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Thoth’s Servant

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Prologue

//This all can only be a horrible nightmare// Daniel decided as he ran along the deserted street in one of the not-so-good parts of downtown Colorado Springs.

This simply couldn't be happening. It shouldn't! Chel was not supposed to be still alive. Hell, he himself should have been dead centuries ago, if you believed the legends. But then, legends often tended to be a little bit inaccurate.

//Perhaps Chel did not recognize me// thought Daniel, rounding another corner. Even as he thought this he recognized it as false hope. The man had looked directlyat him and there had been recognition in this eyes. And a deathly coldness, which left Daniel shivering at the mere thought of it.

This well known look of a man Daniel had once called his brother, made him now fear for his life.

Daniel stopped running and tried to listen over the hammering of his rapid heartbeat. Nothing. He breathed a silent sigh of relief. He had lost him! He did not doubt that Chel had tried to catch him. The hate had been too evident in his dark face. When the years had gone by without another fateful meeting between them, Daniel had hoped that Chel would have forgotten some of this fanatic hate during the centuries. Apparently he had been wrong. But then, why should Chel stop hating him? He had done so for thousands of years and if this man knew how to do something, then it was how to hold a grudge.

Daniels pace was slower now, but he still looked around nervously every minute. It was not that he was afraid of the fight itself. He was fairly confident in his own ability with the sword, but he did not want this particular fight. Not against this man. At least not until some things were made clear. And this could take another five thousand years because Chel was damn thick headed!

Startled Daniel realized that he was standing in front of his apartment building. He had been so deep in thought that he had not cared were he was going as long as he was moving away from Chel.

Perhaps he should simply pack and do the disappearing act like so often before. He did not want to, not really, after all, he had a good life here and friends, but it would be a safe option. Some people might say something against running away from problems, but those people generally had not the problems of an approximately six thousand years old Immortal.

Part 1 - a few months earlier

//"Dammed traitor! I’m going to kill you, Da'yell and if it is the last thing I do!"

The man stood in front of him, the heavy old sword raised his dark eyes sparkling from fury and hate//

//"You betrayed us all! What did they give you for it? What was the price Da'yell?"//

//"I’m no brother of a dirty traitor. Die!"

The sword came down in one, graceful motion.//

"For crying out loud, wake up Danny!"

With a start Daniel awoke, drenched in cold sweat, at the edge of hyperventilation. Confused he looked around. He was in his apartment on the couch. So he had not even made it to bed last night.

"Are you all right, Danny?"

Startled Daniel looked at Jack. He had not realized that his friend was here.

"I’m fine", he mumbled, "Just some stupid nightmare… what are you doing here?"

Jack gave him a funny look.

"When you didn't show up for the briefing this morning I tried to phone you, but you didn't answer. So I came over. Used the spare key. Must have been one hell of a dream, took me long enough to wake you."

"Oh God, what time is it?"

Now Daniel was awake. Damn! When he could sleep through Jack coming into his apartment, then he was really going soft. Covert Ops or not, normally Daniel would wake up in a matter of seconds when someone sneaked up on him when he was sleeping. Jack used to tease him repeatedly about his terrible light sleep on missions.

"Half past eight” Jack answered Daniels question. Then he looked the archeologist slowly up and down and said:

"Why wasn't I invited to this party?"

"What?"

Daniel followed Jacks look.

Oops

Yesterday evening, he had planned for a quiet drink in a local club. The club owner was an Immortal and an old friend of Daniel. They had renewed their friendship after Daniel stumbled into the club one night not long after his first return from Abydos. Just like back then, Daniel had wanted to simply be able to forget for a while. The risk of being beheaded while drunk, was one he took with only slight hesitation. To be honest, he had absolutely no idea how he got home.

Next time a little less of the strong stuff.

But Daniel could see what Jack was looking at. Richard’s Club had a dress code. And even if he had generally some special rights in this club, without the proper clothing he would not get in.

"You know, you shouldn't go partying during the week."

"Geez, thanks for the good advice, Jack!"

With these words, Daniel stood up and went in the general direction of the bathroom.

"I’m taking a shower and getting changed. You can phone the SGC and tell them I’m still alive."

"Hey, why so grumpy this morning?"

"Mmm, I had a nightmare, overslept and still had no coffee this morning. Pick one reason, Jack."

With this Daniel disappeared behind the bathroom door. When the hot water started running, he felt how bad his hands where shaking. He was just glad that Jack hadn’t noticed. The last thing he needed now was Jack playing mother hen. Dammed nightmares. After coming back from Nem's planet he had them rather frequently. Every night. Sometimes even twice a night. Things he had never wanted to remember again showed up from his subconscious as clear as the first time he had seen them. And the problem was: He had many memories he did not want to have. In his long life he had seen enough proof of the human ability to make any war as bloody as possible. And more often than not he had been in the middle of it.

The hot water was soothing, but it could not take away the echo of the last nightmare. This one came most often.   This man standing in front of him, holding a sword high, ready to strike. Daniel had known that this man was his enemy, but only a short time ago he realized the reason for his hate.

“Why don’t you believe me, brother?” Daniel whispered under his breath, holding back the tears of resignation he'd refused to let fall for the last six thousand years.

“Danny boy, you really look bad.”

Daniel looked up from his translation work and fixed Jack with a questioning gaze.

“If that was supposed a compliment Jack, I think you missed an important part of the concept.”

Normally Daniel would not have snapped back like this, but he was tired and worn out from his constant lack of sleep. It was not the first time in his lifethat nightmares robbed him his sleep, so he knew that in a month or two his overactive subconscious would settle down again. At least he hoped so. He really hated to wake up in the middle of the night and then being unable to go to sleep again for several hours.

If he was honest with himself, he had to admit that it was getting worse. No rest at night, being tense all day and then trying to drown his worries in alcohol, something that was not even easy with his kind of metabolism. Hell, he practically acted like an invitation for any young hotshot head-hunter.

“Daniel? Are you listening to me?”

Daniel jerked out of his thoughts and looked at Jack apologetically.

“Sorry Jack. What did you say?”

“I asked you if you were all right. Doesn’t seem so to me.”

“I’m fine.”

“You always say that. I suspect you would even claim to be fine if you were dying. Besides it’s my job to space out on others, not yours. You are going to ruin your image.”

Daniel gave Jack a funny look but did not even consider answeringthis. Jack would not understand until Daniel told him the truth. The whole truth and this was something he really wanted to avoid. The last people on earth Daniel wanted to find out about Immortality was the military. Not that he did not trust Jack, but this was one of the times when Daniel preferred to live after the words: better safe than sorry.

“Perhaps you should see Doc Fraiser?” Jack said suddenly. Daniel glared at him.

“I’m fine. How often do I have to say this until you believe it?”

“Danny we all are just worried about you.”

Jack could do nice if he needed to, and now it was definitely needed. The more you tried to push Daniel into doing something he did not want to, the more he would push back. If you wanted to trick Daniel into doing something, the best way was a guilt trip. Jack knew this but only used the knowledge in a case of emergency. And he considered Daniels health such an emergency.

“Look, you really haven't acted like yourself since the mess on Nem’s planet. And after this near disaster with the Tok’ra you're acting even weirder.”

//Ohh, I’m acting like myself, just not like Daniel Jackson//

“I’m just a bit stressed, Jack. Nothing else. You're making this bigger than it is.”

“How often do you have nightmares?”

Daniel still glared at the colonel. Why couldn’t Jack stop worrying?

“They are just stupid nightmares I have on occasions, why the big deal?”

“Because I care, Danny, and you obviously don’t sleep very much in the last time. Carter and Teal’c are worried, too. And when we couldn’t reach you this morning…”

“I’m never going to hear the end of this, am I?”, Daniel interrupted Jack with a small smile of resignation on his face.

“Nope!” The colonel answered laughing, “Since I normally have to drag you out of the mountain for some free time it is a memorable occasion that you oversleep after going clubbing in the middle of the week.”

“I’m not that bad.”

“Face it Danny, you are worse. If we didn't comeget you for the lunch breaks you would forget eating altogether.”

Daniel sentJack yet another glare but secretly he was pleased that the topic of their talk had moved away from his nightmares and towards a safer ground. Sadly he had underestimated Jack.

“So will you go and see Fraiser?”

“There is nothing wrong with me, Jack. What do you think Janet is supposed to do?”

“Please Danny, humor me.”

If I go to Janet, will you leave me alone?”

Jack made a gesture of crossing his heart.

“I swear.”

Daniel signed. Okay, he could understand that his friends were concerned about him, but this did not mean that he had to like it. He really did not like the infirmary and avoided going there whenever he could get away with it. Even so, Janet complained regularly. Since she was the only person on the base who knew about him, she let no other doctor near him. When you considered the frequency with which he got hurt on missions, he had to admit that he gave her a lot of overtime.

Daniel was also sure, that it was not Jacks idea alone to get him see a doctor. Sam most likely shared her own worries with her CO. They both hadn’t gotten out of mother-hen-mode since their got him back from Nem’s planet. Daniel suspected that they somewhat still feared that Nem had done more than dig out some old memories. After all this Alien had planted a vision of his death into the heads of the rest of the team. They did not want to risk any nasty surprises. But you would think that after a few month the anxiety would have lessened. Not with this team.

“Okay, even if I still don’t see what Janet can do.”

“At least she can give you something that will let you sleep through the night. I think you need it.”

As if any decent medication would work for him. And then, he wanted to be able to wake up when he needed to.

Without any further protests Daniel let Jack escort him to the infirmary. He felt like a prisoner. Hopefully Jack would not linger around to see if his friend was really all right. As long as the Colonel was around neither Daniel nor Janet dared to talk openly. Jack had this nasty habit of hearingexactly the things he was not supposed to hear.

“Daniel, Colonel. What can I do for you?”

“Tell Jackthat I’m okay!”, supplied Daniel with a half-smile. Janet fixed first him, than(then) the colonel with a criticalstare.

“You don’t look “okay” Daniel.” Janet finally said. Jack gave a short triumphant laugh and shot Daniel a look that clearly said: told you so! Daniels brief look towards Janet told her clearlythat he considered her a traitor.

“Why does nobody believe,  that I’m fine? I just haven't been sleeping too well lately.”

Janet’s eyebrows raised with interest. She knew that Daniel had trouble sleeping. Always had, so his Chronic said, but as far as she knew it had never been so bad. But then, his Chronic was not one of those which were terriblycomplete.

Janet steered Daniel to a separate part of the infirmary and he reluctantly complied. Jack left them after Janet favored him with her patented Go-away-and-let-me-work-in-peace glare. One short look at Jacks expression as he retreated was favored with a chuckle from Daniel. Now Janet turned to him.

“What’s the matter, Daniel?”

His cheerful expression crumpled.

“It is really nothing, Jen. My nightmares just became a bit more frequent.”

Janet looked at her friend with concern. She could only suspect the kind of pressure he was under all the time. Always desperate trying to hide who he was, or more preciously what he was. On the base she was the only person who he could confide in and it couldn’t be easy to live with the constant fear of discovery. But he had never displayed such behaviourduring the whole last two years.

The fact that she was his doctor, at last officially, was not the only reason for her concern. She considered Daniel Jackson her friend and was well aware that she had broken one big taboo by this.

She was a watcher, member of this secret organization which had devoted itself to the one very special aspect of human history: the Immortals. Like the name said, they were supposed to watch and document the lives of the Immortal, never, under whatever circumstances, to interfere or worse, even reveal their existence to anyone. She could argue that Daniel was not just anyone. He had been her assigned Immortal before he did a disappearing act three years ago. No one could find him anymore, and with the recourses of the watchers that would mean something. Headquarters had tried to reconstruct where Daniel had disappeared to. In some way the panic when they discovered the role the military seemed to play in this all could have been amusing, if she herself hadn’t feared the worst. “What if…?” was a phrase that had been used very often in those days. What if the military, by some freak luck, had found about Immortals? Of course no one had believed the storythat Daniel Jackson had died on some mission. After all: this man couldn’t die and continued to prove it for the last two thousand years.

