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What Do You Do When Duty Calls?

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CHAPTER 1

Major General Jacob Carter, Tok'ra host to Selmac, liaison to the Taur'i, Good friend to George Hammond and father to Major Samantha Carter arrived via the wormhole and ambled down from the Stargate. Major General Hammond and Colonel O'Neill met him at the ramp. "Hi George, Jack. How's everything at the SGC?" The slightly built was man dressed in the desert colored garb that Earth's allies preferred.

"Pretty much the same as always, Jacob. Welcome back." Hammond extended his hand to his old friend of many years."

"You know how it is," O'Neill replied. "Some friendly aliens, some hostile politicians, a Tok'ra or two."

"Nice to see you too, Jack" He looked around the immediate area. "Sam not here today?"

"No, no. She's here." He assured Jacob. "She's probably in her lab." He looked at Hammond who looked back at him.

Jacob caught the byplay between the two men. "What? Is something wrong with Sam?"

"No, no. Nothing is wrong. She's fine, just fine, couldn't be finer. Isn't she General?" O'Neill was trying not to babble, and failing miserably. 'Just great, I'm channeling Danny.' He thought to himself slightly panicked by the very idea.

Jacob looked suspiciously at the Colonel. "Jack, are you not telling me something? Why are you so nervous?"

"Me?" O'Neill shook his head. "Nah, I'm not nervous. Nothing to be nervous about. Carter's up in her lab. Would you like me to show you the way?"

"I know the way, Jack." He looked at Jack oddly then to the General. "George?"

"Fine with me Jake, lead the way."

The two General officers headed up the stairs to the elevator. O'Neill headed for the nearest phone. "Carter. YeaH, you're Dad's headed your way. No, he just got here. I don't know, he wanted to see you cause you weren't here. Where's Daniel? Yea, I'm on my way. Oh, I don't know, moral support? Protect Daniel? I'll stop by and get Teal'c."

The two senior officers navigated the hallways to Major Carter's office. The door was open. Sam Carter was behind the work desk and looked up at the two men entered. "Hi Dad. What a surprise."

"Well, come here and give your old Dad a hug." His expression changed as she stepped around the counter and he could see her convex belly under the maternity uniform top.

"Hi Dad, I haven't seen you in a long time." She came up to him, hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.

Jacob paused and looked at her in shocked surprise. "Yes, I guess it has been a long time. When did this happen?"

"Four and half months ago." She smiled at him. Isn't it wonderful?" Jacob hesitated then replied honestly. "If you think so, Sammi, I'll think so." He hugged her gingerly.

"Of course I think so." She smiled at him back. "I did it."

"You certainly did. So it wasn't an accident?" He asked gruffly. his head tilting to the side in dismay.

"No," she assured him. "No, I did it on purpose. I want this child very much." Sam looked at her father. "I wanted a baby before I was too old to enjoy it." She shrugged. "So, I'm having a baby."

"Who's the father?" He demanded, stepping back.

"It really doesn't matter, does it?" Sam looked at him in a firm tone of voice.

"Well," Jacob was still trying to process this new development. "I guess as long as the father is human, and there's no problems with the child."

"Oh, yes, Dad." She smiled. "He's very human."

As he reached to hug her and he whispered. "Is it Jack?"

She whispered back. "No, Dad. He's my C.O., not my lover."

He stepped back and looked at Hammond. He shook his head. "I didn't know about it until she told me. I don't know who the father is and it's none of my business to ask." He lied gamely.

Jacob nodded. "I know, George. Sam's a big girl. Hell, she's right, if she wants to have kids; it has to be pretty soon. She's not that young anymore."

"Well, I know it's a surprise, Jacob." Hammond smiled at Sam Carter. "But she's got the best doctor in the Air Force, and of course, she's on restricted duty until the baby comes."

"And then what?" The senior Carter looked at his daughter. "Are you going to stay with the SGC? Who's going to keep the baby?"

Jack had come into the room and looked at Sam who nodded she was all right to him. "Oh, probably some old cranky retiree." He answered the question for her.

Jacob Carter turned to look at Jack in amazement. "Is this your baby?"

Jack looked back is pretended shock. "Jacob, Me?" He shook his head. "Nope, not I. I'm just a close friend who will be unemployed shortly." He grinned. "I'm retiring, ya know."

"Dad, Colonel O'Neill is not..."

"Yea, yea, Sammi, I know you told me." Jacob glared at the unrepentant O'Neill.

"Actually, I'm flattered. What makes you think your daughter would even be attracted to an old warhorse like me. Hell I'm almost old enough to be her...uh, uncle."

It was Jacob's turn to look embarrassed. "Well, after the Zatarc thing..."

"Well, I'm glad to see the Tok'ra are so trustworthy with personal secrets that they jerk out of people with their damned machines." Jack commented with a grimace.

Daniel came through the door and looked at everyone in surprise, obviously not having checked his voice mail.

"What do you mean by that crack, Jack?" Jacob was unsettled as it was, and the comment about the Tok'ra hit him wrong.

Seeing Jack's unhappy expression and trying to defuse the situation, Daniel commented. "Well, you probably broke her heart, as Freya was attracted to you, Jack."

"Better her than the snake, Danny." He agreed calmly. "I think she wanted to share the two of us."

"What the hell are you two talking about now?" Jacob said now definitely a little angry.

Sam looked at the three men. "Oh, didn't you know. Freya came on to the Colonel."

"Yea, and in the same breath told me Anise wanted Daniel." Jack shook his head. "It was uh, not...nice."

The younger man nodded. "Unsettling to say the least." He looked at Jack. "I mean, I don't mind Jack so much, but Anise." He shivered excessively.

Jack looked at him with a horrified expression on his face. "TMI, Daniel." Daniel just shrugged.

Jacob turned to look at Hammond. "George!"

The General looked at his old friend. "Jacob, I'm just the boss around here, I can't explain 'em." He shrugged. "If it works, I don't fix it."

Jacob looked around at the three; shaking his head. "I don't blame you a bit, George."

"So Jacob, is this a social visit or did you have some news?" O'Neill prompted.

"Well, actually I did come here with a message from the council." Jacob tried to get his thoughts back on track. Selmac was prompting him to go on with the news and let his daughter recover her balance from his unannounced visit.

"Oh, and what does the council want us to do, try, or be an experiment for this time?" Jack asked dryly.

"Well, actually, we can both get something of value out of this. It seems on the new planet we've set up our base of operations, some of the scouts have located ruins that predate either Tok'ra or Goa'uld. We think they may be related to the Ancients." He had to smile at Daniel's change of expression from slight suspicion to eager interest.

"Really? What makes them think that?" the archaeologist asked curiously.

"Well, honestly, just because they're so ancient." Jacob forced a laugh at his turn of phrase. "What little inscriptions remain are in a language that none of our 'better halves' are familiar with. The Tok'ra version of Archaeologists and Linguistic experts are at a dead end. They know of Daniel's talents and he's always done really good work for us." He smiled warmly at the young man's involuntary blush of embarrassment. "The council instructed me to offer the dig rights to him, if he wants to do it." Jacob looked from Daniel to Jack to George for a hint their response.

Daniel glanced from Sam to Jack, thinking. He'd been staying with Sam since her second month when the morning sickness had gotten really bad and hated to leave her alone at this point. Of course, Jack and Teal'c were aware of the situation and had kept it under their hats, so to speak. They'd have to have a group talk before he could make any decisions.

Jack saw Daniel's indecisiveness. He knew that the Archeologist in Daniel was screaming to go, but the man in him didn't want to desert Sam right now. "How long would this mission take, Jacob?"

"It would be up to Daniel. He's the expert."

"Well, I'd have to do a site survey to even get an idea of what we were looking at time-wise. The age of the site must be unimaginable, it would depend on if there were anything left that would be of any value."

"What time frame are we talking about, Doctor Jackson?" General Hammond asked. "A couple of days, a week, a month?"

"I just can't know until I see the site." He shrugged. "Two weeks at the minimum. That would give us an idea if there were anything there."Hammond could tell that SG1 was in desperate need of a group discussion. Jackson wouldn't commit to anything until he talked it over with Carter at least, and Jack would want to be there to plan for the scheduling of 'Operation: Babysit Sam'. He had a hunch that Teal'c would get called in too, for Daniel watching duty. "Jacob, let's let these young people discuss this new development. I hear they're serving real meat in the commissary today."

"What's the celebration for George? Is it Armistice Day again? I really need to take a calendar back with me. I lose track of all the good holidays."Once the two Generals had left the lab, Jack looked at his two friends. "We need Teal'c here for planning purposes."

Daniel picked up the phone made a few calls and came back to the other two. "He's on his way, he was watching CNN for updates on the terrorist bombings in Israel."

With in a few minutes the big Jaffa had arrived and closed the door behind himself. O'Neill filled him in on Jacobs's news. "Of course this is something that Daniel would give his eyeteeth to get involved with, but there are two considerations. One is I don't trust the Tok'ra as far as I can throw them. Not Jacob, of course, but I know that he won't stay around the dig area. No offense, Danny, but watching you dig in the dirt is not high on my enjoyment list."

Teal'c nodded. "I may be of some service in the language area, but I will also go and protect Danieljackson from any unforeseen dangers that the Tok'ra are unaware of and...from his penchant for overwork."

Jack nodded, much to Daniel's dismay. "Now wait. As much as I appreciate your help on this Teal'c, I really don't need a nursemaid."

"As a matter of fact Danieljackson, I will not nurse a maid or you. But I will ensure your safe return to the SGC and in relatively good condition."

"Thank you, Teal'c." Jack looked at the younger member of the team. "At least I know you'll have someone at your back we can trust not to go wandering off somewhere when you tell them to go away." He looked at Carter. "How do you feel about all of this?"

"I'm good with it." Sam nodded. "I do want you back in three months though." She continued looking at Daniel.

"No problem there," He smiled at her. "I wouldn't miss this for the world...or any world for that matter...

even on a dig. The longest I want this to last is a month at most. I can always go back to check on them later. But who's going to stay with you?"

O'Neill frowned at him. "What am I, chopped liver? I can camp out at Carter's place until you get back. Or if I do have to leave, maybe the Doc or Cassie can stay with her." He glanced at his 2IC for her agreement. She nodded.

"I'll be fine, guys. The morning sickness is gone now." She smiled at Daniel. "I was just holding on to Daniel for moral support."

Jack looked at Teal'c. "I am chopped liver."

"I do not understand." He intoned gravely. "Do you want chopped liver, or do you want to have your liver chopped?"

Jack looked at his Jaffa friend in stunned amazement. "No, uh, never mind." He looked at Carter. She smiled back at him.The following morning after the briefing was completed, Daniel, and Teal'c prepared to return with Jacob to the Tok'ra's new world. Daniel was in his office/library hopefully determining the correct books to assist in any translations that might be unearthed. He heard the door close and he turned to find Sam standing there with her hands on the door. "Hey, what are you doing here? Is anything wrong?" He asked worriedly and walked over to her.

She smiled at him and ducked her head. "I don't really know, I guess I just wanted to say goodbye and wish you good luck on this project."

"Sam, I'm only going to be gone for a couple of weeks, a month at the outside." He put the volumes down and came to stand in front of her. "I have a date to keep with a stork, and you know how I hate to keep large birds waiting."

"Not in a month, silly." She had to smile. "You've got, we've got another four or five months to go."

"Yea, I know." He acknowledged. "I just want to be able to tell her about all the funny things that happened while you were pregnant."

"Her?" Sam looked at him in dismay. "It better be a him, or you'll be explaining yourself to the Colonel. He wants a boy."

"Let him have his own boy," Daniel laughed. "I want a girl, a girl with blond hair, freckles on her nose and eyes that crinkle on the side when she smiles."

Sam smiled up at him, her eyes crinkling up at the sides. "Well, I think I agree with him this time. I want a boy with wonderful blue eyes and..."

A sharp rap on the door startled them both, Sam stepping back from Daniel's side. Colonel O'Neill stuck his head in the office. "Ooops," he exclaimed and ducked back out. They could hear his voice outside the door and the deep tones of Teal'c.

The two looked at each other and chuckled. "I've never heard that tone of voice from him before." Daniel commented.

"Me either, what would you call it?"

"If it were anyone else, I'd say embarrassment."

"Nah, I don't think he knows that tone of voice." She laughed softly.

"Jack. Jack, come in here before someone notices you loitering outside my office."

O'Neill pushed the door open and in a loud voice announced to no one in particular. "Hey, Danny, Carter whatcha doing?"

"I'm trying to get packed for this trip. What are you doing?"

"Checking on you for Jacob." He and Teal'c stepped in and closed the door behind them. "He's getting ready to go back to Tok'ra-land."

Daniel looked at Teal'c. "Are you ready?"

"Yes, Danieljackson. Jacobcarter advises that the planet is relatively cold."

"Yes, Teal'c, I've packed my long johns." He picked up his duffle bag and his backpack.

"Jack looked at him inquiringly. "Is that all you're taking for a whole month?"

"No, it's all I'm taking for two weeks. I'll come back for a day, bring back my log and pick up supplies. The big equipment is already on the FRED." He looked at Teal'c. "I put our tents on there too."

"Yes, I am aware of that. I had checked earlier."

"Well, you two guys seem to have it all under control." Jack commented amicably. "Time to go. Jacob's waiting, and he's grilling Hammond with questions that the General won't answer, so we'd better go get him off the hook." He glanced at Teal'c who raised his eyebrow. "Have Daniel explain it later." Jack picked up the duffle bag and headed for the door, Teal'c following.

Daniel glanced at Sam and she nodded to him. "I'll walk with you to the Gateroom.

He nodded, then leaned over and kissed her chastely on the forehead. "I can't do that there. You take care of yourself and the princess." He gently laid a hand on her belly and was rewarded with a movement from within. Daniel and Sam shared a smile. Jack stuck his head in the door.

"Kids, what's up?" He asked when he saw their rapt expressions. "Kids?"

"She kicked." Daniel said softly.

"Wow, already?" Jack came back in the room and dropped the bag on the floor.

Sam nodded with a happy expression on her face.

Daniel put his bag down. "I'm not going."

Sam frowned at him. "Oh, yes you are. There will be plenty of time later. How will we explain it to the Tok'ra, much less my Dad? Now, go!"

Daniel looked at her doubtfully. She shook her head.

Jack clapped him on the back. "I'll take good care of them, don't worry. Now, come on, you're already running late."

 

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When they finally arrived at the Gateroom, Jacob Carter was already there standing beside the fully loaded F.R.E.D. He was deep in conversation with Hammond, but the two men looked up at their arrival.

"Sorry we're late, Dad." Carter called out with a smile. "Daniel had to give me some notes for a briefing that he was going to do. Now, I get the honors."

"It's okay, sweetheart." Jacob gave her a gentle hug and kissed her on the forehead. "Sorry for the extra work."

"That's all right Dad, that's what happens when you're popular." She grinned at him as the wormhole kerwooshed and established the event horizon.

"Well, honey, you take care of yourself," he looked down at her midsection. "and the little one." He smiled. "I do enjoy grandbabies you know."

She laughed and gave him a quick hug. "Good, now you'll have a reason to visit more often."

He smiled at her and turned to lead the little group up the ramp to the Stargate. Daniel and Teal'c followed him, with Daniel stopping at the top of the ramp to turn, look back and wave at the two members of his family before he entered the wormhole after Teal'c and Jacob.

O'Neill and Carter waved back and stood together for a moment before they turned and went back to their separate offices.

CHAPTER 2

As the wormhole disengaged on the new Tok'ra home world, Daniel couldn't help but getting a feeling of uneasiness. The Archaeologist shook his head at his own misgivings. He'd been hanging around Jack too much. They had no reason to distrust the Tok'ra, especially Jacob Carter. Their dealings with Jacob had always been very honest. Jacob had been a General in the United States Air Force, a good friend of George Hammond and was Sam's father after all. He'd also liked and trusted poor Martouff, Sam's late friend.

