The Long Way Home

“What does that mean?”

“I have no idea, but I think I’ve just been invited back to find out.”

‘Daniel so help me God if you ask me to come back here someday I’m going to kill you. I’ve just dragged my ass halfway across the damn galaxy, hiked my way over a planet chock full of Unas and Goa’uld larva to save your sorry excuse for a butt and here you are bright as a daisy making friends!’

Closing his eyes, Jack took a deep calming breath. He could smell a mixture of mildew and stagnant water, and felt the cold damp air of the cave travel up his nostrils at the same time as it seeped through his uniform, causing a prickling sensation on his skin. Footsteps kicking at the gravel from behind interrupted the rhythmic dripping of water trickling down and off the cave walls, but alerted him to another sound unnatural to this environment. Hot air brushed across his left cheek as the quickening sound of breath being hastily drawn in and pushed out got louder.

Eyes open, Jack turned to face Daniel. There was some light, the kind of low light generated from a long burning fire, casting the cave in a deep golden glow. Jack could see Daniel stood next to him, his face hidden partly in shadow, but despite the poor visibility there was no masking the signs of distress. Jack grabbed Daniel by his shoulders and pulled him close, giving him a quick squeeze.

“How are you, you hurt?” He asked anxiously moving Daniel first one way then the other, checking him out from head to toe.

The light in the cave gave an illusion of warmth that Daniel wasn’t feeling. He shivered when the sharp chill ran up his spine and felt the cold slowly enveloping him. Daniel didn’t say anything, the only movement he could muster was a nod to assure Jack that he was well enough. He felt numb, like he’d been moments away from a terrifying fate, but had the odds change in his favour at the last second.

Daniel remained placid while Jack visually checked him out for injury. Taking a closer, more assessing, look, Jack decided Daniel actually looked pretty terrible. It was clear from the drawn and pale features that sleep had not been had in at least 48 hours, which was understandable. There were no serious physical injuries that he could see, the scratch on Daniel’s cheek was probably going to need some attention, but from this cursory glance it seemed that all the damage done was on the inside. ‘Okay, so maybe not as bright as a daisy…’

“Come on Dorothy, let’s get you back to Kansas.” Jack finally spoke, his voice low and unobtrusive. His palms had not lost contact with Daniel’s upper arms with fingers on both hands still gripping to the dirty jackets fabric. Jack squeezed his reassurance again and, shifting his hold slightly, turned them both around to walk in the direction that took them out of the cave. Jack hadn’t failed to notice the worn, darkly stained rope that bound Daniel’s wrists together, but with the cave they stood in being cold and damp, added to that the poor lighting it made much more sense to tackle the binds outside. That way Jack could be sure he wouldn’t inadvertently cut Daniel at the same time as the rope.

Daniel had watched in contemplative silence as Jack studied the rope restraining his hands. He felt the hands holding him pull and spin him around, encouraging him to walk towards the exit. ‘Sure’ Daniel thought - that was fine with him, what were a few more minutes compared to the hours already suffered trussed up like a trophy prize? The adrenaline rush he’d gotten from the final confrontation with the Unas clan was fading fast and Daniel felt a fog of confusion cover him, getting thicker and thicker with every step, like snow settling on an undisturbed sidewalk. He tried to shake the fog away and upon realising his eyes were closed Daniel forced his lids to open. All he could see was dirt. Daniel snapped his head up and away from his chest in one jerky movement, in doing so he managed a squinted sideways glance at the man currently guiding him to safety. Jack was looking stressed, Daniel wasn’t positive if the stress was because of him or if it was because, technically, they were still in enemy territory. He conceded that it was probably a little of both and not wanting to add a headache to his list of complaints Daniel thought it prudent he remain silent and just follow Jack’s lead.

Once out of the Unas caves and into the bright sunlight the newly reunited SG-1 grouped by the opening. The surrounding forest was alive with sounds of insects, like crickets and a slight breeze blew through the trees rustling leaves and shifting dirt. Jack immediately signalled Teal’c to take point, ignoring Carter’s suggestion that she take a minute to assess Daniel’s physical state to travel. Teal’c complied without comment, and a well-placed look in Carter’s direction communicated Jack’s need for haste. They walked for almost half a mile, Daniel still bound and not talking, before Jack conceded they were far enough away from the caves, and any possible attacking Unas, to rest for a minute and allow them to take stock of the situation. On the plus side the brisk walk had the advantage of waking Daniel out of his lethargy, making him less of a dead weight on Jack’s arm.

Unfortunately, for Daniel, the walk, combined with the natural light and fresh air worked together to help clear his mind, allowing him to review the many aches and pains his body was presently throbbing with. The air felt crisp and cold on his skin, a stark contrast from the remembered heat of only 24 hours ago. Glancing at his surrounding teammates and rescuers Daniel noticed they all looked rather flushed and, oddly enough, hot. He briefly wondered if the sudden change in climate was actually due to the weather on P3X 888, or if it was more likely that he was going in to shock. Considering this Daniel’s gaze settled lastly on Jack, who was still at his side, hand resting assuredly on his lower back, helping to push Daniel forward.

“You alright?” ‘Oh that was the wrong thing to say…’

“Peachy Daniel. How you doing?” The sarcasm dripped from the curt reply and Daniel felt his chest tighten in response.

Jack didn’t want to see the look of hurt and incomprehension on Daniel’s face, so he concentrated he gaze dead ahead, looking for a covered spot to rest. Up-ahead Teal’c stopped by a cluster of trees, as good a place as any, so using the grip he still maintained on Daniel’s arm Jack pushed him down to sit on the dirt floor, leaning him against one of the wider trunks.

“Sorry Jack.” Daniel said quietly, diverting his gaze to the ground immediately when Jack looked in his direction, much like he had done with Chaka earlier.

Jack’s smile was indulgent and tight as he crouched down in front of him. “Daniel don’t worry, this wasn’t your fault.” He said, sighing inwardly, his angry façade melting away like butter. Giving Daniel the once over with his eyes for the third time since the rescue, Jack began to feel bad for being so short with him. ‘He’s probably been through hell and back and you greet him with the typical O’Neill charm - way to go Jack’.

“How are you doing really?” Jack asked honestly this time, no sarcasm in sight. “You hurt?” He asked while running his thumb down the scratch on Daniel’s cheek.

Daniel kept his focus on Jack until his thumb reached a sore spot and Daniel flinched, jerking back with an audible ‘ow’. “Nothing bad,” He tried to laugh it off, “would like to get this off, however.” Daniel lifted his bound hands to illustrate his point to Jack.

“Yeah, of course, sorry.” Jack flipped out his knife and began to saw through the ropes. “Daniel, keep your hands still for heavens sake, before you’re missing a pinky.”

“S-sorry,” Daniel stuttered, the numb feeling he’d had in the caves was back with a vengeance. He’d been cold while walking, but now he’d sat down he felt like all his joints were seizing up with the ever increasing chill that was settling within him.

Jack belatedly realised Daniel wasn’t fidgeting - he was shaking. Taking in the rather pink cheeks and the feel of Daniel’s clammy hands encased in his Jack lifted his palm to rest against Daniel’s forehead.

Daniel took it like a man and sat through the charade without comment, after all the gesture only confirmed his earlier suspicions about his health.

“You’re burning up.” Jack said flatly, letting his hand drop dejectedly.

“That’s funny, I feel like I’m in the Artic.” The rest of Daniel’s body began to join his hands in their shaking.

“Damn it.” Jack muttered under his breath, pinning Daniel with a very concerned gaze, he shouted “Carter! Get over here with that damn med kit!”

Sam was already one step ahead, med kit in hand she crouched down next to the Colonel and commanded Daniel’s attention. When he wouldn’t give it to her Sam grabbed his chin and forced him to look up at her. “Daniel, look at me.”

Daniel shifted with Jack’s help, drawing his knees close to conserve some body heat. Jack removed his own jacket and went about wrapping it around Daniel’s shoulders “I’m cold.” Daniel said to Sam, hoping she would be able to tell him it was nothing she couldn’t fix.

“I’m going to help with that.” It was the first thing he’d said to her since they’d found him, but hearing him say anything to her was enough to make her smile just a little.

While Sam completed her assessment of Daniel’s physical state, Jack continued to remove the rope that bound the pale, trembling hands. When the rope finally came loose he couldn’t prevent the surprised gasp from escaping his lips as he pulled it off. The burns left on Daniel’s wrists were hideous, red raw marks, covered in dried blood. The rope felt damp to his touch and as Jack rolled the remains between his fingers, he figured that wouldn’t have helped much. Jack halted in his actions, ‘why would the rope be wet?’ Disturbed, Jack looked up from the damp rope in his hands and scanned Daniel’s body once again. This time he noticed the slight discolouring of the uniform. Throwing the damp frayed rope to one side Jack batted Sam out of the way. First Jack patted down Daniel’s waist, then hips, moving down his legs to the cuffs of his pants. Just as Jack suspected - they felt damp too.

“Jack…what are you doing?” Daniel asked enquiringly.

“Daniel.” Jack, hoping against hope this wasn’t what he suspected, only just managed to keep his annoyance in check. “Why are you wet?”

“Huh?” It took a moment for Daniel to connect his thoughts; the fog was back and clouding his mind. “I got Chaka to stop at the river for a rest. When he put the rope down I tried to escape.”

Both Sam and Jack looked at him as if that was a completely stupid thing to do. Like he should have telepathically known they were going to rescue him in the nick of time and he should have just hung in there till they did.

“Well I didn’t get very far…obviously.” Daniel tried a smile. “I ended up having to swim across the river.”

Daniel was all set to continue with his story when Jack and Sam simultaneously jumped back away from him, weapons ready.

“Guys?” Daniel started to panic, feeling his breathing accelerate out of his control. He had no idea what he’d said wrong. Frantically going over his last words in his head it eventually dawned on him what conclusions they had drawn. “I’m not a Gould Jack.” He whispered as calmly as his shaky voice would allow.

“How’d you know about the Gould in the water?” Jack asked him sternly, like he was talking to a complete stranger.

Panic took Daniel over, he stumbled over his words, the hysterical laugh wasn’t winning him any points, “I swam into the water and Chaka wouldn’t follow me, then I heard this noise behind me. I turned and saw something move through the water. I ran back to shore just before the symbiote jumped out at me.” He stopped, took in their reactions, barely containing his own, and finished with the news that the Unas had killed it before it killed him. They said nothing and Daniel felt so close to tears, he didn’t know if he could hold it all in much longer. “Jack, please believe me.”

“O’Neill!” Teal’c’s deep voice gave Jack a reason to turn away from the very distressed Daniel in front of him. “The area is secure for now. I feel we should not remain much longer.” Teal’c paused to take in the scene of Jack and Sam with guns held high, aimed at Daniel. “What has transpired?”

No one spoke for several seconds. Jack was stunned into silence at the thought that, after finding Daniel alive and in relativity good shape, they might have lost him anyway. Teal’c didn’t need anything to be said, from their actions alone he quickly worked out what had most likely transpired and raised his staff in formation with his friend’s. Daniel, still seated, leaning against the tree, was silently pleading for Jack, Sam and Teal’c to believe him. He could see Jack was looking more distressed than angry and Sam was wearing what could definitely be described as a wavering glare.

“Jack!” His voice strained. “If I were a Gould do you think I’d have let an Unas drag me half way across the planet?” Daniel felt his energy flagging, the shaking had gotten worse, now his vision was blurring slightly and it had nothing to do with the fact he’d lost his glasses.

“He’s right, sir, it is unlikely.” Sam relaxed her grip on her P-90. It was a good explanation and, more importantly, it was a very Daniel explanation. With Rothman it was easy for the Goa’uld to pretend to be human without them noticing. None of his team was present to notice anything out of the ordinary. She was sure she’d have known already if this wasn’t their Daniel. Sam looked over her weapon at the colonel.

Jack appeared to hesitate for a second, torn between putting Daniel at ease and keeping the obvious threat under control. “I believe you, Daniel.” He said hesitantly, as if convincing himself at the same time.

Daniel could have cried, but instead he let out the breath he’d subconsciously been holding and slid down to lay between the roots of the tree. With an arm draped over his face, he took another deep breath and closed his eyes.

“O’Neill, we should still remain cautious.” Teal’c advised solemnly.

Jack could see the Jaffa’s point of view. Nothing would be certain until they got back to the SGC and Daniel had a MRI, but for now, Jack was content to believe they’d got Daniel back. Forcing a small smile, thanking god for minor miracles, he offered a hand to help Daniel sit up.

Daniel took the proffered hand, wincing as it aggravated the burns on his wrist.

“Let’s treat those before we go anywhere.” Sam said.

Daniel mutely nodded and positioned himself back against the tree. Jack took the emergency blanket from Sam and wrapped it around Daniel to try and keep him warm. He watched as Carter knelt down and took both of Daniel’s hands into her lap, turning Daniel to face her. He was still shaking. Jack checked his watch, realising time was getting on. It had taken over a day to get here and there was no way they were going to make it back to the ‘gate before nightfall. Spending yet another night on this Gould and Unas infested planet did not rate high on Jack’s to do list, but it looked like they may not have a choice.

“There you go, all set.” Sam finished taping the bandage and patted Daniel’s cold hands as he muttered a quiet thank you.

