stop at the next bed, then heard the soft squeak of the mattress as Daniel sat. Nurses bustled to and fro and Jack knew as per orders, none of them would stopp by Daniel's bed.
Fraiser made quick work of the post-mission exam and Jack, coward that he was, left the room the moment he was cleared, leaving Carter and Teal'c alone to deal with Daniel's misery. The downcast form of his friend cut Jack to the quick as he headed for the showers and a change of clothes before heading for Hammond's scheduled debrief.
- - - - - -
Daniel waited as long as he could before being forced to leave the infirmary and head for the briefing room. He knew he was breaking protocol, leaving the infirmary without clearance. Just like the weapons nobody had wanted to take from him. He'd ended up leaving them on the floor beside the Stargate. He had a funny feeling that even if he waited until the next day, nobody would come and examine him. Even going up to Janet had gotten him nowhere; like Jack, she'd simply stepped away from him and continued on her way.
And for once he really had wanted to be given a once-over. There definitely was something wrong with him. The headache hadn't gotten worse, thank goodness for that. But he was feeling both hot and cold, his joints and muscles had begun to ache; all symptoms of a fever. And he was tired; to be honest he'd give anything right now to just go home, take a hot shower and crawl into bed.
He struggled with indecision for a while, debating whether he should just bide his time here until someone decided to exam him, or go attend the usual post-mission debriefing. Finally when the time for the debriefing came around, he left, mostly out of frustration. The infirmary was empty; it wasn't like they were busy.
- - - - - -
The main infirmary's security monitor showed Daniel sliding off the bed, grabbing his belongings and shuffling out the door. Jack took a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh. "Okay, he's probably heading for the briefing room. I guess we better head on up there also."
Ferretti, who'd been put on Daniel-watch, spoke into a radio and two SFs came into view on the monitor. Jack hoped Daniel wouldn't catch on that a security detail would be tailing him at all times; at the worst, to make sure the Goa'uld inside of him didn't wreak havoc on the base and escape, at the least, to make sure Daniel got to where he needed to go when he discovered that his security clearance had been drastically reduced.
Jack, Carter, Teal'c and Ferretti followed Daniel's progress into an open elevator, the slightly skewed view showed him frowning when he put his keycard into the slot and hit 27 and the elevator refused to budge.
"Tell the guys to wait a couple of minutes before letting him up." Jack motioned to his team to follow as they filed out of the monitoring station and headed for the elevators. A minute later they were all seated around the briefing room, and Hammond started the meeting before the scheduled time.
Daniel walked in, apologizing when he realized they'd begun without him. He squeezed behind Jack's chair to take the one to Jack's right. The first thing Jack noticed was the sour smell of sweat; Daniel obviously hadn't had the time to shower since he'd sat waiting in the infirmary all this time.
"Have we covered everything?" Hammond asked as Daniel rifled through his pack.
Daniel took out his notebook and flipped through it. "No, we haven't, unless someone's brought up the matter of the Jaffa and possible Goa'uld stronghold inside the cliff."
Jack shook his head, ignoring Daniel as he put the notebook down and reached over Jack's arm for the pen that had been placed before his seat.
"Nothing more to add, General. Planet's not worth investigating further, nothing worth trading for. I'd file it away as possible allies, a safe world if we need to send refugees to, but not worth our time and money."
"Damn it, Jack, will you listen to me? What is wrong with all of you?"
From the corner of his eye, Jack could see the fingers clutching the pen turn white and he hoped Hammond hurried and dismissed them. He wasn't disappointed.
Hammond stood and left the room, leaving Carter and Jack stumbling to their feet in their haste to rise as he did. Teal'c, who normally never reacted to the military protocol, was right behind Carter as she hurried out of the room. Jack wished he could give Daniel a sign, any sign, that he was there for him and that this was for his own good, but he didn't dare attempt anything. The memory of the mentally-damaged woman came to mind and he couldn't, just couldn't, picture Daniel with that kind of injury. This had to work. They were too far into the deception to stop now.
Like the cowards they all were, they left their friend sitting at the table by himself, staring at his notebook in dejection.
"So..." Jack asked as soon as they'd scrambled inside the elevator.
"The Goa'uld's presence is still strong."
"But that was Daniel..." Jack looked at Carter and Teal'c for affirmation. "That wasn't the snake talking..."
"It sounded like Daniel... sir, he doesn't look well. Do you think the poison is beginning to affect the Goa'uld's health?"
"I dunno. That Bacon guy didn't tell us how long before the snakes died, did he?"
"He did affirm that the procedure in total may take up to several days." The doors opened on the 25th floor and Teal'c stepped outside. When the doors closed, Carter bit her lip and turned towards him.
"I know," he said, just knowing she was going to admit she couldn't take hurting Daniel anymore. "But we have no choice. He'll understand... when he's... himself again."
"I hope so," she said in a choked voice. She gave him a weak smile when the doors opened on the 19th floor and exited. Jack realized he hadn't decided on a destination. He sighed, hit the button for his office and decided to wait until there until Daniel showed up. Which should be any minute, he expected.
Fifteen minutes later, when Daniel didn't show, Jack put in a call to Ferretti.
"He's still in the conference room," Jack was told. "And Colonel, he really doesn't look that great."
"Okay, Lou, I'm coming up."
Jack hung up the phone and hurried back to the monitoring station. As Ferretti had said, Daniel was simply sitting there, staring out at the blank wall in front of him. One hand still clutched the pen he'd taken from Jack, the other one rested limply on the table.
"Do you think I should send my men in?"
Jack didn't answer, trying to figure out what to do next. He'd expected Daniel to come and confront his friends; starting with Jack. The plan had been to hopefully have Daniel follow one of them to one of the VIP rooms where he could be safely contained without interacting with him, but obviously he'd figured wrong. And the question now was how to steer Daniel there without interfering with the healing process?
A moment later Daniel stood, taking the decision out of Jack's hands. He didn't like how shaky Daniel appeared. He needed to hold onto the table in order to reach down and pick up his backpack. His hands were visibly shaking as he stuffed his notebook back into it. Jack and Lou watched without comment as they followed his progress to the elevator. Daniel pressed the 18th floor and the elevator began to ascend. It, and the infirmary, were two of the floors his limited security allowed him to access unencumbered.
"He's going to his office," Jack surmised as Daniel moved slowly down the corridor, his progress recorded by the various security cameras.
When he reached his office, Daniel rummaged through his desk until he found a bottle of pills. He spilled several in his attempts to get one out of the bottle, plucked three from the desk and walked to the sink and drank directly from the faucet there. Then to Jack's surprise, Daniel went to his couch and lay down.
"Get Fraiser down here," Jack snapped. "And get ready to play back those two last minutes." Immediately one of the technicians picked up a phone and spoke into it while another took out the video tape of Daniel entering his office, efficiently replacing it with a new tape and placing the one he'd removed into a VCR.
"Colonel, what if Daniel's not really a snake?" Ferretti asked after two minutes of watching Daniel sleep.
"You sure? 'Cause he sure ain't acting like no snake I've ever seen."
"Teal'c and Carter are positive." Jack just wished he was. "The Goa'uld are cunning. You know that. It's just biding its time, making us think it's Daniel, until we let our guard down and then it'll pounce." God, it sounded so good in theory, why couldn't he believe it?
"But what if it's not... what if this is really Doctor J... what if he's really sick and hurt?"
"Then he'll understand when it's all over." Or at least Jack hoped he would.
The conversation was thankfully ended when Fraiser's staccato footsteps sounded outside.
"Colonel, I don't ever want to be placed in that kind of situation again," the doctor said angrily the moment she entered the small room and spotted him.
"I know, doc," Jack simply said. He pointed to the monitor showing Daniel's body, lax in sleep. "How's he doing?"
"How the hell should I know?" she said, glaring at him. "I just had to work around him and pretend he didn't exist."
She quieted as a previously dark video monitor lit and replayed Daniel entering his office. She watched carefully until it showed Daniel in the same position as the current video feed. Her tone suddenly softened when she spoke again. "He's running a fever and he's in pain. I can't even begin to tell you anything else unless I can take his vitals and some blood. He was perspiring freely; it could be a symptom of the poison, he appears to be experiencing some weakness and dizziness... I don't even know if it's because his body is being affected or if it's because the Goa'uld is."
She turned to the video monitor which showed Daniel lying motionless for the past fifteen minutes. "He's sleeping... do you think I could�"
"No, we can't chance him waking up, letting him know that we�"
Even as Jack spoke, the camera set up in the hallway outside Daniel's office showed someone dropping a box. Daniel, in his office, startled awake. He peered around, grabbed the knitted blanket that was draped on the back of the couch, and dragged it over his shoulders. Fifteen seconds later, his arm dropped over the edge of the couch, limp and lax. Daniel was asleep again.
"What if we were to zat him, sir?" one of the video technicians suggested. "Then Doctor Fraiser would have the time to do a quick once-over, take some blood�"
"I thought of that," Fraiser said. "We don't know what reaction the electrical current of a zat could have with the poison." She turned to Jack. "Honestly, other than slipping him something that'll knock him out for a few hours, I don't know what else to do. Not if you insist on keeping up this charade."
"We don't have a choice!" Jack wanted to hit something in frustration; but taking it out on Fraiser wasn't the answer. "Sorry," he said, speaking more softly this time. "If we could have acted first, we'd have zatted him and gotten the hell out of there, along with the other two kids who'd gotten snaked. But he'd been sprayed with the poison before we got there and... well, I've seen what happens to someone who hasn't gone through the proper procedures and I'd hate to have Daniel end up in that state."
"Why go through all of this? If this is Daniel that's reacting to us, why not just tell him what happened and put him in isolation?"
