Title: The Consequences of Friendship
Author: Winterstar
Category: Angst, H/C, Drama
Warnings: cultural issues with women
Rating: PG13
Spoilers: Through season 5

 

            The gun to her head halted all protests. She gulped back her explanations, her logical arguments, and stilled her features. Her eyes focused only on the leader of her team as he stayed paralyzed next to the door of their cell. Manacles bound his wrists, linking him to the sterile white wall. The rest of her team, both Teal’c and Daniel, were similarly bound to the inner wall of the cell.

            Though fatigue haunted her Commanding Officer’s eyes, he kept his jaw set and his eyes steadily fastened to her. Her next move, her next words could damn them all. She sought assistance in deciphering the culture and the laws putting them in such a perilous position. Her gaze drifted to Daniel. He stood still, his arms tied behind his back and chained to the wall. He’d tried to explain her actions, begged the people holding them as prisoners to listen to him but he had been rewarded with a breaking fist to the face. A lavish bruise rose across his cheek bone and she wondered if it was fractured. With a slight turn of the head, Daniel moved his mouth, then spat out a wad of blood. She flinched and turned her eyes to Teal’c.

            In silence she pleaded with him for help but there was little the Jaffa could do. He too was tethered to the wall, stripped of any weapons. They had been lucky so far that the Prime Minister of the province had not sentenced him to death for once being affiliated with a Goa’uld. It seemed past sins were not forgiven in this society; it also seemed that a woman speaking out of turn was considered a major offense.

            Although she bristled at the whole civilization and its culture of putting women in a position of inferiority, Sam knew this world held important technology in their battle against the Goa’uld. Daniel worked with her to guide her  regarding the acceptable actions for a woman in this culture. It hadn’t been easy on either side. Speaking when not spoke to was permitted by only those in power and with authority, neither of which Sam as a woman possessed. She’d made the mistake of doing so, twice. The first time had been forgiven since they were visitors; the second time could not be forgiven. They would be punished.

            After enduring hours of interrogation regarding how her society allowed women to behave, they dragged Sam to the prison cell holding the rest of her team. One thing she learned on this trip was the power of words. She glanced at Daniel; as a linguist he understood the potentiality of language, how it could drive people to revolution and how it could alleviate flaring tempers. Her words uttered in innocence flamed the current administration of this planet. Her words had been broadcasted and the government officials told them that they had no other choice but to punish them. Even the fist to Daniel’s face flashed across video screens across the world.

            It had been replayed endlessly.

            Her eyes met Daniel’s and he gave her a small smile, though she saw in his features the movement pained him. His focus slid to the soldier standing next to her holding the gun to her head. The penalty for the words she spoke in front of cameras was death. If she had only remained silent or demurred to her male counterparts as Daniel directed her, then they would not be in this situation. Her team mates would not be subjected to watching her being put to death. She knew Daniel had argued repeatedly that due to her ignorance of the cultural taboos and her innately lower intelligence as a woman she should not be held responsible.

Now all those words drained from her, disappear in a wash of sound as her interrogator standing beside her began rattling off the litany of charges against her. Daniel searched her features and without a word told her to remain quiet. She blinked once to tell him she understood. The lilting language of the natives of 990 sang oddly in her head as she concentrated on the sterile walls behind her team mates.

Daniel spoke to the man, answering him with quiet tones, then he turned to Sam and translated, “Sam, they want to ask you a few questions about the team. Keep the answers as short as possible, okay?”

She nodded. Just the sound of her own voice terrified her. She could accept her death but she could not be responsible for condemning anyone on her team.

The man knocked the gun against her head as if he realized her fear, then snickering, he spoke to Daniel.

Her friend bowed his head and shifted, looking at the Colonel then back at her. His eyes implored her to answer with the right response. “Sam, they’ve asked who Jack is.”

“Who he is?” She didn’t understand, they knew who he was. What was this all about?

“Answer directly and without complicating the matter.”

“My commanding officer, Colonel O’Neill is my commanding officer,” she said and was relieved when Daniel smiled.

He turned to the man and repeated what she’d said in the language of 990. It sounded to her as if it was based on some Far East language from Earth. When they first gated to 990 Daniel specifically told them that culture this civilization was based on linked it to an Indian derivative but that it had long strayed from its original model. This fact made it difficult for them to navigate the often unpredictable waters of negotiations and transcultural interactions.

Putting all but the most elite women into the lowest caste stemmed from the society’s repugnance of the Goa’uld, Nirrti. Women were born and stained with Nirrti’s curse, an evil god who would mutilate the innocent. SG1 had been sent to 990 to discover how these people overthrew their evil god and what technologies they had to offer, some of them a legacy of Nirrti.

Her interrogator then waved the gun at Teal’c, asked again then hit the gun against her head. This time she answered without a translation. “Teal’c is my comrade. We are both soldiers.” Simple, keep it simple.

Daniel worked the words and she could tell, he wove them eloquently, lacing them with a finesse she did not possess in language. The man seemed content with her answer. He nodded and shoved her forward. Tripping, she found her footing and righted herself as her captor pushed her in front of Daniel. The same question was asked.

Her heart thrummed in her chest. Glancing at her CO, she locked his gaze briefly. He gave her the strength to answer this question. As a soldier, she needed to know from her commanding officer that she had served well and proudly before she was condemned. He gave that to him with his strident look.

“My colleague. Daniel is my colleague.”

“Sam,” Daniel urged.

“I don’t know what else to say, Daniel.”

Daniel gritted his teeth and grimaced as he looked at her interrogator. His answer was swift and concise. She could tell he was itching to use his hands. With his ardent speech though he made up for what he lacked in gestures.

He punctuated his sentences with translations for them. “Of course, as one of our property, she does not mean to insist she is an equal to me. She knows her place here on this world.”

Daniel listened to the man as he waved the gun about and spittle flew from his mouth. He answered with calm tones. “Yes on own world we see women differently. But we respect the laws of your world, of Aylan and the Kingdom of Mists.” He bowed his head reverently to show respect.