Now, he did not trust all the Tok'ra so easily. For instance, the Tok'ra woman, Anise. He didn't trust her any further than he could have thrown her and that would not have been far with the symbiote's excessive strength to assist the frail looking woman. He knew she...Anise not the host Freya...had at least some interest in him, but that just made his skin crawl. Now, if she would have been the one with this offer, he probably wouldn't have even come. But even with Jacob Carter involved, there was something about this deal that just didn't feel right. It was too easy. The Tok'ra never gave up anything for free, there was always a catch.

Teal'c had looked at him with a practiced eye when they had come out of the wormhole, examining him in much the same way that Jack would have. Daniel still hadn't figured out what they were actually looking for...missing fingers and toes? Or perhaps just to ensure that he was still standing when he hit the ramp, steps, dais or whatever footing the Stargate creators had constructed to hold their invention after they installed it on whatever planet. He had smiled convincingly for the Jaffa warrior and Teal'c had nodded to him as he accepted the younger man's assurances that he had once again arrived unscathed.

Teal'c had no doubts of what the misgivings that he was feeling. He did not like this at all. He didn't care for the cavalier attitude the Tok'ra always exhibited in their dealings with his human friends, and he did not like the overall lack of concern that was displayed when they put these extraordinary people at risk. General Carter had saved them several times, but that was because of the distinctive relationship that he had with SG1. The rest of the Tok'ra apparently considered them as expendable as they did their own people. He found that particular attitude to be annoying and extremely goa'uldish on the part of these so-called allies. Teal'c was determined that Danieljackson would return to the SGC and Samanthacarter intact and in good health, no matter how many Tok'ra he had to go through to suceed in this goal.

Jacob Carter was having his own thoughts. Once again he was responsible for separating the premier team of the SGC. He didn't like it, he knew George hadn't liked it and he was damned certain Jack O'Neill was not impressed with him for doing it. Of course, he hadn't foreseen Sammi's special project either. She had a point though. If she wanted kids it was time for her to do whatever she thought was necessary, or she would be too old to carry a child safely. Hell, she was already almost forty. His little girl was neither little or a girl, anymore and she'd done quite well for herself without his meddling in her affairs for a good long time. He'd always regretted the estrangement that they had suffered at her mother's death, and now that they were getting back to some sort of relationship, he wasn't doing anything to upset the old applecart. And luckily, Selmac approved whole heartedly of his actions.

As the three men arrived at the Tok'ra village or base, Daniel wasn't sure what the proper terminology was, they were greeted by an attractive female Tok'ra, who Jacob introduced as Merrick. She evidently was the replacement for Martouff in dealing with the Taur'i this time. Daniel still missed the other Tok'ra. The Man's death by a brainwashed SGC Zatarc had been a huge tragedy, both personally and diplomatically for the SGC and SG1 in particular.

As the young, attractive brown-haired, Tok'ra came towards them she called out a greeting. "Good day, Doctor Jackson, it is gratifying to finally meet you. I have heard much of your abilities" Her gaze shifted to the big Jaffa. "And you must be Teal'c. We did not expect you to accompany Doctor Jackson."

Daniel tried to smile and put on his best Peaceful Explorer expression. Teal'c nodded stiffly, sending out non-verbal warning signals. He knew Teal'c did not trust many of the Tok'ra, reflecting Jack O'Neill's attitude. The Jaffa warrior's experience with their representative on board the Tel'tac on their rescue mission to Netu, the results of the testing of the armbands, the Zatarc episode, and several other situations that had had gone badly for his friends, had left a lasting impression on the stoic warrior. It had not been a good one.

But in spite of their hard-learned opinion of their allies, this opportunity for an archaeological expedition to a site of a possible city of the Ancients was just too good an opportunity for Earth to pass up. It could be a find of extreme importance in their quest for information on both the lost race and the operation of the Stargate itself. They had agreed that it was worth a risk. However Teal'c was there not only to assist with any translation problems that might arise, but also to cover his six. And Daniel had no worries about his safety with the big, battle wise man around. "Hello, Merrick."

Jacob Carter stepped out in front of the trio. "How are things going with setting up the settlement?"

The younger Tok'ra nodded in respect to Jacob. "Things are going as scheduled." Merrick answered politely enough. Even though age was counted from the symbiote's point of view, between the two of them Jacob Carter and Selmac together still counted as one of the oldest of the Tok'ra by age if not by joining. He and she both demanded and received respect. "We were not able to take as many of the building crystals as we would have liked, but we have sufficient shelter for our people."

"Will we be able to supply one for Doctor Jackson and Teal'c at the dig site?"

Merrick frowned at the request. "It was my understanding that it would not be necessary. As I said, the crystals are in short supply."

"I recognize that, but I also understood the council to say for us to grant them every assistance." Jacob cast an unhappy eye at the liaison. "And also, giving them a crystal habitat ensures that their presence would be as secret as our own. It seems to me that if someone finds them, because of a tent in the middle of a field, then we are also compromised. Wouldn't you agree Merrick?"

"Humm, yes, I see your point." She glanced over at the human and the Jaffa. "And I suppose it could be used for storage after they have gone."

"Well, why don't you go and make the arrangements for the budding crystal. I'll show Doctor Jackson and Teal'c to my quarters for the time being." As the other man left, Jacob shook his head and glanced back at the two members of SG1. "Sorry about that, Daniel, Teal'c. This was not the assurance I was given by the council. I don't understand what her problem is." Jacob started the group walking towards a barely seen opening into the cliff face. When they got to their destination, he opened the hidden door using a crystal that he inserted into a depression on an apparent flat rock.

"Maybe she didn't get the whole briefing." Jackson answered, as he ducked to enter the archway.

Perhaps, she is only reacting to my presence." Teal'c commented, parking the FRED outside the opening and then bending almost double to follow his teammate. "Or perhaps she is only following the S. O. P. that the Tok'ra seem to have designed for dealing with the Taur'i."

Carter looked at him in amazement for both the commentary and the phrasing. "S.O.P.? Standard Operating Procedure? Teal'c you've been hanging around O'Neill too long."

"No Generalcarter, I have been as you say, hanging around the Tok'ra too long." Teal'c responded with a frown. "I have noticed a distinct lack of regard for my comrades, even though they have repeatedly assisted the Tok'ra, often times at the risk of their own lives."

"That's a funny thing for a Jaffa to say, Teal'c."

"Jaffa do not normally resort to whimsy to make a point, Jacobcarter."

"No," the older man smiled at his friends "I don't suppose you do." Jacob pulled off his jacket and hung it on a hook attached to the wall. "Well, until we get this sorted, mi casa es su casa."

"Thank you, Jacob. I appreciate your efforts for us in dealing with the council." Daniel set his pack down next to the wall. "How far away are the ruins from this town?"

"It's a good ten-mile hike." Jacob answered as he went over to the crystal version of a kitchen and pulled some containers of chilled water from a small containment area. When they found it, the engineers didn't want to get too close until they could identify who built it for security sake." He shrugged as he took a sip of the cold water. "They're still not absolutely sure who built them; it just appears to be of a design that the Ancients have used before. That's where you come in. I guess you're the only trained archaeologist who's had any experience with their writing."

Daniel nodded, his thoughts running through his head. He looked at Teal'c. "If we do find something, I might have to get Jack to come."

Teal'c nodded. "He is the one most likely to see anything of significance in the writings of the true Ancients. But he will be difficult to persuade to leave Majorcarter."

Jacob Carter turned and looked at the two men. "Why is that?"

Daniel smiled at the older man. "It's just Jack's way. He loves kids...I think he's more excited about this baby than anyone else...except maybe Sam."

Jacob nodded, calming himself down. "He said something about retiring to baby-sit. That doesn't sound like the Jack O'Neill I know."

"Then you don't know him very well." Daniel smiled.

"And you say he has some knowledge of the Ancient's language. How did that happen?" Jacob asked curiously.

"Well, let's just say he was at the wrong place at the right time." Daniel replied as he remembered Jack's difficulty when he had been forcibly exposed to the language through a teaching machine. "He's forgotten most of it, but if he saw it again he might recall something of value." He bent down to open his pack. "We'll just have to see what we've got before we call in the reserves."

 

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Seventeen hundred hours, a knock sounded on the laboratory door of one Samantha Carter. Colonel O'Neill cracked the door and peeked in. "Carter, you in here?"

"Yes, Sir. I'm here." She looked up at him from her microscope. "Can I help you?"

He stepped inside the door. "Uh huh. You can turn that damned thing off and grab your coat. It's five o'clock in the real world and fat ladies don't work overtime."

She gave him a dirty look. "Fat ladies? Just for that you're fired."

"The beauty of RHIP, Carter, you can't fire me." He slid in through the door and closed it behind himself. "Look, I know you'd rather be with Daniel, but that's not an option. Come on, let an old man pamper you for a little while. I'll be good."

Carter shook her head. "I shouldn't have even agreed with this. You know everyone thinks it's your baby."

"Everyone but the boss, so screw them if they can't take a joke. George knows so it's not an issue. How about that new steak house in the Springs?" He smiled his most innocent. "Then I'll take you home and rub your feet, feed you something decadent, and put you to bed."

"And where will you be sleeping?"

"Same place I do at Daniel's when he needs a little TLC, on the couch. And I bet you've all ready got cable."

"Cable? Well, sure." She looked at him in confusion as she switched off the equipment and put her desk in order.

"Yeah, I always have to have it hooked up when I stay with him." O'Neill shrugged. "You'd think that he'd want all that History Channel stuff, but no, he keeps turning it off." For emphasis, the Colonel turned off her microscope.

"Actually that's not surprising, Sir." She had to smile as he picked up her dark blue Air force windbreaker and held it up for her to slip her arms into the sleeves. She turned and he put it on her with finesse. "He said that there's so much wrong in classical history, he has trouble watching it."

"Well, now that you mention it," O'Neill looked thoughtful "He does yell at it a lot." He escorted her to the door, turned out the light and secured the office for the night.

 

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Jacob Carter was turning out to be an excellent host. His taste in foods had remained that of Earth, and the dinner he whipped up was very good. After they had eaten, Daniel decided that it would be a good idea to check his instruments and equipment since they had the extra time. Teal'c assisted by checking the weapons that O'Neill had insisted they bring. Daniel meanwhile made sure the video camera worked properly, his laptop had a new battery and the flashlight was flashing it's little heart out. All that he could find wrong was one of the black government issue ball point pens was leaking and had made a mess of his tee shirt, halfway draining it's self in the process.

At his exclamation, Jacob shook his head at the younger man. "Those pens have been leaking like that since the Viet Nam war, Daniel, just pitch it and get another."

"Well, luckily I have my own pens, but somehow there always seems to be one or two stuck in my briefcase, shirt pocket, or backpack." He glanced up at Carter. "I don't know whether to blame Jack or some over industrious supply clerk."

"Why would you blame Jack?"

"You don't know him very well do you, General Carter?"

"No, not really. I'm not even sure that we'd met before that time at the Pentagon. Why?"

"Jack is a great guy, don't get me wrong. He's the, well he's the best friend I've ever had and the team is like family," he nodded warmly at Teal'c, "But, he has managed to successfully meld the personalities of commander, father figure, big brother, and sometimes the local bully." Daniel had to chuckle. "This would be very in keeping with his sense of humor." Then he shrugged. "Or it could just be an over industrious supply clerk."

Carter smiled broadly at Jackson. He was right. "Well, you two. I'm sorry to say that I don't have any extra bunk beds to offer, but at least the roof doesn't leak and no spiders will crawl into your bedrolls while you sleep." At Daniel's quick grin he continued. "Tomorrow, I'll press Merrick for one or two of the crystals and get your camp set up right."

Daniel looked up from where he was sitting cross-legged on the floor on his sleeping bag. "I'd appreciate it. I 'm looking forward to getting started on this dig to see just what you have found here. It could be extremely important to the SGC."

"And it will give Majorcarter something enjoyable to work on during the remainder of her light duty status." Teal'c commented softly, thinking of her boredom over the last four months.

"Yes," Daniel agreed. "She's making her assistant, Christopher, a little crazy."

"Indeed," Teal'c nodded. "He was looking rather tired last Friday."

"Assistant?" Jacob looked amused. "She has an assistant?"

"Well, actually, I think he's more for Doctor Fraiser's assistance than Sam's. Janet said that she dropped by to visit going back to her office, and Sam was on a chair trying to change a light bulb. I thought Janet was going to lock her up." He pulled his boots off in preparation to going to bed. "The next morning Chris showed up and announced that Doctor Fraiser had prescribed him as a preventative measure."

"And George puts up with this?" Jacob asked, amazed.

Daniel shrugged. "Why not? Sam's so important to the program, he's not going to deny her anything within reason."

Jacob shook his head. "But an assistant? Won't someone complain about special privileges for a, well, an unwed mother to be?"

Both Daniel and Teal'c looked surprised. "What different does it make if she's married or not? The main point is that she needs the help."

"Well the Air Force has come a long way."

"But, that's it though. It's not the Air Force, not really. It's the SGC." Daniel couldn't quite believe that Jacob was so surprised with what he was hearing. It had made perfect sense to him.

"Still," Jacob shook his head in disbelief. "It's changed a lot since I was in. Special priveledges like that just wouldn't have happened."

Daniel just shrugged. The military had been a mystery to him since his first day at the mountain.

 

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The next day, Merrick appeared at Jacob's doorstep. The old General and his guests had just finished breakfast and the abbreviated SG1 was finishing packing up their equipment.

"My apologies, Doctor Jackson, Teal'c. I had misunderstood the council's intentions." The woman did look contrite. "I did not appreciate how eagerly they are awaiting your report on the ruins. When you are ready, we can begin our journey."

Daniel and Teal'c both nodded and got to their feet. "We're ready now, Merrick." Jackson announced.

This took the young Tok'ra a little by surprise. "Then we can leave in a few hours."

"No Merrick, we need to leave now. If Jacob is right," Daniel glanced over at General Carter. "Then it will take us most of the day to get to the site. We'll need some time to set up a camp, with or without the crystals. This will waste another day of my time. I'd prefer to leave now."

Teal'c was watching the facial expressions of both Merrick and Jacob. Merrick looked uneasy, as if their efficiency was disturbing to her. Jacob only looked confused, as if he no more understood Merrick's attempts to slow them down than they did. There was something going on, but as yet he didn't understand the purpose of the delaying tactics.

Finally, their guide seemed to get the unsubtle message, and within a short time the woman and the three men plus two guards had started the long hike to the ruins. Later that afternoon, their little caravan, complete with FRED in tow, finally reached the site. They were imbedded high up in a golden colored sandstone canyon wall very much like the Pueblo wall dwelling in the American Southwest. To get to the stone cliff dwellings they would have to descend the canyon's wall, cross a shallow river and then climb the other rock face precipice. It was not particularly dangerous, but it would be time consuming. If they would have waited until later in the day to start, it would have been another whole day wasted.

Daniel looked at Teal'c then to the Tok'ra. "I'll go down and check out the site. Teal'c why don't you come with me," he suggested when he saw his teammate start to object. "That will satisfy both you and Jack. He smiled up at his large Jaffa watchdog,, who nodded and parked the FRED, turning off it's engine.

Jacob nodded and turned to the guard/helpers that had been detailed to them. "You two, start setting up the tents. We'll set up permanent camp tomorrow."

Merrick interrupted. "Excuse me, but is it safe for Doctor Jackson to proceed so quickly? It's late in the day. I wouldn't want anything to happen to him." This pronouncement immediately made the Tok'ra a center of attention as Daniel, Teal'c and Jacob all turned and looked at her. "I mean, we have all just walked eleven and a half miles. I'm certain he must be tired."

Daniel glanced at Teal'c and Jacob. "Merrick, I'm not sure what you have heard about humans but we're really not that delicate. I'm fine, and I'd like to get an idea of what equipment we'll have to transport down to the site since the FRED can't navigate the terrain here. Teal'c and I will just hike over to the ruins and check them out. We'll be back long before dark."

Jacob watched the other Tok'ra and nodded his agreement with the plan. "Daniel, if you don't mind the company, I'd like to go with you. I've been hearing about this dig plan for six months, and I'm kind of curious myself."

"Certainly," Daniel glanced over at Merrick to see if the Tok'ra had a reaction to that. There was nothing apparent on the man's expression. "Happy to have you along. Teal'c?"

