His head hurt. That was the first thing he noticed as his mind crawled back out of oblivion. Like a sinus headache, only much, much worse. Someone could’ve come along and put an axe right between the two lobes of his brain and it couldn’t have felt much worse.
Daniel almost snorted, only prevented by the thought of how much that would probably hurt–clearly his thoughts were still jumbled if he was coming up with *that* kind of analogy.
He sat up slowly, noting that they were in what appeared to be a medieval dungeon, only a lot larger and with actual windows high in the walls, which meant they had to be above ground.
“Whoa. Easy, you’ve been unconscious for hours,” Carter’s voice intruded into his consciousness as her steadying hand came to rest on his shoulder.
Hours? Somehow that didn’t surprise him. The last thing he remembered…come to think of it, what was the last thing he remembered?
“I made a promise to my wife, General…I need to go.”
Daniel hated the pleading tone in his own voice, but he was admittedly desperate, and General Hammond didn’t seem to be bending on this. Even though he was already going against his own better judgment just by obeying the President’s orders to see what lay on the other side of the Stargate.
“Sir, if I may…” Captain Carter’s voice drew all eyes to her. “I think Dr. Jackson’s expertise in ancient cultures and languages are far too valuable not to utilize off-world. That expertise brought Colonel’s team home the first time–without him, they would have died on Abydos. And if we’re supposed to make peaceful contact with the people on these other worlds…how can we do that if no one speaks their language? I don’t think it would be impractical to assign someone familiar with the languages and cultures we might encounter to every SG team, Sir.”
Daniel shot her a grateful look, which she answered with a smile. The General, seeming surprised by the show of solidarity, threw a questioning glance at Jack. The Colonel just shrugged.
“I’ll take that under consideration,” Hammond conceded. “Major Kawalsky, you will head SG-2…”
The rest of the briefing seemed to pass in a blur. At least, the minute or two of discussion that passed before someone slipped in to notify Samuels that Ferretti was awake. Jack was out of his seat without even being dismissed, and the rest of the group wasn’t far behind as soon as Hammond released them.
Daniel intercepted Captain Carter en route. “Captain, I…wanted to thank you for sticking up for me in there. I know you said you would, but I still…I appreciate it.”
She smiled again, faintly. “You’re welcome. I don’t know if it’ll help, but…I guess I owed it to you to at least try.”
“Ah…owed me for what?”
Carter didn’t respond, only ducked her head and looking away with a pensive frown in her eyes, causing him to blink in confusion.
“Sam,” she corrected, forcing a smile. “Call me Sam.”
For a minute, Daniel fought to accede to her request, but the thought that had tormented him last night only came back to haunt–what if Sha’re’s death was a punishment for the instant bond, however innocent, that he’d formed with this woman?
“I…I can’t,” he admitted. “Not…not yet. I’m sorry.”
She looked confused and a little wounded by his refusal, but nevertheless accepted it. “Oh…okay.”
But no…there was more after that. Ferretti had given them the coordinates; that he was sure of. And they’d traveled…he, Jack, Captain Carter, and Kawalsky’s team, SG-2, had traveled to the planet…
“So, tell me about Abydos. What was it like, living there?”
Captain Carter’s words got Jack’s attention too. He rounded on them both with a challenging smile while still managing to keep an eye on the surrounding vegetation. “Yes, Daniel, what *did* happen after we left you there?”
Daniel ducked his head. Unfortunately, he couldn’t dodge the question by just comparing Abydos’ desert climate to this lush world, because they’d both seen that for themselves. No, what they wanted to know–or at least what Jack wanted to know–was what had happened in the interim to make the people of Abydos so reluctant to part with him, even when he was going to hopefully find and rescue one of their own.
“They…um…treated me like their savior. It was…pretty embarrassing.”
“Well, technically you did save them, Dr. Jackson–“
“Don’t encourage his ego, Captain,” Jack interrupted with an amused glance at the red-faced archaeologist, to whom his next facetious words were directed. “It’s amazing you turned out so normal.”
Daniel smiled weakly. “Well, if it wasn’t for Sha’re I probably–” He stopped, took a deep breath and looked away for a long moment. “She was the complete opposite of everyone else. She practically fell on the floor laughing every time I tried to do some chore they all took for granted, like grinding yuffetta flour. I mean, have you ever tried–“
Jack interrupted him then with an upraised hand and a wary look in his eyes. “Hold up.”
Following the line of the Colonel’s eyes, the other two saw a group of hooded figures that looked like monks, walking towards them along a wide dirt road. Immediately, before the group could spot them, Jack moved towards the bushes, gesturing for Carter and Daniel to do the same.
Typical Jack O’Neill, Daniel thought with a silent sigh. Shoot first, ask questions later. He liked the man–he just had a problem with that mentality. Particularly since he was certain that if they went in with guns blazing, they would blow any chance they had of getting the locals to help them locate Skaara and the others who had been taken.
And the sooner he found Skaara, the sooner he could get far, far away from the Stargate and everything related to it, and try to forget that he’d had a perfect life for one perfect year before losing it all again.
“Oh, for crying out loud!” he heard O’Neill hiss from somewhere behind him as the Colonel noticed what he was doing.
Raising his hands in a gesture of peace, he stepped towards the monks. “Hi.”