That was how Janet had ended up back in the military. Infiltration, plain and simple. And she had thought her assignment to Daniel would be an easy one.

The discovery of what exactly was going on under Cheyenne Mountain in the wake of Apophis first attack had gotten her into a moral disaster. She had sworn an oath to the USAF but also to the watchers. In the end she had decided to try to confine to telling the watchers only what they absolutely had to know. Sometimes even less.

But the Stargate hadn’t been her only shock. Just at the beginning, when she had Daniel fidgeting in her infirmity, trying to find a way to tell him that she knew about Immortals without blowing her own cover, he had suddenly grabbed her wrist and twisted it. The long stare he had given her tattoo had made her extremely nervous. When he finally looked up he had smiled to her utter surprise and asked:

“How did the Watchers manage to get you such a high security clearance?”

Janet had been speechless. In the following talk Daniel had revealed that he had known about the watchers nearly from the start on. For heavens sake, he had been a member more than once! She decided then that this was something the Watchers did not have to know! And the double play had began. Daniel wanted to stay and look for his wife and so Janet would stay too and make sure that the military remained utterly clueless.

“Have you any idea why your dreams have become more frequent now?”

Daniel looked at her for a very long moment before he finally said:

“I'll tell you, but promise me that it will stay out of the Chronicle, at least for now.”

So it had something to do with him being Immortal. And again Janet had to decide between her loyalty to the watchers and her loyalty to her friend.

“Okay. This will fall under doctor-patient confidentiality”

He searched her face, obviously to see if she said the truth. Then he took a deep breath to get his thoughts in order.

“How old do you think I am?”

“Is this a rhetorical question, or just an attempt to divide my attention?”

“No.”Daniel answered in all honesty ”It’s just that the watchers always seemed to be better informed on this special point than myself.”

Janet frowned. What was Daniel getting at?

“According to your Chronicle you are a bit more than two thousands years old. First death 20 years BC, a merchant caravan that was robbed by particularly cruel bandits and only one person survived…”

Janet sounded like a schoolgirl quoting out of some textbook.

“…why do you ask this? You should know best.”

“That is exactly the point Janet: I don’t remember. Or at least I didn’t.”

“What?”

Daniels words confused her. She tried to remember some of their conversations. She sometimes asked him about one aspect or another out of his Chronic, but now she realized that she had never asked him about his first death, or his life before this. And he had never volunteered any facts about this time.

“What I mean Janet is that I was never so sure about my age myself. My memories started after this massacre. There was nothing before. Nothing, do you understand? No memories of the people who raised me, or how I'd joined the caravan in the first place. Hell, I didn’t even know my own name for that matter. And I most certainly knew nothing about the game. I would have been very dead very fast if it hadn’t been for the man who found and retrained me.”

“Retrained?”

Janet had a nasty suspicion whereDaniel was heading. But she wanted to be absolutely sure.

“Yes, retrained. Even if I had no idea who I was, he was absolutely certain, that I wasn’t a new one. That I was part of the game before he found me. And then, I had a few run-ins with Immortals I'd never met before, but who seemed to know me.”

“You mean you are…”

“A lost one? Yes, I think that is the term.”

“And why are you telling me now?”

Daniel looked at her with a small, tired smile.

“Because I remember. When Nem tried to find the information he needed, he also destroyed whatever was holding back my memories.”

“So this is why you've beenacting so strange since then.” Janet muttered, as her interest as watcher took over.

“Have you any idea how old you are exactly?”

Daniels look suddenly changed to a mischievous smile, something Janet really was not used from him.

“I’m not sure yet. But you see, I can remember a few certain events, that should help to determine my age…”

“What events?” Janet asked, not sure if she really wanted to hear the answer.

“I remember Ra’s reign on earth.”

Part 2

//More than six thousand years! The Goa'uld had left earth around 4000 BC which means that Daniel age should be around six thousand years, give or take a few centuries. Older than the legendary Methos. He is probably the oldest being on this planet and he still manages to act so that anybody thinks of him as his kid brother!//

Janet regarded Daniel with a long look while he was talking to Teal’c. The big alien had requested some free time outside the mountain. The military was still reluctant to let him wander off alone, and since Colonel O'Neill had some serious catching up to do with his paperwork and no one could get Major Carter out of her beloved lab, Daniel and Janet volunteered to take Teal’c out. The two of them had already planned a night out, they had some serious talking to do, and so they had decided to take Teal’c along and postpone their talk to another day.

Nowthat the two man were engaged in a vivid conversation, Janet had time to do what she was supposed to: observe Daniel. How did this man managed to seem so utterly harmless and innocent? The typical book worm who knew nothing about real lifeoutside his studying. If she hadn’t known for a fact that Daniel was not so harmless at all, he could have fooledher completely. He most certainly fooledSam and Colonel O'Neill along with the bigger part of the SGC.

But Daniel was not in need of any form of protection. He knew perfectly well how to defend himself, his long life span was the best proof for this. But then you could argue Darius, for example, had lived a whole millennia without even carrying a sword, much less participating in the game, hiding himself on holy ground. Others had done likewise, using their expanded lifetime to study rather than to fight. Daniel didn’t do this, at least not for long periods of time. He maybe was a scholar at heart, but he could also fight.

When she looked at him in a situation like now, relaxed around a friend, she could hardly believe this. He seemed so… nice. What was thatsaying again which made its round in the SGC? Ah, yes: ‘little archeologist lost’. When Daniel had heard it he hadn’t known if he should laugh or feel insulted, but it seemed to describe the role he was playing perfectly.

For her it was obviously that he was playing at least partly a role, because she had seen him fighting. Early in her watcher days, long before the SGC. An Immortal hunter, looking for an easy prey, had targeted Daniel. Big mistake. After seeing this, Janet had dug through all documents concerning Daniel and had found out that it seemed to be his life motto to appear as non-threatening as possible but defend himself, or friends for that matter, with surprising ability and vehemence.

“Janet? Hello, earth to Jan! Somebody home?“

“What?”

Daniel was ginning at her.

“Where were you? You looked like your thoughts were on another planet.”

“It seems to me also that your thoughts were elsewhere, Doctor Fraiser.” Teal’c confirmed in his impassive tone, but with a smile on his face. Janet could feel a slight blush on her cheeks.

“It is nothing. Just was just thinking   about something.”

“I hope it was a nice thing.”

Janet wanted to say something back when she realized that Daniel was not listening anymore. He had this typical look on his face, that all Immortals had, when they sensed each other.

Daniels eyes swept the room and remained on an apparently young man, who just came through the back door. The man returned Daniels look carefully, but like an unheard command both began to smile broadly.

“Excuse me, I will be back in a second.”

Daniel did not wait for an answer but stood up and walked towards the man. Teal’c gave first the retreating Daniel, then Janet a slightly puzzled look. She just looked a moment at the greeting between Daniel and his friend, then turned to Teal’c.

“Daniel knows the owner of this club. They are both old friends.”

//Old friends indeed//, she thought with a slight smile. Richard Harp, a tall but slender man with light blond hair and dark green eyes, owner of this establishment, was an Immortal himself and had been Daniel's student once.

They had met in India, in 1801, during the war between Britain and the natives. Richard had been a common soldier in the British army, without any hope to ever change his position. Daniel had been in India to study, what else, and had acted as an interpreter between the British commanders and the Maharajah's. Not that the British officers had given him much choice in that matter, after declaring him a prisoner of war.

Richard had died the first time in one of those needless battles that occurred all the time in thatwar. An officer with a lot of money but no brain, bad intelligence and worse morals wasresponsible for the lossof an whole company. When Richard hadwoken, disorientated and afraid, surrounded by his dead comrades, the first living being he had seen was Daniel, who had simply told him to come with him.

They had left India behind without a backward glance, Richard happy to get away from the hell called army and Daniel still mad at the British in general had no interest in any other run-ins.

Since this time Richard and Daniel had been friends. And since Daniel discovered who owned this club he came here fairly regularly. Another thing no one would ever connect with Daniel on first sight: clubbing. It was something not even Janet had suspected, until Daniel had invited her along one evening. Just another proof that this man was hiding many things behind his introverted appearance.

Janet sometimes asked herself who the watcher of Richard might be. Until now, no one at the Headquarter seemed to be aware of the factthat she was in much to close contact with her “subject”, so no one had reported her. Either Richard's Watcher was totally clueless about that she was a Watcher herself, or he or she was protecting Janet.

Daniel and Richard were still standing in the at the side of the dance floor, talking. Sipping at her drink she wondered what it was about.

“There have been three deathsin the last week, Daniel. I don’t think this is just a coincidence anymore.”

Daniel frowned at Richards words. This sounded too much like a hunting trip.

“You think…”

“Yeah! There is a headhunter out there, systematically working his way through the local Immortals. The losers were all fairly young or obviously out of the game for a while.”

Daniel did not ask how Richard knew this again. When it came to the Immortal population of Colorado Springs this man was an even safer source of information than the watcher database. The club was fairly known by their kind and even before his first death Richard had an a remarkable talent for gathering information. After all, he had at times survived through simple blackmail.

“How serious do you think it is?”

“To serious already for my taste. I’m loosing my customers! The fights all happened near my club. You won't believe it: the police have already been here twice, asking questions. Seems like I should get my papers in order.”

Daniel looked sharply at his friend. Getting ones paper in order meant getting ready to leave for good, and taking another identity. Surely it couldn't be that bad, could it?

“Any idea who the hunter could be? Perhaps it is someone with a grudge against you.”

“If this is the case he is a damn coward! But I haven't made any enemies recently, and none of the old ones would do something like this.”

Richard paused and gave Daniela long look.

“I would hate to leave this place behind, but if this sloppy bastard doesn't stop killing in my backyard I won't have another choice.”

“We'll see. You have an alibi for all three occasions with more than twenty witnesses every time.”

“As if the police would believe me…”, Richard mumbled barely audible. He had a fundamental dislike of the authorities. Something that came from his childhood as a street rat in England.

“I'llcome by tomorrow morning, then we can talk in peace. We will figure out what to do.”

In secret Daniel planned pestering Janet into checking the watcher Database to see if she could find out who the hunter could be. Richard nodded mutely with a determined expression on his face.

“Okay! Be careful on your way home, Daniel.”

Despise the seriousness of their conversation, Daniel had to smile.

“Do you think our hunter would go after me?”

Richard slowly returned Daniels smile:

“If he does, then he is in for a surprise I am sure”

“Nice that at least one person on this planet is confident in my ability to defend myself.”

Now Richard was laughing out loud. You seldom got to meet Daniel when he was in the mood to make such remarks. Normally he did nothing to detract from his harmless air.

“Have a good time with your friends. I will see you tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow.” Daniel agreed and then went back to the table with Janet and Teal’c. Silently she asked:

“Something happened?”

So she noticed the worried and thoughtful expression he wore. With a denying shake of his head he said:

“I'll tell you later, okay.”

Janet frowned at him. Teal’c did not so much as raise an eyebrow about this mysterious talk.

Daniel didn't come out of his thoughtfulness for the rest of the time the three of them stayed in the club. A hunter always presented problems, more so for those who tried hard to stay out of the game.

Finally they decided to call the night an end and left the club. Richard gave Daniel another look, that clearly stated “be careful”, which Daniel returned with a slight smile. He didn't think that even a hotshot hunter would challenge him when he was in company of twomortals. The old secrecy rule again.

