Welcome to the Jungle

Jack couldn't tell if the rustling noises were coming from his rodent friends or if he had somehow gained a roommate while he was sleeping. His eyes had adjusted as much as they could to the dark box in which he was being held. How many days had it been? Or had it only been hours? Time seemed irrelevant when there were so many other things to consider.
Where the hell was he?
What the hell hit him?
Where the hell was his team?
He remembered their unexciting jaunt through the jungles of PC5 326 and cursing the fact that for such a damned sophisticated piece of technology, the UAV had an incontrovertible knack for getting busted hours away from the 'gate. The only sign of civilization they came across as they trampled through the thick carpet was the covey of monkeys howling at them from the treetops. Daniel muttered something about the hierarchical structure of primates and Jack promptly tuned him out. Monkeys? Civilization? Not according to his book, unless you were talking about monkeys that could stand upright.
So it had come as quite a shock to all of them when Daniel fell prey to one of the oldest booby traps in history: the camouflaged pit. With one loud yelp, Daniel disappeared right in front of their eyes. Before he, Carter or Teal'c could lend Daniel a hand, arrows were flying at them from all directions. They instantly scattered into the underbrush, never losing sight of each other or Daniel. Jack could hear Daniel's worried shouts, unable to see or hear anything from above him.
And then it all went black, courtesy of a hard blow to the side of his head by an unknown assailant. He woke up alone and in the dark.
Jack hoped the rest of his team hadn't suffered the same fate as he. He could rule Daniel out of that hope, unless the kid managed to escape his prison and evade an invisible enemy. Not that Jack doubted Daniel's abilities - those odds would challenge even Teal'c - but he would bet Daniel had been taken as well.
He rolled over onto his back, frustrated that his questions still hadn't been answered. The only hint of his captors came via a food slot in the crude door of his cell. Not one word was spoken to him, and no attempt was made to extract information. Hell, for all Jack knew, he'd been thrown in the slammer for breaking a sacred twig.
The scrabbling noises were getting louder and Jack had the sick feeling he could rule out the rats. A low moan followed by the thud of a body shifting haphazardly confirmed his theory.
"Who's there?" Jack whispered.
"Jack?"
Daniel. Relieved his young friend was still alive, Jack sat up and peered through the shadows. "Daniel? You okay?"
"Yeah. Headache. Where are we?"
Jack bit back a sigh of resignation. He thought perhaps Daniel had more of an idea than he'd been able to come up with. His new cellmate floundered around again, presumably to sit up.
"Dunno. I've been here a while. Have no idea when you were brought in to liven things up for me," Jack said.
"A while? How long is a while? Where are Sam and Teal'c? Are they all right? Did they escape?" Daniel bombarded him with questions.
"A while's a while. I have no idea, I have no idea, and I have no idea," Jack answered equally rapidly and fired back a question of his own, "Can you tell me exactly what happened to you?"
"Uh, well. As you know, I fell in the hole. Then you guys all disappeared and I could hear strange whooshing noises. The grand finale is me getting yanked out of the pit by some decidedly unfriendly natives. I couldn't recognize any of their markings, and their language was completely unfamiliar, so they're either an offshoot of an Earth society so differently evolved it's unrecognizable or they're alien. I tried to explain who we were, which they didn't seem to take very well, and one of them hit me on the back of the head. That's it," Daniel related.
"You didn't see Carter or Teal'c anywhere out there?" Jack clung to the sliver of hope some of his team had got away and back to the 'gate.
"No, I didn't. Of course, I was only out of the hole for about ten minutes and the floor of the jungle is extremely dense," Daniel said with a lilt at the end.
"Yeah. I'm sure they're fine. Bet they've already amassed the troops and are on their way back for a stunning rescue," Jack said half jokingly.
"Yeah."


~~
He ran out of things to say. Jack didn't believe it. Daniel Jackson had actually run out of things to talk about. They'd been keeping a running conversation, both to fill the dead air and to give themselves a tiny bit of comfort. It had only lasted a couple of hours.
Since then there had been expansive gaps of silence, disturbed only by the incessant squeaking of their furry companions. Why were there always rats in prisons? Talk about cliche. Every once in a while Jack would try to start a conversation, but it never went anywhere. Anything would be better than the resounding, ear numbing nothingness. Anything.
Jack's prayers were answered, although he honestly wished he could take back his hasty proclamation. The door of the small chamber flew open rather unexpectedly, light flooding the dark, streaming through the massive and half naked men standing in the doorway. Jack automatically flung his arms across his eyes to shield them, sparing a quick glance to Daniel.