"Because..." Jack stopped a moment, unsure of the actual reasons why they had to follow the rituals. At the time it had been explained to him, it had all made sense and he'd had to make a decision right then and there... but now, it all seemed so trivial, so stupid, and Fraiser's question made more sense. "I don't know anymore, doc," he finally admitted. "He wasn't even supposed to go here, he was supposed to follow one of us to a VIP room where he'd have all the amenities of home."
"I know. I guess someone forgot to tell him he was supposed to do what you'd all planned on him doing." Fraiser turned to Ferretti. "Let me know when he wakes up, or if there are any changes."
The room felt a lot bigger once Fraiser had left. Jack stood a moment longer watching Daniel sleep, then decided to go see if he could get some work done. "Let me know when he wakes up," Jack told Ferretti. "We'll try again then."
"I will, sir."
Jack left Daniel, with Ferretti watching over him, and returned to his office. In record time he'd typed up his official report until he reached the part where he needed to justify his reasons for bringing a Goa'uld into the base. Still, things were under control and he just hoped they didn't end up regretting his decision.
He filed his report, passed it on to the proper channels, then opened up Teal'c's and Carter's. He read them, filed them, then busied himself with more work. About two hours later he wasn't surprised to get a call warning him that Daniel was on the move.
- - - - - -
Daniel stepped into Jack's office without hesitation. Jack was busy reading something on his laptop and he never even looked up when Daniel placed his thermos beside the computer.
"You still playing hard to get?" Daniel joked. "Look," he finally said after a moment of uncomfortable silence, "I've got something in here you have to see."
Jack closed his laptop and stood, circled around the far side of the desk and left the room.
"Jack, it's important," Daniel yelled after him. He suppressed the urge to go running after him and instead decided to tackle Sam.
His keycard still wasn't working so he waited patiently inside the elevator for twenty minutes until someone came in and punched her floor. He half-expected the same sort of treatment from her, but he had to try. He had a live symbiote; something they'd tried getting their hands on for some time now � they'd had a few successes over the years but mostly older symbiotes that died within days of capture. Maybe because this one was younger, they could watch it develop and... okay, he'd tried not to think about what they'd do to it but he guessed torture was the word for it.
He felt better since he'd taken that short nap. At least his headache had eased somewhat and the pills had taken care of the fever for the moment. He seriously needed a shower; he could smell himself and he wondered why nobody else did. Oh right, they were all under some sort of spell, pretending he wasn't there. He nearly felt like one of the books Cassie liked to read; a prince under a curse who had to undergo some sort of trial of hardship and fellowship in order to return to the world of the living. Okay, the hardship Daniel could take; the lack of fellowship was beginning to hurt, big time.
He walked to Sam's office, still feeling a little shaky but not feeling like he was going to collapse at every step. He slowed outside the door, trying to listen for any telltale sounds coming from inside. He stuck his head inside and seeing her bent over a microscope, he knocked and entered.
Oh, maybe he was finally in luck. She raised her head and turned in his direction. He grinned at her, but his smile quickly faded when all she did was reach for another sample and switched it for the glass already underneath the viewer. She peered into the viewfinder, then typed something on her laptop. Daniel leaned over her shoulder to see, but he couldn't make heads or tails out of the numbers she'd written.
"Um, look, I brought something back with me and I thought maybe you'd like to be the first to see what it is. You can't say I never bring you anything, can you?" Daniel chuckled inanely at his attempt at a joke, which fell flat the moment the words left his mouth. He started to hold the thermos towards her as an offering, then pulled it back as she stood up and walked out the door without once looking at him.
He decided to try Teal'c, almost positive he'd get the same reaction. He started to head for Teal'c's room then realized that he wasn't sure where his friend was. It could take him a half hour to get there only to have to turn back and check the other places Teal'c might be.
He shook the thermos, feeling it vibrate when the movement angered the Goa'uld inside. Maybe he should bring it to Janet. He could maybe leave it on a counter with a note explaining what was inside but... no, that was too dangerous. If the note got lost and someone tried to open the thermos, they'd be in for a nasty surprise.
He'd just return to his office and try to figure out what the hell was going on. Maybe he could send everyone an email about the symbiote, see if that might work instead.
Thankfully this time one of the elevator's passengers got off on the 18th floor. Daniel returned to his office and sat at his desk, trying to remember everything he could about what Carah had told him about the Imbolic ceremony.
There was nothing he could remember that could account for this but � wait a second. He remembered someone saying they were... what was the word... shunnen?
Okay, the word was Middle English, which came from the Old English word scunian. Which he remembered someone else saying... 'they were Scunian'?
"Shunning. I'm being shunned," Daniel said softly to himself. Quickly he grabbed a few books, deciding to research the supposed punishment, forgetting about his decision to email his friends. He knew some practicing religions here on Earth still invoked it but he had no idea why it would have spread here to the SGC. Some type of mind control?
He realized he was missing a few books that might help... he tapped a finger to his lips, thinking who had borrowed them. Then he recalled a couple weeks ago Bill Lee's assistant had asked for them. He reached for his phone, excitement filling him as he waited for his colleague to answer.
"Bill, it's Daniel. I need�"
The phone went dead. Daniel stared at the receiver dumbly for a moment before he realized if nobody would speak to him face to face, they sure as hell wouldn't do so over the phone. He needed to get up to Bill's office. Which meant he had to travel the bowels of the mountain in the elevator until someone hit the right floor.
He waited patiently, going past the desired floor several times in either direction. But when the elevator stopped at 22, Daniel, on the spur of the moment, decided to take advantage of the fact and go get some supper. That way he wouldn't have to take another frustrating trip here later.
He walked to the commissary like a man on a mission. He finally felt he was going somewhere; he had an idea what was going on � okay, he didn't know how or why, but at least he'd remembered the shunning. It was a start.
When he entered the commissary, he grabbed a tray and got in line. He ordered roast chicken and mashed potatoes, then felt all of his enthusiasm drain from him when the person serving ignored him and served the person behind him. He looked around for an alternate meal, deciding instead on some soup and a pre-made sandwich which he could get himself. He dropped some money by the cash, figuring this was the easiest way. As he poured himself a cup of coffee, he spotted Jack, Sam and Teal'c sitting in the far corner.
He debated going to sit by himself at one of the few free tables and then decided, what the hell, he went for the empty fourth seat at his friends' table.
In one fluid move, all three stood, grabbed their trays holding their partly-eaten meals and dumped them into the garbage. Without a word, his friends left the cafeteria, leaving Daniel standing alone before the table.
Daniel sat and with shaking hands, picked up his coffee and sipped it. He could feel every eye on him even though he knew nobody was actually looking at him. Okay, he could do this. He unwrapped the sandwich and took a bite. His mouth was dry and spitless and it seemed to take forever to chew the mouthful enough so that he could swallow without choking. He sipped his soup. It was tasteless despite the odor of chicken wafting from it. He tried one more bite of ham and cheese and then finally dropped it back onto his tray, nursing his coffee instead, trying to warm fingers that had suddenly grown cold. He wondered if it was discomfiture that was causing his unease, or if he was getting sick again.
Maybe he could detour to the locker rooms and take a shower... get a change of clothes and... fuck it. Maybe he should just take a shower, get into his civvies and get the hell home.
Decision made, Daniel headed for the elevators. Ten minutes later someone exited on the 25th and he headed straight for the locker rooms.
The shower felt wonderful � the wet heat helping ease aching muscles and warmed him up. He quickly changed into his regular clothes and headed back to the elevator.
Luck was with him. Most people had left by now except for a few stragglers who'd worked late. Walter Harriman was in the elevator and Daniel knew his shift had ended. Good. He was going home.
- - - - - - -
Damnit. Daniel wasn't supposed to just sit there, Daniel was supposed to get up and follow them out of the room, arguing and pleading and whining and just being an ass of himself. Every time Daniel had come to either Jack or Carter, they'd left the room, expecting Daniel to come after them. And every time he'd done just the opposite.
And now, he was heading towards level 11 and his way out of the mountain.
Ferretti was already on the phone, alerting the security detail there. Jack saw the officer on duty tell the additional SFs to block the entrance to the second set of elevators. Both were large, bulky men. Daniel wouldn't be able to force his way through them... well, Daniel couldn't, but the Goa'uld probably could. Jack got on another phone and instructed the backup security detail waiting out of sight near the elevators to be ready, just in case.
Harriman surprised Jack. He'd seen the look of shock on his face when Daniel had entered the elevator but the man had quickly recovered. He ignored Daniel and the moment he stepped out onto the 11th floor, he began talking and joking with the guard. He was making expansive arm movements, and soon had the guard in stitches. Just watching, it looked like Harriman was a clown; who'd have thought the quiet man who Jack had always privately dubbed 'chevron man' could be so animated.
Daniel, on the other hand, had tried to get to the elevators, but the SFs hadn't budged. Daniel eventually had given up and was leaning against the wall, waiting for Harriman to finish telling his joke. The guard appeared to be finding Harriman's tale funny, as were the SFs, who were smiling.
Jack figured Harriman wouldn't be able to keep this up all night and it looked like Daniel was more than ready to wait him out by the way he'd crossed his arms and was tapping his fingers on the wall behind him. Waiting either for Harriman to turn around and get into the elevator behind him or for someone else to come through the elevator on their way out.
What Daniel didn't know was that Jack had given the order to prevent anyone from leaving for the moment. So he needed Daniel to come back down. He picked up the phone and dialed the security desk.
"Give me Harriman," he told the guard when he answered.
On the monitor, the officer handed the phone to Walter.
