Sedition
By

Jaclyn Horrod


TITLE:              Sedition
AUTHOR:         Jaclyn Horrod
EMAIL:             jaclyn@thefifthrace.net
CATEGORY:    Action, Drama
SPOILERS:      Set in Season 4.  Spoilers for Into The Fire, Shades of Grey, Thor's Chariot.
SEASON / SEQUEL: Season 4.  If you haven't read Jaclyn's stories: Sacrifices, The Rescue, Deception's Kiss, Interactions, Inquisition and Beyond - you might want to read them first.  Continues in Province.
RATING: 15/Mature
CONTENT WARNINGS: Mature subject matter, including scenes of torture.  Major hurt; comfort will have to wait for the next story.
SUMMARY: O'Neill, freed from his liaison with Heru'ur and Hathor, is hoping to return to his duties as team leader of SG-1.  But as he relives some of his memories with Jackson, he realises the ultimate goal of his ruthless and cunning former ally. Now it's a race against time - can he and SG-1 prevent disaster?
STATUS: Complete.  Continues in Province.
DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and its characters belong to MGM, Gekko Film Corp and Double Secret Productions. This fan fiction was created solely for entertainment purposes and no money exchanged hands. No copyright or trademark infringement was intended. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I would like to thank my extraordinary beta-reader Rach, whose constant encouragement and assistance is so greatly appreciated. I could not have continued to write without her support.
FEEDBACK: Most definitely!


 

Carter slipped out of bed, running her hands through her hair, grabbing the robe on the chair at the bedside, throwing it around her shoulders; she lifted the clock - 22:40.

 "So much for an early night!" she opined, as she padded down the hallway, taking the stairs slowly in the darkness, hitting the light at the bottom and wondering why she hadn't done so at the top.

 "Colonel?" she exclaimed, the beaming features of Jack O'Neill standing in the doorway. "Hi."

"Carter," he replied, looking her up and down. "Sorry, were you in bed?"

He knew she would have been, after all, the house had been in darkness, yet he made no attempt to leave either.

 "I had an early night sir," she told him. "Is something wrong?"

"Nope. I was passing by." A lie, he'd made the journey across town deliberately, a bottle of French brandy in his hand, conceding to the truth quickly. "Well, yeah, I wasn't passing by, that is..." He stared at her, a warm smile crossing his face. "So you gonna invite me in, or do I stand on the doorstep?"

 "Oh, sorry, sir, come in, I'll put some clothes on," she offered, clearly flustered by his presence.

 Jack raised his eyebrows, looking at the red silk robe tied neatly around her waist.

 "Ah, excuse my denseness, Major, but don't you actually have clothes on?" he asked, stepping inside, looking around as he did so; something was out of place, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.

 "Um, well if you can call this clothes, yes, sir," she agreed, leading him into the small living room.

The walls were decorated with her academic awards and diplomas, qualifications she'd earned from years of application.

"Drink?" Jack asked, noticing, similar to Jackson, she had a vast library of books, all lined neatly by size, in an enormous bookcase; this one however, unlike the archaeologist’s, had glass fronted doors, protecting them.

 She stared at him for a moment, stunned by his presence in her home, feeling a little unnerved to be caught so off guard, and to be showing it so much.

"I'll get some glasses, what's the occasion sir?" A glance up the stairs, lowering her eyes from his for a moment.

 "Oh, nothing, I'm just a little... so what do you do here?" Jack asked, observing that the orderly, almost regimented layout of the living room resembled something closer to a working environment, than a home.

 Carter looked even more stunned than she had before, opening the cabinet where she kept glassware. "Sir?"

Jack furrowed his brow, a smile. "Okay, that didn't come out right," he acknowledged.

"I meant, do you spend much time here, it's like a damn barracks!"

 "I'm just neat," Carter retorted, holding out the glasses, a bottle of diet soda in her hand.

Jack cringed. "Major, tell me you're not thinking of ruining this?" The brandy held aloft. "With that?" Indicating the soda.

"Um, well actually yes," she replied, looking bemused.

"Carter! I’m really gonna have to insist you don't ruin this brandy with diet pop!" he told her, pouring the liquid into the glass she held.

"Is that an order sir?" she asked. "Because you know I'm not really much of a drinker, so I can't follow it." A frown crossing her brow, as she nervously accepted the beverage.

"Nope!" Jack told her, taking the second glass and filling it almost to the top, looking into her eyes. "Will you just relax?" he intoned, noticing how tense and uncomfortable she looked. "I just wanted some company, it's no big deal!"

 "Yes, sir, I'll go put something else on," she told him, watching the corners of his mouth crease upward into the beaming smile.

"Sure, if it'll make you relax, sounds like a plan!" Jack agreed.

 Now alone O’Neill found his curiosity about Carter piqued. He had little or no picture of her life outside of the military, yet found little insight from her choice of decor, nor from the vast collection of books, which all seemed to reflect her vocation.

Yoi!” he sighed, before finally selecting the most comfortable looking armchair and sitting. His eyes drawn to the pictures of her family scattered around the room, but mostly centred on the bureau in the far corner.

 He was amused by her behaviour, turning up unannounced seemed to have completely thrown her off balance, he liked that, liked that she'd momentarily let down that rigid guard she kept firmly ensconced at the SGC.

 Dressed now in a pair of jeans and a pullover, she seemed much more confident as she padded back into the room. "See you found my Dad’s chair," she observed, pouring the soda into the generous splash of brandy O'Neill had put into her glass.

 "It looked lived in," Jack explained, a grimace crossing his features. "I didn't wanna crease the other stuff!"

 "Right," she replied, unsure of what to ask him, why he'd come over. "So, you said you were just passing by?"

"Nope, I said I wasn't," he responded, obviously not about to make it any easier for her.

She gazed at him. "You wanted to talk?"

"Talking's good," he concurred. "Okay, I'll level with you, I tried Daniel's, and he was out, so you're the next one on my list, and besides I've never been here before, kinda interesting to see what you get up to outside of the SGC," he told her.

 "Daniel was out," she repeated, a nervous regard crossing her face; her eyes averted from his.  "Gee thanks sir, and I thought you'd paid me a surprise visit to be sociable!"

Jack laughed. "Major, is there something you want to tell me? ‘Cause if you'd prefer me not to be here?"

"No sir, it's um," she paused, looking into those intense brown eyes staring back at her expectantly.

"Hi Jack," Daniel announced, walking into the living room. Carter avoided O'Neill's eyes, which had widened considerably. "Anymore brandy in that bottle?"

"Daniel," Jack acknowledged, looking at Carter, an accusatory frown forming around those shocked eyes.  His attention turned quickly back to the archaeologist. "Well this is a surprise!"

Jackson sat on the armchair closest to O'Neill, picked up the bottle of brandy and took a sip, coughing loudly as the liquid burned his throat.

"Don't look at me like that," he told O'Neill. "It isn't what it looks like."

"And, what does it look like?" Jack asked, the expression he wore now a little sterner.

"Like you think that Sam and I were, um?" Jackson surmised, his facial muscles contorting with a degree of discomfort. "Which we weren't, I just came over to talk to her, kind of like you."

Jack stood up. "Carter. We'll talk about this in the morning. Enjoy the brandy!" he snapped.

"Sir, it's not like that," she stated. Immediately on her feet, she followed him. His attitude surprised her; she struggled to find a reason to make him stay.  "Sir, you've drunk almost half that glass, you really shouldn't drive."

"Fine, I'll walk!"

Daniel looked heavenwards.

"I knew this was a bad idea!" he sighed, getting up. "It's alright, I'll drive him," he told Carter, his hand grasping her shoulder, preventing her from following the irate colonel.

"Daniel he thinks we're..." She sounded distressed, her eyes filled with concern.

"Yeah, I know, I'll… don't worry!" Jackson told her, seeing O'Neill heading for his Jeep. "Jack? Wait up!"

 O'Neill paused, looking back at the archaeologist, who was hurriedly attempting to put his shoes on as he followed him down the driveway.

"Daniel, what the hell are you doing?" he demanded, disdain forming on his handsome features.  "You're way out of line here!"

"You've got it all wrong, we had dinner.  I, er, brought her back here, that's all. Jack, I was in the spare room. Will you just wait?" Daniel insisted, moving himself around in front of the colonel. "Gimme your keys, you can't drive, you smell like a bar!"

O'Neill grudgingly handed them over, looking back at the house, Carter standing in the doorway, anxiously so.  He raised his hand and waved. "Sorry to spoil your evening!"

Carter looked heavenwards; he clearly didn't believe her, or Jackson. "Yep! I'm in for a lecture in the morning," she opined.

 

*****

 

"What's wrong with you?" Daniel snapped, pulling the door closed and pushing the keys into the ignition.

"Wrong with me?" Jack replied. "That's a little ironic don't ya think?"

"Jack, there's nothing going on between Sam and I, you jumped in, as usual, without even waiting," Daniel lectured. "We're friends, colleagues, we work together!" He underlined the statement with a measured stare, throwing the Jeep into reverse, and backing out of the driveway.

"Where's your car?" O'Neill enquired.

"What?"

"You said you drove her home, where's your car?"

"What is this?" Daniel demanded, beginning to lose patience with his friend's inferences.

"Breach of regulations!" Jack retorted dryly.

"Screw your regulations, if there was something going on between Sam and I, you really think it'd be any of your business?" Jackson remonstrated.

"Dr. Jackson, you're a member of my team, so is Major Carter." Jack placed emphasis on her rank. "Which means you don't fraternise!"

"Fraternise?" Jackson repeated, shaking his head at his friend. "Well we weren't fraternising, we were just talking."

O'Neill's eyes narrowed, glaring at Jackson. "And you just happened to both have an early night?" he charged. "Do I look stupid?"

Jackson regarded him dolefully. "You really want an honest answer to that?"

The colonel cringed. "No probably not, sleeping?" he asked, his features contorting. "Not... sleeping?"

"Yes Jack, sleeping," Daniel snapped.

He remembered what O’Neill had said earlier to Sam; curious now as to what O'Neill might have wanted him for.  "You went round to my apartment, I heard that part right?"

 "Yeah, you heard that part right," Jack conceded, a grimace covering his face now.

"I got bored and I just felt like some company. Those tests on the damn gate are driving me nuts, I'm climbing the walls!"

"Jack we only got back from P3Y 598 three days ago," Daniel replied. "Why didn't you call my mobile?” Jackson sighed heavily, a frown creasing his brow. “It’s the tests, right?”

 "Endless tests, ah, the pleasure of being a freak!" O'Neill replied, his tone laced heavily with acrimony.

"Would you like me to have a word with General Hammond?" Daniel asked.

"That's very sweet of you Danny, but no, Hammond's got his orders, and I apparently have mine!" Jack remarked, a shrug of those broad shoulders. "As uncomfortable as they may be."

"Your place or mine?" Jackson asked, reaching a major road junction that offered him the choice.

"Mine. It's nicer!" Jack replied. "Spare room, no couch, kinda stocked with alcohol."

"Yes, I've noticed you've been drinking a lot lately," Jackson commented.

"Nagging!" Jack retorted, waving his finger at the archaeologist.

 Jackson parked the Jeep, looking across at O'Neill who was attempting to find the door handle to exit. "Jack?" Plaintively.

"What?"

"Do you wanna talk about it?" Jackson enquired, reaching across and hoisting the lever, the door opening.

"Thank you!" O'Neill acknowledged, getting out of the vehicle, leaning back in to regard the archaeologist.  "Nope, I just wanted some company, that's all, nothing particular on my mind."

"Okay," Jackson said. "You're now being deliberately evasive, I understand that, but if you do change your mind?" he conceded, locking up the Jeep and following the colonel inside.

O'Neill's usually tidy kitchen showed signs of neglect; an empty bottle of brandy on the side, pots and pans in the sink.

"Jack, what's going on?" Daniel asked, concerned.

O'Neill looked at him. "You wanna wash?" he remarked, picking up another plate from the table. "I prefer drying," he added, crossing to the sink.

Jackson's eyes rolled in his head. "Great! Just what I had in mind, some domestic chores!" he intoned, picking up the empty bottle. "And this?"

O'Neill smiled. "Goes in the bin, since it has that incredible distinction of being empty!"

Jackson shook his head. "Okay," he acknowledged, thinking now how best to engage O’Neill in conversation. "Got another?"

Jack was taking the pans from the sink and placing them in the dishwasher. "You're so damn transparent Daniel, you wanna get me drunk?”  A smile pervaded over his face then. “Figure I'll cut loose and talk right? And what? Nag me about my drinking problem later?"

The archaeologist smiled. "That's the plan," he admitted. "So, are you going to argue about it, or would you prefer to get drunk?"

"No, no argument from me!" Jack told him, slamming the door of the dishwasher closed.

 

*****

 

The briefing room was quieter than normal, Hammond noticed. Carter reading through the notes, Jackson doing likewise, the colonel tearing the corners off his and screwing them up, flicking them across the table at the waste paper bin in the far corner.

"Good morning," he announced, getting the attention of SG1, Teal'c having been the only one to nod at his arrival.

"Morning sir," O'Neill chirped brightly, attempting to conceal his briefing notes back inside the folder.

"Dr. Jackson, would you like to proceed with the briefing?" Hammond asked.

Jackson stood up.

Jack watched Carter curiously, as Daniel spoke, hardly hearing him, wondering what she and Jackson might have in common that they so obviously didn't share.  The rank, he thought, probably had a rather sobering effect, but she did seem very unnerved, almost anxious to be around him, or perhaps it was the fact that Jackson had been there, and he'd thought the worst, perhaps that had made her uncomfortable?

 She glanced up at him, those big blue eyes wondering, averted almost immediately under his intense scrutiny.  He smiled to himself then, pleased at her reaction, that wicked sense of humour he possessed kicking in, a delighted grin at her next glance, once more causing her to look away.

 "Alright people, you ship out in exactly one hour!" Hammond ordered, the group standing, minus O'Neill who was still locked deep in thought.  "Colonel?"

"Sir?"

"Dismissed!"

"Right," Jack acknowledged, a smile at Hammond. "One hour sir!" he said, sliding the chair back and standing. "Wouldn't want to miss all that archaeological stuff!" he quipped.

 

****

 

Teal'c collected his staff weapon from the armoury.  O'Neill signed out his own array of preferred hardware, strapping his knife to the harness on his thigh. He looked across at the Jaffa curiously.

"Teal'c, am I a difficult guy to have around?" he enquired, the earnest look on his features making the Jaffa raise both eyebrows simultaneously.

"For what purpose do you ask such a question?"

"I'm just wondering, you know?" Jack retorted, attempting to make it sound as menial as he could.

"Indeed!" Teal'c replied. "You are very puzzling O'Neill, but not unpleasant!"

Jack's features contorted, regarding the Jaffa with an air of incredulity. "Sweet!"

 

*****

 

The skies above them clear, Carter and Daniel had proceeded to the ruins with some urgency.

As Jackson had told them in the briefing, the planet appeared to have been an Ancients colony, deserted for thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years. The colonel ambled along behind them.

 He'd confessed to Jackson that he was becoming a little perplexed with missions he'd been assigned, never one to back away from the action, his frustration at the low level operations brimming over as he’d attempted to make his feelings clear, albeit in a haze of alcohol and bad temper.

Hammond had explained, on more than one occasion, that owing to his conduct, SG1 would be given low risk assignments, whilst he underwent all the rigorous tests the Pentagon had insisted upon.  In short, Hammond had told him he was on probation, and whilst he didn't like it, he understood it completely.

Six babysitting missions had, however, taken their toll upon him, and he was becoming increasingly restless to return to action. Watching Makepeace lead SG3 to all the high risk, or dangerous planets just rubbed salt into the wound.  They had said they couldn't risk him coming into contact so soon with Hathor, or Heru'ur.   That particular ‘party line’ grated on his nerves, even more than the obligatory interviews and tests he’d been subjected to, as part of his reintegration.

It was his knowledge of the Ancients that was now apparently grounding him, thus designations not on the Abydos cartouche had become SG1's main objective.

Jackson had understood, sharing O'Neill's frustration, whilst attempting to make points toward the validity of the expeditions they'd undertaken.  None of which O'Neill would concede to.

 

"Teal'c, let's take a look around," he instructed, watching Carter and Jackson.

Carter caught up to Jackson, who was now looking over the site.  "Daniel?"

"This place must have been destroyed thousands of years ago," Jackson told her, enthused at the symbols still etched into some of the slabs and stones, despite the wear probably caused by the weather. "Or abandoned!"

"How was Colonel O'Neill last night?" she asked, ignoring his enthusiasm, anxious to discover whether or not she would, once the colonel had time, face a lengthy lecture on team protocol.

"Oh, that, well he wasn't very forthcoming, but I think he believed me in the end," Daniel responded.  "I even described the spare room for him!" The archaeologist grinned.  He had no intention of divulging what they'd discussed.

 "Great!" Carter complained, staring off into the distance, a winsome expression sweeping those high cheekbones.  "The one time I get the chance to actually get to know him better I screw it up!"

"Excuse me?" Daniel enquired. "Know him better?" An inference in his tone that left no room for doubt.

"You know what I mean," Carter retorted, regarding the archaeologist scornfully. "You guys bond all the time... I feel a little left out sometimes, and the one time he comes over to my house, I mean my house!" she emphasised.

"Sam, he came over to your house because I wasn't in, and from what I heard you weren't exactly making him feel very comfortable," Jackson told her.

 Sam looked at him, annoyed at the remark.  She wanted to respond but didn't really have anything to say.  He was right, Jack O'Neill had only chosen to visit her out of desperation. That didn't feel right.

 Daniel smiled at her then. "I didn't mean that to sound so dismissive," he apologised. "I'm sure he's um, he's a little restless right now, not easy to talk to Sam.  Maybe you should invite him out for a drink, or something, hey, we could all go that way you'd be able to..." Jackson struggled to over compensate.

 "Yeah I get the point Daniel, we'd better um?" Looking over her shoulder at O'Neill, who had his back turned, talking to the Jaffa.  "Do what we came here to do, before he thinks we're conspiring or something!"

Jackson's attention had already drifted, exploring some of the ruins close to his feet; something appeared to be glowing. He leant over, picking up a square stone rock, studying it closely.

 "Look at this," he said, holding it out to Sam. "It's got some form of crystalline structure, I can't quite make it out."

Carter examined the artefact. "That's odd, the crystal's changed colour, but I'm not detecting any residual EM fields, or energy outputs?" she told him, her features contorting as she scrutinised the surface of the stone.

"Very odd!" Daniel agreed. "Maybe it's some form of energy we've never seen before, I mean that's possible right?"

"Anything's possible Daniel," she agreed. "We need to get these back to the lab, I can run some tests, maybe it's something in another spectrum?"

Jackson looked at her, nodding. "I think this is important," he stated.

"What do mean important?" Sam asked, packing some of the samples she'd collected, and already beginning to take soil samples.

"Well, I just get the feeling that something's here, waiting to be discovered," Jackson enthused. "And it's, I don't know, somehow it's important!"

Teal'c looked over at O'Neill. Six months on, with over eighteen missions completed, he was still concerned about the vague, almost deliberate attempts that his friend made to avoid the subject of his experiences with the Goa'uld, particularly Hathor.  Having tried, mostly out of curiosity, on numerous occasions, to discover whether the colonel had retained any feelings for the Goa'uld, he had found his friend unwilling to even speak her name.

No one disputed that he'd changed slightly, a little more abrupt if that were possible, even more business like.  But all agreed it wasn't nearly as drastic as it might have been, even believing that once he'd been given sufficient time to consider the significance of what he'd been through, that he might relax the military regimen he clung to.

 "Colonel O'Neill?" Teal'c called out, watching him drift too far into the distance for his liking.

"Teal'c?" Jack called back, looking over his shoulder at the Jaffa.

"Should you not remain close to the group?" he asked, walking toward the colonel.

"Yeah, sorry, I was miles away there for a second," Jack admitted. "So what do you think this place was?"

Teal'c surveyed the archaic ruins; nothing remained to identify its previous occupants, nor their culture, simply piles of rocks and rubble, formed in a large square. "I am uncertain, it looks as if there was one single dwelling here, or perhaps a temple?"

"Yeah the UAV didn't pick up anything in the immediate vicinity either, got Carter all excited though!" O'Neill observed, a wry smile crossing his face.

"Indeed, a fascination shared by Daniel Jackson," Teal'c agreed.

"How can anyone get excited about a pile of rocks?" Jack enquired then, a grimace sweeping his features. "I mean, it's rocks!"

"Since it contains some trace of those who may have inhabited this planet, it is likely that the rock, which we see as an inanimate object, tells them both much about the former occupants," Teal'c surmised.

Jack looked at him curiously. "Like a book?" he asked, puffing his cheeks out to accentuate a heavy sigh, the Jaffa nodded at him.

"I prefer the ones with pages, personally, it's a, non rock kinda thing," Jack intoned. "And on that note, I guess we should make tracks, time’s almost up... Carter?"

"Sir?"

"Come on, get your rocks and let's head back home!" O'Neill ordered, looking at the Jaffa who was staring at him curiously. "What?"

"We have only been here an hour O'Neill," he pointed out.

 "Yeah I know but come on, there's nothing here of military significance, and they can take the rocks back and… test them, doubt anything Earth shattering will come of that, but hey!  I've been wrong before right?" O'Neill's tone flippant.

"Yes sir," Carter conceded, looking at her watch. "Sir?"

"Yes Carter?" A heavy sigh.

"We've only been here an hour sir," she stated. "We're not scheduled to go back for another three."

"Carter, did I just hear myself say we're going back?" Jack snapped, clearly unwilling to debate the issue, whether he was in the wrong or not.

"Wait a minute, Jack, I think we need to study this a little more closely before just heading back to Earth," Daniel argued. "I mean we haven't even scratched the surface here."

"Oh here we go," Jack groaned. "Daniel, it's a pile of rocks!"

"Yes, I know, but with a little excavation it might reveal something else," Jackson persisted. "I need more time, and Sam's right, we're not due back for another three hours!"

"What? More rocks? Some earth, a few creepy crawly things?" O'Neill retorted, his sideways glance at Jackson filled with that usual acrimony for archaeological surveys.

"Daniel, don't push him," Sam warned. "He's obviously not himself!"

"Yes, I know," Daniel replied. "But that doesn't mean we aren't supposed to do our jobs!"

Carter looked heavenwards, walking toward the gate, listening for the inevitable argument that would follow between the two men.

"Jack, I think you're just dismissing this out of hand, and I'd like to investigate it more thoroughly, I mean this could have been some significant Ancients colony or something, since it wasn't on the Abydos cartouche!" Jackson insisted.

"Daniel, you can come back without me, dig, investigate," the colonel told him, "knock yourself out.  But right now, I'm saying we have got to go!"

Jackson threw his hands up in the air. "Jack?" he retorted, looking at the colonel with a petulant disregard.  "I'm not leaving!"

"Excuse me?" O'Neill enquired, aghast at the archaeologist’s attitude. "Not?"

"No, I'm going to stay here and check on those ruins over the other side," Daniel told him, beginning to walk toward the spot he'd indicated. "In three hours I'll come back!"

"Carter, dial the gate!" Jack intoned, watching Jackson.

Teal'c looked across at O'Neill then back to the archaeologist, wondering what this stand off might herald, it had been a while since he had seen these two in such direct confrontation.

 Carter dialled the gate, watching O'Neill. He seemed agitated, a lot more so than just from Jackson's refusal to comply with this order. She could feel the tension steadily growing between the colonel and Jackson, wondering if she was somehow responsible for adding to it.

 "Major, you and Teal'c go back to the SGC, I'm gonna have a little word with Daniel!"  Jack told her.

"But, sir?"

"Carter, I just gave you a damn order!" Jack snapped, the anger in his eyes banking no refusal. "Now follow my order!"

"Yes sir," Carter agreed, looking at the Jaffa. "We'd better go Teal'c before he completely loses it."

"O'Neill, are you all right?" Teal'c enquired, clearly thrown by the colonel's short fuse.

"Yeah I'm fine Teal'c, just having a little geek problem!” Pointedly toward Jackson. “Go back, we'll be right along!" he replied, the glowering sarcasm in his tone resonating in those brown eyes, as he glared at the archaeologist.

 Daniel turned and saw Carter and Teal'c disappear through the gate, looking at O'Neill who had sat down on what looked like the largest piece of a cornerstone.

"Care to tell me what's going on here?" Jack asked, raising his voice loud enough for the archaeologist to hear him.

Jackson made his way toward him. "We've been here an hour Jack, how am I supposed to learn anything, gather anything, in an hour?"

"Daniel, you know the drill," Jack told him patiently. "So why are you questioning my authority? Not that I'm not used to that, but humour me here, because I'm about this close to putting down this." His P90 discarded. "Taking off this." Dropping his combat jacket. "And knocking your head off!"

Daniel regarded the posture and expression of his friend. "I'm getting tired of all this military bullshit!" he snapped. "So fine, you want to hit me, go right ahead!"

He looked at the colonel, an accusatory expression adorning his features, his eyes narrowing. "Or is this about last night?"

"Military bullshit?" Jack repeated, standing up slowly, ignoring the obvious mention of the events at Carter's house. "In case it escaped your notice this operation is run by the military, and whilst I understand your obvious frustration with having to follow orders, being a civilian, that's just tough.  You want off my team?"

Jackson looked surprised. "What?"

"You heard me, cause I'm about this close to recommending to Hammond that you be re-assed to another unit!"

"Is that a threat?" Jackson enquired. He looked distinctly angry now. "A, do as I say or you'll be punished?" He threw his hands up. "Or are you attempting to make yet another cloaked statement about last night?"

O'Neill shrugged, looking the archaeologist square in the eyes. "Daniel I've got no feelings about last night at all, although, you appear to have a problem with it!"

"A little childish don't you think?" Daniel observed.

"No Daniel," O'Neill snapped. "What's childish here is your blatant disregard for the fact that I'm in charge, and frankly I'm getting a little tired of listening to you prattle on about a bunch of rocks!"

"Well I'm sorry if all that's a little boring for you, after having your own army, my lord, but it's what I do, in case you forgot?" Daniel pointed out.

Jack O'Neill shook his head, scornfully meeting Jackson's petulant expression.  He leant down and picked up the discarded combat jacket, strapping it slowly back into place.

"You know what? You want stay here? Fine!" he snapped, collecting his P90. "Stay!"

Daniel watched O’Neill walk toward the gate, the colonel’s attention on the DHD as he punched in Earth's coordinates.

Inwardly, Jackson was chastising himself for berating O'Neill with something he had no defence for, although the fact that the colonel had let him win so easily worried him more.

Jack glanced back at the archaeologist as the wormhole exploded outward, shaking his head. He knew he was a little short, probably even in the wrong, but there was just something about this place that made him want to leave.

He stopped for a second; that thought had not occurred to him previously, and for some reason it played on his mind.

 Jackson looked down at his feet, feeling pangs of guilt. He'd probably have to apologise, but not now, now he was far too annoyed with O’Neill’s attitude to find that much servility.

"Jack?" he called out, as the colonel moved toward the event horizon.

O'Neill looked around at him, the sun going down behind him, a strange orange hue around the archaeologist. He paused, trying to make out the anomaly, his eyes narrowing as he attempted to focus, eyebrows climbing his forehead slowly, alarm registering in his eyes.

"Daniel, walk toward me can you?" he called out.

Jackson looked a little confused at the request. "Why?"

"Just, don't argue with me Daniel, do it now!" There was anxiety in his tone, an urgency in the words that made Jackson comply, two steps and he found himself completely unable to take a third.

O'Neill looking at him, perplexed, his face seemed to be masked with concern. "Daniel come on," he insisted.

 Jackson tried again, striking some kind of force shield.  "I can't?" His eyes widened. "Jack I can't move!"

"Ah crap!" O'Neill snapped, lifting his radio. "Sierra golf one niner to sierra golf command, are you receiving, over?"

"Go ahead Colonel O'Neill," Sergeant Davis’ voice.

"We might have a problem here, Daniel's surrounded by some kinda force field, standby for update!" Jack said, approaching Jackson, his hand outstretched, hitting the barrier as he reached out toward him. “Great!” he snapped, walking along the perimeter of the ruins that Jackson had entered, testing the shield.  "Well I'd say you're pretty much hemmed in," he assessed.

"Heads up," he warned. The archaeologist knelt down as the colonel opened fire with the P90, the bullets ricocheting off the shield. "Okay, so I'd have to agree with myself here, you're trapped!" he confirmed.

"Um, what is it?" Daniel asked, suddenly a little panicked.

O'Neill took a deep breath, allowing it to escape into a prolonged sigh. "Well let me think," he replied, a grimace sweeping his features, even more perplexed. "It's some kind of barrier, probably a force shield!"

Jackson shook his head. "Which means you have no idea...  and I have no idea why I even asked you that!" he concluded, scratching his head and removing his glasses. He looked at the colonel who had now moved back in front of him. "Glad you didn't leave," he added.

"I was about this close!" Jack admitted, his finger and thumb indicating nothing, pressed together emphatically to elaborate to the archaeologist his patience had all but run out.

"Sorry, I don't know what came over me," Daniel told him honestly. "I just really felt like I had to stay."

"Forget it," Jack told him, lifting the radio. "Sierra golf command, this is sierra golf one niner, I think we're gonna need a little help back here, over."

"Read you sir," Carter's voice. "Teal'c and I are on our way back."

"Carter, bring some of those doohickeys, I don't think this thing’s budging," Jack advised, hitting it with the butt of his P90.

"I hope this isn't Goa'uld," Jackson sighed.

O'Neill raised his eyebrows at the archaeologist, looking around, checking they were still alone. "Well knowing our luck!" he opined.

"I wonder what set it off?" Jackson mused, his eyes wandering around the perimeter.

"I mean it didn't stop me from walking in and out of here before?"

 Jack looked over his shoulder, as the wormhole he had established disappeared, the gate almost immediately beginning to initiate.

"I have no idea?" he replied, sitting back down on the large cornerstone he'd perched on before. "But next time I get a bad feeling about a place and say we're leaving!"

"You never said anything about a bad feeling," Jackson retorted, considering the comment. "You...  um, did? You had a bad feeling?"

"I guess," O'Neill responded.

"It can't be Goa'uld though, I mean it wasn't on the Abydos cartouche!" Jackson surmised.

"Ya think?" Jack retorted, staring at the archaeologist a wry smile crossing his features.

"Well look on the bright side, you wanted to stay, so I guess you got your wish right?"        

"Yes, um, thanks for reminding me," Daniel said, sitting down, resigned now to being stranded behind the shield.  "It's um, getting dark," he observed, casting his eyes heavenwards.

Jack looked up and around at the sky. "Yeah I noticed that too, kinda odd don't ya think?" he asked.

"Odd why?" Jackson replied, looking around him observantly adding. "The sun’s going down."

"Yep, saw that!   But it was way too high to just suddenly go down Daniel," Jack told him. "If we were back on Earth, I'd say the time would have been around 14:00 hours, or thereabouts, never known the sun to just go down that quickly.”

Jackson stared at him. "Well that's not good!" he remarked.

Jack O'Neill rolled his eyes, looking heavenwards. "Really? Whatever gave you that idea?"

 

Carter and Teal'c emerged through the wormhole, both looking surprised at the onset of darkness. "What happened to the sun?" Carter remarked.

Teal'c looked at her, then across toward the ruins where he could barely see O'Neill and Jackson, the hue from the force shield being more apparent in the rapidly declining light.

"It is indeed very strange," he replied.

 Jack stood up. "Well here comes the cavalry!" he told Jackson, the tone a little more optimistic.

"Great, if that's going to make any difference," Daniel replied warily.  Behind him he could hear something, a low humming that began to reverberate the ground beneath him.

"Um, Jack?"

 O'Neill looked around, the archaeologist was gone. His eyes searched the ruins, nothing.

"Carter!" he yelled.

"Wow! Where'd he go?" Carter asked, as she raced toward O'Neill.

"Major do you see a large 'S' anywhere on my uniform?" Jack asked incredulously, a scornful expression in his eyes.

"Sir?" Carter's obvious lack of real life experience, as Jack saw it, made the colonel submit a heavy sigh.

"Superman, Carter, do I look like I have X-ray vision?" he snapped, the major’s bemused regard showing signs of recognition.

"No sir," Carter responded. "And it was just a question!" Slightly miffed that O'Neill seemed to be a little more snap happy at her recently, surmising he was judging her for having Jackson at her home.

"Well try to be a little more damn constructive Major!" Jack retorted, looking at her with an askant expression. "Now how do we get in there?"

Carter scanned the force shield, looking around at O'Neill, whose obvious impatience was beginning to wear thin.

"Sir, this isn't like anything I've seen before, it’s..."

"Carter, I don't want to hear that... I want to hear what you've got in mind for getting in there and finding Daniel!" Jack demanded.

"Yes, sir," she replied, deflated by his continual barrage of sarcasm and anger, which seemed to be solely directed at her.  She knew he often had total disregard of her feelings, but this seemed to be more extreme than usual. 

He wasn't seeing her as a friend anymore, he'd been acting that way for a while, or maybe now it was just more intensified by what he thought he knew about her and Daniel.

 Jack moved around the perimeter of the ruins once more, looking for some way in.

Nothing of the symbols that Jackson had seen made sense to him. He couldn't recognise any of them. Clearly Daniel had been wrong, this wasn't an Ancients colony at all... at least if it was, the language was far more archaic or modern than that which he possessed.

 "Teal'c hit it with a staff weapon blast," Jack ordered. He still had an intense feeling of doubt that they shouldn't be there. Something about this planet wasn't right.

The Jaffa raised his staff weapon, aiming it and firing. The shield seemed to radiate under the impact.

"Dammit!" Jack snapped. "Do it again!"

"O'Neill, it appears to have no effect," Teal'c told him.

"Ya think!" Jack yelled. "Damn archaeologist, why didn't he just do as I told him?" The colonel threw one of the rocks at the shield in frustration; it sailed through, the shield collapsing.  Jack looked across at Carter. "Alright, what just happened?"

"I don't know, maybe it just collapsed, or those rocks have something to do with it?"

Carter sounded dubious on both counts. "Or maybe Teal'c's staff weapon had..."

"Carter, you don't know do you?" Jack questioned cynically. "Damn rocks!"

"Sir, those rocks have some kind of crystalline substance imbedded into them, they might have been part of this structure," Carter argued.

"Which explains everything," Jack intoned, throwing his hands up, frustration overwhelming him. "Major maybe instead of daydreaming about rocks you might actually figure out how to find Daniel?"

"Colonel?" Carter snapped, at the end of her tether." Has it ever occurred to you to just ask something without biting my head off?"

"No Major, it hasn't. If you spent less time prattling on about damn Nintendos and waves maybe you could actually put that brain of yours to good use!"

Carter glared back at him. She wanted to let rip, the way he did, just let him have both barrels, but that, in his current state of mind, might just make him worse, added to the fact that as her superior officer, such an attack wouldn't be in keeping with her rank.

"Yes, sir!" she snapped pointedly; then she felt an overwhelming urge to speak her mind, looking at O'Neill. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"

 "Yes, Carter, permission granted!" O'Neill's scorn pouring into the words, punctuated with a glare that met his subordinate’s and matched it.

"This attitude, sir, for whatever reason, isn't helping," she snapped. "If you'd been less inclined toward marching us all home, instead of doing your job..."

"Stop!" Jack demanded. "Right there." He moved toward her, making her cringe inwardly. "My job, Carter, is to command this unit the best way I see fit, which means Major that you, Daniel and Teal'c do what the hell I say! Does that need to be any clearer, Major?"

"No sir, I think that's crystal!"

"O'Neill." Teal'c's voice sufficiently loud enough to avert the glare he still held

Carter in.

"What?"

"There is something very odd about this planet, it appears to be making both of you extremely angry and aggressive," he observed.

Jack looked at Sam, his lips pursing together. "What do you think?" he asked, his tone more controlled, milder, almost civil.

"I do feel kind of angry sir," she agreed.

Jack thought about it for a second.  "You know, Daniel said something like that to me right after he got stuck in that force shield," he said. "And I just had this feeling we shouldn't be here... Teal'c's right, there's definitely something odd about this damn planet."

Teal'c regarded O'Neill. "Perhaps we should investigate within the ruins." Looking at the colonel, concerned that their time might better be served finding Jackson and getting off the planet.

"Why didn't I think of that?" Jack retorted sarcastically, a shrug, his expression now directed apologetically toward the Jaffa.

Turning to Sam. "Carter, go back to the SGC, I want some back up here, SG3 and SG2, if Hammond's agreeable."

Carter looked at him. "Sir?"

"What?"

"I'd prefer to go look for Daniel with you and Teal'c," she stated.

"Carter, if we all go look, and we all get captured by what ever spirited Daniel away, then I'd say we're pretty much screwed, right? Just do as I ask!"

"Yes sir, fine sir!" she snapped.

Jack shook his head, looking at Teal'c. "Someone’s got a bee in her bonnet."

"Are you surprised O'Neill, that she would be upset with your tone?" Teal'c enquired.

"My tone?" Jack replied. "What's wrong with my tone?"

"You appear to have taken on a very aggressive and impolite posture!" the Jaffa said.

"Teal'c, I'm doing my job, I wish others around here would follow my example!"

O'Neill looked at his friend then. "We don't exactly have time here to do the whole nice thing, so just give me a break!"

The Jaffa bowed his head, leading the way toward the ruins, Carter watching them, a long heavy protracted sigh. "Yeah right, always get the good jobs! Way to go Colonel!" she snapped to herself. "Damn jerk." Catching herself then, eyes widening.  "Wow!"

 Teal'c looked around, the darkness now total, his flashlight grasped firmly in his right hand.  "There appear to be no openings here O'Neill," he stated.

"What did you expect?" O'Neill retorted. "A neon sign, Daniel Jackson this way?"

The Jaffa ignored the colonel’s penchant for sarcasm, his symbiote clearly protecting him from whatever ailed the mind of the Tau'ri.  Yet he was concerned, that if they couldn't find Jackson soon, his friends might succumb to a similar aggression, as had been the case when they had become infected by the virus, in The Land of Light.

 "O'Neill perhaps I should continue to search for Daniel Jackson alone," he suggested.

Jack shone his torchlight into Teal'c's face. "Not gonna happen buddy," the colonel told him, sounding much calmer now. "We get another few SG teams here, find out where the geek went, and we'll all be going home!"

Teal'c shook his head, perhaps in retrospect, O'Neill had simply calmed up!

 

*****

 

 Hammond regarded the major, listening intently as she explained her theories of what might be happening on the planet.

"If both you and Colonel O'Neill are affected by whatever this is Major, sending in more SG teams might make them susceptible to the same mood swings!" he pointed out.

"Yes sir, but at least we know it's happening, so we'll be able to compensate for it," she argued.

"Major, how long had Colonel O'Neill and Dr. Jackson been on that planet before both became unreasonable, in your assessment?" Hammond asked.

"About an hour sir," she replied. "Colonel O'Neill said that we should come back, and Daniel started to argue with him, the Colonel sent Teal'c and I back through the gate and stayed to talk Daniel into returning with him."

"And you went back to that planet, and became affected by whatever this is in under 20 minutes?" the general enquired.

"Yes sir, that sounds right," she agreed.

"Then I don't think we can expose any other members of the SGC to whatever has caused this reaction, Major." Hammond told her. "Does Teal'c appear to be affected by this?"

"No sir, he seems fine. It was in fact Teal’c who pointed it out," Carter explained. She seemed to become more insistent then. "Sir, we have to go back, if we don't find Daniel soon, there's no way of telling how this might be affecting him."

Hammond considered it for a moment. "Alright Major, but I want full Hazmat on this, that includes you, I'll have SG2 and 3 ready within the hour, dismissed!"

 

*****

 

"Well this is getting us nowhere," Jack opined, his flashlight tracing over the same ground. "Maybe there's some other way down to where ever down is?"

"O'Neill, did Daniel Jackson not say that he wished to stay on this planet?" Teal'c enquired.

"Yep, why?" Jack asked, making his way toward the Jaffa.

"And it seems to be amplifying feelings of anger," Teal'c continued. "Perhaps it is merely something that is responding to, and enhancing, moods and thoughts?"

"Ah, come on Teal'c," Jack responded, looking at the Jaffa, askant in his expression. "That's a little bit of a stretch don't ya think?"

 

"Perhaps, but why did the shield not confine any of us when we first explored inside the ruins? You indicated that you did not wish to remain on the planet, and this apparent mood became amplified into anger and aggression toward Major Carter and myself," Teal'c insisted.

Jack scratched his head, a heavy sigh. "Okay, so where? How?" he asked, considering the theory the Jaffa put forward.

"I have seen such an affect before, yet that was Goa'uld, and this clearly is not a Goa'uld planet," Teal'c advised. "However, I am aware of a race who were able to read the minds and thoughts of others."

"Okay, so if they're reading my thoughts right now, why am I still here?" Jack argued, shaking his head in dismay.

"I do not believe it is as precise as that O'Neill!" Teal'c replied, his own patience with the colonel beginning to wear thin.

"Alright, well this isn't getting us anywhere either," Jack complained. "So if there are aliens on this planet, where are they?"

"Clearly they are concealed," Teal'c observed.

"No, really?" Jack retorted, shaking his head yet again.

Teal'c regarded him for a moment, angry at his constant barbs and lack of appreciation for the Jaffa's knowledge.  He laid down his staff weapon and punched O'Neill squarely on the jaw, sending the colonel backwards, crashing into the ground.

In the shock of this surprise attack, O'Neill had been completely blind-sided, staring up in disbelief at the ghostly figure of the Jaffa in the darkness.

"Now what the hell did you do that for?" he snapped, grasping at his jaw gingerly.

"Ouch!"

"Your tone is altogether too severe O'Neill, and I am becoming increasingly angry with you, you would be wise to shut up!"

"Excuse me?" Jack snapped, getting to his feet, still gently assessing whether the Jaffa's strike had caused any real damage. "Who the heck are you telling to shut up?" Totally incredulous.

"I believe that was you!" Teal'c intoned. "If you continue to address me in this manner O'Neill, I will have little alternative but to deal with you accordingly."