Daniel was in the same stance as he, but Jack could see a trickle of dried blood snaking down and around the younger man's neck. His hair was mussed and dirty, glasses gone and face smudged. Other than that, Jack determined the archaeologist to be well.
Only after checking out his friend did he notice Daniel was subjecting him to the same inspection. Jack couldn't help the grin that flitted across his face. Great minds think alike, isn't that what they always say? Daniel returned the smile with a flash of his teeth before both men were jarred to their feet by rough hands. Spears angled at his and Daniel's necks threatening immediate death if they were uncooperative.
"Hey, hey! Relax, will ya? No need to dislocate my shoulder," Jack groused under his breath, earning him a vicious shove into the bright light of day.
He sneaked a look behind him to find their holding cell to be a cleverly concealed and contained cave. If he hadn't just exited it, Jack never would have known it was there. Another jerk to his arm and he head reeled forward. They were on the outskirts of a small village of sorts, consisting of three large huts and a central arena housing a communal fire pit.
Jack slid Daniel a look, using only his eyes. Sure enough, the young archaeologist was taking in the village with the awe and wonder that never seemed to diminish. Daniel would be the ripe old age of eighty and still embody the joy of a child. It was a trait Jack found to be a source of admiration and of concern. How often had Daniel been hurt because of his tendency to think good of everything?
Shuddering, Jack quelled the thought. That wasn't going to happen this time. Carter and Teal'c just had to be out there right now, heading back to search for them...shit. Shit, shit, shit. He didn't even know where they were in relation to the Stargate. It would be like finding a needle in a haystack for them to find him and Daniel.
And Carter and Teal'c would know this. They wouldn't have left, at least not until they arrived at their destination. Of course, Jack was presuming they were still alive, un-captured and had followed the happy hunters here back to the village. That was a lot of ifs. Shit.
Jack cringed as they were led to the center of the village and forced to kneel in front of a large altar. Ooh, altars were never good. Altars bad. Bad. He braced himself against the uneasy feelings, willing himself to play it cool.
"So, Chatty McChatterson," Jack peered up at the towering, mute man standing guard directly in front of him, "When do we get to meet the boss? I mean, there is a boss, right?"
A flurry of motion behind them, followed by a loud grunt and thud drew his attention to his right. Daniel lay gasping and clutching his lower back in pain. Shit. No talking. Got it. Clever guys, these. Jack should have known better than to let his sarcasm shine forth. Why did he always feel it necessary to demonstrate his toughness through a sharp tongue? He knew it would only land him...and anyone around him...in trouble.
He sought out Daniel's eyes, apologizing the best he could silently. Daniel nodded and then shook his head. Messaged received and rejected. Jack bit back another grin. Daniel knew used sarcasm as a defense mechanism and didn't expect him to behave any differently so no apology was deemed necessary. That didn't make Jack feel one hundred percent better, but it was a small comfort that his friend understood him so well.
Huge hands grabbed the sides of his head and swiveled his head forward again. From the large hut on the left, a figure was emerging. The man was fiercely noble looking, adorned with necklaces of small animal bones and teeth and his head was covered with some bizarre hat made of...was that marijuana? Weird. Surrounding the stately leader an entourage of women bustled, nervously attending to his needs.
As they drew closer, Jack saw the man was easily a good half a foot taller than himself. Very, very tall. Jack watched as he circled him and Daniel once and moved on to the altar. He held a long stick, which he waved over the surface three times and then preceded to a large chair off to the side of the altar. With a snap of his fingers, the women scampered away from him. They returned a few minutes later, dragging something behind them.
The UAV.
Jack looked at Daniel to confirm what he already sensed what was going on here. It was textbook 'evil monster destroys/interferes/frightens and retribution must be sought'. Daniel nodded slightly again. Daniel would normally be able to talk them out of something along these lines, but since he couldn't understand their language that was a bit of a problem. They could only hope now that retribution did not equate death, maiming and/or torture in this particular culture.
Jack didn't think they'd be that fortunate.


Head Honcho started speaking vehemently and rapidly, the words flowing together melodiously. Hands gesticulated at the offensive UAV and back towards them, rage shining out of the man's eyes with such strength Jack had to look away.