"This is O'Neill. Consider yourself rescued. You've been recalled to the Gateroom to fix a problem that just cropped up. Get back into the elevator and wait a few seconds until Daniel gets on. Someone will get on and hopefully entice him back out on the 18th."
"Yes sir," Harriman answered. "I'll be right there."
The technician said a few more words to the guard and called up the elevator. As directed, he waited a few more seconds, talking to the guard while Daniel decided what to do. Slowly, Daniel pushed off the wall and shoulders slumped, got back inside with Harriman.
"That was close," Ferretti breathed.
Again, Daniel surprised them; staying in the elevator 'til it finally stopped on the 20th floor. Quickly Jack sent Teal'c to that floor; despite the fact that Daniel entered one of the archaeological labs and went straight to a bookcase, he wanted to make sure the Goa'uld didn't have an ulterior motive.
Daniel found what he was looking for and headed back out. When he saw Teal'c he slowed, but when Teal'c refused to look at him, Daniel seemed to square his shoulders and just walk on. Jack could feel the pain radiating off their friend, but his concern was suddenly interrupted when Teal'c stopped suddenly and looked back at Daniel. Then Teal'c rushed to the nearest phone.
"O'Neill," Teal'c said urgently when Jack answered the phone on the first ring. "I could not sense the Goa'uld."
"You think it left Daniel?"
"It is most likely."
"Where? Where and when could it have made its escape? We were watching Daniel all the�"
"Jack, what happened?" Ferretti asked.
"The snake's gone. Teal'c said he can't sense it in Daniel anymore."
"That's the only place there isn't a camera..."
Ferretti was right. For privacy's sake, the showers and bathrooms didn't have cameras. But Daniel had walked out of the showers several minutes after walking in. If the snake had left him, he'd have been affected, physically, wouldn't he?
"Wouldn't Daniel have been... sick or something after the snake took off?"
"Yes, if the Goa'uld does not cause the host's death, it still requires some time to recuperate."
"And Daniel's walking around like nothing's happened. Could it be that it's dead? Could the poison have worked?"
Teal'c hesitated. "It is possible."
"Maybe you need another look-see. Daniel's..." Jack checked the monitors. "He's heading back to his office."
"Then I will attempt to see if I was mistaken. If not, O'Neill, there is the possibility of a security breach�"
"I'm sending a security contingent to the locker room." Jack hung up and turned to Ferretti. "Lou, get someone to check the security tapes and see if anybody's gone into the locker rooms since Daniel's been there. And let General Hammond know what's going on."
"Right. It's late. I don't think anyone did but I'll get on it, sir."
He watched Teal'c walk down the hallway to Daniel's office and pause just outside the door. Daniel was leaning over his desk, reading a large tome. From the security camera in Daniel's office, he could just see Teal'c's shadow through the open doorway. A moment later, the phone rang again.
"The symbiote is there; its presence is weak, but it is still within DanielJackson."
Jack felt both relief and disappointment at the same time.
- - - - - -
The headache was back with a vengeance. The Tylenol he'd taken again hadn't done much to help curb it, nor had it helped with the growing fever. Daniel put the pen down, giving up pretending that he'd read and grasped the last two pages. He'd taken a few notes but there was nothing so far that seemed to be of any help to him.
He slipped his glasses off, put them on the desk and clasped both hands to the back of his neck and lowered his forehead on the topmost book. His nape was damp with sweat; he could feel it trickle down his back. He'd go lie down in a second; for the moment he just needed to close his eyes and try to figure out his next move.
He wondered if this curse he seemed to be under extended elsewhere. If he were to go through the Stargate, bearing in mind whether or not General Hammond would even allow him access to the 'gate, would the people of Abydos treat him the same way? Daniel didn't think he could take much more of this; it was one thing to be ridiculed by his peers, it was another to be totally ignored by his friends.
There was no doubt in his mind that he'd been out and out prevented from leaving earlier when he'd made it to the 11th floor. The SFs, Walter Harriman telling jokes, the convenient phone call several minutes later... Daniel wondered exactly what his crime had been and what how long his punishment would last. So was the problem with him, or with everyone else on base? He just didn't know anymore.
Okay, maybe that was a little over-dramatic � this all had to do with the Jaffa and the Imbolic ceremony � but how did it fit in? He wished he could go back to P4E 334 and see how the kids were faring, how Carah... he rubbed harder into the back of his skull, trying to ease the tight muscles. Carah � now a Goa'uld. Although when she'd left the cave, after he'd woken up on the floor, she hadn't acted like one. And how had he been knocked out? And the rest of the kids? It had to be connected, somehow.
He just wished someone would talk to him and help answer some of these questions.
He shivered. Where just a moment ago he'd been feeling hot, now he was cold. Lying down right about now seemed like a pretty good idea.
He picked up the afghan and covered himself with it. He turned to face the back of the couch, trying to mould himself into it to conserve body heat. He began shivering in earnest as his fever rose and he wished he'd had the foresight to bring a glass of water and the Tylenol to the couch before he'd lain down because moving again seemed like too large a feat.
The next hours were interminable. Hot, then cold. Wracked with shivers, dozing off only to be woken up pooled in sweat or his body aching so badly he couldn't get comfortable. Dreams plagued him, scenes of disasters, familiar faces either distorted by glowing eyes or disinterest.
He woke up again drenched in sweat. This time felt different, something had disturbed his sleep. In that twilight area of slumber, his brain worked hard to recognize the sounds and he realized someone had been moving around his office.
He sat up and blinked hazily in the dimly-lit room. It was empty.
He'd forgotten where he'd put his glasses so he stood, the blanket falling to his feet and the lack of its warmth allowing the cooler office air to send goose bumps up and down his body. He ignored the dampness of his clothes as he shuffled on aching legs back to his desk.
His nose picked up on it before his brain did.
There, beside his glasses, was a large cup of Starbucks coffee, the steam escaping from the small hole in the cover. Beside the coffee was a white bag, the top folded over and crumpled from where it had been held. And beside that was a large scented candle. The candle was burning, the nearly non-existent pool of melted wax evidence that the candle had just recently been lit.
Daniel picked up the coffee, noting that the cup was full. He took a tentative sip and recognized his favourite combination. Somehow things didn't quite appear as discouraging as it had a moment ago.
He opened up the bag and found a bagel slathered with cream cheese, and two chocolate walnut cookies beside them.
Daniel took a bite of bagel, realizing he was hungry. Chewing, he found his glasses and put them on. He blinked a few times at the haziness of his sight, then realized it wasn't his eyes, but the lenses. He took them off and held them towards the candlelight.
He could see some sort of oily residue on them. Wiping them on his shirt tails didn't do much except smear them more. Daniel took a step, intending to go to the sink to wash them out when suddenly the room spun. He fell back against the desk and he simply leaned against it for a long moment, clutching the edges until the room stopped moving. He straightened, moving more slowly this time and made it to the sink. He soaped up the glasses, rinsed them and wiped them off with a piece of paper towel.
He looked through the lenses and saw clarity. He put the glasses back on and looked at his watch. It read 6 am.
He sat down again at his desk and while eating his breakfast, he began rereading his notes. He'd hoped he'd missed something last night but quickly realized he wasn't any farther ahead.
He managed to finish half the bagel and three quarters of the coffee when his stomach began to feel queasy. He threw the rest of his breakfast away and debated on trying to make his way to the locker rooms for another shower and change of clothes. And bathroom, his bladder insistently reminded him.
He made it to the elevators, still feeling weak and shaky. Despite the early hour, he thought himself lucky when an SF got in with him and got off on Jack's floor. He hurried out when the doors opened, deciding to detour to see if Jack was in his office and thank him for breakfast.
And he was. Not saying a word, Daniel simply entered the room, leaned against the door jamb and watched Jack go through a stack of paperwork. There was a cup of Starbucks coffee in the trash can along with a matching white paper bag which had probably held a cream cheese bagel.
"Thanks for breakfast," Daniel finally told Jack a few seconds later. His friend, in response, simply stood and walked out the door. "I know it was you," he said, hurrying so that he was walking behind Jack. "Sam always forgets that extra double shot of Expresso; you never do." Daniel could feel the sweat break out and start dripping down his back from even this small exertion. "It was very much appreciated."
Jack got into the elevator, and Daniel followed, leaning against the opposite side of the car. "I know what you're doing, you know."
Jack simply cleared his throat, staring at the closed door panels. He reached out and ran a finger around the metallic edging of the panel, fiddling nervously.
"Okay, maybe I don't know why everyone's shunning me, but I realize that's what you're doing."
The elevator stopped on the 25th floor and Jack stepped out. Daniel followed doggedly, talking fast, wanting Jack to hear everything he had to say before his friend left him again.
"But something happened on P4E 334. I admit my memory's fuzzy but I do know that two of the kids got taken over by Goa'uld. There wasn't anything I could do, Jack. It happened too damn fast and I think we have to go back to that planet and see if they're still there, and then we can bring them to Cimmeria before they hurt someone."
Not quite paying attention to where Jack was heading, Daniel was surprised when Jack turned into the first VIP room they came to. Daniel paused in the doorway while Jack went inside.
"They might have left the planet by now but I think the Shunnen ceremony has something to do with that, and that they're probably still there."
Jack's shoulders seemed to stiffen as he examined something on one of the bureaus.
"I'm right, aren't I?" Daniel took one step into the room and leaned back on the door jamb. "I just wish I knew what it had to do with me. I know you're probably trying to protect me from something because this is all too big an operation to go through for a practical joke." Daniel paused and stopped to rub at the spot just above his right eyebrow that was beginning to pound with a re-awakening of his headache. "Unless the joke's on me and everyone here is under some sort of alien influence and I'm just... no, you wouldn't have left me breakfast. Which I really appreciated," Daniel repeated, slowing his words.