            The man hissed but seemed to deflate a degree. He called out then and the cell door opened to admit several of his fellow officers. The interrogator indicated Daniel and then said something to one of the few people that spoke broken English. English had been considered a dirty language since it was one brought to this world by the Goa’uld. The woman kept her head slightly tilted, never looking anyone straight in the eye.

            “I ask you one more question,” the servant woman said.

            Sam remained silent awaiting the query.

            The woman lifted her eyes and, her large green eyes begged for release before she asked, “Are you friends with this one?” She pointed to Daniel.

            Before she even thought of the consequences of her actions, Sam answered, “Yes, we’re friends.”

            Daniel cringed and sagged in his bonds. A little noise came out of her throat, a popping then an oh as realization dawned. The interrogator started to speak with the other officials after the woman interpreted Sam’s reply.

            Snapping his head up, words flew out of Daniel in rapid succession as if he fired a P90. He yelled over the man, the tendons in his throat straining, his face flushing red as he battled with the interrogator to make his point.

            “Damn it, Daniel, what is going on?” the Colonel asked.

            Sam faced the woman translator and asked, “Please.”

            The woman pursed her lips and considered the officials gathered around Daniel as he bickered with them. She gave a quick glance to Sam and then the men of her world. When they did not protest her continued presence, she began. “Your man says his culture friend means not companions. Means something else.”

            “Daniel,” the Colonel warned but the archeologist continued the debate without offering them a look.

            “He says friend more as you say family. Like brother.”

            “No Daniel, don’t,” Sam said as she shook her head. Turning back to the woman standing next to her she said, “Tell them it isn’t true, tell them I’m not his family.”

            “I cannot. Man’s word is always above woman’s.”

            “Sir, we don’t know the consequences of family ties in this society. Please Colonel, this is my duty.”

            The Colonel frowned, his expression torn between his two teammates. But she knew he would understand the right thing to do. It was her duty, her sworn duty to protect the civilians. She had as much right to protect Daniel as her CO had. If a death sentence was the result, she would hold her head high when she was condemned.

            “Daniel,” the Colonel demanded but their team mate ignored them. His focus fixed on the three officials surrounding him. All spoke simultaneously while leaning close enough to touch. At one point, one of the officials slapped Daniel on the swollen bruise marring his face.

            “Damn it,” the Colonel cursed and tugged on his bonds. “Leave him alone. If anyone should be punished it should be me, I’m her leader, her commanding officer.” He glowered at the woman servant. “Tell them, tell them.”

            “Sir!” Sam said as he swore at the woman’s refusal. “This is my duty. I made the mistake.”

            As Daniel recovered from the attack, his right eye watering, he began to speak in quiet, almost hushed tones. All in the room fell silent to listen to him, his words low and lilting in their manner. The servant woman muffled a gasp with a hand cupped to her mouth.

            Her CO swung around to the servant woman and asked, “What? What is he saying?”

            With a skipping gaze, the servant shook her head and whispered, “A prayer. He offers a prayer against the evil god.”

            “Damn it, Daniel. What the hell are you doing?” Her CO yanked on his bonds again and growled at the officials, “Don’t listen to him. He’s the village idiot.”

            A flicker of Daniel’s attention to the Colonel, told her that he was indeed listening to what was going on around him but that he had every intention of continuing on his suicidal pursuit. With the Colonel essentially out of the picture, Sam turned to Teal’c – the shoulder she learned to rely on in their darkest hours. No word was needed to enlist his help.

            “Daniel Jackson, you must not pursue this course of action. It will only lead to your own destruction.” Teal’c stretched out the chain and moved close to Daniel and the three officials.

            One of the officials though made his decision and turned to the woman servant. He nodded to her then looked up to Sam. The stooped woman shuffled over to her master, bowing once and awaiting instructions.

            Her words were stilted and stained the air with their halting manner. “Prime Minister Rao Myshra hears prayer against god Nirrti by prisoner.” She coughed as if doing so would clean her to the reference to their once overlord. “Prisoner says he wishes cleaning of evil god’s ways from family. He responsible for family.”

            “No, no,” Sam said. “Daniel, you bastard, don’t do this.”

            The soldier holding the gun to her head grabbed her arm and twisted it until she tensed and hissed at the pain.

            “Prime Minister takes offer by prisoner.”

            “No,” her CO stated, his voice flat but with an underlying threat laced through it. “Daniel’s got no authority to do this. Tell Misty only I have the authority.”

            Daniel interrupted then by falling to his knees and murmuring his prayer as he stared at Myshra. The expression on his face broke Sam’s heart, repentant and seeking. He was going to do it; Daniel was going to convince the Prime Minister to punish him in her place.

            The Prime Minister raised a hand and stopped the servant from interpreting what the colonel had commanded. Instead he motioned for Daniel to stand and her team mate climbed up to his feet. For the first time, Sam noticed that her team mates were bare footed. Why would they take their boots? At this moment it seemed so out of place, so strange and disconcerting.

            It was Daniel’s voice translating the Prime Minister’s words, “I have decided to accept the family’s proposal.”

            She squeezed her eyes closed and dropped her head. She didn’t want to hear the words, couldn’t live with herself if this came to pass.

            “This one will serve as the family member to the untouchable woman.” The Prime Minister gave a quick cutting motion to one of the other officials and he scuttled out the door of the cell. “Due to the fact you are strangers to this world we will make an exception.”

            Her chest shook and her heart ached, hard and fast within the hollow space under her ribs. She wanted to thank someone, anyone for that brief reprieve but she remained still – something told her they were not free of all penance.

            Daniel continued to interpret for the leader of the Kingdom of Mists. “Your family member will undergo the Humiliation Trial. Then the penalty will be paid.”

            “What?” Both she and the Colonel yelled at the same time. Teal’c shifted, the muscles in his arms pulled against the fabric of his t-shirt. She went further and asked, “Daniel?”

            “Not sure, Sam.  From what I can tell I will undergo some type of humilation.” Daniel looked drained, the purples and reds spiraled over his right cheek bone throbbed with color in contrast to the paleness of his face.