Walking down the deserted streets towards the place were they had parked the car, Janet told an anecdote about one of Jack O’Neill’s antics that had even Teal’c laughing. Something that wasn't easy to do. Daniel, grinning, started with a tale of his own, when suddenly the familiar feeling of another Immortal presence washed over him. Darting his eyes around the empty alley, he didn't have to wait long. Out of the Shadows came a man, sword in hand, smiling wickedly. He was tall, bulky, dressed entirely in black clothes. The way he approached their little group out of the shadows practical screamed overrated sense of self worth.

//Show off//, Daniel thought annoyed. He really did not need this!

Janet immediately understood what was going on here. She cast a short glance atTeal’c who looked rather puzzled about the recent development. She could understand that. Daniel took a step away from his friends, positioning himself between them and the other Immortal glaring defiantlyat the man. Teal’c who had figured out that the stranger presented a danger, attempted to move towards him, but Janet held him back with ahand on his arm. Shaking her head she said:

“Don’t!”

“But this man...”

Janet cut Teal’c off with an emphaticshake of her head and started to pull him away.

“Whatever happens Teal’c, do not interfere! You understand me? Under no circumstances!”

She continued to pull him away to the side of the street, away from Daniel and the stranger. She only managed it because Teal’c was too surprised at the moment, but she knew this wouldn't last very long. She was right. Suddenly Teal’c stopped, immovableas mountain and looked first towards Daniel, then directly at Janet.

“Why?”

“It's a to long story to tell now, but I promise I... we are going to explain it all to you. But for now, please promise me not to interfere. This is his fight.”

For a moment Teal’c looked like he would disagree, but than he bowed his head in acknowledgement.

“For now, I agree.”

Janet let out an obvious sigh of relief. That was the best she would get. She turned her gaze back to Daniel and the strange Immortal. The man still came closer, still with this self-confident smile on his face. Daniel just stood there, impassive and seemingly more than a little annoyed. He hadn't even drawn his sword yet.

“So, I may presume you are the new hunter around.” Daniel said with an amazing calm. The man before him did not lose a bit a his self-confidence by this. Laughing hoarsely he answered:

“Ya 'presumed' right, kiddy. So ya give'n up or try to fight?”

“Kiddy?”

Daniels obvious distaste for this insult nearly made Janet laugh. The other Immortal seemed to think it funny too, but maybe for a different reason.

“Ya have to be very young, or very stupid to face me.”

“Well, I’m neither.” Daniel replied and finally drew his sword. It was an long, elegant Rapier, simple design but very good craftsmanship. Every so often Janet pondered the mystery of how Immortals always managed to hide their weapons within their clothing.

“Daniel Jackson.”

“Michael Sole” The man replied and without further warning began the fight. Daniel parried the first trusts with ease. The man was good and fast, but Daniel stayed calm and managed to deflect every attack Sole throw at him.

Teal'c, observing the fight minutely, but with ever growing interest growing interest was more than surprised about the recent occurrence. Beside the fact that he had absolutely no idea what was going on here, a fact that greatly unsettled him, he was also a bit fascinated by the duel he was witnessing. He had never suspected that Daniel Jackson could fight this way.

Teal’c respected Daniel Jackson for the scholarship and his proven loyalty towards friends. But he had never seen this mild mannered man this way. Never thought of him as a warrior. It seemed that he had to change his opinion of his friend. Teal’c couldn't do aught but admire the ability of both fighters and as an experienced warrior he could clearly see the difference between their styles.

The man who had introduced himself as Michael Sole put a great emphasis on his physical strength. His attacks were direct and hard to deflect because of the simple force behind them but they weren't very inventive. As soon as Daniel started to take the offensive in the fight Teal’c could see that Sole obviously wasn't used to beingon the defensive side. Of course his defense technique was good, but came a bit slow and he had difficulties in blockingsome of Daniels blows in time.

Daniels style was completely different. He didn't relyon physical strength but on his fight technique. He was much quicker and fluid in his movements than his opponent and never seemed to use the same move twice, neither defensive or offensive. He didn't give Sole a chance to foresee his next move and kept him off balance this way. He had remained in the defense for the first few minutes of the fight, giving Sole the impressionthat he could win. Then suddenly Daniel changed his strategy, countering his enemies attacks with ones of his own. He was a fast and graceful mover, strong enough to make it hard for Sole to hold his ground.   Several of his thrusts made it through Sole's defense, drawing blood while Daniel remained unharmed.

It was then that Sole realized his mistake. He had thought this man was an easy victim, the appearance and behavior he had observed suggesting a young Immortal without much interest in the game. Sole had been wrong. This man used his sword with the ability and grace of a seasoned fighter. This was unbelievable! How could this geeky looking guy be so good? That wasn't possible in Sole's mind.

He hadn't much time to ponder about this problem.

One quick move, and Sole was disarmed, and in the same fluid motion it was over.

Janet retreated further, knowing what was to come. Teal’c for this matter simply stared at the scene before him. He couldn't really understand what was going on and seemed to be the only one with this disadvantage. Doctor Fraiser and Daniel Jackson would have much explaining to do. Deep in thought and still trying to get over his surprise at seeing Daniel beheading another man, Teal’c was completely unprepared for what happened next.

First a thin blue mist started to rise from the body and thenthe quickening broke loose. Blue-white lightning bolts wreaked havoc in the alley, destroying streetlamps, car windows, simply everything that got in its way. Daniel, in the center of this storm, couldn't stay on his feet while the energy of the other Immortal was flowing through him. Finally, after endless moments the quickening was over. Daniel remained panting on his knees, trying to catch his breath. His opponent hadn't been very old, but had done a lot of killing.

Suddenly he felt a light hand on his shoulder. Looking up, he saw Janet’s concerned look. He also discovered Teal’c standing silently in the background, his gaze betraying his confusion.

“You're all right?”

Daniel nodded silently.

“Will be. We better go, before somebody comes askingwhat's going on.”

She helped him to his feet, he swayed a little, but thenstood steady. Teal’c came over, a suspicious look in his eyes. Daniel returned the look for a long moment, then said:

“Come on. I know I have some explaining to do and we should go to a more comfortable place.”

Teal’c nodded simply, the slight distrust never leaving his eyes. Daniel swallowed at the sight of this look. It wouldn't be the first time that he lost a friend after he or she witnessed a challenge, but he desperately hoped that he could make Teal’c understand when he explained the situation.

During the short drive to Janet’s house, the nearest "safe" location, no one said a word. For Daniels taste the drive did not last long enough. During the whole way he had tried to decide how best to explain Teal’c about Immortals, the game and everything that came with it. And why it was better if no one else knew about this all. The latter part would probably be much easier, for it was rather obvious. By the time Janet turned into her driveway Daniel still hadn't come up with a conclusion. After all these years of his life he still hadn't found the perfect way to tell somebody about Immortals.

Finally they were all seated in Janet’s living room and Teal’c looked expectantly from her to Daniel, and back again. Daniel took a deep breath and tried to find a start for the explanation.

It took him nearly half an hour to tell Teal’c about Immortals, the only way to make an Immortal stay dead, the game, the quickening and the watchers. Janet took the larger part of the last point, but even so Daniel volunteered some information about the beginning of this organization. Teal’c listened t(to) it all silently and with a stoic look on his face. He never once asked any questions, but Daniel could see the suspicion slowly leaving the eyes of his friend.

Finally the talk came to an end. They had covered every angle of this whole mess they could think off.

The big Jaffa regarded Daniel with a long silent look than finally he asked:

“How old are you, DanielJackson?”

//This had to come// Daniel thought. It was the only thing he hadn't told, because he did not exactly know what to tell. The official version, that he was around two thousand years, or the truth, with the added four millennia? He had told the whole truth so far, he would not stop now!

“I’m not exactly sure. The ways to keep track of time changed so many times in my life, that I got a bit confused... Six thousand years give or take a few centuries. I only remember the last two relatively clearly.”

Teal'c's face, normally so impassive, showed blank shock.

“Long time, huh?” Daniel said in an attempt to draw his friend out of his shock. He knew that his words sounded like something Jack would have said, but he didn't really care. Teal'c got his surprise under control quickly, his need for more detailed information overriding his astonishment.

“Is your long life the reason why you have such an expertise with languages?”

“Yes and no.” Daniel replied hesitantly, “Of course it helps, that most of the ‘dead’ languages I knowwere pretty alive when I learned them, but I also had a knack for the spoken and later written word... after all, I taught myself to read hieroglyphs.”

Now it was not only Teal’c who was interested. Janet was always looking for such little facts to add to Daniels Chronicle.

“When?”

Daniels already forced good mood started to disappear completely. His facebecame haunted.

“It was... a long time ago... shortly after...”

Daniel stopped. This was harder than he thought it would be.

“After what?”

If Janet had one serious fault, then it was that she couldn't let a fact rest. She always had to know the complete story and Daniel wasn’t so sure that he wanted to tell this particular one.

“What happened, my friend?” Teal’c now said calmly, “What is it that upsets you so much?”

Daniel took a few deep breaths, his eyes closed. Then, silently he started to talk. And to remember.

Da’yell shadowed his eyes against the bright sunlight and let his gaze roam along the horizon. Wide, open and empty land lay before him. No danger at all.

Da’yell turned towards his friend, a mocking smile on his face

Chel gave a short throaty laugh.

Laughing and talking they walked down the little hill towards the tents of their tribe. Da’yell couldn’t remember how long he had lived with these people now. After he had left his home he had come to the wide grasslands and been taken in by this little nomadic tribe. The shaman of these people had taught him many things. Things about being like he was. It had been a beautiful time. Then one day the shaman had disappeared and never came back and Da’yell became the new shaman. He loved it.

So he had seen more than one generation go by, helping lead the tribe. At some point along the way Chel and his tattered troop of warriors had come to them. The first time he and Da’yell faced each other as enemies, now generations later they called each other brother. The fact that they never aged a day and nothing seemed to be able to kill them, made them the divine protectors of the tribe, a responsibility they took without hesitation. Da’yell looked fondly at a group of children playing between the tents. Sometimes it was a bit disconnecting when he thought about the fact, that he had known the grandparents of these children when they were even younger.

Chel’s words pulled Da’yell out of his thoughts. His friend sounded worried. Closing his eyes he tried to discover what Chel had heard. First he couldn't hear anything unusual but then he noticed it, too. A whistle, sounding very far away, but definitely coming closer. No, it wasn’t really a whistle, more a very high pitched howling. Da’yell and Chel looked at each other, both of them had the same thought: Danger. None of them had ever heard such a sound before, and it was just that, that made them both nervous. It couldn’t be a natural sound.

Meanwhile it had grown loud enough for everyone to hear. Trying to locate the source of the noise Daniel once again searched the horizon. What he saw nearly took his breath away.

There was something moving through the air towards them, faster then any bird could. Whatever it was, it was gleaming in the sunlight like brightly polished metal. And it wasn’t alone.

Chel saw it too and cursed silently in his native tongue. Then he started running the short distance towards the camp, trying to catch up with Da’yell who was already on his way.

They had heard rumors. Rumors about strange but powerful gods, who were walking on earth and whose worriers walked through the sky like the gods themselves. And rumors that whenever the flying servants of the gods appeared they would bring death and destruction.

Their camp was far too much in the open!

Chel yelled towards Da’yell while giving everybody else also orders to move

Da’yell just nodded. It was probably an absolutely hopeless attempt, but they couldn't just stand here and wait until these... things, whatever they were came close enough. He also knew that Chel and the others were going to face certain death. How did you fight against beings that flew like this?

Gathering his sword and his bag of herbs Da’yell started to lead his group of people towards a river and the trees. They were walking as fast as possible, but no one was in panic. It wasn't the first time the tribe had split up like this, only usually they were hiding from scavengers.

Da’yell grabbed a small boy who was getting behind, and carried him in his arms. He was afraid. Not for himself, but for these people, his people.