Well, this was going nowhere fast, and Daniel decided on getting that shower before his body determined that even that little bit of comfort was too hard a feat to undertake.
"Tell Sam and Teal'c thanks for the cookies and the candle. I, um, gotta go pee." He stuck his thumb over his shoulder, despite the fact that Jack still wasn't looking at him. He turned and headed back for the elevator.
- - - - - -
Damn, he'd been so close. So damn close to getting Daniel inside the VIP room. Jack smacked his fist on the table, then shook his hand as pain radiated up his arm.
They'd changed tactics, tried to lure him with a gesture of kindness... and seeing that look of pleasure on Daniel's face had made it almost worthwhile despite the nagging worries that maybe they'd compromised his health.
Jack massaged his hand as he swept his gaze across the well-stocked room. Food, clean clothes, books... enough supplies to keep Daniel here for at least a week. And the man hadn't walked in far enough to allow Jack to lock him inside.
Maybe they'd have to do it the hard way after all and just zat him. Then either throw him in here or take him to Cimmeria, just like he'd suggested they do with the other snakes.
Then Jack froze. Odd, that Daniel would mention Cimmeria. And the words he'd used was we can bring them to Cimmeria, not you can bring them. Kinda weird phrasing for a Goa'uld who, having gotten access to Daniel's memories, should certainly have avoided any and all references to going to that planet, which would be akin to signing its own death warrant.
Maybe that had been Daniel talking.
And maybe not. Jack squashed that little bit of hope back down and headed for the monitoring station, where he and the rest of his team had spent the night watching Daniel sleep.
- - - - - -
Daniel was leaning on the credenza opposite General Hammond's desk, who for the past twenty minutes, was doing everything in his power to pretend he wasn't there. "I wish you'd reconsider, sir," Daniel finally said, giving the general the same spiel as he'd given Jack. "We don't know what kind of damage those Goa'uld might have done over there; the people on P4E 334 may be in trouble and need our help. I know Jack said the planet wasn't worth exploring further, but Sam never did get the chance to investigate the traces of trinnium in the rocks, did she? And shouldn't we try and find out which Goa'uld actually rules the planet? If only to put it in our database? It's not like you to leave things hanging like this. Sir," Daniel added as an afterthought.
He looked out the window to his right where the briefing room sat devoid of people. He wondered where his team was. After he'd showered and changed into a clean set of fatigues, he hadn't been able to track down any of his team members. But then again, for all he knew, they might have not been on duty today.
He thought it was Wednesday but to be honest, he was feeling a little confused. The constant flux of fever wasn't helping, seeming to make the hours longer than they were. His watch told him barely twenty four hours had passed since he'd woken up in the cave and returned home; his body and mind felt it had been much longer.
Feeling hot, Daniel moved towards General Hammond and the open door, hoping for a bit of a breeze. "If you won't reconsider, maybe you'd allow me to leave with the next team scheduled to go offworld. I'll not beg you to waste money and energy in opening the Stargate just for me; I can dial Abydos from any other 'gate."
Daniel hadn't even tried to get into the Gateroom. There was heavier security than ever by the closed blast doors leading to the Stargate. Hell, it had been a fluke that he had managed to make it to the general's office. The elevator had shot down to the 27th when Daniel had been planning on returning to the 18th, and he'd quickly followed the two technicians out before the SFs guarding the elevators could move to block him and prevent him from exiting.
"General, you must be tired of having to put up this act. Just let me leave." Daniel swallowed hard, trying to hide his emotions as he leaned his hands against the back of the visitor's chair. "If things change around here and you need me again, you could send a message through the 'gate and I'll come back. Okay, that is, if you're not in the process of convincing Kasuf to play along with all of this."
Hammond's aid knocked on the door and stepped into the room. His eyes bounced from Daniel to Hammond a few times before finally settling on the general. "Sir, your ten o'clock appointment is here."
"Thank you, Captain. Send him in."
Daniel straightened as best he could and smiled at Hammond. "I'll let you get back to work, sir. Thank you for your time."
Daniel left the office, dragging his feet, feeling more and more tired as he went on. He had nowhere to go except to his office. He waited at the elevator, not noticing that the only other persons who got in with him were two SFs, and whose destination was the same floor as his.
He got off the elevator, hugging the wall as he walked, afraid that he was going to fall over. He entered his office and grabbed some more Tylenol. He swallowed the pills down with water but even before he could move towards the couch, his stomach contracted painfully and he vomited them back up into the sink.
He made it to the couch and lay down but couldn't get comfortable. His fever was back with a vengeance, igniting his headache which was causing shooting pains down his neck and spine.
He was getting a little nervous. He was sick, that there was no doubt about. Whatever it was he that he was suffering from obviously couldn't be contagious because he wouldn't be permitted to roam around the base. But he was getting worse and he had nobody to go to for help. He'd contemplated occupying one of the VIP rooms; the bed there would be more restful than the couch but he'd be just as cut off if he became seriously ill.
Which led him to wonder, what would happen if he passed out or something? Would they just let him lie there in the middle of the room or corridor? Step around him as if he didn't exist? Pull him into a corner and forget about him?
The thought depressed him and finally he made the decision. He'd go to the infirmary. If he couldn't get any help from the medical personnel, maybe he'd help himself and find something stronger to bring down his fever.
- - - - - -
Jack slumped in his chair, eyes burning from a sleepless night. Ferretti had just taken over from Teal'c, who had manned the security screens throughout the night.
He was surprised that Hammond hadn't reached for the phone and chewed Jack out the moment Daniel had left his office. Jack had sat here cringing uncomfortably for the thirty minutes Daniel had spent in Hammond's office. He didn't know who was more relieved when Daniel had left; himself, or the general.
"Should we call Fraiser?" Jack said to nobody in particular when Daniel threw up.
"Maybe I could go into his office... pretend I'm looking for something." Carter leaned back in her chair to look at Jack, her expression begging for permission.
"And do what?"
She raised her hands in exasperation. "I don't know. Be there for him."
"We are, Carter. That's why we're all in here watching him suffer."
"But he doesn't know that. He probably thinks we've gone home and have totally forgotten about him. He's sick, sir. He needs medical help and he's not getting it."
"Perhaps we could ask DoctorFraiser for medication and deliver it to DanielJackson's office."
Carter straightened in the chair. "Maybe something for his fever?"
"He just puked the damned Tylenol. What else do you want to give him?" Jack glared at Carter then was instantly contrite. He was tired, she was tired. He shouldn't be taking it out on her. They were all worried about Daniel; they all hated having their hands tied this way. "Maybe something for his stomach?" he said more softly in way of apology.
"I'll go see Janet." Carter stood and hurried out the door, probably before Jack could change his mind.
"O'Neill." Teal'c indicated the monitor, which showed Daniel's backside as he shambled out of his office.
"Can't the guy just stay put?"
They watched Daniel make his way to the elevator; a scene they'd seen way too many times in the past twenty-four hours. But this time it was worse; Daniel was having trouble walking, physically having to hold onto the wall at times in order not to fall.
Most personnel continued on their way, although one or two slowed and turned to watch Daniel's awkward progress.
"Where's he going?" Jack said, pushing away from the chair and watching the monitor closely when Daniel entered the elevator car. He had trouble getting his keycard into the slot, finally managed to do it two-handed, and pressed 21. "Infirmary. Alert Fraiser. I'm on my way there."
Jack ran out of the monitoring station, heading for the elevators, Teal'c a step behind him. He eyed the stairwell, trying to calculate if it would be faster to run down five flights than wait. He was just about to go for the stairs when the elevator doors opened.
They burst out of the elevators and hurried down the main corridor leading to the infirmary, then slowed to a walk when they saw Fraiser and Carter standing in front of Daniel.
"Come on, Daniel, let me help you," Fraiser was saying. Daniel had stopped and was leaning against the wall. He was breathing heavily, obviously his condition had deteriorated in the minutes it had taken him to get this far.
Carter was standing behind Fraiser, obviously torn between following orders and helping their friend. Her frightened countenance as she looked towards Jack worried him, and he put on a burst of speed.
"I don't sense anything," she whispered as Jack approached.
"CaptainCarter is correct. I no longer sense the presence of a Goa'uld."
Daniel raised his head, his face pale and beaded with sweat. He was shaking badly, having trouble staying on his feet. He squinted at Teal'c, then forced words out through clenched teeth.
"I wasn't t...taken as a host. I'm n...not...Goa'uld."
"You probably don't remember, Daniel. I'm sorry, both Teal'c and I could sense the Goa'uld inside of you."
Daniel shook his head at Carter, then made a sudden move as he slid sideways, slapping his arm against the wall to keep himself upright. "N...not me. Not in m...me. I brought one back � I n...needed a symbiote to p...pass through the... the... force field. It was keyed...to Goa'uld. It's in my...mmm...off..."
"It's okay... shhh," Fraiser said as she reached out a hand and touched Daniel's arm. "Colonel, we need to get him to the infirmary now. Help me�"
Suddenly the shaking got worse. Fraiser reacted faster than Jack, reaching to grab Daniel as he keeled over.
"He's seizing!" she yelled. Jack and Teal'c managed to get a hold of Daniel before his weight took the doctor down. Holding onto him was like holding a wriggling fish, and Fraiser directed them to put him down on the ground. "Get some help," she ordered Carter while Jack struggled not to drop Daniel's jerking body.
An eternity later, Daniel suddenly relaxed, the seizure over as fast as it had begun. Carter and two nurses returned seconds later, the nurses pushing a gurney loaded with meds.
"I need him in the infirmary, stat. Help me get him up on the gurney."
"Doc, wait." He took hold of her hand before she could get up. "We can't. We need to leave him here... we can't interfere."
