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Thoth’s Servant Parts 5-6

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Stargate SG-1 Fanfiction - Thoth's Servant Parts 5-6

 

 

 

 

 


Part 5

Daniel stood at the window of his apartment, looking out onto the street. He knew that Chel was down there, observing the building with incredible patience and stubbornness. The constant knowledge that the man was this close, was putting Daniel on the edge. What was Chel trying to accomplish by that? He had never been one to play mind games after all. If he was trying to drive Daniel crazy, he was doing a remarkably good job. Sometimes Chel came close enough for Daniel to feel the Buzz but whenever he went to look for him, Chel disappeared. It was driving him insane, damn it! He could deal with an honest open fight, but not with this cat and mouse game. This was going to far. Perhaps Chel had been a bit thrown off track by Daniel's refusal to run away this time, and now he was trying to figure out what exactly was going on. Anyhow, this was the only explanation Daniel could think of.

Daniel's gaze roamed the street again. He could see his old friend/enemy standing across from the building at a corner, like a figure out of a bad spy-movie. A small smile appeared on Daniel's features, but barely touched his eyes. Chel hadn’t changed much since back then. Of course, his hair was considerably shorter (the long mane he had worn in the past simply wouldn’t be fashionable anymore) but his bearing was still the one of a self-confident and seasoned warrior. The traditional warrior-tattoo on his face was still worn proudly. Chel was standing too far away, but Daniel had no trouble imagining the brown eyes shining with determination. He had seen the same eyes alight with the warmth of friendship, but not for a very long time, or numb with shock that horrible day when a hundred year old friendship had crumpled into dust.

Okay, he had to admit, he still missed his friend. Perhaps because it had been the first friendship of this kind he had forged. A friendship with one of his own kind. At this time neither of them had known about the Game. That was something he hadn’t encountered until nearly a century after their falling out. So there hadn’t been the lingering distrust that was, sadly, part of every relationship between immortals nowadays.

"You won’t stop this, until one of us is dead, will you?" Daniel whispered, touching the cool glass of the window "But I have no intention of loosing. If I have a chance to prevent another occupation of the Goa’uld, it’ll worth it. This time I’ll fight back, brother!"

A car appeared and halted in front of the building. It was Sam.

*********************

Sam was happy that she had found a parking-place this quickly. She wanted to visit Daniel, not embark on a quest for a place to leave her car.

Sam was a bit worried about her teammate, hence the unannounced visit. She hadn’t told anyone, but she had observed Janet and Daniel about a week ago, and she hadn’t really liked what she saw.

She had been on the way back from a talk with her father, going to her lab, when she had noticed Janet slipping into one of the storerooms. Curious about what was going on Sam had crept up to the door, not really attempting to eavesdrop, just wanting to take a short look. Immediately she had noticed Daniel sitting huddled in the corner, his knees drawn up to his chest and his eyes looking vacantly ahead. Sam had seen this posture before with people who were in shock but she couldn’t think of anything here on the base that would send Daniel into this condition. While she was still trying to decide if she should intrude on them, Janet had knelt in front of Daniel, talking with a soft tone of voice, obviously trying to bring him out of the daze he had slipped into.

"Come on, Daniel, snap out of it!"

Daniel hadn’t moved, nor even blinked, just continued to stare straight ahead. In an attempt to reach him, Janet had grabbed his shoulder gently, trying to draw his attention to her through physical contact. This had finally gotten a reaction out of him:

So fast that neither Janet nor Sam had any chance to react, Daniel moved. Suddenly Janet found herself with her back to the wall and a knife (where had Daniel gotten this from so fast?) dangerously close to her throat. From the look in Daniel’s eyes it was clear, that he didn’t know where he was or who Janet was. Janet didn’t dare to move, but remained perfectly still. After a few seconds staring maliciously at her Daniel’s expression changed. Disoriented, blinking and shaking his head, he finally asked:

"Jan?"

He sat back looking about as shocked as Sam from her observation point felt. She had never seen Daniel reacting this violently (or this fast for that matter) to anything; and she was still trying to wrap her thoughts around her discovery that Daniel was not only carrying a knife around but also knew how to use it. Perhaps the Colonel had taught him?

Her thoughts were interrupted by Janet’s soft question to Daniel:

"What happened? How long have you been sitting here?"

"What time is it?" Daniel replied and Sam wasn’t sure if it was meant as a joke or not. Janet didn’t think it funny either, judging by the glare she favoured Daniel with. Her voice though was very soft when she asked a second time what had happened.

"Flashes." Daniel answered and Janet winced slightly. Sam didn’t understand what this meant, but Janet obviously did and the doctor didn’t like this revelation at all.

"How bad?"

"You have to ask?" Daniel inquired holding up the knife, which he held still in his hand, slightly "I could have killed you, you know. For a moment I wasn’t here but back then."


//Back then?// Sam repeated in her mind. What did Daniel mean?

"But you came out of it in time." Janet tried to reassure Daniel who was looking at her remorsefully "Don't fell guilty for reacting instinctively. What triggered the flashback this time?"


//Flashback?// Daniel was suffering from flashbacks? Sam wondered why she never heard about this and if the Colonel knew. She knew that there were some traumatic occurrences in Daniel’s past, but something strong enough to bring about a nearly catatonic state?

"This device Selmak and Lantash tried to identify…" Daniel said quietly looking at his hands. Janet looked at him in surprise:

"You know what this thing is?"

Daniel had just nodded, looking incredibly uncomfortable. Sam had noted absently that the knife Daniel had held the whole time had disappeared again, but she was too busy listening to care much. Sadly, Janet and Daniel didn’t talk much more. To avoid being caught listening Sam had crept away. She had had much to think about. She really didn’t understand what this scene had been about; even another talk with her father hadn’t shed any light in this matter. She knew now that the device was some kind of diary of a long dead Goa’uld but Sam had absolute no idea what this had to do with Daniel. Perhaps Colonel O’Neill was right: something strange was going on in Daniel’s life. Well, stranger than the usual travelling-to-other-planets strange. Something that made Sam as well as the Colonel very concerned.

Leaving her car, Sam felt as if somebody was watching her. Looking around suspiciously she noted a man at the corner between two apartment buildings staring at her. For an endless moment their looks met, then the guy turned around and disappeared behind the corner. Sam stared after him abashed. Who was this and what was he doing lurking around here? For a moment she debated following him, but then decided against it. It was unlikely that she would find him, but she stored his face away for later research. It shouldn’t be too hard to find something, those strange tattoos she had seen were rather distinctive.

Shrugging off the uncomfortable feeling of danger, Sam went over to Daniel’s apartment building. Perhaps she could get something out of him.

*********************

Daniel opened his front door the minute Sam used the doorbell, as if he had known that she was coming. But that was impossible, wasn’t it. Seeing her slight confusion he smiled and said:

"I saw you arriving through the window."

That explained that at least even if Sam thought it an incredible coincidence that Daniel had looked out of the window the very minute she stopped her car. It was possible (even though there was nothing of interest outside he could have looked for) so she didn’t ask further.

"To what do I owe this visit?" he asked her while going over to his kitchen and getting coffee.

"Do I need an excuse to just visit you? The Colonel is stuck on base doing his overdue paperwork so I left before he came to my lab moaning about it… besides, I brought offerings of good will!"

While saying the last words she produced a paper bag of chocolate-chip-walnut cookies. It was an open secret that Daniel loved these kind of sweets. Actually he almost liked everything with chocolate, but it had to be good chocolate. Imported stuff was the best in his opinion (and Sam’s; he always shared with her). Daniel looked around one of his bookcases at her and the bag. A wide, boyish smile spread over his face.

"If that is the case, you are more than welcome, my lady!" he said and went back to the kitchen.

She laughed, but inside she was once again startled how much Daniel changed when he laughed, really laughed. He would suddenly seem so young and guileless. It was quite a contrast to his usual appearance. Sam had often noticed that the young anthropologist appeared rather world-weary and old sometimes. She knew from his file that he was younger than her, but if she looked into his eyes they seemed so much older than his actual age.

Her grandmother would have called Daniel an old soul. Her dad had always called her grandmother a sentimental fool, but Sam thought the expression was pretty accurate for Daniel. It often seemed to her that he was more at home in ancient civilizations like on Abydos than in 20th century America.

While waiting for Daniel to finish the coffee (she was patient for this. Daniel made the best coffee in the whole SGC - an insider tip for the science departments) she started to have a closer look around his apartment. He had moved not long after the mess on Oannes, when SG-1 had been forced to pack the things in his old apartment. The memory of those days, when they had thought that they would never see Daniel ever again still created a strange kind of hurt inside her.

Back then she had concentrated mostly on packing his books while Teal’c took care of the artefacts Daniel had had scattered around his living space like causal decoration. Neither of them had trusted the Colonel to properly handle the partly priceless things, his ignorance concerning rocks well known.

Slowly walking along the bookcases she looked at the artefacts standing here. Little figures, a clay-mask with countless little cracks and little, faded patches of paint, a silver amulet that reminded Sam of her time on Simarka, when she had nearly been forced to become the chieftains next wife, a beautiful worked knife the sheath decorated with motives that reminded her of India. Looking around Sam noticed something she hadn’t until now: Among Daniel’s many artefacts were surprising many weapons. If you didn’t look for it, you wouldn’t see it, but they were nevertheless there. A knife here, there a sword, she had even seen a revolver that looked as if taken right out of the civil war.

Why had she never noticed that Daniel had a fondness for weapons? The Colonel had told her that Daniel apparently knew how to fence but that did not explain the old firearms. And all this stuff looked authentic. If he would sell just a part of his collection Daniel could probably sit back and live the rest of his life in luxury. Thinking of it, Sam suddenly asked herself how much money Daniel had anyway. She had always assumed that he was the typical eternal poor grad student, but no poor person could afford some of this stuff.

Sam was still thinking when Daniel returned with the coffee. She had decided to postpone her questions at Daniel for a bit and look for answers on her own first. It wasn’t a terribly polite thing to do, but she wanted to find out some things now.

The rest of her visit went over okay, both of them making small talk, enjoying coffee and cookies and both thinking about their own problems without sharing them.

*********************

It was a dark and stormy night and Daniel felt like a living cliché. Apart from the fact that he had absolutely no idea what idiotic notion had driven him outside in this weather, he also felt as if he was followed. Correction: he knew he was followed. What was this, a bad horror-movie?

It would have been even more like an old B-movie if Daniel hadn’t known exactly who was stalking him. Chel wasn’t as good at the whole stealth thing as he obviously believed. At least not with Daniel. But this following around started to grate at Daniel’s nerves and Chel wasn’t giving up. Nothing new here. Worse was that Sam and Jack had started to suspect that something was up. Jack’s more or less subtle questions and Sam’s unannounced visit a few days ago were the best proof for this. Daniel couldn’t fault them for worrying about him; it just could be rather annoying. And as if this wasn’t bad enough already, Janet started to get more persistent by the day. Of course she wanted to know what exactly was going on, but Daniel wasn’t ready to tell her this part of his past. Not yet anyway.

Knowing that Chel was still following him Daniel came to a decision. Stopping in a small, deserted alley he turned and waited, his sword drawn. He didn’t need to wait long. After a minute a man came into the alley, accompanied by the rushing feeling of another Immortal.

"So, you finally decided to stop being a coward, Da’yell?"

The deep, slightly horse voice was laced with sarcasm and disdain, making Daniel shiver involuntarily. It had been so long since he heard this voice; their last meeting had gone down in eerie silence. This voice raised many memories, some of them forgotten for millennia.

"I've just grown tired of our cat and mouse game, Chel."

There was no waver in Daniel’s voice, nothing that indicated how nervous he really felt, just a slight trace of resignation.

"Since you are still too stubborn and thick-headed to listen to reason, I may just as well give up trying to avoid this fight, shall I? This time I won’t run away so lets get it over with!"

"Big words. So sure you’ll win after our last fight."

Daniel just shrugged. Idly he wondered why the dripping sarcasm and open hate wasn’t hurting so bad anymore. Perhaps dealing with overly self-important beings like Apophis, Ra or Senator Kinsey had given him a better resistance against verbal attacks.

"You surprised me the last time, so you had a rather unfair advantage, don’t you think? This time I’m ready for the fight. And besides, I survived until today, didn’t I?"

Daniel could do scorn just as good if not better than Chel if he wanted to. Jack called it snake-baiting; Daniel called it stating the facts.

A grin had appeared on Chel’s face while Daniel’s remained expressionless. He didn’t want this fight but it seemed as if he didn’t have any other choice.

Both of them raised their swords and seconds later the fight began. Steel clashed on steel with the power of two truly ancient immortals. Sparks flew, moves and countermoves followed each other in such a rapid order that the movements seemed to blur together.

The fight went on minute after minute until both opponents were sweating heavily, but neither of them was able to gain an advantage. They weren’t holding back, both of them giving everything. All the tricks both of them had learned in centuries of fighting were tried in an attempt to shift the balance of the fight, but to no avail. Daniel realized absently that there was a stalemate. Neither could gain the upper hand in this fight; try as they might, their strengths were too evenly balanced. The only chance for one of them to win would be to tire the opponent out and wait for a mistake. Taking into account that they both counted among the oldest and ergo most powerful immortals together with the fact that Daniel had a rather high stamina thanks to the military it could take hours before either of them reached this point of exhaustion.

While concentrating on their fight neither of them noticed the police-car approaching until a loud voice interrupted them:

"Police! Stop immediately!"

Daniel and Chel exchanged a fast look before Chel growled through clenched teeth:

"This isn’t over yet!"

Then he turned and ran away. Daniel didn’t wait for the police officers to gather their wits but followed Chel’s example and ran. He could hear the policemen shouting behind him, but he didn’t care. Daniel’s thoughts were preoccupied with another problem: He had to find a way to get through to Chel, now more than ever before. Because this fight had shown one thing clearly: neither of them would win in a fair fight.

*********************

About an hour after the fight Daniel finally got home. He had wandered around a bit, thinking, but hadn’t come up with any ideas. Letting himself fall boneless onto the couch Daniel closed his eyes and put his head into his hands. Again he had survived to fight another day, to quote the favourite saying of a one-time student of his. Chel’s anger had definitely not grown any less since their last actual meeting about four hundred years ago and his fighting hadn’t suffered due to old age either.

Four hundreds years ago had been the last time Daniel had faced Chel in a fight. Oh, he had known where his self-proclaimed archenemy was sometimes, but had used this knowledge to avoid him religiously. There had been some close calls, like during the American civil war, but Chel had never caught Daniel.

With a bitter and self-mocking smile on his face Daniel thought back to those times. Many occurrences of the last two millennia Daniel remembered seemed strange to him, as if a complete other person had lived through these times. It was unnerving but not surprising, after all, now he saw his life with additional two or three thousand years of memories, experiences of truly archaic and ancient times. Memories, knowledge and skills that had been buried deep in his subconscious, unreachable. Now there were back with a vengeance, shifting his opinions into a totally different point of view.

