Strangers

oo~O~oo

I watch the strangers approach with a critical eye. Protocol would deem that I stand and greet them but I decide to save my aching body the trouble and remain seated even as the rest of my entourage stands. These five, who have entered our village and our lands and strut around as if they own them and ask questions in a language we do not understand, they have not as yet earned my respect.

Three are definitely warriors, not only do they appear comfortable with the apparent weapons they carry on their persons, but they walk with a superior swagger that is difficult to hide when they know they are stronger, quicker and better armed than their opponents.

Oh, to be fifty years younger.

The older one narrows his eyes and gives me an appraising look before shifting his gaze and pretends to examine the architecture of the room. He is a wily one and appears to hide his intelligence behind a wall of indifference. Him, I need to keep a watchful eye on.

One of the females, the warrior, looks around with wide-eyed interest. She reminds me of my youngest daughter, torn between wanting to be a fighter like her brother and a teacher like her mother. Ironically, Elsa has found happiness in being a parent; she teaches her children with loving care, and defends them with the fierceness of a kaprah.

The other female appears uncertain and follows the lead of the others. Oh, she is clever in hiding her nervousness but she clearly is not a warrior. She is not as well armed as the three, although I have no doubt she most likely is able to use those weapons she carries. She is of petite stature, which means absolutely nothing as I have seen women just as tiny as her take out hulking men the size of her dark companion.

Him, the dark one, I know his kind. I have seen his like, and his secret I hide from my people. I stare at him with a fire in my heart and pray he is not what I truly believe him to be. He is not of the clan to which I must comply.

The last of the five is one who I immediately dismiss from my mind. Not a warrior despite the visible weapon he has strapped to his thigh and the knife sheathed on his belt. He has the unmistakeable air of a scholar and a dreamer. Too reminiscent of my eldest son. I acknowledge my intolerance for his ilk as I turn my gaze back to the obvious leader.

To my irritation, the scholar steps forward and begins to speak. I attempt to ignore him, glancing at his leader again in the hopes that he would bid this man to be silent, and when he does not, I deliberately move to pick out a piece of fruit from the table next to me. The man continues to speak and, even though I cannot drown his voice out, it dawns on me, after several minutes, that his speech patterns have changed more than once. I turn back to him in surprise, realizing that he has spoken in several languages. I understand none of them, but I am intelligent enough to have noticed the change in cadence and pronunciation in his various attempts.

He looks hopeful and speaks rapidly to his leader, who grunts a few words. Apparently, he believed my reaction was recognition of his last words. He continues speaking long after I look away from him and concentrate on peeling my fruit with a knife. His words eventually fade away, but he starts up shortly in yet another tongue.

It seems these strangers are persistent and my attempts at ignoring them does not encourage them to leave. I am not bound to speak to them until one of them utters the formal greeting. Of course, being strangers, they know not this rule and I'm not of a mind to initiate the first contact. In irritation, I mumble a few words to one of my servants, asking for refreshments to be brought to these guests. I may not be happy about their arrival but let it never be said that Timyr was never hospitable, even to his sworn enemy.

The dreamer latches onto my words and repeats several under his breath. I watch him, and his eyes widen and I actually see the moment he comprehends my meaning. He stammers out several words as he pushes his hair out of his eyes; his accent is atrocious, but the greeting, although archaic, is unmistakeable.

I hold back a sigh and repeat the customary phrase. It seems I will have to give them my attention, after all.

oo~O~oo

I can see Fraiser's getting a little antsy, and I can't blame her. My butt's a little numb myself, and from what it sounds like, Daniel's barely gotten beyond trading ABCs with these guys and hasn't gotten down to the nitty gritty.

"Daniel."

He flicks his gaze towards me, barely turning his head in acknowledgement, and gives the old guy his complete attention once more. My stomach grumbles and it doesn't help that there's a low table laden with food before us which none of us dare consume, no matter how delicious everything looks.

The old guy's stopped talking and I can't help but sigh in exasperation. I look up and he catches my gaze. I stare back; the old coot might give the impression he's bored and has nothing better to do with his time but nap, but there's a keen intelligence behind those dark eyes.

"Daniel?"

Finally. He takes the time to turn to me and talks quickly. "Timyr says that the sickness is brought on when the rivers start to dry out and the water runs low. He says it's a yearly occurrence and that they're well used to it and it doesn't last long."

Fraiser leans forward, interrupting what I was going to say. "The water samples that SG-7 brought back showed extremely high amounts of bacteria. Can you ask if anyone has gotten sick? And if so, can I examine them? Tell him I might be able to help."

Daniel nods and turns to Timyr. I can't help but notice the flicker of irritation on the old man's face a split second before he glances at Daniel. The man nods amiably, though, and begins speaking again. I've noticed he talks very slowly to Daniel, as if he were addressing a very young child or someone not quite mentally capable, and despite the fact that it's obvious Daniel's still having problems with this archaic language, it irks me nonetheless that his attitude towards my teammate seems to be one of tolerance rather than true interest.