"Colonel, his temperature is dangerously high. That alone could have been the cause of the seizure. Even if it's not, if he's had one already, he'll probably have more."
"And he had that seizure the moment you touched him," Jack answered back in the same frustrated tone she'd barked at him with.
"Colonel." Carter knelt down beside Jack and placed a hand on Daniel's cheek. "He... I don't think he had the seizure because Janet touched him. Look, we could do an MRI, confirm once and for all whether he's been possessed and�"
"Both you and Teal'c swore you sensed a Goa'uld."
"But he just said�"
"A visit to DanielJackson's office will confirm whether or not there is a symbiote. I believe our priority at this time is his health."
"Sir, he needs help. We can't just leave him here like this."
"I know." Jack got off his knees and bent to take Daniel's legs. "T- grab his feet."
- - - - - -
Daniel was wheeled back into the infirmary at the same time Carter returned, carrying a thermos.
"His MRI is clean," Fraiser announced as the bed was manoeuvred into position. Someone had pulled a privacy curtain partly closed, but not far enough that SG-1 couldn't still see beyond.
"Daniel was right, he did bring back a symbiote," Carter stated as she plunked the thermos onto the table next to Jack.
"There's a snake in there?" Jack eyed the thermos with dread.
"Indeed. I can feel its presence. It must have been what CaptainCarter and I had presumed to be the Goa'uld infecting DanielJackson."
"So all of this..." Jack waved a hand loosely towards Daniel. "It was all for nothing?" He could feel the rage inside of him beginning to build and if he'd had that Bacon guy here right now, he'd throttle him without a second thought. Instead of focusing on the impossible, he fixed his attention on the people now working around Daniel.
Fifteen minute ago Fraiser had only taken the time to take his vitals and stick an IV into Daniel before she'd rushed him to have the MRI done. Now they were drawing blood, sticking a catheter into his� Jack grimaced and turned away, feeling his balls tighten and draw up at the sight.
"Daniel did say two others had become hosts. But Bagon didn't mention any special treatment for them."
"It is most likely the inhabitants of P4E 334 are incapable of identifying a Goa'uld." Teal'c was still watching the activity, his face impassive except for his clenched jaw.
"So they'd treat everyone the same? Give everyone the poison and hope nobody dies from it?" Carter ran a hand through her hair. From the look she gave the thermos, Jack was glad the creature inside couldn't see her because it would probably be quaking in its boots. Okay, quills, gills, whatever.
"So that gal that we saw..." Jack struggled for the name.
"Yeah, her." Jack nodded at Carter with thanks. "You think maybe she got that way not because her mother couldn't bear to give her the cold shoulder, but because something like that happened to her?" He turned and pointed towards Daniel's bed with his chin.
"High fevers and seizures can cause brain damage." Carter turned away from the thermos and looked at Daniel. She bit her lip and didn't state the obvious.
They watched in silence until Fraiser left the bed and came to them. "We're working on getting his fever down. His BP was pretty elevated, but we've got that stabilized for now. I've administered some Dilantin to prevent another seizure. He's dehydrated so we're also working on getting fluids into him."
"I don't know, sir. The labs are still working on the sample you brought back. We haven't found anything concrete and to be honest, there were two compounds we've never seen before and we can't even begin to tell you how they'll affect a human being."
"Or a symbiote," Carter added. She pointed to the thermos. "Do you have something we can keep one in?"
Fraiser nodded. "Come with me."
With a grimace, Carter picked the thermos up and followed the doc out the room.
- - - - - -
Consciousness came slowly to Daniel, along with a myriad of aches and pains his brain was having trouble singling out. He was hot; every single muscle in his body felt knotted and stiff, his head was pounding and his joints ached. He lay there, wherever there was, barely able to move until something cold and wet trailed down his temple and cheek. It felt good. So good in fact that he opened his eyes with a soft moan, looking for more.
"Hey, there, buddy."
Daniel blinked at the blur in front of him. The voice was familiar; it meant safety and friendship. He stared as the face coalesced before him, the brown eyes shining as their gaze moved from the center of his face off to the side.
Then the cold relief was back, tracing down his other cheek. Daniel sighed and closed his eyes.
"You back with us now?" The cold moisture moved down his neck, across his chest, then up the other side.
Sleep beckoned, his eyelids felt like they were pumping 20 pound weights. It was a struggle to keep them open and process Jack's words at the same time.
"Guess you're not quite awake yet, huh?" Jack moved away, taking the wet cloth with him, and Daniel panicked when he remembered being alone, being sick, his friends turning away from him.
"No!" He struggled to sit up, to beg Jack not to go, reaching out frantically when his body wouldn't respond. "Stay. Please."
Then Jack was there, his hands cold and wet and grasping Daniel's, putting out the fire burning his fingers long enough for Daniel to wrap them around Jack's.
"Hey, hey, I'm not going anywhere. It's okay, I'm right here."
"He's awake, doc."
Hands guided his limbs back into more comfortable positions while Jack kept hold of his fingers. Daniel fought to keep his eyes open but he was losing the battle fast.
"What happened?" he managed to ask, his tongue thick and unwieldy between his teeth.
"You've been sick." Another familiar face moved into his line of sight; another set of brown eyes, these ones framed by soft bangs. Janet smiled gently at him as she took up the wet cloth Jack had abandoned and bathed his face and neck with it. "Your fever's still pretty high so you need to rest. Just close your eyes now... that's it," she said softly as Daniel allowed his eyes to flutter shut.
The sounds around him receded, spiralling down into oblivion so quickly he only had a vague impression that maybe he should be worried.
- - - - - -
Jack stepped into the infirmary and quietly approached Daniel's bed. His friend was sleeping restlessly, still tightly caught in the fever's grip.
Jack pulled up a chair and reached for Daniel's hand which was clasping the bed's safety rail. He unhooked Daniel's fingers from the metallic railing, feeling them tighten across his palm as they curled around him. Ever since he'd woken from the seizure this morning, Daniel had needed human contact. Immediately his sleep seemed calmer, his face relaxing slightly. Jack eased his hand around Daniel's fingers, the skin still too hot and dry for his liking.
Jack looked around the infirmary. It was late and he'd had a long day replete with meetings, a quick trip offworld then trying to catch up on his work. He'd just left Carter and Teal'c finishing their respective suppers. Jack had no appetite; he figured he'd spend a few minutes alone with Daniel before the others showed up.
Daniel didn't wake so Jack just sat there watching him sleep. Ten minutes later, Carter and Teal'c quietly joined him. Jack let go of Daniel's hand, allowing Carter to take his place.
A nurse arrived with a fresh bowl of water and cloth and Teal'c took it from her. Jack stepped back and watched as his teammates took turns caring for their friend.
"Doc," Jack greeted as Fraiser came to stand beside them. "Found an antidote for the poison yet?"
"There won't be an antidote." Before Jack could say anything, she raised a hand to quiet him. "It's not a poison. It's a virus."
Carter pulled back as the nurse approached to check on Daniel's vitals, dropping Daniel's hand to give her room. Daniel moved his legs restlessly, then pulled them up to his chest as he began to shiver. The nurse adjusted the sheet around Daniel, pulling it up to his chin.
"A virus� are we... is Daniel�"
"He's not contagious. Actually he would be if�" She ran a hand over her hair, pushing a lock behind her ear. "I think I know why the people of that planet developed the practice of shunning those they infect with the virus. You see, there's no sign of the virus in the samples you brought back. It's cleverly contained in a protective coating, which gives it a shelf life of�" She pursed her lips together and shook her head gently� "An indefinite lifetime."
"That's incredible, Janet." Carter moved aside to allow Jack room to grab the pile of blankets heaped at the foot of Daniel's bed as Daniel's shivering increased.
"The scary part is at first glance, one doesn't know how deadly that liquid can be. We only realized the viral part of it from Daniel's blood samples. If we hadn't gotten that, chances are someone might have gotten infected accidentally."
"And there's no danger that this will spread?" Jack pulled the blankets up to Daniel's shoulders.
"Not from Daniel himself, no. From the samples you brought back, yes. The liquid housing the virus is oil-based, and the virus is absorbed through the skin, where it becomes active. If Daniel hadn't showered earlier, there would be a definite danger of contamination from the residue on his skin, or on his clothes. We've found traces of it in his locker, and in his office. The soap destroys the oil-based environment which keeps the virus alive, rendering it impotent after a couple of hours."
"So the people of P4E 334 have undertaken this ritual of destroying the Goa'uld with this virus, and in the process, they shun the victims in an attempt not to become infected with it themselves."
"That's right, Teal'c. I guess better to be safe than sorry, in their case. And yes, before you ask," she said, turning to Jack. "It's deadly to symbiotes. The one Daniel brought back is dead."
"You tested it on the snake?" Jack exclaimed.
"It's not something I'm proud of but, yes. Although this virus has the potential of being a deadly weapon against the Goa'uld, it's just as dangerous to the Tok'ra and Jaffa if it gets out of our control. And it can be pretty harsh on the host," she said, looking down at Daniel.
"Not all of them get this sick," Carter added as she adjusted a minute wrinkle in the top blanket near Daniel's foot.
Jack thought back to their quick trip back to the planet where Daniel had been infected to try and get more information. He'd seen the kids, all eleven of them huddled in a bunkhouse which had presumably been built for just these types of occasions. Two had been critically ill, like Daniel. The others had varying degrees of fevers; the two who'd been snaked still had living symbiotes in them but Carter and Teal'c had confirmed that they'd felt very weak� sick.
"It didn't kill the snakes that got those kids."
"The symbiote Daniel brought back was young; and possibly its stay in the thermos might have weakened it somewhat."
