SWEPT AWAY
By Carlyn

 

“Who the hell’s idea was it to come here anyway?”

Major David Horne briskly rubbed his hands together over the meager fire, hoping the combination of flames and friction would be enough to warm his frost-stiffened fingers. Blowing hard into his cupped hands, the officer shook them out before jamming them back into his gloves.

“I thought you were from Wisconsin or some equally ass-numbingly cold place,” commented Lieutenant Colonel Robert May. “Suck it up. It’s not that cold. Look at Dr. Jackson.” Sipping from his coffee cup, May gestured over his shoulder to the lone figure sitting on a downed tree ten meters from the rest of the team.

Daniel Jackson huddled over his journal, scribbling furiously, valiantly fighting a cold wind that occasionally flipped the pages over his scrawling hand, and a tenuous grip on his pen, compromised by his severely-gloved fingers.

Though he wasn’t usually prone to such musings, May found that Daniel’s physical solitude triggered questions regarding the younger man’s emotional state. Daniel was one of the most gregarious men he’d ever met, yet since they’d set foot on this planet yesterday, Daniel had mostly kept to himself. Watching him now, May wondered idly whether Daniel’s decision to accompany SG-6 on this trip, rather than send a subordinate, was wholly due to the mystery surrounding the unduly dilapidated condition of the ruins a short distance from the gate.

May consciously dragged his attention away from Daniel’s state of mind, returning to his previous train of thought. “O’Neill says he’s some kinda desert rat but you don’t hear him complaining he’s cold.”

“When have you ever heard Daniel complain about anything?” Airman Rahil Sedghi chimed in. “Other than having to leave a promising dig site.”

“The guy gets so caught up in his work, you could probably set all that pretty long hair on fire and he wouldn’t even notice until the smoke got thick enough to keep him from seeing what he was doing,” Horne chuckled.

“Well, he is dedicated, there’s no denying that,” May said with enough emphasis to hopefully forestall any additional negative comment from his 2IC.

“Obsessive, if you ask me,” Horne replied with a sneer.

“I don’t believe I did,” May snarled. “Ask your opinion, that is.”

Turning towards their guest archaeologist, he called, “Hey, Dr. Jackson, come on over here by the fire. It’s not really much warmer, but if we can get Horne to tell us a few stories, bet he would generate a bit of hot air.”

Daniel’s head jerked up, his mouth slightly agape. A windy gust caught the open edges of his hood, blowing the head cover back onto his shoulders. Tendrils of soft brown hair poking from beneath his wool cap whipped frenziedly around the back of his neck.

Colonel May held up a tin cup, wiggling it invitingly, “C’mon. We’ve got coffee.”

Slipping his pen between the pages on which he was writing, Daniel tucked the journal into the pocket of his knapsack and stood. Stomping his feet a bit to get the blood flowing, he marched over to join the members of SG-6 by the fire.

Sedghi scooted over to make room for Daniel on his log while SG-6’s fourth, Sergeant Mariam Adler, poured some steaming brew into a cup, handing it to Daniel as he sat.

“Mmm, thanks, Mare.” Daniel smiled at her, immediately bringing the cup to his lips and gulping half the contents.

“God, I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Is your throat lined with asbestos or something?” Sedghi’s face pulled into a grimace, as though the scalding liquid had passed down his own gullet.

Daniel shrugged, grinning shyly.

“How about some breakfast?” Adler turned to get the supplies out of her pack.

“No, thanks,” Daniel held out a hand to still her movements. “It’s a little early for me yet. I’ll have a power bar later this morning.”

“Making any progress on those ruins, Daniel?” Sedghi asked.

Daniel perked up visibly, his posture uplifted by the airman’s genuine interest. “Some. The writing I found yesterday is a variant of Norse runes-”

“Vikings,” Horne sniffed. “It figures. Who else would live in this environment?”

Swinging his gaze in the direction of the disagreeable tone, Daniel deflated slightly.

“None of the aerial surveys picked up any signs of recent habitation, sir,” Sgt. Adler countered. “I agree with Daniel that the buildings themselves don’t look very old, but as far as we know, no one’s lived here for a quite some time.”

“I still don’t want you going back to those ruins alone,” May said to Daniel. He turned to Horne. “Major, you’re with Dr. Jackson today.”

Airman Sedghi dipped his head, turning his face away from the major to hide his smirk.

“Great,” Horne grumbled, “I get to freeze my ass off standing around while he looks at pretty pictures all day.”

“Actually, at this stage of development-” Daniel began, cutting the lecture short when Horne shot him a threatening glare.

Daniel dipped his head, too, to hide his flush of annoyance. He understood May’s purpose in sending Horne with him – the man obviously needed practice in playing well with civilians. But it rankled that the assignment had all the hallmarks of a punishment. Besides which, he really did not need a babysitter – in spite of what Jack thought.

“It’ll probably warm up a bit as the day wears on,” Airman Sedghi offered hopefully. “At any rate, it’s bound to be warmer down here than up in those mountains where we’re headed,” he added, gesturing up to the snow capped heights.

“The initial soil analysis sent back by the M.A.L.P. indicated trinium in the soil,” Adler stated. “Any sizeable deposits will be underground, likely in that mountain.”

Sedghi frowned; making no effort to hide his lack of enthusiasm for a long climb on what to this point was an approximately 45 degree, sunless day. “Suppose it’s too much to hope that there’s a mine a short ways up just waiting to be worked.”

“Let’s go find out. Get your gear together.” Getting to his feet, Colonel May kicked dirt over the fire. The other members of his team stood automatically, though Daniel retained his seat, nursing the remainder of his coffee.

Watching after Sedghi and Adler as they gathered up their packs, May turned to the sole civilian and his designated ‘sitter.’

“Dr. Jackson, Major Horne, keep in radio contact, hourly check-ins. We’ll be back by nightfall.” Looking pointedly at his junior officer, May grinned. “You’re on kitchen duty tonight, Dave. Appreciate it if you’d have dinner waiting when we get home.”

Daniel downed the last of his coffee, set the cup aside and pushed himself to his feet. Glancing at Horne’s sour countenance, Daniel muttered a “Yes, sir,” in response to May’s directive on contact. The corner of his mouth twitched upward in response to May’s acknowledging grin.

Turning as Adler approached him with his backpack, May waited patiently while she clipped the bag to the clasps on the shoulders of his vest. Nodding thanks, he trudged in the direction of the mountain; Sedghi and Adler trailing close behind.

Watching them go, an unmistakable look of longing in his eyes, Major Horne twisted his foot in the fire pit, crushing out the smoldering embers, and glared up at Daniel, who stood a good four inches taller.

“We head out in two minutes,” he barked, and moved towards his own gear.

Daniel sighed and, tugging his hood back over his head, went to retrieve his backpack.

Falling on his knees, he shoved his scattered belongings into the bag. He was pulling the zipper closed just as Horne stomped past him.

“Let’s go,” the major snapped.

Daniel hurriedly zipped his pack and got awkwardly to his feet, nearly knocking himself back down when he slipped an arm through the opening of his vest and swung the heavy pack onto one shoulder.

Pushing through the underbrush at the beginning of the tree line, Daniel increased his pace, slowing only when he threatened to step on Major Horne’s heels. Threading his other arm through the armhole of his vest, he hefted the pack squarely onto his back.

Unable to let the Major’s earlier comment go unchallenged, Daniel wheezed, “You know, I was surprised at the disdain with which you spoke of the Vikings. Horne may be Nordic in origin. Some of your distant relatives could have been Vikings.” Daniel ducked sideways as the branch that snapped back in his direction scraped his left shoulder. “The Nordic people have a fascinating history.  I think if you-”

Daniel’s words sputtered to a stop as a hand closed over his chest, twisting into the fabric of his parka. Pulled sideways, he spun inelegantly towards Horne, jerked off balance by the sudden movement. He stumbled, ending up nose to nose with the shorter man.