After a long and rambling conversation between the two, Daniel turns to Fraiser, speaking so quickly the words are nearly tripping over his tongue. "He says five teenagers have gotten sick; they'd had a picnic two days ago and went swimming. He's not happy about letting you examine them, Janet. He's not quite sure what to make of us and I can't help but get the feeling that he doesn't trust us�"

"Ya think?" I stop myself from glaring at the old coot and shift my anger towards Daniel instead. Daniel presses his lips together, sensing my anger as he gives me a quick glance, probably to see how close I am to blowing up. I force myself to relax; we're here on a mission of mercy in the hopes of allying ourselves to these folks in order to get a closer look at soil samples in an area behind the village that registered high in the naquadah department. A trade agreement between Earth and these people is important; we need the mineral badly if we're to try and get any type of defence against the Goa'uld.

While it's a sneaky reason for the mission, Fraiser and Daniel are here to truly try and assist these people. Me, I don't have the patience for folks who can't accept that we're trying to help them. Sure, we've got an ulterior motive but even if they don't ally themselves to us, at least we'll get their sick kids fixed up right quick.

Daniel's talking again, and it's almost painful to see the disdain he's getting from the old man. He showed interest when Fraiser spoke, even though he obviously couldn't understand her words. There's just something about Daniel that seems to rub him the wrong way. Then again, on a good day, Daniel seems to rub even me the wrong way. That's probably why I love to give him such a hard time.

My stomach grumbles again, loudly this time, loud enough for Ebenezer over there to look at me, then look pointedly at the food. Daniel stumbles over a word, laughs nervously and waves at the food before him and is probably now telling the guy that we don't want to eat in case the bacteria's gotten into the water table and thus into their crops.

The man looks astounded for a moment, and I'm betting that's exactly what Daniel said. This time Daniel's got his complete attention and after a few words back and forth, Daniel turns to me. "Timyr says the food has never gone bad; he didn't even know that could happen. The water always clears up after a day or two�"

"Sir, we could take some more water samples, test it to see if the bacteria's cleared up."

"Yeah."

"It may also be feasible to journey upstream and attempt to locate the area from which this contamination originates."

"Good idea, T. Daniel?"

With a short clearing of his throat, Daniel turns yet again to Timyr. The man cocks his head, listening to him but he stares at me all the while. When Daniel finishes, Timyr nods curtly and speaks a few words. Then I guess dinner's over because the guy stands, moving stiffly from what is clearly arthritic joints. He leaves us sitting there with only a few attendants and one guard remaining while he limps out of the large, ornate tent where he obviously holds his audiences.

"He's agreed to both. He'll have someone lead us upstream, and Janet, he said you could visit the kids after afternoon prayers."

Finally, things are happening. "Daniel, you stay with the doc while we go check out the sights." Daniel nods eagerly while I tease out a power bar from a pocket in my vest, and I get satisfaction knowing I've killed two birds with one stone. Someone covering the doc's six while our over-eager archaeologist gathers yet more intel on this somewhat backwards people.

The rest of my team follow suit and eat their sticky meal while silently coveting the food that's sitting on the table before us. I admit it's tempting but the situation is dire, and none of us can afford getting poisoned. Just the fact that Hammond allowed Fraiser out of her nest in the infirmary to accompany us on this humanitarian wannabe mission scares the hell out of me. Those little bacterium are powerful, persistent killers and the doc's not even sure her most powerful antibiotics are gonna do much of a number on 'em.

I start off passing the time by examining the detailed artwork hanging in the tent, until Daniel realizes what I'm looking at and his explanations of their origins are enough to send me to the other side of the tent where I stand and stare out into the village. It's not as busy as it was earlier; I see an occasional person walking by, and I wonder if they're all attending mass, or whatever.

We end up cooling our heels for a good ninety minutes before someone comes to get us. I admit by that time Daniel's been in full lecture mode for at least an hour and everyone hurries out of the tent, nearly trampling the poor messenger. Daniel doesn't buy a clue for a good ten seconds, still expounding the virtues of using certain plants for dye when he realizes we've left him.

I barely hide my smirk at his embarrassment; I know I shouldn't but I always get a kick at how he stands there, mouth open, like a guppy. Of course I try to ignore the hurt hangdog look that usually follows. Carter doesn't miss it, though, and she gives me a glare and doesn't shift her gaze for a few seconds when I stare back at her without expression.

Okay, so I enjoy baiting him. I'll make it up to him when we get home with pizza and beer while I hope that one day soon the guy'll catch on and not get so engrossed in his interests that he loses track of everything around him. As much as he's a great asset to the team and I know he'll fight to the death protecting any one of us, there are times I'm just afraid to put my life in his hands.

oo~O~oo

"Damn."