"Alright, that's it, we're going back!" Jack ordered. "Come on, move your ass!"

Teal'c regarded the colonel then. "No I shall remain, I must find Daniel Jackson," he insisted.

"Look buddy, in case you're not keeping up here, you just hit me... now stop me if you thinking I'm overreacting here, but that's indicating that whatever this is, you can't be immune to it, and obviously I am!"

"You are not O'Neill, since you persist in being irritating!" Teal'c told him

"Which is my normal state!" O'Neill argued.

Teal'c's eyebrows rose simultaneously. "You are correct!" he agreed.

Jack looked slightly miffed at his acquiescence. "Thank you, now let's dial home, and try to figure out a way to find Daniel, without knocking each others heads off!"

"Agreed!" Teal'c conceded, following the colonel toward the Stargate, watching him dial the sequence. He suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to fire his staff weapon at

O'Neill, wanting to kill him, yet something told him that was wrong, a voice, maybe his conscience, maybe reason. But then he found himself unable to resist, levelling off the weapon, the explosion almost instant, Jack O’Neill felt it coming, throwing himself sideways, his head striking the steps that led to the Stargate.

“Teal’c!” he exclaimed, his hand clutching his throbbing head. “What the hell are you doing?”

The Jaffa followed the colonel, the weapon once more aimed at him. “Jesus!” Jack yelled, rolling once more, away from the deadly blast. “Teal’c...  just stop!” O’Neill entreated, looking stunned by this sudden show of aggression.

Teal’c regarded the colonel, unsure of what to do next, his eyes enraged.

“I must kill you, you are a threat!” he snapped. “Please remain still.”

O’Neill’s eyes widened. “Are you nuts?” he demanded, raising his P90 toward the Jaffa. “Just stop right now!” he ordered, scrambling to his feet, his left hand raised, palm facing toward the Jaffa.

“Why?” Teal’c asked, his eyes staring at O’Neill almost vacuous. “You have no good reason why I should not kill you?”

O’Neill’s grimace crossed his face rapidly. “Um, ya think? I can come up with a few damn good reasons, just hold it, or so help me!” he warned.

“Jack?” Daniel’s voice. O’Neill risked a glance away from the Jaffa, toward Jackson.

“Daniel?”

“I’ve, Jack, it’s amazing!” Daniel enthused.

“What is?” O’Neill’s eyes slid back toward Jackson.

“They know everything, they know how to defeat the Goa’uld!” Daniel told him, now closer, between O’Neill and the Jaffa. “Teal’c he’s not a threat!”

Jack’s eyes slid back across toward the Jaffa, who nodded slowly. “Very well Daniel Jackson,” he agreed.

The colonel’s expression one of bemusement, he relaxed his guard slightly. “Daniel?”

“Jack, we need to study this, we need to learn what they know, it’s incredible!”

Daniel told him.

O’Neill’s eyes narrowed. “You want to explain to me just what the hell is going on around here?” he demanded, looking from one to the other. “‘Cause I’ve gotta tell you, you guys are a little strange right now!”

“Okay, look... the Cree’lar are the race that live on this planet Jack, and they’ve got power... I mean it’s er, wow!” Daniel enthused.

O’Neill closed his eyes shaking his head. “It’s not wow Daniel, it’s damn odd!” Jack snapped. “Teal’c’s trying to kill me, Carter and you are arguing with me... what the hell’s going on?”

“Okay, look, we’d better get you back to the SGC Jack, I mean, Teal’c trying to kill you?” Daniel told him.  “I think maybe you’re suffering under the strain.”

O’Neill’s eyebrows hit his forehead with such force even he was surprised. “What?” he asked. “Daniel...  you just said....”

“Teal’c, dial it up, I think the Colonel’s having some kind of break down here,” Daniel instructed.

The Jaffa did immediately as bid, looking across at O’Neill. “You are suffering from stress O’Neill,” he repeated.

Jack O’Neill stood bemused, his hands resting on the P90, looking toward the two men. “Okay, some one needs therapy here, and it’s not me!” he reasoned.

“We should have seen this coming,” Daniel told Teal’c.

“What coming?” Jack remonstrated, his eyes narrowing. “You’re both obviously under the influence of some damn alien technology, and I’m the one with stress?”

His hands now gesticulated wildly toward the two men.

“Your imagination is working overtime Jack, it’s okay, we’ll get Dr. Fraiser to take a look at you. I’m sure it’s just... um,” Jackson began.

“Okay, look!” O’Neill snapped, his finger pointing at Jackson, an accusatory expression resonating across his features. “Firstly, I’m not the one that needs help here, you are, and secondly, I don’t... Daniel?”

Jackson moved toward him, the Zat gun raised, firing once.  O’Neill fell helplessly, unconscious before he hit the floor.

“He’s seriously losing it,” Daniel told Teal’c.

“Indeed, it was for his own benefit,” Teal’c agreed.

General Hammond looked amazed as the two men emerged through the gate, O’Neill slung over Teal’c’s shoulder.

“What the hell’s going on?” he demanded.

“Sir, the colonel had some kind of breakdown... he, er, started firing his weapon toward Teal’c, said he was a threat, we had no other alternative... I think the planet really got to him sir,” Daniel explained quickly.

Hammond regarded the Jaffa. “Teal’c?”

“Indeed General Hammond, O’Neill became quite uncontrollable,” Teal’c confirmed.

“I will take him to the infirmary.”

Hammond looked bemused. “You do that.  Dr. Jackson?”

“General, I think that Jack needs to be given leave. Quite frankly, and I don’t say this lightly, he was dangerous out there,” Daniel said, beginning to walk toward the briefing room.

“How so?” Hammond asked.

“He, um, tried to kill us, if Teal’c hadn’t reacted... well?” Daniel sighed. “I guess we’d both be dead!”

 

*****

 

Dr. Fraiser had begun her examination of O’Neill, the colonel still unconscious. His pulse was racing, rapid eye movement. He was beginning to tremble now too.

“Well this doesn’t look good,” she said.

Hammond joined her. “Dr. Fraiser, I want a full report as soon as possible,” he ordered. “In the meantime I think we’d better have some guards on him.”

Fraiser looked surprised. “Sir?”

“He tried to kill Dr. Jackson and Teal’c.” Hammond told her. “I’ve got no choice but to restrict him.”

 Jack O’Neill’s eyes opened abruptly, causing Fraiser to startle. “Colonel?”

“What the hell is going on?” he asked, his hands restrained.

“You got a little out of control,” Fraiser told him, her tone soothing.

“I got out of control?  Doc, there’s something going on with Daniel and Teal’c, you gotta get me out of here,” O’Neill insisted.

“It’s alright Colonel, you’re under a lot of stress right now, your blood pressure is through the roof.” Fraiser said.

“Doc, I’m telling you, it’s not me, now dammit!” he snapped, struggling against the restraints. “You gotta get me out of here!” he yelled, his eyes wild, angry.

Fraiser took a deep breath. “I’m going to have to sedate him,” she told Jackson, who had just joined her in the infirmary.

“Doc!” Jack implored. “Please don’t do this, it’s not me... ” The fear, the anxiousness he’d felt on the planet returning as he looked at Jackson, staring at him, a feint smile etched on the archaeologist’s features.

“You’ll be fine Jack, trust me!” Daniel told him.

O’Neill thought he saw something, a glowing in Jackson’s eyes, he strained more, trying to free himself. The needle plunged into his arm; his head began to feel light.

“I hate to see him like this,” Jackson told Janet.

“He’ll be fine, Daniel, he probably just needs rest.” Janet reassured.

“Yes, I’ll stay with him,” Daniel suggested. “You can go and run those tests, General Hammond is pretty anxious.”

“Right, thanks, I’ll see you in a while, at the briefing?” Janet replied.

“Yes, you will.” Daniel told her. Watching her leave, he headed across for the drugs cabinet, selecting more tranquillisers. “Sorry Jack, but you’re in the way!”

He filled the syringe. A heavy sigh. “And this might kill you, but, at least it will be painless,” he said softly, the syringe pushed into O’Neill’s arm.

 

The monitors began to bleep at an increased rate, as the drug slowed down O’Neill’s heartbeat and respiratory system. Jackson stood back, alarm registering on his face for a moment, then a smile.

“Jack O’Neill, I’m sorry, but you are in our way!” he whispered, the tone empty of any emotion, flat.

“You should be!” The voice was familiar, yet Jackson had no idea of where it came from. “Did you think we would stand idly by and allow you to kill our beloved?”

Hathor appeared in the infirmary, materialising before Jackson’s eyes. The archaeologist recognised her, yet the creature that controlled him knew little of the danger.

Her hand raised, eyes narrowing with spite, she sent Jackson back forcefully, the power emanating from the ribbon device almost before she had fully extended her arm, glowering down at him.

Dr. Fraiser stood frozen in the doorway, seeing the Goa’uld, Jackson crashing back.

The SFs raised their weapons; Hathor’s shield engaged, the bullet’s deflected harmlessly away. The hand device scattered them effectively.

 “Our beloved will die if you do not allow us to help him!” she told Fraiser, her tone altered from the unmistakable sound of the Goa’uld, to that of the host.

Fraiser nodded slowly, her hands raised in front of her, palms outward.

“Okay,” she replied cautiously.

The alarms that sounded around the SGC seemed to be completely blocked out by the presence of this creature, undetected, she had breached the very heart of their facility.

“How did you get in here?” Fraiser enquired, moving forward carefully.

Hathor regarded her. “We are a goddess, did you really believe that we could be kept from our beloved?” she asked.

“And the colonel?” Fraiser looked down at Jack, his respiratory system going into decline, his heart beat fading.

 “That creature has dared to harm our Pharaoh,” Hathor responded, moving around to the bed, looking down at O’Neill, stroking his face softly.

“What?” Fraiser’s tone louder now, her eyes filled with surprise.

“Do not question us, leave us!” the Goa’uld queen snapped.

 Fraiser backed away, the Goa’uld raised her right hand, the healing device, something Fraiser had seen before, held above the colonel. “Be still now our Pharaoh, we shall save you once more!”

 Daniel began to come around, his face pale, a low moan escaping his lips. Fraiser turned, moving slowly toward him.

“What happened Dr. Jackson?” she asked, kneeling beside the archaeologist.

“I have no idea?” Daniel replied, rubbing his head gingerly as he moved to sit up.

“What happened?”

“Hathor!” Fraiser needed to say nothing else.

“What?” Jackson’s tone filled with surprise, his eyebrows shooting into his forehead.

“She said you tried to kill the Colonel?” Fraiser told him.

“I did? I don’t remember anything after I got trapped behind that force shield.” Daniel replied. “She did that?”

Fraiser shook her head. “I don’t know, but she’s helping the Colonel, I think?”

Daniel managed to get shakily to his feet.   

“Hadn’t we better let General Hammond know she’s on the base?” Daniel asked.

“I think the whole base knows,” Fraiser replied, her eyes widening, the alarms still sounding out.

 

The SFs were amassing in the hallway, joined by Colonel Makepeace and SG-3. “Alright, this hostile is very, very dangerous. We’re not going to be able to penetrate her defences, equally there is no way we can allow her to leave the base with Colonel O’Neill,” he instructed.

“You think she’s come for O’Neill?” Major Collins asked.

“That’s a given,” Makepeace remarked. “General Hammond, come in, sir?”

Hammond here, go ahead Colonel,” the general’s voice over the marine’s radio.

“Sir, Hathor is in the infirmary, I’ll send someone up to ops to get a better read of her location. Do we have permission to take her out should the opportunity present itself, sir?”

“That’s affirmative, Colonel, do whatever you have to do, without any unnecessary risk of life!”

“I read you, sir!”

 

Daniel cringed. “How did she get on the base? And shouldn’t we get out of the line of fire?” he enquired.

Fraiser looked toward the Goa’uld, the device having an affect, as the monitors began to normalise.

“I don’t want to leave the Colonel,” she intoned. “You go!”

“Um, no! I’m probably the only one that can talk any sense into her right now.

Dr. Fraiser, I think she’s right!” Daniel said suddenly, his eyes widening as he recalled taking the syringe from the cabinet. “I think I tried to kill Jack!”

“What?” Fraiser’s regard intense. “Daniel, you’re concussed,” she asserted.

“No, I was, whatever was on that planet is pretty powerful, and I think Teal’c maybe affected!” Daniel told her.

Fraiser took a deep breath, exhaling it quickly. “Okay. So, you deal with Miss Hathor, and I’ll go tell the Colonel about Teal’c,” she replied. “I hope you’re right about this Dr. Jackson.”

“Um, I know I’m right. I’m going to find out what she’s doing here,” Daniel insisted. “You’d better get hold of Makepeace and tell him to back off - she just did us a favour!”

 

“What the hell?” Jack exclaimed, his eyes opening quickly, swallowing hard.

Hathor stared down at him, a smile permeating her beatific features. “Our beloved, we are most overjoyed at your return to us,” she said.

“Hathor? Where? What?” O’Neill’s eyes widening. “What?”

“We came to save our beloved,” she whispered, leaning closer to his face, her lips brushing his cheek.

“Oh for crying out loud!” Jack remonstrated, trying to sit up, finding himself a little weakened from the drugs that Jackson had administered. “How the hell did you get on this base?”

“Our beloved is not pleased to see us?” Hathor enquired.

“Um, no!” Jack snapped, still clearly disorientated. “How did you? What the hell are you doing?”

“Since we have just saved our Pharaoh, once more, we might add, from death, should he not be thanking us?” she demanded.    

That familiar O’Neill grimace resonated from his face. “Gee! Thanks!” he spat. “But since when did I need saving?”

His second attempt to sit up successful, the alarms that continued to sound now becoming obvious to him. “And since the whole damn place is about to descend into here, don’t ya think you ought to be going?” he asked.         

“We do not wish to leave, not without our beloved,” she insisted.

“Okay, look.” A heavy sigh, his hand swept across his eyes. “Didn’t we say all our goodbyes back on... that planet?”

Daniel looked on, waiting for a moment to step in, to ascertain the purpose of the Goa’uld’s presence there.  Clearly she had been on the base for some time, before they left perhaps? Or maybe she followed them back from that planet.

 

“Um, Hathor?” he asked, a note of reticence lacing his tone. “Could I ask you a question?”

“Are you not doing so now?” she enquired, clearly angry with O’Neill for his dismissive and ungrateful attitude.

“How long have you been on this base?” Jackson asked.

She moved toward the archaeologist. “Of what concern is this of yours?”

“I’m, um, trying to figure out exactly what happened on that planet to make me dangerous to Jack’s health?” he stammered.

“Then we have watched you for several days,” she told him. Looking across at O’Neill. “We knew our beloved could not live without us!”

Jack shook his head slowly. “Hathor, dammit!” he snapped. “Didn’t I tell you that, we, us, you and I were not gonna work out?”

“It is a fortunate thing for our beloved that we knew he lied!” she retorted.

 

Sam made her way through the assembled guard. “Colonel?”

“Hathor!” he replied.

“What?” Sam exclaimed.

“I know Major, don’t ask. But she has Colonel O’Neill, Dr. Jackson, and Dr. Fraiser in there.”

“She must have used that stealth technology we saw back on her planet sir,” Carter surmised.

“I guess, doubt if she just walked in topside Major!” Makepeace replied. “So, what gets past the shield?”

“Anything slow moving sir, like a knife,” Carter responded.

“Alright, sounds like that would be effective, we’ve got the monitors in there right? We can determine the best time to attempt an assault.  Major Coburn, get up to level 16 and let us know when she’s safe to take out!”

“Yes sir!”

“Sir, I don’t know if that’s a good idea - it’s unlikely that she’s going to move very far away from the Colonel,” Sam argued.

“Major, unless we do something that Goa’uld could kill anyone of them, you want that? I’d rather try and neutralise her before that happens!” Makepeace asserted.

“I agree, sir, but if she intended to take the base over, or hurt anyone, she could have done that without giving away her presence here,” Sam insisted.

 

Janet moved toward the door slowly. Hathor’s attention now effectively divided between the colonel and Dr. Jackson. She made her way toward Makepeace and Carter.

“We’ve definitely got a problem!” she intoned, as she joined them.

“You don’t say Major!” Makepeace replied.

“Not Hathor sir, according to Dr. Jackson, he attempted to kill Colonel O’Neill under the influence of something from that planet.” Janet told them. “Teal’c’s affected too, so I think we should deal with that whilst we have Hathor contained.”

“I don’t think we do have her contained Major!” Makepeace retorted.

“Teal’c?” Sam repeated. “This isn’t making sense?”

“Look Sam, I’m just repeating what both Daniel and Hathor told me, and as bizarre as this is going to sound, apparently she only revealed her presence when he attempted to kill Colonel O’Neill,” Janet explained.

“Well this just gets better!” Sam replied. “So how come Daniel’s okay now?”

“She used that ribbon device on him Sam, he said he couldn’t remember anything after being trapped behind the shield on the planet, and then it just seemed to come back to him.”

“Major, are you saying that she did us a favour?” Makepeace asked, incredulously.

“Wouldn’t be the first time sir!” Sam confessed. “According to Colonel O’Neill, she saved him a couple of times. And remember she probably still wants his knowledge of the Ancients sir.”

“Daniel told me that there were some pretty strong emotional feelings running between them sir,” Fraiser added. “The whole having a child together must have had a pretty profound affect both of them, more than either were willing to let on.”

Sam looked at Janet. “I’m not buying that,” she retorted. “There’s no way she cares about the Colonel, she just cares about what he knows!”

“Sam, I think you’re wrong... if she’d just wanted the Colonel why not take him from the planet? Why did she follow him back here, which, Goa’uld or not, isn’t without risk!” Janet argued.

“When you two ladies have finished?” Makepeace snapped. “I’d like to get on with the job of neutralising this hostile, that is, if you’re both agreed that her intentions are nefarious?”

Sam sighed heavily. “Well her actions today would seem to say otherwise sir! So, maybe we should take Daniel’s word for it, and check out Teal’c?”

Makepeace shook his head. “Okay Major, take five of my men and check it out, keep in contact.”                               

“Yes, sir!”

 

Daniel moved closer to O’Neill. “Jack, are you okay?”

“No Daniel, I’m confused, hurting, and now I have a headache!” O’Neill complained, the last part of that equation aimed directly at Hathor, who continued to pay him close attention.

“Um, yeah, sorry about that,” Jackson responded, his eyebrows knitting down. “Some of that is probably my fault!”

“What?”

“When our beloved is finished, we have far more pressing matters to discuss with him?” Hathor intoned.

Jack shook his head. “Forget it! I’m not discussing squat with you!”

“Why does our beloved persist in his falsehood?” she demanded. “Since he confessed his love for us, even knowing that we had the power of his life in our hands?” Her eyebrows climbed steadily up her forehead.

Daniel looked intrigued. “You did?”

“I had a moment of weakness!” Jack admitted, shrugging. “But that was all it was!”

A scowl formed on his face, which became one of acquiescence. “Hey! I’m entitled don’t ya think?” the colonel asked, as he watched Jackson’s expression become more bemused.

“I never said anything,” Daniel retorted.

O’Neill winced visibly. “Like ya needed to!” he rasped. His eyes now averted toward Hathor, the Goa’uld queen glaring at him. “What?”

“When our Pharaoh has finished with his trivial denials?” she chided, waiting for an acknowledgement. “Then we should perhaps now tell our beloved that we have come for his counsel, if he refuses to once more accept the comfort of our arms.”

“Counsel?” Jack repeated apprehensively. “And what might you need my counsel for?”

Hathor moved back away from him. “We desire our beloved’s help in the return of our daughter, Iceni!”

Jack regarded her, disbelief crossing his features slowly. Unable to take in what she had told him, cynically he shook his head.

“God you just never give up do you? Is there a damn word in Goa’uld that means no?” he demanded.

“There is,” she replied. “But since we have yet to explain our cause properly, perhaps our Pharaoh would be wise to be silent?”

“Which is a polite way of saying shut up I guess?” Daniel offered.

“Thank you, I think I got that.” Jack scowled. “Alright, so?”

“We regret to tell our beloved that he has been deceived, as were we,” she replied, her fingertips brushing across his hair.

Jack took her tiny hand in his own to prevent this open show of affection.  “Okay, what?” His eyes filling with concern, looking now into eyes that showed no sign of the supercilious creature he had fallen in love with, he could only see fear. His fingers tightened protectively around her hand. “Hathor?”

“Apophis has taken our child,” she told him.

Jack’s expression became one of disbelief. “No that’s impossible.” The colonel looked horrified, his jaw dropping open, eyes closing, he lowered his head. “No!” he whispered, swallowing hard, choking back emotions that swept over him, fear, predominantly, welling up inside him like a tidal wave, engulfing him in its grasp.

“What?” Jackson echoed O’Neill’s horror, shaking his head slowly. “But Kalim said she was safe, she’s with the Sengo’lians?” he added. “This has to be a trick, Jack!”

 

Hathor’s smile was filled with animosity. “A trick? Had we desired, you would all be dead!” she asserted, her other hand placed on Jack’s now, holding him firmly in her grasp, her eyes softening as she looked at him. “Hear us, our beloved,” she entreated, as his gaze fell upon her, the shared sorrow as powerful as anything either had felt, exchanged in that moment. “Your Jaffa entrusted the safety of our child to his wife, and she was killed by Apophis’ personal guard.”

Jack’s features contorted with a mixture of pain and confusion, his eyes almost pleaded with her. “Don’t say this,” he begged, his voice heavy with the emotion he fought to choke back. Hathor’s features softened further, her fingers reaching out and caressing his face. For a fleeting moment, her eyes seemed to fill with tears, covered quickly by her flame red hair as she lowered her head.

“We need our Pharaoh,” she repeated.

“Oh my god!” Daniel gasped, caught in the intensity that flowed like an electric current between them. “Jack we have to do something?”

O’Neill sucked in the pain and tore the IV from the back of his hand, his eyes falling on Jackson.

“Get me something to wear Daniel now!” he ordered, there was an emptiness in his eyes that seemed to echo in his voice, it sounded hollow, sending a chill down Jackson’s spine.

“Okay,” Daniel responded immediately, his senses felt numbed by the thought of Apophis once more dictating their fate. “Um, Jack?” Jackson paused in the doorway. “What should I do about the, er, guards?”

“Who’s out there?” O’Neill asked, his hand reaching to Hathor’s face softly. “We’ll get her back, I promise!” he reassured.

“Makepeace I think?”

O’Neill took a deep breath. “Hammond’s not gonna like this!” he remarked, steeling himself then, drawing on years of experience to bury the fear and the pain that resonated around his mind.

“Makepeace, I wanna see Hammond now!” Jack yelled, startling Hathor whose eyes widened catlike.

“I heard you Jack, I’m not sending him in there!” Makepeace shouted back.

“Dammit Makepeace, just send him in, or we’ll come out!” Jack snapped. His voice lowered as he addressed Jackson now. “I’m gonna need my ribbon device Daniel, and anything else you can get your hands on.”

“Okay, I’ll um, do my best,” he agreed, exiting the infirmary.

 

He approached the marine now with a sense of urgency. “I’d do what he says Colonel, apparently Apophis has Iceni, which is what Hathor’s doing here!” he explained quickly. “And I don’t think you really want to get in her way right now!”

 

Makepeace looked at Fraiser. “Man this just keeps getting more and more confusing... I’m really beginning to think this whole damn place is designed to test my sanity!” he sighed.

“I know what you mean, sir,” Fraiser agreed.

 

“Our beloved?” Hathor intoned softly.

“What?” A heavy sigh.

“We are overjoyed that we shall be together once more.” Her eyes searched his face for some hint of cession, that he too felt as overwhelmed in her presence, as she in his.

Jack’s features contorted, his emotions now back in check, a curious expression adorning his face. “Hathor... what is it that you want exactly, cause I’m not buying this whole love deal?” he asked.

“Then you are a fool!” she snapped, turning away from him. “And we shall endeavour to remove these affections from our mind!”

O’Neill raised his gaze heavenward, lifting her chin to stare into those remorseless eyes, a smile crossing his face.  “There you go again,” he said softly. “For once you can’t just be honest?”

She shook her head slowly. “We shall never concede this, our beloved,” she replied.

 

*****

 

Teal’c regarded Carter closely. “Of what do you speak?” he enquired.

“Look Teal’c, I just need you to come with me, so Dr. Fraiser can check you out.”

The Jaffa moved toward her slowly. “I am fine Major Carter, perhaps you are mistaken?”

“Teal’c, didn’t you notice the alarms sounding?” Carter asked, trying to confirm Jackson’s assertion; the Jaffa’s oblivious state toward an emergency beginning to do just that.

“Alarms?” Teal’c enquired, he seemed distracted.

Carter raised the Zat gun, one shot fired at the Jaffa, who’s body contorted and fell backwards. She looked at Major Collins. “The ribbon device worked on Daniel right?” she offered, a grimace sweeping her features.

“Well, I don’t want to be the one who has to explain why you did that to him when he wakes up,” Collins confessed.

“Hey!” Carter commented. “He’ll understand.” Dubiously shrugging her shoulders. “I hope!”

 

*****

 

Hammond entered the infirmary slowly.  O’Neill stood beside Hathor, now dressed in full combats, yet minus any weapons.

“Colonel O’Neill, care to explain exactly what’s going on here?” the general demanded, a nervous glance toward the Goa’uld.

“Sir, Apophis has my kid...” Jack replied, a step closer to Hammond who seemed uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry to hear that Jack,” Hammond responded, shaking his head. “But you know I can’t authorise you to leave this base Colonel. I’m sorry!” he intoned.

“General!” Jack exclaimed, his features contorting. It was rare for him to openly argue his position, but the compulsion to do so was overwhelming.  “I’m not exactly asking sir!”

Hammond regarded him closely. “Alright Jack, I’m willing to discuss this, but I can’t do that with this base under threat,” he asserted.

Jack glanced at him, trying to read the man’s intentions, the general playing his cards close to his chest.

“First Hathor will have to turn over that Goa’uld hand device... then we’ll talk about it, not before Jack.”

O’Neill’s eyes averted from the general’s gaze, he knew instinctively it was a bad move to give up a tactical advantage, yet there seemed little choice. He half turned, holding his hand out toward Hathor, their eyes meeting.

“Does our beloved seriously believe that we shall give up the only means with which we may defend us?” she challenged.

“You want to go get our kid back? Help me, give me the damn device!” Jack snapped, the urgency knotting his stomach.

Her eyes narrowed, looking toward Hammond. “We do so on the strict understanding that we shall not be held captive in this facility.”

“You do!” Hammond replied.

 

Colonel Makepeace and Major Coburn stood ready. The Zat guns poised.

Hammond knew what would happen. He’d seen the distress the last few months had brought O’Neill. He felt it his duty to prevent the colonel from making yet another mistake from which there might be no reprieve, as much as his heart was with O’Neill’s plight, his judgement had to err on the side of caution.

“I’ll take that Jack,” he insisted, as Hathor handed the device to the colonel.

O’Neill’s regard stern. “If it’s all the same to you sir,” he responded, a reluctance to give up the one thing that might ensure his advantage.  “I’d prefer to hang on to it.”

“Colonel, this is not negotiable, now, we’ll go to the briefing room once you’ve handed that device over!” Hammond asserted.

O’Neill shook his head, looking at Hathor, she too had to concede, her desire to be with O’Neill in rescuing a child she had found herself inextricably bound too, more important suddenly than anything else.

Jack moved forward, his hand outstretched, the device taken from him by Hammond who stepped back quickly.

O’Neill looked around in time to see the danger, but he was powerless to stop it. The Zat guns discharged; Jack O’Neill and Hathor were now at the mercy of the SGC!

 

*****

 

Teal’c shook his head. “I apologise,” he said, somewhat ambiguous in that reply, since he could remember neither why he was apologising, nor why Carter had seen fit to offer an apology of her own. He could remember very little indeed.

 “Sam?” Daniel Jackson’s entrance abrupt, he was out of breath, his cheeks flushed red; Jackson looked flustered, angry.

“Daniel, what’s wrong?” she asked, leaving Teal’c’s side, concern etched into her features.

“Jack’s in the cells, Hammond’s not going to let him... he, so is Hathor!” Jackson responded, unable to contain himself, so agitated at this turn of events, he found himself, curiously unable to form a coherent sentence. Pausing now, his eyes fixed on Carter, filled with alarm and urgency.  “We’ve, Sam, we’ve got to get them out!”

“What?” Carter’s surprise at this deluge of information, apparent in her tone. “Daniel, slow down. Colonel O’Neill’s in the holding cells?”

“Yes.” Daniel’s tone now calmer.  “Hathor told Jack that Apophis has Iceni, and you know Jack, he just demanded to be allowed to go off and search for her,” he imparted. “But Hammond apparently didn’t see it that way, he, er, tricked Jack into handing over Hathor’s ribbon device, and then he… Sam, Jack needs our help!”

Teal’c looked on, saying nothing, yet the disdain that settled on those stoic features conveying his obvious discomfort with this news.

“Daniel, hold on a second, General Hammond’s right, as much as I know what this means to the Colonel, he can’t just take off every time she shows up and gives him a line!” Carter intoned. “We’ve got no proof.”

“Excuse me?” Daniel’s eyebrows shot into his forehead. “Are you saying that he shouldn’t go and rescue his daughter from Apophis?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. Look!” Sam’s tone was sharp now, military in its delivery. “The Colonel can’t just take off whenever he feels like it, he’s got a responsibility to this command Daniel, and what even makes you think that Hathor’s not spinning a line?  She gets the Colonel off this planet, and that’s the last we ever see of him?”

“That’s bullshit!” Daniel snapped, his temper flaring dangerously out of control. “And I’m really disappointed to hear that coming from you.”

“Really? Well you were wrong the last time Daniel.” Carter’s accusatory diction intended to needle the archaeologist, as much as it was to defend against his attack.

“Was I?” he asked. “Or were you?” He stared at her, glowering with anger, his cheeks flushed with the frustration pent up inside him. Sam should have been with him, on his side, fighting for Jack, but he’d forgotten about the might of the military machine. He glanced over at Teal’c.

“And you?” he asked.

“Samantha Carter is correct Daniel Jackson, we should at least attempt to ascertain whether this Goa’uld is simply leading O’Neill into a trap!” he replied. “It is not unknown for Goa’uld to bond together in a common aim.”

“Well if you won’t help me, I’m going to speak to Hammond... what’s he going to do? Keep Jack locked up indefinitely?” he intoned.

“Daniel it won’t help!” Sam called after the departing archaeologist. She looked at Teal’c. “He’ll just make it worse!”

“Indeed, but is he not entitled to?” Teal’c asked. “Since he may indeed be correct in his assumption that O’Neill’s child is held by Apophis?”

Carter thought about it, sitting on the stool beside him. “I guess, but it’s not like he can just march into Apophis’ stronghold and rescue her right?”

“I do not believe O’Neill would presume so either, and he still has one distinct advantage,” the Jaffa commented.

“What’s that?”

“He has many allies!”

Sam shook her head. “Yeah right! Who? Heru’ur? Teal’c you can’t seriously believe that he’s about to help the Colonel free his daughter?”

“I do not refer to Heru’ur Major Carter, I refer to the Asgaard!” Teal’c responded, those steely brown eyes gazing upon her intensely.

Carter nodded, a slow thoughtful gesture. “The Asgaard,” she echoed. “Okay, let’s say Hathor’s telling the truth. I can’t see how we’re going to convince General Hammond to let us go on what might amount to a suicide mission,” she added, almost wistfully hoping that Teal’c would be able to forward an adequate argument.

The Jaffa nodded thoughtfully. “Then perhaps we should endeavour to offer our support in a more positive way,” he suggested.

“Talk to Hammond?” Sam responded.

“Indeed!” he concluded, a smile permeating his features.

Sam looked heavenward, a heavy sigh escaping her lips. “Why did I know you were going to say that?” she responded, mirroring that smile. “Okay,” she agreed, raising her eyebrows quickly, a nervous regard now masking her elfin like face. “It’s worth a try, I guess.”

 

*****

 

“General, you’ve got no right to keep him locked up!” Daniel remonstrated. “You owe him!”

“Dr. Jackson, since when is it the policy of this facility to allow its personnel to take off on missions of their own choosing?” Hammond demanded. “Now we have rules Dr. Jackson, and whether you like it or not, I can’t allow Colonel O’Neill to just leave this base without knowing exactly what he’ll be getting into!”

“General, it’s his daughter. What if it one were of your grandchildren? You can’t tell me you’d have no compunction about sending a team, my God, you’d probably want to go yourself!” Jackson argued, his emotional state completely overwhelming him. “General, please?”

“Ordinarily Dr. Jackson I’d agree!” Hammond replied, able to sympathise with Jackson’s argument more than he could willingly let on. “But we’ve been through this scenario not three months ago! I had to risk your life, and the life of Colonel Makepeace, to rescue Colonel O’Neill. I’m sorry, but this matter is not open for discussion any longer, now I suggest you go and do whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing Dr. Jackson, because I’m losing my patience here!” Hammond’s stare was unrelenting.

Jackson glared back at him. “Alright, fine. You want to betray Jack after all he did for you? That’s on your conscience General.” The door emphatically slammed behind him. Jackson made his way toward the cells.

George Hammond exhaled loudly, lowering his eyes toward his desk; O’Neill’s file open in front of him. He knew only too well how much he owed Jack O’Neill, weighed down with the burden of responsibility of his command against the struggle of conscience. Inevitably, he knew, somewhere he had to draw the line, the only problem now was, could he deny O’Neill the right to save his child?

Closing the file, he sat back in his chair. The decision wasn’t something he’d come to lightly.

 

*****

 

“Hathor will you just stop nagging!” Jack snapped, looking through the bars of the cell toward the Goa’uld. He needed no reminder of what was at stake, with every second that passed the dread he felt seemed to swell inside him.

“Had our beloved not have trusted these Tau’ri slaves, we would not be in these most disagreeable surroundings, unable to save our child!” she intoned bitterly.

O’Neill sat down, eyes sliding heavenwards. “Yeah, I kinda heard you the first ten times!” he remarked. “Doesn’t exactly help right now, does it?”

Hathor moved toward the bars, looking forlornly toward the colonel now.

“How shall we escape this?” she asked.

“Well,” Jack replied, looking at the cameras, the bars, the beams of infrared light that streamed across the front of those bars. “I’m thinking, with er, great difficulty, actually!” he concluded.

“Fool!” she spat, turning away from him. “Fool to be so weakened!”

“Yep! I can add that to my list of appropriate names!” Jack opined. His head dropped into his hands as he fought to reason a way out, there had to be something?

 Daniel approached the SF guarding the main door to the cells, a rueful expression adorning his boyish features.

 “I’d like to see Colonel O’Neill,” he told the man.

The SF checked on the radio that Jackson would indeed be permitted to visit, opening the door and standing aside once that permission was forthcoming.

 “Daniel!” Jack exclaimed, almost as if his presence might offer that glimmer of hope he so desperately searched for. Standing up, he moved as close to the bars of the cell as the beams would allow.

“Jack. So this isn’t what I expected!” the archaeologist remarked. “I’m er, sorry!”

“Hey, who knew?” Jack replied, attempting a half-hearted smile.

“How good is the surveillance in here?” Jackson asked, moving closer to O’Neill as he did so.

Jack shook his head. “They can pick up a needle dropping Daniel,” he replied, a nervous glance toward the camera.

Jackson smiled. ‘Okay.’ His thoughts amplified to his friend.

‘What are the chances of getting some help here?’ O’Neill responded.

Jackson frowned. ‘Sam seems to be with Hammond on this!’

‘Sweet! So not a chance in hell then?’ A grimace swept his features.

‘Um, I didn’t say that, I think Teal’c might help, but that’s two against an entire base Jack!’

‘Not if you can get me that ribbon device Daniel.’ A smile permeated O’Neill’s features.

“So, brought me anything?” he asked aloud.

“Um, no, sorry! I just wanted to see how you were holding up?”

‘How am I supposed to get that exactly?’ Jackson thought.

‘Daniel, you’re a smart guy, work it out!’

“Well considering I’m in a cell, my kid’s with the snake, and she’s nagging! Ah, pretty good, and you?”

“Yeah, I’m fine... I, er, I went to see Hammond, he’s not buying her story,” Jackson said, nodding in Hathor’s direction.

“Well she’s not lying to me Daniel, I’d know,” Jack insisted, the conviction in his eyes resonating toward Jackson with such intensity, that the archaeologist found himself nodding in silent agreement.  “Look Daniel, try Hammond again. That slimy scum-sucking snakehead has got my kid, I’m climbing the walls here.”

“Jack, I’ll try... but I don’t hold out much hope!” Jackson shrugged, a furtive glance at O’Neill as he departed.

Jack moved back away from the bars, biting his lower lip. He glanced across at Hathor, the feint smile that creased his mouth offering her some respite, he hoped.

 

*****

 

“Unauthorised incoming wormhole,” Lt. Simmons announced.

Hammond made his way down to the control room. Carter and Teal’c, who had been attempting to convince Hammond that having Hathor in the cells might encourage the NID to come snooping around, followed closely behind.

“It’s special code 2 sir, Bra’tac!” Simmons informed the general, the moment he stood beside him.

“Open the iris,” Hammond instructed, a glance toward Carter.

The major shrugged. “Maybe he can throw some light on the situation sir?” she offered.

“Let’s hope so, Major,” Hammond agreed.

Teal’c had already made his way into the embarkation room, waiting for his old Jaffa master at the foot of the ramp.

Bra’tac, accompanied by another Jaffa, a young man, stepped through the event horizon, both carried staff weapons.

“General Hammond? Do you give me leave to enter your compound?”

“Yes I do Bra’tac,” Hammond responded.

Tek ma’tay Bra’tac?” Teal’c greeted.

“Teal’c, it is good to see you old friend, this is Jad’arrah, he is my newest apprentice, it is he, who brings me here!” Bra’tac told him.

Teal’c bowed his head, leading both to the briefing room.

 

“Then it’s true?” Carter asked, shaking her head. “Damn!”

“Indeed, when I heard this news I was most troubled. There was no way I could have rescued the child, or I would have done so!” Bra’tac confirmed.

“Then Hathor is correct!” Teal’c observed, his regard inclined toward Hammond.

“Hathor?” Bra’tac looked alarmed.

“Yes, she managed to breach our defences in order to seek the help of Colonel O’Neill,” Hammond explained, aware of Teal’c’s inference, yet choosing to ignore him. “Don’t worry, we have them both locked up in a holding cell!”

“You would be unwise to believe it so,” Bra’tac warned.

“Why?” Carter enquired.

“Even now, Hathor’s motherships are cloaked in your Earth’s orbit, she controls the armies formerly gifted to Colonel O’Neill, Hammond,” the Jaffa master intoned, a note of caution in his voice. “You would be wise to release her, with such vessels she could destroy your world!” He glanced at Teal’c, the wily Jaffa lowering his eyes to acknowledge the facade.

Hammond looked across at Carter. “Major, get Colonel O’Neill brought up here stat!” he snapped.

“Yes, sir,” Carter responded, her chair pushed back, she nodded at Teal’c.

 

*****

 

Daniel regarded the Sergeant at arms, a matter-of-fact expression crossing his features now.

“Look, if you doubt what I’m saying why don’t you call down and check this with General Hammond?” he suggested, now employing the most innocent expression he could muster.

“Okay, I’ll call down and check. You’re sure he wanted the ribbon device that Colonel O’Neill brought back?” the airman asked, almost absentmindedly making his way toward the safe where such weapons were kept.

“That’s the one,” Jackson replied, feeling slightly nervous now, yet feeling the colonel’s reassuring thoughts in his mind. Daniel waited for the right moment, moving around behind the airman, a grimace sweeping his face as he applied a swift blow to the pressure points on the man’s neck.

“Okay,” he gasped. “That was easier than I thought.”

He collected the ribbon device from its nest, concealing it in the pocket of his fatigues, dragging the unconscious airman around behind the desk before he exited.

 

*****

 

Carter entered the cells in time to see the SF fly backward, Jackson standing directly in front of her as she moved forward, and behind him, Jack O’Neill, the ribbon device clearly visible. Her eyes met the colonel’s, a look of surprise.

“Colonel, wait?” Her hand’s held aloft, subserviently.

“Carter, don’t get in my way!” Jack warned, his steely gaze torn from her as he turned toward the cell that held the Goa’uld queen.

“Sir, General Hammond wants to see you... don’t do this?” she implored.

“I don’t have time for this Carter! My kid, which Hammond conveniently forgot about, is in danger... oh and thanks for your support by the way!”

“Sir?” Carter looked alarmed, quickly glancing across at Jackson. “Daniel, please?”

“Don’t look at me Sam,” the archaeologist replied, raising his hands.

Hathor freed easily, the ribbon device Jack wielded tearing the door from its hinges. The alarms echoed out around the SGC once more.

O’Neill paused. “Carter, this could get ugly, you’d better warn Hammond to back everyone off,” he charged.

 The SFs rounded the corner as O’Neill strode from the cells, Hathor and Jackson behind him, protected by the shield. “Stand down marines!” Jack cautioned.

The group hesitated instantly.

“Jack, behind us!” Daniel exclaimed.

Makepeace raised his Zat gun. The colonel turned almost in slow motion, the ribbon device emitting a controlled surge, sending the SG3 marine backward.

 

“Alright, keep moving. We’re going through that gate, whether Hammond likes it or not!” O’Neill intoned.

As they approached the control room, the threat from the SFs appeared to rescind; Hammond stood at the bottom of the stairs.

“Colonel O’Neill, stand down!” he ordered.

“Not this time George!” O’Neill’s deliberate insubordination indicating the colonel’s intent. He wasn’t about to be reasoned with, Hammond could see it in his eyes, but nevertheless, he wasn’t about to give up without a fight.

“Colonel O’Neill I am warning you that if you do not stand down, I will have no alternative but to court martial you for gross misconduct, and conduct unbecoming!”

Hammond stated.

“Then I guess you’re gonna have to come looking for me hah General? ‘Cause I don’t intend to wait around for you to prefer charges!” O’Neill retorted. “Now, General, if you don’t mind, time’s a little pressing here so, just dial up the coordinates Daniel has in his hand, or I’ll be forced to do something we both might regret.”  His eyes were steely cold, almost hateful.