“Are you sure you’re up to this?” Jack asked.

“I just want to go home.” Daniel breathed out with a final sigh.

“I know.” Jack understood. He offered Daniel a hand up, snagging the blanket and stuffing it back into his own pack for the time being, he let Daniel keep his Jacket.

“Sir, we’re not going to make it back to the ‘gate before night fall.” Sam spoke before thinking. She immediately gave Daniel an apologetic glance, but it was too late, he was already looking slightly panicked.

“I know that too Carter, thank you.” Jack said sarcastically, giving Daniel’s arm a quick squeeze to let him know that it was going to be okay.

“It would be unwise to travel during the night, we must seek shelter.” Teal’c stated, knowing full well that’s not what Daniel or Jack wanted to hear, but saying it anyway.

“We’ll try and make it back to SG11’s base camp, they’ve got heaters and blankets and medical stuff for Daniel, you okay with that?” Jack addressed Daniel directly.

Daniel shrugged on Jack’s jacket over his own and zipped it up. “I don’t have a choice do I?”

“No.” Jack admitted sullenly. He hated this. Daniel had already suffered, now here he was just making it worse. “Move out, Teal’c you take point, Carter stick with Daniel, I’ve got our six.”

“Jack, I’m fine.” Daniel insisted to his own determent. It was just an automated response – even he knew on this occasion it wasn’t the truth.

Jack glared at him, wondering if Daniel realised yet that there was no way in hell Jack was letting him out of his sight ever again. “Daniel, do as your told just this once.”

Daniel could hear the elevated stress levels in Jack’s voice loud and clear. He decided it best to shut up, before Jack told him to.

Jack tiredly waved Teal’c to the front of the procession, while Sam walked over to Daniel and lightly touched his arm to get his attention. He offered her a small smile in return as they began to walk hoping to put her at ease, he could tell she’d been expecting the worst. Thinking about it, all three of his teammates looked as if they’d been through hell and back. Daniel didn’t want to believe that was all just because of him.

“Is Loader alright? He was next to me when we were attacked.” Daniel asked out of the blue.

Sam paled considerably at the question, but never faltered in her forward progress. Daniel was about to turn and ask Jack when she answered.

“It’s a long story Daniel maybe we should wait till you’re feeling better.” The glare Sam gave Teal’c when he turned at her reply made Daniel dread the visions that were springing to mind.

“He’s dead isn’t he?” It wasn’t really a question. Why else would Sam avoid answering him? “And the rest of SG-11?” He was almost afraid to ask.

“I’m sorry Daniel.” Sam took hold of his arm, this time not letting go.

“I heard them shouting when I got grabbed, I heard Robert.” He stopped dead, heart pounding so loud in his chest he’d swear it was the only sound in the forest. “Robert?” He asked hopefully.

Sam just shook her head, tears welling in her eyes. She knew Daniel and Robert Rothman had been friends, had known each other since college. Daniel didn’t have that many people he cared about. It wasn’t fair he should lose another.

Daniel didn’t say anything, he couldn’t. Robert was his friend and he’d gotten to know the rest of SG-11 really well over the past few weeks. He couldn’t find a way to consol himself, knowing he was the one kidnapped and yet he was the only survivor. He didn’t want to know the details of what possibly could have happened after he was grabbed and knocked out. He didn’t think he’d be able to handle it just now, so he began walking again, dazed and confused, but employing all of his effort into keeping his feet moving forward, one step at a time.

When Daniel moved out of her grip and started to walk slightly ahead of her in silence, Sam glanced back at Colonel O’Neill. He’d heard their conversation and looked pained at the reaction. Sam didn’t think it would have been possible for him to feel even worse about the incident that had occurred at the lake, but by the look on his face she was proved wrong. She considered offering to inform Daniel of the details herself later, but knew deep down that the Colonel was going to have to be the one to tell Daniel that he was the one responsible for killing Robert Rothman.

_______________________________________

After travelling for what felt like forever the four emerged from the trees into the general area from where Daniel was first taken. It had been dark for a little over an hour, but Jack had been determined that they should try and make it all the way to the original dig site. With Teal’c and Carter both in agreement they had hurried along. Daniel did make a half-hearted attempt to tell them they didn’t have to push themselves on his account, but it went mostly unheard by his friends.

They were weaving their way around the various dig sites, careful not to fall into any deep excavation holes, making a beeline towards the unoccupied tents when the teams’ radios sprang to life. “SG-1 niner. Please advise of your situation, over.”

“Colonel O’Neill here, over”

Major Griff’s voiced sounded over the radio. “Sir, we’ve reached the gate and have taken care of your orders, over.”

“Acknowledged. We have Dr. Jackson with us,” Jack cast a sideways glance at Daniel. “He’s alive and relatively uninjured but we’re not going to make it back to the ‘gate tonight, advise SGC of our situation, over.”

“Affirmative Colonel, SG-2 will remain to guard the ‘gate. Do you require any supplies sir?”

“No, we’re fine. We’re at SG-11’s base camp. Keep in radio contact, will advise ETA tomorrow, over and out.” With that Jack clicked off and glanced around the tented area of the dig site.

“Okay, kids, let’s get settled in. Carter, take Daniel to the bunk tent. Teal’c, scout the area and set up a defence perimeter. I’m going to rustle up some dinner and find the med kits.” Jack was using his cheery charade to get everyone’s mind off recent events. Daniel was safe with them and they were going home - that’s all that matter. His orders were followed by a round of yes sir/O’Neill/Jack, which made him think he’d succeeded for the time being. Jack waited a minute before carrying out his own set task, watching as Carter took a still shocky Daniel in a one armed hug and led him over to the tent.

Once inside the tent Sam sat Daniel on a cot and began to check his injuries over again. The minute Daniel hit the mattress the shaking was obvious.

“Still cold?” She asked needlessly. Daniel wrapped both arms around himself for extra warmth and as Sam hunted for a blanket she asked him the fundamental question.

“You want to tell me what happened?” Daniel scrunched up his nose and shook his head.

“Maybe later, I’m really tired.” Which was the truth, the only problem was Daniel doubted he would sleep much tonight. Although he’d not been badly mistreated by Chaka he’d been operating on fear and one hell of an adrenalin rush since he’d been taken. Right now he felt drained and more than a little miserable knowing more lives had been lost than saved today. It was moments like these that made him question if the Stargate really was worth all the effort.

“Okay, but you need to get out of those wet clothes.” Sam said softly, indicating Daniel’s attire.

“Oh, …right.” He looked down at his still damp pants from his dip the day before. “Ouch.” Daniel struggled with sore and abused muscles as he attempted to remove his two jackets.

“Here let me help.” Sam offered her assistance. Helping Daniel out of his jacket first then moving onto his t-shirt. He was half stripped in a matter of seconds. She moved quickly onto undoing Daniel’s belt and trousers, ignoring the self-conscious, embarrassed duck of his head and just as she finished undoing his boots the Colonel walked in. Eyeing the semi naked Daniel sitting on the bed he couldn’t resist making a comment.

“Not intruding on anything, am I?”

“No sir.” Sam replied with a laugh. Daniel just rolled his eyes, too tired to defend himself.

“Dinners nearly ready, Teal’c’s cooking. Here I found these.” Jack tossed a pair of BDU’s and a t-shirt onto the cot, swiftly followed by a shirt.

“Thanks.” Daniel mumbled his eyes at half-mast. While Daniel wasn’t looking Jack took the opportunity to give Carter the signal to leave. He needed to talk to Daniel before he was out for the count. Sam read the message loud and clear.

“Well I think you’re all set now.” She said with a nod. “I’ll go get you something to eat.”

‘Thank you’ Jack mouthed when she brushed passed him leaving the tent, turning back he noticed Daniel struggling with his other boot.

“Oh for cryin’ out loud Daniel, let me help with that before you break your neck.” Daniel immediately let his foot go and flopped backwards on the bed, perfectly willing to let Jack take over. Daniel remained in the same position, feeling totally unconnected to what was going on around him as Jack stripped the reminder of his clothes and helped him into the dry ones.

“Feel better?” Jack’s voice drifted to him, sounding oddly distant to his ears.

“Much.” Daniel squinted, looking up at Jack leaning over him as he lay half on, half off, the uncomfortable cot that was the Air Force’s sorry excuse for a bed.

“You know, I thought we’d lost you this time.” Jack said without wavering.

The comment came totally out of the blue. Daniel hadn’t expected much sympathy from Jack… once it was determined he wasn’t dying or anything. Jack was often under the impression he went out LOOKING for trouble like this and planned his lectures in advance, so this admission was a surprise. Deciding he should try to wake up before answering, Daniel pulled himself up using Jack’s shoulder as a levy.

“Well you can’t get rid of me that easily.” Daniel joked, though his heart wasn’t truly in it. He thought he’d been lost too, practically signing his own death warrant after he failed to kill Chaka when he’d had the chance.

By the drawn, haunted facial expression and convulsive swallowing Jack could tell Daniel’s mind was taking him places he didn’t want to go right now. The poor guy needed some reassurance. Sitting down heavily on the bed next him Jack intended to give it, opening his mouth to say something supportive he quickly clamped it shut again when the right words wouldn’t come. Daniel sat with his hands in his lap fingering the marks on his wrists, Jack subconsciously copying the action with his own hands. After a minute passed and STILL the right words were eluding him, Jack gave in deciding to go with what he did best.

“Just don’t do it again.” Jack admonished, quickly wrapping one arm around Daniel’s shoulder and pulling him close. Daniel’s face met instantly with his shoulder and Jack could feel the tension literary drain out of him. Bringing his other arm around Jack gave Daniel one last squeeze before using it to push Daniel’s head away. “You need to eat before you sleep.” He said, getting up and heading out of the tent.

Daniel shifted back to lie down on the cot, rubbing both hands over his face and into his hair, listening with half an ear to the voices outside. The tension he’d felt only minutes ago was gone, leaving him with nothing but his bone deep exhaustion, and heavy eyelids. After a few minutes the muffled voices from outside got gradually louder and louder until finally, they were in the tent with him.

Teal’c entered the tent first, carrying several packets of heated MRE’s. He stood over the cot on which Daniel slept. “Daniel Jackson does not look well.”

“He’s still a little shook up Teal’c, that’s all.” Jack said, walking in behind him.

“All we can do is keep him warm and hydrated. Janet will be able to treat the rest.” Sam added, she quickly assessed the tent layout and found a spot on one of the cots to sit and eat. As the others settled around her, Teal’c on a storage box, the colonel next to her, Sam told them of what symptoms they needed to watch out for and the best treatments.

Daniel heard the voices discussing someone…him…they were discussing him. His eye lids flew open and he sat up with a start.

“Whoa there Danny-boy!” Jack was up and out of his seat in seconds, placing a restraining palm on Daniel’s shoulder.

“I was asleep.” Daniel stated dreamily, shifting his legs back and under him.

Sam grimaced and exchanged a concerned glance with the Colonel. Daniel wasn’t well and being stranded out in the middle of nowhere – galaxy style – wasn’t helping. Jack sat down heavily on the cot next to Daniel this time.

“Daniel we’ve brought you some food and water.” Sam handed Daniel’s dinner and a flask to Colonel O’Neill. The small rations weren’t exactly appetising but they were sufficient enough.

They ate in relative silence. Daniel was normally the one who talked endlessly through meal times, it was, sadly enough, the only time he could be guaranteed a listening audience. However on this occasion Daniel wasn’t much in the mood to talk, so the oppressive silence reined and served to remind everyone how quiet their lives would be without Daniel Jackson.

Daniel swallowed his food obediently. He couldn’t taste it, whatever it was. It settled uncomfortably in his tummy, truth be told he’d do anything for a ham and pineapple pizza right now. Whether or not he’d be able to stop the pizza from making a recurrence was beside the point, it would at least taste better than the goop he was currently forcing down his throat.

“Daniel Jackson, are you still cold?” Teal’c noticed Daniel had begun shaking again.

Before Daniel could tell them he was fine Jack had his hand clapped to his forehead.

“Well you’re temperature’s down, you’re freezing, Daniel. Why didn’t you say anything?” Jack chided.

“I didn’t notice.” Daniel responded plainly, shrugging off the annoyed look he was getting. Out of nowhere a blanket was wrapped around his shoulders. People were moving so quickly their shapes blurred before his eyes, and he could hear a distance humming underlying their speech.

“You should rest.” Jack said standing up and encouraging Daniel to lie down.

“Guy’s I’m fine, really.” Daniel’s slurred protests were cut short by Sam pushing him back by the shoulders, the moment his head hit the pillow he was out for the count.

“Sure you are, Danny, sure you are.” Jack carefully placed another blanket on top of Daniel tucking it in at the sides for extra warmth.

Sam couldn’t resist a smile. She liked to see this side of Jack O’Neill. He may yell at Daniel and curse his name almost every mission, but it was times like this he showed his true colours as the caring type of guy he was.

“You okay Carter?” Jack asked when he noticed she was staring at him, a sappy smile plastered all over her face.

Sam covered with a gentle throat clearing, and replied with a brisk “Fine sir.”

Eyes narrowed Jack retook his seat on the bed, he glance at Teal’c who immediately turned away and asked a question. “Has Daniel Jackson spoken of his experience with the Unas?”