What if... no, he wouldn't even think about something like this. He couldn’t.

Their little group had barely reached the trees, when they heard it: deafening loud, like lightning striking right next to you. The earth shook, knocking most of them from their feet, a burning hot wind rushed over them, then disappeared. Fire erupted towards the sky from the place where the camp had been. Then it happened again. And again.

The children had started to cry the moment it started, and the adults did not look so good either. Da’yell himself could feel his body trembling of fear, but he would not allow this to control his thinking. If he let his fear gain control, he wouldn't be able to think properly and that was something he really needed now.

Again they heard the lightning-noise, this time a little farther away, then screams. The other group had been found. Closing his eyes briefly, Da’yell send a fast prayer to the spirits, that it wouldn’t be so bad as it sounded.

He hadn't much time for prayers, because suddenly there was another noise. Rhythmic, a bit like the sound of drums, but more like metal on metal. And the sound was moving towards them.

//Spirits, what now?//

Then he could see them, moving towards their hiding place. A troop of... what? What were these creatures. They couldn’t be men, thatthey were demons. Their bodies were gleaming black and dark silver, and they had the heads of falcons, the eyes glowing deathly red. The beings were carrying long staffs, and Da’yell didn't need to wonder long what they were for. Some of the beings marching in front dropped their staffs, pointing toward the group. The next moment fire shot out of this strange weapon and found its way into the group of people.

Now panic erupted. Everyone was screaming, trying to run away, but the demon-beings wouldn’t let them. Circling around them, they killed everyone who ran with their fire-staffs. Women. children, old people, they didn’t make any concessions.

One of the falcon headed demons came towards Da’yell, who still stood frozen at the same place. But he wasn’t still for much longer. The demon was barely within reach when Da’yell raised his sword in one desperate attempt to fight. The surprise was on his side, because he managed to knock the staff out of his opponents hands and then buried the sword-blade in the less protected side of his enemy. The being fell to his knees and then something happened that Da’yell never would have suspected. The falcon head crumpled revealing the being underneath: a man. Da’yell stared. The falcon head had only been a mask to hide the true nature of these warriors! His thoughts racing, Da’yell captured the look of this man, who seemed barely old enough to be called one. They weren't demons...

Before Da’yell could bring this thought to an end, heat and nearly unbearable pain engulfed his back, and his world faded to black.

He came back to consciousnesswith a start. He had thetypical tired and disorientated feeling he always got when he had “died”. Looking around he saw only bodies. The bodies of the people he had promised to protect.

Da’yell had no time for brooding, suddenly a painfully strong hand encircled his arm and brought him to his feet. One of the falcon-masked warriors held him in a merciless grip and said something in a strange language Da’yell couldn’t understand. His hands were bound in front of him, then he was dragged away. Da’yell couldn’t get his thoughts away from the picture he just had seen. The bloody bodies of women and little children, barely old enough to be away from there mothers. Why had this beings done this? What had their tribe done to anger them?

He was tossed brutally into a huddled group of people. It was the survivors of the tribe, but they were so few. So very few. They couldn’t be the only ones who were still alive, could they?

He heard somebody calling his name, but didn’t react. It was like he was paralysed. Someone gently touched his shoulder turning him. Chel looked into his eyes, worry clearly written all over his features.

Da’yell shook his head slowly and whispered:

A hard blow connected with the side of Da’yell’s head bringing stars into his vision. One of these warriors stood above him, the red-glowing eyes glaring down at him, saying something in this unknown language. But the meaning was clear: no talking.

Da’yell and Chel remained quit for a while, until they were sure the guards were out of ear shot.

Da’yell whispered looking around anxiously. Chel followed his look, then answered in a toneless voice:

Opening his eyes Daniel looked at Janet and Teal’c who had listened to his story very quietly. Even now, after he had ended, they didn’t say a word. It was Janet who finally broke the silence:

“You were a slave of the Gao’uld?”

Daniel nodded, then said with a forced smile:

“I’m just happy that none of the Goa’uld or Jaffa spare a second glance to their slaves, or somebody might have realized that I wasn’t ageing.”

His attempted to lighten the serious mood failed miserably. The silence was back. Suddenly Daniel fixed Teal’c with a intensive look and said:

“Teal’c, you have to promise me, not to tell anybody about what you learned tonight. The less people know, the better.”

“Not even JackO'Neill or MajorCarter?”

Daniel shook his head.

“No, not even them. They may be my friends and I trust them, but I learned the hard way, better to keep some things secret. And I really do not want the military to find out about Immortals. Can you imagine what would happen, if somebody like Maybourne found out?”

“It would have highly unpleasant consequences, I’m sure.”

“You understand why I don’t want anyone to find out?”

“I understand, DanielJackson, and I won't tell your secret.”

Daniel breathed a visible sigh of relief. One obstacle less.

“Thank you my friend. I really appreciate it.”

Teal’c bowed his head in acknowledgment. Janet had stayed silent during this short exchange. Yet another thing she couldn’t tell the Watchers.

Part 3 - a few weeks later

“For crying out loud, Danny, hurry up!”

Jack O'Neill was staring to get really impatient. He had promised to take Daniel with him when he drove to the mountain in the mornings, after the archeologists car had a major break-down. It hadn't surprised Jack when he heard the news since he knew Daniels car which seemed to come out of the last century. Okay, perhaps that was slightly exaggerated, but it wasn’t new either.

So he got stuck with picking Daniel up. If he had suspected that his friend needed so much time to get ready in the mornings, he wouldn't have volunteered for this duty.

The only good thing with this situation was that Jack now had some control over Daniel’s suicidal working habits. If left alone Daniel wouldn’t leave the base for a whole week, working through everything including sleep and meals.

“I’m coming Jack. I just have to get this disk with translations, then I’m ready.“

Jack rolled his eyes. He should have known it. Because he had nothing better to do, he started pacing Daniels living-room. At least it wouldn’t take Daniel to long to find what he was looking for. For Jack the clutter Daniel had accumulated may seem like chaos, but Daniel always knew where to find his things.

The second time Jack passed the couch, something caught his eye. There was something lying under the couch, which looked suspiciously like a blade. Perhaps a knife? But then, what was a knife doing under someone's couch?

His curiosity aroused Jack bent down and got the thing out. It was a... sword? What the hell was Daniel doing with a sword under his couch? What was he doing with such a weapon at all? Interesting questions.

Jack looked at the sword a bit more closely. He was no expert on these kind of weapons, but he could see that it was well taken care of and rather valuable. Why was Daniel hiding such a piece of handiwork under his sofa?  It looked more like a saber on second thought, the blade narrow and light, not like the swords he knew out of history films. Probing the blade Jack promptly cut his thumb. Damn, the thing was sharp! Curious, Jack tried a few moves he had seen in those adventure-films on TV. As far as he could tell, the sword was very well balanced. He made another move that was supposed to be an attack when he heard a light chuckle behind him. Daniel was standing in the door and observing Jacks attempts with the sword.

“Looking for some damsel in distress to rescue?”

“Nah, just wondering what you are doing with such a saber. Is there something you want to tell me?”

Daniel was still grinning, but Jack was sure that there had flashed something in his eyes that didn’t belong there: Fear. What was Daniel afraid of?

“First of all, this is a rapier, not a saber, and there is no big secret. I used to do some fencing in college. I still do it once in a while and it is fun to use real swords.”

Jack looked from the blade in his hand to Daniel and back again. Fighting with real swords? With real sharp swords like this? Daniel? And he was still alive?

His confusion must have been evident in his face, because Daniel started chuckling again.

“What is it Jack? Didn't you think I could handle sharp objects?”

“You’re accident prone on a good day, Danny. I don’t want to think about what could happen with something like this.”

Suddenly, too fast even for Jacks fight trained reactions Daniel started to move. The next thing Jack knew he was sitting on the floor with Daniel holding the sword very close to his neck and Jack had absolutely no idea how this had happened. Hell, he was ex-covert ops, a soldier for nearly all his adult life, no one should be able to surprise him like this. You didn’t live too long if you let yourself be surprised in battle. But then, this wasn’t a battle and Danny was the last person on earth he would expectto attack him.

“What do you say now, Jack?”

Daniel was holding the tip of the blade still uncomfortablyclose to Jacks throat, but the Colonel knew that Daniel wouldn’t hurt him for real… would he?

“Can you teach me that move?”

“What?”

Daniel finally putthe sword down, looking very surprised at Jack, who picked himself up from the floor.

“I asked you if you could teach me this move.”

“I heard you the first time. Why?”

Jack shrugged, looking all innocent:

“Why not? I’m always willing to learn something that could help in a fight, and this certainly would. And then, I really would like to see if you could manage to surprise me like this again. So, are you going to teach me?”

For an endless moment Daniel just looked at his friend, but then he said:

“Sure, okay, why not.”

But even when he said this, he thought:

//I must be losing my mind. I haven't taught in more than a century and never any mortals and Jack O'Neill is most certainly mortal, even if he doesn’t act like it sometimes. Why am I doing this?//

“Good! Now come on, we are already late.”

Daniel didn’t say anything. What was there to say anyway? When Jack was walking towards the door, Daniel grabbed his coat and hid the sword in the linen. Better safe than sorry.

While walking towards the door he thought again about the promise to show Jack a few defense and offense moves. Hopefully that wouldn’t make the Colonel even more suspicious.

//What have I let myself in for?//

“You are going to do what?”

“Oh, calm down Janet! Nothing’s going to happen!”

Janet stared across the table at her friend in disbelief. They had met for lunch, or more exactly Janet had dragged Daniel out of his comfy office to get him to eat. During their small talk, Daniel mentioned his upcoming self-defense session with Colonel Jack O’Neill.

“I thought you did not want anybody to find out.”

“Why should anybody find out?”

Janet returned Daniel's puzzled look. Nothing indicated that he knew what she was talking about, nothing but that little twinkle in his eyes!

“Daniel!”

Her annoyance was more than evident in that one little word. Daniel just started grinning, but he became serious again very fast.

“Janet, I know I should have been more careful this morning, but what could he possibly suspect? I never denied to know my own share of self-defense, its just that nobody ever believes me! I’m a bit fed up that everybody here seems to think I’m unable to look after myself. By now at least Jack should know that I can fight for myself.”

“I think they are just confusing your roles.”

Now it was Janet who was grinning. This wasn’t the first time the two of them had this conversation. Normally Daniel didn’t care if somebody underestimated him, after all it was an impression he had worked hard on, but occasionally he got really annoyedwith the protectiveness of his team.

“What roles?”

This time his confusion was for real. He really had no idea what she was talking about. Janet didn’t stop grinning when she said:

“The I’m-just-a-harmless-little-archeologist and the don’t-mess-with-me-or-you’ll-rue-it one.”

Daniel looked at her as if he couldn’t decide if he just had been insulted or not, but then he started laughing silently.

“If they know both sides of my character, they shouldn’t be so surprised every time I ‘switch roles’. You should have seen Jacks face when he realized that he was sitting on the floor. It was priceless. The last time I’ve seen such surprise in his face was when I showed up at his place his last birthday.”

Chuckling Janet tried to picture that particular look on Jack O’Neill’s face.

“I think I can imagine.”

They were both laughing now. Other people in the mess turned to look, but neither Daniel or Janet cared.

“Are you coming tonight?” Janet asked suddenly.

SG-1 plus Janet had this little tradition, meeting once a month in town for a bit of R&R which generally meant drinking, swappinggossip and having what Jack referred to as a good time. The best thing was, this meeting was often held at Richards Club.

“If I don’t find a good excuse that Jack will believe, I’ll be there.”

Jack and Daniel had a little competition going. Every month Daniel tried to find a reason why he couldn’t come to the evening out and every month Jack tried to find a reason to drag him along nevertheless.