But back then he hadn’t even known why this strange old immortal was so crazy about decapitating him. To be honest, Daniel had been scared out of his wits by Chel. The older immortal, or at least Daniel had thought Chel was older than him, had been violent, hateful and completely unreasonable - in short: he was damn scary! A good reason to avoid a fight if nothing else; and living by the philosophy that killing should be only the absolute and utterly last option made running away rather understandable.

Leaning back, eyes still closed Daniel let his thoughts drift. Drift back to the time of his last meeting with Chel. So long ago in Europe…

#####################


//What in all gods name am I doing here?// Daniel asked himself for heaven knew not the first time; and like all the times before when he had asked himself this question he couldn’t come up with an answer. This country was cold, rainy and depressing and he had chosen the definite wrong season to come here. He hated the wet and wanted nothing more than to go back to his beloved deserts. At least they were dry!

But here he was, in the cold (and wet!) north, trying to make a quite living before he figured out where to go next. He would most definitely not stay here. Beside the fact that the whole country had gone completely crazy thanks to one mans idea that the Christian church needed some reforming, he hated the weather. Well, perhaps it was just depression due to the long winter.

Daniel lived in a little city near an old cloister, which had an interesting library (which was the reason why he was here and not on the other side of the middle-sea) spending most of his days shifting through old, dusty books, sometimes trying to teach stubborn monks something new (or old, depending on your point of view). He knew all to well that the people in the town were wary of him. He even had heard whispered accusations of sorcerer from some old woman at the market. Daniel hadn’t known if he should laugh or be afraid. On the one hand the superstitions of the people were kind of funny but at the same time very frightening. He wasn’t human, this was an undeniable fact and he really didn’t want to end being burned alive. It hurt way too much.

Deep in thought Daniel hurried through the darkening streets of the town, he had once again forgotten the time while reading, when he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. The unmistakable feeling of an immortal presence was washing over him, making his head hurt. Warily he grabbed his sword, looking around for his opponent. Finally he stepped out of the shadows, grinning nastily. Daniel felt his heart stop for a moment. He knew this man, he knew him all to well. Since their first meeting in ancient Rome this man was trying to kill him with notable persistence; and until this day Daniel had no idea whatsoever why.

Still grinning nastily the man said something in an eerily familiar language, but Daniel didn’t understand a single word. The tone of voice though was enough to recognize the loathing the man was obviously feeling for Daniel.


//Whatever have I done to warrant this kind of hate?// Daniel thought confused. With a murderous gleam in his eyes the man unsheathed his own sword and without further words attacked. Daniel was taken by surprise by the suddenness of the assault, taking a defensive role. He fought to his best ability but his opponent was very strong and skilled. Desperately trying to think of a way to flee from this fight, Daniel’s wish was granted. The loud voice of the night watch interrupted the fight. Using the momentary confusion of his challenger, Daniel turned and ran. It may be kind of cowardly but he had this thing about living: it was a nice way to pass the time.

When he reached his home he spent a few minutes just calming his hammering heart. Then, looking around the room he came to a decision. It was high time to move on!

When the grey light of false dawn announced the beginning of the next day, Daniel had finished packing his most prized belongings and was loading them unto his horse. Thankfully he had nothing of any personal worth here that couldn’t be moved on short notice.

Finishing with his horse, Daniel shut the door and walked away without a backward glance. He had just rounded a corner when he heard agitated voices behind him. Curiosity winning over caution (like so often before) Daniel risked a glimpse around the corner: In front of his house a small group of people had gathered, in its centre two city-guards. Daniel had the nasty suspicion that his duel last night hadn’t gone unnoticed at all. He had been right: High time to leave.

About half an hour later Daniel had made his way out of the city, skilfully avoiding the guards. He never looked back, but was thinking where to go next. He longed to go back to Egypt or another southern country but on the other hand, what harm could there be exploring the rest of the world. Besides the bad weather of course.

Perhaps he should go to the British island, looking what was left of Londinium? He had heard that there was this poet making a name for himself with new and very good plays and poetry. What was his name again? Shekespare? Something like that. Decision made that he would spite the northern weather gods for some time longer, Daniel turned northeast. In a few days he should reach a haven from where he could cross over to Britannia.

#####################

Resurfacing out of his memories Daniel had a small smile on his face. It had turned out to be the right decision to go to England. Shakespeare had turned out as good as the rumours of him and Daniel had never rued living there, even if the weather had been lousy. From there he had left Europe behind for centuries to come and had somehow ended up in America. So he had missed the bloody and senseless wars fought in the old lands. It hadn’t been until the 19th century that he returned.

Sometimes Daniel thought he should perhaps thank Chel for showing up when he had. Otherwise he would perhaps stayed buried in the library and faced a much more unpleasant fate. Thanking him would confuse the hell out of Chel if nothing else.

Shaking off the last thoughts about the past, Daniel went to bed. SG-1 had a mission tomorrow so he better be awake.

*********************

The early morning hours found Daniel holed up in his office with coffee and chocolate-walnut-cookies doing some translation-work. Or at last Daniel would tell anyone who asked that he was doing this. The truth looked a little bit different. Okay, he was reading old Egyptian texts but ones that had already been translated. Or people had attempted to and came up with a lot of gibberish. It was fascinating how the meaning of words could shift in a few thousand years and what kind of misunderstandings could spring from this fact.

Currently he was cross-reading a text that had been found in the grave chamber of some public servant of ancient Egypt. The real irony was that Daniel had actually known the persons who had written and dictated the text. So he knew pretty well what it was supposed to mean. The translation in front of him had nothing to do with the original intention. It was quite funny actually. No wonder the generations of Egyptologists had never found anything about the Goa’uld: they simply didn’t understand what was written. Daniel had a very good reason why he didn’t let his staff use the usual reference material for translations.

Sniggering Daniel read over another passage. Heaven, this was supposed to be a stocktaking-list not something out of the Egyptian version of the Kama-Sutra!

Reaching for his coffee-mug Daniel brought it to his lips without even looking up.


//Damn it!// He thought about a second later when he gazed disgusted in his empty coffee-mug. The pot was empty, too. Well, that was an unbearable situation. You needed coffee to work; that was a simple fundamental fact of life. Janet may have disagreed, telling him that he was an addict but Daniel didn’t care. After all, he knew she was right. He had become a hopeless coffee-addict the moment the stuff had been introduced to him. Old habits are hard to break and 500 year old ones even harder.

Daniel loved the Arabic way of making coffee. Black and muddy and so strong that he only needed one single cup to keep going for 24 hours. The kind of coffee you needed to be immortal to drink without risking a heart attack after the second cup.

But at the moment Daniel would be grateful to have any kind of caffeine handy, even the coloured water from the commissary. Normally he would have just started the coffee maker in his office, at least here he could regulate the strength of the brew himself, but the blasted piece of technology had stopped working yesterday morning. He hadn’t found time to look for a replacement yet and so he kept borrowing coffee from various colleagues.

So he put his notes down and left his office. After a short glance at the clock he decided that it wasn’t worth going to Sam’s lab for coffee. The benefits (way better coffee) were far out weighted by the disadvantages (another lecture that he shouldn’t try to live only off coffee without sleeping now and then). Sam hadn’t seen him trying to do this or she would have recognised his three-days-without-sleep phases as harmless. It was a sad fact that he could lose himself in his work for days without really recognising the passing of time. Once he managed to pull something like this off for nearly a month. Okay, so he hadn’t been exactly healthy afterwards, but he had had fun. Great fun. Just as well that Janet didn’t know about this.

Walking along the corridors Daniel approached the commissary. Thankfully there weren't many people around which could have something to do with the time. Everyone in his or her right mind and without orders that commanded otherwise was sleeping; and what exactly did this say about him (or Sam for that matter)?

Daniel didn't even bother just getting a single cup of coffee but liberated a whole thermos. He had to, or otherwise he would have been back here too soon. He really didn't want to risk running into Janet or Sam who were both still on base. Jack thankfully had enough sense to go home for a good nights sleep.

His way through the endless seeming corridors of the SGC led him by the office where the two Tok'ra scientists were still trying to decipher the code on Thoth's memory-device. First they had wanted to take the thing off planet, but thankfully General Hammond had refused. Daniel thought it was because the General suspected that they would never hear from the device again if the Tok'ra took off with it. At least this was Daniels opinion. The Tok'ra would have to do much work, to make him trust them. The betrayal that had once upon a time been delivered by a supposed member of this resistance was still very much present in his memory, thank you very much. He had lost too much because of it to forget it easily. He liked Selmak well enough but others of the Tok’ra were way too secretive about their doings for his liking.

Curious as ever Daniel moved closer to the door, trying to listen to what the two scientists were saying.

"Do you really think it’s worth all this work to get this device started?" asked one of them, sounding clearly annoyed and frustrated. The code obviously wasn’t easy to break. The other Tok’ra answered with a certain degree of resignation in his voice:

"We know it is from Thoth, so yes, it is worth the work. Thoth was known to be rather pedantic concerning his recordings. He had the reputation of having written down virtually all knowledge of the Goa’uld, a fact even the Tau’ri mythology acknowledges. Some of his information about the other system-lords, however old it is, could be invaluable for our cause."

Daniel had to agree with the Tok’ra. Thoth had been fond of recording everything he deemed important - or could be important at a later date.

"From what I heard" the younger sounding Tok’ra said thoughtfully "Thoth was a real bastard. Nearly destroyed the Tok’ra before they began…"

At this point Daniel stopped listening. Oh, he had to agree with the Tok’ra’s assessment of Thoth’s character. This Goa’uld had been a bastard, but not like Ra or Apophis in an insufferable arrogant way, but because he understood how to play those around him.

Daniel reached his office and closed the door behind him. Sitting down he drowned a fresh cup of coffee, before leaning back in his chair. His eyes fell on a piece of papyrus behind glass that decorated his wall. Closing his eyes, memories of his first month with Thoth arose in him.

#####################

The sun stood high in the sky, glaring down with painfully bright light. The sky shimmered with heat but Da’yell didn’t feel it. Inside Thoth’s palace you never felt the heat of the world outside.

Da’yell had found a quiet place at a window and looked at the world outside. From his observation-point he could see the great river, the life of this land, and a small settlement a little farther away. Green and sandy-yellow plains extended beyond that as far as he could see. When he concentrated Da’yell was able to pretend for a few seconds that he was standing on the mountainside and looking towards his home. His old home he had left so many years ago. But reality always came crashing back to him.

Thoth had come here, to this part of the land, a few weeks ago, by command of Ra. Since then Da’yell hadn’t seen much of his master, something he thanked his own gods for very much. When Thoth wasn’t around most of his Jaffa weren’t either and the few remaining ignored Da’yell for the most part. When Thoth was around… a shiver ran down his back. Better not to think about it. But even as he enjoyed being left alone for a while, these times always let him remember his own loneliness. There was no one he could talk to.

He missed Chel.

Letting his gaze sweep over the panorama outside of the window Da’yell thought he could see rock formations further down the river. Of course, his eyes had never been the ones of a hunter and so he could be wrong but he thought Thoth had mentioned something about a quarry not too far away. Was Chel there?

Sighing and putting his daydreams about his friend aside Da’yell turned back to his actual task. He had a pad of thin wood and some sheets of papyrus in his lab, a case with ink sat beside him. He was supposed to copy some lists until Thoth came back.

This was the only thing Da’yell could think of he could maybe be thankful towards this god. Thoth had taught him to read and write the strange script correctly. Not that there was much to teach left, Da’yell had figured out most of it on his own by then, but it helped to get the finder points. Da’yell didn’t really understand why Thoth had done it. There were enough people around already learned and trained to be a scribe. But Thoth had trained his newly acquired slave for this task, mostly personally, which Da’yell thought even stranger. The tasks he got were boring however. Taking care of the correspondence to the priests mostly, nothing too demanding. Everything of real importance Thoth kept away from his slave. Or at least he thought he did.

He had told Da’yell to stay away from the more important recordings, those that were stored with these strange devices instead of papyrus or stone, but Da’yell didn’t really care what Thoth said. Whenever he had the chance he would accumulate more information; he had just to be damn careful that no one caught him.

It still felt strange to use the tools that seemed so wondrous to him. But Da’yell was sure that they were nothing else but tools. Strange tools of course, but nothing divine. He didn’t need to understand them to use them but figuring out how to use them had been a challenge. In the end Da’yell had done what he had always done best: he had observed and learned. Thoth’s arrogance could be rather useful in this matter. By now Da’yell had figured out how to use the recording device his god always used in front of him.

A sad tired smile appeared on Da’yell’s face. He did not think that Thoth had considered the possibility that his slave would even think about daring to read his private records.

Sighing and surveying the landscape one last time Da’yell turned back to his work. He better be finished before Thoth returned. He didn’t want to think what would happen if not.

#####################

The daylight was dying outside the library and Daniel decided that it was high time to return home before the librarian’s looks killed him. This woman obviously didn’t like it when somebody spent a whole day in her holy halls going through the newest scientific magazines.

Daniel was just packing his things together when an immortal presence washed over him, but he didn’t give it much attention. This place was way to public to start a fight and only a really desperate person would fight in such closed quarters, where you collided with a bookcase every second step.

A few seconds later Daniel rued that he hadn’t turned around when a cold voice said way to close to his ear:

<"Did I finally get you?">

A shiver ran over Daniel’s whole body, his heart starting to beat like mad. Chel! Wasn’t there a single place in this town left where he could get some peace and quiet?

<"What do you want?"> Daniel asked without turning around <"A fight? Even you aren’t that desperate to fight in here!">

<"Who says we have to fight in here? You and me are going outside to the roof now. And don’t you dare to run away again!">

Now Daniel turned around, glaring. Chel was standing there, a satisfied, grim smile on his face, his brown eyes cold and hard with withheld hatred. Daniel swallowed hard, but his own expression was set in determination.

<"I won’t run if a fight is what you really want">

<"Of course I want the fight"> Chel hissed angry <"Don’t even try this with me, Da’yell. It’s time to pay">

Daniel sighed. It had been worth a try. Resigned to his fate he grabbed his coat (with his sword) and started towards the backdoor that would lead to the roof of the building. Chel was walking close behind him, so a quick escape wasn’t possible. Casting a fast look around Daniel couldn’t find any sign of the librarian. Typical. The one time he needed this woman she wasn’t there.

Reaching the roof, Daniel shivered in the cold autumn air but nevertheless put his warm coat aside when he drew his sword. This wasn’t the light rapier he hid in his apartment or carried sometimes, this was a sword he wielded since over one millennia, a Chinese sword, plain, without needless decorations but forged but a true master of this art. This sword was a bit more heavy and harder to hide, but since his first confrontation with Chel Daniel had once again started to carry this one.