“Let’s get one thing straight right from the start,” Horne sneered, lips pulled back menacingly. “I’m not interested in anything you have to say, fascinating or not.” He shoved Daniel away from him, maintaining his hold on the archaeologist. “I’m gonna watch over you today because that’s what I’ve been ordered to do. That does not mean, however, that I intend to indulge this need you apparently have to yammer incessantly. Are we clear?”

Horne released his hold, smoothing the rumples in Daniel’s down jacket.

“Crystal,” Daniel deadpanned, meeting the older man’s glare.

“Good.” Horne’s eyes returned to Daniel’s chest. “And for God’s sake, zip that damn vest!” he ordered.

Dropping his gaze to the gap between the sides of his vest, Daniel closed his eyes and reminded himself of an adage he’d learned in one of his many foster homes, ‘You gotta go along to get along.’ That thought was followed quickly by a motto of his own making ‘But, damn I hate giving in to idiots like him.’

Gritting his teeth, Daniel slipped out of his gloves and zipped his vest, raising his eyes expectantly when he finished, letting Horne know he had had the choice to ignore the directive.

Rather than comment on his compliance, Horne merely swung an arm in the direction of the ruins, ushering Daniel into the lead. “After you.”

Daniel compressed his lips, maintaining eye contact with Horne for a few seconds after the verbal dismissal. Finally, he turned towards the ruins, wishing for the hundredth time since they’d arrived here that Jack, and not this asshole, was watching his six. Which was really counterproductive since he had joined this exploratory jaunt to put some distance between himself and the man whose presence he had just desired.

Daniel sighed heavily. Maddeningly, desire was exactly the right word to describe how he felt about Jack O’Neill. Desire. As in crave, long for, want. Sexually.

It had taken two years, but Daniel had finally admitted to himself that Jack O’Neill stoked the fires of his passion like no else had ever done. Not even Sha’re.

As troubling as it had been to realize he was enamored of his male teammate, the real trouble had begun when he admitted his feelings to Jack.

Not that Jack had objected to the announcement. Hell, things would be so much easier if he had. But in true typically frustrating O’Neill fashion, Jack had welcomed the news,
indicating he was open to whatever proposal Daniel wanted to make.

Even, reluctantly, Daniel’s decision not to act on their mutual attraction. Jack had been willing to move forward, even though he had everything to lose – his career, his pension, possibly his freedom. Daniel was the one holding them back. Or rather, the one in their way was Daniel’s missing – but as far as he knew still very much alive – wife.

Daniel stumbled over a hidden root, cursing his own clumsiness and Horne’s amused snort. Imagining Jack’s supportive hand on his elbow, Daniel righted himself, shrugging his pack back into place.

“You know your feet’ll work a lot more effectively if you actually lift them off the ground,” Horne chuckled.

Daniel bit back the irreverent response racing to the tip of his tongue, mouthing silent thanks when the open corner of a crumbling stone structure came into view through the foliage.

Emerging from the trees, Daniel looked skyward, noting the blue-gray cast the clouds had acquired since they’d entered the forest. His head swiveled westward, following the fast moving objects gliding towards the mountaintop.

“Looks like SG-6 is gonna get rained on,” he said, reflexively blinking against the droplet that splashed onto his left lens.

“Just tell me some of these buildings have roofs,” Horne snapped, giving Daniel a firm shove in the direction of the ruins.

Jolted into motion by the push, Daniel sprinted across the hundred or so meters of waist-high grasses and occasional shrubs to the edge of the ruins. Breathing heavily from the forced jog, throat burning from the cool air, Daniel led Horne to the center of town, ducking through a sizeable gap in the wall of what appeared to have once been an impressive structure.

Sheltered at last from the chilling drizzle, Daniel bent over, hands on knees, and coughed roughly. He unlatched the clasps that held his backpack to his vest, easing the heavy burden to the stone floor. Standing stiffly, he reached behind him and snagged his canteen. Uncapping the bottle, he took a long pull, occupying his eyes and mind with the impending task of copying the inscriptions carved on the marble-like walls.

“I’m gonna check around,” Horne grumbled behind him. “You stay here.”

Daniel looked over his shoulder, staring after the man who was already on his way up the broken steps on the opposite side of the moderately large room.

Sighing gratefully, Daniel flipped his hood back, shuddering involuntarily as a sprinkle of cold rain water dropped from the furred fringe and down the neck of his shirt. Sliding the wool hat off his head, Daniel vigorously scratched his scalp then smoothed down his unruly hair. Kneeling before his pack, Daniel jerked open the zipper, and dug out his camcorder.

Glancing up he spied the split in the wall through which they had entered and wondered again why the buildings, which didn’t appear to be all that old – certainly not old enough to be falling apart – were in such disrepair. He walked back to the opening, as if bidden to the spot by a whisper, speaking only for his ears, of mysteries yet to be solved. Bending slightly, he lifted a hand, gently fingering the uneven edges.

 “Colonel May reports they’ve got a deluge on the mountain,” Horne bellowed, skipping down the crumbling stairs.

Daniel jarred erect, snatching his hand back as though he had been caught touching something he had been told to leave alone. ‘A knee jerk reaction from working with Jack, no doubt,’ he decided.

Horne shot him a glare, an irritated sneer distorting his lips. He pointedly swung his gaze between Daniel’s position and the location of the Norse runes decorating the far wall.

Lowering his eyes, Daniel shrugged sheepishly and cursed himself for allowing Horne to bully him. Veering wide of the glowering major, Daniel returned to his gear.

“Apparently there was a cave a short distance up,” Horne continued as if nothing untoward had occurred. “They’re gonna hole up there and take some samples while they wait out the storm.”

Daniel nodded acknowledgment and kneeled, continuing to unpack his bag of books, pens, brushes and other items he would need to do his work.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got a trashy novel or anything useful like that in there,” Horne grouched, settling himself against a questionably stable stone railing.

“Sorry,” Daniel sighed patiently. “I didn’t realize I’d be called upon to entertain you.”

Ignoring the snipe, Horne blurted, “How long you figure this’ll take you?” He gestured haphazardly at the markings.

Following the flailing fingers, Daniel gazed at the wall, smirking complacently. “Hours,” he said firmly, resisting the urge to smile openly when Horne groaned.

*****

Six hours later, Daniel stood and stretched the overtaxed muscles of his lower back. Lifting a hand to the top of his head, he pulled gently on the frame of his glasses, twisting them slightly to disentangle the arms from his hair. He placed them on their usual perch on the bridge of his nose and bent to retrieve his pad.

Horne, who had been up and down, and in and out of the room a few dozen times in the intervening hours, called to him from the top of the stairs, “Pack it up, Jackson. I just heard from the colonel. The rain on the mountain has finally let up. They’re on their way back.”

At the mention of rain, Daniel cocked an ear, surprised to discover that the soft pat of raindrops on the roof had subsided. Glancing at the scrawl-covered paper in his hand, Daniel set his mouth determinedly and turned to Horne.

“Look, I’m almost through with this section. Half an hour tops.”

Horne began shaking his head almost as soon as Daniel began his argument. “That crap might work on O’Neill, but you’re not gonna wheedle any extra time outta me,” Horne snapped. “Come on, get your shit together. I’ve got to get back and check on the camp. The rain might not have been as hard here as on the mountain but that wind could have done some damage.”

“You don’t need me for that,” Daniel rationalized. “You go ahead. I’ll be right behind you as soon as I finish up here.”