The big man nodded, hefted his staff weapon and secured the FRED's controls in one of his vest pockets, very obviously not leaving it where their escorts couldn't get to it. "Whenever you are ready, Danieljackson."

The three companions each belted on an extra bottle of water to their belts, Daniel picked up the video camera and Teal'c carried the laptop computer. Jacob smiled and accepted a notebook and some sketching pencils.

As they descended the steep path that led into the valley, Teal'c spoke to Jacob in a soft tone of voice. "Jacobcarter. Do you understand why this Merrick is so nervous?"

The older human shook his head. "No, Teal'c I don't. There should be nothing dangerous here. The area has been completely checked out for native life forms, sentient or otherwise. She just may be nervous about working so closely with you and Daniel."

"Do you know her well?"

Jacob shook his head. "No, not well. She's been a part of Aldwin's crew since I've known her. I usually worked with Martouff. Only since his death have I had many dealings with these people."

"Martouff's tragedy has had far reaching effects on our people too. He was well know and very well liked."

"I know it hit Sam hard." Jacob commented sadly.

"It did indeed. The Jolinar Lantesh connection made it very difficult for her."

Jacob looked up at the Jaffa. "Teal'c, is that what this baby thing is from?"

"No, I do not believe so." He smiled slightly. "Samanthacarter is a warm loving human being. Since Doctor Fraiser adopted the girl child, Cassandra, she has become very involved with them as a second surrogate mother. The opportunity came for her to have a child of her own, and she took advantage of a very beneficial situation." He glanced at Jacob. "It will be a most extraordinary child."

"Then you know who the father is?"

Teal'c nodded, not saying anything more.

"Why didn't they get married?"

"Though Samanthacarter is extremely fond of the father, I do not believe that they are suited as life partners. I do know that the offer has been made repeatedly."

"That's Sam for you." Carter said with a grin. "Always going her own way."

"She is an extremely competent and bold warrior. It is a pleasure to serve with her." Teal'c replied staunchly, but then he remembered who he was addressing. "But you are correct. She will do as she will when she thinks it is best."

"That's the nicest way I've ever heard it put, Teal'c" Jacob laughed.

As the three companions reached the riverbed, Daniel looked uneasily at the strata of the cliff face. He pushed his foot into the hard rock face. "Humm," he muttered to himself. "It is sandstone." Then he glanced upwards towards the footpath that led up the side of the precipice. "Jacob, are you sure this is a design that the Ancients' have used before?"

"Well, Daniel, that's what I was told. Of course, I'm no Indiana Jones myself so I'm not certain. Why do you ask?"

"It just doesn't seem like an advanced race like the Ancients would use such an extremely primitive design and in such a precarious location." The young archaeologist kicked the wall with the toe of his combat boot. "In a flood, it would be impossible to access the pueblos from this direction." He turned to look at his two companions.

"Perhaps there is an alternate access from another direction." Teal'c pulled out a pair of binoculars and looked across the river valley.

Jacob could only shake his head. "I don't know. Is it possible that there's an opening into the buildings from the top?"

Daniel looked upwards and squinted into the setting sun. "Anything is possible." He shrugged, then glanced at Teal'c. "I guess we'll find out tomorrow for certain. It is too late to try to climb to the top and get down safely before dark." He smiled at Jacob's surprised

expression. "I'm not completely foolhardy, you know." He glanced at Teal'c who had managed a surprisingly innocent look for a Jaffa. "In spite of what my military teammates might think."

Teal'c nodded gravely. "We do not consider you a hardy fool, Danieljackson. Merely...enthusiastic in your pursuit of knowledge."

The following morning, Daniel crawled out of his tent. The breeze that wafted down from upriver had a slight chill and feel of moistness to it. He frowned in that direction.

Behind him, Teal'c also emerged from his tent. Watching the younger man he noted the expression on his face. "Is there something wrong, Danieljackson?"

The archaeologist shook his head and looked over at his friend. "No, not really. It just feels like we have some weather heading our way."

The Jaffa nodded. "Yes, I believe you to be correct. There is more moisture in the atmosphere, and the wind seems to have shifted. Will this cause a problem?"

"Well, not normally, but the location of our dig site is a bit precarious for working in the rain." The younger man replied, glancing across the small canyon towards the ruins. "We could sit here and wait out the storm, if there is a storm coming, or we could go ahead and get started, stay at the dig and then wait out the storm until it rains out."

"What storm is that, Daniel?" Jacob Carter came up behind the two men. "Do you expect bad weather?"

Daniel nodded at the older man and flashed him a smile. "I believe so. I can feel it in the desert air."

Carter looked around with a perplexed glance. "Really? Doesn't feel any different to me."

Jackson chuckled softly. "Trust me on this, Jacob. I've weathered many a deluge in very dry areas. Ground that doesn't normally have lots of moisture can't handle lots of rain well. It mainly just runs off in flash floods. He pointed to the riverbed below the cliff they were standing on. "In places like this." Then he pointed to the cliff dwellings, "cutting off it off to places like that, and our escape route."

Jacob saw the concern and nodded. "So, what do you want to do?"

"Well, that's what we were discussing. We could wait, not knowing how long it would be; or we could go ahead and get started with the understanding that we'd be cut off until the water subsided." He shrugged. That's if the river even comes up."

"So?" Jacob pressed.

Daniel looked at Teal'c then glanced across to the ruins. "I think I'd like to go ahead and get started." He shrugged. "If we do have to wait it out, we might as well be productive."

Teal'c nodded. He knew that Danieljackson wanted to do this particular job and return to Earth as quickly as possible to be with Majorcarter. "Very well, I will begin to gather the tools that we will need."

Daniel nodded and went back into the tent to get his instruments and journals that he would use to document any discoveries.

********

Several hours later, they were setting up in the outer room of the largest cliff dwelling. There were some pictographs evident on the walls, some artifacts that had apparently just been left behind, and signs of a fire pit in the center of the room. Daniel frowned.

Jacob looked around the room then at the archaeologist. "Doesn't look like much."

"No, actually, it doesn't look good at all." He looked back at Carter, "Did the Tok'ra dig crew say why they are so sure that this is an Ancient's site?"

The old General shook his head. "No, they just said it had the possibility of being of great assistance to the Tok'ra and Earth."

"Well, perhaps they can see something that a plain old human type can't." Jackson tried to grin. "I can't believe they'd cry wolf over nothing."

"I know, but I sure can't see anything and if they can, I should be able too." Jacob nodded in the signature sign of personality change. Selmac spoke for the first time on the trip. "Doctor Jackson, it is good to work with you again."

Daniel schooled his features not to reflect surprise. "Selmac, nice of you to invite us."

Jacob/Selmac looked as if he/she were trying to be very relaxed to help him adjust. "I am sorry that there is not much here to interest you."

"Oh, no, no. It's not that." He tried to smile encouragingly. "Just because something isn't readily apparent doesn't mean it's not there. Sometimes it just takes a little detective work."

"Detective work, yes. Jacob says that is very important." His slightly altered face smiled impishly. "Searching

for clues can be exciting."

"Yes, yes it can be." His smile was sincere this time. "But it's even more exciting when you find something."

Teal'c entered the cave of the ruins carrying the last of the equipment. He looked at the two men as they were arranging the equipment in the order Daniel preferred. He knew the young scientist wanted to get everything correct so that they could finish quickly and return to earth and Samanthacarter.

"Jacobcarter," he spoke as he sat the heavy box down in the center of the floor. "The storm is forming in the north with rapidity. If you do not wish to spend the time with us here, perhaps you should leave before you are trapped here also."

Carter looked up at the Jaffa, "That was the most polite bum's rush I've gotten in a long time." He stood up and nodded to Daniel. "Well, as much fun as you seem to be having here Daniel, I guess I'll just leave you to your work."

"Sure, tell Jack what's happened if we get flooded in here," Daniel replied absentmindedly, all ready concentrating on the work at hand.

"Will he believe me?" Jacob asked with a smile.

"No," Teal'c replied deadpan. "but please, tell him anyway."

"I'll do that." Jacob smiled at the big man. "I'll do just that. Take care of Daniel for us."

"I will do that, also."

 

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Daniel shifted his position, trying to get more comfortable. When he had awoken and was still half-asleep, he had tried to curl up to retain some of his body heat. But the discovery that he couldn't move had been a real wake up call. After a bit of wiggling, he had discovered that he was lying flat on his back, his legs tied together and to a large rock. His hands were bound to a metal ring that was partially buried in the earthen floor of the room. This had seriously impeded his initial desire to get up and run away like hell. He was still in the same position several hours later. Daniel jerked on the rope that held his hands above his head. 'Nope, that wasn't gonna happen. Greeeeat, I'm now officially channeling Jack.' He thought to himself. 'Peachy, just flaming peachy. If I play my cards right, I should get shot with a staff weapon fairly soon, at which point I will be able to remember which hurts worse, his staff weapon or my ribbon device. This will also enable me to decide if I should be plain old Daniel Jackson or heroic Daniel Jackson, Jack-clone, for the rest of my life, which may not be long anyway.

After another fifteen minutes of struggling which did nothing except irritate his wrists and exacerbate his temper, he finally lay back and stared at the rough ceiling. He started to reconstruct how he had gotten here. He was on the Tok'ra's new home world, ostensibly brought here to do an archaeological survey to discover if these ruins could possibly be from the race known as The Ancients. He'd come with Jacob Carter and Teal'c. Been met by a Tok'ra woman named Merrick and escorted here. They had started to work and it had started to rain. Jacob left so that he wouldn't be trapped here at the dig with them. The last thing he remembered, they had decided to eat the last of the fresh food given them by the Tok'ra, since the MRE's would last indefinitely and they were kept for later. Then, they had unrolled their sleeping bags and gone to bed...and he woke up here. And now, he had to pee...really bad. This was so not a good thing.

He lay there for several more hours, tied hand and foot. There was no apparent concern for his safety or his physical comfort. Maybe the flood held up his captors. or maybe they had just decided to leave him here to die.

 

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He awoke with a boot tapping him uncomfortably on the ribcage. He looked up at the owner of the boot. It was Merrick.

"Doctor Jackson. Are you awake?"

Peering up at the Tok'ra, he grunted. "Yes, thank you for asking." After a brief moment when he realized that the woman was not a rescue party, he continued. "What's going on, Merrick?'

The woman smiled down at him. "Nothing at this particular moment, however, that will change before too much longer."

"Well," Daniel commented, "since nothing is going on right now, could you please untie me?"

Merrick smiled easily at him. "Doctor Jackson, please.... What do you take me for?"

"I was hoping I could take you for a woman, er, Tok'ra who would allow me the dignity of a potty break, before I pee all over myself." Daniel shifted his position with a frown. "I'd rather remain relatively easy to be around, but I won't be if I don't get some relief fairly soon. I will become er, somewhat riper to the nose."

The young woman looked at him suspiciously. "Really, Doctor Jackson..."

"Look, think about it. I've been here, what...eight or ten hours." He said as calmly as possible. "I don't know about the rest of the galaxy, but humans have certain needs that do require attending too." Just talking about the action was making it harder to bear. "They include such things as eating, drinking, and peeing." He looked up at her. "Please."

Merrick thought a moment and then finally relented. "Very well, it has been a long time." She gave Daniel a stern look. "But no tricks, I want you whole and intact. Do not make me injure you." She bent and cut the rope that bound Jackson's ankles together.

"Believe me, I would prefer that option myself." He replied as Merrick then cut the rope that held him to the floor ring, but leaving his hands secured together. The Tok'ra watched him struggle to his feet then led him through another doorway and to a cliffside opening that faced away from the base camp. Since his hands remained tied, Daniel had a little bit of trouble with his fly buttons but finally was able to reach everything and he sighed as he released his bladder. After a few minutes, he finished and tried to refasten himself. Merrick pulled him around to face her and reached in to do the buttoning for him. Daniel blushed a bright pink as the woman's hands brushed against his genitals.

Merrick smiled at him. "Very fetching, Doctor Jackson. Don't tempt me too soon."

Daniel looked up in surprise. "What? I don't understand."

"You will soon enough. Don't be concerned." The Tok'ra finished the buttons, tightened her hold on the rope and led him back into the first room. She indicated a camp chair that had been part of their equipment. As the captive sat down in the chair, Merrick proceeded to loop the rope around and through the light piece of furniture. "I know you'll be able to move this around, Doctor Jackson but be aware, I do have a zatniketel. I will not damage you, but I can hurt you."

Daniel nodded his understanding. "Where's Teal'c?" He asked conversationally, looking around.

"Your Jaffa is safe enough. He is being restrained in another part of the ruins." Merrick looked at him seriously. "He is too dangerous a creature to allow close while my plan is being brought to fruition."

"Ah, yes. Well, he can be a dangerous man, I'll agree with that, but not normally without good reason."

"Oh, I dare say that he would argue that he will have plenty of reasons to become dangerous." The Tok'ra nodded agreeably.

"Why?" Daniel decided that he might as well find out what he could, even if he wasn't sure that he would like the answer.

"No doubt he will perceive what is planned for you as reason enough." Merrick paused a moment. "But you will understand, once it is explained to you I'm sure."

"Just because I understand something, doesn't mean I will approve of it."

"This is so." Merrick nodded pleasantly. "But it still doesn't mean that you have a choice."

As she finished securing him, an old man tottered slowly into the room. Merrick immediately turned from Daniel went to his assistance. She kissed him on the cheek. "Joaab, you should not be here. It is too dangerous for you. Where is Pamont?"

"Nonsense, love. I'm fine, Pamont is unloading some supplies for us." The elderly man smiled, then he noticed Jackson. "Who is this?"

"This is the human I was telling you about."

Joaab looked at him critically. "He's very young."

"Of course, I wanted a perfect specimen." Merrick stepped up beside the old man. "And he's very handsome."

"Yes, yes he is." The older man turned to look at the other. "Merrick, I can understand your enthusiasm now."

"This is a wonderful opportunity for everyone. Jackson here is their foremost Archaeologist, reportedly a genius by their standards. He's young, relatively healthy, and as you've all ready noticed, very attractive."

"Yes," Joaab shook his head. "He is acceptable."

"And it's so perfect...who else should be the greatest Archaeologist of all the Tok'ra, of the entire galaxy, but you my love. When you blend with Daniel Jackson, not only will you have both your knowledge and his knowledge...you will have your youth and beauty again." She smiled happily. "We can be together as we once were." Merrick reached for Joaab and pulled him into a gentle hug. "We can be as one again."

The old Tok'ra looked at the young woman, pushing her arms down from around himself. "Merrick, whatever makes you happy, dearest, I'll be satisfied."

"This is the host I have selected for you." The young woman returned her arms to Joaab's body in an intimate embrace. "He is our future."

Daniel was listening to their conversation with growing understanding and horror. 'My God, they, well, Merrick wanted to make him a host...for this elderly Tok'ra!' "Uh, excuse me..."

The two Tok'ra looked at him from where they stood. Merrick's expression was one of excitement. "What?" She demanded, obviously not wanting to be bothered. The elderly Tok'ra smiled down at him.

"Hello, uh, Joaab. My name is Daniel Jackson." He sat up straight in the chair and tried to keep his voice calm. "I'm an Archaeologist from Earth. The Tok'ra council had invited me here to excavate these ruins." He said precisely. "Or so I thought."

"It is good to meet you, Doctor Jackson." The older man returned, glancing at Merrick with a look of fondness. "I've heard good things of you from Jacob and Selmac." Joaab looked at him. "Though I had not heard that you were ill, Doctor Jackson."

Daniel was puzzled. "I'm not sick, Sir. I'm being held captive."

"But why else would you accept a symbiote, if you're not ill?" Joaab asked in confusion.

"But, I'm not ill, sir." Daniel stressed his words. "I'm a captive. I don't want a symbiote." He stated uncompromisingly, looking at Merrick. "I was asked to come here to work. We were told the Tok'ra council asked for me. But after I was here a day I was knocked unconscious, and now when I wake up to I find I am a prisoner. And, my companion is missing, I don't know what she's done to Teal'c!"

Joaab looked angrily at the young woman. "Merrick! Is this true?"

