Title: Where Roads Meet
Author: Jmas
Email: jmtm1@eastky.net
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Rating: PG-13, language
Summary: Lives change where roads meet..
Spoilers: Foothold, Pretense, Devil You Know, Forever in a Day, Enigma, Secrets, Children of the Gods, Stargate the movie, Enemy Within, likely more..
Category: Drama, angst, smarm, h/c.the usual.
Date: January 21, 2000
Status: Complete
Archive: Stargate Fan, Heliopolis, Belle, Place of Our Legacy
Disclaimer: Characters are property of MGM, etc.
Author's note: Our lives are often affected by things we never realize were there all along.
So the journey begins...

Chapter 1: General George Hammond

I'm really getting too old for this.

Not too long ago I was ready to retire, kick back and let Tessa and Kayla spoil old grandpop. Write memoirs that no one would ever read.and certainly wouldn't get shot for.and dream of nothing more Earth-shattering than UV rays and how to improve my golf swing.

Of course, that was before the Stargate sprang to life after a year of silence.spilling out Goa'ulds and Jaffa. Before Colonel Jonathan 'Jack' O'Neill gave me that first shit-eating grin. And way before my perceptions of 'clear and present danger' were forever altered in the face of a universe suddenly much larger and much more dangerous than I had ever suspected it could be.

Things moved surprisingly quickly after that. Stargate Command was thrown together with all the finesse of a runaway train.necessity creating a sense of urgent purpose.held together with a lot of will and a collective prayer. But somehow we made it all work. The first few missions were a little.hell, a lot.rocky, but we got better at it. Better than better. This is without a doubt the finest group of people I've ever had the privilege to command. What we lack in finesse, we more than make up for in energy, commitment and heart. We may not always observe parade ground rules, but traveling to unknown sectors of the galaxy and facing dangers so surreal they could come straight out of the Twilight Zone, risking lives in ways so horrendous and alien.well that kind of forgives a missed salute on occasion. We pull out the company manners when we need to, the rest of the time we get the job done.

The SGC has been called the first line of defense against dangers few people on the planet are aware of and we're damn proud of that. A certain PhD once said we were the 'single most important human endeavor in the history of mankind'. Heady stuff that, but, by God, Doctor Daniel Jackson knows better than anyone the simplicity of truth in that statement.

When Dr. Jackson opened the Stargate the concept of 'mankind' took on a whole new meaning. It isn't just Earth anymore. There are literally millions of humans out there, stolen out of time by the Goa'uld and transplanted throughout the galaxy like seeds scattered in the wind.slaves and potential hosts for the most part. Sometimes still under Goa'uld control, other times simply people who were discarded and forgotten at the whim of a bunch of parasitic aliens who steal what they want with arrogant expectation and without a glimmer of regard for the lives they alter and destroy. We are the first line of defense for Earth and, over time, I'm discovering a very real sense of cosmic responsibility. Lord, that sounds like something Dr. Jackson would say. He's fought our military mindset from the very beginning, and somehow he's managed to drive the message home.at least to the best among us.that it is more than just what's best for Earth now.

Teal'c calls Earth the 'First World' and I've finally come to realize just how appropriate that is.it all started here. And the Goa'uld made damn sure it wouldn't end here.

From the first time the Stargate formed a wormhole at the bottom of Cheyenne Mountain a whole new can of worms was opened. God, that sounds like one of Colonel O'Neill's bad puns. Too bad we can't put the lid back on that can and forget we ever wanted to go fishing in the first place. No, I don't really mean that. Unlike certain shit-head senators and narrow-minded NID colonels I know for a certain-teed fact that it's thousands of years too late to reseal that can. The best we can hope for is to learn some new ways to fish.

And that's why it's so important we keep doing what we do. We are learning, we're making new allies, making life better more often than not for a lot of those offshoot societies that Dr. Jackson worries so much about. Now, I'm career military.my thinking tends to stay inside those admittedly pretty black and white lines.but I'm not stupid. It may have taken me awhile to figure out just how important this culture-science-goodwill stuff was, but I did figure it out.

Not bad for an old country boy, hunh?

What surprises me is the way Dr. Jackson has managed to win so many converts over to his Church of Universal Responsibility and Ethics. Even Colonel O'Neill has gotten a healthy dose of that particular philosophy. Yes, I mean the same Jack O'Neill who got picked to go on the first mission through the Stargate because he was the meanest SOB to ever grace the ranks of Covert Ops. And that would be the same Jack O'Neill who was ready and more than willing to blow up an entire planet and himself, taking a potential threat to Earth with him. And that's certainly the same Jack O'Neill who kept the truth of what really happened there to himself so a lot of innocent people could live in peace for the first time in millennia. And that would be the same Jack O'Neill who fought tooth and nail to keep that 'scientific crap' out of his missions. And that's definitely the same Jack O'Neill who would give his life for any member of his team, not to mention a whole lot of other folks out there in the universe. Yep, that's Those first few weeks.that runaway train phase.I was as sure as I could be that SG1 would be our first train wreck. I never would have thought those four people would manage not to kill each other much less come to work together so effectively that sometimes it's downright scary to watch them operate.

A word, an eyebrow, a shrug. At first I thought it was just my imagination, but after awhile I figured out these people communicated on such a subtle non-verbal level they didn't even realize the rest of us weren't up to speed on SG1-ese. Not that they don't communicate pretty damn well.and pretty damn loud too.in the vocal range, but even there I can't seem to keep up as well as I'd like to. Colonel O'Neill and his cliché mangling tirades, Major Carter and her quasi-quantum-whatever-the hell's, Dr. Jackson .you'd think a linguist would recognize that 10-syllable words work better on paper than spoken out loud.. Sometimes I think Teal'c is the only one I can count on to make some measure of sense out of what the rest of them are saying. Worst part of that is that he mostly understands it, processes it, distills it, then gives me the short and sweet version all in the space of time it takes me to figure out that I don't have the slightest idea what's going on. They really are a pretty smart bunch of people Which makes it all that much harder for me to walk into that briefing room and tell them I've got to split them up.

Chapter 2: Major Samantha Carter

A month? He's reassigning all of us for a month? General Hammond waltzes in here, drops a bomb on us and sits there like we're supposed to like it. What's wrong with this picture?

When I can think again, he's telling me that Teal'c and I are going to some Pentagon information exchange, the colonel's going to do some recruitment screenings at Eglin, and Daniel supposed to go help those NID hacks at Area 51.

Something is seriously wrong with this picture..

The colonel feels it too. I can see it in that little squinty thing he's doing with his eyes. Teal'c's giving me the eyebrow lift and Daniel..

Now that's strange.

Daniel's not looking at anybody. No reaction at all.

Uh oh..

The colonel sees it, but he's not saying anything yet. I guess that means we shouldn't either, but that doesn't mean I have to like it General Hammond's still going on about "well-deserved downtime" and I admit we've had some really rough missions lately. Maybe it's just the colonel's suspicious nature rubbing off on me, but I have a really bad feeling about all of this. Why not just give us a week's leave? Why send us off to opposite ends of the country for heavens sake?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we're needed here. We've already got too many teams out on medical stand down or on long-term missions off-world. I don't understand the reasoning behind all these comparatively trivial assignments at this particular point in time.

I keep waiting for the colonel to protest. I can see he's working up to it, sifting his way through General Hammond's words for some clue to latch on to. I also see the little side glances he's giving Daniel, expecting support but finding only a head bowed into a hand rubbing away at another headache. I pick up on the little edge of concern creeping into the colonel's eyes. Daniel's had a lot of headaches lately.ever since Amaunet used that ribbon device on him. I know Janet's keeping an extra close eye on him because of it.we all are. Things haven't slowed down very much for any of us since then; Daniel was knocked around pretty thoroughly on Netu, then there was the alien body-double thing, and just last week the Triad thing with Skaara which put a lot of pressure on Daniel and the colonel. Business as usual has been way too busy for SG1.

The colonel's gaze goes from Daniel to Teal'c to me without a word. When General Hammond finally winds down to the inevitable request for questions, I'm not entirely surprised when the colonel shakes his head and allows us to be dismissed.

As Teal'c and I head for the door, I see the colonel touch Daniel's arm causing pain-filled eyes to finally look up. A killer headache.no doubt about it. The colonel gives Daniel one of those long stares that Daniel dismisses with a wave meant to be reassuring, but it just comes off looking terribly tired.

"I'm okay, Jack." It's barely a whisper, meant only for the colonel's hearing.

The colonel just nods, putting out a hand to help Daniel to his feet. Houston, we have mother-hen mode. The colonel takes Daniel's arm and guides him to the door I'm now holding open for them. The colonel meets my worried look with a shrug and a tight smile. I can see the thought as clearly as if he'd said it, 'maybe we really can use the down time.' I nod my head in response as I follow them down the corridor, but I'm hit by that sneaking suspicious feeling again.

There's more to all of this than we're being told..

Chapter 3: Colonel Jack O'Neill

I am not a happy camper.

Something is so not right, I can feel it right down to my bones..

I'm about as useful here as a vintage DC-9.at least it would have had more to show for two weeks of so-called work. I look at files and talk to these hotshots who think they've got the world by the tail, but would probably lose more than their breakfast just looking at a wormhole. God, I was never that young..

I talked to Carter last night, she and Teal'c are feeling about as necessary as I am while getting the royal run-a-round at the five-sided fun house. The hell of it is none of us has been able to reach Daniel. Not that it's very easy to phone home to Area 51, but I do have certain connections, not to mention the rank, to get a message through. He's never at the hotel he's supposedly checked in to. Even Maybourne isn't that much of a slave driver.


Colonel Harry Maybourne would need to climb a ladder to get to the bottom of my shit list most of the time, but he did come through for us during that Foothold situation. Even so, I get a little queasy when I think of Daniel being exposed to Harry's less than tender mercies for too long a stretch. Harry's still got a slow burn going over that Tollan thing.

But what the hell..

Maybe I need to have a little colonel to colonel chat with Harry.make sure he's taking care of Daniel. I think Harry knows me well enough to realize he'd better be.