“No way. May would have my hide if he found out I’d left you alone.”

“Come on, Major.” Daniel’s tone bordered on whiny. “We’ve been here two days and haven’t even encountered a sparrow. I don’t think a pack of hungry jackals is gonna drag me off in the next thirty minutes.”

Horne’s glare softened and Daniel sensed he could make headway if his plan held some advantage for the major.

Chewing his bottom lip pensively, Daniel’s face lightened. “How about this? You go on. I’ll finish up here and head back as soon as I’m done, and I’ll double-time it so I arrive in plenty of time to help you tidy up the campsite and start dinner before the others get back.”

Horne narrowed his eyes, obviously contemplating the offer. Daniel guessed from the disagreeable sneer that the major hesitated more at the thought of giving in to Daniel’s request than the idea of a reprimand if May found out he’d left Daniel alone for even half an hour.

“You’ll be back to camp before the Colonel?” he demanded.

“Guaranteed,” Daniel affirmed, just managing to keep the victorious smile from his face.

“Awright, then. Finish up and get your scrawny ass back pronto.”

“Yes, sir,” Daniel said respectfully, stopping short of saluting. “Thank you, Major.”

Horne grumbled, adjusted his pack and disappeared out the opening in the wall through which they had entered.

Setting his mind to the task of completing his transcription, Daniel discovered he had used only twenty minutes of the thirty Horne had allowed him. The thought of wasting those hard fought for minutes too objectionable to contemplate, Daniel quickly repacked his gear. Carrying the bag by its handle, he trotted up the steps to give the rest of the structure a cursory once over.

Glancing around the huge entryway that greeted him on the other side of the door at the top of the steps, Daniel turned his head quickly to the right, attracted by a flash of light he hadn’t noticed yesterday, an inviting glitter beckoning the explorer to investigate.

Scooting quickly across the lobby, Daniel twisted sideways, just squeezing through the narrow gap between the doorjamb and a huge bookcase that had had been pushed over the entrance by the buckling outer wall.

Surveying the wall, Daniel noted that the section that had fallen inward appeared to be shored up by the bookshelf. A corner of the roof had caved in leaving a sizeable gap through which the elements, including this morning’s shower, freely entered.

Satisfied that the structure wasn’t coming down today, Daniel turned towards the area from which the intriguing glint had summoned him. Finding what appeared to be a desk built into the opposite wall; he set down his backpack and, flicking aside a handful of leaves, he gingerly fingered the elegant, ornately decorated dagger beneath. Lifting the knife by the pommel, he rested the blade in the palm of his hand, turning it over several times.

Having detected what appeared to be tiny letters carved on the blade, Daniel lifted his glasses onto his head and brought the blade closer to his face. Instantaneously with the blade’s nearness to his eyes, the metal blazed brilliantly and Daniel winced, blinking to clear his dazzled vision.

Noting the warmth on the back of his hand, Daniel fluttered his fingers and grinned at the elaborate dance the year’s old dust motes executed in the sun’s beam. Tipping his face towards the source of the warmth, Daniel confirmed that along with rain and leaves, the gap in the ceiling admitted sunshine to this room.

Squinting in the harsh light pouring through the opening, Daniel closed his eyes and basked in the heat the beam offered, heat he hadn’t felt since he stepped foot on this bleak planet more than thirty-six hours ago. Now that the clouds that had greeted them on their arrival had passed over, and the sun, that they had only speculated was up there, put in an appearance, the temperature seemed to have climbed rapidly.

Daniel’s lips pulled into a moue of discontent when he realized that his heavy outerwear, perfect for the windy chill of the dreary world they had come to a day and a half ago, was damned uncomfortable in the bright, sun-toasted environment he now found himself in.

Dropping the dagger into the outer pocket of his pack, Daniel quickly slipped out of his vest and unzipped the parka. He shrugged out of the offending garment, letting it fall to the floor, and palmed the sweat that has already gathered on his brow. Donning the vest once again, he refastened it, fully aware that he would have to suffer through a repeat performance of Horne’s reprimand if he showed up at camp with the vest unzipped. He contemplated leaving the jacket behind, remembering suddenly that he was obligated to run back to camp.

Glancing at his watch he cursed colorfully in Abydonian upon finding that the ten minutes he had had to the good had become forty-seven in the hole.

“How the hell did that happen?”

As he bent to retrieve his parka, Daniel detected a faint crackling sound. Having been present at one too many cave-ins, Daniel straightened quickly, gaping, horrified, at the compromised outer wall that wavered in his direction.

Back pedaling to get clear of the impending collapse, he cried out as the floor beneath him split, swallowing his legs to mid-thigh. He twisted, pushing desperately against the stone around him in an attempt to hoist himself back above ground before the wall collapsed completely.

Letting out a groan that echoed the structure’s, Daniel gasped, slipping further into the crevice, the jagged rock stabbing agonizingly into his hip. He felt a hysterical laugh bubbling in the back of his throat at the absurdity of his predicament – trapped between floors of a crumbling building hoping on the one hand that the slab’s hold on him would keep him from disappearing beneath the floor, while at the same time terrified that that same hold would keep him from escaping death beneath a ton of rubble.

The building shook again, the crack opening slightly and Daniel felt the constricting pressure of the concrete’s grip around his chest. Lacking enough space to expand his lungs properly, Daniel wheezed out what he believed would be his final thoughts.

“’m s-sorry, J’ck.”

As though just waiting for him to make his parting statement, the ground shifted again releasing him, finally, to plummet downward. Daniel’s anguished cry was cut off when the back of his head impacted with the stone as he passed through the opening.

Barely aware he was falling; Daniel came to full alertness with the cold blackness enveloping his being, stealing his breath, his heat. Battling with all he had, Daniel flailed madly, praying the direction he was headed led to air.

Just as he despaired of reaching oxygen before his instinctive need to breath caused his to inhale the fluid he found himself surrounded by, Daniel sputtered above the surface of the water. Desperately drawing breath, he choked on the liquid forced down his throat by the choppy wavelets breaking against him. He tread the water, and just breathed, pushing back the various discomforts his body tried to distract him with.

Glancing upward to determine the distance he had dropped, Daniel howled despondently as the light above him receded, the water’s flow carrying him away from the place any rescue was sure to focus.

As much as he hated to give in, Daniel knew he’d need all his strength just to stay above the surface. Having made the decision not to waste energy fighting the current, he bobbed along the underground river like a cork, unresisting, only occasionally stirring up the waters himself to stay afloat.

It wasn’t long before Daniel discovered his inactivity in the chill water, while saving his strength, was sapping his body’s warmth. Swiveling his head wildly, a move that cost him a dunk underwater, Daniel squinted towards where he believed the shoreline should be, aware for the first time that he had lost his glasses. Not that having them would have made a bit of difference, he realized, his search for a place to go aground proving useless as the only light – from the crack in the foundation through which he had fallen – was now probably hundreds of meters away.

Having no other choice, he swum blindly, praying he was moving towards the side of the river. Just as Daniel began to believe he’d be unable to lift his arms for another stroke, he struck rock, crying out at the sudden impact – as much from relief as from the pain in his wrist.

Still conveyed on the current, Daniel reached out with both hands, curling his fingers as they skimmed along the smooth surface of the rock face. He was shortly rewarded for his efforts when one of his hands caught in a crevice. His body’s downstream motion halted as he slammed against the stone.

Daniel grappled for a more secure hold, slipping as many fingers into the crack as he could fit. He pulled himself flush against the rock, gasping desperately from fatigue, cold and pain.

Clinging precariously to the side of what he surmised was an underground cavern carved out by this river, Daniel dragged in ragged breaths, as slowly and deeply as his near panic and the discomfort in his chest would allow, knowing that eventually the force of the current would rip him from his perch.

