Of Men and Trees



�I don�t know, Carter. I�m not sure if I can trust Daniel anymore.�

Daniel stopped in surprise outside the door to Jack�s office. He hadn�t meant to eavesdrop on his friend. He�d been cooped up in his office for the past two days, and had been on his way to ask Jack to join him for a late supper.

�Surely you don�t mean that, sir,� he heard Sam reply. Daniel stood undecided at the door, wondering whether he should enter and pretend he hadn�t heard anything, or just turn around and leave. Truth be told, he wanted to hear what Jack would say. Jack�s answer came before he could decide to do either. Daniel stood there numbly just outside the doorway, listening and hating himself for it.

�Tell me again that Daniel won�t run off and abandon us the next time he sees something he thinks to be the meaning of life stuff.� Daniel heard the derision in Jack�s voice, and he closed his eyes at the pain this invoked in him. Jack was talking about Daniel�s decision to stay behind when they had had only the one chance to escape the crumbling castle on Ernest�s planet.

Jack was right, though. Daniel had momentarily forgotten all of his current goals in life; the main one being rescuing Shau�re from the Goa�ulds. Not to mention exploring the universe, finding ways to protect Earth, or discovering new and ancient civilizations. And how about belonging on a team with his newfound friends? Except for that one incredible year that he�d had with Shau�re, Daniel hadn�t felt like he�d belonged anywhere since he was eight and his parents were still alive. Now having spent mere months as a member of SG1, Daniel knew that he�d been unequivocally accepted as part and parcel of the team. But throw him a tantalizing morsel of incredible alien ideology wrapped up in alien technology, and without thought he�d gone and reversed the role. He had been so very willing to abandon his team, his friends.

He couldn�t believe how easily he�d been distracted. He had endangered Jack in his decision to stay behind. As a result, they almost hadn�t made it through the Stargate this time. It was Ernest Littlefield�s words that had finally gotten through to Daniel; that no prize was worth obtaining if there was no one to share it with. Daniel should have identified that bit of logic without having Ernest to remind him.

His own theories of the pyramids had been ridiculed, and he�d been laughed out of the archaeological academia for voicing them when his fellow colleagues had walked out of his last lecture. He had been alone with his discoveries, certain he was right; except for the usual quacks who kept contacting him, saying that the end of the world was near.

�But Daniel didn�t abandon us,� Sam said fervently. Daniel appreciated the fact that she was defending him, but he also acknowledged that he had been so very close to doing exactly that. He thought back to what Ernest had gone through, living 50 years by himself on an otherwise uninhabited planet. Would Daniel really have been happy being the only living person on a planet? Daniel was a loner by nature, he had the foster care system to thank for that. He had closed himself off from people while growing up, choosing to immerse himself in his books and studies rather than seeking solace with people.

�This time,� Jack replied acerbically. After a short pause, Jack continued, speaking softly. �I need to be able to trust my people, Carter. I don�t know if I can trust him.�

Swallowing convulsively, Daniel turned on his heels and started back towards his office. His pace was such that others had to dart out of his way as he sped down the hall. He was embarrassed to know that they had been discussing him, but was more troubled when he realized that he had disappointed Jack.

�Daniel!� Sam�s voice called to him, and he slowed down after taking several more hurried steps. She jogged up to him, slowing her pace as she walked beside him.

�You heard?� she asked tentatively. Daniel kept his eyes on the ground, a little embarrassed at having been caught eavesdropping.

�Yeah,� he said sadly.

�The colonel�s a little upset right now, Daniel. He�ll get over it. Maybe you should go and talk to him.� Daniel arched his eyebrows as he looked at Sam, before turning his gaze back down to the ground.

�Sam, it�s been two days. If he�s still angry at me now� anyway, he was right. Who knows how I�ll react the next time I get so caught up in something that nothing else matters to me. I�m a hindrance to the team.�

Sam grabbed Daniel�s arm, stopping suddenly in the middle of the passageway. �You don�t mean that. So you found something that you thought was significant and you wanted to stay behind. But you didn�t, that�s what�s important.�

�I endangered Jack�s life. I should have grabbed my notes and left when he came to get me and Ernest. Instead we almost got crushed when the room began to collapse. Sam, I nearly trapped Jack there with me!� Daniel turned away from his friend and continued walking.

Sam sped up in order to catch up with him, her eyes rolling in exasperation. �But you both made it out safely. You can�t keep blaming yourself over that.�

�It�s not me who has a problem now, it�s Jack. You heard him, he can�t trust me.� In a softer voice, he added, �And I don�t trust myself.�

�If you�re aware of the temptation, Daniel, then you won�t make the same mistake again. Don�t you think there won�t come a time that I�ll find some exciting new technology and would offer body and soul to be able to bring it home? It�s human nature, Daniel. You�re human, you�re my friend, and you�re also my team mate. You�re not going to let any of us down.� Having said her fill, Sam stopped walking. Her words ringing in his ears, Daniel continued on to his office.

He sat down and stared dully at his computer, his enthusiasm suddenly gone. He�d been eagerly compiling all of the information he�d gathered on Ernest�s planet, the self-same stuff that he�d nearly chosen a life of self-imposed exile for had he remained behind. Was Jack going to take him off the team? Daniel removed his glasses and massaged his forehead. Trying to ease the headache that was quickly forming, he realized that his neck and shoulders were stiff from having spent hours sitting at his computer. He threw his glasses onto his desk, his hand moving to rub the back of his neck as he tried to stretch his aching back.

He had done it again. He had acted without thought, and thus endangering someone he cared for. He�d done it with Shau�re and her people, by convincing Kasuf to unbury the Stargate so that *he* could prove his theories about the map room. Not that anyone on Abydos gave a damn about the forgotten room or the numerous glyphs that had formed addresses to other worlds. No, Daniel had wanted to be the one to make the discovery. His theories had been right; shouldn�t he have been satisfied with that? He�d found a new world, someone who loved him, people who had not only accepted him but had looked up to him. Why couldn�t he have left well enough alone?

God, but he felt stupid. The pain of what he�d done to his Abydonian friends rushed back to overwhelm him. He was the one responsible for their needless injuries and deaths caused by Apophis� Jaffa; and for Shau�re and Skaara�s abductions and possessions by the Goa�uld. Daniel had been able to push the hurt aside while immersing himself in his work, knowing that he was trying to make amends, and looking for a way to free his wife and her brother. He realized that in that one hasty decision, he might have condemned them to a lifelong existence of slavery to the Goa�uld nation. Because that�s what Shau�re and Skaara were, slaves to the parasitical snakes that now possessed their bodies.

Oh sure, he could also argue and say that unburying the Abydonian Stargate had led to Jack returning to Abydos and meeting up with Daniel a second time; and by going to Chulac, SG1 had been the pivotal point in Teal�c defecting and joining their cause; and with the Stargate programme being reinstated, Sam�s reassignment at Cheyenne Mountain had brought her into the team. So in essence Daniel had been the focal point in bringing his team together. Bullshit. He�d rather be living in married bliss on Abydos with Shau�re, totally ignorant of the fact that Earth was at war with the Goa�uld.

Wouldn�t he?

He sighed. He missed Shau�re terribly, but he couldn�t deny how much his new family had come to mean to him. And okay, he admitted it. He actually enjoyed exploring the universe. He welcomed that little thrill of anticipation when a new gate address was found viable and a new planet was ready to be explored. Plus the fact that his theories and suggestions were actually listened to now and carefully considered by people was downright flattering. The only thing that could make everything perfect was having Shau�re here, by his side. Snake-free.

Maybe Sam was right, maybe by knowing he had been so easily enticed, he could recognize the temptation the next time the situation came up. So how could Daniel prove to Jack that he wouldn�t go off half cocked once again whenever something tantalizing came along? Was Daniel even sure that he�d be able to trust himself not to? Would Jack even give him another chance?

He reached into a drawer for some Tylenol, and as he downed two of them with the dregs of what was sitting in his coffee cup, Teal�c appeared at his door.

�Have you eaten, DanielJackson?� Teal�c asked. It hadn�t taken his friends long to learn that once Daniel became caught up in a project, food became a low priority. They�d take turns coming around to make sure that he�d eaten; a task which simultaneously annoyed him and touched him. He hated having to leave his work when he was in the middle of something, but he admitted to himself that he liked being cared for and worried about. He did the same for Sam at times, knowing she was in the midst of an experiment or busy with some alien device that only she could appreciate, and had forgotten to eat.

�I�m not really hungry, Teal�c,� Daniel answered, his appetite having fled when he�d heard his friends talking. He put his glasses back on, thinking maybe he�d just go home. He didn�t feel like working anymore, and he really was tired. Okay, he admitted it. He just wanted to go home and sulk. The first days after coming back from Abydos, he had stayed with Jack. His friend had been understanding and had helped keep him out of a funk. He was feeling lonely and guilty right now; and hell, why was he feeling like he�d been the one abandoned? He was the one who had disappointed Jack. He shouldn�t feel that Jack had written him off already.

�Is there a problem?� Teal�c asked as he made his way to stand beside Daniel, arms behind his back. Daniel shook his head, saying, �I�m just tired, Teal�c. I�ve almost finished with the information I gathered at Heliopolis, I guess I need a break. I�m heading on home.�

�That is a wise decision, as you need to be refreshed for our mission to P7B 448 tomorrow morning.�

�Mmmission? What mission?� Daniel stammered. He didn�t remember any mention that they had been assigned a new task. He dragged forth the address from his memory, remembering that P7B 448 had been a planet with immense trees, and no notable ruins in the immediate area except for a hazy shot of several tall, carved stones covered in moss.

�General Hammond issued a memo earlier this morning. Have you not seen it?�

�I didn�t get a memo�� Daniel started, when he realized that he hadn�t checked his emails or his in-tray. He flipped through the few pieces of correspondence and found the one Teal�c had been talking about. They were scheduled to go through the Stargate tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. Daniel sighed, realizing that he hadn�t prepared for this trip.

Once Teal�c left, Daniel spent the next few hours studying the readouts and trying to decipher the obscure photos that the MALP had taken. The reports also stated that the soil appeared to have trace amounts of Naquada in it, so Daniel suspected that they�d be spending lots of time gathering soil samples. When he finally gave up and admitted that the pictures were too unclear to decipher, it was too late to go home. Daniel spent the rest of the night tossing and turning on his assigned bunk, wondering if this was to be his last mission offworld with SG1.

- - - - - -

Rushing into the gateroom, Daniel fiddled with his vest and equipment, his fumbling fingers having problems getting everything to fit in their proper places. He�d had little rest in the past two nights, and had finally fallen asleep 30 minutes before his alarm woke him up this morning. He had gotten up feeling groggy, was running late and had had to choose between a shower and breakfast. The shower won.

He came to a stop beside Jack, not quite looking him in the eye, but throwing frequent glances his way, trying to gauge his mood. He did catch Sam�s eye, and she smiled a greeting at him. Teal�c came to stand beside Daniel as the last chevron lit and locked, watching as the wormhole whooshed before them. Jack ordered them through, barely glancing at Daniel.

They came out of the Stargate into the shadows of trees. The Stargate was in a clearing that had obviously been dutifully kept clear of growth for about ten feet in diameter. There was a very narrow path leading from the Stargate and into the intimidating forest. Daniel turned his attention to the moss covered stones flanking the entrance to the path. A cursory look confirmed that his attempts at deciphering the carvings had been for naught. After brushing the moss and vines away, all they depicted were little stick people standing dwarfed by huge trees.

He dutifully videotaped everything as Jack stood by, watching silently. He could hear Sam and Teal�c talking together softly, and knew that they were gathering samples. Daniel knew that Jack was getting impatient, and quickly packed his video camera into his packsack. He was ready to go before his other team mates had finished their work.

Ordering them into the forest, Daniel took his place behind Teal�c as they started down the dark, narrow path. Jack and Sam followed behind. Daniel batted away long, clingy vines that hung from the trees, and tried not to trip over exposed roots.

Jack was uncommonly quiet, and Daniel wondered whether it had anything to do with him. Jack hadn�t even made one sarcastic comment about the trees, a characteristic that they had all come to expect from their commanding officer whenever they came to a tree laden world. Daniel thought that maybe he should have taken Sam�s advice and talked to Jack last night instead of returning to his own office and licking his wounds. He didn�t want to bring the subject up now, not when he wasn�t quite sure of Jack�s mood at the moment.

The trees were gargantuan. The smallest tree that Daniel saw was a mere eight feet in diameter. Most of the trees were at least twenty to thirty feet in width. They didn�t grow very tall, though. The canopy was about fifteen to twenty feet high. They could hear slight rustlings in the branches, but none of them had spotted signs of wildlife yet.

They followed the winding, root congested path for about an hour, until it came to an end in a large clearing. It was thirty feet wide and was blocked by a fast flowing stream. Sam commented that this spot was ideal for collecting more samples; there was naquada readings registering from the soil and even from the trees. As Daniel grabbed a specimen container to help out, Sam instructed him to gather several pieces of foliage. Pulling out his knife, Daniel walked to the nearest tree and began slicing a six inch piece from the branch. The wood was hard and at least two inches in diameter. Daniel began to saw the blade through the branch in order to make the cut. Clear-coloured sap ran out of the incision he made and dripped thickly onto his fingers.

Suddenly, the branch bucked in his hands. Daniel dropped his knife and let go of the branch in surprise. The whole tree began to shake, its limbs beginning to whip up and down in what seemed to be an agitated manner. It made a deep, thumping sound which echoed throughout the clearing. Daniel backed away from the agitated tree while his team mates dropped what they were doing and rushed to his side. They had all drawn their weapons, looking around for signs of danger.