I hold back more expletives as I rush to the nearest of the teenagers and make a quick assessment. The girl, maybe just a year or two older than Cassie, is sporting a high fever and is semi-conscious. Her pulse is fast and thready and I'm pretty damn sure she's also suffering from dehydration. I glance over at the other four teens, all of them lying on what looks like rough, temporary pallets, and see none of them appear to be in a much better condition.

It's a little odd that they've quarantined the kids considering how strongly the man in charge here has emphasised that the problem is an isolated one. Maybe it's easier for them to take care of the patients, although it's just as peculiar that there's nobody here to take care of them.

"Daniel, can you ask where their healer is and what is being done for these kids?" I make mental notes of what I need to do. Hydration is first on the list, along with antibiotics. Five kids, three different antibiotics � at least I'll have a chance to test which ones might work best on this bacteria. Although I'd much rather have these kids brought back to the SGC's infirmary.

A quick glance at Daniel and I see he's talking softly with our escort. I'll broach that subject in a moment, when he's gotten the information I need.

The next few minutes are taken up by a quick assessment of the rest of the children and just as I pull my pack closer to me to remove the IV trappings, one of the guards who'd accompanied us says something and points at the pack. He shakes his head, and Daniel begins to argue with him. I ignore them and take out an IV solution and begin to swab the skin of the youngster closest to me with an antiseptic wipe.

It doesn't take me long to set up the IVs and administer antibiotics along with them. Daniel's still arguing while I do another assessment and begin to write down the new numbers. Daniel joins me as I finish up and he crouches next to a young boy whose breathing is starting to become labored.

"Help me prop him up." There's a pile of old blankets in a corner and I stick those under the boy's upper back. That's done the trick for the time being, his breathing is a little easier, but there's nothing left for the other four if they follow with the same symptoms.

The movement's woken the boy up and he opens his eyes and mumbles something. His next words are plaintive and I look to Daniel.

"He's asking for his mother." Daniel says something to him and the boy stares for a moment before settling back onto the blankets. One of the other boys takes up the whining, and a girl begins to weep. I pat the boy's arm and then crawl on my knees to the girl, taking her hand in mine and giving what I hope is an encouraging smile.

"Where are their parents? Come to think of it, where are the healers?" I turn to Daniel, realizing I'm clenching my teeth and making an effort to relax.

"I must have misunderstood him." Daniel glances towards the guy he'd been talking with just a moment ago. "I think he said the kids were going to be brought to a sacred place and left for the spirits to either heal, or take away."

"What?"

"I asked if I could speak to Timyr and get this cleared up. You can help them, can't you?"

"I'm trying my best." My words come out harsher than I wanted them to, but Daniel catches my eye and nods his understanding. "I'd have a better chance at helping them if we could get them back to the SGC."

"That's one thing of the things I want to talk to Timyr about. Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Help me get some Tylenol into them and then you can ask for water. We might need to sponge them down to lower their temperatures. And um... something to prop them up. More blankets, if there's nothing else."

"You've got it."

We make the rounds, trying to rouse the kids and giving them pills for fever. When we're done, Daniel steps outside and seeks out our escort. While he's talking and gesturing, I go to the edge of the tent and raise the flaps, allowing some air into the small pavilion. It's ingenious, actually, made of a heavy material that looks waterproof. The walls can be lashed down or raised � even though the idea of tents gives the impression that these are a nomadic people, the village appears to be old and well settled.

The air feels good and chases away some of the sickness smells. I wish I'd been here sooner; these poor kids have suffered needlessly. Daniel comes back, shrugging his shoulders.

"He'll talk to Timyr but he can't promise another audience."

"When are they taking the children?"

"Sundown, I think."

I glance at my watch but it's on Colorado time. I catch Daniel watching me and he's trying to hide a small smile.

"The sun's still high in the sky. We've got at least several hours. We just had lunch, remember?"

I nod and look at the children. My stomach clenches when I realize we now have a race against the clock.

oo~O~oo

Well, that went well.

Not.

Okay, I can't believe I'm channelling Jack right now but damnit, I could kick something. Bad enough it took them most of the afternoon before making up their minds to let us see Timyr but the guy's worse than Jack when I'm trying to explain something to him.

I'm starting to get the feeling Timyr doesn't like me.

Oh, he listened to Janet when she spoke. Well, her words, my translation. Not that any of it did much good.

We can't take the kids back with us through the Stargate. Timyr made that point abundantly clear, especially when several of his guards stepped into the tent with those big spears in their hands when I objected.

Message given; message understood, loud and clear.

I can tell Janet's pissed just in the way she's actually keeping pace with me. She's blaming herself for not bringing enough antibiotics with her but at least two of the boys are doing better. Maybe if they keep improving in the next few hours, we can show Timyr that it's not necessary to follow through with their archaic ways.

I understand tradition and respect their way of life, but damnit, these are children's lives we're talking about. I just wish Jack and the others weren't so far away. If we need to make a stand and stop them from taking the kids... I falter at that thought and stumble on the well-trodden path. Was there a way to stop them from taking the kids? I go through several scenarios in my mind and dismiss each one. Even though we're better armed, we're outnumbered and those tents won't provide any kind of cover.