            “What the hell is this humiliation?” her CO asked.

            “I’ve no idea, Jack.” Daniel shrugged his shoulders. “Sam will be tested to find out if she actually does understand her place and what’s she’s done. So it should be fairly simple, right?”

            “Smells fishy Daniel Jackson.”

            “It sounds, Teal’c,” the Colonel corrected.

            “I do not understand why it would sound like fish. I would think it should smell like fish since this is the more offensive of the two,” Teal’c said. Somehow this little exchange put things into place for her, helped her reassess and strengthen her resolve. Deep within her, she thanked Teal’c. She mouthed a thank you to him and he only bowed in response.

            “So how do we go about figuring out how they humiliated you? A game of twenty questions?” Her CO asked.

            “You must see,” the woman servant said and cringed when one of the other officials raised a hand in warning. She mumbled an apology.

            “See?” Sam said but then turned back to Daniel, “Please Daniel, I don’t like this. It doesn’t seem so straight forward to me.”

            “Me neither. Daniel when we get home, we’re going to have a serious conversation about chain of command.”

            One of the officials moved to the side of Daniel and started to unlock his manacles from the chain hooked to the wall. “I don’t think it really matters at this point Jack. I think I’m about to be humiliated.”

            As they freed Daniel, another soldier entered the room to chain Sam to the wall.

            “Damn it,” her CO said. He faced the wall and punched it, though both hands were shackled together at the wrist.

            Sam watched Daniel leave the room, his gait hampered by the chains linking his ankles together. Bare feet, hobbled. Prisoners . It made sense to her now. Lord, she wasn’t driving on all her cylinders at this point anymore. Hating the thought of waiting for Daniel to return, Sam decided to address the problem head on like she would any mathematical proof or scientific hypothesis.

            “Do you recall what Daniel said about this culture?” Maybe they could tease out what these people would consider humiliating to Daniel and work from there. Her CO still leaned against the wall, his shoulders bunched up with tension. “Sir, if we’re prepared we might be able to help Daniel.”

            Before he was able to answer, a bright flash burnt her retinas and within the white void of the light she felt herself spinning slowly to oblivion. Her stomach lurched, twisted and plunged. Crumpling to her knees, she retched once and collapsed to the floor. Her last thought was to confirm both Teal’c and her CO had fallen to the assault as well.

II.

            They didn’t give him time to think. They didn’t give him time to breathe. Hands held him, shoved him down long hallways. He wanted to stop and study the inlay, the mosaics, the delicate paintings but they kept him moving forward until he was blinking at the harsh light of the sun.

            Outside, they led him toward the center of a square. Cameras lined the area, onlookers were escorted to the perimeter of the square. The light on this planet hurt his eyes and he squinted against the glare. Someone took his glasses and as he objected they were flung aside. He heard the crack before he saw the resulting damage.

            Large cauldrons grouped together sat a few meters off to the side. A sizzling sound and a hiss of flames flickered at the edges of the black pots.

            Bahra, the government liaison, stood close to him and whispered, “You do not have to do this, Doctor Jackson. The woman should be the one suffering the Humiliation Trial. She is the one that spoke out of turn and caused the uprising.”

            “Uprising?” Daniel asked.

            The short man nodded and said, “Several of the provinces aired the ceremony live and therefore the action of your woman was not edited out. Her punishment would be severe because of the outcry from some of our more liberal sects.”

            “What is this Humiliation Trial?” Daniel asked as a guard shackled him to a cross post in the middle of the square. “Bahra?”

            “You will be punished and the only way for them to save you will be to see.”

            “To see?” It made no sense. Why wouldn’t they be able to see? And if they couldn’t see him because of some obstruction, why wouldn’t he be able to tell them? Was he going to be separated from them? Gagged?

            “Your family will be humiliated when no one who claims or you helps you in your time of need,” Bahra said, his eyes grew kind in their aspect. “Please Doctor Jackson allow the woman to stand here in this place where she belongs. It is wrong to make a man suffer this pain and degradation.”

            He swallowed hard. What the hell was going on? “No, I made my choice.”

            Bahra bowed. “As you wish.”

            A guard brought over a small porcelain cup and lifted it to Daniel’s lips. Bahra instructed, “Drink, it will help you, strengthen your resolve.”

            Daniel drank.

            “It will also help you forget. You will not see,” Bahra said, his tone distinctly saddened. “It is not right for the condemned to remember such pain. Even we make sure the women do not suffer in the end.”

            The trial began.

            Daniel screamed.

III.

            Her neck hurt. She flipped over onto her back and blinked against the glare of white surrounding her. A distinct taste of metal tainted her mouth and she licked her lips to try and get rid of it. It lingered. Craning around to see where she was, Sam noted the curled back of someone in a black t-shirt in front of her. For a second, she witnessed a shiver afflict him but it dissipated. The black wavered with a short spurt of skin stained with red but that too disappeared. She closed her eyes as a wave of dizziness took hold. Her hands were free for the first time in days and she brought them up to her face and shielded herself against the blinding light.

            “Carter?”

            She eased herself over and with one hand lifted herself up off the floor. Lying next to her and unconscious, Daniel lay. Beyond him, the Colonel stirred and put the heel of his hand against his eye.

            “Sir?”

            “Crap, what a hang over.”

            “Actually sir, I believe we’re suffering the effects of some kind of advanced stun technology,” Sam explained as she braced herself against the wall. She needed to reach out and check Daniel. What happened? Where were they?

            “In fact, Major Carter, I believe it was a modification of the Goa’uld grenade device. My symbiote is much unsettled at this time, though it is quite different than the after effects of a Goa’uld grenade,” Teal’c said as he glanced at Daniel. “What of Daniel Jackson?”

            She touched his face and noted he felt a little clammy but overall his status at first blush seemed similar to theirs. “I think he’s fine. Daniel?”

