Um...Untitled by cheerful minion

Title: "Um … Untitled"
Status: Finished
Author: ocean gazer:
Date: 30 Dec. 2001
Category: challenge (Heliopolis #1248), action/adventure, humor (or so I hope <g>).
Rating: Oh, I’d think it’s PG13, for minor violence and bits o’ bad language.
Pairing: none … just friendship.
Season: Hmm … season three, fairly soon after The Devil You Know.
Spoilers: Well, it does give away all the episode titles through season five. In terms of actual episode content … pretty miniscule spoilers for Singularity, In the Line of Duty, Tok’ra I and II, Fair Game, Jolinar’s Memories, The Devil You Know.
Archive: Pink Rabbit, Singularity, Heliopolis … anyone else, you can always ask *g*.
Disclaimer: Don’t own any of ‘em, which is a good thing since I have no room for any more people in my house (let alone a flippin’ Stargate). They still are the property of those who have owned them all along … the lovely and tolerant folks of MGM, Showtime, Double Secret, Gekko, so on and so forth. I promise to play nicely with them and will put them away when I’m done. No one has offered me money or honorary scholarships or a Caribbean cruise or any other sort of payment for this demented work of fiction … aforementioned owners are welcome to run off with anything in this story that strikes their fancy. (Please?)
Notes: The actual challenge reads as follows: "This is a silly challenge, but I think it would be fun to write a fic that includes all of the episode titles from the show in the dialogue. … Extra points if you manage to give it a plot and make some sense." Don’t know if I’ve succeeded on either count … this challenge is harder than it sounds <g>. This is also my first effort at writing in third person omniscient, rather than a single POV, so I don’t know how well it works … I’ve rewritten it enough that I can’t tell if it sucks or not. A multitude of thanks to Barb for her patiently given encyclopedic assistance, and thanks to my sorceress for hinting that she wanted a new story to read. Feedback welcome, hope you enjoy.

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 |


Part 3

And then there was no time to trade quips, because it was their turn to play follow the leader. Sam took a deep breath and tried to ignore the pounding of her head, concentrating on moving slowly and surely from one rock to the next. She could hear Janet's soft, strained breaths behind her and she surmised (correctly) that her friend was finding the climb more difficult because her legs were so much shorter than anyone else's. Sam knew she herself tended to forget just how short the other woman was … she dominated her space so thoroughly that she seemed ten feet tall at times and as intimidating as a grizzly.

Carter continued the cautious climb up. The colonel had been right; it was not quite as difficult a climb as it looked, but she couldn't shake the feeling that the whole idea was a disaster waiting to happen.

And just then, as if somehow the mere thought was the impetus, there was a strangled Daniel cry from somewhere above, an expressive O'Neill curse, and then both bodies slammed into Carter, knocking her off balance. She felt their weight pushing down on her as they all slid straight down, careening into Janet.

Her confused senses weren't entirely sure what happened then but she heard a Teal'c grunt and figured they must have run into him as well. She was dimly aware of the bodies below her twisting off to the side, and then the wild ride stopped when she felt the impact with something painfully solid. She felt two heavy somethings land on top of her, which her fogged brain interpreted as the colonel and Daniel, since she was relatively certain she'd heard Teal'c and Janet both hit the ground at roughly the same time she had. 'They just had to land on me,' was her annoyed thought. Thankfully, the two men using her as a landing pad, rolled off almost as soon as they'd stopped moving, leaving her to close her eyes tightly and concentrate on getting her wind back after getting it knocked out of her, trying to breathe against the ache of her ribs.

For a long moment, nothing moved. Then something soft rolled into her, and Sam blinked hard to see that Janet was sprawled against her. A loud groan confirmed that the doctor was both fully conscious and extremely unhappy. For a long moment, they simply lay there, catching their breath and staring at each other. And then Daniel and Jack came into their line of vision, looking completely unscathed. And then Teal'c was there as well, though he had noticeable bruises and scrapes--which was enough of a first that it left his teammates and doctor gaping in surprise.

"You guys okay?" O'Neill asked, turning his attention from the Jaffa to the two women, real concern lacing his words.

The doctor levered herself into a sitting position, groaning again as her back protested the motion. "Oh, we're just peachy," she growled. She couldn't figure out what prompted him to ask the question in the first place; to her eyes it was pretty obvious that they were anything but okay.

O'Neill stared up at the crumbling hillside they'd just fallen down, letting out a low, awed whistle. "Man, now I know what THE TORMENT OF TANTALUS must've felt like."

Janet, brushing herself off irritably, asked incredulously, "What?" Great, just what she needed, sitting here injured and having the colonel start playing 'Who's Who in Greek Mythology.'

Jack looked incredibly pleased with himself and his knowledgeable analogy as he answered. "You know, the guy in Greek mythology who was condemned to push that rock up the hillside, only to have it fall back down every time he got it to the top."

Mindful of the other man's pride, Daniel nonetheless corrected gently, "Um … that was Sisyphus."

An obdurate "No, it wasn't."

Janet, wincing slightly as she brushed grit out of a long scrape on her arm, responded absently, "Tantalus was the guy who was standing in water … every time he went to drink, the water would recede … and there was fruit above his head, and every time he tried to pick some, it would rise just out of reach."

Being contradicted by two people served to send the older man into a momentary sulk, before he rolled his eyes and grumbled, "Whatever." Hey, at least he'd known there was a guy pushing a rock up a hill.

Teal'c, to everyone's surprise, chimed in with the brief semantics lesson of, "It is from that story that the word tantalize is derived." He paused, frowning down at his bruised body, looking most displeased with his physical condition. "Though I most certainly understand the sentiment, O'Neill."

Daniel mused, a hopefully subconscious trace of smugness in his voice, "I can't remember the last time everyone else got hurt and I didn't even get a scratch." He paused for a moment, his eyes shifting away from where Janet was glaring daggers at him (since she was understandably annoyed with him for falling on top of the rest of them) to touch on Carter, who hadn't even tried to get up. "Sam, are you okay?"