I didn't like this whole plan from the beginning, but my team was tired.bone tired and more than a little stressed. Daniel's headaches actually had me a little scared. Janet swears it's just stress and maybe some residual effects from Amaunet's attempt to fry Daniel's brain. Maybe. I just know I'm not going to feel any better until I hear Daniel's voice, then I'll know he's okay.

I have to go through three Airmen and an officious-sounding lieutenant to get to Harry, but finally I hear those clipped, nasal tones in my ear.

"Colonel O'Neill. What can I do for you?"

I just can't help myself when it comes to Harry. "Hey, Harry, dissected any good aliens today?"

I hear him sputter a bit. "What do you want, O'Neill?"

O'Neill, hunh? It's just too damn easy to bait you, Harry.

"I want to know why you're keeping my archaeologist so busy he can't take a damn phone call?"

The silence on the other end is just a hair too long. "I don't know what you're talking about, O'Neill. Everyone on my team works hard, but I'm no slave driver."

That little silence helps me decide a little brown-nosing might be in order. "C'mon, Harry.I just want to make sure the kid's okay. He wasn't feeling too well the last time I saw him."

Harry sighs loudly.too loudly. "Jack, I haven't seen Dr. Jackson.today. You know these scientists, they get so wrapped up in their work you hardly know they're around."

Uh hunh.

"I'm familiar with the feeling, Harry. Could you let him know I called.when you see him?" I can almost hear the smile on the other end of the line.message received.

"I'll do that, Jack."

"I owe you one, Harry." Boy, that hurts to say.

"I'll remember that."

He clicks off on that and I'm left wondering why I never seem to learn to listen to my gut. Carter and Teal'c are where they're supposed to be, I'm stuck here at Anderson like I'm supposed to be.Why in the hell isn't Daniel in Nevada where he's supposed to be?

Remembering Daniel's headache the day before we left, I wonder if maybe he got too sick to ship out. I dial his apartment, but the machine picks up. From the length of the tone it's obvious that Daniel hasn't picked up his messages for several days at least. Just to be on the safe side I call Daniel's neighbor, Mrs. Ellis. Mrs. Ellis is a lovely old widow who picks up Daniel's mail and feeds his fish when he's away.not to mention supplying him with actual home-cooked food on a semi-regular basis. We're not the only ones who think the kid forgets to eat. I try to keep my voice calm when I talk to her, but she's already upset. Seems Daniel was expected back a few days ago and didn't he seem awfully tired before he left? I agree with her, but try to make light of it, reminding her that yes, Daniel is such a sweet boy, but he does tend to get wrapped up in his work. Before I hang up, I have her laughing and making plans to fix us both a nice dinner when Daniel does get home.

This is getting seriously weird.

We were all sent off on these assignments with the understanding that they'd last the better part of a month. Okay. So why did Daniel tell Mrs. Ellis that he'd be back in less than two weeks? He'd go out of his way not to worry her. Harry hasn't seen Daniel at all. Where the hell is he?

I have one more call to make; I just hope I can catch him at home.



I don't even have to identify myself, Ferretti's two jumps ahead of me.

"Where the hell are you man? I've been trying to reach you for days."

That sends a chill through me. "Why? Where's Daniel, Lou?"

I hear him take a deep breath, it doesn't help my state of mind.

"Jack.he's missing."

"I know he's not at Groom Lake, Ferretti. Just tell me."

Feretti gets agitated easily at the best of times, but he's nearly hyperventilating now. "No, Jack. He didn't go to Area 51, he went through the gate.and he's three days overdue."

The chill I felt earlier is quickly displaced by a heat I hardly know how to control. I manage to keep my voice steady as I ask Ferretti to slow down and give me everything from the beginning. One thing's for sure.if I have to walk, I'm heading back to Colorado.


Chapter 4: Major Louis Ferretti

Man, the colonel sounded thoroughly pissed.

And he doesn't know the half of it yet. Considering he was calling from one of the biggest Air Force installations in the states, I wasn't real comfortable giving him more detail than necessary over the phone. We're both in enough hot water as it is and all he really needed to know was that more was going on here than just a case of Daniel not being in Nevada like he was supposed to be.

I still don't know as much as I'd like to.and not nearly enough to satisfy the colonel I'm sure. I just know that I saw Daniel go through the gate alone in the middle of the night with only Hammond, Harriman and, for some strange reason, Fraiser as witnesses. I wasn't supposed to be there. I'd left a report behind in the control room and was heading up there to get it when I heard the first rumble of the gate activating. I knew there wasn't anyone expected in or out that night so I was sort of anticipating an alert when I started up the stairs. When the alert didn't come, being the nosy bastard that I am, I slipped on up to get a look. I ducked out of sight and looked through the observation window just in time to see Daniel, in those funky Abydonian robes, starting up the ramp alone. Hammond was staring down there with a look I'd never seen on his face before and I swear his voice was almost breaking as he told Daniel to be careful and they'd see him in two weeks. I could just see Daniel's face from where I was.sad, determined.before he nodded to the general and stepped into the wormhole. As the blue light died with a whoosh, I could hear Fraiser protesting that Daniel was in no condition for this mission. The general had to clear his throat before answering that Daniel had to be.

Right about then I figured it was the better part of valor, not to mention ass preservation, not to get caught where I shouldn't be. I slipped out of the shadows and down the stairs while they were still arguing about whether Daniel should have gone out alone. I can't be sure, but I thought I heard Hammond say that he wouldn't be alone.but I can't be sure. He looked pretty damn alone when I saw him.

I tried to reach the colonel that night and most of the next day, until I finally got Jimmy in records to admit that the colonel had been assigned TDY at Eglin. I must've called a half dozen times before catching on to the fact that nobody was delivering my messages so I figured okay.I'll just keep my eyes and ears open and see what else I can find out. Which wasn't very much. A few innocent questions to Fraiser just earned me a guilty look and a wide-eyed stare. Harriman's been hanging around Hammond too long, I couldn't get so much as a blink out of him. Being fairly fond of my backside, I didn't even try Hammond.

Now here I am, freezing said backside off waiting at this private airfield. I don't know how the colonel managed to get his hands on a civilian aircraft in northwestern Florida.I probably don't want to know.but this is where he said to meet him. He is going to be shit deep in trouble when Hammond gets through with him. SG1 or no, there's only so much bull the old man will take from the colonel. Going AWOL.even from temporary duty.definitely falls under Hammond's definition of 'bull'.

I hear the plane before I see it. Cute little Cessna, I wonder.no I don't.that's one of those things I don't need to know. I'm not really surprised to see that the colonel piloting; he wouldn't want to involve anyone else in this.

Me? I got involved the day Daniel saved our asses on Abydos and it's kind of gotten to be a habit. I like Daniel. I know I didn't cut him much slack at first, but he really came through for us then.and so many times since. We talk a lot. I can listen to Daniel talk all day.I know that sounds strange for an old country boy like me, but the guy just knows so much about.so much. I've never met anybody that smart. Just off the top of his head he can leave me in the dirt with his words.not that he would. He always takes care to make sure I understand, explaining things in a way that doesn't leave me feeling like I'm any less than he is because I didn't spend over half my life in school. And I like to think I help him, too.he knows he can ask me anything. While I might laugh with him, I don't laugh at him.not anymore. We've been through too much for that.

The colonel shuts the plane down and climbs out, making his way over to my old Bronco. SGC pays me enough to get something better, but like my daddy always said.if it ain't broke, you don't need a new one.

Even in the dim moonlight I can see the colonel's face is locked into that 'screw around with me and die' mask that probably saved his life more than once in Covert Ops. I'm not at all sure that kind of attitude will make any headway with Hammond so I need to get him calmed down and thinking clearly before we get back to base. It's times like these when I really miss Kowalsky.he was better at taming wild-eyed Colonel O'Neill's than I am.

As the colonel climbs in beside me, I see the mask slip just a bit and start telling him the whole thing from the beginning. I can't gloss over the details.he'd see right through it anyway.but I can see him start to thaw a little as I talk. I guess he had that whole long flight alone to run through a bunch of pretty awful possibilities, but now.faced with the facts as observed by Ferretti.he's starting to chill out and think more like a commander than a worried friend.

I realize my own tension is easing up now, too. Whatever is going on with Daniel, the colonel is here and one way or another.even if it ends with us up on charges.we're going to find out the hell is going on.

Chapter 5: General George Hammond

I am not going to lose my temper.

I am not going to let this total disregard for protocol and regulations.however well-founded and well-meaning.affect my already too high blood pressure.

The hell I'm not..

"Colonel O'Neill, can you give me one good reason why I shouldn't turn the both of you over to the SP's and be damned any possible consequences? Major Ferretti, the colonel was not included in this mission for a reason. Are you operating under the sadly misguided assumption that you can countermand my decisions at will?"

Well at least they look suitably contrite. I guess I haven't lost my touch after all. The thing is..and I'll never admit this under pain of death.I was going to send for Colonel O'Neill anyway. He's the only other one who can go after Dr. Jackson now. I'm hoping things haven't gone to hell as badly as I fear they have , but Dr. Jackson is three days overdue.

My problem now is I have to give Colonel O'Neill what he wants.to go after Dr. Jackson.without leaving him with the very much mistaken impression that he can go around flaunting orders at will. We've been here before, that whole saving-the-Earth-against-executive-orders thing.not to mention the thing with the Orbanians. I granted a hell of a lot of leeway then, but this cannot go unremarked.

I stand a little straighter and put on what my kids call my pissed-to-the-max bellow. "Colonel O'Neill, you will be receiving an official reprimand on your record, expect it. You will not be making a habit of disregarding my orders in future.Is that clear, colonel?"

He has the good grace to look uncomfortable, but he's not the least apologetic. As Dr. Jackson would say.déjà vu. We have definitely been here before.

I switch targets while I'm on a roll. "Major Ferretti, the phrase 'need to know' is part of the military lexicon for a purpose. You will live, breathe and practice it. Consider them words to live by for as long as you are attached to this facility. Am I making myself clear?"

I've managed to make Ferretti uncomfortable and apologetic.so I'm feeling somewhat appeased. Of course with Ferretti it's never easy to tell how much of his contrition is real and how much is his patented line of BS, but I think the message is received. These guys have a long way to go before they get that much over on me.

I have the singular pleasure of dismissing Ferretti at this point and seeing a totally shocked expression come over his face.