“Dr. Jackson?”

“I’m sorry, General, but I’m with Jack!”

“I’m sorry too. As of right now, you are no longer a part of this command!” Hammond snapped. “Sergeant dial those coordinates, get these people out of my sight!”

 Carter looked nervously across at Teal’c, finally deciding to act.  “Er, sir?”

Hammond turned back, looking at her. “Major?”

“I’m sorry, sir, but um, me too!” she said.

Both O’Neill and Jackson looked as astounded as the bemused SGC commanding officer; Hammond shook his head in dismay.

“Major, if you do this, I won’t have any option but to put you up for court martial!”

“I know sir, but my place is with my team sir... and I can’t turn my back on that duty!” Sam told him.

“General Hammond!” Teal’c spoke up now too.

“I know, Teal’c.” A heavy sigh.

“Then we shall all go!” Bra’tac confirmed.

 General George Hammond stood in the control room of the SGC, watching SG-1 depart, a heavy heart, a lump of sorts in his throat. Duty could sometimes call a man to do many things. But his was clear, even if he didn’t like it.

“Sergeant, get me Major Davis,” he ordered, turning slowly and walking that long way back to his office.

 Hathor led them toward the palace. O’Neill’s first prime bowed before him.

“Kalim,” he acknowledged.  “I’m sorry about your wife.” A comforting hand placed on the shoulder of the Jaffa.

“My lord, forgive me, I have failed you.” Kalim’s eyes could not meet his master’s.

“Hey! You didn’t fail me, forget it. You did your best... let’s just focus on getting Iceni back.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

“Alright, and cut out the lord stuff,” Jack remarked, clearly still embarrassed by the term. A grimace at Carter. “So Major?”

“Sir?”

“Nice to have you along, even if it does mean your career's over,” Jack told her, a warm smile offered. “But hey! Look on the bright side, you get to fly a death glider, how many astrophysicists can say that?”

“Yes sir, how many?” She felt suddenly comfortable. The colonel gently barged into her.

“Dumb, but I appreciate your support, really!” he told her.

“I know sir,” she replied. “I’m sorry it’s under these circumstances!”

“Well as long as you know Sam, wouldn’t want you to think you’ve just kissed away a perfectly good career for nothing, right?” he added, beaming now.

“Our beloved!” Hathor’s tone, like her regard, stern.

“Hathor?” Jack’s sardonic diction rounded nicely into the word.

“We shall not be needing the help of this female!” A pointed, vehement look toward Carter, who returned her disregard.

“Hey! Since when did you start giving orders around here?” he asked, his eyes filled with animosity, anger permeating his tone. “You’re part of the damn reason we’re doing this, try to show a little gratitude!” he snapped.

Her constant nagging was beginning to grate on his nerves. He knew she could never fully understand exactly why he remained so faithful to his friends, but all the same, he was in no mood to listen to the denigration she fired at them.

“Perhaps our Pharaoh forgets, that ultimately we are in power here?” she snarled, contemptuous of his regard for the slaves of the Tau’ri.

“Look lady! I don’t have the damn time, or the inclination, to debate this with you, so just forget the damn nagging, the threats, the general snake behaviour, and we’ll all get along fine!” His finger protruded menacingly toward her face. “Got it?”

“We could not fail to!” Her retort as sharp as his.

 “Oh boy,” Daniel sighed. “It’s like being in the middle of an old married couple!”

“Daniel!” Sam scolded, her attention momentarily focused on the archaeologist so as to accentuate the rebuke. “So, sir?”

“Carter?” O’Neill’s attention taken from his furious consort.

“What are we planning on doing now?”

“Well, that kinda depends on how good the Intel is, basically,” Jack paused, looking around at Hathor. “You know where he’s holding her right?”

“We are aware of the planet, Kha’tesh,” Hathor told him.

“Okay, so we can’t exactly go guns blazing, he’d expect us to come in force... I go alone and find out what he wants?” Jack suggested.

“No!” Carter and Hathor’s voices blended into one, both women turning and looking at the other.

“Oh this is good!” Daniel remarked, his tone lowered so as only to convey his thoughts to Teal’c, who raised a curious eyebrow.  “I’m thinking we’re going to have a little jealousy?”

“Indeed!”

“Great! So, what’s he got that I haven’t?” Daniel enquired, the question a serious one.

Teal’c right eyebrow rose slowly, his eyes quizzical. “Daniel Jackson?”

“Oh don’t worry about it... so I guess that plans out!” Daniel retorted, walking toward O’Neill, the Jaffa’s eyes following him.

“Look!” Jack snapped, his eyes from Hathor to Carter. “Anyone have a better plan, I’m all ears, but since we’re not exactly gonna be invited in through the front door, then right now it’s all I can come up with!”

“Our Pharaoh would be foolish to walk into such a trap, Apophis would expect this,”

Hathor told him.

Jack shook his head. “Okay, so?”

“We believe that the best possible plan would be for us, accompanied by this female, to approach Apophis, we would say that we had captured her, he needs a queen, perhaps he would find her favourable!”

“Are you cracked?” Jack snapped, his features contorting into a frown.

“Um, no I think she’s just being a woman!” Daniel remarked glibly.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” O’Neill looking abashed at the comment, confused by what Jackson was referring too.

“Well, I think you can safely assume that she’s ensuring the competition is kept to a minimum!”

“Daniel!” Jack sighed. “Hathor doesn’t perceive a threat from Carter... I mean, she’s just, well she’s Carter, right? What possible threat...” His voice trailed off, looking at Samantha Carter, then Hathor, eyes widening. “Oh crap! Tell me your not talking about what I think you’re talking about?” the colonel asked, genuinely bemused by this assertion.

Jackson’s expression rueful. “Um, yeah, I mean exactly that!”

“Well that’s just ridiculous!” Jack intoned, his eyes sliding across toward Carter then, apologetic in his regard. “Not that I don’t... I mean, well, it’s... can we focus on the problem here?” he snapped finally, trying to dig himself out of the huge pit he’d inadvertently fallen into.

“I understand sir, I mean, I’m just Carter right?” Sam retorted. “So the snake’s got nothing to worry about!”

“Whoops!” Daniel chirped wryly. “I think I’m going to go over there...” A smile at Jack. “Um, good luck!”

O’Neill shook his head, his right hand clutching at his face now, covering his embarrassment. “Carter, I didn’t mean you weren’t attractive!” he offered, a pause, looking then at Hathor. “Okay, this isn’t going very well!”

“No sir really, I understand, I know exactly what you meant,” Carter reassured him.

“Our beloved?” Hathor moved toward him, her hand reaching out, the softness of her skin immediately stripping his senses. O’Neill didn’t flinch, didn’t move, as her finger tips reached into his hair, the colonel’s eyes widening, pupils expanding, the chemistry between them almost drug like in its effects.

Jack’s breath shortened, his eyes fixed, locked in her gaze. He could feel his heart thumping in his chest, an overwhelming urge to pull her closer surging through him. Feeling her in his arms, his muscles tightened around her, gently lifting her delicate, acquiescent body to meet his kiss.

 

Carter raised her eyebrows, stepping back, her gaze averted. She felt almost embarrassed by the intimacy they so openly displayed, catching Jackson’s gaze.

“Well I think she just made her point nicely!” she scowled.

“I er, guess!” Daniel replied, unsure of what he might say to make it seem less obvious.

“Why do you do that?” Jack asked as they parted, the excitement he couldn’t deny welling up inside him; for a fleeting moment the burden of the task ahead lifted from his shoulders.

“We are your goddess, our beloved!” she whispered softly, turning away from him, her eyes directed toward Carter, now emanating an obvious satisfaction at having put this female so emphatically in her place.

Jack closed his eyes, a sharp intake of breath, shaking his head aggressively, as if this act might lift the intoxication he felt at her touch.

Jackson stared at him when they opened, a wry smile forming almost discreetly across his boyish features.

O’Neill found it difficult to return his regard, lowering his eyes, attempting to recover some semblance of controlled dignity, so obvious was his infatuation.

 “What?” he barked defensively.

“Oh I’m just wondering,” Daniel remarked.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah!” Jackson smiled, turning away.

 “Sweet! So anybody want to actually talk about how we’re going to get Iceni back?” he asked, fighting the embarrassment of such an uncomfortable situation.

Carter considered it. “Well sir, since we can’t exactly launch an all out assault, maybe we should try infiltrating his personal guard?” she offered.

Jack nodded. “Maybe the safest way in,” he agreed. “Teal’c, got any idea’s buddy?”

Teal’c stepped forward. “Indeed!” he replied. “I believe that Bra’tac and I could easily infiltrate Apophis personal guard. Once we have achieved this, I believe that you should allow yourself to be captured O’Neill, this would then facilitate negotiations between Hathor and Apophis, since she would undoubtedly wish her ‘mate’s’ return!”

Jack and Carter both cringed at the term. Hathor regarded the major.

 “Apophis would believe such a deception, since he knows how important to our cause our Pharaoh is!” Hathor agreed.

“So what do we do?” Daniel enquired, feeling suddenly redundant.

“Well, I guess you do the whole back up thing,” Jack remarked.

“With what?” Carter enquired. “Sir, if you allow yourself to be captured, and Teal’c and Bra’tac are unsuccessful in helping you escape?”

“Carter, I know!” Jack replied. “But do you have any better ideas?”

She lowered her eyes. “No sir,”

“Sweet, then I guess that’s the best plan right?” It was a question delivered with much reticence. “So how you gonna get in?”

Bra’tac stepped forward. “This will not be a problem,” he stated. “The guards come and go to Apophis former home world. It will be a simple matter of Teal’c and I gating to this planet, and from there, to Kha’tesh. Once we are safely there, we will send word. Come Teal’c, there is much to do!”

 

*****

 

Jack sat in the quarters he’d shared with Hathor on his previous stay. Carter sitting with Jackson, checking her P90 as the archaeologist mused through some Goa’uld dialect.

She looked across at the colonel, his head buried in his hands, deep in thought.

“Must be hard for him,” she remarked to Jackson.

“I guess. I mean, to actually be in love with a Goa’uld,” he replied without thinking.

“Daniel, I meant wondering if he’s ever going to see his daughter again, actually!”

Sam intoned.

“Oh, yeah. Added to the fact that we’ve effectively, apparently, really severed all ties to the SGC!” he remarked.

“You really think General Hammond is going to court martial us?” Carter enquired. “Because I don’t!”

“You don’t? Does that mean I’m not fired either?” Jackson asked, looking hopeful then. “Because I’d really like to go home at some point!”

“Not to sound bigheaded or anything,” Sam opined, leaning closer to him. “But I think he just said that, you know, maybe to try and get the Colonel to stay. Basically he’s lost his frontline team if he goes through with it.”

Daniel nodded thoughtfully. “Jack seems to believe he will though,” he added.

“Yeah, the Colonel’s probably thinking that given his behaviour, and his really bad disciplinary record, that the General won’t have a choice... but I think he does, and I think he understands. It’s not like he could just let us all march out of there without issuing some kind of ultimatum?”

“Well, I hope you’re right!” Daniel replied. “Of course, that doesn’t solve the whole tug of war between Jack and Hathor!”

Carter placed the P90 on the ground in front of her. “How do you mean?”

“Well come on Sam, you’re not blind,” he observed, a thoughtful regard adorning his features.  “You saw the effect she has on him, it’s not like he can exactly take her back to Earth and set up home is it?”

Carter’s expression was almost hateful. “So we kill her!” she said coldly.

Jackson’s eyes expanded. “What?”

“Well, as long as she’s around, and if you’re right, the only way to help the colonel deal with it, is to get rid of the problem!” she opined.

“Sam, are you joking? Because if you’re not, you’re beginning to worry me!” Daniel retorted, scanning the major’s eyes for a hint that she might indeed be joking.

“Look!” she snapped. Aware suddenly of her volume, she glanced across at O’Neill, who maintained the same position. “If we go back to the SGC, with Iceni, and having eliminated Hathor, then Hammond’s got something with which to go to the chief of staff! No more Hathor, no more problem!”

“I can’t believe I’m hearing this, Sam, Jack’s in love with her... and I know all the fifty reasons why he shouldn’t be, and why killing her would probably be a good idea - but have you stopped to think about how he’d feel about it?” Daniel questioned, astonishment still permeating his features.

“Look, those feelings, as you call them,” Carter asserted, her gaze intense. “Weren’t exactly borne out of the whole getting to know you thing we associate with love Daniel. She brainwashed him, and who knows, maybe he just thinks he’s in love with her!”

“Oh so you admit he is?” Daniel countered quickly.

Sam scowled at him.  “No, I just said it was possible.”

“I think you’re jealous!” Daniel’s honesty, and what he believed finally coming to the surface. “I think you’re in love with Jack, and you hate the thought of anyone else having him, especially a Goa’uld!”

Carter’s eyes filled with apprehension suddenly. “You’re wrong!” she snapped, it was all she could say. “I’m not in love with the Colonel, Daniel, I love him like a friend, like you do!” she replied.

“Um, I don’t think so,” Jackson sighed. “So isn’t it just a little judgmental of you to say who he can love?”

“Daniel, for God’s sake, she’s a Goa’uld!” Sam reminded him.

“Yes, I know, and in spite of that, Jack’s fallen in love with her... maybe Makepeace is right, maybe Jack has Stockholm syndrome, but they shared a bed, they share a child, and I’d say quite obviously, from what we saw earlier, they share feelings!”

Sam’s hand had crossed Jackson’s face before she even knew she was doing it.

The archaeologist barely reacted to the strike. His eyes widened with surprise.

“Thank you for proving my point for me!” he remarked.

Her face registered the same surprise. “Daniel, I’m sorry, I don’t know why I did that?” Carter apologised.

Both looked up to see Jack O’Neill standing over them. “Wow that had to hurt!” he remarked, a smile crossing his eyes.

“Um, yes, it er, did actually,” Jackson agreed, his hand reaching up to the burning left cheek. “Quite a bit!”

“Carter, can I talk to you?” Jack asked, his eyes fixed on Jackson. “In private!”

“I’ll um, leave!” Daniel got up hurriedly, he knew from the look on O’Neill’s face, that the whole conversation had been overheard via his thoughts.

“Thank you!”

“Sir?” Carter enquired, getting to her feet.

“Sit down Major.” Jack’s eyes meeting hers.

“Yes sir.” She did so immediately.

“Sam.” His eyes creasing as he thought through what he wanted to say. “This um, situation with Hathor, the whole, she and I thing. It’s got you a little shaken, am I right?” He felt awkward, looked awkward.

“No sir, it’s, well, yes sir!” she answered honestly.

“Yeah me too, but here it is, okay?”

She nodded, encouraging him to go on.

“See, for whatever reason, and I really don’t understand it myself, I’m kinda, well, I have a whole bunch of stuff in here that I can’t work out, and some of that is feelings. You get that right?”

“I think so,” Sam agreed, her gaze intensifying. She felt apprehensive suddenly.

“So, you can understand that killing Hathor might just make things a little more complicated for me?” His eyes were fixed on hers now. “Don’t get me wrong Major, the thought's crossed my mind too, but I think maybe, well you’re confusing the respect and…” His face contorted once more as he struggled to get to the point. “Friendship that we have, you and I, with something a little deeper?” He couldn’t help but cringe at those words, addressing something that he’d wanted to avoid, to pretend never existed.

Carter lowered her eyes. “I can see what you’re saying sir,” she replied, almost a whisper.

“Sam?”

She looked up, into his eyes, those eyes betraying her to him more effectively than her words could ever have done. “Do you?” A heavy sigh. “Do you think those feelings aren’t confused?”

“Yes sir, I know those feelings aren’t confused!” She felt her stomach tighten at the admission.

“So, you kinda think it’s more than just friendship then?” Jack’s eyes were almost too intense to meet now.

“For me sir, if I’m honest, I guess maybe a crush, but that’s...”

O’Neill immediately felt the need to help her; she was struggling now with an admission that he knew was hard for her.  “Okay, so this crush.” A smile. “Flattered by the way!” His eyebrows rose to accentuate that fact.

“Thank you sir.” She blushed then, a wistful smile.

“Yeah, look. Under normal circumstances, I’d be forced to advise you against it, you know, the whole military thing, the rank, the court martial...”

“But?”

“Can I be honest here?” He bit his bottom lip, eyes lowered. “Is that okay with you?”

“Sir?”

“Sam, the way I’m feeling right now it’d be risky!” he admitted. “See, we’re in extraordinary circumstances here, and all that military stuff, well it’s kinda important right now, to keep perspective on why we’re here, and if that goes out of the window, well it might get even more confusing than it already is... and besides, I’d be doing it for all the wrong reasons!”

“What wrong reasons?” Carter asked, she couldn’t help herself now; they were talking about them, about a relationship that neither had, nor could perceive. She even wondered if it was reciprocated now, or if he was trying to tell her something else.

O’Neill looked away from her. “I’d be looking for comfort, looking for a way out of this... stuff in my head!”

“Okay, so you’re saying that you don’t have the same feelings for me?” she questioned, needing to be bold to finally let loose. “If that’s what you’re saying sir, then I understand, really.” Her tone said otherwise.

“Hey! I’d be blind if I hadn’t noticed Carter,” Jack’s expression becoming a smile. It’s not like the uniform hides the fact that you’re a woman!”

Carter lowered her eyes again, the same blush she’d worn moments earlier once more flushing her cheeks. “Sir?”

Jack lifted her chin with his fingertips. “It wouldn’t be right Sam, not now, not for either of us... I’d feel like I was taking advantage, and well, that just doesn’t sit right!”

“I understand sir,” she replied, leaning toward him, her lips brushing his. “Would have been nice to find out though.”

O’Neill’s smile, his tongue thrust firmly in his cheek, resonated across his eyes.

“Yes, it would!” he agreed.

“So?” Her eyes were alight, two brilliant pools of life that Jack felt he could easily have fallen into at that moment.

“So, we should probably get some space here,” he said, sitting back, his hand dropping away from her face.

“Not willing to find out then sir?” She teased him now, whether she knew it or not, it was the kind of challenge that O’Neill wasn’t ready to take.

“Major, could I make love to you right now?” His eyes expanded, “Oh! No!” He laughed then. “Okay, that wasn’t... I wasn’t asking you, I was, wow, this just got harder!”

“Yes sir, it did. Look, I know what you meant, and I think I know the answer too,” she confirmed, a wistful, almost furtive glance into those strong brown eyes.  “And you’d probably be right sir, it would be a bad idea.”

“Yes it would,” he sighed, patting his hand on her knee.  “But I think I should tell you Carter, it’s a nice thought!”

He stood up then, smiling to himself. “Damn nice thought!”

 

Sam watched him walk out, biting her bottom lip. “I don’t believe I just did that,” she said, a smile sweeping her face. “Daniel!” As the archaeologist strode into view.

“Sam? You look, um?”

“Relieved?” she offered. “Why didn’t you tell me, remind me he could read your thoughts?”

“Did you get that whole team lecture thing?” Daniel enquired ruefully.

“Um, yeah, I guess.”

“Okay, no you didn’t did you?” he probed. “From that look on your face I’d say he said something very appealing?”

“Relax Daniel, he just told me the score, but it was nice to finally talk to him, I mean really talk to him,” she gushed.

“Well, as long as you realise he’s in a pretty precarious situation emotionally right now, and don’t take advantage of him!” Daniel replied, a grin sweeping his face.

“Daniel, it’s against regulations!”

“Oh, yes, of course, what was I thinking?” The two shared a moment of levity.

“So the whole you and me thing is?”

“Well, let’s just say I’ll give it some thought!” she said, getting to her feet. “I’m gonna go take a walk!”

“Great, thanks!” Daniel commented. “Nice to know I’m less attractive than a much older guy!”

Sam heard him but continued without response.

 

*****

 

Hathor looked at Jack. “We are working out how we shall rid ourselves of Apophis,” she told him, answering his enquiry.

“Right, so?”

“We have decided that once our child is back safely with us, that we shall engage his forces in battle, and destroy him.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Jack replied, sitting next to her in the Garden. “And then?”

“Since our Pharaoh has once more decided that he wishes to be with us, we shall endeavour to respond to his needs!” she told him, sensing that O’Neill was a little less ambivalent toward her.

“Okay, so we’re gonna do that whole, you and me thing again?” he remarked. “‘Cause I’ve missed that.” There was no sarcasm in his tone. “I’m thinking we need to talk about it though, talk about the once we’ve got Iceni back, deal?”

“We shall then conquer the system lords and restore our self to our rightful place,” she gushed.

“Now see, no, I can’t do that,” Jack insisted. “If we do the whole relationship thing, then some things are gonna have to change around here!”

“Such as?”

“Well, we’re gonna stop trying to enslave worlds, stop killing people, and stop with the whole damn universal domination idea.” Jack’s tone emphatic. “Those are the conditions, live with them?”

“No. We shall never accept the existence that our beloved clearly has in mind for us,” she admitted.

“Kinda thought not, so I guess we’d better just call a halt to this whole relationship idea then?” he suggested. “Since it was never gonna work in the first place, and concentrate on getting Iceni back, agreed?”

“We shall never agree to losing our Pharaoh, but, he will accept this in time,” she replied. “Unless he is deceiving us?”

Jack looked around at her sharply. “Hey! The only one who’s been doing the whole deception deal around here is you!”

Hathor stood, looking down at him. “Perhaps this female is to be watched after all?” she intoned. “Perhaps she seeks to mate with our beloved?”

“Okay, this is bullshit!” Jack snapped, standing up. “You just don’t get the humanity thing do you? It’s who I am, Hathor, it’s what I am... we don’t do the damn things that the Goa’uld do, and this has nothing to do with Carter!”

“Then perhaps our Pharaoh would not mind us disposing of this troublesome woman?” she pondered, her fingertips tracing his arm. “Since she means nothing to him?”

“Hey! I didn’t say she meant nothing to me, I said she wasn’t the reason that this damn relationship wouldn’t work out, just what part of that don’t you get exactly?”

Jack demanded.

Carter listened, concealed from them by the huge wild bush that grew close to the palace.

“Hathor, what do you want me to say?” Jack implored. “That I can just ignore how I am, and change to suit you?”

She smiled at him. “Has our Pharaoh not changed already?” she asked. “We could make him forget such minor irritations.”

Jack sighed heavily. “I don’t know why I feel like this,” he said, sitting down, his head falling into his hands.

“Because you are afflicted, our beloved, with your love for us!” Hathor told him. Sitting beside O’Neill, her hand rested on his shoulder. “Tell us, our beloved, do you not desire us now?”

“No... no!” More emphatically.

“Are you not torn with this desire, and could it not rule you?” she continued. “Once away from us, did you not crave our arms? Our touch?”

“Yes!” he snapped, almost spitefully. “Okay, yes... I thought about you all the time dammit, what do you want me to say?”

“Then you do not believe you fool yourself with these bold assertions of leaving us?”

 Carter flinched, her eyes full of anger and hatred. Listening to O’Neill confess his feelings to this Goa’uld was the hardest thing she’d done since confessing her own.  He needed her help, she had to free him from the torture that those feelings brought upon him.

 “Then?”

Jack’s hands dropped into his lap. His eyes filled with tears of frustration and anguish.

“I don’t want to leave you,” he admitted, his face contorting with the discomfort he felt from uttering those words.  “God knows why?”

“Then shall we stop with this useless, time wasting conversation our beloved?”

She took his hand. “Come with us, we shall leave these petty frustrations behind!”

As Hathor stood, Carter moved from cover, her P90 raised, finger on the trigger.

“Colonel, get down!” she spat.

“Carter, no!” Jack’s voice lost in the sound of the bullets exploding from the weapon.

Hathor fell before him, blood splattering over O’Neill’s face as the bullets struck home, his eyes frozen toward the Goa’uld, then turning, empty, looking at Carter.

Daniel ran from the palace, hearing the gunfire. “What the hell’s happening?” he yelled, the scene before him told him everything.

Carter lowered the weapon. “Sir, I had to do it,” she told him, her gait slow as she moved toward O’Neill, who had dropped to his knees and lifted Hathor into his arms.

Picking her up, a glance back toward Carter, fury emanating in those eyes, he began to walk toward the palace.

“Sir, I can’t let you do that!” she snapped emphatically. “Sir. Stop!”

Jack stopped, the words biting into him. Her tone told him she was on the edge; a second volley of bullets might be forthcoming.

“Carter.” His voice was shaking, eyes wide and moist, still in shock. “Don’t!”

“Sir, you’re not yourself, and you won’t be if you let her live!” she told him emphatically.

“Sam for God’s sake!” Daniel implored, moving toward her.

“Stay back Daniel, he isn’t thinking straight, not with that damn snake filling his head with her poison!” she asserted. “Sir, think about it, you said you’d do it yourself if you had the strength, have the strength now sir!”

Jack looked at Daniel, he knew Hathor was dead, but he couldn’t, wouldn’t let go.

 

“Jack she’s right,” Daniel agreed then. Realising as Carter had done, long before him, that whatever still permeated the colonel’s mind was never borne from love or reality in the first place.

O’Neill’s eyes seemed to cloud over, he swayed, his dead consort in his arms.

“Yeah,” he said so quietly that neither heard him. “I know.”

Carter looked at Daniel. “I had to Daniel,” she told him, the P90 lowered now. “He was never getting out of this on his own, he needed us to act!”

Jack laid Hathor’s body on the ground, looking down, shaking his head. He stepped over her and headed toward the palace.

“So what do we do now? Wasn’t she supposed to go to the palace and try to make a deal with Apophis for Jack?” Daniel reminded Carter.

“We’ll think of something,” she replied. “I’m gonna go and see if the Colonel’s alright.”

“Um, no, I er, really wouldn’t do that if I were you!” Daniel warned her.

“Look, he knows I did the right thing!” Sam snapped. “He’ll understand.”

“No, I think you did the right thing for the wrong reasons, and so will Jack. Right about now he’s probably blaming himself for what you just did!” Daniel opined. “So I’d give him a minute, or a day, or something!”

“Daniel, he knows why I did that, and it has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that she’s been twisting his mind!” Sam snapped back angrily. “Now if you’ll excuse me!”

Daniel shook his head. “If you say so!” he replied, looking across at Hathor’s body, still where Jack had left her.

Daniel was about to go inside, when Kalim marched out with three Jaffa, straight to the body of the dead Goa’uld, lifting her and proceeding back into the palace.

 

“Well I guess that sorts that out!” he remarked.

 

*****

 

Carter opened the door to Jack’s room. She figured he’d go in there, and that he might need someone to tell him he was doing the right thing.

“Sir?”

Jack turned around, his face showing signs of distress. “Carter!” he said. “So, you think I did the right thing right?” he asserted. “Since you kinda of made the choice for me.”

“Sir I had no choice, you weren’t strong enough to do it, and you practically told me yourself you would have!” she argued, although the words felt empty. Perhaps it far more selfish than she’d intended, or realised it to be.

“Yeah, I know you’re right, but we don’t kill our problems Carter, Goa’uld yeah, we probably should, and even if I know you’re right... you shouldn’t have done it that way Sam, not that way!” he said.

“Sir, I know you’re upset... but what the hell was I supposed to do?” she asked.

“You practically begged me to do it, even if you wouldn’t come right out and say so, that’s what you wanted, you wanted a way out!” Sam replied, moving toward him, grabbing him by the shoulders. “Well now you’ve got one, are you gonna screw that up sir!”

“I’ve already screwed it up,” he admitted.

“Oh god Jack, you didn’t?” Her eyes flashed anger.

“Carter, don’t!” he warned. “Don’t tell me I shouldn’t!”

She turned away from him. “Jesus, you had a way out and you folded?” She laughed at the irony, her hands falling loosely at her sides.

He looked at her, shaking his head. “Yeah, you’re probably right about that!” he concurred.

She walked toward the door. “Well, I don’t like being right!” she snapped, slamming it behind her.

 

Daniel wandered toward her, immediately sensing her anger.

 “Daniel where’s the sarcophagus?” she demanded.

“What? Why?”

“Where is it?”

“Sam you can’t!” Daniel exclaimed.

“Oh can’t I? I’ve had enough of this bullshit Daniel, when we get Iceni back the Colonel’s gonna be totally free, you got that... no more damn Goa’uld distraction!  God, am I the only one with any sense left around here?”

“It’s down there,” Jackson told her, shrugging his shoulders. “End of this hall on the right!”

 

Jack turned, the realisation hitting him. He moved toward the doors quickly, finding them locked from the outside.

“Carter!” he yelled. “Carter!”

Daniel stood in the hallway, listening to Jack’s voice. Watching Sam disappear into the room where the Sarcophagus lay, its inhabitant being restored.

 He paused, listening. The sounds of the Zat fire filled the halls. Then silence.

He ambled slowly toward the doors of O’Neill’s room, as they exploded out, the hand device throwing them aside with ease.

 Jack stopped, looking at him. “Daniel?”

“Jack, it’s, you’re too late!” he replied, his head down.

O’Neill stared at him. His head shaking slowly from side to side, eyes empty.

 Carter walked back toward him now, her stride lengthening as she saw him.

“Colonel,” she acknowledged, a satisfied, if reticent glance. “Choice is made sir!”

O’Neill didn’t respond. He took a deep breath. Looking at Jackson.

“We’d better get on with this,” he said. “And think of something else!”

 Daniel nodded. “Yep, plan’s out of the window, guess we need a new one!”

“Sir?” Carter paused, as the two men began to walk back to Jack’s room.

“Carter?” he replied without turning.

“Nothing sir, just wanted to make sure you were okay with this?” she asked.

“Oh yeah, I’ll be fine Sam, I’ll be just fine!” Spinning around quickly, his eyes furious. “When you’ve finished making my damn choices for me Major!”

“Jack!” Daniel snapped. “It was the right thing to do, she did the right thing, and you know it!”

Carter stood glaring back at him. “Were you thinking about giving up sir?” she asked caustically.

“No Carter, I wasn’t giving that any thought at all, you?”

“Nope!”

“Sweet, then maybe we can just get on with this, and hope Hammond doesn’t can my ass when I get back, if I get back!” he added.

“Well, I’d offer to put in a good word sir, only I don’t think I’m in his good books either,” she replied, now moving toward him. A heavy sigh escaping her lips.

“Swell, Daniel, I guess you’ll have to do the diplomacy thing,” Jack suggested.

“Um, I think I was er, fired?”

“Great!” Jack remarked. “Well, I guess this place isn’t so bad right?”

“You’re kidding?” Daniel replied. “I mean, I know we wanted an off world base...”

“Ya think!” Jack intoned.

Carter smiled. “Happens!” she replied.

“Hey! I know that, so, I’m thinking we need a new plan!” Jack said, looking across at Jackson.

“Yes, that would be preferable, unless you want to do the whole, let’s not have a plan idea?”

“That could work,” Jack agreed.

“Usually does sir!” Carter concurred, a smile crossing her face, standing in between the two men now.

 

*****

 

Teal’c looked across at Bra’tac. The two men stood guard outside the chambers of Apophis.

“Since we have successfully located the child Teal’c, perhaps now would be the time to send word?”

“Indeed, I shall return,” he agreed, bowing his head low to acknowledge the wisdom of his Jaffa master.

“And I will see that no harm befalls the child in your absence,” Bra’tac told him.

“Safe journey Teal’c!”

 

******

 

Jack perched on the chair, listening to Jackson talk about the possibility of taking a Goa’uld mothership back with them, for the SGC to study, and to defend Earth.

 He nodded occasionally, although his mind wasn’t quite on the subject as obviously as Jackson’s was. A couple of sideways glances toward Carter; she’d come a on lot since he’d first met her, growing in both confidence and stature. He didn’t think she was ready to handle a full command, but she wasn’t far off it.

She’d caught him a couple of times, and he could only wonder what she was thinking. Where Jackson had maintained his innocence, to a great extend, Carter had grown up far more quickly.

His mind was also heavy with the loss he felt for Hathor. Carter was right, he knew that, felt it, but for some reason, one that he could not fathom, he kept remembering the softness with which she had often held him, her hair, her eyes. A slow and heavy sigh escaped his lips. He was in love with her, he knew that, but he couldn’t understand why. What had triggered emotions that he’d never have felt ordinarily, quite the opposite? Then he was staring at Carter again, he didn’t even see her, not really, or maybe he did, and he didn’t want to.

Had it been jealously?  That didn’t track, he knew her well enough to know that she rarely acted on impulse; she was way too smart for that. She’d done what he should have done. Hathor had been right; he was weakened.

But now, he was also grieving, searching for answers that weren’t there, he needed to talk about it, to think about it clearly.

But he wouldn’t, he knew that, not unless Daniel decided to go on one of those legendary ‘Jack needs a friend quests’ and even then, could he really discuss those feelings?

“What?” he asked, looking quizzically at Jackson now.

Daniel’s eyes closed, his eyebrows raising. “You haven’t heard a word have you?” A wry smile from the archaeologist.

“Um, well, a couple,” Jack confessed, a grimace. “Sorry!”

Almost immediately O’Neill’s attention had again wavered, his eyes staring off into space.

“Jack?” No response. “Jack, are you alright?” Daniel’s voice louder, his regard a little more concerned now. “’Cause if you want to talk about it?”

“I’m fine Daniel!” Jack intoned, smiling to himself then, at the quick reaction to his thoughts.

Carter watched him too now, she couldn’t seem to get the image of ‘that’ kiss he’d shared with Hathor, just hours before she had killed her, out of her head. The feeling of envy, of jealousy and disgust ebbed through her mind. It was unreasonable, she knew that, but its manifestation, however hard she tried to erase it, seemed to be a constant.

 

“Okay, well, good!” Daniel replied, sensing now that perhaps O’Neill might need to talk through her actions with Carter. He looked across at Sam, the expression said everything; she nodded. “I think I’m going to go grab some fresh air!”

“Sure!” Carter smiled.

Jack watched him leave. “Subtle!” he said, shaking his head.

“Sir?” Returning his smile, yet innocence permeated her features. She felt a lot more relaxed with him now, since the revelation of her feelings. He’d responded positively, even hinted that he might have wanted to explore the possibility, ordinarily though, as he had pointed out, such a relationship would have been impossible, but then there was Hathor, and that ever-present ghost of what she’d heard and seen in the gardens.

His confessions, however much she tried to dismiss them, they made her sick to the stomach.

“Oh don’t feign innocence with me Carter, your turn to have a crack at the bleeding heart?”

There was nothing light in that remark, more resentful, but she didn’t read it.

“You know sir, if I thought you had a bleeding heart, I’d just have to put you out of your misery!” she joked.

“Thanks Major, so what? Are you gonna try and explain to me why you just decided to kill Hathor, make it sound okay?” he asked, those incredible brown eyes regarding her, unrelenting.

“So you don’t think it was justified sir?” Carter sounded surprised. “I mean face it, she was a liability, and a Goa’uld!”

Jack nodded, standing up and walking away from her.  “Like I didn’t know that right? But it wasn’t as simple as that Carter, not for me!”

“Sir, are you saying that you’d be prepared to give up Earth, for a Goa’uld?” Her tone, her body language became more challenging suddenly.  “Doesn’t that tell you that you’re not okay?”

“I’m fine.” He repeated an earlier assertion to Jackson. “I guess I’ll just have to deal with it right?”

“Permission to speak freely sir?” Carter’s eyes alive again.

O’Neill turned around, looking at the major with disdain.  “Sure, why not, go ahead!”

“Sir, you seem to forget that she was the enemy. A Goa’uld, now I don’t know what she did to you, and frankly I don’t want to know. But don’t you realise what you’re saying? What you’ve been doing?” she asserted, pushing intentionally, somewhere O’Neill obviously didn’t want to go!

“Carter, I thought I explained myself pretty well to you earlier.  Right now Major, I don’t need to talk!  I need to forget,” he insisted, his eyes averted then, the image of Hathor in his arms replaying to him vividly, her beautiful face peaceful, but there was no life, no life. He winced involuntarily, his eyes closing, pain sweeping his face.

 

Carter flinched, staring at him, resenting his tone, his attitude. She’d done him a favour, and now all he wanted to do was just brush it off?

“Sir what did she do to you?” she demanded, her tone a lot sharper than she’d intended. “I mean was it the sex?”

Her eyes widened, had she meant to say that?

“Excuse me, Major?” Jack exclaimed, his features as astounded as his tone.

“Well, you gave me permission to speak freely sir, I’m just wondering if it’s your mind that needs help, or maybe I should offer the other thing right?”

Her eyes flashed anger, her inexperience in dealing with O’Neill’s nuances, his quirks, a lack of really knowing the man she worked with on a daily basis, beginning to tell. “Is that what gets to you sir? Or was it the danger, did the danger of sleeping with a Goa’uld, with a woman who could kill you in a heartbeat, get you off?”

She hadn’t intended to let those feelings she’d suppressed for so long out in such a vindictive way, but she couldn’t stop herself.

“Carter, what the hell are you saying? Stop!” Jack ordered. He seemed confused, astounded that she would make such a personal attack on him.

“God, you really let her get to you didn’t you?” Sam snapped. “Was it worth it Colonel? Dragging all of us down with you?” She was unable to contain her bitterness anymore, emotions that she had fought so hard to suppress exploding from her.

Jack’s anger seemed to animate him, something inside him snapped. He moved so fast Carter barely had time to react before she was on her back, pinned down, his hands on her shoulders, knee pinning her legs off to the side.

“Is that want you want Carter?” he demanded, the anger in those stern, tense features bearing down on her. “Is that why you killed her?”

 

“Sir, get off of me now!” she snapped. Yet, from his experience, from the position he held her down, she knew she didn’t have either the strength, or the purchase to move him.

“Why?” he shouted in her face, his rage almost as powerful as the grip. “I thought you wanted me Carter? Was I wrong about that? Didn’t you just get rid of the opposition?” His eyes tore into her with a hatred that forced her to look away, trying to move from under him, but his experience told, his strength far too commanding for her.

Dragging her to her feet, his fingers wrapped around her wrists forcing her back against the wall. “Come on Sam?” he snapped. “It’s what you wanted right?”

 “Sir, you’re being ass, now just stop it!” she demanded. Her attempt to raise her knee blocked easily by his, this action allowing him to force her feet apart, pushing his body forcefully up against hers.

“Isn’t that what you think, Major, that getting physical is the way to a man’s heart?” he spat. “Well here it is, Carter, you want it?”

She struggled more, her anger rising, but she knew it was hopeless; she was unable to defend herself from him, shocked at his reaction, at the extremity of his emotions. “Get off of me dammit!” she screamed through gritted teeth.

His face so close to hers now she couldn’t look away. “You wanted me right Carter, and since it means nothing, sex, the whole body contact thing, lets do it!” His tone was laced with acrimony, she barely recognised him. Placing both her hands above her head, gripping both wrists in his left hand, he grabbed her face, forcing her head back, his lips kissing her neck.

“Come on, Sam, not gonna be shy now are you?” The words breathlessly reaching her ears, she closed her eyes, even in a moment she couldn’t understand, she didn’t want to show any signs of weakness, but this assault, this soft, almost gentle caress from his lips on her neck was confusing.

“Sir, please,” her voice lowered, less anger now permeating its delivery.

 “You think this is the way to get to me right?”

“Please sir,” she implored, the pressure of his body pushed against her, the grip of his hands on her wrists, crushing them against the wall beginning to subside, she didn’t want that, not now, not like this.  “Please sir...”

He lifted his head, eyes blazing, glaring at her. “You wanted me Sam,” he said. “Well you’re gonna get exactly what you wanted, Major! You want to rape my mind?”

 Her eyes shot wider. Had she really done that to him, were the words that bad, that invasive?  “Sir, I’m sorry, please, don’t do this let me go!”

 “Please?” he replied, the voice still acerbic, the eyes still hateful. “What does any of that mean, Carter, you wanted to know what she did to me, well this is it, this is what she did... how do you like it?” he demanded. “Not fitting in with the picture, Major?”

He relaxed his grip, moving back away from her. “Well I guess not, I guess I need a real woman, right? One who can handle the danger!” he added, condescension drenching his words.

She looked furiously at him. “Or a Goa’uld, right, sir?” Matching his abrasive regard.

“Well if that’s what does it for you, then I guess not, I guess I’m not the kind of woman you’d be comfortable with.”

“Carter, get out of here!” he warned, his rage still simmering.

“I did you a favour!” she snapped.

“No you did you a favour!” he retorted bitterly. “All you did to me, Carter, was take away the right to make a choice, to work it out, now you’ve managed to leave it right where it is, and I don’t have a choice now do I?”

“You selfish ass, sir!” she countered pointedly.

“Hey! That’s got to be better than being frustrated, envious and bitter!” he goaded, disdain lacing his tone.

He caught her arm as she threw a punch at him, holding her closed fist in his hand.  “You’re not sure what you want are you?” he said, those eyes unyielding in their refrain. “Except you don’t know how to share, Carter, you don’t know what it is do you? So you just kill it!”

Her eyes met his. “Think you’re man enough, Colonel?” she challenged.

Their eyes locked together, anger permeating like a beam of light between them.

“For you?” He laughed then, a mocking laughter. “No, Carter, I don’t think I’d ever want that!”

His hand twisted her wrist, dragging her across to the bed, throwing her down, forcing his knee between her thighs; she didn’t struggle, looking up at him with contempt.

“You wanted to know right?” he said. “Wanted to know what she’d done, well I don’t think you’re up to it, Carter, cause you’ve got so much hate inside of you right now that you couldn’t handle that!”

“What are you doing?” she asked. “You want to take it out on me, sure go ahead. I’ll just lay here, sir, let me know when you’re done!” Her eyes flashed anger again.

Looking up, meeting his gaze then, for the first time she could see the pain, concealed behind that frozen bitter stare, she knew suddenly, at that moment, he hadn’t intended to do anything. Something told her, something in the sadness reflecting through him. He was afraid.

“Sir?” she gasped, swallowing hard, tears beginning to flow, her breath heavy in her lungs. “I’m sorry.”

His eyes seemed to acquiesce then, lowering away from her regard.