Sam's voice seemed small and childlike. "The world won't stop spinning."

Janet stiffly turned herself around and edged a little closer to her friend, yelping as she moved her leg. "Doc?" was O'Neill's question.

"I broke my ankle," she answered absently, her attention moving from an examination of her own injuries to an examination of Sam's. She reached out and lightly brushed a lock of hair off the other woman's forehead. "Does it hurt anywhere other than your head?"

Carter seemed to be taking stock of herself, and when she answered, she sounded like herself again. "I hurt all over, but that's mostly bruises … I think … my ribs feel like an elephant stepped on me. I'm just really dizzy and my head feels like it's going to explode." She wanted to add her usual, optimistic, 'I'll be fine,' but she couldn't quite muster the energy needed to say anything else.

Janet continued to brush the hair off her friend's forehead, since being injured herself and without medical supplies, there was little else she could actually do. Concern laced her words as she spoke gently to the other woman, "Well, given that you've got a nasty little concussion, I can imagine how bad you feel. Don't try to move right now … just lie there until we figure out what we're going to do to get out of this mess."

With a Jekyll and Hyde switch of demeanor, the doctor turned a daggered glare on Daniel and Jack, her voice growing hard as she addressed them. "As much as I've enjoyed this little RITE OF PASSAGE, I think we'd better come up with another plan. There's no way I can walk right now, and Sam's not in any better shape."

Jack, who was also known for his glares, turned a magnificent one on her, his tone sardonic. "Well we can't stay here. We'd be sitting ducks … FAIR GAME for any of those morons to start shooting at." He saw perfectly well that the two were injured, but he had spent enough time on battlefields to think that injuries were something you sucked up and dealt with until you were safe enough to do something about them. It wasn't like it was anything life threatening.

Daniel, helpful as always, chimed in with the optimistic, "It would be like Custer's LAST STAND."

He quickly shut up under the stereo glare directed his way.

Janet took her eyes off the duo to take a closer look at her friend. Carter's eyes were open and as their gazes locked, something in the innocent blue eyes melted away some of the doctor's anger at their predicament. Her voice softened a fraction, though she persisted emphatically, "Sir, I don't exactly want to be sitting out here either. But unless there are some friendly forest fairies or SPIRITS that can pick us up and fly us up to the cabin, Sam and I are not going to be able to get up there. Hate to break it to you, but I can't walk … and Sam is not in any condition to try climbing up that slope again … she's not in any condition to be up and moving around, period."

O'Neill let his exasperation with the whole experience come out in the verbal fencing match since after long experience being her less than enthusiastic patient, he knew that the doctor could handle his sarcastic, saber wit. "Fairies … oh, that's a good plan there, doc. I'll put it right up there with the idea of putting a MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE and throwing it out onto the lake."

Before she could think of a suitably withering reply, or the colonel could come up with an even sharper barb, Sam spoke thoughtfully. "Actually, she's got a point, sir."

In an instant, O'Neill's demeanor changed (having his own Jekyll and Hyde tendencies) and his voice dripped worry. "She must be feverish or delirious. How bad is her concussion anyhow?" In all the time he'd known her, he'd never heard Carter make reference to anything mythical of the fairy tale variety; her precious stars and quantum thingies were mystical enough for her.

Sam laughed softly, well aware of his unspoken reaction to her statement. "Sir, I'm not delirious. But I've got an idea. The general has rope in his cabin, right?" A cautious, but wary nod answered her question. "Then if you or Teal'c could climb up and get the rope, you could pull the rest of us up." She knew her thinking was a little fuzzy at the moment, but it made perfect sense to her.

O'Neill's response was instinctive and emphatic. "Oh, that would be really effective … not. Besides, do I look like a BEAST OF BURDEN to you, Carter?" Yeah, he was really gonna have the strength to haul his team up the damn hill … and do it quickly. That was so not going to happen. It'd be quicker and more effective to get the women to their feet and push them up the slope.

And then Sam pushed up on her elbow, ignoring both the spinning of her head and Janet's steadying hand. Her eyes flashed with annoyance and her tone was sharp enough that it caught everyone by surprise, since her default setting for arguments was usually relatively calm and unfailingly polite. "No, sir … what you are is an ENIGMA. You've been pushing us to escape and to do it as quickly as possible. Now, we're at a POINT OF NO RETURN … we can't go back, and Janet and I can't go forward, and rather than being in a hurry to get us out of here, you're too busy shooting down any suggestion that isn't yours."

As soon as the words were out of her mouth, Sam suddenly realized not only what she had said, but that she'd said it to her CO. Oh, that was a wonderful way to get herself on a career path to warming a desk chair. She fell back to the ground with a mortified groan, her face beet red with embarrassment, and closed her eyes tightly in a see-no-evil approach to the situation.

Janet, always quick to protect those she cared about, spoke swiftly. "You have to remember that she's got a concussion, sir." She knew that was definitely a factor in the other woman's behavior; Sam got angry with O'Neill just like anyone else, but she was too well trained in the chain of command to ever state her annoyances so … bluntly.

Much to the doctor's surprise, O'Neill was staring thoughtfully down at Sam, who was still crumpled in a ball of embarrassment. "Concussion or not, she's got a point. I've …" He cut the thought off there, unwilling to continue.

Daniel walked over to Jack and touched him lightly on the arm. "You've been worried and stressed just like the rest of us."

There was a long moment of silence, during which Janet tried in vain to get Sam to open her eyes. That goal was not achieved until O'Neill said quietly, "No hard feelings, Carter. None of us are at our best right now … everything's ok." His voice lowered as he admitted unwillingly. "And besides, you're right." God, he hated admitting things like that, no matter how true they were.

She slowly opened her eyes at that rather stuttered reassurance, and with Janet's assistance, pulled herself up into a sitting position. Teal'c cocked his head to the side … he got the basic message of the exchange, but didn't understand the nuances. "I fail to see in what way everything is okay, O'Neill. We are still out in the open and vulnerable to attack and there are serious injuries that significantly hamper our escape." To his mind, the situation was anything but all right.

