-1-

Warning klaxons blaring overhead, Daniel Jackson raced, panic-stricken, through the halls on Level 28, headed towards the gate room. As he turned the corner, on the final approach to his destination, he stopped short, nearly tumbling over the first of the bodies that littered his path. Gasping now more from shock than exertion, Daniel stared, mouth and eyes agape, at the carnage. He recognized some of the dead; others were nameless – all were victims sacrificed on the altar of his past.

Picking his way gingerly through the corpses, some of whom stared at him with harsh, accusing eyes, he bit his lip to stifle the cry of outrage he longed to let loose. The klaxons continued screaming, the sound becoming an obscene dirge for the poor souls lost in this conflict he alone should be fighting.

Nearing the entrance to the control room, Daniel pressed his back against the wall and adjusted his grip on the Beretta he clasped in stiff, sweaty hands. Sending up a silent prayer to a God he wasn’t sure he believed in, he turned and cautiously peered around the doorway. His guttural moan of despair was unheard, even by the friend he had just encountered on the stairs.

“I’m so sorry, Sam,” he whispered as he passed her lifeless form, stalking resolutely for the opened doors of the gate room.

Crossing the threshold, he raised his arms, bringing the gun to bear on the one who had waged this battle.

“Let him go,” Daniel growled, his eyes riveted to those of the willowy strawberry blond whose fingers were tangled in the silver strands of his lover’s hair. Jack O’Neill hung limply from her grasp, his dark eyes closed in fatigue or unconsciousness. He did not even stir at the sound of Daniel’s voice.

“You belong to me, Daniel,” Sarah Gardner sneered, tightening her grip on Jack. “But it seems that the only way you will accept that is if I eliminate my competition.” Snaking her free hand under her gold-tone diaphanous robe, Sarah reached behind her and produced a long, narrow dagger. The harsh lights of the gate room glittered off the blade creating incongruous splashes of sparkling beauty against the bleak concrete walls.

Before Daniel could react, Sarah yanked Jack’s head back and drew the dagger across his throat. The initial spurt of blood immediately ebbed into a steady flow of red, a rapidly increasing pool signifying the release of Jack’s life force.

“NO!” Daniel screamed. Falling to his knees, he dropped his gun and placed impotent hands against Jack’s neck, his fingers swiftly covered by the scarlet torrent.

Sarah let go her hold on Jack and stepped back, her lip curled self-satisfied at the near-lifeless body slumped cumbersomely against a despondent Daniel, whose tortured cry still echoed around the gate room.

“You are mine, Daniel,” Sarah jeered triumphantly.

*****

Daniel shot upright in bed, instinctively reaching for his mate. His hands fell on the cold, empty sheets instead of warm flesh, and his quickly fading nightmare was instantly replaced by the reality of the previous night’s unpleasantness. Roughly scraping tears from his cheeks, he fell back into the pillows and rolled on his side, slapping bitterly at the bleating alarm on the floor beside his bed, which, in his dreams, had become the SGC klaxons.

He flopped onto his back. Draping a long arm over still-tired eyes, Daniel pulled in deep, shaky breaths and willed his rapidly beating heart to calm. Unbidden, the memory of Jack’s angry voice invaded his attempt at peace.

 

// “I can’t believe you’d answer a call from your former lover while your current lover – who, in case it slipped your mind, just fucked you soundly – is lying in your arms.”

Closing his eyes wearily, Daniel punched the cordless phone’s off button and replaced the handset back in the charging cradle. He tugged peevishly at the waistband of his boxers before turning to his lover.

“What am I supposed to do, Jack?” Returning to the bed, Daniel sat heavily, resting a hand on Jack’s bare hip, his gaze raking the older man’s still-firm midsection. “Sarah needs someone right now. It’s my fault she became host to Osiris in the first place.” He lifted pleading eyes, the tone of his voice likewise begging understanding. “How can I not help her get through the turmoil her life has become as a result?”

Patently disinclined to impart such understanding, Jack shoved roughly at his lover’s hand, remorselessly breaking the intimate contact, and rolled away from Daniel. Pulling himself into a sitting position, Jack snatched his sweatpants off the bottom corner of the bed, and taking advantage of his momentum, swung his legs over the opposite side.