“What are you sorry for, Carter?” O’Neill asked, collapsing down on the bed beside her.

“For letting my feelings influence my judgement,” she replied, the words falling out of her mouth so quickly she barely had time to think them through.

“Why?” His voice empty again. “You weren’t sorry a minute ago!”

She turned, propping herself up to look at him. “Because I invaded your space, because I hurt you, and I didn’t mean to do that. I... I just wanted to help.”

“A little late for that, don’t ya think?”

She so wanted to reach him, but now she’d probably only managed to alienate him again. “Jack, please? Don’t shut off now,” she implored, her hand reaching over, removing the hand he’d placed to cover his face away. “You think I killed her because she had you?”

“I don’t know, Major,” he replied, overlooking the break in protocol, in no position to demand it, since he’d broken just about every rule in ten minutes of madness than he’d done in his entire career. “No, I know you didn’t do it because she had me. God what do you take me for?”

Sam shook her head, the colonel sitting up with his back to her. “Look, I realise it can’t be easy for you, sir,” she offered.

He turned around then. “Really? You just robbed my kid of a mother, Carter, how could you possibly know anything about that?”

“A mother?” Sam’s eyes now mocked. “If you can call that a mother.”

Jack’s eyes rolled in his head. “See you just don’t get it do you?” he said. “I loved her, Carter!”

The admission contained so much venom that it bit through her defences far more effectively than his show of rage had.

Her eyes averted from the accusatory glare. “Yes sir, well I’m sorry about that, but she was a Goa’uld, sir!”

“Yeah, I know, again - I know!” His voice laced with anger once more, seething through the taunt features. “Happy are ya? Did a good job Major, pat yourself on the back, let’s have a party, I mean we should be celebrating right?”

Her disapproving glance toward him only served to make him more volatile.

“I’ll tell you what, Carter, I’ll be sure and vet all further relationships with you before I make the mistake of falling in love with the wrong damn person, is that acceptable to you, Major?” he demanded, on his feet he didn’t wait for a reply, leaving the doors open behind him.

 Carter drew her knees into her chest. A long protracted sigh forced from her body.

“Great!” she snapped.

“Sam?” Jackson was standing close to her; she hadn’t even noticed him come in.

“Hi, Daniel.” Another heavy sigh.

“I heard yelling, are you okay?” he enquired, sitting on the bed beside her.

“I’m okay Daniel,” she replied, attempting a smile, yet so intensely were her emotions resonating through her, it became a grimace.  “I’m just not cut out for this whole talking to the Colonel stuff!”

“Why what happened?” Jackson asked, looking concerned.

“I guess I pushed him a little too far,” she opined.

“Oh you didn’t?” Jackson groaned. “Sam, he’s, you can’t push!”

She looked at him, shaking her head in disbelief. “Daniel he just went berserk, I mean he totally lost it.  I’ve never seen him like that!” she admitted.

Jackson shook his head. “Why? What did he do?”

“Well, first he practically threatened to rape me.”

“What? No!” Daniel’s eyes widened, the shock of that word hitting him like a bolt of lightening. “Jack?”

“He just, he wasn’t acting like himself, Daniel, there was so much anger, so much hatred in him,” she sounded confused, perhaps even a little upset now.

“Why, what did you say?” Jackson probed, trying to understand what would make O’Neill react so out of character.

“Why?” Sam’s face cynical. “Daniel, he’s kidding himself!”

“Oh, God. Do you really believe that?” Jackson retorted, the realisation of what might of took place hitting him. “Sam, you see him crack a few Jack remarks, appear to be relaxed, accept what you’ve done and you think he’s not upset, he’s not grieving?” he asked. He shook his head. “He didn’t hurt you did he?”

“No, I’m just a little shocked that’s all, I’ll be fine Daniel, make sure he is!”

Daniel nodded. “I think I’ll let him calm down for a while actually!” he opined.

“I guess you’re pretty mad at him!”

Sam shook her head. “No, I’m not. I let my emotions get the better of me and I attacked him. Thinking about it, I said some pretty bad things actually!”

Daniel regarded her. “Not exactly a good idea, Jack doesn’t respond well to personal attacks at the best of times Sam.”

“But I just don’t get it,” she sighed. “You know the Colonel, Daniel, you’ve been spent more time with him, has this whole experience changed him that much?”

“Look, put yourself in Jack’s place for a second?” Daniel began, locating the words easily that might make her better understand. “First you get caught and forced into a relationship you don’t want to be in with a Goa’uld, he gets away from that, and Heru’ur puts a snake in his head, he gets abused by the NID, frees himself of the snake, and then ends up back with Heru’ur. His so called friends giving him no support, questioning his loyalty, he gets drugged, shot, ends up in a surreal relationship with another Goa’uld, and out of that he gets something that he’s been afraid of facing since he lost his son!” Daniel paused, looking at Carter. “So, what do you think?”

She nodded. “I think I put my foot in it!” she admitted. “So you think I should apologise? I mean I feel like I should?”

“Um, no, actually he’ll probably apologise to you, in time!” Daniel told her. “I guess you really hit a nerve there, he’s not usually so, um, demonstrative, physical.”

“Shocked the hell out of me, I can tell you!”

Daniel smiled. “He wouldn’t have raped you,” he asserted, “I think he wanted to make you think he was capable of that. Whatever you said, I’d recommend you don’t say it again!”

“I think I’ll leave communication with the Colonel to you in future!” she remarked.

Jackson nodded slowly. “Yeah, I think you should um, maybe do that!”

 

*****

 

“O’Neill,” Teal’c said.

Jack looked up, perched on the wall in the garden. “News?” he asked, standing up immediately.

“Indeed, we have located the position of your child O’Neill. But she is heavily guarded, it would appear that Apophis is expecting us!” the Jaffa told him.

“Yeah, we kinda figured that,” Jack replied.

“We should leave immediately, is Hathor ready?” Teal’c asked.

Jack’s grimace alerted the Jaffa to a possible problem. “About that, Carter killed her, so no, I guess she’s a little not ready right now!” he said, looking away from Teal’c’s regard.

“I see.”

“You do? ‘Cause I don’t, we need a new plan!”

“Indeed!”

“Look, Teal’c, we don’t stand much of a chance if Apophis discovers we’re there right?” Jack stated. “So I’m thinking, you give me that uniform, and I’ll go in there and if I can get her out.”

“O’Neill, such a plan could not be successful, since if you are captured there is no way to effectively free you without a powerful Goa’uld to negotiate some form of alliance with Apophis!” Teal’c asserted.

Jack regarded him intensely for a second. “Well we have one!” he replied.

“Apophis will not trust Heru’ur, O’Neill,” Teal’c countered.

“Not Heru’ur!” Jack snapped. “Me!”

The Jaffa raised his eyebrows. “You O’Neill?”

“Yep! These are my armies, right? I won them in battle, well, I’m gonna have to have a word with old Apophis about that, and if I can still figure out a way to get the damn sarcophagus to work, maybe, just maybe, I’ll have Hathor’s help!”

“Hathor is not dead?”

“Well yeah, she’s dead. But Carter didn’t destroy the damn sarcophagus, she just screwed it up!” Jack told him.

“I see, and when you have succeeded in awakening Hathor, what will you offer him O’Neill?” The Jaffa concerned now, that perhaps in his present state of mind, he was not thinking correctly.

“Well, see, that part I haven’t exactly figured out yet, but hey! I’m sure I can come up with something he wants, right?”

Kalim snapped his hand across his chest as O’Neill entered the room where the sarcophagus was. He knew exactly where to find his first prime, since he had sent him there to access the damage to the Goa’uld technology.

“So?”

“It is not destroyed my lord, you were correct. It merely lacks power,” he informed O’Neill.

“So what? She could still be okay in there?” he questioned, a glimmer of hope crossing his eyes.

“Yes my lord, however, without power the sarcophagus will not function,” Kalim told him.

“Okay, so how do we do that?”

“Such knowledge I do not possess my lord,” Kalim responded.

Jack lifted his right hand, the ribbon device still nestling there. “What about this?”

“It is a device of destruction.”

“Yeah, if used that way, but it’s power right?” Jack asserted.

“I do not know my lord,” Kalim’s features contorting. “I am sorry.”

 Teal’c stood outside, listening to O’Neill, shaking his head.   The colonel appeared in the door way then.

“Teal’c, go get Carter,” he asked.

“O’Neill would it not be better...”

“I didn’t ask for your damn opinion Teal’c, just go get Carter and bring her here!” he ordered.

The Jaffa regarded him, then turned and proceeded toward O’Neill’s quarters.

“Samantha Carter, Colonel O’Neill orders you to the room with the sarcophagus,” he told her.

“What?” Carter looked across at Jackson. “Oh no, he can’t?”

“I um, think he can!” Daniel replied reticently, “Whether it’s a good idea or not?”

Jackson shrugged.

“I won’t do it, whatever he’s got in mind, if it’s reviving that damn Goa’uld Daniel!”

Sam asserted.

“I really don’t think you’ve got a choice,” Daniel replied, a look toward Teal’c.

“Right?”

“Indeed, O’Neill seems very single-minded in this Samantha Carter, perhaps you would be wise to appease him!”

“Or claim ignorance!” she remarked, striding out past the Jaffa, who looked at Daniel.

“You really don’t want to know!” he replied. “But if this works, she really isn’t gonna be in a good mood when she wakes up!”

 “Carter, how do I get that thing working again?” Jack asked, the minute she walked through the door.

“I don’t know sir,” she replied.

He strode toward her, stopping inches away. “Well work it out then Carter, you figured out how the heck to break it!” he snapped.

“I don’t think I want to sir,” she responded honestly.

“I didn’t ask if you felt like it Major, I gave you an order,” he asserted, his voice becoming more authoritative.

“Yes sir!” Carter snapped, staring defiantly back at him.

“Major, you wanted to apologise to me earlier right?” Jack said, his attitude a little less condescending. “Well here’s your chance, make amends!”

“Sir, with all due respect, bringing her back to life wouldn’t be making amends, it would be like...”

“Carter!” Shouted in her face. “I don’t have time to debate whether or not she has a right to live, I need her, without her I’m not gonna be able to play Apophis and get my kid back, so please... do your damn job and let me do the thinking around here!”

“Well that would be a first,” she retorted.

“Sam, just do as he asks, please?” Daniel intervened, sensing once more that the major’s inability to deal with O’Neill, might just begin a chain of events that none of them could handle.

“Kalim, Daniel, you’re with me!” Jack ordered, the archaeologist looking heavenward as O’Neill strode by him.

“Great, Sam, just do your best okay?”

Carter looked at him, then to Teal’c. “You think I should do this?”

“It is not for me to say,” Teal’c responded, moving closer to her. “However, if O’Neill is unable to use Hathor, he may wish to attempt such a rescue on his own.”

She looked flustered then. “What the hell has all this done to him?” she asked the Jaffa, who stared back at her. “I mean, he’s obsessed with this damn Goa’uld... it’s just, well it’s not like him.”

“Since I am unsure of his beliefs in this, I will not pass judgment,” Teal’c replied. “However, of this much I am sure. O’Neill will not rest until he has rescued his child!”

“Jack you really think bringing Hathor back to life is such a good idea?” Daniel questioned, as he followed O’Neill toward the long-range communication device.

“Nope! I think it’s a bad idea Daniel, but I don’t have a choice,” Jack responded.

“And you’re doing this to get Iceni back right? There’s not some alternate reasoning behind your thinking here?” Daniel persisted, albeit with a sense of apprehension.

 O’Neill stopped, looking round at him, a vacant expression, shaking his head. “I don’t know Daniel, I don’t know anything anymore, do you?”

“Jack, we really need to talk, I mean it!” Daniel asserted. “Please?”

“Okay,” Jack conceded easily. “Just let me send a message to Apophis first.”

Jackson nodded. “Saying what?”

“Telling him I want to meet, discuss the kid, basically, I just need to let him know we’re here!” Jack intoned.

“Wouldn’t that be like tipping his hand?”

“Nope, it’s tactical Daniel, he knows we’re not exactly going to let him keep the kid right? So, in deliberately letting him know we’re here, he’ll start to wonder why... remember that whole switch thing I told you about a while back, with Heru’ur? It works the same way, keep your enemy guessing, let him think you know something he doesn’t know.”

Jackson smiled. “Well, I guess you know best, right?”

“Hey, that’s the scary thing here, I don’t!”

 Carter managed to get the panel off, revealing the power source; a large red crystal surrounded by smaller formations of Naqadah encrusted green crystals. There was no damage that she could see, nothing visible.

“Well, this could take a while,” she opined, looking at the Jaffa who was now kneeling beside her.

“It seems quite dead!” he remarked.

“Yep! Now all I have to do is figure out how to charge it,” she replied, a heavy sigh. “Just remind me why I’m doing this?”

Teal’c smiled. “Because O’Neill has ordered you to do so,” he told her.

 

******

 

Apophis’ image appeared on the long-range communication device.

“Tau’ri!” he snapped.

“Pops!” Jack retorted. “I just thought I’d give you a wake up call, let you know I’m around.  So, how you doing?”

“You seek your child, O’Neill?” Apophis asked.

“Yep, that would be why I’m calling, so, what’s it gonna take?” Jack enquired.

“More than you have Tau’ri!”

Jack’s grimace across to Jackson a heavy one, shaking his head. “Okay, well, you’d better give this some thought, see, ultimately you know I’m not gonna let you keep her, and neither is Hathor... do you really want to be going to war with me right now?”

“Your child will be killed O’Neill, should you attempt to challenge me!” the Goa’uld spat back.

“Yeah, I kinda figured you’d say that... so here’s the deal, you’re gonna hand over the kid, and I’m not gonna kill you!” A sardonic regard swept his face.

“You are in no position to threaten me Tau’ri!” Apophis retorted. “You will come alone, give me the knowledge of the Ancients, and the coordinates to the home world of the Asgard, and I will spare the child. You will serve me!”

Daniel looked reticent then. “Jack?”

“Okay, I’ll give you those things,” Jack agreed. “I’ll gate to your planet tomorrow, couple of things I have to deal with here first!”

“No! You will come now,” Apophis insisted.

“Okay, gimme an hour,” Jack conceded.

The device terminated. O’Neill turned and regarded Jackson. “Well, looks like I don’t have a choice!” he remarked glibly.

“Jack you can’t?” Daniel argued. “There’s no way he’s going to ever let you go, and you can’t give him that knowledge!”

“Daniel, I don’t want to discuss this, if having me there keeps my kid alive, then it’s something I’ve gotta do!”

Jackson stared at him. “Then what? You’re working for Apophis? How the hell are we gonna get you out of that?” Daniel protested.

“Well I guess you’re not,” Jack replied. “Maybe if Carter gets that sarcophagus working, then maybe Hathor might come up with something!”

“Jack you really think she’s going to let Sam live, not after what she did, and if you’re not around to stop it?” Daniel cautioned. “There’s so many reasons why this is wrong Jack, you have to see that?”

“Daniel! I don’t have time for this, now just follow my orders. I’m going to Apophis, if you think of a way to get me out, great! If not, go home, take a damn mothership with you and tell Hammond you were influenced by me, he’ll buy that!”

Jack’s obstinately glared at the archaeologist, Daniel knowing the man well enough to cede.

“Okay, but just, don’t give up hope okay?” he urged. “We’ll find a way to get you and Iceni out of this, I promise!”

“Hey!” A smile. “Remember that favour?”

“Yeah.”

“Well I think I just called it in, and you’re paid up in full. Take care of things Daniel,” he told the man.

 Daniel watched him walk slowly toward the exit of the palace, his face dropping.

He looked at Kalim. “I’m seriously concerned he doesn’t want to do this anymore!” he remarked.

The Jaffa regarded him. “My lord is strong, he will survive!”

“Kalim, Jack’s not a god, he’s just a man... a very impetuous, brave man, I’ll grant you, but just a man!” the archaeologist responded.

 

*****

 

The wormhole closed behind him. Jack stood looking at the Serpent Guard who waited for him at the gate.

A heavy sigh. “Take me to you leader!” he quipped.

The guards stepped aside, allowing him to precede them. A pyramid structure in view the moment the tree line was reached.

“Sweet, see old snake boy’s found himself a new temple!” the colonel remarked.

“Silence!” one of the Jaffa snapped. A voice O’Neill recognised. He smiled to himself.

Brought into the impressive structure, it’s ceilings a lot higher than pyramids he’d been in before, drawings etched into the walls of circles of stones, Jack vaguely recalled being familiar, and then into the great hall, Apophis sitting on a throne in the centre.

“O’Neill, come!” he beckoned. “Kneel before your god.”

“Apophis,” Jack greeted, an involuntary grimace sweeping his features. “That whole kneeling thing is a bit cliché don’t ya think?” he remarked, waiting for the traditional retribution, which didn’t come. The Goa’uld merely smiled at him.

“Then simply pledge your allegiance to your god,” Zipacna, who stood to the left of Apophis, demanded.

“Okay, I pledge!” Jack retorted glibly. “So now what?”

“Now I have you O’Neill, there is no reason to keep your child from you, but know this, if you fail to serve me, she will die!” Apophis told him.

A servant girl brought the child, wrapped in golden clothe, to the colonel. His eyes softened as he held her in his arms.

“You have my word!” Jack said.

Apophis nodded. “Show the Tau’ri to his room!” he commanded. “O’Neill?”

The colonel paused, looking up at the arrogant eyes that glowed with triumph.

“Serve me well, and you will find me a worthy god, defy me, and you will watch your child die before your eyes!” he warned.

O’Neill’s eyes lowered, a nod. “I won’t give you any trouble,” he replied.

 

*****

 

Carter stood up abruptly. “What?”

“Sam, I couldn’t stop him!” Daniel insisted.

“You could have come to us Daniel, Teal’c could have stopped him,” she said, her face creasing with angst. “Dammit Daniel!”

“In fact, even I could not prevent O’Neill going to his child, Major Carter,” Teal’c told her.

“Well we’ve got to do something?” Sam insisted.

“Yeah, revive Hathor and hope she doesn’t kill you!” Daniel remarked. “Because we’re not exactly equipped to go in alone anymore.”

“So what did Apophis say exactly?” Carter asked. “Apart from the Colonel going there?”

“He, ah, said that Jack had to give him whatever he wanted, including the knowledge of the Ancients, and the coordinates to the home world of the Asgard,” Daniel imparted.

“Which he can’t do!” Sam intoned.

Jackson looked away. “Actually, I think he might!” he replied.

Carter’s eyes widening. “What?”

“Well what would you do? Let him kill your child?” the archaeologist demanded. “It’s not like he had a choice is it?”

“If he does that, God!” Sam exclaimed. “So what do we do now?”

Jackson gestured toward the sarcophagus. “Any luck with that thing?”

“Oh great... so now she’s our only option?” Carter complained.

“Um, as much as I hate to say it? Yes!” Daniel confirmed.

The two stared at each other, both emitting a heavy sigh. “I guess I’d better get to it then, right?”

“I guess,” Jackson agreed, his eyes thoughtful now. “Teal’c, Bra’tac’s still there right?”

“Indeed!” the Jaffa confirmed.

“Well then maybe you should be too.”

Teal’c bowed his head. “I will do what I can,” he said. “Daniel Jackson, ensure that Hathor does not harm Major Carter.”

“I’ll do my best Teal’c,” Jackson replied, looking dubiously toward Carter.

“Gee thanks Daniel,” Sam remarked.

“Anything I can do to help?” he asked, looking into the device.

“Not unless you know where there’s a power source!” Sam responded. “I can’t believe this,” she remonstrated, her hands thrown into the air.

“I gave up trying to a long time ago, now can we get on?” Daniel asked impatiently. “I really don’t think we have that much time!”

Carter stared at the device, at its crystals, then looked back to Jackson. “We need a power source,” she remarked.

The archaeologist looked at her. “Like a ribbon device?” he asked.

“Yeah, a charge from one of those things aimed at the Naqadah might do it!”

“Or blow it up?” Daniel added.

“Well if it blows it up, I guess we won’t have to fix it exactly!” Sam contested.

“Swell, well I know where there is one, Jack left it behind when he went through the gate,” Jackson told her. “Think you can still use one?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

The ribbon device fitted to her hand, Carter stood back, directing the device toward the power core of the sarcophagus, the charge within taking a while to surge, finally discharging into the opening. Both stepped back, looking dubiously at one another, the crystals inside beginning to glow. A smile from Jackson.

“It worked!” he exclaimed.

“Yep, and now I have this, I don’t have to worry about what mood she gets up in!” Sam replied.

Jackson raised his eyebrows. “Oh please don’t start anything with her,” he groaned.

“Relax Daniel, I just want to get the Colonel back safely. Then maybe we might stand a chance in hell of getting home!”

 


Part Two 

 

Daniel leant against the wall, sliding down to sit on the uncomfortable floor. He felt tired, having achieved very little sleep, or rest, since being compromised by the alien life forms almost 48 hours earlier, something which he’d attempted to forget, since probing his mind, only served to remind him, to his chagrin, of the unsuccessful attempt on Jack O’Neill’s life.

A pounding headache wasn’t helped by his need to try and justify O’Neill’s actions, Carter, still fiercely opposed to the colonel’s obvious desire to maintain contact with Hathor, only added to the maelstrom that now thundered through his mind.

Whilst he remained convinced that under no circumstances would Jack O’Neill, in his right mind, harm one of his own team, it worried him that perhaps over the course of the last six months his friend had suffered so much trauma that his state of mind might be fluctuating dangerously close to burnout

“Daniel, look, I’m a realist,” Jack told him, sitting in Jackson’s apartment, sipping a cold beer. “Up ‘til now, it’s been protecting this planet from the Goa’uld, and anything else out there!” He’d pointed upward, and Jackson knew exactly what that meant. “But Hathor? Iceni? What the hell am I supposed to say? I’ve never been so scared Daniel, never been so out of control!”

Jackson had placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder. “Jack, I know. I know what it’s like. Believe me!” he insisted. “But you’ve got to try and keep some perspective, berating Hammond isn’t going to get you anywhere.”

O’Neill’s eyes had been almost imploring. “What am I supposed to do?” he asked. “Forget about it? Pretend that she’s not out there somewhere?”

“Jack, are you talking about Iceni?” Daniel asked, needing for O’Neill to clarify it to him. “Or Hathor?”

The colonel had taken a long time to respond. “Two months ago I’d have said that I could just kill any damn Goa’uld,” he reflected. “Now?” He’d lowered his eyes; Daniel understood then what he meant.

“So you’re confused?” he stated, feeling perhaps that he too might find the whole Hathor experience difficult to comprehend and reason. “You’re in love, and you don’t want to be,” he offered.

“That’s a damn understatement,” O’Neill retorted, finishing his beer. “I can’t get her out of my head... she’s, I need her Daniel, don’t ask me why?”

“Because you’ve never met anyone quite like her,” Daniel opined. “Strong, smart, beautiful?”

“A Goa’uld, a damn Goa’uld,” Jack remonstrated. “I must be losing my mind!” His expression repulsed.

“It’s, Jack... don’t hate yourself for being, oh this is so cliché, a man, for being human. So she’s a Goa’uld,” Daniel tried to reassure him. But O’Neill seemed totally disgusted with himself, his head between his knees then. 

“I wanna be sick!” he remarked.

“Well I’m not surprised,” Daniel replied. “You’ve drunken enough beer for a regiment!”

“That’s not it,” Jack said, those usually strong eyes looking lost. “It’s me Daniel, I don’t know if I can live with this, with wanting something that I shouldn’t, that I would have killed... Jesus, I mean I did kill her, right? So what’s wrong with me?”

Jackson felt like holding O’Neill, as his friend had done for him in the past, putting comfort before anything else. But he knew Jack better. He’d just see that as a weakness, worsen his state of mind, and ultimately, even if he did need to break down and cry, there was no way he’d do it - not now.

“Look, why don’t you go and lay down for a while?” Jackson suggested. “You look like you haven’t slept in a week.”

O’Neill nodded. “And every time I do I just dream,” he confessed. “God! I just feel like, I want hit someone... probably me!”

“Well as long as it’s not me,” Daniel smiled. “I think I can understand it. Jack, these meetings, the NID, the whole recounting thing... you didn’t mention these feelings right?”

“Nope!” O’Neill’s tone emphatic. “Don’t think I’d have gotten back my command if I’d done that, and they don’t need to know. Why?” His curiosity reflected in the quizzical glance toward Jackson.

“I just wondered,” Daniel replied thoughtfully, his hand once more rested on O’Neill’s shoulder, looking at the colonel. “Look what I’m about to say is probably going to solicit your usual response, but I really don’t think being on your own is good for you now...  so if you want some company?”

 “Daniel, I’m fine,” Jack insisted immediately, barely time for the archaeologist to draw breath.

 “No, you’re not fine actually, you’re traumatised, and if you don’t let someone help you...”

 “Daniel, I’m not traumatised, I’m angry!” Jack snapped.

 “Yes, and you’re also traumatised.” Daniel persisted. “Jack, please? How many times do I need to beg to be a friend to you?”

 O’Neill smiled at him, apologetically. “Well, maybe I could use some company,” he replied, picking up another beer from the table.

 Jackson took it from his hand. “Yes, I think so, and a little less of these!” he said pointedly.

 “Sweet! Now I can’t drown them either!”

 “Drown what?” the archaeologist enquired. “Sorrows, pain? Feelings? Jack this stuff just makes them more pronounced....” He paused then; the colonel’s wry glance toward him said everything. “Or it’s the only way you feel free to feel?”

 “Hey! What can I say Daniel, some people just aren’t cut out for feelings right!” he replied dismissively.

 “Just say it, let it go Jack, you wouldn’t be the first guy in history to fall in love with the wrong woman, I mean, Samson and Delilah, Anthony and Cleopatra.”

 “Thanks for the history lesson Doc!” Jack jested, that moment of brevity all he could manage through the turmoil that saturated his mind. “But none of them were Goa’ulds!”

 

Daniel focused on the sarcophagus, which seemed to be taking an eternity to begin its regenerative process. He wanted to be there when finally it yielded its inhabitant, still strangely fascinated by the hold she had over his friend, one that from his conversations with O’Neill, he knew wasn’t induced by drugs or control, Jack O’Neill had all but said it, without ever saying it.

Upon reflection, Daniel realised that what O’Neill had told him in confidence, was probably the first time he’d truly even admitted those feelings to himself. He needed to understand it better too, then maybe it would make sense to him, or sense enough to help the colonel, and possibly the doubters at the SGC with accepting what had to go down in the annuls of history, as the most bizarre relationship of all.

Finally, there was movement, the seals beginning to part. He stood up, stepping forward, watching Hathor rise.

 She regarded him with disdain. “Kree! Where is the woman?” she demanded.

“Um, that really isn’t important. You’ve got a bigger problem than Major Carter right now,” Daniel told her quickly.

“Where is our beloved?” she asked, her eyes searching the room.

Daniel’s eyes widened, eyebrows slowly ascending his forehead. “And that would be the problem!” he remarked.

“Why is he not here to greet us?”

“Well, he um, he had to go to Apophis.” Daniel’s apprehension obvious, approaching the Goa’uld and assisting her from the sarcophagus.

“And you just allowed him to do so?” she questioned.

“Well, he didn’t exactly ask!” Daniel retorted. “He’s been a little upset since you, um, well, he had you placed in this, and… we really don’t have time for this!”

“We shall rescue our Pharaoh, Daniel Jackson. Where is our ribbon device?” she demanded, her intense regard intimidating the archaeologist, sufficiently severe to cause him to back away from her.

“Well, I, er, I don’t think Sam’s exactly gonna let you have one of those,” Daniel imparted dubiously; acutely aware of how dangerous she was, even without the ribbon device.  “So, um, any ideas on how we kill Apophis?”

Hathor regarded him. “We shall free our beloved without any assistance from you, or that female!”

Daniel looked heavenwards. “Yeah, that’s very brave, good... but um, aren’t you forgetting something?”

“Merely our patience if you do not leave us!” Hathor retorted.

Daniel frowned. “Why did I know this wasn’t a good idea?” he mumbled to himself, moving back once more as Hathor strode forward, her ominous glare now transferred onto Kalim.

Jaffa kree, shel kol amac da’mac!” she spat, Kalim instantly bowing to her.

“A mothership?” Daniel translated.

“We shall go to Apophis with an ultimatum, if he does not free our child and our Pharaoh, we shall destroy him!” she snapped.

“Doesn’t that mean you’re more likely to get Jack and Iceni killed?” Daniel sounded slightly more concerned now.

“We know what we are doing, Daniel Jackson!”

 Carter’s entry into the room seemed to further irritate the Goa’uld, her eyes glowing furiously toward the major. “You!” she spat.

“That’s right!” Carter retorted, glowering back at her.

“We shall destroy you for your insolence,” Hathor asserted.

“Since you don’t have a ribbon device, and there are more pressing matters we have to deal with, you can put your vengeance on hold and start coming up with a way to free Colonel O’Neill and your child!” Sam stated, more than a little venom added to her tone.

 Hathor approached her. “We shall not be dictated to by a female slave!” she raged, the hatred that permeated her gaze, intensified by the glowing effect caused by the symbiote.

Carter frowned at her, not to be intimidated, she moved closer to the Goa’uld, lifting the hand device she wore.

“Well, I really don’t think you want to argue with me right now, since bringing you back to life wasn’t my idea - I won’t mind telling the Colonel that I couldn’t fix that thing!” she warned.

“You are unwise to show so little respect to us my dear!” Hathor’s superciliousness unwavering. “We shall deal with you.”

Carter shook her head, a smile permeating her features.  “You know, I really don’t give a damn about your thoughts one way or another, we’re going to get them out of there, and you’re going to help us, after that... ” Sam shrugged, confidence resonating in her soft blue eyes.  “You’d better back off and leave the Colonel the hell alone!”

Daniel sighed heavily, walking away from the two of them. “When you come up with a plan let me know!” he remarked.

 

*****

 

Teal’c found Bra’tac guarding the room that O’Neill was housed in. A servant girl approaching them.

“He is unwise Teal’c,” Bra’tac imparted to his former pupil.

“I am aware,” Teal’c responded.

 The servant entered his quarters. O’Neill sitting on the bed, watching his child sleep.

“Apophis sends you this food,” she told him.

“Thanks, just leave it on there, hah?” O’Neill replied, gesturing toward the table close to the door.

“Apophis bade me tell you that he expects the coordinates of the planet at which he may find the Asgard,” she continued.

“Yeah, I should probably talk to him about that, can you ask him if he’ll see me?”

Jack enquired. His eyes never averted from Iceni, softly stroking her head, the telltale sign of her mother’s stamp, flame red hair already beginning to grow through.

“I will tell my lord Apophis of your wish,” she responded, leaving O’Neill alone once more.

 “How the heck am I gonna get you out of here?” Jack enquired.

He heard something then, in his mind, a voice familiar to him. “O’Neill, we are your kind.”

Jack looked around the room, shaking his head. “I’m going nuts!” he sighed. “And talking to myself.” The comment directed toward Iceni.

The child opened her eyes, staring up into her father’s face, a smile at him.

Jack’s features melted. “Hello,” he gushed, his fingertips taking her tiny hand.

“O’Neill?”

Jack looked around to see a Serpent guard standing in the room, the voice he recognised as that of Teal’c.

“Come to rescue me?” he quipped.

“Indeed, since you have decided to make such a rescue necessary!” the Jaffa scolded.

“Hey, I didn’t exactly have a choice here Teal’c!” Jack replied, looking back at Iceni who was still beaming up at him. “Gotta get her out Teal’c, can you find a way?”

“I am unsure,” Teal’c responded.

“What about Hathor, any news there?” The colonel’s tone reticent, but his eyes still filled with the joy he beheld in his child.

“Major Carter was working on it,” Teal’c informed him.

Jack nodded, apprehensive now. “Look buddy.” A heavy sigh. “You and I both know what Apophis is capable of, right?”

“Very well O’Neill,” Teal’c concurred, curious now.  “Do you intend to tell him the secrets of the Ancients?”

“Not at first, but if I can’t stall him I might just have to throw him a bone,” Jack conceded.

“This would be highly inappropriate and unwise O’Neill, since such knowledge would undoubtedly make him an invincible foe!” Teal’c asserted.

“Hey! You want appropriate, find a way to rescue my kid... then I won’t have to tell him squat!” Jack remonstrated.

“We are working on it!”

“Great, well call the union and tell them that all leave’s cancelled, because until I know she’s safe, Apophis gets everything I know handed to him on a plate,” Jack warned.

“This will only make matters worse for the Tau’ri O’Neill,” Teal’c cautioned.

“Right now Teal’c, I don’t really care.” Jack replied. “She’s all that matters!”

The Jaffa nodded, backing out of the room. “As you suspected Master Bra’tac, he will tell them whatever they wish to know,” he imparted.

“Teal’c, even your own child is not worth such a price!” Bra’tac asserted.

Teal’c raised an eyebrow inside that helmet. “In fact, he is, as is O’Neill’s love for his child.”

 Jack stood before Apophis.

“I ask you for the coordinates O’Neill, what is your answer?” the Goa’uld demanded.

“Yeah look, I’d be happy to give you those, if I could remember the damn things, and I’m not lying!” Jack told him honestly. “See I kinda dialled them in on a whole program thing, when I was under the influence of the download, the computers just dialled it up for me, I don’t remember the symbols!”

“You lie!” Apophis snapped.

“Look!” Jack’s tone louder. “Why would I lie? You’re holding a damn gun to my head right, I just bluffed you that I knew the damn things to get the kid’s safety ensured, the other stuff, the knowledge of the Ancients, I can do that, just not the coordinates.”

Apophis regarded him. “Then you will give me this knowledge?”

“Yep, just give me one of them Goa’uld tablet devices and someone who can translate the symbols and I’ll put it down in one of them!” Jack offered.

 Bra’tac listened, fearful of what the human would tell the system lord, secrets that might ultimately prove to be the undoing of them all. He knew he had to act, yet he was unsure of Teal’c’s loyalty. Would his former pupil go along with what he had in mind?

 Daniel woke slowly, startling from his dreams. A glance at his wristwatch told him he’d been a sleep for a little over six hours.

“Wonder if they’re still arguing,” he groaned to himself, sitting up and attempting to shake the sleep out of his system, his arms stretching above his head, a loud yawn escaping his lips. “I really ought to find a new career!” he opined.

 

He found Carter and Hathor in the communications room, both women standing close to the Goa’uld long-range communication device. As he moved toward them, to his horror, he could see the image on the device was that of Heru’ur, the surly system lord snarling his distaste for their involvement.

“You are sure he means to use the child to prise this information from O’Neill?” Heru’ur demanded.

“We are,” Hathor replied.

“Then I will ensure that this does not happen!” Heru’ur asserted.

“Whoa, guys, was that wise?” Daniel asked.

Hathor ignored the archaeologist, continuing to discuss the matter with Heru’ur.

Sam instead responded to the question.

“Look, we decided that Apophis is gonna get a little spooked if Heru’ur starts to take out his armies, and he can’t exactly blame Colonel O’Neill for that one!” Sam explained.

“Are you crazy? Of course he will, he knows that Jack and Heru’ur were allied, this is insane!”

“Daniel Jackson?” Heru’ur’s voice.

“Um, yeah!”

“Why do you think it erroneous?” he demanded, Jackson now in position to look upon those arrogant features.

“Well, it’s.” He paused. “You know Apophis is aware of your alliance with Jack? He’s bound to think this was the plan from the start!” Daniel argued.

Heru’ur considered this. “What you say is correct,” he agreed. “But we owe O’Neill nothing, and we will not allow him to give this knowledge to Apophis!”

The communication device went dead then.

“Oh great!” Daniel sighed.  “Good call, now what?”

Hathor and Carter looked at each other. “We shall warn Apophis of such an attack!” Hathor decided aloud. “Offer our services in order to free our Pharaoh and our child!”

“Okay that might work!” Sam agreed.

“We are confident that our plan will work, since it was for this reason that we involved Heru’ur in the first place, he will always destroy what he can not possess!”

“That’s kind of a Goa’uld thing though right?” Jackson retorted mischievously.

“So are you going to make the call?”

Hathor regarded Jackson with that supercilious expression, one that he’d become accustomed to seeing, he couldn’t fail to respond with a smile. For a moment he was engrossed in those effervescent eyes, finally averting his gaze.

“We shall contact Apophis, remove yourselves from this place,” Hathor demanded.

“Um, why?” Jackson questioned, sceptical of her intentions.

“Because she doesn’t want Apophis to see us,” Sam told him, grabbing his arm and dragging him out. “Were you staring at her?” Carter charged, shaking her head in dismay.

“Thank you, and no!” Daniel retorted, offended at the inference. Quiet then, listening to Hathor threatening the intervention of Heru’ur.

“So you two seem to have found some common ground,” Daniel observed, a deliberate attempt to change the subject.

“Yeah, we had a long talk about the Colonel actually, if you can call it a talk, she lectured, I listened,” Sam informed him, her tone changing. “She really does know him, I couldn’t believe it.”

“Well she has spent some time with him Sam, I guess she must have learnt a lot from that?” Daniel surmised.

“She even knows about Charlie, can you imagine the Colonel discussing that with her?” Sam asked, her expression one of disdain.

“Well, maybe that would explain why she became so sensitive to Iceni right? I mean if she has real feelings for Jack, his fears would be hers?” Daniel offered.

Sam shuddered at the thought. “I still refuse to believe what the Colonel feels for that creature is love,” she remarked. “Probably a lack of choice!”

Daniel shook his head. “You know, you should probably keep that to yourself!”

 

Hathor emerged from the communications room, a smile on her face.

“Apophis is willing to release Iceni,” she said.

“He is?” Carter’s eyebrows climbed her forehead. “Well that’s good news!”

“But not Jack?” Daniel asked.

“He says that once our beloved has completed the symbols for the Ancients knowledge, that he will release him unharmed to us,” she told them, pointedly. “But only if we ally our armies with his against Heru’ur.”

“And you’re willing to take that, right?” Sam enquired.

“Our Pharaoh would wish the child to be our main concern, he is able to better defend himself,” Hathor claimed.

“Okay, so when is he handing Iceni over?” Daniel sounded sceptical suddenly.

“He will hand the child over to us!” she replied.

“Isn’t that just a little dicey? I mean forgive my cynicism here, but, once you’re on that planet, effectively he has control of you, and your armies?” Carter argued.

 

Hathor paused then, looking at her. “Then we shall send our Jaffa,” she responded.

“Um, this is probably going to sound like a really stupid idea, but I’d like to go!” Daniel suggested.

“Daniel no, he’d kill you for sure!” Sam asserted.

“We are not so sure, he would expect us to take a consort along, perhaps Daniel would be an ideal choice for such a task, since he will pose no threat to Apophis!”

“Hang on,” Sam protested.

“No, Sam, I’d really like to do this. See, I owe Jack a favour,” Daniel explained, “if I hadn’t allowed Makepeace to talk me out of pursuing Iceni the last time, she’d be safe right now.”

Sam Carter nodded, she’d heard what Jackson had to say to her about loyalty, and she knew that he wouldn’t be dissuaded from showing his to O’Neill. Even if it meant risking his life in order to do so, something that O’Neill himself would do, but that he would strongly contest, or resent another member of his team doing for him!

 

Apophis had O’Neill brought before him once more. “Hathor tells me that Heru’ur plans to attack, for her assistance I have freed your child... she is sending Daniel Jackson,” he told the colonel.

“Okay, that’s acceptable, and when Heru’ur attacks?” Jack asked.

“He plans to kill you O’Neill, to prevent the knowledge that you possess from falling into my hands,” Apophis told him, pausing a smirk crossing his face. “So I plan to move you to another planet, where you will continue to serve me.”

“And when I’ve given you all the knowledge that’s in here?” Jack probed, knowing full well that once he’d outgrown his usefulness, and since a symbiote could not blend successfully with him, that he’d be killed for sure.

“I have agreed to return you to Hathor,” Apophis replied.

The look of surprise on the colonel’s face told the Goa’uld that he didn’t consider this an option. Such deception would not fool this Tau’ri.

“Why do you believe that I will not do so O’Neill?” he asked then, curious as to this wily human’s grasp of their politics.

“Well let’s just say that you’d have no reason to let me go, since we’ve been trying to kill each other for a few years now!” Jack retorted. “I’m not dumb enough to believe you’d actually let me go... so?”

“You are wise O’Neill, and you are right.” Apophis confirmed. “I have no intention of allowing you to live!”

“Sweet, well as long as we understand each other, then I’m agreeable to Iceni being turned over to Hathor,” the colonel replied.

 

Daniel stood at the gate, Hathor beside him. “Return the child immediately. Do not be deceived by Apophis, he will undoubtedly attempt to prevent this exchange from taking place. Remind him that should he betray us, that we will have no alternative but to join our armies with Heru’ur and destroy him!” she asserted.

“Yep, I think that’ll probably piss him off effectively!” Jackson remarked.

Carter moved closer to them. “Once you’ve got Iceni Daniel, we’ll find a way to free Colonel O’Neill,” she said.

“We still have Teal’c and Bra’tac on that planet,” Daniel reminded her. “Maybe they’ve come up with some ideas?”

“Maybe, that’s a thought.” Carter spoke aloud, ideas beginning to form in her mind.

“Hang on Daniel, I’ve got an idea!”

Bra’tac entered O’Neill’s room. “Human!”

Bra’tac, what?”

“You have heard the news of Heru’ur’s impending attack?”

“Yep! Hathor’s managed to get Iceni in exchange for her help in dealing with Heru’ur, so?”

“Then the child will be safe?” Bra’tac seemed relieved.

“Yeah, Iceni will be safe, which means you can relax Bra’tac, Apophis isn’t getting anything out of me!”

Bra’tac smiled. “Then you knew of my plan?”

Jack laughed. “I figured you were probably gonna do something nasty to me!”

Bra’tac looked reticent. “You are indeed a very clever man!”

“Nope, just a realist, it’s what I’d do,” Jack retorted.

Daniel arrived through the gate. The Jaffa at his side, armed with staff weapons.

“They will remain here,” Apophis first prime directed.