The colonel rolled his eyes at his friend, but it was mainly the obligatory response--he was too used to Teal'c's literalistic tendencies to be actually bothered when they put in an appearance. "I'll explain it later. Now what we need to do …"

He never got the chance to elaborate, as a rustle of underbrush warned the group that they were no longer alone. Seth burst out of a large fern, his men trailing obediently behind him through the bush, rather than simply stepping around it. "There they are!" he announced, as if the visual cue wasn't obvious enough for his followers to figure out that piece of the equation. "We must get them … get THE SENTINEL, THE WARRIOR, the doctor, the scholar, and the knave!"

The five turned puzzled glances towards each other. "Who is who?" asked Daniel, with an oddly timed display of extreme curiosity.

O'Neill shrugged, watching warily as an orderly line of men moved forward, guns raised in a firing position, not really caring one way or the other who he was supposed to be in the little drama. "How the hell should I know?"

Abruptly, Sam turned to Janet, her brain flashing back to something she'd been pondering in the background of her ever-active mind, and pointed first to Daniel, then to Jack, then to Teal'c. "Lion, scarecrow, and tin man, right?"

Janet didn't even bother to hide her amusement, though she shook her head in mock reproof. "You go off on a TANGENT at the weirdest times. But yes, you're right." She couldn't help but smile at seeing that concussion or not, her friend's brilliant mind was still pondering everything under the sun. She loved seeing someone so enthusiastic about thinking … the world was far too full of stupid people, in her humble opinion.

Daniel, one eye on the approaching line of men and one on the amused women, asked with genuine interest, "What does the Wizard of Oz have to do with what he just said?"

Jack, a note of exasperated patience in his voice, opined, "Who cares? We can argue about it later … right now, we need to pay a little more attention to minor details, like this group of people that's trying to kill us. Y'know, let's focus on the immediate problem, etc. etc."

Seth aimed his own weapon right at O'Neill, as his sycophants continued to move forward. "You will now meet your fate … we are your new gods … and you must die!"

(Later, O'Neill would say his reaction to that phrase was pure instinct … the product of a well-trained military mind. The others who were there would call it simple good luck.) The first word out of Jack's mouth in response to that threat was a well chosen swear word. And then, his usual sarcasm came to the fore and he turned to Daniel, asking acidly, "Why is it that everyone who claims to be a god seems to need weapons in order to carry out their death threats?"

The simple whistling-in-the-dark quip had the effect of freezing Seth and his men in mid action as if the thought was an entirely new one. Given their apparent position towards the bottom of the intelligence ladder, it probably was. Seth's voice dripped with the lofty contempt that is the hallmark of the cluelessly inept. "We do not need weapons to defeat you. We are gods. Weapons merely make the task easier."

Jack shook his head, hoping he looked convincingly skeptical rather than incredibly underwhelmed, which was how he felt at the moment. "Yeah, right," he muttered.

Sam, who thought she might have figured out where to run with the conversational ball, spoke quickly, though her tone betrayed her absolute uncertainty as to what was actually going on. "If you are gods, carrying weapons makes it look like you're scared of us."

She was unaccountably pleased when that seemed to piss Lazarus off … since it proved to her that she'd followed O'Neill's lead effectively. Seth bellowed, "We are frightened of no one, especially not you."

Daniel, in one of his infamous attempts to be helpful, picked up the ball and ran with it. "If you aren't scared of us, then fight us face to face … one on one … no weapons … if you defeat us, you can kill us however you like."

Four pairs of disbelieving eyes (belonging to his teammates and Fraiser) swung hard gazes on the archeologist, just as he realized that he'd clearly gotten a little carried away in the last half of his sentence. He mustered up an embarrassed, "Oops."

Janet whimpered softly. "I can't even stand up, let alone walk, and he wants us to fight one on one. This day just keeps getting worse and worse." She muttered something under her breath that everyone was just as happy not to have heard, considering her expression.

Sam simply sat next to her friend, absently patting Janet's knee in sympathy, eyes round with continued disbelief as she stared at the archeologist. She'd always been tolerant of Daniel's ability to get the team into trouble by talking too much, since he balanced that by getting them out of trouble via diplomacy. But this was taking things just a little too far, she thought dazedly. Way too far.

Jack shook his head disgustedly--resolving to have yet another long talk with Daniel about the strategic concept of silence, and this time actually make him listen--and opened his mouth to jump in and try to salvage the situation somehow. But Seth beat him to it. "We will fight you without weapons. And then we will kill you. And to show you even more clearly that we have no fear of you … we will even allow your women to sit and watch."

Sam bristled at that and tried to stand up, riled by the assumption that being female should leave her out of the fight. She was prevented in that endeavor by two things: the fact that the quick motion made the world spin rapidly again, and the fact that Janet had a death grip on her collar, making it impossible for the major to get to her feet. The doctor's statement was acid. "I don't care if they are male chauvinist pigs who need a little lesson in gender politics. You have a concussion and are in no shape to be fighting."

O'Neill heard just enough to know that his second in command was itching to show these guys that she could defeat every single one of them in hand to hand combat, which he had little doubt she could, given this particular provocation. And under normal circumstances, he would have enjoyed the sight of her kicking ass and putting the idiots in their place … plus, he subscribed to the very practical philosophy of the more allies in a fight, the merrier. But he knew that all fighting would do was aggravate her concussion and irritate Janet … and he had less than no desire to deal with a royally pissed off doctor until they got themselves out of this mess … or even after they got out of this mess, for that matter. It was an experience that left a lot to be desired. Turning his head, he called to Carter, "Don't even think about it … or you'll be on latrine digging duty for the next year."

The words were not at all serious, and she took them at face value for the order to stand down that they were, rather than assuming O'Neill was questioning her skills. There was a time when she worried that he saw her gender as a liability, but she'd quickly learned that despite his frequent Neanderthal tendencies, he truly respected people for their proven abilities, not some outdated model of who should do what. She acquiesced with only a slight amount of grumbling. Seth nodded to his men and they laid their weapons down, stalking towards the members of SG1, smug looks on their oh-so-godly faces.