After what seemed an eternity, but was in reality only a few minutes, Daniel chanced removing one hand from the crevice, sliding it outward and upward over the rock face, stretching to the very limit of his reach, searching for another handhold. He bellowed hopefully, his voice mercilessly drowned out by the pounding water, as his hand brushed along the surface of what appeared to be a flat shelf about a meter above him. He walked his fingers as far back along the ledge as his reach would allow but was unable to determine the size of the landing.

Fully aware that he would likely have only one shot at hoisting himself out of the river and onto what could be mere centimeters of rock, Daniel pressed his feet against the stone beneath him, laid his left palm on top of the rock shelf, and pushed himself upward with the hand still wedged in the crevice. Hissing as the sharp edges of the fissure cut into his fingers, he heaved with tired leg muscles, gaining enough height to drape his forearm over the shelf. Scrabbling madly on the balls of his feet, he swung his right arm up and over the outcropping. He dug both elbows into the unforgiving surface, and pulled himself slowly forward against the suctioning force of the river that seemed intent on yanking him back.

Once his hips cleared the top of the ledge, Daniel fell forward, rolling to bring his legs up onto dry land. He didn’t roll far, learning when his forehead scraped the rock wall that the river bank was only about a meter wide.

Flopping onto his back, Daniel swallowed down the triumphant yell surging upward from his battered lungs. He may have defeated the river but he was far from safe, trapped on a rock ledge in pitch blackness, far from where anyone was likely to look for him. Add to that his wounds and the probable onset of hypothermia and celebration was definitely premature.

All those scattered details seeped from his mind as Daniel felt the stir of impending regurgitation. He pushed an elbow against the rock wall and rolled onto his side. Gagging then moaning, he expelled the water he’d swallowed in his initial dunking.

Coughing and gasping, he dragged his knees towards his chest to conserve whatever heat remained in his body. He shivered miserably, wincing as the pain in his hip spiked momentarily.

“Can’t sleep,” he whispered, though he was exhausted beyond enduring. Fearing that the pain in the back of his head was indicative of a concussion severe enough to keep him from waking, he raised a heavy hand, gingerly palpating the tacky knot beneath his fingers.

He allowed gravity to bring the hand down, across his neck, to rest on his shoulder - the shoulder where his radio was harnessed. Having no hope of getting the earpiece in, he gripped the device in disconcertedly numb fingers and squeezed the button. The radio crumbled beneath his grasp and Daniel cursed under his breath, surmising it had been crushed between his body and the jagged rock of the crevice when he fell through the floor.

Though he had never before experienced hypothermia, Daniel knew that the longer he lay here, cold and wet, the more function he’d lose in his fingers as the blood fled the digits to support other, more vital, areas of his body.

“I guess I sh-should get out of these w-wet things,” he panted, wondering idly if that was the proper thing to do since he had nothing to replace them with. Daniel walked his fingers to the zipper on his vest, tugging weakly on the device, expecting the teeth to separate with the slightest effort. Groaning when the vest refused to open, he tightened his fumbling grip, and pulled harder. Still the zipper refused to budge.

Remembering the radio, Daniel slid his fingertips down the front of his vest. The jagged edges that met his touch confirmed his suspicion. The zipper’s teeth had been displaced by the crushing pressure when the fissure closed around him.

“Fuck!” he gasped in heartfelt exasperation, “the o-one time I zip the damn, damn vest… Why the h-hell did I let Horne get… to me?”

As tears of frustration threatened, Daniel shook them off, and concentrated on his breathing to calm himself. The discomfort in his chest reminded him that the closed vest had probably shielded his ribs from serious damage when the floor shifted and pressed around his torso.

“Mixed b-blessing,” he muttered absently.

Remembering suddenly that his knife was sharp enough to cut through the material, Daniel straightened his legs and rolled forward slightly, reaching behind him. When his fingers brushed his empty scabbard, Daniel flashed on his knife, lying discarded on the floor of his tent where he had tossed it after cutting the rope he had used to secure his tent against the wind. A sound like a whimper issued from his throat and Daniel frowned.

The decision of whether or not to undress taken out of his hands, Daniel considered whether he had anything else with him that he might use to remove his vest. Quickly patting himself down, he suppressed a cry of delight when he discovered his penlight in one of his vest pockets. Delight instantly became dismay when he pressed the switch and the darkness remained. Skittering his fingers over the end of the light, Daniel closed his useless eyes and concentrated on his sense of touch. Unable to detect any warmth emanating from the small bulb, Daniel fervently hoped that the light was broken or his fingers had lost too much sensation and were therefore prevented from feeling the heat. If neither the light nor his fingers were defective, the problem was with his eyesight. Blindness was not a possibility he cared to contemplate too thoroughly.

“Da-damn cur…io…sity,” he muttered around stuttered breaths. “Jack… said it…w-would… get me… killed.”

Jack. Jack was gonna be so pissed. As though conjured by the utterance of his name, the older man appeared in Daniel’s cold-befuddled mind, taking shaped on the backs of the still closed eyelids.

The short brown hair was disheveled, sticking out in occasional spikes on top of his head. Daniel smiled softly, catching a glimpse of the cap held in fingerless-gloved hands, knowing that only seconds before he materialized, Jack had scrubbed one or both of those hands across his scalp.

His inner eye lowered, meeting a dark, piercing stare, and Daniel’s smile faded. Jack scowled at him, the crevice at the bridge of his nose made more prominent by the brows pulled low over his narrowed eyes. The thin, firm lips were drawn tight in disapproval.

Daniel’s own forehead lowered, his eyebrows separated by the twin deep furrows on either side of the bridge of his nose. While this was the likely countenance he would be presented with if Jack were real, this was most definitely not the Jack he needed.

Mentally pushing aside this image, Daniel brought forth a softer, more supportive incarnation of his friend – the Jack who had greeted him when he walked into the gateroom after Jack believed him lost on Klorel’s ship. ‘Spacemonkey,’ the phantom Jack whispered again that single word, infused with so much affection that Daniel’s face had burst into a beatific spontaneous smile.

The memory pulled at the corners of his lips and, even in the face of his dire circumstances, Daniel smiled. Shifting as comfortably onto the hard surface as his various hurts would allow, Daniel surrounded himself with the figurative warmth of Jack’s presence, and waited. They might be in a bad place right now, but Jack would come. He always did.

*****

“Jackson, where the hell are you!”

Dave Horne snatched his earpiece from its resting place, having failed on his third try to raise the archaeologist on his radio. He glared at his watch and growled upon confirming that Daniel was nearly two hours later than he said he’d be. He’d hated to use the radio, knowing that the other members of his team could possibly intercept the message, but he’d had no other choice.

Figuring it would take the rest of his team at least three hours from the time he left the ruins to arrive back at camp, Horne had decided, when Jackson didn’t show up as planned, to just let the little pain in the ass play with his pictures a while longer. At least that way he wouldn’t have to bark at him repeatedly to shut up. But now it was nearing the two and half hour mark and, depending on their pace, Colonel May and the others could walk into camp any time.

“Jackson,” he snarled under his breath, “I swear to God, if I find out you just turned your radio off to avoid hearing me call you-” This train of thought was broken by a rustle and the unmistakable stomp of Air Force issue boots.

“Major Horne,” his CO called as the three additional members of SG-6 stumbled into camp, “Something you want to tell me?” Marching directly to the major, May slipped a bandana out of the parka draped over his arm and tossed the superfluous garment on the ground. Balling the bandana in his fist, he ran the material over his sweaty face.

Shit, they heard,’ Horne cringed as he turned to face the colonel, coming automatically to attention. Figuring his best defense was to plead insanity, Horne quickly sputtered.