“Don’t pretend you would put your work over a nice evening with your friends. You’ll have fun.”

“If you say so…”

Daniel didn’t sound convinced at all, even as he was smiling while saying that. Absently he glanced at his watch and was surprised at the time.

“I’ve to get going, or Jack is going to send a search team.”

With thesewords Daniel stood up. He and Jack were going to meet in fifteen minutes in the gym. Problem was, this was the time when the SGC-gym was normally most crowded. Daniel was reluctant to show Jack his moves in front of other people, even if it wasn’t his reputation that would suffer. A small smile started to spread on Daniel’s face. Jack was in for a good surprise.

The gym was crowded, just like Daniel had predicted. He had tried one more time to talk Jack out of this idea, but without success. The Colonels mind was set on this little session and Daniel had no choice but to play along.

It didn’t take Daniel to long to figure out Jacks motivations for this insistence. The Colonels ego needed a boost after this morning and the man really hadn’t expected to loose again. Like Daniel had thought, his friend had been in for a nasty surprise.

After Colonel O’Neill was sent to the mats for the third time in a row he started to realize that his Danny knew a bit more about self-defense techniques than he had thought. At least this last time he had been able to remain on his feet for a whole three minutes. What the hell was going on here? This wasn’t the first time he had dragged Daniel down for a little training, it was just the first time that Daniel had the upper hand all the time. Jack had a sneaking suspicion that something was going on.

Jack stood up again and eyed his friend suspiciously for a long moment, then decided to give it another try. After all, he knew his own fair share of attack and defense moves, should know them after all his time in the military. The problem was, Daniel always seemed to know what Jack would try next. And it always ended with Jack lying or sitting on the training mats. This time was no exception. When Jack attacked, Daniel didn’t try to move aside, like taught in normal martial art lessons but made a step towards the colonel, reaching him when the man was mid-step. He managed to grab Jacks right arm, then turned. Jacks own speed carried him further and gave Daniel all the velocity he needed. It ended with Jack lying on his back with a sore shoulder and Daniel looking down on him, a small grin on his face. He extended a hand to help his friend up and Jack took it,grumbling. Back onhis feet he cast a quick look around. The two of them were the center of attention at the moment. Jack grimaced. He shouldn’t have ever suggested this. Not after the surprise he got this morning.

“What technique is this anyway? Where did you learn it? When? And why didn’t you ever tell me about it? I could have saved my attempts to teach you.”

Jack fired the questions in a rapid order but Daniel only raised his eyebrows questioningly. Jack realized suddenly that it was normally his friend who fired questions at him like this.

“I don’t know if this technique has a concrete name. It is more like a mix of different ways of fighting. Some of this a friend from China taught me, when I was there… a long time ago. I also once learned a bit of capuera and other not so well known techniques. You could say my style is a little bit of everything. And for why I never told you…”

Daniel shrugged smiling.

“… you never really asked and you seemed to have fun playing the teacher to me.”

Jack tried to glare at Daniel, but he knew from long experience that the archeologist was immune to this look. And Daniel was right, it had been fun teaching this stuff, but now Jack felt a little bit… used. He really never noticed, just assumed that a bookish person like Daniel wouldn’t know the first thing about fighting. Damn it! But then, Daniels newly discovered abilities raised some other questions.

“When did you have time to learn all this stuff? And why? Honestly, I never thought of you as a fan of fighting at all.”

Daniel’s smile faltered a bit and Jack thought that he could again see the same strange look from this morning. This… nervousness or fear…or whatever it was. What was for sure, was that Danny was uncomfortable with this question. But why? Jack’s suspicions came back full force. Something was going on here. Something big! And he still had no idea what. Perhaps he should have a little talk with Carter and Teal’c if they had seen something suspicious.

“I didn’t spend all my time in libraries, Jack. And sometimes it is rather… desirable to know how to fight back. And, even if you don’t believe it, I kind off like this form of weaponless fighting.”

“And fencing…”

Jack put in slightly puzzled. Okay, this explanation made sense. Daniel was just the person to attract bullies and fighting back wouldn’t be the worst course of actions but he just couldn’t connect his Daniel, a man who always seemed to favor a non-violent approach to things, with the men he was coming to know now, after nearly two years. A man who liked martial arts and playing around with real, very sharp, swords.

Seemingly Daniel didn’t know what to say: a notable situation in itself. Again this look crossed his face, but only for a second. Jack would have missed it if he hadn’t observed his friend so closely.

“Ever heard of active archeology? The fencing started as part of a little project and I kind of stuck with it… don’t get me wrong, I don’t like fighting, I like the sport at it. The theory of the moves, the muscle control and balance you need… and the history behind the different styles fascinates me.”

Trust Daniel to give an absolutely in-character explanation for an absolutely out-of-character behavior. Of course it had to have something to do with history or archeology, what else?

But even this, for Daniel, completely logicalexplanation wasn’t able to dismiss Jack’s freshly bloomed suspicions. He had this nasty feeling that something wasn’t right here, that Daniel hadn’t told the whole truth about this matter. The question was: why? What was Daniel hiding here? Perhaps he really should arrange a little talk with Carter and Teal’c. Daniel had been acting weirdly the last few weeks, even for him, and it was high time that the rest of the team did something about it. But for know…

“Okay, lets try again! Show me the move from this morning.”

And Daniel did just that, patiently showing his friend every little detail. You could get the impression that it wasn’t the first time in his life that he was teaching this particular subject.

Jack didn’t need long to grasp the theory and then the praxis of the moves. While the two friends were training, Jack was well aware of the stares they got from most soldiers in the gym. Whispered comments drifted back and forth. The majority of the audience was just as surprised as Jack about Daniels seemingly newly developed abilities, but there were also different opinions. Like what this ‘stupid geek’ was thinking ‘showing off’ as if ‘he knew anything about fighting in the first place’. Jack wouldn’t have cared about comments like this, not greatly at least, but when he heard something that sounded suspiciously like ‘this geek needs to be taught a lesson’, he turned around searching their audience. Comments like this, especially when directed at members of his team, really ticked Jack O’Neill off. He cast a scathing look around the gym and quite a few people suddenly remembered that they had other important things to do, far away from the gym and Colonel O’Neill.

Good! His patented glare was still working. After this short treatment none of the remaining soldiers were particular eager to repeat certain comments. Satisfied that he still had some authority over fellow military when not over a particular archeologist, started to rise in Jack but was brutally cut short.

Suddenly Jack found himself lying on the mats, again! Daniel had ruthlessly taken advantage of his temporary distraction to make his move. Now he was grinning down on his friend and asking sweetly:

“Wasn’t it you who told me, to never let anything distract you during a fight?”

“Oh for crying out loud, Danny!”

Daniel let out a short chuckle, then extended a hand to help Jack back on his feet. But now it was Jack who took advantage of his friend. One long trained move later it was Daniel who lay on his back looking up rather surprised. Jack stood over him, hands on his hips smirking. Daniel blinked a few times then a smile found its way back on his face.

“Is your ego happy now?”

“Yep!”

Jack wanted to help Daniel stand up, but his friend beat him to it and came back to his feet with a little jackknife jump. Jack had seen Daniel do this move more than once on missions, but it always surprised him a bit how agile his friend really was. His bookworm look tended to distract people pretty well from the facts.

“You know what, my friend?”

Daniel gave Jack a wary look. When Jack asked something like this, in this particular tone of voice, it generally wasn’t pleasant.

“Since your performance bruised my self-confidence pretty badly, you are going to buy at least one round of drinks tonight.”

Jack was grinning brightly but Daniel just looked at him with high drawn eyebrows.

“Tell me Jack, how do you always seem to manage to find an excuse why I should pay for your drinks?”

“Lifelong experience. So you will be there tonight.”

“As if I had a realistic chance not to.” Daniel mumbled in response, while packing his things and heading to the showers.

But he had to be honest with himself. He really liked this evenings out with the team. Sometimes they were joined by members of other teams like Ferretti. A small smile spread on Daniel’s face when he remembered a little incident which had involved a group of marines and several bottles tequila. General Hammond had not been a happy man when he found out that three SG-Teams were inoperable because of severe hangovers. Janet hadn’t been too pleased either.

Even after nearly two years Daniel had still a hard time dealing with Jacks insistence on these little ‘team-building-acts’ like the colonel used to call this. It wasn’t in his nature to become so deeply involved, a self-defense mechanism in its own. Two thousand years of memories and experience were more than enough to drive one lesson home: Nothing lasts, above all not friends. And his returned memories seemed to prove this theory. So Daniel tried to stay away from close friendships, tried to stay by himself. But he made the mistake of falling in love with Sha’re, letting her close, allowing himself to feel again. After Apophis made Sha’re a host, Daniel had desperately wanted to hide himself away again in his emotional shell, but Jack O’Neill had come along and dragged him out to the real world. The colonel had needed friendship just like Daniel had needed itand so Daniel broke his own rule to keep the distance again. Soon after, Sam and Teal’c were included and Daniel started to realize that he had missed the normality of simple friendship. And he also realized at one point, that if he didn’t go away soon he would be unable to leave at all. He was still here.

The evening was coming along nicely. They had already reached their second or third drink and the conversation started to loosen up. Janet chatted in a lively fashion with Sam with Teal’c contributing his point of view from time to time. Daniel just sat there watching them and nursing his drink. And Jack was watching Daniel.

He was sore after the little workout this afternoon and wondered if Daniel felt the same. If yes, he never showed it. But then, when did Daniel ever complain about bodily harm at all. His universal answer to every injury, however severe, was “I’m fine”.

After he had had some time to think about it, Jack wondered exactly why he had been so damn surprised about Daniel’s performance. After all, he had seen the archeologist in action before! He had seen how Daniel could turn from mild mannered, shy geek right to determined fighter in one heartbeat. On their very first mission he threw himself in the way of a staff blast for him after all. At least then Jack should have realized that he had underestimated Danny badly. But in his opinion Daniel still needed protection.

The thoughtful, slightly forlorn look Daniel had in his eyes at the moment did nothing to reassure Jack that Daniel was alright. Janet had told him that nothing was wrong with his friend, at least not physically. But this left the one important question: was he mentally all right? Jack had pondered on this question since the disaster with Nem. Since they had returned to earth, he had found his friend alone in the darkness of his office, staring at nothing. Daniel had never told them exactly what had happenedwhile the rest of SG-1 believed him dead, but it couldn’t have been nice. The archeologist had been awfully jumpy for weeks afterwards and then mess with Carter and Jolinar hadn’t been helpful either. They all had been freaked by that incident.

But after a while Daniel seemed to calm down somewhat, even if Jack still had the feeling that something was amiss. It wasn’t anything in particular, just that Danny was acting even stranger than usual from time to time. Thenthe meeting with the Tok’ra had occurred. Whatever it was, something unnerved Daniel gravely about this meeting. He didn’t show it openly, only sometimes, when he thought nobody was looking. There was an expression on his face that Jack couldn’t quite place. Something odd, between remembrance of old pain and antipathy and the knowledge of some secret he couldn’t tell. It was confusing.

Even more confusing was a situation that arose shortly before they departed for the Stargate to go back to Earth. Jack, impatient as always has gone looking for Daniel and found him standing with one of the Tok’ra of the High Council. One of those who had opted to make sure that the Tau’ri wouldn’t be a threat in a rather uncomfortable way. Daniel, already leaving,had turned back to the Tok’ra and said something in a language Jack didn’t recognize. Nothing unusual here, but the Tok’ra’s reaction was. The man had paled so fast that Jack had feared he would faint on them. Without a backward glance Daniel had walked away, unaware that Jack had seen the whole exchange. The colonel still had no idea what Daniel could have said that scared this high and mighty Tok’ra so much.