“The Tok’ra say she’s fine, Daniel,” he spat, savagely thrusting first one leg and then the other into his sweats. “It’s been more than four months since they took the Goa’uld out of her head.”

Jack pushed himself to his feet, yanked his pants into place, and stomped around the bed, halting in front of the younger man. “In that time she’s had extensive psychotherapy, treatments with the Tok’ra memory device, the best medical care your tax dollars can buy…” Holding his fingers aloft, Jack lowered them in turn; one for each means of assistance Sarah had received.

“She needs a friend,” Daniel said simply.

“No, what she needs is to control you. Again.” Flapping his arms in exasperation, Jack turned and paced a few steps before whirling on Daniel, gesturing wildly. “Isn’t this the same woman you said was manipulative and hurtful? The same one who refused to be put off when you declined her suggestion of involvement then became sexually aggressive when you finally gave in?”

“That was a lifetime ago, and it has nothing to do with this.” Daniel tightened his lips in irritation, hating the defensive tone that always dominated his voice when they talked about Sarah.

“It has everything to do with this!” Jack barked, resuming his pacing. “Not three hours ago we sat on your back patio and enjoyed a romantic dinner while we watched the sun set. Then we retired to the bedroom where, I gotta tell ya, we made some of the best love I have ever experienced. But, the post coital glow hadn’t even dimmed when who should call but your old girlfriend.” He stopped in front of Daniel and raised his forefinger meaningfully. “And, may I add, not for the first time this week.”

“You make it sound like she knew we were in bed together.” Daniel stood quickly, his anger at Jack’s unreasonableness fading the instant Jack took an instinctive step backward. He dipped his head and cinched his eyes tight, rubbing at the ache blossoming between them. Sighing heavily, he straightened, determinedly meeting the older man’s cross gaze, his own beseeching. “She’s been through a terrible ordeal, Jack, all because of her association with me.” 

“Oh, yeah, I’ll bet she’s played that guilt card a couple of times, too, huh?”

Daniel stared, open-mouthed at his lover’s undisguised animosity, his eyes pinched dolefully.

Rigid expression softening at the younger man’s distressed mien, Jack reached out, clasping Daniel’s hands in his own. Sitting on the edge of the mattress, Jack pulled Daniel towards him, smiling sadly when his lover resisted briefly before finally taking a seat next to him.

“Listen,” Jack said calmly once Daniel was settled, “I’ve been doing some research, and –”

Daniel’s brows arched, wrinkling his forehead significantly. “You did research?”

“It’s not unheard of,” Jack returned, trying and not quite succeeding in keeping impatience out of the response. “I found some interesting stuff on what’s called ‘Obsessive Ex Syndrome.’”

“Jack,” Daniel drawled warningly. Pulling his hands out of Jack’s grasp, he folded his arms against his chest.

“Daniel, just hear me out, okay?” Jack snapped, holding up a hand to forestall Daniel’s objections. Despite his lover’s nearly closed-off manner, Jack took a deep breath and pressed on.

“Now, from what I’ve read, I’m not sure if it’s an officially recognized disorder.” Jack rested his hand on Daniel’s arm when the younger man tightened his lips and shifted as if to rise. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Gazing unwaveringly into the hard blue eyes locked to his, Jack reflexively licked his lips. “I think what we have here is a case of attachment obsession,” he said, pulling back slightly when Daniel’s eyes narrowed. “The Obsessor wants her partner back, wants things the way they were, or if that’s not possible she wants to possess or control –”

Daniel relaxed his self-hug, shaking his head sorrowfully. Shoving away from the bed, he stumbled to his feet. “I’m not going to abandon her, Jack,” he bit over his shoulder. “I can’t believe you’d ask me to.”

His posture slumped in exhaustion, Jack closed his eyes. Rubbing his fingertips roughly over his forehead, he exhaled forcefully and stood, moving behind Daniel. Reaching out tentatively, he gripped the younger man’s shoulders.

“Hey,” he uttered softly, guiding Daniel against him.

Sighing tiredly, Daniel relaxed into his lover and Jack wound his arms around the well-muscled form.

“I know you can’t just abandon her,” Jack murmured next to Daniel’s ear, taking no pains to hide his discontented scowl. “How about… ask her to back off a little.”