"And what about� there's no cure for viruses, right?"
Fraiser nodded. "It has to run its course. But Daniel's strong. He�" Suddenly she smiled. "Well, hello there."
Jack turned his attention from Fraiser back to the bed and saw Daniel had his eyes partly open, watching them.
"Here?" he croaked after attempting to lick his cracked lips.
"You're in the infirmary," Fraiser told him gently. She turned to a nurse and pointed to the water pitcher.
Daniel's gaze shifted to each one, as if he was searching for something. "�'firmary. Yes. Here?"
"You're here, in the infirmary, that's right." Fraiser leaned over with a glass of water handed to her by the nurse. "Do you want some water?" She positioned the straw at Daniel's mouth.
His tongue came out like a worm sensing rain. He took the straw and sucked weakly, then swallowed audibly.
"Here?" Daniel asked again, his eyes almost crossing in his attempt to stay focused despite the problems he was evidently having keeping them open. He thrust his hand from beneath the covers and weakly flexed his fingers into a fist and then spread them. When he looked at his open palm, Jack suddenly realized what Daniel had been asking.
"We're here, Daniel. You're not dreaming." Jack accepted the unspoken request, taking Daniel's fingers in his. "We're really here."
"We're not leaving you again. You can sleep; you won't be alone."
Daniel made a soft noise in his throat as his eyes closed. His fingers, lax in Jack's hand, twitched once and stilled.
Carter cleared her throat, then excused herself. Jack was pretty confident she'd return in a few minutes, eyes reddened, nose shiny, but ready to help sit vigil throughout the night with him and Teal'c by their friend's bedside.
- - - - - -
His memory was hazy and full of dreams. From burning in raging fires to suffering hypothermia in frigid climes; from feelings of abandonment, pain, fatigue, discouragement, to the reaffirmation of friendship and closeness.
He was lying on his side and he was hot at the moment, there was a heavy weight lying uncomfortably on top of him and he wanted it off. He pushed weakly at it, finding it oddly cumbersome and difficult to dislodge.
As he moved, he created small puffs of air beneath his coverings, which helped cool off his damp, clammy skin. His legs were lubricated with sweat, skin moving easily on skin, albeit uncomfortably. He discovered the layers of linen above and below him were soaked with sweat, as was the hospital gown which barely covered his body.
Finally he managed to kick off most of the blankets away, the cool air feeling wonderful against his body. But the actions left him exhausted and he lay there a moment, panting, trying to get his bearings.
He was in the infirmary, that much he recognized. He'd know this place just by the smell and sounds. Daniel lay there quietly, listening, and realized how much of the background noise had invaded his dreams.
Then he heard something that sounded out of place. Not unfamiliar, just out of place for here. A sound he'd heard often enough when he'd shared a campfire with his team. A sound that indicated his friend was sleeping nearby.
Daniel turned his head, too tired to try and turn his whole body to look behind him. There he was, slumped on a chair which was tilted onto the back legs, carefully balanced against the cement wall.
Before Daniel could call out again, a nurse appeared by his bedside. He turned his head to look at her, feeling a drop of sweat trickle down his cheek and tickle its way down his neck. He wiped at it impatiently with a heavy-feeling hand.
"It looks like your fever's finally broken, Doctor Jackson." The nurse took a damp cloth and wiped his face and neck free of moisture. "How are you feeling?"
Daniel thought a moment. "Tired, weak."
"You've been sick for a couple of days. That's to be expected."
"Wet," he said in disgust, pulling the top of his sweat-soaked gown away from his chest.
"I'll change your gown and bed sheets in just a minute. You'll be more comfortable as soon as I've given you a bath."
His stomach rumbled. "Hungry?"
She laughed softly. "Let me just take your temperature and I'll see about making you comfortable. Would you settle for water for the moment?"
"Yes, please." He drained the glass of water she gave him and lay back, exhausted. He closed his eyes when she left, then jumped when someone wiped the sweat that was still dripping down his face.
"You don't have to..." Daniel reached up to bat the cloth away that Jack was holding.
"I know. You just look a little damp and uncomfortable."
"I am. A little." Arguing was too much trouble so Daniel let Jack wipe the sweat from his face. "What happened?" he finally asked.
"You've been sick."
"Yeah, I figured."
"A virus." Jack twitched his head to the side a bit. "Kind of like a Goa'uld-preventive formula. They check in but they don't check out."
"Huh?" Daniel squinted at his friend, who was making no sense, or at least if he was, then Daniel's brain wasn't processing the information correctly. He was having trouble focusing on Jack, on staying awake.
"You and the kids were infected � you do remember going into the mountain temple on P4E 334?"
"Um� yeah," Daniel said, having difficulty forcing the words out.
"Seems the folks on that planet got their hands on a virus deadly to the snakes � makes some of the hosts pretty sick too, but�"
Jack's voice began to fade despite Daniel's attempts to listen to his explanation. The cadence of his friend's voice was reassuring as he faded in and out. He woke from a doze as someone began pulling the wet cloth from his skin. He felt he should be embarrassed but his need to sleep was too strong.
- - - - - -
Daniel watched his teammates through half-closed eyes. There was nothing weirder than watching guilt-ridden friends try to make up for some transgression, or at least what they perceived to be one.
He was too weak and exhausted to try and figure out why they were carrying on in this manner. After falling asleep through at least two attempts of Jack trying to explain what had happened and Sam eventually filling in those blanks he'd slept through, he still couldn't understand why they felt it necessary to apologize each time they came to visit him.
Sam's haunted expression; Jack's attempts at levity and even Teal'c's hovering � and that last was a scary sight � all were making him feel guilty for making them feel guilty.
"Are you sure you've had enough to eat?" Sam pushed the nearly untouched bowl of applesauce currently sitting on his tray closer to him. He frowned at the food; he'd been hungrier earlier but after a few sips of juice and two spoonfuls of applesauce, he'd lost his appetite. If anything, he was slightly nauseous and his encroaching headache suggested to him his fever might be back.
"Maybe later." He forced a smile at Sam when she began fiddling with the bowl. It wasn't lost on Daniel that she was pushing it a little closer to him each time she played with it.
"Carter, you keep that up and you're gonna turn that applesauce into apple butter."
Daniel closed his eyes, wishing with one hand that his friends would go away and let him sleep, and with the other, more grateful than he realized that they were here with him during every spare minute they had.
"Do you wish for another pillow?"
Daniel shook his head without opening his eyes. "I'm fine, Teal'c. Thanks."
"I think Daniel's had enough company for tonight."
He cracked open an eye as Janet leaned over him and held back a sigh as she put a hand to his forehead. "You've still got a fever. You might feel better if you try and sleep for a bit," she said softly as she leaned over him.
"You want the blankets?" Jack put a hand on his foot near the pile of blankets neatly folded at the end of the bed.
"Maybe one?" He felt a little chilled; maybe he could stave off the shivers if he warmed up early.
"Good night, Daniel." Sam leaned over and kissed his cheek, surprising him. He opened his eyes and smiled at her.
Jack adjusted the blanket and instead of leaving, he pulled one of the chairs closer. Daniel watched as Jack seemed about to hunker down for the evening. He'd had a good look at all his friends; they looked tired and he didn't kid himself � he knew that they had lost sleep worrying over him.
"You look like shit. You should go home and get some sleep."
Jack froze in the midst of rolling the chair closer to the bed. "You should talk. Had a look in the mirror lately?"
"I've been sick. What's your excuse?"
"You've been sick."
"Oh." Daniel fiddled with the edge of the blanket, rubbing the nap between his thumb and forefinger. "Jack, I'm okay. Really, you should go home and get some rest."
"I'm fine, Daniel. I just�"
"Really, I'm okay. I'd feel better if I knew you were home and..."
Jack leaned back in the chair. "You're sure."
"I'm sure. I�" Doubts suddenly filled him. "You'll be... in the morning... you'll..."
"First thing. I'll be early enough so we can have breakfast together. How's that sound?"
Daniel laughed softly and closed his eyes, relaxing as the chair squeaked when Jack stood. "Sounds good." He felt a weight settle on his leg and a gentle squeeze followed. He was asleep before the sound of Jack's footsteps faded.
- - - - - -
"You want me to stay with you?" Daniel stopped walking, staring at Jack in surprise.
"Just for a few days, until you're not so shaky."
"I'm fine. Janet said I was fine." He was, sort of. Just as long as he slept half the day away.
"I know, but... look if you don't want to come, it's fine. I just thought you might enjoy the company."
"You'll be working." Finally Jack's truck came into view. His legs were feeling like wet noodles and his back was tense with the effort of having walked this far across the parking area.
"I took three days..."
"Oh." Suddenly Daniel felt his grin start somewhere around his solar plexus and explode straight to his face. "You're not planning on making me wash the dishes to earn my supper, are you?"
"Only if you eat all of your supper, so you have no fear of that happening. Speaking of which, Greek, Chinese, Thai?"
Daniel wrinkled his nose as he tried to decide how hungry he was. They'd reached the truck and he walked around the front, anxious to sit down. He opened the door and almost fell into the seat as he misjudged both his strength and his aim.
"Hey. Easy." Jack put a hand and pushed Daniel upright.
"Sorry. Greek's fine. Maybe a salad with a bit of lamb?" He pulled the door shut and wrestled with the seat belt.
"Greek it is."
On the ride to Jack's, Daniel sat there with his eyes closed, listening to the CD playing softly. Almost drowsing, his body relaxed with the truck's movement, he swayed slowly from side to side as the truck took the curves on the highway.
He opened his eyes, realizing belatedly they were in Jack's driveway and the truck had stopped. He opened the door and stepped out, then followed Jack inside.