<"Why do we have to do this, Chel?"> Daniel asked, trying a last time to talk to his Nemesis <"It all happened so long ago that no one but us even remembers that time.">

<"You won’t get away, however long you run. I will get you for your betrayal.">

Chel’s voice shook with barley contained rage. A sad smile played around Daniels features.

<"I lost count how many times I told you that it wasn’t me who betrayed you. And even if I had been, don’t you think that a person can change in a few millennia?">

Chel didn’t answer but attacked. Daniel countered the moves grimly. He knew that he had thrown Chel off balance, if only a little bit. If the man would just listen to him long enough without resorting to violence.

Like the last time the fight was evenly matched, but this time Daniel had a small advantage. Chel was mad and it showed in his fighting. Of course, Chel was a way too good swordsman that he would let his feelings interfere with a fight too much, but he was only human and couldn’t turn off his emotions.

With every passing minute it became harder for Daniel to see since it was getting dark and there wasn’t any artificial light up here. It wouldn’t take long and the balance of the fight would turn around. Chel’s night vision was a few times better than Daniel’s; always had been.

But the approaching night hindered Chel just the same. In the twilight he didn’t see how dangerous close the fight had moved towards the unsecured edge of the roof. One step back, to avoid Daniel’s sword and suddenly Chel felt himself falling. He just managed to grab the edge with his free hand, the sword still clutched in the other, dangling five storeys high over the earth.

Seeing his opponent fall Daniel dashed forward. He hadn’t even noticed that they had already had reached the end of the roof. Looking down carefully, his fear of heights making his stomach queasy, Daniel saw Chel hanging there barley holding on. Daniel didn’t think long but threw his sword aside and knelt down at the edge.

<"Take my hand, I’ll pull you back up!">

The fall wouldn’t kill him, at least not permanently, but it would sure hurt like hell. Better avoid it. Chel glared back up at him with nothing but disgust in his face.

<"So you can kill me without my sword? I don’t think so!">

<"You damn idiot!"> Daniel hissed back <"If I wanted you dead I would just let you fall and then take care of the rest!">

<"I won’t trust a traitor">

<"I am not a traitor!">

A sharp laugh came from Chel at this even if he had clear problems holding on.

<"I saw you…">

<"And in six-thousand-years…"> Daniel interrupted Chel harshly <"… it never got through your thick head that you may be wrong? That you didn’t know the whole story? Now shut up and give me your hand!">

Chel still glared at him, but Daniel could see in his eyes that he had thought about this before. Seconds later the old determination gleamed back up in Chel’s look. Then, to Daniel’s horror, Chel just let go of the edge and let himself fall. Daniel stared after him, shock colouring his expression. It took a few minutes for him to compose himself again so far that he could stand up and leave. He just wanted to get home and forget this as fast as possible.

*********************

Another night on the SGC-base. Most personal was sleeping or had gone home. Sam wasn’t doing either at the moment, but she was searching for Daniel. She had wanted to ask him something, nothing important, she couldn’t even remember what it had been, but she couldn’t find him anywhere. He wasn’t in his office or in the commissary or anywhere between these two locations. He hadn’t gone home either, of this Sam was rather sure, so were could he be? The gym perhaps?

Having nothing else to do and no other idea where to look for her friend, Sam made her way through the grey, long corridors of the base to the gym. Looking around there she stopped dead in her tracks: the gym was empty safe one lone figure. Daniel. He had a sword in his hands and was moving it around with an ease that spoke of long practice. His movements as he went through the kata were incredible graceful, blurring together until it seemed like an exotic dance.

Sam stared open-mouthed at the familiar and yet so strange figure of her friend. Daniel’s eyes were half-closed with concentration, muscles Sam had never realised the archaeologist possessed, rippled with every slow flowing move. A fine gleam of sweat was visible on his exposed skin, showing that he had been doing this for quite some time already.

Until now his movements had been relatively slow, reminding Sam somewhat of Tai Chi, but suddenly Daniel sped up to a point were he seemed only a blur. Sam could only stare.

After about half a minute Daniel stopped, taking deep breaths. Then he looked up and finally noticed Sam who still stood at the gym entrance.

"How long have you been standing there?" he asked rather startled and walked over to her, the sword still in his hand.

"Long enough. When did you start doing martial arts like this? You’re pretty good."

Damn good in fact if anybody would have asked for Sam’s opinion. She knew a bit about martial arts, came with the job, and so she could recognize that Daniel wasn’t a bungler. Actually she had a hard time connecting what she had just seen with her image of Daniel Jackson.

Daniel had gone over to a bench where he had put a towel and started to dry his face. When he turned to Sam a smile played around his lips.

"Like I already told Jack: I started fencing and self-defence while still in college and just stayed with it. It is my way of keeping fit. And Sam? Can you tell me why everybody is always so damn surprised that I do stuff like this? I don’t look like such a weakling, do I?"

The last bit was said with a liberal dose of self-irony while he spread his arms and looked down at himself. Sam had to admit that he was right: He did not look weak. Standing in front of her, clad in an oversized tank top and sweat-pants Sam could actually understand the reactions of some of Janet’s nurses.

So why did everybody always assume that Daniel was helpless?

"I don’t know. Perhaps it is just that you give off the sort of vibes that make everyone want to protect you…"

"Or attack me." Daniel ended Sam’s sentence "Janet more or less told me the same. Not that she is any better then the rest, even if she knows what I can do."

The last part of the statement was said so softly that Sam had nearly missed it. She chose not to comment but instead file the information away for later. She had suspected a long time that Janet knew more about Daniel than she was telling. Some people on the base even believed that the two were a couple and just tried to hide it. At least Sam knew that this rumour was just this: a rumour. Cassie would have told her by now if Janet had been seeing anyone. The girl had told Sam once that Daniel and her Mom were nothing but close friends. Nothing else involved. Allegedly Daniel had told Cassie once (when the teenager herself had started to worry about the relationship between her mother and one of her surrogate uncles) that Janet just wasn’t his type.

After meeting Sha’re Sam could believe this statement.

"Sam? Hey, Earth to Major Carter!"

"What…?" Sam startled out of her musing looking at Daniels mischievous smile.

"Normally it is me who spaces out in the middle of a conversation. Where were you?"

"Nowhere in particular." Sam hurried to say, "Just thinking!"

"I hope it was good thoughts" Daniel replied grinning. He was in a very good mood obviously.

"By the way, was there something you wanted or did you show up by accident?"

Try as she might, Sam couldn’t remember why she had went searching for Daniel in the first place.

"I think I was just looking for the only other person likely to be awake at this time of the night. I was getting lonely."

"You were out of coffee." Daniel translated. It was a saying around the base that both Sam and Daniel would only leave their labs/offices when on the search for nutriments called coffee.

"That too." Sam’s grin matched Daniel’s at this moment.

"Tell you what. We meet in 20 minutes in my office for coffee and you can tell me about the newest gadget you’re trying to make work contrary to every law of physics known on earth."

Still smiling she nodded her agreement and left Daniel for his shower. Their late-night conversations were seldom very productive but fun and sometimes together they managed to think up a solution for some problem or another.

*********************

Daniel was walking briskly through the corridors of the SGC, aiming for the infirmary. To any observer it was obvious that Doctor Jackson was very, very annoyed about something. A dangerous situation most of all for the person who had irritated him like this (or anyone who crossed him while in this mood).

Sadly, this time Daniel couldn’t take his bad mood out on the person responsible for it.

He had arrived a bit late at the mountain today, but this wasn’t the reason for his bad temper (he still didn’t understand the military’s obsession with punctuality). No, it was the reason why he was late: another run-in with Chel and another narrow get-away. Every time they met up Daniel feared that his luck would finally run out and one of them would end up dead. His luck concerning avoiding the fights would run out eventually.

If Chel just weren’t this damn stubborn. Sigmund would have had a field day with the guy’s obsessive behaviour (or Daniel’s growing paranoia about it.).

All in all Daniel’s bad mood was understandable if you knew the facts. The rest of the SGC didn’t have the reassurance to know who Dr Jackson was mad at which meant everybody was guessing and avoiding him to the best of their abilities. Daniel Jackson seldom lost his temper but when he did…

At the moment Daniel was on his way over to the infirmary in the search of Janet. He wanted to use her access to the watcher database to see what his friend come nemesis had done during the last few millennia that he still hadn’t gotten over Daniel’s supposed betrayal. If it hadn’t been so sad (if not to mention distinctly annoying) Chel’s obsession would have been laughable.

Janet was sitting in her office, doing paperwork. Fiddling with the records of Daniel’s latest physical to be exact. It would have become suspicious very fast if she had written the truth every time: that Daniel was perfectly healthy. No normal human was this fit all the time. Hence her altering of the true facts. Finally the ‘creative writing’ class she had taken in high school was paying off.


//Speak of the devil//, she thought when she saw Daniel walking towards her open office-door. He came in and closed the door behind him.

"I need your help with something, Janet!" he said straight to the point as he sat down in the chair opposite her desk.

"What’s going on?"

Sighing deeply Daniel tried to find a way to best explain the situation to Janet without giving too much away. Until now she had no idea about Chel and Daniel wanted to keep it this way. No need for her to know that there was some slightly crazed stalker bent on revenge after him. Janet was just as bad as the rest of SG-1 when it came down to trying to protect him.

"You remember the break-in into my apartment about two month ago?"

"You mean the fight in your home the Colonel interrupted?" Janet clarified, getting interested "You still haven’t told me what exactly went down that day."

"I’m coming to that. You see, this duel wasn’t exactly a chance encounter. I know the other Immortal. I’ve known him for quite some time. Throughout the last two months I've had several run-ins with him. It is pure luck that both of us still have our head attached…"

"A Headhunter?" Janet asked and Daniel shook his head.

"I don’t think so but I’m not sure. He wasn’t the type for this kind of thing back then."

Daniel became silent, obviously remembering something. Janet looked at him for a moment before she asked:

"This Immortal, is he your stalker?"

Daniel looked at her confused.

"My what?"

His question prompted a laugh from Janet.

"You see, both Jack and Sam have come to me on separate occasions asking me if I knew anything about a strange man apparently following you around. They both think you have acquired a stalker and were quite worried about it. To tell the truth, so am I."

A small smile graced Daniels features.

"Yes, that would have been Chel. I didn’t think Jack or Sam would actually notice him; he is quite good at what he does… Jan, I want to take a look at his file."

"No Daniel" she said immediately shaking her head as if underlining her point, her voice stern. Daniel felt a good portion of his earlier annoyance return as he answered:

"And why not, Janet? It isn’t as if I didn’t know about the watchers. With enough time I could hack my way into the files, but I do not have enough time."

Taking a deep breath Daniel continued somewhat calmer:

"Look, I don’t want to know were he is or anything, I want to know what he was doing the last couple of centuries. It’s nothing that would give me an undue advantage in a fight."

"Okay, but why do you want to look up what this… Chel, was it? What this Chel has done during the last years. I thought you said you knew him."

Daniel sighed again. He really didn’t like to think about his estrangement with Chel. It still hurt.

"I have known him but I didn’t meet up with him for over one-hundred years; and I haven’t really talked to him for much longer. I just want to know what he’s been up to all this time… why he still hasn’t forgiven me."

The last part was whispered so low that Janet wasn’t sure if she had actually heard the words. Deciding to ask him later about it, Janet considered Daniel’s request again. She understood his arguments and could see nothing that would put her in conflict with her oath as a watcher. Well, not anymore than she already was with Daniel knowing about her.

"I’m going to look up everything you want but I won’t just give you my passwords. Is this acceptable?"

Daniel didn’t even consider but nodded. Without losing any more time Janet started her laptop up and made the connection to the watcher-online-database a few seconds later. Daniel moved around the desk after she had made it past the password-protection and studied the display with interest.

"I have no idea which alias he is using at the moment. You have to try with just ‘Chel’."

"I have a better idea" Janet answered, opening a new window on her screen "Give me your friends description and I will search the database for it."

"Will that work?"

"Hopefully" Janet replied, smiling "Searching by description alone is a great help with this database since you guys change your names like other people clothes sometimes."

Daniel returned Janet’s smile with a little grin and started to describe Chel to her to the best of his ability. The computer returned the search results after about a minute: one match found. Janet opened the online-file and they were immediately greeted by a slightly grainy photograph.

"That’s him." Daniel said from behind Janet, his voice strangely tight. Curiosity woken she started reading, while Daniel did the same over her shoulder.

Aseem alias Lysander alias Michael alias Faysal Mutazz alias Matthew Charleston alias Charles Timming alias Najir Kondo alias David Nahd…

There were about half a dozen other aliases most of them sounding like they originated from the Middle East. Looking at the photo Janet could understand why.

According to the file he was approximately 1500 years old (like with most of the ‘older’ Immortals the watchers weren’t sure about the exact age) and had spent a majority of his long life in one military organisation or another. Nevertheless he didn’t have a reputation of a bloodthirsty man, on the contrary. When possible he avoided confrontations with his own kind and he chose the fights he fought in. He seemed to have a fondness for fighting for suppressed minorities or for people who lived in oppression of either a government or local thugs. The last decade he had spent his time in Arizona working as a self-defence teacher part-time. About three months ago he vanished from view, loosing his watcher quite efficiently. Since then, no one had seen him.

This was getting stranger by the minute. The Immortal wasn’t exactly a peaceful man, but no one who would go looking for a fight either. A protector through and through.

"Daniel, why would this man go after you like this? He isn’t a Headhunter, more, he never seemed to actually go looking for a challenge."

#*#*#*#*#*#*#*#*#*#*#*#


Part 6

Another day, another mission for SG-1.

//Finally// Jack thought as he left the Generals office to find the rest of his team. They had been on a kind of stand down for some time, giving the members of the team time to catch up with various paperwork, in Jack’s case, or other work. It was a little miracle, mused Jack, that they had managed to get Carter out of her beloved lab during this time. But since she had been as worried about Daniel’s stalker as he was it wasn’t terribly surprising after all. It wouldn't be so bad if they had any clue at all as to why this man was after their resident archaeologist.

Jack had reached Carter’s lab and had enough sense to knock before entering. He had no desire to walk in another one of Carters ‘unstable experiments’.

"Enter!"

Carter wasn’t making any experiments at the moment, but was typing rapidly on her computer. So the experiment was over, and since he hadn’t heard any klaxons Jack supposed it had gone well.

"What can I do for you, Sir?"

"We have a mission tomorrow at 1100. The General just gave his okay."

"And how long did you have to pester him? …Sir."

She looked up from her work, trying to hide her smile. Jack glared back half-heartedly. She was lucky that he didn't think the good-natured teasing was insolence. As long as nobody was near to hear their exchanges he never said anything.

"For your information, Major, I do not pester, I request."

"If you say so, Sir."

She did her best to hide her little telling smile, but Jack saw it nonetheless. Carter turned back to her computer, saved her work and stood up.

"Should we tell Daniel, Sir?"