Shame rushes over me and I regret I never really listened to Jack's war stories; I sure could use some of his expertise right now.

Janet brushes right past me as I slow down, and I hurry to catch up. So I'm doing a few half-running steps when she stops abruptly and I stumble in an attempt to not bowl her over. In the few seconds it takes me to realize the room is empty, Janet storms past me and the words coming out of her mouth makes me blush.

"They took them!" Turning at the edge of the path, her small body shaking with anger, Janet turns to glare at me. "Those bastards waited until we left the tent and they came and took the children!"

"Look, I'll go back and talk to Timyr�"

"What's the use?" Janet takes a few steps towards me, stops, swivels and then stomps back. "He's most likely the one behind all of this�"

"Maybe we can catch up to them." I search the surrounding area, desperately looking for footprints. Although the area is well trodden, there are really only two main paths at this point; one leading towards the main part of the village where we had our audience with Timyr, and one leading out of the village, towards the Stargate and some caves about a half mile beyond. I make a snap decision � chances are the spot they brought the kids to would be outside the village and considering we saw no signs of them on our way back, I begin hurrying down the path leading out of the village.

oo~O~oo

"I think I found them. There's a trail leading up to � hold on." I duck behind a thick bush as I spot several men suddenly coming out of the woods. They walk by and I try to eavesdrop but I can't make out the words, they're speaking too fast. The moment I'm certain they're out of earshot, I hit the mic again. "Janet, come back this way, but be careful; they're heading back to the village." I walk cautiously towards where the men had appeared and spot a cave opening previously hidden by thick growth.

I enter the cave cautiously, Janet's voice coming through my earpiece as she gives Jack an update on our situation. It's dark and I step to the side, away from the entrance and the light around it, waiting for my eyes to acclimatize. The cave appears deep, and I take a moment to take my flashlight out and then cautiously begin to walk towards the back. Light from the entrance illuminates my way until I reach the far end and I'm forced to turn the flashlight on. The cave turns suddenly, the passage hidden if you didn't have a light to illuminate it.

I start down the short tunnel when Janet's voice crackles in my ear, heavy with static.

"Daniel, someone just came through Stargate."

I stop in my tracks, afraid that if I go further I'll lose her transmission. "Are you sure someone came through? Can you see who?" A shiver of apprehension crawls up my back.

"I didn't see anyone on the path so I'm pretty sure it was an incoming wormhole and no, I can barely see the tip of the 'gate from here."

I start to answer but Jack beats me to the punch. "Captain, get off the path and take cover. See if you can get a visual. Daniel, I want you out of that cave now, until Fraiser can give you a sit-rep."

Jack's right, I should leave right now, just in case these are hostiles and are heading my way. Instead I walk quickly forward, knowing the deeper I go into the cave, the worse the radio's reception will be. "Jack, can you repeat? You're breaking up." And by now I'm truly not lying, all I get is static, both on his part and Janet's as I make my way quickly through the narrow passage. It splits up into several smaller caves, and in one of them I find the five teenagers.

I assess them quickly, appalled to see how sick they are and how quickly the fevers of the two who'd been doing better, have risen. One of the girls opens her eyes and stares at me apathetically and I take her hand and pat it. "Don't worry, we'll get you out of here in a minute."

Having pushed my luck, I stand and hurry back towards the corridor, only to hear the sound of boots scuffing on stone. Biting back a curse, I turn and head into the small opening just past the cave where the kids are. I can still hear static from my radio and I berate myself now for having foolishly gone ahead and gotten myself trapped in a cave. Just what Jack told me not to do.

My blood runs cold at the familiar tramping of Jaffa boots. I hear them speak as I hug the far wall, trying to stay in the shadows just in case one of them peeks in. Something behind me shifts and I glance back to see a door set into the stone. I must have made a noise, however, because when I turn away from the door, there's a Jaffa standing at the cave's entrance, pointing a staff weapon my way.

oo~O~oo

I snap my fingers, and Melna jumps at my command. I say nothing as he fumbles with the strings to the bag containing the bottle of poison. The Jaffa are imposing figures and he's seen what happens to the Sacrifices. I take the bottle from him and walk over to the dreamer, who's on his knees, glaring up at me. Without a word, I motion to the Jaffa to hold his head back and he grabs the man by his hair, pulling his head backwards and giving me full access to the man's face. Without hesitation, another Jaffa forces the dreamer's mouth open and I pour a portion of the poison into his mouth, enough to sicken several people. I need to be sure this one won't talk about what he's seen; a couple of hours and he'll be in no better shape than the children in the other cave.

The man gags as the Jaffa releases him. He tries to spit but the damage is already done. The poison is quickly absorbed. Throughout the centuries, I and my predecessors have used the poison in small areas where our chosen Sacrifices have bathed or played unsuspectingly.