The woman was unrepentant. "Joaab, darling, I looked for someone who was willing, but there was no one who was suitable. This one is highly intelligent, very well educated for a Taur'i, he has no family commitments, he's young, relatively healthy," the Tok'ra looked from the captive to Joaab, "and he's very beautiful. I want him to be your new host." She smiled and put her hand on the old man's chest. "He's perfect! Together we can live in these bodies for thousands of years."

"And for thousands of years I will fight you, Joaab." Daniel put in angrily. "For thousands of years I will remind you that I was taken against my will and you stole my life, my career, and my happiness for your own selfishness." He jerked against the bonds that held him. "She says that I have no family...you're wrong! My mate, my partner even now carries my child! That's why I was in a hurry to finish here. She's due to give birth in only a few more of our months. And she's had a difficult pregnancy. I need to be with her. I need to raise my child. If you take me, you not only steal my body from me, but from my family." He jerked ineffectively on the rope that tied him to the chair. "You can't do this to me!"

Merrick turned to him with a grim look on her face. "Oh, you're very wrong, Doctor Jackson. I can do this and I will."

 

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It was time for the daily check in from the Tok'ra home world. It had been four days and O'Neill was getting antsy. Though he had spoken to Jacob Carter each time, and the older man had assured him that the Archaeologist was busy at the dig, he had not spoken directly to either Daniel or Teal'c since the first day when they had arrived. He knew that Daniel had wanted to check on Sam regularly. Jacob had assured him that the younger member of his team and his watch-Jaffa had merely been delayed by the flooding of the route to the ruins. But something was pushing his Danny-alert buttons.

At the appointed check in time, the wormhole obediently ka-whooshed open, and the MALP transmission came through clearly.

Once again it was Jacob Carter's familiar face that appeared on the view screen. "Hello, George, Jack, Sammi. How's everybody doing? He seemed to be looking directly at his daughter."

"We're just fine, Jacob. How's everything going at the excavation site?" General Hammond replied to his old friend.

"Merrick reports that the work's going well, and in spite of Daniel's gloomy predictions when we first got here, a lot of good information will be forthcoming to the Tok'ra Council...and the SGC, of course." Jacob smiled.

Jack spoke impatiently through the good old boy repartee. "Jacob, where's Daniel?"

"He's still in the ruins. The river has crested, but it's still impassable." He shrugged. "They'll probably be able to get out in another three or four days."

"Jacob, Doctor Jackson was supposed to check in with us every three days." Hammond frowned at the image on the monitor. "Are you sure he's all right?"

"Well, that's what his reports are saying."

"But you haven't seen him, or spoken to him yourself?" Jack asked, glancing at Samantha Carter who looked back at him with a frown.

"Well, no not to him directly...but Merrick said..."

O'Neill looked at General Hammond who nodded to his second in command. "Jacob, Colonel O'Neill is going to come through. He needs to talk to Doctor Jackson about some things that need his attention."

"Well, sure, he's welcome, but why?"

"Well, I was supposed to have a one on one with him every other day." Jack put in; "I haven't spoken to him in four. Let's just say we need to clear some things up."

"Okay, Jack. That's fine." General Carter nodded affably. "It's late evening here, but we can start out early in the morning and be there by mid afternoon. Do you want to come now?"

Jack nodded. "I'll be there in thirty minutes." He advised the older man. "I've just got to go pack my dainties."

"I'll be waiting for you." Carter assured him. He looked at his daughter. "How are you feeling, Sammi?"

"I'm fine, Dad." She smiled at him, "The worst part of it is over, I think. Not nearly as nauseous in the mornings anymore."

"Yes, those first three months or so can be pretty bad." He nodded. "Do you need anything from me?"

She had an urge to tell him to send Daniel and Teal'c back, that she needed her team and her baby's father with her. But that wasn't possible, and she knew it. "No, Dad. Nothing so far. Thanks for asking though." She smiled bravely at him.

He looked suspiciously at her then at his old friend, Hammond. "Well, if you think of something, tell Jack so he can pass it on to me." At their nods, "Well, I'll see Jack here in twenty minutes or so...along with his dainties." The wormhole snapped shut ending their conversation.

 

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After O'Neill had left the observation room, he headed directly to the infirmary. Doctor Fraiser was in her office going over some medical files. He tapped lightly on the open door. "Doc, you got a minute?"

She smiled up at him and closed the manila folder she was looking at. "Certainly, Colonel. What can I do for you?"

He pulled up a chair close to her desk. "A favor, well, actually it's for Carter." She nodded. "I'm going to go check on Daniel and Teal'c. They've missed two check-ins, and I've got sort of a bad feeling going on here. So, I'm going to go check on them myself. I'll be gone at least two days, maybe three, and well, someone's been staying with her at night. I was wondering if you could keep an eye on her."

Janet nodded, She'd known about the men taking turns staying with their teammate and had privately thought it was not only a good idea, but terribly sweet of them to do it. She would happily take her turn at it. "Certainly, Colonel. Since it's Friday, Cassie was going to the game with her girlfriends and then spending the night over with them. We haven't had a girl's weekend out in a long time."

He smiled at the woman. "Now, I am worried, but you know that both Daniel and Carter take the word "fine" to a new and extensive meaning."

Janet smiled at him. "We'll just have a good time, and keep her fine. I know she'll feel better after you tell her that Daniel is fine, too."

 

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True to his word, thirty minutes later, Colonel Jack O'Neill reported back to the gateroom in full expedition gear, including his favorite P-90. Hammond and Carter were there to see him off, and Fraiser showed up just a few minutes behind him.

Hammond looked at the Colonel's weaponry and equipment. "Colonel O'Neill, the Tok'ra are our friends after all. You look like you're going hunting for bear."

"No, sir," he replied, adjusting his vest, "I'm going archaeologist hunting, and you know how dangerous THAT species is."

"Especially to anxious Air Force personnel." Hammond agreed with a chuckle. "Give my regards to Doctor Jackson, Teal'c and Jacob."

"Will do, Sir, and ladies." The chevrons locked in place behind him and the Stargate activated. "I'll see you in two or three days." He turned and went up the ramp, merging with the event horizon.

Janet put her hand through Sam's crossed arms and linked them together. "Come on, Sam. You're going to spend the weekend with Cassie and me, and we're going shopping!"

Carter smiled down at her best girl friend. "I am?" She knew then that the Colonel must have spoken to Janet as part of his preparation to going.

"Yes, and you're going to have a wonderful time. The guys have been monopolizing you too much. We're having a gal-bonding session, okay?"

Sam had to laugh. "Okay, gal, that's a deal."***

Teal'c had awakened very unhappy. Not only had he been drugged, he'd been zatted into unconsciousness when his symbiote had resisted the effects of the tranquilizer. And now he'd woken up attached to a metal ring in the floor by a large heavy chain and a manacle around one foot. This allowed him some movement, but thus far he'd had no luck in freeing himself.

He was also very concerned about the welfare of his teammate, Danieljackson. When he had awoken, they had already been separated. The younger man had fallen asleep quickly after they had eaten the drugged food. When Merrick had realized that he had not been rendered unconscious she had used the weapon on him before he could defend himself.

His new caretaker had shown up today. He was a young man, either a Tok'ra or a goa'uld, as his symbiote could sense the presence of a blended one but not it's intentions. When the man had brought him MREs and water, Teal'c had questioned him about Daniel's whereabouts, but there were no answers forthcoming. In fact the man wouldn't speak to him at all and left immediately after delivering the food.

The lack of attention did give him free time in which to plan his escape, though none he had come up with had proven effective. But he was still trying.

 

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Joaab turned to Merrick. "I don't understand why you've done this." He said to her with confusion. "Doctor Jackson doesn't want a symbiote. I cannot take an unwilling host."

"But you can, don't you see?" Merrick answered her mate. "He's not that strong. Jacob said he had illnesses of the lungs and sinuses. You can take the body and heal it. You can even correct his eyesight so that you don't need to wear those ridiculous things on his face."

"That's not the reason and you know it." Joaab seemed to be getting angry. "We are Tok'ra, not Goa'uld. We can't take unwilling people as hosts."

"No my love," she approached him and rubbed against him. "We don't, but we can. We can do or take anything we want anyone we want. You know that." She walked over to where Daniel was tied and stepped behind him. Wrapping her arms around him from the rear, she stroked him up and down the chest, abdomen and groin area. "And he is so sensitive to sensations. He is resisting me, but he is already partially aroused. His heart is beating fast and loud and his temperature has risen by a degree or two already." She smiled up at her mate. "And he's such a lovely pet."

She reached and pulled Daniel's glasses off of his face. "Just look at those eyes." Merrick purred. "One could just fall into them."

"Yes, my dear. But he doesn't want me; he'd make our lives, or at least my life, a living hell. I've heard of his stubbornness." The old man shook his head. "It won't work, no matter how much you want that body."

Daniel looked up at her. "You know he's right. He'd have to be in control all of the time...like a Goa'uld. Why do you want to do this to me...to him?"

She looked down at him. "Because I want you, my pet." She smiled at him in a very unattractive manner. "And I shall have you." Merrick looked over at her mate. "If I leave you in here with him, when your time comes, you won't be able to resist a young, strong, living body. I know you, Joaab. You don't want to die."

"You are right my beloved, I don't want to die, but I don't want an unwilling host either." He held his hand out to her. "Come, let's continue our search elsewhere."

"I don't want to search anymore! I've found whom I want!" She tightened her grip on Daniel's shoulders. "I want this one, Joaab, and you can't change my mind."

"Well, I don't want him!" Joaab shook his head. "It's not worth it, Merrick. There must be someone else."

She released the younger man from her grip and looked haughtily at the old Tok'ra. "There isn't, and your time is almost here. Fine, you can just stay here with him. Maybe, when you're dying, you'll see the light...

like some of us have all ready!" The woman spun on her heel and left the room hurriedly closing the door soundly in her wake.

Daniel heard the slamming of the door and a jingle of keys in the door lock. Joaab looked at him sadly and came over to stand next to him. "I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson." He shook his head as he bent to untie the rope that held him to the chair. "I have wanted to meet you, but certainly not like this."

"Joaab, what's wrong with Merrick? I thought that all Tok'ra were against the forcing of a person to be a host?" Daniel gratefully rubbed his wrists to get the circulation going into his hands again.

"That is true for most of us," He answered. "However, with hosts being so hard to find, the old ways are being used more and more. Then, when she was able to find a beautiful young woman who agreed to be her host, she began searching for me a new one also." Joaab replied sadly. "We've been mated for a long time, Doctor Jackson, but she began to refuse me. She said that I was too old and unattractive to her now. That's when I agreed to look for another host to make arrangements for my own future. But she found no one suitable for me, or rather herself within our volunteers. I am sorry."

"I've never considered how the Tok'ra find their next host." Daniel admitted. "I've only known Jacob and Selmac and Martouff and Lantesh."

Joaab sighed. "It is sometimes difficult to find someone. It can and does often lead to the death of the Tok'ra symbiote when the host dies." He finally was able to release the knot that held Daniel's hands. The younger man began to free himself completely.

"You mentioned the old ways of finding a host?"

"Yes, we would take our hosts where we would find them." He watched Daniel finish untying himself. "Sometimes, we would force them if they didn't agree willingly."

Daniel sat up and looked at Joaab in surprise. "But I thought that the main difference between you, well the Tok'ra and the Goa'uld was not taking unwilling hosts?"

Joaab smiled at his naiveté. "Not exactly, that came later. Our name means literally against Ra. That was our prime reason for splitting from the Goa'uld. We did not approve of the wholesale enslavement and slaughter of whole worlds so we fought against him. If we...our host...was killed it was relatively simple to procure a new host. We were heroes on many worlds, often the indigenous peoples fought with us to overthrow the yoke of Ra's slavery. Many times, injured warriors would volunteer to be replacement hosts to save us and to continue their own fight." He shrugged. "It worked well, but then Ra began to get the upper hand, and we had to go in to hiding to survive. We were unable to obtain a sarcophagus and we began to die. That is when we began to have to occasionally take hosts against their will. We did not enjoy the practice and do not seek to do it unnecessarily."

"You've done it before though, haven't you?"

"Yes, Doctor Jackson, I have."

 

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Colonel O'Neill exited the Stargate on a planet that reminded him a lot of Abydos...or at least the Middle East. It was hot, dry and sandy. None of which made him feel the least bit comfortable.

Jacob Carter met him at the bottom of the platform the gate rested on. "Hello, Jack. Welcome to our relatively happy new home base."

Jack stepped down to the ground, pulled his sunglasses off and looked around noting some cargo boxes, some building supplies and few land vehicles. "Relatively?"

Jacob shrugged. "You know how it is with a move. Nothings quite as good as the place you had two moves ago and you hated it too. We Tok'ra seem to have a lot in common with the United States Military."

"So, did you hear from Daniel or Teal'c this evening?" He put his shades back on and looked at the smaller man.

Carter shook his head and motioned for O'Neill to follow him. As they walked along Jacob answered him. "No, I talked to Merrick." He sighed. "She said that the river was still up too high to cross at the dig sight. But she also said that there was a ford further down, and she'd meet us and take us around if you had to see Daniel."

O'Neill frowned. "I wish you hadn't told her I was coming..."

"Why?" Carter looked up at him. "You don't think that...?

"No, not specifically, Jake." Jack tried to answer as diplomatically as his nerves would let him, given their current state of screaming 'Danger, danger, Will Robinson' in his head. "All I know is that we've lost contact with two of my men on an alien planet for unknown reasons and in unknown circumstances and I don't like the Un-word...especially when it's about Daniel Jackson."

"Jack, he's a grown man. He can take care of himself, and he's got Teal'c with him." Carter smiled at O'Neill's worry. "Relax, tomorrow we'll hike over, cross the river, check on your little lost archaeologist and his guard Jaffa and you'll be all happy again."

O'Neill frowned at the older man, not amused by his levity. "I certainly hope so, Jake, for the sake of future dealings with the Tok'ra."

 

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The next morning dawned clear and hot. Jack was pulling on his gear when Jacob emerged from the kitchen area of his crystal cave. The older man looked at him curiously. "It's going to be a little warm for all of that Jack."

"Um huh." Jack finished buttoning his DCU shirt and laid the vest out next to the P-90. Then he turned and came over to the table.

Jacob was turning out some flatbread and eggs of some sort for breakfast. Then he sat down next to the younger man. "You know if I didn't know you as well as I do, Jack, I could be insulted."

Jack looked up from the meal. "How's that?"

"You come into my house bearing arms and seemingly expecting to have to defend yourself. You criticize my hospitality and make unfounded accusations against my friends."

Jack could tell Jacob didn't understand where he was coming from in regards to Daniel and Teal'c. "Jacob, let me tell you a little secret. Daniel Jackson is my best and truest friend and like a son to me. He's a bonafide genius and manages to not only put up with me and my crap, he loves your daughter like a sister, and cares about and respects Teal'c. He'll watch your six like nobody's business or die trying. But," O'Neill raised his finger to delay any comments from Carter. "He's a shit magnet and the living incarnation of Murphy's law. Anything that can happen to him, will happen. Everything from the flood at this dig site to finding unhappy system lords hiding in the proverbial bushes. He doesn't mean to be, and tries to keep his head down, but it does no good whatsoever. So, if you want to give me grief about caring more for him than I'm supposed to, just point me in the direction of this all important dig site and stay here, 'cause I don't have the time or patience for it right now."

Jacob had to grin at Jack's emotional outburst. "Okay, I'm sorry to be so positive for you. I just happen to think they're all right and this is a wasted trip."

"I certainly hope so, Jake. I really do."

 

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As they approached the dig site late that afternoon, the two men could see a solitary figure waiting for them on this near side of the river.

Merrick rose from the rock she was sitting on as they approached her. "Hello," she called out a greeting. "I was surprised to hear that you were coming all the way to the dig site."

As they approached her, Jacob stepped forward. "Hello, Merrick. Glad to see you made it across safely."

"As I was glad to hear from you." She looked at O'Neill. "What is the emergency?"

"Oh, no emergency," He replied. "I just need to make contact with my team, get their report, and pass on some news."

"Perhaps I could take the news to them and save you a difficult crossing." She offered.

O'Neill shook his head. "No, that's not possible." He replied. "I need to do this myself."

Jacob smiled at O'Neill then turned to the Tok'ra woman. "Jack here gets a little nervous when his boys are out of his sight for long."