“No not yet.” Jack settled back and made himself more comfortable on the cot. He had intended to break the news to Daniel about Rothman when they were alone earlier, but his whole demeanour had screamed ‘hurting’ and Jack didn’t have the heart to land another blow.

“I asked him, but he didn’t want to talk. I don’t think it was that bad, I get the impression he’s just tired and a bit shell shocked. The news about SG11 hit him hard.” Sam added.

Jack visibly cringed. “Yeah, about that, let’s try and keep the details under wraps until we get back. I don’t want him more upset than he already is.”

“If you believe that to be wise, O’Neill.”

“Why Daniel?” Sam asked nobody in particular.

“Major?”

“If someone had to be kidnapped by an Unas you could bet your last dollar it would be Daniel. You have to wonder why…” She said bluntly, with that hint of scientific curiosity – like you could nail the enigma that is Daniel to a clear science.

“Maybe he should learn to duck.” Jack quipped. “Or just accept that he is the Universe’s whipping boy.” Teal’c’s abruptly raised eyebrow prompted Jack to explain before the alien could ask. “Just an expression Teal’c, don’t worry about it.” Jack smiled properly for the first time since they’d been informed of Daniel’s kidnapping.

Sam went about picking up Daniel’s old clothes off the floor to pile by the door, when she grabbed the pants a little black box jumped out of the pocket and landed with an audible thud on the floor.

“What’s that?” Jack queried through a yawn as she bent down to pick it up.

“Its Daniel’s Dictaphone, it must have his notes on it.”

Jack held his hand out and Sam passed it to him. He fiddled with the buttons and accidentally hit play. Daniel’s voice, full of enthusiasm, travelled through the small machine, he was referring to some fossils he and Rothman had discovered.

“Cleo?” Jack mocked, while Sam just smiled and shook her head. Daniel sounded so alive and involved in his work, she was glad that tape wasn’t the last time she’d ever hear his voice.

Her musings were cut short by what came next.

“This is Doctor Daniel Jackson. In case anybody finds this I’ve met a wonderful new friend and he’s taking me on a long journey to see his planet.

I’m just making notes.

At the moment my main concern is that my new friend is an Aboriginal Unas in its un-Goa’ulded state …and that I’m the evening meal.

It, err ... or rather HE appears to have undeveloped chin and facial horns which indicate he could be a subspecies. Possibly a juvenile

Shut up? I understood that.

We’re communicating.”

“Unbelievable. He gets kidnapped by a great honkin’ monster and he still makes notes – go figure!” Jack spoke, his words trying to sound exasperated but he wasn’t fooling anyone, they could tell he was proud.

“I believe Daniel Jackson may have intended to keep a record of his experience in case he was unable to tell us himself.”

“Thank you, Teal’c, for that cheery thought.”

“You are welcome, O’Neill.”

Jack gave the Jaffa a glare and thought about commenting further, to explain sarcasm once again, but decided against it since he was pretty sure Teal’c knew what he had meant and was pulling his ‘I don’t understand your culture’ trick. Jack briefly thought Teal’c might just be spending way too much time with Daniel; he was a cunning little bastard too.

Jack fast-forwarded the tape and pressed play again. The moment he heard the scream he wished he hadn’t.

“Ka!”

It sounded painful. They could hear the Unas growling in the background, followed quickly by Daniel’s voice.

“I think I’ve just been marked for death.”

Jack stopped the tape right there. He didn’t want to hear anymore and he was pretty sure neither did the others.

“It was too close.” Sam spoke first.

“Way too close.” Jack echoed, dipping his head into his hands.

“Indeed.” Teal’c finished.

Taking the lead, which is what he was paid for, Jack stood up, clapping his hands together to get Sam and Teal’c’s attention. “Alright, we can dwell plenty on this later, for now we need to get some sleep. Teal’c you’re on first watch. I’ll relive you in two.”

“As you wish, O’Neill.”

Teal’c stood and left the tent while Jack and Sam made themselves comfy on their respective beds to either side of Daniel. In the back of his mind, as he drifted off, Jack considered purchasing Daniel a leash to wear on their next mission.

____________________________________________

He was running, he didn’t know why, only knew that he couldn’t stop. He was scared - no, worse, he was terrified. His heart was pounding in his chest and he could feel sweat running through his hair. Yet he felt cold - shivering from head to toe. Something was chasing him, he had to keep running, he was alone and nobody was going to help him.

The woods were dark and eerily quiet, the only noise was the sound of twigs breaking beneath his feet and the rasping wheeze of his breath. Where the hell he was he didn’t know, didn’t remember how he got there or where his friends could be. They wouldn’t have left him alone on a mission. The last time he’d thought he’d been left behind he’d found himself trapped in an alternate dimension. The thought that it had happened again scared him more than whatever it was that was chasing him. Of course, on that occasion it wasn’t the team that had left him, he had left the team. They had still been on the planet all those hours later when he returned through the mirror. If they hadn’t been there he might not have even made it back to earth. In fact it seemed he was getting himself separated, lost, and kidnapped really often. Shyla and her sarcophagus was the next example to spring to mind, but this was NOT a time to dwell on the past. He was confident his friends were near; he wouldn’t have to face whatever it was chasing him alone.

Panicking slightly now, too scared and too cold to do much else, he continued to run. The creature was gaining on him. He could feel its presence as close as the prickling sensation on the back of his neck. He stopped, falling into a heap on the leafy forest floor, his legs having given out on him, unable to take any more punishment. The thing came out of nowhere, rushing toward him with furious force. Frozen in place, the only thing left to do was call out for the one person who could possibly help him.

“JACK!”

____________________________________________

Jack shot up from his cot. “Daniel?” He questioned the dark. Throwing back the blanket Jack swung both legs out of bed onto the floor, enticing a yelp when his bare skin met with the cold air. He reached for the nearest lamp and flicked the switch, basking the tent in a yellow glow. Once his eyes had adjusted he was greeted with the sight of Daniel sitting scrunched up at one end of his cot, his head nestled between his knees, hands folded over the top. “Daniel?” Jack asked again reaching behind him for a shirt. It had been warm enough for just t-shirts earlier, but the temperature had dropped considerably since then.

Daniel still hadn’t answered his call, so taking a quick look around the tent Jack slowly stood up and cautiously made his way over to sit in front of him. Managing to get Daniel to lower his hands and lift his head. Jack noticed he was breathing rather heavily, like he’d just run a marathon.

“It’s okay.” Jack assured him.

Daniel wasn’t convinced however. The dream was still rather fresh in his mind, he began to shiver, eyes darting around the sparse tent as if searching for something he had a feeling didn’t truly exist.

“O’Neill, is everything alright?” Teal’c appeared inside the tent.

“Yeah, we’re fine Teal’c.” Jack said as he wrapped a second blanket around Daniel to try and keep him warm. “Is it time for my watch?”

Before Teal’c could say anything Sam sat up in bed. “I’m awake.”

Jack was momentarily taken by surprise. He thought she was still asleep, but then realised that between Daniel’s shout and him messing with the light it would be a wonder if she didn’t wake up.

“I’ll wake you in two, sir.” Sam said slipping out of the tent without fuss.

Jack was about to protest, but glancing back at Daniel still huddled on the bed, he conceded he might be needed here for a while.

“Thank-you, Major.” Jack said quietly. He doubted he’d be able to change her mind without pulling rank anyway.

“I shall take one last walk of the perimeter.”

Jack nodded a thank you as Teal’c also left the tent, and then turned his attention back to Daniel.

“You okay?” He asked trying to sound casual.

Daniel just nodded. He was most definitely not in the mood for conversation right now and to illustrate that Daniel pulled the blanket tighter, causing it to ruffle up and partially obscure his face.

“Bad dream?” Jack continued keeping his tone neutral.

Daniel again just sort of moved his head up and down, begrudgingly admitting to the nightmare. When Jack wouldn’t stop staring at him, Daniel quirked his eyebrow and dropped his head back to rest on his knees with a defeated sigh.

Jack sighed too, he wanted to put Daniel at ease, tell him everything would be fine, but he knew damn well it wouldn’t. Not once all the details of SG-11 and the fate of Robert Rothman got out. Reaching out he tentatively ran his palm back and forth through Daniel’s hair, offering his silent support and understanding. He had been prepared to tell Daniel about Rothman at some point before they got back, but now was definitely not the time.

________________________________________________

As promised Sam had woken Jack up for his watch two hours later. Now he sat outside, P-90 in hand, staring out at the tree line. He was so lost in his thoughts Jack hadn’t even glanced once at the bright alien stars decorating the sky. It was thoughts of Daniel that were consuming his mind tonight. They’d sat up together for a while after Sam had left for her watch. Daniel, initially silent, had suddenly started talking. Quietly at first, but the more he spoke the more confident he became in his words. Jack no longer had to wait for the mission report to find out what happened while his teammate was a captive of the Unas.

Overall, it didn’t sound as bad as Jack had imagined. Daniel’s monologue was relayed in a calm controlled voice and he seemed to honestly believe he’d established a good rapport with the Unas - named ‘Chaka’ - that managed, ultimately to save his life. He did admit to being scared out of his mind at the prospect of becoming an Unas entrée and was more than a little grateful for Jack’s timely arrival. Jack brought up the tape-recording and Daniel confirmed that it was an attempt to let them know what had happen to him. ‘Just in case’, were Daniel’s words. The scream on the cassette was the result of the rather deep cut on his cheek. According to Daniel Chaka was marking him, his blood on the wall, which Jack had found, was proof that Chaka had fulfilled his initiation right.

From everything that was said, Jack noted it was the incident with the larval Gould at the lake that had scared Daniel the most. He had quickly skimmed over that part, but not before he was sure Jack understood it was Chaka who had saved him from that grisly fate. Jack never thought he’d have found himself praising his friend’s kidnapper in a million years, but then he’d never expected to be traversing a planet chock full of primordial Gould either. As far as he was concerned he and the Unas were even.

Jack had remained quiet while Daniel talked, not even offering his usual brand of uplifting, comical commentary. He would have let him continue through the night. Although when Daniel’s eyes started to drift shut, seemingly of their own accord, Jack decided to take the initiative by instructing him to get some rest. It was some twenty minutes later, once Daniel was again fast asleep under a barrage of blankets, that Carter had returned informing Jack it was time for his watch.

“I think I’m getting too old for this.” Jack spoke to the cold night air.

“Too old for what O’Neill?” Jack turned to give Teal’c a frustrated look. The Jaffa had been pacing the perimeter for the past hour, too tense to indulge in further kel-no-reem. He wasn’t fooling anyone with his ‘I am perfectly calm’ act.

“This - worrying, when will it end? How is it he gets into these messes?” Teal’c’s facial expression never altered, so Jack turned back to look out towards the forest and continued to talk quietly. “And he claims he’s not giving me grey hair. I had brown hair and lots of it before I met him, I tell ya he’s lucky Hammond is so taken with him ‘cause otherwise he’d be in so much trouble…” His tangent petered to a halt.

“I do not believe it is possible for a person to ever stop worrying about someone they care about, no matter the circumstances.” Teal’c finally responded from behind him, also looking out into the night, hands firmly clasped behind his back. He chose to ignore the comment about the hair.

“Care about, huh?” Jack said dismissively, his gaze now firmly fixed to the ground.

“Indeed, and Daniel Jackson has great trust in you.”

“Yeah I’ve notice that, not sure why though. I’ve done a lousy job of protecting him so far.”

“A father cannot protect his children from everything. Sometimes they must learn lessons for themselves.” Teal’c quoted regally. It sure didn’t sound like a Jaffa proverb; Jerry Springer was probably closer to it.

“Well it’s a good thing I’m not his father then.” Jack drawled.

“Maybe not, but in rare times such as this when he requires comfort, it is you he seeks it from, O’Neill.” Teal’c made a shrewd exit after that comment, moving back toward the entrance of the large tent.

A little stunned, Jack sat and watched Teal’c leave, contemplating what he meant by that. Jack had to confess he and Daniel had so many levels to their relationship it was pretty scary at times. They were best of friends, which seemed odd to most since they were constantly bickering. There were times when Daniel acted like his annoying little brother, he’d drive him mad and Jack would consequently end up threatening him with all manner of torture. Then, like Teal’c suggested, there were times such as this. Times when Daniel needed someone to listen, someone to offer comfort and understanding. The feelings he felt at times like these were way beyond the friend territory and even beyond that of a sibling relationship. He felt responsible for Daniel in some way.

Jack was aware Daniel had an enduring trust in him and fully intended to live up to the responsibility that trust evoked. So it was no wonder that when something like this happened Jack would feel as though he’d let Daniel down, had broken his promise to keep him safe. Daniel never saw it that way of course, despite everything, he never lost that faith. Even after being kidnapped, mistreated, nearly becoming lunch for some ugly alien monster and Jack only turning up just in the nick of time to watch Daniel save his own hide again, that trust never wavered. It was as if Jack’s mere presence gave Daniel the strength to face whatever fate threw at him.

Jack thought he was beginning to understand what Teal’c was getting at.

“You are wise, oh master Teal’c.” Jack said lightly.