Whatever the UAV had crashed into, it was obviously highly sensitive. Jack didn't care. He could tell Daniel wanted to say something, to try and figure out exactly what they could do to make up for the offense they'd committed. But the younger man remained silent, chewing on his lip with restraint. Jack nodded, telling Daniel to keep it that way until he could come up with a viable way out of the little mess they were in.
Daniel subtly rolled his eyes. Jack took the liberty to scout the ring of villagers. Daniel was right. Even if they could get out from under the honor guard here, they'd not make it ten steps. Once again, they were screwed unless Carter and Teal'c came through for them. Screwed with a capital S.
The village leader swooped down off his chair abruptly and stood before them with arms crossed and legs spread wide. His gaze alternated between Jack and Daniel, contemplating each for long seconds. Jack began to feel uncomfortable under the scrutiny, like a fly about to be fried by a child's magnifying glass and the hot sun. Then he realized what the man was doing and his anxiety increased substantially. The impressive alien was determining their punishment. Jack looked worriedly at Daniel, all but crossing his fingers the brunt of the penalty would rest on his own shoulders.
Jack knew the instant the decision was made. The leader's eyes sparked knowingly at Jack's mistake - showing his concern for Daniel had condemned the younger man to the upcoming ordeal. Two more snaps of Head Honcho's fingers and Jack found himself being dragged to the big, wooden throne. He struggled as his arms were secured to it, cursing in vain.
In turn, Daniel was pitched onto the bare altar. His right arm dangled off the side of the slab, the other and both legs held firmly by the guards. A spear remained at his throat to prevent him from struggling.
"Damnit! What are you doing? Let him go! No!" Jack roared in rage, surging forward as far as his bonds would allow.
Head Honcho merely glared at him and cuffed him on the side of the head. Jack's head snapped from the blow and his vision blurred for an instant. He fought the need to scream his outrage, knowing if anything it would be detrimental for Daniel. The alien walked by him, back into his hut.
"Jack? Jack are you all right?" Daniel called hoarsely, fear emanating in his voice.
"I'm fine, Daniel," Jack said quietly. But you're not.
The gaggle of women preceded Head Honcho back out of the hut and Jack could see the big alien carrying a large woven basket, arms now adorned with heavy gloves. The group walked straight to Daniel, all the women caressed the young man's forehead before the final woman removed his right arm from his jacket sleeve.
Jack swallowed repeatedly. What was in the basket? God, did he really want to know beforehand? C'mon Carter, Teal'c. About now would be just fantastic. Please. Jack clenched and unclenched his hands and began trying to stretch the ropes. To his surprise they gave a little on his first attempt.
He would stop this. He had to.
Head Honcho was at Daniel's side now, eyes gleaming as he removed the basket cover. Jack couldn't avert his stare. The alien grabbed Daniel's right arm by the bicep and plunged it into the basket, keeping his grip on the younger man.
For a second, nothing happened and Jack half breathed a sigh of relief. Then Daniel began to struggle against the men holding him down, straining to get away. Jack unknowingly paused in his own efforts as he watched Daniel contort and fight, his right arm more so than his other limbs. Head Honcho brutally forced it further into the basket and Jack could hear Daniel choke with what could only be pain.
"Oh, God," Daniel softly gasped.
The muted cry shocked Jack back into motion. He rubbed and pulled his wrists, unaware the bonds were cutting into his tender skin and that blood was starting to seep. All Jack could see was his friend in agony and he needed to do something about it. He briefly looked down to check his progress, mentally noting the blood, but disregarding it.
A piercing wail snapped his head up. Daniel finally lost the battle to mask the suffering, neck and back arched off the altar. Jack focused on Daniel's right arm and was sickened when he spotted the contents of the basket.
Ants. Goddamn monstrous, red, fucking ants. Hundreds of them, crawling all over Daniel's arm, biting, stinging. Hurting. Jack had the distinct displeasure of a run in with fire ants back home, and if memory served him, it was not an experience he'd ever like to repeat. God.
"Stop! Enough! God, Daniel!"
"Jack!" Daniel managed before his screams became unintelligible.
"Daniel!" Jack called back futilely.
The archaeologist continued his cry, barely pausing to breathe. Shit. These damn ropes. Break, damnit. Head Honcho threw back his head and laughed, not looking at Daniel, but rather at Jack. Spurred by the blatant mockery, Jack finally snapped through both wrists simultaneously.