"Need to know, Major." I smile at him as I close the door in his face.

Chapter 6: Colonel Jack O'Neill

I do not believe this..

What the hell did Daniel think he was doing?

Well, duh, O'Neill. you know what he thought. He thought he was protecting us, he thought we'd stop him, he thought something I haven't figured out yet.something that convinced Hammond to buy into this crazy plan.

Janet said Daniel was still having those headaches when he left..

I knew I should have stuck around when they took the snake out of Skaara. I guess it was still to soon after my own up close and personal encounter with one of those things.I just couldn't stand there and watch. But Daniel could.and did. He's good about things like that. No matter how personally grossed out he is, he stands by his friends. I don't doubt that there was also a little piece of him that wanted to see the thing come out of Skaara with his own eyes..one small victory to offset so many defeats.

Skaara already knew that Sha're was dead. I know he and Daniel did a little grieving together before Skaara left to see his father. I hope Skaara decides to stay with the Tok'ra.the wealth of knowledge he gained as Klorel's host would go a long way toward fighting the Goa'uld. Much as I would have liked it, it wouldn't really be practical to expect Skaara to adapt to life on Earth.and there's the distinct possibility that Harry and his crew would turn him into some sort of lab rat. We'd all die before we let that happen.and at least now he's free.

So somewhere along the line Skaara passed on the little tidbit of news about maybe knowing how to find Kheb. Fine. Why send Daniel out there alone with Skaara? Didn't they think I could be subtle enough not to get caught even though I can't speak the lingo like they can? Daniel's face is about as well-known as mine on the Goa'uld hit parade..

This whole plan was crazy.

I am so thoroughly pissed.

And worried..

This is the most screwed plan in the history of screwed plans..

At least Hammond let me come after them..I think he really believes I didn't know he was going to recall me anyway. Right, George.

I make my way around the village carefully. I've been lucky so far not to run into anyone who's inclined to talk. Except for the sparse greenery, this place reminds me a lot of Abydos. The level of development, the architecture.really close. I just don't know how to go about finding Daniel and Skaara without making at least some contact with the locals. And what am I going to do the first time somebody asks me a question? Play deaf and dumb?

C'mon, guys.where the hell are you?

I move through an open area, trying to look a little inconspicuous and keeping one hand on the zat under my robes. I'm taller than anybody I've seen so far and slightly lighter-skinned, but these people are totally clueless. Hello? Big, pale stranger here.I'm guessing these people haven't had much interaction with the Goa'uld, they're entirely too trusting here.

There are a lot of small buildings down by the stream and I figure I may as well start there. As I make my way closer to the rough stone houses, I see a couple of the natives take notice of me and go back to their work. Off to one side, I notice a hooded figure watching just a little too long before slipping off to a house set away from the rest. That's my target.

The hooded guy is standing in the darkened doorway as I approach, moving back as I reach the threshold. I touch the zat under my robes again and step inside. As my eyes adjust to the dimmer light the hood falls to reveal Skaara.

"O'Neill! I knew you would come!"

The kid gives me a bouncing hug.so intensely familiar.and steps back. "Come, Danyer needs you."

That causes my gut to twist in a way that it is uniquely attributable to Daniel. I've got one of those for everyone I care about, but Daniel's seems to get more than its share of practice.

Skaara leads me into room made as dark as possible in daylight, heavy cloths covering the windows and lights a single oil lamp revealing a figure huddled on a mat against the wall.

"Daniel?" My body reacts faster than my brain.like that's a new concept.and I'm on my knees beside him before his name fades.

Daniel turns a bit but doesn't open his eyes. "Jack?" The voice is barely a whisper, but even that seems to hurt him.

I lower my voice in sympathy with that pain. "Daniel, what's wrong?"

Skaara moves forward to kneel beside me, speaking softly. "Danyer has been in great pain for many days. Light and sound, even moving, make it worse. I could not leave him."

I put a hand on Skaara's shoulder. "You did the right thing. Did he have any medicine with him?" Surely Janet didn't send him out here without something.

Skaara nods. "It is gone. Two days ago."

I scoot closer to Daniel, touching his forehead carefully.

"Jack?" That whisper-voice tells me more than a dozen words could. Daniel is really hurting here.

"Take it easy, Danny.we'll get you out of here."

Daniel shakes his head. "Can't go, Jack. Can't."

I look at Skaara, hoping he knows what Daniel's thinking but he just shakes his head helplessly. I'm guessing they've already had this argument. I don't know why Daniel doesn't want to leave, but right now it's secondary to getting him back to the SGC and Doc Fraiser's infirmary.

I motion for Skaara to follow me into the other room so we can make a plan without disturbing Daniel. I open my mouth to ask Skaara what's been going on when we hear an explosion of sound.

Moving to the doorway, I watch in dread, knowing what I'm going to see.


Dozens of them.

Systematically blasting away at these innocent natives.

A voice from the hilltop stops the destruction.

A familiar voice.

Even before I look I know what I'm going to see..

We are in so much trouble here.

Chapter 7: Skaara of Abydos

I have never been so glad to see O'Neill.

I have been so afraid for Daniel. He was rarely ill on Abydos, just one episode of sun sickness that he learned from and never risked again. Even his allergies were not a great problem as long as he stayed away from the mastadge pens and aired out the tunnels he was so fond of exploring. Sha're certainly allowed no dust to linger in their home to cause my chosen brother discomfort. It was never difficult to want to help Daniel, the love he shared with us was all we required to want to make him happy.and keep him healthy.

I have missed him so much. Our time apart has changed us both in many ways, but the feelings have not changed. Even with Sha're lost to us, we are still family. I was very afraid at first that Daniel could not forget the things my demon used my body to do. I should have known better. Daniel would never blame me. He understands.

He told me about Sha're.her child, her death..and about the images placed in his mind as Sha're fought her demon's attempt to kill him. I miss my sister. I saw Amaunet often, but only once in all those years did I truly see Sha're. It was just after Amaunet returned from Abydos and the demon had yet to regain full control. With all of my strength I fought for control of my body and won. Sha're's eyes glowed with her own strong spirit as she told me Daniel still lived and searched for us.still loved us. I held that knowledge close to my heart, letting it ease the ache I had felt since my demon had so nearly killed him on the Ha'tak.

That image will never leave me. I could not fight the hate my demon felt for Daniel.for no other reason than because he was important to me. I had regained control for just a few moments that day and even influenced the demon's thoughts regarding Teal'c. My demon hated me for causing it to weaken, it felt the joy in my heart upon seeing Daniel and tried to use me to destroy him

I remember O'Neill's voice calling my name as Daniel struggled to breathe under the demon's onslaught. I fought so hard to stop it, but the hate was too strong. I was so glad when O'Neill fired his weapon. As I fell I could hear Daniel draw a choking breath and knew that he lived. With that treasured knowledge, I welcomed death.

Daniel, our gentle teacher and reluctant leader. Time has changed him, but I hope those things will never change. He is stronger now, in ways both saddening and heartening. I am glad he has learned to protect his body, but can see that he has also learned to conceal his innermost heart. I see it when he speaks of Sha're.like a curtain falling across a doorway. He thinks he failed her, but I know the truth.nothing could have saved Sha're. Amaunet was most strong, ancient and powerful in the ways of dominating a host. My demon was young and untested, it was far easier for me to fight than for Sha're. Daniel did not fail, there was never a chance for a true battle.

When Daniel told me of Kheb, I remembered something my demon had heard about the place. I did not know its location, but I did know this world contained a temple with writings which spoke of it. The language of the Ancients is as much a mystery to the demons as the Tau'ri, but Daniel was confident he could decipher it.

General Hammond had requested I be brought to Earth to speak of these things and I was surprised O'Neill was not present when I arrived.he is Daniel's commander and friend. Daniel told me O'Neill would not be joining us at the meeting or on the mission, but did not explain why. I could see the pain in Daniel's eyes when he told me General Hammond had decided to send only the two of us alone. I think it was as much Daniel's decision as the general's. I think Daniel feared to risk his friends. That thought was affirmed when Daniel tried to persuade me not to come either, but I have learned enough about my stubborn brother to know how to argue with Daniel. I believe Daniel thought even then that something would happen here and did not wish to risk any but himself.

Once we arrived here Daniel seemed to accept my presence. We found the temple without difficulty and fell into patterns established long ago on Abydos; Daniel studied and recorded the strange writings while I took care of our physical needs. The natives were quite hospitable, providing food and quarters without many questions. I know Daniel well enough to know he will work ceaselessly when faced with a mystery.I have seen it often. Sha're and I devised many ways of seeing that he would eat and sleep regularly when his mind became so busy that nothing else would exist for him. It was such a pleasure to return to those patterns, to the relationship I had thought lost forever.

We found time to talk after the first few days. We spoke of our lives since we parted on Chulak, of things long past and things painfully fresh. We spoke of Sha're, grieving and rejoicing together that her beautiful spirit was gone from us but finally.thankfully.free.

One week later, we were nearly finished copying the writings.Daniel was already certain of many references to Kheb.when the worst of the headaches came. Daniel had been taking the medicine Dr. Fraiser had given him before we left.the pain had come before, but gone fairly quickly. That attack was frightening. Daniel is as strong as he is intelligent.a quiet strength of spirit many do not suspect in one so gentle.I have never heard him cry out in such a manner. For many long minutes he was blinded to everything.he did not seem to feel or hear me as I led him back to our sleeping rooms. Even Dr. Fraiser's small pills took hours to have any effect on Daniel's pain. I remembered my mother had such head pain when I was very small.Sha're and our father would blanket all light from her room and keep me quiet. It seemed to work for Daniel, if only for a short time. I wanted to return with him to Earth right away, but Daniel insisted we finish what we had come to do. I promised him we would.

I knew O'Neill would come. I know much of what I feel for O'Neill is what I felt when Daniel would tell us tales of our heroic ancestors on Earth who fought the demons.but under that I also know that O'Neill is strong and would never abandon his friends. When Daniel did not return.O'Neill would come.

Now I almost wish he had not.

Looking toward the hilltop, my heart wants only to flee but knows it cannot.

Heru'ur, hated enemy of my demon.

Heru'ur, who tried before to take the child.