“Indeed I am, O’Neill.” The Jaffa agreed. There was a smug look on his face Jack couldn’t miss as he walked away from camp to start yet another scout of the perimeter. Yes Teal’c understood the Tau’ri very well. Jack decided he’d have to keep a closer eye on the cunning Jaffa from now on.

Jack stood and stretched before he ambled over to the supplies, helping himself to coffee. Figuring he was going to need the caffeine since he’d had less than two hour’s sleep. He was just about to pour a cup when movement behind distracted him. Jack spun around fast, instantly bringing his weapon up, only to come face to face with “Daniel.”

“Hi…err, don’t shoot?” Daniel said coyly, hands up in mock surrender.

Jack lowered his P-90 and with a roll of his eyes took a seat on the ground. He sensed more than saw Daniel follow him, copying his actions to sit down next to him.

“What are you doing up?” Jack asked without looking at Daniel.

“Oh, err couldn’t sleep.” Daniel replied keeping his gaze fixed firmly ahead.

“You were asleep when I left.” Jack stated, waiting for Daniel to even try and contradict him.

Daniel shifted uncomfortably, making Jack feel momentarily guilty for the rather snide remark. Jack turned to look at him and saw the flush on Daniel’s cheeks. He also noticed the kid was shivering again.

“You’re sick, you shouldn’t be out here.” Jack stated half-heartedly.

Daniel agreed, but didn’t make a move to leave and Jack didn’t have the heart to send him back inside. Daniel didn’t want to go back to sleep because he knew he’d only end up waking a quivering wreck from yet another nightmare. Whether he was being chased by some unknown foe or if it featured the recently deceased SG-11, the result was the same.

“Jack-”“Daniel-” They spoke in unison.

“You first.” Jack said with a tilt of his head in Daniel’s direction.

Daniel took a deep breath. “I just wanted to say…thank you…for coming to rescue me.”

“No problem.” Jack said simply with a smile.

“You were going to say something.” Daniel prompted when Jack went back to contemplating his coffee.

Pretending he’d forgotten Jack answered, “I was?”

“O’Neill?”

Jack wasted no time in getting up to answer Teal’c’s call, patting Daniel’s shoulder on his way to his feet. Giving him an apologetic nod, Jack left Daniel seated alone outside the tent.

Walking away Jack could only berate himself for being such a coward. It was the second time that day he, Colonel Jack O’Neill, had chickened out of telling his friend the details he really needed to hear, the truth about what happen to SG-11 and his friend Robert Rothman. The desolate look on Daniel’s face as he glanced back over his shoulder only succeeded in enforcing that guilt.

“Teal’c! What’s up?”

Teal’c didn’t say anything, he merely pointed with his staff out into the darkness. Jack followed his line of sight, but failed to see anything in the black that cloaked the entire area like a blanket. The air was feeling even more chilled if that was at all possible and Jack shivered melodramatically. It was on his second attempt to visualise whatever it was Teal’c had seen, when slight movement at the tree line caught his eye. His gaze snapped to Teal’c to confirm the Jaffa had seen it too.

“I believe we are being observed, O’Neill.” Teal’c stated plainly, not taking his eyes away from the isolated area.

“How long?”

“I am uncertain. However I do believe, who ever it is, they are retreating.”

How Teal’c came to that conclusion so quickly he was unsure, but he trusted his friend’s judgment. “Keep a look out Teal’c, I’m going to wake Carter and pack up, we’re not waiting till daylight.”

Having issued his orders, Jack marched back over to the main camp, snapping into pissed off Colonel mode, the issue of Rothman had once again taken a sideline. He hadn’t had to go far to reach Teal’c’s position, but he had moved out of direct line of sight to Daniel. Jack was feeling disproportionately anxious for leaving Daniel alone. He couldn’t stop the sick feeling building in his stomach that was telling his brain he’d just made the most stupid mistake of his life. That feeling was confirmed, for when he strode back into sight of the spot he had vacated just moments before, Daniel was nowhere to be found.

“DANIEL!” Jack yelled, the panic ringing clear.

Jack stormed into the tent hoping against hope that Daniel had simply decided to try and get some sleep after all.

“Sir, what’s going on?” Sam asked waking the moment he entered the tent.

Jack looked frantically around the cluttered tent. He found cots, weapons, supplies and various boxes of god knew what other equipment SG-11 and the dig team had brought with them, but no Daniel. Without answering Carter’s question, Jack slapped his hand over his face and swiftly exited the tent. All Jack could hear was the ground crunching beneath his feet and his own heavy breathing as he frantically made his away around the opposite side of the camp from where he’d conferred with Teal’c. Not finding any sign of Daniel he turned back, his worry and fear for his friend bumping up a notch with every step.

“Colonel!” Sam called out to him as she ran out of the tent, Teal’c rounding the opposite corner.

“Daniel’s missing.” He said bluntly.

“No I’m not.”

At the sound of the mellifluous voice from behind him Jack spun around. Eyeing the object of his distress slowly stroll up to them, Jack shortened the distance by jogging to meet him halfway. “Where the hell were you?” He shouted, sounding angrier than he had intended.

Daniel was confused and thrown into a bewildered silence. He had no idea how to answer the question - he didn’t understand why Jack was so pissed off. Sam was about to ask once again what was going on when Jack beat her to it.

“Never mind it doesn’t matter. Everyone get dressed and pack only the essentials…” Jack paused gauging the night sky. “We should start to see some light within the hour, be ready.”

Sam nodded, not questioning the order sure in the knowledge that the Colonel would explain when it was required. Teal’c moved back to his sentry position until it was time to break camp. Daniel, still a little perplexed, was ready to follow Jack’s order, knowing that this was not the time to challenge the Colonel, whether he understood the reasons behind the words or not, however as he tried to move past Jack and into the tent he found himself being pulled back.

“Jack, what’s going on?” He decided to ask now anyway, against his better judgment, since Jack refused to release the grip he had on Daniel’s arm.

“Stay close, I do not want to loose you twice on the same mission.” Jack said seriously, his heart still pounding from the scare he had yet to recover from.

Daniel nodded his agreement and slowly backed away into the tent to help Sam gather supplies. He was still no closer to finding out the reason for Jack’s sudden change of mood, but after everything that had happened to him, he was simply too drained to pursue the matter further. He trusted Jack, he was sure he knew what he was doing.

__________________________________________________

“Daniel come here I want to check your injuries again before we head off.” Sam called Daniel over to where she had the last of the supplies from the med kit laid out in front of her.

Daniel complied grudgingly. He made his way over and sat down next to her. Sam took a look at his wrists first. The Sun had just begun to lighten the edges of the clouds on P3X 888 and SG1 were ready to begin their trek back to the Stargate and home. The Colonel, who was standing only a few feet away from the tents, still hadn’t elaborated on the reason for their prompt departure, which was making Sam more than a little nervous.

“This might hurt.” Sam apologised as she applied the antiseptic. Daniel closed his eyes and gritted his teeth.

Jack watched them and once confident Daniel wasn’t about to go missing again, made his way over to the opposite side of camp, out of earshot of Carter and Daniel. “Teal’c?”

Teal’c walked over to him. “What is it O’Neill?”

“Anything?” Jack asked indicating the trees with a nod.

Teal’c shook his head. Jack wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign at this point.

“I can’t raise SG-2 on the radio, something’s wrong.” He informed his warrior friend of the latest unfortunate development.

“Could they be out of range?”

“I don’t think so, it worked fine yesterday.”

“What do you intend to do?”

“I don’t know yet, our number one priority here is to return to the SGC, that hasn’t changed. Just don’t mention this to Daniel… he’s been through enough already.”

Teal’c nodded his understanding, thinking it unwise for a member of the team not to be fully aware of the situation, but not stating his reservations aloud as he was sure O’Neill had already considered this. Both men headed back to camp.

“You’ve still got a bit of a temperature Daniel.” Sam said removing her hand from his forehead.

“I’m still really cold.” Daniel illustrated his complaint by wrapping his jacket even tighter. He jumped slightly when he felt a weight suddenly applied to the top of his head. Looking up his eyes made contact with the peak of Jack’s cap. Daniel removed the cap to examine it.

“Leave it on - it’ll help keep you warm.” Jack said walking away from the pair on the floor.

Jack smiled when Daniel looked over to him, replacing the cap, backwards, on his head. “Time to go kids.”

Sam stood and offered Daniel a hand to stand up. Once dragged to his feet Daniel listed slightly to one side and Sam thought he was going to take a nosedive straight back down again, that was until two strong hands grabbed him from behind and righted his balance. Sam smiled at Teal’c, Daniel hadn’t seemed to notice either way, which was something she thought was concerning and made a mental note to inform Janet the minute they stepped through the gate.

Jack was wandering back from one final perimeter check when gunfire exploded from behind him - the direction of the Stargate.

“Crap.”

“What the hell?!” The shots took Sam by surprise. She spun around, weapon at the ready, only to come face to face with the Colonel.

“At ease Major.” Jack ordered, feeling defeated, it looked as if he wasn’t going to be able to keep this from Daniel after all.

“Sir, what’s going on?”

“We’ve lost contact with SG-2 -”

“What?” Sam interrupted annoyed the Colonel hadn’t thought to mention this before now.

“Which means the ‘gate is no longer secure.” Jack paused giving an apologetic smile to a dazed looking Daniel. “We have to consider ourselves to be in enemy territory.”

Looks of annoyance, despair and concern graced the features of his teammates. The situation had gone from bad to very bad in a matter of hours, and Jack did not like what he was going to have to do next one little bit.

“That means we’re not going home doesn’t it?” Daniel asked faintly, his brain finally catching on to what wasn’t being said.

“Not until we find out what’s happened to SG-2. Sorry Daniel.” It nearly broke Jack’s heart to see the resignation on Daniel’s face, but somehow he managed to keep it together. “Teal’c?”

“I have not observed anyone in our immediate vicinity, however…”

“However the gunfire we just heard suggests otherwise.” Daniel finished for him, his disappointment quickly turning into annoyance, why was nothing ever simple with him, any other search and rescue would be over and done with by now, but because he was the one being rescued that meant the rules had to change? That sucked.

“Indeed.”

“Yeah well, Carter I want you and Daniel to remain here, any sign of company and make a retreat back into the tree line, Teal’c and I will scout on towards the ‘gate and assess the situation, understood.” Jack finished his orders, readying his P-90.

“Yes Sir.” Sam replied reluctantly.

“No.”

“Daniel.” Jack looked back and faced the young man who had spoken in a mire whisper.

“No Jack.” Daniel repeated with more volume and force.

“No Jack.” Jack repeated and sighed, looking at the floor to give him the strength to resist smacking Daniel upside the head.

“Jack I’m not staying behind no matter what you say! I want to go home!” Daniel paused to take a calming breath, “and we have the best chance of achieving that goal if we stay together.”

“Daniel, don’t argue. You’re not exactly in fighting condition at the moment. You’ll be safer here.”

“For how long?” Daniel sent his piercing gaze in Jack’s direction. “If you leave us here how long do you think it’ll take before whoever it is discovers our position? If we’re to have a hope in hell of getting home alive we have to stick together!”

“He’s right sir.”

“Don’t you start Carter, look at him! He can barely stand up straight let alone hold a weapon!”

“And I’m not going to get any better remaining here. Besides, what’s going to happen to us if you get caught?”

“Damn.” Jack cursed in defeat; he always said Daniel was a sneaky little shit.

Daniel actually felt quite smug having managed to use Jack’s argument against him, and doggedly ignored the tears pooling in his eyes.

“I agree with Major Carter and Daniel Jackson, O’Neill. These are not ordinary circumstances; if a Goa’uld has taken one or more members of SG-2 then they will be aware of this base camp.”

“You think SG-2 are Gould?” Daniel asked.

“It is a likely assumption.”

Jack felt his gut tightening again, this was just great, first the whole of SG-11 and now possibly SG-2. Two teams, one mission. Worst of all Jack just knew Daniel would somehow make this all his fault.

“What about SG-11?” Sam spoke up.

“What about them?”

“The rest of SG-11? We only found Hawkins and Loader. What about their fourth, Lt Sanchez?”

“He’s dead.”

“Is he? If Hawkins managed to be taken its possible Sanchez was too.”

“Arh for cryin’ out loud!” Jack went to tear his hat off his head, but it wasn’t there so settled for running his hand through his hair stopping just short of ripping it out.

“Sam’s right.” Daniel confirmed making Jack’s day. “Major Hawkins and the rest of SG-11 took turns in going for the water run.” All the fight had fled out of him once more and a reminder of what he, Robert and SG-11 had been doing all week unaware of the threat just made him feel ill.

“Peachy.”

“O’Neill we can not remain here much longer.” Teal’c reminded them.

“Right. Of course.” Resigning to his fate Jack gave the order. “Let’s head out.” He caught Daniel’s eye. “All of us.”

_____________________________________________________

The group had only been walking for ten minutes when they arrived at another shoreline. Teal’c was on point and brought a halt to their procession. Since they still didn’t know what fate had befallen SG-2, added to that the unknown status of Sanchez from SG-11, the four members of the recently reunited SG-1 had to make a detour in their route in order to keep undercover. Increasing their chances of staying hidden from the enemy, whoever that may be. Observing the area Teal’c concluded from tracks leading to and from the bank that this was where SG-11 had acquired their water supply.

“Anything?”

“I believe the area to be secure O’Neill.” Teal’c said.