“I don’t think so, Hathor was very explicit in her orders, they accompany me to collect the child. Besides, we’re talking two Jaffa against Apophis, and he needs Hathor’s armies to deal with Heru’ur, so unless you want to go back and tell him the deals off?” Jackson insisted, knowing that the Jaffa who served Apophis were never sure of their safety if they did the wrong thing.

The first prime regarded Jackson for a moment, then beckoned him on, the Jaffa staying with him.

“Well that was close!” Sam said from inside the suit she wore.

“Tell me about it, okay, you’re sure this will work right?” Daniel sounded apprehensive.

“Daniel relax, he doesn’t see the ribbon device, and once Teal’c and Bra’tac know you’re there, so will they be,” Sam reassured.

“But trying to get Jack out now?” Daniel sounded sceptical. “It’s not like we’ve got an army exactly?”

“Never gonna be a better time Daniel, he won’t expect us to try anything,” Sam asserted.

“If you say so!” The apprehension in the archaeologist’s tone masked his features.

 

Teal’c saw the group approaching, nodding toward Jackson, who recognised him only by that action.

“Teal’c’s seen us,” he told Carter.

“Great, let’s hope he’s ready!” Carter remarked.

“Let’s hope we’re ready!” Daniel responded dubiously.

As Carter passed by the Jaffa, she handed him the ribbon device discreetly. Teal’c smiled inside the helmet that so effectively concealed his identity.

“O’Neill, they have come for the child!” Bra’tac told him.

“Sweet, so you want me to bring her out?”

“Yes, I think that would be a good idea!” Bra’tac intoned.

Jack smiled. “Okay, what’s going on?”

“I believe a rescue O’Neill, be ready to shield Jackson and the child!” Bra’tac told him.

“With what?” Jack asked.

The Jaffa stepped forward, handing him a ribbon device.

Jack’s expression a picture. “Where the hell did you get that?”

“I have my ways human,” he said.

“Sweet, let’s go kick some Goa’uld ass!” Jack asserted.

 

Daniel stood before Apophis. “Hathor sent me for O’Neill’s child,” he announced.

“What are you to Hathor?” Apophis demanded. “That she would send you?”

“I’m her advisor,” Daniel replied.

“The child is being brought, if she attempts to rescue O’Neill, or to deceive me, she will pay for her insolence, as you will you Daniel Jackson!” Apophis warned.

“Look can we just do this, because I’m not exactly fond of being here either!” Daniel commented.

Jack’s arrival silencing any response the Goa’uld system lord might have had.

“Daniel, nice to see you,” Jack told him, his eyes crossing to Bra’tac and Teal’c who escorted him.

“Hi Jack, so you got the idea?” Daniel said the latter part under his breath.

“I have,” he responded, moving Iceni so Jackson could see the ribbon device on his left hand.

“Does that thing have a shield?” Jackson asked.

“Yep, just stay very close to me Daniel,” Jack warned, looking up at the Goa’uld.

“So Pops, this whole serving you business?  I think I’ve changed my mind. So if it’s all the same to you, I’m leaving!”

Teal’c, Bra’tac and Sam opened fire with their staff weapons, moving back toward the door. Kalim who was close to the exit, was watching their six, keeping their escape route clear.

Apophis raised his shield, scowling at the group as they fired upon his guard.

His hand rose toward O’Neill, who smiled at him nonchalantly raising his own shield.

“Sorry to disappoint you!” Daniel said, beaming with satisfaction. “Déjà vu!”

Jack kept a protective hand on the archaeologist the whole time, moving him back slowly, keeping him within the radius of the shield.

The strikes from staff weapon fire harmlessly dissipated against the shield, the shimmering distortion of each impact making Jackson startle.

“Destroy them!” Apophis ordered, sneering down hatefully toward O’Neill, knowing that the Tau’ri with such a weapon was as vindictive, and capable as any Goa’uld.

“Let’s go!” Jack snapped, moving quicker.

The group blasted their way from the palace, Teal’c taking point.

“I’m really beginning to love those things,” Jackson remarked to O’Neill, the two men still close together.

“Yep, kinda grow on ya don’t they?” Jack responded, still unable to move as quickly as the rest of the party, Kalim keeping pace with his master.

Jack could only watch, as Kalim fell under the blast from a Zat, aiming his hand toward the Serpent guard who had sent his first prime reeling, unable to assist the Jaffa toward the gate.

He maintained a vigil on Jackson and Iceni, afraid to switch his attention, lest he allow Jackson to stray.

Teal’c dialled the coordinates. “Protect Iceni, I’ll deal with them!” Jack insisted.

Moving away from Jackson, he raised the ribbon device toward the advancing Jaffa. It’s power activated quickly, the surge tearing into the serpent guards, throwing them back. He moved forward now, toward Kalim, the Jaffa barely recovering from his brush with death, as O’Neill dragged him to his feet.

Above them death gliders encircled, Jack looking up nervously as the gate shot out, the unstable vortex claiming one of the Jaffa who had been waiting to pounce, hidden from them, on guard at the gate.

“Now that had to hurt!” Jack remarked, shaking his head. “Come on, let’s go, we are outta time!”

 

As he emerged through the wormhole, Jack saw the amassed Horus guard, their staff weapons pinning down his team.

“Sweet!” he sighed.

“Hathor?”

“Don’t see her sir, Heru’ur must have tricked her,” Carter spoke from within one of those Jaffa uniforms, O’Neill doing a double take.

“Carter?”

“Yes sir,” she acknowledged.

“Man that’s, bizarre!” Jack noted. “Wonder what old Snake boy’s up to now!”

“Same thing as before, I guess!” Daniel replied.

Jack let an exasperated sigh escape his lips! “Swell, it’s like being in the damn reptile house at the Zoo - leave one snake pit and find another!”

The Cheops vessel broke through the cloud cover above. Jackson standing slightly away from them, the rings descended around him, taking he and Iceni onto the ship.

“What the?” Jack’s eyes expanded, looking up at the vessel.

“I hope that was Hathor!” Carter opined.

“Why?” Jack asked. “That’s not exactly a good thing either!”

“O’Neill, since you have the ability to escape, I suggest you use it!” Teal’c told him.

“No way, I’m not leaving you guys behind,” Jack snapped.

“Sir you have to do this,” Carter told him.

Jack regarded the uniformed major with disdain.  “No Carter I really don’t!”

The rings activated from the Cheops vessel sending Daniel back down.

Jack approached him, a wary eye on the Horus guard who had them effectively pinned down. “Tell me that was Hathor?” he demanded.

“Um, yes it was,” Daniel replied.

“Well why didn’t you stay with my kid?” he yelled, angrily.

“Jack, I really didn’t have a choice, she didn’t want me, she told me to get you!”

Daniel answered apologetically.

“Well there’s a surprise!” Jack replied, moving toward the place where Jackson had been taken aboard the ship. The Horus guard opened fire, forcing O’Neill to raise the shield. He stopped as their weapons were turned toward Jackson and Carter.

He raised his hands in surrender. “Okay, I’m staying!” he yelled.

The Cheops vessel rose higher into the clouds.

“Why doesn’t she just fire the damn weapons at them?” Jack cursed, looking frantically toward the ship.

“There would be too much power O’Neill, we would be destroyed,” Teal’c told him.

“Oh, God, you know, this is getting really boring!” Jack complained, looking at Jackson. “I mean, could this get any worse?”

Jackson shook his head. “I don’t think so,” he replied.

“Nefir?” Jack called out.

“O’Neill,” the Horus guard replied.

“So, what’s H up to now?” Jack’s eyes kept straying to the Cheops vessel.

“My lord bade me to guard the gate,” Nefir responded. “You are to be taken aboard our ship, these are to be killed.”

“Alright,” Jack moved forward now. “No damn way, I’ve had enough of this bullshit! He wants the damn knowledge of the ancients, I’ll give him the coordinates to get it himself!”

Sam felt Bra’tac tense beside her. “Relax, anyone even attempting that with a Goa’uld won’t get very far, and neither will a normal human, the information is way too advanced for a human mind,” she reassured.

The colonel was now standing directly in front of Nefir. “Look, you don’t need to kill them, just take me... Heru’ur isn’t gonna know right? I’ll send them back to Earth, just please, Nefir, don’t do what he’s asking...”

The Jaffa looked at him, the helmet disappearing from his face. “I will spare the lives of your friends, my lord!” he agreed.

“Thank you,” he turned back to look at Jackson and the others, a mock salute. “Be seeing ya!” he remarked glibly.

Nefir punched the coordinates into the DHD.

O’Neill glanced across at Carter. “Thanks for all your help!” he said.

The major, still wearing the Serpent guard’s uniform, nodded as best she could.

Daniel Jackson sat down on the ground. He felt deflated. Helpless.

“This is like a never-ending nightmare,” he sighed.

“Out of the frying pan,” Sam agreed, the helmet of her Serpent guard uniform lifted off by Teal’c.

“We are indeed running out of options!” Teal’c concurred.

“And Hathor got Iceni!” Daniel added, glumly.

“Well at least she’s not as bad as Apophis!” Sam intoned. “So I guess, the old guess that keeps coming back, is back again. Now what?”

Jackson chuckled to himself. “I really wish I knew!” he replied, gazing off into the distance, watching the Horus guard that encircled O’Neill, disappear through the event horizon.

The explosion in the sky above them startled everyone. The Cheops vessel a ball of flames, smaller explosions followed.

Daniel’s eyes widened, his chin dropped. “Oh my God!”

 

*****

 

Heru’ur regarded the colonel, now in the confines of his magnificent palace; the Goa’uld had him brought to stand before him in his private chambers.

“You disappoint me O’Neill!” he told him.

“Yeah, I kinda get around to that with most people, what’s your point?” Jack enquired. “Or did you decide to kill me face to face, and you just wanted to show me the courtesy of letting me know?”

Heru’ur moved toward him ominously, those glowing eyes mocking O’Neill with disdain.

“You flatter yourself that I would hold you in such high regard,” Heru’ur retorted. “Do you have a valediction?”

“Nope!”

“Then let me tell you why you are here.” Heru’ur’s eyes ceased to radiate, but the smug arrogance on his face remained, beginning to become almost irritating to the colonel.

“Sweet, anytime soon would be good!” he replied with disdain.

“You believe you can not be broken O’Neill? That you are able to stand any amount of torture?”

“Look, whilst the little build up speech is kinda nice,” Jack retorted, his head cocked to the side now.  “Or is it the listening to your own voice part?” Goading the Goa’uld probably wasn’t wise, but he’d had enough. “Get to the point!”

“You failed to give me the knowledge we seek, moreover you deceived me, for this you have not gone unpunished!” Heru’ur gloated.

“Yeah, how’d ya figure?” Jack asked, although there was far less of the sarcastic undertones in that retort.

“Your mate? Your child?” Heru’ur was closer to him now, sensing the colonel’s immediate apprehension, the vague fear that permeated his eyes.

“Yeah, you’ve got my attention,” Jack told him, those cynical features twitching.

“Dead!” the Goa’uld said, his eyes revelling in the shock that seemed to explode onto the face of his adversary.

Jack felt a cold shiver embrace him, his body seemed to go numb, mind dizzied, eyelids flickering, as he blinked almost sporadically.

“What?” he breathed, the vocal chords so tight in his throat he was unable to speak the word clearly.

“For your treachery, I have taken that which you most cared for from you, now you will serve me!” the Goa’uld snarled.

If ever there was a moment when O’Neill needed his strength, it was now, yet as his muscles tensed, he felt everything drain from him.

His eyes empty, the pain stabbing him so intensely that he couldn’t see, they were dead.

The horror permeating through him like a recoiling spring, he lunged at the Goa’uld, sending them both sprawling. Screaming anger bursting from him, fists flailing, striking several blows before finally, Heru’ur’s guard moved in, untangling their master from this maniacal human.

Dragging the colonel to his feet and holding him up literally, when he appeared to be unable to stand alone, the Goa’uld rose, an indignant expression sweeping those supercilious features.

“You will kneel before me Tau’ri, as your god, and I will spare your life!” Heru’ur roared.

Jack’s expression was a mask of hatred, of torment, glaring at the Goa’uld.

Words failed him, he just wanted to tear apart this heinous vile creature where he stood, his heart beat seemed to be racing in his chest, the sound of the breath roaring through his throat deafening, his lungs felt on fire.

“Your hatred will serve me well Tau’ri!” Heru’ur hissed. “Take him to the cell,” he ordered.

Nefir looked on, his eyes following the colonel from the room, then returning to his master. “My lord?” he questioned.

“He will obey me!” Heru’ur insisted.

“Will not his hatred, and his loss merely serve to hasten his wish to die?”

“He will die, Nefir, but first he will tell me all I wish to know of the Ancients,” the Goa’uld emphasised. “His friends are dead?”

“No my lord,” Nefir answered honestly.

“You defy me?” Heru’ur snapped viciously.

“They were unarmed my lord, O’Neill implored me for their lives. Since he saved the life of my lord, I could not deny him,” Nefir replied, waiting for Heru’ur to unleash the same wrath upon him that he had seen his master use capably in the defeat of O’Neill.

“A wise choice, if he proves to be difficult once we have tortured him, then we will have those he most cares for to offer as an incentive, retrieve them at once!”

Jack collapsed onto the floor the moment the Jaffa released him. He didn’t feel the impact, his mind so closed off, so shocked, he could barely feel anything, his whole body numb. Unmoving from the heap they left him in, his cheek pressed to the cold floor, he lay there, listening to the sound of his breath.

Not even tears could fall from eyes that simply stared, vacuous of life. The words Heru’ur had said spinning endlessly through his mind. An instant playback over and over until he closed his eyes, pulling himself up, his hands unable to sustain his weight for long, yet long enough for him to find a wall to brace his back against.

Tears finally streamed silently down pallid cheeks, he made no sound, the screaming in his mind echoing what he felt, without recourse to vent it out.

Nefir peered in through the bars, touched with sorrow at seeing this mighty warrior, whom he held in the highest regard so vanquished. He too had a wife, and a child, how would his mind cope with such a loss?

He turned away, looking at the Horus guards who stood dutifully outside the cell.

Kree, shel noc kel mat’ar, keem!” he snapped. “He is not to be harmed!”

Daniel sat in silence, Carter beside him in the gardens of Nyerti’s palace.

“It had to be Heru’ur,” she told him, not for the first time, wondering this time if he would respond.

The archaeologist merely turned his head to regard her, the sadness etched into those boyish features.

“And he has Jack,” Daniel replied at length. “It’ll destroy him.”

“Daniel we don’t know that Iceni was on that ship,” Sam argued, she’d been trying to be positive, to keep focus. “It’s not like we could see if it was even the same ship you were on?”

“Oh come on Sam!” Daniel exclaimed, climbing to his feet. “Heru’ur planned this, he was waiting here for us, up there in one of his damn motherships, don’t try to tell me Hathor escaped that!”

Carter’s head dropped. “Okay, so she’s dead.” The words choking from her throat.

“Is that what you want me to say Daniel?”

“It would be closer to the truth,” Jackson replied.

“Perhaps we should attempt to contact the Tok’ra,” Teal’c suggested. “Since we can not be sure of assistance from the SGC, we must find a way to rescue O’Neill. If Heru’ur is responsible for the death of his child, O’Neill will seek revenge, and Heru’ur will kill him for doing so!”

Daniel shook his head. “He’s not going to kill Jack,” he asserted, sadness permeating his voice, illustrated in his eyes.  “He’s going to try and break him... and Teal’c’s right, if we don’t get him back soon... find some way to get him out of there, we’re not gonna have anything left to save!”

“Daniel, the Colonel’s stronger than that,” Sam declared.

Jackson stared at her bemused. “You really think something like this wouldn’t break through that well constructed armour?” he asked incredulously.

“I’m not saying he won’t be hurting Daniel, but you really have to know what Special Forces training is, it’s, he’ll feed on it, the pain, the hurt, he’ll find a way to destroy Heru’ur. He won’t give in Daniel, he won’t cave no matter how much he might want to,” she charged, the belief in those words unwavering. She stood and faced the archaeologist.

“No, you know, you’re probably right,” Daniel remonstrated, the emotion shaking in his voice. “I can’t see a little thing like losing your second child, make you want to just curl up in a corner somewhere and die!” he spat, those emotions worn on his face like a cross he had to bear. “Hell why would that make him want to just give up?”   He glared at Carter, the major returning his stare without resorting to same spiteful regard.

“I’m sorry Daniel, but I just don’t think Colonel O’Neill is going to give up that easily, even if the only reason he can find is to avenge himself on Heru’ur!” she maintained.

“This is not helping!” Teal’c snapped. “We do not need to be in conflict, since there is little time, we must spend it wisely.”

Carter looked at the Jaffa, her intense regard toward Jackson momentarily interrupted by his forceful tone.

“Teal’c is right, we need to find a way to rescue your Colonel, before Heru’ur destroys his mind!” Bra’tac asserted. “I have seen the power of their hatred, if he has destroyed all that O’Neill cares for, his mind is far easier to twist! Hatred is a deadly ally to the Goa’uld!”

Kalim looked across at the Jaffa master. “If we are to rescue my lord, then we shall need to assemble his armies and attack Heru’ur,” he intoned.

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea,” Sam replied.  “If we do something that openly, he might just kill the Colonel anyway!”

“Well we can’t sit around here doing nothing!” Daniel insisted. “If Kalim commands Hathor’s and Jack’s armies, maybe we should consider that option.”

Bra’tac shook his head. “Without a Goa’uld to lead them, the Jaffa would fear such an assault, it would not be wise,” he opined.

Daniel looked impatient, the shock of what he considered to be the loss of both Hathor and Iceni beginning to subside.

“I’m open to suggestions,” he stated.

Teal’c nodded. “As am I.”

“Well, we can’t just launch an attack against Heru’ur,” Sam told them, engaging her thoughts.  “We need to think this thing through properly, it’d be suicide for us, and certain death for the Colonel, and since I’m in charge, I guess, I’d better start thinking!”

“You’re in charge?” Daniel questioned.

“Yes Daniel, I’m next in the chain of command!” Sam responded. “Major?”

“That would be if Teal’c and I were in the military, which clearly we’re not, so I don’t see how that works, do you?” Jackson retorted.

“We are SG-1 Daniel Jackson, and Samantha Carter is correct, she is clearly in authority now since we do not have Colonel O’Neill,” Teal’c stated, nodding at Carter.

“Thank you Teal’c!” Sam acknowledged. “Daniel have I done something to make you turn O’Neill-esque on me?”

Jackson looked away, ignoring the question.

“No, come on Daniel, if you’ve got something to say, say it!” she insisted, moving around to his line of sight.

The archaeologist took a deep breath. “Okay, well since you asked,” he began, standing. “How about shooting Hathor? Um, contacting Heru’ur? Launching verbal assaults on Jack? Do any of those count?” he demanded.

“Daniel, I did what I thought was right,” she snapped, trying to maintain her cool.  “Now I’m sorry if all my decisions aren’t as informed as yours obviously seem to be, but we can’t all be perfect now can we?”

Daniel threw his hands in the air, allowing them to fall down to his sides immediately.

“I just don’t think that you’re the right one to be making the decisions around here!” he argued.

“Oh, and you are?” Sam demanded. “Just what makes you qualified?”

Bra’tac looked at Teal’c, shaking his head wistfully. “This is not good my friend,” he opined.

“Indeed, it would seem that both are suffering from shock,” Teal’c concurred.

“It is obvious to me Teal’c that perhaps you are better qualified to make the decisions, since they are quite clearly unable to function!” Bra’tac observed.

“Major Carter, Daniel Jackson!” Teal’c snapped loudly, intentionally so. “Do you both wish to rescue Colonel O’Neill?”

“Yes!” Their voices in unison.

“Good, then we are agreed,” Teal’c told them emphatically.

“Yes.” Sam the first one to realise what the Jaffa was attempting. “I think we’re just, we’re dealing with, okay, we’re probably in shock,” she confessed.

Jackson looked across at her, a momentary pause in his crowded mind, that particular thought never occurring to him,

“So, what do we do then?” he asked her, taking the lead offered.

“I think we need help on this one, as much as I hate to say it, maybe the Tok’ra still have spies in Heru’ur’s ranks,” she responded.

“Then Samantha Carter will contact the Tok’ra. Daniel Jackson, do you have any ideas?” Teal’c enquired, attempting to keep some balance between them.

“Um, not really, but I do know one thing,” he offered, his boyish features contorting into a frown.  “We’re vulnerable if we stay on this planet!”

“Yeah he’s right,” Sam agreed. “Both Apophis and Heru’ur know where we are, let’s not give them easy targets!”

“Which planet do you recommend Samantha Carter?” Teal’c enquired, making his choice of leader clear to Daniel once more.

“Um, I don’t know, Daniel?”

“Sengo’lia? Kheb? They’re both safe, and not exactly places either Heru’ur or Apophis are likely to look,” Jackson intoned.

 The troop of Horus guard approached them through the gardens, Teal’c immediately reaching for his staff weapon.

Nefir revealed himself to them at that moment. “Kree, shel noc!” he snapped.

“Um, wait a minute guys, that’s Heru’ur’s first prime,” Jackson stated.

“Great! We should have relocated earlier!” Sam opined, her thoughts racing, they were clearly outnumbered, with no cover.

 “Daniel,” the Jaffa said. “Heru’ur has ordered that I return you to his home world,”

“Um, why?”

Nefir regarded all those present, Jaffa whom he had heard about from other Jaffa, men willing to fight for their freedom from the Goa’uld. Until recently Nefir would never dare question his master, yet he had seen the courage of O’Neill, fought with him side by side in freeing Heru’ur from Apophis, now perhaps he was beginning to doubt the wisdom of serving such a master, one who could cruelly destroy the wife and child of a former ally, and then parade this horrifying knowledge before the vanquished with such pleasure.

 

“And if I refuse?” Daniel replied dubiously, looking at the six Horus guards behind the towering frame of Nefir.

“I would urge you not to refuse, O’Neill will need you,” Nefir told him.

“My God,” Daniel’s voice trailed off to almost a whisper. “He told him didn’t he?”

“Yes!”

“Sam, with your permission,” Daniel said, without hesitating to give the matter any more thought.

“Daniel, wait a minute, I can’t let you do this,” Sam told him flatly.

“I don’t have a choice,” Daniel replied, a smile crossing his lips. “If I don’t go Jack’s alone, and I can’t, won’t leave him to go through this alone Sam,” his eyes beseeching, yet adamant in his repose.

 

“Nefir?” It was Teal’c who spoke, moving forward. “What are the intentions of Heru’ur once he has Daniel Jackson?”

“If O’Neill will not be broken with torture, he will threaten the life of Daniel Jackson in order to extract the knowledge he requires!” Nefir said.

Jackson looked confused. “Um, surely he would threaten my life first? What’s the point of torturing Jack... oh.” Daniel’s voice trailed off.

Nefir nodded slowly. “O’Neill betrayed him,” he said. “His child was the first punishment he must endure.”

“So if I go, Jack’s going to get tortured anyway?” Daniel repeated. “Which is just the kind of sick sadistic, twisted, damn snakehead...”

“Okay Daniel, I think you’ve made your point!” Sam said. “And since militarily speaking you’re not exactly much help, off you go!”

“Thank you,” Jackson replied. “Unattractive and useless, must really be my week!”

Carter looked heavenwards. “Do what you can for him Daniel,” she said, a smile of encouragement.

“I’ll do my best,” he retorted, raising his eyebrows, a reticent expression enveloping his face.  “Just, er, hurry up with the rescue!”

 

*****

 

His wrists ran blood, bound to the rings on the wall with a thin strong twine, the trails of red reaching the tee shirt that was slashed open, more wounds on his chest, and abdomen.  O’Neill was semi-conscious, the bruising around his eyes and mouth caked with yet more of his own blood.

After taking such a severe beating at the hands of Heru’ur’s merciless Jaffa, the Goa’uld had taken to using the ribbon device, attempting to break his resolve.

“You will say it O’Neill!” Heru’ur snapped, his face contorting with a spiteful refrain, raising his hand, pausing for a moment before letting a vicious crack across the colonel’s face vent his anger. The back of the ribbon device tore across his right cheekbone. “You will kneel before me!” he thundered.

Jack’s eyes remained fixed hatefully on his tormentor. Even the intense throbbing in his mind could not prevent him from concentrating his enmity toward a nemesis that he held in the lowest contempt.

“Screw you!” he groaned, the blood seeping from the corner of his mouth, as well as running down the side of his jawbone from the newly inflicted wound.

Heru’ur loomed closer, that arrogant sneer so close, Jack felt like he could tear the chains from the walls and rip his head off.

“You will acquiesce O’Neill,” he said, a smile permeating his arrogant features, mocking O’Neill, attempting to draw a response.

The colonel smiled at him, a mouthful of blood spat into the face of the Goa’uld.

“Screw you!” he repeated.

Heru’ur’s eyes narrowed. “Give me the knife!” he barked, at the Jaffa who held the two-pronged weapon.

Jack looked into the Goa’ulds eyes; he’d fought with every ounce of strength not to scream out, to give Heru’ur the satisfaction. The pain was becoming so acute, that it seemed to be burning into his mind, a cacophony of trauma, sending signals to every fibre of his being, tearing through him until every part of his body felt raw, nerve ends searing with agony, agony that was so intense now he could no longer control himself, unable to sustain this endless pain inside, he screamed out, his features contorting, wracked with torment.

Swallowing hard, he watched the Goa’uld fix the blade on his forearm, tracing the point to his elbow, the initial shock as the tips of the blades embedded into his flesh stinging as they sliced the skin open.

“God!” he cried out, unable to take anymore.  “Stop please!”

Heru’ur’s eyes registered pleasure, continuing to push the blade into the colonel’s elbow.

Arrgh, God!” Jack winced, his teeth gritted together, tears running down his face, mingling with the blood that stained his cheeks.

“Am I your god?” Heru’ur demanded.

Jack managed to raise his head, looking back at the Goa’uld, the pain filling his eyes. “No.” His voice breaking. “But you do a pretty good Satan!” he gasped, the words spat out with little venom, he was exhausted, clearly beaten, yet still he refused to acquiesce.

The knife thrown aside, Heru’ur stepped back. “Fuel the fires!” he commanded, regarding O’Neill with trepidation suddenly. “You will serve me Tau’ri!” he asserted, his eyes radiating furiously toward the colonel. “This I can promise you!”

Daniel stood back as Nefir closed the cell door. “This is where he will be brought,” he told the archaeologist.

“Wait, is he torturing Jack now?” Daniel’s face showing the obvious horror of that notion. “I mean does he have no compassion at all?” Shaking his head. “What the hell am I thinking? He’s a Goa’uld!”

Jack’s unconscious body was carried to the cell, the Horus guards throwing him inside. Jackson stood up as they approached, his eyes widening in shock as he saw his friend. “Oh my God... Jack?”

He knelt down beside the colonel, trying to turn him over onto his back without touching any of the wounds on his arms. “Oh Jesus, Jack look at you,” he said, his eyes filled with sympathy.

“Daniel?” Jack’s voice was almost lost in his heavy, laboured breathing.

“I’m here Jack.  I won’t lie to you, you’ve looked better!” the archaeologist told him.

“God, it... h..ur..ts!” Jack gasped.

“I know, just lay still,” Daniel sighed heavily. “I’ll try to stop some of the bleeding, but it’s...”

Daniel put his hands up to his face, covering his eyes for a moment. He’d never seen injuries as severe as this. Blood smeared across his face, as he attempted to wipe the tears from his eyes.

“Oh god Jack, he’s just gonna torture you until you give him what he wants,” Daniel told him. “Why don’t you give him what he wants?”

“No..oo wa-ay!” Jack’s eyes opened as much as was comfortable.

“Jack, please? Look at you! My God do you enjoy suffering, or is this some kind of admonishment for you?” Daniel demanded.

“He killed my kid, Danny, my kid!” The tears welled up in his eyes, stinging the tears and gashes on his face.

 

Daniel leant down, taking Jack in his arms and holding him as tightly as he dared.  The silent tears only detectable by the shaking of his body as the emotion streamed out, Jackson’s shirt soaked with blood quickly.

His own tears falling on Jack’s hair, as he rocked him back and forth gently. “It’s okay, Jack, I know, I’m so, sorry.” His cheek rested against the colonel’s head, the words meant nothing, he knew that, knew he’d never be able to offer comfort enough to reach him. 

He could barely fathom what O’Neill must be going through. The pain, the physical pain probably didn’t matter to him; it was the loss, the insufferable loss that he must be feeling, like a void torn into his soul.

“Nefir!” Daniel yelled out, feeling Jack’s body jolt in his arms.

The Jaffa had remained close, disgusted at the state of the colonel when he had been returned to the cell. “I am here,” he told Jackson, his eyes filled with empathy and shame.

“He needs help, look at him,” Daniel implored.

“I do not know what I can do, but I will try to bring you something that will help!”

Nefir told him honestly.

“Just get me whatever you can that might help him sleep!” Daniel asserted.

His grip around O’Neill tightened as he felt the colonel’s body softly jolt once more.

“It’s alright Jack, it’ll be alright,” Daniel told him as soothingly as he could. He didn’t believe it, felt little hope of them being able to rescue him now. The tears steaming up his glasses, he prayed that Jack might fall into sleep, from exhaustion, from the pain from anything. Something that might free him of what must have been a living hell.

 

Carter looked at Martouf. “Look, we don’t have time to plan some kind of intricate raid, Colonel O’Neill is in more danger than he’s ever been. We’ve got to get him out of there Martouf, soon!” she remonstrated.

“Samantha, I appreciate that. But Heru’ur is being particularly cautious recently, and his Jaffa are suspicious of new arrivals,” the Tok’ra informed her.

“Look!” she snapped, the tension, the fear she felt permeating her senses. “One way or another we’re getting the Colonel and Daniel out of this, Martouf please, help me out here, there’s got to be a way into his palace!” she insisted.

“I will contact the high council. We will organise as many of our spies as we can. Samantha, believe me, I will do everything in my power to rescue Colonel O’Neill and Dr. Jackson,” Martouf assured her.

“Good, because I really don’t think either of them has that long!” she opined, her eyes flashing fear as her words underlined her feelings.

Teal’c looked at Bra’tac. “She may be right, I feel it is time we procured some uniforms,” he stated.

“I am in agreement,” Bra’tac responded.

 

Daniel sat back against the wall. He’d managed to use the things brought to him by Nefir to patch the colonel’s injuries as best he could. Sitting on the bed with O’Neill held in his arms still, afraid to sleep lest Jack woke.

He couldn’t think of anything to say that might help, to communicate to O’Neill not to give up, although from the looks of the beating he’d taken, Daniel wondered if perhaps giving up might not have been such a bad idea.

Gently rubbing the top of O’Neill’s arm, something constant, to let him know he was there, but even that felt woefully inadequate.

The colonel’s sudden awakening startling him. “Jack, ssh, it’s okay,” he soothed.

“Daniel?”

“Yes Jack, it’s me, how are you feeling?” he asked. He had to ask, even if he thought it was a stupid question.

“I’m... what are you doing here Daniel?” Jack enquired, his eyes swollen, barely able to open. “Hey!” His voice still almost a whisper, coarse from what must have been hours of straining his vocal chords to breaking point.

“Hey Jack!” Daniel smiled at him.

The colonel winced as he attempted to reciprocate.

“I don’t think you should do that again!” Daniel suggested. “I doubt your face will hold together!”

“That bad?”

“Um, pretty much, actually,” Daniel frowned, trying to keep his spirits up, and hopefully the colonel’s with him. “It’s worse!”

“Great...” Breathlessly. “I guess I can forget Miss World then hah?”

Daniel’s eyes lit up, pouting slightly. “Um, good idea!”

The Jaffa approached the cell. Daniel looked toward them, reticently.

“No!” he whispered, then totally without thinking. “Tell Heru’ur I want to see him,” he demanded loudly.

“We have come for the Tau’ri!” one of the guards told him.

“Well, tell Heru’ur that Daniel Jackson has some information that he can use to further his goals,” Daniel snapped.

Jack tried to lift his right arm to get Jackson’s attention. The archaeologist looked down at him. “Easy Jack, it’s okay... I just can’t let him do this to you anymore, I’ve got an idea,” Daniel told him. “Jack, just trust me, please?”

O’Neill nodded, his eyes closing. The bruising beginning to show around his jaw line now too, dark purple patches littered with small abrasions.

“At least he didn’t break any bones,” Jack whispered.

Daniel nodded grimly. “No, but I have feeling he’ll get around to it!” he sighed.

 

Heru’ur stood in his quarters, sneering at Jackson. “So?” he demanded. “What do you offer that I might reconsider getting from O’Neill?”

“I um, know where you can get the information that you want from Jack,” Daniel told him.

“And for this you expect what?” Heru’ur asked.

“Well, I want freedom actually!” Daniel told him.

Heru’ur laughed. “There is no freedom Daniel, there is only suffering!”

“Okay, look!” Daniel asserted. “You can torture him and torture him, and he’ll never tell you what you want to know, and by the way, neither will I, so, I guess you can have your fun, keep torturing us, and that’s all it will be, you’re not exactly going to achieve anything.” Jackson’s tone was brash, probably sounding a lot more confident than he felt.

“You believe that I want to?” Heru’ur asked.

“Well, since the Tok’ra will know everything that Jack knows soon, I guess it’ll be in your best interests don’t you?” Daniel warned.

Heru’ur regarded him. “You have given this knowledge to the Tok’ra?” he demanded, his eyes expanding with fury.

“Well, I had to have something to bargain with, you don’t think I’m stupid enough to come here empty-handed do you?” Daniel intoned. “See, if I don’t return to the SGC with Jack within two days, the Tok’ra will be shown the planet where Jack acquired his knowledge, not to mention be introduced to some pretty powerful allies that are allied to Jack, like the Asgard, the Sengo’lians, and the Nox, and did I mention that Jack actually met the Ancients themselves? I don’t think they’re going to be too happy when they find out what you’ve got planned!”

“You lie!” Heru’ur spat.

“Um, no, actually I’m telling you the truth,” Daniel said, pushing his luck as much as he dared now. “Exactly why do you think the Asgard put Earth in the protected planets treaty?”

“This is a trick!” Heru’ur insisted.

“No, it’s not a trick... Jack’s got powerful allies,” Daniel persisted. “If you do this, if you torture him, kill him, I’d start looking for a far away planet, oh and find a few more Jaffa!”

“You make a powerful argument, Daniel Jackson!” Heru’ur asserted. “But I have little time to be concerned with races that will never risk war with the Goa’uld!”

“Well, I guess if you want your pound of flesh!” Jackson remarked. “Fine, send me back and carry on with Jack, I doubt he’ll last much longer, then you’ll have to put him in the sarcophagus and start all over again!”

Heru’ur considered his words. “You have nothing to offer me!” he said. “Nothing of true value, O’Neill owes me his life!”

 

Daniel looked furious then, losing all restraint. “And you owe him yours, and by the way, the fact that you murdered Hathor and his child means you owe him more than that now, and when you’re through with your sick torture, and your games, you’ll have nothing but some sadistic sense of satisfaction!” he remonstrated. “Jack saved you from Apophis, and this is how you repay that debt?”

“You believe I have a conscience Daniel Jackson?” Heru’ur snarled.

“No, I just thought you were a soldier, a conqueror, not a pathetic, vindictive, arrogant son of a bitch with no vision!” Daniel spat. “And I really don’t want to talk to you anymore, you make me sick!”

Jackson took a deep breath. Just how far he could go using a tactic O’Neill had proven worked was anyone’s guess, he knew he’d either get Jack in deeper water than the colonel was already in, or maybe, just maybe, get Heru’ur thinking!

“Return him to his cell, keep him away from O’Neill!” he ordered.

“Okay, look don’t do that, let me stay with Jack, don’t punish him for my arrogance!” Daniel implored, not as quick to see the test as Heru’ur had been.

“Very well, then this is my demand Daniel, you will tell me what I want to know, or you will watch O’Neill suffer, what is it to be?”

Daniel lowered his eyes. “What do you want to know?” he asked.

Heru’ur smiled. “That is more like it!”

Jack managed to sit up, his mind beginning to focus. He could hear Jackson, the thoughts flooding through to him. He didn’t want to hear those things; he wanted to just switch off, to feel the pain and just wallow in it. But he knew what would happen if he let it slip, Jackson thought he was helping. He was merely signing his own death warrant.

‘Daniel, listen to me very carefully,’ Jack forced his mind to concentrate. ‘You’ve got to stop, right now, I can take this, you’re not gonna make it Daniel, listen to me!’

Jackson tried to shut it out. But O’Neill’s thoughts simply hammered at his until he conceded.

He looked at Heru’ur. “I can’t tell you anything,” he said. “Jack doesn’t want me too!”

The Goa’uld looked confused. “Explain?”

“Sorry, I can’t,” Daniel told him.

Heru’ur sneered at him. “Put him back with O’Neill, tomorrow we will see,” he snapped.

Daniel sighed. “Oh good, just when I thought we’d seen it all!” he opined.

 

*****

 

Martouf led the three Tok’ra toward the gate where Carter and the two Jaffa waited. Whilst he shared her urgency to act, he had maintained a certain amount of calm when approaching the high council.

“Well?” Sam asked.

“It’s worse than we thought Samantha,” he told her, the sorrow and empathy in his eyes forcing the major to close hers for some respite. Steadying herself, she looked at him, a troubled expression.

“How bad is worse, exactly?” she asked, her eyes filling with dread.

“It appears that Heru’ur has no wish to break Colonel O’Neill immediately. And the messages sent back by our spies, they are,” he lowered his eyes. “The Colonel has been badly tortured Samantha.  Heru’ur seems to know the limit of the Colonel’s willingness to suffer physical pain and is using that to terrifying levels.” Martouf’s voice was fraught with the sorrow he felt, the very act of being the one to impart such news seemed to cause him great discomfort. “We must act soon, or your Colonel O’Neill will possibly become overwhelmed in vengeance, to an extent that his mind may become completely unredeemable,” the Tok’ra explained.

“My god!” Sam gasped. “Martouf, he’s already lost everything, Hathor, Iceni, are you saying he’ll lose his mind too?” Her tone was incredulous, not expecting such a deluge of information, and negative information at that, to be so liberally offered.

“I am saying Samantha, that there is a possibility that since Heru’ur wants to prevent his Jaffa from recognising O’Neill as an equal, he will do all he can to undermine the Colonel’s position, he has no wish to kill O’Neill, he will merely torture him until nothing is left to offer his Jaffa hope!”

Carter’s hand swept across her face. “And Daniel?” she asked, hoping that there might be more encouraging news on that front.

“He remains unharmed,” Martouf told her.

“Well, at least that’s something,” she replied, looking over her shoulder at Teal’c.

“I guess you’re on.”

Teal’c took a deep breath. “Master Bra’tac, it is time,” he stated.

“Indeed Teal’c,” Bra’tac agreed.

Daniel sat next to Jack on the makeshift and uncomfortable bed. The colonel had managed, despite the many injuries and the discomfort it may have caused him, to prop himself up, shaking his head at the archaeologist.

“Daniel, for crying out loud!” he gasped, exhaling loudly. “What the heck are you doing?”

The very act of speaking seemed to add to his distress, yet he felt he’d need to rein in the wayward archaeologist before he condemned himself to a similar fate to the one that he, himself, now suffered.

Jackson’s eyebrows furrowed. “I was trying to spare you any more of that!” he replied, gesturing towards the colonel’s badly beaten face, the lacerations on his chest and arms. “But, he wasn’t buying it, which really doesn’t surprise me much,” he added despondently.

“You damn idiot,” O’Neill whispered, shaking his head, exasperated. “He’ll kill you.”

“Thank you!” Jackson retorted, knowing O’Neill was right, didn’t alter his dislike of being told so in that manner. His frustration at their plight overwhelmed him.

“Look at you?” he demanded.  His eyes widening, not about to accept that he should have done nothing. “You’re... Jack you can’t take much more of that,” he argued, his arms resting on his knees, he leant his head back against the wall with a thud.

Jack sighed heavily, wondering what he could say that might somehow alleviate the stress that consumed his friend. He knew Jackson had lived through many terrifying experiences, but this was probably something that even the past could not legislate for.

“Come on, you think this is bad?” he chided, trying to make the archaeologist more at ease with his appearance, with a situation he found no hope in.

“Um, well as bad goes, yes!” Daniel replied, wrapping his arms around himself for some form of comfort. “You don’t?”

“Hey!” Choking slightly as that word escaped his lips, swallowing hard. “I’ve been practically married to two Goa’ulds Danny, this...” Gasping again, taking a moment to find the strength to finish the sentence. “Is… a... picnic!”

The use of those words, although flippantly employed, were far braver than the colonel felt, the instant reminder of Hathor, brought Iceni, her tiny helpless face, smiling, full of life.

His eyes closed, wincing with the agony that beset his mind, more than the injuries that Jackson attributed the reaction too. The archaeologist instantly moving toward O’Neill now, to offer comfort, his hand resting on the colonel’s arm, feeling the trembling that vibrated through his body, as he lowered his head and wept silently.

“Jack?” he entreated softly, the colonel’s tears falling onto his hand Jackson realised it wasn’t the beating that caused this reaction. His arm gently ensnared his friend, pulling him closer.

Jackson’s face creased with the agony he felt in that silent expression of hurt from O’Neill, his eyes filling with tears as he realised that to O’Neill, there probably wasn’t much reason to live.

Memories of how the colonel had been that first time they’d spoken of Charlie’s death on Abydos, filled his mind. O’Neill had wanted to die then, had been selected for the mission based on that notion. That thought tore into the archaeologist, astounded that anyone could callously use such a tragedy to their own ends.

Wrapping his friend tightly in his embrace, Daniel felt how weak O’Neill was at that moment, so easily had he been able to move him. He wanted to be strong, if only in those seconds of despair that Jack most needed him to be.

Jack’s mind was wracked with guilt. The deep sense of loss, the emptiness, all meant one thing to him, that through omission of action he was responsible.

He’d caused it through a lack of judgment, his guilt was clear. As much as he hated what Heru’ur had done, he alone shouldered the burden of responsibility for the death of his own child, and that destroyed him inside. Even his anger, the burning searing hatred that he felt for Heru’ur, couldn’t sustain him.