“Sir, I swear, he told me he’d be no more than thirty minutes. And I really needed the quiet time. Do you know the guy talks to himself when he does these translations of his? Six hours of listening to his nonsensical mutters would cause anyone to make an error in judgment.”

“Are you telling Dr. Jackson is still back at the ruins?”

Horne stared dumbly for a moment, holding his breath, his posture still respectfully erect. Finally, his shoulders collapsed. “He must be. I didn’t call him until just a few minutes ago-”

May spun away from his 2IC, slipped his earpiece into place and gripped his radio. “Dr. Jackson, come in please.” Like Horne, May’s only answer was silence. “Daniel, where are you?”

Still receiving no response, to his inquiry, May spat a heartfelt, “Shit!” and turned to Sedghi and Adler, both of whom had removed their coats and vests, and stood nearby listening to the exchange.

“Lieutenant, Airman Sedghi, put those vests back on. We’re goin’ to the ruins.” May grabbed Horne’s shoulder as the major, too, bent to retrieve his gear. “Not you, Major,” he sneered into the shorter man’s face. “You are going back to the Stargate and reporting Dr. Jackson’s status. You get to be the one to tell Colonel O’Neill that you lost his archaeologist.”

“It’s been less than three hours-” Horne protested.

“Dr. Jackson is not answering his radio,” May reminded him.

“Maybe he turned it off,” Horne offered.

“Yeah, or maybe part of that structure collapsed on him!” May countered. “The fact is you should not have left him alone. Now, go and let the SGC know what’s going on. Let Hammond decide what he wants to do about it.” Glancing over his shoulder at the two junior members of his team, both of whom stood ready to head out, May wiped his forehead again and jammed the bandana in his pocket. “Stay at the ‘gate. As soon as we know something I’ll radio you. You can convey updated information to the base.”

“Yes, sir,” Horne muttered, head hung low.

Giving his 2IC a final glare, May turned in the direction of the ruins. “Move out,” he called to his teammates.

As his team went to determine Daniel’s fate, Horne had serious concerns about his own. Sighing deeply, he snatched up his pack and headed for his encounter with Jack O’Neill, thankful that he was physically separated from the colonel by a few hundred light years.

*****

“What do mean you’re not sure?” O’Neill barked into the control room’s mic, immediately on edge when Horne evasively responded to his inquiry into Daniel’s well-being.

“The last time I saw Dr. Jackson he was well. Happy even. He was finishing up his drawings-”

“Where is Dr. Jackson now, Major?” Hammond gazed down at the video display of SG-6’s second in command, noting with ill-ease that the major appeared to be squirming.

“We think he’s still at the ruins,” Horne murmured.

“You think!?”

Hammond placed a restraining hand on Jack’s arm as the colonel took a menacing step towards the monitor.

“Colonel May and the rest of SG-6 are headed there now. The colonel said he’d radio me once they knew something for sure.”

“Major, when did you last speak to Dr. Jackson?” Hammond’s ill-ease was careening swiftly towards dread the longer Horne maneuvered around their questions.

Horne lifted the protective covering from the face of his watch and stared at the timepiece, seemingly captivated by the display.

Mentally counting to five, Hammond prompted, “Major?”

Clearing his throat, Horne glanced hesitantly into the MALP’s video camera. “Just over three hours ago, sir.”

“Son of a bitch.” Jack whirled towards his CO. “Permission to retrieve my absent team member, sir.”

Just catching Horne’s expectant wince as he turned towards O’Neill, Hammond nodded. “Permission granted, Colonel. Have the rest of your team suited up and ready to depart ASAP.”

“Yes, sir,” O’Neill blurted as he headed out of the control room to find Carter and Teal’c.

Hammond turned back to the video display. “Major Horne, you wait right there until SG-1 arrives.”

Gulping convulsively, Horne nevertheless snapped to attention. “Yes, sir. I’ll be here.”

*****

“Where are these ruins?” The Colonel enquired, glancing from the compass imbedded in the strap of his watch to the mountain over the major’s shoulder, marking its location from the gate. “How far?” Squinting into the distance, he disentangled the tether from which his sunglasses dangled around his neck and slid the lenses over his eyes.

“This way, sir,” Horne replied, inwardly sighing in relief when O’Neill covered his eyes. Even though that glare had rested on him for no more than a second, Horne had found the experience as chilling as that morning’s wind. The colonel’s eyes were too-black, seemingly soulless. At least what he could see of them since they were all but hidden beneath the heavy brow that hung menacingly over them. Horne hoped absently that once they found Dr. Jackson, the colonel would redirect that glare on the archaeologist.

Horne pivoted northeastward. “It’s just over two thousand meters from this position,” he added.

Following at a brisk pace behind their guide, Jack depressed the button on his radio. “sierra gulf six leader, this is sierra gulf one-niner, do you read?”

“Hey, Jack.” Robert May’s voice sounded worn. “Sorry to report we haven’t found Daniel yet. We’ve just reached the ruins, and we’re heading to the place he was last seen.”

“Roger that,” Jack acknowledged. “We’re gonna double time it from here. We should be arriving at your location in approximately fifteen minutes.”

“Horne can direct you once you reach the ruins. I’ll let you know if we find anything before then.”

Wincing slightly at May’s less than enthusiastic delivery, Jack guessed that the man was anticipating having to report they had found Daniel’s lifeless body.

“Thanks, Bob. O’Neill out.” Shrugging his pack higher on his back, Jack silently cursed himself for the abuse he was about to mete out on his knees, and turned to Horne. “Okay, Major, let’s pick up the pace.”

“Yes, sir.” Horne adjusted his stride to a fast trot, a gait which made conversation all but impossible.

Which suited Jack just fine. Talking was the last thing he wanted to do. Only problem was, with his mind unoccupied with other tasks, his thoughts automatically turned to Daniel and the incident two weeks earlier that heralded the beginning of this tension between them …

 

// Despite Martouf’s buzzkilling pronouncement, Jack decreed that Apophis’s defeat at the hands of Sokar still warranted a team night pizza and beer celebration. Daniel had been too quiet in the locker room, but Jack attributed that to Daniel’s too kind heart. As far as Jack was concerned, if Sokar did intend to resurrect Apophis only to torture him to death again, well…it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Pretty early on in the festivities, it became apparent that Daniel’s funk involved more than just sympathy for Apophis or his host. The young archaeologist circumvented drunk, downing beers like a college freshman at his first frat party, and moved swiftly on to passed out on Jack’s couch.

After seeing Carter and Teal’c out, Jack draped a blanket over Daniel, his hand lingering a little too long on Daniel’s back and the younger man opened his eyes, rolling over to gaze up into Jack’s face. The lights were dimmed but Jack swore Daniel’s eyes were full of tears when he closed them again.

The next morning Daniel looked like hell, and, it turned out, not only from a hangover. When pressed, Daniel admitted that he hadn’t slept at all once Jack left him alone.

Setting a cup of coffee on the table in front of his friend, Jack slid into the chair next to Daniel’s, offering silent encouragement and support.

“I just… I couldn’t stop… thinking,” Daniel moaned. Jack wisely held onto his stock response to an opening like that.

“I should be happy about Apophis’s downfall. Getting rid of him should make our lives so much easier,” he continued, slumped awkwardly in his chair. “But even with that bastard snake gone, we’re no closer to finding Sha’re.”

Daniel gripped his temples with thumb and forefinger, squeezing against the throb that threatened to blow his skull apart. He skimmed the fingers over his eyes on the way to the bridge of his nose, the disturbance releasing a flood of hot tears over his wan face.