I turn my back on the man, confident that the Jaffa will keep an eye on him. I go to my Sacrifices, some of whom are about to ensure another cycle of peace from the god who has claimed our world. This part of our servitude disturbs me but I know not to show emotion. Within minutes, the Sacrifices will leave, no longer dying, but no longer themselves.

oo~O~oo

I've got a bad feeling about this. Whatever Timyr poured down my throat, it's not the sedative I first thought. Instead of getting sleepy, I'm hot and nauseous. I crawl half a foot to the wall and lean against it, trying to conjure up an escape scenario and coming up short. Doesn't matter, really, because I'm growing increasingly dizzy and not even sure I could manage my way out the main door, even if there weren't a dozen Jaffa between me and it.

Not to mention Timyr and his acolyte, holder of bottle which makes one sick.

Sick... Oh God, no. A horrible thought hits me just as a headache begins to pound between my eyes. The kids, poison... he poisoned them!

I hear footsteps and don't bother turning towards the entrance. Multiple feet are walking towards me and not all are Jaffa. Not the usual Goa'uld culling but as the population here doesn't seem to have expanded much, it's possible it's a yearly thing. And the poison wouldn't kill the kids...

My theory's proven as the five teens walk down the corridor behind the Jaffa, passing in front of my little cave, no signs of fever or illness of any kind. One of them glances inside and his eyes glow. A Goa'uld walks by and doesn't even look my way. Timyr and his servant follow, walking quickly and again I'm not worthy of their attention. I lower my head in defeat. Damn, did I ever misjudge this situation.

All I can do is pray that Janet's safe and hope that she's seen the Jaffa and is staying out of sight. The last thing I want is for her to get hurt, or worse.

A shiver starts from the base of my spine and rushes up towards the back of my neck, surprising me. Whatever he's given me is acting fast. Really fast. I'm partly relieved when the entourage's footsteps fade, and at the same time, I grow a little concerned as I break out into a sweat as the room spins from right to left, then left to right. I watch dizzily as my guards shut the door and lock it, leaving me in virtual darkness, then stretch out on the ground when they leave.

The stone beneath my cheek is cool against my heated skin and I close my eyes. I'll try to radio in just a moment, first, I need to rest.

oo~O~oo

"Daniel?"

My whisper doesn't carry very far in the close quarters of the cave. I nervously shine my flashlight around and adjust the grip of my weapon; I won't kid myself, I'm shared shitless.

Even though I've seen the Goa'uld and his Jaffa leave the area, and oh god, those poor children - I keep expecting someone to jump out of the shadows at me.

I realize I'm biting my lip so hard, I'm in danger of breaking skin. I'm having trouble pushing back the guilt; I keep telling myself I did everything I could but those kids were in my care and now, they're most likely lost to us, just like Daniel's wife. I wonder if he saw what happened to them and my heart aches for him. I concentrate on that instead of the worst-case scenario.

"Daniel?" I call his name through the radio, hoping that proximity will allow us to connect. I stick my head in each consecutive cave, and find nothing, until Daniel's voice comes through the radio. And all of my training comes to the fore when it hits me how weak and shaky his voice sounds.

It takes me several minutes before I find the door he describes. It's locked tight and without a key, there's no way I can get this open; even Teal'c will have a hard time forcing it open.

"Daniel?"

"Janet?"

"Are you okay? Did they hurt you?" I lean against the door, straining to hear his voice.

"Not exactly."

There's a scraping sound and I hear Daniel retch. I try the door again despite knowing I can't get in. I hate feeling this helpless.

I wait until he's stopped throwing up. "Daniel, what happened?" My voice seems higher pitched than normal and I force myself to calm. There's more scraping noises and a slight thud.

"Poisoned me, like the children."

"Shit."

"Please, Janet, that's the only thing I haven't gotten so far." Daniel chuckles weakly, which turns into a cough.

I force myself to walk away from the door before I give in to the temptation to kick it down. When Daniel's caught his breath, I return to the door. "Daniel, I need you to tell me your symptoms.

"Fever. Nausea. Dizziness." He pauses and I lay my hand flat against the rough wood of the door. "I think they gave me a stronger dose than the children, Janet. It hit really fast..."

I draw my fingers into a fist and I badly want to hit something. The words Daniel relays to me tell me one thing, the sound of his voice, tells me it's worse than he's letting on. I want to go out there and clobber a Jaffa so I can get his staff weapon and blast the door open.

I slide down next to the door and wait; SG-1 will be here any minute. I just hope Daniel can hang on that long.

oo~O~oo

I dislike like the situation. I cannot believe the Goa'uld in question has left the premises without posting at least one guard. It must know that DanielJackson is not of this world; I cannot believe none of the Goa'uld are not familiar with SG-1 by now. We have caused enough damage and chaos over the past months to have gained their attention.

DoctorFraiser is extremely worried over DanielJackson's condition even though she hides her anxiety well. I divide my attention between guarding the entrance to the cave and the discussions I overhear over DanielJackson's prison.