Heru'ur, who stands on the hilltop.with my father in chains.

Chapter 8: Kasuf of Abydos

My sons are here.

I do not understand how I know this, but I am certain of it.

My wild, beautiful Skaara, alive and finally free of his demon as his sister will never be. I will grieve to my last breath over the loss of my daughter, but offer all thanks to my good son, Daniel, and his tribe for bringing my other son home to me.

Now we are here and not home. But my sons are here and I will not fear. They will free me.or will see me die with honor. Those are acceptable choices to me, but I fear they will not be for my impetuous boys.

Before the revolt against Ra, I feared the energy and rebellion in my Skaara. Even as a child, he was not the sort of boy who would easily follow.he was a leader in the crib and that never changed. I felt shame at my own weakness in the face of Skaara's willingness to join the strangers against Ra. It was not until Daniel.such a quiet boy at first.showed me the face of my gods that I realized my beliefs, and those of my people, were based on lies.

My children were so much wiser than I.

Even Sha're, my gentle firebrand, fostered a hatred for the 'aliens' who posed as gods in order to use our people, her passion tempered only by her love for our people. After the defeat of Ra, it became very obvious, even to these old eyes, that Daniel would remain.the shared joy that passed from him to my daughter was a breath of rain on the desert. The span of days between O'Neill's leaving and return were full of new things as Daniel learned more of us than we were ever allowed to know.and shared it all with a quiet power that earned him a place in all our hearts. Through his wisdom we discovered a heritage we had never known or expected, a proud history to supplant the centuries of slavery. I like to believe that in us he discovered love and belonging, and a strength of spirit even greater than what he already possessed. Much as I love my daughter's husband, I fear he lacked awareness of his own worth.I like to believe that we helped him find a measure of it.

I do not see them, but I know they are here. The demon, Heru'ur, believes it.else he would not have brought me here. I find myself praying to the Allah Daniel calls the One God that O'Neill is here and can protect my sons from their own misguided loyalty that would deliver them to this demon for the sake of my life. I do not wish it so. Heru'ur cannot be allowed to take either of my sons.the battle against the demons is far too important, as is the child.

Daniel and Skaara must remain hidden.

Many have died here.for that I am regretful, but in the face of the larger battle nothing is more important than my sons and O'Neill. They are the strength and wisdom that will defeat the demons. O'Neill possesses the drive and determination of his people.he is not the sort of man to accept defeat. Skaara holds his own unique determination.and now the knowledge of his demon. Daniel remains the wisdom, but now also a sad purpose and stubbornness.he will not yield until his body fails him or the battle is won. And nothing short of death will deter him from keeping his final promise to my daughter.

I will not have his fate rest on my poor life.

I will die before that happens.

Heru'ur calls out again for my sons. He threatens my life, but I know he will not kill me yet. O'Neill will know this as well. As long as I am in his hands, I am a tool for the demon.an object with which to bargain. If he kills me, my boys are still hidden from him.still beyond his reach. He will use me to set a trap.I can only hope my boys will not be caught in it.

The battle is all that matters.

My sons must remain free or all will indeed be lost.

Chapter 9: Colonel Jack O'Neill

Big H thinks we're coming out, he'd better recheck his snake-thoughts and try again.

I like Kasuf. Hell, more than like him..but no way in this world or any other is Heru'ur getting his hands on Skaara or Daniel...and I know Kasuf understands that it just can't happen.

Skaara is straining against my hands, trying to go out there after his father. I'm whispering to him that now isn't the time, we'll get Kasuf back. Finally I can feel him relax against me, his eyes looking at me with a trust I can only hope to live up to. I pull him back into the darkened room and go to Daniel again.

He's awake. "Jack? What is it?"

I let out a deep breath then explain the situation to him. Just as I expected, he tries to get up.

"We have to go after him, Jack.."

Daniel is pale even in the dim light, but his half-open eyes are full of determination.

"We will, Daniel. Let's just try to do this without getting anybody else captured."

He nods and slips back to lean against the wall. "Any chance of going for help?"

There's that Dr. Jackson military mind at work, again. I shake my head. Heru'ur is bound to have the gate under guard. The trick's going to be getting out of this village right under his snaky nose.

I peek out of the window and see the Goa'uld setting up camp on the hilltop. Heru'ur is sitting on a big throne of a thing.these guys sure believe in bringing along the comforts of home, no doubt about it. Kasuf is chained to one of the scruffy trees, still looks okay.for now. The few poor villagers who weren't killed or couldn't run fast enough to escape are being herded into one of the outbuildings.looks like a couple dozen older folks and a few kids. Damn.better not tell Daniel or Skaara about that just yet.

For the moment Heru'ur holds all the cards and I'd bet good money he knows it. Kasuf being here tells me Mr. Earrings has been planning something like this for a while...probably since he tried to kidnap Sha're's child back on Abydos. With Amaunet and Apophis, please-please-let-him-be-really-dead-this-time, gone and now with Klorel hopefully still host-less.Heru'ur must figure the Harsiesis child is up for grabs. He's probably had spies on Abydos and even in Apophis' own back yard all along. When Skaara returned home for a visit, Heru'ur must've set this all in motion.

I don't doubt for a minute that he remembers Daniel.and me. Daniel pretty much spit in the guy's face in that way only Daniel can do.multi-talented, our Daniel. And I did sort of give Heru'ur something to remember me by. Much as I hate to say it this particular Goa'uld is plenty smart enough to put two and two together.Kasuf plus Skaara plus me and Daniel plus a missing kid plus a little snaky espionage has got to add up to trouble for us.

Yeah, by now Heru'ur has to know the kid never was with Apophis and Amaunet. If he was watching Kasuf, he knew who Skaara was when he showed up back home. He's probably had somebody here watching Daniel and Skaara for days. He may not know exactly how Daniel figures into all of this, but he likely figures it's pretty fishy that Daniel was around back when the kid disappeared.

Daniel is visibly trying to pull himself together.it sure doesn't look easy. His eyes are unfocused, the hair on his forehead damp with sweat, and his mouth is drawn tight in a way that tells me he's trying hard to hold back the sounds of pain his body is screaming to release.

I dig into their packs and come up with two first aid kits and an empty bottle of prescription painkillers. Damn Fraiser anyway, letting Daniel go off-world.without us.in this condition. There's got to be more behind all this than anybody's telling me. I don't care how good a line of archaeo-bull Daniel ran past Hammond, the old man had to think there was a damn good reason for putting the SGC's number one resident expert in all things linguistic at risk.

I think maybe.maybe hell.I'm just a little pissed at Daniel, too. But I can't yell at him right now. I guarantee he knows we will be talking about this later. I pass three aspirin out of the first aid kit to Daniel and he swallows them without comment. He's looking at me like he expects me to lay into him any minute now.any other time I would, but I just can't look into those eyes full of physical and emotional pain and think about making it any worse. Colonel Marshmallow, that's me.

I try to smile reassuringly at him again. "We'll get out of this somehow, Daniel and get Kasuf back."

Daniel nods and motions for me to help him up. "God, I hope so, Jack."

Daniel's pretty shaky and breathing hard, but he manages to stand on his own. It's getting darker outside so he risks a peek out the window. I see the shadows in his eyes deepen as he catches sight of Kasuf. Daniel closes his eyes for a moment then looks up at me in question. I nod my head, promising in the gesture that we aren't going to let anything happen to Kasuf. I get a tight smile in response and start to feel a little better about the situation. Daniel may be hurting, but he's focusing on the bigger picture.a determined Daniel is a guy I always want on my side.

Heru'ur is standing now. That superior tone I remember so well drifts easily down to us. "Dr. Jackson, Skaara.I know you are aware of my guest. I know what he is.to both of you. You have until sunrise to come to me freely.or he dies."

Okay, there's the expected ultimatum. These guys must take classes in unoriginal domination. So we've got until sunrise. Now all we need is a plan.

Chapter 10: Dr. Daniel Jackson

God, this is all my fault.

I set it all in motion. I insisted General Hammond send the others away so they wouldn't fight me on it.or try to come along. I wanted to do this on my own, I needed to.and I can be pretty damn persuasive when I want to be. Jack and the others have been pretty good about helping me with the search for the child, but this was far too risky a situation to ask them to follow me into on a maybe. Skaara, the general and I are the only ones who know this planet is one of Heru'ur's. I can definitely wait before passing on that bit of information to Jack.

I also fought against Skaara coming along, but once here I was glad he came. Our time here together has reaffirmed our closeness and sense of family, something I didn't realize how much I'd missed until I felt it slip back into place. It's almost like those cosmic powers that be finally decided to let us win one. There will always be a part of me that will wish we could have won with Sha're, but I know she'd be pleased we saved her brother.

He's changed in some ways. His mastery of English is exceptional and he still retains the memory of spoken and written Goa'uld. Physically, he hasn't changed at all.courtesy of Klorel.but he seems older. His eyes are dark with things he's only begun to work through. All the evil he was powerless to prevent his own body from acting out, I can only begin to imagine how it has wounded his spirit. Skaara was always rather wise beyond his years, but now it seems he possesses a maturity honed painfully sharp by his time as a prisoner inside of himself. His entire life had been spent as a slave, except for that one year after Ra, the last three years as a slave of the worst possible kind. Skaara is a man in a boy's body who must now reconcile the many fractured shards of his self and discover just who he is now.

I know I scared him with these headaches. I tried to tell him how sorry I was, but he learned early on in our year as a family how to cut me off mid guilt trip. The Abydonians aren't very understanding of self-pity. After thousands of years of slavery, daily reminded of their lot in life, they adapted an attitude of acceptance one might almost term complacency.if one didn't take into account their incredible zest for truly living life while they could.

This time here was good for both of us. It helped me remember a few things about myself I'd let myself forget. I was more than a little aware of how much of myself I was losing with every day and month and year that passed without finding Sha're and Skaara. I gained so much in those years.Jack, Sam, Teal'c.but the nature of the job took a lot of me with it.the me I was on Abydos. It had come to seem like a dream, an ideal almost.once it was lost I could no sooner recapture it than I could a waking dream.

A lot of things have changed since then.some good, some not good at all. I'll never know what might have happened if we'd rescued Sha're and I can't let myself dwell on what-ifs..it's just too soon and too damn hard to try. For the foreseeable future I can only focus on the now.and right now we've got to find a way to help Kasuf.