Daniel covered Jack’s hands with his own, squeezing firmly. Leaning his head back on his lover’s strong shoulder, he turned his head to the side, nuzzling into the hollow beneath Jack’s jawline.

“Jack,” he breathed.

Both men stiffened, the phone’s clamorous hail bursting intrusively into the quiet of their hard won harmony. Waiting transfixed while Daniel’s recorded voice intoned the usual greeting, Jack loosened his hold, forcefully tugging his hands from Daniel’s grasp, as soon as he heard Sarah Gardner speak his lover’s name.

“Daniel,” the disembodied voice said, Sarah’s peculiar inflection giving undue emphasis to the first syllable.

“Don’t answer it,” Jack rasped.

“Daniel, please,” the voice begged desperately. “If you’re there, please pick up.”

Daniel took a step towards the phone.

“Don’t,” Jack pleaded as Daniel lifted the handset, looking away when Daniel turned apologetic eyes on him.

“Sarah, I’m here. Hold on a minute, okay?” Placing his hand firmly over the mouthpiece, Daniel looked sadly upon the intransigent figure standing before him.

“Maybe you should go,” he said.

“I don’t think that –”

“Jack, I don’t want to argue with you any more tonight. Just go, please. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Holding Daniel’s steady gaze for a moment, Jack bowed his head in resignation. He leaned over the bed and snagged his T-shirt, balling it tightly in his agitated hands. Taking two steps backward, he turned to leave as Daniel raised the phone to his ear.

“Sarah, I’m here,” Daniel said watching, his lover’s back recede until he turned the corner at the end of the hall and was gone. //

 

“Damn it!” Curling his fingers, Daniel angrily thumped his fist against his thigh. Blindly extending the hand, he caressed Jack’s pillow, wishing it were the grizzled head beneath his fingers, rather than the cotton pillowcase. He pulled the pillow toward him, lifted it, and placed it over his face, inhaling deeply of Jack’s unique scent – an odd combination of woodsy aftershave and dandruff shampoo. The corners of his lips turned up at the warmth the fragrance infused into his chilled heart.

But the contentment was short-lived, and Daniel flung the pillow away, kicked off the covers, and dragged himself into a sitting position. Sliding his legs over the side of the bed, he held his head in his hands, the migraine that had assailed him shortly after Jack’s departure still knocking against his forehead. He rubbed at the pain, nimble fingers digging harshly into his scalp.

Now that he was upright, his sinuses also complained. Knuckling an eye, he grimaced at the moisture adhering to his lashes then gingerly squeezed the bridge of his nose. Daniel did not easily give in to despair, but the dream had been so powerful, twanging nerves hyper-sensitized from his earlier confrontation with his lover. Increasing the pressure, he reminded himself why he hated crying; tears irritated sensitive sinus membranes, making them swollen and clogged.

Lifting his tee shirt, he slipped a few fingers under the waistband of his pajamas and scratched his hip. “God, what a night,” he moaned. The fight with Jack was bad enough, but there were layers to that nightmare I really don’t want to uncover.’

Yet, like a tongue poking unrelentingly at a painful tooth, his mind insisted on ruminating over the events in his dream.

‘Sarah was dressed in the same gold outfit Osiris wore at the Goa’uld summit. But in the dream she was Sarah, I’m sure of it.’  Pressing his fingertips into his temples, Daniel shuddered. ‘Which makes it even more disturbing that she would kill Jack to possess me.’

Recalling Teal’c’s interest in dream interpretation, Daniel wondered what the Jaffa would have to say about this nightmare.

‘He’d probably tell me that the dream is a reflection of my fear of losing Jack because of this guilt-driven need I have to help Sarah.’  Shaking his head, he laughed bitterly. ‘But Teal’c doesn’t know the full history. It’s much more complicated than that.’

Closing his eyes against his discomfort and heart-sick weariness, Daniel snatched his glasses from beneath his pillow and, slipping them onto his face, dragged himself to his feet. Inhaling deeply through barely opened lips, he forced the air back out in a rushing whoosh, and stalked determinedly into the bathroom.