The surrounding trees also began to rustle and shake, the noise becoming very loud. Daniel looked around in confusion, wondering if the other trees were reacting to the one he had tried to cut a piece off of. But how could trees move like that? The branches were so rigid they shouldn�t be able to bend in such a manner. He heard Sam yelling in his ear, but couldn�t quite make out the words. The noise became a drumbeat, echoing into the forest.

The cacophony became almost unbearable as more trees joined in. Soon Daniel had his hands clasped instinctively to his ears, trying to block the sound. His team mates dropped their weapons, hands also going to their ears in pain. Jack grasped his shoulder, pointing back along the path. Daniel turned and entered the forest behind Teal�c, making for the Stargate. He had only taken a few steps into the wooded area when he realized that the sound was worse among the trees. He stopped, wanting to turn around. As he did so, the noise unbelievingly intensified. It became a thrumming sound, vibrating throughout his whole body. He clenched his teeth, his hands held uselessly against his ears. He found he was gasping for breath, the force of the vibrations somehow preventing his diaphragm from expanding fully. He saw Sam and Jack holding their heads, their faces contorted in pain.

Daniel wanted to tell them to get out of the forest and away from the trees, but he couldn�t get his mouth to work. As he took a step forward, his knees buckled. He found himself falling, his hands coming down limply, unable to soften his fall. He landed hard on his right shoulder, feeling pain jar up and down his arm. Through his peripheral vision, Daniel saw the sole of a boot, either Jack�s or Sam�s. They were down also. The boot slowly disappeared from his sight as his vision grew dark.

- - - - - -

Teal�c concentrated on breathing through the pain as he saw his team mates go down. His symbiote was also affected by this strange reverberation, but it was able to aid Teal�c withstand its effects slightly better than his Tau�ri friends. Teal�c�s legs gave out, and he found himself on his knees. He saw CaptainCarter and DanielJackson lose consciousness, their bodies going limp after their telltale struggles to withstand the pain. O�Neill fought its effects a short while longer, but his body soon lost the battle. Teal�c felt his own body tilt to the right and was unable to prevent its tumble to the ground.

He lay there in agony when suddenly it ceased. He saw the trees before him calm, their limbs returning to their natural still state. He lay there and enjoyed the simple feat of breathing in and out without distress. After a minute, Teal�c tried to turn his head to see if his team mates were all right, but his body wouldn�t obey. He could only move his eyes, and his friends were out of his range of vision.

He was startled to see several short tiny brown legs pass in front of him. A small brown, knobby face peered down at him, its brown eyes growing huge in surprise as they saw Teal�c staring back. Several more faces joined the first, and small fingers grasped at him, rolling him sideways. He felt himself moving. At first Teal�c thought that they were carrying him, until he realized that he was being dragged on some kind of sled or travois. He travelled through the forest silently, not a footstep or rustle of leaves could he hear.

A sudden jar to the travois caused his head to shift down, and Teal�c could now make out at least one travois behind dragged behind him. There were at least a dozen of the creatures pulling it. They were barely two feet in height, wearing what appeared to be leaves and vines as clothing or adornment. Their heads were covered with something resembling more roots than hair. The tendrils appeared to move independently from one another, some singly, some in groups. Their brown skin appeared barklike, hard and knobby. Their legs and arms appeared to have several joints, bending in strange places. Teal�c surmised that they were probably indigenous to this planet. Not like the Tau�ri, who had been transplanted throughout the galaxy by the Goa�uld.

They travelled through the forest for what Teal�c approximated to be about twenty minutes. The travois came to a stop. After experiencing several hard bumps, he found that he was being dragged into a hole leading into what he thought was the interior of one of the trees. They descended down a tunnel with a very low ceiling. The creatures themselves merely bent low, their legs seeming to double up. Teal�c felt that it was disconcerting to have his head lower than his feet, he felt as if his body was about to slide down head-first off of the travois any moment.

The walls were made from uneven sized pieces of wood, and Teal�c realized that these must be the roots of the trees. Soon, to his relief, the tunnel evened out. He could make out dim shafts of light shining through the top and sides of the tunnel, and he realized belatedly that these came from holes in between the roots. They weren�t inside the trees, they were beneath them.

They came to a halt inside a large round chamber. Teal�c moved his eyes upward and estimated that the roof was about fifteen feet in height. The travois was shifted away from the entrance. Teal�c felt a touch on his head and face and looking upwards, he saw one of the aliens standing before him. It rushed off and he managed to turn his head slightly to watch it. It stopped next to MajorCarter, stroking her face, then ran off to do the same to O�Neill and DanielJackson. The hairs on its head began moving in what Teal�c assumed to be excitement, and soon all of SG1 was being stroked, poked and prodded by dozens of aliens. It was only when Teal�c managed to weakly raise a hand in an attempt to brush them away from his face did they finally scurry away.

Before he could find the strength to sit up, Teal�c felt something grab hold of his wrist. Pain flowed through it as his arm was forced above his head, where his bicep was also tightly clasped. The bindings tightened painfully, and he felt a burning sensation on his skin. Whatever was holding him had pierced through the long-sleeved tee-shirt he wore, and his thick cotton jacket. The pain increased as the vines began tugging on his arm. His body was slowly raised off the travois, his full weight bearing on his arm. He lifted his free arm to try and grasp whatever was holding him. His flailing arm was quickly caught and also painfully squeezed. He was pulled to a vertical position, his legs limp and useless beneath him, unable to hold his weight.

As he was being dragged upright, he saw that CaptainCarter�s sagging body was also in the process of being pulled up to her feet by what appeared to be vines reaching down from the ceiling. She was beginning to come to; her head was trying to move against the pull of gravity. Her weapon was still strapped around her body, bouncing against her ribs as she was hoisted up.

DanielJackson was lying limply on his side beside CaptainCarter, but a large crowd of aliens were surrounding him, seemingly intent on his hands. He still appeared to be unconscious, his face slack, eyes closed.

ColonelO�Neill was already stirring, and some aliens were scurrying around him, gesticulating at the vines creeping down from the ceiling towards his commanding officer. Teal�c watched helplessly as his commanding officer was also strung up. He watched O�Neill wince as the vines dug deeply into his wrists and biceps. He also had his weapon, but was effectively barred from using it.

The creatures grouped around DanielJackson appeared to become agitated, the roots on their heads vibrating similarly to the trees earlier. More came running into the chamber, and as Teal�c watched, they appeared to be sniffing or tasting the younger man�s hands. When they had all had a turn, they dragged Daniel slightly off to the side, and began to string him up also.

Sensation had begun to return to Teal�c�s body and he attempted to get his feet underneath him to take the strain off of his arms. He managed to lock his knees, maintaining his balance as the vines took up the slack. Soon both the Captain and the Colonel were standing, looking around warily as they finally came to their senses. It was only when Teal�c saw the Colonel�s mouth move but heard no sound, did he realize that the trees� cacophony had caused him to become deaf.

- - - - - -

Jack woke up as the ground slowly slid away from him. His head was pounding, his stomach threatening to rebel, his legs not obeying his commands. His wrists and arms were burning, the pain still tolerable, but promising to get worse. There was movement everywhere, his blurry eyesight not quite discerning the shapes. He swallowed back the bile that was rising in his throat, trying to breathe deeply and take control of his body. The stinging sensation in his arms increased as he managed to set his feet beneath him. He looked up, finally making out the vines that had a hold on his arms. He swore, and swore again when he realized that he couldn�t hear anything.

Jack soon realized that Carter and Teal�c were also in the same predicament, and that Daniel was soon to be. His friend was clearly still unconscious, but he could see that both Teal�c and Carter were awake and alert. There were little treelike creatures swarming all over the cavern, making their way to and fro, but cautiously keeping a distance from the four prisoners.

�What the hell happened?� he called out to them. He saw Carter shake her head, her mouth moving silently. Jack mouthed the word �deaf� several times, saw Carter watch his lips and then suddenly nod her head when she understood. She glanced over at Daniel, and Jack saw her worried look. He was hanging limply by his arms, his head hanging heavily between his shoulders. Jack called out to Daniel in the hope that his friend hadn�t lost his hearing, and that he�d wake up at the sound of Jack�s voice.

Something slithered from above, and Jack saw more vines make their way towards Daniel. They slid along his arms, across his shoulders; feeling their way inside his jacket. Daniel�s body started as they slid against skin. Jack could seem the vines bulging around Daniel�s torso and waist as they surrounded his ribs. His breathing was speeding up as he tried to pull away from the pain they must have been inflicting. More slid down his legs, surrounding his thighs and his calves. Jack could see Daniel�s legs moving as he tried to kick the vines away, but they had surrounded him as neatly as a boa constrictor.

As the vines squeezed, Jack saw Daniel raise his head in agony and scream. He was glad at this point that he was deaf, seeing Daniel in agony was bad enough. Jack attempted to free himself to go help his friend, yelling and screaming his anger at the aliens. He saw Teal�c and Carter struggling, Carter�s face shiny with sweat from the pain and effort of her struggles. He could see her mouth moving, but he was unable to figure out what she was saying. She kicked at one of the aliens as it came a little closer, and a vine popped out of the soil at her feet, spiralling itself up her leg.

- - - - - -

Sam stood stock still as the vine began crawling up her leg. When it reached her thigh, it stopped, the tip moving restlessly, as if trying to decide whether to continue on. This one was strangely painless, unlike the ones surrounding her wrists and upper arms. Those burned and stung, the pain increasing as the minutes went by. Sam could see Daniel writhing in agony, his eyes squeezed tightly shut. He was panting furiously, no longer screaming now. The vines surrounding him had stopped moving. She hoped that they weren�t trying to squeeze the life out of him.

She looked over at the Colonel, who was still struggling valiantly to free himself. Teal�c was similarly straining to escape from the plants� hold, alternately keeping an eye on Daniel and Sam. She tried moving her leg tentatively, and the vine squeezed her ankle. She felt the pressure through her boot, but there was no pain. She froze, and the pressure eased slightly, although it held her more tightly than it had previously. More vines came down towards Daniel, twisting around his arms and shoulders.

Daniel opened his eyes, his eyes darting about in panic. As he spotted them, she saw the look of hope appear momentarily on his face. It vanished when he took in their predicament. His eyes locked with those of the Colonel, and Sam knew that Daniel was trying to express his sorrow at getting them into this predicament. She couldn�t see Colonel O�Neill�s expression as his face was turned away from her, but she saw him stop struggling when Daniel caught his eye.

- - - - - -

DanielJackson appeared to be in great pain as the vines encircled his body. Teal�c saw CaptainCarter cease her attempts to free herself when she became enmeshed with more of the same. They did not appear to wish to harm her as they did DanielJackson. Teal�c wondered if perhaps there was something about Daniel�s body that attracted the vines; perhaps there was residue from the tree he had attempted to cut.

When more of the plants came down towards DanielJackson, Teal�c doubled his efforts at getting rid of his restraints. He felt a pressure near his neck, and saw that the vines were attempting to enter beneath his clothes at the neckline. He bucked his body, trying to evade them but they tenaciously eased inside. He could feel the cold plant slither along his skin, moving beneath his shoulder, encircling his back and coming around to the front. It wound itself around again, brushing against his womb. The cold sensation began to burn, the pain radiating through his skin and muscles.

The plant ceased its movement as it sensed the opening. It appeared to ripple, and he could feel the tip prodding. His symbiote didn�t react to the �knocking at the door,� instead it appeared to be absorbed in trying to ease Teal�c�s pain. He felt the plant push into his womb, the feeling both intrusive and disturbing. He worried momentarily that if the vines killed his symbiote, Teal�c himself would soon die. Then he realized that it didn�t matter, they would all probably not survive this day.

DanielJackson was no longer struggling, his pain had overwhelmed him and his legs no longer supported him. He hung limply in the grip of the vines, held up solely by their cruel and painful grasp of his body. He was still conscious, Teal�c could see the effort he maintained in keeping eye contact with his friend. ColonelO�Neill was unable to do anything to help DanielJackson except provide silent moral support. Teal�c thought this to be a painful task; he knew that O�Neill hated the feeling of helplessness. As he watched, more vines began surrounding O�Neill�s body.

The tip of the vine suddenly pulled out of his womb, and the vines surrounding him shuddered and pulled away. They released him so quickly that he was unable to keep his balance. As he fell to his knees, he saw his team mates released simultaneously. O�Neill landed heavily on one knee, while the captain managed to control her fall and quickly crawled towards their stricken team mate. DanielJackson lay sprawled motionless on his stomach before them.

- - - - - -

Sam reached for Daniel, shoving her P-90 aside as it hung from her shoulder. Daniel was trembling, his eyes scrunched tightly shut against the pain. She felt for a pulse with trembling fingers, noting that his skin was warm and he was sweating profusely. His pulse was rapid but strong.

Her team mates were quickly by Daniel�s side. Unable to comfortably lay him on his back because of the backpack he still sported, they turned him onto his side. The colonel pulled up Daniel�s tee-shirt, revealing numerous welts and bruises around his chest, waist and ribcage. Sam glanced at her own wrists, noting the redness and swelling where the vines had had a hold on her. The muscles around the swelling were stiffening already, and moving her fingers was painful. She assumed that the puffiness continued wherever the plants had touched Daniel�s skin. Ignoring her own pain, she looked around, hoping for an escape route.

The creatures were amassed behind them, keeping their distance. The growth atop their heads were vibrating madly, and she could see roots and vines that made up the walls of this room moving around in what appeared to be an agitated manner. She saw Teal�c eyeing them warily; he had lost his staff weapon, but both she and the Colonel still had their guns. She released the catch on Daniel�s holster and handed Teal�c his weapon.