His guards lunged for him, but Jack ruthlessly brought his elbow in one's face while managing a good knee jerk to the other. Both spun away from him and Jack used the break effectively. He ran a few steps before his path was blocked by four more of the villagers. He punched and kicked violently, but they snagged his arms easily and held him in place. Jack twisted in their grip, eyes focused only on Daniel.
The young man had stopped screaming, lying now in a semi-conscious daze. Head Honcho kept Daniel's right arm firmly planted in the basket. Daniel moaned weakly and Jack could see his face and hair were drenched with sweat.
"Goddamnit! Let him go!" Jack screamed, knowing the alien couldn't understand his words but his meaning was crystal.
Head Honcho simply laughed and casually withdrew Daniel's limp and already swollen arm from the sick torture device. He motioned for Jack to be brought over to the altar, at the same time waving the men holding Daniel down to remove his friend's wilted frame from the table. Jack clenched his jaw. Lucky him. He got to watch a friend get tortured before enduring it himself. Double the pain.
Daniel moaned as his enflamed limb bumped against the table. Jack fought one last time to free himself from his captors, but it was no use. Where the hell were Carter and Teal'c? Jack was being unreasonable, but he was desperate. There was no way he could break free, grab an insensible Daniel and make a miraculous escape. It just wasn't going to happen.
The guards shuffled him over to Head Honcho's side, propping on his knees with his arms pulled behind his back. Seconds later, Daniel was at his side and swaying in between two strong arms. Jack tried to keep his attention away from his friend to prevent further torture. He failed miserably.
Daniel's right arm was brutally red and puffy from his hand to his elbow. Jack could practically see it throbbing, the sting transmitting itself into his brain in sympathy. The archaeologist continued to sweat and Jack figured fever was already setting in. Daniel didn't even fight when the men wrenched his elbows behind his back, emitting only a weak moan in protest.
Jack pulled his eyes away and glared instead at Head Honcho in defiance. He wasn't afraid of the upcoming torture and he'd be damned if he let the guy know how much he was angered at Daniel's condition. Once again snapping his powerful fingers, Head Honcho signaled for something behind Jack. He expected to be thrown on the altar, but instead an outbreak of hushed voices preceded the presentation of a small group before the village leader. Carried by the rest of the group and at the center was a small girl, not more than ten years old. Her right hand was swaddled in thick, dark cloth and she was pale and wane.
Jack jerked with the realization that the darkness of the cloth was really a bloodstain. Their offense was immediately apparent, and the punishment all to understandable.
A hand for a hand.


Jack was sick as he gazed upon the girl. Only now that he comprehended the situation did Jack study the UAV. One of the wings was damaged severely, and blood spattered it. He couldn't determine if it had actually crashed upon the hapless child or if she had injured herself with curiosity.
It didn't matter. Either way it was too late to do anything about it. Daniel already paid for the unintentional injury and Head Honcho continued his righteously indignation for several minutes to Jack, waving his hand between Daniel, the girl and the UAV emphatically. Jack allowed a small nod.
Abruptly he and Daniel were released and he lunged for the younger man as he plummeted to the ground. Jack caught him in the nick of time, preventing his friend from further injury. Daniel gasped in pain when Jack's hand accidentally grazed the tender skin of his forearm.
"Daniel," Jack whispered in his friend's ear. "Just hang on for a bit. We'll be back at the SGC and good ol' Doc Fraiser before you know it."
Jack swallowed his fear. He had to get Daniel conscious enough to walk, at least until he could rig up some sort of travois. Head Honcho authoritatively pointed at the pair and then swept his arm up and away, ordering them out of the village. Jack quickly removed his jacket and cradled Daniel's arm into it, tying the sleeves securely around his neck. Daniel moaned.
"Sorry, Danny," Jack apologized for the pain he caused. "Don't think you want that flailing around."
Jack scooted to Daniel's left side and wrapped the younger man's left arm around his shoulder and gathered him firmly into his side. Daniel shook his head and opened his eyes weakly.
"Jack?" an agony filled whisper breathed in his ear.
"Daniel? You all right?"
"Dumb question. Leaving?"
"Yeah. Just help me out for a little here and I'll have you home in short order," Jack assured, relieved his friend was conscious and seemed to be coherent.
"Good. This really sucked," Daniel feebly joked.
Jack blew out a gust of air, more of a huff than a laugh, but he shook his head. Really sucked? That was a whopping understatement. He grunted as Daniel lost his footing for a moment and Jack wondered if they were far enough out of the village to stop. He really needed a better means of transport for Daniel. He really needed to know if Carter and Teal'c were all right.