After emptying his bladder, he turned on the shower. Leaving the water to warm, he headed back out through the bedroom, his ultimate destination the kitchen.

Even through his congestion, the aroma of coffee tickled his senses as he stepped into the hallway. “Thank God for timers,” he muttered, grateful that he wouldn’t have to wait for his caffeine fix.

Plodding into the kitchen, Daniel went directly to the source of the enticing smell. Sliding his favorite oversized mug from its little niche on his counter, he filled it, and quickly gulped half the contents. He topped off the cup and ambled back to the bathroom.

Deliberately closing the door behind him to retain the heat and steam beneficial to his sinuses, Daniel unconsciously punched the lock with his thumb.

He shuffled to the sink, slurping more coffee before setting the mug down on the bathroom counter. Glancing apathetically in the mirror, he absently noted his pale, haggard features. He tugged the medicine cabinet open, snagged the bottle of Tylenol, and firmly pushed the cabinet closed.

Wresting the container open, Daniel dumped three pills into his palm and tossed them into his mouth. Awkwardly bending over the sink, he cupped one hand under the faucet, turning on the water with the other. He filled his mouth with the tepid liquid, swallowed convulsively, and shut off the tap. Leaning heavily on his elbows, he rested his forehead against his damp palm and groaned.

As Daniel came upright, a flash of bright light erupted behind him. Staring spellbound at the beam’s reflection, Daniel startled into action as the form of a tall, dark man, dressed entirely in black, coalesced out of the radiance.

Keeping his eyes on the figure in the mirror, Daniel reached for one of the long-necked, bluish-purple hued glass bottles of scented bath salts that Sam had given him for his last birthday. Wrapping a hand firmly around the container, he whirled and swung the bottle backward, striking it against the faux-marble counter.

“Just, stay right there,” Daniel cautioned, waving the broken end at the stranger, warding him off as he stepped gingerly through the indigo shards, making his way towards the door.

Sneering disdainfully, the man raised his left hand, displaying a ribbon device, the orange glow of the crystal accompanied by the familiar buzz-hum of activation.

Daniel slashed out and succeeded in wounding his adversary, sending tiny droplets of red to join the dark glass on the floor. Jarred loose by its impact with the exposed portion of the man’s palm, the bottle tumbled downward, shattering explosively.

Now defenseless, Daniel turned, heedless of the potential damage to his feet, and ran towards the door.

Growling savagely, the stranger reached out. Curling his hand around Daniel’s shoulder, he effortlessly tossed the archaeologist against the tiled wall.

As his body impacted the unforgiving surface, Daniel’s head smacked with a sickening thud. He was unconscious before he hit the floor. His glasses, shattered and twisted from the concussive force, slid along the wall, their forward motion halted by the padded doorstop imbedded in the floor.

The stranger glided over to his victim, a smug grin adorning his face. Looking contemptuously down his nose at Daniel’s unconscious frame, he bent regally and roughly prodded the shoulder nearest him, then fingered the sleeve of Daniel’s tee shirt.

Standing tall again, the intruder raised his be-ribboned hand and pressed the opposite palm against a button imbedded in the top of the device. A bright light built seemingly from within the man’s body, becoming blindingly bright before it shot skyward, taking the man with it.

Seconds later, Daniel was enveloped in a similar light, and when it disappeared, Daniel was gone.

-2- 

Periodically tapping his fingers on the top of the briefing room table, Jack leaned back in his chair and stared intently at the door through which he expected Daniel to enter at any moment. Moving his eyes imperceptibly, he glanced at the large clock near the door. The briefing had been scheduled for 0900; it was now 0912.

Not that Daniel hadn’t been late for meetings before – just never the morning after he and Jack had had a serious argument.

Jack’s level of irritation increased incrementally with each measured movement of the clock’s second hand. Closing his eyes briefly, Jack stifled a disgusted grunt as an imagine formed in the darkness: Daniel lying uneasily in his bed – the bed they had just made love in – phone cradled to his ear, talking soothingly to an apparently distraught Sarah, who refused to be comforted by the palliative utterances offered to her.

Yeah, that was the pattern all right. Sarah would boohoo all over Daniel, wailing about how her life had been so much better before she was taken by the Goa’uld – especially when she and Daniel were together. And Daniel would apologize all over himself for not redirecting his life to help her relive those glory days – actually feeling guilty that he couldn’t give Sarah what she so vehemently insisted she needed.