There was nothing that they could do for Daniel�s pain at the moment. The colonel was trying to get Daniel to sit up. Hefting her weapon, she stood up carefully while thumbing the safety and preparing to fight her way out. Teal�c stood also, drawing his own hand gun, one now in each hand. The miniature tree people stepped forward en masse, advancing approximately several inches and stopping. She aimed her gun at them at the movement, but they had stopped moving before her obvious threat.

She looked back towards Daniel, who was leaning heavily on the colonel. His eyes were open now, and he was staring at the aliens. Sam saw Daniel�s mouth moving, but she wasn�t able to hear a sound.

The aliens advanced again, a solid black mass that glided forward a few inches. She felt that the aliens were trying to herd them somewhere. But there was nowhere for them to go! Behind them were walls, and the creatures were blocking the only exit. She glanced around anyway, and saw an opening behind her that hadn�t been there before.

It was as if the roots had been pulled aside, creating a gap for them to crawl through. And crawl they would, as it was barely two feet in height. She caught the colonel�s eye, jerking her head behind her. His eyes widened in surprise and ensuring that Daniel could sit without his support, he grabbed his mag light and peered inside.

A vine snaked out from the soil in a movement so quick; it would have made a rattlesnake jealous. It grabbed Daniel by the arm, and in one fluid movement, dragged him several feet towards the hole. Jack and Teal�c grabbed for Daniel as Sam covered the aliens with her gun.

Sam kept glancing behind, trying to keep an eye on her team mates and on the unmoving wall of aliens before her. The vine had just as quickly disappeared back into the soil, and Daniel managed to push himself up and away from where it had vanished. As Sam turned her head back towards the aliens, she�d found that they had moved forward once again. It was more than obvious that they wanted them to go through that hole.

The colonel signalled for them to pass through the hole; Teal�c first, then himself, Daniel, and then Sam. Sam was glad, this way she�d be able to keep an eye on Daniel. She backed up towards the hole, her gun continuously trained on the creatures. Teal�c went through, then Colonel O�Neill. She bent down beside Daniel as he crawled painfully through the space, and she went in backwards, her gun the last thing to pass through.

Sam tried to peer around Daniel in order to see what they were headed towards. All she could make out was a long, dark tunnel which wound through a forest of roots and vines. They had no choice but to crawl, the ceiling was too low for them to even attempt to frog walk. She glanced at the hole behind her and saw that it had disappeared. She hoped that they weren�t being led to a dead end where they would die a slow death inside the trees. She shivered, maybe the trees were carnivores? What if they were inside a giant venus fly trap? Or in this case, human trap.

Trying to rid herself of these morbid thoughts, she took the time to remove her own light from her pack and fastened it to her jacket. She then crawled quickly on her hands and knees and positioned herself behind Daniel, wincing as the unforgiving roots bruised her kneecaps and shins. Her hands slid on the damp earth, scratching them with bits of twigs and rocks.

Her hands and arms ached horribly from her wounds. She hated to think of the agony that Daniel was in; his whole body had been covered with marks where the vines had gripped him, not to mention the bruises that they had incurred. She hadn�t had time to look him over carefully. She didn�t think that he had internal injuries, but there was always the possibility. Hopefully they�d be able to stop soon and she�d have the time to give check him out, and also give him something for the pain. She had noticed Daniel favouring his right arm as he scrambled before her; she hoped that there wasn�t anything seriously wrong.

The path opened before them as they continued on. It slowly squeezed shut behind them as they crawled for what felt like forever, forcing them to keep going forward. Sam�s gun kept hitting her knees as it swung beneath her. She needed both hands to crawl, and whenever she threw the gun over her shoulder, her movements eventually caused it to slide back to the front. She raised a muddy hand to wipe the sweat from her face, wishing that the colonel would stop so that she could check on Daniel.

She couldn�t see beyond Daniel�s legs and butt, there wasn�t enough room between the roots to see her other teammates. She followed doggedly, hands right behind Daniel�s feet. The path began to descend suddenly, and she was scrambling not to slide head first in the slippery soil. Daniel managed to slide down without falling, and soon the path levelled, although it was much muddier than before. She had managed to catch a glimpse of the colonel before the path straightened again. He appeared worried as he looked back towards her and Daniel. Water now dripped heavily from the roots, and she thought that they might be beneath the stream where they had been captured.

The path became harder to negotiate; her hands and knees were constantly sliding in the mud. Sam saw Daniel slip and land sideways on his shoulder. She stopped near his feet, her light showing pain expressed in his face. She peered beyond, and could see the illumination of the colonel�s light beginning to fade as he and Teal�c continued on. She yelled out, telling them to stop. She nudged Daniel. She needed him to get up again. Glancing behind her, she saw that the path was disappearing slowly.

Daniel brought his knees underneath him, and managed to force himself up on one hand. He had obviously injured his shoulder in the fall, or had made a previous injury worse. He tried to go on, and slid again, landing on his stomach.

Sam yelled again, slapping her hand in the mud, trying to get Colonel O�Neill�s attention. Her hand landed on a rock and she threw it as hard as she could. It landed against the colonel�s backpack, but it served to catch his attention. As he backtracked to them, Sam straddled Daniel, her packsack catching on the roots hanging on the ceiling. He lay exhausted, his cheek lying in the mud. She placed a hand on his face, and although her fingers were cold, she knew that Daniel felt warmer than normal. He started as she touched him; he opened his eyes, looking up at her.

Colonel O�Neill had backed up to where they had stopped, unable to turn around in the tight space. Sam could see his mouth moving as he spoke to her, and she knew that she had to get Daniel up and going once again. Daniel began struggling to sit, and Sam backed out of the way, giving him room. He sat back on his legs, head bent under the low ceiling, left arm clutching his right shoulder.

Sam tried to get him to mime what was wrong, but he just shook his head, indicating that he wanted to go on. She met the colonel�s eyes behind Daniel, saw him glance behind her and swear. No mistaking that word. She turned, and saw that the wall of roots was barely two feet from her. Daniel saw it also, his eyes widening in comprehension.

- - - - - -

Daniel forced himself forward, trying to push the pain aside as he moved leaden arms and legs. The pain where the vines had marked him had spread into all the surrounding muscles, his ribs, arms and legs were also painfully bruised from the force the plants had exerted when they�d squeezed him. His shoulder had been injured, probably badly bruised, when he�d fallen in the forest. He had just landed on it once again, and now his right arm was having trouble holding his weight. His head pounded unmercifully, and he had a sinking feeling that he had gone deaf.

He kept his eyes glued on Jack�s feet before him, barely perceptible through the illumination coming from Sam�s light behind him. Whenever he faltered, he felt Sam�s hand on his leg or foot, encouraging him. Jack was constantly looking behind him to make sure Daniel was keeping up. He was embarrassed for having caused them to stop. He had endangered them, especially Sam, when the trail had kept on closing up behind them. He wondered what would have happened had he not been able to go on. Would whatever awareness that was controlling this path have sensed them and waited till he could get up? Or would it have enveloped him and left him there to die, trapped amongst the roots. Well, the point was moot because he was pretty sure that Jack would have dragged him through this trail if he had had to, but Daniel tried not to dwell on that thought anyway. They still hadn�t made it out and he doubted any of them knew where they were being led.

Right hand, left knee�left hand, right knee. Ignore the pain, try not to slip. He felt feverish and a little chilled. He wondered whether the vines were poisonous. The marks that they had left on his skin were obviously a reaction to a poison or toxin. Whatever it was, it was beginning to affect his muscles and nerves. Everything around the welts was very stiff and sore. Not so painful to the touch except where he was bruised, but it made it very difficult to move. And to breathe. Between his bruises and stiffening muscles, he was beginning to pant for breath, making him slightly light headed. Or was that from the headache and fever. Shit.

Daniel saw that Jack�s feet were farther away than they had been just a moment ago, and he realized that he had slowed down again. He forced himself to take longer strides, and ended up off balance when his hand slipped. He found himself sliding in the mud and landing painfully on his stomach again. Before Sam could help him, he was up and moving again, swearing and cursing at himself between breaths.

The tunnel was suddenly flooded with intensely bright light, blinding him and causing his eyes to tear. He had to stop and turn away; he couldn�t see where he was going. It took a moment before he realized that the brightness was daylight. They were moments away from escaping this underground forest. Squinting through his tears, he couldn�t see Jack in front of him anymore, and he moved blindly forward. He felt something gripping his arms and he panicked for a moment. He struggled until he realized that they were hands pulling him up, and suddenly he was on his feet. Tears still streaming down his face, he tried to shield his eyes with his hands. Teal�c�s massive body was beside him, urging him away. His legs barely able to hold him up, he leaned on Teal�c as they moved away from the trees.

When his eyes began adjusting to the brightness, Daniel looked around. They were approaching a large stream, probably the same one they had seen before. They were in a glade, still surrounded by immensely huge trees. As he looked around, he noted that they weren�t in the same spot as they�d been captured. Teal�c sat him down near the water, Sam and Jack joining them scant seconds later.

He sat down heavily as his legs refused to bear his weight. Teal�c caught him as his knees buckled, supporting him against his chest. Jack had hold of Daniel�s arm while Sam began checking him out. He tried not to wince at her touch as he half lay across Teal�c, his body shivering as the cold air touched upon his damp clothes. He realized that it wasn�t as bright as he had first thought now that his eyes had adjusted to the light; it actually looked like the sun was beginning to set.

Someone removed his pack from his back, and soon a blanket was spread over him. Teal�c moved from beneath him, laying him down, and his head was cushioned on a pack. He missed the heat generated by Teal�c�s body. When he felt Jack also leave his side, he reluctantly opened his eyes. Sam was washing her hands by the river, Teal�c standing guard beside her. Jack was walking around the clearing, picking up pieces of wood. As Jack neared the trees, they suddenly began whipping about once again. Pressure built in his head, and he pressed his temples with his hands, trying to squeeze away the pain.

After a moment the pain and pressure stopped. He saw that Jack had stumbled backwards, losing the load of wood as he had instinctively brought his hands up to his head. As Jack picked up the strewn wood while keeping a wary eye on the trees, Sam kneeled down beside Daniel. She handed Daniel three pills and had Daniel swallow them with some water. He took them gratefully, hoping that they would soon ease some of the hurt that he was experiencing.

Jack began laying out the wood in order to build a campfire. Teal�c was wandering around the clearing, picking up more wood to stockpile for the night, decidedly staying away from the tree line. Daniel watched as Jack attempted to light the kindling. The wood was so hard that it didn�t seem to want to catch, the fire starting equipment charring the wood rather than igniting it. Jack�s mouth was constantly moving, and Daniel could picture the words in his mind as Jack swore.

Daniel leaned up onto his elbows, and reached into his pack. Removing his journal, he opened it halfway and forced his stiff fingers to tear out the pages. Jack quickly placed his hand over Daniel�s, trying to stop him. The expression on Jack�s face was one of concern; Jack probably knew how much Daniel valued his journals. But Daniel�s written thoughts would be of no use to any of them if they were going to catch pneumonia during a cold, damp night. He shook his head ruefully, and continued tearing out the pages. He handed them to Jack, who hesitated before taking them.

The flames caught at the paper, and quickly teased the kindling into igniting. Soon the fire was burning cheerfully, giving out a bit of welcome heat. The trees reacted to the fire in that they whipped their limbs around. Of course, they must be terrified of fire! Jack was watching them carefully. Daniel felt a pressure growing in his head once again, but either it faded or he grew accustomed to it. Maybe the trees realized that the fire was under control� who knew how intelligent they were.

Sam took one of Daniel�s muddy hands in her own clean ones. She carefully examined the injury around his wrist. Sam tugged at something caught in his skin, and Daniel saw what looked like a strand of fibre as she agonizingly pulled it out of the wound. He gritted his teeth during the process. As she placed the strand into a sample bottle, he brought his arm close to his face and saw that the red puffy ridge around his wrist was full of the stuff. He hissed as she pulled on another and tugged his hand free, unwilling to undergo this kind of misery at the moment. He was in enough pain as it was.

She mouthed �sorry� at him, as she experimentally pulled at a strand stuck to her own skin. He saw her wince at the pain the action caused. As she placed her own sample into a second container, Daniel curled up into a ball, cold, wet and shivering. He closed his eyes, secure in the thought that she wouldn�t try to remove the strands. His exhaustion over the past couple of days and his growing fever coupled with the waves of agony his body was experiencing, soon overwhelmed him, and he felt himself drifting.

He felt someone finger his hair out of his eyes, and then pause their hand momentarily against his forehead, probably testing for fever. He lay there despondently, thinking that a short while ago, his only worry was that he was going to be removed from the team. Now he was afraid that even if they made it off this planet, SG1 might be no more if their hearing loss was permanent. Wrapped up in his pain, Daniel didn�t register when his pants were loosened and pulled over his hip. A cold sensation, then a sting in his thigh, and he realized that someone had given him an injection. He just hoped that whatever it was they�d given him, it would start to work soon.

- - - - - -

Jack watched as Daniel huddled up into himself, in very obvious pain and misery. While Carter was preparing to give Daniel a shot of morphine, Jack carefully brushed Daniel�s bangs away from his mud-splattered face. He then laid his fingers against Daniel�s forehead, registering the obvious high temperature.

Daniel barely noticed the shot, and Jack was afraid that he might be going into shock. Carter�s worried eyes looked at Jack, and he cursed the fact that not only were they all injured in one way or another, they also had very limited means of communicating. Oh right, they could write in Daniel�s journal or take a stick and draw letters in the soil, but it wasn�t quite the same thing as talking.

Daniel was shivering violently now, and Jack took pity on him and moved up behind him. He pulled Daniel�s upper body up onto his lap, trying to warm him with his own body heat. He dug into Daniel�s vest pocket and pulled out one of the bandanas that he knew Daniel always carried around. He tipped some water onto the cloth and gently wiped the drying mud from Daniel�s cheek and temple. Daniel tried to twist away from the coolness of the cloth, but Jack held onto his chin and continued to wipe the dirt away.