He paused and started searching for a good place to set Daniel down. His eyes lit upon a fallen tree and he headed for it, aiming to prop Daniel against it.
"Jack?" Daniel rasped.
"Yeah?"
"What're you doing?" Daniel's body was now shaking, both from exertion and from fever. Jack knew he couldn't let Daniel move anymore. It was only spreading the ant's poison further. Even `non poisonous' insects could inflict poison if someone was bit enough. And Daniel had been bit plenty.
"I can't carry you and you can't walk all the way back to the `gate," Jack explained briefly. Daniel would put two and two together.
"Right. Um, where are Sam and Teal'c?" Daniel asked, voice fading even more.
"I still don't know. They have to be okay. I figure we'll pass the sight where we were attacked and find some clues there," Jack hedged. God, what if they had been killed outright?
No, that wouldn't make sense. The natives hadn't even threatened their lives, they wouldn't have killed Carter and Teal'c. As if in answer to his silent prayers, Jack heard a distant voice calling.
"Colonel, Daniel!"
Never had Carter looked so beautiful. Neither had Teal'c or SG6.
"Carter! Over here!" he shouted. "What the hell took you so long?"
The group rushed over to their location, worry etching their faces. Carter gave Jack a quick once over, found him satisfactorily healthy.
"Sorry, sir. Both Teal'c and I were shoved into the pit. Took us a bit of time to get out and then Teal'c tracked you to the village, but we couldn't determine your whereabouts. I decided we should head for the `gate posthaste and get some back up, as the situation looked stable."
Carter winced at her words, understanding she'd been incorrect. She crouched next to Daniel and placed a hand on his fevered forehead, brushing a stray strand of hair aside. The archaeologist had lapsed into complete unconsciousness, but he was groaning softly.
"Sir?" she asked, pointing to the makeshift sling. "What happened?"
"Fire ants. Long story. Let's just say we should get out of here as soon as possible," Jack said shortly. There would be plenty of time for explanations later.
"O'Neill, should we not attempt to locate the UAV?" Teal'c asked.
"I know where it is, and it's staying," Jack asserted. "Trust me on this, Teal'c. We don't want to mess with these people. Daniel would probably say their actions were justifiable. The UAV managed to mangle a little girl pretty seriously. They were seeking retribution."
"I'm afraid they might be successful if we don't get Daniel out of here, sir. His hand is twice its normal size and looks to continue swelling," Carter called out apprehensively.
"I will carry Daniel Jackson," Teal'c announced and went promptly to the young man and scooped him up.
Jack watched with relief as Teal'c urgently began the trek back to the `gate. He trotted up to the Jaffa and matched his pace to Teal'c. No way was he letting Daniel get more than three feet away from him.
They were going home.


Three days later
Daniel lay in the infirmary bed in a fever and drug induced slumber. Jack rubbed a weary hand across his eyes, dry and sore from his constant vigil. Dr. Fraiser said Daniel was no longer in danger, the swelling of his arm had greatly reduced and the fever under control.
He should wake up any minute now, and Jack was determined he'd be there to see it. They'd tried to pull him away for sleep and food, but Jack refused. He'd force down the vending machine sandwiches Carter kept bringing him with distaste. But nothing would drag him away from Daniel's bedside until the younger man was officially out of the woods. Awake.
Jack succumbed to a moment of weakness, resting his head on the side of the soft mattress. He closed his eyes momentarily and fought against the overwhelming exhaustion.
A soft touch on his head yanked him from his state of semi-sleep. Bolting upright, Jack eyes flew to Daniel's face. Blue eyes stared at him, crinkling at the corners as a tentative smile flittered at the younger man's mouth.
"Hey, Jack," Daniel rasped.
Just like that. Like Daniel was greeting him on a regular old, noninfirmary day. Despite himself, Jack burst into an enormous grin. He reached for the glass of water he'd kept fresh on the bed stand and shoved the straw at Daniel's mouth.
"Hey, yourself. How are you feeling?"
Daniel gratefully sipped the water and relaxed into the pillow. "Good. Uh, how long?"
"Right. I'll bet," Jack said dryly. "And three days."
"You look like hell, Jack. Go get some rest," Daniel ordered.
Jack laughed. He searched the infirmary for Dr. Fraiser and grabbed her attention. She hurried over and Jack stumbled onto the gurney next to Daniel's.
Now his friend was safe, he could rest easy.
The End

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