"I think so. We probably will need some time to find him in that museum he calls an office"

Now Carter didn’t even try to hide her smile. Together they made their way to Daniel’s office, only to discover that it was empty. A quick call with the guard at the base entrance showed that Daniel had arrived at the base about an hour ago, only question was where he was now. They checked the mess hall, but he wasn’t there either, so they decided that the next likely place would be the infirmary.

They had been right. They could hear the voices of Daniel and Janet coming out of her office as soon as they walked in. Sam wanted to go straight into the office, but Jack held her back. His expression indicated that he wanted to listen to the conversation. Sam just wanted to tell the colonel what she thought about eavesdropping on friends, but then the topic of Janet’s and Daniel’s talk registered and she stayed silent.

"Daniel, why would this man go after you like this? He isn’t a Headhunter, more, he never seemed to actually go looking for a challenge."

Janet’s voice was puzzled and also a bit angry. Jack and Sam shared a bewildered look. What was the doctor talking about? Daniel let out a short bitter laugh at Janet’s words.

"He and I have history together. Ugly history."

"Then this is about revenge?" Janet asked. Daniel took a long moment to answer so that Jack and Sam really thought he wouldn’t say anything at all. But finally he said:

"Yes. Yes, you could say that this is about revenge."

Daniel’s tone of voice send shivers down Sam’s back and Jack didn’t look too happy about his friends strangely emotionless words either. They both realized that Janet and Daniel were probably talking about Daniel’s mysterious stalker, a topic Jack and Sam were both very interested in.

"Why, Daniel?" Janet’s voice had strange mix of anger and worry in it "What did you do to him to warrant this kind of behaviour? And why is there nothing in the files about it?"

"The files don’t contain everything there is to know. Like I said, it happened a very long time ago."

"Don’t give me that, I want a straight answer for once. What happened? I can’t imagine you doing anything that would make someone hate you so…"

"Are you so sure of that, Janet?"

Daniel’s voice had a strange undercurrent at it all of sudden. Something dangerous. An intonation neither Jack nor Sam had ever heard from Daniel. It was frightening.

"I wasn’t always a nice person, Jan, and you know it."

"That still doesn’t answer my question."

Janet’s voice was calm, but sounded a bit forced at the same time. Jack and Sam exchanged a long look. What was going on in there?

Daniel sighed and when he spoke he sounded distant, as if his mind was somewhere else:

"I didn’t do anything."

"Then why…"

"Because he thinks I did do something. But I didn’t. Neither to help nor to stop it…"

"Stop what, Daniel?" Janet asked gently. Daniel didn’t answer.

"Daniel?"

"I don’t want to talk about it."

"But…"

"Please Janet, just let it be. There are some things in my past I’m not ready to share. Not even with you."

Janet didn’t say anything else, but it was clear that she wasn’t satisfied. Jack and Sam, still in front of the office door didn’t know what to make out of this. They had hoped to hear something that would help figure out what was going on with Daniel lately, but the conversation they had overheard had only added to their confusion.

Something strange was going on now the only thing they had to do was find out what.

*********************

He shouldn’t have said it. ‘A pretty easy mission’. Fool! Idiot! He really shouldn’t have dared their luck like this. But who could have suspected that something like this would happen?

The mission had started ordinary enough: A peaceful world with lots of trees. No signs of civilization or other inhabitancy apart from a few fluffy animals. But the MALP had shown traces of Naquadah, which was the only reason why a team had been sent at all. Everything had been quiet, no apparent danger at all. Carter had gone straight to her samples with Daniel helping her.

Jack knew he should have been suspicious about this. It was a fact that the worst things happened when the world seemed most peaceful and everything was functioning without a hitch. When it had happened it had taken them all by surprise. One minute he had been listening to Carter and Daniel talking about something and the next moment he had heard Daniel scream and they had been surrounded by not so friendly looking natives with long, mean looking spears. Primitive weapons, yes, but way too many of those. It took the attackers only moments to take the weapons of SG-1. Jack’s hands were bound before him and a quick look showed that Teal’c was treated the same. Hopefully Daniel would be able to talk them out of this mess.

Carter’s desperate voice made Jack turn and he felt himself paling at the scene before him. Daniel was half lying on the ground, half leaning against a tree. A spear had stuck Daniel in his stomach, going all the way through, practically pinning him to the ground. Blood flowed freely from the wound. To much blood and way too fast. Daniel was breathing hard and was very pale with his eyes closed. Jack started towards his fallen friend, but one of the natives held his spear at Jack’s throat, effectively stopping his advance.

"Okay, I understand, don’t move." Jack muttered unhappily. He cast another glance to his friend. Carter was kneeling next to Daniel, talking to him in a low voice and trying desperately to stop the bleeding despite her bound hands. Somewhere inside him Jack knew that she didn’t have a chance. The red liquid was coming too fast. An artery was probably severed. Daniel would only have a chance if they could get him to the infirmary in the next ten minutes, and even then his chances would be slim at the best.

Daniel captured Sam’s hand with surprising strength and said something to her in a low voice. Carter was shaking her head at him furiously, but Daniel just looked at her with sad, pain-clouded eyes talking again. Jack was damn sure he could see tears in the eyes of his 2IC. He couldn’t blame her; he himself could feel the sting behind his eyes.

Suddenly one of their attackers grabbed Sam and dragged her up, away from Daniel. A spear-tip in his back showed Jack that their captors wanted to move on. And a look back showed that they had no interest in taking Daniel with them.

"You can’t just leave him here!"

Carter was struggling against her captor trying to get back to Daniel.

"Major, stop it."

Jack’s voice was cold, without any feeling in it. Out of the corner of his eye Jack could see Daniel flinching slightly. But he didn’t know if it was because of the pain, or because of this tone of voice, the same Jack had used when he had met Daniel for the very first time.

"But Sir…"

"It is too late, Major." Jack hissed urgently, hoping against hope that Daniel wouldn’t hear him. "I don’t want to lose you, too!"

For a moment she looked as if she was about to argue, but then stayed silent. But Jack could clearly see that he hadn’t heard the end of this. Not even close. They let themselves be led away, leaving their mortally wounded teammate. It was going against everything Jack believed in, but he had no other choice. He turned a last time, searching for Daniel's look. His friend returned the look, and managed a strained smile. This sad and knowing smile was the last thing Jack saw of his friend, before he was dragged out of view. He refused to let the tears he felt gathering in his eyes fall.

Daniel watched his friends and their captors disappear and took several deep breath. He wouldn’t live much longer; he knew that. But he had to do something first, before his body could start to heal itself. With determination he grabbed the shaft of the spear, slick from his own blood, and pulled. The weapon came clear of his body, but he couldn’t suppress a scream of pain. That hurt! Panting Daniel laid back and closed his eyes. Now he could only wait. Wait for his Quickening to wake him from death again.

A short way down a battered path, Jack could hear the scream of his friend and flinched violently. A single tear made it beyond his iron defences.

//I’m sorry Danny. I’m sorry//

*********************

Cages. They had been stuffed into fucking cages like animals! Carter and himself were together in one big wood cage at the outskirts of this settlement, but Teal’c was trapped in a little one in the centre of a relative big square between the huts. Several men were standing guard. Jack had no idea what happened to their weapons, they were probably stored away in one of the huts. Unreachable.

Night had fallen over the planet, but the people at the SGC wouldn’t get suspicious until tomorrow morning when the next check-in from SG-1 would be due; and then it would take another hour before a search-mission would be launched. Too late to help.

Carter hadn’t spoken a single word since they had been forced to leave Daniel behind. Jack was thankful for this; he didn’t feel much like talking himself. The last glance from Daniel’s eyes, so calm and understanding about what was happening, haunted him and would probably never leave him alone as far as he knew. Daniel was dead! It was just like this horrible day when they had returned thinking their friend had died in front of their eyes. Only this time it was real. Daniel wouldn’t show up suddenly, declaring that everything was all right. He was dead, and had died alone, left behind. Jack O’Neill had been forced to break the one rule he had never wanted to break where his team was concerned: No one gets left behind. It was like the nightmare of Nem’s planet was repeating itself all over again.

Jack closed his eyes tightly. He wouldn’t cry. Not now! He needed a clear head to get the rest of his team out of here. And then he needed to find a good explanation for the General how a standard mission, a supposed milk run, could have gone so wrong so fast. After this he would have a nice, scheduled breakdown.

Jack heard a muffled sob next to him. Carter was crying and desperately trying not to show it. Without saying a word, Jack put an arm around her pulling her into a hug. This gesture broke the damn inside Carter obviously and she started to sob openly. Jack just held her, burying his own grief deep inside. It wouldn’t help her if he broke down with her. She needed a rock to cling to at the moment and he was determined to give it to her. After a few minutes of silent crying she whispered:

"He said that he was going to be fine. He was dying and still tried to reassure me."

So this confirmed this little rumour that Daniel would always say he was fine, however bad off he was. If the whole situation hadn’t been so damn frustrating, it could have been funny. It was… had been so typical for Daniel to worry about everyone else first before wasting a thought for himself.

A muffled thud from the direction of Teal’c cage caught Jack’s attention, startling him out of his beginning depression. One of his guards lay on the ground, motionless. The second followed this moment, again without a sound other than the dull thud when the body hit the ground.

Jack could see a dark figure detaching itself from the shadows and starting to work on the door of the cage. Jack couldn’t see more than the dark silhouette of whoever it was, but he could clearly see that they had a helper. Teal’c and the person were talking shortly, then both disappeared back into the shadows between the buildings. Jack noted with satisfaction, that the guards in front of their own cage had seen nothing of this. Good. Whatever Teal’c and their unknown ally were planning, it had better work.

Only minutes later chaos broke loose. Fire exploded at the huts at the far end of the settlement: Flames striking high, illuminating everything in an eerie light. People were coming from all directions in order to help to kill the flames. Their guards abandoned their post as well to help save the buildings. The minute they were gone, Teal’c showed up, and opened their cage. He had their weapons with him. Without loosing a second the three of them ran towards the woods. During their run away from the village Jack saw another fire breaking out, far away from the first one. Whoever was doing it, was giving them a pretty good distraction. Jack had to remember to thank this person.

After 15 minutes of running in the dark forest, Jack called a stop in a small clearing. They should be far enough away by now to be safe if anybody out of the village would find the time to realize that the prisoners weren’t there anymore.

"Thanks big guy." Jack said to Teal’c "By the way, who was our mysterious rescuer?"

A rare smile showed on Teal’c’s face.

"I think you will be surprised, O’Neill."

Jack didn’t know what to make out of this words or Teal’c expression for that matter, but he hadn’t too much time to think about it. Behind Teal’c a figure came out of the darkness of the forest into the relative light of the clearing. A figure Jack had thought he would never see again. This wasn’t possible.

"Danny?" he whispered, staring. The next moment he had raised his gun, pointing directly at the person who wore Daniel’s face.

"Who are you?"

The man’s eyes locked with Jack’s, holding the hostile gaze of the Colonel with his own, slightly sad one.

"Who do you think? I’m Daniel Jackson. You know me."

"Daniel is dead." Jack stated harshly, feeling himself cringe at his own words "No one could survive his injuries. I ask again, who or what are you?"

The man in front of him looked clearly troubled. Worrying his lower lip between his teeth he said:

"Please Jack, it’s really me. I am Daniel."

Jack stared at the man in front of him. He looked like Daniel and sounded exactly like his friend, too. But Daniel was dead and this guy was walking around without a scratch. No, that wasn’t entirely right. The shirt was ripped and blood-soaked where the deadly wound should have been. Under the clothes there was only mark-less skin.

"Okay, lets say for a second that I believe this: How come you’re walking around when you are supposed to be dead or at least very badly injured?"

Daniel, or not-Daniel… whatever… took a deep breath while looking suspiciously at Jack’s raised gun.

"Do we have to hold this conversation at gun-point?"

"I won't take the gun down, until you give me an explanation I can believe." Jack replied in his typical sarcasm "In the meantime I’ll just continue to be cautious."

A sad, tired smile sowed on Daniel’s face at these words.

"Well, I can’t fault you for that, even if I don’t like it."

Daniel took another deep breath, his face showing his concentration.

"Well, it isn’t an easy thing to explain…"

"I’m still waiting" Jack sing-songed in his most irritating voice. Daniel glared at him like he always did when Jack annoyed him on purpose.

"Okay, cliff note version: I’m an Immortal. I cannot be killed and don’t age. Injuries of any kind heal themselves in a matter of minutes."

"Immortals?" Jack’s scepticism and sarcasm couldn’t be missed. Daniel nodded, his never wavering gaze challenging.

"You expect me to believe this!" Jack retorted, clearly angry, raising his weapon he had taken down a bit while Daniel talked, once again. Daniel’s whole expression spoke of cold determination, as he looked Jack straight into the eyes.

"Since it is the truth, yes, I expect you to believe it. Haven’t you learned by now that there sometimes is more than would meet the eye about some things? Immortals have been around before the Goa’uld were ever on earth and will most likely be around for some time longer."

"I still don’t know if I should believe any of this Sci-fi crap"

"Jack, you’re currently walking around another planet. You are living this Sci-fi crap."

Daniel sounded somewhat amused while Jack turned his patented glare up another notch. Not that it had ever had any effect on Daniel whatsoever.

"He does have a point." Sam mumbled absently. Until now she had followed the conversation between the Colonel and Daniel silently, while trying to figure out for herself what was happening. She had also noted that Teal’c was taking this whole development suspiciously calmly. He seemed to see nothing strange or alarming in the fact that a supposed dead man was walking around and currently arguing with Colonel O’Neill about his identity. Did he know something they didn’t?

"What was that, Carter?" Jack snapped at his 2IC. Sam, used to her CO’s short temper when he was stressed answered calmly:

"I just said that Daniel has a point, Sir. During the last two years we encountered more than one time things that we would have thought impossible, didn’t we. I’m just saying that we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility that Daniel is telling the truth just yet, Sir."

Jack looked doubtfully (and a little bit betrayed) at Sam then turned back to Daniel. Teal’c remained in the background, ready to interfere if it should become necessary.

"I don’t suppose you could prove your claim?"

Daniel made a pained face at the sarcasm. This wasn’t going well. In fact, the mission had stopped going well the moment the natives appeared. Now Jack wanted proof. Wonderful. How was he supposed to give it to Jack? Let him shoot him?

At this moment Daniel really wished that Janet were here. She could most likely explain this way better than him.

Suddenly an idea shot through Daniels thoughts and a small smile appeared on his face.

"I can give you proof, but I won’t guarantee that you’ll like my method."

Not waiting for an answer he bent down and retrieved a knife out of its sheath in his boot. It wasn’t a military issue-knife but one out of his private collection. He had made a habit out of carrying a knife on him all the time a long time ago. At times it was way less conspicuous to have a knife hidden somewhere instead of walking around with a full-length sword and a well thrown knife would stop an immortal challenger just as effectively for some time.