            “I do not think so Major Carter,” Teal’c shifted and with only the grace a Jaffa warrior could muster, crab crawled over to Daniel. “His skin feels unhealthy.”

            “Probably just a reaction to the stun,” Sam said.

            “How do we know he was even stunned?” The Colonel asked. “He wasn’t in the room when it happened, was he?” He did a quick wave around his head. “It’s all mixed up, can’t really remember what the hell happened.”

            “We gated to PR4-990 over two days ago, O’Neill. Major Carter spoke out of turn and this was considered an egregious incident to the residents of this planet since she is a woman and considered to be of the lowest caste and untouchable in certain situations. Women are only permitted to be used for breeding and servitude on this planet.”

            She rolled her eyes at that statement; this culture really had a few lessons to learn from its counterparts on Earth. From what she understood, even in the Indian castes system women were not subjected to only the lowest caste.

            Colonel O’Neill held up his hand and said, “Hold your horses, T-man. Don’t need to bring it all up in lurid details again. Don’t want the Major to get her panties in a twist about it.”

            “My panties are not in a twist about anything sir,” Sam said and winced. Damn it, she fell for the bait again.

            He snickered at her but said, “See if you can wake him up. We gotta get out of here.”

            Sam laid her hand on Daniel’s shoulder and gently shook him. “Daniel.”

            First nothing but then a groan deep and thick issued forth. He bent further in on himself and seemed to whimper before allowing a moan to escape.
“Daniel?” Sam asked as the Colonel made his way over to her side to check on their team mate.

            “Crap,” her CO said and pushed her aside. “Carter go over there for a minute, will you?” Without waiting for her reply, he turned to Teal’c and said, “Teal’c give me a hand, we have to check him, quick.”

            “Sir?”

            Looking over his shoulder, he made a cutting motion and said, “Just let it be, okay Carter. Just this once. Please.”

            She nodded and turned her head so that she couldn’t watch their examination of Daniel’s body. Don’t let it be that, she thought. Please Hathor was enough. Don’t let it be that. After what seemed like hours but was only a few minutes, the ramming of her heart in her chest couldn’t be ignored anymore. “Sir?”

            “It’s okay, as far as I can tell. We need to find out from Fraiser for sure. But he’s okay.”

            She leaned against the wall and exhaled a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. “Good, good. That’s good right?”

            “Major Carter, we will need your skills and assistance in further study of Daniel Jackson.”

            Before she joined them though, the door to their cell opened and the Prime Minister and the other officials they’d never been formally introduced to entered the room. The woman servant followed them in to interpret for them. The Prime Minister looked at Daniel and for a moment she swore she glimpsed him wince at the man.

            Damn, what had they done to Daniel?

            “Colonel O’Neill, your man suffered Humiliation Trial,” the Prime Minister reported through the servant. “What does sister say?”

            With expectant stares, everyone turned to face her. She glanced down at Daniel and he began to wake, his eyes tearing as he surveyed the room. His glossy stare reminded her of that of an infant during those first full days of life. How was she supposed to know without asking Daniel? The woman servant shifted from foot to foot, her gaze wide and fearful, yet with a hint of hope in it.

            Sam concentrated on the servant woman. She’d never been introduced to the servant at all, but then again she was a woman and wouldn’t be introduced to anyone. The woman lifted her finger to Daniel’s waking figure, then brought her hand to her chest. She was humbled and hated in this society. Every action or inaction could spell disaster for herself and her family. One of the guards who entered the cell with the officials noticed this gesture and the servant folded her hands and bowed her head.

            Daniel moaned again but started to wake more fully. He brought his hands up to his face and for the first time she noted that his glasses were gone. He rubbed his face and groaned.

            “What happened?” His voice was raw, sounding like his throat was full of gravel.

            For a second, the woman chanced to look at her again and Sam knew. She gave the smallest of smiles to the servant in thanks then turned to the Prime Minister and in a quiet respectful voice said, “Daniel was shamed in public and degraded as a woman would be. He is untouchable now.”

            “What?” Colonel O’Neill asked.

            She ground her teeth and said, “Please sir, let me.”

            He nodded to her.

            The Prime Minister awaited the servant to translate and when she did, Myshra grumbled low in his throat but recovered. Through the servant he said, “Your chosen brother served his family well. Negotiations can begin, though he now unsuitable for translator. He like one speaks to you, like dog at our feet.” He kicked the servant girl and Sam flinched in response. “Punishment never overlooked in Kingdom.” He raised his eyebrow then and seemed to stifle a snicker before he swept out of the room. The rest of the officials hesitated before they exited as well.

            The servant woman lingered for a moment, her eyes round and full. She stepped to leave but before she made her escape, Sam stopped her. “Thank you.” Glancing back at Daniel as he struggled to sit up, she said, “For everything, thank you.”

            The servant looked at Daniel then turned back to Sam. “No negotiate. No negotiate. Take home.” She raised her chin to indicate Daniel. “Take home.”

            “Take Daniel home?”

            “Family never knows. Sometimes punishment just showing girl out in square, shame family. Sometimes not. Make untouchable by marking. Take home. By marking.”

            Before she could quiz the woman further, the servant slipped out of the cell. Several of the guards who had left with the official entourage came back in and started to order them up and out of the small white room.

            Both Teal’c and Colonel O’Neill helped Daniel to his feet. Though he seemed more aware, his ashen tones and staggering gait belied an underlying cause. “Sir?”

            He looked up as they assisted Daniel out of the cell. “Carter?”

            “I think we should take Daniel home.”

            Even as Daniel attempted to walk on his own, Teal’c kept his hand perched on his friend’s upper arm. The tentative steps Daniel took stumbled due to his weakened knees.

            “Daniel, tell me what’s going on?”

            Daniel looked up at the Colonel, his focus bleary and off. Her CO grabbed the archeologist’s arm and asked again, “What is it Daniel? Do you remember what they did to you?”

            He shook his head and with a hand cupped to his injured right cheek, said, “Don’t remember much. A lot of jeering or something. I can’t see straight.” He blinked again as if trying to clear his vision. “Maybe a public square, yeah, a public square.”