“Good, well that’s something. Daniel hand Carter your canteen.” Jack said without looking at him. With a quick nod to Teal’c Jack raised and armed his weapon.

The sudden click-clunk of the safety echoed in the still and silent forest that Daniel was starting to find increasingly oppressive. He unclipped the canteen and handed it to Sam as asked, who then passed it to Teal’c. A few hand signals were exchanged, then before he could reconcile what was happening Teal’c took a step forward, walking towards the waters edge. The primordial Gould invested waters edge. Jack started to follow and Daniel snatched out his hand, tentatively grasping the cuff of Jack’s jacket. “Don’t.” He snapped, eyes wide and serious, Daniel was on his last tether and didn’t want to have to explain that. “Please.”

Jack turned around, surprised and a little irritated the unspoken what? on the tip of his tongue. “Stay here.” He said and pried the gripping fingers from his jacket. Jack turned and indicated Teal’c who was holding position for the moment. “We’ll be quick. Teal’c will zap anything that tries to escape that lake.”

Daniel wanted to scream, he was inches away from losing everything. In order to keep his composure all he could do was screw his eyes as tightly shut as possible and walk away, he just kept on walking. It was Jack, who grabbed him this time, but Daniel couldn’t look at him, he felt sick and dizzy, cold and overheated all at once. But it was Sam who noticed the shaking. Daniel felt her hands latch onto his, soft and warm they wrapped around him like a blanket. He willed himself to relax, for he’d experienced enough traumatic events to know that putting off any imminent breakdown would only make the eventual fallout twice as painful and last twice as long.

Sam sank to the ground pulling Daniel down with her. His eyes were still screwed shut, but she felt his body begin to relax, the tremors coming less and less. Jack crouched down too, sending a questioning look in Carter’s direction that got her talking.

“I think the shock has worn off,” she whispered, careful not to interrupt the rhythm of her hand as it stroked up and down Daniel’s arm and back.

“Ah.” Jack commented insubstantially. He sighed and exchanged glances with Carter communicating his unspoken order - won’t be long, take care of him, the usual stuff. Standing up slowly Jack patted Daniel’s leg, then continued on his path towards Teal’c and the murky, primordial Gould infested waters edge.

__________________________________________________________

What the hell was going on Jack didn’t know, but daylight was fading fast… as was Daniel. “Carter?”

“I’m not sure Sir. Daniel, did you register anything significant about the number of daylight hours compared to Earth?”

Daniel failed to answer, so instantly all eyes were on him. Jack fell back a step, while Carter increased her pace and came up on his opposite side. Daniel remained oblivious, his focus on the ground, steadily plodding along, putting one foot very carefully in front of the other. Jack grimaced and pulled him up short.

“Jack we can’t stop now…it’s dark.” Daniel stated, confused. Everyone’s blatant no, really? expressions prompted him to ask, “What?”

“It’s been getting progressively darker for the last hour. Carter just asked you if you knew anything about how short the days were around here.”

“Umm, no?”

“You know I’m glad we keep you around.” Jack said, linking his arm with Daniel’s, getting them walking again. Daniel looked hurt, but that didn’t faze Jack in the slightest.

“It could have something to do with the duel moons.” Daniel suggested sulkily.

“Go on.” Jack encouraged.

“Well it’s the first time I’ve seen them maybe it’s a cycle or something or,” Daniel paused for effect, sighing melodramatically.

“Or?” Jack asked, dreading whatever was to come next out of Daniel’s mouth.

Daniel put on a false smile, trying not to let the crappiness of the whole affair get to him anymore than it already had. “It could just be a really bad storm on its way.”

“Great. Why the hell not, this day just keeps getting better.”

Daniel lost the smile pretty quickly; there was nothing he could do to stop the nagging doubts and guilt, nothing. “I’m sorry guys this is my fault.”

Jack looked over Daniel’s bent head at Carter to see if she had any ideas, and she did, just not about the weather. Carter mouthed her response and dropped back, retaking her position on their six.

PTSD, already? It wasn’t such a stretch he guessed, especially after that scene at the lake. Weigh in the nightmare and inability to stay asleep then all signs were definitely pointing in that direction. It stayed with you a lifetime, you can’t just erase a traumatic event from your memory, but Jack sure wished he could stop Daniel from adding more on top. Someone needed to say something now, so Jack took that as his queue. “Daniel, how could you getting kidnapped by a huge stinky monster possibly be your fault?”

“Well when you put it that way.”

“Oh, I do.”

Daniel smiled again, only this time it was real, feeling extremely self-conscious he unhooked himself from Jack and wrapped both arms tight around his body before anyone else could get a word in. After his thing by the lake earlier he’d felt better in one respect, but like all kinds of fool in another. And just because all three friends had seen him cry before didn’t make it any less embarrassing.

“You tired?” Jack asked.

Daniel wanted to laugh, but felt that might be taken the wrong way and instead decided honesty would be the best course of action. He reluctantly nodded. Jack immediately called a halt to their procession indicting Sam should use the time to check bandages or whatever. Daniel walked away and found a fallen tree to sit on.

Still standing Jack looked around at the progressively darkening forest, eyes resting on Teal’c. “Think you can find the ‘gate in the dark?”

“Given our circumstances I will continue for as long as I think it benefits our progress.”

Jack stared at him for a second. “I’m going to take that as a yes.” He decided.

“As you wish, O’Neill.”

“Right.” Jack smiled tightly. “Carter, join me please.”

Sam walked past Daniel toward the Colonel and the two disappeared further into the forest.

Daniel tracked their progress until they almost completely disappeared from view before jumping up and calling out. “Jack, where are you going?” Daniel tried to move forward when he got no response, but Teal’c’s arm against his chest prevented him from following them.

“Take the opportunity to rest Daniel Jackson - we will be departing very shortly.” Teal’c refused to budge and was taken by surprise when Daniel refrained from making an issue about it.

“This sucks.” Daniel threw over his shoulder, walking back over to his tree and slumping down, knees up, arms crossed. Daniel looked at him once before closing his eyes.

“Indeed it does.” Teal’c whispered.

_________________________________________________________

Sam followed Colonel O’Neill deeper amongst the trees, at first she thought he wanted to tell her something that he didn’t want Daniel to hear, but when she figure they were at a safe enough distance and he still hadn’t stopped Sam called out to him.

“Sir, we shouldn’t travel too far.”

Jack came to a halt. “Sorry Carter,” he turned to face her, “I was…thinking.”

“Are you alright, Sir?” Only after his look of ‘was that a joke Major?’ did she realise what she’d said. “Of course you’re not.” She said through a smile.

“Anyway,” Jack hurried along. “I’m going to ask you to do something.”

Sam tensed. Colonels didn’t ask – they ordered. The only time Colonel O’Neill asked her to do something was when the request was based on a personal choice rather than a military one.

“I’m listening.”

“I want you to stay behind with Daniel. Find a safe place and wait.”

“What about you and Teal’c, Sir?” Sam asked smoothly, not revealing her feelings about this plan just yet.

“We’ll continue toward the Stargate, determine what happened with SG-2 and secure any known threat.” Jack continued soberly. “Carter he isn’t going to make it much farther. If any more of SG-11, or SG-2 for that matter, have been taken by Gould then it’s down to us to secure Earth’s Stargate.”

Oh lord, as ashamed as she was to admit it she hadn’t even thought about that. “I’m sure he’ll keep up.” Sam insisted, confident that the Colonel and Teal’c would need all the help they could get.

“I’m sure he would too.” She looked at him blankly. “But we are in deep, deep shit here Carter and frankly,” Jack swallowed, “after all we’ve gone through to get him back…”

Gunfire erupted behind Sam before she could agree. They both instinctually hit the floor, Jack trying to gage from which direction the shots where coming from. It wasn’t until the sound of a staff blast joined in the fray that they both knew things had definitely taken a turn for the worst.

“DANIEL?!” Sam yelled into her radio, doubting she’d be heard over the heavy rain that had suddenly began pelting down as she and the Colonel hurried their way back, with a heavy wind disturbing the trees, sending leaves and debris up into the air, obscuring her vision. “TEAL’C?!”

Jack was first to appear in the spot where they’d left Daniel and Teal’c not five minutes ago. No one was in the immediate vicinity, though that didn’t surprise him, and it certainly didn’t put his fears to rest. The rainfall began to increase, making it all but impossible to keep moving. Soon any sign of the direction the attackers had gone would be washed away, along with any trace of Teal’c and Daniel.

Jack thought he saw someone move up ahead and signalled to Carter. Weapons raised they closed in on the target area. His finger poised on the trigger, rain water in his eyes and the wind blowing up a storm all around them it was only dumb luck that Jack heard the yell before he got a visual on the supposed target.

“Jack!” Daniel came stumbling out of the undergrowth, soaking wet with not a scratch on him. “Where the hell have you been?” He asked in a panic, not showing that he’d noticed the P-90’s trained on his position.

“Doesn’t matter.” Jack cut him down, having to shout over the rumbling thunder. “You hurt?” Daniel shook his head, no. “Teal’c?”

“I thought he’d followed you guys.” Teal’c had stopped him from pursuing Jack when he left with Sam, next thing Daniel knew he was being woken up by gunfire.

“What happened?” Jack shouted as the wind sped up a notch and a fork of lighting lit the sky golden.

“I don’t know!” Daniel yelled back.

Jack swore as he grabbed his radio, a fruitless endeavour in the current conditions and he knew it, he didn’t need the clap of lightening overlapping the rumbling thunder to drill the point home. The danger was all around them, stranded in a forest of trees in the middle of a storm with Daniel unable to care for himself. This was one rescue Jack would not be forgetting in a hurry.

While Jack was procrastinating and Daniel just got wetter it felt to Sam at that point that if she didn’t do something they would all drown here. She walked in the direction they had been travelling thus far and shouted to the guys, “This way!”

Jack heard and nodded his agreement, waving her on, he pushed Daniel forward and kept a tight hold of him as they followed Carter further into the forest. They walked for nearly twenty minutes against the wind and through rain without seeing another soul or hearing anything remotely similar to weapons fire. The rain had started to let up and Sam could see some sunlight beginning to peak through the dense clouds. There was movement up ahead, Jack signalled everyone down and drew his weapon. Ordering Daniel to stay put he advanced forward slowly. Before he made it past the second tree he heard the click hiss and had the bad end of a staff weapon primed in his face.

“O’Neill.”

“Jesus Teal’c!” Jack sighed in relief, “What the hell happen?”

Teal’c withdrew his weapon and stood back to reveal a man in a wet SGC uniform sat on the floor behind him, bound up.

“Oh hel-lo.” Jack stood up. “What have we here?”

___________________________________________________________________

Daniel had had enough of this. He wanted to go HOME! In a fit not worthy of a five year old he kicked out at the field pack that was laying at his feet. The pack belonged to the member of SG-2 Teal’c had caught and trussed up, and who Jack was now interrogating for information. All this, ‘are they?’ or ‘aren’t they Gould?’ crap was getting on Daniel’s nerves.

He knew from his and Roberts testing of the fossils they found that there was no Naquada in the symbiotes on this planet. From that he’d managed to concluded that meant neither Sam nor Teal’c would be able to tell if someone was a host or not. The ONLY way to rule that out was by MRI and since that was a piece of equipment they quite obviously didn’t have Daniel had to wonder exactly what good sitting around dilly dallying out here was doing. Normally he had much more patience, and a tad more respect for the military’s need to think the worst all the time. But Daniel was not currently himself. He was cold, wet – again – and very tired. What restraint he did have fled the minute he was rescued from Chaka. Despite feeling bad about SG-11, and now possibly SG-2, Daniel still didn’t understand why Jack was so against leaving. Tactically it should be the best solution given the fact even a Goulded member of SG-11 knew the iris codes and could therefore have already left through the Stargate to Earth. Of course, Daniel thought, that would beg the question of who was shooting earlier. Huh. Daniel flung his head back against the trunk of the tree he was leaning against. Why was he having so much trouble following this? He wasn’t THAT tired.

Teal’c took Jack’s attention away from Captain Griff and redirected it at Daniel. He turned just in time to see Daniel hit his head against the trunk and cringed in sympathy. It had to have hurt, Jack didn’t wonder if he’d gone and knocked himself out.

“What’s his problem?” Captain Griff asked from his position on the floor.

“He’s frustrated, wants to go home.” Jack said evenly.

“Don’t we all?” Griff quipped.

“Okay, that’s enough.” Jack admonished, raising his weapon a little higher. Although he was beginning to believe Griff’s story, it explained the gunfire they first heard back at SG-11 base camp.

“I’m glad you got him back.” Griff said after too long a silence.

Jack didn’t verbally reply, he gave a curt nod of acknowledgement and moved them straight onto the important stuff. “So, we have one confirmed Goulded SG-11 on the loose who attempted to use the Stargate over,” Jack checked his watch, “two hours ago.”

“You claimed to have pursued him into the tree line where he opened fire upon your team, injuring Major Coburn.” Teal’c continued with the narrative.

“Why didn’t you signal us for back up?” Sam injected.