Jack and Daniel stood side by side. Teal'c stood in front of the two seated women, a frown on his face showing that he was torn between protecting his injured comrades in case Seth's men did not adhere to the agreement they'd made and moving up to fight next to Daniel in case the younger men needed his assistance. Janet reached out and tapped the Jaffa's leg to get his attention. "Just go," she whispered. "Even if they do attack us, we can take care of ourselves, injured or not."

There was no mistaking the momentary dubious look in his eyes, but he was both smart enough to know that his place was in the thick of the fight and respectful enough to not show continued doubt in the women's ability by remaining where he was. With a curt nod, he moved forward, flanking Daniel.

O'Neill crouched into a defensive stance, waiting to see what was going to happen next. The skeptical side of him expected a sudden rush of men, since even unarmed their attackers had the advantage of numbers, and he didn't trust Seth's word any more than he trusted a Goa'uld's. But a rush never came. Instead, as agreed, three men rushed forward, one for him, one for Daniel, and one for Teal'c. The rest of the group, including Seth, remained on the side, shouting godly and ungrammatical encouragements to their comrades … the oddest cheerleading troupe ever seen.

As his attacker came at him, Jack put his hands up in a move known only to watchers of karate movies, and yelled, "COR-AI!!"

His attacker didn't run screaming in absolute terror, but he did eye O'Neill uneasily. Daniel knocked his attacker flat on the ground, and while waiting for him to get up and resume the fight, the archeologist asked mildly, "Jack, what was that?"

O'Neill got in a chop with the side of his hand that sent his attacker to the ground. "What was what?" He had no idea what the other man was talking about … not that that was unusual.

Their attackers regained their feet, only to be promptly knocked on their butts again. Daniel pushed his glasses up on his nose. "That word you said. It sounds like an obscure dialect of Mandarin Chinese. Where did you learn it?"

Once again, the attackers were shoved down, only this time they were not going to be getting up any time soon, since they crashed into each other, banged heads, and proceeded to knock each other out cold. Two of the men patiently waiting their turn stepped forward to take the place of the unconscious fighters. Before they had a chance to get close, Jack answered earnestly, "Honestly, Daniel, I've never heard the word before … I just made it up … sounded like something Jackie Chan might say."

An understanding "Ah," and then they broke off talking in favor of fighting.

Teal'c, beside them, was already foot deep in defeated opponents. None of them were fatally wounded, just all out cold. The big man stood patiently, waiting until his opponent approached, and then struck a single blow. He was beginning to find this form of battle extremely boring--no matter how effective it might be--so he started allowing the men to actually land a symbolic blow or two before knocking them flat, just to add some interest to the fight.

Sam and Janet, for their part, were sitting calmly and watching. At first, both women had been worried about the same thing O'Neill had … Seth's men not following the agreement, and being overrun by the opponents who so vastly outnumbered them. But as they watched the fighting, they actually both shook their heads in disbelief. It wasn't everyday that even the peaceful archeologist could so easily knock down his opponent and not take a single blow. The doctor was even beginning to think she could have fought off an opponent or two without her inability to stand (and her admittedly rusty combat skills) being in any way a liability. Of course, given the way Daniel seemed to have a guardian angel along on this little adventure and she and Carter were the ones getting the brunt of the physical abuse, she decided it was distinctly safer all the way around to simply be a spectator. She and Sam had the best seats in the house … all they lacked was popcorn.

But then, as the available opponents dwindled, Seth seemed to suddenly figure out that, godhood or no, his men were not making any progress against the mere mortals. Apparently deciding that he'd gotten the worst of this little one-on-one arrangement, he yelled, "All of you, attack them at the same time!"

The last five guards rushed forward to take on O'Neill and company. Seth took the opportunity to advance on Sam and Janet, likely seeing them as easy targets since neither was capable of standing. As he rushed at them, a dagger in each hand, he cried out in his very best megalomaniacal voice, "We stand at the CROSSROADS where PAST AND PRESENT break away from the glorious future I bring as your god!! Prepare to meet your fate at my hands."

He struck out with his hands, fully intending to stab the women simultaneously. Without any sort of signal or rehearsal--taking the notion of synchronized to new levels--they each reached out, grabbed a wrist, twisted the dagger out of his grip, and then somehow lifted up and threw him into the air, over their heads, to crash into the side of the slope that they'd all tumbled down a short while before.

Sam and Janet both turned to watch his trajectory and sighed in synch as he slid silent, crumpled, and unmoving to the ground. Then they turned back to find that all their companions were staring at them with something akin to awe in their eyes. "How'd you time that so perfectly?" was O'Neill's question.

They shrugged in unison. Teal'c was next to speak, his tone brooking no argument. "That was impressively done, considering your injuries. You are indeed DOUBLE JEOPARDY." He was most pleased that the two had conquered their foe in spite of the odds against them.

Jack snickered. Now that the immediate danger was lying harmlessly on the ground, he was back to being able to see the humor in irrelevant details. "Uh, Teal'c, that would be double trouble. Double jeopardy is a law thing."

The Jaffa raised his eyebrow elegantly. "Whatever. The fact remains that they are a formidable team." He swept his gaze over to where Lazarus lay sprawled on the ground, still unconscious. "This man is a considerable MENACE. And he is a most … a most … singular ENTITY."

Daniel giggled in his endearing (and occasionally annoying) way. "Oh yeah, he's definitely a SINGULARITY."

"Unique" was Sam's wry interpretation, while Janet opted for a sardonic "He's certainly … unusual."

As usual, Jack cut right to the heart of the matter, tact thrown aside in favor of accuracy. "He's freakin' nuts." He glanced around at the still unconscious men strewn carelessly about. "We'd better come up with a good idea for how we're going to keep these guys under guard until we can get someone from the SGC out here to deal with this Lazarus guy."