            “Sir, they could have drugged him or given him poison, we don’t know what they could have done,” Sam said.

            “Yeah, Carter thanks for telling me,” her CO snapped. “Forget the negotiations, we’re going home.”

            They ignored the insistent calls from the guards as they turned down the halls toward the Stargate instead of the Negotiations room. Several of the guards followed them, their orders clear even without Daniel’s translation.

            Glimpsing her friend, she noted his knees collapsing, faltering as they strode down the mosaic walled halls. He never looked up, never paused. His entire concentration focused on putting one foot down, then the second. Teal’c clutched Daniel’s shoulders bracing him.

            “Daniel Jackson if you are unwell I will carry you.”

            “I’m not an invalid,” Daniel cursed. He stopped then and examined himself. “I can’t recall. Don’t see anything.” But his sentence transformed into a muffled cry of pain. “God, what did they do?”

            The Colonel was standing in front of their team mate, his hands clasping Daniel’s upper arms. He spoke in low tones as if to alleviate Daniel’s stress. “You have to tell us what this untouchable stuff is all about.”

            Daniel inhaled, then with flaring nostrils, forced the air out. “Lowest cast, untouchable. Lepers were considered essentially untouchable in several different societies on Earth. So were people with physical maladies. A humiliation trial might be linked,” he paused overwhelmed by an onslaught of pain. “To shame. Yes. I distinctly remember being told I would be shamed.”

            “Physical malady? Daniel would they harm you to permanently mutilate you or just kill?” Sam asked.        The Colonel went to protest but it was her turn to stop him. “Please sir, this is important.”

            He shook his head is if he didn’t understand her words.

            “Daniel?”

            “I think the first, marking me so the family bares the mark of untouchable.”

            The Prime Minister came marching down the hall, his robe a fury of motion. The servant girl skipped behind him to interpret.  As he spoke, she translated, “Friend accepted consequences of family’s actions. Penalty paid. Negotiate for medicines now.”

            “What penalty? What did you do? You made us believe he would be okay,” the Colonel swore his hands flexing into fists. “What the hell did you do to him?”

            “Family clean of transgression, bares mark of untouchable. Family see when family accepts are untouchables.”

            She leaned closed to the Colonel and whispered, “Sir, the modified Goa’uld grenade. What if it did something to us so that we can’t see what is wrong with Daniel?”

            “Crap.”

IV.

            She emerged from the wormhole, the chill of it still aching her bones as she marched down the ramp into the embarkation room of the SGC. Sam followed behind the Colonel with Teal’c and Daniel directly behind her. General Hammond stood at the end of the ramp, his steely cold stare mirroring the frigid cold running through her.

            “Colonel can you tell me what has been happening on PR4-990? The government liaison refused to allow us any access to you and refused to permit us to send in another team,” General Hammond said.

            “We ran into a little trouble, sir,” Colonel O’Neill answered but while she was attentive to her commanding officer and the General, a faltering step interrupted her.

            “O’Neill!” Teal’c’s baritone thundered through the air.

            As one they turned to see Daniel lurch, then fall to his knees.  He crumpled to the floor, he cried out with a shuddering breath. “Oh God.”

            “Medical team! Get a medical team,” Hammond screamed.

            Kneeling beside her team mate, Sam could say nothing. Her hands shook as she pushed back the tattered black t-shirt away to reveal scorching whip wounds up and down Daniel’s torso and back.

            “How did we not see this?”

            She gave her CO only a hesitant glance and then looked down upon her injuried team mate.  Daniel was murmuring something, over and over again as he moved his head from side to side. “I remember, I remember. I remember what -- did now. God, can’t believe they – do – this – anyone. God.” He groaned. “Cold, I’m cold.”

            “I’m here Daniel.” The Colonel pulled off his jacket and laid it over Daniel. He peered over his shoulder and yelled, “Where’s the damned medical team?”

            “Jack?” His hand reached out, pawing the air. His search found purchase when her CO clasped Daniel’s hand.

            “Here Daniel,” he said and touched his friend’s bruised face. Daniel opened his mouth as if he might utter a word but instead he gasped out a moan and cringed at the pain. Her stomach clenched and curdled at the sight of the blood and torn flesh.

            Bringing her hand to her mouth, Sam bit down hard to squelch a cry. Pants started to streaked through her lungs and a hand on her shoulder yanked her away from the scene as Janet and the medical team rushed into the room. Teal’c brought her to the corner of the embarkation room and tugged her hand away from her mouth. Deep impressions of her teeth marked her index finger.

            “Inhale deep breaths Major Carter,” Teal’c directed. “You are undergoing an anxiety attack and you must calm yourself before you suffer hyperventilation.”

            Only Teal’c would say calm down with so many words. The normality of his manner helped her come back to herself and she took a few cleansing breaths before nodding to him and saying, “I’m okay now, Teal’c. Thanks.”

            “Are you certain?”

            She gave him a weak smile and inhaled again. “Yes, yes I think so. I’d like to go find out about Daniel’s condition now.”

            “As would I,” Teal’c said, giving her a short bow before stepping aside and allowing her to lead them back to the small conclave on the ramp to the Stargate.

            The medical team was loading Daniel onto a gurney as Janet rattled off a string of orders. The nurses’ hands flew without hesitation and they automatically followed Janet’s commands.

            As she approached, she heard the General asking her CO about the circumstances surrounding Daniel’s injuries. “You mean to tell me that Doctor Jackson was injured and you were unable to identify his injuries? It seems to me that’d be near to impossible. The man has been severely beaten and whipped.”

            “Yes sir.” His voice deflated to a hollow echo.

            “Sir, they used some type of stun technology on us and we believe it might have had some effect on our perceptions of reality,” she explained for her CO. His ashen features and sallow expression worried her but the flurry of activity surrounding Daniel captured her attention. “Janet?”

            “Not now, Sam,” the doctor answered then to her medical team. “Let’s go, he’s gone into shock.” In a blur, the gurney raced out of the room and the rest of SG1 stood about her. She shivered against the sudden cold.