Jack shot him a hostile glance then smiled at the woman. "Ah, well, you know how it is." Merrick looked at him with impatience. "No? Well, maybe not. Anyway, I need to see Doctor Jackson and Teal'c."

"For what purpose?"

"I need to consult with them on their progress, and I need to give them news from our Commander."

"What is this news?"

He looked at her curiously, "Now, that would be for me to know and you not to. Look, I need to make contact with my team members." He looked from her to Carter, then back again. "Well, it's kinda a tradition where I come from. I'm responsible for them. I need to talk to them, see them and touch them once a week or I just don't sleep well." He shrugged. "It's an O'Neill thing."

Jacob smiled at the woman, then back to Jack. "I guess even the high king of Ireland had to go and check on his men once in a while." Merrick looked totally confused. Jacob laughed and shook his head. "Don't worry about it Merrick. Let's just get this over with, shall we."

 

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Daniel had been locked in with the old Tok'ra host for over fourteen hours. The elderly Tok'ra was beginning to show signs of physical difficulty. He was having a harder time breathing and his color was not good at all. "Joaab, how are you doing?" Daniel asked him as they sat together against the wall.

The man looked over at him tiredly. "Not, good I'm afraid, Daniel. Because we do not use a sarcophagus, my symbiote has to do all of the physical support for me. Not only am I very old, but so is he. Unfortunately, I became a host carrying several illnesses. Salot had healed me long ago, but the weaknesses return as I continue to age."

"So, if you don't use a sarcophagus, how do you continue to fight the diseases?" Daniel watched him worriedly.

"Much the same way as you Taur'i do, with herbs to support the affected systems of you body." He glanced at the door. "Unfortunately, I do not have any on me at this time."

"Does Merrick know?" Jackson asked him, "She wouldn't leave you in here to die, would she? I thought she loved you? Was your mate?" Joaab looked to him for a moment, and then his eyes glowed momentarily. Daniel knew he was now being addressed by the symbiote. "Salot?"

"Yes, Doctor Jackson, it's a pleasure to meet you."

"And it's one to meet you also, though I wish..."

"Yes, indeed, better circumstances would have been preferred." Salot drew a deeper breath shakily. "To answer your question, no I don't think that Nefath would want me to die, she would not hesitate to prove to me what delaying my exchange to a new host would entail. She would let me suffer." He turned and looked curiously at Daniel. "Are you not frightened of me, Doctor Jackson?"

Daniel thought a second before answering. ""Of becoming a host? Honestly, I'm terrified." He admitted seriously. "I've lost too many loved ones and friends to the Goa'uld not to be. Of you jumping hosts, yes a little." He swallowed nervously. "But, you are a Tok'ra...after all, and I believe that you don't want to do anything to hurt me."

Salot watched the younger man's reactions curiously. He was obviously terrified over the threat of being taken over. "I have never met anyone so adamantly against being a host."

Daniel smiled at him nervously. "That's just because you haven't met Jack O'Neill yet."

 

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Merrick had led O'Neill and Carter to the ford of the river. As they approached the crossing, the two men looked at it in dismay. The turbulent water was waist deep. The debris and mud turning it the color of swirling chocolate milk.

"Well, Jack" Jacob commented dryly. "I hope you get a great deal of tactile pleasure out to hugging the shit out of Daniel and Teal'c, cause this is not going to be fun."

O'Neill looked at the flow and nodded. His two men had better have a damned good reason they hadn't checked in.

The two Tok'ra watched as he shrugged out of his backpack and lifted the equipment and his P-90 out of the water to prepare for crossing the swollen water course. Carter had offered to carry one or the other but Jack had refused him matter of factly. He suspected that he had hurt Jacob's feelings by this apparent lack of trust even though he had plead to being quite capable of doing it himself and was used to it. Merrick led them to the crossing and the trio doggedly continued on into the current.

 

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Teal'c was past impatient and was rapidly into meltdown stage. The young male Tok'ra had not returned, the ring was buried too deep for him to dig it loose, the chain and manacle were too strong for him to break and it had been over twenty four hours since he had seen Danieljackson. O'Neill had made him responsible for the other man's welfare and he took that particular chore very seriously. He had tried calling out to the young man, but had not heard any response to indicate that Daniel was either near his proximity or that he was unharmed. Somehow, he doubted that Merrick had gone to all this trouble for anything but the most pressing of reasons.

 

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Several more miles and hours had passed, and the three travelers could now see the back side of the cliff dwellings rising in front of them. Jacob was pleased to be almost at the end of the arduous journey. Selmac had been reminding him internally that he needed to work out more and frankly he had to admit she was right. He glanced at Jack O'Neill. Jacob knew that the man wasn't THAT much younger than he, but the Colonel showed no sign of stopping or slowing down. Jacob didn't quite understand the concern that O'Neill was showing for his teammates, but he didn't know the men like Jack did, so he kept his comments to himself.

As they reached the bottom of the hill that supported the ruins, Merrick again called a halt to their progress. O'Neill had taken a pair of binoculars out of his vest pocket and was looking up at the cliff face with its few openings from the ruins that looked out over the river. "Merrick, I thought you said that they were alone up there."

"We were alone until yesterday," She replied calmly. "But my mate, Joaab, and his assistant came yesterday for a visit."

Jacob looked at her in surprise. "Joaab's here?" He asked her. "I thought he was too ill to travel any distance."

"What can I say," she shrugged. "He said he wanted to see me."

O'Neill turned back to his two traveling companions. "Who's this Joaab?"

Jacob answered. "Joaab is a very old Tok'ra host. He's looking for a new host, much as Selmac was when we blended. The symbiote is one of the eldest of our kind."

Jack glanced at the young attractive Tok'ra female. Merrick returned his look but a flash of her eyes signified her symbiote coming to the fore. "I am Nefath. My last host died several years ago, Colonel. I was lucky to find Merrick, who was willing to blend with me. Now we search for a new vessel for my mate."

Selmac came the forefront, replacing Jacob. "Which is why I wonder that he would risk traveling so far just to see you, and why you would even permit it. You should have excused yourself from your duties here and both gone home. He is much too important to the Tok'ra resistance movement to be allowed to stay out here at risk for something such as this."

Merrick waved off the concern in Selmac's voice. "Oh, you know how he is."

"Yes, I do." Selmac returned sharply. "I've known both Joaab and Salot for several centuries. Neither of them is foolhardy."

"So why would Job and his snake be way out here if not to visit their er, his uh, women?" Jack looked at the two Tok'ra.

Jacob spoke up after a moment. "There's only one reason that Selmac can think of, Jack, and that's to find another host for Salot," He looked at Merrick, who glared back at him. "Joaab and Salot are noted to be the foremost scientist in their field of study. Of course, they would be interested in meeting Doctor Jackson. Wouldn't they Merrick?"

Alarm bells suddenly went off in Jack's head. He turned to Jacob and Merrick. "And that would be?"

"My mate is the foremost learned one about the study of our history, our beginnings and our development." She stated proudly to the human.

"That's Archaeology, Anthropology and History, Jack." Jacob translated unnecessarily for him.

"Yes," Merrick almost crowed. "A blending with Daniel Jackson is perfect, absolutely perfect!"

"O'Neill looked at the Tok'ra woman, shock from her statement turning into anger. "Wrong! A blending with Daniel is just not gonna happen." He stated emphatically.

She smiled knowingly at him. "There is nothing that you can do to prevent it, Colonel."

Jacob put in heatedly; "Selmac has known Salot for a very long time. He will not take an unwilling host."

Merrick/Nefath looked at Jacob/Selmac. "Do you lie to your host, Selmac; or have you forgotten the old ways...our old ways?"

Selmac came to the forefront in a flash of eyes. "I neither forget nor deny the ancient ways, but we have forsworn those ways. They make us no better that the Goa'ulds."

"Do we not have the right to live also?" Merrick spat at her.

"No, I've heard this argument before during a Triad on Tollana." Jack broke in angrily, "Skarra, Daniel's brother-in-law was a host, a prisoner in his own body, to the Goa'uld Klorel. This was the same argument used by Zipacna and he lost. The Triad decided against him and Skarra was freed."

"The Triad was false! It was not equally representative of the Goa'uld." She replied angrily. "There were two representatives for the Taur'i."

"We only had one vote." Jack defended angrily. "The deciding vote was from the Nox."

"The Goa'uld do not accept the verdict."

"That's too damn bad, cause Skarra's free, and that has nothing to do with this!" Jack turned and started towards the ruins at a running walk. He could hear Jacob and Merrick still arguing. Fine, let them ignore him, he sure as hell was gonna ignore them until he found his two missing men.

 

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Daniel was tending to the old host, Joaab. The man was lying down now, too weak to continue to stand or even sit for any period of time. "What can I do to help you?"

"Nothing my boy," the old man replied regretfully. "And you are not willing to help Salot."

"I'm sorry, I can't." He shook his head. "I just can't. Even if I were the one dying, I couldn't stand implantation."

"That's the Goa'uld's term, Daniel. We call it blending."

"I don't care what you call it! It's impossible!" He replied firmly. "I will not give myself over to a symbiote. I can't."

"What if I promise that he will leave as soon as they locate another host?"

Daniel shook his head. "Your mate has already made it quite clear that she would not approve of that. I know what things you'd do for love, because I know what it is to love someone. I know that she would convince you to remain blended with me. I won't allow that to happen. I can't."

"But, you would learn so much..."

"No, the cost is too high." He tried to explain. "I have responsibilities now. I have a child going to be born. My friend...my...my mate who is carrying the child needs me to be there for her...for them. Even if I wanted to allow this, which I don't, I couldn't do it because of them."

Joaab nodded sadly. "I think I understand." He sighed. "You must get away, before..." The old man jerked back in a muscle spasm. His eyes glowed, for a second and the voice changed. "Doctor Jackson, we both regret what must be done...we are sorry." The deeper voice intoned. "But, this must be done, and it will happen...with or without you permission."

 

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Jack had reached the top of the cliff. He could barely see a faint trail that appeared to lead to an opening into the cliff face. If he were lucky, it would lead him to the interior of the ruins. Slinging his weapon over his shoulder and carefully looking for handholds he began to traverse the steep crumbling path.

Then he heard the whine of a charging zatniketel and the left side of the cliff exploded as the beam struck close to his position. The surprise nearly cost him his precarious handhold on the rock wall, but he managed to cling there as he looked back at the source of the attack. He could see Jacob and Merrick struggling hand-to-hand and another deflected shot struck an overhang above his location, raining rocks and debris on top of him. He made a risky leap across the bare wall and managed to reach the entrance. Once safely inside, Jack leaned back out to see Jacob wrestling with the woman on the ground. He finally managed to twist the weapon away from the Tok'ra female. But once her hands were free, she jerked away from his grasp and ran towards the ruins. Jacob waved to him, signifying that he was okay and for him to go on. O'Neill ducked back into the cave opening and started searching for a way into the ruins.

By following the tunnel he connected with a series of rooms that went deeper into the cavernous maze of ruins. As he crept along the passageways he heard a sound echoing from within one of the cubicles. Squatting low, he peered around the opening and saw a young man involved in preparing some food over an open fire. The man was oblivious to Jack's presence until he released the safety on his weapon. The slight click caused the man to spin around and reach for a zat that was lying next to him. The P-90 barked once, catching the man in the upper chest and dropping him to the dirt floor.

Jack stood up and came into the room. He walked over to the prone man and picked up the zat and stuck it in his belt. Then he pointed his P-90 at his victim. "Where's Daniel and Teal'c?"

"You're too late." The man gasped out.

"That's too bad, cause if I'm too late...you're a dead man." Jack assured him grimly. "Where are they?" The man only glared at him stubbornly. "Oh well." He commented and made a show of raising his rifle.

"No, wait." The man suddenly changed his mind while peering down the barrel of the gun. "I only know where the Jaffa is."

"Where's he at?" Jack asked in a reasonable tone of voice.

"He's on the next level."

"Let's go." When O'Neill offered the wounded man his hand to get him to his feet, the Tok'ra lunged at him, reaching for his weapon. O'Neill squeezed the trigger again and the man lay in a pool of his own blood. Jack only shook his head. "Well, I tried to be nice." he then turned and headed for the doorway back into the tunnels.

 

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Teal'c was still doggedly digging at the buried ring to get free. He was getting fairly deep but still had not reached his goal. Then he heard a noise that sounded like a gunshot. He paused a moment then redoubled his efforts. Then he heard another sound, that of a short burst of automatic fire. Standing up he went to the end of his chain and pulled on it with all his strength. "O'Neill!" He shouted. "O'Neill, I am here."

"Teal'c? Is that you?" He heard O'Neill's voice and the sound of running footsteps.

"Yes!"

"Where are ya, buddy?"

"By the sound and direction of you voice, I am to your right several hundred feet." He tried to determine the best guidance for him to give his commander.

"Is Daniel with you?" He heard his human coming closer, concentrating on his voice.

"He is not. We were drugged and rendered unconscious. I have not seen him since I awoke."

O'Neill was very close now, just outside the door. "Stand back, I've got to blow the lock here."

Teal'c obediently went to the other side of the room as far as his chain would allow. "I am ready, O'Neill."

A small explosion later, the door canted inwards. The Colonel pushed in with his gun at the ready. He lowered the weapon when he realized they were alone in the room. O'Neill motioned Teal'c to come towards him. "I have failed in protecting Danieljackson." He admitted.

Jack dropped to his knees and pulled out a long slender metal tool. As O'Neill worked on picking the lock on the manacle, he filled Teal'c in. "You were set up. You were knocked out so they could separate you and Daniel. They plan on giving him to Merrick's husband, mate, whatever, to be his new host."

"Danieljackson will not allow that to take place." He impatiently looked over O'Neill's shoulder at the damaged door.

"I know, not if he can help it he won't." The catch in the lock gave and the cuff came off Teal'c's booted leg. "Come on! This is one blending that's not gonna happen." Jack handed him the zat and the two men left the room at a run.

It took Teal'c a few moments to get oriented in the maze of rooms and corridors. Finally he began to see landmarks and get his bearings in the underground labyrinth. He took the lead and continued on at a faster pace, O'Neill following.

 

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Daniel, who had been sitting on the ground next to the Tok'ra, scuttled backwards several feet until he was well away from the body. He looked on in amazement as the old man's mouth opened and the symbiote left the failing body of his host. When the creature was fully revealed, the ancient body sighed once and ceased to live.

Jackson stared at the serpentine form of the Tok'ra. It was a very large specimen, at least 18 inches long and six inches in diameter at its largest circumference. He instinctively knew that this was a giant of its kind, incredibly ancient and intelligent. A part of him was drawn to it in a kind of morbid fascination. He couldn't believe that this thing had lived inside the human host for so long. The symbiote undulated in a dismayed manner, obviously uncomfortable with its contact with the raw ground beneath it. Daniel stared at it for a moment before gathering his wits and gaining his feet, getting as far away from it as he could, putting several feet of distance between the thing and him.

 

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O'Neill could hear Daniel's voice behind the locked wooden door, but he was out of the C-4 explosive. After slamming his shoulder against the door twice didn't work, Teal'c took over and put his brawn to the task, splintering the rough panel with one blow of his foot. As the two men burst into the room, they were shocked by what they saw.

Lying on the floor with Daniel's fatigue shirt bundled under his head was the body of an extremely old man. Daniel was on the opposite side of the room by a large opening in the wall. It had been an entrance or window at one time, but now was the edge of a precipice that overlooked the flooded river far below. Daniel's expressive face had a look of horror on it that showed a realization of his worst nightmare. His gaze was fixed on a creature in the center of the room's floor. It was a very large adult symbiote, and it was crawling towards him with inexorable progress. The Tok'ra parasite resembled nothing so much as a huge ungainly slug undulating it way across the dirt surface, picking up bits of debris as it traveled. The head's clawed grasping appendages were fully extended, the sharp beak open as if panting due to its physical exertions.

Jack instinctively turned his weapon on the perceived threat to his friend and team member, but Teal'c pushed the weapon's muzzle aside, deflecting it from it's intended target. "Let me take it, O'Neill." The Jaffa stated. "It cannot harm me, and it is a Tok'ra. Perhaps we may still save it."