Jack’s eyes lit with suspicion when Daniel had retrieved the knife, and gripped his gun tighter. Daniel noticed this reaction of course but didn’t comment.

Holding the knife in his right hand, he placed the sharp blade against his left palm.

"Look closely." Daniel said to no one in particular around. Before any of his companions had the chance to ask at what they should look, Daniel closed his left hand around the blade and then pulled it free with one fluid motion. Harsh pain shoot through his hand and blood immediately welled up between his fingers. Sam gave a startled shout of alarm but Teal’c held her back with a gentle but firm hand on her shoulder.

Ignoring the pain, Daniel opened his hand and held it so everyone could see it.

"Look!"

In front the astonished eyes of his friends the bleeding stopped and miniature blue lightning started to dance over the wound. Flesh started to knit itself back together until the only sign of any injury was the spilled blood. Even Teal’c looked slightly impressed.

Jack, who had stared at the wound like mesmerized, lifted his eyes to Daniel’s and the Immortal felt himself go cold. His friend’s look held confusion but such utter betrayal too that Daniel suddenly feared that their friendship might not survive this confrontation.

Blind to the subtle byplay of the two men Sam exclaimed:

"Wow! This is incredible! And this works with any kind of injury? What was this electric charge about?"

"Sam, stop! One question at time please!" Daniel interrupted her "Yes, given time this will happen to nearly any wound and the electricity, like you call it… well, it’s what heals me."

Daniel had no interest into going into a longer explanation of the Quickening. He didn’t understand this strange energy himself most of the time.

"As fascinating as this may be" Jack said with bitter irony before Sam could comment again "At the moment I’m more interested in why Teal’c hasn’t said anything about this yet."

Jack transferred his glare over to the Jaffa who was standing impassive as ever, not a bit worried about the fact that a person who should have been dead was standing in front of them, without a scrape.

"You knew about this, didn’t you?" Jack finally asked silently a hint of accusation in his voice.

Teal’c had the grace to look (slightly) guilty.

"Yes I did know, O’Neill."

"How? Did Daniel tell you, or what?"

"I didn’t tell him Jack." Daniel interrupted, sensing that Jack was getting more and more angry with every passing minute "Not really. He witnessed something that I would have been unable to explain any other way but the truth."

Jack looked back at Teal’c. He had known. His gaze wandered over to Daniel. His friend had never told him, and from his actions had never planned to. So, this was how much Daniel trusted him really.

"Jack?"

His emotions had probably been pretty vivid on his face. Clear to see for Daniel. The archaeologist had always been to damn good at reading his emotions.

"Who else does know?" Jack asked, trying to hide his anger but not doing a very good job at it. Daniel sighed and answered quietly:

"Janet does. But she knew about this before either of us joined the SGC. She is the only one despite Teal’c in the SGC who knows."

"Why didn’t you tell me?" Jack demanded angrily, glaring at Daniel "How long did you plan to hide this from me?"

Daniel returned Jack's aggressive look with calm. But inside he was getting desperate. This situation got worse by the minute. He didn’t think he could bear to lose another friend.

"I don’t know. Truthfully, I never really planned on telling anybody."

"You didn’t trust me!"

"This has nothing to do with trust, Jack." Daniel protested immediately, incredibly hurt by the poison in his friend’s voice "You’re not dumb, I’m pretty sure you can imagine what the NID would do with the knowledge about immortals? I do not intend to end as a lab-rat somewhere under the desert of Nevada!"

"Like I said, you didn’t trust me enough to keep quiet."

"And what would you have done if someone ordered you to tell this secret? I’m sorry Jack, but I stopped trusting the military a long time ago. I didn’t want you to get into a conflict between protecting me and your military career."

"It wouldn’t have been a conflict." Jack whispered, voice strangely choked, looking straight at Daniel who felt his own throat constrict at the look in his friend’s eyes.

"It has nothing to with me not trusting you Jack, you've got to believe this. I trust you more than I have anybody for years."

Daniel said, much calmer, smiling sadly.

"It’s simply the way I am. I learned the hard way during my life that some secrets better stay unsaid"

"How old are you anyway?" Jack snarled "You said something about not ageing. So, how long have you lived Daniel… if this is even your real name."

A slight, very slight, blush started to colour Daniel’s face, as he muttered something not understandable.

"What was this?"

"I said, I’m approximately six-thousand years old and Daniel is my name since 20 BC."

There was nothing but stunned silence from Jack and Sam for the next couple of minutes. Both were trying to process what Daniel had just revealed.

"HOW OLD?"

A bitter smile touched Daniel’s features at Sam’s shocked exclamation.

"Six thousand years give or take a few centuries. I’m not really sure. The calendar hadn’t been invented when I was born."

"That’s… that’s…"

"A very long time." Daniel ended Sam’s sentence. She was still staring at him full of wide-eyed amazement.

"Yes, that too. It’s fascinating! To think what…"

"It’s a curse, Sam." Daniel interrupted bitterly. Sam stared at him dumbfounded, so Daniel continued:

"Have you any idea how long this time is when you’re actually living it? How many times I had to bury a friend or a lover because they simply died of old age? How many times in my life I was uprooted and had to start my life again from scratch? How many cultures I have seen rise from the dust and vanish in it again? No one but me remembers the culture I was born in anymore, no one but me knows it even existed. Believe me Sam. Immortality is a mixed blessing."

Daniel’s little speech was greeted with uncomfortable silence by the rest of SG-1. The beginning of understanding showed in Sam’s eyes while Teal’c offered his support by laying his hand on Daniel’s shoulder.

Jack’s expression betrayed nothing. Daniel looked into his friend’s eyes and could hardly suppress a flinch. He knew this particular look of Jack only to well, had seen it when they had met for the first time. The emotional barriers were rising again inside Jack and Daniel feared that he had just lost his friend.

"Let’s get back to earth, before the locals send a search-party." Jack’s emotionless voice sent shivers down Daniel’s spine "And I expect a complete explanation when we are back Doctor Jackson."

This time Daniel did flinch. Jack hadn’t called him by his title since his return from Abydos.

The mood was sullen and an uncomfortable silence reigned during their walk back to the Stargate. Daniel felt like a prisoner instead as a part of the team since he was the only one who wasn’t carrying a weapon (apart from his knife, but that wasn’t exactly much help against a MP) and then, there were the looks Jack kept shooting towards him, looks full of coldness and mistrust. Closing his eyes, Daniel send a short prayer to the gods of his childhood days.


Please! Don’t let me loose another friend because he thinks I betrayed him.

*********************

Klaxons started blaring through Stargate-Command, announcing an unscheduled gate-activation. General Hammond had been in the control room when the gate started to move and so he was there when Lieutenant Simmons confirmed what he had silently feared: SG-1 was returning home, hours before they had been expected.

Ordering the iris open and a medical team into the gate-room the General himself went down there. Sadly it wasn’t all that unusual for SG-1 to return off schedule. The team seemed to attract more trouble than all others put together.

The last chevron encoded and the wormhole established. Seconds later Colonel O’Neill walked through, a very annoyed expression on his face, closely followed by Major Carter, who didn’t look terrible happy either, Doctor Jackson, who looked as if someone had died and lastly Teal’c, who, in all his expressionless looked rather worried, too.

General Hammond took in the dirty uniforms of the team, Doctor Jackson’s missing jacket and his torn and bloody shirt and Colonel O’Neill’s mood, and knew that something had gone terribly wrong on the mission. Well, at least this time all had returned, seemingly relatively well.

"What happened, Colonel?"

"Let’s see" Jack answered, his sarcasm turned down only minimally "The planet wasn’t uninhabited at all, the natives were anything but friendly and for the first time in my life I’m glad about Daniel’s habit of wandering off."

The rest of the team remained silent while Jack glared venomously at Daniel, which prompted a cold look from Teal’c who was still standing behind Daniel. The General was getting the feeling that there was more to this story.

"Get to the infirmary. Briefing will be as soon as Doctor Fraiser has cleared you."

Jack nodded curtly and walked off. Sam turned slightly looking at Daniel and Teal’c, before following her CO. Daniel closed his eyes, breathed deeply and then followed his two teammates with Teal’c still at his side. General Hammond had a very bad feeling about this. He had never seen his team behaving like this. Something major had happened on this planet and he hoped he would find out soon.

*********************

Janet looked up when Jack O’Neill stormed into her infirmary. He didn’t look happy. In fact the whole team didn’t look too joyful as they walked in one by one. Jack kept sending glares at Daniel, who’s look was altering constantly between resolve and hopelessness. With one look Janet noticed the blood on Daniel’s shirt and a nasty suspicion started forming in her mind. Her suspicion was confirmed when Daniel looked at her and said silently:

"They know."

Two simple words and still Daniel managed to lay a whole world of meaning into them. With only two words he told her that he hadn’t told his secret freely and that the reaction of his friends hadn’t been too good. Well, the last thing she could have figured out for herself, judging alone by the glares O’Neill kept shooting around.

"Yes, we know, and I’m still waiting for an explanation, Jackson!" the Colonel snarled in Daniel’s general direction. Janet saw him flinch and at that moment she really wanted to smack Jack O’Neill. Teal’c would probably help from the look he had in his eyes. Didn’t the Colonel realize what he was doing to Daniel with his rejection?

Very soon after Daniel had joined SG-1, when his friendship with Jack O’Neill was just starting, the Immortal had confided in his watcher, telling her that he wasn’t sure if he could find the courage for a new friendship. Most of all so shortly after his loss of Sha’uri and Skaara. For an Immortal as old as Daniel, forging new friendships (or even letting himself love) was always equalled with future pain. But as time went on, Daniel had realized that he couldn’t keep Jack out, that he needed the offered friendship to stay grounded.

The rejection from Jack had to hurt Daniel terribly, hence Janet’s desire to teach the Colonel some manners.

"I’m going to explain everything, Jack. I promised this already. But not here!" Daniel said with a pointed look towards one of the security cameras.

He and Jack continued to exchange glares across the infirmary and Janet was happy that none of the nurses was present at the moment. Coming to a quick decision, she announced:

"We’ll be meeting at my house tonight. Daniel can give you your explanation then, Colonel."

Jack looked at the Doctor with a mix of surprise and apprehension. He hadn’t missed that Janet wasn’t happy with him at the moment, a situation better avoided under normal circumstances.

"What about Cassie?"

It was Sam who gave this objection, a reasonable one, but Janet knew that this point wasn’t a concern tonight:

"She is at a sleep-over with a friend tonight. So, we will be undisturbed."

"And even if she was home, it wouldn’t be a problem." Daniel added absently. Janet immediately turned a hard look towards him.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean you should be more careful with your reports." Daniel replied with an wicked smile, his fight with Jack momentary repressed "Cassie is a very curious girl."

"She read them!?!"

"I don’t know Jan. All I know is that one day she came to me asking my help with a history quiz. Her line of reasoning was that since I had been there I should know what had really been going on."

Janet groaned and even Jack chuckled before he remembered that he was mad and Daniel, therefore mad at Janet by default and therefore shouldn’t laugh at any jokes. Even if Janet’s dismayed face was pretty funny.

"How the hell did she get her hands on one of my reports?"

"I personally think she hacked your computer." Daniel replied, still smirking "She had to practise the skills Sam taught her somewhere, didn’t she?"

Janet turned to glare at Sam who held her hands up in a gesture of mock surrender.

"I plead the fifth!"

Sadly the jovial mood didn’t last and the gloom that had held the team captive since they had come back, returned. Quickly Janet set out to check up on the members of SG-1 while sending Daniel off to go get a new shirt. The one he wore wasn’t salvageable any more. Daniel smiled sadly at her when he went.

The medical was over quickly as none of the team suffered anything more serious than slight sleep withdrawal. The briefing took a while longer. General Hammond knew that something was up, but none of the team talked. They had gotten their stories straight on the walk to the Stargate and now they were sticking to it. It was frustrating the hell out of the General, but in the end there was nothing he could do. So he sent the team home in the hope they would be more talkative after two days leave. He also hoped that two days outside the mountain would give Jack and Daniel time to clear their differences. One would have to be blind not to see that there was a conflict brewing between the two close friends.

So Jack, Daniel and Sam left the base with the intention to meet up with Janet and Teal’c tonight at seven.

*********************

Daniel left his apartment building in the evening, still trying to come up with a way to explain everything to Jack and Sam. Why was this so hard? At least they already knew the hard facts.


//And haven’t taken them too well//, he thought cynical.

He really hated these kind of explanations. Most of all with Sam who probably would want a scientific explanation for it all at some point tonight. He couldn’t give her one, and he doubted that there even was one. Some things just were and that included Immortals.

At least Janet was there; she could help with the explanations.

Walking through a back alley to the place where his car was parked Daniel suddenly felt an immortal presence wash over him and groaned. He really wasn’t in the mood to deal with Chel on top of everything else that had happened today, even if it would have been a fitting continuation of his bad luck.

In the middle of the thought Daniel frowned. That wasn’t Chel’s Quickening, it was way to weak and unfocused.

To recognize the age of an Immortal from his or her Quickening wasn’t all that difficult. If nothing else, one could measure it on the amount of headache the others Quickening caused.

To read a Quickening was a skill that came with age and experience. A few older ones had sometimes the additional ability to focus their power, to hide the amount of Quickening-energy running through them, making themselves less likely targets for Headhunters. But they would always recognize each other. The sheer power of age, of lived eons, left a feel of power that couldn’t be hidden from those who knew what to look for.

The Quickening Daniel now felt was most definitely not Chel’s. It lacked the calm, steady strength of age that was distinctive for an Immortal of Chel’s age. There was power in the unknowns Quickening, no mistake there, but it were the flowing, restless currents of gained Quickenings.

This information told Daniel several things: One, the Immortal was relatively young. Two, he or she had taken many heads already. So either he or she was a preferred target to hunters and had had the luck of surviving until now, or he or she was a hunter.

Considering his luck today, Daniel tended towards the second option. What had he done to piss off the fates that he deserved such a day?

Before Daniel had the chance to decide if he should simply run or not, a man stepped into view, sword already in hand. Daniel cast a quick look around, being arrested for wielding dangerous weapons in public really was something he really didn’t need, but they were alone. No passer-bys and even the windows of the apartment building were all dark.

"What do you want?" Daniel asked the man in front of him impatiently while drawing his own sword. The younger snarled back:

"I’m looking for the murderer of my teacher, Michael Sole. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about this?"

Daniel favoured the youngster with a steady, superior glare. He knew that this look could make nearly anyone nervous if they had a measure of self-preservation and common-sense left. Neither seemed to apply to the young man in front of him who just glared back.

"Well, I don’t know anything about a murder but I won when Mr Sole challenged me."

"So you are the one who killed him."

Daniel just shrugged. He hadn't even known the young one for a minute and already the guy was grating at his nerves. Under normal circumstances only amoebic-brained idiots like Kinsey were able to do this.