            “SG1 report to the infirmary. We need to figure out what happened to you as well,” Hammond said.

            The Colonel nodded and with a gentle wave ushered them down the corridor toward the elevator and the infirmary.

V.

            Shadows imprinted on his brain, fragments and figments. He fought against the wavering light and darkness but it haunted him.

            Hands pressed on him, pulled and yanked his shirt off. He cried out and a soft voice murmured comfort to him. He clung to the sounds of it, yet the echoes of his memory overwhelmed him and he cried out.

            “Daniel.” Her words caressed him in tender tones and he battled the shadows, the shades of his mind. “We have to abrade the dead skin away otherwise the burns may get infected. It’s going hurt, we’re going to give you something for it but you may still feel it.”

            He curled away from her but hands forced him to straighten out. Intravenous lines were started as he grappled to stay awake. Sleep beckoned him but Daniel refused it, fearing what lurked there, the images, the memories.

            “We’re giving you antibiotics and some pain meds Daniel. Let yourself go to sleep. It’ll be easier that way,” Janet said as she leaned over him, her hand holding his face. “Please Daniel.”

            “No, no.” He shook his head. The ghosts rose, he glimpsed them hovering over her shoulder. He drowsed, his head lolling to the side. It came then – the memories. The shock and the pain thrummed over him, sliced into his skin, breaking and shattering his resolve.

            A soothing voice spoke to him through the pain. “I’m sorry Daniel. It shouldn’t be long, you don’t have many third degree burns.”

            But he couldn’t understand what Janet was saying. Yes he processed the words, constructed the sentences yet the words fell like scattered pieces of a puzzle. He couldn’t grasp them in the end. He felt only the fiery pain that stabbed through him.

            He saw the Prime Minister nod and the crowd gather about him. He remembered it all the details stretched out, the blisters bubbled over his flesh. God, what had they done to him?

            It didn’t matter.

            He would do it again, if he had to, for his family.

            “Daniel, we’re done cleaning the wounds,” Janet said. “I need you to sleep. Can you rest for a while.”

            He whispered, “Home?”

            “Yes, you’re home.” She clasped his hand. “You’re safe. Can you tell me what happened?”

            He closed his eyes for a moment then opened them again. “Took care of my family. That’s all.” He gave her a smile, ignoring the hideous shadows at the edges of his perception.

 

VI.

            It took too long. She sat on the bed in the infirmary, staring at the dead monitors about the room. The Colonel and Teal’c shared the space but neither of them spoke either. After all the tests and the blood draws, the nurses left them to attend to more important matters.

            Daniel.

            She bowed her head and closed her eyes. This was her fault. If she had listened at the very beginning then they would not have fallen into such a situation. They gated to the 990 and were well aware of the risks and the society’s taboos and mores. She’d been a fool thinking that imposing her cultural beliefs and behaviors on an entire civilization would make a difference.

            It made a difference all right.

            Shit.

            “Carter.”

            She lifted her head at the sound of her CO’s voice.

            “Stop beating yourself up,” he said. “We all knew the risks. The culture was seriously disturbed. We knew the risks and went for it because of the possible gain in technology.”

            “I shouldn’t have said anything. I should have kept my mouth shut.”

            “Of this you are correct Major Carter, but it will achieve nothing to continue to berate yourself for doing what is natural. You wished to defend the helpless as did we all. If you had not voiced your objection to the treatment of the servant girl during the dinner, I surely would have,” Teal’c said. “We would be in the same situation.”

            “Ditto,” the Colonel said.

            At that she smiled. It faded as Janet walked into the ward of the infirmary, her expression grave. Damn it. Sam closed her eyes, steeled herself then faced her friend to hear the news concerning Daniel.

            “Janet?”

            Her friend and colleague gave her the smallest smile then pursuing her lips flipped through the papers on the clipboard. “First, all of you have been exposed to some type of hypnosis.”

            “That would be impossible for me, Doctor Fraiser since my symbiote would protect me from such mental intrusions.”

            “It should be but in this case the hypnosis was from a powerful hallucinogen. The drugs they administered to you, the Colonel and Major Carter allowed them to implant a post hallucinogenic suggestion much like implanting a post hypnotic suggestion,” Janet explained.

            “But why did it wear off as soon as we stepped through the gate?” Sam asked.

            “It might have something to do with how they made the suggestion to you,” Janet said. “Psychologically, the suggestion might have a trigger to start and a trigger to end. Going home may have been the endpoint. I suspect they thought you would be on 990 for quite some time and therefore the drug would have fulfilled its purpose.”

            “Not seeing Daniel’s injuries until it was too late?” Sam said more to herself than the others.

            “And Daniel?” the Colonel asked.

            Janet turned to the second in command of the SGC, her voice quiet and serious. “Daniel suffered injuries inflicted by what we believe to be a flamed whip of some kind.”

            “Flamed?”

            Janet braced herself then addressed them, “Whatever kind of whip they used it was charged with some kind of flame or fire. I can’t really describe it but each of the slices are also burns.”

            “Damn it.” The Colonel looked away, shook his head then he continued, “How is he?”

            “In pain but in surprisingly positive spirits,” Janet said. “Since he has burns and whip marks on his back and torso, he’s having difficulty resting. None of the wounds are infected at this time and we’ve started him on a series of broad spectrum antibiotics. He does have two fractured ribs and some other bruises. We can’t bind the ribs because of the burns. The whip wounds are not deep so there wasn’t any visceral damage. The few third degree burns he has are our biggest worry.” She paused for a moment as if to prepare herself. “You should understand, if you hadn’t come home when you did then Daniel’s wounds would have become infected, the results of which could have been devastating. Those people – if you want to call them that – on that planet use this technique so that the victim suffers a painful death.”

            “Can we see him?” she asked.

            “In a bit, he’s still in a lot of pain and we need to regulate his meds before he’s stressed by visitors,” Janet said, touching her arm. “He asked about you Sam.”

            “About me?”