O'Neill nodded wordlessly, giving him grudging permission. Teal'c approached the creature and bent down to it. The symbiote reared back as if to defend it's self, but the big man waited patiently and offered it no harm. Then he spoke to it calmly, "It is no use, Tok'ra. We will not allow what you wish to happen. Let me to try to save your knowledge and wisdom so that you may continue your battle with the Goa'uld. Perhaps another host can be found for you, but you cannot have Danieljackson. He is not for you."

The symbiote could not verbalize an answer in it's un-hosted form, but Salot ceased his advance on his human target and turned back to Teal'c as if in supplication.

Jack had slung his weapon over his shoulder, trusting Teal'c to take care of the Tok'ra and began a slow cautious approach to Daniel. The other man's attention was riveted on the creature before him. Jack wasn't even sure his teammate knew that he was there. "Daniel, Danny." O'Neill called to him as he continued his calm, slow walk to reach his friend's side.

As Jack got within a foot of Daniel, Teal'c picked up the Tok'ra. Salot squealed in a final protest, the sound causing Daniel to flinch, jerking back from Jack's grasp and towards the outer wall's opening. The soft dirt of the ledge crumbled beneath Daniel's booted feet, and he slipped down, over the edge of the precipice.

As Daniel started to fall, Jack made an instant reflexive grab for him. He managed to seize his friend's forearm, holding on to Daniel as the younger man slipped over the precipice and out of sight. Daniel's sudden weight wrenched his shoulders and back, unbalancing and pulling Jack forward down to the edge.

They lay there a moment, Jack, on his belly at the brink of the sheer drop, hanging on to his friend's left arm with both hands and Daniel dangling down over the concave face of the cliff. Daniel looked up into his friend's face and their eyes met, realization of what had happened in his split second of panic. The loose dirt under Jack shifted and he slowly slid a few inches towards Daniel and open space.

Daniel slowly mouthed the words 'let me go' at O'Neill.

"Not in this lifetime, buddy boy." Jack gasped back at him. "You better get your ass back up here cause I am NOT explaining this to Carter!"

Jacob Carter slid in beside O'Neill, also lying in a prone position and reached carefully down the rock face. "Daniel, give me your other hand, son." He glanced over at O'Neill's face, red from the exertion. "Can you pull him up a few inches, Jack, your arms are longer than mine."

With a grunt and some effort, Jacob managed to get hold of Daniel's other hand. After a few minutes, all three men were on the dirt floor inside the ruins. Jack was sitting propped against the wall, several feet from the opening. His right hand was on Daniel's shoulder. Daniel was lying on his back next to Jack with his eyes closed. Jacob was sitting cross-legged shaking his head at the two friends.

"So, Jack, what was that you were NOT going to explain to me?"

"What?" O'Neill glanced over at him in exhausted confusion.

"While you were playing at Daniel dangling, you said you were NOT going to explain something to me." He smiled coyly at them. "What was it?"

"Oh, that. I meant to my Carter, well, Sam."

"Okay, what was it you weren't going to explain to Sammi?"

"I wasn't going to explain how I let him fall." Something flashed across his expressive features. "She'd be really pissed at me if I lost Daniel here." He patted the shoulder that he was resting his hand on. The prone man flinched and grunted.

"Oh." Jacob nodded, as if he understood what O'Neill was talking about.

"Indeed, Majorcarter would be most displeased to lose him at this time." Teal'c reentered the room from his self-appointed mission of taking Salot to a safe place away from Daniel.

Jacob looked up at the big Jaffa. "Did you find what you were looking for?"

"Yes, there was a tank and solution several rooms away. There must also be preparations on board the ship that Salot and his aide had arrived in if their plan did not work. The symbiote itself is not damaged and may recover from the shock of his separation, but you must find a new host for him without delay."

Jacob nodded. "I'll leave here in a few minutes. Hopefully they'll find someone soon; we'll just have to keep him in a suspension tank until someone willing can be found." He stood up and dusted off his clothes. "Did you see Merrick anywhere?"

"No, I did not." He looked at O'Neill, "Also, the Tok'ra that you wounded is gone. I believe that Merrick found him and they left together."

"Peachy." Jack snorted. "Now, we have to worry about her on our way out of here and back to the gate."

Carter shook his head at the two men. "I'll come back to get you, Jack. I've just got to get Salot back to the town and into a proper containment tank. I'd hate to lose him after all of this mess."

"Okay." Jack nodded. "We'll have to pick up Daniel's equipment before we can leave anyway. So take your time, just remember to come back for us."

Jacob smiled at the three and in a bad German accent replied. "I'll be back...no later than tomorrow."

Teal'c nodded. "I will escort you to the ship, Jacobcarter, to assist with Salot and insure that you do not meet Merrick alone on your way there. He looked to Jack who nodded his agreement.

After Teal'c and Jacob had left the two men, Jack looked down at Daniel. The younger man was still very pale. Daniel was too quiet and he was getting concerned. "Danny," He asked quietly, "you okay?"

Jackson didn't open his eyes when he answered. "Pretty much."

"Pretty much? What's wrong?"

"My arm feels...funny."

"The one I grabbed?" Daniel nodded. "What kinda funny?" He moved over to help his friend sit up.

"You know, funny. It's sort of throbbing."

Jack tugged on the front of Daniel's fatigue shirt. "Ow, now that just hurts." Jackson complained as he was pulled to a sitting position.

"Can you lift your arm?" At Daniel's negative headshake, Jack unbuttoned the heavy cotton garment and pulled it off the other man. When he got to the black tee shirt, O'Neill pulled his utility knife from its scabbard and started cutting the thin material.

"Hey, what did you do that for?" Daniel grumbled, watching his shirt being cut. "That was a good shirt."

"And that was a good shoulder," Jack replied studying the misshapen joint. "But now, well, now it's dislocated." He gently palpated the affected area and Daniel hissed in response. "Sorry. We definitely need to keep you away from ledges, Daniel."

"Sorry about..." Daniel's breathing was still irregular and uneasy. He glanced behind him to the precipice.

O'Neill shook his head and slid his hand from the ruined shirt to the nape of Daniel's neck. He stroked the injured shoulder and neck muscles soothingly. Jack shifted a little closer, keeping physical contact with his friend, waiting for the shock of realization to pass. Daniel unconsciously leaned into the comforting contact. "Well, considering the alternative, you're forgiven. I would have done the same thing to get away." He shivered. "Ugghh!"

Daniel looked up at him trustingly. "Can you put it back into place?"

"Yeah, but it'll hurt like a son-of-a-bitch." Jack warned him. "Where's your med kit?"

"In the main area with the rest of our gear, I hope."

"Okay, when we get back there, I'll give you some morphine, and Teal'c and I will pop it back in place and immobilize it for you." He regarded his friend solemnly. "You sure you don't want to wait for Doc to do it?" At Jackson's nod, Jack stood up and pulled his friend up onto his feet. "C'mon then." Daniel swayed and finally just leaned on him. Jack pulled Daniel's good arm over his shoulder and slipped an arm around his waist. "Dizzy?" Daniel nodded again. The older man took a firmer grip on his friend. "Let's go find Teal'c and that med kit."

After a few false starts they found the main hall and their original campsite. Teal'c was already there before them. He had lit the fire and started water to boil for preparing food and coffee for his two human companions. He became concerned when he saw how Danieljackson was leaning heavily on O'Neill's shoulder. Jack waved him over and explained the situation to him.

"...So we're gonna pop it back in for him and then put him to bed." Jack helped Daniel to sit down on his sleeping bag. "That'll leave just two of us to do night watch."

"That is acceptable." Teal'c pulled out his med kit and located the auto-injector of morphine. Jack began cutting the rest of the tee shirt off their injured friend and while Daniel was distracted, the Jaffa quickly gave him the shot.

"Ouch, no fair sneaking up while Jack's got a knife after me." Daniel complained half heartedly to Teal'c.

"Now, you're accusing me of trying to cut you." Jack commented in a teasing tone as he removed the now destroyed tee off of him. "Honestly, Daniel, I'm beginning to think you don't trust me."

"That was a good tee shirt." Daniel mumbled again.

"Was being the operative word, Danny-boy." O'Neill grinned at him as he began to tear the shirt into long strips to use as bandages for its owner. "Besides I'm gonna give it back to you, just in a slightly altered fashion." He noticed that Daniel's eyes were beginning to lose focus. The shock, pain and drug were beginning to take their toll. Jack got up and moved to his friend's uninjured side. "Here we go." Jack sat down next to Daniel and put his bent legs one on either side of the injured man. He put Daniel's good arm around his bent front leg.

When he got Daniel was settled between his legs, Jack wrapped his arms around their patient's chest pulling him tight to him leaving the injured arm free. Teal's knelt down on the other side of his young friend and took a firm hold of Daniel's wrist but put no pressure on it. Jack leaned forward and spoke softly to Daniel. "Ready, Danny?" At his murmured answer, Jack nodded to Teal'c and hugged his friend into his chest. Teal'c began to pull down strongly and steadily on the affected arm. Daniel groaned and panted, holding on to Jack with his good arm like his life depended on it. Jack kept him firmly in place and after what seemed like an eternity to all three of them, the ball of the humerus finally slipped back into place in the scapula's socket. Teal'c palpated the area to be certain it was in it's proper location then gently placed Daniel's arm up next to his chest. Jack reached over and supported it until Teal'c could get the sling on properly.

"How do you feel, Danieljackson?" Teal'c asked him solicitously.

"Like someone just pulled my arm out of joint...and then put it back in." He managed to reply shakily, leaning back on Jack's other leg.

"Then you feel correctly. That is exactly what I did." Teal'c began wrapping the injured shoulder with the strips of material from the old tee shirt to keep his arm immobile.

O'Neill released him from the body hug and reached into his own backpack to pull out a clean tee shirt for Daniel. After the bandage was in place to support Daniel's arm and keep it next to his body, he helped the younger man slip the larger sized tee over his head and good arm. He then helped Daniel pull off his boots and crawl into the sleeping bag.

"There ya go. Now just relax and get some rest. We'll be here until tomorrow anyway so you might as well take a nap. Later on you can have some dinner." Daniel shook his head, but Jack had already started pulling out the MREs and their cooking equipment. "Come on, I'll make your favorite. Oh, look, it's macaroni and cheese. I'll bet it'll taste just like chicken."

Daniel slept the rest of the evening and the whole night through, reflecting how tired he was and the strain he'd gone through. He'd been drugged, threatened, injured, zatted and now his body and mind was seeking to repair itself.

O'Neill and Teal'c both stood four hour watches, concerned that Merrick and the other Tok'ra, Joaab's aide, would take advantage of the darkness to try something else. However, Teal'c pointed out, that with Joaab dead and Salot removed back to the Tok'ra community, there was little or no reason to risk endangering themselves to two very irate teammates of their planned victim, Daniel Jackson.

Jack was on duty when the sun rose the next morning. He'd spent his half of the night on high alert, prowling the nearby corridors and checking the many chambers in the cliffside ruins. Small animals and birds had made the warren of rooms into homes, dens and nests of all types. While he knew they were no real danger to them, he had to verify each small disturbance was not the threat he was expecting.

The golden light crept in through the rounded arches of the outer doorways to illuminate their campsite. Teal'c stirred from his kel-no-reem, getting up to refresh himself and then to start the preparation of coffee and their breakfast. When he indicated the coffee was ready, Jack smiled gratefully and joined him at the fire, taking the proffered cup of hot liquid.

"Danieljackson slept well and deep last night." Teal'c looked over at their teammate.

"Yeah, I'm glad," Jack followed his glance. "If a little surprised."

"He was exhausted," Teal'c commented.

"I sort of expected him to have nightmares." Jack nodded, then he glanced around the ruins. "But, I'll say thanks to small favors. How much more stuff do we have to load up?"

"There is one more room," Teal'c replied. "The FRED is across the river. We could not get to it after the flooding began."

"Well, depending on how long it takes Jacob to come back, he may just have to land there and we walk back to him unless he's willing to land the Tel'tac twice."

 

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Merrick had begun to stalk her prey. The strange tribe was gathered before her now. A new Alpha male had joined the group, and it would be harder to separate her target from his clan. The primitive huntress was preparing for her kill, but she had to get him away from the others.

The Tok'ra Nefath was in withdrawal; the symbiote had been forcing her control on the woman for too long. Now at the death of Joaab and Salot, the civilizing effect of the Tok'ra had withdrawn in shock. This left the primeval personality without any guidance; and her primordial code of justice demanded retribution. Though she looked human enough, Merrick's people were an archaic society that was little more than Cro-magnum in social development. A death was not only to be mourned, but avenged and the man who had caused the death of her mate was before her.

 

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The first thing that Daniel knew when he awoke was pain. His whole left side ached, the bone-deep throbbing of his shoulder, arm and side was a reminder of his near fatal panic attack. The second thing he became aware of was the blessed smell of coffee. Then, finally, the sound of Jack's voice.

"Daniel, it's time to wake up now, buddy." The welcome sound droned on. That voice meant many things to him: acceptance, safety, trust, well being, annoyance, and coffee. When all of his world had turned to crap, add Jack O'Neill's voice and it immediately became just a little better place to be.

He opened one eye and was greeted by two brown ones looking down at him with concern and a white ceramic cup with the logo 'Archaeologists do it in the dirt' stenciled on its side. The cup and its contents smelled wonderful.

"There's our boy," Jack smiled at him. Only two people in the world called him that, and they were both high-ranking military officers. Luckily only one of them came off world with him.

"J'ck," He breathed in the fragrance. "Gi'me". Then he tried to move his body, and regretted it instantly. He groaned under his breath.

"C'mon, Daniel." Jack put the cup down and helped him to sit up. Once moderately vertical, he was handed the cup. Luckily, he'd injured his left arm, and he managed the cup with professional skill in his right hand. "How ya feeling today?"

"Sore," he admitted. Lying to Jack was not a skill he'd ever learned. "I'm really sore." He looked at his friend who was squatting on his heels next to him. "And you?"

"A little stiff" O'Neill nodded. "We both got a good jerk out of yesterday's excitement, no pun intended." He rolled his shoulders, "I haven't had to catch and hold one hundred and seventy pounds recently." He smiled down at his friend.

Daniel nodded. "Thanks for that again. It was a stupid thing to do."

Jack patted him on his good shoulder. "I think you had plenty of reason. That was pretty nasty." He faked a shiver. "Uggh."

"Adult symbiotes are not the same as the juveniles you are used to seeing. Salot is very ancient," Teal'c commented. "He is well over a thousand years old by his appearance."

Daniel looked up at Teal'c. "Is? Is he still alive?"

"Yes, Danieljackson, I was able to put him in a support container and Jacobcarter has removed him to the Tok'ra base. He was not injured so he should still be alive. Perhaps the Tok'ra can find him a more suitable and willing host."

Daniel nodded. "It wasn't his fault."

"I don't care whose fault it was, Danny." Jack commented coldly. "I'm damned tired of the Tok'ra's thoughtlessness and carelessness with my friends. I'd a shot the son of a bitch, but I didn't want you to go off the deep end." He looked at Daniel with a half grin. "But you did anyway, literally."

"Sorry." Daniel looked down into his coffee cup.

Jack reached over and tousled his friend's short brown hair. "Not your fault, none of it." He looked around at the equipment strewn around the area in organized chaos. "Look, let me give you some more painkillers, and you catch a few more hours' shuteye. Teal'c and I will get packed and Jacob should be back by the afternoon. Then we can blow this joint and get back to hot pizza, cold beer and the Stanley cup playoffs.

 

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Jacob Carter came out of the medical facility at the Tok'ra home base. He'd just delivered Salot to a healer and the symbiote was presently in a stasis tank. The tank would support his life processes until a new host could be located for him. It had been a near thing, and Jacob had just barely gotten him back to the camp in time before he had gone into complete shock.

Now, he had another deadline. He had to get back to SG1 and get them picked up before something else bad happened. The information that he had found out from Aldwin was particularly disturbing in light of the attempt on Jackson's continued autonomy. He had hoped he was wrong, but he had suspicions about the female and her motives. That Merrick would do that kind of thing to an unwilling host was one thing, but her disregard of her own mate was another thing all together... it was madness. He had to get back to Jack to brief him fully and get the team back safely to Earth. If Jack didn't want to explain losing Daniel to Sam, he sure as hell didn't want the job of telling her about all three of them.