An hour later Jack sat back on his heels and surveyed his work proudly. He and Teal'c had been reminded (by Carter) of the rope in the cabin above, and the two of them had just finished tying their attackers together and then anchoring them to various trees. Most of the men had regained consciousness but were understandably subdued. Seth, not surprisingly, had continued to rant about being their god. Daniel had finally gotten tired of the non-stop prattle and had said, "Time to put a sock in it," and then literally did just that.

Teal'c walked up to the colonel. "We should make absolutely certain that the bindings are sturdy enough to hold while we await the team from the SGC." (Jack had dug around in his bags for his much despised cell phone in order to get word to the base, a very abbreviated version of events, truth be told.)

Daniel appeared like a long legged jack-in-the-box and nodded his agreement with the big man's plan. They'd been more focused on getting all the men tied up before they could start fighting again than they had been on making elaborate and unbreakable knots. The three of them walked around their prisoners, checking the knots and the security of the bindings. One of the men had apparently decided that since Seth was no longer able to rant, he was going to take his place.

Only, this man seemed to have a severe limitation on brains, fanaticism, and small talk capabilities. He muttered a string of obscenities that included a few that even Jack had never heard before, which under different circumstances might actually have been interesting. And then, glancing around him, the man gestured with his chin to a deep hole in the ground a mere three feet away from where he was tied to the tree trunk. "Lookit … that there is a sign of our … of our … well, it means we is gonna be gods anyhow … Seth said the first sign a our ascen … ascen … our rise to be gods was a WORMHOLE X-TREME. And well, that's a damn big wormhole. Y'all don't stand a chance fighting us."

Jack muttered in an aside to Daniel, "Oh yeah, he's tied to a tree. He's a real threat."

Daniel met the older man's eye, and there was a definite gleam of amusement in the archeologist's face. "This is too good to pass up," he whispered conspiratorially, leaving Jack to think that perhaps Teal'c wasn't the only one he was having an influence on … and maybe said influence wasn't quite as good as he thought it was, though he stopped short of agreeing with Carter and Fraiser's hint that it was a bad influence.

Daniel walked solemnly over to the hole, examining it with all the care he'd give to his precious artifacts. Then he turned to the rambling man. "It's not a wormhole," he said slowly and with a tinge of worry in his voice. "It's a hole used by snakes and leads directly to THE SERPENT'S LAIR."

"Nuh-uh," the man argued automatically, even as his feet scrabbled over the ground in an effort to push him back farther, to become one with the tree.

It was all Jack could do not to laugh as Teal'c solemnly joined in the game. "It is indeed. You must be very careful to not speak or make noise, as your words might sound to the snake as if you are singing the SERPENT'S SONG, which summons the creature from its lair."

Daniel managed to look very grave as he piggy-backed on Teal'c's statement. "Exactly. If the snake comes out of its hole … well … snake bites hurt like crazy and THE SERPENT'S VENOM is deadly." He shook his head ominously and drew a single finger across his throat.

The man froze in place, managing nothing more than a quick nod and a barely audible, "Nobody say nothing."

Daniel was highly tempted to explain that a double negative really meant a positive, but then he didn't feel up to explaining what a double negative was in the first place, so he quickly abandoned the thought. Instead, satisfied with his response, they left the man watching the hole, thankfully and effectively silenced. Once they were out of earshot, Jack complained mildly, "That wasn't very nice, Daniel." He didn't sound bothered in the least by his own complaint.

Daniel shrugged, not bothered in the slightest by the criticism. "It got him to shut up, didn't it?"

The colonel couldn't help but chuckle at that. While Daniel wandered off to check the last of their captives and Teal'c stood watch over all of them, Jack turned his attention over to where Carter was gingerly dressing and bandaging the nasty scrape on Janet's arm (since medical supplies had also been retrieved from the cabin along with the rope).

O'Neill walked up to the women and said teasingly, "Never knew you had such the MATERNAL INSTINCT, Carter." Actually, seeing her with Cassie, he'd known for a while that she had a gentle, nurturing side a mile wide, but he never could pass up the opportunity to tease her about being a hardened soldier type.

She looked up at him, not sure whether she should laugh or be insulted. Seeing the twinkle in his eyes, she merely rolled her own in response (figuring that was the safest gesture she could make) and glanced over in time to see Janet do the same. She suspected that under better circumstances, the doctor would not hesitate in the slightest to tell the colonel to take a long walk off a short pier, but injury and fatigue have the way of dulling even a sharp tongue.

The doctor glanced around at the subdued men, while Sam continued her bandaging job. "How long until the troops get here to cart off our little friends?"

O'Neill grimaced and plopped down on the ground. "God only knows. Since it's the middle of the night, Hammond wasn't on base and the pompous airman on the switchboard spent forever giving me the runaround--like answering the phone makes him more important than God Almighty--saying in his most obnoxious tone that he would take a message and if it was deemed important enough, he'd have the general call me."

He paused and sighed heavily in remembered annoyance and Janet broke in. "Sounds like he was trying very hard to prove that he was the TOUCHSTONE of bureaucratic incompetence." She wasn't overly impressed with some of the young bucks running around in the military who seemed to think that respect was earned by wielding power in the most obnoxious ways imaginable.

The colonel offered her an impressed look at the phrasing. "That's about the size of it, doc. I plan to haul his ass up on charges once we get back. After I threatened to remove his testi … well, after I threatened him, he finally patched me through to Siler, so I know help is on its way … I just don't know how quickly it will get here."

Daniel returned to the group while Teal'c stayed a few paces away, his eyes scanning the prisoners in his usual unexpressive manner, which was about the most intimidating thing any of them had ever seen.

Jack rummaged around in the backpack sitting next to Fraiser, which was full of all the things he and Teal'c had retrieved from the cabin. He pulled out a bottle of water and a foil colored emergency blanket and tossed them to Daniel. The younger man caught them, looked at them, and set them aside, unopened.

O'Neill frowned, not thrilled that the younger man had so blithely rejected his thoughtful gesture. "I thought you were cold and thirsty. What happened to all that fire and water stuff?"