Kasuf, my good father. He still is that. Even with Sha're gone, he still sees me as his son. I like that..so many times lately I've needed that. It's a connection to her, to our lives together I hope never to lose. He has so much faith in me and my 'tribe' to save them from the demons.to fulfill my promise to find the boy..

I just wish I could think. The headache is easing slightly.which isn't saying much. Jack and Skaara are giving me nearly identical looks of concern as we sit here waiting for nightfall. I can't slip anything past the two of them. I'd be mad about that if I weren't so glad they're both here.

I'll have to ask Jack how he managed to get Hammond to let him come.I should have figured Jack wouldn't just stay in Florida when he didn't hear from me. The general and I had pretty much agreed no one else would be risked on this.at least I thought we'd agreed. I wonder how much trouble Jack's in, and how worried Hammond must have been to send him.

Jack's got a plan. He hasn't gone into any details.to be honest I wasn't in much shape to listen if he had. Just knowing Jack is here and working on it helps. I know he's worried about me holding it together long enough to get out of here and get Kasuf back. I wish I could put his mind at ease on that score..

This is the worst pain I've felt since the withdrawal.I don't even want to compare the two. Janet says it's some sort of after-effect of Amaunet's attempt to kill me. All I know is it's getting progressively worse with every attack.and the attacks themselves are coming more often. It's been two months now and I've gone from one or two episodes a week to almost daily attacks lasting for hours on end. To be honest I'm more than a little worried myself.

I have to much to do.especially now.to let something like this slow me down. I have a promise to keep and nothing.nothing.is going to stop me from keeping it.

Chapter 11: Skaara of Abydos

O'Neill is worried.

He tries to hide it, but his eyes tell everything.

He is afraid for Daniel, as I am. Daniel is working very hard to convince us he is well, it is not quite a lie. Daniel does not lie.but he is very good at concealing the truth especially as it concerns himself.

The white pills O'Neill made Daniel take seem to be helping, but the crease between overly bright eyes speaks of pain beneath the mask Daniel is showing us now. Daniel will put away his own hurt for the sake of our father, O'Neill seems to recognize this as well.

I fear what Heru'ur intends to do to Kasuf. We have just found one another again, I cannot bear the thought of losing him.not in this way. Abydos, my home, has become as much a target as Daniel, O'Neill and now me. If.when.we succeed in retrieving my father, we must find some way to keep him and my people safe.

None of us is likely to be safe again, not until the last of the demons is destroyed. This hatred I feel for them is strong.I cannot seem to stop it. I know I must try to keep it controlled.it cannot be allowed to control me. It would be as complete a possession as that of the demon. Daniel and I spoke of this a little, the intense feelings we have toward the demons. He admitted feeling a rage at least the equal of my own.it was not something I expected from Daniel. He was always the gentlest of us all.it pains me to see the sharp edge of anger bleeding through his words when he speaks of the demons. One more loss to feed my hatred.

O'Neill looks to both of us, his eyes lingering an extra moment on Daniel's pale face. "We ready, guys?"

Daniel nods, his body moving with purpose as he rises. I move to stand at his side, sensing O'Neill's unspoken desire to give Daniel what support we can without implying he cannot fend for himself. The look of gratitude in O'Neill's eyes tells me I am right. Daniel looks from one to the other of us and I realize he understands.and accepts it. This concerns me all the more.it is frighteningly telling of Daniel's frame of mind. He is admitting, however obliquely, his weakness and I am afraid for him in a way I have not been since the Ha'tak.

O'Neill has noticed it as well and his eyes narrow in concern. This is not the Daniel we know so well. O'Neill seems to gather his own thoughts and strength before motioning us to the rear window. We have been watching that area since sunset.there has been no movement there. O'Neill believes we can run from here to the stream without being observed from the hilltop. If we can make it to the stream, the water is deep enough to float us away from view where we may come ashore and make our way around Heru'ur and his Jaffa. It will be difficult, the water is cold and swift-running, but as O'Neill says.we have no other options.

I can hear Daniel draw a shuddering breath and vow to stay with him, whatever may happen. O'Neill climbs silently out the window and Daniel follows just as quietly. I pass the packs to O'Neill and join them outside. The moonlight glows dully behind sparse clouds, bright enough to help us see our way, but not so bright as to make us visible to those who might be watching. We move low to the ground, keeping our footsteps soft and nearly silent. We reach the stream within minutes and O'Neill slips into the water, guarding our entry with his "zat gun". Daniel draws air sharply as he enters the stream, but quiets himself immediately. I join them in the water and we slowly immerse ourselves up to our necks.keeping the packs as much out of the water as possible, moving slowly downstream with a care born of the need for silence.

We make good progress. I begin to relax when we move beyond the view of the village. O'Neill motions for us to continue a little further. O'Neill keeps looking back at us as if to reassure himself, Daniel seems to be doing quite well though his breathing is somewhat strained. There is little we can do now except keep moving and get out of the icy water as quickly as possible.

O'Neill leads us further, several more minutes, then points to a flat area on the streambank. We make our way to it and climb out. O'Neill scans the area quickly then reaches down to help Daniel rise. Daniel is shaking, whether from the cold or a return of the pain I do not know. I see a dark place among the rocks and point it out to O'Neill. We help Daniel into the small cavern and he slumps to the ground, hands going to his head as he stifles a moan. O'Neill hands me the weapon and sinks to the ground beside Daniel.


O'Neill's voice once again holds the same note of love and caring I heard when he found us in the village. I had not realized how very much my other friend had changed in our time apart. O'Neill has learned to open his heart, even as Daniel has learned to close his. I cannot help but wonder at the differences in both of them. O'Neill moves his hands to stroke Daniel's forehead with a gentleness I have never seen in him before. I smile in the near darkness, my friends are well-matched.and have found in each other a comfortable balance, a counterpoint they probably did not realize how desperately they needed.

Daniel sighs deeply. "Thanks, Jack. I'm okay."

I can see O'Neill's eyes roll in disbelief, but he only nods. "Let's get into some dry clothes and get some rest. Tomorrow's going to be a long day."

I reach for my pack and pass the clothing to them, moving to the cavern entrance to keep watch while they change. I can hear their soft voices, O'Neill's gently cajoling as he helps Daniel who responds with soft acceptance. I think Daniel would only allow this from O'Neill. There is no barrier of pride between them.they know each other too well for such things. It is very strange to watch them together in this setting. During the Triad, I could see them working together, each in his own unique way, to defend my right to my own body, but this is different. Now they interact as friends of the soul, heart to heart..

My own heart is glad for them.

I smile again in the darkness, suddenly much more optimistic about what tomorrow might bring.

Chapter 12: Colonel Jack O'Neill

I need to get Daniel home.

He's finally asleep after another handful of aspirin.at this rate they'll be gone in two days.not that we have two days. Now all I have to do is figure out a way to get past Heru'ur, get Kasuf back, get to the gate, and get Daniel back to Doc Fraiser.

Piece of cake.

I'm starting to think Fraiser's wrong about these headaches. Daniel's always had more than his share of garden-variety stress headaches.hell he works himself to a frazzle at the drop of an artifact.but I've never seen him like this. I'm no stranger to migraine pain myself...this ain't it. When the pain's at its worst he's actually running a fever and I've seen him holding his chest several times tonight when he thought no one was looking. I need to get him to Doc.

Now.just how are you going to manage it, O'Neill?

According to Skaara, we've got about seven more hours of darkness. If Heru'ur keeps his promise, he'll kill Kasuf at sunrise. I can't let myself believe he'll actually do it. Kasuf is his only real bargaining chip, he loses his power over us if Kasuf dies, but that won't stop old snake face from hurting Kasuf to make us do what he wants. There's also the matter of those innocent people locked up in the village. I know I come from a different sort of place than Daniel and Skaara, but one thing I do know.I can't just stand by and watch Kasuf be harmed. Just like I can't let Heru'ur get his hands on any of us.

I never used to have these kinds of conversations with myself.things were clear-cut, good guys lived-bad guys died, orders were orders.no matter who got hurt. I can't do that anymore. It does matter.a hell of a lot more than I would ever have imagined pre-Stargate years. Things changed for me then, life got.bigger..

Of course, three years of exposure to a walking conscience probably didn't hurt. I make jokes about it, but Daniel really is that.and more. It really didn't even take three years for me to realize that about him. Hell, the first.no second.mission out found him in my face and definitely, stubbornly in the way of my usual, bulldozer's-got-nothing-on-me tactics. I caved on that one, I'm still not sure why.and was glad when it turned out Daniel was right. Pissed, but glad. Little did I know it was just the beginning of our 'battles'.battles I gradually learned really were worth the time, the energy and the passion we brought to them. Sometimes I was right, sometimes he was.which is the way it should be. And I like to think I've changed enough to bring some hopeful realism into the mix. I know there's been more than a few times lately when Daniel has surprised me by coming up with some downright masterful.though often painful.strategies, getting that communication device from Apophis was just one. The point is we've both grown.

Boy, does that hurt to admit..

Daniel shifts a little in his sleep and I bend over to check him. He's hot again. Skaara rolls over and looks up at us, his eyes begging the question. I just shrug my shoulders at him, it isn't good.but damned if I know how to help Daniel.

Skaara sits up, drawing the space blanket over his shoulders. God, he looks so young.even now. I know that's just an illusion. His eyes aren't young anymore...I doubt they ever will be again.

"What will we do, O'Neill?" he whispers. His eyes are on Daniel, but I know he's talking about more than just our friend.

I shake my head, I know Skaara's not the wide-eyed hero worshipping kid he was three years ago, but I can see in his eyes the absolute faith in me.the expectation that I will come up with some way to make all this right. He still believes in me.but I don't know if I deserve it.

I just can't admit to him that I still don't have a clue.

Chapter 13: Lord Heru'ur of the Goa'uld

These Tau'ri will be mine.

When I first plotted to gain control of the Harsiesis child at its birth I had thought the plan to be more than elegant in its simplicity. Amaunet's host's planet was absurdly vulnerable. Little did I suspect that two Tau'ri and one of my own Jaffa would prove so irritating. Of course, once I identified the two Tau'ri, I soon realized that the apparently traitorous Jaffa was the Shol'va, Teal'c.