            “Asked if you were all right, he seems to be worried about you.”

            “Me?”

            Janet only nodded. She tucked the clipboard under her arm and said, “You’re all discharged but please stay on base. I’d like to get another blood sample to test your drug levels in another twelve hours.”

            With a final nod, the doctor left them heading in the general direction of Daniel’s isolation room. For a long moment, Sam didn’t move, then she slid off the bed and followed her fellow teammates toward Daniel’s room.

            How would she face him? How could she?

            Halting, she turned down the corridor and slipped down the side corridor toward the elevator and her lab. She needed time to think before she faced Daniel.

VII.

           
Sleep evaded him but this fact failed to surprise Daniel. He lay on his right side, his bruised face throbbing even though it was cushioned against an extra layer of blankets on top of the pillow. He longed to shift and turn over but that was impossible as well. The wounds lacing around his torso and back kept him on his side. Janet didn’t trust his already fatigued body to actually stay on his right side. Instead she had Siler rig up what he could only label as some kind of Frankensteinian support to keep him from rolling over. The brace clamped on to the side bedrails and held his chest and hips in place so that he was literally trapped in the bed. It also helped keep the fractured ribs on his left side from being put in harms way. All in all not conducive to sleep anyway.

            A whistle interrupted his mental lament and he twisted his neck to watch Jack amble into the room. Even though his friend walked into the isolation room with a surgical mask and gown on to decrease the chance of exposing Daniel’s open third degree wounds to infection, he could still see the concern etched across Jack’s features.

            “Jack,” Daniel murmured, startled at how weak his voice sounded.

            “Daniel.”

            He swallowed hard but said nothing. He read that look a thousand times, knew it like he understood the Rosetta stone frontwards and backwards. He was in for a thrashing – regardless of his current physical shape.

            “A serious conversation regarding the chain of command is in your future Daniel.”

            “Would it help if I pleaded I’m a civilian?”

            Jack shook his head. “Nope, out in the field you know the rules. I’m the boss. You had no right to do what you did.”

            Daniel struggled against the stiff structure caging him. “I had every right. I’m the one that understood their society Jack. I knew what had to be done.”

            “Oh right, you understood it enough to realize they were going to permanently maim you and then on top of that give you something so you didn’t even realize it. Plus, oh let’s not forget the plus, have all your team mates doped up and flying high,” he growled.

            Closing his eyes if only for a moment, Daniel gathered his thoughts then, staring at Jack, said, “I made assumptions based on archaic traditional Indian culture from Earth, a type of assumption I make every day on the job if you haven’t noticed.” Pain throbbed up a notch and he gripped the rail of the bed. “In this case, those assumptions were poorly based. It happens. The influence of Nirrti and her scientific experiments led to disastrous results for the women of that culture and the society as a whole.”

            “You got that right Daniel. Or haven’t you noticed your laying in bed with third degree burns crisscrossing your back.”

            “Damn it, Jack, of course I noticed. You are the most unfeeling son of a bitch I know. This culture redefined the untouchable term to a new low.” He ground his teeth against the waves of pain. “Shit, I did it because I had no other choice. They wouldn’t believe that you were Sam’s family. As her CO, they saw you as her master and she your servant. Teal’c obviously couldn’t do it because he was already considered unclean and unfit for their society. I had no other choice.”

            Jack turned away for a moment as if he was considering something, his shoulders sagging. In a muffled voice he said, “Yes, you did Daniel.”

            “What?”

            “Sam.”

            His breath was ripped from his throat and he gasped out, “S-Sam? W-What?”

            “It was her duty as second in command and a Major in the Air Force to protect you. You took that away from her,” Jack said as he pulled a stool up to the bed. His expression softened as he settled down.

            “I couldn’t, I didn’t want her to have to face-.”

            “Face what Daniel, did you know what they were going to do?”

            He shook his head. “No, that’s why I couldn’t let her do it.” He couldn’t turn his head, he couldn’t look away. Trapped, he simply closed his eyes.

            Barely a whisper, Jack said, “Daniel.”

            “Can you imagine what they would do to a woman, Jack? A Humiliation Trial, can you imagine.”

            “Jesus, Daniel.”

            In a low tone, he only said, “Yeah.”

            They left it at that for several minutes as Jack collapsed and settled back into a chair. His gaze never left Daniel and the bizarre cage surrounding him. Daniel said nothing, what could he say? Their relationship had suffered probably insurmountable damage over the last few years. From the some foundation comment about their friendship to the shut up Daniel comment concerning his worries over a culture waging war on an enemy unknown to them, their relationship had crumbled. What foundation did they have now.

            “Daniel,” Jack said as if reading his thoughts. “I wish-.” He stopped and glanced away from him.

            “Jack?”

            Jack shook his head and stared at his folded hands in his lap. After a moment he commented, “Fraiser said you’ll be in here a while, said most of your wounds will heal but the third degree burns need some serious healing.”

            He nodded. “That’s what she said.”

            “Does it hurt much?”

            He lifted his arm as much as he was able, showing off the iv lines. “Lots of happy juice.”

            “Good.”

            Jack stood then and started away. Something inside Daniel dropped and he swallowed trying not to let himself tear up at their tattered relationship. As his friend started to walk away, Daniel wondered if he should considered Jack a former friend. He shivered against the cold.

            Jack stopped before he exited and, with his back turned, he said, “You’re a good man Daniel.”

            Daniel released a breath and held back a cry of relief. When he couldn’t say anything in reply Jack gave him an escape.

            “It’ll take time before the Fraiser lets you out of here, but the recupe time at home is gonna be something.”

            “Probably,” Daniel agreed ignoring the cracking in his voice.

            Jack peered over his shoulder, his eyes locking on Daniel’s. “You’ll stay with me. Right?”

            Daniel tried to keep from sniffling and he said, “Sure.”

            “Good, good.” Jack turned to leave.

            “Jack?”

            “Yeah?”

            “Thanks.”