"Sir, I still think it's too risky. We don't know how close Daniel is to the door and if we blow it up, we could injure him�"

"Sam's right, sir. For all we know, the prison's too small for him to take cover even if he can move around."

I lose patience; this discussion has been proceeding for far too long.

"MajorCarter."

She joins me quickly, and her face is flushed in anger. "Please relieve me for a moment." I enter the cave before she acknowledges my order and I hurry into the back of the cave, following O'Neill's voice as he bangs on the door with a fist, attempting to rouse DanielJackson from his unconscious state.

"Stand back." I speak loudly and DoctorFraiser startles visibly as I raise my staff weapon towards the locking mechanism. O'Neill swears as he grabs DoctorFraiser's arm and pulls her out of harm's way. The moment my target is clear, I fire. The noise is loud in the enclosed space and the door swings open on its own momentum. I see DanielJackson lying unconscious in an enclosed area. Thankfully the blast to the door has left him unharmed. C4, however, would surely have injured him further. I back away as DoctorFrasier rushes to his side. After a moment, she looks up at O'Neill. "There's nothing I can do here. We have to get him either back to the infirmary, or to the village. He needs hydration and antibiotics."

"Let's get him to some cover before they come back finish the job, and Teal'c and Carter can go scout out the 'gate and see if it's clear. Otherwise we'll sneak into the village and get your supplies out."

"Sir, we've got incoming."

MajorCarter's warning occurs just as DoctorFraiser rouses DanielJackson with some water splashed in his face. There is no time to lose, if we do not leave here immediately, we will be trapped and surely killed. I lean forward, grab DoctorJackson's arm and as he raises his eyes towards my face, I say softly, "We must leave here."

He tightens his fingers around my wrist and I am appalled at not only the extreme heat leaching from his skin, but at the weakness of his grip. I tighten my own and pull him to his feet, hurrying to steady him. With one arm I help him stand, with the other, I bring my staff weapon to bear, and we follow O'Neill and DoctorFraiser to MajorCarter's position.

The Jaffa approach, but they are not yet close enough to trap us. I fire my weapon immediately, and two Jaffa fall to the ground as the rest dive for cover. O'Neill takes out one and Major Carter another. DoctorFraiser has her own weapon in her hands but she is slow on the draw and does not fire. I have seen her in action, however, and do not fear that she will miss her target should the opportunity arise.

We hasten for cover, heading towards the Stargate. Most likely there will be guards positioned there, but we have already taken down close to half the Goa'uld's forces, I have confidence they will not be much of a hindrance. O'Neill watches our six while MajorCarter takes point. We move more slowly than normal; DanielJackson does his best to keep up but I am aware he is on the verge of collapse. His breathing is strenuous and his legs have given out more than once just in the short distance we have already covered. I fear I will have to carry him before long.

oo~O~oo

Teal'c bends over and lowers Daniel to the ground. Despite his controlled movement, Daniel slides off Teal'c's shoulder and lands bonelessly with a soft thud. I don't have time to assess him, I'm too busy ducking Jaffa staff blasts and trying to get a bead on those bastards. Daniel moans softly and tries to curl into a ball even as Fraiser duck walks to him, flinching as an energy bolt barely misses her.

We're surrounded; from what I can tell there are only four Jaffa left but they've got better cover than we do and we're fast running out of ammo. I'm desperately thinking of a plan when Teal'c, now free of his burden, stands up while simultaneously taking aim, and shoots two of the Jaffa in a motion so fluid that he's back down even before I realize what he's done.

No longer caught in a crossfire, I hurl myself out of our meagre cover and stand up, shooting at the third Jaffa. He stops firing and I pray I got him even as I'm throwing myself behind a tree. Meanwhile Carter's also broken cover and she's running towards the last of the Jaffa while Teal'c's laying down cover fire. When they stop shooting, the only thing I can hear are Daniel's laboured breaths.

By the time I stand, Teal'c's got Daniel on his shoulders again and we're hurrying towards the 'gate. I can see it in the distance and I motion for Teal'c to stay to the side along with Fraiser while Carter and I check it out. I don't see any Jaffa, and I'm willing to bet my last dollar that the two who'd joined the party just at the last moment were the ones who'd been assigned guard duty. But that assumption can easily get us killed, so I signal that I'm going to circle the Stargate's perimeter, while Carter keeps watch.

It doesn't take me long, and when I'm satisfied we're alone, I hurry to the DHD and punch in Earth's address. By the time I've signalled Earth that we're coming in possibly hot and in need of medical attention, the rest of the team's by my side. We rush into the active wormhole and the hairs at the back of my neck continue to tingle until the Stargate shuts off.

I watch worriedly as Daniel's whisked off on a gurney as Fraiser runs behind it, then turn my attention to General Hammond, who's standing nearby with a concerned look on his face.

"Remember the contamination in the river?"