Griff took a deep breath, how many times would he have to do this? He was just glad that SG-1 was on his side. “I tried but got no response. I ordered Myers back through the ‘gate with Coburn while Pierce and I pursued Sanchez. We got separated during the storm and that’s when I got jumped by Teal’c.” Griff gave them all a falsely bright smile. “Come on O’Neill! I haven’t been near any god damn water, not after Rothman took a shot at me!”

Jack sliced his hand across his neck signalling Griff to shut his trap this minute, but it was in vain, Daniel had heard loud and clear.

“Robert was with you guys?” Daniel sat up straighter.

Both Sam and Teal’c studiously avoided looking at him, leaving it to Jack to pick up the slack. Griff was a dead man.

“Excuse me.” Jack said menacingly, before walking over to Daniel.

“What’d I say?” Griff asked Carter.

“We haven’t told Daniel about Robert Rothman yet.” Sam said through gritted teeth. “They were friends.”

“Colonel O’Neill is going to kill me.” Griff announced with abject certainty.

“Well at least he no longer thinks you’re a Goa’uld.” It was the only thing Sam could think to say, she could hear Daniel asking all the right questions behind her and she knew it wouldn’t be too long before he asked the one that the Colonel desperately did not want to tell him the answer to just yet.

Sam tended to the wound on Griff’s arm, replacing the bandage. His only saving grace was that it was superficial and staff blasts, though hurt like hell so Daniel had told her from his experience, cauterized the wound causing limited blood loss. She’d just finished packing away the med kit when the Colonel wandered back over.

“Well I think I’ve traumatized Daniel enough for one day.” Jack was tired, sick and tired of the whole affair. He indicated Carter and Teal’c to join him away from Griff.

“How did he take it?” Sam asked.

“Okay actually.” Jack looked back at Daniel, still sat against the same tree. “To be honest I don’t think he’s completely with it. Are you sure he hasn’t got a head injury?”

“What of Captain Griff?” Teal’c asked.

Jack looked to Carter.

“I don’t think he’s a Gould, sir.” She answered.

“Yeah, me neither.” Jack agreed. “That leaves Sanchez and possibly Pierce. If we’re to believe Griff about the radio interference then the ‘gate is still secure.”

“It appears we have very little choice.”

“Teal’c my man, I don’t know what we would do without you.” Jack slapped Teal’c on his back and strode over to Captain Griff.

“I’m free?” Griff asked astounded.

“For now.” Jack held the knife he’d just used to cut the ties, under Griff’s nose. “Teal’c’s watching you.”

“I never thought I’d look forward to having an MRI.” Griff muttered to himself, rubbing his wrists before standing up to stretch his legs, every muscle had seized up quite nicely.

“Let’s move out, I’m on point. Carter!”

“I’m on it Sir.” Sam pulled Daniel to his feet and gently guided him to walk in front of her, following behind Teal’c.

__________________________________________________

Not far from the gate SG-1 plus one were nearing the edges of the forest. Their path around the obvious route had taken them to some partially open space, only a few trees and lots of long grass that reached up to Sam’s waist. It wasn’t a very defensible area, perfect for an ambush, which was why Sam was keen to get a move on.

“How are you doing Daniel?” Sam asked when Daniel’s pace slowed to the point where lagging behind would be considered an understatement. The guys up front were virtually out of sight, she could just barely see Teal’c ushering Griff forward, poking him ever so slightly with his staff weapon.

Daniel turned to look at Sam over his shoulder. “Oh…fine. Having a blast actually. Seventy-two hours of pure hell…” The joke died on his lips, the truth of it hitting him far too harshly.

Sam reached out and squeezed his hand. He couldn’t even smile at her, but was truly thankful she was with him now. Just as Daniel thought he could get through the next hour or so till they reached the Stargate a slew of bullets flew passed his head, impacting the trees and foliage behind him and Sam. Daniel did the natural thing and ducked for cover. Once the noise ceased he waited on the floor for Jack to call the all clear. He was still waiting to hear from Jack when Sam pulled him to his feet. Daniel groggily looked around, but Jack was nowhere in sight. Neither was Teal’c or Captain Griff. “Where the hell are they?” Daniel asked plainly, as if believing this to be some twisted practical joke.

“I don’t know.” Sam was freaked. This WAS weird. If they’d been shot she’d have seen something surely.

Daniel began to panic, he could feel his chest tightening and it became more difficult to breath. Jack was gone! Teal’c was gone! If they’d been taken by force then it was more than a rogue member of SG-11 on their tail. He’d been on the run for nearly three days, drank hardly anything, eaten even less. Scared to death of random bodies of water that might be nearby… This was not how it was supposed to be! His team had found him… he should be home already…he…

Daniel hit the forest floor with a resounding thud, first the feeling in his legs had gone, followed swiftly by his arms, eventually the fuzziness reached his head and blacked out the sky, an impact to his head ensured he wouldn’t feel anything for quite some time.

_______________________________________

Teal’c ducked at the sound of bullets ricocheting off bark from behind, Colonel O’Neill turned and copied his actions, P-90 raised and pointed over Captain Griff’s head. No words were exchanged, no need, Teal’c took up position in front while O’Neill moved off to the side. There was no sign of Daniel Jackson or Captain Carter.

Teal’c gradually edged closer to the point of impact, his gaze focused intently on the area ahead. Believing the threat to be from one man, most likely SG-11’s Lieutenant Sanchez, Teal’c wasn’t expecting the surprise attack from behind. By the time he sensed a presence it was too late, the large figure jumped out from the cover of the long grass and incapacitated him, a sharp blow to the head with the backend of an SGC issue weapon.

Jack saw the grass moving in on Teal’c’s position and rushed to intercede whatever was coming up behind his teammate. He reached for the radio on his vest, but it did little good as something strong grabbed him from behind and wrestled him to the ground.
_______________________________________

Daniel shot up. He couldn’t breath.

“Daniel” Sam’s hand on his shoulder made him jump. “You passed out.”

Daniel calmed quickly, and looked around. He slapped both hands over his face upon remembering what had happened. “Can this day possibly get any WORSE?!” He screamed at the top of his lungs. When enough was enough, it was enough, and Daniel had certainly had enough.

Sam crouched next to him with an indulgent smile on her face, which Daniel found simultaneously patronising and comforting. “You’re fine,” She said.

Daniel looked up at her sceptically.

“Well almost fine.” Sam quickly amended, brushing her hair back off her face.

Daniel shook his head and looked around again. The day on 888 had brightened considerably, the sun drying out his sodden uniform quite nicely. It would have been nice, if not for the impending threat of Gould infestation hanging over their heads. Daniel wasn’t looking at Sam when she leaped, pushing him down flat to the ground and quickly clamping her hand over his mouth so he couldn’t give voice to the WTF on the tip of his tongue. Branches cracking to the left had alerted her to the presence of someone else. Daniel nodded that he could hear it too, and while he remained still and silent lying amongst the wet grass Sam reached for her weapon.

Regulating her breathing Sam moved her feet ready to stand and face off to anything from Gould to Unas to...

“Put the weapon down!” She commanded when Captain Griff was the one to step out of the bushes. He calmly lowered his hands, Sam taking the berretta. “Where did you get this?”

Captain Griff sighed, “It’s Colonel O’Neill’s, and I took when after he went down.”

“He was shot?” Daniel bolted up right, surprising Griff.

“What happened?!” Sam demanded, directing Griff’s attention back towards her still holding him at gunpoint. The fact that moments after setting off with him in tow two members of SG-1 go missing wasn’t winning him any favour. “Where are the Colonel and Teal’c?”

“You make it sound like I planned this.” Griff was beginning to believe O’Neill’s paranoia was contagious. ‘They’re all whacked!’

Sam didn’t lower her gun or her resolve and Griff gave in with a sigh, telling her all he knew, hoping she wouldn’t just shoot him on the spot.

“When the first shots were fired we all hit the deck. Colonel O’Neill moved out to circle in, I followed, but something got between us.” Griff indicated he’d like to sit down for the rest.

“What about Teal’c?” Daniel asked after Pierce finished.

“After the thing got O’Neill I snagged the gun and got whacked for my trouble, I saw it dragging Jack away. No sign of Teal’c, but-”

“Hold on, so if the attacker was up front then who was shooting at us from behind?” Sam interrupted. “Two shooters?”

“Sanchez and Pierce?” Daniel offered, not really seeing it himself, he couldn’t imagine Gould working as a team, especially primitive Gould like the ones living on this planet.

“No way, that thing was huge.” Griff stated assuredly. “With big ugly teeth.”

“Unas.” Daniel stated.

Sam and Griff both levelled him with a look.

“Um, big, grey, facial horns… little smelly.” Daniel tried to describe them.

“Sounds about right, and there are more than one of them.” Griff agreed.

“Are you saying it was Unas who took the Colonel AND Teal’c?” Sam didn’t bother hiding her surprise.

“Apparently” Griff shrugged, eyeing Daniel.

This didn’t make sense to Sam, how did a primitive Unas – and she was merely assuming at this point – learn to use their weapons so quickly? Why would they take two members of their party, and how did they do it in a matter of minutes without anyone seeing anything?

“This makes no sense.” Daniel said.

‘You’re telling me!’ At least she wasn’t the only sceptical one – for a change.

“Well sense or not, they couldn’t have gotten far.” Griff said eager to go after them before the trail got cold.

Sam still wasn’t convinced about Griff; it all seemed a little too convenient that he managed to avoid getting caught. In the end though she had little choice, between her, an injured teammate and one she couldn’t fully trust they had to figure out a way to rescue the Colonel and Teal’c.

Griff sat on his hands, waiting for Major Carter to make her decision. Interspersed with odd glances at Dr Jackson he knew she was questioning his trustworthiness.

“Captain Griff and I are going after the Colonel.” Sam announced looking at Daniel.

“Okay.” Daniel agreed, of course they had to rescue Jack and Teal’c.

“I want you to stay here.”

“Not okay.”

Sam knelt down next to him and picked up his hand. “You’ll be safer here, this area is fairly well covered. I’ll leave you with some supplies and water.” Daniel tried to interrupt. “Daniel you are not going to make another step either way.” And I’m not leaving you alone with him, Sam thought with a pointed look in Captain Griff’s direction.

Daniel snapped his mouth shut. Annoyingly she had a point. He was exhausted - he’d just fainted for goodness sake. Even if he could stand right now he’d be a liability.

“Don’t be long.” Daniel squeezed his eyelids shut. He didn’t want to believe any of this was happening.

“I’ll be right back.” Sam promised, and with in seconds the warm touch she held on Daniel’s hand was gone.

_________________________________________________________

“Teal’c, you know what’s going on here?” Jack asked coming around and spotting Teal’c at his side.

“It appears the Unas native to this planet are intelligent, O’Neill.” Teal’c announced to his newly conscious teammate. “They have learnt to use the weapons most likely obtained from the fallen members of SG-11.”

“Great. What do they want with us?”

“That is unclear. Though I would suggest we leave before we have a chance to find out.”

Jack scanned the area, the Unas in the vicinity didn’t appear interested in them, and an escape should be easy enough. “Carter and Daniel?”

“They are not here.”

“Can you get your hands free?” Jack reached for his knife and began cutting the ties bound around his wrists.

“I am already free O’Neill I was merely waiting for you to regain consciousness.”

“Oh how kind of you.”

Teal’c ran ahead of Jack, passing between the trees in an indirect path so to delay any Unas chasing after them. Gunfire erupted from behind, but the pair kept on running. If Daniel Jackson had been with them he’d have been able to assess the Unas better, but as far as either of them could tell these Unas were not like those they’d seen in the cave, though whether they were hosts to the Goa’uld still remained to be seen. They had indeed deciphered SG-11 guns, but the fact that primitive Unas could use primitive Tau’ri weapons was not such a leap for Teal’c.

After five minutes without sounds of pursuit Teal’c concluded the Unas pursuing them had likely returned to their clan. “O’Neill, I do not believe we are being followed.”

“Yeah, me neither Teal’c.” Jack came to a rest beside Teal’c, using a large tree as support. “We any closer to Carter and Daniel?”

“It is unlikely to assume Major Carter would choose to remain in a compromised area.”

“I know.” Jack said monotone, setting off again, walking in the right direction.

“She would most likely continue on towards the Stargate.” Teal’c kept up with Jack, walking at a much more casual pace, hands behind his back.

“I know”

“If they have been compromised it is our responsibility to inform Stargate Command of what has occurred here.”

“I KNOW!” Jack spun around. “Teal’c, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, really, but this isn’t any ordinary mission. This is a Search and Rescue and I’ll be damned if I walk through that ‘gate without my rescuee!”

“I am worried also, O’Neill.” Teal’c stood facing him, he appreciated why Jack was angry, he felt very much the same way.

“Who said anything about being worried? We’re going to find Daniel and Carter right where we left them. They’ll be fine. We’ll go home.” Jack stated the plan, though it had sounded so much more feasible in his head.

Teal’c remained where he stood, watching O’Neill’s back as he made his way determinedly forward. “As you wish.”

Jack wanted to pull his hair out with the frustration, his mind was set, there was no choice but to find Carter and Daniel right where he left them, Teal’c would tie up Griff, and they’d be through the gate within the hour. Piece of cake.

“Teal’c do you think –” Jack stopped dead in his tracks, stopping Teal’c with a hand to his chest.