"He challenged. We fought. I won. This is the way of immortal life, kid."

"Then I challenge you!" the younger Immortal exclaimed, raising his sword into attack position and glaring at Daniel whose own look reigned at arctic temperatures.

"Don’t be a fool, kid!"

"I’m not a kid!"


//Yes of course, you are so mature//, Daniel thought sarcastically just to realize in the next instance:


//Damn! I’ve been hanging around Jack too long//

"Do you really think you are so much better than your teacher?" Daniel asked, still trying to make the younger man see sense. He wasn’t in the mood for a fight. The other Immortal just continued glaring and said with the pitiful attempted of a sneer:

"You won’t be lucky a second time."

Daniel stared. He hadn’t encountered such overrated self-assurance since the last run-in with Apophis. Loyalty to ones teacher was something laudable, but to go after someone who had bested ones mentor was nothing short of suicide. Such kind of revenge had to be planned out, not committed with hotheaded fury.

Daniel’s estimation of the Immortal in front of him (and Michael Sole’s teaching skills) dropped again into regions beyond absolute zero.

"What makes you think that luck had anything to do with it?"

The younger man snorted in disdain (not nearly as good as Chel could pull it off) and said:

"As if such a geek like you could win against a warrior without luck."

Okay, that was it. Diplomacy and avoidance of violence be damned. If Daniel hated one thing, then it was people thinking he was unable to fight just because he preferred learning to fighting. He had had a way too stressful day to let a little upstart who most probably hadn’t seen his first century yet ridicule him.

"Challenge accepted." Daniel said in a very cold and even tone of voice. Had the youngster known him, he would have realized that he was in deep, deep trouble. But the young Immortal didn’t know what he was dealing with and obviously lacked the common sense to realize it.

"Steven Magan" the youngster introduced himself. Daniel looked at him with all the arrogance he could muster (and he could muster a lot). In the spur of the moment he introduced himself as:

"Da’yell"

With satisfaction Daniel noted that Magan looked startled at this. So he had enough intelligence to recognize and ancient name. And old names most of the time indicated old age. Sadly, Magan wasn’t impressed very long. Formalities out of the way, he attacked with fury but without much skill. It took Daniel about ten minutes to disarm his opponent. Holding the blade of his sword to the younger Immortals throat he said:

"Yield! Stop this farce here and now and walk away!"

Magan’s eyes were practically glowing with hatred as he answered:

"Never!"

The younger man lunged forward and Daniel realised in the last minute that he was holding a knife. Jumping back he avoided a graver injury other than a shallow gash over his stomach. Not a bad trick to use in a desperate situation. In fact, Daniel himself had used it more than once when he had been cornered.

Magan gathered his sword up quickly and went at it again. Daniel had had enough. He had never had much patience for this kind of fanaticism.

A few minutes later the storm of a released Quickening raged with Daniel in its centre. The Quickening wasn’t that strong, but wild, a sign that it consisted of many different ones. So, Steven Magan had been a hunter.

The storm subsided and Daniel found himself kneeling on the earth, leaning heavily on his sword. He needed a few minutes to get his breath back. He hated this and loved it at the same time: This mix of pain and exhilaration, of bone deep exhaustion and the feeling of coursing energy.

Standing up slowly, still recovering from the experience, Daniel looked down at his tattered shirt. He would have to change before going over to Janet. Damn it, he was already late and his awaiting audience wouldn’t take any delay too kindly.

Walking back to his apartment building he suddenly stopped dead in his tracks. The feeling of another presence was washing over him again.

Turning around, he discovered Chel standing at the next corner, observing him. Daniel could feel his body start shaking, partly in reaction to the Quickening he had just received and partly because of very real fear. He wasn’t sure if he would be able to fight against someone as good and experienced as Chel right now. This was his adversaries chance to finally extract his revenge.

For an incredibly long moment the two of them just looked at each other, one set of eyes blue and fearful the other one brown and strangely devoid of emotion. Finally, it was Chel who broke the look, turned around and just walked away. Daniel stared after him, confusion raging in his mind. For the first time in millennia Chel had not taken the chance of a fight with Daniel. Never had ever missed an opportunity to try to get his revenge.

What was going on? Could it be…?

Daniel closed his eyes tightly. He refused to let the hope that had started to stir inside him get stronger. Not after all those years. He just wasn’t up for the disappointment.

Walking over to his building Daniel debated internally if he should give Janet a call to inform her that he would be late, but in the end he decided against it. The others should be able to wait for him for a few minutes without going into panic.

*********************

Sam and Jack arrived a bit early at Janet’s to find Teal’c already waiting. Janet had, with some excuse or another, managed to get the Jaffa off base.

Much to the disappointment of both Sam and Jack, Janet refused to tell them anything she knew before Daniel was there. They wanted an explanation about his abilities? They should wait until he could tell them himself.

So, now they were waiting for the main reason of there little get-together to arrive. The mood was still tense, Jack still clearly angry with Daniel, Janet and Teal’c angry with Jack for being angry with Daniel and Sam caught in the middle of it. Janet wasn’t helping matters any by looking to the clock every few minutes and being very obviously nervous about something.

When the clock showed that Daniel was more than half an hour late, Jack finally chose to comment:

"You think he hightailed it."

The sarcasm was harsh in his voice, but for those who knew the Colonel well enough a bit of bitter disappointment was also evident. Janet decided to ignore the latter and turned to glare at Jack. Her patented glare that would turn even the meanest soldier into a frightened kitten. Jack looked away. No one was immune to Janet’s glare, not even Colonel O’Neill.

"No, I don’t think he hightailed it, Colonel. What reason could he have to?"

"Well, he didn’t seem too happy at the prospect of giving us a few explanations." Jack mumbled, not looking at Janet. Better not to agitate her further, his next medical wasn’t that far away.

"Judging by the way you are behaving, Colonel" was Janet’s cold answer "I can understand his reluctance."

This shut Jack up pretty fast. The uncomfortable silence stretched for a few minutes before Sam asked:

"Then where is he? We all know that Daniel isn’t the most punctual person but forty-five minutes is pushing it even for him."

Janet sighed deeply.

"I wish I knew. I hope it is just something like a broken down car that is keeping him and not…"

"What?" Jack propped, trying to hide his own growing concern. He wasn’t supposed to be concerned, damn it. He was mad at Daniel!

Janet didn’t look at anyone specifically in the room when she answered:

"The term ‘Immortal’ is a bit misleading. They can be injured and even killed permanently and some of them are doing their best to keep proving this fact. And with this man after Daniel… well, I worry."

"What do you mean? Who is after Daniel?" asked Sam with growing worry "Has this something to do with the man the Colonel and I saw stalking Daniel?"

Janet nodded.

"In a way, yes. The man you saw was another Immortal. From the bits and pieces Daniel told me I know that this guy wants to kill him."

"What?!" Sam and Jack exclaimed shocked. Teal’c raised his eyebrows high, which could be counted as an equal reaction.

"Heaven sake, why?" Jack asked in addition. Janet shrugged.

"I don’t know. All I know is that it has something to do with something that happened a very long time ago. But Daniel isn’t talking. And believe me, it is easier to make stones bleed than to get Daniel to tell you about something he doesn’t want to talk about."

The others had to agree with this assessment. Some might complain that Daniel Jackson talked too much, but the man was a master when it came to talking without saying anything; at least not anything personal. It was a fact that had frustrated the hell out of Jack on more than one occasion.

Further speculation was cut short by Daniels arrival. Jack sent a glare in his direction when he walked, one that Daniel returned with equal coldness. But none of the present people could ignore that Daniel didn’t look so good. His breath was going faster than usual and there was a restlessness and abruptness in his motions that wasn’t normal. One had to be blind not to see that something had happened.

"Daniel?" Janet asked carefully, recognizing the after-effects of a Quickening "Did something happen?"

She remembered her talk with Daniel about this old friend of his. If she wasn’t completely wrong, Daniel didn’t want to fight or even kill this man. Now he was showing signs that he had taken a Quickening not so long ago, one that hadn’t had time to settle yet. Not very good signs at all.

Daniel’s self-mocking laugh was proof enough for the dark mood he was currently in.

"Not much. I had a run-in with a wanne-be Headhunter who suffered the delusion that he had to avenge his teacher and could win against me. Oh, and Chel is still lurking around, doing his best to freak me out. But other than that? Nothing happened."


//Why do I get the feeling// Janet thought //that he is making fun of me? //

"So there was a fight. I’ll take it you won?"

"I’m still here, aren’t I?"

Daniel’s answer was still heavily laced with irony. This was the moment Jack decided that he should interrupt before the two drifted further into a conversation he didn’t understand one word of.

"Stop! Time out! What are you guys talking about?"

Not only Jack looked rather confused, Sam too had obviously lost the plot. Teal’c just looked concerned, or as concerned as he would ever look.

Daniel looked at the other members of his team as if realizing for the first time that he had an audience. He leant back in his armchair, closing his eyes for a minute in an attempt to calm his still over-stimulated nerves down. When he opened his eyes again he saw that he had everyone’s attention.

"What Janet and I are talking about is that I was in a fight with another Immortal, which is the reason I’m late, by the way."

"Why would you fight with another like you?" Sam interrupted, all curiosity.

"The Quickening."

Reviving mostly blank looks around (Janet and Teal’c knowing what he was talking about) Daniel decided that he should elaborate:

"The Quickening is hard to explain. It is, for the lack of better words, an Immortals life-energy. I know that sounds pretty corny, but I don’t know how else to explain it. It is what makes us immortal, the very essence of our being.

When Immortals kill each other the Quickening from the looser is transferred to the winner. Receiving a quickening is an incredible head rush. In a matter of minutes you get all the memories, the personality, the power, everything from the other."

"Wow!"

Jack’s involuntary comment was rather fitting, thought Daniel with a hidden smile.

"Yes, wow. It’s enthralling and terrorizing, exhilarating and agonizing, it’s confusing beyond words and still lets you see the world sharper than ever before, and all at the same time. If one doesn’t have a strong sense of self a Quickening can take you over. And the older the Immortal was the harder the Quickening will settle."

"You sound as if you had very detailed experience with this."

Jack’s voice sounded wary and Daniel couldn’t really fault him for it. He wasn’t an idiot and had surely made the connection by now. Jack obviously wasn’t thrilled about finding out that his friend had killed. Daniel smiled sadly and answered:

"I have, Jack. I couldn’t have survived this long without partaking in the fighting. And this brings me right back to the topic: the Game. Sanctioned killing and the second reason why Immortals prey on each other. I have absolutely no clue how this madness got started but it goes like this: In the end, there can only be one, and this one gets the prize. To make the whole thing even more senseless, no one has any idea what this prize is going to be."

Bitterness and irony battled each other in Daniel’s voice. Jack and Sam looked at him aghast. Finally Jack spoke:

"Let me get this straight. There is a secret society of people out there who have the potential to live for ever, and they have nothing better to do than killing each other?"

"Yes, that about sums it up."

"Forgive me if I’m blunt, Daniel, but this is mad."

"I couldn’t agree more, Jack."

Jack looked a bit startled at Daniel’s answer. He obviously hadn’t expected him to share his opinion on Immortal life-styles.

"You mean you always have to look over your shoulder in fear that another Immortal comes after you?"

Sam sounded somewhat disbelieving at the prospect and Daniel could understand her. He sometimes wished he could meet the person who started this folly so that he could explain his point of view on the game. Preferably with his sword.

"It isn’t this bad. Not every Immortal partakes in the Game like this, most of us are actually quite happy to live and let live. Another helpful detail is that we can sense each other’s Quickening, kind of an early warning system that another of our kind is close. And there are certain rules to the Game."

"So you don’t just slaughter each other, you do it organized. Sweet."

Jack’s sarcastic comment made Sam (and Janet) look at him scandalized, but Daniel laughed out loud:

"You got it in one, Jack."

"What kinds of rules are there?" Sam asked when she had recovered from her surprise. Daniel answered in an overly serious tone of voice:

"The fights are one on one. No fighting on holy ground. There can only be one."

A slightly mocking smile appeared on Daniel’s face as he continued:

"Nice, clear and to the point even if it is known that the first rule has been bent considerably sometimes."

"What about the second one?"

Sam was clearly getting curious. A morbid fascination for this Game had taken hold of her.

"This is the one rule not even the worst of us dare to break. The last time someone did a volcano erupted and buried the whole city in which they had been fighting."

"And which city was this? And when?"

"Pompeii, 79 AC."

Sam stayed silent, thinking. That was something she hadn’t expected. She could understand why Immortals would be reluctant to fight on holy ground after this. It was most probably just a coincident but why risk it?

"And you were fighting before you got here, weren't you?" Jack said in an attempt to get the conversation back to the original topic. Daniel nodded.

"Yes, I was. I normally try to avoid fights, but sometimes there is no choice."

"Whom were you fighting with, anyway?" Janet asked interested. She was his watcher after all, so she should know these things.

"He introduced himself as Steven Magan, student of the late Michael Sole. I don’t think he was more than one hundred, most likely less."

"Michael Sole?" Janet asked, "Wasn’t that the Head-hunter who challenged you?"

"Yes, exactly."

A wicked smile suddenly appeared on Daniel’s face.

"I give you a detailed report later, for you to send. I’m pretty sure Mr Magan had a watcher. Would be interesting to see how he saw our little fight."

"Stop!" Jack interrupted, "This is getting more confusing by the minute. I have to questions here. What does Janet got to do with this all and what the hell is a Watcher?"

"Well" Daniel said with true mischief "I could answer this question, but I think it’s Janet’s turn to do some explanations."

During the last part of this statement Daniel had turned towards Janet with the most innocent little-boy look that was possible. She glared at him, completely unimpressed by his angel-like expression. After a minute she sighed, resigning herself to the fact that she couldn’t win this staring contest.

"Okay, the Watchers are a secret organization built to document the lives of Immortals. The prime rule is to only watch and never to interfere. Immortals aren’t even supposed to be aware of our organisation."

"Our organisation?" Sam enquired, her voice full of suspicion. Janet smiled ruefully in her direction.

"Yes, our. I am a Watcher, too. Assigned to Daniel to be exact."

"But" interrupted Jack, looking puzzled, "Danny obviously knows about your second job. Why is that?"

"I think Daniel could answer this question better than me."

Daniel and Janet looked at each other pointedly for a moment, before Daniel started to talk again:

"I’ve been around since before the Watchers were founded and let’s say, the first one who tried to trail me was… a bit clumsy at it. Needless to say that I wasn’t exactly happy about being stalked. But since I wanted to know why he was following me around like a lost puppy I asked him."

"You just asked him?"

Jack’s doubt about the truth of Daniel’s statement was clear to hear. Daniel smiled sweetly at him.

"Of course not, I had to be subtle. I got him drunk out of his skull and then I asked him. He was very generous with his information."

Everyone stared at Daniel for a second or two before Jack erupted into loud laughter.