After this encounter Daniel’s weird behavior had been back. Again, nobody who didn’t know Daniel would have suspected that something was wrong, but Jack had noticed. The nightmares Jack remembered from the time Daniel had stayed with him after his return from Abydos, were more frequent again. At least every time they shared a tent on missions the colonel noticed that Daniel would wake up in the middle of the night with a start and then had problems going backto sleep. It sometimes amazed Jack that his friend was still able to function so well with his lack of sleep.

At some point Carter and Teal’c both had also realized that something was on Daniel’s mind. Sam had tried to talk to him and when this failed had started to pester Jack to talk to Daniel. Teal’c had mostly stayed silent and impassive as always, offering silent support to his friend, but at the same time seemed to observe Daniel more closely. Until a few weeks ago. Suddenly something in his behavior towards Daniel had changed again and Jackwas unable to tell what exactly what it was. He just had this feeling that Teal’c had been let in on the secret of Daniel’s behavior and now refused to tell the others.

“Hey Janet, what’s this?”

Sam Carter’s voice started Jack out of his gloomy thoughts. Interested he looked over to Janet who was blushing quite nicely while trying to hide something on her wrist. Looking closer Jack made out a… tattoo? Since when did Janet Fraiser possess a tattoo? And why didn’t he know about it? Definitely not getting all the memos. Two short sideways glances showed Jack that Teal’c was as interested in Janet’s answer as Carter; that is, if you knew how to tell with Jaffa’s impassive gaze. Daniel on the other hand was grinning but trying his best to hide it. He was obviously not terriblysurprised about this. What was going on now?

“It’s nothing, Sam. A sin of my youth, nothing more.”

Janet was clearly embarrassed about this. Jack saw the perfect opportunity to come back at the doctor for all the needles she used to poke him with whenever she had him in the infirmary.

“What, Janet? Where you part of some obscure sect or something.”

Janet glared at Jack, than shifted her look to Daniel, who now had a very hard time to stifle his laughter. Not even Janet’s icy glare could stop him. Daniel knew something. Again. And he wasn’t telling. Again. Had some cosmic existence called a conspiracy against Jack O’Neill or what? Since it didn’t look as if Janet would answer Jack’s question, Sam tried to get the doctor talking.

“Oh come on, Janet. Tell! It can’t be that bad.”

“No, it is worse Daniel whispered while biting his lip to prevent from laughing out loud. Apparently no one had heard the words. No one but Jack, who started toying with the thought of pulling rank here. Whatever story was behind this tattoo, it could prove to be major blackmail material against the good doctor. An opportunity you shouldn’t let pass.

“It’s really nothing. Something I did while I was still in college.”

“Has it a hidden meaning or something?”

Sam’s curiosity had woken and nothing short of an Goa’uld attack would be able to stop her now. Come to think of it, probably not even that. But Janet wasn’t an easy target for this, since she had enough experience with begging and pestering soldiers not to give in to fast. But she hadn’t counted on one thing, or better person Sam could pester instead.

“Daniel, what does the symbol mean?”

Daniel’s grin vanished instantly. Apparently, he hadn't thought that Sam would ask him about this.

“What makes you think I would know about the meaning of Janet’s tattoo?”

“Mhh, perhaps because you normally knows the meaning of every alien-symbol we stumble across or perhaps because you are grinning like the cat who stole the cream since I discovered the tattoo. Come on Daniel, give!”

Janet and Daniel exchanged a short look, before Daniel turned back to Sam:

“You’re right, I know the story behind the tattoo. Has something to do with a student-organization, but everything else you have to ask Janet about. It’s her story to tell.”

Jack gave his friend a short calculating look. He would find out what this was about when they met the next time for beer, pizza and movie. Given the right amount of pestering and generally being unbelievablynosy, Daniel would tell every secret. Or so Jack thought.

Before either Jack or Sam had a chance to ask further questions, Daniel suddenly turned around, searching the room with a slightly confused, but also worried expression in his eyes. Jack registered the fast, knowing look between Teal’c and Janet, but didn’t comment on it. Something to file away for later reference.

A man was making his way over to them, a concerned look on his face. With a slightly bad premonition Jack recognized the bar-owner. He had no chance to ask the man, he knew only as Rich if something was wrong, because to Jacks utter surprise he spoke directly to Daniel:

“Daniel? Can I speak with you for a moment? In private?”

Daniel looked puzzled for a moment, but not as puzzled as Jack felt. What was happening now? Without a further word of explanation Daniel stood up and followed Rich. Jack’s look followed themfor a moment before he turned back to his friends at the table.

“Can somebody tell me what that was about?”

“It appears that Daniel Jackson and the owner of this establishment are acquaintances.”

Jack send a questioning gaze over to Teal’c. The Jaffa had obviously again taken language lessons with Daniel. Only SGC’s resident linguist could understand something like this without thinking.

“Teal’c is right”, confirmed Janet, “Daniel and Richard have known each other for a long time”

And you have no idea exactly how long

padding:0in;mso-padding-alt:0in 0in 0in 0in'> Jack turned away for a moment, looking the way Daniel had gone. Why had he the feeling that here was another story hidden that he should know?

“Okay Rich, what is the matter? Don’t tell me another hunter has found his way into Colorado Springs.”

Daniel’s attempt at humor wasn’t very successful, only a small, barely visible smile sneaked on Richard’s face and disappeared again immediately.

“I’m not exactly sure. Somebody was here yesterday, asking for you. One of us.”

“And?”

Daniel had a bad feeling about this already. A very bad feeling. Of course, it could be simply an old friend trying to find him, but Richards attitude suggested that this somebody hadn’t acted like seeking a long lost friend.

“I don’t know. Something about him set me off. I really didn’t like him, from the moment he set foot in my bar. When he asked for you, he didn’t seem too friendly, you know. All cold and disdain. If he hadn’t been an Immortal, I would have thought he was with the police, looking for some mass-murder. The guy simply gave me the creeps. I told him I hadn’t seen you in a while, and he should try looking in Egypt.”

The last sentence was said with a self-satisfied smirk on Richards face, but Daniel had grown worried. He hadn’t that many enemies among their kind and none of them would come seeking him out for a fight. So who was this mysterious man? A terrible suspicion began to form in Daniel’s mind.

“What did the man look like, Rich?”

“Mhhh… A bit smaller than you, about 5’11’’ but more muscular. Looked a bit like a body-builder. Darker complexion, black hair. Would say Mediterranean origin. Brown eyes. Had something that looked like tribal markings on the left side of his face. Looked really scary, you know… Daniel, are you still listening? Daniel?!”

While listening to Richard’s description of the man Daniel had grown alarmingly pale. It looked as if he was about to faint any minute. Richard had never seen such a reaction from his long time friend. He could see that Daniel was afraid, the question was why? Was this some old enemy coming to settle a fight?

Daniel’s thoughts were running in circles. This couldn’t be! This had to be a mistake. Chel was supposed to be dead, not still running around looking for him.

“Daniel, damn it, snap out of it!”

Richard was not happy with the situation. Daniel was starting to frighten him. Finally Daniel found his way back into reality and muttered:

“I’m fine, Rich, no reason panic.”

Richard didn’t believe his friend for one minute, but he knew that it would be fruitless to try to get more information out of him.

“So you know this guy?”

“Yeah.”

“And I’m right when I say he isn’t exactly your friend.”

“Yes and no. He was my best friend once. It’s a long time ago. Nowhe just wants to kill me.”

Richard let out a short impressed whistle.

“What in heaven sake did you do to piss him off like this?”

Daniel didn’t answer, but looked broodingly down on the floor. After several moments he finally said:

“It’s not really important anymore. But promise me not to mess with this guy. He can be very dangerous!”

Richard looked doubtfullyat his friend. From his short encounter with the stranger he was sure that Daniel was right, but he didn’t like the thought that his friend was in danger. If this guy was after Daniel, then it was only a matter of time until they had a run in.

“I’m going back, before the others start to wonder where I’ve disappeared to.”

Daniel’s words shook Richard out of his thoughts. Apparently Daniel had calmed down again, or was he just hiding his apprehension? Richard had no chance to say anything else before Daniel left the room to go back to his friends. But silently Richard decided to find out about this stranger.

Daniel was deep in thought as he made his way through the people towards their table. So Chel was finally back. Ice-cold fear spread through him at this thought. He really didn’t want to face his brother again.

Part 4

Surprisingly, there were quite a few people around for the middle of the week, but Daniel didn't care. This way he could blend in much better. At first he planned to stay at base overnight, finally getting some work done. If he wasn't sleeping, he wouldn't have nightmares. His plan had fallen flat when Janet decided that he really should get some rest. He had tried to argue, but with Janet he could have tried arguing with wall. Jack, coincidentally walking in on their argument, hadn't been any help either. First, he wouldn't risk getting on Janet’s bad side and then he was on her side for once. So Jack had driven Daniel home, but the archeologist had no intention of going to sleep. Instead he left the apartment to wander around   bit. Rich's bar wasn't terribly far away, perhaps he could go there for a drink?

There hadn't been a trace of Chel the last two weeks, at least none Daniel had found. But then he had spent one of the two weeks off-world making nice with some alien culture and having discussions with Jack about ‘rocks’. Perhaps Chel had believed Rich and gone to Egypt to look for him? Okay, it wasn't very likely, but altogether possible. Perhaps. If he was lucky.

When he was honest with himself Daniel had to admit that he didn’t believe that Chel would give up so fast. The man was the epitome of stubborn, how else would he manage to hold a grudge so long.

Daniel sighed deeply. It still hurt. Those hateful words from the man who had once been his closest friend, his brother in everything but blood. Being called a traitor by him without having a real chance to deny the accusations.

//Without having a right to…//

Getting frustrated he kicked at a stone lying on the sidewalk. It didn’t help much. How could this man still hold such a power over his feelings after six-thousand years? It wasn’t fair. Why couldn’t Chel move on?

//… why can’t I simply hate him?//

He had never stopped hoping to win Chel back, even after this fateful meeting in the crumpling ruins of the palace...

//… Alone in the hallway. Chel, the sword clenched in his hands, attacking viciously, nothing but hate and anger in his dark face. He himself stumbling back, trying his best to avoid the blows, for he has no weapon to defend himself with. At the same time he was   trying to reason with his one time friend.

“Chel, please listen to me! Hear me out!”

But Chel has no intention to listen. Another furious swing sent him stumbling back, tripping over a piece of rubble, loosing his balance. White-hot pain shot through his ankle.

“You betrayed us all, Da’yell! What was your price for giving them what they needed? Was it worth all those lives?”

The cynical words hurt more than the multiple small injuries he was already sporting. He felt like crying, like screaming, anything to get through Chel’s loathing.

“Please Chel!”, he whispered in a broken voice, unconsciously trying to back away, “I didn’t betray them, I swear. Please believe me brother…”

“I’m not your brother, traitor! Now you die!”

Chel lifted the sword in a graceful motion, looking him directly in the eyes. He still couldn’t believe this was happening, couldn't bear that look from the face of his friend.

The sword started to come down and he braced himself for what was about to happen. But it never happened. A blinding flash of blue-white light stuck Chel in the middle of his chest, closely followed by another. Chel’s wide eyes fixed on him, before he collapsed lifelessly to the floor.

He turned slowly. Behind him a tall figure stepped out of the shadows, a grim look on his face…//

Chel never listened to him after that. For him it was confirmed that his best friend had turned them over to the enemy. How could he not from his point of view? So Daniel had run from him instead of fighting. If he let it come to a fight, one of them wouldn’t survive it.

One of his later students, who knew about the story had once said, ‘you’re too loyal for your own health and sanity, my friend.’. Perhaps he had been right. The same fidelity that kept him from killing Chel was what drove him to look for his Sha’re when there was nearly no hope of gettingher back.