Daniel shrugged rather helplessly and quoted quietly. "Man is a curious creature and existeth in two states: he HATH OR he hath not. When he hath, he wanteth not; when he hath not, he wanteth."

There was a really, really long silence while his audience of three translated "eth" and "th" into "s". Finally, Janet spoke cautiously, as if she was not entirely sure whether she and Daniel were speaking the same language, which, truth be told, was sometimes the case. "Um … that's … interesting … did you get that from a philosophy text, or is it some folk wisdom from one of the many cultures you've studied?"

He shrugged again, this time with a hint of embarrassment on his cheekbones. "Well, actually, I got it out of a fortune cookie."

O'Neill stared at him in disbelief. "You actually read those things?" He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Daniel read anything less academic sounding than The Function of Myth in Modern Society.

Daniel shrugged again. "It's a guilty pleasure."

The colonel's attention shifted to watch Fraiser and Carter share another amused look. He actually found it interesting the way the two friends seemed to be able to read each other's minds from time to time. Maybe it was because they both actually understood all those big, scientific words they used. Then he thought about that a little harder and found the entire concept scary. He already felt superfluous enough around the duo when they were in full-fledged excited-about-new-discoveries-and-babbling-in-science-speak-at-the-speed-of-light mode. The last thing he needed was for them to be psychic on top of that. Involuntarily, O'Neill shivered at the mere thought.

And then Daniel cleared his throat and O'Neill became uncomfortably aware that the others were staring at him. The younger man tossed him the emergency blanket. "Are you ok, Jack?"

He set the foil colored square aside and took a deep breath. "I'm fine, Daniel … just a little chill." Ok, so it wasn't exactly a chill--at least not from any physical source--but close e-damn-nough. He sighed heavily. "Just thinking that this has felt like FOREVER IN A DAY."

Janet and Sam spoke simultaneously. "Don't you mean forever and a day?"

Jack spoke roughly to disguise yet another shiver at the dynamic duo's apparent telepathy. God, that was starting to unnerve him. "Whatever. It's been a freaking long day."

Daniel, oblivious as usual to undercurrents, breathed heavily, "Oh yeah. I can't believe that we've been up here less than 48 hours." He paused and frowned. "And when are the folks from the SGC supposed to get here and get us away from this place? No offense Jack, but this has been a really lousy vacation."

Sam, who had been sitting propped up on one hand next to Janet, suddenly went boneless and lowered herself to the ground, curling into a ball. The doctor slid herself closer to her friend, hissing when the sudden movement made her broken ankle throb. She leaned down and whispered something to Carter, and bent closer to hear the other woman's equally inaudible response.

O'Neill suddenly got worried again. He knew that his second was injured, but had figured she was doing ok since she was up and talking. He wanted to say something, but felt tongue-tied … and unaccountably guilty for hauling them all up here in the first place (and for his inability to keep his mouth shut). He watched Fraiser whisper yet another low comment to the other woman and then saw Sam lift her head and rest it on the doctor's thigh, curling up against her friend, eyes shut, as Janet softly brushed hair off her forehead.

He strained to say something, finally managing a guilt ridden, "Doc?"

Janet looked at him, her eyes kinder than he expected, though they were darker than usual with fatigue and twinges of pain. "She'll be ok, colonel. The world's just spinning again and she really needs to just stay still and rest until we get back." She brushed another feather of hair off her best friend's temple, and spoke softly, as if she knew exactly what was running through his mind. She probably did, at that, since she'd seen him in similar states before when his people were injured. "You made the choices you thought were for the best, sir, in an attempt to keep us all safe. Just didn't turn out quite the way you'd planned."

"Yeah," he exhaled slowly, the guilt lessening just a touch under her sympathetic tone.

And then oblivious Daniel unwittingly helped him get back onto a less touchy-feely sort of plane and back to his normal wry way of coping with everything, as the archeologist said, "Y'know, the next time General Hammond sets us up as bait in a trap, it sure would be nice if he warned us about it and had backup nearby."

"No kidding" Jack said emphatically. "He could at least have let me know what the hell was going on." It would have been nice, rather than letting him find out the hard way about this little group of fruitloops.

Daniel managed to look offended at the use of the singular rather than the plural. "He could have told both of us, Jack. I was there too, remember?"

O'Neill offered a thin smile to the other man. "I know, Daniel." He paused for just a beat, to let that thought sink in, then continued his mini-rant. "I didn't need him to spell everything out in black and white … just give me a hint." Ok, so he'd gotten a hint, but how the hell was he supposed to know it was a hint rather than perfectly normal excitement about fishing?

Janet raised an eyebrow, though it was a short lived gesture since her attention almost immediately dropped back to where her hand was lightly stroking Sam's bangs. "Sir, I hate to be the one to point this out to you, but your specialty doesn't seem to be seeing things in SHADES OF GREY." Given that she thought he was the original poster child for seeing things in black and white, her comment was the epitome of tactful phrasing.

O'Neill didn't seem to think it was all that tactful; he didn't even bother to dignify the comment with a response. "All I'm saying is that he could have given us a less subtle hint about the fact that he was using us to try and catch someone." He'd concede that Hammond had hinted … but not nearly strongly enough, in his opinion.

At that statement, Sam actually opened her eyes again, unable to resist commenting, though she stayed curled up right where she was. "It wasn't that subtle, sir. I told you he wasn't talking about fishing," she said with a faint hint of triumph. It had been perfectly obvious to her that something was going on that didn't involve a rod and reel … and she hadn't even been present for the original conversation.

O'Neill tamped down a smile at her reaction. Though there was still plenty of reason to worry, she couldn't be in immediate danger if she had the energy to mouth off. Deliberately he kept his tone gruff. "Yeah, well, don't let it go to your head."

"I think it's a little late for that, sir," Janet remarked dryly, looking up at him, her tone and the twinkle in her eye making it clear she was referring to Sam's concussion.