‘Gah! The bitch is playing him. Why can’t he see that?’

Jack’s hands reflexively balled into fists, the tapping converting to rapping. Slow, steady, forceful.

“O’Neill.”

Startled from his preoccupation by the deep, resonant intoning of his name, Jack opened his eyes and sat up. He blinked vacantly for a moment, until the ethereal outlines before him solidified into his teammates’ twin expressions of concern, both directed at him.

“Sir, are you all right?” Sam asked.

“I’m fine, Carter,” Jack snapped. “Just wondering where the hell Daniel is.”

Sam’s mouth tightened and she glanced at Teal’c. “Do you want me to call him?”

Jack glared at his watch. 0914. Spinning his chair, he spied the general, who was still on the phone in his office. Even from this distance Hammond’s scowl of dissatisfaction was plainly evident.

“See if he’s checked in upstairs,” Jack said, turning back to his 2IC. “If not, call and see if he’s even made it out of bed yet.”

“You don’t think he’d sleep through a briefing?”

“You know what he’s like, Carter. He probably stayed up half the night following some fascinating linguistic trail and collapsed into bed two or three hours ago.”

“Even so, he wouldn’t…” Sam’s attempt to defend Daniel faltered in the face of the black look the colonel pinned her with. “I’ll be right back.” Sending a meaningful glance Teal’c’s way, Sam retreated to the safety of the hallway to make her calls.

Glowering after her swiftly moving form, still Jack did not miss the imposing figure that moved soundlessly to stand beside him.

Knowing he couldn’t put off Daniel’s Jaffa champion nearly as easily as he had Carter, Jack steeled himself for a question and answer period he was not inclined to participate in. He breathed a silent prayer of thanks when Hammond chose that moment to emerge from his office.

“I apologize for the delay. Some days it’s hardly worth getting out of bed,” Hammond complained.

“Apparently Daniel had the same thought,” Jack muttered to the table. He glanced up, his eyes following Teal’c, who made his way to the opposite side of the table.

Pausing mid-stride, Teal’c turned to regard O’Neill. His brow, initially raised in surprise, swiftly plummeted, joining its twin in an uneasy scowl over the Jaffa’s piercing eyes.

Taking in Teal’c’s troubled face, Hammond frowned thoughtfully for a moment, turning finally to SG-1’s team leader. “Colonel?”

Jack grazed the Jaffa with an irritated squint before shifting toward the general and clearing his throat. “Daniel hasn’t shown up yet, sir. Carter’s gone to see if she can track him down.”

“Afraid I had no luck, sir.” Sam stalked back into the briefing room, coming to a halt behind Teal’c. “He’s not on base. I tried his house and his cell phone. He didn’t answer either.”

“Did Dr. Jackson go home last night?”

“Yes, sir, he did.” Jack stood abruptly. “With your permission, sir, I’d like to go to his house, see if I can find out why he didn’t come in.”

Hammond swept Teal’c and Major Carter with a curious gaze then motioned towards the door. “Well, since his input is necessary to this briefing… all right, Colonel. Let me know what you find.”

“Yes, sir.” Taking Hammond’s words as a dismissal, Jack stalked determinedly towards the exit.

As the colonel rounded the corner into the hallway, the remaining members of SG-1 turned expectantly to the general, clearly anxious to follow their leader.

Noting Major Carter’s eager stance, Hammond immediately identified with her desire to join the search for her absent teammate. He smiled sadly, hoping he projected his regret that her duty to the program would have to take precedence over her concern for her friend.

“Major, if you have a moment, the Pentagon bean counters had a few questions about the costs of reproducing the ion drive you obtained from Warrick.”

Schooling her initially crestfallen features, Carter came to attention. “Of course, sir.”

Nodding for the major to precede him to his office, Hammond called over his shoulder, “Teal’c, you’re dismissed.”

Teal’c bowed and turned sharply, his pace elongated in his haste to reach SG-1’s locker room. O’Neill would stop there to change into civilian clothing before leaving the base to determine the whereabouts of Daniel Jackson. And Teal’c intended to accompany the colonel on his mission.