“And I need to find her because I-I can’t get on with my life-” Daniel balled his hands to stop their trembling.

“You’ll get your wife back, Daniel.” Jack assured, laying a comforting hand on Daniel’s shoulder.

“What if I don’t want her back!” No sooner had the words left his mouth than Daniel gasped, obviously regretting his outburst. He pushed away from Jack and stood, overturning his chair. Clutching his stomach, he lurched to the sink and vomited, pulling great gulps of air between bouts.

Jack went to him, nose twitching at the acrid odor filling the small space. He leaned over Daniel and turned on the water then stood next to his friend rubbing calming circles over Daniel’s back. But even with such intimate contact, it had taken Jack a minute to realize that Daniel’s lungs had ceased heaving with his stomach and now stuttered with sobs.

“Daniel?” Jack’s hand dropped to his side as the hunched figure straightened.

“How can I be so selfish?” Daniel turned and raised rheumy, red-rimmed eyes on him. “Sha’re’s out there… I know she’s alive… But it’s been so long…”

Jack shook his head, totally at a loss.

Drawing a broken breath, Daniel blew it out forcefully, swiping his sleeve over his face. “I’m not a damn machine. I need…”

Wincing uncomfortably, Jack took a step backward. “Ahhh. Look, Daniel, I don’t think…”

Daniel turned on Jack, the strange intensity in his eyes a force impossible to resist, drawing Jack like a moth to its funeral pyre.

Daniel smiled sweetly, an expression that his eyes were far from mirroring.  “I know you look at me, when you think I’m oblivious… like in my office, when I’m working.”

Jack’s mouth dropped, his eyes wide in alarm, but Daniel shook his head. “Its okay, Jack,” he raised a hand to fleetingly caress his friend’s cheek. “I’ve been watching you, too. For quite some time now.”

Jack blinked, and Daniel thought for a second that this must be the face Jack had modeled his dumb colonel look on.

“Daniel, are you saying…”

“That I have… feelings that…”

“Feelings?”

Daniel’s smile turned as sad as his eyes. “That I can’t act on – because I have a wife.” //

 

As Horne slowed in front of him, Jack returned to the present. The ruins lay less than ten meters away, just beyond a grassy field.

Taking advantage of the change in pace, Carter pulled up beside the major.

“Didn’t Colonel May report that the temperatures were in the 40s?” she puffed. As was her wont, Carter had briefly glimpsed the data entry from SG-6’s last check-in. “It feels a good bit warmer than that now.” Rotating her head slightly, she pulled the neck of her jacket away from her tacky skin.

“Actually, this is what we were expecting when we arrived here yesterday,” Horne griped breathlessly. “The MALP indicated daytime temps in the high 60s with nighttime temps near 40. Good thing we brought the parkas, though because we didn’t see the sun for most of the two days we were here. There was a damn cold wind, too.” He ran a sleeve over his sweaty forehead.  “We had a rain storm earlier today, and then the sun came out.”

“That explains the humidity,” Carter grumbled.

“Jack?”

As the radios burst to life, Jack stopped mid-stride and barked at Carter and Horne to cut the chitchat.

“Yeah, O’Neill here. What have you found?” Lifting his finger from the button, Jack nevertheless kept his hold on his radio, gripping it tightly to keep his hand from visibly shaking.

“Daniel’s not in the room where we found the inscription yesterday. We’re fanning out to search the rest of this building, before expanding the search throughout the ruins.”

“Acknowledged. We’re just outside the city now. Should be there in two.” Releasing his radio, thoroughly discontent to learn Daniel was not in the place he was last seen, Jack turned on the man who had dared leave Daniel alone and barked, “Move it, Horne.”

Startled by the sudden command, Major Horne nearly leapt the remaining distance, pulling up outside the familiar gouge in the wall in just under the predicted two minutes.

“Just through there is the room Dr. Jackson was working in.” Horne stepped back, indicating the opening to O’Neill.

Not even sparing the major a glance as he passed, Jack pushed his way through the cavity and called for May.

As he stepped into the entryway, Colonel May signaled him from further down the hallway.

“In here, Jack,” May yelled. Once Jack started in his direction, May turned and slipped through the narrow opening of the doorway behind him.

Having removed his backpack in order to squeeze through the cranny, Jack dropped it next to the stack of backpacks that SG-6 had discarded just to the left of the entrance. He grimaced as the direct sunlight, too bright even through his wrap-round shades, hit him full in the face.

“Adler thinks this section of wall has collapsed since we were here yesterday,” May informed him, gesturing to the portion of the outside wall that now lay in several broken, but still very large, pieces on the floor.

Lieutenant Adler and Airman Sedghi were on their hands and knees, peering with flashlights under the edges that were elevated by items which had been caught underneath when the wall came down. The debris extended nearly the length of the room, covering a good portion of the stone beneath their feet.

As Jack watched the youngsters crawl around the slab, he noted the groan of a settling foundation.

“Colonel?”

The break in Adler’s voice captured Jack’s attention absolutely and sent a prickle across the back of his neck. The Lieutenant looked up at him with wide, fearful eyes.

“I think I see Dr. Jackson’s parka,” she said apologetically, as though it was her fault that this search appeared to have had an unhappy ending.

Hearing Carter’s gasp behind him, Jack whirled, noting that his 2IC had emerged from the hallway just as Adler made her discovery. As he watched, Teal’c squirmed his way through the opening, adjusting the bookcase’s position slightly to get by.

Jack motioned the members of his team into action. “Teal’c, get around to the other side. There are enough of us here we can probably lift this slab.”

Airman Sedghi came to his feet, moving beside Colonel May to grasp the edges of the stone. As instructed, Teal’c stepped around the broken wall, followed by Carter and Horne, who had been the last to enter the room.

Meeting the green-grey eyes of Lieutenant Adler, who remained on the floor, her intention to go under the slab to retrieve Daniel clear in her determined stare, Jack bent and took the portion of the wall in front of him. Counting to three, he straightened his aching knees with the rest of them, grunting with the effort.

Adler disappeared briefly under the stone, scampering back and onto her haunches, Daniel’s empty parka in one hand, and a backpack, presumably Daniel’s, in the other.

“You can set it down,” she gasped. “He’s not under there.”

Jack felt his heart kick-start again with Adler’s announcement.

“Where the hell is he, then?” Jack turned dangerous eyes on Horne.

“I don’t know, sir. I left him-” the major began.

“Exactly. You left him!”

“Jack!” May shouted at the same time Carter laid a hand on his arm yelling, “Sir!”

Jack, who had taken a step towards the man who abandoned his archaeologist to an unknown fate, whirled on his 2IC, glaring at the hand gripping his arm.

“Colonel, with respect, we need to find Daniel. You can deal with this,” she jabbed her chin at Major Horne, “later.”

“She’s right, Jack,” May shot Horne a withering look to let the man know he shouldn’t expect his CO’s support in defending his actions. “Right now I think we should split up-”

“O’Neill.” Teal’c, who had wandered to the topmost edge of the fallen slab, stood stock still, his hand held up to demand silence, his head tipped to one side.

Now that there was no more movement or talking, a heretofore unnoticed sound, a sort of low roar, became readily apparent.

Jack came quickly to Teal’c’s side, and, heedless of the discomfort to his knees, fell at the Jaffa’s feet digging his fingers into the edge of the stone.

With his ear much closer to the roaring sound, Jack was better able to discern its source.

“There’s a crack in the floor just under this section of wall. There’s water rushing under here.”

Carter came to his side and looked pointedly across the slab at Horne. “You said you had rain earlier this morning?”

“Yeah, six hours at least,” May responded, walking in their direction. “Pretty heavy downpour in the mountains, too.