Teal’c stopped and sort covered behind a nearby tree, Jack crouching down in the long grass. Looking on ahead through the dark, they both could see the green cameo uniform moving through the foliage.

_________________________________________________________

Daniel woke up with a start. He’d heard gunfire. Though looking around now, he wasn’t positive if that had been a dream or reality. Looking around with blurry eyes Daniel noticed the sky was in the wrong place. Somehow he had ended up flat on his back, once again lying on a patch of damp grass. If he wasn’t sick before, he was quite sure after being drenched for a second time, the damp seeping through his clothes making his skin feel clammy and sore right now would definitely do the trick.

Daniel blinked a few times, then sat up right and took a look at his watch. A whole hour had passed and Sam hadn’t returned. What did he do now? He didn’t have many avenues open to him. The right thing to do would be to hang tight for a little while longer. Sam wouldn’t leave him for good; the fact that she hadn’t returned meant they’d most likely hit a snag, ‘probably in the form of angry flesh eating Unas’. Daniel told himself to shut up and concentrate. His instinct was to leave, get up off his ass push the nausea and dizziness aside, find his team and go HOME.

It was then reality truly sunk in. Daniel had the distinct feeling if he was to live through this then he was going to have to do it on his own. Was this even the same mission? He didn’t know anymore. All he did know was that Jack and Teal’c had gone missing, Sam was off somewhere with Captain Griff, who might not be Captain Griff anymore, and he was left sat in the damp grass all alone, just waiting for someone to come get him.

Well, he’d waited long enough.

Daniel gradually stood up, his legs felt a little strange, but Daniel figured that was only because he’d let his muscles seize up. Time was now to take action; the last thing he wanted to do was just sit and wait for rescue a second time. He took one step forward, and didn’t fall over, Daniel could’ve cheered. Continuing in that manner Daniel worked up a slow and steady pace following in the direction Sam had left in search of Jack.

________________________________________________________

As they traipsed between trees and through overgrown shrubs along their path Sam contemplated on why Unas would take the Colonel and Teal’c. It didn’t make sense, unless…unless the Unas weren’t hunting them. Daniel had briefly mention to her after leaving this morning how he thought the Unas were intelligent and knew about the threat from the Gould in the water. The Unas were hunting Gould.

“The tracks stop here.” Griff announced in the empty clearing.

“Well I don’t see them Captain do you?”

Griff arrested his gaze on the forest floor looking for any signs that he was incorrect. His luck so far had been pretty direr and he hadn’t expected it to pick up now. “No, but that doesn’t mean…”

Sam dismissed his comments, the Colonel wasn’t here and that was that. As much as it pained her to admit their number one priority now had to be the Stargate.

“We’re heading back.” Sam spun on her heel and marched back in the direction they originally came.

“Major we can’t just leave them out here.” Griff protested.

“Yes Captain we can.” Sam said sternly, she had her reasons of course, none of which she was willing to share. Sam was perpetually aware that she was walking through fairly dense forest, in the near dark with someone she had to suspect of being Gould. The basics of her decision came down to what she knew was right. They had come here to rescue Daniel and damn it that is exactly what she would do. Out of options, with an overwhelming amount of forest to explore she had to hope that wherever the Colonel and Teal’c were they could get out of it themselves or at the very least hold out a while longer.

They made their way back to the spot where Sam had made the decision to spilt up. To her it felt like an insurmountable amount of time had passed, though Griff destroyed that illusion with his every fifteen-minute announcement. Sam had lost radio contact with Daniel not long after setting off and was hoping that it was because of signal rather than Daniel having passed out or worse.

Sam stormed on ahead, not caring whether Griff could keep up or not.

“Daniel?” Sam stood in the exact place where they had left Daniel, she was sure of it. “DANIEL!”

“Where is he?” Griff joined Sam moments later, coming out of the tree line looking like complete crap.

“I have no idea.” Sam was tired, in great need of a shower and hurting from head to foot.

Where next, was Sam’s concern now. She’d lost Daniel, when they did find the Colonel he was going to flip his lid and Unas where probably hunting a Goa’uld that had Lt Sanchez as a host.

Griff shuffled up beside her and offered up a plan. “He couldn’t have gotten far, you go on ahead, I’ll double back in case he decided to try and follow us.”

“And we’ll search the perimeter for unconscious bodies.” Jack added, making the quarrelling pair jump.

“Sir?”

“Colonel?” Griff said, nodding at Teal’c.

“You were expecting Jabber-the-hut?” Jack moved out of his cover to stand front and centre in the area where it had hit the fan for the second time that day.

Sam felt like a humvee stuck in neutral. “Sir? You escaped!”

“Yes,” Jack said “got bored waiting for the rescue.”

“We left Daniel here.” Sam blurted before she could stop herself.

“Yes,” Jack clenched his teeth together preventing a slue of filthy words from escaping “but where is he now?”

Sam didn’t have to say anything, her look of remorse mixed with confusion told the story well enough.

“Oh no, no, no, no.” Jack put his hands over his ears.

“He couldn’t have gotten far, not with the state he was in.” Griff said.

“State?” Jack didn’t think he really wanted to know.

“He passed out,” Sam said solemnly, “I didn’t want to take him any further.”

“We must find Daniel Jackson immediately.” Teal’c said.

“Tell me something I don’t know.” Jack quipped.

“What about the ‘gate?” Sam asked.

“Teal’c was tracking Sanchez, we saw him back at the Unas camp.”

“Well I think the Unas are tracking him.” Sam informed them of her theory.

Jack listened and trusted that she knew what she was talking about. Teal’c was alert to the new enemy they faced; it was the best they had under the circumstances. They’re priority was, once again, Daniel.

“Lt Sanchez evaded us not far from this position.” Teal’c added unhelpfully.

“We should get moving.” Sam said.

“Which way-” Jack started to ask which way she suggested since things looked to have gone up shit creek without the paddle, but Teal’c interrupted.

“This way.”

They all left in search of Daniel once again.

____________________________________________________

The thought of whether this was such a hot idea crossed Daniel’s mind intermittently as he made his slow pace through the trees towards what he now hoped was the Stargate. After half an hour of non-stop walking Daniel had given up on catching up with Sam. He’d heard nothing and saw nothing that would indicate anyone had passed through in the last couple of hours and had to face up to the fact he may have gotten himself a touch lost.

Daniel found it odd that that thought wasn’t scaring him as much as he believed it should. He should, by all rights, be freaking out right about now, but then maybe he’d passed the freaking out stage long ago back by the water that second time. Who knew? Not him, that was for sure. Daniel was slowly losing his hold on reality, he was lost in alien woods on an alien planet, and Unas had supposedly taken Jack and Teal’c. Enough said.

What would the Unas want with them? And why were Unas suddenly Gun savvy? Chaka wasn’t a violent Unas – not the gun toting kind anyway – kidnapping him had more to do with cultural traditions than blood thirst. How the Unas managed to arm themselves was yet another good question. These and many, many others were only a small part of what was circling Daniel’s mind, but failing to penetrate any part of the bubble holding him together at the moment.

It really was getting dark now, the temperature having dropped below zero in the last hour. Daniel staggered a little further and collapsed against the nearest tree, needing to catch his breath. He caught his leg against some broken bark, but with the cold, the damp and his own exhaustion getting the better of him, he barely noticed as it cut into his skin. It was then, while Daniel contemplated the red blood seeping through the lower part of his BDU’s that he noticed the complete lack of noise in the forest. Listening to the ragged in and out of his own breath Daniel swiped one hand over his eyes for a second, pinching the bridge of his nose in an effort to remain in firm control, just as he was ready to push off again he heard something. Quickly ducking behind the tree he heard it again. It was getting closer, the sound of something or someone moving through the forest. Now in Daniel’s worn and delirious mind there was no way that it was a good someone. Panicked into action Daniel pushed away from his resting place and ran, pushing every muscle to the limit.

The similarities to his dream last night were too close for him to even risk thinking about. Dark woods, all alone, someone following him. All he needed was the bare feet and his living nightmare would be complete. Daniel tried to keep a steady pace, without making too much racket but for every twig that snapped beneath his feet an echo followed not so far behind him. Remaining calm was fast becoming a delusion, control even more so. Thinking what Jack would do in this situation Daniel diverted his path. He began going on straight ahead, but suddenly veered to the left hoping that it would fool whoever or whatever was following him and he could double back on his own tracks. That was the plan anyway.

A plan that was scuppered the minute Daniel happened upon the shore of yet another body of water.

Oh CRAP! Daniel was so screwed and he knew it. He felt like just falling to the floor and giving up, but he knew Jack would never let him get away with that. Biting his lip in frustration, hard enough to draw blood Daniel wrestled with his options, which where NONE. It was face the thing following him and prey he came out the winner because quite frankly prayer was all he had going for him or risk Goa’uld infestation by taking a dip across shore.

Choices. Choices.

____________________________________________________________

The rain started up again, Peachy. It had been over an hour since they’d set off, once again heading back to the Stargate. Teal’c believed the clearing that lay between where they were now and the Stargate was close by. Only thing they couldn’t find was evidence of Daniel. And that thought left Jack feeling remiss. The weight of desolation that had built up inside him on the reminder of the walk home was dangerously heavy, threatening to over spill if they didn’t catch a break soon.

Carter was babbling in the background, and he let her simply because he knew he didn’t have the heart to shut her up. On point he led the way, with Teal’c almost at his side. Despite the darkness a slice of moon light shone through the ever increasing gap in the trees, and as they approached Jack knew this was the end of the line. All he could hope for now was that Daniel would be sat waiting for them by the Stargate, cool as a cumber and wanting to know why in hell it took so long to get there. Jack was unwelcomingly pulled out of that fantasy when Teal’c held out his arm and directed his attention. Carter kept on talking, completely wrapped up in the retelling of her nightmare hike through the woods with Captain Griff, meanwhile Jack let all other noise fade into a dull monotone in the background, his senses sharpen and heart racing at the sight.

Jack clocked what Teal’c was pointing at and immediately went forth. It was the stupidest thing he had done in a long time, and never as a Colonel in the air force. Was this what being friends with Daniel had made of him? Or was it simply because this mission had to have been one of the most twisted and clichéd of all, which just happened to have Daniel, his friend whom Jack cared immeasurably for front and centre.

Teal’s started to speak; to explain why it was not a good idea for Jack to rush to Daniel’s aid, but Jack didn’t need to be told that it was most likely a trap and cut him off with a curt “I know”.

“Carter shut up and get over here.” Jack commanded quietly.

Sam did as ordered and scurried over, clocking the same sight Jack and previous to him Teal’c had done. “It’s a trap.” She announced with dread.

__________________________________________________________________

Daniel lay still, every bone in his body felt like it was on fire, and as consciousness returned to him he thought that he must of won the lotto because, woe and behold, this was the third time he’d woken to find himself soaking wet and lying on the grass staring at an alien sky. He rolled over, until he was stretched out flat and contemplated what his next move should be. He knew he was on 888. So at least his mind hadn’t left him. He remembered that Jack was missing. Not so good, but at least he was on a roll. Okay, so that left… how the hell he managed to find himself in the middle of a clearing, soaking wet and no memory of getting here. He tried to look around, but it was dark and without his glasses it was of little use trying to see anything recognisable. Daniel was left with little choice other than to get off the floor and work out exactly where he was. Easier said than done.

___________________________________________________________________

They had established that someone had captured Daniel, had strategically placed him in the clearing between the forest and the Stargate in order to draw them out. What Jack couldn’t be sure of was who, Unas? Gould? The tooth fairy?

Carter started to say something behind him, and then he saw Daniel twitch and roll over. If he thought things couldn’t get any worse he was wrong. Whatever had happened Daniel was now waking up and Jack had to do something without letting Daniel’s captors know they were there.

Teal’c shifted forward, ready to attack if necessary. Jack looked around cautiously, sighting something over in the furthest corner, no one else had seen it and for the life of him Jack didn’t know why he wished he hadn’t. He had a feeling about him that he didn’t like, he knew before he could possibly know that something bad had just happened. One of those moments where upon immediate reflection you say to your self, if only I… Jack hated those because it always meant an avoidable mistake had been made, and those kinds of mistakes always cost the dearest.

Jack jumped up, surprising everyone and ran back into the forest. Sam didn’t understand what had set him off, but she quickly took his place and aimed her weapon. Ready for anything.

Jack circled around, coming up on the right and closer to Daniel’s position. Keeping low he inched his way out, as far out as the cover of the forest and darkness allowed. “Daniel!” He whispered. No reply was forthcoming. Jack tried again, putting more urgency into his tone. Daniel shifted but didn’t sit up or look his way. Jack saw no recourse, he had to get closer time was running out.

Daniel thought he heard something, and believed he was hallucinating, until a hand grabbed his wrist and pulled. Daniel found himself back in the wet, but instead of staring at the alien sky he found himself looking up at the familiar and most welcome sight of Jack O’Neill. “Thank god.”

“No just me, but its nice to see you too.” Jack took hold of Daniel under both arms and pulled him back. No one had jumped him but that didn’t mean it wasn’t on the cards. Jack only hoped Teal’c’s spidey sense was at full capacity otherwise this was a very foolish plan indeed.

“Jack what’s going on?” Daniel asked earnestly, still on the ground looking up.

“It’s a long story. More important to focus right now – we’re in a spot of trouble.”