The Tau'ri.

They had to be the same Tau'ri who escaped me on Cimmeria..and destroyed my plans to take over the Asgard protectorate. The Shol'va had been recognized by my Jaffa, it is commonly known he has joined the Tau'ri against us. There has been a price on the heads of those Tau'ri since they destroyed Apophis' Ha'tak vessels before they could remove the First World from our midst. I have no particular love for Apophis.quite the opposite.but the fact they achieved such a thing marked them as a danger to us all. When Apophis set a price on the heads of the Tau'ri responsible and broadcast their likenesses, I recognized my own personal irritations rather quickly.

Dr. Daniel Jackson, so full of arrogant defiance on the slave's planet, Abydos.knowing even then the child was hidden from Apophis and me, and Colonel Jack O'Neill, who broached my personal shields and caused me such pain as I had not known for a very long time.

It took very little investigation to discover Dr. Jackson's slave of a wife was after all Amaunet's host. Information from a few well-placed spies helped me construct a plan to retrieve the child of Amaunet and Apophis, I already knew the child was not with them. The relationship between Klorel and Amaunet's hosts was easily discovered.as was the fact that Jackson had been present at Amaunet's well-deserved demise. She thought herself clever for taking the Abydonians, but I knew her true purpose.the child.

My spy on the Abydos, discovered something far more personal to despise the Tau'ri for.they were the one's who killed my father and mother. I had no familial loyalty toward Ra, I may in fact have killed him myself given time, but it was my right to do so. The same could be said of Hathor.though we did have a rather more congenial relationship. I would have killed her easily enough had she attempted to stand in my way.but again, it was my right.not theirs.

The Asgard treaty prevented me from acting upon my desire for vengeance in a more direct fashion, but I have learned over the generations the value of good information. When Klorel was separated from his host, I knew the host's eventual destination would be the slave planet.Abydos. I knew the host's father would be a weakness for both him and the Tau'ri, Dr. Jackson.it is a useful weakness indeed this emotion. The one certain tool to their downfall.thus my need for the slave, Kasuf.

I owe these Tau'ri much pain. They have thwarted my plans in ways they could not begin to know. I will see them suffer for their insolence, suffer until they reveal the child's location.and then I will see them die.

Chapter 14: General George Hammond

I've been so wrong about this.

Umpteen years in a position of command and I let myself be bushwhacked by an idealistic academic on a mission.

Must be Colonel O'Neill's influence.

Sure it might be a little risky, General, but the natives are friendly. Just a week or so, in and out for the transcription. And oh, yeah, General.you know Jack won't let me go off alone. Isn't there somewhere you can send SG1 while I'm gone? Sure this is one of Heru'ur's planets.and no I haven't forgotten about the bounty on our heads if we're caught on a Goa'uld world, but Skaara says Heru'ur hasn't been there for hundreds of years. My head ache? Nothing at all, sir.maybe I just need new glasses?

The condensed version sounds even worse than the reality. Dr. Daniel Jackson in full lecture mode can turn a simple grocery list into a major dissertation. Then he turns that earnest, intelligent stare at you and you wind up buying the whole load of goods sight unseen for twice the price you thought you were paying. And damned if I didn't buy into it like a first-year cadet.

I just hope Dr. Jackson isn't the one who ends up paying the ultimate price.

It's not Dr. Fraiser's fault the test results got mislaid.

One of the conditions I put on Dr. Jackson's trip was that he submit to a full physical with all the trimmings before he left. Dr. Fraiser and I were both pretty surprised at how quickly he agreed. We thought everything had come back clean, although his blood pressure was slightly elevated..little wonder considering the stress he's been under lately. Beyond her expected protests, Dr. Fraiser couldn't give me any concrete reason why I shouldn't let him go on this mission and I felt a lot better about it when Skaara rather forcefully invited himself along.pointing out to me that I couldn't order him not to..and assuring me he could handle any and all of "Danyer's" protests. Damned if the kid didn't do it, too. So Skaara went ahead to Abydos to get his things together and Dr. Jackson followed the next day.and somehow, I actually managed to convince myself it would be okay.

I am a two star idiot.

Now Dr. Fraiser tells me the missing test shows some kind of abnormality on Dr. Jackson's brain. Good news would be a brain abscess, which can be treated with mega-doses of antibiotics.bad news a tumor, which I refuse to even consider.and there's no way to find out until we get him back here for more tests. Either way, the longer he goes without treatment, the worse it's going to be.

Dr. Fraiser tells me abscesses can result from previous injuries or infections, she's thinking of the situation with the ribbon-device or the alien devices used on us during the foothold situation.Hell, it could be nothing more exotic than an infection brought on by his allergies. First order of business is to get him back here.ASAP.

Colonel O'Neill's been gone a little over twenty four hours, if he were able to get them back he'd have done it by now.

It's two p.m. in DC, I can have Carter and Teal'c back here by dinnertime. I hit the buzzer and tell Harriman to find Ferretti, then reach for the phone to arrange a jet to bring the rest of SG1 back.

One way or another.we're going to get our boy home.

Chapter 15: Dr. Daniel Jackson

I don't know how Jack thinks we're going to pull this one off.

He says we can do it and I really want to believe him, but I just don't see how the three of us can hope to go up against twenty-odd Jaffa with just Jack's zat and my pistol. But we have to get Kasuf back..

I can't lose him too..

I haven't told Jack just how sick I've been feeling since I woke up. It's all I can do to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The pain is dulled by the aspirin, but so constantly there it's hard to concentrate. Jack and Skaara are both giving me their own versions of the 'look'... I don't mind it so much though. I never thought to see that look.or any other not tainted by the Goa'uld inside him. in Skaara's eyes again. I just wish I wasn't the cause of it.

We're making our way around the hill where Heru'ur is encamped. Skaara says we have about two hours until sunrise. I'll take his word for it. I'm just trying to stay focused on Jack's back, placing my feet in his footsteps. If this plan fails, I don't want it to be because of me.

We reach a small copse of brush about twenty yards from Heru'ur's tent. Kasuf is chained to a tree a few yards beyond that. Jack points out the Stargate just beyond the trees on the other side of the encampment. Jack starts to use those little hand gestures to outline his plan, then stops at our blank looks and sighs, looking almost apologetic. I've come to understand some of them, but Skaara is totally lost.

" Sorry," he whispers. " Skaara, your job is to get Kasuf loose and run for the gate. Whatever happens, don't stop.and don't look back."

Jack throws me a look. I know what he's thinking.we're almost certain to be captured or killed, but Skaara has the best chance to get Kasuf out of here. I nod my understanding to him. I can live with this plan.as long as Skaara and Kasuf have a chance. Skaara glances from one to the other of us, nodding. He knows.

Jack catches my eye with a quirk of an eyebrow, asking if I'm up for this. I can't honestly say that I am, but I'm as ready as I can be.whatever may happen.

Skaara hesitates, catching my eye with an expression full of love and regret. As I watch it shifts to determination..reflecting that inner strength I remember relying on so much. We hug for a long moment and he whispers an Abydonian farewell into my ear.the farewell of travelers vowing to meet again. I return the sentiment and feel the heat of emotion in my throat. Jack makes a small noise, indicating the skyline.we don't have much time. Skaara embraces Jack, then fades into the bushes.

I hope he makes it. We have to make sure he does.

Jack gives me another look, in the starlight I can see him checking me out with evident concern.

"I'll make it, Jack," I assure him. "Just tell me where to shoot."

He laughs softly at that and clasps my shoulders, squeezing lightly in a way that says more to me than words ever could. I return the touch, knowing he'll understand. Jack nods and helps me stand. It's time.

Whatever happens.at least we're together

Chapter 16: Major Louis Ferretti


This just keeps getting worse and worse..

Damn, damn, damn...

The colonel is going to freak when he finds out about this. It was bad enough they sent Daniel out without back-up, but now we know he's out there somewhere with some kind of time bomb in his head.and the only real difference is whether it's a short fuse or a long one..

I pat the med-pak Fraiser gave me earlier. Just in case we can't get Daniel back right away. Just in case it's the long fuse time bomb.please God, let it be that one..

This can't be happening to Daniel. The poor guy just can't seem to catch a break. I am so sick of seeing him get one raw deal after another. Hell, I've never been a big believer in the fairness of life in general, but damn it all, this just isn't right.

My team is ready to go, we're just waiting for Carter and Teal'c to join us. I can see them up there in the briefing room right now, geared up and getting the bad news from Hammond. Even from down here I can see the both of them look like they've just been run over by a very big, very malicious truck.

I sure do know that feeling.

This whole situation just plain sucks..big time.

Okay, they're moving now. I give my guys the signal and they start their weapons check. I've got a great bunch here, we are the best at what we do..if I do say so myself. Next to SG1, we've got the best record going. Not to mention the fact that we're one of the few teams with all its original members intact.well since I took command, anyway. This is a high risk, high stress business.you've got to be damn good or damn lucky to keep each other in one piece.physically and mentally.in this business for this long. I like to think we're a whole lot of both.

Carter and Teal'c join us. Carter's lips are set in a grim line, she's worried as hell but ready to go get the job done. Teal'c.man..I've never seen the big guy look like this..not even after Amaunet. His whole body is strung as tight as an arrow in a bowstring, ready to be shot through the gate and straight to Daniel.

Those two never stop surprising me.Teal'c and Daniel. They've found something in each other that not even the worst crap can keep down for long. It's pretty amazing really when you think about it. Who'd have ever imagined they could become so close? The geeky idealistic scholar and the rigid warrior whose actions...however well meaning or unintentional.brought an awful lot of grief down on Daniel. I know it's not as simple as all that, I know there's whole lot more to both of them than I'll ever know.but I still think it's pretty incredible.

The gate rings start spinning and we take our positions. It's time to go. The wormhole settles down and we step through.

.into hell.

A goddamn firefight.

There are four.no, five.Jaffa on the ground and it looks like maybe a dozen more trying to find cover among the scruffy trees between us and.

Oh, hell.