"Okay, this I can believe. So, Janet knew from the very beginning what you were?"

"Yes, thankfully. I don’t know if I could have stayed hidden without her help."

Seeing the questioning looks around Daniel elaborated:

"You’ve seen yourself how fast injuries heal for me. The same goes for any kind of illness. I may get infected with an illness, but before it can show any virus is long beaten down. Janet tells me that I have some very interesting anti-bodies in my blood-work. Trying to explain this during all this check-ups we go through could have gotten a bit problematic."

"So, you never get ill, either?" Sam asked "Then what about your allergies?"

This innocent question had interesting results: Janet started chuckling and Daniel’s cheeks turned into an interesting shade of red. He mumbled something unintelligible and Jack asked:

"What was this?"

"I think" Janet said with a cheeky smile on her lips "what Daniel was trying to say was that he is the only known immortal with psychosomatic allergies ever."

"Psychosomatic as in imagined?"

Daniel snorted at Jack’s words.

"They’re real enough for me. I have no idea where they come from. I shouldn’t be able to react like this; my immune-system simply doesn’t work this way. At least the allergies have gotten better."

Daniel’s grumbling admission was met by warring degrees of amusement from his friends. His allergies had always somehow completed the picture of the typical absently minded professor. Finally, after a few moments Jack tried to get the conversation back to the topic:

"Okay, but all this still doesn’t explain how you found out that Janet belongs to this watcher-bunch."

"The tattoo" was Daniel’s simple answer as if this would explain everything. Sam couldn’t help but ask:

"What tattoo?"

Janet pulled up the sleeve of her shirt and showed her wrist.

"This one. Remember how the Colonel asked if this was the mark of some sect? Well it actually is, in a way. For some archaic reason nearly every watcher wears this."

"This sounds more barbaric every second." Jack mumbled and was rather surprised about Daniel’s equally silent answer.

"You don’t know the half of it, Jack. Be happy about it."

"Have you ever tried to stop being part of the game?"

Daniel laughed hollowly at Sam’s question.

"If it was this easy the Game wouldn’t exist for lack of players. You’re either part of it, or you’re dead."

"Daniel!"

"I know" Daniel answered Janet’s shocked interruption "I'm a cynic. But don’t you think I tried my best to stay out of it and still over-eager idiots like Mr Magan come after me. Not everyone is able to spend centuries holed up on holy ground."

Everyone was silent after Daniel’s bitter words. Sam started to really understand what Daniel had meant when he said that Immortality was a curse.

"Is there no safe place for you?"

"Like I said, holy-ground is our sanctuary. And this rule includes every faith. So holy ground can be a Christian monastery, a Native-America burial-place or simply a blessed piece of land. When it’s considered holy by someone it is safe. It is good when you need a break from life now and then, but I’m not cut out to stay there."

A slight blush crept up on Daniel’s face.

"I mean I can spent years in a good library, doing research, but at one point I want to go out again, live again. I know that some Immortals spent their whole existence on holy ground, but even this doesn’t keep them safe nowadays."

The last bit was said with a not-so-subtle glare at Janet’s direction.

"You’re never going to forgive this, are you?"

Daniel shook his head, his expression grim.

"The act itself? Perhaps I could come to understand it. But the fact that the Watchers tried to cover it up? That they didn’t stop this bastard? No, sorry, these are things I won’t forgive. He didn’t even have the decency to go after those who were dangerous."

"For Horton they were." Janet said in a matter of fact tone of voice. Daniel just glared at her:

"Horton was a maniac with a hard case of schizophrenic paranoia who should never had even access to the job he did. Forgive me if I say this, Jan, but I hope this bastard rots in hell."

"Oh for crying out loud, are you doing this on purpose!"

Jack’s loud exclamation caught Daniel and Janet both off guard and they turned puzzled looks to him. Seeing that they really didn’t understand Jack explained:

"You start going off on a tangent, talking about something you know exactly only you two understand."

Janet had the grace to look guilty but Daniel did not. He continued to look angry. After a moment Sam dared to ask:

"So… what were you talking about?"

"Some time ago a Watcher snapped." Daniel stated "After long reflections about the nature of immortality he came to the conclusion that all Immortals were dangerous and that we wanted to take over the world thus endangering his beautiful life. Deciding that the best way to stop the evil that called itself Immortals was to kill them all and with great practical consideration he and his loyal cronies went first after those who wouldn’t put up much of a fight. Those who just wanted to live a quite life and never really bothered anyone. And one of his victims was Darius."

The last part was said as if it should explain all. Sadly, it didn’t for most people present, but they could understand Daniel’s anger. From what they had gathered, the life of an Immortal was hazardous enough but with a crazed mortal around who actually knew how to end their life permanently? No good prospects.

Deciding that someone should explain the significance of Darius, Janet said:

"You see, Darius is kind of a legend. He was a general, a warlord even mighty Rom feared. Then, one day, he just stopped. The general became a priest and never touched a sword again. Legend says that it is because he took a Quickening outside the doors of Paris and that it changed him."

"A Quickening can do that?" Sam asked aghast. She looked over at Daniel while the implications of the statement ran through her mind. Could her friend change like this, too? And who said that it would be for the better.

"Yes, it can." Daniel answered her question solemnly "It mostly happens to younger Immortals if they kill someone way older, but it seldom happens in the magnitude as it happened to Darius. Mostly, it changes little things: personal quirks, certain like and dislikes, not the whole character. But I told you, one needs a strong sense of self to weather a strong Quickening completely unchanged."

"So Darius wasn’t strong enough in his identity?"

"No. The Quickening he took was too strong, the Immortal he killed too old. As far as I know, and I only know what Darius told me, the Immortal he killed was several millennia old while Darius himself wasn’t even four hundred. And there was something special about the Quickening, but we have never been able to truly figure it out.

What is important in the end is that Darius turned from a military general, someone who practically lived war, into a pacifist. He really believed in peace and that humanity someday would wise up. And Horton killed him in his church. The same place he had been safe in for so many years. The only consolation is that Horton made a few very dangerous enemies by this stunt."

"This Darius, he was a friend of yours, wasn’t he?" Jack asked carefully. A wistful smile showed on Daniel’s face when he said:

"Yes, he was. We started out as enemies though. I wasn’t exactly happy with him when he and his little war band disturbed my quite, studious life in Greece. Then, I met him again in Paris after his little enlightment. We talked and resolved some of our differences. With time we became friends. I actually admired his strength. For the rest of his life he helped people but stayed true to his vow to never take a sword again. I don’t think I could do this."

Daniel trailed off, a faraway look in his eyes.

"Do what?" Sam asked, startling Daniel out of his thoughts.

"Standing back when I could help. Don’t get me wrong, he did help in his way, but I have to do something."

"Like now?"

Daniel looked uncertainly over at Jack who had spoken.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you said that you are worried about the military exposing you. So, why stay?"

For the first time Daniel noticed that Jack sounded calmer and more rational than he had the whole evening. This was for several reasons. Jack had had some time to think about what Daniel had told him and what not. He had started to understand. To understand why Daniel had never spoken a word about being Immortal. From his tale the age-old dream of eternal youth and invulnerability turned, for those who had achieved it, into a nightmare. What would it be like, to see time go by, see people be born and die, but remain unchanged? To always be on the outside looking in to a certain degree? What must it have been like for Danny to loose everyone to time, even those who were supposed to remain?

When Jack finally realized all this his feelings of betrayal had vanished pretty fast. All that remained was the understanding how much it must have cost Daniel to let him in, to forge a friendship with a mortal.

In the end only one thing was important to Jack: Daniel was still his friend, however old he was, one of the best friends he had ever had. There was no real reason to loose this friendship. None at all.

Daniel still looked at Jack searchingly and seemed to like what he found. A small, grateful smile graced his features. Jack returned the smile cheekily.

"You’re right. At first I stayed because it was a way to do something against the Goa’uld. Recently, other things came up."

"Other things? Come on Danny tell us! I’m interested now."

"It has to do with what Nem did to me." Daniel stated and noted the subtle flinch from Jack and Sam. They weren’t still feeling guilty for leaving him behind, were they?

"When he combed through my memories to find what he was looking for he opened a few doors that I hadn’t even realized were closed much less existed. You see, until then I could remember about two thousand years of my live, everything before this point was just a great blank. I always thought that it had been the shock of first-death that made me forget my previous life, despite the evidence that there was more to it. Well, I was wrong. Thanks to Nem I suddenly started to remember the other four millennia of my existence."

"So, that’s why you have been behaving so freaky after that!" Jack exclaimed. Daniel looked at him doubtfully:

"Freaky?"

"Well, more than usual."

Daniel glared at Jack for a moment, but without any malice behind it, before he started to chuckle quietly. It felt good that Jack felt comfortable enough again to tease him.

"What have your returned memories to do with you staying with the SGC?" Sam finally asked, trying to get Daniel back on track. They were loosing the topic quite often in this conversation. Daniel smiled sweetly at her:

"Try to figure it out Sam. When were the Goa’uld on earth? And how old am I?"

Sam looked at her friend in annoyance. She didn’t like this kind of guessing-game, but she did what he asked. Seconds later her eyes widened when she got to the obvious conclusion. Could this be?

"You… you mean… you experienced the Goa’uld occupation?"

Daniel nodded, his eyes taking a far away look for a short moment. Janet and Teal’c stole concerned glances at the Immortal, knowing that Daniel’s experiences with the Goa’uld were anything but good.

"I wasn’t about to give them any chance to get back after I fought so hard to get them off it."

"You fought them?" Jack asked partly astonished but he immediately returned to his common sarcasm:

"What am I saying, of course you fought them. You had to train your damned snake-baiting abilities somewhere."

Daniel grinned at his friend. He knew that Jack really hated it when he went and riled up every Goa’uld they met even if he secretly agreed with every word he said.

"Yes, I worked against the Goa’uld as best as I was able to back then. Mind you, I was more in a position of information gathering than actual fighting…"

Daniel trailed off and closed his eyes shortly. Memories started to well up inside him.

"Come on Danny, tell us! What were you doing against earth’s snake infestation?"

Daniel looked up and his friends noticed the glazed look in his eyes. Janet immediately recognized it as a sign that her Immortal was getting caught up in his memories.

With an even, calm voice Daniel started to tell his tale:

"Right from the beginning I wanted to do something against these so-called gods that had wiped out my tribe, but I didn’t know how or what to do until…

#####################

Da’yell kneeled on the smooth floor of the Tel’tac and listened attentively to Thoth’s rant about Ra and unimportant jobs. In between the scathing critique of Ra’s sense of priorities there were bits of important information.

The reason for Thoth’s momentary foul mood was that Ra had contacted him and ordered him to take care of some administrative work and reinforce the presence of the gods while he was there. At least Da’yell was almost sure that this was the gist of it, the Goa’uld seamed to have real problems giving a clear statement if they weren’t in a really dire situation.

The problem consisted of a quarry not far away from Thoth’s permanent residence. Rumours of a revolt were spreading from there while at the same time the production was at the bottom of average. Reason enough, at least from Ra’s reasoning, for one of the gods to show up and see what was going on. Thoth’s opinion about the importance of this single quarry differed from Ra’s. He hadn’t been happy in the aftermath of Ra’s call.

//Not happy at all//, Da’yell thought with a slight shiver.

Now, they were on their way to the quarry. Thoth would have a talk with the overseer and generally make a big show of his godhood. The normal approach with the Goa’uld.

Da’yell himself would have something to do on this mission to: he was supposed to talk to the local scribes in an attempt to find out whatever the overseer wouldn’t tell Thoth. Da’yell felt a bit strange with the role he would assume. For a short time he wouldn’t be a simple slave, no he would be an official representative of Thoth, great god of wisdom and writing. For a few short hours he would get respect and fear, only to go back to be a lowly slave again.

It wasn’t the first time that Da’yell would play the role. For every outsider it appeared as if he had been promoted in rank from a slave to the personal assistant of Thoth. It was true that Da’yell sometimes took over the duties that would come with such a position but in realty he held none of the privileges. Thoth’s behaviour towards his slave was two-sided and unstable. On the one hand he had taught and trained him on the other he still treated him the worst he could. Da’yell had stopped being confused a long time ago and had resigned himself to his fate. Which didn’t mean that he accepted it any more than the first day of his enslavement.

<"I expect that you will bring results, do you understand?"> Thoth asked haughtily, stopping his pacing to stand right in front of Da’yell who still knelt on the floor, eyes cast down. With a quiet voice he answered:

<"Yes master">

Thoth regarded Da’yell with a cold arrogant look before he turned around and left the cabin. Da’yell let out a silent sigh of relief as soon as Thoth was out of sight. He knew that they would reach they destination soon.

The landing went as smoothly as expected. Da’yell kept in the background, doing his best to be invisible while Thoth walked down the ramp with all arrogance and pride one associated with a god. Two Jaffa walked in front of Thoth, guarding their god. Da’yell left the Tel’tac a few moments later, trying to appear confident and not to show how his stomach was cramping with apprehension.

The glaring midday sun blinded him momentarily as he stepped out of the shadows of the Tel’tac. The heat hit him like a wall and it took him a moment to get used to it as well. As soon as his eyes had gotten used to the bright light he looked around. The quarry spread out before him. It was larger than he had thought. The white stone that was quarried here reflected the harsh sunlight and made it painful to look at it too long. Everywhere he looked Da’yell could see people working.

The overseer, whom Da’yell knew was a minor Goa’uld, greeted Thoth with a mix of overloaded pomp and sickening submission. Da’yell only listened with half an ear to the assurances how big an honour it was to have Lord Thoth visiting. The overseer was most probably wracking his brain what he had done to warrant a visit of such an important personality.

One of the Jaffas stepped to Da’yell, his big form towering over him. His guard. More to make sure that Da’yell didn’t use the opportunity to flee instead of protecting him. Glancing sideways at the Jaffa, Da’yell let out a relieved sigh as he recognized Jahi. At least he wouldn’t have to fear his guard today.

Jahi was one of Thoth’s Jaffa, but unlike many others he hadn’t stopped thinking for himself, hadn’t stopped seeing what was going on. For him, the belief in the Goa’uld as gods, hadn’t survived some harsh truths. He and Da’yell had formed some sort of friendship born out of the common dislike towards the Goa’uld. A friendship that was some days the only hold for Da’yell’s sanity.

Always keeping a wary eye on Thoth and the overseer Da’yell took a good look around.

On the first look everything seemed as if the production was going smoothly but a closer look showed little discrepancies. The workers looked thin and drawn despite the muscular built that was natural in this kind of work. Many of the men carried long, narrow scars on their backs: whip marks. Some men, the older ones obviously, were walking around with water skins, giving the workers something to drink whenever they passed. But there were only very few such water-carrier. //Too few//, Da’yell thought as he took in the scene. The labourers, working without protection under the hot dessert sun must have been constantly thirsty. The few looks towards them that Da’yell could see, for most men averted their eyes very fast, were alight with fear and a deep, deep loathing. Perhaps Ra was right after all: the seeds for a revolt were there without any doubt.