“We are?”

Jack nodded and smiled. He scanned the area, no movement as yet, were they just lucky or had they fallen into a smarter trap than anyone thought possible?

“Jack?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I get up now? It’s damp down here and I think I’ve hurt my head.”

Jack directed his full attention to Daniel, glared at him for a minute then let out a relieved laugh. Daniel was so calm, so himself and so oblivious to his own real pain that Jack had no recourse but to smile and wipe the kid’s tears away, Daniel was too strung out to even notice. They stared at each other for a second then Jack leaned forward to get Daniel up and suddenly the trap was sprung! In the space of the same minute a figure jumped out of the darkness and charged. Jack reacted; he already had hands under Daniel and yanked him backward. Gunfire exploded from several directions and as Jack fell backwards with Daniel his head cracked on the floor. Jack looked up to see several Unas advancing towards them. Oh this can’t be good.

Daniel got his bearings and scooted off, allowing Jack the luxury of sitting up. “Daniel, keep calm okay.”

Daniel agreed merely for the sake of saying something. He was beginning to remember how he got here. “Jack I was at the Lake.”

“What?”

“I was looking for you guys, but then someone was following me. I ran and ended up on the shore again. I was going to swim across when…”

“Daniel?”

“The Unas. We have to trust them Jack. Look…” Daniel pointed behind them where a human body lay. “I think they’ve been trying to protect us.”

Jack wasn’t sure he bought that for one minute, but quickly found he really had little choice in the matter. The Unas indicted they were to stand and the pair did just that, eventually everyone else showed themselves.

“Sir?”

“He’s okay Major.” Jack said neutrally, his gaze locked on the several Unas surrounding them. The body of Lt Sanchez laid unmoving on the floor not ten from where Daniel had been previously.

Griff moved up to get a closer look, and got a growl from one of the Unas in return.

“Jack we should leave.” Daniel announced needlessly.

“Yeah, let’s go.” Jack scoffed, he didn’t need telling twice.

The team took several side steps, creating some distance between them and the gang of Unas, only to find their exit blocked. The Unas grunted and, Jack supposed, what passed for speech. He looked to Daniel for advice because frankly fighting their way passed these guys wasn’t an option for them.

“I think they want us to go with them.” Daniel hedged, frantically trying to get his brain in order and come up with a theory that fit the bizarre turn of events.

“Carter thinks they were tracking Gould.” Jack told him.

Daniel looked to Sam and was silent a little longer, too long. The Unas grunted and spoke again, this time with added had signals. “I think they want to take us to the Stargate.”

Jack shrugged, leaving the floor open for Daniel to work his magic.

Daniel tried to mimic the speech the Unas was using, it was tough going, his mind wasn’t clear and Daniel had no doubt his words were coming out a little slurred, but it appeared as though the Unas understood and with their new escorts SG-1 made their way towards the Stargate. The sun had nearly completely set casting a red hue over the now open ground, the Stargate was in sight. The three Unas who had set the trap were still leading the way and Jack had to wonder what the hell had made them change their tune. Were they the same Unas from the cave or were they the ones they had taken him and Teal’c? The mind boggled.

Less than a mile to the Stargate and the Unas came to a halt. They chunted something that Jack assumed Daniel might have caught, though looking as dopey as he was Jack doubted Daniel was taking in much of anything right now. Looking down on the ‘gate Jack could see Captain Pierce guarding the DHD with Major Wade from SG-3. It seemed SG-2 had managed to report back after all. Attention drawn back to their guides Jack noted the body language, there was no mistaking the after you gesture and even Jack could see the Unas were politely telling them to get the hell off their planet. He saluted the threesome, quite happy to comply. Jack sensed, more so than saw, Daniel start to say something and swiftly grabbed a fistful of SGC jacket and yanked him forward, down the hill.

“I wonder.”

“Wonder what?” Jack asked after several seconds where Daniel didn’t continue his sentence.

“The Unas.”

“What about them?”

“Well they’re obviously intelligent. They learnt pretty quickly how to use our weapons and though their methods I admit were a little strange I think they were only trying to help us.”

“So?”

“So, maybe it would be worth coming back here, try and communicate with them, understand them.”

Jack turned to look at Carter and Teal’c who were following close behind with Griff sandwiched between them, to see if they were listening to this.

“Daniel you’ve got a head injury.”

“So?”

“So I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear a word you just said.”

"Business as usual then” Daniel stated.

Jack laughed out loud and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. Daniel’s step faltered, and when he didn’t automatically compensate Jack brought the procession to a temporary halt.

“What’s wrong with your leg?”

Daniel wouldn’t look at him. ‘So he’s going to play that game is he?’ Jack shook his head and dragged Daniel the last few feet, reaching Major Wades position. “Major, report!”

“Colonel O’Neill, it’s damn good to see you sir, Dr Jackson.” Wade smiled at Daniel.

“Hi.” Daniel replied half-hearted.

Jack shuffled them past Major wade, closer to the DHD, Daniel practically hopping now and dropped him to the ground none too gently. Daniel let out an ‘ow’ of protest that Jack steadily ignored while he moved away to converse with Pierce, Wade and the rest of SG-1.

Daniel watched them with disinterest. His head hurt, his leg hurt, everything hurt. It hurt so much that he really couldn’t care less if Jack was mad at him, really he couldn’t. Before he could register the passing time Daniel saw Jack walking back over to him.

“So, the leg?” Jack stared down at him, despite the dirt and his dishevelled state Jack still managed to look menacing as he loomed over him.

“I tripped okay?” Daniel huffed. “I was looking for you, you know, trying not to sit around all helpless and actually thought I might be able to help. Anyway I got lost, fell and may have cut my leg. Happy?”

“Oh Daniel, what the hell am I going to do with you?” Jack asked teasingly.

Daniel, grimacing through the new pain shooting up his leg fighting for dominance over the pain in his head, managed a smile. “Lock me up and throw away the key?”

“It’s tempting.” Jack smiled back, crouching down to examine the damage done to Daniel’s leg. “Doesn’t look too bad. Janet should be able to sort it out, no problems. I think you’re going to live Danny boy!” Jack looked back up just in time to see the smile quickly disappear from Daniel’s face. “Hey,” he reached out one hand, taking Daniel’s chin roughly in his palm. “What’s wrong?”

“YOU’RE always rescuing ME.”

“Would you prefer it if I didn’t?” Jack laughed at, not only the petulant tone, but at the pout Daniel was currently sporting.

Daniel didn’t laugh however, which sobered Jack up pretty quickly. “Okay, what’s your point?”

“No real point. Only you needed the rescue this time and I was such a liability Sam had no choice but to leave me behind. I should have been the one to rescue you.” Daniel whined, jabbing his finger in the middle of Jack’s chest. He was feeling miserable because he always seemed to come off as utterly incapable whenever it came to Jack.

Jack didn’t see much point in telling Daniel he was wrong because just from looking Jack could see he wasn’t himself. Either it was one too many smacks to the head, the possible blood loss from the gash in his leg, low blood sugar or simply he was burnt out and completely fed up. In any case Daniel was acting as dopey as someone who’d had a few too many, and Jack doubted he’d remember much of these last few hours once they got him home to Janet and the good drugs.

“Daniel, I honestly don’t mind being the one to come to your rescue, I have no problem rescuing a ‘Daniel’ in distress.”

“That’s not funny Jack.” Daniel said.

“Seriously Daniel, I’d prefer not to have to do it so often, but when you do need rescuing you can bet your ass I want to be the one to do it. Twice on the same mission is pushing it though.” Jack, honest as ever, gave Daniel his best reassuring smile.

“Thanks, I’m assuming you weren’t insulting me there.” Daniel said dryly, matching Jack’s smile with a small one of his own.

“C’mon,” Jack stood himself up first then offered Daniel his hand, “Fraiser’s gonna be pissed as hell when she sees what I’ve let happen to you.”

Daniel, still sat on his butt, stared at the hand in front of him. After a minute’s contemplation he took a firm hold and let Jack pull him up.

“Sir, we’re ready when you are!” Carter shouted from behind the DHD.

“On our way Major.”

At the ‘gate Teal’c busied himself by using the zip wire on Captain Griff, securing his hands enough so holding any kind of weapon would be impossible. Jack watched him do it and knew exactly what he had to do himself.

“So I save the famous SG-1 and I get tied up for my trouble.”

Teal’c didn’t acknowledge the comment and went so far as to give Griff a push towards the front of the Stargate.

“I promise it won’t be for long.” Jack said cryptically, to no one in particular.

Daniel was so dazed he hadn’t registered anything until the cool plastic made contact with the grazed skin around his wrist and he yanked his hands away in reflex.

Jack caught him before any words could be said, and with only one well placed looked attached the zip wire without further protest.

“I suppose I should have seen this coming.” Daniel sighed, knowing his trauma was by no means over yet.

Jack didn’t answer; his guilt was enough for one mission. Carter dialled Earth then stood back, letting Teal’c trail Griff through first. She then smiled at Daniel, offering her arm for support. With Jack on one side and Sam on the other Daniel wearily trudged through the Stargate, finally headed home.

________________________________________________________________________________

Daniel was lying on what he affectionately dubbed the conveyabelt for what felt like a day and a half. Of course his sense of time was all screwed up due to being held captive for two days then being rescued but it seeming like being captive for another two days on top of that. Daniel told himself to just shut up and relax because either he was having an extra cynical day today or his experience had sent him insane. It was a fifty-fifty toss up really.

“Relax Daniel.” Jack said calmly and squeezed his palm.

Daniel squeezed back. He’d had his eyes closed since lying down on the MRI bed. Looking at the ceiling with all its bright, glaring, intrusive lights was just too much light in his dark, depressed, pain filled world. His eyesight wasn’t worth a damn either.

“I’m trying. It’s kind of hard to relax when you’re lying flat on your back wearing a paper dress.”

“For the last time Daniel it is not a dress. Stop complaining.”

“You’d be complaining too if you weren’t wearing underwear…”

“Oh for… I don’t want to know.” Jack speared the nurse who was giving Daniel a curious look. “Thank you.” He said bitter-sweetly. The nurse had enough sense to leave.

“I mean what is with that? I’m sure that’s not proper procedure.”

“You’re going to be fine Daniel. Believe me.” Jack tapped his arm this time.

“I know.” Daniel managed to say. It was convincing to an extent, but Jack wasn’t some shrub who just took him at his word. Having the thought that his mind might not actually be HIS was a scary one. It was entirely possible, and the worst thing was he probably wouldn’t know anything until the Gould took over and he no longer had control over his own body.

“I’d know if you were Gould.” Jack said emphatically.

“I KNOW”. Daniel took a deep breath and opened his eyes looking up at Jack shyly. “Sorry, didn’t mean to yell at you. Have a headache.”

The tech started the machine and as Daniel was moved into the tube, he could hear Jack shouting, “Let’s hope that’s just a brain injury!”

It was always nice to have a comforting presence when going through these things.

________________________________________________________________________________

“Well why did they take you?”

“Good question. Don’t know. Let’s go.” Jack stood anxiously at the door of Daniel’s office. Daniel had come out of the MRI clean as a whistle, not even a head injury. Everything that had had Jack worried turned out to be nothing more than stress and exhaustion. The headache was even just that. A headache.

“No wait a minute,” Daniel stopped packing things from his desk “there has to be a reason – I mean they went to a lot of trouble to just take you two, why?”

“Daniel please, we’re free now it doesn’t matter.”

Daniel acted like he hadn’t heard. “Maybe they thought you were Gould.”

“What? Why would they think that?” Jack appeared distracted, constantly checking the hallway as if he was expecting something drastic to happen in the next five minutes that would prevent them from leaving. He had always been edgy about leaving since the Asgard / replicater incident.

“Think about it…you were leading us, therefore indicating the strongest threat. Same with Teal’c. Now what predator goes after the strongest opponents leaving the weakest to escape?” Daniel began packing away again.

“Ones trying to self-protect, not attack? Believing by taking the strongest out first the biggest threat would be eliminated. ” Daniel blinked at him, surprised he was even following the same track and Jack felt the need to explain. “I saw it on an X Files episode once.”

Daniel considered a jibe, but chose not to press the issue. “Animal instincts don’t work like that, that kind of thinking suggests a higher form of intelligence... don’t you find that fascinating?”

“Fascinating?” Jack shrugged; he didn’t know and really didn’t care.

“It’s proof that the Unas are not simply animal predators. They are capable of processed thought.”

“Daniel!” Jack held up Daniel’s laptop that he had been carrying and threatened to drop it if he didn’t give it a rest.

“Okay, okay I’ll stop, but I still think this planet is worth keeping an eye on.” Daniel said as he raced to the door before Jack could make good on the threat.

“For the Unas.”

“Yes.”

“Fine, write up a proposal and put it to the General – no promises.” He agreed grudgingly.

“Thanks Jack.” Daniel grinned mischievously and walked out into the hall, arms full of crap he’d decided he desperately needed to take home.

“Yeah, yeah.” Jack flicked off the lights to Daniel’s office and quickly shut the door.

Jack wasn’t sure why or how, but he had a sick feeling deep in the pit of his stomach that told him he would live to regret the day he allowed Daniel to keep involved with the Unas of 888.

Fin.

 

 

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.