Daniel groaned … loudly. But before he could tell her just how bad a pun it was, they heard a commotion in the bushes. Teal'c braced himself in a defensive stance, which turned out to be mostly unnecessary since the familiar faces of SG3 and Colonel Makepeace emerged from the foliage. And then a group of regular soldiers emerged behind them.

Makepeace's eyes swept over the entire scene. There was amusement in his face. "Y'know, I think SG1 is the only team that can't stay out of trouble no matter where they go or what they're doing."

O'Neill leapt to his feet and rolled his eyes. "You're funny, Makepeace. Very funny."

The other colonel smiled. "I try." He looked around again, taking in the sight of the subdued prisoners. "I see you have all the loose ends … uh … tied up."

Daniel groaned again, not believing his ears. "What is it about bad puns all of a sudden?" Despite his annoyance with the form of humor, his tone was full of curiosity … it was just the sort of thing that piqued his interest.

Makepeace looked incredulously at the archeologist, whom he found irritating enough under normal circumstances. The Marine turned to O'Neill and jerked a thumb at Daniel. "Is he always like this … worrying about stupid shit when you're in danger or in a tight spot?"

O'Neill's answering chuckle was bone dry. "Yup." He wanted to explain that it was usually much worse than this, but Daniel had had a hard day and he didn't want to watch the younger man sulk all the way back to the base. Besides, whether he wanted to admit it to Makepeace or not, he had a soft spot for the archeologist.

The other man visibly shuddered, but didn't bother to make a response. There were times when he resented the hell out of the fact that O'Neill was in command of the team generally considered the star of the SGC. That feeling usually passed quickly enough when confronted with the reality of just what a nightmare team it would be to command: a whiny, allergy ridden civilian, who thought the universe was a friendly place and diplomacy the only way to achieve anything; a turncoat alien who still gave Makepeace the creeps; and an officer who not only happened to be about the smartest person on the entire base, but who also was not scared of contradicting her superiors when she thought they were making a mistake in judgment. Just not a combination most commanders would be thrilled about.

O'Neill gestured towards Carter and Fraiser. "You bring a medical team with you, Makepeace?"

The Marine shook his head briefly. "There's one coming behind us," he offered by way of explanation, his eyes falling on the two women, a blank look crossing his face as he tried to compute the idea of the doctor being injured. Or Carter being injured for that matter … she and Teal'c had the reputation of being the two cautious ones on SG1. Then he took note of the fact that there were visible bruises on the Jaffa and that both O'Neill and Jackson appeared completely unharmed. He continued to gape.

Janet's voice cut sharply through the air, tired of feeling like part of the sideshow. "When you're done ogling us, it would be nice if you'd actually come over and give us a hand here. I can't walk and Sam's in no better shape than I am right now."

The two colonels looked at each other and raised their eyebrows in mock resignation to following the doctor's orders. Neither would admit it for the world, but the sound of her sarcasm was music to their ears. The idea of the SGC without the competence and gentleness and wit of Fraiser was just entirely too depressing to contemplate. She never seemed to get rattled by their continual complaining and running stream of insults whenever one of them was a patient, and that--in and of itself--was an extremely attractive quality in the base CMO.

O'Neill, not surprisingly, was the one who responded, ignoring Daniel's wince at the tactlessness of his statement. "Y'know, I kinda like the thought of having the doctor having to ask for help and seeing what it's like to be on the other side of the needle."

Janet's response was immediate, irritated, and inventive.


Epilogue …

"I still can't believe that General Hammond set us up like that." Daniel's voice held just the trace of a whine. He speared a French fry on the end of his fork and held it up as if examining it would somehow make everything else fall into place.

His dinner date sighed … heavily. Teal'c had already heard the same complaint from the younger man several times since they sat down at their table in the mess hall. Even a man of Teal'c's patience was growing bored with it. To his mind, what was done, was done … they'd been debriefed by Hammond, who explained his motives and reasoning … and it was long past time to move beyond this incident.

The Jaffa leaned across the table, his fingers closing on a French fry. He chomped down on it and chewed thoughtfully before responding to the obvious verbal invitation for conversation. "You know as well as I that he had little choice, Daniel Jackson. He was aware that someone was using his position at the SGC for ill intent, but he had no way of knowing on whom his attention should be focused. He sent the team in which he had the most confidence to act as what you call 'bait'," Teal'c's brow wrinkled distastefully at the slang term, "and he allowed the information to spread within the SGC that we were actually engaged in a mission to disseminate information about the Stargate program. His suspicion that the person he was seeking would attempt to destroy us was correct. Had he warned us in advance of his intentions, the man Lazarus might have discovered the plot and been dissuaded and we would still be unaware as to his identity."

Teal'c paused and then decided there would be nothing gained by waiting to answer Daniel Jackson's next question until after he asked it, since he was all too aware of what it would be. The younger man was often quite transparent in his thought processes. "And the reason General Hammond sent Doctor Fraiser to accompany us was simple … she is the most skilled among us in treating injuries. And if he had indeed been mistaken and we were in no danger, then she would actually have a restful vacation away from the SGC … as would we all." All of which General Hammond had already explained to them … more than once. It would seem Daniel Jackson had failed to listen.

Daniel gaped. It was the longest series of sentences he had ever heard his teammate offer. And he knew that, he really did, but he still had the sense that the general shouldn't have lied to them. That wasn't how authority figures were supposed to behave. Especially not authority figures in the military, which prided itself on honor. Or at least they said they prided themselves on honor--despite having worked in a military setting on a military team for years, the civilian archeologist was still a bit mystified as to the military mindset.

Before he could voice that thought for about the twentieth time, Teal'c pre-empted him. "You must admit that he did give yourself and O'Neill a very direct clue as to what his intentions were." Particularly in retrospect, it was a very direct clue.

The archeologist sighed, not at all happy about making the admission. He just hated feeling like he had missed picking up on something so important. "Yeah, well, I guess we should have paid more attention when Sam and Doctor Fraiser were talking about cops and robbers."

Teal'c snagged another French fry and bit into decisively, his tone cutting off further contemplation of the subject. "Indeed."