“The man has not changed,” Jack grumbled, presumably to Captain Carter. Yup, he was going to hear about this later, but he didn’t care.
The monks were still staring at Daniel when he heard Carter and O’Neill come up on either side of him. He could almost feel the waves of irritation rolling off the military man, but surprisingly not from the blonde woman.
“We just came through the Stargate…” Expressions of blank confusion greeted that pronouncement, so he tried again. “Uh, the, uh…chaapa’ai?”
With a horrified exclamation of “Chaapa’ai!” the monks fell flat on their faces in the middle of the road.
Sometime later, after a mortified Daniel tried to get the monks back on their feet, some muddled attempts at conversation and the requisite expression of disinterest in anything linguistic from Jack, they found themselves being escorted along that same road, towards what the monks had called “Chulak.”
That he remembered. It was what had happened after they arrived that he was having trouble remembering now through the pounding in his skull.
“What happened?” he groaned softly, blinking at the dim light that was still too bright for his headache.
She sounded almost…amused as she answered, “You had some sort of allergic reaction to something–possibly the perfume Ra’s new queen had drenched herself in. He apparently took your sneezing as a personal insult.”
“Oh God.” He looked around wildly for a moment for Jack, who was almost certainly spitting nails by now that Daniel’s “geeky allergies” had gotten them into trouble.
Almost as if she’d read his thoughts, Carter answered them. “Colonel O’Neill and Skaara are looking for a way out of here.”
That got his attention. “Skaara?”
Oh, thank God. He’d hoped against hope that he would find him here, but a large part of him had whispered that it couldn’t possibly be that easy. Maybe–just maybe–the Fates weren’t really out to get him after all. Maybe just this once they’d decided to be merciful, that he’d suffered enough in the past few days…
Of course, that all depended on Jack and Skaara actually finding a way to get them out of here. Preferably before SG-2 left without them and General Hammond permanently locked out their identification code.
There was one thing, though…”It wasn’t Ra. It was Apophis.”
“Who?” Carter looked confused.
“Um… it’s from Egyptian mythology. Ra was the sun god who ruled the day, Apophis was the serpent god, Ra’s rival, who ruled the night. It’s right out of the Book of the Dead. They’re living it.”
Before she could question further, he spotted his brother-in-law and the Colonel returning to them. His hope sank at the look on their faces.
“If there’s a way out of here, I haven’t found it yet,” Jack confirmed his suspicion. “But look what I did find.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder at the Abydonian youth.
“Dani’el!” Skaara exclaimed as the archaeologist pulled him into a brotherly embrace. “O’Neill told me about Sha’re. My father must be most grieved. She was very special to us.”
Sha’re. Another bolt of pain shot through him at the mention of his wife’s name, pitching him back into the dark well of despair he’d only begun to contemplate crawling out of. “Yes…which is why I promised Sha’re I would bring you home.”
Skaara nodded solemnly in agreement. His buoyant spirit was subdued by the news of his sister’s murder, but not wholly as his next words revealed: “But you–you are ‘okay’!”
“Yeah, I think so,” Daniel started with a sideways look at Jack, but then contradicted his words by sagging against the two soldiers.
“Easy, big guy.” O’Neill helped him sit down, then sat beside him. “Welcome back to the land of the conscious.”
“You’re not mad?” Daniel asked warily.
“You know, the…” He mimed sneezing into an imaginary handkerchief.
“That? Come on, I’m not that petty!” the Colonel protested.
The other two members of his new team just looked at him.
“I’m not!” he insisted, then backed down a little when the skeptical looks never faded from their faces. “Well, I’m not always that petty!”
Daniel and Captain Carter just schooled their faces to look studiously innocent. “Yes, Sir.”
“Look, if we can’t find a way out of here, the mission’s a bust anyway. They seal the Gate in just over ninety minutes.” He looked over at Skaara. “C’mon, Skaara. There’s bound to be some hidey-hole or something somewhere that we missed.”
He stood only to find himself face to face with an unmasked serpent guard, a tall, dark-skinned man with Apophis’ mark tattooed on his forehead in what appeared to be…gold. Both his head and face were completely smooth, as if he’d shaved only minutes ago.
“What is this?” the guard growled in a deep voice, seizing Jack’s wrist at an awkward angle–despite an aggrieved “Ow!” from the man–and holding it so that they could see his words described the digital watch around the Colonel’s wrist.
“It’s a watch,” Jack replied tightly, his face still contorted.
“This is not Goa’uld technology. Where are you from?” the guard then demanded.
“Earth. Chicago if you want to be specific–”
“Your words mean nothing,” the taller man interrupted curtly. “Where are you from?” he repeated.
Knowing that nothing Jack could come up with would probably satisfy, Daniel spoke up. “Ah, excuse me…”
When the guard’s attention was drawn to him, he bent down and drew the point-of-origin glyph for Earth in the dirt floor of the cell.
“This is where we’re from.”
The serpent guard stared at the symbol for a long moment, his expression unreadable, then rapidly scratched out the mark with the end of his staff weapon and turned away. The cobra-head helmet snapped closed, concealing his face and anything it might have revealed.
Exchanging a brief “what was that about?” look with both Daniel and Carter, O’Neill shrugged and he and Skaara went back to looking for a way out.