When he finished, Daniel settled into Jack�s arms. Carter was busy tormenting herself by trying various medications on her wounds. Jack remembered how it hurt when she�d pulled one of thosethings from his wounds, no way was he letting her take more out. Carter finally settled with a sterile wipe. She winced every time the alcohol touched upon the welts. But she doggedly finished one wrist and moved onto the other.

When Carter approached Jack with a freshly opened sterile wipe, he looked at her incredulously. She just extended her hand out, wiggling her fingers. He hesitatingly gave her his hand, and jumped, swearing mightily, as the alcohol came into contact with the reddish weals on his skin. Daniel stirred in his arms, and Jack held himself still, gritting his teeth as she worked her way around his arm. She took her damned time cleaning the wound, but when she�d finished, Jack realized that the alcohol had gotten rid of the fibres. They had all curled up and withered, and were easily brushed away. She did the same to his other wrist, and then worked on the wounds around his biceps. By the time she�d finished, Jack was feeling weak and was sweating.

She and Teal�c finished tending their own wounds. Jack winced as he saw the red puffy lines around Teal�c�s torso, some extending straight into his womb. The Jaffa stood the pain without emotion; the only sign of his suffering was the sweat pouring down his body. When they had finished, they turned to Daniel. The morphine had finally kicked in about 30 minutes after the injection. Daniels body had relaxed and he had fallen asleep. His fever was still high, but at least now he was able to rest. Jack hoped that they�d be able to remove the stuff from Daniel�s wounds. He had so many�it was bound to have been a very painful process without the injection. He was deeply asleep at the moment. Time to get to work.

Carter began by washing out the mud and dried sap from Daniel�s hands. Then they gently eased his damp clothes from his limp body. They laid him down on top of another blanket. His body was a mass of welts and bruises. His right shoulder was already turning dark, the bruise spreading down his back. With Jack working on Daniel�s legs and Sam and Teal�c working on Daniel�s torso and arms, they managed to get rid of most of the strands on Daniel�s body. When they ran out of sterile wipes, Carter took out a small bottle of alcohol that she carried for emergency use. With that she went over the wounds, ensuring that they�d removed all traces of the vines� residue. She spread antibacterial cream over everything before they wrapped him up in blankets once again.

By then the sun had set. They had had to finish up by the light of their flashlights. They heated up some MREs, and had a couple more Tylenol and antihistamines for dessert. Jack signed that he�d take first watch, then Teal�c, then Carter.

- - - - - -

Painfully fingering the handful of pebbles in his left hand, Jack drew one up from his palm with his thumb and index finger. The muscles surrounding the swollen flesh around his wrist ached as he manipulated his fingers. He tossed the stone into his right hand, drew his arm back and lobbed it into a clear pool of water before him. He barely heard the faint splash, but at least he was hearing *something*. The stream was a low murmur and the fire before him crackled faintly. He looked down towards the canister of water he�d put on to boil, it was taking its own sweet time to heat up. He tossed another pebble, watching the ripples as the stone disturbed the still water.

He looked over towards where Daniel lay in a drugged sleep, and was surprised to find his friend watching him, eyes heavy lidded, but definitely awake. Smiling crookedly at Daniel, Jack said, �Hey.�

When Daniel didn�t answer, Jack dropped the pebbles on the ground and crawled over the three feet separating him from Daniel. He wiped his hands on his pants, before placing the back of his hand against his check, checking for fever. It was still high, but didn�t appear to be worse than before.

�Daniel, can you hear me?� Jack asked. He was suddenly worried that maybe Daniel�s hearing hadn�t returned, as it had for the other three members when they�d woken up this morning. It hadn�t completely returned, but hour by hour, Jack�s hearing seemed to be getting better.

�Jack?� Daniel asked softly. He appeared to be still slightly out of it, thanks to the pain killer. He�d woken up during the night in extreme pain, and Carter had given him another dose of morphine, and then yet another dose again a short while ago. Jack had expected Daniel to sleep at least another couple of hours.

�Yeah,� Jack replied. Picking up the last of their bottled water and some Tylenol, Jack helped Daniel sit up. As he leaned Daniel against him, Daniel asked, �Where�r Teal�c n Sam?�

�They�re trying to see if they can find the other clearing. You know, the one with the path leading back to the Stargate.�

�Where the trees � oh� he said, eyes widening. �C�n hear.�

�Yeah, our hearing is coming back.� Holding the Tylenol to Daniel�s mouth, Jack said, �Here, can you swallow these? And some water.� Jack coaxed him into drinking as much of the water as he could. His fever wasn�t coming down, even with the antibiotics and Tylenol they�d been giving him. They all had a touch of fever, probably due to some kind of toxin from the filaments the vines had left on them.

Swallowing the last mouthful of water, Daniel laid his head back drowsily against Jack�s chest. Jack moved to put Daniel down on the ground, but he clutched at Jack�s hand, opening his eyes and looking around wildly.

�Shhh, it�s okay, it�s just me,� Jack said soothingly. As he brushed away Daniel�s sweat soaked bangs away from his eyes, Daniel closed his eyes again.

�Sorry, Jack,� Daniel said softly, his brow furrowed slightly, eyebrows arched upwards over closed eyelids.

�Shhh, it wasn�t your fault. Go to sleep.�

�Shouldn�ta stayed. Shoulda gone when you said. You don�t trust me.� After a short pause, Daniel said softly, �I can�t trust me.�

�Daniel, I have no idea what you�re talking about. It�ll keep for later, okay? Just go to sleep.� Jack kept his voice soft, trying to lull Daniel back into slumber. Daniel didn�t answer, and Jack thought that he was nearly there�when the water Jack had been waiting to heat suddenly boiled over, threatening to douse the flames of the campfire.

Swearing, Jack had to lay Daniel down to move the container away from the open flames where it would boil at a slightly lower pace. This was to become their drinking water and he had spent enough time waiting for it to heat. Carter didn�t trust the water purification tables, something about the minerals in the area affecting the water. Satisfied that the water wouldn�t boil over again, he turned back to Daniel.

Daniel had curled up on his side, eyes open once more. He watched Jack approach him again, and Jack felt guilty that he�d had to dump him so quickly. �Sorry,� he apologized, as he sat down beside Daniel.

�I wanna stay,� Daniel murmured.

�What?� Jack asked. �Why do you want to stay here?�

�No, stay with you. Don� kick me off t� team.�

Jack passed a hand through his hair in exasperation, his fingers feeling bits of dirt and other stuff he�d rather not think about at the moment. �Why would I kick�.� Jack finally figured out what Daniel was trying to say. He�d mentioned trust earlier� �You�re talking about my conversation with Carter, aren�t you? She told you about it?�

Daniel shook his head. �No, heard you. Talking to Sam. Sorry. Sorry, Jack.�

Jack felt like such a heel. Daniel was staring up at Jack, his glazed eyes pleading.

�It�s okay, we�ll talk about this when we get back and you�ve got a little less happy juice in you, all right?� Daniel was fighting sleep, and Jack would rather have this conversation with Daniel when Daniel was lucid enough to remember what they�d said. Right now, Daniel�s emotions were probably too close to the surface, and Jack really didn�t want to hear him bare his soul.

�Won�t do�t again. Know now. Please Jack. Sorry. Wanna stay.�

Jack placed a hand on Daniel�s uninjured shoulder. �I know, Daniel. You�re not off the team, okay? We�ll talk about this later when we�re home. Go to sleep now.� Daniel grasped Jack�s arm, and as he watched, Daniel�s eyes shut involuntarily. Soon Daniel�s fingers loosened their hold on his arm, growing slack in sleep. Jack gently took Daniel�s hand and placed it back down on the ground. He tucked the blanket around his sleeping friend, and went to check on the water.

- - - - - -

�Colonel?� Sam�s tinny voice interrupted the tranquil sounds of the stream that Jack had been listening to. He picked up the radio that he had placed beside him on his packsack and answered, �I�m here.�

�Sir, I�ve found the clearing. It�s about 25 minutes out from where you are, across the stream.�

�Teal�c,� Jack said. �Did you copy that?�

�Indeed, O�Neill. I am proceeding back to camp as we speak.�

�Carter, stay put. I�ll break camp while I wait for Teal�c. We�ll come and join you.� He looked over at Daniel who was still sleeping soundly next to him, and hoped that his friend was up to the trek.

�Sir, there�s another thing. The path to the Stargate has disappeared.�

�Shit,� Jack swore to himself before replying. �You�re sure it�s the same clearing?�

�Yes sir, I can see Teal�c�s staff weapon and my specimen case.�

�We�ll deal with it when we get there. See if you can find a good spot where we can cross.�

�Yes, sir. I�ll be waiting.�

Jack placed the radio in his jacket pocket, and then began packing up their gear. He threw stream water over the fire, making sure that it was totally extinguished. He didn�t want the trees blaming them for causing a forest fire. �Smokey Bear would be proud of me�, he mumbled under his breath as he kicked the sodden ashes apart.

Jack surveyed the camp one last time, and then turned to Daniel. He knelt down beside his friend and shook him gently. Daniel stirred slightly, but didn�t wake.

�Daniel, come on, wake up. We�ve got to get going,� Jack said, shaking him a little less gently. Daniel opened his eyes, saw Jack, and closed his eyes again.

�Oh no, you don�t. Come on, upsee daisey.� He pulled Daniel up into a sitting position. The movement and the cold air on his body finally roused Daniel.

�Jack?� he complained. Jack kept a steadying hand on Daniel while reaching for his friend�s pants and tee shirt.

�Let�s get you dressed, Daniel. Carter�s found our clearing, and Teal�c�s on his way back. We�re moving out as soon as he gets here.� Daniel took the proffered article of clothing, and with Jack�s help, managed to get dressed without too much difficulty. Jack handed Daniel his boots and walked down to the river�s edge to see if Teal�c was nearby. He spotted Teal�c and waved. The Jaffa would be arriving in another minute or two. Jack returned to Daniel�s side. His friend had managed to get the boots on, but Jack could see that he was having difficulty tying up the laces. Watching Daniel fumble once, and then again, Jack batted his hands away and deftly knotted them up. It reminded him of when Charlie was a baby, except that he was lacing size 11 boots rather than little kiddie feet.

When Teal�c arrived at the campsite, he picked up their backpacks while Jack helped Daniel stand up. Keeping his arm around Daniel�s waist, they began making their way along the stream towards where Carter awaited them. The going was slow; Daniel kept tripping over roots and stones. Jack could feel him shaking with the effort of staying upright.

Their journey was made even more difficult because they had to keep their distance from the edge of the trees. If they wandered too close, the trees protested and the pain from their complaint would send them to their knees.

It took them 45 minutes before they met up with Carter. She�d found a spot where they could cross fairly easily. The area was wider here, but the water appeared to be slightly less deep as the current was dispersed over a sand bar near the middle of the stream.

Jack sat Daniel down to rest before they attempted to cross. Carter immediately went to him and began checking him over. Jack stood at the water�s edge, looking across the stream. They had about 70 feet to cross, but Carter had chosen well. The water didn�t appear to be any deeper than his waist. He looked farther downriver and he could make out the clearing. Yup, there was Teal�c�s staff weapon shining in the sunlight.

Teal�c came to stand beside Jack. �The current is strong here, O�Neill. But it is probably the best location to cross, as the depth appears to be shallower at this point.� He glanced over towards Daniel. �The water will be cold. We will need a fire when we reach the other side.�

Jack followed Teal�c�s gaze, and saw that Daniel was leaning against Carter, legs curled beneath him, head on her shoulder, his eyes closed. Jack thought that he looked totally exhausted. Carter was talking to him quietly, her hand on the back of his head, holding him close. She looked up and gave Jack and Teal�c a worried look.

Kneeling beside Daniel, Jack asked gently, �Daniel, you gonna be able to do this?�

Eyes still closed, Daniel said weakly, �Piece of cake, Jack.�

�Teal�c could carry you, put you over his shoulder��

�Indeed, it would please me greatly to put you over my shoulder, my friend.�

Daniel opened one eye and looked up at Teal�c.

�Thanks, but � um � I think I�d rather not go over like a sack of potatoes.�

He pushed himself upright with difficulty, looking over the water. �Can I have something to drink before we start?� Jack berated himself for not having offered Daniel any water. As Jack reached for his canteen, Teal�c had already removed his own and was handing it over to Daniel. Jack saw Carter replace hers back into its holder.

When he�d finished with the water, Daniel forced himself up onto his feet. Jack was by his side in a second, making sure that he was steady enough to stand on his own.

�Carter, think you can manage the equipment? I�d feel better having Teal�c give me a hand with Daniel.� As his 2IC nodded, Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack. Daniel might be feeling confident at the moment, but Jack was sure that he was going to need the assistance of both Jack and Teal�c before making it across to the other side.

Jack handed his weapon to Carter, who hung it around her neck. She grabbed Daniel�s pack, and looped the straps around her arm. Nodding her readiness, she stepped first into the water.

�It�s pretty cold,� she warned them as Jack and Teal�c escorted Daniel to the water�s edge. Jack kept half an eye on Carter as he kept a hold on Daniel. Within ten steps, the water was nearly up to Carter�s armpits. She forged on without any problems, the guns held high above the water level. She was soon out of the deeper channel and was slogging through water reaching only halfway up her thighs.

Stepping into the rushing water, Jack could feel the bottom sloping sharply, and within several steps, the water went from his knees clear up to his waist. Carter was right. The water was cold, the shock of it seizing his breath for a second. His body quickly adapted, growing numb in the frigid liquid.