Knowing that the Captain had a theory, Jack craned his neck to glance up at her.

“Carter?”

“Sir, my guess is a flash flood. I’d bet that river the aerial survey showed to the north of the mountain runs underground here. That rain has likely swollen what’s usually a very docile flow.”

“How does that help us find Daniel?” Adler closed the pack she had pulled out from under the rock wall, having gone through it to confirm its ownership. “This is Daniel’s pack, by the way,” she said, holding up an object she’d found in the outside pocket.

Jack cursed, recognizing the decorative dagger as just the sort of artifact Daniel would risk his neck to retrieve.

“Then he was in this room,” Carter said unnecessarily. “And knowing Daniel, he would not have left his pack behind unless he had no choice.”

“Maybe he dropped it when the wall started falling,” Sedghi offered.

“Maybe,” Carter conceded. “But more likely he had set it down and was unable to retrieve it when the wall started collapsing.”

“What difference does it make?” Jack snapped irritably. “We know he’s not under there.”

While they had been speculating on why Daniel left his pack behind, Jack’s fingers had continued to work at the edges of the slab. Pulling his hand out to gesture at the rock which had held no answers regarding Daniel’s whereabouts, Jack flinched slightly when Carter gasped.

“Sir, you’ve cut yourself.”

Glancing at the red fluid coating his fingertips, Jack wiped the blood off with his left hand.

“It’s not mine,” he said mechanically, staring at the fingers even as Carter pulled them towards her to search for a wound.

Jack snatched his hand away from her. “It’s not my blood, Carter,” he barked, slightly angry with himself for taking his anxiety out on her. Pivoting on his knees, he addressed the Jaffa who still stood nearby. “Teal’c, we gotta uncover this hole in the floor.”

“You believe that Daniel Jackson has fallen through to the water beneath?”

Jack sighed. “It’s just the sort of thing Daniel’s likely to do,” he responded, infusing his voice with irritation to mask his fear.

As Teal’c, Carter and the members of SG-6 came around to the top of the slap, Jack shifted to the balls of his feet, again digging his fingers beneath the rock. He nodded at Horne and Adler who had positioned themselves on the far end of the slab to his left.

“We’re gonna swing this thing your way. Carter,” he turned his gaze to the right. “If I’ve got this figured right, that hole’s right under the edge here near you. I want you to get down and tell us when we’re clear.

“Yes, sir.” Carter dropped unhesitatingly to her knees.

“Okay. Like before,” Jack instructed the remaining participants. “On three.”

Counting down, Jack stiffened his back and once he reached three, pushed with his legs, swinging his upper body to his left. The stone slid slowly sideways. When he’d come to the limit of his reach, Jack scuffled his feet to the left, following the progression of the slab.

Though the tendons in his legs and muscles in his back and arms screamed for relief, Jack did not let up his effort until he heard Carter call, “That should do it.”

“Let it down slowly.” Jack’s voice was as strained as his body. He fell back onto his knees.

Turning to Carter he frowned. Her blond head, coated now with a fine layer of stone dust, was bowed and she stared seeming mesmerized by something she cradled against her chest. The object caught the glare of the sunshine and Jack reached over and removed it from her clasp, raising Daniel’s glasses to marvel at their near pristine condition.

“They were protected from the slab by some smaller stones. They must have fallen off when he… and they landed in the middle of that ring of stone and were protected…”

“Yeah,” Jack patted her shoulder, and Carter immediately bucked up. Maybe it was a portent of their owner’s fate.

Jack tucked the glasses in his vest pocket and, with the others who had helped to uncover it, surveyed the fissure that had been revealed. Blood was clearly evident on the ragged side of the opening.

“You think Daniel fell through that?” Sedghi asked, incredulous. “It hardly looks wide enough to accommodate a child, let alone a full grown man.”

“It’s entirely possible the ground shifted, saturated by all that rain you got earlier,” Carter surmised. “The ground probably opened up right where Daniel was standing, wide enough to drop him through, then shifted again so the edges were pushed closer together.” Her scientist mind taking the fore for a second, she added idly, “That must be why these buildings are in such disrepair even though they don’t actually appear to be that old. When he first saw the UAV photos, Daniel said-”

“Whatever,” Jack snarled, turning away from her puzzled squint. “We need to get this hole open again.” Glancing at Teal’c over his shoulder he raised a brow. “Staff weapon?”

“Sir,” Carter interjected, “a staff weapon would cause too great a gap too quickly. The entire building could shift and collapse.”

“What, then?” he asked in such a manner as to inform her she’d better have a damn good alternative.

“I think we could safely chip away at the edges incrementally.” Her fingers dug into one of the pockets on her vest, emerging with a pair of safety glasses. Slipping them on, she grasped the automatic rifle dangling from its strap over her shoulder. “I think everyone else should wait in the hall,” adding almost as an afterthought, “just in case.”

Jack’s dark eyes met her bright blue ones, narrowing slightly in concern.

“You might check out the other rooms. See if you can find something we can jam in there to hold the fissure open in the event the building does shift again.”

Jack nodded, instructing Teal’c and the junior members of SG-6 to carry out the search. As he followed Colonel May out of the doorway, Carter stepped back from the breach and raised her MP-5.

Dividing his attention between Teal’c, who moved from room to room searching for bracing materials, and the short, tight bursts of gunfire coming from Carter’s last location, Jack balled his impotent hands into frustrated fists.

“Hang in there, Daniel,” he whispered the next time Carter’s weapon sang.

After what seemed an interminably long period of time, his 2IC poked her head through the doorway.

“That should do it, sir,” she panted.

Jack nearly pushed her back in his enthusiasm to enter the room. He cringed slightly at the boom of the pounding river, much more prominent now that its thunder was not muffled by a couple meters of stone.

Mesmerized by the river’s rumble, Jack startled when Teal’c’s voice rumbled behind him. He stepped aside to make room for his Jaffa friend, who hauled in a several stone posts, each about sixty centimeters long and twelve centimeters in diameter that Jack recognized as having come from the railing in the room where Daniel had been working. Airman Sedghi followed with a third.

“Bring it here, Teal’c,” Carter called, stepping gingerly around the newly opened hole. She stooped down to guide the top of the pillar against the broken edge of the stone floor. Using her handgun to chip away another few centimeters, Carter nodded approvingly once they had wedged two of the columns into the opening.

Jack slipped off his MP-5 and leaned it against the wall near the doorway. Pulling his flashlight from his pack, he stepped over to the hole and went to his knees. Carefully spreading himself out on the floor next to Carter, he aimed the beam downward. A rapid flow of murky grey water rushed beneath his light. Swinging the lamp upward, he tipped his head sideways, focusing on the riverbank.

“Teal’c.”

Trusting his teammate to understand his need, Jack shimmied forward, slowed a bit by the grip on his ankles.

Jack continued to writhe towards the hole until his hips were flush with the edge. Gripping the flashlight firmly, he bent at the waist and directed the glow to the side and before him. Taking careful note of the terrain his light revealed, Jack raised his free hand, a signal for Teal’c to pull him back.

Grunting slightly – Teal’c’s tug digging his belt into his gut – Jack rolled back onto the stone floor once his ribcage cleared the hole.

Coughing roughly, he pushed himself to his knees. “There’s a rock ledge thirty meters to the right. It’s approximately a meter wide and it goes at least as far as my beam reached.”

Resting on her haunches beside him, Carter stiffened formally. “Sir, permission to-”

“Negative, Captain.” Jack glanced back into the hole. “This one’s mine.”

“Someone should go with you,” Carter began her protest.

“No. We have no idea how sturdy that rock shelf is. I’m not gonna risk anyone else.”

Carter drew breath to continue her argument but ended up expelling it in a defeated sigh when the colonel glared her to silence.