"Wanna lie down? The spare bed's ready for you."
Daniel glanced down the hallway; a nap sounded really good right now. "You don't mind?"
"Of course not." Jack tilted his head towards the bedroom. "Go on, I'll wake you before I go get supper."
- - - - - -
Jack watched Daniel as he waited for him to make a move on the chess board. His friend sat forward in the chair, intently studying the board, fingers steepled as he unconsciously rubbed his lip with his fingertips. Then Daniel straightened slightly to pick up his cup of coffee, took a sip, then resumed his scrutiny.
The change in his friend from the first time Daniel had sat in that same chair next to the fireplace some three years ago, was amazing. Jack remembered him sitting primly in the chair, looking extremely uncomfortable in his borrowed fatigues while holding a bottle of beer as if he wasn't sure what to do with it. Exhaustion and mental fatigue from his worry over his wife had taken a toll, and Jack had known even then that Daniel would be determined to do everything in his power to try and get her back.
Daniel moved his bishop and looked up at Jack. After a moment, he made a little face and Jack realized he'd been staring.
"Sorry." He turned his attention back to the game, saw an opening and moved a knight.
"You sure you wouldn't rather watch TV?"
"No, I'm good." Jack reached for his beer and took a long swallow.
Daniel glanced down at the board game, then leaned back. "You know, I think I'm a little tired. Can we finish this tomorrow?"
"Sure. You feeling okay? You need anything?"
"I'm fine. I'm just having a little trouble concentrating." He picked up his coffee cup and balanced it in his palm.
"Hammond authorized another go for that planet today. Thought you might like to know."
"P4E 334?" Daniel paused with the cup halfway to his mouth.
Jack nodded. "Recon first, and then try and talk the natives into letting us blow the mountain. Last time we were there we found out�"
"Last time? You went back there?" He drained the coffee and put the cup on the coffee table.
"Yeah. When you were sick � to try and see if there was anything we could do to�"
"How's Carah? She'd been taken by a Goa'uld, like..."
"Yeah, I know." Shau'ri. They might now have two options if they got Daniel's wife back; Cimmeria, and the virus. Daniel's eyes were shining behind his glasses, new hope giving him more vigour than he'd shown all day. "They're not positive but Teal'c and Carter thought the snakes were dying. They must be goners by now."
"We could bring her back here, monitor her. And the other guy... I never caught his name."
"Well, I could mention it to the general but the whole reason for going back is to destroy that temple. Teal'c said there were a few specific planets where ships bring harvested humans to be taken as hosts; looks like P4E 334 is one of 'em."
"They'll retaliate against the people. You're putting everyone in danger."
"We don't know that. The Goa'uld know the people aren't technologically advanced enough to do the kind of damage we'll inflict."
"But you can't be sure they won't."
"Now that we know there's a stash of symbiotes, we can't not do something about it. It's a chance we'll have to take."
"Won't they move to some other place?"
"They might, but it'll take them a while to get set up. And we'll have destroyed some of their... stock, in the process."
"What about the virus? Are we going to get more of it? Is it viable as a weapon?"
"Um, that'd be a no. Bagon said they had very little of it left. A large quantity had been left behind a generation ago by a visitor..." Jack drained his beer and placed the empty on the table beside him. "By someone by the name of M'chell."
Daniel stared at Jack, eyes widening in surprise.
"You're kidding me. Machello?"
"Looks like it. Kinda answers a few questions, doesn't it?"
"And Bagon's people have been using his virus, his invention, to prevent their own people from being taken as hosts?"
"Yep. All these years..."
"But why haven't the Goa'uld figured out that they've killed some of the symbiotes? You'd think that they'd realize some were missing?"
Jack shrugged. "Their kids only went to the temple during certain ceremonies. Teal'c figures only four or five got snaked every year. The snakes would leave for the Stargate, get intercepted, infected with the virus... the Jaffa in charge of the process never realized they never made it off the planet and, well, it's a big universe out there.
"Those that came by ship weren't so lucky, and yes, the ships landed on the mountain. This is what we hope to stop."
"When are you going to...?" Daniel made a loose movement with his wrist towards the ceiling.
"Ferretti and his team are already there scoping out the place. Teal'c's with 'em."
"I hope you convinced Bagon that it won't be necessary to waste the virus on any of our guys?"
Jack didn't miss the worried note in Daniel's voice. He nodded. "Daniel, about what we did�"
"Don't. It's okay." Daniel grabbed his empty coffee cup and stood quickly. He went up the stairs, nearly tripping on the top one, and headed into the kitchen.
"No, it's not okay." Jack raised his voice so Daniel could hear him from the kitchen. "We, no, I shouldn't have allowed us to do that to you. We should have gone with standard protocol and had you undergo an MRI to confirm that you hadn't been snaked."
Jack heard the sound of the fridge door opening, then closing. Daniel moved towards the half wall. He leaned his elbows against it, coffee cup cradled between both palms.
"Then you'd probably been infected with the virus, along with half the medical staff. Being left alone and ignored wasn't a pleasant experience... the shunning, I mean, not the infection, well, okay, that wasn't a day in the park either but I�"
"We didn't leave you alone."
Daniel smiled, that embarrassed little smile that showed off a dimple while laugh lines radiated from his eyes. "Yes, you did. I didn't see hide or hair of you or the others except for�"
"We were watching you on the security cameras."
"You were�What?" Daniel's draw dropped for a second before he straightened and hurried down the stairs to rejoin Jack in the living room. "You were watching me?"
"Well, first off we didn't know if you were a security threat so we needed to know where you were at all times. Ferretti and Teal'c kept tabs on you via the security cameras, along with a couple of SFs who made sure you got to go to where you were going... you know, the elevator and�"
"You had SFs follow me?" Daniel put his coffee cup down a little carelessly, sloshing coffee over the sides. "Oh, shit."
Jack was feeling a little embarrassed. He'd thought that Hammond had filled Daniel in on all the details. Apparently he was wrong. "You've had security accompany you before," he called out as Daniel went back into the kitchen.
"Yes, well, but it's not the same," Daniel called back to him.
"You know, for someone who supposedly excels at communications," Jack said as Daniel came back wielding a piece of paper towel, "you sure had a hard time figuring out what we were trying to get you to do."
"And just what were you trying to get me to do?" He wiped the spill and placed the damp paper towel beneath his mug.
"Follow me into one of the VIP rooms. We'd planned on locking you up there so you'd have at least some comforts of home."
"Oh, right. Lock me up and forget about me for another, what, five days?"
"We wouldn't... we'd have stayed for as long as it took�" Jack broke off at Daniel's confused look. "We didn't forget about you. In the monitoring station. We took turns watching and waiting... we couldn't be with you so this was as close to keeping you company as we could manage."
"You watched me? Without my knowing?"
"You make it sound like we were Peeping Toms! You know the base is monitored."
"Yeah, but, that's for security. It's not like someone's watching your every move for every second of the day."
"Daniel�" The anguish of what they'd done hit Jack again and he lowered his gaze.
"You stayed with me?" Daniel's voice had calmed and he actually sounded a little pleased.
"It was rough. Knowing we were hurting you and... Carter had a hard time with it. We all did."
"The breakfast... you have no idea how much that meant to me. Thank you."
"It was Teal'c's idea," Jack lied.
Daniel smiled knowingly, then yawned. "Sorry."
Jack yawned in sympathy, which elicited a second, larger yawn on Daniel's part.
"You know, I think I'm gonna go to bed." He stood, picked up his mug and the paper towel, then took a few steps before stopping to look at Jack. "Um, there aren't any hidden cameras in the bedroom, are there?"
"Nah. No bugs, unless you're counting bedbugs." Jack stood up and stretched.
Daniel pursed his lips tightly but the smile escaped nonetheless as Jack slapped him on the back.
- - - - - -
"You're doing fine, Carah. Just relax." Janet spoke into the microphone as she made an adjustment to the controls in front of her.
Daniel leaned forward to see the results better, as did everyone else in the room. Sam was practically leaning against Daniel and she turned slightly to smile up at him in apology. Jack was leaning over Hammond's shoulder while Bagon stood beside Janet.
"There is definitely a Goa'uld inside her, but it's dead," Janet finally stated. "Her body's already beginning to absorb it, which is why you two can't sense it anymore." Janet turned to Bagon and smiled at him. "She's fine. She's not a danger to your people and I expect I'll find the same thing with Arnia. Daniel glanced at the young teenager awaiting his turn in the MRI machine.
Daniel shivered at the sight of Carah's electronic image, the skeletal invader clearly wrapped around her spinal column. Seeing it there reminded him how vulnerable the human body truly was; and that he'd held one of those things in his hands several days ago as he'd placed it into a thermos.
"Are you okay?" Sam's expression was one of concern as Daniel pulled back from the crowded console when a wave of exhaustion crept over him. He nodded as she followed him into the other room.
"Just a little..." He shook the hand that had held the symbiote. "I just realized I'd had one of those in my hands and..."
Sam grimaced. "Yeah, I know how that feels." She wiped her right hand down on her pants. "You know, that was pretty smart thinking you did."
"Putting a symbiote in the thermos to get through the force fields."
"Not my favourite experience but it sure beat the hell out of staying in a room full of Goa'uld, babies or not."
"You know, the time you came to me with the thermos... I could sense the Goa'uld. I thought it was you. Daniel, at that time, I didn't know�" Her face crumpled as she tried to get control of herself. "I'm so sorry. If I'd known then, we might have�"
"Sam, I understand." He moved closer and put a hand on her shoulder, wanting to give her a hug to show he had no bad feelings over what had happened and knowing this wasn't the place to do so.