After the flight back to the ruins, Jacob got his personal radio out of its storage area. He had kept it on the SGCs frequency just in case. He keyed the radio. "Juliet Charlie to Sierra Gulf One. Juliet Charlie to Sierra Gulf One."

A responding carrier hum came on. "Sierra Gulf One, Juliet Charlie. Sierra Gulf One copy. Go ahead Juliet Charlie."

"Sierra Gulf One, be advised. Actor still at large. Maintain secure perimeter. Have intell on actor. Go to Threatcon Charlie. Repeat. Go to Threatcon Charlie."

"Ten-four, Juliet Charlie. Copy Threatcon Charlie. Falling back to primary base camp to secure perimeter."

"Ten-four. Eagle has landed. Enroute your location."

"Ten-four. Good Copy, Juliet Charlie. Enroute base camp. Await your arrival."

Jack had been in one of the other rooms when he received Jacob's call, expecting only to hear that he had landed and was coming to the camp. But Jacob's subsequent transmission put Jack into full military mode. Threatcon Charlie was high alert and to be aware of possible attack. He left the equipment where it lay and immediately headed back to the main camp area where Daniel, and he hoped, Teal'c still was.

Arriving at the camp, he was pleased to see Daniel sleeping, and Teal'c had come to sentry position, armed with his staff weapon and ready for battle. When he entered the room, the Jaffa had heard him coming and was standing with weapon at the ready position. When he recognized O'Neill he relaxed and lowered his weapon.

"Did you hear Jacob?" O'Neill asked.

"I did." Teal'c glanced at Daniel who had awakened at the sound of their voices. "I did not completely understand the words of his transmission, but I knew it was not a good situation."

"Yeah, for some reason Jacob put us on wartime status. He has some information and thinks we should expect an attack." He glanced at Daniel who was putting his glasses on. "Daniel, do you know why he'd do that?"

Jackson shook his head slowly, gathering his thoughts. "Merrick and Joaab were arguing yesterday... over me. She wanted him to take me as a host, and he didn't want to do it since I was unwilling." Daniel shook his head, "I told him that I'd fight him, never give him any peace." He gazed off at the wall, replaying the words in his mind. "She said that he'd forgotten the ancient ways of taking an unwilling host. Then, she locked us in here together." He looked at Jack. "Salot waited until Joaab died, waited for her to come back and help them. She never did." His voice wavered. "Salot had no choice, he waited until the last possible moment, and he said he'd continue to look for a new host so he could release me."

"Like that was gonna happen." Jack said angrily.

Daniel nodded. "I told him that Merrick wouldn't let him leave me if he did it. For some reason, she'd decided she wanted me to be his next host." He shrugged.

Jack nodded. "Part of that was that Joaab was an archaeologist, linguist, and historian just like you. It was like she was tempting him with a young healthy body and a smart brain to use." He shrugged. "You were the winner hands down the way she was talking out there to Jacob and me."

Teal'c nodded agreement. "Did Jacobcarter not say that he had more information to give us?"

"Yeah, he did." He looked down at his friend. "Said he had more intel on the subject for us."

Teal'c suddenly turned around and aimed his staff weapon at the first opening into the room from the outer hallway. Jack automatically released the safety on his P-90 and had his finger on the trigger. A rock tumbled down the hallway and a very human looking hand waved at them, Jacob Carter's voice called out. "It's just me, boys, just friendly Jake Carter." his body still behind the concealing wall.

Jack and Teal'c didn't drop the weapons at first. O'Neill called out to him. "Jacob, come on in through the doorway."

The older man came into view and pitched his zat out into the center of the floor. He then put both hands up in the air. "How ya doing, Jack, Teal'c, Daniel?"

"Doing good, Jacob." O'Neill lowered his weapon when he saw it really was General Carter. "Come on in, the coffee's hot."

The older man put his hands down, picked up his weapon and came over to the fire. Jack squatted down and pulled out a styrofoam cup and poured some of the hot, black coffee for him. Teal'c resumed his sentry duties, going over to the opening and peering down the hallways.

"I'm glad you're back, Jacob." Jack smiled at him affably. "What's going on with the Threatcon Charlie?"

"I found out some information on Merrick from Aldwin." Jacob looked in concern at Daniel. He indicated the bound arm. "What happened here? Have you had contact with her already?"

"Nah," Jack replied. "It seems yesterday when I grabbed Daniel going over the cliff; I jerked his arm out place and dislocated it." He looked at his friend, and shrugged.

Jacob looked at the two men and shook his head. "Honestly, Jack I don't know which of you is worse."

Teal'c had returned to the room, he looked over at the three men. "I believe that they are well matched Jacobcarter."

Jacob could only agree, much to the chagrin and protestations of the two friends. Then the retired General started his briefing in what he had discovered in his talk with Aldwin.

 

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Merrick had been hiding in the warren of rooms that comprised the upper levels of the ruins. She had seen the fourth man arrive. She knew this one through her memories of Nefath. He would not cause any additional problems. Her plan was relatively simple. She would cause the men to become separated. Then she would take her revenge on the man who caused the death of her mate.

 

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It seems that Nefath and Salot were doing some undercover work on a Goa'uld held planet. It was a planet that had only primitive humanoid life forms." Jacob started his story. "Salot was blended with Joaab and Nefath was with a very attractive mature woman named Raomie. During their assignment, Raomie was mortally wounded by a staff weapon but Joaab was able to get her to a clan's village before she died." Jacob stopped and took a drink of lukewarm coffee. He made a face for effect. "Evidently what happened next was a direct result of her wanting to finish the job. She took the healer, for lack of a better word, as an unwilling host. She was a young woman who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time."

O'Neill nodded. "So, she er, it, took the new host by force, like Jolinar did Carter that time." He then looked over at Jacob who only shrugged and glanced over at Daniel.

Their eyes met and the younger man spoke. "Merrick said that she wanted him to take me as a host. Later, Joaab told me that she had been his mate for a long while, but then she'd gotten the younger host and didn't find him attractive anymore." He shrugged. "He said he'd look for another host, but..."

"That's easier said than done." Jacob frowned. "And that's something else again. Selmac says that Joaab or Salot would never have considered forcing Daniel, or anyone, before to this."

"Merrick left us locked in that room together knowing Joaab was sick." Daniel replied. "He said that he had some support drugs with him, but she denied him access to them. She wanted Joaab to die so that to survive Salot would have to take me as host."

Jacob looked very concerned. "That is so much against the Tok'ra's philosophy that it's unbelievable."

"So that's why the ThreatCon Charlie alert"

"Exactly, Jack." Jacob replied. "The influence that the primitive has had on Nefath has made her a loose cannon. Merrick's overriding the symbiote and the host's personality is getting stronger in the blending." He shrugged. "Ordinarily, with a more civilized host that's not an issue. But somehow, the primitive in her is changing that." He looked at Daniel; "You're not safe here. At first she just wanted you as her new mate. Now, she wants her revenge."

With Jacob's presence, they were able to continue packing. In light of the new information, Jack refused to allow any of them to go off solo. He chose to stay in camp with Daniel and not leave the injured man by himself, even though Daniel had assured him that he could still handle his handgun. He would stay, pack up the remaining equipment at the campsite and police the immediate area while Teal'c and Jacob returned to the room that he had been packing up when Jacob had put out his radio call. Daniel, fully awake now and refreshed from his hours of sleep was politely told to 'sit there and keep an eye out for anything funny'. So he was trying to do just that and helpfully give advice on how to pack the few items that he had deemed important enough to take back for further study.

Jack was trying to maintain an even disposition, "Daniel, you know that this was all a set up," Jack groused as he packed a clay bowl into one of the carrying cases for transport. "These aren't really real artifacts."

The younger man was sitting on another box supervising O'Neill's wrapping. "They are really real artifacts, Jack. They may just may not from The Ancients." He replied pendantically. "They are from whoever built and lived in these...uh, pueblos. And this is a very unique housing style. We've only seen one other planet where this was used. It could be another planet where Amerindians were seeded by the Goa'uld."

"And, so, thus, because...."

"Exactly. And why, thus wherefore, so such, because it is."

"Daniel," Jack stood up, put his hand on the small of his back and arched to stretch his complaining muscles. He raised his right hand with it's index finger pointing at the ceiling. "What does it have to do with anything remotely involving the SGC?"

Daniel looked at him calmly. "Not a thing."

"Then why are we packing up Mother Hubbard's cupboard if it doesn't have a thing to do with the SGC, The Ancients or the Goulds?"

"But it does have something to do with the Goa'ulds, Jack." The archaeolgist argued back. "Why would they bring a thriving stone age civilization and desert them on an arid, desert planet? Was it an arid planet at the time? And if it wasn't...they what happened? There are thousands of questions that come to mind, Jack."

"No, Daniel. There's only one question that comes to my mind."

Daniel looked at him askance. "And that would be?"

"Why are we packing up Mother Hubbard's cupboard if it doesn't have a thing to do with the SGC, The Ancients or the Goulds?" Jack looked peevish.

Daniel smiled coyly at him. "Cause I can?"

"I'm not surprised."

During a break for the midday meal, and after a delicious repast of MRE's and coffee, Jacob and Teal'c decided that they would take the Teltac and get the FRED so that they could be ready to go as soon as the last of the equipment was packed. Neither pair had seen Merrick but they stayed on high alert.

******

Merrick had been biding her time, waiting in the upper level. She watched with interest as the first pair, the Tok'ra and the Jaffa, left the area and headed towards the Tel'tac. Because they were carrying equipment, she knew that the men were preparing to leave. This was going to hurry her plan along.

She crept back to the lair she had adopted and checked on her other captive. Pamont, Joaab's assistant, was still alive, but his injuries were severe enough that his symbiote had not been able to completely heal him yet. If he'd been only human, Jack would have killed him outright during their struggle when he had found his camp. As it was, the man was conscious but very weak. He had been a willing participant in the plan to help Salot acquire a new host. He disliked forcing the human, but the old man had been failing quickly, and Pamont knew that the Tok'ra was worth many human lives. His host had disagreed but had finally been talked into the plan when it was said that the blending would be only temporary.

But now, Pamont lay against the wall and watched the female suspiciously. He knew now that there was something terribly wrong with her. His was confused by her actions. The younger Tok'ra had never seen anyone act in this way before. Violence was used, but not against innocent strangers, much less allies. A forced temporary blending was one thing. This, however, was murder for no good reason.

 

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Jack had finished packing up the camp and he looked over at his friend. Daniel was still awake and beginning to glance nervously around. He poured the last of the coffee into two cups and handed one to him. "What's up Daniel?"

Jackson shook his head. "I don't really know, Jack." He replied thoughtfully. "I guess I've had a few too many bad experiences here. I'll be glad to get out of these ruins and get home."

"Yeah, Doc's gonna be so pleased to see you again I'll bet she'll want you to keep her company... in the clinic." Jack looked at him sideways with a little grin on his face. He was rewarded with a grimace from the younger man.

"That's not funny." Daniel groused back at him. "I just want to get home...to my place."

"How about we split the difference and you stay with me a few days?" Jack offered. "You know you'll have a better chance of escaping if you have someone to help you around."

"What about Sam?" Daniel protested. "I can't leave her alone now. What if something happens?'

"Yeah, what if something happens? What are you going to do...catch her and then drop her? She can yell for help... or Teal'c can stay with her...if she wants him to." Jack shrugged. "He'd probably like to get out of the mountain for a while."

Daniel had to nod. Jack was right again. He was pretty much rendered useless with this injury.

"Or you two could both move into my two guest rooms for a while." O'Neill shrugged. "One thing I do know for sure...it'll be her decision."

Daniel nodded. "That's for certain." He looked at his friend. "You know I've been proposing marriage to her since she became pregnant."

"Uh huh." Jack nodded as he sipped the hot liquid. "And?"

"She keeps saying no."

"Well, that sounds like an answer to me." He replied. "Daniel, Carter's a grown woman. If she wanted to say yes, she'd already have the dress picked out."

"I guess so."

Jack unexpectedly held his hand up to quiet Daniel and looked around the room. "Did you hear something?"

Daniel had ceased talking at his leader's gesture and pulled his 9 MM pistol out of it's holster. He shook his head negatively.

O'Neill got up from his seat, picked up his weapon, and eased over to the door. Flicking the weapon's safety off he eased around the corner to look up and down the hallway. Silence met him. Jack was just about to slide back into the room when he heard the sound again. It was a male voice and sounded as if it were in distress.

At Jack's signal Daniel struggled to his feet and moved over to join him. "What is it?" He asked in a quiet voice.

"Someone's in trouble, or it's a trap to pull one or both of us out of the campsite." Jack explained. "I don't like it."

"Well, you can go and check it out."

"No. I'm not leaving you here alone with that bad wing. Can you come with me?"

Daniel nodded. "As long as I don't have to climb or use my arm for anything. I still can't move it."

"Okay, stay right behind me." Jack motioned. "If anything happens, just touch my back, I'll stop and we regroup." At Daniel's nod, he started forward. "Just keep that pistol handy."

The two men started down the hallway together. Daniel could hear the noise that had caught Jack's attention. It seemed to be a low moaning sound, with some words interspersed throughout. They followed the hallway up a sloping part of the ruins and the sound became louder. The voice was using a variation of a language that Daniel had become familiar with.

"Jack, he's speaking in Goa'uld but in a different dialect than I've heard before."

"What does that mean, Daniel?" O'Neill asked impatiently.

"Well, you said you saw and talked to another Tok'ra. I know Joaab had an assistant with him when he arrived. Maybe it's him, maybe that's the mother tongue of the Tok'ra."

Jack considered it. "Yeah, maybe. Or maybe it's just a trap."

"Maybe. Why would he be asking for help anyway?"

"Wellll," Jack answered hesitantly. "maybe, because I shot him?"

"Well, yeah, that would do it all right." Daniel agreed. "Why?"

"For crying out loud." Jack threw him a disbelieving look. "Cause he tried to zat me, then wouldn't tell me where you and Teal'c were, and then, well, cause he deserved it." Daniel raised his eyebrows. "Well, he did!"

"Did what?"

"All of the above." Jack groused. "and he was helping that Merrick bitch. Remember, the one who killed her own husband so he'd have to gould you."

Daniel nodded grimly, "Yeah, I remember."

Jack looked at him. "You with me?"

Daniel nodded again. "Right behind you. Don't worry."

Jack and Daniel traveled farther down the tunnel before they ran into a snag. The passageway ended in a very steep staircase that led to an opening into the ceiling. Obviously it was an entrance to the next level. But only one of them could fit through it at a time, and they couldn't see what was up there unless one of them actually stuck his head up through the channel. Also, it would take both hands and arms to get up to the next level, which made it next to impossible for Daniel to navigate.

Jack looked at it from several angles, shook his head and turned around. He looked at Daniel's curious expression. "Nope, not gonna happen. To get up there, I'd have to leave you...and I don't know what's up there anyway. It seems like a good way to get my head taken off at the shoulders.

As he spoke, a male voice called out. "Daniel Jackson? Is that you? I need your help. Please, I'm hurt."

Curious, Daniel answered. "Who are you?"

"I'm Pamont, you remember, Joaab's aide."

The two men looked at each other. Jack spoke in a soft voice. "It's that other Tok'ra that I shot."

Daniel nodded. At Jack's nod, he called out again to the man. "Where's Merrick at?"

"I don't know. She brought me here and left me. You've got to help me get back to the base camp, or I'll die here." The voice sounded breathless and in pain.

"Did she hurt you?"

"No, it was the other Tau'ri. He shot me!" Jack shrugged unapologetically.

"Why?"

The voice turned bitter. "Because I wouldn't tell him where you were. I didn't think that he would shoot me."

Watching Jack's expression, Daniel spoke to him again. "I can't help you. I've injured my arm. We'll have to wait until my friends come back. You've got to wait here for me."

"No! You've got to come up now...please!" The voice was beginning to sound panicked, now, all most hysterical. "Merrick is insane; she'll kill you and then me."