Echoing her sigh, Jack jerked his head towards the river. “Assuming he hasn’t already drowned,” he began hesitantly, “how long can Daniel survive in that water?”

Carter glared over the edge of the gap. “That would depend on the water’s temperature, sir. According to Major Horne, there was a good bit of rain in the mountains. Some of that runoff could be from the snow and ice on the mountain’s peak. If so, that water could be icy cold.” She swallowed convulsively as though to consume her next thoughts. “In which case, I don’t think it will matter how soon we find Daniel.”

Jack turned from her worried eyes as a rope dangled near his shoulder. Grasping the large, dark hand offered for assistance, he climbed slowly to his feet and stepped into the makeshift harness Teal’c had fashioned from his own rope.

“Let’s hope the rain didn’t make it that far up the mountain.”

He reached up and unclipped one side of his backpack, turning so that the bag swung in Carter’s direction as she stood.

“Check what I’ve got in there. I need the first aid kit and a field cooking unit to warm water. And as many thermal blankets as you can squeeze in.”

“Yes, sir.” Carter unhooked the remaining clip and moved a short distance away with the colonel’s pack.

He watched after her then turned to find Teal’c scraping at the side of the opening with the blade of his knife, smoothing the rock to lessen the chance of the rope being frayed on the jagged edge as he descended.

Detecting movement behind him, Jack called to the almost forgotten team leader of SG-6. “Why don’t you and your team head back to SGC. Ask Hammond to send an S&R team and a medical unit.”

“Sir,” Major Horne stepped between the two superior officers, swiveling his head to divide his attention between them. “With your permission, Colonels, I’d like to stay planetside. I can bring the rescue and med teams to you.”

Narrowing his eyes at the major, Jack quickly determined that the man wasn’t just trying to get on his good side, but genuinely wanted to assist in any way possible. Cutting his gaze to May, he nodded almost imperceptibly, the bulk of his assent telegraphed in the downward cast of his gaze.

Acknowledging with a nod that O’Neill had yielded the final decision to him, May turned to his 2IC. “Good idea, Major. You probably know your way here from the gate almost as well as Dr. Jackson.”

Horne’s mouth twisted briefly into a crooked grin before he wrenched to attention. “Thank you sir,” he said, his gratitude at being allowed to help evident in his voice.

Jack exchanged another glance with SG-6’s CO, silently accepting the good wishes conveyed in the other man’s sad gaze.

When May stepped aside, Lieutenant Adler and Airman Sedghi came forward.

“Dr. Jackson’s a resourceful fellow,” Sedghi observed, his eyes alight with admiration for the archaeologist. “I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

Adler smiled sadly. “Isn’t there anything we can do to lend a hand here?”

“You’ve done plenty,” O’Neill flashed them both an uncharacteristically warm smile. “There’s nothing more to be done until I find Daniel. Then a trained rescue team and Doc Fraiser will best serve his needs.”

The youngsters nodded and turned to follow their leader out of the room. As they reached the doorway, Jack called after them.

“Thank you for helping us figure out where he’s wandered off to this time. That’s half the battle with Daniel.”

Sedghi and Adler smiled at the optimistic tone of the complaint. Daniel was notorious for roaming beyond the boundaries O’Neill set. But the colonel always brought his wayward archaeologist home.

Watching after them as they headed out the door and back to the Stargate, Jack spun awkwardly at the sound of a softly cleared throat. Carter held his bulging pack up at shoulder level.

He turned his back towards her, and she clipped the pack onto his vest, cataloguing the contents of his pack: the first aid kit, two spare flashlights, a coil of rope, a field cooking unit with extra fuel; two canteens, three towels, three blankets, and a sleeping bag.

Making sure his knife and sidearm were secure, Jack took the end of the rope Teal’c offered and wove it tightly through the harness.

“You might need this.”

Jack glanced over his shoulder, catching in his peripheral vision the furred edge on the hood of Daniel’s parka, draped across Carter’s arm. Resisting the urge to hug the coat to him – it being the most immediate reminder of a man who could well be irretrievably lost to him – Jack gestured over his shoulder.

“Is there room in the pack?” Refusing to look at her, he finished tying off the rope.

Sam gazed longingly at the parka for a moment then unfastened the top of the pack, laid the garment across the top of the other items, and clipped the pack closed.

As though that was his signal, Jack waited only until Carter had come around behind Teal’c and grabbed the rope before he sat on the lip of the opening, dangling his legs over the side.

“You ready?” he asked, pulling on the bottoms of his fingerless gloves.

“I am,” Teal’c confirmed.

Kicking out with his legs, Jack turned his body and briefly gripped the edge of the stone then disappeared completely down the hole.

Unsure he would be heard over the thundering of the water beneath him and wanting anyway to test if the rock would interfere with the signal, Jack hooked an elbow around the rope and depressed his radio’s send button.

“Let it out another seventy-five meters,” he shouted into his shoulder. Though he received no radio response to his instructions, his slow, steady descent gave evidence that he had been heard.

Relying on the light spilling into the newly opened hole, Jack kept a close eye on the ledge, glancing downward occasionally to ensure that he wasn’t inadvertently dipped in the river.

“Hold up,” he barked into his radio a few minutes later, when he estimated his knees were approximately level with the top of the rock shelf, grunting softly as he jerked to a halt.

Glancing across the expanse between himself and solid ground, the choppy water rushing in the gap, he again fingered his radio.

“Teal’c, you’re gonna be able to hold this rope while I swing over to the rock face, right?” he queried, a bit chagrined that it hadn’t occurred to him to ask before now.

“Do not fear, O’Neill. I have you,” was the confident reply.

Jack glanced up to the place he knew Teal’c was standing, wondering briefly which of the many television programs Teal’c watched engendered that oddly un-Jaffalike response.

“Good to hear it,” he retorted, then took a big breath. “Okay, get ready.”

Jack gripped the rope in both hands, glad when he felt the course matter scrape against his fingers, that he had his gloves. Pulling his knees to his chest, he straightened his legs and swung them backward, kicking as hard as he was able.

It took a half dozen arcs, and two missed opportunities to get his footing, before Jack’s momentum sent him sailing a little harder than he had intended against the rock wall. Hugging the stone and rubbing his bruised shoulder he announced his success to his teammates.

“Alright, keep that rope slack,” he said, gently tugging the rope harness to disentangle it from the seat of his pants. When the material loosened, he hooked the rope with his thumbs and shimmied a bit to work the harness down his legs. Feeling sudden sympathy for women who still put themselves through the hell of girdles, he glanced upward, thankful that neither of his teammates appeared in the opening.

Finally kicking the harness aside, he pulled out his big flashlight and aimed the beam downriver, discovering to his relief that the rock ledge was intact for as far as he could see.

He gripped his radio, scanning ahead for any movement. “Daniel.” He silently counted to five. “Daniel, its Jack. If you can hear me, hang on, buddy. I’m coming to get you.”

Straining his ears, Jack worried that Daniel had responded but was lost in the thunder of the river.

“Carter, Teal’c, You picking up anything?”

There was a brief crackle, then Carter’s voice, clear but worn. “Negative, sir.”

“Damn it,” he muttered under his breath, then said back in his radio, “Okay, I’m gonna move on down here. I’ll check in every fifteen minutes. Hopefully, we won’t lose radio contact.”

“Roger that, sir,” Sam acknowledged.

Flipping the beam of his flashlight to the farthest point possible, Jack cupped his mouth with his other hand.

“Daniel!”

Lips pulled tight, Jack tipped his ear in the direction of his flashlight and waited.

Getting no response, he sighed softly, and moved out, following where the beam led.

Part 2

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