Jack�s attention was on his footing as the rocky bottom made walking a little tricky, when he felt Daniel grab his jacket. Jack turned to look at Daniel and saw him gasping for air. Teal�c grabbed Daniel�s other arm, steadying him. Daniel was dragging in huge lungfuls of air, but at irregular intervals. It was almost as if he couldn�t control his inhalations.

�It�s cold, can�t breathe,� Daniel gasped between breaths. He began shivering uncontrollably, and Jack realized then that with Daniel�s temperature being so high, the shock to his body was more severe than that of Jack�s.

Jack literally pulled Daniel along in the deep water. Daniel appeared unable to even stand at this point; his sole attention was on trying to breathe through chattering teeth. When they reached more shallow water, Teal�c hefted Daniel onto his shoulder like the proverbial sack of potatoes Daniel had alluded to earlier. They sloshed through the river, Jack stumbling and nearly falling several times in his rush to keep up with Teal�c.

Carter, aware of what had happened, had dumped her gear on the ground, and had an emergency blanket already spread out. Teal�c laid Daniel down on the blanket, and Jack and Teal�c began tearing Daniel�s dripping clothes from him. They both removed their own tee-shirts in order to wipe Daniel down, while Carter rushed off to collect wood. She sacrificed the remainder of Daniel�s journal to start the fire. By the time the wood was burning hotly, Daniel had been dried off and wrapped up in another blanket, lying shivering against Jack�s chest.

The combination of shock, exhaustion, fever and drugs overwhelmed Daniel, and he passed out in Jack�s arms. Carter handed Jack his now damp tee-shirt, and helped him put it back on without disturbing Daniel overmuch. While Carter and Teal�c looked around the clearing, Jack sat there feeling helpless, unable to do anything but try and make Daniel comfortable.

- - - - - -

Sam sat beside the colonel and Daniel, trying to dry off in the weak sunshine and the heat of the fire. Her clothes were still damp, but at this point it was more of a discomfort than a danger to hypothermia. She reached over and flipped Daniel�s wet pants over, hoping to dry them out before the sun went down. She glanced at her friend; he hadn�t woken since he�d fallen asleep in the colonel�s arms. The dunking in the water had brought his fever down a bit, which was a relief. Sam expected that he�d need another shot of morphine soon; she was beginning to get concerned, they would be running out of the stuff soon.

She and Teal�c had walked the perimeter of the clearing several times, unable to find any signs of where the trail leading back to the Stargate began. Their footprints were everywhere, and although they had a rough idea where they had first come through, the trees had shifted in such a way that entry into the woods was impossible. The tree limb that Daniel had cut� at her request, was still dripping sap. The tree itself appeared ill, weakened. Its bark appeared more grey than black. They had obviously seriously injured it. If the trees were sentient and intelligent forms of life, wouldn�t it be more feasible to let them go back to the Stargate and leave? Then again, she thought that the inhabitants had originally been intending to systematically torture and possibly kill them for their transgression.

She looked over at Colonel O�Neill, who was sitting opposite her, one elbow leaning on bent knee. He had the leather cover of Daniel�s journal in his hands, and his fingers kept stroking it, almost reverently. He appeared lost in thought, staring towards the hidden path.

Daniel was sleeping on the ground between the colonel and Teal�c. Teal�c had been performing kel-no-reem, the symbiote had already dealt with much of the toxins in his bloodstream. At this moment, Teal�c was the healthiest of the bunch. Both she and the colonel had low grade fevers and were suffering muscular aches, especially in their arms near their injuries. They were both beginning to feel lethargic and weak, and nausea was beginning to settle in.

A low moan caught her attention, and she saw Daniel beginning to stir. As she rose to her knees, Colonel O�Neill already had a hand on Daniel�s head, and Teal�c was placing a hand on Daniel�s shoulder.

- - - - - -

Breathing. It hurt to breathe. His head was pounding, and every painful inhalation echoed throughout his skull. Daniel tried to shift around to try and ease the pressure on his ribs. The slight movement roused the fire slumbering in his exhausted and misused limbs. His muscles protested by sending waves of pain throughout his body, culminating at the top of his skull. He stopped moving, wanting to escape the pain. But he still needed to breathe. His ribs ached, burned, cramped. He found himself gasping, needing air, but also wishing he could just hold his breath and get some relief.

A hand gripped his shoulder gently, another stroked his hair. He heard noise, and then realized that they were individual voices. He concentrated on the sounds, after a few seconds he knew that they were calling his name. He knew those voices. Daniel wanted to open his eyes, but his eyelids were too heavy. He felt cold air on his lower body, and then something stung his thigh. The pain was negligible compared to what the rest of his body was experiencing. The draught went away when something warm was tucked against his leg.

The voices were back. Daniel continued to struggle for breath. He felt someone pick up his hand, the movement causing sharp pain to radiate through his wrist and into his hand and he tried to pull it away. His hand was firmly held for a several seconds, fingers pressing into his skin. Then his palm and fingers were gently massaged, easing the ache. He felt his head and shoulders lifted and placed under something warm, which yielded more than the hard ground he�d been lying on. The position eased the pain in his ribs slightly, and he was able to relax a bit. He felt a hand continue to card through his hair, while another kept up the gentle kneading on his hand. He felt a pressure on his uninjured shoulder and knew that a third hand grasped him there.

Daniel drifted in the pain, aware of his friends around him but unable to make the effort to join them. Time had no meaning; he breathed, he hurt, he endured. Then one moment the pain engulfed him, and the next, it began to ebb, enough so that he felt he could rejoin the living once more. His head still throbbed, his muscles ached, his injuries burned, but all was now endurable.

Daniel tried once again to open his eyes. He saw two forms beside him, and as he blinked several times, they coalesced into Sam and Teal�c. The weight was removed from his shoulder as Teal�c placed something near his face. Cool wetness dribbled onto his lips and he opened his mouth to allow it entry. He swallowed the water gratefully; he hadn�t realized how thirsty he was. He closed his eyes, only to open them again when something cold and wet was passed over his face.

�Daniel,� he heard Sam say. He looked over towards her, and saw her smile at him. Her eyes looked strange, and after a moment Daniel realized that she appeared worried. Was she worried for him?

�I gave you something for the pain; I want you to tell me when you start feeling better, okay? Daniel, do you understand?�

�Yeah, I understand� Daniel said, thinking that his voice sounded hoarse and weak. �Better now,� he added.

Sam nodded, and smiled again. �Good,� she said, passing the wet cloth over his face once more.

�Where�s Jack?� Daniel asked. Sam smiled again, and looked behind Daniel.

�Right here,� Jack�s voice sounded in his ear. Daniel tilted his head back, and realized that he was propped up in Jack�s arms. He looked around, saw the trees surrounding them, and with a sinking heart knew that for some reason, they couldn�t make it home.

�Not going home?� Daniel asked, knowing the answer but still hoping he was wrong.

�The trees do not appear to wish us to leave, DanielJackson�, Teal�c answered. �They have apparently closed the trail.�

Daniel squirmed around, trying to look and make sure that Teal�c and Jack weren�t mistaken. They had to walk through the trees in order to get to the Stargate, which meant that they were now stuck here. But why would they have been released, but then forced to remain? Daniel gasped in pain as protesting skin and muscles made themselves known. Jack pulled Daniel back down onto him, rearranging the blankets that Daniel had disturbed with his movement.

�Don�t worry about it, Daniel. We�ll get you home to Fraiser in no time. Just try to relax.� Jack�s words were meant to comfort and reassure, but instead they managed to alarm Daniel. How could he relax, they were stuck here and it was all his fault.

He lay back obediently, waiting for the pain to subside. Sam said she�d given him something for it, but it didn�t seem as effective as it had the other times she�d treated him. Sam�s words followed his thoughts.

�I�m sorry, Daniel. I didn�t give you as much morphine as before. We�re getting low on supplies; I only have enough for two more doses.�

Daniel looked at Sam�s concerned face. �It�s okay, Sam. I�m feeling a lot better now.� He smiled at her, trying not to show how lousy he really felt. He closed his eyes, and after a while, he felt himself begin to drift.

Jack shifted beneath him and he jumped. He�d almost fallen asleep, and the movement had startled him.

�Sorry,� Jack said softly in his ear.

With stiff fingers, Daniel squeezed Jack�s arm which was wrapped against his torso, preventing him from sliding off. Daniel looked around lazily, the morphine was making him sleepy. He spotted the tree that he�d injured, the one where his actions had started this whole mess. It seemed to have shrunk onto itself, and the trees surrounding it were leaning over it, almost in a protective manner. He looked for the branch he�d cut into, and saw the white of the wound contrasting against the dark of the bark. The whole branch was glistening wetly, and as he watched, something dripped from the tip of the branch.

�It�s bleeding,� Daniel said softly.

�What? Where?� Jack asked, shifting Daniel to look at him. Daniel realized that Jack thought Daniel was hurt, and he waved his hand towards the tree, wincing as pain flared up at the movement.

�Not me, the tree. The sap is like blood: the tree�s still bleeding. Jack, I might have killed it; it might be bleeding to death.� Daniel tried to sit up and get a better look at the tree, and Jack pulled him back down irritably when Daniel grasped his ribs at the movement.

�Daniel, stay put, willya,� Jack snapped.

Daniel tried to relax again, waiting for the pain to diminish. �Did you try and stop the bleeding?� Daniel asked.

�The trees won�t let us near them, Daniel.� Sam replied.

�Don�t worry about the damned trees,� Jack said irritably. Daniel wondered why Jack was so short-tempered with him, and looked to Sam for an answer. Daniel suddenly realized that she looked sick. She was pale and the skin below here eyes were smudged with fatigue. Daniel glanced over at Teal�c, but his friend appeared well.

�Sam, are you okay?� Daniel asked. She looked at him and smiled, but Daniel could tell that she was hiding something from him.

�I�m fine, just a little tired.�

�No, you�re sick, aren�t you?� Daniel twisted in Jack�s arms, trying to look at him. He glimpsed bloodshot eyes and a face lined with fatigue. �You�re both sick.� He finally sat up with difficulty. Jack kept a hand on him, making sure he didn�t topple over and land in the fire.

�The vines must produce some kind of toxin, Daniel.� Sam leaned over and pushed him back down onto the ground, placing a pack beneath his head as a pillow. �We�re all a little sick, but we haven�t had as much exposure as you had to them. You just need to rest, okay? Try to conserve your strength, and let us figure out how to get you home.�

�I can help,� Daniel offered, fighting to keep his eyes open.

�Fine, but do it from where you�re lying,� Jack ordered. The effort of sitting up exhausted Daniel, and he stopped resisting and gave in to Jack�s request.

�So, what are we going to do about getting home?� Daniel asked. He hadn�t expected an answer; there really was nothing that they could do unless the trees decided to let them pass. His eyelids heavy, he gazed back towards the injured tree. As his eyes closed against his will, Daniel thought he spied several pairs of eyes staring at them from between the branches of the trees.

- - - - - -

Jack watched as Daniel drifted off to sleep. He brought his hands to the back of his neck, trying to ease his headache.

�O�Neill, you and MajorCarter are ill. Perhaps if you rest a while, you would feel better upon waking. I will stand watch.�

The offer was too tempting to refuse. There wasn�t anything that Jack could think of doing at the moment, so he nodded his agreement. He curled up beside Daniel, with Carter lying on the other side of the fire. He listened to the crackling of the fire, the rustling of leaves in the wind, thankful that his hearing appeared to be nearly normal now. He fell asleep quickly.

Daniel�s shout woke him out of a deep sleep. Daniel was thrashing on the ground, yelling for someone to �make it stop�. Jack reached over and grabbed Daniel, realizing that he was dreaming. Jack saw Teal�c striding from the other side of the clearing, where he�d obviously been searching for a way out. Carter made her way around the fire, coming around to squat beside Jack.

As Jack turned Daniel onto his back, the movement woke him up and he opened his eyes. He looked around in confusion, and Jack could see his eyes appeared glazed. Jack felt the heat of fever on Daniel�s bare skin beneath the blanket. Daniel finally met Jack�s eyes, and he was relieved to see recognition in them. Carter was rummaging through the first aid kit, probably looking for more Tylenol.

�Make it stop crying, Jack,� Daniel begged.

�Make what stop?� Jack asked.

�The tree, it�s crying. Can�t you hear it? It�s hurting. Make it stop hurting.�

�Daniel, the tree�s not crying,� Jack said patiently. �You were dreaming.�

�No, I can hear it.�

�Daniel,� Sam said gently. �Listen, listen very carefully.� Daniel turned to look at her. �Do you hear it now?�

Jack saw Daniel�s brow furrow in concentration, his eyes looking wildly towards the injured tree.

�I� I don�t� I can�t hear it anymore,� Daniel said sadly.

�That�s because it was all a dream. You dreamed the tree was crying, understand?� Jack reached for the water bottle and lifted Daniel�s head so he could drink. Carter gave Daniel the Tylenol, which he swallowed with a bit more water. Jack was beginning to get worried. He looked at the sky, estimating that it would be dark in a couple of hours.

Carter was checking Daniel�s clothes, and stating that they were dry, Jack decided to put them back on Daniel, should they need to move fast. Once dressed, they tried to make Daniel comfortable. Carter rested his head on her lap, where he lay quietly, staring off towards the wounded tree. As Jack watched, he saw movement around the trunk, and realized that the little stick people were moving around just beyond the fringes of the trees.

�Damn it, we�ve got company,� Jack said softly.

�They�ve been there the whole time, Jack,� Daniel said, just as softly.

�What do you mean?� Sam asked.

�DanielJackson is correct. The indigenous life forms have been nearby ever since we crossed the river. They are only now being more obvious about it.� Teal�c sat down beside Jack, offering him a power bar. Jack declined, his stomach certainly not in the mood for food at the moment. He saw Carter blanch at the sight of the food, and wished that he could come up with a plan to get them home.