He didn’t deserve to live, not with the blood of two of his children on his hands, on his conscience. But how to die? There was something else he wanted more desperately then, his hand lifted slowly, resting on Jackson’s hands, which were tightly clutched together, protectively around him.

He needed to let Jackson know he was okay, needed to find the will that was evading him.

“I’m okay…” he gasped, patting Jackson’s hands. “I’m, it’s okay!”

Eyes closing again, filling his lungs with air that scorched them.

Daniel allowed him to sit up, releasing him from his arms.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked. “Just tell me Jack, how do we get out of this?”

O’Neill shook his head, unable to communicate to Jackson, as once more his body was consumed in the torment of its many injuries. Near exhaustion, the malaise of the physical aches once more superseding the mental torture.

Daniel waited, watching the colonel struggle for breath. He felt so incredibly helpless, as he was forced to be little more than a spectator, knowing he couldn’t cure what ailed O’Neill, and yet, somehow he felt like he should have been making a difference.

“Can I do anything?” Daniel probed once more.  O’Neill’s state of mind must have been precariously balanced, he knew that; the knowledge of losing his child, and the woman he’d claimed to love would be far more excruciating than the torture he’d endured, but both mingling so explosively together, he wondered if Jack could even hear him.

The colonel’s attempt to respond, once more thwarted by the pain, crashing over his senses like a tidal wave.

“Sorry,” he gasped, risking a smile, even though it tore open the cuts on his lips, causing him to wince. “Never had so... mu-uch...  trouble, speaking, before.”

Daniel nodded, dour in his regard. “Jack, don’t keep up the act for me,” he implored, a heavy sigh escaping his lips. “I know it hurts, I can see it!”

“It’s for me!” Jack’s rasping response. “Much as I like ya Daniel, I’m... well...  having a, a... hard time seeing... p... past my own problems right now!” The words formed mostly from the air rushing out of his body, as he openly flinched.

Jackson frowned, leaning closer to him.  “And if I was stupid enough to believe that, you’d be, er, looking at a fool, instead of pretending to be one!” he intoned.

“Touché!” Jack managed, trying hard to find away to block out the mental, as well as the physical trauma.

Jackson smiled, it was almost like, if he kept smiling he wouldn’t lapse, however momentarily, into the pit of despair he knew his friend must be reeling in.

“This is all my fault!” He sounded crushed. “I never should have let you go to Apophis.”

Jack shook his head.  “Don’t, don’t... beat yourself up Dan...iel.” A sigh, his breath drawn in once more, laboured in its sound. “This is just a little bit... more extreme…” Another pause for breath. “Than you’ve seen in the past, is all.”

Jack’s eyes, what could be seen of them through the swelling and abrasions that Jackson found so difficult to look at, were fixed on the archaeologist.

The door to the cell opened, two Jaffa entering. Jack lowered his head; he knew where this was going.

“No, please?” Daniel begged, standing in front of the colonel protectively, only to be tossed aside easily by the burly guard.

O’Neill was pulled to his feet, crying out in pain as they dragged him once more to the Goa’uld.

“O’Neill,” he hissed, watching as the colonel was once more lashed to the rings, his expression one of subdued acceptance, contorted in the extremities of pain this caused him.

“Have you considered my words?”

Jack stared at him through those badly beaten eyes. “You can go...” The words trailed off, as he saw the archaeologist dragged in.

Heru’ur turned away from him. “Daniel, I have a gift for you!” the Goa’uld announced, taking a canopic jar from a slave. “Witness, O’Neill, another of those you care about, lost to the Goa’uld!” he goaded, revelling in the agony on the face of his nemesis.

O’Neill closed his eyes. “Oh God no!” he groaned, barely able to be heard.

Jackson looked apprehensively toward the jar, his eyes shifting to look at O’Neill.

“Don’t tell him anything!” the archaeologist insisted bravely, swallowing hard.

Heru’ur laughed, a mocking, derisive laughter. “Daniel, once the Goa’uld has control of your mind, it will be you who continues with O’Neill’s punishment!” he boasted, the look of horror on Jackson’s face heightening his pleasure.

O’Neill struggled furiously against his bonds, serving only to reopen the wounds in his wrists, blood beginning to run down his arms, onto an already blood-soaked shirt.

He couldn’t feel the pain, just the desire to free himself. Tears of frustration streaming down his face at his inability to help Jackson, who had backed up against the walls of this dank cell Heru’ur had selected for his torture.

This was possibly the worst scenario the colonel could conceive; unable to help his friend at the moment he most needed his help. 

Watching as Heru’ur stole another piece of his life, that deep sense of insignificance berating senses paralysed with fear, sending the colonel into an almost uncontrollable frenzy, fighting against restraints he could never hope to breach. A Jaffa stepping forward, cracking the colonel viciously across the face, forcing him to watch, to see the horror of losing his friend, the one friend he’d relied upon in his deepest despair.

“No, you son of a bitch! Don’t, no…” he cried out, the words once more saturated in anguish, yet barely audible.

The archaeologist’s face veiled with terror, his head shaking from side to side slowly, the dread and disbelief clouding over features already pallid with shock. The realisation of what was perhaps, beyond death, his greatest fear shattering his resolve.

Panic set in, his body wasn’t quite responding to him, muscles taut, tensing sporadically. This weakness beginning to affect his knees, his breathing, rapidly sucking in air, desperately trying to control the signals from his brain, to calm himself, he must be able to do something.

“No! You’re not putting that in my head!” he said, finally finding his voice, yet knowing it wouldn’t alter his situation. It was all he could manage, stuttering broken words, delivered with little faith.

Heru’ur lifted the symbiote out of the jar, the creatures all too familiar appearance now the focus of Jackson’s terrified gaze, the room felt claustrophobic, his chest constricted, barely able to draw in breath.

The hideous noises the creature made as it squealed, almost lizard like, hissing at him, filling his ears.

“Restrain him!” Heru’ur ordered, moving toward Jackson, his Horus guard forcing the archaeologist to his knees.

“Jack?” Daniel called out, struggling against the grip of the Jaffa.

O’Neill fought hard to free himself, the twine biting into his wrists. “Dammit no! I’ll tell you what you want to know.” He forced the words from his mouth, as loud as he could make his voice sound.

Heru’ur turned to regard him. “Pitiful!” he taunted. “But you will tell me everything I want to hear regardless, or perhaps, more likely, you will you tell him!”

Daniel’s head forced forward, Heru’ur allowed the symbiote to slither from his grasp, its oily feeling skin against Jackson’s neck, the archaeologist’s eyes closing, he felt the pain stab through him, as the creature penetrated his body easily.

Its movement inside his neck, pushing against the muscle as it gained purchase, burning, like a hot poker probing his spine.

Daniel’s body shook, trembling, a sharp barb stinging his senses. “Oh no please, God!” he whispered.

As the Goa’uld struggled to control his mind, his eyes rolled in agony, fighting with everything he had in him, the trembling stopped then, and Jackson fell, unconscious.

Heru’ur turned to O’Neill, the colonel’s face contorting with the revulsion of watching his friend infected with a creature he abhorred with every ounce of his being.

“God, I’m so gonna kill you!” Jack cussed, the growling in his throat making that threat seem even more sinister.

Heru’ur’s sneer sent the colonel into a furious rage, the bonds cutting against his bone, when he’d finally given up the fight to free himself.

“Whilst we wait,” the Goa’uld told him, regarding the shaking form of his former ally. “We shall speak of what you will be willing to give, in return for a quick death!”

Jack O’Neill, wincing now as the threshold of an almost intolerable pain raped his mind once more, glared back at the Goa’uld, the distress on his face vanishing, replaced with a mask of hatred.

Heru’ur’s eyes glowed. “You make this so easy, Tau’ri!” he glowered.

His hand clasped the colonel’s right wrist, squeezing hard. Jack flinched, a sharp intake of breath.

“O’Neill, admit defeat, kneel before me, and I will bestow power upon you. Deny me, and you will live an eternity of pain. I will take away everything you need, or care for!” the Goa’uld warned.

Jack shook his head slowly. “Do... what you, have to do,” he gasped, the words laced with the agony he felt, the constant unending pain searing his nerve endings, burning at the wrists, shooting up his arms.

His eyes slid across to Jackson, the archaeologist’s unconscious form bringing yet more torture to his mind.

Something, a voice, in his head. “We are one!” Jack could barely hear it, almost a whisper.

The Sengo’lians had given him the power to communicate to Jackson, and he wasn’t listening, the hatred he possessed for this Goa’uld overwhelming, destroying his reason, as Heru’ur knew it ultimately would.

He couldn’t see a way out, an end to what was happening in his mind, he simply wanted to kill Heru’ur, that was the only thing that kept him alive, made him want to live.

His spiteful gaze fell upon the Goa’uld, defiance burning in that regard with a passion that even Heru’ur found it hard to resist, turning away, he demanded something of his Jaffa that O’Neill could neither hear, nor wanted to. Over and over he repeated the thought of killing, of revenge, until it was everything, until nothing else, not even the corrosive, nagging agony that wracked his body could penetrate.

 

Teal’c regarded the Horus guard, dressed in robes; the Jaffa had traversed the distance between the new Tok’ra home world, and Heru’ur’s planet alone. His presence would raise far less suspicion, both he and Bra’tac had reasoned.

“I am from Chulak, I lead an army willing to enter the service of Heru’ur, in order that we may destroy Apophis,” Teal’c told him. “I would like to see your master, and offer our loyalty to him.”

The Horus guard looked across at the group of Jaffa who guarded the gate. “I will take this warrior to Heru’ur, remain here!”

Teal’c bowed his head. “Thank you my friend, I am sure Heru’ur will reward you for this!”

Although his mind was now sated, Jack had passed out quickly when the Goa’uld poured something acidic into the wounds on his wrists. It seemed to burn the raw flesh, the smell and the pain tearing into him sadistically; his mind overwhelmed, using the one option it had, to prevent that pain from completely shearing his senses.

Heru’ur regarded him. “He is indeed strong!” he remarked to Nefir, the Jaffa agreeing with a silent nod. “Once his mind is in my control, he will make a useful addition to our armies.”

“Would it not be wise to return him to the cell?” he risked.

“When he awakens the pain that he feels will be greater, more intense, and Anubis will be my sword of wrath!”

Daniel Jackson stood beside him now, his eyes glowing, a cruel smile permeating his features.

“I will serve you well, my lord,” he replied, the Goa’uld’s voice unmistakable.

He reached forward, lifting O’Neill’s head. “I will make him pay for his insolence!”

Heru’ur regarded his new recruit. “Be sure you do not let him die,” he stated. “He has much to tell us!”

Daniel nodded. The Goa’uld within him taking control of his mind, yet somewhere, the archaeologist had found a way to fight, and he hadn’t yet achieved full control. That battle would be fought between them, and when the Tau’ri slave woke, he planned to ensure that he controlled the host.

In order to serve Heru’ur, as he had pledged, he would need to force the slave to tell him all he knew, only then could he be sure of securing his place at the side of his master.

 

********

 

Carter followed Martouf onto the Tel’tac; she felt trepidation creeping into her mind.  Isolated from everything she knew, relying now on the Tok’ra, on Teal’c and Bra’tac, to find a way to free Jack and Daniel from death, or in the colonel’s case, certain insanity.

Martouf had been very specific in his description of Goa’uld psychology; they would torture him until he could take no more, should he die under such duress, they would merely revive him and begin the process again.

Once his mind was consumed with so much hatred, so much pain, that he was unable to think clearly, see past it, they would then begin reprogramming him. If, and it was, as the Tok’ra had said, an almost definite possibility, he lapsed into total insanity under such an onslaught of physical, and mental strain, they would simply introduce a symbiote.

Insanity was something that the Goa’uld physiology coped well with. Then, the most frightening aspect of his description, nothing of the host could remain!

 

Sam was terrified at these revelations. Yet she wouldn’t let herself believe that O’Neill could be broken, he was trained to resist such torture, she’d reasoned, believing in him more than anyone else, hoping that this belief would sustain her, as well as the colonel, in whatever torturous battles he faced.

“We will take the Tel’tac to Lar’esh, then from there we will be able to Gate to the planet of Heru’ur,” Martouf imparted, his hand placed on Sam’s shoulder, as she appeared to be in an almost trance like state.

“Sorry,” she replied, a wistful glance. “I was...”

“Yes, I am aware,” Martouf told her. “Samantha, I can not promise we will get him back. But I would give my life trying!”

Sam smiled at him warmly. “Thank you Martouf, I just hope we’re not too late.”

“Hopefully Teal’c’s plan will at least buy us some time!” Martouf observed.

“Yeah, let’s hope!” Sam lamented. “Let’s hope!”

“Samantha,” Martouf seemed reticent. “If we should be too late, and given your circumstances, I am sure you would be welcome amongst the Tok’ra!”

Carter looked away from him. “Martouf, I’ve got to believe that we’re not going to be too late, that we’re going to...” Her voice trailed off, the anguish etched unmistakeably into her features. “We’re going to get him and Daniel back!” she asserted, emphatically.

Martouf nodded. “Then we depart immediately,” he said.

Aldwyn took the controls, looking over his shoulder at Martouf, shaking his head in dismay. The Tok’ra glared back, a nod from Aldwyn, the Tel’tac beginning to ascend to the clouds.

Jack’s eyes opened slowly. The heat from the fire that had been stoked close to him, warming his face. His wrists numb, hanging there for over three hours, the blood had drained from his hands, thankfully he could feel nothing. Even the weight of his own body had served the Goa’uld in this endless torture.

Jackson, the first thing the colonel saw, that twisted smile he knew, could only be from a Goa’uld.

Tears immediately came to his eyes. “I’m sorry, Daniel,” he whispered, with what little strength he could find. “I’m so... damn sorry!”

‘Jack?’ Daniel’s voice, unmistakable.

O’Neill’s head lifted then, his eyes opening a little wider. ‘Daniel?’ The thought immediate.

‘Jack, you’ve got to help me!’ Daniel implored. ‘I’m trapped.’

O’Neill bit his bottom lip, helpless, how could he ever free himself to free his friend?

“So sorry,” Jack whispered once more.

‘Jack dammit!’ Daniel’s voice inside his mind. ‘Listen to me, help me, the way you helped yourself Jack!’

O’Neill could barely see. Between the damage his eyes had sustained, and the tears that now covered them, his vision was completely impaired.

In the pain, the anguish of his mind, he was dreaming, he was hallucinating, Jackson wasn’t talking to him, and if he was, it was a trick! Yeah, a trick, he had it now. His special forces training had been tough; they’d shown him how to deal with this kind of incursion into his thoughts. He’d shut it out.

‘Jack?’

No response. Daniel found himself in a room, with the walls closing in on him. A captive in his own body, ostracised, unable to get through to the one person who had sustained throughout his own ordeal. ‘Jack, I know you think you’re alone, but you’re not, I need your help, Jack please, don’t shut me out!’

O’Neill could hear him, but he was afraid now, scared of what was happening inside his head. He couldn’t control it, couldn’t focus on any one thing, as the Goa’uld, as Daniel, began to use the blades against his chest once more. The stinging permeating his flesh, the tearing as the knife was dragged down to his naval making him retch. Jack’s mind was a cacophony of sounds, his own screaming, no that was real, that was the one thing that was real, his screaming... and the agony, the pain that bit into him. Too much... Daniel?

 

Teal’c concealed the Zat gun under the robes. Bra’tac already inside, the one uniform they had been able to steal, he had elected to wear.

He knew the instant that this Goa’uld laid eyes upon him, that he would recognise the Shol’vah, and he would need to act. His face barely concealed beneath the hood that he wore over his head.

The Horus guard led him into the palace.

They were tasked with finding O’Neill and Jackson, and at all costs holding off the assault that would follow once they had established their presence. Bra’tac had already managed to secure two Goa’uld shock grenades, which would, if used at the right time, ensure that they were able to offer some respite to O’Neill, however brief, before Carter, and the six Tok’ra operatives who had volunteered for this mission, would attempt a second breach.

It was risky, but all they had. Much depended on the wily and cunning Jaffa, both of whom had risked their lives on many occasions in battle against Heru’ur, but at that time they had armies of Jaffa behind them, and fought in the name of Apophis. This time it was in the name of something they cherished far more; freedom.

 

Daniel felt himself losing the battle. There had to be something, but increasingly his will was fading, the Goa’uld gaining control by the second.

Jack’s eyes opened again, the assault on his mind had stopped, just the nausea remained, that sick feeling he’d felt just before he passed out.

He tried to see, through the haze around his eyes. Jackson was lost to him now too - like Iceni and Hathor, like Charlie, he’d failed, let them all down, and now he was being punished.

He deserved that, he knew it, it was payback and he didn’t care anymore how much it dulled his senses. What was happening was justified. But they were trying to get into his mind too, and he couldn’t let that happen, they’d find all the answers in there, no! He’d stop that; no one was going there, not today!

 

Teal’c entered the great hall, where Heru’ur sat on his throne. Bra’tac stood at the entrance, the Horus guard armour he wore concealed him to all but Teal’c; the Jaffa discreetly acknowledged his old master.

His regard now closely studying the number of Horus guard, whom he and Bra’tac would face, once he made his presence known to the Goa’uld.

Four guards inside, only two on the door, one of which was Bra’tac himself.

“My lord Heru’ur, I have come to pledge my allegiance, and the allegiance of a great many Jaffa,” Teal’c asserted, lowering his head, his face concealed.

“Who pledges their allegiance?” Heru’ur demanded.

“Teal’c! To O’Neill!” the Jaffa boomed, opening fire with his Zat gun, the Goa’uld falling under the strike of the weapon. Teal’c fired a second blast, before himself falling victim to a strike from one of the Horus guards.

 

Bra’tac sprang into action, sending the staff weapon blast at the Jaffa, its powerful energy tearing into the side of the aggressor.

“Teal’c?” Bra’tac shouted. The Jaffa recovered quickly, firing another blast at the already mortally wounded guard.

“The cells, Bra’tac, find O’Neill!” Teal’c yelled, pinned down, but secure behind the throne of Heru’ur, whose body lay close to him.

Bra’tac nodded, turning quickly, his staff weapon aimed at two more approaching Horus guard.

“Jaffa, kel bec!” Bra’tac roared. “Heru’ur is dead! We fight in the name of O’Neill!”

Nefir rounded the corner toward Bra’tac then, pausing.

“Jaffa kree! Kel bec!” Nefir repeated. “Master Bra’tac, my lord is dead?”

“Slain by Teal’c, we have come for O’Neill and Jackson!” Bra’tac told him.

 

Nefir looked at the Jaffa master, his eyes filling with guilt.  “Jackson is a Goa’uld,” he replied. “I was unable to prevent this!”

“Then we must pray that the Tok’ra can assist!” Teal’c said, arriving at that moment. “You must place Heru’ur in the sarcophagus!”

“Teal’c?” Bra’tac questioned.

“If he does not live, Apophis would be free to conquer the galaxy unimpeded,” Teal’c advised.

Bra’tac nodded. “Very wise old friend,” he agreed. “We must proceed with caution!”

“Indeed!” Teal’c concurred.

 

Anubis raised the knife to the throat of O’Neill. “Come, Tau’ri, tell me everything I wish to know and I will spare your life!”

Jack’s gaze was void, empty, as he looked upon the face of a friend, and saw only the enemy. Deep in the recesses of his mind he could still hear Jackson, but that, he judged, was merely a trick, this Goa’uld attempting to assault him on two fronts.

He’d found something upon which to focus, just like he’d been trained to do, and that training was kicking in, protecting him from acquiescing to the will of the aggressor. Slowly, sinking into the depths of darkness. “We are one!” the voice inside his head told him. But still he didn’t listen.

 

Jacob Carter ascended down the ramp in the SGC, acknowledging Hammond, who had accepted his message, and offer to discuss SG1. Jacob had a vested interest; his daughter possibly faced a court martial. That part of Martouf’s message to him had prompted his idea to act as a liaison between SG1 and the United States Air Force.

 “George.” A smile crossed his face, as he extended his hand to his old friend. “I guess we’d better get right down to business here, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do,” Hammond agreed, leading the Tok’ra to his office. The two men equally tense about this most unusual of tasks.

Major Davis waited for them. He had been summoned to the SGC when Hammond had lost SG1 - asserting that perhaps, in view of the circumstances, informing the Joint Chiefs of Staff was a little rash.

Both men deciding that, in hindsight, O’Neill was acting out of instinct and therefore his actions, however insubordinate to his command, could be explained, if not entirely overlooked.

 “Major Davis,” Jacob greeted. “I trust nothing’s been made official?” The second comment directed toward Hammond.

“Not yet,” the general informed him. “But there will be some serious questions that need answering, before I’m willing to just accept that Jack O’Neill acted in the best interests of this command!”

“Really?” Jacob sounded cynical. “Well, let me fill you in then, and you can decide for yourself!”

“I’m all ears!” Hammond retorted, still slightly bitter at O’Neill’s disregard of him, and his rank.

“Right now we don’t know if we’ll even be able to extract Colonel O’Neill from Heru’ur,” Jacob began, noting with interest the look of surprise that crossed Hammond’s features.

“Wait a minute?” Davis intervened, looking at Hammond for his sanction to speak.

“I thought it was Apophis?”

“Well, if you’ll let me finish,” the Tok’ra liaison replied, in no mood for total diplomacy. “Then you’ll know exactly why I’m here.”

Davis nodded. “Sure, sorry!”

“Colonel O’Neill attempted to rescue his daughter from Apophis, but unfortunately due to some circumstances, which I’m not even sure about,” Jacob sighed, shaking his head in dismay, “Samantha killed Hathor. Jack was left with no other choice but to turn himself over to Apophis in the hopes of saving his child.”

Davis and Hammond shared a confused regard. “Go on,” the general prompted.

“In the course of saving Jack from Apophis, some time before this, Hathor was placed in a sarcophagus, and once restored, sought the help of Heru’ur. They finally managed to free Jack and Iceni from Apophis, but the intervention of Heru’ur resulted in both Hathor and Iceni being killed, and Jack being captured by this Goa’uld.” Jacob paused, allowing both men to attempt to filter that information into some kind of sense.

“So Colonel O’Neill lost his child anyway?” Davis enquired, shaking his head, “God, that’s... ” A heavy sigh.

Hammond remained silent, keeping his feelings on that particular piece of news, very much in check.

“Anyway, Heru’ur has O’Neill, and from what we’ve learned, the Colonel’s in pretty bad shape. We believe that Heru’ur plans to torture the information about the Ancients from Jack, and when I say torture, believe me, I mean torture!”

“Oh my God!” Davis exclaimed, quickly calculating the possible danger to Earth.  “If that information is passed on, it might have a devastating effect!”

He’d long studied permutations on this from both Jackson and Carter. “Putting aside Colonel O’Neill, for a moment,” he added, not wishing to sound too mercenary in his thoughts. “If that information, the Ancients knowledge, is as powerful as Major Carter says it is?”

Hammond leant forward. “We’re all well aware of the connotations!” he snapped. “What about Carter, Teal’c and Dr. Jackson?” he probed.

“Well, Daniel volunteered to go and see what he could do to help Jack,” Jacob replied, a shrug.  “So he’s a prisoner of Heru’ur too. Sam is with us. Martouf and Aldwyn have formed a plan of sorts, with Teal’c and Bra’tac, they intend to go after both Colonel O’Neill and Dr. Jackson, in the hopes that Heru’ur wouldn’t expect them to attack him on his home planet, besides,” he added, “I think Heru’ur’s thinking might be slightly compromised.”

“How so?” Hammond looked intrigued, sensing that perhaps there was hope, where he could see none before.

“His obsession with Colonel O’Neill!  He’s not exactly focusing his energy on anything else right now!” Jacob imparted. “We believe that, given the fact that he’s obviously limiting his thinking right now to breaking down the colonel’s resolve, that this is probably the most vulnerable he’s likely to be!”

“He hates Colonel O’Neill that much?” Davis questioned, incredulously.

Jacob nodded, a smile permeating his face. “I’d say it’s a little more than that much! Jack’s ability to influence his Jaffa, who began to regard him as something of a god in his own right, has seriously undermined Heru’ur’s position within the ranks of his own army, he has to get that back, his armies have always been the strongest because they fight for him, not in fear of him.”

“And you think this plan will work?” Hammond asked.

“We’d better hope so George, or you’ll be facing Jack O’Neill a little sooner than you planned to be!” Jacob’s tone was dire, he knew more about the Goa’uld than anyone, more about their ability to twist the minds of their enemy.

“I see,” the general responded. “What exactly can we do to help?”

“I’m not here for your help George, Sam told Martouf that there was little point in returning to the SGC because of what was waiting here for them, I’m here to find out if that’s still the case, and to advise them accordingly.”

 

*****

 

Bra’tac leant carefully around the framework of the door leading to the cell where Nefir had directed him. He could see Jackson, the energy weapon he held pushed against the chest of his victim. Even he was shocked when Jackson stepped aside to reveal O’Neill’s tortured body.

“He does not know we are here, good!” Bra’tac imparted. “You will be able to go in there and use your Zat’n’ktel to restrain him. Go!”

Nefir approached the cell with no regard for his own safety. “My lord?” he called out.

Jackson turning. “What is it, Jaffa?” the Goa’uld demanded.

The Zat blast effectively fell him the instant he was clear of O’Neill. Nefir moved forward quickly, taking the weight of the colonel’s body in his arms.

“Quickly, cut him down,” he urged Bra’tac. The twine so deeply imbedded into the colonel’s wrists, untying it was pointless.

“He is badly injured,” Bra’tac said in disgust. “But alive!”

“I was unable to prevent this harm from him,” Nefir apologised. “My lord’s wrath was great!”

Bra’tac assisted Nefir in lowering O’Neill’s body to the ground; the colonel’s eyes flickered open. He looked at the face of the Jaffa without recognition.

“He is very weak,” Bra’tac sighed. “See to the Goa’uld, bind him tightly!”

Nefir immediately obeyed. Teal’c paused as he entered the cell, looking at O’Neill, sorrow immediately registering across those stoic features.

“We must place him in a sarcophagus!” he insisted, kneeling beside his comrade.

“No!” Bra’tac’s tone incisive. “The hatred within his mind must be strong now Teal’c, the sarcophagus would feed it, we cannot!”

“Then we will wait for the Tok’ra,” Teal’c asserted.

Nefir looked at him. “No, I will ensure you escape through the gate, I cannot allow the Tok’ra here,” he snapped.

“They are already coming,” Teal’c told him. “We must ensure they are not prevented from doing so.”

“Go! Secure the Gate,” Bra’tac insisted. “I will remain here with the human.”

 

Martouf smiled at Sam apprehensively. “Are you ready Samantha?” he asked, as they paused at the gate. Aldwyn entered the coordinates for Heru’ur’s home world.

“As I’ll ever be,” Sam replied, accepting the offer of the Tok’ra’s hand, squeezing it and then readying her weapon.

“Once on the other side, we will attempt to deceive the Jaffa at the gate,” Martouf explained. “These clothes should conceal our identity for long enough to ensure that we can reach safety.”

“And if Teal’c and Bra’tac weren’t successful?” Aldwyn asked dubiously.

“Then we will be most likely captured and tortured ourselves!” Martouf retorted.

“Great!” Sam opined. “Well, I guess we should go then right?”

Her apprehension matched Martouf’s, but her need to do something outweighed the ridiculous odds they faced.

 

Nefir approached the Horus guard who stood facing the incoming wormhole, their staff weapons raised.

“Jaffa, Kree!” he snapped. Kel, shol Heru’ur!”

The Guards immediately lowered their weapons.

The Tok’ra, six in total, with Carter dressed in similar long, flowing, colourful robes, emerged through the gate.

Nefir stepped forward. “My lord Heru’ur bids you welcome,” he said, loudly enough for his Jaffa to hear, and assertively enough for Martouf to acknowledge.

“Kel shak, Jaffa!” he said.

Carter recognised Nefir instantly, wondering now if they were being led into a trap, or if, as had appeared to be the case on Nyerti’s planet, he sympathised with their cause.

He turned, leading the party toward the palace.

“So, what do you think?” Sam asked.

“It is most curious, no sign of Teal’c and Bra’tac, yet I doubt that Heru’ur would allow us so freely to walk into his domain if he had captured them,” Martouf offered.

“Or he’s captured them, and wants us to think that?” Sam countered.

“Which is more likely!” Aldwyn added.

 

Teal’c lifted O’Neill into his arms, carrying the colonel from the cell. He hadn’t responded to their attempts to rouse him from unconsciousness. The Jaffa master remarking that he might have endured too much, something that Teal’c also believed, but that he had argued strongly against.

Having already brought the bound, but now conscious form, of the Goa’uld who possessed Jackson, to the entrance of the palace, Teal’c had insisted that he carry O’Neill too. Bra’tac stepped aside, and allowed the much younger man to do so.

Carter almost broke into a run when she saw Teal’c, prevented from doing so by Martouf’s restraining grasp on her wrist.

“Easy, Samantha,” he cautioned.

“Heru’ur is safely in a sarcophagus,” Bra’tac told them, alleviating any fears they might have.

“Martouf,” Teal’c’s tone alarmed. “We must return O’Neill to the SGC immediately.”

Sam, now free of his grasp, moved forward, her face collapsing in anguish when she saw the state of the colonel.

“Oh my God,” she gasped. “Is he?”

“Alive?” Teal’c queried. “Indeed!”

“Daniel?”

“That human has been infected by a Goa’uld,” Bra’tac said

“Can’t we put the Colonel in a sarcophagus?” Sam enquired, clearly distraught with both the condition of O’Neill and Jackson.

“No,” Martouf’s voice soothingly calm. “The level of animosity and hatred he feels now would simply be amplified by the device, we must return him to your planet, and hope that his wounds are not too severe for your Doctor Fraiser.”

Teal’c still held O’Neill in his arms, beginning to walk toward the gate. “Then we should not delay!”

“We don’t have a GDO,” Sam said, watching the Tok’ra operatives struggle momentarily with Jackson, his Goa’uld attempting to shrug them off. Even tightly bound he was still a formidable foe.

“We have a GDO Samantha, we will send word through the Stargate and await the response before sending you through, we will be able to bind some of those wounds whilst we wait for a reply.”

“And remove the Goa’uld from Daniel?” Sam enquired.

“We will try!” Martouf responded.

“He looks…” Carter sighed; she’d been fighting back the tears since she saw him, stunned at the news of Jackson’s possession.

“He has lost much blood!” Teal’c stated.

“What about the guards at the gate?” Aldwyn asked, clearly the only one not too traumatised by the sight of O’Neill and Jackson.

Bra’tac activated the helmet on his armour. “Nefir, you will accompany us?”

The Jaffa shook his head. “I will remain,” he replied.

“Won’t Heru’ur be a little upset?” Sam asked. “You did get us through the Gate?”

“Jaffa who are not gifted to be the first Prime of Heru’ur are not spoken to, nor would he question them!” Nefir replied.

“We must go!” Teal’c insisted.

Bra’tac led them to the gate, Jackson, gagged now to prevent him alerting the guard of this escape, had one of the Tok’ra’s robes draped over him.

Teal’c in amongst them, to conceal O’Neill’s presence.

 

Martouf dialled the coordinates for the planet on which they had abandoned the Tel’tac.

The party swept through the gate without further incident, immediately making for the cargo vessel.

“I will send word to the high council, and ask them to send a signal to the SGC,” Martouf said.

Carter nodded as she knelt beside O’Neill. Teal’c began to look at the many incisions and abrasions he had suffered at the hands of Heru’ur.

“He barely draws breath,” he told Carter, his voice laced with alarm.

“I sure hope he’s,” she paused then, looking across at Jackson, whose eyes glowed furiously at his captors.

Martouf settled beside her. “Samantha, we will do our best,” he assured her, taking some Tok’ra medicines from the small bag he held in his hand, and applying them to the wounds on O’Neill’s face.

“I just hope it’s enough,” she sighed.

Teal’c placed his hand on O’Neill’s, enclosing his fingers.

“Be strong O’Neill,” he urged.

Martouf glanced up at him, nodding silently.

Carter sat back, away from the colonel, allowing Martouf to attempt first aid. Her head cradled in her hands, she finally allowed the tears to flow without restraint.

Helpless, wracked with doubt and sorrow, she felt herself praying for the first time since her mother had died, she allowed the emotions to control her.

Martouf discreetly watched, in between what seemed like a thankless task of patching up the wounds on O’Neill’s body. He himself had never seen such torture; quietly he wondered what exactly they might have saved!

 

The Tok’ra high council sent the message to the SGC almost the moment the request was received via the Tel’tac long-range communications network. A team of Tok’ra scientists and Doctors awaited the arrival of their operatives and the SGC personnel. Despite the apparent success of the rescue, there had been much debate over whether or not they should allow Colonel O’Neill to be returned to Earth.

The Tok’ra scientists held, that O’Neill’s state of mind would be so fragile, that the human contingent might be unable to restore him fully, since none of the humans would have undergone the kind of malicious, relentless onslaught against their minds that O’Neill and many Tok’ra operatives had in the past.

 

Asuuf, renowned amongst the Tok’ra for his forthright and intuitive approach to dealing with such ‘de-programming’ therapy, also believed that in the course of assisting O’Neill, the Tok’ra might be able to access the Ancients repository of knowledge that the colonel possessed.

Selmak had returned, accompanied by Major Davis, anticipating that given the state of Colonel O’Neill’s mind, and the underlining agenda that went with it, it would be necessary to convince the high council to allow his swift return to the SGC, and to ensure that relations were not jeopardised by Asuuf’s desire to attain that knowledge without consultation.

 

Davis was a little shaken, the trip through the gate a little more unsettling than he’d been led to believe.

“Well, that’s not exactly like flying an F-14,” he remarked, turning to Selmak, who had assumed control in order to better explain the message transmitted earlier by his Tok’ra colleagues.

“So, this is your new base?” he asked, simply to make conversation, his nerves a little ragged.

“Yes. In proximity, it’s fairly close to Earth, and light years away from most Goa’uld inhabited galaxies,” Selmak responded, noticing the Major’s apparent unease, and guessing it was his first time through the gate. “I’m glad you were able to convince General Hammond to allow you to come Major, I think re-integrating SG1 back to Earth is of paramount importance.”

“Thank you sir, I just hope, once we’ve put in the report, the Pentagon feel the same way,” Davis responded. “Ultimately, it’s their decision!”

“I know Major,” Jacob replied, smiling to himself. “I used to work for the US Air Force!”

Davis looked a little confused, Selmak’s switch back to Jacob Carter’s more natural tone surprised him.

He offered a reciprocal smile. “Sorry, I keep forgetting, must be the clothes!”

“Indeed,” Jacob replied, gesturing for the major to lead the way through the Tok’ra tunnels to their assembly hall.

Six Tok’ra scientists, four members of the high council, and two doctors sat at the long crystal constructed table.

“Major Davis, allow me to introduce you to the panel who will be deciding the fate of your Colonel O’Neill!” Selmak told him.

Davis looked slightly abashed. “Excuse me?”

“Please sit,” Selmak offered. “And allow me to fill in the details!”

Major Davis nodded, accepting the position he was offered. “Colonel O’Neill’s fate?” he repeated.

Selmak’s eyes glowed. “Indeed. The council has been persuaded by our scientists that the SGC, Earth, is ill equipped to deal with the Colonel’s state of mind, and they should be given the task of de-programming him,” he informed Davis, who shook his head adamantly.

“With all due respect to our allies, the Colonel is a member of the United States Air Force, and whilst we appreciate this kind offer, I’m not authorised to accept it, and I don’t think that General Hammond, or the President will either,” Davis told the assembled Tok’ra.

“Major, I am Asuuf, my field of expertise is in dealing with victims of Goa’uld mind control, forgive me, but perhaps you do not comprehend the level of torture that a Goa’uld can inflict upon its enemy. Heru’ur is particularly well known for his ability to poison the mind, and turn the will of his captive to his own ends!” Asuuf, a young looking man, surly in both speech, and appearance, informed him.

“We’re pretty well versed in psychology, Asuuf,” Davis replied. “Our psychoanalysts are recognised as being amongst the best on Earth!”

“On Earth, perhaps!” Asuuf asserted. “But it is unlike any form of alteration that your experts would have dealt with, comprehension of the depths that a mind may sink under such duress, is something in which I specialise, Major.”

“Again, no disrespect intended,” Davis responded. “But we’re dealing with a human mind here, Colonel O’Neill is Special Forces trained to resist torture and mind control techniques, whilst I understand that he’s probably never faced anything as intense, I still think we’re better equipped to deal with his mind on Earth.”

Selmak, or rather Jacob had heard enough, taking control in order to best express his views.

“I am uniquely qualified to understand both perspectives,” Jacob contested, addressing the Tok’ra high council members specifically.  “And whilst I believe that ultimately, we, the Tok’ra, are probably more naturally equipped to understand the degrees of which Colonel O’Neill’s mind may have been altered, I think it’s in his own best interests if he is returned to natural surroundings, where he would be more inclined to respond! Knowing Colonel O’Neill’s feelings for the Tok’ra,” he added, a wry smile crossing his face. “I think doubly so!”

Davis nodded. “Yes, that’s my feeling too, but,” he added, keeping the door open, as he’d always been trained to do. “That isn’t to say that we wouldn’t perhaps benefit from one of your people returning with us to the SGC to advise, in your obviously more experienced capacity.”

Jacob smiled to himself. “Major Davis, you’re a politician,” he observed.

“Thank you sir, but it makes perfect sense, that combining familiar surroundings with your know-how might give the colonel a much better chance of beating this thing!” Davis replied.

“So we are agreed?” Asuuf enquired.

“Yes, I think that would be acceptable to the Pentagon and General Hammond, if you’re willing to assist us?” Davis offered.

“I am!” Asuuf replied.

The council agreed. The members slowly drifted toward the entry point, where they expected their operatives, and SG1 to materialise.

“You realise that Colonel O’Neill might not make it Major?” Jacob asked, as the two men approached their destination.

Major Davis looked suddenly introspective. “General, whenever we send someone out into the field there’s always a chance of that,” he confirmed, allowing his personal feelings to show for once. “But, I’m confident that the Colonel’s training, coupled, hopefully with the knowledge he possesses from the Ancients, might just provide him with enough resolve.”

Jacob regarded him quizzically. “Jack O’Neill is a very strong man Major, just prepare yourself for what you might see,” he advised.

Davis nodded slowly, a dour expression pervading on his features. “Thank you!”

 

The rings activated, cascading down into the base. As they lifted, Teal’c stood before them, O’Neill carried in his arms.

None of them had been prepared for the image of the normally buoyant colonel, so destitute. Those that knew of the techniques to destroy the will, and the mind of their enemies employed by the Goa’uld, sensing that the injuries weren’t as severe as the battle that would ensue to save the mind of their ally.

“Oh my God!” Davis exclaimed, horror etched into his brow, eyes scanning the many injuries he could see clearly on the colonel’s face and arms, the wrists badly swollen, and although cleaner, since Martouf had treated them, still seeping blood. “Is he alive?”

 

The sight of the bloodstained, beaten body of Colonel O’Neill shocked Davis and Jacob Carter, who drew breath, his eyes narrowing.

“Teal’c, is he alive?” Davis asked again, his face exhibiting the horror he felt.

“Indeed, barely. I am pleased to see you Major Davis!” Teal’c told him.

“Thank you. Er, maybe we should get him straight back to Earth, and let Doctor Fraiser get to work?” Davis asserted, trying as best he could to recover the shock that permeated his mind.

“Indeed,” Teal’c responded.

 

“General, we’ll get Colonel O’Neill home, I think the sooner the better don’t you?” Davis told Jacob Carter.

“Yes, we’ll deal with the Goa’uld, and return Dr. Jackson home as soon as he’s fit to travel,” Jacob agreed. “Send them through the gate,” he instructed one of the Tok’ra close by.

 

Major Davis led Teal’c through the wormhole, shaking his head to clear the foggy feeling that seemed to go with gate travel, at least, in his experience, limited as it was.

Asuuf followed them, carrying a small golden box in his arms.

 

Dr. Fraiser took control. “Let’s get him to the OR, he’s very pallid,” she shouted, as Teal’c put him on the gurney. “He has lost much blood, Doctor,” Teal’c said, following as they began to wheel the colonel from the embarkation room.

 

Dr. Fraiser looked at Hammond. “Those injuries are severe sir,” she said, before exiting the room.

Hammond nodded. “We’ve got some other bad news sir,” Davis told him.

“Go ahead Major,” the general sighed.

“Sir, this is Asuuf, he’s come to assist us with Colonel O’Neill’s de-programming,” Davis began, allowing the two men to exchange greetings before continuing. “Dr. Jackson was taken as a host, by a Goa’uld, but Major Carter and Teal’c were not injured sir.”

“With your permission, I would like to watch your doctors at work?” Asuuf intervened.

“Sergeant Siler,” Hammond ordered, seeing the technician close by. “Take Asuuf to the OR.”

“Yes sir,” Siler responded, indicating the way to the Tok’ra scientist.

 

Hammond exhaled loudly, his attention returned to Davis. “The Tok’ra?”

“Attempting to remove the Goa’uld sir,” the major confirmed. “I’d like your permission to go back and de-brief Major Carter, get as much information as I can for my report?”

“Permission granted Major, I think you might need all the ammunition you can find for this one!” Hammond replied.

Davis looked at the general, unsure of what he meant. “Sir?”

“I intend to let my original decision stand, Major,” he insisted.

Davis shook his head. “Excuse me, what sir?” he asked, slightly bewildered by the general’s statement.

“Colonel O’Neill will be recommended for court martial, and I intend to record that Major Carter and Dr. Jackson were under his influence at the time, along with Teal’c, therefore I expect their punishment to be light!”

Davis shook his head. “Sir you can’t do that, Colonel O’Neill is... ”

“Is guilty of disobeying one order too many Major, and this time who knows if he’ll even recover! I want him removed from this program before he kills himself, and if that means dishonourable discharge, then by hell that’s what I intend to do!” Hammond’s face was consumed with rage. “Now, you’re due to depart aren’t you Major?”