Hammond nods.

"Seems the bastards have been poisoning their kids deliberately as a ruse to give the reigning Goa'uld a few hosts every year."

"They kill their children?"

"They get very sick from the poison, sir." Carter hands her weapons to a technician and steps up next to me. "The children are taken by the Goa'uld and cured when they're taken on as hosts."

"What happened to Doctor Jackson?"

"Daniel told Janet that the Goa'uld poisoned him. It's... pretty bad, sir."

I need to be in the infirmary, now. Carter's shifting her weight from foot to foot, as if she's itching to move. I'm sure if I were to look carefully, Teal'c would be leaning just the tiniest bit towards the exit. "Permission to�"

"Go ahead." I'm moving before Hammond's finished talking. "We'll debrief first thing in the morning."

I turn and give Hammond a thankful nod at his understanding. It's not late and we could have done the debrief right after our post-mission check up, but he's giving us time to regroup and have some time with Daniel first. That is, if Fraiser allows us near.

oo~O~oo

If I thought the kids looked bad back on the planet; Daniel looks ten times worse. Double IVs and piggyback antibiotics, Foley catheter, oxygen mask, heart monitor � and ice packs placed in strategic areas to bring his temperature down. Once my post-mission examination is over, I sit down on a spare bed as close as I can get without getting in the way of the nurses while Carter and Teal'c both flank me.

Daniel's totally out of it. He rouses whenever someone touches him, but lapses back into unconsciousness after struggling for a few seconds. I bite my lip when he calls out for me; Fraiser doesn't glance my way so I know if I get closer right now, I'll just be in the way. As much as I want to try and help keep Daniel calm, I don't want to impede their care of him.

I hate the infirmary, I hate being around sick people. Normally I'd head on down to my office, start on my mission report, check out the paperwork and rely on someone from the infirmary to call and give me updates, but right now there's nowhere else I want to be.

It feels like forever before the nurses step back. Fraiser finally waves us over and I quickly slide off the bed. I hurry over then just as I reach Daniel's bed, I'm suddenly afraid. I swallow, and my saliva gets caught halfway down as my throat tightens up, threatening to choke me. I clear my throat awkwardly as I look down on Daniel.

He's horribly pale and his face is sunken, with dark shadows beneath his eyes. It's only been a half day since the team separated; I can't believe how fast this poison has acted. I reach out a tentative hand and touch his fingers, and resist the urge to pull back. His skin is dry and hot to the touch, a stranger's hand, not quite human.

"I'm treating him with the same antibiotics that had fairly good results with two of the teens." Fraiser is staring at my hand, the one that's holding onto Daniel's fingers. "Right now my concern is his temperature. It's not coming down, even with the ice packs. If there's no change soon, I'm going to have to use a cooling blanket."

Daniel coughs and shifts restlessly. His eyes open halfway, but he stares blindly at the ceiling before his eyelids slowly drift shut again. I turn to look at Fraiser, who's looking at Daniel. She looks odd, dressed in BDUs, in the middle of her infirmary. I realize then how tired I am when I recognize Fraiser's talking again and my mind's been concentrating on the fact that I miss the lab coat.

"Is there anything we can do?" Carter's standing at the foot of Daniel's bed, staring down at him. She raises haunted eyes and meets Fraiser's gaze.

Fraiser doesn't say anything but I hear the unspoken word.

Pray.

oo~O~oo

"Okay, that's good."

The nurses roll Daniel onto his back once again, the cooling blanket now beneath him. He moans and flails his arm weakly. Fraiser catches his hand and lowers his arm back onto the bed. This time Daniel calls my name.

The nurses are on the other side of the bed so I step forward as Daniel seems to be trying to turn on his side. It's obvious he's trying to get away from the cold that's under him.

"Hey," I say softly, hoping that maybe Daniel can hear me. "Lie still, okay?"

He turns his head my way, his eyes only partially open, but it's clear he's not seeing me. "Doc's trying to bring your fever down, so you've gotta try and give her a chance."

Daniel's eyes roll back and he's out of it again. I sigh softly and sit back, lowering my head and bringing my hands up to massage my neck and shoulders. It's been hours, and there's been little change except for the slow upward creep of Daniel's fever.

I keep my head down, stretching the kinks in my neck and back, when I hear Daniel's breathing change. There's a sharp gasp, and then another. I raise my head so fast I get a crick in my neck. None of the nurses seem alarmed, though, and when Daniel gasps again, I realize he's shivering. I raise my eyes to the nurse closest to me and she gives me a quick smile.

"It's a good sign, sir."

The shivering increases in intensity and it's painful to watch him, but the numbers on the monitor make it all worthwhile. From 106, his fever slowly comes down to 103 over the course of the next two hours.

The medical staff changes shifts and Fraiser comes back on duty. She gives me a long, assessing look before picking up Daniel's chart. Okay, so I've spent the night in a chair next to Daniel's bed after ordering Carter and Teal'c to their quarters for some much needed rest. My body's clamouring to lie down but I somehow feel it wouldn't be fair to Daniel to leave him alone right now, even though he's most likely not aware that I've been here with him.