Aimlessly wandering along the streets, looking at shop-windows without really seeing anything, Daniel continued to muse about which fate brought all this together at the same time. First his returning memories which made startling clear why he had understood the language of the Goa’uld so fast, why he had been able to understand what the cover-stone was really about. Then the Tok’ra who brought back other not so pleasant memories of a past better forgotten. And now Chel had to catch up with him. Just another thing that would have been better staying in the past than haunting him in the present.

Suddenly the strong presence of a quickening washed over Daniel, startling him out of his thoughts. Letting his gaze roam around him his eyes locked with the gaze of a man on the other side of the street. For an unbearably long moment they just looked at each other, frozen. Then Daniel broke the spell by turning around and running. He didn’t care where to as long as he got away from here. He didn’t turn to see if the man followed him, but he was sure of it.

A gnawing fear rose inside him. He would recognize that face everywhere.

Chel had finally found him.

The day had started rather well for Jack and so he was in surprisingly good mood when he reached Daniel’s apartment block. That changed the moment he came to Daniel’s door, which was standing slightly ajar. Jack hadn’t a good opinion about Daniel and home-security, but he knew that even he wouldn’t do something so careless.

Carefully Jack started pushing the door open. The apartment behind it was in a mess. Nothing new, but this wasn’t Daniel’s normal organized chaos, it looked as if there had been a fight in here. Things lying around scattered and broken, a table overturned. A truly bad feeling started to rise from the pit of Jack’s stomach. For a moment hundred different scenarios flashed in his head and none were pleasant. Had there be a burglary? And where was Daniel?

A loud shattering sound from the direction of the bedroom sent Jackspinning around. Carefully he started moving towards the room, cursing himself for leaving his weapon on base.

“Daniel?” Jack called when he was at the door. Only silence answered him. Cautiously he reached for the door-handle, but suddenly the door was swung open, sending Jack stumbling back a few steps. Before he was able to react, a man rushed past him, and out of the apartment. Jack didn't even get the chanceto get a closer look at the man. For a moment he debated with himself if he should follow, but then decided against it. Daniel was more important.

“Danny?”

A bit afraid of what he might find, Jack stepped into the room. It wasn’t looking any better here than in the rest of the apartment. The shattering noise he had heard had come from an overturned shelf, it's contents lying scattered on the floor. Daniel was leaning against a wall, a dazed look in his eyes. Slowly he slid down in a sitting position, the rapier of his rapier still clutchedin his now limp right hand. He was pale as a ghost and breathing fast and shallow, but seemed thankfully unhurt. Now he was starting to shake, still looking straight ahead without seeing anything.

“Danny? Are you okay, buddy”

Jack was kneeling in front of his friend now, trying to get through the obvious shock. Gently grabbing Daniel by his shoulders Jack tried to meet Daniels eyes. Ittook a moment before Daniel registered that he wasn’t alone any more. Still slightly dull eyes turned towards him:

“Hey Jack…”

“Daniel, what the hell happened here?”

Daniel didn’t answer right away, but tried to get his breathing under control. Jack waited patiently, even if he was starting to feel his knees rather painfully.

“A… break-in… I think.”

Helping Daniel to his feet, they made their way over to the bed. Daniel was still fighting to calm himself down. He couldn’t believe that Chel had managed to surprise him like this. If it hadn’t been for Jack he would probably have lost his head. He was out of practice, definitely. Chel had burst into his apartment the same moment as the feeling of the quickening had washed over him and before he knew what was happening he was engaged into a fight for life and death. Damn it! After his run in with Chel last night, he should have known that the man would show up at his place sooner or later. He just hadn’t expected that it would be so soon.

//Admit it, you didn't expect such an attack at all. You’ve grown soft!//

Taking a deep breath,Daniel’s resolve grew. He wouldn’t give Chel another chance like this, wouldn’t let himself be so damn startled. Finally looking up Daniel registered that Jack was on his Cell-phone, obviously to the general. He cringed. Jack may have saved him more or less, but he was also going to make one hell of a fuss about this incident. But then, who wouldn’t who didn’t know the whole story?

“You okay there, Daniel?”

Jack’s concerned look shook Daniel’s determination never to tell his military friends anything whatsoever about his Immortality. It would be much easier to explain this whole mess to his friend if he knew all the facts.

“I’m fine. Just had a good scare.”

“Uh huh.”

Jack obviously didn’t believe the first part of this statement, at least not completely. Of course not. One minute ago Daniel had still been on the verge of a panic attack, how could he be ‘fine’.

“I called the base, Hammond excused us both for the day. I’m going to call the police now.”

“No!”

Jack looked positively puzzled. Not the puzzled look he displayed when he pretended not to understand something he or Sam where trying to explain something scientific to him, it was real confusion.

“What do you mean, no?”

Sighing deeply, Daniel looked his friend directly in the eyes:

“It wouldn’t be much use. You should know that the police won't spend too much time with a simple break-in, and I can’t tell them much. I don’t think I could identify him, whoever it was.”

Okay, this was a lie, not even a very good one, but the very last thing he needed were some police sniffing around here. Police had this nasty habit of always finding exactly what you really didn't want found out. Knowing his luck some overeager wannabe detective would find his sword and just coincidentally tie it in some way to the mess that hunter caused a few weeks back.

Jack looked a bit sour, but seemed to see the logic in Daniel’s statement, even if he really didn’t like it. If he had his way, whoever dared to violate Daniel’s home shouldn’t get away so easily.

“Are you sure?”

Daniel nodded resolutely.

“I’m sure. Nothing happened, so there is no reason for a panic.”

Jack’s look clearly indicated that he still wasn’t too happy with Daniel’s decision, but had no idea what to say against it. Experience had taught him the hard waythat when the archeologist had set his mind on something it was difficult to impossible to persuade him that his idea wasn’t the best. The man was nearly as stubborn as Jack himself, perhaps even more so.

“Then at least let me help with the mess in your apartment. And I’m sure that Carter and Teal’c will show up here sooner rather than later.”

A small, grateful smile appeared on Daniel’s face, but Jack didn’t miss the determined look in Daniel’s eyes either. He thought it was because Daniel wouldn’t let this affect him, wouldn’t let himself be anything but fine like always. But the truth was that Daniel had decided something else. The mention of Sam and Teal’c had brought a conviction forth inside him that this time, he wouldn’t run from Chel. He was tired of this game of cat and mouse they had played throughout the centuries, high-time that it stopped once and for all! Yesterday he had already decided that he was far too fond of his life here with his friends and his work at the SGC to simply pull a disappearing act, and now he was sure that he wouldn’t go. Not this time.

It had taken them most of the day to get something akin to order back into Daniel’s apartment. Like Jack had predicted, Sam and Teal’c showed up quickly, both worried about what they heard. Of course they offered to help. At some point Janet showed up no less worried than the rest of SG-1. She took Daniel aside to ask him what this was about. Jack had mentioned on the phone that he had found Daniel with his sword in hand and now Janet wanted to know if the Colonel had interrupted a duel. Daniel didn’t tell her much. He was reluctant to give any information about what had happened this morning. Chel certainly belonged to a chapter of his life he wasn’t to keen to tell about.

The whole day Daniel expected to feel Chel’s presence every moment, but it never happened until the next morning. Jack had picked him up, with a muttered comment about what he would do with this car of Daniel’she had something to say. The suggestion was rather rude, but Daniel didn’t really care. He liked his little (old) car and when it was in the shop, he had Jack to drive him.

They were already in the car and on their way, when Daniel suddenly felt it: the quickening of another Immortal. Not good. A hopefully subtle look around showed him nothing, but the feeling wouldn’t go away. A Immortal was near them, and stayed near which could only mean that they were followed.

“What’s the matter, Danny?”

Okay, so the look around had not been subtle enough for Jack not to notice.

“Nothing, just a bit nervous.”

Jack glanced over at his friend, while trying at the same time to keep his attention to on the road. Daniel was telling the truth, he was nervous, but why. He kept looking over his shoulder and into the review mirror, as if he was expecting to be followed.

“Daniel? Something wrong?”

“No, it’s nothing. Just seeing ghosts.”

Jack threw a look in the back mirror himself. All he saw was the normal inner city traffic. Daniel was still shifting nervously in his seat, but Jack couldn’t discover the reason. His friend didn’t look like he was going to say what was going on, and the highway wasn’t the right place for the obligatory discussion that would be necessary to get Daniel to talk. So Jack decided to postpone the talk to later. Perhaps Carter would help him.

“Please explain to me again why the Tok’ra are so damn interested in theseparticular rocks?”

Daniel glared at Jack across the table in the briefing-room. Long ago the suspicion had formed that Jack was saying ‘rocks’ instead of artefacts on purpose just to annoy the hell out of him. And he had success with it.

“It is easy Jack. The artefact seems to be some kind of diary-device. We just don’t have the technology to open it, but the Tok’ra have. And they seem to know who wrote it. It would be a great help for us, if we could get our hands on the records of some Goa’uld.”

“Do you think they would let us keep it, if it could be helpful?”

“… I don’t think so…”

It was clear that Jack didn’t like the Tok’ra very much. Daniel couldn’t blame him for it, even if he had other reasons to dislike this resistance movement. Much more valid reasons.

SG-11 had brought back something from their last mission that looked suspiciously like some Goa’uld device. Daniel had been sure that he knew what it was, but this particular information sadly belonged to the ones still buried inside his head. As much as he tried, he simply couldn’t recall correctly what this device was. He could only decipher a part of the inscription even if something constantly irked his memory about the damn thing. Finally the little he had been able to find out had made General Hammond contact the Tok’ra for help. Surprisingly their allies had agreed immediately to come which made Daniel immensely suspicious about their real motives. He didn’t trust the Tok’ra a single inch.

Klaxons sounded through the base, announcing a gate traveler.

“Do you think this could be our special friends?”

Daniel shrugged. Since no SG-teams were off-planet it was either the Tok’ra or another unwanted visit from some system-lord. In Daniels opinion either wasn’t very good news.

“Come on - lets take a look!”

Jack was already halfway through the door and didn’t wait for Daniels reply. Daniel thought about it for a short moment, then followed his friend. The observation-room was the normal efficient chaos. Lieutenant Simmons was just announcing that the seventh symbol was encoded and a minute later he said that the Tok’ra code was coming through. On General Hammond’s order the iris was opened and the shining light-blue of the wormhole was revealed. The flickering light illuminated the whole gate room giving it a slight mystical look.

Moments later two people emerged from the gate. Daniel immediately recognized them. Selmac and Lantash or Jacob and Martouf. A little relief started to well up in Daniel. At least these two were people he partly trusted, but still. Every time he looked at Martouf, he kept seeing a another person. Another man he had thought he could trust. Another mistake in a long line…

“Doctor Jackson?”

Daniel jerked out of his memories, looking into the smiling face of General Hammond.

“Are you all right, son?”

A smile appeared on Daniel’s face as he nodded. Every time the General called him son, he had a hard time not to show his amusement. If the man only knew.

“I think Selmac is going to want to talk to you about your findings concerning this artefact as soon as possible.”

“Of course”

Again Daniel nodded, then left the observation room to find the two Tok’ra. Not that he was particular keen to meetthem, but it couldn’t be avoided.

When Daniel finally found the two, they had already found his office and the artifact. Their excited behavior made it obvious that they knew what this device was. The question now was if they were willing to share.

“Their in there?”

Daniel tried hard not to flinch as Jack laid a hand on his shoulder completely unexpectedly. How did this man manage to sneak up on him time and time again? Was he really so out of practice, or was it simply Jack’s training? Whatever it was, it was damn well unnerving.

“Yes, and I think they know what this device is about.”

Jack looked at the slightly ajar office door as if he was trying to hear what was being said inside, but unlike Daniel he couldn’t understand the language.

“No use standing out here, is there? Let us go into the Tok’ras den!”