*****

Jack slammed his locker closed with an explosive curse. Whirling towards the exit, he found his way impeded by a Jaffa-shaped roadblock.

“I won’t need back up, Teal’c.” Steadfastly meeting Teal’c’s penetrating gaze, Jack’s tone was equally firm.

“I believe it is Daniel Jackson who may require my assistance.”

Jack’s face contorted, his lips twisting as though he had actually tasted the sour tang of his friend’s words. “It’s that obvious, huh?”

“That your displeasure with Daniel Jackson involves more than his tardiness this morning.”

Jack raised his brow slightly at the form of Teal’c’s response – a question disguised as a statement. Sighing heavily, he dropped onto the nearest bench, head hanging between his shoulders.

Teal’c came before him in one long stride, standing sentry-like, silently guarding his friend’s solitude, until the other man was ready to confess the source of his ire.

“He’s still taking Sarah’s calls,” Jack told the floor. “We fought about it last night and I stormed out.” Raising his head, he found in Teal’c’s eyes everything he could not offer to himself: acceptance, forgiveness, pardon.

“You believe Daniel Jackson wishes to resume his relationship with Sarah Gardner?”

Hearing his baseless suspicions voiced in Teal’c’s matter-of-fact manner, Jack realized that he really had no doubt of Daniel’s fidelity.

“No,” he said emphatically. “But I don’t trust Sarah.” Jack’s brows drew tight in irritation, his mouth hard and pinched. “Daniel refuses to believe it, but I think she’s obsessed with him.”

Teal’c quirked his brow curiously.

Shaking his head to ward off the unspoken question, Jack leapt to his feet. “I have to talk to Daniel. Alone.”

“Perhaps it would be best were I to accompany you,” Teal’c opined, taking a step in Jack’s direction.

Jack placed a hand on the Jaffa’s broad chest, deliberately softening his stern features. “T, this is something between me and Daniel. It’s personal, okay?”

When Teal’c continued to glare at him, Jack’s lips turned up in a thankful grin. “It’s okay. I’m not really angry at Daniel. It’s just this whole… situation that has my hackles up. But thanks for looking out for him.”

Sensing the taut muscles beneath his hand relax, Jack waited just long enough for Teal’c to bow acquiescence, before he turned and marched quickly out of the locker room.

-3-

Upon his return to consciousness, two sensations warred for Daniel’s attention: blinding pain and debilitating nausea.

His brain told him to lay still, assess the damage to his body and move as little as possible. His stomach nixed that idea, sending hot, acrid fluid up his esophagus, insisting he twist convulsively to eject the foul substance or risk choking on it.

Turning weakly away from the pool of coffee-colored vomit, Daniel gasped short, shallow breaths. Some un-evacuated bile retreated down his throat making him cough harshly.

His exertions awakened heretofore unimagined dimensions of agony. His left hip and shoulder screamed at him to shift his weight off of them, and Daniel laboriously eased himself onto his back, whimpering unashamedly when the movement produced spikes of torment behind his eyes.

Lax hands resting just under his ribcage, Daniel perceived that the weight pressing against his diaphragm was abnormally heavy. Unable just yet to lift his head, he dragged his hands towards his face, the move accompanied by an eerily familiar clatter and a crawling sensation across his skin. Raising both hands into view, he cursed at the manacles encircling his wrists and the foot long chain binding them together.

His stomach again threatening to rebel, Daniel shifted. His limbs heavy and uncooperative, he finally settled on his right side. Turning so his shoulder blade rested flat on the floor, he clutched his arms to his chest and cinched his eyes tight against the nausea.

Finally, his gut quieted, and Daniel swallowed reflexively, the meager bit of saliva he managed to produce barely wetting his painfully parched throat. Flicking his useless tongue over uncomfortably dry lips, the sweep failing to deposit any significant moisture, Daniel wished for the merest drop of water from the shower that was undoubtedly still running at his house.

Ceasing all activity save breathing, he lay panting, silently commanding all but his lungs to take five. But his restive brain refused to obey, spinning madly around the events that had brought him here.