I must be getting soft in my old age.

oo~O~oo

"No!"

I startle awake, my heart pounding at the cry. Daniel's in the throes of a nightmare or some sort of delirium. The thingie's back on, they're trying to bring his fever down again, and he's squirming around, trying to slide off the bed.

"Janet! No!"

I try to hold him down as Fraiser comes running to Daniel's bed. My fingers brush the cooling blanket that's only got a sheet between it and Daniel's skin, and I wince at the chill. The poor guy has to be very uncomfortable.

"Goa'uld. There's a Goa'uld. Janet!"

"Easy, easy, Daniel. Everything's okay."

He stops struggling at the sound of Fraiser's voice and looks at her. For the first time, there's awareness in his gaze, and I relax my hold on him.

"Jan... Janet?"

"Hey, there." She smiles and touches her fingers to his cheek. "Welcome back."

"You're..."

"I'm fine. You're in the infirmary. You're safe."

"There was a Goa'uld..."

"I know. SG-1 took care of him and got you out�" Her words are muffled as Daniel's arm comes up and hooks around her neck, dragging her down against his chest. The weight of his arm pulls her close in a hug and she reaches an arm around him, whispering words to try and soothe him. He can't hold his arm up for long and it falls to the bed, but Fraiser stays there for a while, hunched over him, and when she straightens, he's asleep once more.

She clears her throat and pushes a stray lock of hair out of her face, oddly discomfited. "He..." She wipes moisture from her cheek and the sleeve of her lab coat is damp. "I think the antibiotics have finally kicked in." For a moment I'm confused as to where the moisture has come from, until I realize Daniel's face and body are soaked in sweat. She turns the cooling thingie off and speaks softly to one of the nurses. She gives me a smile and walks away.

A short while later the nurse returns with a basin and cloth and begins to lightly wipe the sweat away from Daniel's skin, working slowly and gently so as not to wake him.

oo~O~oo

Tired. Need to get up, get away. Warn the team that... oh, safe. Infirmary. Tired.

oo~O~oo

Jack's here. I blink, wondering if I'm dreaming, but no, the snores are just as familiar and comforting here in the infirmary as they are when we're offworld.

His neck's gonna be stiff if he continues sleeping like that. I reach out between the bars and poke his leg with the tip of my finger. He jumps, looks around, sees me, and smiles as he rubs his neck.

"Hey."

"That's gotta hurt." I point to the way he's holding his neck, canted to one side.

"Had worse. How're you feeling?"

"Tired." I try to remember and I'm assailed with visions that are part dream, part nightmare. Terror hits me when the visions fall into place and I realize what happened.

"The children!" I start to sit up and don't quite make it as my head explodes in pain. Everything sort of goes fuzzy around the edges for a moment and when my vision clears, Jack's leaning over me and his hand's on my shoulder.

"There's nothing we can do, Daniel." His eyes bore into mine and I know he's right.

"Just like Shau'ri," I mumble, forcing my gaze from his and blinking back stinging moisture in my eyes. I feel stupid and weak, and wish Jack would sit down and give me some privacy. My wife's predicament continues to haunt me and this has brought back that awful nightmare when she was taken a few months ago. Instead of leaving, Jack squeezes my shoulder.

"We might not be able to do anything for those kids that got goolded, but I swear, we're gonna get that snakehead and stop him from hurting any more children. Teal'c's recognized the Jaffa's symbols and we're gonna go after him. When you're better."

I turn again to look at Jack and there's strength there, determination. He promised I'd get Shau'ri back, and I know that one day, I will. With his help.

My head's aching and I have no strength. Just talking has exhausted me and I fight to stay awake. "Tired," I manage to whisper as my eyes flutter shut. I feel someone adjust the blankets just as I drift off.

oo~O~oo

I was a little fearful leaving Daniel and the infirmary this morning to go freshen up and have a bite to eat before meeting with Hammond, but now that I've returned, I see that my worries were all for naught. Daniel's sitting up and actually eating something. He squints my way and waves when he spots me, a shy smile lighting up his face.

Even during those few hours, he's lost several medical contraptions, left only with the IV attached to him. I return his smile as I approach the bed. This visit's gonna be a short one. I'm heading off for home in a short while; my bed's calling my name.

I snag a chair and park my numb butt on it. I know Carter's on her way down and I just wanted to make sure Daniel knew he's not being abandoned. He glances at me sideways, and he's obviously a little uncomfortable. I wonder how much he remembers.

As I watch him watch me, I realize one thing; I wouldn't want this man anywhere except on my team.

 

The End!



Author's Note: Many thanks to Jmas, for trusting in me and publishing this story in her E-zine 'Ancients Gate XVI - Against the Wind'

If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:

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Since 29 November 2008

 

 

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.