They heard Janet tell Arnia to switch places with Carah and they returned to stand behind the group, watching as the machines gave them the same images as Carah's. The Goa'uld were dead. The virus had worked. Too bad they couldn't reproduce it and use it as a weapon themselves, but both Janet and Sam had concluded that Machello's technology was way beyond their ken. Still, the remainder of the sample had been sent on to Area 51. Daniel shivered again as he thought what could happen if that sample got into the wrong hands and�
"Sam? I just had an idea." He pulled her away from the small throng as the next of the affected teenagers was led to the MRI machine. "Instead of blowing up those caves, what if we were to use the last of the virus and infect the whole area?"
"You mean kill all the Jaffa in those caves?"
"Not just the Jaffa." Renewed energy coursed through him; the fatigue that the virus had left him with suddenly fled as he realized he knew how to save these people without the Goa'uld coming after them for retribution. "Any Goa'uld who attempted to enter those chambers would become infected, them and their Jaffa. Janet said that the virus would remain active for who knows how long. After a while they'd just abandon the planet without harming anyone living there. They wouldn't see it as an actual attack, not as if we blew the place up.
"We can save these people, Sam." Daniel grinned as he caught Jack's gaze when his friend turned to look for him. Jack made a questioning motion and Daniel quickly waved him forward. It took him a second to explain his idea to Jack.
"There's just one problem. If this is going to be a covert job, how do you plan on getting back into the caves? There's a force field over the door and the last time I checked only one of us had a symbiote in their tummy."
"Could Teal'c go in and get more symbiotes? Bring them back so we could use them to go through the force fields?"
"That could work, sir. We could wear protective clothing and then get decontaminated when we came back out."
"If we do this, I don't want Teal'c anywhere near that virus. He gets us in, then he keeps his distance. If Junior gets sick, we'll just have destroyed any chance of getting Teal'c a replacement."
"How big were those caves?"
"Pretty big, Sam. There were lots of tunnels. How much of the virus is there?"
Sam's face grew thoughtful a moment. "Maybe about a half gallon. That wouldn't cover much of the walls in the Gateroom."
"The cavern was at least ten times the size of the Gateroom. But we could concentrate infecting the places where we're sure the Goa'uld would go. The containers holding the larva. The controls to the rings. Anywhere we're sure they'd touch."
Daniel felt the excitement course through him, anxious to get this done before any other villagers got hurt, or sick. "When can we do this?"
"I'll speak to Hammond and Bagon, before he leaves. I think the sooner we do this, the better."
- - - - - -
"Then it's a go, gentlemen." Hammond nodded his head as he looked around at the people sitting before him. "Thank you, Bagon. I'll have my men move out first thing in the morning."
"General," Janet said, interrupting the man before he could dismiss everyone. She glanced at Daniel a moment before continuing. "I'm sorry, but I have to insist Doctor Jackson remain behind."
"Daniel, you're still not fully recovered and�"
"I'm fine, Janet. You said so yourself, you put me back on duty�"
"On light duty, yes. But I don't want you taking a chance of getting re-infected."
"We'll be wearing hazmat suits and�"
"Your system isn't fully recovered and I don't know what would happen if you'd get sick again. I don't want to take that chance."
"Well, I do." Daniel tore his gaze away from Janet and looked to Jack. His friend's face was expressionless, giving away nothing of what he was thinking. He turned to Hammond. "I've been inside the caves. I know the layout. I can�"
"You reported the tunnel leads into a main cavern," Teal'c said slowly. "I believe I will have no problem guiding Colonel O'Neill back into the cavern once I have obtained the symbiotes."
"I... You'll need more people than just you and Sam to spread the virus. I can�"
"Doctor, I'm afraid I have to take Doctor Fraiser's recommendation. You were very ill and if she says it's not safe for you to participate, then I'd prefer you remain here. I'll assign SG-2 to assist SG-1."
"What about if I�" Daniel said breathlessly, not ready to give up. They couldn't leave him behind. They just couldn't.
"Doctor Jackson, my decision's made. You'll remain behind. Bagon, once again, I thank you for your help."
The general stood and left the room while an SF escorted Bagon back to the Stargate where he would be returned home. Daniel sat, staring at his hands which were clenched tightly on the polished table. He felt embarrassed and useless and for a moment almost felt he was still being shunned.
"Jack," he said after a moment.
"It'll be fine." Daniel felt a hand on his arm but he didn't raise his head. "You were pretty sick and if there's a chance it can make you even sicker, then I'll be breathing easier knowing you and Teal'c are far away from that virus."
Daniel finally looked up and saw his three teammates looking at him with compassion and worry in their faces. "I don't like this," he finally admitted.
"I know. We don't either." Jack let go of his arm and stood. "There's just one thing."
"If I do get sick, you can get back at me and give me the cold shoulder treatment."
Daniel grinned despite himself. "Don't think that I won't."
- - - - - -
When the klaxons finally went off, Daniel dropped his pen and stopped pretending to work. He pushed his chair away from his desk and rushed out of his office, only to have to stop at the door when the room began to spin.
He took several deep breaths as everything greyed out for a couple of seconds, waited several seconds more for his stomach to settle, then moved out into the hallway at a much slower speed. His heartbeat continued drumming in his temples and he leaned against the elevator wall, his legs shaking from the combined exhaustion due to the continued worry for his friends and the long day spent waiting.
He burst into the Gateroom just as the Stargate winked out and stopped. He spotted the returning seven team members along with the medical personnel. As the medical personnel who'd accompanied the two teams dumped plastic bags into hazmat containers, Daniel waited by the open blast doors for his friends as Janet ordered them to the infirmary.
"Hey," he said with a grin. He moved beside Jack and accompanied them down the hallway.
All of them appeared to have stepped out of the shower, testament to the gruelling decontamination they'd undergone after coming out of the caves.
"I'm glad that's over," Sam said, running a hand through her soaked hair.
"Can you believe it took them longer to disinfect us than it did for us to carry out the damn mission?" Jack gave a glare over his shoulder towards the medical personnel who were following behind. "They had us strip right then and there despite the hazmat suits and went over us with a brush." He pushed his sleeve up and made a show of looking at his bared arm. "I don't even know if they left any skin."
To be honest, Jack's arm did look red and� well-scrubbed.
"Okay, listen up." Fraiser entered the infirmary and stood there. "Everyone is to take another shower, and then you'll be assigned VIP rooms for the next twenty four hours."
"Doc!" Groans and complaints echoed Jack's.
"Twenty-four hours, minimum. Daniel came down with symptoms in a very short time. I'm confident that any antibodies will show up in your blood by then on the off chance you've been infected. Now, I'm also pretty sure none of you are contagious at the moment but I don't want to take any chances. The question is whether or not you've been infected."
"You know, you had a much easier time of this," Ferretti grumbled at Daniel as he headed off to the showers.
"What he said," Jack echoed in a mock grumpy voice.
Smiling, Daniel took a seat on one of the empty beds, prepared to wait for his friends and spend the rest of the afternoon and evening with them.
"You appear fatigued." Teal'c sat down beside Daniel.
For a moment Daniel wondered why Teal'c hadn't followed, then remembered he had been prohibited from getting near the virus. Still, Teal'c had been allowed offworld while Daniel hadn't.
"It's been a long day," Daniel said noncommittally.
"Perhaps you should return to your home and rest. I will remain with O'Neill and CaptainCarter to keep them company."
"I'm fine, Teal'c. A few hours with you guys won't be�"
"You better think about twice before you decide, Daniel." Janet had changed from her fatigues and into her uniform, looking slightly dishevelled. "I'm going to need samples over the next few hours and you know how the colonel gets."
"Samples?" Daniel winced, having gone through these procedures more than once in the past few years. Yes, Jack complained. Loudly and vocally. And to be honest, the day had been taxing and he was tired.
"You know, maybe I'll just wait to see Jack and Sam get settled and then make an early night of it."
"You do that," Janet said with a pat to his back. She turned her attention to a backpack where she began removing four thermoses.
"Symbiotes. Yes. General Hammond has agreed to send them on to Area 51 for further examinations."
"You mean, torture." Not that Daniel liked what was inside those containers but he knew the exams were probably going to be painful to the subjects.
"Would you rather we just let them go?" She lined the four thermoses up on a table.
Daniel shook his head. The question was moot anyways; he had no say in the matter and they did need to get as much intelligence out of the enemy as possible.
He eyed the thermoses for a while, until Jack came out of the shower. A nurse handed him a paper with the room assigned to him and Daniel and Teal'c followed him wordlessly.
"So, we can watch a movie or two� anyone bring any DVDs with 'em?" Jack rubbed his hands together as Sam stuck her head in the room. "Teal'c, can we maybe go through your stash of�"
"No, that's okay Jack. I was just leaving. I'll have my own movie to watch. This way I can watch without the whiney soundtrack." With a wicked grin, Daniel pointed to the security camera to Jack's right.
"Aw, no, you wouldn't, would you?" Jack stared up at the camera, and then at Sam. "Wait a minute, are you saying I whine?"
Daniel gave a waggle of fingers and left, his bed and home beckoning. "Be good," he said with an evil grin before walking out the door.
"I don't whine?" Jack's voice echoed down the hallway. "Do I? Carter? Teal'c?"
Author's Comments: This story is for babs. Its inception came about over a year ago, while driving through the hilly wonders that is Pensylvania. We talked about the Amish, and the whole idea of a shunned Daniel came about during that wonderful week.
It took me over a year to figure out a way to make it work. I hope I've succeeded.
Many, many thanks and hugs to devra for the wonderful alpha and keen, eagle eyes. I don't know what I'd do without you, alpha or not. And hugs to my Heartsisters, who are, and have always been, there for me
to contact me
Since 23 October 2005
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.