Janet tried hard not to smirk at the look of dismay on Colonel O'Neill's face. "Sir, it's not nearly as bad as you're making it out to be." She thought idly that Carter wasn't the only one with a penchant for acting … the way the colonel was carrying on, he'd be a shoo-in for a soap opera role, one where his character was on the verge of death itself. All they were doing was going to the Conference for Advanced Forensic Techniques and Newly Developed Technological Advances in Criminology. Other than saying the title--which could be dangerous due to lack of oxygen--there was nothing remotely deadly about the event to inspire such melodrama on the man's part.

The man in question pushed himself up out of his chair and paced away to stand against the wall with his arms crossed in a stubborn stance. "Nice try, doc. Personally, I think the reality will be a lot worse than what I'm thinking." He tamped down a shudder at the mere thought of what he was getting himself into through no fault of his own.

He was in Fraiser's office, door closed, the doctor seated comfortably in her chair, Sam perched casually on the edge of her desk, sitting on top of a pile of papers. The women exchanged a glance and a smile, and O'Neill began to sweat, even though he wasn't sure if the smile was at his obvious discomfort or at their delight at getting to go to the damn conference … one that he'd been told he was also attending. Damn, he was growing to hate that sensation of twin Cheshire cats grinning malevolently. The fact that the two women in question were arguably the most benevolent and least malicious people in the entire SGC (save perhaps Daniel or Siler) did nothing to ease Jack's discomfort.

He tried again, wondering why there was never a convenient bolt of lightning when you needed it. "Look, doc, I'll just be in the way. You and Carter will be fine on your own … no need for me to be there. You're in a walking cast and Carter's head is back to normal so she can … well, y'know, help you get around and stuff … I really have some things here I should take care of … and Daniel … well, Daniel needs my help on one of his projects." In fact, if it got him out of this whole conference thing, he would be ecstatic over the chance to listen to the archeologist drone on and on and on about stuff he didn't understand … at least he could curl up and take a nap without Daniel even realizing he was asleep … something that he rather doubted he could get away with sitting in hard-backed chairs and surrounded by a bunch of stuffy hard-science types.

That was arguably the worst excuse he could have used … the only one worse would have been him needing to help the two women with a science project. Sam jumped gracefully off the desk and came over to stand in front of her CO, the barest hint of a smile in her eyes, though she was careful to keep any overt amusement locked carefully away. "Sir, it's not really our call. General Hammond wants you to go to the conference with us. The technology used in the field of criminology could be something very useful if we have any other incidents like this one, and while Janet and I will be able to translate the science into something we can use here, he wants you there to learn more about strategy, since that is one of your specialties." She knew she shouldn't find his discomfort amusing, but she couldn't exactly help it in light of his refusal to even consider the notion that maybe not everyone on the planet liked fishing and that maybe people find different things interesting. She just couldn't help but feel it was a small bit of justice.

Jack glowered at his second, and then transferred his ire to the CMO. Carter was being far too professional for him to rant at her (and besides, he knew she was too much a soft touch to find his discomfort amusing for long), but Fraiser had a definite grin on her face and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his obvious displeasure at the situation. He had the sinking feeling that the doctor understood quite well the concept of 'payback's a bitch,' and made a solemn vow to himself then and there to never again piss her off. Well, at least not on purpose.

"You're still mad at me," he accused, "for suggesting that it was nice to see that you're human and get injured like the rest of us." He hadn't actually apologized for his comment, even though he'd admitted to Daniel and Sam that he shouldn't have said it. He'd been hoping Carter would relay the message (as she predictably did) and that would be the end of it all; obviously an indirect non-apologetic apology wasn't the way to worm his way back on to the doctor's good side.

Fraiser's denial was too smooth and too quick for him to completely believe it. But he was fighting a losing battle … he knew he was. He'd gotten the orders from Hammond, and knew that however much fun the doctor might be having at the mental image of Jack O'Neill spending a weekend doing nothing but listening to lectures, it wasn't her idea. He had little doubt she would have come up with something far more creative if she wanted to watch him suffer.

He grumbled, "So why aren't Daniel and Teal'c coming?"

Sam actually laughed out loud at that, grateful for a legitimate excuse to be so openly amused, since she had no intention of annoying the colonel any more than strictly necessary. Janet could get away with it, but she had to work with the man. "Um, sir," she breathed disbelievingly, "this is completely outside of Daniel's field … and Teal'c would be just a tad conspicuous." That was an understatement if she'd ever made one.

He stared at her, then at Fraiser (who was chuckling), then back to Carter, still grumbling. "Well … since I seem to have gotten roped into this … let's make sure our watches are all synchronized … wouldn't want to be late or anything." He made a big show of setting his watch--apparently oblivious to the fact that synchronization only works with more than one participant. "So we'll set things based on how far we are ahead of the whole Greenwich mercurial line time thingie …"

Sam canted her head to the side to look at her CO--not quite sure whether he was using the wrong word as a source of comic relief or whether he seriously didn't know what he should have said. One of the things that drove her crazy was that he often played dumb, though he was not even close to being a stupid person, so she wasn't always sure how seriously to take him. Deciding to play it safe, Carter cleared her throat while Janet giggled fiendishly in the background. "That's Greenwich mean time, sir. And we're actually behind it. It's based on the solar time for the MERIDIAN at Greenwich … in England."

The colonel rolled his eyes, still leaving no clue as to whether he had been kidding. "Whatever. I still can't believe I have to do this." He sounded genuinely uncomfortable with the whole prospect, an ironic mimicry of their reactions to the whole vacation idea.

Janet hoisted herself out of her chair and clumped over to stand next to Sam. The two of them exchanged yet another one of their infinite glances, the humor of the situation finally overtaking even Carter's more serious bent. Really, this was a form of poetic justice. And they just couldn't help quoting the colonel's words back to him … it was just such a perfect set-up.

Sam spoke first, her tone just a little too sunny. "Relax, sir. It'll be fun."

Piggy-backing on that, Janet smiled brightly and offered in her most winning voice, "Trust us."


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