Daniel was still staring at the tree intently, and suddenly he stiffened, and tried to sit up.

�They�re trees,� Daniel said in an astonished voice, as Carter made him lean against her in support.

�Of course those are trees,� Jack said, beginning to wonder if Daniel was becoming delirious.

�No, I mean the little stick people � the aliens, they become the trees. They�re like children. Look at them, Jack. They�re miniature versions. They probably grow to a certain size and then go plant themselves in the woods. Look, look at that one,� Daniel exclaimed at a much stockier form passed near the edge of the trees. �He�s much larger than the rest. He�s moving much more slowly, he�s probably ready to dig his roots in.� Although Daniel was excited at the revelation, his voice appeared breathless and weak.

�Sam, help me up,� Daniel asked as he tried to place his feet underneath him.

�Daniel, stay put,� Jack ordered as Carter tried help to Daniel. He turned and glared at Jack, and continued to push himself upright. Sighing, Jack had no choice but to get up and make sure that Daniel didn�t fall over. Daniel swayed, and Jack saw his eyes lose focus for a few seconds. He managed to rally a bit, grabbing onto Jack for a moment before he regained his equilibrium. Carter was up also, holding onto Daniel�s arm.

�Bandages, tape, gauze,� Daniel mumbled, looking around dazedly for the items. �Jack, do we have something we can use to stop the sap from running?� Carter let go and rummaged through the first aid kit.

Still holding onto his friend, Jack said, �Daniel, this doesn�t make sense. There are broken pieces of wood lying everywhere. I know, because we�ve been burning them for the past 24 hours. The trees have survived having bits broken off from them, and I sure as hell don�t remember seeing any dead trees in the forest.�

�I know, but those were probably due to acts of nature. Jack, I�m responsible for this.�

�Daniel, if anyone is responsible, it�s me,� Carter said, as she handed Daniel some bandages and tape. He took them awkwardly, obviously having problems using his hands. �I�m the one who asked you to take the sample. If there�s anyone to blame, it should be me.�

�Oh, for crying out loud!� Jack exclaimed, waving his free hand in the air. �Nobody is to blame here. We came to do a job, like we�ve done a dozen times before. It�s not like we had any warnings that the trees were sentient.�

Daniel stared at Jack. �But we did, Jack. The carvings near the Stargate, they had pictures of the trees and the little aliens. I should have��

�Ack ack, don�t start that,� Jack said, pushing his raised index finger before Daniel�s face. �You�re not going to tell me what looked like a picture of a tree and a child�s stick drawing of a man could have told you about any of this.�

Daniel looked away a moment, before saying, �No, you�re right. But I still have to try.� As he turned towards the tree, Jack squeezed Daniel�s arm, want him to stop. Daniel turned to Jack and gave him a pleading look. Jack figured he�d let Daniel try, at least this way if it didn�t work, maybe Daniel would rest easier because he had at least tried to do something.

�Don�t get too close, Daniel,� Jack warned, remembering the pain the trees caused when they got agitated. Daniel continued walking until he was a few feet away. He stopped before the tree, swaying slightly, and slowly held up the bandages. He took a step forward, and then another. The trees remained still. Another two steps and Daniel was standing before the ailing tree. He began wrapping the material around the injury, his movements clumsy and obviously painful. Jack began to walk towards his friend to help him, but the trees began jerking loudly. Jack stopped, and the trees settled after a moment. He guessed that Daniel was on his own. Teal�c and Carter joined him, ready to pull Daniel out of there if the trees tried to grab him.

Having wrapped the bandage around the limb, Daniel began winding tape around it to hold it in place. When he finished, he looked for something to cut the end of the tape. He spotted his knife lying on the ground nearby where he�d dropped it the day before. He bent down to pick it up, and lost his balance. Jack took an involuntary step forward, coming to a halt when the trees warned him off once again. Daniel was on all fours, breathing heavily. To Jack�s surprise, Daniel put a hand out to the nearest tree and used it for leverage to drag himself up.

Daniel cut off the end of the tape, and tried to place the knife back in its holster on his belt. He fumbled several times before finally getting it right. He took a few steps back, and Jack caught him as his legs gave out beneath him. Teal�c was beside him in a flash, helping Jack half drag, half carry Daniel back to his makeshift bed.

Jack placed the blanket over Daniel, shaking his head at his friend�s determination. The effort he�d expended had exhausted his already weakened body, and Jack could feel his muscles trembling. He fell asleep nearly as soon as Jack had him horizontal.

�O�Neill.� Teal�c�s warning had Jack up and reaching for his gun in one swift move. He aimed it at the approaching alien; the one who Daniel had pointed out was bigger than the rest. It was lumbering slowly towards them. Leaves were beginning to grow out of its limbs, smaller branches beginning to sprout from its �arms� and �legs�. Jack thought that Daniel�s assumption might be right; these beings were definitely turning into trees.

Carter and Teal�c both joined Jack, standing before Daniel�s oblivious body. The tree alien came to a stop several feet away, and bending with difficulty, lowered something to the ground before them. It was a piece of wood, about 10 inches long, with the center hollowed out. Inside of it was some kind of oily liquid. With thick fingers, the creature pantomimed dipping into the oil and spreading the stuff over what would be its wrist. It looked towards Daniel, and then took several clumsy steps backwards.

Carter approached slowly, bending down to take the proffered container and sniffing the contents. She made her way back towards her friends, not knowing what to do with the stuff. The creature once again pantomimed dipping its fingers into the oil, then pointed at Daniel.

�Sir, this might be something to combat the toxin the vines gave out,� Carter suggested. Jack took his eyes off the creature and looked at Carter.

�How do we know that stuff won�t make him worse?� Jack asked.

�We don�t, but so far nothing we�ve given him has done any good. If anything, he�s getting worse. And I hate to say this, sir, but so are we.�

Jack had to agree with Carter. He felt lousy, and could see that she did too. There was also the chance that even if they managed to get Daniel home, Doctor Fraiser wouldn�t be able to counteract the toxin that was poisoning Daniel.

�Put some on me,� Jack ordered, offering her his arm. Carter dropped her weapon and smeared a fingerful of the stuff on Jack�s wrist. The burning stopped immediately, and the ache and stiffness eased up slightly. The creature was gesturing towards Daniel once again. Hoping that the stuff would help his friend, he said, �Okay, Daniel first.� Carter put her weapon down and raised Daniel�s tee shirt to expose his wounds. Teal�c and Carter began treating Daniel while Jack stood nearby; his gun aimed towards the alien.

Daniel shifted slightly at their ministrations. Carter talked to him gently as Teal�c pulled down his pants to reach the wounds along his thighs and calves. Daniel didn�t quite wake, but continued to fidget in his sleep. When they finally finished tending Daniel, Jack glanced down at his friend. His face appeared more relaxed now that he was no longer in pain.

The alien watched all of this, standing as still as a tree.

�Yourselves next,� Jack ordered. As Carter treated Teal�c, Jack took a quick look, noting that the wounds on Teal�c�s skin looked almost as livid and raw as his own. His symbiote might be dealing with the toxins, but Jack suspected that Teal�c wasn�t feeling 100%. Teal�c took up guard position after he had tended to Carter, and she treated the rest of Jack�s wounds. When finished, Carter walked up to the creature with the near empty container. It slowly extended a limb, the small branches at the end of the branch coming out to gently grasp the container from her hands. It turned and made its slow way back to its kin.

Jack relaxed slightly when it disappeared amongst the trees. He glanced at the wounded tree and noted that the wound appeared to have stopped dripping sap; at least the makeshift bandage Daniel had wound around the limb appeared to be dry.

- - - - - -

Teal�c didn�t need to check his timepiece in order to know that he had another hour left on watch. He had performed kel-no-reem and his symbiote had finally rid his body of the toxins which had been making him ill. His injuries were no longer paining him, and the swelling and stiffness were nearly gone.

He reached over from his seated position and laid on hand on DanielJackson�s forehead, testing for fever. His touch perceived heat, but it was not as rampant as it had been earlier in the evening. He did the same for O�Neill and then CaptainCarter, relieved to find that both had normal temperatures. They slept deeply now their bodies were no longer in pain. Whatever had been in the substance the being had given them to treat their wounds with, it had effectively numbed the pain of their injuries and neutralized the poison in their bodies.

Teal�c glanced towards the trees, constantly aware of the movement near the fringes of the woods. He could occasionally see the reflection of their fire in the eyes of the creatures as they stopped to stare at them. Teal�c contemplated on the reason that they had been permitted to leave that underground prison. Could it have been his symbiote? The vine had breached the entrance of his womb, and had pulled out once it had come into contact with the Goa�uld larva. Maybe these beings had made contact with the Goa�uld before. He suspected that it was something he may never know.

DanielJackson coughed softly, and Teal�c turned back to his friend. He was awake, and was turning to face him.

�DanielJackson, are you in pain?� Teal�c asked, trying to remember where CaptainCarter had placed the remaining syringes of the painkiller. He realized that his friend was several hours overdue for a shot. Teal�c hoped that the substance had relieved Daniel of his pain.

�Teal�c,� Daniel croaked. He cleared his throat. �No, I�m okay. Is there any water?�

�Of course,� Teal�c said, his hand already uncapping the canteen. He helped his friend sit up and handed him the container of water. He watched as Daniel held the canteen shakily to his mouth, ready to assist should he need the aid.

�How do you feel?� he asked quietly as he took the water bottle and helped Daniel lie back down when he�d finished drinking. He tossed a few logs on the fire, and the flames rose up, illuminating their camp.

�Better, thanks. Doesn�t hurt as much.� He looked around, trying to peer in the darkness. �The tree?� Daniel asked.

�It appears to be healing,� Teal�c answered, remembering the last glimpse he�d had as the sun had set was of the tree beginning to stand tall once again.

�Good,� Daniel said with a smile.

�I do not believe it was due to our efforts, my friend.� Daniel�s eyes jumped to Teal�c�s face. �I believe this may have been a test, to see where our actions might have led. Once you bandaged the tree�s wound, one of the beings came out and presented us with an antidote of sorts. That is why you are feeling better; the medication relieved the pain of your wounds, and has probably neutralized the toxins in your body. You are still ill, but not to the extent of this past day.�

�But why test us?� Daniel asked. He raised a hand and rubbed his forehead. �Unless they wanted to find out if we came here with the sole intention of hurting them? They came after me in that cave because I cut one of them, didn�t they? Maybe they wanted to see if we�d try to leave by using violence? And why give us an antidote? Why not just let us pass through the trail and go back to the Stargate? Did they open the trail? Can we go home?�

Teal�c smiled slightly to himself as he listened to his friend expound on his theories. It was a sure sign that he was feeling better; although he was still very weak.

�The trail was still hidden to us as the light failed; we need to wait until morning and see if the aliens will permit us to leave. In the meantime, you should rest, DanielJackson.� Teal�c placed the back of his fingers on Daniel�s cheek, testing for fever once again, and letting his friend know he wasn�t alone. �There still remains several hours of darkness. Sleep, you will feel better come morning.�

�Sam and Jack? They�re better too?� Daniel asked, his eyelids beginning to close.

�They have been given the anti toxin and are resting comfortably. As should you be,� he added. As he watched, Daniel�s eyes closed and he was soon asleep. Teal�c removed his hand from Daniel�s cheek, relieved at having spoken with his friend and seeing for himself that he appeared to be better.

Teal�c settled himself and returned to his vigil. He would awaken MajorCarter in another 45 minutes for her turn on watch.

- - - - - -

Daniel swatted at the hand as it shook his shoulder once again. He tried to roll over and go back to sleep, when Jack�s voice sounded in his ear.

�Damnit, Daniel, wake up.� Jack didn�t sound very happy, so Daniel cracked his eyes open. Jack was squatting next to him, a hand on his shoulder.

�I�m awake,� Daniel mumbled, turning onto his side. As his bruised shoulder ground into the hard earth, he hissed in pain and quickly turned onto his back.

�You okay?� Jack asked with concern.

�Yeah�, Daniel said, trying to sit up. He gently rubbed his shoulder, trying to massage the pain away. It was only then that Daniel noticed the *tree* sitting in the middle of the clearing. It was about 6 feet high, and was a cross between the immense trees and the little wooden aliens scampering around the edge of the woods.

Daniel looked at Jack, and saw the smug look on his face. �We have a visitor, Daniel. Say hello.�

Daniel saw Sam and Teal�c go up to the tree and Sam take something from its hands�branches. She brought it over to Daniel, and he saw it was a wooden container with some oil inside.

�Looks like the aliens think you need a second treatment, Daniel,� she said with a smile. Daniel looked at her and Jack in confusion. He remembered vaguely talking to Teal�c during the night, and his mentioning an antidote? The alien remained where he was, watching them impassively.

Jack tugged at the hem on Daniel�s tee-shirt, and Daniel pulled down on it, glaring up at Jack.

�Take it off, Daniel. We need to spread the stuff on those wounds again.�

Daniel looked at the liquid in Sam�s hands, then back at Jack�s resolute face. He sighed, pulling at the tee-shirt, grateful when Jack helped him pull it over his head when his ribs and shoulder protested. He looked at the marks on his chest. There were reddish marks going completely around his rib cage and waist, marking the spot where the vines had encircled him. Beneath the weals were bruises, which explained why his ribs hurt so much.

Sam began pasting the stuff on him with her fingers. Jack pulled Daniel back against him, and Daniel relaxed into his friend�s hold as his weakened muscles began to protest his efforts at remaining sitting up. Wherever Sam spread the stuff, Daniel could feel his skin and muscles loosening slightly, relieving a tension he wasn�t quite aware of until it went away. When she�s finished with his front, Jack pushed Daniel forward so he was leaning up against Teal�c. The Jaffa held him firmly, and Daniel let his head fall forward onto Teal�c�s shoulder. He closed his eyes, and soon began to drift.