“Yes sir,” Davis responded, looking after Hammond apprehensively as the general stormed out. “Oh great!” he sighed. “Just great!”

 

 

Fraiser assessed the physical injuries to O’Neill quickly, the scans, and the ultrasound confirming that he had no internal injuries. Yet the wounds to his wrist, his body, and his arms were severe, gently touching the swollen areas around his eyes and cheekbones.

“Those are fairly superficial,” she remarked. “No fractures, just contusions, and some lesions.”

“Removing the foreign rope,” Dr. Warner said, for want of a better description. “Might be a little tricky.”

“The swelling certainly isn’t helping,” Fraiser agreed, a frown furrowing her brow. “I’ve hooked him up for transfusion, he’s lost an awful lot of blood,” she sighed.

“Well, he got himself pretty banged up this time!” the surgeon remarked.

“Yes he did,” Fraiser replied.  “The wounds will heal, it’s the scars we can’t see that I’m worried about sir.”

“Trauma, yes. It’s deadly, probably even more so, when it’s been inflicted so carefully over a great length of time, by the looks of some of these wounds,” Warner agreed.

“Let’s prep him for surgery,” Fraiser said, glancing up at the surgeon. “It’s going to take a lot of stitching and sutures!”

Asuuf positioned himself in the gallery, watching with intense fascination as Fraiser and Warner began the process of patching up the colonel’s wounds. He used a Tok’ra device to make notes; he was intrigued with the method of anaesthesia used, archaic, yet effective. A technique the Tok’ra had long since abandoned.

Teal’c joined him. The Jaffa tense, feeling concern for his friend, made no attempt at conversation.

 

*****

 

Sam sat on the floor outside the room into which they had taken Daniel, her mind racing. She’d been surprised that Davis had taken O’Neill back to the SGC so quickly, without waiting for her to arrive to go with him. “Sam?”

“Dad,” she greeted, taking his hand and standing with his assistance.

“How you holding up?” he asked.

“Well, I’m, holding up I guess,” she replied, shrugging her shoulders. “Not much else to do!”

“This might take a while, you eaten?” he enquired, trying to distract her from those thoughts he knew must be weighing heavily on her mind.

“No, not since,” she paused then, sighing heavily, a wry smile crossing her features. “Actually I don’t remember!”

“That’s what I figured,” Jacob replied, with a knowing smile. “Come on, you can fill me in while we eat, I’m pretty peckish myself.”

“Sure, why not, nothing else to do around here but wait, I guess,” she agreed.

“So, Jack’s pretty lucky to be alive,” he opined, taking her to his quarters.

“Yeah, if we’d waited any longer.... Dad?” Her eyes filled with trepidation.

“I don’t know Sam, it’s too early to say,” Jacob responded, knowing exactly what she was thinking. “If, what Martouf says is true, it will be a battle, but Colonel O’Neill is strong Sam, I’m sure he’ll find a way.”

“I hope you’re right, Dad,” she replied.

 

Teal’c, unable to settle watching the surgery, had left the gallery sometime earlier.  The questions from the Tok’ra about O’Neill’s Special Forces training, all unanswered. It bothered him; O’Neill distrusted the Tok’ra, with very good reason.  That the SGC would even entertain one of their operatives assisting perplexed him.

He stood now alone, outside the OR, as Hammond approached, two SFs in tow.

“Teal’c?”

“General Hammond,” the Jaffa acknowledged.

“Any news?”

“No!”

“Teal’c, I can’t pretend that I’m not disappointed with what happened here the other day, and I’m sure you know there will be repercussions!” Hammond began.

The Jaffa turned, regarding him. “Am I to be confined General Hammond?” he asked, looking at the two SFs, his expression never altering for a second.

“No son, they’re here to watch over Colonel O’Neill, once he’s out of danger,” Hammond explained.

“Why?” Teal’c’s eyebrows rose progressively.

“Son, I made myself pretty clear on the consequences of disobeying my orders, Colonel O’Neill is under arrest, albeit in the infirmary, until he has time to recover from his injuries.”

“I do not understand?” Teal’c responded.

“No Teal’c, I’m sure you don’t. However, the rules within the military are pretty clear on these things, and as such, I have no alternative but to follow them to the letter,” the general asserted

“I see, then he will face prison?” the Jaffa enquired.

“Let’s just hope it doesn’t come to that!”

Teal’c watched Hammond walk away, looking at the two SFs who positioned themselves outside the door of the operating room. His eyes turned down then, considering the statements that Hammond had made, clearly he intended to see O’Neill punished. Whilst Teal’c understood that O’Neill had disobeyed his orders, he could not justify allowing such a punishment to take place!

 

Major Davis was shown to Jacob Carter’s quarters. He stood in the doorway, waiting for the former general to invite him in.

“Major?” Jacob’s quizzical expression regarded the JCS liaison.

“Sir, Major Carter,” he greeted as he entered.

“Paul, how’s Colonel O’Neill?” Sam asked immediately.

“Well, I didn’t actually… but Dr. Fraiser seemed to think he’d be fine, physically!”

Davis responded.

“Well that’s something I guess,” Sam sighed.

“Actually, I, um, we may have a little problem,” Davis intoned.

“Problem?” It was Jacob who asked first.

“General Hammond is insisting that he’s going to recommend court martial for Colonel O’Neill,” Davis stated, frowning. “My read on this is that he’s concerned that the Colonel is going to get himself killed, and he figures it’s the only way to stop it... but I could be wrong, and he could be as mad as hell that the Colonel didn’t follow his orders!”

“What?” Sam snapped. “That’s ridiculous, he can’t!”

“He can,” Jacob responded. “And I can understand why he’d want to, Jack’s pretty bull-headed, and I know George sees him like a son.”

“Dad, that doesn’t make sense?” Sam insisted. “Colonel O’Neill didn’t have a choice!”

“He did Sam,” Jacob insisted, knowing his daughter’s position, he knew he risked her wrath.  “He could have followed orders.”

Sam shook her head, disappointed at her father’s attitude. “No, he didn’t,” she snapped. “He hasn’t had a choice for a long time.  If General Hammond court martials the Colonel,” she continued angrily, bitterness etched into her delicate features. “Then he’ll have to find himself a new damn astrophysicist!”

“Hey! Hey!” Jacob exclaimed. “Alright, calm down.  I don’t think that he wants to court martial him, Sam, I think he’s probably reacting to what he’s seen!”

“Oh, great!  So in a moment of anger, he puts in the damn report, and that’s the Colonel on ice. For doing his job?” she vociferated.

“Sam!” Jacob snapped. “He wasn’t doing his job, and you know it, he was reacting to personal circumstances, and we don’t get that luxury in the military!”

“Dad, it was his daughter! Was.” Her eyes filling with the sorrow of past tense. “Being the operative word.  I mean my God, he’s lost his kid, he’s been tortured beyond anything anyone has ever seen, probably lost his mind, and now he’s gonna lose his job, his life?” she remonstrated, her eyes filled with anger. “That’s just such a crock! It’s bullshit!”

“Okay, well I think Samantha had better stay here, I’ll go see if I can straighten this out!” Jacob asserted. “Tok’ra kree!”

The two men who had escorted Davis entered immediately. “Major Davis and Major Carter will be our guests for a little while, I will go back to the SGC to find out the progress of Colonel O’Neill. Inform the high council.”

Carter looked at her father. “That means we’re not going to be allowed to go back right?” she surmised.

“Yes!” Jacob snapped. “Or I’ll be attending two court martials instead of one!”

Major Davis drew breath and exhaled it quickly. “So, we’re basically?”

“Staying here,” Jacob asserted.

“Right!” he confirmed. “Um, so maybe in the mean time Sam, we can start building a defence?”

Sam was still glowering furiously at her father. The Tok’ra liaison ignored his daughter’s disregard and kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll talk to you later!” he said affectionately.

 

Daniel Jackson opened his eyes, the pounding in his head drum like in its intensity. “Oh, wow!” he exclaimed. “I’m, now that’s a headache.”

He realised then, that he was himself, his eyes lowered searching his thoughts, definitely no one else in there.

“It’s... ” He looked across at the Tok’ra doctor who was monitoring his progress.

“Dr. Jackson, how do you feel?”

“Um, great, like it was all some weird dream... um,” his voice trailed off. “Jack?”

“Our bio-sensors are reading normal, you will be fine,” the doctor replied.

“Yes, um, good... what about Colonel O’Neill?” Daniel insisted, sitting up.

“I’m sorry, we have no news, your Colonel was returned to Earth,” the Tok’ra responded.

“Um, right, could you take me to the Stargate?” Daniel asked, standing, somewhat shakily at first. He paused, looking quizzically at the Tok’ra physician.

“I have, so many questions,” he gushed, waving his finger in time with his speech.  “But, um, that can wait!”

“I will find Selmak,” the physician informed him.

“No! I don’t need permission, I want to go home, now!” Daniel’s tone sharper, he shook his head. “I’m, er, sorry. I don’t mean to appear ungrateful... I really am, it’s just...”

“I understand Dr. Jackson, your friend!”

“Yes, um, thank you!”

 

The Tok’ra led Jackson toward the Stargate, Jacob Carter, having just arrived there himself, turned, looking at the archaeologist. “Daniel!” he announced.

“Jacob, I really need to go back to Earth, can you help?” Jackson asked.

“Sure, I’m heading there myself, how are you feeling?” Jacob enquired, as he entered the coordinates.

“I’m fine, I’m a little queasy I guess, is the right word, but basically, myself, thanks!”

“Good, because I’m going to need your help!” Jacob intoned.

“Jack?”

“In a manner of speaking,” the Tok’ra liaison confirmed.

Ww..hy?” Daniel’s stutter bringing immediate regard from Jacob.

“Because apparently he’s still up for court martial,” he replied honestly. “George was shocked at the condition of Colonel O’Neill, Daniel, and he’s well, I gather he feels the only way to prevent Jack from killing himself out there, is to deny him access!”

Daniel’s face was masked with disdain, anguish. “What?”

“Yeah, I know, so if you think you can argue his corner, and keep a level head?”

Jacob asked. “I think I could use your help!”

“Yes, I mean, he can’t do that. Jacob, I couldn’t reach Jack, not after they’d put that damn snake in my head. He was, he cut off,” Daniel’s tone laced with concern.

“That’s understandable, he perceived you as a Goa’uld,” Jacob responded, as the event horizon splashed out before them.

“No! I mean, I couldn’t get through to his mind, it was like a brick wall, he wouldn’t respond!” Daniel explained.

Jacob nodded, sending the code through. “Well, under the circumstances, I guess he probably couldn’t hear you, his mind must have been in turmoil, and in those situations, special ops training kicks in, shutdown! You concentrate on one thing and just block out the rest of the world.”

The two men emerged through the gate side by side. Hammond waited in the control room. His eyebrows drawing down into a frown as he saw Jackson, staring up at him, that almost accusatory expression leaving him in little doubt why they were there.

 

 

Without waiting the general turned and headed for his office. Daniel Jackson was one member of SG1 that he knew he most definitely could not order to stand down.

“Dr. Jackson, may I remind you of my words before you left this base?” Hammond snarled. “I thought they were quite clear!”

“Um, yes, I remember them well, you threatened to fire me, and have Jack and Sam sent to court martial, and I can understand what would make you say that sir, but to actually carry this through?” Daniel’s tone was measured, reasonable, and in spite of his strong feelings at that particular moment, respectful.

Jacob allowing the archaeologist to take the lead, since he reasoned, that his plea would be far more passionate!

“But!” Jackson continued, before Hammond had a chance. “The point is sir, that Jack didn’t have a choice, if he hadn’t trusted you he wouldn’t have been confined in a cell, along with Hathor, and she might have just destroyed the base. That is right isn’t it General?” Daniel offered, again, without pause to allow Hammond to verbally respond. “And, then he’d be compromised knowing that Apophis had his child. What you really ought to remember sir, he was in this position trying to serve the SGC and the Tok’ra in the first place.”

Hammond nodded. “Dr. Jackson, I know that, but Colonel O’Neill...”

“Might never recover from knowing his second child is dead sir, do you really want to put him through that too? If he recovers I mean?”

Hammond took a sharp, deep breath. “Dr. Jackson, you make a very good argument!” he said. “But I have to look at the bigger picture here, and quite clearly Colonel O’Neill is beyond reproach for his actions, but, he is also dangerously close to a suicide mission, and I can’t allow that!”

Daniel looked at Jacob Carter, his hands out stretched. “So what am I supposed to say to that?” he asked. “That I agree with you? I don’t, I know Jack better than anyone else... and if he isn’t completely screwed up by this, he’ll come out of it ten times stronger, and much more of a threat to the Goa’uld than he ever was.  General please, give him a chance, please?” he implored.

Jacob nodded. “George, I think he’s right, Colonel O’Neill might be difficult at times, and he probably disobeys orders more than anyone in your command, but he’s the greatest asset you have, his resolve, his knowledge, don’t can him because you think you’ll be doing him a favour!”

Hammond stared at the Tok’ra liaison. “I haven’t put in my report yet Jacob,” he confessed. “But Jack’s actions put his entire team at risk, and I can’t allow that to go unpunished,” he sighed. “So, if Colonel O’Neill makes it through rehabilitation, I am going to suspend him as command of SG1, and insist that he undergoes psychological evaluation for a period of not less than six weeks. Pending a positive response, I’ll consider reinstating him to that command.”

Daniel shook his head. “Harsh!” he intoned, biting his bottom lip to curb his response.

“But fair!” Jacob asserted. “And Sam?”

“She was following orders, given to her by a superior officer,” Hammond concluded. “Now if that’s all Dr. Jackson?”

“Yes, um, thank you,” the archaeologist replied, although there was little gratitude in those words. He left the room immediately, leaving Jacob with a smile on his face.

“Something amusing?” Hammond enquired.

“You know, for a civilian, that kid displays a remarkable tactical approach!” he opined. “I wish I could say that I commanded as much loyalty and respect from the men that served under me, as Jack O’Neill does!”

Hammond returned the gesture. “Jack’s certainly got loyalty from all his people,” he concurred.

 

“Daniel Jackson!” Teal’c greeted, as the archaeologist strode toward him.

“Teal’c.”

“It is good to see you are yourself again!” the Jaffa acknowledged.

“Yes, um, how’s he doing?” Nodding toward the door of the OR.

“They have been in there for over four hours,” Teal’c observed.

“Yeah, I know,” Daniel responded. “The injuries were pretty severe, so what’s going on? I mean, anything else I should know about?”

“Indeed,” Teal’c replied.

His clothing, still the robes he had worn in the rescue, soaked in blood. “The Tok’ra have sent one of their scientists to assist with O’Neill’s rehabilitation,” he told Jackson. “And he is under arrest!”

“I know, but um, it’s temporary,” Jackson replied, looking suddenly intrigued. “A Tok’ra scientist?”

“Yes, they believe that the Tau’ri are not equipped to deal with O’Neill,” the Jaffa explained.

Jackson’s cynical regard not lost on the Jaffa. “I’ll just bet!” he opined, as suspicious of the Tok’ra agenda as O’Neill.

“Indeed,” Teal’c, reverting to his normally laconic self, retorted, the glimmer of a smile crossing his eyes.

“So, you’re,” Jackson paused. “Would you like to um, take a shower, and get some coffee, maybe something to eat?”

Teal’c glanced at the archaeologist. “No, I am fine,” he responded.

“Teal’c,” Jackson’s eyes showing reticence. “Standing out here isn’t going to make a difference, and, well you’re covered in Jack’s blood,” he added with disdain.

Teal’c looked down at his clothing. His right eyebrow cocked high. “I can see,” he agreed, ceding then and following the archaeologist.

 

Janet checked O’Neill’s vital signs. The operation to remove the twine from his wrists had been successful, and the infection, low level, treated with antibiotics.

Still in her scrubs, she sat beside the colonel’s bed.

“Doctor Fraiser?” Hammond asked, as he entered the room.

“General, he’s doing okay,” she replied, standing and facing him.

“When will he be conscious?” Hammond enquired, venturing closer.

“Hard to say sir, he’s pretty medicated, I was hoping once the anaesthesia wore off, within an hour or so?” she guessed.

O’Neill had been unconscious when he’d been returned to her care, possibly through blood loss, or the incredible pain he must have been in.

“He’s got multiple contusions of the abdomen, chest, arms, face, and some extensive bruising around the ribs sir, the blunt trauma wounds to his face and head aren’t as serious as they appear to be, but the reddening on his forehead would indicate that a ribbon device, or other powerful energy had been applied. But his EEG is all clear,” she stated. “We’ve stitched him up, removed the twine that was embedded into his wrists, given him a blood transfusion, and medicated with antibiotics, and adrenalin, he’s running a high temperature, which is to be expected, but his blood pressure is stabilizing now, and he has normal synapse rhythm,” Fraiser concluded. “Basically sir, we’ve done all we can!”

“Call me when he comes too Doctor,” Hammond instructed.

“Yes sir.”

 

*****

 

Daniel sat opposite Teal’c in the commissary, the two men silent as they finished a light meal, and washed it down with coffee.

“So, I guess they ought to be finished by now?” Jackson surmised.

“Then perhaps we should attend the infirmary,” Teal’c agreed.

“Yes, exactly what I was thinking,” Daniel opined, although his concentration in that sentence wasn’t total.

“Daniel Jackson?”

“Teal’c?” Jackson responded, head inclined to the right as he regarded the Jaffa.

“Something troubles you?”

“Um, yes, um actually,” Daniel replied, “Teal’c, I’m just wondering what the Tok’ra are really after here?” he questioned. “And I’m betting it’s only partly to do with helping Jack!”

“As am I,” the Jaffa agreed.

“So, maybe we should make sure that Jack’s never left alone?” Jackson suggested. “We’ll um, take it in turns?”

“Indeed,” Teal’c concluded.

 

Jack opened his eyes, looking up into the dull lights above him. He felt someone move beside him, but he couldn’t be sure, not until the pressure of their touch on his arm.

“Colonel?” Fraiser coaxed. “Nice to have you back sir.”

O’Neill didn’t recognise her, but she was wearing scrubs, field scrubs maybe.

“Colonel?” He repeated. “Doctor, I’m a Captain!”

Fraiser’s eyes widened, a heavy sigh. “Okay, sir, well, you’re in the infirmary, you’ve been wounded pretty badly, but we’re taking care of you.” She chose her words carefully, concerned not to traumatize him. Clearly, what ever had happened, however the Goa’uld had tortured him, had sent him into some kind of mental relapse.

“Try to rest sir,” she urged.

 

Daniel and Teal’c entered cautiously. “Dr Fraiser, how’s he doing?” Daniel asked.

Fraiser turned, lifting the phone from its cradle. “Just a minute Dr. Jackson,” she said. “General, sir, he’s awake.” She almost whispered into the phone now, alerting Jackson’s curiosity immediately. “Sir, he thinks he’s a Captain!” she said.

“I’ll be right down Doctor,” Hammond told her.

“Um, Janet?” Daniel probed, his eyebrows dancing on his forehead. “A captain?”

“Dr. Jackson, can we take this outside?” Janet asked, seeing O’Neill attempting to look at these two new visitors, complete strangers to him.

“Um, sure... what’s going on?” he asked, as they managed a discreet distance.

“I think he’s lost his recent memory,” Janet explained, conscious to choose her words carefully.  “It’s not unusual for someone who’s suffered as much physical and emotional trauma as the Colonel has, to block it all out.”

Daniel looked surprised. “But a captain?” he repeated incredulously.  “I mean, how long ago was that exactly?”

Janet shook her head. “I don’t know, I don’t have access to Colonel O’Neill’s personal records Dr. Jackson.”

Hammond joined them then. “Sir, I think he’s suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome, of a sort,” she ventured.

“General Hammond sir, how long ago, exactly was Jack a captain?” Jackson enquired.

“Approximately ten, maybe twelve years ago,” Hammond responded.

“Will Colonel O’Neill recover his memory?” Teal’c asked.

“Well,” Janet said, caution in her tone.  “Generally, I would say, yes, but we have no way of predicting it Teal’c, some amnesia patients never recover their memories.”

Jackson looked sceptical. “So what do we do?”

“For now, we try not to disturb him, allow him to begin the healing process, but this really isn’t my area of expertise, sir,” she addressed Hammond now. “We should probably call in Dr. Kennedy, he would be in a much better position to offer a prognosis!”

“I’ll see to it right away Doctor, do all you can to make him comfortable, and Doctor?”

“Sir?”

“Colonel O’Neill is off bounds to everyone except Dr. Jackson,” Hammond intoned, looking apologetically at Teal’c. “I’m sorry Teal’c, but your appearance might cause him alarm!”

“I understand General Hammond,” Teal’c replied, bowing his head. “I will remain here!”

Hammond nodded. “Thank you Teal’c, Dr. Jackson, see that you don’t do anything to make the Colonel uncomfortable, for now, until Dr. Kennedy is able to make an assessment, if the Colonel believes he’s a captain, then he is one!”

“Yes, I understand sir,” Jackson replied. “A captain!”

 

Daniel approached the bed with a degree of trepidation. It was almost like he was about to meet Jack O’Neill again, for the first time. Nervous about O’Neill’s response, he tried to prepare himself for the worst.

The colonel’s eyes were still wide open, as wide as the swelling allowed.

“Um, hello Jack, how are you feeling?” Jackson enquired, a little dubious, anxious to give a good impression.

“Well,” Jack answered, looking curiously at Jackson for a moment. “Are you an officer?” he asked.

“Um, no, I’m a...” Daniel looked at Fraiser.

“Doctor?” she offered, a shrug.

“Yes, I’m a doctor,” Daniel concurred.

“Doc,” O’Neill’s tone a little stronger now. “What the heck happened?”

Daniel took a deep breath, looking over at Fraiser for guidance. “Um, a, you were wounded Jack,” he confirmed.

“Great! Who got me out? Is Major Cromwell here? Did he make it?” Jack asked.

Daniel, once more perplexed. Janet joined him. “I’m afraid we don’t know sir.”

 

Jack’s expression askant then, concern crept across his brow. “I don’t know this place,” he asserted, wincing.  “And why do you keep calling me sir, ma’am, since you’re a Major?”

Daniel’s eyebrows shot into his forehead, turning away from O’Neill, looking at Fraiser.

“Well, that’s because I’m from the South, it’s not rank, Captain, it’s um, it’s a term.” Janet laid her accent on a little thicker, Jackson beaming at her.

“Oh yeah, I believe that, good um, save!” he whispered.

Janet shrugged once more, her lips pursing together. “Gee, thanks Doc!”

“Um, ma’am?” Jack’s tone now a little more confused. “I need to speak to my chain of command.”

“Well, um, Captain for now I’d just like you to rest, and that’s an order!” Janet insisted, looking slightly reticent then, adding for good measure. “Doctor’s orders!”

Jack O’Neill nodded. “Yes ma’am, thank you,” he replied.

 

As Janet and Daniel went into a huddle, O’Neill watched them suspiciously. The slip told him everything. He’d been captured, and they intended to trick him into revealing his mission, and probably the whereabouts of his team. They didn’t fool him for a moment. He allowed his eyes to close then, just for a moment, he told himself, before drifting back into unconsciousness.

 

Dr. Fraiser checked over the charts, standing at the foot of the colonel’s bed, she glanced up at him. His almost unrecognisable appearance making her flinch, a cold shiver running down her spine.

“I’d never have known that was the same man,” she opined to Jackson, who maintained a silent vigil.

“I know,” Daniel responded, the frown deepening.

“Are you okay Dr. Jackson?” she enquired then, watching the sorrow ebb across his features.

His eyes flicked across to her, the intended smile little more than a grimace. “Yes, I’m fine, I don’t really remember that much about... anything,” he confessed. He stared down at O’Neill, the colonel still slept, ten hours, Jackson looked at his watch.

“You know,” Fraiser stated, “you really should get some sleep too Daniel, you must be exhausted. I’ll stay with him,” she offered.

Jackson shook his head silently, leaning back into the chair, emitting a heavy sigh from his lips. “It’s okay, I’ve been getting some rest, even if it is intermittent, I’ll be fine,” he said, taking his glasses off, his hand sweeping across his face. “I don’t really feel right about leaving right now.”

Fraiser nodded. “Well okay, then I insist that you at least try to sleep a little, even if it has to be in that chair!”

“Okay! I’ll, do you have a spare gurney by any chance?” he asked then, looking toward the doctor, her image distorted to the archaeologist both from lack of sleep, and his eye glasses, which he’d discarded to the table beside Jack.

 

“Right behind you!” Janet told him.

“Thank you.” Standing now, directing his words more than his vision toward her. “I don’t agree with Dr. Kennedy’s assessment,” he stated. “Did you read Jack’s file?”

“Um, no, I wasn’t given access, you?” Fraiser was intrigued, O’Neill’s files were full of omissions; from 1980 through to 1991 the colonel’s activities had been classified. Very few people saw past those seals, it appeared Jackson had.

“Some of it, mostly from 80-85, since we can’t be sure which period he’s in exactly!”

Daniel told her.

“You’re kidding?” The doctor surprised. “Everything?”

“Um, well no, they basically gave me limited details of his movements, who his team members were, okay yeah, General Hammond gave me total access!” Jackson confessed, never good at deceit.  “But that’s between us okay? I don’t really think I was meant to see that much!”

Something in his regard, the tone of his voice, told Fraiser that perhaps what Jackson had seen was a little more disturbing than he’d found comfortable.

“Of course,” she replied. “You’d better get some rest, he’ll be awake soon!”

 

Jackson laid his head down, and almost instantly he was sleeping. A disturbed sleep. The images of the Goa’uld symbiote flashed through his subconscious mind.

Breaking out into a sweat, and breathing heavily, Janet put the charts down and made her way toward him.

“I don’t think the Colonel’s the only one with post traumatic stress,” she said, her voice almost a whisper.

“Doc?” Jack’s voice.

“Hey!” she greeted, a smile sweeping her face, taking his hand as he reached out to her. “How’s our patient doing?”

“Pain, I’m, where am I?” he asked.

“You’re in the infirmary, airman,” Fraiser said, careful not to give too much distinction to his rank.

“What happened?”

“It’s very late, you should try to sleep some more,” Fraiser urged.

“I’m not tired, my team ma’am?” His memory clearly still that of being a subordinate to Fraiser’s rank.

“They all survived airman, now really, you should try to sleep,” her tone softer. “I’ll bring you something for the pain, okay?”

“Thank you ma’am,” Jack replied, his eyes already beginning to close.

Daniel woke with a start, getting his bearings quickly; he looked across at the colonel. Still sleeping. 08:30, his watch read.

 

Hammond had arrived at the SGC a little earlier than normal. Concerned with the welfare of his charges, he’d found himself unable to accomplish a complete night’s rest, deciding that it would be more productive to be on hand. Having put in another call for Dr. Mark Kennedy to attend, he’d discovered to his chagrin that the one man who held clearance and qualification, was in Europe on a course.

Against his better judgment, he’d decided to allow the Tok’ra Asuuf to act as an advisor, and perhaps make assessment on how best to proceed with O’Neill’s rehabilitation. A decision he knew would be very unpopular with both Fraiser and Jackson.

He waited now at the foot of the Stargate, as Major Carter, Major Davis, and Jacob emerged through the event horizon.

 

“General, sir,” Davis greeted.

“Major Carter, I’d like to speak to you in my office, if you’ll excuse us, Jacob,” Hammond said, a little more abrupt in manner than usual. He departed leaving the Tok’ra liaison with Davis.

 

Carter shrugged, following the general from the embarkation room. She had hoped that she’d be able to see O’Neill and Jackson before being brought to task about her actions.

 

Jacob Carter watched her leave with a mixture of trepidation and pride. That she had once more survived a close encounter with the worst foe that Earth had ever faced was a source of pride - the trepidation, she’d disobeyed a direct order, and thus violated her position.

He couldn’t help but wonder what her punishment would be, and although he knew, from his days within the military machine, that such punishment was deserved, he couldn’t help but feel that in Sam’s case, the circumstances were mitigating enough to warrant a pardon.

 

“Close the door Major,” Hammond instructed. “And take a seat!”

“Yes sir,” she responded. She felt tense, perhaps more than she thought she would.

“I guess you know why we’re here?” Hammond enquired of her.

“I think so sir.”

“Good, then I’d like to remind you of something else Major,” his regard intense.

“Sir, before you say anything, permission to speak?” Sam requested.

“Go ahead Major.”

“Sir, I’d like to clarify that in no way was Colonel O’Neill responsible for my actions...”

“Okay, stop right there Major Carter, and listen to me very carefully,” he advised. A nod from Carter, apprehensively she did as ordered. “Colonel O’Neill is not going to be put up for court martial, therefore you have no need to try and shield him from anything other than a good old fashioned lecture, which I fully intend to give him, the reason I asked you in here Major, is that we have a very specific problem!”

Carter’s eyes both relieved and then intrigued. She leant forward in her chair, regarding the general. “Problem sir?”

 

Fraiser and Jackson both looked at the monitors. “He’s back to normal in every other sense,” she said. “We’ve just got to give him time.”

“Janet, I’m sensing he doesn’t need time, he’s got to deal with this right now!” Daniel argued.

“Daniel, neither of us is qualified to make that kind of decision. Until Dr. Kennedy gets here, we’re simply holding the fort,” she responded firmly.

“You don’t understand!” Jackson insisted, his urgency borne out of his past knowledge of O’Neill’s mindset when he’d lost his son.

The frustration of being unable to communicate those fears to her in a way that might better make her understand his agitated state, simply adding to his already overwhelmed senses.

He looked across at Jack, gesturing. “It’s my fault,” he said. “If I’d been able to stop him from... God!” Jackson’s exasperation, the pounding headache from lack of sleep, and very possibly the remnants of his battle with a Goa’uld symbiote, was making him very volatile.

“Dr. Jackson, Daniel,” Fraiser’s tone lowered, soothing. “Colonel O’Neill is not going to just snap out of wherever he is because we want it to happen, and blaming yourself will just add to the problem,” she insisted.

Daniel nodded. “I know, it’s just all of this is so senseless, it could have been prevented.”

He looked at O’Neill’s face. The swelling was beginning to go from around his eyes, but the image was still one that brought back the feelings of helplessness he’d felt at seeing his friend so tortured, both mentally and physically, that he needed to find a way to be in control.

Everything had become so distorted, so complex, that he’d began to wonder how any of them had maintained any level of sanity.

They’d been tested to the very limits of their endurance, and Jack would say that they survived, but his confusion, the fact that once more he was powerless to deal with a problem, resonated around his mind. He needed to find a way to snatch back some semblance of normality, seeing his friend lost in another lifetime didn’t offer any such relief.

As far as Jack O’Neill was concerned, it was 1980...something, he was a member of an elite covert special operations team, in the employ of the United States Air Force. Jackson knew he was in a comfortable place, without memories of the tragedies that had beset him in those years he had chosen to suppress, yet, that felt like a loss to the archaeologist too, the Goa’uld robbing him of his mind, taking control, taking away everything.

 

O’Neill moved then, moaning to himself, Jackson immediately going to his bedside.

“Hi Jack,” Daniel smiled, as he opened his eyes.

“Doc!” Jack, his voice a little hoarse from his long nap, replied, a weary glance at the archaeologist. “Can I get a glass of water?” he asked.

Fraiser indicated for Jackson to stay put, making her way to the water cooler in the corner.

“Feeling any better Jack?” Daniel enquired, intentionally using the colonel’s name in a familiar way, hoping to jog his memory.

“A little, head’s hurting!” he observed, wincing. “So, what exactly happened to me?”

“Well,” Daniel began, if a little apprehensively. “You were captured by the enemy, and basically tortured, we managed to get a team in to rescue you.”

“What happened to Lt. Andrews and Major Cromwell, did they make it out in one piece?” Jack enquired. “Where are my team?”

Jackson looked a little exasperated. He knew exactly what mission O’Neill was talking about now, one in which both O’Neill and Cromwell had narrowly avoided capture in the Balkans, spending three weeks in some of the roughest weather that region had to offer. O’Neill had taken a bullet to the shoulder, whilst Cromwell had broken his ankle in a fall.

“Yes, Jack, they both made it out okay, don’t you remember?” Daniel enquired.

“Sorry,” Jack’s voice lowered now, accepting the beaker of water from Fraiser. “Thank you ma’am.”

“So, um, Jack do you remember anything else?” Daniel enquired. “I mean, me specifically, Dr. Fraiser?”

The trigger went then. The interrogation was beginning. “Nope, don’t recognise either of you!”

Daniel looked at him, that sounded more like the O’Neill he knew.

“What’s your area Doc?” O’Neill queried.

“My area?” Daniel asked.

“Yeah, what do you do, I mean, you’re not in the military right?” Jack persisted. “So you’re what? Surgeon?”

“I’m a, well,” he looked at Fraiser then.

“Colonel,” she said.

“Colonel?” Jack remarked. He looked from one to the other. “I thought you weren’t in the military Doc?

“I’m not in the military, and she wasn’t talking to me,” Daniel sighed. “Dr. Fraiser, this is ridiculous, we can’t go on pretending he’s not Jack, and play along with it!”

“What?” Jack’s eyes expanded, causing him to flinch.

“Dr. Jackson!” Fraiser snapped.

“Look, I don’t think it’s going to do him any good to languish in the past,” Jackson snapped, turning toward O’Neill once more. “Jack listen to me, I’m Daniel Jackson, I’m an archaeologist, a member of your team, and I’d um, like to think, your friend for the past four and a half years. You’re not a Captain, you’re a Colonel, Colonel Jack O’Neill, SG1, you think it’s 1984 right?" Jackson offered.

Jack tried to sit up, he was sure of it now. “This is bullshit, you’re not getting into my head that way either!” he warned. “Damn communists!”

Jackson looked at Fraiser. “Communists?”

“Dr. Jackson, if you’re unable to handle this, then I must insist you leave,” Janet intoned.

“Oh come on, he already thinks we’re the enemy, or didn’t you realise that?” Daniel enquired. “You haven’t seen his file Doctor.  Jack? Come on, don’t hide there, you don’t need to hide, you can deal with this Jack, I know you can!”

O’Neill’s eyes closed. “I’m not listening to this,” he insisted.

Jackson’s frustration overwhelming him, he leant closer to O’Neill.

“You’re hiding in there, just like you did when the Goa’uld got into my head Jack, Heru’ur has you brainwashed, come on?” Daniel implored, repeatedly saying the colonel’s name hoping that his voice would suddenly become vernacular. “Think!”

“Is he nuts?” Jack demanded. “Just what kind of an idiot do you take me for?”

Daniel raised both of his eyebrows in unison, gawping at the colonel.

“Usually, just the dense kind, but this is giving me a whole other perspective!” Daniel replied.

“You’re nuts if you think I’m gonna fall for this reverse psychology bullshit!!” Jack snapped. Looking across at Fraiser. “Is this your idea of disorientating the enemy? ‘Cause let me tell you, you’re not gonna get one damn thing out of me, no matter how much you screw with my head, or torture me, is that clear enough for ya?”

“Daniel, that’s it, out!” Fraiser ordered.

Daniel stared at O’Neill. “Jack please?” he pleaded, O’Neill looking at him with disdain.

“That guys a damn fruit loop!” he snarled.

Jackson looked at Fraiser. “I’m sorry, I just don’t believe we should be doing this, it’s not exactly going to help him in the long run is it?” he argued.

Jack looked across at Fraiser, then back to Jackson. “Are you people cracked?” His disorientation helped by the pain. “I don’t have to tell you squat.”

“Daniel you’re not helping here, please go!” Fraiser insisted.

“Why, so Jack can spend the next God knows however long wallowing in his past?”

Jackson was adamant, he didn’t understand why Fraiser, couldn’t see it.

“Okay, that’s it!” Janet snapped. “Guards!”

Daniel held up his hands. “Okay, fine, I’m leaving,” he conceded. He turned and glanced back at O’Neill. “Jack, I’ll see you later.”

“Hey, two years from now would be good Danny boy!” O’Neill retorted.

Jackson stopped. “Danny?” he enquired.

“Your name is Daniel right?” O’Neill asked, looking back at Fraiser. “Right?”

“Yes, it is, Daniel please?” Fraiser insisted.

“Going!” Daniel conceded.

 

“Daniel Jackson, how is O’Neill?” Teal’c enquired.

Jackson shook his head. “Still in Never Never land Teal’c!” A reply the Jaffa would not understand. Jackson stopped, looking round at him. “It’s in a children’s fable, story, Peter Pan, he never grows up, so it’s... yeah!” The archaeologist shrugged.

“I’ll be in my lab if anyone needs me!”

 

Carter looked stunned. “A captain sir?”

Hammond nodded, a heavy sigh pursing his lips. “Yes Major, according to Dr. Kennedy, it’s a mind thing!” The general unsure of the technical terminology that Kennedy had told him over the phone.

“Oh, yes sir, I know what it is, selective amnesia. It’s caused by either a knock on the head, or post-traumatic stress mostly, but there are a number of other factors too. Colonel O’Neill’s mind has taken refuge in the past sir, in order to block out the pain in the present,” she explained.

“Good, I’m glad you know what it is,” Hammond sighed. “Dr. Jackson believes that we should attempt to stimulate the colonel into remembering who he is!” Hammond responded. “So I need someone who is willing to hold the fort until Dr. Kennedy can take over.”

“Well sir, I’d go along with that actually,” Carter contested. “If the Colonel becomes too comfortable, or isolated, he might not be able to remember.”

“So you think Dr. Jackson is right?”

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea to allow the Colonel to carry on indefinitely in the past sir,” she stated, running her hands through her hair then, as she thought.  “It’s not exactly my area of expertise, but, Daniel might be the only one who can get through to the Colonel, especially since they have that connection from the Sengo’lians sir.”

Hammond considered it for a moment; ultimately he’d had faith in both Jackson and Carter before in times of crisis. “What do you suggest major?”

Carter sat down, giving due thought to the process of jogging memories. “Well for starters sir, I’d suggest that as soon as the Colonel is well enough, he be allowed to go home, if what you’re saying about his belief that he’s in an enemy facility is true sir, then that might help persuade him otherwise!”

“Major, without knowing what might happen if Colonel O’Neill recovers those memories, allowing him off this base is strictly out of the question!”

“With respect sir, I think we can handle it, I know that both Teal’c and Daniel would be willing to take responsibility for the Colonel’s safety, and if you’re still not satisfied with that sir, post some SFs. Have the Colonel’s house put under surveillance,” she argued. “Sir, I just think that if we want Colonel O’Neill back, we’re going to have to make a few concessions.”

“I’ll take that under advisement Major, dismissed,” Hammond replied.

“Yes sir,” Carter turned as if to leave, then paused, looking back at the general over her shoulder. “And, um, thank you sir!”

Hammond knew she referred to his change of heart over the court martial threats to both her and O’Neill. A nod, and a smile.

 

“Look!” Jack protested. “I know who you folks are, and a little thing like telling me I’m in some damn base in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado? No, that’s not really going to convince me Doc, Major, who ever the hell you are?”

“Captain, what if I told you that the General has agreed to allow you to go home, once your injuries are healed enough to travel?” Fraiser enquired.

Jack stared at her dubiously. “Yeah right!” he retorted. “Playing with my mind isn’t going to get you squat!”

Fraiser sighed heavily. Sam entered, a little apprehensively not knowing what to expect at that point.

“So Colonel?” She addressed him straight away. “Losing your mind sir?”

Jack stared at her in disbelief. “Oh for crying out loud!” he exclaimed. “Here we go, round two is it? Send in the seduction team?”

Carter raised her eyebrows, looking across at Janet. “Seduction team?” she remarked, her attention returned to O’Neill then. “Sir, I know you’re confused, and you’re hurting. But you have to believe us, you’re suffering from memory loss due to some pretty traumatic things that have happened to you,” Carter insisted, keeping eye contact with him.

“So what you’re the proof?” O’Neill demanded in disgust. “They send another beautiful woman in here, and between you, you think you can get into my head?” A cynical look then. “Or should that be bed?” he charged. “Not gonna happen!”

Fraiser looked at Sam. “Well, he’s definitely not himself!” she opined, realising that Carter must have had some kind of sanction to follow through on Jackson’s theory.

“He thinks we’re the enemy.”

“No! I don’t think,” O’Neill countered scornfully.

“So you think we’re here to seduce you soldier?” Sam asked.

“The thought had crossed my mind,” Jack replied dubiously, looking slightly concerned now.  “But! It’s not gonna work, see I am so on to you!” he insisted.

“What both of us?” Janet asked, surprised. “Men!”

Carter couldn’t help but grin. “New one on me,” she agreed.

“Oh yes!” Jack intoned. “It’s not gonna work ladies!”

“So, Colonel, have you actually looked in the mirror lately?” Sam asked, a reference more to his age than his appearance.

“What’s that got to do with anything?” Jack spat.

“Sir, you’re not exactly where you think you are!” Carter insisted. “It’s not 1980, whatever, and you’re not in spec ops anymore.”

“Done your homework?” Jack enquired. “Hey, I’m impressed, and since I’m not exactly involved in a war here, I guess I don’t need to give you my name, rank and serial number either!”

Janet raised her eyebrows. “No Colonel, you’d be treated as a spy, and we’d be within our rights to shoot you, but we’re not going to do that.”

Jack stared at her, his eyes searching. She looked familiar, both of them did, but it seemed almost like a trick, some kind of elaborate mind control maybe.

“I guess you don’t want to go home then? See if that helps jog your memories?” Carter enquired.

“What back to Chicago? Nope!” Jack replied. “And don’t even pretend you have any intention of taking me there anyway.” He looked away, a heavy sigh. “And, oh, by the way? Your accents are pretty darn good!”

“Accents?” Fraiser enquired.

Sam shook her head. “He said communists earlier right?” she asked.

“Yes he did,” Janet confirmed.

“Probably thinks we’re Russian then!” Sam replied, raising her eyebrows. “Sir, do I look Russian to you?”

“I’m not saying another damn thing!” Jack insisted.

“Okay Colonel, so what do you think we’re gonna do to you?” Fraiser asked, laying her accent on a little thick, and slowly moving toward him.