"I can't come up. I've injured my arm, and I can't make the climb. You've got to wait for my friends." Daniel called back encouragingly.

"It will be too late by then. She's coming...she's coming for both of us!"

"Why?" He asked the unseen Tok'ra. "What does she want? Joaab is dead. She left him to die."

"I know. My friend and mentor is dead and it's my fault. I left him alone with her thinking that she could help him...find him a host...but she lied...to me."

"She lied to all of us." Daniel answered. "It was a trap for everyone. If you wait, my friends will come for us, but I can't reach you."

*******

Merrick was standing back in a shadowed alcove. Her plan had worked well, that fool Pamont had drawn the two Tau'ri down the narrow passageway. Daniel was talking to him and trying to get the Tok'ra to come down the stairs to them. The other, the Alpha, was standing quietly watching carefully for anything unexpected. She waited until Jackson was engaged in a conversation with Pamont. This interruption covered her presence to the other and when he turned to glance the other way, she took advantage of his misdirection.

 

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O'Neill had been listening to Daniel talk to the injured man on the level above them, while keeping a weather eye on the tunnel area. He thought he saw some movement but couldn't hear it because of the other two men talking. When he watched it for a few seconds and saw nothing else, he had turned to glance in the other direction. Then, out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw a figure coming out of the shadows holding a pistol shaped object. As soon as he realized it was a weapon, he had called out the warning. Jack went to fire his P-90 when the nimbus of a zatniketel discharge surrounded him. He jerked, his finger pressing on the trigger and firing a short uncontrolled burst at an unoccupied area of the tunnel. Then he hit the floor still vibrating from the zat's ray.

 

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"Daniel! DOWN...NOW!"

After four years with Jack O'Neill, that was the one order he'd learned to obey with blind obedience. Daniel pushed himself over to the closest wall and dropped to his knees, but his injury and weakened condition caused him to lose his balance and fall on his bad side, striking his injured shoulder.

 

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When she fired her zatniketel, Merrick succeeded in a direct hit on her target. The older man fell, jerking and crying out in pain from her attack. Daniel had fallen but still managed to pull his hand weapon. She calmly zatted him, driving him back into the floor on to an obviously injured limb.

 

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Daniel rolled over to see a female figure running towards them out of the shadows. It was Merrick, and she was carrying a zat. He watched her fire the weapon and catch Jack squarely with its ray. O'Neill fell like a rock, crying out as the electric shock sensation traveled through his body.

He fumbled for his weapon and managed to drag the pistol from its holster, firing off a shot at the woman. She saw his actions and ducked behind another side of the tunnel. His bullet ricocheted off the stone wall and spanged off the ceiling. He managed to clamber to his feet and was trying to take aim again when she shot him with her zat. The already weakened man, slammed back into the wall, and slid down it to lie in a heap on the floor. His weapon was flung across the floor where it lay several feet from O'Neill's limp form.

Merrick, seeing both her victims down, came out from behind her protective barrier. She crossed over to the semi-conscious younger man and grasped him by his uninjured arm, pulling him to his feet. She looked down at where O'Neill stay lay stunned. Jerking Daniel close to her, she hissed at him. "If you struggle, I will shoot him again." Then she started to drag the injured man down the passageway. As they passed close to O'Neill, Daniel stumbled over the pistol, kicking it closer to where O'Neill lay. Merrick jerked him up again and hauled him a few more feet. But the pain of his arm and the disorientation from the zat burst had taken its toll on Jackson and he stumbled and fell to his knees again. Furious, the woman released him to fall face down on the hard rock surface. She then pointed the zatniketel at her prey and began to squeeze the trigger.

A sharp report rang out and the narrow passageway filled with the acrid smell of burnt gunpowder. Merrick's right arm, the one holding the zat, seemed to explode into a splatter of red, her weapon hurled away to clatter harmlessly against the far wall and fall to the floor.

Merrick could only stare at her mangled forearm before clutching the injured limb and pulling it to her chest in shock and pain. She looked back at the very conscious human, lying on his stomach, holding the pistol with both hands and aiming it directly at her face. "Step away from him...now bitch, or I'll take your face off." When she didn't move, he waved it in the direction away from Daniel. "Move it...NOW!" He thumbed the hammer back.

The injured woman looked at him then finally took a few steps in the proper direction. "He was meant to be mine...to replace that old fool. He was perfect."

"Sorry, lady." Jack stood up and crossed over to his friend, kneeling down beside him. "I've got prior claim. He still owes me for the last rescue."

 

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Teal'c and Jacob had just returned to the campsite when they had heard the gunfire. The two men had come at a dead run and skidded around the corner to find the Tok'ra Merrick sitting against the rock wall of the passageway barely conscious and holding her bloody, crudely bandaged arm. Daniel was propped against the other wall, holding the pistol with his good hand and watching the captive woman. O'Neill was no where to be seen, but his voice was echoing down from an opening in the ceiling at the top of a set of steep narrow stairs.

Teal'c immediately crossed to where Daniel sat and relieved him of his pistol. Daniel smiled up at his large friend and happily handed it to him. "Jack's up on the next level. It's Pamont. He's injured and Jack's trying to get him down." He indicated Merrick with his good arm. "She left him up there as a decoy for us."

Jacob had gone to Merrick to check her condition. He came over to where Daniel was sitting. "What happened?"

"I'm not completely sure. She surprised us, zatted Jack then me. I was pretty out of it, but Jack shot her." He shrugged and watched Teal'c as he mounted the stairs and disappeared up into the ceiling. "Pamont was wounded earlier, but I don't know that whole story either, other than Jack had shot him yesterday sometime."

Jacob frowned and shook his head. "How are you doing?"

Daniel looked up at him. "Not bad, all things considered, though I could do with an aspirin or three."

Jacob smiled at him and gently patted him on his good arm. "I'll see what I can do, Daniel." The older man looked up to see Teal'c and Jack helping a young male Tok'ra down through the small opening in the passageway's ceiling. Teal'c was bracing his legs on the stairs, and Jack was supporting his upper torso. Finally, the two got Pamont down to the floor level where he was placed on the floor close to where Daniel was resting.

Jacob stood back and watched as Jack crossed over to check on his friend. "How ya doing, Daniel?"

The younger man smiled up at his commander and friend. "Okay." He indicated the injured Tok'ra that they had just brought in. "How about him?"

"He'll live." Jack looked at Jacob. "I think we've got everyone now."

Carter nodded at him. "Yeah, I'd say you've cleaned up this part of the planet single handedly, Sheriff O'Neill."

Jack flashed him a quick smile. "You said it, Pilgrim. That'll teach them yahoos to pick on my sidekick."

Daniel gave Teal'c a pained look. "Can you please help me out of this horse opera, Teal'c? I'd really like to go home now."

"Indeed, Danieljackson. We should go now; we are burning daylight."

 

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The klaxons were sounding at SGC headquarters. General Hammond came out of his office/briefing room area and into the observation deck. The rotating inner ring ceased its motion and the kawoosh of the wormhole exploded from the event horizon to settle itself back into the false vision of a watery surface.

Master Sergeant Davis glanced up at the General and announced "Off world activation, SG-1's GDO signal received, Sir."

Hammond nodded absent-mindedly at the senior NCO. Then he watched the four figures come through the wormhole. He had to shake his head when he saw that Doctor Jackson was being supported by his team chief, Colonel O'Neill. Honestly, that boy.... Oh, well at least he was on his own two feet. He then watched in satisfaction as the medical team appeared and swooped down onto the hapless injured man, scooping him up bodily and depositing him on a gurney. He was then whisked away in the blink of an eye to be examined, diagnosed, treated and either admitted or released by Doctor Fraiser.

Teal'c followed the medics out the door. O'Neill and Jacob Carter turned off and came up the catwalk stairs that led to the deck and him. The General greeted his two fellow officers and friends as they entered the enclosed area, and the three Air Force Officers retreated into Hammond's sanctum sanctorum.

"Well, Colonel." Hammond started the conversation. "I see your misgivings were on target again." The General frowned at the two men. "How serious is it?"

O'Neill looked at his commanding officer and frowned. "As far as I can tell, Daniel had a dislocated shoulder, which Teal'c and I put back in place. There may be some muscle tearing, but I don't think it's too bad." He paused, " 'Course him getting into a fight with Merrick, the hostess with the mostest and being zatted, may have added some bruising and contusions."

"What happened?" Hammond demanded.

"It was a set-up, General. She wanted to play matchmaker between an old guy Tok'ra, Daniel and herself. Tried to use him as a host for her husband." Jack shook his head. "We told her he wasn't interested, she got a little rude, and we had to convince her that he wasn't up for grabs."

"Yes, Jack was a little rough on the Tok'ra this time, George." Jacob Carter put in. "He keeps shooting them, er us."

"Colonel?"

"Well, all they have to do is not try to gould my team, answer a few little questions, and not shoot at me or my friends with zats." He shrugged and glanced at Jacob, "That's not too much to ask is it?"

Jacob looked at him and just shook his head. "It's you, Jack. You just leave such a memorable image."

"Jake, it wasn't me she was trying to replace her husband with." He shook his head. "I told you, he's a trouble magnet."

Hammond could only shake his head in wonder. "Go on and get cleaned up, Jack." After you're medically cleared you and Teal'c can give me a debrief."

O'Neill nodded gratefully and headed for the door. Hammond glanced at his old friend. "Would you care for a drink, Jacob?"

"What do you have, George?"

"Southern Comfort."

"You've got a deal." Jacob followed his friend back to his desk. "It 's been a hell of a day."

 

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Jack showered, cleaned up, debriefed, then entered the Clinic area, and spotted Daniel still perched on the bed. He ambled over to his friend's side to find out what his status was. When O'Neill had been medically cleared, the younger man had still been in the treatment room with Fraiser. That was over two hours ago.

"So, Daniel. What's the verdict?"

Jackson frowned. "She wants to talk to you first. Honestly, Jack. Can you convince her that I AM thirty five years old."

He studied his friend for a moment. "Nah, don't look a day over seventeen from where I'm standing, and that's still a minor in this state."

"I should have known you'd say something like that." Daniel shook his head. "Look, Jack, I was living on my own in college when I was sixteen. I don't need a babysitter!"

"Maybe not, DOCTOR Jackson," a familiar voice broke in. "But you do need a chauffer, a cook, a bottle washer and a nurse." The petite physician entered the room carrying a clipboard and wearing a frown. "Anyone here fit that description?"

Jack raised his hand like a schoolboy. "No, not exactly, but how about a Colonel with experience?"

Janet smiled at him. "Sold to the man with experience and the gray hair to prove it." She put the clipboard down on the bed and re-inspected the wrapping on the shoulder. "Who reduced the dislocation?"

"Teal'c and I." O'Neill confessed. "I tried to get him to wait..."

"Since he re-injured it later, it's just as well you didn't wait." She nodded. "Face it Daniel, you're just popular."

"No," Jack stated dryly. "He's just a trouble magnet."

Daniel stuck his lower lip out at him, looking remarkably like an eight-year-old. "Then why do you put up with me?"

Jack reached out to tousle his hair, Daniel ducked, and Jack grabbed him behind the neck. " 'Cause you're my trouble magnet." He glanced sideways at the doctor. "Is he ready to go?"

From Daniel's expression, it seemed for a second like he'd turn Jack down, but then he grinned and looked up at the older man. "Janet?"

"Okay you two, but you'd better stop by and see Sam. She's called four times since she heard you were back."

Jack nodded then caught Daniel in a yawn. "We'll stop by for a second or two. Maybe we can get together for dinner tomorrow night."

Janet nodded. "She's been staying at my house on the weekend, and either Cassie or I have been staying with her during the week. She's doing very well physically, but has been a little worried about you men."

"Now why would she worry about us?" Jack said sarcastically. "We never have any problems off world."

Janet just gave him a look and waved over her shoulder as she left the two men alone.

After O'Neill got Daniel dressed and signed out of the clinic, the two friends headed to Carter's lab/office. She looked up relieved at O'Neill's knock on her door and came over to look at them critically. She didn't comment on Daniel's arm, just cupped his bruised face in her hands and kissed him on the cheek. Janet had filled her in earlier on his injuries.

Jack smiled at her. "We're on three days stand down and Daniel's on light duty for two weeks or so." He informed her. "Why don't you bring Teal'c, Janet, and Cassie over tomorrow, and I'll grill steaks or something."

She dropped her hands, nodded, then cocked her head to look critically at Daniel. "How do you feel?"

"A little woozy," He admitted. "Janet gave me something for pain, and I'm getting sleepy." He continued. "But all things considered, not too bad. I must be getting used to zats."

Sam could only shake her head at him. She wanted to hug him, but knew it would hurt his injured shoulder so she opted for another chaste kiss on the cheek and a light squeeze to his uninjured arm. As if he could read her mind, he smiled shyly at her. "How are you?"

"Me? I'm fine. I feel good now that the first trimester is over." She patted her tummy. "We're doing great."

They were interrupted by another tap on the door. Someone stuck a hand in the doorway and waved it around. "It's me, Jacob. Is it safe to come in?" The disembodied voice called out.

Sam walked over and pulled the door open. "Of course, Dad. What do you mean?"

"Well, Jack is apparently trying to set a Tok'ra shooting record." He entered the office and looked around in mock fear. "Just trying not to get added to the list."

"Sorry to disappoint, but I'm unarmed." O'Neill called to him.

Carter came in and very gingerly hugged his daughter to him, then looked critically at Daniel as he was listing against the workbench. "Jack, I think your sidekick needs a kickstand."

"No, Jacob. What he needs is a hot meal and a soft bed for a few days." He looked fondly at the younger man. "Daniel?" No answer. "Danny, time to go home." Jack took him by his good arm and tugged gently on it.

"Hum, what?" He blinked and looked around. "Oh, hi, Jacob."

"Hello, Daniel. Have a good sleep."

"Okay." He looked blearily at O'Neill. "Jack?"

"C'mon, Daniel. Say good night to the nice people. See you tomorrow night, Carter." The two men left the Carters together.

After Jack and Daniel had left, Jacob turned to his daughter and hugged her again. "He's a good choice, Sammi. I really like that young man."

She looked at her father and blushed. "How did you know?"

"Jack said something to Daniel. He said he wasn't going to come home without him and have to explain it to you. I figured it out from there." He smiled at his daughter. "You do get some of your brains from me, you know." At her smile, he kissed her on the cheek. "Are you two going to...?"

"No, Dad." She replied. "I love Daniel dearly, but I'm not in love with him. He's like a brother to me...maybe even a spiritual twin...but, no not to marry him." She patted her tummy. "But this baby is going to be so very special, I just know it.""

Jacob smiled at her. "I do too, honey. I do too."

 

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EPILOGUE

Jack O'Neill was sitting on his deck drinking his beer. He was on the deck ostensibly to keep the coals in the grill from burning down his house, but actually he had settled there over an hour or so ago with a cooler just within reach, though he hadn't been drinking a lot. As long as Daniel was injured, he needed to keep all his faculties about him to be of any assistance to his hurt friend.

Jack looked out across the back yard and watched his team members. Daniel was sitting in a lawn chair with a cup of coffee, and Carter was next to him with a glass of orange juice. They were talking seriously from the look on their faces. He took a moment to study them and realized that he really wanted a camera. This was a moment that he hoped that they all would look back on fondly in the years to come. Their little family, not a normal one by any standards, but a family none the less. Complete with Grandpa Jacob, Uncle George, Uncle Teal'c, Aunt Janet and Cousin Cassie. He knew that it was a simplistic view, but a truthful one none the less. And who was he? How did he fit in? Jack just shook his head. Maybe he had drank a little too much beer, or maybe not enough, to figure that out yet.

Then he noticed that Cassie had brought out her 35-millimeter camera and was taking pictures of everyone. Jack leaned back in his chair, content that it was being caught on film. Sometimes memories were all you had to go with...all you had left.

But this was a happy occasion, and he wasn't going to spoil it with his bittersweet mood. This was an opportunity to sit back and enjoy life...and he was going to take advantage of it. Jack got up and meandered over towards the young couple, but Cassie ran over to him and gave him a hug and a kiss for the steak dinner. Life was good and he laughed.