Thoth and the overseer walked towards a small building were refreshments had been prepared. Da’yell looked longingly towards the shade the building offered. He could feel the effects of the merciless sun on his exposed skin already, but he knew Thoth wanted him to do his assignment as soon as possible.

<"Well, shall we get going?"> Da’yell asked turning to Jahi. The typical armoured mask now hid the Jaffa’s face, but nevertheless Da’yell could detect a small nod from him.

Walking the way to the scribes’ quarters Da’yell continued to observe the people around him. He noticed the workers shying away from him and his companion and the hateful looks they sent towards them when they thought Da’yell wasn’t looking. A distinctly bad feeling started to settle in his stomach as he walked on. He could practically feel the tension around him.

*********************

His little investigation hadn’t uncovered anything Da’yell hadn’t suspected beforehand, but it was nice to have some kind of proof for his feelings. It was pretty simple actually: the overseer, in his attempt to get as much money as possible for himself out of this was saving at the wrong places which wasn’t only proving counter-productive now, but was also breeding resentment from the workers. Until now the fear of the supposed god’s and the overseer had kept the people from trying anything but this kind of thing wouldn’t work much longer. If they felt that that they had nothing left to loose not even fear would keep these abused people from rebelling against their masters.

Da’yell walked slowly and deep in thought through the quarry on his way back to the Tel’tac. Jahi was walking at his shoulder, being his menacing self, but Da’yell didn’t even notice the Jaffa’s presence. He was trying to think of the best way to tell Thoth what he had found out. He wasn’t concerned that the Goa’uld wouldn’t trust his observations. Da’yell knew that Thoth would believe his assessment of the situation, what had him worried was the possible course of action the god might choose. Thoth was unpredictable like a desert-storm sometimes and about as destructive.

Suddenly Da’yell stopped dead in his tracks, his eyes widening with surprise. A feeling was washing over him, a feeling he hadn’t experienced in a very long time. Could it be? Was it possible that…?

<"Can you wait here for a moment?"> Da’yell asked turning to Jahi. The Jaffa wasn’t very happy about this, after all he was supposed to guard Da’yell but he had enough trust in him not to use the opportunity and run. Jahi gave a short, nearly undetectable nod, which Da’yell answered with a thankful smile.

Leaving the Jaffa behind Da’yell started to follow the feeling that indicated another of his kind. He was hoping against hope to find him again.

Making his way around some rocks he finally found a little provisional hut made of wood and palm leaves. A group of man was sitting in the meagre shade this shack, talking. The moment Da’yell stepped into view all talking stopped abruptly. The men stared at him with a mix of fear and anger, and then surprise joined in on some faces. Da’yell knew these men who looked at him with incredulous recognition. They were of his old tribe, some of the few who had survived the capture.

<"Da’yell?">

A wide, happy smile appeared on Da’yell’s face as he heard the well-known voice from the back of the hut. A voice he hadn’t dared to hope to hear ever again.

<"Hello Chel."> Da’yell whispered happily as a tall figure stepped into the light. For a long moment the two just stood there, staring at each other. Neither could really believe that the other was there. Then the spell was broken and they where lying in each other’s arms.

<"I missed you, brother!"> Da’yell whispered hoarsely while holding on tight. Chel returned the hug just as desperate.

<"And I you.">

They held on to each other a moment longer before letting go. Other men had stepped up to them and took now their turn in greeting Da’yell. The Immortal noticed that the few men he had recognized as members of his tribe had grown rather old. The last time he had seen them, they had been young men, some just above boyhood, now Da’yell faced old men. So much time had passed.

<"You’re a scribe now?"> Chel finally asked, taking in Da’yell’s clothes, while he led his old friend towards the shade.

<"Yes, more or less…">

Before Da’yell could say anything else one of the men snarled accusingly:

<"You are the one who came with lord Thoth. I saw you. You’re his servant.">

<"His slave"> Da’yell corrected resigned <"to be his servant I would have to be in his company of my own free will. Believe me, this is not the case. I’m here, because Thoth didn’t want to lower himself to do actual work.">

Da’yell’s eyes took on a haunted look for a moment while he remembered involuntary some of the occurrences that made his status at Thoth’s court clear to him with brutal clarity. Chel noticed the look of his brother and he felt his own heart clench with sympathy.

<"These gods are cruel beings."> Chel muttered in an attempt to break the uncomfortable silence, which had spread. Da’yell’s bitter, mocking laugh startled everyone around him.

<"They are no gods!">

The bitterness and loathing in his voce were clear to hear for everyone around. The men looked at him aghast; at least those men who didn’t know Da’yell.

<"Blasphemy!"> One of them whispered fearfully, looking around as if expecting the appearance of one of the offended god’s. Da’yell looked at him with a strange mix of pity and annoyance when he said evenly:

<"No, simple truth.">

The man stared at Daniel open-mouthed. Several of the others didn’t look happy either, while the ones who were aware of what Da’yell and Chel were exchanged knowing looks. Da’yell had been the shaman of their tribe for generations and was therefore the authority for spirits, gods and everything else supernatural. If he said, that the gods weren’t gods, they weren’t gods.

Chel just smiled at his brother:

<"At our capture you already said that there were men hiding behind the masks. But what are they, if not gods?">

<"Their power seems godlike to me."> Someone of the men commented. A deep sigh escaped Da’yell:

<"I don’t know what exactly they are, I’m not sure if I understand this myself. They are powerful, no doubt there. But their power comes from knowledge that we do not possess. They use our ignorance against us, not magic. Their people are much older than ours, learned so much more, which is why they seem so superior. But in the end they are more dependent on us than we are on them.">

<"How did you figure all this out?"> Chel asked somewhat astonished.

<"One of their biggest weaknesses,"> Da’yell replied smiling <"Is their arrogance. They talk in front of me and never suspect that I could really listen. So, it wasn’t that hard to learn about them.">

Chel was silent for a long moment, obviously thinking about something. Then he asked carefully:

<"If I told you, that we were planning to fight these ‘gods’, would you help?">

Before Da’yell had a chance to give an answer, one of the men hissed angrily for Chel to not tell anything, which earned him a withering glare from Chel. It took Da’yell only seconds to figure out that Chel must have been trying to get people to join his plan, whatever it was, and that the few who had agreed to join were rightfully afraid. Da’yell couldn’t even blame them for not trusting him. Many things spoke against him at the moment.

<"I would help; and gladly. But how?">

Chel smiled as he detected the determined gleam in Da’yell’s eyes.

<"We are going to start here with our fight. But not only here. Others will join in. When we are free, we’ll continue working against these gods…">

<"Goa’uld."> Da’yell interrupted <"That’s what they call themselves.">

<"Goa’uld"> Chel pronounced the foreign word carefully, as if tasting it. His disgusted expression brought a grin on Da’yell’s features.

<"You still haven’t told me how you want to fight the Goa’uld. Fighting them openly would be suicide, and you know it.">

<"Of course I know it."> Chel replied slightly annoyed <"We’ll fight them like wasps win against the biggest animal.">

<"Many together"> Da’yell mumbled, immediately understanding Chel’s train of thought, <"One sting is nothing but an annoyance, but many will kill… but how can I help. Whatever you may think, I’m in no position to come and go as I please.">

<"Perhaps not, brother,"> Chel retorted <"But you already proved that you can get information. You collect knowledge like a child collects pebbles. And you are close to one of the Goa’uld. Information you would gather could be very helpful indeed.">

<"May be. But how would I get the information to you?">

<"There is a man, I trust him, he appears to be one of the Goa’uld himself, but he denies it. He has no problem to come and go without raising suspicions. He will deliver the information">

<"Tok’ra"> Da’yell whispered, remembering overheard talks with and about Tefnut, Ra’s daughter who had started to work against her father (and who was also a major thorn in Thoth’s side which made her immensely likeable towards Da’yell even if he usually bore the brunt of Thoth’s annoyance). She had founded the little movement of those who worked against the brutal reign of Ra. Cooperation with them could only help breaking the Goa’uld’s hold on their homeland.

<"How would I recognize him?">

<"Don’t fret, brother. I’ll tell him a phrase that will only mean something to you and me.">

<"If you think…">

Da’yell didn’t manage to end the sentence. Loud, clanging steps could be heard approaching. All colour drained from Da’yell’s face. He had spent too much time here. If Thoth had finished his talk with the overseer and found it necessary to send someone to fetch Da’yell there would be hell to pay.

<"I have to go"> Da’yell said hastily, jumping up to run along, but Chel’s strong hand on his arm held him back.

<"Look after yourself, Da’yell."> Chel said quietly, a sombre expression on his face. Da’yell returned the look with a bittersweet smile on his lips:

<"Walk among the spirits grace, my brother">

The old blessing of his childhood came easily over Da’yell’s lips. The two friends hugged each other one last time, both somewhat unwilling to let the other go again. But finally Da’yell stepped back and, with one last sad look towards Chel, turned and left.

Jahi was waiting right behind the corner, an unreadable stoic expression on his face.

<"Lord Thoth will be finished soon. You’ll better be waiting for him when he wants to leave.">

Da’yell nodded, relieved and thankful. He walked back to the Tel’tac with a happy smile on his face. He had found his brother again. And he had gotten the chance to fight the Goa’uld. It had turned into a good day after all…

#####################

"… What I didn’t know at that time was that it wouldn’t work out so well." Daniel ended his story. For a moment no one in the room said anything. Sam’s quiet question sounded loud in the silence:

"What happened?"

Daniel didn’t answer, just stared at the floor, lost in thought.

"Daniel?"

This time it was Janet who tried to get Daniel’s attention. His silence was starting to concern her. So softly that the others nearly didn’t understand the words, Daniel finally answered:

"Chel’s group was discovered. Everything went to hell after that pretty fast."

"Who is this Chel anyway?" Jack asked, "When you got here you mentioned him, too."

A wistful smile spread over Daniel’s features and he said:

"Chel and me were as close friends as it is possible. Back when we met it was highly usually to encounter another Immortal and the Game was still pretty unknown. Together we led our little tribe for generations. We grew close over the years, since we were the only ones remaining unchanged by time. At the end, we were calling each other brother."

"Then what happened? Why does he want to kill you?" Janet enquired. She was still frustrated that she hadn’t gotten the reason for this hostility out of Daniel the last time they had talked.

"Like I told you, it all started with a misunderstanding. Chel wants revenge; I want to stay alive. This status quo hasn’t changed for a few millennia."

"You mean, this guy has been after you for the last few thousand years? Talk about persistent." Jack commented quietly. Then he remembered something:

"Wait a minute! Was this Chel the guy who broke into your apartment?"

"Yes, he was" Daniel answered calmly. Jack shook his head.

"Well, at least now I know why you were holding your sword when I found you. Is this guy desperate or what?"

"He is angry." Daniel explained calmly, "He thinks I did something unforgivable and he doesn’t want me to go unpunished."

"Did you do it?"

Daniel closed his eyes and shook his head:

"No… no, I didn’t."

"Well, then we really should see to it this Chel doesn’t get you."

Daniel looked up sharply and was faced by a very determined Jack. Why was he getting a feeling of approaching dread all of sudden?

"I can look after myself, Jack."

"Of course. I know that. But that changes nothing about the fact that I want to help you. I don’t want to loose you, Danny."

"Me neither." Sam added, looking just as firm as Jack. Daniel alternated his look between them before he resigned himself to his fate. As if he hadn’t enough to deal with already, now he had to live with those two in protective-mode.

//I should have left while I had still had the chance// Daniel thought self-mockingly, not really meaning a word of it.

However annoying they were, it felt good to be among friends.

*********************

On the other side of town, in a spacious hotel-room, David Nahb, once upon a time known as Chel, sat in darkness, deep in thought.

He was thinking about the duel he had witnessed today. He had seen from the outsider’s point of view how good Da’yell was with a sword. And he had seen Da’yell giving this stupid youngster more chances than he deserved to walk away.

Da’yell had not wanted this fight or the Quickening.

Thinking back to the times when his relationship with Da’yell had still been friendly, Chel had to admit that Da’yell had never been one to go looking for a fight. But he wasn’t afraid to defend himself either. He had no reason to, like he had proved today.

In all the years Da’yell had always run from their fights, but until recently Chel had held on to the belief that it was because of cowardice. He should have known better. Da’yell was many things, but he had never been a coward.

When he let himself really think about it many things he had seen about Da’yell seemed somewhat strange.

For years, whenever they had encountered each other Da’yell had acted as if he didn’t know Chel at all. He had always looked so confused and frightened. Too much to be an act. Could it be that Da’yell really had forgotten everything? It wasn’t such a strange thing to happen among ancient Immortals. Rare, but not unknown. Had he chased a man all this years who couldn’t even remember the crime he had committed?

And had he really committed the betrayal Chel accused him of? Da’yell had always denied it, had always pleaded with Chel (when he was remembering him) to listen to him, to let him explain.

Chel had never given him this chance.

At first Chel had been too angry, had felt too betrayed to listen to the man he thought had betrayed his trust.

Later he hadn’t let himself think to deeply about it, enraged anew every time he had found Da’yell again. Enraged that Da’yell lived his life as if he hadn’t betrayed everything he had believed in.

But had he? Had he really?

Since his latest meetings with Da’yell Chel had to think more and more often about what had happened and the things that just didn’t add up. Little things he had never let himself notice, became more and more prominent in his mind:

Da’yell’s large terrified eyes as he watched it happen. The iron grip the Jaffa had on Da’yell’s shoulders, keeping him from moving. The tears running down his face.

Was he wrong after all? Was Da’yell the one who had betrayed them, or had it been someone else? He hadn’t been the only one who had had the chance to do it, and Chel had still trouble thinking of a motive for him to do it.

Had he let himself be fooled by the information that Da’yell was the traitor?

Chel had started to doubt a long time ago if he had been right to blame his brother so fast, he had just never let himself think to deeply about it.

And even if he had been right, even if Da’yell had been the one to betray the resistance, it had happened millennia ago.

Chel himself, who would always admit to his stubbornness, had changed with time. It was impossible not to when the world around you never stopped changing. If one remained the same one would have no chance to survive.

Was it so absurd that Da’yell could have changed, too? More importantly, shouldn’t Chel be able to put an end to his own hatred. It had already taken over a good portion of his life.

Doubts weren’t something Chel enjoyed. Doubting himself was even less fun.

He lent back and closed his eyes. One single thought came to his mind:

He missed his brother.

#*#*#*#*#*#*#*#*#*#*#

to be continued (hopefully soon ;-) )

The End




Author's Notes: Big thanks to my beta Shedoc for putting up with my English.



© January 2004 The characters mentioned in this story are the property
of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other
characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the
names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide
Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and
Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an
infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other
characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the
author.