O'Neill's head pops up from behind a bunch of brush and takes down another Jaffa with a double zat blast. Where one of them is the other can't be far and sure enough Daniel's head comes out of hiding and fires off two pistol rounds before disappearing again. I point them out to Carter and Teal'c and get ready to deploy my team when I see Skaara and his father break from the trees heading straight for us.

I send Sanders and James to help them while we lay down a cover fire. Carter hunkers down with Skaara for a minute and yells that we have to get Skaara and Kasuf out of here. I give her the thumbs up and signal for James to dial it up. Carter makes her way back to me and explains Kasuf had been taken hostage by Heru'ur to capture our guys. Can't say I've had the displeasure, but I've heard a lot of nasty things about this guy.

I look around in time to see Sanders step through the wormhole with one hand on Kasuf's shoulder. I signal James to go through with Skaara, he hesitates.not wanting to leave us, but I signal again and he starts through. At he very last moment, Skaara jerks out James' grip and pushes him through.breaking for us at a dead run. A staff blast comes close enough to give the kid a sunburn as he dives into the dirt next to me.

This kid always did have more guts than a damn regiment of marines.

"What the hell are you doing, Skaara?" I yell at him, but I can feel the big grin on my face.

Skaara gives me those big worried eyes. "I will not leave Danyer.."

There's not much I can say about that.I know exactly what he means. The trick's going to be getting Daniel and the colonel from over there to over here through a wall of ten...no, nine.Jaffa and a pretty pissed off Goa'uld. Heru'ur's standing there beside his tent looking madder by the minute while he watches his Jaffa drop like flies. I can see his ribbon device activate while his beady little eyes search for a target.

I motion for Teal'c to take his best shot with his staff. I hold my breath as I watch the blast explode against Heru'r's side. He manages to stay on his feet and whirls around to look at us with the kind of glare that could almost kill on its own. The ribbon device focuses on us. I shout a warning and brace against the wall of energy I know is coming.

Carter, Teal'c, Skaara, and I are pushed back to the DHD, a little ruffled but not too badly hurt. Malcolm and Santos were out of range and lay down some lead to cover us until we can get behind the DHD. Heru'ur is royally ticked now and he concentrates his Jaffa on our position. I can see what he's trying to do.force us back until we either run out of places to hide or have to dial back out. I motion for Carter to do just that.we need that option open.

Teal'c taps me on the shoulder and I see the colonel coming around the back of the hillside, holding onto Daniel.who doesn't look too hot, he's barely keeping his feet under himself. We intensify our fire and I recall Santos and Malcolm to help us here.

The colonel and Daniel are forty yards out when the gate starts to fluctuate.it's now or never.

I order my guys through, and we back up to the wormhole still firing.

Thirty yards.

A blast hits the DHD. The wormhole jumps again and I push Carter through.Man, she's going to be ticked at me.

Twenty yards.

C'mon, Colonel..

A blaze of staff fire tears up the ground between us and the colonel has to stop.

He gives us a look.God, I hate that look.and motions for us to get out.

I look at Teal'c and Skaara.

It's a no-brainer really.

We step off the gate platform and run like hell for our friends.

Chapter 17: Colonel Jack O'Neill


Get the hell out of here, guys.

I should have known they wouldn't go.

Teal'c is beside me in less than a minute, lifting Daniel onto his shoulder and running with him while Ferretti and Skaara cover our six. The staff blasts are close, but we manage to stay ahead of them and finally reach the trees. I motion for them to keep going, the cavern we spent the night in isn 't far. Skaara moves up beside me.probably expecting me to be mad at him. Hell, I never could stay mad at him when he looked at me like that. I give him a smile and clap his shoulder as we run. I'm not exactly happy he didn't get away while he could.but I sure as hell understand it.

At least Kasuf is safe now.

Damn, I wish we could have got Daniel through. So close.

Ferretti keeps looking back at me like he's got something to say. Something's wrong.or at least more wrong than it already is. He'll tell me when we get under cover. Skaara moves ahead to show Teal'c the way through the brush, wish I had half the energy the kid's got.

I pretty much thought we were dead back there, Daniel did too. When Skaara got those chains off and took off with Kasuf, I had definite visions of Butch and Sundance in my head. I've got to admit I was pretty surprised by Daniel; he really pulled it together even when I could see every gunshot was like a spike into his head. He did it, though.just like I he always does when he has to. But by the time we headed around the back of the hill toward the gate, he just couldn't hold on anymore. He tried to get me to go on without him.like that was going to happen. He ought to know how impossible that was.for such a brainy guy he really needs to buy a few clues when it comes to friendship. He's learning.but sometimes he just doesn't get the point. I left him behind before.I swore I never would again.

He's going to be doubly ticked off to see the others here. Teal'c, I expected it from.Ferretti, I guess I really shouldn't be surprised.Daniel works his magic in the most unexpected places. Too bad he doesn't even realize what it is he does that makes people either like him.or totally hate him. Funny the ones I'd least suspect are the ones who usually wind up liking him. I'm not even sure what it is.just that it's something I wish I could have more of..

We get inside the cavern and Teal'c and Skaara get Daniel settled in a corner while Ferretti pulls me off to the entrance. I've got a bad feeling about this.

He starts out slow, giving me a look like he's wondering when I'm going to punch him..

Oh, shit. Holy living shit..

This can't be right.

Why in hell didn't Fraiser catch this weeks ago?

I really do want to hit something about now.


Ferretti's going on about some medicine in his pack. Okay, I can do this. We give Daniel the meds like Fraiser said and hope like hell it's just an abscess. Right. I can do this. Jesus, I just hope the DHD isn't permanently damaged. One good thing.if it is then Heru'ur can't send for reinforcements that way, and it would take awhile to get a ship here.I hope.

I nod at Ferretti to let him know I'm.sort of.calm now.

We've all got to hold it together now if we're going to help Daniel.

Chapter 18: Teal'c of SG1, formerly of Chu'lak

I have failed my friend.

Daniel Jackson must return to the SGC and the doctors there.I must ensure it.

He appears so pale, lines of pain exist even as he sleeps. Major Ferretti has administered the first doses of Dr. Fraiser's medications. Medications we cannot be certain will even help.

I do not understand Daniel Jackson's actions here. We should have been here with him. I can see from O'Neill's expression he does not believe Daniel Jackson should have been here at all. He was ill when we left him to go on these pointless errands. He should never have come within Heru'urs grasp with only Skaara for protection. I mean no disservice to the young Abydonian, but he was ill-prepared to face what has happened here.

Daniel Jackson would certainly not approve of my thoughts.he does not feel he requires protection. Yet I know that he does. Not because he cannot look after himself, but because he deserves it. I have found no better human.save O'Neill. Humans such as Daniel Jackson must be protected, there are so few of them in my experience.and it will be him and others like him who will finally and totally defeat the evil that is the Goa'uld.

And he is my friend.

One of the few I perceive as such.

I will not lose him while it is in my power to prevent it.

O'Neill sits against the wall near Daniel Jackson, ostensibly resting.but I know he will awaken immediately when the need arises. Major Ferretti has gone to scout the perimeter with Skaara while I watch over my friends' rest. Heru'ur has been gravely injured, if the DHD is damaged, he will call for a transport to take him to a sarcophagus. Major Ferretti was quite sure there were only eight Jaffa left alive. They will not leave Heru'ur, it would be as much as their lives are worth to part from their fallen god. They will guard him until he can be brought to help, I am certain of it.

I can hear Major Ferretti and Skaara returning, their slow pace telling me all is well. O'Neill opens his eyes as I move back into the small cave to allow them entry.

"They are gone!" Skaara exclaims with a smile.

Major Ferretti's expression tells me there is less welcome news. "The DHD doesn't work. Heru'ur transported out through some of those rings and took all his guys with him. Guess he knows we can't go anywhere while he's gone."

O'Neill nods, his face still although his eyes rage coldly. "Feretti, why don't you and Skaara go down and keep an eye on the gate? Stay out of sight but be handy in case they open it from their side. We need to let them know not to come back through.and a portable super-computer would come in mighty handy about now."

Major Ferretti smiles tightly. "Will do."

"We'll relieve you in a couple of hours if necessary." O'Neill stands and stretches. "Be careful. After meeting Heru'ur, the natives might not be inclined to be quite so trusting."

The major nods again and they depart.

O'Neill moves to sit beside Daniel Jackson, a hand reaching to check for fever. "What do we do, Teal'c?"

I am unsure which situation he is referring to, but can only consider one answer.

"We help Daniel Jackson."

Chapter 19: Kasuf of Abydos

I should have known they would not leave me.

But it cannot have been at the cost of their own lives.

My heart soared at the sight of Skaara's face when he appeared at my side to free me from the demon's chains. It was even more wonderful to run at his side as we did when we drove Ra from our midst forever. It was only when I realized our escape was being guarded by my other son and O'Neill that my joy diminished. I did not want to accept the cost of my freedom. When the other Tau'ri appeared through the Chaap'ai my hope was reborn.

I waited with General Hammond as the Chaap'ai sprang to life again. Carter returned, then two of the soldiers.but the blue waters died without bring forth any others. General Hammond attempted to reopen the Chaap'ai three times before admitting defeat. Carter believes one of the Jaffa weapons may have "over loaded" the device.that it may reopen once the energy fades. I pray she is right.

Carter escorted me to the same doctor.Janet.who was so kind to me after my Sha're died. I did not know what to think of a female healer, but she was very patient with me and pronounced me well. From there my lovely guide brought me to the eating place and joined me for a meal.

It was then that she spoke of Daniel.

I could hear the sadness in her voice as she told me of this illness that plagues my son. I will not accept this. Daniel is not my son by birth.but by my heart's choice. Even had he not married my daughter it would have been so. This cannot happen. O'Neill, Carter, Teal'c, Janet, General Hammond, Ferretti.my son's tribe..will find a means to prevent it.

Carter was so distraught as I told her this I felt compelled to embrace her.to allow her to weep in the presence of one who cares for Daniel as much as she. I told her that even warriors must grieve.so they may move on to action. She smiled at the words, tears still flowing, and told me I sounded like Daniel. I replied that Daniel was a good son and had learned well from me. We both laughed in the face of our fear.joined in that one timeless moment by our love for my son.

Then it was time to try again to reach them.