Almost as soon as his discomfort forced him back to full cognizance, Daniel had remembered the attack in his bathroom. By a tall, dark and, admittedly, handsome stranger – boy, whoever thought up that clichéd romantic notion had obviously never had one literally drop in on them – who had seemingly come riding an Asgard beam, not to woo him, but to… what?

It seemed apparent that he had been abducted by a Goa’uld; it took very little brain power to figure that out. The question was, which Goa’uld and why.

‘Actually, that’s two questions,’ Jack’s voice chided in his head.

As his temples began pounding in tandem with his heartbeat, Daniel closed his eyes and covered his face with his hand, twitching involuntarily when the chain slithered against his neck. Slipping his fingers across his sweat-slicked forehead, he slowly walked them over the surface of his scalp. Stumbling upon an unnatural bulge above his left ear, Daniel hissed. Wriggling the digits anxiously, he gingerly probed the protuberance, making note of the tacky substance coating the hair surrounding the bump.

Slowly, Daniel lowered his hand and opened his eyes. Squinting against the too-bright light, he pulled a face at the blood staining his fingertips, more from the spike in pain the visual confirmation caused than from the blood itself.

Lowering his hands to his chest, Daniel rolled his eyes, sighing in resignation. Rubbing a thumb over his flushed skin, he decided there was no point in continuing to deny a fact that had registered during his awkward squirm to his current position, but which, in the jumble of his other concerns, had been shoved to the back of his mind. At some point during his incapacity, his shirt has been removed.

“At least he let me keep my pants,” Daniel breathed, closing his eyes wearily.

No sooner had his eyelids sealed out the light, than they flew up again, blinking rapidly. With sudden dismay, Daniel insanely questioned whether his head injury could have skewed his impression that his lower half had been left undisturbed. Chewing his bottom lip, he hesitantly extended his arms, pulling the left one back when his shoulder complained. Stretching out his right hand, he moaned in relief when his fingertips brushed the soft cotton of his pajama pants. He wasn’t totally naked.

“That’s one mark on the plus side,” he muttered.

Taking a page from the Jack O’Neill book of situation assessment, Daniel glanced around him, squinting myopically, and observed that he was only two or three feet from the wall. The garishly gold, glyph-encrusted wall.

After a few false starts – each punctuated by colorful curses - Daniel finally managed to drag his fiercely resisting body to the wall. Using his uninjured arm he awkwardly pushed himself into a sitting position, careful to avoid scraping his back against the protruding Goa’uld symbols.

Resting gingerly against the knotted surface, Daniel closed his eyes to wait out dizziness and nausea, the payment his body had demanded for his successful efforts.

Once the buzzing in his ears died down and the room stopped spinning, Daniel carefully opened his eyes again. His left hip and shoulder were still whining so he kept his weight shifted to the right. At least, it appeared, nothing was broken; otherwise, he probably would not have been able to move at all.

“Hey, how’s that for positive thinking, Jack?” Daniel grunted, smiling in spite of his circumstances at the memory of his lover’s self-proclamation to the title of ‘Mr. Positive.’ The smile was short-lived.

“God, Jack, I’m sorry,” he croaked, realizing that Jack would have a hard time remaining upbeat when he opened Daniel’s bathroom door and surveyed the evidence of the archaeologist’s struggle with his abductor. Not to mention the absence of said archaeologist.

Determinedly redirecting his thoughts, Daniel returned them to his present surroundings.

The room was roughly box-shaped, infinitely smaller than a storeroom. Directly across from him was the very solid, very heavy door, no doubt very securely locked.

The room was otherwise bare except for the cold metal slab that passed for a Goa’uld bed and a severely dented bucket, presumably for waste.

“All the comforts of home,” Daniel quipped.

His sit rep completed, Daniel decided to make himself as comfortable as possible. He wasn’t going anywhere until someone came and let him out of here, and his time would best be utilized in concentrating on recovery.

Reclining against the wall, he gingerly straightened out his legs and folded his arms loosely in front of him, his right hand hugging his left elbow to relieve the pressure on his shoulder.

Though his various body parts were still protesting loudly, Daniel pointedly ignored them and closed his eyes. Employing the methods he had learned from Teal’c, he drew in slow, even breaths, willing his aches to subside.