 

Jack looked at her, his eyes, already difficult to see, narrowing. “I’m... not sure...” He sounded dubious, yet not intimidated. “I guess some mind bending drugs, a little seduction, so, go ahead, I’m not falling for any of it, torture me!” he advised glibly, waving them off.  “I don’t care!”

Sam couldn’t help but smile, prompting Janet to giggle.

“He is kinda cute like that,” Janet said. “All flustered and vulnerable.”

“Yeah,” Sam agreed, an amused expression adorning her elfin like features. “Maybe we should just forget about this whole fixing him thing, and leave him the way he is, he’d have to follow our orders for starters!”

“Yeah, true, and think of all those times he’s been mean, insulted us, been a bad patient?  Actually I could live with this,” Janet agreed.

Jack’s quizzical expression, his eyebrows foisted up over the swollen eyes, looked slightly comical.

“Nope!” he crossed his arms now, folding them in gently. “Still not buying it!”

Janet leant closer to Sam. “You know, I get the feeling our Captain’s being a bit of a flirt here? Assuming we’re going to seduce him, I mean if he’s that confident, what makes him think we’d stand a chance?”

Sam kept a straight face. “Oh, you think he thinks we’re going to? Really?” Her eyes widening. “Wow! Got a high opinion of yourself there airman!”

Jack closed his eyes shaking his head. “I’m not listening,” he insisted, glancing across at Carter. “Don’t think this is the first time either!”

“He’s not listening! Now that’s sounding more like the Colonel O’Neill I know?” Janet joked. “Not the first time? How many times have you been seduced by Russian spies Colonel?”

Jack looked away, obviously not willing to participate in further dialogue.

“Okay, maybe we should be serious for a minute?” Sam suggested. “Since the Captain isn’t buying our act!”

“Nope! I don’t think he is, he seriously thinks we’re trying to get inside his mind!” Janet concurred.

 

Daniel walked in at that moment, looking curiously from one to the other.

“General Hammond said we’re changing tact?”

“Daniel, thank God!” Jack exclaimed loudly.

The archaeologist looking at him inquisitively. “Jack?”

“Look, these two women, well they’re,” he looked dubiously at Jackson,

“Women?” Jackson looked toward them. “What are you doing?” he asked.

“We’re trying to tell the Colonel here, that he’s a Colonel, but he’s not buying it!” Sam told him. “Apparently we’re just the window dressing in this whole facade!”

“Right!” Daniel responded. “Jack, you can order both of them to leave, if they’re bothering you!”

“Now, see, this isn’t going to work!” O’Neill intoned, raising his hand, flinching at the pain in the movement of his wrist.

“Colonel, are you in pain sir?” Fraiser asked.

Jack looked perplexed. “Please stop calling me that Doc!” he implored.

“Jack, you are a Colonel, and I know it’s really confusing for you right now, but you and I, we’ve known each other for nearly five years!” Jackson told him, sensing that maybe confusion would ultimately break through the latest O’Neill defence system.

Even if this one was more elaborate than those the archaeologist had faced in the past.

“Please stop trying to mess with my head Daniel,” Jack remonstrated, “It’s bad enough having to listen to you yapping on... ” He stopped in mid sentence, looking at Jackson. “Why the hell did I say that?”

“Because you know we can communicate using telepathy Jack,” Daniel told him, looking at the colonel’s bemused expression, his own features bearing a grimace. “And, that’s probably a little more information than you can handle right now, but, it is true Jack,” Daniel’s smile as warm as he could muster.

“Telepathy?” Jack looked completely bewildered. “Okay, see now I know you’re nuts!” Jack sighed. “Doc, could I get some painkillers or something? My head is kinda aching right now.”

“Right away, Colonel,” Janet responded.

“Sir?” Sam approached him, her eyes fixed on his. She wanted so much to be able to reach out to him, the way she had on Nyerti’s planet, only without the backlash of her emotions clouding the issue. It wasn’t about what she felt anymore, it was about what the colonel had been through, that, more than anything else weighed on her mind. She wanted to be the one that could find a way in, to break down that intricate wall of isolation he’d constructed.

He stared at her, still unfamiliar with her appearance.

“What?”

“I’d like to tell you that this is all an elaborate scheme to make you give up your mission details,” she smiled at him. “But it’s really not, sir, and to prove it we could probably bring you a copy of your entire file, including when you retired from active duty, but, I think you’re going to take some time to let go of all that fear and pain, and I just wanted you to know, Colonel, that we’ll be here sir, with you!”

 

O’Neill regarded her, a svelte woman, attractive to look at. Yet it was her eyes that held his attention, and those eyes seemed so sincere.

“Thank you, Carter!” he said.

“What?” Jackson leaping on it immediately.

“What?” O’Neill echoed.

“Sir, I never told you my name?” Sam ventured.

“What the hell is going on around here?” Jack demanded. “Why can’t you people just leave me the hell alone?”

Jackson immediately sensing that presence he felt when O’Neill’s mind so easily penetrated his with thoughts, deciding to seize the moment, and push, even if O’Neill looked like he couldn’t take it.

“Jack, just try to focus, you’re a Colonel with the SGC, I’m Daniel, come on Jack?”

“Dr. Jackson, no… he’s, it’s too much for him!” Fraiser cautioned.

“Daniel?” Jack’s voice seemed to have a hint of recognition in it.

“Yes, Jack, it’s me.” Daniel moved closer, his hand resting on Jack’s arm. “Just try to relax, Jack, you’re okay, we got you out of there!”

O’Neill looked distant, his features seemed to contort, yet with injuries that were so pronounced, it was hard to tell.

“Dr. Jackson, please, give him time!” Fraiser urged.

“Janet, you don’t understand,” Daniel turned sharply. “I owe him my life, I’m not going to let him lose everything because of a damn Goa’uld, he’s stronger than that.” He leant down toward O’Neill. “It’s a bad place Jack, I know, but you have to face it. You are Colonel Jack O’Neill, remember Charlie, Jack?”

 

Sam looked across at Janet, indicating that she should back off. “Let him be,” she added, in case that indication wasn’t strong enough.

 

“Come on Jack?” Daniel’s voice was soft, encouraging. “It’s okay, you’re safe, you’re back at the SGC now, you don’t have to do this, Heru’ur’s history!”

“Daniel?” Once more, a hint that the colonel recognised the archaeologist. “Where the hell am I?”

“You’re in the infirmary Jack, at the SGC,” Daniel told him.

“Sleep!” Jack said, moving to lay his head on the pillows.

“No!” Daniel exclaimed loudly, the colonel startling at this sudden aggression. “No you don’t, come on Jack, remember!”

“Leave me alone Daniel,” he warned.

“Oh no, not a chance. Hathor, remember Hathor, Jack? Iceni?”

“Daniel?” Sam called out, seeing, as Janet did, that the overload of information might be harmful.

“Back off!” Jackson warned. “You don’t know him like I do!”

“Daniel, please?” Jack implored. “Don’t make me do this!”

Sam looked surprised, turning to Janet. “It’s working?”

“Why?” Daniel demanded. “Because it hurts? Jack, it’s not going to stop being there to deal with, you have to do this,” he took O’Neill’s hand, lifting it. “See this?”

The bandage on his wrist. “Heru’ur did this.”

 

Sam shook her head, completely amazed that Jackson knew instinctively how far he could push O’Neill toward breaking point. Standing beside Janet.

“You see what I mean?” she intoned.

“Yeah, I do. Makes it hard for you to even get close doesn’t it?” Janet surmised correctly.

“Yeah, I mean look at that, it’s like, it’s a man thing or something,” Sam said.

“You sound almost envious?”

“Wouldn’t you be?” Carter’s regard now completely on the doctor.

“Well, if I worked that closely with them, I guess?”

“It’s not that I think he should automatically respond to me in the same way he does Daniel, I mean, they’ve known each other for a little longer, and being a man, I guess Daniel has a certain advantage, but, even when I thought we were close...” she stopped then.

“What?” Janet encouraged. “Come on Sam this is me, you think I don’t know?”

“He’s really hard,” Sam concluded, shaking her head. She wasn’t willing to impart his actions, the brutality with which he had reacted to her goading him, that was between them, the team, and she had no intention of it going further.

 

Jack’s eyes filled with tears. “Don’t?” he implored.

“Who am I Jack?” Daniel pressed, allowing the colonel’s hand to lie back on the bed.

“Daniel Jackson,” O’Neill replied. “She’s Carter, she’s Fraiser, and I’m a Colonel in the SGC, can I sleep now Daniel? Please?”

Jackson smiled, a huge sigh of relief escaping his lips.

“Daniel we should let him sleep,” Janet told the archaeologist. “Come on, he’s been through enough!”

Jackson looked over his shoulder. “Yeah, okay, I’m staying here,” he replied stubbornly.

“Okay, if he wakes up, or needs anything, call me, I’ll be in my lab,” she conceded. Having gone head to head with Jackson in the past, she knew, like O’Neill, once he’d made up his mind, persuasion wasn’t an option.

 

“I’m gonna stay too!” Sam said, sitting the opposite side of the colonel’s bed.

“Daniel?”

“What?” Daniel asked, clearly deep in thought.

“Are you okay? I never got a chance to see you before you left the Tok’ra base,” she enquired.

“Tired, but that’s about it,” Daniel replied. “You?”

“Exhausted!” she agreed. “I can see why the Colonel values his time off!”

“Yeah, I can too,” he smiled.

“So what happened?” she asked, curious about the ordeal both men had apparently suffered on Heru’ur’s planet.

“Long story!” Daniel replied.

“Daniel, can I ask you something personal?” she enquired.

“Sure, um, why not?” he agreed, a wicked glint in those soft blue eyes. “As long as it isn’t too personal!”

Sam smiled, shaking her head. “You like doing that don’t you?” she asked.

“What?”

“Making me blush,” she replied, a little more honest than she intended to be.

“Well, it has its moments.”

He grinned at her then, forcing the same response. Clearly he enjoyed her company, and that pleased Sam, making a breakthrough of sorts, at least with Jackson.

“Okay, this is gonna sound really odd, but how did you get so close to Colonel? How did you know Daniel?” her eyes lowering, moving away from his as she asked.

“Ah!” Daniel responded. “So, um, what you want to know the secret of unlocking the O’Neill mind?”

“Well not exactly, I just wondered why he was... how come he’ll talk to you about things, and not me?”

“That would be because he’s learned to trust me, which,” his hand instantly shooting up to quell any misunderstanding. “Isn’t to say that he doesn’t trust you, he’s just um, he’s very private, and very loyal!”

“Okay, so you’re his first best friend, is that how it works?” she persisted. “I mean is it a guy thing?”

“Look, Sam, Jack’s, he’s. It’s not my place to discuss him, I’m sorry!” Daniel told her.

“Basically, I saved his life, that’s it, I don’t know why?”

“Right time right place? Come on Daniel, there must have been something else?” she questioned.

“Sure, but nothing I’m willing to discuss,” Daniel concluded.

“Thanks!” Sam retorted, looking a little hurt by his unwillingness to share. “You know it’s really hard to feel a part of this team sometimes!”

“Why?” Jackson asked.

“Because it’s like an all boys club! And I can’t seem to get involved on a more personal level, I just feel a little...”

“Left out?” Daniel finished. “Sam, I think you’re confusing friendship with something else!”

“You think it’s emotional? So why do I feel the same way about you then?” she argued.  “I can’t get close to either of you, and Teal’c?” She shook her head.

“Maybe you’re trying too hard, I, where is this coming from?” Daniel enquired.

“I don’t know, I just feel left out!” Sam remarked, conceding that Jackson was probably right, and she maybe resented his presence since it seemed to effectively shield her from O’Neill.

“You’re jealous? Of my friendship with Jack?” the archaeologist confirmed her thoughts. He laughed. “Sam, you just need to give Jack some space! Wow! Jealous?”

“Okay, so I’m a little... yes!” she admitted. “I’m kind of jealous!” she laughed then, shaking her head. “Okay, this is bizarre!”

“Look, as far as I know, Jack thinks the world of you. But I don’t really know Sam, about the emotional aspect I mean, I can’t exactly speak from Jack’s perspective?” he speculated, really, aside from the closeness he’d felt when O’Neill had been the one to comfort him, he had no idea why the colonel was so tolerant of him. “I don’t think it’s healthy though, longing for something you can’t have!”

She knew he was right. Her position within the military, and under O’Neill’s command, made those emotions wholly inappropriate.

“And I guess,” Sam ventured, wanting to change the subject when she realised that Jackson, as best he could had communicated on a more personal level. “That mind thing, being able to communicate without speaking, that’s really odd by the way, what’s that like?”

“Having Jack complaining without opening his mouth?” Daniel laughed then. “It’s pretty daunting, and we’ve found a whole new way to get on each other’s nerves, believe me having someone, Jack, being able to read your thoughts, it’s not a pleasant thing!”

“I just wish I knew what made him tick,” Sam opined.

“That’s, um, a mistake!” Daniel told her honestly.

“Why? I mean, it’s important to know that kind of thing when you’re in someone’s command,” Sam stated. “To know what they expect.”

“That’s way too intrusive,” Jackson imparted, raising his eyebrows at her then. “And I’m talking way too much, so if you don’t mind, I think I’ll just, get some sleep!”

Carter nodded, wondering what had made the archaeologist so forthcoming. “Here?”

“Yeah, if he wakes up, it’ll be familiar!” Daniel told her.

“Okay, I’ll stay too!” she said.

“Why?”

“Because I’m...”

“Because you’re trying to figure it out, and you think if you stay he’ll appreciate it right?” Daniel concluded.

“Because I want to actually,” she corrected.

“Yeah okay!”

 

Heru’ur arose from the Sarcophagus, glaring at his first prime. “He escaped?”

“Yes my lord,” Nefir replied, his head lowered. “The Tau’ri and the Tok’ra aided him.”

“And what of Anubis?” the Goa’uld demanded.

“They captured him my lord.”

 Heru’ur waved him away, walking from the chamber, toward the gardens, pausing outside a room. His eyes glowing, he threw back the door.  Hathor regarded him, her eyes filled with disdain. 

 “We shall not stand for this insolence!” she snapped.

 


Part Three

 

Hammond watched on the monitors, shaking his head.  “I’ve seen enough Doctor,” he confirmed.

“I just thought you should know his progress sir,” Janet advised. “He just seems to have given up. Physically he’s healing, but mentally?” The doctor lowered her eyes, biting her bottom lip. ‘I think he might need counselling sir, he’s suffered an enormous emotional trauma.”

“Thank you Doctor,” the general replied, turning to leave. He paused, looking at Fraiser, his eyes filled with empathy.  “Isn’t there anything you can do to help?” he asked. “I don’t want to refer Colonel O’Neill to anyone else if I can help it.”

“Not with what ails him sir,” Janet said. “I think he’s been through too much, both physically and mentally. Dr. Jackson told me his condition was bordering on suicidal.”

Jackson actually said that?” the general sounded surprised.

“Well not exactly in those words, sir, no. He said he felt the Colonel had gone as low as he’d ever seen him

Hammond nodded.  “Keep me informed, Doctor,” he said.

 

***** 

 

In the infirmary, O’Neill toyed with the food he’d been given. Not for the first time, he had declined, only accepting the plate when Fraiser insisted she would be forced to feed him intravenously. He had no intention of eating it, instead, pushing it churlishly around the plate, several peas rolling off onto the bedclothes. He looked at them quizzically, before deliberately moving, forcing them to roll from the bedcovers and disappear onto the floor. Daniel frowned at him, their eyes meeting as O’Neill glanced up from the floor. Jackson’s disapproving grimace seemed only to perpetuate his behaviour. Another trio of the peas pushed quickly from the plate.

Jackson raised his eyebrows, deciding that perhaps to draw attention to it further would only make O’Neill more determined to continue with his churlish behaviour. He understood why the colonel was doing it, even if Jack didn’t.

Being brought back to Earth, and to the 21st century, rudely, from the idyllic state of amnesia that had offered him some respite from the torturous events that plagued him, he found little left in his head to care about.

His mind having been forced back into the reality of his situation, he’d become more and more morose, falling into a progressively quieted state of deep self-loathing.

 

Daniel had been comfortable to be a spectator, watching as his friend barely acknowledged Fraiser’s constant, attentive presence. Completely blanking both Carter, and Hammond when they had appeared to see him, although for some reason Teal’c had rated a nod, O’Neill’s eyes never really making contact with the Jaffa, it was simply a gesture of acknowledgment.

The depression that surrounded him brought a sombre feeling to the room, now only Jackson remained, sitting close to him, his arms folded, head tilted to the right, regarding Jack’s ever changing expressions and moods, quietly and without need to comment.

“We can talk about it?” he offered finally, watching O’Neill consign yet more of his food into the ever growing pile on the floor.

O’Neill didn’t respond, not even a blink from those steely brown eyes. He didn’t want to talk about it, convincing himself that his actions had caused the death of his child, of Hathor, whom he now realised was perhaps more important to him than he’d care to admit.

He didn’t deserve to feel better, the thought resonated through his mind, the guilt, a familiar, an old friend, had returned.

“So not even going to acknowledge me then?” Daniel persisted, that dry wit he often ascribed to in moments of indecision, foisting itself to the fore. O’Neill was a difficult audience at the best of times, this was possibly the worst time to attempt any kind of light hearted conversation, even knowing that, Jackson could not bring himself to just sit idly by and allow his friend to wallow in grief. He could perceive the enormous burden that the colonel shouldered with a chilling clarity.

“Why?” Jack asked, finally acceding to his companion’s persistence. He sounded as solitary, as desolate as he looked. “So you can try to reason with me, tell me it’s not my fault?”

“Damn! You read my mind,” Daniel exclaimed, a rueful smile offered to his colleague, one that O’Neill met with a smirk of disregard.

Jackson was determined not to be dragged into a heavy debate, protecting himself as best he could from being immersed in O’Neill’s grief, whilst empathising with the colonel’s state of mind.

“Don’t humour me Daniel,” Jack snarled. “I read you like a book, remember?”

“Well I wasn’t the one with amnesia, so it goes without saying,” Jackson’s retort well constructed, even if he didn’t realise it, not rising to O’Neill’s bait, leaving the colonel with no alternative but than to be blunt.

“Just leave me alone,” he snapped, dismissively, pushing the plate away.

“Not eating that?” Daniel observed, ignoring the colonel’s penchant for brusque replies.  “Well I can’t say I blame you, spent some time in here myself, care’s great, but the food?” He winced visibly, shuddering at the thought.

“It’s hospital food Daniel, it’s always bland!”

“Yes, I know. So you’re going to starve to death?” Jackson asked. “Which is one way of avoiding dealing with the issue I guess!

O’Neill scowled at him. His entire body was aching, sore from the beatings, adding to his already foul mood. “Daniel?”

“What?”

“Leave!” his tone laced with acrimony. “Or I’ll...”

“What?” Jackson demanded, a little more aggressively than before. “Beat me up? Insult me? Throw the plate at me?”

“Plate sounds good!” Jack remarked. He knew Jackson wouldn’t leave, that need the archaeologist always felt to somehow purge him of guilt, or sorrow, to act like a buffer for his problems, far too strong to be dismissed merely because it might be what he wanted. “So?” Jack said finally, conceding with a heavyhearted sigh.

“Well, there was something I really wanted to talk about,” Daniel offered, leaning toward O’Neill, his tone lowered almost secretively.

“What?”

“I don’t think she’s dead,” Jackson confessed, his eyes enthused with that belief.

O’Neill regarded him, the scowl he favoured Jackson with deepening. “Daniel, please, I really don’t want some psycho-babble about how you think we’ve got to save her, and how that should give me hope!” O’Neill’s tone was laced with acerbic cynicism, something else the archaeologist was well used to. “Give me a break will you?”

“Okay, I guess you’re not ready to listen to what I’ve got to say, or why I think Heru’ur might have wanted to deceive you,” Jackson stated, standing up.  “I’ve got some things to catch up on anyway, so let me know when you’re up for a chat okay?”

O’Neill looked away, as Jackson reached the door his features became a grimace. Maybe the archaeologist had something valid to say after all.

“Wait!”

Jackson turned. “What?”

“Okay, I’m ready to listen,” Jack conceded.

Daniel smiled, his actions intentioned to strike a chord, although he hadn’t thought that O’Neill would take it so quickly.

 

*****

 

Hammond looked at the report before closing the folder. “So, Major, you believe that this isn’t the end of the Colonel’s involvement with this Goa’uld?” he asked, a distinct displeasure in both tone and regard.

“Sir, he went to great lengths to attempt to procure this knowledge,” Sam replied.

“We know Nyerti’s dead, Heru’ur claimed to have killed Cronos, that leaves the system lord collective pretty fragmented sir.”

“You think he’ll come here?” Hammond’s alarm evident.

“Actually sir, yes, even the Tok’ra are concerned that Heru’ur’s rise to dominance within the Goa’uld society structure, is a grave threat to Galactic safety and stability. According to Martouf and Aldwyn, he now controls the largest army of Jaffa ever known,” Carter explained. “It’s more than a concern sir, if he decides, like Hathor suggested he might, to conquer the Asgard, he’ll need the information from the Ancients’ repository to find technology that might give him a level playing field, and if Colonel O’Neill was right, way beyond what the Asgard possess!”

“I see,” Hammond replied. “And you’re confident that Dr. Jackson’s information regarding these... ”

“Sengo’lians,” Sam offered.

“Will help?”

“Well sir, that pretty much depends on the Colonel, we know that he can communicate with them, and that their level of technology is far greater than that possessed by the Goa’uld, it’s whether they’d be willing to help?” she stressed, a grimace sweeping her features. “Or whether we can convince Colonel O’Neill that Hathor and Iceni are still alive!”

“Are they alive?” Hammond enquired.

“Daniel thinks so sir,” Carter replied. “If we don’t try something, then we know Heru’ur is likely to attack Earth. We’ve really undermined him, he can’t just let that go either!”

“Major, this report states that Teal’c shot him twice with a Zat gun, why then did you all leave him to be revived by his Jaffa?” Hammond’s incredulity obvious.

“Well, that was Bra’tac’s idea sir, he said that if Heru’ur wasn’t around, we’d just be dealing with Apophis!”

Hammond sighed, one of those long protracted sighs that seemed to perfectly sum up his feelings. “Major, we’re not equipped to deal with an enemy of this magnitude, as well you know. I’ve read the recommendations on dealing with this apparent crisis, and I’m in agreement, do what you have to do!”

“You’re sure sir?” Carter replied.

“Major, if you think that we stand one hope in hell of forging an alliance with these creatures, one that might stop a Goa’uld invasion of Earth for the purpose of extracting Colonel O’Neill, then yes, if you have any doubts whatsoever, I don’t want to hear them!”

“Yes sir.”

 

 

“You think she’s alive why exactly?” O’Neill asked, still not buying into Jackson’s assertion, believing it to be a tool, something that might snap him out of his grief.

“Because I don’t think Heru’ur is that bright!” Daniel remarked, sitting beside O’Neill once more, leaning on the bed.

“Not that bright? Well I guess we have more in common than I thought we did!” Jack remarked dubiously. “But let me ask you something Daniel, what does being bright have to do with it?” Incredulously.

“Well,” Jackson surmised now, and he knew well that it was supposition, but somehow it made more sense. “He wanted you to suffer, because ultimately he figures that he can break you down easier, but he can’t, so what’s the thing he knows we humans cherish most?”

“The lives of the people we care about?” Jack retorted, frowning at the archaeologist once more. “And try to hold back with the 20 questions quiz, and get on with it hah?”

Jackson’s eyes slid heavenwards, although in retrospect, O’Neill’s impatience, and bad manners, increasingly meant that perhaps the colonel was beginning to believe him, now free of the grief that weighed so heavily on his mind.

“Yes, and when telling you he’d killed her didn’t break you, when it just added to your resolve, he sent his Jaffa to find me, another weakness!” Daniel told him.

“Okay, so how exactly does this work? You’re guessing that he made up the stuff about Hathor and Iceni?” Jack queried.

“Yes, I am, we saw a ship explode, that’s what he wanted us to see, but if he intended to destroy it, really destroy it, why did he wait until it was in a high enough orbit for us not to be able to discern exactly which ship was being blown to up?”

 

O’Neill considered the point, a valid one. But then he knew the Goa’uld, what would such a lie prove? Ultimately they cherished power, nothing, or no one, meant anything to them.

“Daniel, I don’t know,” Jack argued. “It seems a little odd!”

“Why? Look, Heru’ur used a tactic Jack, if he lost you, like he’s done... ” Jackson froze, the colonel’s eyes widening in front of him.

“He’s got her?” It wasn’t a question, it was almost a realisation, his voice wavering.

“Daniel, if you’re right, he’s got her!”

“Oh my God!” Daniel gasped. “Um, I never really, I mean I should have...”

“Sweet! And I’m useless!” Jack snapped. “Dammit!”

“Um, well, I guess it won’t hurt to tell you what I have in mind then?” Jackson said.

O’Neill looked at him, waiting. “Um, sorry I’ve got an idea!”

“An idea?” Jack implied that Jackson might be somewhat overreaching in that response.

“Yes, I figure I still owe you a favour, so I’m going to request that Hammond allows me to go to Sengo’lia, let’s me speak to the aliens, the Sengo’lians there, and maybe...”

“Daniel, they won’t talk to you!” Jack told him.

“Um, why?” Jackson asked, looking slightly squashed suddenly.

“Because you’re not capable of hearing them,” Jack imparted, a heavy sigh.

“Okay, then we both go,” Daniel suggested.

“In case it escaped your usual observation skills Daniel, I’m kinda incapacitated right now!” Jack retorted scornfully.

“Jack we’ve got to do something,” Daniel sounded perplexed. “I’m right, I know I am, and maybe they can help with those... wounds?”

O’Neill looked dubious. “I can’t see Hammond letting me do squat!”

“Why?”

“In case you forgot, I’m up for court martial, small thing about being derelict in my duty?” Jack remonstrated, shaking his head. “I broke the rules Daniel, and whilst I know that I had to do it, I’ve kinda dragged you all down with me!”

“Um, yes, but it was our choice Jack,” Daniel said, attempting to deflect O’Neill’s defeatist attitude.  “And anyway, I’ve talked him out of that,” he informed the colonel.

“You did?” Jack sounded a little surprised. “Okay, how the heck... don’t even answer that, so what makes you think he’ll let us go?”

“I don’t know really, it’s probably a long shot, but if I can convince him that Heru’ur isn’t going to give up on pursuing the Ancients’ archive? Who knows?” Jackson replied honestly.

“Daniel, he’s not going to buy that,” O’Neill retorted acerbically. “If we do this, we’re probably gonna have to go covert.”

“And risk yet another court martial? Jack, for God’s sake!” Daniel snapped.

O’Neill looked down, away from the terse gaze of his friend. “Forget it Daniel, this is never gonna work,” he retorted, ceding to what he saw as overwhelming odds against.

“Jack, you never have any faith in me!” Daniel complained.

“Hey! I think I’ve shown my faith in you Daniel, I just don’t think that your ever naive approach to life is going to help us right now,” Jack opined, frowning as best he could, with a face that was significantly less mobile.

“So, let me talk to him, Jack please? Let me do this?” the archaeologist begged.

Jack shook his head. “Can I stop you?” he enquired, the vaguest of smiles permeating his eyes now.

“Um, no actually you can’t,” Jackson smiled immediately, knowing what O’Neill’s regard offered.

The colonel sat forward. “Okay, gimme a hand here?” he asked.

“What? Why?” Daniel stood up once more moving closer to the colonel’s bedside.

“I’m gonna see how walking feels!” Jack commented.

“But it’s not like Fraiser will clear you for active duty, not with those other wounds?” Daniel remarked.

“Look!” Jack spat, his face reddening from the pain of the merest movement. “We don’t have time for me to get my looks back!”

“No I suppose you’re right,” the archaeologist agreed, assisting his friend from the bed.

Ow! Okay, that, is not, a good feeling,” Jack complained, wincing, the wounds on his chest and stomach significantly deeper than he’d realised.

Jackson flinched along with him. “Well that doesn’t sound too good,” he observed.

“Ya think!” Jack spat. “Oh, God, help me here.”

His knees began to fold under him, the pain raking through his body, lack of balance beginning to tell, nausea setting in. Jackson managed to assist him back into bed, both men looking slightly vexed. “Sarcophagus?” Jackson offered.

“Got one of them?” O’Neill asked, he already knew the answer, the sarcasm blending nicely into his repartee once more.

“I’ll go talk to Hammond,” Daniel suggested, a rueful expression sweeping his features.  “We can talk about how we’re going to get you there, if he agrees.”

“Sure, you go, talk!” Jack sighed, the pain excruciating as it shot through his body.

Jackson grimaced once more. “Should I get Dr. Fraiser?” he asked.

“No!”

“Jack you’re in pain!” Daniel remarked.

The colonel shot him a glance that would have been normally conveyed with some cutting remark, but he could hardly find the strength, or the stomach for that.

“I’ll go talk to Hammond,” Daniel suggested. The colonel nodded.

“Yeah, you go do that,” he winced.

 

 

“Sir?” Carter asked, catching the colonel by surprise as he lay on his side, moaning to himself softly about the merits of ignoring pain.

“Carter!” he exclaimed.

“Are you okay sir?” she enquired, her hand resting on his shoulder.

“I’m fine Carter, just fine,” he replied a heavy sigh.

“Sir, I’ve got a suggestion, and I’ve already run it by General Hammond, and he’s agreeable,” Carter began.

“What’s that?” Jack enquired.

“Well sir, I think it’s likely that Heru’ur’s not going to give up, with Cronos and Nyerti out of the way, there’s not much of a collective left to stop him coming to Earth and taking you, or anything he wants. I think the only way to stop him...”

“Carter, Daniel’s already been over all this stuff, and he’s going to speak to Hammond right now,” Jack retorted, his lack of patience brought about more from the constant pain, noticing, to his chagrin, the look of reticence on her face.

“What?”

“Well, I guess Daniel’s got it all planned out!” she remarked caustically. “So shall I get Doctor Fraiser?”

“What?” Jack’s face seemed to be a mask of confusion. “Don’t take on some damn tone with me, Major! What’s with that?”

“Well, I guess I’m just a little redundant, since Daniel has it all figured out sir!” she told him.

“Carter, did I say you were redundant?” Jack winced then, looking up into her eyes. “I just said I know this, and am I detecting a note of distinct rivalry here?”

“No sir, I, let me get Janet sir, you’re in pain,” she replied.

“Sam, hold on,” Jack’s tone was a little softer. “You do know that you’re a valuable part of this team, right?”

Carter smiled at him. “Yes, sir, I do.”

“So, I’m wondering if there’s something else bothering you?” he enquired.

“No, sir, I’m just a little, to be honest, it’s like one way or another the Goa’uld seem to be running things, I’d just like a way to redress the balance,” she told him.

“Oh! Okay,” Jack looked relieved, his eyes narrowing. “For a minute there I thought you and Daniel had, some kinda who can come up with the best idea, deal, going on!”

“No sir, Daniel and I are fine,” Sam said.

“Sam, about what happened, between you and me, us, on that planet?” He looked and sounded a little awkward.

“Forgotten about it already sir,” she remarked.

“Yeah, look, I was a little strung out, you did... well, sorry!” Jack told her, clearly uncomfortable with leaving the situation hanging.

“Thank you sir,” Carter smiled at him.

“Colonel?” Janet’s voice. Both Carter and Jack regarded the doctor.

“Doc?”

“How are you feeling? Any pain?”

“Copious amounts,” he stressed, waving it off. “But I’m fine apart from that, reminds me I’m still alive.” A grimace at Carter. “Don’t suppose you’ve got anything to improve my looks do ya?”

Fraiser smiled, taking his pulse, her fingers pressed into his neck. “Sorry Colonel, they’ll just have to come back over time!”

“Great, just when I’ve got women at my beck and call!” Jack complained, a wry smile crossing his eyes.

Sam offered him a huge grin in return. “Well sir, I guess we’ll have to resist your charms!”

Jack looked at her. “Damn! And here I was thinking I was irresistible.”

“My, but you’re a flirt recently sir!” Fraiser remarked, like Sam she was pleased to see O’Neill beginning to regain some of his old spirit and wit.

Jack’s attention turned to the doctor. “Well, you know, I’ve tried that whole being bashful thing, didn’t really work for me,” he quipped.

“Hmm, bashful?” Janet responded.

“Yeah, come on sir, that’s a bit of a stretch even for you!” Sam kidded.

“Sweet!”

“Sir, I’m going to take off those bandages have a look at your wrists,” Fraiser warned him.

Jack sighed heavily. “Bad doc?” he winced.

“Through to the bone Colonel,” she informed him, causing him to pull an even more stricken expression across those beaten features.

“That’s probably a little more than I needed to know!” he commented.

“Okay, now you might feel a little sore Colonel, so tell me if it hurts too much and I’ll give you something to ease the pain,” Janet offered. Taking a pair of scissors, she began to cut through the bandage on O’Neill’s right wrist, the colonel sucking in the pain rather than admit he needed drugs to quell it.

“Still swollen,” Janet observed, gently pushing the flesh, watching the colonel’s eyes widen as she did so. “But it seems to be healing nicely.”

Sam grimaced as she saw the wound for the first time. “My God!”

“Hey! Don’t you start,” O’Neill jested, deliberately using humour to detract from the sight of his wrist, the swelling extending to his hand, purple in colour, and double it’s usual size.

“Okay, it’s um, gross! Cover it back up already!” His eyes narrowed in disgust.

“Prognosis doc?”

“About two weeks Colonel…” Anticipating the next question and nipping it firmly in the bud. “Before you ask, that’s how long it will be sir, before you’re even remotely likely to be ready for light duty!”

“Doc?” Jack’s voice had a seriousness in it now. “I don’t have two weeks, get me out of here faster!”

“Colonel, those lacerations to your chest and abdomen are very deep, anything other than breathing and normal movement will tear the wounds apart before they have a chance to heal,” she advised.

“So stitch em tighter! Doc, please?” Jack implored, those intense brown eyes widened, attractively, the little boy lost look permeating. “We might have the damn system lords coming to Earth because of me, I can’t just lay here thinking about that for two weeks, I gotta do something?”

“Colonel, I can’t allow you out of my care before two weeks, I’m sorry sir, but somebody else is going to have to play superhero!”

“Oh that’s cute!” he retorted sardonically.

“Sir, Janet’s right,” Sam asserted.

 

A blinding beam of light swept into the infirmary, spiriting away Colonel O’Neill from the bed. Carter immediately recognised it as Asgard.

She moved quickly toward the alarm just the same. Janet stared at the empty bed, turning to look at Sam in astonishment as the alarms began to sound around the SGC.

“What the... “ Janet gasped.

Carter, raising her eyebrows, shrugged. “Don’t worry, you get used to it after you’ve seen it a few times,” she intoned, realising the doctor had no idea what was capable of beaming O’Neill from the depths of Cheyenne Mountain’s SGC. “Asgard, it was the Asgard,” the major added.

“If you say so,” Janet said, her eyes still wide and shocked.

“It’s more that I hope so!” Sam replied.

 

***** 

 

Jack found himself lying on the uncomfortable resting place of an Asgard; it’s rigid structure causing him to flinch. Looking around, he couldn’t see Thor; he couldn’t see anyone. “Oh I so hope this isn’t a damn Replicator thing!” he groaned, attempting to settle as best he could.

The Asgard high commander beamed into the room. “Jack O’Neill, greetings!”

“Thor!” Jack acknowledged.

“Forgive me for bringing you aboard once more without consultation, however, we have become aware of your situation through the Tok’ra!” Thor explained.

“Okay, so, you’re here to help?” Jack enquired hopefully.

“Our technology can not be adapted to heal humans, I am sorry.”

Jack smiled. “So why am I here?”

“The Tok’ra explained that you are about to be attacked by the system lord Heru’ur, who is amassing over two hundred motherships to send to your planet. We cannot stop this!” Thor told him. “However, we are in a position to assist with the retrieval of your child.”

“And Hathor?” Jack asked, looking down and away from the Asgard high commander, as his regard became one of intense curiosity.

“You would wish us to save a Goa’uld?” Thor questioned.

Jack nodded. “Um, as wacky as that may sound, she’s the kid’s mother!” he imparted, looking a little embarrassed in that particular admission.

“But she is a Goa’uld O’Neill.”

“Hey! Don’t remind me. So what about Earth, the protected planets treaty?” Jack asked.

“By aligning yourself with Heru’ur, you have made it almost impossible for the system lord collective to stop him!” Thor stated.

“And you’re not gonna send one of your motherships to help?” Jack questioned almost sardonic in his regard. “Or is this a big slap on the wrists? Which are already pretty delicate, so if you could consider aiming it somewhere else, I’d appreciate it!” he quipped, not wanting too show such little regard toward a creature he considered to be a friend.

“We are aware that Earth will be unable to defend itself, we have therefore sent one of our motherships into the orbit around Heru’ur’s home planet, in the hopes that our presence there will deter him.”

“And if it doesn’t?” O’Neill knew the answer. He simply wanted the Asgard general to confirm it.

“Then we can do nothing,” Thor concluded.

“Sweet, so if I made a suggestion, something that might save Earth, would you be willing to help me?” Jack asked, knowing that his suggestion ultimately meant his returning to Heru’ur’s home planet, alone, unhealed and possibly destined to suffer more torture.

“What is it that you suggest O’Neill?”

“Well, Heru’ur’s attacking Earth because of me!”

“Because you escaped his capture?”

“Okay, so you don’t know about the whole Ancients and Sengo’lians deal right?”

O’Neill’s features, as much as the injuries allowed, contorting.

“Sengo’lians?” Thor asked. His tone seemed to change, although O’Neill couldn’t be completely sure of it, there was an air of alarm.

“Um, yeah, little thing with the mind, useful, kinda opened up the whole Ancients’ archive,” he explained.

“Then the knowledge is retained?” Thor queried. This seemed to be news to the Asgard general; he drew closer to O’Neill.

“Um, yeah!” Jack confirmed. “And then some! Apparently Heru’ur thinks that he can overthrow the Asgard, well just about anyone with this stuff in here!”

“Then there is even more risk than we, the Asgard, had anticipated,” Thor said.

O’Neill regarded him curiously then, something appeared to bother Thor, he knew from his previous dealings with this superior creature, that to trouble him meant something very, very serious.

“Okay, so what does that mean, exactly?” he ventured.

“You can not be turned over to Heru’ur, O’Neill,” Thor told him. “This is your plan, to spare Earth?”

“Well, ah, yeah,” Jack shook his head. “But I really don’t think we have any choice here!”

“You will accompany me back to my home world O’Neill, there we will endeavour to assist you with the knowledge within your mind!”

“Oh no!” Jack asserted. “See this stuff is all I’ve got to bargain with, and by the way, it’s kept me, and my team alive on more than one occasion, so if you want to help, take me to Heru’ur’s planet, he’ll leave Earth alone, and I swear, I’d die before I’ll give him a damn Unas of this stuff!”

O’Neill’s stern regard offered no room for doubt or compromise. His way, or no way.

“Then I must apologise O’Neill, for I can not, and will not allow you to be turned over to Heru’ur,” Thor insisted.

“Look, I already told you, he’s not getting squat! How the hell do you think I ended up like this.” Gesturing toward his face. “In the first place?”

“You are a friend, O’Neill, to send you to what would be certain death, or to be made into a host...”

“Tried that, I can’t, not now!” Jack told him.

Thor seemed more surprised by this. “You are certain?”

“This stuff, the Sengo’lians, or the Ancients, I’m not really sure... well it just overwhelmed the snake, couldn’t handle it!” Jack explained a wry smile. “Which is hardly surprising ‘cause I have trouble in here at the best of times, what with Daniel yapping on!”

Thor’s regard once more stopping the colonel in full flow. “What?” he asked.

“Daniel Jackson is also infected by the Sengo’lians?” he enquired.

“Well, yeah, I guess!” Jack said.

Thor beamed from the room.

“Okay, this is getting old!” Jack remarked, a heavy sigh.

 

*****

 

Daniel and Sam stood in Hammond’s office.

“It had to be the Asgard sir,” Carter said, confident that she’d witnessed the technology enough to be able to recognise it.

“Maybe they’ve come to help?” Daniel mused, always the optimist.

“Why didn’t Thor beam onto the base?” Hammond argued. “Why take Colonel O’Neill aboard his ship?”

“To, um, heal him?” Jackson offered.

“Could be sir, maybe they’ve only just found out, they are waging a war with the Replicators!” Carter suggested, looking across at Jackson for support.

“Well... ” Jackson began, the light engulfing him then.

Hammond’s jaw dropped. “Don’t say it Major,” he remarked. “I know!”

***** 

Daniel looked around. Thor had beamed him to a separate room; the Asgard general already there when the archaeologist arrived.

“Hello,” Daniel said dubiously, his eyes darting around the room. “Um, where’s Jack?”

“He is on board,” Thor confirmed. “He tells me that you too are affected by the mind control of the Sengo’lians?”

“Um, mind control?” Daniel’s tone a little startled.

“Not as you perceive it!” Thor reassured.

“Then yes, I think so, since I can communicate with Jack through telepathy!” Daniel agreed.

“Then you are both in danger!” Thor stated.

“Er, excuse me?” Daniel’s eyes widened, his eyebrows ascending into his forehead.

“The Sengo’lians are a mythical race, one that has been lost to the Asgard for centuries,” Thor imparted. “Their telekinetic and telepathic abilities have long been sought by the Goa’uld.”

“Um, why?” Daniel asked, looking perplexed.

“They are capable of destroying an enemy with thought, such capability has alluded the Goa’uld, who rely upon devices forged from technology possessed by the Nox, before they themselves ascended to a higher existence shared by the Asgard and the Ancients,” the Asgard high commander said.

“Well I can see why they would want it, but I don’t think I have that ability, Jack? I’m not sure, he seems to be able to blow up power supplies!” Daniel remarked.

“Remain here!” Thor told him. “I must speak to the Asgard high council.”

“Ah, sure!” Daniel agreed, looking around him. “Where else would I go?”