He mumbled sleepily when his tee-shirt was pulled over his head once again. He was lowered back down onto his back, and he felt his pants pulled down over his hips. They turned him onto his side, and the cooling liquid was spread over his legs. Daniel had nearly dozed off by the time his pants were pulled back on.

He rubbed at his face irritably, wanting nothing more than to sleep. He heard Sam get up and walk away, and he suddenly remembered the alien. He forced his eyes open and reached over towards Jack. Jack jumped at his touch. Daniel figured he must have thought that he was asleep. He pulled himself up using Jack as leverage.

�You okay?� Jack asked, pulling Daniel against him once again, supporting him so he was sitting up.

�Yeah, just really sleepy. What�s in that stuff,� Daniel asked.

�Your guess is as good as mine, but it�s worked miracles. Hungry?� Jack asked him as Daniel watched Sam return the container to the alien. Daniel nodded abstractedly as the alien walked away clumsily. A power bar was placed underneath his nose. Daniel began chewing, and after the first bite, he realized that he was starving. Jack threatened to take it away from him, admonishing him to eat more slowly. He forced himself to slow down, and by the time he�d finished the meal, he felt full.

Jack offered him some water, but Daniel, his nose having already alerted him to its presence, asked, �Coffee?�

Jack poured him half a cup, which Daniel gratefully accepted. As he sipped the warm brew, Daniel realized that he was feeling much better. Other than the painful bruises all over his body and the overall tiredness and weakness, he realized that the relief from pain he felt at the moment wasn�t morphine-induced. He felt fairly clear-headed, and thought that his fever was gone, or nearly so. His stomach was full, he had coffee, and his friends were nearby. All they needed now was a way to get home. Daniel thought that there must be a way of communicating with the aliens. He closed his eyes a moment, trying to remember if the one who�d approached their camp had made any motions with its body. Maybe there was a body language that he was missing.

- - - - - -

Jack watched Daniel close his eyes, and rescued his nearly empty coffee cup seconds later as Daniel�s hand relaxed in sleep. He smiled to himself; he was still worried over Daniel�s health, but he appeared to be improving steadily. Carter leaned over and placed a hand over Daniel�s cheek. She smiled, shaking her head. No fever.

Okay, so the aliens had deemed fit to give them a cure for what ailed them. They weren�t overtly aggressive; Jack admitted that they probably had acted in self-defence the first time they�d been grabbed anyway. Jack and his team hadn�t made any other aggressive moves towards the aliens. So why were they biding their time? What were they waiting for?

Jack thought it strange that the medicine had been delivered once Daniel had gone up to that tree and tried to make it better. He didn�t like that; it felt like they�d been assessing his team, trying to see what they would do. Daniel�s overt attempt at trying to help should have at least been a step in the right direction. But the path still remained blocked.

Granted, none of them had tried to approach the tree line for fear of getting the beings all upset again. His hearing appeared to be back to normal and he didn�t want to see what a second dose of that noise might do. Jack figured that Fraiser was going to have a heyday what with giving them hearing tests when they got back.

Daniel was a dead weight in his arms, and Jack was getting tired. He caught Teal�c�s eye and they gently lowered Daniel to the ground. Daniel curled up sleepily on his side. Jack got up and began pacing, trying to rid himself of the excess energy that came from waiting.

- - - - - -

Sam watched the colonel pace the length of the shoreline, constantly glancing back towards the trees. She understood how he felt; waiting was always the hardest part of being a soldier. She chose instead to try and conserve her strength, sitting near the fire and keeping an eye on Daniel.

Daniel slept the sleep of the exhausted. She suspected he�d been pushing himself before this mission; he�d looked tired two mornings ago when he�d joined them prior to the mission. The poison and fever certainly hadn�t helped any; she suspected he�d probably sleep straight through until tomorrow if given the opportunity.

Colonel O�Neill stomped over to where she was sitting and plopped himself down beside Teal�c. He�d been alternating pacing and resting for the past several hours, ever since the tree creature had given them a second dose of the anti toxin. It and its brethren were still out there; some were sitting around watching them, others were moving around in the woods.

Before she could speak up, the colonel exclaimed, �This is ridiculous.� He jumped up and began striding towards the trees. Stopping a couple of feet away, he opened his arms wide and yelled, �Hey! What are you guys waiting for?�

Teal�c got up and approached the colonel. �O�Neill,� he cautioned.

The colonel ignored Teal�c. He continued to rant at the forest as Teal�c came to stand beside his commanding officer. �You came out and you gave us some medicine. You cured us.� He turned back and waved towards Sam and Daniel. �See, Daniel�s doing much better now.�

Jack�s yelling had woken Daniel. He had raised himself up on his elbows, staring at his friend. He looked up at Sam, a look of confusion on his face.

�What�s he doing?� Daniel asked her.

�I don�t know, but I think maybe it�s time we pushed the issue,� Sam answered. She picked up her P-90 and placed the strap around her shoulder. Standing in one lithe movement, she began walking towards her team mates.

�What do you want us to say? Thank you? Okay�thanks for the help. Now, be nice trees let us out of here!�

�Jack, do you really think yelling at them is going to help?� Daniel�s slightly sarcastic voice sounded from behind Sam. She turned to see Daniel walking towards them, a little shaky, but moving on his own power. He came to a stop beside the colonel, placing a conciliatory hand on his arm.

He turned towards Daniel and said, �Well I don�t know. They don�t appear to understand that all we want to do�� he turned towards the trees and yelled, �is go home!�

Turning around in apparent disgust, Colonel O�Neill began walking back to their camp. Sam turned with the others to accompany him, but a noise drew her attention. She looked back and saw the trees pulling aside, revealing the trail they had been concealing all this time.

�Colonel,� she called out. He turned and seeing the path, gave the order to break camp. They did so quickly and efficiently, anxious to be on their way home. They entered the vine-congested path with trepidation, noting with relief that the vines now slithered out of their way as they approached. An occasional glimpse of movement or sound showed that the tree creatures continued to pace them behind the trees.

As much as Sam wanted to hurry up and make the best speed possible towards the Stargate, the colonel deliberately kept the pace slow as within minutes, Daniel was stumbling on the uneven trail. Teal�c kept a supporting hand on Daniel�s arm, while the colonel watched their backs. Sam had point, but she kept turning around every time she�d hear Daniel�s step falter.

They continued on for over 30 minutes when Teal�c spoke out behind them. �O�Neill, this is not the way to the Stargate.�

�Are you sure, Teal�c?� Sam asked, as the Jaffa�s words brought the team to a halt.

�We have been going steadily south, the Stargate is to the East. The path is not the same as the one on which we first travelled.�

The colonel turned in a circle, trying to get his bearings. He raised his hands in defeat. �It�s not like we�ve got much of a choice. We can either keep going wherever it is that they want us to go, or turn back.� As they looked the way they came, they saw the trees slowly bend towards one another, effectively barring the trail. �Or not,� he amended.

�Let�s go,� he ordered, taking point and permitting Sam to cover their sixes. As she changed position, she cast an assessing eye on Daniel. He appeared pale and tired, and she�d have preferred that he not be forced to detour from their way home. But he was still game to continue on, quickly taking his place behind their leader.

They walked for another twenty minutes when the trail suddenly opened up into a much thinner part of the forest. The trees were interspersed with large mounds of rubble. Upon a closer look, it appeared that the trees had set themselves down at deliberate areas and had *grown* into the ruins, causing them to collapse purposely.

She looked at Daniel, expecting him to go running off and exploring. Instead, to her dismay, he was leaning against a nearby tree. He wasn�t even looking towards the ruins; his eyes were closed and his head was tilted back against the bark. As she approached him, she saw Teal�c speak to him softly. Daniel nodded and slid down the tree, his knees folded before him. He�d wrapped his arms around his ribs, hands tucked under his armpits.

Sam knelt beside Daniel, feeling for his pulse as she spoke to him.

�How are you feeling, Daniel?� she asked. She noted that his pulse was rapid, but strong. She placed a hand on his cheek, and noted that although damp, his skin was a little too warm.

�I�m fine, Sam. Just really tired.�

She dug in her pack for some Tylenol to try and stop the onset of fever. She hoped that it was just due to exhaustion; but she had no way of knowing whether the stuff the aliens had given them had really neutralized the toxins. Maybe it was just something that relieved the symptoms.

Colonel O�Neill alternated between watching the surrounding area and the interaction of his team. Teal�c had left Daniel in Sam�s care and was walking around the area. After doing the little she could for her friend, Sam joined Teal�c in the survey of the debris. The trees� roots had effectively crumbled the stone structure, leaving very little to identify what it had once been. Daniel would have a better idea, but the fact that he wasn�t showing the least interest in this place worried her. A lot.

After a bit, Teal�c returned with something in his hand. He made for the colonel, so Sam stopped her exploration and went to join him.

Teal�c had a bit of stone that held a carving of an open eye. She recognized it from documents she�d seen from the colonel�s first mission. It was the sign of Ra.

�Ra,� the colonel confirmed.

�Indeed. This appears to have been an ancient temple erected in his name.� Teal�c tossed the piece of masonry aside, watching as it broke into several pieces. �I do not believe the indigenous life of this planet cared much for his rule,� he said as he looked around.

�Ya think?� the colonel asked. Sam hid a smile as she turned back towards Daniel. She frowned when she saw that the tree he�d been leaning on appeared to have pulled in on itself, creating a shallow hollow in the form of Daniel�s body; effectively creating a space to cradle his body.

�Daniel,� she called warily.

Daniel opened his eyes and looked up at Sam. She nodded at the tree, and he turned his head to look. He pulled away quickly when he realized that the tree had molded itself around him. He stood up too quickly, swaying alarmingly. Both she and the colonel grabbed for him, holding him steady until he was able to stand unaided. He seemed to notice the tableau before him then, and looked around with interest.

�Ra�s place,� Jack said succinctly. �Teal�c found a rock with that eye thing carved on it. Looks like our friends didn�t like his hospitality either.�

Daniel walked over to scrutinize the nearest of the rubble. As he squatted to examine the foundation, Sam wandered off in the other direction. She glanced back towards the tree. It had taken back its normal form, the depression having disappeared.

�This place was destroyed a long time ago,� Daniel stated. �Long before we killed Ra. I wonder if they managed to expulse him somehow, or if Ra just lost interest and stopped coming.�

Sam spotted what appeared to be a solid wall in the distance, one which hadn�t been destroyed by the trees. Actually, there weren�t any trees within several feet of it. She took several steps towards it when she heard the colonel swear. She looked back and saw Daniel sitting on his butt, looking slightly dazed. Rushing over, she realized that he�d lost his balance and had sat down without expecting to.

�Sir, there�s a piece of wall over in that direction that appears to be undamaged. I think it might be a little�safer�for Daniel to rest away from these trees.� The colonel�s keen brown eyes peered in the direction she pointed. He offered Daniel a hand, hauling the younger man up when he grasped it.

They stepped over the rubble and made their way to the wall that Sam had spotted. It was about ten feet long and three feet high, and was covered from top to bottom with pictures of animals and trees enclosed in little etched squares. The colonel wanted Daniel to sit and rest against the wall, but as soon as Daniel spotted the writings, he became excited.

�Jack, this is incredible,� Daniel exclaimed, as he knelt before the wall. He winced as his bruised knees met the ground, and he settled instead for a precarious squat. He leaned his hand against the wall for balance. �It�s a mixture of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and � something else. Maybe their written language?� he speculated as he waved a hand towards the trees. �This is indescribable. It�s a totally unique blend of an ancient earth language with an alien one. It�ll take weeks� months� to translate this.�

Sam smiled at his enthusiasm, watching him as he carefully traced one of the signs with his index finger. Mumbling to himself, he reached into his backpack and took out his journal. He froze at the light weight of the pageless book. He ducked his head in embarrassment as he returned it to his pack. He reached back with his uninjured arm and carefully eased himself down into a seated position. Sam could see that the adrenaline rush had left him, leaving him exhausted once again.

The colonel squatted down beside Daniel, taking his pack from him. Reaching in, Sam was surprised to see Colonel O�Neill take out Daniel�s video camera.

�Well, since I burned all of your writing material, maybe I could videotape this thing for you? Give you a chance to study it later at your leisure?�

Daniel�s pleased look brought a lump to Sam�s throat. She remembered her talk earlier with Daniel at the SGC, and thought that maybe her two friends might be able to work out their problem. She moved off to reconnoitre the area.

- - - - - -

Daniel rested his head against the cool stone, listening to the sound of Jack�s feet as he took an occasional step away from him. Daniel turned his head, looking at Jack who was intent on videotaping the wall.

In a soft voice, Daniel said, �Um, you know, yesterday� I was a little��

�Yeah, I know�,� Jack said distractedly.

�You gave me some��

�Yeah, we did�,� Jack answered, looking up quickly from the viewfinder.

�And I was a little�,� Daniel said, ducking his head in embarrassment.

�Out of it?� Daniel heard the smile in Jack�s voice.

�Out of it,� Daniel agreed.

�We had to give you some for the��

�I know. Um� I didn�t mean to�� Daniel looked up at Jack, and saw that he was still looking at him.

�It�s okay.�

�I�d still like to be on...� Daniel heard his voice waver as he said this, and he berated himself for it.

�You�re not going anywhere.�

�It won�t happen again.�

�I know.�

�You know?� Daniel asked in surprise.

�I know you. You won�t make the same mistake twice.�

�Thanks. I won�t,� Daniel agreed. He shut his eyes, wishing he had the energy to explore the ruins. He listened to Jack�s footsteps as he continued to slowly make his way around the wall. His head felt heavy and he was aware of it slowly dropping onto his chest. He didn�t resist the pull of sleep, Jack�s footsteps sounding as his anchor towards safety. As long as he could hear Jack, he knew that he was safe.