The Chaap'ai opened and one of the wheeled machines went into it. Carter said it was safer to do this as we could not know what may have happened after we left. She showed me the images of the place we had been. The device which controls the Chaap'ai was clearly damaged. Within a few moments a voice called for General Hammond.Ferretti, the one who fought with us against Ra and then again so bravely when my children were taken.

He tells us Heru'ur was wounded and has left them.but he believes the demon will return when healed, They are safe for the moment. Janet asks about Daniel. Ferretti tells us they are giving my son medicine, but Daniel is far from well.

Part of me wants to return there to be with my sons.but I know I cannot.

General Hammond tells Ferretti they will find a way to bring them home.I can see in his eyes that he wants this to be true. He is a caring and wise leader he will not rest until our missing men.our family.returns.

I think none of them will.

Chapter 20: Skaara of Abydos

Daniel sleeps.

Ferretti is giving him more of the doctor's medicines through a tube stuck into his hand and I think perhaps it is those which keep him asleep. I am glad if it spares him pain, but wish he were awake. There is such fear in everyone's eyes...as I am sure it is in mine. It is far more difficult to keep our minds from Daniel's fate now that we have so little to occupy us.

We have made a proper encampment of this small cave with the supplies General Hammond sent to us...blankets, food, clothing, weaponry...as well as more medicines for Daniel. The doctor gave Ferretti much instruction on how to help Daniel. Major Carter has sworn she will find a way to bring us back and I believe her.

Teal'c and O'Neill have assembled small beds for us all and there is now a portable heater to warm the damp air. Ferretti is cooking a kind of soup he calls 'chili' and jokes that it will burn as strongly as my moonshine. I smile at the memory and tell them the story of how Daniel taught me to make it.

Daniel had spoken of the many helpful uses for such a liquid...to clean wounds, to sterilize objects, to dull pain...but finally, reluctantly admitted to me it was also a drink similar to our neshya wine albeit much stronger. Being young and adventurous, I could not resist trying it first myself. I remember very little of the experience...only the terrible sickness the following morning. I woke to find Daniel hovering over me with a disturbingly sympathetic smile and the reminder that I had been warned.

Daniel had laughed gently and told me moonshine should be weakened with water before drinking. He then proceeded to explain the "finer points of social drinking". At the time I did not totally understand his words, but, as brothers will, I took them to heart and never drank the pure moonshine again.

"No, you saved that for unsuspecting visitors like me," O'Neill says softly, smiling for the first time since Ferretti told us of Daniel's illness.

I return his smile, then feel a heavy sadness come over me. That day, that memory was the last joy I knew until the moment I spoke in my own voice and begged the Tollans for help. My eyes burn at the thought. In the prison of my soul I was locked in a world of ultimate madness, forced to contend with thoughts so horrendous I constantly wished for the release of death...knowing it might never come. Only by focusing what remained of myself on the memories of Abydos, and on learning all I could of the demons in some distant hope it could someday be used against them was I able to maintain some measure of 'Skaara'...who I was...who I am now.

The darkness came very close to destroying me.

Only the light and love of Abydos, of my father, my sister, my brother, and O'Neill kept me from becoming truly lost. I am free now. Yet I wonder if...No, I know...my life will never be as sweet again. Life...everything I had ever known of it...changed while I was imprisoned...it can never return to what it once was and neither can I.

Warmth touches my bowed head. O'Neill. I look up to see understanding in his eyes...and something more...as he moves to leave the cave. I look to Teal'c, so silent and supportive, but he shakes his head once before looking toward Daniel.

I understand.

Teal'c knows that which I am only now learning. More has changed in my absence than just what I perceive in relation to myself. Daniel has touched many more lives than just us...his family on Abydos.

He has become a part of something even greater...something strong and real and unstoppable. Something that will one day defeat the demons because it cannot perceive anything less. Something of which Daniel is a vital and irreplaceable part.

Daniel must not be lost.

Chapter 21: Colonel Jack O'Neill

I don't have time for this.

Daniel doesn't have time for this so stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something, O'Neill...

But that's the problem isn't it? No way to fight this for him. No real way to help him fight for himself. I can 'be there'...but what real good is that going to do?

I guess that's the thing it all comes down to...

I mean, beyond the friendship thing, what if this whatever in his head...whichever whatever it is...really is going to kill him? What can I do for him except stick with him, be there, watch him die...?


There's two words I never like to connect in my brain. Daniel, death...definitely not a good combo. Pretty damn unthinkable when you get down to it. I mean four years we've known each other now and yet it feels like I've always known him, always had that piercing stare at my side keeping me honest, keeping me on my toes. Funny how all that boiled down to one of the best friendships I've ever known. He expects certain things from me, things I really didn't even know were in there. He doesn't even have to say a word...just give me that sideways, big-eyed...look...and I know he sees something inside me, something...good. And it makes me want to be just that. Something more, something better...

Let's face it, there are times in my life I'd just as soon forget, stuff I'm less than proud of, stuff that makes me sick when I let myself think about it. It's not just a matter of honor, duty, country...more like get them before they get you, follow orders regardless of personal thoughts, feelings or beliefs. It was becoming so lost in those things that you forget what sort of person you once were in those innocent days when conflict was little more than deciding where to go on a Saturday night. It was more than just a loss of innocence, it was a loss of identity...a loss of Jack O'Neill, son of Jake and Gloria from the South side of the Windy City.

Daniel helped...helps...me find that guy again. With Daniel I'm not 'Colonel ' or 'commander' or 'protector' or 'defender'...I'm just 'Jack'. Jack of the bad puns, of the rough affection, of the tough moments when no one else can really understand what he's feeling, of the late nights spent doing nothing more than sitting together on my roof looking at the stars because he just can't spend another night alone. I'm just Jack to Daniel...and that makes me happy. It's so nice now to know I can be just me...it was a real surprise to discover I really was still in there underneath all the crap I let take the place of 'me'. I can't lose that now, I can't lose him now.

I keep praying Carter will come up with something. Hell, all we need is a powerful enough power source, then when can dial out manually. She's got to do it. Soon. I know she and her team have been weeks on that naquada reactor we got from the Orbanians. Last report I had said it was at the testing stage. Hopefully this situation qualifies as sufficient to warrant a field trial.

He's barely been conscious since we came back up here to the cave. He didn't so much as stir when we finally got the cots put together and moved him onto one. Teal'c wakes him up every so often to make him drink something, but half the time he doesn't even open his eyes. Ferretti says Fraiser told him to keep Daniel on those painkillers religiously, so I guess this is normal...but it's also pretty damn scary.

I never have liked seeing Daniel still. I know it didn't...doesn't, dammit stop thinking past tense...always seem like it, but half of Daniel's means of expressing himself is in his eyes and hands. They always tell as much or more than his words. And now he and everything that makes him him is so much a part of my world I can't begin to imagine life any other way.

I don't want to.


Skaara's voice.

Stark fear leaps into my throat and I try without much success to swallow it back down. My body starts to move me back to the cave even as my mind refuses to allow my heart to jump to any conclusions as to what's going on.

Daniel's okay...that's as simple as it is.

I won't let him be anything else.

It just can't happen.

I won't let it.

Chapter 22: Teal'c of SG1, formerly of Chulak

I am afraid.

In my many years as a Jaffa there has been very little capable of causing this feeling in me. I felt it the day my father died, the day I returned home to find my family gone, the day my son fell under the spell of Apophis. There have been other times revolving around some threat to my friends, but few so completely unnerving.

I must sit here watching Daniel Jackson sleep so quietly, stirring only occasionally when the pain attempts to break through the wall of ease the drugs impose. Major Ferretti checks the intravenous solutions often, far more often than is probably necessary, but I understand well the fascination of watching each precious drop flow through the tubing making its way all too slowly into Daniel Jackson's arm. I try to imagine the fluid coursing its way into his bloodstream, seeking out this enemy within his body and attacking it with a determination worthy of Daniel Jackson himself.

Major Ferretti tends to Daniel Jackson with a gentleness I would not have expected from him. He is a good man and clearly cares quite deeply for Daniel Jackson, it is eloquently present in his every gesture as he performs the tasks Dr. Fraiser has charged him with. Although this is not an area he would otherwise choose for himself, he goes about it with a certain cautious optimism. It is clear that he chooses to believe these medicines will be helpful to Daniel Jackson's condition. I wish to believe it as well.

Skaara has finally succumbed to sleep. I am somewhat surprised he has not done so sooner. He was tending to Daniel Jackson for several days before O'Neill arrived and has had little respite since. The young Abydonian is far stronger now than when I last saw him on Tollana, he has regained his strength as well as the strength of his personality. It is a difficult thing to regain one's identity after being possessed by a Goa'uld.and rarely successful...many go mad or simply succumb to the near impossibility of returning to their former lives. I have heard many tales of such things, few of them end well.

O'Neill has yet to return. We are much alike in that we both are more at ease with taking action. There is no action for us to perform here...other than seeing to Daniel Jackson's comfort and safety. It is not enough, which is why O'Neill seeks solitude. He must come to some sort of peace with this situation...as must I.

Daniel Jackson stirs. I soothe his brow again with the moist cloth expecting him to return to sleep as he has done before. He does not. His eyes open and he looks around himself slowly, taking in his very much altered surroundings. His gaze finally returns to me.

"Guess it's a lengthy tale...?" His voice is rough from the fever.

I smile, remembering my own words from so long ago. "Quite lengthy, Daniel Jackson."

A small smile curves his dry lips. "Somebody want to fill me in?"

Major Ferretti joins us, looking at me in question. I understand what he asks, but do not believe we should withhold the truth from him. Daniel Jackson values truth above all, he expects it from us...from me...and I will give him no less. His eyes close as I reveal to him Dr. Fraiser's diagnoses, and the possible ramifications of both, then he nods once and looks directly at me.

"And Heru'ur?" He asks quietly.

"Gone for the moment. He was injured in the same battle which disabled the DHD. He will return."

"Yeah," he drawls in that way he has which means his mind is considering many things at once. "You guys should have left while you could."

Major Ferretti and I speak once.

"We could not."

"Not a chance, Daniel"

Daniel Jackson smiles at us, closing his eyes. "Thanks." he whispers.


"Yes, Daniel Jackson?"

"I need to talk to Jack."