Jack’s hand had never left Daniel’s shoulder and now he was steering his friend gently through the door. Neither Selmac or Lantash seemed to care that they weren’t alone anymore, but talked on. Daniel and Jack shared a short look before the Colonel finally interrupted the conversation:

“I take it you know what this thing is.”

“Yes, we have a suspicion.”

It was Selmac who answered and if he was startled by Jacks interruption in any way, he wasn’t showing it. Both Daniel and Jack had a hard time hiding their discomfort at hearing this typical Goa'uld tone of voice.

“From what I could decipher, this device holds the notes of the Goa’uld Djeheuty.”

“Thoth?”

“Yes… that is the name he took later.”

This time it was Martouf who spoke, seemingly surprised and not necessarily pleased that Daniel knew this little detail. Jack, realizing this, tried to hide his smirk. But his amusement vanished nearly instantly.

“Hold on! Don’t tell me, we’re going to have to deal with another snake?”

“I’m sorry Jack, but it is entirely possible. The location of this particular Goa'uld was unclear after the rebellion on Earth.”

Jack looked very uncomfortable at Selmac’s words. The prospect of having another Goa’uld joining the galaxy-wide game of hunting down the Tau’ri wasn’t something Jack liked to think about. Worse, if no one knew where this snake was, it could mean…

“Does this mean, this guy could still be on earth like Hathor?!?”

“…Yes…”

“…No…”

Selmac and Daniel spoke at the exact same moment. The human General/Tok'ra stared at the archaeologist in surprise, who looked at the floor, his eyes vacant, not really seeing anything.

“Daniel?”

Daniel didn’t react to Selmac’s question, just kept staring straight ahead. Jack really didn’t like this particular expression on his friends face. He had seen it before. One night when Daniel was staying at his house, after the mess with Nem,he woke up in the middle of the night because of some nightmare. Daniel hadn’t wanted to talk about his dream, but this look had been in his eyes, this look, as if he was desperately trying to keep something locked inside his head.

“Thoth is dead…”, Daniel finally whispered seemingly unconscious to the people around him. Jack fixed his friend with an intense glance, but his voice was gentle when he asked:

“What are you talking about?”

Daniel didn’t answer, just stared into space. Now Lantash tried to get something out of him:

“Doctor Jackson, what do you know about this Goa’uld?”

This finally brought Daniel out of his thoughts. Startled he looked up, finally realizing that he hadn’t been alone. Looking from face to face he also realized just what he had said. Not good!

“Umm… In the caves on Abydos, there were a few legends concerning the rebellion against Ra and what followed. Thoth’s fate was described rather graphically.”

“And what was this fate?" Now Jack wanted to know the whole deal, even if he already had the feeling that Daniel wasn’t telling the truth. Not even close.

“Well, you could say that Ra wasn’t very amused about the rebellion and, like it is the mentality of the Goa’uld, he needed a scapegoat for the whole disaster: Thoth. From what I read, there wasn’t left enough for even a sarcophagus to heal”

“Well that is reassuring.” Jack muttered, “Is there a special reason why Ra would elect this Thoth to be the assigned scapegoat?”

“You know that Ra prohibited reading and writing, because he made it responsible for the human resistance. In the Egyptian mythology Thoth was the god of wisdom and the moon. After the legend he is also the one who invented the art of writing. I think he introduced the written word to us Ta’uri since he is also described as the patron-god of scribes. That would be all reason Ra needed to declare Thoth guilty, don’t you think?”

Jack nodded. It sounded logical. As long as they wouldn’t have a surprise run-in with this snake he didn’t really care how the galaxy had been relived of this parasite. But he didn’t really buy Danny’s explanation why he knew about this Goa’ulds fate. Something about the way Daniel had told about Thoth's manner of deathhadn’t sounded like he only knew it from a cave-wall. It sounded… personal, the way Jack would tell people about Ra’s death.

Jack didn’t listen to the short discussion that followed about the possible future use of the notes. Perhaps he should, but he couldn’t concentrate. His thoughts circled around yet another mystery concerning Doctor Daniel Jackson.

Selmac had thoughts of his own, when he was going towards his temporary quarters in the mountain. He didn’t trust Daniel’s explanation either.

Something was wrong. He didn’t tell the whole truth!

I have the same feeling. But why should Daniel lie to us?

No accidental spectator would have suspected that Jacob Carter and his symbiote Selmac were conversing. Everything was happening in their head.

I have no idea. The way he reacted to the mention of Thoth… it was as if he was remembering something very painful

But what? Daniel only knows about Thoth from the earth mythology, and if I remember the little bit I learned about this, he was always described as one of the good gods…

But he wasn’t

Before Jacob could question Selmac about this cryptic statement, the Tok’ra showed his host old memories, from the time when Ra had held court on earth. However Thoth had earned the reputation of being one of the good guys, it wasn’t justified. Not by a long shot.

That isn't pretty, Jacob thought diplomatically to his symbiote. It was an understatement. A big one.

No, it isn’t. More so, because we thought for some time that Thoth was on our side. He wasn’t. He nearly ended the Tok’ra before the resistance had truly begun.

We both know that, but Daniel couldn’t possibly know something like this. If I understand you correctly, even among the Tok’ra this isn’t common knowledge. So the question is still, what upset Doctor Jackson so much?

We know that Daniel is well aware how far he can trust earth mythology concerning the character of the various gods.

Hathor!

One name. It was enough. Neither of them knew the whole story, but the little bits they had heard were more than enough. Combined with Selmacs knowledge about Hathor they had a pretty good idea what had happened to Daniel when the SGC had been taken over by the Goa’uld queen. It couldn't have been pretty.

The remarkable thing about this incident was that Doctor Jackson had seemed to shrug off the consequences pretty fast. Unusually fast. At least this was what Sammy had told him. She had chalked Daniel's fast recovery up to Colonel O’Neill, who had offered his hospitality for the week after the whole mess. And Jack wasn’t saying a word about what had gone on between the friends that week and Jacob didn’t want to be to nosy.

It could be the reason, but I don’t think so… why do I have the feeling that you are holding out on me?

Selmac’s ‘voice’ sounded very thoughtful when he answered.

I agree with you that Doctor Jackson seemed to take it to… personally. There is a possibility, even if I don’t think it to be true

What?

Some old stories among the Tok’ra. More legends than actual records. About a race which lived eternal. Sometimes there they called themselves Godchildren or Nem Ankh. It is said, that some of them helped with the resistance on earth

Eternal life?

So says the legend.

Daniel Jackson, Immortal? Ridiculous!

With this the topic was closed for Jacob. It maybe wasn’t so hard to think of Daniel in the environment of ancient Egypt, but he couldn’t see the young archeologist surviving in such violent times.

The storage-room was nearly completely dark. The only light came from under the closed door, a small ray of brightness shining into the black room.

Daniel sat huddled into a corner of the room, staring into the darkness. This was his favorite hiding place, for there were no cameras installed on the walls. He hated the feeling of being watched all the time.

No one knew about his preference for this room, no one but Jack. But thankfully his friend had kept quiet about it. Daniel always came here when he needed to think, or simply wanted to be alone for some time. Just like now.

The moment he made the connection between the artifact and Thoth, the memories which had lurked at the edge of his mind had rushed back into his mind and suddenly he understood what it was about this artifact what had unnerved him. He had known what it was, had seen it used so often, that it was strange that he had forgotten about it.

Thoth. Ancient god of wisdom and his personal nightmare among the Goa’uld. Sometimes he wondered how in seven hells this snake had managed to get such a good reputation. This creep was even worse than Ra. With Ra at least you knew after ten seconds that the sun-god was evil. With Thoth it wasn’t so easy. The guy had been a textbook turncoat, loving to play different gods against each other.

Daniel closed his eyes, trying to block out the pictures which were chasing themselves through his mind. Faces, voices, places and the memory of his own feelings, all thrown together without any order. He had been afraid of Thoth the very moment he had first seen him, much more afraid than of Ra. And for a very good reason.

Leaning his head back, Daniel took deep, calming breaths, eyes still closed. And he remembered.

The court of Ra, supposed god of the sun and boss of the System Lords, was a lively one. A steady coming and going of other Goa’ulds, Jaffa and humans gave this place an even more colourful appearance than it would have on its own. Most of the Humans present, though, were slaves. Just like himself.

Da’yell was kneeling not to far from Ra’s throne, head bowed, hands folded into his lap, not moving and generally doing his best to be invisible to those around him. It wasn’t so hard to manage, since everyone seemed to think it beneath their dignity to even acknowledge a slave. Unless they had any demands towards them. Involuntarilya shudder ran through Da’yell. It wasn’t in his nature to be still and follow orders, but he had learned very fast that it could have painful consequences to defy his new masters.

He missed Chel. Missed their talks and good natured teasing he had grown so used to. Here he felt terribly alone. The last time he had seen his brother had been when their little group of survivors had been dragged to the slave-auction. He and his brother had been forced to watch how one by one the people they had sworn to protect with their life were sold off into a unclear future. Chel would be sent to the quarry for work. ‘Look after yourself, brother. We’ll find each other again, I promise!’. That had been his last words towards Da’yell, before he had been dragged away. Da’yell had looked after him and had sent a desperate prayer to the god’s he had once been told to pray to, to protect his brother by choice. Finally it had been his turn to stand on the block. Da’yell had been afraid, deadly afraid, but had refused to show it. These people, who- or whatever there were, maybe could maybe take away his freedom, but he refused to let go of the little bit of pride he harbored inside in him. So he had stood there, thinking that it couldn’t get any worse, and then it had gotten worse. Before the bidding had a true chance to start, one of those armored demon-men had approached and taken him away. Everyone around cowered in fear from this being and a distant part of Da’yell’s mind asked if anyone had ever seen what hid underneath the falcon-masks. The more conscious part of his mind was occupied completely with being terrified. He hadn’t long time to wonder, for suddenly he was brought to his knees with a harsh word in a language he didn’t understand. Hesitating he finally dared to peek up and glanced into the face of a boy, clothed in rich garments, draped with gold and gems. If this hadn’t clued Da’yell into the fact that this was someone important, then the complete and utter arrogance in the eyes of this boy would have done it. Whether or not he was really important, he himself believed it. Then the boy spoke and this unearthly voice send violent shivers down Da’yell’s spine.

And Da’yell was dragged away for ‘training’. Later he learned that the boy was supposed to be a god. The great sun-god Ra. Da’yell had absolute no idea about the belief system of these people, the names of their gods meant nothing to him, which angered his ‘trainer’ to no end. And angering this bulky and not very intelligent man, was very dangerous for ones health. The injuries healed fast, not even leaving scars behind, but the remembrances of the pain inflicted wouldn’t leave so fast. Either the man wasn’t clever enough to register that his victim was healing faster than it should be possible for a human, or he just didn’t care. And Da’yell was more than thankful for his ability to heal, or he probably wouldn’t have survived the first moon of his capture. He surely gave this sadist a good source of entertainment.

But were these beings truly gods? The things they did with everyday ease were wonders to him. Also what the servants of these gods could do gave them the appearance of something way more powerful then normal humans. And the gods themselves? The moment Da’yell had first seen the glowing eyes of his new master and heard the eerie sounding voice, he had been reminded of the stories he had heard as a child. Stories of cruel and powerful demons, escaped from the underworld. The description certainly seemed to fit. But gods? They had the power and certainly the attitude, but still the doubts wouldn’t leave Da’yell alone. Something inside him simply refused to believe these creatures to be gods. He couldn’t explain why, but something just seemed to be wrong about them.

In the beginning Da’yell had resisted against the complete submission that was required from a slave, but he stopped fast enough. Sometimes it was better to go with the force instead of against it. So, while outwardly he displayed the picture of a man with a thoroughly

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.

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