Though the pain in his head stubbornly refused to go away completely, Daniel soon was able to shut out most of the misery and enter a quasi-meditative state. Moving away from his wounded, corporeal being, he existed only in his mind, where the discomfort was manageable.

Almost as soon as he had achieved his goal, Daniel was brought back to himself by the hollow clank of the locking mechanism. Though nothing else moved, his eyes shot open.

Expecting he was about to meet again with his captor, Daniel kept his gaze fixed on the door, his posture relaxed, showing none of the anxiety he was feeling.

Even before the door was fully open, the dark figure stalked commandingly through the entrance. Quickly covering the few feet between himself and his prisoner, he stopped before Daniel, sweeping back the flowing cape which he had added to his bad guy ensemble since his appearance in Daniel’s bathroom. The man stood, arms akimbo, staring down scornfully at his captive, like some sort of demented super villain.

“Nice entrance. Very dramatic,” Daniel critiqued dryly. “Though something’s not quite right.”

The stranger’s eyes glowed, as though lit from within, quickly returning to their normal blackness.

“Ah, that’s what was missing.”

“Still insolent, I see,” the Goa’uld sneered at him. Distorted by the echoing effect of the symbiote, the unaccented voice was nevertheless sharp and clear.

‘Still.’ Daniel rolled the word around in his injured head for a second. Did the Goa’uld mean Daniel had mouthed off to him before? Or was the man’s knowledge of Daniel’s penchant for snake-baiting secondhand?

“The Asgard Thor has many fond memories of your leader, O’Neill.” The Goa’uld turned a disapproving look on Daniel. “O’Neill has an especially irreverent attitude for a slave. Your association with him has done you a disservice. You were not always so reckless in the face of your superiors.”

Daniel blinked, that one gesture the only evidence of his surprise. The Goa’uld had just indicated that he had known Daniel before Daniel had met Jack. But that wasn’t possible. The only Goa’uld who might have knowledge of Daniel’s life before the Stargate Program was Osiris and he was dead – wasn’t he? He carefully schooled his features to disguise the fact that his still muzzy brain was working furiously to positively identify the snake.

“You’re trying to puzzle it out aren’t you? You have no idea who I am.”

Apparently, Jack was right – Daniel had a lousy poker face.

“I don’t suppose you want to give me a clue,” Daniel said, his conversational tone accompanied by a mock-pleasant smile and a quick bat of his lashes. Though he was pretty sure who he was dealing with, Daniel played along, hoping to gain additional support for his theory.

“I have given you several clues already.” The Goa’uld turned and fairly glided to the pallet. Flinging the cape out behind him with a flourish, he seated himself gracefully.

Daniel huffed an impatient breath. Turning stiffly, he glared at the stranger.

“Okay, I don’t really need to know who you are. How about why you took me?”

The Goa’uld shrugged as though the answer should be obvious. “You have certain knowledge. I want it.”

One corner of Daniel’s mouth lifted. “I’m not going to tell you anything,” he declared decisively. “Besides, I think you shook a few things loose when you slammed my head against the wall in my bathroom. I’m not sure how much I’d remember.”

“I have a sarcophagus.”

Daniel forcibly suppressed a shudder. “No,” he choked, gently clearing his throat. “Thank you.”

The Goa’uld stood and moved smoothly to Daniel’s side, crouching effortlessly next to him. Gazing fixedly into the intensely wary blue orbs, he raised a hand and placed it gently on the injured side of Daniel’s face.

“A symbiote would heal your injuries completely, in less time than it took to receive them.”

Widening his eyes in alarm, Daniel grasped the Goa’uld’s arm, pushing the hand away from his head. He winced involuntarily as his aches escalated with his ill-advised action. “I’ll pass. Thanks all the same.”

The Goa’uld rose, casting an amused gaze upon his prisoner.

“How droll. You actually believe you have a choice.” The Goa’uld turned, his cape whirling about him like a cloud, and walked pompously from the room. The door creaked and thunked solidly shut behind him.

Daniel’s stuttered breaths reverberated in the quiet that followed the Goa’uld’s exit. Shaking from renewed agony and, admittedly, fear, Daniel uttered the first thing that occurred to him, believing it a fit response to his rapidly worsening predicament.

“Crap.”

Part 2

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