- - - - - -

Jack made his way to the end of the wall, and stepped around it in order to film the other side. He would have liked to rush the job, but he knew that if he ended up with blurry footage, he�d never hear the end of it. He concentrated on getting everything taped, and had nearly finished when the noticed that the writing had changed. Instead of symbols, the forms actually looked more like writing.

�Hey, Daniel, come look at this,� Jack said to his friend as he continued filming. When he didn�t hear a response, he lowered the camera and looked over the wall. Daniel was sitting slightly slumped over, either asleep or unconscious.

�Shit,� Jack uttered as he rushed around the barrier. He lifted Daniel�s head, noting that he was still slightly feverish. Jack reached for his radio, calling both Carter and Teal�c to him.

�Daniel?� He tapped his cheek lightly, eliciting a response in the form of a slight moan and partly opened eyes.

As Daniel�s eyes closed again, Jack shook him gently. Daniel gazed at Jack sleepily, and in that unguarded look, Jack could see the utter weariness his friend was experiencing. He wished he could allow him to rest, but for all he knew, those few sentences written on the wall could very well be their ticket home.

�I found something different in the writing. I need you to come and look at it to see if you recognize anything.� Daniel blinked sleepily several times before attempting to stand. Jack helped him up, feeling Daniel�s muscles shaking beneath his hand. He knew that Daniel needed medical attention, and was afraid that Daniel was going to crash on them before he could get his team home. He hated having to camp out here surrounded by the trees; he�d felt much more secure in the clearing by the river.

Carter and Teal�c joined him as he steered Daniel around the wall. They all watched their friend as he dazedly tried to read the writing.

�It�s Hieratic, Jack,� he finally said. �Um� that�s ancient Egyptian, kind of like a shorthand for the hieroglyphs. The dialect is a little strange, um� it�ll take me a few minutes to translate.�

�Fine. Sit down here,� Jack urged, pressing Daniel down before the wall. He sat down beside Daniel, and while Daniel concentrated on the writing, Jack checked the video camera�s playback to make sure he�d gotten all of this new text. Teal�c and Carter stood nearby, both in a position to hear Daniel�s translation and to keep an eye out on the trees. Jack glanced over at Daniel and was worried to see that Daniel was having difficulty in staying awake. Which meant that his processing ability was certainly not up to par.

�Daniel?� he questioned. If Jack could maybe get Daniel to start talking, his friend might be able to pull himself out of this near stupor he was in.

�Um� this says that Ra brought the trees here � to mine the Naquada. They can extract it, separate it from the other minerals in the soil.� Daniel closed his eyes as he continued. �The trees need minute quantities of the Naquada as nourishment when they�re small, and were trained to�� Daniel�s voice trailed off as his head began to lower towards his chest.

�Daniel,� Jack said loudly, causing Daniel to jump slightly. He looked at Jack in confusion, who pointed back towards the wall with his chin. Daniel turned towards the wall, and rubbed at his eyes beneath his glasses. He then peered at the writing, obviously trying to find the spot where he�d stopped reading.

Daniel swallowed before starting again, speaking uncharacteristically slowly. �The trees were trained to remove the naquada in order to supply Ra with it. As they grew bigger, they no longer needed the stuff.� As Daniel paused to read more of the text, Jack thought that if Daniel was relegated to using simple words such as �stuff�, he was even more exhausted than he had thought him to be.

�They were replaced with more of the smaller trees, and the bigger trees moved away in order to take root. The little ones were treated harshly by the Jaffa, and eventually the older trees rebelled. They attacked the Jaffa with those vines, I think.� He stopped, closing his eyes. Jack rubbed Daniel�s back in encouragement, before offering him some water. Daniel took the canister with shaking hands, dribbling water down his chin before Jack lifted a hand to hold it steady.

�O�Neill,� Teal�c said. �It is possible that the trees believe we have come back for the Naquada, and is the reason why they do not wish us to return to the Stargate. They know that I have a symbiote; perhaps they believe we are returning to enslave them once again.�

�We did take a lot of soil samples, sir,� Carter agreed. �But we still don�t know why they let us go when we were strung up by those vines.�

Jack pulled Daniel against him for support as he began to list sideways. His head fell heavily onto Jack�s shoulder, and Jack realized that Daniel was already asleep. He was listening to Carter and Teal�c with half an ear while worrying over Daniel�s condition.

�I believe we were released when the plants became aware of my symbiote. They may have reacted instinctively, remembering a time when such a one was their ruler. Perhaps they are undecided. They do not wish to kill, as evidenced by their providing curative oils. But at the same time, they do not wish us to leave and possibly return with reinforcements.�

�And you know all of this �. how?� Jack asked, hearing the sarcasm in his voice and hating himself for it. His own exhaustion and worry for Daniel was beginning to take a toll on him.

�It is simply speculation,� Teal�c answered calmly, obviously not bothered by Jack�s tone.

�Sir, maybe if we dump the samples that we collected we might be giving the beings here a message that we�re not after the Naquada.�

�But we are, Carter. That�s why we came here.� Daniel was a dead weight lying against Jack, and he shifted uncomfortably. Teal�c reached over and helped Jack lower Daniel into a position more comfortable for the two of them. Daniel�s head and shoulders lay on Jack�s thighs. Teal�c removed a blanket from their packs and laid it over Daniel.

�Yes, it is, sir,� Carter continued as Jack and Teal�c tended to their friend. �But my preliminary findings show that the trace amounts in the soil would prove too difficult for us to extract in any case. I was just taking some back on the off chance that I might have been wrong.�

Rubbing the back of his neck, Jack told Carter to go ahead and dump the samples. She got up and moved away from the wall, making sure that she as in plain view of the trees. When she finished, she packed up her now empty containers and joined her team mates.

A feeling of being watched came over Jack, and he looked around surreptitiously. The larger of the trees had moved quietly near them, and was waiting patiently. Jack wondered if it was the same one who had brought them the anti toxin those two times. It looked the same, but there were no distinguishing marks to tell them apart. Seeing that Jack was looking at it, it took several steps away from them. When no one moved, it approached them again, and then moved several steps away.

�I believe it wants us to follow,� Teal�c stated.

Jack sighed, knowing he had to wake Daniel up once again. With Carter�s help, they had Daniel sitting up and more or less awake. Teal�c stuffed everything into his pack, and soon they were walking behind the tree. It led them to the edge of the forest, where a new path had been opened. Daniel was like a zombie, walking only because he knew that he had to. He barely answered their questions; Jack recognized that intensity of exhaustion, he had experienced it more than once.

Following the path once more, Jack started to worry as the sun began to set. It was a little gloomy now, but still enough light filtered through the leaves so that they could make their way without any trouble. Twenty minutes later, they came upon the Stargate. Teal�c immediately went to the DHD to dial them out, while Carter stood beside Daniel, helping to steady Daniel�s wavering body.

The welcoming shimmering wormhole appeared, and with relief, Jack ordered his team home.

As they stepped into the embarkation room, Daniel�s strength finally ran out and he collapsed. Jack caught his friend before he hit the ground, and slowly lowered him down. He cushioned Daniel�s head against the hard metallic ramp and waited as the medics ran up to him. Within moments, Daniel was being conveyed towards the infirmary. Jack got up slowly, his own exhaustion finally setting in now that he could allow himself to relax. He met General Hammond at the ramp�s end, and was relieved when informed that the briefing would take place after he and his team had gotten medical treatment and sufficient rest.

- - - - - -

Jack walked softly up to the bed where his friend lay sleeping for the past two and a half days. He was sprawled on his back, totally oblivious to the goings on in the infirmary. An IV line snaked down into the blankets, and Jack could also see the tubing that was attached to a Foley catheter.

Fraiser had said that Daniel was going to be fine; that this enforced sleep was merely due to a side effect of the toxin and anti-toxin that had been coursing through Daniel�s system. It had created a soporific by-product, of which the latest test results were showing definite signs that Daniel�s system was finally flushing it out.

Jack placed three empty leather-bound journals on the sliding tray beside Daniel�s bed. He pushed aside the boxes of chocolates and magazines that friends and well wishers had dropped off, making sure that the journals would be the first thing that Daniel saw upon awakening. He picked up a floppy beige teddy bear from the tray, which had been a present from Carter.

Pulling a plastic chair closer to Daniel�s bed, Jack sat down, teddy bear held loosely between both hands. Jack carefully scrutinized his friend�s face. There was color now in his cheeks, which was an improvement over the grey pallor and total exhaustion that been apparent when they had returned to the SGC. His temperature had been normal for the past 24 hours, and Fraiser was happy with all of his test results.

She had expressed astonishment that Daniel had actually made it back through the Stargate on his own two feet. That plus the fact that he had been cognizant enough in the few hours prior to their return to even talk to Jack, let alone translate something, had totally astounded her.

Somehow Daniel�s determination hadn�t surprised Jack one bit. Daniel had a habit of surpassing Jack�s expectations, and this show of strength of will was just one of the characteristics that Jack was coming to appreciate about Daniel. He wondered how he could have doubted Daniel; his passion in his beliefs was one of the things that Jack had first admired about his friend.

As Jack reached over and propped the soft toy on the pillow beside Daniel�s head, Daniel turned onto his side facing Jack, sighing deeply. His movement dislodged the teddy bear from the pillow, and it fell against Daniel�s face. Jack thought he saw Daniel�s eyes open for a moment. Jack grinned when he saw Daniel pick up the cuddly toy and press it to his chest, arms wrapped possessively around it.

�Daniel,� Jack said softly. As much as the picture Daniel presented was sweet and amusing, his friend wouldn�t appreciate knowing that others might have seen him in such an embarrassing state. Jack could just picture the reaction of the hard core marines as they came in for a physical and walked by Daniel�s bed. Or God forbid, if any of the nurses should see him like this.

Jack heard a sleepy �hmmmmm.� He reached over and tried to remove the teddy bear from Daniel�s arms, but Daniel tightened his hold on it, curling his body around it.

�Daniel,� Jack said, a little more loudly. He heard the amusement in his voice as he nervously checked to see if any of the nurses had noticed them. �You know, now would be a good time to wake up.�

�Jack?� Daniel said, his eyes opening a crack. He smiled sleepily when he saw Jack sitting beside him. With a deft movement, Jack reached over and tugged the teddy bear out of Daniel�s arms, placing it on the pillow before him. Daniel�s eyes followed Jack�s movement, and a frown appeared on Daniel�s face.

�Jack, you didn�t��

�No, Daniel, I didn�t. But it did happen to fall and you did sort of decide to get a little too comfy with it.� Jack pressed the call button, alerting the nurses that Daniel was finally awake. He saw Daniel stretch himself carefully, and Jack realized he was assessing his body for injuries.

�How do you feel?� Jack asked.

�Um�. Not bad.� Daniel asked with a perplexed look on his face, scooting up so that he was sitting more than lying. He placed the pillows behind his back, moving the teddy bear onto his lap. He looked at Jack, his eyes appearing even bluer than usual without his glasses. �What happened?� he asked.

�Do you remember our mission to P7 something or other� you know� the one with the giant trees?�

Yawning, Daniel nodded. �They let us go? I remember walking in the woods, but I don�t quite remember coming home.�

�We dumped the soil samples, and they decided we could go home. You were pretty much out of it by the time we got to the Stargate. You�ve been sleeping for about 60 hours now.�

�What?� he said incredulously.

�Sleeping potion thanks to the goodies provided by the tree people.� Jack looked away, slightly nervous. �I think Fraiser might be ready to let you out soon. You wanna come stay with me for a while? Maybe just a night or two?�

�Why?� Daniel asked in a not so subtle tone.

�For one, I think that might be one of Fraiser�s conditions. And two, Hammond�s given us a few days� downtime. I thought we could spend it together. But it�s your call. If you don�t want to, I understand.�

�No, Jack. I�d like to. Really.� He smiled at Jack, and Jack realized that Daniel had seen through Jack�s pathetic attempts to make it up to Daniel.

�Hey, wow,� Daniel said, his eyes coming to rest on the journals that Jack had brought. �Jack, you shouldn�t have.�

�Well, it was the least I could do, since we burned up your last journal.� Jack felt a flush of pleasure at the look of happiness expressed in Daniel�s face. Seeing Fraiser heading towards them, Jack got up, tapping his fingers on the mattress.

�Look, I�ll be by later, see how soon you�ll be sprung. We�ll have Chinese, okay?�

�Yeah, I�d like that,� Daniel said.

�No, he won�t, Colonel,� argued Fraiser. �At least not for another day or two. Try something a little easier on the system, why don�t you?�

�Can I bring him along?� Daniel asked, waving the teddy bear at Jack as Fraiser picked up Daniel�s chart and began taking his vitals.

�Yeah, sure, the more the merrier.� Jack made to turn and walk away. He stopped suddenly, and looked back at Daniel. Both Fraiser and Daniel looked up at him.

�Hammond�s not too keen about our going back to that planet, but he is willing to see what the translations of that wall might turn up.� Jack saw the pained expression on Daniel�s face. �Just thought you might want to know. He hasn�t closed the planet off completely.�

�Thanks, Jack.�

Jack nodded, glad he managed to talk the general into letting Daniel do the translations before making a final decision. Seeing Fraiser involved in her tasks, he mouthed �Chinese� at Daniel. Daniel grinned back at Jack. He left Daniel in the doctor�s care, knowing that he had two other friends who were going to be relieved to hear that Daniel was finally awake.  

FINIS!


Author's Comments:

 For devra... just because And thanks to Lewie...for giving me the inspiration for the 'critter'

 

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