            Jack stood in the doorway for a moment, his back still turned to Daniel but he didn’t need to see his friend’s face. The tension shifted from his shoulders, eased away and he nodded, then left Daniel to his thoughts.

VIII.

            The damned matrix switch was rigged up all wrong. She cursed and slumped back in her seat. Her lab was dark with only a single small lamp to light her work space. She liked it that way, it keep her focused on her single task instead of illuminating all the other projects that lay about the room. Smiling, Sam realized Daniel used the same technique. Had they both always done that or had they subconsciously taken on each other’s habits. She frowned, what the hell did it matter now?

            Damn it.

            She leaned forward and teased at the wires, not really doing much to the instrument before her. A sound startled her out of her reverie and she glanced up to see Teal’c entered the room.

            “Major Carter I would like to converse with you on a critical matter.”

            “What can I do for you Teal’c,” she asked, happy for the distraction from her morbid thoughts.

            “It has been more than a week since we returned from PR4-990 and I have observed that you have not visited Daniel Jackson.”

            “That isn’t true. I went to see Daniel just this morning,” Sam said.

            “That is correct but as I recall Daniel Jackson was sleeping and thus you were able to escape that which you have been avoiding these last nine days,” Teal’c said. He had that obscene twinkle in his eye, a look she’d come to know as one that meant Teal’c had the winning hand. Normally, she would fold her cards but not this time.

            “I’ve been by to see Daniel several other times. I just don’t want to disturb him; he’s injured and doesn’t need me hanging around bother him.”

            “I would disagree with that statement. Daniel Jackson has inquired about you several times. In fact he has become agitated on several occasions, his concern for you is extreme and Doctor Fraiser has been required to remind him that it is he that is recuperating from serious burns.”

            How he was able to say so much in one breath always surprised her. She didn’t look up at him, just played with the different colored wires strung out on the lab bench. What could she say? Daniel was scarred because of her, took on her responsibility. She wasn’t hurt or sad or guilty. She was angry. She felt the flush of blood to her cheeks.

            “You may, at any time, speak with me regarding your hesitation Major Carter.”

            She pursed her lips and squeezed her eyes closed. What could she say? She was pissed at Daniel for saving her from her fate? What kind of gratitude was that? “I don’t, I don’t think you can help me Teal’c.”

            “Perhaps you might speak with Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c said, his face in shadows. “I discussed the circumstances of his injuries with him and he needs your assistance and your forgiveness.”

            “What?” Sam snapped to attention. “Daniel needs my forgiveness? For what? I should ask for his. I’m the one sitting here angry that he didn’t let me get beaten or worse. What does he need my forgiveness for?”

            “Perhaps, Major Carter, you should ask him.” Teal’c did his short bow and left her. Cursing, she shook her head. Teal’c always laid his traps so very well.

IX

            “Daniel.”

            He was propped up in bed and that fiendish contraption Siler invented had been removed. For the first time in over a week, Daniel was sitting up in bed, swathed in bandages around his torso and back and studied a tray of a variety of strangely colored foods. When she said his name, he looked up and gave him a smile that reminded her of those first few hours in the Map Room on Abydos. She couldn’t help but smile back.

            But when he shifted slightly and a grimace of pain flinched across his features her smile fell. Dropping her head, she inhaled and then exhaled before looking at him again.

            His smile had faded and his brows were furrowed in concentration. As she started to address him, he interrupted her and said, “Listen Sam, I wanted to talk with you a little about what happened on 990.” He raised a hand clutching a spoon to her to stop her protestations. “No, no, no. Listen, I know that I get overzealous sometimes and I thought I knew what I was doing. I told Jack I figured I understood the culture but this time I was wrong, dead wrong. Because of that, I lead you into trouble and then forced you into a situation where I literally humiliated you because I took your place as a soldier in the military. I just wanted to say to you that I’m sorry that I made such an idiotic mistake.”

            She thought for sure her jaw smacked against the concrete floor. It took her a minute before she was able to actually gather her thoughts.  Even then the only thing she could actually say was, “What the hell are you talking about?”

            He plopped a tater tot in his mouth, chewed it, made a face and then said, “Yuck, that was terrible.”

            She shook her head. “What?”

            “That thing, not good.” He pointed to it, then played with some of the unidentifiable meat on his platter. “What is this?”

            “Daniel.”

            “Hmm?” Those eyebrows raised in a query.

            “For Pete’s sake Daniel, you have nothing to apologize for. You didn’t cause any of the trouble I got myself into. I did. I didn’t listen to your warning about the culture or about how women were treated. It doesn’t matter if the culture veered all the way off the cliff from the original construct from Earth,” she huffed. “What matters is that you don’t need to apologize, I do.”

            “You do?”

            It was a startling realization even to her. Sam found herself panting, nearly hyperventilating as she spoke. “Yes. I should have listened to you. I’m sorry Daniel. I got us into that mess.”

            “And you should have been the one to get us out,” Daniel chimed in. He played with the food, not looking at her. “I’m sorry Sam. I just couldn’t let you go through a Humiliation Trial especially since I didn’t have any clue what they might do to you. I’m sorry that in the end I humiliated you on a totally different level.”

            Before she knew it, Sam crossed the room and pulled Daniel into a tender embrace. “No, no, Daniel. Don’t apologize. Please don’t. You saved me. I should be thanking you. I can’t even imagine-.”

            He clasped her closer. “Don’t Sam, don’t imagine.”

            She cuddled her head into the curved hollow of his neck. “Thank you Daniel, thank you.”

            He let the moment stretch out, gave her the strength to come away renewed. She released him and pulled away a bit. Leaning her forehead against his, Sam said, “Friends?”

            “Family.”

            She blinked at the tears brimming in her eyes. “Family.”  Smiling then, Sam asked, “How about I get you some chocolate walnut cookies.”

            “You do and I will be in your debt forever. Please, please, please.”

            She giggled, then out and out laughed as she took him into her arms again. She swayed slightly as she said, “I love you little brother, you know that right?”

            He nodded into her shoulder. They stayed like that, holding one another, for a long time.

THE END.

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